seattle

REVIEW: Duff McKagan’s Loaded – The Taking (2011)

Bought somewhere in Taranna in a forgotten sale bin.

DUFF McKAGAN’S LOADED – The Taking (2011 Armoury)

Duff McKagan is one of those guys who is always doing something.  He is not predictable except to be always active, usually in the context of a band.  Loaded is one such band, featuring three of Duff’s Seattle buds.  This is their third LP, a tight and focused affair with short and heavy songs.  Duff’s sloppy punk roots come forth, crossed with a healthy slab of heavy-as-fuck riffin’.  Duff’s shout-singing has never been more apropos, and there are even a few moments of guitar solo nirvana.

The music is all well and good; nothing in particular will rival Guns N’ Roses or even Velvet Revolver, but some tunes are pretty cool.  “We Win” has a simple anthemic quality, Leppard-like, that endears it well in the memory.  Better still is “Dead Skin”, a scorching punk rocker that would have set well with another of Duff’s bands, Neurotic Outsiders.  “Lords of Abaddon” and “Follow Me to Hell” which open and close the CD are fierce numbers that could cause speaker damage if cranked loud enough.

You really can’t throw enough praise at Duff McKagan, but The Taking is not one of his must-have efforts.  Save for a look in the cheapie bin.

2.5/5 stars

This was a 200 word review in the tradition of the #200wordchallenge.

#371: The Birth of Grunge

NIRVANA

RECORD STORE TALES MkII: Getting More Tale
#371: The Birth of Grunge

1991.

The pendulum of rock music was swinging back to heavy. The world had tired of Poison, Warrant, and even the once mighty David Lee Roth. His latest album (A Lil’ Ain’t Enough) had tanked and the tour poorly attended. On the other hand, Metallica were transforming from the little thrash band that could into a worldwide juggernaut. Change was in the air, but what we didn’t expect were the dark clouds blowing in from Seattle.

I had been aware of a few newer bands. Soundgarden for example had some airplay with “Loud Love”, but I wasn’t impressed. There was another new group called Temple of the Dog that had a music video with two singers. “What’s up with this new band, Temple of the Dog?” I asked my highschool friends. They shrugged. “Haven’t heard of ‘em.”  Highschool ended and I began a new adventure at Wilfrid Laurier University, majoring in History. And that’s when I saw “Smells Like Teen Spirit”. Because the schism of grunge and metal had yet to occur, it was played on the Pepsi Power Hour, where Temple of the Dog had also debuted. I had even read a Nirvana concert review in an early issue of M.E.A.T Magazine, but they weren’t really on my radar. I thought the singer had a great voice even though his ratty old sweater was pretty lame. I thought he kind of looked like a dirty Sting. The singer’s voice and the drummer’s chops were the best part of this band that otherwise didn’t click for me.

Some other singles and videos trickled onto the airwaves: “Jesus Christ Pose”, “Alive”, and more. It all happened so quickly. In a matter of months, a new crop of darker, detuned bands had replaced the likes of Van Halen on the charts. These new bands didn’t concentrate on an image, which in itself became their image. Shaggy beards, unkept hair, shorter do’s – these new rock bands didn’t look much like the old. Even their onstage personas were different. Where bands used to try to entertain and give bang for the buck, these new ones seemed to take a page out of shoegazer bands’ books. Layne Stayley from Alice in Chains was noted for standing still in one place on stage much of the time. Pearl Jam replaced lights and flashbombs with jams and crowd surfing. Worst of all to me was the disrespect this new crop had for the old, just like in the punk days of old. Krist Novoselic of Nirvana said on television that he hated heavy metal because it all sounded like with was spat out of a computer. The fact that heavy metal fans were buying his albums by the hundreds of thousands didn’t seem to click with him. Mudhoney were talking about beating up Sebastian Bach. It was getting crazy and a huge split happened within heavy rock music.

It was hard to keep up with the rapid changes. What was in a few months ago was deader than dead. What never would have had a chance of charting in 1990 was now #1. Artists that once looked cool suddenly looked ridiculous. But most importantly, the fun was disappearing from rock and roll. It was no longer enough to sing about cars or girls. Now you had to have something from your soul to confess, or a social issue to address. It was a lot less fun to sing, “Even flow, thoughts arrive like butterflies, oh he don’t know so he chases them away,” than it was to sing, “I got it bad, got it bad, got it bad, I’m hot for teacher.”

