Dimebag Darrell

R.I.P. Vinnie Paul Abbott (1964-2018)

“I loved you Vinnie…you were such a good guy, and so nice to me…always…always a great fuckin’ guy.  And I think it’s bull SHIT that you’re not here.” — a tearful Sebastian Bach

 

We have no details, but we do know that Vinnie Paul of Pantera, Damageplan and HellYeah is gone.  He has joined his brother Dimebag Darrell (1966-2004) in the Great Band in the Sky.

To say the metal world is in shock is an understatement.  HellYeah began recording a new album late last year.  Vinnie had shown no signs of slowing down. He has always just carried on.

Rest in peace Vinnie Paul Abbott, who inspired a new generation of metalheads to “Walk”.

REVIEW: A Tribute to Ace Frehley – Return of the Comet (1997)

Part 6 in a series on Ace Frehley! Missed the last part, “Cherokee Boogie”? Click here!
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RETURN OF THE COMET_0001A Tribute to Ace Frehley – Return of the Comet (1997 Shock Records)

Last time we talked about a tribute album with a new recording by Ace.  This time, we’re talking about a tribute album with new recordings by the Comet!  Return of the Comet even features some of the same artists that were on Spacewalk:  Tracii Guns, Gilby Clarke and the brothers Abbott (Dimebag Darrell and Vinnie Paul) are on both albums.  And like Spacewalk, this one also comes with a guitar pick.  This time it’s a Bruce Kulick pick, because the CD also features a cool bonus: Bruce’s debut solo track, “Liar”.

This is a pretty good tribute CD.  Somebody called Bruiz does a faithful reproduction of the “Rock Bottom” intro, which seques directly into Brian Tichy’s “Rip It Out”.  I was familiar with Tichy from Zakk Wylde’s Pride and Glory, but he sings and plays every instrument on this.  Everybody knows today how talented he is, but this was a revelation to me in 1997.  Do I need to say that he does an excellent job on it?  He also nails Anton Fig’s drum solo.

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L.A. Guns is next, but it’s not Phil Lewis.  It’s Ralph Saenz.  You might know him better as Michael Starr from Steel Panther.  So how’s their “Cold Gin”?  It’s perfect for this band and this singer.  Eric Singer and Karl Cochran take a shot at “Strange Ways”, but I don’t like their take on it too much.  Eric’s vocal doesn’t suit the song in my opinion, and this version is too chunk-chunk-chunk.

“Getaway” was always a bit of a throwaway Kiss track, but I like the lesser known songs.  Seattle’s Tubetop speed it up a fair measure, but that’s not the problem.  I always identify this song with Peter Criss’ gritty voice.  Who doesn’t?  The singer, Gavin Gus, takes a smooth approach to the song, but sometimes Kiss songs aren’t meant to be tampered with too much.  It improves as it gets harder at the end.

RETURN OF THE COMET_0007Then we have the Presidents of the United States of America.  OK band I guess, but their stripped back sound is totally wrong for “Shout It Out Loud”.  Having said that, the brilliance of the song itself still shines through.  The album is immediately redeemed by a remarkable performance from a remarkable guitarist:  Dimebag.  He and Vinnie Paul stomp through “Snowblind”, a sludgy Ace classic.  Wisely, Dime changed nothing about the song, except adding some trademark Dime guitar shrieks on top.  It’s a totally appropriate touch.  Even though his singing voice is nothing like Ace’s (he’s more Zakk Wylde than Ace Frehley) he still lays down a lead vocal that fits.  Then his guitar solo rips your head off, end of story.  Mind blown, the album can end here thank you very much!

We’re not even half through yet.  Tod Howarth (ex-Frehley’s Comet) turns up with his own solo version of “Dancing With Danger”.  It’s a Streetheart cover that Frehley’s Comet also did on Second Sighting.  Tod tries to update the song for the 1990’s but fails.  His voice is also noticeably lower.  Then, Karl Cochran and Eric Singer are up with “Love Her All I Can”, a song originally sung and written by…Paul Stanley?  Why?  According to the liner notes, Cochran used to sing this song when he was in Frehley’s solo band in the 90’s.  Cochran and Singer perfectly nail this one, right down to the guitar solo and those Simmons/Stanley harmony vocals.  A winner.

