ted nugent

VHS Archives #2: Hear N’ Aid Special – Pepsi Power Hour (1986)

The one VHS tape I’m working on currently spans a period of recordings from about July 1986 to September 1987. This Hear N’ Aid special features a MuchMusic interview conducted by J.D. (John) Roberts. There’s lots of exclusive information in this valuable video, including a tidbit on bands who refused to be in the same project as Spinal Tap!

#722: Christmas Mix 2006

GETTING MORE TALE #722: Christmas Mix 2006

It took some searching, but I finally found a copy!  This is the first Christmas mix CD I ever made, back in 2006.  I didn’t start making these until I had left the Record Store.  Nobody who works retail wants to listen to Christmas music outside of work.  Once I had been gone a year, my brain and soul were freed!

As discussed in the previous Christmas Mix article, after a few years I was running short on good songs to use, so I had to repeat a few from prior years.  Several tracks from the 2006 disc made a return appearance in 2010.

Repeaters included:

1. Hawksley Workman – “3 Generations”.  Truly an incredible, family-oriented song that is a highlight of Hawkley’s excellent Christmas album, Almost a Full Moon. The 2006 CD has lots of Hawksley songs.

2. Extreme – “Christmas Time Again”.  My sister always liked this one, which sounds like early Extreme – perhaps first album era.

3. The Beatles – “Christmas Time is Here Again”.  I leaned heavily on this one, though not a great song, just because it’s the Beatles and it’s a rarity you may not have heard.

4. Jon Bon Jovi – “Please Come Home for Christmas“.  Bon Jovi have done several Christmas songs, but Jon’s solo version of “Please Come Home for Christmas” is by far the best.  Let’s face it, this is a great tune!

5. Jim Cuddy – “New Year’s Eve”.  Another one I lean on because a song about New Year’s Eve is a nice change of pace.  Plus, it’s Jim Cuddy!

6. Ted Nugent – “Deck the Halls”.  I think every Christmas mix needs a kick in the nuts to keep things interesting.  Here’s the kick!

7. Bob & Doug McKenzie – “Twelve Days of Christmas”.  It can get a little tedious, as many joke songs are, but people know it and like it.

That’s not bad for repeat.  I’m sure Kiss have repeated more than just seven songs on their greatest hits CDs….


For creative types, the first thing you try something is often the best.  Maybe that’s the case with my line of Christmas mixes.  This first instalment is a great listen, even if you hate Christmas music and everything to do with it.  Check out the amazing songs you would have heard in 2006!

“Linus & Lucy” isn’t a Christmas song at all, but it works because Charlie Brown is associated with Christmas.  Wynton and Ellis Marsalis did an entire album dedicated to the music of Charlie Brown (Joe Cool’s Blues), but “Linus & Lucy” is the most instantly memorable.  And now, all of a sudden, you’re a kid again watching the Charlie Brown Christmas special.

Hawsley Workman’s first appearance here is “First Snow of the Year”, a song that is much too happy for a song about snow!  It’s homey, upbeat and jovial.  Keeping things upbeat, I went for the Brian Setzer Orchestra next.  “Jingle Bells” mixes the big band style with jaw-dropping guitar as only Setzer can do.  I then chose to cool things out with “The First Nowell” by the sublime Eric Johnson.  His acoustic/electric instrumental contains just as much original music as it does traditional.  It’s wonderful.

There was a time when Queen’s “Thank God It’s Christmas” was a rarity.  Now you hear it on the radio.  When I first had it, it was on a bonus CD within a Queen Classics/Greatest Hits box set.   (The “Green Cover”.)   Since just about everybody likes Queen (then and now) including it is a slam dunk.  It’s 80s Queen but that’s OK, isn’t it?

I used a lot of instrumental music on these Christmas mixes, which tended to come from Merry Axemas 1 and 2.  “Joy to the World” by Steve Morse is a beautiful rendition, much like the Eric Johnson track, though Steve’s is entirely electric.  Then it’s Joe Perry’s Hawaiian guitar version of Elvis’ “Blue Christmas”.  You may recall that I put Elvis’ version on my 2010 CD.  Joe’s version is cool because it’s different, though not as popular around our dinner table.

Trans-Siberian Orchestra is, honestly, a band I don’t get.  Look, I’m a huge Savatage fan.  Massive Savatage fan.  I’ve been a fan since I was 15.  Trans-Siberian began as a spinoff of Savatage, and I was absolutely shocked when little old men and ladies would come in to the Record Store asking for them!  Trans-Siberian isn’t as “metal” as Savatage, but the bombast is all there.  They’re popular though, so I put as much Trans-Siberian on here as I could handle.  “A Star to Follow” is a pretty gothic version of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”.  Much better is “A Mad Russian’s Revenge”, an interpretation of Tchaikovsky.  I also threw on “The Silent Nutcracker” because it is a simple acoustic guitar instrumental, not at all like the other TSO tracks.

One of Marillion’s very best Christmas tunes is “I Saw Three Ships”, so for my debut Christmas mix, I used nothing but the best Marillion.  This is from 2001’s A Very Barry Christmas.  There is something special and unique about this band.  “I Saw Three Ships” is both true to the song, yet intrinsically Marillion.

Hawksley’s third appearance is a hat trick of perfect celebratory pop.  “Claire Fontaine” isn’t particularly seasonal, though it’s from his Christmas CD.  It’s about a girl who makes lovely decorative paper.  There’s a line about “going home for Christmas” but otherwise there is little connection.  Claire could use her paper to wrap gifts, though Hawksley uses it for writing.  “Your sheets are very smooth, I like to rub my pen across them.”  This was a selfish inclusion.  I just love this song.

