fred coury

REVIEW: Cinderella – Gold (2006)

CINDERELLA – Gold (2006 Universal)

When a band like Cinderella, who only have four studio albums, get a double CD “best of” compilation, it had better be good.  Fortunately Cinderella’s edition of the Gold series offers value for the money and unreleased live tracks to boot.

All the Cinderella albums are represented, including the criminally underrated Still Climbing album from 1994.  Cinderella did not “go grunge” as so many others did.  As “Bad Attitude Shuffle” indicates, they simply doubled down on their own brand of bluesy hard rock with bite.  From the same album, “Free Wheelin'” and “Talk is Cheap” both show fearless commitment to the genre.  Then the ballad “Through the Rain” also from Still Climbing provides the balance.  Cinderella have successfully employed ballads since day one, because they happen to be quite good at them.

Among their greatest ballads: “Don’t Know What You Got (‘Til It’s Gone)”, “Heartbreak Station”, “Coming Home”, “Wind of Change”, and “Nobody’s Fool”.  Each one of these tracks is worthy to be on this compilation.  Some of their slower material either bordered on blues, or were just flat-out blues songs.  Some are here:  “Long Cold Winter”, “Dead Man’s Road”, and “Sick For the Cure”.  Then there is the soulful “Shelter Me” that is harder to categorize.  But of course Cinderella are best known as a hard rock band, and most of the material falls into that vast category.  Many of these tunes are truly awesome.  “Shake Me” was first to gain attention, with some noting similarities to AC/DC.  “Hot and Bothered”, originally from the Wayne’s World soundtrack, combines the blues and rock in a tasty confection.  “Second Wind” from Long Cold Winter kicks ass, and “Gypsy Road” is here too, albeit in live form.

The live tracks are all credited to a Japanese promo CD called Last Train to Heartbreak Station, which appears to be a completely different thing from their Japanese EP called Live Train to Heartbreak Station.  Rarities are always welcome on a compilation, but one has to wish that the great single “Gypsy Road” was also included in its studio version.  It’s a good enough tune that it wouldn’t be a crime to have two versions on the same CD.

Because of their feminine name and some really bad wardrobe choices, Cinderella was written off by many people without hearing any of their rocking material.  While that is a real shame, Cinderella hasn’t made a new album in 23 years so this would be a good one-stop-shop to get much of their best material.  Augment this baby with a copy of their classic Long Cold Winter CD and you will have enough Cinderella to have a good representation of their best stuff.

4/5 stars

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REVIEW: Hollywood Rose – The Roots of Guns N’ Roses (2004)

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HOLLYWOOD ROSE – The Roots of Guns N’ Roses (2004 Deadline)

Hollywood Rose were one of several bands that eventually morphed into the original Guns N’ Roses. Already on board were singer William Bailey (Axl Rose) and guitarist Jeff Isbell (Izzy Stradlin). Guitarist Tracii Guns (L.A. Guns) was in and out of the band. Drummer Johnny Kreis and guitarist Chris Weber were later replaced by Steven Adler and Slash respectively, who came in together via their old band. It’s a complicated tangle of ins and outs and interchanging members but what’s important is that Hollywood Rose did record a crucial five-song demo in January of 1984. This demo was finally released on CD in 2004 with 10 (!) remixes, and now we get to hear what Guns N’ Roses sounded like as a fetus in the womb!

Unfortunately this CD releases has been padded out by having each song in triplicate. Each track is presented as a) the original demo, b) a remix by Gilby Clarke, and c) a remix by Fred Coury. Cinderella’s Coury, you may recall, sat in with Guns N’ Roses briefly when Steven Adler broke his hand in ’88.

No mercy is to be had on “Killing Time”, an aggressive and ragged assault that foreshadows Guns greats such as “Reckless Life”. It’s similar in construction to “Comin’ Atcha Live”, a later song by Tesla.  Axl is in vintage voice, not quite yet in control, but with all the power at his command. The Guns sound is already present on “Anything Goes”, later modified and released on Appetite for Destruction. The riff, later perfected by Slash, is already present and accounted for, although the verses are very different.  The chorus is a little out of control, yet to be tamed into a singalong melody.  What’s incredible is that the Guns sound was already there, waiting to be properly harnessed and unleashed upon the world.  Izzy and Axl created that sound; it came originally from those two guys.  Slash and the rest of the guys just had to add the finishing touches.

HOLLYWOOD ROSE_0005Track 3 is a Rose/Weber original called “Rocker”.  A sloppy punk metal riff and a killer Axl lead vocal make for a passable tune.  (I would love it if a reunited Guns would one day pull a “Van Halen” and remake these old unreleased songs…one can dream.)  “Rocker” is more metal than you expect from Guns, but it has that sloppy, dangly cigarette vibe that the band embodied.