Filler is “Speedin’ Back to My Baby” by Lee and Dallas (?).  As great as the original song is, I didn’t need to hear a jazzy country version of it.  It’s old-school country, swinging and authentic, but no thanks.  Thankfully Gilby Clarke comes to the rescue with the classic “Rocket Ride” from Alive II.  I love it.  I like it better than his version of “Shock Me” from Spacewalk, actually.

Richie Scarlet from Frehley’s Comet teams up with Beatlemania’s Mitch Weissman on Ace’s “Remember Me”.  It’s great and much like the original.  Then the Presidents are back for a second term, this time adding members of Tubetop and Kim Thayil of Soundgarden to the mix.  They do a cool campfire version of “New York Groove” that sounds live.  This is much better than “Shout It Out Loud”.  Well done.

A Frehley’s Comet reunion is the climax of the album.  Alumni Richie Scarlet, John Regan, Steve Werner and Arthur Stead are back to redo two unreleased Comet classics.  These songs are Vinnie Vincent’s “Back On the Streets”, which is, in a word, awesome.  It’s a dark ominous song with balls.  Then they do “Animal” which was written by Regan and Stead (perhaps the reason it was never released before?).  It has a funky little riff before it breaks into a cool anthemic chorus.

RETURN OF THE COMET_0005It’s best to think of the last two songs as bonus tracks, because they have little to do with Ace.  From a forthcoming Howarth album named Cobalt Parlor is a lacklustre song called “California Burns”.  I wanted to like this, really I did.  It’s just a really nauseating attempt at being modern and heavy, and no sir I don’t like it.  Sorry Tod.  “The Liar” by Bruce Kulick is much better.  I am a real fan of Kulick as a solo artist.  He is an articulate, skilled player with a knack for melody.  “The Liar” is a great instrumental, alternating between light and heavy, but always very lyrical.  Just sing a lead vocal of your own over Bruce’s guitar, and you can imagine this as a “I Still Love You” rock ballad.  This song was Bruce’s first ever post-Kiss solo release, and according to the liner notes, it serves two purposes.  One: to end the album with an instrumental as Ace always did.  Two: to tip the hat to the guy who succeeded in filling Ace’s shoes for over a decade.

I would recommend this tribute album to any serious Ace/Kiss fan, simply because it has some great cover versions of some obscure classics.  That to me raises it above most cut-and-paste tribute albums that are out there on the market.  There is a real sense of passion to this CD.  John Regan put it together and you can tell by the attention to detail.  Kudos, John.

3.5/5 stars

REVIEW: Spacewalk – A Salute to Ace Frehley (1996)

Part 5 in a series on Ace Frehley!  Missed the last part, Trouble Walkin’?  Click here!

Spacewalk – A Salute to Ace Frehley (1996 DeRock/Triage)

Just in time for the massive Kiss reunion tour came this tribute CD.  There were several versions of this.  I have the second-coolest of the three:

  • Least cool:  Regular domestic 10 track CD.
  • Second coolest:  Import CD (Europe?) with brand new bonus track by Ace Frehley himself, called “Take Me To the City”
  • Most cool:  Japanese import CD with that and Sebastian Bach’s “Save Your Love”

This is one of those tributes made up of a mish-mash of metal musicians, no real “bands” so to speak, although all are great musicians.  Scott Travis plays drums on most of it (lending an awkward Priest-like vibe to the drums), Charlie Benate plays with Scott Ian on “Rip It Out”, and Vinnie Paul of course plays with Dimebag Darrel on “Fractured Mirror”.  (This site has all the information and credits for the CD.  Enjoy!  You’ll notice the backing band is basically Racer X on most tracks.)

I’m good with every track on here except one:  Bruce Bouillet’s version of “New York Groove”.  I’m not into drum loops in general, and although the track has a funky groove to it, it’s just not my bag.  On the other hand, Scott Ian’s cover of “Rip It Out” is Anthrax-worthy.  Frankie Bello’s on bass, and somebody named Zach Throne sings it with Scott.  Zach nails an authentic Ace-like vocal, while Charlie’s relentless on the drums.  The Anton Fig drum solo is almost exact note-for-note.  As is the signature guitar solo.

