george lynch

VHS Archives #2: Hear N’ Aid Special – Pepsi Power Hour (1986)

The one VHS tape I’m working on currently spans a period of recordings from about July 1986 to September 1987. This Hear N’ Aid special features a MuchMusic interview conducted by J.D. (John) Roberts. There’s lots of exclusive information in this valuable video, including a tidbit on bands who refused to be in the same project as Spinal Tap!

REVIEW: Dokken – Return to the East Live (2018 Japanese CD/DVD set)

DOKKEN – Return to the East Live (2018 Frontiers Japan CD/region 2 – DVD set)

Even the most devout Dokken fan must acknowledge that Don is not the be-all and end-all of singers.  A good singer, yes, but never in the top tier.  Now that age has taken its toll (as it always does), Don relies on the backup singing of Jeff Pilson, Mick Brown, and George Lynch to hit those high notes.  The classic Dokken lineup reunited for some shows in Japan, and even recorded a new song to go with it.  Fortunately Dokken were up to the challenge, even with the shortcomings that age creates.

Some of the audience looks too young to have known Dokken when they first rocked Japan back in the 80s, but most are die-hards.  Don himself looks cool as a cucumber, with George and Jeff on either side holding down the fort.  Most importantly it seems they had a good time.  Lynch is simply compelling to watch, as he plays impossible licks while making it look so easy.

There’s no messing around with this setlist.  All classic Dokken, all 80s, no filler.  They focused on what the fans wanted and they delivered.  The band sounded great.  Pilson’s all-important bass is given enough room in the mix to be effective.  Songs like “It’s Not Love”, “The Hunter” and especially “Alone Again” buzz with electricity.  Vocally, with great backup singers like Jeff, the band were able to pull it off.  It’s a high energy reunion show.  It’s just too bad so many people in the audience spent it on their phones.

The DVD and CD tracklists are, strangely, not in the same order.  You can hear some obvious vocal overdubs in places, most notably “Kiss of Death”.  There are some sloppy edits on the video.  Don’s lips don’t always match the words, and there are annoying graphic overlays, but it’s a good show with plenty of closeups.  Jeff Pilson is a dynamo on stage, but Wild Mick has lost nothing over the years either.  He hammers on his kit as if he’s still 25 years old!  There is little interaction between the members on stage, except for Jeff who is all over the place, including the keyboards.  Don grins like a Cheshire cat when George lays down those familiar solos.  He picks up the guitar himself for oldies like “Breakin’ the Chains”.

Both the CD and DVD portion have unique bonus content.  After the main feature, you will find 45 minutes of behind the scenes footage, directed by Don.  Shaky camera work aside, this is fascinating fly-on-the-wall stuff.  Chatterbox Don is full of energy, even when losing his fedora hat. Eagle-eyed Trailer Park Boys fans will recognise road manager Tom Mayhue, their nemesis in the Out of the Park series.  As the band pick apart the set and put it back together again, you get a real sense that they just wanted to get it right but not at the expense of fun.

You will find two exclusive bonus acoustic songs on the CD.  “Heaven Sent” (with congas) and the obscure “Will the Sun Rise” are studio re-recordings, giving both songs a fresh, mellow gleam.  That’s not the main feature, however.  For obvious reasons, the brand new song “It’s Another Day” is the centrepiece, and as such it is presented as the very first track on the disc.  While the live set is undoubtedly a very significant memento for fans, nothing really excites them like a brand new song — their first together as the classic lineup two decades.  And it’s a solid B+.  Grooving with a head of steam, “It’s Another Day” is very reminiscent of the excellent and underrated Dysfunctional album from 1995.

The Japanese bonus track this time is the early Dokken classic “Paris is Burning” live, which is also on the DVD but not the standard CD or download versions. Don’t you hate when a track is missing that is only on the DVD? Sure you do.

Jeff Pilson says that he wanted Dokken to end (if this is the end) on an up note.  “Just a really positive  exclamation point to a great career.  Wouldn’t that be wonderful?”

4/5 stars

REVIEW: Working Man (Tribute to Rush, 1996)

Scan_20160821WORKING MAN (1996 Magna Carta tribute to Rush)

This CD was released in 1996, and almost immediately the music press started reporting that Rush were trying to have it taken off the shelves.  One of our former owners at the Record Store, the infamous Tom, said:  “I can see why they were trying to do that.  Because it’s too fucking good.”

