rarities

REVIEW: Sloan – “Kids Come Back Again at Christmas” / “December 25” (2016 single)

SLOAN“Kids Come Back Again at Christmas” / “December 25” (2016 murderecords 7″ single)

This record arrived at LeBrain HQ almost a year ago — too late to include with last year’s Christmas reviews.  So, not only did I wait until today to review it, I actually waited until today to even open it!  This record is courtesy of James from the KMA, a superfine guy who always hooks me up with the latest Sloan rarities.  This 7″ single released on murderecords certainly qualifies.

The record is packaged not only with a download code, but also four unique Christmas cards and even little red envelopes for them.  I would never deface these collectables and send them out; to me they are part of the single.  Each card has a relevant Sloan lyric inside, such as “I’m just walking around, I made that snowsuit sound.”

Both seasonal songs are originals.  Chris Murphy takes the first lead vocal on “Kids Come Back Again at Christmas”, a bright piano-based Sloan number.  Bells and chimes make it sound seasonal, but otherwise it’s good old mid-tempo Sloan pop rock.  “December 25” is led by the vocals of Jay Ferguson.  Jay’s material is often laid back and more contemplative.  Both tracks have certain Sloan trademarks, such as strong melodies, backing vocals, and an old-fashioned no-frills approach.  All instruments are played by the band, with nothing extraneous added like you often find in Christmas rock tunes.

Two catchy songs, a cool limited edition package, and vinyl.  Sounds good to me.

4/5 stars

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Gallery: Marillion Christmas Comes Early

It’s that time of year again!  When Marillion fans gather around post boxes and anxiously check on message boards.  “Has it come yet?  Do you have yours yet?”

Yes, it has come, and yes we have ours now!  What is “it”?  Why, the annual Marillion Christmas release and Web UK Magazine of course!  Since 1998, Marillion have offered free Christmas exclusives to those who sign up for the fan package.  This year’s is a DVD:  Christmas at the Club.  This was a private fan gig at the band studio The Racket Club.  It was an invite-only crowd, treated to live versions of the latest tracks from 2016’s Fuck Everyone and Run.  Tracks like “The Leavers” and “Living in FEAR” sit among old favourites like “The Great Escape”, “Splintering Heart” and “Real Tears for Sale”.  Can’t wait to get this one on the big TV screen.

The magazine is also a treat.  Marillion recently conquered the Royal Albert Hall, and inside is the glorious photographic proof.

The Christmas season never feels like it has begun until the Marillion CD or DVD arrives.  I am happy to announce that it has now officially started!  Time to enjoy some Christmas at the Club.

 

REVIEW: Marillion – A Piss-Up in a Brewery / Christmas 2000

MARILLIONChristmas 2000A Piss-Up in a Brewery (2000 fan club CD)
MARILLION A Piss-Up in a Brewery (19 track download version released 2010)

Being a member has its advantages, and when joining the official Marillion fan club entails a free exclusive CD, you can always count on me to be on board.  Marillion’s third, A Piss-Up in a Brewery, was my first.  The original 12 track Racket Records printing (WebFree 03) is a treasure.  It was made available again to members of the Front Row Club subscription service in 2003, as Bass Brewery Museum, Burton, UK – 17th November 2000 (FRC-011).  CD has space limitations, but in 2002 a DVD of the full 19 song show was released.  Then in 2010, the audio (mp3 or FLAC) of all 19 tracks was made available for download.  Anyway you want it, you can get the complete performance as it was.

Marillion were invited to perform intimate gigs at the Bass Brewery and get their own signature beer.  They chose an acoustic format with new material, special covers and a guest.  They were hard at work on their new album Anoraknophia, “which you’ve already bought” said Steve Hogarth, referring to their innovative pre-ordering scheme.  The second gig was recorded for the fan club-only Christmas CD.

A quiet “Go!” begins and gently builds to the throbbing chorus, “Wide awake at the edge of the world.”  The second song also quietly builds from calm beginnings.  “After Me” is one of their most memorable pop melodies, infused with integrity from the start, and stripped bare in the brewery.  Then from their 1994 concept album Brave comes the single “Alone Again in the Lap of Luxury”.*  Intense songs for an intimate show.  “Lap of Luxury” smoulders, and as it burns, Steve Hogarth blasts for all he’s got.

The first big surprise of the evening was the Fish-era B-side “Cinderella Search”, albeit the shortened 7″ version and not the full-on five and a half minutes of brilliance from the 12″ single.  The amusing thing is when a spoiling audience member blurts out the title having attending the night before.  “Oh, there’s always one,” says Hogarth.  The singer had never performed the song before these gigs.  The acoustic setting alleviates any pressure to be like Fish.  It also enables them to seamlessly meld the song onto “The Space”, already popular in acoustic form.

“A Collection” is another B-side with dark subject matter.  It’s about “an uncle” with an interesting hobby, but it’s also an ironically bright tune.  “Beautiful”* and “Afraid of Sunrise”* both date back to 1995’s Afraid of Sunlight, a pair really made for the intimate setting.

