Chickenfoot

#719: Mystery Disc

GETTING MORE TALE #719: Mystery Disc

Cleaning out Jen’s mom’s house after she passed away was very emotional work.  Nobody’s been living there since July.  One day she got up and broke her hip.  We didn’t know it yet but the cancer was in her bones.  She never came home again.  When we started working on the house in September, everything was more or less how she left it.

Her music collection was small with a few gems.  One disc that I kept was Cat Stevens’ Icon.  I had to take it for “If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out.”  As told in Getting More Tale #702, that song seemed to make a connection with me when she was sick.  One day we went to see her in the hospital, and she was unconscious.  No longer able to communicate.  That song was stuck in my head for reasons I can’t explain.  I like to think she was sending me a message.  Not to be sad.  It would have been like her to say that to me.  I get tears in my eyes thinking about her lying there dying, and that song playing on repeat in my head.  I had the song played at her funeral.  It just seemed like such a “mum” song, even though I have no memories of us ever listening to it together.  When I found out that she actually owned that song, I got the chills again.  Finding Cat Stevens made my heart swell.

We also found a number of CD-Rs that I made, but had no labels or covers.  For today’s chapter I’m focusing on one specifically.  I can’t figure out why I made it, or who I made it for, or what it was doing at Jen’s mom’s house!

It is a lightscribe CD, and burned into the top is the old background from my website.  It’s a photo of some model guitars and guitar picks.  The 15 song track listing is most bizarre and I can’t figure out what I was doing!

Track 1:  Craig Fee saying “LeBraaaain”.  This dates the CD to 2012 at the earliest.  I liked to introduce my CDs with something amusing, so this works.

Tracks 2-4:  “Whiskey in the Jar”.  The first is Metallica’s studio cover from Garage Inc.  The second is Thin Lizzy’s take from 1972.  Last is a live Metallica version, possibly from the CD single.  That’s a lot of whiskey – 15 solid minutes worth.  Listening back, the Metallica live version absolutely kills their studio cut.  Yeah-hah!

Track 5:  Steve Earle – “Home to Houston”.  This track is from Steve’s political 2004 album The Revolution Starts Now.  I haven’t played that album in years and I don’t remember this song.  Why it stuck out enough to put it on this mystery disc, I haven’t a clue.  Good tune, but I don’t know it anymore!

Track 6:  Jeff Bridges & Colin Ferrel – “Fallin’ & Flyin'” from the 2010 soundtrack Crazy Heart.  Now, memories are starting to form.  I can remember driving around with Jen and her mom, listening to this song in my car.  Did I make this CD for her mom?  If so, why the Metallica?

Track 7:  Johnny Cash – “The Man Comes Around”.  One of the greatest Cash songs, from the best American album in my opinion.  Goosebumps, still to this day.  Jen and I love Cash and had him played at our wedding.

Track 8:  Me doing a song intro!  The backing track sounds like Motorhead’s acoustic version of “Ace of Spades” with the main lick looped and no vocals.  I made this for a past Sausagefest countdown!  The track I’m introducing:  “Renegade” by Styx!  I mention that it was covered by Daughtry and then add sound effects of Nicko McBrain burping and farting.  I have to admit it’s a pretty great (and funny) intro!  It was #30 on the 2013 countdown.  From that I can now assume I made this CD the same year.  Which is strange because I wasn’t really making mix CDs anymore in 2013.

Track 9 is a personal favourite, “Rock An’ Roll Angels” from Whitesnake’s 1982 album Saints & Sinners.  I’ve always been into rock and roll songs with boogie woogie piano. I have loved this song for three decades.  Then Track 10, another Whitesnake classic:  “Slow An’ Easy” from the landmark classic Slide It In.  That’s another personal fave, because of the slide riff.  It’s incredible and I spent many hours as a teenager playing air slide to it.  Not to mention air drums!  Cozy Powell was so fucking cool.

Then more slide!  Track 11:  The Black Crowes – “Twice as Hard”.  I was clearly trying to make the CD flow.  Indeed I used to spend hours shuffling track order until I had it “just right”.  With all this slide business going on, I wonder if the next song is going to be some “Travelling Riverside Blues”?

Nope!  A total surprise to me, Track 12 is The Tragically Hip!  “50 Mission Cap” is Jen’s favourite, for reasons you’ll understand.

Bill Barilko disappeared that summer,
He was on a fishing trip.
The last goal he ever scored,
Won the Leafs the cup.
They didn’t win another till nineteen sixty two,
The year he was discovered.
I stole this from a hockey card,
I keep tucked up under.

I think the lyrics are brilliant because they tell two stories at once.  First, they tell the true tale of Toronto Maple Leaf Bill Barilko, who tragically died in a plane crash in a remote part of Quebec.  Nobody knew what happened to him until his body was found 11 years later.  The second tale is that of a young Gord Downie who read about it on the back of a hockey card.

Track 13 is another surprise:  “The Boys are Back in Town” by Bon Jovi!  Don’t scoff, this is actually a really good Thin Lizzy cover from their New Jersey period.  Lyrically, Jon and Phil Lynott were on similar wavelengths.  This is exactly the kind of tune that Jon was writing.  “Wild in the Streets” is Bon Jovi trying to re-write “The Boys are Back in Town”.

