rock music

Just Listening to…David Lee Roth – Skyscraper

Just Listening to…David Lee Roth – Skyscraper

This is the first Just Listening post for an album I’ve already reviewed in full.  I tackled David Lee Roth’s Skyscraper back in 2013, rating it 4/5 stars.  However a recent conversation with singer/songwriter Derek Kortepeter led me to try to listen with new ears.

It started with Derek’s message to me.  “Unpopular opinion:  Skyscraper is better than Eat ‘Em and Smile,” he said.  “Better songs, better guitar, tons of awesome synth…when you have tracks like ‘Perfect Timing’ and ‘Knucklebones’ how can you go wrong?”  Derek says “Perfect Timing” might be his favourite song on the album.

Derek definitely has some good points.  It’s easily arguable that Skyscraper has better guitars.  Steve Vai was in the co-producer’s chair, and he layered his guitar parts as if he was building one of his own solo albums.  They’re very dense, yet melodically intertwined.  As for the synth, he has a valid observation with some songs like “Skyscraper”.  That song verges on progressive rock; it’s got so much going on, including synth and layered Roth vocals.  However I think the synth was overdone on tracks like “Stand Up“, which doesn’t even have Billy Sheehan on bass.

Skyscraper is an almost absurd album in some respects, with Dave pouring on that “charasma” to the nth degree.  There are so many “woo’s” “wow’s” and “oh’s” that you could make an entire song of just that.  Steve Vai was the star on Skyscraper, and as I said in my original review, how much you like Skyscraper will depend on how much you like Steve Vai.  I like Steve; I think his music and playing is fascinating.  Rock fans often don’t want “fascinating”, they just want the riffs and the choruses.  Eat ‘Em and Smile was much more about the big guitars and choruses, but it’s also just a fabulous record.  Skyscraper is colder sounding by comparison, and often drifts into experimental pop rock excursions.  It also suffers for the lack of Billy Sheehan, who wasn’t given a lot of creative freedom.  Where there should be bass, often you will hear synth.

Sorry Derek, you have made some really great points, and Skyscraper really is a great album.  It’s brave and fun and experimental, but it’s also cold with little bit of filler (“Stand Up”).   I’ll always rate it high…but not as high as Eat ‘Em and Smile.

REVIEW: Whitesnake – 1987 (30th Anniversary Edition box set)

WHITESNAKE – 1987 (30th Anniversary Edition Rhino box set)

Back when I reviewed the original “Deluxe” edition of Whitesnake’s 1987, I said, “Great album, but this reissue could have been so much better.”  And so here we are.

Let’s get right down to it.  You already know the story of Whitesnake 1987 or you wouldn’t be here.

The main feature is the 2017 remaster of 1987, which actually sounds pretty great.  In this day and age, if you’re seeking the warmth of a vintage vinyl experience, you can go and have that experience for far less money than this box set costs.  For a compact disc, this might be as good as we’ve gotten so far.  If you look at the Audacity waveforms below, you can see the 2017 remaster (top) has roughly the same levels as a previous one from Whitesnake Gold.

I’m still hanging on to my original UK version of 1987, but for compact disc, this is probably it.


David Coverdale wanted to adapt Whitesnake to the 1980s with this album, and this lineup with John Sykes, Neil Murray, and new drummer Aynsley Dunbar was certainly able to deliver.  The album was always loud, especially compared to their 70s output.  Sykes provided the squeals that the kids wanted.  David was back in top voice.  The album they delivered is legendary for how it changed Whitesnake’s fortunes.

The running order on this box set is not the original UK or US, but the combined running order as used on the previous 20th anniversary edition.

“Still of the Night” blows the doors in, a tornado in the night, mighty and sexy too.  Whitesnake had never been this aggressive before, but “Give Me All Your Love” lulls the listener back to something easier to digest on first listen.  “Give Me All Your Love” was a successful single because it’s melodic pop rock with guitars.  But then the band scorch again with “Bad Boys”, top speed right into your daughter’s headphones!  Whether it was Aynsley Dunbar or just the songs that they wrote, the pace is high gear.

“Is This Love”, a song that David was writing with Tina Turner in mind, was another massive hit.   John Kolodner (John Kolodner) insisted that they keep it for themselves, and he was right as he often was.  For a big 80s ballad, “Is This Love” really was perfect.  It tends to work better in a stripped back arrangement, since the original is so specifically tailored to that era.  Still, Sykes’ solo on it has to be one of his best.

Speaking of hits, “Here I Go Again” is the one that Sykes didn’t want to do, and look what happened.  That humble pie probably tasted no good to Sykes when he found himself fired by Coverdale after the album was completed.  His replacement, Adrian Vandenberg (Vandenberg) actually played the guitar solo, so dissatisfied was Coverdale with the one Sykes produced.  “Here I Go Again” was of course a minor hit from Saints & Sinners, but deserving of a second shot in America with production more suited to their tastes.  Don Airey on keyboards; though Whitesnake did without an official keyboardist this time.

“Straight For the Heart” is a great also-ran that perhaps could have been another single if they kept trottin’ them out instead of stopping at four.  High speed but with incredible hooks, it’s impossible not to like.  “Looking For Love” is the second ballad, but actually originally unreleased in the US.  It’s toned down from the style of “Is This Love”, and Neil Murray’s bass is pronounced.  He was a huge part of the groove on this album, if you really settle in and listen to the rhythm section.  His bass has a certain “bop” to it.  “Children of the Night” returns the tempo to allegro and the lyrics to dirty.  I can’t imagine too many fathers of the 80s wanted their daughters to go to the Whitesnake concert if they heard David cooing, “Don’t run for cover, I’m gonna show you what I’ve learned, just come a little closer, come on an’ get your fingers burned.” Another UK exclusive, “You’re Gonna Break My Heart Again” cools it down slightly, but that Sykes riff is hot like a torch!

“Crying in the Rain” is held back to second-last in this running order, even though it opened the US album.  Another re-recording, “Crying in the Rain” was suggested by Kolodner because he knew Sykes could give it that massive blues rock sound that it had in the live setting.  Again, he was right.  “Crying in the Rain” is massive — perhaps the most sheerly heavy piece of rock that Whitesnake ever dug up.  Finally the CD closes with the last ballad, “Don’t Turn Away”, which closed the US version.  It’s a fine song indeed, and a really good vibe on which to end Whitesnake 1987.


