classic rock

RE-REVIEW: KISS – Asylum (1985)

The KISS RE-REVIEW SERIES Part 28 

 – Asylum (1985 Polygram, 1997 Mercury remaster)

When we last met our heroes, they were a fractured bunch with differing priorities.  Gene Simmons cut his hair and went to Hollywood.  Paul Stanley was steering the Kiss ship singlehandedly.  They were down a guitar player (Mark St. John) but were fortunate to find his replacement in Bruce Kulick.  Not only was Bruce an old acquaintance (his brother Bob played on a number of Kiss tracks) but he was also just what the band needed.  He added a shot of stability and wrote good material.  He has three writing credits on his first album Asylum, and that was just the beginning.

Paul and Gene produced Asylum, in a similar way to how Animalize was recorded.  As had become routine, Gene wasn’t around to record some of the bass parts in Paul’s songs.  Jean Beauvoir returned to fill in, while Paul also played some bass.  Without Gene fully committed, Asylum was the second Kiss album in a row hobbled by his reduced participation.  Animalize was a huge selling album for Kiss having gone platinum.  Asylum sounds like Paul wanted to duplicate that record.

Eric Carr opens the album with a thunderously memorable drum intro.  Carr didn’t have to try to impress anybody; his drumming brought Kiss to a higher level musically.  His double bass work on “King of the Mountain” would make Lars poo his pants.  For Carr fans, “King of the Mountain” surely must be considered one of his brightest moments.  Fortunately the song also kicks ass.  As one of the Kulick co-writes, the new guitarist impresses immediately.  His soloing style was so much smoother than his predecessor Mark St. John.  He had similar speed and ability but better composition when it comes to solos.  Meanwhile, Paul takes this high octane speed rocker and turns it into a rallying call of encouragement.

I’m gonna climb the mountain,
I’m gonna hit the top,
I wanna go where nobody’s ever been,
I’m never gonna stop.

Who needs Shakespeare when you just need a good shake?  “King of the Mountain” is fuel injection for the bloodstream.

Over to Gene.  “Any Way You Slice It” kicks ass.  He had a habit of barking out his lyrics in the 80s, and “Any Way You Slice It” is very bark-y.  The riff really catches air and takes off.  Back to Paul, and a big single.  “Who Wants to Be Lonely” has a chug and a plaintive chorus.  Paul’s vocal abilities were at a peak, but it sounds like Gene was nowhere near the studio when it was recorded.

There are a lot of contributions from outside songwriters on Asylum, from people such as Desmond Child and Jean Beauvoir.  One of the few songs without them is “Trial By Fire” by Gene and Bruce.  Once again the rhythm is a chug, but this simple little rocker is appealing.  There’s nothing wrong with the chorus, but it has never been played live.  Nor has Paul’s “I’m Alive” which just takes the speed thing to an absurd level for this band.  Kiss isn’t a speed metal band and “I’m Alive” isn’t a memorable song.  “I’m hot enough to give you chills.”  I’ll take your word for it, Paul!

Flip the album and you’ll hear “Love’s a Deadly Weapon”, which both Gene and Paul have a credit on.  This is noteworthy, because the pair hadn’t written anything together on Animalize and only one track on Lick it Up and The Elder each.  That’s all the co-writing credits they had together after the infamous Kiss solo albums.  However, “Love’s a Deadly Weapon” isn’t really a co-write.  It’s one of Gene’s songs, with a title and some words taken from a Paul Stanley demo called “Deadly Weapons”.  Again, Kiss takes the speed level to the absurd.  This ironically renders the song powerless.

Fortunately Paul’s big single “Tears are Falling” brings back the quality.  It was one of the few songs from this era to continue to be played live.  It was kept in the set on the Revenge tour, and had been brought back periodically by the current lineup of the band, even appearing on their last album Kiss Rocks Vegas.  That’s because it has a chorus that goes on for days and days.  Bruce’s guitar solo is one his most memorable, which doesn’t hurt either.

Gene’s “Secretly Cruel” shows off his sleazy side, on a likeable but forgettable album track.  He wrote this one solo, just as Paul did for “Tears are Falling”.  And it’s sleazy from there in.  “Radar for Love” is a Paul/Desmond composition with a groove and a chorus that nails it.

And then it’s “Uh! All Night”.  Yes, “Uh! All Night” is the name of a song.

I’ll confess that when I first heard “Uh! All Night” in 1985, I didn’t know what “Uh!” meant.  I figured it meant “partying” or something.  And there was a period when I really liked this song, but that was over 30 years ago and it sure has worn out its welcome.

Kiss went on tour again, never leaving home territory except for one date in Toronto.  This was a step backwards for the so-called “Hottest Band in the World”.  Asylum wasn’t the hit album that Animalize was.  Money was becoming a problem.  These are problems they aimed to solve next time.

The irony is, although Asylum wasn’t as big as Animalize, song for song it’s probably a better album.

Today’s rating:

3.5/5 stars

To be continued…

Original mikeladano.com review:  2012/08/02

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REVIEW: Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow – Live in Birmingham 2016

RITCHIE BLACKMORE’S RAINBOW – Live in Birmingham 2016 (2017 Universal)

Ronnie Romero has one of the toughest jobs in rock.  As the singer in Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow, he must fill the shoes of many past vocal champions:  Ronnie James Dio, Graham Bonnet, Joe Lynn Turner, as well as Ian Gillan and David Coverdale from Deep Purple.  The really difficult thing about it is the main guy he’s compared to:  Dio.  Fortunately, this Ronnie is no Dio clone.

