tesla

#875: Love Will Find A Way

GETTING MORE TALE #875: Love Will Find A Way

First breakups are so confusing.  You’ve heard all the songs, seen all the movies.  All that remained was to experience it yourself.  Of course it’s nothing like a song!  It can hurt though, lord don’t I know it?

I treated my first breakup like I was a DJ at an event.  I planned songs.  How did that work out?  Terrible, but I did it.

When I got home and listened to some tunes, I put on “Love Song” by Tesla.  I thought, “This will be the thing to listen to.  That chorus will make me feel better.”

If only!  “Love will find a way!  Love is gonna find a way!”  Encouraging, yes…but not what I needed to make myself feel better.  Although I had not given up, I knew it was over.  I knew that love wasn’t going to find a way.  I had to think outside the box.

As it turns out, the ballads didn’t impact me as much as the heavy stuff.  Angry stuff.

“Christian Woman” by Type O Negative.  Metallica’s version of “Blitzkrieg”.  Soundgarden’s “Jesus Christ Pose”.  “Cyclops” by Bruce Dickinson.  Queensryche’s “I Am I”.  This was really hitting me!  Some of the ballads did too, such as “Someone Else?” by Queensryche, or Bruce Dickinson’s “Change of Heart”.  But those were not typical, traditional ballads like Tesla were putting out.  Each was powerful in a unique way.

That’s it:  power.  I was looking for songs with power in them.  Real power.  The breakup had sucked dry all my energy, and I needed power.  Those bands recharged me up like a battery.  Thrashing around my bedroom, I worked out all that anger.  I felt stronger after rocking out to a song like “I Am I”.  And rock out I did, in my “air band” best!  I gave myself a serious sweat when I rocked out to those songs.

Breakups might suck but they are a fertile ground for discovering (and rediscovering) music.  What we were you listening to after your first breakup?

 

REVIEW: Tesla – The Great Radio Controversy (1989)

TESLA – The Great Radio Controversy (1989 Geffen)

Tesla came right out of the box with two great studio albums in a row.  Their debut Mechanical Resonance is close to perfect.  Two years later they came into their own even more with The Great Radio Controversy which saw them stretch it out further.  The dropped some of the more overt heavy metal influences that were heard on “Modern Day Cowboy” and went for the roots.  The Great Radio Controversy provided Tesla with their biggest hit, “Love Song”, the track that got me into the band for good.

1989-90 was peak power ballad time and I loved ’em as much as any lonely highschool boy wouldBob Schipper was the Tesla fan first, but once I decided to take the plunge, I went all the way and got both albums on CD instead of cassette.  Though the big hit was the ballad, The Great Radio Controversy is a tougher album overall than the debut.  Once hooked by “Love Song”, other tunes made themselves immediately prominent.  Unfortunately the ballad probably didn’t convey an accurate image of Tesla to the general public.

Tesla were great at writing hooks, and opener “Hang Tough” hits right away with a killer little bass intro by Brian Wheat.  This hard-hitter is a killer song with dual guitars, and Jeff Keith just givin’ ‘er at the microphone.  It’s a defiant tune with the kind of shouted chorus that a concert crowd could get behind.  Guitars galore courtesy of Mssrs. Hannon and Skeoch.  Continuing the lyrical theme of “hangin’ in there”, it’s “Lady Luck”.  The punchy chorus, “Lady Luck took a walk,” has a Def Leppard vibe circa Pyromania.  Jeff Keith’s convincing rasp is like a blunt instrument for delivering hooks.

The first track that really showed Tesla were a cut above the Hollywood trash was “Heaven’s Trail (No Way Out)”, a track ahead of its time.  With a grungy, chunky groove and acoustics layered with electrics, wah-wahs and slides, it’s Tesla doing their own thing.  It has one foot in southern rock and another in molten lead.  At this point, Frank Hannon and Tommy Skeoch were on their way to “serious guitar duo” status.

Tesla lighten up a bit on “Be a Man”, catchy and simple enough for the radio.  Nicely composed for easy consumption, complete with a considerably canorous guitar solo.  The skies grow dark again quickly on “Lazy Days, Crazy Nights” which sounds like it should be a party rocker, but is not.  “I’m doing fine right here on borrowed time,” sings Jeff on this memorable dirge.  Things get hot again on “Did it For the Money”, a slammin’ track with another riff reminiscent of a certain British band from Sheffield.  They don’t slow down on “Yesterdaze Gone”, the side closer, which is only faster and more intense.

A solid side-opening “Makin’ Magic” brings the tempo back to centre.  Chugging along with guitarmonies aloft, this is a nice rocker to reset the tone.  This leads into another single, “The Way It Is”, which is a light rocker but not quite a ballad.  Tesla’s southern side shines through.  It sounds like a celebration with a little bit of Skynyrd on the side.

