poison

REVIEW: Richie Kotzen – Mother Head’s Family Reunion (1994 Japanese import)

Kotzen’s music is cut for hard rockers who like insane playing and a side of R&B.

 

RICHIE KOTZEN presents the Mother Head’s Family Reunion (1994 Geffen, Japanese with bonus track)

Did anybody really expect Richie Kotzen to stay in Poison?  The chances of that happening were always about as good as a Beatles reunion tour — next to zilch.  Kotzen’s talent burst at the seams that were Poison.  He could not have been content for long.  Post-Poison he resumed business swiftly with Mother Head’s Family Reunion, his fifth overall recording.

A funky “Socialite” demonstrates Kotzen’s diversity.  Drummer Atma Anur breaks it down while Richie brings the soul.  Kotzen’s music is cut for hard rockers who like insane playing and a side of R&B.   The soulful profile is on full display with “Mother Head’s Family Reunion” which sounds like a Black Crowes cover.  Switch to blues balladeering on “Where Did Our Love Go”, and “Natural Thing” brings it all the way to funk again.

Listening closely, Mother Head’s Family Reunion sounds a lot like Native Tongue, Phase II.  It’s that album, but beyond:  it’s Kotzen completely unleashed and without Bret Michaels.  You could easily imagine a track like “A Love Divine” on side two of Native Tongue, among the more grooving material.  That connects seamlessly with “Soul to Soul”, another bluesy ballad, with a summery feel.  “Testify” has a similar bright side, and a wailing chorus.

Cover songs can be shaky ground, and “Reach Out I’ll Be There” sticks out like a sore thumb, a song from another era that doesn’t match up with Richie’s originals.  That’s not to say it’s bad.  Far from it — it’s one of the best covers of it that you’ll find.  It’s just on the wrong album, even as it jams on for seven minutes!

Through the last four tracks (“Used”, “A Woman & A Man”, “Livin’ Easy” and “Cover Me”) Richie and company rock it up and slow it down again with consistently impressive chops.  There are no weak songs, and Kotzen’s ballads have a genuine sound that stays timeless no matter the year.  The speedy funk-soul-metal soup of “Cover Me” concludes the standard domestic album by smoking your ears with blazing hot licks.

This album, long out of print, has been reissued in Japan with the bonus track intact, at a surprisingly low price.  (Amazon Canada had it in stock for $22.33.)  If you’re lucky enough to acquire it, you’ll get the extra song “Wailing Wall”.  Sometimes the Japanese fans got the best exclusives.  “Wailing Wall” is one.  It taps into the spirit of Tommy Bolin-era Deep Purple and it could be the best song of them all.

Easy decision:  Get some.

4.75/5 stars

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#593: Talk Dirty to Me

GETTING MORE TALE #593: Talk Dirty to Me

The closest “record store” when I was a young kid wasn’t a “record store” at all.  It was a now-defunct department store called Zellers.  Located at Stanley Park Mall, they were a mere 10 minute walk from home.  If we were looking for new tapes to listen to, Zellers would be the natural first stop.  It was a bit of a needle in a haystack situation because I didn’t know the names of a lot of bands or albums.  For example, there was a cool band from Japan on MuchMusic.  They had a killer heavy metal track called “Crazy Nights”, but I couldn’t remember the name of the band.  I scoured the racks at Zellers until I found what I assumed was the right group:  “Wang Chung”.  Never mind that “Wang Chung” doesn’t actually sound like a Japanese name, but what did I know at that age?  I definitely didn’t know that the name of the band was Loudness, and the album I was looking for was called Thunder In the East!  It’s a good thing I figured that out before putting Wang Chung on my Christmas list.

Bob and I spent a lot of time browsing records at Zellers just out of convenience of location.  It was there that I first saw the band known as Poison.  “They look like girls don’t they?” said Bob.  “Yeah,” I responded, secretly deciding that Rikki Rockett was the hottest.  But they were men!  That first Poison album cover turned me off the band for a time.  I considered them a sub-Motley Crue.

What finally turned me on to Poison was actually a highschool Battle of the Bands.  It seemed every highschool band learned “Talk Dirty to Me” in 1987.  The track had a vaguely old-timey rock and roll feel and that appealed to me.  It was like old Kiss.

I gradually got into Poison, by taping their videos off MuchMusic.  It is quite possible that their videos were the most action packed of the era.  They were highly choreographed, but so much fun.  There is no shame in admitting that when Bob and I got our first guitars, we were more interested in doing stage moves than playing.  Poison (and also Cinderella) were the prototypes for many of our moves.  A few guitars hit a few ceilings because of Poison.  I had to have a faux-snakeskin guitar strap, with strap locks, of course, for those over-the-shoulder-throws.

