elektra

REVIEW: Paul Laine – Stick it in Your Ear (1990)

PAUL LAINE – Stick it in Your Ear (1990 Elektra)

A remarkable album by a singular talent.  Paul Laine came equipped with buckets of ability and a hell of a team.  Laine wanted Bruce Fairbairn at the producer’s desk, and through sheer determination, that’s who he got.  His debut album Stick it in Your Ear was compared to Bon Jovi, but Paul had more youthful innocence and exuberance.  Similarities are inevitable, but you can hear the difference when he starts to sing.

If you want to play the comparison game, the long dramatic intro to the song “One Step Over the Line” is similar to Bon Jovi’s “Lay Your Hands On Me”.  This tough little mid-tempo rocker gives Paul a chance to belt.  The cool keyboard accents are from an era when rockers were unafraid of a little sweetening.  It goes a bit Deep Purple during the long instrumental break — the track is over seven minutes long.

Things really kick into gear on “We Are the Young”, a legitimate rock anthem.  Laine was just a kid, so when he sang it, he meant it.  In the middle is a progressive rock keyboard break, proving Paul had many dimensions already.  Then he goes all Robert Plant in the outro!

After two pretty epic tracks in a row, Paul’s big hit “Dorianna” makes its appearance.  This irresistible little pop rocker is replete with organ intro (edited out of the single version) and shimmering guitar harmonies.  Not to mention that chorus, which will stay in your head for the rest of the day.

A power ballad, “Is It Love”, represents that best that the genre has to offer.  If you thought you’ve already heard every ballad that is worth hearing, then make room for one more.  The power chorus nails it, and that backing piano must be a Fairbairn twist.  This is followed by the most “Bon Jovi” of any of the songs, “Heart of America”.   But only if Bon Jovi could sing like a screamin’ hurricane, because the truth is, this songs blows away any of Jon’s in terms of power.  Corny lyrics, but what’s a kid from Canada going to write about?

“Main Attraction” opens a bit like Van Halen, showing off the shredding, and then breaks into a dash.  It’s the least individual of the songs, sounding the most generic, but it’s not a bad tune by any means.  Just the least impressive of nine pretty awesome tunes.

Things take a striking turn on the blues “Doin’ Time” featuring a jam with James Cotton on harmonica.  Beginning authentically, Paul soon breaks into a wicked screamin’ blues.  When James Cotton starts blowin’, the thing just goes to another level.  One of the best rock-blues tracks you’re likely to find this side of Badlands.

A big anthemic ballad called “I’ll Be There” blows the nuts off anything Jon Bon has cooked up over the years.  It’s more like Holidays In Eden era Marillion, two years early.  But that’s just a preamble to the finale:  “Break Down the Barricades”, a massive tune with enough hooks to feed an entire nation of hungry rock n’ rollers all their vitamins and minerals.

Stick it in Your Ear might be the last great debut album of the hard rock age.  While the genre suffered from too much similar product on the shelves, and was destined to be supplanted by something more edgy, this is one album that deserved a shot.  More so than some of its contemporaries by established bands entering slumps at the same time.  This is simply a very special album that started Laine on a long career that continues today.

4.5/5 stars

REVIEW: Mötley Crüe – Too Fast For Love (1981 Leathür and CD remasters)

MÖTLEY CRÜE – Too Fast For Love (Originally 1981 Leathür Records, 2003 CD reissues)

I was so lucky to grow up not with the Elektra remix of Too Fast For Love, but the original Leathür Records version. Though I didn’t know anything about it at the time, Motley Crue’s debut existed in two different versions and I had the rarer of the two on an old cassette.  The original mix released in 1981 on the band’s own label was a raw beauty.  When Elektra signed the band, Roy Thomas Baker remixed the album for worldwide reissue.  But in Canada, we received the original mix on cassette first before the remix was even released.  This was so Motley had some music to promote on their first Canadian tour.  We were very lucky.  The Elektra mix came out and eventually replaced the original on shelves.

