pepsi power hour

REVIEW: Deadline – Tangible Vibe (1996)

DEADLINE_0005DEADLINE – Tangible Vibe (1996 Deadline Productions)

When we last checked in on this old Canadian indi band, it was on the 1994 EP So This is Limbo, which I rated a 2.75/5.  I haven’t played Tangible Vibe, the full length followup, in quite a few years.  I remember liking it back in 1996, when hard rock was all but dead and we were forced to seek out other kinds of rock music.  Will I still like it now?

“Another Low” is a pretty simple pop punk track, not the kind of thing I usually listen to.  It’s fast with heavy guitars and poppy vocals.  What stands in for a guitar solo is a simple melody.  It’s more annoying than likable.  “Frustrated” is more entertaining, taking the tempo back to a radio-ready pace.   Seems that I still like this one!  You’d be forgiven for thinking it’s a new single by Sum 41.  Hopefully you’ll forgive me for liking it.  Back then we didn’t call this stuff “pop-punk”, we called it “alt-rock”.

I recall liking “Living Proof” which sounds very much like Green Day.  It’s still a catchy little tune, that just it needs identity.  There’s certainly no reason it couldn’t have been a hit.  On the other hand, I remember not caring too much for “Headtrip”.  Its seemingly pro-drug message didn’t appeal to me and I didn’t think the song had much individuality going for it.  My feelings haven’t changed too much although I do appreciate the great vocal performance and guitars, but it could have been half as long.

Then and now, I love the title track “Tangible Vibe”.  Almost Monkees-like, it’s a soft rocker with a heavier chorus. I really like the recurring guitar melody.  Maybe I shouldn’t say Monkees-like, when I have heard Weezer do songs similar to this.  It’s a standout and now that I have re-discovered it, I plan on playing it a lot more.  Equally good is “Kill Me Slowly” which again is firmly in pop-punk territory, with vocal harmonies.

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As back in 1996, “Mary” bores me.  It feels like it’s a repeat of ideas from previous songs.  Such is the problem with these simple melodies.  Sure they’re catchy, but you run the risk of ideas that sound too similar.  There’s nothing wrong with it, but we’ve heard it before.  “Amore di Gatto” (“Love Cat”?) is a beautiful classical guitar intro to the dark song “Circus”.   This song has more in common with Deadline’s early hard rock roots than modern pop rock.  It’s mournful with with the strong melodies still intact, and a tricky guitar solo to boot.  It has the most emotion on on the album, and remains its best song.

“I Don’t Even Like You” is fast and fun; the drums are played with brushes and the guitars are acoustic.  It’s one of the shortest songs, which good because novelty songs are best kept short.  “Friend In Me” was the “hit”, and it’s the exact same version as on the So This is Limbo EP, which is great.  Closer “Go With the Flow” is another Green Day copycat, unfortunately.   It’s the early, heavier side of Green Day, but still the comparisons are unavoidable.

Shame.  A really great EP could have been made from the best songs on this album.

3/5 stars

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REVIEW: Deadline – So This is Limbo (1994)

Review dedicated to Scott the Skeptic.

DEADLINE – So This is Limbo (1994 Deadline Productions)

Ahh, the 90’s, how I do not miss thee.  When I think of the 90’s, I remember how bands I liked simplified things to fit in better with the new alt-rock hordes.  Guys like Deadline initially showed a lot of promise.  They combined diverse elements and showed potential for future growth.  Then they cut down the guitar solos and streamlined everything to its melodic basics.

I like So This is Limbo, (a five song EP) but it is safe to say that I do not like it as much as their self-titled debut.  Its five songs all fit into a soundalike form.  The first two (“Friend in Me” and “Going With a Smile”) are so similar that they both feature harmonica parts as one of the hooks, bouncy basslines, and a simple guitar melody where a solo would go.  That’s not to say they’re bad songs.  They’re good for what they are: happy-go-lucky 90’s pop rock.  “Friend in Me” got a bit of airplay at the time, and it’s the best song here.  The second best is “Going With a Smile”.

MuchWest interview with Deadline by TDM and “Galactic premier” of video

“Laundry Day” is a little darker, but “You know it’s laundry day again,” isn’t the kind of chorus that really gets my angst out.  This one has a guitar solo too, and it’s a gooder.  Too bad that the song isn’t as good as the solo.  The pop-punk of “Darkest Hour” is better.  Why did singers always use distortion on their voices in the early 90’s?  It’s too bad.  “Darkest Hour” isn’t bad at all.  The last song is the dreary “Better Things to Do”, which kind of leaves the EP on a downer note.

