i mother earth

REVIEW: I Mother Earth – Scenery and Fish (1996)

I MOTHER EARTH – Scenery and Fish (1996 EMI)

Some albums that mean everything to some, can mean nothing to others.  Take a look at Scenery and Fish.

I Mother Earth’s second album gets a slew of 4 and 5 star ratings on the Canadian Amazon.  Yet I don’t get it and never have.  I was on the I Mother Earth train very early, before their first album came out.  I loved the modern heaviness of the band.  With the tribal and funk influences seeping through, I Mother Earth put out a seriously impressive debut album:  a Canadian classic.  As any band should, they mixed it up a bit on the second album.

In early 1996 I received a promo CD for the first single from the second album, “One More Astronaut”, with the album version and a 4:35 edit.  It didn’t seem too different, maybe just a bit more concise than some of the first album’s longer jams.  This isn’t indicative of the album in general, which is a wild ride of different styles.

The exotic percussion (by Luis Conte and Daniel Mansilla) is still intact, melded with the funk bass, but the overall sound is very different.  Paul Northfield’s production is cleaner and slicker than Mike Clink’s on the first LP.  He still enables to band to exercise their instruments unfettered, but perhaps with a more radio friendly backing.

Although I’ve tried over and over again through the past two decades to let Scenery and Fish “click”, it just won’t.  Other fans certainly have their favourite tracks:  “Like a Girl”, “Raspberry”, “Used to be Alright”, “Another Sunday”.  These are indeed some of the best tracks on the album, yet I struggled to remember how they go.  “Another Sunday”, for example has an incredible blast of hooks for a chorus, but no memorable verses.  Maybe this album is too thick with musical ideas and passages for the average mortal.

But that’s just me.  You might think I’m nuts.  There are those who think I Mother Earth can do no wrong, but fans in general love Scenery and Fish, while I simply don’t get it.  I’ll always enjoy “One More Astronaut” and “Like a Girl”, which by the way features a friend of theirs named Alex from some band called Rush.

2/5 stars

 

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REVIEW: I Mother Earth – Dig (1993)

THREE REVIEWS FOR THE PRICE OF NONE!
For Aaron’s review click here.
For Boppin’s review, click here!

I MOTHER EARTH – Dig (1993 Capitol)

Toronto rock fans were ecstatic when local heroes I Mother Earth signed with Capitol and went to record a debut album with Mike Clink (Guns N’ Roses).  The goal was to take I Mother Earth’s long and meandering jams and turn them into recordable songs, and this was a success.  With an intense mixture of metal, alternative, funk, world music and everything else, the debut album Dig was a head-turner.  Loads of exotic percussion mixed with funky bass turned it into slow-burning hit.  Eventually the record buying public pushed the album gold, with comparisons to Blind Melon and Jane’s Addiction.

The opening music, “The Mothers”, introduces a psychedelic bent that continues through the album.  “Listen! To the Mothers!” yells lead howler Edwin, with echoey 60’s guitar behind him.  This is all a fake-out:  “Feel heavy!” are the first words of the next song, “Levitate”, heavy as plutonium plated bullets.  The intense grinding riff and groove of “Levitate” are the perfect example of early I Mother Earth:  heavy, rhythmic and intense.  Edwin’s voice at the time was compared to Perry Farrell, but the two artists are easily distinguished.

The debut single “Rain Will Fall”, not that dissimilar from “Levitate”, focused on the intense heavy rock side of the band.  The complex beats and out-there lyrics are still there, but there is no denying the forward momentum of “Rain Will Fall”.  Either stay out of its way or get swept away; it’s your choice.  Edwin whispers the lyrics until the full-lunged chorus.  They really liked writing about themselves: “Four brothers make the Mothers, four brothers form the one!”  (Drummer Christian Tanna was responsible for all lyrics.)  But check out that funky wah-wah guitar, bass and percussion!  It’s worth noting that guitarist Jagori Tanna played all the bass on the album at the time.  Original bassist Franz had left and been replaced by Bruce Gordon, but that’s Jag playing all the funky shit on this CD.  “Rain Will Fall” has a long open jam section that shows off this incredible playing.

