rik emmett

REVIEW: Rik Emmett & RESolution9 – RES 9 (2016)

Had I got it in time, this album could have made the Top Five of 2016 list.

scan_20161231RIK EMMETT & RESolution9 – RES 9 (2016 Mascot Music)

Rik Emmett had a long productive career as 1/3rd of Triumph, but he has rarely looked back.   Post-Triumph he has released a steady stream of jazz, rock, blues and acoustic music, sometimes revisiting Triumph songs in re-arranged form.  Finally the ice thawed and Triumph successfully conquered Sweden Rock.  In 2016 Rik released RES 9, a new rock album with his new band RESolution 9.

RES 9 is in fact a time machine.  Dial up track 1.  You will be transported back to 1990 with the rock boogie of “Stand Still”.  This is a spiritual sequel to “Drive Time” from Rik’s first solo album Absolutely.  Then punch track 2.  “Human Race” (not a Red Rider cover) could have been a single from 1986’s The Sport of Kings.  With Alex Lifeson guesting on guitar, Rik and the band tapped into the hookiness of 80’s Triumph, but with a modern integrity.  When you hit up track 3, you will find yourself in the future.  Accompanied by fellow Canadian James LaBrie (Dream Theater), Rik turns in a modern rock anthem with “I Sing”.  Big and uplifting choruses preceded by mellow verses are built for radio.  LaBrie’s vocals are the perfect compliment.  Without a shred of hyperbole, “I Sing” is absolutely one of the best songs Rik’s ever recorded.

The bluesy soul ballad “My Cathedral” gives Rik a chance to show off his impeccable chops.  His tone — unbelievable!  Moving on to “The Ghost of Shadow Town” effectively dials up 1976 in the time machine, with a dark heavy Zepp-ish blues.  “When You Were My Baby” continues down smoove blues street, throwing in some jazz licks.  “Sweet Tooth” is turn down a brightly lit side avenue, a sweet treat indeed.

A hard Triumph-like vibe permeates “Heads Up”, another fine hard rocker for the radio.  “Rest of My Life” adds the jangle of acoustic guitars to the rock and roll mixture, creating another fine concoction just begging to be a hit.  Things toughen up with the pure rock power of “End of the Line”, featuring the returns of LaBrie and Lifeson.  The sheer star power of all these Canucks in one studio must have driven the temperatures well below freezing.  Still the track smokes, and if you’ve ever wanted to hear Emmett and Lifeson go head to head, then wish no more.

But it is not the end of the line.  Back to the future, we have a bonafide Triumph reunion featuring the full trio of Emmett, Gil Moore and Mike Levine.  This long awaited reunion happens on the bonus track “Grand Parade”.  The genuine surprise here is that it’s not a hard old time hard rocker, but a thoughtful and musically deep blues ballad.  It strikes me as appropriate that this much anticipated track sounds nothing like old Triumph.  That was, after all, a long time ago.

With RES 9, Rik has re-established his rock credentials.  Whether he does another album like this is beside the point.  RES 9 is the point; a damn fine album indeed.

4.5/5 stars

 

#536: Obligatory Christmas Post 2016

This Christmas has been tinged with sadness.  Rick Parfitt, George Michael…and a man you haven’t heard of named Peter Cavan Sr.  I grew up with his son Peter Cavan Jr.  Pete was the best man at my wedding, and his dad Peter Sr. always treated me well.  The Cavans made me feel like part of the family.  In my first year of university, I decided to stay home from the cottage on Thanksgiving weekend, so I could study for my first exam undistracted.  Alone that Thanksgiving, Pete’s family had me over for dinner.  I’ll never forget their kindness.  I always enjoyed Peter Sr.’s stories, of growing up in Germany during the Second World War.  Those are tales you don’t hear every day.  And he was funny.  Peter Sr. was truly funny.  Whether intentionally or not, I knew his stories entertained us for many hours over the years.  I received the sad message on Christmas morning that Peter Sr. passed after a short battle with cancer, peacefully at home that morning.

So it is with profound sadness that I give you this year’s annual post-Christmas commentary.  My entire family knows and loves the Cavans, and we hope Pete and Joanne know we are there for them.