I have one memory regarding “Flight to Nowhere”.  It was September of my last year of highschool, and for the yearbook, they wanted to take a big aerial photo.  I believe we stood in the football field spelling the letters “GRCI” while a plane flew overhead taking the pictures.  I remember standing near my friend Danesh, who also owned a CD of The Great Radio Controversy.  This song came to our minds as we jokingly imagined doomy scenarios of plane crashes and our imminent deaths.  “Goin’ down!  I’m on a flight to nowhere!”  Anecdote aside, this killer track is a deep cut tragically ignored over the years.  As it blasts through the skies powered by the chug of electric guitars, it only gets more intense.  My favourite line to repeat:  “Now the headlines read all across the lands, ’bout the motherfuckers gettin’ way outta hand.”  It seemed to genuinely apply to the world we lived in, as Iraq invaded Kuwait and created a powderkeg in the middle east.  More importantly it captured my youthful anger at the situation the world found itself it.  Motherfuckers.

The one weakness that The Great Radio Controversy has is its length.  We’re on track 11 and only now getting to “Love Song”.  Like “Little Suzi” on the previous LP, this one opens with a unique acoustic instrumental passage.  It is a mini composition of its own, unrelated to “Love Song” with a vaguely neoclassical vibe.   Yet it’s still a part of it, as one seems incomplete without the other.  Either way, “Love Song” is a powerhouse, a definitive power ballad, and one of the best from a period that suffered from a glut of them.  Midway it goes to a whole new level with a gut-busting Frankie Hannon lead.

Everything after this unfortunately feels like anti-climax because of the massive presence “Love Song” has on the second side.  “Paradise” is a good tune, which actually sounded better when it was redone acoustically on the next album Five Man Acoustic Jam.  The original is a tad overwrought, like heavy-handed Aerosmith.  The final song is, appropriately enough “Party’s Over”.  The riff bounces from the left speaker to the right in a cool effect, and once again I’m reminded of another five-member band from across the pond with the same management (Q-Prime).

Though song for song, The Great Radio Controversy seems the equal of Mechanical Resonance, it’s just a hint more uneven due to its longer running time.  Minor quibble.  Tesla had made two outstanding rock albums in a row by now and were still growing.   Some say The Great Radio Controversy is the best Tesla album.  I say, you be the judge.

4.25/5 stars

 

Guest Sunday Chuckle: Autopilot

Contributor Thussy sent this in. Back in January he snapped this shot from CP24. I’m not sure if this is a Sunday Chuckle or more of a WTF!

#820: 1991 Was the End and 1991 Was the Beginning (Part Three)

GETTING MORE TALE #820: 1991 Was the End and 1991 Was the Beginning (Part Three)

As monumental as 1991 already was terms of massive change, a big one was still to come:  finally learning how to drive!  The time had finally come when I had to, and so I did.  I cut my teeth driving to and from University during the winter.  You can get pretty good pretty quickly that way.  Most importantly, I discovered the pleasures of listening to music alone in the car.

Choosing an album.  Turning it up as loud as I could handle.  Listening to the whole thing from start to finish without complaints.  It was…a revelation.  My parents used to be able to hear me coming home from around the corner, so loud was I blasting it.

It was an ’89 Plymouth Sundance, but all that really mattered to me was that it had a tape deck and I was allowed to drive it.  Upon arriving at school, I can remember putting the tape case on the dash board so the parking control guy could see how cool my music was.

Jesus, I was weird.

Still am?  I guess this website is just me putting my tape cases up on the dashboard of life.  Right?

With new music on the shelves by Europe and Tesla, and a monolithic new slab by Guns N’ Roses to enjoy, I was keeping myself busy.  Then and now I believed in giving new releases multiple listens, and I always played the Guns tapes as a set.  There was no point, I reasoned, in listening to one more than another.  They’re really one album so that’s how I played them, every time.  Late ’91 was a Guns-heavy time.

Although first year of university life was a lonely time, I did make some new friends.  I had two night classes.  One thing I enjoyed about night classes was that there was only one per week — a big three hour chunk.  You could cover a lot of material in one class, and have a week to absorb everything for next class.  My first night class was Sociology, and next to me sat big Rob V, who quickly became one of my Jedi Masters of Rock.  He educated me on Whitesnake, Deep Purple and the Black Sabbath discography.  Then he taped for me a number of rarities, and they were treasured by me for many years.  Those tapes were only replaced when I finally scored original CD or vinyl copies for myself.  We weren’t the cool guys in Sociology class, but we had a lasting friendship.  Rob lived not too far from me, so I was happy to drive him home after school.  He would often have commentary for me regarding my musical selection for the car.

My favourite night class was Thursdays — Anthropology 101.  I hated the professor initially.  He was a ponytail guy.   Our school had a couple ponytail guys.  Also a few socks-and-sandals guys, which blew my mind.  “What the fuck is the point of that?” I asked myself rhetorically.  All psychology professors, those guys.  But ponytail-Anthropology guy (gosh I wish I could remember his name) won me over very quickly with his entertaining, though factually dense, teaching style.  There was a lot to cover each night.