Track 14:  “Big Foot” from Chickenfoot III.  Gotta be one of my favourite car tunes.  “Got Houses Of The Holy on the box, got it all cranked up cause, yeah! That shit rocks!”  What a groove — you can’t help but stomp along.  Joe Satriani has a way with a riff.

I had a guess that Track 15 was going to be all of side one of 2112.  The track time was over 20 minutes, so I had an inkling it was either that or side two of Abbey Road.  I’ve ended mix CDs with 20 minute epics before, and I think it works.  The Beatles did it!  Granted, the 2112 epic was a side one, but it still functions perfectly in the closing position.  Try it yourself!

Listening to this mystery disc has been enjoyable, but my reasoning still escapes me.  It’s such a bizarre mix, with the front loaded threesome of “Whiskey in the Jar”.  From there it starts to make a little more sense.  But how it did it end up at “mum’s” house?

My best theory is that I made it as a gift for Jen’s Uncle Rick, and it never got mailed.  He lived in Texas at the time — maybe that’s why I included “Home to Houston”.  Rick is also a Whitesnake fan, and a Toronto Maple Leafs fan.  I’m just not sure.

How would you rate this mix CD if you were the recipient?  I think I’d give it a solid:

4/5 stars

 

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REVIEW: Chickenfoot – Chickenfoot (CD/DVD set)

CHICKENFOOT_0001CHICKENFOOT – Chickenfoot (2009 Redline CD/DVD reissue)

This reissue of the fantastic debut Chickenfoot CD is a decent but imperfect repackage. The music is so good, I can’t stay mad about the double-dip. You can get this cheap if you hunt, so keep that in mind. First let’s talk about the music, before we get into the reissue.

I will go out on a limb and call this the best album Sammy Hagar had made in many years, and better than most (if not any) Van Hagar album. Part of the reason is the performances by this cast of pros (Sammy, Joe Satriani, Michael Anthony, Chad Smith), and part of the reason is solid songwriting. What’s left is youthful energy, which this band of old dudes has plenty of.

The first obvious highlight for me was the glorious return of the Van Hagar harmony vocals. Michael Anthony was responsible for a lot of that in Van Halen, and it was just a joy to hear him harmonizing with Sammy again. Close your eyes and you’d think you’re listening to some lost Halen track circa For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge. Then you recognize those warm Satriani guitar tones and tricks. Finally you hear Chad Smith on the drums, making it all sound easy. This actually sounds like a real band.

Highlights: The single “Oh Yeah”, “Sexy Little Thing”, “Runnin’ Out” (definite sounds like a long lost Halen tune), “My Kinda Girl” (my kinda chorus!), and “Turnin’ Left” (which just grooves).  “Bitten By The Wolf” has this bluesy Satriani-circa-Flying kind of vibe.  There are no weak songs, and nothing which doesn’t fit the direction of this band.  There’s no point going song by song.  Each one features the stellar playing, singing and melody that you would expect for this band of pros.  Satch’s tone is rich, beautiful and perfect.  This is most definitely hard rock.  There’s nothing too wussy about Chickenfoot.  Even the ballad “Learning to Fall” has the integrity of an outtake from Flying in a Blue Dream.  It’s hard not to enjoy something with Joe Satriani on guitar!

“Bitten By The Wolf”, of course, was the original bonus track on the vinyl and download versions of Chickenfoot. Now you can get it on a proper CD with this two-disc reissue. In addition you get an hour long DVD. This disc contains a couple fun music videos, interviews with each guy, and some excellent live stuff. Two things I noticed right away on the live stuff: One, Joe plays a lot more solos. Watching him play is a real treat. I’ve never seen Joe play up close on a DVD before. My God this man’s fingers move fast. Plus he’s entertaining as a showman. Two, Chad Smith is great to watch. On CD he makes it all sound easy. On DVD he makes it all look easy. This tower of a man just locks in and powers through. Awesome to watch. No wonder he is so in-demand with everybody from the Dixie Chicks on down.

Of note:  There are many who do not like this album as much as I.  Craig Fee from 107.5 Dave FM told me that this record was “disappointing, like seeing an all Toronto Maple Leafs NHL All-Star team, standing there in their blue jerseys.”

I only had two disappointments. One, the original CD had no booklet, only a link to download a pdf file. That remains so on this edition. I would have loved a booklet. Two, the original also had this awesome heat-sensitive packaging. The cover was almost entirely black, but when you placed your warm hand on it, pictures of the band members appeared. That packaging is not a part of this edition. Instead, the black has been replaced with white and now you can see the pictures unobscured. Two very small qualms. I still own the original CD and a vinyl copy to boot, so it’s not a big deal to me.

Get your buzz on!

5/5 stars

REVIEW: Stryper – Murder By Pride (2009)

Sunday. Time for some Stryper!

