Thanks to Marco D’Auria for the use of three exclusive movie clips in this review.
REVIEW: King’s X – “A Box” (1996 CD single)
Complete studio albums (and more!), part 8.5
KING’S X – “A Box” (1996 Warner Germany CD single)
In 2022, the “King’s” are returning, so today let us look back on some of their fine 90s output. 1996 was the year of Ear Candy, the progressive giants’ most commercially accessible album to date. It was produced by Canadian Arnold Lanni (ex-Frozen Ghost, Sheriff) and the songs were straightforward and hook-based compared to what came before and after.
Last year, we curated some King’s X lists with Martin Popoff right here, and he rated the single “A Box” in his top five. The version included on this single is an edit, over a minute shorter than the album cut, with the cut material being mostly outro. Dug Pinnick is always passionate but you can really feel him on “A Box”. “There is no room inside a box,” goes the chorus, and one has to wonder if this box is one to break out of, to retreat to, or both. The song gives voice to loneliness and anger, but also sings of “a place to run and hide, just a place to free your mind.” It is a ballad with strong lyrics, unforgettable melody, Ty Tabor’s signature guitar glow, and an absolutely wicked Jerry Gaskill drum sound, thanks to the magical knob-twiddling touch of Arnold Lanni.
One album cut is included, which is “Looking For Love” from Ear Candy, another one of its strongest tunes. This one smokes of anger and frustration. It also contains the key lyric, “I guess I lost my faith,” which is true. Dug was once Christian but left the church around Dogman. Yet it’s also melodically one of the strongest songs, which helps back up that killer Ty Tabor riff.
The non-album B-side is a rarity called “Freedom”. Unlike the album which was recorded with Lanni in California, “Freedom” came from a self-produced session in Houston. Sonically it does not fit with the boldly in-your-face Ear Candy, but it does offer another Ty Tabor lead vocal. It’s a bit more sparse and hard-hitting, but still boasts the patented King’s X harmony vocals on the chorus. There’s a cool melody buried in the outro too. Overall, it is not as strong as Ear Candy as a whole, but as a bonus track, it’s more than adequate. Ty’s singing will be the highlight for many fans as he really goes for it.
Great single, and thank you Martin Popoff for inspiring the purchase.
KING’S X review series:
Part 1 – Out of the Silent Planet (1988)
Part 2 – Gretchen Goes to Nebraska (1989)
Part 3 – Kings of the Absurd (split bootleg with Faith No More)
Part 4 – Faith Hope Love by King’s X (1990)
Part 5 – “Junior’s Gone Wild” (from 1991’s Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey soundtrack)
Part 6 – King’s X (1992)
Part 7 – Dogman (1994) + bonus “Pillow” promo single review
Part 8 – Ear Candy (1996)
Part 8.5 – “A Box” (1996 CD single)
Part 9 – Best of King’s X (1997)
Part 10 – Tape Head (1998)
Part 11 – POUNDHOUND – Massive Grooves from the Church of Psychofunkadelic Grungelism Rock Music (1998 Doug Pinnick/Jerry Gaskill)
Part 12 – Please Come Home…Mr. Bulbous (2000)
Part 13 – PLATYPUS – Ice Cycles (2000 Ty Tabor)
Part 14 – Manic Moonlight (2001)
Part 15 – Black Like Sunday (2003)
Part 16 – Ogre Tones (2005)
Part 17 – XV (2008)
Last Train: The Mystique documentary with Marco D’Auria and special guest Martin Popoff
The Last Train – The MYSTIQUE Film
A big thanks to Marco D’Auria and special surprise guest Martin Popoff, for schooling us on Mystique! From Hamilton Ontario, Mystique were a metal band with a riffy progressive rock bent. Though they later evolved into a more hard rock sound, their metal side seems to be what has stuck with fans and collectors over the decades. Their highly sought physical product commands high prices for original copies. In this interview we covered:
- The starting point, and Martin’s role in the genesis of the film
- Mystique, their sound, image, and rare releases
- Exclusive clips from the documentary film Mystique: Standing on the Firing Line
- Rare memorabilia
- The Hamilton music scene
- The future
See what the fuss was all about in Standing on the Firing Line: the Mystique documentary! The film will be premiering in September:
1014 King Street West
Hamilton, ON L8S 1L4
Friday September 16, 7:30 PM
The band will be there, memorabilia will be on display in a “Mystique museum” of sorts. Martin Popoff will be on hand and Marco will be introducing the film in person. Tickets are still available. Get your tickets by clicking here.
