Drew Masters

REVIEW: Raw M.E.A.T 3 – Various Artists (1992)

RAW M.E.A.T 3 (1992 M.E.A.T Magazine)

Raw M.E.A.T 1 and 2 were released simultaneously, but I stupidly didn’t buy 2 because it was all thrash, and I hadn’t grown into metal that heavy just yet.   I missed out on an early Varga track and who knows what else.  Raw M.E.A.T. 3, released a couple years later, had a bit of all metal styles.  Even a Christian metal band!  15 new groups (and one repeat) put their money on the line to prove that Canada had world class rock bands.

Unfortunately this CD will simply not play (or rip) correctly in any computer.  Try it yourself and good luck with that.

Russian Blue were the lone band who also appeared on Raw M.E.A.T 1; an excellent band who easily could have been the next superstars.  From their second self-titled demo tape is “Mama’s Love”, a brilliant groove that explodes on the chorus.  Russian Blue were just a little ahead of the times, and “Mama’s Love” eschews any trappings of outdated hair metal.

Another established indi band on the CD was Deadline, second up in the running order.  A new version of “Friction Addiction”, originally from their self-titled CD, was slickly produced and blew away the original.  Singer Tim Wood was certainly versatile, here doing his best Mike Patton circa The Real Thing.

As usual, Raw M.E.A.T CDs boast plenty of highlights.  Raw Trixx, from Calgary Alberta, had the glam rock chops and impeccable harmonies.  They were just a little behind the times, or just sticking to their guns!  Similarly with Slam Glory who clearly had a Skid Row thing going on.  Another goodie is the Cult-like “Blackhearted Man” by No Morals.  Lead singer Beau appeared on Raw M.E.A.T 1 with his previous band Trouble In Mind.  With No Morals, there was a darker edge involved.  He just sounded too much like Ian Astbury to avoid comparisons.  Then there’s Hamilton’s Overlord, with a very cool track called “Never Enough” that could have been a breakout song.  Solid groove, no compromises, and yet could have been played on the air in the grunge era.

There’s only one female member in any of the Raw M.E.A.T bands.  Tryton’s Nina Zzo had a Lee Aaron vibe, and their song “Burning the Cradle” absolutely kills.  World class indeed, with groove and hooks.  What happened to all these talented people?

The most impressive song clocks in at almost seven minutes.  It’s a very 90s, somewhat progressive epic called “Illusion” by Justin Sane.  This mysterious quartet recorded their track at the legendary Metalworks in Mississauga.  This is the kind of rock and roll that really hit the spot for me at the time.  It combined the trappings of the old with the style of the new.  Blazing hot solos are mixed with groove, key changes, melody, and complexity in a potent whole.  If there was only one winner on Raw M.E.A.T 3, it was Justin Sane.

But there are lots of winners actually, and so if you like hard rock and heavy metal, you’d do well to seek it out.

3.5/5 stars

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Gallery: LeBrain Day Fun

Another spin ’round the sun, another basket full of goodies!

Thank you everyone for the birthday wishes.  Here are some of my favourites.  You might recognise some of these people!

 

 

 

 

 

Had a lovely dinner at Borealis with the family & Dr. Kathryn.  And so we get to the gifts!

First up!  A signed first edition copy of Dr. Ladano’s The Improvising Musician’s Mask:  Using Musical Instruments to Build Self-Confidence and Social Skills in Collective Free Improvisation.  That’s a mouthful and a generous gift.  These books aren’t cheap, even for her!  The funny thing is that when I grabbed the wrapped hardcover-shaped package, I said “I hope this is a copy of your book,” but I didn’t actually think it would be out so soon!

Dr. Kathryn also gifted me some music.  Ho!  It’s Derek Smalls’ debut solo album Smalls Change!  Appropriately considering the occasion, it is subtitled Meditations Upon Ageing.  I can’t wait to spin this one.  She also got me this nifty Worf (Star Trek) not-Lego head.  These look great in the office.  I have Spock as well.

The lovely Mrs. LeBrain was amazing to me as well.  She trekked up to Encore Records where she met my old pals Al “The” King and Chris Boyne.  They hooked her up with some live Ghost, on vinyl.  This is my first Ghost vinyl.  Ceremony and Devotion is a great album, and the vinyl has two “exclusive” songs…that are also on the CD!  Anybody know what’s up with that?

It doesn’t really matter.  Double live albums have a certain intangible quality that almost always makes them better on vinyl.  Scientists have been trying to figure out why that is since the advent of digital media.

Since my wife also dresses me, check out the cool shirts.  I think I’m going to wear that getup to work tomorrow.  Han Solo and BB-8 look awesome together.

