lemmy

#525: Best Hats in Rock

GETTING MORE TALE #525: Best Hats in Rock

With all the head-banging going on, it’s no surprise that the majority of rockers do not wear hats on stage.  The flailing around in musical ecstasy means that hats don’t stay on top for long.  Also, with those hot stage lights beating down, nobody needs to preserve their body heat with a hat.

Yet some rockers have managed to make hats a trademark.  Let’s have a look at five of the best.*

 

ament

5. Jeff Ament’s whatever hat

During the Ten period, Pearl Jam bassist Jeff Ament used to sport some cool, huge hats.  We have no idea what you call these hats, but there is no denying their 90’s cool-ness.  If I had long hair again, I’d want one of these hats.

blackmore

4. Ritchie Blackmore’s pilgrim hat

Blackmore is well known for his anachronistic mixture of time periods.  Playing medieval music with electric guitars?  Sure, why not.  We don’t know why Blackmore wants to look like a passenger on the Mayflower, but it does not matter.  The hat has become iconic, though not as iconic as…

lemmy

3. Lemmy Kilmister’s assortment of Motorhats

God bless Lemmy, for he had a fine collection of headgear, usually emblazoned with skulls, crossbones, and World War II symbology.  Lemmy may not have been a fashion icon, but he did own some pretty cool hats.

johnson

2. Brian Johnson’s newsboy hat

This one is near and dear to my heart.  Brian’s hat was to cover a receding hairline, but I had one just like it.  It was perfect for keeping a tangled mess of hair under cover.  Best of all, I could use it as a “hair mold”.  I would comb my hair in the morning, tuck it under the hat to “set” it, and an hour later it would come out looking perfect!

slash

1. Slash’s top hat

At LeBrain HQ, we think Slash’s hat has become the most iconic rock and roll piece of headgear.  One look at that hat, and you automatically know who is underneath it.  The fact that Slash hid his face behind curtains of hair meant that fans had to recognize him in other ways.  That’s where the hat comes in!  Even if you wouldn’t recognize Slash’s face in a crowd, it’s a guarantee that you know his hat.

 

Honorable mentions:

Kim Mitchell’s OPP hat

Tom Morello’s assorted baseball hats

Mick Mars’ skull hat

 

What are your favourite hats in rock?

 

*Not including bandanas or hair pieces

Advertisements

RIP Lemmy Kilmister

LEMMY

Aww, fuck.

RIP Ian “Lemmy” Kilmister (24 December 1945 – 28 December 2015)

Killed By Death.

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.

THIS IS YOUR LIFE_0004

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.

REVIEW: Slash – Slash (Deluxe edition)

SLASH – Slash (2010 Universal Deluxe edition)

This album was a revelation to me.  Truth be told, I didn’t expect too much.  I didn’t consider Slash to be among the best songwriters in Guns N’ Roses (Izzy and Duff for that honor).  So, a couple things about Slash struck me right away. One, every track on this album is strong, almost every one would make a great single. Two, I was surprised how these songs kind of chameleon themselves to resemble the bands that the singers come from. Almost every guest does a co-write, which might explain this.

I’ll discuss my favourite tracks. I have always been a Cult fan, so Ian Astbury’s “Ghost” kicked off the album with a bang. It doesn’t quite sound like the Cult, but at first it didn’t sound like Slash either. Astbury’s voice, deep and low, is almost as strong as ever. Ozzy’s track is next, and my immediate feeling was, “This song could have been a Sabbath number with a little tweaking.” I very much enjoyed this song.

I’m not a Black Eyed Peas fan; at all!    All I really know about Fergie is “Big Girls Don’t Cry”. To my surprise, she is capable of the rock. Her vocal is highly stylized (as are many on this CD) and she just rips it up on “Dangerous Beautiful”! Of all the singers on this CD, Fergie is the most similar in attitude to Axl. Every once in a while she does a squeal or two that sound positively Axl. This is a decent song made memorable by Fergie’s vocal, although I think the lyrics leave something to be desired.

I wasn’t at all familiar with Alter Bridge, but Myles Kennedy blew me away. I guess there must have been a reason that the Led Zeppelin guys were jamming with him as a potential replacement for Robert Plant. I get that, but although he has a powerful voice with great range, he has his own sound. My new favourite singer! His two songs, “Back To Cali” and “Starlight” couldn’t be less alike. However they both boast one thing in common, and that is a chorus to raise the roof. These two choruses are among the strongest moments on Slash.

