guns n’ roses

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: Trailer Park Boys – Out of the Park: Europe (2016)

tpb-ootp-4TRAILER PARK BOYS – Out of the Park: Europe (2016 Netflix)

It’s a whole new series, and it’s not what you expect.  When Ricky, Julian and Bubbles head off to Europe for what they think is a paid vacation, they are in for many unpleasant surprises.  Randy and Lahey may be far behind them in Canada, but in London England they are met by a different kind of adversary.  Mayhue is their guide, a Swearnet representative, and taskmaster (played by Guns N’ Roses stage manager Tom Mayhue).  The boys are going to be driving around Europe in a rock-star class tour bus, but given nothing to eat, drink, smoke, or spend.  The only way to make money is to complete special tasks or missions assigned by Swearnet.  (If you do the math, in real life Swearnet are writer/actors Robb Wells, J.P. Tremblay, and Mike Smith: the guys who play Ricky, Julian and Bubbles.  They are essentially being given missions by their real-life alter-egos.)

Previous Trailer Park Boys offerings have come in the form of stand-up comedy shows, and of course the classic TV series that started it all.  The original series was designed as a “mockumentary” reality show, as a film crew followed around repeat offender Julian and his gang of criminals.  This new spinoff series takes inspiration from another reality TV program, the Amazing Race.

In each city (of which they visit seven), they are given specific tasks to earn specific amounts of money.  They soon learn it’s all about the fine print.  The devil is in the details in London with these deceptively simple pit stops:  Get comedian Noel Fielding’s autograph ($25), drink six complementary draught at the Swan pub and hold your piss for six hours ($25), reshoot the cover of the Beatles’ Abbey Road ($25, or $1000 if you can get a living Beatle in the picture), and steal the Queen’s undies from Buckingham Palace ($1000).  It quickly becomes apparent that Ricky has never even heard of the Beatles.

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Though the show is scripted, setting it on the streets of Europe does give it a “reality TV” feel similar to the Amazing Race.  Bystanders stop to take pictures of the three weird looking Canadians, often up to no good.  After London, it’s off to Berlin.  Communication becomes a problem in Germany.  Bubbles orders what he thinks is going to be a hamburger, but turns out to be an octopus burger (still delicious, according to Bubbles).  Next stop:  Copenhagen, Denmark.  Bubbles is horrified to find that one of that day’s tasks ($1000) is to step in the ring as his wresting character Green Bastard, with former heavyweight boxing champion Brian Neilson.  Only two ways to win:  Give him two shots in the nuts, or last three rounds.  Good fuckin’ luck.

The boys get arrested in Oslo, Norway.  All they had to do was give a troll a three second atomic hover wedgie ($25), “acquire” a boat and take it around the fjords ($25), and convince actor Fridtjov Såheim (from the Netflix series Lilyhammer in a cross promotion) to join them for drinks ($1000). Stockholm has its own offerings, two of which are food based: Finish the “Belly Buster Meatball Meal” at a local eatery without losing their lunch, and follow it up with a can of surströmming for dessert. According to wikipedia: “When a can of surströmming is opened, the contents release a strong and sometimes overwhelming odour. The dish is ordinarily eaten outdoors. According to a Japanese study, a newly opened can of surströmming has one of the most putrid food smells in the world, even more so than similarly fermented fish dishes such as the Korean Hongeohoe or Japanese Kusaya.” I don’t think anything in this scene was staged.

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Being in Europe allowed the boys to meet some NHL heroes from the past. Ricky is tasked to stop one shot by Peter Forsberg (two NHL Stanley Cups) in a five shot shootout ($500). In Helsinki Finland, they are given a relatively simple task: Sing in a karaoke cab, and not talk about hockey ($25). It gets complicated when five-time Cup winner Esa Tikkanen steps into their cab.

The Trailer Park Boys had to end their tour in Amsterdam for obvious reasons. It was a lifelong dream of Ricky’s to go there, and that warrants a two-part episode to finish the season. Humiliation after humiliation, it was a long hard road to get to Amsterdam. It is a delight to see Ricky happy as a kid in a candy store when they finally arrive. Everything seems to be going well; they even run into an old friend from Canada. The final challenge enables Bubbles to play one of his own songs with 2/3rds of Crosby Stills & Nash. Steven Stills wins Best Line of the Series with the simple, “They’re Canadians. They don’t know any better.”