The differences are significant, including the deletion of an entire song (“Stick To Your Guns”) from the original on the Elektra release.  For nostalgia reasons, I always preferred the Leathür mix of this album.  “Come On And Dance” for example is a completely different and much longer recording.  It must be stated the Roy Thomas Baker mix is technically the better of the two.  It’s well balanced and has the required punch.  Vocal lines are thickened up.  It will undoubtedly sound better on your high end stereo.  There is more nuance.  The changes are especially audible on songs like “Starry Eyes” and “Live Wire”, but I simply have a preference for the raw, rough version I grew up with.  There’s something to be said for independent production values.  Additionally, the track listing was jumbled and the original running order flows better, so that’s the order we’ll be discussing the songs in.

Fortunately for you, you don’t have to track down an original vinyl or even an obscure Canadian cassette release to get the original Too Fast For Love.  It was officially reissued one time only on CD, in the 2003 Motley Crue box set called Music To Crash Your Car To Volume I.  In fact that box set includes both mixes of the album, plus the related CD bonus tracks.  (Actually, the box set is only missing one song, which we’ll discuss further on.)  For the money, Music To Crash Your Car To Volume I is the best way to get “all” the tracks.

The audio for the original Leathür mix is sourced directly from original vinyl, with the tapes presumably lost.  Audiophiles take note as you will hear the telltale sound of old vinyl.


It took a while for young me to get into Too Fast For Love.  The album was generally much different from the metal assault of Shout at the Devil.  That was the Motley I was familiar with.  The basic garage glam metal of Too Fast For Love was alien to me.  When I first received the cassette, I gave it a fair shake but didn’t start clicking with it until Easter of 1986.  It was a deliberate effort on my part.  “I want to hear and appreciate this album like my friends do.”  Bob Schipper had the songs he liked:  “Live Wire” (there was a music video, but he did not like the part with Mick Mars spitting up blood), “Merry-Go-Round”, and especially “On With the Show”.

No matter which version of the album you own, we begin on “Live Wire”, a blitzkrieg of an opener with punk-like pacing.  It’s dirty and messy cocaine-fueled mayhem, and the Leathür version sounds sharper and more chaotic.  Vince Neil is so young, less seasoned and a little shrill.  But the band is on fire with Mick Mars puking out one of his trademark riffs.

The Elektra reissue goes into “Come On and Dance” here, but Leathür puts “Public Enemy # 1” second.  It’s perfectly at home in this slot.  With the careless glee of youth, the song is one of Motley’s early pop rock deep cuts.  There is a lot of pop on Too Far For Love, especially in the vocal melodies.  “Public Enemy # 1” must go back to Nikki Sixx’s days in the band London, since it’s a co-write with London’s Lizzie Grey.  It then gives way to another blitzkrieg of a riff on “Take Me To the Top”.  This turns into a choppy groove, and yet another melodic Vince Neil vocal to keep you hanging on.  There’s that pop side again.  You could isolate Vince’s vocal and turn it into a pop song.  It’s like you have this three-man wall of pounding rock with Tommy Lee, Mick Mars and Nikki Sixx slamming in unison.  But on top of that you have Vince Neil singing a candy-sweet melody.

A ballad “Merry-Go-Round” gives your ears a slight rest.  Though Nikki wrote it, Mick has a way with these kinds of chords that makes them just sound “Mars”.  This song is given an urgency by Vince who, as it turns out, was quite a great singer in his early days.  The first side closes on “Piece of Your Action”, a song that has been remixed a number of times over the years.  It’s also Vince Neil’s first co-writing credit (lyrics).  With a sharp steely riff and aggressive vocals, this song will knock down walls.

The old mix of “Starry Eyes” sounds overblown and slurred compared to the Baker version, yet that’s its charm.  “Starry Eyes” has a disco-like groove and another sugar sweet Vince Neil vocal.  Nikki Sixx doesn’t get a lot of attention as a bassist, but he’s not content just to hang around banging out a rhythm.  He likes to play melodically too, and “Starry Eyes” is a fun song to listen to him play.

