John 5

REVIEW: Two – Voyeurs (Japanese bonus track) #200wordchallenge

The #200wordchallenge continues!  The complete review for the original Two Voyeurs CD can be found by clicking here.

200 word


TWO – Voyeurs (1998 DML Music Japan)

Rarity acquired!  After many years of searching, I snagged a mint condition Japanese copy of Rob Halford’s album as Two with John 5.  It was priced affordably and included the obi strip, always important to collectors.  The Japanese copy has a second booklet with pictures of the band, missing from the original CD.  Rob and John casually enjoying coffee in front of a wall of X-rays?  It’s in here!

The bonus track is called “In My Head” and it’s surprising how different it is from the album at large.  It still sounds like the industrial metal of Two, but criss-crossed with dirty blues.  It’s like Two meets the Black Keys, in a wormhole from before the Black Keys even existed.  Rob has occasionally shown a penchant for mixing the blues in with his heavy metal.  Witness “A Little Crazy” from the first Fight album.  John takes a really cool and inventive solo break on this track complete with plenty of slide.  Had this track been on the original album, it might have had more appeal with the rockers, though that’s admittedly a long shot.

It’s not easy to find, but worth finding for the industrial blues of “In My Head”.

4/5 stars

REVIEW: Ace Frehley – Origins Vol. 1 (2016)


Interview by Mitch Lafon

NEW RELEASE

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ACE FREHLEY – Origins Vol. 1 (2016 e One)

FACT #1:  Covers albums rarely have enough fuel in the tank to get an engine running.

FACT #2:  Ace Frehley has never done a covers album before.

The main thing is that Ace Frehley is still alive and making music.  He’s never been the most prolific writer in Kiss, hence this diverse assortment of covers.  In the pot are songs from bands that influenced Ace, a few Kiss covers (including one that Ace never played on originally), and a guest shot by Paul Stanley (among others).  Sometimes it’s hard to feign interest in a covers album, but these factors make Ace’s enticing.  Not to mention, it’s a clean and sober Ace playing these songs.

Ace and drummer Scot Coogan play everything on Cream’s “White Room”, with Coogan singing the bridges.  This guitar-heavy version takes what Clapton did, and “Aces” it up.  It’s guitar solo nirvana, though the Stones’ “Street Fighting Man” takes a few minutes to get to that same point.  Ace has always done well with Stones covers, and it seems he can identify with songs like “Street Fighting Man” due to his rough past.  It’s a fun excursion but the solos are the draw.  Imagine the Stones but with the bright fun Gibson stylings of Ace Frehley.  Hendrix’s “Spanish Castle Magic” is a natural choice since Ace’s speak-sing style always seemed influenced by Jimi.  Purists may scoff, but Ace’s take on “Spanish Castle Magic” is pretty enjoyable and guitar-heavy (John 5 on guest guitars).

The online hype focused on Paul Stanley’s return to Ace’s orbit.  While Ace plays all the guitars, Paul ably takes all the vocals on Free’s “Fire and Water”.  As Kiss fans are well aware, Paul has suffered from some serious vocal issues in the last few years.  Live, Paul can be a bit of a mess.  In the studio, he makes it work.  Paul lacks the power he had back in the Kiss days, but his singing here is great considering.  It’s over far too quickly.  Paul singing Rodgers is quite a moment.

Ace is well suited to Thin Lizzy, a band you don’t think of as influential to Kiss since they were contemporaries more or less.  “Emerald” has gone down in history of one of Lizzy’s heaviest favourites.  Predictably, the highlight of “Emerald” is the solo section.  Lizzy were a two-guitar band, so Ace got Slash to come in and solo back and forth, answering each other like Gorham and Robertson.  The two go toe-to-toe in a blur of Gibson Les Pauls.

Led Zeppelin had a serious impact on young Kiss, and Ace’s covering of “Bring it on Home” is inspired and transformational.  Lord knows what guitar effects Ace has up his sleeve, but he nails this Zep classic without any missteps.  Ace sings the bluesy intro, but drummer Scot Coogan ably handles the higher main vocal.

