classic rock

REVIEW: Bon Jovi – “Wanted: Dead or Alive” (1987 cassette)

BON JOVI – “Wanted: Dead or Alive” (1987 Mercury extended play cassette)

Some rarities are easiest to find on tape.

That’s definitely still the case for “Wanted: Dead or Alive”, the 1987 acoustic version originally released only on an extended play cassette in most of the world.  This version, discussed below, is a Holy Grail collectable.  What about CD or vinyl?  There was a rare Japanese version with a slightly different tracklist, but for 30 years, all I had was this cherished cassette.

The tape has four tracks.  The original studio version (titled “Long Version” here to avoid confusion with the  4:10 single edit) leads side A.  “Wanted” is Bon Jovi’s first truly brilliant song.  An extended cowboy metaphor about the road, it’s timeless.  It always has been.  Richie Sambora’s 12 string guitar made all the young guitar kids want to play one.  His backing vocals were the real highlight.  Funny thing about Bon Jovi:  the backing vocalist was better than the lead singer!  Smoking guitar solo too, where every note counts.  You can hear Richie pushing those strings and wrenching that solo from the instrument.  It’s a perfect song, with every component serving a purpose and coming together.  The old west as seen from New Jersey.

The acoustic version of “Wanted” is the real delight here.  It’s just Jon and Sambora together with two acoustic guitars.  Jon explains the details in the liner notes, but only the cassette has this information: one more good reason to hunt down the tape.  Read below:

“On March 18, 1987 or somewhere there bouts, Richie and I flew into New York to mix some live tracks for a radio special.  After a couple hours of record making, donut eating, and MTV watching we got bored, picked up two acoustics and started to jam.  The results are here on tape, the way we wrote it, just like it was in the basement on that cold January night in Jersey.”

If that doesn’t set the scene, nothing will.  Richie sings more of the lyrics, and belts out a killer acoustic solo too.  It was this recording that demonstrated to me the talents of Mr. Sambo.  What it lacks in glossy finish, it makes up for in spades with vibe.

On side B, the live version of “Wanted” is another rarity.  It’s an extended 8:13 full band version, with a long instrumental prologue.  According to the liner notes (again, only on the cassette), it was recorded at Cobo Hall in Detroit on March 11, exactly a week before the studio jam was recorded.  It’s likely this is one of the live songs that Jon and Richie were in New York mixing on the 18th.  (Production is credited to both.)  You may have lots of versions of “Wanted” already, but owning an extended take from early ’87 is better.

The tape ends on “I’d Die For You”, a song that was good enough to be a single in its own right.  However, it wasn’t.  It’s just an album track from Slippery When Wet, but it’s safe to say it’s a bit of an unsung classic.  The Japanese CD version, on the other hand, comes with the non-album rarity “Edge of a Broken Heart”, one of their best tunes ever.  After “Edge”, there is an exclusive unlisted interview with all five band members.  Inside, Japan also got a “Bon Jovi Dictionary (R to Z)”.  Presumably the other volumes of the dictionary can be found in other Japanese CDs.

Though this cassette has an overabundance of “Wanted”, you simply need to get that acoustic version.  You want the one that’s 5:31 long, recorded in March ’87.  In fact, you need that one.  And even though CD is the superior format, the tape has the liner notes and other details you won’t find on CD.

5/5 stars

Thanks to Mitch Lafon for helping me locate a CD copy of these tracks!

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REVIEW: Blue Rodeo – “Diamonds in the Rough” / Demos and Other Stuff….. (1989)

BLUE RODEO – “Diamonds in the Rough” / Demos and Other Stuff….. (1989 Atlantic promo EP)

Here’s the funny thing about “Holy Grail” records.  Most of the time, you don’t even know they exist until you find one!

Blue Rodeo is one of those bands for whom I collect “everything”.  Their box set filled a lot of gaps, but I am still missing a few things.  To the Discogs!

I was searching for one of the Blue Rodeo Live in Stratford albums.  There are two; I only have one, and it’s excellent.  While searching for that live album, I found this promo EP instead, at a good price and in great condition.  Upon reading the tracklist, it contained four Blue Rodeo tracks I didn’t have and didn’t know existed!

1989’s Diamond Mine is still considered one of the band’s greatest albums today, if not #1.  The “God and Country” demo that leads off Diamonds in the Rough is an acoustic rendering of one of its best songs.   “How Long” is a fully arranged demo, sounding live off the floor.  Since this record was cut for radio stations to play, it’s quite possible that you heard these versions at some point in early 1989.  I hadn’t, and neither is included in the box set.  Of course they don’t have the production value of the full album, but that’s part of the appeal of collecting rarities like this.