Another quality that night classes had was a higher number of adult students.  I enjoyed speaking to them, but one poor older lady really struggled in Anthro-101.  I’ll never forget her because although she slowed the class down, I just felt badly for her.  She dropped the course by the second semester.

The teacher liked to use examples to illustrate a point.  I can’t remember the exact details, but he was using a current TV ad as his example.

“I don’t know these modern TV commercials!” she said in frustration.

“OK, no problem…here’s an example from your generation.  On the original Star Trek in 1969 there was an episode where they beamed down to this particular planet…”

Then he lost her even further!  He tried though; lord did that professor try.

While I was making interesting new friends in 1991, an old friend became more special.  I took my studying very seriously and because of that I had to stay home for Thanksgiving instead of going to the lake with my parents.  I couldn’t study there.  Too small a space.  So Peter invited me to have Thanksgiving dinner with his family.  That was something that meant a lot to me.  I wasn’t going to be alone and I had a hot meal to look forward to.  I even put on a nice shirt and shaved my peachfuzz.  Peter had an incredible family.  His mom and dad were always welcoming, making me feel at home.  Same with his sister Joanne.  Over the coming months and years, Peter and I would grow closer and hung out every weekend.  Where I had friends that were Jedi Masters of Rock, Peter was more like my Jedi Master of Movies.  He had a huge collection.  I think as a collective, comedy was our thing.  Peter was also my Jedi Master of Comedy.  I might never have seen Slap Shot if it wasn’t for Peter.

At the end of 1991, my Christmas list took care of some of the last new releases in music that I needed.  Poison’s double Swallow This Live was, not surprisingly, a letdown.  I was also underwhelmed by the Operation: LIVEcrime box set by Queensryche.  Too many backing vocal tapes.  But for a long time I had looked forward to Motley Crue’s Decade of Decadence.  Back in the summer of 1990, Vince Neil was talking about this album.  Finally I had the tape in my hands!  (It’s a shame I spent so much time in my collection lingering on the cassette format, but the car tape deck made it a natural choice.)  I loved the new heavier sound of “Primal Scream”.  The new remixes were just added value to me.  I eagerly awaited whatever heaviness Motley Crue were working on, without realising that the band were working on firing Vince Neil!

Although worlds seemed to be ending when highschool did, somehow life was still going on.  Many things did come to their natural conclusions, like friendships, rock bands and the Pepsi Power Hour, but other things had started to bloom.  Peter and I were to trek onto many 1990s adventures, for the human adventure always continues.

 

#766: The Blue Tape (1991)

GETTING MORE TALE #766: The Blue Tape (1991)

This blue Scotch tape has seen a lot of use over the years.  It was my first blank tape, 120 minutes.  This cassette was well loved.  Back in ’83, it contained open-air recordings of songs like “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap” and “The Mighty Quinn”.  At some point in history (early 1991) I must have recorded over it.  Let’s have a listen.

Play ►

I have a feeling I know what it is now.  Sounds like something I recorded for a girl!  It would have been for my long distance crush Tammy.

This tape was never anything more than a cheap cassette, and it sounds awfully horrendous today.  The contents, however, are still identifiable.  The reason I never sent it to her was that it didn’t pass the sound quality test when I played it back.  That was the shitty thing about cassettes.  You could pour hours into making something, and then abandon the entire project.

I’m writing this in real time as I listen.  If I’m right about my original intentions with this cassette, then I know that I’m going to find a specific song buried somewhere in the track list.  Let’s find out.

Side 1

1. Tesla – “Love Song”

The acoustic intro to the song made a perfect run-in for this lovey-dovey tape.  I’ll spare the identity of the poor girl who this was made for, but she knows!  This Tesla ballad is still utterly perfect.  Off to a good start.

2. Kiss – “Shout It Out Loud”

Whew, I sure am glad it’s not all ballads.  This track took me by surprise.  I’m glad I used a classic Kiss rocker as the second track, instead of pandering for romance with “Reason to Live”.  Good for me!

3. Cheap Trick – “The Flame”

I read a lot of hate for this song today.  In the 80s, it was my favourite Cheap Trick and it’s still in my top five.  It may be a ballad but like the Tesla one, it’s utterly perfect.  This tape is now clearly made for a girl.  I’d never do 2/3 ballads for my opening trio otherwise.

4. Warrant – “Thin Disguise”

Here I go again with the rarities!  She loved Warrant but there is no way she had this song unless she had the cassette single for “Cherry Pie”.  I did — I collected that stuff even back then.  Turns out the B-side “Thin Disguise” is one of the best Warrant tracks, even today.  It’s an acoustic/electric killer.  Jani wrote some incredible songs in his time.  This is one.

5. Warrant – “I Saw Red (Acoustic version)”

Another rarity, this time from the “I Saw Red” cassette single.  I think this simple acoustic track (just Jani and a guitar) is better than the bombastic A-side version.  Even then, I was trying to impress a girl with my music collection — how comical is that?

