Trent Reznor

REVIEW: Two – Voyeurs (Japanese bonus track) #200wordchallenge

The #200wordchallenge continues!  The complete review for the original Two Voyeurs CD can be found by clicking here.

200 word


TWO – Voyeurs (1998 DML Music Japan)

Rarity acquired!  After many years of searching, I snagged a mint condition Japanese copy of Rob Halford’s album as Two with John 5.  It was priced affordably and included the obi strip, always important to collectors.  The Japanese copy has a second booklet with pictures of the band, missing from the original CD.  Rob and John casually enjoying coffee in front of a wall of X-rays?  It’s in here!

The bonus track is called “In My Head” and it’s surprising how different it is from the album at large.  It still sounds like the industrial metal of Two, but criss-crossed with dirty blues.  It’s like Two meets the Black Keys, in a wormhole from before the Black Keys even existed.  Rob has occasionally shown a penchant for mixing the blues in with his heavy metal.  Witness “A Little Crazy” from the first Fight album.  John takes a really cool and inventive solo break on this track complete with plenty of slide.  Had this track been on the original album, it might have had more appeal with the rockers, though that’s admittedly a long shot.

It’s not easy to find, but worth finding for the industrial blues of “In My Head”.

4/5 stars

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Blu-ray REVIEW: Sound City (2013)

“The internet’s cool for some stuff, but like many things, there’s no book store, there’s no music store, and there’s no Sound City.” — Josh Homme

SOUND CITY (2013 Roswell Films)

Directed by Dave Grohl

Uncle Meat persuaded me to see this movie, and I’m glad that he did.  He said it wasn’t optional; that it was a must and that I would love it.  So I bought it on Blu-ray, invited him over to co-review it with me, and we viewed it one afternoon after work in 5.1 surround.   Needless to say, Sound City was good.  So good that we never felt we could do it justice in a review, so I sat on my notes for over a year!  Having recently re-watched Sound City (directed by Dave Grohl) with Mrs. LeBrain, now I can finally finish what Meat and I started last year.

Van Nuys, California.  Sound City Studios, the legendary place where everybody who is anybody recorded.  Nirvana?  Check.  Fleetwood Mac?  Rick Springfield?  Tom Petty?  Check.  Slipknot?  Also check.  Neil Young recorded much of  After the Gold Rush there, after being enamored of the vocal sound that he got on “Birds”.  Keith Olsen learned his craft there.  It’s not much to look at on the outside:  according to producer Butch Vig, it’s “kinda dumpy”. On the inside, there’s booze and cigarettes everywhere.  Big room, huge floor. Lots of black magnetic tape.

Grohl narrates, personal anecdotes flow, then he steps out of the movie’s way.  Grohl has a nice visual style, a combination of close ups and wide shots with plenty of details to look at.  He infuses the movie with plenty of humour, sometimes at his own expense.  The film has two phases:  the first is a history lesson regarding the studio and the artists who created the hits there.  The second consists of Dave purchasing the studio’s Neve board, moving it north to his own studio, and recording a brand new album with the same legendary artists.  Pretty cool concept.

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The huge Neve console was built like a “brick shithouse” (Keith Olsen), or a “tank” (Neil Young).  Its original purchase price: bought for $75,175  in 1969 dollars.  A nice house at the time cost around $30,000!   The Neve was one of only four.  Combined with the room itself at Sound City, the drum sound you can capture is incredible.  The studio’s acoustics were not designed; it was a complete fluke.  It was originally a box factory that happens to sound magical.

As for that Neve console, it is of course entirely analog.  The one at Sound City was unique, considered the best sounding one. Rupert Neve tried to explain the electronics of it to Grohl in one of the movie’s more humourous scenes.  The very first song recorded on that board was “Crying in the Night”, by Buckingham Nicks.  This led directly to Mick Fleetwood hearing them while at the studio, and hiring not only the studio, but also Buckingham and Nicks!  Essentially, the modern Fleetwood Mac formed right there at Sound City. The studio’s success really began with Rumours.  Then, everyone wanted to record there.   As for Tom Petty?  It appears that Tom Petty pretty much spent his entire career at Sound City.  In fact one of the coolest scenes was an old behind the scenes video from the 1990’s.  Seeing Rick Rubin produce Tom Petty and being brutally honest was very interesting.

