steven adler

REVIEW: Guns N’ Roses – “Patience” (1989 12″ single)

GUNS N’ ROSES have announced an APPETITE FOR DESTRUCTION deluxe edition coming in June.  While “Rocket Queen” will certainly be on it, it’s highly unlikely the interview track below will.

GUNS N’ ROSES – “Patience” (1989 Geffen 12″ single)

Fans of vintage Guns N’ Roses (what other kind are there?) should always be alert and eyes open for old singles.  Whether CD or vinyl, some of those old Guns singles have buried treasure on them.  One is “Patience”, released several months after the Lies EP from which it sprang.

Here’s some truth for you, and it’s rather strange.  “Patience” simply sounds better with the crackle of vinyl.  I can’t explain it but I sure can testify.  Just a little bit.  Just enough to transport you back in time to 1989 when people were spinning Lies on vinyl (or at least cassette tape) nightly.  The delicate strum of acoustics accentuate one another, and hot-damn, it’s hard to deny the timelessness of “Patience”.  The missus and I played it at our wedding reception and it was a highlight of the evening.  Almost every couple dancing to it that night is still together.  Magic, people!  It’s real.

But no, the real treasure is on side two, and it’s not “Rocket Queen”.  Don’t get me wrong!  “Rocket Queen” is an amazing showcase and could still today be the best tune Guns have ever laid to vinyl.  It’s heavy, it’s soft; it has a bit of everything.  I’d put it in my top five.  But you already have Appetite for Destruction, so you know this already.  What you have probably never heard before is the second track on the B-side, a vintage interview (7:44 long) with the elusive W. Axl Rose himself.

Conducted in his apartment among his broken platinum albums, Axl is asked some point-blank questions.  Did you know Duff had his own comedy version of “Patience” that could have come out at some time?  Axl even dropped lyrics from a new Izzy Stradlin song still two years down the road.  “Double talking jive, get the money motherfucker, ’cause I got no more patience…”  He also revealed they had a lot of ideas…anything from “10 songs to 30 songs”.  (Turns out, it was 30.)

Axl confessed that his violent streak comes from frustration and stress, and that he has always smashed his things.  It’s clear that this guy, sitting at the very top of the rock pile, needed some mental health care.  Bon Jovi, after all, didn’t smash his platinum albums.  He even went as far as to warn psycho fans to stay away or deal with the consequences of getting in his face.

It’s an odd interview, and revealing.  That’s why it’s a treasure worth seeking.  A single like this is valuable to fans who need to know these bits of trivia and minutia.

4/5 stars

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REVIEW: Guns N’ Roses – Acoustic Session in NY (1987 radio broadcast)

GUNS N’ ROSES – Acoustic Session in NY (1987 radio broadcast, Laser Media release)

Radio broadcasts of historic value can be found for dirt cheap.  Guns N’ Roses played an intimate set on October 30 1987 at CBGB’s in New York, and today you can own a CD of it just by being in the right Walmart.

The GN’R Lies EP was still over a year away but several tracks were previewed:  “Patience”, “Used to Love Her”, the acoustic version of “You’re Crazy” and the controversial “One in a Million”.  It was only the second time “One in a Million” had been played live and the audience doesn’t particularly react where you think they would.  They do, however, get quite a kick out of “Used to Love Her”.  According to Rolling Stone, there were about 100 people in the club that night.  They also got to hear the unfamiliar “Move to the City” and “Mr. Brownstone”.

The balance of the CD is from an unknown gig, fully plugged in: “Sweet Child O’ Mine”, a ferocious “My Michelle” and a very early cover of “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” by the original five.  Since you’re never poorer for owning vintage live Guns with Izzy and Steven, the three tracks are welcome bonuses (though a source listing would be nice).

3.5/5 stars


200 word

REVIEW: Guns N’ Roses – Lies (1988)

GUNS N’ ROSES – Lies (1988 Geffen)

Do you remember your first Guns N’ Roses?  I sure do.  I skipped Appetite and went straight to GN’R Lies.  We were heading to the cottage one spring weekend and my parents offered to buy me a new cassette.  “Patience” hadn’t even been released as a single yet.  I knew no songs.  But I was intrigued by the idea of a half-acoustic EP.  I fell in love with the acoustic guitar around that time, and I wanted to check out Lies as my first Guns.  I’m kind of proud that my first Guns wasn’t Appetite.

