don dokken

REVIEW: Smoke on the Water – A Tribute (1994 cassette)

SMOKE ON THE WATER – A Tribute (1994 Shrapnel cassette – tribute to Deep Purple)

This baby can be expensive to acquire on CD, so let’s give ye olde cassette tape a spin.  It’s not been played in over 20 years.  This review is with fresh ears.

The backing band on this tribute to Deep Purple consists of:  Deen Castronovo (Hardline/Journey – drums), Jens Johansson (Yngwie Malmsteen – keys), Todd Jenson (Hardline/David Lee Roth – bass) and Russ Parish (Fight/Steel Panther – rhythm guitar).  Each track has a featured singer and lead soloist.  Let’s dig in.

First up:  “Speed King” by Yngwie J. Malmsteen with Kelly Keeling on vocals.  Keeling is on the sandpapery side of Joe Lynn Turner here, while Yngwie gets to jizz fanboy style all over the fretboard.  The star might actually be Jens Johansson’s keyboards but this is an unfortunately very cheesy version of “Speed King”.  Woah, Keeling just nailed an Ian Gillan scream!  Nice.

Kip Winger and Tony MacAlpine team up for “Space Truckin'”.  Tony goes his own way with the solos, innovating as he goes.  This is…pleasant?  There’s some kind of spark that’s missing, and when you’re playing “Space Truckin'” you need to put accelerant in the tank or you’ll fall flat.  Studio sterility has replaced spontaneity.

You gotta hope Glenn Hughes and John Norum can shock some life into “Stormbringer”.  They can!  Of the guitarists so far, John Norum (Europe) is the one who has the right feel for Deep Purple.  Glenn’s great, but doesn’t get to play bass, and here’s part of the problem.  You can hear that the backing band recorded the songs and then the featured players recorded their parts over them.  In a perfect world you’d have Glenn plotting the way on bass too, gelling with the backing band in a united groove.  That can’t happen when you record this way.

One guy who manages to inject his song with personality is Richie Kotzen.  He’s got the funky “Rat Bat Blue” and is granted both the lead vocals and guitars.  Yngwie returns on “Lazy” and he’s teamed with former Deep Purple singer and his own former bandmate, Joe Lynn Turner!  Yngwie plays appropriately on this strong but fairly bland track.  And that’s the cue to flip the tape over.

Paul Gilbert (Mr. Big) gets the vocal and guitar honours on “Maybe I’m a Leo”, which frankly is too slow and lacks groove.  Paul’s vocals, however, absolutely nail Gillan’s on the original.  Things turn stale quickly when it’s time for “Smoke on the Water”.  Russ Parish takes the guitar slot while Robert Mason (Lynch Mob/Warrant) sings.  Far more interesting is “Fireball” with Don Dokken and his future Dokken bandmate Reb Beach.  Don sounds a bit overwhelmed by the demanding song, but hits all the requisite notes.  The brilliant Jeff Scott Soto takes the driver’s seat on Mk I’s “Hush”.  This veteran vocalist (Yngwie/Journey/man more) makes mincemeat of your ears, absolutely killing it.  Soto is absolutely the vocal star on this album (one that includes Glenn Hughes)!  The final song goes to Tony Harnell (TNT) and Vinnie Moore (UFO).  They busy-up “Woman From Tokyo” a bit too much with unnecessary fills, but Moore does some really cool picking during the quiet section.

Though interesting, Smoke on the Water is far from an essential addition to your Purple collection.  There are already so many tributes out there.  The most interesting was T.M. Stevens’ Black Night which re-interpreted Deep Purple according to his New York sensibilities.  He had Joe Lynn Turner, Vinnie Moore and Richie Kotzen on his album too!  Then there is the more recent Re-Machined, featuring Iron Maiden, Metallica, and more Glenn Hughes.  Considering the CD prices these days, place Smoke on the Water fairly low on your priority lists.

2.5/5 stars

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REVIEW: Dokken – Tooth and Nail (1984)

DOKKEN – Tooth and Nail (1984 Elektra)

Dokken always served up large helpings of cheese. Within the framework of 80s hard rock, their second album Tooth and Nail has been elevated to the status of classic.  Produced by Tom Werman and armed with nine great songs, Dokken were poised to move on to the big leagues.

The brief instrumental opener “Without Warning” leads directly into the full speed chug of “Tooth and Nail”.  George Lynch was the obvious star on guitar, but “Wild” Mick Brown certainly blows the doors off with his high speed drum work.  Don Dokken could hit the high notes when required, aided and abetted by bassist Jeff Pilson.  The quartet could go hard or soft, or right down the middle.  “Just Got Lucky” is perfect in the centre.  Not too heavy, boasting a chorus that sticks, and a fiery hot guitar solo.

The lesser known “Heartless Heart” gets by for its Lynch chugging, though its chorus is left wanting.  Even chuggier:  “Don’t Close Your Eyes”, which Lynch leaves a smoking ruin:  Don screaming over the wastes left behind by the incessant rocking.  And that’s side one.

