Max Norman

REVIEW: Loudness – Hurricane Eyes (1987, 2017 30th anniversary 5 CD reissue)

LOUDNESS – Hurricane Eyes – 30th Anniversary Limited Edition (originally 1987, 2017 Warner Japan)

In most timelines and biographies, they’ll have you believe that the original lineup of Loudness had already peaked by 1987 and were creatively and commercially going downhill.  While the commercial side of things was out of their control, creatively Loudness were still writing great songs.  Though they did have one more EP in them, Hurricane Eyes is the final album of the original Minoru Niihara era of Loudness.  It was recorded by Kiss and Jimi Hendrix producer Eddie Kramer with one track by Andy Johns.  Though not as heavy or complex as Disillusion or noteworthy as Thunder in the East, it is thoroughly enjoyable from side A to side B.  The commercial bent is obvious on some songs, but it doesn’t really blunt the impact.

Like most Loudness albums from the classic era, the band recorded lyrics in both English and Japanese and both versions of the album are included in this luxurious 5 CD box set.  In Japan, the Loudness catalogue has been treated reverently but this is the beefiest of all their deluxe sets.  Along with both versions of Hurricane Eyes (including minor musical differences), the set includes a disc of album demos, and another disc of alternate mixes and rhythm tracks.  The fifth CD is a live set from the Hammersmith Odeon from 1986.  Like any set of this nature, you’ll be listening to the same songs in four or five versions, but fortunately they stand up to such immersion.

Though Hurricane Eyes represents a peak effort to break into the American market, and some songs verge on Dokken homages, it’s a strong album loaded with hooks and enviable guitar theatrics & riffs.  And regardless of some of the more radio-friendly material, it also boasts the thrash-like “S.D.I.”, a speed metal riff-fest that remained in the Loudness set list long after after Minoru was let go.  The technical playing on “S.D.I.” is outstanding, and that’s laid bare for you to hear in the instrumental mix on Disc 4.  The guitar solo is pure Eddie meets Yngwie.  “S.D.I.” opens the English version of the album, but closes the Japanese.  It works excellently in either configuration.

The English album continues with “This Lonely Heart”, a hook-laden hard rocker anchored by a solid riff and soaring chorus.  Lynch and Dokken must have been jealous they didn’t write it because it’s right up their alley.  The album title Hurricane Eyes comes from a lyric in “This Lonely Heart” but what you’ll remember mostly is that indelible chorus.  Keyboards are poured into “Rock ‘N Roll Gypsy”, an obvious choice for a radio single.  Though it didn’t hit the charts you can certainly hear the effort in it.  On the Japanese version of the track, the keyboards are present but not mixed in as prominently.  It’s the better of the two mixes, with more of that Akira Takasaki guitar up front.

“In My Dreams” is the first power ballad, with focus on the power part.  Akari has some sweet anthemic guitar melodies in his pocket for this very Scorpions-sounding track.  This gives way to another blitz of a song, though not as over the top as “S.D.I.” was.  “Take Me Home” has similar urgency but more deliberate pace.  “Strike of the Sword” is in similar metal territory with a fab Akari riff.  The vocal melodies sound a little disconnected from the song though.

Don Dokken’s turf is revisited on “Rock This Way”, a mid-tempo ditty within hit territory.  You could imagine this being written for the concert stage, so you can have a singalong chorus — “Rock this way!”  Picking up the pace, “In This World Beyond” is a bit more complex though retaining an insanely cool chorus.  The Loudness guys really developed an absurdly good chorus-writing ability by this point!  But stick around to be strafed out of the sky by Akira’s machine-gun solo.  “Hungry Hunter” returns us to mid-tempo rock ground, though it’s not their most remarkable song.

The American album ends with “So Lonely”, a re-recording of “Ares’ Lament” from 1984’s Disillusion, also in the closing position.  Disillusion didn’t get a lot of attention outside Japan, and “Ares’ Lament” was a clear highlight.  Though the structure is essentially the same, “So Lonely” is a tamed version” of the more traditional metal original.  Keyboards are added, replacing the Akira-shred of the original.  The chorus is beefed up and placed front-and-center.  It suits Hurricane Eyes and though it’s merely a blunted version, it’s still quite excellent.  It’s a demonstration of how you can take a song and tweak it into a different direction.

