Jason Newsted

REVIEW: Metallica – “Mama Said” (1996 CD singles one and two)

Part Two of a two-part “Mama Said” review

METALLICA – “Mama Said” (1996 Vertigo CD singles parts one and two)

In order to get all the songs, you had to buy three separate singles.  You needed the 7″ vinyl (reviewed yesterday) and two CD singles.  The total payoff was seven B-sides:  five live, one demo, one single edit.  The 7″ picture disc included “Ain’t My Bitch” live from Irvine Meadows in ’96, and the rest are on the two CDs each sold separately.

The first single ignites the live feast with “King Nothing”, which finds Metallica in an informal mood before kicking into the track.  Though “King Nothing” was eventually released on its own as the fourth single from Load, it was never really one of the best songs from that album.  It slams heavy enough and would have been fun to mosh to.  They go old school on “Whiplash” which has that energy you want out of live Metallica.  The old fans boo the new fans, but everybody gets what they want.  Lars is sloppy as fuck; what do you expect?  When Metallica play stuff like “Whiplash” live it’s not about precision, it’s about energy and this version delivers.

The first CD ends with just a single edit of “Mama Said”, a good ballad with a country twang that some fans might have found unpalatable.  It’s shorter by 40 seconds, starting immediately with James’ lead vocal.  15 seconds chopped at the start and 20 more at the end.  Do Metallica fans need single edits?  No; Metallica was always resistant to compromises like that.  Paul DeCarli was given the job of the edit, presumably being told to get it safely under five minutes for radio.

“Mama Said” album version (top) and single edit (bottom) waveforms

The second CD in the set wastes no time going for the throat.  It’s “So What”, the infamously vulgar Anti-Nowhere League cover that was a B-side for Metallica once upon a time before.  It was so notorious that it became a live favourite unto itself, often turning up in the encores.  That’s followed by “Creeping Death”, an epic way to cap off the live tracks.  That mountainously heavy rock just never lets up until it gives way to another massive one.

The last and most interesting track among the B-sides is the original “Mama Said” demo recorded solely by James and Lars in Ulrich’s basement.  Electric guitar at first instead of acoustic, but beautiful.  The purity of this version, unadorned as it may be, is the reason to seek it out.  The twangy guitar part is in place, as are the lyrics (not always the case with James’ songs).  Metallica could easily release an album of their demo versions, but they haven’t so you gotta get the singles.

Seek these out.

4/5 stars

REVIEW: Metallica – “Mama Said” (1996 7″ picture disc single)

Part One of a two-part “Mama Said” review

METALLICA – “Mama Said” (1996 Vertigo picture disc 7″ single)

I can admit that my first Metallica album was Load.  I concede that they were more Rocktallica than Metallica on that album, but the fact of the matter is that for the genre, Rocktallica was good!  A lot of hard rock and heavy metal albums in the mid-90s were not good.   Metallica introduced themselves to me with an album that was what I wanted, when I wanted it.  “Mama Said” was the third single from Load, a an acoustic ballad, and with an exclusive live B-side on the vinyl that wasn’t on the CD singles (to be reviewed next).

The 7″ single contains the album version, not the shorter single edit.  James Hetfield wasn’t afraid of getting personal in his lyrics anymore, and “Mama Said” is about his late mother.  It’s audible that he is getting something deeply important off his chest.  The music is notable for its distinct country twang.  Trash Metallica all you like, but this sounds great.  The thing about Metallica is that they usually (not always) do whatever it is they set out to do, and do it well.

That said, a 7″ picture disc is not the best way to hear Metallica play an acoustic ballad.  It can’t deliver the clarity and dynamics that a CD can.  The B-side, “Ain’t My Bitch” recorded live in California on August 4 1996, is a louder song and can get away with the format a little better.