Dokken were especially good at slower, heavy songs.  “When Heaven Comes Down” is one of those.  Lynch’s riff holds the fort while Don conjures apocalyptic imagery.  Then a classic:  “Into the Fire”.  This song has it all.  The chorus and riff are topped only by a killer middle eight and a flammable solo.  You can pass on the cliche “Bullets to Spare” which sounds like a Quiet Riot B-side.  But don’t miss “Alone Again”, one of the best ballads from the entire decade.  It defines the term “power ballad” all by itself.  From the words, to the melody, to the legendary Lynch solo, “Alone Again” sounds as good today as it did then.

Finishing it off you’ll get the incendiary “Turn On The Action”, a cross between Van Halen, Motley Crue, and 2/3rds of the Sunset Strip.  It’s a good closer, but derivative and absolutely a product of its time and place.

Tooth and Nail is two or three songs shy of 5/5 rating.  Though you may debate it among yourselves, Back For the Attack and Dysfunctional are superior albums.  Tooth and Nail, however, has something they don’t have, and that is a high percentage of Dokken concert classics.  “Alone Again”, “Just Got Lucky”, “Into the Fire” and “Tooth and Nail” are all cornerstones of a Dokken collection.

4/5 stars

VHS Archives #40: Dokken interview (1987)

I always liked this interview clip.  Jeff Pilson seemed so friendly and enthusiastic.  Don, meanwhile, didn’t even know how many songs were slated for the Back for the Attack album!  I think he forgot “Mr. Scary”.

Back for the Attack wasn’t out yet, so Laurie Brown asked Dokken about Under Lock & Key.  Check it out!

VHS Archives #2: Hear N’ Aid Special – Pepsi Power Hour (1986)

The one VHS tape I’m working on currently spans a period of recordings from about July 1986 to September 1987. This Hear N’ Aid special features a MuchMusic interview conducted by J.D. (John) Roberts. There’s lots of exclusive information in this valuable video, including a tidbit on bands who refused to be in the same project as Spinal Tap!

REVIEW: Dokken – Return to the East Live (2018 Japanese CD/DVD set)

DOKKEN – Return to the East Live (2018 Frontiers Japan CD/region 2 – DVD set)

Even the most devout Dokken fan must acknowledge that Don is not the be-all and end-all of singers.  A good singer, yes, but never in the top tier.  Now that age has taken its toll (as it always does), Don relies on the backup singing of Jeff Pilson, Mick Brown, and George Lynch to hit those high notes.  The classic Dokken lineup reunited for some shows in Japan, and even recorded a new song to go with it.  Fortunately Dokken were up to the challenge, even with the shortcomings that age creates.

Some of the audience looks too young to have known Dokken when they first rocked Japan back in the 80s, but most are die-hards.  Don himself looks cool as a cucumber, with George and Jeff on either side holding down the fort.  Most importantly it seems they had a good time.  Lynch is simply compelling to watch, as he plays impossible licks while making it look so easy.

There’s no messing around with this setlist.  All classic Dokken, all 80s, no filler.  They focused on what the fans wanted and they delivered.  The band sounded great.  Pilson’s all-important bass is given enough room in the mix to be effective.  Songs like “It’s Not Love”, “The Hunter” and especially “Alone Again” buzz with electricity.  Vocally, with great backup singers like Jeff, the band were able to pull it off.  It’s a high energy reunion show.  It’s just too bad so many people in the audience spent it on their phones.

The DVD and CD tracklists are, strangely, not in the same order.  You can hear some obvious vocal overdubs in places, most notably “Kiss of Death”.  There are some sloppy edits on the video.  Don’s lips don’t always match the words, and there are annoying graphic overlays, but it’s a good show with plenty of closeups.  Jeff Pilson is a dynamo on stage, but Wild Mick has lost nothing over the years either.  He hammers on his kit as if he’s still 25 years old!  There is little interaction between the members on stage, except for Jeff who is all over the place, including the keyboards.  Don grins like a Cheshire cat when George lays down those familiar solos.  He picks up the guitar himself for oldies like “Breakin’ the Chains”.

Both the CD and DVD portion have unique bonus content.  After the main feature, you will find 45 minutes of behind the scenes footage, directed by Don.  Shaky camera work aside, this is fascinating fly-on-the-wall stuff.  Chatterbox Don is full of energy, even when losing his fedora hat. Eagle-eyed Trailer Park Boys fans will recognise road manager Tom Mayhue, their nemesis in the Out of the Park series.  As the band pick apart the set and put it back together again, you get a real sense that they just wanted to get it right but not at the expense of fun.

