heavy metal

#620: The Retired Jedi Master (of Rock)

I call this picture “Flying Elbow Drop and a Schnauzer”

GETTING MORE TALE #620: The Retired Jedi Master (of Rock)

It is always sad when one of my old Jedi Masters of Rock loses their passion for it.

I think for Bob, that began when he entered college. While Bob taught me the ins and outs of Iron Maiden, Ozzy Osbourne, Dio, and Motley Crue, he was drifting away from heavy metal. There is nothing wrong with diversifying, but his passion for the heavier side of things was waning.

I remember in the summer of ’91 when Motley Crue released their awesome new groove-laden single, “Primal Scream”. I asked Bob if he liked it, and his response was that the new Motley was “too heavy”. My heart broke in two pieces that day. I was so excited about that track. Motley were doing exactly what I wanted them to do: turning it up and giving no fucks. Bob just wasn’t into that.

His tastes were changing. I think a big part of it was that the girls he liked at college weren’t into heavy metal. Bob was checking out more commercial sounds and ballads. One of his favourite groups was Frozen Ghost.  I also remember he was very much into Bad Company’s Holy Water. Meanwhile I was digging into the roots of metal and the bands of the future as well: from Deep Purple to I Mother Earth.  Our paths diverged.  I couldn’t be less interested in new Bad Company, but I was intent on collecting the entire Black Sabbath back catalogue.  It made me a little sad, but I’m not regretful about where my explorations took me over the years.

I think it can be summed up as below:

1. The girls we liked didn’t listen to metal.
2. Bob’s tastes diversified while he outgrew metal.
3. I doubled down on metal, going all in. The girls might not like metal, but maybe they’d appreciate my don’t-give-a-fuck attitude?

Bob’s method got him dates. My method did not! But my musical journey took me far and wide.  From the deep neon coloured oceans of Frank Zappa, to the craggy peaks of Mount Marillion, and back to the Valley of Judas Priest. As real life took over – job, wife, kids – Bob was no longer the music head that I was. He has always been a hard worker, and a family guy. My passion only grew deeper. The longer, heavier and more complex the tunes, the more interested I was in the band. I loved musicianship. Ballads were starting to sound the same to me, and there were some cool new sounds coming out of the woodwork.

Life took Bob and I in different directions. He met a lovely lady named Trish and now has four kids. I have none.  If I had four kids, would I still have time to invest in my passion, music? Bob’s kids keep him very busy, believe me!

Bob sold off his collection many years ago. He had some amazing Iron Maiden 12” singles and picture discs. I bought a few of his singles, but there was one tie-dyed bootleg picture disc EP that I would have loved to get my hands on. I couldn’t tell you anything about it today, except that it was Iron Maiden. He had to do what he had to do. It’s gone now and he has little recollection at all about it.  That information is sadly lost to me now.

Not every Jedi Master of Rock stays in the trenches forever. Some do, and end up writing about it on the internet. Bob may have retired his rock and roll shoes, but his influence lives on right here in these pages.  Thank you for your wisdom and friendship.

 

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REVIEW: Twisted Sister – A Twisted Christmas (2006)

TWISTED SISTERA Twisted Christmas (2006 Razor & Tie)

One thing I love about Christmas time is the ability to knock out all these Christmas album reviews.  I can only listen to this stuff seasonally, and I wouldn’t subject you to it otherwise.  In my quest to Review Everything I Own and Then Some, we must occasionally delve into Christmas music.

Rock bands doing Christmas tunes is…well, I mean it worked out OK for Elvis, and then later on Twisted Sister and the guys from Trans-Siberian Orchestra.  Each of those artists had success with Christmas music for good reasons, but I think Twisted Sister’s was purely the novelty value of it.  The humour.  The nudge-nudge-jokey-ness of it.  It wasn’t that they made a Christmas album laden with integrity.  It’s a joke album as the intro implies.

The album commences with Dee & company singing a traditional acoustic version of “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”.  They are then interrupted by someone saying “This isn’t Twisted Sister!”  It then goes metal with a dash a punk.  “Ho ho ho!  Let’s go!”

The biggest joke is that, apparently, “We’re Not Gonna Take It” was always just “Oh Come All Ye Faithful” in disguise.  This was the big Christmas hit that put Twisted back in the spotlight, and it’s certainly the most enjoyable track on the CD.

Songs follow vague heavy metal blueprints.  “White Christmas” is imbued with an Iron Maiden gallop and a couple chords from “SMF”.  One thing is clear, and that is Dee Snider’s voice still has it.  The guy is a hell of a singer, period.  He’s joined by Lita Ford on “I’ll be Home for Christmas”, in the style of Twisted’s original epic ballad “The Price”.  Unfortunately this one stinks like Christmas cheese that should have been thrown out last year.  A shouty “Silver Bells” is done with a splash of AC/DC, but ends up sounding more like Poison.  Bassist/producer Mark “The Animal” Mendoza has a pretty kickass bass solo, though.

