Spencer Proffer

REVIEW: Quiet Riot – Cum On Feel the Noize (1989 CBS cassette)

QUIET RIOT – Cum On Feel the Noize (1989 CBS cassette)

From the same line as the previously reviewed Trouble Shooters by Judas Priest, here’s a tape-only Quiet Riot compilation.  Like the Priest tape, Cum On Feel the Noize has nothing older than five years.  For Quiet Riot, that unfortunately means you’re only hearing songs from two albums!  (Nothing from the first two which were only released in Japan.)

The title track (and Slade cover) “Cum On Feel the Noize” goes first, muddy tape hiss and all:  this cassette has seen better days!  It’s an edited version (roughly 3:10), so perhaps something you don’t have in your collection.  The speedy album track “Run For Cover” then delivers the scalding hot metal.  Two more big hit singles follow:  “Mama Weer All Crazee Now (another Slade cover) and “Metal Health” (sometimes subtitled “Bang Your Head” in case you didn’t know the name).  These two hits will keep the party flowing, and that’s it for side one.

Proving they had more than just a passing interest in mental health, “Let’s Go Crazy” kicks off side two with a bang.  Frankie Banali is the man — his drums really sell this one.  “(We Were) Born to Rock” is another solid number, all rock no schlock.  “Slick Black Cadillac” is a shrewd inclusion.  Gotta have a car song for the road.  Then “Party All Night” finishes it off with a pretty clear message.

As a party tape, Cum On Feel the Noize would have done the trick.  You should probably just own Metal Health and Conditional Critical instead, but this is a fun tape and would have been enough Quiet Riot for most folks.

3/5 stars

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REVIEW: King Kobra – Ready to Strike (1984)


IMG_20150607_142430KING KOBRA – Ready to Strike (1984 Capitol)

What happened to the good ship King Kobra? Hilarious misspelled name, silly coordinated hair colours (all but veteran drummer Carmine Appice, who complimented their red and blonde with his red and black), and production by the guy who brought you Quiet Riot — what could possibly go wrong? They even had their own “kobra” signature hand gesture, and weird complementary stage moves in an expensive music video.

When you have lyrics like, “I’m ready to strike, I’m cocked and loaded tonight,” but you’re not David Lee Roth or Gene Simmons, you’re already fighting an uphill battle.  Carmine saw the sudden success of bands like Quiet Riot, and decided “why the hell not”?  He picked up some great players for this project.  Bassist Johnny Rod ended up in W.A.S.P. later on.  David Michael-Phillips played with Lizzy Borden after Kobra.  Mick Sweda formed BulletBoys.  Mark Free formed Unruly Child, and ultimately became Marcie Free.  She still fronts Unruly Child today. Meanwhile Carmine Appice reformed this lineup of King Kobra, substituting in Paul Shortino for Free, and getting good reviews for it.

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So talent aside, there’s no worries there.  There are two major issues with this record.  One: the muddy Spencer Proffer production which lays a muffly blanket over the band.  All but Appice of course, who bears a very Frankie Banali-like sound on this album. The guitars are empty transistor radio renditions of what guitars should sound like. Two: filler material kept Ready To Strike from fulfilling its potential.

It’s not all filler of course — much of it is damn good.  The first three tracks in a row (“Ready to Strike”, “Hunger”, and “Shadow Rider”) are all really good, actually.  Famously, “Hunger” became a minor hit, although it was actually written by Canada’s Kick Axe, and recorded by them under the name Spectre General, for Transformers: The Movie in 1986!  I prefer the King Kobra version, because Mark Free really nailed that vocal.

Other decent tunes include “Shake Up”…I mean, it’s OK.  It has a good pre-chorus, “And the beat goes on and on and on…”, but the lines about home work and yard work were pretty goofy even back then. Like that one, “Tough Guys” is also a good tune (mid-tempo mellow rocker) sunk by a bad lyric. “The world’s greatest lie, is that all of us tough guys don’t cry.” No thanks, not cranking that one with the windows down.

Crummy tunes: “Attention”, “Piece of the Rock”, “Breakin’ Out” and “Dancing With Desire”. Stinky. I can’t decide how I feel about the overwrought “Second Thoughts”.

Overall: Middle of the road album that neither astounds nor repulses. It has enough good tunes to warrant a place in my collection. How about you?

