Little Richard

REVIEW: Little Richard – The Essential (1985)

Scan_20160106LITTLE RICHARD – The Essential (1985 Specialty)

Ah-OOOOOOO!  Little Richard!  Predator!  OOOOO!  Wop bop a loo bop!  Get to the choppa!

Who doesn’t love Little Richard?  If you answered that question with “me!” then click your “back” button now and go listen to some X Ambassadors or something equally un-rock and roll.  Little Richard?  Pure rock and roll, baby!  You have your rock bands that are based on guitar, but then you have other artists that are based on piano.  And let me tell you, when Little Richard (Ah-OOOOOOOO!) starts bangin’ on those keys, you can’t help but boogie woogie.

Richard has an extensive catalogue of albums and singles, and much like any of the other founding fathers of rock and roll, there is so much more to him than just the greatest hits.  This album is called The Essential, and it is.  There is much, much more.  “Can’t Believe You Wanna Leave” isn’t on here, but so many favourites are!  (OOOOO, gonna have some fun tonight!)

Commencing in 1955, every single track on this CD (single A’s and B’s) is in the two minute range. Wham bam, thank you ma’am! (No, that’s Dean Martin…) Loaded with piano, sax and Little Richard’s unmistakable voice, every song is incredible. My favourite song is “Jenny Jenny” (OOOO!), which is so damn raw and perfect, sax honkin’ and Richard letting loose with every “Woo” and “Ooo”. His throat is pushed to the limit, running off the rails from time to time, but always perfect. From Lucille to Teddy to Jenny to Miss Ann and Miss Molly, some may notice that there is a certain sameness to the material. That would be missing the point. Richard is like AC/DC. You get what you want, every time. Since the songs are so short none overstay their welcome.

Everybody should know plenty of these songs, whether from movies or TV. At least half the album should be familiar. Even if you haven’t heard Richard’s version of “By the Light of the Silvery Moon”, you probably know it from Etta James, Happy Days, Bugs Bunny, or I Love Lucy. It’s just one of those songs that everybody has heard. (Richard’s version is the best one, if you asked me! Ah-OOOOOO!)

Even though this is an older release, the audio is just fine. According to the booklet, all tracks were remastered from the original mono tapes. Old time rock and roll just sounds better in mono. In mono, it sounds saturated and harder. (WOOO!) The booklet isn’t skimpy and has plenty of old black and white photos.

So, if you have “Heebie-Jeebies” for some “Long Tall Sally”, then “I Got It” for you. You’ll be “Slippin’ and Slidin'” for the whole length of this 45 minute CD, which will be over before you know it. If you wanna “Keep-A-Knockin'”, then just play it on repeat and “Rip It Up”.

5/5 stars

Final note: I will happily give a lollypop to anyone who can tell me where I can buy Richard’s elusive version of “Itsy Bitsy Spider”.

REVIEW: Jon Bon Jovi – Blaze of Glory (1990)

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JON BON JOVI – Blaze of Glory: Inspired by the film Young Guns II (1990 Mercury)

Billy the Kid was a fascinating character.  Perhaps he was the embodiment of the Old West itself: a charismatic outlaw, who reportedly had a hair trigger temper but also a heart of gold.  Unfortunately, the film Young Guns II seems more about a person called Brushy Bill, rather than William H. McCarty, also known as William H. Bonney, but best known as Billy the Kid.  Having killed his first man at 18, the Kid earned his nickname with his boyish looks.  He looked nothing at all like his screen counterpart Emilio Estevez, but it’s because of Emilio that Jon Bon Jovi recorded the soundtrack to Young Guns II.

A popular theory from the 1990’s was that Billy the Kid was not killed by Sheriff Patrick Frank Garrett in 1881.   In 1948, a character called Brushy Bill Roberts emerged claiming to be the Kid, alive and well.  There was enough facial resemblance, and also sworn statements from five people who knew the Kid. Roberts never proved that he was actually William McCarty, and today historians have dismissed his claims due to the number of facts that do not match (such as dates of birth).   Young Guns II, the film, operated on the popular theory that Billy survived, and that he faked his death with the help of Pat Garrett.

