Mark Slaughter

VHS Archives #103: Paul Stanley of KISS with Slaughter & Dan Gallagher (in full Gene makeup)

“In case you tuned in, we’re here with Gene Simmons right now.”

Ladies and gentlemen, this is Deke’s favourite video. The legendary Dan Gallagher put on some Kiss makeup to talk to Paul Stanley. It was such a party that Slaughter dropped in too! It was the infamous gig opening for Whitesnake, and you can get a sense of Paul’s anger that Kiss were not allowed to do their full stage show. David Coverdale’s ego is alluded to.

Best quotes:

“If I was gonna paint the Sistine Chapel, I’d do it with a roller. I’m not a fine artist folks!”

“Everything we did was always in addition to what the music was doing. We never did it in place of the music.”

“Whenever people put out sequels to movies, they’re usually not as good as the original.  Alive II was pretty much as good as Alive I.  When gotta make sure Alive III isn’t…Jaws 3D or something.”

“Michael [Bolton] used to have the mic in his hand and strut around…he’s a rocker!”

When Mark Slaughter and Dana Strum show up, it becomes a bit of a party.

 

NOTE:  There are a couple audio glitches here that I didn’t notice until too late.

REVIEW: Minoru Niihara – One (1989)

MINORU NIIHARA – One (1989 Triad)

Original Loudness vocalist Minoru Niihara was let go in 1988 so they could have a stab at a success with an American singer.  While they went their way (and did not cross over onto the charts as they hoped), Niihara recorded his first solo album appropriately titled One.  He worked at Cherokee studios in Hollywood, where there must have been a lot of rock stars hanging out.  The credits on One include:  Mark Slaughter, Reb Beach, Doug Aldrich, the rhythm section from Journey (Steve Smith and Ross Valory), Kal Swan, David Glen Eisley, and the Tower of Power horns!

That being said, you might expect a straightforward hard rock album right out of 1989 like so many you remember from that year.  You’d be partly right.  However the lyrics are mostly in Japanese, and while the intent might have been to make a straight-ahead commercial rock record, it goes a bit sideways on some tracks.

It sounds like some of the same opening sounds as on Alice Cooper’s Trash album (also 1989) are used on first instrumental “Overture”.  Then it goes soft rock, with guitar strings tinkling like a fragile piece of glass, backed by heavenly keyboards.  In a jarring shift, the first proper song “Let’s Get Together” doesn’t meld well with this intro.  It also sounds a bit out of time, a relic from a couple years prior.  But Minoru is on top of it.  “Let’s get together! Have fun tonight!” goes the boppin’ English chorus, with plenty of the expected thick backing vocals from the Hollywood cast and crew.  Although it already sounded dated for 1989, “Let’s Get Together” is a fun track clearly aiming for a party concert vibe.  Not bad — production is clunky, and there are a couple key changes that sound off, but it’s otherwise a fun song that does what it’s there to do.

American rock vibes dominate “Stand Up to the Danger”, sounding a bit like “Loud and Clear” by Autograph.  That could be Reb Beach just rippin’ it up on the solo, but the track is very standard for the genre.  A neat ballad follows, the Journey-like…ahem…it’s a case of a language barrier, I’m sure, but the song is called “Come Over Me”.  Very much like a Journey ballad, and it’s probably Valory and Smith on bass and drums respectively.  Maxine and Julia Waters on backing vocals.

A cool 80s bass groove sets the tone on “I Can’t Wait”.  This mid-tempo car-cruiser is an album highlight, and a track worth getting in your ears.  Great solo too (Doug?).  Coincidentally, Minoru’s replacement in Loudness was a fellow named Mike Vescera, and he later recorded a different song called “I Can’t Wait” with Yngwie J. Malmsteen.  One of Minbru’s weaknesses (and it probably comes down to English as a second language) is a reliance on cliche song titles.  “I Can’t Wait”, “Stayin’ Alive”, “Dynamite”, and “Fool For You” are all song titles you’ve heard before.

Speaking of “Dynamite”, the next track on the disc — it’s a little more unique.  With a bluesy opening, it soon lets loose with a blast of saxophone.  The chorus is full-on pop.  A little clunky in construction and production, but different and still cool.