3/5 stars

REVIEW: Quiet Riot – Metal Health (1983)

You lucky, lucky readers! Guess what? It’s….

THE BEST FUCKING COLLABORATION WEEK EVER!

All week, Aaron over at the KeepsMeAlive and I will be colluding. Monday to Friday, we will be talking about the same CDs. He hasn’t read my reviews, and I haven’t read his. Today, we’re both discussing Quiet Riot‘s landmark Metal Health. Be sure to check both reviews each day this week!

Aaron’s installment: QUIET RIOT – Metal Health

QUIET RIOT – Metal Health (1983, 2001 Sony remastered edition)

While my first rock album ever was Kilroy Was Here, by Styx, my first metal album ever was this one: Metal Health, by Quiet Riot. Although I was really into Styx, Quiet Riot were the first band that I “loved”.  Some music that people liked when they were in grade school embarrasses them today that they ever owned it. Not me, not this album. Since buying it in ’84, I’ve owned this album on cassette, LP and twice on CD. And I’ll probably buy it again; I understand there is a more recent reissue out with more bonus tracks. Metal Health was the crucial cornerstone in my musical development, and always will be one of my all-time favourites. Read on!

The opening drum crash to “Metal Health”, sometimes also referred to as “Bang Your Head (Metal Health)”, instantly transports me back in time.  Chuck Wright played bass on this one, extra slinky and funky (although Rudy Sarzo plays on most of the album).  Suddenly I’m in the basement at my parents’ house, listening to this cassette on my old Sanyo ghetto blaster.  I still recall, the cassette shell was white.  I played the crap out of it, annoying everyone.

“I got a mouth like an alligator” sings lead howler Kevin DuBrow, and how accurate he was.  I had no idea that Kevin’s mouth would cause the band to oust him only a few years down the road.  I liked the attitude of the lyrics, and the aggression of the guitars.  Impossible to ignore was new drummer Frankie Banali, who to this day is an absolute ballcrusher of a hard rock drummer.  His metronomic groove on Metal Health gave it the drive.  I wouldn’t have been able to break it down and articulate it like that when I was a kid, but these are the factors that attracted me to the song.

“Cum On Feel The Noize”, the Slade cover, is now more famous than the Slade original or Oasis’ version for that matter. It’s a great tune, but Quiet Riot and producer Spencer Proffer nailed the sound and the vibe.  The gang vocals are irresistible.  The cover was a huge hit, but it painted them into a corner.

Much like my first rock purchase Kilroy Was Here, there were songs I liked and songs I hated.  I don’t think I was the only 12 year old kid who didn’t have the patience for ballads.  Girls?  Who cares!  So I also hated “Don’t Wanna Let You Go”.  I wasn’t obsessive about listening to whole albums back then, since I was brought up in the LP age where we just dropped the needle.  So I often fast-forwarded through “Don’t Wanna Let You Go”.  Or we would play side one of the cassette, rewind, and play it again. (“Don’t Wanna Let You Go” was on side two of the cassette version).  Shortly after I suddenly noticed girls were EVERYWHERE, the song started to click with me.  Its sparse arrangement driven by Frankie’s drums make it a really special song.  Carlos Cavazo’s guitar solo had melody and composition to it, and drew my attention to the fact that a guitar solo wasn’t just a 30 second bore, but a micro-structure within the song, like a song all its own.

“Slick Black Cadillac” is a remake of a song from the second Quiet Riot album (cleverly titled Quiet Riot II) although we didn’t know that at the time.  “Slick Black Cadillac” is simply a classic today, and even though there isn’t a Randy Rhoads writing credit on it, you can hear the echo of his influence in Carlos’ guitar fills.  The lyrics to this song are so catchy, and soon you too will be singin’ about those solid gold hubcaps.  I was attracted to songs that told a story, and the rudimentary story here is a guy in a Caddy runnin’ from the “coppers on his trail”.  There’s no Dylanesque poetry, and DuBrow was never a crooner. This is about loud guitars and drums, a singer who is screaming his face off, and songs about cars and rocking!

You know I got a fully equipped rock ‘n’ roll machine,
At speeds that take me high, high, high,
At dead man’s curve,
I only hear one word, drive, drive, drive!