New friend Stephanie Sobey-Jones on cello is invited onstage for a sombre “Sympathy”, both a single and a Rare Bird cover.   Cello also features on the new song “Number One”.  It had simple beginnings, explains Hogarth.  “I had some words, and Mark had some chords.”  Interjects Mark Kelly, “Three, actually. I’m not joking!”   The track takes a stab at the artificiality of modern pop music, but was only included on the pre-ordered deluxe edition of Anoraknophobia.  Simple, but extremely intense.  The cello stays for “Dry Land”, a favourite ballad from 1992’s Holidays in Eden (and even earlier).  The voice of Steve (Hogarth) rings true on even the most difficult note, while the guitar of Steve (Rothery) makes for a sweltering solo.

Back to 1987, and the old favourite “Sugar Mice”.*  Of all the old Fish classics, “Sugar Mice” is the one that Hogarth most easily adopts.  The scars that he is nursing at the end of the bar sounds like his own.

Yet still the humour is always there.  As they warm up for the Mexican-sounding “Gazpacho”, Mark Kelly asks “Am I in the wrong band?”

“You have been for years,” deadpans Pete Trewavas.

“Gazpacho” gets you moving as the concert enters its final third.  Away, yon darkness; the music stays largely celebratory from here, though the lyrics maintain some bite.  Elvis Presley, O.J. Simpson and Mike Tyson were mentioned as inspirations for the lively song.  Celtic sounds invade “80 Days”,* an ode to the audience who clap along to every beat.  “80 Days” was always acoustic, and “The Answering Machine”* has existed in a popular acoustic alternate arrangement for years.  The brewery crowd clearly liked both very much.

A slew of covers are encore treats.  Crowded House’s “How Will You Go” (from 1991’s Woodface) is a brilliant song and choice.  There’s one more original (drummer Ian Mosely smokes on “Cannibal Surf Babe”) before they do Carole King’s “Way Over Yonder”* and The Beatles’ “Let It Be”.*  Rothery gets a bluesy guitar showcase on “Way Over Yonger”, though Hogarth has the soul credentials too, as “Let It Be” ably proves.

For a long time, I felt that the original Christmas 2000 release of A Piss-Up in a Brewery to be one of the best Marillion live albums, period.  It’s still magnificent in its full length, though perhaps they should have just made it widely available to everyone in the first place.  Maybe it wouldn’t have been a hit, but if they were on Santa’s good list that year, you never know.

5/5 stars

* Indicates this song was not on the 2000 Christmas release of A Piss-Up in a Brewery, but only the DVD and download versions.

QUIZ ANSWER: What was in LeBrain’s Bag?

The startling conclusion to What’s in LeBrain’s Bag?

You had a picture and five clues:

 

  1. There are two records in there.
  2. One is a double, one is a single.
  3. One is a new release, one is a reissue.
  4. One is Canadian content, the other is not.
  5. You can kinda make out one.

 

And we had a winner, immediately.  A man who knows his metal like he knows his haggis.  SCOTT, your HEAVY METAL OVERLOrD correctly guessed the first record (the new release, non-Canadian double LP) and wins a picture drawn by me!

It was…ACCEPT – The Rise of Choas.

I did what any sensible shopper should do before buying the album.  I looked it up on CD Japan to see if the Japanese version had any bonus tracks.  They did not, so I grabbed the double vinyl.  10 tracks, 2 records, orange and blue swirl vinyl, limited to 700 copies.  Those numbers add up for me!  I can’t wait to sink my needle into those.

 

 


Scott’s picture is a Schnauzer on an airplane!

The second LP (which I didn’t seriously expect anyone to guess) nicely fills a gap in my collection.  You see, I have CD remasters for every Rush album from the first one to Test For Echo…except one.   Roll the Bones continued to elude me,  so instead of CD, I opted for something possibly better:  200 gram vinyl LP remaster.  As far as I can think of, this is my first 200 gram vinyl purchase, though I own a few 180 grams.   Aaron correctly guessed Rush (with an initial guess of VoiVod) so I offered to draw him a picture of a cookie.  Sadly it turned out looking more like vomit (even when I added the cookie fumes), so I hope you will excuse the lack of a prize.

RUSH – Roll the Bones 200 gram remastered LP.  Now I have all the Rush remasters!


And now, the conclusion to the “How did Mike get the Max Webster The Party box set?

Because, oh yes, I did get it.

Sunrise had it for $64.99, but I had trouble cancelling my Amazon pre-order at $89.99.  I bought my Rush and Accept records, and drew a prize:  a new fidget spinner!  (I think I have four now?)  I went home and kept trying to cancel my Amazon order.  An email said that the issue should be resolved in a few hours, so I sat tight.

Around 4:30 that afternoon, I got the email that my pre-order was successfully cancelled.  I hopped in my car; four minutes later was back at Sunrise.  I grabbed Max Webster, and drew another prize:  a Transformers mini-comic!