In fact Garrett did shoot the Kid and lived a life of shame afterwards, as the details of the shooting of the popular Kid didn’t paint him in a positive light.  Oddly enough, Garrett himself was shot and killed in 1908 by a rancher named Jesse Wayne Brazel, in New Mexico.  The interesting coincidence about this is Brazel was uncle to a Mac Brazel, also a rancher in New Mexico, near the town of Roswell.  It was on his ranch that something strange (almost certainly an actual UFO) crashed and was covered up.  It is an amusing intersection of two of the great folk tales in American history.

So along came this movie.  Emilio Estevez asked Jon Bon Jovi if they could use “Wanted: Dead or Alive” in the film.  Jon declined and said, “The lyrics don’t make sense.  That song is about touring, let me write you something more appropriate to the old west and Billy the Kid.”  This turned into an entire album.  Essentially Blaze of Glory is not a soundtrack album (since none of Jon’s songs are in the movie until the end credits) but a concept album based on the film.

The album begins with a snippet of dialogue:  “Yoo-hoo!” says Emilio/Billy.  “I’ll make ya famous.”  A gunshot and the song “Billy Get Your Guns” begins.  That’s Kenny Aranoff on drums in case you were wondering.  “Billy Get Your Guns” isn’t a hard rock song like Bon Jovi was doing at the time.  But it’s still rock and roll, featuring some great slide guitar riffing by Waddy Wachtel.  Jon’s voice is young, strong and loud.  It’s a sound I miss.  I think it’s impossible to dislike the excellent “Billy Get Your Guns”, especially when topped by a Jeff Beck guitar solo, who plays on pretty much the whole album.  (The album also features two Journey bassists:  Randy Jackson and Bob Glaub.)

Jeff even appeared in the music video for “Miracle”, the hit ballad from the album.  The lovely accordion and spare arrangement gives it quite a different feel from old Bon Jovi ballads. Once again I am reminded that Jon once possessed quite a powerful voice.  It’s also worth noting that Jon wrote every song himself.

“William H. Bonney, you are not a god.” – Keifer Sutherland as Doc Scurlock

“Why don’t you pull the trigger and find out.”  – Emilio Estevez as Billy the Kid

I still love “Blaze of Glory”.  It’s timeless, more so than a lot of Bon Jovi’s hits from the time — “Bad Medicine” and so forth.  I remember seeing Aldo Nova on TV playing the riff on an acoustic guitar, and it is perfect in its classic simplicity.  Aldo is one of Jon’s oldest friends and he plays on the whole album as well.  This dynamite hit song has become so loved that Bon Jovi play it live and included it on their greatest hits compilations, even though only Jon was part of it.  Jeff Beck’s smoking solo is as much part of the song as Jon is.  I cannot understate how great this song is. From quiet acoustic strumming to bombastic aplomb, the song is a great achievement.

“Blood Money” is a short ballad, with spare acoustics, tambourine and accordion.  Jon sings as Billy the Kid, directly to Pat Garrett.  Historically we don’t know if Garrett and McCarty were friends as they are portrayed in the film, but likely they were not.  Regardless, even though the lyrics are implausible historically, it is still a powerful little song.

This leads into “Santa Fe”, which is from the perspective of Doc Scurlock.   You want epic?  Look no further.  An album highlight, “Santa Fe” boasts strings, powerful Aranoff beats, and Jon’s most vivid lead vocal.  If it had been on a Bon Jovi album, I think it would be regarded as highly as a song like “Dry County” which it resembles slightly.

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Side two opened with Lou Diamond Phillips (Chavez y Chavez in the film) singing a native chant.  The song “Justice in the Barrel” refers of course to the barrel of a gun, and Jeff Beck’s playing in the opening reminds us why he is one of rock’s most legendary gunslingers.  The song however is more laid back, a slow rock groove.  “Never Say Die” is the most straightforward rocker on the album, and it features Robbin Crosby of Ratt on electric guitar.  This song most closely resembles Bon Jovi, the band, even lyrically.  It is followed by a song that sounds nothing at all like them, and also my favourite:  “You Really Got Me Now”.  From first listen, way back in 1990, to today, this is a song that always puts a smile on my face.  Imagine Jon Bon and Little Richard building a time machine, travelling back to 1881, and jamming in a saloon.  That’s “You Really Got Me Now”.  Richard plays piano and sings the second verse, and I love it.  It’s a shame this little tune is only 2 1/2 minutes long, but I guess it was a bit of a novelty.