Thanks again everyone for the happy birthday wishes.  I keep getting older, and you keep getting awesome-er!

 

 

REVIEW: Raw M.E.A.T 1 – Various Artists (1990)

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RAW M.E.A.T 1 (1990 M.E.A.T Magazine)

Drew Masters’ legendary metal magazine M.E.A.T took a lot of pride in promoting Canadian talent.  The next logical step was putting out a CD featuring the best of the best in unsigned Canadian rock and metal.  The flagship band was Toronto’s Slash Puppet.  On this first volume, only groups from the province of Ontario signed up.   Even though the talent all came from a small region in and around Toronto (with one exception), it’s a surprisingly diverse selection of styles.

I look at Raw M.E.A.T as a first tapping of an oil reserve.  It was a gusher.  So much untapped raw talent, unheard in suburbs.

“Slow Down” by Slash Puppet was previously issued on their indi tape, but Raw M.E.A.T 1 was its first issue on CD.  The track has been described as Motorhead meets Faster Pussycat and that still fits the bill.  Lead singer Anthony J. Mifsud was the sandpaper throat to go with the rough and tumble music.  You can hear why there was such a buzz around Slash Puppet.  They had pro-level tunes and performance. All they needed was a break.

Most Raw M.E.A.T buyers knew what they were getting with Slash Puppet. The rest of the tunes were uncharted territory.

Eiffel Power, from Taranna, knocked it out with “City Action”.  Singer Lionel Lois  had ample range and lung capacity for this fun metal shuffle, very current for the time.  Think of Extreme’s first album but with more muscle.  Then there’s the instantly likeable “Feel Me Sweet” by Brampton’s own Ragadee Anne.  Yes, it’s true:  coming up with names for bands isn’t always easy, but “Feel Me Sweet” kicks.  One reason they sound so professional is due to the production by Tom Treumuth (Triumph), surely an advantage in the studio.  Glam rock with bite and youthful innocence sure sounds good.

Blackglama (Toronto) take it to the streets with the rock/rap hybrid of “Playin’ Hardball (With the Big Boys)”.  This was just a year or two ahead of its time, though director Bruce McDonald used it in his 1991 film Highway 61  (but not the soundtrack CD).  The next group, Washington Wives, bring it to immaculately composed AOR rock.  “Memoirs, Etc.” has backing vocals from Phil Naro, from just across the border in Buffalo.  Naro is best known for Talas and his work with Kiss’ Peter Criss.  “Memoirs, Etc.” is vaguely familiar, as if you’ve heard its like on the radio before (Journey? Night Ranger?), but there’s no question this track was hit-ready.  Zero fat content, this is all meat of the most melodic variety.

Short Avenue has another “name” attached, that being “Scarpelli”.  Guitarist Gene Scarpelli is the son of Gino, of Toronto’s Goddo.  Short Avenue sounds nothing like Goddo, rather more like some tough street punks ready to mix it up.  With hindsight, they sound like precursors to The Four Horsemen.  “Push Comes to Shove” is right in the same vein as the Horsemen’s “Rockin’ is Ma Business”.  From the Horsemen to the Cult:  The Cult have always been big in Canada.  First impressions are that Trouble In Mind (Toronto) were very inspired by Ian Astbury.  Regardless, their track “Sweet Addictions” is album quality.  Lead singer Beau (just “Beau”) turned up on a later instalment of the Raw M.E.A.T series, but that’s another story.

We depart Toronto momentarily for a trip to the nation’s capitol.  Ottawa’s Antix had been self-releasing vinyl since 1986, and “Kick It Up” was a new track.  With a Van Halen shuffle, their track hits the right spots, but suffers from inadequate production.   It’s unfortunate that the most experienced band has one of the poorest sounding tracks on the CD.

Russian Blue received their first major exposure via Raw M.E.A.T, and thanks to their incredible song “Once a Madman”, they gained a cult following.  They were a double threat:  a magnificent singer and a terrific guitar player.   Vocalist Jo E. Donner found himself compared to a young Robert Plant.  Richard Gauci backed that up with memorable guitar hooks.  “Once a Madman” gets the job done in just 3:15, leaving behind an unforgettable and unique rocker that begs for repeat listens.  One reason it sounds so good?  Produced by a pre-fame Harry Hess of Harem Scarem.

The next band, Zyle, sound like they were going for a traditional metal sound.  The Scorpions come to mind immediately, as does fellow Canadian rockers White Wolf.  They needed a bit more originality.  The guitar solo directly quotes Randy Rhoads, too close for comfort.  But then it’s The Remains with something a little more street punk.  A variation of the classic Peter Gunn riff, “Too Much” is actually never enough.  It’s the right mixture of middle finger and middle eight.

