supergroups

REVIEW: Chickenfoot – “Divine Termination” (2017 single)

CHICKENFOOT – “Divine Termination” (2017 Edel coloured 7″ single)

For a band with only two albums, Chickenfoot sure do milk it.  After a single debut album, they did a live DVD called Get Your Buzz On.  Two albums in came a live album called Chickenfoot LV.  (Get it?  LV can mean both “live” and “55”, Sammy’s notable hit.)  Then another package called Best + Live, mixing the “greatest hits” with a new song and an audio release of Get Your Buzz On — which, by the way, was mined for five songs already on the previous LV album!

It’s all too much.  We like Chickenfoot here; really we do, but enough is enough.  Instead of buying all that stuff, we decided to just go for a 7″ single for the one “new” song called “Divine Termination”.  That seemed the most logical purchasing option, all things considered.  It’s a nicely packaged 45, on clear pink coloured vinyl.  The side A label depicts Sammy Hagar and Michael Anthony.  Side B has Joe Satriani and Chad Smith.  It feels nice and heavy in hand.

Unfortunately, it’s not all rose-coloured.  These guys had five years to come up with one good new song.  “Divine Termination” is not it.  Although it does have a neat, vintage sounding Deep Purple riff, the Chickenfoot hooks and harmonies are missing.  The chorus has no meat.  “Divine Termination” is forgettable even though Joe Satriani plays as brilliantly as ever.

On the flipside is another release of “Highway Star”, the Deep Purple cover.  It’s available on Best + Live, but its first issue was on Re-Machined, the Deep Purple tribute album.  Too bad the B-side isn’t something exclusive, but it does blow away the A-side.  Listen to Joe somehow make his guitar resemble Jon Lord’s Hammond Organ.

Maybe Chickenfoot were too creatively spent after years of solo and other projects to come up with a memorable new song.  There’s talk of a third Chickenfoot album in the future.  If so, it has to be better than “Divine Termination”.

2/5 stars

 

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REVIEW: Chickenfoot – Chickenfoot (CD/DVD set)

CHICKENFOOT_0001CHICKENFOOT – Chickenfoot (2009 Redline CD/DVD reissue)

This reissue of the fantastic debut Chickenfoot CD is a decent but imperfect repackage. The music is so good, I can’t stay mad about the double-dip. You can get this cheap if you hunt, so keep that in mind. First let’s talk about the music, before we get into the reissue.

I will go out on a limb and call this the best album Sammy Hagar had made in many years, and better than most (if not any) Van Hagar album. Part of the reason is the performances by this cast of pros (Sammy, Joe Satriani, Michael Anthony, Chad Smith), and part of the reason is solid songwriting. What’s left is youthful energy, which this band of old dudes has plenty of.

The first obvious highlight for me was the glorious return of the Van Hagar harmony vocals. Michael Anthony was responsible for a lot of that in Van Halen, and it was just a joy to hear him harmonizing with Sammy again. Close your eyes and you’d think you’re listening to some lost Halen track circa For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge. Then you recognize those warm Satriani guitar tones and tricks. Finally you hear Chad Smith on the drums, making it all sound easy. This actually sounds like a real band.

Highlights: The single “Oh Yeah”, “Sexy Little Thing”, “Runnin’ Out” (definite sounds like a long lost Halen tune), “My Kinda Girl” (my kinda chorus!), and “Turnin’ Left” (which just grooves).  “Bitten By The Wolf” has this bluesy Satriani-circa-Flying kind of vibe.  There are no weak songs, and nothing which doesn’t fit the direction of this band.  There’s no point going song by song.  Each one features the stellar playing, singing and melody that you would expect for this band of pros.  Satch’s tone is rich, beautiful and perfect.  This is most definitely hard rock.  There’s nothing too wussy about Chickenfoot.  Even the ballad “Learning to Fall” has the integrity of an outtake from Flying in a Blue Dream.  It’s hard not to enjoy something with Joe Satriani on guitar!

“Bitten By The Wolf”, of course, was the original bonus track on the vinyl and download versions of Chickenfoot. Now you can get it on a proper CD with this two-disc reissue. In addition you get an hour long DVD. This disc contains a couple fun music videos, interviews with each guy, and some excellent live stuff. Two things I noticed right away on the live stuff: One, Joe plays a lot more solos. Watching him play is a real treat. I’ve never seen Joe play up close on a DVD before. My God this man’s fingers move fast. Plus he’s entertaining as a showman. Two, Chad Smith is great to watch. On CD he makes it all sound easy. On DVD he makes it all look easy. This tower of a man just locks in and powers through. Awesome to watch. No wonder he is so in-demand with everybody from the Dixie Chicks on down.

