soundgarden

#586: Adventures with Aaron (Three Different Ones)

GETTING MORE TALE #586: Adventures with Aaron (Three Different Ones)

 

When my buddy Aaron started his own site telling his own life story, it brought back a flood of memories for me too. We met in 1994 and had quite a few adventures of our own. Many of these tales are lost to the sands of time…but a few have come back.

I’ll start by saying that it was the beginning of a weird time. Both of us had started exploring the online world of computer BBSing (bulletin board systems). We made some lasting friends, but there were a few unsavory characters too. Remember Silent Knight? He (and his wall ‘o porn) was just one of the misfits I encountered.

There was Doug, the home-schooled Jehova’s Witness who planned to get rich from BBS subscriptions in 1994. Judging by his appearance, Aaron and I theorized that his white legs had never seen direct sunlight.

I’m not likely to forget Gray, an older guy who thought he was psychic. When I briefly dated and broke up with Aaron’s sister, Gray predicted using his “psychic powers” that the split was only temporary. That messed me up for months.

Fast Freddy was another, a guy I befriended when I was single and we both had something to moan about. When I got a new girlfriend I no longer had something to bitch about and had an acrimonious parting of ways with Freddy.

Aaron and I had a lot in common, such as music, action figures and movies. This led to a genuine friendship which in turn provided some adventuring. The first time we hung out as friends and not just with his sister was a “taping session”. We taped CDs off each other. Then we walked up to the library to photocopy covers. I showed Aaron how to make a tape cover with a photocopy. That’s how I got my first copy of Soundgarden’s Superunknown – taped it off Aaron. Another one was Duff McKagan’s Believe in Me album.

Aside from the usual stuff, like looking for CDs and movies, I’d like to share three stories involving Aaron:

1. The Monkey Boy Incident

One evening in September of 1994, Aaron his sister and I decided to get some fries at McDonalds. They have the best fries, don’t they? His sister decided it would be fun to throw pennies out the car window at street signs…and other cars.

One guy didn’t like that very much and gave chase. I didn’t know where I was going and got cornered. As Aaron and I cowered in the car waiting for an ass whoopin’, his sister got out of the car and confronted the other driver, who she dubbed “Monkey Boy” for the purpose of storytelling.

“Why the fuck are you following us?”

“You threw shit at my car!”

I’m not sure how but she managed to defuse the situation as the two of us sat in the car being scared! What brave guys we were.

2. The Mud Bath

The following spring, Aaron and I were out again, with a couple friends named Nick and Denise. I had the hots for Denise. Unfortunately what I did not have was any clue how to flirt or even ask a girl out properly. It was raining like mad outside, and we stopped in Waterloo Park during the storm. Aaron and Nick dared me $2 to run around in the torrential downpour for a minute. I thought to myself, “Hey, what a great way to impress Denise! She’ll think I’m fun and cool!” Because I’m smart like that.

I leapt out of the car into the storm, ran around in front for a bit, and then promptly slipped right in the mud. They wouldn’t let me back into the car until my time was up and I earned my $2.

I’m not saying that running around in the mud had anything to do with it, but I did succeed in dating Denise for a little while. I think it totally had to do with me falling in the mud.

3. The Ronald McDonald Invasion

Aaron had a fear of clowns. At the same time, he had very curly hair which, for a while, was dyed red. What attracts clowns more than curly red hair? A guy with curly red hair who also had a fear of clowns!

As if Aaron wasn’t having it rough enough, this time he was the one doing $2 bets. A night out again with Nick ended at a McDonalds where Aaron had an ice cream. We then dumped salt, pepper, ketchup and vinegar into the melted remains of his ice cream, and paid him $2 to finish it. Which he did! But that is where his triumph ended.

Wouldn’t you know it? A Ronald McDonald was there that night. You don’t see it very often, but sometimes McDonalds would have a Ronald clown there to entertain kids. Aaron’s red curly head attracted Ronald like bees to honey. And of course Aaron was terrified as Nick and I giggled. Aaron earned his $2 that night, and then some!

As Aaron continues forward with his story I am sure it will trigger many more on my part. Stay tuned.

 

CODA:  Integrity Mix 1995

A few years ago, I compiled an “integrity mix” CD of a lot of the tunes I was listening to during that period.  I distinctly remember getting most of these songs in 1994 and 1995.  Varga was a Christmas 1994 gift.  Kiss came from an LP that I had special ordered in at the Record Store.   Yes, vinyl in 1995.  Two copies — one to play, one to keep sealed.  Slash’s Snakepit came out that year and Aaron was really into Slash and Guns.  That Soundgarden track came from a CD single that Aaron had and I taped.  Rush came from my very first Rush studio album.  2112 was a birthday gift, and I’m quite proud of putting all of side one on this CD!

