#712: Does Paul Stanley Get Enough Credit for Writing Killer Riffs?

GETTING MORE TALE #712: Does Paul Stanley Get Enough Credit for Writing Killer Riffs?

Think for a moment about the greatest guitar riffs of all time.  “Smoke on the Water”, “You Really Got Me”, “Iron Man”, and “Whole Lotta Love” might make your own personal favourites.  Indeed, these songs usually show up on any decent list of great rock riffs.  Planet Rock did a dubious list in 2017, featuring the classics and questionable choices like The Darkness.  It also featured a number of hot licks by Hendrix, Ozzy, and Van Halen.  The usual suspects.  They do get points for including Budgie’s “Breadfan”.

I once read a quote by a guitar player* who said he hated Jimmy Page because “He already wrote all the greatest riffs, and I’m jealous.”  Tony Iommi, Ritchie Blackmore, the Young brothers and even the young fellas from Metallica are often credited as the greatest riffmasters in rock.  They’ve all done their part to enrich our lives with memorable, chunky and headbangin’ guitar riffs.  But so have others.

Consider Kiss’ Paul Stanley.  Once upon a time, the singer was considered one of the best with very few rivals.  You’d often see his name on singers’ lists with guys like Freddie Mercury and Ronnie James Dio.  Paul must, absolutely, be considered one of the greatest frontmen in history.  That is hard to dispute.  On the other hand, few give him credit for his guitar.

“I’m no slouch,” said Paul of his guitar playing.  He’s even responsible for some Kiss solos.  But as a riff writer?  We rarely think of Stanley, yet behold the songs!  Looking only at tracks with lone Paul Stanley writing credits, the list of monster riffs is impressive.

  • “Black Diamond”
  • “Hotter Than Hell”
  • “C’mon and Love Me”
  • “Rock Bottom”
  • “God of Thunder”
  • “I Stole Your Love”
  • “Love Gun”
  • “Tonight You Belong To Me”
  • “Magic Touch”

Paul had some pretty awesome riffs on co-written songs like “Mr. Speed”, “Makin’ Love” and “Creatures of the Night”, but since other writers may have contributed, we’ll exclude those.  This list also doesn’t include his catchy acoustic riffs like “Hard Luck Woman”, or lesser-known later material like “Modern Day Delilah”. If you wanted to delve further into Sonic Boom and Monster, there’s plenty of Paul’s guitar thunder without co-writers.  This is strictly a list of the most impactful material:  the 1970s.

So Stanley doesn’t get enough credit.  Does this make him a riff master, up there with the other guys?

I’m going to go out on a limb:  Maybe, leaning towards yes.

“God of Thunder”, “I Stole Your Love” and “Love Gun” are monolithic enough to stand next to an Iommi or Blackmore riff.  Just like a Deep Purple fan knows there is more to them than just “durrh durrh durrh!”, a Kiss fan can recommend a number of rock solid riffs from their albums.  A huge number of those are Paul’s, although certainly Gene did just fine with “Deuce”.  “Deuce”, admitted Gene, is just a Stones lick played backwards.  Paul’s best stuff is less derivative than that.  “God of Thunder” is just that — “God of Thunder”.  You can say it sounds vaguely Sabbathy, but it doesn’t sound like anything specific.  Same with “I Stole Your Love”.  As for “Hotter Than Hell”?  Much like a great Sabbath song, it boasts two killer riffs in one track!

Elitists like to scoff; make fun of adults in makeup and spandex.  Fair enough.  Tony Iommi never needed makeup or particularly tight pants to be a rock star.  Sabbath played with the “Satanic” gimmick but didn’t rely as heavily on image and flash.  Kiss wouldn’t have made it in the first place without the makeup and costumes, but as they developed, they had the music to back it up.

Do yourself a favour and go back to listen to Paul’s classic guitar riffs.  They are often highlights of the song, little rock solid gems that are ready for air guitar.  He really hasn’t received the credit due for coming up with a number of simple, solid and dynamic riffs on his own.  Should his name be spoken with Page, Blackmore, or Young when talking of riffs?  We’ve made our case, so get Kiss’ed on these classics.




Might have been Nuno Bettencourt


Sunday Chuckle: M-Pee-3

REVIEW: Steve Vai – Naked Tracks (2008 5 CD set)

STEVE VAI – Naked Tracks (2008 Light Without Heat)

I’m not a guitar player so my review of this box set will be limited to non-player knowledge. Steve Vai designed this set for guitar players to improvise over. He removed the lead guitar from selected tracks from the following albums:

  • Passion & Warfare
  • Sex & Religion
  • Alien Love Secrets
  • Fire Garden
  • Alive in an Ultra World
  • The Ultra Zone
  • Real Illusions: Reflections

He encourages the players to improvise rather than learn the original solos, and make loops of songs in order to play away as long as they want.

As I said I’m not a real guitar player, just a wanna-be, but I love Steve’s music and I enjoyed hearing his songs deconstructed. You can hear a lot of keyboards and backing guitars that you can’t hear with the lead guitar mixed in up front. Some songs, as a listener, don’t work at all like this such as “The Audience Is Listening” as there’s not much backing music. Again though, this wasn’t really designed for listeners like me.