As it does every year, Christmas began early for me, at our office Christmas luncheon on November 25.  Just look at that food.  When you like the people you work with, an office Christmas party is a very rare and special chance to unwind with them.

My sister hosted Christmas Eve at her new place.  What a spread she put out!  Cheesey good appetizers, steak fondue, cheese fondue (the surprise winner), and chocolate fondue to boot.  The guests had a spirited debate on the merits of CD versus vinyl, with myself being the only holdout who still prefers CD.  (I know I’m not alone, just ask rock journalist Mitch Lafon which format he prefers.)  My sister did a great job of decorating her tree.  Have a gander.

And now, on to the good stuff.  Broken down into categories, let’s give’r!

Stuff You Listen To:

I have only played the Rik Emmett so far, given to me by Mrs. LeBrain who met Rik back in highschool as part of her guitar class.  Pretty cool!  It features a Triumph reunion on the bonus track, “Grand Parade”.  The Queen set is six discs of radio recordings.  The Rush set I am both grateful for and bitter about.  This is the third time I’ve received Rush 2112 as a gift in the last five years!  First as part of the Sector 1 box set, then the “deluxe edition“, and now this 40th anniversary edition which has some tracks not included on the deluxe (and a slew of artists covering Rush including Jacob Moon, Alice in Chains and Foo Fighters).  However, the 40th anniversary edition doesn’t include the 5.1 surround mix of the album, meaning…you kinda need both.  It’s sad that Rush reissues have become so exploitive.

The Keel reissue of The Right to Rock has a bonus track, a remix of “Easier Said Than Done”.  And this is my first time owning any version of Jethro Tull’s first album, This Was.

Stuff You Read:

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Stuff You Play With:

The Force Is With This Stuff:

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Stuff You Watch:

The Sopranos set I orchestrated myself.  Sometimes-contributor Thussy and I both always said:  “If the blu-ray set drops below $100, we’ll buy it.”  A few weeks ago he texted me that Amazon has it on for 24 hours only at just $80!  So this Christmas holiday, we will be enjoying some Sopranos and Italian food.

Stuff That Transforms From Stuff Into Robots:

Pictured below are the official Transformers Titans Return Astrotrain figure and a couple very interesting third party figs.  These are Masterpiece scale and heavy as fuck with plenty of die-cast parts.  Please meet Generation 1 Decepticon Reflector, incarnated here as KFC’s Eavi Metal series “Opticlones”.  Representing the Autobots is Dinobot Snarl, produced by the excellent Fans Toys in their Iron Dibots line as “Sever”.  I long ran out of room for more Masterpiece figures (especially Dinobots)…but who cares.

And finally…

Stuff That Flies:

I always wanted to try flying a drone.  My mom and dad surprised me with this starter drone, and is it ever a lot of fun.  I can almost get it to hover!  Getting it to fly in the direction I want is still a challenge.  So far there are no serious injuries.  Jen has a couple bruises.  I think my mistake was calling her into the room when I got it into the air, rather than when I figured out how the controls worked.  That was a lesson there.

 

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That’s another Christmas for the books!  I hope each and every one of you had a safe and happy holiday.  As I think of my friends the Cavan family, I ask you to remember that life is short.  Tell the people who matter that you love them.  Let’s try and make the world a better place in 2017.

LeBrain

REVIEW: Kim Mitchell – Rockland (1989)

KIM MITCHELL – Rockland (1989 Alert)

This album was huuuuge in 1989. In Canada, summer time is Mitchell time. Cottages, brewskies, BBQ and Mitchell. That’s what it was all about! Shakin’ Like a Human Being was also a huge success for Kim, but he expressed a desire to use less keyboards and programming. Kim recorded in the US this time, and for budget reasons, did not bring along lyricist Pye Dubois with him. Pye had been in the studio with Kim for every album prior, and this caused a rift between the two that took years to heal. This was the last time they collaborated until 1994’s Itch.

