slik toxik

VHS Archives #54: Slik Toxik win Best Canadian Metal Video, tribute to Helix’s Paul Hackman (1992 MMVAs)

“You know what time it is?  It’s thrash time!” – Nick Walsh

This video is for Superdekes!  He is going to be on CBC Radio this morning (March 15 2019) to talk about Slik Toxik’s rise to stardom. 

1992 was all about a resurgence of Canadian Rock.  Slik Toxik, Sven Gali, and Big House were all making waves.  Lee Aaron and Killer Dwarfs had new music.  But it was Slik Toxik who won Best Metal Video for “Helluvatime” (directed by Don Allan).

The award was presented by Brian Vollmer (Helix), Phil X (Triumph, now Bon Jovi) and Mike Levine (Triumph).  Slik Toxik then performed…but my tape ran out!  This is what I captured.  Neal Busby is one helluva of a drummer!

REVIEW: Metal On Ice – Various artists (2013)

NEW…ish RELEASE!

METAL ON ICE – Tunes from Canada’s Hard Rock and Heavy Metal heroes (2013 Warner Canada)

Good Sir Aaron purchased this for me at his local establishment for the low, low price of $5.  In Aaron’s review, he stated, “This is the best $5 I’ve spent on spec in ages. Bar none.”  That’s mighty tribute from a guy like Aaron, who buys a lot of CDs on spec.

What is Metal On Ice?  The talented guitarist Sean Kelly (Crash Kelly, Four By Fate, The #1 Classical Guitar Album) put together a book of rock tales from Canada’s best of the 80’s:  Helix, Anvil, Coney Hatch, Killer Dwarfs, Kick Axe and more.  To go with it, he also produced this EP.  Metal On Ice, the CD, consists of remakes of Canadian heavy metal classics.  For all but one song, he has the original singers from the bands singing lead vocals.  For the one that he doesn’t, (Kick Axe’s “On the Road to Rock”) he has Nick Walsh from Slik Toxik.  Then to top it all off, he and Walsh wrote a new song called “Metal On Ice” featuring vocals from almost everybody.

Many of these songs are radio staples.  “Heavy Metal Love” is one of those Helix classics that has endured.  Written by Brian Vollmer and the late Paul Hackman, I think it’s one of Helix’s best tunes, period.  Vollmer’s pipes speak for themselves.  Sean Kelly was in Helix, on bass, for a few months before Brian reunited the classic lineup.  Playing bass on this version however is Helix bassist Daryl Gray.  It’s a pretty authentic remake.

METAL ON ICEI found “Metal Queen” by Lee Aaron to be the most impressive track.  I cannot believe Lee’s voice, powerful as ever!  With the new production and guitars by Sean Kelly, “Metal Queen” has actually been improved.  It’s still an old-school metal chugger, but you can actually hear the lyrics now!  What is important is that Kelly has not changed the songs very much at all.  His impressively tasteful playing is enough to make each one shine just a little more.  Each solo is 100% appropriate to the classic songs.

A great example of this is the Headpins’ “Don’t It Make Ya Feel” featuring Darby Mills.  He has captured the vibe of the original guitar tone, and the song is very authentic.  Similarly, Nick Walsh does not deviate too much from George Criston’s lead vocals from “On the Road to Rock”.  When Walsh screams the high notes, it’s perfect.   Carl Dixon sings lead on Coney Hatch’s classic “Hey Operator”.  Dixon nearly died in a car accident not too long ago; it’s great to hear his voice as strong as ever.  How do these Canadian singers stay perpetually young sounding?  Is it our cold, frosty air?

Russ Dwarf returns to remake the Killer Dwarfs favourite, “Keep the Spirit Alive”.  This has always been my favourite Killer Dwarfs song, right from the very beginning.  It’s absolutely wonderful to hear a well produced updated version.  I admit that when I first got this CD, I went back and played “Keep the Spirit Alive” four or five times in a row.

Finally, there is the new original song “Metal on Ice”.  This ode to the road features lead vocals from Dixon, Vollmer, Mills, Walsh and Aaron.  I love the lyrics: “Hello Kelowna, goodbye Kenora, but we do it all tomorrow in Thunder Bay,” for example.  It is these kinds of Canadian towns that has kept the rock alive through trends and changing winds.  Walsh proudly proclaims that even though they may never make it to the top, they’re never going to stop.

A great sentiment on which to end a great CD.

4.5/5 stars

REVIEW: Slash Puppet – Slash Puppet (EP, 1993)

I found much to my horror that my original Amazon.ca Slash Puppet review had been taken and credited to some defunct site called “bandfocus.net”!  I thought it would be wise to re-claim it for myself.  Here it is in slightly revised form.

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SLASH PUPPET – Slash Puppet (Fringe EP, 1993)

A short while ago, I reviewed the debut release by the legendary Toronto glam metal band, Slash Puppet. For a while there, it looked like Slash Puppet was destined to be the “next big thing”.  They were winning awards, had national video play, and a stunning collection of hard rock material to draw from for their well-reviewed gigs.

Well, you know what happened next. Grunge took over, and the Toronto metal scene never exploded the way it was hoped. If it had, Slash Puppet would have been the band leading the charge. (With Winter Rose, I Mother Earth, Sven Gali, Russian Blue, Slik Toxik, Attitude, and so many others right behind…ahh, but I digress.)