Gilby Clarke’s “Shock Me” is one of the better tracks. I don’t usually think of Gilby as a soloist, since in GN’R he didn’t solo.  His soloing style is unlike Ace’s, but he performs an original solo of his own that is appropriate to song.  On the other hand I wouldn’t count “Deuce” by Marty Friedman (ex-Megadeth) as a favourite.  The vocal (by somebody called Tom Gattis) is a tad overwrought.   Another “blah” tune is “Snowblind”, performed in a too-modern metally sound by Jason McMaster (Dangerous Toys) and Snake Sabo from Skid Row.

Ron Young (Little Caesar, the Four Horsemen) has a soulful but southern sound on “Hard Luck Woman”, an odd choice for a Frehley tribute.  Written by Paul and sung by Peter, the original was created for Rod Stewart to sing!  But it’s as good a cover as any, and I don’t have a lot of other stuff of Ron’s, so I’m cool with this.  Jeff Watson (Night Ranger) is on guitar.

We all knew Sebastian Bach would knock it out of the park on “Rock Bottom”, and he does.  “Rock Bottom” wasn’t written by Ace, but he did write the intro, performed here by Russ Parish of Fight/Steel Panther.  Baz is obviously a huge Kiss fan and the song is in great hands, although the solo’s way too modern.  Still, I wish I had “Save Your Love” too.

IMG_00000627Tracii Guns is passable on “Parasite”, but again I think the song is done in a style too contemporary.  Up next is John Norum of Europe, with “Cold Gin”!  (Hey, two songs in a row written by Ace!)  McMaster is back on lead vocals, not my fave singer in the world.  John is a great guitarist, and this version of “Cold Gin” is heavy with fills.  Some go with the song, some miss the mark.

Dime’s “Fractured Mirror” is perfect, even the production and sound of the acoustic guitar is eerily similar to Ace’s original.  Dime may well have been the biggest Ace Frehley fan in the world. Darrell does throw some of his own personality into the song, but I think foremost on his mind was probably playing the song the way he remembered it.  And he does.

Lastly, “Take Me To the City” is performed by Ace himself, with his crack band:  Steve Werner on drums, Karl Cochran on bass, Richie Scarlet on guitar and backing vocals, and…Sebastian Bach is there too at the end!  This Ace rarity is the best of all reasons to track down this CD.  This is Ace back to a hard rocking Frehley’s Comet sound, with an anthemic chorus.  When Baz shows up at the end, it’s icing on the cake (although you need to turn it ^UP^ to catch him in the fade).

I don’t really buy tribute albums anymore, because I find these mish-mashes of somewhat related artists to be a bit tedious.  Still, it’s pretty solid, and definitely worthwhile to fans of bands like Pantera, Skid Row, or Anthrax.  The Ace bonus track is pretty much a compulsory purchase.

3/5 stars

Soon, we’ll also be talking about another quality tribute album with some surprising guests and alumni.  Stay tuned.

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REVIEW: Fight – War of Words (1993)

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Part 1 of a miniseries on Rob Halford’s solo career!

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FIGHT – War of Words (1993 Sony)

I was devastated when Rob Halford left Priest.  I was so heavily invested emotionally in the excellent Painkiller album, I couldn’t believe it was over!  Last I had heard, the band were going to be working on two new songs for a greatest hits album (Metal Works) and then Rob would take a break to do a solo album.  Instead, the band split completely!  Halford and drummer extraordinaire Scott Travis formed Fight with guitarists Russ Parish and Brian Tilse, and the bass player from hell, Jay Jay.   (Today, Parish goes by the name “Satchel” when he plays with Steel Panther!)  Regarding Jay Jay, Halford says that he did a number of Rob’s own tattoos.  Rob figured if he could play bass as well he he tattooed, he was in.  Jay Jay also does the grunt-metal backing vocals.

The resulting album, War of Words, is a Pantera-esque thrash-fest, one of the heaviest things Rob had ever done (until Halford’s Crucible album), undeniable brutal, scream-laden, and punishing from start to finish.  Halford had cleverly assembled two shredding guitar players with differing styles too:  Tilse specialized in the noisy speedy solos, while Parrish played the more melodic and traditional speedy solos!  War of Words is solo nirvana for fans of Rob and Priest.  And Rob wrote every single song by himself.