Rick Rubin to Tom Petty:  “Sounds like you’re aiming a little lower today than you should be.”

Along came the compact disc, and the infancy of digital recording.  Digital was the latest trend, and you could do new things with a computer that were harder to do on tape.  Sound City suffered during this time, as newer rival studios were on trend. Sound City was dead…but one album helped resuscitate it:  Nevermind.  Then came Rage Against the Machine, Tool, Slayer, Kyuss.  Analog tape and vintage equipment became popular again.  Rick Rubin and Johnny Cash recorded Unchained there with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.  Nine Inch Nails combined the old with the new, by bring in their own computers to record on ProTools along with the Neve.

Unfortunately ProTools was heavy competition, and working with tape was so difficult by comparison, that Sound City finally shut its doors.  They just couldn’t pay the bills anymore, even after selling off their excess equipment.  Then Dave bought the board.  It is amazing to watch it taken apart, boxed up, reassembled and functioning in Seattle.  Regarding the sale of the board, Grohl says, “I think they knew that I wasn’t just going to bubble wrap it, and stick it in a warehouse.  I was gonna fuckin’ use it.  A lot.”

SOUND CITY_0001On November 2, 2011, reassembly of the board began at Dave’s Studio 606.  Then he invited all the original artists back to record a new album on it, produced by Butch Vig.  Regarding Stevie Nicks, in a memorable moment Vig says, “Fuckin’ A, that girl can sing!”  More artists arrive.  The Foo Fighters plus Rick Springfield create a monstrous sound together, a neat amalgam of their respective genres.  Lee Ving (Fear) is hilarious, and performs the fastest count-in of all time.  I discovered a new respect for Trent Reznor, a guy who uses the technology to create original sounds, but desires the warmth of tape.  It’s incredible to see him collaborate with Homme and Grohl.  It’s the sound of humans communicating with instruments.  And they wrote a pretty frickin’ cool song together.  Then, watching Paul McCartney writing “Cut Me Some Slack” with the surviving members of Nirvana is a moment that I’m glad was frozen in time.

Grohl:  “What can’t it always be this easy?”

McCartney:  “It is.”

The blu-ray bonus features include three additional performances: “From Can to Can’t”, “Your Wife is Calling”, “The Slowing Down”.  It was these bonus features that inspired Meat and I to add “Your Wife is Calling” (with Lee Ving) to our 2014 Sausagefest lists.  Our votes allowed the song to clock in at #64.  (The track was my #1.)

Sound City is a complete triumph of a music documentary.  It is the kind of music documentary designed for serious fans, not just passers-by.  I would welcome another movie directed by Dave Grohl with open arms.

5/5 stars

Part 269: CD Singles (of every variety) featuring T-Rev

Welcome back to the WEEK OF SINGLES 2! Each day this week we’re look at rare singles. Today, we’re looking at lots and lots of them!  WARNING:  Image heavy!

Monday: Dream Theater – “Lie” (CD single)
Tuesday: Jimi Hendrix – “Valleys of Neptune” (7″ single)
Wednesday: Them Crooked Vultures – “Mind Eraser, No Chaser” (10″ single)
Thursday: Megadeth – “Creepy Baby Head” (“Crown of Worms” CD single)

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RECORD STORE TALES Part 269:  CD Singles (of every variety)

Featuring T-Rev

I’m going to take the blame for this.  It was I who got T-Rev into collecting singles in 1994-1995.  Oasis kicked his addiction into gear big time, but it was I that sparked his interest in singles.  According to Trevor today, “I suppose it was Oasis that started that ball rolling…then Blur taught me the tricks…Metallica helped mix the sauce…and then I was almost a pro, like you!”