A second Trailer Park Boys series could have been a misstep, especially considering the ill-executed Drunk and On Drugs Happy Funtime Hour.  Instead, this year fans received both the quality-driven Season 10 of the original series, and now Out of the Park: Europe.  With double the amount of Trailer Park Boys hilarity, Netflix hit an inside-the-park home run in 2016.  It is made clear by the end that this is not the last time Ricky, Julian and Bubbles will be Out of the Park.  Where they go next, only Swearnet knows.

4.5/5 stars

#516: Use Your Illusion

GETTING MORE TALE #516: Use Your Illusion

25 years ago on this day, millions of fans used their illusions.

1991:  First year of university, and I was hard at work on some reading.  My sister and my mom were out shopping at the mall.  The record store I eventually worked at opened up just that summer.  Unbeknownst to me, they popped in on my behalf and returned with a present.

“Mike!” yelled my sister excitedly as they returned home.  The dog barked loudly in shrill Schnauzer barks as she talked.  “Did you know Guns N’ Roses have TWO NEW ALBUMS OUT?”

I sure did!  Use Your Illusion I and II were the long-awaited true followups to Appetite for Destruction.  With 30 brand new songs, Guns released the music as two separate but complimentary albums.  My sister eagerly handed me a gift:  a new cassette copy of Use Your Illusion II!

Why she chose II, I don’t know and it doesn’t matter.  For this fan, II was the first.  I had it a whole week before I caught up and bought Illusion I (again, at the same store I would work at only three years later).  It was $10.99.  Perhaps because I had the second album a week ahead of the first, I still really prefer II over I.  Songs such as “Breakdown”, “Pretty Tied Up”, and “Locomotive” are three of the strongest and most ambitious rock songs on an already strong set.  They stand up today as my personal favourites.

The Use Your Illusion albums spawned a combined eight singles:  “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door”, “Civil War”, “You Could Be Mine”, “Don’t Cry”, “Live and Let Die”, “November Rain”, “Yesterdays” and “Estranged”.  Additionally, music videos were made for the tracks “Garden of Eden”, “The Garden”, and “Dead Horse”.  Guns N’ Roses assaulted all formats as they trounced the world in a two year long world tour, with acts such as Skid Row, Metallica and Faith No More.  They even suffered their most devastating lineup change right at the very start of it.  Chief songwriter Izzy Stradlin departed in November of 1991, to be replaced shortly after by Gilby Clarke.  Although he has made numerous guest appearances since, Izzy has never rejoined Guns N’ Roses.

Did you buy Use Your Illusion I and II 25 years ago today?  Do you have a favourite?

#482: Modified Listening Experiences

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GETTING MORE TALE #482: Modified Listening Experiences

With modern music technology and software, it has never been easier to not only take your music anywhere, but now you can even modify the albums you buy.  Using some simple tricks you can change aspects of the tracklist to make the album suit you.   You have probably done this yourself.  Many do regularly, by shuffling the track order.  Let’s go a little deeper than that.

The first time I experienced the concept of modifying an album’s tracklist, I was just a kid.  It was 1985, and I was recording the first W.A.S.P. cassette off my next door neighbour George (R.I.P.), from tape to tape.

“If you don’t like the song ‘Sleeping in the Fire’,” he said, “You can just push pause on this tape recorder.  Then un-pause it when the song is over.  Your copy won’t have ‘Sleeping in the Fire’ if that’s how you like it.”

Even then, I couldn’t imagine a reason to copy an entire album sans one song.  I kept the tape running and never hit pause, but George’s advice kept tumbling around in my brain, for years.   Over time I began experimenting with tracklist modification.  Never to remove songs, mind you, always to add or improve.

Here are some examples of modified track lists in my library.

1. Adding bonus tracks

COOPSingle B-sides just kind of float around in most collections.  Due to their short running time, I don’t often spin CD singles.  On a PC hard drive they tend to get lost while full albums get more play.  To give some of these B-sides a little more air time, in many cases I have chosen to add the songs as “bonus tracks”, at the end of the associated album.  This works best when it’s just one or two tracks.  More than that can extend an album listening experience too long.

