m.e.a.t magazine

VHS Archives #52: Deadline – “Donna (Do You Wanna)” music video (1992)

I am pleased to present the best quality copy of this video available.  It’s complete and in stereo!

You can read a review of the first Deadline mini-album (from which “Donna (Do You Wanna)” was the single) right here.  From Sarnia Ontario, this quartet was primed for the big time but failed to launch.  You can tell from this video that they spared no expense in looking and sounding like pros.

This video was recorded from MuchMusic’s Start Me Up program, in early 1993.

From M.E.A.T Magazine

REVIEW: Raw M.E.A.T 1 – Various Artists (1990)

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RAW M.E.A.T 1 (1990 M.E.A.T Magazine)

Drew Masters’ legendary metal magazine M.E.A.T took a lot of pride in promoting Canadian talent.  The next logical step was putting out a CD featuring the best of the best in unsigned Canadian rock and metal.  The flagship band was Toronto’s Slash Puppet.  On this first volume, only groups from the province of Ontario signed up.   Even though the talent all came from a small region in and around Toronto (with one exception), it’s a surprisingly diverse selection of styles.

I look at Raw M.E.A.T as a first tapping of an oil reserve.  It was a gusher.  So much untapped raw talent, unheard in suburbs.

“Slow Down” by Slash Puppet was previously issued on their indi tape, but Raw M.E.A.T 1 was its first issue on CD.  The track has been described as Motorhead meets Faster Pussycat and that still fits the bill.  Lead singer Anthony J. Mifsud was the sandpaper throat to go with the rough and tumble music.  You can hear why there was such a buzz around Slash Puppet.  They had pro-level tunes and performance. All they needed was a break.

Most Raw M.E.A.T buyers knew what they were getting with Slash Puppet. The rest of the tunes were uncharted territory.

Eiffel Power, from Taranna, knocked it out with “City Action”.  Singer Lionel Lois  had ample range and lung capacity for this fun metal shuffle, very current for the time.  Think of Extreme’s first album but with more muscle.  Then there’s the instantly likeable “Feel Me Sweet” by Brampton’s own Ragadee Anne.  Yes, it’s true:  coming up with names for bands isn’t always easy, but “Feel Me Sweet” kicks.  One reason they sound so professional is due to the production by Tom Treumuth (Triumph), surely an advantage in the studio.  Glam rock with bite and youthful innocence sure sounds good.

Blackglama (Toronto) take it to the streets with the rock/rap hybrid of “Playin’ Hardball (With the Big Boys)”.  This was just a year or two ahead of its time, though director Bruce McDonald used it in his 1991 film Highway 61  (but not the soundtrack CD).  The next group, Washington Wives, bring it to immaculately composed AOR rock.  “Memoirs, Etc.” has backing vocals from Phil Naro, from just across the border in Buffalo.  Naro is best known for Talas and his work with Kiss’ Peter Criss.  “Memoirs, Etc.” is vaguely familiar, as if you’ve heard its like on the radio before (Journey? Night Ranger?), but there’s no question this track was hit-ready.  Zero fat content, this is all meat of the most melodic variety.

Short Avenue has another “name” attached, that being “Scarpelli”.  Guitarist Gene Scarpelli is the son of Gino, of Toronto’s Goddo.  Short Avenue sounds nothing like Goddo, rather more like some tough street punks ready to mix it up.  With hindsight, they sound like precursors to The Four Horsemen.  “Push Comes to Shove” is right in the same vein as the Horsemen’s “Rockin’ is Ma Business”.  From the Horsemen to the Cult:  The Cult have always been big in Canada.  First impressions are that Trouble In Mind (Toronto) were very inspired by Ian Astbury.  Regardless, their track “Sweet Addictions” is album quality.  Lead singer Beau (just “Beau”) turned up on a later instalment of the Raw M.E.A.T series, but that’s another story.

We depart Toronto momentarily for a trip to the nation’s capitol.  Ottawa’s Antix had been self-releasing vinyl since 1986, and “Kick It Up” was a new track.  With a Van Halen shuffle, their track hits the right spots, but suffers from inadequate production.   It’s unfortunate that the most experienced band has one of the poorest sounding tracks on the CD.