T-Rev was already familiar with the dominance of singles in Europe.  “They’re so much cheaper in England!” he told me then.  “They have entire walls of them, like we do here with albums, but with them it’s singles.”

He had seen me go crazy for some of the singles that came into the store in the early days.  He saw me plunk down my hard earned pay for CD singles by Bon Jovi, Def Leppard, and many more.  He didn’t get why I was spending so much money on so few songs.  CD singles are much rarer here and commanded (new) prices similar to full albums.

IMG_20140205_130708“Why do you buy singles?” he asked me one day.  “I don’t get it.  The song is on the album, they come in those little cases, and they’re expensive.”

“I buy them for the unreleased tracks,” I explained.  “I don’t buy a single if it has nothing unreleased on it, but I want all the different songs.”

“But the unreleased songs aren’t usually any good, are they?” he continued.

“Sometimes,” I answered.  “But check out this Bon Jovi single here.”  I handed him a CD single that I had bought recently at an HMV store. “This one has ‘Edge of a Broken Heart’.  It’s a song that was recorded for Slippery When Wet, but it didn’t make the album.  Sometimes you find these amazing songs that are totally worth having.  Sometimes you only get live songs or remixes, but I still collect those because I try to get everything.”

When Oasis came out with (What’s The Story) Morning Glory, there were ample new singles out there to collect with bonus tracks galore.  T-Rev got me into the band very quickly.  Oasis were known not just for their mouths, but also for their B-sides.  Noel Gallagher was passionate about giving fans good songs as B-sides; he wanted them to be as good as the album.  Oasis had a lot of singles from the prior album Definitely Maybe as well, and one non-album single called “Whatever” that was absolutely marvelous.

Once T-Rev got onto the singles train, he had his own rules about what he wanted to collect and what he didn’t.  Packaging was important to him.  He hated CD singles that came inside little cardboard sleeves.  He couldn’t see them once filed on his CD tower, because there was no thickness to it; no spine to read from the side.  It didn’t matter what was on those CD singles; if the packaging sucked T-Rev was not usually interested.  This applied when we both started collecting old Metallica singles.  I found an Australian copy of “Sad But True” with the rare B-side “So What” at Encore Records for $20. This came in a cardboard sleeve; T-Rev didn’t want it.  (He also already had a live version via the Live Shit: Bing & Purge box set.)  Oasis started releasing their old singles in complete box sets, but T-Rev was only really interested in collecting the UK pressings.  There were a lot of variables to consider.  If you can’t or don’t want to buy everything, you have to set rules and pick and choose.

Once we understood each others’ needs, we were able to keep an eye open for each other.  T-Rev knew if it said Bon Jovi, Faith No More, or Def Leppard on it, that I’d be interested.  If it was a Brit-pop band like Blur or Supergrass, he’d want it (as long as it didn’t come in a paper sleeve).  Foo Fighters too, or virtually anything with Dave Grohl.  Our collections grew prodigiously with rare tracks, EPs we never heard of before, and loads of Metallica.  I believe at one point, T-Rev and I had nearly identical Metallica collections, duplicated between us.  More than half was singles and rarities.  We used to joke that there were probably only two copies of some of these things in town, and we had both of them in one apartment.

IMG_00000064T-Rev sold a lot of his singles but not all.  He still has some treasures.  Highlights include a Steve Earle tin can “Copperhead Road” promo (that he got from local legend Al “the King”).    There’s also Megadeth’s uber-rare “Sweating Bullets” featuring the in-demand “Gristle Mix” by Trent Reznor  Then there was a Blur thing, some kind of “special collectors edition” signed by Damon Albarn, in a Japanese pressing.  Trevor’s seen one sell for upwards of $100.  Then there was another band called “A”.  As Trevor said, “Remember these guys? It was like ‘Britpop punk’. I liked it anyway.”