Time to get trippy.  “So Gently We Go” sounds like a 60’s Carlos Santana slow jam.  It was one of four successful singles from the album, in edited form, since the album track is seven minutes.  It’s a delightful journey of joyous vocals, psychedelic flower dancing and hippie jams.  Things turn intense on “Not Quite Sonic”, the most accessible of the album’s tracks.  Choppy guitars and percussion set the groove, then the bass drops in the low end.  “The sights are embryonic, say what you want, I’m not quite sonic.”  No idea what Christian is writing about, but Edwin sings it like he means it.  You can understand how this became a bit of a hit when it was released as a single.  It was great to hear music on the charts that really celebrated skilled playing and composition.

Super-fast paced funky guitar that sounds like Flea playing bass (jumping around joyfully naked) opens up “Production”, the most challenging of the songs. The sheer speed would knock most people for a loop, but I didn’t see that beat-poetry section coming! “Lost My America” is easier to swallow:  Big and grand Cult-like choruses, backed by laid back dusky verses.

The centerpiece of the album is the epic and heavy as fuck “No One”.  More than any, this one song combines all the band’s elements for maximum effectiveness.  The groove will initiate spontaneous leg-stomping, impossible to stop once started.  Edwin is on full intensity with his vocals.  I had this song on an early preview sampler cassette, and I played it relentlessly during the summer of ’93, treating locals to it quite loudly through the car speakers.  “No one leaves the caravan,” sings Edwin, but who would want to leave?  By the time the song has expired seven minutes later, if you are not dripping with sweat, then you haven’t been listening properly.

The album begins to wind down from “No One” to the end.  There are no more mindblowing songs, though plenty of jaw-dropping playing.  “Undone” is the quietest song on the album, stripped down and punctuated by congas and Edwin’s raspy singing.  Then “Basketball” is the funkiest of them all, blazingly fast, and hard to hold on to.  The final two songs, “And the Experience”, and “The Universe in You” blend together in my mind.  Is Dig perhaps overly long?  Ear fatigue sets in.   Your senses have been assaulted with a lot of notes and words to absorb and by this point, it’s overwhelming.  (And there were two more songs dropped from the album, “Subterranean Wonderland” and “Love from Revolution”, the former of which later turned up on a compilation CD called Earth, Sky and Everything in Between.)  “The Universe in You” ends the album on a bluesy Sabbath note, very epic indeed.

Dig is a mighty debut album indeed, but at well over an hour in length, perhaps they should have hung onto some of these tracks for B-sides.

4/5 stars

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REVIEW: Brian Byrne – Tuesdays, Thursdays, and if it Rains… (2006)

Scan_20160505 (2)BRIAN BYRNE – Tuesdays, Thursdays, and if it Rains… (2006 Kindling Music)

Strangely, I first heard Brian Byrne’s solo single debut, “Far From Good”, on a local lite-rock radio station that I usually try to avoid.  The song caught my ear for its upbeat, country-rock sound, with bouncy violin and piano on top.  A neat mix.  When they said it was by Brian Byrne, I stopped myself.  Couldn’t be the I Mother Earth singer getting played on a lite-rock station, could it?  But it was.  I promptly ordered the CD from the Record Store at which I formerly worked.  The disc arrived in a few days, great condition, except for the promo-cut jewel case.  They normally should have replaced the case before the CD shipped, but somebody missed it.  I didn’t want to ask for a new case, because I just left the place six months before and I didn’t want to become “that” customer!

But enough about me, what about Byrne?  Here he worked with near-legendary Canadian producer Tim Thorney, as well as former Killer Dwarfs guitarist Gerry Finn.  (Byrne and Finn both hail from Newfoundland.)  I Mother Earth were deactivated, and Byrne honed Tuesdays, Thursdays and if it Rains… into a pleasing acoustic rock album, very “singer-songwriter” in sound.

“Far From Good” is the highlight, being the most immediate and lively.  The album is diverse.  The opening track “Days Go On” has elements of country, funk, classic rock and soul.  The juicy organ parts really suck you in.  “Jen’s Song” is one of many ballads, this one reminding me of 80’s Phil Collins for some reason.  Byrne gets to let his voice speak more than he does in the louder I Mother Earth.  Then there’s a big chorus on “Sweet Love”, a better light country rock tune than Bon Jovi’s ever written.  This is like country-Jovi, but with integrity and feelings, and not a lot of flash.  “Nova Dashboard” is a lovely, bluesy country ballad along the lines of Blue Rodeo’s dusky favourites.  The guitars (by Thorney) get right under your skin.

