japanese imports

REVIEW: Hollywood Vampires – Rise (2019 3 CD Japanese edition) Part 2 – Live

Part two of a two part review

Check out part one, the studio album Rise, by clicking here.


HOLLYWOOD VAMPIRES – Rise (2019 Edel Japanese edition) – Discs 2 & 3 Live

How do you do a Japanese edition up right?  How about including 21 bonus tracks in the form of a double live album?  Get your credit cards out, folks.

Hollywood Vampires Live unfortunately lacks any English documentation, but Japanese readers might know when and where this show was recorded.  It focuses on the covers with a handful of originals, the basis of the first Hollywood Vampires album.  Unfortunately a few more fallen heroes have been added to the list of rock casualties, and so Lemmy and Bowie are among the stars honoured.

The original tune “Raise the Dead” (featuring an intro by the late Sir Christopher Lee) opens the show, but it’s just preamble for the better known covers.  “I Got A Line On You” is the first track where you realize you’re listening to Matt Sorum (Guns N’ Roses, The Cult) on drums.  He’s unmistakable.  The big surprise is that the bassist is Robert DeLeo (Stone Temple Pilots)!  Alice first covered this tune back in ’88 and it sounds like it’s one of his own songs now.  “20th Century Boy” has bite, a little more than the studio cut.

Alice pauses to explain the concept of the band.  “We are the Hollywood Vampires,” he asserts.  “We pay homage to all of our dead drunk friends.  And here comes one now.”  It’s Keith Moon and “Pinball Wizard”, a Who cover that was not on the Hollywood Vampires’ debut album.  “My Generation” was however, and here it’s injected with the live fire of the sweaty concert stage.  Jimi Hendrix is honoured next with “Manic Depression”.  Joe Perry playing Jimi Hendrix.  Cool.   Alice Cooper has no problem jumping from style to style, expert performer that he is.

“This one’s for John,” states Alice.  That would be John Lennon, with both “Cold Turkey” and “Come Together”.  Joe Perry, of course, is no stranger to “Come Together” which Aerosmith scored a hit with themselves.  “Come Together” is another nice bonus because it wasn’t on the Vampires album.  It has a different feel from Aerosmith’s take even though it’s the same guitar player.

“Seven and Seven Is” (by Arthur Lee and Love) goes next, which is a late addition to the canon.  The Vampires recorded it as an iTunes bonus track for the debut album where it remains an exclusive.  The live version is a blitz; Matt Sorum’s sticks must have caught fire.  Contrasting that is the band’s interpretation of “Whole Lotta Love”, with Alice and Tommy Henriksen singing lead instead of Brian Johnson.

“I met these guys in 1968.  They were my best friends.  And I drank a little bit with Jim Morrison…”  The Doors are next to be saluted.  “Five to One” and “Break On Through” kick ass; Alice really gives ‘er.  David Bowie gets the nod on “Rebel Rebel” and “Suffragette City”.  It all sounds natural to the Hollywood Vampires.

“As Bad As I Am” is an original song about Johnny Depp, and another track that was only on the iTunes version of Hollywood Vampires.  It sounds a bit like “Reckless Life” by Guns N’ Roses.  Joe Perry takes the next lead vocal on “Stop Messin’ Around”, the old Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac blues number.  It’s an obvious choice since Aerosmith covered it on their 2004 blues album Honkin’ on Bobo.  This one is an extended jam, far beyond what Aerosmith did with it.

“My Dead Drunk Friends” is a Vampires original, sort of their raison d’etre, that being paying tribute to Alice’s deceased drinking buddies.  It pales in comparison to “Ace of Spades” (lead vocals by Henriksen), easily the heaviest song that Joe Perry’s ever played on.  Possibly Alice too.  Check out DeLeo on bass, doing his best Lemmy.  It’s sad that Lemmy Kilmister joined the list of Rainbow regulars who didn’t make it, but holy shit, what a version!

Only now, at the end of the concert, do the Vampires roll out their own past hits.  “I’m Eighteen”, “Sweet Emotion”, “Train Kept A Rollin'” and “School’s Out” sound brilliant.  In particular, to hear “I’m Eighteen” with Joe Fucking Perry playing guitar?  “Sweet Emotion” with Alice Cooper singing?  Sweet Jesus Murphy, is this a fever dream?  As usual, Alice melds “Another Brick in the Wall” to “School’s Out” pretty much making it the definitive “school” song.

Closing the show, Alice reminds us:  “And remember, give blood!  To us!”

If the Vampires keep putting out quality releases, then that’s a distinct possibility.