It actually is.  There are few tribute albums worth listening to all the way through.  How many can you name:  Encomium, the Zeppelin tribute?  The Sabbath tributes Nativity in Black?  Do you listen to those front to back?  That’s the best and only way to enjoy Working Man.  So numerous are the progressive rock and hard rock names here that we may have trouble keeping track of them all.

Sebastian Bach hails from the Great White North, so it is only appropriate for him to open this CD with the title track.  He also passionately stuns on “Jacob’s Ladder” a bit later on, utilising the power and range he is known for.  What names on these songs!  Mike Portnoy and Billy Sheehan play drums and bass respectively; two guys often cited as the best in the world on their instruments!  If that wasn’t enough, ex-Ozzy guitarist Jake E. Lee shreds the hell out of “Working Man” while John Petrucci from Dream Theater goes for the throat on “Jacob’s”.  Take a minute to absorb all that.

Seamlessly, “Working Man” develops into “By-Tor and the Snow Dog” with James LaBrie of Dream Theater in peak voice.  Sheehan and Portnoy handle the rhythm for most of the album, so you can be assured that the chops of Mr. Lee and Mr. Peart are served well here by the next generation of players.  Dream Theater fans will lose their shit completely.  But there is so much more here than just progressive rockers letting it fly.  A youthful and impressive Jack Russell from Great White takes on the galloping “Analog Kid” from Signals and wins.  Have no fear or doubts: this may seem strange, but Russell’s version of “Analog Kid” may well be one of the best Rush covers you’ll ever hear.  (Especially when Billy Sheehan and guitarist Michael Romeo do a synched-up dual bass/guitar solo!)

Other highlights:

  • The late Mike Baker of Shadow Gallery has no problems with “The Trees”, an excellent version.
  • Steve Morse (Deep Purple, Dixie Dregs, Flying Colors) takes the main guitar part for “La Villa Strangiato”, causing spontaneous head explosions.
  • Blue-eyed soul singer Eric Martin (Mr. Big) does a fine job of the light “Mission”, though it sounds very different from the shred-rock elsewhere.
  • A bang-on “Closer to the Heart” performed by Fates Warning is a must-have for fans.
  • James LaBrie and his old bandmate in Winter Rose, Rich Chycki, reunite on the classic “Red Barchetta”.  A little added Can-Con for rock fans.

And best of all, Devin Townsend screaming his balls off, all over “Natural Science”.  Without a doubt, Townsend has the most unorthodox interpretation, but it’s Devin Townsend, so you must expect the unexpected.  This guy is an underrated national treasure, and along with James Murphy (Death, Testament) on guitar, Stu Hamm on bass, and Deen Castronovo on drums, all walls are shattered.  “Natural Science” is undoubtedly the most different track here, and consequently it’s the most exciting.

The only mis-fire:

  • “Anthem”, with Mark Slaughter and George Lynch.  Slaughter’s voice is too shrill.  (I cannot handle when he shrieks “Come on!  Yeah!” at the start.)  George’s Eastern-flavoured shredding is also overdone and misplaced.

That means out of 13 tracks, 12 of them are keepers.

For an added layer of authenticity, the CD was mixed by Terry Brown himself, in Toronto.  Prices fluctuate wildly, but fans of Rush, Dream Theater, Sebastian Bach or Devin Townsend would be wise to pick this up if found in their travels.

4.5/5 stars

 

 

 

REVIEW: Lynch Mob – Wicked Sensation (1990)

This review comes by request of reader Wardy, and Jon Wilmenius!

LYNCH MOB_0001LYNCH MOB – Wicked Sensation (1990 Elektra)

When Dokken split, everybody more or less expected George Lynch to take it a little heavier.  “Wild” Mick Brown (drums) stuck with him, and together to put together a band including newcomers Oni Logan (vocals) and Anthony Esposito (bass).  Lynch praised his name band, which had to be dubbed Lynch Mob, because it’s just too obvious not to.

