classic rock

REVIEW: Aerosmith – Unplugged 1990

AEROSMITH – Unplugged 1990 (2017 Zap City broadcast CD)

When Aerosmith’s MTV Unplugged aired in Canada, we didn’t get the whole show.  We only got about half.  Now thanks to easily acquired broadcast CDs, you can get all 14 tracks in one handy place.  Because MTV were rigid about things being 100% live, you’ll get none of the annoying backing tracks that Aerosmith use today.  That makes Aerosmith Unplugged a strong contender for the best live Aerosmith purchase since Classics Live II.

“Hangman Jury” is a natural for an opener, and actually superior to the Permanent Vacation album cut.  “Monkey On My Back” is more surprising, being a heavier groove from Pump.  Deconstructed as an acoustic jam, it lays it down hard.  The first surprise of the night comes from the Air America soundtrack, to which Aerosmith contributed their Doors cover “Love Me Two Times”.  Frankly the unplugged version is better.  Tyler gets to honk on the harmonica and tear it up on the vocals a bit.

The first step back into Aerosmith’s past is 1974’s “Seasons of Wither”.  When this set was recorded in 1990, only people who owned Get Your Wings would really have known this song.  The purity of the unplugged stage is the ideal setting.  Then it’s onto 1975 and “Big Ten Inch Record”, the old R&B classic they covered on Toys in the Attic.  The album version with full horns is rearranged into an acoustic shuffle with individual guitar solos by Brad Whitford and Joe Perry.  That’s all before Thom Gimbel shows up with his sax!   This version kills.

Going even further back in time, Aerosmith pull “One Way Street” from the first album featuring a cool Perry solo.  For serious fans, “Smokestack Lightning” is a treat because Aerosmith have never recorded it before.  The oft-imitated Howlin’ Wolf cover is a natural jam for them.  They they unload the heavy artillery exactly halfway into the set:  “Dream On”.  Arguably the song everybody was waiting to hear; easily a highlight.  Playing with minimal instrumentation is a wise way to do it, though it picks up steam at the end.

“Milk Cow Blues” is rolled out next, a rarely played number from Draw the Line.  Full steam ahead just like the album version, you don’t wanna be standing on the tracks when this one rolls by.  Then, as if you’re daring them to try one that fast again, it’s “Toys in the Attic”.  Tyler and Perry’s voices blend naturally together in the unforgiving unplugged environment.

Returning once more to the first album, “Walkin’ the Dog” is the fifth of six cover tunes and the first encore.  It’s particularly cool because you get Tyler playing flute.  “Train Kept-a Rollin'” from Get Your Wings is the final cover, though presented twice:  “fast” and “slow” versions.  For a solid thrills-per-second ratio, you gotta go for the fast take.  Finally “Last Child” is announced to the excitement of one really hyped guy in the crowd.  The funky classic works surprisingly well.  A highlight from a show of nothing but highlights.

The CD had a few sonic clicks and quirks that may vary player to player.  That would be its only flaw.  Anyone buying broadcast CDs should be prepared for less than perfect audio.

4/5 stars

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#760: Eliminated Headlight

GETTING MORE TALE #760: Eliminated Headlight

As children, we were told many stories of what being a kid was like in the 1940s and 50s.  The greatest toy was Mecanno.  (My dad’s Mecanno #7 set was a treasured possession.)  Movies were 12 cents on Saturdays, and you could stay as long as you like.  (Once my dad went to go see Red Rider with his pal Jerry Irwin.  He stayed for four — well, three and a half — showings.  Then his father phoned the theatre looking for him, as he was supposed to home a long time ago!  Boy did he catch hell at home!)  One thing my dad always emphasized to us was how sad he was that all his childhood toys were gone.  His little brother wrecked some, and his dad threw out the rest.  He says they’d be priceless today.  All gone; somewhere in a Guelph landfill.

When kids move away from home, they don’t take everything with them.  Things like old toys get left behind.  That’s how my dad lost all his stuff.  I had trust in him that the same wouldn’t happen to me, and my sister.  The number of times we had to hear about his lost toys, his Mecanno #7 set, and all that stuff…I assumed he wouldn’t do that to us.

I assumed incorrectly.

A few months ago my sister was over at his house, went down into the basement to look at the board games…our old childhood board games…and they were gone.