Also still residing in his collection:  a Japanese print of Oasis’ “Some Might Say” that has two bonus tracks over the domestic version, and two versions of Foo Fighters’ “Big Me”.  One is from Canada, the other from the UK.  Both have different tracks.  I’d forgotten about these until I saw the pictures.

Those were the glory days of collecting.  I miss collecting CD singles.  I preferred hunting the stores downtown to get all the extra tracks to the way it is now.  Now, often you need to buy an iTunes download and several “deluxe editions” to get all the songs.  CD singles were just better, period.  Even just for the cover art of those Oasis singles, singles were much more fun to collect.  I miss those days!
T-Rev’s pics:
LeBrain’s pics:

REVIEW: Nine Inch Nails – Broken (1992)

 

NINE INCH NAILS – broken (1992 Interscope EP) / halo five

I remember seeing this in my local HMV store in 1992.  I thought, “Nine Inch Nails have cool packaging,” because you didn’t see too many digipacks back then.  It’s cooler than just that though, with three panels unfolding in a “T” shape each with a letter on it.  “n”…”i”…”n”…

Gotta give Trent Reznor credit for packaging, he usually has very striking and original concepts for his discs.  Also cool how the packaging for broken nicely complements the remix album fixed once both are bought.  broken technically qualifies as an EP I guess, or a mini-album maybe, even though it is longer than most classic Van Halen albums.

BROKENThere is a version of broken out there that was once considered one of the Holy Grails of Nine Inch Nails collectibles.  I guess the advent of eBay made it much easier to get, because eBay has one as of this writing for $12, free shipping, VG condition.  It is a 2 CD version, with the two “hidden” tracks on a separate 3″ CD enclosed within the digipack.  This was supposedly discontinued because unscrupulous store owners were taking out the bonus CD and selling it separately.  Or so goes the legend.  I think cost would also have been a factor in discontinuing the bonus CD.  On re-releases like I own, the bonus tracks are included as #98 and #99, with 91 tracks of 1 second silences preceding them.

“Pinion” serves as a brief intro to “Wish” and they are always presented together.  This serves to intensify the mighty “Wish”, the heaviest song released by Nine Inch Nails up to the time.  What sounds like a blowtorch punctuates a frantic drum rhythm.  This progresses into a mélange of bizarre sounds, shredding guitars and a sledgehammer riff.  “Last” follows, a slower more relentless riff.  At times its the industrial version of “Sad But True”, but with a synthpop style chorus.  Reznor maintains his angry snarl throughout, bitching about whatever he’s bitching about.  “Pigs” are referenced, he sounds upset, angry, sad…aww!

“Help Me I Am In Hell” is one of the coolest tracks, a quiet two-minute guitar n’ noise respite.  It sounds a lot like some of the quieter moments that would later come on The Downward Spiral (a genius album if there ever was one).  Then, “Happiness in Slavery” serves as a barrage to the noggin’, Trent yelling stuff about slaves screaming in a distorted voice.  There are some cool, ascending metal-y guitar licks and another synthpop chorus.  If I had to guess, I’d say the lyrics are a thinly veiled discourse on getting screwed by your record label, as Trent was at the time.

The final song of this batch of tracks is “Gave Up”, another fast metallic song.  It’s hard to discern the melodies from it, such is the distortion of the track.  It does have a bad-ass keyboard solo though. Trent sounds like he’s singing on a broken tape deck and the guitars sound like they’re on the same cassette too.  It’s my least favourite song on the EP, although I remember it had a cool “live” style music video with Marilyn Manson on guitar.

After 91 tracks of silence (a quaint-oh-so 90’s gimmick that I sidestepped by not ripping them) are the bonus cover songs.  “Physical (You’re So)” is an Adam and the Ants tune, morphed into something that sounds like a cross between Nine Inch Nails and Motley Crue.  This is a great track.  Among the best on the album.  There are jackhammer sounds, plenty of distortion and unidentifiable but cool sounds.  “Suck” is a Pigface cover (from Gub) that Trent originally sang and co-wrote anyway.  It has a powerful chorus and riff much like the rest of broken, but the verses (pun intended) kind of suck.  That funky bassline…it’s not my thing, I guess.

