heavy metal

REVIEW: Guns N’ Roses – Acoustic Session in NY (1987 radio broadcast)

GUNS N’ ROSES – Acoustic Session in NY (1987 radio broadcast, Laser Media release)

Radio broadcasts of historic value can be found for dirt cheap.  Guns N’ Roses played an intimate set on October 30 1987 at CBGB’s in New York, and today you can own a CD of it just by being in the right Walmart.

The GN’R Lies EP was still over a year away but several tracks were previewed:  “Patience”, “Used to Love Her”, the acoustic version of “You’re Crazy” and the controversial “One in a Million”.  It was only the second time “One in a Million” had been played live and the audience doesn’t particularly react where you think they would.  They do, however, get quite a kick out of “Used to Love Her”.  According to Rolling Stone, there were about 100 people in the club that night.  They also got to hear the unfamiliar “Move to the City” and “Mr. Brownstone”.

The balance of the CD is from an unknown gig, fully plugged in: “Sweet Child O’ Mine”, a ferocious “My Michelle” and a very early cover of “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” by the original five.  Since you’re never poorer for owning vintage live Guns with Izzy and Steven, the three tracks are welcome bonuses (though a source listing would be nice).

3.5/5 stars

200 word


REVIEW: Judas Priest – Firepower (2018)

JUDAS PRIEST – Firepower (2018 Sony)

It’s 2018 and the Priest is back.  The excitement for the mighty metal band’s return has been restrained by the knowledge that Glenn Tipton is too ill to tour.  Parkinson’s disease — what a bastard that is.  Co-producer Andy Sneap has stepped up to take over Glenn’s guitar parts on tour.

Meanwhile on album, Glenn’s contributions to Firepower can be heard.  Sneap and classic Priest producer Tom Allom recorded one of the most biting Priest albums to date.  More impressive than the sound they captured are the performances.  Rob Halford in particular is more expressive than he has been in years.

At 14 tracks and almost an hour, Firepower suffers only from too many tracks.  There are a couple that clearly could have been cut and left for B-sides or bonus tracks.  “Flame Thrower” (similar to “Hot For Love” from Turbo), though a cool title, would have been great on a B-side.  On album, I’d rather race ahead to some of the more exciting tracks.

Firepower throws it back to sounds of the past.  Sometimes it’s Painkiller, and sometimes Angel of Retribution.  Rock writer Heavy Metal Overload noticed sonic similarities to Halford’s Resurrection CD.   At other times it’s brand new, because guitarist Richie Faulkner brings new things to the table, such as slide.

There are many highlights among the 14 tracks.  “Evil Never Dies” and “Never the Heroes” both immediately jump out for their melodic mastery.  Rob is sounding better than he has on the last couple, with a few tasty screams to enjoy.  As time goes on, new favourites will replace old.  Perhaps it’ll be “Spectre”, “No Surrender”,  “Children of the Sun”, “Rising From the Ruins” or even “Flame Thrower”!  Another highlight:  mellow album closer “Sea of Red” which bears lyrical similarities to “Blood Red Skies” from 1988’s Ram It Down.  In general, Firepower is about fighting back.

The cover art by Claudio Bergamin is Priest’s new mascot, “Titanicus”.  Silly name aside, this one Priest’s best album cover in decades.  (Mark Wilkinson continues to contribute to the packaging art as well.)  Notice how Bergamin’s lines match up with the style of past Priest albums like Screaming for Vengeance.

It’s hard to imagine a better album this late in their career.  Priest have done it again.  Firepower lives up to its name.

4.5/5 stars


#662: Wingers of Destiny

DOUBLE FEATURE! Check out Deke’s Winger story at Stick It In Your Ear!

GETTING MORE TALE #662:  Wingers of Destiny

A highschool guy named Rob Petersen recommended Winger to me. Rob was one of the only kids with long hair. I was so jealous of him. He had the Rick Allen curls and everything. Girls thought he was cute. I thought maybe some of his cool could rub off on me. Luckily I sat next to him in Mr. Lightfoot’s history class.