The pseudo-title track, “Rocklandwonderland” refers to the “concert bowl” at Canada’s Wonderland.  “Listen to the music, listen to the voices, listen to my guitar,” sings Kim, although the song is a little light on guitar. “Rocklandwonderland” was a big hit for Kim, and although it’s not a heavy rock, his guitar playing on it is stellar. Perhaps he shouldn’t have followed a slow rock tune with a ballad, although “Lost Lovers Found” is a hell of a ballad, with just a hint of twang. Some felt that Rockland was too soft compared to Kim’s progressive rock past, but a Kim ballad has more integrity than most. Kim’s backup singer extraordinaire, Peter Fredette, is present here and he also serves to class up any song by several notches.

Other ballads on the record include “Tangle of Love”, which is quirky and experimental but not great. “O Mercy Louise”, which has a rocking chorus, is a fine song with cool lyrics. The “big one” however was the single “Expedition Sailor”. This introspective acoustic song is sparse and effective. Kim’s buddy Rik Emmett from Triumph drops by to play an excellent solo on classical guitar. “Expedition Sailor” is top drawer stuff.  (The music video received a remix, which you can get on Kim’s Greatest Hits album.)

The “big” song on the album, still getting airplay today, is the anthem “Rock N’ Roll Duty”.  The tougher direction of the song is exemplified by a “live” style music video in a seedy bar.  As a fan I really wanted Kim to come out with a tough rocking tune, with a killer chorus, and he did.

“I’m just doing my rock n’ roll duty,
Creating a buzz buzz buzz,
Some say I’m in it for the money,
Man, I’m in it for love love love!”

The phrase “I’m just doing my rock n’ roll duty,” is now commonly heard among music fans in Canada. The song just hits the spot, and the riff is now synonymous for summer in my mind.

Other highlights on Rockland include the joyful “The Crossroads” which opens side two. The guitar-heavy “This Dream” is another favourite. I could always identify with the lyrics. It’s just a stellar song, an also-ran that could have been a fourth single. The record is rounded out by “Moodstreet” and “The Great Escape”, two decent but unremarkable tunes.

MVP:  Drummer Lou Molino, a near legend in these parts.  Curiously, when you Google images of Lou Molino, you will also get hits for Lou Ferigno.

Overall I was pleased with the direction of Rockland, going a bit more raw and rocking. Unfortunately with the exception of a few tracks like “Rock N’ Roll Duty”, it feels very tame. Except for quirky moments within guitar solos, it doesn’t possess enough of Kim’s humour and idiosyncrasies. It feels as if it’s on a leash, but it’s also not straining to get off it. It feels like Rockland hits the mark in many respects, but plays it too safe.

3/5 stars

ROCKLAND_0004

REVIEW: Rik Emmett – Absolutely (1990)

RIK EMMETT – Absolutely (1990)

Alright, to be fair, with 20/20 hindsight now we all know that Rik Emmett wanted to be a jazzbo. Back in 1990, those of us that weren’t expecting the second coming of Triumph were at least hoping for something with some balls. Either alternative would have been acceptable, but Absolutely is so middle of the road, so directionless, so antiseptic, so horridly contrived and ill-conceived, that we just had no idea where the man’s head was at.

Absolutely is purportedly a rock album, but the sterile cover reveals the terrible secret within.  Absolutely is glossy and clean; overloaded with ballads and lite-rock dreck.  You’re left with only a couple real rock songs. “Drive Time,” which deceptively opens the album, is a Van Halen speed boogie.  (Drummer Randy Cooke is frickin’ amazing.)  “Big Lie,” the second song, has a bit of that latter day pop-Triumph sound. It also has decent lyrics which are more relevant than ever today.  On side two, there’s a song called “Heaven Only Knows” that has some hard rock trappings. But that’s where it ends.

“The disappearing forests should be no cause for alarm, the greenhouse effect won’t do you any harm.”

The single “When a Heart Breaks” is sappy crappy, the kind of boring ballad that was too common at the beginning of the 90’s. The rest of the album is just shamelessly pop rock. That’s not always a bad thing, I enjoy quite a bit of pop in my life, but this isn’t even good pop rock.  “World of Wonder” makes me want to retch.  I mean, wait until you get to “Smart, Fast, Mean & Lucky”. Think that title sucks?  Wait till Rik starts rapping. When Rik raps, it’s like the Bartman. Hey, at least it was current for the time, but why did rock bands think they had to start rapping in the early 90’s?  (Kip Winger, I’m looking at you.)