I could go on and on, but all the songs have a quiet, smouldering power to them.  The light and shade of the album sounds quintessentially Canadian to me, and the calibre of the musicianship is above reproach.  Expect an album of diverse music crossing several genres, but do not expect I Mother Earth.  Byrne almost went as far in another direction as you could imagine.  And that is really cool, because he does it so well.

3.5/5 stars

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#471: Canadian Rawk

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GETTING MORE TALE #471: Canadian Rawk

What do you think of when you read the words “Canadian rock”?  Perhaps you imagine the vocal shrieks and drum thrills of Rush?  If you have a negative impression of Canadian music, no doubt your mind drifts to the sultry sounds of Nickelback.  Landmark artists from the golden age that you know would include Neil Young, the Guess Who, Bachman-Turner Overdrive, Joni Mitchell, Steppenwolf and countless more.

Canada has always had an inferiority complex when it comes to our southern neighbours, the Americans.  In the music world, this is manifested in “CanCon”.  Simply put, Canadian radio broadcasters must play at least 40% Canadian content.  Starting in 1968, fears that American artists would flood our airwaves resulted in the first CanCon rules.  If you have ever bought a Canadian CD, perhaps you have seen the letters MAPL on the back.  MAPL is an acronym that determines if content does indeed qualify as Canadian.

MAPL

M:  Music.  Did a Canadian write the tune?
A:  Artist.  Is the primary artist a citizen of the Great White North?
P:  Performance.  Was the recording made in Canadian, in a Canadian studio?  Or for live albums, was the concert on Canadian soil?
L:  Lyrics.  Separate from the music qualifier, this determines if the lyrics were written by a Canadian.

Controversy erupted in 1991.  Bryan Adams had the biggest record of his career, Waking Up the Neighbors, which was co-written by Robert John “Mutt” Lang and recorded overseas.  Under the MAPL rules (since tweaked to avoid this situation), Adams did not qualify as CanCon.  His manager Bruce Allen was quite vocal against these rules.  Allen was never one to mince words, but he sparked a discussion on CanCon rules and how they ultimately hurt Canadian artists.  Flooding the airwaves with Canadian songs that weren’t that good was one issue commonly discussed. Another was that some international artists qualified for CanCon by recording in Canada with some of our most in-demand hit-makers such as Jim Vallance or Bruce Fairbairn.   Finally, these rules implied a lack of confidence in the strength of our own music.

Some feel that there is a stigma in being Canadian.   Though controversial, some feel there is such thing as a “Canadian sound”.  While this is obviously not universal, I do think there is something to it.  There is a commonality in Canadian bands that defies description.  To my ears, the Tragically Hip sound Canadian.  BTO and the Guess Who sound Canadian.  So does Bryan Adams.  I can’t explain it nor do I want to open that can of worms.  I think the roots of Canadian rock, going back to Neil Young and the Guess Who, are basic folksy traditional origins.  I think this has somehow been passed on in our DNA.  This is not always considered a good thing.  The alternative rock band I Mother Earth put out their debut album Dig in 1993, utilizing Mike Clink as producer and hoping to break open in the American market.  They were hyped as “the next Jane’s Addition”, but they did not want to be openly identified as Canadian in promo materials.  They felt that there was indeed a Canadian stigma and they would have more success if their citizenship wasn’t brought up.  M.E.A.T Magazine covered this story but were firmly in the pro-Canadian camp.

Here at mikeladano.com, we don’t have to follow CanCon rules, but Canadian content has dominated regardless.  I believe that our music is strong enough to stand proudly on its own.  We have so much talent in this country.  So many incredible songs have emerged from the frozen tundra.  Countless incredible, under-appreciated, creative artists:  VoiVod, Paul MacLeod, Sloan, Death From Above 1979, Blue Rodeo, Strapping Young Lad, the Trews, Sarah Harmer, Big Sugar…the list truly is endless because great new performers emerge every day.  When I worked at the old Record Store, we were fiercely proud Canadians.  We put a little Canadian flag sticker on the header cards of every Canadian artist.  A lot of customers would say, “I didn’t know that singer was Canadian!”

This week, join me each day for a close look  at some good Canadian Rawk albums that you may have missed over the years.  Trust me, you do not want to miss these reviews or you may miss a future favourite record.  Grab a Timmies or a wobbly pop and get ready to rock!

 

#398: New Rock, Old Rock

RECORD STORE TALES MkII: Getting More Tale
#398: New Rock, Old Rock

A selection of songs I’ve been rocking out to on the radio lately, for your consideration and perusal.