6. Kiss – “Reason to Live”

Ahh shit, there it is!  That is hilarious.

7. Cinderella – “Nobody’s Fool”

OK, I’m getting a little sick of the power ballads now.  The cool thing is, I know for a fact that I taped this off a cassette that she gave me for Christmas called Rulers of Rock.  I wanted to show that I appreciated the gift by including this song.  Kind of like when your favourite aunt gave you a sweater and you had to wear it when she was over to visit.

Enough with the ballads though.  Let’s get a rocker next.  Let’s hope for a rocker.

8. Kim Mitchell – “Easy to Tame”

Well, it’s not a ballad, but it ain’t a rocker either.  Kim Mitchell was a good way into a girl’s heart in the late 80s and early 90s.  Everybody loved “Patio Lanterns”.  “Easy to Tame” was kind of like it’s cooler, lesser known cousin.

9. Paul Stanley – “Hold Me, Touch Me (Think Of Me When We’re Apart)”

Jesus fuck!  I went full ballad.  This was probably my favourite ballad of all time back then.  Stanley’s guitar solo is flawlessly written and executed.  And I got three Kiss songs right there on side one.

10.  Kiss – “I’ll Be Back”

Four!  Four Kiss songs!  What a wild inclusion, too.  This is a brief, very quick, Beatles tune done a-cappella for Kiss eXposed on VHS.  I dubbed this from the video for a “soundtrack tape” that I made, and then recorded it here tape to tape.  Just a filler between two other songs, but fuck…that’s cool.

11. Killer Dwarfs – “Doesn’t Matter”

At least this ballad has balls.  We played this song a lot the previous summer.  Bob had the cassette for Dirty Weapons, and he loved this song.  A couple years later it was still good enough to include on their next album Method to the Madness.  It’s still great.

12. Triumph – “Let the Light (Shine on Me)”

I’m getting steadily more and more disgusted with myself as the ballads play on.  This one was recorded from the 7″ single, but at this point I don’t care and I just want the side to be over so I can flip the tape.

13. Quiet Riot – “Don’t Wanna Let You Go”

I’ll let myself off with a warning here, because this electric song is still pretty great.  Truthfully, I included it hoping she’d like it, as Quiet Riot wasn’t really her thing.  I was feeling nostalgic for the early 80s, the simplicity and quality of the Metal Health era.  You didn’t need a ballad to have a hit then, and indeed “Don’t Wanna Let You Go” isn’t a single.  Even in this shitty tape, Carlos’ guitar sound incredible.

14. Slaughter – “Fly to the Angels (Acoustic version)”

I put this on because she loved Slaughter but didn’t have a CD player, and this was a CD bonus track.

Side 2

I need a break from all the balladeering, but I have a feeling the mush will be just as relentless.  On the whole of side 1, there was only one track that you could call a rocker!

1. Judas Priest – “Out in the Cold”

Here it is!  Yes, I sure do remember making this tape.  The main motivation was — get this — to trick her into liking Judas Priest.

She hated Priest.  Meanwhile, we were in the Painkiller era and I was riding a Priest high.  I planned to write this song on the cover as:

1. Exciter – “Out in the Cold”

I used an alias (disregarding the thrash band with the same name because I know she wouldn’t recognize it) because I wanted her to hear this awesome Priest song with no preconceived notions.  I wanted her to love it.  I never found out since the cassette sounds so terribly bad and I never sent it, but this proves that I remembered my intentions correctly.

This sheds a new light on all the balladry.  I was trying to really lull her in.  I figured I needed a tape with nothing but the best soft songs in the world to really get her with the mighty Priest.  It’s all coming back to me now.

2. Frehley’s Comet – “It’s Over Now”

I didn’t think she would know this one, but I hoped she’d like it.  I was a big proponent of the second Frehley disc, appropriately called Second Sighting.  I always thought this song should have been a huge, huge hit.  I was hoping she would agree.  Unusually for a Frehley song (but wiser from a commercial ballad point of view), it has both lead vocals and lead guitar by Tod Howarth.

3. Frozen Ghost – “Promises”

This one takes me completely by surprises.  It’s a great song, but I didn’t have it back then.  My sister did — I must have poached it from her collection for this tape.  Bob played this a lot in the car over the last couple summers, so our whole gang would remember it fondly.  She would have been in the car when we were rocking Frozen Ghost.  Lead singer Arnold Lanni later went on to become quite a successful producer.  Guitarist Phil X made it even bigger, now touring the world with Bon Jovi!

4. Lee Aaron – “Only Human”

I don’t think this is one of Lee’s finer moments, but I thought she’d like it, so on it went.

5. Winger – “Miles Away”

Putrid.  Just awful.  Fast forwarding.

6. AC/DC – “Moneytalks”

Holy shit!  Finally a rock song.  AC/DC were huge in ’90-’91.  I couldn’t have gone wrong with AC/DC.  Then why the fuck didn’t I include more?  “Who Made Who”.  “You Shook Me All Night Long”.  Everybody likes those songs.  Holy shitballs.

