classic rock

REVIEW: Ace Frehley – Origins Vol. 2 (2020)

ACE FREHLEY – Origins Vol. 2 (2020)

Three cheers for Matt Starr!  Ace Frehley’s drummer is the “starr” of the show on 11 of the 12 tracks on Origins Vol. 2.  This is evident immediately on the Zeppelin cover “Good Times Bad Times”.  There are plenty of guests on this album, but doing justice to John Bonham ain’t easy.  Starr nails it!  Fortunately the Ace Man himself is also able to tribute Jimmy Page ably on his solo.

In fact the weakest part of the album are the vocals.  As Ace ages, his voice has gotten lower.  Some of these songs are in a lower key than usual to accommodate.  It’s also, quite frankly, difficult to get excited about a second album of covers.  A lot of the same bands are covered, including the aforementioned Zeppelin, Kiss, Cream, Stones, Kinks, and Jimi Hendrix.

It’s an OK covers album.  It’s nice to get so much Ace-sounding rock.  Frehley makes Mountain sound like his own originals, as he does “Kicks” by Paul Revere and the Raiders.  He’s a bit heavy-handed on “We Gotta Get Out of this Place”.  But “Space Truckin'”?  Not necessary, or even wanted.  “Space-Ace truckin’!” he sings and it’s borderline cringe.  “Hey where’s Jendell?”  While it’s good to put your own twist on a song, dropping your own name in doesn’t cut it.  And Ace is no Ian Gillan.  (Ian Gillan is also no Ian Gillan, but that’s beside the point.)

Among the guests, John 5 rips solos on “I’m Down” (Beatles) and the thumpin’ “Politician” (Stones).  He executes both modern and traditional rock and roll guitar solos, but goes wild for the “I’m Down” outro, on which he shreds.  Lita Ford also appears, but not on guitar.  She sings on “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”.  While there’s no denying that’s a classic song that influenced Ace, how many people have covered “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”?  Lita’s voice has barely changed since the 80s and she is easily the charismatic highlight of this overplayed tune, and a highlight of the album as a whole.  One guy whose voice has changed a bit is Robin Zander of Cheap Trick, who sings on “30 Days in the Hole”.  He can still do it with power and range, but you can hear the years.  Speaking of voices, Ace doesn’t sing on the Kiss cover “She” but the vocals are split three ways among the backing musicians, and they capture a reasonable facsimile of that vintage Paul/Gene layered vibe.

The most interesting guest of the lot could be one of Ace’s replacements in Kiss, Mr. Bruce Kulick himself.  Of course, over the years Bruce and Ace have jammed a few times, and it’s sheer delight to hear them together.  Bruce has, arguably, the best guitar solo on the whole album, with “Manic Depression”.  The guy is greased lightning, extra greasy!  It’s warming to see Ace and Bruce put egos aside and just play some music.  Any time, guys, any time.

Giving credit to Ace for one more thing, “Lola” does sound like his kind of tune.  His vocal shortcomings are obvious here but don’t really get in the way.  Whether you like that song or not, Ace has a quirky side that “Lola” fits, just as sweet as Coca-Cola.

Bonus:  the album comes with nice liner notes by Kiss scribe Julian Gill.

Let’s hope Ace has the covers out of his system for now.  Another original album, hell even a live album would be cool, but no more covers Ace, please!

3/5 stars

REVIEW: Vince Neil – “You’re Invited (But Your Friend Can’t Come)” (1992 single)

VINCE NEIL – “You’re Invited (But Your Friend Can’t Come)” (1992 Hollywood single)

“Woahow!”

In 1992, post-split, Vince Neil was out of the gates fast with a killer new single, while we had to wait two more years for Motley Crue to make their move.  It certainly seemed that Neil was winning the Crue vs. Vince competition, especially when his Exposed album with Steve Stevens was released in 1993.  We had no inkling that the Crue were brewing something equally strong with John Corabi, but for the time being at least, Vince Neil was the winner of the round.

Vince didn’t have his solo band yet, so the players you hear on “You’re Invited (But Your Friend Can’t Come)” might come as a surprise.  It’s 3/4 of Damn Yankees:  Tommy Shaw, Jack Blades, and Michael Cartellone.  The track was written by Neil, Shaw and Blades.  Automatically, we know to expect some quality.  This track was recorded for the movie Encino Man (or California Man) starring Paulie Shore and Brendan Fraser.  The soundtrack version (4:27) and a single edit (3:53) are both included here.

“One, two, here we go!”  The tune is a smoker, sharp and with wicked production.  The cocky lyrics perfectly match the upbeat riff, certainly one of the best Shaw/Blades riffs yet composed.  The single/soundtrack version is in fact superior to the final album cut that came a year later, even though that one included Steve Stevens with a seriously cool solo.  This guitar solo ain’t half bad either, of course!  Tommy Shaw is no slouch and it sounds like he’s having fun just losing his mind on guitar.  There’s even more of that nutso finger tapping on the album version vs. the single edit, especially in the bananas intro.

If you like guitar, then you will definitely love one of the B-sides:  a commercial Steve Vai instrumental called “Get The Hell Out of Here”.  Opening with a flurry of notes, the song goes into a riff with some cool call-and-answer lead guitars.  Definitely one of Steve’s more song-like structures, something like Satch is wont to do.  Catchy, straight ahead, with plenty of thrills.  Incredible harmonics!  A great middle ground for those who love lead guitar but find Steve’s regular solo work a little too bookish.

The last song to go over is by a band called T-Ride, who put out one album in 1992.  Joe Satriani called them “the future of metal”, but we’re all allowed to be wrong from time to time.  Their tune here is called “Luxury Cruiser” which was also on their self-titled album.  It’s hard rock for the 90s, and the singer can really wail when he wants to.  It verges on progressive, due to its careening from one different part and tempo to another.  Very technical, but not an amazing song.

