flamenco guitar

REVIEW: Gypsy Jayne – Alive and Wandering (1992 cassette)

GYPSY JAYNE – Alive and Wandering (1992 independent cassette)

There is still way too much music that was only released on tape.  Gypsy Jayne (formerly Wildside) were from Oakville Ontario. What they lacked in originality, they compensated for in classically trained guitarist Johannes Linstead. He ‘s a Juno nominee with several flamenco albums today.  Back in the early 90s, he shredded the electric.  We talked about this band briefly during Record Store Tales, but they deserve a closer look.  They were a solid quartet, with a great singer and musicianship.  All that exists of Gypsy Jayne today is their sole cassette:  six songs and a guitar instrumental.

It’s easiest to compare Gypsy Jayne to Illusions-era Guns N’ Roses; they probably had a similar set of influences.  Their namesake song “Gypsy Jayne” opens the tape with a mid-tempo Izzy-like vibe and a hell of a chorus.  Singer Andy Law had a good glam rock voice, but it’s clear right away the guitarist is something special.  The solo is carefully composed and serves the song.  “Whiskey Blues” also has a Guns vibe, particularly the Axl-ish vocals.  The guitar playing is more Van Halen than Slash, but the song smokes.  “As Good as it Gets” boasts some cool slippy slidey intro guitars before going full Guns.  Great tune, blistering solo.  Influences are quickly forgotten as the song repeatedly kicks your ass.

Beginning side two, it’s a new version of “Ready, Willing and Able”, the song they recorded as Wildside on Raw M.E.A.T. #1.  Sleazy rock, L.A. infused.  You can’t tell these guys are from an upper class town in Canada, except perhaps by the schooled guitar approach.  “So Wild” takes it slow, crawling in your ear canal and letting the groove do the work.  “Leave You Now” is acoustic nostalgia, a song about “Chasing all our dreams” and “living crazy nights, lazy days.”  For composition, this could be Jayne’s best song.

The final track is “Romanza”, a lovely solo classical guitar piece by Linstead.  This foreshadowed where he’d be going in his future.  It’s a nice coda, like Randy Rhoads would have done.

This one’s going to be hard to find — there is no listing on Discogs.

4/5 stars

 

 

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REVIEW: Mark St. John – Magic Bullet Theory (2003)

MARK ST. JOHN – Magic Bullet Theory (2003 Loch Ness Monster Records)

Mark St. John (1956-2007) is best remembered as the lead guitarist on Kiss’ 1984 Animalize album.  He was however much more than just a Kiss guitarist.  His exotic shredding was the basis of an instrumental solo album, Magic Bullet Theory.  Thanks Lemon Kurri for hooking me up with this CD.

“AWOL” blasts the doors open wide: high-octane tempo, high-speed shred, high-tech tricks.  There are Yngwie-like moments, Van Halen harmonics but also enough melody and song structure to keep it interesting.  Mark’s solos feature a number of different sounds and styles.  Intricate flamenco and electric guitars open the title track “Magic Bullet Theory”.  Then it turns into a melodic instrumental with lead guitar center stage.  Next, out of left-field comes the jazz workout of “Bourbon Street”.  This delicate number features non-stop jazz guitar shredding, full speed ahead, which some will find to be just too much to absorb.  “Too many notes,” some might say.  I am not one who would say that.

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It’s back to instrumental heavy metal with “Slave Driver”, which reminds me of Yngwie’s “Leviathan”.  “Utopian Trip” is more laid back, and I can hear mandolin on this one.  Mark lays a blistering lead guitar line over the largely acoustic track.  “Communicator” offers plenty more shred, perhaps resembling the high pitched screech of some 60’s sci-fi communication device.  “Baghdad” has guitars that sound like air raid sirens, certainly appropriate given the title. But the song itself is Arabic is style, with a lot of very complicated acoustic guitars.

“Wait No More” is more melodic instrumental hard rock, but with complex rhythms and tricks aplenty.  “Between the Lines” is ballad-like, with layers of shimmering guitars,until the song gives way to a nice rock riff.   This is of course accentuated by plenty of lead and melody guitars.  Finally “The Lone Gunman” closes the album on a heavy note.  (Notice how this title ties in with “Magic Bullet Theory”.)  The is a riffy track, which frankly the album could have used more of.  It’s also the longest song on the album, and probably the most epic emotionally.

