scott humphrey

#611: Afraid

GETTING MORE TALE #611: Afraid

1989: A clean and sober Motley Crue take over the world. Dr. Feelgood climbs to #1 and the band rivals Bon Jovi and Def Leppard in the popularity stakes.

1990: Motley continue to tour and rock them all, while announcing their next album will be a “greatest hits”.

1991: Decade of Decadence is released, keeping Motley on the charts. The new single “Primal Scream” is well received.

1992: In a shock announcement, Vince Neil is fired from the band. Unfortunately Motley are not the only rock band to lose their singer at the beginning of the 90s.

1993:  Vince Neil’s solo debut Exposed is greeted by warm reviews.  Motley continue to toil in the studio with new singer John Corabi.

1994: Five years after Dr. Feelgood, the re-imagined Motley finally return with the self-titled Motley Crue.  Corabi blows ’em away, but the album fails to sell. Motley is forced to do a scaled down tour while the CD dropped off the charts.

This was the state of the Crue in the mid 90s.  They had released an incredible album.  Today, many fans rate it in the top three, or even at the #1 spot.   My near-legendary Record Store cohort T-Rev agrees.  “To me, they sounded more like a hard rock band than a hair metal band, because of that album.”

Absolutely true.  They stepped far beyond the preconceived notions of Motley Crue.  Guitars were detuned, lyrics were topical or personal.  Tracks like “Smoke the Sky” might have passed for Soundgarden.  On the other side of the coin, “Misunderstood” was an epic power ballad featuring an orchestra and Glenn fucking Hughes.  There wasn’t a weak track in the bunch, but plenty of variety.

Most fans didn’t embrace it at the time, and instead moved on to current bands.  Back then, nobody was interested.  No Vince, no Motley?  No way.  Corabi was absolutely the right guy at the right time.  Motley added his rhythm guitars and songwriting abilities, not to mention far more aggressive singing.  The band had only gotten better.  But by recording an uncompromising album with an unknown singer, they were indeed taking a chance.  It didn’t pay off.  When I was working at the Record Store, there was a giant pile of unsold Motley Crue CDs taking up space.  They sat next to an equally tall pile of David Lee Roth’s Your Filthy Little Mouth.  All the kings seemed to have been usurped.

At the Record Store, I first befriended the aforementioned T-Rev.  The fact that both of us loved the Motley album didn’t hurt.  T-Rev was the only person I knew who appreciated what they did.  He loved that huge overproduced drum sound.  Back in 1989, everybody had a Motley Crue T-shirt in the highschool halls.  In 1994, we couldn’t get anyone to listen.

Through 1995 and 1996, magazines reported that Motley were back in the studio, working on a followup with Corabi.  Bob Rock was back in the producer’s chair and the band wrote new songs such as “Personality #9”, “Let Us Prey”, “La Dolce Vita” and “The Year I Lived In A Day”.  Things seemed to be going well, but record company pressure was intense.  Bob Rock’s style was now passé and he was fired.  Engineer Scott Humphrey was promoted to producer, and electronics began to dominate.

The pressure was not only on Motley Crue, but focused directly on John Corabi.  Elektra records were eager to get Vince Neil back, a true “star”.  John was getting frustrated in the studio while this was going on.  Nothing he sang seemed to be good enough for Motley Crue anymore.  He was asked to sing like Oasis or the Sisters of Mercy.  John suggested that he just play rhythm guitar while they get Vince Neil to sing.  Somehow, this made its way into the rumour mill.  Before John Corabi was eventually fired, T-Rev and I had heard that Motley were considering this very same five-piece lineup.  What a glorious sounding thing that could have been.

Ultimately the band fired John and got Vince back.  They attempted to piece together the album that they’d been recording and re-recording and re-re-recording again.  Mick Mars was frustrated as well, as his guitar parts kept getting rejected and remixed.  In particular, Mars did not function well with Scott Humphrey.