I resisted the change. I owned no grunge albums until late ’92, when I was finally drawn in by the song “Would” by Alice in Chains. The Dirt album took some getting used to, but it was at least built upon metal riffs. Pearl Jam and Nirvana remained all but incomprehensible to me. A couple years later, Soundgarden managed to suck me in with “Spoonman”. I had to admit that these bands had a lot of talented players: guys like Matt Cameron and Jerry Cantrell were earning mainstream respect among musicians. As these bands grew in popularity, I would always advise kids to keep an eye on the rearview mirror. “Yeah, Soundgarden are great. But have you ever heard original Black Sabbath? They were the original Soundgarden.” I didn’t want the roots (and my roots!) to be forgotten.

Grunge and I had an uneasy relationship for a few years, but soon it no longer mattered. Other types of music were coming to the forefront now, even more heinous and evil: pop punk, boy bands, and the post-grunge onslaught. I slowly grew to enjoy Pearl Jam and some Nirvana. I even own a Stone Temple Pilots CD or two. But my heart will always remain with the music that grunge nearly destroyed forever – hard rock!

Hard rock went into a sort of hibernation for a while, but it could never be killed.  Not even by something as all-consuming as grunge was.  Today, hard rock is back in business again.

The Four Horsemen: “Back in Business Again”

You never met a man like me
You wouldn’t understand
I’m in the rock’n’roll business honey
I’m in a rock’n’roll band
And we were headed for the top babe
Way back in ’91
Some record business scumbags took it from us
Well they forgot my gun
Well now we’re back in business folks
I’ve come to claim what’s mine
See we’re the Four fucking Horsemen
Back for a second time

I’m a fast talkin’, woman lovin’, whiskey drinkin’, good for nothin’ rock n roll star
In a hell raisin’, trouble lovin’, whiskey drinkin’, mother f***in’ rock n roll band
I make my dirty little fortune
In this rock n roll band
We’re here to entertain you
We’re back in business again
Hahahaha

Moron after moron at the meet and greet
They’d do just about anything for a front row seat
When you see me on the stage one thing you’ll understand
It’s what I do, it’s what I am, I’m just a rock n roll man
And you don’t hear me whining about my fame and fortune

I’m a hell raisin’, trouble lovin’, fast talkin’, good for nothin’ rock n roll star
In a trail blazin’, skin lovin’, whiskey drinkin’, mother f***in’ rock n roll band
I make my dirty little fortune
In this rock n roll band
We’re here to rock n roll you
We’re back in business again

Now pay attention
I got a little story here to tell ya
It kinda goes like this
You know I had a couple years off there babe
To kinda take some time
And I heard a bunch of whining, little wussy rock n rollers
Complaining about how fame and fortune’s got them down
I say we gather up all these little bastards
Shove them back to their lil’ nowhere town
See I was born on this stage
And I plan to stick around!

REVIEW: Nirvana – Icon (2010)

NIRVANA – Icon (2010 budget compilation)

The Icon series of compilations is mostly shit.  One of the stinkiest of the shit is Nirvana’s installment of Icon.  Where’s “Sliver”?  There’s not one song here from Bleach.  “About A Girl” is from the Unplugged CD and “You Know You’re Right” was a “new” song added to Nirvana’s first and only official greatest hits set, Nirvana.  In fact, every song here can be found on Nirvana.

Rather than bitch bitch bitch about how shitty this CD is, and how pissed Kurt would be to have his music released in configurations that nobody in the band authorized, I’d rather just rate it and change the subject.  Enjoy the following essay.

1/5 sharts

A Brief History of Kitchener, Ontario by Michael Ladano

DOWNTOWN KITCHENERKitchener, a city of 220,000 in southern Ontario, was settled around the year 1800 on lands by the Grand River.  The Crown gifted this land to the Six Nations, who sold it.  It was settled by loyalist German Mennonites from Pennsylvania, to escape religious persecution in the United States.   The Mennonites who settled here included families such as the Schneiders, Webers, and Ebys whose names can be found on streets and buildings all over town today.  They named the settlement Sand Hills, within the Township of Waterloo.

