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REVIEW: Deep Purple – “All I Got is You” (2017 EP)

NEW RELEASE


DEEP PURPLE – “All I Got is You” (2017 Edel EP)

Infinite isn’t even out yet and we already have two CD singles in our hands!  Deep Purple are wasting no time in getting the new music out there.  The last single, “Time for Bedlam” had four tracks, including three brand new pieces of music.  “All I Got is You” has five tracks, two of which are brand new.  These singles are well worth buying, and won’t be obsolete when the album is released.

Age has done little to blunt the cutting edge.  “All I Got is You” has old and new elements.  It sounds like Deep Purple, but not like prior Deep Purple.  Its jazzy intro misleads, for this is a pissed off song.  It is difficult to describe except to say it’s busy, but still barely commercial enough for a single.  As usual, Steve Morse and Don Airey’s instrumental work stuns the senses.  If these new singles are what we have to judge by, the new album will be typical Morse-era Deep Purple:  still them, still restless.

The bonus material is varied.  “Simple Folk” is a lovely little guitar instrumental, reminiscent of the ballad “Never A Word” from Bananas (2003).  Don’t be surprised if the melody shows up elsewhere in the future.  It’s too good to relegate to a CD single, and it is exclusive too.  Also exclusive:  an instrumental mix of “Above and Beyond” from the last album Now What?!.    Instrumentals of songs you know well are always an interesting ride.  It is fun to listen to the music you couldn’t hear before, under the lead vocals.  “Above and Beyond” was of course a single in its own right in 2013.  Then, even better, we have the first take of the first single “Time for Bedlam”, complete with Bob Ezrin’s talking (and praise).  This too is an instrumental version, but if you ever wanted to hear what Deep Purple sound like completely unleashed in the studio, give it a spin.  I think I like it better than the actual single.

The only bonus track that will be re-released later on is the live version of “Highway Star” (yes, another one) that will be included on in the Infinite box set version.  That set will contain lots of vinyl including three 10″ records that together will comprise The Now What?! Live Tapes Vol. 2.  Sharp readers will recall that Vol. 1 came out with the deluxe “gold” edition of the Now What?! CD.  As for “Highway Star”?  Well, this one is 6:09 long and was recorded August 8 2013 in Denmark.  I don’t know how else you can differentiate versions.  My Deep Purple folder has 58 listings for “Highway Star” (albeit some of those would be the studio version on compilations).

As fans gear up for the Infinite album (and box set), they would be advised to get these singles too.  There is enough extra material on them to complement the album nicely when it’s finally out on April 7.

4/5 stars

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REVIEW: Deep Purple – Time for Bedlam (2017 EP)

NEW RELEASE


DEEP PURPLE – Time For Bedlam (2017 Edel EP)

Has any band gone nearly 50 years with such integrity?  The only original member left is drummer Ian Paice, but that matters not.  Ian Gillan and Roger Glover are original members to laymen.  Steve Morse has been in the band for over 20 years, and Don Airey is at about 15.  There is no lack of authenticity to Deep Purple, no matter what preconceptions you may have.  This most recent lineup with Airey is now on its fourth studio album.  The new album Infinite (produced again by Bob Ezrin) will be out April 7.

“Time for Bedlam” is a great choice for a single.  It rocks a “Pictures of Home” (1972) vibe.  Gillan’s lyrics are as biting as ever.  “Sucking my milk from the venomous tit of the state…”  Meanwhile Deep Purple sound like Deep Purple, but always pushing outwards.  There is newness in “Time for Bedlam”.  The droning intro is nothing like Deep Purple past, with Ian in a low monotonous voice.  But whatever makes Deep Purple sound like Deep Purple, it’s on “Time for Bedlam”.  For most people, the organ is the most identifiable ingredient, and Don Airey continues to pay tribute to the original, Jon Lord, in every note.  The solo sections from Airey and Morse are jawdropping.

