glam metal

REVIEW: Poison – Look What the Cat Dragged In (remaster)

POISON – Look What the Cat Dragged In (1986, 2006 Capitol remaster)

I remember seeing this album in the racks of our local Zellers store.  I didn’t know the band.  I thought CC Deville was pretty cute.

Taking the gender-bending makeup of the mid-80’s to its logical end point, Poison stormed out of Hollywood and onto the charts.  They did this with a handful of great singles, including “Talk Dirty to Me”, “Cry Tough”, and “I Won’t Forget You”.  Also huge, but barely tolerable as a song, was the singalong “I Want Action”.

Bass "rapin'?" Good god!

Bass “rapin’?” Good god!

Armed with just $23,000, Poison recorded Look What the Cat Dragged In with producer Ric Browde (Ted Nugent, W.A.S.P.) in less than two weeks.  What they emerged with was a fun, raunchy and terrible sounding album with some big hits and plenty of filler.

“Cry Tough” was a tight little opener, a hot and bright rocker about going out and givin’ er.  “You gotta cry tough, out on the streets, to make your dreams happen!” sings Bret Michaels in full-on cheerleader mode.  Unfortunately the sonics of the album leave much to be desired.  The guitar, drum and vocal sounds are demo quality at best, but that’s what you get for $23,000 and Ric Browde.

The other singles were all huge.  “Talk Dirty to Me” is now minor staple, and “I Want Action” (annoying as it is) is another.  The ballad “I Won’t Forget You” is an album highlight, well before Bret & co. had mastered the art of writing hit ballads.  Low key, basic and electric, “I Won’t Forget You” is very different from “Every Rose” and some of the later broken-hearted Poison love songs. Paul Stanley has a cameo in the road-ready music video, which didn’t hurt.

That leaves a hell of a lot of room for filler, and Look What the Cat Dragged In has plenty.  Of the album tracks, the decent ones include the saucy glam-slam rawking title track, and another song called “Want Some, Need Some”.  Both tunes could have used some last-minute tightening up, but neither are as bad as the dreck on the tail end of the album:  “#1 Bad Boy”, “Blame it on You” and the horrid “Mama Let Me Go to the Show” all suck absolutely.  “Play Dirty” on side one is also pretty awful.

Even with the quality issues in sound and songwriting, Look What the Cat Dragged In sold over 3,000,000 copies.  20 years later, it was given a fresh remastering and three bonus tracks.  The remastering could not fix the audio issues, but the bonus tracks are pretty good.  Single remixes of “I Want Action” and “I Won’t Forget You” are marginally better than the original album tracks.  Somebody realized that they were sonically deficient, and the remixes help a teeny tiny bit.  Then Jim Croce’s “You Don’t Mess Around With Jim” is added to the end, a song that got more exposure on the covers album Poison’d!  The bonus tracks go a long way towards making the album a little more listenable from start to end.

2/5
stars

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REVIEW: Poison – Flesh & Blood (remastered)

FLESH AND BLOOD_0001POISON – Flesh & Blood (1990, 2006 Capitol remaster)

Ah, Poison!  The band everybody loved to hate!  In spite of that, Poison made a couple pretty good albums.  Flesh & Blood is the best of the original C.C. DeVille era, and probably their most successful.  It spawned a huge headlining tour that also produced a double live album.  Flesh & Blood was also their “get serious” album, although in that regard it was only a partial success.  The idea was to write and record more mature music and lyrics, something that C.C. was opposed to.  He saw nothing wrong with the glam-slam-king-of-noize direction that they started on, and maintained that Look What the Cat Dragged In was their high point.  He saw the introduction of blues influences as diluting the Poison sound he liked.

That’s all bullshingles.  Flesh & Blood is the best thing C.C. has done, and is second only to Poison’s Native Tongue album with Richie Kotzen.  C.C. was still far from a great guitar player, but on most tracks it’s his most accessible and least annoying playing.  (On others…well, we’ll get there.)  Take the opening track “Valley of Lost Souls” for example (preceded by a jokey answering machine tape called “Strange Days of Uncle Jack”). “Valley” rocks heavy with integrity and an edge that Poison hadn’t displayed before, and C.C. throws in a lot of tasty, toffee-like strings.  His soloing will never be considered virtuoso, and his tone has always been thin and annoying, but never has C.C. generated such guitar thrills as he does on this album.  (Most of it.)