The second CD in this set is called Snakeskin Boots:  Live on Tour 1987-1988.  Presumably, these are recordings from throughout the tour, assembled into a CD-length running order.  The “boots” in the title implies bootleg quality, but it certainly sounds better than that.  Soundboards maybe?

The studio lineup of Whitesnake dissolved and David got Vandenberg in, followed by Vivian Campbell (Dio) and the rhythm section of Rudy Sarzo and Tommy Aldridge (Ozzy Osbourne).  This new lineup was not based in the whiskey blues of the old band(s), but in the flashy stylings of the 1980s.  Vivian and Vandenberg were both capable of shredding your brain.  That’s generally how they do it on these recordings.  Opening with “Bad Boys”, the manic tempo is maintained while the guitars reach for the stratosphere.

Sounds like it was a hell of a show, rolling into the groove of “Slide it In” and “Slow An’ Easy”, and the good news is the 1987 band can play the 1984 songs too.  David Coverdale is the ringmaster, the veteran, confident and in prime voice.  All the songs are from either 1987 or Slide it In, with only one exception:  the slow blues “Ain’t No Love in the Heart of the City” from the original 1978 Snakebite EP.  Sounds like Vivian Campbell accompanying David on this slow, classy blues.  No Deep Purple in the set; but my old pal Rob Vuckovich once said he went to the Toronto show on this tour bearing a flag that said “PLAY PURPLE”.  He also claimed David acknowledged it by saying, “We’re not playing any of that!”

“Here I Go Again” comes early on the CD, fourth in line, and it’s excellent.  “Guilty of Love” is a nice surprise, and “Love Ain’t No Stranger” is more than welcome at the party.  “Is This Love” is well received, and works well in the live setting without too much extra production.  Adrian can’t top the Sykes solo, though he gets within very close range.  Vivian and Adrian get a feature solo with a keyboard backdrop, and it’s quite good — more like an instrumental than just a solo.  It leads into a brutally heavy “Crying in the Rain”; Tommy Aldridge literally beats the shit out of it!  The CD closes on “Give Me All Your Love” with David substituting the word “baby” in the opening line with “Tawny”!

There’s little question.  For most fans, the major draw of this box set will be this live CD.  If that is you, you will not be disappointed by Snakeskin Boots.


Disc three in this monolith of a box set is the 87 Evolutions.  This is an interesting concept but not one that you will be craving to have a listen regularly.  This disc is intended for deeper study.  These tracks are the album’s songs in various stage of demoing.  “Still of the Night” for example starts as a living room demo, with David slapping his knees for drums, and only the most basic of lyrics.  Then this demo fades seamlessly into a more advanced full band arrangement, with the lyrics still unfinished.  There’s a funky middle solo section here that is more jam than song, but a blast to hear.

That is the kind of thing you can expect to hear on 87 Evolutions.  No need to spoil what you should enjoy discovering yourself.  This is for the hardcore of hardcore fans, those that want every squeal that ever came from Sykes’ axe.  You are gonna get it.  Incidentally, I think I prefer David’s original, rough slow bluesy version of “Give Me All Your Love” to the glossy pop song it became.

This disc ends with a “Ruff Mix” of the completed “Crying in the Rain” from Little Mountain studios.  All the parts are in place, the mix just needed that modern bombast that David was aiming for.


The fourth and final CD, 87 Versions, is a collection of alternate remixes released on various singles, and brand new remixes as well.  These are really cool bonuses.  The 2017 mix of “Still of the Night” has a really dry sound, allowing you to really hear the spaces between the instruments.  A lot of these remixes have a different balance of instruments, so you will hear different things yourself.  There are two remixes of “Give Me All Your Love” on this CD:  the 2017 with the original Sykes solo, and the highly coveted alternate with “new” solo by Vivian Campbell.  There are also two remixes of “Here I Go Again”, including the old “Radio Mix” with a completely different group of musicians and a much more pop arrangement.

Among these remixes is something called the 1987 Versions:  Japan Mini-Album, proving that Japan always get the best stuff.  This apparent EP contains the B-sides and bonus tracks that you couldn’t get on the album.  “Standing in the Shadows” was another song re-recorded for 1987, though left as a B-side.  “Looking For Love” and “You’re Gonna Break My Heart Again” are also included, since back then you could only get them in the UK.  “Need Your Love So Bad” was a previous Whitesnake B-side, remixed in 1987 for a new B-side!  It’s an absolutely stunning ballad, quiet with only keyboard accompaniment.

With all these tracks included, pretty much every track associated with the 1987 album and singles is covered.


Whitesnake: The Videos is the fifth disc, a DVD.  It’s really just an add-on, nothing substantial (like a 5.1 mix).  First on the menu:  “More Fourplay”, the classic MTV videos that set the world on fire in 1987.  Some behind the scenes footage too.  MTV was a huge part of this band’s success (hopefully Tawny gets paid a royalty from this reissue?).  These glossy videos are…well, they didn’t age as well as the album did.  Why does Rudy always lick his bass?  You just gotta laugh at “Here I Go Again”; the pretentious image of the three guys (Viv, Adrian, Rudy) playing keyboards passionately side by side…utterly silly.  But yet iconic.  “Is This Love” has the band playing on evening rooftops, Rudy wielding a double-neck bass.  Why?  Doesn’t matter; in 1987 we thought it was awesome.  “Give Me All Your Love” is a notable video, being a “live on stage” type, but also with the brand new guitar solo cut by Vivian.  For his solo, Viv chose to play on the wang bar a bit too much, but at least David let him do one.  It remains Vivian’s only studio appearance with Whitesnake, ever.  Unannounced but cool just the same, “Love Ain’t No Stranger” (from Slide It In) is used in whole as the end credit song for the “More Fourplay” segment.

Next up is a 28 minute documentary about the making of the album.  David has clear recollections and is always a delight to listen to. (Some vintage Coverdale interview footage is actually from a MuchMusic piece with Denise Donlon.) Interestingly, he claims that the “Still of the Night” riff is one that he found in his mother’s attic, that he wrote back in the tail of Deep Purple.  “Still of the Night” could have been a Purple song, but it took John Sykes to make it what it became.  We then move on to the assembly of the touring lineup, dubbed the “United Nations of Rock”.  Tommy and Rudy are also interviewed in vintage clips, with Tommy proudly proclaiming that they want to bring musicality back to rock and roll.

