Jim Crean

REVIEW: Jim Crean – Gotcha Covered (2019)

JIM CREAN – Gotcha Covered (2019 Visionary Noise)

Jim Crean is steeped in hard rock tradition.  He’s worked with some of the legends, and he’s covered the rest of ’em.  Atypical covers.  Not the usual “hits” but interesting tracks you might know and remember, or will be exposed to for the first time.  In 2019, Crean’s come out with an original album The London Fog, and a covers CD called Gotcha Covered.  Lets see what surprises there are in store.

Right out of the gates, it’s a shocker:  “Hall of the Mountain King”.  You don’t hear Savatage covers every day, and fortunately Crean has the necessary scream abilities.  He sounds like a man possessed by lust for the Mountain King’s gold!

Unpredictability is the theme for this album.  Up next:  Melissa Etheridge.  It’s an oldie from her landmark first debut, “Like the Way I Do”, and you’ve never heard it so heavy.  It sounds as if it was written to be played this way because it’s completely natural.  White Lion are a little more centerfield, and “Hungry” is a killer choice.  Jim Crean can easily handle mid-80s Mike Tramp songs, as they are right in his pocket.  John Corabi is another singer who Crean is naturally suited to cover.  The Scream’s “Outlaw” is definitely an obscure but inspired choice.   Tasty riff.  Badlands get the next nod, with “The Last Time”, the first single from the second album Voodoo Highway.  The high notes are no problem, and the chorus goes on for lightyears.

Then it’s back to left field, with Bryan Adams’ old (pre-Reckless) classic “Lonely Nights”.  You don’t hear Adams covers very often, and usually they suck.  Not this one.  Crean transforms it into a hard rock anthem, something Sammy Hagar could have recorded.  Another shocker is Mazzy Star’s “Fade Into You”, converted into a classy rock ballad, utterly different from the original.  The Cars’ “Bye Bye Love” is another brilliant choice (not that you can go wrong with any Cars).  It works well as hard rock.  “Falling In Love”, a Scorpions oldie written by Herman Rarebell, adds a heavy kick at the right time.

“Saved By Zero” is the only track that doesn’t sound overly metalized.  The Fixx cover reveals some more new wave roots, and a good song choice it is.  The complex backing vocals sound fantastic.  Crean does justice to his hometown boys The Goo Goo Dolls next with “Lazy Eye”.  This non-album Goos song was on the soundtrack for the ill-fated Batman & Robin.  As you’d expect, it boasts a strong chorus, but the chunky riff may surprise you.  Another obscurity is “The Warning” by Victory, a strong 80s chug.  Onto the 90s next:  Ratt’s Stephen Pearcy and Cinderella’s Fred Coury had a band called Arcade.  “Cry No More” is a ballad from their debut.

The last few songs include Dokken’s slow burning “When Heaven Comes Down”.  Nothing wrong with some Back for the Attack era Dokken.  The Sweet’s classic “Love Is Like Oxygen” brings that pop edge back.  But it’s the closer, Chicago’s “25 or 6 to 4” that really slams it home.  No horns, just guitars and heavy beats.  The original arrangement is untouchable, but a heavy rock version?  Sure, why not.

A good covers album is hard to come by.  It all comes down to song selection.  In this regard, Jim Crean knocked one out of the park.

4/5 stars

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REVIEW: Jim Crean – The London Fog (2019)

JIM CREAN – The London Fog (2019 Visionary Noise)

Vocalist extraordinaire Jim Crean is back with two new solo albums.  Not only is there a 16 track covers album called Gotcha Covered, but also The London Fog, a new original CD.  As usual, Crean boasts a killer hitlist of special guests, including Carmine & Vinny Appice, Mike Tramp, Rudy Sarzo, Chris Holmes, Steph Honde and plenty more.  Buckle up — it’s a heavy duty trip.

The London Fog goes wide open from the start, with the two new songs Crean released on last year’s Greatest Hits:  the excellent “Scream Taker” (tribute to Ronnie James Dio) and the riffy “Conflicted”.  “Scream Taker” features Dio alumni Vinny Appice and Rudy Sarzo.  These tracks follow the traditional blueprints of classic 80s metal, particularly “Conflicted”.  (The dexterous bassist that I initially mistook for Billy Sheehan is actually A.D. Zimmer.)

Want more riffs?  Then get “Broken”!  There’s a great chorus here: Melody and power, with some tasty licks from Steph Honde.  “Aphrodisiac” takes things to a more nocturnal place, but more menacing.  Still, there’s always room for some dirty rock, and that would be “Lady Beware”.  If Dokken’s classic lineup released another song today, it would probably sound a lot like “Lady Beware”.  This is the kind of rock we all miss, and have a hard time finding today.

