Leatherwolf

#756: Japanese Attack!

Anybody who has spent 10 seconds glancing at this site knows one thing:  I love Japanese imports!

Every music collector has his or her own priorities.  Today, many fans prioritise vinyl, be it original pressings, reissues or both.  Some like elaborate packaging; the bigger and bolder the better!  My needs are pretty simple.  I want all the songs, and I’ll buy however many physical editions it takes to get them all.  That means that, over the years, I have purchased hundreds of Japanese CDs.  They almost always have bonus tracks, and some of those bonus tracks never see the light of day again on any other releases.  Those are the best kind!

There are two great sources for Japanese imports.

  1. CD Japan, my main store for new releases.  I have Whitesnake incoming!
  2. Discogs.

It is Discogs that is responsible for today’s content.  If you’re a music collector unfamiliar with Discogs, you need to change that right away.

A few weeks ago, one of my favourite lesser known metal bands called Leatherwolf was celebrating the 30th anniversary of their third album, 1989’s Street Ready.  (Probably their best album, but that’s unimportant.)  Someone on social media was showing off their most prized Leatherwolf collectible:  A Japanese import CD of Street Ready, with a bonus track unreleased anywhere else!  Out of print for almost 30 years, that’s a rarity if I ever saw one.  Plus it has that feature that is like catnip to me:  an unreleased bonus track.  In this case, it was a track called “Alone in the Night”, and I wanted it.  It’s rare that I go 30 years without even knowing about a song.

After a few weeks of researching, I decided to pull the trigger.  A Discogs seller had a copy in excellent condition for about $50, which I realized was about the cheapest it gets in the condition I want.  Its only flaw was a missing obi strip (the little piece of paper along the spine) which you sometimes have to accept you’ll never get.  The main thing was that bonus track.  I was happy with the seller’s 100% rating so I put it in my cart.

That’s when Discogs showed its evil side.

A message popped up, telling me that just in case I wanted to combine shipping, this seller had 81 other items from my wishlist.

81 items.  All Japanese CDs.

Click.

I spent the next few minutes frantically adding items to my cart, deleting them, adding them again, and then finally deciding on dollar amount I was willing to splurge.  I even gave it another few days to clear my head before I clicked “buy”.  This is what I ended up with.


LEATHERWOLF – Street Ready.  Bonus track: “Alone in the Night”.

Now some lucky soul can be gifted my original US compact disc, because this is my new treasure.  I loved this album as a teenager, and I still like it today.  There is some well written metal here, and now I have 11 tracks instead of 10.  I still can’t believe I didn’t know about “Alone in the Night” all this time.  If I knew that back in 1989, this CD would have been on my holy grail list long ago.

EXTREME – “Hip Today” CD single.  Bonus track “Kid Ego” (live).

I screwed up.  I already had a UK single for “Hip Today”; one of those “part one of a two disc set sold separately” deals.  However, for whatever reason, I never ripped it to my computer. I never even played it!  When I did a quick search, I couldn’t find “Kid Ego” in my files so I assumed I needed it.  I do not, but that’s OK.  This CD was only $11 because the seller listed it with no obi strip.  Turns out the obi strip is tucked inside, so that’s a win.

TENACIOUS D – The Pick of Destiny.  Bonus tracks “Kong”, “Training Medley”.

Two extra songs to be found here.  This album had more bonus tracks elsewhere, on non-physical (download only) versions.  Now I have all the physical tracks, at least.  “Training Medley” was already in the collection on a CD single for “P.O.D.”, but “Kong” was completely unknown until now.  Even our resident Tenacious D expert, Uncle Meat, has never heard it before.  (For the record, the other two bonus tracks are “Rock Your Socks” from the iTunes pre-order, and “It’s Late” which you can download if you buy the vinyl.  Vinyl wishlisted.)  Tenacious D collectables are usually very expensive.  Their single “Jazz” (which I am missing) goes for roughly $100.  I paid $26 for The Pick of Destiny.

QUIET RIOT – Alive and Well.  Bonus track:  “The Wait”.

20 years ago, the classic Metal Health lineup of Quiet Riot reunited for a new album.  Alive and Well was a mix of new songs and re-recordings, but they could have just released a 10 song CD instead, had they included “The Wait”.  It’s puzzling how songs are chosen to be obscure bonus tracks on rare editions.  “The Wait” is a ballad, very much like old Quiet Riot, and a frickin’ great one too.  Had it been included, Alive and Well could have been a well balanced 10 song album, and “The Wait” might have been the best one.  At one point Amazon were asking $100 for this CD.  I was delighted to score it for just $22.  Perhaps it was cheap because it was listed as missing the obi strip.  It’s there and looks great!   Now my Quiet Riot collection is one song closer to being complete.

