George Young

REVIEW: Gillan & Glover – Accidentally on Purpose (1988)

IAN GILLAN & ROGER GLOVER – Accidentally on Purpose (1988 Virgin)

Shit LeBrain’s Customers Said

I was playing this album in-store one afternoon in the 90’s.  A customer walked up to me and asked what I was playing.

“This is a side project by Ian Gillan and Roger Glover from Deep Purple,” I answered

He responded, “Roger Waters from Pink Floyd?

What…?  No!  No!  You got just two words of that right: “Roger” and “from”!

Deep Purple’s The House of Blue Light was an incredibly difficult album to make, especially for Ian Gillan.  A working vacation was in order, so he and Glover took off for the Caribbean.  They settled in to Sir George Martin’s recording studio AIR Montserrat, to record whatever they felt like.  The result was the light and tropical Accidentally on Purpose, an album that Gillan says has become the favourite record for a number of his friends.  He is very proud of it, especially since it came on the heels of a terrible creative experience in Deep Purple.  It would not have been born if not for the gloomy Purple process.  Many guests contributed to the jovial sessions, such as Dr. John, George Young, and Andy Newmark.

Jump in your TARDIS, and travel back in time to 1987.  Your destination:  a tropical island with plenty of rum, beaches and a recording studio.  Can you picture it?  Can you hear the sounds of the late 80’s in your mind?  Then you can imagine what Accidentally on Purpose sounds like.

There are no “Clouds and Rain” in the images in my mind, only boats and surf and sand.  Glover plays bass and keyboards, Newmark is on drums, while George Young contributes a light sax solo.  This is not for most Deep Purple fans, most assuredly.  This is for those who want to open their minds and have a trip into the clouds and sunshine.  This is about as light as light rock gets, but there is a quality to it above the pop morass.

Hard hitting electronic drum beats back “Evil Eye”, a much edgier track.  Still, don’t expect guitars, solos or Ian Gillan to scream his ass off.  If you enjoy the kind of pop rock that Robert Plant was doing in the 80’s, you’re in the right ballpark for this.  It’s blatantly commercial compared to Deep Purple, but at the same time it’s not because there are musical challenges to be found here.

“She Took My Breath Away” is a sweet love song, similar musically to the brightness of “Clouds and Rain”, but relying too much on electronics.  Then they get goofy on “Dislocated” which sounds like Ian Gillan having a blast.  (I recognize one of the keyboard voices on this song from our old Yamaha back in the day!)  Glover’s enjoying himself too; he plays some brilliant bass parts, very different from Deep Purple.  “Via Miami” ended the first side with an old time rock and roll party!   It’s the first significant guitar rocker, and it sounds like something the Honeydrippers could have gotten away with.  (In fact Plant would sound brilliant singing this.)  Bring on the sax!

There is plenty more guitar on “I Can’t Dance to That”, which unfortunately is not a good song.  It is not different enough from Deep Purple rawk, but not good enough for Deep Purple.  The old blues classic “I Can’t Believe You Wanna Leave” is incredible, giving Ian a chance to sing something different, and he does it with lung power!  Dr. John on the keys lends it that funky N’awleans drawl.  If you were to make a mix tape of Ian Gillan’s finest vocal performance, then this song should be on it.  The skippable “Lonely Avenue” only has synth to back it; largely forgettable.  Synth-rocking to “Telephone Box” is more fun; it’s probably the best rocker on the album.  Cool female backing vocals make Gillan sound even more suave.  He breaks out his trusted congas on it, and truthfully you could imagine the Deep Purple of today performing a song like this now.

The last tune on the record was “I Thought No”, rocking bluesily along to the end.  If you want a drunken, laidback jam session with scads of harmonica to go, then “I Thought No” will deliver the right thrills.  Just open a bottle and dive in…but the CD offers three more bonus tracks!   The cool rockin’ blues of “I Thought No” is contrasted by the most nauseating track, “Cayman Island”.  Ian’s done some kind of Jamaican twist to his accent.  Pure synth, with all those keyboard presets I remember from the 80’s, that’s “Cayman Island”!  And I love every second of it, as terrible as it is.  No matter how much you hate “Cayman Island”, you have to be a real hard hearted bastard if you don’t like “Purple People Eater”.  That’s exactly the song you think it is, and who better to do it than the guys from Purple?  You want a golden oldie performed by the guy who loves the golden oldies the most?  I sure do so fuck off if you don’t!  It’s brilliant, and you just gotta dance.  The last song is a synth throwaway called “Chet”, which references a boat called the Carrie Lee; Gillan also name-dropped the vessel in Cayman Island.