Jim Crean is equally at home on rockers and ballads.  “Let It Go” (with Honde on piano and keyboards) has an epic quality for a ballad.  It might be a bit Scorpions, Whitesnake (circa 1987) or Guns N’ Roses…the comparisons are up to the listener.  The keyboard solo is a cool touch.  Then heavy sounds circulate on “Loaded” (more Zimmer on bass), but yet Crean maintains a knack for melody.

A familiar voice welcomes you on “Candle”, a Mike Tramp (Freaks of Nature) cover featuring Tramp in a duet.  The song is new to these ears, and I like how the parts shift and change moods.  A riff for the ages follows, on an original track called “1981”.  Again I’m reminded of Dokken, the classic era.  It’s hard to recapture a time period with such clarity, but Jim Crean has a talent for writing that way.  Some of his originals could very well be from another time.  (Drummer Colleen Mastrocovo gives “1981” a serious kick.)

Another obscure cover:  Robin Zander’s 1993 solo track “Time Will Let You Know”, a classy ballad from an underrated album.  Jim doesn’t try to sound like Robin Zander, but does it justice.  Then it’s Rod Stewart’s dance classic “Passion”.  Very few singers have the right rasp to do Rod Stewart justice, but Jim Crean is one of them.  That’s the always slick Tony Franklin on bass.  And get this!  Franklin’s Blue Murder bandmate Carmine Appice, the same guy who played on the the original “Passion”, also plays on this cover.  He approaches both versions very differently.  Rod’s version is slick dance rock, and this is more like metal that you can dance to.  Same song; familiar but a completely different arrangement.  If John Sykes ever played with Rod Stewart, maybe this is what they could have sounded like.

“Passion” could have closed the album and you’d be completely satisfied, but there’s more.  A funky “Fool” sounds like Aerosmith, and who’s that on guitar?  Ray Tabano, the original Aerosmith guitarist before Brad Whitford joined the band!  This song is more Aerosmith than anything that band has recorded since 1993!  Then it’s another lesser-known cover and duet:  Angel’s “Don’t Take Your Love” featuring original Angel singer Frank DiMino.  Great melodic rock songs are always welcome, and this one is truly great.

Finally comes the metallic closer “Tears” featuring Chris Holmes (W.A.S.P.).  The contrast between the heavy riffs and Jim’s melodic vocals is what makes this style work so well for him.  The riff has a W.A.S.P. vibe, but Crean takes it in a totally different direction.

Another fine album from Jim Crean and friends.  Fans of hard rock “the way they used to make it” will thoroughly enjoy.

4.5/5 stars

Check back for a look at Gotcha Covered, coming soon.

REVIEW: Jim Crean – Greatest Hits (2018)

In a surprising turn of events, Jim Crean has been named the new singer for Vinnie Vincent! So it is a perfect time to review Jim Crean’s Greatest Hits.

JIM CREAN – Greatest Hits (2018 Visionary Noise)

Buffalo’s Jim Crean has four solo albums under his belt.   That’s a good minimum before you release a greatest hits.  There is enough material here for a solid listen, including two new songs from Crean’s forthcoming fifth album.

Several of the best tracks are hard rockers from Crean’s Insatiable. “Touch” remains a standout, a great song any rock songwriter would be envious of.  Not to mention Crean’s power-pipes lay waste to the chorus.  Check out the metal riffing on “Follow Your Heart”, too.  These taffy-sweet tracks claw into your cranium via your ear canal.  All you can do is surrender to it.

Crean’s also capable of standout ballads.  “Make It” and “Can’t Find My Way” (a duet with Mike Tramp) are fantastic.  Then he goes vintage Aerosmith on “She Goes Down”, a song that could have fit nicely on an album like Toys in the Attic.

There are a handful of covers on the 16 track album, and interesting choices too.  “Caught in the Middle” is, of course, Dio, performed with Jimmy Bain and Vinny Appice.  “Over the Edge” is early 90s L.A. Guns, an excellent groove.  Crean also covered fellow Buffalo band the Goo Goo Dolls with the acoustic “Cuz You’re Gone”, one of the Goo’s finest ballads.

What about the new songs?  “Scream Taker” sounds like a Ronnie Dio tribute, with the lyrics cut and pasted from Rainbow, Black Sabbath and Dio songs.  “Scream Taker” indicates that Crean has gone heavier on his fifth record.  The other new song, “Conflicted” has a strong traditional metal riffy vibe.  (Is that Billy Sheehan on bass?)  Both these new songs hint at a great album to come.  Guitarist Steph Honde, who plays on both new songs says that while the new Crean album will be a bit heavier, there will also be some great ballads.