James gets the crowd to shout “We don’t give a shit!” a couple times before they break into the song.  “Ain’t My Bitch” remains a fun little blast precisely about not giving a shit.  “Outta my way, outta my day!”  It might not be “Creeping Death” you can’t deny it’s fun to just bang along.  “Mama Said” might have been James dealing with deep shit, but “Ain’t My Bitch” says “just forget it and let go”.  Kirk Hammett’s solo on this one is mega fun, and it’s always a bonus to get Jason’s Newsted’s backing growls.  An underappreciated ex-Metallica member.

Including the tracks released over the two additional CD singles, “Ain’t My Bitch” is the seventh of seven total B-sides to “Mama Said”.  All the live ones are from the same show in Irvine Meadows.  If you gotta get ’em all, then “Mama Said” you need this picture single too!  Shame about the audio quality.

3/5 stars

Part Two tomorrow.

REVIEW: Rock Star Supernova – Rock Star Supernova (2006)

ROCK STAR SUPERNOVA – Rock Star Supernova (2006 Epic)

It’s no wonder this band came and went, with Lukas Rossi now toiling in obscurity once again. Even Jason Newsted didn’t want to tour with this band. (Why would he, when he had better stuff going on like VoiVod? He was replaced by Black Crowes bassist Johnny Colt.) Tommy Lee and Gilby Clarke have stated that they really wanted to have two singers, Rossi and Dilana, but the TV execs wouldn’t allow it. That shows you how much integrity is contained herein. Even the name of this band sucks.

Butch Walker (ex-Southgang) created a faceless, generic, dull sounding record with all the modern bells and whistles that scream “ProTools”. He deserved plenty of the blame since he co-wrote all the songs but one. The drums barely sound like Tommy Lee; the band has no identity. There is not one bonafide great song on this CD. There are a couple decent moments on some of the rockers such as “It’s On!”, but this is 40 minutes you won’t get back.

One of the main issues with the album is Lukas Rossi himself, a generic singer with no real identity. He sounds like any number of glam rock vocalists with nothing unique or special. The other musicians are rendered faceless by a batch of songs that are too lame for most Motley Crue albums. But come on — if you have a TV series about finding your new singer, find somebody memorable, you know?

If you bought this, you simply supported the same-old-same-old, plastic, processed, fake, and commercial music that has been rammed down the throats of the world since the advent of reality TV. Really, this just gives rock a band name, because people see this and think it’s actually rock music. It’s not. This is prefab music designed to generate hype and sales. It’s also suspect when I read multiple drummers’ names in the credits.  Thankfully people saw through it and the sales tanked (except in Canada where Rossi is from).

Don’t spend a penny on this music. If you like these musicians and you want to hear them do something cool and different that you probably haven’t already heard on the radio, pick up the following:

Gilby Clarke — Pawnshop Guitars from 1994
Tommy Lee — Motley Crue’s self-titled 1994 release with John Corabi on vocals.
Jason Newsted –- the band Newsted

If you support Rock Star Supernova, you just twisted the knife a little bit deeper into the back of rock and roll.

1/5 stars, and one big stinky piece of cheese.

1. “It’s On”
2. “Leave the Lights On”
3. “Be Yourself (and 5 Other Cliches)”
4. “It’s All Love”
5. “Can’t Bring Myself to Light This Fuse”
6. “Underdog”
7. “Make No Mistake… This Is the Take”
8. “Headspin”
9. “Valentine”
10. “Social Disgrace”
11. “The Dead Parade”

stinkycheese1

REVIEW: Metallica – “One” (Japanese 5 track single)

It’s the end of the Week of Singles 3!  Since it’s Friday I have to leave you with something a little more special.  If you missed any of this week’s singles or EPs, click below!

METALLICA – “One” (1989 Sony Japan 5 track single)

While there is no doubt that this single is indeed rare, when T-Rev and I shared an apartment together in the late 90’s, we both owned a copy.  We figured we must have had the only living room in the country with two Japanese copies of the “One” single by Metallica.  I believe both of us acquired our copies via the record store.  (Unfortunately, neither of us had the obi strip.)

