slaughter

RE-REVIEW: KISS – “God Gave Rock & Roll to You II” (1991 single)

The KISS RE-REVIEW SERIES Part 40:

 – “God Gave Rock & Roll to You II” (1991 Interscope single)

Kiss’ Hot in the Shade tour wasn’t a sellout, but it was well received by fans who appreciated that a bunch of older songs were back in the set.  The tour was unfortunately highlighted by the June 15, 1990 date in Toronto, igniting a feud with Whitesnake.  Kiss were third on a four-band bill, with David Coverdale, Steve Vai and company in the headlining slot.  Paul Stanley used his stage raps to complain that Whitesnake wouldn’t let them use their full setup, including a giant sphinx.  When Whitesnake hit the stage, it was to a chorus of boos.  Steve Vai later stated that it was the first time he had ever been booed.  Vai once even walked onstage to the sound of people chanting “Yngwie! Yngwie! Yngwie!”, but he had never been booed until the incident with Kiss in Toronto.

When the tour wrapped up in November, Kiss took a few months off before gearing up again in the new year.  It was to be another album, another tour, but suddenly real life interfered.

Eric Carr hadn’t been feeling well.  Flu-like symptoms turned out to be heart cancer.  Simultaneously, Kiss received an offer to record a song for the sequel to Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure.  Carr underwent surgery in April, with chemotherapy following.  Having little choice, Kiss recorded without him.  Eric Singer, who had performed so well on Paul Stanley’s solo tour, filled in on drums.  Eric Carr, in a wig, was able to play for the music video taping.  He gave his all, and did a full day’s shoot, with excellent (pun intended) results.

Unfortunately a rift was developing, with Eric Carr feeling shunned and excluded from Kiss.  He was afraid he was going to be replaced, permanently, and his relationship with the band was strained.  Although everybody hoped Eric would make a full recovery, he passed away from a brain haemorrhage on November 24, 1991.  Eric Carr was 41.

On the same date, Freddie Mercury of Queen succumbed to AIDS.  Carr’s death was barely mentioned in the news, including Rolling Stone magazine who missed it completely, prompting a harsh reply from Kiss:

If anything positive came from Eric Carr’s death, it was that Kiss were going to put all that anger and frustration back into the music.  The music was to be their Revenge.

It started with “God Gave Rock & Roll to You II”, a re-imagining of an old Argent song for the Bill & Ted movie.  Eric Carr may not have been well enough to play drums, but that didn’t stop him from singing.  His vocals on “God Gave Rock & Roll to You II” were his last.  The song wouldn’t be the same without Carr, as he can be heard sweetly harmonising with Paul Stanley.   Eric Singer wasn’t credited on the single, or the final soundtrack for Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey.  It simply says “performed by Kiss”.

“God Gave Rock & Roll to You II” was important for two more reasons.  First, and very significantly, it was produced by Bob Ezrin.  Ezrin was responsible for the two albums that some consider Kiss’ best, and Kiss’ worst.  It had been 10 years.  A Kiss-Ezrin reunion was very big news for fans.  It indicated that Kiss meant business this time.  Secondly, “God Gave Rock & Roll to You II” was the first Paul Stanley/Gene Simmons (with Bob Ezrin and Russ Ballard) co-writing credit since 1985, and their first shared vocals in ages upon ages.

Although it didn’t make waves in 1991, “God Gave Rock & Roll to You II” has become enough of a favourite to make it onto 2015’s Kiss 40 compilation, and continue to be played live.  It shows off what Kiss can really do.  Yes, they can sing!  Yes, they can play!   This lineup could do it particularly well.  It’s appropriate that Eric Carr went out on a good Kiss track.  And Eric Singer was the right guy to continue.

There are three released versions of “God Gave Rock & Roll to You II”:  The single edit (3:57), the soundtrack version (5:23) and the final 1992 version that was later released on the next Kiss album (5:19).  The single edit cuts out too much of the grand, pompous arrangement, including the epic opening.

In an ironic twist, the version of “God Gave Rock & Roll to You II” that is in the movie has a guitar intro solo by Steve Vai.  The same guy whose band got booed in Toronto thanks to Kiss.

The CD single is rounded out by two more songs from the Bill & Ted soundtrack, by Slaughter and King’s X.  The King’s X track, “Junior’s Gone Wild” (previously reviewed in our mega King’s X series) has never been one of their better tunes, but as a non-album rarity, a nice one to have.  Just don’t judge King’s X by this one track.  Slaughter turned in something better, a fun party tune called “Shout It Out”, also a non-album recording.  Slaughter, of course, were one of Kiss’ well-received opening acts on the Hot in the Shade tour.  And what was their Kiss connection?  Mark Slaughter and Dana Strum were in a band with Kiss’ old guitar player, called the Vinnie Vincent Invasion!

As work proceeded on the next LP, the world suddenly changed.  Hard rock was out, and grunge took over MTV.  This single bought Kiss a little bit of time, but it was going to be the longest gap between Kiss albums yet — three years.  Revenge had to wait a little longer.

Today’s rating:

3.5/5 stars

 

Original mikeladano.com review:  2012/08/08

 

 

REVIEW: Vinnie Vincent Invasion – All Systems Go (1988)

The KISS RE-REVIEW SERIES Part 35Vinnie Vincent solo #2.

VINNIE VINCENT INVASION – All Systems Go (1988 Chysalis)

Ex- guitarist Vinnie Vincent could have made it big as a solo artist.  He had the talent, and the songwriting ability.  What he didn’t have was self control.  It’s too bad, because his second album was far more accessible than the first.  With a movie tie-in with the lucrative Nightmare on Elm St. movie series, the Invasion was primed and ready….

And then the band split.

According to singer Mark Slaughter (on an instalment of the Eddie Trunk show), Vinnie told Mark that was going to fire bassist Dana Strum.  “Where does your loyalty lie?” he asked the vocalist.  Mark told him if Dana was going, he’d rather go with Dana.  So that’s what happened. Mark and Dana formed the successful Slaughter, while drummer Bobby Rock joined another huge band called Nelson.

