REVIEW: I Mother Earth – Scenery and Fish (1996)

I MOTHER EARTH – Scenery and Fish (1996 EMI)

Some albums that mean everything to some, can mean nothing to others.  Take a look at Scenery and Fish.

I Mother Earth’s second album gets a slew of 4 and 5 star ratings on the Canadian Amazon.  Yet I don’t get it and never have.  I was on the I Mother Earth train very early, before their first album came out.  I loved the modern heaviness of the band.  With the tribal and funk influences seeping through, I Mother Earth put out a seriously impressive debut album:  a Canadian classic.  As any band should, they mixed it up a bit on the second album.

In early 1996 I received a promo CD for the first single from the second album, “One More Astronaut”, with the album version and a 4:35 edit.  It didn’t seem too different, maybe just a bit more concise than some of the first album’s longer jams.  This isn’t indicative of the album in general, which is a wild ride of different styles.

The exotic percussion (by Luis Conte and Daniel Mansilla) is still intact, melded with the funk bass, but the overall sound is very different.  Paul Northfield’s production is cleaner and slicker than Mike Clink’s on the first LP.  He still enables to band to exercise their instruments unfettered, but perhaps with a more radio friendly backing.

Although I’ve tried over and over again through the past two decades to let Scenery and Fish “click”, it just won’t.  Other fans certainly have their favourite tracks:  “Like a Girl”, “Raspberry”, “Used to be Alright”, “Another Sunday”.  These are indeed some of the best tracks on the album, yet I struggled to remember how they go.  “Another Sunday”, for example has an incredible blast of hooks for a chorus, but no memorable verses.  Maybe this album is too thick with musical ideas and passages for the average mortal.

But that’s just me.  You might think I’m nuts.  There are those who think I Mother Earth can do no wrong, but fans in general love Scenery and Fish, while I simply don’t get it.  I’ll always enjoy “One More Astronaut” and “Like a Girl”, which by the way features a friend of theirs named Alex from some band called Rush.

2/5 stars



REVIEW: Deep Purple – In Rock (Anniversary edition)

In collaboration with 1001albumsin10years

DEEP PURPLE – In Rock (1970, 1995 EMI anniversary edition)

Deep Purple In Rock:  The title speaks mountains about the music.  They didn’t want there to be any question regarding what kind of band Deep Purple were.  The first version of the band, Deep Purple Mk I, made three psychedelic but still clearly rock and roll albums.  Wanting to rock harder, they ditched singer Rod Evans and bassist Nick Simper, and brought aboard Ian Gillan and Roger Glover.  However the first album released by Deep Purple Mk II was…Concerto for Group and Orchestra?  There was also a wishy-washy gospel rock single called “Hallelujah” that went nowhere.  Indeed, there was some confusion in terms of public perception.  In Rock was designed from the start to reaffirm.

With In Rock, producer Martin Birch commenced a long and fruitful relationship with Deep Purple.  The single was a track called “Black Night” which, oddly enough, wasn’t on the album.  It was a response to a record label request for a single, so the band nicked the bassline from Gershwin and wrote a simple rock track with nonsensical lyrics.  It was an immediate hit.  Appropriately, the original single version of “Black Night” is included on this 25th anniversary edition of In Rock.

The B-side to “Black Night” was an edited version of opening album track, “Speed King”.  The full length version was even edited down for some releases of the In Rock album, except in the UK.  Almost a minute of noisy instrumental freakout explosively starts the full enchilada.  This leads to a calming, light Jon Lord organ, misleading you into thinking the onslaught is over.  Think again.

“Speed King” is a quintessential Deep Purple track, cementing their instrumental prowess and lyrical credentials.  The sheer velocity of the track alone packs a whallop, but the sonics are just as powerful.  “Speed King” has a deep, gut-punching heaviness.  There is also a long instrumental section, custom built for the jam-loving audiences of the era.  The words are cut and pasted from classic rock and roll hits in one stream of consciousness.  The best word for “Speed King” is “exhausting”.  Listening through feels like you just finished a sprint.  The band were trying to capture the same vibe as Jimi Hendrix’s “Fire”, but overdid it just a smidge!

And what of that new singer?  Ian Gillan didn’t get to do much screaming in his previous band (with Glover), Episode Six.  In Deep Purple, his unmistakable wail sets world records for pitch and volume.  Without Ian Gillan, there would be no Bruce Dickinson, and therefore Iron Maiden could never have existed as we know it today.  In Rock features Ian at his peak powers.   Nobody can touch In Rock, not even Bruce in his prime.