Sometimes, different versions of albums will have unique bonus tracks.  Perhaps there’s one on the vinyl version that is on nothing else.  Japanese editions, deluxe versions, European editions, iTunes editions…there are usually lots of bonus tracks out there, but always on different versions of the disc.  Why not take them all, and make your own “super deluxe edition” with all the bonus tracks in one spot?  Listening to an album modified in this way can be a bit longer than the usual, but ultimately it’s rewarding to hear the entire body of work in one smooth sitting.  My MP3 player is loaded with my complete version of Alice Cooper’s Welcome 2 My Nightmare, and it’s just 10 minutes shy of two hours long!

In extreme cases, there are so many bonus tracks out there that you may need to consider creating an entire “bonus disc” folder to house them all.

2. Removing gaps

The 1990’s were such a quaint time.  Remember “hidden bonus tracks”?  At the end of the album, instead of stopping, the CD would continue to play several minutes of silence.  Then you would be surprised by a hidden unlisted song!  A notable example is “Look at Your Game, Girl”, the infamous Charles Manson cover that Axl hid away at the end of The Spaghetti Incident.  There was only a 10 second gap on that CD; still annoying but other albums had much longer pauses before the hidden track.

I use Audacity to remove the long gaps, or to isolate the hidden song to a track all its own.  As much as I enjoy a “pure” listening experience the way the artist intended, these long gaps are pretty easy to sacrifice.

3. Restoring an intended song order

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Rock and roll is full of stories about bands who couldn’t get their way when an album was released.  W.A.S.P. for example wanted their song “Animal (Fuck Like a Beast)” to open their self titled album.  Now you can add it there yourself!  (W.A.S.P. also added the song to the start of the remastered version of the album.)  You can even use Audacity to adjust the volume levels, so that everything matches.

A better example is Extreme’s III Sides to Every Story.  The piano ballad “Don’t Leave Me Alone” was only on the cassette version of the album.  The CD couldn’t contain all the songs without making it a double, so that one had to be left off.  Now you can re-add it yourself, right where it belongs at the end of “side two” and before the big side three suite.  Now you can hear the whole album as Extreme intended, seamlessly.

Pardon the pun, but I took an even more “extreme” approach to their second album, Pornograffitti.  The instrumental track “Fight of the Wounded Bumblebee” was written as a longer piece with a slow bluesy coda.  This second half was recorded solo by Nuno Bettencourt as “Bumble Bee (Crash Landing)” for a guitar compilation.  Using Audacity, I combined both tracks to restore the song to its original full structure.  This is about as close as we will ever get to hearing the tracks as written.  I dropped the new longer track into the album tracklisting and voila!  Still seamless, but now with a new darker mood before “He-Man Woman Hater”.

Indeed, the possibilities are limitless.  Steve Harris often complained that the Iron Maiden album No Prayer for the Dying should have had live crowd noise mixed in, like a live album.  Now you can do that yourself.  With a deft touch, you can even edit songs down yourself or extend them by looping sections.

With the advent of the computer as a listening device, the sky is now the limit.  How would you modify your listening experiences?

 

#460: Appetite for Reunions

GETTING MORE TALE #460: Appetite for Reunions

Unless you have been living under a pile of rock (and roll), then you know that the hype machine for a 2016 Guns N’ Roses “reunion” has already begun.

But this is not a reunion.  This is not Axl, Slash, Duff, Izzy, and Steven.  Matt Sorum is not involved, nor is Gilby Clarke.  The new lineup is supposed to consist of:  W. Axl Rose, Slash, Duff “Rose” McKagan, Richard Fortus, Frank Ferrer, Dizzy Reed, and Chris Pittman, with new member Dave Kushner (Velvet Revolver) in the third guitar slot.

Of course, many lineups labelled as “reunions” in the past were not.  Van Halen’s current “reunited” lineup consists of three classic members and one new guy, Wolfgang Van Halen.  Any time The Who go out there for a tour, there are only two original members.  Not much can be done about that, with Keith and John both gone.  Not that it matters since both bands have made millions on these tours, and both bands even managed to put out new albums, without the full original lineups.  New music always trumps a tour.