Scan_20160424 (3)One of the most notorious and difficult songs to cover without sounding like an asshole is “Wild Thing”, 51 years old and still inspiring cover versions.  Lita Ford makes a surprise appearance on both lead guitar and vocals, and she sounds amazing on both counts.  There is just no good reason to cover “Wild Thing”, because the Troggs did that definitively in 1966 and that’s that.  More significant is Frehley’s update to his own “Parasite”, a song originally from 1974’s Hotter Than Hell.  Gene Simmons sang it originally, though Ace wrote it.   Speaking of “definitive”, it’s very tempting to think of this as Ace’s conclusive statement on “Parasite”.  After all, Hotter Than Hell was sonically pretty disappointing.  Plus Ace had 40+ years to grow as a guitarist since then, and believe it — Ace blows the doors off “Parasite”.  This is a song worth buying the CD for.

Unfortunately “Parasite” is book-ended by two songs that didn’t need remakes, the first being “Wild Thing” and the second “Magic Carpet Ride”.  Ace does inject it with his trademark fun style, but it’s all very unnecessary.  Brilliant playing though.

A second Kiss update is “Cold Gin”, featuring Mike McCready of Pearl Jam.  Like “Parasite”, Gene Simmons sang the original, but “Cold Gin” was one of the first stone cold classic Ace-written Kiss tunes.  Ace has every right to try and reclaim it as his, a difficult task since the Kiss Alive! version is the only one you will ever truly need.  Now with Ace doing the vocals and more soloing added, this version can perhaps be considered the second most important take — the one with Ace singing.

A pretty standard Kinks cover (“Til the End of the Day”) works fine.  You can trust Ace to know how to treat the Kinks.  The final and possibly biggest surprise is the final Kiss cover.  The odd thing about it is that Ace never played on the original version of “Rock and Roll Hell”.  This tune came from the batch that Kiss wrote with Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance in the early 80’s.  It was recorded for 1982’s Creatures of the Night, the album that Ace didn’t participate in, before leaving the band.  He appeared on the cover, he appeared in the videos, and fans didn’t know any differently, but Ace didn’t play or write anything on Creatures.  In fact Ace never heard “Rock and Roll Hell” until recently.  When coming up for ideas of songs to cover for Origins Vol. 1, Ace’s label rep Ken Gulick burned Ace a CD of tracks to listen to for consideration.  (The CD contained two Who songs, two Cheap Trick songs, and mind-blowingly, two by Rush.)*  Because Gulick felt that Ace had some unfinished business with Creatures of the Night, he also included two songs from Creatures on the CD.  The ballad “I Still Love You” was the other track.  Frehley apparently went bonkers for the Simmons-sung “Rock and Roll Hell”, and now we finally get to hear what might have been if Ace hadn’t left Kiss when he did.  Perhaps if Ace was in good enough shape, Simmons could have given him “Rock and Roll Hell” to sing, and it would have sounded something like this.  Matt Starr’s drums are given a similar echoey treatment to replicate Eric Carr’s sound from the original LP.

Does this close the book for Ace making amends with his Kiss past?  I sure hope note.  Vol. 1 implies a Vol. 2.  If Ace were to continue covering Kiss tunes he never had the chance to sing in the studio, that leaves “Strange Ways”, “Comin’ Home” and possibly more that he could consider updating with his stamp.  Although Origins has some “blah” moments as most covers albums do, among the highlights are undoubtedly the Kiss tracks.  They push the album out from being a mere curiosity, to a must-have for any Kiss fan.**

4/5 stars

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* Source – Ultimate Classic Rock

** Made a double must-have by the low low price.  I paid $12.88 at Wally World (plus I scored a “holy shit, jackpot” load of rare Star Wars figures).  HMV were charging $15.99, and had him filed under “Ace Freshley“.  HMV – the music store – has Ace’s name spelled wrong.  Yet one more strike against the once-mighty HMV chain!  See below for the evidence.

For Jon Wilmenius’ excellent review of this album, click here.  