For fans of Rik’s guitar, there’s just not enough. A song like “Stand and Deliver” has some smoking guitar work, but it’s drowned out by claptrap and clutter.   It’s a shame. I’m glad that Rik is now doing what he loves, and even found time to do a mini-Triumph reunion. Anything to forget this misguided solo project.

2/5 stars

RIK_0004

REVIEW: Triumph – Greatest Hits Remixed (2010)

My Triumph reviews to date:

GR HITS REMIXED_0001TRIUMPH – Greatest Hits Remixed (CD+DVD 2 disc set 2010 Universal)

I was very impressed with the “new” Greatest Hits Remixed by Triumph. Normally I don’t go much for remixes, as 9 times out of 10 the original versions are superior. Greatest Hits Remixed however was done by none other than Rich Chycki (ex-Winter Rose) whose credits include remixing work with Rush, particularly on Retrospective III. He did the first remixes of the Vapor Trails material, leading to the band remixing the whole album today.  Chycki’s work elevated those songs to a new level, likewise with Triumph.

The drums are louder and harder (read: modern sounding). The guitars more aggressive. The rolling, grooving basslines are now in your face. (I may have underrated Mike Levine in the past.)  Keyboards have been toned down. Vocals have been stripped dry and place high in the mix. In the case of “Just One Night”, the entire song sounds re-recorded, particularly the lead vocal.  Gil sounds older on this version. Even the hokey cheese of “Somebody’s Out There” has been replaced with a new edge, drowning out the formerly keyboard-heavy leanings. My only complaint is that some vocals are a little heavy on echo.

This CD-DVD 2 disc set comes with a wealth of interesting extras.  The DVD here is a great package on its own, and would have been worth buying in the $10 range alone. Every major Triumph video is here, now backed by the remixed tracks. In addition, there’s some bonus features, such as the “Child of the City” music video by the “v2.0” version of Triumph with Phil X.  There’s some early fan-cam footage (“Blinding Light Show”) and perhaps best of all, Triumph inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame.  They are inducted by Tom  Cochrane, introducing Gil Moore as one of his closest friends.  Who knew?  Additionally, the set is housed in a nice double digipack, with lots of photos (a couple recent ones too) and lots of text to read. On the whole, a well made and timely package.

If you’re a new fan who hasn’t got their first Triumph CD yet, this package is a pretty good buy.  You might really get into the more modern sound. If you’re an old fan, I think it’s fun to enjoy the memories and the harder rocking sounds.

5/5 stars

REVIEW: Triumph – Surveillance (1987)

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

TRIUMPH – Surveillance (1987 MCA, 2003 TML)

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

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

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

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

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

Dark Helmet.

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

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

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

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

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

2/5 stars

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

REVIEW: Triumph – The Sport of Kings (1986)

Part one of a two-part series by request of the mighty DEKE!

TRIUMPH – The Sport of Kings (1986, remastered 2003, TML Entertainment)

And the award for Worst Album Cover of 1986 goes to…Triumph!

Seriously, can anybody tell me what the hell this is supposed to be? Methinks the band just didn’t care anymore, and the music contained herein bears me out.

The Sport Of Kings, following the double live Stageswas a total about-face for Triumph. Starting off with a turgid sequencer riff, the album shifts immediately into “coast” on “Tears In The Rain”. Keyboards, bad sounding drum samples, coupled with a sappy almost guitarless song, and that is the opening track! (I hereby trademark the word “guitarless” as my own creation.)  Post-split, Gil Moore and Mike Levine were pretty adamant in their blaming up Rik Emmett for the change in direction.  Certainly, the early part of Rik’s solo career backs up that claim.

I’ll admit to being into “Somebody’s Out There” at the time, but it is hard to listen to now in the car with the windows down.  Wouldn’t want anybody to see me.  (The remixed version from the recent Greatest Hits Remixed CD is better.)   This song is just pure pop, way further into that direction than anything Bon Jovi was doing at that time.  But not in a good way.

The sad thing is, I really used to dig this album to the point that I wore out my original cassette. Now, on CD, I once every few years.  I’ll claim that I didn’t know better at the time. When I owned this the first time, I’d never heard a single Led Zeppelin studio recording; not one. I had never heard of “Smoke On The Water”, and I’d never heard a Rush album. Perspective changes even if the songs remain the same. The problem is that Sport Of Kings is too pop:  not enough guitar, not enough rock, not enough Triumph, too many keyboards! Hell there are three keyboard players on this album (one being Kitchener’s own Scott Humphrey).