Blackmore’s newest incarnation of Rainbow has been doing light touring and recording new material.  From their 2016 show in Birmingham comes this live album, a welcome addition to the Rainbow catalogue.  20 years since their last tour with White, Rainbow has an all-new lineup including Jens Johansson, the top rated keyboard player who made his fame with Yngwie Malmsteen and Dio himself.  Also on board are members of Ritchie’s acoustic Renaissance project Blackmore’s Night:  David Keith and Bob Nouveau on drums and bass.  Backing them are singers Lady Lynn and Candice Night from the same project.

What everything really has to come down to is the lead vocalist.  Ronnie Romero cut his teeth with Chilean band Lords of Black, a power metal group with some minor Blackmore influences.  Ritchie obviously has a good ear.  One wouldn’t immediately think of Romero has the next singer for Rainbow, but the fit is good and snug.  Ronnie can sing the old Dio material and is an instantly likeable frontman.  He has the power and range available to do Dio material, but his rasp is actually reminiscent of another Rainbow singer, Graham Bonnet.  On this album, Romero does the hit single “Since You Been Gone”, originally performed with Graham.  It’s the most authentic version of the song since the original.

As online forums have discussed and debated, Rainbow have a very Purple-heavy set.  Nine songs are Purple classics, making up the majority, including an odd choice in “Child in Time”.  Have Rainbow ever performed that song before?  Perhaps it was put back in the set simply because Purple haven’t played it in 20 years either. “Burn” is no problem for Ronnie Romero though.  He’s very comfortable in David Coverdale’s range.

Could more Rainbow songs have been squeezed in at the expense of a Purple oldie like “Woman From Tokyo” or “Highway Star”?  Sure.  But it’s Ritchie’s ball game.  He wrote those songs, and if he wants to open his set with “Highway Star”, he sure can.  “Soldier of Fortune” originally from Stormbringer is a surprise and all the more successful for it.  Whitesnake will sometimes play it live, but Purple do not, and Rainbow may never have before.  That leaves seven Rainbow songs, mostly Dio era.  “Stargazer”, “Catch the Rainbow” and “Long Live Rock ‘N’ Roll” are indispensable.

The only real issue with the recording lies with Ritchie.  The guitar should be louder.  It’s far too quiet.  You cannot hear enough of what he is doing.  Comparing to another live album, Black Masquerade recorded in 1995, the guitar was in your face and seemed more aggressive.  It seems strange that a guitar-dominated band like Rainbow would have the instrument toned down on the live album, but many listeners have said the same thing:  “Needs more guitar”.

All the new musicians are more than capable, and after hearing these songs done a million times, it’s nice to hear some new twists on solos and fills.  Romero’s native tongue is Spanish, and there are times he slips up on some old Deep Purple lyrics (particularly “Perfect Strangers”).  This never matters, because nobody screws up Deep Purple lyrics more than Ian Gillan himself!  The main thing is Romero has the right voice.  It’s unbelievable that he can sing a long set like this with such power throughout, seemingly with ease.

Long live rock ‘n’ roll, long live Rainbow, and long live Ronnie Romero.  It’s easy to be skeptical, but most doubters will be silenced by the newest incarnation of Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow.  This is a pleasant surprise and one of Rainbow’s most enjoyable live albums due to the charismatic Romero.

3.5/5 stars

REVIEW: Alice Cooper – Paranormal (2017 2 CD edition)

ALICE COOPER – Paranormal (2017 Edel 2 CD edition)

Both Alice Cooper and Bob Ezrin had a lot to live up to with their latest collaboration Paranormal.  Excluding 2015’s covers album Hollywood Vampires, their last record together was the remarkable Welcome 2 My Nightmare in 2011.  Bob Ezrin has already produced one of the more impressive rock albums of 2017, Deep Purple’s InFinite.  Considering this recent track record, one might say we expect the goods this time too.

Paranormal is a great album, loaded with fantastic Alice Cooper material of different rock and roll styles.  It is not up to the level of brilliance of Welcome 2 My Nightmare.  That album (a concept album sequel) was dense with ideas and composition.  Paranormal is a step towards something less conceptual and more like a traditional album.  The big surprise this time out is the drummer:  U2’s Larry Mullen plays on 9 of the 10 core songs, and you’d never guess that without reading the credits.

The title track is impressive on its own.  It has a haunting guitar hook and vocal, and is built a bit like Alice’s horror material from the 80s.  That’s Ezrin’s pal, Roger Glover from Deep Purple on bass.  Back to the early 70s, get down with some hard rocking “Dead Flies”, but don’t let your guard down.  Relentlessly, “Fireball” blazes down the terrain, kicking aside everything not nailed down.  Alice doesn’t have anything that sounds like “Fireball” on any of his other albums.

The lead single “Paranoiac Personality” (a single worth tracking down for an exclusive live B-side) is similar to “Go to Hell” (from 1976’s Alice Cooper Goes to Hell).  It’s the kind of magic that happens only when Alice Cooper and Bob Ezrin work together.  Memorable Alice Cooper rock, accessible enough for radio play, but within the personality of Alice.

Moving on to sleaze rock, “Fallen in Love” is a strong entry.  If it sounds a little greasy, that’s probably because Billy Gibbons is on it.  It’s followed by a speedy trip called “Dynamite Road” with a neat spoken-word style vocal.  It suits Alice’s storytelling lyrics.  After a couple of heavy bashers, it’s good to get back to a groove on “Private Public Breakdown”.  These are some impressive songs, each different from the other but fitting the whole.

A kickin’ horn section joins Alice on “Holy Water”, a fun and unorthodox rock and roll sermon.  Then there’s a good old fashioned punk rocker called “Rats”.  It might remind you of Michael Monroe’s classic “Dead, Jail or Rock ‘N’ Roll”.  It’s the only song on disc one that Larry Mullen doesn’t play on.  “Rats” has the surviving original Alice Cooper band: Michael Bruce, Neal Smith, and Dennis Dunaway.