It’s too bad really because I know they can do better.  They did do better, on the Deadline EP.  Would they redeem it on the Tangible Vibe album?  I remember liking it back then, but I haven’t played it in a long time.  That’s the next review.  As for So This is Limbo?

2.75/5 stars

REVIEW: Deadline – Deadline (1992)

DEADLINE – Deadline (1992 Deadline Productions)

DEADLINE_0008Old school adherents of the classic Pepsi Power Hour may remember the video for “Donna (Do You Wanna)” by Sarnia Ontario’s Deadline.  This self-titled mini-album was not their first release, they did have an indi cassette before this.  Their 1992 CD debut was impressive quality for the period.  “Friction Addiction” (heard in re-recorded form on Raw M.E.A.T 3) is a cool, innovative hard rock number with a funky lead vocal.  The guys were all musically and vocally talented:  the Wood brothers Tim and Tom (vocals and drums respectively), Paul Albert (bass), and Shawn Meehan (guitars).  “Friction Addition” was exactly the kind of song that could have become a hit in 1992.  It was still upbeat, good-time hard rock, but with modern elements that the 1990’s demanded.

“Donna” sounds like an outtake from Extreme’s first album, a bit dated now.  It’s a nice shuffle complete with harmonica blasts, and fans of that old time hard rock will still like it.  The juvenile lyrics however are way below the quality of the music and playing.  “Nothing Left to Lose” is a somber ballad, a cross between Europe’s “Tomorrow” and Dokken’s “Alone Again”.  Bassist Paul Albert is credited as the pianist on the track.

DEADLINE_0001“Imagine That” is one of those early 90’s Ugly Kid Funk Metal™ tracks.  Paint a visual picture and you’ll probably be pretty close.  Regardless of the dated sound, it is still a pretty fun song.  Following that is the less-funky “Do You Believe”, a fun hard rocker that even quotes “Bomehian Rhapsody”.  How 1992!  Once again, Extreme comparisons are apt.  Slaughter too, especially vocally.  “Set Your Sails” is the “inspirational” track.  You always had to have one of those, didn’t you?  As such it’s upbeat and plenty good.  The tricky guitar solo reminds me of Richie Kotzen in style.

The CD ends with the jokey acoustic jam, “I Hate Workin'”.  It has that old Van Halen vibe of the “drunken party” in the background, and the singalong chorus.  Their hearts were the right place, but the song is a bit on the corny side.  Still, for a first CD?  Not bad at all.

After this the band released an EP called So This is Limbo and an album called Tangible Vibe.  These releases had a marked change of direction.  Guitar solos were chopped and songs shortened; as the 90’s progressed so they did, right into pop punk.  Both are pretty good releases, but we’ll have to look at them another time.  Deadline, the debut, scores a respectable:

3/5 stars

Incidentally, this CD will not rip on any machine.  No computer will play it, only an actual CD player.  I have had that problem with a few Canadian made CDs from the early 90’s.

From M.E.A.T Magazine

From M.E.A.T Magazine

REVIEW: Sword – Metalized (1986)

 

SWORD – Metalized (1986 Aquarius/Capitol)

I was watching the Pepsi Power Hour one afternoon in the 10th grade when they debuted the first video from Quebec metallers Sword — a song called “F.T.W.” My best friend Bob and I were both watching that day, and we got into the song big time. I was recording and we went back and played the video two or three more times. Later on, lead throat Rick Hughes was in the MuchMusic studio live, and explained that some people thought that “F.T.W.” stood for something else; the chorus of of the song goes “Follow the Wheels”.  The song is about bikers, but some assumed the song “F.T.W.” stood for “Fuck the World”.  I discovered this first hand when I scrawled the Sword logo on my Math notebook, along with the initials F.T.W.  The kid behind me didn’t believe me when I told him I meant it as “Follow the Wheels”.

We were blown away by “F.T.W.”, a galloping metal song with gritty vocals. Bob and I agreed that Rick Hughes had the power and grit of a guy like Dee Snider, but the music was borderline thrash metal.  A couple years later, when I signed up for Columbia House music club, I ordered the album Metalized on cassette.   It was every bit as heavy as “F.T.W.” and then some.  It seemed to lie somewhere between W.A.S.P. or Anvil and Megadeth.  It was on the heavier side of music that appealed to me but I gave the album a shot.  (That is, until the cassette got eaten.  Capitol Records were issuing some of the worst quality cassette tapes in Canada in the 1980’s and Metalized was one more victim.)

