the four horsemen

REVIEW: The Four Horsemen – Daylight Again (21st Anniversary Edition)

scan_20160919THE FOUR HORSEMEN – Daylight Again (2009 21st Anniversary Edition)

Haggis was itching to make some music again, but not with Frank C. Starr.  When the original Horsemen split in 1992, Haggis cut off contact with Starr, and the two never spoke again.  Instead Haggis hooked up with a singer and harmonica player named Tim Beattie, who did some mouth organ on “Homesick Blues” from the first LP.  Tim could sing too, with a slight southern drawl as a contrast to Starr’s AC/DC shred.  Guitarist Dave Lizmi and bassist Ben Pape were not interested in rejoining the band, so Haggis brought in two new members:  Rick McGhee handled the guitar leads, and Duane D. Young held down the bottom end.  Dimwit Montgomery flew down from Canada to complete the lineup.

It wasn’t to last long.  Even without the explosive Starr, the volatile band began to melt down shortly after writing a batch of new, soulful rock tunes.  Rick McGhee quit.  Dimwit too; Les Warner ex-of The Cult came down to record the drums.  Even Dave Lizmi came back briefly, but left after recording an album’s worth of demos.  Lizmi was replaced by a new guitarist named Mike Valentine before it all hit the wall again.

The album that became Daylight Again was recorded in 1994 (with Lizmi) and shelved.  According to Haggis, the fate of the band was “an inevitable outcome.  We had evolved to the point of being unrecognizable from the group that had been signed five years previously.  We started out as card-carrying members of the Bon Scott fan club, and ended up sounding like the house band at an Arkansas chicken ranch.”  The label lost patience and dropped them.  Haggis quit music completely, while up in Toronto, Lizmi decided to give the Horsemen one more try….

Daylight Again wasn’t intended for release as-is.  These are cassette and DAT recordings, cleaned up as much as possible for CD.  Hiss and noise are part of the deal, so buyer beware, this is not the gloss of a Rick Rubin production.  You can taste the rawness; not even blue-rare, just pure raw blues unfettered by mixing consoles.  The sound is modified by banjos and pedal steel.  The location is somewhere in the deep south.  You can feel the humidity in the rehearsal space and sense the hot tube amps humming away.  Somewhere in between the Allmans and Skynyrd, the Horsemen found some inspiration from old grooves.

You can even find a little funk (“Trailer Park Boogie”) among the blues, soul, folk and rock influences.   These traditions are given a boost with a touch of gospel.  Nowhere is this more obvious than the closer, an 11 minute jam on “Amazing Grace”.   Each Horsemen album ended with a long, emotional song of epic quality.  It was “I Need a Thrill/Somethin’ Good” on the first LP, and “What the Hell Went Wrong” on Gettin’ Pretty Good…at Barely Gettin’ By.  “Amazing Grace” trumps both in the emotion and time categories.  It’s also Beattie’s best performance on the album.  The guitar melodies are just sublime.

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Daylight Again is an incredible, albeit unfinished album.  Some arrangements sound fluid and not quite there yet; it’s a flawed gem of a recording.  The thing about the blues is that it has a timeless quality.  You can’t nail this album down to a specific period because the blues are eternal.  Whether it’s Beattie blowing away on some harmonica jams, or Lizmi’s pure feel, there are loads of tradition to dig into on this album.

As discussed in a previous instalment of this series, Dave Lizmi formed a new Horsemen lineup himself shortly after the Haggis/Beattie version disintegrated for good. With Frank C. Starr back in the saddle, Lizmi’s Horsemen released the “official” second LP, Gettin’ Pretty Good…at Barely Gettin’ By.  However, Daylight Again pre-dates those recordings by almost two years and showcases a “lost” period in Horsemen history.   The 2009 reissue does a great service by finally bringing this lost LP to light.

4/5 stars

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MOVIE REVIEW: G.I. Joe: Retaliation (Extended Action Cut) 2013

“We’re the Four fuckin’ Horsemen / Back for a second time.”

G.I. JOE: Retaliation (2013)

Directed by Jon M. Chu

I’m sorry if you saw the first movie, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (2009). That lowly turd of a film is one that I own, but can only sit through by splitting it into two or more sittings. Never in one. I saw it this way recently, and I managed to make it through. The movie was crap, and so was the toyline that went with it. All garbage. I don’t care to review the movie again, so to quote from my own old Amazon 2/5 star writeup:

The acting here is bad bordering on terrible. This Channing Tatum guy can’t act at all. Dennis Quaid pours the cheeze-wiz on every line of dialogue that General Hawk delivers. Marlon Wayons (Rip Cord), Rachel Nichols (Scarlet), and Sienna Miller (Baroness) are passable. The heavies tend to get the best roles and the best actors: Arnold Vosloo (Zartan) steals every scene he is in, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt is surprisingly serpentine as Cobra Commander. Christopher Eccleston is good as the Scottish arms dealer Destro, just menacing enough while also dignified and cool. Also, it’s nice to see Jonathan Pryce in anything…The direction by that hack Stephen Sommers (The Mummy) is gawd-awful.