I had fun playing a few simple melodies over some of Steve’s slower songs.  Some of these stripped-down tracks will also make good beds for voiceover recordings.

At this price, guitar players are getting a lot of music for their dollar. They might never play or use some of these tracks but you can’t argue with the value (about $20 Canadian).

For players, you’re going to get a lot of use from these CDs especially when you download the sheet music from Vai’s site. Vai writes arrangements that will give you a lot of challenges and fun options to play over. For the average listener such as myself, you will only play this occassionally. It will definitey give you insight to the songwriting and recording talents of Steve Vai, and maybe you can use the tunes to just chill out as background music at home. At this price maybe that is enough reason for non-players to buy it. Only a guitar player will truly get maximum use for this box set, and I think they will use it a lot.

3.5/5 stars

Note:  Steve has available on iTunes two more discs from this series:

  • Where the Wild Things Are/Sound Theories
  • Story of Light

REVIEW: Ace Frehley – “Cherokee Boogie” (1996)

A little bonus review, part 5.5 in my series of Ace Frehley reviews!  Just a single track today.  Missed the last installment?  Click here!

ACE FREHLEY – – “Cherokee Boogie” (1996 Attic)

From Guitars That Rule the World, Vol 2: Smell the Fuzz – The Superstar Guitar Album!

I was a big fan of the first installment of the Guitars That Rule the World.  It had a really eclectic and diverse list of guitarists, including Zakk Wylde (doing chicken-pickin’ for the first time on record), Albert Collins, Richie Sambora, Yngwie Malmsteen, Paul Gilbert, and many others.  This volume (with a stupid cumbersome title) is geared more towards alternative artists such as Billy Corgan, J. Yuenger, and Kim Thayil.  There’s also John Christ of Danzig, Alex Lifeson, and Robert Fripp.  Hell even Billy Sheehan has a track, and he’s a bassist!  (But, you can already get the Lifeson and Sheehan tracks on albums by their side projects Victor and Niacin.)

CHEROKEE BOOGIE_0002To me this album is only worth buying for the brand new Ace Frehley track.  It’s an instrumental called “Cherokee Boogie”, and while it doesn’t boast too many particularly strong catchy melodies it is still the Ace.  Ace’s soloing is (as always) note perfect for the song.  The riff is quintessential Ace, thick and chunky, albeit not one of his best.  It’s still nice to hear his distinct Les Paul squeal on a new track.  I especially love when the song gets fast and thrashy just past the halfway mark.  At this point Ace is burning rubber, and it’s a real rush.

I’m not familiar with the backing musicians on this recording.  They are Saul Zonana (bass) and Phil Richford (drums).  They get the job done without getting in Ace’s way.

I would say that “Cherokee Boogie” would have made a strong instrumental interlude on any of Ace’s post-Kiss solo albums.  It’s 4:00 of solid rock guitar.

3.5/5 stars

Very poor audio on this


REVIEW: Electric Joy by Richie Kotzen (1991)

Classic Kotzen! For a look at the new album by his new supergroup The Winery Dogs, check out Jon Wilmenius’ excellent review.

RICHIE KOTZEN – Electric Joy by Richie Kotzen (1991 Shrapnel)

Albums by Richie Kotzen were impossible to find in Canada.  My only exposure to his music was “Dream of a New Day”, from his second album Fever Dream.  Fever Dream was his first vocal album, but Kotzen returned to instrumentals on his third, Electric Joy.  I’d seen his picture in dozens of guitar magazines, but hadn’t heard his tunes until “Dream of a New Day” was included on the Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey soundtrack.

His debut album was a hit with the shredders, but three albums in, Kotzen had already delivered three completely different pieces of work.  Electric Joy has some of the playfulness of the debut, but is mostly a jaw-dropping collection of intricately composed pieces that skirt multiple genres including funk, country, bluegrass, jazz, fusion, and blues.  If I had to pick out an influence, I would say that Electric Joy sounds like Richie had been listening to a lot of the “two Steves”:  Vai and Morse.  His technique is top-notch.

I first got this on a trip to Frankenmuth, Michigan.  My parents made a point of going there every spring and I started tagging along, and then later on my friend Peter joined us as well.  We’d stay at the Bavarian Inn and on the way back to Ontario, we’d stop at the stores in Port Huron, where I found this as well as old rare Savatage cassettes.

“B Funk” opens the album with some light-speed bluegrass-y licks, but it keeps changing, from a funked up rocker with shredding, to a melodic “chorus” section.  Then it’s back to the bluegrass from space.

At this point I’ll point out that Kotzen plays all the instruments except drums, himself.  That’s Richie’s standby Atma Anur on drums.  What this means is, that incredibly dexterous bassline you’re hearing on “B Funk” is also performed by Kotzen!  And it’s almost every bit as stunning as the guitar!