Great single to have for the Vai and Vince tracks.  Vai later released his on a compilation of soundtrack music, but otherwise this is a great purchase to fill some gaps in your collection.

4/5 stars

 

REVIEW: Deep Purple – “Woman From Tokyo” (Japanese CD single)

DEEP PURPLE – “Woman From Tokyo” (Originally 1973, 1998 Warner Japan CD reissue)

The 2:56 single edit of Deep Purple’s “Woman From Tokyo” is somewhat of a rarity on CD.  It’s not on the Singles A’s and B’s.  You could get it on a Japanese box set called Purple Chronicle.

The original song was almost six minutes, so half of the tune was chopped out for single release.  The intro is mangled.  The middle section is missing, and cut in such an amateurish way.  The guitar solo is missing.  Rule of thumb:  never cut the friggin’ guitar solo from a Deep Purple song, of all bands!  This is a butcher job of a single edit.  Probably why it never made the cut to Singles A’s and B’s.

The B-side “Super Trouper” is also 2:56, but unedited.  That’s just how the song goes, one of Purple’s shortest.  No, it’s not an Abba cover, but both songs were named after Super Trouper stage lights.  Some of Ian Gillan’s lyrics can be interpreted to be about his impending departure from Deep Purple. “I wanna be like I was before, but this time I’m gonna know the score.” A lot of looking in the rear view mirror in this song. A lot of past-tense.

Because of the butcher job on the “Woman From Tokyo” edit, the B-side here outshines the A-side.  The single at least has lyrics.  For collectors and analysts only!

1/5 stars

REVIEW: Def Leppard – “Helen Wheels” from The Art of McCartney (2014)

Part Forty-Six of the Def Leppard Review Series

DEF LEPPARD – “Helen Wheels” and
JOE ELLIOTT – “Hi Hi Hi” from The Art of McCartney (2014 Arctic Poppy)

The Art of McCartney has to be one of the most anticipated yes lesser known tribute albums of the last two decades.  Anticipated because it promised new cover tunes by Kiss, Rick and Robin from Cheap Trick, Alice Cooper, Sammy Hagar, Bob Dylan, Billy Joel, Heart, Willie Nelson Paul Rodgers, and so many more.  For this review series we’ll be looking at two tracks:  one by Def Leppard, and one by Joe Elliott.

Paul McCartney needs no introduction.  If he does, then I ask you to read about a band called “The Beatles” before you read anything else here!

Produced by Ronan McHugh and Def Leppard, “Helen Wheels” is unmistakable Def Leppard.  The opening drum pattern certainly recalls Rick Allen’s work on “Rocket”.  Then it careens into pure pop rock delight!  This Wings single was released in 1974 and later included on some versions of Band on the Run.  Driving, fun, and while different from Def Leppard’s core sound, it’s ideal for them to cover.  The boys in the band aren’t bad singers y’know.

Joe’s solo cover is “Hi Hi Hi”, a standalone Wings single from 1972.  This is far more raw than the Leppard track.  Abe Laboriel Jr. on drums!  Joe’s vocals were recorded at his home studio while the backing tracks were recorded in Los Angeles and London.  Quite a production, but that’s the modern way of doing things.    One thing about Joe’s vocal:  he absolutely goes for it!  It’s like rough and ready Joe from 1980 has returned, but with the skill and experience of an older singer.  This is just a piano-boppin’ rock and roller.

Bravo to Joe and Def Leppard for coming up with some inspired covers.  Certainly more inspired than most of the Yeah! covers album.

4/5 stars

Previous:  

    1. The Early Years Disc One – On Through the Night 
    2. The Early Years Disc Two – High N’ Dry
    3. The Early Years Disc Three – When The Walls Came Tumbling Down: Live at the New Theater Oxford – 1980
    4. The Early Years Disc Four – Too Many Jitterbugs – EP, singles & unreleased
    5. The Early Years Disc 5 – Raw – Early BBC Recordings 
    6. The Early Years 79-81 (Summary)
    7. Pyromania
    8. Pyromania Live – L.A. Forum, 11 September 1983
    9. Hysteria
    10. Soundtrack From the Video Historia – Record Store Tales
    11. In The Round In Your Face DVD
    12. “Let’s Get Rocked” – The Wait for Adrenalize – Record Store Tales
    13. Adrenalize
    14. Live at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert
    15. Retro-Active
    16. Visualize
    17. Vault: Def Leppard’s Greatest Hits / Limited Edition Live CD
    18. Video Archive
    19. “Slang” CD single
    20. Slang
    21. I Got A Bad Feeling About This: Euphoria – Record Store Tales
    22. Euphoria
    23. Rarities 2
    24. Rarities 3
    25. Rarities 4
    26. Cybernauts – Live
    27. Cybernauts – The Further Adventures of the Cybernauts (bonus disc)
    28. X
    29. Best Of (UK)
    30. Rock Of Ages: The Definitive Collection
    31. Yeah!
    32. Yeah! Bonus CD With Backstage Interviews
    33. Yeah…Nah!  (Record Store Tales)
    34. Songs From the Sparkle Lounge
    35. “C’Mon C’Mon” (picture disc)
    36. Taylor Swift & Def Leppard – CMT Crossroads (DVD)
    37. B.Sides
    38. Yeah! II
    39. Yeah! Live
    40. Mirror Ball: Live & More (Japan bonus track)
    41. iTunes Re-recordings
    42. Viva! Hysteria (CD 1 & DVD)
    43. Viva! Hysteria (CD 2 & bonus features)
    44. Viva! Hysteria (Japanese bonus track)
    45. Slang (2014 deluxe edition bonus tracks)

Next:

47. Def Leppard (Deluxe and Japanese versions)

RE-REVIEW: Def Leppard – Slang (2014 Deluxe edition bonus tracks)