Of note:  There are many who do not like this album as much as I.  Craig Fee from 107.5 Dave FM told me that this record was “disappointing, like seeing an all Toronto Maple Leafs NHL All-Star team, standing there in their blue jerseys.”

I only had two disappointments. One, the original CD had no booklet, only a link to download a pdf file. That remains so on this edition. I would have loved a booklet. Two, the original also had this awesome heat-sensitive packaging. The cover was almost entirely black, but when you placed your warm hand on it, pictures of the band members appeared. That packaging is not a part of this edition. Instead, the black has been replaced with white and now you can see the pictures unobscured. Two very small qualms. I still own the original CD and a vinyl copy to boot, so it’s not a big deal to me.

Get your buzz on!

5/5 stars

REVIEW: Platypus – Ice Cycles (2000)

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Complete studio albums (and more!), part 13


Second review from Mike and Aaron Go to Toronto…Again!  I paid $2.99 for this CD at Sonic Boom.  A steal.

PLATYPUS_0001PLATYPUS – Ice Cycles (2000 InsideOut)

Platypus are:  Ty Tabor – Guitars & vocals (King’s X).  John Myung – Bass (Dream Theater).  Derek Sherinian – Keys (Dream Theater, Alice Cooper, Kiss).  Rod Morgenstein – Drums (Dixie Dregs, Winger).

From the information above, you already know several things: 1. Platypus is a supergroup. 2. This is going to have plenty of incendiary playing on it. 3. It’s gonna be progressive. Much like their first album (this is their second), it’s also gonna be fun!

If you’re a fan of any of these guys, you will love to hear them in this band’s context. There are plenty of King’s X-isms, but the personalities of the players have their own influences. Nobody plays drums like Rod Morgenstein, and I always enjoy the chance to hear him work.

The opening track, “Oh God” is quite heavy, with quieter keyboard moments. The track has some serious weight to it. Ty of course is a melodic singer, so that balances it. It’s just one of several standout tracks.  “Better Left Unsaid” has a pleasant aura, similar to Faith Hope Love-era King’s X, but with Sherinian’s keyboards lending a completely different sound. Myung doesn’t play bass like Dug Pinnick does, but he does create a thick sound. Morgenstein’s drums have marching band precision.

PLATYPUS_0002The heavy melody-driven “The Tower” really gets the engine running during the chorus. The verses lack a bit, but that chorus section is furious, as is the guitar solo. The piano tinkle of “Cry” has a moment that is playfully lifted from Alice Cooper’s “I Love the Dead”, but the chorus is like Alice In Chains! This is a complex track, not instantly likable. Give it some time to sink in. Morgenstein, once again, leaves jaws on the floor.

My favourite tracks are two: the brief “I Need You”, which has the lush Tabor vocals that we know and love.  This track is probably the most like King’s X, coincidentally.  Then there’s the smoking hot “25” with its Dream Theater keys and Zeppelin guitars.  There’s also a Rush riff in there somewhere.  This is one of only two instrumentals on the album, but it sure is a corker!  Just stunning.

The final track can only be called an epic.  “Partial to the Bean (A Tragic American Quintology)” is a instrumental that goes all over the board, in seven parts.  If you’ve heard instrumental epics by these players before then I’m sure you know what you’re up against.  A challenging but rewarding listen.

That can be said for the album in general.  It’s a rewarding listen that will, at times, challenge you.  I like that.

3.5/5 stars

Part 1 – Out of the Silent Planet (1988)
Part 2 – Gretchen Goes to Nebraska (1989)
Part 3 – Kings of the Absurd (split bootleg with Faith No More)
Part 4 – Faith Hope Love by King’s X (1990)
Part 5 – “Junior’s Gone Wild” (from 1991’s Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey soundtrack)
Part 6 – King’s X (1992)
Part 7 – Dogman (1994) + bonus “Pillow” promo single review
Part 8 – Ear Candy (1996)
Part 9 – Best of King’s X (1997)
Part 10 – Tape Head (1998)
Part 11 – POUNDHOUND – Massive Grooves from the Electric Church of Psychofunkadelic Grungelism Rock Music (1998 Doug Pinnick/Jerry Gaskill)
Part 12 – Please Come Home…Mr. Bulbous (2000)

GUEST REVIEW: The Winery Dogs – The Winery Dogs (by Jon Wilmenius)

After hearing so much praise for The Winery Dogs, I finally bought a copy.  I decided for now there was no point in writing a review:  After all, Jon Wilmenius already said it all.  So for my own review, all I’ll write is:  “What he said!”  Enjoy this review from Jon’s own excellent site, Music and Festival Reviews, reprinted with his kind permission.