This great CD single has three additional tracks.  “Paradise Bar” is a new non-album track, a laid back summer time groove.  It has progressive keys and a lazy easy going vibe.  It remains to be seen how it ranks among Infinite‘s album tracks.  It’s nice to buy a single and get an actual new unreleased track, and “Paradise Bar” isn’t mere filler.  Fans will enjoy Steve and Don’s solo trade-offs.  An unreleased instrumental version of “Uncommon Man” (from 2013’s Now What?!) will also be of interest to fans of the musicians in Deep Purple.  For such a long track (6:59) it’s amazing how well it works as a simple instrumental.  You have to hand that to this great band, and producer Bob Ezrin for capturing such great ambience.

The last track “Hip Boots” is an instrumental rehearsal of a track that will be on Infinite.  It’s a funky jam, a lot like what Deep Purple have always done.  It remains to be seen what the album track is like (will it have vocals, will it be a jam?) but this is an intriguing look at a song in a state that we don’t normally get to hear.  It whets the appetite for what could be coming.

Kudos to Deep Purple for still utilizing the singles format (something they also did with Now What?!), and in doing so, giving the fan some added value.  They’re creating a buzz for Infinite, so let’s hope that pays off in April!

4/5 stars

REVIEW: The Glorious Sons – Shapeless Art (2013 EP)

Welcome to the Week of Ontario Bands! A brainchild of BoppinsBlog, Ontario Bands Week will focus on favourites from our home province of Ontario Canada. Participating sites include Keeps Me Alive, Stick It In Your Ear, and 1001 Albums in 10 Years. Let’s give’r!

KINGSTON.

scan_20170212THE GLORIOUS SONS – Shapeless Art (2013 Black Box EP)

There has been a wave of exciting new bands from Ontario Canada in the last several years.  The Arkells (Hamilton), July Talk (Toronto), The Standstills (Oshawa), Monster Truck (Hamilton) and The Glorious Sons (Kingston) have been leading the charge on radio.  Each band is unique and unlike the others.  It is hard to pick a favourite, but The Glorious Sons truly are something special.  Their debut EP showcased secret weapon, lead singer Brett Emmons.  Rarely do you come across such a genuinely soulful rock singer from the snowy climbs of Ontario.  Instead Emmons sounds like he probably hailed from Mississippi or Louisiana.  He has enviable range and power, all substance with plenty of style.

The Glorious Sons’ debut EP, Shapeless Art, was mixed by fellow countryman Gordie Johnson (Big Sugar, Grady)*.  Johnson has a blues pedigree and the sheen he adds to the sonics is the cherry on top of some excellent songs.  The first two tracks are now rock radio staples:  “White Noise” and “Mama”.  These are different mixes than the ones released on debut LP The Union.  The familiar crashing and bashing of “White Noise” is welcome any time any day.  You can’t help but feel recharged after one listen.  “Mama” sounds like the deep south in the middle of summer.  It is definitely meant for good times.

The other three songs are unique to the EP.  Title track “Shapeless Art” sprints along with gently picked clean guitars instead of crunchy chords.  It has power, drama and catchy “whoo hoo hoo” backing vocals.  “Ruby” on the other hand builds slowly from a somber piano base.  By the end it’s an absolute party.  You can picture the crowd jumping up and down singing along, until it feedbacks to an ending.  The centerpiece though is “Baby”, a re-recording of an old music video they made independently.  Where the music video was vocalized by Jay Emmons, Brett sings it with him on the EP version.  It finally sounds fully realized, probably recorded, full power extracted and concentrated.  With “Baby” now sounding armed and ready to go, the Shapeless Art EP is complete and one of the most exciting releases of its kind in many moons.

 

“Baby” original music video version

Whether you check out this fabulous EP or The Union LP, or their brand new single “Kill the Lights”, do what you have to do to get this band in your ears.  You won’t mind if they move in right to your brain, because listening to the Glorious Sons is an absolute pleasure.  We look forward to their next album due some time in 2017.  If the pattern holds true, they will be hitting the radio again with another steady stream of quality singles.  May as well get ready for stocking up this winter on old Glorious Sons.  Shapeless Art would be a recommended first purchase.

4.5/5 stars

*Johnson has lived in Windsor Ontario, as well as Alberta, Winnipeg and Texas.

CHECK OUT THE GLORIOUS SONS’ NEW SINGLE, “KILL THE LIGHTS”!