“Ring Out Solstice Bells” is also a selfish inclusion, because although it is a brilliant track, nobody I knew actually liked Jethro Tull.  In fact some, like Mrs. LeBrain, are quite anti-Tull.  So who was this song for?  Me!  And I stand beneath the Christmas tree, doing my best Ian Anderson single-leg stand.

Lo, what is this I hear?  More Hawksley?  Yes, Hawksley Workman had four tracks on my Christmas CD.  That is a full one-half of his original album!  I chose “Common Cold” for the last Hawksley.  Nobody gets through the holidays without getting sick, not in my family anyway!  (Last year I had the flu.)  “Nearly OD, on Vitamin C, you’re standing in a lineup with a gift just for me.”

The disc ended with a slew of tracks I’d use again.  Cuddy, Nugent, and Bob & Doug closed the CD.  A joke song makes a good closer sometimes, so that’s why I re-used Bob & Doug in the exact same position on 2010’s CD!

I like this CD, but I today I would axe the first two Trans-Siberian tracks.  I don’t think I’d change anything else.  In fact I’m quite thrilled to hear “Linus & Lucy” again for the first time in ages.  (I’ll have to give the whole Wynton & Ellis CD a spin again.)  Hawksley is always a delight, and I used his very best Christmas songs here.  And that Jethro Tull song is brilliant; I don’t care what cynics say.

I’ll give myself a solid:

4/5 stars

 

#721: Christmas Mix 2010

GETTING MORE TALE #721: Christmas Mix 2010

Making mix CDs was a lot of fun (and work).  I used to make custom Christmas discs that didn’t suck, for my family and friends every year.  Why did I stop?  I ran out of good Christmas songs.  Let’s face it:  unless you’re one of “those” people, Christmas music is nails on a chalkboard.  You can only take so much.  If you’ve worked retail in the past (or present), you probably can’t take any at all!

2010’s Christmas CD is a good example of what I used to make.  You’ll notice there’s no Trans-Siberian Orchestra on there.  I used up all their best stuff on the previous instalments.  I tried to avoid duplicating songs from previous years although Hawksley Workman’s Christmas album is so good that I made exceptions for him.  Hawkley’s Almost A Full Moon is the best Christmas CD that I own, and probably the best one I’ve heard.  I bought it twice.  He reissued the album after only a year with two extra songs!  I forgave him, because Almost A Full Moon is so warm and perfect.

What do you think of the Christmas 2010 CD?  Would you have wanted a copy that year?

1. Bill Ward – “Twas the Night Before Christmas”.  Yes, that Bill Ward!  The Black Sabbath drummer did a spoken word recording of the classic Christmas poem, and I opened the CD with it.  I can tell you that when we played the CD at dinner time, this track was a failure.  Nobody paid attention.

2. Kathryn Ladano – “Jingle Bells”.  I got their attention back by putting on a track by my sister.  This instrumental version on bass clarinet is from her CD The Christmas Album.  Of note, her Schnauzer Ali is credited for barks on “Jingle Bells”!

3. Lemmy, Dave Grohl, Billy F. Gibbons – “Run Rudolph Run”.  This breakneck Christmas carol is done in the Motorhead style.  I played it in the car for sis.  “This is shit!” she proclaimed.  “Why do these guys get to put out albums and not me?”

4. Marillion – “Let It Snow”.  This drunken favourite is from 2007’s Somewhere Elf.  The spirit is intoxicating, as I’m sure they were!

Found some booze in a flight case,
And I’m afraid that we’re all shit-faced,
So I guess that we’ll have to go,
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

5. David Bowie and Bing Crosby – “Little Drummer Boy / Peace on Earth”.  This is the David Bowie song that your grandma likes.  It’s just lovely.  I didn’t own anything with this song on it, so I had to download.  That’s why it didn’t appear until 2010!

6. Helix – “Happy Christmas (War is Over)”.  Yes, it rocks, but not too hard!  Helix covered Lennon for their Heavy Metal Christmas.  Singer Brian Vollmer is trained in the Bel Canto technique and he’s more than capable of singing songs for your Christmas dinner in mind.

7. Extreme – “Christmas Time Again”.  My mom always liked Extreme, or “Nick Strean” as she thought they were called.  This isn’t the greatest Christmas song in the world, but it doesn’t suck.

8. Hawskley Workman – “3 Generations”.  Told you there would be some Hawksley.  This touching song is about three generations of women in the kitchen making Christmas dinner together.

9. Elvis Presley – “Blue Christmas”.  I must have downloaded this one too.  I am a bit of a sucker for Elvis.  I included Joe Perry’s instrumental version on a previous CD.

10. The Beatles – “Christmas Time is Here Again”.  Not one of their best songs, but it’s the Beatles so it had to be included eventually.  This version comes from the 1995 CD single for “Free As a Bird”.  Relatively few have heard it, and I thought that would get people’s ears perked up, but by this time, the wine was out….

11. Steve Vai – “Christmas Time is Here”.  This is from the first Merry Axemas.  It’s a lovely track and not too shreddy.  Remember this song from the Charlie Brown Christmas special?  Steve does it on guitar, of course!

12. Jethro Tull – “God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman”.  This funky flute version will get the toes tappin’.  Hard to believe that this is from Tull’s final studio album in 2003, The Jethro Tull Christmas Album!  It would have been nice to get one more, but Tull’s Christmas Album is a good one to have around.  If you need to tolerate Christmas music, you may as well listen to Tull jamming it out.

13. Brian Vollmer – “The First Noel”.  Helix’s Vollmer put out a rare charity album in 2005 called Raising the Roof on Mary Immaculate.  “The First Noel” is one of the best tracks.  Vollmer is the first artist to get two appearances on my CD.

