kyle gass

REVIEW: Rachel Fuller presents: In the Attic with Pete Townsend & friends (2 CD/1 DVD)

Hey folks! It’s The Best Fucking Collaboration Week Ever, Pt. 2! Just like last time, Mike and Aaron will be doing simultaneous daily reviews of albums these two intrepid music reporters have sent to each other. Buckle up, buttercups, it’s gonna be a blast!

RACHEL FULLER presents: In The Attic with Pete Townsend & friends (2009 Eel Pie 2 CD/1 DVD set)

A long time ago, Aaron found this triple disc set at Giant Tiger, for the ridiculously low price of $1.00!  Not being a foolish man, Aaron bought three of them.  One for me, one for the Heavy Metal OverloRd, and one for himself!

Pete Townsend and Rachel Fuller are life partners and musical collaborators.  She hosted a web show called In the Attic that featured performers from all over the musical spectrum.  The Pete Townsend & Friends installment was gifted to me by buddy Aaron!  What he did not know is this:  I’m only a casual Townsend fan (not a collector), but by buying me this, he added some more Tenacious D to my collection of that band!

The DVD contains most (but not all) of the same material as CD, but also a lot more.  For example Tenacious D’s “Tribute” is only on the DVD.  Jack Black was suffering from strep throat that night, and they had to lower the song an octave. For a guy with a sore throat, he still sings pretty great…and even more demonic and evil!  Their “Tommy Medley” is damn impressive, but it’s really too bad that Jack wasn’t in full voice.  Kyle Gass apologized to Pete for this jokey, uber-fast medley, but I don’t think the apology was necessary, since Pete yelled for an encore!

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Joe Purdy was unfamiliar to me before, a folk musician with a large discography.  When he invites his dad Dad onstage, and Pete Townsend fixes his mic stand, there is a brief “we’re not worthy” moment that must have been mind-blowing.  The pair does an original song called “Daisy” (great bluegrass) before Joe performs a couple more: “Let My Love Open the Door” and “Talk About Suffering”, both with Pete.  “Let My Love Open the Door” is the familiar Townsend classic, and delightful in its tender acoustic guise.

Rachel Fuller then performs her original song “Sir Walter Raleigh”, an f-bomb laden piano ballad!  A song is cut here from the DVD, another Fuller original called “I Can Fly”, on CD 1.  This pretty song is a nice contrast.  British solo artist Alexi Murdoch is next with two songs, both originals:  “Dream About Flying” and “Orange Sky”.  His impressive bluesy picking creates a dark folk sound on these songs.  “Orange Sky” is performed with Pete and Rachel which I would imagine reduces most people to jelly.  Imagine having Pete Townsend and his significant other playing on a song YOU wrote….

Most folks should be familiar with Ben Harper who takes the stage next with cellos and violins!  “Please Bleed” is incredible.  With Pete, he does his hit “Diamonds on the Inside”, still great today.  Finally, and still with Pete, they do “I’m One” from Quadrophenia together.  I imagine this is something you would stroke off a bucket list.  “I want this to last a really long time!” says Ben mid-song.

The final guest of the evening is Pete himself, with four acoustic songs.  “The Real Me” takes on a funky vibe, but brilliant as always.  “Acid Queen”, “Drowned” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again” complete this Who set.  Even just solo on an acoustic guitar, this set is incredible.  Townsend’s presence and expertise soak through every note.

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That’s the end of that night’s show, but not the end of the DVD.  The release is split in two sections – “The Hotel Cafe” and “Joe’s Pub”.  The “Joe’s Pub” section has plenty more big name stars.  This came from a traveling version of Fuller’s show, shadowing the Who at their festival gigs.  In New York, they did a show at Joe’s Pub, and the first guest was a starstruck Amos Lee.  His two songs are “What’s Been Going On” and “Freedom” (CD only), with special accompaniment by Pete himself.  “What’s Been Going On” is an incredible moment of folk power and feeling.  “Freedom” celebrates with a big soulful chorus.  These are great songs.