A soft keyboard ballad called “You Can Do It” sits right in the middle of the album.  Even though vinyl, and  especially cassettes were big in 1989, One only saw release on CD.  No “side one” or “side two” with this album.  Once more the ballad would sound appropriate on a Steve Perry album, and the guitar solo is really smooth.  Good song; Minoru’s style of singing is a bit overblown for a soulful ballad, but you can certainly tell he loves singing this way.

“Bluest Sky” is cool, acoustic and stripped back but “Stayin’ Alive” really scorches.  It’s the closest thing to classic Loudness.  It is the only clearly heavy metal track on the album.  Probably Reb Beach ripping up his fretboard and whammy bar on the solo.  Definitely Mark Slaughter on the chorus.  The horn section returns on “Fool For You”, but Minoru’s over-the-top singing does not suit the funky metal stylings.  He does well on “Too Long Away to Reach”, a little more restrained.  But it is the third ballad that really does sound like Journey.  So much that you’d assume it was Neal Schon on guitar.

Finally Minoru closes his solo debut on one more ballad, “I’ll Never Hide My Love Again”.  This time it’s a big power ballad with a massive chorus, and because it’s dramatically different from the earlier ballads, it works.  Definite vibes of King Kobra’s “Dancing With Desire” (1985).

See what I mean when I say that One sounds dated already even for 1989?  That doesn’t make it bad, but not all pieces fit.  There are some obtrusive keyboard overdubs, some of the ingredients just don’t mix.  While Minoru is a fine vocalist, and he gives 110% here, some of the songs sound like they would work better if he laid back a bit.  Then again, that could be the language barrier; the words he is singing might be totally appropriate to his vocal output.  Everything in music is subjective anyway.  Regardless of interpretation, Minoru Niihara’s effort is no less than his whole heart, and you have to give credit for that.

3/5 stars

 

 

VHS Archives #3: Vinnie Vincent Invasion interview (part two)

The second part of the Vinnie Vincent Invasion interview by Erica Ehm, from MuchMusic’s Pepsi Power Hour, September 1987. Dana, Vinnie and Bobby speak. Mark makes faces.

“Why is there so much heavy metal in L.A.?” is the question.

Part one can be found here.

VHS Archives #1: Vinnie Vincent Invasion interview (1987)

I have begun converting my video library to digital! The big challenge is finding all the old tapes. I have no idea where I put the most important ones.

In the meantime, enjoy this brief Vinnie Vincent Invasion interview with Erica Ehm, from MuchMusic’s Pepsi Power Hour, September 1987. Bigger and better stuff will follow if/when I find the tapes.

REVIEW: Vinnie Vincent Invasion – All Systems Go (1988)

The KISS RE-REVIEW SERIES Part 35Vinnie Vincent solo #2.

VINNIE VINCENT INVASION – All Systems Go (1988 Chysalis)

Ex- guitarist Vinnie Vincent could have made it big as a solo artist.  He had the talent, and the songwriting ability.  What he didn’t have was self control.  It’s too bad, because his second album was far more accessible than the first.  With a movie tie-in with the lucrative Nightmare on Elm St. movie series, the Invasion was primed and ready….

And then the band split.

According to singer Mark Slaughter (on an instalment of the Eddie Trunk show), Vinnie told Mark that was going to fire bassist Dana Strum.  “Where does your loyalty lie?” he asked the vocalist.  Mark told him if Dana was going, he’d rather go with Dana.  So that’s what happened. Mark and Dana formed the successful Slaughter, while drummer Bobby Rock joined another huge band called Nelson.

This all came as a bit of a shock to fans, who expected the Invasion’s second album All Systems Go to take off.  It spawned two singles/videos that were right in sync with popular rock at the time.  Vinnie toned down his guitar excesses from the first album, and Mark Slaughter was obviously the kind of frontman born to rock.  A damn shame.

All Systems Go wasn’t a skimpy album:  11 tracks plus two CD-only instrumentals.  Vinnie took sole writing credit on every track, including the drum solo.  For extra fun, the tracks are not listed in order on the back cover and the instrumentals are unlisted.  This is a throwback to the way records were sometimes released in the 60s and 70s.  The tracks (including the instrumentals) are listed in the correct order on the CD itself.  This kinda sucks when you are actually listening to it and want to know which song is playing.