“Bang a Drum” is a pleasant soft soul rock anthem, but the Hammond organ and Jeff Beck help maintain its integrity.  The soul comes from the backing vocals of Julia and Maxine Waters.  This is the climax; the denoument is “Dyin’ Ain’t Much of a Livin'”.  The delicate piano is provided by one Elton John (before he would become Sir).  Elton also joins Jon on backing vocals.  “All this fame don’t bring ya freedom,” sings Jon, a line that may apply to a rock star life as well as an outlaw.  The powerful song is a natural ending to a story such as this.

There’s a brief coda, an orchestral piece from the movie by composer Alan Silvestri called “Guano City”.  I always wondered why this piece (as good as it is, sounding like some of John Williams’ more exciting segments) was on the album.  Nevertheless, there it is, and the album is done.

Jon was very emphatic in stating that Blaze of Glory was not his true solo album.  It was 10 songs written specifically for a movie, to fit that movie.  His solo album would come seven years later with Destination Anywhere, but first it was time to get Bon Jovi, the band, back on track.  This began with a 1991 live performance of “Blaze of Glory” at the Academy Awards, by the full Bon Jovi band, augmented by additional guitarists Waddy Wachtel and Danny Kortchmar.

If you consider solo albums and soundtracks as part of the overall catalog, Blaze of Glory still clocks in as one of my absolute favourites.

5/5 stars

REVIEW: Deep Purple – Made In Japan (4CD/1 DVD box set) Part 3

NEW RELEASE: Part 3

This box set is so massive, I needed to review it in three installments.  The first two can be found here:
DEEP PURPLE – Made In Japan Part 1
DEEP PURPLE – Made In Japan Part 2

DEEP PURPLE – Made In Japan (2014 limited edition Super Deluxe box set)

“Smoke on the Water” Japanese 7″ promo.  This is a reproduction of a rare Japanese promo single from 1972, sleeve and all.  It is pressed on heavy 70 gram vinyl, a treat indeed.  It features the promotional single edit of the studio version, and an edit of the Made In Japan version on the other side.   The studio edit is available on plenty of releases, such as Singles A’s and B’s.  The live edit is one that I don’t think I owned prior to this.  I actually enjoy something like this; it’s interesting to see where and how they did the edits, from a technical point of view.

Including a 7″ single in a box set of this size is something I wholeheartedly support.  Not only do I love the vinyl format, but when you spend this much money ($115 Canadian) in one place, you deserve something extra.  A lot of the stuff included in box sets these days, even in this box set, amounts to nothing more than paper.  Music trumps packaging, so I’ll always take something like a bonus vinyl, especially when it has an exclusive track on it.

Interestingly, on this printing, the times for the two tracks are reversed.  The live version is the longer, not the shorter as the label suggests.


LORDDVD:  Made In Japan: The Rise of Deep Purple MKII and more.

This hour-long documentary consists of new and archival footage and interviews, assembled into a narrative.  Old footage of Deep Purple MKI begins our story.  The shortcomings of this lineup led the core members of Ian Paice, Jon Lord, and Ritchie Blackmore to seek new bandmates.  They had gone as far as they could musically with Nick Simper (bass) and Rod Evans (vocals).  In stepped Roger Glover and rock’s greatest screamer, Ian Gillan.  Then, the big albums:  In Rock, Fireball, and Machine Head.

Strangely, it was a tax loophole that led to Machine Head. It was expected that the fortunes of the band would only rise, but British tax laws would keep them all paupers.  If they became tax exiles, and wrote and recorded in mainland Europe, they would not be taxed.  This led them to Montreux, Switzerland.  According to Claude Nobs, they were planning on recording an album called Made In Switzerland.  Nobs invited them to record at the local casino, and the circumstances of this have been well documented.  A Frank Zappa concert that night was attended by Deep Purple and Nobs.  Someone fired a flare gun into the bamboo ceiling, and the place went up in smoke.  This DVD has the audio of Zappa asking the audience to leave!