Only the Leathür version has “Stick to Your Guns” at this point in the running order.  It’s a busy song with different tempos and flavours, from fast verses, to a slow and choppy chorus riff, and a funky instrumental jam out.  Perhaps it was left off the Elektra reissue because it’s a little more complex than the rest of the album.  It also might have been because the song had been issued a couple times already:  “Stick to Your Guns” was also the flipside of Motley Crue’s very first single, “Toast of the Town” (to be discussed further on).

“Come On and Dance” has a heavy riff that flows well out of “Stick to Your Guns”, but it’s the most different between the two versions of the album, so you can choose your preference.  The original is longer and the vocal is better.

Regardless of which version you own, “Too Fast For Love” is always the second-last song on the album…but in two very different mixes.  4:16 on Leathür with a unique intro, and 3:21 on Elektra, going straight into the riff.  On Leathür the slow, ballady opening acts as a feint.  Mick then cranks up an unforgettable riff, and we are off into one of Motley’s true early classics.  The primitive gang backing vocals are quaint by modern standards, but again, that’s the charm.

Finally “On With the Show” is the emotional closer.  “Frankie died just the other night, some say it was suicide, but we know how the story goes.”  In real life nobody died (yet) but “Frankie” is Frank Feranna, the birth name of Nikki Sixx.  That name was his past, and Nikki Sixx was his future.  The ride was just beginning, and this song has both a sadness and a certain amount of glee.  “But you see Frankie was fast, he was too fast to know.  He wouldn’t go slow until his lethal dose.”  That part turned out to be somewhat prophetic.  Regardless, “On With the Show” is the fist-pounding pop metal album closer needed for a record like Too Fast For Love.  If you’re headbanging along with it, the you should feel well pooped out by the end!


In 1999, Motley Crue began reissuing all their albums on CD in a series called Crucial Crue on Motley Records, but the end result was disappointing.  The bonus tracks varied in quality, but the real problem was that each CD was given an additional bonus track in Japan, and they were pretty good ones too.  Fortunately this was rectified in 2003 with yet another series of reissues, adding the Japanese bonus tracks.  The box set Music To Crash Your Car To Volume I has all this bonus material as well.  For Too Fast For Love, the Japanese bonus track that was restored in 2003 was a live version of “Merry-Go-Round” recorded in San Antonio with an obviously very young Vince Neil on vocals.  Though the singing is shaky live, it’s a genuine live recording capturing the band at this early stage of their careers.

“Toast of the Town” was one of those song titles I kept hearing about as a kid, but nobody I knew had ever heard the first ever Motley Crue single.  According to the liner notes in the box set, this single was only given away at shows in L.A. for a limited time.  Both it and its B-side “Stick to Your Guns” are restored on the CD reissues as bonus track.  “Toast of the Town”, like Too Fast For Love itself, is a pop rocker with punch.

An unreleased song called “Tonight” is actually a Raspberries cover (there’s that pop side again).  And it’s bloody awesome.  They were already halfway there by covering it, but they made it work with their sound, basically just by adding distortion and turning it all up.  It sounds like this version was fully recorded and produced for release, so why it wasn’t, we don’t know.  Too pop?  Perhaps.

The last bonus track to discuss is “Too Fast For Love” with the alternate intro.  This is the same intro as on the Leathür version of the album, but it sounds like it was mixed to the higher standards of the Elektra version.  Regardless, there are three distinct versions of the song for you to enjoy.

One track is missing from these releases.  The one from this same era that they neglected to include is called “Nobody Knows What It’s Like to Be Lonely”.  Its only official release to date is as a bonus track on a 20 year old Motley Crue live DVD.  At seven minutes long, it plods along with a deliberate and heavy groove.  Nikki Sixx has praised the guitar work of Mick Mars, and it has a bizarrely funky drum breakdown at the end.  In order to get the complete picture of this era of Motley Crue, track down “Nobody Knows What It’s Like to Be Lonely”.  You can understand how a seven minute song didn’t make an album release, though it is certainly well overdue for a re-release on any format other than DVD.


