heavy metal

REVIEW: Triumph – Just A Game (1979)

*New format – the three-sentence review.

TRIUMPH – Just A Game (1979 MCA/2003 Round Hill Records remaster)

Landmark album, solid front to back, and a sign of growth for the Canadian trio.  Arguably their greatest song, “Lay It On the Line” has the biggest presence here, from soft intro to bangin’ chorus.  Highlights include the rocking opener “Movin’ On”, the blues “Young Enough to Cry”, the boogieing “American Girls”, the folksy power ballad “Hold On” and the progressive title track.

4/5 stars

REVIEW: Extreme – “There Is No God” (1994 CD single)

EXTREME – “There Is No God” (1994 A&M CD single)

Extreme’s underrated (extremely underrated!) fourth album Waiting For the Punchline was released in January of 1995.  Yet it was preceded by the 1994 single “There Is No God”, a three track disc with two B-sides included.  Waiting For the Punchline was Extreme’s “back to basics” album.  After the sprawling three sided magnum opus, III Sides To Every Story, Nuno desired to strip things back and funk things up.  Waiting For the Punchline was more raw and groovy, but not as the expense of quality.  Criminally underrated!

The A-side is technically still a non-album track!  The album cut of “There Is No God” is over six minutes; this one is a 4:25 edit.  The opening stuttery guitar remains.  What an awesome drum sound!  Paul Geary played on most of the album (you can tell which ones) and he just had a full, impactful drum sound on this album.  Meanwhile Gary Cherone was singing and writing as strong as ever, turning up the anger dial.  Nuno utilises minimum guitar overdubs (if any) and sounds absolutely wicked here.  His solo is exotic, and there’s no rhythm guitar behind him.  Just Pat Badger laying down the bottom end.  What a killer 90s rock tune, and you don’t really notice the edits until the fade-out.

Second up is a tune called “Never Been Funked”.  Nuno’s using a treatment on his guitar here, giving it an electronic moog-like sound.  This is a basic groove, punchy and to the point.  Not a lot in the way of hooks, just that guitar of Nuno’s, zigging and zagging.  As expected, his soloing and fills are just as bonkers.

The third and final B-side, “Better Off Dead”, is a completely different direction.  Waiting For the Punchline wasn’t a ballad album.  “Better Off Dead” would not have fit, although it has the same ambience as the album.  With minimal accompaniment, Gary and Nuno sing together through the opening.  When the band kicks in, it sounds like Mike Mangini on drums rather than Paul Geary.  (There are no credits.)  It’s a lovely song if a bit meandering.  It’s the longest tune at 5:40.  The outro guitar sounds like Jimmy Page!

Great single to pick up if you’re a fan of Extreme.  Especially if you love Waiting For the Punchline.

4/5 stars

REVIEW: Vince Neil – “You’re Invited (But Your Friend Can’t Come)” (1992 single)

VINCE NEIL – “You’re Invited (But Your Friend Can’t Come)” (1992 Hollywood single)

“Woahow!”

In 1992, post-split, Vince Neil was out of the gates fast with a killer new single, while we had to wait two more years for Motley Crue to make their move.  It certainly seemed that Neil was winning the Crue vs. Vince competition, especially when his Exposed album with Steve Stevens was released in 1993.  We had no inkling that the Crue were brewing something equally strong with John Corabi, but for the time being at least, Vince Neil was the winner of the round.

Vince didn’t have his solo band yet, so the players you hear on “You’re Invited (But Your Friend Can’t Come)” might come as a surprise.  It’s 3/4 of Damn Yankees:  Tommy Shaw, Jack Blades, and Michael Cartellone.  The track was written by Neil, Shaw and Blades.  Automatically, we know to expect some quality.  This track was recorded for the movie Encino Man (or California Man) starring Paulie Shore and Brendan Fraser.  The soundtrack version (4:27) and a single edit (3:53) are both included here.

“One, two, here we go!”  The tune is a smoker, sharp and with wicked production.  The cocky lyrics perfectly match the upbeat riff, certainly one of the best Shaw/Blades riffs yet composed.  The single/soundtrack version is in fact superior to the final album cut that came a year later, even though that one included Steve Stevens with a seriously cool solo.  This guitar solo ain’t half bad either, of course!  Tommy Shaw is no slouch and it sounds like he’s having fun just losing his mind on guitar.  There’s even more of that nutso finger tapping on the album version vs. the single edit, especially in the bananas intro.

If you like guitar, then you will definitely love one of the B-sides:  a commercial Steve Vai instrumental called “Get The Hell Out of Here”.  Opening with a flurry of notes, the song goes into a riff with some cool call-and-answer lead guitars.  Definitely one of Steve’s more song-like structures, something like Satch is wont to do.  Catchy, straight ahead, with plenty of thrills.  Incredible harmonics!  A great middle ground for those who love lead guitar but find Steve’s regular solo work a little too bookish.

The last song to go over is by a band called T-Ride, who put out one album in 1992.  Joe Satriani called them “the future of metal”, but we’re all allowed to be wrong from time to time.  Their tune here is called “Luxury Cruiser” which was also on their self-titled album.  It’s hard rock for the 90s, and the singer can really wail when he wants to.  It verges on progressive, due to its careening from one different part and tempo to another.  Very technical, but not an amazing song.