Pryce was in the first movie far too briefly to be of any consequence to the finished product. That and many of the other weaknesses with the first film were dealt with here in G.I. Joe: Retaliation. Most of the cast was jettisoned. Wisely, Ray Park and Lee Byung-hun were retained as the iconic ninjas Snake-Eyes and Storm Shadow. Cobra Commander was re-cast (Gordon-Levitt being unnecessary and expensive behind a silver mask). Otherwise only Pryce, Arnold Vosloo and Channing Tatum survive to the second film. Even though Dennis Quaid was contracted to do three movies, leadership has fallen to Tatum’s Duke. Newcomers include Duke’s buddy Roadblock (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) and new recruits Jady Jaye, Flint, and Jinx.

Another issue that I had with the first film was that I felt the tech was too sci-fi and outlandish. This is tamed down a tad in this movie, although everything is still futuristic enough. The bad guys don’t all have ray guns and anti-gravity jets and shit this time. They usually fire bullets and fly helicopters and jets and stuff. The characters and vehicles look more like the original toys did. There are things such as the HISS (High Speed Sentry) tanks that look like the toys you had. Roadblock looks like the figure you had, or wanted (in my case the latter). So does Cobra Commander, finally.

JOE 46Anyway that’s all window dressing if there’s no story. The story is this: Master of disguise Zartan is still impersonating the President of the United States (Jonathan Pryce, who is the real star of the movie). Cobra Commander and Destro are still imprisoned, but the Commander is freed by his ninja Storm Shadow. With the explosives expert Firefly (another toy you wanted), they engineer the betrayal and destruction of the entire G.I. Joe team. Only a handful survive. Then the President replaces them with the services of a new security contractor called Cobra.

There’s also a new Ultimate Weapon called Zeus which is pretty silly physics-wise, because in real life it wouldn’t work. (If a satellite merely “dropped”, ie: let go of, a rod of tungsten, the tungsten would simply settle into the same orbit as the satellite.) We’ll overlook this because BOOM! DADOOOM! KABLAAAMM! SLASH! SWISH! SWING! There’s action. There’s a frickin’ battle with ninjas hanging off the side of a mountain, people. It makes no sense in any sort of real physical way but it looks nifty and must have looked great in 3D in theaters. I found it odd that the G.I Joe team is the only military force in the world today operating without any sort of helmet or hat or head gear of any kind.

Pic from yojoe.com

Joe Colton pic from yojoe.com

Back to the story, G.I. Joe has been wiped out.  The Rock and his friends need help, so they go to the only man they know they can trust: Bruce Willis. In the original Marvel comics and Hasbro toyline (fuck Sunbow), Joe Colton was the original, retired G.I. Joe. In fact his code name was “G.I. Joe”. Willis is the perfect choice to play this hard-ass and I have to admit it’s big fun to see him and the Rock kicking ass in the same scenes.

As a self-proclaimed Marvel Comics Joe nerd, the original gospel of Larry Hama is all. I enjoyed that this movie tended to go back to the original source material for ideas more so than the original film did. I won’t get into specifics too much, except to say that certain things especially in relation to Snakes and Stormy reflect events that happened in the comics. Staying truer to the strong source material (Hama was no slouch) only helps the movie which otherwise is just a collage of BOOM!

As for the Blu-ray, I was pleased to hear a balanced 7.1 surround mix.  I was a bit baffled to hear The Four Horsemen’s “Back In Business Again” in the movie soundtrack, but more power to ’em.  I didn’t watch too many of the special features.   I did watch both versions of the film (the “Extended Action Cut” is on the Blu and the theatrical on the DVD) but I don’t have any impressions of which is better.  Most recently I watched the extended version and it was plenty cool.

3/5 stars

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Part 145: Cassettes Part I – T-Rev’s Tapes

RECORD STORE TALES Part 145:  Cassettes Part I – T-Rev’s Tapes

I’m sure this comes as no surprise, but back in the day, us Record Store Dudes were expert mix tape makers.  I’ve been making mix tapes since I got my first dual cassette deck, back in 1985.  It was a Sanyo.  Thanks mom & dad.

I made all sorts of mix tapes.  I made mixes of whatever tunes I was into at the time.  I made mix tapes for girls that I liked, sneaking in the odd commercial Judas Priest tune like “Parental Guidance” in order to sway them to the dark side.  I made greatest hits tapes.  I distinctly remember an Ace Frehley greatest hits tape I made, 90 minutes.  The first 5 songs were classic Kiss hits that he sang.  The next 5 were from his first solo album.  Then on side two, 5 songs from Frehley’s Comet and 5 from Second Sighting.   I also made a Kiss hits tape from the post-Double Platinum period, basically all the singles from Dynasty through to Asylum.