ROYAL BLOOD – “Figure It Out”
It seems that bass/drums duos are all the rage. I like this awesome, aggressive groove from the English duo of Royal Blood. Just slammin’! Proof that you don’t need more than two people to make good heavy rock!

DEATH FROM ABOVE 1979 – “Trainwreck 1979”
Having ignored these two Canadian guys for years, I have recently become infatuated with “Trainwreck 1979”. I could do without the piano touches and the “woo ooo ooo’s” but it’s hard to deny that this is a slamming song living up to its name. Well done, Death From Above 1979.

THE TREWS – “New King”
This aggressive riff-based song combines three elements I love about the Trews – guitar hooks, memorable melodies, and a great singer. Bonus points for cool lyrics like, “A bitter hipster hick, Can’t stop talking shit, The F’N idiot, Don’t know when to quit.”

DANKO JONES – “Do You Wanna Rock”
No surprises here! Danko Jones = Danko Jones = Danko Jones, but it’s always nice to hear a new track. This one’s pretty simple — it’s about rocking! More cowbell!

I MOTHER EARTH – “The Devil’s Engine”
Different from anything I’ve heard this band do before, “The Devil’s Engine” combines traditional IME percussion with metallic riffs and licks. With the prior single “We Got the Love” out in 2012, it would be nice to get a new album by I Mother Earth.

THE PRETTY RECKLESS – “Follow Me Down”
I haven’t been a fan of the Pretty Reckless. Until now I’ve found their music to be tiredly generic. This track, however, kicks it! Taylor Momsen’s turned herself into a metal howler, in her natural environment. Her songs can get repetitive but I’m not bored with this one yet.

I’ve also recently rediscovered some of these tracks that I knew very well, but have been dusted off on the radio recently.

AC/DC – “Rock the Blues Away”
I’m glad that after “Play Ball” and “Rock Or Bust”, this excellent AC/DC track has been chosen as the newest single from AC/DC’s latest. It’s absolutely a favourite of mine! Great choice for a single.

NEIL YOUNG – “Downtown”
I’m pleasantly reminded of this collaboration between Uncle Neil and Pearl Jam, showcasing their kickass new drummer Jack Irons. A great, simple little rock tune.

TRIUMPH – “Lay It on the Line”
This is undeniably a Canadian classic of double-necked guitar majesty. I noticed that the version getting airplay today is the beefier remixed version, from Greatest Hits Remixed. (I was the only listener that noticed, I know because I wrote in to ask about it!)

REVIEW: Edwin – Another Spin Around the Sun (1999)

EDWIN_0001EDWIN – Another Spin Around the Sun (1999 Epic)

Having followed I Mother Earth since before their first album Dig, I was disheartened when Edwin left the band for a solo career.  It is true that songwriting in I Mother Earth was dominated by the Tanna brothers, but nobody likes when an original singer leaves a band.  Edwin was first (by mere months) to get a new album out, and Another Spin Around the Sun couldn’t sound less like I Mother Earth!

The liner notes shed a lot of light on the album.  Lots and lots of studio musicians, different writers, keyboards and programming.  Expectations for anything band-like should be dropped.  The opening song “Theories” has big echoey guitars, but also very-90’s programmed drum beats and modern “funk”.  The 420 references tell us what the lyrics are about, and then the very next song is called “Trippin'”!  Maybe Edwin was also high when he quit I Mother Earth.

“Trippin'” was a single, but I remember one of my co-workers “Criss” being incredibly annoyed by it.  Even more irritating is another single, “Hang Ten” which sounds like…oh fuck, I don’t know?  Sugar Ray meets Edwin?  Something indigestible anyway.  Edwin’s going for a lounge crooner vibe on the verses before hitting us up with a “big rock chorus” but stumbles under the weight of  its own ambition.

EDWIN_0003Daniel Mansilla, who plays percussion with I Mother Earth as an “unofficial member” lends some class to “And You”.  The real percussion stuff is more my speed than the trip-hoppin’ beats Edwin laid down on the first few tracks.  Unfortunately what “And You” has in percussion, it lacks in memorable hooks.  There’s nothing lazy about it though, especially when it goes into a dreamy Beatles section near the end.  At least you can say that Edwin made the most of his solo debut.