You will find two exclusive bonus acoustic songs on the CD.  “Heaven Sent” (with congas) and the obscure “Will the Sun Rise” are studio re-recordings, giving both songs a fresh, mellow gleam.  That’s not the main feature, however.  For obvious reasons, the brand new song “It’s Another Day” is the centrepiece, and as such it is presented as the very first track on the disc.  While the live set is undoubtedly a very significant memento for fans, nothing really excites them like a brand new song — their first together as the classic lineup two decades.  And it’s a solid B+.  Grooving with a head of steam, “It’s Another Day” is very reminiscent of the excellent and underrated Dysfunctional album from 1995.

The Japanese bonus track this time is the early Dokken classic “Paris is Burning” live, which is also on the DVD but not the standard CD or download versions. Don’t you hate when a track is missing that is only on the DVD? Sure you do.

Jeff Pilson says that he wanted Dokken to end (if this is the end) on an up note.  “Just a really positive  exclamation point to a great career.  Wouldn’t that be wonderful?”

4/5 stars

REVIEW: Don Dokken – Up From the Ashes (1990)

scan_20161027DON DOKKEN – Up From the Ashes (1990 Geffen)

“The best revenge is to live well.” — Don Dokken’s liner notes.  Passive aggressive much?

Dokken imploded in 1989 not with a bang but a whimper.  Rather than remembering the live album they finished with (Beast From the East), people recall the animosity and bitter attacks in the rock press.  George Lynch and Mick Brown began Lynch Mob, while Jeff Pilson formed War & Peace. Don Dokken meanwhile was cooking up a hot new band.  The only issue was the name.  The ex-members, who owned a stake in the Dokken name, refused to let Don use it.  They also shot down the names “Dokken II” and “DKN”.  (Reportedly Dokken was told if he wanted to just use the vowels “OE” for his new band, that would be fine with the others!)  Don was understandably upset that he couldn’t use his own last name for his name, so he opted to bill himself as Don Dokken the solo artist.

His solo band was a killer.  Fresh out of Europe with a smash hit album under his belt, John Norum joined on guitar.  Billy White from the thrash metal band Watchtower was the second guitar player, giving Dokken a double guitar lineup (or three if you count Don himself).  King Diamond’s Mikkey Dee was aboard on drums, several years away from joining Motorhead (and now Scorpions).  Rounding out the band was veteran Accept bassist Peter Baltes, who played with Dokken in their earliest days.

With all this burning anger coupled with tremendous instrumental firepower, one might expect Don to come back rockin’ harder than ever.  His solo album Up From the Ashes was a down-ratchet from Dokken, slightly, with an emphasis on melodic rock.  It did however continue the core Dokken sound, with some biting and very Lynch-like guitar riffs.

Entering with the kind of jagged riffs that made Dokken famous, “Crash ‘N Burn” sounds almost exactly like Don’s old band.  Hard rock, smooth vocals, and six-string acrobatics.  There is no familiar Jeff Pilson backing vocal, but Peter Baltes and John Norum get the job done.  The incredibly impressive guitar histrionics are clearly not George Lynch, but fans will love what John and Billy White cooked up.  A strong follow-up called “1000 Miles Away” sits in a comfortable mid-tempo rock zone.  It’s not a ballad, it’s not a rocker, but it’s somewhere in between.  Hit material.  The album’s single was a track called “Mirror Mirror”, with a stuttery Van Halen riff.  The lyrics are very telling:

“Mirror mirror, on the wall,
Seven years, I survived them all,
Mirror mirror, tell me more,
If that was love, then love is war.”

Dokken had a roughly seven-year long life as a recording band, so think what you will.

A lot of Up From the Ashes fits into a nice little hard rock box, a little smoother around than edges than classic Dokken, but strong as ever.  “When Some Nights” has a similar vibe to “1000 Miles Away”, and there are many others.  No real weak songs abide within.  There are only a few that are head and shoulders standouts.  Among these is “Living a Lie”, a sharp Norum co-write with a Europe-like sound.  Also up there, “Give It Up” is a brief blast of rock.  “Stay” leans in a slightly more pop direction, successfully so.

Drony ballads are less impressive.  “When Love Finds a Fool” is fortunately the only one, which does at least boast some impressive musical contributions from all the players.  The momentum is killed by starting side two with this slow Scorpions-wannabe.  Another issue is a slightly damp production, which makes the drums sound woefully underpowered.  This is a shame since Mikkey Dee is such a drum demon.

With Up From the Ashes, Don re-established himself.  Nobody could accuse him of leaning on George Lynch.  With the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, this band really should have been called Dokken.

3.5/5 stars

REVIEW: George Lynch – Sacred Groove (1993)

It’s a shame I lost my original 1993 review of this album.

LYNCH_0001GEORGE LYNCH – Sacred Groove (1993 Elektra)

If you like Dokken but never followed George onto the Lynch Mob, then this album is for you.

George Lynch is a very talented shredder, capable of playing a wide variety of styles.  Sometimes he hits, sometimes he misses, but on Sacred Groove he makes the mark every time.  Sacred Groove was designed as a solo project shortly after the second Lynch Mob album.  The idea was to work and write with different singers and musicians, and George loaded up on some great singers.  Glenn Hughes, anyone?