14. Ted Nugent – “Deck the Halls”.  Much like “Run Rudolph Run”, this one smokes!  It’s a guitar instrumental at full speed.  Grandma didn’t like this one.

15. Twisted Sister – “O Come All Ye Faithful”.  I really don’t like the Twisted Christmas album.  This song was a hit though, and since it’s virtually identical to “We’re Not Gonna Take It”, I can…errr…take it.

16. Cheap Trick – “Come On Christmas”.  My sister was a huge Cheap Trick fan at one point.  She had this song before I did.  Essentially just a Cheap Trick pop rocker with Christmas lyrics.  Sounds like classic Cheap Trick to me.

17. AC/DC – “Mistress For Christmas”.  I put this song on as the joke it is.  I like to remind people that AC/DC did have a Christmas song.  “Jingle bells, Jingle bells, jingle all the day.  I can’t wait to Christmas time, when I roll you in the hay.”  Hey, it counts.

18. The Darkness – “Christmas Time (Don’t Let the Bells End)“.  In my review, I said, “Even though the guitars are thicker than a good ol’ bowl of Thin Lizzy pudding, there is no mistaking this for anything but a Christmas song.   It is a joyous rock re-imagining of a Christmas carol, with the unmistakable Justin Hawkins falsetto.”  Plus, sis likes The Darkness.

19. Jon Bon Jovi – “Please Come Home for Christmas”.  I like this one.  Fuck off.

20. Jimi Hendrix – “Little Drummer Boy/Silent Night/Auld Lang Syne”.  From an EP called Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.  Jimi and band jammed out some impressive licks but the dinner party didn’t enjoy.

21. Jim Cuddy – “New Year’s Eve”.  Cuddy’s solo debut All In Time is tremendous CD and comes highly recommended by this guy right here.  It’s like listening to a Blue Rodeo album, but only the Jim songs.  The sentimental “New Year’s Eve” is a lovely ballad that fits right in with the Christmas theme.

22. Bob & Doug McKenzie – “The Twelve Days of Christmas”.  You gotta end with a classic.  From 1981’s The Great White North comes the big Christmas hit.  We used to hear this every single year on my mom’s old clock radio.  We’d squeal with laughter trying to sing along.  “A beer…in a tree…”

 

How would you rate this one?  Trying to avoid overlap was previous instalments was my Achilles’ heel.  I’d swap out a lot of the lesser songs for better ones, but it’s not bad.  It’s listenable.  It’ll do.

3/5 stars

 

 

#655: Guns, Guns, Guns

Some of you may wonder why I’ve been quiet about the school shooting in Florida last week. Controversial rocker Ted Nugent has had plenty to say, but I try to keep politics to a minimum here.  The truth is I have said nothing because I’ve been too upset – a toxic mixture of sadness and furious anger.

I’m not a parent, but I cry for all the children whose lives have been cut short simply because they went to school that day to get an education. I cry for the kids who will never, ever get over the trauma of seeing their friends cut down.  And what about the kids of the future, who may never know what a normal, happy, unarmed classroom is like?

I’m not American, but I weep for the country that continues to bury dead children, one tragedy after another, while doing absolutely nothing about it.

I’m not anti-gun, but I shake my head the most ridiculous defences for potential killers to easily buy AR-15 rifles. Don’t pretend they’re “tools” and you’re GI Joe.

I love a good conspiracy theory, but I boil in pure frustration that Ted Nugent and others are calling these children “crisis actors” who are a part of an anti-gun conspiracy.

Student Emma Gonzalez has become the voice of the victims

In short, it’s taken me a while to stop being upset, and get clear enough in the head to write something.

I grew up around guns. My dad taught me how to shoot safely before I was even allowed to ride my bike out of the neighborhood. I was such a good shot that he nicknamed me “Deadeye Dick”. He encouraged me to get my Firearms Acquisition Certificate, and I did. I used to love going to hunting shops with my dad to look at weapons. Lake Huron Rod & Gun in Underwood, Ontario was our stop. My mom and aunt would look for knick-knacks at a store called The Chapel while we looked at guns.

I don’t know what the solution is to America’s gun problem. And yes America, you do have a gun problem. It’s obvious to everyone except you, because you can no longer see the forest for the trees.

You don’t have to worry about fighting off the Red Coats with your muzzle-loaded muskets anymore.

Nobody needs to worry about Obama taking over the country, he’s enjoying his retirement.

And let’s not forget, Hillary lost the election. She’s no longer the scary anti-freedom monster under the bed.  She’s an old lady and she can only write books now about “what happened”.  She never wanted to repeal the Second Amendment in the first place.  That was just Russian propaganda that many people fell for and still believe.

I understand that your Second Amendment guarantees you the “right to bear arms” (muskets?) to protect your country and family. I think that’s just fine and I support you. What I am asking you to do is look really hard at the world around you, and ask who you are really afraid of. Right now, it looks as if you’re afraid of a bunch of 17 year old kids who are sick of being shot at and pushed aside afterwards.

If the Founding Fathers could see what the Second Amendment has wrought, I can all but guarantee you that they would go back in time and word it a little differently.

It’s different here in Canada.  We still have lots of violent movies, rap music, and video games. We have guns, but we do not have mass shootings every two weeks. We do not have or want a lobby organisation like the NRA to tell us what to think. Our country was not founded upon revolution like yours. We didn’t worry about the British coming back to take over. We didn’t worry about someone declaring themselves King. In fact the only invaders we worried about were Americans. (Look up “Manifest Destiny” and you’ll understand why.) Yet we didn’t give in to fear and arm everyone in the neighborhood.

The point is, America took the Second Amendment and went a little far with it. Canadians managed to make it this far without worrying too much about deep states or elites taking over, and we’re doing OK. We’re not perfect. We are not likely to forget the École Polytechnique massacre in 1989. But we don’t do it every other week.