Additionally, we made the difficult announcement that this episode will be the final LeBrain Train. Two and a half years ago, a pandemic changed everything about the way we interact socially. Now the world is changing again and I need to re-prioritise certain things in my life. I spent a lot of Friday nights in front of a screen talking to you, laughing with you, sharing with you and surviving a pandemic with you. Now I’d like to spend Friday nights looking at sunsets with Mrs. LeBrain.
It has been a pleasure and a privilege doing this for two and a half years, and I thank you all for making it possible!
Thank you to Meat, Harrison, Deke, Tee Bone, Kevin, Sarah, John, Geoff, Aaron, Marco, Tim, Rob Daniels, Robert Lawson, Max, Dr. Dave, Dr. Kathryn, James, J, Lana, Erik, Thussy, Dranovous, Michael Morwood, Mike Slayen, Brian, Brent, T-Rev, Scotty, Mom, and anyone I may have forgotten for coming on the show and bringing your own special sauce to the mix. And of course, to Chris Sarre who I could never get to agree to come onto the show, but was still part of the heart and soul of it anyway.
I love you guys. Truly I do. Towards the end of the show, we played a brand new Tee Bone song called “The Last Train”. It is a collaboration with Dr. Kathryn Ladano on bass clarinet. I think it’s one of the best things they’ve ever done.
The Last Train…wow that’s hard to believe. See you somewhere out there, some time, eventually!
Unspooled… Unboxed! We opened up Tim Durling’s new book live on the LeBrain Train
It has come! And I’m in it!
Sunday Screening: The Contrarians – Episode 63: Def Leppard – Hysteria
It’s the episode I’ve been waiting forever for! Tim Durling vs. Martin Popoff on Def Leppard’s legendary Hysteria! I’ve been consistent in my love for this controversial album since its 1987 release. So has Tim! Meanwhile, Martin gave the album a pounding 0/10 score in Riff Kills Man! “Hysteria sucks righteously!”
Let’s see how Tim holds up in this episode, shall we?
Tomorrow in the Def Leppard review series, Tim will be returning to talk about the Soundtrack From the Video Historia. Don’t miss it.
Thanks Marco for letting me participate! The Contrarians Panel: Dark Horse Album #7 – Judas Priest’s Rocka Rolla
Last week, I asked Marco from the Contrarians to sit in with us for our Top Five Tony Martin albums. Unfortunately he could not join us live due to a taping of the Contrarians that night. Instead he sent us a great video that allowed him to participate, a highlight of the show. And as an added bonus, Marco asked me to participate in his Contrarians taping! My very first Contrarians appearance. The subject was Judas Priest’s Rocka Rolla, an album I have been playing a lot recently due to my recent acquisition of the 50 Heavy Metal Years of Music box set. My part is right near the beginning. After watching the in-depth analysis the group did, I wish I had contributed something a little more insightful. However, this is such an honour and privilege to participate. I can’t thank you enough Marco!
THREE-VIEW: Def Leppard – Hysteria (1987)
Part Nine of the Def Leppard Review Series
Deluxe edition review: Hysteria deluxe (2006)
30th Anniversary edition review: Hysteria 5 CD 30th (2017)
Classic Albums DVD review: Hysteria (2002)
Historia VHS review (1988)
Note: This being the third Hysteria album review, we will be taking a different approach. The first two reviews were detailed and comprehensive so please check those out for all the nitty gritty. This one will be more nostalgic in nature.