Going for a haunting close, there is an understated song called “The Sound of A” to end the album proper.  This truly recalls Welcome to (and 2) My Nightmare.  Original bassist Dennis Dunaway co-wrote and plays bass on the track.  Although he was not in the band during the Nightmare era, that is what immediately comes to mind.  This is the kind of song that has the potential to become an Alice classic a few years down the road.

Cooper has been generous with bonus tracks on his last few albums, and Paranormal has a fully loaded second CD.  There are two more brand new songs featuring the surviving members of the original Alice Cooper band.  Steve Hunter is also on board with some slippery slide goodness.  “Genuine American Girl” is a transgender celebration, the kind of thing that would have been cutting edge in 1972, but today is just timely.  Smith co-write this with Alice and Ezrin, and it’s a remarkably catchy little tune.  “This is no-man’s land and I live here every day” sings a gleeful Alice.  It does sound like something the original band could have played back then.  “You and All Your Friends” (Cooper/Dunaway/Ezrin) is more of an anthem.  A crowd could definitely sing along.  These two tracks serve as reminders to what great players the original band members are.  Neal Smith is absolutely a drumming maniac and Dennis Dunaway is still one of kind.

There are six more bonus tracks, all live cuts from 2016 featuring Alice’s stellar live band.  It’s good to have these, because really the only thing missing from the new songs is guitarist Nita Strauss.  She’s a monster player.  For those hoping to hear Nita on Alice’s new album, at least she’s on the bonus tracks.  The live cuts are a fairly standard selection of 70s hits (all but “Feed My Frankenstein”).  You know what you’re getting:  expertly performed Cooper classics by his gang of professional rock and roll misfits.

Paranormal is yet another late-career triumph by Alice Cooper.  It’s just a hair shy of mind blowing.

4.5/5 stars

REVIEW: The Black Crowes – The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion (remastered)

Black Crowes double feature! Check out Deke‘s review of The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion by clicking here!

THE BLACK CROWES – The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion (originally 1992, 1998 American remaster)

On their first album, the Crowes were old time soulful rock and roll saviours.  They were a retro treat, an antidote to the Poisons and Bon Jovis and Warrants.  By their second album, the Crowes became artists.  Fraught with tension, ther brothers Robinson battled over creative direction.  Songs were recorded, re-recorded, dropped, replaced.  But it all happened very quickly.  The songs were written in a matter of weeks, and the album was recorded in a matter of days, according to Chris Robinson.

There was also a lineup change.  Guitarist Jeff Cease (who didn’t play much on the first album anyway) was out and Marc Ford from Burning Tree was in.  Perhaps most importantly, the Crowes added a full-time keyboard player.  Canadian-born Eddie Harsch (R.I.P.) fit like a glove and became a fan favourite relatively quickly.  Unusually, Harsch isn’t on the front cover though he’s on the back and inside of The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion.

Get stung!  “Sting Me” is one of the songs the brothers fought over.  One liked the fast one that opens Southern Harmony.  One preferred the original slow version that’s included as a bonus track.  The fast version won out and you will get why.  It’s hyper-fast, but with the southern flavour added in shots.  Backup singers Barbara and Joy are all over the album, including “Sting Me”, putting a soulful spin on everything.

Can I have some “Remedy”?  Track two was a #1 hit for a stunning 11 weeks.  A slick groove and funky electric piano make this one a blues rocker for the ages.  In one track, the Crowes stepped away from their previous derivative sound, and hit the warp drive.  It’s such tremendous leap in terms of growth.  Barbara and Joy have the chorus covered while Chris scats his way into the charts.

The acoustic side of the Crowes comes out on “Thorn in My Pride”, which also points the way forward to 1994’s Amorica.  Congas and organ add a slightly psychedelic slant, but the song also gives way to an electric jam.  Another single and another hit for the Black Crowes.  Going further into electric blues, “Bad Luck Blue Eyes Goodbye” is raw and exposed.  The band and producer George Drakoulias captured a warm and bare sound, and no track shows it off better.  You can hear the hum of hot amplifiers.  And those amps get cranked up on “Sometimes Salvation”.  Heavy blues, emphasis on groove.  Drummer Steve Gorman has long been this band’s secret weapon.

Side two is cranked immediately on the rock and roll “Hotel Illness”.  Guitars crash and slide, it’s a harmonica blowin’ good time.  Southern Harmony takes a few listens to fully penetrate but a track like “Hotel Illness” takes no time at all.  Then the black moon starts-a-creepin’.  There’s a dark swampy vibe to “Black Moon Creeping”, but heavy with growling guitar explorations.  “No Speak No Slave” crawls up next, bustin’ down the doors with some sweet guitar harmonies.  For songs like “No Speak No Slave”, guitar players have admired this album for a long time. Then it’s on to “My Morning Song” which returns the emphasis to some soul singin’.

An acoustic cover of Bob Marley’s “Time Will Tell” sounds like a jam, but those things are often the magical moments.  That’s what “Time Will Tell” is, a magical moment.  It’s a snapshot of a group of musicians just singing and playing with their hearts.

As with the other Crowes remasters from the 1998 reissues, Southern Harmony has bonus stuff.  All four have a sticker inside with an ad for the forthcoming Crowes album By Your Side on the back.  There are two music videos, a screensaver, and a “link to the Black Crowes’ website!”  More importantly there are two bonus tracks.  The aforementioned “slow” version of “Sting Me” is interesting but the fast version sets it apart but the other mid-tempo material on the album.  Another fast tune, “99 lbs” is an instantly likeable blues cover, more straightforward than the album itself.  It’s more like Shake Your Money Maker Crowes.  Great tune for a bonus track.