Along with the full 7 1/2 minute version of “One”, this single presents Metallica’s excellent cover of Budgie’s “Breadfan”.  Metallica’s take, which emphasizes the heavy parts, is awesome.  It was “Breadfan” that inspired me to check out Budgie, and then discover yet another one of my favourite bands.  “Breadfan” was always a monster; Metallica simply turned it up.  It is a song that they were born to cover anyway.  The unusual thing is that “Breadfan” is one of Budgie’s most notably bass-heavy tracks (from a bass-heavy band anyway), but Metallica’s cover comes from Metallica’s least bass-y period.  I’m sure Newsted must be digging in deep to play those Burke Shelley bass rolls, but you can’t hear him clearly enough.

Next are two live bonus tracks:  “For Whom the Bell Tolls” and “Welcome Home (Sanitarium)” from Dallas, Texas, February 5 1989.  (The 7″ and 12″ singles contained different live tracks:  “Seek & Destroy” and “Creeping Death” respectively.)  I think this period of live Metallica is among their best.  Hetfield’s voice had filled out to max out on the menacing scale.  Newsted was an able replacement for the late Cliff Burton, and I enjoyed his backing growls on “Sanitarium”.

Last and rarest is the original demo version of “One”.  It was recorded to four-track tape:  drums, James’ guitar, vocals, Kirk’s guitar.  That’s right – because it’s only four tracks, there’s no bass!  (Insert jokes about the …And Justice For All album right here: _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ .)  This demo was recorded in November 1987, and unlike many Metallica demos, this one has lyrics.  “One” was a fully-formed song in the demo stage, with only a couple parts unfinished.  It’s remarkable and I’m sure Metallica had no idea in 1987 that what they were writing was going to become a rock classic.  As confident as they probably were, I’m sure nobody in Metallica said, “In 25 years we’ll be playing this at the Grammy awards.”  Yet it’s all there; 95% of the very song that would be played at the 2014 Grammys, with Chinese pianist Lang Lang.

This is a great little treasure and I’m sure “one” day (stinky pun) I’ll add the 7″ and 12″ singles to my collection to get the other two live tracks.

5/5 stars ONE_0003

REVIEW: Voivod – Infini (2009)

Part 2 of a 2 part series.  Click here for part 1, Katorz.

INFINI_0001VOIVOD – Infini (2009 Sonic Unyon)

Who would have thought that little band from Quebec, VoiVod, could have survived so much adversity. The death of Denis “Piggy” D’Amour (guitar) in 2005 should have been the end, but yet the band has soldiered on with two albums utilizing his guitar parts recorded just before his death. In addition, unbelievably, the band has even continued on with returned original bassist Blacky (Jean-Yves Thériault) and new guy Chewy (Dan Mongrain) on guitar!

For those who don’t know, shortly before Piggy died of cancer, he had been working hard at recording every idea he had onto a hard drive. He explained to the band, that if they went into his PC they would find hours of meticulously recorded music and detailed instructions on how to use it. From there, Away (drummer Michel Langevin), Snake (singer Denis Belanger) and Jasonic (bassist Jason Newstead, ex-Metallica) buckled down and created the surprisingly awesome Katorz. Incredibly there was still enough music left to create one more album, 2009’s Infini. The fact that both albums are excellent, coherant pieces that add to the already rich VoiVod body of work is nothing short of astounding. It is a tribute to Piggy as an artist and as a person.

INFINI_0004What VoiVod have created here is yet another astounding progressive metal headbanging experience. Loads of droning Piggy chords, odd Piggy solos, insane time changes, and cool lyrics abound. Snake’s lyrics are both thought provoking and cool sounding through a Francophone lens. Even the song titles alone evoke multiple images.