7. Motley Crue – “Home Sweet Home”

Tammy had Dr. Feelgood before I did, but I don’t know if she would have Theater of Pain back then.  There was no such thing as a Motley greatest hits (can you imagine such a world?) so I thought this would be nice for her to have.

8. Van Halen – “Dreams”

OK, probably not a ballad.  Very keyboard-heavy.  Very easy to enjoy, and Van Hagar were still cool as fuck.

9. Van Halen – “Dancing in the Streets”

Some folks that are not necessarily Van Halen fans really like their version of “Dancing in the Streets”.  It’s probably better than Bowie/Jagger, at least.  I’m pleased with myself for including both Sammy and Dave on this tape, and one after the other no less!

10. REZ – “Shadows”

Woah!  Deep cut.  This was a tape, of a tape, of a tape, of a tape.  You can imagine what it sounds like today.  Bob and I loved this song by the Christian rock band REZ, formerly Resurrection Band.  You can see that I snuck in a few unfamiliar songs like this, hoping she’d get into them.  This one is pretty easy to like.  Total shock to find it here.

11. Kiss – “Hard Luck Woman”

Kiss Count:  five.

12. Brighton Rock – “One More Try”

This also comes as a surprise.  Then I think to myself that my music collection wasn’t very large back then and I would have to pull a few obscure ones out.  If I remember the details clearly, Tammy had MTV and so didn’t necessarily hear as much Canadian content like Brighton Rock.

13. AC/DC – “You Shook Me All Night Long”

Ah, good.  What’s interesting to me about this is that at this point of the tape, the right channel is completely inaudible.  So all I get is Angus (no Malcolm), Brian, and maybe half of Phil Rudd.

To my surprise, that is the last song.  Usually I snuck something short and goofy at the end of a tape.  “You Shook Me All Night Long” does make a good final song….

Wait!

I didn’t erase the tape to the end!  There is something left at the tail.  Older contents; older than 1991.

It’s “On the Road to Rock” by Kick Axe!  It is a mystery how that song got on this tape in the first place, as I didn’t own it back then and don’t even own it now.  I must have recorded it off someone.  Who, I have no idea.  Perhaps my next door neighbour George had it.  It was him or Bob, but I’ll never know for sure.  George is gone now and Bob wouldn’t remember.

Knowing when I made this tape, and all the motivations behind it doesn’t forgive it for being a piece of shit. I did a shitty job here folks! Too many ballads, not enough variety. It’s a real slog to listen to without a fast forward button. At least half of those ballads could be axed, and replaced with something else that I had in my collection at that time.

Usually when you make a tape for someone, you give it away and never hear it again. In this case I had the rare chance to play back a mix tape that I made 28 years ago and never sent. It’s just as bad as I feared though not without some surprises and the odd cool inclusion.

That blue Scotch tape, an ancient C-120, goes back to at least 1983 making it 36 years old at minimum.  120 minute tapes are never any good, and this one was always particularly cheap.  Now that I’ve satisfied my curiosity, I will never play this tape again.

REVIEW: Tesla – Five Man Acoustical Jam (1990)

TESLA – Five Man Acoustical Jam (1990 Geffen)

One of the great Unplugged albums of all time…isn’t even an “official” Unplugged album.  That would be Tesla’s spontaneously released Five Man Acoustical Jam from 1990.  Its hit single “Signs” absolutely helped set up the MTV Unplugged revolution.

With no intention of creating a live album, Tesla played a few acoustic gigs on off days and then recorded the Philly show for the archives.  However a radio station in Boston started playing an acoustic rendition of “Signs” and plans were put in motion to capitalize.  Thus Five Man Acoustical Jam came to be, a highlight of the Tesla catalogue that was almost completely unplanned.

“We’re just fuckin’ around tonight!” says singer Jeff Keith before “Heaven’s Trail”.  Well then Tesla should spend more time fucking around.  The looseness of the songs was so fresh for 1990.  Tesla rolled the hits: “Modern Day Cowboy”, “Gettin’ Better”, “The Way it Is”, and of course “Love Song”, the only one with an electric solo.  But because they were “just fuckin’ around”, there are also some very interesting covers:  Beatles, Stones, the Dead, CCR and of course the Five Man Electrical Band.  Tesla’s version of “We Can Work it Out” is awesome and incredibly fun.  Less so with the Stones’ “Mother’s Little Helper” which is an unusually structured song to start with.  “Lodi” by CCR was custom made for Tesla.  “Signs”, of course what the smartest cover song decision the band ever made.

Five Man Acoustical Jam is a live album held in high esteem, for many good reasons.

1. A great selection of original material (old and brand new) that worked well in the acoustic format.
2. Choice covers.
3. Terrific recording, and 100% live with no fixes or overdubs.
4. Expert musicianship.
5. Humour.

