Del Shannon

REVIEW: Helix – B-Sides (1999)

Scan_20150918 (5)HELIX – B-Sides (1999 Beak Records)

The occasion:  It was Helix’s 25th anniversary.  How about an album, and some classic returning band members, for a good time?

The title B-Sides here is misleading; a B-side is a track that appears on the flipside of a single, and is often not on the album. No tracks on this album appeared on the flipside of any singles, at least not these versions. However, the misleading title does not mar the excellent music contained within.

B-Sides contains songs written and/or demo’d for various Helix albums from 1990 onwards. Some of these have been re-recorded, such as “Love Is A Crazy Game”, which appeared as an acoustic version on the Business Doing Pleasure CD. This version is electric and is much heavier. I could imagine this version fitting right in on an Aerosmith album. “S.E.X. Rated” has also been re-recorded. It’s the only song that actually appeared as a B-side, but it’s not the same version as on that single.

Various versions of the Helix band appear on this album, but most interesting is the lineup on the bonus tracks. “Like Taking Candy From A Baby” and “Thinking It Over” are both from the sessions from Helix’s excellent first album (Breaking Loose), left unreleased until now. “Thinking It Over”, a terrific pop rock song, is a Del Shannon cover.  Helix worked as Shannon’s backing band during an early 70’s Canadian tour. There are also three songs by a reunited “80’s Helix”, and it’s great to hear that version of the band again.

In a way, it’s a shame that this album was given the title and terrible album cover that it has. Brian Vollmer and Co. could have simply put this out as the next Helix album, which may have given it the respect it deserves. From the ballads to the heavy stuff, this Helix CD has a bit of everything you already liked about the band, with a modern edge. Every song kicks, there’s not a weak track in the bunch. By the time you get to the bonus tracks, Helix have already pummelled your eardrums.

Helix fans absolutely need to hear this music; not B-sides but in fact some of Helix’s best stuff. Along the way, there are appearances from pretty much every major Helix member from the indi days to the mid-90’s. You will even hear songs written and performed by Paul Hackman, the late Helix guitarist who was tragically killed in a 1992 auto accident.  The major selling point of the disc was that three songs featured a reunion of the surviving members of the classic 80’s Helix.  With Hackman gone, that consisted of leader singer Brian Vollmer, guitarist Brent “the Doctor” Doerner, bassist Daryl Gray, and drummer Greg “Fritz” Hinz.

Personal faves:

  • “Thinking It Over” which my wife thinks sounds like Sloan.
  • “Devil’s Gate”, hard and hammering.
  • “You Got Me Chained”, with killer horn section.
  • “Take It Or Leave It”, moody and dark but catchy as hell.

Final bonus:  a booklet absolutely chock full of never before seen photos.  A real treat!

5/5 stars

REVIEW: The Traveling Wilburys Collection (Bonus 12″ and DVD)

This series is dedicated to my mom! Not only did she a) buy me this box set, but b) introduced me to the artists in the first place. My mom’s favourite Beatle was George. She saw Roy Orbison live, at the old Glenbriar Curling Club on Weber St. in Waterloo. Later, she had these Traveling Wilburys albums on cassette.

Today is the final installment: the DVD and bonus 12″ EP.

For Vol. 1, click here.
For Vol. 3, click here!

 

THE TRAVELING WILBURYS – Bonus 12″, DVD (The Traveling Wilburys Collection 2007 Rhino)

As mentioned in the last two reviews, The Traveling Wilburys Collection came stuffed with bonus tracks — and more if you bought vinyl.  Unfortunately, these bonus tracks (seven total) do not encompass all of the Traveling Wilburys rare tracks and B-sides.  The missing tracks include:

  • “New Blue Moon” (instrumental version), from the “She’s My Baby” and “Wilbury Twist” singles.
  • The original mix of “Runaway” from the “She’s My Baby” single.

The tracks included feature a few B-sides and unreleased songs.  I seem to recall in the 1980’s that extended mixes were very popular.  The Wilburys released two as B-sides:  “Handle With Care” and “End of the Line”.  Both tracks are included with the vinyl version of the Collection.  Basically, this involves adding instrumental sections throughout the song.  Throw on some extra echo here and there.  Each song is extended by about 2 minutes.  With a vocal-heavy band like the Traveling Wilburys, this is actually quite a treat.  It’s a chance to hear some of the bare acoustic instrumental tracks that are overshadowed by harmony vocals.