The year was 1989 and the easiest way for me to check out new bands was via the Pepsi Power Hour on MuchMusic.

I recorded the music video for “Seventeen”, which was OK, but didn’t particularly stand out.  Kip Winger’s abs did.  Towards the end of the video, he did this weird thrusty-dance with his bass.  This is memorable to me because the tape that “Seventeen” was on, was also used for a school video project.  I made a music video for “Nothing But A Good Time” by Poison with friends, for a school award.  I recorded my copy on the same tape as “Seventeen” — immediately after it, actually.  When we presented the video to the film teacher, she caught the tail end of “Seventeen”, and Kip’s thrust.  “Oh,” I heard her comment, and I sensed it was more disgust than titillation.

Kip Winger mid-thrust

Despite their image, Winger possessed a rare rock pedigree.  Classically trained bassist and singer Charles “Kip” Winger was fresh from Alice Cooper’s band, as was keyboardist Paul Taylor.  Kip also performed on Twisted Sister’s Love is for Suckers LP in 1987, with future bandmate Reb Beach.  Most impressively, drummer Rod Morgenstein was an alumnus of Steve Morse’s Dixie Dregs.  Yet all these massive players went and made a commercial hard rock album with, let’s face it, pretty juvenile lyrics at times.

It’s hard not to be critical of Winger for this.  Knowing what these guys are capable of, the debut album Winger seems like pandering.  They did sneak in a few progressive hints, such as a string quartet on “Hungry”, but the impression was that they were just another hard rock band with big hair and candycane hooks.  They were underachieving, from a certain point of view.

Winger was in the batch of the first CDs I ever got, for Christmas of 1989.  This was based almost entirely on Rob Petersen’s raving.  Another reason I chose it was the “CD bonus track”!  One of the incentives for buying a CD player was to finally get songs that were only on the CD release.  I had mixed impressions.  The first “side” was decent but the second was a little filler-heavy.

I’m sad to admit this, but Winger’s version of “Purple Haze” was the first time I ever heard the song.  Ozzy’s version was the second.  Go ahead, judge me.

Winger could have taken it further on their second album.  In a way, they did:  progressive songs and complex rhythms stood alongside the pop rock tracks.  While they advanced in that regard, they took a step backwards in another.  Some songs were even dumber:  “Can’t Get Enough” for example, was a transparent re-write of “Seventeen”, and the ballads were dreck.  Worst of all was Kip’s very unnecessary rapping on “Baptized by Fire”.

Two songs, “Rainbow in the Rose” and “In the Heart of the Young” (the title track) were so far above and beyond the pack, they could have come from a different album.  These two epics drip of the kind of progressive rock you know these guys can play.  Yet they kept it radio accessible, somehow, even while Rod Morgenstein is playing rhythms my brain can barely compute.

While Winger II charted higher and sold as well as the first, 12 months later it was hopelessly outdated by the birth of grunge.  Winger then fell victim to two of the 90s greatest antiheroes, Beavis and Butt-Head.  A black Winger shirt was worn by nerd character Stewart, and the band were repeatedly mocked.  This eventually killed Winger off as a business.  Gigs dried up.  Fortunately for fans, Kip Winger and Mike Judge of Beavis and Butt-Head recently had a make-up session. Even Kip admitted, “Winger was a band that was popular for some of the wrong reasons, man.”

The third album, Pull, is a reference to skeet shooting.  Kip knew that for all the chances they had, they may as well throw the album into the air and take shots at it.  “Pull!”

It was a lose-lose situation and both Winger and the public lost by Pull‘s commercial failure.  Keyboardist Paul Taylor had left, and so Pull features less of the instrument and a far heavier sound.  Taylor was eventually replaced by John Roth, a guitarist.  The message was pretty clear.  Pull featured some of Winger’s best tracks:  “Down Incognito”, “Blind Revolution Mad”, “Junkyard Dog”, and “Who’s the One”.  Had Pull come out in 1990 instead of 1993, things would have gone very differently.  Instead, Winger broke up.