IMG_00000705

Chris Cornell is up next with “Promise”, a good song which struck me as more similar to Cornell’s early solo work than Soundgarden. Let it be remembered that Chris opened for Guns N’ Roses on their 1992 European tour. The first single “By The Sword” featuring Wolfmother’s Andrew Stockdale is another one that blew me away. It struck me as very “metal” with the kind of lead vocal that is high and powerful, like Wolfmother itself. Great song, and bears similarities to “Beggars and Hangers-On” from the first Slash’s Snakepit album.

I’m especially not a Maroon 5 fan.  I burned out on them in the record store, and the person responsible knows who she is, I do like Adam Levine’s stylized vocal on the ballad “Gotten”.  This guy is smooth like butter. My only wish is that there was more of his music with Slash. The way his vocal and Slash’s guitar melodies intertwine is quite beautiful.

Lemmy’s tune sounds like some sort of Motorhead outtake (don’t forget Slash appeared on Motorhead’s March Or Die CD). Anything Lemmy touches automatically sounds like Motorhead. Up next is an instrumental featuring Dave Grohl on drums and Duff McKagan on bass. Immediately, that familiar Dave Grohl drum sound kicks you in the face, on this rocker that is pure groove, with Slash playing a low grinding riff.

I didn’t mind Kid Rock’s “I Hold On”, and I found his vocal quite appealing. Another one that surprised me was M Shadows’ “Nothing To Say”. I’ve never listened to Avenged Sevenfold but this guy’s voice has enough melody to carry the tune. The song itself was riffy, like late 90’s Megadeth or black album era Metallica. Good song. Very similar to “Chains and Shackles” (more on that song later). I have to listen to both back to back, but it’s possible they are both based on the same music.

I have no idea who Rocco DeLuca was, but his tune is another winner. The final track of the regular album songs is the immortal Iggy Pop’s “We’re All Gonna Die”. One of the most fun tunes on the album with great lyrics, Pop and Slash have an obvious chemistry. What a great tune with which to close the regular edition!

Oh, and three ex-GN’R members appear: Duff, Izzy, and Josh Freese (who was in the band after Slash).

Among the bonus stuff, an English version of “Sahara” featuring a singer I never heard of called Koshi Inaba. Good song, but is is followed by Alice Cooper’s track with…someone I never heard of apparently from Pussycat Dolls. This actually sounds a lot like an Alice Cooper song, say circa The Eyes of Alice Cooper. Another good song, and we all know how big a fan Slash is. Lastly there is Fergie and Cypress Hill’s “Paradise City” remake. Good choice for the very Axl-ish Fergie to sing, and Cypress Hill add their sound to the verses. Great version, a guilty pleasure. There is also a Japanese version of “Sahara”, and a song with Beth Hart called “Mother Maria” which is a really nice one featuring her strong bluesy voice. I’m telling you, Beth Hart can really sing, she is a the real deal. I just wish they didn’t add distortion to her voice…she does not need it.

The new acoustic live material with Myles Kennedy is sheer awesome. Kennedy’s got an incredible voice and you can tell this is really live. The backing guitar player makes a few mistakes during Slash’s solo in “Sweet Child” and it’s right there, unfixed. I like that. It’s like a guarantee. It’s like the Stones and Henry Rollins say — “The only way to know for sure.”

I’m disappointed that Nick Oliveri’s “Chains & Shackles”, the best song in my opinion, is not present on this edition. It remains exclusive to the Australian iTunes. However, by my reckoning every other bonus track from every other format is on this disc. There are also two previously unheard demos. These demos are interesting jams and they show great interaction between Slash and his players. Also included are some live electric versions (also seemingly unpolished) and a bonus DVD. All of this is worth owning if you really love the album like I do.

IMG_00000702I made a bonus CD with the Oliveri track, and other “bonus tracks” that I found online, as well.  How official these downloaded tracks are I can’t say; Wikipedia is silent on the issue.

You may have noticed I didn’t comment on Slash’s presence too much. I dare say it, the only weakness to this album is that Slash is overshadowed by his guests. That happened to Santana on some of his records as well. Slash’s guitar playing is still unique and stylish, not hogging the spotlight but sharing it more than fairly. Slash himself explores more sounds on his Gibson than I’ve ever heard him play before. When he solos, it’s Slash; it’s the old GN’R sound, and it sure is cool.

5/5 stars

Part 136: Black Sabbath, July 22 1995 (REVIEW!)