The “Purplesnake Video Jam” (whut?) video of “Here I Go Again” is basically a brand new music video using alternate footage from the time.  The mix is similar to the old single mix, but spruced up.  Finally there is the “’87 Tour Bootleg”, and woah!  It’s pro-shot multi-camera footage.  You only get half of “Crying in the Rain”, and all of “Still of the Night”.  Why not more?  Is this a tease for some kind of upcoming DVD?  The footage reveals a band of their time, but a good band.  Not the best Whitesnake lineup ever (Sykes gets that), but a good lineup with something special together.  They were tight, they could all play their nuts off, and present a high energy 80s stageshow, especially Rudy.  By the end of “Still of the Night”, David is actually dodging panties being thrown at his head.  I kid you not.


As per usual, any box set worth its own respect is packed with added stuff usually made of paper.  In this case, a nice hard cover booklet, a smaller softcover lyric book, and a poster.  Posters have to be the biggest waste of money in a set like this.  Who’s going to hang it?  I’m probably never even to unfold mine once.

Now that you have all the details, you should be able to decide if this box set needs to be in your collection.  It needed to be in mine.  And guess what — Slide it In is next!

5/5 stars

REVIEW: Queensrÿche – Condition Hüman (2015 vinyl box set version)

As we gear up for this year’s release of the next Queensryche album The Verdict, let’s look back at a different edition of their last album Condition Hüman.  For our original 2015 review of Condition Hüman, click here!

QUEENSRŸCHE – Condition Hüman (2015 Century Media 2 LP, + 7″ single coloured vinyl box set)

It is almost customary now.  When a band comes out with a new album, there has to be a crazy deluxe edition with vinyl and CD.  The best of these editions are the ones that include exclusive music.  In the end, all the posters and booklets in the world add up to only paper.  Exclusive music is the thing of real value.

Queensryche did well with their Condition Hüman deluxe.  It was available in a variety of colours.  This one is yellow, number 659/1000.  There’s a cool turntable mat inside, and a double sided poster.  For music, the album is split onto two coloured 180 gram vinyl records, including the Japanese bonus track “Espiritu Muerto” on Side D.   (The D-side is also etched with the Queensryche logo in the empty space.)  For your convenience, the entire album including Japanese bonus track is duplicated on the CD inside.  Then for the diehards comes the true exclusive:  two more songs on a 7″ single, not on any other version of the album.  This is the real reward for spending the extra money on the deluxe.

“Espiritu Muerto” chugs heavily along, punishing the skulls of unbelievers.   On the 7″ record, the two exclusive songs are fairly non-descript. “46° North” is B-side-ish, like a leftover written for Empire but dropped in favour of something more commercial.  “Mercury Rising” is on the other side, with a vaguely psychedelic metal vibe and science fiction lyrics.

Condition Hüman itself is a strong metallic album, though with hindsight perhaps too “metal” for its own good.  There was a time, not so long ago, when fans would have begged and pleaded with Queensryche to write just one new song in the vein of Condition Hüman.  Now that we have two albums solidly back in the metal genre, it would be nice to hear real diversity in Queensryche again.

That said, Condition Hüman is a damn fine album for what it is.  The Queensryche of today, fronted by Todd La Torre, has been determined to retain trademark elements from Queensryche’s 80s heyday.  That includes strong riffs, dual harmony solos, and screamin’ vocals.  These are all delivered with gravy on top.

The vinyl experience of Condition Hüman is actually superior to that of CD.  It was always a long album, with the standard edition being 53 minutes of pretty relentless stomping.  On vinyl, you’re forced to pause and flip the record three times before even getting to the single.  These brief respites allow you to breath and absorb.  What I’ve absorbed is that Condition Hüman is still a damn fine collection of songs, if a bit too single-minded.  One gets the impression from this album that, though good, Queensryche can still do better.

4/5 stars

LP-A1 Arrow Of Time
LP-A2 Guardian
LP-A3 Hellfire
LP-A4 Toxic Remedy

LP-B1 Selfish Lives
LP-B2 Eye 9
LP-B3 Bulletproof
LP-B4 Hourglass

LP-C1 Just Us
LP-C2 All There Was
LP-C3 The Aftermath
LP-C4 Condition Hüman

LP-D1 Espiritu Muerto

7″-A 46° North
7″-B Mercury Rising

RODDY BOTTUM Chats! Sasquatch, Faith No More and more!

Roddy Bottum is a man of many talents.  A multi-instrumentalist, Roddy might be best known for his bands Faith No More and Imperial Teen.  Roddy is also a composer and Sasquatch: The Opera is his first entry on that stage, but surely not the last.

An opera about Sasquatch?  What’s the deal with that?  It’s been a difficult journey. I had the chance to question on Roddy about it and his other projects.  Read it from the man himself.


Mike:  Sasquatch: The Opera has to be the most intriguing three-word title I’ve ever seen. I understand the story is about the misunderstood “monster”, but how did you settle on the Sasquatch for your monster? I’m a bit of a Sasquatch geek, and I’m curious if you are too.

Roddy:   It’s a character I always identified with. The ‘gentle giant’ aspect of him I kind of created myself. It’s a characteristic I always am moved by in literature and film. Elephant Man, King Kong, Frankenstein… the vulnerability of the misunderstood oaf, if you will. I’m also very sexually attracted to exactly that type.

Mike:   Would you ever go on a Sasquatch expedition?

Roddy:  I think I could entertain that voyage in a ‘social studies’ kind of way but I would be hard pressed to putting my best foot forward in the hopes of finding the monster. I want to believe. I really do. It’s like being taught religion as a child. I remain sceptical and needing of proof.

Mike:  Absolutely understood; I hope one day we find that proof.  How would you describe the music, is it a “rock opera”? I have to assume it’s a little different!

Roddy:  The instrumentation is timpani drums, drum machine, two synthesizers and two trumpets. It’s not exactly rock but it’s more rock than symphonic.  I kind of based the musical vibe all around the timpanis. The grandeur of that instruments spoke a lot in the presentation of the piece.

Mike:  Do you perform on stage in the musical?

