Dave Lizmi

RE-REVIEW: The Four Horsemen – Gettin’ Pretty Good…at Barely Gettin’ By (Bonus tracks)

Original review:  2016-09-27

THE FOUR HORSEMEN – Gettin’ Pretty Good…at Barely Gettin’ By (Reissue with bonus demos)

By the time the Four Horsemen managed to get a second album on the shelves, it was already far too late.

It didn’t matter how good the album was; the climate was completely different in 1996.  Not only had grunge come, but it had already gone!  Sadly, so had original T4H drummer Ken “Dimwit” Montgomery.   He was not the only casualty.  Struck by a drunk driver in late 1995, their charismatic frontman Frank C. Starr fell into a coma he would never come out of.  (Starr finally passed away in 1999.)  The Horsemen had a second album in the can with Starr, but were all but out of action.

Even though the debut was produced by the biggest name in 90s rock, Rick Rubin, the mercurial Starr had always been the key.  When the band first arrived, his shriekin’ AC/DC mannerisms earned the band some series MTV play.  The frontman had a whole lot to do with that.  Then he blew it.  Starr wound up in jail for a year while Kurt Cobain took over, something addressed in the lyrics on several tracks.  Horsemen guitarist Haggis attempted to move on with new singer Tim Beattie and, through trials and tribulations, recorded a southern rock album called Daylight Again that was not released.  Then guitarist Dave Lizmi tried to give the can one more kick, and reunited with Starr for what could have been an incredible second ride.  They had the tunes to back it up, and Gettin’ Pretty Good…at Barely Gettin’ By is the proof.  With Canadians Randy Cooke on drums and Pharoah Barrett on bass, they finally had a second Horsemen album on the shelves.  But with Starr in a coma, they were stuck in the mud once again.  They toured with Little Caesar vocalist Ron Young doing an admirable job of it, but it was the end.

For shame.  A forgotten album that could have been mega was largely ignored.

You can’t really tell that Gettin’ Pretty Good…at Barely Gettin’ By was made through such hardship.  The songs are largely upbeat and party-hardy.  The exceptions are the contemplative “Song for Absent Friends”, dedicated to the passed Dimwit Montgomery, and the angry “Back in Business Again”.  This ode to Seattle was certainly not a love letter to Kurt or Eddie.  Singing about his year in jail, Starr says he “heard a bunch of whining, little wussy rock n rollers, complaining about how fame and fortune’s got them down.”  Ouch.

Otherwise, this a rip roarin’, liquor snortin’ good time.  “Lots of whiskey and beer!”  Starr’s singing style had changed too.  No longer was he trying to be Brian Johnson (one has to assume doing that is hard on the voice).  Singing in a more natural throat, Starr could still pull it off, just shoutin’ instead of screamin’.

Here’s something else:  13 tracks, and no filler.  Not one skipper, and more variety than the first LP.  Most of the tracks are fast or mid-tempo rock n’ rollers, adorned with some absolutely stunning lead guitar work from Dave Lizmi.  The man has not seen a slide or a wah-wah pedal he couldn’t master, and the album is drenched in that kind of feel.  It also sounds more loose.  Frankie seems to crack up laughing mid-sentence on “Drunk Again”.   “It’s been 40 days since I looked at my face (laughs)…ah shit…”

Some of the tunes that deviate from the norm are the highlights.  “Song For Absent Friends” hits hard, right in the feels.  “And I know that you all are out there somewhere, on a leave of absence from this place.”  Then there’s the aforementioned “Back in Business Again”, probably the heaviest tune the Horsemen have put to tape.  The anger is palpable, but it’s not without a smile and a wink.  It’s more a declaration of the kind of music the Four Horsemen represent in the era of “wussy rock n’ rollers” from some “nowhere town”.  As Frank sings, they’re a “trail blazin’, skin lovin’, whiskey drinkin’, motherfuckin’ rock and roll band”.  The exact opposite of the kind of groups Frank seemed to despise.

There are a couple singalongs (“My Song” and “Hit the Road”) and the traditional Horsemen album closing epic.  Seven minutes long, Frankie asks “What the Hell Went Wrong”, and I’m sure there are many different answers to that question.  A slow blues rocker with some sweet organ, it’s kind of like two songs in one.  They pulled a similar trick on the debut album with a track called “I Need a Thrill / Something Good”.  Regardless, when Lizmi starts soloing it goes into epic territory.

