#891: Condition Critical
RECORD STORE TALES #891 Condition Critical
Allan Runstedtler was looking at my tape collection. This was something kids did. Every kid had a few tapes. Maybe they even had a nice tape case to put them in. I started the year 1985 with only one tape case. It held 30.
Allan reached for my Quiet Riot.
“Condition Critical? What’s that? I only know ‘Situation Critical’ by Platinum Blonde.” said Al.
I was never one of the cool ones.
There was this kid from school named Kevin Kirby. One day I was in his neighbourhood and he introduced me to a friend of his. Kevin asked me to tell him what my favourite band was. I answered “Quiet Riot” and they both laughed. I still liked Quiet Riot? They were so 1983.
Not much time had passed, but Quiet Riot were already toast. I felt cool for all of 3 months when Quiet Riot were big. Metal Health was my first hard rock album. I loved that album. I still love that album. I was the anomaly. All my classmates (the few that liked Quiet Riot in the first place) had moved on. Platinum Blonde were huge. And rightfully so. Standing in the Dark was a great album. Their followup Alien Shores was also successful, going to #3 in Canada. Platinum Blonde, however, were not for me. They were not a hard rock band. I didn’t even consider them to be a rock band. I labelled Platinum Blonde with the same label I used on everything I didn’t like. These loathsome artists were all dubbed “wavers”. There was no greater insult to me than “waver”. You were either a rocker or a waver. There was nothing else in my eyes more wretched than “New Wave” music.
Quiet Riot were not wavers, they were rockers. They had songs like “Party All Night” and “Mama Weer All Crazee Now”. But they had made a “Critical” blunder. They followed Metal Health with an inferior carbon copy in Condition Critical. It was a collection of leftovers and it was obvious. It even included a Slade cover like the prior album. It still went platinum. But Metal Health sold six times that. It was seen as a critical and commercial failure. Dubrow earned Quiet Riot no favours when he decided to trash other bands in the press. That stunt misfired, gloriously so.
No wonder Allan had never heard of Condition Critical. I tried to get him into some of my music. I showed him the video for “Death Valley Driver” by Rainbow, which I thought was really cool. He wasn’t as impressed as I was.
Going back a bit, I received Condition Critical for Easter of 1985. Almost a year after its release. I can remember a conversation with my mom about what kind of gifts I would like, and I answered “the new Quiet Riot, because I want to have all the albums by a band.” Hah! I had no idea, none whatsoever, that Metal Health was their third, not first. In Japan, Quiet Riot and Quiet Riot II were released in the late 70s. These featured the late Ozzy Osbourne guitar wizard Randy Rhoads on lead guitar, but I had yet to learn all these important details. I wanted to have Condition Critical so I could have a “complete” Quiet Riot collection. Something I’m still attempting to have.
Easter of ’85 was spent in Ottawa with my mom’s Uncle Gar and Aunt Miriam. We all stayed in their house. They were amazing people. Uncle Gar was injured in the war, but always had a smile on his face. He didn’t like my growing hair or my rock music, but I think he was happy that I turned out OK in the end. I stayed in a little spare bedroom. I brought my Sanyo ghetto blaster and my parent’s old Lloyds headphones.
I hit “play” on Quiet Riot not expecting to like every song, and I didn’t. I enjoyed the two singles, “Party All Night” and “Mama Weer All Crazee Now”. I thought the lead track, “Sign of the Times”, as as strong as the first album. But I didn’t think much of “Scream and Shout”, “Bad Boy” or “(We Were) Born to Rock”. And the ballad? I was not a ballad kid, and I thought “Winners Take All” was even worse than “Thunderbird”!
I’ve softened on the ballads since (pun intended), but it’s true that this is just an album of soundalikes. It’s not outstanding. I knew I’d have to give it a bunch more listens, but even then I knew a “sequel” when I saw one. Similar. More of the same of what you like. But not as good.
I kept giving them chances, though. I had to. They were the first band I wanted “all” the albums from. When my buddy George told me that Quiet Riot were back with an awesome new song called “The Wild and the Young”, my excitement was restored. “Kevin Dubrow even looks like Paul Stanley in the music video,” he told me. Cool!
Of course we know how that ended. A sterile, keyboardy comeback that fizzled out with Dubrow’s ousting.