This all came as a bit of a shock to fans, who expected the Invasion’s second album All Systems Go to take off.  It spawned two singles/videos that were right in sync with popular rock at the time.  Vinnie toned down his guitar excesses from the first album, and Mark Slaughter was obviously the kind of frontman born to rock.  A damn shame.

All Systems Go wasn’t a skimpy album:  11 tracks plus two CD-only instrumentals.  Vinnie took sole writing credit on every track, including the drum solo.  For extra fun, the tracks are not listed in order on the back cover and the instrumentals are unlisted.  This is a throwback to the way records were sometimes released in the 60s and 70s.  The tracks (including the instrumentals) are listed in the correct order on the CD itself.  This kinda sucks when you are actually listening to it and want to know which song is playing.

This is the album that lived up to what Vinnie was capable of, although he stated a preference for the first “uncompromised” first album.  “I should never have changed singers,” he said without mentioning Mark by name.  Mark’s sassy vocalizin’ dominates the album, which might have pissed off Vinnie.  His charisma and talent is immediately obvious on the sleazy groove rocker “Ashes to Ashes”.  A tight song with a good riff and a great chorus is all you need.  Vinnie’s solo is no less impressive, but much more innovative and suiting to the song.  Guitar heroism in the making…almost.

“Dirty Rhythm” brings more sleaze: faster, more cowbell and more Sunset Strip.  The Invasion had more talent than the average glam rock band of the day, and so this is pretty exceptional stuff for the genre.  Where they really succeeded was with the radio friendly stuff.  The Freddy Krueger crossover ballad “Love Kills” should have been massive. We the benefit of hindsight, we can see that Mark Slaughter was born to be a star. He was absolutely the right singer for these songs.

Goofy title aside, “Naughty Naughty” is a decent return to sleazy glam, and “Burn” rocks similarly.  “Heavy Pettin'” is an even worse title, concealing another good glam rocker.  Perhaps lyrics weren’t Vinnie’s greatest talent, but there’s not much else wrong with it.  Guitar heroism returned on “The Star-Spangled Banner”, played by an orchestra of electric guitars!  It’s an apt intro for “Let Freedom Rock”.  It’s over the top fun, and the guitar solo would make Yngwie pee his leather pants.

The other single “That Time of Year” was just as good as “Love Kills”, if not better just because it’s not as dark. Its midtempo rock pseudo-ballad stylings were instantly likable.  It’s easy to imagine it as a hit, despite a glut of soundalike bands in 1988.  Vinnie’s solo verges of majestic.  It’s really hard to imagine was he didn’t like about this album.  It’s not a bad thing that the songs dominate over the solos; the solos are more impressive when they serve the song.

Had the band not split, and if they released a third single, it could have been “Ecstasy”.  Don’t forget, Vinnie wrote “Tears” which was a pop hit for John Waite, and even recorded by Peter Criss.  “Ecstasy” is its spiritual sequel.  “Deeper and Deeper” also has pop qualities, but is clearly a rocker.  The point is this:  don’t underestimate Vinnie Vincent.

Out of the blue, the LP/cassette version of the album ended on heavy shred metal.  “Breakout” kicks ass.  If fans felt at any point that the album was going soft, then “Breakout” would have redeemed it for them.  The only real issue is a problem on many of the songs on this album: the production.  It’s thin, and the backing vocals tend to be shrill.  “Breakout” could be rib-busting with more crunch.

On CD, there are two instrumentals to close.  “The Meltdown” is a messy cacophony of drums and electronics.  You’ll be thankful it’s over.  Stick around for Vinnie’s acoustic tune “‘Ya Know’ – I’m Pretty Shot”.  What a diverse and schooled player he is.  From classical fingerpicking to blues and traditionals, is there anything he couldn’t do with just six strings?  Years from now, this is what Vinnie should be remembered for.  This one acoustic instrumental should establish him as a genius on the same level as Randy Rhoads and Yngwie Malmsteen.

Potential was almost fully realized here.  If the sound was thicker and the disc was trimmed for length, All Systems Go would be fully classic.

3.5/5 stars

REVIEW: Vinnie Vincent Invasion – Vinnie Vincent Invasion (1986)

The KISS RE-REVIEW SERIES Part 30 Vinnie Vincent solo #1.

VINNIE VINCENT INVASION – Vinnie Vincent Invasion (1986 Chysalis)

Where oh where did Vinnie Vincent go? The mercurial ex- guitarist with genius level skill resurfaced after 1983’s Lick It Up with his new band, the Invasion.  Ex-Journey singer Robert Fleichman did the self-titled debut album but was quickly replaced for the music videos and tour with an unknown named Mark Slaughter.  Rounding out the band were Dana Strum and Bobby Rock on bass and drums.

As I sat there listening to this album for review, Deke from Stick It In Your Ear told me, “I could never get into VV Invasion.”

My brief response to him is my review:

Dude…it’s comical. Vinnie just goes full shred to the point of stupidity. Like seriously stupid: like some idiot just hammering as fast as he can, like a kid whacking off or playing video games. And then he gets the singer to go as high as possible. It’s shrill. You can hear the songs have good riffs, but virtually every song has something to it that ruins it.

1/5 stars

 

 

#539: Been a long time since I been to Frankenmuth

GETTING MORE TALE #539: Been a long time since I been to Frankenmuth

Frankenmuth Michigan is a small Bavarian hamlet/tourist trap not too far from the Canada border.  Some people love going; I seem to be one of the only dissenting voices.  My best friend Peter introduced us to the Frankenmuth tradition.  His family would typically go once a year, staying at the Bavarian Inn.  The big draws to the town are two.  One is the big “family style” chicken dinner at Zehnder’s, where the food just keeps coming.  The other attraction is Bronner’s, an all-year-round Christmas store.  Some in my family seemed absolutely thrilled to be buying our Christmas ornaments in April.