DEF LEPPARD – Hysteria (1987 Vertigo)
Kiss were always my “favourite band”, but the majority of my highschool years from 1987 to 1989 were all about Def Leppard. Although they wanted to be the biggest band in the world with this album, many of us were cheering for them to win. The band had endured years of adversity since the triumph of Pyromania.
Most obviously was Rick Allen’s car accident. It was hard to imagine how the drummer was going to come back from it, losing his left arm and almost his right as well. But he did. He frickin’ did it. Rick Allen, the Thundergod, returned and Joe Elliott said it was biggest “up” the band ever had. How could you not want them to win under those circumstances?
The biggest change on Hysteria (so named to characterise the last four years of their lives) was obviously the drum kit. Rick Allen had a style, employing classic grip and wicked rolls. Now he had a new electronic kit, with samples triggered by foot pedals and an arsenal of modern sounds. Allen adapted with a fresh style, leading the charge with a chugga-chugga and some bam-pow. His new style is one of the defining traits of Hysteria.
The first single here, and first taste of the new Leppard, was “Women”, an unorthodox pick. A slow grind led by a synth-y sounding bassline from Rick Savage, it is neither a ballad nor a scorcher. It’s not immediately catchy either, but it drew us all back in for a second third and fourth lesson until we were hooked. The sound: clean, precise, with layers of vocals and assorted melodic tones. But shit, did the band ever look cool in the video.
Hysteria arrived on my tape deck Christmas of 1987. It quickly monopolized my listening time, though it took a couple spins to “get it”.
“Rocket” threw me for a loop. I considered it filler; too contemporary and not enough rock. Bogged down with samples, backwards vocals and tricks. It sounded like the kind of song that would be impossible to perform live (though they did). Over the years I’ve warmed up to “Rocket”. The tribal beat inspired by Burundi Black makes it quite unique in hard rock, and the lyrics are delightful once you realize that Joe’s just naming all his favourite bands and albums. The meticulously recorded chorus really illustrates the intricate kind of process at hand. Each voice recorded separately and mixed down to the final product. Then there’s the long droning middle section, a unique construction worthy of a detailed listen. “Rocket” was another odd selection for a single, but it was a hit as the seventh and final one almost two years after the album was released.
It was hard to resist “Animal”, even though it was a blatant sonic declaration that Leppard were going for hits. As the second single from the album, it made some impact with its circus-themed music video. Light rock, with a punchy chorus, “Animal” was a well-written track with yet more of those immaculately recorded backing vocals. In the lead singer department, Joe was content to sing more and scream less, a trend that would continue. The fact is, the guy didn’t have to scream, though he’s terribly good at it.
Hysteria has a variety of tracks, but only two are ballads. “Love Bites” was selected as fifth single, and a smash hit it was. I wondered why they used a Judas Priest song title, but the song actually has country origins. Producer “Mutt” Lange brought the bones of it to the band as a twangy country song. The end product is nothing like that, with odd computerized voices and a slow dramatic build. Like every song on the album, the chorus kills. The band (with Lange) had really honed in on writing and recording technically perfect songs. There’s a lot going on in the mix on “Love Bites” but none of it is wasted. Everything’s necessary for the right vibe.
“Step inside, walk this way! It’s you n’ me babe, hey hey!” Shakespeare it ain’t. A hit, it was! “Pour Some Sugar On Me”, the fourth single, was the breakthrough smash that launched this album on the charts for two years. Def Leppard had ripped off a couple classic rock tunes here, but they were selling them to kids who never heard the originals. Mixing rap and rock, Leppard sold a bajillion singles and umptillion albums to kids worldwide. It wasn’t even an obvious hit. The genre-bending song took some getting used to initially.