There are bands I have given up on and never looked back. Yet I keep buying Quiet Riot, loyally, album after album. If they release another, I’ll buy that too. And it’s all because of what I told my mom when she asked me what I wanted for Easter. “The new Quiet Riot,” I answered, “because I want to have all the albums by a band.”
REVIEW: Quiet Riot – Cum On Feel the Noize (1989 CBS cassette)
QUIET RIOT – Cum On Feel the Noize (1989 CBS cassette)
From the same line as the previously reviewed Trouble Shooters by Judas Priest, here’s a tape-only Quiet Riot compilation. Like the Priest tape, Cum On Feel the Noize has nothing more recent than five years. For Quiet Riot, that unfortunately means you’re only hearing songs from two albums! (Nothing from the first two which were only released in Japan.)
The title track (and Slade cover) “Cum On Feel the Noize” goes first, muddy tape hiss and all: this cassette has seen better days! It’s an edited version (roughly 3:10), so perhaps something you don’t have in your collection. The speedy album track “Run For Cover” then delivers the scalding hot metal. Two more big hit singles follow: “Mama Weer All Crazee Now (another Slade cover) and “Metal Health” (sometimes subtitled “Bang Your Head” in case you didn’t know the name). These two hits will keep the party flowing, and that’s it for side one.
Proving they had more than just a passing interest in mental health, “Let’s Go Crazy” kicks off side two with a bang. Frankie Banali is the man — his drums really sell this one. “(We Were) Born to Rock” is another solid number, all rock no schlock. “Slick Black Cadillac” is a shrewd inclusion. Gotta have a car song for the road. Then “Party All Night” finishes it off with a pretty clear message.
As a party tape, Cum On Feel the Noize would have done the trick. You should probably just own Metal Health and Conditional Critical instead, but this is a fun tape and would have been enough Quiet Riot for most folks.
VHS Archives #2: Hear N’ Aid Special – Pepsi Power Hour (1986)
The one VHS tape I’m working on currently spans a period of recordings from about July 1986 to September 1987. This Hear N’ Aid special features a MuchMusic interview conducted by J.D. (John) Roberts. There’s lots of exclusive information in this valuable video, including a tidbit on bands who refused to be in the same project as Spinal Tap!
REVIEW: QUIET RIOT – Live at the US Festival (2012 CD/DVD)
QUIET RIOT – Live at the US Festival (2012 Shout! CD/DVD set)
This was a long awaited release, since the US Festival was way back in 1983! The Holy Grail would be an official Van Halen release of their legendary performance, but I digress. There aren’t a lot of really great live Quiet Riot albums out there, with one called Extended Versions being the best package. Live at the US Festival is brief at just seven songs (plus a 4:38 guitar solo that also includes a sneak preview of a song called “Scream and Shout”). It does capture Quiet Riot at their peak, at a critical gig, and includes a DVD of the whole thing for the complete package. (Come on, Van Halen…)
Let’s have a look at the DVD first. The crowd is vast, the costumes ridiculous, but there’s some kind of fire in the air. The atmosphere is electric and the band are absolutely great visually, particularly Rudy Sarzo. DuBrow is the consummate glam frontman, and an underrated one at that. Have a giggle at the old style giant screens displaying the band logo.
The CD itself sounds good, no complaints there, and the recording sounds untampered (evidenced by a messy Carlos Cavazo guitar solo in “Cum On Feel the Noize”). Sarzo’s bass is mixed nice and audibly. It would have been better if more of a booklet was included, but it’s just a simple fold-out with no liner notes. This set is sparse and just over 40 minutes long. A lot of that time is taken up by talking. You get the big hits though, and the non-album track “Danger Zone”.
Live at the US Festival is a pretty easy Quiet Riot purchase to justify because of the included DVD.
REVIEW: Quiet Riot – Terrified (1993)
QUIET RIOT – Terrified (1993 Moonstone)
Quiet Riot took the unusual step of firing their only original member, lead singer Kevin DuBrow, in 1987. They soldiered on with new singer Paul Shortino and did a brief tour of Japan before calling it a day for the band. Meanwhile, Kevin DuBrow was supposed to working on a new band called Little Women.
