deluxe editions

REVIEW: Thin Lizzy – Thunder and Lightning (180 gram vinyl with bonus 12″)

THIN LIZZY – Thunder and Lightning (1983, 180 gram Back on Black reissue)

I love this album, it was actually the first Lizzy studio album I bought, on vinyl, from Tom’s store way back in the late 1990’s.  I’ve always loved John Sykes from his work in Whitesnake and Blue Murder.

Thunder and Lightning is the final Lizzy studio album.  It’s definitely the most metal, but it’s not the best sounding one (gimme Black Rose for that honour). It just strikes that chord inside. You know how certain albums just click with you and you don’t know why? That’s Thunder and Lightning for me, but I think it reminds me of that general vibe of heavy metal music in 1983.  There are times it reminds me of Judas Priest.

This is the only album from the Lynott/Gorham/Downey/Wharton/Sykes lineup.  It is produced by Chris Tsangarides (Anvil, Judas Priest). Wharton and Sykes both scored songwriting credits, which may be why this album sounds so much more “metal”.  Wharton’s keys are not obtrusive.

Best track:   Gorham and Lynott’s “Bad Habits”. If there was one track that sounded like old Lizzy circa Johnny The Fox, it’s “Bad Habits”. It’s just a rock and roller of a song with killer lyrics.  Phil’s voice is noticeably a lot more raw, worn, but he works within his limitations as always.  His voice remains as expressive as ever.  In “Bad Habits” he sounds like he’s jonesing as bad as the title implies.

“Cold Sweat” is the one that Sykes co-wrote, and it is very metal, featuring his trademark guitar squeals and yet more great lyrics from Lynott. “I got a whole month’s wages, I haven’t seen that much in ages, I might spend it in stages, and move out to Las Vegas.”  Love it.  Sung by Lynott, those lines tell a whole story.

IMG_00000235_editReally, there’s not a bad song on this album. “This Is The One” has some relentless pounding drums courtesy of Brian Downey (one of the true greats). “The Sun Goes Down” is a slower one with a keyboard solo, very atmospheric. It reminds me of the similarly titled “Night Comes Down” by Judas Priest. “Holy War” is another relentless pounder with a message to be heard. Not a bad track to be found.

If I had any complaints it would probably be the mix/production which at times comes across as a bit too bombastic and 80’s.  I mean, it’s still Thin Lizzy, one of the classiest sounding bands ever.  Thunder and Lightning is pretty evolved in sound from a classic like Jailbreak, and that may or may not be to your taste.

Some vinyl and cassette versions of Thunder and Lightning came with four bonus live tracks.  They are actually from the Renegade tour and feature Snowy White on guitar instead of his replacement John Sykes.  Thankfully, the current Back on Black 180 gram vinyl release restores the rare 12″ bonus EP.  The four songs are “Emerald”, “Killer on the Loose”, “The Boys are Back in Town”, and “Hollywood (Down on Your Luck)”.  These are great tracks.  It also has a gatefold sleeve with lyrics inside.  It’s a very nice package.

I’ve heard that 2013 will see the release of more Lizzy deluxe editions, including Thunder and Lightning.  If that’s the case I will pre-order it as soon as I hear about it.  There are still several B-sides from this period that are not currently available, such as “Angel of Death”, “Still in Love With You”, and “Don’t Believe a Word” live, and a remix of “The Sun Goes Down”.  I don’t have these tracks, but it sure would be nice to get everything on one deluxe CD package, wouldn’t it?  You guys paying attention, Universal?

5/5 stars


More More New Arrivals!

I’m still absorbing all my new music from Record Store Excursion 2012, but here we go again!

Martin Popoff & Ioannis – Fade To Black

Look at the size of that thing!


Aerosmith – Music From Another Dimension!

I don’t always go to Walmart.  But when I do, I buy music.

Blue Rodeo – 1987-1993

Listened to the whole thing once now, hope to review it.


Deep Purple – Machine Head 40th Anniversary Deluxe Edition

4 of the 5 discs are Machine Head.  That’s a lot of Machine Head for one sitting, so I’m listening to it in spurts.


REVIEW: Bruce Dickinson – Tattooed Millionaire (1990, 2005 2 disc set)

You can’t talk about this part of Maiden’s history without talking about Tattooed Millionaire.  Part 14 of my series of Iron Maiden reviews!

BRUCE DICKINSON – Tattooed Millionaire (1990, 2005 Sanctuary 2 disc set)

If Tattooed Millionaire had not happened, neither would so many things in Maiden’s history:  No #1 single (“Bring Your Daughter…to the Slaughter), Janick Gers might never have joined the band, and so on.

Due to the six months downtime between Seventh Son and No Prayer, Bruce decided to have some fun.  He first recorded “Bring Your Daughter…to the Slaughter” for the Nightmare on Elm Street 5soundtrack.  This opened the floodgates and before too long, Bruce and guitarist Janick Gers had more than enough songs for an album.  (Other band members:  Andy Carr – bass, Fabio Del Rio – drums.)

And an album there was, and what a fine album indeed!  Bruce made no bones about it:  This is not a heavy metal album like Maiden.  This is a hard rock album, along the lines of his influences:  Deep Purple, AC/DC, Mott the Hoople, and more.  What was surprising even to me at time was just how good it was.

The first single, “Tattooed Millionaire” was catchy as hell while still sounding very British and uncompromising.  Vocally, the song and album combines Bruce’s classic soaring voice, with his newer style of spitting out the words in a furious assault.  The combination is effective; Just listen to “Hell On Wheels”.  While innuendo-loaded verses are spat out, the chorus soars in a singalong fashion.  “Dive! Dive! Dive!” and “Lickin’ the Gun” tackle similar lyrical territory.