Read the original here.

GUEST REVIEW by: Jon Wilmenius

THE WINERY DOGS – The Winery Dogs (2013 Loud & Proud)

Way back in the late 80′s / early 90′s supergroups were popping up like mushrooms in your garden. Bands like Bad English, Mr Big and Badlands had big success with the odd album or two before breaking up, but when the 90′s grunge era took over, supergroups were as rare as money on your bank account. Today, things have turned around and with the music industry looking like it does, musicians are forming different projects and bands with each other like never before. One guy that seems to involved a little everywhere are former Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy. As of now he is involved in no less than four different bands, Transatlantic, Flying Colors, Adrenaline Mob and now this thing. When The Winery Dogs started out in 2011, they consisted of Portnoy, bassist Billy Sheehan of Mr Big (formerly of Talas and David Lee Roth) and guitarist / lead singer John Sykes (Tygers Of Pan Tang, Thin Lizzy, Whitensake, Blue Murder), but since Sykes seemed to have too much on his mind, he decided to split and was replaced by multi musician and guitar player / lead singer Richie Kotzen, who also has a successful solo career going on, but also a former member of Poison, Mr Big and Forty Deuce.

Without hearing a note of their music, just by looking at the line up makes expectations rise like a virgin’s dong at the Playboy Mansion. That means that nothing worse than ‘great’ would be acceptable for this trio’s debut release. Now, I don’t know how much music that was written with Sykes in the band and how much of it that ended up on this album, but the fact is, Kotzen is all over this record. Kotzen’s solo career sky rocketed after he got the boot from Poison, at least quality wise and even a tone-deaf  could spot his style miles away. Just listen to Poison’s Native Tongue, the best album they ever released, and you’ll hear pretty fast which songs he brought to the table. He really should re-record them as a solo artist someday. So, if you’re a fan of Kotzen’s, this album is a no-brainer – as a matter of fact, it really should be a no-brainer for any a rock fan to buy this CD, because this is amazing stuff. “Elevate” kicks this album into motion with a bang, a rootsy rocker that sounds a lot like Richie’s solo stuff only with Sheehan’s famous and personal bass sound and Portnoy’s heavy groove. “Desire” follows and it is a brilliant tune, full of catchiness and groovy rhythms, “I’m No Angel” has a fantastic refrain and a killer melody, you’re stuck after the first chorus, on “The Other Side”, Sheehan and Portnoy totally rules the groove and the bass and drums are both one and separated at the same time and they give us a brilliant blues ballad in “You Saved Me”. It has a bit of a U2 – feel and Kotzen sings the hell out of it. The guy has got some feel, to say the least.

Both “Not Impossible” and “One More Time” has a lot of Kotzen over them and I find myself thinking that they probably would have been a great fit on his last album 24 Hours. “Six Feet Deeper” has a major swing to it and it strikes me that this is the first album I have heard where Mike Portnoy plays rock ‘n’ roll like this. I mean, he’s an amazing drummer, but his skills has always been in progressive metal where he doesn’t groove that much. This album shows that Portnoy is a lot more all round than people might think. “Criminal” on the other hand, is a heavy piece – not a far cry from how a Kotzen fronted Mr Big would sound. “The Dying” is a ballad, but it leans way more towards heaviness than anything else which is really cool – and it is a great song. The album ends with “Regret”, a classic Kotzen ballad, very bluesy in a 70′s style. Wow! This really is a super trio and they have made one hell of a debut album and hopefully enough people will buy this to convince the guys to keep this project alive. Another thing, has Billy Sheehan and Mike Portnoy ever played with such a groove like they do here? I mean, they are both ace players and with Kotzen, groove is in his blood, but on here Sheehan and Portnoy really makes the rhythm section swing. When we’re writing January 2014 and making a list on the best albums of 2013, this album will no doubt be up there as a contender for the number one spot. Jon says: Get this!

