Nick Simmons

REVIEW: House of Lords – Sahara (1990)

 

By request of reader WARDY!

scan_20161010HOUSE OF LORDS – Sahara (1990 BMG)

House of Lords put out an impressive debut but didn’t sell a lot of copies.  When the second album rolled out in 1990, their guitarist Lanny Cordola was gone and in was new guy Michael Guy.  Although Guy is credited on guitar, in reality the album was recorded with Doug Aldrich and a number of guests.  Weirdly, thanked in the credits for “additional inspiration” is Nick Simmons, who was one year old at the time.  Sahara was of course on Simmons Records.

It’s a different sounding House, less regal but with more hooks per acre.  The opening number “Shoot” draws liberally from the wells of both Led Zeppelin and Motley Crue.  “Chains of Love” is Coverdale-lite, with singer James Christian pouring on as much sass as possible, but without Coverdale’s sly nods and winks.  Whoever is playing the guitar solo on “Chains of Love” laid down a killer.

The acoustic cover “Can’t Find My Way Home” (Blind Faith) is pretty true to the original minus the falsetto, and would have to be one of the better power ballads from a rock band in 1990.  House of Lords turn a serious corner on “Heart on the Line”, which sounds like a title for a ballad.  This however is a speed racer, a chugging riff powering a rock-corker, which turns Cheap Trick on the chorus.  Unsurprisingly, it was written by Rick Neilsen.  Brilliant playing and soloing on this one.  Then they rip off a song title from Coverdale himself, “Laydown Staydown”.  Winger-esque sleeze rock is all this is, not even touching the brilliance of the Deep Purple song that inspired the title.

A much more impressive track opens side two, “Sahara”.  This is progressive hard rock, with drummer Ken Mary layering a tribal drum effect that would have been very ahead of its time in 1990.  This too degenerates into something more Winger-like as well, but it jumps from that back into more progressive sections, keeping things balanced and interesting.  The second slot on side two is predictably another ballad, a good one called “It Ain’t Love”.  Not just the title, but the gang chorus reminds of Dokken.  Some fine soloing resides here to sink your fangs into.

The lead single was another power ballad, “Remember My Name”, which the band did not write.  As an impressionable youth in 1990, I hated this single.  “Never lead with a ballad,” was my thinking.  I had been looking forward to new House of Lords since the debut slayed me in ’88.  I didn’t want the first song to be a ballad they didn’t write.  I still don’t think it’s a very good track.  And surely a mistake to include it on the CD right before another ballad.  “American Babylon” redeems it, coming back with a strong push.  “Kiss of Fire” nails it with the knockout punch at the end, a blazing smoker with powerful keyboards that remind us of vintage Deep Purple.  Finally it seems House of Lords nailed a song that lived up to their inspirations.

Perhaps it was the rotating cast of characters on guitar, but Sahara drifts further from the sound that made House of Lords unique in 1988. The danger of grasping for hits while taking their sound deeper in the mainstream was real. Though it is still an entertaining listen, Sahara is very uneven which makes it a bumpy ride.

3/5 stars

scan_20161010-3

Advertisements

REVIEW: Bruce Kulick – BK3 (2010)

Scan_20160527BRUCE KULICK – BK3 (2010 Rocket Science)

There is so much more to Kiss than just the original members.  Sure, you may think Ace Frehley rules, and that his solo albums are awesome.  You’d be right — I’ve reviewed every single Ace Frehley album.  But let’s not forget about Bruce Kulick, who humbly held down the fort from 1984-1996.  Today, Kulick’s rocking the house with Grand Funk, and doing a fine job of it.  But just as there is more to Kiss than just the original members, there is more to Bruce than just Kiss or Grand Funk.  Bruce has always treated Kiss with respect, and his solo music shows the same care and love put into it.  BK3 is my favourite of his solo albums, including Audio Dog and Transformer.

Surely one of the draws to this Kulick record has to be the big name guest appearances.  The best of these is the late Doug Fieger (The Knack) on “Dirty Girl”, an incredibly catchy radio rocker.  So good is it, Classic Rock magazine listed it as the 29th best tune of 2010.  Hey, that’s a proud moment!  If I didn’t know it was Fieger singing, I wouldn’t have guessed.  I figured it was some young unknown with a great voice.  As great as this song is, and how hit-worthy it could have been, I don’t think it would have suited Kiss.  It’s too pop for Kiss, I think, but it’s not sell-out in any way, because Kulick makes sure the guitars are sweet, crunchy and loud.  Other guest shots include Steve Lukather, dueling with Bruce on the only instrumental “Between the Lines”.  Tobias Sammet shows up to sing the grinding “I’m an Animal”, and on drums is Kiss drummer Eric Singer.  As if that’s not enough, there are not one but two Simmons on this album.  The old man sings “Ain’t Gonna Die”, a heavy Kiss-like armor plated beast.  Then the Son of Simmons, young Nicholas, sings on the even better “Hand of the King”.  Almost a dead ringer for his old man, Nick lends the song a demon-like aura.