If you’re familiar with this album, you may agree.  If you’re not, you probably know this album for its reputation.  Southern Harmony and the Musical Companion is an essential album for any rock collector with integrity.  They don’t come more authentic or proudly individual than this.  Get some.

5/5 stars

#585: Days Full of Music

Getting More Tale #585: Days Full of Music

I might not rock and roll all night, or party every day.  I do, however, sleep well at night because I rock and roll most of the day.

I play music every day.  I have played music every day with only a few exceptions for the last 30+ years.  A grade 8 weeklong Catholic school retreat at Mt. Mary meant a week of no music, so I listened to as much Kiss as I could beforehand.  I hoped to have the tunes in my head all week.  Unfortunately that’s not a substitute for the real thing, but I did survive Mt. Mary.

I have always said that listening to the radio at work is a much better fate than listening to whatever was popular at the Record Store in the later days.  Better for me, anyway, rather than being force-fed Franz Ferdinand, Alicia Keys, or Big Shiny Tunes all day.  I’d much rather check out what’s on the local rock airwaves.  The higher-ups at the Record Store didn’t like my kind of music much, so when they were around I stuck to the stuff they wanted played.  I didn’t want to get in shit for playing Kiss in store anymore.

Below you’ll find what a typical happy day at work sounds like today.  I used July 5 2017 as a sample date.  There are a few readers here who listen to the same radio station I do (107.5 Dave Rocks where I have done guest shots in the past) so some will know these songs well.  Then there are others who loathe the radio (which is fine) and they can skip this one.

I started my daily commute that day with the second disc of Rush’s 2112, the 40th anniversary edition.  The drive to work consisted of the cover tunes by Foo Fighters, Billy Talent, Steven Wilson, Jacob Moon and Alice in Chains.  On this trip I was struck by how little like Alice in Chains they sounded.   I was also very impressed (as usual) with Jacob Moon.  I’m almost embarrassed to add that Billy Talent is gradually growing on me, and this Rush cover doesn’t hurt their case.

When I got into the office I turned on the radio to hear One Bad Son.  They are a new hard rock band from Saskatoon, but they sound international.  A band to keep an ear to the ground for.  The day went on as you see it below.  I have marked all Canadian Content songs with a red CC, since radio stations in Canada must play certain percentages of CanCon.

Here was my music for the day of July 5:


Car:  Rush – 2112 40th anniversary edition (first half of disc 2)

1. One Bad Son – “Raging Bull” – Great rock reminiscent of Skid Row! CC
2. Spacehog – “In the Meantime”
3. Alice in Chains – “Check My Brain” –Killer track, it’s been a while.
4. April Wine – “Weeping Widow” – I’ve never heard this smoking track before. CC
5. Motley Crue – “Don’t Go Away Mad (Just Go Away)”
6. Age of Electric – “Ugly” – Vintage Canadian alternarock! CC

7. The Cars – “Just What I Needed” – I will never get tired of this.
8. The Struts – “Kiss This” – I  absolutely hate this song.
9. The Tragically Hip – “Fully Completely” CC
10. Bon Jovi – “Born to Be My Baby” – Old classic back in circulation.
11. Soundgarden – “Rusty Cage”
12. U2 – “Beautiful Day”
13. The Guess Who – “American Woman” CC
14. Bryan Adams – “Kids Wanna Rock” CC
15. Foo Fighters – “All My Life”
16. Bachman-Turner Overdrive – “Hold Back the Water” CC
17. Papa Roach – “Help”
18. J. Geils Band – “Love Stinks”
19. The Trews – “So She’s Leaving” CC
20. Aerosmith – “Back in the Saddle” – I did air guitar in my office for this song.
21. Metallica – “Until it Sleeps”
22. Harlequin  – “Thinking of You”— A great old tune that deserves your attention. CC

23. Monster Truck – “The Enforcer” CC
24. The Kinks – “You Really Got Me”
25. Sublime – “Santeria”
26. The Killjoys – “Today I Hate Everyone” CC
27. Led Zeppelin – “Night Flight” – Points for a more obscure song!
28. Pop Evil – “Footsteps” – Sorry Pop Evil fans. I can’t get into this band at all.
29. The Cult – “Wildflower”
30. The Wild! – “Living Free” – Tyler Generoux is into these guys. CC
31. Kaleo – “Glass House”
32. Moist – “Resurrection” CC
33. Guns N’ Roses – “You Could Be Mine”
34. Rush – “The Big Money” CC
35. The Rolling Stones – “Rocks Off”
36. Soundgarden – “Burden In My Hand”
37. The Who – “I’m Free”
38. Blink 182 – “Bored to Death – I’ve really been enjoying their new songs with Matt Skiba.
39. Nirvana – “Breed”
40. Neil Young – “When You Dance You Can Really Love” CC
41. Sloan – “She Says What She Means” CC
42. Our Lady Peace – “Supersatellite” CC
43. AC/DC – “Rock N’ Roll Train” – It’s nice to hear “newer” Black Ice material.

44. Led Zeppelin – “Four Sticks” – The second Zep of the shift.
45. Stone Sour – “Bother”
46. Scorpions – “The Zoo”
47. Jimi Hendrix – “Fire”
48. Metallica – “The Unforgiven”
49. ZZ Top – “Sharp Dressed Man”
50. Nickelback – “Feed the Machine” – First and thankfully only Nickelback of the shift. CC
51. Max Webster – “Paradise Skies” CC
52. Sam Roberts Band – “If You Want It” CC
53. Foo Fighters – “D.O.A.” – Second Foo Fighters of the shift.
54. Van Halen – “Hot For Teacher”
55. Hole – “Awful” – Ironically not awful!
56. Rush – The Analog Kid”  – Second Rush of the shift. CC
57. The Guess Who – “Bus Rider” – Second Guess Who of the shift. CC
58. 311 – “Down” – I hated them then, and I hate them now.
59. The Glorious Sons – “Mama” CC