“Electric Toy” begins ballady, with some lyrical Vai-like moments.  Of course, Kotzen can’t help but do what he does, so there are different sections, some at lickity-split tempos.  This is followed by “Shufina”, which is essentially a blues jam.  Kotzen’s deep bends are appropriate, but before too long he’s harmonizing with himself on some unconventional melodies.

A smoking hot riff ignites “Acid Lips”, little lightning licks flicker in and out, but this one has a solid groove.  (It can’t be easy grooving with yourself on bass.)  “Slow Blues” contains some of Richie’s most lyrical lead work.  If you can imagine the lead guitar taking on the role of a singer, then “Slow Blues” is probably the most accessible song on the album.

The next song “High Wire” is uncatagorizable, suffice to say that like all of Electric Joy it combines quirky notes with shreddery, funk and groove.  My favourite song is “Dr. Glee”.  It sounds like it seems it should – gleeful.  I find this pleasant melody to be very summery.  Kotzen guitar has so many different sounds and shades, even just within this one song.

“Hot Rails” is another one that sounds like advertized…a train racing down the track.  Kotzen’s slide work is anything but simple.  This one’s so fast it’s hard to keep track of all the cool different guitar parts.  It almost sounds like Kotzen wrote a blues shuffle, and then decided to hit fast forward on his tape deck and learn it at that speed!

Electric Joy closes with “The Deece Song”, which thankfully is mid-tempo allowing us to catch our collective breath.  It’s another great performance, similar in style to “Dr. Glee”.  It has its sweeping Satriani moments as well.

The production on the album is very dry, which is different from what a lot of the other instrumentalists were doing at the time.  While this means it might take some more time to penetrate an album that is loaded to the brim with dense ideas already, it is a worthwhile endevour.

In a bizarre turn of events, Kotzen briefly put his solo career on hold.  He received a phone call from Bret Michaels.  The Poison frontman was looking for a replacement for the departed CC Deville.  The fact that Kotzen was from Pennsylvania, not already in a band, and wrote and sang original material caught Michaels’ eye in a magazine article.  Having a shredder, but one with some feel too, might garner Poison some respect in the tough 1990’s.

Kotzen did succeed in co-writing (and in some cases, writing entire songs himself) their most accomplished album, Native Tongue.  Of course, it did not sell.  The Poison relationship imploded because of another relationship: the one that Kotzen was secretly having with drummer Rikki Rockett’s fiance!  Kotzen eventually married her, and he was replaced in Poison by another shredder, Blues Saraceno (who was in the running with Kotzen in the first place).

As for Electric Joy?

4/5 stars


REVIEW: Quiet Riot – The Randy Rhoads Years (1993)


QUIET RIOT – The Randy Rhoads Years (1993 Rhino)

Growing up in the 1980’s, Quiet Riot was the first “metal” band I liked.  Back then, we were aware that Quiet Riot had two albums prior to Metal Health.  These albums seemed unobtainable forever at best, mythical at worst!  The first two, Quiet Riot and Quiet Riot II, were released in Japan only.  Later on, I did manage to get both albums, so I have a unique perspective on this CD:  The Randy Rhoads Years, by Quiet Riot.

See, here’s a nutshell version of the story:  QR lead howler and co-founder Kevin DuBrow had wanted to re-release the Randy material for years.   Randy himself was never happy with those albums, nor his guitar sound on those albums.  In light of this, the late guitarist’s mother Delores was very guarded of Randy’s legacy.  She knew that Randy felt the albums consisted of sub-par songs with horrible production. DuBrow eventually won her blessing to re-release some of the old Quiet Riot material, but on one condition only: Get the quality of the songs up to snuff so it doesn’t tarnish Randy’s legacy.

So that’s what he did, using all the means available, and the result is a highly modified collection of Quiet Riot songs with Randy Rhoads.

I can tell people out there who haven’t heard the first two albums that they do sound awful. That’s not a myth. Randy’s guitar is but a shadow of what it would become, and the songs are mostly pretty bad, especially on the first album. The second is much better (particularly in the songwriting category) but it is still hampered by poor production. So what could DuBrow do to get permission to do a re-release?

He started by picking out six of the better songs from the first two records:  “Mama’s Little Angels”, “It’s Not So Funny”, and “Look in Any Window” from Quiet Riot, and  “Trouble”, “Killer Girls”, and “Afterglow (Of Your Love)” from Quiet Riot II.  All of these songs were heavily remixed, with completely re-recorded vocals, from scratch.  DuBrow felt, probably  correctly, that his original singing voice on those albums was too “boy-ish”.

DuBrow re-sampled all the drums, and re-recorded all of Randy’s guitar tracks through a Marshall stack.  Randy had confided with Kevin that he was happiest with the way his guitar sounded live with Ozzy, so Kevin recorded the original, sterile guitar tracks through Carlos Cavazo’s amps.  They used the Randy Rhoads Tribute CD as a guide.

On one guitar solo, Kevin knew that Randy wished he had used a wah-wah, but couldn’t afford the pedal at the time.  Kevin played the wah-wah pedal himself, using Randy’s guitar tracks, a unique form of collaboration between two friends.