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#575: The Chris Cornell Obsession

GETTING MORE TALE #575: The Chris Cornell Obsession

A retelling of a portion of Record Store Tales Part 6:  Year 1

One of my very first lessons at the Record Store came courtesy of a customer whom nearly everyone loathed dealing with.  Nancy was her name, but she also had a very politically incorrect nickname back in 1994-1996.  Some people have no filter, and Nancy was one of those people.

What I discovered during our very first interaction was that she liked Chris Cornell from Soundgarden.  A seemingly innocuous interest.  But she liked Cornell a lot.  More than the average bear.

I was new at the store and had never seen her before.  The store owner had, and with a little mischievous intent, sent me over to ask her if she needed help finding anything.  Little did I know, he was sending me into the lion’s den.

“Hi, can I help you find anything today?” I asked as I approached.

“No thank you,” she said before adding, “Do you have any Soundgarden?”

Of course we did!  It was the summer of 1994.  Superunknown was one of the biggest CDs of the season.  Badmotorfinger was still hot too.  I showed her what we had new and used, but she wasn’t interested.  She just wanted to talk.

She saw the copies of M.E.A.T Magazine that we carried on the front counter.  M.E.A.T (“Metal Events Around Toronto”, or “Metal-Alternative”) was an excellent publication made all the more impressive since it was full-colour, on glossy paper, and free.  Chris Cornell was on the cover that month.  Nancy saw that and went crazy.

“Do you like Chris Cornell?”  That was the question that sucked me in.  I should have answered something neutral, like “He’s OK” or “I don’t know.”  Instead I answered something far more enthusiastic, thus springing the trap.  Once she knew I was a fan too, she wouldn’t stop.

“He’s sexy!” she began.  “He’s so sexy when he wears his Doc Martens.  Are there pictures here of him in his Doc Martens?  Do you know the Doc Martens I mean?” she asked as she flipped through M.E.A.T Magazine.  “I love Chris Cornell when he wears Doc Martens!” she continued.  “He used to have long hair but now it’s short.  I liked his long hair better, which do you like best?”

At this point, I realized I was in the thick of it and the boss had sent me in, intentionally.  He continued going about his business as I tried to extract myself from Nancy’s conversation.  He ignored my sidelong glances appealing for help.  However I was new, brand new in fact, I’d only been there a couple weeks and had no idea what to do!

“Did you know that the original bass player from Soundgarden was Japanese?  I’m Japanese too.  Did you know there are not many Asian people in rock and roll bands?”  I’d never thought about it before.  Now I wished I never had the chance to think about it.

Throughout the 20 or so minutes that I was stuck with Nancy talking to me, she had much to say on sexy grunge rockers, the members of Soundgarden, Doc Marten boots, and Asians in rock.  And of course, she asked my name.

“Nice to meet you Mike, I’m Nancy.”  And I would never, ever forget that name even though she periodically forgot mine.

When Nancy finally left without buying a damn thing, my boss said to me, “That’s your first lesson.  Don’t get into conversations with customers.”

Nancy was one of the most regular of regular customers.  As we expanded, she visited all our local stores.  She came in year after year, and many staff members became trapped in her spider-like snare of conversation.  But she had a nasty side, she wasn’t easy to deal with.  I was “lucky” she was in a good mood during our Cornell conversation.  On other occasions she called one of our guys “retarded” and made work unpleasant in general.  After Soundgarden her next obsession was classical music, and she stalked our classical sections for years.  She had a husband who liked to wait outside, but once or twice he had to come in and calm her down when she was upset about something.

To me she’ll always be Nancy the Chris Cornell fan.  I thought of Nancy when Chris died.  What happened to Nancy?  I used to see her around town, but it’s been over 10 years since I last spotted her.  Probably still haunting records stores somewhere and providing “interesting” conversations.

 

#574: GUEST SHOT – Association Through Music

GETTING MORE TAKE #574:  Association Through Music
Guest shot by Aaron Lebold

A sequel to #571:  Record Store Tales – A Different Perspective

Before I met Mike, my knowledge of music was pretty minimal, and I had not yet been able to see the influence it could have on daily life.  I mostly listened to what my friends had shown me, which was basically dance and rap music.  I did have a friend who made me a mix tape, it mostly consisted of tracks from one of those Dance Mix [also known as MuchDance] albums, but amongst all that was “Sweating Bullets” by Megadeth.  I listened to this song fairly often.