In 1991, various media were reporting that Kevin DuBrow and Carlos Cavazo had gotten back together in 1991 as a new band called Heat. It was a quiet reunion for the singer and guitarist who had been estranged since DuBrow’s firing in 1987. Within two years of forming Heat, the band had morphed into a new version of Quiet Riot, now featuring former drummer Frankie Banali and newcomer Kenny Hillary (RIP).
Terrified features 3/4 of the classic Metal Health lineup with only Rudy Sarzo being absent. (He’d join again later on Alive and Well). Like a mighty ship changing course in heavy waters, Terrified is a monstrous Quiet Riot CD, anchored by Cavazo’s newly heavy guitar playing and Banali’s inimitable thunder. The drum production on this album could be the best on any Quiet Riot disc, and up there with Banali’s sound with bands such as W.A.S.P.
Lots of winners on the Terrified: “Cold Day In Hell” boasts an angry 90s groove, but with the melodic sensibilities of Metal Health-era QR. “Loaded Gun” almost sounds like a Metal Health outtake, because it has a throwback vibe. Their cover of “Itchycoo Park” is the only acoustic song, a much needed respite before re-entering the fray on the storming title track. Only a few filler tracks (in a row) almost derail the album, but soon we’re back on track with “Rude, Crude Mood”. It may be one of the worst lyrics that DuBrow’s ever written but the music sure rocks. “Little Angel” is fast but forgettable, and before long you’re into “Resurrection”, a six-minute instrumental tour-de-force. Banali and Cavazo take the helm on it with a shuddering riff, and they don’t let go until it’s fade out. An awesome track.
Quiet Riot’s career can be divided up into a number of phases. In the 1970s, there was the Randy Rhoads era represented by two decent Japanese albums. This was followed by the the so-called “classic era” of major label releases (Metal Health to QR) from 1983-1988. Then there is the reunion era which runs from Terrified to Rehab (2006) and finally Kevin Dubrow’s death in 2007. As a coda, Frankie Banali resurrected the name with a variety of lead singers and continues to tour and record. Their last album was 2014’s 10 featuring lead singer Jizzy Pearl. Terrified would stand as the best album of the reunion era, which they sadly struggled to equal on later releases like Down to the Bone.
Worth the investment.
REVIEW: Quiet Riot – Condition Critical (1984)
QUIET RIOT – Condition Critical (1984 CBS)
I’ve reviewed almost every single Quiet Riot album now. Only Guilty Pleasures awaits of the studio albums I have left to cover. Why did I leave 1984’s Condition Critical for so long? As the follow-up to Metal Health, you’d think I would have tackled it already. But I didn’t even have the album ripped to my computer.
As a half-arsed Metal Health clone, I’ve never felt like Condition Critical deserved a lot of time spent on it. I received it in 1985, and it has never been an album I have particularly cared for. I still think today that most of the songs are not very good. At that, almost every song is an inferior clone of a prior one on Metal Health:
- “Sign of the Times” = “Metal Health (Bang Your Head)”
- “Mama Weer all Crazee Now” (Slade cover) = “Cum On Feel the Noize” (Slade cover)
- “Winners Take All” = “Thunderbird”
And so on and so forth. Spencer Proffer returned to produce, so even sonically Conditional Critical is all but a clone of the previous record. I’m sure the guys thought they were repeating the magic to take them back to the top of the charts. How wrong they were! Most of the new songs were written solely by Kevin DuBrow, and it feels rushed.
Condition Critical still retains some of the fun of Metal Health. Although not as good, the dumb-titled “Stomp Your Hands, Clap Your Feet” is plenty fun just like Quiet Riot classics. “Party all Night” is also a hoot, and you have to admit that the guys did make a pretty hilarious music video for it. Quiet Riot broke with the help of MTV, and they at least retained their knack for making an amusing music video.
On side two of the album there was hidden a serious heavy tune, the title track “Condition Critical”. This slow grinder is one of those great lost tracks that you can only get on the album. Banali breaks the levee with some solid drums. Songs like this make tracking down the record worthwhile for those willing to give it a shot.
On the other hand, I had a friend who said “Winners Take All” is probably the worst Quiet Riot song of all time.
Proceed with caution.
REVIEW: Quiet Riot – Metal Health (1983)
You lucky, lucky readers! Guess what? It’s….