Roddy:  I did, yeah, I conducted the piece and played a synthesizer. The one with the easier parts.

Mike:  Did you compose Sasquatch primarily on the keyboard?

Roddy:  Yes, first in my head and then on the keyboard.

Mike:   I read about the apartment fire you had while in the midst of working on Sasquatch. You had to recreate the Opera from scratch, replace props and costumes? Are you happy with how it turned out?

Roddy:  The fire gave me the opportunity to create from a clean slate something that I’d already done before. I like that process, actually. The fire was really and truly one of the worst tragedies I’ve had to go through. The cliche of the open window that happens as a result of a closed one, though. That rang true. Still, though I’m spooked by fire and I can’t eat barbecue or mescal or anything with a smokey after taste. Too soon.

Mike:  I can’t even imagine what that is like…I love barbecue.  Can we expect another musical from you?

Roddy:  Yes, I’d like to create another opera that’s about the fall of a nation. Particularly America in this political climate.

Mike:  I’d be into that.  Now, I was going to go and see Sasquatch with my mom. She’s in her 70s and maybe a little old fashioned. Do you think my mom would have a good time, or would I regret bringing her?

Roddy:  I got some of my best criticisms from people older than myself. I’m 55. I like to think of the themes as universal though there are some elements of incest and drug use that seem to disturb people. How open minded is your Mom?

Mike:  She’s pretty cool, I think she can handle it.  Could Sasquatch get a CD or DVD release?

Roddy:  I honestly like to keep the opera in the realm of ‘shrouded in mystery.’ In keeping with the allure and mystique of Sasquatch, the being, I would prefer that the only people who witness my monster and my music are the ones in the theatre who come to see it. It’s too easy for people to listen to something online. I’m not into the lazy attendant factor of that, if that makes sense.

Mike:  It does, I have heard stand-up comedians say similar things.  It should be just in the moment.  Moving on, can you update us on the next Imperial Teen record? I heard it was in the mixing stages.

Roddy:  We just finished the record, mastered it last week and are working on the album artwork. It’s got 10 songs, it’s called Now We Are Timeless and it will come out on Merge Records July 12.

Mike:  I hope you don’t mind a little fan-geek questioning. I am a music collector. I pride myself in having “almost everything” for many bands I love, but one “holy grail” item would be a live Faith No More bootleg with Courtney Love on vocals. I have been searching for years…decades! Does such a thing exist or is that era now lost to the sands of time?

Roddy:  I believe the only audio recording of Courtney singing with us is on a VHS recording of a daytime public access television show recorded in San Francisco in 1984. Courtney wore a dirty white slip and brought into the studio bags and bags of old flowers she collected from the flower mart. We decorated the stage and lit incense and performed in dashikis.

Mike:  If it exists, I will find it one day!  Regarding Faith No More, I think Sol Invictus is a fantastic record.  Among your best. I usually give the rare “5/5 star rating” to Introduce Yourself, Angel Dust, and King for a Day. Now I have added Sol Invictus to that list. You don’t strike me as the kind of band that puts out albums you aren’t happy with, but the reception to Sol Invictus was overwhelmingly positive. With a few years hindsight, how happy are you with Sol Invictus today?

Roddy:  I think it’s a strong record, thank you. I’m glad we were in a position to not have to pander to radio playlist or whatever. We made the record we wanted to make and really didn’t compromise at any stage.

Mike:  Is that you on vocals in the verses to “Motherfucker”?

Roddy:  It is, yes, and thank you for noticing.

Mike:  Do you have any other projects cooking currently that you can tell us about?

Roddy:  I’m in a band called Nastie Band. Our record will come out in April. It features an 84 year old singer, a pair of identical twins, a drummer and guitarist and many theatrical elements. It’s a performance band, very dark. Another band I’m in is called Crickets. We’re going away this weekend on a writing retreat. Michael O’Neil and JD Samson are both in that band and we liken ourselves to a wobbly dance sound a-la Tom Tom Club. We have our first show in New York in February.


It sounds like 2019 is shaping up to be an exciting year for Roddy Bottum.  Be sure to check out the Nastie Band in April, and the new Imperial Teen record Now We Are Timeless in July.  Thank you Roddy for the chat!

#729.5: Silver Linings & Thanks 2018

GETTING MORE TALE #729.5: Silver Linings & Thanks 2018

This year, my wife beat cancer.  Her mom did not.  Those two things defined my entire year.

I kept up with this writing stuff the best I could, at the expense of reading and commenting.  For that I apologise.  For the first time ever, I even put this place in mothballs as I went on a summer hiatus to deal with everything else.  It was very necessary, even if it meant losing the chance to run an advertorial for my favourite band, Kiss.

By a strange happenstance, despite not being able to give you 100% in 2018, it was our most successful year in terms of hits.  With the exception of 2016, every year here has been an increase over the previous.  I didn’t expect that 2018’s numbers would be so high, so thank you for not forgetting about me!

Here are the Top New Posts of 2018 by hits:

  1. TRAILER PARK BOYS Season 12 (1420 hits)
  2. A Call from “Visa/Mastercard” (639 hits)
  3. JOHN CORABI – One Night in Nashville (603 hits)
  4. GUNS N’ ROSES “Not In This Lifetime” Tour advertorial (458 hits)
  5. READER SPOTLIGHT – Harrison from Down Under (307 hits)*

This doesn’t include old content from previous years that are still perennially popular:  Trailer Park Boys Season 11 (2350 hits, bigger than Season 12!), the Intro to the Kiss Re-Review Series (1650 hits), Van Halen – Zero (1170 hits) and many more.  The Van Halen post is the oldest (2014) and yet it still gets hits every year.

* These stats were compiled on December 29 and do not reflect the last two days of 2018, as if you care.


2018 wouldn’t have been as successful as it was if I didn’t have guest contributors.  A friend in need is a friend indeed?  These friends stepped up when I was unable to do it myself.  All these contributions were a big part of our successful 2018.  So let’s give a second look to the awesome work below!

 

GUEST SHOTS OF 2018



KIX REVIEW SERIES by Holen MaGroin:

HALLOWEEN REVIEW SERIES by Holen MaGroin:

THANKSGIVING REVIEW by Holen MaGroin:

 


Thanks to Derek, Harrison, Kovaflyer, Holen, and Dr. Dave for your help in 2018.  And also to Uncle Meat, Frank the Tank, and J from Resurrection Songs for your Top Lists of 2018!