Personally speaking, I lay these problems at the hands of Scott Humphrey.  I read the book The Dirt, and that’s certainly where the band lay most of the blame.  Have a look at Humphrey’s credits though.  Lots of records loaded with electronics, like Rob Zombie’s Hellbilly Deluxe and Tommy Lee’s solo stuff.  Humphrey started out as a keyboard player and programmer, and I think that high-tech style does not work with Motley Crue.  That’s my personal opinion, never having met Scott Humphrey.  I did, however, have a customer at the Record Store who knew Scott Humphrey, who is actually from Kitchener Ontario.*  “Motley Crue were the problem,” he told me.  “They were messed up on drugs.”  They were also unfocused musically.

On January 27 1997, the reunited original Motley Crue performed on the American Music Awards.  Mere months after being teased by a similar Van Halen reunion on the MTV Awards, I was relieved that Motley were playing a song rather than just standing there.  But what the hell song was it?!  Some strange, techno-y version of “Shout at the Devil”?  It was strange, unexpected and underwhelming.  Hey, cool, it was a fresh spin on an old classic.  But…why?

We soon found out.  The album Generation Swine came out on June 24 1997.  As usual, T-Rev and I got it a few days in advance.  “It sucks!” he warned me.  Of the first single “Afraid”, he said “It sounds more like Def Leppard than Motley Crue.”

“Afraid” is the best song on the album, which does frankly suck.  In a single stroke Motley went from one of their best albums, to one of their very worst.  It was astounding how desperate they sounded, trying to incorporate these influences that have nothing to do with Motley Crue.  The loops and samples and effects ruined many of the songs, but some just weren’t that good to begin with.  This considered, it was an even bigger surprise that Nikki Sixx and Tommy Lee were singing lead vocals too.  Sixx’s silly opener “Find Myself” was a nauseating faux-punk novelty song.  Generation Swine was also unfocused in the extreme, and the muddying effects didn’t help.  The electronic treatments on the drums rendered them limp, compared to the massive sound of 94’s Motley Crue.    Absolutely everything on Generation Swine was inferior to Motley Crue.

Three CD singles were released for “Afraid”, which was remixed so many times trying to get it right, that they used some of the various versions as bonus tracks.  The album version is fine enough, and in this one instance, the electronics enhance the song.  I’d rather hear “Afraid” with the effects than without.

What did other fans think?  When Generation Swine was new, one of my customers wanted to hear it before buying.  “I saw that Vince Neil is back.  Have you heard it?” he asked me, and I told him the truth.  He was sceptical of my review, but changed his mind upon hearing it.  “It doesn’t sound like them,” he said, and he’s right.  I then cajoled him into listening to the 1994 album.  He didn’t want to, because it didn’t have Vince Neil, but agreed to give it a shot.

Guess which album he bought?  Motley ’94.

At least there’s some redemption, if only temporarily.  During the Christmas season of 1998, T-Rev once again called me up to tell me about Motley Crue.  There was a new compilation out, called Greate$t Hit$ [review coming tomorrow].   This time, there were two new songs:  “Enslaved” and “Bitter Pill”.  Both were produced by Bob Rock.

“The new songs aren’t bad,” said T-Rev.  “A lot better than Generation Swine.  Not as good as ‘Primal Scream'”

Right again, T-Rev.  Not bad.  An improvement, but not as good as what they did the first time out.  That was enough for me to buy the CD.  Not for Trevor, though.

I think Motley Crue were on the right track with “Enslaved” and “Bitter Pill” after the failure of Generation Swine.  They obviously knew that album didn’t work, so they went back to the last thing that did.  Both songs are growers, and still raise a smile to hear.  Unfortunately Motley Crue blew it again.  Tommy Lee and Vince Neil had a dust-up at an airport, and Lee split.  He was replaced by former Ozzy Osbourne drummer, Randy Castillo.**

Fans like T-Rev and myself always supported the 1994 album, and today we’ve been justified.  More and more fans have realised the quality of that CD, and increasingly hold it in high esteem.  There’s something about that CD, and I’m afraid that Motley Crue never came close to touching it since.