Judas Priest’s “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin'” is the foundation of “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus”, and it is at this point that you realise a whole album of this stuff is a bit too much.  “Let It Snow” is given the doomy treatment, as an amalgam with Black Sabbath’s “Children of the Grave”.  I suppose the doomy direction does go better with lines like “The weather outside is frightful”.  Maybe Dee & company are on to something here, but I’m not too sure about the Sabbathy version of “Deck the Halls” with echoes of “War Pigs” and “Never Say Die”.

“Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire” is a little dull, and “The Twelve Days of Christmas” is too long, as it often is.  The only version of “Twelve Days of Christmas” anyone needs for a novelty is Bob & Doug McKenzie’s classic.  That’ll make your party pop a lot better than Twisted’s version.

Let’s check some boxes.  Is this album:

  • Fun?  (sometimes)
  • Heavy?  
  • Twisted?  
  • Creative?  

All well and good.  But will you:

  • Listen to it more than once a year?  
  • Enjoy as much as something else you could have played instead?  
  • Be able to use more than one or two songs for your Christmas party?  
  • Ever really look forward to hearing it again?

It is good that A Twisted Christmas brought the band the kind of success they deserved, but it is truly a shame that it is the final Twisted studio album.  They were always considered a joke to the critics, they shouldn’t have gone out on vinyl as a joke.

2/5 stars

 

 

REVIEW: ECW Extreme Music – Various Artists (1998)

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ECW Extreme Music (1998 CMC)

There are way too many CDs in my collection that I don’t like, but I own for one or two rarities.  ECW Extreme Music is one of those many.  I have never watched an ECW wrestling match in my life.  I only know one of the wrestlers pictured inside, Bam Bam Bigelow, because he was in the WWF when I was a kid.  I don’t like the 90s version of wrestling with the blood and barbed wire.  And I don’t like much of the music they used.

First is the generic riff/loop combo of Harry Slash and the Slashtones, whoever that is.  Skip that repetitive crap to get to a White Zombie remix. “El Phantasmo and the Chicken-Run Blast-O-Rama” was a great groove from Astro-Creep: 2000.  The “Wine, Women & Song” mix by Charlie Clouser is from their remix CD Supersexy Swingin’ Sounds.  It’s an enjoyable remix, which is something best appreciated on its own rather than on a remix album.

Somebody named Kilgore did a carbon copy cover of “Walk” by Pantera, presumably because using the original would have cost more?  It’s embarrassingly copycat.  Your friends who don’t know will assume it’s Pantera.  Fortunately a great Megadeth tune is next.  Cryptic Writings is an underrated album, and “Trust” was probably the second best track on it (right after “A Secret Place”).   This instrumental mix is an exclusive and has emphasis on Marty Friedman’s lead guitar which replaces the vocals.

Bruce Dickinson (and Roy Z) is next with a lacklustre cover of “The Zoo” by the Scorpions.  There’s nothing particularly wrong with it, it’s just a cover, but it’s also a non-album track that collectors will want.  Too bad it’s not exceptional like most of Bruce’s output.  It’s just good not great.  Another cover follows:  Motorhead doing “Enter Sandman”!  It’s as bizarre and weirdly perfect as you’d expect it to be.  Grinspoon are next with their fairly stinky version of Prong’s “Snap Your Fingers, Snap Your Neck”, robbed of all its snarl.  John Bush-era Anthrax are more impressive with Metallica’s “Phantom Lord” from Kill ‘Em All.  It’s breakneck, and also very cool to hear a Big Four thrash band covering another Big Four group.

Pantera, minus Phil Anselmo, are here for their cover of ZZ Top’s “Heard it on the X”.  It’s both ZZ Top and Pantera at the same time, and that’s kind of remarkable.  That’s it for this album though — nothing worthwhile from here out. What’s the point of having a cover of “Kick Out the Jams” (courtesy of Monster Magnet) but then beep out the naughty words?  Somebody named Muscadine decided to do “Big Balls” by AC/DC, a pretty obvious bad idea.  Just awful.  Then it’s more of Harry Slash to end the CD with some more pure filler.

CMC International released a lot of low budget crap over the years, and this CD is pretty poor.  There are five pages of merch advertising inside, including one for a ECW Extreme Music 2.  I skipped that one.  This CD is collectable for the Bruce Dickinson, Anthrax and Motorhead tracks.  But these are cover tunes we’re talking about, so tread wisely.

