Dieter Dierks

REVIEW: Twisted Sister – Come Out and Play (1985)

“Twisted Sister…come out and play!”  Happy anniversary to Come Out and Play released on this day 34 years ago.

 

TWISTED SISTER – Come Out and Play (1985 Atlantic LP & Spitfire CD remaster)

What was a band at the proverbial crossroads to do? Continue along the commercial path of the 3 million copy selling Stay Hungry?  Or revert to the tried and true heavy-as-an-SMF sound of yore?

There was only one dissenting vote.  Bassist Mark “The Animal” Mendoza felt that putting “Leader of the Pack” on the new album was a mistake.  The other four voted “yes” but some grew to regret it.  Both Dee Snider and J.J. French have since realized the error of their ways.  Today, Come Out and Play is acknowledged as the beginning of the end, though it has its fans and some sturdy tracks to support it.

Twisted Sister recruited Scorpions producer Dieter Dierks and enlisted high profile guest stars like Alice Cooper, Billy Joel, Brian Setzer and Clarence Clemons.  They were top-loaded onto a old-time rock and roller called “Be Chrool to Your Scuel”, and the gamble backfired immediately when MTV banned the music video for its zombies and ghouls.  It’s an interesting track at least.  You don’t hear a sax solo on a Twisted Sister song every day, nor the kind of plucking that Brian Setzer deals in.

“Leader of the Pack” was a failure as well, actually a re-recording of a track that debuted on the Ruff Cuts EP.  The video (starring the then-hot Bobcat Golthwaite) further painted Twisted Sister as a novelty band.

Tensions, especially between Mendoza and Snider, were amplified.  The songs that sound like they were meant to be “hits” fall far short.  The impression you get from “You Want What We Got” is that it was intended to be a specific kind of hit.  Unfortunately it’s just a repetitive anthem.  “Lookin’ Out for #1” is similarly filler, a song that never quite clicks.

Some tracks maintained a heavy rock presence. They include the anthem “I Believe In Rock and Roll”.  It’s a manifesto for the PMRC generation; a decent attempt that just misses the mark.  “Come Out and Play” features A.J. Pero nailing down a speedy beat, but the production of Dierks neutered the powerful drummer.  Dierks introduced keyboards to some of the tracks, watering them down needlessly.  “The Fire Still Burns” works better than some of the other songs, and despite the production you can hear A.J. is just crushing the kit.  If the backing vocals sound unusually lush, that’s Don Dokken and Gary Holland.  “Out on the Streets” trades the speed in for plaintive melodies, and is the better for it.  Finally “Kill or Be Killed” does what it promises.  Unbelievable that A.J. could play at such a relentless velocity, but he was an absolute beast.

Strangely, some of the best tracks are the ballads.  Dark ballads.  Ballads of depression, of loneliness, of alienation.  “I Believe in You” is the first of two, bolstered by strong melodies and Dee Snider’s enviable pipes.  The one that impresses the most is the CD and cassette bonus track “King of the Fools”.  Although “Kill or Be Killed” ends the album just fine, this coda adds some substance.  Sounding like a man destroyed, Dee sings the melancholy lyrics.

What kind of kingdom has no throne?
No crown or castle do I own,
I don’t have silver gold or jewels,
Yet I’m the king, king of the fools.

It’s surprisingly thoughtful songwriting, complimenting the mournful melodies.  Yet there is a defiant, powerful streak in the choruses.

King of the fools,
Who are these people to cast stones?
King of the fools,
Better a fool than just a clone.

Dee Snider has always resonated with the underdogs, the bullied, the downtrodden.  “King of the Fools” might be the most honest of all those songs.  Some regal guitar melodies by J.J. French and Eddie “Fingers” Ojeda show that they were picking up what Dee was laying down.

Here’s the catch though.  If you’re buying this album, you need “King of the Fools”.  To get it, you’ll want the CD.  But Come Out and Play might be most notable for the album cover you can only get on vinyl.  Open up that manhole cover and out pops Dee Snider in all his…all his…rags.

Heeere’s Dee!

Do what I did.  Get CD and LP, just for the cover.  Everybody needs a pop-up Dee Snider.

2.5/5 stars

REVIEW: Scorpions – Box of Scorpions (2004)

SCORPIONS – Box of Scorpions (2004 Universal)

Don’t worry – this Box of Scorpions cannot hurt you!  If fact if you allow yourself to be stung, you will find your reality injected with musical ecstasy.

This isn’t a box set to buy if you are looking for unreleased treasure.  It’s strictly a compilation, although you may be able to get a few tracks you didn’t have before.  Box of Scorpions covers every album from the debut Lonesome Crow, beyond 1999’s Eye II Eye, going as far as 2002’s Bad For Good: The Very Best of Scorpions.  That compilation CD included two new songs called “Bad For Good” and “Cause I Love You”.  They were recording specifically for Bad For Good, but it makes sense to get them on the beefier Box of Scorpions instead.