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I’m sure that producer Bruce Fairbairn steered this ship with a firm hand.  His stamp is all over Flesh & Blood:  from weird segues to rich backing vocals, this is a Fairbairn production through and through.  Fairbairn was known to be a taskmaster, and I’m sure he worked C.C. (and the whole band) to the bone.  The title track, “(Flesh & Blood) Sacrifice” has his patented, perfectly arranged vocal stamp.  The vocals are layered and almost Leppard-lush.  When we’re talking about a singer like Bret Michaels, you know it’s not going to be Pavarotti.  The credits don’t list additional singers, but there are some names in the tail end of the thank-yous:  Paul Laine, for example.  Laine was a Vancouver local, where Poison recorded the album.  Why is he being thanked?  I think it’s safe to assume that Laine and others helped out in the backing vocals department.  Anyway, “Sacrifice” is the second excellent song in a row.  Say what you like about Poison as performers, they wrote some fucking good songs too.

“Swampjuice (Soul-O)” is some surprisingly good C.C. acoustic blues.  Actually not bad at all — but just instrumental filler.  As is the next song, a massive huge hit single: “Unskinny Bop”.  The song is awful, the lyrics worse, and C.C.’s solo is like razor blades.  I mean that in a bad way.  Total shit.  Garbage.  “Let It Play” verges on filler, but it’s good enough.  It’s simple but memorably melodic.  Better is the timeless sounding single “Life Goes On”.  I liked this bombastic electric ballad then, and I still do now.  Michaels is a limited singer, but this is a damn good ballad.  I give Fairbairn credit for the backing vocal hooks.  The first side of the album closes on the forgettable but adequate hard rocker “Come Hell or High Water”.

Kicking off side two with the single “Ride the Wind” is a no-brainer.  This song sounds like its title.  It sounds like a car song, a rock and roll ode to the thrills of the road.   I’d rank this easily among Poison’s best hits — top five.  “Don’t Give Up an Inch” is filler, but “Something to Believe In” was another huge single.  Hearing it again today, I find it hard to dislike.  I wanted to, but I can’t.  I think Bret wrote some pretty good lyrics here.  The part about his best friend who died “in some Palm Springs hotel room” is about his bodyguard, a guy he was really close to.  It’s pretty heartfelt, and the piano ballad still stands up as well as any by Aerosmith from the same era.

Some boring C.C. pedal steel guitar leads into “Ball and Chain”.  It’s a pretty good rock boogie, but the second-to-last song “Life Loves a Tragedy” is the best track on the album.  Even better than “Ride the Wind” but similar in vibe, this song shoulda woulda coulda been a hit.  The soft intro fools you into thinking it’s a ballad.  It’s not.  It’s a ballsy rocker with another Bret Michaels lyric that you’d call more mature.  “My vices have turned to habits, and my habits have turned to stone,” sings Bret.  “I gotta stop living at a pace that kills, ‘fore I wake up dead.”  Not poetry really, but a hell of a lot better than “Unskinny bop bop, blow me away.”  The chorus kills, as does the whole song.  Another top five Poison track in my book.

The album ends on a pile of shit called “Poor Boy Blues”.  This may well be the worst Poison song of all time.   Of all time!  C.C.’s playing is so pointless, so brutal, so annoying, that I don’t know why somebody didn’t pull the guitar out of his hands.  Wah-wah alone does not a solo make!   This song stinks so bad.  Dammit, Poison, you’re not a blues band fer fuck’s sakes!  This song should have been axed, there is no reason for it to still exist.