Rachel Fuller played two songs at Joe’s Pub:  “Jigsaw” (CD only) and “Cigarettes and Housework” (what, you mean you and Pete can’t afford a maid to do the housework?).  “Jigsaw” is bright and pretty with lyrical references to some certain Who songs!  Fuller’s remarkable voice is the main feature on the sparse “Cigarettes and Housework”.

Of all people, Jimmy Fallon is next.  “Carwash for Peace” reveals that he actually has a pretty good singing voice.  It’s a silly but fun sing-along.  “Let’s have a car wash for peace, there’s trouble in the Middle East,” he sings.  If we do this, there’ll be no more wars, or dirty cars!  It’s hard to argue with that logic.  “President’s Day” is a folksy send-up on the subject of getting totally wasted on President’s Day, because hey, it’s a day off.  “Beer and a shot with my man Dick Cheney!”  Hey, it was 2007, still the Bush years.

Rachael Yamagata takes the stage with Pete Townsend and Kevin Salem for “Paper Doll”, a sultry original acoustic number with some amazing soulful singing.  There’s a nice moment on the DVD when Rachael smiles, looking at Pete playing her song, a real “pinch me” experience I’m sure.  Her other song, “Be Be My Love” (CD only) has a similar chord progression as Bon Jovi’s “I’ll Be There For You”.  This is her first song on her first album and I’m sure any similarity is coincidental.  Then it’s Townsend’s turn to go it alone, with “Acid Queen” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again” (both CD only).

The final guest on this set is Mr. Lou Reed.  “White Light/White Heat” with Pete is a moment so gravitous* that news reports suggest a new black hole formed over New York that night!  “Pale Blue Eyes”, with accompaniment by Pete on the chorus, is delicate and weighty at once.

For a mere buck, I would postulate that In the Attic with Pete Townsend & friends has to have the most bang-per-dollar value of any purchase made for my collection.  This is great stuff for music fans of all tastes.

4/5 stars

* Not an actual word.

 

REVIEW: Ronnie James Dio – This Is Your Life (Tribute)

NEW RELEASE

“I’m letting them pick what songs they wanna do in the way they wanna do it.” Wendy Dio

THIS IS YOUR LIFE_0001VARIOUS ARTISTS:  Ronnie James Dio – THIS IS YOUR LIFE (2014 tribute CD)

No preable from me: we all know how great Dio was.  Let’s get to the tracks.

Anthrax kick off the festivities with a slamming “Neon Nights”.  The storming opener couldn’t have been in a better slot.  Not only is Charlie Benate heavy as shit, but the guitar solos are mental.  Joe Belladonna handles the powerful vocal ably.  Rob Caggiano is still in the lineup indicating this isn’t brand new.  I suspect it was recorded at the same time as last year’s Anthems EP.

The guys that never get respect, Tenacious D, tackle the difficult second slot.  No worries there; they chose “The Last In Line” which Jack Black sings with no difficulty.  Uncle Meat has said it before:  Jack Black is one of the best singers he’s seen live.  “The Last In Line” proves his pipes, although some may not like his exaggerated, humorous vocal enunciation.  Kyle Gass plays a cute recorder solo in lieu of guitar, but there’s not enough K.G. on this track.  Brooks Wackerman kicks the drums in the ass.

And speaking of drums, Mike Portnoy is next with Adrenaline  Mob.  They demolish “Mob Rules”, although singer Russell Allen is certainly no Dio.  He is completely overshadowed by Portnoy and the shredding of Mike Orlando.

Corey Taylor, Satchel (Russ Parish) and friends  chose “Rainbow In the Dark” as their tribute to Ronnie.  This has always been such a fan favourite, and a personal one as well.  It is difficult to imagine anyone but Ronnie singing it.  While Corey Taylor is not at all like Ronnie James Dio, you can tell he loves this song.  It bleeds out of his performance.  He does it in his own rasp, and it works.