“Bloodsucker” is a vintage, grinding organ-based groove.  In Rock has a very bass-heavy mix, but clear and defined.  This helps the low growling Hammond combine with Roger Glover’s pulsing bass to form a wave of sound.  Ride that wave on “Bloodsucker”, with a cool double-tracked Gillan vocal that keeps the thing slightly off-balance.  Drummer Ian Paice can never be underappreciated, and in 1970 he was one of the hardest hitters on the field.  “Bloodsucker” leaves  massive Yeti footprints because  of that beat.

One of the most important songs in the Deep Purple canon is “Child in Time”, a 10 minute composition of light and shade that transforms as you listen.  As it begins gently, Ian Gillan gets to utilize the soothing side of his voice.  “Child in Time” is almost a lullaby…until it is not.  Wait for the ricochet.  This album is called Deep Purple In Rock after all.  Not Deep Purple In Bed or Deep Purple At Church.

In 1970, this would have been the moment you get up and flip the record.  To do that, you would have to peel yourself from the floor.

The second side of In Rock features lesser played tracks, but no less impressive.  “Flight of the Rat” takes off amidst a Blackmore guitar rocket riff.  Though fast, it is a step off the pedal from “Speed King” and with enough vocal melody to keep one hanging on.  Lord and Blackmore both solo, fighting to be champion but with no clear winner.  All the while, Glover and Paice keep the pulse going through the time changes.  Then it is “Into the Fire”, a rarely played unsung classic that the band resurrected on tour in 2000 and 2014.  Bopping heavily along, “Into the Fire” will burn if you let it.  Then the drums of “Living Wreck” fade in, with a incredibly deep natural echo that you feel in the bones.  The snare sound rings sharp.  “Living Wreck” was actually one of the first tracks taped, and just listen to Ritchie Blackmore’s tone on the lead solo!  This is truly a triumph of studio recordings.

Finally “Hard Loving Man” closes In Rock with one of the heaviest Purple riffs in their history.  Deep Purple invented the heavy metal chug on “Hard Loving Man”.  Meanwhile Jon Lord contributes to the sludge by hitting as many keys simultaneously as he seemingly can!  What a track, and much like “Speed King” at the start, it leaves you beaten and out of breath.

No Deep Purple album has come close to In Rock for brute strength.  The band and Martin Birch truly captured something special in the studio, back when that meant finding the right amp for the right instrument in the right room.  It’s much like alchemy, only real.  In Rock is an artifact of the way they used to do it, and evidence of why it can’t seem to be repeated.  The monument on the album cover was an apt indicator of what the new Deep Purple sounded like.

The 25th anniversary edition contains a wealth of bonus material, interspersed with amusing studio chat, such as:

Jon Lord (singing):  “I smashed the microphooooone.”

Martin Birch:  “Are you going to hit it again?”

Jon Lord:  “I don’t think so.”

In addition to the original single “Black Night”, there is a fascinating alternate take of “Speed King”.  The band were toying with a version featuring piano instead of organ, which completely changed its character.  This version was recorded and accidentally released on a single instead of the proper one.  Here it is as a bonus track, showing you a work in progress and what could have been.

Then we have a Roger Glover remix of “Cry Free”, one of the earliest songs recorded (30 takes total) but ultimately rejected.  It was first released on the 1977 posthumous Deep Purple album Power House, one of many releases that EMI put out during the period the band were broken up.  Glover oversaw remixes of many of Deep Purple’s reissues beginning here.  The differences are subtle but not unnoticeable.  Glover also remixed “Black Night” (more on that later), “Flight of the Rat” and “Speed King” (including intro) for these bonus tracks.  They might be described as “fuller sounding”.  “Black Night” was expanded to include a previously unheard outro.  Then there is “Jam Stew”, an instrumental with a chicken-pickin’ lick that has been all but forgotten.  It was played for the BBC once with improvised vocals; that version can be found on BBC Sessions 1968-1970.  Ritchie used the riff later in 1970 for a side project album called Green Bullfrog.

With these bonus tracks, the In Rock anniversary edition is expanded from 43 to 78 minutes.  For fans that needed every last morsel, there was still one more release to be found.  To coincide with the anniversary edition in 1995, EMI released a limited and numbered CD single of “Black Night”.  (How many made?  I don’t know, but I have #2908.)  This three track single has two versions not on the In Rock CD:  a single edit of the “Black Night” Glover remix, and a “matching mix” by Glover of “Speed King”.  This “matching mix” seems to be an edited remix without the noisy intro.  They’re not essential except to the collector.

To date, this 1995 anniversary edition is still the only expanded edition of In Rock.  With the rare photos and expansive Simon Robinson essay inside, it is the obvious definitive edition, 22 years reigning strong.  They even tried to get Ritchie Blackmore involved with the reissue.  He offered one quote for the booklet:  “This is my favourite LP along with Machine Head.”  Be very careful if seeking out a mint condition copy of this CD.  The jewel case itself is very special.  The autographs and notes on the front cover are not on the front cover.  They are etched into the plastic of the jewel case.  Mine is safely enclosed in a scratch proof plastic sleeve, but finding an original jewel case intact will not be an easy task on the second hand market.

