john corabi

WTF Comments: Disqualified Forever edition

All I ever wanted to do is write rock reviews!  But I can’t anymore, because I’ve been “Disqualified Forever” by “WASPfan”…at least as far as Motley Crue goes.  This is a real shame since I haven’t reviewed Dr. Feelgood yet.  I guess now I never will?

What got me disqualified?  My review of Motley Crue’s awesome 1994 album with John Corabi.  WASPfan prefers Vince Neil’s solo debut Exposed, which is fine since it’s also a great album.  My scores for both are only half a star apart.  Read on!

You have got to be kidding me! Vince Neil/Exposed was a much better album than Motley Crue/Motley Crue. I’ve owned this album for 20 years and have yet to be able to get through it in one listen. Is there some good music, yes. But you can almost hear the impersonation of Vince Neil the way certain songs are sung.

Dude, Vince Neil couldn’t sing the way Corabi sings on Motley Crue if he had a voice transplant.  There is simply no comparison between the two singers, at all.  Apples and oranges!

I have always thought the Crue should re-record this with Vince on vocals, just to show people what could have been. Motley Crue thought they could pull a Van Halen, and the fact is they couldn’t. They got a singer who’s defining moment in Metal History will be failing at replacing Vince Neil, and this comes from someone who owned, and loved, The Scream album before Corabi ever joined the Crue.

Hey man, be nice.  Corabi was also in Ratt.

If Corabi had “it” he wouldn’t be on tour right now with the gimic [sic] of singing the Motley Crue/Motley Crue album from start to finish. He’d be headlining in his own band, singing his own songs. This album, while good musically, barely rates 3 out of 5 stars. To put Theatre of Pain and Girls, Girls, Girls below this album should disqualify your opinion on all things Motley now and forever.

Now that I have been disqualified, I plan on taking up a new hobby.  Visit me here for all the latest on nude cycling, coming soon!

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VHS Archives #60: Motley Crue’s first appearance with John Corabi (1993)

The 1993 American Music Awards – Favourite Country Single.  Just the place for Motley Crue to introduce their brand new singer John Corabi, right?  Am I right?

Billy Ray Cyrus was the winner for “Achy Breaky Heart”.

Poor John, what a debut.

REVIEW: John Corabi – One Night in Nashville (2018)

JOHN CORABI – One Night in Nashville (2018 RatPak)

John Corabi needs no introduction in these pages.  We have ranted and raved about the awesome 1994 Motley Crue album and the complimentary Quaternary EP.  We’ve broken down the details of his departure from Motley Crue and the chaos that followed.  We’ve also gone on record loving the Union project with Bruce Kulick.  In short, John Corabi can’t really do much wrong in our books.

One Night in Nashville is John’s live run-through of the entire Motley Crue album with his ace band, including his son Ian on drums.  Many of these songs have never been played live, and never in sequence like this.  Veteran producer Michael Wagener ensured a kickass sound.

Ian Corabi has no problem duplicating Tommy Lee’s hard hitting style on opener “Power to the Music”.  John’s voice is still more than capable of shredding these songs two decades later.  His rasp and power have barely ebbed.  Compare this to Motley Crue’s final live album The End and…actually, no don’t compare.  Corabi buries The End.

As fellow rock reviewer Mr. Deke has stated, “Uncle Jack” is one of the most pounding tracks on this CD.  It was a departure for Motley Crue, a deadly serious track, and John nails every scream.  The guitarist also duplicates Mick Mars’ underrated solo, note for note.  Yes, underrated.  Mars is rarely given the credit he deserves for creating his own style, and thereby defining the sound of the Crue.

If you know the album then you know these songs; if you don’t then buckle the fuck up.

Through the single “Hooligan’s Holiday”, Corabi and Co. breath life into songs we only know from the album.  “Everybody wants a piece of the pie” — at least in this Nashville crowd they do, soaking up every riff and blistering scream.  Even the complicated “Misunderstood” burns it down.  Guitars instead of keyboards, backing band instead of Glenn Hughes, and it’s full speed ahead.  Once again the solo is note for note, but there’s a brand new outro where it once faded.

“Loveshine” is a bit of a respite, a nice little acoustic jam a-la Zeppelin III.  These last two songs are so far above and beyond what Motley Crue were capable of when Vince Neil was in the band.  Corabi opened up entire new soundscapes for them to explore, and “Loveshine” is cool on the psychedelic side.  Back to the rock, “Poison Apples” is a tribute to glam rock and what Motley Crue are about.  “Took a Greyhound bus down to Heartattack and Vine, with a fist full o’ dreams n’ dimes…”  Of all the tracks on Motley Crue, “Poison Apples” was the closest to the original Motley sound, and John owns it.

This is where you’d flip sides on the original album, so it’s the perfect spot for telling a story:  track 7,  “John Joins the Band”.  He got the call before it was even announced that Vince had left the band, and he couldn’t say a word to anybody.  One of the first songs they wrote together was “Hammered”, an old riff that John brought to the band.  Even darker is “Til Death Do Us Part”  which was actually supposed to be the title of the album at one point.  It’s one of many long bombers, but things lighten up a bit on “Welcome to the Numb”.  Dig that slide guitar riff, another very Zep aspect to this batch of songs.    By John’s intro, it sounds like a ball-baster of a song to play live.  He says they didn’t think they were going to be able to do it!  But they killed it, and John says that’s due to the hard work of guitarist Jeremy Asbrock.