Part Forty-Five of the Def Leppard Review Series

Original review:  Slang 2014 Deluxe Edition

DEF LEPPARD -DEF LEPPARD – Slang bonus tracks (Deluxe Edition, 2014 Bludgeon Riffola)

‘Twas a surprise when 1996’s Slang received the deluxe edition treatment in 2014.  The Viva! Hysteria celebrations were a success, and now another album was getting a little bit of attention, although the word “deluxe” really pushed it.  As the Heavy Metal Overlord once stated:

When it turned up I wis pure gutted. I thought the booklet had better be snazzy but it wisnae either. Just a wee hing where Joe tried tae mind stuff fae back in the day. Nae liner notes. Nae lyrics. Nuhin. Just some shite photies. My old copy had two discs, a slimmer case and lyrics. And some photies an aw! Gid wans. One of them oan a bus like they were aw goin doon the toon or somethin. How wis that no deluxe but this is deluxe? If they’d called it a “2CD Edition” that wid huv been awrite but they didnae. This is “deluxe”… cept it isnae. I don’t have a Scooby whit they’re playin at. Eejits.

Exactly.

Deluxe or not, the expanded edition of Slang gave new focus to the cult-status album.  Radically different versions of album tracks, unreleased songs, and works in progress offer a look at an album that really has never received its due credit for what it was.

The Slang deluxe featured a number of bonus tracks, and some iTunes exclusive bonus tracks as well.  Thankfully, the Def Leppard CD Collections box sets include some of these bonus tracks. Today we’ll mostly focus on the ones not included in previous reviews, from the Slang deluxe.

Here is a list of the iTunes bonus tracks, later included on one of the CD Collection box sets.  We’ve discussed these before in more detail.

1. “Truth?” (Demo Version) – Previously on “Work It Out” CD single.

2. “Work It Out” (Demo Version) – B-Side from “Work It Out” with Viv singing and completely different from the other versions on the Deluxe. Viv referred to it as his “Crowded House” version.

3. “When Saturday Comes” From the film When Saturday Comes and “All I Want Is Everything” single.

4. “Jimmy’s Theme” From the film When Saturday Comes and “All I Want Is Everything” single.

5. “Cause We Ended as Lovers” (Solo track by Phil)  From the Jeff Beck tribute album Jeffology: A Guitar Chronicle and “All I Want Is Everything” single.

6. “Led Boots” (Solo track by Viv)  From the Jeff Beck tribute album Jeffology: A Guitar Chronicle and “All I Want Is Everything” single.

There are also two iTunes exclusive bonus tracks that remain exclusive to iTunes.  We’ll get to those.

The Slang deluxe’s first bonus was track 12 on disc one, the buttery “Move With Me Slowly”, the original Japanese bonus track for Slang.  This is a beautifully recorded, raw, smooth, and sexy Def Leppard song.  An incredible song, as we have discussed on the CD Collection Vol. 2.  We’ll say it again:  should have been on the album.  We’ll add:  those guitar solos are so incredible.  Full of feel, organic sounding tone.  Some of the best guitar playing on a Def Leppard song.  Another good one is track 16, the acoustic “Can’t Keep Away From the Flame”, a B-side and Japanese bonus track to the Vault CD.  Another song that deserved a proper place on an album.  “Worlds Collide” is also on this set, a really heavy metal track, originally released on the B-side to “Goodbye” during the Euphoria era.  Heavy, but definitely B-side material.  We also have “Burn Out”.  Great little rocking groover, more like old Def Leppard than the final Slang album.  No loops, no electronic instrumentation, so acoustics.  Just chug, chug, chug and rock and roll.  Joe’s vocal is full of attitude.

Let’s go through all the remaining Slang bonus tracks and have a listen to a largely misunderstood album, as it might have been.

1. “All I Want Is Everything” (Demo) – iTunes only.  A unique version of the song, with the some of the lyrics intact and everything radically different.  The chorus has the final melody, but delivered as a more traditional rock shout.  The melancholy mood of the final version is taking shape, but there is no question that “All I Want Is Everything” was better in its final version.

2. “Turn to Dust” (Phil verse vocal version)  (Track 1, disc two.)  This version of the second Slang album track is similar to the final, though with Phil Collen singing the verses, with Joe on the chorus.  Phil’s raspier voice adds a different, laid back direction.  The backing track is not the final mix though the sitar and some of the effects are in place.  Collen fans will love it.

3. “Raise Your Love” (version of “Slang”)  (Track 2, disc two.)  Choppy rock guitars are the main feature here!  Joe’s opening rap is intact, but the song deviates from there.  The chorus is a very different refrain of Phil singing, “Baby raise your love!”  Cool track for sure, but the final song became something far more unique as we’ve seen.  If you wished “Slang” was a more rocking tune, then you better check out “Raise Your Love”.

4. “All I Want Is Everything” (1st draft) (Track 3, disc two.)  Somehow, the “1st draft” is more complete and closer to the album version than the “demo”.  Were the two versions mislabelled?  This sounds more like a demo, with the other being the first draft.  In fact this is so close to the final album mix, that you might be able to fool your friends.  The guitar solo is missing, as are the big vocal hooks that follow, which is the biggest clue.

5. “Work It Out” (1st draft) (Track 4, disc two.)  Like the above, this is very close to the final album version.  Very different from Vivian Campbell’s demo, one of the aforementioned iTunes bonus tracks.  Joe’s vocal is not the final take, but the backing track sounds almost ready.  The stuttering guitars and droning strings are all there.  You can hear, in the layers of guitar, the skeleton of Viv’s original idea.

6. “Breathe a Sigh” (Feb ’96 rough mix) (Track 5, disc two.)  All the pieces are in the place but the atmosphere isn’t captured yet.  The final mix would nail that R&B crossed with Def Leppard vibe.