The second single was a track called “Stoned Again”.  Hughes clarified on Much that the lyrics are not meant to promote drug use, which I was relieved to learn.  Either way it takes the tempo back from breakneck for a bit, instead throwing in a heavy groove.  “Stoned Again” was every bit as great as “F.T.W.,” and perhaps a bit forward thinking.  A few years later, Pantera would be eating up and chewing out songs like “Stoned Again” at a furious pace.

The rest of the album stands up.  It’s a bit singular in direction, the songs suffering from a certain sameness.  The production is echo-y and typical of many albums of this period.  The rest of the music is virtually all up-tempo, with vicious vocals and biting riffs.  Each song is executed expertly, the guys were not slouches on their instruments, and Hughes could let loose some chandelier-shattering screams.  On “Outta Control” he’s Ian Gillan during the Sabbath phase!  Another highlight is “Runaway” which features a cool Maiden-esque intro riff and a decent chorus.

“Pee away, buddy!” – Dave Mustaine

Metalized is an enjoyable but non-essential romp through the tundra of heavy Canadian metal.  Our winters may be cold but this Sword was clearly forged in fire.

4/5 stars

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REVIEW: Triumph – Surveillance (1987)

Part 2 of a 2 part series by request of reader DEKE! Today we look at the final album by the original Triumph. For the first installment, The Sport of Kings, click here!

TRIUMPH – Surveillance (1987 MCA, 2003 TML)

Triumph bassist Mike Levine once called this album your proverbial “contractual obligation” record. What he meant by that, was that Rik and the boys were barely on good terms anymore, the end was near, but the band needed to crank out one more album (plus a “greatest hits” record entitled Classics) before they could call it a day.

And who can forget that awkward interview on MuchMusic’s Power Hour, when Erica Ehm unwittingly asked Rik, “Have you ever thought of going solo? Wait a second, I have the chance to break up Triumph with this question!” Rik mumbled something about how the guys in the band always gave him the freedom to do whatever he wanted, and there was no need to go solo. Then a couple months later, WHAM!  The headline was all over the Toronto Sun — RIK QUITS TRIUMPH.

With the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, this sounds like the last album by a once powerful band. It sounds like a band out of ideas, a tired band, a band who doesn’t care anymore.  It has an atmosphere of “let’s see if this one will stick to the wall.”

Yes, Rik Emmett was and remains a genius guitar player.  Mike and Gil, God bless ’em, were the average backing band, given a tremendous boost in our native land due to the fact that they are Canucks. There’s a certain Canadian mediocrity to Triumph — not quite as good as Rush, but similar. A loyal fanbase, but with not nearly the treasure-rich back catalogue that Max Webster has. A talented guitar playing frontman, but as a vocalist a bit shrill even by Geddy standards. A T-shirt-and-jeans type image, maple leaf proudly emblazoned on their hockey jerseys, but an image just too bland for anybody but us hosers by the late 1980’s.

Surveillance struck me from the start as Rik taking control of the machine for one last spin. It treads the progressive tendencies, with two instrumental intro tracks, a guest shot by Steve Morse, and some lyrically interesting pieces (“All The King’s Horses”). This is tempered by Rik’s increasing interest in pop — “Let The Light (Shine On Me)”, and “On and On”. On Gil Moore’s side, we have nothing but terrible filler tracks, the worst of which is “Rock You Down”. This is perhaps the worst song Gil’s ever foisted upon us. At some points trying to be R&B, at others hopelessly lost in a morass of bad lyrics and muddy mix, it is a bit of a train wreck.  The whole album suffers from this muddy mix and too many odd crashing keyboard samples.

Dark Helmet.

The best tune was the lead single, “Never Say Never” (co-written by Rik’s new protege Sil Simone).  Unfortunately this is a video that Rik soon found embarrassing to watch.  The bouffant hairdo (or as Rik referred to it, “good hair production”), the fancy wardrobe…what was wrong with jeans and jerseys?  It was 1987.  That’s what was wrong with it.