POISONThe 2006 remastered edition has two bonus tracks.  The first is a disappointing acoustic version of “Something to Believe In” from the “Life Goes On” single B-side.  It has new lyrics (erasing one of the things I liked about the song) and absolutely pointless guitar playing by C.C.  His solos and melodies go nowhere.  It’s just a guy playing all kinds of notes on an acoustic guitar that don’t have any direction:  There’s no tension, no release, no hooks.  This version sucks.  Lastly there’s “God Save the Queen”, an instrumental demo version.  This too sucks.  More directionless soloing from C.C. over the Pistols riff.  That’s all it is.

Interestingly the remastered edition has two changes that I’ve noticed.  The cover is the “censored” version without the extra blood on the arm.  This is a US import, and I think in Canada we had the other cover originally.  Second, the reprise of “Strange Days of Uncle Jack” that closes the album is missing.  Normally this would fade in from the end of “Poor Boy Blues”.  Now, “Poor Boy Blues” ends with a few seconds of silence where that reprise used to be.  I don’t know why they did that.  I’m assuming somebody mistakenly used a version of the song from a compilation album.

I know I’ve been hard on Poison in this review, but this is actually a great album.  Take away “Unskinny Bop” and “Poor Boy Blues” and I would call it pretty damn solid.  As for the remaster?  Disappointing.

4/5 stars (for the album)

REVIEW: Twisted Sister – Club Daze, Volume I: The Studio Sessions (1999)

TSCD_0001 TWISTED SISTERClub Daze, Volume I: The Studio Sessions (1999)

Everybody knows that Twisted Sister has been around a long time; since 1973 in fact, just as long as Kiss. However not too many people have heard Twisted’s early material outside of their first single “I’ll Never Grow Up, Now!” which was on their “best of” CD. Club Daze, Volume I fills in the gaps.

This CD is for fans only. It will have absolutely no appeal at all to casual listeners who only want songs they recognize. In fact, some of these songs are painfully bad. “High Steppin'”, “Big Gun”, and “T.V. Wife” for example are all examples of some very poor early songwriting. These tunes are in a more traditional rock and roll vibe, and are lyrically quite awful. Take “T.V. Wife” for example, written and sung by JJ French, a song about a woman who sits around all day watching soaps. Really bad song.

On the flipside there are rough and ready versions of some really decent songs, such as “Come Back” which had Dee Snider writing in a heavy metal mode. “Rock ‘N’ Roll Saviours” is a personal favourite, a 1978 attack upon disco music. “We’re gonna fight until disco is dead!” sings Snider.  And they did!

To make collectors salivate just a little more, the best tracks on the CD are the three songs originally from the (then) impossible-to-find EP Ruff Cutts (now since made available on the Under the Blade reissue). This includes an early version of “Leader of the Pack” and more familiar songs: “Shoot ‘Em Down” and “Under The Blade”. It is only these last two songs that really show what Twisted Sister was capable of and where they would go in the future.

There’s one Ruff Cutt missing (“What You Don’t Know (Sure Can Hurt You)”), and a few other miscellaneous early tracks as well, but Club Daze is a compilation of these years.  Club Daze is also loaded with ample pictures and liner notes (from Jay Jay and Dee).

As an album purchase, this CD is not the greatest release. Twisted Sister were never virtuoso musicians, and it shows. Most of these songs don’t have Mark “The Animal” Mendoza on bass, who really helped make their songs heavier. Most tracks feature Kenny Neill on bass and Tony Petri on drums. This is for collectors only, and anybody who wants to know what this band sounded like in the 70’s before they did their first serious recordings, and found the sound that would make them famous.

3/5 stars

REVIEW: Quiet Riot – Extended Versions (2007 Sony)

QUIET RIOT – Extended Versions (2007 Sony BMG)

There are several Quiet Riot live albums available: this one, SetlistLive at the US Festival, and Live & Rare. All are vintage recordings from the early 1980’s.  Of the three, you might look at Extended Versions and pass on it.  It looks cheap and unofficial.  To overlook this CD would be a mistake, and this is why.

Sure, it lacks any sort of booklet or liner notes.  All I know is that the first eight tracks are from Pasadena in 1983, and the last two from Nashville the same year.  From the outside you wouldn’t know that.  The only information is the ominous “Recorded Live” which tells you very little indeed.  Being 1983, this is the “classic” lineup of Kevin DuBrow, Frankie Banali, Rudy Sarzo, and Carlos Cavazo, on the Metal Health tour.  Introducing “Love’s A Bitch,” DuBrow reveals that they only began their US tour a short while ago.