But it’s not all sexual innuendo.  Bruce tackles more philosophical topics on songs such as “Born in ’58” (a great single), “Son of a Gun”, and “Gypsy Road”.   Meanwhile, “Tattooed Millionaire” pokes fun at the rockers of the L.A. scene, loaded with cash but not too much in the way of brains.

Tattooed boys with expensive toys,

living in a bubble of sin.

Money can buy you most of anything,

fix your nose or the mess you’re in.

Some speculated that this was aimed at former tourmates, Guns N’ Roses.  I believe Bruce later said the inspiration was Motley Crue!

Bruce admitted that doing a cover song for a single was “cheating”, but “All the Young Dudes” was a great choice to cover.  Fear not; Bruce does it justice.  Bruce kicks it in the head.  Gers’ guitar work is perfect for the song, and it’s good to have a chance to hear him play a more laid-back style, unlike his usual work.

The album spawned plenty of singles, each with their own B-sides worth collecting.  But luckily, the fine folks at Sanctuary put all of this stuff together, along with “Bring Your Daughter”, on a tasty bonus disc.

The bonus disc includes some acoustic music (“Winds of Change”, “Darkness Be My Friend”, and the joke song “Ballad of Mutt”).  It also has some kickass live covers:  Deep Purple’s “Black Night” and “Sin City” by AC/DC among them.  Bonus — there’s also a studio version of “Sin City”, and some live versions of the album’s hits.

Absolutely essential:  “Son of a Gun”, “Tattooed Millionaire”, “Born in ’58”.

Great:  “Gypsy Road”, “Zulu Lulu”, “No Lies”, “All the Young Dudes”

So-so:  “Dive! Dive! Dive!”, “Hell On Wheels”

Filler:  “Lickin’ the Gun”

4/5 stars

REVIEW: Iron Maiden – Killers (1981, 1996 bonus CD)

Part 3 in my series of Iron Maiden reviews!

IRON MAIDEN – Killers (1981, 1996 bonus CD, EMI)

After the masterful introduction that was the first Iron Maiden album, the band jettisoned guitarist Dennis Stratton to get the guy that Steve wanted years before:  Adrian Smith.  An old buddy of Dave Murray, Adrian fit like a glove and the next album was recorded.

Written entirely by Steve Harris except for one Di’Anno co-write, Killers was also produced by Martin Birch.  Birch had already helmed the biggest and best albums by Deep Purple, and was more than capable of capturing the Maiden sound in the studio, unlike former producer Will Malone.

Popular opinion is split on Killers.  Some fans see it as a significant up-shift from the previous, others see it as inferior.  Both aruments hold water.  There is no denying that the partnership with Martin Birch created a better sounding album, one more consistent with the band’s live intensity.  The addition of Smith on guitar meant that you’re hearing a more unified sound, two guitar players in great sync with each other.  The songs are also harder and more intricate, with even more sections and changes.

While Killers is a good album in those respects, the songs were not as memorable this time out.  There are two scorchers on this record that are among my all-time Maiden favourites:  “Wrathchild” and “Killers” itself.  Then you have some second tier goodies like “Murders In The Rue Morgue”, “Innocent Exile”, and “Drifter”.  Beyond that, there’s little else here that would make my Maiden road tape.  I don’t know why, but time after time, listen after listen, year after year, the rest stubbornly refuses to grow on me.

Killers contains one ballad (“Prodigal Son”, which is almost like Iron Zeppelin) and two instrumentals (“The Ides of March” and “Genghis Khan”).  Oddly enough, one of those instrumentals, “The Ides of March” is identical to a song by rival NWOBHM band Samson, called “Thunderburst”.  The song was originally an Iron Maiden idea; Samson’s drummer Thunderstick was very briefly in Iron Maiden during the late 1970’s.  Samson’s singer was some guy called Bruce Bruce, known to his mum as Bruce Dickinson.

This picture disc edition of Killers came with a bonus CD containing all the associated non-album songs.  “Twilight Zone”, included here, is actually an A-side of a non-album single.  The US version of Killers had “Twilight Zone” on the album.  Its selection as a single ahead of something like “Wrathchild” seems strange with hindsight.  I never really liked the song that much, aside from Di’Anno’s screamy chorus.  This one was a Dave Murray co-write as well.

Another non-album single, the infamous “Women In Uniform” is also included.  This is the one that the band hated, a cover from a German band called Skyhooks.  I liked it because of my early association with the cheesey music video.  I wouldn’t call it a standout track, but I like it better than “Twilight Zone”.  This single acually pre-dated Killers, and Dennis Stratton is still on guitar.  Its two B-sides, “Invasion” and “Phantom Of The Opera (Live)” are both included.  “Invasion” is an improved remake of the song from the first EP, The Soundhouse Tapes.  It’s still not up to the standard of anything on album #1, but it’s still an entertaining tale of the Norsemen comin’, “raping and pillaging, robbin’ and lootin’ the land.”  An early Maiden history lesson from Steve Harris.

I’ll have to say something about Derek Rigg’s artwork as well:  Now we know what Eddie was up in that back alley on the last album!  No good, clearly, as he’s weilding a bloody hatchet, as a man’s hands can be seen grasping his shirt.  Behind Eddie, you can see a “kinky sex shop” and the Ruskin Arms, where many legendary Maiden gigs went down.  Is that Charlotte in the red window?

Rating Killers is very difficult.  It’s still better than most band’s best albums, yet it’s one of my least favourite.  Trying to be objective here, I will rate Killers:

3.5/5 stars

Also pictured below:  A bootleg CD from the tour called Another Live.