Great single to have for the Vai and Vince tracks.  Vai later released his on a compilation of soundtrack music, but otherwise this is a great purchase to fill some gaps in your collection.

4/5 stars

 

REVIEW: Deep Purple – “Woman From Tokyo” (Japanese CD single)

DEEP PURPLE – “Woman From Tokyo” (Originally 1973, 1998 Warner Japan CD reissue)

The 2:56 single edit of Deep Purple’s “Woman From Tokyo” is somewhat of a rarity on CD.  It’s not on the Singles A’s and B’s.  You could get it on a Japanese box set called Purple Chronicle.

The original song was almost six minutes, so half of the tune was chopped out for single release.  The intro is mangled.  The middle section is missing, and cut in such an amateurish way.  The guitar solo is missing.  Rule of thumb:  never cut the friggin’ guitar solo from a Deep Purple song, of all bands!  This is a butcher job of a single edit.  Probably why it never made the cut to Singles A’s and B’s.

The B-side “Super Trouper” is also 2:56, but unedited.  That’s just how the song goes, one of Purple’s shortest.  No, it’s not an Abba cover, but both songs were named after Super Trouper stage lights.  Some of Ian Gillan’s lyrics can be interpreted to be about his impending departure from Deep Purple. “I wanna be like I was before, but this time I’m gonna know the score.” A lot of looking in the rear view mirror in this song. A lot of past-tense.

Because of the butcher job on the “Woman From Tokyo” edit, the B-side here outshines the A-side.  The single at least has lyrics.  For collectors and analysts only!

1/5 stars

REVIEW: Def Leppard – Def Leppard (2015 Japanese + Classic Rock fan pack edition)

Part Forty-Seven of the Def Leppard Review Series

DEF LEPPARD – Def Leppard (2015 Sony Japan + Classic Rock fan pack edition)

As with anything these days, you often have to buy multiple copies to get “all the songs” (only for them to be reissued in a box set later on).  The Classic Rock “fan pack” edition of 2015’s Def Leppard has plenty of bonuses (which we’ll get into) including two exclusive versions of songs.  The Japanese CD has an exclusive demo.  Gotta catch ’em all.

Def Leppard are in a comfortable niche now and their self-titled 2015 album easily could have been another “ia” titled construction, next to Pyromania, Hysteria and Euphoria.  Hell even 1992’s Adrenalize was originally to be titled DementiaDef Leppard is another “ia” album, but it’s notably closer to matching the quality of Hysteria better than most of their records since.  Upon dropping the laser after a long period of neglected, the album comes to life.  The hooks are remembered, and stand the test of time.

“Let’s Go” pretends to be another re-write of “Sugar” before going into an unexpected lush pop chorus.  Not a “Sugar clone at all, but something new for Leppard combining their trademark sound with bubblegum.  The Classic Rock fan pack comes with a bonus single edit, shorter by a minute.  “Dangerous” is straight-up Leppard, like “Photograph” or “Promises” all over again.  This song smokes, just like the previous hits in the same mold.

Funky Queen-like bass isn’t far out of Def Leppard’s range.  “Man Enough” is kind of goofy and might have worked better with just about any other lyrics.  When the song gets going, it starts to bang.  This is the kind of song that will divide people:  some will think it’s a highlight, others will say it stinks.

An album highlight is the first ballad “We Belong”.  It’s a gentle song recalling the softer moments on Slang, but what makes it unique is that all five Def Leppard guys sing lead vocals for the first time.  Truly an outstanding track, made more special by the vocals.  Even a non-fan can appreciate the different textures the voices add.  Phil is gritty, Sav is smooth, and they all bring extra dimensions.  Classic rock’s bonus tracks include an alternate version with just Joe Elliot singing.  It’s interesting because his solo take is different from the other singers.

“Invincible” is a rare Rick Allen co-write, a blazer like Pyromania-era Leppard, without the screaming.  That’s the only difference.  “Invincible” is otherwise vintage-style, including a quintessential Phil Collen guitar solo.  Moving on to “Sea of Love”, this one stretches out melodically.  The guitar riff keeps it rooted in Def Leppard, but the intro and chorus are something else.

The first mis-step is the ballad “Energize” which sounds like a Euphoria reject, something that came out of a computer.  Thankfully “All Time High” does the real energizing.  Back to a Pyromania style of rock, and the solos is right out of the 80s.

“Battle of My Own” is more like acoustic Led Zeppelin.  Quite unlike Leppard’s early acoustic experiments in 1992.  The psychedelic vocals and Zeppish riffs really set it apart.  This is definitely something that could have followed Hysteria, and probably right up the charts.

A fun rocker steals the “Don’t Shoot Shotgun” riff and turns it into “Broke ‘N’ Brokenhearted”.  There might be a touch of Leppard’s recent country influence coming through on the chorus.  This seamlessly goes into “Forever Young” which, in the past, might have been left as a single B-side.  A good B-side admittedly.  “Last Dance” goes back to acoustic, this time for a ballad like “Two Steps Behind”.  Don’t forget “Two Steps Behind” was a B-side as well, and “Last Dance” would probably work well in that format.  Interesting, the Japanese CD’s bonus track is a demo version of “Last Dance” with Rick Savage, its writer, singing lead.  This is probably the best of the two versions because on a long album like this, additional lead singers help keep things interesting.