With the Small Faces cover, “Afterglow”, Kevin came up with a cool idea.  “Unplugged” albums were on trend, so Kevin stripped all the drums and electric instruments off the track, leaving just Randy’s bare acoustic guitar.  It is like stripping a layer of paint off old beautiful old wood:  the bare guitar track reveals previously unheard warmth.  Kevin re-sang the vocal, kept the electric guitar solo intact, and used a triangle sample to cover up places where the original drums had leaked into Randy’s mike.  This painstaking work created from the ground up an incredible alternate version that Randy would hopefully have been very proud of.

None of these people are Frankie Banali.

None of these people are Frankie Banali.

One of Quiet Riot II‘s best songs is “Trouble”.  Kevin felt that it plodded too much, so he slightly sped it up which also raised its pitch.  He then re-sang it, and the result is a much better song.  Suddenly “Trouble” is a rich sounding hit-worthy rock track.

“Killer Girls” had some minor tampering, a blast of guitar where previously there was nothing.  It is “Last Call For Rock ‘n’ Roll” that is most changed.  Previously titled “Mama’s Little Angels” on Quiet Riot, Kevin re-wrote what he thought was a juvenile lyric.  (It was about trashing the house playing a game of “indoor baseball”.)  Bobby Rondinelli, who was working with Kevin on a Quiet Riot album called Terrified at the time, helped him re-write the tune.  Unfortunately, regardless of all this work, the song is still just a stock sounding track, nothing special, aside from Randy’s always classy if underplayed guitar work.

The rest of the album consists of unreleased songs.  One of the most exciting is a live take of “Laughing Gas” which Quiet Riot never cut in the studio.  It comprised an evolving, extended Randy Rhoads guitar solo.  Within it, you can hear the kernels of ideas that later became Ozzy Osbourne classics such as “Dee” and “Crazy Train”.  Even this “live” track is tampered with:  Kevin re-recorded his lead vocals (even the “Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Randy Rhoads!” part) and actually spliced two different guitar solos together into one.  You can hear the splice point between the two quite clearly.  Of course this makes the solo no less jaw-dropping.

“Picking Up the Pieces” and “Breaking Up is a Heartbreak” are two of a kind.  Kevin says these come from their “pop” period after the second album, just before Randy was off to work with Ozzy.  They were getting more desperate for hits, and wrote these two melodic, radio-ready tunes.  Both are excellent.  Much like “Trouble”, these two songs are world-class.  Kevin re-recorded the vocals and so on just as he did with the other tracks.  At this time, bassist Kelly Garni had left the band and Randy played bass himself.

Lastly, “Force of Habit” is the only bare, untampered song.  In the liner notes, Kevin says they lost the original master tapes, so he was unable to remix or re-record any of it.  I think it’s an excellent heavy song on its own.  In fact, Ozzy Osbourne must have thought so as well, since parts of this song later became “Suicide Solution”!

This work,  and “Laughing Gas” in particular were enough to convince the Rhoads family to go forward with this album. If Kevin hadn’t done this, undoubtedly we would never have seen this release. On the other hand, this isn’t the way Randy recorded it, and Randy obviously had no input to how the tracks were mixed.  This has polarized fans, some of whom thought Kevin was the great Satan, others just enjoying the album for what it is.

I enjoy the album for what it is.  I like it a lot, actually.  I do have misgivings about the tampering, but since I own the first two albums, that feeling has subsided.  I can back up the claims that the first two albums are pretty poor.

Kevin had planned on a second volume, including such treasures as Quiet Riot’s metallic cover of “The Mighty Quinn”.  He had also mentioned a home video, including the extended “Laughing Gas” guitar solo.  Sadly DuBrow, will never get to complete these Rhoads reissues.

4/5 stars

REVIEW: Ani DiFranco – Little Plastic Castle (1998)

Part 3 of the Aaron Challenge:  He has challenged me to get out of my comfort zone.  Together, we will be reviewing some of the albums he bought in Toronto during Record Store Excursion 2012.  I’ve never heard any of these albums before, in fact I know almost nothing about most of these bands.  But I do know I sold a lot (a lot!) of Ani DiFranco during my time at the record store.

Aaron paid $2.99 for this, at Sonic Boom Music.

Check out his review here!


ANI DIFRANCO – Little Plastic Castle (1998 Righteous Babe)

I remember working at the store back in ’98, and the general reception from Ani DiFranco fans to this album was positive, but mildly critical.  There was a vibe that she had sold out for bigger success.  That was just what I was hearing.

Having not heard the previous albums, all I can say is good music is good music.  Yes, the production is lush and not what you’d think of “indy”.  Listen to those mariachi horns on the title track.  Not exactly low-fi.  But it sounds great!  What an upbeat, entertaining track.  Awesome.  Not to mention her guitar work is excellent.  The lyrics seem to be about public perception of what she should and should not be.