The place did indeed burn to the ground.  Luckily Deep Purple had not yet moved in their gear, or it too would be gone.  Next they tried recording in a small theater, but noise complaints caused them to move again.  It took almost a week to find the Grand Hotel, which was closed for the winter.  Perfect.  The results speak for themselves.  Machine Head is the classic Deep Purple album.  But according to Blackmore, it was Made In Japan that made them a phenomenon.  It was a live album that they didn’t want to do, but could not have regretted doing.

Bruce Dickinson, James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, and more show up to discuss the impact of Made In Japan on themselves.  Dickinson points out that the remarkable thing is that Made In Japan is 100% live.  There are no overdubs.  Martin Birch managed to capture it raw.  There’s a lot of great footage here; live footage, showing the interplay of the band.

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Next, the band headed to Rome to record the difficult Who Do We Think We Are.  Made In Japan had not even been released in America yet, only Japan, until mass importing of the record forced the label to release it.  Unfortunately at the height of their powers, Ian Gillan and Ritchie Blackmore had a massive falling out.  Ian resigned.  Blackmore and Paice almost formed a trio with Phil Lynott.  Glover was fired, which was a condition Blackmore set to stay in Deep Purple.  A final Japanese tour was the last commitment of the band.  Glover describes a cold atmosphere, and the tension in the air.

Glenn Hughes appears next, remembering a Trapeze gig attended by members of Deep Purple.  He sussed out the reason for their attendance.  Still, he did not expect to be asked to join.  It was an emotional time for Glover.  He saw his Deep Purple albums on top of the charts, yet with magazines printing pictures of their new lineup featuring David Coverdale and Glenn Hughes.  Hughes reveals he was mistakenly sent awards for albums like Who Do We Think We Are.  Glover felt deeply hurt but strove to be a professional.

As a Deep Purple fan who owns a lot of Deep Purple on video, I enjoyed this documentary.  Although it has some footage that I had before, it also had a lot that I didn’t, such as interviews that were new to me.  Footage from Japan is a highlight.  “Smoke on the Water” is presented almost in full (from the 17th), though it is very lo-fi.

Extras include a music video for “Smoke on the Water”, made up of footage from the documentary.  “The Revolution” is a short film about rock music and counter-culture, focusing on Deep Purple while at Montreux in 1971.  Much of this footage is in the main documentary.  A bearded Gillan rips his way through “Speed King”, and the band are interviewed.  There’s also a short German documentary from 1972, subtitled of course.  I enjoyed the description of their stage attire:  “intentionally scruffy hippie uniforms”.  Finally, there is a 1973 performance of “Smoke”, but now I’ve really heard the song too many times.  It’s the best footage though: full colour, pro-shot.  Roger is wearing bright red platform shoes.

This DVD was adequate.  The main documentary feature was re-watchable.  “The Revolution” and the German doc, not so much.  It’s too bad that the video content is only tangendentally related to Made In Japan.  The DVD is really not much more than a supplement to the main feature.

IMG_20140603_173713Final words:  The box set is rounded out by an excellent booklet, a reproduction of the Japanese tour program, a family tree, and a reproduction press release.  Ultimately these things are just pieces of paper.  Nobody would go out of their way to buy a reproduction of a press release.

As a boxed set of music, Made In Japan is a home run.  This is the way they should have released it back in ’93, instead of the incomplete Live In Japan.  I’ll hang onto my old 2 CD anniversary edition of Made In Japan, because I believe in keeping the original mix of something.  It’s an historic piece, not to be discarded.  When I want a briefer Deep Purple live experience, I’ll play that version of Made In Japan.  When I want the full Monty, I’m listening to this box set.  Not only is it the best release sonically, but it is the only complete release of all three Japanese shows.

As a celebratory boxed edition of a classic, I’m less satisfied.  The DVD and the papers inside are things I will get less enjoyment from.  If the DVD had included a feature on the making and remixing of this edition, I would have been more interested.