Two songs remain, both unusual.  “Wings of an Angel” uses the penultimate slot to deliver a dark, understated rock song.  Then “Blind Faith” goes Beatles, with strings, bluesy guitars, and the kitchen sink.  Totally a “Walrus” kind of song.  A good closer, albeit very different for this band.

Sometimes I like to think of Def Leppard albums in terms of pre and post-Hysteria.  To me, Adrenalize was not the followup that Hysteria deserved and I think Def Leppard knew that.  Adrenalize was more like a bonus disc, or a Reload to the original Load.  Because of the sad passing of Steve Clark, the band had to deliver and so they kept things safe.  But Leppard are an experimental band, and if they weren’t dealing with another series of hardships, I think they would have progressed beyond Hysteria.  They did on Slang, but by that time grunge had washed the slate clean and Def Leppard made their sound more alternative and more organic to adapt.  Slang was not the sequel that Hysteria would have got either.  Maybe Def Leppard is the closest we have to a proper followup.

4/5 stars

 

Previous:  

  1. The Early Years Disc One – On Through the Night 
  2. The Early Years Disc Two – High N’ Dry
  3. The Early Years Disc Three – When The Walls Came Tumbling Down: Live at the New Theater Oxford – 1980
  4. The Early Years Disc Four – Too Many Jitterbugs – EP, singles & unreleased
  5. The Early Years Disc 5 – Raw – Early BBC Recordings 
  6. The Early Years 79-81 (Summary)
  7. Pyromania
  8. Pyromania Live – L.A. Forum, 11 September 1983
  9. Hysteria
  10. Soundtrack From the Video Historia – Record Store Tales
  11. In The Round In Your Face DVD
  12. “Let’s Get Rocked” – The Wait for Adrenalize – Record Store Tales
  13. Adrenalize
  14. Live at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert
  15. Retro-Active
  16. Visualize
  17. Vault: Def Leppard’s Greatest Hits / Limited Edition Live CD
  18. Video Archive
  19. “Slang” CD single
  20. Slang
  21. I Got A Bad Feeling About This: Euphoria – Record Store Tales
  22. Euphoria
  23. Rarities 2
  24. Rarities 3
  25. Rarities 4
  26. Cybernauts – Live
  27. Cybernauts – The Further Adventures of the Cybernauts (bonus disc)
  28. X
  29. Best Of (UK)
  30. Rock Of Ages: The Definitive Collection
  31. Yeah!
  32. Yeah! Bonus CD With Backstage Interviews
  33. Yeah…Nah!  (Record Store Tales)
  34. Songs From the Sparkle Lounge
  35. “C’Mon C’Mon” (picture disc)
  36. Taylor Swift & Def Leppard – CMT Crossroads (DVD)
  37. B.Sides
  38. Yeah! II
  39. Yeah! Live
  40. Mirror Ball: Live & More (Japan bonus track)
  41. iTunes Re-recordings
  42. Viva! Hysteria (DVD and CD 1)
  43. Viva! Hysteria (CD 2 and Bonus features)
  44. Viva! Hysteria (Japanese import)
  45. Slang (2014 Deluxe bonus tracks)
  46. “Helen Wheels” (from The Art of McCartney)

Next:  Thanks for reading!

 

REVIEW: Def Leppard – “Helen Wheels” from The Art of McCartney (2014)

Part Forty-Six of the Def Leppard Review Series

DEF LEPPARD – “Helen Wheels” and
JOE ELLIOTT – “Hi Hi Hi” from The Art of McCartney (2014 Arctic Poppy)

The Art of McCartney has to be one of the most anticipated yes lesser known tribute albums of the last two decades.  Anticipated because it promised new cover tunes by Kiss, Rick and Robin from Cheap Trick, Alice Cooper, Sammy Hagar, Bob Dylan, Billy Joel, Heart, Willie Nelson Paul Rodgers, and so many more.  For this review series we’ll be looking at two tracks:  one by Def Leppard, and one by Joe Elliott.

Paul McCartney needs no introduction.  If he does, then I ask you to read about a band called “The Beatles” before you read anything else here!

Produced by Ronan McHugh and Def Leppard, “Helen Wheels” is unmistakable Def Leppard.  The opening drum pattern certainly recalls Rick Allen’s work on “Rocket”.  Then it careens into pure pop rock delight!  This Wings single was released in 1974 and later included on some versions of Band on the Run.  Driving, fun, and while different from Def Leppard’s core sound, it’s ideal for them to cover.  The boys in the band aren’t bad singers y’know.

Joe’s solo cover is “Hi Hi Hi”, a standalone Wings single from 1972.  This is far more raw than the Leppard track.  Abe Laboriel Jr. on drums!  Joe’s vocals were recorded at his home studio while the backing tracks were recorded in Los Angeles and London.  Quite a production, but that’s the modern way of doing things.    One thing about Joe’s vocal:  he absolutely goes for it!  It’s like rough and ready Joe from 1980 has returned, but with the skill and experience of an older singer.  This is just a piano-boppin’ rock and roller.