Frankenmuth seemed a long way to go for some chicken and Christmas ornaments.  However, it’s not too far for a shopping excursion focused on music, so that’s what I turned it into for me.  In the three years I went to Frankenmuth, I found plenty of goodies, and accumulated some entertaining memories.

frankenmuth

My first year was 1992.  I had just finished writing all my final exams for my first year classes at Laurier.  The Freddie Mercury Tribute concert had just aired.  I taped the whole thing, and then recorded it to cassette (three 100 minute tapes).  I tossed that into the Walkman, and joined the family for our first US road trip together.

The Mercury concert was special.  Queen shared the stage with some luminaries as David Bowie (RIP), George Michael (RIP), Mick Ronson (RIP), and many more.  Vivian Campbell played live with Def Leppard for the first time.  Tony Iommi and James Hetfield shared the stage with Queen on “Stone Cold Crazy”.  Guns N’ Roses were there, and Axl got to sing with new friend Elton John.  The excitement in the air was genuine.  There was talk afterwards of someone charismatic, like George Michael or Gary Cherone joining Queen permanently so they could continue.

Our first road stop was a McDonalds in a small town just outside of Flint.  The washroom stunk of piss so badly that my dad couldn’t even use it. Great first impression, Michigan!

When we got to the Bavarian Inn, I had the chance to watch MTV for the first time at length.  After all I’d heard about it, I was disappointed to see it was not nearly as good as Canada’s MuchMusic.  The American coverage of the Mercury concert (which was re-running all weekend) was truncated compared to what we saw in Canada.  MuchMusic had Erica Ehm and others on site at Wembley interviewing the stars and covering behind-the-scenes, while the US coverage cut away to other things.  The food at the Bavarian Inn was incredible, including what I remember to be the best omelette I’ve ever tasted.

I can’t say that I cared for the family style chicken dinner.  “Family style” isn’t my thing (where everybody has the same dinner, all served together on big platters).  If I’m eating out, I will rarely order chicken.  Seemed like a big waste of a night out, to go and eat somewhere that serves chicken dinner just like you get at home.  But I didn’t make these decisions, I just complained about them!

On the way home, we stopped at a Target store in Port Huron.  My first Target store; I had never even heard of them before.  This is where I made my first US music purchases.  In stock was the cassette single for “Let’s Get Rocked” by Def Leppard.  This featured the bonus track “Only After Dark”, a Mick Ronson track, who had just played at the Mercury concert!  The other item I picked up was Slaughter’s new The Wild Life CD, which had a different cover than the ones I’d seen in Canada.  It still appears to be the rarest version today.

The 1993 trip was even better, because this time Peter came with us.  In 1993, Peter was the man with the plan.  He was looking for something.  Something very specific, that as of yet was not released in Canada.  He had read about this new comedy tape called The Jerky Boys, and he was determined to find a copy.  And find a copy he did.

We found The Jerky Boys at a record store just on the outskirts of Frankenmuth.  At the same store, I picked five tapes that I couldn’t get back home:  Savatage’s first albums Sirens (1983), The Dungeons are Calling (1985), Power of the Night (1986) and the brand new Edge of Thorns (1993).  There was also Richie Kotzen’s third album, Electric Joy.  These fine records meant that the summer of 1993 was filled with sounds both heavy and complex.  The Kotzen album was a whole level beyond was I was used to listening to.  As for Savatage, they heavied up my tastes at a time when I was craving faster/heavier/louder.

I spent a lot of time absorbing each of these albums, but it was The Jerky Boys that dominated the car tape deck on that Frankenmuth trip.  Peter and I listened to the entire thing through.  Tarbash the Egyptian Magician, Sol Rosenberg and his glasses (he can’t see goddammit), and the whole gang had us laughing so hard, my sides actually hurt.  When the tape was done, we put it on repeat and played it again.  I’m not sure if my mom and dad enjoyed the Jerky Boys as much as I did.  I started calling people “sizzlechest” and responding to questions with “listen jerky, I don’t need to talk to you.”

What a summer.

This Frankenmuth trip was also my Karaoke debut.  I chose “The Immigrant Song”.  And I fucking killed it, in my opinion!  Like Axl Rose gyrating on meth, I owned that stage.  The heels of my cowboy boots stomped the boards, keeping their own beat.  I asked my entire family to leave the room, but I lost my place in the song when I caught them spying around a corner.

On we sweep, with threshing oar, our only goal will be the western shore.

That was a fantastic trip.  Mission accomplished, with both the music shopping and the Jerky Boys acquisition.  On my third and final year going to Frankenmuth, Peter really upped his game.  Once again, the goal was to acquire something that we could not get in Canada.

Instead of travelling in one car, we did a convoy with two.  Peter and I needed transportation of our own to run the missions we were planning.

As much as MTV did not impress me on my first US trip, our goal this time was dependant on MTV.

“Let’s rent a VCR and tape some episodes of Beavis and Butthead!”  We didn’t get the show in Canada.

That is exactly what we did.  We drove over to the local video store, and rented a VCR.  You might think renting a VCR in a foreign country might be difficult, but it wasn’t.  We hooked it up to the hotel TV (much easier than doing something like this today — more on that in a future instalment of Getting More Tale also involving Peter).  Tuning up MTV, we watched some music before Beavis and Butthead was scheduled.

This time, MTV really pissed me off.  They gleefully ran the embarrassing 1994 Motley Crue interview that the band infamously walked out of.  But the band didn’t do themselves any favours in that interview. MTV baited them a bit with the questions, but they didn’t have to attack Vince Neil in their answers. “No one cares anyway,” said Nikki Sixx when asked about his former frontman. Pushed further, they were asked to comment on Vince’s recent jet-ski accident that put him in hospital with broken ribs. Laughing, Mick Mars asked “What happened to the coral reef?” Sixx answered, “Hey, when 300 pounds of blubber lands on a coral reef, there’s gonna be some dust flying around.”

The question that killed the interview was about “women, hairspray and fire.” MTV ran the segment complete with Nikki mocking the question, while showing images of women, hairspray and fire from their music videos. Stick in a fork in that lineup; it was done.  No matter how good that 1994 Motley Crue album was (and is), that interview polished off the attempted comeback in one stroke.