When I met Mike I absorbed a lot of his musical tastes.  I looked up to him, and he seemed to know a lot about music, and was very passionate about it. Initially I was just enjoying what I liked the sound of, but this eventually shifted to me being a  bit of a music snob, and focusing mostly on the lyrics, and the message of the song.

Some of the first bands Mike showed me were Soundgarden and Rush.*  Once I got more into music I found I enjoyed a lot of Rush’s music, but couldn’t really find much personal value in it.  There was one song, “Distant Early Warning” that I always found to be powerful, and to this day it is still my favorite song by the band.  I have a feeling that Mike still thinks of me when he hears this song.**

I also associate Rush with a different element of my life.  I had a friend who I spent a lot of time with, and  really liked the girl who lived next door to him.  I remember talking to her about music, and at this point I still didn’t really have an abundance of knowledge, so I went with the few things I had learned from Mike at the time.  I told her I liked Nirvana, Soundgarden, and Rush.  I remember her response of “Rush sucks” made me feel a bit embarrassed, because with music in general I really didn’t know what I was even talking about at that point in time.***

Another association I still have to this day is in relation to Soundgarden. It was around the time that Superunknown had been released, and Mike and I were both huge fans of the album.  At this point in my life I was starting to find value in the lyrics, and Soundgarden and Nirvana really had what I was looking for.

I used to live across the street from a public school, and one evening Mike and I went over there and were just belting out the lyrics to “Spoonman.”  I would take the more mellow parts like “All my friends are skeletons,”  and Mike would follow by screaming at full capacity “They beat the rhythm with their bones”.  This would of course prompt us to both yell “Spoonman!” in unison.

I find it pretty extraordinary that music can be tied so tightly to memory.  I saw Soundgarden play in Toronto a couple years back on their reunion tour, and even then I thought of Mike when they went into “Spoonman.”  

If you are interested in learning a bit more about me, please check out my work on Medium.  

https://medium.com/@aaronleboldbmr  

I am in the process of reflecting on my life story.  Feel free to share some of your most memorable events that you use music to help you remember in the comment section below.

Godspeed,
Aaron

* Rush I remember, but I didn’t know I could take credit for getting him into Soundgarden.  That’s pretty cool.  

** I do!

*** Perhaps I should have warned him that girls did not like Rush.

R.I.P. Chris Cornell 1964-2017

A moment of utter shock:  waking up on the morning of May 18 2017 to discover that Chris Cornell, the pipes behind Soundgarden, Audioslave and Temple of the Dog, has passed away at age 52.  One of the greatest (if not the greatest) set of lungs behind the grunge era is gone.

According to the BBC, Cornell played a concert with Soundgarden last night in Detroit.  His passing was “sudden and unexpected”.  The family is asking for privacy at this time.

What are your memories of Chris Cornell?  For us it’s the psychedelic and insane video for “Jesus Christ Pose”, a landmark of the grunge era and a showcase for his finest lead vocals.

R.I.P Chris Cornell.

#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: Soundgarden – Telephantasm (2010)

SOUNDGARDEN – Telephantasm (2010)

Soundgarden was one of the first Seattle bands I tweaked onto, mainly because Soundgarden (and Alice in Chains) were the most metallic in their approach. I refused to call them grunge — not with riffs this Sabbathy and a singer who could have been Ronnie James Dio’s protege!

Soundgarden broke up for 13 years, and Chris Cornell started (in my opinion) a lucklustre solo career, while Matt Cameron fared better as the longtime drummer in Pearl Jam. There’s a certain renaissance for these kinds of bands now, what with recent critically acclaimed albums by Alice in Chains and Pearl Jam (and that new studio Soundgarden record) being very well received. Telephantasm acts as a sort of “Anthology” collection. Back in the 90’s this deluxe edition would have been considered a boxed set. Just that today, we’ve done away with the box! It’s not quite a greatest hits set (live versions of “Jesus Christ Pose” and “Pretty Noose” are subbed into for the familiar singles), and not quite a rarities set (9 of the 24 tracks are rare or unreleased).

What Telephantasm is, is a really good overview of one of Seattle’s best. From the Deep Six compilation to their final pre-breakup album Down on the Upside, this set chronologically presents Soundgarden at their very best, live and in the studio. Personally I haven’t listened to old Soundgarden in a while. I have a bunch of albums and singles at home, but after I quit the record store, I reverted back to my metal roots and didn’t listen to Soundgarden much anymore. For me, this was almost like the first time again. Hearing the songs in this new context didn’t take away from what they were on albums either.

TELEPHANTASM_0003Outstanding classics for me include: “Fopp”, “Superunknown”, “My Wave”, “Dusty”, “Burden In My Hand”, “Rusty Cage”, and “Spoonman”. I mean, every fan of musicianship absolutely needs a song in their collection with a killer spoons solo!

