WE WISH YOU A METAL XMAS AND A HEADBANGING NEW YEAR (2008 Armoury)
Yep, It’s another Bob Kulick album with various guests. You know what you’re going to get. Let’s not dilly-dally; let’s crack open the cranberry sauce and see what a Metal Xmas sounds like.
Generic! A truly ordinary title track features the amazing Jeff Scott Soto on lead vocals, but it’s a purely cookie-cutter arrangement with all the cheesy adornments you expect. Ray Luzier fans will enjoy the busy drums, but this does not bode well for the album.
Fortunately it’s Lemmy to the rescue, with “Run Rudolph Run”, an utterly classic performance with Billy Gibbons and Dave Grohl. All spit n’ vinegar with no apologies and nary a mistletoe in sight. I remember playing this for my sister Dr. Kathryn Ladano in the car one Christmas.
When Lemmy opened his yap, she proclaimed “This is bullshit! How come they get to make albums and not me?”
Lemmy Kilmister, pissing people off since day one, has done it again. You can buy the CD for “Run Rudolph Run” even if the rest is utter shit.
A silly “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” by Alice Cooper echoes “The Black Widow”, but novelty value aside, is not very good. A joke song can only take you so far, and Alice is usually far more clever. (At least John 5’s soloing is quite delicious.) And even though Dio is next, “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” comes across as a joke, too. Which is a shame because the lineup is a Dio/Sabbath hybrid: Tony Iommi, Rudy Sarzo, and Simon Wright. Dio’s joyless, dead serious interpretation is amusing only because of its unintentional dry humour.
Funny enough, Geoff Tate’s “Silver Bells” has the right attitude. Even though Geoff is perpetually flat, his spirited version (with Carlos Cavazo, James Lomenzo and Ray Luzier) kicks up some snow. That makes me happy, but it pains me to say that Dug Pinnick’s “Little Drummer Boy” (with George Lynch, Billy Sheehan and Simon Phillips) doesn’t jingle. Ripper Owens, Steve More & pals team up next on “Santa Claus is Back in Town”, so bad that it borders on parody.
The most bizarre track is Chuck Billy’s “Silent Night”, with thrash buddies like Scott Ian. Chuck performs it in his death metal growl, and it’s pure comedy. Oni Logan can’t follow that with “Deck the Halls”, though it’s pretty inoffensive. Stephen Pearcy’s “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer” adapts the riff from “Tie Your Mother Down” and succeeds in creating a listenable track. “Rockin’ Around the Xmas Tree” is ably performed by Joe Lynn Turner, sounding a lot like a Christmas party jam.
The final artist is Tommy Shaw with John Lennon’s “Happy Xmas (War is Over)”. It’s an authentic version and while not a replacement for the original, will be enjoyable to Styx fans.
Christmas albums by rock artists are, let’s be honest, rarely worthwhile. This one has only a handful of keepers so spend wisely.
ANTHRAX – Live from Sonisphere Festival 2010 (picture disc EP, Record Store Day exclusive)
I don’t get these Record Store Day exclusives, honestly. I saw this thing for a reasonable price on Amazon and bought it without even knowing it was some kind of “exclusive”. I sure didn’t buy it at a record store, but I won’t turn this into a Record Store Day rant.
This is a very nice looking picture disc. I wouldn’t recommend playing it too often, you know how quickly a picture disc can wear out. If you’re lucky enough to own the Big Four Live CD box set, you won’t need to play this. I don’t have that very limited set, but these two Anthrax performances make me want it! “Medusa”, an oldie from the Anthrax days of yore (Spreading the Disease), is just as powerful as ever. Belladonna’s voice has changed, but not enough to matter. The song has been tuned down, but that really only makes it heavier.
“Only”, the first single from the John Bush era of the band, is on the other side. This is one of the best Anthrax songs ever, in my opinion. Joey certainly turns a more than able performance. He sounds at home, and I quite enjoy his version, especially when he starts shrieking before the guitar solo.
I loved this single, and I was surprised how awesome Joey sounded. I really lost track of Anthrax after the We’ve Come For You All period and haven’t been too excited about all the rotating singers since then. However since Joey’s been back (for hopefully the rest of the band’s life) I’ve been a lot more interested, and that’s why I bought this. I didn’t know how good he would sound on the Bush-era stuff, and “Medusa” smokes with furious intensity too.
