gilby clarke

REVIEW: Duff McKagan – Believe In Me (1993)

scan_20170213DUFF McKAGAN – Believe In Me (1993 Geffen)

In 1993 Duff McKagan was not clean yet, at least not for good.  It would take a critical medical emergency for him to get close enough to death and stop drinking.  The cover of Believe in Me, a skeletal Duff bathing in a martini glass, reflects the last of the old Duff.  It was his solo debut, following Izzy but before Slash.  Guns’ own Spaghetti Incident? hit the shelves two months later, as the end of the original band creeped on the horizon.

Fans were probably experiencing a bit of Guns overload.  Two albums, two live concert video tapes, loads of touring and music videos…Guns were everywhere from 1991-1993 and then it was the dawn of Guns solo albums.

Duff’s solo debut was a grab bag of different styles:  punk, rock, funk, jazz and ballads.  It was also loaded with rock star guest shots:  Lenny Kravitz and Sebastian Bach sang one song a piece.  Dave Sabo and Rob Affuso from Skid Row joined Baz on the album while Slash laid down a couple trademark dirty guitar solos.  Jeff Beck dropped by, and just about every Guns member except Axl himself contributed.

Despite Duff’s ambition, the best tracks tend to be the rockers.  Opener “Believe in Me” was a very Guns-like single:  short, sweet, catchy and with a Slash guitar solo to hit it home.  “I Love You” isn’t a ballad despite the title, in fact it’s a rocker and perhaps the best tune on the album. “Just Not There” also rides the GN’R train, normally bound for hitsville.  Sebastian Bach’s “Trouble” is plenty of fun, and Lenny Kravitz gets angry on “The Majority”.  These songs would have made a fine basis for a Guns album, but Axl wasn’t looking for songs that sounded like Guns N’ Roses.

An angry “(Fucked Up) Beyond Belief” (a song birthed from GN’R rehearsals) is noisy punk-rap, while “Fuck You” itself is basically a rock rap song featuring a guy named Doc.  “Punk Rock Song” is exactly what it claims to be, but isn’t particularly memorable.  The biggest mis-step is the muted trumpet jazz number, “Lonely Tonight”.  At least Duff was trying something different, but his vocals and lyrics leave a lot to be desired.

During the period that Guns N’ Roses were inactive or just working behind closed doors, a lot of these solo albums really represented an alternate universe.  “What if the original members didn’t leave and instead recorded a new album?”  It’s possible these songs or songs like them could have been on that hypothetical album.  Instead, Believe in Me was a launch pad for plenty of Duff projects and albums:  Neurotic Outsides, 10 Minute Warning, Loaded, Velvet Revolver and many more.  Duff has proven that clean and sober, he can be one hell of a prolific songwriter.  Believe in Me is a good introduction to the many stylings of Duff McKagan.

3/5 stars

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REVIEW: Rock Star Supernova – Rock Star Supernova (2006)

ROCK STAR SUPERNOVA – Rock Star Supernova (2006 Epic)

It’s no wonder this band came and went, with Lukas Rossi now toiling in obscurity once again. Even Jason Newsted didn’t want to tour with this band. (Why would he, when he had better stuff going on like VoiVod? He was replaced by Black Crowes bassist Johnny Colt.) Tommy Lee and Gilby Clarke have stated that they really wanted to have two singers, Rossi and Dilana, but the TV execs wouldn’t allow it. That shows you how much integrity is contained herein. Even the name of this band sucks.

Butch Walker (ex-Southgang) created a faceless, generic, dull sounding record with all the modern bells and whistles that scream “ProTools”. He deserved plenty of the blame since he co-wrote all the songs but one. The drums barely sound like Tommy Lee; the band has no identity. There is not one bonafide great song on this CD. There are a couple decent moments on some of the rockers such as “It’s On!”, but this is 40 minutes you won’t get back.

One of the main issues with the album is Lukas Rossi himself, a generic singer with no real identity. He sounds like any number of glam rock vocalists with nothing unique or special. The other musicians are rendered faceless by a batch of songs that are too lame for most Motley Crue albums. But come on — if you have a TV series about finding your new singer, find somebody memorable, you know?

If you bought this, you simply supported the same-old-same-old, plastic, processed, fake, and commercial music that has been rammed down the throats of the world since the advent of reality TV. Really, this just gives rock a band name, because people see this and think it’s actually rock music. It’s not. This is prefab music designed to generate hype and sales. It’s also suspect when I read multiple drummers’ names in the credits.  Thankfully people saw through it and the sales tanked (except in Canada where Rossi is from).