The acoustic side was the second; first I was assaulted by the jet-propelled electric “live” side.  Which wasn’t really live.  It was recorded in the studio with crowd noise dubbed in from the 1978 Texxas Jam.  If you listen to the vocals, knowing that Axl is always in motion on stage, you can tell they are not live.  This is, of course, with 20/20 hindsight.  This electric side was a reissue of the first Guns EP, Live ?!*@ Like a Suicide.  Fans had been paying ridiculous amounts of money to acquire it, so Guns decided to beat the dealers by simply reissuing it with some new songs on top.

“Reckless Life” dated back to Hollywood Rose.  Even though it’s not from Appetite, it sure could have fit on that album.  It had the energy and the hooks to make it.  It speaks to the strength of the album that songs like “Reckless Life” were left off.  A slick and groovy tune, “Move to the City”, is also included on Lies.  It’s obviously different from the direction of Appetite (horns!), but not all that dissimilar to the Illusions albums.   The electric side is rounded out by a couple covers, something we later learned that Guns really excel at…or fail completely.  There is no in-between with Guns N’ Roses covers.  They either rule or suck.  Both covers on Lies rule:  “Nice Boys” (Rose Tattoo) borders on punk, foreshadowing the future.  Finally, Axl announces that “This song is about your fuckin’ mother!”  Not exactly the kind of thing parents enjoy, but a killer track:  “Mama Kin” introduced many youngsters to the Aerosmith classic for the first time.

That first side felt dangerous.  We were used to bands like Def Leppard.  Suddenly this guy is talking about our fuckin’ mothers?  Live ?!*@ Like a Suicide aka “side one” is also catchy as fuck, so we kept going back for round two, three, and more.

 

It was actually quite genius of them to pair Live ?!*@ Like a Suicide with four acoustic tunes on side two.  The contrast works, and when you flip the record it feels fresh when you drop the needle again.  In fact it’s easy to just flip back to side one and listen again.  The quality of the acoustic songs didn’t hurt.  The side progresses from softest to hardest.  “Patience” is first, which eventually became one of Guns’ greatest hits.  You didn’t hear acoustic guitar solos often back then, or a ballad with no drums.  Even though ballads were all the rage, few bands had a song like “Patience”.  The brilliance of “Patience” isn’t the melody or the whistling.  It’s the minimalist arrangement.

I still remember my dad watching the “Patience” video with me.  “That guy’s not a very good guitar player!” he scoffed as Slash solo’d.  He never liked Guns N’ Roses.

“Used to Love Her” was always a bit of a novelty, but even so, a good novelty track.  “A joke, nothing more,” according to the cover.  It’s about a dog, in case you didn’t know.  “Used to Love Her” is upbeat, catchy and easy to sing along to.  Regardless of what my dad may think, Slash’s (electric) solo work on it is tops.

One of the most interesting songs is “You’re Crazy”, a re-recording of the Appetite for Destruction favourite.  The cover states that it was originally slow and acoustic, before being cranked up on Appetite.  Because it’s unique, the Lies version is the better of the two.  It was notorious in the highschool halls for its refrain of “You’re fuckin’ crazy.”

Even more notorious however was the closer, and for good reason.  Certain words in certain contexts are unpalatable.  Context is the key.  It matters who is saying the word, and why.  Words in themselves are not offensive, it is their usage that can be hurtful.  “One in a Million” is an ugly, angry song.  Axl’s pissed off at the cops, religion, and seemingly homosexuals and the black community as well.  Some of the harshest words are levelled at foreigners:

Immigrants and faggots,
They make no sense to me.
They come to our country,
And think they’ll do as they please.
Like start some mini-Iran,
Or spread some fucking disease.
And they talk so many God damn ways,
It’s all Greek to me.

Later on, Axl has the gall to state, “Radicals and racists, Don’t point your finger at me.  I’m a small town white boy, just tryin’ to make ends meet.”  Here we are in 2017, three decades later, and the world is still infested with angry, small town white boys.  Although Axl smugly apologized for the lyrics in advance on the front cover, “One in a Million” can’t be excused that easily.  Axl has since worked with gay and African American artists…hell, Slash’s mom was African American.  As a fan of the music, I would like to hope that Axl has learned more about the world since 1988.  We are shaped by our experience, and I hope Axl has had more positive ones.

Moving on from the lyrics, the interesting thing about “One in a Million” is that it was album debut of Axl Rose’s piano, on a song solely written by Axl.  It’s simple and guitar based, and Slash’s acoustic solo is utterly fantastic.