I’m trying to pick out some non-embarrassing highlights. I kind of like “If Only” for the lyrics and chorus.  “Play With the Fire” is Triumph trying to be progressive again, but the song isn’t any good.  I like “Take A Stand”, and I’ll admit to still enjoying “Just One Night” (an old Eric Martin demo, co-written by Martin and Neal Schon). I only wish the video remix was on an album of some kind. The superior original remixed version used in the music video has never been released on any music format that I own.  I’ll have to use Audacity to rip it from a DVD.

This is not the remixed video, unfortunately — they’ve replaced the remix with the album version

I used to enjoy “Don’t Love Anybody Else But Me”, and I think the melody is still OK, but man, those lyrics. Gradeschool stuff. Of course, I was in gradeschool at the time!  To me in 1986, these lyrics were probably pretty profound.  There’s nothing wrong with admitting that your tastes have changed and some music you just don’t dig anymore. In this particular case, the tastes of the entire world have changed. Richard Marx does not make top-ten albums anymore. This album lacks spark of any kind, it’s just a keyboard-ridden embarrassment. If you played anything on this album side by side with “Blinding Light Show” or “It Takes Time”, you’d never guess it was the same three guys.

But it is, and they had only one more “contractual obligation” record left in them after this. The end was nigh.

1.5/5 stars

Come back in a few days, and we will be discussing that very contractual obligation record!

REVIEW: Triumph – Live At Sweden Rock Festival (2012)

Live At Sweden Rock Festival (CD+DVD)

TRIUMPH – Live At Sweden Rock Festival (2012 CD/DVD, Universal)

In 2008, after over 20 years apart, Rik Emmett joined Mike Levine and Gil Moore on stage.  The original Triumph was back, as if time stood still.  All that animosity, gone, poof! and in its place is a stellar live album.

They only played that one gig, but at least it was smokin’.  What’s incredible is that Rik Emmett retains most of his range, even if Gil Moore’s is more limited.  It was always Rik that sang the high parts, and most singers just can’t do it 20 years later.  Rik can!  And of course I don’t need to tell you anything about his guitar playing.  Some consider him to the be the greatest that Canada ever produced, and his playful but solid axework here helps to show why.

He even throws a bit of the “Hocus Pocus” (by Focus!) riff in the middle of “Rock & Roll Machine”!  Rik hasn’t forgotten to rock, and as usual Triumph is backed up by a second guitar player (Dave Dunlop) for some extra heaviness to the riffs.

But Rik also plays a lot of licks that are more along the lines of the jazz stuff he does today, a great mixture of his old style and his modern style.  Gil and Mike are still Gil and Mike, they’ve barely changed at all.  Their playing is as good as they’ve ever been.  I wonder how much the band rehearsed for this show?  They sound as tight as they did on Stages. (Mike says they practiced a lot!)

Setlist is below.  Let me point out two things:  No ballads!  The closest you get is “Magic Power”.  Second…”Blinding Light Show”!  ‘Nuff said!

1. When The Lights Go Down
2. Lay It On The Line
3. Allied Forces
4. Never Surrender
5. I Live For The Weekend
6. Blinding Light Show / Moon Child
7. Rocky Mountain Way
8. Magic Power
9. Rock & Roll Machine
10. Fight The Good Fight

The included DVD duplicates the show, but for your eyes and ears!  There’s also some cool behind the scenes footage (fans, soundchecks, etc.) and a press conference.  Basically, everything you’d want out of a package like this.

I don’t want to understate how much I like this album.  Prior to this, my favourite Triumph album was always Stages, their first live album from 1985.  Live At Sweden Rock is now my #2 Triumph album.  No overdubs, no fixes, this is just pure live Triumph, all killer no filler (or ballads), and they are as good as they ever were, I swear to God.