Perhaps because it’s early in the tour, or maybe because they’re home in California, Quiet Riot pulled out two rarities for the Pasadena show.  These are “Gonna Have A Riot” and “Anytime You Want Me”, neither of which are on Quiet Riot I or II.  Both are written solely by DuBrow, but “Gonna Have A Riot” is from the Randy Rhoads period.  “Anytime You Want Me” is of more recent vintage, and it’s actually quite an excellent pop rocker.  Also rare was the set opener, “Danger Zone”, unreleased until 2001 when the studio version was added to the Metal Health remastered CD.

In addition to the rarities, you get the hits:  “Metal Health”, “Cum On Feel The Noize”, “Slick Black Cadillac”, “Love’s A Bitch”.  There’s also a handful of well liked album cuts such as “Let’s Go Crazy” and the smoking “Breathless”.  That song knocked me out as an 11 year old and it still does today.  All performed by the band in their prime, before the downfall.

Live & Rare sounded awful, but this CD sounds pretty good.  I’m not sure if it’s a radio broadcast, but it’s perfectly listenable.  It’s too bad there’s no packaging, because if this had been packaged with more effort and care, it could have been sold as an “official” live album quite easily.  Bummer there’s no liner notes, all you’re going to get is the music. However, the music stands up for itself and it’s an enjoyable live album.

4/5 stars
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NEWS: Looks like RATT needs a singer…again.

Stephen Pearcy has left Ratt, again.

Hardly a surprise considering the crap Bobby “Da Blotz” has been spewing lately.  (See:  Metal Sludge for details)  Wishing physical harm upon your own singer isn’t what I would call classy.

DA BLOTZ
(photo of Evel Dick Donato)

So, Stephen Pearcy has today announced he’s leaving Ratt.  Unfortunately, Jizzy Pearl is currently occupied.  Pearcy’s statement (on Bravewords):

“After 30 years creating the band Ratt and losing a real brother, (late guitarist) Robbin (Crosby), it’s time that I personally part ways with the band.

I am officially done with having anything to do with them due to the constant turmoil, unresolved business, personal attacks/threats in the public forum,
and most of all, the disrespect to the fans.

I’m very content and proud of the legacy and the music I’ve created. This music will live well beyond any of our lifetimes. I owe no one anything but a huge heartfelt thank you for coming to the party for the last 30 years.

With much respect, life goes on and the music I created will continue to be heard for years to come despite the dark clouds that have lingered for far too long. I will personally continue to make music and perform live shows.

See you out there!”

REVIEW: Poison – Hollyweird (2002)

Dedicated to Iron Tom Sharpe, who doesn’t understand that sometimes you just have to blow off steam and review a shitty album.


POISON – Hollyweird (2002 Cyanide Music)

I have a soft spot for Poison, and I have every album. Every album that is, except Hollyweird. After several spins in-store, I realized this was never an album I was going to listen to again. (Although I did, for this review actually — you’re welcome.)  Let’s face it, a “classic Poison lineup” reunion is not exactly earthshaking, especially when they traded down a true maestro in Blues Saraceno for CC to return. Not to mention Richie Kotzen before him.  CC will never be classified as a guitar hero. It’s CC’s songwriting that he brings to the Poison table, that and some sloppily good rhythms. However Poison’s songwriting on Hollyweird is much like the production values — flat and dull.

13 songs clocking in at just over 40 minutes, this is a collection of short pop rockers and ballads. The cover of “Squeeze Box” is pretty putrid, and Who fans would cringe if they happened upon it.  Most of the originals are just plain dull, lacking the bombast, hooks, flash and excitement of any previous Poison album, Native Tongue included. If only Poison could have continued along the lines that they were pursuing with Crack A Smile, or even re-recorded it with CC. Alas, this is the worst of all Poison studio albums, and it was such a lame duck that the band never recorded another one (as of 2014, this is the most recent Poison studio album aside from the covers-only Poison’d).