Your head receives a good solid smack with “Smoke the Sky”, a waste-laying blitzkrieg of a smokeshow.  Corabi touts the health benefits of rolling a joint.  “Home grown version complements the senses, opens up my mind.”  Perhaps Peter Tosh put it better, when he sang “Birds eat it,” and “It’s good for the flu, it’s good for the asthma.”  Regardless of who said it best, “Smoke the Sky” is a flat-out mosh.

“Droppin’ Like Flies” continues the ass-kicking, but at a more sensible pace, trading speed for mass.  And although in theory it shouldn’t work, after this fairly relentless assault, the album always closes on a ballad called “Driftaway”.  After a sentimental version for the Nashville crowd, there’s a bonus track.  This is another ballad, “10,000 Miles Away” from the Japanese Quaternary EP, live for the first time.  Icing, meet cake.

This Corabi live album is far stronger than any of the three Motley Crue live albums.  In terms of performance, John’s band just kills Motley Crue.  Of course, they had a brilliant set to work with.  Finally hearing these songs live, and in album context, is a long fulfilled wish.  John Corabi has long been respected by the rock community and this CD is a testament to why.

5/5 stars

#611: Afraid

GETTING MORE TALE #611: Afraid

1989: A clean and sober Motley Crue take over the world. Dr. Feelgood climbs to #1 and the band rivals Bon Jovi and Def Leppard in the popularity stakes.

1990: Motley continue to tour and rock them all, while announcing their next album will be a “greatest hits”.

1991: Decade of Decadence is released, keeping Motley on the charts. The new single “Primal Scream” is well received.

1992: In a shock announcement, Vince Neil is fired from the band. Unfortunately Motley are not the only rock band to lose their singer at the beginning of the 90s.

1993:  Vince Neil’s solo debut Exposed is greeted by warm reviews.  Motley continue to toil in the studio with new singer John Corabi.

1994: Five years after Dr. Feelgood, the re-imagined Motley finally return with the self-titled Motley Crue.  Corabi blows ’em away, but the album fails to sell. Motley is forced to do a scaled down tour while the CD dropped off the charts.

This was the state of the Crue in the mid 90s.  They had released an incredible album.  Today, many fans rate it in the top three, or even at the #1 spot.   My near-legendary Record Store cohort T-Rev agrees.  “To me, they sounded more like a hard rock band than a hair metal band, because of that album.”

Absolutely true.  They stepped far beyond the preconceived notions of Motley Crue.  Guitars were detuned, lyrics were topical or personal.  Tracks like “Smoke the Sky” might have passed for Soundgarden.  On the other side of the coin, “Misunderstood” was an epic power ballad featuring an orchestra and Glenn fucking Hughes.  There wasn’t a weak track in the bunch, but plenty of variety.

Most fans didn’t embrace it at the time, and instead moved on to current bands.  Back then, nobody was interested.  No Vince, no Motley?  No way.  Corabi was absolutely the right guy at the right time.  Motley added his rhythm guitars and songwriting abilities, not to mention far more aggressive singing.  The band had only gotten better.  But by recording an uncompromising album with an unknown singer, they were indeed taking a chance.  It didn’t pay off.  When I was working at the Record Store, there was a giant pile of unsold Motley Crue CDs taking up space.  They sat next to an equally tall pile of David Lee Roth’s Your Filthy Little Mouth.  All the kings seemed to have been usurped.

At the Record Store, I first befriended the aforementioned T-Rev.  The fact that both of us loved the Motley album didn’t hurt.  T-Rev was the only person I knew who appreciated what they did.  He loved that huge overproduced drum sound.  Back in 1989, everybody had a Motley Crue T-shirt in the highschool halls.  In 1994, we couldn’t get anyone to listen.

Through 1995 and 1996, magazines reported that Motley were back in the studio, working on a followup with Corabi.  Bob Rock was back in the producer’s chair and the band wrote new songs such as “Personality #9”, “Let Us Prey”, “La Dolce Vita” and “The Year I Lived In A Day”.  Things seemed to be going well, but record company pressure was intense.  Bob Rock’s style was now passé and he was fired.  Engineer Scott Humphrey was promoted to producer, and electronics began to dominate.

The pressure was not only on Motley Crue, but focused directly on John Corabi.  Elektra records were eager to get Vince Neil back, a true “star”.  John was getting frustrated in the studio while this was going on.  Nothing he sang seemed to be good enough for Motley Crue anymore.  He was asked to sing like Oasis or the Sisters of Mercy.  John suggested that he just play rhythm guitar while they get Vince Neil to sing.  Somehow, this made its way into the rumour mill.  Before John Corabi was eventually fired, T-Rev and I had heard that Motley were considering this very same five-piece lineup.  What a glorious sounding thing that could have been.

Ultimately the band fired John and got Vince back.  They attempted to piece together the album that they’d been recording and re-recording and re-re-recording again.  Mick Mars was frustrated as well, as his guitar parts kept getting rejected and remixed.  In particular, Mars did not function well with Scott Humphrey.