THE BEST FUCKING COLLABORATION WEEK EVER!
All week, Aaron over at the KeepsMeAlive and I will be colluding. Monday to Friday, we will be talking about the same CDs. He hasn’t read my reviews, and I haven’t read his. Today, we’re both discussing Quiet Riot‘s landmark Metal Health. Be sure to check both reviews each day this week!
Aaron’s installment: QUIET RIOT – Metal Health
QUIET RIOT – Metal Health (1983, 2001 Sony remastered edition)
While my first rock album ever was Kilroy Was Here, by Styx, my first metal album ever was this one: Metal Health, by Quiet Riot. Although I was really into Styx, Quiet Riot were the first band that I “loved”. Some music that people liked when they were in grade school embarrasses them today that they ever owned it. Not me, not this album. Since buying it in ’84, I’ve owned this album on cassette, LP and twice on CD. And I’ll probably buy it again; I understand there is a more recent reissue out with more bonus tracks. Metal Health was the crucial cornerstone in my musical development, and always will be one of my all-time favourites. Read on!
The opening drum crash to “Metal Health”, sometimes also referred to as “Bang Your Head (Metal Health)”, instantly transports me back in time. Chuck Wright played bass on this one, extra slinky and funky (although Rudy Sarzo plays on most of the album). Suddenly I’m in the basement at my parents’ house, listening to this cassette on my old Sanyo ghetto blaster. I still recall, the cassette shell was white. I played the crap out of it, annoying everyone.
“I got a mouth like an alligator” sings lead howler Kevin DuBrow, and how accurate he was. I had no idea that Kevin’s mouth would cause the band to oust him only a few years down the road. I liked the attitude of the lyrics, and the aggression of the guitars. Impossible to ignore was new drummer Frankie Banali, who to this day is an absolute ballcrusher of a hard rock drummer. His metronomic groove on Metal Health gave it the drive. I wouldn’t have been able to break it down and articulate it like that when I was a kid, but these are the factors that attracted me to the song.
“Cum On Feel The Noize”, the Slade cover, is now more famous than the Slade original or Oasis’ version for that matter. It’s a great tune, but Quiet Riot and producer Spencer Proffer nailed the sound and the vibe. The gang vocals are irresistible. The cover was a huge hit, but it painted them into a corner.
Much like my first rock purchase Kilroy Was Here, there were songs I liked and songs I hated. I don’t think I was the only 12 year old kid who didn’t have the patience for ballads. Girls? Who cares! So I also hated “Don’t Wanna Let You Go”. I wasn’t obsessive about listening to whole albums back then, since I was brought up in the LP age where we just dropped the needle. So I often fast-forwarded through “Don’t Wanna Let You Go”. Or we would play side one of the cassette, rewind, and play it again. (“Don’t Wanna Let You Go” was on side two of the cassette version). Shortly after I suddenly noticed girls were EVERYWHERE, the song started to click with me. Its sparse arrangement driven by Frankie’s drums make it a really special song. Carlos Cavazo’s guitar solo had melody and composition to it, and drew my attention to the fact that a guitar solo wasn’t just a 30 second bore, but a micro-structure within the song, like a song all its own.
“Slick Black Cadillac” is a remake of a song from the second Quiet Riot album (cleverly titled Quiet Riot II) although we didn’t know that at the time. “Slick Black Cadillac” is simply a classic today, and even though there isn’t a Randy Rhoads writing credit on it, you can hear the echo of his influence in Carlos’ guitar fills. The lyrics to this song are so catchy, and soon you too will be singin’ about those solid gold hubcaps. I was attracted to songs that told a story, and the rudimentary story here is a guy in a Caddy runnin’ from the “coppers on his trail”. There’s no Dylanesque poetry, and DuBrow was never a crooner. This is about loud guitars and drums, a singer who is screaming his face off, and songs about cars and rocking!
You know I got a fully equipped rock ‘n’ roll machine,
At speeds that take me high, high, high,
At dead man’s curve,
I only hear one word, drive, drive, drive!