This is the album that lived up to what Vinnie was capable of, although he stated a preference for the first “uncompromised” first album.  “I should never have changed singers,” he said without mentioning Mark by name.  Mark’s sassy vocalizin’ dominates the album, which might have pissed off Vinnie.  His charisma and talent is immediately obvious on the sleazy groove rocker “Ashes to Ashes”.  A tight song with a good riff and a great chorus is all you need.  Vinnie’s solo is no less impressive, but much more innovative and suiting to the song.  Guitar heroism in the making…almost.

“Dirty Rhythm” brings more sleaze: faster, more cowbell and more Sunset Strip.  The Invasion had more talent than the average glam rock band of the day, and so this is pretty exceptional stuff for the genre.  Where they really succeeded was with the radio friendly stuff.  The Freddy Krueger crossover ballad “Love Kills” should have been massive. We the benefit of hindsight, we can see that Mark Slaughter was born to be a star. He was absolutely the right singer for these songs.

Goofy title aside, “Naughty Naughty” is a decent return to sleazy glam, and “Burn” rocks similarly.  “Heavy Pettin'” is an even worse title, concealing another good glam rocker.  Perhaps lyrics weren’t Vinnie’s greatest talent, but there’s not much else wrong with it.  Guitar heroism returned on “The Star-Spangled Banner”, played by an orchestra of electric guitars!  It’s an apt intro for “Let Freedom Rock”.  It’s over the top fun, and the guitar solo would make Yngwie pee his leather pants.

The other single “That Time of Year” was just as good as “Love Kills”, if not better just because it’s not as dark. Its midtempo rock pseudo-ballad stylings were instantly likable.  It’s easy to imagine it as a hit, despite a glut of soundalike bands in 1988.  Vinnie’s solo verges of majestic.  It’s really hard to imagine was he didn’t like about this album.  It’s not a bad thing that the songs dominate over the solos; the solos are more impressive when they serve the song.

Had the band not split, and if they released a third single, it could have been “Ecstasy”.  Don’t forget, Vinnie wrote “Tears” which was a pop hit for John Waite, and even recorded by Peter Criss.  “Ecstasy” is its spiritual sequel.  “Deeper and Deeper” also has pop qualities, but is clearly a rocker.  The point is this:  don’t underestimate Vinnie Vincent.

Out of the blue, the LP/cassette version of the album ended on heavy shred metal.  “Breakout” kicks ass.  If fans felt at any point that the album was going soft, then “Breakout” would have redeemed it for them.  The only real issue is a problem on many of the songs on this album: the production.  It’s thin, and the backing vocals tend to be shrill.  “Breakout” could be rib-busting with more crunch.

On CD, there are two instrumentals to close.  “The Meltdown” is a messy cacophony of drums and electronics.  You’ll be thankful it’s over.  Stick around for Vinnie’s acoustic tune “‘Ya Know’ – I’m Pretty Shot”.  What a diverse and schooled player he is.  From classical fingerpicking to blues and traditionals, is there anything he couldn’t do with just six strings?  Years from now, this is what Vinnie should be remembered for.  This one acoustic instrumental should establish him as a genius on the same level as Randy Rhoads and Yngwie Malmsteen.

Potential was almost fully realized here.  If the sound was thicker and the disc was trimmed for length, All Systems Go would be fully classic.

3.5/5 stars

REVIEW: Vinnie Vincent Invasion – Vinnie Vincent Invasion (1986)

The KISS RE-REVIEW SERIES Part 30 Vinnie Vincent solo #1.

VINNIE VINCENT INVASION – Vinnie Vincent Invasion (1986 Chysalis)

Where oh where did Vinnie Vincent go? The mercurial ex- guitarist with genius level skill resurfaced after 1983’s Lick It Up with his new band, the Invasion.  Ex-Journey singer Robert Fleichman did the self-titled debut album but was quickly replaced for the music videos and tour with an unknown named Mark Slaughter.  Rounding out the band were Dana Strum and Bobby Rock on bass and drums.

As I sat there listening to this album for review, Deke from Stick It In Your Ear told me, “I could never get into VV Invasion.”