The happy news is that like many bands, Winger reunited (the John Roth lineup occasionally with Paul Taylor as a fifth member), and started putting out albums again.  Good ones, too.  Their last Better Days Comin’ is pretty great.

As further proof of Winger’s greatness, Reb Beach went from there to Alice Cooper, completing the circle.  Winger, after all, was originally founded by two ex-Cooper players.  He was then picked to replace George Lynch in Dokken.  And Kip?  His 30 minute symphony “Ghosts” should speak for itself.

Those who are curious but sceptical should check out Winger’s Pull, and the albums that followed.  Go ahead and wing it!

REVIEW: Helix – The Power of Rock and Roll (2007)

HELIX – The Power of Rock and Roll (2007

When Helix seemingly dropped off the map in the mid 90’s, I didn’t think they’d ever really come back with more studio albums. Yet they did thanks to the power of the internet. The Power Of Rock And Roll is a return to roots of sorts, after the alternative stylings of 2004’s Rockin’ in My Outer Space. This is a throwback to the basic guitars/bass/drums/shredding vocals of the Helix of yore!  “It’s a party that’s better than a beer, it’s a party in your ear!”  That’s their modus operandi on “Fill Your Head With Rock”, a song they wrote for the Sweden Rock festival.  They named it after the Kim Mitchell song of the same title, also recorded for Sweden Rock.

The Power Of Rock And Roll is essentially a reissue of the earlier seven song EP, Get Up! with five additional tracks added. If you already have Get Up! (which is now out of print), you still need The Power Of Rock And Roll because those five new songs are just awesome. Wait until you hear the power of “Nickels And Dimes”, an awesome track with a great chorus.  “Eat My Dust” might be the fastest song Helix has ever done.  “The Past Is Back (To Kick Your Ass)” is truly a statement of purpose. And kick your ass, this album will!

Personal favourite:  “Get Up!”  Can’t get enough of that chorus!  “We don’t need a reason to party, so get up get up!”  The first time I heard “Get Up!” was when Helix opened for Alice Cooper in Kitchener in early 2006.  It was a brand new song, but instantly memorable.  Brian Vollmer noticed I was in the second row singing along to the chorus.  He came down and slapped my hand!

Guitars are by session musician Steve Georgakopoulos who used to play Ace Frehley in the London tribute band Alive. As such, you may notice some very Ace-like bends and licks. Steve co-wrote every song on this album with Vollmer and Gord Prior (ex-Blu Bones). The only thing that I disliked about this album is that then-current members of the live Helix band doesn’t play on it. Rick VanDyk (ex-legendary Kitchener band Zero Option), Jim Lawson, Brent “Ned” Niemi, and Paul Fonseca did not appear, although they’d play everything live. In their stead are the aforementioned Steve Georgakopoulos on guitar, ex-Sven Gali drummer Rob MacEachern, and ex-Helix bassist Jeff “Stan” Fountain. I guess this is fine — these guys have a longstanding relationship with Helix. MacEachern even later joined the band in 2009. They’re all studio pros, and the album does not suffer for it. It’s just a personal taste thing. I prefer the members of the band to play on the albums. I’m traditional that way.

There’s a bonus track, a remake of the hit “Heavy Metal Love” which is almost as great as the original. Casual listeners might not even notice the difference. This was done to coincide with the use of the song in the first Trailer Park Boys movie.

If you’ve ever been a Helix fan, you will be delighted and pleasantly surprised by The Power Of Rock And Roll. Every single song kicks, no ballads. It is pure, raw, well recorded, well played, and Vollmer signs his ass off.

4.5/5 stars

Notice the Japanese symbol for “power” on the back?

