Flesh & Blood

LeBrain’s Top List of 2019 n’ More

GETTING MORE TALE #805(.5):  LeBrain’s Top List of 2019 n’ More

Preamble:  The Year in Review (and Reviewing)

2019 was the seventh year of life for this site, and we do thank you for that!  Getting tired with the same old way of doing things, I became bored.   The solution was throwing some new content into the mix and seeing what happened!

The first thing I planned was an informal new series called Just Listening.  Though people confused these writings with reviews, it’s essentially just my thoughts as I listened to an album.  Sometimes I would revisit an old record I already reviewed and see if I felt any different.  There were 10 instalments of Just Listening in 2019.  I intend to continue doing this, as sometimes I just have a few ideas to jot down after playing an album.  Reviews will remain as in-depth and intense as you’ve come to expect.  I love writing reviews, and there are a few lined up for early January that I hope you’ll enjoy too.  At the same time, it’s increasingly important for me to just listen to music.  My collection has dusty corners that miss my attention.

Second, in 2019 I bought a bunch of new tech.  Why not, right?  It’s kind of funny.  I grew up in the 70s and 80s; back when you debated for months or years over in which home video system to invest .  Tech is far more disposable today.  The worst thing that can happen is a relatively painless, postage-paid Amazon return.

So a waterproof camera was added to my arsenal.  This enabled me to make a bunch of cool videos this past summer, including what I think is the best Sausagefest video yet.  One of the immense joys of that summer gathering is the fresh, cool water of the Beaver river.  For the first time this was captured for you up close and personal.

It’s easy to sit here tootin’ my own horn but I feel the 2019 video gets you closer to the feeling of actually attending a Sausagefest yourself.  You can imagine sitting in the river with us, drinking or smoking whatever you fancy.

A new dashcam enabled me to start another video “series” called Dashcam Idiots.  I honestly thought, living in Kitchener Ontario, that I’d have a lot more content to post by now.  (I did get a cool late-night video of a deer on a country road that I thankfully didn’t hit.)  I suppose it’s a good thing that I don’t have a multitude of dashcam videos to upload.


The biggest and most important new series was a long time wish of mine:  my VHS Archives.

The new tech this time was a cheap USB video capture device.  This enabled me, after many years of promises, to share my personal Pepsi Power Hour videos with you from the late 80s and early 90s.  It has been a culmination of a decades-long dream:  taking this rather large VHS library and getting the rarest and most valuable content online.  As of writing this, I’m 82 instalments deep.

And because this is supposed to be a list of lists, here are what I consider to be the Top Five Best/Most Significant of the 2019 VHS Archives.  You’d be remiss not to play these.

1. Blackie Lawless (W.A.S.P.) interviewed by Erica Ehm – 1989
The best interview with Blackie that I’ve ever seen.

2. Bruce Dickinson and Dave Murray (Iron Maiden) interviewed by Erica Ehm – 1988

3. Bruce Kuclick and Gene Simmons (Kiss) interviewed by MuchMusic – 1992
Reposted by Bruce!

4. Rik Emmett of Triumph co-hosting the Pepsi Power Hour with Erica Ehm including two musical performances – 1988

5. MuchMusic Hear N’ Aid special featuring Ronnie James Dio (1986)

And of course the VHS Archives allowed me to finally present my own music video for Poison’s “Nothing But A Good Time” that we made in highschool in 1989!  A long time I have waited and in 2019 I scratched it off the list.

There’s lots left on these tapes so the VHS Archives will continue into 2020!  I’ve left some “big guns” in reserve for future posts.  As long as none of these tapes break!  One or two of them are in very, very rough shape now.  Others are still pristine.

Want a taste of what’s still to come?  Here’s a preview.

Which of these interviews would you like to see first?  Vote below!

 


2019 LISTS

 

The Movies I Saw Don’t expect a comprehensive list!

1. The Avengers: Endgame

2. Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker

3. El Camino

4. Captain Marvel

5. Spider-Man: Far From Home

Nothing but sequels and spinoffs!

 

Top TV Shows of 2019:  I don’t watch a lot of shows.