Don’t spend a penny on this music. If you like these musicians and you want to hear them do something cool and different that you probably haven’t already heard on the radio, pick up the following:

Gilby Clarke — Pawnshop Guitars from 1994
Tommy Lee — Motley Crue’s self-titled 1994 release with John Corabi on vocals.
Jason Newsted –- the band Newsted

If you support Rock Star Supernova, you just twisted the knife a little bit deeper into the back of rock and roll.

1/5 stars, and one big stinky piece of cheese.

1. “It’s On”
2. “Leave the Lights On”
3. “Be Yourself (and 5 Other Cliches)”
4. “It’s All Love”
5. “Can’t Bring Myself to Light This Fuse”
6. “Underdog”
7. “Make No Mistake… This Is the Take”
8. “Headspin”
9. “Valentine”
10. “Social Disgrace”
11. “The Dead Parade”

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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: Guns N’ Roses – “The Spaghetti Incident?” (1993)

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GUNS N’ ROSES – “The Spaghetti Incident?” (1993 Geffen)

The hype surrounding this album was palpable. The disappointment was legendary. When I began working in a record store in July 1994, less than a year after the release of “The Spaghetti Incident?”, we couldn’t give these away, no matter how low we marked them down. This disc effectively ended Guns N’ Roses domination and ushered in an era of a new wave of bands, the post-grunge onslaught. GN’R survived grunge only to be put to bed with this terrible album!

The reason is, while most of these songs are great in their own rights, these versions are not. The recording is sparse and basic, a far cry from the layered intricacy of the Illusions albums. While Slash’s goal was to get the production back to basics (read: Appetite), this album was an ugly beast and not even close to the shiny black gleam of Destruction. Some songs are just plain boring. “Since I Don’t Have You” was an odd choice for a single, and “Black Leather” just plain sucked. I think there were quite a few fans who were baffled by the number of Duff lead vocals too.

The best song (which wasn’t even recorded by GN’R), is Johnny Thunders’ “You Can’t Put Your Arms Around A Memory”. This is actually a Duff McKagan solo track, an outtake recorded for his first solo album, Believe In Me. Other standouts include Axl’s raging “I Don’t Care About You”, Duff’s “Attitude”, and “Down On The Farm” which had been played live way way back when Izzy was still in the band. A lot of fans were off-put by Axl’s faux-English accent on “Down On The Farm”, but that’s the way it was played live and I don’t mind. The New York Dolls’ “Human Being” is a great Guns cover.  “Ain’t It Fun” is also an angry standout.

Nazareth’s “Hair of the Dog” is underwhelming although Axl does nail the lead vocal. Why GN’R covered a Soundgarden song (“Big Dumb Sex”) is beyond me, and of course there’s the worst track on the album, and most legendary — Charles Manson’s “Look At Your Game, Girl”. Axl’s obsession with Manson was just another nail in the coffin for GN’R, as most fans couldn’t wrap their heads around it. It didn’t help that Slash publicly said that the song “sucked” and that he refused to play on it.*

“The Spaghetti Incident?” will go down in history as the last music of the Illusions sessions to be released, and also is the only album of the Rose/Slash/McKagan/Sorum/Clarke/Reed lineup. By the time Guns N’ Roses released their next single (another cover, the Stones’ “Sympathy For The Devil”), Gilby Clarke was fired by Axl and replaced by Axl’s hometown bud Paul Huge. And that was the last straw for Slash, and the beginning of what would later be known as Chinese Democracy. And that was it. “The Spaghetti Incident?” is the last album to feature Slash, Duff, and Matt, and I think that is just sad and kind of weird too.

If you love Guns N’ Roses, then you already have this, because you have everything by the band. If you only “like” Guns N’ Roses, you don’t need this. You’ll play it a few times and then file it away, never to be heard again.

Instead of this, pick up:

All three would have been great GN’R albums, but sadly none were.

2.5/5 stars

* In 2000, Axl Rose stated that “Look At Your Game, Girl” would be removed from future printings of the album.  That never happend.

Part 285: Chinese Democracy

By request of reader Johnny Sixx: A review of Guns N’ Roses’ Chinese Democracy so long that I split it into two parts. Part Two comes tomorrow. Read on!