Bravo to Joe and Def Leppard for coming up with some inspired covers.  Certainly more inspired than most of the Yeah! covers album.

4/5 stars

Previous:  

    1. The Early Years Disc One – On Through the Night 
    2. The Early Years Disc Two – High N’ Dry
    3. The Early Years Disc Three – When The Walls Came Tumbling Down: Live at the New Theater Oxford – 1980
    4. The Early Years Disc Four – Too Many Jitterbugs – EP, singles & unreleased
    5. The Early Years Disc 5 – Raw – Early BBC Recordings 
    6. The Early Years 79-81 (Summary)
    7. Pyromania
    8. Pyromania Live – L.A. Forum, 11 September 1983
    9. Hysteria
    10. Soundtrack From the Video Historia – Record Store Tales
    11. In The Round In Your Face DVD
    12. “Let’s Get Rocked” – The Wait for Adrenalize – Record Store Tales
    13. Adrenalize
    14. Live at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert
    15. Retro-Active
    16. Visualize
    17. Vault: Def Leppard’s Greatest Hits / Limited Edition Live CD
    18. Video Archive
    19. “Slang” CD single
    20. Slang
    21. I Got A Bad Feeling About This: Euphoria – Record Store Tales
    22. Euphoria
    23. Rarities 2
    24. Rarities 3
    25. Rarities 4
    26. Cybernauts – Live
    27. Cybernauts – The Further Adventures of the Cybernauts (bonus disc)
    28. X
    29. Best Of (UK)
    30. Rock Of Ages: The Definitive Collection
    31. Yeah!
    32. Yeah! Bonus CD With Backstage Interviews
    33. Yeah…Nah!  (Record Store Tales)
    34. Songs From the Sparkle Lounge
    35. “C’Mon C’Mon” (picture disc)
    36. Taylor Swift & Def Leppard – CMT Crossroads (DVD)
    37. B.Sides
    38. Yeah! II
    39. Yeah! Live
    40. Mirror Ball: Live & More (Japan bonus track)
    41. iTunes Re-recordings
    42. Viva! Hysteria (CD 1 & DVD)
    43. Viva! Hysteria (CD 2 & bonus features)
    44. Viva! Hysteria (Japanese bonus track)
    45. Slang (2014 deluxe edition bonus tracks)

Next:

47. Def Leppard (Deluxe and Japanese versions)

RE-REVIEW: Def Leppard – Slang (2014 Deluxe edition bonus tracks)

Part Forty-Five of the Def Leppard Review Series

Original review:  Slang 2014 Deluxe Edition

DEF LEPPARD -DEF LEPPARD – Slang bonus tracks (Deluxe Edition, 2014 Bludgeon Riffola)

‘Twas a surprise when 1996’s Slang received the deluxe edition treatment in 2014.  The Viva! Hysteria celebrations were a success, and now another album was getting a little bit of attention, although the word “deluxe” really pushed it.  As the Heavy Metal Overlord once stated:

When it turned up I wis pure gutted. I thought the booklet had better be snazzy but it wisnae either. Just a wee hing where Joe tried tae mind stuff fae back in the day. Nae liner notes. Nae lyrics. Nuhin. Just some shite photies. My old copy had two discs, a slimmer case and lyrics. And some photies an aw! Gid wans. One of them oan a bus like they were aw goin doon the toon or somethin. How wis that no deluxe but this is deluxe? If they’d called it a “2CD Edition” that wid huv been awrite but they didnae. This is “deluxe”… cept it isnae. I don’t have a Scooby whit they’re playin at. Eejits.

Exactly.

Deluxe or not, the expanded edition of Slang gave new focus to the cult-status album.  Radically different versions of album tracks, unreleased songs, and works in progress offer a look at an album that really has never received its due credit for what it was.

The Slang deluxe featured a number of bonus tracks, and some iTunes exclusive bonus tracks as well.  Thankfully, the Def Leppard CD Collections box sets include some of these bonus tracks. Today we’ll mostly focus on the ones not included in previous reviews, from the Slang deluxe.

Here is a list of the iTunes bonus tracks, later included on one of the CD Collection box sets.  We’ve discussed these before in more detail.

1. “Truth?” (Demo Version) – Previously on “Work It Out” CD single.

2. “Work It Out” (Demo Version) – B-Side from “Work It Out” with Viv singing and completely different from the other versions on the Deluxe. Viv referred to it as his “Crowded House” version.

3. “When Saturday Comes” From the film When Saturday Comes and “All I Want Is Everything” single.

4. “Jimmy’s Theme” From the film When Saturday Comes and “All I Want Is Everything” single.

5. “Cause We Ended as Lovers” (Solo track by Phil)  From the Jeff Beck tribute album Jeffology: A Guitar Chronicle and “All I Want Is Everything” single.

6. “Led Boots” (Solo track by Viv)  From the Jeff Beck tribute album Jeffology: A Guitar Chronicle and “All I Want Is Everything” single.

There are also two iTunes exclusive bonus tracks that remain exclusive to iTunes.  We’ll get to those.

