rudy sarzo

Just Listening to…Whitesnake: Slip of the Tongue (30th Anniversary)

Sit down Sykes fans, because I’m a Vai kid and this is “my” Whitesnake.  The fact that this lineup existed at all is miraculous.  The most creative guitarist of all time joining one of the most successful commercial rock bands at the peak of their popularity?  Recipe for, at the very least, interesting history.  And absolutely perfect box set fodder.

So here we are buying Slip of the Tongue for at least the third time, and finally getting it (mostly) right.  At a quick glance, it appears the only detriment to buying this box set is that you will not get the complete Live at Donington concert on CD.  In order to fit the whole thing on one CD (disc 6), they axed all the solos.  Let’s face it folks.  When your band includes Steve Vai, you don’t cut the solos.  You’ll have to shell out for the original triple disc Donington set to get them on CD.  The good news is that the whole Donington concert is still here on video, on a fully-packed DVD (disc 7).  (The DVD also includes a detailed interview with David Coverdale and Adrian Vandenberg, touching on Adrian’s mysterious 1989 wrist injury.)

The running order of the songs on Slip of the Tongue, the 30th anniversary remaster, has been slightly shuffled.  It’s strange and off-putting enough that I’m keeping my old copy of the album, so I can still listen to it the familiar way.  “Sailing Ships” isn’t the last song?  “Fool For Your Loving” is.  The bonus track versions included, with alternate solos and guitar fills, are stunning additions.  Then there’s an entire CD, the “Wagging Tongue” edition, with the songs in the correct order but interviews with David interspersed.  This is a reproduction of a vintage 1989 promo CD, for contemporary perspective.   Disc 3, the “Evolutions” CD, is a favourite.  The “Evolutions” series of tracks, now a Whitesnake reissue trademark, mixes early demos with later demos and and even later versions, so you can hear the tracks evolve as you listen.  It’s deconstruction and reconstruction in one.  Importantly, you finally get to hear what the album would have sounded like before Steve Vai came in to record it.  Disc 4 includes 16 monitor mixes, including some superior rarities.  Finally, after 30 years of waiting and teasing, we get the unreleased tunes “Parking Ticket”, “Kill for the Cut”, and “Burning Heart” (originally by Vandenberg).  We also get “Ain’t Gonna Cry No More” and “We Wish You Well”.  Verdict?  Worth the wait.  Oh, so worth the wait!  There’s no reason some couldn’t have been released as B-sides in 1989, and they should have!  “Parking Ticket” has a neat Van Hagar-like, and could have been a summer hit.

Disc 5 is “A Trip to Granny’s House”, actually the name of a rehearsal studio they used.  These funny tapes, “Wheezy Interludes & Jams”, are informal fun.  A highlight is the funky “Death Disco”, not unlike some of the stuff Purple were doing with Tommy Bolin towards the end.  These tracks predate Steve Vai’s involvement, so you’ll get the purity of Adrian’s original playing.

I look forward to investing more time with this box set.  Let us hope that David continues to empty the vaults.  Next up: Restless Heart?

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REVIEW: Jim Crean – The London Fog (2019)

JIM CREAN – The London Fog (2019 Visionary Noise)

Vocalist extraordinaire Jim Crean is back with two new solo albums.  Not only is there a 16 track covers album called Gotcha Covered, but also The London Fog, a new original CD.  As usual, Crean boasts a killer hitlist of special guests, including Carmine & Vinny Appice, Mike Tramp, Rudy Sarzo, Chris Holmes, Steph Honde and plenty more.  Buckle up — it’s a heavy duty trip.

The London Fog goes wide open from the start, with the two new songs Crean released on last year’s Greatest Hits:  the excellent “Scream Taker” (tribute to Ronnie James Dio) and the riffy “Conflicted”.  “Scream Taker” features Dio alumni Vinny Appice and Rudy Sarzo.  These tracks follow the traditional blueprints of classic 80s metal, particularly “Conflicted”.  (The dexterous bassist that I initially mistook for Billy Sheehan is actually A.D. Zimmer.)