6/5 stars

Yes, 6/5 stars

REVIEW: Deep Purple – This Time Around – Live in Tokyo ’75 (2001)

scan_20160925DEEP PURPLE – This Time Around – Live in Tokyo ’75 (2001 EMI)

This shouldn’t have been the “last concert in Japan”!

Many of the old, post-breakup-issued Deep Purple live albums are virtually impossible to find today on CD. One of those is Last Concert In Japan, which was originally released only in that country. It featured the Mk IV lineup of Deep Purple: David Coverdale, Glenn Hughes, Ian Paice, Jon Lord, and the late Tommy Bolin on lead guitar. As a matter of historical releases for my collection, I also own the original Last Concert in Japan on both LP and CD.

The tragic story goes that while some members of Purple were rejuvinated with the fresh blood that Bolin donated, others were dead tired of it all.  Reviews were spotty and word was spreading that Deep Purple were over.  Both Bolin and Hughes were in the throes of serious drug habits.  On the night of the recording of Last Concert in Japan, Bolin was shooting up and caused his arm to go numb.  Frantic attempts to get him stageworthy worked and he managed to barely play the show.  Guitar parts are sloppy and that’s what people remember because it went on LP.  The original one-record set from the show has now been expanded to two lengthy CDs, 17 tracks. It’s been remixed and remastered. Production was supervised by Purple expert Simon Robinson, so you know that the quality level is about as good as it could be.  Because of the fully expanded tracklist, some of the finer live Deep Purple moments have been restored to this album, such as a 16 minute “Gettin’ Tighter” which was too long to include on a single record.

Some flaws do remain of course. Tommy’s guitar is now barely audible in the “Burn” riff as opposed to non-existent.  However the overall experience is very listenable.  It’s a darkly interesting album to own, because within months Purple disbanded, and a year later Tommy Bolin would be dead.

If you already own Last Concert In Japan, this purchase gives you over an hour more of unreleased music. Even so, all of it has been remixed, so you are still in for a fresh listen with open ears. If you already own dozens of Deep Purple live albums (believe me, it’s possible), this one has five songs that you can’t get elsewhere in live versions.  It’s even a better listen than In Concert/King Biscuit Flower Hour (aka, On The Wings Of A Russian Foxbat) with stronger vocals. Plus you get Tommy singing on “Wild Dogs”.  Worth the double-dip.

4/5 stars

REVIEW: Deep Purple – Made in Europe (1976)

Scan_20160114DEEP PURPLE – Made in Europe (1976 EMI)

In 1976, Deep Purple ended with a thud.

With no desire to carry on, the band split in 1976 after the ill-received addition of Tommy Bolin on lead guitar.  David Coverdale was eager to start a solo career where he could sing, and not “scream his balls off”.  Everybody else was just plain tired of it all.  Dutifully, the record company trotted out live albums and compilations, to keep the cash flowing.  Made in Europe, intended as a followup to Made in Japan, came first.  It was followed by Power House, When We Rock We Rock, Deepest Purple, Last Concert in Japan, Live in London, and many more.  The goal was not to provide fans with good quality unreleased music for them to enjoy.  The purpose was to make more money.

Made in Europe has since been superseded by better releases.  MkIII: The Final Concerts expanded and remixed this material, sourced from their last shows with Ritchie Blackmore.  He had already made the decision to quit, unbeknownst to his bandmates.  More recently, the Official Deep Purple (Overseas) Live Series released full shows of two concerts, Graz and Paris.  It is always preferable to have the full show, rather than a song here or there sloppy edited and mixed into a live album.  Don’t you agree?

With only five songs, Made in Europe was hardly representative of Purple’s set at the time, but it seems a single LP was all that EMI were willing to invest in.  Producer Martin Birch was unable to get the same heavy, crisp sound that he got on Made in Japan.  This one is heavy, but that crisp sound is muffled under a blanket.

“Burn” is an apt opener, and both David and Glenn Hughes were in fine form that night.  Blackmore, Paice and Lord always are.  Yet Deep Purple sound almost…bored?  Playing by rote?  Blackmore’s guitar is also too buried in the mix.  The first of two jams is up next: “Mistreated (Interpolating ‘Rock Me Baby’)”.  While no one questions that this is one of the greatest songs in the Deep Purple MkIII catalogue, the live jam has always dragged.  Ritchie’s playing is still a delight, but they could have trimmed two or three minutes from the song.   That’s followed by a frantic “Lady Double Dealer”, never one of Purple’s finest.  Birch applies an irritating echo to the chorus, but that’s all for the first side.