The twin openers, “Into the Pit” and “Nailed to the Gun”, are two of a kind:  they are rip-yer-head-off thrashers with Rob’s patented glass-breaking screams.  The song structures on War of Words are simpler than what we heard with Priest, no doubt since Rob composed the songs by himself.  This simplicity serves to make the album feel even heavier and more relentless.

The lyrics, just as simple and aggressive.  “Into the Pit” doesn’t feature much in the way of poetry:

Conspiring, for sation
Malfeasance, on high
Obstruction, of duty
Disorder, will rise

Rob takes the pace back a bit on the third track, “Life in Black” which I don’t think you can fairly call a ballad, to me it’s more Dio-era Sabbath with a very vintage-Dio sounding solo.  (Rob had just helped out Sabbath live after Dio left, singing lead for two shows while opening for Ozzy Osbourne.)  Meanwhile “Immortal Sin” bears a slow groove with a melodic chorus, downtuned but a bright spot in the proceedings.

The title track opens with the American First Amendment (Rob was living in Phoenix).  It’s another aural assault with Rob keeping his vocals in the upper register.  Travis’ incredible drumming punctuates every venomous word.  Considering that less than three years prior, Rob (with Priest) was in court defending his band during the infamous “suicide trial”, the words are apt.

Dream Deceivers, directed by David Van Taylor, the excellent documentary on the Judas Priest trial

It’s back to dark haunting territory next:  “Laid to Rest” ended the first side of the album.  I find this one to contain one of Rob’s best vocal performances of the album.  It’s reminiscent of “A Touch of Evil” by Priest, but downtuned and slightly exotic.

Side Two’s opener, “For All Eternity” is really the final reprieve.  It is most definitely a power ballad in vintage Priest vibe, but again with the modern downtuned guitars.  A song like this really proved Rob’s songwriting chops.  He’s capable of writing emotive, catchy powerful music completely on his own, and the song is an achievement.  The bridge around 2:25 is just awesomeness, but Tilse’s guitar solo completes the picture.  As if that wasn’t enough, Rob returns to full on scream mode for the end.

“Little Crazy” was a critically acclaimed heavy metal blues, and the second single/video.  I’m struggling to describe it beyond “heavy metal blues”, but this song is definitely a highlight.  Rob puts everything he has into the slinky lead vocal, while band fuse the blues feel with heavy metal’s precision.  I recall reviews of the time saying, “If Rob wanted to drop metal and go full-on blues, he could.”  Now that would be interesting.

The rest of the album is no-holds-barred.  The triple threat of “Contortion”, “Kill It”, and “Vicious” is almost too much.  Each song strips everything down to the basics:  simple riffs, violent words, relentless drums, without much in terms of melody.  This is the most difficult part of the album to penetrate.  In time the three songs grow.  “Contortion” protests what we are doing to the Earth with angry frustration.  “Kill It” is about TV preachers (whom I’m sure had their opinions on Priest during the trial).  “Vicious” was always my favourite of the trio:

You cheating, lying, mother-fucking son of a bitch..

Vicious, vicious,
Fucker, fucker!

I was going through an angry phase at the time!

Rob saved the best track for last.  “Reality: A New Beginning” is a weighty epic, a perfect closer, slightly exotic and successfully combining Fight’s heavy side with Rob’s ability to write great melodies.  This is simply an incredible song, a jewel in Halford’s crown, and a song which definitely deserves another look.  The lyrics seem to be autobiographical:

This time, when I’m leaving,
Who cares where I’ll go?

There was a hidden CD bonus track (not on cassette) after a five minute silence, a jokey song called “Jesus Saves”.  Rob’s voice is electronically manipulated to sound…well, not sure what he’s supposed to sound like.  An angry elf, I guess.

4.75/5 stars

There are some supplementary releases available:

1. This one is on my wishlist, I don’t own a physical copy:  In 1994 Fight released a Christmas CD single called “Christmas Ride” with a message from Rob!  They later reissued this as a free download from Rob’s site, but that is no longer around.