REVIEW: Elektra’s 40th Anniversary – Plunderphonics (1991 Elektra promo EP)

scan_20170127Elektra’s 40th Anniversary – Plunderphonics (1991 Elektra promo EP)

This is one of the weirdest CDs I have ever run across.  Remember in 1990, when Elektra did that anniversary CD called Rubáiyát that featured Elektra’s new bands covering Elektra’s old bands? It was the first release of Metallica’s “Stone Cold Crazy” and the first time anyone heard a hint of what Metallica were up to in the studio after Justice.  This promotional EP is a companion piece to Rubáiyát.

So what’s this EP? A “plunderphonic” is like a remix. The big difference is, they use only finished recordings, no multi-track master tapes. No going back to strip a vocal out of a song, no fiddling. Only actual snips of complete songs are used. A “new” piece is creating by chopping up and rearranging bits from other previously recorded pieces. Therefore, anybody can make their own plunderphonic using readily available songs. The man who invented the term, John Oswald, did the “plunderphonics” for this very rare promotional EP. His lightning-fast edits keeps things surprising.

The main attraction here, and the reason I own the CD, is a piece called “2 Net” by Metallica. I bet you never heard of that one, let alone heard the piece! It is a 1:21 mash-up of “Stone Cold Crazy” with a bunch of bits and bobs from …And Justice For All, and it’s as weird as that sounds. It’s a blur, almost incomprehensible. Fitting the thrash giants’ riffs into 1:21 will tend to have that effect. Building a composition out of Hetfield barks and Ulrich snares is fun as it sounds, even though it’s over before you can figure out what’s going on. Oswald mixed in some of Queen’s “Stone Cold Crazy” vocal for some melody. Crazy!

The most interesting track is the most unlikely: A cross between Carly Simon’s and Faster Pussycat’s “You’re So Vain”. The end result, “Vane” makes the two into one. If you have ever wanted to hear Taime Downe and Carly Simon perform the song together, this is your chance. It’s incredible how well the two versions contrast, since Faster Pussycat is about as different from Carly Simon as anyone can imagine.  It zips from Taime to Carly and back again, as they trade words almost seamlessly!  Another successful track is The Doors’ “O’Hell”. This is (obviously) based on “Hello, I Love You”. Bits of other Doors songs provide more instrumentation and effects.  Fans of Morrison will absolutely adore it and imagine their own plunderphonics to invent.  The MC5 arrive with “Mother”, based off the Kick Out the Jams album.  It’s a lot of shouting and screaming and it’s all good.  For something soft, check out “Anon” by Tim Buckley.  This is taken from Buckley’s “Anonymous Proposition”, made shorter and psychedelic.

It is very hard to describe the complexity of these tracks.  There could be hundreds of individual edits per song, because there is so much going on.  The Simon/Pussycat song is a great example of how this is more than just a gimmick.  It’s art, and anybody can try to do one themselves.  In fact, without knowing the name for it, I have heard many plunderphonics before, at our annual Sausagefest countdown.  Tom and Uncle Meat are skilled at making them, but I have never heard anything like these five tracks before — ever.  These are above and beyond anything I’ve heard in the field.

The liner notes indicate that five more plunderphonics were planned for this CD, but not included.  “Recipes” for making your own are inside.  It’s almost like five bonus tracks, but you have to make them yourself!

Rating this CD is difficult, and since it was never meant to be sold, almost pointless.  However you can find reasonably priced copies on Discogs, so a rating is necessary.  This CD is interesting.  It’s good, but it’s not meant for listening for pleasure.  It almost acts like caffeine to the brain.  Every song has so much going on that you are constantly listening and trying to catch it all.  It’s also short, so buy wisely.

3/5 stars

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REVIEW: Extreme – Running Gag (Japanese EP)

scan_20170112EXTREME – Running Gag (1995 A&M Japan)

You’ve read it here before, and we’ll repeat it again:  Japan gets the best stuff!

While the UK got the regular CD single for the song “Unconditionally” (four tracks), Japan called it the Running Gag EP and added a fifth track.  Due to various chart regulations in the UK, singles had to have four or less tracks to qualify.  Meanwhile, Japan seems to love releasing exclusive EPs and Running Gag is one such exclusive that Extreme fans will want to hunt down.