Land was converted to farms, and the Grand River enabled an early sawmill industry.  Streets such as the present day King Street were built, as were landmarks such as the Heuther Brewery, in the early 1800’s.   The town grew with waves of German immigrants, and in 1833 Sand Hills was renamed Berlin.

LORD KITCHENERIn 1856, Berlin was connected to railways, and industry grew.  In 1912, Berlin was declared a city.  During the First World War, anti-German sentiment in 1916 caused the town to be renamed Kitchener, after Lord Kitchener, a British war hero.  His famous face adorned many British recruitment posters.  The bust of Kaiser Wilhelm was thrown into Victoria Lake.

Although some still wish to rename the city Berlin, Kitchener today boasts strong industry, easy access to excellent post-secondary education, and a huge annual Oktoberfest honoring its German heritage.  It is known for its OHL hockey team the Rangers, and for spawning many NHL athletes.  It is also known as the birthplace of William Lyon McKenzie King, Canada’s longest-serving Prime Minister and possibly the only one who regularly sought advice from a crystal ball.

Kitchener is also known for its music.  The annual Blues Festival is always popular.  Kitchener has also spawned such international musical artists as Rob Szabo, Helix and Kathryn Ladano, and world famous writers like Michael Ladano.

Come to Kitchener (only 100 km west of Toronto) in the summer to enjoy boating, hiking, biking, music festivals, and much more, including a large population of Miniature Schnauzers.  Don’t bother coming in the winter.

Part 237 / REVIEW: Sven Gali – Inwire (1995)

Second of a two-part series, by request of reader Deke! This part grew so large that I ended up splitting it up between a review and a Record Store Tale. If you missed part one, Sven Gali (1993), click here.

RECORD STORE TALES Part 237:  Sven Gali – Inwire (and Peter the Rocker)

When Sven Gali released their anticipated second album Inwire, Peter the Rocker was not impressed.  Not in the least.  A few weeks after it came out, Peter stopped by the record store.  He picked up one of the M.E.A.T Magazines sitting on our front counter and opened it to a page.  He pointed.

“Have you heard this Sven Gali?” he asked me in a semi-shouted voice.

SVEN_0005“No I haven’t, I responded, “I’m waiting for a used copy.  I do have a four song sampler and it’s pretty good.”

“It blows,” he fired back, eyes wide.  “Sucks.  Shit.  Garbage.  Piece of fucking shit.”  He paused to take a breath.  “They fucking sold out man!  You know what they did?  It’s grunge.  It’s pure shit.”  He raised his hands on either side, as if to emphasize the weight of the turd that Sven Gali had laid.

“Seriously?” I queried.  “The songs I heard were OK…”

“Listen to me man.  It’s fucking shit.  Garbage.”

Alright then!

Peter the Rocker came in periodically over the months.  Sven Gali didn’t come up very often, but having heard it since that conversation, I was inclined to agree with Peter.  Maybe not to the same extremes, but we saw eye to eye, more or less .

A year or two after the initial conversation, Peter came in to the store once again to discuss Sven Gali.

“Guess who I fucking saw this weekend.”

Not having a clue, I shrugged my shoulders.  “I give up.  Who?”

“The fucking bassist from Sven Gali man!  Shawn.  I told him that second album fucking sucked man.”

I had to laugh at that.  “You did?  What did he say?”

“He fucking agreed with me man!  He said they sold out on that album.  He said they fucking sold out and went grunge!”

Take that as you will.  It’s an old story heard second hand from Peter the Rocker.  I wouldn’t use it as a Wikipedia source, but it does shed some light on the album we’re about to discuss.

SVEN_0006

SVEN GALI – Inwire (1995 BMG)

Kelly Gray (Tateryche) really helped fuck up this album.  Sven Gali went to Seattle, and hired Mr. Gray, who had recently co-produced the 4x Platinum debut album by Candlebox.  It’s rarely a good idea for hard rock bands to go grunge, but it’s doubly bad when they work with Kelly Gray. [More on this tomorrow.]