Tommy Lee, John Corabi, Nikki Sixx & Mick Mars

* Fun fact! T-Rev’s mom dated Scott Humphrey!

** In a very sad turn of events, Castillo never got to tour with Motley Crue.  He became ill and died of cancer on March 26, 2002 at age 51.  His replacement, Hole’s Samantha Maloney, did the tour and resultant live video.

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REVIEW: Motley Crue – Quaternary (1994 Japanese EP)

MOTLEY CRUE – Quaternary (1994 Elektra Japanese EP)

For me, undoubtedly the most heavily anticipated new album of 1994 was the new Motley Crue.  Originally titled ‘Til Death Do Us Part, the self-titled ’94 Crue disc was their first with new singer/guitarist John Corabi.  They holed up with producer Bob Rock and knuckled down, creating what could have been the most important album of their careers.  The long wait (five years between studio albums) and cryptic remarks from the studio indicated that this would be the heaviest Motley album ever, and their most ambitious.  The new, serious Motley for the 90’s had, as always, written plenty of extra material too.

In addition, producer Bob Rock had an idea for getting creative juices flowing.  He asked each of the four members of Motley Crue to write and record a solo track with no input from the other members.  This was slightly historic:  the first time Nikki Sixx, Mick Mars, Tommy Lee or John Corabi had done anything solo.  With all the numerous outtakes recorded for the Motley Crue LP, there was now plenty of extra material to put out as a bonus EP.

Scan_20160612A mail-away coupon inside the Motley Crue CD alerted fans that five more tracks were available by mail order only.  20,000 copies of the original EP were pressed.  They included all four solo tracks and a new Motley Crue song called “Babykills”, featuring fifth Beatle Billy Preston on clavinet!

Still, the lucky fans in Japan didn’t have to mail away for anything.  They were able to buy Quaternary right on their store shelves, and because it’s Japan, they also got bonus tracks.  The Japanese version of Quaternary was not a five song EP, but more like a nine-song mini-album.  I had no idea such a thing existed until finding one at Sam the Record Man in Toronto in the summer of 1996.   It still has the price tag:  I paid $49.99, for a total of three songs that I did not have before.

Today, every one of these songs can be found on the box set Music to Crash Your Car To: Volume II, along with even more bonus mixes.

Quaternary commences with industrial noises and studio dialogue:

Tommy Lee:  “I can’t play with fuckin’ clothes on man, this is bullshit.”
Bob Rock: “Play naked.”
Tommy Lee: “Fuckin’ jeans on, a fuckin’ shirt…what up with that?”
Bob Rock: “What, do you work in a bank?”

The industro-rap metal of Tommy Lee’s “Planet Boom” is a track he had been working on for years. An early version made its debut in the background on the 1992 home video release Decade of Decadence. Even though the words “industro-rap” and “Tommy Lee” don’t really sound good together, “Planet Boom” kicks ass. Tommy played all the instruments, utilising a simple, detuned Sabbathy riff and a relentless drum loop. The strength of his vocal came as a surprise, as did the song in general. A few years later it was remixed for Pamela Anderson’s movie Barb Wire. (Stick with this original.)

After a brief studio discussion with Mick Mars about hemorrhoids (?), his blues instrumental “Bittersuite” blows your ears off. Motley fans know that Mick Mars is the most musically talented member, considered an underrated and under appreciated rock god. The blues-rock of “Bittersuite” isn’t as satisfying as I imagine a pure blues offering to be, but there is no doubting Mick’s talent here. Both as a writer and a player, Mick hit it out of the park (Chris Taylor played drums). Mick’s goal was to pay tribute to rock-blues greats like Beck, Hendrix and Blackmore. Mission accomplished. His guitar tone is beautiful and so are his emotive licks.