Hanging out just down the QEW are Hamilton and Oakville, from which come the last two groups.  Cathouse prove that you can never have enough permutations of the classic Van Halen shuffle.  “In For the Kill” nails it, with a vocalist who seems like equal parts Skid Roper and Rob Halford.  Finally, Oakville’s Johannes Linstead is best known today for his flamenco guitar albums.  He didn’t start there!  Wildside (later to become Gypsy Jayne) are about that sleaze rock.  You can hear that the guitarist is something special, though you wouldn’t predict the future from this one track.

It’s difficult to be objective, even though so many years have passed since Raw M.E.A.T 1.   Many (if not most) of these bands had potential.  Toronto in the early 90s was ready to explode as “the next Seattle”, but there was no “next Seattle”.  12 of these 13 songs are really fondly remembered, with one just needing a little more originality.

4.5/5 stars

 

REVIEW: White Lion – The Best Of (1992)

WHITE LION – The Best Of (1992 Atlantic)

I’m going to keep it short and sweet this time, and defer to a 1992 review by M.E.A.T Magazine’s Drew Masters (issue 38, Nov. 92):

BEST OF WHITE LION_0001

He’s right.  I don’t agree with the single M rating though; these are mostly good tunes.  They’re sequenced awkwardly as fuck though.  The flow on this disc is just completely fucked.  The songs don’t work in the sequence they’re in.  And Drew is correct in inferring that many of White Lion’s prouder, heavier moments are missing.   Vito smokes on the live tracks, but Tramp can’t hit the notes.  Buy Pride, not this.

2/5 stars

REVIEW: Dio – Lock Up the Wolves (1990)

DIO – Lock Up the Wolves (1990)

July 1990: A M.E.A.T. Magazine interview (issue #14) with Ronnie James Dio states that he was unhappy with Dream Evil, one of my favourite Dio albums. He felt the songwriting was unfinished, that the songs needed tightening up. Supposedly some of the changes he made were a response to that. If that’s indeed the case, then Lock of the Wolves came as a total shock. These songs feel even less finished than any Dio album before.

Dio had completely revamped his band. Craig Goldy (guitar) was the first one to leave. Apparently Vinnie Appice, Jimmy Bain and Claude Schnell didn’t care for Goldie, but they all ended up departing too. Ronnie was no longer happy with the writing process nor the dischord that had set into the making of Dream Evil.  Because of these circumstances he was able to revamp the entire Dio lineup but not by choice.

Ronnie took on a young and international crew: Swedish Jens Johansson on keyboards (ex-Yngwie Malmsteen), new York kid Teddy Cook on bass, ex-AC/DC skin-pounder Simon Wright, and the young 17 year old Scot, Rowan Robertson as his new guitar wizard. Robertson won the role after a cattle-call resulted in 5000 tapes sent to Dio for his consideration.  The end combination was a band of skilled players, but lacking in road-tested chemistry. Plus the pressure was certainly on Robertson, having guitarists like Vivian Campbell and Richie Blackmore writing the solos you were going to be playing.

About half the album was written when Bain and Appice were still in the band, and they appear on several writing credits. Robertson has a co-write on every song, and Jens Johansson has two, while new bassist Cook has one. Regardless of the numerous writers, the album is very singular in its direction. That is to say Lock Up the Wolves is a painfully sloooowww Dio album.

I was very disappointed that there are only a couple fast rockers to keep the blood pumping. The first track, “Wild One”, fools you into thinking this album will be a rocking good time full of tasty guitar hooks and wicked Dio lyrics. However, “Born On The Sun”, while boasting a great chorus melody, sags and droops. “Hey Angel” and “Between Two Hearts” are more of the same. I kept waiting for another fast song, or just something different to keep me awake. I had realized that Lock Up the Wolves is loaded with boring pseudo-bluesy riffs, slow to the point of coma-inducing.

The only slow tunes that really have spark of any kind are the monstrous title track (over 8 minutes of drama) and the ballady “My Eyes”. “My Eyes” is my personal favourite track on the album, and perhaps worth the price of purchase if you can find the album cheap. It’s also fun to play the game “How many of Dio’s other song titles are in the lyrics?” with this one.  The CD-only bonus track “Why Are They Watching Me” is the only other serious fast rocker on the album, and I have no idea why it was the CD-only bonus track, because the album desperately needed a kick in the pants.

And that is Lock Up the Wolves in a nutshell. Approximately 50 minutes of slow, pseudo-bluesy guitar and dull rhythms. About 10 minutes of heavy metal. That’s it.

I do love the cover art.

2/5 stars

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