60. Big Sugar – “Dear Mr. Fantasy” CC
61. Led Zeppelin – “Rock and Roll” – Third Zep for the shift and the most typical.
62. The Offspring – “Gone Away” – A band I never ever liked.
63. Def Leppard – “Hysteria” – Their greatest ballad ever.
64. Bon Jovi – “Lay Your Hands On Me” – Second Jovi of the shift and second from New Jersey.
65. The Trews – “Lotta Work Little Love” – Second Trews of the shift. CC
66. Soundgarden – “Blow Up the Outside World” – Second Soundgarden and second from Down on the Upside.
67. Triumph – “Lay It On the Line” (remixed) CC
68. The Rolling Stones – “Gimme Shelter” – Second and best Stones of the shift.
69. Green Day – “Revolution Radio”
70. The Clash – “Rock the Casbah” – Booooring.
71. The Standstills – “Orleans” – Great Canadian blues rock duo.  Check them out.  CC

72. Van Halen – “Unchained” – Second Van Halen of the shift.  It’s the Craig Fee Show!
73. AC/DC – “Who Made Who” – Second AC/DC of the shift.
74. Bryan Adams – “Summer of ‘69” – Second Bryan of the shift. CC
75. Big Wreck – “You Don’t Even Know” CC
76. Foreigner – “Hot Blooded”

And that was it.  That’s 7:30 to 4:30 right there, not a bad shift to work.  I went home resuming the Rush, and that got me to the door.

Car:  Rush – 2112 40th anniversary edition (live songs from disc 2)


How do you like that day?  There were very few stinkers in that list of songs.  I could leave behind the Nickelback, the “Rock the Casbah”, and the Struts among others.  Those tracks aside, this was a very solid day of great rock and roll, new and old.  No repeat.  Only a few bands had more than one song played.  A good number of songs were off the beaten track.  Pretty good for a full day at the office, right?  I count my blessings every day, believe me!  I am very grateful I get to listen to such great music at work.

I’m the office Milton. I even have the red stapler.

REVIEW: The Black Crowes – Shake Your Money Maker (remastered)

Black Crowes double feature! Check out Deke‘s review of Shake Your Money Maker by clicking here!

THE BLACK CROWES – Shake Your Money Maker (originally 1990, 1998 American remaster)

In 1990, just on the cusp of a musical revolution, a new band emerged from Georgia to challenge everything that was going on in rock and roll.  The biggest rock bands in the world had been playing around with the blues, but now there was a new band who lived and breathed it.  The Black Crowes were unlike all the other bands (except maybe the London Quireboys) and their debut album Shake Your Money Maker shook the money tree!

With George Drakoulias in the producer’s chair, the Crowes laid down one fine debut album.  They drew influence from the 70s:  Bands like the Stones and Skynyrd, as well as the old Mississippi Delta bluesmen.  The slide-drenched “Twice As Hard” certainly didn’t sound like a new band in 1990, but its honest authenticity has kept in a fan favourite for decades.  Listen to Rich Robinson’s slide and dig in.  Vocalist Chris Robinson’s bluesy drawl delivers a hell of a chorus.  “Twice As Hard” is perfect in every measure.

Rolling right into the first single “Jealous Again” the Crowes sound like the offspring of the Stones at their boogie-woogie best.  During the summer of 1990, you simply could not escape these songs.  Unlike many of their contemporaries they still stand tall.

The Stones had their “Angie”, the Crowes have their “Sister Luck”.  Shake Your Money Maker is a well rounded album with a few piano based slow tracks.  You want authenticity?  That’s Chuck Leavell on keys (he’s been playing with the Rolling Stones for decades).  Back to the rock, “Could I’ve Been So Blind” kicks it with a shot of caffeine and a great chorus.  Thing go slow again on the organ based blues “Seeing Things”.  The Crowes were just kids but it sounds like they have years and years of pain to pour into these songs.  “Seeing Things” is a tour de force!

One of the most well known singles from Shake Your Money Maker was the old Otis Redding cover “Hard to Handle”.  Bringing the boogie back, the Crowes had a huge hit with this cover.  It must be noted that there are two different versions of this track.  Radio stations were serviced with a very rare “horn mix” that brings in a brass section.  (This extremely rare promo CD is catalogue number PRO-CD-4896.)   The remix still gets occasional radio play.  Unfortunately the album only has the original mix.  (There were plenty of live and acoustic B-sides made for these singles too.)

“Thick N’ Thin” begins with a car crash, and this is one of the most energetic tracks in the Crowes catalog.  Like the Faces on adrenaline, “Thick N’ Thin” is a blast.  Fast paced rock and roll with boogie woogie piano gets the feet moving.  One of the fastest songs gives way to the slowest one.  “She Talks to Angels” is the only one that deserves the tag “ballad”.  Acoustics guitars, organ, and Chris’ plaintive voice took it to #1 on the US album rock charts.  It’s still just as stunning today.

Moving in for the close, “Struttin’ Blues” is relatively nondescript compared to some of the prior ass-kickers.  They save most kick-ass for last:  “Stare It Cold”.  It starts as a standard Stones-y rocker, but then it picks up speed right to the end, brilliantly ending the debut album on a hell of a good impression.

The 1998 remaster contains two bonus tracks and a few anachronisms:  music videos, a screen saver and “a link to the Crowes’ website!”  With the benefit of hindsight, we would have preferred more bonus tracks, but in 1998 this was cutting edge stuff.  The bonus cuts include “Don’t Wake Me”, a slide-drenched add-on.  As a song it’s not the most memorable, but that slide guitar is priceless.  The second is an “acoustic” version of “She Talks to Angels”.  The emphasis is on piano, and it sounds live in the studio.