Still, I’m happy.

For the music:  5/5 stars

For the box overall:  4/5 stars

REVIEW: Deep Purple – Made In Japan (4CD/1 DVD box set) Part 2

NEW RELEASE: Part 2

 

This box set is so massive, I needed to review it in three instalments.  The first one can be found here:

DEEP PURPLE – Made In Japan Part 1

IMG_20140607_062429DEEP PURPLE – Made In Japan (2014 limited edition Super Deluxe box set)

Disc 3:  Tokyo, August 17 1972.  Finally we arrive at the third night.  The band were comfortable by the time they hit Tokyo, but the sound from the venue wasn’t as desirable as the two nights in Osaka.  That’s the main reason that most of the Tokyo show was not used on Made in Japan originally.  Yes, sonically this is not as crisp nor clear.  It seems like a noisier mix, with Gillan’s voice more difficult to make out.  However, we have heard plenty of Deep Purple recordings worse than this, and this is still Deep Purple MkII at the top of their game.

The band tune up and say hello before “Highway Star”, a quaint reminder of the way concerts used to be compared to today.  Like the other two renditions of “Highway Star”, this is an electric performance.  Jon’s organ solo was the highlight for me, Ritchie’s blistering frets notwithstanding.  Gillan tells the crowd that the song is about somebody named “Fat Larry” and his automobile.

“Smoke on the Water” begins with Ritchie teasing a bit of “God Save the Queen”.  Jon and Ritchie fall out of sync a bit in the beginning of the song, but they quickly lock back into place.  Of the three, this is my favourite version of “Smoke on the Water”, just because it is different.  The band are looser and willing to play around a bit more.  Blackmore’s solo is a highlight as he travels all over the musical landscape.

Always epic, “Child in Time” is greeted by polite applause, a true show of Japanese appreciation.  While the August 16 Osaka version may well be Uncle Meat’s favourite because of the guitar solo, I think this one is pretty special due to Jon’s keys.  Either way, we’re splitting hairs here.  It’s “Child in Time” performed live in Japan in 1972!  To talk about favourites at this point is to be speaking in nanometers.

IMG_20140603_173412“The Mule” has an entertaining intro; Ian Gillan tells the monitor guy, “Can we have everything louder than everything else?”  This is the version from the original Made In Japan.  The intro was so legendary that Lemmy paid homage on the live Motorhead album, Everything Louder Than Everyone Else.  The song goes absolutely mental at the 2:20 point, before Ian Paice breaks into his drum solo.  Not a lot of drummers are interesting to listen to soloing for five minutes.  Paicey is.

“Strange Kind of Woman” is another track that is never exactly the same twice.  Gillan and Ritchie improvise together, a reminder of a day and age when they (mostly) got along.  It’s hard not to smile.  According to Ian, this song is about “Terrible Ted” and his “awful lady”.

Diving into newer material from Machine Head comes “Lazy”; always interesting since it too relies on a lot of improvisation.  This is the version used on Made in Japan originally, and Jon’s solo (dipping into “Louie Louie”) is familiar and fun.  That Hammond howls, and then Blackmore enters.  This is one more Deep Purple long bomber.  The vocal doesn’t even start until six minutes in!

Finally, “Space Truckin'”.  One more amusing song intro:  Ian says that this song is about what would happen if space travel and rock and roll ever met, which has not happened.  Therefore, this song does not exist.  But it sure does slam!  The crowd clap along, obviously into it.  I love every pick scrape, every drum roll, and every scream.  Deep Purple can simply do no wrong at this point.  The only flaw is distracting audience (or perhaps crew) noise.  You can hear people speaking Japanese around the 13:00 mark.

IMG_20140603_174039Disc 4: Encores.  This CD comprises all the encores from all three shows.  “Black Night” was played first, at all three shows.  “Speed King” was played twice, on the 1st and 3rd nights.  On the 2nd night the band played Little Richard’s “Lucille” at absolutely breakneck pace.  For many years, these encores were largely unavailable.  “Black Night” from the 3rd night in Tokyo was released (edited) as a B-side, and then re-released on many compilations such as Power House (1977).  The other encores didn’t receive release until the 90’s or later.  Now, finally, all the tracks from Japan are collected in one set.  I could barely keep track of where to find all the songs from the Japan shows, spread as they were over multiple releases.  Now it’s all in one place, as it should be.