We found some of them in a storage bin, but the rest had been thrown out.  That included my copy of Chopper Strike, a turn based combat strategy game that came with intricate little pieces and a massive two-level board.  I bought it at a garage sale for a couple dollars in the early 80s.  It was complete.  The game came with an army of plastic jeeps and helicopters.  The copters had rotating blades, and the jeeps had moving anti-aircraft guns.  Lots of easily lost components.  Rare for an such an old game (1976).  We played it over and over and over again as kids.  I thought it would remain safely stored at the old house.  It cost over $50 to replace it with a complete one again (thanks, Mom).

At least my dad saved some of the obviously valuable games, like our original Star Wars and Transformers.  Everything else from Admirals to Careers ended up in the trash, lost forever.  Feeling bad, my mom bought my sister a new Careers game on Ebay (and replaced my Chopper Strike).

I thought that was it.  I thought the point was made.  I thought our possessions were safe again.

Wrong again.

Some of my old model kits are at the cottage.  The cottage is a great place to build a model.  My ZZ Top Eliminator kit has safely lived at the cottage for 30 years.  A few years ago I took it out, dusted it off, and secured a few loose pieces with glue.  The last time I saw Eliminator, it was fine.

This time, I noticed a few things on my shelves had been moved.  When I returned them to their proper places, I saw Eliminator was now a one-eyed cyclops car.  A headlight came off and was nowhere in sight.  It’s gone.  If it had simply fallen off, it would be on the shelf, next to the car.  I only had two suspects.  One of the two was more credible, while the other claims to know nothing.  I know it was my dad!

“You can always pretend it was in an accident,” said my sister.

I used to think my stuff was safe in the hands of my dad.  Now I realize I need to keep valuables far, far away from him!

Gallery: Cheap Trick, Kitchener Ontario, 6/10/2019

Dr. Kathryn saw Cheap Trick at the Centre in the Square and has returned with photographic proof.

Comments:

“Cheap Trick were great! They played for about an hour and a half straight with no encore. It was a good mix of old songs and new. There were a bunch in the middle I didn’t know. Robin Zander can still sing pretty well, but his shortcomings were very obvious when he started to sing ‘The Flame’ with just himself on guitar. When he has all the other players behind him, his voice sounds much better and you can’t hear where he’s lacking. There was an extra guitar player (Robin Zander’s son Robin Taylor Zander) in the back and Tom Petersson played a twelve string bass. Rick Nielsen threw picks into the audience and I caught three!  Looking back, I didn’t get any close ups of Robin Zander! He was right in front of me plenty.”

Setlist:

  • Hello There
  • Way of the World
  • Oh, Candy
  • Big Eyes
  • California Man (The Move cover)
  • On Top of the World
  • Stiff Competition
  • Downed
  • Ain’t That a Shame (Fats Domino cover)
  • High Roller
  • Lookin’ Out for Number One
  • Stop This Game
  • I’m Waiting for the Man (The Velvet Underground cover)
  • The Flame
  • I Want You to Want Me
  • Dream Police
  • Surrender
  • Clock Strikes Ten
  • Goodnight Now

#758: Len Mix Vol. I and II

GETTING MORE TALE #758:  Len Mix Vol. I and II

In the early 2000s, the best way to “share” music (note the quotations) was to burn a CD for your friends.

I had a customer, now friend, named Len. I knew him originally via some mutual highschool pals. I recognised him because he was in a Kiss air band when I was in grade 10.  I befriended him later on as a customer at the Record Store, and I learned more about his taste in music and his collection. We were on the same page in virtually every way musically.

Len had a neat way of tracking his music, in the days before computers made this easy. He made a black and white photocopy of every CD cover, and filed them all in order, in a huge binder with title, year and tracklist. A work intensive process I’m sure, but it benefited me tremendously as you’ll soon see.

Len loaned me the book and said “pick anything you want me to burn for you.”

I still have all the CDs Len burned for me! One was a Kiss rarities disc (we’ll look at that another time), and another was all Bon Jovi B-sides. He made me a CD copy of the first Hurricane EP with a non-vinyl bonus track. And he put a whole ton of miscellaneous songs on two CDs that I titled, obviously, Len Mix!

The title confused a few people.  I remember I had a girl over and she saw the CDs.  “Are those all songs by the band Len?”  At that point I may have realised I should have picked another title.

I made a list of songs that Len had that I wanted.  They were generally big singles from bands I liked, that I didn’t own the album.  A lot of songs I was exposed to on the Pepsi Power Hour in the 80s.