THE SWORD – Apocryphon.  Bonus tracks:  the same five from the deluxe edition, plus “Hammer of Heaven”.

This album has been frustrating for me.  There are two versions, one with 10 tracks and one with 15.  Because there’s no track listing on the back cover, I’ve never taken a chance on it.  I didn’t want to bring it home only to find it’s the 10 track version.  I’ve wanted this album ever since “Cloak of Feathers” made it to number 15 on the 2017 Sausagefest countdown.  The only thing better than a confirmed 15 track edition?  A CD with 16 tracks!  Japan received “Hammer of Heaven”, which was a standalone single in 2012.  It’s a boogie as heavy as plutonium!  This would be its only CD release!  Obi is intact, for just $25.  (I’m still going to want the single for “Hammer of Heaven” since it had a live B-side of “Ebethron” not included here.)


Not a bad little spending spree.  Most of these Japanese imports were pretty affordable.  It seems like I spent a lot of money for just a handful of songs, but such is the quest.

 

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VHS Archives #31: Geoff and Michael of Leatherwolf chat with MuchMusic (1988)

“Woah, that’s real cinema.” – Robert Palmer

Michael Olivieri recently left Leatherwolf leaving them with only one original member!  Back in ’88, they were firing on all cylinders with Olivieri and original guitarist Geoff Gayer.  The pair sat down with Erica Ehm on the Pepsi Power Hour to talk about their second album, Leatherwolf.

The guys discuss recording in the Bahamas, Robert Palmer, the Triple Axe Attack, live performances, “The Calling” video concept, and where that “edge” comes from.

Leatherwolf were a great band when these two guys were in it. Check out the live clips in this interview, and hear what they had to say back in the day!

#674: Bad Moon Rising

GETTING MORE TALE #674: Bad Moon Rising

A sequel to Getting More Tale #455:  How to Make a Music Video (The Old-Fashioned Way)

Best buddy Bob and I shot and edited a successful music video for Poison’s “Nothin’ But a Good Time” in the 11th grade.  We were sent to the local Charlie awards, representing our school in a film competition.  We didn’t win one (audio sync issues caused by the unreliable cassette format) but by summer holidays, I was back to the drawing board.

I called up a couple friends:  Danesh and Anand.  They came over and we hashed out an outline for a horror movie.  The truth is, I just wanted an excuse to do another music video but I needed a different concept this time.  It had to be a step up.  That summer, I was enthused about Leatherwolf’s second album, and their cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Bad Moon Rising”.  I thought it was the perfect track for a cheesy horror movie.  Any 80s horror film needed a heavy metal theme song.  Leatherwolf’s “Bad Moon Rising” struck me as perfectly fitting.  “I hope you got your things together, I hope you are quite prepared to die.”  So I had the idea of a double feature:  a horror movie with a heavy metal music video accompanying.  The other guys were into it.

Over a fun afternoon in the basement, we came up with our little movie.  Bob was no longer available.  He would be in college the next year.  It was my first film project without him.  As the film’s lead actor, we chose David Kidd, who was the “drummer” in my Poison video.  He was a drama geek.  His nickname was “Emperor Kiddspeare”.  He’d be perfect.

At the start of grade 12, we approached the Film Education teacher about our new project.  She was not enthused and objected to the music video.  “Why don’t you just use the original song?” she asked about “Bad Moon Rising”, when I explained the concept of the heavy metal tie-in music video.  She just didn’t get it.  The video was the whole seed of the idea!  Maybe she was completely unaware of the metal/horror relationship, based on past movies such as Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm St.  We proceeded with the project anyway.  Trying to make your own horror movie is like a rite of passage.  Hasn’t every school kid tried?

We only shot one scene.  It was a hospital scene where the lead character played by David moved a chair with his mind.  It looked great although we were already short on footage.  We had to loop a couple shots to edit together the full scene.  So we did, and it was a start.

But I had just started my first part time job, at Zehrs at the mall.  This cut into my after school hours and the film project dissolved.  I don’t have the scene we shot; it is lost for good.  So is our script.