The lullaby-like “Screaming Kings” has a psychedelic vibe and a big chorus (enough anyway).  As such it’s one of the few that I still remember.  I also remember “Shotgun” but not because it’s good.  It’s Edwin trying to buy modern punk metal rock or something.  Edwin mixes up the genres quite a bit on his album, but I don’t think they always turn into great tunes.  “Shotgun” is that noisy rock that frankly kinda annoys me.

Every CD in my collection has a reason for being there.  In normal circumstances, Edwin would not have survived a CD purge this long.  The only reason I kept the CD is the song “Alive”.  This magnificent — nay, majestic — big ballad is the one song that does sound world class.  The lyrics are uplifting, the music a perfect fit. Edwin finally gets a big chorus to bellow, and it’s about damn time. It’s also the perfect place for the strings that permeate the album. In some respects, it reminds me of David Coverdale’s “Last Note of Freedom”.

The rest of the album is largely a mirror of the first. There are the dusky pseudo-funky tracks that sound so dated to the late 90’s. There are the darting guitar parts that never coalesce into solid hooks. There are the drum samples. Even the song called “Rush” fails to be one. “Take Me Anywhere” ain’t bad.

In final 90’s fashion, there is a hidden bonus track. Can you guess the genre? “Another Drink” is a lounge song! It’s actually a pretty decent lounge song, with LP scratch added for authenticity, but it didn’t help my impression that Edwin was chasing trends and styles. One tequila, two tequila, aye carumba. (Those are some of the lyrics.)

Edwin followed this album with Edwin and the Pressure in 2002, but it did very little in terms of sales. Edwin returned to a solid rock form with new band Crash Karma in 2010. Another Spin Around the Sun remains essentially a one-song album for me.

2/5 stars

#356: Cassingles

Aaron at the KMA and I have coordinated posts today about cassette singles!  If you can’t get enough, click here for his!  Geoff at the 1001 has also thrown his hat into the ring, and you can see his cassettes here!

RECORD STORE TALES MkII: Getting More Tale #356: Cassingles

Cassingle (noun): “cassette single”, a musical single release, usually consisting of two songs, on the cassette format.

A couple years ago, my parents found in their basement something I had lost and presumed would never see again: an old shoebox full of my old cassette singles!  This was especially valuable to me, because a couple of those cassettes have exclusive tracks on them that have never been released on any other format.  Helix’s “Good to the Last Drop” is one such single.  Van Halen’s “Right Now” is another.

The shoebox also contained my prized cassette copy of the Sonic Temple Collection by The Cult.  Buy cassette one (“Fire Woman”) and you can send away for the box.  Buy cassette two (“Edie”) and you get three Cult cards.  Buy cassette three (“Sweet Soul Sister”), and you can send away for a Sonic Temple pin.  (Which I still have, just not handy for a picture.)

There are some tapes that I know I’m missing.  They include three by Warrant:  “Cherry Pie”, “I Saw Red”, and the horrid “We Will Rock You”, which I probably sold at garage sales when I temporarily disowned Warrant in the 1990’s!  I could also swear that I owned Extreme’s “More Than Words”, but I don’t know what happened to that one.  I’m not worried about it since the B-side remix track is being reissued on the deluxe edition of the Pornograffitti album.  Maybe I gave it to Crazy Thunder Bay Girl!

Check out what remains of my cassingle collection below.

REVIEW: Crash Karma – Crash Karma (2010)

CRASH KARMA – Crash Karma (2010 E1 Entertainment)

I wrote a review for this album back in 2010, not so glowing.  For me, the album just sat there.  Even though Crash Karma are made up of members of some of my favourite Canadian bands from the 90’s wave of alterna-hard rock, nothing happened.  I did the review, gave it a middling review and forgot about it.

About six months later, I’ll be damned if the whole thing didn’t just suddenly “click” with me. Rethinking my position, I had to re-write my review.  I think Crash Karma works best after a few listens.

Crash Karma consist of Edwin (ex-I Mother Earth) on lead vocals, guitarist Mike Turner (ex-Our Lady Peace), drummer Jeff Burrows (The Tea Party), and someone named Amir Epstein on bass.  They combine some of the best elements of the bands that spawned them. At first I saw a another faceless post-grunge band rocking past their prime, but now I’m getting it a little more. To the contrary, it sounds like these guys have some ideas to get off their chests. Wracked with Mike Turner’s angular guitar riffage and some mature and pensive lyrics by Edwin, this album rocks. Edwin is singing better than he has in years, pushing the voice to the limits we remember from the heady I Mother Earth prime. Turner is rocking much harder than Our Lady Peace, and much more straightforwardly. Burrows, freed of The Tea Party’s exotic leanings, lays down hard fast fills, recorded expertly by Turner. The result is a collection of songs that combines some of the best elements from the original bands, mixed in with some latter-day Rush.  (Edwin is a veteran of Alex Lifeson’s Victor album.)