Any way you go, Leathür or Elektra, CD or vinyl, or bloody Canadian cassette tape, Too Fast For Love is a hell of a debut album.  Few bands have as many haters as Motley Crue, but this album is an innocent reckless joy.  Shout at the Devil sounds contrived by comparison, with Motley Crue adopting a doomier metal sound and dropping the pop-punk pretences.  As good as Shout at the Devil undoubtedly is, this one sounds far more natural.  It’s the real deal.  This is the Crue laying it down hard, fast, getting it done quick and not messing around.  Love it or hate it.  I know how I feel.

5/5 stars

REVIEW: Motley Crue – Swine Sampler (1997 promo)

MOTLEY CRUE – Swine Sampler (1997 Elektra promo EP)

Promo CDs are a funny thing.  Any promotional CD that you have ever seen or owned was free at some point in its life.  Since promos were intended to be play copies, or giveaways, selling them was highly frowned upon.  When I say “frowned upon” I mean illegal though not heavily enforced.  So it is funny that this 23 year old Motley Crue promo has “STOLEN FROM CKWR” (the very station that hosts Rob Daniels’ Visions In Sound), written on the disc in black marker.  I did my duty and reported it to CKWR just now, but weirdly enough they could care less!

The real crime here is the “clean” version of a Motley Crue song from Generation Swine, and it is an absolute hatchet job.  Unlistenable.

Why would you even bother with a “clean version” of “Find Myself”?  The very second line in the song is “I gotta find myself some BEEP”!  (The word was “drugs”!)  The first line of the chorus is “I’m a sick mother BEEP er!”  Utterly ridiculous.  You’d think someone would have played it once and said “this is unreleasable”.  I counted seven beeps in under three minutes.

If you prefer, the “dirty” version of “Find Myself” is on the CD too.  Why was the record company Elektra pushing that song so hard?  It’s a weird punky track with Nikki Sixx on vocals for the verses, with the returning Vince Neil handling the choruses.  Not the kind of thing you’d really think to push at fans all excited about Vince coming back, right?  But here it is, twice.  Though the chorus is good, I’m not going out on a limb by calling this song “shitty”.  Or BEEP-y!

Much, much, much better are the album tracks “Let Us Prey” and “Shout at the Devil ’97”.   First, “Let Us Prey”.  This is the only track that sounds like a progression from the ’94 self-titled album with John Corabi.  Crabby even has a writing credit on it, and who knows, maybe that’s him screaming “Let us hunt!”  Tommy Lee did that, according to Tommy Lee, but I think it sounds like John.  It was certainly written for John to sing.  “Shout ’97” is a cool remake of a song that didn’t need remaking, but it was 1997 so what’re ya gonna do?  Added samples and a dance-y beat made it pretty irresistible.  Mick Mars threw down some cool new licks here, although the droning guitars are very dated.  Still, passing grade for “Shout ’97”.

Even though this CD has two good tunes out of four tracks, the “clean” one is such an atrocity that this gets:

0/5 stars

and the dreaded Flaming Turd.

 

REVIEW: Joe Lynn Turner – Rescue You (1985)

jlt-ryJOE LYNN TURNER – Rescue You (1985 Elektra)

Post-Rainbow, Joe Lynn Turner embarked upon a solo career.  With the last Rainbow drummer Chuck Burgi on hand, Joe debuted his solo self with Rescue You in 1985 on Elektra.  Roy Thomas Baker, best known for his work with Queen, worked on the production.  All songs were written by Joe and guitarist Alan Greenwood.  The direction was heavy on keyboards, and sampled drum sounds.  The only thing in common with Rainbow is the voice.

That voice cannot be mistaken.  Nobody can sing soul-driven broken hearted AOR rock like Joe Lynn Turner.  Opening track “Losing You” fits this description like a glove.  The samples and keyboards are occasionally distracting, but the melodies are strong.  Joe has always been a fine writer.  Perhaps Journey should have knocked on Joe’s door for some help when they were struggling to come up with Raised On Radio.  The second song, “Young Hearts” is pure pop rock like Steve Perry did on Street Talk in 1984.