What’s the difference? I think it’s our very different history. You had a revolution to escape from monarchy, and have been worried about tyrants taking over ever since. We had a couple rebellions and slowly gained sovereignty, like a teenager eager to move out of their parents’ basement.

What’s the solution? At this point…I no longer even think there is one. After speaking to many Americans, I think the divide is simply too wide to breach. It’s far too easy to say “it’s a mental health problem”. We have mental health problems here, too. That lazy answer isn’t it. Token restrictions on guns or bump stocks won’t help either because you’re too far down the rabbit hole now. Something else has to change. Something evil and elusive has infected the country and it’s not going away.

I think it’s fear and hate. Too many Americans now distrust and hate other Americans. The media and political instigators stoke the fires of hate, and now it’s too late. If there is a solution, it has eluded me. Empathy needs to return to the United States.  It’s your only hope.

America, you are my neighbor and you are my friend. But you’re becoming that scary friend that I don’t want to be alone with anymore. And I’m telling you this as a friend – you have enough guns. More won’t help. Open carry won’t make this go away. A lot of these shooters put the gun in their mouths when they’re done. They don’t care if they die – they often want to go down like Harris and Klebold did. And the “good guy with a gun” fallacy won’t work because you can’t identify who the good or bad guys are until it’s too late.  “Good guys with guns” have made very little difference because this isn’t a Hollywood movie.

While I have no answers, Ted Nugent’s certainly not helping. I’m not surprised, seeing as this is a guy who once called for the nuking of Iraq. Shame on you, Ted, and shame on all those attacking the victims.

Maybe empathy really is the answer.  How to get there?  That is a whole other problem.

REVIEW: Ted Nugent – Double Live Gonzo! (1978)

scan_20161129-2TED NUGENT – Double Live Gonzo! (1978 CBS)

Ted Nugent has expressed his displeasure with Double Live Gonzo! I wish I still had the 1990 magazine interview where he trashed the record, because I have to strongly disagree. To these ears, Double Live Gonzo! is another one of those incredible 1970s cornerstone live albums that every self respecting rocker should listen to at least once. It’s the album that spawned the name “Nashville Pussy”, and houses the definitive live take of “Great White Buffalo”.

Double Live Gonzo! was recorded at multiple shows. The shout-outs to Nashville and San Antonio (“suck my bone-i-o!”) make that obvious, but it’s not a detriment to the LP. With Derek St. Holmes on guitar and vocals, Ted and the gang bring the rock and roll noise to the best party in town. All you have to do is hit play and hold on tight.  It’s an intimidating track list at first: three songs run over 10 minutes, with the majority over 5:00. There is Terrible Ted on the front cover, covering his ears as if in pain from the powerful feedback contained inside.

Ted’s hits are present (“Catch Scratch Fever”, “Stranglehold”, “Yank Me Crank Me”) but are overshadowed by more epic rock orgasms. “Great White Buffalo” and its incredibly dexterous riff is the main attraction.  Though this song was originally recorded by Nugent’s Amboy Dukes, the live version is the most important.  Love Ted or hate him, no serious rockers should have to live without “Great White Buffalo” in their collections.   It’s all about that riff, which is hard to duplicate but impossible to forget.

The Indian and the buffalo,
They existed hand in hand,
The Indian needed food,
He needed skins for a roof,
But he only took what they needed, baby,
Millions of buffalo were the proof.

But then came the white man,
With his thick and empty head,
He couldn’t see past the billfold,
He wanted all the buffalo dead,
Everything was so sad.

The Amboy Dukes’ “Hibernation” grandstands with some equally impressive musical chops (as do all the songs).  Almost as good as “Hibernation” itself is its live intro.  Ted introduces his guitar to the crowd:  “This guitar right here is guaranteed to blow the balls off a charging rhino at sixty paces,” he claims.  “You see this guitar definitely refuses to play sweet shit, you know, it just refuses.”  However “Hibernation” is pretty sweet, as far as rock n’ roll goes.

If you are looking for some “Wang Dang Sweet Poontang”, then Terrible Ted has your prescription:  it’s “Just What the Doctor Ordered”.  The Nuge has done a few live albums over the years, but none as beloved as Double Live Gonzo!  For its minor faults (it could sound beefier with less crowd noise), Double Live Gonzo! serves the needs of the masses looking for some full bluntal Nugentity. His gut-busting guitar playing can’t be touched and with Derek St. Holmes in the house, you also don’t have to listen to Ted singing lead on every track.

Double Live Gonzo! isn’t just for guitar players, but guitarists will absolutely dig Ted’s incredible licks and control of feedback. Few guitarists can command the instrument like Ted does. Players will find much to examine, while the average listener can just look forward to a double serving of 1970s live rock. No lyrical messages, just brutal sonic massages.

4.5/5 stars

scan_20161129-3

The back cover has a mis-print.  “Hibernation” is 16:55 long, not 6:55.

DVD REVIEW: Superbad (2007)

SUPERBAD (2007 Columbia unrated extended edition)

Directed by Greg Mottola

While the Apatow Company’s best films are behind them now, in 2007 they were coming off the dual hits 40 Year old Virgin, and Knocked Up.  Those films featured a core of recurring actors, including Bill Hader, Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, James Franco and the whole gang that we are all familiar with today.  Then, this kind of comedy was fresh.  Today, Superbad is the only Apatow I can still watch regularly and laugh like it’s the first time.