Like other Horsemen releases, Gettin’ Pretty Good was reissued on CD by the band with bonus tracks.  These are 1995 demos for “Livin’ These Blues”, “Keep Your Life” and “Hit the Road”.  All three tracks differ in some ways from the album versions, either in lyrics or solos. These feature Canadian Ken Montgomery’s brother, Chuck Biscuits, on drums.*  Surprisingly, the soulful backing vocals on “Livin’ These Blues” was there from the demo stage.  The demo of “Hit the Road” is even looser than the already pretty lubricated album version!  More twangy, too, with a wicked dobro solo.  The demo of “Hit the Road” is probably the superior take for its genuine party atmosphere.

These albums are finally available from the Horsemen shop on CD once more.  You know what to do.

5/5 stars

* Drum credits confirmed by Pharoah Barrett.

COMPLETE FOUR HORSEMEN:

  1. Record Store Tales #224:  Rockin’ Is Ma Business
  2. Welfare Boogie (1990 – 21st Anniversary edition CD)
  3. Nobody Said It Was Easy (1991 – 21st Anniversary edition CD)
  4. Nobody Said It Was Easy (2018 double vinyl LP)
  5. Daylight Again (1994 “lost” album – 21st Anniversary edition CD)
  6. Gettin’ Pretty Good…At Barely Gettin’ By… (1996)
  7. Left For Dead 1988-1994 (2005 – CD/DVD set)
  8. Death Before Suckass – Live at Saratoga Winners 1991 (2012 CD)
  9. Death Before Suckass – Live at Miami Arena (DVD)

 

DVD REVIEW: The Four Horsemen – Death Before Suckass – Live at Miami Arena

THE FOUR HORSEMEN – Death Before Suckass – Live at Miami Arena  (DVD – Version 2.0 sourced from original 8mm tape)

The Four Horsemen were so fucking good, and this DVD really is the proof.  Man, how cool did they look?  Frank C. Starr, rocking the stage all confident in his pirate shirt, black gloves, and white sneakers.  A look I admittedly tried to emulate in the 1990s.  Haggis wonders how this “guido car mechanic from Long Island” managed to end up opening for Lynyrd Skynyrd?  Because he was born to be there!

The video quality is surprisingly good for an audience bootleg.  The camera is high in a balcony, but close enough to the stage to get some great shots.  The camera moves around and zooms in from its vantage point, getting clear images of pretty much the whole band except the “big fucking Yeti” behind the drum kit.  The video isn’t all that grainy, and there’s a consistently entertaining commentary by guitarist Haggis!  He’s very grateful to whoever smuggled a suitcase-sized video camera into the arena to film the band with such care.

Opening for Skynyrd, Dimwit Montgomery (the aforementioned Yeti) swiftly kicks things into motion with “’75 Again”.  According to Haggis, the band were practising their “big stage rock star posing”, something he learned from the Cult.  Onto “Let It Rock”, the groove is honed and the band is synced up like conjuring “the ghost of Bon Scott”.  Frank Starr and Dave Lizmi are the most mobile of the band, moving from one side of the stage to the other, back and forth, while the others tend to stay put.  Haggis wonders how Lizmi could hear himself solo when his amps were on the opposite side of the stage!  Though the tune starts as a groove, it quickly turns into a blitz.

Onto “Hothead”, a track partly stolen from Humble Pie, says Haggis.  Apparently nobody noticed.  Frank’s in total rock star mode, just killing it vocally.  Then a cover of Savoy Brown’s “Can’t Get Next to You”, the band settle into a low groove.  An excuse for Lizmi to show off his stuff, but any excuse is a good excuse.  When he solos, he owns the stage.  You can see him break a string mid-solo; he just sweeps it out of his way and keeps going.

Moving on to “Wanted Man” (the first song recorded for Nobody Said It Was Easy).  Frankie is just fun to watch.  He truly was a great frontman.  Lizmi’s solo is out of this world, completely different from the album version.  A shirtless and tattooed Haggis is so skinny he looks like he should be hooked up to an IV instead of a guitar.  But enough with the deep cuts.  It’s time for the hits:  “Nobody Said It Was Easy” and “Rockin Is Ma Business”.  Why was this band not huge?  They were so fucking good and their songs were fucking brilliant!