John Cuniberti, who co-helmed many Joe Satriani albums, produced this opus and lent it some serious sonic excellence.  The opener “Memory Jack” is a collaboration between producer and guitarist, but this is little more than a sound collage to kick off a killer instrumental called “Love Power From the Mama Head”.  This isn’t to say that “Memory Jack” does not contain some shredding licks, because it does…but they are not the focus.  The sound collage itself is the focus.  Into “Love Power”, George lays down some serious riffy rhythm guitars.  This is topped with a very Satriani-esque guitar melody.  “Love Power” is constructed very much like a Satch rock instrumental track, with memorable guitar melodies and song structures.

There is a very cool moment in the guitar solo in “Love Power From the Mama Head”, at exactly 4:47.  While George was essentially assaulting his guitar with the whammy bar, he accidentally dropped the instrument on the studio floor.  “Shit!” said George, while producer Cuniberti ran over and stopped George from picking it up.  The producer then kicked the guitar for added effect!  Cuniberti assured George it would sound cool, and it kind of does!  The guitar just stops on this weird chord-like sound, before they punch out of that and into more shredding.  It’s different and spontaneous and I love shit like that.

“Flesh and Blood”, contender for best track on the album, is the first vocal, featuring Badlands’ Ray Gillen (R.I.P.).  It’s a Dokken stomper for sure, but with Ray Gillen’s bluesy Coverdale-isms all over it.  Killer.  The lyrics were co-written by George’s ex-Dokken bandmate Jeff Pilson, who also co-wrote and plays bass on the next track, “We Don’t Own This World”.

Now here’s the interesting thing about “We Don’t Own This World”.  Lyrics by: Don Dokken?  The fuck?

George, Don and Jeff had planned to reunite on this one song, that Don supplied the lyrics for.  Don however cancelled or chickened out (either/or) and didn’t make it to the session.  It just so happened that the Nelson twins, Matthew and Gunnar, were in town and eagerly sang on the track in Don’s absence.  With their harmonies, “We Don’t Own This World” sounds nothing like Dokken, except in basic ways.  It’s the most commercial track on the album; a pop rocker.  The vocals soar over one killer melody, and the solo is one of George’s best.  If this song had come out only two years sooner, it would have been a hit single.  The Nelsons have done some cool music over the years, and not gotten a lot of credit for it, so this song is pure delight.

I still think of CDs as “albums” with distinct sides, and on the cassette version “I Will Remember” closed Side One.  This instrumental ballad has a vaguely dark tropical feel, although it is an electric guitar song.  George’s solos are sublime and I love his unexpected timing on certain notes.  He has flawless chops mixed with feel…a rare combination.

LYNCH_0002

Side Two’s opener is an epic in two parts, but it’s as close to a skip as this album gets.  The problem is vocalist Mandy Lion, of WWIII.  You either like his glass-garling-elfin-metal voice or you do not.  I do not.  However, “The Beast” Parts I and II are such a slamming groove that I tend to block out the words and the voice singing them.  This is another track where the original vocalist slated could not do it.  Udo Dirkschneider wanted too much money and Rob Halford was too busy, but Mandy Lion would do it.  He showed up at the studio in the heat of summer wearing head to toe black leather.

“The Beast” could be a dirty sex anthem, I guess, but it’s far too heavy for the 50 Shades crowd.  I dig when halfway through, George breaks out his newly-bought sitar.  (I remember seeing pictures of George in Metal Edge magazine buying it!)  If only Mandy would have chosen to shut up at this moment.  Bassist Chris Solberg comes in and grooves through to a false ending, and then it’s “Part II (Addiction to the Friction)” — a 10 minute track in total.  Thankfully a huge chunk of it is instrumental.

The regal Glenn Hughes raises the bar any time he opens his mouth.  His two songs were the first new Hughes singing I had heard since Black Sabbath.  I detect some fragility in his voice here.  I think this may be from a period where Glenn was recovering from addictions.  Regardless, he sounds a lot better today, whatever the reasons are.  That’s not to say he’s bad here, because he’s still the best singer on the album.  You just feel he’s not giving it everything like he does today.

“Not Necessary Evil” is Glenn’s first song, a Dokken groove with Hughes’ soulful signature style.  This one too had hit single potential, but only in an alternate timeline in which Rock never fell to the Grunge Hordes in 1991.  “Cry of the Brave” is his second track, a slower and more soulful rock track.  This is a song about injustice to the American Indian (reading the lyrics, I’m assuming specifically Leonard Peltier), and it’s worth noting that Glenn wrote the lyrics by himself.

The album closes with a final instrumental called “Tierra Del Fuego”, and if you couldn’t guess, that means George breaks out the flamenco guitar.  There’s also a guest electric guitar soloist named Daryl Gable.  If I remember the story correctly, Daryl Gable was a lucky fan who was selected to have a guest shot on the album.  How cool is that?  And he’s pretty good, too!  I have to admit I like these dusky tropical flamenco things, so I consider “Tierra Del Fuego” to be a very successful album closer.  But fear not, there’s plenty of electric guitar too!