Outstanding rarities for me were: the video mix of “Fell On Black Days”, and live versions of “Pretty Noose”, “Flower”, “Blow Up The Outside World”, and a frenetic “Jesus Christ Pose”. Hard to believe that Cameron can play those complex rhythms live. Unbelievable!

Of course there is the much hyped “Black Rain”, an unreleased track from the Down on the Upside sessions. Sounds great. Could have been written for Badmotorfinger. Liner notes are excellent. There are two essays, one by guitarist Kim Thayil (who seems like one of the coolest guys in rock). There are a handful of photos and exhaustive credits. I’m not too keen on the cover art, but there is a big fold out revealing the whole thing, and it’s quite expansive.

Of course there’s the DVD, for some this will be worth the price of purchase alone! This is a pretty comprehensive collection of music videos including uncensored and international versions. For new fans who are upset that they didn’t get the studio versions of “Jesus Christ Pose” or “Pretty Noose” on the CDs, they are here on the DVD.

TELEPHANTASM_0005There is a bonus track on some versions — the unreleased song “The Telephantasm”. However the best way to get that song is to buy the 7″ single, which also includes a killer, killer live version of “Gun”. This is a brand new live version by the reunited band. If you want the truly complete picture of Telephantasm, go out and get that single while you still can. Also required, but much more expensive and still unacquired by me: There is a bonus track on the deluxe vinyl version of the album: “Beyond the Wheel”, live by the reunited band.  This is on a included 7″ single, which I would very much like to get.

Lastly I’ll have to say a few words about the mastering of this album. Unfortunately the “Loudness Wars” can add Soundgarden to its body count. The album was mastered way too loud, and it really takes its toll on the sound. You can really hear it on the cymbals. It’s unfortunate, since so many of these songs are previously unreleased. This is the only way you can hear them, and it’s not as good as it should be, thanks to the record company mastering this damned thing too loudly.

Regardless, the music is incredible.

4/5 stars

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 “Slowblind”, 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

REVIEW: Ace Frehley – “Cherokee Boogie” (1996)

A little bonus review, part 5.5 in my series of Ace Frehley reviews!  Just a single track today.  Missed the last installment?  Click here!

ACE FREHLEY – – “Cherokee Boogie” (1996 Attic)

From Guitars That Rule the World, Vol 2: Smell the Fuzz – The Superstar Guitar Album!

I was a big fan of the first installment of the Guitars That Rule the World.  It had a really eclectic and diverse list of guitarists, including Zakk Wylde (doing chicken-pickin’ for the first time on record), Albert Collins, Richie Sambora, Yngwie Malmsteen, Paul Gilbert, and many others.  This volume (with a stupid cumbersome title) is geared more towards alternative artists such as Billy Corgan, J. Yuenger, and Kim Thayil.  There’s also John Christ of Danzig, Alex Lifeson, and Robert Fripp.  Hell even Billy Sheehan has a track, and he’s a bassist!  (But, you can already get the Lifeson and Sheehan tracks on albums by their side projects Victor and Niacin.)

CHEROKEE BOOGIE_0002To me this album is only worth buying for the brand new Ace Frehley track.  It’s an instrumental called “Cherokee Boogie”, and while it doesn’t boast too many particularly strong catchy melodies it is still the Ace.  Ace’s soloing is (as always) note perfect for the song.  The riff is quintessential Ace, thick and chunky, albeit not one of his best.  It’s still nice to hear his distinct Les Paul squeal on a new track.  I especially love when the song gets fast and thrashy just past the halfway mark.  At this point Ace is burning rubber, and it’s a real rush.

I’m not familiar with the backing musicians on this recording.  They are Saul Zonana (bass) and Phil Richford (drums).  They get the job done without getting in Ace’s way.

I would say that “Cherokee Boogie” would have made a strong instrumental interlude on any of Ace’s post-Kiss solo albums.  It’s 4:00 of solid rock guitar.

3.5/5 stars

Very poor audio on this

CHEROKEE BOOGIE_0004

Gallery: T-Rev’s Tapes Part Deux – Ruckin’ Fockin’

Last year for Record Store Tales Part 145, I dug up some of T-Rev’s old mix tapes, complete with custom artwork.  T-Rev always put such work into his tapes (sequencing and art included, he even numbered them as a series!), so it is a pleasure to give you this gallery of three more of T-Rev’s Tapes!

Rockers love to discuss “mix tapes”, so I invite you to comment on your own personal picks.  Led Zeppelin?  Metal Tunage?  What would you do?

