tesla

#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.

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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.

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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

REVIEW: A World With Heroes – A KISS Tribute for Cancer Care – A 40th Anniversary Celebration (2013)

Part 7.5 in my series on Ace Frehley, sorta!  Plenty of Ace related coolness here.  For the last part of the Ace series, 12 Picks, click here.

A World With Heroes – A KISS Tribute for Cancer Care – A 40th Anniversary Celebration

Cancer sucks.  Kiss rules.  Agreed?  Buy this CD.

Mitch Lafon executive produced this sucker, and I suspect that means a hell of a lot of work.  I have never in my travels discovered a cooler Kiss tribute album.  Do you really need to buy another Kiss tribute album?  Do you?  Yes, you do.  Why?  For the following reasons:

  • IMG_00000937Profits benefit the Vaudreuil-Soulanges Palliative Care Residence in Hudson, Quebec.
  • Obscure track selections.
  • Rare Kiss related gems, such as two Peter Criss Band demos with Phil Naro.
  • New Brighton Rock!  Finally.
  • Superstar performers including Mark Tornillo of Accept, Russ Dwarf, Don Dokken, Bonfire, Sean Kelly, Vinny Appice, L.A. Guns, Doro, and many more.
  • Members of the Kiss family including Eric Carr, Peter Criss, Frehley’s Comet (minus Frehley), Bob Kulick and Phil Naro.

I can’t say enough good things about this compilation.  Upon first sight, it had enough rarities from artists I liked, as well as Kiss obscurities, to make it a must-have.  Hearing it, I’m blown away repeatedly.  It is a heady brew of hits and deep, deep cuts.  Since there are 51 tracks in total, I can’t go into too much detail.  I’ll point out some personal favourite moments.

I’m a huge fan of the Revenge album, and I’m a huge fan of Accept.  Hearing Mark Tornillo do his thing through “Spit” was awesome.   I think the man’s vocal cords must be made of steel or something for him to sing like that.  I also loved “Sure Know Something”, although I don’t know Chris Buck & Anthony Cardenas Montana.  It’s a slinky version, very true to the original but with a Rod Stewart vibe.  Jeff Paris does a pretty authentic “Shout Mercy” and I give him full points for doing a Monster tune, the newest Kiss song on A World With Heroes.

I’ve loved Brighton Rock since I was a kid, but I never expected them to unplug “Creatures of the Night”.  This twist takes a moment to get used to, but their haunting arrangement is very original and cool!  “Larger Than Life” from Alive II is revisited by Brian Tichy and friends, and they do it pretty straight to the original, almost lick for lick.  It’s great.  I love that Ron Young from Little Caesar sings “Little Caesar”, a nice wink and a smile there.  A band called Shredmill contribute their original song “Outerspace”…which was later covered by Ace Frehley on his Anomaly album (giving himself a writing credit).  Shredmill’s version is more Danzig, where Ace’s was more Ace.

On the second CD, surprises and highlights continue.  Ron Keel and friends from Tesla and Cinderella knock it out of the park on “Rock N’ Roll Hell”, with a nod at the start to Keel’s own “The Right To Rock”.  Rick Hughes of Quebec metal masters Sword helps blow the doors off “The Oath”, a favourite from The Elder.  The L.A. Guns guys (Phil Lewis included) tackle the difficult “Master & Slave” from Carnival of Souls, and it smokes.  They do it authentic to the grungy original but with Phil’s snarky vocals.

As a Killer Dwarfs fan, I’m always pleased to hear Russ Dwarf’s nasally twang, and he turns in a decent “Hard Luck Woman”.  (Meanwhile, another bunch of L.A. Guns guys did their own version on disc one.)  Bonfire contribute a live version of Paul Stanley’s unreleased song “Sword & Stone”, from their Live at Wacken CD.  I don’t really know who American Dog are, but I love that they covered the Paul Stanley version of “God of Thunder”, not the Gene Simmons take from Destroyer.  They do it the speedy rocked-up way that Paul originally demoed.  Jim Crean does justice to “Magic Touch”.  He’s almost Joe Lynn Turner style on this one.