Few bands seem to reunite with all the beloved members intact, either due to death or stubbornness.  There are exceptions, obviously.  The Eagles and Fleetwood Mac came together with their most beloved lineups, and a tremendous amount of success, but even they couldn’t make it last.  Don Felder was fired from the Eagles years ago.  Christine McVie only recently returned to the Mac after being gone for ages, and meanwhile the band did a new album without her.   And Black Sabbath?  Their farewell tour only has ¾ of the original lineup!  Meanwhile Bill Ward sits at home, having alienated the band and Sharon Osbourne.  The chances of Ward ever playing drums again in the band he co-founded are slim to none.  One does not piss off the Osbourne camp without consequences.  Regardless of his reasons, justified or not, a Black Sabbath farewell tour without its still capable original drummer is a hollow thing indeed.

Even when you do get the full original lineup of a band that you wanted, that doesn’t necessarily mean the band is returning to full functionality.  When Kiss reunited in 1996 with the full original band, Ace Frehley and Peter Criss were hired hands.  They didn’t get a say, they didn’t get a vote.  They got a contract stating their responsibilities and compensation.  As if Paul and Gene would ever give up any control in their band, now!  So what we saw live was Kiss, but what we got behind the scenes and on the album Psycho-Circus was just “more of the same”.  Ace and Peter didn’t even appear on many of the songs, even though they were on the album cover.  But that’s nothing new for Kiss!

What band has had the most successful reunion?  I’m not talking in terms of numbers; then we would probably have to include Spice Girls and New Kids on the Block.  Who has had the most success in terms of quality?  That would have to be Iron Maiden.

Steve Harris did something very creative when he reunited with Bruce Dickinson.  Instead of just bringing Bruce back into the band, he also brought in Bruce’s guitarist and former Maiden member Adrian Smith.  But Adrian was not cool with coming in to replace somebody else.  “What about Janick Gers?” he asked.  Janick had been in Maiden for a successful decade, and Adrian didn’t want him out of a job.  Steve always envisioned a three-guitar Iron Maiden, and Adrian Smith coming back gave him that opportunity.  It worked out brilliantly, especially live, when it could have been a train wreck.  Technically, what Iron Maiden did is the same thing Guns N’ Roses are said to be doing:  a new version of the band, with both classic and current members.  Maiden made it last, too.  Harris was very clear with Bruce:  nobody was coming back to Maiden just to hang around a while and leave again.  Anybody coming back to Maiden was coming back for life, and that is exactly what happened.  Five more studio albums later, Maiden rule absolutely.

What will happen with Guns N’ Roses?  That is harder to predict.  It is unlikely their most talented member, Izzy Stradlin, would want to return to the circus of insanity that is a GN’R tour.  As for Slash, he has always preferred a stripped down band.  It’s hard to imagine how he will be happy playing in a band with two keyboardists, but that’s what they say is happening.  How long will it last?  A few shows?  Coachella and gone?  Much like Ace Frehley, Slash will probably be a contracted musician.

A band of Guns’ stature all but had to reunite.  The fans have been loudly demanding something like this for over a decade.  The fans hoped Izzy and Steven Adler or Matt Sorum would be a part of it, but that has always seemed unlikely.  Slash couldn’t even get Izzy into Velvet Revolver.  What they are doing is probably the closest to a reunion that is likely.  Perhaps Izzy will show up to guest as he has in the past, but fans shouldn’t get their hopes up of seeing Adler on stage.

Perhaps this, the most anticipated “reunion” since Led Zeppelin (also a new lineup with Jason Bonham), will stop the constant questions from the media and fans.  “Will you ever get back together?”  It must be tiring answering that question daily, when you have new music out there to play.  Sometimes a band just has to give in and take a step backwards.  Sometimes, as in the case of Iron Maiden, the way forward is to go backwards.

Will it work?  The only way to find out is to stay tuned.  You know where you are?  You in the jungle, baby.

Let’s see if the bad boys of rock and roll can still survive the jungle.