IMG_20140808_180434Exclusive to the vinyl version of the Collection, and previously unreleased, is the remix to “Not Alone Any More”.  I have made no secret of my love for this song.  This version emphasizes the lead vocal of Roy Orbison front and center.   Also unreleased, but included on the CD version, are “Maxine” and “Like a Ship”.  Both tracks were old recordings, finished in 2007 for this release.  Dhani Harrison and Jeff Lynne sang additional backing vocals, which is more than appropriate.  You can tell both are from demo sources, by hints such as George’s “Alright, that’s it,” at the end of “Maxine”.  “Maxine” is the better of the two songs; “Like a Ship” is a slow Bob Dylan trawl that gets decidedly Beatles-y by the end.  Dhani Harrison plays the guitar solo, which is a standout.

Then there is “Nobody’s Child”, originally from the Nobody’s Child: Romanian Angel Appeal CD.  I’ll admit I’ve never been fond of this sad song.  This was the Wilburys first recording after the passing of Roy Orbison, and I’m glad to finally have it, but it’s not a favourite.  Incidentally, George covered this song way back when he was in the Beatles, too.

Del Shannon’s “Runaway” is a favourite of mine.   I love that “I wah wah wah wah wonder” chorus.  I dug when Queen + Paul Rodgers covered it, but I doubtless first heard this in the movie American Graffiti.   It is said that when Roy Orbison died, Del Shannon was considered as a replacement.  Unfortunately Shannon himself would soon be gone too; he never lived long enough to see the release of the Wilburys’ cover of “Runaway” in 1990.  (He did however live long enough to hear Tom Petty mention the song in his 1989 hit “Running Down a Dream”.)  Jeff Lynne sings lead on the Wilburys version, and he does a bang-up job.  I like this version so much that I’m going to track down the “She’s My Baby” CD single so I can get the original mix too.

Included with the CD version of this set (but not the vinyl) is a DVD with a 24 minute documentary called “The True History of the Traveling Wilburys”. This fascinating inside look at the first album is well worth having.  How often do you get to be a fly on a wall during a jam session like this?  Never.  It’s also very cool to see all five Wilburys recording vocals together in one room.  Also included on the DVD are all of  the Wilburys music videos, including “Inside Out” which I had never seen before.

The vinyl box not only has extra music, but also a poster and six postcards.  Just paper, I know.  The vinyl itself are presented on 180 gram records, which are always delightful to listen to.  Take my word for it when I say that all three records sound amazing on my system.

The Wilburys never went on to record together again after Vol. 3, but a lot of fans consider Tom Petty’s Full Moon Fever to be something of an unofficial Wilburys album.  Jeff Lynne’s first solo album Armchair Theater also has some Wilbury connections, and some of that jangly sound.  All the Wilburys with the exception of Bob Dylan appeared on Roy Orbison’s last album, Mystery Girl.

As for The Traveling Wilburys Collection as a whole?

5/5 stars

DVD REVIEW: Helix – 30th Anniversary Concert (2004)

HELIX FRONT

HELIX – 30th Anniversary Concert (2004 EMI)

Helix will be turning 40 in 2014!  When I talked to Brian Vollmer back in September, he wasn’t interested in taking a look back this time.  Helix did glance back for their 30th in 2004, and this DVD was one of several celebratory releases.

The Helix DVD, the 30th Anniversary Concert, is one of the best rock videos I’ve seen. This band has so much history, and most of it was onstage that night, July 17 2004.

Vollmer decided to celebrate the 30th in style. Traveling to nearby Brantford and taking over the beautiful Sanderson Centre, Helix unveiled a setlist that honored their entire history, and guested nearly every band member from 1974 to 1990!

There were a few conspicuous by their absence, such as longtime bassist Daryl Gray, and a few that we knew couldn’t turn up (the then-missing Mike Uzelac, the late Paul Hackman). However, Brian Vollmer (only remaining original Helix member) proceeded to reunite members of the original 1974 Helix, which had never even been recorded before! From there we go to the lineup responsible for the first two albums (sans Hackman and Uzelac, replaced here by current Helix alum Rainer Weickmann and 1976 bassist Keith “Bert” Zurbrigg, wearing trademark tux). Brian Doerner is introduced as Canada’s greatest drummer, and while Neil Peart and Gary McCracken might disagree, he’s definitely up there. His brother Brent literally steals the show. Singing such lost classics as “Billy Oxygen” and “Crazy Women”, Brent still has that rock star quality. His guitar playing was stellar that night.

Other members from back in the day turned up: Leo Niebudek on drums, and then, finally…Greg “Fritz” Hinz, all the way from sunny Florida, behind the skins to celebrate Helix’ late 80’s heyday.