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RECORD STORE TALES Part 285: Chinese Democracy

The story goes like this:

In late 1994/early 1995, T-Rev and I would update the store’s “new releases board” every few weeks. This board advertised what new releases were coming in the weeks and months ahead. When I was given my own store, T-Rev took over the original as manager, and continued on diligently with the new releases board.

Of course, one of the most anticipated releases even back in 1994 and 1995 was the “new” Guns N’ Roses. We’d sat through solo albums from Izzy, Duff, Gilby and finally Slash himself. While Izzy and Gilby came close to the mark, none of these were a substitute for a real Guns N’ Roses album. The only official new Guns N’ Roses CD that we had for sale was the CD single for “Sympathy For the Devil”. Little did we know back then that “Sympathy” was like the straw that broke the Guns’ backs! (Axl had secretly brought in Paul Huge as Gilby Clarke’s replacement, and had him overdub “answer” solos to go with Slash’s. Slash was furious, especially since Axl fired Gilby without telling anyone.)

The rumours were always buzzing, so T-Rev would periodically call me. “Mikey! Do you know any more new releases I can add to the board?” I was always checking out M.E.A.T Magazine, and inside a recent issue (March/April 1994), Slash himself said he was mixing the new album himself, and that it would be out by summer.  He actually went into quite a bit of detail regarding the new Guns N’ Roses album in this article.  He offered no song titles, but it’s easy to tell from his descriptions that many of the songs ended up on his and Gilby’s solo albums.  He downplays Axl Rose’s contribution to the project considerably.

An excerpt:

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Flush with cryptic updates such as these, I would always be able to help T-Rev keep the new release board up to date.

“Yeah man, I got a Guns N’ Roses update for you,” I would tell him on the phone.  “The new album’s coming out next quarter.”  After M.E.A.T Magazine went bust in 1995, I would have kept up with the latest Hit Parader or RIP Magazine.   The release dates kept getting pushed back.

Every month, T-Rev would dutifully change the board. Guns N’ Roses – spring 1995. Then the next month, he’d call me again. “Anything new?” And I’d let him know whatever I’d read. “The album’s scheduled for summer. This is according to Metal Edge,” or whatever.

And the board changed again. Fall 1995. Christmas 1995. Spring 1996. It became a running gag. Even if there was no GN’R news, T-Rev kept that album on the board dutifully. He’d just bump it ahead a couple months. He kept doing that until the store moved and changed formats at the end of ’96.  Even if no customers got the joke, the two of us thought it was freakin’ hilarious.  Trevor always predicted it would never come out.

I don’t think we would have laughed if we knew how long it would really be before Chinese Democracy was finally released to the public!  We waited through lineup change after lineup change, and the release of the new track “Oh My God” in 1999.  It would be almost a decade more before the final release.  Would it be worth the wait?  Find out tomorrow.

REVIEW: Gilby Clarke – Pawnshop Guitars (1994)

GILBY CLARKE – Pawnshop Guitars (1994 Virgin)

I cannot believe that this album came out 20 years ago.  We’d been inundated with GN’R solo albums in recent years, and I had no interest in yet another.  It was T-Rev who urged me to check it out.  T-Rev was a huge Guns N’ Roses fan.  Gilby Clarke was in GN’R for a few years, long enough to make some friends in high places and record this amazing debut solo record before being kicked out by Axl himself. (He was replaced by Axl’s childhood friend and co-writer Paul Tobias.)  Pawnshop Guitars is, of all the solo material recorded by all the ex-GN’R members, the very best of the bunch.

Every single member of the GN’R lineup circa 1994 makes an appearance here: Slash, Duff, Matt, Dizzy, and even the reclusive Axl himself, on a cover of “Dead Flowers”. Rob Affuso of Skid Row, Frank Black, Ryan Roxie and more show up for the party, and it sounds like one hell of a party. The Slash solos are unmistakable on “Tijuana Jail” (a “Radar Love”-esque smoker) and “Cure Me…Or Kill Me…”.  Indeed one wonders why they didn’t just release a bunch of these songs, a bunch of Slash’s songs, and call it the next Guns N’ Roses album.  Alas that never happened.

On this side of the border 20 pesos gets you dead

I don’t think there are any weak songs on Pawnshop Guitars. The influences are varied, but there is a strong vintage flavour.  Whereas Izzy Stradlin tended to channel the Rolling Stones via Keith Richards on his own solo debut, Gilby draws from the Beatles and Stones in equal measure. A song like “Black” sounds like a John Lennon outtake, but mixed with a batch of Joe Perry’s Boneyard Brew hot sauce.  I like Gilby’s lead vocals.  He’s not a power singer but his voice has character that suits the music.  It lends it a glam rock slant.

