Nick Oliveri

REVIEW: Queens of the Stone Age – “First It Giveth” (single)

QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE – “First It Giveth” (2002 single)

I’m on record for being a huge fan of Songs For the Deaf.  Uncle Meat and I disagree on this issue, as he considers Songs For the Deaf as being the beginning of a downturn.  I see it as some kind of peak, on an equal plane with Rated R.  “First It Giveth” is undoubtedly one of the highlights from Songs.  It has a brutally heavy groove on the choruses, coupled with haunted, frantic verses.  Dave Grohl’s best work is to be found on Songs For the Deaf.  That is my belief.   I consider “First It Giveth” to be among the evidence to this.

Track 2 is the groovy spy drama rock of “The Most Exalted Potentate of Love”.  This is apparently a Cramps cover.  Wikipedia says The Cramps are “psychobilly”.  Having heard this song, sure, I’ll go with that.  It’s pretty cool, that’s for sure.

I’ve never hidden my dislike for remixes.  9 times out of 10, the album versions are superior.  I do think a remix has some merit when it completely transforms a song into something new.  This remix of “Song For the Deaf” does that.  Unfortunately I don’t think it’s an improvement in any way.  The original song is a relentless beast.  Waves of guitar wash over Grohl’s stumbling drum rolls, while Josh Homme sings hypnotically.  This remix strips away most (if not all?) of the original instrumentation, isolating Homme’s vocal tracks.  Then it adds electronic beats, piano, guitar squeals and effects.  It’s…interesting?  I’m at a loss for words.  I don’t like remixes OK?

I have said in the past that I think remixers should come up with better, more original titles for their remixes.  At least whoever mixed this (the credits don’t say) came up with an original title:  “The Blind Can Goes Get Fucked Remix” [sic].

Although the technology is kinda dated, there’s also a music video for your computer.  This is for the main track, “First It Giveth”.  This is a cool performance video made up of tour and backstage footage.

Two out of three good tracks?  Pretty easy to rate this one.

3.333~/5 stars

 

REVIEW: Slash – Slash (Deluxe edition)

SLASH – Slash (2010 Universal Deluxe edition)

This album was a revelation to me.  Truth be told, I didn’t expect too much.  I didn’t consider Slash to be among the best songwriters in Guns N’ Roses (Izzy and Duff for that honor).  So, a couple things about Slash struck me right away. One, every track on this album is strong, almost every one would make a great single. Two, I was surprised how these songs kind of chameleon themselves to resemble the bands that the singers come from. Almost every guest does a co-write, which might explain this.

I’ll discuss my favourite tracks. I have always been a Cult fan, so Ian Astbury’s “Ghost” kicked off the album with a bang. It doesn’t quite sound like the Cult, but at first it didn’t sound like Slash either. Astbury’s voice, deep and low, is almost as strong as ever. Ozzy’s track is next, and my immediate feeling was, “This song could have been a Sabbath number with a little tweaking.” I very much enjoyed this song.

I’m not a Black Eyed Peas fan; at all!    All I really know about Fergie is “Big Girls Don’t Cry”. To my surprise, she is capable of the rock. Her vocal is highly stylized (as are many on this CD) and she just rips it up on “Dangerous Beautiful”! Of all the singers on this CD, Fergie is the most similar in attitude to Axl. Every once in a while she does a squeal or two that sound positively Axl. This is a decent song made memorable by Fergie’s vocal, although I think the lyrics leave something to be desired.

I wasn’t at all familiar with Alter Bridge, but Myles Kennedy blew me away. I guess there must have been a reason that the Led Zeppelin guys were jamming with him as a potential replacement for Robert Plant. I get that, but although he has a powerful voice with great range, he has his own sound. My new favourite singer! His two songs, “Back To Cali” and “Starlight” couldn’t be less alike. However they both boast one thing in common, and that is a chorus to raise the roof. These two choruses are among the strongest moments on Slash.

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Chris Cornell is up next with “Promise”, a good song which struck me as more similar to Cornell’s early solo work than Soundgarden. Let it be remembered that Chris opened for Guns N’ Roses on their 1992 European tour. The first single “By The Sword” featuring Wolfmother’s Andrew Stockdale is another one that blew me away. It struck me as very “metal” with the kind of lead vocal that is high and powerful, like Wolfmother itself. Great song, and bears similarities to “Beggars and Hangers-On” from the first Slash’s Snakepit album.

I’m especially not a Maroon 5 fan.  I burned out on them in the record store, and the person responsible knows who she is, I do like Adam Levine’s stylized vocal on the ballad “Gotten”.  This guy is smooth like butter. My only wish is that there was more of his music with Slash. The way his vocal and Slash’s guitar melodies intertwine is quite beautiful.