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Although Magic Bullet Theory is not as song-oriented as I prefer instrumental albums to be, it has plenty of memorable moments and tracks.  It certainly shows off the talent that Mark had, that the world doesn’t know enough about.  Magic Bullet Theory comes recommended to all dyed-in-the-wool Kiss fans, and those who enjoy intelligent shreddery.

3/5 stars

…But wait, it’s not over!  After a five minute silence is an unlisted classical guitar rough recording, melodically lovely and astonishingly fast!  A nice coda.

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Part 146: Cassettes Part II – The Indi Years


Above:  A brief history of M.E.A.T Magazine…

RECORD STORE TALES Part 146:  Cassettes Part II – The Indi Years

Back in the days of the record store and M.E.A.T Magazine, I was into every indi band I could get my hands on.  M.E.A.T released a series of discs, four volumes total, called Raw M.E.A.T, showcasing the best in up and coming unsigned Canadian bands.  In addition, their magazine featured numerous ads from dozens of bands hawking their demo tapes.  Harem Scarem, who later went on to get signed by WEA and had great success in Japan, was one.  Unfortunately I never got their demo tape.  Just missed it.

One band that I was heavily into was called Russian Blue, from Toronto.  They were edgy hard rock.  1/4 Guns N’ Roses, 1/4 Zeppelin, 1/4 Coverdale, and 1/4 their own style.  Digging their two demo tapes up (both dated 1991) I was surprised how good this band was.  Not only were they good musicians with a truly great singer in Jo E. Donner, but some of the songs were exceptional.  They later changed their name to Deadmoon and finally Feel, before finally releasing their own alterna-rock CD called This.  (Feel This, get it?)  I was seriously into this CD during my first year at the store, as it combined the hard rock vocals that I loved from the past with a current grungier sound.  I gave it significant store play, since it was a current hip sound.

Two of their songs that made it onto the Raw M.E.A.T discs were standouts:  “Once A Madman” and “Mama’s Love”.  But ripping these tapes to disc, I re-discovered two more.  The unfortunately titled “Likkin’ Dog” was a great hard rock groover.  By the second tape, they were incorporating more experimental alternative sounds (ahead of their game back in 1991) and a track like “Bleed” showcases an angry riffy side.

Donner later formed a band called Ledgend with ex-Slik Toxik drummer Neal Busby, but I don’t know what happened to them after that.

Attitude were a glam rock band from Toronto who scored some video play with their song “Break The Walls Down”.  Their cassette looked pro all the way, printed on heavy card stock and even featuring a separate lyric sheet.  Their weakness was in the lead vocals department.  By 1994 they had abandoned the hard rock stylings and gone for a thrash alternative hybrid and changed their named to Jesus Christ.  Probably not a smart move.  The CD (released on the major label A&M) looked terribly low budget with awful indi cover art.  I recall trying to sell this in our store for 99 cents.  (I unfortunately paid $20 for it brand new when it was first released in 1994!  Little did I know that we would later see dozens of copies thanks liquidators.  They were impossible to sell, even though it boasted a throat-wrenching cover of “Ace of Spades”.)

Lastly, Gypsy Jayne were a very talented group from Oakville Ontario.  They released a song under the generic name Wildside on a Raw M.E.A.T  CD first.  Then they changed their name and put out a cassette.  This cassette got a lot of car play back in the record store days, and when we had a tape deck in the store I even gave it some store play.  Gypsy Jayne were very much in the mold of Illusions-era Guns N’ Roses. Not terribly original, but their ace in the hole was their classically trained guitarist Johannes Linstead. His talent speaks for itself today, as a nominee for a Juno award and winner of several other prestigious awards.  He has several flamenco albums out today, but to me I’ll always remember him as the shredder in Gypsy Jayne, playing alongside the Axl Rose clone Andy Law.  (The Gypsy Jayne cassette, Alive and Wandering, has an early flamenco piece called “Romanza”!)

The songwriting on this cassette is really excellent for what it is.  Every song is different, but memorable, catchy, and with a distinct direction.  If they had come out a year or two earlier, they could have been as big as L.A. Guns, Cinderella, or any of those bands.

Unfortunately, this cassette was well loved and well worn, and is barely listenable today.  Hey Johannes…any chance of a reissue?