Spencer Proffer

REVIEW: Kick Axe – Welcome to the Club (1985, 2016 remaster) – Kick Axe series Part Five

Part Five of a series on classic KICK AXE!

BONUS: Check out Superdeke’s concert review from this tour by clicking here!

KICK AXE – Welcome to the Club (1985, 2016 Rock Candy collector’s edition)

Kick Axe may have had a slight identity issue.

They certainly didn’t benefit at all when two of their songs (“Hunger” and “Nothing’s Gonna Stand In Our Way”) were released under another name on The Transformers soundtrack.  Nobody knew that “Spectre General” was in fact Kick Axe.  Unicron may have been defeated, and Rodimus named as the next Prime, but Kick Axe didn’t gather any of the spoils.  There’s also the issue of their critical second album.  Vices was clearly a metal album and the band had an obviously heavy image, complete with toothy mascot.  When the second album saw its release, the mascot was gone and the lead video was a ballad!

The twist in the tale is that Welcome to the Club is considered by many fans to be Kick Axe’s best album; and they may be right.

The record label Pasha was trying to steer Kick Axe in a lighter direction.  Producer Spencer Proffer couldn’t be there, so staffer Randy Bishop was sent to Toronto to write and record the next album with the band.  They did this at the legendary Metalworks, and then the album was sent to Proffer in California to mix.  You’d expect this kind of operation to be detrimental to the music.  You’d be wrong.

The songs are tighter than those on Vices.  Yes, opener “Welcome to the Club” lacks the full-fisted punch of “Heavy Metal Shuffle”, but they are traded in for a dusky, cleaner vibe.  This is an older, wiser band and the lyrics reflect that.  “If you’ve had your share of heartache…welcome to the club.”  The drums are still thunder on tape, and George Criston could bellow like few others, so the “softening” of Kick Axe was actually quite minor.

“Feels Good – Don’t Stop” lets the bass lead the way, for a bangin’ chorus that any band would have given their nuts to write.  Another flawess chorus is found on the powerful “Comin’ After You”, which may in fact be the perfect 1985 hard rock song.  Softer verses build up to the kick of the first chorus, with backing keyboards providing unobtrusive texture.  “Make Your Move” is another expertly written rock song, something like Bon Jovi circa 7800° Fahrenheit.  Did Sambora spend time studying this album?  Then a dramatic “Never Let Go” has a creeping, dark vibe that makes one wonder just what Black Sabbath would have sounded like with George Criston on lead vocals.  When Ian Gillan left to join Deep Purple, Criston was one of the singers that Tony Iommi was very interested in.  This song is a glimpse into what that might have sounded like.

The side two kick-off, “Hellraisers” is a cold steel classic.  A signature guitar lick and a chorus plumbed straight from the most melodic depths of hell is all it takes.  Well, the solo cooks pretty hot too.  “Hellraisers” is most likely the best tune on Welcome to the Club, which goes a long way to making it the best Kick Axe song, period.  By the next track, “Can’t Take It With You”, Kick Axe discovered a time machine and somehow came up with a cool wah-wah riff right out the 2000s.  There is no way we’ll ever know for sure, but it’s not out of the question that this riff was lifted by time travel from John Norum of Europe during the sessions for Start From the Dark.

Anyone who felt Welcome to the Club underdelivered in terms of heavy metal probably thought “Too Loud…Too Old” was the best song.  Heavy groove and speed co-mingle, and the result is one of the heaviest hard rock tracks in the history of the genre.  “Feel the Power” dials it back in terms of heavy, but is no slouch of a track, not with all those Brian Gillstrom drumquakes.  Guitarists Larry Gillstrom and Ray Harvey had a knack for harmony guitar solos, as heard on “Feel the Power”.  Not to mention the capable backing vocals by the entire band, rounded out by Victor Langen on bass.

The oddball ballad goes last, and it really is a surprising one.  Continuing a tradition that would follow through on all their albums, Kick Axe did a cover.  This time it’s the Beatles’ “With A Little Help From My Friends”, but via the Joe Cocker arrangement.  The good news:  George Criston was more than capable of handling the difficult song without sounding like an asshole.  Not an easy task!  He is accompanied by Canadian stars like Alfie Zappacosta, Lee Aaron, Rik Emmett, and Andy Curran which gives the song some authenticity and serious star power.  Lee Aaron in particularly kicks the song right in the nuts when she steps up to the microphone.