Russian Blue received their first major exposure via Raw M.E.A.T, and thanks to their incredible song “Once a Madman”, they gained a cult following.  They were a double threat:  a magnificent singer and a terrific guitar player.   Vocalist Jo E. Donner found himself compared to a young Robert Plant.  Richard Gauci backed that up with memorable guitar hooks.  “Once a Madman” gets the job done in just 3:15, leaving behind an unforgettable and unique rocker that begs for repeat listens.  One reason it sounds so good?  Produced by a pre-fame Harry Hess of Harem Scarem.

The next band, Zyle, sound like they were going for a traditional metal sound.  The Scorpions come to mind immediately, as does fellow Canadian rockers White Wolf.  They needed a bit more originality.  The guitar solo directly quotes Randy Rhoads, too close for comfort.  But then it’s The Remains with something a little more street punk.  A variation of the classic Peter Gunn riff, “Too Much” is actually never enough.  It’s the right mixture of middle finger and middle eight.

Hanging out just down the QEW are Hamilton and Oakville, from which come the last two groups.  Cathouse prove that you can never have enough permutations of the classic Van Halen shuffle.  “In For the Kill” nails it, with a vocalist who seems like equal parts Skid Roper and Rob Halford.  Finally, Oakville’s Johannes Linstead is best known today for his flamenco guitar albums.  He didn’t start there!  Wildside (later to become Gypsy Jayne) are about that sleaze rock.  You can hear that the guitarist is something special, though you wouldn’t predict the future from this one track.

It’s difficult to be objective, even though so many years have passed since Raw M.E.A.T 1.   Many (if not most) of these bands had potential.  Toronto in the early 90s was ready to explode as “the next Seattle”, but there was no “next Seattle”.  12 of these 13 songs are really fondly remembered, with one just needing a little more originality.

4.5/5 stars

 

REVIEWS: Russian Blue – Demo #1 and #2 (1990-91)

RUSSIAN BLUE – Russian Blue demo #1 (1990), demo #2 (1991)

Russian Blue were a Toronto hard rock act fronted by the talented Jo E. Donner who, in a perfect world, would have been signed to a major label deal had not the roof caved in when grunge arrived.  They first rose to national awareness as part of the legendary Raw M.E.A.T Vol 1 compilation of Canadian indi rockers.  Upon hearing that first song, “Once a Madman”, I was immediately hooked on this band!  Donner had the pipes (often compared to a young Robert Plant) and the looks (also Plant), and the band clearly had the writing chops to crank out at least one world class rock song.  Its slow build was unusual in hard rock at the time, as was the lack of an actual chorus.  I had to hear more, so I wrote the band and ordered a tape.

RUSSIAN BLUE_0004Demo #1 (1990)

The first self-titled tape came in a professionally printed three colour J-card, with printed stickers on a white cassette.  Pretty pro for the time.  The J-card itself is a three panel fold out, with a black and white photo of the band and lyrics too.  Four songs, same both sides.  Let’s give’r.

The familiar tamborine and guitar licks of “Once a Madman” open the first tape.  M.E.A.T editor Drew Masters always advised bands submitting demo tapes to keep it short (three to five songs), professional looking, and top-loaded with the best songs.  Someone listening to a tape was likely to hit eject after the first half of the first song if they weren’t feeling it.  Russian Blue must have been paying attention because they hit all three marks.  (Masters’ other major beef with bands was not listing the song titles, the name of the band, or any contact info on a demo tape!)  The second strongest song “Likkin’ Dog” (ugh, come on, spelling) is suitably next in line.  Digging into a heavy groove and solid riff, I’m reminded of early Skid Row or Guns N’ Roses.  Donner truly had the voice of a rock star.  The other members (guitarist Richard Gauci, drummer Mike Willerding and bassist “Robo”) are also up to the task.  Gauci in particular boasts an impressive arsenal of tricks and licks for a guy you’ve never heard of before.

“Miss Precocious” enters with the same drum drum hook as “Dirty Weapons” by Killer Dwarfs which came out earlier that year.  Coincidence or inspiration aside, it’s a demo so it’s not a big deal.  “Miss Precocious” is an OK sleaze rocker that David Coverdale would have been comfortable taking a spin with.  This could have been on Slip of the Tongue as one of David’s randy odes to young ladies.  The generic “Had Enough” is the weakest of the four tracks, and is last on the tape for that reason.