So, really, everything went down about as perfectly as you could imagine.  I got The Party box set and an extra prize for coming back.

The Party is very bare-bones for packaging.  There are no booklets, but the discs are housed in mini-LP gatefold sleeves with inner graphics.  For that reason, I am going to hang onto my remastered Max Webster debut CD on Rock Candy, which has an extensive booklet.  A buddy of mine named Scott has dibs on the rest of my old Max Webster collection.  Hey, it’s a lucky day for guys named Scott!

I have a lot of listening to do, which will hopefully lead to a little reviewing.  Hope you enjoyed this game!  Back to reviews tomorrow.

#600: The Vault

GETTING MORE TALE #600: The Vault

By now, surely you have heard that Gene Simmons is finally releasing his massive 150 song boxed set, The Vault (1966-2016).  Gene has been talking about this box for over a decade, under the previous working title Monster.  Entirely unreleased, these songs are a treasure trove of things that fans have wanted for years.  Gene’s Love Gun-era Van Halen demos?  Supposedly here.  Along with “Feels Like Heaven” and dozens of tracks we’ve wanted in official quality.  In other words, The Vault box set is as much a must-have as the original Kiss Box Set itself.  A full track list has yet to be released, but we can be assured that there will be music that we have long sought on Vault.

Gene likes to promote his big ticket items in terms of what they weigh, as if that’s a reflection of value.  Vault comes in a safe that weighs 38 pounds.  The box also includes:

  • 10 CDs, 150 unreleased songs
  • In Gene We Trust “gold” coin
  • The very first Gene Simmons figurine  without makeup (also without any articulation)
  • Deluxe book containing over 50,000 words and 160 pages of unseen photos from Gene’s personal collection
  • A “hand selected personal gift” (no exchanges)

All this for only $2000 USD.

“But Gene,” you might be thinking to yourself, “that’s not enough.  I want more!”

If you want more, you better be prepared to pay for it.

For $50,000, Gene will deliver your copy of Vault right to your home.  It’s called the “Vault Home Experience”, but only available in the United States:

  • You plus 25 friends get Gene in your own home for two hours
  • Pictures/videos/autographs
  • Intimate “Songs & Stories” session and Q&A
  • Signed “golden ticket”, exclusive T-shirt, USB stick (with song “Are You Ready”), and laminate pass
  • Each guest gets a laminate and T-shirt
  • Numbered The Vault (first 300 sold)

What’s that “Songs & Stories” session?  This is really “stories about songs”.  Gene won’t be singing live. The FAQ states that “if you have an acoustic guitar around, Gene may strum a few tunes for you and your guests.” “If” and “may”.

Don’t have $50,000?  That’s OK.  For just half ($25,000) you can get “The Producer’s Experience” in one of select US cities.

  • Buyer and one guest spend one hour in a recording studio with Gene
  • Buyer’s name appears as an “Executive Producer” on The Vault
  • Buyer & Gene listen to tracks and discuss The Vault
  • Photos/autographs (up to four items)
  • Guaranteed low numbered The Vault (first 500 sold)
  • Skype call from Gene

Think about it. You and a friend just need to raise $12,500 each!

Finally there is the basic $2000 “Vault Experience”.  These are all over the world, including two in Toronto (May 2018).

  • Gene hand delivers The Vault
  • Buyer and a guest meet Gene
  • Photos/autographs (up to two items – more “if he has time”)
  • Gene performs an intimate “Songs & Stories” session and Q&A
  • Signed “golden ticket”, exclusive T-shirt, USB stick (with “Are You Ready”), and laminate pass

It pays to read the language of this.  Gene’s “hand delivery” of the box set is really just you going to pick it up from him in one of a few select cities.  I picture it like Santa Claus at the mall.  Stand in line, get your few minutes with the old guy, a picture and your present (Vault).  The only true “hand delivery” is available for $50,000.  It’s also important to think about all the different activities squeezed in to a short period of time for you and all the other buyers. Each buyer is only allotted five minutes with Gene.

If you and 24 (American) friends pitched in $2000 each, you could in theory throw a two hour home party starring Gene Simmons.  That could make for a pretty cool bachelor blowout.  You’d still have to figure out who gets The Vault box set when you’re all done.  Maybe you could share it, with everybody getting it two weeks a year!  It’s your money, it’s entirely up to you.

Is it worth it?  I am sure these experiences will be sold out.  What if you can’t make it out to one of the Vault Experience locations?  In lieu of meeting Gene, you can have it shipped normally.

$2000 is a lot of money to most of us.  We music collectors are not loyal to just one band.  Gene may have released his box set, but other bands are also vying for our dollars.  This Christmas, Max Webster, Bruce Dickinson, the Sex Pistols, Whitesnake and more will have new box sets to sell.  Are we to budget all our money to just Gene this year?