Don’t have any Jim Crean yet?  Pick up his Greatest Hits to catch up.

4.5/5 stars

REVIEW: Appice – Sinister (2017)

APPICE – Sinister (2017 Steamhammer)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3.5/5 stars

 

#537.3: 2016 Can Suck Balls – Year End Lists, Part 3 – LeBrain

GETTING MORE TALE #537.3: 2016 Can Suck Balls
Year End Lists, Part 3 – LeBrain

Regardless of the music, 2016 will go down in history (for most of us) for just one notorious reason:  The sheer number of stars that we lost, both young and old.  Even after I had completed a list of the most significant pop culture deaths in 2016, I had to add even more names:  Debbie Reynolds, and Carrie Fisher.  Princess Leia was one of my first heroes.  I was five years old.  Carrie was an incredible woman, who lived a hard life and came out laughing.

2016

Perspective.

 


But we’ll save the deaths for last.

Ever since the Record Store days, I have always done my albums as a Top Five. We had a newsletter and employees were asked to submit their Top Fives of the year. That being the case, I’ve always stuck with that tradition even when my compatriots have submitted some pretty awesome Top Tens.

You can check out the submitted Top Ten lists here:

After much deliberation, here are my Top Five albums of 2016.

 

5. Metallica – Hardwired…To Self-Destruct

4. Tragically Hip – Man Machine Poem

3. Jim Crean – Insatiable

2. The Cult – Hidden City

1. Monster Truck – Sittin’ Heavy

***

And of course, some killer runners-up.  These three releases rocked hard and were just barely squeezed out of the Top Five:

A Rebel Few – As The Crow Flies

Black Sabbath – The End

Evilyn Strange – Evilution


Top TV shows of 2016

Some extras!  The TV shows below are the only ones I bother with.  If you haven’t watched American Dad yet, after all my badgering, I don’t know what else I can say about the funniest show on TV!

tv

Actually I do — American Dad has the best musical jokes.  You will hear plenty of great tunes:  Metallica, The Sword, Stan Bush, Satriani, Rush, Queen, and many more.  And even the songs you don’t like (Owl City, Kelly Clarkson?) are hilarious, because of the context.  That’s what makes a musical joke work.  You can find a complete list of songs used in American Dad by clicking here.

Top four TV shows:

4. Family Guy

3. The Grinder

2. The Walking Dead

1. American Dad

Dropping off the list is the Big Bang Theory which started to suck a couple years ago, a few noteworthy episodes aside (such as any time Wil Wheaton shows up).


Top Movies of 2016
movie

Movies were…just movies.  There was nothing this year with the emotional impact of The Force Awakens.  The films below are not in any particular order.  They are just movies, nothing more and nothing less.  2016 was a somewhat disappointing year for the silver screen.  (I have not yet seen Arrival.)

Star Wars: Rogue One

Captain America: Civil War

Suicide Squad

Star Trek Beyond

Deadpool

 


And sadly, the real dead pool.  These are just some of the musicians, actors, writers and sports heroes we lost in the year of 2016. Many went way too young.  At the 11th hour, I received this sketch of Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia.  It was drawn by Wardy who you may know as regular reader here.  Thank you Wardy for sending and giving me permission to post this great sketch.  (Wardy is one talented guy with a pencil.)  Rest in peace to all below.

carrie-fisher-1956-2016-sketch-by-wardy

  • Paul MacLeod
  • David Bowie
  • Prince
  • Alan Rickman
  • George Michael
  • Rick Parfitt
  • Ralph “Chick” Schumilas
  • John Glenn
  • Muhammad Ali
  • Florence Henderson
  • Gene Wilder
  • Arnold Palmer
  • Leonard Cohen
  • Dave Broadfoot
  • Glenn Frey
  • Gordie Howe
  • Harper Lee
  • Phife Dawg
  • Sir George Martin
  • Anton Yelchin
  • Garry Shandling
  • Christina Grimmie
  • Alan Thicke
  • Kenny Baker
  • Leon Russell
  • Merle Haggard
  • Paul Kantner
  • Jimmy Bain
  • John McLaughlin
  • Abe Vigoda
  • Chyna
  • Pat Harrington Jr.
  • Keith Emerson
  • Greg Lake
  • David Huddleston
  • Maurice White
  • George Kennedy
  • Rob Ford
  • Ralph Stanley
  • George Gaynes
  • Alan Young
  • Frank Sinatra Jr.
  • Lonnie Mack
  • Nick Menza
  • Prince Be
  • Bernie Worrell
  • Matt Roberts
  • Mr. Fuji
  • Alexis Arquette
  • Stanley “Buckwheat” Dural Jr.
  • Jose Fernandez
  • Jean Shepard
  • Pete Burns
  • Robert Vaughn
  • Bobby Vee
  • Leonard Haze
  • James Wooley
  • Sandy Pearlman
  • John Berry
  • John Thomas
  • Dale “Buffin” Griffin
  • Carrie Fisher
  • Debbie Reynolds