Want more riffs?  Then get “Broken”!  There’s a great chorus here: Melody and power, with some tasty licks from Steph Honde.  “Aphrodisiac” takes things to a more nocturnal place, but more menacing.  Still, there’s always room for some dirty rock, and that would be “Lady Beware”.  If Dokken’s classic lineup released another song today, it would probably sound a lot like “Lady Beware”.  This is the kind of rock we all miss, and have a hard time finding today.

Jim Crean is equally at home on rockers and ballads.  “Let It Go” (with Honde on piano and keyboards) has an epic quality for a ballad.  It might be a bit Scorpions, Whitesnake (circa 1987) or Guns N’ Roses…the comparisons are up to the listener.  The keyboard solo is a cool touch.  Then heavy sounds circulate on “Loaded” (more Zimmer on bass), but yet Crean maintains a knack for melody.

A familiar voice welcomes you on “Candle”, a Mike Tramp (Freaks of Nature) cover featuring Tramp in a duet.  The song is new to these ears, and I like how the parts shift and change moods.  A riff for the ages follows, on an original track called “1981”.  Again I’m reminded of Dokken, the classic era.  It’s hard to recapture a time period with such clarity, but Jim Crean has a talent for writing that way.  Some of his originals could very well be from another time.  (Drummer Colleen Mastrocovo gives “1981” a serious kick.)

Another obscure cover:  Robin Zander’s 1993 solo track “Time Will Let You Know”, a classy ballad from an underrated album.  Jim doesn’t try to sound like Robin Zander, but does it justice.  Then it’s Rod Stewart’s dance classic “Passion”.  Very few singers have the right rasp to do Rod Stewart justice, but Jim Crean is one of them.  That’s the always slick Tony Franklin on bass.  And get this!  Franklin’s Blue Murder bandmate Carmine Appice, the same guy who played on the the original “Passion”, also plays on this cover.  He approaches both versions very differently.  Rod’s version is slick dance rock, and this is more like metal that you can dance to.  Same song; familiar but a completely different arrangement.  If John Sykes ever played with Rod Stewart, maybe this is what they could have sounded like.

“Passion” could have closed the album and you’d be completely satisfied, but there’s more.  A funky “Fool” sounds like Aerosmith, and who’s that on guitar?  Ray Tabano, the original Aerosmith guitarist before Brad Whitford joined the band!  This song is more Aerosmith than anything that band has recorded since 1993!  Then it’s another lesser-known cover and duet:  Angel’s “Don’t Take Your Love” featuring original Angel singer Frank DiMino.  Great melodic rock songs are always welcome, and this one is truly great.

Finally comes the metallic closer “Tears” featuring Chris Holmes (W.A.S.P.).  The contrast between the heavy riffs and Jim’s melodic vocals is what makes this style work so well for him.  The riff has a W.A.S.P. vibe, but Crean takes it in a totally different direction.

Another fine album from Jim Crean and friends.  Fans of hard rock “the way they used to make it” will thoroughly enjoy.

4.5/5 stars

Check back for a look at Gotcha Covered, coming soon.

REVIEW: Quiet Riot – Cum On Feel the Noize (1989 CBS cassette)

QUIET RIOT – Cum On Feel the Noize (1989 CBS cassette)

From the same line as the previously reviewed Trouble Shooters by Judas Priest, here’s a tape-only Quiet Riot compilation.  Like the Priest tape, Cum On Feel the Noize has nothing more recent than five years.  For Quiet Riot, that unfortunately means you’re only hearing songs from two albums!  (Nothing from the first two which were only released in Japan.)