This 1993 EP was their second release (the afformentioned debut is now available on CD as No Strings Attached, on Sun City Records).  It is solid from start to finish. The singer, Mif (better known as Anthony J. Mifsud; you’ve seen him acting in the Norm McDonald comedy Dirty Work!) has a soulful, gritty, and gravelly voice that has elements of Brian Johnson and Lemmy, but really sounds like neither. Really, Mif sounds like Mif, and you have to hear the voice to get it. The band were tight, emphasizing tough riffs, killer choruses, and street-smart lyrics. No wimpy songs here. Even the sole ballad “Eyes Of A Child” isn’t a wimp-out. Not with lyrics like those, and a soulful delivery from Mif.

The lead track from No Strings Attached, “Slow Down”, reappears here, now parsed as “Slowdown”. (I believe this song is a remix with a new bass part, based on the credits. Peet Dove played bass on the original demo version but is not credited here, which leads me to believe the bass was re-recorded by new bassist Dave Carreiro. Otherwise, the song sounds almost identical to the demo version.)

SLASH PUPPET GLOSSY

Every song smokes.  Slash Puppet down-shifted on speed for these songs, but traded that in for a slightly bluesier, soulful vibe.  Their songwriting abilities grew by leaps and bounds between releases, no doubt enhanced by their live experience.  When their debut was recorded, the band had not even played a gig yet!  Slash Puppet is much more melodic than No Strings Attached, but still tough as nails.

If you’re into tough, glammy rock n’ roll with great musicianship and songwriting, Slash Puppet are the band to check out. This EP just shines.  If you’re into collecting obscure albums from the era, or Canadian bands, this CD is an absolute must, although I saw one guy on ‘net claiming to have sold his copy for almost $200!  I’m not sure I’d be willing to pay that much.  Check thrift shops and used CD stores.  I used to sell this in my store for $5.99.

This EP was mixed by Rich Chycki, probably best known for his 5.1 work with Rush!

Here’s hoping Mif and the surviving members reunite for a few more songs or shows. I’ll be there.

5/5 stars

Part 166/REVIEW: Anthrax – “Cowboy Song” (promo single)

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!

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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.

4/5 stars

Part 146: Cassettes Part II – The Indi Years


Above:  A brief history of M.E.A.T Magazine…

RECORD STORE TALES Part 146:  Cassettes Part II – The Indi Years

Back in the days of the record store and M.E.A.T Magazine, I was into every indi band I could get my hands on.  M.E.A.T released a series of discs, four volumes total, called Raw M.E.A.T, showcasing the best in up and coming unsigned Canadian bands.  In addition, their magazine featured numerous ads from dozens of bands hawking their demo tapes.  Harem Scarem, who later went on to get signed by WEA and had great success in Japan, was one.  Unfortunately I never got their demo tape.  Just missed it.

One band that I was heavily into was called Russian Blue, from Toronto.  They were edgy hard rock.  1/4 Guns N’ Roses, 1/4 Zeppelin, 1/4 Coverdale, and 1/4 their own style.  Digging their two demo tapes up (both dated 1991) I was surprised how good this band was.  Not only were they good musicians with a truly great singer in Jo E. Donner, but some of the songs were exceptional.  They later changed their name to Deadmoon and finally Feel, before finally releasing their own alterna-rock CD called This.  (Feel This, get it?)  I was seriously into this CD during my first year at the store, as it combined the hard rock vocals that I loved from the past with a current grungier sound.  I gave it significant store play, since it was a current hip sound.

Two of their songs that made it onto the Raw M.E.A.T discs were standouts:  “Once A Madman” and “Mama’s Love”.  But ripping these tapes to disc, I re-discovered two more.  The unfortunately titled “Likkin’ Dog” was a great hard rock groover.  By the second tape, they were incorporating more experimental alternative sounds (ahead of their game back in 1991) and a track like “Bleed” showcases an angry riffy side.

Donner later formed a band called Ledgend with ex-Slik Toxik drummer Neal Busby, but I don’t know what happened to them after that.

Attitude were a glam rock band from Toronto who scored some video play with their song “Break The Walls Down”.  Their cassette looked pro all the way, printed on heavy card stock and even featuring a separate lyric sheet.  Their weakness was in the lead vocals department.  By 1994 they had abandoned the hard rock stylings and gone for a thrash alternative hybrid and changed their named to Jesus Christ.  Probably not a smart move.  The CD (released on the major label A&M) looked terribly low budget with awful indi cover art.  I recall trying to sell this in our store for 99 cents.  (I unfortunately paid $20 for it brand new when it was first released in 1994!  Little did I know that we would later see dozens of copies thanks liquidators.  They were impossible to sell, even though it boasted a throat-wrenching cover of “Ace of Spades”.)

Lastly, Gypsy Jayne were a very talented group from Oakville Ontario.  They released a song under the generic name Wildside on a Raw M.E.A.T  CD first.  Then they changed their name and put out a cassette.  This cassette got a lot of car play back in the record store days, and when we had a tape deck in the store I even gave it some store play.  Gypsy Jayne were very much in the mold of Illusions-era Guns N’ Roses. Not terribly original, but their ace in the hole was their classically trained guitarist Johannes Linstead. His talent speaks for itself today, as a nominee for a Juno award and winner of several other prestigious awards.  He has several flamenco albums out today, but to me I’ll always remember him as the shredder in Gypsy Jayne, playing alongside the Axl Rose clone Andy Law.  (The Gypsy Jayne cassette, Alive and Wandering, has an early flamenco piece called “Romanza”!)

The songwriting on this cassette is really excellent for what it is.  Every song is different, but memorable, catchy, and with a distinct direction.  If they had come out a year or two earlier, they could have been as big as L.A. Guns, Cinderella, or any of those bands.

Unfortunately, this cassette was well loved and well worn, and is barely listenable today.  Hey Johannes…any chance of a reissue?