I wanted to give this album one star, as I believe it truly has some of the worst songs of Triumph’s career. Upon reflection I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t because lyrically, I like some of this album, and musically there are a couple good moments here and there that save the album from being a total torpedo. The guitar playing, like on “Carry on the Flame”, is absolutely fiery.  You know a guitar player like Rik Emmett isn’t going to lay a turd.  There are a couple interesting riffs. And, as a Power Hour nerd, I loved the voice cameo by J.D. Roberts (now known as CNN’s John Roberts).

Much to my surprise (and delight, because I didn’t like it when bands broke up), Triumph carried on with one more album (Edge of Excess) and a new guitar player.  Phil X (ex-Frozen Ghost  and currently on tour with Bon Jovi) joined the band, while Toronto’s Mladen Zarron wrote on played on the majority of the album.  Sound wise, they rocked it up several notches before calling it a day.

When they did reunite with Rik, they didn’t play any songs from Surveillance.  Can’t say that I’m surprised.

This album serves as a reminder of what a terminally ill band sounds like. You can hear the tension and lack of cohesion. Despite that, there are still a couple interesting tracks and melodies here for the Triumph fan, some of which have not yet resurfaced on a compilation CD. Check it out if you’re a fan, avoid like the plague if you are not.

2/5 stars

Also worth noting:  The guy on the cover of Surveillance is the same dude from the Never Surrender album!

REVIEW: Thor – Keep the Dogs Away (1977)

Here’s the third review from the The Toronto Musical Collectibles Record & CD Sale! For the last installment of this series, click here!

THOR – Keep the Dogs Away (1977 RCA)

From the snowy shores of Vancouver British Columbia came Jon Mikl Thor, cult favourite and man of remarkable physique!  Keep the Dogs Away is his second album, but the first to be billed simply as Thor.  (Prior to this, they were Thor and the Imps.)  It’s corny, cheesy, not too serious and occasionally fun.  According to Wikipedia, this thing even went gold!

I’ve certainly loved the title track for as long as I can remember.  I used to see this guy Thor on MuchMusic all the time.  Usually he’d be bending a steel bar in his mouth.  Sometimes, he’d blow up a hot water bottle with nothing but lung power.  In one mid-80’s Power Hour interview, I distinctly recall him explaining that he was wearing spikes before Motley Crue were (true) and that his spikes were bigger (also true).  That’s the level we’re at here, just so you have an idea.  Thor is now a B-movie thespian, and I remember seeing bits of one of his films, Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare (1987) on TV.

There’s nothing exceptional here in terms of vocals, musicianship or songwriting, but the tunes are entertaining enough.  You’ll find yourself able to sing along to “Sleeping Giant” and “Catch a Tiger”, with its simple “Yeah you know!” refrain.  “Catch a Tiger” distantly resembles Rising-era Rainbow.

“I’m So Proud” is just rock and roll, kinda lite and reminiscent perhaps of the lesser Gene Simmons’ solo album material.  Thor wouldn’t be influenced by Kiss just a little, would he?  “Tell Me Lies” might be Thor aping Alice Cooper.  I’m sure Alice was an influence on young Jon Mikl.

Side two commences with the cascading piano of the pompous but fun “Military Matters”.  What Thor does here cannot really be strictly called singing, but he sure is bellowing!  “Superhero” is comically bad, but…I seem to find myself humming along.  Is it the basic simplicity?  “Wasted” is of similar quality, although Thor’s not even trying to sing at this point.  “Rosie” isn’t much better, and then the album closes on “Thunder”, a resounding thud of mediocrity.

I don’t regret the $10 that I spent on this. I’d wanted “Keeps the Dogs Away” (the song) for a long time and now I have it on a physical product.  As far as I’m concerned, I have all the Thor I need now.

1/5 stars.  But almost in that “so bad it’s good” category.

Footnote about the credits:  I like that John Shand played guitar and six-string bass, an instrument used by both Spinal Tap and Aerosmith.   I also enjoy that, apparently, this album was recorded in 1943.

Thor bends steel bar in his mouth

Part 206: Rock Video Night!

MUCH

RECORD STORE TALES Part 206:  Rock Video Night!

Last time on Record Store Tales, we talked about Andy and Ashleigh and the discovery of great rock bands such as Rush, Max Webster, and Van Halen.  Andy was even more curious now about what great rock was out there.