CONCERT REVIEW: Ozzy Osbourne, Rob Zombie, In This Moment 1/21/08

Review written January 22, 2008.  Dedicated to Peter M. Cavan!

OZZY OSBOURNE/ROB ZOMBIE/IN THIS MOMENT live at the ACC, Toronto Ontario, 01/21/08, on the Black Rain tour

OZZYWhen you pay $100 a ticket you’d better get a hell of a show, no pun intended. While Rob Zombie rose to the occasion and put on the show of a lifetime, Ozzy Osbourne stumbled, carried only by his seasoned band and the love of a metal craving audience.

First up were newcomers In This Moment, who played a short 4 song set to a half filled house. Singer Maria Brink managed to get the crowd going even though most of them didn’t know there was a third band on the bill. Coming out in her trademark blue dress, and screaming her lungs out, I could not believe the power in this woman’s voice. The whole band was hampered by horrible sound which unfortunately rendered her screaming and singing unintelligible. However, at one point she let loose and screamed for a good 30 seconds straight…how she does this is beyond me, I sure can’t! In This Moment played their hit “Beautiful Tragedy” second-to-last and then revved up the audience to see Rob Zombie.

This was Zombie’s last night of the tour, and his crew played pranks on In This Moment through most of their set, however it was dead serious once Zombie hit the stage. Hidden by curtains, the audience could not see Zombie’s amazing stage set until the lights came up. And that was not to happen before we were treated to a surprise: Rob Zombie’s Grindhouse trailer “Werewolf Women Of The S.S.” starring Nicholas Cage as…FU MANCHU! (Zombie is considering making a full movie based on this trailer.)

Then the lights came up, dancing girls on either side of a giant devil head, and band roaring. The head cracked open and an adrenalized Rob Zombie emerged to “American Witch”! What an entrance.

John 5 was at the top of his game on guitar, playing with his teeth, behind his back, throwing his instrument all over the stage. For his guitar solo he even played a snippet of “Oh Canada”, but more on that shortly.

Zombie played all the hits with tons of syncopated pyro behind him, so much that you could feel it from the nosebleeds. “Dragula”, “Living Dead Girl”, “Thunderkiss ’65” and of course “More Human Than Human” were all played expertly, Zombie himself all over the stage at all times. He had ample video footage behind him, showing original film footage from House Of 1000 Corpes, The Devil’s Rejects, his own animation, and classic horror films such as Nosferatu.

Zombie’s crowning moment was during John 5’s guitar solo, at which point he grabbed two flashlights and headed into the crowd, all backed by John 5’s incredible shredding. I mean, come on folks…this is the guitar player that David Lee Roth chose to stand where Eddie Van Halen, Steve Vai, Steve Hunter and Jason Becker have stood.

The only thing wrong the whole Rob Zombie show is that there was so much going on at once, with the video screens, dancing girls, drumming robots, props, lights, and pyro, that you can’t see it all at once. I would like to see Rob Zombie twice or three times…difficult now that his tour is over!

A short break ensued, and then we were treated to some video footage courtesy of the Ozzman. It was a humourous medley of popular film and TV footage from the last year, all recut to star Ozzy himself! Imagine Ozzy in: The Queen. Or Ozzy under Azamat’s ass in Borat! It was good stuff, but unfortunately it underlined that the once and future singer of Black Sabbath has now become something of a joke himself.

Ozzy and his band (Zakk Wylde on guitar, Mike Bordin on drums, Blasko on bass, and Adam Wakeman on keys) then blasted through his first single from the new Black Rain CD, “I Don’t Wanna Stop”. A great opener, unfortunately hard to appreciate with Zakk Wylde’s guitar sounding so harsh in the ACC. Ozzy played most of the classics with very few surprises: “Bark At The Moon”, “Suicide Solution”, “Crazy Train”, “I Don’t Know”, “Mr. Crowley”, “Road To Nowhere” and “Not Going Away” from the new CD.