For a project of that size, I really needed a partner with the dedication and creativity of Bob, but he was off in college doing his own thing.  We couldn’t get it done in grade 12 without him.  Grade 13 was also hopeless for a film project.*  Everybody was far too busy trying to get into University.  Everybody except Emperor Kiddspeare.  He seemed to go off the rails a bit when he started smoking.  First, he burned a “lucky horseshoe” into his hand with a cigarette lighter.  Then he just stopped showing up for school.  Danesh and I used to (jokingly) calculate the odds that he was dead during Algebra class.  Every once in a while, he would actually show up, throwing all our “calculations” to the wind.  Either way, I didn’t have Bob, and Dave was a write-off.  There would be no more highschool film projects.  Bad Moon Rising was dead in the water.

Emperor Kiddspeare ended up becoming a goth, and is very popular in the local industrial music scene.  The last time I saw him, a decade ago on a sweltering hot July day, he was wearing a full length leather trenchcoat.  Good on him.

* Partially.  One weekend, Bob and I rented a camera and we shot a video for our long-distance girlfriends.  It was called Mike & Bob’s Cross-Kitchener Adventure.  I still have that but it’s not particularly watchable.

#523: Columbia House

GETTING MORE TALE #523: Columbia House

How many of you were members of the Columbia House music club?  Tapes or CDs?

The concept was simple.  Get 12 tapes or records for one penny.  Then agree to buy “X” more at “regular club prices” within a year.  They would usually offer all sorts of incentives, such as getting your first regularly priced item for half price.  Their “regular club prices” were fairly high, but if you played your cards right you could make joining the club worthwhile.

Every few weeks after signing up, Columbia House would send you a catalogue and an order form.  The order system was controversial, because it required a negative response if you didn’t want to buy something.  When you signed up, you could pick your favourite genre of music (I chose “metal”).  Each time a catalogue came out, your selected genre would have a “selection of the month”, usually a new release but not always.   If you did not respond with an order form expressing that you didn’t want it, they would automatically mail you the “selection of the month” and bill you for it too.  (The Columbia Record Club system was worked into a sub-plot of the movie A Serious Man by the Coen Brothers.)

For many people this wasn’t a problem.  Our parents let my sister and I sign up when I was in grade 11.  We split the membership and free tapes 50/50.  We paid for everything ourselves and diligently sent in our order forms each time.  We were both already massive music fans, so we poured over every single page.  Most times, one of us ended up buying something, if not the selection of the month itself.

I can still remember every album I received in that first shipment. Seven tapes.  These tapes went into immediate and constant rotation, which is why I remember them all so well today.

  1. Leatherwolf – Leatherwolf
  2. Motley Crue – Girls, Girls, Girls
  3. Hurricane – Over the Edge
  4. Stryper – To Hell With the Devil
  5. Stryper – In God We Trust
  6. White Lion – Pride
  7. Sammy Hagar – VOA

Our musical world opened up in a massive way, and not just because of the new music we were listening to.  The catalogues introduced us to names and album covers that we’d not experienced yet.  What is this Bitches Brew thing?  Why did Deep Purple albums have so few songs?  Did Iron Maiden copy their Maiden Japan from Purple’s Made In Japan?  Holy crap, Hank Williams Jr. has three greatest hits albums?

Everything was absorbed.  Five years later, when I started at the Record Store, my boss was surprised that I knew who most of the artists were, what sections they should go in, and even what record labels they were on.

“I read the Columbia House catalogue cover to cover every month,” was my answer!

The catalogue provided knowledge, and pictures to cut out for locker or wall.  We made the most of that catalogue every time.  It was rare when pictures were not cut out!

I was even able to acquire things that might have been considered rarities back then.  I had never seen Leatherwolf stocked in a store, but Columbia House had it.  When vinyl was being discontinued, I was still able to get Skid Row’s Slave to the Grind (1991) on LP.  They had most of the Savatage albums.

It all sounds wonderful, but Columbia House had flaws too.  The biggest one was horrendous quality control.  They licensed and manufactured the tapes themselves, which were simply not as good quality wise as the ones you could find in a store.  They would be warbling within weeks (if not right out of the case) and the J-cards were sometimes shoddy, with printing not lining up with fold lines, or just they’d just start falling apart along perforations.  They also didn’t carry certain record labels.  While they had everything Warner Bros and Columbia Records, they had nothing from EMI.  Finally, bands made next to nothing on albums that were sold through Columbia House.  Some bands such as the Tragically Hip refused to sell their music via Columbia House.  We didn’t know all of this as kids, of course.  I started to pick up on the quality issues when they seemed to take a serious dive around 1991.