Huge credit must go not only to the Black Crowes but also to producer Drakoulias.  His reputation speaks for itself but this album still sounds fantastic.  It does not sound like it was recorded in 1990.  The drums and all the other instruments are full and clear.  The brothers Robinson wrote all the original tunes, and as it turned out they were a classic batch.  Shake Your Money Maker is not original or innovative, but it is timeless.

4/5 stars

REVIEW: Deep Purple – Nobody’s Perfect (1988, 1999 reissue)

“I’ve been drunk from nine o’clock in the morning, ’til nine o’clock in the morning, because you’ve all been buying me drinks.  You are sensational!”  — Ian Gillan to the audience in Oslo

DEEP PURPLE – Nobody’s Perfect (originally 1988, 1999 Mercury 2 CD reissue)

Deep Purple are more than just a band, they are a legend.  And as such we must judge them a little more stringently than the average band.

In 1988 Deep Purple were celebrating their 20th anniversary, but they were actually broken up for eight of those 20 years.  And as it turns out, they celebrated their 20th by firing lead singer Ian Gillan!  They also released this live album, which failed to excite the general public.  Nobody’s Perfect is little more than a sub-Made in Japan.

It’s important to note, if you’re going to buy Nobody’s Perfect, there is no point in getting anything other than the 1999 2CD Mercury reissue.  Originally, in order to get all the tracks, you had to buy the album on LP and cassette.  The cassette had one exclusive track, “Dead or Alive”, a rarity from The House of Blue Light.  The double LP had its own exclusive, “Bad Attitude”, another rarity from the same album.  Meanwhile the single disc CD release was missing both these tracks and “Space Truckin'” as well.  In other words, definitely do not buy the original single CD release which is the most incomplete of them all.

The big critique levelled at Nobody’s Perfect, then and now, is that the setlist was too safe and a repeat of stuff already released in live form.  Ian Gillan himself was one who voiced that opinion.  The cassette and LP bonus tracks go a long way to add value, since those songs were dropped after this tour.  The only other place you can find live versions of “Bad Attitude” and “Dead or Alive” is the very expensive and out of print Bootleg Series 1984-2000.  Otherwise, Nobody’s Perfect consists of all the same songs as Made in Japan minus “The Mule” and with a small handful of newer songs.  The album is also sourced from many concerts around the world and completely lacks the flow that Made in Japan had (even though it was taken from three concerts itself).

The Deep Purple of 1987-1988 may have had the same members, but they still sounded very different from the Purple of 1972.  Ian Gillan’s voice aged as all human voices do, and is the most notably different.  Just as importantly though, Deep Purple had drastically cut down the soloing.  That’s not a bad thing, but a lot of the shorter jams and solos sounded by rote in the 80s.  One new highlight though is a bit of “Jesus Christ Superstar” in the middle of the “Strange Kind of Woman” solo section.  Gillan was, of course, the original Jesus on the Jesus Christ Superstar album.

Whatever negatives may be applicable, when they rock they rock and when they roll they roll.  “Dead Or Alive”, a new song, smokes the stage.  “Child in Time” is probably the last decent version of the song released.  “Perfect Strangers” and “Knocking at Your Back Door” were fresh and haven’t worn out their welcomes.

Finally there is a “Hush”, a re-recording of Deep Purple’s original 1968 single, captured live in a jam.  This reimagining of the track has been dismissed as unnecessary but that is an unfair assessment.  Ian Gillan and Roger Glover didn’t play on the original, so it’s actually cool to get a nice version with them.  “Hush” in 1988 was a heavier track than “Hush” in 1968, but it’s still playful rock and roll.

As Purple approaches their 50th, Nobody’s Perfect has faded into the backdrop.  As an official live album, it has its place in the discography.  With so many superior official and semi-official live releases since, it is hardly an essential listen.

3/5 stars

 

REVIEW: Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow – Stranger In Us All (expanded edition)

RITCHIE BLACKMORE’S RAINBOW – Stranger In Us All (originally 1995, 2017 Sony expanded edition)

Blackmore said “adios” to Deep Purple for the second and final time in 1993.  He beat them to the punch with new music, in the form of a resurrected Rainbow…sort of.  As he is prone to do, Blackmore assembled an all-new Rainbow of unknowns.  The only familiar face was bassist Greg Smith who happened to be in Alice Cooper’s band when Wayne’s World was filmed.  The new singer was the smooth-voiced Scot, Mr. Doogie White.  White’s career almost broke in a completely different direction earlier, when he was one of two finalists in the running to replace Bruce Dickinson in Iron Maiden.  It went to Blaze Bayley.  Signifying new beginnings, Blackmore reverted the band’s name to Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow once again.

Back in 1995, my impressions of Stranger In Us All, the new album by Blackmore’s Rainbow, were significantly underwhelming.  It has taken its time, but over the years the album slowly penetrated my stubborn refusal to accept it as legitimate.  By now I think we know all Rainbow needs is the Man in Black.  And there he stands on the front cover, pilgrim-hatted again, gloriously silhouetted against a cloudy sky.

The only serious weakness in Stranger In Us All has nothing to do with the lineup.  The production (by Pat Regan and Blackmore) sounds low budget and the drums sound muddy.  Blackmore’s guitar tone is thankfully impeccable and his neo-classical leanings on the first track “Wolf to the Moon” were refreshing.  “Wolf to the Moon” is one song that has stood the test of time.  It is thoroughly still enjoyable today, and Blackmore is unleashed.  And the singer?  It is true that Doogie White stands in the shadows of some great lead vocalists.  I’ll resist ranking and comparing.  White has a very smooth voice with impressive power and range, and he doesn’t sound like any of his predecessors.  Where White really impresses is in live renditions.  He is an entertaining and amicable frontman.