Rock music is about so much more than just the songs.  There’s the concerts, the live experience.  There’s the history of the bands, the stories and the context.  And there were the music videos.  How could one possibly talk about a great band like Van Halen without mentioning groundbreaking, defining music videos that they made?  Since a picture is worth 1,000 words, I decided the best way to explain these things was to have a Rock Video Night at my place.

90% of my video collection was from the Pepsi Power Hour.  Back in the days before YouTube, a channel like MuchMusic would have an hour or two a week devoted to the heaviest videos in rock, and I tried to record the show every week.  I had amassed a large collection of VHS tapes, probably about 120 hours of music videos, interviews and concerts altogether.  That’s not including the hundred or so officially released video tapes that I bought over the years.  We had a lot to watch so I had to hone down the set list for the evening.

Since I am and always have been OCD about my music collection, I had a meticulously typed list of every track on every video that I made.  I carefully planned the evening’s entertainment.  There were some videos that I know these kids had to see.  They were all one musical generation younger than me.  They grew up on videos like “Jeremy” and “Fell on Black Days”, not “Jump” or “Go For Soda”.  I had to make them understand my time, when it was OK to have sword fights and dwarves and laser guns in your videos.

Ash and Andy arrived along with my other employees Braddy D and Chris P.  The set of videos that I chose to share with them that evening included:

SAVATAGE – “Hall of the Mountain King”.  Summary:  Dwarf seeks Mountain King’s gold.  Must try to steal it without waking him, while band is playing in the same caverns.  Not sure why the King doesn’t hear Jon Oliva singing.  (below)

VAN HALEN – “Oh Pretty Woman”.  Summary:  Lady in distress has been kidnapped by two dwarves.  A hunchback in a treehouse (David Lee Roth) telephones a samurai (Michael Anthony), Tarzan (Alex Van Halen),  a cowboy (Eddie Van Halen), and Napoleon Bonaparte (David Lee Roth) to save her.  (below)

ARMORED SAINT – “Can U Deliver”. Summary:  Band driving a Buick with armor and an anti-aircraft cannon seek a glowy sword.  Band plays concert in front of rocker dudes and scantily clad babes while wearing leather armor.  (below)

GRIM REAPER – “Fear No Evil”.  Summary:  Band drive a DIY armored APC on a quest to free long-haired slaves from an evil half-man half-something with Wolverine claws. (below)

MIKE LADANO, BOB SCHIPPER and DAVE KIDD – “Nothing But A Good Time”.  Summary:  A highschool video I made, lip synching to “Nothing But A Good Time” by Poison.  We had our English teacher do the schtick at the beginning where he plays the prick boss who gives the kid a hard time before the song comes on.  We made it in ’89 and it was our school’s selection to send to the annual regional Film Awards! (no video until I get a USB VCR!)

Rock Video Night was a great success in many regards.  The kids had a great time finally seeing David Lee Roth doing the splits in “Jump”.  Ash was still not won over by the rock, but that’s OK.  What wasn’t OK is that I had really sour stomach issues that night!  I tried so hard to be a good host, and I kept excusing myself, but…they tell me the smell was wafting down from the upstairs bathroom.

So, Rock Video Night ended on a rather stinky note.

NEXT TIME ON RECORD STORE TALES…

Make ’em say uhhh!

REVIEW: Lee Aaron – Lee Aaron (1987 remastered)

LEE FRONT

LEE AARON – Lee Aaron (1987 Unidisc Music)

Lee Aaron: Canada’s “Metal Queen”. It is a name she will never live down despite the credible jazz career.  Try as she did to distance herself from the Metal Queen tag, Lee’s seems to embrace it more recently, even throwing a funky jazz-tinged version into her sets, as a mash-up with “Mysterious Ways” by U2!  And it works!

In the late 80’s, Lee (aka Karen) was less comfortable than today with being the Metal Queen, and her 1987 self-titled disc is possibly the best example of this.  All shades of metal were dropped; what was left is a mainstream pop rock record co-written with professionals such as Marc Ribler and Joe freakin’ Lynn Turner.

Growing up in Canada, you basically had two mainstream choices in female rock singers: Lita Ford, or Lee Aaron. That was all MuchMusic would play.  OK, sure the odd Joan Jett track too, after her resurgence with Up Your Alley.  That was it.  Otherwise the Pepsi Power Hour was pretty much devoid of regular female rock heroes.  There were the odd flashes in the pain — Vixen, Madame X — but Lee and Lita were the only two to get regular play year in year out.  Lee of course had the trump card labelled CanCon in her deck.