2. The live/remix EP, Mutations (next up in this series of reviews).

3. In 2007, a demo album called K5: The War of Words Demos was released.  This featured demo versions of most of the album, plus five more.  These include four new songs, and “Psycho Suicide” which was later remade for the second Fight album, A Small Deadly Space.   The demos reveal that a much more conventional-sounding metal album was initially planned.  (“The Beast Denies” is a very different version of “Reality: A New Beginning”.)

4. The 2008 Fight box set Into the Pit contains remixed versions of War of Words (again without “Jesus Saves”) and A Small Deadly Space.  But the cool thing it contains is a DVD, Fight Live In Phoenix.  The band rips through the entire album, in sequence (no “Jesus Saves”!) and then Rob’s solo track, “Light Comes Out of Black” (from the Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie soundtrack).

5. Buffy the Vampire Slayer original motion picture soundtrack.  This is the only place you can get the studio version of “Light Comes Out of Black”, featuring his backing band…Pantera.  All of Pantera.

I like “Light Comes Out of Black”, but it’s a lot easier to swallow than Fight is on first listen.  I remember a M.E.A.T Magazine interview with Glenn Tipton and KK Downing, where they trashed it.  “If it were on Painkiller, it would be one of the weaker songs, if not the weakest,” said KK.

KK might have been right about that to a certain extent, but only because Painkiller consists of 10 awesome songs!

GUEST SHOT: 30 Albums that Uncle Meat Thinks You Should Visit (Or Re-Visit) Part 1

By Meat

Music fans love lists.  Maybe it’s the Ten Best Bass Lines of the 1990’s or a list of the songs you wish you lost your virginity to.  I have always been a lists guy as the whole Sausagefest Top 100 thing would attest to.  So here is yet another list.  The albums listed below are not my favorite albums of all time, even though many of my favorites are included.  The point of this list is to possibly introduce to, or maybe even remind, this blog’s readers of 30 albums that I think need to be heard.  Maybe an album that in my opinion was under-appreciated.  Perhaps even an album that inspired me in some way.   Anyways, here are 30 albums that Uncle Meat wants you to visit … or re-visit.  They are in alphabetical by album title.  Enjoy

A EULOGY FOR THE DAMNED  –  ORANGE GOBLIN (2012)

I could have easily listed several other Orange Goblin albums here, but their latest album is an absolutely killer album.  Almost fusing some Black Crowes into their brand of Metal, these British stoner-rockers put out maybe the best Metal album of 2012.  And considering that there are only 3 albums on this whole list that were released before the year 2000, it feels good to actually get some new content in here.  The album ends with the title track, which almost plays out like its own Rock N’ Roll Western.   The band finally tours Canada for the first time coming up in spring of 2013.  As the late Billy Red Lyons used to say, “Don’t ya dare miss it!”

 

ACT III  –  DEATH ANGEL (1990)

Death Angel’s first two albums are pretty sloppy, sound-wise and in song structure.  Some very heavy moments, but at times it just sounds annoying.   On their third release, Max Norman (Megadeth) got his hands on them and it resulted in a polished sound and the best album of their career.  Gone were the high-pitched shrieks of singer Mark Osegueda that littered their first two records.  It really does seem that the band simply matured.  One of the best Metal albums of the 90’s indeed.  Definitely among the most progressive metal albums I can think of.  A must-have album for every true Metal fan.

 

ARGUS  –  WISHBONE ASH (1972)

It is fair to say that Iron Maiden and Thin Lizzy would never have the musical identity they have, if it wasn’t for Wishbone Ash.   Innovators in twin- lead guitar harmonization, this band never really got its due.  Interestingly enough, the sound engineer on this record is none other than Martin Birch.  Coincidence?  Meat thinks not.  I remember this album sitting in front of my Dad’s stereo for years when I was very young, and then seeing Star Wars and thinking that Darth Vader looked a lot like the guy on the cover of Argus. Check this album out and discover a part of where it all came from.   When you listen to the beginning of the song-clip included here, “Throw Down the Sword, think “To Live is to Die” by Metallica.  Sounds like Lars and the boys were paying attention as well.