Love’s A Bitch” is less successful but it has a mournful quality that isn’t bad. “Breathless” is better, a fast rocker featuring Frankie’s breakneck but steady pounding of the skins. Following at the same pace, “Run for Cover” is just as furious, but lacking in melody. Carlos Cavazo’s guitar showcase “Battle Axe” used to precede “Slick Black Cadillac” on my cassette version, which it was perfectly suited for. On the original LP and the CD, it opens “Let’s Get Crazy”. Because the running order of the cassette is permanently branded into my memory, it’s hard to get used to. “Let’s Get Crazy” is goofy, seemingly an attempt to have another song like “Metal Health” on the same album. As such it’s filler.
Finally there is “Thunderbird”, the piano-based ballad that Kevin wrote for the late Randy Rhoads. Didn’t like it then, love it today.* It’s a beautiful song and maybe the best thing DuBrow’s ever written. It’s cheesy as hell, but who cares? The heart is there.
CD bonus tracks include a fun live take of “Slick Black Cadillac” (complete with DuBrow’s “vrroooom, vrrrrroooom!”) taken from a radio promo release. Also present is “Danger Zone”, an outtake that is not quite up to the album standards, but certainly close. Remastering is loud and clear, and liner notes are informative enough.
Enjoy. Doesn’t matter if it’s 1984 or 2015, this is a great album.
* When we were kids, my sister and I used to play ‘air bands’ to this album. I’d always make her sing “Thunderbird” while I would get the ‘better’ songs!
REVIEW: Quiet Riot – 10 (2014)
We’ve had a couple strong new releases in a row here of late: The new Helix and Judas Priest albums have been particularly great.
I guess two out of three ain’t bad.
QUIET RIOT – 10 (2014 iTunes or Amazon mp3 download)
I’ve made no secret of my dislike for the happenings in Quiet Riot recently. I find their current reunion, with no original members, to be tenuous at best. Singer after singer, Quiet Riot stumbled onwards before finally hiring Jizzy Pearl of Love/Hate and Ratt fame. With Pearl they’ve managed to record an album. 10 is the name of that album, another thing I find a little disrespectful. The name 10 seems to me to imply it’s their 10th album. It’s not; all fans know Metal Health was their third, not first, album. This seems to play into an earlier attempt to re-write the Quiet Riot related Wikipedia pages to state that Metal Health was the band’s first record. Why? I can only speculate that this is done to promote the current Quiet Riot as having “original members”, when in fact they have none.
However, I’m going to listen with open ears, because that’s what I’m here to do.
First track, “Rock in Peace” is one I like quite a lot. What I don’t like is the muddy, muddy sound. The drums sound like they’re in another room. It’s too bad because I think the song has potential. As for Jizzy, it’s easy to adjust to him as lead singer of Quiet Riot. Although he doesn’t sound like the late Kevin DuBrow too much, he does have certain screamy qualities in common with DuBrow. This enables him to adapt to the Quiet Riot sound. The lyrics quote the band’s biggest original hit, “Metal Health”, which is alright. Halford’s quoted himself before too. OK, so production aside, not bad.
“Bang For Your Buck” has some tasty guitar by the talented Alex Grossi, making his first Quiet Riot album appearance here. Unfortunately the otherwise fine song is held back by Jizzy, overreaching and straining. Grossi really does redeem the song especially with the solo…but damn this album sounds muddy. Congested. Like I have a head cold while listening to it.
Third in line is the weird titled “Backside of Water”. I don’t know what that title means, and since this is a digital release, there are no lyrics. It smokes along nicely, with more fantastic Grossi guitars, but it’s an unremarkable song that doesn’t sound like Quiet Riot, except in the sense that Quiet Riot has a lot of unremarkable songs. The Ratt-like “Back on You” is outtake quality. I’m sensing that the guys think they can just throw a shout-AC/DC-style chorus on something and call it catchy, but it doesn’t work that way.
“Band Down” is what you’d call a “down n’ dirty” rocker. I’d call it dull, and poor sounding. I think they’re trying to recapture that “Stay With Me Tonight” vibe, but without a memorable chorus. But “Dog Bone Alley” is worse, absolutely sunk by horrendous backing vocals. It has a slinky, heavy groove, and some smokin’ guitars, but that’s not enough to build a song with.
Quiet Riot’s biggest stumbling block has always been songwriting. That’s why some of their biggest hits are covers. Quiet Riot 10 continues that frustrating tradition. Just like albums such as Alive and Well had some good songs and solid moments, so is Quiet Riot 10. And that’s only six songs!