Side one closes with a live version of “Outskirts”, also not on any Blue Rodeo album.  However this version of “Outskirts” is from another “Holy Grail” promo, The Live CFNY Concert.  That record is a double and still out my reach, so this energetic live cut will have to do for now.  (I mean, I could buy it right now…but the copy in the condition I want is almost $100.)

Side two has the single edit of their big hit “Diamond Mine”.  The album cut is 8:18, full of psychedelic organ solos and Doors-like jamming.  A shorter single edit of this song is always handy, and you can’t get it on their Greatest Hits CD. It’s similar if not identical to the music video version.

As if all of the above wasn’t enough to make this promo a worthy “Holy Grail” item, there are two unreleased demos for songs that never made it onto the Diamond Mine album!  “Galveston” is a cover of the Jimmy Webb song made famous by Glen Campbell.  Blue Rodeo’s version is manically fast, with Jim Cuddy’s sweet voice maintaining what made the song special.  Finally it’s “Jig”, an acoustic instrumental with Bobby Wiseman on concertina. This is little more than an idea of a song rather than something fully written.  Regardless, these two unreleased goodies go to prove what a band of musicians Blue Rodeo is, particularly Wiseman and bassist Bazil Donovan, possibly the country’s greatest bass player on this side of Geddy Lee.

If this record only had “Galveston” as its sole rarity, it would be still be a Holy Grail item.  As it turns out, none of these tracks can be found on a Blue Rodeo CD today, so it really justifies its own purchase!

5/5 stars

 

 

#746: Deepest Purple

A prequel to #462:  The Deep Purple Project

GETTING MORE TALE #746: Deepest Purple

Black Sabbath appeared on my radar before Deep Purple did.  Perhaps the first true “heavy metal” album I ever heard was Born Again.  Best friend Bob owned it; he raved about a song called “Zero the Hero”.  He was on to something.  Even though his cassette copy was murky and muddy, the chorus rose above.

What you gonna be what you gonna be brother – Zero the Hero,
Don’t you wanna be don’t you wanna be brother – Zero the Hero,
When you gonna be when you gonna be brother – Zero the Hero,
Impossibility, impissibolity mother – really a hero.

It was the first Black Sabbath I ever heard.  I didn’t know they had any other singers until one day I was sitting in the basement, recording videos off next door neighbour George.  One that I had selected to record was called “Neon Nights” by Black Sabbath.  By then, I knew enough to know that Black Sabbath had a “moustache guy” on guitar.  I was surprised to see a doppelganger on bass, but the singer kinda looked familiar.

I casually asked George, “Did Black Sabbath ever have anything to do with Ronnie James Dio?”

“Yeah, he was their singer!” he told me.  My world expanded that day.  It would be longer still before I had the chance to hear any original Sabbath with Ozzy.

I was picking up so much musical information from the neighbour kids.  I was intrigued by bands like Kiss, who had many lineups and sounds to go with it.  Clearly, Black Sabbath was one of those bands too.  “Neon Nights” didn’t sound much like “Zero the Hero”.

I sought to learn all I could about rock and roll.  When I had accumulated enough knowledge (barely), I made a little heavy metal trivia game.  I will never forget one question in particular:

Q: What do Ozzy Osbourne, Ronnie James Dio, and the lead singer from Deep Purple have in common?

A: They were all in Black Sabbath.

There are two things amusing about that.  1) I didn’t even know his name, and 2) “the” lead singer of Deep Purple!  Hah!  Finding out about David Coverdale?  That was a whole other story!

I made sure I learned his name quickly.  Ian Gillan was recognisable because of his long black hair often obscuring his face.  But I wasn’t ready to delve into Deep Purple yet.  The easiest (and cheapest) way for me to discover new music was by watching the Pepsi Power Hour on MuchMusic: two hours a week of all kinds of hard rock.  But Purple didn’t get much play.  Much didn’t have any clips of them in the 1970s, and in fact only had two Purple videos to run:  “Perfect Strangers” and “Knocking at Your Back Door“.  They weren’t exactly frequent flyers, so my exposure to Deep Purple took a lot of time to unfold.

Black Sabbath may have been my gateway to Deep Purple, but Purple eventually became an obsession that surpassed them.  In fact I used to go by the online name “Purpendicular”, named for one of their best albums.  I was known as “Purp” for so long that it became a bit of a phenomenon online in Canada and the UK when “Purp Ate My Balls” T-shirts were actually made for sale.  Most were in the UK.  This is an actual, true story!  A handful of people still call me “Purp”.

 

When people know you as “Purpendicular”, you better be a serious fan.  And I am.  I love Deep Purple.  I don’t think anyone can touch them for sheer integrity.

I floated through highschool without hearing a lot of Purple.  Much acquired a few more videos:  “Bad Attitude” and “Hush”.  They did not get played often.  I only caught “Bad Attitude” once or twice.  There was little interest in the band, it seemed.  Magazines announced that Ian Gillan had quit at the time of the Nobody’s Perfect album.  About a year later came the news that they hired on former Rainbow singer Joe Lynn Turner.