 

ARGYBARGY   –  SQUEEZE (1980)  

Think The Beatles meets The Clash.  The first two songs on this album are both stellar pop moments.  The melodies are McArtney-esque, and that is truly saying something.  “Pulling Mussels From a Shell” is pure song-writing genius“Another Nail in my Heart” is one of my favorite songs of all time.  Check out the incredible guitar solo in this song.  Funny enough, like the 2 previous albums listed, this was the band’s third album.  Maybe a trend is happening here.

 

BIG WORLD  –  JOE JACKSON (1986)

For Joe Jackson’s 8th release, he decided to go all out. An original studio album, recorded live in front of a New York City audience who were told to be silent throughout.  Capturing the excitement and spontaneity of a live performance, in which absolutely no post-recording mixing or overdubbing was done, this record is ambitious as it sounds.  It is all here.  You get Jazz, Pop, Punk and everything in between.  Jackson possesses one of the classic all-time voices.  When this double-album was released, it contained three sides of music, leaving the fourth side blank.  A landmark recording.

 

BLUE  –  JONI MITCHELL (1971)

This album came in at Number 30 on Rolling Stone’s Top 500 Albums of All-Time chart, the highest placing for any female artist.  So why is this album on this list?  Honestly because I still believe this album is truly under-appreciated.  Too many people do not realize how great this album is.  Simply, some of the best lyrics of all time are here.  If this album was any more personal it would contain a video of Joni Mitchell going to the bathroom.  Listen to this front to back when you want to feel like someone understands your pain.   A truly cathartic experience, when she played this album originally to Kris Kristofferson he was reported to respond, “Joni… You really should keep some of that to yourself”.  I am glad she didn’t take heed of his advice.

 

DOGMAN  –  KING’S X (1994)

It seems as soon as Brendan O’Brien (Pearl Jam/STP/Black Crowes) got his hands on King’s X, the band’s sound fattened up.  Thick, lush and pounding would be a good overall description of the sound on this album.  The songs are great too.  I saw King’s X at the legendary El Mocambo in Toronto and was standing literally beside Dimebag Darrell and the rest of Pantera.   While I love almost every song on this album, the title track is an absolute killer.  When the first Woodstock concert in 25 years began, it was King’s X who took the stage to kick it all off.  Check out this live performance from the old Jon Stewart show from back in the day and crank it.  One of my favorite youtube videos ever.

 

DUKE ELLINGTON & JOHN COLTRANE   –  DUKE ELLINGTON & JOHN COLTRANE  (1962)

This might be my favorite jazz album of all time.  Duke was 63 and Trane was 36 when this album was recorded.  With a running time of 35:05 this album is short and oh so very sweet.  Ellington’s “In a Sentimental Mood” starts this album off and it never lets up.   “Big Nick” is just a wonderfully happy shuffle.  True story: I once got so fed up with Metal that I became a Jazzatarian for a few months, listening to nothing but old school Jazz.  I started with John Coltrane and went from there.  I never did find a jazz artist after him that I enjoy more.

 

EL CORAZON  –  STEVE EARLE (1997) 

Simply put, this album is easily in my Top 3 albums of all time, of any genre.  True storytelling at its finest, El Corazon is a complete masterpiece.  It seems that sobriety allowed Steve Earle to realize how great of a songwriter he really is and on this album he branches out and removes any constraints of style.   Of all the 30 records included on this list, this is the one I am not asking you to check out, but I am TELLING you to check out.  Comparing the laid-back intensity of “Christmas in Washington” to the sheer power of “Here I Am” truly makes you appreciate the diversity of this record.   Steve Earle is THE man.  A lifetime Bro-mance going on here.

 

HEAD HUNTERS  –  HERBIE HANCOCK (1973)

Quite possibly the greatest jazz fusion record ever recorded. This record is a funk buffet.  Only 4 songs and all of them are great.  The YouTube clip here of “Watermelon Man” is the shortest song on the album, and is as original as it is velvety-smooth.  I find it hard not to do some sort of jig when this I hear this song.  “Chameleon”, “Sly” and “Vein Melter” complete one of the most influential jazz albums of all time.  Half of this album made 2012’s SausageFest countdown.  I suspect the other half will not be far behind.

Stay tuned for Part 2!