Love’s A Bitch” is less successful but it has a mournful quality that isn’t bad.  “Breathless” is better, a fast rocker featuring Frankie’s breakneck but steady pounding of the skins.  Following at the same pace, “Run for Cover” is just as furious, but lacking in melody.  Carlos Cavazo’s guitar showcase “Battle Axe” used to precede “Slick Black Cadillac” on my cassette version, which it was perfectly suited for.  On the original LP and the CD, it opens “Let’s Get Crazy”.  Because the running order of the cassette is permanently branded into my memory, it’s hard to get used to.  “Let’s Get Crazy” is goofy, seemingly an attempt to have another song like “Metal Health” on the same album.  As such it’s filler.

Finally there is “Thunderbird”, the piano-based ballad that Kevin wrote for the late Randy Rhoads. Didn’t like it then, love it today.*  It’s a beautiful song and maybe the best thing DuBrow’s ever written.  It’s cheesy as hell, but who cares?  The heart is there.

CD bonus tracks include a fun live take of “Slick Black Cadillac” (complete with DuBrow’s “vrroooom, vrrrrroooom!”) taken from a radio promo release. Also present is “Danger Zone”, an outtake that is not quite up to the album standards, but certainly close. Remastering is loud and clear, and liner notes are informative enough.

Enjoy. Doesn’t matter if it’s 1984 or 2015, this is a great album.

4.5/5 stars

* When we were kids, my sister and I used to play ‘air bands’ to this album.  I’d always make her sing “Thunderbird” while I would get the ‘better’ songs!

REVIEW: Quiet Riot – QR (1988)

QUIET RIOT – QR (1988)

History lesson time!

QUIET RIOT 1978
Randy Rhoads – lead guitar (founder)
Kevin DuBrow – lead vocals
Kelli Garni – bass
Drew Forsythe – drums

QUIET RIOT 1988
Carlos Cavazo – lead guitar
Paul Shortino – lead vocals
Sean McNabb – bass
Frankie Banali – drums

Quiet Riot are a rare bird in rock history;  they actually released this album with no original members intact. Quiet Riot suffered numerous lineup changes until finally singer Kevin DuBrow was fired in ’87 after the disastrous QRIII. Bassist Chuck Wright also left the sinking ship (he joined House of Lords).

Banali and Cavazo made the questionable decision to carry on with a new singer, and that singer was Paul Shortino of Ruff Cutt. My only exposure to Shortino at that time was his excellent contribution to the song “Stars” by Hear N’ Aid. I loved his raspy voice and I was intrigued.  Replacing Chuck Wright was bassist Sean McNabb…who, a few years later, again replaced Chuck Wright, this time in House of Lords.  Since then he’s also been in Great White.

The album itself was a bit of a letdown at first, and only through many determined listens did it finally grow on me. The problem was that Quiet Riot are (or were) primarily a party band. I mean, this is the band who had songs called “Party All Night” and “Stomp Your Hands, Clap Your Feet”. Now, they had changed to a moodier blues-based glam rock band. The first single “Stay With Me Tonight” was darker, slower, bluesy and anchored by a howling Hammond B3 organ. Nothing like anything Quiet Riot had ever done before. Obviously, Banali and Cavazo had decided to trade party hooks in for integrity and possible critical acclaim. Unfortunately that never happened, but the result is that QR remains a hidden hard rock semi-gem.  The lack of success led to Quiet Riot disbanding in 1989 after a short tour.  Sounding very little like Quiet Riot, and playing unrecognizable renditions of the hits, the band clearly should have changed their name to something else.  Clamorous Calm, perhaps?

The album did finally grow on me. Perhaps similarly to a band like House of Lords (who debuted at the same time), the tracks here were a bit darker.  The ballads a bit more sad.  The rockers a tad more threatening.  The fact that this sounds absolutely nothing like Quiet Riot (except for the musicianship of Banali and Cavazo) doesn’t make it a bad album.

My favourite songs:

  • “Stay With Me Tonight”, the afformentioned first single.
  • “Run To You”, a guitar-based ballad with a touch of keyboards and great melodies from Shortino.
  • “I’m Fallin'”, one of the few party rock songs included.
  • “Don’t Wanna Be Your Fool”, another great darker ballad.
  • “Callin’ The Shots” which has a pretty solid, bluesy riff.

The sound, by long-time QR producer Spencer Proffer was not up to par. I didn’t expect Quiet Riot to go so bluesy either. These were sounds I was somewhat unfamiliar with at the time.  Carlos did have a chance to shine on guitar more than ever before, and Frankie’s drums are loud and powerful as always. As a testament to the man’s talents, he ended up in W.A.S.P. after this on the brilliant Headless Children CD.