Sacred Groove is pretty damn near flawless.  If only they could have got Udo instead of Mandy, eh?

4.5/5 stars

REVIEW: Dokken – Dysfunctional (1995)

DOKKEN – Dysfunctional (1995 Columbia)

No matter how good the band may have been, when Dokken reunited for a new album in 1995, it was a no-win scenario. They always seemed to be one of those bands that critics loved to hate. I read a ridiculous review of Dysfunctional that said, “If Don Dokken fell in a forest, would he make a sound? And if he did, could they get George Lynch to solo over it for an hour?” What a stupid review.  The album deserves a lot of praise, because when Dokken did reunite, the music was as strong as ever.  They had discovered modern groove, added onto their lush harmony vocals, and it managed to sell 300,000 copies.

Dysfunctional was conceived originally as the second Don Dokken solo album, which just happened to have Mick Brown and Jeff Pilson on it. (Jeff had recently split from Dio.)  The record company persuaded Don to call up George Lynch and make it a true Dokken album.  Originally George was just supposed to come in and re-do the guitar solos, but Don wanted George’s rhythm.  That was smart.  George ended up with writing credits on most of the songs in the process.

I have to admit that when this came out, a new Dokken album was the last thing I expected to see. Deep into the grunge years, Dokken came out flying with a modern melodic hard rock record with warmth, depth and awesome production values (by Don and Michael Wagener). Raging solos, great ballads, glorious riffs, and those Dokken harmony vocals mark one of the best Dokken albums of their career.  It’s certainly lots better than the ones I’ve heard that followed it.

There are lots of highlights.  No songs suck, but some are better than others.  The best tune was the 7-minute single, “Too High to Fly”.  I don’t know who came up with the riff, whether it was Don or George, but this song kicks ass.  Jeff Pilson gets into a wicked bass groove, dominating the verses.  Don’s lead vocal is among his most impassioned and the band is smoking.  This is a shoulda-been Dokken classic.  I am given to understand that it is the only song from Dysfunctional that is still played live from time to time.

Other favourites include “Inside Looking Out”, which shares the same grooving direction.  “Long Way Home” is like classic Ye Olde Dokken and could have fit in on Back for the Attack next to “Mr. Scary”.  On the softer side, I really like the understated “Nothing Left To Say”, a classy acoustic ballad.  Jeff Pilson’s backing vocals coupled with strings create a timeless atmosphere.  Then there’s the album epic:  “The Maze”, a lush, multi-part progressive song with harmony vocals piled on top of harmony vocals.  It doesn’t get thicker than this!  The record closes on “From The Beginning”, an ELP cover and another classy acoustic song.

I don’t need to tell you how great George Lynch is.  The record company were right to get him involved.  He helped make this album really special.  And that’s not to say that “Wild” Mick Brown or Jeff Pilson don’t bring it, because both of them did and then some.  Just that George has a very unique sound.  There is only one George Lynch.

Dysfunctional is a compulsory purchase if you have ever liked Dokken. It is a shame that the title proved true. George bailed after the dismal followup album (Shadowlife) and Pilson wasn’t far behind. Sad.

4/5 stars

Nice hair, Don.

REVIEW: Dokken – Shadowlife (1997 Japanese import)

Yesterday we talked about an album that Kelly Gray (Tateryche) wrecked produced.  Today, we’re looking at another.  Batten down the hatches.

SHADOW TURD_0001

DOKKEN – Shadowlife (1997 Victor Japanese import)

I got this Japanese import CD from one of our franchisees.  Even though we technically were not “allowed” to buy CDs from one of our franchises, we all did it, even the head office people who enforced the rules.  In this case the franchisee himself was glad to have a guaranteed sale, rather than sit on an expensive Dokken flop for several months in inventory.  It even came with the original obi strip, stickers, and everything else was mint.  The scarcity of the complete package was reason alone to buy it.

The infamous Shadowlife will probably go down in history as the worst Dokken album. It’s certainly the most dysfunctional (even though that was the title of the previous, much better album). The dysfunction largely came down guitarist George Lynch, who according to sources at the time, purposely sabotaged the album.  He did this to put an end to Dokken, go the claims. Don himself was very unhappy with it, as quotes from the era will reveal (look them up). He also referred to a lead vocal shot (“Here I Stand”) by bassist Jeff Pilson as too “bar band-y”, meaning the lead singer of a pro band is the lead singer, and the bassist is the bassist. Clearly, ego was an issue as well.

Kelly Gray

Kelly Gray

Not to escape without blame is producer Kelly Gray, who had just ruined the career of Sven Gali a couple years prior.  Gray produces, engineers, mixes, and even co-wrote a couple tracks.  According to Don, Mr. Gray would not let the band sing their trademark harmonies, opting for grittier more modern sounds.  Gray’s trademark distortion on the lead vocals is omnipresent.