Ironic fact I learned:  the man named after a pudding made of a sheep’s innards was a vegetarian.

This DVD can be acquired directly from the Four Horsemen store.  It is certainly worth it, even if you already own the Death Before Suckass CD.  It’s a different show with a similar setlist, but the audio seems superior.  The commentary seals the deal.  Essential Four Horsemen buy.

4/5 stars

COMPLETE FOUR HORSEMEN:

  1. Record Store Tales #224:  Rockin’ Is Ma Business
  2. Welfare Boogie (1990 – 21st Anniversary edition CD)
  3. Nobody Said It Was Easy (1991 – 21st Anniversary edition CD)
  4. Nobody Said It Was Easy (2018 double vinyl LP)
  5. Daylight Again (1994 “lost” album – 21st Anniversary edition CD)
  6. Gettin’ Pretty Good…At Barely Gettin’ By… (1996)
  7. Left For Dead 1988-1994 (2005 – CD/DVD set)
  8. Death Before Suckass – Live at Saratoga Winners 1991 (2012 CD)

Coming next:  Gettin’ Pretty Good…At Barely Gettin’ By… (CD with bonus tracks)

Dave Lizmi Returns! Rockin’ Is His Business on the LeBrain Train

The LeBrain Train: 2000 Words or More with Mike and T-Rev

Episode 75 – Dave Lizmi

By now Dave Lizmi and the Four fuckin’ Horsemen should need no introduction.  Dave was a surprise special guest back when we did Top Album Cover Designers in May.  He’s most famous for being a killer guitarist/songwriter, making his mark in the 1990s with the legendary Four Horsemen.  “Rockin’ Is Ma Business”, “Tired Wings”, “Nobody Said It Was Easy” and “Back in Business Again” are songs that should ring a bell or two.  The Horsemen burned bright and fast, and their story has not been as well documented as it should be.  T-Rev and I intend to fix that tonight.

Dave is a master of tone and riff.  We can’t wait to pick his brain and find out what he’s been up to. And we will be taking your questions! Make sure you tune in live!

Friday July 16, 7:00 PM E.S.T. on Facebook:  MikeLeBrain and YouTube:  Mike LeBrain.

Sunday Screening: The Four Horsemen – “Nobody Said It Was Easy”

In honour of our special surprise guest yesterday, Mr. Dave Lizmi!  One of the truly greatest hits 30 years ago in 1991 was “Nobody Said It Was Easy” by The Four Horsemen.  Its dirty rock and roll sound clashed with everything going on at the time.  They were rock, they were punk, they were southern, they were screaming, and they were truly special.  “Nobody Said It Was Easy” is the song that hooked us.

THE FOUR HORSEMEN

  • Frank C. Starr – vocals
  • Haggis – rhythm and slide guitars
  • Dave Lizmi – lead and rhythm guitars
  • Ben Pape – bass
  • Kenneth “Dimwit” Mongomery – drums

Thank you Dave!  Rest in peace Frank and Ken.

Surprise Guest & Lists! Top Cover Art Designers with Tim’s Vinyl Confessions, Aaron…and DAVE LIZMI!

I’ve said it time and time again:  the LeBrain Train is a show you have to see live.  Why?  Because you never know what is going to happen.  Case in point:  last month we managed to hook up an unplanned meeting between Andy Curran and Mike Fraser.  This week’s surprise was a drop-in from Dave Lizmi of The Four Horsemen!

As you may know, Dave was scheduled for a Friday night interview but had an emergency with his dad.  Saturday’s show was a planned Nigel Tufnel Top Ten list show with Aaron and Tim Durling.  We were talking about the Greatest Cover Art Designers.

As I was beginning the show, Dave messaged me to reschedule the interview, and at the spur of the moment, I asked him to sit in on the list show as well.  Dave went for it, and managed to come up with his own list with no preparation time.  Epic!

Your panel this week:

  • Yours truly (LeBrain)
  • Aaron (KeepsMeAlive)
  • Tim (Tim’s Vinyl Confessions)
  • Dave Lizmi (The Four fuckin’ Horsemen)

I can’t believe I just typed that.