I cannot.  I love Kiss, but not just Kiss.  No other artist I’ve ever loved has asked this much money for unreleased demos.  Yes, let’s put this into perspective.  It’s not the Wu-Tang Clan selling a new million dollar album to some pharma-jackass.  These are unreleased demos — stuff that either was never intended for release, or weren’t good enough for albums.  Incredibly desirable to collectors, but artificially inflating the price to $2000 not only puts them out of reach, but exaggerates what you’ll be getting inside.  To fans and collectors, it might be worth the money.  Play the songs for your buddies and they might wonder why the hell they were worth $2000.

At the end of the day, I just want the music.  An official, physical copy of the music.  At $13.33 per song, Gene is asking way too much for unreleased demos and a bunch of knick-knacks I wouldn’t buy otherwise.  I can’t pay that much, even for unreleased Kiss.

 

RE-REVIEW: KISS – The Ritz, NYC 12/08/1988

The KISS RE-REVIEW SERIES Part 34

 – The Ritz, NYC, 12th August 1988 (from 4 CD set Radio Waves 1974-1988) (2015 American Icons broadcast release)

At last, we are at the end of the Crazy Nights era.  Radio broadcasts are the next best thing to a bootleg.  Actually, strike that.  Radio broadcast CDs are often better than bootlegs.  The audio is usually decent because it’s a professionally recorded broadcast.  They are almost always cheaper than an equivalent bootleg CD too.  Broadcast discs are easily found on various Amazon sites and all over Ebay.  Thanks to their abundance, sometimes you can even choose from multiple releases of the same concerts.

One such show is Kiss’ 1988 performance at the Ritz in New York in 1988.  It’s a tight, hot Crazy Nights recording, but there are pros and cons to the different releases.  There was a 2013 Gold Fish release of the Ritz concert, called The Ritz on Fire, reviewed here.  Fans immediately noted that “Reason to Live” was missing, although others had “Reason to Live” on different releases.  In fact The Ritz on Fire is missing two songs:  “Bang Bang You” is the other.

To get all the songs, one recommended version is the 4 CD set The Very Best of Kiss – Radio Waves 1974-1988.  Inside you will get:

  • Disc 1:  Agora Ballroom, Cleveland, April 1 1974.  We reviewed a better version of this show with bonus tracks from ABC In Concert and the Mike Douglas Show.
  • Discs 2 & 3:  Animalize Live Uncensored 1985.   Missing some of the stage raps, but including all the songs from the original VHS release.
  • Disc 4:  The Ritz NYC 1988.  All the songs, but missing some of the stage raps.

Nothing’s perfect.  These broadcasts are quirky that way.  You can buy Radio Waves 1974-1988 to get all the songs from the Ritz show, but not all of Paul’s stage raps.  You could, of course, compile the best of the two versions together into one custom complete concert.  The sound quality is virtually the same.  What about an official release?  The only Kiss-produced media of this concert is a rare 11 song bonus DVD that came with Kissology Vol. 2, but only at US Best Buy.

Regardless of which version you buy, this concert has a good reputation with fans and it is easy to hear why.  Eric Carr and Bruce Kulick rose to the challenge and gave a Kiss a hard, professional sheen.  Meanwhile, behind the curtain stood Gary Corbett, thickening up the sound with additional  keyboards and backing vocals.  Paul Stanley was in his prime, hitting notes only dogs could hear.  Meanwhile Gene Simmons was present in body if not spirit.  Notably, “Shout it Out Loud” was performed at the Ritz, making it a rare 80s appearance of that song.  “Dr. Love” was also something of a rarity at the time.

Choose according to your own preferences, but don’t be afraid to pick up some version of Kiss at the Ritz.

Today’s rating:

4/5 stars

Original mikeladano.com review:  2014/01/27

REVIEW: Dream Theater – Master of Puppets (2009)

DREAM THEATER – Master of Puppets (2009 Yste Jam)

From Dream Theater’s acclaimed self-released series of covers albums, we have before us Master of Puppets.  This was recorded in Barcelona back in 2002.  Just as advertised, it’s Dream Theater doing the whole album live, in sequence, and pretty authentically too.

Dream Theater are a very different band from Metallica.  This is bound to be interesting.

The most obvious difference is that Metallica have two guitar players, while Dream Theater has one and a keyboard player.  On this, Jordan Rudess does aggressive keyboard solos where Kirk Hammett may have laid down one with his axe.  He also plays the acoustic parts on keys.  From time to time, you forget it’s a keyboard.  In short, Rudess turns the prospect of Metallica with keyboards into a lesson on forgetting your assumptions about keyboards!

James LaBrie fits the silhouette of a young James Hetfield.  He sings a convincing Metallica cover indeed!  He cuts loose and goes for it.  Metallica requires a gritty singer, going for it 110%.  LaBrie handles it.  For Dream Theater, doing these cover albums (from a wide variety of bands in fact) must be a lot of fun.  They would have the chance to sing and play in a way that isn’t the usual for them.  Guitarist John Petrucci does not often get to riff on something for five minutes straight like Metallica do.

Lars haters are naturally going to ask “What do Metallica songs sound like with a real drummer?”  Hey, I’m no Lars hater.  (He can play better than I can…)  But in answer to that question I can only respond “fucking awesome”.