4/5 stars

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REVIEW: Hollywood Vampires – Rise (2019 3 CD Japanese edition) Part 1

Part one of a two part review


HOLLYWOOD VAMPIRES – Rise (2019 Edel Japanese edition) – Disc 1

The first Hollywood Vampires was a covers album with a few originals.  The second is an originals album with a few covers!  It’s a little strange and kind of sounds exactly how you think it would.  Alice Cooper, Joe Perry, Johnny Depp and pals obviously set out to have fun, which is audible, but there’s also a weird bent that runs through.  Interestingly some of the best songs are the ones that sound like Aerosmith riffs, done up far better than Aerosmith would have lately.

At the outset, the Aerosmith flavour dominates the stew that is “I Want My Now”.  It’s “Draw The Line” meets Alice Cooper.  You can hear what it would have been like with Joey Kramer on drums, Tom Hamilton on bass and Steven Tyler shrieking up front, but instead it’s Alice, who has had a much more consistent output of late than Aerosmith.  In other words, Perry’s riffs are in good hands and the guy deserves to have a lil’ fun.  His guitar work has the looseness that Aerosmith shed years ago.

“Who’s Laughing Now” is psychedelic Alice, which could be the Depp influence. It’s a really good tune accented by 8-string bass (by Tommy Henriksen) and Joe Perry’s unmistakable guitar expertise. It’s also bookended by two weird instrumentals that appear to be Depp creations. Unfortunately all this lead-up ends at the slow and stodgy “The Boogieman Surprise”, probably the weakest tune. This starts a lull. A farcicle “Welcome to Bushwackers”, featuring Jeff Beck, is a token hillbilly country tune that doesn’t live up to its promise. The highlight, obviously, is Jeff Beck.

Course is corrected on Joe Perry’s lead vocal, a surprising “You Can’t Put Your Arm Around A Memory”, the Johnny Thunders song previously covered by Duff McKagan. Joe’s version is poignant and wise. “Git From Round Me” is a pulsing, hypnotic charge through the gates with Johnny Depp sharing vocal duties with Alice and Tommy. Depp takes one by himself on the Bowie cover “Heroes”, a surprisingly outstanding version. According to Cooper, Johnny Depp (who is currently fighting an acrimonious divorce battle with two-way accusations of domestic violence) had a lot of emotion to put into Rise.  Perhaps that’s what gives “Heroes” its weight, though it’s not a heavy song.

The best of the brief instrumentals is by second bassist Chris Wyse, called “A Pityful Beauty”.  The song it precedes, “New Threat”, is OK.  It is not up to the better material, sounding a bit like a stock riff & rhythm.  Fortunately “Mr. Spider” has a classic Cooper atmosphere, brimming with drama and horror.  Also sounding like classic Alice, but a different kind, is “We Gotta Rise”.  It’s “Elected” all over again with a Billion Dollar Babies mold, starring “President” Alice Cooper.  Alice isn’t political, but it’s hard to read these lyrics as anything but:

“We gotta rise, let’s rise,
We gotta rise, let’s rise above the lies,
It’s you and I, it’s do or die,
We gotta rise, let’s rise above the lies.”

Maybe that’s reading too much into it, but it sure does sound like a call to arms.  Regardless, “We Gotta Rise” is the best original song on the album.  Depp’s next lead vocal, the Jim Carroll cover “People Who Died” is just about its equal.  A rockabilly punk rocker, “People Who Died” is catchy as the flu, but better for you.

Rise concludes with an interesting spoken word track called “Congratulations”.  It works because Alice, Johnny and Joe have rich speaking voices.  Tommy Henriksen gets a spoken word portion too, using his more like a beat poet.  What you’d think would be a boring slog turns out to be an album highlight.

It’s hard to fathom where Rise will sit in six months time or a year.  It has moments less than stellar, where fat could have been cut, but the weirder escapades could warrant many returns.  Bad press aside, Johnny Depp is charismatic on record.  Joe Perry sounds like he’s having fun playing rock and roll away from Aerosmith.  And Alice?  When has he ever sounded like he wasn’t having fun?

Rise will probably have more longevity than the Hollywood Vampires’ covers album, it just needs to lose some dead weight.

3.5/5 stars

Come back tomorrow for a look at the Japanese exclusive Discs 2 and 3:  Hollywood Vampires Live.

 

 

REVIEW: Aerosmith – Just Push Play (2001 2 CD Japanese edition)

AEROSMITH – Just Push Play (2001 Sony Japan 2 CD set)

Funny thing about some pretty bad albums: sometimes the bands con you into buying them twice. They do this with bonus tracks you may need and can’t find elsewhere. Aerosmith have been guilty of this on multiple occasions. You know what they say about fools and money.