“Endlessly” was the single/video, a keyboard rock ballad, and a decent one at that, but it is overwhelmed by the title track. “Rescue You” is once again very keyboard heavy, but rocks better than anything else on the album. It has a European flavour, sounding a bit like some of the material Glenn Hughes was doing in the 1980s. Back to the Americas, “Feel the Fire” is a bit limp, but sounds like something that could have been played on radio.

The LP continued on side two with “Get Tough” which isn’t that at all. The toughest thing about it is Burgi’s excellent drumming at the start. The bassline sounds like “Livin’ on a Prayer” but before that song was ever conceived. One gets the feeling that many of these songs could have been hits if only recorded by someone more famous. “Eyes of Love” is a decent moody mid-tempo song, and Joe sounds awesome on it. “On the Run” is a bit more upbeat, boasting a strong chorus that’s as good as anything on Slippery When Wet.  Moving into Purple territory, “Soul Searcher” could have fit in well on their Slaves and Masters LP.  One almost aches to hear what Blackmore and Lord would have added to it.  Going into the closer, “The Race is On” really has the life sucked from it with the keys and samples.  You can distinctly hear a heavy blazing rocker desperately trying to get out.  The recorded song sounds half-arsed, with those unnecessary keys taking up valuable sonic ground.

Not a bad solo debut from Joe, but certainly inferior to the Rainbow that came before and the Purple that came after.

3/5 stars

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Songs written by Greenwood/Turner except noted

“Losing You” – 4:25
“Young Hearts” – 3:52
“Prelude” (Newman, Turner) – 0:56
“Endlessly” – 3:40
“Rescue You” – 4:31
“Feel the Fire” – 3:28

“Get Tough” (Delia, Turner) – 4:33
“Eyes of Love” (Turner) – 3:49
“On the Run” – 3:53
“Soul Searcher” (Greenwood, Newman, Turner) – 4:08
“The Race Is On” – 3:23

REVIEW: Mötley Crüe – Girls, Girls, Girls (2003 remastered edition)

girlsMÖTLEY CRÜE – Girls, Girls, Girls (originally 1987, 2003 remaster)

The Tom Werman-produced Girls, Girls, Girls album is a bit underrated.  Its weaknesses are fairly obvious, but its strengths are less appreciated.  The Crue were coming off a bit of a stinker (Theater of Pain), so some changes were in order.  The band dropped the makeup and spandex in favour of a tougher street-ready look.  The intended direction this time was a bit of a combo of the first three Crue album.  They wanted the rawness of Too Fast For Love, the heaviness of Shout at the Devil, and the sleaze of Theater.  There was no reinvention of the wheel, nor was anybody in the band capable of that.  Nikki Sixx was deep into a heroin problem at this time, barely focused on the music at all.  This has been documented in his graphic book The Heroin Diaries.  Much of his time was spent hiding in a closet with a gun, afraid of imaginary intruders.

As an audience in 1987, we really did not suspect that things were such a shambles behind the scenes.  The band looked good, and sounded like they had rediscovered the skills of writing memorable songs.  Case in point:  opening track (and second single) “Wild Side”.  Boasting the kind of rock groove that Motley made their trademark, “Wild Side” rocked.  They even threw in a time change on the bridge.  “Wild Side” was augmented with a cool music video, showcasing the Motley stage show in 1987.  This included a spinning, upside down Tommy Lee drum kit.  “Girls, Girls, Girls” was a video too, but it never saw airplay up in Canada. Too risqué for the frozen tundra of the north?  It too was a hit, played live in concert right to Motley’s final show (opening number, in fact).

The album was rounded out by a number of cool, sleazy rock tracks and a couple ballads.  “Dancing On Glass” kicks; it’s pretty much an autobiographical track about living in the fast lane.  This is something the Crue were well acquainted with.

“Silver spoon and needle,
Witchy tombstone smile,
I’m no puppet, 
I engrave my veins with style.”

Since the cassette didn’t come with a lyric sheet, kids of the 80’s (or at least the parents of the 80’s) probably had no idea what Vince was singing about.  The song is given some traditional rock cred with soulful female backing vocals and boogie piano.