1. Stranger Things 3

2. Star Trek: Discovery season 2

3. American Dad! season 16

4. Rick and Morty season 4 (part one)

5. The Mandalorian season 1

I’ve been talking The Mandalorian on social media quite a bit, and I’ve been quite critical of the show.  It’s #5 by default.

 


Top Five Albums of 2019 (and more)

1. Tom Keifer Band – Rise

2. Whitesnake – Flesh & Blood

3. Marillion – With Friends From the Orchestra

4. Tool – Fear Inoculum

5. Jim Crean – The London Fog

The new Tom Keifer Band is really remarkable.  With soul, roots n’ blues yet also a foot in classic Cinderella rock.  The heart of the Keifer Band made it an easy #1.  Whitesnake put out a strong effort; probably their best since Slip of the Tongue or even 1987.  Marillion may have re-recorded old songs with an orchestra, but in doing so it’s possible that they have recorded the definitive versions.  Tool is Tool is Tool is Tool.  And Jim Crean deserves a shout-out for his guest-laden original album The London Fog, better than a lot of well known releases in 2019.

 

 

Best Japanese import of 2019:

Hollywood Vampires – Rise
A three CD set with a bonus double live album!
Unprecedented value in terms of extras.

 

Best Boxed Set of 2019:

Def Leppard – Volume Two
Some guy gave them some cool live tracks to release.

 

 

Best Improvised:

Kathryn Ladano – Masked
Don’t just take it from me.

 

 

 

Most Baffling Album of 2019:

The Darkness – Easter is Cancelled
I have not been able to wrap my head around this album. I’ve steadfastly stood by this band through five albums, often in quick succession, but this time they’ve thrown a curve. Perhaps it’ll grow on me in 2020.

 

Worst thing to happen in music in 2019:

Motley Crue – The Dirt

 

 

…And I haven’t even seen The Dirt.  I just feel that strongly about it.

I hate the look of the guys playing The Crue, I hate the idea of a biopic, and I hope to make it through another year without seeing it.  I’m happy with my copy of the book — the only Dirt you really need.

 


…A Look Ahead at 2020

Motley Crue will be a towering part of the 2020 tour scene, as they look ahead to their big “Stadium Tour” with Def Leppard, Poison, and Joan Jett.  Meanwhile the Robinson brothers Chris and Rich have formed a new version of The Black Crowes, who will be playing all of Shake Your Money Maker live.  Far more interestingly, Mr. Bungle (now featuring Scott Ian and Dave Lombardo) will be reuniting and playing only three shows, featuring their cassette demo The Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny played in full for the first time.  Even the original BulletBoys have reunited.

The big news, so they say, is still to be announcd.  Keep your ears to the ground for a full-on 2020 AC/DC tour with Brian Johnson, Cliff Williams and Phil Rudd back in the fold.  Reliable sources have stated that the band are finishing up old Malcolm Young song ideas for album release.

Stay safe this New Year’s Eve and we’ll chat in 2020!

 

REVIEW: Whitesnake – Flesh & Blood (2019 Japanese import)

WHITESNAKE – Flesh & Blood (2019 Cynjas Japanese import CD)

So you got the new Whitesnake.  Think you got all the songs just because you got the deluxe version on CD or iTunes?  Naw!  Think again!  Once again, it’s Japan with the hardest to find bonus tracks.

To be fair, it’s a give and take.  While Japan often gets their own exclusive songs, they also miss out on others.  In North America, we got a deluxe edition with “Can’t Do Right For Doing Wrong”, “If I Can’t Have You”, and three remixes of album tracks.  The Japanese CD has none of those, but instead has its own exclusive remix.

The ballad “After All” is surely one of the highlights on Flesh & Blood.  As a simple, fairly unadorned acoustic love song, it’s right in the wheelhouse of more recent “unzipped” ‘Snake.  Well, the Japanese bonus remix is even more stripped down.  The “Unzipped” mix is the same recording, just with less stuff in the mix — no electric guitars, no keyboards.  An insignificant difference?  Absolutely.  But with an acoustic song this fucking good, you may enjoy the purity of the unembellished version.  Up to you really, but if you’re the kind of collector that needs “all the tracks”, then you do need this, don’t you?