It took some time, but eventually Purple returned with new music.  I happened to have the radio on one afternoon in late 1990 when Q-107 debuted a brand new song called “The Cut Runs Deep”.

“At first it doesn’t sound like Purple,” said the DJ, “but then Jon Lord comes in with that Hammond organ!”

I hit “record” on the tape deck.

The Earth moved.  What a song.  What power!  And speed!  Rewind, hit “play” and listen again.  It was 5:42 of full-steam rock, with the kind of playing that makes the genre awesome.  Purple were heavier than I expected.  My ears were beginning to open.

I asked a friend at school named Andy about the new album.  Turns out, his brother had it.

“Is it heavy?” I queried.

He chuckled in bemusement.  “Heavier than Ian Gillan?  No.  No.”

I tried not to be crushed.

“It’s still good,” he added.

If it wasn’t for my sudden new interest in Led Zeppelin, that might have been the start of my Purple obsession.  Instead, I spent a year or so discovering Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones and John Bonham.  To make matters even more congested, I soon found Queen, and began buying up old Black Sabbath albums too.

Finally, in the mid 90s, it was time to focus.  Once I had Deep Purple properly in the crosshairs, I commenced collecting.

My first doesn’t really count.  It was Purple’s latest, Slaves and Masters, their only album with Joe Lynn Turner.  It doesn’t count because it was just a taped copy.  Back when you could still rent CDs, I borrowed a copy from a video store up in Kincardine Ontario.  I put it in my boombox and began recording.  I remember my dad listening in on the last track, the epic “Wicked Ways”.  He asked who the band was.

“They are more of a musician’s band, aren’t they,” he remarked.  Yes!  Exactly.  My dad wasn’t into rock music, but he could hear that quality musicianship.  They were far and above the average rock band.

Slaves and Masters is a brilliant album, and although a full third of it is ballads, it’s hard not to like.  There are a lot of good songs on there.  So what if they are ballads?  “The Cut Runs Deep” and “Wicked Ways” more than made up for the lighter material.

Then:  two hits compilations.  Knocking At Your Back Door (a new release of 80s material) and Deepest Purple (all 70s).  This gave me plenty to absorb in a short period of time.  The most important song from this pair was “Child in Time”.  It appeared in live form on Knocking At Your Back Door and Ian Gillan was still in good enough vocal shape to do it.  I loved both versions.  When I played it in my bedroom, my sister could hear it through the door.  I played it so often that she gave it a name.  She called it the “Ahh Ahh Ahh” song.

Next:  Perfect Strangers.  A rewarding album in the long term.  Took a few spins to get there.

By 1993, Deep Purple got Ian Gillan back for another kick at the can.  The classic Mk II lineup was intact:  Richie Blackmore, Ian Gillan, Ian Paice, Jon Lord, and Roger Glover.  They did a so-so album called The Battle Rages On…, and it really did rage on.  As I learned more about the band, I discovered that even though they were all intelligent, schooled musicians, they fought like children!  This reunion was not built to last, though it was my next Deep Purple album.

I certainly didn’t expect Blackmore to quit.  And I didn’t even know about it.

The mid 90s were a bit of a black hole for metal information.  Few magazines were covering classic rock bands anymore.  I didn’t know that Blackmore quit until their live album, Come Hell or High Water, was out.  I found out from the liner notes!

The internet was in its infancy, but I did some digging and found out that Purple were playing live with a new guitar player.  Could you believe it?  Joe Satriani temped with them!, but he was already gone! They were on to a new guy.  The review that I read said specifically that the new guy “looked a lot like Steve Morse”.

Well shit!

Steve Morse was a legend in his own time!  I knew him by reputation only.  And I was really intrigued by this news.

I had to special order the new Deep Purple with Morse from the US.  It was 1995 and I was working at the Record Store.  You couldn’t even get it in Canada yet.  That’s how bad it was for rock bands in the 90s.  But I did get it, paying $24.99 for the import.  Purpendicular arrived one Tuesday afternoon.  T-Rev was working when it came in.  “I hope you don’t mind, but I played a little bit of your Deep Purple.  It wasn’t sealed when it came.  It sounds pretty good.”

He apologised for playing it but there was no need.  I thought it was cool that he was interested.  Turns out, he liked that album a lot and ended up buying a copy himself!

Indeed, Purpendicular is a special album.  There is magic in those grooves.  Maybe it was the freedom of working without the yoke of Blackmore.  Perhaps it was the rejuvenation of Steve Morse.  It was probably both and much more, but what happened with Purpendicular has never been repeated.  No matter how many good albums they have done since (and there have been several, including four with Don Airey replacing the late Jon Lord), none have had the…I hate to use this cliche over again, but…none have had the magic that Purpendicular has.  It’s impossible to put into words, but easy to hear for yourself.