Accidentally on Purpose probably kept Ian and Roger sane at the time.  That has to be why it sounds so gleeful.  They needed this.  Does a Deep Purple fan “need” this?  No.  But they’d find some good times here regardless.

3/5 stars

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REVIEW: AC/DC – Blow Up Your Video (1988)

AC/DC – Blow Up Your Video (1988, 2003 Epic remaster)

By 1988, AC/DC had abandoned the bare-bones live-style music videos they had been doing for the last few years, and went into full-on productions.  That became AC/DC’s trademark style from that point forward: the band playing in front of an eager crowd, and crazy stuff going on around them. Explosions, lights, wrecking balls or what have you — this all became part of the AC/DC music video experience, with Angus stomping around front and center. “Who Made Who” was really the first of the big AC/DC videos of this style. “Heatseeker” continued the tradition, with Angus popping out of a missile!

“Heatseeker” was an explosive first single, but unexpectedly, it was not really representative of Blow Up Your Video as an album.  The highschool halls were filled with mutterings that the new AC/DC was “not as good” as past AC/DC, and that was troubling.  Blow Up Your Video proved to be a transitional album, as many changes were afoot for AC/DC.

Malcolm Young had hit rock bottom, in the depths of a drinking problem that was starting to take its toll on the band on the concert stage.  He was unable to tour.  Angus and Malcolm’s nephew Stevie Young stepped up, and helped the boys out on tour.  (Nobody would ever imagine that Stevie would have to do it permanently in 2014 when Malcolm withdrew from the band due to dementia.)  Drummer Simon Wright wouldn’t last either.  After the tour, he left to join Dio.  It was also the last album to which Brian Johnson wrote any lyrics.

On the other hand, the chemistry with producers Harry Vanda and George Young (an older brother) had never been better.  They helmed the classic AC/DC albums with Bon Scott, as well as three more recent songs on 1986’s Who Made Who.  It was thought that they would bring that old time rock and roll slant back to AC/DC, so they were retained for Blow Up Your Video.

“Heatseeker”, being so upbeat and catchy with just a hint of a jangle in the guitars, was certainly promising.  Like a one-two punch, the second single “That’s the Way I Wanna Rock N Roll” is next.  The production holds it back, lacking punch (especially on the drums), but it’s a killer AC/DC good time rock and roller.  Weak sonics aside, few AC/DC albums begin with two big winners like this right from the get-go.

Things get funky from there.  “Meanstreak” does have a bit of funk to it, but suffers again from a muddy sound and too much echo on the vocals and drums.  The further one delves into Blow Up Your Video, it seems like the songs aren’t so bad, just the sound.  Same with “Go Zone”.  There’s nothing wrong with the tune, but it seems to drag and fumble in a muddy puddle with the tires spinning.  The side one closer “Kissin’ Dynamite” has a smoky prowling guitar and so sounds more at home.  At least the side is salvaged by this last tune.

Since AC/DC offloaded their two singles right off the bat on side one, the second side is a much more turgid affair.  “Nick of Time” has a blasts of guitars exactly where you want them, but lacks hooks.  “Some Sin For Nuthin'” is better, because it’s back to that menacing dusky prowl that AC/DC do so well.  Finally, AC/DC hit all the buttons with “Ruff Stuff”, a mid-tempo rocker with an actual chorus and verses that you can remember!  “Two’s Up” is of similar quality, another decent album rocker good enough for rock and roll.

Finally, “This Means War” ends the album on a frantic, unfocused note.  It has the energy and fire lacking on earlier songs, but has nothing else.  Simon Wright is perfectly behind the beat, and Angus’ fingers sure are flying…but is that enough?  For AC/DC, it is not.