In 2001, Aerosmith did it with Just Push Play. They placed a bonus track on the European CD (“Face”), and a completely different set of bonus tracks in Japan…but excluding “Face”. As one of the looser songs on a pretty stiff album, “Face” is pretty enjoyable.  So what about Japan’s exclusive song, “Won’t Let You Down”?  Well, for one it’s heavy.  For Aerosmith, it’s really heavy.  You could picture it on a better album like Nine Lives.  Though not perfect it’s a damn fine latter-day Aerosmith track.  It just needs another hook.

“Won’t Let You Down” and its associated Joe Perry guitar wizardry is the most interesting of the bonus tracks, but that doesn’t mean the rest are not.  Though “I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing” is more than slightly boring today, it was Aerosmith’s biggest hit to date.  This was the first time it appeared on an Aerosmith album, and only in Japan.

The second CD has a diverse stew of bonuses.  The first is a 3:17 radio remix of “Just Push Play”.  It’s mostly a matter of making the guitar, drums and other elements more prominent in the mix.  It’s quite a bit better than the album cut, though just as silly.  You gotta wonder if anybody in the studio told Steven to try it without the rasta accent.  That’s the remix I want to hear, because the chorus is great.

Moving on to live rarities, Aerosmith included a handful of previously released tracks that weren’t necessarily already in your collection.  First up:  California Jam II.  “Same Old Song and Dance”, “Draw the Line” and “Chip Away the Stone” were all available on the various artists album California Jam II.  If you have this, you don’t need to buy that.  The year was 1978 and Aerosmith were still cooking live.  Whether it comes from youthful or chemical energy, these tracks are faster than their studio counterparts.  Rough and dirty live Aerosmith without the backing tapes and fixes:  what’s not to love?  “Draw the Line” has more…definition?…than the original.  Still, smoking so hot that Joe Perry probably melted his strings.  It’s just plain great to any live version of “Chip Away the Stone“.  Top five Aerosmith song?  Welcome to the collection.

That’s not all folks, as we stick to 1978 and the famous Texxas Jam.  “Big Ten-Inch Record” and “Lord of the Thighs” would be familiar if you own Pandora’s Box.  Strange they included two tracks that were readily available, but here they are and there’s nothing wrong with ’em.

A brief word on the album Just Push Play itself.  We’ve already reviewed it in full, so let’s not rehash.  Joe Perry’s least favourite Aerosmith albumy panders for hits in the most embarrassing ways.  Hi-tech recording and outside songwriters watered it down.  The old Tyler/Perry combination was not to be found on a single track.  The other three guys have not a single writing credit between them.  It’s a sad state of affairs.

If you’re a masochist like me, you’ll want to get this one for the bonus tracks.  If not, just stay away.

Just Push Play1/5 stars

Bonus CD – 3/5 stars

REVIEW: Whitesnake – Flesh & Blood (2019 Japanese import)

WHITESNAKE – Flesh & Blood (2019 Cynjas Japanese import CD)

So you got the new Whitesnake.  Think you got all the songs just because you got the deluxe version on CD or iTunes?  Naw!  Think again!  Once again, it’s Japan with the hardest to find bonus tracks.

To be fair, it’s a give and take.  While Japan often gets their own exclusive songs, they also miss out on others.  In North America, we got a deluxe edition with “Can’t Do Right For Doing Wrong”, “If I Can’t Have You”, and three remixes of album tracks.  The Japanese CD has none of those, but instead has its own exclusive remix.

The ballad “After All” is surely one of the highlights on Flesh & Blood.  As a simple, fairly unadorned acoustic love song, it’s right in the wheelhouse of more recent “unzipped” ‘Snake.  Well, the Japanese bonus remix is even more stripped down.  The “Unzipped” mix is the same recording, just with less stuff in the mix — no electric guitars, no keyboards.  An insignificant difference?  Absolutely.  But with an acoustic song this fucking good, you may enjoy the purity of the unembellished version.  Up to you really, but if you’re the kind of collector that needs “all the tracks”, then you do need this, don’t you?

“I don’t care about bonus tracks,” you say.  “Just tell me if the album is any good!”

Check out our track by track review for full details, but in short:  fuck yes!