Sadly, my concert review for this show no longer exists.  Ye olde floppy discs don’t exist anymore, and the site that once hosted the review (sabbathlive.com) no longest exists.  Therefore I’m forced to re-write this as a Record Store Tale.

RECORD STORE TALES PART 136:  Black Sabbath July 22 1995

July 22, 1995.  Tom, myself, and a few of the boys decided to go see Black Sabbath.  They were playing Lulu’s Roadhouse, the world’s longest bar, with Motorhead opening.  It felt like a step down for both bands, but the place was packed.

We arrived just before Lemmy hit the stage.  They ripped into a scorching set to promote their latest album, the high-octane Sacrifice.   I remember Lemmy introducing the title track:  “Don’t try to dance to this one or you’ll break both your fucking legs!”  At the end of their set, Motorhead promised to return (and they did a year later).

I remember Tom and I being blown away by Motorhead.  I didn’t own any — this show officially was what made me a fan.  I kicked myself for not really paying attention to them earlier, but better late than never eh?

Motorhead remain today one of the best bands I’ve seen.

But I was there to see Black Sabbath.  We moved closer to the front of the stage to be in position.  We chose a spot perfectly between where the two Tony’s would be, right up front.

The crowd was getting a little drunk and restless.  A fight started…well, I hesitate to really call it a fight,  it was over before it started.  We all turned around to see this big huge dude headbutt this little tiny Kurt Cobain looking guy.  Knocked him out cold.  Then the big guy realized everybody was watching and hastily made an exit.

Then, Black Sabbath:  Tony Iommi, Tony Martin, Cozy Powell, Neil Murray, and Geoff Nicholls.  What we didn’t know was that Cozy only had seven more gigs after this one.  Then he would be replaced by another Sabbath vet, Bobby Rondinelli.  And of course little did I know that I’d never see Cozy live again in any band:  He was killed in a car accident 3 years later.

They hit the stage to the classic Martin-era opener, “Children of the Grave”.  Sabbath’s set was sprinkled with tunes from the Ozzy era (“War Pigs”, “Iron Man”, “Paranoid”, “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath”, “Black Sabbath”) and the Dio era (“Heaven and Hell”, “Mob Rules”) and many of his own tracks.  They played three from the lacklustre new record, but at least three of the better songs:  an awesomely dramatic “Kiss Of Death”, the explosive “Can’t Get Close Enough”, and the filler song “Get A Grip”.

It was just before “Get A Grip” that the stagediving began.  Tom vacated the stage area right away.  “Get a grip is right!” he said to me.  “I’m out of here.”  Two songs later I followed him.  This drunk girl started grinding me from behind, so I took the first chance to slip away and catch up with Tom.

The one song I really came to see was “The Shining”, one of the best Martin-era tunes, and his first single with the band.  Sabbath delivered.  They also played two from Headless Cross including “When Death Calls”.  Neil Murray played the chiming bass intro to this song that I’d never heard before.  It was the only unfamiliar song.  I resolved to get Headless Cross as soon as possible.  (It took two months for Orange Monkey Music in Waterloo to get it from Europe.)

Vague memories:

Tony Martin was a so-so frontman.  Much of the time, he would spread his arms Christ-like and shake his thinning hair.  He talked a lot and I remember he had small, beady but friendly looking eyes.  He did the best he could.  He sang his ass off, although he had lost a fair chunk of his range.

I remember Iommi ditched his SG for an unfamiliar red guitar during the overdriven “Can’t Get Close Enough”.

I could barely see Cozy, which is my biggest regret.

I was pleased that Sabbath played a well-rounded set with new stuff.

Little did I know that the end was near.  Not only was Cozy soon to be out, but promoters cancelled much of the end of the tour.  Sabbath headed over to Japan, threw “Changes” into the set (OMG!) but were done by the end of the year.  For the first time in a long time, Sabbath were put on ice while Tony (Iommi) worked on a solo album with Glenn Hughes.

Meanwhile, the lawyers were conspiring to create a new/old Sabbath lineup.  By 1997, Ozzy was back, and the band now featuring founding members Osbourne, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler, and new drummer Mike Bordin of Faith No More.

I’m glad  to have seen Sabbath with Martin.  He did five albums, and I like three of them.  I think he did the best he could under difficult circumstances.  He’s a talented guy, so it’s great to have seen this lineup especially since Cozy would be gone so soon!