After tuning up, Blackmore noodles for a bit.  Then “Black Night” crashes to a start.  This song is almost a respite for the audience, after a track like “Space Truckin'”.  If you remember from Part 1 of this review, Gillan had a case of bronchitis that he was recovering from.  He couldn’t stand his performance on the 15th, but you’ll be hard pressed to tell on “Black Night”.

Ian says “good luck, good night,” but it’s just a clever ruse.  Much applause results in a return and a noisy take of “Speed King”.  There’s quite a bit of feedback, sour notes and noise coming from the guitar.  Blackmore was either struggling with it, or abusing it.  A knackered Ian Gillan is out of breath at times.

MIJThe second version of “Black Night”, from the 16th, is quite different.  It’s quite ragged and feedback-laden, and this version reveals human errors that, to me, only add to the live experience.  Deep Purple were taking things over the top at these concerts, and sometimes things fall apart.  It’s rock and roll.

Once again, the applause of the audience brings Deep Purple back to the stage.  Their insane cover of “Lucille” was a pleasant surprise.  Deep Purple had been playing this for ages, since Gillan first joined the band.  Another version (from London) can be heard on In Concert ’72.  That is probably the superior version, though this is no slouch.  Almost half of it is just intro!  It is stretched over eight minutes.  It keeps getting faster and faster, until they’re playing at Ludicrous Speed.

The final show in Tokyo is sonically different, as mentioned at the start of this review.  That’s most obvious on this CD when you go straight from Osaka to Tokyo.  This time, Deep Purple are introduced in Japanese, before Ian asks for the monitors to be turned down.  This is the version used on B-sides and compilations numerous times before, and it is my favourite, probably due to familiarity.  This mix allows Jon’s organ to shine a lot better.  It is also unedited, which of course is a bonus.

And finally the journey ends with “Speed King”.  The band tune up for the last time in Japan, and dive in.  Once again, they’re off the rails.  I don’t know where Gillan got the energy.  Even though he’s tired, he’s still wailing.  Jon Lord’s solo is especially enjoyable.  I’m exhausted by the end of it.  This has been a lot of Deep Purple to digest.  But we’re not done yet.

To be concluded.

REVIEW: Styx – Kilroy Was Here (1983)

“I am the modren man…”

STYX FRONT

STYX – Kilroy Was Here (1983 A&M Records)

I was just 11 years old when I first heard of Kilroy.

Allan Runstedtler at school had it first.  He was always talking about it…this cool song called “Mr. Roboto”.  This album where the songs all told a story.  It had robots in it, it was an album with pictures and a story…not unlike those Star Wars story soundtracks we used to listen to.  In hindsight it seems obvious that Kilroy Was Here was my gateway drug to rock music.

I went over to Allan’s house, with my little Fisher-Price mono tape deck, as he put Kilroy Was Here on the hi-fi.  I hit “record” and we all quietly left the living room…so as to not disturb the open air recording.  Only once did we step downstairs, but this was only to flip sides on the LP and cassette.

You can see why it was so appealing.  The robots didn’t look that dissimilar from the childhood classic film The Black Hole, plus there were robot vocals on the song, but it wasn’t guitar heavy or threatening.  It was catchy though, “Mr. Roboto” being the song that hooked us in.  We had the lyrics completely memorized (the handy lyric sheet was a revelation to us) and could sing any part of the song by heart.

With the benefit of hindsight, “Mr. Roboto” todays sounds quaint, a harmless boppy synth radio hit nothing like the Styx that emerged onto the scene over a decade earlier.  Dennis DeYoung’s vocals are all spellbinding as ever, the man as identifiable on this as he was on “Lady”.  Where’s the guitars from Tommy Shaw and James “JY” Young?  I’m really not sure.  There are a few things here and there, fuzzy buzzy melodies that might well be guitars.  Only once in a while in the course of a 5-minute-plus song can you really hear any sort of instrument that wasn’t programmed or played with keys!