The Poison video I liked the best was a ballad called “I Won’t Forget You”.  It was tour footage from the stage and off, and it was less choreographed.  It had a guest shot by none other than Paul Stanley!  If Paul appeared on stage with Poison, then they had to be good.  Right?

It was obvious from their videos that Poison were a flashy band, bent on entertainment or death.  My musical perception wasn’t strong enough to detect that the band weren’t the greatest musicians, but they did have good songs to my ears.  Every video they made was fun and catchy as hell.  Poison were pretty easy to get into, and they were everywhere.

I didn’t buy the first album Look What the Cat Dragged In for a while, but I got the second one, Open Up and Say Ahh! for a school project.  As recalled in Getting More Tale #455: How to Make a Music Video, Bob and I decided to make our own video for “Nothin’ But A Good Time” for the school video awards.  My dad paid for the tape and it was used for the backing music.

The music video turned out great, and one day I hope to transfer it to a format you can upload to Youtube.

I’m not sure how many kids back then could have claimed they used Poison for a school project, but we did and we kicked that project’s ass!  Add Poison to the list of bands I used for school presentations and essays, including Iron Maiden, Queensryche and Judas Priest.  Poison’s music might have been vacuous, but they served their purpose.  Even today, I still get those feelings that say “I Want Action”!  Poison are intertwined with my childhood, permanently, and that’s not a terrible thing.

WTF Search Terms: Freddie Mercury’s Mic Stand edition

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - JULY 13: Freddie Mercury of Queen performs on stage at Live Aid on July 13th, 1985 in Wembley Stadium, London, England (Photo by Peter Still/Redferns)

WTF SEARCH TERMS XXXI: Freddie Mercury’s Mic Stand edition

Gather ’round yon computers and tablets boys and girls, as we once again recount some of the…errr…more amusing search terms that led people here to mikeladano.com.  If you’re new, this is a series of bizarre things that people have typed into search engines to get here.  And once again, this proves that there are some pretty sick individuals out there!  Let’s begin.

The Swedish rock band Europe, and their singer Joey Tempest, have been the source of many bizarre hits from the search terms.  This is NOT the first time!

1. joey tempest satanist
2. satanist sign on shert of joey tempest
3. opinion of joey tempest about religion

Not sure why the obsession with Joey Tempest and religion. At all.

Here’s one to warm the heart:

4. avril fuck by bruce dickinson

And I’m sure many people have this question:

5. did freddie mercury masturbate his mic stand

Next up we have Poison. I’m sure Poison had lots of dirty sex back in the day, but this? Who the fuck wants to know? Bobby Dall is, like, the least sexy guy in Poison.

6. bobby dall sex tales

And we round out today’s list with just a bunch of dirty, filthy shit. Literally.

7. trough urinal dick parade
8. film porno women shit and piss
9. boy to boy big cock six part
10. hyenas fucking

Thank you internet! You are the gift that keeps on giving.

REVIEW: Poison – Look What the Cat Dragged In (remaster)

POISON – Look What the Cat Dragged In (1986, 2006 Capitol remaster)

I remember seeing this album in the racks of our local Zellers store.  I didn’t know the band.  I thought CC Deville was pretty cute.

Taking the gender-bending makeup of the mid-80’s to its logical end point, Poison stormed out of Hollywood and onto the charts.  They did this with a handful of great singles, including “Talk Dirty to Me”, “Cry Tough”, and “I Won’t Forget You”.  Also huge, but barely tolerable as a song, was the singalong “I Want Action”.

Bass "rapin'?" Good god!

Bass “rapin’?” Good god!

Armed with just $23,000, Poison recorded Look What the Cat Dragged In with producer Ric Browde (Ted Nugent, W.A.S.P.) in less than two weeks.  What they emerged with was a fun, raunchy and terrible sounding album with some big hits and plenty of filler.

“Cry Tough” was a tight little opener, a hot and bright rocker about going out and givin’ er.  “You gotta cry tough, out on the streets, to make your dreams happen!” sings Bret Michaels in full-on cheerleader mode.  Unfortunately the sonics of the album leave much to be desired.  The guitar, drum and vocal sounds are demo quality at best, but that’s what you get for $23,000 and Ric Browde.

The other singles were all huge.  “Talk Dirty to Me” is now minor staple, and “I Want Action” (annoying as it is) is another.  The ballad “I Won’t Forget You” is an album highlight, well before Bret & co. had mastered the art of writing hit ballads.  Low key, basic and electric, “I Won’t Forget You” is very different from “Every Rose” and some of the later broken-hearted Poison love songs. Paul Stanley has a cameo in the road-ready music video, which didn’t hurt.