#661: Cancer Chronicles 10: The “Firepower” of Positivity

Only good news today. Mrs. LeBrain just met with Dr. Sugimoto, for what is likely to be the very last time. “Dr. Sugi” inspected her incision and is very happy not only with how it’s looking, but how well Jen has managed since her surgery almost two months ago. She’s been out and about every day for the last few weeks, sometimes even by herself. She’s getting stronger. Personally I think she’s stronger now than she was before the surgery.

“Dr. Sugi” says we don’t have to come to London anymore.  He is satisfied that Jen has kicked cancer’s ass.  No more trips to London, and sadly, no more Dr. Sugimoto.  It’s been an emotional time and we’ve grown very attached to him.  It’s weird to say, but we will all miss him.

The drive down to London was a piece of cake. Rush’s A Farewell to Kings was the soundtrack. I don’t know how it’s possible but she fell asleep during “Cygnus X-1”. For the trip home, I chose All The World’s A Stage. She was blown away by Peart’s legendary drum solo.

Remaining positive in the face of adversity is not easy, But Jen has managed to do it. She gets up each day and kicks ass, and looks forward to doing it again the next day. We still struggle knowing we cannot have kids, but being alive and healthy is so much more important than that. It really is. Her positive attitude through this has been inspiring. I hope readers have gained that much from her.

We had one errand to run on the way home.  As you hopefully already know, March 9 is the release date of Judas Priest’s brand new Firepower album!  I ran in and out of the mall in less than five minutes — I am the man!  The deluxe edition of Firepower is in my happy hands.  Rock journalist Mitch Lafon says it’s already his #1 album of 2018.  Time to put Firepower to the test!

REVIEW: Helix – Long Way to Heaven (1985)

HELIX – Long Way to Heaven (1985 Capitol Records)

Helix’s fifth album was an important one.  They were following the “big hit” album (Walkin’ the Razor’s Edge) and there were expectations.  The band collected another batch of original material and hit the studio with producer Tom Treumuth again.

1985’s Long Way to Heaven is the second album with the “classic” Helix lineup:  Brian Vollmer, Brent “the Doctor” Doerner, Paul Hackman, Greg “Fritz” Hinz and Daryl Gray.  All but drummer Fritz contributed songs, with Vollmer, Hackman and Doerner leading the pack.

The two singles were the opening tracks.  “The Kids Are All Shakin’” is a catchy for American radio play.  It has always been a damn fine song.

Down in New York City,
All the way to L.A.,
Boys and girls are gonna shake it,
Yeah, each and every day.

There’s also a reference to a fan letter from Poland that was a big deal to the band at the time.  “Kids Are All Shakin’” is a great rock and roll celebration, but the single version with additional keyboards is better.

The other single was the hit acoustic/electric ballad “Deep Cuts the Knife” written by Hackman and Bob Halligan, Jr.  To this day it remains one of, if not the very best ballad Helix have done.  It has atmosphere and bite, and a killer vocal performance by Brian Vollmer.

There are good tracks after the first two, but nothing quite as memorable.  “Ride the Rocket” (Vollmer/Halligan) is fun but silly.  I’m sure you can guess what kind of rocket Brian is singing about when he says “Reach in the pocket”.  Other decent songs include the title track, which has a great chorus melody, and the heavy-as-fuck “House on Fire”.  There’s also another ballad called “Without You (Jasmine’s Song)” that is worthy of praise.

There is nothing wrong with any of the other tunes, and some have some pretty cool moments.  “Don’t Touch the Merchandise” has a nifty a cappella section that proves what great vocalists the band are.  It’s just that none of the other songs really have a lot of staying power in the brain.

Long Way to Heaven was one of those follow-ups that was good enough, but always remain in the shadow of the more successful predecessors.

3.25/5 stars

REVIEW: Alice Cooper – The Sound of A (2018 EP)

ALICE COOPER – The Sound of A (2018 Ear Music EP)

“The Sound of A” is in the air…but it took 50 years to get there!

Alice Cooper’s Paranormal was one of the most delightful rock releases of 2017, which really came as no surprise.  Alice has been consistently awesome for several albums in a row.  Any time he works with producer Bob Ezrin, you can count on quality.  The new five track Sound of A EP is quality.