One weird thing.  I don’t know where it came from, but I somehow got a booklet for a Japanese version of broken.  I found it inside my copy…I must have found it laying around at the store.  Kinda neat to have, I can’t read a word of it, but cool.  My CD appears to just be the regular single disc US release otherwise.

4.5/5 stars

More Nine Inch Nails at mikeladano.com:  RECORD STORE TALES Part 222:  Mr. Self Destruct

Part 212: Top 3 Crushes

RECORD STORE TALES Part 212:  Top 3 Rock Star Crushes

I was quite legendary at the Record Store for my celebrity crushes.  I talked before about about Dayna Manning — she was but one on my list of fantasy girls.

3. MARIA DEL MAR (National Velvet)

T-Rev and I were given tickets to see Helix at Stages, in 1996.  Opening was a new band fronted by ex-National Velvet singer Maria Del Mar.  You might remember National Velvet’s hit, “Sex Gorilla”.  Her new band was good, and after the show Maria came and sat down next to us!  Gasp!  She was really loaded.  T-Rev and I handed her business cards for our stores and encouraged her to visit, call, sell albums there on consignment, anything!

Unfortunately, it seemed to us that she preferred the sharp Austrian looks of Peter the Rocker, who also attended the show.  Maria wouldn’t leave him alone.  She never called us either.  At least Helix were good!

Tastes as sweet as “Sex Gorilla”

2. NICOLE HUGHES (Scratching Post)

A couple friends of ours opened for this band in 1998.  I drooled all over the stage looking at singer/guitarist Nicole Hughes.  That red hair.  The leather skirk, playing that guitar.  Oh yeah.  I was in love.  I admired every magazine cover she appeared on.  One of the girls at work used to try to bug me by commenting that Hughes’ mouth was “too big”.

I never had the guts to speak to her at any of those concerts!  Nothing more than a “great show, eh.”  I was given copies of their two albums for my birthday one year.  Imagine my horror at finding that I didn’t really like them.  I sold them off before I quit the store.

Scratching Post’s only really good tune, “Bloodflame”

1.       TALENA ATFIELD (Kittie)

I was never a Kittie fan.  I’m not denying their talent, I’m just not a fan of that sound.  I’ve never bought any of their albums.  I only like a couple tunes. But as far as I was concerned, I did like Talena Atfield, the bassist!  After she left Kittie, I found her on MySpace and sent her a message.  Something lame like, “Hey, I manage a record store, you should come in if you’re in town,” or whatever.  The response was brief, but positive – she called me cute!  Well didn’t I go and tell everyone at the store about that?

So, they made fun of me for yet another rock star crush, but it turned out OK in the end.  Now I’m married, and it’s fun to look back of these rock crushes. Mrs. LeBrain used to like Trent Reznor, so I know I’m OK!  (She says she likes her men short.)

Next time on Record Store Tales…

Long-forgotten Dandy drama

REVIEW: Queens of the Stone Age – …Like Clockwork (2013)

QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE – …Like Clockwork (2013 Matador)

Yeah, I’m one of those jaded pricks who “only liked Queens when Nick was in the band.”  I bought the other albums too, but of those only the live CD really did anything for me.  Until now.  I really …Like Clockwork!  It succeeds completely at taking the Queens down a somewhat quieter and more mature road, while maintaining every ounce of their integrity.  They are still sometimes heavy, experimental and haunting.  But now they are almost always melodic, too.

Opener “Keep Your Eyes Closed” starts off somewhat slowly, but morphs into a bizarre Queens-meet-Alice in Chains concoction.  It’s actually the one song on the album that I didn’t like on first listen.  Imagine my delight in finding that I liked the rest of the album much more!