Nikki Sixx goes third, with another industrial-metal cross. “Father” is one angry fucked up track. It’s heavy and direct, on-trend for 1994, and very abrasive. The riff and song are simple, but Nikki’s anger leaks through. “Father — where were you?” Backwards guitars, electronics and loops on top — you can tell Nikki and Tommy were listening to the same kinds of music at the time!

New kid John Corabi goes last, and in the liner notes he says that “Friends” is his first piano song. He meant to go acoustic, but “Friends” just came out of him. It’s a pretty Queen-like ballad with lovely harmonies in the middle. Although Mick Mars’ song is probably a greater technical achievement, “Friends” is my favourite of the solo tracks. When a guy like Corabi gets going on a ballad, it’s usually going to be amazing anyway. Throw in the Queen elements, and I’m just a sucker for it! It’s really a shame that Motley did not continue with John beyond this. The potential for greatness was always there.

After more studio chatter, we break into “Babykills”, the Billy Preston collaboration. “Babykills” is fun and funky hard rock, probably the heaviest thing Preston ever played on. Unfortunately his part is little more than an added topping. Great tune though; probably far too good to lie hidden away on an obscure mail-order EP.

An impromptu jam that seems to be called “I Just Wanna Fuck You (In the Ass)” ends the original EP on a jokey note.  “What the fuck do you want, for fuck all?”

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As mentioned, the Japanese had bonus tracks.   These are tracks that did not make the finished Motley Crue album, since they had recorded so much extra material.  “10,000 Miles Away” is a cool blues ballad, showing off more of Mick’s fine fingerwork.  It was obviously too much of a standard sounding song to fit in with the experimental Motley Crue album.  Not that the album stood a chance in hell after grunge cleared the decks, but you do wonder if it would have been better received if some of these more digestible songs were included on it.

The one track on the Japanese release that is easy to skip is the Skinny Puppy remix of “Hooligan’s Holiday”.  This track was already available on the “Hooligan’s Holiday” single and it’s since been re-released in other places too.  It’s long — over 11 minutes.  Dave “Rave” Ogilvie remixed it with Dwayne Goettel and cEvin Key, so it is of possible interest to Skinny Puppy collectors.  The thing that bugs me about it is that it strikes me as lazy.  The song is pretty much the same as always for the first three minutes, and then the remixing begins.  The whacked out and frankly boring remixed part goes on for almost seven more minutes, before transitioning back to the standard song.  In other words, what Skinny Puppy did here was edit out the middle section and guitar solo of the song, drop in seven minutes of remixed barf, and then put the ending back on.

Two demos round out the CD:  “Hammered” (which did make the album) and “Livin’ in the No” (which did not).  The “Hammered” demo is structurally the same as the album version, no radical departures.  It sounds like much of it is live in the studio, and it’s clear that Motley were focusing on grooves.  It’s all about the four guys being locked in.  Finally “Livin’ in the No” is in the standard hard rock mold.  Again, a track like this fits in less well with the unorthodox LP, but might have made it more accessible for fans.  Even so, a guy like Vince Neil would never have been able to sing “Livin’ in the No” and make it sound good.

There is little question that the Motley Crue album deserves its 5/5 star rating.  This being a collection of outtakes, the same cannot be expected.  Still, it does deserve a very respectable:

4/5 stars

Get the complete EP including all Japanese bonus tracks on Music to Crash Your Car To: Volume II. That set also contains more remixes originally from single B-sides of the era: “Misunderstood” (Guitar Solo/Scream Version), “Hooligan’s Holiday” (Derelict Version), “Misunderstood” (Successful Format Version), “Hooligan’s Holiday” (Brown Nose Edit).

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REVIEW: The Cult – The Cult (1994)

First of a CULT double shot!  Come back tomorrow for another!