1.5/5 stars

 

 

REVIEW: Guns N’ Roses – Lies (1988)

GUNS N’ ROSES – Lies (1988 Geffen)

Do you remember your first Guns N’ Roses?  I sure do.  I skipped Appetite and went straight to GN’R Lies.  We were heading to the cottage one spring weekend and my parents offered to buy me a new cassette.  “Patience” hadn’t even been released as a single yet.  I knew no songs.  But I was intrigued by the idea of a half-acoustic EP.  I fell in love with the acoustic guitar around that time, and I wanted to check out Lies as my first Guns.  I’m kind of proud that my first Guns wasn’t Appetite.

The acoustic side was the second; first I was assaulted by the jet-propelled electric “live” side.  Which wasn’t really live.  It was recorded in the studio with crowd noise dubbed in from the 1978 Texxas Jam.  If you listen to the vocals, knowing that Axl is always in motion on stage, you can tell they are not live.  This is, of course, with 20/20 hindsight.  This electric side was a reissue of the first Guns EP, Live ?!*@ Like a Suicide.  Fans had been paying ridiculous amounts of money to acquire it, so Guns decided to beat the dealers by simply reissuing it with some new songs on top.

“Reckless Life” dated back to Hollywood Rose.  Even though it’s not from Appetite, it sure could have fit on that album.  It had the energy and the hooks to make it.  It speaks to the strength of the album that songs like “Reckless Life” were left off.  A slick and groovy tune, “Move to the City”, is also included on Lies.  It’s obviously different from the direction of Appetite (horns!), but not all that dissimilar to the Illusions albums.   The electric side is rounded out by a couple covers, something we later learned that Guns really excel at…or fail completely.  There is no in-between with Guns N’ Roses covers.  They either rule or suck.  Both covers on Lies rule:  “Nice Boys” (Rose Tattoo) borders on punk, foreshadowing the future.  Finally, Axl announces that “This song is about your fuckin’ mother!”  Not exactly the kind of thing parents enjoy, but a killer track:  “Mama Kin” introduced many youngsters to the Aerosmith classic for the first time.

That first side felt dangerous.  We were used to bands like Def Leppard.  Suddenly this guy is talking about our fuckin’ mothers?  Live ?!*@ Like a Suicide aka “side one” is also catchy as fuck, so we kept going back for round two, three, and more.

 

It was actually quite genius of them to pair Live ?!*@ Like a Suicide with four acoustic tunes on side two.  The contrast works, and when you flip the record it feels fresh when you drop the needle again.  In fact it’s easy to just flip back to side one and listen again.  The quality of the acoustic songs didn’t hurt.  The side progresses from softest to hardest.  “Patience” is first, which eventually became one of Guns’ greatest hits.  You didn’t hear acoustic guitar solos often back then, or a ballad with no drums.  Even though ballads were all the rage, few bands had a song like “Patience”.  The brilliance of “Patience” isn’t the melody or the whistling.  It’s the minimalist arrangement.

I still remember my dad watching the “Patience” video with me.  “That guy’s not a very good guitar player!” he scoffed as Slash solo’d.  He never liked Guns N’ Roses.

“Used to Love Her” was always a bit of a novelty, but even so, a good novelty track.  “A joke, nothing more,” according to the cover.  It’s about a dog, in case you didn’t know.  “Used to Love Her” is upbeat, catchy and easy to sing along to.  Regardless of what my dad may think, Slash’s (electric) solo work on it is tops.

One of the most interesting songs is “You’re Crazy”, a re-recording of the Appetite for Destruction favourite.  The cover states that it was originally slow and acoustic, before being cranked up on Appetite.  Because it’s unique, the Lies version is the better of the two.  It was notorious in the highschool halls for its refrain of “You’re fuckin’ crazy.”

Even more notorious however was the closer, and for good reason.  Certain words in certain contexts are unpalatable.  Context is the key.  It matters who is saying the word, and why.  Words in themselves are not offensive, it is their usage that can be hurtful.  “One in a Million” is an ugly, angry song.  Axl’s pissed off at the cops, religion, and seemingly homosexuals and the black community as well.  Some of the harshest words are levelled at foreigners:

Immigrants and faggots,
They make no sense to me.
They come to our country,
And think they’ll do as they please.
Like start some mini-Iran,
Or spread some fucking disease.
And they talk so many God damn ways,
It’s all Greek to me.