The most immediate song is second:  “I Sat by the Ocean”.  I put it in a category with songs like “If Only Everything”; it’s memorable on first listen.  “The Vampire of Time and Memory” is a space-age blues, but with some Queen-like moments (Queen, not Queens).  Josh’s understated vocals are classy and the keyboards create atmosphere rather than distract.

Next, the strangely-titled “If I Had a Tail” could have been released in 1981, or 1983, some time during the New Wave movement.  If I heard this on the radio, I’d think it was an 80’s band.  Only the occasional blasts of electric guitar remind me that this is 2013.  Here’s the cool thing — this track reunites the Songs For the Deaf lineup in a way.  Homme is joined by Dave Grohl on drums (who appears on several tracks), as well as Mark Lanegan and Nick Oliveri on backing vocals.

“My God is the Sun” is one of the tunes that sound the most like vintage QOTSA, and it is also one of the songs featuring Dave Grohl on drums.  It has some serious heaviness to it, as well as that stuttering, stammering Queens vibe.  All topped by the smoove as glass Joshe Homme vocals.

“Kalopsia” is a weird underwater easy jazz slow dance.  Trent Reznor duets, and suddenly its an explosive Bowie number.  Great tune.  “Fairweather Friends” has piano.  O, it has piano alright — by Elton freakin’ John!  There’s also lots of rich guitar.  It even feels Zeppelin-y at times.  Maybe JPJ rubbed off on Josh a bit?  Then things get funky on “Smooth Sailing”, but it’s a heavy funk with Homme in vocal falsetto.  Fucked-up Disco?  Sure, why not.  The guitar solo is pure noisy heaven, but Grohl’s heavy hitting keeps it in the world of rock.

Soft guitars and a whispery Homme introduce a song called “I Appear Missing”.  It’s hauntingly powerful, and dramatic. The guitar work here is incredible and intense.  It’s also perfect as the penultimate track on a strong album such as this. And when your second last song is as intense as “I Appear Missing”, then it’s often wise to end the album with something quiet.  “Like Clockwork” exists as simply piano and Homme for a couple minutes, Josh using his voice is ways I’ve never heard before.  Instruments build, and it’s a beautiful sunset-stained closer.

I don’t know what Josh was thinking in terms of the packaging.  I know he likes the colour red.  I got that part.  But all you get is a slipcase, a jewel case and a little card cover inside with minimal credits.  It says to go to quotsa.com for “extended credits”.  I paid for a physical copy, you’d think they could at least print the credits.

Musically?  5/5 stars.  With this and Sabbath already upon us, I have two contenders for album of the year so far.

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REVIEW: Halford – Resurrection (2000)

Part 5 in a miniseries on Rob Halford’s solo career!  Missed the last part?  Click here!

HALFORD – Resurrection (2000 Japanese edition, 2008 remastered edition)

Note:  There have been several versions of this CD.  The original CD and Japanese import versions had a certain tracklisting, but the track order was changed up a bit for the Remastered edition (see tracklists at bottom).  Since that’s the version that’s out right now, that’s what I’ve decided to review.  I got mine in a combo pack with the DVD, Resurrection World Tour Live at Rock in Rio III.  Rob has also retroactively started to number his solo albums; as such the remastered version is technically Halford 1: Resurrection.

Voyeurs by Two was not a mega seller regardless of the association with Trent Reznor and Nothing Records.  Rob needed to return to heavy metal or risk alienating his fanbase.

RESURRECTION_0005I think pretty much everyone was enthused by the title track and lead off single, “Resurrection”.  This wasn’t techno wizardry with whispery vocals.  This was heavy metal, with screams!  Although Rob was already headed in that direction at the end of Two, while working with Bob Marlette, it is Roy Z that drives this one single home.  Yes, Roy Z, the Roy Z that Bruce Dickinson utilized to collaborate on many a great solo album.  With Halford now drinking at the well of riffage that is Roy Z, “Resurrection” was bound to smoke.  And it does.  Take the sound of classic Judas Priest circa Painkiller, adjust for 10 years of sonic trends, stir in Roy Z, and you have “Resurrection”.  Rob makes sure you know he’s serious from the very opening, screaming as only he can.