That leaves a hell of a lot of room for filler, and Look What the Cat Dragged In has plenty.  Of the album tracks, the decent ones include the saucy glam-slam rawking title track, and another song called “Want Some, Need Some”.  Both tunes could have used some last-minute tightening up, but neither are as bad as the dreck on the tail end of the album:  “#1 Bad Boy”, “Blame it on You” and the horrid “Mama Let Me Go to the Show” all suck absolutely.  “Play Dirty” on side one is also pretty awful.

Even with the quality issues in sound and songwriting, Look What the Cat Dragged In sold over 3,000,000 copies.  20 years later, it was given a fresh remastering and three bonus tracks.  The remastering could not fix the audio issues, but the bonus tracks are pretty good.  Single remixes of “I Want Action” and “I Won’t Forget You” are marginally better than the original album tracks.  Somebody realized that they were sonically deficient, and the remixes help a teeny tiny bit.  Then Jim Croce’s “You Don’t Mess Around With Jim” is added to the end, a song that got more exposure on the covers album Poison’d!  The bonus tracks go a long way towards making the album a little more listenable from start to end.

2/5
stars

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#455: How to Make a Music Video (The Old-Fashioned Way)

GETTING MORE TALE #455: How to Make a Music Video (The Old-Fashioned Way)

In 1988-1989, a teenage LeBrain and his buddy Bob were very active in the school film program.  We both took the highschool film course, and loved it.  I remember writing an essay comparing the early and later films of Steven Speilberg, and scoring 98% or 99% on it.  I just loved film and still do today, but Bob and I had our eyes on a different prize.  We wanted to make a music video.

We both had guitars, and another kid in the film club named John had a camera.  A kid from drama class named Dave offered to be the drummer.   We didn’t have any drums (or even sticks), but that’s OK; Journey used the “no drums” thing as a gimmick in their video for “Separate Ways”.  Taking that as inspiration, I got Dave to hit rocks and tables with chopsticks.  We tried to access the drum kit in the school music room but it was booked.  We could still do it, thanks to Journey.  We could make an awesome music video!

It was our vision, so Bob and I got together one Saturday afternoon and spent several hours planning and doing rough storyboards.

 

POISONThe Charlie Awards were film awards for highschool kids, and Bob and I sought to enter our video that year.   It was fall, and we began planning.  The first thing we needed to do was pick a song.  Wanting something upbeat that would allow us to run around a lot and make rock poses, we chose Poison’s “Nothin’ But A Good Time”.  There was only one problem, which was that neither of us owned the album.  So, I conned my dad out of the $10 to buy a copy at A&A Records & Tapes.   I told him it was for a school project, which is true, but I didn’t tell him it was for a non-credit school project.  Nor did I tell him the tape would then become part of my permanent music collection!

Bob and I plotted out what we needed to film.  We wanted an intro similar to what Poison did in their very fun video (although this opening has since been edited out, probably due to “Rock and Roll All Nite” playing in the background of it).  We got an English teacher, Mr. Payette, to help us out.  In the school cafeteria, Bob’s character was sweeping the floor, playing air guitar and lip-synching to Van Halen’s “Jump”.  Then Mr. Payette stormed in!  “I pay you to clean the equipment, not play with it!” he yelled, nailing his part in just one take.  Bob, not used to a nice guy like Mr. Payette yelling, was visibly having trouble keeping a straight face:  but it worked!  In the next shot, we utilized jump-cuts to have Bob’s leather jacket, sunglasses and guitar suddenly appear on him.  And then the song began.

Since we had no idea how to make a music video and synch up the cassette audio afterwards, we had to figure it out as we went.  We wound up shooting the “band” miming the video multiple times in many locations.  Rockway Gardens in Kitchener was one such location.  The school stage was another.  We also did an incredible scene in a Geography class that was just terrific.  We wanted a really angry looking teacher for that one, so we asked the Science teacher Mr. Marrow.  He was a nice guy, but he sure could look mad when he needed to!  For this shot, we taped a Samantha Fox swimsuit poster to one of the geography maps.  Marrow pulled the map down, only to reveal Miss Fox!  He then gave the camera a glare and stormed out.  It was great.  We filmed some guitar solos at the same time.

We spent a few months filming shots for the video, gathering scenes from different locations.  We took some inspiration from the Beatles and had all of us rolling down a hill, jumping around on rocks, me doing several power slides…all kinds of rock and roll.  Still winging it, we figured we would have more than enough great shots when it came time to editing.