Later on, Axl has the gall to state, “Radicals and racists, Don’t point your finger at me.  I’m a small town white boy, just tryin’ to make ends meet.”  Here we are in 2017, three decades later, and the world is still infested with angry, small town white boys.  Although Axl smugly apologized for the lyrics in advance on the front cover, “One in a Million” can’t be excused that easily.  Axl has since worked with gay and African American artists…hell, Slash’s mom was African American.  As a fan of the music, I would like to hope that Axl has learned more about the world since 1988.  We are shaped by our experience, and I hope Axl has had more positive ones.

Moving on from the lyrics, the interesting thing about “One in a Million” is that it was album debut of Axl Rose’s piano, on a song solely written by Axl.  It’s simple and guitar based, and Slash’s acoustic solo is utterly fantastic.

Finally, one of the most appealing aspects of GN’R Lies is the cover.  Taking a cue from Jethro Tull, the cover looks like a newspaper replete with dirty articles.  Open it up, and there’s a naked woman inside.  “The loveliest girls are always in your GN’R L.P.” says the headline.  I quickly folded up the cover to hide it from my parents.

Lies was a good stopgap for Guns, considering the five year gap between Appetite and Illusions.  It demonstrated growth, and cool roots.  It will always be remembered for “Patience”, but also a couple ill-advised words that had lasting repercussions.

4/5 stars

 

REVIEW: Iron Maiden – The Book of Souls: Live Chapter (2017)

IRON MAIDEN – The Book of Souls: Live Chapter (2017 Universal)

Not many bands can get away with releasing so many live albums so late in their career.  Iron Maiden can.  They can for three main reasons:

1: They still kick enormous amounts of ass.
2: Their setlist changes tour after tour and there will always be songs you won’t get to hear again.
3: See #1.

It doesn’t hurt that their new albums are as acclaimed as their old. Ever since Maiden’s 1999 reunion with Bruce Dickinson and Adrian Smith, we have been treated to an abnormally solid stream of brilliant records. Deal with the devil, perhaps? Faustian bargain #666?

The atmospheric and shadowy intro to “If Eternity Should Fail” is a perfect way to begin an Iron Maiden concert.  This track is magnificent.  It also serves as a dramatic way to open what is sure to be the greatest live experience on Earth. “Scream for me, Sydney!” yells Bruce to rile up the crowd. Yes, The Book of Souls: Live Chapter is taken from a number of different shows, which is a format Maiden have succeeded with before.

Another thing Maiden do successfully is top-load their live set with new songs.  The first two songs here are the same two as The Book of Souls itself.  Single “Speed of Light” really kicks up the excitement level.  To go from the epic drama of the opener to the taut single immediately causes an energy surge.  From there, we travel back to 1981 with “Wrathchild”.  It’s like a time machine to the London stages that young Maiden once trod upon.  Bruce’s scream is unholy.

Jump cut to Canada and “Children of the Damned”.  Bruce speaks French for the raving Montreal crowd, a nice touch of respect for the province of Quebec.  Maiden never sagged in popularity there.  In Quebec, Maiden’s 1995 album The X Factor (with lead singer Blaze Bayley) went Top 10.  Back to new material, “Death or Glory” is another energetic shorty.   The triple guitar solo slays.   Then it goes to epic, “The Red and the Black”, 13 minutes and the longest track on the album.  Riff overload!  Unabated, we launch into “The Trooper” and “Powerslave”, both old classics that remain as amped up as they were in the 80s.  It is pure joy to listen.  (Only qualm: backing vocals on “Powerslave” sound like tape.)

A pair of top-notch new songs, “The Great Unknown” and “The Book of Souls” kick off the second CD.  These are not short tracks.  In a way this is the “meat” of the set.  It is a run of 17 combined minutes of epic Maiden, and it’s a lot to swallow.  Savour every bite; this is prime stuff.  And will they ever be played live again?  Who can say?

You know the show is drawing to a close when you hear the opening chords to “Fear of the Dark”.  This favourite has been in the set since 1992.  It’s the crowd’s chance to really sing along and be a part of it.  More favourites follow:  “Iron Maiden” and “The Number of the Beast”.  (Absent is “Run to the Hills” which is on plenty of other live Maiden albums of recent vintage.)  “Blood Brothers” from the reunion album Brave New World seems oddly placed in the second-to-last slot.  The crowd at Download festival are thrilled to sing along.  On CD, you can hear Steve on backing vocals clearly, and appreciate how he and Bruce complement each other.  Then finally, it’s a terrific “Wasted Years” from underdog favourite Somewhere in Time.

The mix here is just dandy.  There are variances in sound from track to track and city to city, but these are minor and only natural.  You can clearly pick apart the instruments in the stereo field, and it’s pure delight to do so.  Once again, Iron Maiden have released a quality product.  You cannot go wrong by investing in any version of The Book of Souls: Live Chapter.