FINAL WORDS OF 2018

Regardless of the setbacks, I did accomplish a goal this year.  I wanted to fight my fear of crowds and get back out there, and see some shows.  And I did that, twice!  Onto the next show…

…Which was supposed to be Sasquatch: The Opera, brought to you by Roddy Bottum of Faith No More.  Well, that won’t be happening:

This is truly unfortunate for me, as I planned to catch all four performances including an interview with Roddy.  I’ve been assured the interview will still go on, but I won’t get to see Sasquatch as part of it.

One goal that went unaccomplished was finishing the Kiss Re-Review Series.  When it does finally conclude, it’ll be two years in the making.  At least I’ll be able to coincide it with the farewell tour.  This project is not abandoned but I must be able to do it right and that takes time.  It’ll happen, so thanks for your patience.

I’m also planning on launching a series of shorter posts called Just Listening.  This won’t replace reviewing, but any music is on the table for Just Listening, even ones I’ve reviewed before.  I hope you enjoy when it debuts in early 2019.

Have a safe and happy New Year!  If you need some entertainment, then check out the videos below.  These are my Personal Favourite Videos that I Made in 2018!  Please watch and if you’re so inclined, subscribe to my Youtube channel.  See you next year!

1. Sausagefest 2018

2. Mike and Aaron do Taranna 2018

3. Max the Axe – “Randy”

4. Star Wars Black Series random unboxings

5. A Tribute to Superdekes

#721: Christmas Mix 2010

GETTING MORE TALE #721: Christmas Mix 2010

Making mix CDs was a lot of fun (and work).  I used to make custom Christmas discs that didn’t suck, for my family and friends every year.  Why did I stop?  I ran out of good Christmas songs.  Let’s face it:  unless you’re one of “those” people, Christmas music is nails on a chalkboard.  You can only take so much.  If you’ve worked retail in the past (or present), you probably can’t take any at all!

2010’s Christmas CD is a good example of what I used to make.  You’ll notice there’s no Trans-Siberian Orchestra on there.  I used up all their best stuff on the previous instalments.  I tried to avoid duplicating songs from previous years although Hawksley Workman’s Christmas album is so good that I made exceptions for him.  Hawkley’s Almost A Full Moon is the best Christmas CD that I own, and probably the best one I’ve heard.  I bought it twice.  He reissued the album after only a year with two extra songs!  I forgave him, because Almost A Full Moon is so warm and perfect.

What do you think of the Christmas 2010 CD?  Would you have wanted a copy that year?

1. Bill Ward – “Twas the Night Before Christmas”.  Yes, that Bill Ward!  The Black Sabbath drummer did a spoken word recording of the classic Christmas poem, and I opened the CD with it.  I can tell you that when we played the CD at dinner time, this track was a failure.  Nobody paid attention.

2. Kathryn Ladano – “Jingle Bells”.  I got their attention back by putting on a track by my sister.  This instrumental version on bass clarinet is from her CD The Christmas Album.  Of note, her Schnauzer Ali is credited for barks on “Jingle Bells”!

3. Lemmy, Dave Grohl, Billy F. Gibbons – “Run Rudolph Run”.  This breakneck Christmas carol is done in the Motorhead style.  I played it in the car for sis.  “This is shit!” she proclaimed.  “Why do these guys get to put out albums and not me?”

4. Marillion – “Let It Snow”.  This drunken favourite is from 2007’s Somewhere Elf.  The spirit is intoxicating, as I’m sure they were!

Found some booze in a flight case,
And I’m afraid that we’re all shit-faced,
So I guess that we’ll have to go,
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

5. David Bowie and Bing Crosby – “Little Drummer Boy / Peace on Earth”.  This is the David Bowie song that your grandma likes.  It’s just lovely.  I didn’t own anything with this song on it, so I had to download.  That’s why it didn’t appear until 2010!

6. Helix – “Happy Christmas (War is Over)”.  Yes, it rocks, but not too hard!  Helix covered Lennon for their Heavy Metal Christmas.  Singer Brian Vollmer is trained in the Bel Canto technique and he’s more than capable of singing songs for your Christmas dinner in mind.

7. Extreme – “Christmas Time Again”.  My mom always liked Extreme, or “Nick Strean” as she thought they were called.  This isn’t the greatest Christmas song in the world, but it doesn’t suck.

8. Hawskley Workman – “3 Generations”.  Told you there would be some Hawksley.  This touching song is about three generations of women in the kitchen making Christmas dinner together.

9. Elvis Presley – “Blue Christmas”.  I must have downloaded this one too.  I am a bit of a sucker for Elvis.  I included Joe Perry’s instrumental version on a previous CD.

10. The Beatles – “Christmas Time is Here Again”.  Not one of their best songs, but it’s the Beatles so it had to be included eventually.  This version comes from the 1995 CD single for “Free As a Bird”.  Relatively few have heard it, and I thought that would get people’s ears perked up, but by this time, the wine was out….

11. Steve Vai – “Christmas Time is Here”.  This is from the first Merry Axemas.  It’s a lovely track and not too shreddy.  Remember this song from the Charlie Brown Christmas special?  Steve does it on guitar, of course!

12. Jethro Tull – “God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman”.  This funky flute version will get the toes tappin’.  Hard to believe that this is from Tull’s final studio album in 2003, The Jethro Tull Christmas Album!  It would have been nice to get one more, but Tull’s Christmas Album is a good one to have around.  If you need to tolerate Christmas music, you may as well listen to Tull jamming it out.

13. Brian Vollmer – “The First Noel”.  Helix’s Vollmer put out a rare charity album in 2005 called Raising the Roof on Mary Immaculate.  “The First Noel” is one of the best tracks.  Vollmer is the first artist to get two appearances on my CD.

14. Ted Nugent – “Deck the Halls”.  Much like “Run Rudolph Run”, this one smokes!  It’s a guitar instrumental at full speed.  Grandma didn’t like this one.

15. Twisted Sister – “O Come All Ye Faithful”.  I really don’t like the Twisted Christmas album.  This song was a hit though, and since it’s virtually identical to “We’re Not Gonna Take It”, I can…errr…take it.

