Skin

REVIEW: Iommi – Iommi (2000)

“Like many projects featuring multiple singers, the album called Iommi is a mixed bag but with more gems than turds.”

 

IOMMI – Iommi (2000 Virgin)

Iommi is the first released solo album by Tony Iommi, but actually the third recorded.  The first was 1986’s Seventh Star, released as “Black Sabbath featuring Tony Iommi”, with Glenn Hughes on vocals.  10 years later, Tony recorded another album with Hughes often referred to as “Eighth Star“, which was released in 2004 (after the drums by Dave Holland were re-recorded by Jimmy Copley) as The 1996 DEP Sessions.  Then finally in 2000, Tony took a page from the successful Santana formula book and did an album with various lead singers called Iommi.

Like many projects featuring multiple singers and assorted musicians, the album called Iommi is a mixed bag, but with more gems than turds.  The guitarist picked an interesting assortment of vocalists, mostly artists big in the 90s.  It’s telling that Tony’s good buddy Glenn Hughes isn’t one of them (though Hughes returned on 2006’s Fused).  Clearly commercial interests were most important when it came to selecting the singers and songs.

The inimitable Henry Rollins gets the enviable opening slot with “Laughing Man (In the Devil Mask)”.  Rollins sounds best with a heavy riff behind him, and this one is pure grunge.  Producer-de-jour Bob Marlette co-wrote almost every song, and there’s little doubt that this is how Iommi acquired its “modern” edge.  Rollins creates a swirl chaotic rock around him, but the riff alone would have sunk without Hank.  Iommi seldom writes such atonal, monotonous guitar parts as “Laughing Man (In the Devil Mask)”.

Skin (Skunk Anansie) is surely one hell of an underrated singer, and her track “Meat” howls.  Iommi’s solos and riffs sound much more like what comes naturally from him.  Then, it’s the unfortunate sound of 90s drum loops and samples.  It’s Dave Grohl’s tune “Goodbye Lament”.  Because as soon as one thinks of Iommi or Grohl, we think of drum loops, am I right?  Fortunately Grohl has ex-Sabbath bassist Lawrence Cottle and Queen maestro Brian May on his track.  He plays the drums when they finally do kick in.  Three of those four guys played on Headless Cross!  The drum loops suck and date the song to a certain period in time, but fortunately Grohl knows how to write good melodies so it’s not a total bust.

Phil Anselmo (Pantera) takes the very Sabbathy “Time is Mine”.  That riff sounds like it may have been later used on an actual Black Sabbath record.  The track simmers with fury, then Phil lets it rip loose.  The only way to make Sabbath heavier than Sabbath is to include a singer like Anselmo.  Drumming is Seattle legend Matt Cameron.

The expressive Serj Tankian (System of a Down) lets his pipes have their way with “Patterns”, amidst more of those annoying samples.  It absolutely sounds more System than Sabbath, which is fine since both are heavier than fuck.

The one guy that pulls off a truly Black Sabbath-sounding song is the guy you’d least expect:  Billy Corgan.  Yet his “Black Oblivion” comes closest to the spirit of classic Black Sabbath, in terms of length and epic riffage.  Billy plays bass and guitar on the track as well — what a phenomenal bassist!  (The drummer, Kenny Aronoff, knew Corgan from the 1998 Smashing Pumpkins tour on which he played, and then Aronoff went on to play on two more Iommi solo discs.)

The Cult’s Ian Astbury makes Iommi sound like — who else? — The Cult!  Brian May returns for some guitar (with Cottle and Cameron on bass and drums).  The Cult rarely employ such monolithic riffs, but the chorus is pure Cult.

“Flame On!  I used to bleed like a suicide mother,
Flame On!  And now I breath in this dirty black summer,
Flame On!  I bought the truth in the mouth of my brother,
Flame On!  I used to bleed like a suicide motherfucker.”

Shame about the damn loops, like something discarded from Chinese Democracy.  They also infect “Just Say No to Love” featuring the late Peter Steele of Type O Negative.  Like Astbury, he makes Iommi sound like his band, which already sounded a bit like a Black Sabbath parody.

The biggest disappointment on the album is second to last.  “Who’s Fooling Who” is a virtual Black Sabbath reunion, with Ozzy Osbourne and Bill Ward returning to the fold.  On bass is Lawrence Cottle, making it 100% Sabbath alumni, 3/4 original.  And it’s easily the most boring song on the album.  The best thing about it is Bill Ward, the first drummer who didn’t sound like a session guy.  A muffled Ozzy phones in his part, but Bill puts some effort into composing the percussion.  The best part is the instrumental burnout.