“I’m letting them pick what songs they wanna do in the way they wanna do it.” Wendy Dio
VARIOUS ARTISTS: Ronnie James Dio – THIS IS YOUR LIFE (2014 tribute CD)
No preable from me: we all know how great Dio was. Let’s get to the tracks.
Anthrax kick off the festivities with a slamming “Neon Nights”. The storming opener couldn’t have been in a better slot. Not only is Charlie Benate heavy as shit, but the guitar solos are mental. Joe Belladonna handles the powerful vocal ably. Rob Caggiano is still in the lineup indicating this isn’t brand new. I suspect it was recorded at the same time as last year’s Anthems EP.
The guys that never get respect, Tenacious D, tackle the difficult second slot. No worries there; they chose “The Last In Line” which Jack Black sings with no difficulty. Uncle Meat has said it before: Jack Black is one of the best singers he’s seen live. “The Last In Line” proves his pipes, although some may not like his exaggerated, humorous vocal enunciation. Kyle Gass plays a cute recorder solo in lieu of guitar, but there’s not enough K.G. on this track. Brooks Wackerman kicks the drums in the ass.
And speaking of drums, Mike Portnoy is next with Adrenaline Mob. They demolish “Mob Rules”, although singer Russell Allen is certainly no Dio. He is completely overshadowed by Portnoy and the shredding of Mike Orlando.
Corey Taylor, Satchel (Russ Parish) and friends chose “Rainbow In the Dark” as their tribute to Ronnie. This has always been such a fan favourite, and a personal one as well. It is difficult to imagine anyone but Ronnie singing it. While Corey Taylor is not at all like Ronnie James Dio, you can tell he loves this song. It bleeds out of his performance. He does it in his own rasp, and it works.
The incredible Lzzy Hale and Halestorm are up next with another Dio classic, “Straight Through the Heart”. There is no denying the talents of Lzzy Hale, but her powerful pipes are almost too much. Perhaps she overpowers the song, rather than simply fueling it. Halestorm fans will love it, but I think Lzzy maybe should have reeled it in a bit. Or, maybe I just need to get used to it. “Straight From the Heart” does sound better after a few listens.
Biff Byford (Saxon) joins Motorhead on lead vocals for Rainbow’s “Starstruck”. There’s a bit of that Motor-slam in it, but if I didn’t know who it was, I never would have guessed Motorhead. You can hear Lemmy on backing vocals, but weirdly, he’s not credited on bass. Nobody is, but you can hear the bass clearly and it sounds like Lem.
I’m a little sick of the Scorpions doing ballads, but I admit that “Temple of the King” (another Rainbow classic) is stunningly good. One might almost mistake it for a Scorpions original. It has that regal Scorpions bombast to is, but Matthias Jabs’ lead work is just sublime. He’s an underrated player, absolutely. You can tell he’s a Blackmore fan.
An oldie from 1999, Doro’s cover of “Egypt (The Chains are On)” is excellent. It’s cool to hear female singers like Doro and Lzzy Hale sing Dio. Doro’s impressive pipes have always been astounding. Her version of “Egypt” is a little over the top compared to Dio’s, but that’s cool by me.
Killswitch Engage…hmm. “Holy Diver” starts great, super heavy, with some perfectly acceptable, melodic vocals. Then it all goes down the toilet at the bridge. That’s when it turns into hardcore shouting and blast beats…sorry, not on this song, thanks. I can listen to that stuff in moderation, but don’t sully “Holy Diver” with it. Fortunately the guitar solos are great, sounding like an Iron Maiden outtake from Powerslave. Shame about the growling and shouting. Skip.
“Catch the Rainbow” is a great song, and Craig Goldy plays guitar on this cover. He’s ex-Dio himself, and he’s backed by his former Dio-mates Rudy Sarzo, Scott Warren and Simon Wright. (Hey, that’s also 1/3 of Tateryche!) Glenn Hughes sings, but this song sounds out of his scope. His bluesy slant doesn’t work for me. Sorry Glenn, you’re still awesome!