When I first met T-Rev almost a decade later (1994), I had met a kindred spirit.  He was doing the same thing!  He made hits mixes for Guns N’ Roses.  The Four Horsemen.  Van Halen.  And so on and so forth.  But in a lot of ways, he had taken it to the next level.

Trevor had an artistic ability above and beyond me, he was really really good at art.  That’s why we used to get him to make all our store signage.  So it probably should have been no surprise to me that he put equal effort into his cover art.  He did a beautiful job on the Guns and Van Halen mixes!

Somehow these ended up in my possession.  I don’t even remember how anymore, but here they are.  It looks to me like not only did T-Rev did awesome cover art, but he numbered all his mixes and must have had a numerical filing system.  The Guns mix appears to be a Part II, and is #34 in his  library.  Van Halen must have followed shortly behind at #38.  I also ended up with an early mix of his, number #14, called What De Hell!!

I’m really glad that I found these!  It brings back a lot of memories of the early days at the record store.  There was no such thing as blank CD’s yet, and even if there was, T-Rev didn’t have a computer to burn one on yet.  Tapes were our canvas, and they even had a longer running time than a CD.  90 minutes was our standard, but you could even go as high as 100 without losing too much sound quality.

Not that there was much sound quality!

Thanks for loaning these to me T-Rev!  If you still have something to play them on, I’ll send ’em back to ya if you want them!

Most Unrightfully Ignored Albums of the 1990s – LeBrain’s List Part 2

In alphabetical order, here’s Part 2:  88 albums that meant the world to me in the 1990′s but never got the respect I felt they deserved.  

Dokken – Dysfunctional (reunion with George, adventurous album)
Steve Earle – I Feel Alright (jail obviously did him some good — his best record)
Steve Earle – El Corazon (among his best records)
Extreme – III Sides To Every Story (don’t get me started!)
Extreme – Waiting For the Punchline (a stripped-down oft-forgotten classic with Mike Mangini)
Faith No More – Angel Dust (…)
Faith No More – King For A Day, Fool For A Lifetime
Fight – War Of Words (I didn’t like Halford’s followup effort but this one is brutally heavy)
The Four Horsemen – Nobody Said It Was Easy (it wasn’t easy, is why)
The Four Horsemen – Gettin’ Pretty Good…At Barely Gettin’ By (but they released two great records in the 1990’s)

Fu Manchu – The Action Is Go (started me on my Fu Manchu addiction)
The Gandharvas – Sold For A Smile (my cousin turned me onto this one while I was in Calgary)
Halford – Live Insurrection (better than any of the live albums that Priest did without him)
Harem Scarem – Mood Swings (brilliant album, you can hear Queen influences, but it’s the guitar and vocals that set it apart)
Harem Scarem – Karma Cleansing (…now a bit more progressive, like progressive-lite)
Harem Scarem – Big Bang Theory (…and now, short and to the point!)
Helix – It’s A Business Doing Pleasure (too soft for the general Helix masses)
The Hellacopters – Grande Rock (the album Kiss should have made instead of Psycho Circus)
Glenn Hughes – From Now On… (anthemic and spiritual)
Iron Maiden – Fear Of the Dark (it gets a bad rap but it pretty much got me through 1992)
Journey – Trial By Fire (I don’t think they’ve ever made a better record to be honest)
Killer Dwarfs – Dirty Weapons (ditto!)

Part 140: For I Have Dined On Honeydew

RECORD STORE TALES Part 140:  For I Have Dined On Honeydew

Back in 19xx, I decided to do a road trip to get some proverbial “good lobster”.  I took T-Rev with me, not because he likes seafood (“nothing that swims” was his slogan) but because you need a road trip companion for a 2 hour drive to get lunch!

We both had Sundays off.  We ditched the record store, and hit the road one Sunday morning for Kincardine, Ontario, home of Pelican’s Roost.  It was the best lobster place in the province.  It’s not there anymore, but it sure was awesome.  T-Rev brought some road tapes.  He was always the master of making road tapes.  I remember he did one that was basically the best of Use Your Illusion I and II.  Another one collected the best tunes by Four Horsemen.

Problem:  The Roost was closed!  It didn’t open again until 5.  I sheepishly apologized to Trevor and asked if it was cool if we stayed until they opened.  He agreed, in the meantime we had lunch at Hawg’s Breath.

Then, we killed time looking for discs.

Kincardine didn’t have a record store then (it did in the late 80’s/early 90’s), but it did have a discount shop with a few thousand used discs to go through.  The great thing about out of the way places like this was finding weird stuff that was valuable, that nobody realized was valuable.

What T-Rev bought that day was not valuable.  It was, however, just too weird not to buy.  So he did.  What the hell were with those track titles?  “Muffle That Fart” was sure to be a top smash hit.

That certainly worked up an appetite for some lobster!

The Pelican’s Roost opened, and I put that unsightly album cover behind me!  I ordered the lobster tail with butter while T-Rev had the chicken.  We returned home with full bellies, and a disc that was just too weird to leave behind!