 

Rest in peace, and thank you for making our days a little brighter.

LeBrain

REVIEW: Jim Crean – Insatiable (2016)

NEW RELEASE

JIM CREAN – Insatiable (2016 Rocker Records)

If you’re not familiar with Jim Crean, that’s OK.  You probably know of his famous friends.  Crean sings lead with the Appice Brothers (Carmine and Vinny) for their Drum Wars live shows.   Both brothers appear on his solo CD, Insatiable, along with other stars such as Phil Lewis (LA Guns), Mike Tramp (White Lion), Tony Franklin (The Firm/Blue Murder), Phil Naro and more.  But it doesn’t matter how many guests you fill your album with if you don’t have the tunes.  Crean has not only the tunes, but also the voice.

In a way the weirdest track is the intro by Don Jamieson from That Metal Show.  He pronounces “Appice” differently for each brother.  Carmine is “Appeece” and Vinny is “Appicee”.  Very odd.  The title track “Insatiable” features Vinny, but the song does not address the pronunciation controversy!  If you’re a fan of 80’s sunset strip rock, then “Insatiable” is for you, like Faster Pussycat but fed a steady diet of heavy metal.  Crean has range and rasp, and the result is the kind of rock that people miss today.

Vinny might be best known for his stint in Dio and Black Sabbath with Ronnie James.  With the late Jimmy Bain on bass, Appice and Crean re-created Dio’s “Caught in the Middle”.  Having original players and writers on it lends it a credibility that most covers can’t match.  Best of all, Crean can pull it off!  Singing Dio is, to put it mildly, not easy.  Crean pulls it off with confidence and ability, just as he does with his own original tune “Touch”.  Not to exaggerate, but “Touch” has to be one of the best songs to come out in 2016:  killer mid-paced rock, besides the riffs and that voice!  Another fine cover, L.A. Guns’ “Over the Edge” is performed with assistance from Philip Lewis.  A more obscure choice from 1991’s Hollywood Vampires, it’s a powerful slow rock track with a Zeppelin-y groove.  Guitarist Steve Major also needs to be singled out for a fine performance on this one (and all the tracks).

The most star-studded song is the lead single, “Can’t Find My Way”, a Mike Tramp cover.  Mike sings on it, as does Phil Naro, with Tony Franklin on bass and Carmine on drums.  (Tony and Carmine make it 2/3rds of the original Blue Murder, minus only John Sykes.)  This ballad is a bit slow, a bit long, but kicks in for the chorus. I actually prefer Jim’s original material. “Follow Your Heart” is one such original, this one featuring ex-Dio guitarist Rowan Robertson. It has a distinct Dio-ish vibe, aided and abetted by Vinny’s incomparable drum sound. The final three originals (“Shut Your Mouth”, “Turn it Around”, and “Miss Me”) are all very strong hard rock songs. Crean wrote all his originals himself. What a talent. Such a voice, with sharp songwriting chops. This guy has more talent in his pinky than CC Deville has in his entire body.

Two bonus tracks close it out, both covers: Mr. Big’s rockin’ “The Whole World’s Gonna Know”, and “Magic Touch” by Kiss. Sharp fans will recall that Crean contributed “Magic Touch” to Mitch Lafon’s Kiss tribute CD, A World With Heroes.  If you missed that now sold-out CD, you can at least get Jim’s version of the song here.  “Magic Touch” is, of course, great.  It always was, but now here’s a chance to hear it without the disco (Kissco?) trappings.  As for “The Whole World’s Gonna Know”, Jim’s version may surpass the original.

Added Can-Con bonus:  Much of the album was recorded in Toronto, just a stone’s throw away from Jim’s base in Buffalo, New York.

Added extra bonus:  My copy included a DVD with the “Can’t Find My Way” music video.

If you like hard rock with integrity the way they used to make it, then this album is for you.  If you buy one new release this week, make it Jim Crean’s Insatiable.

5/5 stars