Personally speaking, I lay these problems at the hands of Scott Humphrey.  I read the book The Dirt, and that’s certainly where the band lay most of the blame.  Have a look at Humphrey’s credits though.  Lots of records loaded with electronics, like Rob Zombie’s Hellbilly Deluxe and Tommy Lee’s solo stuff.  Humphrey started out as a keyboard player and programmer, and I think that high-tech style does not work with Motley Crue.  That’s my personal opinion, never having met Scott Humphrey.  I did, however, have a customer at the Record Store who knew Scott Humphrey, who is actually from Kitchener Ontario.*  “Motley Crue were the problem,” he told me.  “They were messed up on drugs.”  They were also unfocused musically.

On January 27 1997, the reunited original Motley Crue performed on the American Music Awards.  Mere months after being teased by a similar Van Halen reunion on the MTV Awards, I was relieved that Motley were playing a song rather than just standing there.  But what the hell song was it?!  Some strange, techno-y version of “Shout at the Devil”?  It was strange, unexpected and underwhelming.  Hey, cool, it was a fresh spin on an old classic.  But…why?

We soon found out.  The album Generation Swine came out on June 24 1997.  As usual, T-Rev and I got it a few days in advance.  “It sucks!” he warned me.  Of the first single “Afraid”, he said “It sounds more like Def Leppard than Motley Crue.”

“Afraid” is the best song on the album, which does frankly suck.  In a single stroke Motley went from one of their best albums, to one of their very worst.  It was astounding how desperate they sounded, trying to incorporate these influences that have nothing to do with Motley Crue.  The loops and samples and effects ruined many of the songs, but some just weren’t that good to begin with.  This considered, it was an even bigger surprise that Nikki Sixx and Tommy Lee were singing lead vocals too.  Sixx’s silly opener “Find Myself” was a nauseating faux-punk novelty song.  Generation Swine was also unfocused in the extreme, and the muddying effects didn’t help.  The electronic treatments on the drums rendered them limp, compared to the massive sound of 94’s Motley Crue.    Absolutely everything on Generation Swine was inferior to Motley Crue.

Three CD singles were released for “Afraid”, which was remixed so many times trying to get it right, that they used some of the various versions as bonus tracks.  The album version is fine enough, and in this one instance, the electronics enhance the song.  I’d rather hear “Afraid” with the effects than without.

What did other fans think?  When Generation Swine was new, one of my customers wanted to hear it before buying.  “I saw that Vince Neil is back.  Have you heard it?” he asked me, and I told him the truth.  He was sceptical of my review, but changed his mind upon hearing it.  “It doesn’t sound like them,” he said, and he’s right.  I then cajoled him into listening to the 1994 album.  He didn’t want to, because it didn’t have Vince Neil, but agreed to give it a shot.

Guess which album he bought?  Motley ’94.

At least there’s some redemption, if only temporarily.  During the Christmas season of 1998, T-Rev once again called me up to tell me about Motley Crue.  There was a new compilation out, called Greate$t Hit$ [review coming tomorrow].   This time, there were two new songs:  “Enslaved” and “Bitter Pill”.  Both were produced by Bob Rock.

“The new songs aren’t bad,” said T-Rev.  “A lot better than Generation Swine.  Not as good as ‘Primal Scream'”

Right again, T-Rev.  Not bad.  An improvement, but not as good as what they did the first time out.  That was enough for me to buy the CD.  Not for Trevor, though.

I think Motley Crue were on the right track with “Enslaved” and “Bitter Pill” after the failure of Generation Swine.  They obviously knew that album didn’t work, so they went back to the last thing that did.  Both songs are growers, and still raise a smile to hear.  Unfortunately Motley Crue blew it again.  Tommy Lee and Vince Neil had a dust-up at an airport, and Lee split.  He was replaced by former Ozzy Osbourne drummer, Randy Castillo.**

Fans like T-Rev and myself always supported the 1994 album, and today we’ve been justified.  More and more fans have realised the quality of that CD, and increasingly hold it in high esteem.  There’s something about that CD, and I’m afraid that Motley Crue never came close to touching it since.

Tommy Lee, John Corabi, Nikki Sixx & Mick Mars

* Fun fact! T-Rev’s mom dated Scott Humphrey!

** In a very sad turn of events, Castillo never got to tour with Motley Crue.  He became ill and died of cancer on March 26, 2002 at age 51.  His replacement, Hole’s Samantha Maloney, did the tour and resultant live video.

REVIEW: Union – Union (1998, 1999 reissue with bonus track)

The third and final Kulick review from our Kulick week at mikeladano.com!

Tuesday: Blackjack – Blackjack (1979)
Wednesday: Blackjack – Worlds Apart (1980)

scan_20160928UNION – Union (1998, 1999 Spitfire reissue)

A mighty Union was formed from the ashes of two classic bands’ lesser-known lineups.  First up is Bruce Kulick, formerly of Kiss and now in Grand Funk.  Kulick had been taking an increasingly important role within Kiss, leading to the Carnival of Souls LP which Bruce was instrumental in writing and recording.  With him was John Corabi who had just been booted from Motley Crue after making (arguably) their best album (or one of).  Corabi was in a bit of a state.  His confidence in himself was shaken after the Motley experience, who seemed impossible to please when their album tanked.  John told Bruce that he didn’t want to sing anymore, he just wanted to play guitar.  Bruce’s response was “Dude, you’re fuckin’ high!”

