RCA

REVIEW: Foo Fighters – Saint Cecilia EP (2016 vinyl)

The Best Fucking Collaboration Week Ever, Pt. 2
 Mike and Aaron are doing simultaneous daily reviews of albums that these two intrepid music reporters have sent to each other. Buckle up, buttercups, it’s gonna be a blast!

Aaron’s review: Foo Fighters – Saint Cecilia EP

FOO FIGHTERS – Saint Cecilia EP (2016 RCA vinyl)

You know what really grinds my gears? How the media goes ape-shit gaga over every fart or burp that Dave Grohl makes.

The only problem with that is, most of what Dave Grohl says and does is usually quite good.

He’s been on a roll lately, too. The last real clunker he’s released (under any guise, be it Foo Fighters, Them Crooked Vultures, or whoever else) was Foo Fighters’ One By One. None of the following albums could be considered poor by any stretch, though Wasting Light has to be the high water mark of them. Perhaps Grohl’s only weakness is his prolific output. After a while, many of the songs just blur together in a haze of Fooey rock.

Saint Cecilia, released on iTunes last year but only now getting the vinyl treatment, is another quality Foo Fighters release. They dedicated its release to the victims of the terrorist attacks on the Bataclan hall. As usual, it boasts a variety of Foo stylings, all of them loud.

“Saint Cecilia” has become a radio smash, and while its indistinguishable from any other fast melodic Foo rocker, it does stick to your brain. This is my favourite kind of Foo Fighters song anyway — fast, easy to remember, guitar-heavy and loaded with killer drums. A great albeit obvious choice for a single. Faster still is “Sean” recalling Dave’s punk roots. It recalls the sound of the first Foo Fighters album back in ’95, but amped up with a full three guitar band. Two minutes, in-and-out, that’s it for “Sean”. Then “Savior Breath” is vintage metal, making this three genres in three songs and nine minutes! It’s good stuff and even boasts a pretty smoking 80’s guitar solo.

The B-side of the EP commences with the nifty acoustic “Iron Rooster”. It has a cool atmospheric vibe, peaceful, but with the occasional loud bursts of electric guitar. It’s the only break on an otherwise pretty relentless stream of music. “The Neverending Sigh” is anything but. It’s instead a blast of riffage, three guitar’s worth and layered effectively. It defies categorization so we’ll just call it pure Foo Fighters. It’s action packed, complex and it qualifies as one of the finest Foo Fighters compositions in recent memory. Bully for you, Mr. Grohl and Co.!

Incidentally, according to the liner notes, Foo Fighters lineup appears to have expanded to a six piece. Joining Dave, Taylor, Pat (Smear – guitars), Chris (Shiflett – guitars) and Nate (Mendel – bass) is Rami Jaffee on keyboards, listed as a member of Foo Fighters. That’s cool. I always seem to get excited when a band expands its lineup. It’s my Kryptonite!

4/5 stars

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REVIEW: White Wolf – Standing Alone

Bought in April at the Toronto Musical Collectibles Record & CD Sale.  Not listened to in full until October.  Backlog!

WHITE WOLF – Standing Alone (1984 RCA)

From Edmonton, Alberta, Canada came White Wolf.  The land that spawned the massive West Edmonton Mall also produced a hard rock band that combined old fashioned Canadian workmanship with prototypical 80’s rock and heavy metal.  Sharing common ground with bands like Scorpions, Dokken, and even Van Halen and Rainbow, White Wolf weren’t half bad.  The singer Don Wolf (Wilk) has enough power in his voice to raise the roof just enough to be an opening band in an arena.  They’re not quite headline quality, but I bet they were damn good openers.

Their debut album Standing Alone is best known for the single/video “Shadows in the Night”, still my favourite song from the band.  In fact I think it’s quite excellent.  The chugging riff, the excellent vocals and chorus, it has everything!  It even had a suitably cheesy and sexist music video, portraying the band as some sort of wilderness totem hero/villains.  Don’t worry, maybe it’s all a dream, or  just a hell of a bush party/concert?  Hell, I don’t know.

I friggin’ love fur hats! So warm!

Thankfully the album is more than just one song.  The track “Standing Alone” is a mid-tempo but ominous opener, a mournful song about (guess what) standing alone! (Like a wolf?  Layers!)  “Headlines” is uptempo, verging on Priest territory.  Both have plenty of guitar work to go around.  They are followed by “Shadows in the Night” and the seven minute plus “What the War Will Bring”.  This a pretty respectable shot at doing an epic.  Utilizing multiple vocalists and backing keyboards, it’s a tour-de-force suitable for closing side one of the album.

“Night Rider” begins with bad King-Kobra-esque vocal harmonies, but quickly gets into a dual guitar melody before it takes off.  This would be one of the weakest songs with one of those awful, cliche titles.  “Homeward Bound” is a fun song utilizing two lead vocalists, but that riff sure does sound familiar.  Although the guitar rips off “God of Thunder” by Kiss a little bit, this is one of the better songs.  I love the dual vocalist concept, and it’s a fun sleazy romp like 80’s Kiss.  “Metal Thunder” is a pretty poor song title, but a decent stomp through territory previously explored by the likes of Judas Priest.  “Trust Me” is the final song, clearly inspired by Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow.  All it needs is Ronnie James Dio shouting, “Danger! Danger!” and suddenly it’s “Kill the King”.

There’s a certain kind of Canadian mediocrity that exudes from bands like White Wolf and label-mates Thor.  This even extended to bands like Triumph and Helix, at various parts of their careers.  I don’t know what it is, but so many Canadian bands of this sub-genre just failed to explode into fully-fledged world-classic song writing and recording.  Maybe it’s touring in a little van during harsh Canadian winters, but I think I’ve made a valid observation.

All that being said, for the $7.00 I paid for this record, I have no regrets.  Standing Alone doesn’t overstay its welcome, nor does it fail to raise a smile any time I’ve played it.  I’m glad to finally have “Shadows in the Night”, and I’m pleased to induct songs like “Homeward Bound” into my collection for the first time.

3/5 stars

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