Dream Theater cover Master of Puppets without drawing attention to themselves.  Mike Portnoy does not grandstand and overplay.  Nobody does.  If the effort was to do an authentic version of Puppets, as close to note for note as possible, then I say mission accomplished.  Beat for beat, this is stunningly true to the original album.  The keyboards are the most obvious deviation, and that’s minor.  In anything, Dream Theater draw attention to the fact that these are great heavy metal songs.  Are they Metallica’s best-ever set of songs?  Some prefer Kill ‘Em All, some Ride the Lightning.  Any way you slice it, Puppets is metal immortal, a very important record in anyone’s collection.  Dream Theater painstakingly learned the album front to back so they could play it live for a few thousand people.  They did that because it’s a great album on any day.

Dream Theater’s live covers albums (and many, many other releases) can be found on their own Ytse Jam Records website.  Check out the multitude of stuff available (though some are out of print now) and try not to drain your bank accounts.

5/5 stars

 

RE-REVIEW: KISS – Animalize Live Uncensored (2 CD broadcast)

The KISS RE-REVIEW SERIES Part 26

 

 – Animalize Live Uncensored (from 4 CD set Radio Waves 1974-1988) (2015 American Icons broadcast release)

The Animalize tour was the most successful that Kiss had done since the original lineup.  It was an exciting stage show including a finale with the band playing on a levitating platform over the stage.  It was logical to film the Detroit concert, returning to the Cobo Hall where much of Kiss Alive! was forged in 1975.  It had been a long time since Kiss released anything live.  The sequel album Alive II came in 1977, and then Kiss underwent radical upheaval and change, as we have documented through this series.   In the 1970s there was a pattern:  Three studio albums and then a live album.  Animalize was the sixth studio album since Alive II with no Alive III on the horizon.

Fans had their own theories as to why Alive III never materialized when due, but it likely has a lot to do with the lineup changes, shifts in direction, and fading fortunes.  These events all struck right around the time when the third live album would have been appropriate, but as Kiss replaced members and took off the makeup, they had to re-establish themselves as a valid, current entity not dependant on past glories.

The Animalize Cobo Hall concert that was filmed was released in 1985 as the home video, Animalize Live Uncensored.  For an entire generation of Kiss fans, Animalize Live Uncensored was our own Alive III.  You could break down KISStory up to this point into three distinct eras as seen in the chart below.
Kiss had a whole new generation of fans, the MTV generation, who associated the makeup with ancient history.  We didn’t have our own Kiss Alive.  Without one, we made Animalize Live Uncensored into our unofficial Alive III.

Kiss were introducing yet another guitar player to the fans, but Bruce Kulick was fitting in great.  Animalize Live Uncensored gave the fans at home a chance to check out his interpretations of new and old Kiss classics.  He gave the Mark St. John tracks a smoother soloing style with more emphasis on hooky licks.  The threw on tons of the flash that was in vogue at the time, but he didn’t showboat.  He did exactly what the bosses (Paul and Gene) wanted, and he did it well enough to win over fans and keep the gig.

The Kiss of the 80s were way, way faster than the Kiss of the 70s.  Eric Carr could play things that Peter Criss couldn’t, and speed was in fashion.  Even old songs like “Cold Gin” and “Detroit Rock City” were sped up and 80s-ized.  The fast stuff from their 80s albums, like “Fits Like a Glove” and “Young and Wasted” are done up even faster.  Lots of songs by the original band such as “Shout it Out Loud”, “Christine Sixteen”, “Firehouse”, “Strutter” and many more were dropped in favour of new ones.  “Under the Gun”, “Thrills in the Night” and “Heaven’s on Fire” were the newest, while plenty of songs from Lick it Up and Creatures were also retained.  Using the chart above for reference, only five Kiss songs from the first two eras combined were included.  The third era, never before represented in live form, gets ten tracks.  The rest of the space is taken up by solos:  Paul Stanley (guitar), Gene Simmons (bass) and Eric Carr (drums).  There is no Bruce Kulick solo.  As you have probably surmised, a Paul Stanley feature solo is as basic as they get, with Gene’s only a modicum more memorable.  Eric Carr’s is fun and flashy — more so on video.

One big highlight of Animalize Live Uncensored is Eric Carr’s lead vocal debut on a Kiss release.  The Fox was given “Young and Wasted” from Lick It Up to sing, in addition to Peter Criss’ part in “Black Diamond”.  And so Kiss fans began a long and painful wait to hear him sing something on a Kiss studio album.

For dyed in the wool Kiss fans, Animalize Live Uncensored is universally remembered for mainly one thing:  that is Paul Stanley’s epic song introductions.  “Love Gun” is the most legendary, a tale of Paul “partying” too much and having to go to the doctor to get himself checked out.  The nurse decides to “start this examination just a little bit early” and asks Paul to remove his pants…where she discovers his (wait for it) “LOVE GUN”!  There are so many great Paul intros on this video that it’s worth checking out for them alone.  Full visuals help.

