nightmare on elm st.

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

#496: The Horror

 THE HORROR

GETTING MORE TALE #496: The Horror

It was a rite of passage:  When the youth began renting restricted horror movies!

In the mid-80’s, my best friend Bob was obsessed with horror movies.  He found them funny.  He liked pausing and going slow-mo any time a rubber prosthetic was being hacked off a victim by the killer.  We enjoyed laughing at the ridiculous situations.  Don’t go into the woods at night, for god’s sake, and don’t trip over every twig and branch when you’re running away from the bad guy!

Of course, there were always rock and roll connections.  Via the soundtracks, you’d get exposed to a few cool rock tracks.  The first horror movie Bob and I watched together was a perfect example of this:  John Carpenter’s adaptation of Stephen King’s classic Christine.  We’ll circle back to the music.  But the language!  Oh my.  We had never heard swearing woven into such intricate dialogue before!  King truly is the master of the art of profanity.  We learned new ways to swear from that movie.  Some favourites:

Yeah try it you little bald fuck, and I’ll knock you through the wall! FUCK!”  – Buddy Repperton

“OK, that’s the last time you run that mechanical asshole in here without an exhaust hose!” – Will Darnell

“I knew a guy had a car like that once. Fuckin’ bastard killed himself in it. Son of a bitch was so mean, you could’ve poured boiling water down his throat and he would’ve pissed ice cubes.” – Will Darnell

We watched Christine, rewound the tape, and watched it again, twice in a row.  I still love that movie today.  It’s not my favourite horror of all time (that would be The Shining, also based on Stephen King) but it does come in second.  My dad and uncle didn’t mind me watching it, because the car involved in the film was a 1958 Plymouth Fury.  Such things seemed to matter to adults.

I always preferred comedy to horror, but Bob and I were a team, so we compromised and usually rented two or three movies at a time.  Strangely enough, it’s really only the horror films I remember today.  I couldn’t tell you what comedies we rented, but I remember Friday the 13th, do I ever!

We would ride our bikes up to Steve’s TV on Frederick Street.  It’s still there, too, in the same spot but stocked with the latest and greatest tech.  In the 80’s, it was a growing business and had the largest collection of videos for sale and rent that I’d ever seen.  Bob and I would discuss and pick out a couple horror films and a comedy.  We’d bring them back by bike and rent more.  The first time we did this, Steve’s TV asked for a note from our parents to rent an R rated movie.  Minor delay!  We’d just have to make another trip on our bikes.

We rented the first Friday the 13th, and the second.  I somehow missed the third and fourth (I am pretty sure I was at the cottage on vacation those weekends) and jumped right onto the poor fifth movie (A New Beginning), which didn’t even have Jason in it.  As I started highschool, Jason finally returned in Part VI (Jason Lives) and our movie renting continued.  When the Friday the 13th movies were done, we did the Freddie movies, and the Halloween films.  We even did the third Halloween, the one that had nothing to do with the rest of the series.

We rented so many that eventually Steve’s TV had nothing left we hadn’t seen.  We started checking out a new store, Jumbo Video.  They had a cool horror section that looked like a haunted castle.  We rented everything there, too.  Jeff Goldblum’s remake of The Fly was one.  I remember a really terrible movie called Madman Marz, but there were many more that I can’t remember at all.  As highschool went on, we ran out of horror movies to rent at Jumbo.   We temporarily began renting ninja movies (Bob was taking Karate at the time) but it was horror that we really liked.

An automated video rental place opened up.  It was a small room full of vending machines that dispensed videos!  They had a small selection of horror, so Bob and I began to eat those up too.  The Fly II was one of the first we rented from that automated store, and it was just awful.  Clearly, we were exhausting the horror movie stock in Kitchener Ontario.  There was nothing left for us to rent.

The rock and roll connections with a lot of these films were really interesting to us, since we were both exploring hard rock at the same time.  Christine, our first horror experience, had an incredible soundtrack of oldies:  Little Richard’s “Keep-A-Knockin’”,  “Not Fade Away” by Buddy Holly, and of course the newbie “Bad to the Bone” by George Thorogood.  As much as we were obsessed with the movie, we obsessed over that song.  Playing it over, and over, and over again.  A bit later on, Alice Cooper appeared in a couple films, also providing music for Prince of Darkness and Friday the 13th Part VI.  Horror went hand in hand with our rock obsession, but in the long run, “there could be only one”.  For me, rock won out.  Horror films still bring a chuckle, but the days of obsessively trying to watch them all are long gone.  Do they even make good horror movies anymore?  I don’t even know.  They do still make great rock and roll, that’s for sure.