Gray encouraged the band to experiment.  I guess part of this experimentation was hiring one of his Seattle buddies on drums.  Mike Ferguson was in a band was Dog Daze with Mr. Gray.  Additionally, the songwriting on Inwire is credited to Sven Gali and Yard Dog.  Who the fuck is Yard Dog?  I suspect Gray’s got a writing credit on every song.  His buddies from Candlebox show up on guest vocals, and even Christopher Thorn from Blind Melon plays mandolin (one of the best moments on the album during “Tired of Listening”).

SVEN_0012In a M.E.A.T Magazine write-up, writer Carl Begai said that the album Inwire would “leave people awestruck and impressed”.  Awestruck, yes, but not very impressed.  I got this CD for free, which is the only reason I have it.  It was simply too alternative for most fans, who ignored it in droves. It also had the unfortunate problem of being very weak on songs.  There are a handful of must-haves here, along with a whole bunch of don’t-needs.  When things click occasionally, it’s on songs like “Truth”, “What You Give”, and “Make Me”.

When things fall apart, it sounds like bad U2 demos, disjointed parts connected together, boring melodies and underwhelming guitars.  I hate the needlessly distorted vocals on Inwire.  They dominate the whole album.   “Helen” features two David Wanless lead vocals, one distorted and one more distorted, yelling at each other.  More singing, less yelling Dave! Kelly Gray, I’m looking at you.

No sir, I don’t like it.  Down from the 90’s shit cover art through the 90’s shit distorted vocals to the 90’s shit songs, I don’t like it.  Except for a few sparkling moments, Inwire smells like a turd.

2/5 stars

EPILOGUE:  The band never made a third album.  After breaking up, bassist Shawn TT Mahar joined Forgotten Rebels.  When guitarist Dee Cernille was diagnosed with cancer in 2009, the band organized two reunion concerts.  These concerts were attended by Mif from Slash Puppet, who was quoted as saying, “Went to the Sven Gali show at the Sound Academy the other night to watch Dee rock out. I gotta tell ya, if I didn’t know any better I wouldn’t know that there was anything wrong with the fucking guy. He was shredding all fucking night.”  Unfortunately Cernille died on February 25, 2012.

REVIEW: A Tribute to Ace Frehley – Return of the Comet (1997)

Part 6 in a series on Ace Frehley! Missed the last part, “Cherokee Boogie”? Click here!
RETURN OF THE COMET_0006-a

RETURN OF THE COMET_0001A Tribute to Ace Frehley – Return of the Comet (1997 Shock Records)

Last time we talked about a tribute album with a new recording by Ace.  This time, we’re talking about a tribute album with new recordings by the Comet!  Return of the Comet even features some of the same artists that were on Spacewalk:  Tracii Guns, Gilby Clarke and the brothers Abbott (Dimebag Darrell and Vinnie Paul) are on both albums.  And like Spacewalk, this one also comes with a guitar pick.  This time it’s a Bruce Kulick pick, because the CD also features a cool bonus: Bruce’s debut solo track, “Liar”.

This is a pretty good tribute CD.  Somebody called Bruiz does a faithful reproduction of the “Rock Bottom” intro, which seques directly into Brian Tichy’s “Rip It Out”.  I was familiar with Tichy from Zakk Wylde’s Pride and Glory, but he sings and plays every instrument on this.  Everybody knows today how talented he is, but this was a revelation to me in 1997.  Do I need to say that he does an excellent job on it?  He also nails Anton Fig’s drum solo.

RETURN OF THE COMET_0004

L.A. Guns is next, but it’s not Phil Lewis.  It’s Ralph Saenz.  You might know him better as Michael Starr from Steel Panther.  So how’s their “Cold Gin”?  It’s perfect for this band and this singer.  Eric Singer and Karl Cochran take a shot at “Strange Ways”, but I don’t like their take on it too much.  Eric’s vocal doesn’t suit the song in my opinion, and this version is too chunk-chunk-chunk.