CULT_0002THE CULT – The Cult (1994 Universal)

This is an ugly album.  Even though a 1989 MuchMusic interview with Billy Duffy revealed The Cult would most likely not work with Bob Rock again, they did indeed re-team with the Canadian producer on 1994’s The Cult.  Duffy didn’t think the magic of Sonic Temple was something that could be repeated, based on the less than satisfactory (to him) results of working with producer Steve Brown twice.  On The Cult, however, no attempt was made in any way to recapture any sound or era.  This was brand new from the womb of 1994, and sounds very dated to that dark time.

The twisted “Gone”, unorthodox and sparse, was a shock to the system.  Once the listener gets his or her bearings, it’s actually a great fucking song.  Just a little off-kilter; enough to sound as if it’s not being played right.  It’s a whole new side to The Cult.  I wonder how much of this has to do with the new lineup, including bassist Craig Adams (The Sisters of Mercy/The Mission) and drummer Scott Garrett (Dag Nasty).  Ian Astbury’s delivery was also quite different.  Rather than simply howling those patented Astbury melodies, Ian barks, whispers and bellows.

“Coming Down (Drug Tongue)” was the first single, very different from the hits from the past two or three albums.  It had a droning, U2-ish vibe.  It’s quite a good song, but it wasn’t love at first listen.  “Real Grrrl” has a slower sway to it, and there is a lot to like about the song.  It’s interesting to hear Bob Rock using open space a lot more in his production; this is right after the supersaturated Motley Crue album.  Much of the instrumentation is very dry, but then there are Bob Rock trademarks, such as the Scott Humphrey synth on “Real Grrrl.”

Sounding much like a Superunknown (the softer side thereof) outtake, “Black Sun” is dark and quiet.  Ian sings of abuse.  The band back him with the barest of instrumentation, before the Billy Duffy solo around 3:20.  It is impossible to ignore the similarities to all the grunge bands of the time.  The basic, stripped down guitar parts and rhythm-driven arrangements speak of the time.

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There are few standouts on The Cult.  The album is more cerebral than past Cult albums, and is more about its overall direction than individual songs.  The aforementioned tracks are all great, as are a few others.  They include “Star” (also a single) which is a song that was re-worked many times going back to Sonic Temple.  Previously, it had been known as “Tom Petty” and “Star Child”, and can be found in both forms on the expansive Rare Cult box set.  It is one of the few songs that slightly resemble “old Cult”.  “Be Free” was a single (in Canada at least) given away with a case of beer.  How Canadian, eh?  (I sold mine on eBay for $10).  It too is a pretty good song.  Then there’s “Sacred Life”, a somber ballad naming Abbie Hoffman, River Phoenix and Kurt Cobain as painful losses to the world.  Album closer “Saints Are Down” is a powerful epic, and also a standout.

The Cult broke up/went on hiatus after this album.  They reunited in 1999 (with Matt Sorum on drums) and released a new song called “Painted on the Sun” written by Diane Warren (!!) from the Gone in 60 Seconds soundtrack.  This was followed by the excellent Beyond Good and Evil CD, also produced by Bob Rock.  This self-titled departure remained just that, as The Cult went full-bore metal on Beyond Good and Evil.  This album is an experiment that went unrepeated, and that is fine.  I like it for what it is, but I don’t need another.

3/5 stars

DVD REVIEW: The Devil’s Rejects (2005)

Welcome back to the Week of Rockin’ Movies.  Each movie we take a look at this week will have a significant connection to rock music.  If you missed Monday’s installment, click below.

MONDAY:  House of 1000 Corpses (2003)

THE DEVIL’S REJECTS (2005 Lionsgate)

Directed by Rob Zombie

As stated yesterday, I’m generally not a horror movie guy.  I grew up on all the classics (good or bad) in the 80’s, but I thought I just outgrew the genre. Then I saw Rob Zombie’s House Of 1000 Corpses, and its sequel The Devil’s Rejects.

Picking up several months after the end of Corpses, the cops are closing in on the murderous Firefly family. The house is surrounded, and a surprisingly cool gun battle ensues.  It is only the first of many surprises in this cool conclusion. It may be a sequel, but its stark realistic texture is completely different from the bizarre original film. Set mostly outdoors in the deep south, the titular Rejects are soon on the run. But not all of them.