Lemmy’s tune sounds like some sort of Motorhead outtake (don’t forget Slash appeared on Motorhead’s March Or Die CD). Anything Lemmy touches automatically sounds like Motorhead. Up next is an instrumental featuring Dave Grohl on drums and Duff McKagan on bass. Immediately, that familiar Dave Grohl drum sound kicks you in the face, on this rocker that is pure groove, with Slash playing a low grinding riff.

I didn’t mind Kid Rock’s “I Hold On”, and I found his vocal quite appealing. Another one that surprised me was M Shadows’ “Nothing To Say”. I’ve never listened to Avenged Sevenfold but this guy’s voice has enough melody to carry the tune. The song itself was riffy, like late 90’s Megadeth or black album era Metallica. Good song. Very similar to “Chains and Shackles” (more on that song later). I have to listen to both back to back, but it’s possible they are both based on the same music.

I have no idea who Rocco DeLuca was, but his tune is another winner. The final track of the regular album songs is the immortal Iggy Pop’s “We’re All Gonna Die”. One of the most fun tunes on the album with great lyrics, Pop and Slash have an obvious chemistry. What a great tune with which to close the regular edition!

Oh, and three ex-GN’R members appear: Duff, Izzy, and Josh Freese (who was in the band after Slash).

Among the bonus stuff, an English version of “Sahara” featuring a singer I never heard of called Koshi Inaba. Good song, but is is followed by Alice Cooper’s track with…someone I never heard of apparently from Pussycat Dolls. This actually sounds a lot like an Alice Cooper song, say circa The Eyes of Alice Cooper. Another good song, and we all know how big a fan Slash is. Lastly there is Fergie and Cypress Hill’s “Paradise City” remake. Good choice for the very Axl-ish Fergie to sing, and Cypress Hill add their sound to the verses. Great version, a guilty pleasure. There is also a Japanese version of “Sahara”, and a song with Beth Hart called “Mother Maria” which is a really nice one featuring her strong bluesy voice. I’m telling you, Beth Hart can really sing, she is a the real deal. I just wish they didn’t add distortion to her voice…she does not need it.

The new acoustic live material with Myles Kennedy is sheer awesome. Kennedy’s got an incredible voice and you can tell this is really live. The backing guitar player makes a few mistakes during Slash’s solo in “Sweet Child” and it’s right there, unfixed. I like that. It’s like a guarantee. It’s like the Stones and Henry Rollins say — “The only way to know for sure.”

I’m disappointed that Nick Oliveri’s “Chains & Shackles”, the best song in my opinion, is not present on this edition. It remains exclusive to the Australian iTunes. However, by my reckoning every other bonus track from every other format is on this disc. There are also two previously unheard demos. These demos are interesting jams and they show great interaction between Slash and his players. Also included are some live electric versions (also seemingly unpolished) and a bonus DVD. All of this is worth owning if you really love the album like I do.

IMG_00000702I made a bonus CD with the Oliveri track, and other “bonus tracks” that I found online, as well.  How official these downloaded tracks are I can’t say; Wikipedia is silent on the issue.

You may have noticed I didn’t comment on Slash’s presence too much. I dare say it, the only weakness to this album is that Slash is overshadowed by his guests. That happened to Santana on some of his records as well. Slash’s guitar playing is still unique and stylish, not hogging the spotlight but sharing it more than fairly. Slash himself explores more sounds on his Gibson than I’ve ever heard him play before. When he solos, it’s Slash; it’s the old GN’R sound, and it sure is cool.

5/5 stars

REVIEW: Queens of the Stone Age – …Like Clockwork (2013)

QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE – …Like Clockwork (2013 Matador)

Yeah, I’m one of those jaded pricks who “only liked Queens when Nick was in the band.”  I bought the other albums too, but of those only the live CD really did anything for me.  Until now.  I really …Like Clockwork!  It succeeds completely at taking the Queens down a somewhat quieter and more mature road, while maintaining every ounce of their integrity.  They are still sometimes heavy, experimental and haunting.  But now they are almost always melodic, too.

Opener “Keep Your Eyes Closed” starts off somewhat slowly, but morphs into a bizarre Queens-meet-Alice in Chains concoction.  It’s actually the one song on the album that I didn’t like on first listen.  Imagine my delight in finding that I liked the rest of the album much more!

The most immediate song is second:  “I Sat by the Ocean”.  I put it in a category with songs like “If Only Everything”; it’s memorable on first listen.  “The Vampire of Time and Memory” is a space-age blues, but with some Queen-like moments (Queen, not Queens).  Josh’s understated vocals are classy and the keyboards create atmosphere rather than distract.

