SKID ROW – Forty Seasons: The Best of Skid Row (1998 Atlantic Japan)
The Japanese fans always seem to get the coolest stuff. Look at this package: shiny silver, instead of the boring grey of the American release. Digipack with foil stickers! Bonus track! So much cooler than the standard release here. Hell, the Japanese title is even spelled F-o-r-t-y, where the American version has the briefer 40. Why? Not sure. Either way I’m glad to have this version, which fell in my hands thanks to customer Conrad in the late 90’s. He sold it to me with stickers intact and still sealed; all that is missing is the obi strip.
Whether you own Forty Seasons or 40 Seasons, the party starts with “Youth Gone Wild”. Any commemoration of the Sebastian Bach years should open with that track. Although “Youth Gone Wild” is Bach’s signature track today (along with “I Remember You”), he actually wrote neither. Some fans would be surprised how little Bach has written in Skid Row, and indeed he only has two writing credits on this greatest hits disc. What Bach brings to the party is his spirit, attitude, and incredible voice. When Skid Row came out in ’89, Bach was almost instantaneously a 21 year old superstar. He had the ego to deliver the rock star vibe in concert and in print, and he certainly had the vocal chops. This is why Bach has remained a thorn in Skid Row’s side today, 15 years since hiring Johnny Solinger to replace him.
Track two is a little too soon for a mellow song in my opinion, but “18 and Life” works in this slot due to its dark vibe and powerful choruses. The singles “Piece of Me” and “I Remember You” are the other representations from album #1, although I definitely could have done without “Piece of Me”. Skid Row have written much better heavy rockers since. “I Remember You” is a song I still haven’t really tired of, thanks to Bach’s timeless performance. Every time Baz sang this tune in Toronto, the place went insane, as Bach always sang it for his old stomping grounds. Rachel Bolan and Snake Sabo may have written the song, but when I think of “I Remember You”, I think of Toronto.
Skid Row’s second album Slave to the Grind blew away the first. I’m glad “The Threat” was included. It may not have been a single, but it was one of the outstanding album cuts. Equally solid was the bass groove of “Psycho Love”, which is relentless. Skid Row really turned up the octane on that second album. I think both tracks outshine the single “Monkey Business”, but nothing can overpowerful the thrash metal of “Slave to the Grind” itself. When it was released, I couldn’t believe how full-on Skid Row had become. This is a high water mark of heaviosity.
“Quicksand Jesus” represents one of the three slow tunes on Slave; I would have selected “Wasted Time”. “Quicksand Jesus” is an outstanding song, and so is the other slow tune not included here, “In A Darkened Room”. “Wasted Time” is so clearly above and beyond either of those two, that I can’t understand why it’s not on this CD. It has something special to it, like “I Remember You” did.
So the first half of the CD covers the first two Skid Row records with all the big hits. The second half covers the rest, plus rare and unreleased stuff. I love the third Skid Row record, Subhuman Race. I consider it a great metal record in the context of the mid 1990’s. For some reason, none of the Subhuman songs included here are the album versions. I know the band fought with Bob Rock over the production on that album, and maybe that is why. “Into Another”, which might be considered a slower song, is remixed making a little lusher. The single “My Enemy” is also remixed, perhaps to tame down the St. Anger-esque drums. My favourite Skid Row ballad, “Breakin’ Down” is remixed as well, but you have to know the song really well like I do to notice by ear alone. (Listen to the guitar accents.) Overall it’s more polished and finished, which is fine, because the album version was actually more or less just the demo version. Lyrically the song is a message from Sabo to Bach, about their failing relationship. Bach reportedly received the demo, sang to it, and that’s what was put on the record.
The excellent banger “Frozen” is presented in demo form, which is interesting but inferior to the excellent, slamming album version. Finally, “Beat Yourself Blind” (Bach’s favourite song from Subhuman Race) is live. What an awesome tune live. This is from the Japanese Subhuman Beings on Tour EP. As great as the stuttery album version is, the live one is more fluid. I’ve heard Rachel Bolan say the Subhuman album “sucked”. I don’t understand how he can say that, and I think the five songs here prove my point.
The album closes with a pair of treats: unreleased songs! “Forever” from the first album’s sessions is better than many of the songs on that record! Who chooses these songs? Perhaps it was a bit too derivative of other popular 80’s bands, but Sebastian makes it sound like nobody else but Skid Row. This not only should have been on the album, but could have been a hit single. Then there’s “Fire in the Hole”, a great little slammer that didn’t make the second album. This time I agree. That second album is incredible and “Fire in the Hole” isn’t up to those high standards. It’s definitely better than many bands’ album tracks, but not Skid Row.
Last of all, the lucky Japanese got the Ramones cover “Psycho Therapy” from the B-Sides Ourselves EP (1992). This is the only inclusion from that EP, and it’s a gooder. Rachel sang lead (with Taime Downe of Faster Pussycat backing him). We all know Rachel’s a punk guy, and I think that’s the side of Skid Row that clashed with Bach’s metal tendencies. Just my theory.
Great CD, loads of fun and value.