Mama Firefly (recast from Karen Black to Leslie Easterbrook) has been arrested.  Rufus is dead, and the giant Tiny has escaped. Hitting the road, Baby & Otis meet up with Captain Spaulding, who is revealed to be Baby’s daddy!  The three are on the run from a cop out to even a personal score. Like something out of a Sergio Leone film, music and scenery complement each other to take you on a trip that will shock and disgust.  There are no heroes, only victims and killers.  This is not for everyone.

There are buckets full of blood, lots of parts removed from the body to which they were originally attached, and lots of deeds beyond evil. I must stress again: This is not for everyone. The images contained herein will disturb. You may question why they even need to exist.  I suppose Rob Zombie would be the guy to ask, I don’t know.  All I know is, sometimes I can go for a good horror movie, and The Devil’s Rejects scratches the itch.

Much like the original, there is humour to break up the carnage.  Cranked up a tad, Captain Spaulding portrayed by Sid Haig always has a foul line to elicit a reluctant chuckle.   I enjoyed that, but I also enjoyed the sudden change of gears that is the epic ending.  Going out in a blaze of glory, I will never hear Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Free Bird” again without seeing the three faces of the Devil’s Rejects.

As seen here, I own this movie with House of 1000 Corpses in a great DVD 3-pack.  The disc has plenty of special features on its own, including a tribute to the late actor Matthew McGrory (Tiny).  Also look for a cool deleted scene with Rosario Dawson and Dr. Satan that ties the two films together.  Included on the bonus third disc is a feature called 30 Days in Hell, which is the making of The Devil’s Rejects.  I enjoyed seeing Zombie work on the finer details; for example finding a specific T-shirt (Cheap Trick) for Brian Posehn’s roadie character.

4/5 stars, and 1 blood-splattered face.

Sid Haig as Johnny Lee Johns
Bill Moseley as Otis Driftwood
Sheri Moon Zombie as Vera-Ellen Firefly
William Forsythe as Sheriff John Quincey Wydell
Ken Foree as Charlie Altamont
Matthew McGrory as Tiny Firefly
Leslie Easterbrook as Gloria Firefly
Danny Trejo as Rondo
Diamond Dallas Page as Billy Ray Snapper
Brian Posehn as Jimmy
Tom Towles as George Wydell
Tyler Mane as Rufus “RJ” Firefly Jr

DVD REVIEW: House of 1000 Corpses (2003)

Hey! Welcome to another week-long series at mikeladano.com!  This time, the theme is Rockin’ Movies.  Each movie we take a look at this week will have a significant connection to rock music.  Enjoy!

HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES (2003 Universal)

Directed by Rob Zombie

I’m generally not a horror movie guy, although I grew up on all the cheesy classics in the 1980’s. I thought I just outgrew the genre. Then my buddy Thuss implored me to see Rob Zombie’s House Of 1,000 Corpses.

Anchored by Zombie’s uncommon visual stylings and eclectic tastes, this House is rocking, don’t bother knocking. The setup:  An ill-fated foursome of young men and ladies are travelling cross country. They stop for gas and chicken at Captain Spaulding’s “Museum of Monsters & Madmen” (as played by the near-legendary Sid Haig). Spaulding is the best character written by Rob Zombie, both hilariously funny and mildly disturbing at the same time. Well, he’s a creepy clown. If you have a clown phobia, Spaulding’s the creepiest I’ve ever seen, but I can’t help but laugh every time he opens his sizable mouth.

Spaulding tips the kids (Rainn Wilson is the only “name” here) off to the creepy legend of “Dr. Satan”.  They then decide it’s a good idea to go hunting for Dr. Satan’s hanging tree in the middle of the night. In the rain. It is then that they meet the beautifully disordered Baby Firefly (Sherri Moon Zombie)…and get a flat tire. Things only go downhill for the young ones from there, as I’m sure you can imagine. Baby invites our young travelers to her family’s farm, where her brother can surely fix their flat tire.