Closing side one, the sixth single: “Armageddon It”. The stuttering guitar riff made it easy to like, if a bit light. This tune is fun to listen to with headphones on, to help break down all the different tracks of guitar. The cool thing that each guitar part is catchy on its own.
The North American videos for “Sugar” and “Armageddon It” were filmed live, and showed off Leppard’s innovative “in the round” stage. From the TV in the basement, it sure looked like the ultimate concert experience. We’d get a full taste of it on the In the Round: In Your Face home video (1989). Today you can get this concert on both CD and DVD. The CD version is included in the comprehensive Hysteria 30th Anniversary box set.
Opening side two is the track we all thought should have been a single: “Gods of War”, an epic in its own right, from the same lineage as “Overture” from the 1980 debut album. With Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher sampled in the tune, it just sounded cool. Steve Clark’s E-bow opening drone sets the stage for a dramatic tune full of riffs, hooks and guitar action. It’s not political, just anti-war like many Ozzy tunes of the time. Its length probably prohibited it from being a single…but they did edit down “Rocket”.
The first non-single on the album is the hard rocker “Don’t Shoot Shotgun”. Some odd vocal effects keep it from being a standard guitar rocker; almost every song on Hysteria has some strange twist in the mix. Though more laid back in groove, this is the first tune that hearkens back to old Leppard. Slicker, sugar coated and easier to swallow though. It is paired with “Run Riot”, a similar track with a faster tempo. Tasty guitars from Collen and Clarke, chugging drums from the Thundergod. Screamin’ Joe sounding like the Joe from Pyromania, and Savage sounding less synth-y than the other tracks.
The last single on the album was actually the third single released: the brilliant title track “Hysteria”. The diamond-like flawless ballad was laid down literally one note at a time, giving it a precise but delicate nature. It was arguably the most pop Leppard had ever been, and that’s just fine. When you have a song this good, it doesn’t matter what you call it. Best tune on the album? Arguably. The precise picking is delectable and Joe has one of his best vocal performances right here. Unlike other songs on the album, it’s low on sonic gimmicks.
If there was one song to eject from the album, it’s the penultimate track “Excitable”. Back to gimmicks, it relies too much on samples and weird digitally manipulated vocals. It sounds like it was intended to be a crossover hit. It could have been replaced by a superior B-side (which we’ll get to).
The album closer is a majestic mid-tempo not-quite-ballad-thing called “Love and Affection”, possibly the second best tune on the whole album after “Hysteria” itself. It’s all about taste, but this deep cut is one of the strongest. It’s all about the song, no extra trimmings, just melody and arrangement. It easily could have been a single. There’s this one chunky Steve Clark lick that just slays me. Rick Allen’s pound has never been more suited to a track as it slams through the chorus. A really triumphant track that I would have released as ninth single after “Gods of War”!
Although it took a year (until the release of “Sugar”) to recoup its costs, Hysteria was an undisputed win for the band that worked so hard for it. Their loyalty to their drummer was not to lost to fans and media alike, and actually worked in their favour creating a new and exciting 80s rock sound.
But there was more to Hysteria than just the 12 tracks. Remixes and live material aside, there were five notable B-sides. All excellent in their own right.
Backing “Women” was the straight-ahead rocker “Tear It Down”. These B-sides were not produced by Mutt and therefore have a more raw edge, akin to older Leppard. “Tear It Down” rocked relentess, hard but mid-tempo cool. After a one-off live TV performance, the song was earmarked for re-recording on the next album….
On the flipside of “Animal” we find “I Wanna to Be Your Hero”, with a ballady opening and hard rocking middle. How did this song not make the album? Clearly one of the best tunes, it has both a chugging riff and a pop-smart melody.