The title track (and Slade cover) “Cum On Feel the Noize” goes first, muddy tape hiss and all:  this cassette has seen better days!  It’s an edited version (roughly 3:10), so perhaps something you don’t have in your collection.  The speedy album track “Run For Cover” then delivers the scalding hot metal.  Two more big hit singles follow:  “Mama Weer All Crazee Now (another Slade cover) and “Metal Health” (sometimes subtitled “Bang Your Head” in case you didn’t know the name).  These two hits will keep the party flowing, and that’s it for side one.

Proving they had more than just a passing interest in mental health, “Let’s Go Crazy” kicks off side two with a bang.  Frankie Banali is the man — his drums really sell this one.  “(We Were) Born to Rock” is another solid number, all rock no schlock.  “Slick Black Cadillac” is a shrewd inclusion.  Gotta have a car song for the road.  Then “Party All Night” finishes it off with a pretty clear message.

As a party tape, Cum On Feel the Noize would have done the trick.  You should probably just own Metal Health and Conditional Critical instead, but this is a fun tape and would have been enough Quiet Riot for most folks.

3/5 stars

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: QUIET RIOT – Live at the US Festival (2012 CD/DVD)

QUIET RIOT – Live at the US Festival (2012 Shout! CD/DVD set)

This was a long awaited release, since the US Festival was way back in 1983!  The Holy Grail would be an official Van Halen release of their legendary performance, but I digress.  There aren’t a lot of really great live Quiet Riot albums out there, with one called Extended Versions being the best package.  Live at the US Festival is brief at just seven songs (plus a 4:38 guitar solo that also includes a sneak preview of a song called “Scream and Shout”).  It does capture Quiet Riot at their peak, at a critical gig, and includes a DVD of the whole thing for the complete package.  (Come on, Van Halen…)

Let’s have a look at the DVD first.  The crowd is vast, the costumes ridiculous, but there’s some kind of fire in the air.  The atmosphere is electric and the band are absolutely great visually, particularly Rudy Sarzo.   DuBrow is the consummate glam frontman, and an underrated one at that. Have a giggle at the old style giant screens displaying the band logo.

The CD itself sounds good, no complaints there, and the recording sounds untampered (evidenced by a messy Carlos Cavazo guitar solo in “Cum On Feel the Noize”).  Sarzo’s bass is mixed nice and audibly.  It would have been better if more of a booklet was included, but it’s just a simple fold-out with no liner notes.  This set is sparse and just over 40 minutes long.  A lot of that time is taken up by talking.  You get the big hits though, and the non-album track “Danger Zone”.

Live at the US Festival is a pretty easy Quiet Riot purchase to justify because of the included DVD.

3.5/5 stars

REVIEW: Quiet Riot – Condition Critical (1984)


CONDITION CRITICAL_0002QUIET RIOT – Condition Critical (1984 CBS)

I’ve reviewed almost every single Quiet Riot album now.  Only Guilty Pleasures awaits of the studio albums I have left to cover.  Why did I leave 1984’s Condition Critical for so long?  As the follow-up to Metal Health, you’d think I would have tackled it already.  But I didn’t even have the album ripped to my computer.

As a half-arsed Metal Health clone, I’ve never felt like Condition Critical deserved a lot of time spent on it.   I received it in 1985, and it has never been an album I have particularly cared for.  I still think today that most of the songs are not very good.  At that, almost every song is an inferior clone of a prior one on Metal Health:

  • “Sign of the Times” =  “Metal Health (Bang Your Head)”
  • “Mama Weer all Crazee Now” (Slade cover) = “Cum On Feel the Noize” (Slade cover)
  • “Winners Take All” = “Thunderbird”

And so on and so forth.  Spencer Proffer returned to produce, so even sonically Conditional Critical is all but a clone of the previous record.  I’m sure the guys thought they were repeating the magic to take them back to the top of the charts.  How wrong they were!  Most of the new songs were written solely by Kevin DuBrow, and it feels rushed.