“Shadow of Your Love” was later re-recorded by Guns N’ Roses as a demo and released on the B-side to “Live and Let Die”.  This is the original “Hollywood Rose” demo however, a more basic bare-bones version of the speed rock classic.  The last demo is “Reckless Life”, better known as the opening track on GN’R Lies.  It obviously evolved quite a bit as a Guns N’ Roses song, because this seems more like a skeleton of the song.  It’s still breakneck fast, but the verse riff isn’t there yet.

These five songs indicated there was a cutting edge band here that needed to be heard.  They could not have had the same success in this incarnation.  They clearly needed Steven and Duff in the engine roof, and Slash laying sticky guitar toffee on top.  The bones were already there, and it’s absolutely historic to hear these early demos of such important hard rock songs.  The impact that they would have, as a foundation for something bigger, cannot be understated.

That said, as songs they still had a little ways to go, and I don’t think we really needed each song three times in one sitting.  I’m not sure why Gilby was involved (except that he was in Guns N’ Roses too, from 1992-1994).  I’ll be damned if I can pick out specific changes he made with his remixes, but most of the songs are different lengths so he obviously did stuff!  Gilby did have Tracii Guns come back to Hollywood Rose and overdub new guitar solos for “Shadow of Your Love” and “Reckless Life”.  These guitar overdubs do succeed in making the demos more exciting than they were.  The Coury remixes are probably most notable for a distinctly different drum sound.

The Roots of Guns N’ Roses by Hollywood Rose is an essential collector’s item for any serious Guns fan.  You don’t want to be without this.  I just don’t think that two complete sets of remixes were necessary.

3/5 stars

REVIEW: Cinderella – Long Cold Winter (1988)

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CINDERELLA  – Long Cold Winter (1988 Polygram Records)

I remember how excited I was upon hearing the first single, “Gypsy Road”, in the summer of ’88.  Cinderella had managed a bluesier, more “authentic” hard rock sound for their critical second LP.  Night Songs was OK, but Long Cold Winter was better in every way.  The cheese factor had been replaced by pedal steel guitars, pianos, and Hammond B3 organs.

Drummer Fred Coury was touring with Guns N’ Roses (Steven Adler had broken his hand punching a wall) during much of the making of Long Cold Winter.  It’s not clear how much of Long Cold Winter he played on, as the band pulled in two incredible session drummers for the project:  Denny Carmassi (of Heart and later Coverdale – Page), and the late great Cozy Powell!

From the bluesy opening of “Bad Seamstress Blues”, it was clear that the AC/DC clone Cinderella that featured Bon Jovi cameos in its videos had evolved.  Two incredible, throat wrenching rockers follow this:  “Fallin’ Apart at the Seams” and “Gypsy Road”.  Both songs easily stand up today as forgotten classics of the “hair metal” era.  But truthfully, Cinderella only made one “hair metal” album.  Long Cold Winter doesn’t really fit in with that scene, and their next album Heartbreak Station would leave it behind completely.

“Don’t Know What You Got (Till It’s Gone)”, the epic power ballad, is more Aerosmith than Poison, and still features a great guitar solo straight out of the Iommi blues notebook.  I’m not too keen on “The Last Mile”, a straightforward rocker, but it was still chosen as a single from this album.  Much better is the side-closing “Second Wind”, amped up and stuttering.

Side two opened with Cinderella’s “serious” blues, the title track.  It’s a bit too contrived for me, it has a vibe of, “Hey, let’s write our ‘Since I’ve Been Loving You’!”.  Lots of repeated “baby baby baby” Plant-isms.  At the time it was released, this song was seen as a serious departure for the band, but in hindsight it’s really just a first step into a larger world.  It’s somewhat reminiscent of the rare occasions that Black Sabbath has attempted a slow blues (I’m thinking “Feels Good To Me”, also featuring Cozy Powell) mixed with Zeppelin.

“If You Don’t Like It” is another standard rocker, nothing special, but this is followed by no less than three great songs in a row.  First is the single “Coming Home”, not really a ballad, but a hybrid.  This was one of the most immediate songs that I fell for when I picked up the album.  You can tell that Cinderella wrote a lot of this album on the road, by the lyrics.  “Coming Home” is one such road song.

“Fire and Ice” is heavy, sort of a revisited “Second Wind”, another standout!  Then the album closes with the slide-laden “Take Me Back”, which strikes me as another road song.  Just as good as “Coming Home”, but heavier, it was a great album closer.  Personally if this album had spawned a fifth single, “Take Me Back” would have been my pick, hands down.  And I think this album could have justified five singles.

The band evolved further with album #3 (which featured strings by John Paul Jones!), but I think Long Cold Winter strikes the perfect balance between screeching rock and bitter blues.  From the classy album cover on down to the perfect production, I don’t think they’ve ever made a better album.

4.5/5 stars