The heaviest tune backed the softest. “Ride Into the Sun” was the B-side to “Hysteria”, and what a smoker it is. A re-recording of a song from the Def Leppard EP, it is also re-arranged with new lyrics and new chorus. It’s far superior and kicks every ass in the room. The B-side to “Sugar” was “Ring of Fire”, just as heavy as “Ride Into the Sun” but not as immediately catchy.
Finally, the last of the B-sides was a cover. A very confusing cover indeed. “Release Me” featured their roadie Malvin Mortimer doing something that might be considered singing. To add to the mess, the band all switched instruments with Joe on piano, so nobody really knew what they were doing. The band credited the song to “Stumpus Maximus and the Good Ol’ Boys” and in the liner notes, Joe claimed “Rarely in my travels have I come across such a monumental talent as Stumpus Maximus.” Only when Stumpus unfurls his unholy screams at exactly 2:36 did I get the joke.
The Hysteria sessions yielded some unfinished material as well, that Leppard would finally release in the 1990s. One of these tunes, a screaming “She’s Too Tough”, first saw the light of day on Helix’s 1987 album Wild in the Streets, released two months ahead of Hysteria. Brian Vollmer is one of the few singers who can do justice to Joe’s challenging vocal.
Hysteria is available in a comprehensive 5 CD/2 DVD box set with all the B-sides, remixes, and live tracks. It includes the Classic Albums “making of” documentary, all the music videos, and the entire In the Round: In Your Face concert on CD. It is, without a doubt, the best way to own the most important Def Leppard album.
But before you buy, some perspective.
There’s a legendary 0/10 review by Martin Popoff that I’d like to share some quotes from. If I’m over-enthusiastic about Hysteria, then consider this.
- “High tech, tasteless, and devoid of life whatsoever.”
- “Even Elliott’s vocals, probably the last vestige that hasn’t completely been swallowed by robots, sound like some kind of dry-wheezing mechanical lung wired to the man’s death bed.”
- “Hysteria is a major assault to anyone’s intelligence.”
- “An offensive kick in the head sent straight from the rock ‘n’ roll bored room.”
Take my rating with a grain of salt.
Gallery of single covers
- The Early Years Disc One – On Through the Night
- The Early Years Disc Two – High N’ Dry
- The Early Years Disc Three – When The Walls Came Tumbling Down: Live at the New Theater Oxford – 1980
- The Early Years Disc Four – Too Many Jitterbugs – EP, singles & unreleased
- The Early Years Disc 5 – Raw – Early BBC Recordings
- The Early Years 79-81 (Summary)
- Pyromania Live – L.A. Forum, 11 September 1983
10. Soundtrack From the Video Historia (Record Store Tales)
#964.5: The Lists – 2021 Year in Review – Part Two
Here We Go Again: End of Year Lists 2021
2021: the year of the hamster wheel. It sure felt like we were spinning our tires all year! Sometimes inching a little forward in the mud, only to slide right back. What a year. But we did get some great music out of it.
Here at LeBrain HQ, if you go strictly by the numbers, there were two bands that dominated the year, both oldies acts from the 1980s: Coney Hatch and Iron Maiden! They (or members thereof) appear numerous times in the lists you’re about to read. Not so “oldies” after all eh? Five appearances for Iron Maiden, and a whopping seven for Coney and its members!
Even I was surprised by the lists this year! All my favourite things, and the stats of 2021, are curated below.
Top 11 Albums of 2021
11. Polychuck – Shadows Exposed EP
10. Suicide Star – Isolation
9. Max the Axe – Oktoberfest Cheer EP
8. Mammoth WVH – Mammoth WVH
7. Danko Jones – Power Trio
6. Accept – Too Mean to Die
5. Smith/Kotzen – Smith/Kotzen
4. Iron Maiden – Senjutsu
3. Lee Aaron – Radio On
2. Coney Hatch – Live at the El Mocambo
1. Styx – Crash of the Crown
Top Five Box Sets of 2021
5. Kiss – Destroyer
4. Whitsnake – Restless Heart
3. Def Leppard – CD Collection Vol 3
2. Triumph – Allied Forces
1. Metallica – Metallica
My Favourite Movies of 2021
5. Black Widow
3. Free Guy
2. The Suicide Squad
1. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
(placeholder) Spider-Man: No Way Home – you have to assume it’ll be my new #1 when I see it!