There are very few standout tracks here, although many have good parts and interesting bits. It is difficult to remember any songs distinctly even after a few listens. The grungy “Puppet On A String” is OK, due to a blazing George Lynch guitar solo (although buried in the mix).  It has a heavy groove, but the distorted lead vocal wrecks it for me.  “Cracks in the Ground” is better, containing a shadow of the Dokken harmonies, but mired in boring melodies and production.  “I Feel” sounds like Dokken, at least.  Not really great Dokken, but Dokken nevertheless.

The Japanese, always so lucky, got two bonus tracks:  “How Many Lives” and “Deep Waters”.  Neither stand out any more than the album tracks.  Not really a bonus this time, sorry Japan.  If anything, these songs detract from the album, by making it a longer, more agonizing experience.

In general the album is too slow, too tunelessly dull, too dreary.  It’s disjointed and it’s uninspired.  Too rainy, like a dark Seattle mist.  Mick Brown does rock, at least.  There are a few heavy songs, such as “Hello”, but I think my favourite song would be the moody acoustic ballad “Convenience Store Messiah”.  It’s the only song that sounds like a fully composed, complete arrangement.

Avoid.

1/5 stars

Afterword:  I played around the idea of just writing a two word review a-la Spinal Tap (“Shit Sandwich”).  I was going to call it “Shadow Turd”.  In the end, my OCD level attention to detail refused to allow it, and the wordy essay on the art of turd-making you just read was posted instead.  I’m sorry.  (Blame Kelly Gray for that, too.)

REVIEW: A World With Heroes – A KISS Tribute for Cancer Care – A 40th Anniversary Celebration (2013)

Part 7.5 in my series on Ace Frehley, sorta!  Plenty of Ace related coolness here.  For the last part of the Ace series, 12 Picks, click here.

A World With Heroes – A KISS Tribute for Cancer Care – A 40th Anniversary Celebration

Cancer sucks.  Kiss rules.  Agreed?  Buy this CD.

Mitch Lafon executive produced this sucker, and I suspect that means a hell of a lot of work.  I have never in my travels discovered a cooler Kiss tribute album.  Do you really need to buy another Kiss tribute album?  Do you?  Yes, you do.  Why?  For the following reasons:

  • IMG_00000937Profits benefit the Vaudreuil-Soulanges Palliative Care Residence in Hudson, Quebec.
  • Obscure track selections.
  • Rare Kiss related gems, such as two Peter Criss Band demos with Phil Naro.
  • New Brighton Rock!  Finally.
  • Superstar performers including Mark Tornillo of Accept, Russ Dwarf, Don Dokken, Bonfire, Sean Kelly, Vinny Appice, L.A. Guns, Doro, and many more.
  • Members of the Kiss family including Eric Carr, Peter Criss, Frehley’s Comet (minus Frehley), Bob Kulick and Phil Naro.

I can’t say enough good things about this compilation.  Upon first sight, it had enough rarities from artists I liked, as well as Kiss obscurities, to make it a must-have.  Hearing it, I’m blown away repeatedly.  It is a heady brew of hits and deep, deep cuts.  Since there are 51 tracks in total, I can’t go into too much detail.  I’ll point out some personal favourite moments.

I’m a huge fan of the Revenge album, and I’m a huge fan of Accept.  Hearing Mark Tornillo do his thing through “Spit” was awesome.   I think the man’s vocal cords must be made of steel or something for him to sing like that.  I also loved “Sure Know Something”, although I don’t know Chris Buck & Anthony Cardenas Montana.  It’s a slinky version, very true to the original but with a Rod Stewart vibe.  Jeff Paris does a pretty authentic “Shout Mercy” and I give him full points for doing a Monster tune, the newest Kiss song on A World With Heroes.

I’ve loved Brighton Rock since I was a kid, but I never expected them to unplug “Creatures of the Night”.  This twist takes a moment to get used to, but their haunting arrangement is very original and cool!  “Larger Than Life” from Alive II is revisited by Brian Tichy and friends, and they do it pretty straight to the original, almost lick for lick.  It’s great.  I love that Ron Young from Little Caesar sings “Little Caesar”, a nice wink and a smile there.  A band called Shredmill contribute their original song “Outerspace”…which was later covered by Ace Frehley on his Anomaly album (giving himself a writing credit).  Shredmill’s version is more Danzig, where Ace’s was more Ace.

On the second CD, surprises and highlights continue.  Ron Keel and friends from Tesla and Cinderella knock it out of the park on “Rock N’ Roll Hell”, with a nod at the start to Keel’s own “The Right To Rock”.  Rick Hughes of Quebec metal masters Sword helps blow the doors off “The Oath”, a favourite from The Elder.  The L.A. Guns guys (Phil Lewis included) tackle the difficult “Master & Slave” from Carnival of Souls, and it smokes.  They do it authentic to the grungy original but with Phil’s snarky vocals.