The song “The Sound of A” was written in 1967 by Alice and bassist Dennis Dunaway.  When Cooper reunited with members of the original band for some songs on Paranormal, Dunaway suggested revisiting “The Sound of A”.  With Bob Ezrin’s help, “The Sound of A” has become another in a long line of understated Cooper classics.  It has the sound of Welcome to My Nightmare with a hint of the present.  Another apt (but coincidental) comparison would be “Journey of 1,000 Years” by Kiss.

“The Sound of A” is packaged with four unreleased live songs:  “The Black Widow”, “Public Animal #9”, “Is It My Body” and “Cold Ethyl”.  Of these, the real treat is “Public Animal #9”, an old School’s Out favourite that has never seen release on any Alice live album.  This is from Columbus Ohio in May 2017.  As is often the case, “The Black Widow” is shortened live, but “Public Animal” is damn fine.  Can you believe it took this long to get a live version?  It’s one of the best on School’s Out, albeit in the shadow of a big hit.  Even “Cold Ethyl” is hard to find live.  You can locate it on 2011’s No More Mr. Nice Guy via Concert Live, and the semi-official Extended Versions and Alone in His Nightmare.

Don’t miss The Sound of A.  Consider it a live EP with some stuff you’ll be glad to have.

4/5 stars

#656: The One They Call Dr. Feelgood

GETTING MORE TALE #656: The One They Call Dr. Feelgood

Hard rock peaked in the summer of 1989 with Dr. Feelgood. The charts were already filled with hard rock acts. Warrant were picking up steam. White Lion and Winger were getting airplay. Bon Jovi and Def Leppard were still raking it in with their last albums, New Jersey and Hysteria. Aerosmith were back. All we needed was the return of Motley Crue.

The Crue were not exactly laying low, but they did have problems to resolve. Nikki Sixx “died” of a heroin overdose on December 23 1987, but was revived with a shot of adrenaline right to the heart. Then he had to deal with a lawsuit from an imposter named Matthew Trippe, who claimed he took over the role of “Nikki Sixx” in 1983 and was owed royalties. Both these incidents inspired new songs. “Kickstart My Heart” was about by the overdose and subsequent recovery. “Say Yeah” took a shot at Matthew Trippe and that whole strange situation.

Fearing the band would end up dead if he did nothing, manager Doc McGhee sent the band into rehab (except for Mick Mars who quit drinking on his own accord). Then, a clean Motley Crue headed up to Little Mountain Sound in Vancouver to work with Bob Rock for the first time.

Bob Rock was on a roll. He finished up the soon-to-be-mega-successful Sonic Temple for The Cult and was recognized for the sound he was able to capture, particularly on the drums. He was also excellent at playing babysitter with musicians who were notoriously hard to work with. To minimize infighting, Rock split Motley up and had them all record separately. And because Aerosmith were in town recording Pump, Steven Tyler dropped by. He offered support for the newly clean band, and vocals on a new track called “Slice of Your Pie”.

The Crue’s first gig clean and sober was the Moscow Music Peace Festival in August of 1989. Although they had finished a new album, they played no new songs, saving them for proper release and promotion. Instead they played oldies from Girls, Girls, Girls, Theater of Pain, Shout at the Devil and Too Fast For Love. It was anything but peaceful. The gig, organized by McGhee, had been pitched to the bands involved as an equal opportunity. Bon Jovi, who McGhee also managed, were arguably the best known in Russia, as they were the only one with an official release there. They were booked to play last, but McGhee stressed there was no “headliner”. There was already friction between bands, because Ozzy Osbourne felt he should have been the headliner. Black Sabbath were massively popular with Russian rock fans, although they had to scour bootleg markets to find any.

Vince Neil live at the Moscow Music Peace Festival 08/12/1989 – Robert D. Tonsing/AP

Things came to a head when Bon Jovi featured pyro in their set, which none of the other bands had. Motley Crue interpreted this as favouritism towards Bon Jovi. Tommy Lee responded by ripping the shirt off Doc McGhee’s back. Motley Crue fired him and headed home on their own.