The Slang deluxe’s first bonus was track 12 on disc one, the buttery “Move With Me Slowly”, the original Japanese bonus track for Slang.  This is a beautifully recorded, raw, smooth, and sexy Def Leppard song.  An incredible song, as we have discussed on the CD Collection Vol. 2.  We’ll say it again:  should have been on the album.  We’ll add:  those guitar solos are so incredible.  Full of feel, organic sounding tone.  Some of the best guitar playing on a Def Leppard song.  Another good one is track 16, the acoustic “Can’t Keep Away From the Flame”, a B-side and Japanese bonus track to the Vault CD.  Another song that deserved a proper place on an album.  “Worlds Collide” is also on this set, a really heavy metal track, originally released on the B-side to “Goodbye” during the Euphoria era.  Heavy, but definitely B-side material.  We also have “Burn Out”.  Great little rocking groover, more like old Def Leppard than the final Slang album.  No loops, no electronic instrumentation, so acoustics.  Just chug, chug, chug and rock and roll.  Joe’s vocal is full of attitude.

Let’s go through all the remaining Slang bonus tracks and have a listen to a largely misunderstood album, as it might have been.

1. “All I Want Is Everything” (Demo) – iTunes only.  A unique version of the song, with the some of the lyrics intact and everything radically different.  The chorus has the final melody, but delivered as a more traditional rock shout.  The melancholy mood of the final version is taking shape, but there is no question that “All I Want Is Everything” was better in its final version.

2. “Turn to Dust” (Phil verse vocal version)  (Track 1, disc two.)  This version of the second Slang album track is similar to the final, though with Phil Collen singing the verses, with Joe on the chorus.  Phil’s raspier voice adds a different, laid back direction.  The backing track is not the final mix though the sitar and some of the effects are in place.  Collen fans will love it.

3. “Raise Your Love” (version of “Slang”)  (Track 2, disc two.)  Choppy rock guitars are the main feature here!  Joe’s opening rap is intact, but the song deviates from there.  The chorus is a very different refrain of Phil singing, “Baby raise your love!”  Cool track for sure, but the final song became something far more unique as we’ve seen.  If you wished “Slang” was a more rocking tune, then you better check out “Raise Your Love”.

4. “All I Want Is Everything” (1st draft) (Track 3, disc two.)  Somehow, the “1st draft” is more complete and closer to the album version than the “demo”.  Were the two versions mislabelled?  This sounds more like a demo, with the other being the first draft.  In fact this is so close to the final album mix, that you might be able to fool your friends.  The guitar solo is missing, as are the big vocal hooks that follow, which is the biggest clue.

5. “Work It Out” (1st draft) (Track 4, disc two.)  Like the above, this is very close to the final album version.  Very different from Vivian Campbell’s demo, one of the aforementioned iTunes bonus tracks.  Joe’s vocal is not the final take, but the backing track sounds almost ready.  The stuttering guitars and droning strings are all there.  You can hear, in the layers of guitar, the skeleton of Viv’s original idea.

6. “Breathe a Sigh” (Feb ’96 rough mix) (Track 5, disc two.)  All the pieces are in the place but the atmosphere isn’t captured yet.  The final mix would nail that R&B crossed with Def Leppard vibe.

7. “Deliver Me” (Feb ’96 rough mix) (Track 6, disc two.)  Again, very close to the final mark.  Just an earlier, less elaborate version of the final album mix.

8. “Black Train” (version of “Gift of Flesh”) (Track 7, disc two.)  The main riff is there.  The verse melodies are there.  The chorus is the major difference, with this one being a shouty affair.

9. “Blood Runs Cold” (Feb ’96 rough mix) (Track 8, disc two.)  Of all the rough mixes, “Blood Runs Cold” is the most indistinguishable from the final track.  The chorus is the most different, with Phil prominently assisting Joe.

10. “Where Does Love Go When It Dies” (1st draft) (Track 9, disc two.)  Has an almost Marillion-like sheen to the opening guitar textures.  These fade and the mix goes purely acoustic.  This excellent song was already in fantastic shape at this stage.  Could have been on the album as-is.

11. “Pearl of Euphoria” (Feb ’96 rough mix) (Track 10, disc two.)  The epic album closer from Slang, in an early mix.  Similar, but the final version sounds busier, which enhances it.  They made some different choices in the middle section of this mix, but the in-your-face guitar is quite delectable.

12. “All on Your Touch” (2012 revisit) (Track 11, disc two.)  A Slang-era track never properly finished until 2012.  Laid back, dark ballad.  Understated, with shades of “Love Bites” in the guitars, but with an explosive hard-edged chorus.  Awesome solo work on this song.

13. “Anger” (“Deliver Me” 1st draft) (Track 12, disc two.)   Different from the above “final mix” which was very close to the album.  This “first draft” has a different chorus:  “Anger, I’m feeling so much anger!”  It fails to deliver the intended punch, and so it is good they revised it and kept working on it.  They obviously knew the chorus was not the needed hook.

14. “Move On Up” (Vivian demo) (Track 13, disc two.)  Completely unreleased song, a Campbell demo.  Neat punchy riff, with a hint of Jimmy Page.  Vivian sings, and his vocal melody is melodic, different and enjoyable.  It’s too bad the guys didn’t take this song further.