I mean, I friggin’ named myself after that album!  There are T-shirts with my face on them that say “Purp Ate My Balls”.  That’s dedication, pal!

 

GUEST CONCERT REVIEW: KISS – Toronto – Scotiabank Arena March 20 2019 by Uncle Meat

UNCLE MEAT:  Well…I guess tonight I experience the controversy head on.

LeBRAIN:  What’s tonight?

MEAT:  Members of Black N’ Blue and Badlands.

LB:  Kiss?  You are going?  If so you are REQUIRED to write something for me. Or else!!

MEAT:  Old buddy, Scott Hunter, who I saw Kiss with twice in 1982 and 1983, messages me out of nowhere and has a paid-for ticket. Him and his buddy have VIP but only two, but who cares.  They had the Vault Experience with Gene last year too.

LB:  Go go go.

MEAT:  Only been 36 years since I saw Kiss live.  Mid-arena, 20 rows up.

LB:  It’s gonna be sad I think. Just my feeling.

MEAT:  Fairly good tickets. But yeah. The spectacle is the part to enjoy I guess.

LB:  I hope you have a good time.  But seriously if you don’t write this up for me, I am going to probably hurt you very badly. You won’t see it coming. Maybe we will be driving to the farm and I will punch your nuts so hard that you bleed from your ears. Just saying. Not that you “owe” me anything, you just have to. Or have your nuts tenderised. Your choice! You won’t see it coming but it will happen!

 

– Toronto – Scotiabank Arena, March 20 2019
Review by Uncle Meat

Kiss in 2019 was the best “show” I have ever seen.  Easily.

What about the singing?  I had watched a cool video the other day, where a guy pointed out in each song where Paul is lip syncing and where he is actually singing.  Which was good because before that I thought it was pretty much all tape. That being said, I could notice both last night.  It’s like he is trying some songs’ verses (or what have you) on different nights. But, 60% of the vocals (at least) were the same as they had been on other stops. I have heard the “Love Gun” track several times, how the verses have been re-recorded, and he does exactly the same inflections within the verses.

BUT!!!

Truth is? 20 seconds in, and I didn’t give a shit.  And while I hold the same opinion about it, it literally took ZERO away from a show I can only describe as almost perfect.

Gene sings 100% of his vocals, at least on the verses, and was kinda goofy all night.  More aloof than he usually is. Less Demon. More Mike Myers.  He is getting fat in the face though, wow…he looked like Bea Arthur in Gene makeup.

Paul still is on the very top shelf of frontmen, as per between-song banter.  He had me right in the trenches, clapping along, laughing out loud several times, just fuckin’ entertaining.

Eric Singer was a great drummer.  LOVED his voice in “Black Diamond”, and really really enjoyed “Beth”.  Like alot.  Surprising.

I was really blown away by Tommy Thayer’s guitar tone.  Fucking powerful, and creamy.  He changed just enough of the Ace solos to put his mark on it, but leaving the important parts of the solo in to suit the songs.  Great set list too.  “100,000 Years” and “Let Me Go, Rock and Roll” were serious highlights.

4.5/5 steaks 

The missing 1/2 steak only because of the lip-sync stuff.

 

 

 

 

REVIEW: Quiet Riot – One Night in Milan (2019 CD/DVD)

QUIET RIOT – One Night in Milan (2019 Frontiers Deluxe Edition CD/DVD)

James Durbin made me a believer.

On paper, the current Quiet Riot shouldn’t be my thing.  A band with no original members and a frontman from one of those singing contest shows?  No thanks.  Except it’s actually good.  After years of flailing around with different replacement singers, Frankie Banali finally hit gold when he got James Durbin.  Wisely, Frankie chose to do a live album with him.

One Night in Milan is a terrific live CD/DVD set, aided and abetted by a singer who is 100% into it.  Durbin has charisma and the frontman chops, but importantly, he’s not trying to be Kevin DuBrow.  He still uses the striped mike stand, but otherwise Durbin is his own person.  His range is out of this world, and though his voice may grate on some ears, he sounds terrific to this listener.  The whole lineup, including Alex Grossi on guitar and veteran Chuck Wright on bass, has gelled.

Quiet Riot get points for doing the opposite of what most bands do.  They didn’t ignore their 1990’s albums!  “Whatever It Takes” (from Down to the Bone) and “Terrified” (from “reunion” album Terrified) sound awesome live.  “Terrified” in particular has been a long time coming, a true hidden classic from a forgotten era.  On the other hand, there are only two songs (“Freak Flag” and “Can’t Get Enough”) from their newest album Road Rage.  There’s only so much room on a live CD, and it’s otherwise stuffed with stone cold Quiet Riot classics.  It’s cool to hear deeper cuts like “Condition Critical”, “Thunderbird” and “Let’s Get Crazy” live.