The first disc of this set is inaugurated by “I’m Going Mad”, the same technicolor workout that opened their first album.  The early psychedelic Scorpions songs are only represented by a couple, with “Fly to the Rainbow” being the second.  Stone cold classics form the bulk of the disc, with “Speedy’s Coming” being an obvious focal point.  “In Trance”, “Steamrock Fever”, “We’ll Burn the Sky”, and “Virgin Killer” are all essential cuts.  You can’t fit ‘em all in, of course, but the live album Tokyo Tapes fills in some of the most obvious blanks.  “Top of the Bill”, “Dark Lady” and “Robot Man” are great live inclusions.  The disc ends with the first steps into the modern Scorpions sound with a pair from 1979’s Lovedrive.

Disc two showcases the 80s and all the big Scorpions hits.  The band streamlined their sound.  Some may say “dumbed down”.  The Scorpions of the 80s were massive, but certainly were not challenging your grey matter with complex music like the 70s band were prone to.  They also lost the regality of the Uli Roth era, something his guitar brought to the band.  It was replaced by solid 4/4 hard rock, with plenty of hits.  There is only one live song (from World Wide Live) here, “Another Piece of Meat”.  The rest are all studio originals:  “Big City Nights”, “Still Loving You”, “Rhythm of Love”, “The Zoo”, “No One Like You”, and of course that unstoppable “Hurricane”!  Deeper cuts like “Coast to Coast” and “Dynamite” provide some serious meat.  This disc would make a pretty good standalone compilation.

The third disc concentrates on the 90s, which saw the Scorpions reborn by the success of “Wind of Change”.  Unfortunately, this ushers in a slew of ballads.  The few rockers like “Tease Me, Please Me”, “Alien Nation” and “Don’t Believe Her” are almost drowned by the ballads.  There are some songs you may have missed the first time around.  In addition to the aforementioned “Bad For Good” and “Cause I Love You”, you’ll also get “Over the Top” and “Life Goes Around” which were released in 1997 on Deadly Sting: The Mercury Years.  “Cause I Love You” is really the only keeper of these four obscurities.  It was originally written in 1978 for Lovedrive, and recorded in 2002.  That’s how it sounds, too.  As for the rest, at least getting by these songs all in one place, you don’t really need the other two compilations.  Disc three also contains the unfortunate “Mysterious” from the dreadful Eye II Eye album, and the soul live song “Hurricane 2000” from Moment of Glory with the Berlin Philharmonic.  Neither are really essential though “Hurricane 2000” has its fans.

Box of Scorpions adds up to a good set with plenty of value and a few minor surprises.  If you don’t own all the albums already, this is a good buy.  Be sure to get a copy with the outer plastic slipcase still intact!

3.5/5 stars

 

REVIEW: Scorpions – World Wide Live (1985 vinyl)

SCORPIONS – World Wide Live (1985 Polygram, 2 record set)

The first waves of CD releases generally sucked.  Double live albums like World Wide Live, Live After Death, Stages and Exit…Stage Left were edited down to fit on a single CD. One way to ensure you got the complete album (with great sound) was to just go and buy an original vinyl.  That is still the best way to enjoy World Wide Live.

The Scorpions were at a peak in 1985.  The Love at First Sting tour was one of the biggest metal shows of the decade, but the band hit a speed bump after.  This double live album was culled from five shows (three in the US and two in Europe), and sequenced for impact.

“Coming Home” and “Blackout” are a pair of bruisers.  One can detect vocal overdubs (sounds like two or three Klauses singing at once on the choruses) but they are largely unobtrusive.  Surely most of the album must be live.  You can appreciate why the Scorpions were (and still are) huge.  Riffs slice from one side to the other, while Klaus Meine dive-bombs like a screaming Stuka.  They also had the music.  Love at First Sting produced a number of hits (all here).  Nothing from the early (Uli Roth) days though, which means the album leans towards the streamlined-style Scorpions.  Older stuff would have been nice, but also would have overlapped with their prior double live, Tokyo Tapes.  None of that material was in their current set either.

This is a minor quibble.  These are the ultimate live versions of classic tunes like “Loving You Sunday Morning”, “Make it Real”, “Coast to Coast”, “Big City Nights”, “Can’t Live Without You” and all the rest.  The ballads (“Holiday”, “Still Loving You”) are awesome too, and stacked together so you can get the ballads out of the way and back to rocking again.  Scorpions must surely be one of the definitive ballad bands in metal.  These two are legendary.