7. “Deliver Me” (Feb ’96 rough mix) (Track 6, disc two.)  Again, very close to the final mark.  Just an earlier, less elaborate version of the final album mix.

8. “Black Train” (version of “Gift of Flesh”) (Track 7, disc two.)  The main riff is there.  The verse melodies are there.  The chorus is the major difference, with this one being a shouty affair.

9. “Blood Runs Cold” (Feb ’96 rough mix) (Track 8, disc two.)  Of all the rough mixes, “Blood Runs Cold” is the most indistinguishable from the final track.  The chorus is the most different, with Phil prominently assisting Joe.

10. “Where Does Love Go When It Dies” (1st draft) (Track 9, disc two.)  Has an almost Marillion-like sheen to the opening guitar textures.  These fade and the mix goes purely acoustic.  This excellent song was already in fantastic shape at this stage.  Could have been on the album as-is.

11. “Pearl of Euphoria” (Feb ’96 rough mix) (Track 10, disc two.)  The epic album closer from Slang, in an early mix.  Similar, but the final version sounds busier, which enhances it.  They made some different choices in the middle section of this mix, but the in-your-face guitar is quite delectable.

12. “All on Your Touch” (2012 revisit) (Track 11, disc two.)  A Slang-era track never properly finished until 2012.  Laid back, dark ballad.  Understated, with shades of “Love Bites” in the guitars, but with an explosive hard-edged chorus.  Awesome solo work on this song.

13. “Anger” (“Deliver Me” 1st draft) (Track 12, disc two.)   Different from the above “final mix” which was very close to the album.  This “first draft” has a different chorus:  “Anger, I’m feeling so much anger!”  It fails to deliver the intended punch, and so it is good they revised it and kept working on it.  They obviously knew the chorus was not the needed hook.

14. “Move On Up” (Vivian demo) (Track 13, disc two.)  Completely unreleased song, a Campbell demo.  Neat punchy riff, with a hint of Jimmy Page.  Vivian sings, and his vocal melody is melodic, different and enjoyable.  It’s too bad the guys didn’t take this song further.

15. “Gift of Flesh” (Phil vocal) (Track 14, disc two.)  Another treat for those who love the raspy voice of Phil Collen on lead vocals.  The backing track is not all the way there yet, but Phil’s vocal track provided the blueprint for the final album version.

16. “Move with Me Slowly” (1st draft) – iTunes only.  The buttery smooth “Move With Me Slowly” appears again, this time in a “first draft” version exclusive to iTunes.  Rougher, slightly rawer mix.  The outro goes out longer, lingering like flavours on your tune.

While it was nice to see Slang get a reissue with a wealth a bonus material, it was a shame the packaging didn’t quite rise to the occasion.  With two tracks remaining unreleased in physical form, and not all the material from the era available in a single place, it’s not too late to do a super deluxe.

4/5 stars

Previous:  

  1. The Early Years Disc One – On Through the Night 
  2. The Early Years Disc Two – High N’ Dry
  3. The Early Years Disc Three – When The Walls Came Tumbling Down: Live at the New Theater Oxford – 1980
  4. The Early Years Disc Four – Too Many Jitterbugs – EP, singles & unreleased
  5. The Early Years Disc 5 – Raw – Early BBC Recordings 
  6. The Early Years 79-81 (Summary)
  7. Pyromania
  8. Pyromania Live – L.A. Forum, 11 September 1983
  9. Hysteria
  10. Soundtrack From the Video Historia – Record Store Tales
  11. In The Round In Your Face DVD
  12. “Let’s Get Rocked” – The Wait for Adrenalize – Record Store Tales
  13. Adrenalize
  14. Live at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert
  15. Retro-Active
  16. Visualize
  17. Vault: Def Leppard’s Greatest Hits / Limited Edition Live CD
  18. Video Archive
  19. “Slang” CD single
  20. Slang
  21. I Got A Bad Feeling About This: Euphoria – Record Store Tales
  22. Euphoria
  23. Rarities 2
  24. Rarities 3
  25. Rarities 4
  26. Cybernauts – Live
  27. Cybernauts – The Further Adventures of the Cybernauts (bonus disc)
  28. X
  29. Best Of (UK)
  30. Rock Of Ages: The Definitive Collection
  31. Yeah!
  32. Yeah! Bonus CD With Backstage Interviews
  33. Yeah…Nah!  (Record Store Tales)
  34. Songs From the Sparkle Lounge
  35. “C’Mon C’Mon” (picture disc)
  36. Taylor Swift & Def Leppard – CMT Crossroads (DVD)
  37. B.Sides
  38. Yeah! II
  39. Yeah! Live
  40. Mirror Ball: Live & More (Japan bonus track)
  41. iTunes Re-recordings
  42. Viva! Hysteria (CD 1 & DVD)
  43. Viva! Hysteria (CD 2 & bonus features)
  44. Viva! Hysteria (Japanese bonus track)

Next:

46. “Helen Wheels” (from The Art of McCartney)
47. Def Leppard (Deluxe and Japanese versions)

REVIEW: Def Leppard – Viva! Hysteria – Live at the Joint, Las Vegas (Part 3 – Japanese bonus track)

Part Forty-Four of the Def Leppard Review Series

DEF LEPPARD – Viva! Hysteria – Live at the Joint, Las Vegas (Part 3 – Japanese bonus track) (2013 Bludgeon Riffola)

Finally we reach the end of this sprawling, generous collection of live Def Leppard.  As is often the case, the Japanese market included an exclusive CD bonus track.  This bonus track is only available on DVD in North America.  While that is enough for some, there are many Def Leppard aficionados out there (hello!) who obsessively collect formats like CD as well.  This one’s for you.