As a Killer Dwarfs fan, I’m always pleased to hear Russ Dwarf’s nasally twang, and he turns in a decent “Hard Luck Woman”.  (Meanwhile, another bunch of L.A. Guns guys did their own version on disc one.)  Bonfire contribute a live version of Paul Stanley’s unreleased song “Sword & Stone”, from their Live at Wacken CD.  I don’t really know who American Dog are, but I love that they covered the Paul Stanley version of “God of Thunder”, not the Gene Simmons take from Destroyer.  They do it the speedy rocked-up way that Paul originally demoed.  Jim Crean does justice to “Magic Touch”.  He’s almost Joe Lynn Turner style on this one.

A WORLD WITH_0001The second CD ends with two takes of “Beth” (Chris VanDahl sounding like the hoarse Peter Criss on Alive II, and Phil Naro).  This is in addition to Michael Lardie’s (Great White) version on disc one.  Naro’s is easily the best of the three.

But wait, that’s not all, folks.  iTunes are selling a 51 track version of A World With Heroes, including 11 exclusives.  Thankfully, you can buy these exclusives separately if you already bought the CD (like I did).  Once again, highlights are many.  Doro contributes a 2013 re-recording of “Only You”, which she had a previous hit with back in 1990.  Russ Dwarf returns with an outstanding “God Gave Rock and Roll To You II”.  There are two previously unreleased demos by the Peter Criss Band with Phil Naro.  These feature Peter on drums, but believe me, you can hear that it is the Cat Man and no one else.  In addition, there’s a third song from this period, but recorded by Phil in 2013.  There is also a second version of “Larger Than Life”, this time by somebody called Robot Lords Of Tokyo.  I don’t know who Robot Lords Of Tokyo are, but I love “Larger Than Life” and I have no problem with another version of it.  This one’s done quite differently, and heavier too.

But wait!  There’s still more!  Pledgers who pre-ordered the CD got four bonus tracks.  I missed the boat on these, and you can’t get them anymore.  I’m bummed about that, but for the sake of completion, the four bonus tracks are:

  1. ‘Calling Dr. Love’ – Performed by: Crash Kelly
  2. ‘Comin’ Home’ – Performed by: Sudden Flames
  3. ‘Heaven’s On Fire’ – Performed by: The Feckers (ft. Irene Slade)
  4. ‘I Was Made For Lovin’ You’ Performed by: Alain Pernot

I’d love to have these, especially Crash Kelly, but alas.  The project is still awesome and worth your coins.  Especially if you’re a self respecting Kiss fan.  Get it.

5/5 stars

EDIT:  I now have the tracks.  Crash Kelly’s is awesome!  Fun and awesome.

Disc 1:

  1. ‘Psycho Circus’ – Performed by: DDRIVE (Phil Naro, Don Mancuso, Dave Sessions, Jt Taylor & Bobby Bond)
  2. ‘Spit’ – Performed by: Ken Dubman, Jimmy Callahan, Scott Metaxas, & Mark Tornillo
  3. ‘Deuce’ – Performed by: Bill Leverty, Kevin Valentine, John Regan, & Russ Dwarf
  4. ‘Sure Know Something’ – Performed by: Chris Buck & Anthony Cardenas Montana
  5. ‘Detroit Rock City’ – Performed by: Ron ‘Bumblefoot’ Thal, Rex Brown & Brian Tichy
  6. ‘Eyes Of Love’ – Performed by: Eric Carr, Benny Doro & John Humphrey
  7. ‘Shout Mercy’ – Performed by: Jeff Paris, Troy Lucketta, Eric Brittingham Jeff Labar
  8. ‘Creatures Of The Night’ – Performed by: BRIGHTON ROCK
  9. ‘Larger Than Life’ – Performed by: Rex Brown, Brian Tichy & Mark Zavon
  10. ‘Cold Gin’ – Performed by: Don Dokken & Tommy Denander
  11. ‘Love Gun’ – Performed by: Tony Harnell, Mark Kendall, Scott Snyder, Sean Michael Clegg, Kevin Valentine & Tommy Denander
  12. ‘Little Caesar’ – Performed by: Ron Young, John Regan & Tommy Denander
  13. ‘Hard Luck Woman’ – Performed by: Chris VanDahl, Stacey Blades & Adam Hamilton
  14. ‘Outerspace’ – Original demo later covered by Ace Frehley on his Anomaly album – Performed by: SHREDMILL (David Askew, Jesus Mendez Jr, Jaime Moreno)
  15. ‘Goodbye’ – Performed by: IMPERIA & BOB KULICK (J.K.Impera, Matti Alfonzetti, Tommy Denander & Mats Vassfjord) – Additional Guitars by Lars Chriss
  16. ‘See You Tonight’ – Performed by: TODD FARHOOD & MYSTERY (Todd Farhood, Michel St-Pere, Sylvain Moineau, Jean-Sébastien Goyette, Francois Fournier & Benoit Dupuis)
  17. ‘Beth’ – The Grand Piano Version – Performed by: Michael Lardie
  18. ‘Tomorrow’ – Performed by: DRESSED TO CHILL (Matt Bradshaw, Rav Thomas & Rhys Lett)
  19. ‘Anything For My Baby’ – Performed by: SLAVES ON DOPE (Kevin Jardine, Jason Rockman, Seb Ducap & Peter Tzaferis)
  20. ‘Unholy’ – Performed by: Fred Duvall, Glenn Belcher, Mark Slaughter (Guitar Solo), Rob Zakojc & Russ Dwarf