GNR

#405: Brett-Lore (Excerpts)

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RECORD STORE TALES MkII: Getting More Tale
#405: Brett-Lore (Excerpts)

All artwork created by: Various denizens of Grand River Collegiate Institute, circa 1989-1991.

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REVIEW: Aerosmith – Aerosmith (1973)

It’s time for another series here at mikeladano.com! It’s been a while since I’ve tackled something this big, but for the last two weeks I’ve been writing and listening to a band that I hadn’t been spending a lot of time with in recent years. That band is AEROSMITH and it’s time to look at every original classic Aerosmith album on Columbia Records. The scope of the series is really simple: I’m reviewing all 13 discs in 1994’s massive Box of Fire collection — the entire box set from start to finish!

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If you’re not into Aerosmith, I apologize, but that’s what I’ve got for the next couple weeks. To use the words of my friend Aaron, I just had to give’r.

You ready? As Steven Tyler might say, “Oooh-wha-ga-ga-ga-GOW!” Let’s go!

AEROSMITH_0001AEROSMITH – Aerosmith (1973 Columbia, 1993 Sony remaster)

Who woulda thunk that the band of young kids on this shitty album cover would become one of the biggest rock bands in history?  Nobody, that’s who!

I love this album.  I love its simplicity, its raw sound, basic production and youthful glee.  I love the built-in musical maturity that seemed to bloom fully formed.  I love the interplay of the whole band, their chemistry already intact.  Everything you love about the way that Perry and Whitford make their guitars mesh with bassist Tom Hamilton, and how Hamilton syncs in with Joey Kramer on drums — it’s already here.  Meanwhile, Steven Tyler had yet to discover all of his sass, but he was well on his way.   All Aerosmith (1973) is missing is great production, something the band would develop with Jack Douglas on the next album Get Your Wings.

It’s easy to draw comparisons between Aerosmith’s and Kiss’ first records.  Both records exhibited a more “rock n’ roll” vibe, and tame production values, with a band straining at the leash to really play like they do live.  Ultimately it took both bands a few years to capture that.

The two massive hits on Aerosmith are two of their best known and beloved:  “Dream On” and “Mama Kin”.  Think about that for a second.  One album with both “Dream On” and “Mama Kin”!  What more do you want?

You’ll also get six other great early Aero-gems.  “Walkin’ the Dog”, a Rufus Thomas cover, is one that Aerosmith still drags out in concert occasionally.  A decade later Ratt covered Aerosmith’s version, well before Guns N’ Roses made covering Aerosmith the cool thing to do, as they did with “Mama Kin”!

Hidden gem: “Movin’ Out”, based on a couple really cool Joe Perry riffs. There’s also a killer, even more raw alternate version on the Pandora’s Box set. Aerosmith recently dusted this one off again, and it sounded amazing.

I don’t think there is a weak song on the album.  There aren’t a lot that are “greatest hits”, but each one is great in its own way.  “Write Me”, “Somebody”, “Make It” and “One Way Street” are all catchy little blues rock tunes, nothing to write home about but plenty to shake your ass to.

Incidentally, with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, Aerosmith also contains the greatest opening line of any debut album ever:  “Good evening people welcome to the show…”

Long story short: Aerosmith is a tasty blend of all the great Aerosmith ingredients that I love.  Electric rock and blues form a perfect blend, and Steven Tyler was the perfect singer to front this band.  Throw in some of his harmonica, piano and mellotron and you have a potent mix.  But keep in mind, greater things came in very short order.  Aerosmith, solid as it is, was only a precursor to true greatness.

4/5 stars

LeBrain schools Classic Rock Magazine

I remember the Freddy Mercury Tribute concert (1992) like it was yesterday!  I recorded the whole thing (to both VHS and three audio cassettes), and MuchMusic in Canada broadcast the whole thing, unlike MTV.  I was immersed in that concert.  It was a huge deal to me.  It was Vivian Campbell’s debut with Def Leppard.  Spinal Tap played.  So did Metallica.  So when Classic Rock Magazine posted today that it was the anniversary of the show, and they’d be taking a look at the acts who played there including Guns N’ Roses and Black Sabbath, I had to correct them!

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I love Classic Rock Magazine and that was cool  that they thanked me.  Right on, Classic Rock!