Extreme’s fourth album, 1995’s Waiting for the Punchline, was as much a treat as the prior albums.  It was as different from them as they are from each other.  This time, they went raw and stripped down.  You can usually hear only one guitar track at a time.  “Unconditionally” was the closing ballad, a fantastic song presented here as an edited remix.  Mike Mangini was added on drums, and you can hear slight differences from the album track.  Had the year been 1991, they would have had another hit on their hands.  Fans who know the song will recognize it for its heart and charm.

Three live songs with Mike Mangini on drums are the real treat of the set.  (He gets a chance or two to really smoke.)  “Am I Ever Gonna Change” from Extreme III is the middle part of their side-long epic “Everything Under the Sun”.  It worked well enough as a standalone song to be released as a promo single, and to be played live.  For the live situation, Nuno souped up his guitar solo.  Without the backing orchestra the album version has, it’s a very different sound.  Such is the danger of recording an album that is difficult to reproduce live.

The two tracks from Waiting for the Punchline sound more at home on stage.  “Tell Me Something I Don’t Know” (the Japanese exclusive) and “Naked” have a mean, catchy vibe.  Extreme were one of very few hard rock bands that adapted their sound well to the grunge onslaught.  These songs are not “grunge”, but they represent a step in that direction.  The songs have more bite, more bass, more groove.  The solos are sparse, though Nuno puts his foot to the gas pedal when required.  Without sounding dated Extreme simply pivoted just so into the 90s, but it sadly didn’t equal sales.

The final song is a studio ballad, “When Will it Rain” which has a vague Wings sound crossed with smooth Extreme balladeering.  It’s actually quite a great little bonus track.  Its quaint 70s qualities might not have fit in well on the original album, but hopefully you will have a chance to hear it in your travels.

Good little EP, just shy of great.

3.5/5 stars

 

REVIEW: The Honeydrippers – Volume One (1984 EP, 2007 reissue)

scan_20161017THE HONEYDRIPPERS – Volume One (1984 Atlantic, 2007 Rhino reissue)

In 1981, Robert Plant felt like playing some old fashioned rock and roll again.  He assembled a group of friends including Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, Nile Rodgers, Dave Weckl and Paul Shaffer.  With a handful of covers ready to go, The Honeydrippers Volume One EP went top ten in the US and Canada.  I have now officially bought this EP four times: First time on cassette, then vinyl, then CD, and now finally this remastered CD with one bonus track.  One bonus track is all they could be bothered to beef this up by.  A grand total of 22 minutes, up from 18.

Originally released in 1984, in a lot of ways this was as close to a Page/Plant reunion as we were likely to get in the 80’s, although this is very different from Led Zeppelin.  These are classic golden oldies, rock and roll and R&B hits: the sound like guys like Plant and Page grew up with.  So get up, get down and dance!

“I Get A Thrill” is an excellent track with which to open the EP.  It’s a great song with wonderful backing vocal harmonies.  A nice fast one to dance to.  Everybody should know “Sea of Love”, the lush, elegant slow-dancer. Today it is better known than the Phil Phillips original. The music video might be most notable for the speedo-wearing Frank Zappa lookalike on the xylophone.  Ray Charles is last for side one:  “I Got A Woman”.  It’s breakneck fast, and might be too much for those on the dance floor cutting a rug!  Don’t go and break a leg….


Does humour belong in music?

Plant croons his way through “Young Boy Blues”, a Phil Spector oldie done justice by Robert’s rich voice.  It’s as lush and brilliant as “Sea of Love” and easily as good as the better-known single.  Back to cutting a rug though, you’d better get up for “Rockin’ At Midnight”, another hit single for the Honeydrippers.  Jeff Beck nails the perfect guitar solo in the midst of a boppin’ horn section.  Rock perfection!

The one measly bonus track is a live version of “Rockin’ At Midnight”. It’s shorter than the studio version of the song by two minutes.  It’s hard to fathom how Rhino only had one bonus track to include.  Plant performed live with the Honeydrippers numerous times.  To think they only ever recorded one track live is pretty hard to believe.