We recorded a couple episodes of Beavis and Butthead and called it a night.  The next day we did some music and comic book shopping.  US exclusive once more:  Quiet Riot’s reunion album Terrified found and liberated.  I didn’t even know they had come out with anything new.  A cassette single for “Heaven Help” by Lenny Kravitz also found its way home with me. I scored an oversized Black Sabbath comic (Rock-It Comics) and Transformers: Generation 2 #1 with the silver foil fold out cover.

With another successful trip in the books, we packed our bags and checked out.  The last mission to run was returning the VCR to the video store.  There was only one snag.  We were primed and ready to head home early…and the video store opened at noon.  We had to kill some hours driving around, but when that store opened we got the hell out of dodge.  Not the greatest return trip ever, but at least we had Lenny Kravitz.

I stopped going to Frankenmuth after that trip, although Peter and his family returned yearly for some chicken and Christmas ornaments.  My family too.  My mom tells me of a memorable trip that ended in the hospital!   Four years ago my mother, father and sister made a trip where they did the usual; Frankenmuth chicken and the Christmas store. They also ate a lot of junk food; pizza, hot dogs, French fries and candy. On the way home they stopped along the 401 for more French fries. That night my mother ended up in the hospital with a gall bladder attack. It was serious enough that she had it removed two weeks later.  Thank goodness they were home when it happened as they never bothered with extra insurance for a short trip to the US.

As years went on, I ran into people all the time who had gone to Frankenmuth for a vacation.  Inevitably, they will always talk about three things:  the Bavarian Inn, the chicken dinners, and the Christmas store.  None of them seem to have any stories about cool comic books, or finding rare tapes and CDs in Frankenmuth.  Very few of them have done Karaoke, and none have performed “The Immigrant Song” at the Bavarian Inn.  Nobody rented a VCR to record Beavis and Butthead, and then have to wait hours for the store to open to return said VCR.   Nobody even discovered the Jerky Boys on their Michigan trips.

I guess that means that Peter and I are the only ones who did Frankenmuth right.

REVIEW: Slaughter – Stick It To Ya (Definitive Remasters edition)


SLAUGHTER – Stick It To Ya (1990, 2003 Definitive Remasters edition)

“Just like a Led Zeppelin album stands up today, we hope our album stands up in 10 or 20 years.” — Mark Slaughter (1990)

I remember reading that quote in a magazine interview and thinking, “Well, I doubt THAT will happen.”

Maybe Mark was partly right though, as a handful nostalgists do still listen to Slaughter, in particular this debut and the followup The Wild Life. However, for Mark to compare this to Led Zeppelin I was simply short sighted and hopelessly optimistic. It never was going to be another Led Zeppelin I. This is a decent debut album, maybe even a pretty good one. Listening to it, there are certain things that are really grating today. Mark’s vocals are still hard to swallow as he really gets up there with these shrill squealy high notes. Dana’s bass is too happy and bouncy for my kind of rock. The guitar playing of Tim Kelly is nothing to write home about, rest his soul, just another typical early 90’s rock guitar player with very little identity of his own.

What made Slaughter work was the songwriting of Mark and Dana, and most of it still stands up. A lot of this material — straight up hard rock with a little flourish — is solid. Some songs are simply too pop for me today, such as “You Are The One” and “Spend My Life”. However, mercifully, there’s only one ballad! “Fly To The Angels” is nothing special as a ballad, but it has a little more atmosphere than the average and of course lyrically it had integrity. I don’t think it’s making anybody’s top ten ballads list, unless one has a personal connection to the lyrics, but it’s not too sappy and like I said, there’s only one!

Some songs, such as “Up All Night” and “Eye To Eye” have some balls and groove. If only the production was a little heavier, these would be bonafide classics. However, even on “Eye To Eye”, Dana’s happy bouncy bass lines brighten things up too much.   Not enough groove in the bass!  There’s also some 80’s style fast and speedy numbers such as “Loaded Gun” (with some just awful lyrics). Also awful in the lyrical department were “She Wants More” (which is a shameless AC/DC ripoff musically), and possibly “Burning Bridges”.

“Bridges”, it must be remembered, was a cutting attack on former bandmate Vinnie Vincent, from the Vinnie Vincent Invasion days. The original album even had a disclaimer on it so that the band wouldn’t get sued! “So you wanna play another solo, huh? Well not here, pal!” Disclaimer aside, it was pretty obvious who the song was actually about, and statements from Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons since then have only confirmed Vinnie’s character traits. Shame that the lyrics are no longer included with the album.  I guess that’s why the disclaimer is also missing! Instead, you get decent liner notes from Mark and Dana.  Inside they credit Kiss drummer Eric Carr for helping to get the band on the opening slot of the Hot in the Shade tour.  I didn’t know that before!

Personal highlights:
“Up All Night”, “Eye To Eye”, “Desperately”, “Thinking of June (instrumental)”.  These are all great tunes in my books, particularly the darkly cool single, “Up All Night”.

Onto the bonus material!  These two bonus tracks were included on the original CD too, but not the cassette or LP versions of Stick It To Ya.

14. Fly to the Angels [Acoustic Version]
15. Wingin’ It

These remain intact on this edition. The acoustic version of “Fly” mostly just ditches the electric guitars but is otherwise the same backing track. “Wingin’ It” (my favourite) is an accapella joke tune, only a minute in length, but absolutely hilarious to this day. I wish the album had been re-sequenced so that it still closes the album, as this is an obvious closer!

After that, there are four demos. These demos are remarkable in how fully realized they are. Unfortunately that doesn’t make them interesting listens. It is amazing that Mark and Dana had the demos down so perfectly from the get-go, but as a listener, it’s like hearing the same song twice. In the case of “Fly To The Angels”, three times on one album which is way too much. Perhaps some live B-sides should have been included instead, or the track “Shout It Out” from the Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey soundtrack. I am sure you can think of your own bonus material that you’d like to hear.