“Fuel” is one I’d heard before from Aaron.  I liked that one too.  I like when she’s goofy. This is beat poetry with a backing band.  Normally I go for a lead vocal with melody, but this works due to Ani’s well-composed expression.  From there it’s on to “Gravel”, a fast melodic one with more dexterous picking from Ani.  Another great tune, with melody to spare.    It’s a sparse arrangement, just guitar and voice with some percussion, and that’s it.

Drums introduce “As Is”, a soft pleasant song with barely audible keyboards in the background.  It’s laid back and slightly mournful but also playful, and pretty much perfect as is (pun intended).  “Two Little Girls” is dark, a tale of a difficult childhood.  Ani’s excellent picking, and a bouncy backing bassline, makes it entertaining, but lyrically it seems loaded with pain.

“Deep Dish” is the first song I didn’t enjoy.  It features samples and long spoken word bit, and is very rhythmic.  It did nothing for me, though.  Sorry Ani.  Nothing personal!  “Loom” however is a brief (under 3 minutes) explosion of drums and acoustic picking, more along the lines of what I like.  “Pixie” follows, one I didn’t click with.  Ani sings in a soft whisper, expressive as ever, I just didn’t like the song.  It didn’t have enough melody or punch for me.

A long song, “Swandive”, is a bit of a change of pace since most of the previous tunes were in the 4 minute range.  This one builds slowly.  “I’m gonna do my best swan dive, into shark infested waters,” sings Ani, while picking more of those great guitar parts.  “Glass House” totally changes the pace, with a bouncy wah-wah infested bass melody intro.  This is great.  I didn’t see that coming, nor the weird caterwauling trumpet that followed it!  Ani then whispers the lyrics, underlined by a pulsing bass, with the odd electronic effect.  Then just as you’re getting used to it, the drums kick in, accelerating the tune forward, and the vocals get angry.  Ani is nothing if not diverse, I’m learning, even within one song.

“Independence Day” is a beautiful song, melodic and passionate, slow and pretty.  A hit song in any just world.  The final song, “Pulse”, is another slow builder, with a beat poetry vibe to the verses.  It’s not brief either!  14 minutes!  It sounds a bit like a jam, but I wonder, since the whole album has more of a vibe of being carefully assembled rather than jammed out.

Little Plastic Castle is an excellent sounding album.  The guitars are lush, full and clear.  The snare drum sound is perfect. Production-wise, it’s a total triumph (and self-produced by Ani).  I think the album tends to sag a bit in the middle, after such a fine start, but it’s still a great album.

4/5 stars


REVIEW: Bidiniband – In The Rock Hall

I’m done my series of Maiden reviews, so Aaron has challenged me to get out of my comfort zone.  Together, we will be reviewing some of the albums he bought in Toronto during Record Store Excursion 2012.  I’ve never heard any of these albums before, in fact I know almost nothing about most of these bands.  Here’s part 1.  Enjoy. (?)

Look for another Bidini feature on January 25.

Check out Aaron’s take here:

BIDINIBAND – In The Rock Hall


BIDINIBAND – In The Rock Hall

I know nothing about Dave Bidini, I know nothing about this band, and I know nothing about this album.  I didn’t cheat by reading up on them, or reading other reviews.  I truly went into In The Rock Hall blindly with open ears.

It’s obvious these guys don’t give a crap about commercial songwriting.  Anything considered standard, radio-friendly, or easy is tossed out the window in short order.  The songs twist and turn through different, sometimes contradictory sounding sections.  It sounds like it was painstakingly composed, piece by piece.  This is all good — I like a challenging listen.  It’s all done with a wink and a smile.  They sound like they’d be very loud, live.  It’s also obvious they love their ganja, as the subject comes up more than once!

The guitar work is striking.  Like I said, I didn’t do any cheating to learn more about this album, so I have no idea who the guitar player is, but he or she has weaved together some unorthodox hooks.  Riffs and melodies strike you from the speakers, demanding that you pay attention!

“I Wanna Go To Yemen” crosses acoustic riffing, latin-sounding clapping, unusual beats and electric guitars with some pretty funny lyrics:

I wanna go to Yemen,
I wanna go with you,
We’ll get high in the morning,
And in the afternoon

It defies categorization, which is a good thing.  I’m not too keen on the singer’s flat vocals, I’m hoping they will grow on me.  It reminds me of Pavement, a band I’m not too into.  But it demanded a second listen, on which it grew further.

“On Camoragh Lake” starts with annoying beeps and gratuitous “fucks”.  It’s pretty tuneless until you get to the chorus, which features some nice electric chords and female backing vocals.  The song takes a turn around the 2 minute mark, getting a bit more passionate and noisy.  It has some guitar squeaking that would make both Joe Satriani and Tom Morello happy.  This annoying song gets more and more catchy as it goes on.  It grows on you, with more listens.

Third is “Big Men Go Fast on the Water” (well, it was true for Vince Neil)!  This is the most melodic and straightforward tune thus far, very enjoyable.  This is the first song I can say I truly enjoyed from start to finish on first listen.

Another great tune follows, the passionate “Last of the Big Dead Things”.  This dark, acoustic, beautiful tune was instantaneous.  But just when you think you know what’s going to happen next, they go into a shouted section at 3 minutes, and then a quiet whisper.