“So Lonely” isn’t present on the demo CD, presumably because they didn’t need to demo their own classic tune.  Instead there are two tracks that didn’t make the album, but would be finished in the future:  “Jealousy” and “Love Toys”.  The 1988 Jealousy EP would see the first track released (but only in Japan).  This is the most Dokken of all the songs, with one of those concrete riffs that George Lynch was prone to writing with ease.  Maybe when Dokken broke up, Don should have given Akira Takasaki a phone call.  The more frantic and metal “Love Toys” was revisited in 1991 with new lead singer Mike Vescera, for the On The Prowl album of re-recordings.  Both tracks had potential in the unfinished demo stage.  In fact all the Loudness demos on this disc are nearly album-ready.  They’re rougher but also appealing for that same reason.

Disc 4, Behind the Hurricane Eyes is a hodgepodge of alternate mixes and rhythm tracks.  The eight rhythm tracks (essentially mixes without vocals and solos) include another version of “Love Toys”.  The mercilessly tight rhythm section of Munetaka Huguchi and Masayoshi Yamashita come to the fore on these tracks, as does Akira Takasaki as the riffmaster.  “S.D.I.” is present on this CD twice, in rhythm track form and as a straight instrumental.  You will be getting plenty of “S.D.I.” in this box set!  You’ll also enjoy the brighter “Top 40 Mix” of “Rock This Way”, a really good remix that sounds perfect for the hits of the era.  A mix of “So Lonely” with an earlier fade-out isn’t that interesting, but still desired by the collector.  “Hungry Hunter” and “This Lonely Heart” are present in “old mix” and “rough mix” respectively.  Differences are minor.

You could find yourself with a bit of ear fatigue after hearing so many versions of the same songs.  Fortunately Disc 5 is a live set from the previous tour with none of the same songs.  Buckle up.  Opening for Saxon at the Hammersmith Odeon, Loudness went straight into “Crazy Doctor” from Disillusion after a glowing intro from Biff Byford.  It’s right to the throat from the start and this CD has their full set.  “1000 Eyes” from Lightning Strikes follows, the album for which they were touring.  Loudness could have used some backing vocals live to beef up the chorus, but Minoru does a remarkable job on his own, givin’ ‘er all over the place.  It’s also cool to hear Akira go from rhythm to lead so effortlessly live.

There is honestly something charming about someone who isn’t a native English speaker really giving their all to talk to an audience in English.  Minoru is clearly happy to be in “London rock and roll city!” and the audience lets him know he’s welcome.  The awesome “Dark Desire”, also from Lightning Strikes, follows and Akira lays down a mesmerising solo.  Then a long dramatic intro opens “Ashes in the Sky / Shadows of War”, a highpoint of an already great set.

The big Loudness single in 1986 was “Let It Go“, a truly special pop metal song.  This version opening for Saxon at the Hammersmith might be the best live recording if not the most energetic.  Afterwards the late Munetaka Higuchi takes a drum solo (presumably to give Minoru’s voice a rest after this workout!).  There’s a brief segue into Beethoven’s 5th Symphony, and Minoru introduces the band.  That pumps up the crowd for Loudness’ biggest hit “Crazy Nights” complete with crowd singalong.  “MZA!”  After smoking through this one, Akira takes a blistering solo break.  The set closes with “Speed” from their third album The Law of Devil’s Land.  They saved the most aggressive song for last.  Couldn’t let Saxon have it too easy, right?

Though hard to get, these Loudness deluxe editions from Japan are really beautiful to hold in hand.  The thick booklet is printed on glossy paper, and though the liner notes are in Japanese, lyrics are provided in both languages.  The rest of the booklet is stuffed full of tour photographs whose only language is rock and roll.  Loudness certainly looked the part.  The set also includes a little reproduction backstage pass, but the main feature is the music.  Diehards are going to love it.

4/5 stars

REVIEW: Loudness – Lightning Strikes (1986)

LOUDNESS – Lightning Strikes (1986 Warner – US version)

Eager to repeat the success of 1985’s Thunder in the East, Loudness regrouped with the same production team (Max Norman and Paul Cooper) on the followup Lightning Strikes.  Taking their sound to even wider commercial limits, Loudness wrote a single for the new album, and hoped for American stardom.

When metal bands try their hands at commercial music, the results can be mixed.  Fortunately for Loudness, they had the ability.  Guitarist Akira Takasaki was in a pop rock band called Lazy when he was 17 years old and could write melody.

Lightning Strikes commences with the lead single “Let It Go“, a triumphant upbeat rock song that any band would have loved to write.  The song cannot be praised heavily enough for its sharp catchy riff or singalong melodies.  Singer Minoru Niihara delivers with a knack for a good yell.  Like icing, Takasaki lays down a melodic and technical solo for the sweet tooth.