I’m pleased that the band has continued on with Blackie and Chewy.  Their last album, Target Earth was also challenging and excellent.  But that’s another review.  For now I am blown away and grateful that the band have created two monstrously great albums in a row after the death of the man who seemingly defined their sound. As a metal fan, and as a fellow Canadian, I am proud of our metal heritage. I feel Piggy is a huge part of that heritage (the CD itself has Maple Leafs and Fleurs-de-lis emblazoned upon it), and I hope his music continues to live on in the new VoiVod.

Highlights:

“God Phones,” “Destroy After Reading,” “In Orbit,” and “Earthache”.  I love the thunderous chorus in “Earthache”:  “Blah, blah blah, is that all you say?”

Infini is not quite the album that Katorz was, it’s more challenging and abrasive, but it’s definitely one to be proud of.  Very few bands could produce an album of this complexity and intensity.

4/5 stars

REVIEW: Voivod – Katorz (2006)

Part 1 of a 2 part series

KATORZ_0001VOIVOD – Katorz (2006 The End records)

When Piggy (Denis D’Amour) passed away of colon cancer in 2005, I thought it spelled the end of VoiVod. It was such a sudden, unforeseen tragedy.  He was only diagnosed that year; the cancer had spread so rapidly that any operation was deemed impossible.  However, Piggy loved VoiVod and he loved music. Knowing his end was near, he recorded hours of new music with his guitar onto a computer. Before passing he instructed the band on how to access the music he’d left them, and they realized the VoiVod dream was not dead. Away (Michel Langevin), Snake (Denis Belanger) and Jasonic (ex-Metallica bassist Jason Newsted) painstakingly went through his final recordings and realized there was an album there. (In fact there were two albums there, but that’s another story.)

Katorz (“fourteen”, their 14th release) was assembled from these parts. It is a loving tribute to the man who defined the VoiVod sound, and it is a gift to us, the fans. As Canadians, we should be very proud of VoiVod. They never made it big like Rush, although Rush certainly took them under their collective wings on the Presto tour. Their sound is anything but commercial — it’s a stunning, disorienting array of unusual droning chords, complex themes and precision drumming. The band have also inserted some of Piggy’s beautiful final acoustic passages in between songs as transistions, all of which are haunting statements about his impending death. Piggy was not known for his acoustic work, until now, which makes it that much more powerful. (The band has suggested in the past that there may be an entire Piggy acoustic album to come.)

KATORZ_0003Through all the hardship, VoiVod have only perfected their art of songwriting. The songs on Katorz are among the best of the VoiVod back catalogue. They have come far from their thrash metal n’ studs roots. From the band that once did a thrash version of the “Batman” theme, their music is still heavy. The complexity that they gradually began integrating in the mid-80’s is tied together with more melody and groove. Certainly, you can find few drummers as talented as Away, and his drumming here is astounding. Away jumps from time change to time change effortlessly.

The always nasal whine of Snake will not appeal to all, but it is part of the VoiVod sound and identity, and his lyrics are as jittery and potent as ever. To me it’s like Megadeth. I can’t handle a lot of Mustaine’s singing in a day, but in small doses it’s quite palatable.

Perhaps the most impressive thing about Katorz is that you cannot tell that anything is wrong with Piggy or the band.  His playing is as unique as ever, pushing the boundaries as he always has.  Check out the noise solo on “Mr. Clean” and you’ll see that Piggy was stretching out to the very end.  Song-wise, Katorz is seamless.  It sounds as if the band wrote and recorded it together, as they always have.  There is a certain coldness to Katorz, but that’s VoiVod.

Katorz is thinking-man’s metal. It is over-caffeinated, constantly pushing the extremes (X-Streams?) and restless. More importantly, it is a tribute to one of the great guitarists that made Canada proud. Piggy was great not because of his speed or dexterity, but because of his sonic uniqueness. Piggy’s sound was like no other, droning and headache-inducing, just like VoiVod’s music. Our country is a sadder place without him.

Highlights:
The whole album, but especially “The Getaway”, “Odds & Frauds” and “The X-Stream”.

A beautiful noisy mess. 4.5/5 stars.