It was this track that was chosen as the lead video, and immediately confused all the kids sitting at home watching MuchMusic.  This was the “On the Road to Rock” band, clearly, but they didn’t sound like that anymore.  The music video almost looked like a charity single, with everybody singing together in the studio.  We didn’t know what to make of it, and the clever but tame Hugh Syme cover artwork really didn’t speak like Vices did.

It is always a shame when a great album by a deserving band gets ignored.  Thanks to Rock Candy and their awesome CD reissues, it’s not too late to get into the Club.

5/5 stars

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REVIEW: Kick Axe as “Spectre General” – The Transformers soundtrack (1986) – Kick Axe series Part Four

KICK AXE as SPECTRE GENERAL – “Hunger” and “Nothing’s Gonna Stand In Our Way”
from Transformers: The Movie original motion picture soundtrack (1986 BMG)

Although the recordings were not released until 1986, it makes sense to talk about “Hunger” and “Nothing’s Gonna Stand In Our Way” now, in terms of storytelling.  After the Vices album was completed in 1984, Kick Axe were tasked to contribute to another project.  And it wasn’t a movie soundtrack.

Producer Spencer Proffer was scheduled to go into the studio with Black Sabbath — a Black Sabbath still fronted by Ian Gillan, though not for long.  Proffer felt that Sabbath needed fresh ideas and recruited Kick Axe to write some.  Though details are murky, we do know that Gillan left Black Sabbath abruptly to record Perfect Strangers with Deep Purple.  Kick Axe frontman George Criston was one of the singers that Tony Iommi was interested in as his replacement.  Whatever happened, no recordings of Sabbath with Criston have surfaced, but we do have the songs Kick Axe wrote for the sessions.

In a strange coincidence, they all first came out on November 9 1985, on two separate albums.  W.A.S.P.’s The Last Command (produced by Proffer) featured the Quiet Riot-like “Running Wild in the Streets”, though without proper writing credit.  Another album produced by Proffer was released the same day:  Ready to Strike by King Kobra.  “Piece of the Rock” and hit single “Hunger” were written by Kick Axe for the Sabbath project.

Ultimately, “Hunger” by Kick Axe did finally come out in the summer of 1986.  Too late, perhaps, considering people assumed it was a generic cover of a King Kobra song.  Especially since no one had ever heard of…Spectre General?

Who the hell is Spectre General?!

For reasons unknown but said to be contractual, Kick Axe couldn’t release their own song under their own name, so Proffer invented Spectre General, and that’s how they’re credited in Transformers: The Movie.  The band didn’t even know about it.  They had two songs on the original 10 track album:  “Hunger”, and a new song called “Nothing’s Gonna Stand In Our Way”, written for their next record Welcome to the Club.

Perhaps it’s the familiarity of the King Kobra recording, but this version of “Hunger” does stand in its shadow.  Both Mark (Marcie) Free and George Criston are stellar vocalists, and the Free version just had more…weight.  Kick Axe’s original is heavier and chunkier, so perhaps in that way it’s actually superior.  “Nothing’s Gonna Stand in Our Way” is an upbeat number, hook-laden, with the trademark Kick Axe “chug” and backing vocals.  It’s pretty essential to have both these tracks to augment a Kick Axe collection.

Besides not getting their real name in the album, other contributions by Weird Al Yankovic and Stan Bush were featured more prominently in the movie than the two “Spectre General” songs.  The band Lion got to do the movie theme song.  Those were some memorable movie moments to any kid in the theater, particularly the Stan Bush selections.

It’s pretty amazing that Kick Axe came up with “Hunger” but were never really recognized for it.  It’s a great song and their original version of it is the proof.  Also strong, “Nothing’s Gonna Stand in Our Way” would have made a fine addition to the next album.  Clearly, the Canadian quintet had big league talent the whole time.

4.5/5 stars

REVIEW: Kick Axe – Vices (1984, 2016 remaster) – Kick Axe series Part Three

Part Three of a series on classic KICK AXE!

KICK AXE – Vices (1984, 2016 Rock Candy collector’s edition)

The loud Canadian quintet from Saskatchewan, Kick Axe, went from indi to major label in 1983 when they signed with CBS Canada.  They also had a new singer in George Criston, a guy with incredible range and rock sensibilities.  Everything was in place.  With a couple solid metal releases already under their belts, they were about to go big league.  The next step after the record deal was a hookup with the American producer behind Quiet Riot, Spencer Proffer.  Spencer offered them the chance to write with him and record in his own studio, Pasha.  They would have been foolish to turn down the opportunity considering what happened with Quiet Riot in similar circumstances.