Flesh & Blood is being described by enthusiastic fans as “the best album since Slip of the Tongue.  They are probably correct in that declaration.  It’s stunningly good:  diverse, well written and well played.  It draws from a broader palette of sound than many of the past albums, and even dips back into the 1970s on “Can’t Do Right For Doing Wrong” (which isn’t on the Japanese CD).  There are no songs to skip through, and while not all are equally strong, none suck.  It has a high ratio of songs that could become future classics, like “Gonna Be Alright”, “Good To See You Again”, and “Sands of Time”.  So yes, to answer your questions, it’s a bloody good album no matter what version you can afford.

The domestic CD is the best buy for its songs-per-dollar value (18 tracks on the deluxe), over the Japanese (14 tracks).  Rating this purely as an album with its bonus track, it’s still a solid:

4.5/5 stars.  Could be the album of the year.

#756: Japanese Attack!

Anybody who has spent 10 seconds glancing at this site knows one thing:  I love Japanese imports!

Every music collector has his or her own priorities.  Today, many fans prioritise vinyl, be it original pressings, reissues or both.  Some like elaborate packaging; the bigger and bolder the better!  My needs are pretty simple.  I want all the songs, and I’ll buy however many physical editions it takes to get them all.  That means that, over the years, I have purchased hundreds of Japanese CDs.  They almost always have bonus tracks, and some of those bonus tracks never see the light of day again on any other releases.  Those are the best kind!

There are two great sources for Japanese imports.

  1. CD Japan, my main store for new releases.  I have Whitesnake incoming!
  2. Discogs.

It is Discogs that is responsible for today’s content.  If you’re a music collector unfamiliar with Discogs, you need to change that right away.

A few weeks ago, one of my favourite lesser known metal bands called Leatherwolf was celebrating the 30th anniversary of their third album, 1989’s Street Ready.  (Probably their best album, but that’s unimportant.)  Someone on social media was showing off their most prized Leatherwolf collectible:  A Japanese import CD of Street Ready, with a bonus track unreleased anywhere else!  Out of print for almost 30 years, that’s a rarity if I ever saw one.  Plus it has that feature that is like catnip to me:  an unreleased bonus track.  In this case, it was a track called “Alone in the Night”, and I wanted it.  It’s rare that I go 30 years without even knowing about a song.

After a few weeks of researching, I decided to pull the trigger.  A Discogs seller had a copy in excellent condition for about $50, which I realized was about the cheapest it gets in the condition I want.  Its only flaw was a missing obi strip (the little piece of paper along the spine) which you sometimes have to accept you’ll never get.  The main thing was that bonus track.  I was happy with the seller’s 100% rating so I put it in my cart.

That’s when Discogs showed its evil side.

A message popped up, telling me that just in case I wanted to combine shipping, this seller had 81 other items from my wishlist.

81 items.  All Japanese CDs.

Click.

I spent the next few minutes frantically adding items to my cart, deleting them, adding them again, and then finally deciding on dollar amount I was willing to splurge.  I even gave it another few days to clear my head before I clicked “buy”.  This is what I ended up with.


LEATHERWOLF – Street Ready.  Bonus track: “Alone in the Night”.

Now some lucky soul can be gifted my original US compact disc, because this is my new treasure.  I loved this album as a teenager, and I still like it today.  There is some well written metal here, and now I have 11 tracks instead of 10.  I still can’t believe I didn’t know about “Alone in the Night” all this time.  If I knew that back in 1989, this CD would have been on my holy grail list long ago.

EXTREME – “Hip Today” CD single.  Bonus track “Kid Ego” (live).

I screwed up.  I already had a UK single for “Hip Today”; one of those “part one of a two disc set sold separately” deals.  However, for whatever reason, I never ripped it to my computer. I never even played it!  When I did a quick search, I couldn’t find “Kid Ego” in my files so I assumed I needed it.  I do not, but that’s OK.  This CD was only $11 because the seller listed it with no obi strip.  Turns out the obi strip is tucked inside, so that’s a win.

TENACIOUS D – The Pick of Destiny.  Bonus tracks “Kong”, “Training Medley”.

Two extra songs to be found here.  This album had more bonus tracks elsewhere, on non-physical (download only) versions.  Now I have all the physical tracks, at least.  “Training Medley” was already in the collection on a CD single for “P.O.D.”, but “Kong” was completely unknown until now.  Even our resident Tenacious D expert, Uncle Meat, has never heard it before.  (For the record, the other two bonus tracks are “Rock Your Socks” from the iTunes pre-order, and “It’s Late” which you can download if you buy the vinyl.  Vinyl wishlisted.)  Tenacious D collectables are usually very expensive.  Their single “Jazz” (which I am missing) goes for roughly $100.  I paid $26 for The Pick of Destiny.

QUIET RIOT – Alive and Well.  Bonus track:  “The Wait”.