Remastering is fine and dandy, packaging is great apart from the deletion of the lyrics.  However you can read those just by Googling these days, and I think I’d rather have the liner notes from Mark and Dana.

3/5 stars, worth buying for fans of the era. Everybody else should steer clear.

Part 0: A Few Words for Days Gone By…

I decided to do something special for Part 250…by not doing Part 250 at all.

This isn’t one of those bullshit prequels, like when George Lucas says, “Oh, Episode I, I had that written for decades,” when it was pretty obvious he was making it up as he went along!  Nope, this isn’t like that.  I started writing the Record Store Tales over 10 years ago, and what you see below is the original first chapter.  It existed solely for the purpose of background and context, but I excised it in favour of starting things faster with the second chapter, “Run To The Hills”.  Since that became Part 1, it makes sense that this earlier introduction should be Part 0.  With hindight, I kind of wished I’d kept it in, so here it is!  And don’t forget to check out my new complete Table of Contents, should you wish to read  more!

KATHRYN GEOFF MIKEYeah…don’t ask. That’s me on the right.

A Few Words for Days Gone By…

What is childhood made of? In my mind, when you’re a kid, life consists of two things:

1. School
2. Summer Holidays

That was the cycle.  To break it down to the core, to an 11 year old life was 10 months of school followed by two months of glorious, warm sunny freedom.  Sure, you’d get to go home at the end of the day, but you were never truly free until the end of June. No more pencils, no more books, all that stuff.  It was way better than Christmas holidays.  The Canadian winters offered such fun treats as shoveling, besides snow pants, parka, boots (laced up too tight), and mittens which prevented you from using your fingers.

Our summers were boisterous. My sister Kathryn and I were like peas in a pod. We would play some kind of game every day, usually under my leadership. I would declare that today, we were going to play Star Wars. Other possible declarations included building fleets of Lego ships and cars, and having a giant war. Or inventing a new ball game.  Once GI Joe came along, we’d dig trenches in the yard, as well as forts and garages of twigs and leaves, and have an entire day (or week) dedicated to Cobra Commander’s new secret weapon. Aside from an occasional rebellion from my sister, our summers were mostly uninterrupted merriment.

STAR WARS

My sister and I both clearly remember one such rebellion, where she wanted to do things her way.  It involved our Star Wars figures.  We were already mid-battle.  I was setting up a perfect counter-offensive. The Millenium Falcon would sneak attack Vader’s base, take out his Tie Fighter early in the melee, while Luke would take out Boba Fett. Leia and Lando had to distract Jabba The Hutt, so that he couldn’t stop Luke when he eventually confronted the Emperor. Game over! The plan was perfect. Now I just needed my sister to coordinate the battle with me, under my command of course.

Much to my disappointment, she had moved around some of the figures and now had them seated.  Luke and Vader were next to each other. “Why are Luke and Vader sitting there? Luke is about to attack and Vader should be getting into his ship.”

My sister continued playing with the figures, and without looking up, replied, “Luke and Vader want to be friends now. They’re having tea.”

It didn’t matter that half the figures were hers, if she didn’t know how to play Star Wars right. So I’d yell a bit, act like a big brother usually does, and eventually she’d go along with the plan, or cry and leave.  The evil Empire would be defeated once and for all, thanks to my brilliant leadership and strategy.  We were definitely pals, growing up.

For years, this was the way of the summer holidays. We’d be doing something awesome at home, or at the cottage, but it would always be something cool. It didn’t matter where we were: games continued wherever we went.  We’d make a game out of anything.   You give us a pile of junk and we’ll make a game out of it.

STYX FRONTAll things do come to an end. The Star Wars trilogy ended in 1983 and something needed to fill the vacuum. While GI Joe and later Transformers would temporarily take its place, I was getting older.  My attention was drifting.  I was looking for something cool, new, and exciting.  Video games didn’t hold my attention and neither did sports.

Starting in 1983, several things happened in a short time frame.  Styx released a single called “Mr. Roboto” that some of my friends at school were obsessed with.   Then I heard a song called “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap” by AC/DC, and it was pretty cool too.  Then, a newer band called Quiet Riot came out with an album called Metal Health that would go on to sell three million copies.  This was my first rock cassette purchase when I was in the 6th grade.  Something connected…

AC/DC.  Van Halen.  Ozzy Osbourne.  Black Sabbath.  Def Leppard.  Motley Crue.  Iron Maiden.  Who were these people? I had a lot to find out.

Continued in Record Store Tales Part 1:  Run to the Hills

REVIEW: A World With Heroes – A KISS Tribute for Cancer Care – A 40th Anniversary Celebration (2013)

Part 7.5 in my series on Ace Frehley, sorta!  Plenty of Ace related coolness here.  For the last part of the Ace series, 12 Picks, click here.

A World With Heroes – A KISS Tribute for Cancer Care – A 40th Anniversary Celebration

Cancer sucks.  Kiss rules.  Agreed?  Buy this CD.

Mitch Lafon executive produced this sucker, and I suspect that means a hell of a lot of work.  I have never in my travels discovered a cooler Kiss tribute album.  Do you really need to buy another Kiss tribute album?  Do you?  Yes, you do.  Why?  For the following reasons:

  • IMG_00000937Profits benefit the Vaudreuil-Soulanges Palliative Care Residence in Hudson, Quebec.
  • Obscure track selections.
  • Rare Kiss related gems, such as two Peter Criss Band demos with Phil Naro.
  • New Brighton Rock!  Finally.
  • Superstar performers including Mark Tornillo of Accept, Russ Dwarf, Don Dokken, Bonfire, Sean Kelly, Vinny Appice, L.A. Guns, Doro, and many more.
  • Members of the Kiss family including Eric Carr, Peter Criss, Frehley’s Comet (minus Frehley), Bob Kulick and Phil Naro.

I can’t say enough good things about this compilation.  Upon first sight, it had enough rarities from artists I liked, as well as Kiss obscurities, to make it a must-have.  Hearing it, I’m blown away repeatedly.  It is a heady brew of hits and deep, deep cuts.  Since there are 51 tracks in total, I can’t go into too much detail.  I’ll point out some personal favourite moments.