Ozzy’s problem, both as a solo artist and with Black Sabbath, is his unwillingness to change his setlists. While I’m sure everybody there would have died and gone to heaven if Ozzy played a song like “You Can’t Kill Rock And Roll” or “Diary Of A Madman”, his setlist was based almost entirely around his Blizzard of Ozz and No More Tears CDs. Too predictable, Ozzman. His other problem is his lack of range. His voice cracked many times, and the band lowered the key for him the old songs.

A few disappointing choices: Ozzy did not play “No More Tears”, but instead treated us to the overrated “I Don’t Wanna Change The World”. And for an encore, yes, of course…”Mama I’m Coming Home”. Shame about that, as there are so many better songs to play. “Mama” sure did get the cigarette lighters out [see picture below].

Zakk Wylde did a ridiculous 10 minute guitar solo, which sounded mostly like razorblades coming at your ears. He too played with his teeth, but it was only when he quoted Randy Rhoads’ classic “Suicide Solution” live solo that sparks flew.

As a last song, of course, Ozzy played “Paranoid”. He had to. He couldn’t show up and not play any Sabbath material, although “Iron Man” and “War Pigs” didn’t make his short set. Shame, considering that he reminded the audience that Toronto is where he recorded Never Say Die.

In the end, we all got tired of Ozzy’s endless “I can’t fucking hear you” and “Go extra extra extra crazy!” When Ozzy shouted “I still can’t fucking hear you” for the 100th time, people started responding, “Because you’re fucking deaf”!

There was no question that Ozzy came, saw, and conquered because of his excellent band and the love that the crowd had for him, but it was also obvious that this was Rob Zombie’s show, and there was nothing Ozzy could have done to change that, aside from bringing Randy Rhoads back from the dead.

In This Moment – 3/5 stars
Rob Zombie – 5/5 stars
Ozzy Osbourne – 3.5/5 stars

ozzy

 

REVIEW: Paul Stanley – Live To Win (2006)

PAUL STANLEY – Live To Win (2006 Universal)

This album is significant to me for one reason only:  It was the first CD bought for me by my lovely wife, Mrs. LeBrain.  She knew I liked Kiss and she knew I didn’t have this album.  It was a total surprise!  It was also a total disappointment.

Paul’s 1978 solo album is a milestone for me, it’s one of those albums I can put on any time, any where, anyhow, and I always love it. When Paul wrote (quoted in the “Kiss: Behind The Mask” book) “Let’s just say it needs a sequel right about now,” I was so excited. Yet I forgot, the word “sequel” has many different connotations.

LIVE TO WIN_0002Unfortunately, Live To Win is a sequel in the sense that it’s inferior to the original in every way. The production is plastic, modern synthetic, and boring. The songwriting is good in parts, but there are three ballads here. Paul’s first solo album had nine songs and one ballad. Here, there are ten songs and three ballads. You can work out the math on your own. The playing is bland and generic. John5 plays guitar a bit, and he’s always great, and Bruce Kulick plays bass (why bass?) on a few songs. Everybody else is just a studio cat, guys who are paid big bucks to make people like Avril sound good.  Good players, but there’s no personality on this album.  Not like when Bob Kulick ripped Paul’s first solo album to shreds.

There are two good songs.  They are “Wake Up Screaming” and “Where Angels Dare”. “Wake Up Screaming” starts off with some terrible drum machines. (Yes, not a misprint. There is far too much ProTools and programming on Live To Win.) It’s generic sounding, until Paul’s melody and vocal elevates the song to a whole different level. Still, it’s not aggressive enough for a song called “Wake Up Screaming”. Raw production would have turned this into a classic.  The other good song is “Where Angels Dare”.  It’s another great song with Paul’s riff, vocal, and melody taking it where it should be. A highlight.

“Live To Win” is also decent, it has a good chorus, but the riff and verses are boring. “Bulletproof” sounds like a Hot in the Shade outtake.  “Lift” should have been on Carnival Of Souls, it has that grungy sound. The rest of the album is just plain boring, especially the ballads. Among the ballads there’s nothing here that can hold a candle to the dynamics of “Hold Me, Touch Me” even though they are every bit as schlocky.