The key to not getting ripped off by Columbia House was to order smart.  The 12 free tapes sounds like a great deal, but when you balance in buying the rest of your selections at full price, most people ended up on the losing side.  Get in and get out, buying the bare minimum.  That was the way to do it.  Of course, we didn’t.  We just enjoyed the convenience and stayed members for years!  No regrets since this led directly to a 12 year career in the Record Store!

REVIEWS: Leatherwolf – New World Asylum & World Asylum (Japanese import)

Epic Review Time!  Here’s a two-fer for you!

LEATHERWOLF – World Asylum (2006 King Record Co. Japan)

Leatherwolf were one of my favourite bands in the late 80’s. They had a unique sound, a potent mix of traditional metal, glam rock, and thrash elements. In addition they sported the Triple Axe Attack: 3 lead guitar players, and before Iron Maiden did it.  When they reformed in 1999 and released the live album Wide Open, I was excited for some new music. Then, lead singer/guitarist Mike Olivieri quit, and the band hooked up with Jeff Martin (ex-Racer X, Badlands) on lead vocals. With him they did an excellent 3 song demo: “Behind The Gun”, “Burned”, and “Disconnect”, plus one instrumental called “Tension”. (Track them down!)

Then for whatever reason Martin was out and Wade Black (Crimson Glory) was in. I’m sorry, Glory fans, I’m just not that into Black. His voice is fine, particularly on the three  more melodic songs that they originally did with Martin (Note:  “Burned” has been re-named “The Grail”). I’m just not feeling it.  On some of the other songs, he’s verging on nu-metal territory too much for my taste, like on the downbeat “Institutions”.  And for some reason his voice grates on me after the length of a full album.  Maybe I find it a bit too shrill.

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World Asylum album is heavy, the heaviest thing Leatherwolf have ever done. The guitar solos are highlights, but the riffs are just not as memorable as the old days.  The drumming by Dean Roberts is fast, precise and hit the spot.  The keyboards of old are gone.  I found the first five songs to be excellent, but after that the album tends to slide. At times, those metal guitar harmonies are back. At others, there’s nothing to grab me.  Lyrically the “asylum” theme runs through the record, but I wouldn’t call it a concept album or even that interesting.

This Japanese edition has one bonus track, which is the great “Tools of Discipline”, originally heard on the old Wide Open live album.  (It also comes with stickers!)  Gotta say I prefer Olivieri’s vocals better than Wade Black’s.  I prefer Jeff Martin’s vocals to Wade Black’s as well.  Sorry guys.  If it all came down to the singer, Black doesn’t do it for me.  But in a weird twist, Michael Olivieri returned the following year, and he re-recorded all the vocals. That album was issued as New World Asylum (without the bonus track). The original singer is usually best suited to the job, but more on that in the next review below.

2.5/5 stars


LEATHERWOLF – New World Asylum (2007 Leatherwolf Music)

So Michael Olivieri, the original Leatherwolf singer came back on board to stay this time.  So did guitarist Carey Howe, replacing Eric Halpern.  This restored 4/5 of the classic Leatherwolf lineup.  It made sense to have them re-record their parts on their latest album and re-release it.  No sense promoting a lineup that doesn’t exist anymore, right?  I think it was the right move for another reason.  I’m just not that into Wade Black, the singer on the original World Asylum. He verges on nu-metal teritory too much for my taste. I’ve never liked nu-metal; I appreciate the talent that goes into writing and performing nu-metal, but it’s not music I enjoy listening to, largely due to the vocals. I like traditional metal vocals, in general.

With the new lead vocals, World Asylum was retitled New World Asylum, and released with differently coloured cover art. This is my version of choice, metal fans! Maybe it’s familiarity, but Olivieri’s voice just sounds right.  The character of Leatherwolf feels like it’s in his voice.  I prefer his version of every single track. The melody and recognizable character are there, and he throws in a couple of those old-school screams. The end result is not necessarily a better batch of songs, just a more enjoyable listen.

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Strongest tracks here include “King of the Ward”, a slamming song with a teasing chorus.  Strange how I didn’t like it on the Wade Black version.  I think “Behind the Gun” is probably the best tune here.  Having heard it with three different singers, I have to say this version is champion.  “I Am the Law” and the groovy “Dr. Wicked (Rx O.D.)” are also pretty cool.  But again, I didn’t like “Dr. Wicked” on the Wade version.  It all comes down to the vocals.