15. “Gift of Flesh” (Phil vocal) (Track 14, disc two.)  Another treat for those who love the raspy voice of Phil Collen on lead vocals.  The backing track is not all the way there yet, but Phil’s vocal track provided the blueprint for the final album version.

16. “Move with Me Slowly” (1st draft) – iTunes only.  The buttery smooth “Move With Me Slowly” appears again, this time in a “first draft” version exclusive to iTunes.  Rougher, slightly rawer mix.  The outro goes out longer, lingering like flavours on your tune.

While it was nice to see Slang get a reissue with a wealth a bonus material, it was a shame the packaging didn’t quite rise to the occasion.  With two tracks remaining unreleased in physical form, and not all the material from the era available in a single place, it’s not too late to do a super deluxe.

4/5 stars

Previous:  

  1. The Early Years Disc One – On Through the Night 
  2. The Early Years Disc Two – High N’ Dry
  3. The Early Years Disc Three – When The Walls Came Tumbling Down: Live at the New Theater Oxford – 1980
  4. The Early Years Disc Four – Too Many Jitterbugs – EP, singles & unreleased
  5. The Early Years Disc 5 – Raw – Early BBC Recordings 
  6. The Early Years 79-81 (Summary)
  7. Pyromania
  8. Pyromania Live – L.A. Forum, 11 September 1983
  9. Hysteria
  10. Soundtrack From the Video Historia – Record Store Tales
  11. In The Round In Your Face DVD
  12. “Let’s Get Rocked” – The Wait for Adrenalize – Record Store Tales
  13. Adrenalize
  14. Live at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert
  15. Retro-Active
  16. Visualize
  17. Vault: Def Leppard’s Greatest Hits / Limited Edition Live CD
  18. Video Archive
  19. “Slang” CD single
  20. Slang
  21. I Got A Bad Feeling About This: Euphoria – Record Store Tales
  22. Euphoria
  23. Rarities 2
  24. Rarities 3
  25. Rarities 4
  26. Cybernauts – Live
  27. Cybernauts – The Further Adventures of the Cybernauts (bonus disc)
  28. X
  29. Best Of (UK)
  30. Rock Of Ages: The Definitive Collection
  31. Yeah!
  32. Yeah! Bonus CD With Backstage Interviews
  33. Yeah…Nah!  (Record Store Tales)
  34. Songs From the Sparkle Lounge
  35. “C’Mon C’Mon” (picture disc)
  36. Taylor Swift & Def Leppard – CMT Crossroads (DVD)
  37. B.Sides
  38. Yeah! II
  39. Yeah! Live
  40. Mirror Ball: Live & More (Japan bonus track)
  41. iTunes Re-recordings
  42. Viva! Hysteria (CD 1 & DVD)
  43. Viva! Hysteria (CD 2 & bonus features)
  44. Viva! Hysteria (Japanese bonus track)

Next:

46. “Helen Wheels” (from The Art of McCartney)
47. Def Leppard (Deluxe and Japanese versions)

REVIEW: Ozzy Osbourne – Patient Number 9 (2022)

OZZY OSBOURNE – Patient Number 9 (2022 Epic)

It’s very easy to be cynical about any new Ozzy album since about Down To Earth and onwards.  Corporate constructions.  Special guest writers and performers. “Here Ozzy, sing these new songs we wrote for you.”  Prior to that, it felt like Ozzy had a band, and that band took different directions on each album.  Now Ozzy has Andrew Watt and a slate of big-namers.  It’s been this way a while.  This time the difference is, the process resulted in a pretty decent album.  Sure it’s still Watt at the helm, with special guests in big letters on the back cover and front stick.  Jeff Beck!  Eric Clapton!  Tony Iommi!  Zakk Wylde!  Of course without a real band, you don’t get that cohesive band sound, but what you do get ain’t bad indeed.

Each track (except for “Darkside Blues” which is either a new version or a new mix of the Japanese bonus track from Ordinary Man) has credits by Andrew Watt and professional songsmith Ali Tamposi.  She’s more known for Kelly Clarkson, Nickelback, and a slew of Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus hits.  She also co-wrote most of Ordinary Man so there’s a formula at work here.  Other co-writers include Ryan Tedder, Duff McKagan, Chad Smith, Robert Trujillo, Tony Iommi, Chris Chaney, and the late great Taylor Hawkins.

Ozzy falls into his comic horror persona a bit too much.  There was once a time when he was trying to shed that “crazy madman” image but he’s really leaned into it again for the last couple decades.  As such the album opens with silly “insane asylum” sound effects that only delay us getting to the good stuff.  The opening title track is over seven minutes long with that nonsense attached.  It’s also one of the poorer of the new songs, overly formulaic and modern with robotic hooks.  Jeff Beck’s unconventional and slippery solo work makes it worth a listen (Watt and Wylde play the rhythm and fills).

Things really get moving on track two, “Immortal” featuring Mike McCready of Pearl Jam and Duff on bass.  Good riffing and grooving going on here, and the first memorable chorus.  The Hawkins co-penned “Parasite” is another grooving highlight, featuring the Foo Fighter on drums.  The chorus is really solid and just moves like a ‘Vette on the highway.  That’s Zakk on lead guitar, but he’s instantly recognizable.  Former Ozzy bassist and currently Metallicer Rob Trujillo on bass.