Track two brings a slower grind to Rainbow, and White slinks along with him, adapting perfectly to every vibe.  Going slower still, “Hunting Humans (Insatiable)” really prowls.  It is spare, dark and sweaty.  Moving on to inspirational hard rock, Rainbow brings the harmonica-inflected “Stand and Fight”.  What is not to like?

Rainbow ended the first side in typically epic fashion.  “Ariel” was quite a track, featuring backing vocals from the lady who is now Ritchie’s wife, Mrs. Candice Night.  She co-wrote a number of the album’s tracks including “Ariel”.  This kind of thing is Ritchie’s bread and butter, he’s been writing epics like this since “Child in Time” back in 1970.  As an added bonus, the extended edition of Stranger In Us All has the single edit of “Ariel”, trimming it to a tidy format-friendly 4:00.  This is more like a re-edit, moving parts around and making it more compact.

They step on the gas again for “Too Late for Tears”.  Side two has a couple “stock” rockers — “Too Late for Tears” and “Silence”.  Good blood-pumping tracks, nothing to save for your greatest hits album, but decent enough.  “Black Masquerade” is better, as it has a dark neo-classical edge.  Thing go kind of goofy when they cover Grieg’s “Hall of the Mountain King” and add lyrics.  They also have another go at the Yardbirds’ “Still I’m Sad”, this being the second time.  The first Rainbow version was an instrumental.  This one has vocals, and it’s pretty good.  Just like with lead singers, I don’t think it’s worth comparing this version to the 1975 one.  It’s unique enough that it’s almost two different things.

Back in 2013 I found the Japanese edition of Stranger In Us All at the 2013 Toronto Musical Collectibles Record & CD Sale for $15.  Instant no-brain purchase right?  Now that this expanded edition is out, I no longer need it in my ever-expanding collection.  I am passing it on to massive Rainbow fan Brian over at Boppinsblog.  Now that CDs are worth nothing, I like to pay it forward with my retired music.  The expanded edition contains the Japanese bonus track, “Emotional Crime”.  It has a cool, “smoove” groove and a bluesy feel.  Think Purple’s 1988 remake of “Hush” in terms of vibe.  The other extra tracks are the aforementioned “Ariel” edit, and a live take of the old Rainbow classic “Temple of the King”.  This is and the “Ariel” edit are taken from the old out of print CD single.  “Temple of the King” was recorded in Stockholm October 2 1995, meaning it is not the same as the one on the double live CD Black Masquerade.  That was recorded exactly a week later in Germany.  (Thanks to Scott the Heavy Metal Overlord for pointing this out.)  It’s a brilliant arrangement giving Candice Night and Doogie White a chance to harmonize over a very quiet backdrop.  The Man in Black whips out a solo that surely must be considered one of his most passionate.

That’s how this version of Rainbow succeeds — by a putting a fresh spin on it.  You avoid trying to compare to other versions of the band and just enjoy.  Ritchie reveals in the extensive liner notes that he wanted to call the band Rainbow Moon.  And speaking of the liner notes, there are also recollections from Doogie White.  In short this expanded edition is worth every penny, even if you’ve bought it before.

3.75/5 stars

REVIEW: Judas Priest – Hero, Hero (1981)

JUDAS PRIEST – Hero, Hero (1981 Gull)

It’s true:  By all measurements, Hero, Hero is an exploitive compilation of Judas Priest material.  Their first record label, Gull, was prone to do this.  However this is no typical “hits” set; this one is of interest to collectors and die hard fans.

Hero, Hero (named for a lyric from the song “Dying to Meet You”) was originally released in 1981 to take advantage of Priest’s rising star. The original two releases on Gull records, Rocka Rolla and Sad Wings Of Destiny, had been exploited previously in a compilation called The Best Of Judas Priest, which was a single record. Hero, Hero was a double record which included all of Rocka Rolla and most of Sad Wings, as well as the crucial Joan Baez cover, “Diamonds and Rust”, in an alternate take (previously heard on Best Of).

So, if you have all that material already, why is this album required at all?  Cover art aside, of course.  That cover (a pre-existing painting) is brilliant.  There is also a Kiss bootleg called Barbarize with the same cover.

The reason is revealed in the liner notes. All of Rocka Rolla had been remixed for this release. Why is unknown, as that record sounded just fine for what it is. The remixes are, in general, not even all that different. The major changes are made during “Cheater”, the “Winter” suite, and “Rocka Rolla” itself, during which major portions of the songs are noticeably shifted around. “Rocka Rolla” has its verses rearranged, and there’s a burst of harmonica in “Cheater” where there never was before.

The remix done to Rocka Rolla doesn’t really add or subtract anything from the album, which makes it that much harder to understand why it was done.  Why Gull records spent the money to remix these tracks is unknown, and the names of the engineers involved are a mystery.  But there it is:  Rocka Rolla remixed in its entirety but not in order, here on the Hero, Hero album.  Because they’re less familiar to the ear, they sound fresh, but in many cases you’d struggle to point out differences.  A little reverb here, a little echo there.

Highlights including a bluesy “Cheater” and the flanged chug of “Diamonds and Rust”.  The six tracks from Sad Wings of Destiny are brilliant.  “Dreamer Deceiver” and “Deceiver” are used to open this CD, but that is not the original running order.  Normally the album begins with “Prelude” and “Tyrant”, also from Sad Wings.  The original Canadian cassette version on Attic maintained the original running order with “Prelude” at the start.  Essentially, the Connoisseur Collection CD has side one and side two flipped.

Fair warning to CD buyers:  There are some shoddy reissues of this album that don’t have the remixed tracks.  Transluxe is one such version.  To make your life easier you might just want to look for an original 1981 LP.  The pictured CD from Connoisseur Collection (1995) does have the remixes, so you’re good to go if you spot one.