A WORLD WITH_0001The second CD ends with two takes of “Beth” (Chris VanDahl sounding like the hoarse Peter Criss on Alive II, and Phil Naro).  This is in addition to Michael Lardie’s (Great White) version on disc one.  Naro’s is easily the best of the three.

But wait, that’s not all, folks.  iTunes are selling a 51 track version of A World With Heroes, including 11 exclusives.  Thankfully, you can buy these exclusives separately if you already bought the CD (like I did).  Once again, highlights are many.  Doro contributes a 2013 re-recording of “Only You”, which she had a previous hit with back in 1990.  Russ Dwarf returns with an outstanding “God Gave Rock and Roll To You II”.  There are two previously unreleased demos by the Peter Criss Band with Phil Naro.  These feature Peter on drums, but believe me, you can hear that it is the Cat Man and no one else.  In addition, there’s a third song from this period, but recorded by Phil in 2013.  There is also a second version of “Larger Than Life”, this time by somebody called Robot Lords Of Tokyo.  I don’t know who Robot Lords Of Tokyo are, but I love “Larger Than Life” and I have no problem with another version of it.  This one’s done quite differently, and heavier too.

But wait!  There’s still more!  Pledgers who pre-ordered the CD got four bonus tracks.  I missed the boat on these, and you can’t get them anymore.  I’m bummed about that, but for the sake of completion, the four bonus tracks are:

  1. ‘Calling Dr. Love’ – Performed by: Crash Kelly
  2. ‘Comin’ Home’ – Performed by: Sudden Flames
  3. ‘Heaven’s On Fire’ – Performed by: The Feckers (ft. Irene Slade)
  4. ‘I Was Made For Lovin’ You’ Performed by: Alain Pernot

I’d love to have these, especially Crash Kelly, but alas.  The project is still awesome and worth your coins.  Especially if you’re a self respecting Kiss fan.  Get it.

5/5 stars

EDIT:  I now have the tracks.  Crash Kelly’s is awesome!  Fun and awesome.

Disc 1:

  1. ‘Psycho Circus’ – Performed by: DDRIVE (Phil Naro, Don Mancuso, Dave Sessions, Jt Taylor & Bobby Bond)
  2. ‘Spit’ – Performed by: Ken Dubman, Jimmy Callahan, Scott Metaxas, & Mark Tornillo
  3. ‘Deuce’ – Performed by: Bill Leverty, Kevin Valentine, John Regan, & Russ Dwarf
  4. ‘Sure Know Something’ – Performed by: Chris Buck & Anthony Cardenas Montana
  5. ‘Detroit Rock City’ – Performed by: Ron ‘Bumblefoot’ Thal, Rex Brown & Brian Tichy
  6. ‘Eyes Of Love’ – Performed by: Eric Carr, Benny Doro & John Humphrey
  7. ‘Shout Mercy’ – Performed by: Jeff Paris, Troy Lucketta, Eric Brittingham Jeff Labar
  8. ‘Creatures Of The Night’ – Performed by: BRIGHTON ROCK
  9. ‘Larger Than Life’ – Performed by: Rex Brown, Brian Tichy & Mark Zavon
  10. ‘Cold Gin’ – Performed by: Don Dokken & Tommy Denander
  11. ‘Love Gun’ – Performed by: Tony Harnell, Mark Kendall, Scott Snyder, Sean Michael Clegg, Kevin Valentine & Tommy Denander
  12. ‘Little Caesar’ – Performed by: Ron Young, John Regan & Tommy Denander
  13. ‘Hard Luck Woman’ – Performed by: Chris VanDahl, Stacey Blades & Adam Hamilton
  14. ‘Outerspace’ – Original demo later covered by Ace Frehley on his Anomaly album – Performed by: SHREDMILL (David Askew, Jesus Mendez Jr, Jaime Moreno)
  15. ‘Goodbye’ – Performed by: IMPERIA & BOB KULICK (J.K.Impera, Matti Alfonzetti, Tommy Denander & Mats Vassfjord) – Additional Guitars by Lars Chriss
  16. ‘See You Tonight’ – Performed by: TODD FARHOOD & MYSTERY (Todd Farhood, Michel St-Pere, Sylvain Moineau, Jean-Sébastien Goyette, Francois Fournier & Benoit Dupuis)
  17. ‘Beth’ – The Grand Piano Version – Performed by: Michael Lardie
  18. ‘Tomorrow’ – Performed by: DRESSED TO CHILL (Matt Bradshaw, Rav Thomas & Rhys Lett)
  19. ‘Anything For My Baby’ – Performed by: SLAVES ON DOPE (Kevin Jardine, Jason Rockman, Seb Ducap & Peter Tzaferis)
  20. ‘Unholy’ – Performed by: Fred Duvall, Glenn Belcher, Mark Slaughter (Guitar Solo), Rob Zakojc & Russ Dwarf