Let’s have a listen then, shall we?

LEN MIX Vol. I

Autograph’s “Loud and Clear” is a killer rocker, far less commercial than “Turn Up the Radio”.  I do have the album today (on CD), but I don’t own the Krokus that follows.  “Midnite Maniac” is still enjoyable, especially since I haven’t played it in over 10 years.  Kingdom Come’s “Get It On” is one I own a couple times over now, and I think I like it more today than I did in the beginning.  Y&T’s “Summertime Girls” is horribly cheesy, and yet so much guilty fun.  It’s bright, it’s catchy and I don’t give a fuck!  I still don’t own it properly on album.  Nor do I own “Run Runaway” by Slade, a song I have liked since I was a little kid.  I should pick up a Slade compilation, shouldn’t I?

According to MSG, “Love Is Not a Game”.  I have this one on vinyl today, but Len Mix is still my only CD copy.  Next, a very important song for your Ozzy collection.   “Close My Eyes Forever” is by Lita Ford, featuring Ozzy in a stunning duet.  Yet it may as well be an Ozzy song featuring Lita if that’s what you prefer.  You can’t get it on any of the Ozzman’s albums.  Today I have it on a Lita CD.  Then King Kobra advise us to “Never Say Die”…”Iron Eagle”, baby!  I still don’t have this album, and the song is a guilty pleasure.  Not one of King Kobra’s proudest moments.  You gotta admire that they all cut their hair for the music video, though.

I was always jealous that Len owned a four track copy of Def Leppard’s “When Love and Hate Collide” CD single. Mine only had two tracks! So I requested that Len burn me the demo version of the song that I did not yet own.

“Why Do You Think They Call It Dope?” asked Love/Hate. I ask myself why I still do not own Blackout in the Red Room!  It was rare back then, but there is no excuse today in the age of Discogs.  The Blink 182 song that follows it sticks out like a sore thumb, but I still like a lot of Blink.  Travis Barker is a tremendous drummer, and these guys wrote some great pop punk.  Then Kingdom Come are back with their tremendous ballad “What Love Can Be”, followed by the incredible British band Thunder.  They had a number of great tracks on hard to find albums.  “Low Life in High Places ” classes up the CD by several increments, but then Y&T are back to crash the party.  “Contagious”, like “Summertime Girls”, sounds a bit dated today.  Yet it’s just so damn catchy.

The next two songs are ones I have happily acquired on CD.  Actually, Keel’s “The Right to Rock” is here on LP and CD.  It’s an old classic I grew up with, and so very 1980s.  So is Aldo Nova’s “Fantasy” but in a completely different way.

Len had some extra space on the end of this CD and so threw on Axel Rudi Pell’s “Tear Down the Walls”.  I have not played this song in over a decade, but it sounds great!  Far more modern than anything else on this disc, but Len was right to add it!  Discogs tells me that the stunning lead vocal is by Johnny Gioeli of Neal Schon’s band Hardline.  Of course!

LEN MIX Vol. II

That’s it for Len Mix Vol. I.  The rest of the songs went onto Vol. II, which like Vol. I, begins explosively.  Kingdom Come had a few bangers, and “Do You Like It” is the best of them.  This one comes from their underappreciated second album In Your Face.  (Legend has it that some stores thought the band was called “Kingdom” and the album Come In Your Face, and refused to stock it.)

The next three songs in a row are ones I still need to own on CD or LP:  More Y&T, Autograph and Krokus.  So far, all the Y&T songs have been pretty weak (though catchy and fun).  “Mean Streak” is anything but weak!  Y&T’s heavy metal roots are on full display with a riffy blast.  Then it’s Autograph’s return, with the previously mentioned “Turn Up the Radio”!  This song is probably better known today then it was in the early 2000s, thanks to video games and radio nostalgia.  Krokus’ “Ballroom Blitz” cover was one that, like “School’s Out”, I grew up thinking was a Krokus original!  Fortunately in time I learned the truth.

House of Lords albums were hard to come by at the time, and back then I didn’t own any but their first.  On this CD is the ballad “Remember My Name”.  This is from the second album Sahara which I now happily have.  I don’t particularly care for this one, as it has that overly saccharine faux-romantic sound that was too common in the late 80s into 1990.  But then like a kick in the face, it’s an Udo-less Accept with “Generation Clash”!  Though David Reese’s tenure in the band was brief, this song is a triumph.  I am happy to own the oddly titled album Eat the Heat today, because this darkly sparse prowl is still ace. What a voice on Reese, who could reach for those Udo screams when necessary.