Condition Critical still retains some of the fun of Metal Health.  Although not as good, the dumb-titled “Stomp Your Hands, Clap Your Feet” is plenty fun just like Quiet Riot classics.  “Party all Night” is also a hoot, and you have to admit that the guys did make a pretty hilarious music video for it.  Quiet Riot broke with the help of MTV, and they at least retained their knack for making an amusing music video.

On side two of the album there was hidden a serious heavy tune, the title track “Condition Critical”.  This slow grinder is one of those great lost tracks that you can only get on the album.  Banali breaks the levee with some solid drums.  Songs like this make tracking down the record worthwhile for those willing to give it a shot.

On the other hand, I had a friend who said “Winners Take All” is probably the worst Quiet Riot song of all time.

Proceed with caution.

2.5/5 stars

REVIEW: Quiet Riot – Metal Health (1983)

You lucky, lucky readers! Guess what? It’s….

THE BEST FUCKING COLLABORATION WEEK EVER!

All week, Aaron over at the KeepsMeAlive and I will be colluding. Monday to Friday, we will be talking about the same CDs. He hasn’t read my reviews, and I haven’t read his. Today, we’re both discussing Quiet Riot‘s landmark Metal Health. Be sure to check both reviews each day this week!

Aaron’s installment: QUIET RIOT – Metal Health

QUIET RIOT – Metal Health (1983, 2001 Sony remastered edition)

While my first rock album ever was Kilroy Was Here, by Styx, my first metal album ever was this one: Metal Health, by Quiet Riot. Although I was really into Styx, Quiet Riot were the first band that I “loved”.  Some music that people liked when they were in grade school embarrasses them today that they ever owned it. Not me, not this album. Since buying it in ’84, I’ve owned this album on cassette, LP and twice on CD. And I’ll probably buy it again; I understand there is a more recent reissue out with more bonus tracks. Metal Health was the crucial cornerstone in my musical development, and always will be one of my all-time favourites. Read on!

The opening drum crash to “Metal Health”, sometimes also referred to as “Bang Your Head (Metal Health)”, instantly transports me back in time.  Chuck Wright played bass on this one, extra slinky and funky (although Rudy Sarzo plays on most of the album).  Suddenly I’m in the basement at my parents’ house, listening to this cassette on my old Sanyo ghetto blaster.  I still recall, the cassette shell was white.  I played the crap out of it, annoying everyone.

“I got a mouth like an alligator” sings lead howler Kevin DuBrow, and how accurate he was.  I had no idea that Kevin’s mouth would cause the band to oust him only a few years down the road.  I liked the attitude of the lyrics, and the aggression of the guitars.  Impossible to ignore was new drummer Frankie Banali, who to this day is an absolute ballcrusher of a hard rock drummer.  His metronomic groove on Metal Health gave it the drive.  I wouldn’t have been able to break it down and articulate it like that when I was a kid, but these are the factors that attracted me to the song.

“Cum On Feel The Noize”, the Slade cover, is now more famous than the Slade original or Oasis’ version for that matter. It’s a great tune, but Quiet Riot and producer Spencer Proffer nailed the sound and the vibe.  The gang vocals are irresistible.  The cover was a huge hit, but it painted them into a corner.

Much like my first rock purchase Kilroy Was Here, there were songs I liked and songs I hated.  I don’t think I was the only 12 year old kid who didn’t have the patience for ballads.  Girls?  Who cares!  So I also hated “Don’t Wanna Let You Go”.  I wasn’t obsessive about listening to whole albums back then, since I was brought up in the LP age where we just dropped the needle.  So I often fast-forwarded through “Don’t Wanna Let You Go”.  Or we would play side one of the cassette, rewind, and play it again. (“Don’t Wanna Let You Go” was on side two of the cassette version).  Shortly after I suddenly noticed girls were EVERYWHERE, the song started to click with me.  Its sparse arrangement driven by Frankie’s drums make it a really special song.  Carlos Cavazo’s guitar solo had melody and composition to it, and drew my attention to the fact that a guitar solo wasn’t just a 30 second bore, but a micro-structure within the song, like a song all its own.