I love a movie with a great rock soundtrack, and Superbad features Van Halen (“Panama”), Motorhead (“Ace of Spades”), and Ted Nugent (“Stranglehold”).  There’s even The Roots! Even better, and incorporated into the comedy, is the Guess Who’s “These Eyes” as performed by Michael Cera.  It is a case 0f mistaken identity and Cera’s character Evan is in a spot.  I’m cracking up thinking about it. “He’s Jimmy’s brother, the guy! The singer! He’s the guy with the beautiful voice that I was telling you about!” And then, “My brother came all the way from Scottsdale Arizona to be here tonight. And you’re not going to sing for him? You sing, and sing good!” The last song I would have chosen to sing under such circumstances would have been “These Eyes”, but that’s why this is a comedy movie.

Seth (Jonah Hill) and Evan (Michael Cera) are highschool versions of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, who wrote this movie, but were too old to play the parts. It’s the end of highschool, and together with their friend Fogell aka “McLovin” (Christopher Mintz-Plasse, who absolutely nails it in his film debut), they aim to score some liquor for a party. Once they have booze, they will be like heroes to Jules (Emma Stone) and Becca (Martha MacIsaac) at the party, and possibly score some coitus. McLovin has the fake ID, but acquiring the alcohol is only the first of many stumbling blocks.

Seth Rogen and Bill Hader play incompetent cops, but their intentionally stupid scenes will make you groan rather than laugh. Bad decisions by all the characters may have you shaking your head asking “why?”, but you have to put your mind in the hormones of a highschool kid aiming to get his first touchy feely. Guys do stupid things not unlike the people in this movie. I know guys who’ve done things like this when they were kids. I’ve made plenty of stupid decisions while chasing someone of the fairer sex. Granted, I’ve never been hit by a car and then talked into not calling the cops in exchange for going to a badass party where I can steal some booze. That exact situation has never happened to me or anyone I know. But it’s fucking hilarious.

The most enjoyable comedy usually comes from the banter between Hill and Cera. Their blunt vulgarity has a certain art to it. I can still quote lines from this movie, and people know which ones I’m talking about. “Something like 8% of kids do it, but whatever.”

In this film, Seth and Evan are going to different colleges and there is a tension between the two characters over this.  Both of them feel differently about it, and this is the most relateable part of the movie.  The end of highschool feels like the top of the world for a brief moment, but then in the fall friendships split up, sometimes forever (until Facebook came along anyway).  Superbad  is basically a movie about two guys trying to get some, but the tension in the friendship is ultimately what drives the story to its conclusion.  Cera and Hill are funny indeed, but the friendship they portray seems real.

The unrated edition is loaded to the gills with bonus features, and honestly a good chunk of them are worth checking out. You can skip the “Cop Car Confessions”, but definitely watch “Everyone Hates Michael Cera – The Unfortunate True Story”. And of course, don’t miss “The Music of Superbad” either. Bootsy Collins and Lyle Workman put together an unexpectedly cool soundtrack.

4/5 stars

REVIEW: Damn Yankees – Damn Yankees (1990)


Scan_20160525DAMN YANKEES – Damn Yankees (1990 Warner)

Now here is an album I haven’t played in a long time!

When the supergroup known as Damn Yankees first emerged in 1990, they quickly became my favourite new band.  Ted Nugent, Tommy Shaw (Styx), Jack Blades (Night Ranger) and drummer Michael Cartellone emerged with one of the hottest new albums of the summer:  Pure radio-ready hard rock, but with the integrity added by the Nuge himself.  All aboard!

(I like that Ted is in the credits also as “security”.  You can picture it.)

So what is Damn Yankees?  Light rock, Great Gonzos, or a mixture?  The answer is:  all of the above.

The predominant direction is radio-ready hard rock circa the time. Even though all these guys had been around for a while (especially Ted), if you didn’t know who they were it was easy to mistake them for the new hot band.  Their lyrics are geared to the young.

Dressed to kill and lookin’ dynamite,
With her high-laced stockings and her sweater so tight,
I asked her name,
She said her name was ‘Maybe’…

Oh come on guys!    Jack Blades was 36 years old when he sang that.  We already have one Gene Simmons.  Thankfully, the lead single “Coming of Age” was musically impeccable for hard pop rock.  Lyrically, there is nothing of any value here, just meaningless male drivel.  The Van-Hagar like licks of “Coming of Age” are enhanced by the aggressive lead guitar work of Terrible Ted, who probably thought the lyrics were pure poetry.

The bluesy riff of “Bad Reputation” screams Nugent, but the vocals of Blades and Shaw blend as if they have always been a vocal team.  Of course as we all know, Damn Yankees led to a long and very productive partnership for the two, with Shaw-Blades being a personal favourite album.  The most remarkable thing about Damn Yankees is indeed the blend of vocals.  Just listen to that bridge in the middle of “Bad Reputation”.  Two rock singers rarely complement each other as well as Shaw and Blades.  But just when you thought it was going too folksy, Ted returns with a fluttering blitzkreig of strings and (probably) freshly killed meat.

“Runaway” features some of Shaw’s great slide guitar work, on a mid-tempo rocker with an unforgettable anthemic chorus.  Damn Yankees is often forgotten for its guitar work.  Think about it though:  Tommy Shaw and Ted Nugent are two of America’s best from the old school.  While the songs are simple pop rock, the solos are simply awesome.

By the time fall 1990 rolled around, it was time to drop a ballad for a single:  “High Enough”.  In the year 1990 there were a number of acoustic ballads that were all very similar sounding:  “Silent Lucidity”, “More Than Words”, and “High Enough”.   There is no better way to describe “High Enough” than “sounds like summer 1990”.  Unfortunately it does not stand out or have any qualities that make it more memorable than the other ballads out that year.  The saccharine strings just do me in.  I get ballad-fatigue. And let’s not even talk about that awful music video.