I’m a huge fan of the Revenge album, and I’m a huge fan of Accept.  Hearing Mark Tornillo do his thing through “Spit” was awesome.   I think the man’s vocal cords must be made of steel or something for him to sing like that.  I also loved “Sure Know Something”, although I don’t know Chris Buck & Anthony Cardenas Montana.  It’s a slinky version, very true to the original but with a Rod Stewart vibe.  Jeff Paris does a pretty authentic “Shout Mercy” and I give him full points for doing a Monster tune, the newest Kiss song on A World With Heroes.

I’ve loved Brighton Rock since I was a kid, but I never expected them to unplug “Creatures of the Night”.  This twist takes a moment to get used to, but their haunting arrangement is very original and cool!  “Larger Than Life” from Alive II is revisited by Brian Tichy and friends, and they do it pretty straight to the original, almost lick for lick.  It’s great.  I love that Ron Young from Little Caesar sings “Little Caesar”, a nice wink and a smile there.  A band called Shredmill contribute their original song “Outerspace”…which was later covered by Ace Frehley on his Anomaly album (giving himself a writing credit).  Shredmill’s version is more Danzig, where Ace’s was more Ace.

On the second CD, surprises and highlights continue.  Ron Keel and friends from Tesla and Cinderella knock it out of the park on “Rock N’ Roll Hell”, with a nod at the start to Keel’s own “The Right To Rock”.  Rick Hughes of Quebec metal masters Sword helps blow the doors off “The Oath”, a favourite from The Elder.  The L.A. Guns guys (Phil Lewis included) tackle the difficult “Master & Slave” from Carnival of Souls, and it smokes.  They do it authentic to the grungy original but with Phil’s snarky vocals.

As a Killer Dwarfs fan, I’m always pleased to hear Russ Dwarf’s nasally twang, and he turns in a decent “Hard Luck Woman”.  (Meanwhile, another bunch of L.A. Guns guys did their own version on disc one.)  Bonfire contribute a live version of Paul Stanley’s unreleased song “Sword & Stone”, from their Live at Wacken CD.  I don’t really know who American Dog are, but I love that they covered the Paul Stanley version of “God of Thunder”, not the Gene Simmons take from Destroyer.  They do it the speedy rocked-up way that Paul originally demoed.  Jim Crean does justice to “Magic Touch”.  He’s almost Joe Lynn Turner style on this one.

A WORLD WITH_0001The second CD ends with two takes of “Beth” (Chris VanDahl sounding like the hoarse Peter Criss on Alive II, and Phil Naro).  This is in addition to Michael Lardie’s (Great White) version on disc one.  Naro’s is easily the best of the three.

But wait, that’s not all, folks.  iTunes are selling a 51 track version of A World With Heroes, including 11 exclusives.  Thankfully, you can buy these exclusives separately if you already bought the CD (like I did).  Once again, highlights are many.  Doro contributes a 2013 re-recording of “Only You”, which she had a previous hit with back in 1990.  Russ Dwarf returns with an outstanding “God Gave Rock and Roll To You II”.  There are two previously unreleased demos by the Peter Criss Band with Phil Naro.  These feature Peter on drums, but believe me, you can hear that it is the Cat Man and no one else.  In addition, there’s a third song from this period, but recorded by Phil in 2013.  There is also a second version of “Larger Than Life”, this time by somebody called Robot Lords Of Tokyo.  I don’t know who Robot Lords Of Tokyo are, but I love “Larger Than Life” and I have no problem with another version of it.  This one’s done quite differently, and heavier too.

But wait!  There’s still more!  Pledgers who pre-ordered the CD got four bonus tracks.  I missed the boat on these, and you can’t get them anymore.  I’m bummed about that, but for the sake of completion, the four bonus tracks are:

  1. ‘Calling Dr. Love’ – Performed by: Crash Kelly
  2. ‘Comin’ Home’ – Performed by: Sudden Flames
  3. ‘Heaven’s On Fire’ – Performed by: The Feckers (ft. Irene Slade)
  4. ‘I Was Made For Lovin’ You’ Performed by: Alain Pernot

I’d love to have these, especially Crash Kelly, but alas.  The project is still awesome and worth your coins.  Especially if you’re a self respecting Kiss fan.  Get it.

5/5 stars

EDIT:  I now have the tracks.  Crash Kelly’s is awesome!  Fun and awesome.

Disc 1:

  1. ‘Psycho Circus’ – Performed by: DDRIVE (Phil Naro, Don Mancuso, Dave Sessions, Jt Taylor & Bobby Bond)
  2. ‘Spit’ – Performed by: Ken Dubman, Jimmy Callahan, Scott Metaxas, & Mark Tornillo
  3. ‘Deuce’ – Performed by: Bill Leverty, Kevin Valentine, John Regan, & Russ Dwarf
  4. ‘Sure Know Something’ – Performed by: Chris Buck & Anthony Cardenas Montana
  5. ‘Detroit Rock City’ – Performed by: Ron ‘Bumblefoot’ Thal, Rex Brown & Brian Tichy
  6. ‘Eyes Of Love’ – Performed by: Eric Carr, Benny Doro & John Humphrey
  7. ‘Shout Mercy’ – Performed by: Jeff Paris, Troy Lucketta, Eric Brittingham Jeff Labar
  8. ‘Creatures Of The Night’ – Performed by: BRIGHTON ROCK
  9. ‘Larger Than Life’ – Performed by: Rex Brown, Brian Tichy & Mark Zavon
  10. ‘Cold Gin’ – Performed by: Don Dokken & Tommy Denander
  11. ‘Love Gun’ – Performed by: Tony Harnell, Mark Kendall, Scott Snyder, Sean Michael Clegg, Kevin Valentine & Tommy Denander
  12. ‘Little Caesar’ – Performed by: Ron Young, John Regan & Tommy Denander
  13. ‘Hard Luck Woman’ – Performed by: Chris VanDahl, Stacey Blades & Adam Hamilton
  14. ‘Outerspace’ – Original demo later covered by Ace Frehley on his Anomaly album – Performed by: SHREDMILL (David Askew, Jesus Mendez Jr, Jaime Moreno)
  15. ‘Goodbye’ – Performed by: IMPERIA & BOB KULICK (J.K.Impera, Matti Alfonzetti, Tommy Denander & Mats Vassfjord) – Additional Guitars by Lars Chriss
  16. ‘See You Tonight’ – Performed by: TODD FARHOOD & MYSTERY (Todd Farhood, Michel St-Pere, Sylvain Moineau, Jean-Sébastien Goyette, Francois Fournier & Benoit Dupuis)
  17. ‘Beth’ – The Grand Piano Version – Performed by: Michael Lardie
  18. ‘Tomorrow’ – Performed by: DRESSED TO CHILL (Matt Bradshaw, Rav Thomas & Rhys Lett)
  19. ‘Anything For My Baby’ – Performed by: SLAVES ON DOPE (Kevin Jardine, Jason Rockman, Seb Ducap & Peter Tzaferis)
  20. ‘Unholy’ – Performed by: Fred Duvall, Glenn Belcher, Mark Slaughter (Guitar Solo), Rob Zakojc & Russ Dwarf