The opening and riff to “Hollyweird” is pretty decent, but the song itself is pretty suck-tastic.  Maybe I should take back what I said about CC.  He’s the only good thing about this song.  “Shooting Star” (a supposed sequel to “Fallen Angel”) is annoyingly bass heavy, and Bobby Dall ain’t that great a bassist.  CC’s riff is the only good thing about it, since the chorus is drowned out in mush.  Thom Panuzio isn’t a hack producer by any stretch, but he didn’t even show up on Hollyweird.  Then, somebody thought it would be a good idea to let CC DeVille sing lead on “Emperor’s New Clothes”.  The sad thing is it’s one of the better songs (even though it sounds more like Sum 41 than Poison).  CC sings three songs on Hollyweird, but who cares?

Lowlights:  Stinky “Squeeze Box,” whack “Wishful Thinkin’,” generic “Get Ya Some,” dull “Devil Woman,” horrible “Home”…or should I say “Homes,” since both Bret and CC have their own versions of this pop-punk wannabe? (In a row!)

Highlights:  “Wasteland,” maybe.

Tired, dull, derivative…pick your adjective.

1/5 stars

  1. “Hollyweird” – 3:15
  2. “Squeeze Box” – 2:32 (The Who cover)
  3. “Shooting Star” – 4:39
  4. “Wishful Thinkin'” – 2:49
  5. “Get ‘Ya Some” – 4:22
  6. “Emperor’s New Clothes” – 2:15
  7. “Devil Woman” – 3:47
  8. “Wasteland” – 3:56
  9. “Livin’ In The Now” – 2:37
  10. “Stupid, Stoned & Dumb” – 3:10
  11. “Home” (Bret’s Story) – 2:49
  12. “Home” (C.C.’s Story) – 2:47
  13. “Rockstar” – 3:33

REVIEW: Slaughter – Stick It To Ya (Definitive Remasters edition)


SLAUGHTER – Stick It To Ya (1990, 2003 Definitive Remasters edition)

“Just like a Led Zeppelin album stands up today, we hope our album stands up in 10 or 20 years.” — Mark Slaughter (1990)

I remember reading that quote in a magazine interview and thinking, “Well, I doubt THAT will happen.”

Maybe Mark was partly right though, as a handful nostalgists do still listen to Slaughter, in particular this debut and the followup The Wild Life. However, for Mark to compare this to Led Zeppelin I was simply short sighted and hopelessly optimistic. It never was going to be another Led Zeppelin I. This is a decent debut album, maybe even a pretty good one. Listening to it, there are certain things that are really grating today. Mark’s vocals are still hard to swallow as he really gets up there with these shrill squealy high notes. Dana’s bass is too happy and bouncy for my kind of rock. The guitar playing of Tim Kelly is nothing to write home about, rest his soul, just another typical early 90’s rock guitar player with very little identity of his own.

What made Slaughter work was the songwriting of Mark and Dana, and most of it still stands up. A lot of this material — straight up hard rock with a little flourish — is solid. Some songs are simply too pop for me today, such as “You Are The One” and “Spend My Life”. However, mercifully, there’s only one ballad! “Fly To The Angels” is nothing special as a ballad, but it has a little more atmosphere than the average and of course lyrically it had integrity. I don’t think it’s making anybody’s top ten ballads list, unless one has a personal connection to the lyrics, but it’s not too sappy and like I said, there’s only one!

Some songs, such as “Up All Night” and “Eye To Eye” have some balls and groove. If only the production was a little heavier, these would be bonafide classics. However, even on “Eye To Eye”, Dana’s happy bouncy bass lines brighten things up too much.   Not enough groove in the bass!  There’s also some 80’s style fast and speedy numbers such as “Loaded Gun” (with some just awful lyrics). Also awful in the lyrical department were “She Wants More” (which is a shameless AC/DC ripoff musically), and possibly “Burning Bridges”.