Def Leppard’s “Acoustic Medley” was a standalone iTunes single around the time of the Viva! Hysteria shows.  It was a surprise that they played it live at an acoustic session for fans, and then released that live version!  It’s a casual affair in a small room with audience seated on the floor.  Five ballads, all acoustic, and really well put together.  Seamless, almost. “Where Does Love Go When It Dies” begins, with a total of four acoustic guitars – Joe and Sav both taking up the six strings.  Rick Allen on the shaker!  Onto “Now”, “When Love and Hate Collide”, “Have You Ever Needed Someone So Bad”, and “Two Steps Behind” (which the audience scream for).  All the best parts of each song, and all of “Two Steps Behind”, make up the medley.

As stated ad nauseum, Viva! Hysteria is an excellent package from top to bottom.  Great value for fans both casual and diehard.  They put a lot of work into sounding as vintage as possible.  Def Leppard pulled it off.  If you’re serious about this live set and serious about this band, check out the Japanese import CD.  It has completely different packaging and cover artwork, along with that elusive bonus live medley.  Now that’s a magical mysteria.

5/5 stars

Previous:  

  1. The Early Years Disc One – On Through the Night 
  2. The Early Years Disc Two – High N’ Dry
  3. The Early Years Disc Three – When The Walls Came Tumbling Down: Live at the New Theater Oxford – 1980
  4. The Early Years Disc Four – Too Many Jitterbugs – EP, singles & unreleased
  5. The Early Years Disc 5 – Raw – Early BBC Recordings 
  6. The Early Years 79-81 (Summary)
  7. Pyromania
  8. Pyromania Live – L.A. Forum, 11 September 1983
  9. Hysteria
  10. Soundtrack From the Video Historia – Record Store Tales
  11. In The Round In Your Face DVD
  12. “Let’s Get Rocked” – The Wait for Adrenalize – Record Store Tales
  13. Adrenalize
  14. Live at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert
  15. Retro-Active
  16. Visualize
  17. Vault: Def Leppard’s Greatest Hits / Limited Edition Live CD
  18. Video Archive
  19. “Slang” CD single
  20. Slang
  21. I Got A Bad Feeling About This: Euphoria – Record Store Tales
  22. Euphoria
  23. Rarities 2
  24. Rarities 3
  25. Rarities 4
  26. Cybernauts – Live
  27. Cybernauts – The Further Adventures of the Cybernauts (bonus disc)
  28. X
  29. Best Of (UK)
  30. Rock Of Ages: The Definitive Collection
  31. Yeah!
  32. Yeah! Bonus CD With Backstage Interviews
  33. Yeah…Nah!  (Record Store Tales)
  34. Songs From the Sparkle Lounge
  35. “C’Mon C’Mon” (picture disc)
  36. Taylor Swift & Def Leppard – CMT Crossroads (DVD)
  37. B.Sides
  38. Yeah! II
  39. Yeah! Live
  40. Mirror Ball: Live & More (Japan bonus track)
  41. iTunes Re-recordings
  42. Viva! Hysteria (CD 1 & DVD)
  43. Viva! Hysteria (CD 2 & bonus features)

Next:

45. Slang (2014 Deluxe bonus tracks)
46. “Helen Wheels” (from The Art of McCartney)
47. Def Leppard (Deluxe and Japanese versions)

REVIEW: Ozzy Osbourne – Patient Number 9 (2022)

OZZY OSBOURNE – Patient Number 9 (2022 Epic)

It’s very easy to be cynical about any new Ozzy album since about Down To Earth and onwards.  Corporate constructions.  Special guest writers and performers. “Here Ozzy, sing these new songs we wrote for you.”  Prior to that, it felt like Ozzy had a band, and that band took different directions on each album.  Now Ozzy has Andrew Watt and a slate of big-namers.  It’s been this way a while.  This time the difference is, the process resulted in a pretty decent album.  Sure it’s still Watt at the helm, with special guests in big letters on the back cover and front stick.  Jeff Beck!  Eric Clapton!  Tony Iommi!  Zakk Wylde!  Of course without a real band, you don’t get that cohesive band sound, but what you do get ain’t bad indeed.

Each track (except for “Darkside Blues” which is either a new version or a new mix of the Japanese bonus track from Ordinary Man) has credits by Andrew Watt and professional songsmith Ali Tamposi.  She’s more known for Kelly Clarkson, Nickelback, and a slew of Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus hits.  She also co-wrote most of Ordinary Man so there’s a formula at work here.  Other co-writers include Ryan Tedder, Duff McKagan, Chad Smith, Robert Trujillo, Tony Iommi, Chris Chaney, and the late great Taylor Hawkins.

Ozzy falls into his comic horror persona a bit too much.  There was once a time when he was trying to shed that “crazy madman” image but he’s really leaned into it again for the last couple decades.  As such the album opens with silly “insane asylum” sound effects that only delay us getting to the good stuff.  The opening title track is over seven minutes long with that nonsense attached.  It’s also one of the poorer of the new songs, overly formulaic and modern with robotic hooks.  Jeff Beck’s unconventional and slippery solo work makes it worth a listen (Watt and Wylde play the rhythm and fills).

Things really get moving on track two, “Immortal” featuring Mike McCready of Pearl Jam and Duff on bass.  Good riffing and grooving going on here, and the first memorable chorus.  The Hawkins co-penned “Parasite” is another grooving highlight, featuring the Foo Fighter on drums.  The chorus is really solid and just moves like a ‘Vette on the highway.  That’s Zakk on lead guitar, but he’s instantly recognizable.  Former Ozzy bassist and currently Metallicer Rob Trujillo on bass.