Seconds up to bat is “Dark Desire”, a terrific track that encourages you to “start a fire with rock”.  This fire goes at a slow burn, but with another notable Takasaki solo as accelerant.  “1000 Eyes” is a bit more metal with its themes of storms and destruction, and screaming chorus to boot.  Check out some bass slaps from Masayoshi Yamashita too.  Then, like a high speed chase, it’s “Face to Face”, pure metal with no commercial considerations whatsoever.  It’s not particularly memorable but the chorus scorches.  The first side concludes with a textbook Takasaki riff on “Who Knows”, a different but decent melodic metal track.  It reminds me of some of the more interesting songs on side B of Iron Maiden’s Piece of Mind, but not as accomplished.

Some tricky stuff via the school of Yngwie Van Lynch is piled onto the front end of “Ashes in the Sky”, a phenomenal power ballad that would have been great on a Dokken album.  (This song was titled “Shadows of War” and served as the opening title track for the slightly different Japanese release.)  “Black Star Oblivion” picks things up with a speed metal track propelled by drummer Munetaka Higuchi.  The jagged chorus makes up for the ordinary verses.  Another memorable riff makes up the structure of “Street Life Dream”, which grinds along at a deliberate pace.  Closing with some dense and blurringly fast riffing, “Complication” sounds like its title.  It’s a bit too busy but certainly ends the album dramatically.

Lightning Strikes is not a bad album.  It has some great tunes, but it has a few that miss the mark.  It houses possibly their greatest song ever, “Let It Go”.  It’s a good album to have, but you just wish it was more consistent.

3/5 stars

REVIEW: Loudness – Thunder in the East (1985 US version)

LOUDNESS – Thunder in the East (1985 Atco, 2003 Wounded Bird reissue)

1984’s Disillusion album turned some heads, especially when Loudness re-recorded the vocals in English.  Now they were signed to an American label and worked with an American producer (Max freakin’ Norman), ready to break into that lucrative market.  Thunder in the East was their debut to many fans outside Japan.  For the occasion, the band shed some of its more challenging heavy metal arrangements in favour of mainstream rock and metal.

Out of gates first, “Crazy Nights” is a virtual sledgehammer.  The riff is trademarked “heavy metal” and the chorus has the galvanised sheen expected from a song like this.  The lyrics were designed for the concert stage, with lines like “Let me hear you all go wild,” and “Come on get on your feet”.   But the line that confused fans worldwide was the chant “M! Z! A!” after every chorus.   It turns out that “M-Z-A” stands for nothing.  It’s just some filler lyrics that were meant to be replaced in the final version, but left in because it sounded cool.  Fortuitous for Loudness, as it became a bit of a catchphrase.

Regardless, “Crazy Nights” is the one Loudness song you need to get if you only want one Loudness song.  The riff just bites, like a mean old dog.  It’s the “big hit” and deservedly so.  Lots of chances to sing, shout and headbang.  You are the heroes tonight.

A blistering “Like Hell” turns up the temperature in short order, with a fast blitz including melodic verses.  The chorus however is a simple shout:  “Like hell!”  Loudness founder Akira Takasaki is not only a master of the six string (usually compared to Eddie Van Halen) but also a hell of a songwriter (pardon the pun).  His knack for riff and melody resulted in a collection of songs running the gamut from vintage Priest to Dokken.  “Like Hell” could have been on Defenders of the Faith.  More on the old-school Scorpions side of things is “Heavy Chains”, a metal dirge with a foothold in early Maiden territory to boot.  This brilliant track showcases singer Minoru Niihara’s impressive range and power.  A frantic “Get Away” takes its speed and melody from Van Halen, but cranked up to 11.  Takasaki’s multitracked guitar solo is neoclassical nirvana right up Malmsteen Avenue.  Sheer melodic thrills embody “We Could Be Together”, a song Don Dokken could have felt at home singing, and with some licks that sound positively Lynchian.

The second side commenced with “Run For Your Life”, a complex track that sounds at times like a ballad and others like a heavy metal hurdle through a minefield.  It’s the first track that doesn’t have the same structural integrity as the others, though it challenges in other ways.  “Clockwork Toy” is more straightforward, solid riff and chorus, but not as memorable.

Things take a cool, funky turn on “No Way Out”, a very different track but also very addictive.  The guitar playing on tracks like this proved Takasaki could do a lot more than people assumed.  Impressive too is the chugging “The Lines Are Down”, which is located right in Dokken Town.  Except heavier, because make no mistake, Loudness are heavier.