“Slick Black Cadillac” is a remake of a song from the second Quiet Riot album (cleverly titled Quiet Riot II) although we didn’t know that at the time.  “Slick Black Cadillac” is simply a classic today, and even though there isn’t a Randy Rhoads writing credit on it, you can hear the echo of his influence in Carlos’ guitar fills.  The lyrics to this song are so catchy, and soon you too will be singin’ about those solid gold hubcaps.  I was attracted to songs that told a story, and the rudimentary story here is a guy in a Caddy runnin’ from the “coppers on his trail”.  There’s no Dylanesque poetry, and DuBrow was never a crooner. This is about loud guitars and drums, a singer who is screaming his face off, and songs about cars and rocking!

You know I got a fully equipped rock ‘n’ roll machine,
At speeds that take me high, high, high,
At dead man’s curve,
I only hear one word, drive, drive, drive!

Love’s A Bitch” is less successful but it has a mournful quality that isn’t bad.  “Breathless” is better, a fast rocker featuring Frankie’s breakneck but steady pounding of the skins.  Following at the same pace, “Run for Cover” is just as furious, but lacking in melody.  Carlos Cavazo’s guitar showcase “Battle Axe” used to precede “Slick Black Cadillac” on my cassette version, which it was perfectly suited for.  On the original LP and the CD, it opens “Let’s Get Crazy”.  Because the running order of the cassette is permanently branded into my memory, it’s hard to get used to.  “Let’s Get Crazy” is goofy, seemingly an attempt to have another song like “Metal Health” on the same album.  As such it’s filler.

Finally there is “Thunderbird”, the piano-based ballad that Kevin wrote for the late Randy Rhoads. Didn’t like it then, love it today.*  It’s a beautiful song and maybe the best thing DuBrow’s ever written.  It’s cheesy as hell, but who cares?  The heart is there.

CD bonus tracks include a fun live take of “Slick Black Cadillac” (complete with DuBrow’s “vrroooom, vrrrrroooom!”) taken from a radio promo release. Also present is “Danger Zone”, an outtake that is not quite up to the album standards, but certainly close. Remastering is loud and clear, and liner notes are informative enough.

Enjoy. Doesn’t matter if it’s 1984 or 2015, this is a great album.

4.5/5 stars

* When we were kids, my sister and I used to play ‘air bands’ to this album.  I’d always make her sing “Thunderbird” while I would get the ‘better’ songs!

REVIEW: Whitesnake – Greatest Hits (1994)

WSWHITESNAKE – Greatest Hits (1994 Geffen)

I don’t own this CD.  Never have, actually.  I gave it enough in-store play (only while working alone!) that I have no problem reviewing it. This Greatest Hits CD dates back to 1994, the year I first started working at the Record Store. As such, it was the first ever official Whitesnake Greatest Hits CD, the first of many. The band had been broken up for about four years at that point. Even by 1994 standards, it was only an OK release. It did contain some rare tracks, but was limited to Whitesnake’s 1984-1989 Geffen output only. For budget-priced collections, I would recommend the cheaper 20th Century Masters – The Millennium Collection because it still has all the hit singles from that period at a lower price. For fans who need more, the much better Whitesnake Gold or Silver Anniversary Collection make a more complete picture with more rarities and deep album cuts. These of course weren’t available in 1994.  Today music buyers have a lot more to choose from.

One inclusion that some listeners may not enjoy about Greatest Hits is the version of “Here I Go Again” chosen. This is not the well-known album version that most people have heard. This is the “single remix” with different guitar solos (by guest Dan Huff) and more keyboards. Some radio stations do play it from time to time, but I think most casual buyers would listen to this and say, “I don’t like it as much”.  And nor do I, but it is a rarity.