The second side is dominated by 16 minutes of “You Fool No One”, the second jam.  Jon Lord takes center stage for the organ solo intro, but if you dig cowbell, this song is for you!  Could Ian Paice be the #1 cowbell player on the planet?  “You Fool No One” testifies to that.  He is absolutely the MVP on this track (for his drumming, too)!  Finally, the full gale force of “Stormbringer” brings the proceedings to an end, easily the best track on the disc.

What, no “Smoke on the Water”?  No “Highway Star”?  It appears EMI wanted to avoid song overlap with Made in Japan, so you get MkIII material and only MkIII material!  That the drawback to a set such as this which is really only about half of a proper Deep Purple concert.

3/5 stars

Scan_20160114 (2)

#423: The Tyranny of Cassette in the ’80s

#423: The Tyranny of Cassette in the ’80s

Anyone who grew up in the mid to late 1980s probably enjoyed their music on the most popular format at the time:  cassette.  Vinyl LPs were still around, and still popular, but not nearly as much as cassettes.  CDs were new and only a few of us had CD players yet.  Cassette tapes had the portability factor going for them.  Everybody had a Walkman, and those who didn’t probably had one on their Christmas list in 1985.

Vinyl was a dying breed in our highschool halls.  There were still some older kids who boasted of the superior sound quality, but none of my friends had equipment good enough to enjoy that sound quality.  I certainly didn’t.  All I had was a turntable hooked directly into a Sanyo cassette deck for amplification.  The sound was harsh and tinny.  The scratches inherent with the format were also more distracting than the tape hiss of cassette.

So, it was all about cassette!  Buy ‘em, trade ‘em, swap ‘em and re-record over them when you decide you don’t like the music anymore.  I have a cassette copy of Michael Jackson’s Thriller that had long ago been erased and taped over with other stuff.  When you couldn’t find a fresh blank tape to record on, you could just erase something else.  Everybody did it.  My friend Bob had a cassette of In Through the Out Door that he recorded over with us talking and goofing around!

For teenage highschool kids, cassettes were enough for our musical fixes.  A decent quality name brand tape could hold up to 110 minutes without stretching.   We used them to tape anything and everything.  (I have a tape with the sound of a friend’s dad taking a massive shit — no, I did not record it, they did!)  Since cassettes were re-recordable, that meant that every kid could even record their own music and become a rock star in his or her own basement.  You couldn’t do that with your fancy schmancy LPs, we all thought!  Don’t like your song?  Just rewind and record it again!  Those who didn’t play music could have their own fun, DJ’ing and and writing skits.  And let’s not forget about taping your friends’ albums.  Recording tape to tape would always result in excessive tape hiss, but kids didn’t seem to mind in the 1980’s.  We ignored the hiss.  It was something we considered part of the music, because we really never heard any music without hiss!

Although the flaws of cassettes are patently obvious today, in the 80’s we were just discovering these troubling issues for ourselves.  We overlooked the tape hiss, but it was harder to ignore speed issues.  The biggest problem that I had with cassettes was inconsistent speed.  Some tapes, especially those made by Polygram and EMI in Canada, seemed to have a lot of internal friction.   Grab a small screwdriver and open up an old cassette tape some time.  Inside you will find rollers, spindles, and bits and pieces all designed for the cassette tape to roll smoothly.  Whether they worked right always seemed to be a matter of random luck.  When friction inside caused the tape to run slow, it was immediately obvious.  The pitch would be noticeably lower, and often the tape would warble as your player tried to play it at normal speed, but fought against the friction.

On the other hand, sometimes the problems came down to your player.  Your tape deck had even more spindles and doo-dads to turn that tape around and around.  Those got dirty and worn out, too.  Sure, you could buy tape head cleaners and demagnetizers, but did they ever really have a noticeable effect on your listening experience?  Probably not.  I used to diligently clean the insides of my tape decks with lint-free cloths and isopropyl alcohol.  Although I could see black filth coming off the rollers when I cleaned them, the sound and speed never really improved.  It was always very frustrating when a tape would play fine on a friend’s deck, but went slow as molasses on your own.  My Sanyo went in for service and professional cleaning more than once, but that didn’t help either.

Although cassettes sounded like shit, and only got worse the longer you kept them, they did have a big advantage over CD for me, and that was portability.  I preferred cassettes in the car, up until fairly recently.  The reason for this was, working in the used CD store, I saw so many CDs that were just utterly destroyed by car CD players.  You don’t get that problem so much anymore, but in the 90’s and 2000’s, there were a lot of discs just annihilated by a lot of car decks. It didn’t seem to matter if the car player was a high-end stereo or a piece of crap.  People would bring their used CDs in to me, and ask me how they looked.  I’d usually ask, “Did you play this in a car deck?”  I could always tell.  Customers would ask me, “How did you know?”  Because the CD would be completely scratched, but always in perfect circles.  Some dirt clearly got into the car deck, and scratched up the discs as they were spinning.  Or, the disc was just scraping up against the internal workings of the car player as it spun.  Either way, the result was usually a CD that looks like a kid’s Spirograph drawing.