I find it strange that two more ex-Dio members (Jimmy Bain and Rowan Robertson) chose to cover Black Sabbath. But who cares! They covered “I”, perhaps the greatest song from Dehumanizer (1992)! On drums is Brian Tichy, with Oni Logan (Lynch Mob, Dio Disciples) singing. It’s a perfectly authentic version and I love it. It’s absolutely thunderous, and I love Jimmy Bain’s bass sound. Always have. Of all the vocalists on This Is Your Life, it is Oni Logan that comes closest to nailing Dio’s vibe. Considering he’s in Dio Diciples, I shouldn’t have been surprised. I didn’t expect it though, based on what I knew of Logan from Lynch Mob. He fits “I” like a glove!
I was disappointed in Rob Halford’s version of “Man On the Silver Mountain”. It’s true that Halford did replace Dio in Black Sabbath for two shows in 1992. However, having owned a bootleg video of that show since that time, I knew that Halford’s and Dio’s styles didn’t really mesh. This is no different; I don’t think his voice works with the song and it unfortunately shows off the places where Rob’s voice has weakened. What is cool though is that the band (all ex-Dio: Doug Aldrich, Vinnie Appice, Jeff Pilson and Scott Warren) take it to a swampy bluesy Whitesnake-y place for the intro. You can definitely hear Pilson covering the high notes in the chorus.
Finally we arrive at the mighty Metallica. Snicker if you like. If Metallica do one thing really well, it’s covers. If they do two right, it’s covers and medleys. The “Ronnie Rising Medley” is entirely made up of parts of Rainbow songs. “A Light In the Black” bleeds into “Tarot Woman,” where the vocals begin. It’s safe to say if you don’t like Metallica, you won’t like this. If the opposite is true, I think you’re in for a treat. Metallica do these classics in their own style, just as they have in the past when covering Maiden, or Mercyful Fate, or Thin Lizzy. Simply add Lars’ thuds, James’ growl, and some standard Metalli-licks, and you’ve got a medley that is enjoyable through its near-10 minute run time. Having said that, the weak point is definitely “Stargazer”, which is gutted of all its majesty. They do much better with “Kill the King” which is fucking perfect. They include the entire song in their medley!
Fittingly, the album ends on a ballad: Dio’s own somber “This Is Your Life”, performed by the man himself in 1996. I did not like the Angry Machines album, but if there was one song I would have picked as a highlight it would be “This Is Your Life”. Performed only by Dio and Scott Warren on piano, it is unlike anything else in Dio’s canon. The lyrics speak of mortality:
This is your life This is your time What if the flame Won’t last forever?
This is your here This is your now Let it be magical
What a way to end a great album. As much as you can “miss” a person you have never met, I do miss Ronnie James Dio. In many ways he’s been my friend for 30 years.
As a nice added touch, the liner notes include photos of just about every performer on this CD with Ronnie!
Of note: the Japanese edition has a bonus track by Dio Diciples: “Stand Up and Shout.” It also has Stryper’s version of “Heaven and Hell” from their 2011 album The Covering, which I reviewed here.
Spacewalk – A Salute to Ace Frehley (1996 DeRock/Triage)
Just in time for the massive Kiss reunion tour came this tribute CD. There were several versions of this. I have the second-coolest of the three:
Least cool: Regular domestic 10 track CD.
Second coolest: Import CD (Europe?) with brand new bonus track by Ace Frehley himself, called “Take Me To the City”
Most cool: Japanese import CD with that and Sebastian Bach’s “Save Your Love”
This is one of those tributes made up of a mish-mash of metal musicians, no real “bands” so to speak, although all are great musicians. Scott Travis plays drums on most of it (lending an awkward Priest-like vibe to the drums), Charlie Benate plays with Scott Ian on “Rip It Out”, and Vinnie Paul of course plays with Dimebag Darrel on “Fractured Mirror”. (This site has all the information and credits for the CD. Enjoy! You’ll notice the backing band is basically Racer X on most tracks.)
I’m good with every track on here except one: Bruce Bouillet’s version of “New York Groove”. I’m not into drum loops in general, and although the track has a funky groove to it, it’s just not my bag. On the other hand, Scott Ian’s cover of “Rip It Out” is Anthrax-worthy. Frankie Bello’s on bass, and somebody named Zach Throne sings it with Scott. Zach nails an authentic Ace-like vocal, while Charlie’s relentless on the drums. The Anton Fig drum solo is almost exact note-for-note. As is the signature guitar solo.