Side 4 is pretty epic:  “The Zoo”, “No One Like You”, and an extended “Can’t Get Enough” with Jabs solo.  Klaus Meine has an endearing German accent; everybody loves when he tells California that they really know how to partaaaay!  (This was immortalised by Sebastian Bach in Season 7 of Trailer Park Boys where he performs a killer Klaus impression.)

Your wisest course of action should be clear.  Pick up both Tokyo Tapes and World Wide Live, on vinyl, and get all the best Scorpions tunes done up live.  This is good stuff.

4/5 stars

 

 

REVIEW: Scorpions – Animal Magnetism (2015 deluxe edition)

The Best Fucking Collaboration Week Ever, Pt. 2
Final review in this series! Mike and Aaron did simultaneous daily reviews of albums that they sent to each other. Mike gifted the original CD of Animal Magnetism to Aaron when he upgraded to the deluxe edition.  This time, we are joined by the mighty DEKE from Stick it in Your Ear!
Aaron’s review:  Scorpions – Animal Magnetism

Scan_20160402SCORPIONS – Animal Magnetism (2015 BMG deluxe edition, originally 1980)

Post-Lovedrive, the Scorpions were on a roll.  American chart success had finally come their way, and the pressure was on to follow it up.  Rather than break under the strain, the Scorpions thrived in that atmosphere and put together another solid Euro-metal album with commercial tendencies.  Newest member Matthias Jabs was now integrated with the band, and they were ready to roll.

The modern Scorpions thrived on simple, heavy metal riffage and melodic vocals.  “Make It Real”, the opening track on Animal Magnetism, exemplifies these qualities.   Chunky chugs and soaring guitar melodies are only topped by Klaus Meine’s voice of power.  “Make It Real” remains one of the classic, unforgettable Scorpions rockers today and it’s easy to hear why.  It’s a perfect concoction of what melodic heavy metal can be.

I don’t like to be too hard on the Scorpions for their lyrics, because their English is a hell of a lot better than my German!  With that in mind, “Don’t Make No Promises (Your Body Can’t Keep)” is one of those Scorpions titles that makes me cringe.  Thankfully it’s a blitzkrieg of a track, full steam ahead and dripping sleaze.  Scorpions had easily mastered the fast metal stylings that put them in similar territory as Judas Priest, but they also had a knack for slow and relentless riffs.  “Hold Me Tight” is one of these, like a slow Dio-era Sabbath prowler.

The album is strong throughout.  “Twenthiest Century Man” continues a chopping onslaught of rock, but the Scorpions also have a knack for a ballad.  “Lady Starlight”, acoustic with a full-on string section with woodwinds, is one of their finer early examples.  It’s bizarre to hear a song this tender on the same album as “Don’t Make No Promises (Your Body Can’t Keep)”.

Scan_20160402 (4)

In case you were worried the Scorps had lost it, “Falling in Love” continues the bruising on side two with another simple and effective riff.  “Only a Man” is about the only stumble, an off-kilter track that rests in the shadows of the songs before and after.  The chorus is great, but next to amazing metal classics like “The Zoo”, there is no contest.  And speaking of “The Zoo”, has there ever been such a slow yet so menacing track?  Written about their time spent in America, the lyrics are pretty silly.  “We eat the night, we drink the time, make our dreams come true.  And hungry eyes are passing by, on streets we call the Zoo.”  You don’t want to be hard on the guys for their skills with the language, but at the same time…this is also bizarrely catchy!

The title track “Animal Magnetism” is saved for last, an exotic slow crawl preceded by thunderclaps of noisy guitars.  Zeppelin meets Black Sabbath on this one, and it’s over and out.  Unless you own this deluxe edition….

“Hey You” is tacked on as the first bonus track, a strangely catchy pop rocker with Rudolph Schenker singing lead on the verses.  It has a remarkable uniqueness.  It was first released as a single, but most of us didn’t hear it until 1989’s Best of Rockers and Ballads.  That’s the easiest place to find this fun little tune.  A slew of rare demos end the deluxe CD:  “Animal Magnetism” (not at all like the album version), “American Girls”, “Get Your Love”, Restless Man”, and “All Night Long”.  Some of these songs are exactly what they are — outtakes!  Some are better than that.  “Get Your Love” was reworked on 1995’s Live Bites CD as “Heroes Don’t Cry”.  “Heroes Don’t Cry” has better lyrics and more meat on the bones, but “Get Your Love” has a raw basic quality.  “Restless Man” is an early version of “Twentieth Century Man”, all but complete including prototype guitar solos.

There will always be those fans who think albums like Lovedrive and Animal Magnetism were the beginnings of a long slide in quality.  When Uli Jon Roth left the band in 1978, he took with him their adventurous side.  Their post-Uli music was streamlined and more calculated.  Animal Magnetism remains one of their finest albums since.

4/5 stars