The incredible Lzzy Hale and Halestorm are up next with another Dio classic, “Straight Through the Heart”.  There is no denying the talents of Lzzy Hale, but her powerful pipes are almost too much.  Perhaps she overpowers the song, rather than simply fueling it.  Halestorm fans will love it, but I think Lzzy maybe should have reeled it in a bit.  Or, maybe I just need to get used to it.  “Straight From the Heart” does sound better after a few listens.

Biff Byford (Saxon) joins Motorhead on lead vocals for Rainbow’s “Starstruck”.  There’s a bit of that Motor-slam in it, but if I didn’t know who it was, I never would have guessed Motorhead.  You can hear Lemmy on backing vocals, but weirdly, he’s not credited on bass.  Nobody is, but you can hear the bass clearly and it sounds like Lem.

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I’m a little sick of the Scorpions doing ballads, but I admit that “Temple of the King” (another Rainbow classic) is stunningly good.  One might almost mistake it for a Scorpions original.  It has that regal Scorpions bombast to is, but Matthias Jabs’ lead work is just sublime.  He’s an underrated player, absolutely.  You can tell he’s a Blackmore fan.

An oldie from 1999, Doro’s cover of “Egypt (The Chains are On)” is excellent.  It’s cool to hear female singers like Doro and Lzzy Hale sing Dio.  Doro’s impressive pipes have always been astounding.  Her version of “Egypt” is a little over the top compared to Dio’s, but that’s cool by me.

Killswitch Engage…hmm.  “Holy Diver” starts great, super heavy, with some perfectly acceptable, melodic vocals.  Then it all goes down the toilet at the bridge.  That’s when it turns into hardcore shouting and blast beats…sorry, not on this song, thanks.  I can listen to that stuff in moderation, but don’t sully “Holy Diver” with it.  Fortunately the guitar solos are great, sounding like an Iron Maiden outtake from Powerslave.  Shame about the growling and shouting.  Skip.

“Catch the Rainbow” is a great song, and Craig Goldy plays guitar on this cover.  He’s ex-Dio himself, and he’s backed by his former Dio-mates Rudy Sarzo, Scott Warren and Simon Wright.  (Hey, that’s also 1/3 of Tateryche!)  Glenn Hughes sings, but this song sounds out of his scope.  His bluesy slant doesn’t work for me.  Sorry Glenn, you’re still awesome!

I find it strange that two more ex-Dio members (Jimmy Bain and Rowan Robertson) chose to cover Black Sabbath.  But who cares!  They covered “I”, perhaps the greatest song from Dehumanizer (1992)!  On drums is Brian Tichy, with Oni Logan (Lynch Mob, Dio Disciples) singing.  It’s a perfectly authentic version and I love it.  It’s absolutely thunderous, and I love Jimmy Bain’s bass sound.  Always have.  Of all the vocalists on This Is Your Life, it is Oni Logan that comes closest to nailing Dio’s vibe.  Considering he’s in Dio Diciples, I shouldn’t have been surprised.  I didn’t expect it though, based on what I knew of Logan from Lynch Mob.  He fits “I” like a glove!

I was disappointed in Rob Halford’s version of “Man On the Silver Mountain”.  It’s true that Halford did replace Dio in Black Sabbath for two shows in 1992.  However, having owned a bootleg video of that show since that time, I knew that Halford’s and Dio’s styles didn’t really mesh.  This is no different; I don’t think his voice works with the song and it unfortunately shows off the places where Rob’s voice has weakened.  What is cool though is that the band (all ex-Dio:  Doug Aldrich, Vinnie Appice, Jeff Pilson and Scott Warren) take it to a swampy bluesy Whitesnake-y place for the intro.  You can definitely hear Pilson covering the high notes in the chorus.