The final track “Never Change Your Mind” is harder to categorize.  Ballady, with light and shade, it’s unique.  It sounds like an anthem at the halfway point…an anthem with guitar divebombs. It’s a dramatic way to end an impressive metal feast.

Since Thunder in the East contains Loudness’ best known hit, it comes highly recommended.  It’s a solid piece of metal history.  It might not be their pinnacle but it’s a damn fine album indeed.

4/5 stars

REVIEW: Savatage – Power of the Night (Steamhammer remaster)

Part Four of the Early Savatage series!

SAVATAGE – Power of the Night (Originally 1985, 2002 Steamhammer remaster)

Raise the first of the metal child!

If any fans were worried that Savatage would “sell out” after signing to Atlantic in 1984, those fears were swiftly cast aside.  Power of the Night, their first on a major label, was produced by metal-meister-to-be, Max Norman.  The band had plenty of material demoed (in a session with Rick Derringer) and were ready for the studio.

Nothing was toned down; if anything, Savatage turned it up.  Melting the speakers with the title track, a fancy keyboard opening might have fooled some.  When the patented Criss Oliva riff commences, you better hold on tight.

“Children of the metal movement,
The legions growing stronger,
Stronger than they believe.”

With Norman at the helm, Savatage achieved a sharp, biting sound.  Relentless beats courtesy of Steve “Dr. Killdrums” Wacholz helped them cement themselves as true metal competitors.  The foursome from Florida were not to be ignored.

Savatage were improving as songwriters.  “Unusual” puts atmosphere over headbangin’ riffs, and effectively so.  Singer Jon Oliva became increasingly interested in keyboards album by album until it eventually became the focus of the band.  Here it works to cloak you in a dark weave of ominous metal.  Then, if you were hungering for more riffs, bow down to the fuckin’ rad* “Warriors”.  Another Criss Oliva riff as only he could write them, “Warriors” rivals Judas Priest for absurd fantasy metal thrills.  It gets a little silly on “Necrophilia”, but the headbangin’ does not wane.   You might break your neck on “Washed Out”, a little speed metal ditty to cure what ails you.

Side two switches the gears a bit with a Scorpions-Dokken hybrid called “Hard for Love”, which generated some faux-controversy in the 80s.  It’s the most commercial Savatage song yet, but it works remarkably well due to the sharp edges; not blunted by improved production values.  Still riding high with quality metal, “Fountain of Youth” takes things to a wizardly world inhabited by Dio and his cohorts.  (Of note:  it’s one of the few Savatage songs with a Doc Wacholz writing credit.)

Savatage’s speed metal adventures can be hit or miss.  “Skull Session” is a miss, though you may enjoy the lyrics about an “X-rated lesson”.  There’s no real melody and the riff isn’t one of Criss’ most notable.  Plenty of screams though.  A mid-tempo “Stuck On Your” doesn’t get the car out of the mud.  It’s just a little dull compared to the scorchers on side one.

Ending Power of the Night on a ballad was a ballsy move, but “In the Dream” is one of the best from the early years.  Indeed, Jon Oliva re-recorded it acoustically for one of the many reissues of Sirens/Dungeons are Calling.  Dr. Killdrums does a fine job of punctuating the song’s drama with short bursts of swinging limbs.

Steamhammer included two live bonus tracks.**  From Cleveland in 1987, a spot-on “Power of the Night” is a furious rendition of a song already smoking hot.  “Sirens” live in Dallas three years later is just as furious, though Jon’s voice is more worn.  They also included excellent liner notes, lengthy and detailed.  Unfortunately the cover art on these Steamhammer reissues is atrociously blurry.

Power of the Night was the last Savatage album with original bassist Keith Collins.  Originally a guitarist, Collins’ bass wasn’t up to snuff at all times so Criss Oliva had to play on several tracks to fix portions they weren’t happy with.  Now that it’s encoded on a little silver disc forever, the final album is tight and punchy.

4/5 stars

Unfortunately, it didn’t sell well enough for Atlantic.  Bumpy road ahead!

* “Warriors” is “fuckin’ rad” according to Holen MaGroin

** Like all Savatage albums, different issues have different sets of bonus tracks.  These will have to be covered at a later time as a “complete” Savatage collection can be an expensive proposition.

REVIEW: Megadeth – Countdown to Extinction (Remixed & Remastered) #200wordchallenge

200 word


Scan_20160826MEGADETH – Countdown to Extinction (2004 Remixed & Remastered edition, originally 1992)

Dave Mustaine is a visionary, there is little question of that. He knows what he wants with each record and goes for it. With this one, “precision” was the word of the day. Recorded digitally, Countdown to Extinction is perfection embodied. Not one bum note, every beat is metronomically correct. So what could possibly be improved on a remaster?