At least when playing a cassette in the car, those things could take a beating.  I only ever had one or two that were “eaten” by the player.  Compare that to the thousands of CDs that I saw destroyed by car decks over the years.

If life is a musical journey, then cassettes were my travelling companions for over a decade.  We had a necessary parting of ways, and now I am happy to stick to CD and flash drives when on the road!

REVIEW: Helix – No Rest For the Wicked (1983)

Part 3 of 3 in this week’s Helix miniseries.  The original review was posted in August 2012, but this is completely new and improved!

HELIX – No Rest For the Wicked (1983 EMI)

Finally!  The big break came, after nearly 10 years of hard work.  The trick was re-branding Helix as a “metal band” instead of a plain old bar rock band.  An early video for “Heavy Metal Love” was filmed in T-shirts and jeans.  It was only after they switched to leather clothing and a more “metal” image, did people start to take notice.  “Heavy Metal Love” was re-filmed for a more metallic music video, and Helix were more or less off to the races. They had a boost from CanCon rules, which meant the video went into rotation on MuchMusic.

“Heavy Metal Love”, written in a crummy hotel room in Seaforth Ontario, is an ode to Joan Jett; or rather a fantasy about  Joan Jett.  It remains as fun now as it was then. Helix re-recorded the tune in 2006 for their Get Up EP, but it is this version produced by Tom Treumuth that has become timeless.  Indeed, it was chosen for the wedding scene in the Trailer Park Boys movie that same year.  It’s still a great groove, and a whole lot of fun.

“Fun” is a great word to describe Helix’s music in general, and No Rest For the Wicked is perhaps their strongest effort, at least from their years on Capitol Records.  It is true that I gave Breaking Loose (1979) high praise and a 5/5 star rating, but No Rest is easier to sink your teeth into on just one listen.

Helix in 1983 consisted of:

  • Brian Vollmer – lead vocals
  • Brent “the Doctor” Doerner – guitar
  • Paul Hackman – guitar
  • Mike Uzelac – bass
  • Greg “Fritz” Hinz –  drums

The only lineup change this time was the drum seat.  Leo Niebudek departed, and was replaced by Fritz Hinz, ex-Starchild.  (Starchild’s claim to history is an early single produced by some unknown guy named Daniel Lanois.  Fritz played on their later, uber-rare Children of the Stars album.)  With Hinz, the band had acquired an easy-to-love showman who had the chops required.  I shall never forget the sight of Fritz’s buttless chaps, giving us the moon at a 1987 concert.

Even though I hold Breaking Loose in very high esteem, No Rest For the Wicked is probably just as good, but in a different way.  The new heavier direction didn’t alienate their old fans, but it did gain them plenty of new ones.  It seemed a lot of kids on my street had a copy of this LP or cassette.  It’s more than just the one song — every track is great, every single one of ’em.  The title track still serves as Helix’ show opener.  Live, they change part of the lyrics to “Ain’t no rest for the Helix band!”  It’s true!  It’s an unrelenting and cool metal assault.  But again…plenty fun.

Need some party rock?  Look no further than “Let’s All Do It Tonight”.  Listen to that one, and then try to forget the chorus!   If you like that kind of melodic hard rock, then you’ll probably also dig “Don’t Get Mad Get Even”, the second (much less seen) video made for the album.

Need some sleeze?  Then “Check Out the Love”, before you do the “Dirty Dog”.  Both songs are killer grooves.    “Dirty Dog” never fails to make the setlists today.  It is suspended by a killer riff and Vollmer’s shredded vocal cords. And let’s not forget “White Lace and Black Leather”. (Like they did with the track “Breaking Loose”, Helix put the title song on the next album!) This is about as dirty as they get, and I love it.

Need a ballad? Naw, didn’t think so. But just in case, Helix put on a ballsy one, in “Never Want To Lose You”. Sounds wimpy, yes, but it has the guitars and heavy chorus necessary to keep you from losing your cool.

Need a boost of adrenaline? Then the doctor prescribes “Ain’t No High Like Rock ‘N’ Roll”. Kicking up the pace a few notches, it still retains that Helix knack for melody.

Also recommended, chase this with the live album called Live In Buffalo, which was  recorded for radio shortly afterwards.  It has high-octane live versions of most of these tracks as well as a sneak preview of the next album, Walkin’ the Razor’s Edge.

I think this one sounds particularly good on vinyl. Gimme an R!