Otherwise, this album (like 20th Century Masters) contains every hit single from the period, and nothing from the blues-based records before. It does feature some other cool rarities: the B-side “Sweet Lady Luck” featuring Steve Vai, “Looking For Love”, and “You’re Gonna Break My Heart Again”. However, with the many compilations and remasters released since 1994, these songs are no longer hard to find. “Sweet Lady Luck” was even released on a Steve Vai boxed set!

Rounding out this selection of hits and rare tracks are deeper album cuts.  These are include the glossy Kashmir-esque “Judgement Day”, “Crying in the Rain ’87”, “Slow Poke Music” and the wicked “Slide It In”.  They help balance out the ballad-y hits that Whitesnake were adept at writing.

Interestingly, when this album was released, David Coverdale assembled a new, shortlived Whitesnake and toured for it. That version of Whitesnake included former members Rudy Sarzo and Adrian Vandenberg, both of the 1987-1990 version of the band. It also included drummer Denny Carmassi (Coverdale-Page) and guitarist Warren DeMartini (Ratt). Shame that no live recordings from this version of the band have never been released. The band disolved for several year again after this, only to reform in 1997 with a new lineup including Carmassi and Vandenberg.

This album is only mildly better than 20th Century Masters, but is inferior to the more recent, more comprehensive compilations I have mentioned. Buy at a sensible price point.

2/5 stars
WSBACK

REVIEW: Ozzy Osbourne – Randy Rhoads Tribute (1987, 2002 remaster)

Originally, I got this for my birthday in 1987.  This is the first of a two-day OZZY DOUBLE SHOT!

RANDY RHOADS TRIBUTE_0001OZZY OSBOURNE – Randy Rhoads Tribute (1987, 2002 Sony remastered edition)

It took years for Ozzy to be emotionally ready to release this live album, recorded for intentional release in 1982.  When Randy died, it was quickly shelved and replaced by Speak of the Devil, an album consisting entirely of live Black Sabbath covers.  When Tribute was released in ’87, it was my first real exposure to the talent of Randy Rhoads.  I think Tribute still stands as the very best testament to Randy.

Finally restored to CD was the concert opening featuring a recording of “O Fortuna” from Orff’s Carmina Burana. This essential part of the concert was edited off the 1995 remastered edition, a CD which I advise everyone to stay away from. If you have it, get rid of it and replace it with this one.

“I Don’t Know” is a dynamite opener.  Ozzy’s vocal sounds heavily processed and thickened up in the mix.  Whatever tampering is done with it, I don’t know (pun intended).  What I do know is that Randy Rhoads’ live guitar is so much more than it was in the studio.  Unleashed, Randy makes every lick that much more different from the last, unafraid to throw every trick in his very large book out for you to hear.  His live sound seemed thicker, but it’s his playing that steals the show, as it should. It’s looser live, Randy pulling off wild sounds midstream at all times. He was obviously someone who had clear ideas about what he wanted to play along with the ability to execute them.

The single/video from this live album was “Crazy Train”, featuring Ozzy’s new 1987 hair cut.  The album version is longer but no less definitive.  Not only is Randy’s playing at its peak, but I like drummer Tommy Aldridge’s busier fills.  In my mind, the live version of “Crazy Train” kills the original.

“Believer” is a bit of a slow point in the show.  That’s Rudy Sarzo, Randy’s old Quiet Riot bandmate, on that bass intro.  Future Deep Purple keyboardist Don Airey is also present, providing the haunting opening to the classic “Mr. Crowley”.  What an astounding version, too.  Once again, I’d call this one pretty close to definitive.  Lifting the clouds away, the set goes to the party anthem “Flying High Again”.  Revealing my naivete at the time, I had no idea what Ozzy was talking about when he said, “It’s a  number entitled ‘Flying High’ so keep on smokin’ them joints!”  I truly did not know what a joint was, or what “flying high” referred to.  I assumed the song was about feeling good, and I suppose that it is.  My friends and I didn’t know, and I think that’s the great thing about rock lyrics.