Disc 2:

  1. ‘Breakout’ – Performed by: Tod Howarth, John Regan & Kevin Valentine
  2. ‘Rock N Roll Hell’ – Performed by: Ron Keel, Troy Lucketta, Eric Brittingham & Jeff Labar
  3. ‘Nowhere To Run’ – Performed by: DRUCKFARBEN (Phil Naro, Ed Bernard, William Hare, Troy Feener & Peter Murray)
  4. ‘The Oath’ – Performed by: Rick Hughes, Chris Buck & Bob Richards
  5. ‘Master & Slave’ – Performed by: Adam Hamilton, Scott Griffin, Stacey Blades & Phil Lewis
  6. ‘Calling Dr.Love’ – Performed by: BURNING RAIN (Keith St John, Doug Aldrich, Sean McNabb & Matt Starr)
  7. ‘I Stole Your Love’ – Performed by: S.U.N. (Brian Thomas Tichy, Sass Jordan & Tommy Stewart) With Derek Sharp (Of The Guess Who)
  8. ‘Reason To Live’ – Performed by: Johnnie Dee & Derry Grehan of HONEYMOON SUITE with Michael Foster & Bill Leverty of FIREHOUSE
  9. ‘Hard Luck Woman’ – Performed by: Fred Duvall, Glenn Belcher, Rob Zakojc & Russ Dwarf
  10. ‘Forever’ – Performed by: Terry Ilous, Sean Kelly With Jeff Paris.
  11. ‘Sword And Stone’ – Taken From Bonfire Live In Wacken – Performed by: BONFIRE (Claus Lessmann, Hans Ziller, Chris Limburg, Uwe KöHler, Harry Reischmann)
  12. ‘God Of Thunder’ – Performed by: AMERICAN DOG (Michael Hannon, Steve Theado & Keith Pickens)
  13. ‘She’ – Performed by: RAZER (Chris Powers, Chris Catero, Jordan Ziff, Paul Sullivan, Eric Bongiorno & Chuck Alkazian)
  14. ‘New York Groove’ – Performed by: SLAVES ON DOPE (Kevin Jardine, Jason Rockman, , Elizabeth Lopez & Peter Tzaferis With Marty O’Brien)
  15. ‘Magic Touch’ – Performed by: Jim Crean, Phil Naro, Vinny Appice, Steve Major & Stan Miczek
  16. ‘Tears Are Falling’ – Performed by: Willie Basse, Bruce Bouillet, Scott Warren & Mike Hansen.
  17. ‘Rock N Roll All Nite’ – Performed by: Harley Fine, John Regan & Atom Fellows
  18. ‘Shandi’ – Performed by: Dani Luv, Scott Griffin & Matt Starr
  19. ‘Beth – Bonus Track’ – Performed by: Chris Vandahl & Scott Griffin.
  20. ‘Beth – Bonus Track’ – Performed by: Phil Naro, William Hare & Ed Bernard

iTunes exclusives:

  1. ‘No, I’m Not Afraid’ (Previously Unreleased Peter Criss Band Demo from 1991) – Performed by Peter Criss and Phil Naro
  2. ‘Wait For A Minute To Rock N’ Roll’ (Previously Unreleased Peter Criss Band Demo from 1991) – Performed by Peter Criss and Phil Naro
  3. ‘Back On The Streets’ (2013 Mix originally from Return of the Comet) – Performed by Richie Scarlet, John Regan, Tod Howarth, Arthur Stead & Steve Werner (The Comet Band)
  4. ‘Only You’ (2013 Recording) – Performed by DORO
  5. ‘God Gave Rock N Roll To You II’ – Performed by Russ Dwarf
  6. ‘I’m An Animal’ (2013 Mix originally from Return of the Comet) – Performed by the Comet Band
  7. ‘Let Me Go Rock N’ Roll’ – Performed by The Oddfathers
  8. ‘Surrender In The Name Of Love’ (Written by Peter Criss & Phil Naro) – Performed by 24K featuring Phil Naro and Mladen Alexander
  9. ‘Love Gun’ (Tommy Denander Guitar Solo Mix) – Performed by Tony Harnell, Kevin Valentine and Tommy Denander
  10. ‘Larger Than Life’ (2013 Remaster – Robot Lords Of Tokyo version) – Performed by Robot Lords Of Tokyo
  11. ‘Cold Gin’ (2013 Remaster from L.A. GUNS’ 1998 Wasted EP) – Performed by L.A. Guns