4.5/5 stars;

Motley Crue – Greate$t Hit$ (1998, 2009 versions)

MOTLEY CRUE – Greate$t Hit$ (1998 Motley/BMG), Greate$t Hit$ (2009 Motley/Masters)

Most fans will agree that Motley Crue’s 1997 reunion album Generation Swine was, at best, disappointing.  The Crue tried to right the ship by returning to producer Bob Rock.  Together they came up with two new songs, “Bitter Pill” and “Enslaved” that recalled better days.  We discussed the wherefores and origins of 1998’s Greate$t Hit$ album in Getting More Tale #611:  Afraid, on which the two new songs were released.  As you’ll read here, the 1998 issue of  Greate$t Hit$ is better than its 2009 update.

Both “Bitter Pill” and “Enslaved” bring Motley’s sonics back to their previous setpoint with Vince Neil, Decade of Decadence.  The combo of Motley plus Bob Rock produces the kind of results you expect:  punchy, heavy rock tunes with hooks.  Neither is as memorable as “Primal Scream”, but serve their function.  If this lineup had stayed together perhaps they could have taken it further, to the next stage of evolution.  Tensions between Vince and Tommy Lee eventually erupted.  Tommy left the band to pursue his own sanity and a side project called Methods of Mayhem.

The ’98 Greate$t Hit$ also offered up one other cool bonus:  a previously unreleased remix of “Glitter”.  It’s softer and more electronically processed, but a very cool alternate version.  Dropped into this running order, Greate$t Hit$ turns out to be a remarkably fun and consistent listen.  It would be a highly recommended way to get a broad assortment of great Motley and some rarities too.

Then, as part of the promotional cycle for a later, better reunion album (2008’s Saints of Los Angeles), Greate$t Hit$ was updated and reissued.  Including its previous incarnation, the 2009 Greate$t Hit$ became the fifth Motley Crue best-of compilation (not counting box sets and rarities compilations).

So what’s the difference?

13 tracks overlap between the two: “Too Fast For Love”, “Looks That Kill”, “Smokin’ In The Boys Room”, “Home Sweet Home”, “Wild Side”, “Girls, Girls, Girls”, “Dr. Feelgood”, “Kickstart My Heart”, “Don’t Go Away Mad (Just Go Away)”, “Without You”, “Primal Scream”, and “Afraid”. The 13th track is “Shout At The Devil”.  In 2009 they used the original version, where on the old CD it was “Shout At The Devil ’97” (a re-recording from Generation Swine).

Three tracks were previously released as “new” songs on other greatest hits CDs: “Primal Scream” (Decade of Decadence), “Sick Love Song” and “If I Die Tomorrow” (Red, White & Crue).

Two tracks were from the newest Motley platter, Saints Of Los Angeles: The title track, and a brand-new remix of “The Animal In Me” featuring more keyboards.

Zero tracks from the albums Motley Crue or New Tattoo are included (neither album had all four original members).

There are 19 songs total included, which is a beef-up from the 1998 version, which had 17 songs.  “Bitter Pill” and “Enslaved” were excluded, but both are available on Red, White & Crue (2005). The remix of “Glitter” from the 1998 version is not and is now deleted.

The songs on the update, unlike the 1998 version, are mostly in chronological order. The exception is “Afraid” which is shuffled out of place with “Sick Love Song” for reasons unknown. The flow of the album is OK, with the kickass “Too Fast For Love” starting the proceedings. The mixture of rockers to ballads is engineered for high octane, and the ballads only kick in when needed. The album only runs out of gas towards the end:  “Sick Love Song” isn’t very good didn’t require a second look here.  “Bitter Pill” should have been kept instead.  The final track “The Animal In Me” is just too slow for a closing song. “Saints Of Los Angeles” would have been more appropriate to close this set.

Even though the 2009 update has 19 songs compared to 17, the ’98 version wins due to the inclusion of “Bitter Pill” and “Enslaved”. It’s more enjoyable listen from start to finish, with better flow and song order.  The ’09 Greate$t Hit$ smacks of an obvious cash grab. Check out the liner notes. They haven’t even been updated. The essays are 10 years out of date, the notes refer to the “two new songs” (which aren’t there), and the back cover artwork still reflects “Bitter Pill”. Essentially, the only changes to the packaging are the colours with a new slipcase added, displaying a newer band photo from the Saints sessions.

Greate$t Hit$ 1998:  4/5 stars

Greate$t Hit$ 2009:  2/5 stars

 

#611: Afraid

GETTING MORE TALE #611: Afraid

1989: A clean and sober Motley Crue take over the world. Dr. Feelgood climbs to #1 and the band rivals Bon Jovi and Def Leppard in the popularity stakes.