Jon Wilmenius (9/10)

 

Part 282 / REVIEW: Neurotic Outsiders – Neurotic Outsiders (1996)

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RECORD STORE TALES Part 282:
T-Rev, Mike, and the Neurotic Outsiders…

T-Rev called me from his store one afternoon in 1996.

“Mikey!  Have you heard this Neurotic Outsiders CD?  It fuckin’ rocks!”

I had not heard the Neurotic Outsiders CD.

It actually took T-Rev some talking to get me to buy it.  (Playing it in-store was forbidden due to the foul language contained therein.)  I knew Duff McKagan and Matt Sorum were in the band, with Steve Jones and John Taylor from Duran Duran.  I was getting pretty bored with GN’R related solo albums, and while I found this combo intriguing, I was also inundated with other new releases at the same time.  These included a new Rush studio album, a Rush tribute album, a new Scorpions, and a new King’s X.  I had plenty of new music to keep me occupied!

He persisted, T-Rev did, and I caved and bought the CD.  It only took one listen to know that he was right about the Neurotic Outsiders.  They did indeed fucking rock.  I was hooked immediately.

We played Neurotic Outsiders in the car a lot that summer.  If I was driving, Trevor would be playing air drums along with Matt Sorum.  Trev’s a drummer and he was damn good at doing Sorum’s style.  You know that rolling drum intro to “You Could be Mine”?  T-Rev had that one mastered, and there’s loads of that on Neurotic Outsiders.  “Good News” is a great example.  Trevor used to say my car had “good bass”, but he wasn’t talking about my stereo system.  He was talking about the sound he could make when playing double bass on my floor with his feet.   He could bruise his legs (snare drums) just from playing in the car.

I didn’t really drink back in those days so I was usually designated driver, which worked out really well.  Driving home from a party, Neurotic Outsiders blasting, T-Rev playing slightly tipsy but always awesome air drums next to me.   I didn’t have a CD player in that car either, which would have been my old Plymouth Sundance.  Piece of shit car.  The left driver’s side speaker was blown, making everything sound absolutely weak and lopsided.  I recorded Neurotic Outsiders to cassette for car play.  T-Rev’s modus operandi was the mix tape, whereas I chose to record entire albums.  Either way, we heard “Good News” and “Angelina” a hell of a lot that year.

Fuck, that was a good summer.

NEUROTIC OUTSIDERS – Neurotic Outsiders (1996 Maverick)

This album kind of snuck in under the radar in ’96. Guns N’ Roses was disintegrating (Slash quit in October), but Matt & Duff teamed up with Steve Jones of the Sex Pistols and John Taylor of Duran Duran to form this supergroup of sorts. Lead vocals are handled by everyone except Matt Sorum, who provides plenty of his unique double bass/snare/crash cymbol pounding. In fact if any one member dominates in this album, I’d say it’s Matt Sorum!  The other three guys all have their own songs, but Matt is the consistent common thread.  Taylor tends to handle most of the slower material, Jonesy the heavy snarky stuff, and Duff sings a couple rockers too.

Very few stinkers on this album. Lots of winners. Lyrics with loads of attitude! “The good news is / You’re dying, the bad new is / I’m alive.” (“Good News”)  Then, there’s “Jerk”:

OUTSIDERS_0006“You’re a bitch, I’m a jerk,
I don’t think that we can work,
You’re a prat, I’m a prick,
I don’t think that we will stick,
I’m a cat, you’re a chick,
I think you deserve one more lick.”

There’s a Clash cover, a deliciously noisy “Janie Jones”, but even that great song is overshadowed by the Outsiders’ originals.  Check out the opener “Nasty Ho,” one of Jonesy’s hilarious and thunderous punk songs.  And if you have any doubts as to punk rock authenticity, I think Duff McKagan is well on record on a connoisseur of fine punk rock.

“Union”, a ballad, seems to be Jonesey lamenting that the Sex Pistols were never a real united band, slagging off everyone (himself included), except his “mate, old Cookie”.  It’s a slow song but it has some bite to it.  Two John Taylor songs are two of the heavier ones:  “Always Wrong” and the smokin’ “Feelings Are Good”.  Both these songs were also featured on Taylor’s solo album Feelings Are Good and Other Lies.  (The title track was renamed “Feelings R Good”.) Best tune is “Angelina”, a fast punk rocker (today would they call this pop-punk?) with an insanely catchy chorus.

