Frank Bello

REVIEW: Spacewalk – A Salute to Ace Frehley (1996)

Part 5 in a series on Ace Frehley!  Missed the last part, Trouble Walkin’?  Click here!

Spacewalk – A Salute to Ace Frehley (1996 DeRock/Triage)

Just in time for the massive Kiss reunion tour came this tribute CD.  There were several versions of this.  I have the second-coolest of the three:

  • Least cool:  Regular domestic 10 track CD.
  • Second coolest:  Import CD (Europe?) with brand new bonus track by Ace Frehley himself, called “Take Me To the City”
  • Most cool:  Japanese import CD with that and Sebastian Bach’s “Save Your Love”

This is one of those tributes made up of a mish-mash of metal musicians, no real “bands” so to speak, although all are great musicians.  Scott Travis plays drums on most of it (lending an awkward Priest-like vibe to the drums), Charlie Benate plays with Scott Ian on “Rip It Out”, and Vinnie Paul of course plays with Dimebag Darrel on “Fractured Mirror”.  (This site has all the information and credits for the CD.  Enjoy!  You’ll notice the backing band is basically Racer X on most tracks.)

I’m good with every track on here except one:  Bruce Bouillet’s version of “New York Groove”.  I’m not into drum loops in general, and although the track has a funky groove to it, it’s just not my bag.  On the other hand, Scott Ian’s cover of “Rip It Out” is Anthrax-worthy.  Frankie Bello’s on bass, and somebody named Zach Throne sings it with Scott.  Zach nails an authentic Ace-like vocal, while Charlie’s relentless on the drums.  The Anton Fig drum solo is almost exact note-for-note.  As is the signature guitar solo.

Gilby Clarke’s “Shock Me” is one of the better tracks. I don’t usually think of Gilby as a soloist, since in GN’R he didn’t solo.  His soloing style is unlike Ace’s, but he performs an original solo of his own that is appropriate to song.  On the other hand I wouldn’t count “Deuce” by Marty Friedman (ex-Megadeth) as a favourite.  The vocal (by somebody called Tom Gattis) is a tad overwrought.   Another “blah” tune is “Snowblind”, performed in a too-modern metally sound by Jason McMaster (Dangerous Toys) and Snake Sabo from Skid Row.

Ron Young (Little Caesar, the Four Horsemen) has a soulful but southern sound on “Hard Luck Woman”, an odd choice for a Frehley tribute.  Written by Paul and sung by Peter, the original was created for Rod Stewart to sing!  But it’s as good a cover as any, and I don’t have a lot of other stuff of Ron’s, so I’m cool with this.  Jeff Watson (Night Ranger) is on guitar.

We all knew Sebastian Bach would knock it out of the park on “Rock Bottom”, and he does.  “Rock Bottom” wasn’t written by Ace, but he did write the intro, performed here by Russ Parish of Fight/Steel Panther.  Baz is obviously a huge Kiss fan and the song is in great hands, although the solo’s way too modern.  Still, I wish I had “Save Your Love” too.

IMG_00000627Tracii Guns is passable on “Parasite”, but again I think the song is done in a style too contemporary.  Up next is John Norum of Europe, with “Cold Gin”!  (Hey, two songs in a row written by Ace!)  McMaster is back on lead vocals, not my fave singer in the world.  John is a great guitarist, and this version of “Cold Gin” is heavy with fills.  Some go with the song, some miss the mark.

Dime’s “Fractured Mirror” is perfect, even the production and sound of the acoustic guitar is eerily similar to Ace’s original.  Dime may well have been the biggest Ace Frehley fan in the world. Darrell does throw some of his own personality into the song, but I think foremost on his mind was probably playing the song the way he remembered it.  And he does.

Lastly, “Take Me To the City” is performed by Ace himself, with his crack band:  Steve Werner on drums, Karl Cochran on bass, Richie Scarlet on guitar and backing vocals, and…Sebastian Bach is there too at the end!  This Ace rarity is the best of all reasons to track down this CD.  This is Ace back to a hard rocking Frehley’s Comet sound, with an anthemic chorus.  When Baz shows up at the end, it’s icing on the cake (although you need to turn it ^UP^ to catch him in the fade).

I don’t really buy tribute albums anymore, because I find these mish-mashes of somewhat related artists to be a bit tedious.  Still, it’s pretty solid, and definitely worthwhile to fans of bands like Pantera, Skid Row, or Anthrax.  The Ace bonus track is pretty much a compulsory purchase.

3/5 stars

Soon, we’ll also be talking about another quality tribute album with some surprising guests and alumni.  Stay tuned.

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REVIEW: Anthrax – Anthems (2013)

ANTHEMS COVER

ANTHRAX – Anthems (2013 Megaforce Records)

Anthrax have recorded some of the most entertaining covers of the last 30 years.  Many of them have appeared as hard to find B-sides or bonus tracks.  Anthems is Anthrax’s new covers EP, readily available, and a welcome addition to a metal lover’s collection.

As if they needed to show off how well they could play, the EP kicks off with “Anthem” itself, a Rush cover, and a stunning one at that.  Joey Belladonna’s voice strains to reach the highest of notes, but he hits ’em.  This is one dead-on accurate Rush cover, not an easy thing to execute.  And it’s heavy as balls.