We did not expect editing to be easy and it was not.  Not in the least.  At our disposal, we had a state of the art VHS editing suite.  The school board owned it, and each high school got to keep it for a couple weeks a year.  We had access to the suite in early ’89, around March.  Bob and I stayed late at school every day for two weeks trying to get the video done by the deadline.  We also had permission to skip a few classes.  Still figuring things out as we went, we did not realize that the audio synch was a huge problem.

Bob pieced together the editing technique we would use.  He chose a “master take” of us miming on the drummer Dave’s front lawn.  This was a good master to use, because the audio was excellent.  Bob was pumping the song through his car stereo, so we had a nice loud audio track to edit to.  Then, when the video was done, we’d overdub the original song from the Poison cassette onto the video.  Although it was hard work, the video pretty much edited itself.  Bob and I both had plenty of shots we wanted to include, so it was just a matter of inserting them at the appropriate points.  We had seen so many music videos over the years that cutting it was like second nature, once we figured out how to do it.

That’s when we ran into the audio synch issue.

Cut completed, we dubbed in the brand new clean audio direct from the Poison tape.  By about halfway through the song, we started noticing problems.  Even though every shot was perfectly synced in with the “master track”, the clean audio overdub was not.  We struggled and struggled, trying to cue it up differently, and make it synch.  We just couldn’t do it.  By the end of the song, each line of the lyrics was off synch with our lips by at least one line.  We called in the film teacher to help us.  That’s when we learned something that we didn’t know about cassettes.

“Where is the original audio coming from on this video?” she asked.  We explained that Bob had a great car deck, so we used that for our master take.

“That’s the problem then,” she said, telling us something we did not want to hear.  “Car tape decks and regular cassette recorders often run at slightly different speeds,” she explained.  “That’s why your audio is off.  Either the car deck is playing the song fast, or this tape deck here is playing it slow, or both.”

There was nothing we could do with the technology at hand.  We had no way to slightly speed up the cassette so it would match the video.  And we were out of time on the editing suite.  It had to go back, and if we couldn’t change the tape speed then we’d be stuck with a video we couldn’t synch up.

Using what little time we had left, we re-edited the end of the video slightly, to try and bring the words back into sync where they were the most glaring.  We were able to fix some shots, but we were out of time and had to declare the project finished.

Bob and I attended the Charlie awards and saw some really amazing video work.  In particular there was some clay animation that was brilliant, but there were also plenty of videos that were not nearly as good as ours.  We got a special mention, but did not win a Charlie award, because of the audio synch.  It was bittersweet, but Bob and I were both really proud of that video.

I still am, in fact!  I have it on VHS, and it will always bring back great memories.  I just wish we had a chance to do it again, right!

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Bob really hated having his picture taken!

#417: Tim-Toons!

RECORD STORE TALES MkII: Getting More Tale
#417: Tim-Toons! Brought to you by the makers of Brett-Lore!

Grade 10 was a great time – good music, good friends.  In Grade 10 I witnessed Rob Szabo blow the school away with a lunchtime performance of “YYZ” by Rush.  It was the talk of the school.  I remember sitting up there in science class after, talking about the band with the teacher Mr. Marrow.

Mr. Marrow (“Joe”, for unknown reasons – his name was Paul) was awesome.  Strict, but fascinating.  Made science interesting.  He did me a favour by appearing in my highschool music video for “Nothing But A Good Time”, as the pissed-off teacher.  Marrow was a moon landing skeptic, but refused to elaborate on his beliefs when pressed.  Like I said, a fascinating guy.

There was a kid in my science class named Tim, who quickly became known as “Pyro Tim” for turning on the gas for the Bunsen burners to see what would happen if you lit it directly from the tap.  “Pyro Tim” and I later went to University together majoring in History, and we had more hijinks there.

In second year, Tim and I were hanging out a lot outside of class.  We had a number of classes together including classic Greek and Roman history.  It was us and a pair of really, really attractive blonde girls named Lee and someone else.  (I can’t remember the other girl’s name — it was Lee I had a crush on.)  We had become an inseparable quartet in class.  We would study after class, or just hang out.  One afternoon post-class, we watched Monty Python (The Life of Brian) and Star Trek (“The Trouble With Tribbles”), just like stereotypical University students in the 1990’s.

One thing that tended to irritate the three of us about Tim was his knack for missing classes (particularly Monday or Friday mornings), and then ask to borrow our notes afterwards.   The ultimate moment of frustration was when he more or less copied an essay I wrote, and then got a better mark than me on it!  I couldn’t believe it!  He copied mine, made some changes and scored a better mark.  How was it possible?  Was he greasing the palms of the professors?  He definitely liked to talk their ears off after class, all dressed up in his shirt and tie.