Finally, one of the most appealing aspects of GN’R Lies is the cover.  Taking a cue from Jethro Tull, the cover looks like a newspaper replete with dirty articles.  Open it up, and there’s a naked woman inside.  “The loveliest girls are always in your GN’R L.P.” says the headline.  I quickly folded up the cover to hide it from my parents.

Lies was a good stopgap for Guns, considering the five year gap between Appetite and Illusions.  It demonstrated growth, and cool roots.  It will always be remembered for “Patience”, but also a couple ill-advised words that had lasting repercussions.

4/5 stars

 

REVIEW: Guns N’ Roses – Use Your Illusion I & II (1991)

GUNS N’ ROSES – Use Your Illusion I & Use Your Illusion II (1991 Geffen)

In my review for Guns N’ Roses’ smashing debut Appetite For Destruction, I stated that “Appetite is great, but Illusions are better”.  A strong and controversial statement.  How could I say such a thing?

Use Your Illusion I and II are a case of “Bigger, Better, Faster, More!”  Consider:

1. “Bigger”

Certainly in terms of length, Illusions are far bigger:  2 hours and 32 minutes compared to 53 minutes for Appetite.  I concede that the Illusions albums have far more filler than Appetite.  Given that the grand total of awesome material on Illusions still exceeds the length of Appetite, I think “Bigger” is a given.  They made us wait and wait and wait, but they made it worth our while.  You can’t always say that for Guns N’ Roses.

2. “Better”

Guns N’ Roses’ lineup was “new and improved!” in 1991.  Original drummer Steven Adler was given the boot due to severe issues with substances, replaced by Matt Sorum, who they knew from The Cult.  I won’t argue that Matt Sorum is a “better” drummer than Steven Adler, because they are too different.  Regardless of this, Sorum was able to expand Guns’ rhythmical pallette.  He could play things Adler could not at the time, such as “You Could Me Mine” and “Double Talkin’ Jive”.  As for the core members, each of them expanded their own talents on these albums.  Duff McKagan and Izzy Stradlin were now lead vocalists on a few tracks.  Slash’s guitar playing grew exponentially.  Izzy blossomed as a songwriter with some of Guns’ most diverse material.  And Axl Rose really got into the piano, contributing a ton of it, and even the techno influence that would later evolve into Chinese Democracy.  His vocal stylings also expanded, with more use of his lower voice.  Everybody had gotten…better.

3. “Faster”

It’s possible that “Right Next Door to Hell” is the fastest Guns track ever recorded.  “Perfect Crime” and “Garden of Eden” also qualify.

4. “More!”

Guns expanded their official lineup to a six piece with the arrival of keyboardist Dizzy Reed.  They also had plenty of special guests:  Alice Cooper*, Michael Monroe, and a guy named Shannon Hoon from the then-unknown Blind Melon.  Hoon appeared in the “Don’t Cry” music video.  Steven Adler was even on “Civil War”, one of the earliest tracks finished.  How’s that for more?  Not enough?  Throw on some orchestras, then.

Of course the weakness to this argument is the old saying that “less is more”, and that theory holds water.  Ultimately, it comes down to taste.  Do you prefer the nuclear assault of Appetite, or the complex stew of Illusions?  Fortunately, you don’t have to choose.  You can buy and love them all.

We reviewers, however, are not afforded such luxury.  We are expected to rate these things and answer tough questions about why.  I cannot deny how I feel about the Illusions albums.  I think II tops I, but from first listen, these albums were very special.  The ambition, the indulgence, and the time paid off on these albums.

Breaking it down, there are numerous top tier bonafide classics on Use Your Illusion I and II.  I think if you boiled the album down to these basic original tracks (colour coded by original album), you’d have a hard time beating it.

Proposal:

  1. Dust N’ Bones
  2. Don’t Cry
  3. Bad Obsession
  4. Double Talkin’ Jive
  5. November Rain
  6. The Garden
  7. Coma
  8. Civil War
  9. 14 Years
  10. Breakdown
  11. Pretty Tied Up
  12. Locomotive
  13. Estranged
  14. You Could Be Mine

And look…that’s enough for a perfectly awesome single CD.  It doesn’t even include the excellent covers “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” and “Live and Let Die”, both hit singles for Guns.  It also excludes dumb but fun stuff like “Get in the Ring”.  You know you and your buddies have recited the words.  Don’t lie to me!