Finally we arrive at the mighty Metallica.  Snicker if you like.  If Metallica do one thing really well, it’s covers.  If they do two right, it’s covers and medleys.  The “Ronnie Rising Medley” is entirely made up of parts of Rainbow songs.  “A Light In the Black” bleeds into “Tarot Woman,” where the vocals begin.  It’s safe to say if you don’t like Metallica, you won’t like this.  If the opposite is true, I think you’re in for a treat.  Metallica do these classics in their own style, just as they have in the past when covering Maiden, or Mercyful Fate, or Thin Lizzy.  Simply add Lars’ thuds, James’ growl, and some standard Metalli-licks, and you’ve got a medley that is enjoyable through its near-10 minute run time.  Having said that, the weak point is definitely “Stargazer”, which is gutted of all its majesty.  They do much better with “Kill the King” which is fucking perfect.  They include the entire song in their medley!

Fittingly, the album ends on a ballad:  Dio’s own somber “This Is Your Life”, performed by the man himself in 1996.  I did not like the Angry Machines album, but if there was one song I would have picked as a highlight it would be “This Is Your Life”.  Performed only by Dio and Scott Warren on piano, it is unlike anything else in Dio’s canon.  The lyrics speak of mortality:

This is your life
This is your time
What if the flame
Won’t last forever?

This is your here
This is your now
Let it be magical

What a way to end a great album.  As much as you can “miss” a person you have never met, I do miss Ronnie James Dio.  In many ways he’s been my friend for 30 years.

4.5/5 stars

As a nice added touch, the liner notes include photos of just about every performer on this CD with Ronnie!

Of  note:  the Japanese edition has a bonus track by Dio Diciples:  “Stand Up and Shout.”  It also has Stryper’s version of “Heaven and Hell” from their 2011 album The Covering, which I reviewed here.

MOVIE REVIEW: Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny (with bonus DVD)

TENACIOUS D in THE PICK OF DESTINY (2007 Alliance Atlantis, Best Buy exclusive 2 DVD set)

Starring Jack Black and Kyle Gass, directed by Liam Lynch

I shudder to think what some poor soul who liked Jack Black in The Holiday would think if they gave this one a try. This is for one, and only one, group of people: the rabid, dedicated fans of Jack Black & Kyle Gass as Tenacious D.

PICK OF DESTINYThe titular Pick of Destiny is a guitar pick, made centuries ago, out of the tooth of Satanus (that’s Latin, for Satan) himself. Since then it has been seen in the hands of Angus Young, Jimmy Page, Eddie Van Halen, and many more.  This bequeathed upon them their amazing guitar-shredding abilities. The only way that JB and KG can pay the rent would be to win the talent contest, and the only way to do that would be to play the greatest song ever written…with the Pick.

Ben Stiller informs them that the Pick is located, under heavy security, in the Rock N’ Roll History Museum.  Tim Robbins tips them off about the deadly laser grid guarding it. Undaunted, our heroes still quest after the Pick, even when Dave Grohl as Satanus himself comes to reclaim what is his.

There’s a whole lotta drug use (hey, it’s Jack Black), so make sure your kids don’t see this. Hell, the very first sequence before the the movie even begins is a cartoon about lighting up a joint, eating a burrito, and farting. Just so you know what kind of film you’re looking at here.

I’ve been a huge D fan, and I love this movie.  My friends love this movie. This is a party movie. The best time I ever had watching this movie was at a party.

The Demon Code prevents me from declining a Rock-off challenge

The new original Tenacious D soundtrack is remarkable in both quality of the songwriting and lyrics.  The performances are equally impressive.  “Beelzeboss” and “Kickapoo” are two personal favourites. Dave Grohl, Meat Loaf, and Ronnie James Dio all contribute guest vocals in their own signature styles. In a weird way, The Pick Of Destiny is actually a musical.

The movie was also available with a limited edition Best Buy bonus disc, if you can find it. The second disc is over an hour long, and contains 17 extended and deleted scenes. You’ll see a slightly longer version of the Neil Hamburger cameo, and a lot of alternate takes and bloopers. Best of all are the “Hell O’Clock News” segments. These were originally web-shorts that were done to promote the making of the film (in Hell, apparently). Each one features Jack, Kyle, or director Liam Lynch, in funny (ridiculous) skits. Very watchable, and more importantly, re-watchable. I assure you that buying the 2 DVD version is your wisest course of action.