But what about a CD release, for that generation of fans for whom this is their Alive III?  There are options.  None are perfect.  In fact, there isn’t even a DVD version.  There are only semi-official looking bootlegs and the old original VHS.  For CDs, you must go with a radio broadcast release, and none are perfect.  Single disc versions are obviously trimmed for time and usually have 15 tracks including a couple solos.  There is also a two disc broadcast from WLLZ in Detroit which has all 18 songs and all the solos too.  This is available on a quadruple disc set called Radio Waves 1974-1988, released in 2015.*  It even has intros and raps not included on the original Animalize Live VHS release!  “Black Diamond” has a much longer introduction and much of the talking isn’t available elsewhere.  During the encores, they mess around with the traditional “Oh Susannah”.  The other intros and raps, the classic ones, are edited or missing completely!  You just can’t win.

Only one track from this concert has been officially released on LP and CD:  “Heaven’s On Fire”, which was Kiss’ contribution to Ronnie James Dio’s Hear N’ Aid – Stars album in 1986.  Kiss completists will want to make sure they have that one.

One could meticulously paste in all of Paul Stanley’s missing and edited stage raps, and add them to your tracklist.  It would be bloody time consuming.  You’d have to listen to your compiled creation a few times to justify the time spent putting it together.  But it could be done.  It really is a shame that this broadcast CD is a few intros shy of complete.  The sound is iffy at times too, with a lot of static where there shouldn’t be.  But for the time being, it’s the best we got.

3/5 stars

To be continued…

*CD 1 is Agora Ballroom, previously reviewed in a prior superior edition.  CD 4 is Live at the Ritz 1988, but including the song “Reason to Live” often missing from the broadcast!

Original mikeladano.com review:  2012/08/01

 

 

 

 

 

REVIEW: Alice Cooper – The Life and Crimes of (1999 box set)

ALICE COOPER – The Life and Crimes of Alice Cooper (1999 Rhino 4 CD set)

With the benefit of hindsight, 1999 was way too early for Alice Cooper to be looking back with a comprehensive box set.  His new album Paranormal will be out this month.  He’s been consistently touring and recording.  The picture was different in 1999 though, since Alice had been quietly under the radar for much of the decade and there was no sign of new music coming.

This Rhino box set is pretty comprehensive.  Though there are plenty more rarities out there to get on singles and elsewhere, Rhino served up a very generous selection of them.  Starting in 1966 with singles by The Spiders and The Nazz, Alice’s sound begins to evolve.  Those early bands were 4/5 of the original Alice Cooper group:  only drummer Neal Smith had yet to join.  The early singles are unfocused compared to what Alice was going to do in a couple years.  “Don’t Blow Your Mind” and “Lay Down and Die, Goodbye” (sometimes known as “I’ve Written Home to Mother”) are sloppy psychedelia.  “Hitch Hike” is like rockabilly.  “Why Don’t You Love Me” is late 60s style rock and roll with a nice harmonica part.  It sounds influenced by the Beatles.

A demo version of “Nobody Likes Me” is the first “official” Alice Cooper Group track and it sees the sound veer closer to where they were headed.  It has a sing-song melody that recalls “School’s Out” later on.  A few tracks from Alice’s first two albums (Pretties For You and Easy Action) demonstrate a work in progress.  “Reflected” is an early version of something that would be re-written as “Elected”.  The band was still very psychedelic and not as tight as they would become.

There is a sudden shift, and Alice Cooper emerges as the classic artist we know and love when he hooked up with producer extraordinaire Bob Ezrin.  “Caught in a Dream” (a single edit) and a number of essential tracks from Love It to Death kick the box set right in the ass and it suddenly becomes a very engaging listen, when before it was just…interesting.  A quintet of songs from the next album Killer are just as special, though including “Halo of Flies” would have been appropriate too.

Before heading into the School’s Out material there is a rare demo entitled “Call it Evil”.  A small portion of the music would make it into the the classic West Side Story tribute “Gutter Cat vs. the Jets” (also included), but this is its own song and otherwise unreleased.  The single version of “School’s Out”  is an obvious inclusion, but these two are the only tracks from School’s Out, a baffling set of omissions.  Granted, “School’s Out” plays like a concept album and is tricky to split up for a box set, but it is under-represented here, period.

Billion Dollar Babies is considered a peak of this period, and gets five tracks of its own, all brilliant.  “Elected” is the single version.  “No More Mr. Nice Guy” is a highlight of Alice’s entire career and it still sounds fresh.  Another rarity ensues which is “Slick Black Limousine”, a UK exclusive flexi-disc release.  It sounds more like early Alice Cooper group material, with Alice doing his best Elvis.  The end of the original group was nigh, unfortunately, and Alice’s next album Muscle of Love was noticeably lacking something.  Maybe it’s because Bob Ezrin didn’t produce it, but the band was also on the verge of splitting.  Addictions were hurting them.  They were still making great rock and roll, just not…as great.  “Respect for the Sleepers” is a demo version of “Muscle of Love”, an unreleased track with lyrics inspired by Alice’s “dead drunk friends” (Jimi, Janis, Jim).  There are more songs from Muscle of Love included than there were for School’s Out, which is odd but alright.