I always choose to listen to these albums in full, in sequence.  I find that to be the best way to go, as they intended it to be.

Appetite showed the world that rock and roll could still be dangerous and loud.  The Illusions albums immediately proved that Axl was a hell of a tortured genius.  However it’s not a one man show.  The dominant songwriter is Izzy Stradlin, with 11 credits on most of the best material.  His singing added a Keith Richards rasp to the band’s repertoire as well.

You don’t have to agree with my rating, but I feel that all of the above really overshadows the filler on Use Your Illusion.  Some of the material I consider filler were singles.  “Dead Horse” and “Garden of Eden” were both hit music videos.  The sheer bloat and indulgence of this set was a sharp and delightful contrast to the first waves of back-to-basics grunge bands.  It kept Guns on the charts for years.

In a 1991 M.E.A.T Magazine interview, Slash stated that after Appetite, every band in the world copied their style.  He challenged bands to try and copy them this time.  “To copy us, you’d have to be us.”  Slash was correct.  Nobody could touch Illusions.

5/5 stars

 

* The story behind the Cooper cameo is that Axl has originally sung all of “The Garden” himself. He sang it in a very Alice Cooper voice, and there was concern it was too close for comfort. So they called up Alice (who they worked with before on “Under My Wheels”) and Alice just nailed “The Garden”.

REVIEW: Guns N’ Roses – Appetite for Destruction (1987)

GUNS N’ ROSES – Appetite For Destruction (1987 Geffen)

The first time I ever heard of Guns N’ Roses was from a rock magazine.  There was a picture of this weird looking lead singer with spiky red hair, and his name was “Axl”.  I immediately decided I didn’t like whoever he was, because he looked absolutely hammered, a complete mess.  And what kind of name was “Guns N’ Roses” for a band anyway?

MuchMusic began spinning their first video, “Welcome to the Jungle”, but only on the Pepsi Power Hour.  After a couple plays, I liked it.  I took Axl off the “banned” list and taped their video.  I asked my friend Scott if he liked Guns N’ Roses.  “They suck!” he answered.  A few months later, another video hit the airwaves and it was even better.  “Sweet Child O’ Mine” came out during the year of Bon Jovi and Def Leppard, but wasn’t like either band.  I loved the tune; this band had potential!  Before I knew it, school was out for the summer.

A funny thing happened on summer break.  Guns N’ Roses became huge.  When I returned to school in the fall, guess what band Scott was suddenly in to?  Guns N’ Roses.*  Everybody was.  And nobody believed me that I liked them first.  “You probably don’t even know the words,” said one kid.

That was 30 years ago.  Jesus Murphy…30 years!

I could yammer on and on about Appetite for Destruction.  For example, we could discuss these subjects:

  • How Guns went against the grain but changed the game.
  • Mike Clink’s sharp anti-80s production.  (Did you know Paul Stanley wanted to produce Appetite?)
  • The iconic album cover.
  • Slash’s immense influence on guitar players, including making the Gibson Les Paul the guitar to play again.
  • The under appreciated songwriting of Mr. Izzy Stradlin’.
  • The unstoppable rhythm section of Duff “Rose” McKagan and Steven “Popcorn” Adler.
  • That Duff McKagan is uber-talented and his backing vocals are a crucial part of Guns’ sound.
  • The single-minded, focused and unified direction of Appetite.
  • How their ample use of the “f word” drove the censors crazy.
  • Cowbell.
  • Riffs.
  • The all-important role of lead singer and frontman W. Axl Rose in their rise to stardom.
  • How Axl and Slash became the Steven Tyler and Joe Perry for a new generation.
  • That ten thousand bands followed in their wake when the sleazy side of the Sunset Strip became the hottest new trend.

We could talk about all those things until we’re blue in the face; each one would make for a fine subject for an article in their own right.  Or, perhaps I could talk about some of my more controversial opinions:

  • That Appetite is great, but Illusions are better.
  • The best song is not one of the singles, but in fact the last track, the sprawling “Rocket Queen”.
  • Even Appetite has filler, in this case “Anything Goes” and “Think About You”.
  • That Izzy was the most talented member.