What Quiet Riot did to make a full album is include four live songs, kinda taking a page out of the ZZ Top book, a-la Fandango! These tracks are all obscurities, songs not available in live versions before. They all feature Kevin DuBrow, but could Frankie have not found better sounding recordings? From Quiet Riot III is a horrid sounding version of “Put Up or Shut Up”. This is bootleg quality, and not even good bootleg quality. Too bad; sounds like it was a good version. Then, from the stinky Rehab CD comes an unnecessary “Free”. So it’s heavy, whoop-de-do. It’s a shitty song, and the vocals are so damn distorted at times that it sounds as if Kevin’s under water. “South of Heaven” too suffers from these sonic defects. It seems like they were going for a Zeppelin “Nobody’s Fault But Mine” kind of vibe, but as if the mothership crashed into “The Ocean”. (See what I did there?) Kevin even yelps, “Push, push!” It’s a shame because Frankie really is a smokin’ drummer.
The final track is a nine minute rock n’ roll medley. This is a great jam. Humble Pie’s “Red Light Mama, Red Hot!” is a great little obscure choice. Kevin sounds like he’s having a blast. Actually the whole band sound like they’re having more fun here than they were playing their own originals. This seques into other more familiar hits, still harkening back to that old British blues rock sound.
Live many albums of Quiet Riots past, 10 stumbles and fails at times, while producing pleasing hard rock surprises at others. The sonic issues are a surprise to me. I hope a physical CD release, if there is to be one, would improve the sound.
1. “Rock in Peace” 4:00
2. “Bang For Your Buck” 3:52
3. “Backside of Water” 4:18
4. “Back on You” 3:24
5. “Band Down” 3:17
6. “Dogbone Alley” 4:29
7. “Put Up or Shut Up” 4:18
8. “Free” 4:05
9. “South of Heaven” 5:25
10. “Rock ‘n’ Roll Medley” 9:22
For further reading, check out Jon Wilmenius’ review of Quiet Riot 10.
REVIEW: Quiet Riot – Extended Versions (2007 Sony)
QUIET RIOT – Extended Versions (2007 Sony BMG)
There are several Quiet Riot live albums available: this one, Setlist, Live at the US Festival, and Live & Rare. All are vintage recordings from the early 1980’s. Of the three, you might look at Extended Versions and pass on it. It looks cheap and unofficial. To overlook this CD would be a mistake, and this is why.
Sure, it lacks any sort of booklet or liner notes. All I know is that the first eight tracks are from Pasadena in 1983, and the last two from Nashville the same year. From the outside you wouldn’t know that. The only information is the ominous “Recorded Live” which tells you very little indeed. Being 1983, this is the “classic” lineup of Kevin DuBrow, Frankie Banali, Rudy Sarzo, and Carlos Cavazo, on the Metal Health tour. Introducing “Love’s A Bitch,” DuBrow reveals that they only began their US tour a short while ago.
Perhaps because it’s early in the tour, or maybe because they’re home in California, Quiet Riot pulled out two rarities for the Pasadena show. These are “Gonna Have A Riot” and “Anytime You Want Me”, neither of which are on Quiet Riot I or II. Both are written solely by DuBrow, but “Gonna Have A Riot” is from the Randy Rhoads period. “Anytime You Want Me” is of more recent vintage, and it’s actually quite an excellent pop rocker. Also rare was the set opener, “Danger Zone”, unreleased until 2001 when the studio version was added to the Metal Health remastered CD.
In addition to the rarities, you get the hits: “Metal Health”, “Cum On Feel The Noize”, “Slick Black Cadillac”, “Love’s A Bitch”. There’s also a handful of well liked album cuts such as “Let’s Go Crazy” and the smoking “Breathless”. That song knocked me out as an 11 year old and it still does today. All performed by the band in their prime, before the downfall.
Live & Rare sounded awful, but this CD sounds pretty good. I’m not sure if it’s a radio broadcast, but it’s perfectly listenable. It’s too bad there’s no packaging, because if this had been packaged with more effort and care, it could have been sold as an “official” live album quite easily. Bummer there’s no liner notes, all you’re going to get is the music. However, the music stands up for itself and it’s an enjoyable live album.