Next, the strangely-titled “If I Had a Tail” could have been released in 1981, or 1983, some time during the New Wave movement.  If I heard this on the radio, I’d think it was an 80’s band.  Only the occasional blasts of electric guitar remind me that this is 2013.  Here’s the cool thing — this track reunites the Songs For the Deaf lineup in a way.  Homme is joined by Dave Grohl on drums (who appears on several tracks), as well as Mark Lanegan and Nick Oliveri on backing vocals.

“My God is the Sun” is one of the tunes that sound the most like vintage QOTSA, and it is also one of the songs featuring Dave Grohl on drums.  It has some serious heaviness to it, as well as that stuttering, stammering Queens vibe.  All topped by the smoove as glass Joshe Homme vocals.

“Kalopsia” is a weird underwater easy jazz slow dance.  Trent Reznor duets, and suddenly its an explosive Bowie number.  Great tune.  “Fairweather Friends” has piano.  O, it has piano alright — by Elton freakin’ John!  There’s also lots of rich guitar.  It even feels Zeppelin-y at times.  Maybe JPJ rubbed off on Josh a bit?  Then things get funky on “Smooth Sailing”, but it’s a heavy funk with Homme in vocal falsetto.  Fucked-up Disco?  Sure, why not.  The guitar solo is pure noisy heaven, but Grohl’s heavy hitting keeps it in the world of rock.

Soft guitars and a whispery Homme introduce a song called “I Appear Missing”.  It’s hauntingly powerful, and dramatic. The guitar work here is incredible and intense.  It’s also perfect as the penultimate track on a strong album such as this. And when your second last song is as intense as “I Appear Missing”, then it’s often wise to end the album with something quiet.  “Like Clockwork” exists as simply piano and Homme for a couple minutes, Josh using his voice is ways I’ve never heard before.  Instruments build, and it’s a beautiful sunset-stained closer.

I don’t know what Josh was thinking in terms of the packaging.  I know he likes the colour red.  I got that part.  But all you get is a slipcase, a jewel case and a little card cover inside with minimal credits.  It says to go to quotsa.com for “extended credits”.  I paid for a physical copy, you’d think they could at least print the credits.

Musically?  5/5 stars.  With this and Sabbath already upon us, I have two contenders for album of the year so far.

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REVIEW: Queens of the Stone Age – Rated R (deluxe edition)

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QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE – Rated R (2010 deluxe edition)

Any serious heavy rock fan worth his or her salt own at least one QOTSA album, usually Rated R. I mean, let’s face it…do you need integrity in your rock music? Could you give a crap about comercial stuff? Rated R is the album for you. While my personal preference is the Songs For The Deaf LP, Rated R is a close second.

This two disc edition is awesome and renders obselete any old versions you own. I happily gave away my previous UK only two-disc edition which came with the “Feel Good Hit Of The Summer” single and video. This new deluxe edition even replicates the colour scheme of the Rated X LP version which had the bonus track “Ode To Clarrisa” (included here).

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Every B-side from the Rated R years are included, live and studio. It also includes a concert, live at Reading from 2000, expertly captured by the BBC. That concert is awesome, containing QOTSA hits as well as the Desert Sessions classic “Millionaire”. (Later re-recorded by QOTSA on Songs For The Deaf as “You Think I Ain’t Worth a Dollar, But I Feel Like a Millionaire”. Personally, I don’t think you can go wrong with live QOTSA, and this isn’t just live QOTSA…this is live QOTSA with Nick Olivieri still in the band. I lost interest to a certain degree after Nick was fired.

What of the album itself? Well, of course this edition sounds awesome. You should know some of these songs, especially “Feel Good Hit”. You may have heard “Monsters In The Parasol” from Desert Sessions or the QOTSA live album. Mark Lanegan’s vocal turn on “In the Fade” is awesome, and forshadows that singer’s awesome work on Songs For The Deaf. “Leg Of Lamb” is awkward but undeniably catchy. My personal favourite track is “Better Living Through Chemistry”, exotic, atmospheric and grooving. Perfect for late nights with a beverage by the campfire.

Noteworthy cameo:  Rob Halford (who was not in Judas Priest at the time, but in fact was in Halford).  He’s on “Feel Good Hit of the Summer”.  I couldn’t hear it at first, but, according to Uncle Meat:

Yes you can…put the song on right now…I am serious…do it!!  Listen closely at about the 2:03 mark … the little cuh-caine … about 2:03 or 2:04. Go do it!

He’s right!  That’s Halford!

Pick this up, if you’re only going to own one QOTSA album, this one is fully loaded and well worth the cash!

5/5 stars…rated awesome