Part 12: The Pepsi Power Hour

RECORD STORE TALES Part 12:  The Pepsi Power Hour

I’m going to take you back in time a bit.  Back to a time before the record store….

I remember back to the 80’s and early 90’s when MuchMusic was king. Back when there was no Jersey Shore and they played actual music videos.  There was no internet at that time, so you had to go to the store to buy your music (more often than not, on cassette). To hear new bands, you watched videos on Much and listened to the radio. There was no YouTube.

There was this frickin’ awesome show on Much back in the day — you remember it. It was originally only on once a week (Thursdays at 4 if I recall) and was hosted by one John “J.D.” Roberts. Yeah, the CNN guy. After he left, the hosting slot rotated between Michael Williams, Steve Anthony, Erica Ehm and Laurie Brown and then finally the late Dan Gallagher. Despite his long hair, Dan didn’t know a lot about metal — he didn’t know how to pronounce “Anthrax” and had never heard of Ratt. But that show was by far the best way to hear new metal back in the day.

That show was THE POWER HOUR.

It was so popular that they eventually had two a week, Tuesdays and Thursdays at 4, which was awesome for me since by 1989 I was working every Thursday at Zehrs.  I could still catch one a week, usually.

I remember tuning in, VCR at the ready to check out all the new videos and catch onto the newest bands. There was this band called Leatherwolf that I found via Hit Parader magazine and first heard on the Power Hour. I loved that band. There was another band called Sword from Montreal. Psycho Circus. Faith No More. Skid Row. Armored Saint. Testament. You could always count on the Power Hour to have Helix on. That show rocked.

They had some of the best interviews as well.  Usually they’d have someone come in and co-host for an hour.  They had everybody from Gene Simmons to Brian Vollmer to Lemmy.  In depth stuff too, at times.

Then in 1990 something else cool happened. I discovered a magazine called M.E.A.T (the periods were for no reason at all, just to look cool like W.A.S.P. but eventually they decided it stood for “Metal Events Around Toronto”). M.E.A.T was awesome because it was monthly, free, and had in depth articles clearly written by knowledgable fans. There was no magazine with that kind of deep coverage. Even Slash loved M.E.A.T, at a time when Guns hated rock magazines! I loved M.E.A.T so much I eventually sent them $10 to subscribe to a free magazine.  I did this on a yearly basis.

I discovered a whole bunch of great bands via that magazine. I Mother Earth, Slash Puppet, Russian Blue, Jesus Christ, not to mention they were way ahead of the curve on alternative. They had a Nirvana concert review back in 1989. They got behind Soundgarden way before they were cool. And you could count on them hanging onto the oldies. They’d put an indi band from Toronto on the cover one month, and put Black Sabbath on the cover the next month.  Next issue they’d have an in-depth interview with Kim Mitchell.  They’d talk about bands that nobody else did.

Their CD reviews were my bible! My music hunting was probably 90% based on their reviews, especially since by then the Power Hour had changed into the 5 day weekly Power 30 hosted by Teresa Roncon, and sucked.  The started playing too much thrash and grunge and never gave the old bands a shot anymore.

Things have changed so much now. I never get into new bands anymore, back then I used to just eat them up. I guess new bands just don’t interest me anymore. I like my old time rock and roll. I did buy the new Sheepdogs, twice.  The last new band I got totally and 100% excited about was The Darkness, and that was, what…2003?

Yet I can’t get into these new metal bands. The music sounds so sterile to my aging ears. The rock has lost its balls. The album I have been most excited about in 2012 was the new Van Halen — a band that is approaching 40 years old. But my God does it rock.  Kiss and Black Sabbath both have new records coming out, and I’m excited about them, but I could two shits about the new Nickelback.

In a lot of ways, it’s a better time for music now.  With eBay and Amazon I’ve managed to fill nearly every gap in my music collection.  There are some bands that I now have complete sets of, and others that I am achingly close.  I’m missing 4 Maiden EP’s and 1 Deep Purple import, for example.  Back in the 80’s you didn’t have access to this.  You didn’t even have access to an accurate and complete discography.  It wasn’t until the internet that this kind of information was even available.

Aside from that, today kind of sucks for music.  Sure, it’s easier to find new bands now, but we did OK in the 80’s.  M.E.A.T turned me on to lots of bands, and they were always giving away sampler cassettes.  Much played all the new videos by all the  metal bands at least once, basically.  You had to work a little harder, but we only appreciated the music more.  It wasn’t disposable.

And there were a lot more new bands around that just plain rocked!