The album sold a measly million copies in the US  and failed to crack the top ten.  Needing to do better, Bruce Fairbairn was called upon when needed for The Razors Edge.  Since then, Blow Up Your Video has remained under its large, looming shadow, and for good reason.

2.5/5 stars

REVIEW: AC/DC – ’74 Jailbreak (1984)

Welcome back to the Week of EPs! Each day this week, I’ll be checking out a variety of EP releases, both famed and obscure.

MONDAY: Aerosmith – The Other Side (1990)
TUESDAY: Wolfsbane – All Hell’s Breaking Loose Down at Little Kathy Wilson’s Place! (1990)

AC/DC – ’74 Jailbreak (1984 Epic)

As most AC/DC fans are aware, their Australian and American discographies differed greatly in tracklists and cover art.  Australia also got one more record (T.N.T.) than we did.   This amounted to a number of Bon Scott tracks that were left off the original American releases.  It made sense to eventually release them, so in 1984, five tracks were released on the tenth anniversary EP, ’74 Jailbreak.  Of note, none of these songs are actually from 1974.

The track “Jailbreak” itself didn’t become a hit until this compilation was released.  It was originally on 1976’s Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap in Australia.  It definitely sounds from that era, and it’s long been one of my favourites.  I found that little riff irresistible, then and now.  I love Bon Scott’s storytelling lyrics, still cool today.  “Big man lying on the ground, with a hole in his body where his life had been.” And c’mon, you have to love the music video, or you have no sense of fun in your rock!

The next four tracks were all from High Voltage, another favourite album of mine. “You Ain’t Got a Hold on Me” is one of those slinky Bon Scott rockers. I like the spare riff and Angus’ bluesy playing. Uptempo “Show Business” is a wry dig on the business side of rock and roll. “You’re smoking butts, they smoke cigars.” Angus’ playing here is especially tasty as he takes his Gibson SG for a ride. Then “Soul Stripper” takes it to a dirty place. AC/DC return to that slinky territory they used to do so well with Bon. “Soul Stripper” is a highlight among highlights, with those quieter bass-driven verses. “Pulled out a knife and flashed it before me, stuck it in and turned it around.”

A cover of “Baby, Please Don’t Go” closes the EP on a frenetic extended jam. Bon shrieks as if in agony. The band blast away as only one of the greatest pure rock and roll bands can. This is rock and roll 101, your teachers are in class, so pay attention to Mr. Young and Mr. Young!

None of the songs on ’74 Jailbreak are outtake quality. I never fully understood who decided what songs were to be left off American releases and why. Some of these songs were singles in Australia! As mentioned, these are only some of the songs unreleased on American albums. There were more and they too were pretty damn good. They are “Stick Around” and “Love Song” from High Voltage, “R.I.P. (Rock in Peace)” from Dirty Deeds, “Crabsody in Blue” from Let There Be Rock, and “Cold Hearted Man” from Powerage. All these songs can be had on the Backtracks box set today.

5/5 stars

REVIEW: AC/DC – Stiff Upper Lip (Bonus CD)

AC/DC – Stiff Upper Lip (Bonus CD edition, 2000 Warner)

So much music, so little time! I reviewed the AC/DC album Stiff Upper Lip months and months ago. Previously, I only owned the single disc version of Stiff Upper Lip. I knew of the 2 CD Australian version, but I didn’t own it.  I thought and assumed all those bonus tracks were included on the massive AC/DC Backtracks box set. It has pretty much everything else.  However I was wrong, and I promptly bought a copy of the 2 CD version from Discogs, with plans to review it shortly after I reviewed Stiff Upper Lip itself.  That was in July.  Like I said, so much music, so little time!

Backtracks is missing two songs from the bonus CD: “Back In Black”, live from Madrid, is exclusive to this set. So is the 11 minute “Let There Be Rock”. (Meanwhile, Backtracks had plenty more songs from the Madrid show that are not on this bonus CD. Those songs are “Dog Eat Dog”, “Hail Caesar”, and “You Shook Me All Night Long”.

Confusing, huh? That’s why I’m here. To help the fans and collectors out there.