Hey mom,
Have you always followed the golden rule?
Cause this just happens to be my first love.
And that being a must – a must.
That being playin’ my guitar!

It’s hard to come down from such a peak, and unfortunately the fall is broken by an out-of-place Blink 182 song.  “All the Small Things” is such a diametrically opposed song, it’s like cold water dumped on your head!  Two older goodies are not far behind:  “Blackout in the Red Room” by Love/Hate, and the amazing acoustic ballad “Loving You” by Kingdom Come.  It’s oh-so-very Zep, but what the hell.  Zep weren’t making that sound in 1989 and there was obviously a demand for it.

The aforementioned “School’s Out” by Krokus marks their last song on this set, meaning that via Len Mix I got all the Krokus songs that I knew as a kid.  Then it’s Y&T’s final song, the ballad “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark”.  It’s not one of their finest moments, but I would have requested this one because I had it on VHS but nothing else.  With the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, Y&T were obviously aiming to score that “hit ballad”, but Meniketi’s always perfect voice is still a pleasure to listen to.

Thunder’s “Dirty Love” from their first album reminds me that I really need to buy some Thunder.  Then comes a band from whom I only know one song.  It’s a good’un called “You’re So Strange”, though the band had a silly name:  Kik Tracee.  Their ace in the hole was singer Stephen Shareaux.  What a set of lungs on this guy!  He was one of many who auditioned for the vacant vocalist role in Motley Crue in 1992.  Gotta wonder what kind of music they could have made with a pair of lungs like Stephen Shareaux’s.

Moving on to the end, it’s the final Autograph song “Blondes in Black Cars”.  I don’t think it’s their best moment, but I sure have a lot of childhood memories associated with the music video. I pretty much discovered what puberty was all about thanks to that video. I must have worn out that pause button.

MSG’s “Gimme Your Love” was their other single from Perfect Timing, an album I now have on LP but would like on CD for the bonus tracks.  I’m getting the feeling an Amazon order order is forthcoming.  Following MSG is a remix of “Armageddon It” by Def Leppard, from the same since-acquired single as “When Love and Hate Collide”.  At 7:44 it’s a bit much, but I’m a Def Leppard completionist.  Once again Len had a little bit of space at the end of a CD and so wisely included the brief Dokken instrumental “Without Warning”.

It’s important to note that these CDs would have taken Len a bit of time to put together for me.  Few of us kept our music on computer.  Len would have been painstakingly switching discs in and out of his computer to make these for me.  The addition of bonus tracks shows how much care he put into it.

For Len Mix Vol. I and II, I’d say the verdict is clear.  These were a blast to listen to again.

5/5 stars

REVIEW: Alice Cooper – A Paranormal Evening With Alice Cooper at the Olympia Paris (2018)

ALICE COOPER – A Paranormal Evening With Alice Cooper at the Olympia Paris (2018 Edel)

You don’t so much ask if a new Alice Cooper live album is good; instead you just ask what songs are on it.

A Paranormal Evening With Alice Cooper at the Olympia Paris (what a mouth full) features “Hurricane” Nita Strauss on lead guitar, Chuck “Beasto Blanco” Garric on bass, drummer Glen Sobel, and guitarists Ryan Roxie and Tommy Henriksen.  Guys like Garric and Roxie are the veterans, but Nita Strauss is a serious focal point.  She can really shred.

The setlist spans most of Cooper’s career.  The CD even opens with “Brutal Planet”, which was the set opener back in 2000 on the Brutal Planet tour.  The industrial-tinged song is less jarring live.  From there, onto the oldies:  “No More Mr. Nice Guy”, “Under My Wheels” and “Department of Youth”.  Alice’s band are capable backing singers and they tend to focus on the melody while Alice does his schtick with character.  I won’t tell you who Alice name-drops in “Department of Youth” (remember, it used to be teen idol Donny Osmond).  That’s a surprise.