“Bridges”, it must be remembered, was a cutting attack on former bandmate Vinnie Vincent, from the Vinnie Vincent Invasion days. The original album even had a disclaimer on it so that the band wouldn’t get sued! “So you wanna play another solo, huh? Well not here, pal!” Disclaimer aside, it was pretty obvious who the song was actually about, and statements from Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons since then have only confirmed Vinnie’s character traits. Shame that the lyrics are no longer included with the album.  I guess that’s why the disclaimer is also missing! Instead, you get decent liner notes from Mark and Dana.  Inside they credit Kiss drummer Eric Carr for helping to get the band on the opening slot of the Hot in the Shade tour.  I didn’t know that before!

Personal highlights:
“Up All Night”, “Eye To Eye”, “Desperately”, “Thinking of June (instrumental)”.  These are all great tunes in my books, particularly the darkly cool single, “Up All Night”.

Onto the bonus material!  These two bonus tracks were included on the original CD too, but not the cassette or LP versions of Stick It To Ya.

14. Fly to the Angels [Acoustic Version]
15. Wingin’ It

These remain intact on this edition. The acoustic version of “Fly” mostly just ditches the electric guitars but is otherwise the same backing track. “Wingin’ It” (my favourite) is an accapella joke tune, only a minute in length, but absolutely hilarious to this day. I wish the album had been re-sequenced so that it still closes the album, as this is an obvious closer!

After that, there are four demos. These demos are remarkable in how fully realized they are. Unfortunately that doesn’t make them interesting listens. It is amazing that Mark and Dana had the demos down so perfectly from the get-go, but as a listener, it’s like hearing the same song twice. In the case of “Fly To The Angels”, three times on one album which is way too much. Perhaps some live B-sides should have been included instead, or the track “Shout It Out” from the Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey soundtrack. I am sure you can think of your own bonus material that you’d like to hear.

Remastering is fine and dandy, packaging is great apart from the deletion of the lyrics.  However you can read those just by Googling these days, and I think I’d rather have the liner notes from Mark and Dana.

3/5 stars, worth buying for fans of the era. Everybody else should steer clear.

REVIEW: Twisted Sister – Love Is For Suckers (1987)

Bought in 1997 at an unknown HMV store in Calgary Alberta, on import, for like $25.  For Aaron’s take on this CD, click here!

TS_0001TWISTED SISTER – Love Is For Suckers (1987 Atlantic, Spitfire reissue)

If the year was 1987, I would have given this CD 5/5 stars easily. When it came out in the summer of ’87 I was really into it. My best friend Bob and I used to play it all the time during that long hot summer, we had all the lyrics memorized. Unfortunately this album has not aged well, certainly not compared to their classic early albums.

One problem with the record is that it’s not actually by the band Twisted Sister! Even as a kid I wondered why people with names like “Reb Beach” or “Kip Winger” were listed in the credits. That’s because Love is For Suckers was written and recorded as the first Dee Snider solo album. Record company pressure forced Dee to release this as the next Twisted Sister album, even though no Twisted members appear on it (aside from new drummer Joey Franco). This only hastened the breakup of Twisted Sister in October of that year.

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The album is produced by Beau Hill, a guy also known for Warrant and Winger albums (that’s why Reb and Kip are on here). Beau Hill is one of my least favourite metal producers of all time. He over-produces, uses too many samples, and glosses everything up. As such I find most of his albums pretty hard to listen to today. On Love is For Suckers, all the drums are samples and you sure can tell by that awkward gated sound, and identical snare hits.

Like when we used to climb the rope in gym class

As an 80’s glam metal album, the songs are not that bad. “Wake Up (The Sleeping Giant)” could have been a Twisted Sister song with its themes of rebellion and youth angst. “Hot Love”, the first single, was the song that got me to buy this album. A catchy pop-rocker with irrestible guitars courtesy of maestro Reb Beach, “Hot Love” was as commercial as it gets. Other standout songs included “Me And the Boys”, which was our theme song that summer. “I Want This Night (To Last Forever)” was a Van Hagar sounding pop-rocker with another great chorus. I think, if anything, Love is For Suckers sounds mostly like 5150-era Van Hagar, but with gang vocals and way more glossed up.