This excellent series of Megadeth remasters are actually all remixed from the original tapes. This was done with Dave himself at the helm, still the perfectionist. Countdown being flawless already, I’m sure he didn’t have to do much remixing. You can hear some changes and some additional effects added here and there, and some different takes of instrumental tracks. In general though, the differences are the kind only diehards will notice. This CD sounds three-dimensional even on the cheapest of sound systems.  Dave Mustaine, this is your Sgt. Peppers!

I won’t even bother discussing the tunes. You know them all anyway.  “Symphony of Destuction”, “Sweating Bullets”, “Foreclosure of a Dream”…they are all excellent examples of technically sharp and aggressive heavy metal.   For bonus tracks, you get one hard-to-find B-sides and some interesting demos, but not the coveted rare Trent Reznor remix.

4.5/5 stars

 


Scan_20160826 (2)

REVIEW: Death Angel – Act III (1990)

ACT IIIDEATH ANGEL – Act III (1990 Geffen)

I am no stranger to Death Angel.  In the 80’s, I knew them as that thrash band from San Francisco, that grew up listening to Love Gun.  I also thought they were a bit too heavy for my hemispheres.  Whatever “too heavy” means, anyway.  Then I received a review request, from Uncle Meat.  “I want this man to review Act III by Death Angel .   I think it’s a good’er.”

Very vintage Anthrax-like is “Seemingly Endless Time”, and excellently produced by Max Norman too.  The vocals are in the Belladonna range, and the pace is rangingly fast, while paradoxically grooving heavily.  However you want to describe it, it’ll slam you right in the face.  It’s that whole Bay area thrash vibe, honed to a killing edge.  The chorus has an Ozzy-like melodic power.  Then, “Stop” chugs like the heavier side of Testament.  Mark Osegueda has a versatile voice, at times recalling young James Hetfied.  There are plenty of time changes and surprises on this track, enough to challenge the meek.

Speaking of surprises, I didn’t expect the acoustic guitar opening “Veil of Deception”.  Singer Mark Osegueda really gets to show off his pipes on this one, but it’s the guitar duo of Rob Cavestany and Gus Pepa that really impress with their ability and diversity.  Then, “The Organization” (also the name of their next Osegueda-less band) is bone-shaking fast and heavy.  There are still the slithering guitars and melodic vocals to sink your teeth into.  This is top notch metal.  Andy Galeon lays down some complicated beats for “Discontinued” on which he has a writing credit.  It’s Dennis Pepa’s funky bass that reminds me of where guys like Mike Muir were going with thrash.

I remember the ballad “A Room With a View” being played on MuchMusic in ’91, so it is familiar.  Ballads seemed to be working for bands like Metallica and Testament at the time, but it seems more fitting for a diverse album like Act III.  Layers of vocals make it special, as does the acoustic guitar solo.  “Stagnant” opens bright and slow, but shortly an avalanche of menacing guitars is upon us.  This transforms into a funky assault that sounds like 90’s stoner rock.  Then “EX-TC” is old-style screaming thrash, as is “Disturbing the Peace”.  The final track, “Falling Asleep” is anything but sleepy.  It returns to the chugging that works so well for head banging.

I understand now why Death Angel was so critically acclaimed back in the 80’s.  Their ability and musical intelligence was off the charts.  Too bad they were one of the bands that didn’t survive the 90’s.  I’m glad I had the chance to check out this thrash metal cornerstone.  The Devil’s metal indeed!

4/5 stars

All songs written by Rob Cavestany, except where noted.

  1. “Seemingly Endless Time” – 3:49
  2. “Stop” (Cavestany, Mark Osegueda) – 5:10
  3. “Veil of Deception” – 2:35
  4. “The Organization” (Cavestany, Andy Galeon) – 4:16
  5. “Discontinued” (Cavestany, Galeon, Gus Pepa, Dennis Pepa) – 5:50
  6. “A Room with a View” – 4:42
  7. “Stagnant” (Cavestany, Galeon) – 5:33
  8. “EX-TC” (Cavestany, Osegueda) – 3:06
  9. “Disturbing the Peace” – 3:53
  10. “Falling Asleep” – 5:54

Credits and art from Wikipedia.

REVIEW: Ozzy Osbourne – Bark at the Moon (2002 Remixed version)

Happy Hallowe’en! AAHOOOOOOOH! Bark at the moon!