Frank Zappa asked “Does humour belong in music?” The answer is “Sometimes”! One of those times is a loose, fun acoustic show. They could get away with playing a joke track like “Tommy’s Down Home”, written and sung by guitarist Tommy Skeoch. “I’d like to cut the balls off a long-haired hippie, and tie them up to a tree,” he sings gleefully.

The one single was the smash hit “Signs”, and it had a non-album B-side.  “Little Suzi” (also a cover, but an earlier one) might be from the same gig.  Jeff’s voice is shredded on this one, but it’s hella cool.

It’s probably fair to say that Tesla are underrated.  They get stuck on tours with bands like Poison, who have nothing to do with the rootsy rock that Tesla has on offer.  Tesla are better than that, and Five Man Acoustical Jam is actually a bit of an essential classic to own.   The irony is that Tesla’s most definitive live album is the one that was basically a fluke!

5/5 stars

 

REVIEW: Tesla – Bust a Nut (1994)

TESLA – Bust a Nut (1994 Geffen)

During my first few weeks at the Record Store, one of the new releases I got to deal with was the new Tesla, Bust a Nut.  My boss cracked open a copy to play in store, but he wasn’t impressed.

“It sounds the same…” he remarked.  “It’s just the same.”

Gosh, Tesla didn’t go grunge or rap in 1994?  What a crime.  No, instead Tesla stubbornly continued, as they always have, without bowing to trends.  Bust a Nut wasn’t a successful album, but it was a damn good one.  To call Bust a Nut “the same” sells it short.  It sounded like Tesla, but a tad heavier and more diverse.  Of course, this being Tesla, there must be ballads too.

“The Gate” invites you in via chugging guitars and squealing six-strings.  It merges into “Invited”, a hell of a fine introduction.  “Invited” reflects the light and shade of Tesla in one song:  the mournful acoustic verses, the heavy and catchy choruses, all grounded in a solid classic rock vibe.  Tommy Skeoch and Frank Hannon made one fine guitar duo, and the layers of instrumental goodness will keep you interested and digging for more.  Heavier still is “The Solution”, which is about as metal as Tesla have ever been.  Songs about environmental conservation are more relevant than ever:  “Mother nature’s on her knees, and we’re the reason for her disease.”  Very true, Jeff Keith.  “If we’re gonna make it through tomorrow, the solution is to make a change today.”  Tesla have never used such a grinding, detuned riff like this before.  What’s this about it being “just the same”?  Tesla didn’t go grunge, but they were able to go harder within their own style.

A brilliant track called “Shine Away” uses the soft/loud dynamic popularized by grunge, but that chorus is brighter than the sun.  Enjoy some patented Tesla guitar harmonies which always sound as if inspired by Thin Lizzy, though this time verging on Iron Maiden!  Time to cool things down with a ballad, and “Try So Hard” is a lovely one in the acoustic mold.  A good variety of tunes occupy the rest of side one, but the next obvious standout is “Action Talks”.  This is as angry as Tesla get, even dropping a “fuck you!” in the lyrics.  It’s difficult to imagine that the same band can do “Action Talks” and “Try So Hard”!

Bluegrass and heavy bluesy rock collide on “Mama’s Fool”, as Tesla have never been afraid to mix genres.  Sharp fans will recognize the opening and closing acoustic patterns as the same as “Government Personnel” from Psychotic Supper (1991).  A slamming beat drives the tense “Cry”, a killer track based on a simple riff.  Dig that theremin!  “Rubberband” returns to the soft/loud format, and the loud part is fucking killer.  The chorus goes on for days and sticks like glue.  Another heavy groove called “Earthmover” earns its title, but some of the best tracks on side two are the ballads.  “A Lot to Lose” is likeable, and “Wonderful World” begins with a southern acoustic flavour.  Best of all is the fun closer, the old Joe South hit “Games People Play”.  It’s Tesla-fied, and the sitar is ditched in favour of more traditional rock instrumentation.  It’s transformed into a soul-gospel-rock and roll good time.

Tesla fired Tommy Skeoch (too many drug problems) and went down to a quartet before splitting up.  Thankfully they have enjoyed a long and quality-driven reunion since 2001.  Bust a Nut is an unsung highlight of their catalogue, and an album you’d be well advised to pick up.

4/5 stars

REVIEW: Tesla – Mechanical Resonance Live! (2016 Japanese with bonus track)

For Deke’s review at Stick it in Your Ear, click here.

scan_20160915-3TESLA – Mechanical Resonance Live! (2016 Ward Records, Japanese with bonus track)

30 years?  Holy shit, I remember when Tesla was considered a new band.  Far more talented that the critics gave them credit for, or the bands they are lumped in with, Tesla have officially stood the test of time.  May as well use the 30th anniversary to put out a live album.  Unlike many other bands from their era, Tesla produced a number of studio albums worth listening to from front to back.  Their debut Mechanical Resonance has long been a favourite, a high quality slab o’ rock, so may as well play the whole thing live, right?