Gilby Clarke’s “Shock Me” is one of the better tracks. I don’t usually think of Gilby as a soloist, since in GN’R he didn’t solo. His soloing style is unlike Ace’s, but he performs an original solo of his own that is appropriate to song. On the other hand I wouldn’t count “Deuce” by Marty Friedman (ex-Megadeth) as a favourite. The vocal (by somebody called Tom Gattis) is a tad overwrought. Another “blah” tune is “Snowblind”, performed in a too-modern metally sound by Jason McMaster (Dangerous Toys) and Snake Sabo from Skid Row.
Ron Young (Little Caesar, the Four Horsemen) has a soulful but southern sound on “Hard Luck Woman”, an odd choice for a Frehley tribute. Written by Paul and sung by Peter, the original was created for Rod Stewart to sing! But it’s as good a cover as any, and I don’t have a lot of other stuff of Ron’s, so I’m cool with this. Jeff Watson (Night Ranger) is on guitar.
We all knew Sebastian Bach would knock it out of the park on “Rock Bottom”, and he does. “Rock Bottom” wasn’t written by Ace, but he did write the intro, performed here by Russ Parish of Fight/Steel Panther. Baz is obviously a huge Kiss fan and the song is in great hands, although the solo’s way too modern. Still, I wish I had “Save Your Love” too.
Tracii Guns is passable on “Parasite”, but again I think the song is done in a style too contemporary. Up next is John Norum of Europe, with “Cold Gin”! (Hey, two songs in a row written by Ace!) McMaster is back on lead vocals, not my fave singer in the world. John is a great guitarist, and this version of “Cold Gin” is heavy with fills. Some go with the song, some miss the mark.
Dime’s “Fractured Mirror” is perfect, even the production and sound of the acoustic guitar is eerily similar to Ace’s original. Dime may well have been the biggest Ace Frehley fan in the world. Darrell does throw some of his own personality into the song, but I think foremost on his mind was probably playing the song the way he remembered it. And he does.
Lastly, “Take Me To the City” is performed by Ace himself, with his crack band: Steve Werner on drums, Karl Cochran on bass, Richie Scarlet on guitar and backing vocals, and…Sebastian Bach is there too at the end! This Ace rarity is the best of all reasons to track down this CD. This is Ace back to a hard rocking Frehley’s Comet sound, with an anthemic chorus. When Baz shows up at the end, it’s icing on the cake (although you need to turn it ^UP^ to catch him in the fade).
I don’t really buy tribute albums anymore, because I find these mish-mashes of somewhat related artists to be a bit tedious. Still, it’s pretty solid, and definitely worthwhile to fans of bands like Pantera, Skid Row, or Anthrax. The Ace bonus track is pretty much a compulsory purchase.
Soon, we’ll also be talking about another quality tribute album with some surprising guests and alumni. Stay tuned.
Anthrax have recorded some of the most entertaining covers of the last 30 years. Many of them have appeared as hard to find B-sides or bonus tracks. Anthems is Anthrax’s new covers EP, readily available, and a welcome addition to a metal lover’s collection.
As if they needed to show off how well they could play, the EP kicks off with “Anthem” itself, a Rush cover, and a stunning one at that. Joey Belladonna’s voice strains to reach the highest of notes, but he hits ’em. This is one dead-on accurate Rush cover, not an easy thing to execute. And it’s heavy as balls.
“T.N.T.” is a blast. Again, this is not an easy song to cover, because it is so indelibly linked to AC/DC and Bon Scott. Incredibly, Anthrax do so with as much accuracy as they did Rush. Joey sounds perfectly in his element paying tribute to Bon. Up next is “Smokin'” as performed by Boston. Like a chameleon, suddenly Joey is in Brad Delp’s shoes. As great as the entire band is on Anthems, at this point, it is Joey that is blowing me away the most! What’s also cool about “Smokin'” is that the lengthy organ solo is intact, performed by Canadian Fred Mandel (ex-Alice Cooper). An extended keyboard solo with Anthrax? Smokin’! (No kidding though, it’s great. Like it or lump it!)