Disc 2:

  1. ‘Breakout’ – Performed by: Tod Howarth, John Regan & Kevin Valentine
  2. ‘Rock N Roll Hell’ – Performed by: Ron Keel, Troy Lucketta, Eric Brittingham & Jeff Labar
  3. ‘Nowhere To Run’ – Performed by: DRUCKFARBEN (Phil Naro, Ed Bernard, William Hare, Troy Feener & Peter Murray)
  4. ‘The Oath’ – Performed by: Rick Hughes, Chris Buck & Bob Richards
  5. ‘Master & Slave’ – Performed by: Adam Hamilton, Scott Griffin, Stacey Blades & Phil Lewis
  6. ‘Calling Dr.Love’ – Performed by: BURNING RAIN (Keith St John, Doug Aldrich, Sean McNabb & Matt Starr)
  7. ‘I Stole Your Love’ – Performed by: S.U.N. (Brian Thomas Tichy, Sass Jordan & Tommy Stewart) With Derek Sharp (Of The Guess Who)
  8. ‘Reason To Live’ – Performed by: Johnnie Dee & Derry Grehan of HONEYMOON SUITE with Michael Foster & Bill Leverty of FIREHOUSE
  9. ‘Hard Luck Woman’ – Performed by: Fred Duvall, Glenn Belcher, Rob Zakojc & Russ Dwarf
  10. ‘Forever’ – Performed by: Terry Ilous, Sean Kelly With Jeff Paris.
  11. ‘Sword And Stone’ – Taken From Bonfire Live In Wacken – Performed by: BONFIRE (Claus Lessmann, Hans Ziller, Chris Limburg, Uwe KöHler, Harry Reischmann)
  12. ‘God Of Thunder’ – Performed by: AMERICAN DOG (Michael Hannon, Steve Theado & Keith Pickens)
  13. ‘She’ – Performed by: RAZER (Chris Powers, Chris Catero, Jordan Ziff, Paul Sullivan, Eric Bongiorno & Chuck Alkazian)
  14. ‘New York Groove’ – Performed by: SLAVES ON DOPE (Kevin Jardine, Jason Rockman, , Elizabeth Lopez & Peter Tzaferis With Marty O’Brien)
  15. ‘Magic Touch’ – Performed by: Jim Crean, Phil Naro, Vinny Appice, Steve Major & Stan Miczek
  16. ‘Tears Are Falling’ – Performed by: Willie Basse, Bruce Bouillet, Scott Warren & Mike Hansen.
  17. ‘Rock N Roll All Nite’ – Performed by: Harley Fine, John Regan & Atom Fellows
  18. ‘Shandi’ – Performed by: Dani Luv, Scott Griffin & Matt Starr
  19. ‘Beth – Bonus Track’ – Performed by: Chris Vandahl & Scott Griffin.
  20. ‘Beth – Bonus Track’ – Performed by: Phil Naro, William Hare & Ed Bernard

iTunes exclusives:

  1. ‘No, I’m Not Afraid’ (Previously Unreleased Peter Criss Band Demo from 1991) – Performed by Peter Criss and Phil Naro
  2. ‘Wait For A Minute To Rock N’ Roll’ (Previously Unreleased Peter Criss Band Demo from 1991) – Performed by Peter Criss and Phil Naro
  3. ‘Back On The Streets’ (2013 Mix originally from Return of the Comet) – Performed by Richie Scarlet, John Regan, Tod Howarth, Arthur Stead & Steve Werner (The Comet Band)
  4. ‘Only You’ (2013 Recording) – Performed by DORO
  5. ‘God Gave Rock N Roll To You II’ – Performed by Russ Dwarf
  6. ‘I’m An Animal’ (2013 Mix originally from Return of the Comet) – Performed by the Comet Band
  7. ‘Let Me Go Rock N’ Roll’ – Performed by The Oddfathers
  8. ‘Surrender In The Name Of Love’ (Written by Peter Criss & Phil Naro) – Performed by 24K featuring Phil Naro and Mladen Alexander
  9. ‘Love Gun’ (Tommy Denander Guitar Solo Mix) – Performed by Tony Harnell, Kevin Valentine and Tommy Denander
  10. ‘Larger Than Life’ (2013 Remaster – Robot Lords Of Tokyo version) – Performed by Robot Lords Of Tokyo
  11. ‘Cold Gin’ (2013 Remaster from L.A. GUNS’ 1998 Wasted EP) – Performed by L.A. Guns

REVIEW: Tesla – “Call It What You Want” (single)

TESLA – “Call It What You Want” (1991 Geffen UK single)

Yesterday, I reviewed Tesla’s damn fine third album, Psychotic Supper.  As part of that, I wanted to talk about this single, the album’s second.  It’s an excellent companion to the album proper.

“Call It What You Want” isn’t a bad song.  It has a great chorus even if I find the verses sub-par.  Where Tesla have always excelled is in their rootsy but eloquent musicianship.  Not only are there Lizzy-esque dual guitar harmonies, but there are other things that border on country style.

I also dig the lyric, dated although they may be:

“Heavy metal, hard-core, punk, pop, or thrash,
You can call it anything, it don’t matter to me,
Call it what you want,
It’s all music to me.”

I think Tesla more than most hard rock bands around in 1991 were about breaking down boundaries between genres, and I’m sure this lyric was sincere to them.  I know guitarist Tommy Skeoch had a thrash side project going at the time called Thrash Tandoori.

I hate when bands use a regular album track as a B-side!  Nonetheless, “Freedom Slaves” is one of the best (if not the best) song from Psychotic Supper.  This is the hard rock/heavy metal side of Tesla shining through.  A Leppardy riff accompanies a song that boasts an anthemic chorus and dark verses.

The next two tracks are both previously unreleased, and both are covers.  “Children’s Heritage” is what I’d call an obscure cover!  I’ve never heard this, nor the band that wrote it, Bloodrock a 70’s band from Texas.  It’s a good song, straight ahead riff based hard rock.  It’s also self produced by Tesla, and is a lot looser than the album material.

More familiar is the old blues classic “Cotton Fields”, rocked up and slowed down from its CCR incarnation.  It bares almost no resemblance to the classic Leadbelly version, but it does rock.  Dirty slide guitars and wah-wah solos render this version almost as if Zeppelin were covering it.  That’s the overall vibe anyway, and few hard rock artists were sounding this raw and authentic in 1991!

In a rare  (I assure you) lapse of memory, I’ve forgotten where I got this CD.  I think Trevor got it in used, at his store, and sent it to me.  This would make sense, since one of his customers, Gord Taylor, used to sell him metal CD singles that he bought in Europe.  So that piece fits the puzzle.  Either way, whoever originally bought it paid £4.50 at HMV.

Tesla singles are rare in these parts, but thankfully both of these B-sides are now available on the compilation Tesla Gold.

4/5 stars

OMG MORE TESLA_0003

REVIEW: Tesla – Psychotic Supper (1991)

“We’re just children of the 60’s, watched the 70’s go by.  Now we made it through the 80’s, my my how time does fly!” – Jeff Keith

TESLA – Psychotic Supper (Geffen, 1991)

Psychotic Supper, the 3rd studio album by Tesla, is thus far their most adventurous and experimental. Is is neither as immediate as Mechanical Resonance nor as focused as The Great Radio Controversy, instead focusing on longer song structures and diverse influences.  It is difficult to penetrate, and even once you do finally dig in, there are some songs that simply refuse to stick to the memory. However one must applaud Tesla for sheer musical ability and refusal to do the commercial thing and sell out for the long awaited third album.