I got this album for Christmas 1987, and I was so disappointed. The sound — plastic, turgid, processed, synthetic, with hardly any guitars. The songs — commercial pop designed to get played on the radio and not a hint of metal to be found anywhere.  John Albini (now blonde all of a sudden?) is still her guitarist and co-writer, but there’s much less guitar on this album.  There are also some truly awful, awful songs on here, most notably “Don’t Rain On My Parade”. I won’t tell what that rains smells like, but it don’t smell good.

The single/ballad “Only Human” is a decent song, very soft, but not too far off from stuff the Scorpions would do later on!  (Lee actually sang backup vocals on “The Rhythm of Love” by the Scorps in ’88.)  The best track is actually the pop keyboard rocker, “Powerline”.  The guitar is not as dominant as the keyboards, but it does at least have some guitar.  It has Joe Lynn Turner’s melodic sensibilities and songcraft, hooks galore, and a smashing chorus.

But then you get tripe like “Goin’ Off the Deep End”, “Dream With Me”, and…ugh.  There was just no way, as a 15 year old, I was going to let anybody catch me listening to those songs.  People might have thought I’d stolen my sister’s Tiffany tapes or something.

Turns out that Lee, despite that powerful voice, just wasn’t cut out to be a Metal Queen. She’s doing great as a jazz singer, and I think that’s just fine.

1/5 stars

REVIEW: Slash Puppet – No Strings Attached (aka The Demo, 1989)

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SLASH PUPPET – No Strings Attached (2007 Sun City Records)

Slash Puppet were one of the biggest names of the burgeoning Toronto rock scene of the early 1990’s.  Unfortunately, unlike their competition Sven Gali and I Mother Earth, they never got signed to a major label.  They did, however, manage to sell out 2500 copies of their first recording, The Demo, an independent cassette, via mail order.  They were the darlings of M.E.A.T Magazine and appeared on MuchMusic’s Power Hour.  Slash Puppet signed a management deal with Ray Danniels and SRO (Rush) who later also handled Van Halen, King’s X, and Extreme.

SLASH PUPPET GLOSSY

I was one of the 2500 people who ordered The Demo.  Every mail order was accompanied by a glossy 8 1/2 x 11 autographed photo.  I still have mine, this is especially treasured since their talented lead guitarist, Lou Garscadden, passed away in 2001.   Today, lead vocalist Mif (originally billed as “Tony Terrance Dartanian”, for some weird reason) is a successful actor.   That’s him as the mob boss in Norm McDonald’s hilarious Dirty Work, billed under his real name, Anthony J. Mifsud!

Incredibly, for a band that never put out a major label release and split in 1994, Australia’s Sun City Records reissued The Demo on CD in 2007, as No Strings Attached.  A well-assembled package, it features liner notes, lyrics, and loads of photos.

This ass-kicker starts with a bang:  “Slow Down”.  This was the first video, and it even made a return appearance (in slightly remixed form) on the second Slash Puppet release, a self-titled EP.  “Slow Down” is an infectious hard rocker, a tougher and faster Faster Pussycat with a way, way raspier singer.  It has more integrity than most of the Sunset Strip of the time combined.  And this was from the bad bad streets of Mississauga!

The extremely catchy ‘Squeeze It In” follows, a mid-tempo groover, and my personal favourite song.  This one just drips sleaze with a knack for gritty melody.   Up next is “Hard On Love”.  It’s another concoction of raspy lead vocals, catchy backing gang vocals, and pure sex.  It’s twice as hard as anything Hollywood was producing at the time.  “Bad Girls”, which closed side one of the original cassette, is about the only misstep.  While the song is another adrenaline-filled sex romp, the chorus lacks punch.

It’s here that I think the CD edition of No Strings Attached differs from The Demo.  If memory serves correctly, side two began with “Overload” and closed with “Turn It On”.  On the CD, the track order seems switched.  Unfortunately, my original cassette copy is now lost.

Regardless, “Turn It On” is fast paced, raspy and built for sex.  It’s not an upper-echelon song, it’s more similar to “Bad Girls”, the chorus is a bit thin.  The band compensates with the excellent “Evil Woman”.  Great chorus, great hooks, and it sounds great in the car.  It also has a cool dual guitar solo by Lou Garscadden and Frank “Bart” Bartoletti, proving these guys had the chops.