STRYPER – Murder By Pride (2009, Big 3 Records)

I was a Stryper fan back in the 80’s, but I was never overwhelmed by the band.  I respected what they were saying, and I never felt like they were “in it for the money”, like some of the other kids at school.   I just didn’t think their 80’s albums were that amazing, hanging on to a sort of Dokken-level of quality as far as I was concerned.  A few good hits, a few good album tracks, but nothing blowing me away like a Van Halen album does.

Since their reunion, though, holy smokes! (Pardon the pun!)  They’ve been awesome, and putting out quality albums.  They have improved with age.  They are better musicians, better singers, better writers, and don’t have hair 12″ tall anymore.  Michael Sweet certainly proved himself on tour with the “other band” he was singing and playing with, Boston!

Murder By Pride is really the first reunion era Stryper that was designed to appeal to the old fans.  While I loved the previous album, Reborn, I fully acknowledge that it’s not an immediate thriller.  Its post-grunge sounds threw a lot of people for a loop, although it contained some great tunes such as “Passion”.  Murder By Pride was the answer to the fans who asked for more melody, more harmony vocals, twin solos and riffs.  That is largerly what they got.  There’s even the odd scream!

Murder By Pride is their best studio album.   It’s got everything — great hard rock songs, great piano ballads, great performances and crisp production that brings out the toughness of the guitars and drums.  The drums (by guest Kenny Aranoff) are absolutely flawless.  If you didn’t know better you’d swear it was Robert Sweet, as he nails that Stryper sound.  I don’t know why Robert didn’t play on the album, as he plays on their current album, the also-smoking The Covering

If the idea of Christian lyrics throw you for a loop, I won’t lie to you, they haven’t backed down over the years.   If anything they’ve gotten more bold.  (The Covering contained a song just called “God”!)

Key tracks:  Some of the heavy rockers like “Eclipse of the Son”, and “The Plan”.  The Boston cover “Peace of Mind” featuring Tom Scholz on guitar.   The acoustic ballad power “I Believe”.  The stunning title track, with a classic Stryper riff that must be second-cousins with “Free”. If you’re not knocked out by this song, you’re not a Stryper fan!

Great album.  Welcome back Stryper — may you continue to stick to your guns, deliver your message, and rock hard!

4/5stars

REVIEW: Chickenfoot III

CHICKENFOOT – Chickenfoot III (2011)

When you have talents like these four guys (Sammy and Mike – ex VH, The Satchman, and Chad from the Chilis) then you better hope for a giant leap forwards on the crucial second album. Chickenfoot deliver, with their trademark sense of humour intact but tempered with a new seriousness.

Satriani fans will be in nirvana, as he really strecthes out a lot more than album #1. Some of his tones and fills here are more akin to things we hear on his solo albums. Imagine that with a kickass band behind it.

Sammy and Mike’s vocals blend beautifully once again, bringing to mind vintage Van Hagar. It is incredible to me that Sammy Hagar as a singer has remained this powerful after so many years. Has any lead vocalist ever aged as well as Sammy Hagar? Paul Rodgers maybe?

Lastly Chad Smith — I know that Kenny Aranoff will be incredible on tour, there is no doubt of Kenny’s skill. But Chad Smith really kicks some serious butt on this album. Just listening to the snare hits, I ask myself how many broken sticks and drum heads were tallied up in the studio.

Highlights are every single song, but one I keep coming back to is “Different Devil”, a joyful romp through the countryside with the top down. There are no bad songs on this album. The closest we get is “Three And A Half Letters” which is mostly delivered in a tiring spoken-word vocal. The lyrics are poignant enough, letters from people seriously down on their luck, with Sammy screaming “I need a job!” during the choruses. Indeed, Sammy is rarely this polical.

“Big Foot”, the first single, stomps through the forest relentlessly, but it actually seems to be about a car. “Got ‘Houses Of The Holy’ on the box, got it all cranked up cause, yeah! that shit rocks!” sings Sammy back in celebratory mode.

Fans of album #1 will remember that album’s cool gimmick, the heat-sensitive packaging. This time Chickenfoot go 3D. I have the classic rock Fan Pack edition which came with 3D glasses among other goodies.  Some of these goodies included a set of five guitar picks, and a keychain/bottle opener.  Some people consider this kind of stuff junk, and it kind of is, but I think collectors who dig guitar picks will want this.

                                          

There’s also a full colour 132 page magazine with interviews and all sorts of goodness to read and look at.

Bonus tracks: Be aware of the following bonus tracks out there!

Live versions of “Down The Drain” and “Oh Yeah” are included in my Fan Pack. These tracks are taken from the live Chickenfoot DVD (Get Your Buzz On), but this is their first release in audio format.  This is the only place you can get these two tracks.

I don’t know where to get it yet, but some versions of the album come with a “hidden” song called “No Change”. I have heard it, and “No Change” is an angry political rocker with a simply storming riff. The buzz on fan boards has it listed as the best track on the album! You decide.

Now, I do want to say one thing:  Sammy Hagar should shut his mouth about Van Halen.  I’m sick of hearing him give them backhanded compliments and stuff in the press.  It’s obvious he’s bitter, but he shouldn’t be.  He made a great album.  He should get out there, tour his ass off, but shut the hell up.

5/5 stars.