A brief history of M.E.A.T Magazine

RUSSIAN BLUE_0005Demo #2 (1991)

Russian Blue added me to their mailing list and sent updates as to their current goings-on.  A second demo tape with four all-new songs was put up for sale and I ordered mine forthwith.  I was disappointed that the second demo didn’t come as professionally packaged as the first, but I suspect that the band spent all their money on that first tape and the spot on Raw M.E.A.T Vol 1.  The second tape came in a hand-made J-card with a photocopied band photo on the front and a sticker with the song titles inside.  Unfortunately the second song is misspelled “Balck” (“Black”) and this carried over to the sticker on the cassette shell as well.  The tape, a TDK D50 (50 minutes was a specialized length) was of good quality and has the same songs on both sides.  The tape also came with a little Russian Blue paper logo.  At least they tried.

The second demo showed the creeping influence of darker alternative tendencies.  “Mama’s Love” was different from anything on the first demo, taking a swampy minimalist approach to the verses.  When Donner rips out some rock shrieks, things kick up on a notch or two on the chorus.  The song is almost equal to “Once a Madman” in terms of quality, but traversing a different more menacing direction.  Keeping the stronger tunes up front, “Balck”…err, I mean “Black” is second in quality.  It opens with a psychedelic lullaby-like opening, before creeping into another swampy groove.  The vibe is nastier, including the first “F-bomb” of the album: “Nothing lasts forever, except the words to this fuckin’ song.”  It’s a good track and though it didn’t really last forever, it did get re-worked into “All”, a song on Russian Blue’s only full length CD, after they changed their name to Feel.  The album was called This (1994).

sam_1568“Child of the Ocean” has a drony, spare riff and a cool exotic sounding guitar solo by Richard Gauci.  It continues Russian Blue’s journey into less mainstream sounds, as this is a dreamy rocker.  The final song, which is the F-bomb  laden “Bleed”, is the most old school.  This one is basically a Guns N’ Roses B-side wannabe, but who gives an F-bomb?  Russian Blue had ability to pull of a ballsy song like “Bleed”, false ending and all, without sounding like douchebags.  Good on them.

In closing

A few years back, I posted a chapter of Record Store Tales (Part 146) about my cassette collection called Cassettes Part II – The Indi Years.  I showed off these old Russian Blue tapes, and less than a month later, a fellow enthusiast found the post and contacted me.  He was really excited about this second demo, because he had never seen it nor even heard of it before.  He didn’t know that Russian Blue had anything out between the first demo tape, and Raw M.E.A.T Vol 3 (1992), to which they contributed “Mama’s Love”.  It’s always a pleasure to be able to bring content like this to the internet, finally shedding light on the dark crevasses of rock and roll that were previously obscure.  The reader told me, “I was really into these guys back in high school. I pretty much bought a cowbell because of ‘Once A Madman'”.  How awesome is that?

Given that you have to allow for certain deficiencies in demos, especially from the cassette era, I am giving Russian Blue a grade based on the reasonable expectations from the period.  That considered, the Russian Blue demos come in at:

4/5 stars each.

REVIEW: Deep Purple – Slaves and Masters (1990)

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DEEP PURPLE – Slaves and Masters (1990 BMG)

The much ballyhooed Deep Purple MkII reunion came to a crashing halt when Ian Gillan was fired in 1988. Just as the band released their first double live in aeons (Nobody’s Perfect) and a new single (a remake of “Hush”) to celebrate their 20th birthday, Gillan was out again. Except this time he was fired. And this time, Roger Glover did not go with him.  Even his friend Glover said to him, “Ian you have gone too far this time.”  His drunkeness and anger towards Ritchie Blackmore had gotten the better of him.

Blackmore briefly considered reforming Rainbow, or launching a new Blackmore-Turner Blues Band.  He was however reluctant to break up Purple, liking the current chemistry he had with the other musicians.  After inviting a singer named Bill Mattson from up-and-comers Tangier to try out for Deep Purple, the band reluctantly gave former Rainbow singer Joe Lynn Turner a shot.  They eventually invited him to join.  According to Turner, “I had to sit down with the boys in Purple and say, ‘Are we going to be true to Purple? Are we going to have the hard rockin’ blues image come out?  I really don’t want to scream.”  Turner would get his wish.  According to him:

“The guys told me, ‘We’ve never really had a singer.’  I go, ‘Well you had Ian Gillan.’  They go, ‘He’s not a singer’s singer. He’s a stylist.’  I go, ‘Ahh, I see what you mean, a stylist as opposed to a singer — it’s two different things.’  They wanted someone who can really sing and write songs, like what we did on this record, as opposed to The House of Blue Light record, which was no songs and really yielded nothing they could bring to the stage.”