What’s really amazing is that with the help of Tony Iommi, this hodge-podge of creators managed to write a seriously Sabbathy dirge called “No Escape From Now”.  You’d swear it’s Geezer Butler on bass, but it’s not.  It’s actually Watt.  It’s as Sabbathy, if not more so, than most of the 13 album.  It feels a bit “token”, like, “Oh hey Sabbath fans, here’s a song with the riffs and time changes that you like.”  Yet it’s one of the songs you’ll keep returning to, and probably for those reasons.  Of note, this is the only song without Andrew Watt on rhythm guitar.  It’s all Tony and only Tony which is the reason it feels heavy as a bloody brick.

In a throwback to Ozzmosis, “One of Those Days” with Eric Clapton really sounds a bit like “I Just Want You”.  Clapton really adds a touch of class.  One could imagine that the chorus will upset certain people with it’s refrain of “I don’t believe in Jesus”, but it is one hell of a chorus – pun intended.  Unfortunately the ballad that follows, “A Thousand Shades”, is a throwaway, aside from the brilliant Jeff Beck guitar solo.  One of the Hawkins co-penned tracks called “Mr. Darkness” takes a minute to get going, seemingly a song about fan letters that Ozzy once received.  It and the next two songs all feature Zakk Wylde on guitar.  Dull verses, but awesome chorus, with an awesome Sabbathy change towards the end.  The only dumb part is the silly ending where Ozzy speaks, “You don’t even know my name you asshole.”  Just…no.

“Nothing Feels Right” is another ballad, very Ozzmosis-y.  Decent song, good chorus, with all the production bells and whistles.  It really smokes during the solo section.  Another Sabbathy sounding riff emerges on “Evil Shuffle” and it really seems clear that Andrew Watt is trying to channel Geezer Butler’s bass playing on this album.  Not that it’s a bad thing.  Then it’s the much-hyped “Degradation Rules” with Tony Iommi, a song about masturbation, but not as good as the prior Iommi song.  The main hook here is Ozzy’s harmonica playing, a great throwback to “The Wizard”.

“Dead and Gone” is a deep cut highlight, with a latter-day Priest-like groove and lots of Zakk Wylde chunk.  An album highlight buried way in the back end.  Finally, “God Only Knows” is the last proper song, but unfortunately sort of a last gasp rather than a late highlight.  Kind of a ballad, with lush backing vocals, but not a “Road to Nowhere” kind of late album winner.

The outro music, “Darkside Blues”, appears to be a remix of the original version from Ordinary Man‘s Japanese release.  You can compare the waveforms below.  It’s a swampy track with more of Ozzy’s harmonica, just a coda to the album.

It’s pretty amazing at this stage of the game that Ozzy is still cranking out new music, but of course he has a huge support team behind him.  This time, the team produced an album better than the last one by a pretty fair margin.  They could have cut two tracks and made it a more engaging and concise listen.  It’s always a balancing act between giving the listener added value, or a streamlined experience.  A minor quibble at the end of the day.

3.5/5 stars

REVIEW: Rush – “Caravan” / “BU2B” (2010 CD single)

RUSH – “Caravan” / “BU2B” (2010 CD Anthem single)

“Parts one and two of Clockwork Angels, a work in progress”.

That’s pretty monumental.  Rush were releasing two key tracks from their forthcoming studio album, a full concept album this time, well in advance.  Two years in advance.  Notably, this was a full concept album start to finish.  In the 70s, Rush were more known for half concept, half non-conceptual records.  The bands that Rush inspired like Queensryche and Dream Theater had done full concepts.  Now the original masters were taking a shot.

On the final album, “Caravan” is track one and “BU2B” is track two.  On this single the order is swapped.  “BU2B” (“Brought Up to Believe”) opens, although its intro changes on the album version.  “BU2B” absolutely slams.  “I was brought up to believe that the universe has a plan…”  Perhaps it opens this single because it sums up the overall album concept.  In a fictional world run precisely by a “Watchmaker”, a rebellious protagonist feels pulled in a direction different from that assigned to his life.  Questioning his reality, he embarks on his own adventures despite his mandated mundane role in society.  Musically, after the metallic riff has done its business, Neil Peart takes the spotlight a moment as the song shifts.  Geddy lays down the heavy bottom end while Alex strikes hither and yon with lightning-like licks.  Clearly a classic in the making.

“Caravan”, the final album opener, sounds pretty much the same as the record.  It establishes the setting, “in a world lit only by fire…”  The riff is a major feature, a deliberate, descending rock monster that feels just right in the guts.  The lyrics paint a picture of a steampunk world, half explored, with alchemy and ancient knowledge.

Clockwork Angels wound up as one of the greatest final albums by any band anywhere any time.  This single is a nice add-on, a reminder of the long careful gestation period that created a masterpiece.

4.5/5 stars

REVIEW: KISS – Off the Soundboard – Des Moines 11.29.1977 (2022)

Off the Soundboard – Des Moines November 29 1977 (2022 Universal)

We are now at the fourth Off the Soundboard series release from Kiss, and this is the most hyped yet.  It’s the second original lineup release in the series, but the first from the classic era.  This time we travel back with Ace, Peter, Gene and Paul to the Alive II tour.  Arguably the pinnacle before things began to slowly crumble, this Alive II show is unsurprisingly loaded with Kiss firepower.  However, with only one CD, it’s the shortest in the series so far.  It does appear to include everything they played that night.