The original album’s bonus track, “Tools Of Discipline”, was not re-recorded here, I guess because there is a live version available with Olivieri singing on Wide Open.

My recommendation: Leatherwolf fans, pick this up rather than World Asylum, unless you’re a die hard. Casual fans and the curious, go with New World Asylum as it’s just a better listen.

3.5/5 stars

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REVIEW: Leatherwolf- Leatherwolf (1988)

Found in the late 1990’s at Natural Sound in Kitchener.

 

LEATHERWOLF – Leatherwolf (1988 Island)

I first saw Leatherwolf in a 1988 Hit Parader magazine. Their gimmick was the “triple-axe attack”. Their singer, Michael Olivieri, doubled on guitar so during those twin harmony solos, the rhythm guitar wouldn’t drop out. Yeah, I know, that doesn’t sound like much, now that Maiden have three full time lead guitarists. At the time it was enough to get me interested enough to have a listen. I saw the video for “The Calling” on MuchMusic — instant fan!

This album, originally released on Island records (then home of U2), is quite good.  It’s an amalgam of thrash metal’s heaviness and pounding double bass — and glam rock. An odd mixture, but it works. The first album Endangered Species was pretty straight forward thrash, but this self-titled is tempered by keyboards and ballads.

Leatherwolf commences with some sweet acoustics: “Rise Or Fall” soon kicks into gear with some march-style drums and “Genghis Khan” (Iron Maiden)-style riffing. Then, another time change and the song careens into high gear with thick backing vocals, time changes, and guitar harmonies.  The aforementioned “The Calling” was the anthemic first single. A fist pumper. I love the riff on this one. Very cool and chunky.  The chorus ain’t too shabby either, nor the verses.  Although it’s a bit early for a balld, “Share a Dream” is next.  Most metal guys out there will probably have no problem skipping this too soft keyboard ballad. I don’t mind it, but it’s a jarring change of pace.

At first you might think “Cry Out” is another ballad, but once the intro is over the song nails it. This one is quite the anthem, with plenty of shouted backing vocals, and power to spare.  That was the side closer, and side two was introduced by “Gypsies And Thieves”.  Like the album opener, it’s complex with plenty of changes and fast parts.  Good for getting back on track.  Leatherwolf are a metal band after all, not Bon Jovi!

I was enamored with “Bad Moon Rising”a a teenager.  Yes, the CCR cover, but performed as a fast-paced two-minute thrash rocker. Some won’t like it, as a cover is always a dangerous weapon to behold.  I always thought it would have made a great theme song to an 80’s horror movie.  Remember back when you absolutely had to have a rock theme song in every horror movie?  In fact, in the 12th grade I gathered my friends Anand and Danesh with the intent of creating a student film along those lines.  Unfortunately we only finished one scene before our star one day just decided to stop showing up at school!

“Princess Of Love” is not a ballad, but it is quite keyboard heavy and gothic. Another winner in my books.  “Magical Eyes” is one of the only dull songs on the record.  It’s heavy, but inferior in quality to a song like “Rise Or Fall”.  Skip button territory. Because it would have been folly to end the album on anything but, “Rule The Night” is a metallic anthem. Shout-able choruses redeem the album.  Leatherwolf threatens to run off the rails once or twice, but it always centers itself before it’s too late.

As you have seen, Leatherwolf walks the fine line between thrash metal and commercial pop metal. As such the band never fell in with either camp and broke up after the next album Street Ready, which was actually way better than this one. Some closed-minded listeners didn’t get this strange mixture of seemingly contradictory styles.  That’s too bad.  There’s a lot to like here.  The only real drawback to this CD is the 80’s production values by Kevin Beamish. It’s a little too dense, a little too echo-y.

The band reunited in the 90’s with the live Wide Open CD, and went through several lineup changes in the lead vocals department. Olivieri left to be replaced by former Racer X singer Jeff Martin who did some awesome demos with them (check them out).  Then he in turn was replaced by ex-Crimson Glory singer Wade Black on the studio album World Asylum. When he left, World Asylum was re-recorded with Olivieri back on vocals and retitled New World Asylum! Whew!  And I believe the band are working on new music as you read this.  Stay tuned.

4/5 stars