The frustration boiled in us, but mostly me!  An old Klingon proverb says that “revenge is a dish best served cold.”  It is very cold in Canadian winters.

Another Friday came and went, with Tim a no-show in class.  So, we decided to sabotage him.  With the encouragement of my two friends, I took two sets of notes that day – one for me, and one for him.  I substituted the Greek names of historical figures with characters from the Beachcombers and Star Trek.  I made events up and did absolutely nothing that would have helped him.  He figured out my ruse and got someone else’s notes, and a better mark than me as usual!

All the rest of the guys from highschool that worked on Brett-Lore, our highschool rock-and-sci-fi comic book, had gone to different schools afterwards.  I was the only one left to carry on the legacy.  Enjoy these cartoons from my University days!*

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* On the back of one sketch, I found music, lyrics, and titles that I was working on for song ideas.  They include “The Seven Hills of Rome”, “Cypselus the Tyrant”, (gee, I wasn’t listening to Iron Maiden a lot, was I?), “National Anthem From Some Weird Planet Nearby” (instrumental), and “Hypnotize You”.  For those last two, think Steve Vai and Skid Row respectively.

REVIEW: Poison – Native Tongue (1993)


NATIVE TONGUE_0001POISON – Native Tongue (1993 Capitol)

C.C. DeVille was let go from Poison after an embarrassing performance on the 1991 MTV awards.  Who can forget the pink-haired C.C.?  Drugs and alcohol had taken their toll on the guitar player.  There were musical differences as well.  Bret Michaels liked the bluesier direction Poison were going on; C.C. preferred basic sloppy rock.  A parting of ways was all but inevitable.

Poison were lucky enough to convince guitar prodigy Richie Kotzen to join the band.  Kotzen was from Pennsylvania, like Poison, and had released three critically acclaimed solo albums.  Richie Kotzen and Electric Joy were hard-to-penetrate instrumental albums, while Fever Dream introduced Richie’s soulful singing voice.  He had also contributed the bluesy rock of “Dream of a New Day” to the Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey soundtrack album.

Like many fans, I waited and wondered what the new Poison would sound like.  Kotzen claims that many of the songs were completely written, lyrics and all, before he joined Poison.  Regardless each song received a four-way songwriting split among the band members.  Fans in the know could tell right away that Kotzen’s impact on the songs was much greater than the other members.

Native Tongue was not as immediate as any prior Poison album, but what it lacked in instant hooks it made up for in musicianship and integrity.  Native Tongue was also a long album, at almost an hour not including B-sides such as “Whip Comes Down”.  It was a lot to absorb, and due to the changing winds of rock, not too many fans were willing to spend time with and get to know Native Tongue.

You couldn’t have asked for a better start to the album that the duo of “Native Tongue”/”The Scream”.  Tribal drums by Rikki Rockett and Sheila E. set the scene for one of Poison’s heaviest songs ever.  “The Scream” is killer:  a relentless driving rock song with aggressive playing and lyrics.  Bret Michaels merged this with his Poison singing style, creating a successful hybrid.  “The Scream” is one of Poison’s finest achievements, and a hell of a way to kick off the new album with the new guitarist.

“Stand” was the soulful, gospel-like lead single.  It didn’t do anything for me, but you have to give Poison credit for going all-in.  With choirs and Kotzen’s soulful guitar playing, it’s still an outstanding Poison song.  “Stay Alive” was another good tune, this time about bassist Bobby Dall’s struggles with substances.   That led into the ballad “Until You Suffer Some (Fire and Ice)”, one of the band’s best such songs.  The only weakness here is a grouping of slow songs on side one.  “Body Talk” and “Bring It Home” make up for that.  “Bring It Home” in particular had that heavy groove that you needed to have in the 1990s, as well as strong backing vocals from Kotzen.   “Bring It Home” ended the first side with the heaviest song since “The Scream”.

The one thing that I found difficult about Native Tongue was the aforementioned lack of immediacy.  Thankfully, side two had a few songs that maintained that old-tyme Poison singalong chorus.  They were “Seven Days Over You” (a horn-inflected goodie), the anthemic “Blind Faith” and, “Ride Child Ride”.  These tunes weren’t too much of a departure from earlier Poison of Flesh & Blood.  Perhaps if they had been released as singles, there would have been more chart action.  “Strike Up the Band” is similar, capturing the high octane rock that Poison were good at doing live.