My brief response to him is my review:

Dude…it’s comical. Vinnie just goes full shred to the point of stupidity. Like seriously stupid: like some idiot just hammering as fast as he can, like a kid whacking off or playing video games. And then he gets the singer to go as high as possible. It’s shrill. You can hear the songs have good riffs, but virtually every song has something to it that ruins it.

1/5 stars

 

 

REVIEW: Working Man (Tribute to Rush, 1996)

Scan_20160821WORKING MAN (1996 Magna Carta tribute to Rush)

This CD was released in 1996, and almost immediately the music press started reporting that Rush were trying to have it taken off the shelves.  One of our former owners at the Record Store, the infamous Tom, said:  “I can see why they were trying to do that.  Because it’s too fucking good.”

It actually is.  There are few tribute albums worth listening to all the way through.  How many can you name:  Encomium, the Zeppelin tribute?  The Sabbath tributes Nativity in Black?  Do you listen to those front to back?  That’s the best and only way to enjoy Working Man.  So numerous are the progressive rock and hard rock names here that we may have trouble keeping track of them all.

Sebastian Bach hails from the Great White North, so it is only appropriate for him to open this CD with the title track.  He also passionately stuns on “Jacob’s Ladder” a bit later on, utilising the power and range he is known for.  What names on these songs!  Mike Portnoy and Billy Sheehan play drums and bass respectively; two guys often cited as the best in the world on their instruments!  If that wasn’t enough, ex-Ozzy guitarist Jake E. Lee shreds the hell out of “Working Man” while John Petrucci from Dream Theater goes for the throat on “Jacob’s”.  Take a minute to absorb all that.

Seamlessly, “Working Man” develops into “By-Tor and the Snow Dog” with James LaBrie of Dream Theater in peak voice.  Sheehan and Portnoy handle the rhythm for most of the album, so you can be assured that the chops of Mr. Lee and Mr. Peart are served well here by the next generation of players.  Dream Theater fans will lose their shit completely.  But there is so much more here than just progressive rockers letting it fly.  A youthful and impressive Jack Russell from Great White takes on the galloping “Analog Kid” from Signals and wins.  Have no fear or doubts: this may seem strange, but Russell’s version of “Analog Kid” may well be one of the best Rush covers you’ll ever hear.  (Especially when Billy Sheehan and guitarist Michael Romeo do a synched-up dual bass/guitar solo!)

Other highlights:

  • The late Mike Baker of Shadow Gallery has no problems with “The Trees”, an excellent version.
  • Steve Morse (Deep Purple, Dixie Dregs, Flying Colors) takes the main guitar part for “La Villa Strangiato”, causing spontaneous head explosions.
  • Blue-eyed soul singer Eric Martin (Mr. Big) does a fine job of the light “Mission”, though it sounds very different from the shred-rock elsewhere.
  • A bang-on “Closer to the Heart” performed by Fates Warning is a must-have for fans.
  • James LaBrie and his old bandmate in Winter Rose, Rich Chycki, reunite on the classic “Red Barchetta”.  A little added Can-Con for rock fans.

And best of all, Devin Townsend screaming his balls off, all over “Natural Science”.  Without a doubt, Townsend has the most unorthodox interpretation, but it’s Devin Townsend, so you must expect the unexpected.  This guy is an underrated national treasure, and along with James Murphy (Death, Testament) on guitar, Stu Hamm on bass, and Deen Castronovo on drums, all walls are shattered.  “Natural Science” is undoubtedly the most different track here, and consequently it’s the most exciting.

The only mis-fire:

  • “Anthem”, with Mark Slaughter and George Lynch.  Slaughter’s voice is too shrill.  (I cannot handle when he shrieks “Come on!  Yeah!” at the start.)  George’s Eastern-flavoured shredding is also overdone and misplaced.

That means out of 13 tracks, 12 of them are keepers.

For an added layer of authenticity, the CD was mixed by Terry Brown himself, in Toronto.  Prices fluctuate wildly, but fans of Rush, Dream Theater, Sebastian Bach or Devin Townsend would be wise to pick this up if found in their travels.