In fact, Kick Axe’s debut album Vices is so similar to Metal Health, you probably could have heard it was Spender Proffer at the desk without reading the credits.  The drum sound is exactly identical to that of Frankie Banali.  The backing vocal arrangements are also very similar, even though the singers are different.  The comparisons go further, but we’ll discuss them as we go.

“Heavy Metal Shuffle” sounds immediately like, who else, Quiet Riot!  That is until George Criston starts croonin’.  What a set of pipes on that man.  He could scream with the best, but there’s more to Criston than just high notes.  There’s a blue-eyed soulful trill in his screechin’, hard to pinpoint but there nonetheless.  Another part of the Kick Axe sound is bassist Victor Langen, who has a solid metal chunk but with creative, busy melodic accents.  Of course another major factor is the capable backing singers.  Langen, Ray Harvey, and brothers Brian and Larry Gillstrom created an 80s tapestry of metal harmony.  This is especially apparent on title track “Vices”.  It’s a pretty irresistible song even if it sounds exactly like the year 1984.  At least how I remember it sounding.  Big, echoey, mushy, loud!

By the third track, “Stay On Top”, we’re really cookin’.  You might cringe at the clichés, like the gang vocals or the big drum fills, or you could just chill out and rock with it.  Ballad “Dreaming About You” pours on the rock standards, but the problem is…it’s good.  It’s a great 80s ballad.  Helix could have done it.  Great White could have done it.  Dozens of bands had songs like this, but at least Kick Axe wrote a good one.  Up next, “Maneater” opens with some ferocious guitar wang-dang, although the song is more a slick rocker than a headbanger.  It’s the chorus that differentiates it from the average.

When side two opens with the “big hit”, hopefully you’ll say “Oh yeah, I remember this one!”  The memorable music video for “On the Road to Rock” introduced Kick Axe to a much larger audience.  Listen to that chug!  Langen had a killer sound, even with that huge axe bass that quickly became a symbol for the band.  “On the Road to Rock” delivered an anthem the kids could get behind.  The video also turned their cover art of the “Vices Guy” into a fully-fledged mascot.

My buddy Bob Schipper loved the music video.  Especially when “Vices Guy” yells “Stop that you wimp!” at one of the legendary composers.  Me, I liked that bass. I also liked that the drummer was a virtual hulk, who kicks down not one but two doors in the video. I didn’t understand why the singer was running around in bare feet.  You’re gonna stub a toe, or step on some door shrapnel, guy.

Next up, “Cause For Alarm” sounds at first exactly like the song “We Were Born to Rock” by Quiet Riot.  It soon becomes its own beast with a thunderous chorus.  Yep, Kick Axe could write a chorus.  They could also execute them via those thick backing vocals and the golden Criston pipes.  The tempo takes a step back into the pocket on “Alive & Kickin'”.  It’s another one of those choruses that the boys seemed to have an endless supply of, although a bit too heavy on the backing vocals this time.  Langen really lets the bass groove on “All the Right Moves”, boasting one of those shout-choruses that are perfect for the live concert setting.  It’s the kind of song Motley Crue would have given their nuts to be able to write at that time.

The final song on the standard album was a song with a certain epic “closing” quality.  “Just Passing Through” makes it sound like the album just might have been a concept record on the theme of vices.  Indeed, Spencer thought of it as such: “Living in our vices, we watch the rise and fall,” repeating some words from the title track.  Regardless, it just sounds like an album closer.  There’s a certain climactic quality to the melody and riff.

On CD (and strangely enough, also the original Canadian cassette) is the bonus track “30 Days in the Hole”, starting a custom of Kick Axe putting a cover song on every album.  Spencer Proffer wanted to do it, since he had so much success with “Cum On Feel the Noize” earlier with Quiet Riot.  It’s not the best version of “30 Days” that you’ve ever heard.  It sure does sound like they’re playing the same amps as Carlos Cavazo, though.

As per usual, Rock Candy deserve extra thanks for the brilliant liner notes featuring interviews with Proffer and Langen.  Also for including the bonus track, though we often take those for granted these days.  Of course, Kick Axe deserve the lion’s share, for writing and performing a “kick ass” Kick Axe debut.  Not an easy thing to accomplish, but with Proffer they had a good team.  It shouldn’t overshadow their innate talents, of course.

The proof of Kick Axe’s talent was their progression, album to album.  There were also some misadventures with Black Sabbath and giant transforming robots, but we’ll get there.  Vices would be a fine Kick Axe album to satisfy your curiosity, but be prepared to get hooked and want to go deeper.

4.5/5 stars

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 more recent 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

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.

IMG_20150607_142053

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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