16. Cheap Trick – “Come On Christmas”.  My sister was a huge Cheap Trick fan at one point.  She had this song before I did.  Essentially just a Cheap Trick pop rocker with Christmas lyrics.  Sounds like classic Cheap Trick to me.

17. AC/DC – “Mistress For Christmas”.  I put this song on as the joke it is.  I like to remind people that AC/DC did have a Christmas song.  “Jingle bells, Jingle bells, jingle all the day.  I can’t wait to Christmas time, when I roll you in the hay.”  Hey, it counts.

18. The Darkness – “Christmas Time (Don’t Let the Bells End)“.  In my review, I said, “Even though the guitars are thicker than a good ol’ bowl of Thin Lizzy pudding, there is no mistaking this for anything but a Christmas song.   It is a joyous rock re-imagining of a Christmas carol, with the unmistakable Justin Hawkins falsetto.”  Plus, sis likes The Darkness.

19. Jon Bon Jovi – “Please Come Home for Christmas”.  I like this one.  Fuck off.

20. Jimi Hendrix – “Little Drummer Boy/Silent Night/Auld Lang Syne”.  From an EP called Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.  Jimi and band jammed out some impressive licks but the dinner party didn’t enjoy.

21. Jim Cuddy – “New Year’s Eve”.  Cuddy’s solo debut All In Time is tremendous CD and comes highly recommended by this guy right here.  It’s like listening to a Blue Rodeo album, but only the Jim songs.  The sentimental “New Year’s Eve” is a lovely ballad that fits right in with the Christmas theme.

22. Bob & Doug McKenzie – “The Twelve Days of Christmas”.  You gotta end with a classic.  From 1981’s The Great White North comes the big Christmas hit.  We used to hear this every single year on my mom’s old clock radio.  We’d squeal with laughter trying to sing along.  “A beer…in a tree…”

 

How would you rate this one?  Trying to avoid overlap was previous instalments was my Achilles’ heel.  I’d swap out a lot of the lesser songs for better ones, but it’s not bad.  It’s listenable.  It’ll do.

3/5 stars

 

 

#720: Domo Arigato

Join me for some   for the rest of this week!

GETTING MORE TALE #720: Domo Arigato

It was grade 5, and Allan Runstedtler was to blame for my first rock and roll album.

At school, I played a tape I made with three songs on it.  It was a clear blue 120 minute Scotch cassette.  “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap” by AC/DC was first, followed by “The Mighty Quinn” by Manfred Mann.  The third might have been “Ooby Dooby” by Roy Orbison.  AC/DC was my favourite because of the chorus.  “He sounds like he has a frog in his throat!” I squealed.  We just referred to Bon Scott (we didn’t know his name) as “the guy with the frog in his throat”.  I thought the song was hilarious, and that went double for “Big Balls” since it had “Balls” in the title.

“You have to hear ‘Mr. Roboto’,” said Allan.  “It’s by a group called Styx.  But it’s not spelled like ‘sticks’.  It’s spelled S-T-Y-X.”

Cool!

I went to his house one afternoon with my trusty Fisher-Price mono tape deck.  That thing was built like a tank.  Wherever it is, it probably still works beautifully.  Allan had the Styx LP, Kilroy Was Here, featuring “Mr. Roboto” as the lead track.  He explained the concept of the story to me:  a futuristic world where rock music was outlawed.  We familiarized ourselves with the characters.  Kilroy, the protagonist, was played by someone named Dennis DeYoung.  Jonathan Chance, the secondary hero character, was Tommy Shaw.  Meanwhile the evil Dr. Righteous was portrayed by the sinister looking James Young.  We scanned the album credits and figured out who sang each song.  (The Panozzo brothers were Lt. Vanish and Col. Hyde, but we couldn’t figure out their roles in the story.)  The LP came in a deluxe gatefold, with full lyrics and pictures from the video (which we had never seen).  On the cover were the masks of two “Robotos” that reminded me of the centurions from the movie The Black Hole.

Since that time, I learned that Kilroy was a Dennis project and the other guys weren’t too happy with it.  As kids in the moment, the whole thing seemed custom built for us!  The music was (mostly) good (I’ll get to that) and there were robots and heroes and good vs. evil.  There was a story to follow along.  There was production value in the packaging.  This wasn’t just stupid rock music to us.  It seemed part of something much bigger.  At Allan’s house, I recorded the album on my tape deck, open air style.  We quietly crept upstairs while the LP side played so we wouldn’t ruin the recording with noise.  When we heard the music stop, we went back down and flipped the record.  Tiptoeing back upstairs to the sound of “Heavy Metal Poisoning” is a one-of-a-kind memory.

We poured over the liner notes.  I observed, “It’s weird that Dr. Righteous is against heavy metal music, but he’s fighting back using a heavy metal song.” The hypocrisy was not lost on Allan and I.  “Heavy Metal Poisoning” was Dr. Righteous’ message to the kids of future America.

What the devil’s goin’ on,
Why don’t you turn that music down,
You’re going deaf and that’s for sure,
But all you do is scream for more.

It was the heaviest song on the album, and at that point probably the heaviest music I ever heard in my life!   And I had a good point.  Dr. Righteous was clearly against heavy metal music, but here he was presenting his message in a heavy rock song!

I brought the tape home.  I was so excited to have some music of my own.  “I can’t wait to play my new tape for Grandma,” I said to my mom for reasons completely unknown to me.

“I’m sure she’ll be thrilled,” mom deadpanned.

Even at that age, a taped copy wasn’t good enough.  I had to get the album.  The pictures, the lyrics, the liner notes…it was all necessary.  Mom took me to Zellers at the mall where I purchased my own copy, and my very first rock album.  It sat in my collection next to my beloved John Williams soundtracks.  After all, Kilroy Was Here is a soundtrack of sorts!  Only this time, the movie was in our imaginations.  Allan and I used to discuss what that movie would be like.

I memorized every word to “Mr. Roboto”, not to mention every “ooh” and “ahh”.  I sat in the basement and wrote them out on paper.  I also figured out that I didn’t like every song equally.  Allan and I were pretty much on the same page as to the good/bad songs.