George was championing his new singer Logan all over the press, “best singer I’ve ever worked with,” yada yada.  It was with slight disappointment that I finally heard Logan on the opening title track/lead single, “Wicked Sensation”.  Logan boasted a rough, unpolished bluesy voice akin to Ray Gillen.  He didn’t have a tremendous range but he was very different from the frictionless Don Dokken.  Logan relied on his bluesy, raspy wail to nail the choruses.

“Wicked Sensation” is a great introduction to Lynch Mob.  George did indeed go groovier and heavier than Dokken had been lately.  The song delivered a heavy chorus, a juggernaut groove, and Oni Logan’s sleazy howls.  It was not commercial but it was promising.  The second single “River of Love” was unfortunately more or less a generic rock track.  Where “Wicked Sensation” shook us to the core, “River of Love” merely sounded same-old, same-old to my teenage ears.

The musicianship is impeccable (especially “Street Fighting Man”), and certainly Anthony Esposito’s post-Lynch Mob discography has proved his worth.  George had the opportunity to shred as he hadn’t before, exploring different tones in his solos and rhythms.  It’s not a “guitar” album and there are no instrumentals, but it is heavy on the guitars.  The unfortunate thing is bland songwriting.  Many choruses lack hooks.  Other songs, such as “Sweet Sister Mercy” (generic title or what?) have a good chorus, but little else.

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Standouts:

The aforementioned “Wicked Sensation” is an obvious highlight, a song that more or less forces you to pay attention to it.  “All I Want” has a cool, laid-back sleaze groove.  (Logan does really well on this one.)  “She’s Evil But She’s Mine” is a great little track, slinky but still heavy.  “No Bed of Roses” is a smoking hot rocker that just kicks ass.  It has probably the single best chorus on the album.  “For A Million Years” is also above par.

I don’t feel a lot of love for the rest of the album, which sort of becomes a soundalike soup of Lynch guitars and Logan wails.  Bottom line, there needed to be more focus on the songs.  While every track has its own jaw-dropping moments, there just aren’t enough hooks to stick to your ears like peanut butter in the mouth.  Even the ballad, “Through These Eyes” (obviously written in the mold of “Alone Again”) fades from the memory as soon as the song ends.

Wicked Sensation kicks ass, but it leaves me wanting.

3/5 stars

REVIEW: George Lynch – Sacred Groove (1993)

It’s a shame I lost my original 1993 review of this album.

LYNCH_0001GEORGE LYNCH – Sacred Groove (1993 Elektra)

If you like Dokken but never followed George onto the Lynch Mob, then this album is for you.

George Lynch is a very talented shredder, capable of playing a wide variety of styles.  Sometimes he hits, sometimes he misses, but on Sacred Groove he makes the mark every time.  Sacred Groove was designed as a solo project shortly after the second Lynch Mob album.  The idea was to work and write with different singers and musicians, and George loaded up on some great singers.  Glenn Hughes, anyone?

John Cuniberti, who co-helmed many Joe Satriani albums, produced this opus and lent it some serious sonic excellence.  The opener “Memory Jack” is a collaboration between producer and guitarist, but this is little more than a sound collage to kick off a killer instrumental called “Love Power From the Mama Head”.  This isn’t to say that “Memory Jack” does not contain some shredding licks, because it does…but they are not the focus.  The sound collage itself is the focus.  Into “Love Power”, George lays down some serious riffy rhythm guitars.  This is topped with a very Satriani-esque guitar melody.  “Love Power” is constructed very much like a Satch rock instrumental track, with memorable guitar melodies and song structures.

There is a very cool moment in the guitar solo in “Love Power From the Mama Head”, at exactly 4:47.  While George was essentially assaulting his guitar with the whammy bar, he accidentally dropped the instrument on the studio floor.  “Shit!” said George, while producer Cuniberti ran over and stopped George from picking it up.  The producer then kicked the guitar for added effect!  Cuniberti assured George it would sound cool, and it kind of does!  The guitar just stops on this weird chord-like sound, before they punch out of that and into more shredding.  It’s different and spontaneous and I love shit like that.

“Flesh and Blood”, contender for best track on the album, is the first vocal, featuring Badlands’ Ray Gillen (R.I.P.).  It’s a Dokken stomper for sure, but with Ray Gillen’s bluesy Coverdale-isms all over it.  Killer.  The lyrics were co-written by George’s ex-Dokken bandmate Jeff Pilson, who also co-wrote and plays bass on the next track, “We Don’t Own This World”.