There is one more cool guest shot that needs to be highlighted.  There are 3/4 of Bruce’s old late-90’s band Union, on a great tune called “No Friend of Mine”.  John Corabi lends his unmistable gravel to this melancholy rocker.  With shades of acoustics and ripping lead vocals, this as good as anything in the original Union catalogue.  I still think their debut album was incredible.  Canuck Brent Fitz is on drums, also from the Union days but probably on a break from Slash.  Only bassist Jamie Hunting is missing, but it’s safe to say that this song could easily fall under the Union umbrella.  Kulick’s shredding on this one is insane, used sparingly but effectively.

BK3 is also diverse.  Bruce sings the rest of the material, but the most interesting is the closing ballad “Life”.  It sounds like a King’s X track circa Faith Hope Love, augmented with violins and the flute!  This is truly is an outstanding ballad.  Bruce would be the first one to say “I’m not a singer”, so it takes courage to do the lead vocal on a track like this.  Bruce’s voice has his personality in it:  it sounds like the Bruce Kulick we know and love.  It’s a very human sound, and he does a great job.  His voice is similar to Steve Vai’s, another artist who is not afraid to sing lead.

If you appreciate great rock music, meticulously and lovingly assembled, then give BK3 a shot.  There are so many great songs on here.  If you’re a fan of Kiss, The Knack, Motley Crue, or any of the other guests, then this purchase is somewhat of a no-brainer!

4.5/5 stars

REVIEW: Gene Simmons – Family Jewels Season One (with bonus CD)

Purchased in February 2013, at the same store in which Uncle Meat used to work.  I paid $9.99, used.

GENE SIMMONS FAMILY JEWELS – The Complete Season One (2004 A&E with bonus CD)

Since my primary interest in adding this to my collection is the music rather than the TV show, I’ll discuss the CD first.  The bonus CD is apparently an Amazon.com (not .ca) exclusive, currently selling for about $13 plus shipping.  The CD comprises just two songs:  ”Rain Keeps Falling” (sounds like a possible Crazy Nights/Hot in the Shade outtake) and “You’re My Reason For Living” (sounds much more recent).  These are from the “forthcoming” Gene Simmons box set called Monster.  (I’m guessing he won’t be using that title now eh?)  Considering that Amazon.com still advertises the Gene Simmons Monster box set as “coming in 2007”, I wonder how much longer it’ll be!

With demos of this nature it’s fairly usual for Gene to play all instruments himself and have a drum machine behind him, and that’s how “Rain Keeps Falling” comes across.  The guitar work is basic but it gets the idea across, but I do hate the sound of a drum machine!  It’s a pretty decent song.  The verses could use some work  but I think the choruses are pretty good!

SAM_2299“You’re My Reason For Living” is a ballad, and sounds like it could have been demoed for the Asshole album.  It’s too bad it’s not on there, as it would have been the classiest song on the album.  It was actually written long ago, pre-Kiss, but it’s obvious that this is a much more recent rendition.  This is a very basic soul song, as interpreted by Gene.  Although his voice is pretty limited, the intentions behind it sounds sincere.  It wouldn’t be a hit unless Gene gave it away to a more appropriate artist, but as a bonus track on a box set it’s a bit of alright!

[Note:  In my post-review proof reading and fact verifying, I discovered that “You’re My Reason For Living” was in fact included on Asshole…the Japanese version.  Along with another unreleased track called “Everybody Knows”.]

As for the DVDs:  when this show first started I was skeptical.  Ozzy had made a bit of a clown of himself on The Osbournes, and count on Gene Simmons to see an opportunity to promote himself.  So the formula’s basically the same, a rock star family in humourous situations, a funny dad, etc.  I preferred season one of Gene Simmons Family Jewels to Ozzy’s show, and although I didn’t keep up with the show regularly afterwards, I still think this set is pretty entertaining.

I like that, compared to The Osbournes, there’s hardly any cussing. Very rarely do you hear the “beeps” (and yes, it’s all beeps, no actual cussing).  I also found the family/”characters” to be more likeable. Nick Simmons is a bright, funny young guy, and who doesn’t love Shannon Tweed?  (Loved you back in the 80’s version of The Liar’s Club, Shannon!). Third, you can understand what Gene is saying, unlike the Ozzman (although that is certainly part of Ozzy’s charm).

I think my favourite episode was “Fan…tastic”, during which an awkward Gene Simmons spent his day with a mega mega mega FAN.  And Shannon loves every second.  She invited the mega-fan home to have dinner with Gene and the fam.  And isn’t Gene just thrilled.  Another episode, the “unaired pilot”, depicts Gene grilling the boy who is about to take young Sophie Simmons out to the dance. Just a priceless moment. I felt very sorry for that poor young man who had to sit across a very large desk from Mr. Simmons, and be grilled about dating his young daughter.

For Kiss fans and probably non-Kiss fans as well, I think this season is:

4/5 stars