Other standout songs include the swampy “Skin & Bones” (an acoustic number that would have worked great as a GN’R tune), “Hunting Dogs”, “Jail Guitar Doors”, “Shut Up”…hell they’re all great.   T-Rev talked me into buying this album and it was a great purchase.  I liked it immediately.  Any serious Guns N’ Roses fan would do well to own this, one of the missing links between Use Your Illusion and Chinese Democracy.

5/5 stars

REVIEW: A Tribute to Ace Frehley – Return of the Comet (1997)

Part 6 in a series on Ace Frehley! Missed the last part, “Cherokee Boogie”? Click here!
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RETURN OF THE COMET_0001A Tribute to Ace Frehley – Return of the Comet (1997 Shock Records)

Last time we talked about a tribute album with a new recording by Ace.  This time, we’re talking about a tribute album with new recordings by the Comet!  Return of the Comet even features some of the same artists that were on Spacewalk:  Tracii Guns, Gilby Clarke and the brothers Abbott (Dimebag Darrell and Vinnie Paul) are on both albums.  And like Spacewalk, this one also comes with a guitar pick.  This time it’s a Bruce Kulick pick, because the CD also features a cool bonus: Bruce’s debut solo track, “Liar”.

This is a pretty good tribute CD.  Somebody called Bruiz does a faithful reproduction of the “Rock Bottom” intro, which seques directly into Brian Tichy’s “Rip It Out”.  I was familiar with Tichy from Zakk Wylde’s Pride and Glory, but he sings and plays every instrument on this.  Everybody knows today how talented he is, but this was a revelation to me in 1997.  Do I need to say that he does an excellent job on it?  He also nails Anton Fig’s drum solo.

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L.A. Guns is next, but it’s not Phil Lewis.  It’s Ralph Saenz.  You might know him better as Michael Starr from Steel Panther.  So how’s their “Cold Gin”?  It’s perfect for this band and this singer.  Eric Singer and Karl Cochran take a shot at “Strange Ways”, but I don’t like their take on it too much.  Eric’s vocal doesn’t suit the song in my opinion, and this version is too chunk-chunk-chunk.

“Getaway” was always a bit of a throwaway Kiss track, but I like the lesser known songs.  Seattle’s Tubetop speed it up a fair measure, but that’s not the problem.  I always identify this song with Peter Criss’ gritty voice.  Who doesn’t?  The singer, Gavin Gus, takes a smooth approach to the song, but sometimes Kiss songs aren’t meant to be tampered with too much.  It improves as it gets harder at the end.

RETURN OF THE COMET_0007Then we have the Presidents of the United States of America.  OK band I guess, but their stripped back sound is totally wrong for “Shout It Out Loud”.  Having said that, the brilliance of the song itself still shines through.  The album is immediately redeemed by a remarkable performance from a remarkable guitarist:  Dimebag.  He and Vinnie Paul stomp through “Snowblind”, a sludgy Ace classic.  Wisely, Dime changed nothing about the song, except adding some trademark Dime guitar shrieks on top.  It’s a totally appropriate touch.  Even though his singing voice is nothing like Ace’s (he’s more Zakk Wylde than Ace Frehley) he still lays down a lead vocal that fits.  Then his guitar solo rips your head off, end of story.  Mind blown, the album can end here thank you very much!

We’re not even half through yet.  Tod Howarth (ex-Frehley’s Comet) turns up with his own solo version of “Dancing With Danger”.  It’s a Streetheart cover that Frehley’s Comet also did on Second Sighting.  Tod tries to update the song for the 1990’s but fails.  His voice is also noticeably lower.  Then, Karl Cochran and Eric Singer are up with “Love Her All I Can”, a song originally sung and written by…Paul Stanley?  Why?  According to the liner notes, Cochran used to sing this song when he was in Frehley’s solo band in the 90’s.  Cochran and Singer perfectly nail this one, right down to the guitar solo and those Simmons/Stanley harmony vocals.  A winner.

Filler is “Speedin’ Back to My Baby” by Lee and Dallas (?).  As great as the original song is, I didn’t need to hear a jazzy country version of it.  It’s old-school country, swinging and authentic, but no thanks.  Thankfully Gilby Clarke comes to the rescue with the classic “Rocket Ride” from Alive II.  I love it.  I like it better than his version of “Shock Me” from Spacewalk, actually.