5/5 stars

BOOK REVIEW: What’s Your Poo Telling You? by Josh Richman and Anish Sheth M.D.

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What’s Your Poo Telling You? by Josh Richman and Anish Sheth M.D.

Illustrated by Peter Arkle, Chronicle Books, 96 pages

If you’re like me, you probably enjoy a good read while droppin’ a deuce.  And if you’re not like me, don’t judge; no, just take a look at all the Uncle John’s reader’s in the humour section of the local bookstore.  Who’s laughing now?  Uncle John, all the way to the bank!

Obviously, I’m  not alone.

A Christmas gift from my lovely wife, Mrs LeBrain, What’s Your Poo Telling You? by Josh Richman and Dr. Anish Sheth, is an informative illustrated reference book.  For health purposes.  For example, let’s say you encounter the health problem known colloquially as “Log Jam”.  Turn to page 62:   lack of water and/or dietary fiber cause stool to be too hard to pass.  Ahh!  I see!  Treatment:  enemas or…ewwww!…”manual disimpaction”.

Other conditions or events covered in the book include:  “Floaters vs. Sinkers”, “Rambo Poo”, “Number Three” (aka “Butt Piss”), the “Streak”, and many more.  Each article includes health tips, a biology lesson of the gastrointestinal variety, and many are illustrated.

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There are also interesting factual articles to enjoy, such as a page on dinosaur droppings, and one on toilets owned by presidents and royalty.

For even more fun, be sure to check out the sequel, What’s My Pee Telling Me?  This helpful tome includes content on farts, pee, and even more poo.  New conditions discussed include “Itchy Poo” and “Poonami”.

I strongly recommended one or both of these books to concerned citizens everywhere.

5/5 stars

REVIEW: Tenacious D – Rize of the Fenix (+ all bonus tracks)

TENACIOUS D – Rize of the Fenix (2012)

Could the “D” top the Pick of Destiny?

The answer is…no.  Nothing could.  That movie and soundtrack made me laugh so hard I thought I was going to go into cardiac arrest.  But Rize of the Fenix is a close, close second.

There are no vocal cameos by anyone else, just JB and KG and a slew of studio musos.  (Dave Grohl is back on the skins.)   There are only a couple skits, the rest is all music.

The lyrics have never been more self referencing.  From the Pick of Destiny bombing, to “Hollywood Jack” becoming a big movie star, if you love the “D” then you will love this.  The songs are more epic than ever and the lyrics are still funny.

I particularly enjoyed “Roadie”, an ode to those who keep the show going on.  From stringing guitars in the shadows to testing the mic, the roadie’s work was unrecognized, until now.  But what will happen when a pretty young thing was a backstage pass so she can hook up with Kyle Gass?  What then, roadie?  Listen and learn.

Another classic:  “Deth Starr”, arguing that we should really build a hundred of  ’em.  And let’s not forget the musically epic “The Ballad of Hollywood Jack and the Rage Kage” which takes Jethro Tull and turns it up to 11.

And finally, there is “39”, JB doing his best Neil Diamond.  This is a sentimental ballad, about a girl who’s 39.

Best Buy has two bonus tracks:  “Quantum Leap” which compares the “D” to Moses, Leonard Nimoy and François Truffault.  They also have the brief “Rivers of Brown”.  Worth having this edition for “Quantum Leap”.  (Also, I will note:  The Best Buy edition has the real album cover, and is not censored.)

iTunes had a song called “5 Needs”, a little hippy ballad about what we need to survive (such as air, food and rock).  However they don’t have it anymore.  Pre-order only.

Any way you slice it, buy whatever version you like — but do not buy the censored.  What’s the point?

4/5 stars