I could do that, or I could even go through Appetite track by track.  It would be cool to analyze the riffage, anger and rock power of tracks like “It’s So Easy”, “Nightrain”, “Out Ta Get Me” and “You’re Crazy”.  We could discuss that Guns groove that is the basis of the legendary “Mr. Brownstone”.  The simmering , biting intensity of “My Michelle”.  We could, or you could click on any of the numerous articles from rock magazines that do the same thing.

Maybe yammering about Appetite isn’t as important as the memories associated with it.  I’ve shared this story before, but my favourite memory of this album goes back to highschool.  When the album hit it big, virtually everybody I knew had a copy.  One guy named Anand liked studying to Appetite.  He had strict parents.  One day he was down in the basement doing his homework with “Out Ta Get Me” playing.   His kid brother kept coming around to bug him, as kid brothers do.  He hung around long enough to learn the words to “Out Ta Get Me”, and returned upstairs.  When the parents heard the kid singing “They’re out to get me! I’m fucking innocent,” Anand got grounded.  (He got grounded a lot, though.)

Appetite for Destruction has sold 18 million copies in the US, with another few million sold overseas.  It’s one of the select albums to go Diamond (1 million copies) in Canada.  That’s a lot of people with memories of Appetite for Destruction (even though about five copies were actually bought by myself).  I’m not the only one with stories.  So how do I go about reviewing Appetite for Destruction?

Like anything else, I guess:  on a scale of 5:

4.5/5 stars

 

* Scott responds: “In my defence, I heard ‘Sweet Child of Mine’ first, and wasn’t into the power ballad thing. It was when I saw the video for ‘Welcome to the Jungle’ that I changed my opinion, and after getting the album — the imported banned cover — that I became a huge fan. I didn’t jump on no band wagon!”

 

#516: Use Your Illusion

GETTING MORE TALE #516: Use Your Illusion

25 years ago on this day, millions of fans used their illusions.

1991:  First year of university, and I was hard at work on some reading.  My sister and my mom were out shopping at the mall.  The record store I eventually worked at opened up just that summer.  Unbeknownst to me, they popped in on my behalf and returned with a present.

“Mike!” yelled my sister excitedly as they returned home.  The dog barked loudly in shrill Schnauzer barks as she talked.  “Did you know Guns N’ Roses have TWO NEW ALBUMS OUT?”

I sure did!  Use Your Illusion I and II were the long-awaited true followups to Appetite for Destruction.  With 30 brand new songs, Guns released the music as two separate but complimentary albums.  My sister eagerly handed me a gift:  a new cassette copy of Use Your Illusion II!

Why she chose II, I don’t know and it doesn’t matter.  For this fan, II was the first.  I had it a whole week before I caught up and bought Illusion I (again, at the same store I would work at only three years later).  It was $10.99.  Perhaps because I had the second album a week ahead of the first, I still really prefer II over I.  Songs such as “Breakdown”, “Pretty Tied Up”, and “Locomotive” are three of the strongest and most ambitious rock songs on an already strong set.  They stand up today as my personal favourites.

The Use Your Illusion albums spawned a combined eight singles:  “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door”, “Civil War”, “You Could Be Mine”, “Don’t Cry”, “Live and Let Die”, “November Rain”, “Yesterdays” and “Estranged”.  Additionally, music videos were made for the tracks “Garden of Eden”, “The Garden”, and “Dead Horse”.  Guns N’ Roses assaulted all formats as they trounced the world in a two year long world tour, with acts such as Skid Row, Metallica and Faith No More.  They even suffered their most devastating lineup change right at the very start of it.  Chief songwriter Izzy Stradlin departed in November of 1991, to be replaced shortly after by Gilby Clarke.  Although he has made numerous guest appearances since, Izzy has never rejoined Guns N’ Roses.

Did you buy Use Your Illusion I and II 25 years ago today?  Do you have a favourite?

 

REVIEW: Guns N’ Roses – New York, New York (Live at the Ritz 1988)

NEW RELEASE

GUNS N’ ROSES – New York, New York (Live at the Ritz 1988 – FM Radio Broadcast, Gossip)

SAM_1729‘Twas Scott who alerted me to the release of this classic Guns N’ Roses concert on CD.  A few tracks from the gig are missing, most notably “Shadow of Your Love”, but most of what I remember seeing on MuchMusic back in the 80’s is intact.  Although I do not recall seeing “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” on the TV version, I used to love this concert.  I watched it over and over.  I had seen it over half a dozen times before I even bought Appetite for Destruction.  I dubbed an audio version to cassette, before my buddy T-Rev recorded the entire show for me later on.  I used to know these versions better than the originals.  It’s a pleasure to finally have them on CD.