The band’s namesake track “Damn Yankees” sounds like a Nugent song.  It has a chunky, ballsy riff, though nothing to write home to mother about.  Unfortunately the lyrics are terribly dated, the kind of pro-American intervention sentiment that went out fashion many years ago.  With references to Manuel Noriega and the Middle East, this is all much less glorious with the benefit of hindsight.  There’s a lesson to be learned there:  avoid overly politicizing your lyrics, young rockers.

For a better ballad than “High Enough”, check out side two’s opening track “Come Again”.  This one is old-school, sounding something like Styx’s “Boat on a River” colliding with the Nuge on “Stranglehold”.   It builds into a frenetic solo section that is just to die for, Nuge seemingly doing his best Eddie VH impression.  Then on “Mystified”, Ted brings the blues while Tommy gets down on the pedal steel.  This is a great little blues rock jam of the kind ZZ Top are comfortable with.  I’m certain Rev. Billy would approve of the Nuge’s blues licks, authentic as they come.

“Rock City” ain’t bad at all, accelerated for your pleasure and name-dropping Jimmy Page in the lyrics.  It’s not the heaviest song on the album — they save that for the end — but it’s definitely second.  There is little doubt, based on interviews with the band, that the heaviness came from Ted.  Let’s all take a moment now to thank Ted Nugent for rocking so damn hard.  Thank you, Mr. Nugent.  Penultimate track “Tell Me How You Want It” is a pretty good mid-tempo song, with classy vocals from Tommy and Jack.  Had they released more singles from the album, this one would have been up for the job.

And then finally…

A blues lick, and Ted speaking:  “Nice lick!  I have a feeling this is gonna be a rhythm and blues song…nice, real nice.  Tasty.  WAITAMINUTE!”

“Piledriver” is just a dumb sex song, but it’s also pure Gonzo Ted, the Ted you knew was hiding somewhere on this album.  You wanna hear Ted go friggin’ top gear for four and a half minutes?  “Piledriver”, baby!  Tommy and Jack on the backing vocals even drop an F-bomb!  Can you believe it?  They’re the nice guys of the band!  But let’s not forget Michael Cartellone on the drums, hammering relentlessly, not only keeping up with Great Gonzo but setting the freakin’ pace!  Even without headbanging along (strongly recommended), you’re exhausted by the end of the tune.

I say again, thank you Mr. Nugent.

As it turns out, Damn Yankees is still an entertaining listen 26 years later.  I didn’t properly appreciate the smoking guitars on it at the time.  Back then, I was interested in ballads and singles and catchy tunes.  Even so I still liked “Piledriver” back then…because it’s awesome.  The album’s real flaw is on the lyric sheet.  I know these guys can do better than some of these tracks.

3/5 stars

REVIEW REDUX: Ted Nugent – Shutup & Jam! (2014)

Scan_20150925 (2)TED NUGENT – Shutup & Jam! (2014 Frontiers)

I first reviewed this album earlier in the year, when fellow reviewer Deke over at Arena Rock gave it to me digitally.  However I’m a physical product kinda fella.  Now that I have a CD in my hands, I had the urge to re-review.  Follow along, won’t you?  The original review can be found here, but this one is about 50% brand-new.  The CD is sonically superior anyway.

Some rock fans have a love/hate thing with Ted Nugent.  He’s a proud hunter (“kill ’em and grill ’em”), but a conservationist.  He loves the right wing of the political spectrum and has nothing but loathing for the left, all the while taking great glee in offering his opinions.  The second amendment is sacred to him…but so is rock and roll.  It’s hard to outright hate a guy who has rocked so damn hard over the years, and non-stop at that.  You gotta give him credit for the tunes.

Upon first listen, it is clear that the years have done nothing to Ted.  The opening title track is faster, meaner and more fun than 99% of the flock.  The great Gonzo still shreds a chaotically perfect solo as if the studio is Cobo Hall.  “There just comes a time when you just gotta rock,” he sings.  Sounds good to me Ted, I’m on board for that!  Ted keeps it rolling with a vicious riff on the excellent “Fear Itself”.  What a killer song.  The message is pretty straightforward:  he got nothing to fear but fear itself.  “I get up every day, with a smile on my face, happy to be alive and I’m back in the race.”  Ted offers no apologies, but tries to keep it positive.  “Positive energy makes me smile,” he sings, but “victory makes it all worthwhile.”

Old pal Derek St. Holmes lends lead vocals to “Everything Matters”.  A whole album of Ted’s shrieking has never been easy to swallow, so I’m always glad to hear Derek’s smooth pipes.  By the slippery bluesy rock, you might think it’s ZZ Top.  Early ZZ Top, at that!  Somehow, Derek and Terrible Ted found a time machine back to 1972 and captured the sound on “Everything Matters”!

Speaking of old friends, Sammy Hagar (who is friends with everyone, except the current members of Van Halen) shows up to sing lead on “She’s Gone”.  It’s a ball-crusher of a song (basically just a variation on “Going Down”), but  I road tested the guitar solo, wailing with the car windows down this summer.  It passed the rock test.  Sammy haters are gonna hate, but I don’t how you can hate him when he’s rocking like this with the Nuge.  Even better though is the pure fucking joy in the riff for “Never Stop Believing”.  Ted has been quite a riff merchant over the years, but “Never Stop Believing” is another triumph, as big as ever.  Strap on your air guitars, folks:  you’re gonna need ’em.  The song ends on some really nice laid back picking from Ted, reminding me that he is one of the most underrated players from the classic rock era.

“I Still Believe” indicates to me that Ted really wanted to get his point across when he said he’d “Never Stop Believing”.  The opening riff apes “Helter Skelter” shamelessly, but the rest of the track is pure Ted…with twang.  I like that Nuge is singing fairly tame things like “I still believe in America” and “I believe in liberty” rather than “fuck the Democrats”.  The sentiments are more inclusive.