“I don’t care about bonus tracks,” you say.  “Just tell me if the album is any good!”

Check out our track by track review for full details, but in short:  fuck yes!

Flesh & Blood is being described by enthusiastic fans as “the best album since Slip of the Tongue.  They are probably correct in that declaration.  It’s stunningly good:  diverse, well written and well played.  It draws from a broader palette of sound than many of the past albums, and even dips back into the 1970s on “Can’t Do Right For Doing Wrong” (which isn’t on the Japanese CD).  There are no songs to skip through, and while not all are equally strong, none suck.  It has a high ratio of songs that could become future classics, like “Gonna Be Alright”, “Good To See You Again”, and “Sands of Time”.  So yes, to answer your questions, it’s a bloody good album no matter what version you can afford.

The domestic CD is the best buy for its songs-per-dollar value (18 tracks on the deluxe), over the Japanese (14 tracks).  Rating this purely as an album with its bonus track, it’s still a solid:

4.5/5 stars.  Could be the album of the year.

REVIEW: Whitesnake – Flesh & Blood (2019 deluxe)

WHITESNAKE – Flesh & Blood (2019 Frontiers CD/DVD deluxe edition)

What’s the year again?  You’ll want to check, because David Coverdale just released the best Whitesnake album since the 1980s.  Swollen with fresh song ideas, this ‘Snake has more bite.  Maybe it’s the unleashing of Reb Beach or the new contributions of Joel Hoekstra.  Whatever the cause, Flesh & Blood is sheer nirvana for fans of classic hard rock and technical guitar playing.  The album is evidence that this could be the best lineup David’s had since Steve Vai.  For guitar geeks, there are lead break credits for each song, a-la Judas Priest.

“Good to See You Again” is an ideal opener and you could hear it working that way live.  David then assures you it’s “Gonna Be Alright”, on a slick number with a darker vibe and major hooks — almost more 90s Queensryche than Whitesnake, but with a good time in mind.  “Shut Up & Kiss Me”, the lead single, shows that David isn’t afraid to get sleazy even in his senior years.  It’s good time party rock, expertly delivered.  A clear choice for single.

Going heavy, “Hey You (You Make Me Rock)” grooves like the ‘Snake you remember.  The soloing here will make you wet your pants.  “But it’s not John Sykes!” scream the unbelievers.  Well, check out “Always & Forever” for a hint of that Thin Lizzy regality.  It’ll bring you back to the days of Jailbreak but with David instead of Phillip.  Then comes the first ballad: “When I Think of You (Color Me Blue)”  Reminiscent of “The Deeper the Love”?  There are many who love ballads — more power to ’em!  This is a good one.  Things get greasier on “Trouble is Your Middle Name”.  Pedal to the metal — not sure where David is getting the fuel from, but it’s potent.

Halfway through now, it’s the title track “Flesh & Blood” sounding a lot like Slip of the Tongue era ‘Snake.  Think something like “Slow Poke Music”.  It leads perfectly into “Well I Never”, soulful but dark and heavy.  Amazing stuff.  Another ballad, “Heart of Stone”, brings to mind the glory of Coverdale-Page.  This is heavy stuff for a ballad, loaded with integrity and delivered expertly by the master.  Then it’s the bluesy boogie of “Get Up”, a song clearly designed to get asses shaking, and air guitars a-picking.  One more ballad:  “After All” is pleasantly acoustic, and an
appropriate respite from electric shreddery.

The final song of the main 13 track songlist is an epic:  “Sands of Time”.  David explored Arabic sounds before on “Judgement Day”, and this is another foray into the exotic.  Something about those scales automatically make a song huge in scope.  “Sands of Time” is really impressive, and Reb & Joel compliment it with the perfect solos.