History made today as a rock star joined a Nigel Tufnel Top Ten list for the very first time.  How cool is that?

Thank you Tim, Aaron and Dave for a great set of lists and a fun fun show.  From famous big names like Derek Riggs, Mark Wilkinson, Hugh Syme and Hipgnosis to more obscure artists, this was a great bunch of lists!  Lots of show & tell!

 

 

 

A Tribute to The Four Horsemen with T-Rev

Unfortunately Dave Lizmi had a family emergency and could not make the show tonight.  We hope Dave and his family are OK.  In the meantime, the show must go on, so T-Rev and I talked Four Horsemen memories and showed off our stuff.  It was a pretty good show if you’re interested in this great band.  We hope to reschedule Dave at some time in the future.

Start at the 0:48:00 minute mark to check out the Four Horsemen chit-chat. Everything before that is the first attempt at a Sunset Cam. Enjoy the show! And tune in tomorrow May 29, for a second show, details below…

 


SATURDAY SHOW! Don’t miss Aaron and Tim Durling from Tim’s Vinyl Confessions as we talk about the Nigel Tufnel Top Ten Cover Art Designers!

 

Saturday May 29, 3:00 PM E.S.T. on Facebook:  MikeLeBrain and YouTube:  Mike LeBrain.

Double Feature LeBrain Train Weekend – Dave Lizmi and Tim’s Vinyl Confessions

Two shows lined up for you this weekend!

 

The LeBrain Train: 2000 Words or More with Mike and T-Rev

Friday – Episode 66 – Dave Lizmi

The Four Horsemen should need no introduction.  The only guy to play on all three albums (plus an EP) is guitarist Dave Lizmi.  He is a master of the Les Paul and his tone is sublime.  Trev and I look forward to asking him everything we wanted to know about one of our favourite bands.

Friday May 28, 7:00 PM E.S.T. on Facebook:  MikeLeBrain and YouTube:  Mike LeBrain.


 

The LeBrain Train: 2000 Words or More with Mike Ladano

Saturday – Episode 67 – Nigel Tufnel Top Ten Cover Art Designers – with Aaron and Tim Durling

Please welcome Tim from Tim’s Vinyl Confessions and The Contrarians!  I’m so glad to have him on the show.  His collection is insane — give him a follow on Instagram and see for yourself.  The list this week is a Nigel Tufnel Top Ten Cover Art Designers.  This was a challenging list, but Tim knows his stuff and I’m sure he will have a killer set of albums to show off.  Joining us for this one will be Aaron who also has a pretty impressive collection.  This is a Saturday show, so we hope that you’ll join us!

The Saturday shows are a summer experience in order to include more people.  I hope you can make it.  As always, it’s best to participate live!

Saturday May 29, 3:00 PM E.S.T. on Facebook:  MikeLeBrain and YouTube:  Mike LeBrain.

REVIEW: The Four Horsemen – Nobody Said it Was Easy (2018 vinyl reissue)

THE FOUR HORSEMEN – Nobody Said it Was Easy (originally 1991 Def American, 2018 vinyl reissue with bonus tracks)

Though defunct for well over two decades, the Four Horsemen are like the gift that keeps on giving.  When they bit the dust, all they initially left behind were two albums and an EP.  Today there are a set of reissues with bonus tracks, live releases, and a “lost” second LP that was never released before.  In 2018, another handful of unreleased tracks came to light on a brand new vinyl reissue of Nobody Said it Was Easy.  This is the second reissue of the album now, the first (on CD) having three completely different bonus tracks (“She’s Got It”, “Homesick Blues (harmonica version)” and “Born to Boogie”).  The vinyl replaces those with a bunch more you didn’t have.