My favourite track has turned out to be the silly titled “I Love My BBQ”.   I do love to barbecue, and I absolutely dig the shout-out to us Canucks:  “I love my Barbeque, it’s what Canadians do, pull up a chair I’ll get a beer for you,” sings Ted in the first verse!  A small minority may be offended but my mouth is drooling. But I really don’t think it’s Ted’s primary intention to upset you.  He’s just being funny on this one.  I mean, come on:  “Tofu might just kill you babe, a tossed salad’ll make you weak.”  Nudge nudge, wink wink.  Poking the bear a bit.  “Well the animals, they got rights…right next to my mashed potatoes, baby.”  It is obviously intended as comedy, and that’s fine.

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I love my BBQ, too.

Kicking ass is Ted’s business and “Throttledown” is a full-throttle, pedal-to-the-metal rock instrumental.  As always though, there is a twang to Ted’s dexterous picking.  That’s what makes this different, and better, than middle of the road rock.  Having said all that, I have no idea what “Do-Rags and a .45” is about.  It sounds like Anvil, except for that title.  Keeping the pace fast, “Screaming Eagles” doesn’t give up an inch, guitars fueled and ablaze.  None of these songs overstay their welcome.  Shutup & Jam features five songs in the 2 minute range in a row!  “Semper Fi” is the last of these five, a stomper rather than a screamer.  I come from a military family so I have no issues with Ted paying tribute to those in uniform.  Some might find it all a bit too much; that’s up to you.  Fear not, the song has just as much guitar shred as it does singing.  Ted then tells us he’s going to “Trample the Weak Hurdle the Dead”.  “War is not the answer,” sings Ted. “I only know evil has got to go.”  It’s a great tune and it’s not hard to swallow.  And that’s the key.  All of these tunes are immensely catchy with lyrics you can sing without having to worry about being considered a right-wing radical by your neighbours.

A bluesy reprise of “Never Stop Believing” closes the album; a rough recording appropriate for the gritty blues approach.  It’s a bit of a throw-away compared to the regular version, decent but not nearly as special.  Ted’s playing is always the main reason to listen.

I have maintained that if only I heard Shut Up & Jam in the year 2014, it would have been a contender for the Top Five list that year.  It’s not hard to understand why — it’s a killer record showing Ted is still in fine form today and hasn’t let the politics get in the way of a good rock song.

4.5/5 stars

REVIEW: Rock Star – Music from the Motion Picture (2001)

Scan_20150812ROCK STAR – Music from the Motion Picture (2001 Warner)

I remember dragging my long-suffering girlfriend at the time out to see this movie.  She had every right to complain.  The movie was a stinker, absolutely.  Not to mention, it had no idea when it is taking place.  Vaguely, the 80’s, but then after this guy (Marky Mark) leaves the band (Steel Dragon), he goes and becomes the founder of grunge?  The movie sucked!  It was very, very loosely inspired by the story of Ripper Owens being discovered by Judas Priest, by being in a Judas Priest cover band.  In the movie, Marky Mark becomes the singer of Steel Dragon after their original singer (who also happens to be gay, hmmm?) quits.  It was supposed to be a really inspiring story of the everyman with talent who succeeded, but it ended up being just a normal everyday turd.

But listen, we’re not talking about the movie.  We’re looking strictly at the soundtrack CD.  I ask you one simple question: If you were to pick one band to write and play the title anthem for a movie about a heavy metal band in the 80’s, who would it be?  Obviously the answer is Everclear.  (I say “obviously”, because a whole bunch of suits who get paid a whole lot more than I do picked it, so they must be right.)  Actually, their tune “Rock Star” isn’t bad.  It sounds a bit like an old Canadian rock band called Deadline, actually.

Scan_20150812 (3)

It’s astounding, but Zakk shaved his beard to get that 80’s look back!

The main attraction of the CD is actually the original tunage by the fictional band Steel Dragon.  On record, the lineup was:

  • Zakk Wylde – lead guitar
  • Jason Bonham – drums
  • Jeff Pilson – bass
  • Nick Cantonese – guitar
  • Mike Matijevic – lead vocals
  • Jeff Scott Soto – lead vocals

See why I dragged that poor girlfriend out to see this movie?  Zakk, Jason and Jeff were in even the movie, as the band Steel Dragon.

They had two lead singers, while Marky Mark mimed.  Jeff Scott Soto sings the raspy, mid-rangey stuff such as “Livin’ the Life”.  This isn’t a bad rock tune, but it’s Zakk’s guitar that makes it perk up a bit.  Mike Matijevic (Steelheart) sings the smooth and screamy stuff, with his impeccable range.  “We All Die Young” is a bonafide  great songs.  Matijevic’s stunning vocals meeting Zakk Wylde’s leads is probably a wet dream for some folks!  The only problem with it is that it doesn’t sound accurate to the period.  The movie is supposed to take place in the early 80’s (I think) but “We All Die Young” sounds early 90’s.  But wait…we’re supposed to be talking about the CD, not the movie.  Fuck the movie!

“Blood Pollution” (written by Twiggy Ramirez, interestingly) has Matijevic singing, but as with “Livin’ the Life” the song isn’t that special.  It sounds like Motley Crue, except with Zakk Wylde on guitar and a better Vince Neil.  Jeff Scott Soto helms “Stand Up”, which is way heavier than you’d expect considering Sammy Hagar wrote it!  This version actually came out before Sammy’s, on 2002’s Not 4 Sale and has different lyrics.  “Stand Up” kicks ass, and along with “We All Die Young” is one of the soundtrack highlights.  Just listen to Zakk killing it in that fast part! It’s also one of the few tunes with that patented, genetic Bonham Stomp.