The Stiff Upper Lip bonus CD has a mix of live tracks, videos, and one rare studio recording:

      1. “Cyberspace” (Non LP Track)
      2. “Back in Black (Live – Plaza De Toros, Madrid, 1996)”
      3. “Hard as a Rock (Live – Plaza De Toros, Madrid, 1996)”
      4. “Ballbreaker (Live – Plaza De Toros, Madrid, 1996)”
      5. “Whole Lotta Rosie (Live – Plaza De Toros, Madrid, 1996)”
      6. “Let There Be Rock (Live – Plaza De Toros, Madrid, 1996)”
      7. “Stiff Upper Lip” (Music video)
      8. “Safe in New York City” (Music video)
      9. “Satellite Blues” (Music video)

I don’t care so much about music videos on a CD. Since the early 2000’s, bands tend to include a bonus DVD with their albums instead of videos on an enhanced CD. Plus we have Youtube now, most music videos are available online 24/7 on demand.

Skipping the videos, the most interesting track here is “Cyberspace” which was also a B-side to the “Safe in New York City” single. I hate songs about the internet (see: “Virtuality” by Rush) but thankfully “Cyberspace” kicks real ass. Sonically it’s the same as the rest of Stiff Upper Lip: hard, loud, stripped back. It’s also fast and memorable, making it one of the most interesting Stiff Upper Lip songs. Highly recommended to fans of this album.

Then you get the five live songs, originally from the 1996 concert in Madrid that was released on DVD as No Bull. I always prefer an audio format to a video one. I’ll tell you that the “new” songs from Ballbreaker were awesome live! In particular the title track, but “Hard as a Rock” is relentless and classic sounding. Meanwhile you can’t say anything bad about “Back in Black” or “Rosie”. You could argue that you didn’t need more live versions; I’d argue just to not buy this CD.

Finally “Let There Be Rock” is present in full-on extended live version. Angus wails away like a man possessed, a man in a trance, a man at one with the rock! With the rest of AC/DC behind him, you couldn’t ask for a more solid backing band, which makes the whole thing work.

As a companion piece to the whole Stiff Upper Lip album, I give the bonus CD:

4/5 stars

More AC/DC at mikeladano.com:

Live at River Plate (German import, 3 bonus tracks) – Backtracks (3 CD/2 DVD guitar amp box set) – Bonfire (5 CD box set)- Stiff Upper Lip

REVIEW: AC/DC – Stiff Upper Lip (2000)

Part 1 of a 2-part series on this album.  Part 2 will come when I acquire the version with the bonus live disc!

AC/DC – Stiff Upper Lip (2000 Warner)

One doesn’t so much review an AC/DC album as just tell the listener what the songs are called.  Stiff Upper Lip is a bit of an exception to that rule for me, as it seemed to be a really solid return to an early-1970’s form.  Just listen to the irresistible “Hold Me Back”.  Can’t you imagine Bon singing this one?

STIFF UPPER LIP_0004My first AC/DC album was Dirty Deeds Done Dirty Cheap.  I grew up listening to Bon, and Stiff Upper Lip is the most rock n’ roll sounding AC/DC album since his death.  It seems they dropped some (but certainly not all) of the heavy riffing, leaving room for Malcolm and Angus to weave together some tasty guitar lines into song.  Phil Rudd’s simple metronomic rhythms are perfectly suited to this approach.

When they do get their riff on, it’s on tracks like the relentless “Safe in New York City”.   Yet I keep coming back to the laid back picking style of tunes like “Can’t Stand Still”.  It doesn’t get much simpler nor satisfying.

The album was produced by Harry Vanda and George Young, much like the classic of old.  They captured great performances, clear and uncluttered. Not every song here is a winner, most Johnson-era albums have filler.  Stiff Upper Lip‘s filler ratio is remarkably low.

A European/Australian exclusive “tour edition” contained a bonus CD with an unreleased track (“Cyberspace”) and five live tracks.  Most of this material is also available on the massive Backtracks box set.  But we’ll talk about that bonus disc another time…

4/5 stars

When I need to hear some more recent AC/DC, 9 times out of 10, I reach for Stiff Upper Lip.