The dark and slower-paced “Some Kind O’ Lady” provides some variety on an album that is otherwise very party-oriented.  This killer tune was always one of my favourites.  It has some killer soloing and a great riff.  The verses kind of remind me of a Testament ballad like “Return To Serenity”, but before Testament even wrote that song.  Maybe it’s the grit in Mif’s voice that reminds me of Chuck Billy.

“Overload” closes the CD on an upbeat note.  It has a fast, playful riff, sleazy lyrics and plenty of grit.  It’s totally headbang-worthy.  And with that, the CD ends, listener exhausted by half an hour of pure heavy glam rock!

The production values for this album are not the greatest.  Keep in mind this was originally a self-financed demo tape, never meant for wide release, and never intended for CD.  The guitar solos are often buried, and the backing vocals sound a bit thin.  What does come across is the grit of Mif, an underrated singer and frontman (by all contemporary accounts).

As mentioned, Slash Puppet returned with an EP later (released by indi Fringe), amped up, better sounding and more mature without losing an ounce of their street-tough sensibilities.  Look for a review of that ultra-rarity in a future edition of mikeladano.com!

As for No Strings Attached?

4/5 stars, baby!

REVIEW: KISS – Smashes, Thrashes & Hits (1988)

Part 26 of my series of Kiss reviews, leading up to the release of Monster

SMASHES FRONT

KISS – Smashes, Thrashes & Hits (1988)

October, 1988.  Articles had been spinning through the rock magazines for months that this was the end:  Kiss was on the verge of breaking up.  Gene Simmons was still focused on his label and management company, the last album (Crazy Nights) was a disappointment, and the word on the street was that Kiss were no longer cool.

So, when Gene Simmons was to appear as co-host of the Pepsi Power Hour that day in October, they said it was for a special announcement.  I fully expected it to be an announcement of the farewell tour.

It was not.  It was to promote his new label, $immons Records, and his signing, the excellent House Of Lords.  And, to announce the forthcoming release of Smashes, Thrashes & Hits:  the new Kiss greatest hits CD with two new songs.  And a remake of “Beth”.  With Eric Carr singing.

I received the album for Christmas that year.  My feelings were quite mixed.

Both new songs were written, sung and produced by Paul Stanley, another indication that Gene was still off in la-la land.  “Let’s Put The X In Sex” is a pretty lame, pretty pop, pretty un-Kiss tune, with a somewhat redeeming horn section.  I was horrified that, in the music video, Paul wasn’t even holding a guitar anymore.  He was just dancing.  Dancing!  At least in the videos from Crazy Nights, he was holding a guitar while dancing.   Somehow I saw this as a symptom of what was wrong with Kiss in the late 80’s.  This was not the same band anymore.

The second new song, “(You Make Me) Rock Hard” (a double entendre that I missed completely), is a slightly more uptempo song which almost qualifies as a rocker.  It has an insanely catchy pre-chorus.  Which is something I’d actually like to draw your attention to.  See below, please:

Try to ignore the dancing, Paul hugging a very bouffant Gene, just skip to the 1:50 mark.  Watch Gene’s lips.

Paul sings, “You make me sweat, you turn me ’round,” but Gene can be clearly seen mouthing, “you turn me up.”  He doesn’t even know the words to the song, and that made it into the video.  He was clearly asleep at the wheel!

The rest of the album was filled with hits, none with Ace nor Peter singing.  Hence, “Beth”.  It’s always been said that Kiss have tried to erase Ace and Peter from their history and here’s a great example.  In addition, Eric’s voice is simply too sweet, it needs rasp to do this song.  It’s unfortunate that this was Eric’s first lead vocal.

You should know that many of the hits were remixed — virtually everything from the original lineup.  Some of the remixes are quite good (I love this version of “Love Gun” with the extended guitar bit), some are not.  “I Love It Loud” lacks the oomph of the drums, and the false ending.

Of note:  Not one song from Crazy Nights made the cut (except in the U.K., where “Reason To Live” was added).  I’ve always felt this was a subliminal message as to the quality of that album too.

Smashes, Thrashes & Hits represents the absolute lowest point of this era of Kiss.  The dancing, the pop, the terrible videos, I was fed up.  Fortunately, Gene got his brain back and the band began to steer the ship back in the right direction.  In my opinion the first real step began with Paul Stanley’s solo tour (with Bob Kulick and Eric Singer), where he reconnected with the fans and the music.

Better things were to come, but not yet.

2/5 stars