“Getaway” was always a bit of a throwaway Kiss track, but I like the lesser known songs.  Seattle’s Tubetop speed it up a fair measure, but that’s not the problem.  I always identify this song with Peter Criss’ gritty voice.  Who doesn’t?  The singer, Gavin Gus, takes a smooth approach to the song, but sometimes Kiss songs aren’t meant to be tampered with too much.  It improves as it gets harder at the end.

RETURN OF THE COMET_0007Then we have the Presidents of the United States of America.  OK band I guess, but their stripped back sound is totally wrong for “Shout It Out Loud”.  Having said that, the brilliance of the song itself still shines through.  The album is immediately redeemed by a remarkable performance from a remarkable guitarist:  Dimebag.  He and Vinnie Paul stomp through “Snowblind”, a sludgy Ace classic.  Wisely, Dime changed nothing about the song, except adding some trademark Dime guitar shrieks on top.  It’s a totally appropriate touch.  Even though his singing voice is nothing like Ace’s (he’s more Zakk Wylde than Ace Frehley) he still lays down a lead vocal that fits.  Then his guitar solo rips your head off, end of story.  Mind blown, the album can end here thank you very much!

We’re not even half through yet.  Tod Howarth (ex-Frehley’s Comet) turns up with his own solo version of “Dancing With Danger”.  It’s a Streetheart cover that Frehley’s Comet also did on Second Sighting.  Tod tries to update the song for the 1990’s but fails.  His voice is also noticeably lower.  Then, Karl Cochran and Eric Singer are up with “Love Her All I Can”, a song originally sung and written by…Paul Stanley?  Why?  According to the liner notes, Cochran used to sing this song when he was in Frehley’s solo band in the 90’s.  Cochran and Singer perfectly nail this one, right down to the guitar solo and those Simmons/Stanley harmony vocals.  A winner.

Filler is “Speedin’ Back to My Baby” by Lee and Dallas (?).  As great as the original song is, I didn’t need to hear a jazzy country version of it.  It’s old-school country, swinging and authentic, but no thanks.  Thankfully Gilby Clarke comes to the rescue with the classic “Rocket Ride” from Alive II.  I love it.  I like it better than his version of “Shock Me” from Spacewalk, actually.

Richie Scarlet from Frehley’s Comet teams up with Beatlemania’s Mitch Weissman on Ace’s “Remember Me”.  It’s great and much like the original.  Then the Presidents are back for a second term, this time adding members of Tubetop and Kim Thayil of Soundgarden to the mix.  They do a cool campfire version of “New York Groove” that sounds live.  This is much better than “Shout It Out Loud”.  Well done.

A Frehley’s Comet reunion is the climax of the album.  Alumni Richie Scarlet, John Regan, Steve Werner and Arthur Stead are back to redo two unreleased Comet classics.  These songs are Vinnie Vincent’s “Back On the Streets”, which is, in a word, awesome.  It’s a dark ominous song with balls.  Then they do “Animal” which was written by Regan and Stead (perhaps the reason it was never released before?).  It has a funky little riff before it breaks into a cool anthemic chorus.

RETURN OF THE COMET_0005It’s best to think of the last two songs as bonus tracks, because they have little to do with Ace.  From a forthcoming Howarth album named Cobalt Parlor is a lacklustre song called “California Burns”.  I wanted to like this, really I did.  It’s just a really nauseating attempt at being modern and heavy, and no sir I don’t like it.  Sorry Tod.  “The Liar” by Bruce Kulick is much better.  I am a real fan of Kulick as a solo artist.  He is an articulate, skilled player with a knack for melody.  “The Liar” is a great instrumental, alternating between light and heavy, but always very lyrical.  Just sing a lead vocal of your own over Bruce’s guitar, and you can imagine this as a “I Still Love You” rock ballad.  This song was Bruce’s first ever post-Kiss solo release, and according to the liner notes, it serves two purposes.  One: to end the album with an instrumental as Ace always did.  Two: to tip the hat to the guy who succeeded in filling Ace’s shoes for over a decade.

I would recommend this tribute album to any serious Ace/Kiss fan, simply because it has some great cover versions of some obscure classics.  That to me raises it above most cut-and-paste tribute albums that are out there on the market.  There is a real sense of passion to this CD.  John Regan put it together and you can tell by the attention to detail.  Kudos, John.

3.5/5 stars