This remaster (released in 2007 as part of the Plant remasters) sounds great, and despite the short running time, is worth your cash as long as you’ve never bought it on CD before. It’s fun, it’s warm, it’s a great listening experience and every one of these tracks is a bonafide classic. It’s kind of odd hearing Plant’s distinctive squeal on some of these songs, but it actually works.

4/5 stars, but only because they could have included more bonus material.

REVIEW: Motley Crue – Quaternary (1994 Japanese EP)

MOTLEY CRUE – Quaternary (1994 Elektra Japanese EP)

For me, undoubtedly the most heavily anticipated new album of 1994 was the new Motley Crue.  Originally titled ‘Til Death Do Us Part, the self-titled ’94 Crue disc was their first with new singer/guitarist John Corabi.  They holed up with producer Bob Rock and knuckled down, creating what could have been the most important album of their careers.  The long wait (five years between studio albums) and cryptic remarks from the studio indicated that this would be the heaviest Motley album ever, and their most ambitious.  The new, serious Motley for the 90’s had, as always, written plenty of extra material too.

In addition, producer Bob Rock had an idea for getting creative juices flowing.  He asked each of the four members of Motley Crue to write and record a solo track with no input from the other members.  This was slightly historic:  the first time Nikki Sixx, Mick Mars, Tommy Lee or John Corabi had done anything solo.  With all the numerous outtakes recorded for the Motley Crue LP, there was now plenty of extra material to put out as a bonus EP.

Scan_20160612A mail-away coupon inside the Motley Crue CD alerted fans that five more tracks were available by mail order only.  20,000 copies of the original EP were pressed.  They included all four solo tracks and a new Motley Crue song called “Babykills”, featuring fifth Beatle Billy Preston on clavinet!

Still, the lucky fans in Japan didn’t have to mail away for anything.  They were able to buy Quaternary right on their store shelves, and because it’s Japan, they also got bonus tracks.  The Japanese version of Quaternary was not a five song EP, but more like a nine-song mini-album.  I had no idea such a thing existed until finding one at Sam the Record Man in Toronto in the summer of 1996.   It still has the price tag:  I paid $49.99, for a total of three songs that I did not have before.

Today, every one of these songs can be found on the box set Music to Crash Your Car To: Volume II, along with even more bonus mixes.

Quaternary commences with industrial noises and studio dialogue:

Tommy Lee:  “I can’t play with fuckin’ clothes on man, this is bullshit.”
Bob Rock: “Play naked.”
Tommy Lee: “Fuckin’ jeans on, a fuckin’ shirt…what up with that?”
Bob Rock: “What, do you work in a bank?”

The industro-rap metal of Tommy Lee’s “Planet Boom” is a track he had been working on for years. An early version made its debut in the background on the 1992 home video release Decade of Decadence. Even though the words “industro-rap” and “Tommy Lee” don’t really sound good together, “Planet Boom” kicks ass. Tommy played all the instruments, utilising a simple, detuned Sabbathy riff and a relentless drum loop. The strength of his vocal came as a surprise, as did the song in general. A few years later it was remixed for Pamela Anderson’s movie Barb Wire. (Stick with this original.)

After a brief studio discussion with Mick Mars about hemorrhoids (?), his blues instrumental “Bittersuite” blows your ears off. Motley fans know that Mick Mars is the most musically talented member, considered an underrated and under appreciated rock god. The blues-rock of “Bittersuite” isn’t as satisfying as I imagine a pure blues offering to be, but there is no doubting Mick’s talent here. Both as a writer and a player, Mick hit it out of the park (Chris Taylor played drums). Mick’s goal was to pay tribute to rock-blues greats like Beck, Hendrix and Blackmore. Mission accomplished. His guitar tone is beautiful and so are his emotive licks.

Nikki Sixx goes third, with another industrial-metal cross. “Father” is one angry fucked up track. It’s heavy and direct, on-trend for 1994, and very abrasive. The riff and song are simple, but Nikki’s anger leaks through. “Father — where were you?” Backwards guitars, electronics and loops on top — you can tell Nikki and Tommy were listening to the same kinds of music at the time!