This drama did nothing to defuse Motley Crue’s momentum. Their new album Dr. Feelgood was released on September 1 1989, eventually going #1 and spawning five hit singles.

Meanwhile back in Canada, I was following all the Motley news with great anticipation. A Hit Parader magazine interview implied that Dr. Feelgood was so ambitious, it might even turn into a concept album. In fact the band had so many new songs that a second album, called Motley Crue: The Ballads was considered for 1990 release. The concept at that point was to do a new Motley Crue studio album that was all-heavy, no ballads. The softer songs would be saved for the second LP. Ultimately they got cold feet and realised putting out an album with no ballads in 1989 was commercially stupid, and so Dr. Feelgood was released with a mixture of tracks – the best 10 songs and one intro.

“Dr. Feelgood” was the first single, and it dominated airwaves just as summer holidays were ending. It, and “Love in an Elevator” by Aerosmith were absolutely everywhere. “Feelgood” had the edge with me, due to its massive drum sound and serious vibe. Bob Rock captured what might have been the biggest drum sound since Zeppelin, or Creatures of the Night by Kiss. Either way, Motley and Aerosmith really put Little Mountain Sound on the map as the studio to beat.

I tried to catch “Feelgood” on the radio and record it, but failed. Instead I bought the cassette single at the local Zellers store. Considering how many tracks the band worked up for Feelgood, I hoped they would be releasing non-album B-sides. They did not. Instead, “Feelgood” was backed by “Sticky Sweet”, probably the weakest album track.

I wondered what happened to all those unreleased songs that Hit Parader mentioned. “Say Yeah” was not on the album or singles. Neither were “Get It For Free” or “Rodeo”.  (We’d have to wait another 10 years for them to be issued on the “Crucial Crue” remastered series.)  A CD could hold almost 80 minutes of music, but Dr. Feelgood was the standard 45 minutes long. Since CDs were so expensive at the time, some fans argued “You have room, so put all the tracks on there and give us the value for our money.” Of course, this attitude changed later on, when listeners realised that albums with lots of extra filler were not as much fun to listen to. And, sadly, the unreleased Motley songs were pretty much filler. The stuff that went on Dr. Feelgood was as good as they had.

Dr. Feelgood was one of the first CDs I ever got, on Christmas Day 1989, along with my first CD player. The sonics of the album were everything they were hyped to be, but what really impressed me were the silences of compact disc. I was used to tape hiss. As “Time For Change” slowly faded out to nothing, I cranked the volume to 10. It was amazing to hear the fadeout clearly, without the tape hiss that had become part and parcel of music listening.

The album earned some great reviews for its sound, songs and even some of the lyrics. “Time For Change” revealed a new more mature direction. “Kickstart My Heart” took a serious subject and made it inspiring without wimping out. “When I get high, I get high on speed, top fuel funnycar’s a drug for me.” Some called it Motley’s best album, and still hold it as such.

As the album rocketed up the charts, Motley embarked on an 11 month tour. Most of the new album received live attention, with five songs being part of the regular set. One person who was paying attention to this was Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich. Lars fell hard for the Motley drum sound, and sought out Bob Rock to produce their next album too. The rest is history. Like Motley before them, Bob Rock helped push Metallica into the upper echelons.

On Monday June 18 1990, Motley Crue headlined at the SkyDome in Toronto. The following day, June 19, the highschool halls were flooded with Motley Crue T-shirts. Where were all these “fans” last year when I seemed to be about one of two people in school who liked Motley Crue? It was always so bizarre to see concert shirts on people who never expressed interest in the band.  All those girls who always seemed to say, “I hate Montley Crue”!