Another surprise:  the fabulous “Pain” from Flush the Fashion.  The powerful dark pop is heavier live, enriched by three guitars in harmony.  Alice can still infuse the song with suffering, even decades later.  Back to an oldie for a moment with “Billion Dollar Babies” (absolutely massive with three guitars) and then another surprise:  “The World Needs Guts”.  Very few songs from Constrictor get played live, and this one is a live album debut.  There’s a certain nostalgia now for the Kane Roberts era, and “The World Needs Guts” thrills my gorilla on this album.  Then to another niche album, 2005’s garage rock of Dirty Diamonds.  It’s an underrated gem of an album, and so “Woman of Mass Distraction” is a welcome selection, though others would have been more interesting.

“Poison” is a perennial, and here it is again representing 1989’s Trash album.  Every Cooper lineup has its own touch with it.  This one isn’t the sleekest version but it’s the most thunderous.  To cap off the first CD, it’s “Halo of Flies” from “Killer”, almost 11 minutes in length.  This is the kind of deep cut you crave, complete and unedited.  Once again, the three guitars really enrich the sound.

Another regular, “Feed My Frankenstein”, is one I could live without.  But this one is a generational song.  Fans who grew up in the early 90s remember it from Wayne’s World.  It’s the song Mrs. LeBrain sang along to in the car.  Boring to some, a highlight for others.  Then it’s back to “Cold Ethyl” from Welcome to My Nightmare, a stone-cold classic (pardon the pun) highlighting the rock and roll side of Alice.  The trade-off guitar solos are a newer twist.  From the same album comes “Only Women Bleed”, and really the only slow song in the set.  Alice doesn’t need to take it slow!

It took this long to play the one and only new song, “Paranoiac Personality“.  It’s not always like this — in the past Alice has peppered his set heavily with new material.  For whatever reason, this time the focus is on the variety.  There are new songs that will unfortunately never get the chance to shine live.  Still, it’s hard to complain, especially when the next song is “Dwight Fry”, the second epic on the album.  A medley of “Killer” and “I Love the Dead” keep that same vibe.

“I’m Eighteen” is the beginning of the end, with “School’s Out/Another Brick in the Wall” ringing the final bell.  Listen to the band introductions for something that Alice rarely does.  Take a minute and appreciate how great Alice’s band is — and always has been no matter the lineup!

A Paranormal Evening With Alice Cooper at the Olympia Paris (say that three times) comes highly recommended.  Anyone who collects Alice Cooper will find something here that they’ve wanted to hear live.  Has any artist been as great as Alice for as long as Alice?  Very few, and this album proves he’s still the one and the only.

4/5 stars

 

 

 

REVIEW: Alice in Chains – Rainier Fog (2018)

ALICE IN CHAINS – Rainier Fog (2018 BMG)

It’s always disappointing when you give a new album a fair shot, but it refuses to stay in your skull. Such is the case with the latest Alice In Chains, Rainier Fog.

It’s especially disappointing since their last platter, 2013’s The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here, was so crushingly perfect.  It’s hard to put a finger on exactly why Rainier Fog lacks the same impact.  It’s not singer William Duvall — this is his third album with Alice In Chains, and he’s done an admirable job every time out.  It’s also not the fault of the lead track, “The One You Know” which is a terrific starter.  “Rainier Fog” is also slammingly good.  From there on, the songs are less memorable, with the exception of “Never Fade” which has a chorus that goes on for miles.

What’s the issue?  Is it that we’ve heard all this before?  Ever since the passing of Layne Staley, Alice In Chains lost that certain “fucked up” quality to their music.  Staley seemed to bring an unschooled approach, completely unafraid to make unconventional music.  Rainier Fog is terribly conventional by comparison with Dirt.  There are verses, choruses, melodies and all the accoutrements.  And they are all good ones.  Little guitar hooks snake in and out of verses, cool as hell.  Riffs are constructed from the strongest mortar.  These foundations support a collection of well written songs.  But most of them refuse to stick.  It’s baffling.

Perhaps Rainer Fog is one of those albums that doesn’t click until the 100th listen.  They exist and when they do, they often become favourites.  If that happens here, we will line up Rainier Fog for a re-review.

3/5 stars

#750: KISS II

GETTING MORE TALE #750:  KISS II

Kiss frontman Paul Stanley seems emboldened by the monumental success of their End of the Road tour.  Why “emboldened”?  Because they’re pulling it off with only half the original band.  Ace Frehley has not shown up to sing “Shock Me” and Peter Criss seems happily retired.  Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer remain in the greasepaint and the spotlight.  It’s proof that the majority of the masses don’t know or don’t care who is in a band anymore.  The “fans” who refer to Thayer and Singer as “scabs” have had no impact on ticket sales with their boycotts.