New kid John Corabi goes last, and in the liner notes he says that “Friends” is his first piano song. He meant to go acoustic, but “Friends” just came out of him. It’s a pretty Queen-like ballad with lovely harmonies in the middle. Although Mick Mars’ song is probably a greater technical achievement, “Friends” is my favourite of the solo tracks. When a guy like Corabi gets going on a ballad, it’s usually going to be amazing anyway. Throw in the Queen elements, and I’m just a sucker for it! It’s really a shame that Motley did not continue with John beyond this. The potential for greatness was always there.

After more studio chatter, we break into “Babykills”, the Billy Preston collaboration. “Babykills” is fun and funky hard rock, probably the heaviest thing Preston ever played on. Unfortunately his part is little more than an added topping. Great tune though; probably far too good to lie hidden away on an obscure mail-order EP.

An impromptu jam that seems to be called “I Just Wanna Fuck You (In the Ass)” ends the original EP on a jokey note.  “What the fuck do you want, for fuck all?”

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As mentioned, the Japanese had bonus tracks.   These are tracks that did not make the finished Motley Crue album, since they had recorded so much extra material.  “10,000 Miles Away” is a cool blues ballad, showing off more of Mick’s fine fingerwork.  It was obviously too much of a standard sounding song to fit in with the experimental Motley Crue album.  Not that the album stood a chance in hell after grunge cleared the decks, but you do wonder if it would have been better received if some of these more digestible songs were included on it.

The one track on the Japanese release that is easy to skip is the Skinny Puppy remix of “Hooligan’s Holiday”.  This track was already available on the “Hooligan’s Holiday” single and it’s since been re-released in other places too.  It’s long — over 11 minutes.  Dave “Rave” Ogilvie remixed it with Dwayne Goettel and cEvin Key, so it is of possible interest to Skinny Puppy collectors.  The thing that bugs me about it is that it strikes me as lazy.  The song is pretty much the same as always for the first three minutes, and then the remixing begins.  The whacked out and frankly boring remixed part goes on for almost seven more minutes, before transitioning back to the standard song.  In other words, what Skinny Puppy did here was edit out the middle section and guitar solo of the song, drop in seven minutes of remixed barf, and then put the ending back on.

Two demos round out the CD:  “Hammered” (which did make the album) and “Livin’ in the No” (which did not).  The “Hammered” demo is structurally the same as the album version, no radical departures.  It sounds like much of it is live in the studio, and it’s clear that Motley were focusing on grooves.  It’s all about the four guys being locked in.  Finally “Livin’ in the No” is in the standard hard rock mold.  Again, a track like this fits in less well with the unorthodox LP, but might have made it more accessible for fans.  Even so, a guy like Vince Neil would never have been able to sing “Livin’ in the No” and make it sound good.

There is little question that the Motley Crue album deserves its 5/5 star rating.  This being a collection of outtakes, the same cannot be expected.  Still, it does deserve a very respectable:

4/5 stars

Get the complete EP including all Japanese bonus tracks on Music to Crash Your Car To: Volume II. That set also contains more remixes originally from single B-sides of the era: “Misunderstood” (Guitar Solo/Scream Version), “Hooligan’s Holiday” (Derelict Version), “Misunderstood” (Successful Format Version), “Hooligan’s Holiday” (Brown Nose Edit).

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REVIEW: Evilyn Strange – Evilution (2016 EP)

NEW RELEASE

Scan_20160301EVILYN STRANGE – Evilution (2016 limited edition promo EP)

Well alright alright alright!  2016 has been a stinky year so far with the winter “blahs” and far too many musical deaths.  It’s time for something new and something positive.  Thankfully the trio Evilyn Strange have picked this time to return with their new EP, Evilution.

I like a sense of continuity in cover art, and lead singer Phillip Strange is responsible for this one.  I like that you can immediately tell it’s the same band.  With the last album, Mourning Phoebe, I couldn’t quite tell what kind of music I was going to find inside.  Evilution on the other hand looks like rock and roll and nothing but.  Are you ready to be slain?

I was surprised by the heaviness and speed of the opening track “Let It Rain”.  Great riff, great vocal melody, and tasteful use of backing keyboards — I get a sense of 80’s metal meeting the modern age, and I like that just fine.  In particular it’s the menacing double bass of “The Ghost” (drums/keys) that drives the song into your skull.  Once it’s in there, it ain’t coming out.