Opening with the brand new “I Stole Your Love”, Kiss truly were on fire.  Playing fast, tight and enthused, this is the Kiss of legend, the Kiss we have heard stories of!  Unaltered Kiss live in their prime!  The sound is, as expected, bootleggy, but pretty solid considering it’s 45 years old.  Paul’s vocals are so good they can bring a tear to your eye, remembering the Starchild when he was bulletproof.

“King of the Night Time World”, still second in the set, benefits from Peter Criss’ trademark pitter-patter.  Ace is a bit shrill at the beginning, but it’s 1977 technology.  Star Wars was brand new and the Space Ace was in his element.  He always harmonized well with Paul, which he does on “King”.  Paul then invites the girls to meet ’em in the “Ladies Room”, which means it’s Gene’s turn to sing.  Gene messed up some lyrics:  “You say you like to play, well, yes you play with me anyway.”  Or something like that.  Sounds like his bassline is also off.  Doesn’t matter, in fact that makes it even more cool.  A snapshot of a moment in time.  It’s all more of less buried in the glorious noise they call live rock and roll.  The crowd certainly didn’t care.

Paul tells them that Kiss had a good feelin’ about comin’ back to Iowa.  Temperature’s rising, so they gotta call out the “Firehouse”!  A lot faster than album and more like Kiss Alive!, this version of “Firehouse” is incendiary for all its energy and flaws.  The only misfire is Paul’s intro to “Love Gun” itself.  He’s certainly done better.  “When it comes to shootin’, we ain’t gonna miss!”  You just did, Paul!  Fortunately the song is just as kicking as ever, with Paul absolutely roaring.  This is the Kiss I remember growing up with.  Unstoppable energy.  The power remains high on “Let Me Go, Rock ‘N Roll”.  In a quaint blast from the past, Paul wants to see some lights in the crowd, some matches!  This is a song that always sounds best with Ace Frehley on lead guitar, and those who love the Spaceman will appreciate his fearless fretwork and signature technique all over it.

A chunky “Makin’ Love” is a set highlight, all riff and bass with Paul audibly jumping around haphazardly.  Peter is awesome on this.  “Christine Sixteen” is a bit clunky and awkward, as is Paul’s intro.  The less said the better.  “Christine Sixteen” falls into place on the chorus.  Their vocals here are an excellent example of Kiss’ ability to actually sing.  Then the moment you have been waiting for:  Paul says they got a surprise, and Ace Frehley’s gonna do “Shock Me”.  This version of “Shock Me” is up there with the better ones and of course Ace gets his big solo at the end.  It’s not just the Alive II solo, it’s a different beast and by the middle, Ace gets his Les Paul roaring.

The gentle intro of “I Want You” is just a feint, we all know that the song absolutely slams.  Ace’s guitar stings on the verses, and he gets to take an extra solo at the end just before Paul goes into his “I waaaa-aaa-aaaant!” tease with the crowd.  Then he queries whether everybody’s ready to take their medicine?  It’s time to call out “Dr. Love” and Gene is loving it.  “Shout It Out Loud” follows, at a fast tempo similar to its Alive II rendition.  The vocals are better though; you can really hear Peter Criss in the back.  His drumwork is manic too.  Great rendition of “Shout It Out Loud” and one of the best on CD.

Gene’s bass solo precedes “God of Thunder”.  It’s noise; just bass through a digital processor. Skippable noise.  “God of Thunder” itself is much better, containing a Gene/Peter groove that doesn’t always fall right into the pocket like this one does.  Then the Catman gets his drum solo, which is better and longer than the Alive II rendition.  (Gene’s vocals are also better, way more aggressive.)

“Rock and Roll all Nite” is the last song of the main set, the rock and roll national anthem according to Paul.  Like many of the songs, it’s faster too.  Very cool to hear both Ace and Peter on backing vocals quite clearly.  The Spaceman’s solo is sloppy stuttery greatness, and it’s hard not to enjoy this song that we already have live in dozens of incarnations.

Onto the encores:  “Detroit”, of course “Beth”, and the finale “Black Diamond”.  “Detroit” opens with a mistake and Kiss quickly recover, driving the thing into oncoming traffic with a reckless devil-may-care attitude.  By this point in the show, Kiss are playing on adrenaline and missing some of the parts.  Which is half the thrill.  As for “Beth”:  it’s “Beth”.  No more no less, though there is a lot of tape noise.  Peter’s vocals are so-so.  He struggles when he has to be tender, but he blasts on “Black Diamond”, which oddly opens with full band introductions which you rarely hear at a Kiss concert.  Paul gets a spotlight moment to play around with the “Black Diamond” intro on guitar before he starts singing.  Pound for pound, this is one of the best versions of “Black Diamond” by the original lineup out there.  From the vocals to the Ace soloing, to the explosive outro, this is one of the best renditions hands down.

Now that the vaults have been opened and we’re getting classic shows from the original lineup, the sky’s the limit what could come next.  This is the best one so far.  Let’s hope for an Eric Carr show soon.

4.5/5 stars