Many bands have toured successfully in recent years without key members.  AC/DC made headlines by replacing Brian Johnson with Axl Rose.  Deep Purple are going strong with only one original member.  Queen sell out with Adam Lambert taking Freddie Mercury’s place on stage, and bring home terrific reviews to prove it.  Kiss too are doing just fine.

Would they be able to do it with even fewer original members?  Like, say, none?  Paul Stanley thinks so.  He’s said so before and recently he raised the idea again:

“I think that Kiss has served a huge purpose and brings incredible joy to people on the End Of The Road tour. The shows are packed, and not only with the early followers of the band, but people who have heard the legend of what this band does live. And it’s something that’s more than music. It really is a preaching of self-empowerment and the idea that anything that you’re willing to work hard for, you can probably attain. And the idea of celebrating life. Things that may seem simplistic or overtly simplistic, but actually have a timeless depth to them. So when bands continue, ultimately the people in ’em need to change or have to, because of circumstances.

“So that’s a long explanation for me feeling that I would have an enormous amount of pride in knowing that we can continue the band once I’m not there anymore.  That would be the ultimate test of its credibility and the role, I think, that it serves.

“I didn’t invent the wheel. I am the product of all the people who I looked up to, all the musicians who I respected, and it was kind of like a stew, and then I added my own ingredients to it. But there are other people who are out there who wouldn’t necessarily imitate me any more than I imitated my heroes. But there are people out there, I’m sure, who are well equipped to pick up the flag and run with it.”

Paul is correct to say that bands must sometimes change out of necessity.  He is actually the best proof of this.  Paul cannot sing anymore and has been miming a huge percentage of his lead vocals on this tour.  We won’t go down that rabbit hole this time.  Suffice to say, if this wasn’t the End of the Road, Paul couldn’t really continue singing lead in Kiss.

But replacing him?  That’s a whole other bowl of Cheerios.

The idea of Kiss going on without Paul and Gene – let’s call the hypothetical band “Kiss II” – would certainly cross a line with me.  Bands with one or two original members is one thing.  Many bands have replacement members far more important than the originals.  Phil Collen is a key member of Def Leppard, vastly more so than his predecessor Pete Willis.  Same with Roger Glover and Ian Gillan in Deep Purple.  Adrian Smith in Iron Maiden.  The list goes on and on.

Could a Kiss II be a viable prospect with Eric Singer the longest serving member?  With Tommy Thayer as band leader?

No.  Paul and Gene control Kiss.  The other guys have just been hired guns ever since the originals left.  Kiss may have started as four guys, but for the last few decades it’s the vision of just two.  (In the 80s, just one, as Gene went Hollywood.)  You could imagine Paul and Gene controlling a Kiss II band from behind the scenes, but that is a hollow prospect.  Imagine Stanley and Simmons discussing new costumes and approving setlists for a Kiss II tour without them.  Would you pay to see that?

I wouldn’t.

Kiss have already gone down in history, many times, for their accomplishments.  Making the band immortal with all parts replaceable might also be historic, but not in a good way.  There are guys out there who can sing better than Paul, and play better than Gene.  Tribute bands have all the moves down pat.  But you can go see a tribute band for $10.  Kiss II would be, in essence, an “official” tribute band and with Paul and Gene behind the scenes they’d be charging a hell of a lot more than $10 per ticket.

I think Paul has lost perspective.  Kiss has been successful, against the odds, in replacing Peter Criss and Ace Frehley.  But there was precedent for that.  Kiss made fantastic albums without either.  That doesn’t mean you can remove Paul or Gene from the picture and still call it Kiss.  Paul and Gene have always been the ones with the drive and the vision.  They are not so easy to replace.  Can you picture some replacement guy imitating Paul’s stage raps?  There might have been a brief window in the late 80s when Kiss could have gone on without Gene, only Paul, since he had become the captain of the ship for a while.  However that ship sailed long ago and it’s all but impossible to imagine the band without them both.

No, Kiss II is a lousy idea.  It’s just a way to milk naïve fans in this era of hologram and nostalgia tours.  Would they sell tickets?  Sure, they’d sell some.  These hologram tours are proof that people will pay to see anything.  Would it be good?  Hell, no!