5/5 R’s

REVIEW: Stryper – Reborn (2005)



A few gigs led to a greatest hits CD and two new songs.  That led to a tour and a live album.  That in turn finally gave way to a new studio album by Stryper.  The aptly titled Reborn was unlike any prior Stryper album:  Detuned and heavier than hell, Reborn shocked pretty much everybody that heard it! Drum loops, chugging riffs…this was Stryper? There was also a new bassist on board — Tracy Ferrie, from Michael Sweet’s solo band.

“Open Your Eyes” begins abruptly, as if to further surprise the listener with the new Stryper sound.  It bears no resemblance to old Stryper whatsoever.  It is stripped down, heavy, droney, with emphasis on the riff, and no screams!  Stryper appeared to go very “2000’s” with their new sound, but unlike Metallica, they hung onto the guitar solos!  Then “Reborn” is stuttery and chunky.  It takes some getting used to, because melody takes a back seat to heavy here.  It’s good — but there are few hooks.  Overall, the CD reminds me of mid-90’s Dio.  I must say that drummer Robert Sweet seems particularly in his element on this heavy stuff, but his snare drum sound is a bit stuffy.

Some understated and cool guitar harmonies help out “When Did I See You Cry” on the chorus.  It’s also the first song to present those uplifting Stryper harmonies.  “Make You Mine” is a slow rocker with a melodic vocal and a highlight.  It’s remarkable how Michael Sweet’s voice has grown to have so much character while retaining its power. “Live Again” steals the riff from “Shout at the Devil” and shakes it up a bit. “Shout” was stolen from “Foxy Lady” anyway, so who cares? The song sounds nothing like “Shout” otherwise, but it’s back to that heavy detuned Stryper sound.

“If I Die” is a slow, heavy burner with a great chorus. That’s followed by “Wait For You” which is a simple pop rock song but recorded heavy, complete with “na na na” backing vocals. “Rain” is a bit of a ballad, and Sweet really reaches for it on the chorus. Solid song albeit a tad generic. “10,000 Years” is stuttery and rhythmic but doesn’t have a lot of hooks. Album closer “I.G.W.T.” is a much heavier, much better remake of the title track from 1988’s In God We Trust. This version kills the original in every single way possible. Michael even nails that final scream.

The best song on the album, by a fair shake, is the mighty “Passion”.  Not only does it possess a chorus that will shake the foundations, but it’s also the most blatantly in your face about their faith.  “Jesus Christ, I wanna serve you, I want what you want for me.  Sacred voice, I don’t deserve you, through your Passion I am free.”  That chorus will not be for everybody obviously, but damn it sure is catchy when Sweet lets it all out!  Give it a listen and see what I mean.  You don’t have to sing along if you don’t want to.

REBORNWhen originally released, the CD came packaged in a semi-transparent yellow cellophane wrap. I found it as such when it first came out at a nearby Christian book & CD store. They wanted $24.99 for it, and I couldn’t justify paying that much for yellow shrink wrap, when I could wait for a used copy to come in at the Record Store at which I worked. I ended up with the used copy, but boy I sure did like the way it looked with the yellow cellophane. The image on the cover of the band ripping the yellow ooze from their bodies is meant to represent how Stryper felt “reborn” individually and collectively. Of course the yellow and black are a return to Stryper’s original trademark colour scheme which they dropped on Against the Law.

Since Reborn, Stryper have zeroed in on the “perfect” sound, sort of a cross between this and old Stryper with loads of melody and power. Their albums continue to impress. Reborn was a necessary first step back, and it takes some getting used to. It doesn’t have the longevity of their classic work, but it definitely ain’t shabby.

3.25/5 stars

I hope you enjoyed Stryper week here at mikeladano.com!  Tomorrow we return to our regularly scheduled instalment of Getting More Tale.

REVIEW: Deep Purple – Who Do We Think We Are (1973, 2000 remaster)

DEEP PURPLE – Who Do We Think We Are (1973, 2000 EMI)

Five solid years of work had taken their toll on Deep Purple.  Relations between the band members (particularly Gillan and Blackmore) were frayed, especially since all the touring behind Machine Head and Made in Japan.  There was all sorts of bad blood, including management disputes and illness (hepatitis for Ian Gillan).

The band settled in Rome with the Rolling (truck) Stones mobile studio, but found that the vehicle could not enter the premises, as the stone arch in the drive was not tall enough for the truck!  Several weeks of work in Rome resulted in only one usable track, “Woman From Tokyo” which was released as a single.  [See below for a cool 1998 CD reissue of “Woman From Tokyo” (2:56 edit)/”Super Trouper”!] Another song, the excellent “Painted Horse”, was rejected because Blackmore didn’t like it.  It wasn’t even released as a B-side.

A few months later the band re-convened in Frankfurt Germany to finish the new record.  Perhaps due to sheer fatigue, they settled into a simpler, bluesy sound without the experimentation that marked albums like In Rock and Fireball.  The only really progressive moment on the album was a breakneck synthesizer solo on “Rat Bat Blue”.