What’s really amazing is that with the help of Tony Iommi, this hodge-podge of creators managed to write a seriously Sabbathy dirge called “No Escape From Now”.  You’d swear it’s Geezer Butler on bass, but it’s not.  It’s actually Watt.  It’s as Sabbathy, if not more so, than most of the 13 album.  It feels a bit “token”, like, “Oh hey Sabbath fans, here’s a song with the riffs and time changes that you like.”  Yet it’s one of the songs you’ll keep returning to, and probably for those reasons.  Of note, this is the only song without Andrew Watt on rhythm guitar.  It’s all Tony and only Tony which is the reason it feels heavy as a bloody brick.

In a throwback to Ozzmosis, “One of Those Days” with Eric Clapton really sounds a bit like “I Just Want You”.  Clapton really adds a touch of class.  One could imagine that the chorus will upset certain people with it’s refrain of “I don’t believe in Jesus”, but it is one hell of a chorus – pun intended.  Unfortunately the ballad that follows, “A Thousand Shades”, is a throwaway, aside from the brilliant Jeff Beck guitar solo.  One of the Hawkins co-penned tracks called “Mr. Darkness” takes a minute to get going, seemingly a song about fan letters that Ozzy once received.  It and the next two songs all feature Zakk Wylde on guitar.  Dull verses, but awesome chorus, with an awesome Sabbathy change towards the end.  The only dumb part is the silly ending where Ozzy speaks, “You don’t even know my name you asshole.”  Just…no.

“Nothing Feels Right” is another ballad, very Ozzmosis-y.  Decent song, good chorus, with all the production bells and whistles.  It really smokes during the solo section.  Another Sabbathy sounding riff emerges on “Evil Shuffle” and it really seems clear that Andrew Watt is trying to channel Geezer Butler’s bass playing on this album.  Not that it’s a bad thing.  Then it’s the much-hyped “Degradation Rules” with Tony Iommi, a song about masturbation, but not as good as the prior Iommi song.  The main hook here is Ozzy’s harmonica playing, a great throwback to “The Wizard”.

“Dead and Gone” is a deep cut highlight, with a latter-day Priest-like groove and lots of Zakk Wylde chunk.  An album highlight buried way in the back end.  Finally, “God Only Knows” is the last proper song, but unfortunately sort of a last gasp rather than a late highlight.  Kind of a ballad, with lush backing vocals, but not a “Road to Nowhere” kind of late album winner.

The outro music, “Darkside Blues”, appears to be a remix of the original version from Ordinary Man‘s Japanese release.  You can compare the waveforms below.  It’s a swampy track with more of Ozzy’s harmonica, just a coda to the album.

It’s pretty amazing at this stage of the game that Ozzy is still cranking out new music, but of course he has a huge support team behind him.  This time, the team produced an album better than the last one by a pretty fair margin.  They could have cut two tracks and made it a more engaging and concise listen.  It’s always a balancing act between giving the listener added value, or a streamlined experience.  A minor quibble at the end of the day.

3.5/5 stars

REVIEW: Journey – Freedom (2022, Japanese bonus track)

JOURNEY – Freedom (2022 Japan, Ward Records)

Last month we gave Journey’s new album Freedom a glowing review.  We also did an excellent episode of Tim’s Vinyl Confessions to discuss the new album.  Though many were sceptical, Tim and I agreed more or less on the entire album.  We were both pleasantly surprised at its quality.  What was missing was the Japanese bonus 16th track.  Neither of us got a hold of it…until now.

The bonus track, exclusive to Japan, is a Jon Cain penned track called “Hard To Let It Go”.  If you are predicting the song is a ballad…you would be correct.

Spoiler:  Tim’s comment upon hearing “Hard To Let It Go” was “I can see why the Journey track didn’t make the album…so-so.”

Below you can read the full Journey Freedom review, now including bonus track.


What a…well, Journey…it has been!  First drummer Deen Castronovo was fired for…reasons we won’t get into.  Steve Smith was brought back to replace him, until both Smith and bassist Ross Valory were fired for attempted takeover of the band?  One way or another they ended up with Randy Jackson and Narada Michael Walden forming a lethal new rhythm section.  Also added was second keyboardist Jason Derlatka.  Now Deen is back and the album they created together, Freedom, is a special one compared to all the other post-Perry records.  Musically, Freedom is the strongest lineup since the classic era. With Narada on songwriting, there is a clear uptick in memorable material. 16 songs, and a more satisfying listen than the last three or four Journey studio albums.  Freedom actually feels like a three sided album, with five songs per side (plus the bonus track).  Listen with that in mind and see if you agree.

1. “Together We Run” – Classic 80s sound with a catchy Jon Cain piano opening. Awesome chorus. The “Woah Woah Woah” part is excellent.  Top it with a classic Schon solo. Arnel  Pineda sounds more soulful than before. 5/5

2. “Don’t Give Up On Us” – This is the “Separate Ways” ripoff.  Tell me you can’t hear it.  It’s slowed down a tad, but similar. Good tune though! 4/5

3. “Still Believe in Love” – The first ballad.  Narada’s really nailing that soul vibe on drums. Really soft/romantic but good. 4/5

4. “You Got the Best of Me” – Second single. Solid Journey style hard rocker. Narada nails this vibe too in a style reminiscent of Steve Smith. Chorus is stellar. 5/5

5. “Live to Love Again” – Jonathan Cain solo writing credit. A bit corny but not more so than other Journey ballads or Bon Jovi for that matter. 3/5

6. “The Way We Used To Be” – First single, so long ago! Darker, more ominous Journey, but absolutely killer. Takes a while to sink it. Works better on the album than as a single. Powerful, with great chorus. 5/5

7. “Come Away With Me” – Uncharacteristic hard rock groover. Randy Jackson for the win. Do I hear an homage to the first album on this one? Relentless song! 5/5

8. “After Glow” – Ballad #3. At least each ballad is different from one another, which is necessary on an album like this. Deen Castronovo on lead vocals. Very Steve Perry circa Trial By Fire. 3.5/5