20 years ago, the classic Metal Health lineup of Quiet Riot reunited for a new album.  Alive and Well was a mix of new songs and re-recordings, but they could have just released a 10 song CD instead, had they included “The Wait”.  It’s puzzling how songs are chosen to be obscure bonus tracks on rare editions.  “The Wait” is a ballad, very much like old Quiet Riot, and a frickin’ great one too.  Had it been included, Alive and Well could have been a well balanced 10 song album, and “The Wait” might have been the best one.  At one point Amazon were asking $100 for this CD.  I was delighted to score it for just $22.  Perhaps it was cheap because it was listed as missing the obi strip.  It’s there and looks great!   Now my Quiet Riot collection is one song closer to being complete.

THE SWORD – Apocryphon.  Bonus tracks:  the same five from the deluxe edition, plus “Hammer of Heaven”.

This album has been frustrating for me.  There are two versions, one with 10 tracks and one with 15.  Because there’s no track listing on the back cover, I’ve never taken a chance on it.  I didn’t want to bring it home only to find it’s the 10 track version.  I’ve wanted this album ever since “Cloak of Feathers” made it to number 15 on the 2017 Sausagefest countdown.  The only thing better than a confirmed 15 track edition?  A CD with 16 tracks!  Japan received “Hammer of Heaven”, which was a standalone single in 2012.  It’s a boogie as heavy as plutonium!  This would be its only CD release!  Obi is intact, for just $25.  (I’m still going to want the single for “Hammer of Heaven” since it had a live B-side of “Ebethron” not included here.)


Not a bad little spending spree.  Most of these Japanese imports were pretty affordable.  It seems like I spent a lot of money for just a handful of songs, but such is the quest.

 

REVIEW: Bon Jovi – “Wanted: Dead or Alive” (1987 cassette)

BON JOVI – “Wanted: Dead or Alive” (1987 Mercury extended play cassette)

Some rarities are easiest to find on tape.

That’s definitely still the case for “Wanted: Dead or Alive”, the 1987 acoustic version originally released only on an extended play cassette in most of the world.  This version, discussed below, is a Holy Grail collectable.  What about CD or vinyl?  There was a rare Japanese version with a slightly different tracklist, but for 30 years, all I had was this cherished cassette.

The tape has four tracks.  The original studio version (titled “Long Version” here to avoid confusion with the  4:10 single edit) leads side A.  “Wanted” is Bon Jovi’s first truly brilliant song.  An extended cowboy metaphor about the road, it’s timeless.  It always has been.  Richie Sambora’s 12 string guitar made all the young guitar kids want to play one.  His backing vocals were the real highlight.  Funny thing about Bon Jovi:  the backing vocalist was better than the lead singer!  Smoking guitar solo too, where every note counts.  You can hear Richie pushing those strings and wrenching that solo from the instrument.  It’s a perfect song, with every component serving a purpose and coming together.  The old west as seen from New Jersey.

The acoustic version of “Wanted” is the real delight here.  It’s just Jon and Sambora together with two acoustic guitars.  Jon explains the details in the liner notes, but only the cassette has this information: one more good reason to hunt down the tape.  Read below:

“On March 18, 1987 or somewhere there bouts, Richie and I flew into New York to mix some live tracks for a radio special.  After a couple hours of record making, donut eating, and MTV watching we got bored, picked up two acoustics and started to jam.  The results are here on tape, the way we wrote it, just like it was in the basement on that cold January night in Jersey.”

If that doesn’t set the scene, nothing will.  Richie sings more of the lyrics, and belts out a killer acoustic solo too.  It was this recording that demonstrated to me the talents of Mr. Sambo.  What it lacks in glossy finish, it makes up for in spades with vibe.

On side B, the live version of “Wanted” is another rarity.  It’s an extended 8:13 full band version, with a long instrumental prologue.  According to the liner notes (again, only on the cassette), it was recorded at Cobo Hall in Detroit on March 11, exactly a week before the studio jam was recorded.  It’s likely this is one of the live songs that Jon and Richie were in New York mixing on the 18th.  (Production is credited to both.)  You may have lots of versions of “Wanted” already, but owning an extended take from early ’87 is better.

The tape ends on “I’d Die For You”, a song that was good enough to be a single in its own right.  However, it wasn’t.  It’s just an album track from Slippery When Wet, but it’s safe to say it’s a bit of an unsung classic.  The Japanese CD version, on the other hand, comes with the non-album rarity “Edge of a Broken Heart”, one of their best tunes ever.  After “Edge”, there is an exclusive unlisted interview with all five band members.  Inside, Japan also got a “Bon Jovi Dictionary (R to Z)”.  Presumably the other volumes of the dictionary can be found in other Japanese CDs.