At this point, Alice split from the original band.  Then there are a pair of rarities featuring Alice from an obscure rock opera called Flash Fearless Vs. the Zorg Women, Pts. 5 & 6.  Before Queen, there was this Flash Gordon album and Alice’s tracks feature players like John Entwistle, Kenney Jones, Nicky Hopkins, Bill Bruford and Keith Moon as “Long John Silver”.  “I’m Flash” and “Space Pirates” are mere curiosities, but it’s stuff like this that makes buying a box set so much more worth it.  Where else would you hear these tracks?  Both feature Alice’s delicious trademark sneer.

Alice’s solo career really began with 1975’s Welcome to My Nightmare.  He and Bob Ezrin went all-in with an elaborate horror rock concept album featuring a number of classics.  “Welcome to My Nightmare” and “Only Women Bleed” are single versions, and it’s fantastic that the blazing “Escape” was included.  Another concept album, Alice Cooper Goes to Hell, was not as strong.  Only two tracks are included, but both were singles.  “Go to Hell” is a must-have.

The third CD in this box set commences a murky period.  Alice was making albums frequently, but they weren’t as well received and many dwell in obscurity.  Lace and Whiskey was pretty good, and “It’s Hot Tonight” is a great track to start the disc.  Meanwhile, original band members Michael Bruce, Neal Smith and Dennis Dunaway formed the Billion Dollar Babies.  They made one album called Battle Axe, and their cool rock track “I Miss You” is included.  That’s a nice touch, because for the first seven albums those guys were as important as Vincent Furnier (aka Alice Cooper).  Michael Bruce sings, but lead guitarist Glen Buxton was more or less incapacitated by addiction and wasn’t invited.  “Battle Axe” sounds like a natural continuation of the Muscle of Love sound.  A bunch more rarities are incoming:  a torch ballad called “No Time for Tears” (unreleased) and “Because”, the Beatles cover featuring the Bee Gees.  This was from that pretty mediocre Sgt. Peppers tribute album from 1978, so it’s great to be able to get it in a box set.  Alice’s interpretation is creepy, and the Bee Gees are immaculate.

Moving on to his next solo album, Alice changed direction on From the Inside.  He had just gotten out of rehab (an actual mental hospital) and made a concept album with David Foster and Bernie Taupin about the experience.  The title track is included as a single version, and you also get the beautifully campy ballad “How You Gonna See Me Now”.  It was a single too, and its B-side “No Tricks” is also included.  It is a duet with soul singer Betty Wright.  Disc three is generous in rarities.  Another one called “Road Rats” (produced by Todd Rundgren) is a decent rocker from a movie called Roadies.

Alice moved into the 1980s on Flush the Fashion which employed some new wave and punk influences.  Its two best songs, “Clones (We’re All)” and “Pain” are included.  1981 brought Special Forces and more rarities.  “Who Do You Think We Are” is a single version, and “Look at You Over There, Ripping the Sawdust from My Teddy Bear” is a synthy unreleased song pulled last minute from the album.  Then there is “For Britain Only”, the stripped-back rocker from the EP of the same name.  “I Am the Future” is a single version originally from 1982’s Zipper Catches Skin.  Completing this era (sometimes called Alice’s “blackout period”) are a pair of tracks from DaDa (1983).  Alice had moved as far as he would go into the high-tech synthesizer direction, and he soon cleaned up for good.  A couple odds and ends tidy up the tracks from this era.  “Identity Crisises” and “See Me in the Mirror” are previously unreleased songs from the Monster Dog movie (1984) which starred Alice.  These are very low-fi tracks, but “Identity Crisises” is actually pretty cool.

The final track on the third disc is the first one from Alice’s big comeback period.  “Hard Rock Summer” is a fun heavy metal rocker from the Jason Lives soundtrack.  It’s cheesy but also previously unavailable.  The fourth and final CD picks up there, with two more rarities from the same movie.  “He’s Back (The Man Behind the Mask)” is included in demo and movie mix versions.  Onto 1986’s Constrictor LP, you get the enjoyable “Teenage Frankenstein”.  By 1987 Alice was telling us to Raise Your Fist and Yell on “Freedom”.  The excellent “Prince of Darkness” is also from that album, but then there are two more rarities.  Alice cut a re-recording of “Under My Wheels” with Axl Rose, Slash and Izzy Stradlin for the movie The Decline of Western Civilization Part 2: The Metal Years. Unlike many re-recordings, this one is well worth it because hey, it’s Guns N’ fuckin’ Roses.