The DVD, featuring all the songs from the CD, is even more convincing.  Banali continues to thunder like no other drummer, a true phenomenon.  There’s more stage talk included, and Banali introduces “Thunderbird” performed live for the first time ever with piano.  Durbin is always the focus on stage, although Wright and Grossi are both mobile, entertaining performers.

If you’re just not into Quiet Riot without Kevin DuBrow, that’s fine and you should stick to what you like.  However it’s safe to say that James Durbin has saved Quiet Riot from becoming a pointless parody of itself.  With James center stage, this band has a future again.

4/5 stars

 

 

REVIEW: Klassik ’78 – Side One and Side Two (2017)

KLASSIK ’78 – Side One and Side Two (2017 EPs)

When I was a kid buying new Kiss albums likes Crazy Nights, I used to say “Kiss should go back and make a full album that sounds like Side Four of Alive II.” Either that or Kiss Killers. I thought either direction was worthy of re-visiting, since they were small collections of songs, not full albums.

The guys who created the original band Klassik ’78 read my mind, and decided to do something about it.  In the spirit of the Kiss sound circa Alive II, Klassik ’78 took it upon themselves to write and record a “lost” Kiss studio that could have followed Love Gun.  Imagine Kiss didn’t split to make solo albums or return with a Disco record.  Original Kiss, not ghost musicians.  Klassik ’78 aimed to create an album from that exact year in that precise alternate universe.  The remarkable thing is that they actually succeeded.


The Side One EP has a bangin’ opener:  the Paul-styled “Standin’ Tall”.   Paul-vocalist “Joe” nails the Starchild’s mannerisms, while the riff mimics that kind that Paul was writing around the time of Rock And Roll Over.  A slaying Kiss-like chorus drives it home.  Klassik ’78 member “Tom” rolls out a Gene-like song as authentic as the Demon’s long tongue.  “Please n’ Tease” is a “Love ‘Em Leave ‘Em” styled sleaze rocker just like Simmons used to write them.  There’s even an Ace-y solo that burns like the Spaceman’s rockets.  “Mean Business” definitely nails the Alive II vibe, kind of like a sequel to “Larger Than Life” with a guy who’s doing his best to sound raspy like Peter Criss.  Another perfect faux-Frehley solo is the ideal topping.  “Passion & Love” is obviously a “Paul” song, a mirror image of “Mr. Speed” and a nearly perfect vocal.  Every “Ooh yeah!” is spot-on.  There’s a good chance you could fool any casual fan into thinking “Passion & Love” is an actual lost Kiss song from 1977.  “Rock and Roll You” is another Gene-like vehicle, right in that Kiss pocket.  Finally, with a title like “Streetwise”, you’re probably already expecting a track like Ace Frehley.  That’s exactly what you get, with a crunchy Ace-like riff, sharp licks, and the same kind of spacey vocals (also by “Tom”).  “I grew up in the city, spent my time on the street.”  Every lyric on Side One is crafted to fit the Kiss member it’s for.  The attention to detail is remarkable.  Certain moments of the “Ace” guitar solo have bits inspired by Frehley’s 1978 solo album.  It’s uncanny.

The important thing is that these are not just tracks that sound exactly like Kiss songs.  These are songs that sound exactly like good Kiss songs.  Could Klassik ’78 deliver another six tracks to make it a full, good album?


“Joe” in the Paul Stanley guise opens Side Two with a stunning “World on Fire”.  It is in the style of Stanley’s ’78 solo disc, but with the Frehley guitar fills of Kiss instead of Bob Kulick.  Time for a “Gene” song next with “Ain’t No Fool”, kinda similar to “Mad Dog” as released on the Box Set.  Another obvious Ace title is “Jendell”; I say “obvious” because hard core fans know that Ace Frehley supposedly comes from planet Jendell.  “I was sent on a mission, light years ago.  To help the human condition, for how long I didn’t know.”  Yep, it’s a “Space Ace” track and a good one at that, once again with tones inspired directly from the Frehley solo album.  Back to Alive II (think “Rockin’ in the USA”), it’s another “Gene” song with “American Made”.  The title alone is perfectly Simmons.  “I”m American Made, and all my dues have been paid.”  In the vibe of “Makin’ Love”, it’s a Stanley-like “Hot On Her Heels” next.  Once again, you could easily fool friends into thinking this is actually Kiss.  Closing Side Two is “Victims (Nosferatu)”, implying a Kiss Demon epic.  Think “Almost Human” from Love Gun, but with more heft.  Klassik kloser, pardon the pun.

I’m not going to bullshit you.  If the Klassik ’78 album was a real Kiss album from 1978, it would be considered one of their best, with the original six.  Obviously Kiss have no intention of ever making an album like this, so why not let Klassik ’78 have some fun with it?  Obviously the fans responded, because the limited run of CDs (re-titled The Un-Originals) sold out immediately.