Call it what you like:  Deep Rain Snake, Deep Rainbow, or just Deep Purple Mk V. Blackmore, Lord, Paice, and Joe Lynn Turner added a new album to the Purple canon called Slaves and Masters, with Roger Glover once again producing.  With most of the music already written by Blackmore, it fell to Turner and Glover to take those riffs and turn them into songs.  But what would it sound like?  Would it sound like Deep Purple, or Rainbow?

Slaves and Masters is a regal disc, different from everything else in the Purple catalogue, but beautiful in a subtle, understatedly powerful way. The first track and single, “King of Dreams” for example gives you an idea of the what the rest of the album sounds like. It is a rock song, based on the bass guitar groove, but mellow. It’s in the pocket. The power in the song comes from the groove and the soulful and smooth vocal by Turner. The lyrics are a subtle rebuttal to Ian Gillan’s scathing 1973 song “Smooth Dancer”, which was a backhanded attack on Blackmore. “King of Dreams” takes Gillan’s lyrics and turns them on their head:

“I’m a real Smooth Dancer, a fantasy man, master of illusion at the touch of my hand.”

If you think “King of Dreams” is too mellow, fear not. “The Cut Runs Deep” is second up, and after a brief deceptive piano intro, the old Hammond organ kicks in backed by some ferocious riffing by Blackmore. When Ian Paice picks up the pace (a fast “Kickstart My Heart” drum beat), you’re out of breath and beaten. All you can do is submit to it and take the body blows of drums and guitars.

“Fire in the Basement” is acceptable, a blues shuffle that serves its purpose.  Most of the album tends to be balanced between groove rockers in the “King of Dreams” mold, and ballads. There are quite a few ballads on this record: “Foretuneteller”, “Truth Hurts”, and “Love Conquers All”, which is fully 1/3 of the record.  That is not to say these are bad songs, for all three are actually quite excellent. “Foretunteller” is particularly wonderful, with some beautiful fingerpicked chords as only Ritchie can play. These are not ‘power ballads’; rather these are powerful ballads, dark and moody. After all, this is Ritchie Blackmore; and the man in black himself could never turn in pop trash.

The band were sure to end the album wisely on a 6 1/2 minute jam called “Wicked Ways”.  This is pedal to the metal Purple with Turner’s smooth rasp on top.  You can hear Blackmore letting loose with his pick scrapes and pyrotechnics, but they are unfortunately too low in the mix to come through.  Obviously Purple were going for a radio-friendly sound even on the heavy rockers, because you could remix this one heavy as hell if you had the master tapes!

SLAVES AND MASTERS_0003

I remember listening to this album for the first time at the cottage.  I had rented the CD (remember that?) from a local video store in Kincardine, and I was recording it.  When “Wicked Ways” came on, my dad said, “Who is this group?”  Deep Purple, I said.  “They are obviously a musician’s band,” he said.  Normally he’d come up with one of his wisecracks like, “Why is the singer screaming so much, is he sick?”  Not with Deep Purple.  Upon “Wicked Ways” he bestowed one of his rare compliments.

There are only two poor tracks on the album: The lame-titled “Breakfast In Bed”, and “Too Much is Not Enough” which was written by Turner and outside writers. Otherwise, this is strong music. It is arguably not a Deep Purple album except only in name, but I think today most Purple fans are also fans of Rainbow.  It could have used a ballsier mix.

Regardless of the quality of the album, the tour was a reportedly a bit of a disaster. Having Joe in the group did enable them to play a few rarer tracks, such as “Burn” which was originally sung by Coverdale, but this wasn’t enough to sell tickets or convince fans that Joe was “the singer” for Deep Purple.

The band began work on a second Deep Purple Mk V album, but regardless of any progress made, Gillan came back for The Battle Rages On in 1993, ending this brief era of Deep Purple’s history.  But if you like Turner era Purple, there are still a few more rare tracks to be had.  They are as follows:

  • NEW LIVE“Slow Down Sister”, a single B-side, which was since reissued on a remastered version of Slaves and Masters.  It can also be found on the Shades 1968-1998 box set.  It cleverly recycles the riff from “Stormbringer” into a new song with a similar groove, although way more commercial.  This does not sound much like Deep Purple at all, and the funky bass does not sound like Roger Glover playing.
  • “Fire, Ice & Dynamite”.  This is apparently from a movie soundtrack called Fire Ice & Dynamite that I have never heard of.  I however have it on a Purple DVD called New, Live and Rare (2000).   This song is a Blackmore/Turner/Glover original, but Jon Lord did not play on it.  I believe Glover plays keyboards, and Paice was also present.  It is a pretty straightforward hard rock song, not too different from material on The House of Blue Light.  Decent song, and an uber-rarity.