Best songs include IME-like “Like A Wave” (the opener), “Awake”, and the furious “Fight”. Another track I begrundingly like is “Lost”, a slow one that sounds a bit too close to Edwin’s solo hit “Alive”. The melodies and vibe are suspiciously alike. However there is no filler on this album. It works better as an album, a single piece, than individual songs. Rather than make a road CD with your favourites on it, this one works as a front-to-back listen.

I still don’t like the cover.  The punk dude makes it look like I’m buying something from fucking Simple Plan or Theory Of a Dead Man.  It’s not like the guys’ faces are all that recognizable, even in Canada. It’s a shame because this album just disappeared. I never heard the tracks on the radio and back in the early 90’s, these guys were the kings of radio. I rarely saw it in the stores, I never saw ads for these guys on tour. It seems that this album will appeal to dudes from the post grunge era, not so much for younger kids.  They did release a second album in 2013, called Rock Musique Deluxe (co-produced by Terry Brown) — but I have not heard it yet.  (Send me a copy, E1, and I’ll be happy to review it!)

Crash Karma:  great musicianship, great songs, very good album.   Check it out.

3.5/5 stars
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REVIEW: Slash Puppet – Slash Puppet (EP, 1993)

I found much to my horror that my original Amazon.ca Slash Puppet review had been taken and credited to some defunct site called “bandfocus.net”!  I thought it would be wise to re-claim it for myself.  Here it is in slightly revised form.

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SLASH PUPPET – Slash Puppet (Fringe EP, 1993)

A short while ago, I reviewed the debut release by the legendary Toronto glam metal band, Slash Puppet. For a while there, it looked like Slash Puppet was destined to be the “next big thing”.  They were winning awards, had national video play, and a stunning collection of hard rock material to draw from for their well-reviewed gigs.

Well, you know what happened next. Grunge took over, and the Toronto metal scene never exploded the way it was hoped. If it had, Slash Puppet would have been the band leading the charge. (With Winter Rose, I Mother Earth, Sven Gali, Russian Blue, Slik Toxik, Attitude, and so many others right behind…ahh, but I digress.)

This 1993 EP was their second release (the afformentioned debut is now available on CD as No Strings Attached, on Sun City Records).  It is solid from start to finish. The singer, Mif (better known as Anthony J. Mifsud; you’ve seen him acting in the Norm McDonald comedy Dirty Work!) has a soulful, gritty, and gravelly voice that has elements of Brian Johnson and Lemmy, but really sounds like neither. Really, Mif sounds like Mif, and you have to hear the voice to get it. The band were tight, emphasizing tough riffs, killer choruses, and street-smart lyrics. No wimpy songs here. Even the sole ballad “Eyes Of A Child” isn’t a wimp-out. Not with lyrics like those, and a soulful delivery from Mif.

The lead track from No Strings Attached, “Slow Down”, reappears here, now parsed as “Slowdown”. (I believe this song is a remix with a new bass part, based on the credits. Peet Dove played bass on the original demo version but is not credited here, which leads me to believe the bass was re-recorded by new bassist Dave Carreiro. Otherwise, the song sounds almost identical to the demo version.)

SLASH PUPPET GLOSSY

Every song smokes.  Slash Puppet down-shifted on speed for these songs, but traded that in for a slightly bluesier, soulful vibe.  Their songwriting abilities grew by leaps and bounds between releases, no doubt enhanced by their live experience.  When their debut was recorded, the band had not even played a gig yet!  Slash Puppet is much more melodic than No Strings Attached, but still tough as nails.

If you’re into tough, glammy rock n’ roll with great musicianship and songwriting, Slash Puppet are the band to check out. This EP just shines.  If you’re into collecting obscure albums from the era, or Canadian bands, this CD is an absolute must, although I saw one guy on ‘net claiming to have sold his copy for almost $200!  I’m not sure I’d be willing to pay that much.  Check thrift shops and used CD stores.  I used to sell this in my store for $5.99.