Tesla tweaked the song order (presumably for the live concert experience) to start with “Rock Me to the Top”.  Eternally young singer Jeff Keith has barely aged, and has lost nothing in the decades.  The rasp, the power, and the character are all intact.  The keys have been lowered, as any 30 year old band would have to do, but it’s hardly noticeable.  This makes Mechanical Resonance Live an absolute pleasure to listen to.

The other guys in the band kick as much ass as possible.  Tesla are a guitar band, and losing the talented and charismatic axeman Tommy Skeoch (first in the 90’s and then again in 2006) was a hell of a blow to suffer.  With mainstay Frankie Hannon on guitar, and new addition Dave Rude, they have continued on forcefully.  You can tell one ingredient is missing compared to the original LP, but that also makes it a fresh take on an old favourite.  As for the rhythm section of Brian Wheat (bass) and Troy Luccketta (drums), I think age has only made them better (just listen to “Cover Queen”).  Troy has his own distinct drum style, and you can hear that in the cymbal work.

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Strangely, some of the songs that stick out most are the slow tracks.  “Changes” for example is amped up, guitars duelling furiously, with Jeff pouring his all into the microphone.  “Before My Eyes” is another slower song with some stunning guitar work from Rude and Hannon.  Of course the hits are also fantastic — “Little Suzie”, “EZ Come EZ Go”, and of course an explosive “Modern Day Cowboy” which is moved to the closing slot in the set.

Tesla have a 30 year friendship with Def Leppard, and that’s why there is one new studio song written and produced by Phil Collen.  The opening chords, melody and rhythm of “Save That Goodness” are all immediately identifiably Def Leppard.  Tesla are a little more rough-edged than Leppard, and that especially comes out in Jeff Keith’s rasp.  Great track, and something special for the fans craving new music since 2014’s Simplicity.  I’m a sucker for a great new song at the end of a live album.

But that’s not all!  The Japanese release has one more extra — the classic “Hang Tough” from The Great Radio Controversy.  It sounds live, but there’s no crowd noise.  Whether it’s mixed out or if this is a rehearsal recording, the booklet does not say.

4/5 stars

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REVIEW: Tesla – Mechanical Resonance (1986)

Welcome to Tesla Day!

Deke over at Arena Rock is reviewing Tesla’s difficult fourth album Psychotic Supper, and I can’t wait to hear what he has to say about it. Meanwhile, we’ve got Tesla’s debut Mechanical Resonance right here at mikeladano dot com! Hope you dig both.

Scan_20150918TESLA – Mechanical Resonance (1986 Geffen)

Tesla came out of the gates with everything in its right place:  a good label (Geffen), great producers (Thompson & Barbiero) and the best management you could ask for (Q Prime).  The band were and are all top drawer musicians, and they had a batch of killer rootsy hard rock ready to record.  Ready, set, go!

Tesla have never done anything wimpy.  Whatever they do, they inject muscle into, even the ballads.  “EZ Come EZ Go”, the opening salvo, is surprisingly tough for the era.  Starting dark and ominous, it only takes a verse before it turns to scorch mode.  Singer Jeff “JK” Keith proved his versatility immediately on this track.  From whimpering tones to belting at the top of the lungs, JK did it with rasp and incredible lung power.  Backing him are the underrated guitar duo of Frankie Hannon and Tommy Skeoch, a six-string tag team to rival the big boys.

“Cumin’ Atcha Live” starts with Van Halen-esque blitzing, except with two guitarists instead of one, fretboards ablaze.  It takes almost a minute for the song itself to ignite!  “I’m a mean machine, I’m the kind you don’t wanna meet,” warns Jeff, but I don’t believe him.  Tesla were known as one of the “nice guy” bands of rock, in contrast to bad boys like Motley Crue.  Troy Luccketta is a drummer with a recognizable style.  You can hear it in the way he rides the cymbals.  On bass, the bearded Brian Wheat, the backbone of the group.   There is no let up, only a full-on rock assault.

The album generated quite a few single/videos, and “Gettin’ Better” was an easy selection.  The mellow, ballady (but soulful) opening is just a feint.  This turns into a good time rocker in no time.  A message of positivity and perseverance is good on the ears, and it’s nice to hear a kick-ass but optimistic rock song that isn’t sung by Jon Bon Jovi.  It gets heavier from here.  “2 Late 4 Love” is not a Def Leppard song, nor Prince.  It is however pure metal.  Early Tesla seemed to be a bit more metallic in nature.  With a Motley chug and a Dokken vibe, it’s not really representative of where Tesla was headed, but it’s good enough.  “Rock Me To the Top” occupies a similar chug with high quality results.  Finally, ending the first side is “We’re No Good Together” which actually has some soft, Cars-like synth in the background.  This slow, bluesy number sure picks up at the ending.  Jeff Keith really turned in an excellent lead vocal, especially for the slow, soulful parts.  What a singer!