Final note: this album just sounds better on headphones.  I don’t know why.

Check out Slaves and Masters for one of those lost Purple platters that, with a few listens, you could grow to love.

4/5 stars

REVIEW: White Lion – The Best Of (1992)

WHITE LION – The Best Of (1992 Atlantic)

I’m going to keep it short and sweet this time, and defer to a 1992 review by M.E.A.T Magazine’s Drew Masters (issue 38, Nov. 92):

BEST OF WHITE LION_0001

He’s right.  I don’t agree with the single M rating though; these are mostly good tunes.  They’re sequenced awkwardly as fuck though.  The flow on this disc is just completely fucked.  The songs don’t work in the sequence they’re in.  And Drew is correct in inferring that many of White Lion’s prouder, heavier moments are missing.   Vito smokes on the live tracks, but Tramp can’t hit the notes.  Buy Pride, not this.

2/5 stars

REVIEW: Deadline – Deadline (1992)

DEADLINE – Deadline (1992 Deadline Productions)

DEADLINE_0008Old school adherents of the classic Pepsi Power Hour may remember the video for “Donna (Do You Wanna)” by Sarnia Ontario’s Deadline.  This self-titled mini-album was not their first release, they did have an indi cassette before this.  Their 1992 CD debut was impressive quality for the period.  “Friction Addiction” (heard in re-recorded form on Raw M.E.A.T 3) is a cool, innovative hard rock number with a funky lead vocal.  The guys were all musically and vocally talented:  the Wood brothers Tim and Tom (vocals and drums respectively), Paul Albert (bass), and Shawn Meehan (guitars).  “Friction Addition” was exactly the kind of song that could have become a hit in 1992.  It was still upbeat, good-time hard rock, but with modern elements that the 1990’s demanded.

“Donna” sounds like an outtake from Extreme’s first album, a bit dated now.  It’s a nice shuffle complete with harmonica blasts, and fans of that old time hard rock will still like it.  The juvenile lyrics however are way below the quality of the music and playing.  “Nothing Left to Lose” is a somber ballad, a cross between Europe’s “Tomorrow” and Dokken’s “Alone Again”.  Bassist Paul Albert is credited as the pianist on the track.

DEADLINE_0001“Imagine That” is one of those early 90’s Ugly Kid Funk Metal™ tracks.  Paint a visual picture and you’ll probably be pretty close.  Regardless of the dated sound, it is still a pretty fun song.  Following that is the less-funky “Do You Believe”, a fun hard rocker that even quotes “Bomehian Rhapsody”.  How 1992!  Once again, Extreme comparisons are apt.  Slaughter too, especially vocally.  “Set Your Sails” is the “inspirational” track.  You always had to have one of those, didn’t you?  As such it’s upbeat and plenty good.  The tricky guitar solo reminds me of Richie Kotzen in style.

The CD ends with the jokey acoustic jam, “I Hate Workin'”.  It has that old Van Halen vibe of the “drunken party” in the background, and the singalong chorus.  Their hearts were the right place, but the song is a bit on the corny side.  Still, for a first CD?  Not bad at all.

After this the band released an EP called So This is Limbo and an album called Tangible Vibe.  These releases had a marked change of direction.  Guitar solos were chopped and songs shortened; as the 90’s progressed so they did, right into pop punk.  Both are pretty good releases, but we’ll have to look at them another time.  Deadline, the debut, scores a respectable:

3/5 stars

Incidentally, this CD will not rip on any machine.  No computer will play it, only an actual CD player.  I have had that problem with a few Canadian made CDs from the early 90’s.

From M.E.A.T Magazine

From M.E.A.T Magazine

Part 285: Chinese Democracy

By request of reader Johnny Sixx: A review of Guns N’ Roses’ Chinese Democracy so long that I split it into two parts. Part Two comes tomorrow. Read on!