Alice’s sound got slicker moving into the late 80s. “I Got a Line on You” is a Spirit cover from the movie Iron Eagle II. There is a notable shift towards mainstream hard rock, and this spilled over onto the next album Trash (1989).  This box set has three songs from Trash, but one is the irritatingly bad title track featuring Jon Bon Jovi.  His sound got a little tougher on Hey Stoopid (1991) from which you get a single version of the title track, and “Feed My Frankenstein” (also from Wayne’s World).  The Hendrix cover “Fire” is the last song from this period, which was a B-side.  Unfortunately another B-side called “It Rained All Night” is a superior song, but not included.

Alice took another short break between albums before emerging in 1994 with another critically acclaimed concept album, The Last Temptation.  Alice shed the trappings of the 80s and the album is held in high esteem today as a diverse combination of the 70s and 90s.  Three tracks represent it, but it’s hard not to wish “Side Show” was also included.

The Last Temptation was Alice’s last studio album when this box was released in 1999.  In the meantime, Alice made friends with Rob Zombie who was obviously influenced by the Coop.  They collaborated on a song called “Hands of Death (Burn Baby Burn)” for an X-Files CD.  This box set has the unreleased “Spookshow 2000 Mix”.  The track points in the direction of Alice’s next album Brutal Planet.

This box set is quite an epic journey, with many facets and side roads.  A trip like this needs an appropriate closing, and Rhino did something interesting to do that.  They broke the chronological format they used for the majority of the set, and slid in the acoustic rocker “Is Anyone Home?”.  This was a studio track included on Alice’s 1997 live album A Fistful of Alice.  This serves as the climax, and “Stolen Prayer” from The Last Temptation is the finale.  “Stolen Prayer” is a powerful duet with the late Chris Cornell.  It was always a perfect closer, but now it’s…also sad.

It should be obvious now that The Life and Crimes of Alice Cooper is a worthwhile box set even for fans who own every album.  The wealth of rarities are just a taste, but they certainly scratch a lot of track off of collector’s lists.  Many remain exclusive to this box set.  On top of that, it is simply a good listen, bumpy start aside.

4.5/5 stars

REVIEW: Ozzy Osbourne – Live & Loud (1993 grille cover)

OZZY OSBOURNE – Live & Loud (limited edition 1993 Epic speaker grille edition)

Ozzy Osbourne has done lots and lots of tours since his “No More Tours Tour”.  It seemed special at the time, because we thought Live & Loud was going to be the last live album.   It was not.   What was supposed to be a definitive and indispensable capstone is just another live album, only really notable for its packaging.

Let’s start there.  If you buy this album, don’t buy the remastered edition in the jewel case.  This album didn’t need remastering a couple years later.  Why would it?  Instead search for the original digipack with the metal speaker grille cover.  Finding one in good shape can be a challenge.  Unfortunately, the metal grille is not removable although the VHS release did have a removable grille.  The release also came with two Ozzy “temporary tattoos” on little 2″ x 2″ sheets of paper.  These are the first things to get lost and you might want to consider that you’ll never find them.

Live & Loud scores an A+ for packaging, but gets mediocre grades for the music.  This is patched together from a variety of recordings, and it sounds like a lot of fixing was done after the fact.  It’s bogged down with over-long guitar and drum solos (Zakk Wylde and Randy Castillo) and too much talking.  There is only so much that one needs to be told to “go fucking crazy”.  Ozzy proclaims that he loves us so often that it loses all meaning.  He’s more of a cheerleader than a singer at times, constantly badgering the crowd to get “louder”!  There is also an annoyingly long intro that means nothing without the visual accompaniment that’s supposed to go with it.  I will admit that my buddy Peter and I were amused when Ozzy said “Let me see your fucking cigarette lighters” during “Mr. Crowley”.

On the plus side, this particular lineup of Ozzy’s band was one of his strongest.  Zakk and Randy were joined by bassist Mike Inez who was invited to join Alice in Chains in 1993.  Another plus is the presence of Black Sabbath.  The second to last song is “Black Sabbath”, performed by the original Black Sabbath, at the final show on the tour.  Fans will recall that Sabbath were touring their incredible Dehumanizer album, which frankly blows away Ozzy’s No More Tears.   When Sabbath (then including Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler, Vinny Appice and Ronnie James Dio) were asked to open for Ozzy at his final two concerts, Dio bailed.  He was replaced for those shows by a little known metal singer named Rob Halford.  At the last of the two shows, the original Black Sabbath featuring Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler and Bill Ward reunited to play a three song set.  It was their first time together since Live Aid in 1985.

Unfortunately, a couple tracks aside, Live & Loud is flat and uninspired.  “Black Sabbath” isn’t brilliant but at least it’s historic.  All the important songs are there, with maybe a few too many from No More Tears.  There is one surprise in “Changes”, the old Sabbath classic.  This is performed by Zakk on piano and Ozzy.  It’s brilliant and was used as the single.  “Mr. Crowley”, “Shot in the Dark” and “Desire” are pretty good, but drummer Randy Castillo was killing it.  He was the perfect drummer for that band.  Rest in peace Randy.

Live & Loud is for the serious fan only, who will really want to get the grille cover.  Live & Loud is not consistent enough for the average listener and gets bogged down in spots making it a very long run.

2/5 stars