Not to be overshadowed, the 2004 Helix lineup returned to the stage for some more hits. “Archie” Gamble is a fantastic drummer, it should be noted, spinning his sticks while creatively keeping the time. The addition of a female vocalist, Cindy Weichmann, allowed the band to perform 1976’s “You’re A Woman Now” for the first time ever with a female vocal, just as it was on the album.

The nucleus of this DVD are the six tunes from the 70’s that rarely, if ever, get played today. As great as the hit 80’s material was, the 70’s stuff is what makes this DVD different from any other Helix product you can buy.

There are generous bonus features: interviews with Brian and his ever-supportive wife Lynda, candid scenes of rehearsals and Brian trying to get this monster concert together. There are interviews with fans who traveled all the way across the country to see this one show. Best of all are the clips of the old band members, now short-haired, meeting up again for the first time in years. “I’m Brian Drummer and I play Doerner,” says the drummer as he arrives. As Brian stands next to his twin brother Brent, Fritz says, “I never could tell you two apart”. It’s like watching someone’s family reunion video.

If you are a Helix fan, you have no excuse for not owning this. If you are only a casual Helix fan and want to check out some of their best stuff, this is the DVD package to get. Not only do you get the hits, but you get the history, and that’s not something to be ignored for a band that turned 30.

5/5 stars

This stuff below taken from the Wikipedia page, but I don’t care; I wrote the Wikipedia page.

Chapters

All songs written by Brian Vollmer and Paul Hackman except where noted.

  1. The Band (includes the song “Ave Maria” performed by Brian Vollmer) (6:58)
  2. The Sanderson Theatre (5:54)
  3. The Concert: “Space Junk” (taped intro) (Rainer Wiechmann)/”Rockin’ In My Outer Space” (Bill Gadd, Rob Long, Tony Paleschi, Vollmer) (5:53)
  4. “Running Wild In The 21st Century” (3:53)
  5. “The Ballad of Sam and Mary” (Gadd, Long, Paleschi, Vollmer) (4:11)
  6. “It’s Hard to Feel the Sunshine When Your Heart is Full of Rain” (Gadd, Long, Paleschi, Vollmer) (3:35)
  7. The Original Helix: “Thinking It Over” (studio recording) (Del Shannon)/”Buff’s Bar Blues” (Alex Harvey) (9:59)
  8. The Early Years: “I Could Never Leave” (studio recording) (4:01)
  9. “Crazy Women” (Brent Doener) (3:41)
  10. “You’re A Woman Now” (Hackman) (6:59)
  11. “Billy Oxygen” (Doerner) (5:08)
  12. The Early 80’s: “Women, Whiskey & Sin” (studio recording) (Vollmer) (3:36)
  13. “It’s Too Late” (Doerner) (4:01)
  14. “Breaking Loose” (Vollmer, Doerner) (4:23)
  15. The Capitol Years: “Give It To You” (studio recording) (4:10)
  16. “Gimme Gimme Good Lovin'” (Joey Levine, Richard Rosenblatt) (3:24)
  17. “Heavy Metal Love” (3:45)
  18. “(Make Me Do) Anything You Want” (Paul Naummann, Danny Taylor) (4:03)
  19. “Deep Cuts the Knife” (Hackman, Bob Halligan, Jr. (4:31)
  20. “Wild in the Streets” (Hackman, Ray Lyell) (4:30)
  21. “Dirty Dog” (Vollmer, Doerner) (3:40)
  22. “Rock You” (Halligan) (6:23)
  23. “The Kids are All Shakin'” (4:54)
  24. Aftermath (includes the song “Danny Boy” performed by Brian Vollmer) (3:15)

Bonus Features

  1. 8mm Memories (8:44)

Personnel

Helix

  • Brian Vollmer – lead vocals
  • Jim Lawson – guitar
  • Rainer Wiechmann – guitar
  • Cindy Wiechmann – acoustic guitar, vocals, keyboards
  • Jeff “Stan” Fountain – bass
  • Glen “Archie” Gamble – drums

Special guests: Everyone on “Rock You”

The Original Helix

Chapter 7, “Buff’s Bar Blues”

  • Brian Vollmer – lead vocals
  • Bruce Arnold – drums
  • Ron Watson – guitar
  • Don Simmons – keyboards
  • Keith “Burt” Zurbrigg – bass

The Early Years

Chapters 8-11

  • Brian Vollmer – lead vocals on all except “Crazy Women” and “Billy Oxygen”
  • Brent “The Doctor” Doerner – guitar, lead vocals on “Crazy Women” and “Billy Oxygen”
  • Brian Doerner – drums
  • Keith “Burt” Zurbrigg – bass
  • Rainer Wiechmann – guitar (standing in for Paul Hackman)