Paul, I’m disappointed. For a guy who had the idea to go back to basics and record the Kiss album Sonic Boom on analog tape, this just doesn’t even sound like it came from the same person. Maybe if your first solo album wasn’t so good, so classic, then I wouldn’t have expected so much. Yet, Paul, you are a rock god. There’s no denying it even to non-fans. You are an icon, and you are responsible for a dozen or more of the best songs in rock history. There’s no denying it! For you to put this out, I can only conclude you were out of touch with your fans and rock in general. Or, worse, you were trying desperately for a hit.

Disappointing. But still better than Asshole by Gene Simmons.

2/5 stars.  One for each good song.

More KISS at mikeladano.com:

Complete KISS reviews + Complete ACE FREHLEY reviews 

PETER CRISSCriss EP review + GENE SIMMONSAsshole review

Record Store Tales Part 3:  My First KISS + Part 8:  You Wanted the Best +
Part 77:  Psycho-Circus Part 151:  24kt KISS…cheap at twice the price +
Part 152:  Carnival of Lost Souls Part 173:  Gene Simmons’ Asylum Demos 
Part 179: Phantom of the Opera Part 241:  Halloween, KISS style!

Also available: iTunes exclusive live soundtrack to Paul’s One Live KISS DVD.

ONE LIVE KISS

REVIEW: David Lee Roth – DLR Band (1998)

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DAVID LEE ROTH / DLR BAND: DLR Band (1998 wawazat!!)

In 1998, David Lee Roth was angry. He’d been conned by Van Halen into appearing on the MTV awards with them to promote their new greatest hits, and implying that Dave was back. Dave was not back. Van Halen released the derided Van Halen III with Gary Cherone earlier in ’98, while Dave sat back waiting to unleash the DLR Band.

The DLR Band consisted of Dave himself on vocals, John 5 (yes, the John 5) and Terry Kilgore on guitar, and Ray Luzier on drums. Of course, today John 5 is well known for his work with Marilyn Manson and Rob Zombie, and Ray Luzier is in Korn. Terry Kilgore had been working with Dave since 1994’s Your Filthy Little Mouth. Cover art was simple, a picture of Bettie Page over an American flag and no real indication that this was David Lee Roth. A lot of stores didn’t know either, and filed it under “DLR Band” instead of Roth, guaranteeing lack of sales.

So this was one smokin’ band, and with John 5 on board, a hot guitarist to rival the flaming fingers of St. Eddie. John 5 sounds to me like a cross between Van Halen, Steve Stevens and Tom Morello. For the bluesier sounds on the album, Terry Kilgore’s strat aptly filled the gaps. And that basically sums up the album. It goes from bluesier grooves such as “Lose The Dress (Keep The Shoes)” to space-age fast-paced VH shuffles like “Slam Dunk!” Additional guitar and writing is supplied by Mike Hartman.

IMG_00001056Dave’s not as poetic on the lyrics this time, with “Counter-Blast” being particularly bad. I can’t think of one good song about the internet, and this is no exception. “I’m gonna fax you into the atom age”? “Your page or mine”? Sorry Dave. Stick with what you know. Hot cars, girls, a drink and some philosophy of life.

Highlights for me are many. On the faster, space-age side are “Slam Dunk!”, “Relentless”, and the aforementioned “Counter-Blast” which is great musically. On the groovier, sleezier side are “Wa Wa Zat!!”, “Weekend With The Babysitter”, and “Lose The Dress (Keep The Shoes)”. The album ends with “Black Sand”, an atmospheric sunset-stained journey. But really, there are no lowlights on this album of strong rock songs. No ballads.

The sound of the album is crisp and tight, recorded in just 10 days like the Van Halen albums of old. No gloss, no flourishes, no flashy production except in John 5’s guitars. Where this album differs most from Van Halen classics is Dave’s voice. On the old albums, Dave could hide his voice’s weaknesses behind Mike and Ed’s backing vocals. Here, Dave’s voice is naked, sometimes flat, sometimes sharp, sometimes wheezing.

Having said that, I still recommend DLR band to fans of Roth who love that attitude and hot guitar. However, if you’re expecting the man to sing like he’s 25 again, best to stick to the old albums.