There are two bonus tracks on the deluxe CD.  The first is a callback to early Whitesnake.  “Can’t Do Right for Doing Wrong” sounds like the kind of blues David was playing in the 1970s.  It’s sheer delight hearing him revert to pure bluesy ‘Snake.  Lastly it’s “If I Can’t Have You”, a good if unremarkable song after all this epic madness.

Is that all?  Of course not; David Coverdale is known for giving value to the fans.  There’s a DVD with different mixes and videos too.  This disc sounds huge.  The bass — woah!  First:  “Shut Up & Kiss Me”, the video “classic Jag” version.  Because David is driving the Jaguar from “Here I Go Again”, obviously.  It’s Whitesnake on a small stage, in a club, up close and personal.  Unsurprisingly the “Club Mix” of the same is just the video without the Jag.

Three remixes are presented in hi-res.  “Shut Up & Kiss Me” is the “video mix”; nice to have a clean audio version of that.  To hear the differences will require further investigation (clapping at the end aside).  An impressive “X-tended mix” of “Gonna Be Alright” is pretty cool.  Last is a “radio mix” of “Sands of Time”, which is strangely longer than the album version.  Unusual for a radio mix.  All the remixes are slightly longer.

Japanese customers got one exclusive bonus track, an “Unzipped” mix of “After All”.  It doesn’t have any of the other bonuses.  That CD is in the mail and when it arrives we’ll review it too.

Finally, the DVD contains a 15 minute “behind the scenes” of the making of the album.  David reveals that The Purple Album was intended to be his last.  The passion returned and he followed it.  Sounds like beautiful women are still inspiring to him.  As far as the album goes, you’ll notice the background vocals are quite thick.  David says that all the Whitesnake members…all but Tommy Aldridge anyway…are capable lead vocalists in their own right.  All six band members get their chance to speak.

This is an album you’ll be enjoying all summer.  Dig it.

4.5/5 stars

REVIEW: Poison – Flesh & Blood (remastered)

FLESH AND BLOOD_0001POISON – Flesh & Blood (1990, 2006 Capitol remaster)

Ah, Poison!  The band everybody loved to hate!  In spite of that, Poison made a couple pretty good albums.  Flesh & Blood is the best of the original C.C. DeVille era, and probably their most successful.  It spawned a huge headlining tour that also produced a double live album.  Flesh & Blood was also their “get serious” album, although in that regard it was only a partial success.  The idea was to write and record more mature music and lyrics, something that C.C. was opposed to.  He saw nothing wrong with the glam-slam-king-of-noize direction that they started on, and maintained that Look What the Cat Dragged In was their high point.  He saw the introduction of blues influences as diluting the Poison sound he liked.

That’s all bullshingles.  Flesh & Blood is the best thing C.C. has done, and is second only to Poison’s Native Tongue album with Richie Kotzen.  C.C. was still far from a great guitar player, but on most tracks it’s his most accessible and least annoying playing.  (On others…well, we’ll get there.)  Take the opening track “Valley of Lost Souls” for example (preceded by a jokey answering machine tape called “Strange Days of Uncle Jack”). “Valley” rocks heavy with integrity and an edge that Poison hadn’t displayed before, and C.C. throws in a lot of tasty, toffee-like strings.  His soloing will never be considered virtuoso, and his tone has always been thin and annoying, but never has C.C. generated such guitar thrills as he does on this album.  (Most of it.)

FLESH AND BLOOD_0002

I’m sure that producer Bruce Fairbairn steered this ship with a firm hand.  His stamp is all over Flesh & Blood:  from weird segues to rich backing vocals, this is a Fairbairn production through and through.  Fairbairn was known to be a taskmaster, and I’m sure he worked C.C. (and the whole band) to the bone.  The title track, “(Flesh & Blood) Sacrifice” has his patented, perfectly arranged vocal stamp.  The vocals are layered and almost Leppard-lush.  When we’re talking about a singer like Bret Michaels, you know it’s not going to be Pavarotti.  The credits don’t list additional singers, but there are some names in the tail end of the thank-yous:  Paul Laine, for example.  Laine was a Vancouver local, where Poison recorded the album.  Why is he being thanked?  I think it’s safe to assume that Laine and others helped out in the backing vocals department.  Anyway, “Sacrifice” is the second excellent song in a row.  Say what you like about Poison as performers, they wrote some fucking good songs too.