First, about the album Nobody Said it Was EasyWe reviewed it back in 2016 and stand by every word.  It was a shining beacon of rock n’ roll when it was in danger of drowning in a sea of grunge.  Rick Rubin gave the album an edgy, loud and crisp sound.  The band had a dirty vibe at odds with the Poisons and Motley Crues on the charts.  And they boasted one of the greatest unsung frontmen ever:  Frank C. Starr.  A real life bad boy, there was nothing phony about Frank, nor any of the Four Horsemen.  The nucleus was the man known as Haggis, ex-The Cult, ex-Zodiac Mindwarp.  His slippy-slidey guitars melded perfectly with the southern soloing of Dave Lizmi.  On bass was a chap named Ben Pape, but the secret weapon was drummer Kenneth “Dimwit” Montgomery.  This mountain of a man, a Canadian punk rock veteran, had presence and a deep Bonham-like beat.  The Four Horsemen couldn’t be touched by anyone in their field.  The 12 songs that made up Nobody Said it Was Easy sound derived in equal parts from early AC/DC and the American South, with a healthy dose of sleazy intent.

“My name is Frankie, let’s fuck up the place!”

The three singles are flat-out indispensable.  I wouldn’t want to live my life without “Rockin’ Is Ma Business” any more than I would want to live it without “Let There Be Rock”.  “Tired Wings” is a greasy southern revelation, while the title track has more hooks than a tackle shop.

As an added bonus, this package also includes the first Four Horsemen EP, Welfare Boogie.  It was available separately on a remastered CD with bonus tracks, but now you can get it on vinyl right here.  The four EP songs were pretty high octane.  “Hard Loving Man” remains a ridiculous highlight.  Tattooed pecker indeed!

Onto the unreleased tracks, of which there are six:  five songs and an interview.  All of these are exclusive to this LP; nowhere else.  The interview is a vintage road call from a humorous Haggis to a Calgary radio station, but it’s inconsequential at only 2:30 long.  (My copy of the second LP has the sides labelled incorrectly.)

Check out the original open-G tuning of “Tired Wings”.  It’s remarkable how changing the tuning made the difference between a good song and a great one.  Now it’s timeless.  Frankie did a completely different lead vocal on “’75 Again”, without the screaming (some of the guitar bits are missing too).  I think I prefer the screaming version when you hear them side by side.  An alternate version of “Can’t Stop Rockin'” is a different take, also without screaming (or backing vocals).  These versions that didn’t make the original album are as well produced as the record, but ultimately it’s a matter of taste which you prefer.  It’s certainly startling to hear different versions after this many years.

“The Night they Drove Old Dixie Down” is an instrumental, recorded Christmas Day 1991.  This certainly foreshadows the direction the Four Horsemen would go on their “lost” second album, Daylight Again, which was more Band than AC/DC.  Finally it’s an extended 8:32 live jam on “Can’t Get Next to You”, a non-album rarity.  Another version can be found on the CD/DVD set, Left For Dead.  Dave Lizmi really gets to cut loose on this.

It doesn’t really matter which version of Nobody Said it Was Easy you end up with.  The original 12 track CD was 5/5 stars then and now, but which is best?  The remastered CD gives you unreleased tracks exclusive to the format, so there’s that.  This LP gives you even more, plus the original Welfare Boogie EP, but it is limited to just 500 copies.  Better act fast before it’s too late.

5/5 stars

MORE FOUR HORSEMEN:

  1. Record Store Tales #224:  Rockin’ Is Ma Business
  2. Welfare Boogie (1990 – 21st Anniversary edition CD)
  3. Nobody Said It Was Easy (1991 – 21st Anniversary edition CD)
  4. Daylight Again (1994 “lost” album – 21st Anniversary edition CD)
  5. Gettin’ Pretty Good…At Barely Gettin’ By (1996)
  6. Left For Dead 1988-1994 (2005 – CD/DVD set)
  7. Death Before Suckass – Live at Saratoga Winners 1991 (2012 CD)

Gallery: LeBrain Day Fun

Another spin ’round the sun, another basket full of goodies!

Thank you everyone for the birthday wishes.  Here are some of my favourites.  You might recognise some of these people!

 

 

 

 

 

Had a lovely dinner at Borealis with the family & Dr. Kathryn.  And so we get to the gifts!

First up!  A signed first edition copy of Dr. Ladano’s The Improvising Musician’s Mask:  Using Musical Instruments to Build Self-Confidence and Social Skills in Collective Free Improvisation.  That’s a mouthful and a generous gift.  These books aren’t cheap, even for her!  The funny thing is that when I grabbed the wrapped hardcover-shaped package, I said “I hope this is a copy of your book,” but I didn’t actually think it would be out so soon!