Now here’s the interesting thing about “We Don’t Own This World”.  Lyrics by: Don Dokken?  The fuck?

George, Don and Jeff had planned to reunite on this one song, that Don supplied the lyrics for.  Don however cancelled or chickened out (either/or) and didn’t make it to the session.  It just so happened that the Nelson twins, Matthew and Gunnar, were in town and eagerly sang on the track in Don’s absence.  With their harmonies, “We Don’t Own This World” sounds nothing like Dokken, except in basic ways.  It’s the most commercial track on the album; a pop rocker.  The vocals soar over one killer melody, and the solo is one of George’s best.  If this song had come out only two years sooner, it would have been a hit single.  The Nelsons have done some cool music over the years, and not gotten a lot of credit for it, so this song is pure delight.

I still think of CDs as “albums” with distinct sides, and on the cassette version “I Will Remember” closed Side One.  This instrumental ballad has a vaguely dark tropical feel, although it is an electric guitar song.  George’s solos are sublime and I love his unexpected timing on certain notes.  He has flawless chops mixed with feel…a rare combination.

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Side Two’s opener is an epic in two parts, but it’s as close to a skip as this album gets.  The problem is vocalist Mandy Lion, of WWIII.  You either like his glass-garling-elfin-metal voice or you do not.  I do not.  However, “The Beast” Parts I and II are such a slamming groove that I tend to block out the words and the voice singing them.  This is another track where the original vocalist slated could not do it.  Udo Dirkschneider wanted too much money and Rob Halford was too busy, but Mandy Lion would do it.  He showed up at the studio in the heat of summer wearing head to toe black leather.

“The Beast” could be a dirty sex anthem, I guess, but it’s far too heavy for the 50 Shades crowd.  I dig when halfway through, George breaks out his newly-bought sitar.  (I remember seeing pictures of George in Metal Edge magazine buying it!)  If only Mandy would have chosen to shut up at this moment.  Bassist Chris Solberg comes in and grooves through to a false ending, and then it’s “Part II (Addiction to the Friction)” — a 10 minute track in total.  Thankfully a huge chunk of it is instrumental.

The regal Glenn Hughes raises the bar any time he opens his mouth.  His two songs were the first new Hughes singing I had heard since Black Sabbath.  I detect some fragility in his voice here.  I think this may be from a period where Glenn was recovering from addictions.  Regardless, he sounds a lot better today, whatever the reasons are.  That’s not to say he’s bad here, because he’s still the best singer on the album.  You just feel he’s not giving it everything like he does today.

“Not Necessary Evil” is Glenn’s first song, a Dokken groove with Hughes’ soulful signature style.  This one too had hit single potential, but only in an alternate timeline in which Rock never fell to the Grunge Hordes in 1991.  “Cry of the Brave” is his second track, a slower and more soulful rock track.  This is a song about injustice to the American Indian (reading the lyrics, I’m assuming specifically Leonard Peltier), and it’s worth noting that Glenn wrote the lyrics by himself.

The album closes with a final instrumental called “Tierra Del Fuego”, and if you couldn’t guess, that means George breaks out the flamenco guitar.  There’s also a guest electric guitar soloist named Daryl Gable.  If I remember the story correctly, Daryl Gable was a lucky fan who was selected to have a guest shot on the album.  How cool is that?  And he’s pretty good, too!  I have to admit I like these dusky tropical flamenco things, so I consider “Tierra Del Fuego” to be a very successful album closer.  But fear not, there’s plenty of electric guitar too!

Sacred Groove is pretty damn near flawless.  If only they could have got Udo instead of Mandy, eh?

4.5/5 stars

REVIEW: Dokken – Dysfunctional (1995)

DOKKEN – Dysfunctional (1995 Columbia)

No matter how good the band may have been, when Dokken reunited for a new album in 1995, it was a no-win scenario. They always seemed to be one of those bands that critics loved to hate. I read a ridiculous review of Dysfunctional that said, “If Don Dokken fell in a forest, would he make a sound? And if he did, could they get George Lynch to solo over it for an hour?” What a stupid review.  The album deserves a lot of praise, because when Dokken did reunite, the music was as strong as ever.  They had discovered modern groove, added onto their lush harmony vocals, and it managed to sell 300,000 copies.