The resultant album, Who Do We Think We Are, is generally considered the weakest of the original MkII studio quadrilogy.  That still makes it better than many bands’ best albums.  That aside, it is obvious by listening to it that Deep Purple were not putting as much in, and getting less out.


“Woman From Tokyo” is still a great Deep Purple track, very similar to the direction of Machine Head: straightforward, and slamming.  It has a mellow, dreamy bridge before it assails you once more with its inimitable guitar riff.

It’s too bad that a song like “Mary Long” hasn’t been a perennial concert favourite.  This scathing attack on two British social campaigners teases the prudish!  “When did you lose your virginity, Mary Long? When will you lose your stupidity, Mary Long?”  Glover’s bass groove carries the song, a real driving tune.  Absolutely monstrous in the car.

“Super Trouper”, less than three minutes long, feels incomplete.  It feels like it needed a chorus, although it is still heavy and a Purple sledge.  Closing Side One, “Smooth Dancer” is Ian Gillan’s underhanded attack upon Richie Blackmore.  Black suede was his favourite clothing:

Black suede, don’t mean you’re good for me
Black suede, just brings your mystery
I want to be inside of you
But you’re black and I don’t know what to do

You’re a smooth dancer
But it’s alright, ‘cos I’m a freelancer
And you can never break me though you try
To make me think you’re magical

Even though Ian’s not fond of Richie at this point, it’s important to hear the line “I want to be inside of you, but you’re black and I don’t know what to do.”  Ian would have loved to be able to connect with Richie, but was simply unable to get inside the man in black.  Glover too has stated that Ian was frustrated by his inability to connect personally with Richie.

WHO DO WE THINK WE ARE_0006“Rat Bat Blue” (named for Ian Paice’s drum pattern that is the foundation of the song) is a great unsung classic.  Funky and hard-hitting, “Rat Bat Blue” could have been a classic had it been released by a band that still wanted to be a band.  “Rat Bat Blue” is my favourite on the album!  (Note: the first time I bought the original CD at my own store, I ran into a manufacturing flaw – a moment of silence near the end where Ian sings, “Aaaaalright.”  The CD with the defect just has “Aaaaaa” and then a second of silence!  My boss would not let me exchange it.)

The final two songs (on a seven song record!) are both a bit slow.  “Place in Line” has some swinging jamming blues to it, and “Our Lady” has gospel flavors and an incredible organ solo.  Neither would be remembered as Deep Purple classics, although “Our Lady” is very special.  Notice there’s no guitar solo, either.  Jon does all the serious work.

The remastered edition has some cool bonus tracks.  There are several 1999 remixes, with Roger Glover assisting at the mixing console.  Like prior Deep Purple remixes, you can hear additional guitar and other bits that weren’t there before.  They are great companion pieces to the album tracks, particularly the smouldering “Rat Bat Blue”.  There are also two snippets from the writing sessions: an unheard bridge from “Woman From Tokyo” and a bit of a deleted intro from “Rat Bat Blue”.  An eleven-minute instrumental “first day jam” is interesting because it has no guitar.  Roger Glover was late to the session, so that’s Blackmore on bass!

Finally, the rare outtake “Painted Horse” is restored to CD.  You could get it previously on the posthumous Power House compilation CD, but once placed on the album, it’s clearly one of the best tunes.  Why it was disliked is beyond me.  Maybe it’s Ian’s falsetto vocal or harmonica.  I think they just serve to make the song more unique.  This remastered version sounds loads fuller than the one of Power House.  I also love Ian’s lyrics.  “Why did the carpenter die?”

For the geeks, I’m sure you will enjoy the fully loaded CD booklet, with another essay by Glover, remembering times good and bad.

I like Who Do We Think We Are enough for a solid rating, but I’m not sure it that accurately reflects how Deep Purple fans at large felt about it.  If Machine Head, Fireball and In Rock are all 5/5 stars, then Who Do We Think We Are can be justified at:

4/5 stars


DVD REVIEW: Helix – S.E.X. Rated (2000)


HELIX – S.E.X. Rated (2000 EMI DVD – NTSC and PAL)

Every good Canadian that was alive and rocking in the mid-80’s remembers the music video: The dudes are breaking rocks in the quarry, in chains. Then the singer stands up and yells, “Gimme an R! O! C! K! Whatcha got? Rock! And whatcha gonna do? Rock you!” And then, freedom!  It’s just one of those great 80’s rock music videos, and it’s only one of many on this DVD. Here, you get ’em all from the Capitol years.

The videos are not in chronological order, which would be my preferred arrangement.  The DVD commences with the award winning “Running Wild in the 21st Century” featuring Snake the Tattooed Man from London Ontario.  The older classics range from edgy to campy, but are always cool in their own way.  My preference is towards the live on stage type of video, like the exciting “Wild in the Streets”.  On the other hand, “The Kids are all Shakin'” is undeniably fun, with Brian Vollmer playing multiple characters from an old man to a radio DJ.  You can’t help but chuckle in your beer.