Though this cassette has an overabundance of “Wanted”, you simply need to get that acoustic version.  You want the one that’s 5:31 long, recorded in March ’87.  In fact, you need that one.  And even though CD is the superior format, the tape has the liner notes and other details you won’t find on CD.

5/5 stars

Thanks to Mitch Lafon for helping me locate a CD copy of these tracks!

REVIEW: Queensrÿche – Condition Hüman (2015 vinyl box set version)

As we gear up for this year’s release of the next Queensryche album The Verdict, let’s look back at a different edition of their last album Condition Hüman.  For our original 2015 review of Condition Hüman, click here!

QUEENSRŸCHE – Condition Hüman (2015 Century Media 2 LP, + 7″ single coloured vinyl box set)

It is almost customary now.  When a band comes out with a new album, there has to be a crazy deluxe edition with vinyl and CD.  The best of these editions are the ones that include exclusive music.  In the end, all the posters and booklets in the world add up to only paper.  Exclusive music is the thing of real value.

Queensryche did well with their Condition Hüman deluxe.  It was available in a variety of colours.  This one is yellow, number 659/1000.  There’s a cool turntable mat inside, and a double sided poster.  For music, the album is split onto two coloured 180 gram vinyl records, including the Japanese bonus track “Espiritu Muerto” on Side D.   (The D-side is also etched with the Queensryche logo in the empty space.)  For your convenience, the entire album including Japanese bonus track is duplicated on the CD inside.  Then for the diehards comes the true exclusive:  two more songs on a 7″ single, not on any other version of the album.  This is the real reward for spending the extra money on the deluxe.

“Espiritu Muerto” chugs heavily along, punishing the skulls of unbelievers.   On the 7″ record, the two exclusive songs are fairly non-descript. “46° North” is B-side-ish, like a leftover written for Empire but dropped in favour of something more commercial.  “Mercury Rising” is on the other side, with a vaguely psychedelic metal vibe and science fiction lyrics.

Condition Hüman itself is a strong metallic album, though with hindsight perhaps too “metal” for its own good.  There was a time, not so long ago, when fans would have begged and pleaded with Queensryche to write just one new song in the vein of Condition Hüman.  Now that we have two albums solidly back in the metal genre, it would be nice to hear real diversity in Queensryche again.

That said, Condition Hüman is a damn fine album for what it is.  The Queensryche of today, fronted by Todd La Torre, has been determined to retain trademark elements from Queensryche’s 80s heyday.  That includes strong riffs, dual harmony solos, and screamin’ vocals.  These are all delivered with gravy on top.

The vinyl experience of Condition Hüman is actually superior to that of CD.  It was always a long album, with the standard edition being 53 minutes of pretty relentless stomping.  On vinyl, you’re forced to pause and flip the record three times before even getting to the single.  These brief respites allow you to breath and absorb.  What I’ve absorbed is that Condition Hüman is still a damn fine collection of songs, if a bit too single-minded.  One gets the impression from this album that, though good, Queensryche can still do better.

4/5 stars

LP-A1 Arrow Of Time
LP-A2 Guardian
LP-A3 Hellfire
LP-A4 Toxic Remedy

LP-B1 Selfish Lives
LP-B2 Eye 9
LP-B3 Bulletproof
LP-B4 Hourglass

LP-C1 Just Us
LP-C2 All There Was
LP-C3 The Aftermath
LP-C4 Condition Hüman

LP-D1 Espiritu Muerto

7″-A 46° North
7″-B Mercury Rising

REVIEW: Deep Purple – Purple Chronicle – The Best Selection of 25th Anniversary (3 CD Japanese box set)

DEEP PURPLE – Purple Chronicle – The Best Selection of 25th Anniversary (1993 triple CD Warner Japan box set)

Here is something clearly designed for the archivist, not the casual listener.  Purple Chronicle is a strange but in-depth collection of singles, album cuts, B-sides and rarities.  With tracks spanning 1968 to 1976 (Deep Purple’s original run) there is much to cover.  There are even two mono mixes that are still unavailable on CD anywhere else.

The first two discs comprise a chronological look at the most key Deep Purple tracks.  Five songs are earmarked to represent the Rod Evans era, including the big one “Hush” and Neil Diamond’s “Kentucky Woman”.  It’s a mere brief glance at the three albums they did with Rod, but there are more rarities on Disc 3.