4.5/5 stars

 

 

 

REVIEW: Slaughter – Stick It To Ya (Definitive Remasters edition)


SLAUGHTER – Stick It To Ya (1990, 2003 Definitive Remasters edition)

“Just like a Led Zeppelin album stands up today, we hope our album stands up in 10 or 20 years.” — Mark Slaughter (1990)

I remember reading that quote in a magazine interview and thinking, “Well, I doubt THAT will happen.”

Maybe Mark was partly right though, as a handful nostalgists do still listen to Slaughter, in particular this debut and the followup The Wild Life. However, for Mark to compare this to Led Zeppelin I was simply short sighted and hopelessly optimistic. It never was going to be another Led Zeppelin I. This is a decent debut album, maybe even a pretty good one. Listening to it, there are certain things that are really grating today. Mark’s vocals are still hard to swallow as he really gets up there with these shrill squealy high notes. Dana’s bass is too happy and bouncy for my kind of rock. The guitar playing of Tim Kelly is nothing to write home about, rest his soul, just another typical early 90’s rock guitar player with very little identity of his own.

What made Slaughter work was the songwriting of Mark and Dana, and most of it still stands up. A lot of this material — straight up hard rock with a little flourish — is solid. Some songs are simply too pop for me today, such as “You Are The One” and “Spend My Life”. However, mercifully, there’s only one ballad! “Fly To The Angels” is nothing special as a ballad, but it has a little more atmosphere than the average and of course lyrically it had integrity. I don’t think it’s making anybody’s top ten ballads list, unless one has a personal connection to the lyrics, but it’s not too sappy and like I said, there’s only one!

Some songs, such as “Up All Night” and “Eye To Eye” have some balls and groove. If only the production was a little heavier, these would be bonafide classics. However, even on “Eye To Eye”, Dana’s happy bouncy bass lines brighten things up too much.   Not enough groove in the bass!  There’s also some 80’s style fast and speedy numbers such as “Loaded Gun” (with some just awful lyrics). Also awful in the lyrical department were “She Wants More” (which is a shameless AC/DC ripoff musically), and possibly “Burning Bridges”.

“Bridges”, it must be remembered, was a cutting attack on former bandmate Vinnie Vincent, from the Vinnie Vincent Invasion days. The original album even had a disclaimer on it so that the band wouldn’t get sued! “So you wanna play another solo, huh? Well not here, pal!” Disclaimer aside, it was pretty obvious who the song was actually about, and statements from Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons since then have only confirmed Vinnie’s character traits. Shame that the lyrics are no longer included with the album.  I guess that’s why the disclaimer is also missing! Instead, you get decent liner notes from Mark and Dana.  Inside they credit Kiss drummer Eric Carr for helping to get the band on the opening slot of the Hot in the Shade tour.  I didn’t know that before!

Personal highlights:
“Up All Night”, “Eye To Eye”, “Desperately”, “Thinking of June (instrumental)”.  These are all great tunes in my books, particularly the darkly cool single, “Up All Night”.

Onto the bonus material!  These two bonus tracks were included on the original CD too, but not the cassette or LP versions of Stick It To Ya.

14. Fly to the Angels [Acoustic Version]
15. Wingin’ It

These remain intact on this edition. The acoustic version of “Fly” mostly just ditches the electric guitars but is otherwise the same backing track. “Wingin’ It” (my favourite) is an accapella joke tune, only a minute in length, but absolutely hilarious to this day. I wish the album had been re-sequenced so that it still closes the album, as this is an obvious closer!

After that, there are four demos. These demos are remarkable in how fully realized they are. Unfortunately that doesn’t make them interesting listens. It is amazing that Mark and Dana had the demos down so perfectly from the get-go, but as a listener, it’s like hearing the same song twice. In the case of “Fly To The Angels”, three times on one album which is way too much. Perhaps some live B-sides should have been included instead, or the track “Shout It Out” from the Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey soundtrack. I am sure you can think of your own bonus material that you’d like to hear.

Remastering is fine and dandy, packaging is great apart from the deletion of the lyrics.  However you can read those just by Googling these days, and I think I’d rather have the liner notes from Mark and Dana.

3/5 stars, worth buying for fans of the era. Everybody else should steer clear.