Check out Klassik ’78 on iTunes, put on your old jean jacket and set your time machine back to 1978.  This album will transport you back.

4.5/5 stars

 

 

REVIEW: Tommy Shaw – Girls With Guns (1984)

TOMMY SHAW – Girls With Guns (1984 A&M, 2013 BGO Records)

When Styx split, both Tommy Shaw and Dennis DeYoung were quick to release solo albums.  All we had to judge them by was their new singles.  Dennis came out of the gates with a ballad (“Desert Moon”).  As 12 year old kids in 1984, we took no interest in what Dennis was doing. Tommy Shaw, on the other hand, had a bright pop rocker called “Girls With Guns”.  It was loud, fun and featured a great music video all done in a single take.  Neither song sounded like Styx, but “Girls With Guns” sounded more like what we were into.

Dennis’ album outsold Tommy’s, but Tommy’s rocks better.

The title track is of course the main feature.  Dated with 80s keyboards or not, it is still a great song.  This was proven by Tommy when he performed it acoustically without the keys.  It’s just rock with joy, and a great beat.

“Come In and Explain” has a progressive Styx vibe and easily could have worked in that context.  Instead, it’s a great Tommy Shaw solo track.  It has a blue collar groove but highbrow keyboards.  Another great song is the ballad “Lonely School”.  It has a classic sound, albeit a cheesy classic sound.  The album alternates between cool and corny, and some songs that straddle the line.  There’s nothing dreadful.

This CD was a “holy grail” item of mine for years, but was reissued in 2013 as a remastered double CD with Shaw’s second album What If.  The CD also features two extended songs, presumably because vinyl couldn’t hold the full length.  Glad to have Girls With Guns in my collection, though I won’t be racing to play it every week.

3/5 stars

REVIEW: Styx – Brave New World (1999)

STYX – Brave New World (1999 BMG)

Most bands have stinker albums somewhere in their history. For Styx, that would be their sadly disappointing reunion album Brave New World.  Styx were not exactly in harmony with lead singer Dennis DeYoung, and this would be his last album with the band.

The most obvious evidence of the dischord in the band is that Brave New World sounds like two groups.  In one:  Tommy Shaw and James Young.  In the other:  Dennis DeYoung.  The songs with Shaw and Young singing have hardly any DeYoung, and vice-versa.  It sounds as if they could find no common ground.  Far removed from the days of old, when even a disagreeing band could sound like a group.

The single “Everything is Cool” is by far the hardest rocking and best song.  There are a few decent ones, such as the exotic title track, but nothing that the band would still perform on stage today.  The most Styx-sounding track is Dennis’ ballad “While There’s Still Time”.  That’s right, a ballad!  Shaw’s “Just Fell In” is also swell, with a 1950s vibe.  Other songs such as “Number One” are annoyingly modernized.  The late 1990s is not a period that has aged well in music.  The production, the mish-mashing of styles…Styx seemed to pick up on the bad parts of these trends.  Too much programming, too many samples.  Not enough Dennis!  DeYoung can only be distinctly detected on a handful of tracks, mostly ballads.  These are often the best songs…all but “Hip Hop-cracy”, which is so painfully 1999.

It’s kind of a shame that the Styx reunion sputtered the way it did, but the silver lining was their second life with Lawrence Gowan.  The Styx reunion album was sadly a bust.

2/5 stars

REVIEW: The Hellacopters – Grande Rock (1999 vinyl)

THE HELLACOPTERS – Grande Rock (1999 Sub Pop vinyl edition)

Personally, it all began with Iron Tom Sharpe and Joe Big Nose Perry.  By 1999, everyone was well aware that the big Kiss reunion album, Psycho Circus, was a diluted compromise of the album they should have made.  “The Hellacopters made the real new Kiss album, man.”  Come on, Tom, quit yanking my chain.  “You’ll love it.  This is the album Kiss should have made.  No man, seriously, they even have a song called ‘Paul Stanley’.”   Joe stepped in by offering to pick me up a vinyl copy, which had a bonus track, at the Orange Monkey.  I gladly took him up on his offer and hoped to hear what Iron Tom was talking about.  Grande Rock was the Hellacopter’s third LP, but LeBrain’s first Hellacopters.

What’s this about Kiss then?  As “Action De Grâce” easily demonstrates, The Hellacopters can groove like the original foursome don’t even dare anymore.  This is Kiss circa 1976, but if they had taken a road other than Destroyer.  This is something like what they could have done if they wanted to take Kiss Alive! to the next step, and maybe taking some punk inspiration instead of disco.  “Move Right Out of Here” slams like Dressed to Kill on jet fuel.  “Alright Already Now” adds some harmonica, fuzz bass, and wah-wah.  The Hellacopters are not slavish like Klassik’78, they’re not trying to duplicate anything.  They’re going their own way with it, and it just so happens to be a lot better than Psycho Circus.  A lot of the vocals actually are closer to Steven Tyler circa Draw the Line.