Another track right up Motley Crue’s alley is “Wasted Generation”, and with its Desmond Child co-write it’s a lot heavier than expected. Jeff Scott kicks ass on the anthemic punchy chorus, and Zakk’s shredding is tasty. The final Steel Dragon tune on the disc is a Rainbow cover — “Long Live Rock and Roll” with Matijevic singing. I never understood why the band Steel Dragon would be playing a Rainbow cover, since it is implied that Steel Dragon were active in the 70’s too, contemporaries with Rainbow. But we’re here to talk about the CD, not that piece of shit movie. “Long Live Rock and Roll” with Zakk Wylde on guitar…it’s not what you’d hope it would be. Bonham’s awesome though, and remarkably Ian Paice-like.

The rest of the disc contains various hits from various bands from various years.  The Verve Pipe – “Colorful” (2001), check!  INXS – “The Devil Inside” (1987), check! Why? Who the fuck knows. I like some INXS, it’s completely out of place. I suppose that a soundtrack for you. More suiting to the tone of the CD are Kiss’ “Lick It Up” (1983), Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ On A Prayer” (1986), Ted Nugent’s “Stranglehold” (1975), and Motley Crue’s “Wild Side” (1987). I do wonder why “Stranglehold” seems to be the only Nugent that ever shows up on movie soundtracks.  At least Marky Mark doesn’t have any songs.

The final song, Trevor Rabin’s “Gotta Have It” sounds like end credits music, but I’m not going to watch that crummy movie to find out. Rabin’s track is excellent, as should be expected. It sounds like Rabin, which is all I can really say to describe it!

So: Rock Star, a shit movie, gave us a pretty OK soundtrack. Considering I (and probably you) already had the Nugent, Kiss, Bon Jovi and Motley Crue songs, I salvaged seven tracks from the album as keepers: the six Steel Dragon tunes, and Trevor Rabin. There are 14 songs, so this time the math is easy.

2.5/5 stars

REVIEW: Ted Nugent – Shutup & Jam! (2014)

Thank you to fellow reviewer Deke, who gave me this album!  Check out his review here!

FolderTED NUGENT – Shutup & Jam! (2014 Frontiers)

Alright Nuge, it’s been a bumpy ride between you and I.  It’s been a love/hate thing with us.  Let’s see if I can stomach 2014 Ted, or if the politics are overshadowing the music.  As we Canadians say, Give’r!

One thing for sure: there is no denying that Ted has lost absolutely nothing.  The opening title track is faster, meaner and more fun than 99% of the flock.  The great Gonzo still shreds a chaotically perfect solo as if the studio is Cobo Hall.  “There just comes a time when you just gotta rock,” he sings.  Sounds good to me Ted, I’m on board for that!  Ted keeps it rolling with a vicious riff on the excellent “Fear Itself”, and old pal Derek St. Holmes lends lead vocals to “Everything Matters”.  A whole album of Ted’s shrieking has never been easy to swallow, so I’m always glad to hear Derek’s smooth pipes.  By the slippery bluesy rock, you might think it’s ZZ Top.

Speaking of old friends, Sammy Hagar (who is friends with everyone except the current members of Van Halen) shows up to sing lead on “She’s Gone”.  It’s a ball crusher of a song (basically just a variation on “Going Down”), but  I guarantee that the guitar solo will sound great wailing out of your car windows this summer.  Even better though is the pure fucking joy in the riff for “Never Stop Believing”.  I have a new favourite riff and it’s “Never Stop Believing”.  The song ends on some really nice laid back picking from Ted, reminding me that he is one of the most underrated players from the classic rock era.

“I Still Believe” indicates to me that Ted really wanted to get his point across when he said he’d “Never Stop Believing”.  The opening riff apes “Helter Skelter” a little bit, but the rest of the track is pure Nuge.  I like that Nuge is singing fairly tame things like “I still believe in America” and “I believe in liberty” rather than “fuck the Democrats”.  The next patriotic statement Ted has for us is “I Love My BBQ”.  And I absolutely dig the shout-out to us Canucks.  “I love my Barbeque, it’s what Canadians do” sings Ted in the first verse!  A small minority may be offended but my mouth is drooling. But I really don’t think it’s Ted’s primary intention to upset you.  I think he’s really just trying to be funny, like a stand up comic.  Sometimes comedy involves a little bit of a poke and a prod.  If Weird Al sang a song about a delicious hamburger, nobody would have a problem with it.

Kicking ass is Ted’s business and “Throttledown” is just one of those pedal-to-the-metal rock instrumentals.  “Do Rags and a .45” sounds like Anvil except for that title.  “Screaming Eagles” doesn’t give up an inch either, guitars fueled and ablaze.  None of these songs overstay their welcome.  Shutup & Jam features five songs in the 2 minute range in a row!  “Semper Fi” is the last of these five, a stomper rather than a screamer.  Ted then tells us he’s going to “Trample the Weak Hurdle the Dead”.  “War is not the answer,” sings Ted. “I only know evil has got to go.”  It’s a great tune and it’s not hard to sing along.  And that’s the key.  All of these tunes are immensely catchy with lyrics I can sing without having to worry about being considered a right-wing radical by my neighbors.

A blues version of “Never Stop Believing” closes the album; a rough recording appropriate for the gritty approach.  It’s a bit of a throw-away compared to the regular version, decent but not nearly as special.  Ted’s playing is always the reason to listen.

I really liked Shutup & Jam.  If I had heard it in 2014, it would have been a contender for the Top Five list.

4/5 stars

TED LOVES HIS BBQ