The classic Deep Purple Mk II era featuring Ian Gillan takes over on the next 11 tracks.  From “Speed King” through to “Fireball” and “Strange Kind of Woman”, the big hits are here.  Who Do We Think We Are from 1973 only has one track present (“Woman From Tokyo”).  “Into the Fire” is pleasing to find here, as one of Deep Purple’s short and sweet heavy metal stomps.

Deep Purple Mk III and IV (featuring David Coverdale and Glenn Hughes behind the microphones) are given 12 tracks to stretch out.  They don’t anything as long as Gillan’s “Child in Time” which exceeds 10 minutes, so this is still fairly proportional.  The best songs, both rockers and ballads, are laid out from their three records.  They include the unforgettable “Burn” and “Stormbringer”, the extended blues “Mistreated” and underappreciated gems such as “You Keep on Moving” and “Comin’ Home” with Tommy Bolin on guitar.

All of the songs on the first two discs would have been available on standard Deep Purple CDs at the time.  The third disc has a bunch of tracks that were (and some that still are) harder to come by.  It is dominated by B-sides, single edits and assorted rarities.  “Black Night” appears for the first time, as a single edit and live B-side.  Indeed there is a lot of repeat of Disc 3.  “Speed King” for example is here twice more, with both of its extended intros (noise plus keyboards, or just keyboards).  These weren’t on the typical CD release of Deep Purple In Rock at the time.  There are single edits of “Woman From Tokyo”, “Highway Star”, “Lazy” and “Burn” (two edits!).  And there are lots of rarities galore, culled from B-sides and Purple’s outtake album Power House.  Some, such as Rod Evans’ “Emmeretta”, and Gillan’s “Painted Horse” and “Cry Free”, are true unsung Purple classics.  “Coronarias Redig” is notable as the only instrumental of the Coverdale era.

The two tracks that are still true rarities today are the mono mixes of “Smoke on the Water” and its live counterpart.  More versions of “Smoke”?  Yes indeed, but unless you have heard them in mono before, you have not heard them all.  These are not “fold down” mono mixes made by just converting the stereo track to mono.  These are audibly different in subtle ways.

This is the kind of set that will be difficult and expensive to track down.  If you spy it somewhere, be aware of the value to collectors.  (I was fortunate that a copy in great condition just dropped in my lap for cheap.)  Consider it if collecting Purple is your thing.  Includes full booklet and poster with family tree.

3.5/5 stars

REVIEW: Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow – Memories In Rock II (2018 Japanese edition)

RITCHIE BLACKMORE’S RAINBOW – Memories In Rock II (2018 Minstrel Hall Music Japanese edition)

Blackmore’s new Rainbow lineup has already released three live albums!  So which one should you buy?  The one with the new song, of course.  And if you prefer the whole enchilada, then the only option is to score the Japanese version of 2018’s Memories In Rock II, which has not only that new song, but two other new recordings that were only available on iTunes.  Any serious Rainbow fan should consider buying the album from Japan in order to score these tunes, on CD for the first time ever.  It’s only money!

This album is a sequel to 2016’s Memories In Rock.  Blackmore and Company listened to the fans, who complained that they were playing too many Deep Purple hits, and so the setlist was revamped.  “Highway Star” was dropped and “Spotlight Kid” was moved to the opening slot.  “Sixteenth Century Greensleeves” was worked in.  The tweaks are minor, but Memories In Rock II is fresher for it.

Singer Ronnie Romero is fabulous, juggling the songs of multiple lead singers himself.  Whether he’s singing Gillan, Coverdale, Dio, Bonnet or Turner, Ronnie sounds comfortable.  The truth is that Ritchie Blackmore struck gold when he found this guy.  As for the man in black himself, age may have mellowed him a little bit.  The riffs don’t bite as hard, and sometimes the solos are thriftier than they used to be.  Sometimes Ritchie’s noodling around rather than riffing. That’s fine because Rainbow is his band and he should play exactly how he wants to play.

There are a couple treats dropped into the set.  First is “I Surrender”, which Ronnie Romero re-recorded for the iTunes single.  It and “Since You’ve Been Gone” are the most pop of set, offering short but necessary reprieves from the more advanced jamming tunes.  The other surprise is “Carry On Jon” from the 2013 Blackmore’s Night album Dancer and the Moon.  Of course it’s a tribute to Jon Lord, Ritchie’s old Deep Purple bandmate who died in 2012.  It’s a lovely tune and the crowd settles right down to listen.

Another fine Rainbow double live album.  The cover is a redux of Rainbow Rising and that’s a little confusing, but the performance is more important.  This is a dandy of a show for the current version of the band.