“Needle Beach / Outdoor Motors” has a vague (but only vague) surf-rock sound, but it’s more distorted and twisty/turny than that.  I’m not sure why the band seems to be obsessed with water themes, but hey, it’s all good.  This one’s a bit too odd to get on first listen, but it does hit a catchy vocal part towards the end.

Better is “Hey Paul and Donna”, a nice acoustic one with a great chorus.  “Hey Paul and Donna, I’m glad you took the train to Taranna!”  That’s Toronto, for those who don’t know!  It has a vintage 1960’s sound, and is probably the simplest, instantly catchy song on the album.

“Popcorn” features some intricate catchy guitar licks.  It’s also a pretty simple catchy tune, the melody doesn’t do much for me, but that guitar part is truly great.  I wish I could play that effortlessly.  At 2:40 it takes another twist, with female vocals, almost sounding Christmas-carol-y.

Distorted robot vocals usher in “The Best Thing About The 80’s Was You”, complete with apropos drum programs.  If you like 80’s music, this is a whimsical homage.  If you don’t, like me, this one built for the skip button.  It’s all tongue in cheek, but it’s not for me.  “‘The Final Countdown’, the 80’s was you!”

There’s nothing simple about “Eunoia”, a 10 minute monster.  It starts as a poem, with Tom Waits-esque backing music and noise.  Then it goes into some nice guitar chords and understated vocal melody.  It’s powerful and melodic.  As you can imagine, it has multiple sections, each with some incredible guitar work, demanding that I pay attention.  Just when I’m getting tired of one section, it twists into something else.

Up next is the percussive “Earth (Revisited)”, a humourous retelling of human history.  It’s anchored by relentless drumming, and plenty of ooh’s and ahh’s.

The album closes with another long one, the title track, “In The Rock Hall”.  Somewhat obviously, this one is about the Hall of Fame in Cleveland, but with a tongue in cheek.  The lyrics are amusing, musically I felt like we’d already visited this territory.

Coming up with a simple rating is not easy.  One cannot overlook the chops, the unorthodox stylings, the variety, and the refusal to keep things simple.  On the other hand, I found the ooh’s, ahh’s, and la-la-la’s tiring, as well as the perpetually flat lead vocals.  I don’t know how often I’d want to come back to this one.  Striking a balance, I’ll rate In The Rock Hall:

3/5 stars


“I got blisters on me fingers!” (VINCE NEIL Washburn GALLERY!)

I decided to dust off the ol’ guitar today to do some writing and recording.  I haven’t played a note in two years.  Needless to say my fingers hate me right now.  But I got the job done and a piece of music I don’t hate.

My weapon of choice (my only guitar) is the Vince Neil Washburn, a limited exition axe exclusive to Future Shop stores in Canada.  It was limited to 2500 pieces, numbered, and retailed originally for $299.99.  I got mine on clearance — $69.99, including the little practice amp, three Vince Neil picks, strap, and certificate of authenticity with Vince’s autograph.  A close inspection reveals that it’s actual pen, not just printed on.

When I told people about my purchase, they’d usually respond, “Wait…isn’t Vince Neil the singer from Motley Crue?”  Yes, he played guitar once in a blue moon live, but I guess that’s why I got mine so cheap on clearance.  And it wasn’t the last one; my buddy Chris bought one too and re-sold it for profit.

Currently, there are none on eBay, so I suggest if you find one at a decent price, may as well pick it up!  It’s a decent sounding guitar, the amp works as a practice amp but for me to record with, not so hot.  I’m not really a guitar player, I can basically just play my way around blues scales, so I can’t really really review it as an instrument — just as a collector.


A sample of how the Vince Neil Washburn sounds can be found below.  (Reminder:  I am NOT a guitar player!)

REVIEW: AC/DC – Backtracks (Deluxe Edition, the big one that comes with the amp!)


AC/DC – Backtracks (The Ultimate Box Set) (2009) currently selling for $236.08 at

When this arrived at the house, I couldn’t believe the size of the box! I opened the carefully packed box, and removed the ample cardboard protecting my precious investment. I then removed a plastic and cardboard monstrosity known as AC/DC Backtracks; or, the most awesome kickass box set I have ever seen in my life.

And, it sounds good too!

Before I get into the good stuff (the songs), let me tell you about the box. Yes, it is a working amp, but that’s just a novelty feature. I snapped in the provided 9 volt battery, plugged in my guitar and strummed a chord. Guess what! It sounds like an amp made of cardboard and plastic powered by a 9 volt battery. No big deal. It’s a coversation piece. Like, “Hey, wanna watch this awesome concert DVD from the AC/DC box? Oh, and check it out, I can plug my guitar in it too.”