In 1993 DuBrow called Cavazo up, made amends, and formed a band called Heat. With the addition of Banali and bassist Kenny Hilary (R.I.P.), Heat morphed back into Quiet Riot. They released the pretty good Terrified CD which was a welcome return to vintage form.

This CD may not be a very good “Quiet Riot album”, but it is actually a pretty good album.  If you give it time, you may find something to enjoy herein.

3.25/5 stars

REVIEW: Quiet Riot – QRIII (1986)

For Aaron’s KMA review of this CD, click here!

QUIET RIOT – QRIII (1986 CBS)

A short while ago, longtime LeBrain reader Deke and Jon from E-tainment Reviews brought up QRIII as a contender for Worst Quiet Riot of All Time.  Digging into the discussion, I mentioned 1995’s Down to the Bone as another possible contender.  Jon also mitigated QRIII by reminding us of the teriffic single “The Wild and the Young”; the only reason to own it.  So the jury is technically still out….

QRIII  certainly sucks.  I knew that I could do one of two things for its review:  Take a shit on the album cover and post a picture of that as the review, or lambaste it verbally and harshly.  Unable to decide between the two approaches, I instead decided on a first for mikeladano.com:  the very first Choose Your Own Review!(™)  Choose A) The Short One, or B) The Long One!

REVIEW A: The Short One

QRSHIIIT

REVIEW B:  The Verbose One

QRIII (actually Quiet Riot’s fifth album) did nothing to revitalize their career. DuBrow was fired shortly after, leaving no original members. Quiet Riot soldiered on for one more album and tour anyway (with Paul Shortino on the creatively titled album but redeeming QR), before breaking up.  In ’93 they finally reunited with Dubrow intact, on the decently heavy Terrified CD.

QRIII, released in 1986, was a sign of desperation closing in.  Rudy Sarzo was out, and in was Chuck Wright. The band had flatlined commercially, so what did they do? They copied everybody else’s formula for success. That means they incorporated an overabundance of keyboards, buried the guitar way down in the mix, sampled everything, recorded sappy and faceless ballads, glossed it all up, and basically snuffed out any spark that this band once had. I felt that they also copied Kiss somewhat in image, with bouffant hairdos and sequined gowns that looked like hand-me-downs from Paul Stanley’s Asylum wardrobe. DuBrow’s new wig didn’t help things.

There is the one song that rises above the stinky, putrid toxic morass that is QRIII. “The Wild and the Young”, despite its reliance on samples, is actually a really strong hard rock rebellion.  On this track, the studio techno-wizardry did its trick.  The song is irresistible, and remains a personal favourite.  The drums kill it, and the gang vocal chorus is catchy as hell.  The song was accompanied by a creative video, so I was suckered into buying the tape.   If I had only known there was just one good song, I wouldn’t have spent my hard earned allowance on QRIII.  More to the point, if I had known just how bad the rest of the album actually was, I would have steered way clear.  Everything is choked down in a mechanical slop of keys and samples.   These songs are so nauseating, so tepid, so embarrassing, that I really can’t say it with enough vigor.

The lyrics:  mostly pathetic nonsense.  “The Pump”:

Well let’s pump pump pump pump,
Strike it rich what you’re dreamin’ of,
Let’s pump pump pump pump,
We’re gonna hunt for gold, Gonna dig for love.

Then, throw in a Plant-esque moan of “Push, push, push, oh! oh! oh!.”  Serious.

Lastly there are the sadly misguided attempts at a “soulful” direction, which crash and burn gloriously. I’m sure in the studio, producer Spencer Proffer assured Quiet Riot that he was producing a hit album.  This would get them on radio and MTV, he might have guaranteed.  Meanwhile, the real situation was more like, “Let’s throw anything and everything to the wall and see what sticks, because this band’s asses are on the line this time.”  But it was the band who wrote this slop with Proffer, so they bear equal responsibility for the calamity.  I’m sure there were so many drugs in the air that “The Pump” actually seemed clever at the time.

QRIII will be remembered not as the album that knocked Quiet Riot down, (that honor goes to Condition Critical) but as the album that flat-out buried them. They would never be a serious commercial property again.

Do you enjoy the crash and burn of an astonishing train wreck? QRIII is for you.

0.5/5 stars

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