And so it was that Bruce and John teamed up (with Brent Fitz and Jamie Hunting) in the aptly named Union.

You wouldn’t call Union a supergroup, but they did create a fine album.  It is in the mold of the last albums these guys made separately (Motley ’94 and Carnival).  Union turned out as an angry, dark rock record, very much a child of the 1990’s.  With Kulick on guitar, Union was more than a 90’s alt-grunge retread.  The 90’s are omnipresent in the droning riffs and staggered rhythms, but then Bruce dumped out his tackle box of guitar tricks.  Bruce evolved over the years from a guy who played really fast on 80’s Kiss albums to a serious player interested in pushing his own limits.  Where he used to be content to play flurries of notes, on Union he goes for maximum gut impact.  It’s less about playing the notes than bending them to his will.

It’s also quite clear how much writing Bruce and John did in their respective bands, judging by the sound of this.  “Around Again” bears groovy similarities to tracks like “Jungle” by Kiss and “Uncle Jack” by Motley.  There’s a pissed-off attitude, and musicianship that would make Nikki Sixx crap his pants.  Thankfully Union have a good batch of songs backing them.  Much like the previous Kiss and Crue records, Union is not instant love.  It takes about three good listens to penetrate its metal-grunge (with a touch of Beatles) hybrid sound.  Union usually seem to go for the guts rather than singalong melodies.

One of the exceptions to this rule is the pure fun “Love (I Don’t Need it Anymore)”.  This is the one that hooks you on the first round.  With a funky little riff and a chorus that sinks right in, it slays.  The ballad “October Morning Wind” is another catchy track, an acoustic number a-la Zeppelin.  Think of a track like “Loveshine” from the Motley album for the right ballpark.  Stealing a Zeppelin title, Union’s song “Tangerine” is a groove rock tune like a heavier Aerosmith.

On the other side of the spectrum:  psychedelic rock.  “Let It Flow” is a trippy song broken up into sections called “The Invitation”, “The Journey” and “The Celebration”.  I think John was smoking something green when he wrote the lyrics, but Bruce’s sitar-like guitar is the perfect complement.  “Empty Soul” has similar scope, being a pretty huge song with musical goodness coming out the wazoo.

Adding the Beatles cover “Oh Darlin'” to a reissued version of the album is a little greedy, but fortunately worth it.  As it turned out this band only made two studio albums, so more Union is good Union.  If you recall the original song, Paul McCartney gave it his best rasp screams.  Up to bat is John Corabi who can sing that way in his sleep.  It’s a perfect match and “Oh Darlin'” is a nice little extra on which to end an exceptional album.  The only issue I have with “Oh Darlin” is actually its placement as the last song.  Previously, the solo-written Corabi acoustic ballad “Robin’s Song” was the closer, much like “Driftaway” was on the Motley album.  You become accustomed to “Robin’s Song” as a closer, because it has that quality to it.  “Oh Darlin'” is not a closer.  It would have worked better earlier in the track list, so feel free to shuffle as you choose.

Whatever version you acquire, any fan of Kulick and/or Corabi would be foolhardy to live without this CD.  It ranks as one of the best albums by either.

4.5/5 stars

REVIEW: Motley Crue – Quaternary (1994 Japanese EP)

MOTLEY CRUE – Quaternary (1994 Elektra Japanese EP)

For me, undoubtedly the most heavily anticipated new album of 1994 was the new Motley Crue.  Originally titled ‘Til Death Do Us Part, the self-titled ’94 Crue disc was their first with new singer/guitarist John Corabi.  They holed up with producer Bob Rock and knuckled down, creating what could have been the most important album of their careers.  The long wait (five years between studio albums) and cryptic remarks from the studio indicated that this would be the heaviest Motley album ever, and their most ambitious.  The new, serious Motley for the 90’s had, as always, written plenty of extra material too.

In addition, producer Bob Rock had an idea for getting creative juices flowing.  He asked each of the four members of Motley Crue to write and record a solo track with no input from the other members.  This was slightly historic:  the first time Nikki Sixx, Mick Mars, Tommy Lee or John Corabi had done anything solo.  With all the numerous outtakes recorded for the Motley Crue LP, there was now plenty of extra material to put out as a bonus EP.

Scan_20160612A mail-away coupon inside the Motley Crue CD alerted fans that five more tracks were available by mail order only.  20,000 copies of the original EP were pressed.  They included all four solo tracks and a new Motley Crue song called “Babykills”, featuring fifth Beatle Billy Preston on clavinet!

Still, the lucky fans in Japan didn’t have to mail away for anything.  They were able to buy Quaternary right on their store shelves, and because it’s Japan, they also got bonus tracks.  The Japanese version of Quaternary was not a five song EP, but more like a nine-song mini-album.  I had no idea such a thing existed until finding one at Sam the Record Man in Toronto in the summer of 1996.   It still has the price tag:  I paid $49.99, for a total of three songs that I did not have before.

Today, every one of these songs can be found on the box set Music to Crash Your Car To: Volume II, along with even more bonus mixes.