“Modern Day Cowboy” is one of Tesla’s trademark tunes today.  There’s that cowboy motif, so popular in the 80’s that you’d think we all rode steel horses.  Although it is now a Tesla classic, I actually don’t think it’s one of the better tunes on the album.  It’s a fine, serviceable hard rocker, with edge, drama, acoustics and the works thrown in, but it doesn’t have the melodic sensibilities that most of the album has.  The guitars sure do smoke.

Nothing wrong with a little piano in a rock ballad, is there?  “Changes” is a great, heavy ballad with loads of guitars and tasteful keys too.  I don’t even think I should be calling this a ballad.  It burns rubber like there’s no tomorrow when it’s time for it.

Since this time, Tesla have become known for performing some amazing covers, both hits and obscure.  “Little Suzi” is the first, and I’d never heard of the band Ph.D. of whom this is a cover.  Even if I had, Tesla’s version of the song is diametrically opposed to the dramatic synthpop original, which was titled “Little Suzi’s on the Up”.  Tesla do it as a folksy, bonfire acoustic/electric rocker complete with a pretty acoustic intro.   It is instantly likeable.  Bon Jovi once said “the way to tell if a song is good is to see if it works acoustically.”  If that is true, then Tesla have proven this of “Little Suzi”.

Similarly upbeat and irresistible is “Love Me”, featuring a juicy talkbox solo by Tommy Skeoch.  The song has a nice big riff and plenty of hooks to go around.  Even though that’s 10 songs and plenty enough for an album, it ain’t over next.  “Cover Queen” is a smoky rocker with ammunition to spare, but it is “Before My Eyes” that is the pièce de résistance. It’s risky to close an album with a slow, trippy long bomber (5:31, longest on the album). “Before My Eyes” is not an instant love, but over time it grows and grows. The psychedelic voices at the end can be heard to be saying “Is it a dream?” over and over, very trippy indeed!

What a debut, and as incredible as it is, some would say that the follow-up The Great Radio Controversy was even better.

4.5/5 stars

REVIEW: Tesla – “Edison’s Medicine” CD single

Here’s a leftover from THE WEEK OF SINGLES!  Each day from November 18-22 we looked at recent single acquisitions.   This review didn’t make the series as intended, but it’s still pretty rare with cool exclusives!

Monday:  Van Halen – “Best of Both Worlds” 7″ single
Tuesday:  Deep Purple – “Above and Beyond” CD and 7″ singles
Wednesday:  Aerosmith “Dude (Looks Like A Lady)” 12″ single
Thursday:  David Lee Roth – “Stand Up” 12″ promo remix single
Friday:  Alice Cooper – For Britain Only EP

TESLA – “Edison’s Medicine” (1991 Geffen CD single)

It wasn’t that long ago that we had a look at Tesla’s damn good Psychotic Supper CD.  We also reviewed the CD single for “Call It What You Want” and its non-album B-sides.  I recently acquired the first single from Psychotic Supper, “Edison’s Medicine”.  This one has two album tracks and two non-album covers.  What makes this single a little more special than “Call It What You Want” is that these two B-sides have never been re-released on anything else, to my knowledge.

The A-side itself is one of the best tunes Tesla’s recorded to date.  In my own review for the album, I stated that Tesla were “taking their love of Nikola Tesla to the Nth degree…What an incredible song. I still remember seeing the music video, and being blown away by the solos. Not only are there guitar solos, but Frank Hannon torments the theremin, before he slips on a bass and plays a bass solo too!”

“Had Enough”, the other album track on this single is equally heavy to “Edison’s Medicine”.  It’s not as riveting melodically, but it burns rubber pretty hot.  I’m quite fond of the song myself, even though in the grand scheme of things it wouldn’t make my own Tesla road CD.  It’s just bubbling under, but it does cook!

Covers are always a tricky thing.  You have to pick the right song, and you have to pull it off.  Tesla chose the Montrose classic “Rock the Nation”.  They definitely picked an appropriate song, as it fits in with the overall Tesla sound.  They did a solid, workmanlike version of “Rock the Nation”, but it lacks the piercing, instantaneous charisma of the original.  The drums are a tad too thuddy for my tastes, and as good a singer as Jeff Keith is, Sammy Hagar owns this one.  Still, there’s nothing really wrong with it, it’s just not as special as it could have been.  It sounds like it was knocked off as a quick B-side to record, and I’m sure that was the case.

I won’t act all cool as if I knew who Jo Jo Gunne are.  I have never heard of Jo Jo Gunne.  Apparently they were ex-members of Spirit, which also spawned Randy California.  “Run Run Run” was a hit for them in 1972.  I gave the original song a listen, and I can say that Tesla’s version is pretty authentic if a little bit harder.  Who doesn’t love some great “Oooh, oooh, oooh” vocals?  I sure do.  That, and the catchy dual guitar melody (straight out of the Lizzy cookbook) make this one a keeper.

I paid £2.00 for this on Discogs. I consider that a good buy.

4/5 stars