Special guests: Cindy Wiechmann and Cheryl Lescom – backing vocals on “You’re a Woman Now”, Cole G. Benjamin – keyboards on “Billy Oxygen”

The Early 80’s

Chapters 12-14

  • Brian Vollmer – lead vocals
  • Brent “The Doctor” Doerner – guitar
  • Leo Niebudek – drums
  • Keith “Burt” Zurbrigg – bass (standing in for Mike Uzelac)
  • Rainer Wiechmann – guitar (standing in for Paul Hackman)

The Capitol Years

Chapters 15-22

  • Brian Vollmer – lead vocals
  • Brent “The Doctor” Doerner – guitar
  • Greg “Fritz” Hinz – drums
  • Jeff “Stan” Fountain – bass (standing in for Mike Uzelac and Daryl Gray)
  • Rainer Wiechmann – guitar (standing in for Paul Hackman)

Special guest: Ray Lyell – vocals on “Wild in the Streets”

Studio songs

  • Brian Vollmer – lead vocals on all studio songs
  • Paul Hackman – guitar on all studio songs
  • Brent “The Doctor” Doener – guitar on all studio songs
  • Keith “Burt” Zurbrigg – bass on “Thinking It Over” and “I Could Never Leave”
  • Brian Doerner – drums on “Thinking It Over” and “I Could Never Leave”
  • Mike Uzelac – bass on “Women, Whiskey & Sin”
  • Leo Niebudek – drums on “Women, Whiskey & Sin”
  • Daryl Gray – bass on “Give It To You”
  • Greg “Fritz” Hinz – drums on “Give It To You”

REVIEW: Queen + Paul Rodgers – “Fire and Water” (The Cosmos Rocks bonus track)

SAM_2063

QUEEN + PAUL RODGERS – “Fire and Water” (The Cosmos Rocks Amazon.com bonus track, 2008)

When I reviewed the full album, The Cosmos Rocks, I was frustratingly missing one song:  “Fire and Water”, their Free cover only available by download on Amazon.com.  The reason I was missing it, is that Amazon.com tracks can only be downloaded by people living in the United States.  I don’t know if they can tell by your IP address, or by where your credit card is registered, but only Americans can download this track.  I’d tried to acquire it via the dark recesses of the internet, but no such luck.

Aaron, being the good chap that he is, offered to ask his brother in law in the United States if he could help.  Unfortunately, this song being an Amazon exclusive, of course you have to buy the whole album to get the one track.  Anyway, Aaron’s bro in law was a good soul too, and did me that favour, sending me the track.

Am I a sucker for buying the whole album again for one song?  Let’s not get into that.  I’ve paid more for less in the past.  It was a quest long completed and that’s what matters to me.

“Fire and Water” is of course a cover of Paul’s classic Free song, written by Rodgers and Andy Fraser.  Unfortunately, Amazon didn’t advertise that this was a live cover.  I had assumed that, like the iTunes bonus track “Runaway” (a Del Shannon cover) that this was a studio version.  It is not.

This being a download, there are of course no liner notes, no way to tell where this song was recorded or when.  I’m working on the assumption that it was probably recorded at the same concert as the live iTunes bonus track, “The Show Must Go On”, which was the Super Live in Japan concert.

Anyway, I have it now.  And of course it’s great.  “Fire and Water” is a classic song, and I believe that Brian May does the guitar work total justice.  It’s a chance for him to deep dig and groove with Roger Taylor.  Paul Rodgers is perpetually young, although the song’s key has been lowered to accommodate an older voice.  I don’t think this detracts from the song, which is a pretty authentic rendering of a true rock classic.

I don’t have much else to say, I’m glad to finally have the track, completing my Cosmos Rocks album.  Right?  Right?

No!  Turns out there’s a very hard to get Japanese 2 CD edition of the The Cosmos Rocks, with a 15 track live disc of Super Live In Japan featuring “The Show Much Go On” and…yes…”Fire and Water”.

Now, none of this information was easily available before, which is what led me to this problem.  So for what must surely be an internet first, I give you the most comprehensive overview of The Cosmos Rocks available.  There’s all the tracks, and there’s the best ways to find them.

Ahh well.  A collector and his money are soon parted.