Part 263: METALLICA’s Fan Can #4 (Video blog)

RECORD STORE TALES Part 263:  Metallica’s FAN CAN #4

Less a story, more a show-and-tell.  I purchased this rare Metallica Fan Can via a staff member of mine.  Her name was Wraychel, and she had a Metallica Club membership.  When she told me that year’s Fan Can (#4) was available for pre-order, I asked her to get it for  me.  The Fan Cans were legendary!  I can’t remember what I paid.  It was a lot.

Don’t mind the dust, but enjoy the video.

REVIEW: Metallica – Six Feet Down Under EP

First of a two-part Australian Metallica EP extravaganza!  And check out KamerTunesBlog for an awesome Metallica discography series

METALLICA – Six Feet Down Under EP (2010 Universal)

This Metallica EP for Australia only, Six Feet Down Under, will be of limited interest to casual fans. The EP (the first of two for Australia) is a decent tour souvenir for those fans, but for fans in Canada or elsewhere who will have to pay much higher prices, this is mostly just a collectible.  The sound quality varies wildly.   The tracks were selected as songs that were not often (or ever) released as live B-sides before.

TALLICA SIX FEET_0003The oldest tunes from ’89 (“Justice” and “Beholder”) are from audience bootleg sources, and are very rough. I have heard much better bootlegs.  The idea was to give fans rare tracks recorded in Australia, so this really is something geared towards collectors.  I’s hard to critique the tunes beyond sound quality, because it’s not like you can really discern bass parts or cymbals and so on.

The ’93 tunes are “Through The Never” (extremely sloppy, especially on the rhythm guitar) and “The Unforgiven”. These songs sound a lot better. “The Unforgiven” in particular is a very nice version. Metallica had started recording their shows via soundboard by now.

Then we jump ahead to the ReLoad tour. Personally, I really liked Load, but I wasn’t very hot on ReLoad. I was still excited to hear live versions of “Low Man’s Lyric” and “Devil’s Dance”, but quite frankly, they sound uninspired.

From 2004 we have a really cool live version of “Frantic”, one of the best tunes from St. Anger. Whether you like it or not will depend on how you feel about St. Anger. I liked this version. Wisely, Metallica decided to include only one St. Anger tune. The other tune from 2004 is “Fight Fire With Fire” which is, once again, very sloppy. But hey, at least you know it’s live.

There are liner notes included as per most Metallica singles and EPs. This just explains the purpose of the EP and the sources of each track.  Sounds like something you’d be into? Then go for it. If you’re not intrigued, don’t plop down the big bucks if you’re buying it on import.  I will say that Metallica aren’t ripping the fans off; this “EP” is 52 minutes long.  By way of comparison, Diver Down by Van Halen is 28 minutes.

3/5 stars

Come back tomorrow for a look at Six Feet Down Under Part II.

REVIEW: WhoCares – “Out of My Mind” / “Holy Water”

Thanks Craig!

WHOCARES: Ian Gillan, Tony Iommi & Friends – “Holy Water” / “Out of My Mind” (2011 Edel charity single)

Remember Rock Aid Armenia? Ian Gillan, Tony Iommi, and many other friends gathered together to raise money for earthquake victims in Armenia.  21 years later, Gillan and Iommi returned to help again, by recording two more awesome songs. Joining them are Nicko McBrain, Jon Lord, Jason Newsted, and Linde Lindstrom from H.I.M.

First of all, I will just say how wonderful it is to hear Ian Gillan’s voice in front of Tony’s guitar again, first time since the Gillan’s Inn album. Even better is hearing Jon Lord’s organ with Ian. It’s just jaw-dropping and awe-inspiring. It makes you miss Jon Lord even more.  It’s great that they managed to collaborate once more.

“Out Of My Mind” is a heavy-groove-sludge-monster, with some exotic sounding notes in the powerful riff. I don’t think I’ve ever heard Nicko McBrain play a groove like this before, proof that the man is one of metal’s greatest drummers; he’s versatile. The song vaguely reminded me of a more ominous “Soon Forgotten”, from Purpendicular. There’s also some face-melting guitar solos if all that wasn’t enough for you.