A slower and darker vibe hits on “Welcome to Hell”, with some electric piano mixed in with Frehley-like solos and a little “Sympathy for the Devil”.  The punk rock builds on “The Electric Index Eel”, with stabbing guitar licks in under two minutes of length.  Clearly far beyond Kiss.  But then as if to get my attention back, there it is:  “Paul Stanley”, the song!  The riff must be inspired by Paul’s solo song “Tonight You Belong to Me”.  Wasn’t I telling you recently that Paul is one of rock’s most underrated riff writers?

The vinyl bonus track is right at the end of side one:  “Angel Dust”, which really sounds more like a top speed Appetite for Destruction outtake.  There’s a lot of Guns N’ Roses on this record too, particularly when there is a wah-wah solo or a blast of speed.

“The Devil Stole the Beat From the Lord” continues the rock and roll party on side two.  It’s pedal to the metal right through to “Dogday Morning”.  There’s a real gem in the middle of side two called “Venus in Force”, a big and grand riff with a song to go with it.  A more Kiss-like tempo in “5 Vs. 7” maintains a sense of variety.  Enjoy the flurry of guitars in the extended fade-out.  “Lonely” is a nice shorty by contrast, like a Gene Simmons love lament written in a hotel bathroom.  Closing position goes to “Renvoyer”, a killer outro jam.

Here is an interesting observation for you.  I used to think that Grande Rock had a great side one, but not much happening on side two.  However, I hadn’t actually listened to the vinyl for years.  I was listening to an mp3 rip of the 13 track album.  This time, I played the record and my perspective changed.  You have to get up and flip the record, and I happened to do something else for a few minutes before I dropped it back on side two.  That intentional break right there is everything.  There’s some sort of reset that happens, and you’re good to go for round two.

Grande Rock is damn near perfect for anyone craving a dose of the classic 1970s with a toe in punk rock too.  Vinyl is the way to go.  Don’t even bother with the CD, which taunts you with the fact that you bought the wrong version on the back cover by telling you that you’re not getting “Angel Dust”!  Awesome.

4.5/5 stars

 

#734: The Spaceman’s Wife and the Demon Sex Addict

GETTING MORE TALE #734: The Spaceman’s Wife and the Demon Sex Addict
“Guitars, Makeup and Murder”

Today, another in a long string of sad days in KISStory, we will dissect Ace Frehley’s incendiary statement to his ex-bandmate Gene Simmons.  (If it was written by Ace at all.  The statement appeared on Ace’s wife’s Facebook 22 minutes before it appeared on his.)  He was responding to a recent Gene Simmons quote:

Gene – “They [Peter Criss and Ace Frehley] were in and out of the band — fired — three times. For drugs, alcohol, bad behavior, being unprofessional…they weren’t carrying their load.  So the short answer to your question is we’d love to have Ace and Peter join us here and there. And if they don’t, it’s not going to be because of us. But they’re never going to be in Kiss again.”

Ace has been quite clear in recent months – he wants to be back in Kiss for their End of the Road tour.  The fans would be on board for that.  Kiss, meanwhile, continually shoot down these hopes, while proclaiming their show to be the best live performance ever.  They have questioned Ace’s ability to do a gruelling tour like this.  It seems Frehley has had enough of Gene’s trash talk.  Perhaps on his next covers album, Ace should tackle “We’re Not Gonna Take It”, because it sure sounds like he ain’t gonna take it anymore!

Let’s look at Ace’s statement piece by piece.

 

“Gene, your memory is really incorrect!”

 

Gene forgets the words to his own songs, and often inflates his own history.  At this point I think Gene simply “remembers” what he wants to.

 

“…I was NEVER FIRED from KISS, I quit twice (not 3-times) of my own free will, because you and Paul are control freaks, untrustworthy and were too difficult to work with!”

 

Gene was clearly talking about both Ace and Peter in that sentence about being fired “three times”.  Peter was indeed in and out three times.  But Ace is right, he was never fired from Kiss.  He quit both times.  The reasons he quit are not as clear as he’s making it sound.  He had severe substance abuse problems at the time and probably wasn’t thinking clearly or even functioning normally.  Yes, Paul and Gene are control freaks when it comes to their brand, but I’m sure they have a different perspective on who was difficult to work with.  Ace’s statement could very well be the pot calling the demon-kettle black.

 

“…Your slanderous remarks about my bad habits over the years has cost me millions of dollars and now that I’m over 12-years sober you’re still saying I can’t be trusted to play a whole nights show! Well that’s exactly what I’ve been doing for the last 12-years with different configurations of ‘The Ace Frehley Band’ to you and Paul’s dismay!”