 

Just Listening to…Aerosmith – Permanent Vacation

This revisit is due to your Heavy Metal Overlord, who told me that Permanent Vacation is his favourite go-to album for reunited Aerosmith.  Due to the tremendous respect (and fear) I have for HMO, I decided that I needed to give it another listen.

My conclusion after hearing it again is that I had it dead wrong in my album review.  Yes, there are a couple filler songs.  “St. John” and “Girl Keeps Coming Apart” still don’t resonate with me.  But, man, there are some bangers on Permanent Vacation.  I didn’t remember how awesome “Heart’s Done Time” really is.  I forgot about the cool Beatles cover “I’m Down”.   I didn’t give due credit to the terrific title track. But most important of all is “Magic Touch”.  Is Joe Perry playing a whammy bar in the beginning?  What a song.  Could it be the best song on the album?  It certainly has a chorus that goes on for miles.

Permanent Vacation, as an album, might be overshadowed by its own singles “Dude”, “Angel” and “Rag Doll”.  But I’ll be damned if “Angel” doesn’t still make the hair on my arms stand up to this day.

I’ve been unfair to Permanent Vacation. It’s far better than I thought it was.

 

Just Listening to…Aerosmith – Nine Lives

It’s been a while since we’ve been “Just Listening” to an album here, but this one’s always good for a revisit.  The last truly great Aerosmith album was 1997’s Nine Lives.  I stand by that, because it’s a killer album.  We reviewed it back in 2015, so if you’re looking for a more in-depth analysis, check that out.  Today we’re just appreciating an album that is too often overlooked for the strengths it has.

The heavy stuff was heavy enough, and the ballads had balls.  Songs like “Nine Lives” and “Taste of India” are juggernauts.  Drummer Joey Kramer really took them to the next level, which is remarkable since he was sidelined for part of the making of the album.  His partner in rhythm, bassist Tom Hamilton, is also on top of things with his lyrical bassline meanderings.  You’ll rarely find a better guitar tag team than Joe Perry and Brad Whitford, but Steven Tyler’s words are also noteworthy.  The guy is a poet with a dirty mind, and Nine Lives has some of his better lyrics.   “‘Cause love is like the right dress on the wrong girl, You never know what you’re gonna find.”

Most people think of Pump or Get a Grip as the last decent Aerosmith.  Although it didn’t have as many great singles, Nine Lives is actually a better album than Get a Grip.  It has less filler, and rock fans don’t really care about singles anyway.  The fact is, from beginning to end, Nine Lives is just a smoother ride.

 

REVIEW: Tommy Shaw – What If (1985)

TOMMY SHAW – What If (1985 A&M, 2013 BGO Records)

Tommy Shaw’s second solo album What If didn’t have a big hit like Girls With Guns.  It did have some solid if lesser known songs.  Production wise, the edges are a little sharper.

Hot opener “Jealousy” boasts a cool sax solo, and a memorable chorus beefed up with soulful backing vocals.  Second up, “Remo’s Theme” is from the movie Remo Williams, a forgotten film with a decent lead song.  Unfortunately the drums have that electronic gate that indicates samples, but fits the 80s vibe of “Remo’s Theme”.  It sounds like a Miami Vice episode waiting to happen.

Shaw goes for the dusky nightclub scene with “Reach for the Bottle”.  Songs can paint pictures, and this one is made for drinking.  The electro-funk of “Friendly Advice” however just reeks.  Musicians would slap me and point to it as a high point of sheer playing ability, but I’m holding my nose over here.  It gets better on “This is Not a Test”, still lodged deep in the 80s but in a good way.  The subject matter is right out of 1985:  the threat of nuclear war!  This was a popular subject in the 80s, just ask Ozzy.

The second side opened with “See Me Now”, an inspirational energising tune, carefully composed like…layers of gouda on a cheese sandwich.  Dig?  It tastes good, but too much is probably not good for you.  “True Confessions” is similarly a pop guilty pleasure.  God that drum sound is awful!  Moving on, “Count on You” has a Floydian (80s of course) ballad vibe, with more of that tasty sax.  “Nature of the Beast” is another ballad with terrific melodies and more of them drum samples.  Finally “Bad Times” ends the album with a “good time” song.  Loads of saxophone,  upbeat hooks, and less obtrusive drums.

What If is not a bad album, but some the production gets to way too clunky on some tracks.  When it’s played closer to rock and roll, the basic instruments, it works far better.

3/5 stars