Remember the sound of the guitars being picked up in the darkness before Duff’s opening bassline to “It’s So Easy”?  I don’t think I’d seen a band on TV before who seemed so…dangerous.  The sound of Duff singing the backing vocals are another element I distinctly remember.  Axl could get pretty mobile on stage, and his vocals often fell apart mid-sentence, while Duff held it all together.  He was Guns’ secret weapon, Duff McKagan.   Up next in the spotlight is Slash with those chugging, scraping guitars on “Mr. Brownstone”.    Axl then delivers his first classic monologue of the evening:

“I don’t know what by chance the television audience will see…what anyone will see…but what we’ll see tonight…is that we wanna dedicate this song to the people who try to hold you back!  The people that tell you how to live!  People that tell you how to dress!  People that tell you how to talk!  People that tell you what you can say and what you can’t say.  I personally don’t need that!  Those are the kind of people that been getting me down.  They make me feel like somebody…somebody out there….is ‘Out Ta Get Me’!”

Funny story about this song.  I had a highschool buddy named Anand who was the first kid I knew in our class to get Appetite.  Anand had strict parents.  One day he was down in the basement studying, rocking out to Appetite.  His little brother strolled in during his homework, and kept coming around to bug him.  He hung around long enough to learn the words to some songs, and returned upstairs to his parents singing, “They’re out to get me! I’m fucking innocent!”  Anand got grounded.

Needless to say the chorus to this amazing song was beeped when I first saw it on TV.  I loved it anyway.  That Izzy Stradlin riff kicks it classic-style, while Duff once again holds down the backing vocals.  Slash is shambolic, losing control several times but always pulling it back together, cig in mouth the whole time.  I love this one big sour chord he hits at 2:25 into the song.  If I remember he almost fell at that moment in the show; the audience were pulling at his guitar, but all you can hear is this big awful chord. Then it happens again at 3:00!  And again at 3:10!  The whole solo is a fucking disaster, and that must have been fun for the people in the front row.  Guns N’ Roses were so in the face of the crowd that there was constant physical contact.  That’s a fucking concert.

“Sweet Child” comes early in the set, and obviously it’s not nearly as sweet as the album version, and Axl’s hoarse.   Still, Axl hoarse in 1988 is something very different from 2014, and it sounds great to these ears.  “My Michelle” is credited on the back cover as written by Rose and “Stardlin”, making obvious that this is not an official release.  I hope Izzy Stardlin gets paid his due royalties.  The band get more and more reckless/loose/inebriated as the concert goes on.  Again it’s McKagan who seems to be holding it together and cheerleading from behind.

A very intense version of “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” follows which I am less familiar with because it didn’t make the TV version I had seen.  Axl dedicates this to a friend named Todd who had “danced a little bit too hard with Mr. Brownstone”.  Needless to say, it’s very cool hearing this song played by the classic five piece lineup.  With Steven Adler on drums, it’s more to the point.  The arrangement is slightly different than what you know from the Use Your Illusion I album, but it still has the slow singalong  part that later evolved into the “reggae” section that they were known to play live later on.  Axl was a charismatic frontman and this was his moment to show off his power over an audience.

His next introduction was another memorable one:

 “About five or six years ago I hitchhiked here, and ended up stuck out…in the middle of this place.  Climbed up out of the freeway, and this little old black man comes up to me and my friend with our backpacks and about ten bucks between us…and he goes, ‘You know where you are?!  You in the jungle, baby!  You’re gonna die!’  That’s a true story, that ain’t no lie.  So ‘Welcome to the Jungle’, rats!”

This was the only tune of theirs that I knew really well back in early ’88.  It is played tight, possibly the only song of the night that is.  There’s magic in hearing this lineup play this song, their song.  And speaking of them, I always enjoy Axl’s band introductions:  Mr. Duff “Rose” McKagan on bass guitar.  Mr. Steven “Popcorn” Adler on the drums.  Mr. Izzy Stradlin on the white guitar.  Axl says he and Izzy have been together for 13 years.   He saves the most recognizable member for last:

“And last, but definitely not least…in a world that he did not create, but he will go through it as if it was his own making…half man, half beast…I’m not sure what it is, but whatever it is, it’s weird and it’s pissed off and it calls itself Slash.”