Disc 2:

  1. ‘Breakout’ – Performed by: Tod Howarth, John Regan & Kevin Valentine
  2. ‘Rock N Roll Hell’ – Performed by: Ron Keel, Troy Lucketta, Eric Brittingham & Jeff Labar
  3. ‘Nowhere To Run’ – Performed by: DRUCKFARBEN (Phil Naro, Ed Bernard, William Hare, Troy Feener & Peter Murray)
  4. ‘The Oath’ – Performed by: Rick Hughes, Chris Buck & Bob Richards
  5. ‘Master & Slave’ – Performed by: Adam Hamilton, Scott Griffin, Stacey Blades & Phil Lewis
  6. ‘Calling Dr.Love’ – Performed by: BURNING RAIN (Keith St John, Doug Aldrich, Sean McNabb & Matt Starr)
  7. ‘I Stole Your Love’ – Performed by: S.U.N. (Brian Thomas Tichy, Sass Jordan & Tommy Stewart) With Derek Sharp (Of The Guess Who)
  8. ‘Reason To Live’ – Performed by: Johnnie Dee & Derry Grehan of HONEYMOON SUITE with Michael Foster & Bill Leverty of FIREHOUSE
  9. ‘Hard Luck Woman’ – Performed by: Fred Duvall, Glenn Belcher, Rob Zakojc & Russ Dwarf
  10. ‘Forever’ – Performed by: Terry Ilous, Sean Kelly With Jeff Paris.
  11. ‘Sword And Stone’ – Taken From Bonfire Live In Wacken – Performed by: BONFIRE (Claus Lessmann, Hans Ziller, Chris Limburg, Uwe KöHler, Harry Reischmann)
  12. ‘God Of Thunder’ – Performed by: AMERICAN DOG (Michael Hannon, Steve Theado & Keith Pickens)
  13. ‘She’ – Performed by: RAZER (Chris Powers, Chris Catero, Jordan Ziff, Paul Sullivan, Eric Bongiorno & Chuck Alkazian)
  14. ‘New York Groove’ – Performed by: SLAVES ON DOPE (Kevin Jardine, Jason Rockman, , Elizabeth Lopez & Peter Tzaferis With Marty O’Brien)
  15. ‘Magic Touch’ – Performed by: Jim Crean, Phil Naro, Vinny Appice, Steve Major & Stan Miczek
  16. ‘Tears Are Falling’ – Performed by: Willie Basse, Bruce Bouillet, Scott Warren & Mike Hansen.
  17. ‘Rock N Roll All Nite’ – Performed by: Harley Fine, John Regan & Atom Fellows
  18. ‘Shandi’ – Performed by: Dani Luv, Scott Griffin & Matt Starr
  19. ‘Beth – Bonus Track’ – Performed by: Chris Vandahl & Scott Griffin.
  20. ‘Beth – Bonus Track’ – Performed by: Phil Naro, William Hare & Ed Bernard

iTunes exclusives:

  1. ‘No, I’m Not Afraid’ (Previously Unreleased Peter Criss Band Demo from 1991) – Performed by Peter Criss and Phil Naro
  2. ‘Wait For A Minute To Rock N’ Roll’ (Previously Unreleased Peter Criss Band Demo from 1991) – Performed by Peter Criss and Phil Naro
  3. ‘Back On The Streets’ (2013 Mix originally from Return of the Comet) – Performed by Richie Scarlet, John Regan, Tod Howarth, Arthur Stead & Steve Werner (The Comet Band)
  4. ‘Only You’ (2013 Recording) – Performed by DORO
  5. ‘God Gave Rock N Roll To You II’ – Performed by Russ Dwarf
  6. ‘I’m An Animal’ (2013 Mix originally from Return of the Comet) – Performed by the Comet Band
  7. ‘Let Me Go Rock N’ Roll’ – Performed by The Oddfathers
  8. ‘Surrender In The Name Of Love’ (Written by Peter Criss & Phil Naro) – Performed by 24K featuring Phil Naro and Mladen Alexander
  9. ‘Love Gun’ (Tommy Denander Guitar Solo Mix) – Performed by Tony Harnell, Kevin Valentine and Tommy Denander
  10. ‘Larger Than Life’ (2013 Remaster – Robot Lords Of Tokyo version) – Performed by Robot Lords Of Tokyo
  11. ‘Cold Gin’ (2013 Remaster from L.A. GUNS’ 1998 Wasted EP) – Performed by L.A. Guns

Gallery: A World With Heroes

This arrived in the mail today.  Haven’t even taken off the shrink wrap yet! Thanks @mitchlafon!

A World With Heroes – A KISS Tribute for Cancer Care – A 40th Anniversary Celebration.  That’s a buttload of songs, people! (I love that Ron Young of Little Caesar SINGS “Little Caesar”.)