OZZY OSBOURNE – Bark at the Moon (2002 Sony, unadvertised remixed)

Much like Diary and Blizzard, when Bark At The Moon was reissued in 2002, it was also remixed. People who own my preferred edition of this beloved Ozzy classic have noticed the unadvertised remix. (There was no sticker on the cover indicating this album was remixed, and it was also ignored in press releases.  The liner notes claim this was mixed by Tony Bongiovi, like the original.) Why this was done is a mystery to me, I’ve never read anything about it. All I can say is that you’ll notice particularly on Jake E. Lee’s solos, the overall sonics, and some keyboard parts as well. The ending to some songs, and the beginnings of others are very different.  Maybe Ozzy thought the album sounded dated?  The remix seems as if they were trying for the drums and effects to sound “current”.  Which is silly, of course.  This year’s “current” is next year’s out of date, but classic will always be classic.

Either way, the original mix of Bark has been an underdog favourite for many years.  Ozzy seems to really want to bury the Jake years.  He only plays the title track live, none of the other songs. Granted, “Bark at the Moon” is clearly an outstanding track.  There are still some lesser-known classics here equally good as the album tracks on Diary or Blizzard. For example, “Rock ‘N’ Roll Rebel”. This riff monster sounds like the natural successor to some of the best moments on Diary. There are a ton of great songs here. “You’re No Different”, which is one of those great Ozz slow burners is another one. I’ve always liked “Slow Down” and of course “Waiting for Darkness”. Ozzy had gothed out his sound a lot more on this album and you’ll hear a lot more keyboards and even strings.

Ozzy was in a bad place back in ’83.  Still hurting from the death of Randy Rhoads, Ozzy was forced to audition players again, a process he hated.  Jake E. Lee (ex-Ruff Cutt) was selected, perhaps due to his ability to meld white hot riffs with neoclassical shredding.  Bassist Bob Daisley returned, as did drummer Tommy Aldridge, who had played on the last tour.  Don Airey returned for keyboard duties, creating a spooky atmosphere for the Ozzman to prowl.

And prowl he did.  This is a hard rocking album, probably harder than the two Rhoads discs.  It is also a dark sounding album.  Blizzard has a lot of musical joy on it; you can hear that these guys were stoked to be playing those songs.  Bark sounds a bit tired by comparison, a bit like a druggy haze.  “Now You See It (Now You Don’t)” is an example of a song that has all these qualities.  It has a hard, almost Sabbathy guitar riff, but is cloaked in darkness.

“Rock ‘N’ Roll Rebel” is the most upbeat song.  Who doesn’t like a song about rebellion in the name of rock and roll?  It also has obvious references to the TV preachers who were out to get Ozzy at the time, so the song is like a big middle finger from Ozzy.  “I’m a just a rock ‘n’ roll rebel, I’ll tell you no lies.  They say I worship the devil, they must be stupid or blind.”

Then you have the jokey weird ballad, “So Tired”.  At least that’s how I heard it then, and still hear it now.  The video seems to emphasize the jokey aspect.  Who doesn’t love to see Ozzy dressed up as monsters?  As far as the song goes, I have no idea what they were thinking at the time.  Maybe it was the drugs?  Another weird thing — even  thought I think the song is a joke, I love it!

As mentioned, since the remix changes the sound of the album and swaps out solos here and there, pick up one of the earlier CD editions. The 1995 remaster is pretty good; it contained the B-side “Spiders” (sometimes written as “Spiders In The Night”).  Unfortunately even though it’s a well sought rarity, it’s not one of Ozzy’s better songs. It’s an obvious B-side. Better (because it’s funnier) is “One Up The B-Side” which makes its CD debut on this edition. “The bent overture”. Heh.

Now that Ozzy and Sharon have seen the light and finally reissued the original mixes of Blizzard and Diary, one can always hope for a long term Ozzy reissue program. I’d like to see the original mix of Bark At The Moon made available again. I think it’s a shame that Ozzy seems to have disowned most of the Jake E. Lee era. Jake was and remains a great guitarist — check out his work on the incredible Badlands album.

4.5/5 stars (original)
3.5/5 stars (remix)

REVIEW: Megadeth – “Creepy Baby Head” (“Crown of Worms” CD single)

Welcome back to the WEEK OF SINGLES 2! Each day this week we’re look at rare singles.