“T.N.T.” is a blast.  Again, this is not an easy song to cover, because it is so indelibly linked to AC/DC and Bon Scott.  Incredibly, Anthrax do so with as much accuracy as they did Rush.  Joey sounds perfectly in his element paying tribute to Bon.  Up next is “Smokin'” as performed by Boston.  Like a chameleon, suddenly Joey is in Brad Delp’s shoes.  As great as the entire band is on Anthems, at this point, it is Joey that is blowing me away the most!  What’s also cool about “Smokin'” is that the lengthy organ solo is intact, performed by Canadian Fred Mandel (ex-Alice Cooper).  An extended keyboard solo with Anthrax?  Smokin’!  (No kidding though, it’s great.  Like it or lump it!)

We all know Joey Belladonna is a huge Steve Perry fan.  It is a joy to hear him having a chance to pay tribute to his hero on “Keep On Runnin'”.  Scott Ian proclaims in the liner notes that “On paper, Anthrax covering Journey may seem weird,” but he reminds us that “the song just fucking rocks”.  Charlie Benate ensures this with surgically inserted blasts of drum fury.

“Big Eyes” is a Cheap Trick song I had somewhat forgotten about.  It has a monster groove and yet another fantastic lead vocal.  Anthrax bring the song to its knees.

“Thin Lizzy is arguably the most underrated and under appreciated band of our time,” says Scott in the liner notes.  Amen brother!  But he also points out their paradoxical great importance and influence.  Scott reveals he’d like to do an entire record of Lizzy covers.  Phil Campbell of Motorhead plays the solo, as per the Live and Dangerous version.  I love hearing Joey do the “Hey you, good lookin’ female! Com’ere!” line.  So much more menacing than Phil Lynott!

From Anthrax’s most recent record, Worship Music, comes “Crawl”.  I am on the fence with this song, as all I can think of is Soundgarden.  “Fell On Black Days”.  Can you hear it, there in the first minute of the song?  (Maybe it’s their Soundgarden cover, eh?)  Also on the EP is the remix of “Crawl”, which was previously only available on the Japanese version of Worship Music.  So this purchase worked out well for me.  I had been putting off buying Worship Music until I could find a reasonably priced Japanese import.  I prefer to get all the bonus tracks, so with Anthems now in hand, I can just pick up the domestic Worship Music and be done with it!

As a nice touch to collectors, Anthrax released this EP with six different covers.  I pre-ordered this thing from Amazon, so I didn’t get the luxury of picking my cover art.  If I did, I might have chosen the Rush or Journey versions.  What I got was the Cheap Trick cover, but I think I like it best anyway.

5/5 stars

Part 166/REVIEW: Anthrax – “Cowboy Song” (promo single)

RECORD STORE TALES Part 166:  Anthrax – “Cowboy Song”

Stuff like this didn’t happen often, but it did happen.  Sometimes one of my customers would just give me a CD that they thought I would want.  Unfortunately my journal didn’t record who gave these discs to me!

Date: 2005/11/26 13:14

WICKED!  Someone today gave me a free copy of the “Cowboy Song” single by Anthrax, a rare Thin Lizzy cover.  Also got Doin’ The Nasty by Slik Toxik for free.  SCORE.

Statham did on occasion give me free discs.  I recall once he gave me a Black Crowes single.  Another one of my customers (name long forgotten) gave me a Jimi Hendrix hardcover book.  But this was not a frequent occurrence.  Unfortunately, most people treated the guy behind the counter at the record store like shit.  I guess that’s part and parcel of working in a buy-and-sell environment.  Stuff like this helped make the job tolerable.

This single was a Sam the Record Man exclusive.  It came free with copies of Sound of White Noise purchased there, but for a limited time only.  I don’t know how rare it is today, but it certainly is a collectible, being a store exclusive.

I wish I could remember who gave me this cool Anthrax single.  It could have been somebody I knew that worked at Sam’s (that narrows it down to 3 or 4 people) or somebody I knew that worked for Warner (narrows it down to 2).  Either way, I thank you.

Onto the review!

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ANTHRAX – “Cowboy Song” (1993 Warner Music Canada promo)

This promo single comes with no case or cover, but does have some liner notes printed on the CD itself.  It was produced by Dave Jerden and Anthrax, and all guitars were performed by Scott Ian.  Presumably, that means Dan Spitz doesn’t appear on the song.

This was recorded as a bonus track for the Japanese edition of Sound of White Noise, and can be currently found on the remastered edition of the same album.  This is an awesome cover, very authentic to the live version that Thin Lizzy used to do, made famous on the Live and Dangerous album.   The lead vocals are, of course, by John Bush.  John Bush doesn’t attempt to do a Phil Lynott impression (thankfully, that wouldn’t be wise) but does deliver the vocal with his trademark grit.

Scott Ian nails all the guitar parts perfectly.  You’d swear there were two guys playing.  It comes as no surprise that Charlie Benate’s drum parts are also perfect.  I think Brian Downey was and is one of the most underrated drummers in rock, and Benate does him justice.

I love this cover.  Anthrax are well known for choosing and performing great covers.  Add this one to the list.

4/5 stars