4/5 stars

REVIEW: Two – Voyeurs (1998)

Part 4 in a miniseries on Rob Halford’s solo career!  Missed the last part?  Click here for Fight – A Small Deadly Space.

TWO – Voyeurs (1998 Nothing)

Fight was kaput.  Rob had a new band, a photo of whom appeared in Metal Edge magazine.  The band was called Halford, and although that would change, Rob used his surname for another band later on.  I remember a weird looking blonde dude wearing a silver skin tight suit of some kind (more on him later), and I thought, “Well, OK then.  This is going to be different.”  Soon after the Metal Edge photo, the name had changed from Halford, to Two.

I had a buddy, Nathan, who was really into Nine Inch Nails.  This Halford project was on his radar as well, due to Rob’s collaboration with Trent Reznor.  At the time, Rob Halford insisted that the resulting album, an industrial/rock hybrid, was the sound he was going for all along when he quit Priest in ’92 and formed Fight.

I don’t believe that, but they did come close on the Mutations EP. I think Fight was exactly what he wanted to do at that time. When the second Fight album fizzled I think Rob questioned his musical direction, hooked up with Trent, and did this experimental record.

Two (stylized as 2wo) were experimental by Halford’s standards, but not by industrial music standards in general. Voyeurs has all the expected bells and whistles, including but not limited to:  distorted vocals, the word “pig” in a song title, thumpy bass, ticky-ticky sounds, bloops, bleeps, and other stuff that sounds like broken machinery.

What does make this album special is that the band was “Two”, not “One”…meaning there is a second guy involved here, and what a talent he was. That guy was guitar player John 5. This was his breakthrough release. After this he hooked up with David Lee Roth, Marilyn Manson, Rob Zombie, et al. John 5’s involvement means there is some wicked guitar work here, including “I Am A Pig” which features a solo that sounds like a mashup of Morello and Satriani.

Highlight songs include “I Am A Pig” (Reznor sure loves his pig imagery), “Stutter Kiss”, “Hey Sha La La”, “Water’s Leaking”, and the epic closer “Bed of Rust”.  “Bed of Rust” could have made a pretty cool Fight track.  I would say in fact that there are no throwaway songs here.  All of them have something worthwhile to offer.  Just don’t think too much about the lyrics.  Halford’s delivery is understated and, at times, whispery. No screams. At Reznor’s suggestion,  instead Rob explored other aspects of his voice.

Other notable names:  Bob Marlette plays bass and produces.  Dave “Rave” Ogilvie does some production work.  Trent Reznor “executive produced”.  I always wondered what that means.  I picture it meaning that Trent gives the project either a “thumbs up” or a “thumbs down” when the real work is done.

JOAQIN

Of course many Priest fans didn’t get it, although a chunk of the Reznor fans (who at the time would buy anything on Nothing records) accepted and enjoyed the album for what it is.  I think if this was a release by a more popular band, like say Nine Inch Nails or KMFDM, it could have spawned two or three singles.

Japan had a bonus track called “In My Head” which is absolutely impossible to find, so good luck. I’ve never heard it.

3.5/5 stars

Postscript:

It was during this period, promoting the Two album, that Rob Halford came out.  People joked for a good number of years that Rob’s sexuality was the worst kept secret in rock.  That can’t negate the courage that it took for Rob to come out in a musical genre that isn’t always kind to anyone who’s “different” (hello, Blabbermouth!).

“I think it’s difficult for everybody, you know, in making the decision to come forward and be who you are, based on peer pressure, especially if you’re a teenager,” Halford said. “That’s where a lot of the anxiety begins, and so maybe people like myself and others that do step in front of a camera and let the world know, maybe it’s of some help, where there’s an individual that’s been successful, that’s been able to achieve dreams and visions and goals in life and not let the issue of sexuality be something to hold them back, so I think it’s an important thing.”

More:

LGTBICONS:  Rob Halford – Angel of Retribution

MTV News – Rob Halford Discusses Sexuality Publicly For The First Time