4/5 stars for the song

0/5 stars for Amazon.com

REVIEW: Queen + Paul Rodgers – The Cosmos Rocks (+ bonus tracks)

SAM_2063

QUEEN + PAUL RODGERS – The Cosmos Rocks (2008 Hollywood Records, iTunes + Amazon bonus tracks)

I was surprised as anyone else when, in 1997, Queen continued on as a three-piece (sans the retired John Deacon) with a new track called “Only The Good Die Young” (Queen Rocks). Since then, Queen has continued on with one-offs under the name “Queen +” with the name of the singer.  (Adam Lambert, you can fuck right off.)

When they started touring with Paul Rodgers, I salivated! I loved the live album Return Of The Champions, and I was chomping at the bit to hear some new music. Would I, as a long-time Queen fan, be let down?

Not really.

SAM_2067

There have always been Queen albums, particularly in the 80’s, that I felt had filler on them. Cosmos Rocks is like that. Some songs are awesome, worthy of the Queen legacy and a proud addition to the canon. Others are limp are dull. And, the best song didn’t even make the CD release! Read on….

The CD kicks off with what I consider to be some cheesy sound effects, similar to but not as good as “One Vision”. Then, Brian May’s guitar kicks in, and the first track “Cosmos Rockin'” really starts. This is a great track, a hard and fast rocker with May’s licks as fluid as ever. Paul Rodgers, perpetually young, is in fine voice. What a great start to a comeback album! Rogers and May ably handle all bass duties on this album.

Rodgers sings most leads on his own, with familiar sounding backing vocals by Roger Taylor and Brian May. On some songs, the lead vocal is split three ways, such as “Say It’s Not True” which is actually an older song from 2003. I like this touch, as it keeps the sound a little more rooted in old-school Queen which always had Taylor and May singing lead. When Rodgers sings, however, with his voice in full power, it is a brand new beast.

I have to say I was very happy with the choice of Paul Rodgers as lead singer, as he is simply one of the greatest rock vocalists of all time, up there with Daltrey or Plant. He is also a gifted writer, although I’m not sure his writing really gelled with Queen. Still, he is vastly different from Freddie, and nobody could ever replace Freddie, so I think this was definitely the way to go. Certainly much better than picking up some guy who lost American Idol…

Some of the other highlights on this album were the heavy-handed first single “C-lebrity” which seems to disparage the reality TV that Queen would later embrace! I prefer the disparaging sentiment! “Surf’s Up…School’s Out!” is another rocker that blows the doors off most younger bands. “Say It’s Not True” is a highlight, as it is the most Queen-like. Of course, with Freddie gone, his dramatic flourishes and piano was also gone, leaving Queen as a straightforward rock band with May & Taylor firmly in charge. What they once had in unique operatic flourishes has been replaced by hard rocking guitars, for better or for worse.  It is what it is, and nobody can be Freddie.

“Small” is a fantastic ballad, worthy of the Queen back catalogue.  May and Taylor join Rodgers on the lush outro.  I absolutely adore this song.  But then when you think Queen have lightened up, “Wayboys” assaults the speakers, a rare political statement with a military drumbeat.  “Call Me” is another great tune, very vintage Queen in style, sort of an electric campfire singalong.

There is, unfortunately, a lot of filler on this CD, slow-paced plodders that don’t go anywhere or stay in your memory. The thing about the Queen of old is that they were very diverse. You could have a nice jaunty flamenco song like “Who Needs You” on the same album as an epic like “It’s Late”. Queen + Paul Rodgers lacks that diversity. Well, it would have had more diversity if the best song had been included….

That best track I mentioned, that isn’t even on the CD, is available as an iTunes download only. It is a cover of Del Shannon’s “Runaway”, and it is worth the purchase, because it is amazing. I love the oldies, and clearly these guys do too. I wish it had been included on the CD. There is no shame in having a cover tune on your CD, especially when you also have over a dozen originals as well! The iTunes download also came with a new live version of “The Show Must Go On”, but I have no idea when or where it was recorded, except it is a different version from the one on Return Of The Champions. Maybe it is from one of the Queen instant live CDs, of which there are plenty, or maybe it is from the Super Live in Japan DVD that comes with some editions?

SAM_2066

There was another bonus track too, one I haven’t heard, because only American residents can get it from the Amazon.com site. Canadians are SOL!  “Fire And Water” (a live version), originally by Paul in Free, is that bonus track. Come on, Amazon! Let Canadians buy it too!

This actually really pisses me off.

(ADDED NOTE:  I have since acquired that bonus track.  Read all about it here.)

The Cosmos Rocks is not a perfect Queen album, but one that stands up in the back catalogue as an interesting and entertaining sideroad.  The big difference is that The Cosmos Rocks has more, and bigger, guitars than many Queen albums of the recent past.

3/5 stars.