We all know Joey Belladonna is a huge Steve Perry fan. It is a joy to hear him having a chance to pay tribute to his hero on “Keep On Runnin'”. Scott Ian proclaims in the liner notes that “On paper, Anthrax covering Journey may seem weird,” but he reminds us that “the song just fucking rocks”. Charlie Benate ensures this with surgically inserted blasts of drum fury.
“Big Eyes” is a Cheap Trick song I had somewhat forgotten about. It has a monster groove and yet another fantastic lead vocal. Anthrax bring the song to its knees.
“Thin Lizzy is arguably the most underrated and under appreciated band of our time,” says Scott in the liner notes. Amen brother! But he also points out their paradoxical great importance and influence. Scott reveals he’d like to do an entire record of Lizzy covers. Phil Campbell of Motorhead plays the solo, as per the Live and Dangerous version. I love hearing Joey do the “Hey you, good lookin’ female! Com’ere!” line. So much more menacing than Phil Lynott!
From Anthrax’s most recent record, Worship Music, comes “Crawl”. I am on the fence with this song, as all I can think of is Soundgarden. “Fell On Black Days”. Can you hear it, there in the first minute of the song? (Maybe it’s their Soundgarden cover, eh?) Also on the EP is the remix of “Crawl”, which was previously only available on the Japanese version of Worship Music. So this purchase worked out well for me. I had been putting off buying Worship Music until I could find a reasonably priced Japanese import. I prefer to get all the bonus tracks, so with Anthems now in hand, I can just pick up the domestic Worship Music and be done with it!
As a nice touch to collectors, Anthrax released this EP with six different covers. I pre-ordered this thing from Amazon, so I didn’t get the luxury of picking my cover art. If I did, I might have chosen the Rush or Journey versions. What I got was the Cheap Trick cover, but I think I like it best anyway.
RECORD STORE TALES Part 166: Anthrax – “Cowboy Song”
Stuff like this didn’t happen often, but it did happen. Sometimes one of my customers would just give me a CD that they thought I would want. Unfortunately my journal didn’t record who gave these discs to me!
Date: 2005/11/26 13:14
WICKED! Someone today gave me a free copy of the “Cowboy Song” single by Anthrax, a rare Thin Lizzy cover. Also got Doin’ The Nasty by Slik Toxik for free. SCORE.
Statham did on occasion give me free discs. I recall once he gave me a Black Crowes single. Another one of my customers (name long forgotten) gave me a Jimi Hendrix hardcover book. But this was not a frequent occurrence. Unfortunately, most people treated the guy behind the counter at the record store like shit. I guess that’s part and parcel of working in a buy-and-sell environment. Stuff like this helped make the job tolerable.
This single was a Sam the Record Man exclusive. It came free with copies of Sound of White Noise purchased there, but for a limited time only. I don’t know how rare it is today, but it certainly is a collectible, being a store exclusive.
I wish I could remember who gave me this cool Anthrax single. It could have been somebody I knew that worked at Sam’s (that narrows it down to 3 or 4 people) or somebody I knew that worked for Warner (narrows it down to 2). Either way, I thank you.
Onto the review!
ANTHRAX – “Cowboy Song” (1993 Warner Music Canada promo)
This promo single comes with no case or cover, but does have some liner notes printed on the CD itself. It was produced by Dave Jerden and Anthrax, and all guitars were performed by Scott Ian. Presumably, that means Dan Spitz doesn’t appear on the song.
This was recorded as a bonus track for the Japanese edition of Sound of White Noise, and can be currently found on the remastered edition of the same album. This is an awesome cover, very authentic to the live version that Thin Lizzy used to do, made famous on the Live and Dangerous album. The lead vocals are, of course, by John Bush. John Bush doesn’t attempt to do a Phil Lynott impression (thankfully, that wouldn’t be wise) but does deliver the vocal with his trademark grit.
Scott Ian nails all the guitar parts perfectly. You’d swear there were two guys playing. It comes as no surprise that Charlie Benate’s drum parts are also perfect. I think Brian Downey was and is one of the most underrated drummers in rock, and Benate does him justice.
I love this cover. Anthrax are well known for choosing and performing great covers. Add this one to the list.