My list of the “good” songs, in order from best on down:

  1. “Mr. Roboto”
  2. “Don’t Let It End (Reprise)”
  3. “Double Life”
  4. “High Time”
  5. “Cold War”
  6. “Heavy Metal Poisoning”

I never listened to any of the ballads.  We were simply not interested.  “Don’t Let It End” was nothing like the reprise version, which was essentially “Mr. Roboto” over again!  In my kid-sphere, I was oblivious to the fact that in the larger world, “Don’t Let It End” was a hit.  I just didn’t care.  Couldn’t have told you how “Haven’t We Been Here Before” or “Just Get Through This Night” went if you paid me.  For Allan and I, Kilroy Was Here just had six songs.  Well, five songs and a reprise.

Sad to say, but I temporarily “outgrew” Styx.  The “moment of clarity” was when I first heard Iron Maiden.  I tuned into heavy metal exclusively at that point, and discarded my old music.  (Which wasn’t much — just some soundtracks and a Springsteen tape.)  I remember playing the Styx album during the start of the heavy metal years, and it was suddenly too soft and pop for me.  I lost the record at some point, either in a move or at a garage sale.  I didn’t hear Kilroy again until a friend picked up a copy for me in Toronto, on CD.  I was 32.

Guess what!  I don’t mind the ballads anymore.  “Just Get Through This Night”, in particular, is outstanding.

To Allan I would like to say:  domo arigato, for getting me into Styx!

#710: I Can’t Grok Rock

GETTING MORE TALE #710: I Can’t Grok Rock

Before we proceed, we must put some time into trying to define the work “grok”.  One of the greatest science fiction writers of all time, Robert A. Heinlein, coined the word in 1961 in his epic novel Stranger in a Strange Land.  Perhaps you recall the “I Grok Spock” slogan from the late 60s when fans mobilised to save Star Trek from cancellation.  There’s no easy definition of the word, although “I grok” can mean “I love”, among many other things.  Depending on its usage, “I grok” can mean:

  • “I hate”
  • “I see” or “I understand”
  • “I fear”
  • “I live”
  • “I am a part of”
  • “I drink” or “I eat”
  • “I think”
  • To use Heinleins own words, grok means to understand something “so thoroughly that you merge with it and it merges with you.”

Grok means all these things, and according to Heinlein, “a hundred other English words, words which we think of as antithetical concepts. ‘Grok’ means all of these.”

Heavy stuff, but the more I think (or grok) on it, I realise (or grok) something very sad.  As much as I love, cherish, adore and try to further my understanding of it, I think I can never fully grok rock music. In order to do that, I would have to understand it to a depth I have not reached yet.  As a non-musician who has tried and failed to do play it, true grokking of rock music has eluded me my whole life.

Music exists in several ways simultaneously.  There are the vibrations in the air that are soundwaves on different frequencies.  There are the hairs on your inner ear, moved by the soundwaves.  This physical action is converted to electromagnet signals, sent to your brain and then interpreted and perceived as music.  I can comprehend these things, but true understanding of music means understanding its structure.  Why do those frequencies sound good together?  Why does a recurring rhythm sound good to you even if you don’t know it’s 7/8 time?  Or even know what 7/8 time is?

There is an underlying mathematics to music, an almost mechanical precision.  Well guess what.  I’m no mechanic either!  I have to pay someone to change the oil in my car.

I’m fortunate enough to have Dr. Kathryn Ladano in the family, who truly does grok music.  As an improvisational musician, she creates living music in and of the moment.  She and the players she works with can grok it on an instinctual and intellectual level.  The funny thing about this is that I used to have to help Dr. Kathryn with her math homework.  On paper, I was better at numbers.  Within music, it turns out she can really grok math.

I’ve spent most of my life with music in my ears.  There are bands whose history I have an understanding of deeper than my expertise in that of Canada, and I’m a history B.A.!  There are songs that I have memorised down to the last note and beat, such as “Paranoid” by Black Sabbath.  But I still don’t really comprehend how it’s was constructed, why it works, or what makes it unique.  And it drives me insane.

I’ve tried, Lord knows I’ve tried!  I thought I’d pick up the guitar again a few years ago and see if my older, wiser mind could grasp the universal secrets of music.  Again, I failed.  I put my guitar away, but now we have a couple acoustics.  I’ve been strumming.  You can’t kill this curiosity.  I really don’t think I will ever grok rock in the truest sense, but I keep trying!

It’s a frustration situation, but rock and roll isn’t about quitting.  That much I do grok.

 

REVIEW: Eric Carr – Unfinished Business (2011)

The KISS RE-REVIEW SERIES Part 42:  Eric Carr solo #2.

EC_Unfinished_Business_2011ERIC CARR – Unfinished Business (2011 Auto Rock Records)

Even though 2000’s Rockology compilation released a treasure trove of unheard goodies for the fans, there is always more to sell.  For the 20th anniversary of Eric’s passing, another batch of tracks were unearthed.  Some are mere filler, some are pretty decent.  Fans of the beloved  drummer will have to sift through the bad to get to the good.

There are a couple Kiss songs here for the diehard fans.  “No One’s Messin’ With You” is yet another demo of what would become “Little Caesar” from Hot in the Shade.  A third called “Ain’t That Peculiar” was released on the 2001 Kiss Box Set.  This is an almost completely different set of lyrics, although it does have the “Hey Little Caesar” chorus.  In chronological terms, this version probably falls between the other two, with lyrics still a work in progress and a different verse melody.  Then there’s “Shandi”, from Eric’s Kiss audition tape, with brand new acoustic backing music.  Unfortunately, Eric’s shaky voice (or a warbly tape) makes this totally unlistenable.

One of Rockology‘s highlights was “Just Can’t Wait” which was crying out for a lead vocal to finish it off.  This was completed by Ted Poley of Danger Danger.  Though the backing track lacks the fidelity of a proper Kiss recording, the song has taken shape as the shoulda-coulda-been hit that it is.  Eric would have been proud and very happy to hear it as a finished song.