Inside I discovered a really sharp hardcover photo book. This thing is huge, and loaded with photos of the band and memorability dating back to time immemmorial. Next to that, a nice big LP-sized case containing all the CDs and DVDs. (3 CDs, 2 DVDs). Up next, the LP:  the highlights from the Studio Rarities CD, in its own sealed sleeve. This was specially mastered for LP. I have not played this yet. I may not open it, I haven’t decided. There was also a poster, and a sealed cardboard envelope carrying mutiple goodies, including a guitar pick, a button, a sticker, and a temporary tattoo amongst myriad paper souvenirs.  (See below this review for a full gallery of photos)


The thing about this box set, compared to the regular retail version, is the inclusion of an additional DVD and a whole CD’s worth of additional rarities. What makes this especially cool is this: aside from one single (an early single that the band did with original singer Dave Evans), this box set seems to contain every B-side, every single Australian album track, every Japanese, special edition, import, promo, and otherwise non-album song that AC/DC ever released up to 2009. Whew.

I’ve read reviews that said, “The songs are disappointing because they’re not very good, they were left off the albums for a reason.” Not so. They are quite good. Just because some were released on the band’s albums in their home country and nowhere else is not a reflection on quality. Some of these songs are some of my favourites, such as the stompin’ “Rock In Peace”, the hilarious “Crabsody In Blue” and “Cold Hearted Man”. As for the live B-sides and rare tracks…man, I can’t believe how consistantly good this band has been over the decades! Friggin’ incredible that even when you get to songs recorded well into the 90’s, AC/DC still sounded just as good. A later example is the purely smokin’ “Safe In New York City”.

The first DVD is part 3 of the Family Jewels series. It contains a whole bunch of cool music videos that you probably remember from back when MuchMusic actually used to play music videos. These are mostly some of the more recent music videos from the Ballbreaker album and beyond. A few of these I had never seen before, or only once or twice. After those, are rare videos for early tracks with both Bon and Brian. The second DVD is an exclusive to this set, recorded live in 2003 in Germany.

If you’re a truely dedicated fan that eats, breathes, sleeps AC/DC…you’ll be very very happy with this one.

5/5 stars.

Disc 1 – Studio Rarities

No. Title Original release Length
1. “High Voltage” (deluxe edition only) T.N.T. (Australian-only release) (1975) 4:18
2. “Stick Around” High Voltage (Australian release) (1975) 4:40
3. “Love Song” High Voltage (Australian release) (1975) 5:15
4. “It’s a Long Way to the Top” (deluxe edition only) T.N.T. (Australian-only release) (1975) 5:16
5. “Rocker” (deluxe edition only) T.N.T. (Australian-only release) (1975) 2:55
6. “Fling Thing” Jailbreak (7″ single) (1976) 2:00
7. “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap” (deluxe edition only) Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap (Australian release) (1976) 4:11
8. “Ain’t No Fun (Waitin’ Round to Be a Millionaire)” (deluxe edition only) Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap (Australian release) (1976) 7:30
9. “R.I.P. (Rock in Peace)” Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap (Australian release) (1976) 3:35
10. “Carry Me Home” Dog Eat Dog (7″ single) (1977) 3:58
11. “Crabsody in Blue” Let There Be Rock (Australian release) (1977) 4:43
12. “Cold Hearted Man” Powerage (original European LP pressings) (1978) 3:35
13. “Who Made Who” (deluxe edition only) Who Made Who (7″ single) (1986) 4:50
14. “Snake Eye” Heatseeker (CD single) (1988) 3:16
15. “Borrowed Time” That’s the Way I Wanna Rock ‘n’ Roll (CD single) (1988) 3:45
16. “Down on the Borderline” Moneytalks (CD single) (1990) 4:15
17. “Big Gun” Last Action Hero (official movie soundtrack) (1993) 4:20
18. “Cyberspace” Stiff Upper Lip (Australian bonus CD) (2001) 2:58

Disc 2 – Live Rarities I

No. Title Original release Length
1. “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap” (Live in Sydney, 30 Jan. 1977) Long Live the Evolution (compilation LP) (1977) 5:02
2. “Dog Eat Dog” (Live in Glasgow, 30 Apr. 1978) Whole Lotta Rosie (7″ single) (1978) 4:30
3. “Live Wire” (Live in London, 2 Nov. 1979) Touch Too Much (12″ single) (1980) 5:05
4. “Shot Down in Flames” (Live in London, 2 Nov. 1979) Touch Too Much (12″ single) (1980) 3:39
5. “Back in Black” (Live in Landover, MD, 20 Dec. 1981) Let’s Get It Up (12″ single) (1982) 4:21
6. “T.N.T.” (Live in Landover, MD, 20 Dec. 1981) Let’s Get It Up (12″ single) (1982) 3:58
7. “Let There Be Rock” (Live in Landover, MD, 20 Dec. 1981) For Those About to Rock (7″ single) (1982) 7:30
8. “Guns for Hire” (Live in Detroit, MI, 17 Nov. 1983) Who Made Who (7″ single) (1986) 5:21
9. “Sin City” (Live in Detroit, MI, 17 Nov. 1983 – deluxe edition only) Nervous Shakedown (12″ single) (1984) 5:30
10. “Rock and Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution” (Live in Detroit, MI, 17 Nov. 1983) Nervous Shakedown (12″ single) (1984) 4:15
11. “This House Is On Fire” (Live in Detroit, MI, 17 Nov. 1983) Nervous Shakedown (12″ single) (1984) 3:25
12. “You Shook Me All Night Long” (Live in Detroit, MI, 17 Nov. 1983) You Shook Me All Night Long (12″ single) (1986) 3:30
13. “Jailbreak” (Live in Dallas, TX, 12 Oct. 1985) Shake Your Foundations (12″ single) (1986) 13:22
14. “Shoot to Thrill” (Live at Donington, 17 Aug. 1991) – deluxe edition only) Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap (CD single) (1992) 5:30
15. “Hell Ain’t a Bad Place to Be” (Live at Donington, 17 Aug. 1991 – deluxe edition only) Live (Japanese version) (1992) 4:37