The lucky Japanese fans got a triple CD, with a bonus disc featuring three studio songs.  “Waiting for a Sign” is brand new.  Richie wrote it with Candice Night, his wife and singer in Blackmore’s Night.  It sounds a bit like Bad Company, being a laid back bluesy rock tune.  They can still come up with the goods.  “Waiting for a Sign” is the kind of song that would have fit on any Rainbow album fronted by Joe Lynn Turner.  This track can be found on all versions of Memories in Rock II.

In 2017 Blackmore said, “Rather than make an album, we may release singles.”  And so that year they put out “Land of Hope and Glory” (an instrumental) backed by “I Surrender”.  Some in a certain age bracket might know “Land of Hope and Glory” as the theme song for late wrestler “Macho Man” Randy Savage.  Rainbow’s version features a lead violin and acoustic guitars.  The other track was “I Surrender”, a re-recording of the old Rainbow pop classic.  It was Ronnie Romero’s first studio recording with Rainbow, and a good one it is.  No question:  he is the right guy for Blackmore.    Together, these two songs frustrated fans who really would have liked to get something original from Rainbow, but they got their wish now with “Waiting for a Sign”.

Don’t miss this one.  It’s OK if you skipped the previous two live Rainbow albums, but Memories In Rock II is the one to get, particularly the Japanese import.

4/5 stars

REVIEW: The Darkness – Pinewood Smile (2017 Japanese 15 track edition)

THE DARKNESS – Pinewood Smile (2017 Canary Dwarf Japanese printing)

Please welcome Rufus Tiger Taylor to the drum kit!  Son of Roger Taylor (the guy from The Darkness’ biggest influence, Queen), I think we can assume this kid knows his way around a drum set.  It’s the third drummer in three albums for The Darkness.  Original member Eddie Graham was on board for Hot Cakes (2013), but he was replaced by Emily Dolan Davies for Last of Our Kind (2015).

The Darkness are The Darkness are The Darkness — don’t expect them to ditch the operatic vocals or bombastic arrangements.  Pinewood Smile is more of what fans love, perhaps turned up just a little bit louder than before.  Indeed, the second track “Buccaneers of Hispaniola” sounds like The Darkness have been listening to a lot of Queen II on maximum volume.  “Japanese Prisoner of Love” has similar epic Queen inspirations, but melded to a momentous thrash metal riff.

Their penchant for humour remains unabated.  “And we’re never gonna stop shitting out solid gold!” sings Justin Hawkins on one radio-ready rock tune.  “Southern Trains” features the truism “There are fucking assholes everywhere.”  We must assume the trains in the south of England are shite:  “Fuck you, southern trains, we’re not getting anywhere!”

Of course, what would a Darkness album be without a few ballads?  It can’t be all heaviness and gloom.  “Why Don’t the Beautiful Cry?” is a quite lovely acoustic Darkness ballad.  Bright and sunny “Happiness” is the gleeful mood of early Darkness returned.  There are a number of exceptional diverse tracks as well, that defy categorisation.  “I Wish I Was in Heaven” and “Lay Down With Me Barbara” stretch out, incorporating different elements both hard and soft, but always catchy as the plague.  The standard album closer “Stampede of Love” is a folksy “Blackbird”-ish duet with Justin and Dan Hawkins…but stay tuned for a manic unlisted coda!

On to the bonus tracks — four on the deluxe edition, five on the Japanese.  These are a little stranger than the standard album tracks.  What is a “Uniball”?  Ummm…it’s when you have to have one testicle surgically removed.  Yes, The Darkness wrote a heavy metal song about it.  B-side worthy “Rack of Glam” is a decent pun with a punchy chorus.  “Seagulls” is quite exceptional, highlighted by mandolins and a slight celtic flavour.  Maybe the subtitle “Losing My Virginity” is why it ended up as a bonus track.  Also brilliant is “Rock in Space”, the most pompous and bombastic track of the group.

The Japanese exclusive track is a demo of “Why Don’t the Beautiful Cry?”, which is a real treat.  Stripped back to just the basic acoustic arrangement, you can really just listen to Justin and Dan harmonising.  No drums, no bass.  Even though it’s just a demo, you can choose which version of “Why Don’t the Beautiful Cry?” is your favourite, because both have merits.

What Pinewood Smile lacks, compared to previous Darkness albums, is an immediately loveable pop rock standout track.  Something like “She Just a Girl, Eddie” or “Last of Our Kind”.  Pinewood Smile doesn’t have those kinds of songs, but hopefully this means we’ll still be listening to it a year or two later.

4/5 stars