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“Richie’s Acoustic Thang” and “Ain’t That the Truth” are swampy bluesy goodness, crossing Poison and Kotzen perfectly.  Where Poison failed to do decent blues before, they finally managed to get it done with Richie.  Likewise, “Theatre of the Soul” is a soulful ballad that acts as another album highlight.

The final song was “Bastard Son of a Thousand Blues”, and it is really the only stinker, despite Kotzen having plenty of vocal time.  It reminds me of “Poor Boy Blues” from the prior album, and unfortunately ends the album on a mediocre note, guitar pyrotechnics notwithstanding.

Kotzen didn’t last long with Poison.  “Strike Up the Band”?  More like “Break Up the Band”, when Richie started fooling around with the fiancé of Rikki Rockett.  He was immediately fired upon discovery, and replaced by Blues Saraceno, another highly rated shredder.  The ironic thing was that Blues Saraceno was in the running for the guitar slot in the first place, but the band chose Kotzen.  Saraceno recorded the strong Crack A Smile CD, an intentional return to good-time Poison rock, but were dropped by the record label before a release.  That’s a whole other story, with six years of delays and bootlegs before the album was out, eventually leading to a reunion with C.C. DeVille.

Fortunately, Native Tongue remains a reminder of a brief period in Poison where they were momentarily among the best acts in hard rock.  No shit.

4.75/5 stars

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#358: The Personal Impact of Led Zeppelin

ZEPPERS

RECORD STORE TALES MkII: Getting More Tale
#358: The Personal Impact of Led Zeppelin

Christmas 1990 was another major turning point in my musical life. I know others who can say the same thing for the same reason. Led Zeppelin had released their first box set, a 4 CD collection of 54 essential tracks, remastered by Jimmy Page himself. This was the impetus I needed to finally take the Zeppelin plunge.

Prior to this, I had stayed away from Zeppelin.  I only knew a couple live videos from MuchMusic, which didn’t appeal to me at all.  A rock band wearing sandals?  The fuck was this?  I couldn’t wrap my head around the violin bow solo, nor the band.  I remember watching the old live “Dazed and Confused” video with my friend Bob.  “You can tell that guy’s on drugs,” he said of Jimmy Page.

That was in the 1980’s.  By the turn of the decade, I was starting to tire of plastic sounding pop rock bands. I was craving authenticity, and I know I wasn’t the only one. Bands like Warrant were wracked by controversy, when it was revealed that they employed two guitar teachers to write their guitar solos and teach the members how to play them. Too much fakery for me — at that point I decided to stop listening to them.  I sold my Warrant tapes.  Warrant in turn accused Poison, the band they were opening for, of using backing tapes live. All kinds of bands were accused of using backing tapes. Sebastian Bach was quoted as saying, “The only band out there that doesn’t use backing tapes live today is Metallica, and that’s a fact.”  (I am fairly certain Iron Maiden are above such tom foolery as well.)


The old “Dazed and Confused” video that Much used to play

I didn’t want backing tapes, I wanted authentic pure rock music. There was a bustle in my hedgerow. I wasn’t satisfied with the new releases coming out either. A lot of groups that I really liked released disappointing albums in 1990.  From Dio to Iron Maiden to Winger, there were too many bands that failed to impress that year.   A band like Zeppelin seemed to have not only authenticity, but solid consistently.  They were hailed as the greatest rock band of all time by just about every rock group I heard of!

I received the box set from my parents on Christmas day 1990. The following day, Boxing day, I had set aside to listen to the entire box set from start to finish – about five and a half hours of listening. I took a brief lunch break between discs 2 and 3. I emerged from my room that afternoon, dazed, but not confused at all. There were some songs that I didn’t care too much for – “Poor Tom”, “Wearing and Tearing”, “Ozone Baby” – mostly songs from Coda. They were vastly outnumbered by the songs that absolutely blew me away, even though I had never heard of them before: “Your Time Is Gonna Come”, “Immigrant Song”, “Ramble On”, “The Ocean”, “All My Love”…I could not believe the sheer quality of the music.

Sure, Led Zeppelin’s songs weren’t produced as slick as I was used to. They were a far cry from Whitesnake. Jimmy Page wasn’t a shredder like Steve Vai, but I felt a personal shift. I thought bands like Whitesnake and Cinderella had been exhibiting the epitome of integrity, with the ace players and incredible musicianship. Like athletes, musicians only seemed to achieve loftier heights over the decades with their playing. This was exemplified by a guy like Steve Vai who pushed guitar into entirely new frontiers. Cinderella, on the other hand, had even worked with Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones, who provided strings to their bluesy Heartbreak Station LP. I thought Cinderella were the blues! But now, my eyes were really opening.  It was like Obi-Wan Kenobi had prophesized:  “You’ve just taken your first step, in a larger world.”