MEAT2

RECORD STORE TALES Part 285: Chinese Democracy

The story goes like this:

In late 1994/early 1995, T-Rev and I would update the store’s “new releases board” every few weeks. This board advertised what new releases were coming in the weeks and months ahead. When I was given my own store, T-Rev took over the original as manager, and continued on diligently with the new releases board.

Of course, one of the most anticipated releases even back in 1994 and 1995 was the “new” Guns N’ Roses. We’d sat through solo albums from Izzy, Duff, Gilby and finally Slash himself. While Izzy and Gilby came close to the mark, none of these were a substitute for a real Guns N’ Roses album. The only official new Guns N’ Roses CD that we had for sale was the CD single for “Sympathy For the Devil”. Little did we know back then that “Sympathy” was like the straw that broke the Guns’ backs! (Axl had secretly brought in Paul Huge as Gilby Clarke’s replacement, and had him overdub “answer” solos to go with Slash’s. Slash was furious, especially since Axl fired Gilby without telling anyone.)

The rumours were always buzzing, so T-Rev would periodically call me. “Mikey! Do you know any more new releases I can add to the board?” I was always checking out M.E.A.T Magazine, and inside a recent issue (March/April 1994), Slash himself said he was mixing the new album himself, and that it would be out by summer.  He actually went into quite a bit of detail regarding the new Guns N’ Roses album in this article.  He offered no song titles, but it’s easy to tell from his descriptions that many of the songs ended up on his and Gilby’s solo albums.  He downplays Axl Rose’s contribution to the project considerably.

An excerpt:

MEAT

Flush with cryptic updates such as these, I would always be able to help T-Rev keep the new release board up to date.

“Yeah man, I got a Guns N’ Roses update for you,” I would tell him on the phone.  “The new album’s coming out next quarter.”  After M.E.A.T Magazine went bust in 1995, I would have kept up with the latest Hit Parader or RIP Magazine.   The release dates kept getting pushed back.

Every month, T-Rev would dutifully change the board. Guns N’ Roses – spring 1995. Then the next month, he’d call me again. “Anything new?” And I’d let him know whatever I’d read. “The album’s scheduled for summer. This is according to Metal Edge,” or whatever.

And the board changed again. Fall 1995. Christmas 1995. Spring 1996. It became a running gag. Even if there was no GN’R news, T-Rev kept that album on the board dutifully. He’d just bump it ahead a couple months. He kept doing that until the store moved and changed formats at the end of ’96.  Even if no customers got the joke, the two of us thought it was freakin’ hilarious.  Trevor always predicted it would never come out.

I don’t think we would have laughed if we knew how long it would really be before Chinese Democracy was finally released to the public!  We waited through lineup change after lineup change, and the release of the new track “Oh My God” in 1999.  It would be almost a decade more before the final release.  Would it be worth the wait?  Find out tomorrow.

REVIEW: Dio – Lock Up the Wolves (1990)

DIO – Lock Up the Wolves (1990)

July 1990: A M.E.A.T. Magazine interview (issue #14) with Ronnie James Dio states that he was unhappy with Dream Evil, one of my favourite Dio albums. He felt the songwriting was unfinished, that the songs needed tightening up. Supposedly some of the changes he made were a response to that. If that’s indeed the case, then Lock of the Wolves came as a total shock. These songs feel even less finished than any Dio album before.

Dio had completely revamped his band. Craig Goldy (guitar) was the first one to leave. Apparently Vinnie Appice, Jimmy Bain and Claude Schnell didn’t care for Goldie, but they all ended up departing too. Ronnie was no longer happy with the writing process nor the dischord that had set into the making of Dream Evil.  Because of these circumstances he was able to revamp the entire Dio lineup but not by choice.

Ronnie took on a young and international crew: Swedish Jens Johansson on keyboards (ex-Yngwie Malmsteen), new York kid Teddy Cook on bass, ex-AC/DC skin-pounder Simon Wright, and the young 17 year old Scot, Rowan Robertson as his new guitar wizard. Robertson won the role after a cattle-call resulted in 5000 tapes sent to Dio for his consideration.  The end combination was a band of skilled players, but lacking in road-tested chemistry. Plus the pressure was certainly on Robertson, having guitarists like Vivian Campbell and Richie Blackmore writing the solos you were going to be playing.