REVIEW: KISS – “God Gave Rock ‘N’ Roll To You II” single (1991)

Part 28 of my series of Kiss reviews, leading up to the release of Monster

KISS – “God Gave Rock ‘N’ Roll To You II” (1991 CD single)

As part of their “Hey, let’s try anything!” modus operadi, Kiss decided to record a single with old producer Bob Ezrin.  It was all a part of their greater scheme to drop the pop and get back to their rock roots.  Working with Ezrin, who produced both their greatest commerial success (Destroyer) and failure (The Elder), was a tentative step to see what the chemistry would be like this time.  The single was the perfect chance to test drive the partnership.

Released in conjunction with the movie Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey, this new Kiss single was also a first in that Kiss were contributing a brand new song to a movie soundtrack.  This version is actually a different mix than that later on Revenge, so this single still is an exclusive of sorts.

“God Gave Rock ‘N’ Roll To You II” (my God what a cumbersome title) is a reworking of an old Argent tune, hence the II.  At the time I didn’t think much of it, and I still don’t.  It’s not a personal favourite of mine.  It’s a little slow, although very anthemic and perfect for the live setting.  It does feature Gene and Paul singing lead together, a rare thing indeed and a first since…when?  A long time anyway.  It also has some sweet harmony vocals from Eric Carr…his last recording with Kiss before succumbing to cancer way too young at age 41.  While he underwent treatment, Eric Singer played drums on the song.  This was all kept secret in 1991 before Carr died; in hindsight you can tell it’s Singer on drums.  Carr even gave it his all, playing drums in the music video.

The other two tracks were also exclusive to the movie soundtrack:  “Junior’s Gone Wild” by King’s X, and “Shout it Out” by Slaughter.  Both bands were experiencing increased success and fans were eager for new music.  “Junior’s Gone Wild” sounds like something not too far removed from King’s X in-the-making fourth album.  “Shout it Out” is a typical Slaughter party rocker, as good as anything on their debut.  A bit shrill and and sweet by today’s standards though.

2.5/5 stars

DUAL REVIEW: Back to 1990 with CINDERELLA AND SLAUGHTER Live EP’s!

CONTEXT:  In spring of 1991, Bob and I went to see Cinderella, with Slaughter opening, here at the Aud.  They were both touring behind their new albums.  Cinderella were supporting their third, the excellent Heartbreak Station.  Slaughter were still rocking their debut, after already supporting Kiss the previous summer.

Both bands released live EP’s to further promote the tours.  Here’s my review for each.

CINDERELLA – Live Train to Heartbreak Station (EP, 1991 – Japanese exclusive)

Japan sure loves the rock!  That’s one reason they get such cool exclusives. (There are other reasons too, involving incentive to purchase domestic product rather than the less expensive US imports.) Live Train To Heartbreak Station, recorded in Little Rock Arkansas, is one such exclusive. A six song EP released in 1991, this was issued to support the Heartbreak Station tour. I was fortunate enough to witness a show on the Canadian leg of that tour, which suffered from poor ticket sales, an early harbinger of the grunge to come….

Having seen it live, this sounds purely authentic. I’m sure there are overdubs, 90% of live albums do have overdubs. However they are hard to definitively detect. Tom Keifer’s patented screech is right there, in your face, still in its glory days. The band is solid, augmented by organ and keys in the background. You can also hear the two female backing vocalists that the band were using at the time.

This EP consists of six tracks, two from each of the band’s three albums in existance at the time. All six songs were singles, although not all were hits. Even though it was not a hit, I think it’s safe to say that “The More Things Change” belongs on an EP like this  It’s a great song in the opening slot. They also sequence the two ballads (“Don’t Know What You Got” and “Heartbreak Station”) right in the middle of the EP, side by side. I like that idea, get ’em out of the way.  I think that was a smart move, albeit the girly audience screams can get old pretty fast. But man, the harmonies on “Heartbreak Station” are so sweet. I don’t care if the girlies loved it, that’s just a great song. Synth replaces John Paul Jones’ string section.

After the two ballads, the band cranked out their two best known rockers, “Shake Me” and “Gypsy Road”. Man, this takes me back. I can remember a time when I thought “Gypsy Road” was the best thing since sliced bread. And you know what? It still ain’t bad!

This is still one of the best, if not the best, Cinderella live packages on the market due to the vocal problems that Keifer would experience later on. It’s a shame it’s just an EP, but context is important. This was just a taster, a sample. Don’t forget Slaughter and Ozzy both released live EPs at the same time – it was the thing to do, I guess.

4/5 stars.

SLAUGHTER – Stick It Live (EP, 1990)

I absolutely hate listening to a live album when you can hear two or three tracks simultaneously of one singer.  Here you can hear several Mark Slaughters singing together at once. Come on, Slaughter. We’re not stupid. And the thing is, from seeing them live opening for Cinderella, I know they don’t need the overdubs. The review that I wrote for my school paper at the time said, “Mark Slaughter has proved that his high-pitched wail is not studio trickery.” Well, you can’t tell that by this live EP, Stick It Live!

Take the opening track, “Burning Bridges”. At several points you can hear several Marks singing at once. Why was this done? Did the live recordings suck?  Was it because the record company forced it?  Or because it was the fashion at the time?  I dunno. A live album (or EP) was considered an historical document, so too many bands felt they had to make them “perfect”. When in reality, perfect should have been as-is. My favourite live albums are often bootleg quality.

“Eye To Eye” follows “Burning Bridges”, opening with some stupid Crue-esque spoken word bit about an “ancient book of wisdom” and other unrelated nonsense. It’s a shame because “Eye To Eye” was one of their best songs. Once the song gets going, it’s fine, but you can still hear two or three Marks on the pre-chorus.

The track listing is as follows:

1.”Burnin’ Bridges” – 4:29
2.”Eye To Eye” – 6:25
3.”Fly To The Angels” – 6:07
4.”Up All Night” – 6:38
5.”Loaded Gun” – 5:44

 

2/5 stars. A pretty fine live set otherwise spoiled by the dreaded studio trickery.