Tommy’s “Cold War” was another upbeat one we liked as kids, and yes you can hear some guitar in the intro and chorus.  There’s even a solo!  Otherwise, it’s just a dreadful synth pop piece, with loads of those annoying synth-claps and other assorted sounds that are supposed to sound like percussion.  Tommy plays a character named Jonathan Chance on this album, and “Cold War” reads like a manifesto from that character.

STYX INNER

The album came with a story, so it was quite easy to break it down and figure out what was happening.  It’s a dystopian tale, and the setting is…”the future”. Dr. Righteous (James Young) has risen to power, using a clever manipulation of media and government.  Rock N’ Roll music…is banned!  Robert Kilroy (DeYoung), a legendary rock musician, is jailed for a murder he did not commit.  But Jonathan Chance (Shaw), a young rebel hoping to bring back Rock N’ Roll, is using Kilroy’s image and music as a rallying cry for his cause.  One night Kilroy escapes prison, and disguises himself as a “Roboto”, the labor robots pervasive in this future world.

Got all that?

Drummer John Panozzo is credited as a character named “Col. Hyde”, and bassist Chuck Panozzo as “Lt. Vanish”.  I have no idea who those people are supposed to be.  There was a minifilm that went with the album and tour, and opened the live shows.  It’s incredibly funny and campy, the Styx version of the Star Wars Holiday Special.

“Don’t Let It End”, a DeYoung ballad is a song we always skipped as kids.  I played the ballads maybe once the whole time I owned the album!  But it’s actually a pretty good tune, and you can see why it was a hit.  This is followed by “High Time” with DeYoung, introducing the character of Dr. Righteous:

“I flip the switch on my laser video,
And there’s the man staring back at me,
He starts to speak in a voice so righteous,
About the sins of society”

It’s a fun song, upbeat, very showtune-y, with DeYoung having a chance to cut loose a bit.  It’s alright, and it sounds like the horn section are real horns, not some synth.

JY gets to be the one to bring the rock on “Heavy Metal Poisoning”.  In this song, Dr. Righteous takes to the airwaves with the ironically hardest rocking song on the album.

What the Devil’s going on?
Why don’t you turn that music down,
You’re going deaf and that’s for sure,
But all you do is scream for more!

We were always amused by Dr. Righteous using heavy metal music as his musical vehicle to attack heavy metal music, and wondered if there was a hidden message there?  Something about hypocrisy.  Righteous complains that rock and roll will lead to sex and drugs, while punishing his guitar with some seriously heavy riffing and a smoking solo.  Unfortunately, some goofy keyboard bits detract from the song and keep it from being a pure heavy rocker.

“Just Get Through This Night” is a ballad we skipped as kids, but in retrospect this is a great dramatic ballad.  Tommy wrote this one, a long, atmospheric meandering 6 minute piece that would have been too long to hold our kiddie attention span anyway.   Even though it didn’t do anything for us as kids, it stands as one of the bright spots on an album that so often just gets too goofy.  Tommy’s guitar solo, recorded backwards, is a highlight on this song.

Our second-favourite song was next: “Double Life” written and sung by JY.  It’s certainly one of the highlights on the album, a menacing, dark stomp with the synths this time supporting rather than fighting the song.  No idea how this fits into the story, but who cares!

Tommy’s final ballad, “Haven’t We Been Here Before” is kinda skip-worthy, although it’s nice when Dennis accompanies him on the chorus.  There’s also a nice harmony guitar solo, but loaded down with effects, blunting its edge.  Fortunately, the album ends with “Don’t Let It End (reprise)” which is actually a reprise of “Mr. Roboto”, but with Tommy singing and more guitars.  The album ends on a bright note, as Jonathan Chance seemingly takes the mantel of rock leadership from Kilroy, vowing to keep Rock N’ Roll alive!  Then Dennis comes in, doing his old rocker schtick, sending up Elvis, Little Richard and many more, and that’s the album.  Great finish.