Top 11 Interviews / Unboxings of 2021 (by YouTube views)
11. Robert Lawson interview
10. Sean Kelly interview
9. Suicide Star interview
8. Coney Hatch live LP unboxing
7. Andy Curran round three
6. Andy Curran part one
5. Paul Laine interview
4. Mike Fraser interview
3. Martin Popoff interview
2. Andy Curran + Mike Fraser interview
1. Iron Maiden Super7 figure blind box unboxing
Top Five List Shows / Deep Dives 2021 (by YouTube Views)
5. Top Concept Albums
4. 5150 Deep Dive with Tee Bone
3. Desert Island Discs
2. Top Maiden Art
1. Top Five King’s X with Martin Popoff
Top Reviews of 2021 by Hits
5. GUNS N’ ROSES – “ABSUЯD”
4. STYX – Crash of the Crown
3. PAUL STANLEY’S SOUL STATION – Now and Then
2. IRON MAIDEN – Senjutsu
1. – Off the Soundboard – Tokyo 2001
What’s in store for 2022?
- The Book of Boba Fett
- Jethro Tull – The Zealot Gene
- Marillion – An Hour Before Its Dark
- Guns N’ Roses – Hard Skool EP
- new Sven Gali
- Scorpions – Rock Believer
- new Coney Hatch live with two new studio cuts
- new Journey?
- new Def Leppard?
- Bryan Adams – So Happy it Hurts
- Liam Gallgher – C’Mon You Know
- Thor: Love and Thunder
- Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
- Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
- Disney+: Ms. Marvel, Moon Knight, She-Hulk, What…If? season 2, Secret Invasion, The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special
- The Mandalorian season 3
- New albums from Ghost, Rammstein, Ozzy Osbourne, King Diamond, Weezer and more
Friday December 31, 9:00 PM E.S.T. on YouTube, Facebook and also Facebook!
Sunday Screening: The Hudson Valley Squares – Black Sabbath ‘Born Again’ vs Rainbow ‘Down to Earth’
I was down in the dumps on Friday night because of the crash-and-burn that was my attempt to play LeBrain Train re-runs. (Yeah, that’s not happening anymore.) Uncle Meat saw my mood and recommended we watch this Sea of Tranquillity episode together virtually.
Everybody knows Born Again is my favourite album of all time. I also like Down to Earth quite a bit. What do the Hudson Valley Squares featuring special guest Martin Popoff think? It’s a riveting hour of love and critique. You have the Meat Man to thank for bringing this to our attention.
Martin Popoff & the Gang round up their King’s X Top Five
A huge thank-you once more to Martin Popoff for joining us on the show to talk King’s X! We have been immersing ourselves in the magic trio from Texas: Dug, Ty and Jerry. And it has been brilliant. And these were some brilliant lists. Martin’s insight on these crucial records will be of interest to diehards and new fans alike.
Want a starter’s kit into King’s X? Watch this show and listen to Martin. He comes in at 0:12:45 of the stream.
Martin hung out and chatted King’s X (and a little Rush) for an hour. Afterwards, we were joined by Kevin from Buried On Mars to continue the musical discussions. Jacob Moon, Marillion, Def Leppard, Black Sabbath…it was a fun freeform chat that I hope you will stick around and enjoy for the balance of the show.
A huge thanks to Mr. T-Bone Erickson for the new Martin Popoff intro.
Your panel tonight was:
- Martin Popoff
- Uncle Meat
- and special bonus guest Buried on Mars.
Thanks for Dr. Dave Haslam and KK for your bonus lists!