Love is For Suckers was reissued a while ago with 4 bonus tracks, demos from these sessions that fit right into the sound of the album. They’re just not as good. “Statuatory Date” for example suffers from extremely bad lyrics.  One of them, “If That’s What You Want” is an early version of an album song, in this case “Me And the Boys”.  Consider looking into these 4 bonus tracks when you’re choosing to purchase Love is For Suckers.

As an added little “insult to injury” following this album’s failure, producer Beau Hill took Dee Snider’s scream from one song, “I Want This Night (To Last Forever)”, and used it as the opening scream on Warrant’s smash hit album Cherry Pie.  Uncredited! I’m sure 99.9% of Warrant fans assume it’s Jani Lane.

If this album description sounds good to you, check it out. You may enjoy it as much as I did all those years ago.  For me, the years have not been kind.

2.5/5 stars

More TWISTED SISTER at mikeladano.com:

TWISTED SISTER – Live at the Marquee (2011 Rhino limited edition)
TWISTED SISTER – Stay Hungry (25th Anniversary Edition)
TWISTED SISTER – Under The Blade (1985 remix)
TWISTED SISTER – “We’re Not Gonna Take It” (1984 Atlantic single)

REVIEW: Quiet Riot – QRIII (1986)

For Aaron’s KMA review of this CD, click here!

QUIET RIOT – QRIII (1986 CBS)

A short while ago, longtime LeBrain reader Deke and Jon from E-tainment Reviews brought up QRIII as a contender for Worst Quiet Riot of All Time.  Digging into the discussion, I mentioned 1995’s Down to the Bone as another possible contender.  Jon also mitigated QRIII by reminding us of the teriffic single “The Wild and the Young”; the only reason to own it.  So the jury is technically still out….

QRIII  certainly sucks.  I knew that I could do one of two things for its review:  Take a shit on the album cover and post a picture of that as the review, or lambaste it verbally and harshly.  Unable to decide between the two approaches, I instead decided on a first for mikeladano.com:  the very first Choose Your Own Review!(™)  Choose A) The Short One, or B) The Long One!

REVIEW A: The Short One

QRSHIIIT

REVIEW B:  The Verbose One

QRIII (actually Quiet Riot’s fifth album) did nothing to revitalize their career. DuBrow was fired shortly after, leaving no original members. Quiet Riot soldiered on for one more album and tour anyway (with Paul Shortino on the creatively titled album but redeeming QR), before breaking up.  In ’93 they finally reunited with Dubrow intact, on the decently heavy Terrified CD.

QRIII, released in 1986, was a sign of desperation closing in.  Rudy Sarzo was out, and in was Chuck Wright. The band had flatlined commercially, so what did they do? They copied everybody else’s formula for success. That means they incorporated an overabundance of keyboards, buried the guitar way down in the mix, sampled everything, recorded sappy and faceless ballads, glossed it all up, and basically snuffed out any spark that this band once had. I felt that they also copied Kiss somewhat in image, with bouffant hairdos and sequined gowns that looked like hand-me-downs from Paul Stanley’s Asylum wardrobe. DuBrow’s new wig didn’t help things.

There is the one song that rises above the stinky, putrid toxic morass that is QRIII. “The Wild and the Young”, despite its reliance on samples, is actually a really strong hard rock rebellion.  On this track, the studio techno-wizardry did its trick.  The song is irresistible, and remains a personal favourite.  The drums kill it, and the gang vocal chorus is catchy as hell.  The song was accompanied by a creative video, so I was suckered into buying the tape.   If I had only known there was just one good song, I wouldn’t have spent my hard earned allowance on QRIII.  More to the point, if I had known just how bad the rest of the album actually was, I would have steered way clear.  Everything is choked down in a mechanical slop of keys and samples.   These songs are so nauseating, so tepid, so embarrassing, that I really can’t say it with enough vigor.

The lyrics:  mostly pathetic nonsense.  “The Pump”:

Well let’s pump pump pump pump,
Strike it rich what you’re dreamin’ of,
Let’s pump pump pump pump,
We’re gonna hunt for gold, Gonna dig for love.