 

Slander is only slander when it’s not true.  Ace’s “bad habits” are well documented.  Being sober for 12 years is an achievement to be proud of, but I don’t think that is what Gene and Paul are talking about.  Once bitten, twice shy.  They’re very wary of working with Ace under those high-pressure situations.  A tour that like can cause a relapse in anyone.  It is not going to be an easy tour for those guys at that age.  It really helps to have younger guys like Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer behind them on tour.

 

“…I’m also the most successful solo artist to come out of the original KISS lineup, and proud of it!…You and Paul have tried to derail my solo career multiple times over the years unsuccessfully.”

 

True, Ace has had the most successful solo career, but there’s not much competition.  Saying that Paul and Gene have tried to derail it?  Multiple times?  That could indeed be slander.  Where’s your proof, Ace?  Did Gene go to Megaforce and say “Don’t promote Ace’s records”?  Of course he didn’t.  Innuendo like this just comes across as someone making excuses for their own perceived lack of success.  Gene was probably not all that helpful in the 80s, but shouldn’t that be water under the bridge this many years later?  Gene wrote songs for your new album, Ace!  Frehley was invited to be the opening act for Gene’s solo tour.  It went so well that Ace hired Gene’s solo band.  The point is, Gene’s been doing a lot lately that should have benefited both of you.  That’s not derailing anything.  Anything else should be ancient history now.

Of course, maybe by “derailing”, Ace’s wife refers to the time in the 70’s that Gene and Paul “tried to have Ace killed“.

 

“…I’ve tried to be nice and friendly by inviting you and Paul to perform on my past albums for eOne Music, give each of you guys one of my prized Gibson Les Paul 59’ models, but today’s comments have made me realize you’re just an asshole and a sex addict who’s being sued by multiple Women, and you’re just trying to sweep it all under the carpet!

“…The icing on the cake was when you groped my wife and propositioned her in Los Angeles at the Capitol Records building behind my back, when I was trying to help you out at one of your ‘Vault Experiences’ which I only found out about several weeks later…she was planning on pursuing a suit against you, but I told her to call it off!!!”

 

Woah!  Heavy shots fired!

Having Paul and Gene performing on Ace’s solo albums was a dream come true for the fans.  This is the kind of thing they have always wanted.  Kiss heroes working together!  United front!  The cooperation between members over the last few years has been an unexpected treat.  Now suddenly Ace is bringing up Gene’s womanizing.  Whether the event Ace’s wife is alleging ever happened as stated, we don’t know.  Gene is a flirt and may have been making inappropriate jokes.  But if it did happen, airing it in public isn’t helping anyone.  Deal with this stuff privately!  If Ace wants back in Kiss, how the hell does he expect that to happen now?

 

“…Well now the gloves are off after your terrible comments today and I’m thinking that this really may be ‘The End Of The Road Tour’ for you guys!!!”

 

Hopefully it’s the end of the road for real, because listening to Paul singing is painful.  He was one of the true greats.  Now he’s the worst singer in Kiss, but I digress.  “Gloves are off”?  What does that even mean?  Are we about to witness a geriatric street brawl?  That outta be amusing.

Now, here’s the real kicker below:

 

“….Without a complete and heartfelt apology, an offer to give me my old job back, and removing Tommy from the Throne that I created… THE SHIT WILL HIT THE FAN AND THEY’LL BE NO STOPPING IT – IT’S ON!!!”

 

(Oooft, grammar.  “THERE’ll be no stopping it”.)

Hahah!  Hah.  You’re joking, right Ace?  When does Gene Simmons offer complete and heartfelt apologies?  Very rarely, and not after being attacked by ex-bandmates.  To demand his old job back in this way is not only ridiculous, but a flight of pure fancy.  This will only put Kiss’ backs up to the wall.

If Ace had any chance of joining Kiss on tour this year, I’d say he has blown it completely.  I will say it:  Ace Frehley will never be on the same stage as Kiss on the End of the Road tour.  That door has closed.

Let me put what Ace is asking in my own words.  Tell me how it sounds to you.

“Gene, you better stop talking shit about me, and you better apologise to me and my wife for what I’m alleging without proof!  After that, I want you to fire Tommy Thayer regardless of whatever contracts you have in place or what your relationship is.  Even though I haven’t played stadiums in almost two decades, your only option now is to welcome me back with open arms!  If you don’t…empty threat!  Empty threat!  Empty threat!”

I am in no way defending Gene Simmons or Kiss.  Gene could have spoken far more kindly of both Ace and Peter over the years.  Kind words are free to offer, and solidarity does a lot for a band’s image.  Ace’s statement simply escalates this in a childish, juvenile way.

We are now in the Twilight Zone with a group of bickering children.  Rock and roll, baby?