“Invisible Man” grooves rather than thrashes, but again the tasteful backing keyboard adds nice accents and moods.  Phillip kicks ass on this vocal, imbuing the song with melancholy power.  Throw on a smoking solo by Mikael Johannesson and step back because this baby explodes!  I can’t say who this song reminds me of.  It has elements of lots of bands that I enjoy, from Sabbath to Whitesnake.  But “Storm Clouds” is thrash metal, pure and simple.  I can’t find a more appropriate tag.  The Ghost’s slamming on it, while Mikael riffs away faster than I can headbang.  The only thing unlike thrash metal is Phillip’s singing, always melodic.  This is challenging, impressive stuff — maybe a bit too busy?  It packs more into one song than most hard rock bands put into an entire side.

More Strange-like is “Never”, a powerful metal ballad.  Phillip injects the song with the required angst and there’s even a hint of some bluesy slide guitar.  A proper soft ballad ends the EP on a dramatic note.  This song “Stay” couldn’t be more different from “Storm Clouds”, only two songs prior.  Somehow it all works as a fairly cohesive EP.  That’s the vocals of Phillip Strange holding it together, I think, tying the songs.

Evilyn Strange named this EP appropriately.  They are evolving, as all bands must.  That they took such a strong lean on old, classic thrash and metal influences was a delightful surprise to me.  I didn’t see that one coming.  But much like evolution in the biological world, old traits still remain.  These are the memorable riffs, melodies and musical themes.  What’s very interesting however is that Evilyn Strange have a full-length album coming later this year, and it’s entirely new material.  Can we expect another evolution?  I think it’s possible….

Check out Evilyn Strange at evilynstrange.co.uk, where you can buy this limited edition CD for a piddly £3.99.  Click the link on their page if you prefer iTunes.  Do what you need to get this in your ears!

4.5/5 stars

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For Deke‘s review over at 80’s Metal Shatz N Giggles, click here!

For Aaron‘s review at KeepsMeAlive, click here!

For Jon‘s review at e-tainment reviews, click here!

REVIEW: Dio – Intermission (1986 EP)

IMG_20150129_173910DIO – Intermission (1986 Warner EP)

Intermission was Dio’s live EP, bridging the gap between Sacred Heart and Dream Evil. At the time it came out, Dio was very busy with the Hear N’ Aid project as well as replacing Vivian Campbell on guitar. Maybe that’s why he opted for just a Dio EP to tide fans over.  For a long time this unavailable on CD; it has recently been reissued in its completion as bonus tracks on the deluxe edition of Sacred Heart.  Good news, I’m sure, for those fans without the equipment to play vinyl.

The band was in a transitional period.  They had recorded the five live tracks with Vivian, but replaced him with Craig Goldy in the middle of the tour.  For years, fans were wondering who played on Intermission.  Goldy’s picture is on the back, but the solos are clearly Vivian.  There were no credits either, but today we know that Vivian is indeed the guitar player on the live tracks.  And so is Craig!  They overdubbed Goldy over Campbell on the live rhythm guitar parts!  Why he decided to do this, aside from spite, I have no idea, but I strongly dislike tampering with live recordings. (Yes, that makes me a hypocrite since I rated Kiss Alive! a 6/5!)

Goldy plays all guitars on the soul newbie, “Time To Burn”.  This new studio cut was a really excellent one; a mid-tempo burner (no pun intended).  He co-wrote it, probably contributing that cool riff.  The song has melody to spare and is definitely a diamond among Dio’s early solo material. It sounds similar to the Sacred Heart era, but with a higher level of songwriting quality.

As far as I’m concerned, they may call it an EP, but this is essentially an album, clocking in at 32 minutes.  That makes it slightly longer than Van Halen’s Diver Down.   It may only have six tracks, but one is a 10 minute medley of Dio and Rainbow classics.  “Man on the Silver Mountain” sounds incredible; Ronnie was singing powerfully on this tour, and despite the tampering the band does sound great.