The second track, “Holy Water” is even more exotic.  It has flute sounds and other non-rock sounding instruments. Once the song gets going though, it’s a little more upbeat than “Out Of My Mind”.  The organ here is by someone named Jesse O’Brien, but once again the Hammond provides muscle.

To make this CD a little bit more worth the purchase price, they included the video for “Out Of My Mind” (made up of studio footage, much like the old Rock Aid Armenia video) and a 27 minute documentary.

I would have loved a vinyl copy.  Only 1000 were made.  I had it on pre-order from Amazon, but they never got it.

4/5 stars

WHOCARES_0003

REVIEW: Rock Aid Armenia – Smoke on the Water: The Metropolis Sessions

ROCK AID ARMENIA – Smoke on the Water: The Metropolis Sessions (2010 Edel CD/DVD set)

When some of the biggest names in both British and Canadian rock combined together to re-record “Smoke on the Water”, as a mega-collaboration charity track, I don’t care who you are:  You gotta listen!   Originally released as “Smoke on the Water ’90” on The Earthquake Album, it didn’t garner the attention of, say, a Hear N’ Aid, but it’s definitely a noteworthy track.  The Earthquake Album contained just the radio mix, which was an edited down version lacking Paul Rodgers.  This package on the other hand is a CD/DVD combo set including all 4 versions of “Smoke ’90” and a documentary.

The region 0 encoded DVD is 40 minutes long, and filled with incredible behind-the-scenes footage and candid interviews.  First, an explanation of the cause:  rebuilding a children’s music school in Armenia, destroyed in a 1988 earthquake.  Then, the musicians arrive!  Roger Taylor (Queen) is first in the door.  Can’t do anything without the drums!  He shows off his considerable chops while warming up.  Chris Squire (Yes) is next, who reveals that all egos have been dealt with in advance of the recording.  Brian May turns up with a broken arm (skateboarding accident) to offer his support; he would return to record after the arm has healed.  The recording takes place over five separate sessions.  One benefit of this arrangement was that it enabled Ritchie Blackmore to show up, without having to see Ian Gillan!

IOMMI MAYOh, to be in that room…

Soon to arrive:  Tony Iommi.  Paul Rodgers.  Bruce Dickinson.  David Gilmour.  Alex Lifeson.  Two keyboardists:  Keith Emerson and Geoff Downes.  Even Bryan Adams sings some backing vocals, after he turned up just to check out the recording studio!  (Gilmour can’t help but take a stab at Rogers Waters during the interview segments.)  Incidentally, I found it cool that Rodgers recorded his vocals with a hand-held mike.

I’ve always been a fan of this version of “Smoke”; in fact this was the first version of that I ever heard, 23 years ago.  The band was dubbed Rock Aid Armenia.  They got together in late ’89, and recorded this updated sounding cover.  Gillan, Dickinson and Rodgers handled the lead vocals, in that order.  It’s great to hear Iommi playing those chunky chords again.  Chris Squire’s bass work is fairly simple, but perfect.

The CD includes an updated 2010 remix that cuts down a lot of Keith Emerson’s cheesey keyboards.  Emerson stated that he wanted to put his own stamp on his parts, based on ELP’s “Fanfare for the Common Man”.  He probably wouldn’t be happy to be mixed down on this version, but his keys always stood out like a sore thumb to me.  The 2010 mix adds in a lot more previously unheard guitar fills instead. Other extras include a previously unreleased version of the song, with an entire Ian Gillan vocal take.

This is a great little-known recording, and I’m glad an obscurity like this has finally been reissued properly.

4/5 stars

Footnote:  In 2011 and 2012, Gillan and Iommi followed this with a single and compilation album under the name WhoCares; also featuring Nicko McBrain, Jon Lord and Jason Newsted!