1990: Motley continue to tour and rock them all, while announcing their next album will be a “greatest hits”.

1991: Decade of Decadence is released, keeping Motley on the charts. The new single “Primal Scream” is well received.

1992: In a shock announcement, Vince Neil is fired from the band. Unfortunately Motley are not the only rock band to lose their singer at the beginning of the 90s.

1993:  Vince Neil’s solo debut Exposed is greeted by warm reviews.  Motley continue to toil in the studio with new singer John Corabi.

1994: Five years after Dr. Feelgood, the re-imagined Motley finally return with the self-titled Motley Crue.  Corabi blows ’em away, but the album fails to sell. Motley is forced to do a scaled down tour while the CD dropped off the charts.

This was the state of the Crue in the mid 90s.  They had released an incredible album.  Today, many fans rate it in the top three, or even at the #1 spot.   My near-legendary Record Store cohort T-Rev agrees.  “To me, they sounded more like a hard rock band than a hair metal band, because of that album.”

Absolutely true.  They stepped far beyond the preconceived notions of Motley Crue.  Guitars were detuned, lyrics were topical or personal.  Tracks like “Smoke the Sky” might have passed for Soundgarden.  On the other side of the coin, “Misunderstood” was an epic power ballad featuring an orchestra and Glenn fucking Hughes.  There wasn’t a weak track in the bunch, but plenty of variety.

Most fans didn’t embrace it at the time, and instead moved on to current bands.  Back then, nobody was interested.  No Vince, no Motley?  No way.  Corabi was absolutely the right guy at the right time.  Motley added his rhythm guitars and songwriting abilities, not to mention far more aggressive singing.  The band had only gotten better.  But by recording an uncompromising album with an unknown singer, they were indeed taking a chance.  It didn’t pay off.  When I was working at the Record Store, there was a giant pile of unsold Motley Crue CDs taking up space.  They sat next to an equally tall pile of David Lee Roth’s Your Filthy Little Mouth.  All the kings seemed to have been usurped.

At the Record Store, I first befriended the aforementioned T-Rev.  The fact that both of us loved the Motley album didn’t hurt.  T-Rev was the only person I knew who appreciated what they did.  He loved that huge overproduced drum sound.  Back in 1989, everybody had a Motley Crue T-shirt in the highschool halls.  In 1994, we couldn’t get anyone to listen.

Through 1995 and 1996, magazines reported that Motley were back in the studio, working on a followup with Corabi.  Bob Rock was back in the producer’s chair and the band wrote new songs such as “Personality #9”, “Let Us Prey”, “La Dolce Vita” and “The Year I Lived In A Day”.  Things seemed to be going well, but record company pressure was intense.  Bob Rock’s style was now passé and he was fired.  Engineer Scott Humphrey was promoted to producer, and electronics began to dominate.

The pressure was not only on Motley Crue, but focused directly on John Corabi.  Elektra records were eager to get Vince Neil back, a true “star”.  John was getting frustrated in the studio while this was going on.  Nothing he sang seemed to be good enough for Motley Crue anymore.  He was asked to sing like Oasis or the Sisters of Mercy.  John suggested that he just play rhythm guitar while they get Vince Neil to sing.  Somehow, this made its way into the rumour mill.  Before John Corabi was eventually fired, T-Rev and I had heard that Motley were considering this very same five-piece lineup.  What a glorious sounding thing that could have been.

Ultimately the band fired John and got Vince back.  They attempted to piece together the album that they’d been recording and re-recording and re-re-recording again.  Mick Mars was frustrated as well, as his guitar parts kept getting rejected and remixed.  In particular, Mars did not function well with Scott Humphrey.

Personally speaking, I lay these problems at the hands of Scott Humphrey.  I read the book The Dirt, and that’s certainly where the band lay most of the blame.  Have a look at Humphrey’s credits though.  Lots of records loaded with electronics, like Rob Zombie’s Hellbilly Deluxe and Tommy Lee’s solo stuff.  Humphrey started out as a keyboard player and programmer, and I think that high-tech style does not work with Motley Crue.  That’s my personal opinion, never having met Scott Humphrey.  I did, however, have a customer at the Record Store who knew Scott Humphrey, who is actually from Kitchener Ontario.*  “Motley Crue were the problem,” he told me.  “They were messed up on drugs.”  They were also unfocused musically.

On January 27 1997, the reunited original Motley Crue performed on the American Music Awards.  Mere months after being teased by a similar Van Halen reunion on the MTV Awards, I was relieved that Motley were playing a song rather than just standing there.  But what the hell song was it?!  Some strange, techno-y version of “Shout at the Devil”?  It was strange, unexpected and underwhelming.  Hey, cool, it was a fresh spin on an old classic.  But…why?