Then, throw in a Plant-esque moan of “Push, push, push, oh! oh! oh!.”  Serious.

Lastly there are the sadly misguided attempts at a “soulful” direction, which crash and burn gloriously. I’m sure in the studio, producer Spencer Proffer assured Quiet Riot that he was producing a hit album.  This would get them on radio and MTV, he might have guaranteed.  Meanwhile, the real situation was more like, “Let’s throw anything and everything to the wall and see what sticks, because this band’s asses are on the line this time.”  But it was the band who wrote this slop with Proffer, so they bear equal responsibility for the calamity.  I’m sure there were so many drugs in the air that “The Pump” actually seemed clever at the time.

QRIII will be remembered not as the album that knocked Quiet Riot down, (that honor goes to Condition Critical) but as the album that flat-out buried them. They would never be a serious commercial property again.

Do you enjoy the crash and burn of an astonishing train wreck? QRIII is for you.

0.5/5 stars

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REVIEW: Quiet Riot – Alive and Well (1999)

 

QUIET RIOT – Alive and Well (1999 Deadline Music)

When Rudy Sarzo rejoined Quiet Riot, re-completing the classic Metal Health lineup, there wasn’t much fanfare. There also wasn’t much fanfare for this album which came and went without so much as a whisper. The reason is pretty simple. Like most of Quiet Riot’s post-1983 output, it’s not that great.

It’s better than I feared though. Some of these new songs are darnright good. “Against The Wall” is the best of the new songs, a rocker that would have fit on Condition Critical as one of the best tunes. It’s a peppy, upbeat motivational rocker. “Angry” is also not bad, being pretty heavy with a great vocal delivery from DuBrow. It is incredible that right up until his death, Kevin DuBrow’s voice was as strong as ever. “The Ritual” is a groover, something previously unknown for Quiet Riot. It’s mean and nasty and it works really well.

The rest of the new material isn’t all that hot. Quiet Riot’s problem has always been poor songwriting. Much of their best material were either covers or co-writes. There are awkward choruses that just don’t hit the spot; bridges and verses that jar with the riffs. These songs don’t sound like completed songs, they sound like a bunch of parts stuck together. Witness “Too Much Information” (which I actually like the lyrics to quite a bit), “Don’t Know What I Want”, “Alive and Well”, and “Overworked and Underpaid”. These are not great songs. They have neat parts and nice bits buried within them, but as a whole…sorry, no. There is also one truly awful song, the funk-crap of “Slam Dunk (Way To Go)”. What an awful song. Truly a terrible, terrible song that never should have made it past the demo stage.

There’s one previously released track, the AC/DC cover “Highway To Hell” (previously released on the AC/DC tribute album, Thunderstruck). It’s OK, but let’s face it, very few bands can cover AC/DC. Carlos Cavazo can’t play that rhythm part and make it sound right. Sarzo’s bass is a little too bouncy. Otherwise, it’s an OK cover, but once again Quiet Riot are padding out albums with covers…

The record company made them re-record six of the old classic tracks, and here they are tacked onto the end. Some are OK. “Don’t Wanna Let You Go” (one of my personal favourite Quiet Riot songs) has been rearranged acoustically. Carlos’ acoustic guitar is beautiful, and because this song presents a new arrangement, I think it’s worthy of inclusion. The rest offer very little of interest. Why re-record old classics? There’s no real artistic reason, only financial reasons. I guarantee you that you will not replace your old copy of “Metal Health” with this re-recorded version. And the new version of “The Wild and the Young” is just bad, bad, bad. All the techy-uniqueness of the original has been replaced by pseudo-heaviness and funk. Yes, funk, there’s a funky break right in the middle that should have been excized. It’s just awful.

As an album, Alive and Well has enough good going on to make it listenable, but this is no comeback. This is treading water, zero growth. Amazon is loaded with positive reviews, fanboy-ish as they are. Well, I am the biggest Quiet Riot fan around. And I’m just being objective here when I say this: Unless you’re die-hard like me, you don’t need this album.

2.5/5 stars