About half the album was written when Bain and Appice were still in the band, and they appear on several writing credits. Robertson has a co-write on every song, and Jens Johansson has two, while new bassist Cook has one. Regardless of the numerous writers, the album is very singular in its direction. That is to say Lock Up the Wolves is a painfully sloooowww Dio album.

I was very disappointed that there are only a couple fast rockers to keep the blood pumping. The first track, “Wild One”, fools you into thinking this album will be a rocking good time full of tasty guitar hooks and wicked Dio lyrics. However, “Born On The Sun”, while boasting a great chorus melody, sags and droops. “Hey Angel” and “Between Two Hearts” are more of the same. I kept waiting for another fast song, or just something different to keep me awake. I had realized that Lock Up the Wolves is loaded with boring pseudo-bluesy riffs, slow to the point of coma-inducing.

The only slow tunes that really have spark of any kind are the monstrous title track (over 8 minutes of drama) and the ballady “My Eyes”. “My Eyes” is my personal favourite track on the album, and perhaps worth the price of purchase if you can find the album cheap. It’s also fun to play the game “How many of Dio’s other song titles are in the lyrics?” with this one.  The CD-only bonus track “Why Are They Watching Me” is the only other serious fast rocker on the album, and I have no idea why it was the CD-only bonus track, because the album desperately needed a kick in the pants.

And that is Lock Up the Wolves in a nutshell. Approximately 50 minutes of slow, pseudo-bluesy guitar and dull rhythms. About 10 minutes of heavy metal. That’s it.

I do love the cover art.

2/5 stars

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Part 251: Punched In the Teeth By Love

RECORD STORE TALES Part 251: Punched In the Teeth By Love

Back in December of 1991, an old M.E.A.T Magazine article on Motley Crue revealed a cool little nugget of an exclusive. Motley were promoting their first “greatest hits” CD, Decade of Decadence.  Like any good official compilation album should, it contained three brand new songs.  They were heavier, alluding to an evolution in direction for Motley Crue.  However there was a fourth new song that didn’t make the cut:

PUNCHED

It always disappointed me that since Vince Neil left the Crue in early ’92, that song title never appeared on their next album.  Too bad, I thought.  Something about the title jumped out at me; I was looking forward to hearing the song, but it never came out.  Bummer.  Especially since I did indeed get “punched in the teeth by love” (figuratively) and been knocked out a couple times.  But you could never keep me down for the count, I always bounced back.

Any time I broke up with some girl back then, I’d always tell the guys at the record store the same thing.  “Man, I need to write a song called ‘Punch In the Teeth By Love’!”  I figured, since Motley Crue hadn’t used it, the title was up for grabs!  I threw some words and a rudimentary riff/melody together as a joke but it never went beyond that.  It always generated a few laughs though, and laughing at work is healthy, especially when you’ve been punched in the teeth by love.

Of course later on (1997) Vince Neil did rejoin Motley Crue.  Later still, after Tommy Lee quit the group acrimoniously, they released possibly their worst ever album New Tattoo (2000).  Interestingly, that album’s track #7 was called “Punched In the Teeth By Love”!

I don’t presume this to be the exact song that would have come out in 1991, since Randy Castillo (Tommy Lee’s replacement) is credited as a writer.  Maybe the lyrics are recycled, maybe just the title, whatever:  it doesn’t matter.  Finally “Punched In the Teeth By Love” surfaced and as hoped it was one of the heaviest songs.  The riff was pretty generic, but Mick Mars’ guitar work is impressive.  I’ve always felt Mick has grown as a guitar player tremendously, especially since Dr. Feelgood.  It’s certainly not the greatest song, but it rocks hard enough and has a cool gang vocal chorus, so I’ll give it a B or a B+.

It was considered to be worthy of the concert setlist in 2000 (Samantha Maloney on drums now, filling in for the terminally ill Randy Castillo).  It was played only on that tour though, and it was not included on any Crue compilation since then, including the double Red, White & Crue.  So I’d like to bring your attention back to this track, a pretty good if not great dirty little Motley Crue song:  “Punched In the Teeth By Love”!

Part 237 / REVIEW: Sven Gali – Inwire (1995)

Second of a two-part series, by request of reader Deke! This part grew so large that I ended up splitting it up between a review and a Record Store Tale. If you missed part one, Sven Gali (1993), click here.