RANDY RHOADS TRIBUTE_0004When I was really young, I didn’t like ballads or slow songs that much, but Ozzy was one of the exceptions.  “Revelation (Mother Earth)” might be somber but it is also powerful, and with Randy Rhoads on guitar, you can never get to be too soft!  Going back to Black Sabbath, Ozzy was always an anti-war crusader.  “Mother Earth” seems to be a continuation of that theme.  I always found it funny that during the 80’s, Ozzy was always being accused of devil worship by people who had no clue.  Meanwhile, Ozzy’s singing about nuclear disarmament.

Two long-bombers in a row follow: complete with drum solo, it’s “Steal Away (The Night)” followed by an extended “Suicide Solution” with Randy’s solo.  The “Steal Away” drum solo is still classic to me, but it’s “Suicide Solution” that no serious rock fan should be without.

The setlist detours to Sabbath covers next: a trio of “Iron Man”, “Children of the Grave”, and “Paranoid”.  The two Ozzy guitarists who handle Sabbath best are Zakk and Randy.  Randy doesn’t play by the rules at all.  He throws in licks and tricks that were not on the Sabbath originals in any way, but somehow it all works.  Randy was just untouchable in that way.  Everything he played was classy and perfect.

RANDY RHOADS TRIBUTE_0003Two older recordings conclude the live portion of this album:  “Goodbye to Romance” and “No Bone Movies”, recorded earlier with Bob Daisley on bass and Lee Kerslake on drums.  I don’t see that in the credits anywhere, nor do I remember seeing it on the original CD’s credits.  “SHARON!”  I will say that “Goodbye to Romance” blows the original away in my books.

The album closes with an alternate studio version of the acoustic Randy piece “Dee”, named for his mother Delores Rhoads.  This version includes outtakes of mistakes and Randy speaking, and it’s a haunting way to end the album.  Especially when Randy says, “Let’s hear that,” takes off his guitar and headphones, and goes into the control room, ending the track.  It feels interrupted, like Randy’s life.

In the liner notes, Ozzy himself states that “What you are about to hear are the only live recordings of Randy and I,” but that was clearly incorrect, since there was already the Mr. Crowley EP, and later on, a whole other live album included with the deluxe Diary of a Madman.  The booklet also includes an insightful letter from Mrs. Rhoads to the fans.  Rest in peace, Randy.

5/5 stars

REVIEW: Quiet Riot – 10 (2014)

We’ve had a couple strong new releases in a row here of late: The new Helix and Judas Priest albums have been particularly great.

I guess two out of three ain’t bad.

NEW RELEASE

CoverQUIET RIOT – 10 (2014 iTunes or Amazon mp3 download)

I’ve made no secret of my dislike for the happenings in Quiet Riot recently.  I find their current reunion, with no original members, to be tenuous at best.  Singer after singer, Quiet Riot stumbled onwards before finally hiring Jizzy Pearl of Love/Hate and Ratt fame.  With Pearl they’ve managed to record an album.  10 is the name of that album, another thing I find a little disrespectful.  The name 10 seems to me to imply it’s their 10th album.  It’s not; all fans know Metal Health was their third, not first, album.   This seems to play into an earlier attempt to re-write the Quiet Riot related Wikipedia pages to state that Metal Health was the band’s first record.  Why?  I can only speculate that this is done to promote the current Quiet Riot as having “original members”, when in fact they have none.

However, I’m going to listen with open ears, because that’s what I’m here to do.

First track, “Rock in Peace” is one I like quite a lot.  What I don’t like is the muddy, muddy sound.  The drums sound like they’re in another room.  It’s too bad because I think the song has potential.  As for Jizzy, it’s easy to adjust to him as lead singer of Quiet Riot.  Although he doesn’t sound like the late Kevin DuBrow too much, he does have certain screamy qualities in common with DuBrow.  This enables him to adapt to the Quiet Riot sound.  The lyrics quote the band’s biggest original hit, “Metal Health”, which is alright.  Halford’s quoted himself before too.  OK, so production aside, not bad.