Dysfunctional was conceived originally as the second Don Dokken solo album, which just happened to have Mick Brown and Jeff Pilson on it. (Jeff had recently split from Dio.)  The record company persuaded Don to call up George Lynch and make it a true Dokken album.  Originally George was just supposed to come in and re-do the guitar solos, but Don wanted George’s rhythm.  That was smart.  George ended up with writing credits on most of the songs in the process.

I have to admit that when this came out, a new Dokken album was the last thing I expected to see. Deep into the grunge years, Dokken came out flying with a modern melodic hard rock record with warmth, depth and awesome production values (by Don and Michael Wagener). Raging solos, great ballads, glorious riffs, and those Dokken harmony vocals mark one of the best Dokken albums of their career.  It’s certainly lots better than the ones I’ve heard that followed it.

There are lots of highlights.  No songs suck, but some are better than others.  The best tune was the 7-minute single, “Too High to Fly”.  I don’t know who came up with the riff, whether it was Don or George, but this song kicks ass.  Jeff Pilson gets into a wicked bass groove, dominating the verses.  Don’s lead vocal is among his most impassioned and the band is smoking.  This is a shoulda-been Dokken classic.  I am given to understand that it is the only song from Dysfunctional that is still played live from time to time.

Other favourites include “Inside Looking Out”, which shares the same grooving direction.  “Long Way Home” is like classic Ye Olde Dokken and could have fit in on Back for the Attack next to “Mr. Scary”.  On the softer side, I really like the understated “Nothing Left To Say”, a classy acoustic ballad.  Jeff Pilson’s backing vocals coupled with strings create a timeless atmosphere.  Then there’s the album epic:  “The Maze”, a lush, multi-part progressive song with harmony vocals piled on top of harmony vocals.  It doesn’t get thicker than this!  The record closes on “From The Beginning”, an ELP cover and another classy acoustic song.

I don’t need to tell you how great George Lynch is.  The record company were right to get him involved.  He helped make this album really special.  And that’s not to say that “Wild” Mick Brown or Jeff Pilson don’t bring it, because both of them did and then some.  Just that George has a very unique sound.  There is only one George Lynch.

Dysfunctional is a compulsory purchase if you have ever liked Dokken. It is a shame that the title proved true. George bailed after the dismal followup album (Shadowlife) and Pilson wasn’t far behind. Sad.

4/5 stars

Nice hair, Don.

REVIEW: Dokken – Shadowlife (1997 Japanese import)

Yesterday we talked about an album that Kelly Gray (Tateryche) wrecked produced.  Today, we’re looking at another.  Batten down the hatches.

SHADOW TURD_0001

DOKKEN – Shadowlife (1997 Victor Japanese import)

I got this Japanese import CD from one of our franchisees.  Even though we technically were not “allowed” to buy CDs from one of our franchises, we all did it, even the head office people who enforced the rules.  In this case the franchisee himself was glad to have a guaranteed sale, rather than sit on an expensive Dokken flop for several months in inventory.  It even came with the original obi strip, stickers, and everything else was mint.  The scarcity of the complete package was reason alone to buy it.

The infamous Shadowlife will probably go down in history as the worst Dokken album. It’s certainly the most dysfunctional (even though that was the title of the previous, much better album). The dysfunction largely came down guitarist George Lynch, who according to sources at the time, purposely sabotaged the album.  He did this to put an end to Dokken, go the claims. Don himself was very unhappy with it, as quotes from the era will reveal (look them up). He also referred to a lead vocal shot (“Here I Stand”) by bassist Jeff Pilson as too “bar band-y”, meaning the lead singer of a pro band is the lead singer, and the bassist is the bassist. Clearly, ego was an issue as well.

Kelly Gray

Kelly Gray

Not to escape without blame is producer Kelly Gray, who had just ruined the career of Sven Gali a couple years prior.  Gray produces, engineers, mixes, and even co-wrote a couple tracks.  According to Don, Mr. Gray would not let the band sing their trademark harmonies, opting for grittier more modern sounds.  Gray’s trademark distortion on the lead vocals is omnipresent.