Dr. Kathryn also gifted me some music.  Ho!  It’s Derek Smalls’ debut solo album Smalls Change!  Appropriately considering the occasion, it is subtitled Meditations Upon Ageing.  I can’t wait to spin this one.  She also got me this nifty Worf (Star Trek) not-Lego head.  These look great in the office.  I have Spock as well.

The lovely Mrs. LeBrain was amazing to me as well.  She trekked up to Encore Records where she met my old pals Al “The” King and Chris Boyne.  They hooked her up with some live Ghost, on vinyl.  This is my first Ghost vinyl.  Ceremony and Devotion is a great album, and the vinyl has two “exclusive” songs…that are also on the CD!  Anybody know what’s up with that?

It doesn’t really matter.  Double live albums have a certain intangible quality that almost always makes them better on vinyl.  Scientists have been trying to figure out why that is since the advent of digital media.

Since my wife also dresses me, check out the cool shirts.  I think I’m going to wear that getup to work tomorrow.  Han Solo and BB-8 look awesome together.

Thanks again everyone for the happy birthday wishes.  I keep getting older, and you keep getting awesome-er!

 

 

REVIEW: The Four Horsemen – Death Before Suckass (2012)

scan_20161216THE FOUR HORSEMEN – Death Before Suckass – Live at Saratoga Winners (2012)

“No edits.  No overdubs.  No bullshit.”  No kidding!  There also also no frills, just seven songs and 30 minutes of rock and roll.

Death Before Suckass, recorded fall 1991, sounds like a crowd recording.  You can tell by the douchebag talking before the Horsemen’s set.  “You should see our drum kit!  It fuckin’ blows that one away!  $5000 Yamaha…”  Whoop-de-do, fucko.  Because no matter how much your kit costs, I doubt you could hammer on it as hard as Ken “Dimwit” Montgomery did on his.

Dimwit swiftly kicks things into motion, with “75 Again”, a screamy rocker that is about 9 out of 10 on the AC/DC scale of kickass.  Lead singer Frankie Starr’s voice was primed for screaming, and could do it better than most.  Without even a pause, “Hothead” follows up.  In a groove now, lead guitarist Dave Lizmi greases up his Gibson and lays down some beautifully fluid solo work.  In the realm of heavy bluesy rock and roll, few can touch Dave Lizmi.  Then rhythm guitarist Haggis takes out his slide for the single “Tired Wings”, soaking it in whiskey stained blues.  Frankie’s charismatic singing shares the spotlight with the biting licks.

frank-c-star-biting-licks

A non-album Savoy Brown that used to get some live play was “Can’t Get Next to You”, an AC/DC blues a-la “The Jack”.  There is a sloppy edit into “Wanted Man” but as Haggis says in the liner notes, there is nothing perfect about this CD.  “Wanted Man” comes close, with Lizmi again doing some really impressive playing on the six string.  The most familiar songs are the singles “Nobody Said it Was Easy” and “Rockin’ is Ma Business”.  The beat is a little faster, a little more intense for the stage.  The only tragedy is the fidelity of this CD does not capture the thunder.  You can hear it on the stage, but you cannot feel it shake the floor.  Too bad, because you can be assured it all but certainly did shake the floor.

And this leads to a quandry.  This album is packaged intentionally minimalist.  It suits the recording inside.  But it has hard to ignore that what is recorded inside is only 30 minutes, and costs $18 US plus shipping.  Yes, it definitely costs The Four Horsemen a lot to press up these independent discs, and they surely don’t make a lot of money on them.  Still, it is hard for the cash-strapped fan to justify that kind of money, unless you are a superfan.  And unfortunately, it is likely that only superfans will be able to appreciate Death Before Suckass as the valuable noisy treasure that it is.

3.5/5 stars

scan_20161216-2

COMPLETE FOUR HORSEMEN REVIEW SERIES:

1. NOBODY SAID IT WAS EASY (21ST ANNIVERSARY EDITION)
2. GETTIN’ PRETTY GOOD…AT BARELY GETTIN’ BY (1996)
3. WELFARE BOOGIE (21ST ANNIVERSARY EDITION)
4. DAYLIGHT AGAIN (21ST ANNIVERSARY EDITION)
5. LEFT FOR DEAD (1988-1992) (CD/DVD SET)