5/5 stars

    

REVIEW: Triumph – Stages

 

TRIUMPH – Stages (1985)

 

“When The Lights Go Down”, Canada’s Triumph hits the stage. This album, recorded before their descent into mediocrity, is one of the first double live albums I ever got and is still one of my favourites. The band are tight, there’s a hot guitar solo and just about every hit the band ever had. The band are both singing and playing great, and as icing on the cake, they threw in two new studio tracks (one decent, the other bland).

The decent:  “Mind Games” — Gil sings, but does not play drums due to his “annual arm injury”. Gary McCracken, ex-Max Webster, on drums! Can’t get much better than that. This is a great song with a fantastic double-tracked guitar hook.

The bland: “Empty Inside” — pure filler with Rik on vocals. No drummer, as this is a drum machine.  Slow, slow, slow.  Terrible song, terrible way to end an otherwise fine album. Hints of what was to come.

Live highlights for me included “Never Surrender”, an explosive “Fight The Good Fight”, and the double-whammy of “Spellbound” and “Follow Your Heart” (both singles from Thunder Seven).   I think “Hold On” is a bit sappy, although here it is stripped down to a purely acoustic arrangement.

There’s a bonus track on the vinyl, not included on any CD edition of the album.  Therefore, buy the CD at your own discretion.  It’s “Allied Forces” – a wicked version, too.  Gil’s drum solo, “Druh Mer Selbo” (Get it?) is on the CD, but not listed — it’s tacked onto “A World of Fantasy”.  On the LP it was a separate track.  The annoying thing is that there is enough room on a CD for “Allied Forces”, it still comes in under 80 minutes.  I made a CD myself with the entire track list and it fit just fine.

This live album was culled from various shows ’81-’84, so you get a great cross section of key tracks and performances. Yet it is very even sounding, and you can’t really tell that the sources are years apart. It is well mixed and mastered, and it is the Triumph album I play the most.

4/5 stars.

Side 1 LP 1

  1. “When the Lights Go Down” (Gil Moore, Michael Levine, Rik Emmett) – 6:00
  2. “Never Surrender” (Rik Emmett, Michael Levine, Gil Moore) – 6:43
  3. “Allied Forces” (Gil Moore, Michael Levine, Rik Emmett) – 5:07
  4. “Hold On” (Rik Emmett) – 4:21

Side 2 LP 1 

  1. “Magic Power” (Rik Emmett, Michael Levine, Gil Moore) – 6:12
  2. “Rock & Roll Machine” (Gil Moore) – 10:20
  3. “Lay it on the Line” (Rik Emmett) – 5:03

Side 1 LP 2

  1. “A World of Fantasy” (Rik Emmett, Michael Levine, Gil Moore, Tam Patrick) – 4:18
  2. “Druh Mer Selbo” (Gil Moore) – 4:12
  3. “Midsummer’s Daydream” (Rik Emmett) – 2:42
  4. “Spellbound” (Gil Moore, Michael Levine, Rik Emmett) – 3:56
  5. “Follow Your Heart” (Gil Moore, Michael Levine, Rik Emmett) – 3:37

Side 2 LP 2

  1. “Fight the Good Fight” (Rik Emmett, Michael Levine, Gil Moore) – 7:36
  2. “Mind Games” (Gil Moore, Michael Levine, Rik Emmett) – 4:49
  3. “Empty Inside” (Rik Emmett, Michael Levine, Gil Moore) – 4:04

Part 21: “The Book” / REVIEW: Martin Popoff – Riff Kills Man!

I keep my copy in my desk

I keep my copy in my desk

 

RECORD STORE TALES Part 21:  The Book

Way back in the day, Tom had this book; a book of reviews of metal albums.  I don’t know where he got it.  He had recently acquired it and was perusing album reviews daily.  Hanging out one evening, he said to me, “Have you ever heard Gillan?”

I said, “Gillan, as in Ian Gillan’s band?”

“Yeah,” responded Tom.

“No,”  I said.

“You’re going to have to find some.  This book gives him consistent 10 star ratings.  There are some pretty cool song titles man, like ‘I’ll Rip Your Spine Out’.”

Cool!  So “The Book (as it came to be known) made the rounds.  T-Rev borrowed it for a couple weeks and explored the Max Webster and Kim Mitchell ratings.  Trevor enjoy the reviews of the writer, one Martin Popoff.  He commented to me, “This guy is pretty bang-on for most of them, but you have to read the Def Leppard and Rik Emmett reviews…hilarious, man.”