Quaternary commences with industrial noises and studio dialogue:

Tommy Lee:  “I can’t play with fuckin’ clothes on man, this is bullshit.”
Bob Rock: “Play naked.”
Tommy Lee: “Fuckin’ jeans on, a fuckin’ shirt…what up with that?”
Bob Rock: “What, do you work in a bank?”

The industro-rap metal of Tommy Lee’s “Planet Boom” is a track he had been working on for years. An early version made its debut in the background on the 1992 home video release Decade of Decadence. Even though the words “industro-rap” and “Tommy Lee” don’t really sound good together, “Planet Boom” kicks ass. Tommy played all the instruments, utilising a simple, detuned Sabbathy riff and a relentless drum loop. The strength of his vocal came as a surprise, as did the song in general. A few years later it was remixed for Pamela Anderson’s movie Barb Wire. (Stick with this original.)

After a brief studio discussion with Mick Mars about hemorrhoids (?), his blues instrumental “Bittersuite” blows your ears off. Motley fans know that Mick Mars is the most musically talented member, considered an underrated and under appreciated rock god. The blues-rock of “Bittersuite” isn’t as satisfying as I imagine a pure blues offering to be, but there is no doubting Mick’s talent here. Both as a writer and a player, Mick hit it out of the park (Chris Taylor played drums). Mick’s goal was to pay tribute to rock-blues greats like Beck, Hendrix and Blackmore. Mission accomplished. His guitar tone is beautiful and so are his emotive licks.

Nikki Sixx goes third, with another industrial-metal cross. “Father” is one angry fucked up track. It’s heavy and direct, on-trend for 1994, and very abrasive. The riff and song are simple, but Nikki’s anger leaks through. “Father — where were you?” Backwards guitars, electronics and loops on top — you can tell Nikki and Tommy were listening to the same kinds of music at the time!

New kid John Corabi goes last, and in the liner notes he says that “Friends” is his first piano song. He meant to go acoustic, but “Friends” just came out of him. It’s a pretty Queen-like ballad with lovely harmonies in the middle. Although Mick Mars’ song is probably a greater technical achievement, “Friends” is my favourite of the solo tracks. When a guy like Corabi gets going on a ballad, it’s usually going to be amazing anyway. Throw in the Queen elements, and I’m just a sucker for it! It’s really a shame that Motley did not continue with John beyond this. The potential for greatness was always there.

After more studio chatter, we break into “Babykills”, the Billy Preston collaboration. “Babykills” is fun and funky hard rock, probably the heaviest thing Preston ever played on. Unfortunately his part is little more than an added topping. Great tune though; probably far too good to lie hidden away on an obscure mail-order EP.

An impromptu jam that seems to be called “I Just Wanna Fuck You (In the Ass)” ends the original EP on a jokey note.  “What the fuck do you want, for fuck all?”

Scan_20160612 (3)

As mentioned, the Japanese had bonus tracks.   These are tracks that did not make the finished Motley Crue album, since they had recorded so much extra material.  “10,000 Miles Away” is a cool blues ballad, showing off more of Mick’s fine fingerwork.  It was obviously too much of a standard sounding song to fit in with the experimental Motley Crue album.  Not that the album stood a chance in hell after grunge cleared the decks, but you do wonder if it would have been better received if some of these more digestible songs were included on it.

The one track on the Japanese release that is easy to skip is the Skinny Puppy remix of “Hooligan’s Holiday”.  This track was already available on the “Hooligan’s Holiday” single and it’s since been re-released in other places too.  It’s long — over 11 minutes.  Dave “Rave” Ogilvie remixed it with Dwayne Goettel and cEvin Key, so it is of possible interest to Skinny Puppy collectors.  The thing that bugs me about it is that it strikes me as lazy.  The song is pretty much the same as always for the first three minutes, and then the remixing begins.  The whacked out and frankly boring remixed part goes on for almost seven more minutes, before transitioning back to the standard song.  In other words, what Skinny Puppy did here was edit out the middle section and guitar solo of the song, drop in seven minutes of remixed barf, and then put the ending back on.

Two demos round out the CD:  “Hammered” (which did make the album) and “Livin’ in the No” (which did not).  The “Hammered” demo is structurally the same as the album version, no radical departures.  It sounds like much of it is live in the studio, and it’s clear that Motley were focusing on grooves.  It’s all about the four guys being locked in.  Finally “Livin’ in the No” is in the standard hard rock mold.  Again, a track like this fits in less well with the unorthodox LP, but might have made it more accessible for fans.  Even so, a guy like Vince Neil would never have been able to sing “Livin’ in the No” and make it sound good.

There is little question that the Motley Crue album deserves its 5/5 star rating.  This being a collection of outtakes, the same cannot be expected.  Still, it does deserve a very respectable:

4/5 stars

Get the complete EP including all Japanese bonus tracks on Music to Crash Your Car To: Volume II. That set also contains more remixes originally from single B-sides of the era: “Misunderstood” (Guitar Solo/Scream Version), “Hooligan’s Holiday” (Derelict Version), “Misunderstood” (Successful Format Version), “Hooligan’s Holiday” (Brown Nose Edit).