The unfinished “Troubles Inside You” is a demo with regular Kiss collaborator and Beatlemania member Mitch Weissman.  It was recorded at Gene Simmons’ house, but the old cassette must have deteriorated pretty badly.  The music is barely audible, though hints of a good song shine through.  Two more Kiss outtakes include the legendary “Dial L For Love” and “Elephant Man”.  These were written for Crazy Nights and Revenge, respectively.  Neither were finished by Carr.  “Dial L For Love” has the bones of a good song with a unique riff.  Eric only managed to finish the lyrics for “Elephant Man”, but here it is given music and life by a group of musicians including the late A.J. Pero of Twisted Sister, and ex-Europe guitarist Kee Marcello.  Singer Bob Gilmartin did a great job of it, turning “Elephant Man” into a cross between ballad and rocker, and something Kiss totally could have done on Revenge.  “Midnight Stranger” is another unfinished riff.  Ex-Kiss guitarist Mark St. John was slated to overdub brand new solos for this instrumental, but he too passed before he could finish.  This is the original cassette demo.  The riff sounds like a brother to “Carr Jam”.  They are definitely related.

“Carr Jam 1981” is, unfortunately, not the original unaltered Elder demo.  It is a cover by drummer Joey Cassata, and a very authentic one at that.  Same with “All Hell’s Breakin’ Loose”.  Just a cover, not a demo, by Cassata’s band Z02. Pretty good stuff, at least.  New backing music was recorded for “Eyes of Love”, a song previously released on Rockology.  The Rockology version with Bruce Kulick on guitar is superior.

Finally, some real serious archival treasures:  an Eric Carr drum solo basement tape (same as his live Kiss solo), and a 1967 recording by Eric’s first band The Cellarmen!  That’s Eric on lead vocals too.  It definitely sounds of its time. Added filler include a few interview bits and clips, including one with former Kiss manager Bill Aucoin about Eric.

If the first Eric Carr CD release was best left to hardcore fans, it’s doubly true of the second one.  This is a fans-only release, period.  It is highly unlikely anyone else would get much enjoyment from this low-fi set.

2/5 stars

Although Carr’s loss was devastating to both fans and the band, there was no question Kiss would carry on with imminent Revenge….

 

RE-REVIEW: Eric Carr – Rockology (2000)

The KISS RE-REVIEW SERIES Part 41Eric Carr solo #1.

It’s back and picking up right where we left off:  the death of Eric Carr.  The previous chapter of this series was posted November 8 2017, with the intention to talk about Eric Carr’s demos next, before moving on to his replacement.  When Eric died of cancer in 1991, he left behind several tapes of unreleased material that have since been issued on CD.  Likewise, the Kiss Re-Review Series was derailed by Mrs. LeBrain’s cancer diagnosis, but will carry on now that she is well.  Thank you for your patience!

ERIC CARR – Rockology (2000 EMI)

The late  drummer Eric Carr was frustrated towards the end.  He was writing good material, but it was always being rejected by Paul and Gene.  In the press, Eric would tow the company line and explain that everybody else had such good songs, that there was no room for his.  In his heart, he was hurt and felt shunned.

Eric Carr wasn’t just a drummer.  He could sing lead, and he could write.  Kiss’ single “All Hell’s Breaking Loose” was an Eric idea.  He co-wrote “Don’t Leave Me Lonely” with Bryan Adams.  Although his writing credits on Kiss albums were sparse, he had plenty of material in the can.  2000’s Rockology is a series of those demos, some in a near-finished state and some left incomplete.  Much of this material was intended for a cartoon Eric was working on called The Rockheads.  10 years later, Bruce Kulick finished recording some guitar parts and mixed it for release.  He also wrote liner notes explaining the origins and Eric’s intentions for each track.

Eric didn’t have a particularly commercial voice, falling somewhere south of a Gene Simmons growl.  There’s no reason why Gene couldn’t have sung “Eyes of Love” from 1989, which has more balls than a lot of Hot in the Shade.  This demo has Eric on drums and bass, and Bruce Kulick on guitar with a solo overdubbed in 1999.  It doesn’t sound like a finished Kiss song, but it could have been tightened up to become one.  Same with the ballad “Everybody’s Waiting”.  It sounds custom written for Paul Stanley.  But it was 1989, and nothing was going to displace “Forever” from the album, nor should it have.

Many of the demos have no words.  “Heavy Metal Baby” features Eric scatting out a loose melody.  This heavy and chunky riff would have been perfect for the later Revenge album, had Eric lived.  In a strange twist, several of the best songs are instrumentals.  The hidden gem on this CD is the unfinished “Just Can’t Wait”.  It could have given Journey and Bon Jovi a run for their money.   Eric, Bruce and Adam Mitchell wrote it for Crazy Nights, and you can almost hear a killer chorus just waiting to leap out at you.  This potential hit could have been the best song on Crazy Nights, had it been finished.

“Mad Dog” has nothing to do with the Anvil song of the same name.  The chorus is there but the verses are a work in progress.  This hard rocker from 1987 was probably too heavy for what Kiss were doing, though it would have added some much needed groove.  “You Make Me Crazy” is in a similar state of completion and boasts a tap-tastic solo by Bruce.  Apparently this demo was originally called “Van Halen” and you can hear why.  Two versions of a song called “Nightmare” exist, including a really rough one without drums.  This incomplete song could have really been something special.  It has a dramatic feel and different moods, and was probably too sophisticated for Kiss, though any number of 80s rock bands would have been lucky to have such good material.

The last batch of tracks show off the Rockheads material.  Whether Eric’s cartoon idea ever would have happened or not, the advent of bobble-heads and Pops would have made marketing easy.   The songs are virtually complete though the drums are programmed.  “Too Cool For School” is a little cartoony, which is the point, right?  For keyboard ballads, “Tiara” showed promise.  It’s not the equal of “Reason to Live” but it demonstrates a side to Eric unheard before.  Next, Bruce says that they always wanted Bryan Adams to cover “Do You Feel It”.  It would have fit Adams like a nice jean jacket.  Not that Adams really needed the help, it would have been awesome on Waking Up the Neighbors.  The set closes with “Nasty Boys”, nothing exceptional.  It sounds like a song called “Nasty Boys” would sound…or anything by 80s Kiss really.

Before you spend your hard-earned dollars, remember that these songs are definitely unfinished. They are as polished as possible given some of their rough (cassette) origins. Eric’s talent still shines, but you have to be a fan.  Especially a fan of 80s Kiss.  They will find it to be a crucial companion piece to their collections.

Long live the Fox!

Today’s rating:

3/5 stars

Original mikeladano.com review:  2014/04/24