9. “Let It Rain” – Woah! Completely different. Funk courtesy of Mr. Randy Jackson on bass. Solid unexpected funky groove going on here. Schon is mental! 4/5

10. “Holdin’ On” – Randy’s first co-write. Very much an homage to the first three progressive Journey albums. Time signature is nuts. 4/5

11. “All Day, All Night” – Randy Jackson is MVP for his bass pulse on this soulful, funky groove. Wicked song, An album highlight. Schon just punctuates the air with some chords while the bass carries the verses. Arnel in top voice on the screamin’ outro. 5/5

12. “Don’t Go” – Arnel’s first co-write. Like early 80’s Bon Jovi with an uplifting power chorus. 5/5

13. “United We Stand” – No quite a ballad, but a midtempo tune. Lyrics could be interpreted as about the division in the US. Not a highlight, just kinda sits there. 3/5

14. “Life Rolls On” – A song about aging and rolling with the changes. Begins as a ballad and transforms into a rocker. Nice organ on here by Jon Cain. 4/5

15. “Beautiful As You Are” – Album closing ballad/rocker. Lovely acoustic closer. Understated and perfect until it goes rocker at the end. Arnel in top voice hitting the high notes. Homage to classic Journey at the end – “Anytime”? Walden kicking absolutely ass on the outro. 5/5

16. “Hard To Let It Go” – Ballads can work very well as bonus tracks; an added “coda” to a track listing.  “Hard To Let It Go” takes a few listens to like.  If it were in the main tracklist, it would fade into the background in the wake of better songs.  Slow, deliberate, with an excellent speedy bluesy solo by Neal.  (Steve Perry did call Neal Schon one of the best blues players in the world on the Captured live album.)  Really though, the song is B-side quality compared to the rest of Freedom.  It stands out a little more thanks to its positioning as the last song. 3/5

Freedom is the first Journey since Trial By Fire that really intrigues you enough to go in for multiple listens.  This lineup has it all and though health issues have gotten in they way of Randy and Narada touring, the album is a moment frozen in time when Journey had these two awesome veterans in the engine room.

4.5/5 stars

REVIEW: Def Leppard – Viva! Hysteria – Live at the Joint, Las Vegas (Part 2 – CD 2 & bonus features)

Part Forty-Three of the Def Leppard Review Series

DEF LEPPARD – Viva! Hysteria – Live at the Joint, Las Vegas (Part 2 – CD 2 & bonus features) (2013 Bludgeon Riffola)

When Def Leppard rocked Vegas, they rocked it with far more than just a faithful live reproduction of the Hysteria album.  They also “opened” for themselves as “Ded Flatbird”, and treated the diehards to a set of 15 deep cuts and lesser hits.  For many, this is in fact the superior part of the show.  Indeed, Leppard really pulled some surprises out of the bag, finally satisfying a number of fans who perennially complained, “Why don’t they play ‘A’, ‘B’, or ‘C’?”  With a wink and a smile, they did.  They performed two completely different sets as Ded Flatbird, on March 29 and March 30 2013.

Beginning with the March 29 set, the unlisted intro is a bit of “Won’t Get Fooled Again”, which is not present on the CD, only the DVD.  Then it’s onto the first shocker of the night, and probably the biggest:  non-album B-side “Good Morning Freedom”, from the single “Hello America“.  Straight-ahead riff rock.  It sounds surprisingly at home with the current version of Leppard.  Phil rips a solo and Rick Allen can’t wipe the smile off his face.  For the occasion of opening for himself, Phil Collen wears a shirt.  (Appropriate for an “opening act”, the backdrop is a simple union jack flag, hiding the big screens that would come out for the main set.)

As soon as “Good Morning Freedom” has struck its final chord, and standing in front of a stack of EVH amps, Phil rips into the delicious “Wasted” single.  This song from the first album is the one fans have been begging for, for years.  Joe’s voice is lower and rougher, and perhaps even more effective.  The song is still lethal!  That riff could be the most devastating one in their entire catalogue.

From Pyromania, “Stagefright” is another welcome inclusion.  Joe struggles with the challenging screamin’ vocals but he does the job.  He doesn’t cheat the notes.  This is the Leppard that fans have been wanting to see live all this time.  Then another shock:  from High ‘n’ Dry it’s “Mirror Mirror”!  Joe introduces Ded Flatbird as the best Def Leppard cover band in the world, and he must be right.  The tackle this, one of early Leppard’s sharpest and most melodically riffy songs, with ease.

Joe claims his name is “Booty Ruben” as they kick into the Sweet cover “Action”.  There are several official live versions out there.  This is one of ’em.  Not a song necessary for anyone to need another live version of, but once again Rick Allen can’t seem to stop smiling.  Back to the oldies, it’s another surprise with the early single “Rock Brigade”.  Perhaps by adopting the alternate identity of Booty Ruben (who swears Joe Elliott is a nice guy!), Joe is able to sing these old lyrics from a lifetime ago without feeling too silly.  He sounds awesome on the On Through the Night material.  Their music hadn’t got really screamy yet and Joe rocks it with ease.

Another surprise comes next, albeit a more recent one.  From their last album, Mirror Ball, is the rarely played “Undefeated”.  Though not one of their most outstanding songs, even the generic “Undefeated” deserves to be heard live at least once.  This is to date the only live version you can buy.  “Promises” from Euphoria is the last song of this set, and it sounds really great live with rich backing vocals.

The March 30 Ded Flatbird set brings us another set of delight.  After “Won’t Get Fooled Again”, they go right into “On Through the Night” from High ‘n’ Dry.  A bit “Achilles Last Stand”, isn’t it?  Screamin’ Joe manages well.