What goes up, must come down. Motley relapsed after partying too hard with the Skid Row guys. Infighting ramped up. As the band were set and poised to top Dr. Feelgood with something truly special, they fired Vince Neil. It was as if they were handed the keys to the kingdom, to promptly throw them off the mountain. Although their 1994 album with John Corabi is a monster (and possibly their all-time best), as a commercial entity, Dr. Feelgood was never surpassed.  It eventually sold over six million copies.

We’ll have to see how Motley portray it in their movie The Dirt, but the truth is that Dr. Feelgood was a one-off mega-success story they’d never repeat.

REVIEW: John Corabi – One Night in Nashville (2018)

JOHN CORABI – One Night in Nashville (2018 RatPak)

John Corabi needs no introduction in these pages.  We have ranted and raved about the awesome 1994 Motley Crue album and the complimentary Quaternary EP.  We’ve broken down the details of his departure from Motley Crue and the chaos that followed.  We’ve also gone on record loving the Union project with Bruce Kulick.  In short, John Corabi can’t really do much wrong in our books.

One Night in Nashville is John’s live run-through of the entire Motley Crue album with his ace band, including his son Ian on drums.  Many of these songs have never been played live, and never in sequence like this.  Veteran producer Michael Wagener ensured a kickass sound.

Ian Corabi has no problem duplicating Tommy Lee’s hard hitting style on opener “Power to the Music”.  John’s voice is still more than capable of shredding these songs two decades later.  His rasp and power have barely ebbed.  Compare this to Motley Crue’s final live album The End and…actually, no don’t compare.  Corabi buries The End.

As fellow rock reviewer Mr. Deke has stated, “Uncle Jack” is one of the most pounding tracks on this CD.  It was a departure for Motley Crue, a deadly serious track, and John nails every scream.  The guitarist also duplicates Mick Mars’ underrated solo, note for note.  Yes, underrated.  Mars is rarely given the credit he deserves for creating his own style, and thereby defining the sound of the Crue.

If you know the album then you know these songs; if you don’t then buckle the fuck up.

Through the single “Hooligan’s Holiday”, Corabi and Co. breath life into songs we only know from the album.  “Everybody wants a piece of the pie” — at least in this Nashville crowd they do, soaking up every riff and blistering scream.  Even the complicated “Misunderstood” burns it down.  Guitars instead of keyboards, backing band instead of Glenn Hughes, and it’s full speed ahead.  Once again the solo is note for note, but there’s a brand new outro where it once faded.

“Loveshine” is a bit of a respite, a nice little acoustic jam a-la Zeppelin III.  These last two songs are so far above and beyond what Motley Crue were capable of when Vince Neil was in the band.  Corabi opened up entire new soundscapes for them to explore, and “Loveshine” is cool on the psychedelic side.  Back to the rock, “Poison Apples” is a tribute to glam rock and what Motley Crue are about.  “Took a Greyhound bus down to Heartattack and Vine, with a fist full o’ dreams n’ dimes…”  Of all the tracks on Motley Crue, “Poison Apples” was the closest to the original Motley sound, and John owns it.

This is where you’d flip sides on the original album, so it’s the perfect spot for telling a story:  track 7,  “John Joins the Band”.  He got the call before it was even announced that Vince had left the band, and he couldn’t say a word to anybody.  One of the first songs they wrote together was “Hammered”, an old riff that John brought to the band.  Even darker is “Til Death Do Us Part”  which was actually supposed to be the title of the album at one point.  It’s one of many long bombers, but things lighten up a bit on “Welcome to the Numb”.  Dig that slide guitar riff, another very Zep aspect to this batch of songs.    By John’s intro, it sounds like a ball-baster of a song to play live.  He says they didn’t think they were going to be able to do it!  But they killed it, and John says that’s due to the hard work of guitarist Jeremy Asbrock.

Your head receives a good solid smack with “Smoke the Sky”, a waste-laying blitzkrieg of a smokeshow.  Corabi touts the health benefits of rolling a joint.  “Home grown version complements the senses, opens up my mind.”  Perhaps Peter Tosh put it better, when he sang “Birds eat it,” and “It’s good for the flu, it’s good for the asthma.”  Regardless of who said it best, “Smoke the Sky” is a flat-out mosh.