Trevor was right!  Ipso Facto by Rik Emmett was rated a 0/10, with a single sentence review:  “Man, don’t get me started.”  The book was hilarious and informative at the same time.  We all found it entertaining as well as useful.

When the book came around to me, I was really curious about this band called Budgie.  New fave band!  Eventually, I returned the book to Tom who passed it on to someone else, probably Uncle Meat.   Certain things always stuck in my head.  According to Popoff, I clearly needed more Thin Lizzy, so I began rectifying that with a box set.  He didn’t think much of Kiss, but I could understand this given his criteria, even if I disagreed.

I wished I owned a copy, and a year later I found one downtown at Encore Records, second hand.  Then a weird coincidence happened.  Just as I was craving another read, and was preparing to go downtown and buy a copy of Riff Kills Man, a regular customer of mine gave me his copy.  I don’t remember too much about this guy, except that he sold more than he bought.  He sold a lot of hard-to-find goth and punk stuff, and he always wore a jean jacket, and he strangely always smelled like fried eggs.  Since I can’t remember his name, I’ll call him Fried Eggs Man.

So Fried Eggs Man had been talking to me about the book, and passed it onto me free of charge.  I thought that was really cool of him.  The book too smells of fried eggs, and was coming apart.  I used Bounce dryer sheets to help out with the smell, and I painstakingly glued the pages back in with Elmer’s white glue.  I had to do some cover repair work as well, but the book is solid as a rock and has served me well for probably a decade and a half by now.

MARTIN POPOFF – Riff Kills Man! (1993 Power Chord Press, Toronto Ontario)

Martin Popoff, a writer for BW&BK magazine, is simply one of the  most knowledgeable metal fans out there. His record collection sounds like it’s to die for.  Riff Kills Man! is his first book, but today, he has an extensive bibliography of books that I consider among the best sources of rock information out there.  In fact, LeBrain himself relies heavily on Popoff’s teachings, and I will admit to consciously emulating him in my earlier reviews.

Riff Kills Man!, later supplanted by his more up to date and complete Collector’s Guides, is an album-by-album review of virtually every major metal record from its inception to 1992, all stuff which belonged to Popoff’s personal collection. He covers subgenres such as punk metal and grunge, and bands so obscure that you may never be able to find their albums. Rated from 1 to 10, with strict rules for rating, Riff Kills Man! gives you a great place to start when looking for something “new” to listen to. If it wasn’t for all the 9 and 10 star reviews in this book, I may never have started listening to Budgie, or Thin Lizzy, or Diamond Head.

His rating system is fairly complex, but for the most part, as objective as possible.  I don’t necessarily agree with all of the author’s opinions. For example, Popoff really dislikes a lot of pop rock and gives both Adrenalize and Hysteria by Def Leppard a big fat 0.  “An offensive kick in the head from the rock n’ roll bored room,” writes Popoff.   You may agree, but for me Hysteria is a classic record.  Regardless, he makes valid points that even the most staunch fan such as myself have to grudgingly agree with.

Popoff also tends to dislike live albums with meandering jams like many old Deep Purple recordings. He generally focuses on studio albums, avoiding most EPs and complitions.  So if you’re looking for complete reviews of, say, the numerous Thin Lizzy EPs, live releases and compilations, look elsewhere.

Martin ends the book with several lists and indexes:  Top desert island albums, top guitar players, vocalists, producers, you name it.  He also has a lot of unique categories all his own, such as best showman, best comeback, most consistent band, etc.  AC/DC are ranked as his #1 band in the category of worst album covers!

That aside, Riff Kills Man! was, for me, an essential and often hilarious piece of reading. Pick it up, and then move forward for some of Popoff’s more complete and more specialized books.  I keep mine in my desk at work at all times!

DISCLAIMER – Although it can be found used, this book is out of print.  I spoke to Martin Popoff once about this book, and he told me he finds it a bit embarrassing today.  I still think it’s awesome.

5/5 stars

Also recommended by Popoff:  His books on Sabbath, Rush, Rainbow, and Priest are definitive.  The best books on the market for those bands.