REVIEW: Alice In Chains – Jar of Flies / Sap (Double EP)

Click if you missed my review of the new Alice in Chains album, The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here!

ALICE IN CHAINS – Jar of Flies / Sap (1994 double Columbia EP edition, originally 1992 and 1994)

For a little while, Alice In Chains were in the habit of releasing an EP before each studio album (We Die Young preceded the Facelift album albeit it was a promo). This ended after Layne’s death, but these two EPs — 1992’s Sap and 1994’s Jar of Flies — represent some of the best work of this pioneering band. Acoustic in nature, these two recordings are crucial to rock fans who need to know more about one of the most interesting bands of the 1990’s.

I snagged a European import of this set many years ago, for less than the price of either of the two EP’s separately.  Great score, and it was in great condition.  It even contains all the artwork from the original releases.  Although Jar of Flies is the first disc in the set, I will review Sap first since that’s how they came out.

JAR OF SAP_0004Sap is very low key. I remember reading an interview in RIP Magazine with drummer Sean Kinney.  He stated that they were writing songs for the next album (Dirt), but all this acoustic music started pouring out instead.  He had a dream about it one night, and told the band, “Guys, we have to release these songs as an EP, and we have to call it Sap.”

The opening track, “Brother” is sung by Jerry Cantrell with Ann Wilson of Heart on the choruses. Very powerful understated song. Both “Brother” and the next song, “Got Me Wrong” (another standout) were released live on the band’s Unplugged CD. These songs are followed by “Right Turn” by Alice Mudgarden: essentially Alice In Chains with Chris Cornell of Soundgarden and Mark Arm of Mudhoney on guest vocals! It is a great contrast: Cornell screaming at the top of his lungs, and Arm down low. Great song.  I remember Jerry Cantrell once said that Mark Arm’s vocal on it “scares the shit” out of him every time he hears it.

Layne Staley’s “Am I Inside” follows, another understated and mellow slow-burner. Everything goes to hell though with the final track, the unlisted “Love Song”. The band switched instruments for this chaotic joke song, with Sean Kinney on megaphone/vocals. Hilarious track, but it must have taken people by surprise.  “Rae Dawn Chong…Rae Dawn Chong…”

JAR OF SAP_0003Jar of Flies was written and recorded rather spontaneously in just a week. When I first heard it, I felt like some of these songs were under-written, that they could have used more work. As you listen to it more, that feeling disappears.  It feels more complete. Just about every song on Flies is a total winner, but the best thing about it is that it grows on you. As a result, it has a longevity that similar EPs sometimes lack. Here I am, still playing it 19 years later and loving it just as much.

“Rotten Apple”, which is one of the best tunes anyway, kicks off the CD.  It’s hypnotic, even though the lyrics really feel unfinished.  Who knows what Layne was trying to express at the time, perhaps it’s with intent. It just feels like the fragment of a lyric. Perhaps that’s what makes it so hypnotic to me.  None of this changes the fact that this slow one is both warm and forboding at the same time; a cool thing.

The opener is followed by “Nutshell”, which I like even better.  It’s my personal favourite tune on Jar of Flies. It always takes me right back to summer 1994.  The single “I Stay Away” features strings to emphasize the powerful chorus.  It’s a cool tune because it has sections that sound like they don’t go together, yet they make it work.  Alice seem to ignore songwriting convention most on songs like “I Stay Away”.

“No Excuses” was another single (the first one, actually).  It’s an almost-happy sounding song with some sweet rolling basslines from Mike Inez. The instrumental “Whale and Wasp” is up next, so named because Jerry felt it sounded like whales and wasps talking to each other. That should put you in the ballpark.  Jerry wrote it when he was in highschool, finally recording it on Jar of Flies.

“Don’t Follow” is probably the least experimental of the songs. It is a straight acoustic ballad with some nice harmonica.  After five tracks  of music that doesn’t always follow the beaten path, “Don’t Follow” feels like a reprieve.  The final song is the pretty wild “Swing On This”.  It’s the only song that tends to lose me, but some people I knew held it as their favourite. From the most conventional song to the least conventional; such is a journey on planet Alice.

Commenting specifically on the version I own, the dual EP, I bought this at my own store used several years after initially owning both releases.  My logic at the time was that T-Rev and I were usually always trying to own the “coolest” or “most complete” or “rarest” version of things.  When I traded up the two separate EPs, I broke even, plus I made space for one for more disc on my shelves!!  Space is always a rare commodity to a collector.

Together, these two EPs together create a fantastic listening experience. The cool thing is that although both are acoustic, they are really nothing alike. Listen and you will see.

5/5 stars