I think if we were to discuss this album in 1983, I would have raved and rated it 4/5 stars.  I also probably would have overused the words “awesome” and “cool-a-mundo”.  That was 30 years ago…man.  That’s a long, long time.  Listening to it now…

2/5 stars

REVIEW: Cinderella – Once Around the Ride…Then & Now (promo, inc. Heartbreak Station)

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I’m going to be covering more of my rarities in 2013.  This is part 2 of today’s Cinderella feature.  For part 1, a more comprehensive review of the Heartbreak Station CD, click Tommy Morais’ review here!

This Cinderella compilation is a rare promo.  Don’t know what a promo CD is?  Watch the educational video below starring yours truly!

Record Store Tales Part 117:  Promos

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CINDERELLA – Once Around the Ride…Then & Now (Promotional only, 1990 Polygram)

This is a really, really cool package.  Two discs:  Then… and Now…, showcasing the absolute best of Cinderella up to 1990, including two rare live bonus tracks.

Somewhat predictably, Then… is a greatest hits set from the first two records.  Five tunes from Night Songs, six from Long Cold Winter, which I rated 4.5/5 in a recent review.  Then, the aforementioned two bonus tracks:  “Shake Me” and “Night Songs”, performed live.  “Night Songs” was one that I owned previously on a rare Polygram compilation from ’92 called Welcome To The Jungle.  From what I can tell, these two tracks are originally from a 1987 European release called The Live EP, and it appears they’ve been recycled as bonus tracks on several items since, including a promo Kiss single for “Any Way You Slice It”!

Interestingly, the back cover states that the two bonus tracks are from a forthcoming EP also called Night Songs, an EP I’ve never seen or heard of before or since.

The tracks chosen are pretty much the tunes that anybody would have chosen given a compilation like this:  All the singles, and a selection of kickass album tracks such as “Night Songs”, “Fallin’ Apart At The Seams”, and “Push, Push”.  As a Cinderella collection of the early stuff, this is about as perfect a compilation as it gets.  As far as I’m concerned the only track it’s really missing is the awesome “Take Me Back” from Long Cold Winter, a great tune that would have made a perfect single.

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The second disc, Now… is the entire Heartbreak Station album (review here) from start to finish.  It even comes with the full booklet for Heartbreak Station, so this is how I chose to buy the album.  Heartbreak Station is another fantastic, underrated Cinderalla album.   It was clear from Long Cold Winter that the band was interested in exploring their underappreciated blues roots.   On Heartbreak Station, they ditched the glam and went full bore into those roots.

The opening track “The More Things Change” is aptly titled, but is actually the track most like their past work.  “Love’s Got Me Doin’ Time” is nothing but pure funky goodness, a completely unexpected twist.  The horn-laden “Shelter Me” was the first single (remember Little Richard in the video?), a really cool soul rock song.  The lyrics were totally on-trend in the wake of the fresh Judas Priest trial, a rant on Tipper Gore and the PMRC!

Tipper led the war against the record industry,
She said she saw the devil on her MTV

Sharp minded readers will remember that Tipper was prompted to start the PMRC when her kid was terrified by Tom Petty’s video for “Don’t Come Around Here No More” on MTV!

I love Little Richard.

The centerpiece of the album is the title track, with strings by John Paul Jones.  The band were dissatisfied that they had to use synth on the previous album’s hit, “Don’t Know What You Got (Till It’s Gone)”.  John Paul Jones lent the band some serious credibility.  The song is a lush, sullen ballad with an incredible slide solo.  I remember some video channels played it under the wrong name back in ’91.  They were calling the song “The Last Train”.

Other winners:  The totally country-fied “One For Rock & Roll”, with loads of steel guitar, dobro, and 12 string.  The electrified “Love Gone Bad”, which also hearkens back to the Long Cold Winter sound in a powerful way.  “Dead Man’s Road”, which is a haunting, slow dark rocker with loads of acoustics.  Really, there are only a couple filler songs on the whole album.

This isn’t a cheap compilation to find today, but if you do happen upon it, pick it up.  It’s a collectible now, but not just that, it’s one you’ll actually play!

5/5 stars