IMG_20150114_182807Led Zeppelin (and also ZZ Top) were talking about blues artists I never heard of. Muddy Waters? Lightning Hopkins? Robert Johnson? Who were these people that were so influential that Zeppelin were known to lift entire songs from them?

I had a thought: “From this moment on, I will never be able to listen to rock bands the same way again. I used to think Cinderella were authentic blues. How can I ever go back to listening to Cinderella with the same feeling of passion? How can I play bands like Slaughter and Judas Priest, and think for a second that these guys are any better than the old guys like Zep?”

Fortunately I found that eventually Cinderella, Whitesnake and Led Zeppelin could co-exist in my collection. Liking one does not mean you can’t like the others. Even though Led Zeppelin raised the bar to extraordinary heights, I found it wasn’t too hard to “lower my standards” sometimes and enjoy a little “Slow An’ Easy” with David Coverdale. Zeppelin simply opened my eyes: that there was an entire history of blues that I hadn’t really been aware of before. My musical life journey was about to expand exponentially.

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#356: Cassingles

Aaron at the KMA and I have coordinated posts today about cassette singles!  If you can’t get enough, click here for his!  Geoff at the 1001 has also thrown his hat into the ring, and you can see his cassettes here!

RECORD STORE TALES MkII: Getting More Tale #356: Cassingles

Cassingle (noun): “cassette single”, a musical single release, usually consisting of two songs, on the cassette format.

A couple years ago, my parents found in their basement something I had lost and presumed would never see again: an old shoebox full of my old cassette singles!  This was especially valuable to me, because a couple of those cassettes have exclusive tracks on them that have never been released on any other format.  Helix’s “Good to the Last Drop” is one such single.  Van Halen’s “Right Now” is another.

The shoebox also contained my prized cassette copy of the Sonic Temple Collection by The Cult.  Buy cassette one (“Fire Woman”) and you can send away for the box.  Buy cassette two (“Edie”) and you get three Cult cards.  Buy cassette three (“Sweet Soul Sister”), and you can send away for a Sonic Temple pin.  (Which I still have, just not handy for a picture.)

There are some tapes that I know I’m missing.  They include three by Warrant:  “Cherry Pie”, “I Saw Red”, and the horrid “We Will Rock You”, which I probably sold at garage sales when I temporarily disowned Warrant in the 1990’s!  I could also swear that I owned Extreme’s “More Than Words”, but I don’t know what happened to that one.  I’m not worried about it since the B-side remix track is being reissued on the deluxe edition of the Pornograffitti album.  Maybe I gave it to Crazy Thunder Bay Girl!

Check out what remains of my cassingle collection below.

REVIEW: Poison – Flesh & Blood (remastered)

FLESH AND BLOOD_0001POISON – Flesh & Blood (1990, 2006 Capitol remaster)

Ah, Poison!  The band everybody loved to hate!  In spite of that, Poison made a couple pretty good albums.  Flesh & Blood is the best of the original C.C. DeVille era, and probably their most successful.  It spawned a huge headlining tour that also produced a double live album.  Flesh & Blood was also their “get serious” album, although in that regard it was only a partial success.  The idea was to write and record more mature music and lyrics, something that C.C. was opposed to.  He saw nothing wrong with the glam-slam-king-of-noize direction that they started on, and maintained that Look What the Cat Dragged In was their high point.  He saw the introduction of blues influences as diluting the Poison sound he liked.

That’s all bullshingles.  Flesh & Blood is the best thing C.C. has done, and is second only to Poison’s Native Tongue album with Richie Kotzen.  C.C. was still far from a great guitar player, but on most tracks it’s his most accessible and least annoying playing.  (On others…well, we’ll get there.)  Take the opening track “Valley of Lost Souls” for example (preceded by a jokey answering machine tape called “Strange Days of Uncle Jack”). “Valley” rocks heavy with integrity and an edge that Poison hadn’t displayed before, and C.C. throws in a lot of tasty, toffee-like strings.  His soloing will never be considered virtuoso, and his tone has always been thin and annoying, but never has C.C. generated such guitar thrills as he does on this album.  (Most of it.)