There are also a handful of rarities here, including the “topless” version of “Gimme Gimme Good Lovin'” that you definitely won’t see on MuchMusic. “Don’t Get Mad Get Even” was only played on Much, like, twice. So it’s pretty rare too. What’s missing is the alternate version of “Wild In The Street” that I have somewhere on a VHS tape, and any sort of special extras like interviews. Also, I have to say that I wish the video for “That Day Is Gonna Come” was on here. It is my all time favourite Helix video but it wasn’t on Capitol. It was on Aquarius.

[I have a buddy, Rob, who used to work for Rogers TV.  He told me that he had seen and knew where the tape was for the original “Heavy Metal Love” video.  They did an early version of it in T-shirts and jeans, before they changed their image to black leather.  Rob offered to copy it for me but I didn’t believe him so I said no!]

Great little DVD.  Extra interviews would have been awesome. However a lot of that stuff is available on other Helix DVDs. (Check ’em out.)  S.E.X. Rated has one last bonus going for it — it is encoded for NTSC on one side, and PAL on the other.  No matter where you are, you can buy it and enjoy the classic videos of 80’s Helix.

4/5 stars

How fucking cool does Brent Doerner look in every single video?

REVIEW: Deep Purple – The Book of Taliesyn (1968)

It’s Purple Week at mikeladano.com!  It’s all Deep Purple and Deep Purple alumni, all week.  This is Part 2.  

Part 1:  Shades of Deep Purple

DEEP PURPLE – The Book of Taliesyn (1968 EMI, 2000 remaster)

I’m not a big fan of The Book of Taliesyn, and that’s not because I don’t like Deep Purple Mk I. I do like Deep Purple Mk I, or at least some of it. I think the third Purple album from ’69 is one of the band’s all-time best, and an underrated classic. The Book of only scratches the surface. The band had yet to find their sound, which would emerge fully formed a year later on Deep Purple In Rock. This album does represent significant growth, but not in the heavy metal direction that Purple would co-pioneer.  Instead, Book of travels further down the orchestral roads with Jon Lord.

The Book of Taliesyn, like Shades of Deep Purple before it, is built with cover songs as its cornerstones. It contains one of my favourite Deep Purple Mk I tracks: their version of Neil Diamond’s “Kentucky Woman”. Energetic, ragged and rocking hard, “Kentucky Woman” is the absolute best track here.  Ian Paice is the MVP, but singer Rod Evans is well suited to this kind of tune. Other standouts include “Wring That Neck”, the legendary instrumental (also called “Hard Road”) that the band continued to play through the decades even after Blackmore left the band in the 90’s.  “The Shield” isn’t bad, as it features a long instrumental break featuring Jon and Ritchie.  There is also the track “Anthem”, a Jon Lord helmed piece that delves into classical, forshadowing the “April” suite from the third album, as well as the Concerto for Group and Orchestra itself. So, the band was certainly stretching out here. There is a definite growth from the first album. Unfortunately, the album is bogged down by another slow, boring Beatles cover (“We Can Work It Out”, this time) and also “River Deep, Mountain High”, a whole 10 minutes thereof, which does nothing to help the band.  The only notable thing about it is Jon’s “Thus Spoke Zarathustra” intro.

DP BOOK OF TALIESYN_0003Like the other two albums in this series of remasters on Spitfire, there are five previously unreleased bonus tracks. All are valuable in their own way. Keep in mind that these tapes are old and may not sound as good as you’re used to. But, “Playground” is a bright instrumental from BBC tapes, and “Wring That Neck” is presented live. “Hey Bop a Re Bop” is buried treasure, an early version of what would become “Painter” on the next album.  There are two more cool covers to boot.  “Oh No No No” is a studio outtake, but I don’t recognize it.  It’s a mid-tempo pop rocker with splashes of Jon’s organ that quench the thirst.  Nicky Simper demonstrates some impressive bass chops, but he just wasn’t the right fit for the band.  A BBC Top Gear session yielded a song called “It’s All Over”, a slow country blues ballad that Thin Lizzy could have done at the same time.  This is a great tune, and it’s a shame that Purple never recorded it properly.

The colourful cover art is a quaint reminder that once upon a time, album covers were 12.375″ x 12.375″ and you could gaze upon the finer details for hours.  CD just doesn’t cut it.  This cover was so different for the band.  Their name and the album title appear on it several times, and each band member is credited (first names only) on the front.  The bizarre landscape foreshadows the Hieronymus Bosch painting on the next album.

2/5 stars. Not quite the band we know and love, but slowly getting there.