Richie Scarlet from Frehley’s Comet teams up with Beatlemania’s Mitch Weissman on Ace’s “Remember Me”.  It’s great and much like the original.  Then the Presidents are back for a second term, this time adding members of Tubetop and Kim Thayil of Soundgarden to the mix.  They do a cool campfire version of “New York Groove” that sounds live.  This is much better than “Shout It Out Loud”.  Well done.

A Frehley’s Comet reunion is the climax of the album.  Alumni Richie Scarlet, John Regan, Steve Werner and Arthur Stead are back to redo two unreleased Comet classics.  These songs are Vinnie Vincent’s “Back On the Streets”, which is, in a word, awesome.  It’s a dark ominous song with balls.  Then they do “Animal” which was written by Regan and Stead (perhaps the reason it was never released before?).  It has a funky little riff before it breaks into a cool anthemic chorus.

RETURN OF THE COMET_0005It’s best to think of the last two songs as bonus tracks, because they have little to do with Ace.  From a forthcoming Howarth album named Cobalt Parlor is a lacklustre song called “California Burns”.  I wanted to like this, really I did.  It’s just a really nauseating attempt at being modern and heavy, and no sir I don’t like it.  Sorry Tod.  “The Liar” by Bruce Kulick is much better.  I am a real fan of Kulick as a solo artist.  He is an articulate, skilled player with a knack for melody.  “The Liar” is a great instrumental, alternating between light and heavy, but always very lyrical.  Just sing a lead vocal of your own over Bruce’s guitar, and you can imagine this as a “I Still Love You” rock ballad.  This song was Bruce’s first ever post-Kiss solo release, and according to the liner notes, it serves two purposes.  One: to end the album with an instrumental as Ace always did.  Two: to tip the hat to the guy who succeeded in filling Ace’s shoes for over a decade.

I would recommend this tribute album to any serious Ace/Kiss fan, simply because it has some great cover versions of some obscure classics.  That to me raises it above most cut-and-paste tribute albums that are out there on the market.  There is a real sense of passion to this CD.  John Regan put it together and you can tell by the attention to detail.  Kudos, John.

3.5/5 stars

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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Most Unrightfully Ignored Albums of the 1990s – LeBrain’s List Part 1

In alphabetical order, here’s Part 1:  88 albums that meant the world to me in the 1990’s but never got the respect I felt they deserved.  When appropriate, I’ll pop in with comments.  Part 1!  Enjoy!

  • Aerosmith – Nine Lives (better than Get A Grip)
  • Armored Saint – Symbol of Salvation (John Bush lead vocals, nuff said)
  • Barstool Prophets – Last of the Big Game Hunters (from Ottawa Ontario Canada, great album)
  • Big House – Big House (from Edmonton Alberta, long forgotten hard rock classic)
  • The Black Crowes – Amorica (my favourite)
  • Black Sabbath – Cross Purposes (bleak gooder from the Martin-era Sabs)
  • Blue Rodeo – Nowhere To Here (psychedelically delicious)
  • Blue Rodeo – Tremelo (acoustically psychedelically delicious)
  • Bon Jovi – These Days (their most mature albeit darkest work to date)

  • Gilby Clarke – Pawnshop Guitars (the all time best GN’R solo album)
  • Alice Cooper – The Last Temptation (fans love it in hindsight, but it sold poorly in 1994)
  • Corrosion of Conformity – Deliverance (I was hooked upon hearing “Clean My Wounds”)
  • Coverdale Page – Coverdale Page (unrightfully ignored? well, most just disrespected)
  • Cry of Love – Brother (guitarist Audley Freed plays his Fenders like bluesy butter)
  • Deep Purple – Slaves & Masters (I have a soft spot for this ballady Deep Rainbow disc)
  • Deep Purple – The Battle Rages On (there are some strong forgotten tracks here)
  • Deep Purple – Purpendicular (one of the best records of their career)
  • Def Leppard – Slang (ditto)
  • Bruce Dickinson – Balls To Picasso (I believe I’ve discussed these enough in my in-depth reviews)
  • Bruce Dickinson – Accident of Birth 
  • Bruce Dickinson – The Chemical Wedding
  • Dio – Strange Highways (it took a while to grow on me, but at the time it was criminally ignored)

Part 2 of 4 coming tomorrow…