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I’m sure that producer Bruce Fairbairn steered this ship with a firm hand.  His stamp is all over Flesh & Blood:  from weird segues to rich backing vocals, this is a Fairbairn production through and through.  Fairbairn was known to be a taskmaster, and I’m sure he worked C.C. (and the whole band) to the bone.  The title track, “(Flesh & Blood) Sacrifice” has his patented, perfectly arranged vocal stamp.  The vocals are layered and almost Leppard-lush.  When we’re talking about a singer like Bret Michaels, you know it’s not going to be Pavarotti.  The credits don’t list additional singers, but there are some names in the tail end of the thank-yous:  Paul Laine, for example.  Laine was a Vancouver local, where Poison recorded the album.  Why is he being thanked?  I think it’s safe to assume that Laine and others helped out in the backing vocals department.  Anyway, “Sacrifice” is the second excellent song in a row.  Say what you like about Poison as performers, they wrote some fucking good songs too.

“Swampjuice (Soul-O)” is some surprisingly good C.C. acoustic blues.  Actually not bad at all — but just instrumental filler.  As is the next song, a massive huge hit single: “Unskinny Bop”.  The song is awful, the lyrics worse, and C.C.’s solo is like razor blades.  I mean that in a bad way.  Total shit.  Garbage.  “Let It Play” verges on filler, but it’s good enough.  It’s simple but memorably melodic.  Better is the timeless sounding single “Life Goes On”.  I liked this bombastic electric ballad then, and I still do now.  Michaels is a limited singer, but this is a damn good ballad.  I give Fairbairn credit for the backing vocal hooks.  The first side of the album closes on the forgettable but adequate hard rocker “Come Hell or High Water”.

Kicking off side two with the single “Ride the Wind” is a no-brainer.  This song sounds like its title.  It sounds like a car song, a rock and roll ode to the thrills of the road.   I’d rank this easily among Poison’s best hits — top five.  “Don’t Give Up an Inch” is filler, but “Something to Believe In” was another huge single.  Hearing it again today, I find it hard to dislike.  I wanted to, but I can’t.  I think Bret wrote some pretty good lyrics here.  The part about his best friend who died “in some Palm Springs hotel room” is about his bodyguard, a guy he was really close to.  It’s pretty heartfelt, and the piano ballad still stands up as well as any by Aerosmith from the same era.

Some boring C.C. pedal steel guitar leads into “Ball and Chain”.  It’s a pretty good rock boogie, but the second-to-last song “Life Loves a Tragedy” is the best track on the album.  Even better than “Ride the Wind” but similar in vibe, this song shoulda woulda coulda been a hit.  The soft intro fools you into thinking it’s a ballad.  It’s not.  It’s a ballsy rocker with another Bret Michaels lyric that you’d call more mature.  “My vices have turned to habits, and my habits have turned to stone,” sings Bret.  “I gotta stop living at a pace that kills, ‘fore I wake up dead.”  Not poetry really, but a hell of a lot better than “Unskinny bop bop, blow me away.”  The chorus kills, as does the whole song.  Another top five Poison track in my book.

The album ends on a pile of shit called “Poor Boy Blues”.  This may well be the worst Poison song of all time.   Of all time!  C.C.’s playing is so pointless, so brutal, so annoying, that I don’t know why somebody didn’t pull the guitar out of his hands.  Wah-wah alone does not a solo make!   This song stinks so bad.  Dammit, Poison, you’re not a blues band fer fuck’s sakes!  This song should have been axed, there is no reason for it to still exist.


POISONThe 2006 remastered edition has two bonus tracks.  The first is a disappointing acoustic version of “Something to Believe In” from the “Life Goes On” single B-side.  It has new lyrics (erasing one of the things I liked about the song) and absolutely pointless guitar playing by C.C.  His solos and melodies go nowhere.  It’s just a guy playing all kinds of notes on an acoustic guitar that don’t have any direction:  There’s no tension, no release, no hooks.  This version sucks.  Lastly there’s “God Save the Queen”, an instrumental demo version.  This too sucks.  More directionless soloing from C.C. over the Pistols riff.  That’s all it is.

Interestingly the remastered edition has two changes that I’ve noticed.  The cover is the “censored” version without the extra blood on the arm.  This is a US import, and I think in Canada we had the other cover originally.  Second, the reprise of “Strange Days of Uncle Jack” that closes the album is missing.  Normally this would fade in from the end of “Poor Boy Blues”.  Now, “Poor Boy Blues” ends with a few seconds of silence where that reprise used to be.  I don’t know why they did that.  I’m assuming somebody mistakenly used a version of the song from a compilation album.

I know I’ve been hard on Poison in this review, but this is actually a great album.  Take away “Unskinny Bop” and “Poor Boy Blues” and I would call it pretty damn solid.  As for the remaster?  Disappointing.

4/5 stars (for the album)