Taking their love of Nikola Tesla to the nth degree, they present a history lesson in the smokin’ “Man Out Of Time Edison’s Medicine”. 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 Tommy Skeoch torments the theremin, before Frank Hannon slipps on a bass and plays a bass solo too!

Great rock tunes include: “Change In The Weather”, the groovin’ “Freedom Slaves”, the jokey but smokin’ “Toke About It”, the aforementioned “Edison’s Medicine”, and the thrash-like “Don’t De-Rock Me”. Y’see children, back in the 80’s when Al Gore’s wife Tipper was a founder of a pro-censorship group called the PMRC, there really were places called de-rock centers. You could send your kids to detox them off rock music and turn them onto safe alternatives. No lie. (Is it any wonder that bands like Nine Inch Nails and Nirvana came along during this period?)

There are also a series of long, exploratory songs such as the mournful “Song And Emotion”, dedicated to Steve “Steamin'” Clarke of Def Leppard who passed away in January of that year. Skeoch paid tribute to Clarke’s “Gods of War” parts with his E-bow solo, listen for it.  Tommy Skeoch was a devoted Def Leppard fan, and Tesla had also opened for the Leppard because they shared management.

There are ballads too. I don’t think any are particularly standouts in the way “Love Song” was, but “What You Give” was a respectable hit.  I don’t check out Tesla so much for the ballads (even though they are excellent at them) but for the rockers.  Jeff Keith’s raspy but powerful voice can excel at either.  The man is one of the most underrated singers in rock.

If grunge didn’t hit, I could have imagined this album spawning multiple hit singles and videos for at least a year.

4/5 stars

I only own one single from this album, which is “Call It What You Want”.  It has some interesting B-sides, so tomorrow, we’ll take a look at that one!  Hope to see you then.

Most Unrightfully Ignored Albums of the 1990s – LeBrain’s List Part 4

This is it!  The end!  In alphabetical order, here’s Part 4 of 4:  88 albums that meant the world to me in the 1990′s but never got the respect I felt they deserved.   Thanks for joining in!

Savatage – Streets:  A Rock Opera (sheer brilliance, their first and best rock opera)
Savatage – Edge of Thorns (an album to give Queensryche a run for their money)
Savatage – Handful of Rain (recovering from tragedy to create a triumph)
Savatage – The Wake of Magellan (how did this band just keep getting more brilliant?)
Scorpions – Face the Heat (had a couple good heavy rockers on there like “Alien Nation”)
Shaw/Blades – Hallucination (Tommy Shaw, Jack Blades, campfire goodness)
Skid Row – Subhuman Race (when you’re pissed off and you know it, bang thy head)

Sloan – 4 Nights at the Palais Royale (one of the best live albums of all time – ignored internationally)
Dee Snider’s SMF’s – Live / Forever Twisted (fuck, I missed Dee in the 90’s!)
Spinal Tap – Break Like the Wind 
Stryper – Can’t Stop the Rock (a compilation with two great new tunes)
Sultans of Ping F.C. – Casual Sex in the Cineplex (see here)
Talas – If We Only Knew Then What We Know Now… (Billy Sheehan and the boys reunited for one night, and has the wisdom to record it)
Tesla – Bust A Nut (in some ways it’s better than their prior records)
Testament – The Ritual (really heavily slagged at the time as a sellout)
Tonic – Sugar (much better than the first record, you know, the one that was a hit)
Devin Townsend / Ocean Machine – Biomech (one of his more accessible albums)
Union – Union (Bruce Kulick + John Corabi = better than what the Crue or Kiss was releasing)
Steve Vai – Sex and Religion (Devin Townsend — lead throat)
Veruca Salt – Eight Arms To Hold You (their best album, better than the big hit one)
White Lion – Mane Attraction (it was a little mushy, but brilliant guitars by Vito Bratta)
Whitesnake – Restless Heart (back to his blues rock roots, it wasn’t even released here)

We’re done!  88 albums that meant a lot to me in the 1990’s, but in some cases were criminally ignored.  Check them out.