Special mention must go to out to Bill Mosely who is terrifyingly unstable as the most amoral member of the Firefly family, Otis B. Driftwood. He only gets more interesting as a character in the sequel, The Devil’s Rejects…but that is another review.

Some horror purists can’t get into Zombie’s style. Indeed, he has a unique vision as any fan of his will know. If you like oddly proportioned monsters and robots, just go see him in concert. Zombie also likes to populate his films with 70’s southern stereotypes. Indeed, one would argue that the movie has no actual characters, just character types. That’s the kind of horror movie that I remember growing up with, and I believe his films pay homage to that very well. He also had a practical reason for setting his movies in the 1970’s.  No cellphones.  No-one to call for help.  No GPS. No way to call AAA and get a tire changed.  Isolation.

House of 1,000 Corpses is a visually disturbing film, and that’s one reason I can’t stop watching it. Other horror films are simply cheese-fests. Not this one. There are gallons of blood, body parts, and a couple monsters too, but all presented in a surreal nightmare setting that might have you avoiding country roads at night. Zombie went in a completely different direction in the next movie, so House of 1000 Corpses remains the “weird” chapter in this series.

Will there be justice on the Fireflys? Tune in tomorrow for my review of The Devil’s Rejects.

4/5 stars and 2 severed hands.

Sid Haig as Captain Spaulding
Bill Moseley as Otis B. Driftwood
Sheri Moon Zombie as Baby Firefly
Karen Black as Mother Firefly
Rainn Wilson as Bill Hudley
Tom Towles as Lieutenant George Wydell
Matthew McGrory as Tiny Firefly
Robert Mukes as Rufus “RJ” Firefly Jr
Dennis Fimple as Grampa Hugo Firefly

REVIEW: Triumph – The Sport of Kings (1986)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1.5/5 stars

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

Gallery: MOTLEY CRUE – Generation Swine (1997 Japanese CD)

A short while ago, Jon and I were discussing the Motley Crue “reunion” album, Generation Swine (review here).  I told him that I was still looking for the original Japanese edition, which had a bonus track called “Song To Slit Your Wrist By”.   Even though I already knew the song from Nikki’s side project, 58, and didn’t like it, I still wanted Motley Crue’s version for my collection.  I found one on eBay for just over $30 which is the best price I’d ever seen.  I bought it, it shipped.

Then Jon told me:  “The bonus track ‘A Song To Slit Your Wrist By’ wasn’t a Crüe song at all, it was taken from Nikki Sixx’ very underrated sideproject 58.”

Rats!

See, for me as a collector, that sucks for two reasons.  If the song is by 58 and not Motley (and he’s exactly right, that’s indeed what it is), then it gets pushed way out into a far orbit of my collecting priorities.  Second, I already had the damn thing a long time ago on the 58 album Diet For A New America!

I knew it wasn’t a pristine copy and the packaging had yellowed, so no big deal.  The plastic outer case has also got a bit brittle and a piece cracked off in shipping.  Again, no big deal, last time I saw this CD it was a lot more expensive, and didn’t have the obi strip.  It comes with a really cool generous booklet (in Japanese unfortunately), exclusive to this release, so that helps to make up for the lack of an exclusive bonus track.

Gallery below.  Enjoy!

REVIEW: Motley Crue – Generation Swine (1997)

MOTLEY CRUE – Generation Swine (1997, 2003 Motley Records reissue)

It is hard to believe that the mighty Crue, who had released the record of their lives in 1994 (Motley Crue with Corabi on vocals) put out this bunk next. Such was the 90’s. Fans did not embrace Corabi as predicted, the album flopped, and immediate pressure was on the Crue to kiss and make up with Vince Neil.  So that’s what they relectantly did. 