“Swampjuice (Soul-O)” is some surprisingly good C.C. acoustic blues.  Actually not bad at all — but just instrumental filler.  As is the next song, a massive huge hit single: “Unskinny Bop”.  The song is awful, the lyrics worse, and C.C.’s solo is like razor blades.  I mean that in a bad way.  Total shit.  Garbage.  “Let It Play” verges on filler, but it’s good enough.  It’s simple but memorably melodic.  Better is the timeless sounding single “Life Goes On”.  I liked this bombastic electric ballad then, and I still do now.  Michaels is a limited singer, but this is a damn good ballad.  I give Fairbairn credit for the backing vocal hooks.  The first side of the album closes on the forgettable but adequate hard rocker “Come Hell or High Water”.

Kicking off side two with the single “Ride the Wind” is a no-brainer.  This song sounds like its title.  It sounds like a car song, a rock and roll ode to the thrills of the road.   I’d rank this easily among Poison’s best hits — top five.  “Don’t Give Up an Inch” is filler, but “Something to Believe In” was another huge single.  Hearing it again today, I find it hard to dislike.  I wanted to, but I can’t.  I think Bret wrote some pretty good lyrics here.  The part about his best friend who died “in some Palm Springs hotel room” is about his bodyguard, a guy he was really close to.  It’s pretty heartfelt, and the piano ballad still stands up as well as any by Aerosmith from the same era.

Some boring C.C. pedal steel guitar leads into “Ball and Chain”.  It’s a pretty good rock boogie, but the second-to-last song “Life Loves a Tragedy” is the best track on the album.  Even better than “Ride the Wind” but similar in vibe, this song shoulda woulda coulda been a hit.  The soft intro fools you into thinking it’s a ballad.  It’s not.  It’s a ballsy rocker with another Bret Michaels lyric that you’d call more mature.  “My vices have turned to habits, and my habits have turned to stone,” sings Bret.  “I gotta stop living at a pace that kills, ‘fore I wake up dead.”  Not poetry really, but a hell of a lot better than “Unskinny bop bop, blow me away.”  The chorus kills, as does the whole song.  Another top five Poison track in my book.

The album ends on a pile of shit called “Poor Boy Blues”.  This may well be the worst Poison song of all time.   Of all time!  C.C.’s playing is so pointless, so brutal, so annoying, that I don’t know why somebody didn’t pull the guitar out of his hands.  Wah-wah alone does not a solo make!   This song stinks so bad.  Dammit, Poison, you’re not a blues band fer fuck’s sakes!  This song should have been axed, there is no reason for it to still exist.


POISONThe 2006 remastered edition has two bonus tracks.  The first is a disappointing acoustic version of “Something to Believe In” from the “Life Goes On” single B-side.  It has new lyrics (erasing one of the things I liked about the song) and absolutely pointless guitar playing by C.C.  His solos and melodies go nowhere.  It’s just a guy playing all kinds of notes on an acoustic guitar that don’t have any direction:  There’s no tension, no release, no hooks.  This version sucks.  Lastly there’s “God Save the Queen”, an instrumental demo version.  This too sucks.  More directionless soloing from C.C. over the Pistols riff.  That’s all it is.

Interestingly the remastered edition has two changes that I’ve noticed.  The cover is the “censored” version without the extra blood on the arm.  This is a US import, and I think in Canada we had the other cover originally.  Second, the reprise of “Strange Days of Uncle Jack” that closes the album is missing.  Normally this would fade in from the end of “Poor Boy Blues”.  Now, “Poor Boy Blues” ends with a few seconds of silence where that reprise used to be.  I don’t know why they did that.  I’m assuming somebody mistakenly used a version of the song from a compilation album.

I know I’ve been hard on Poison in this review, but this is actually a great album.  Take away “Unskinny Bop” and “Poor Boy Blues” and I would call it pretty damn solid.  As for the remaster?  Disappointing.

4/5 stars (for the album)