Monday: Dream Theater – “Lie” (CD single)
Tuesday: Jimi Hendrix – “Valleys of Neptune” (7″ single)
Wednesday: Them Crooked Vultures – “Mind Eraser, No Chaser” (10″ single)

MEGADETH – “Crown of Worms” (1994 Capitol promo CD single)
also known as the “Creepy Baby Head”

Here’s a real treasure that I acquired via T-Rev’s store for about $4.  Lately this thing’s been going on Discogs for $36, which must be solely for the packaging.  All the tracks have been available on various Megadeth collections for a long time now, although “Crown Of Worms” was originally a rare track.  It’s a co-write between Dave Mustaine and Sean Harris from Diamond Head.    It kicks some serious ass, but it’s no longer a song that’s worth $36.  I think what makes this single command high prices is the bizarre baby head slip case.  That and the fact that it was a promotional CD, meaning it was never intended for sale and only small numbers were made.

A while back I made a video explaining what a promo CD was, which featured the “Creepy Baby Head”.  You can check out that video below.   The head obviously ties into the Youthanasia album artwork but otherwise there’s nothing else externally to tie it to the band.  No logo, no tracklist, just the serial number DPRO-79448.

As mentioned, “Crown of Worms” kicks some serious ass.  I was a big fan of the Mustaine/Ellefson/Friedman/Menza lineup of Megadeth, and this song was not only album worthy but single worthy.  Nick Menza sounds great on it, and the song just smokes from start to finish.  Killer riff, too.  Mustaine’s at his snarly best.

The other two tracks are both Youthanasia album songs:  “Black Curtains” and the single “Train of Consequence”.  “Black Curtains” is a lot more doomy, kind of like “Harvester of Sorrow” (perhaps).  “Train of Consequence” seemed to alienate some fans back in ’94, but I think it’s a strong single if a bit more melodic then some would have liked.  It still has a cool stuttery riff and a vintage Dave vocal.  It’s rhythmically interesting and I think the guitar solo is ace.

There is no way I would pay $36 for this thing, and I’d advise you to keep searching the used CD shops. Promos were funny things. Record store and radio stations would be sent these things, and a lot of the time nobody gave a damn. They would end up in the hands of a non-fan and sold at a pawn shop or another CD store. While today some fans will pay a lot of money for this, you know that copies will end up in used CD stores without a $36 price tag.  You just have to do the legwork and find it.

4/5 stars

MEGADETH CREEPY BABY HEAD_0003

GUEST SHOT: 30 Albums that Uncle Meat Thinks You Should Visit (Or Re-Visit) Part 1

By Meat

Music fans love lists.  Maybe it’s the Ten Best Bass Lines of the 1990’s or a list of the songs you wish you lost your virginity to.  I have always been a lists guy as the whole Sausagefest Top 100 thing would attest to.  So here is yet another list.  The albums listed below are not my favorite albums of all time, even though many of my favorites are included.  The point of this list is to possibly introduce to, or maybe even remind, this blog’s readers of 30 albums that I think need to be heard.  Maybe an album that in my opinion was under-appreciated.  Perhaps even an album that inspired me in some way.   Anyways, here are 30 albums that Uncle Meat wants you to visit … or re-visit.  They are in alphabetical by album title.  Enjoy

A EULOGY FOR THE DAMNED  –  ORANGE GOBLIN (2012)

I could have easily listed several other Orange Goblin albums here, but their latest album is an absolutely killer album.  Almost fusing some Black Crowes into their brand of Metal, these British stoner-rockers put out maybe the best Metal album of 2012.  And considering that there are only 3 albums on this whole list that were released before the year 2000, it feels good to actually get some new content in here.  The album ends with the title track, which almost plays out like its own Rock N’ Roll Western.   The band finally tours Canada for the first time coming up in spring of 2013.  As the late Billy Red Lyons used to say, “Don’t ya dare miss it!”

 

ACT III  –  DEATH ANGEL (1990)

Death Angel’s first two albums are pretty sloppy, sound-wise and in song structure.  Some very heavy moments, but at times it just sounds annoying.   On their third release, Max Norman (Megadeth) got his hands on them and it resulted in a polished sound and the best album of their career.  Gone were the high-pitched shrieks of singer Mark Osegueda that littered their first two records.  It really does seem that the band simply matured.  One of the best Metal albums of the 90’s indeed.  Definitely among the most progressive metal albums I can think of.  A must-have album for every true Metal fan.

 

ARGUS  –  WISHBONE ASH (1972)

It is fair to say that Iron Maiden and Thin Lizzy would never have the musical identity they have, if it wasn’t for Wishbone Ash.   Innovators in twin- lead guitar harmonization, this band never really got its due.  Interestingly enough, the sound engineer on this record is none other than Martin Birch.  Coincidence?  Meat thinks not.  I remember this album sitting in front of my Dad’s stereo for years when I was very young, and then seeing Star Wars and thinking that Darth Vader looked a lot like the guy on the cover of Argus. Check this album out and discover a part of where it all came from.   When you listen to the beginning of the song-clip included here, “Throw Down the Sword, think “To Live is to Die” by Metallica.  Sounds like Lars and the boys were paying attention as well.