There are very few standout tracks here, although many have good parts and interesting bits. It is difficult to remember any songs distinctly even after a few listens. The grungy “Puppet On A String” is OK, due to a blazing George Lynch guitar solo (although buried in the mix).  It has a heavy groove, but the distorted lead vocal wrecks it for me.  “Cracks in the Ground” is better, containing a shadow of the Dokken harmonies, but mired in boring melodies and production.  “I Feel” sounds like Dokken, at least.  Not really great Dokken, but Dokken nevertheless.

The Japanese, always so lucky, got two bonus tracks:  “How Many Lives” and “Deep Waters”.  Neither stand out any more than the album tracks.  Not really a bonus this time, sorry Japan.  If anything, these songs detract from the album, by making it a longer, more agonizing experience.

In general the album is too slow, too tunelessly dull, too dreary.  It’s disjointed and it’s uninspired.  Too rainy, like a dark Seattle mist.  Mick Brown does rock, at least.  There are a few heavy songs, such as “Hello”, but I think my favourite song would be the moody acoustic ballad “Convenience Store Messiah”.  It’s the only song that sounds like a fully composed, complete arrangement.

Avoid.

1/5 stars

Afterword:  I played around the idea of just writing a two word review a-la Spinal Tap (“Shit Sandwich”).  I was going to call it “Shadow Turd”.  In the end, my OCD level attention to detail refused to allow it, and the wordy essay on the art of turd-making you just read was posted instead.  I’m sorry.  (Blame Kelly Gray for that, too.)

Forgotten Treasures – Ignored Albums of the 1990s – LeBrain’s List Part 5

Whoops!  I forgot these.  Thanks to the Heavy Metal OverloRd for pointing at least one of these out.

I really should have included these in my list of 88 albums that went under-appreciated in the 1990’s.  I loved these, still do, and my life wouldn’t be the same without them.

In alphabetical order:

BLUE RODEO – Just Like A Vacation (up there with Sloan as one of my fave live albums of all time)
FISH – Kettle of Fish 88-98 (my introduction to his solo music, a great set!)
HELIX – B-Sides (a misnomer: no B-sides included, but all great tracks that didn’t make albums)
GEORGE LYNCH – Sacred Groove (pure smoke!)
SANDBOX – Bionic (I guess Mike Smith makes significantly more money playing Bubbles on Trailer Park Boys)
SANDBOX – A Murder In The Glee Club (brilliant, brilliant concept album on insanity. Genius!)
REEF – Glow (I think these guys were pretty big in the UK but unknown here)
ROCKHEAD – Rockhead (see my review for all the details)
SLOAN – Between The Bridges (can’t believe I forgot my fave Sloan studio record!)

THIN LIZZY – Dedication: The Very Best Of (the song “Dedication” was my intro to Lizzy!)
BILL WARD – Ward One: Along The Way (I have a review forthcoming, one of the best solo Sabs ever)
THE WHITLAMS – Eternal Nightcap (Aussie band, saw them open for Blue Rodeo, blew me away)
ZAKK WYLDE – Book of Shadows (thanks HMO! Liked it so much I bought it twice)

I really hope I didn’t forget any more.  Embarrassing.  Check these out…all great albums front to back!

REVIEW: Dokken – Back For the Attack (1987)

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DOKKEN – Back For the Attack (1987)

Dokken have never surpassed Back For The Attack, although they certainly have tried hard. This album is the pinnacle of Dokken. (No laughing!) No ballads! “Heaven Sent” is as close as we get. 13 songs, one being a George Lynch instrumental (pure smoke!), this album is packed full of great tunes and performances.  Think about that — 13 songs, in 1987.  That was overachieving, big time.  Overkill!

One could argue that you only need one Dokken album proper, and I would argue that it’s Back For The Attack.  Never had the band been so heavy or focused. Turns out they were falling apart at the seams, but at the time they were “Burning Like A Flame” up the charts indeed.

It’s a heavy regal hard rock sound, with oodles of smokin’ Furious George guitar as only he can play it.  Not to be outdone are Jeff Pilson on bass and backing vocals (the vocals being a critical component of early Dokken) and “Wild” Mick Brown destroying his kit, cymbal by cymbal!