RECORD STORE TALES Part 237:  Sven Gali – Inwire (and Peter the Rocker)

When Sven Gali released their anticipated second album Inwire, Peter the Rocker was not impressed.  Not in the least.  A few weeks after it came out, Peter stopped by the record store.  He picked up one of the M.E.A.T Magazines sitting on our front counter and opened it to a page.  He pointed.

“Have you heard this Sven Gali?” he asked me in a semi-shouted voice.

SVEN_0005“No I haven’t, I responded, “I’m waiting for a used copy.  I do have a four song sampler and it’s pretty good.”

“It blows,” he fired back, eyes wide.  “Sucks.  Shit.  Garbage.  Piece of fucking shit.”  He paused to take a breath.  “They fucking sold out man!  You know what they did?  It’s grunge.  It’s pure shit.”  He raised his hands on either side, as if to emphasize the weight of the turd that Sven Gali had laid.

“Seriously?” I queried.  “The songs I heard were OK…”

“Listen to me man.  It’s fucking shit.  Garbage.”

Alright then!

Peter the Rocker came in periodically over the months.  Sven Gali didn’t come up very often, but having heard it since that conversation, I was inclined to agree with Peter.  Maybe not to the same extremes, but we saw eye to eye, more or less .

A year or two after the initial conversation, Peter came in to the store once again to discuss Sven Gali.

“Guess who I fucking saw this weekend.”

Not having a clue, I shrugged my shoulders.  “I give up.  Who?”

“The fucking bassist from Sven Gali man!  Shawn.  I told him that second album fucking sucked man.”

I had to laugh at that.  “You did?  What did he say?”

“He fucking agreed with me man!  He said they sold out on that album.  He said they fucking sold out and went grunge!”

Take that as you will.  It’s an old story heard second hand from Peter the Rocker.  I wouldn’t use it as a Wikipedia source, but it does shed some light on the album we’re about to discuss.

SVEN_0006

SVEN GALI – Inwire (1995 BMG)

Kelly Gray (Tateryche) really helped fuck up this album.  Sven Gali went to Seattle, and hired Mr. Gray, who had recently co-produced the 4x Platinum debut album by Candlebox.  It’s rarely a good idea for hard rock bands to go grunge, but it’s doubly bad when they work with Kelly Gray. [More on this tomorrow.]

Gray encouraged the band to experiment.  I guess part of this experimentation was hiring one of his Seattle buddies on drums.  Mike Ferguson was in a band was Dog Daze with Mr. Gray.  Additionally, the songwriting on Inwire is credited to Sven Gali and Yard Dog.  Who the fuck is Yard Dog?  I suspect Gray’s got a writing credit on every song.  His buddies from Candlebox show up on guest vocals, and even Christopher Thorn from Blind Melon plays mandolin (one of the best moments on the album during “Tired of Listening”).

SVEN_0012In a M.E.A.T Magazine write-up, writer Carl Begai said that the album Inwire would “leave people awestruck and impressed”.  Awestruck, yes, but not very impressed.  I got this CD for free, which is the only reason I have it.  It was simply too alternative for most fans, who ignored it in droves. It also had the unfortunate problem of being very weak on songs.  There are a handful of must-haves here, along with a whole bunch of don’t-needs.  When things click occasionally, it’s on songs like “Truth”, “What You Give”, and “Make Me”.

When things fall apart, it sounds like bad U2 demos, disjointed parts connected together, boring melodies and underwhelming guitars.  I hate the needlessly distorted vocals on Inwire.  They dominate the whole album.   “Helen” features two David Wanless lead vocals, one distorted and one more distorted, yelling at each other.  More singing, less yelling Dave! Kelly Gray, I’m looking at you.

No sir, I don’t like it.  Down from the 90’s shit cover art through the 90’s shit distorted vocals to the 90’s shit songs, I don’t like it.  Except for a few sparkling moments, Inwire smells like a turd.

2/5 stars

EPILOGUE:  The band never made a third album.  After breaking up, bassist Shawn TT Mahar joined Forgotten Rebels.  When guitarist Dee Cernille was diagnosed with cancer in 2009, the band organized two reunion concerts.  These concerts were attended by Mif from Slash Puppet, who was quoted as saying, “Went to the Sven Gali show at the Sound Academy the other night to watch Dee rock out. I gotta tell ya, if I didn’t know any better I wouldn’t know that there was anything wrong with the fucking guy. He was shredding all fucking night.”  Unfortunately Cernille died on February 25, 2012.