Scan_20160612 (5)

REVIEW: Bruce Kulick – BK3 (2010)

Scan_20160527BRUCE KULICK – BK3 (2010 Rocket Science)

There is so much more to Kiss than just the original members.  Sure, you may think Ace Frehley rules, and that his solo albums are awesome.  You’d be right — I’ve reviewed every single Ace Frehley album.  But let’s not forget about Bruce Kulick, who humbly held down the fort from 1984-1996.  Today, Kulick’s rocking the house with Grand Funk, and doing a fine job of it.  But just as there is more to Kiss than just the original members, there is more to Bruce than just Kiss or Grand Funk.  Bruce has always treated Kiss with respect, and his solo music shows the same care and love put into it.  BK3 is my favourite of his solo albums, including Audio Dog and Transformer.

Surely one of the draws to this Kulick record has to be the big name guest appearances.  The best of these is the late Doug Fieger (The Knack) on “Dirty Girl”, an incredibly catchy radio rocker.  So good is it, Classic Rock magazine listed it as the 29th best tune of 2010.  Hey, that’s a proud moment!  If I didn’t know it was Fieger singing, I wouldn’t have guessed.  I figured it was some young unknown with a great voice.  As great as this song is, and how hit-worthy it could have been, I don’t think it would have suited Kiss.  It’s too pop for Kiss, I think, but it’s not sell-out in any way, because Kulick makes sure the guitars are sweet, crunchy and loud.  Other guest shots include Steve Lukather, dueling with Bruce on the only instrumental “Between the Lines”.  Tobias Sammet shows up to sing the grinding “I’m an Animal”, and on drums is Kiss drummer Eric Singer.  As if that’s not enough, there are not one but two Simmons on this album.  The old man sings “Ain’t Gonna Die”, a heavy Kiss-like armor plated beast.  Then the Son of Simmons, young Nicholas, sings on the even better “Hand of the King”.  Almost a dead ringer for his old man, Nick lends the song a demon-like aura.

There is one more cool guest shot that needs to be highlighted.  There are 3/4 of Bruce’s old late-90’s band Union, on a great tune called “No Friend of Mine”.  John Corabi lends his unmistable gravel to this melancholy rocker.  With shades of acoustics and ripping lead vocals, this as good as anything in the original Union catalogue.  I still think their debut album was incredible.  Canuck Brent Fitz is on drums, also from the Union days but probably on a break from Slash.  Only bassist Jamie Hunting is missing, but it’s safe to say that this song could easily fall under the Union umbrella.  Kulick’s shredding on this one is insane, used sparingly but effectively.

BK3 is also diverse.  Bruce sings the rest of the material, but the most interesting is the closing ballad “Life”.  It sounds like a King’s X track circa Faith Hope Love, augmented with violins and the flute!  This is truly is an outstanding ballad.  Bruce would be the first one to say “I’m not a singer”, so it takes courage to do the lead vocal on a track like this.  Bruce’s voice has his personality in it:  it sounds like the Bruce Kulick we know and love.  It’s a very human sound, and he does a great job.  His voice is similar to Steve Vai’s, another artist who is not afraid to sing lead.

If you appreciate great rock music, meticulously and lovingly assembled, then give BK3 a shot.  There are so many great songs on here.  If you’re a fan of Kiss, The Knack, Motley Crue, or any of the other guests, then this purchase is somewhat of a no-brainer!

4.5/5 stars

REVIEW: Motley Crue – 20th Century Masters – The Millennium Collection

MOTLEY CRUE – 20th Century Masters – The Millennium Collection (2003 Universal)

As a change of pace, this review focuses not on what is on the album, but what was left off.  This 20th Century Masters is more than a little shoddy, as this series can often be.  So let’s talk about what it is not.

  • Too Fast For Love

“Piece of Your Action” is a great little ditty from the debut record Too Fast For Love. What you’re missing though: the speedy single “Live Wire”!  It makes little sense to have this one without “Live Wire”.

“Shout at the Devil” and “Too Young to Fall in Love”: Great choices. Both are classic 80’s metal. What you’re missing is hit single “Looks that Kill”.  But as Meat Loaf says, two out of three ain’t bad.

“Home Sweet Home” is Motley’s biggest hit ballad ever, but where is the Brownsville Station cover “Smokin’ in the Boys Room”?  Can you believe it’s not on here?  And it’s not because it’s a cover, because, well, we’ll get there.

  • Girls, Girls, Girls

The title track makes good sense to include, but why is “All in the Name Of…” on here instead of “Wild Side”? Also missing, but understandably so, is the ballad “You’re All I Need” which never made much impact.  “Wild Side” though remained a concert staple to the end, so that’s one you’ll need to find elsewhere.

  • Dr. Feelgood

There were five singles on this album, and of course you can’t include them all on a 20th Century Masters CD. What you do need are the title track and lead single “Dr. Feelgood”, and obviously “Kickstart My Heart”.  “Kickstart” was an explosive statement by the band, proving they were as mighty as ever without the drugs.  Those two songs embodied the album, but there’s no “Feelgood” here. Inexplicable!  Certainly one of the biggest oversights on this disc.


Great song!  Not on this CD!