We soon found out.  The album Generation Swine came out on June 24 1997.  As usual, T-Rev and I got it a few days in advance.  “It sucks!” he warned me.  Of the first single “Afraid”, he said “It sounds more like Def Leppard than Motley Crue.”

“Afraid” is the best song on the album, which does frankly suck.  In a single stroke Motley went from one of their best albums, to one of their very worst.  It was astounding how desperate they sounded, trying to incorporate these influences that have nothing to do with Motley Crue.  The loops and samples and effects ruined many of the songs, but some just weren’t that good to begin with.  This considered, it was an even bigger surprise that Nikki Sixx and Tommy Lee were singing lead vocals too.  Sixx’s silly opener “Find Myself” was a nauseating faux-punk novelty song.  Generation Swine was also unfocused in the extreme, and the muddying effects didn’t help.  The electronic treatments on the drums rendered them limp, compared to the massive sound of 94’s Motley Crue.    Absolutely everything on Generation Swine was inferior to Motley Crue.

Three CD singles were released for “Afraid”, which was remixed so many times trying to get it right, that they used some of the various versions as bonus tracks.  The album version is fine enough, and in this one instance, the electronics enhance the song.  I’d rather hear “Afraid” with the effects than without.

What did other fans think?  When Generation Swine was new, one of my customers wanted to hear it before buying.  “I saw that Vince Neil is back.  Have you heard it?” he asked me, and I told him the truth.  He was sceptical of my review, but changed his mind upon hearing it.  “It doesn’t sound like them,” he said, and he’s right.  I then cajoled him into listening to the 1994 album.  He didn’t want to, because it didn’t have Vince Neil, but agreed to give it a shot.

Guess which album he bought?  Motley ’94.

At least there’s some redemption, if only temporarily.  During the Christmas season of 1998, T-Rev once again called me up to tell me about Motley Crue.  There was a new compilation out, called Greate$t Hit$ [review coming tomorrow].   This time, there were two new songs:  “Enslaved” and “Bitter Pill”.  Both were produced by Bob Rock.

“The new songs aren’t bad,” said T-Rev.  “A lot better than Generation Swine.  Not as good as ‘Primal Scream'”

Right again, T-Rev.  Not bad.  An improvement, but not as good as what they did the first time out.  That was enough for me to buy the CD.  Not for Trevor, though.

I think Motley Crue were on the right track with “Enslaved” and “Bitter Pill” after the failure of Generation Swine.  They obviously knew that album didn’t work, so they went back to the last thing that did.  Both songs are growers, and still raise a smile to hear.  Unfortunately Motley Crue blew it again.  Tommy Lee and Vince Neil had a dust-up at an airport, and Lee split.  He was replaced by former Ozzy Osbourne drummer, Randy Castillo.**

Fans like T-Rev and myself always supported the 1994 album, and today we’ve been justified.  More and more fans have realised the quality of that CD, and increasingly hold it in high esteem.  There’s something about that CD, and I’m afraid that Motley Crue never came close to touching it since.

Tommy Lee, John Corabi, Nikki Sixx & Mick Mars

* Fun fact! T-Rev’s mom dated Scott Humphrey!

** In a very sad turn of events, Castillo never got to tour with Motley Crue.  He became ill and died of cancer on March 26, 2002 at age 51.  His replacement, Hole’s Samantha Maloney, did the tour and resultant live video.

[Re-Post] Part 241: Halloween, KISS style!

Not really a part of the The KISS RE-REVIEW SERIES, just a re-post from Record Store Tales!  Happy Halloween kiddoes!

RECORD STORE TALES Part 241:  Halloween, KISS style!

Our annual inventory count fell on October 31.  For five years straight, I never got to dress up, hand out candy, or do anything fun on Halloween because I was too busy counting discs and CD towers!  However in the early days, this wasn’t the case.  Halloween 1996 was actually a pretty good one.

Like most malls, our mall had a few Halloween contests.  T-Rev entered the store in the Pumpkin Carving category.  He and I came up with the plan to do a Kiss pumpkin.  T-Rev, the store owner’s brother, and myself gathered in my mom’s workshop in the basement. My mom had plenty of paint, and I was good at drawing the Kiss makeup designs.  T-Rev had the idea to make the pumpkin Gene Simmons, and figured out how to make a pumpkin tongue stick out.  I must say he did an amazing job.

The first step was to spray paint the pumpkin white.  One of the guys did the cutting.  Then, I drew the Demon design with a black magic marker.  We thought the nose needed to be more three-dimensional, so I cut it out a bit.  Together, we began colouring in Gene’s makeup.  We needed something to define the eyes of Gene, and T-Rev thought of using pumpkin seeds.  We added a wig, and voila!