3/5 stars

 

RE-REVIEW: KISS – Animalize Live Uncensored (2 CD broadcast)

The KISS RE-REVIEW SERIES Part 26

 

 – Animalize Live Uncensored (from 4 CD set Radio Waves 1974-1988) (2015 American Icons broadcast release)

The Animalize tour was the most successful that Kiss had done since the original lineup.  It was an exciting stage show including a finale with the band playing on a levitating platform over the stage.  It was logical to film the Detroit concert, returning to the Cobo Hall where much of Kiss Alive! was forged in 1975.  It had been a long time since Kiss released anything live.  The sequel album Alive II came in 1977, and then Kiss underwent radical upheaval and change, as we have documented through this series.   In the 1970s there was a pattern:  Three studio albums and then a live album.  Animalize was the sixth studio album since Alive II with no Alive III on the horizon.

Fans had their own theories as to why Alive III never materialized when due, but it likely has a lot to do with the lineup changes, shifts in direction, and fading fortunes.  These events all struck right around the time when the third live album would have been appropriate, but as Kiss replaced members and took off the makeup, they had to re-establish themselves as a valid, current entity not dependant on past glories.

The Animalize Cobo Hall concert that was filmed was released in 1985 as the home video, Animalize Live Uncensored.  For an entire generation of Kiss fans, Animalize Live Uncensored was our own Alive III.  You could break down KISStory up to this point into three distinct eras as seen in the chart below.
Kiss had a whole new generation of fans, the MTV generation, who associated the makeup with ancient history.  We didn’t have our own Kiss Alive.  Without one, we made Animalize Live Uncensored into our unofficial Alive III.

Kiss were introducing yet another guitar player to the fans, but Bruce Kulick was fitting in great.  Animalize Live Uncensored gave the fans at home a chance to check out his interpretations of new and old Kiss classics.  He gave the Mark St. John tracks a smoother soloing style with more emphasis on hooky licks.  The threw on tons of the flash that was in vogue at the time, but he didn’t showboat.  He did exactly what the bosses (Paul and Gene) wanted, and he did it well enough to win over fans and keep the gig.

The Kiss of the 80s were way, way faster than the Kiss of the 70s.  Eric Carr could play things that Peter Criss couldn’t, and speed was in fashion.  Even old songs like “Cold Gin” and “Detroit Rock City” were sped up and 80s-ized.  The fast stuff from their 80s albums, like “Fits Like a Glove” and “Young and Wasted” are done up even faster.  Lots of songs by the original band such as “Shout it Out Loud”, “Christine Sixteen”, “Firehouse”, “Strutter” and many more were dropped in favour of new ones.  “Under the Gun”, “Thrills in the Night” and “Heaven’s on Fire” were the newest, while plenty of songs from Lick it Up and Creatures were also retained.  Using the chart above for reference, only five Kiss songs from the first two eras combined were included.  The third era, never before represented in live form, gets ten tracks.  The rest of the space is taken up by solos:  Paul Stanley (guitar), Gene Simmons (bass) and Eric Carr (drums).  There is no Bruce Kulick solo.  As you have probably surmised, a Paul Stanley feature solo is as basic as they get, with Gene’s only a modicum more memorable.  Eric Carr’s is fun and flashy — more so on video.

One big highlight of Animalize Live Uncensored is Eric Carr’s lead vocal debut on a Kiss release.  The Fox was given “Young and Wasted” from Lick It Up to sing, in addition to Peter Criss’ part in “Black Diamond”.  And so Kiss fans began a long and painful wait to hear him sing something on a Kiss studio album.

For dyed in the wool Kiss fans, Animalize Live Uncensored is universally remembered for mainly one thing:  that is Paul Stanley’s epic song introductions.  “Love Gun” is the most legendary, a tale of Paul “partying” too much and having to go to the doctor to get himself checked out.  The nurse decides to “start this examination just a little bit early” and asks Paul to remove his pants…where she discovers his (wait for it) “LOVE GUN”!  There are so many great Paul intros on this video that it’s worth checking out for them alone.  Full visuals help.

But what about a CD release, for that generation of fans for whom this is their Alive III?  There are options.  None are perfect.  In fact, there isn’t even a DVD version.  There are only semi-official looking bootlegs and the old original VHS.  For CDs, you must go with a radio broadcast release, and none are perfect.  Single disc versions are obviously trimmed for time and usually have 15 tracks including a couple solos.  There is also a two disc broadcast from WLLZ in Detroit which has all 18 songs and all the solos too.  This is available on a quadruple disc set called Radio Waves 1974-1988, released in 2015.*  It even has intros and raps not included on the original Animalize Live VHS release!  “Black Diamond” has a much longer introduction and much of the talking isn’t available elsewhere.  During the encores, they mess around with the traditional “Oh Susannah”.  The other intros and raps, the classic ones, are edited or missing completely!  You just can’t win.

Only one track from this concert has been officially released on LP and CD:  “Heaven’s On Fire”, which was Kiss’ contribution to Ronnie James Dio’s Hear N’ Aid – Stars album in 1986.  Kiss completists will want to make sure they have that one.

One could meticulously paste in all of Paul Stanley’s missing and edited stage raps, and add them to your tracklist.  It would be bloody time consuming.  You’d have to listen to your compiled creation a few times to justify the time spent putting it together.  But it could be done.  It really is a shame that this broadcast CD is a few intros shy of complete.  The sound is iffy at times too, with a lot of static where there shouldn’t be.  But for the time being, it’s the best we got.

3/5 stars

To be continued…

*CD 1 is Agora Ballroom, previously reviewed in a prior superior edition.  CD 4 is Live at the Ritz 1988, but including the song “Reason to Live” often missing from the broadcast!

Original mikeladano.com review:  2012/08/01