The surprising “Slang” from 1996 introduces modern beats.  It sounds good live, if a bit under-energetic.  Sounds like it’s just a little shy of full concert electricity.  But that’s OK.  If energy is what you need, then Leppard come at you with both barrels for the remainder of the set:  it’s all of side one of High ‘n’ Dry, in sequence.  “That ain’t good enough?” asks Joe/Booty.  No, no, it’s plenty good, this is what we have been asking for all this time!

“Let It Go” powers the show forward.  Amazing how close they nail it considering the Def Leppard of today has two different guitar players than the band of 1981.  Yet “Let It Go” is the triumph you want it to be.  “Another Hit and Run” is pure smoke.  Full speed ahead, Screamin’ Joe givin’ it all he’s got, and Viv and Phil ripping the solos while Rick and Rick keep blasting it forward.  “High ‘n’ Dry (Saturday Night)” brings the tempo down but the temperature up.  What a riff, and what a fist pumper.

The closing pair of “Bringin’ on the Heartbreak” and “Switch 625” are a thrilling way to end this set.  Like a true guitar duo, Vivian Campbell and Phil Collen walk together to the ramp protruding from the front of the stage, and play “Switch 625” united.  It’s beautiful.  Not to be left out, Ricks Allen and Savage then get a bass/drum outro together.

The DVD has a few more extras to discuss.  There’s a brief and somewhat pointless photo gallery, to the tune of “Animal” live.  None of the photos are on screen long enough to really study.  A better bonus is the “Acoustic Medley”, which is on the DVD but not on CD, except in Japan where it was included as the bonus track.  We’ll discuss this awesome bonus next time.

Viva! Hysteria is an excellent package from top to bottom.  The band were fearless, playing material that they have shied away from for years.  Two CDs, one DVD, and a total of 30 tracks.  Leppard worked hard to get these songs into shape live, and Joe in particular had a lot of challenging material to sing.  They pulled it off, with flying colours, proving that Def Leppard are just as good as they ever were.

5/5 stars

Previous:  

  1. The Early Years Disc One – On Through the Night 
  2. The Early Years Disc Two – High N’ Dry
  3. The Early Years Disc Three – When The Walls Came Tumbling Down: Live at the New Theater Oxford – 1980
  4. The Early Years Disc Four – Too Many Jitterbugs – EP, singles & unreleased
  5. The Early Years Disc 5 – Raw – Early BBC Recordings 
  6. The Early Years 79-81 (Summary)
  7. Pyromania
  8. Pyromania Live – L.A. Forum, 11 September 1983
  9. Hysteria
  10. Soundtrack From the Video Historia – Record Store Tales
  11. In The Round In Your Face DVD
  12. “Let’s Get Rocked” – The Wait for Adrenalize – Record Store Tales
  13. Adrenalize
  14. Live at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert
  15. Retro-Active
  16. Visualize
  17. Vault: Def Leppard’s Greatest Hits / Limited Edition Live CD
  18. Video Archive
  19. “Slang” CD single
  20. Slang
  21. I Got A Bad Feeling About This: Euphoria – Record Store Tales
  22. Euphoria
  23. Rarities 2
  24. Rarities 3
  25. Rarities 4
  26. Cybernauts – Live
  27. Cybernauts – The Further Adventures of the Cybernauts (bonus disc)
  28. X
  29. Best Of (UK)
  30. Rock Of Ages: The Definitive Collection
  31. Yeah!
  32. Yeah! Bonus CD With Backstage Interviews
  33. Yeah…Nah!  (Record Store Tales)
  34. Songs From the Sparkle Lounge
  35. “C’Mon C’Mon” (picture disc)
  36. Taylor Swift & Def Leppard – CMT Crossroads (DVD)
  37. B.Sides
  38. Yeah! II
  39. Yeah! Live
  40. Mirror Ball: Live & More (Japan bonus track)
  41. iTunes Re-recordings
  42. Viva! Hysteria (CD 1 & DVD)

Next:

44. Viva! Hysteria (Japanese bonus track)
45. Slang (2014 Deluxe bonus tracks)
46. “Helen Wheels” (from The Art of McCartney)
47. Def Leppard (Deluxe and Japanese versions)

REVIEW: Rush – “Caravan” / “BU2B” (2010 CD single)

RUSH – “Caravan” / “BU2B” (2010 CD Anthem single)

“Parts one and two of Clockwork Angels, a work in progress”.

That’s pretty monumental.  Rush were releasing two key tracks from their forthcoming studio album, a full concept album this time, well in advance.  Two years in advance.  Notably, this was a full concept album start to finish.  In the 70s, Rush were more known for half concept, half non-conceptual records.  The bands that Rush inspired like Queensryche and Dream Theater had done full concepts.  Now the original masters were taking a shot.

On the final album, “Caravan” is track one and “BU2B” is track two.  On this single the order is swapped.  “BU2B” (“Brought Up to Believe”) opens, although its intro changes on the album version.  “BU2B” absolutely slams.  “I was brought up to believe that the universe has a plan…”  Perhaps it opens this single because it sums up the overall album concept.  In a fictional world run precisely by a “Watchmaker”, a rebellious protagonist feels pulled in a direction different from that assigned to his life.  Questioning his reality, he embarks on his own adventures despite his mandated mundane role in society.  Musically, after the metallic riff has done its business, Neil Peart takes the spotlight a moment as the song shifts.  Geddy lays down the heavy bottom end while Alex strikes hither and yon with lightning-like licks.  Clearly a classic in the making.

“Caravan”, the final album opener, sounds pretty much the same as the record.  It establishes the setting, “in a world lit only by fire…”  The riff is a major feature, a deliberate, descending rock monster that feels just right in the guts.  The lyrics paint a picture of a steampunk world, half explored, with alchemy and ancient knowledge.

Clockwork Angels wound up as one of the greatest final albums by any band anywhere any time.  This single is a nice add-on, a reminder of the long careful gestation period that created a masterpiece.

4.5/5 stars