The Crue were already in experimental mode when Corabi was still on board. They had already said that this album wouldn’t be produced by Bob Rock (a shame, that was) and that it would be more “raw” and “heavy”. Then, as time went on, you started hearing things like, “The new album is Motley Crue meets Sisters of Mercy with the intensity of Nine Inch Nails”. Bands that have nothing to do with the Crue’s roots. In the end, the band was spinning tires so fast that Corabi couldn’t handle it anymore and Vince was brought back. All of this is well documented in the latter half of Motley Crue: The Dirt.  A five-piece Crue with Neil singing and Corabi on rhythm guitar was briefly considered (damn! that would have been sweet!), but it was the original four-piece sans Corabi that became the next Motley Crue lineup.

And what they made together was just…what the fuck is this?  Remember when Crue showed up at the AMA’s and lip-synced that new techno-y sample ridden version of “Shout at the Devil”?  What the hell was that?

I place the blame squarely on the head of producer Scott Humphrey. Humphrey was actually from around here.  People who know Humphrey personally have said he’s always been a tech-head.  Just listen to his records with Rob Zombie.  That’s fine.  But here, Humphrey uses all his techno-wizardry to suck the life out of Motley Crue, no mean feat. The band must also share the blame, as they should have stopped the directionless proceedings before it got too far. In the end though, Motley Crue continued on with this sound, even over Mick Mars’ very strong objections. Mars was sidelined in the recordings, but it turns out Mick was right about Generation Swine.

Generation Swine (formerly: Personality #9 while Corabi was in the band) is the most confusing, un-Motley disc ever recorded. The drums are processed and sampled to the point where there may as well have been no live drummer.  It may as well be a computer rather than Tommy Lee, for what it sounds like.  The guitars, also sampled, squeezed, processed and spat out by a computer, show little of Mick’s spark and feel. I can see why Mick was pissed off.  Vince’s return was hardly worth bally-hooing, as he’s barely able to wheeze out a passable melody here. In fact, both Sixx and Lee take lead vocals, too. What kind of reunion album is that?

The real shame of it is that these songs could have turned out quite well. Check out “Let Us Prey”. It is easy to imagine what this sounded like when Corabi was singing it. In fact he insists that his vocals are still intact in the mix, and that you can hear him scream on the choruses. Corabi also says his rhythm guitar parts on the album are intact too.

But I digress. The point is, songs like “Let Us Prey”, “Generation Swine”, “A Rat Like Me”, and “Anybody Out There?” show enough of the original Motley spirit that this could have been a halfway decent album. However each of those four songs are choked to death under a muffled blanket of samples, sound effects, bells & whistles, and processed unnatural guitars and drums. It’s a shame because any of those four songs (the only solid hard rockers on this disc of slow paced dreck) had potential. Also decent was the single, “Afraid”, although it sounds more like Def Leppard.

To add weirdness on top of the confusion, the album closes with a track called “Brandon” sung by Mr. Thomas Lee Bass himself. “Brandon, I love you. I love her. She is your mom.” Yes, he actually sings that.  God knows what he was thinking when he wrote that lyric.  Nikki Sixx’s “Rocketship”, a hippy dippy ballad for his wife is slightly better, but why not get Vince, the singer of Motley Crue, to sing it?  Nikki’s not an especially good singer – that’s why he plays bass. Yet he insists on singing three songs, on Vince’s comeback record.  I still don’t get that.

People, do yourself a favour. It doesn’t matter that Vince Neil came back for this album (it was mostly finished before he came back anyway). Check out the 1994 album with Corabi, a truely heavy beast that will probably blow your head off if you’re not wearing a helmet. It is a beautiful record.  This is not.  And don’t worry about the bonus tracks on the reissue.  The demos are no better than the album tracks. Nobody needed a demo of “Confessions” with Tommy singing.

Excluded: A techno song only released on the Japanese disc called “Song To Slit Your Wrist By”. An expensive trinket.  I don’t own it myself.  The only time I saw it up close and personal was at a record show in London, and the vendor was asking $70 for it.

2/5 stars