“Bang For Your Buck” has some tasty guitar by the talented Alex Grossi, making his first Quiet Riot album appearance here.  Unfortunately the otherwise fine song is held back by Jizzy, overreaching and straining.  Grossi really does redeem the song especially with the solo…but damn this album sounds muddy.  Congested.  Like I have a head cold while listening to it.

Third in line is the weird titled “Backside of Water”.  I don’t know what that title means, and since this is a digital release, there are no lyrics.  It smokes along nicely, with more fantastic Grossi guitars, but it’s an unremarkable song that doesn’t sound like Quiet Riot, except in the sense that Quiet Riot has a lot of unremarkable songs.  The Ratt-like “Back on You” is outtake quality.  I’m sensing that the guys think they can just throw a shout-AC/DC-style chorus on something and call it catchy, but it doesn’t work that way.

“Band Down” is what you’d call a “down n’ dirty” rocker.  I’d call it dull, and poor sounding.   I think they’re trying to recapture that “Stay With Me Tonight” vibe, but without a memorable chorus.  But “Dog Bone Alley” is worse, absolutely sunk by horrendous backing vocals.  It has a slinky, heavy groove, and some smokin’ guitars, but that’s not enough to build a song with.

Alex Grossi, Jizzy Pearl, Frankie Banali, Chuck Wright

Alex Grossi, Jizzy Pearl, Frankie Banali, Chuck Wright

Quiet Riot’s biggest stumbling block has always been songwriting.  That’s why some of their biggest hits are covers.  Quiet Riot 10 continues that frustrating tradition.   Just like albums such as Alive and Well had some good songs and solid moments, so is Quiet Riot 10.  And that’s only six songs!

What Quiet Riot did to make a full album is include four live songs, kinda taking a page out of the ZZ Top book, a-la Fandango!  These tracks are all obscurities, songs not available in live versions before.  They all feature Kevin DuBrow, but could Frankie have not found better sounding recordings?  From Quiet Riot III is a horrid sounding version of “Put Up or Shut Up”.  This is bootleg quality, and not even good bootleg quality.  Too bad; sounds like it was a good version.  Then, from the stinky Rehab CD comes an unnecessary “Free”.  So it’s heavy, whoop-de-do.  It’s a shitty song, and the vocals are so damn distorted at times that it sounds as if Kevin’s under water.  “South of Heaven” too suffers from these sonic defects.  It seems like they were going for a Zeppelin “Nobody’s Fault But Mine” kind of vibe, but as if the mothership crashed into “The Ocean”.  (See what I did there?)  Kevin even yelps, “Push, push!”  It’s a shame because Frankie really is a smokin’ drummer.

The final track is a nine minute rock n’ roll medley.  This is a great jam.  Humble Pie’s “Red Light Mama, Red Hot!” is a great little obscure choice.  Kevin sounds like he’s having a blast.  Actually the whole band sound like they’re having more fun here than they were playing their own originals.  This seques into other more familiar hits, still harkening back to that old British blues rock sound.

Live many albums of Quiet Riots past, 10 stumbles and fails at times, while producing pleasing hard rock surprises at others.  The sonic issues are a surprise to me.  I hope a physical CD release, if there is to be one, would improve the sound.

2/5 stars

1. “Rock in Peace” 4:00
2. “Bang For Your Buck” 3:52
3. “Backside of Water” 4:18
4. “Back on You” 3:24
5. “Band Down” 3:17
6. “Dogbone Alley” 4:29

Live
7. “Put Up or Shut Up” 4:18
8. “Free” 4:05
9. “South of Heaven” 5:25
10. “Rock ‘n’ Roll Medley” 9:22

 

For further reading, check out Jon Wilmenius’ review of Quiet Riot 10.