T-Rev propped Gene up on the magazine stand outside the store.  Immediately we started getting compliments, and the response was pretty unanimous:  We had done the best job in the entire mall.

Unfortunately, the judges didn’t base their ratings on who had done the best job.  They were only marking the results, whether the store employees did the pumpkins themselves or not!  A store that hired a professional carver won first place.  We came in second.  There was no prize for second.  T-Rev and I considered that to be cheating.  Cheatie-cheatertons.

The contest was over, and not too soon:  the pumpkin had begun to rot, as pumpkins do.  That didn’t stop a customer from coming in on November 1st and offering him $10 for it.  T-Rev accepted his gracious offer, even though the thing would be turning horrific in a day or two.  A fool and his money, right T-Rev?

By 1997, the store had moved out of the mall.  This was our last pumpkin carving contest, but at least we had the satisfaction of winning the popular vote.  As far as I’m concerned, we went out on top.  My personal consolation prize was later on, Halloween 2006.  By this time I had moved on to United Rentals.  They took Halloween very, very seriously at United Rentals!  I dressed up as Paul Stanley, and this time, I finally won first prize!

REVIEW: Helix – “The Devil is Having a Party Tonight” (2017 single)

HELIX – “The Devil is Having a Party Tonight” / “The Tequila Song” (2017 clear red picture single)

It’s been love for Helix and I since…many years!  Since Record Store Tales Part 2:  Gimme An R, at least.  As such, I may be a little biased when it comes to this band.  Maybe.  I truly believe their music deserves much more attention from the rock community, particularly the recent albums which are always excellent.  Helix mainman Brian Vollmer maintains a reputation as the hardest working man in Canadian heavy rock.  2017 sees the release of not just a new Helix single (and a lavish one at that), but also his second solo album Get Yer Hands Dirty.

Helix today is Vollmer on vox, Daryl Gray on bass, Fritz Hinz kickin’ the drums, and newer members Kaleb “Duckman” Duck and Chris Julke.  The inner sleeve is signed by all five members, which is just the kind of cool personal touch Helix are known for.  Also noteworthy, all but Hinz wrote the single A-side “The Devil is Having a Party Tonight”.  That makes it the first Helix song in years written solely by band members.  “The Tequila Song” on the B-side is composed by mainstay collaborators Gord Pryor, Steve Georgakopoulos and Vollmer.

Great tunes, these are, both party songs.  Each is a little heavier than you might usually expect from the Helix band.  “Devil” is possessed by a heavy-as-a-tombstone riff, and some exotic guitar noodlings that recall the good stuff from the metallic 80s.

I think “The Tequila Song” is even better.  I was known to drink tequila from time to time in my younger days, but I gotta say that Helix have written a better song about tequila than Sammy Hagar ever has.  Stomp to that riff as you “lick it, bang it, suck it, tequila!”  Even if you’re the designated driver, you’ll find the chorus infectious and party-ready.

Want a copy?  You know where to go – Planet Helix.

4.5/5 stars

REVIEW: QUIET RIOT – Live at the US Festival (2012 CD/DVD)

QUIET RIOT – Live at the US Festival (2012 Shout! CD/DVD set)

This was a long awaited release, since the US Festival was way back in 1983!  The Holy Grail would be an official Van Halen release of their legendary performance, but I digress.  There aren’t a lot of really great live Quiet Riot albums out there, with one called Extended Versions being the best package.  Live at the US Festival is brief at just seven songs (plus a 4:38 guitar solo that also includes a sneak preview of a song called “Scream and Shout”).  It does capture Quiet Riot at their peak, at a critical gig, and includes a DVD of the whole thing for the complete package.  (Come on, Van Halen…)

Let’s have a look at the DVD first.  The crowd is vast, the costumes ridiculous, but there’s some kind of fire in the air.  The atmosphere is electric and the band are absolutely great visually, particularly Rudy Sarzo.   DuBrow is the consummate glam frontman, and an underrated one at that. Have a giggle at the old style giant screens displaying the band logo.

The CD itself sounds good, no complaints there, and the recording sounds untampered (evidenced by a messy Carlos Cavazo guitar solo in “Cum On Feel the Noize”).  Sarzo’s bass is mixed nice and audibly.  It would have been better if more of a booklet was included, but it’s just a simple fold-out with no liner notes.  This set is sparse and just over 40 minutes long.  A lot of that time is taken up by talking.  You get the big hits though, and the non-album track “Danger Zone”.

Live at the US Festival is a pretty easy Quiet Riot purchase to justify because of the included DVD.

3.5/5 stars