Slash then introduces a song about “a walk in the park”, called “Nightrain”.  Of the songs they played that night I thought “Nightrain” was a little less than great.  It always seems to be the one I wait to finish.  Then, Slash opens “Paradise City” with a little surf rock guitar before the classic opening lick.  This is the song where things got a little out of control for W. Axl Rose.  Doing his trademark slinky snake dance, he got a little too close to the crowd and was pulled in.  The band kept on playing and Slash took an extended solo, but you can see Axl trying to climb out. Security finally pulled him up, and then you can see Axl getting his bearings and checking himself over.  His shirt and several pieces of jewelry were ripped off, but as soon as Axl sees that he is OK, he resumes snake dancing and finishes the song!  Slash’s solo during Axl’s “down time” remains a show highlight, as does Axl’s quick recovery!

For encores you get Aerosmith’s “Mama Kin” (dedicated to Steven Tyler) and “Rocket Queen”.  The former is fast and tight, and the latter is epic and ominous.  It is a natural closer, especially with Slash’s extended soloing.  Axl delivers the closing in full-on ragged scream mode, as it should be.

I’m very glad to have this time capsule of a concert in my CD collection.  Highly recommended.

4/5 stars

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REVIEW: Cinderella – Long Cold Winter (1988)

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CINDERELLA  – Long Cold Winter (1988 Polygram Records)

I remember how excited I was upon hearing the first single, “Gypsy Road”, in the summer of ’88.  Cinderella had managed a bluesier, more “authentic” hard rock sound for their critical second LP.  Night Songs was OK, but Long Cold Winter was better in every way.  The cheese factor had been replaced by pedal steel guitars, pianos, and Hammond B3 organs.

Drummer Fred Coury was touring with Guns N’ Roses (Steven Adler had broken his hand punching a wall) during much of the making of Long Cold Winter.  It’s not clear how much of Long Cold Winter he played on, as the band pulled in two incredible session drummers for the project:  Denny Carmassi (of Heart and later Coverdale – Page), and the late great Cozy Powell!

From the bluesy opening of “Bad Seamstress Blues”, it was clear that the AC/DC clone Cinderella that featured Bon Jovi cameos in its videos had evolved.  Two incredible, throat wrenching rockers follow this:  “Fallin’ Apart at the Seams” and “Gypsy Road”.  Both songs easily stand up today as forgotten classics of the “hair metal” era.  But truthfully, Cinderella only made one “hair metal” album.  Long Cold Winter doesn’t really fit in with that scene, and their next album Heartbreak Station would leave it behind completely.

“Don’t Know What You Got (Till It’s Gone)”, the epic power ballad, is more Aerosmith than Poison, and still features a great guitar solo straight out of the Iommi blues notebook.  I’m not too keen on “The Last Mile”, a straightforward rocker, but it was still chosen as a single from this album.  Much better is the side-closing “Second Wind”, amped up and stuttering.

Side two opened with Cinderella’s “serious” blues, the title track.  It’s a bit too contrived for me, it has a vibe of, “Hey, let’s write our ‘Since I’ve Been Loving You’!”.  Lots of repeated “baby baby baby” Plant-isms.  At the time it was released, this song was seen as a serious departure for the band, but in hindsight it’s really just a first step into a larger world.  It’s somewhat reminiscent of the rare occasions that Black Sabbath has attempted a slow blues (I’m thinking “Feels Good To Me”, also featuring Cozy Powell) mixed with Zeppelin.

“If You Don’t Like It” is another standard rocker, nothing special, but this is followed by no less than three great songs in a row.  First is the single “Coming Home”, not really a ballad, but a hybrid.  This was one of the most immediate songs that I fell for when I picked up the album.  You can tell that Cinderella wrote a lot of this album on the road, by the lyrics.  “Coming Home” is one such road song.

“Fire and Ice” is heavy, sort of a revisited “Second Wind”, another standout!  Then the album closes with the slide-laden “Take Me Back”, which strikes me as another road song.  Just as good as “Coming Home”, but heavier, it was a great album closer.  Personally if this album had spawned a fifth single, “Take Me Back” would have been my pick, hands down.  And I think this album could have justified five singles.

The band evolved further with album #3 (which featured strings by John Paul Jones!), but I think Long Cold Winter strikes the perfect balance between screeching rock and bitter blues.  From the classy album cover on down to the perfect production, I don’t think they’ve ever made a better album.

4.5/5 stars