Highlights:
The heavy angry groove of “Kiss Of Death”, Don at his screaming (!) best
“Burning Like A Flame”, the melodic but not-wimpy single
“Mr. Scary”, George’s ferocious solo piece
and of course the hit single “Dream Warriors” which everybody knows.

Even the cover art is the classiest thing this band has done, and totally representative of the music inside.

5/5 stars! ( I only wish the track “Back For the Attack” was included! Get it on the “Dream Warriors” single instead.)

Side One

  1. “Kiss of Death”
  2. “Prisoner”
  3. “Night by Night”
  4. “Standing in the Shadows”
  5. “Heaven Sent”
  6. “Mr. Scary”

Side Two

  1. “So Many Tears”
  2. “Burning Like a Flame”
  3. “Lost Behind the Wall”
  4. “Stop Fighting Love”
  5. “Cry of the Gypsy”
  6. “Sleepless Night”
  7. “Dream Warriors”

REVIEW: Hear N’ Aid – Stars (1986)

HEAR N’ AID – Stars (1986 LP, Japanese CD)

It is hard to believe that this monumental album, a piece of rock history, was only issued on CD in Japan! Finding a domestic LP or cassette isn’t hard (I’ve owned it on all three formats including CD) so hunt your record shops.  I know Wendy Dio has a CD/DVD reissue lined up, hopefully including the full album, single edit, and the video and interviews.  If you’re reading this Wendy…

At the time, all funds went to starving people in Africa, hence the name Hear N’ Aid.  The inspiration was something fairly obvious:  No heavy metal people outside of Geddy Lee was involved in the numerous famine relief projects of the time!  (Geddy sang a lead on the excellent “Tears Are Not Enough” (1985) by Northern Lights, but nobody metal could be seen in “Do They Know It’s Christmas” or “We Are the World”.)

“Oh, you knoooow that we’ll be there!”

Showing the world that heavy metal bands and fans aren’t a bunch of assholes, Jimmy Bain and Vivian Campbell of Dio came up with the concept for Hear N’ Aid.

The main track, “Stars”, by Hear N’ Aid is a tour-de-force. Written by Bain, Campbell and Dio, this is essentially an epic extended track with a soft intro and heavy verses, and tons of guests. They assembled virtually every major metal singer who was willing and available to take part. That means you will hear Quiet Riot singers Kevin DuBrow and Paul Shortino (still with Ruff Cutt at the time) singing together for the first and only time in history! Rob Halford, Don Dokken, Eric Bloom, Geoff Tate, Dave Meniketti, and Dio himself all take lead vocal slots too.

When the guitar solo kicks in, prepared to be blown away. With Iron Maiden guitarists Dave Murray and Adrian Smith playing backing harmonies, you will hear the monstrous talents of George Lynch, Yngwie Malmsteen, Vivian Campbell, Craig Goldy, Neal Schon, Buck Dharma, Carloz Cavazo, Brad Gillis and Eddie Ojeda all taking a few bars. No charity track had ever attempted to assemble not just singers, but guitar players, on one track before.

All this is backed by drummers, bassists and keyboard players from Dio and Quiet Riot. There are more backing singers than I can name, but most notably, Derek Smalls and David St. Hubbins from Spinal Tap. Of course.

The rest of the album is filled out by songs donated by bands who couldn’t take part in the song, but still wanted to help the starvation situation in Africa. Therefore you will get a live “Heaven’s On Fire” from Kiss, from their Animalize Live Uncensored home video. This is the only place that the audio track was released on. There is an unreleased live “Distant Early Warning” by Rush, and rare ones by Scorpions and Accept as well.

Tracklist:
1.Hear ‘n Aid – “Stars”
2.Accept – “Up to the Limit” (live)
3.Motörhead – “On the Road” (live)
4.Rush – “Distant Early Warning” (live)
5.Kiss – “Heaven’s on Fire” (live)
6.Jimi Hendrix – “Can You See Me”
7.Dio – “Hungry for Heaven” (live)
8.Y&T – “Go for the Throat”
9.Scorpions – “The Zoo” (live)

5/5 stars