  • Decade of Decadence

For reasons that are unexplained and perhaps best left that way, instead of including any of the above better known songs, 20th Century Masters has the far less famed “Rock ‘N’ Roll Junkie”, and Sex Pistols cover “Anarchy in the UK”. “Junkie” is a Feelgood outtake, original released on The Adventures of Ford Fairlane soundtrack in 1990. “Anarchy” was recorded for Motley’s first greatest hits, Decade of Decadence. Neither song is essential, and both are on Decade. Why are they here? “Primal Scream”, which was a powerful single, is a must have. But it’s not here.  Yet another song you’d still have to get elsewhere, because it’s awesome and important.

No complaints here.  “Hooligan’s Holiday” is included from 1994’s self-titled album with John Corabi on vocals. Nice to see this single represented instead of ignored.

At this point, for a compilation like 20th Century Masters, I don’t think you need to explore the 90’s. But, from 1997’s dreadful Generation Swine comes the title track. Not the minor hit single “Afraid” mind you, but the title track which did nothing and went nowhere.  Baffling!

Ending the album with “Hell on High Heels” brought the compilation up to date for its 2003 release date. Unfortunately, there was nothing on New Tattoo worth bringing to the table. Tommy Lee had left and there was a serious dip in quality, even after Generation Swine.  Although it was the only Motley album featuring late drummer Randy Castillo, New Tattoo is simply a turd with no songs that are up to snuff. Crappy way to close a pretty crap compilation, though.  Motley Crue’s instalment of 20th Century Masters sounds as if it’s a single disc from a double CD compilation, and the other CD’s been lost.  Sorry Motley, this CD gets the dreaded Flaming Turd.

1/5 stars

REVIEW: Motley Crue – Motley Crue (Remastered edition)

MOTLEY CRUE – Motley Crue (1994 Elektra, 2003 remastered edition)

It is hard to forget that day in the winter of ’92 when I heard Vince Neil had been fired from Motley Crue. Or quit. Whatever. It was disbelief! I was so into their previous albums, Dr. Feelgood and Decade of Decadence with its crushing single, “Primal Scream”. The Crue were at the top of their game! How could this happen?

But it did happen, and when the spring of ’94 finally rolled around, I picked up Motley Crue (self titled, no umlauts).  I picked it up at the store that, in only a couple more months, I would be working in myself.  I realized after only two listens that Motley Crue had gone from strength to strength. They had produced what was and still is their heaviest album, the most uncompromised, groovingest (is that a word?), serious piece of metal they’d ever done. Sabbath-esque at times, this was one heavy album. John Corabi was in on vocals and (for the first time in this band) rhythm guitar.  John added new dimensions to a band that now demanded to be taken seriously.

The problem was, no one did. While I was working at a record store in ’94, I had a lonely stack of Motley Crue discs (sitting right next to a stack of David Lee Roth’s Your Filthy Little Mouth), going unpurchased. If this album had come out in ’94 by anyone else — Stone Temple Pilots, Soundgarden — it would have been a #1 smash hit and spawned at least 4 hit singles. It didn’t.

Originally just 12 tracks and now expanded to 15, the Motley Crue CD was heralded in by the grooving riff that was “Power To The Music”. A simple song accented by some of the best drum fills ever on a Motley disc (expertly captured by Bob Rock), “Power To The Music” was a rallying cry, something that the fans could relate to. Especially when Corabi shouts, “Don’t tell me to turn it down!” Lyrically this was not all that different from the old Crue. Musically, it followed the path set out by “Primal Scream”. Sound wise, this was a new different Crue, downtuned, with a gritty vocalist with power to spare, more guitars, clearer and louder drums, and sound effects.  Just more of everything.

Some backwards guitar introduced “Uncle Jack”, a song about a child molester, with a distorted Corabi screaming, “I wanna rip your god-damn heart out!” This, friends, was the new Crue for a darker and more serious time. Corabi’s gritty, bluesy vocal melodies were anchored by Sixx, Mars and Lee, grooving as they had never done on record before (with additions from Bob Rock). The new Crue was on fire after only two tracks!

The single, “Hooligan’s Holiday” was next. At 5:51, this was an odd choice for a single. It boasted a strong chorus, some unusual (for Crue) guitar drones, and some more amazing sounding drum fills. Rock really outdid himself on the sound of this record.  I think it’s the best sounding record that either the Crue or Bob Rock have made.

“Misunderstood” was the first epic piece and the second single. At nearly 7 minutes, it was again hardly a commercial song. It was the first song the band wrote together for the album.  It reflected a lot of Zeppelin influences.  It starts acoustic and somber, about a “little old man, left alone in desperate times, life’s passed him by.” Then it slows down, there’s some backwards parts, and the heavy riff kicks in. An orchestra backs Motley Crue, and the amazing Glenn Hughes joins Corabi on vocals.  Perfection.

From there the Zeppelin influences continue. “Loveshine” could have been on Zeppelin III. I’m not sure how many different acoustic instruments are present, but there are a lot, layered here and there.  There are also some odd percussion instruments that I have trouble picking out. This could have been another single, in a perfect world. One of the best songs on the record, “Loveshine” defied expectations by slowing the pace.  I didn’t expect there to be any ballads at all.

The pace picked up again with “Poison Apples”, which begins with a tinny transistor radio sound before kicking into gear. The only glam rock song on the album (the chorus contains the line, “We love our Mott The Hoople”), “Poison Apples” is really the only possible mis-step on a great record. It simply sounds too much like the Motley Crue of old, which to me confused the direction of the album. I would like to hear Vince Neil tackle this one someday (when hell freezes over).