This EP was mixed by Rich Chycki, probably best known for his 5.1 work with Rush!

Here’s hoping Mif and the surviving members reunite for a few more songs or shows. I’ll be there.

5/5 stars

REVIEW: Slash Puppet – No Strings Attached (aka The Demo, 1989)

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SLASH PUPPET – No Strings Attached (2007 Sun City Records)

Slash Puppet were one of the biggest names of the burgeoning Toronto rock scene of the early 1990’s.  Unfortunately, unlike their competition Sven Gali and I Mother Earth, they never got signed to a major label.  They did, however, manage to sell out 2500 copies of their first recording, The Demo, an independent cassette, via mail order.  They were the darlings of M.E.A.T Magazine and appeared on MuchMusic’s Power Hour.  Slash Puppet signed a management deal with Ray Danniels and SRO (Rush) who later also handled Van Halen, King’s X, and Extreme.

SLASH PUPPET GLOSSY

I was one of the 2500 people who ordered The Demo.  Every mail order was accompanied by a glossy 8 1/2 x 11 autographed photo.  I still have mine, this is especially treasured since their talented lead guitarist, Lou Garscadden, passed away in 2001.   Today, lead vocalist Mif (originally billed as “Tony Terrance Dartanian”, for some weird reason) is a successful actor.   That’s him as the mob boss in Norm McDonald’s hilarious Dirty Work, billed under his real name, Anthony J. Mifsud!

Incredibly, for a band that never put out a major label release and split in 1994, Australia’s Sun City Records reissued The Demo on CD in 2007, as No Strings Attached.  A well-assembled package, it features liner notes, lyrics, and loads of photos.

This ass-kicker starts with a bang:  “Slow Down”.  This was the first video, and it even made a return appearance (in slightly remixed form) on the second Slash Puppet release, a self-titled EP.  “Slow Down” is an infectious hard rocker, a tougher and faster Faster Pussycat with a way, way raspier singer.  It has more integrity than most of the Sunset Strip of the time combined.  And this was from the bad bad streets of Mississauga!

The extremely catchy ‘Squeeze It In” follows, a mid-tempo groover, and my personal favourite song.  This one just drips sleaze with a knack for gritty melody.   Up next is “Hard On Love”.  It’s another concoction of raspy lead vocals, catchy backing gang vocals, and pure sex.  It’s twice as hard as anything Hollywood was producing at the time.  “Bad Girls”, which closed side one of the original cassette, is about the only misstep.  While the song is another adrenaline-filled sex romp, the chorus lacks punch.

It’s here that I think the CD edition of No Strings Attached differs from The Demo.  If memory serves correctly, side two began with “Overload” and closed with “Turn It On”.  On the CD, the track order seems switched.  Unfortunately, my original cassette copy is now lost.

Regardless, “Turn It On” is fast paced, raspy and built for sex.  It’s not an upper-echelon song, it’s more similar to “Bad Girls”, the chorus is a bit thin.  The band compensates with the excellent “Evil Woman”.  Great chorus, great hooks, and it sounds great in the car.  It also has a cool dual guitar solo by Lou Garscadden and Frank “Bart” Bartoletti, proving these guys had the chops.

The dark and slower-paced “Some Kind O’ Lady” provides some variety on an album that is otherwise very party-oriented.  This killer tune was always one of my favourites.  It has some killer soloing and a great riff.  The verses kind of remind me of a Testament ballad like “Return To Serenity”, but before Testament even wrote that song.  Maybe it’s the grit in Mif’s voice that reminds me of Chuck Billy.

“Overload” closes the CD on an upbeat note.  It has a fast, playful riff, sleazy lyrics and plenty of grit.  It’s totally headbang-worthy.  And with that, the CD ends, listener exhausted by half an hour of pure heavy glam rock!

The production values for this album are not the greatest.  Keep in mind this was originally a self-financed demo tape, never meant for wide release, and never intended for CD.  The guitar solos are often buried, and the backing vocals sound a bit thin.  What does come across is the grit of Mif, an underrated singer and frontman (by all contemporary accounts).

As mentioned, Slash Puppet returned with an EP later (released by indi Fringe), amped up, better sounding and more mature without losing an ounce of their street-tough sensibilities.  Look for a review of that ultra-rarity in a future edition of mikeladano.com!

As for No Strings Attached?

4/5 stars, baby!