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

GUEST REVIEW: Sixx:A.M. – Modern Vintage (2014)

Review by TOMMY MORAIS

A lot of “modern” and not a whole lot of “vintage”

MODERN VINTAGESIXX:A.M. – Modern Vintage (2014)

I was a fan of Sixx:A.M. when they first came out with The Heroin Diaries in 2007. At the time the music was fresh and just what I needed. I was in high school and going through difficult times and things teenagers go through. I was already in love with Motley Crue for a few years at that point. Then when Nikki Sixx came out strong with Sixx:A.M., I respected him even more as he was now in two bands that l loved.

I thought Sixx:A.M. had everything going for them; a great single, excellent songwriting and I could identify with the music and some of the lyrical content. The accompanying book also made for a wonderful experience. I enjoyed the band’s second album and bought it on release day in 2011. I liked a lot of that album and its accompanying book even though l felt it wasn’t as impressive as the first. I stayed a fan and continued following the band anticipation their next release. 2014 rolls along (which shows this review is a bit overdue) and hence we have Sixx:A.M.’s third studio album, Modern Vintage.

The album begins with “Stars”, a very good indication of the album’s overall sound, style and feel. To me it’s average at best; it’s not unlistenable but it doesn’t grab you in the way it intends to. It has “made for radio” all over it. “Gotta Get it Right” is the first single and didn’t do anything to encourage me to pick up the album. I can get the over almost Christmas-like feel it has but I think where they fail lies in the chorus.

“Relief” is straight ahead rock and with its lyrical theme sounds more like the Sixx:A.M. of the past. “Gotta Get You Some” is a twist and a nice change of pace with its acoustic guitars before kicking it into high gear for the chorus. It too has a very commercial ready for radio feel, only slightly darker. I’m not in love with this song but James Michael does a very good singing performance.

“Let’s Go” and “Give Me A Love” are probably the closest to heavy rock tracks on here (and to the sound of previous Sixx:A.M.). “Let’s Go” is especially a true fist-pumper and a highlight. “Drive” is a an awful cover of the same song by The Cars. It sounds dull and the electronic euro pop in the background makes it unlistenable. The guitar work is the only good thing about it. “Hyperventilate” is nice and short, one of the better songs on Modern Vintage. “High On The Music” sounds like a terrible young pop band and not like Sixx:A.M. or a rock band, going for that radio hit feel-good type song. “Miracle” has cool groove and a vintage feel to it, on the other hand it also honestly sounds like a Maroon 5 tune. “Before it’s Over” has a jazzy/lounge feel to it, which I give them credit for trying to branch out.

I’m not sure what I was expecting out of Modern Vintage or if I was expecting anything at all to be honest. I loved the first album, liked the second and bought the third out of loyalty and because I thought there’d be at least a few songs l liked. I wasn’t terribly into the first single but I didn’t let that discourage me. Well I’m sad to say that after multiple listens it’s a bit underwhelming. The songs don’t “rock” as hard and sound more mainstream and bland; that is both musically and lyrically. The songs are more ‘happy’ this time around. In theory this should work but it doesn’t. There’s no anger, no frustration, desperation, none of what made Sixx:A.M.’s core on the first two albums. I’m actually surprised to see so many high ratings and reviews praising the album everywhere. Maybe we didn’t listen to the same Sixx:A.M. band previously, I don’t know. All l know is what I hear and this album just doesn’t do anything for me and I don’t enjoy the direction they went in. A lot has been said about the drum sound which feels artificial and I agree, it just doesn’t work all that well this time around.

Modern Vintage ends up sounding like a lot of modern and no vintage. Alas I am not a hater. It pains me because I’m a Crue fan, a Sixx:A.M. fan and a Nikki Sixx fan and l really wanted to enjoy it. It just feels less inspired than the first two and even though it has a different sound it doesn’t break any new ground. It tries to hard to go for the commercial radio songs and it’s like they forgot who they where. Hopefully they’ll get it back and deliver another good album. In the meantime this is terrible.

1.5/5 stars

[LeBrain’s note: I’ve listened to the album, and I agree with Tommy 100%.  In fact, my review can be found below.]

POO