And then, a surprising finish:  Billy Idol, with a monstrous “Into the Night”.  Idol should consider doing heavy riffy metal like this more often — he’s good at it.  Though he effectively snarls his way through the slow riff, his punky side comes out when things get fast.  The contrast between riffs and tempos is half the fun.

With Iommi freshly consumed and digested anew, it’s obvious that good portion of what you heard was purposefully geared towards the nu-metal Ozzfest crowd.  The selection of musicians was clearly slanted post-80s, but it’s the loops and samples that really blow.  The blame must be laid on producer Bob Marlette, especially considering some of the loops sounded exactly like another band he produced:  Rob Halford’s Two.  The whole thing sounds like a “product”, though at least with some pretty incredible riffs behind it.

3/5 stars

 

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REVIEW: Bean – The Album (1997 soundtrack)

MOVIE SOUNDTRACK WEEK


BEAN – The Album (1997 Mercury)

Every once in a while, you just have to buy an album for one song!

Never mind that Randy Newman’s classic “I Love L.A.” isn’t on the CD, even though it was the most memorable song in the Bean movie.  Included instead is “I Love L.A.” as performed by…O.M.C.!  Remember him?  “How Bizarre”!  His one hit had expired and I guess somebody thought they could re-work the “magic” on “I Love L.A.”.  Maybe because both guys have a kind of flat voice, somebody assumed it would work.  It does not!  Why this would have been recorded, instead of simply using the Newman classic, I have no idea at all.


NOT INCLUDED.

You can also safely skip Boyzone (boy band crap but at least with a 70’s groove), somebody just called “Louise” (70’s-sounding easy listening), Thomas Jules Stock (barf-inducing pop), another person just called “Gabrielle” (60’s sounding soul), “Blair” (really stinky rap), and Code Red (saccharine soul pop).  Some of these tracks aren’t even in the movie.  If you want to hear some soul or funk, just put on an actual album by an original artist.

Songs you may want to give a moment to listen to include the campy 80’s classic “Walking on Sunshine” (Katrina and the Waves).  You never know when you might need that song in a collection.  Another good one to have is “I Get Around”, the original surf classic by the Beach Boys.  From 1964, the Boys were in perfect voice, singing Brian Wilson’s genius melodies.  Unfortunately it is interrupted in the fade by Peter MacNicol with movie dialogue.  There are a number of tracks with this issue.  Wet Wet Wet do a surprisingly decent version of “Yesterday” (in the movie, sung by Peter MacNicol).  It’s too sweet and shopping market ready, but hey:  it’s “Yesterday”.  Movie dialogue spoils this one too, at the start of the track.  Why do that?  I’m not familiar with the Wet Wet Wet discography, but this song does seem to be exclusive to the soundtrack (or at least was at the time).  What a way to ruin a track for the fans.

Worth noting is loop-laden “Stuck in the Middle With You” by Susanna Hoffs.  This funky version is worth having for Hoffs fans, but everyone else can safely stick with the Steeler’s Wheels original.  Also fun is “Art for Art’s Sake”, the 1975 original by art-rock band 10cc.  In the movie, Mr. Bean works at an art gallery.  Get the connection?

So what’s the one song I bought this album for?  A rarity.

BEAN AND BRUCEBack in 1992, Bruce Dickinson was working on solo material with the UK band Skin.  The album would eventually become Balls to Picasso, but it was a long way getting there.  I’m not sure what led Bruce to Mr. Bean.  Divine intervention perhaps?  Two of England’s finest exports had to meet, I suppose, and when they did, they covered “Elected” by Alice Cooper.  This was done for a music video coinciding with the general election that year.  As a final track, the Bean soundtrack reissued this hard to find single.  Bruce sings the vocals rather straight, very raspy, very much like his 1990 No Prayer for the Dying voice.  Rowan Atkinson in character as Mr. Bean reviews his campaign promises between Bruce’s growls.  “To help the Health Service, I promise never to get ill.”  Other promises include stopping everyone in Dover from going to the toilet (cutting pollution).  “I’m the nice one in the tweed jacket,” he says.  “Well it was a present actually.”

I’m a Mr. Bean fan, but there is little of appeal on this CD.  After all, Mr. Bean’s gimmick is that he rarely speaks.  Therefore, the movie dialogue stuff isn’t necessary.  It’s a shame they ruined tracks by putting dialogue on the fades.  If they had included the Randy Newman track, I might’ve been able to bump this CD up by half a star.

1/5 stars

Sorry Mr. Bean.  Your CD gets the dreaded Flaming Turd!