“Bad Boy Boogie” continued the theme, this time with some tasty Mick Mars slide guitar instead of piano.  “Better lock up your daughters when the Motleys hit the road.”  The song is a series of sexual innuendos, cleverness put to the side in favour of blunt sleaze.  “Got my finger in the pie, my hand in the cookie jar.”  Aerosmith leaks through the grooves on “Bad Boy Boogie” which wears its influence on its sleeve.  The good times continue to bounce on “Five Years Dead”, loaded with more of Mick’s greasy slide.  It’s a similar song to “Sumthin’ for Nuthin'”, which is even more fun.  This time Vince is a gigolo, getting paid for pleasure (sumthin’ for nuthin’)!  “Leave the money where it’s easy to see,” he sings with glee.  It’s brilliant Motley filth just the way you like it.  Best of all is the smokin’ “All in the Name Of…”, which pours high octane fuel in the tank and opens ‘er up wide.  It’s sleazier than sleazy:  “She’s only 15, she’s the reason, the reason I can’t sleep.  You say illegal, I say legal’s never been my scene.”  Probably a true story….

There are only two ballads, one of which is just 1:26 of filler (“Nona”).  The other is the very entertaining “You’re All I Need”, which sounds inspired by Alice Cooper.  It is a delicate piano based murder ballad, like the Coop has done so well.  “You’re All I Need” isn’t Coop quality, but on the Motley scale it’s one of their better ballads.  It has an anthemic quality, a pompous melancholy.  The lyrics doomed it to semi-obscurity, which is too bad, since on the whole it’s a stronger song than the better known “Without You”.

Unfortunately for this album, “Nona” was not the only filler.  An excruciating (and live?!) cover of “Jailhouse Rock” ends the album on a pretty putrid note.  It’s not good at all, and reeks of weakness.  Why would you end your new album with a cover, and a live cover at that?  Only because you didn’t have enough quality tunes to make the cut.

The 2003 remastered edition of Girls, Girls, Girls came with bonus tracks, like all the albums in the Crucial Crue collection.  Three of them are instrumental versions, bordering on filler material.  Motley Crue are not Rainbow or Marillion — you don’t get much out of an instrumental version.  “Nona” did once have a rock section in its longer demo form.  More entertaining than the demos is the band and Tom Werman intro. Funny stuff.  Then there is a long sought ballad “Rodeo”.  This song was first mentioned in band interviews in 1989, when it was mentioned for possible inclusion on a never-released album called Motley Crue: The Ballads.  The demo here is not very well fleshed out, but you can hear that it had a cool chorus ready to go.  Finally there is a live version for “All in the Name Of…” from Moscow in 1989.  Fans may recall that Motley played at the infamous Moscow Music Peace Festival…shortly before Tommy attacked Jon Bon Jovi and ripped the shirt off his back.  Peace and love, man!

Although the Crue were only firing on a couple cylinders at the time, they managed to piece together a worthwhile album.  There are only two mis-steps, which are “Nona” and “Jailhouse Rock”.  The remastered edition adds a couple more worthwhile bonus tracks to extend your listening experience.  Go for that one if you find it first.

3.5/5 stars

Side one
1. “Wild Side” 4:40
2. “Girls, Girls, Girls” 4:30
3. “Dancing on Glass” 4:18
4. “Bad Boy Boogie” 3:27
5. “Nona” 1:27

Side two
6. “Five Years Dead” 3:50
7. “All in the Name Of…” 3:39
8. “Sumthin’ for Nuthin'” 4:41
9. “You’re All I Need” 4:43
10. “Jailhouse Rock” (live) 4:39

2003 Remastered Edition bonus tracks
11. “Girls, Girls, Girls” (Tom Werman & band intro, rough mix of instrumental track) 5:38
12. “Wild Side” (rough mix of instrumental track) 4:06
13. “Rodeo” (unreleased track) 4:14
14. “Nona” (instrumental demo idea) 2:42
15. “All in the Name Of…” (live in Moscow) 5:02