 

ARGYBARGY   –  SQUEEZE (1980)  

Think The Beatles meets The Clash.  The first two songs on this album are both stellar pop moments.  The melodies are McArtney-esque, and that is truly saying something.  “Pulling Mussels From a Shell” is pure song-writing genius“Another Nail in my Heart” is one of my favorite songs of all time.  Check out the incredible guitar solo in this song.  Funny enough, like the 2 previous albums listed, this was the band’s third album.  Maybe a trend is happening here.

 

BIG WORLD  –  JOE JACKSON (1986)

For Joe Jackson’s 8th release, he decided to go all out. An original studio album, recorded live in front of a New York City audience who were told to be silent throughout.  Capturing the excitement and spontaneity of a live performance, in which absolutely no post-recording mixing or overdubbing was done, this record is ambitious as it sounds.  It is all here.  You get Jazz, Pop, Punk and everything in between.  Jackson possesses one of the classic all-time voices.  When this double-album was released, it contained three sides of music, leaving the fourth side blank.  A landmark recording.

 

BLUE  –  JONI MITCHELL (1971)

This album came in at Number 30 on Rolling Stone’s Top 500 Albums of All-Time chart, the highest placing for any female artist.  So why is this album on this list?  Honestly because I still believe this album is truly under-appreciated.  Too many people do not realize how great this album is.  Simply, some of the best lyrics of all time are here.  If this album was any more personal it would contain a video of Joni Mitchell going to the bathroom.  Listen to this front to back when you want to feel like someone understands your pain.   A truly cathartic experience, when she played this album originally to Kris Kristofferson he was reported to respond, “Joni… You really should keep some of that to yourself”.  I am glad she didn’t take heed of his advice.

 

DOGMAN  –  KING’S X (1994)

It seems as soon as Brendan O’Brien (Pearl Jam/STP/Black Crowes) got his hands on King’s X, the band’s sound fattened up.  Thick, lush and pounding would be a good overall description of the sound on this album.  The songs are great too.  I saw King’s X at the legendary El Mocambo in Toronto and was standing literally beside Dimebag Darrell and the rest of Pantera.   While I love almost every song on this album, the title track is an absolute killer.  When the first Woodstock concert in 25 years began, it was King’s X who took the stage to kick it all off.  Check out this live performance from the old Jon Stewart show from back in the day and crank it.  One of my favorite youtube videos ever.

 

DUKE ELLINGTON & JOHN COLTRANE   –  DUKE ELLINGTON & JOHN COLTRANE  (1962)

This might be my favorite jazz album of all time.  Duke was 63 and Trane was 36 when this album was recorded.  With a running time of 35:05 this album is short and oh so very sweet.  Ellington’s “In a Sentimental Mood” starts this album off and it never lets up.   “Big Nick” is just a wonderfully happy shuffle.  True story: I once got so fed up with Metal that I became a Jazzatarian for a few months, listening to nothing but old school Jazz.  I started with John Coltrane and went from there.  I never did find a jazz artist after him that I enjoy more.

 

EL CORAZON  –  STEVE EARLE (1997) 

Simply put, this album is easily in my Top 3 albums of all time, of any genre.  True storytelling at its finest, El Corazon is a complete masterpiece.  It seems that sobriety allowed Steve Earle to realize how great of a songwriter he really is and on this album he branches out and removes any constraints of style.   Of all the 30 records included on this list, this is the one I am not asking you to check out, but I am TELLING you to check out.  Comparing the laid-back intensity of “Christmas in Washington” to the sheer power of “Here I Am” truly makes you appreciate the diversity of this record.   Steve Earle is THE man.  A lifetime Bro-mance going on here.

 

HEAD HUNTERS  –  HERBIE HANCOCK (1973)

Quite possibly the greatest jazz fusion record ever recorded. This record is a funk buffet.  Only 4 songs and all of them are great.  The YouTube clip here of “Watermelon Man” is the shortest song on the album, and is as original as it is velvety-smooth.  I find it hard not to do some sort of jig when this I hear this song.  “Chameleon”, “Sly” and “Vein Melter” complete one of the most influential jazz albums of all time.  Half of this album made 2012’s SausageFest countdown.  I suspect the other half will not be far behind.

Stay tuned for Part 2!