The only tunes that I could skip over are the really slow ones:  “Better Way” and “Story Of My Life”.  Yet even so, they have some charm.  They’re not bad songs at all, just completely overshadowed by all the super-fun punk rock songs.  Producer Jerry Harrison captured a raw performance, and I like that you can hear the ambiance of the room on “Story Of My Life”.

OUTSIDERS_0007

As you read in the above Record Store Tale, I was hooked immediately on Neurotic Outsiders, and that proved to be a lasting feeling.  I wanted more, and at a visit to HMV Toronto (333 Yonge) I found the CD single for “Jerk”.  It contained a “clean” version of “Jerk” (kind of pointless, but you have to at least try to get played on the radio, right?).  Most interestingly was the B-side track “Seattle Head”.  Duff was born in Seattle and had a connection with many of the artists that came from that city.  (He was also one of the last people to speak to Kurt Cobain.)  I can’t say that this song has that “Seattle sound”, it sounds like Duff McKagan to me.  But it’s also obvious why it’s a B-side; because it’s the weakest of all the songs.

There was another single, a Japanese import for “Angelina”.  This one had two more B-sides: “Spanish Ballroom” and “Planet Earth”. I would really, really, really like to have that. Amazon is asking $45. Hard to justify for two songs (although I have done things like that before).

It’s a shame Neurotic Outsiders never made a second album. But maybe not — maybe a second album would have tarnished my memories. As it stands, it is just a one-off and will likely remain so, but it is also an album I still listen to 18 years later.

5/5 stars, and one middle finger!

REVIEW: Crash Karma – Crash Karma (2010)

CRASH KARMA – Crash Karma (2010 E1 Entertainment)

I wrote a review for this album back in 2010, not so glowing.  For me, the album just sat there.  Even though Crash Karma are made up of members of some of my favourite Canadian bands from the 90’s wave of alterna-hard rock, nothing happened.  I did the review, gave it a middling review and forgot about it.

About six months later, I’ll be damned if the whole thing didn’t just suddenly “click” with me. Rethinking my position, I had to re-write my review.  I think Crash Karma works best after a few listens.

Crash Karma consist of Edwin (ex-I Mother Earth) on lead vocals, guitarist Mike Turner (ex-Our Lady Peace), drummer Jeff Burrows (The Tea Party), and someone named Amir Epstein on bass.  They combine some of the best elements of the bands that spawned them. At first I saw a another faceless post-grunge band rocking past their prime, but now I’m getting it a little more. To the contrary, it sounds like these guys have some ideas to get off their chests. Wracked with Mike Turner’s angular guitar riffage and some mature and pensive lyrics by Edwin, this album rocks. Edwin is singing better than he has in years, pushing the voice to the limits we remember from the heady I Mother Earth prime. Turner is rocking much harder than Our Lady Peace, and much more straightforwardly. Burrows, freed of The Tea Party’s exotic leanings, lays down hard fast fills, recorded expertly by Turner. The result is a collection of songs that combines some of the best elements from the original bands, mixed in with some latter-day Rush.  (Edwin is a veteran of Alex Lifeson’s Victor album.)

Best songs include IME-like “Like A Wave” (the opener), “Awake”, and the furious “Fight”. Another track I begrundingly like is “Lost”, a slow one that sounds a bit too close to Edwin’s solo hit “Alive”. The melodies and vibe are suspiciously alike. However there is no filler on this album. It works better as an album, a single piece, than individual songs. Rather than make a road CD with your favourites on it, this one works as a front-to-back listen.

I still don’t like the cover.  The punk dude makes it look like I’m buying something from fucking Simple Plan or Theory Of a Dead Man.  It’s not like the guys’ faces are all that recognizable, even in Canada. It’s a shame because this album just disappeared. I never heard the tracks on the radio and back in the early 90’s, these guys were the kings of radio. I rarely saw it in the stores, I never saw ads for these guys on tour. It seems that this album will appeal to dudes from the post grunge era, not so much for younger kids.  They did release a second album in 2013, called Rock Musique Deluxe (co-produced by Terry Brown) — but I have not heard it yet.  (Send me a copy, E1, and I’ll be happy to review it!)

Crash Karma:  great musicianship, great songs, very good album.   Check it out.

3.5/5 stars
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