The Dio songs sampled here include obvious choices like “We Rock” and “Rainbow in the Dark”, but the two biggest hits (“Holy Diver” and “Last in Line”) are absent.  Diligent fans already had live versions of those two on the last Dio single B-sides. The more puzzling inclusion is “King of Rock and Roll” which was already released live on the last album!  Ultimately though I’m satisfied with the songs selected on this EP.  The vinyl used to be frequently played around these parts, though it has no been collecting dust since the reissue of the songs on the deluxe Sacred Heart.  It remains a great sounding mini-album, if you will!

4/5 stars

REVIEW: Ozzy Osbourne – Just Say Ozzy (1990 EP)

OZZY OSBOURNE – Just Say Ozzy (1990 Epic EP)

Nobody was shocked when Ozzy Osbourne, the man who said he hated live albums, put out his fourth (!) solo live release in 1990. (His other three live releases were the Mr. Crowley EP, Speak of the Devil, and Randy Rhoads Tribute. This does not include the Ultimate Live Ozzy EP which was…not live.) The liner note by Ozzy attempts to justify its release. “Firstly, ‘Shot in the Dark’,” begins Ozzy. “I am happier with this version than the original.” (Oooh, sick burn on Jake.) Ozzy continues, “Secondly, the Sabbath songs – To have recorded them one last time with Geezer Butler, Zakk and Randy says it all for me. It’s a chapter of my musical career I can now close.”

What the fuck did that mean?

Was Ozzy going to stop playing Sabbath songs?  Did anyone actually believe that?  The bitter liner notes accompany a front cover emblazoned with all four band members’ names, in the same sized font as Ozzy’s.  And on the front cover is not Ozzy Osbourne, but guitarist Zakk Wylde! (Albeit from behind so you can’t see his face, and he’s just in one corner of the cover.)  It all seems to deliver a message of “I am focused on the present, not my past.”  This quartet was fully expected to record the next Ozzy studio album together, athough ultimately that did not happen.  Geezer left in 1991 for a reunited Dio-era Black Sabbath.  So much for not looking back!

JUST SAY OZZY_0005

Just Say Ozzy functioned as a stopgap.  Ozzy would take his time with the next LP (which at that time was tentatively titled No Dogs Allowed, then Don’t Blame Me), but No Rest for the Wicked was already two years past.  They had to release something, so here it is.  One careful listen will reveal a lot of studio trickery was employed afterwards. Indeed, if one focuses on the crowd noise you can hear edits everywhere. Billboard magazine revealed that the music for this album was re-recorded in the studio with audience noise overdubbed.

Having said that, if this kind of trickery doesn’t bother you (and if you own Kiss Alive! or Frampton Comes Alive then it shouldn’t too much) then this is a great EP. Just Say Ozzy‘s meager six songs feature the only recordings of the brief Osbourne/Wylde/Butler/Castillo lineup. I was always a fan of those particular guys and there’s something to be said when you have two original Black Sabbath members in the band, while Black Sabbath only had one.

Since this EP was from the No Rest tour, three of its heaviest songs were showcased: the single “Miracle Man”, “Tattooed Dancer”, and “Bloodbath in Paradise”. No ballads.  These three songs are nice to have, but are not even close to competing with the better known hits.

From The Ultimate Sin comes “Shot In The Dark”…yes, Ozzy’s so-called “preferred version”.  And it is indeed very good.  Zakk Wylde was a talented kid even then, and I love the youthful “go for it” attitude in his playing. “Shot in the Dark” features an extended solo that established Zakk’s place with his axe predecessors.  Then, a deuce of Sabbath: a smokin’ “Sweet Leaf” and probably the best live version of “War Pigs” that I have ever heard.

Yeah, that’s what I said.

This Zakk-infused version of “War Pigs” is, in this humble writer’s opinion, the best live version ever released. Zakk’s guitar digs deep into the strings with those nice wide vibratos. It’s just monstrous, plus with Geez on bass, it has that slink it needs.  Randy Castillo (RIP) was certainly no slouch, and his relentless fills here are solidly entertaining.

3/5 stars.  Shame about that crappy cover art though.

Tracklist:

  1. “Miracle Man”
  2. “Bloodbath in Paradise”
  3. “Shot in the Dark”
  4. “Tattooed Dancer”
  5. “Sweet Leaf”
  6. “War Pigs”