Disc 3 – Live Rarities II

All of these tracks are on the deluxe edition only, except where noted.

No. Title Original release Length
1. “High Voltage” (Live at Donington, 17 Aug. 1991) Highway to Hell (CD maxi single) (1992) 9:25
2. “Hells Bells” (Live at Donington, 17 Aug. 1991) Highway to Hell (CD maxi single) (1992) 5:57
3. “Whole Lotta Rosie” (Live at Donington, 17 Aug. 1991) Hail Caesar (CD single) (1995) 4:45
4. “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap” (Live at Donington, 17 Aug. 1991) Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap (CD single) (1992) 5:00
5. “Highway to Hell” (Live in Moscow, 28 Sep. 1991 – standard edition also) 5 Titres Inedits En Concert (French 5-track CD) (1993) 4:00
6. “Back in Black” (Live in Moscow, 28 Sep. 1991) Big Gun (CD single) (1993) 4:10
7. “For Those About to Rock” (Live in Moscow, 28 Sep. 1991 – standard edition also) Big Gun (CD single) (1993) 6:50
8. “Ballbreaker” (Live in Madrid, 10 Jul. 1996) Stiff Upper Lip (Australian bonus CD) (2001) 4:40
9. “Hard as a Rock” (Live in Madrid, 10 Jul. 1996) Stiff Upper Lip (Australian bonus CD) (2001) 4:50
10. “Dog Eat Dog” (Live in Madrid, 10 Jul. 1996) 3 Live Tracks (No Bull promo CD single) (1996) 4:46
11. “Hail Caesar” (Live in Madrid, 10 Jul. 1996) 3 Live Tracks (No Bull promo CD single) (1996) 5:25
12. “Whole Lotta Rosie” (Live in Madrid, 10 Jul. 1996) Stiff Upper Lip (Australian bonus CD) (2001) 5:27
13. “You Shook Me All Night Long” (Live in Madrid, 10 Jul. 1996) Private Parts (official movie soundtrack) (1997) 3:58
14. “Safe in New York City” (Live in Phoenix, AZ, 13 Sep. 2000 – standard edition also) Safe in New York City (American promo CD single) (2000) 3:55

Family Jewels Disc 3 (DVD)

This DVD picks up where the original 2 DVD Family Jewels set left off (1991).

  1. “Big Gun”
  2. “Hard As A Rock”
  3. “Hail Caesar”
  4. “Cover You in Oil”
  5. “Stiff Upper Lip”
  6. “Satellite Blues”
  7. “Safe in New York City”
  8. “Rock ‘n’ Roll Train”
  9. “Anything Goes”

Bonus videos

  1. “Jailbreak”
  2. “It’s a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘n’ Roll)”
  3. “Highway to Hell”
  4. “You Shook Me All Night Long”
  5. “Guns for Hire”
  6. “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap (live)
  7. “Highway to Hell” (live)

Bonus features

  1. “The Making of “Hard as a Rock”
  2. “The Making of “Rock ‘n’ Roll Train”

Live at the Circus Krone 2003 DVD

  1. Introduction
  2. “Hell Ain’t a Bad Place to Be”
  3. “Back in Black”
  4. “Stiff Upper Lip”
  5. “Shoot to Thrill”
  6. “Thunderstruck”
  7. “Rock ‘n’ Roll Damnation”
  8. “What’s Next to the Moon”
  9. “Hard as a Rock”
  10. “Bad Boy Boogie”
  11. “The Jack”
  12. “If You Want Blood (You’ve Got It)”
  13. “Hells Bells”
  14. “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap”
  15. “Rock ‘n’ Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution”
  16. “T.N.T.”
  17. “Let There Be Rock”
  18. “Highway to Hell”
  19. “For Those About to Rock (We Salute You)”
  20. “Whole Lotta Rosie”

Rarities 180 Gram LP

Side A

  1. “Stick Around”
  2. “Love Song”
  3. “Fling Thing”
  4. “R.I.P (Rock in Peace)”
  5. “Carry Me Home”
  6. “Crabsody in Blue”

Side B

  1. “Cold Hearted Man”
  2. “Snake Eye”
  3. “Borrowed Time”
  4. “Down on the Borderline”
  5. “Big Gun”
  6. “Cyberspace”