Side two of the record began with “Hammered”, one of the earliest pieces of music written. I believe the riff and groove go back to when Vince Neil was still in the band. “Hammered” is one of the most Sabbathy moments on the album. I used to play the outro riff on my guitar all the time.  I loved that riff. This is a truly great song.

Another epic followed, this one “Til Death Do Us Part”. An ironic title considering that this was to be the only album with Corabi, it was also once the title track. Very Sabbathy once again, “Til Death Do Us Part” contains a slow droning riff, some clear and crisp cymbal work by Tommy, and some of the heaviest kick drums I’ve ever heard. A classic in any parallel universe.

My two favourite songs followed. “Welcome To The Numb” brings back more Zeppelin influences (think a souped up “Travelling Riverside Blues”), with Mars’ virtuoso slide guitar. The groove here is unbeatable and the guitar work ranks with Mars’ all-time best. Coulda woulda shoulda been a single.  I recall Nikki Sixx saying that this song barely made the album, as it had too much of the “old Motley vibe”.  I disagree; I think it was modern and cool.

“Smoke The Sky” is the “drug song”.  “We love our THC, when it’s time we smoke the sky!”.  It borders on thrash metal. Fast, riffy and heavy, this was single #3. The pace is incredible and the song will put you into a sweat.  Corabi makes absolutely no bones about the subject matter:

Marko Polo hailed it heaven,

Socrates inhaled it too,

Mr. President, tell the truth!

“Droppin’ Like Flies” brings back the Sabbathy grooves. Another slower riffy monster, it too is not brief at 6:26 with a long guitar oriented outro. It is followed by the final track on the original CD, “Driftaway”, which is another ballad. I think it took a lot of guts to end a CD this heavy with a ballad. This song too, perhaps, could have been performed by the original band. After banging your head for nearly an hour, this track acts as a comedown of sorts.  It’s my least favourite song, but it’s not a bad ballad.

The bonus tracks on the reissue include the first B-side, “Hypnotized”. This sounds like a demo to me. It is very heavy, very Sabbathy, and very raw. It has a long, drawn out droning outro. “Babykills” has a funky groove and clavinet. This has a bit of a glam metal sound, and was originally released on the mail-away EP Quaternary (which also contained 4 solo tracks, one from each band member). I am glad it has been returned to its rightful place on the Motley Crue album. Finally the CD ends with “Livin’ In The Know”, from the Japanese version of Quaternary. Not an outstanding track, it is clear that Motley Crue included the best material on the album itself. All killer, no filler — and “Livin’ In The Know” is admittedly filler.

It is very unfortunate that this album did not sell, and the fans couldn’t accept a Crue without Vince. In hindsight, it is great we got Vince back to (eventually) make the decent Saints Of Los Angeles CD. However, with Vince Neil solo at the time with his great Exposed album, and the Crue delivering this masterpiece, I was content for them to stay apart. While grunge had certainly taken over, Motley Crue did sabotage their own chances with some terrible interviews including one on MTV where they expressed indifference to their former lead singer being injured in a surfing accident.  They later walked out on the interviewer, and MTV played that clip ad nauseum. Stunts like these, and having swastikas on stage, tanked any chances this album ever had.

Once again I must give special mention to producer Bob Rock, who also played some additional bass and guitar on this CD. He managed to produce a heavy package without overproducing. There is heaviness, there is amp hiss, and yet the clearest crispest drums I’ve ever heard. He captured the downtuned guitars without making them muddy.

Pick up Motley Crue, turn off the lights, and get ready to rock to the heaviest and best album this band has ever made. It is a true classic in any just universe.

I even bought it twice, to get both booklets!  (And then again, in the Music to Crash Your Car to: Vol. 2 box set.)

5/5 stars

Gallery: MOTLEY CRUE – Generation Swine (1997 Japanese CD)

A short while ago, Jon and I were discussing the Motley Crue “reunion” album, Generation Swine (review here).  I told him that I was still looking for the original Japanese edition, which had a bonus track called “Song To Slit Your Wrist By”.   Even though I already knew the song from Nikki’s side project, 58, and didn’t like it, I still wanted Motley Crue’s version for my collection.  I found one on eBay for just over $30 which is the best price I’d ever seen.  I bought it, it shipped.

Then Jon told me:  “The bonus track ‘A Song To Slit Your Wrist By’ wasn’t a Crüe song at all, it was taken from Nikki Sixx’ very underrated sideproject 58.”

Rats!

See, for me as a collector, that sucks for two reasons.  If the song is by 58 and not Motley (and he’s exactly right, that’s indeed what it is), then it gets pushed way out into a far orbit of my collecting priorities.  Second, I already had the damn thing a long time ago on the 58 album Diet For A New America!

I knew it wasn’t a pristine copy and the packaging had yellowed, so no big deal.  The plastic outer case has also got a bit brittle and a piece cracked off in shipping.  Again, no big deal, last time I saw this CD it was a lot more expensive, and didn’t have the obi strip.  It comes with a really cool generous booklet (in Japanese unfortunately), exclusive to this release, so that helps to make up for the lack of an exclusive bonus track.

Gallery below.  Enjoy!