“Droppin’ Like Flies” continues the ass-kicking, but at a more sensible pace, trading speed for mass.  And although in theory it shouldn’t work, after this fairly relentless assault, the album always closes on a ballad called “Driftaway”.  After a sentimental version for the Nashville crowd, there’s a bonus track.  This is another ballad, “10,000 Miles Away” from the Japanese Quaternary EP, live for the first time.  Icing, meet cake.

This Corabi live album is far stronger than any of the three Motley Crue live albums.  In terms of performance, John’s band just kills Motley Crue.  Of course, they had a brilliant set to work with.  Finally hearing these songs live, and in album context, is a long fulfilled wish.  John Corabi has long been respected by the rock community and this CD is a testament to why.

5/5 stars

REVIEW: Appice – Sinister (2017)

APPICE – Sinister (2017 Steamhammer)

Vanilla Fudge, Rod Stewart, Black Sabbath, Dio, Cactus, Blue Murder, King Kobra…those are just a handful of the bands who have boasted an Appice in their ranks. Drumming brothers Carmine and Vinny have been recognised by fans and critics alike for their rhythms and associations with amazing bands. Now they step out on their own, with a duo album called Sinister.

The musical directions are all alloys of good ol’ heavy metal.  “Sabbath gave us metal!” goes one line (more on that later).  You know what you’re getting.  There’s even a Sabbath medley called “Sabbath Mash”.  Joining the Appice brothers are familiar names such as: Craig Goldy (Dio), Tony Franklin (Blue Murder), Robin McAuley (MSG), Paul Shortino (Ruff Cutt), Joel Hoekstra (Whitesnake), Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal (Guns N’ Roses) and Jim Crean (who regularly plays live with the brothers).

Many tracks have both drummers, with Vinny panned to the left and Carmine to the right.  It’s not immediately obvious, but if you listen, the drums sound huge!  Double drummers are not something we’re used to hearing, so pay attention and listen to the individuals and what they’re doing.  You won’t be bored, even if you’re not a drummer.

Everything rocks — no ballads.   You’ll find a sludgy Sabbath vibe on some tracks such as “Killing Floor” (lead vocals by Chas West).  Jim Crean kicks ass on “Danger” which comes from the brisk Dio end of the spectrum.  Another Crean song, “In the Night” is the most immediately memorable.  It takes a few listens to absorb Sinister.  Headphones may help, but give it a chance because it’s not an immediate listen.  Other tracks are familiar.  Blue Murder’s “Riot”, with Robin McAuley singing, is a damn fine heavy explosive.

What about drum instrumentals?  Well, of course!  You would feel ripped off if the two brothers didn’t go head to head.  “Drum Wars” is exactly what you’re looking for.  What Vinny and Carmine have done is create drum parts that compliment each other and work in unison, creating a fuller sound.  You’ll also get a kick out of “Brothers in Drums”, which tells the story of the Appice brothers.  “Is that my brother, on TV?  That’s what I wanna be!”

The album goes a little sentimental on “Monsters and Heroes”, heavy as hell, but the lyrics may bring a tear to your eye.  “Sing a song, singer, you’re the man on the mountain…”  Yes, it’s a tribute to Ronnie James Dio, with lyrics by Shortino, who worked with Dio back in 1985 on Hear N’ Aid.  Sabbath gave us metal indeed, but “Monsters and Heroes” captures a little bit of why we miss Dio so much.

Not every song brilliant, and 13 is a large number of tracks, but Sinister grows as you listen.  (Stay tuned to the end!) It’s a grower thanks in no small part to some great performances by an assortment of rock n’ roll veterans.  Any fan of heavy metal will find something to enjoy with Appice.  Serious Sabbath or Dio fans should consider adding it to their collections, as an extension of the discographies.  Bonus:  there’s a poster inside!

3.5/5 stars