What I dislike are the lyrics.  “I walked alone into a Fight”?  Rob, you weren’t alone, you had Scott Travis with you!  “I tried to look too far ahead, and saw the road lead to my past instead.”  In other words, sorry about the Two album, this is what I really want to be doing.

The first three tracks totally smoke, all falling somewhere in a Defenders/Painkiller vibe of Priestly goodness.  At first I didn’t like “Night Fall”, the fourth track, too much.  Its redeeming value is a great chorus, totally in the Defenders mold.

“Silent Screams” is one of the songs that Rob was working on with Marlette at the end of Two.  Rob was especially proud of this lengthy number, and he released a demo version of it for free on his official website.  The demo version is an evolution from Two.  It has screams (appropriately enough) and heavy guitar riffs.  The album version has a more emotional lead vocal and tones down the keyboards.  The song is a bit slow and ploddy to start with but it is epic in quality and it sure does rock by the halfway point!

The big gimmick on the album was the duet with Bruce Dickinson, “The One You Love to Hate”.  The connection is Roy Z, but obviously a matchup like this would generate much hype.  Arguably the two best singers in metal, together at last.  Bruce sounds great, holding his own against the Metal God, who sounds vintage 80’s.  I have to say I enjoyed this one a lot.  Shortly thereafter, there were rumours of a coming supergroup called the Three Tremors – Rob, Bruce, and Geoff Tate of Queensryche.  All three artists were touring together at the time, but this idea was never meant to be taken seriously.

RESURRECTION_0002“Cyber World” is fast and heavy but unfortunately also boring and skip-worthy.  Likewise, the groovier “Slow Down”.  Dull title, dull song.  I tend to think of Resurrection as losing steam on side 2.  I guess that’s why the remastered edition inserts the Japanese bonus track “Hell’s Last Survivor” right here.  Sounding something of a Screaming for Vengeance outtake, I think this was placed here to compensate for some of the weaker tracks.

“Temptation” is a little on the boring side, so two new tracks are inserted at this point for the remastered edition:  “God Bringer of Death” and “Fetish”.  In my opinion it doesn’t sound like they belong here.  Rob’s voice had changed a lot in the 8 years since, and the sound is more like later Halford albums.  Neither song is particularly notable.

On the other hand, “Sad Wings”, which was previously only on the Japanese version, is awesome.  It has a sharp riff and a chorus that is designed to remind you what band he was the singer of.  This is followed by “Twist” which sounds like maybe it had its origins in Two, but I like it a lot.  “Drive” is also pretty decent, and the album ends with “Saviour” which has an anthemic chorus.

Bottom line:  Pretty decent if a bit safe comeback.  Rob wasn’t treading any new ground here musically, but Roy Z never fails to class up any album he’s on.  His tasteful and blistering solo work is just marvelous.

3.5/5 stars

REVIEW: Two – Voyeurs (1998)

Part 4 in a miniseries on Rob Halford’s solo career!  Missed the last part?  Click here for Fight – A Small Deadly Space.

TWO – Voyeurs (1998 Nothing)

Fight was kaput.  Rob had a new band, a photo of whom appeared in Metal Edge magazine.  The band was called Halford, and although that would change, Rob used his surname for another band later on.  I remember a weird looking blonde dude wearing a silver skin tight suit of some kind (more on him later), and I thought, “Well, OK then.  This is going to be different.”  Soon after the Metal Edge photo, the name had changed from Halford, to Two.

I had a buddy, Nathan, who was really into Nine Inch Nails.  This Halford project was on his radar as well, due to Rob’s collaboration with Trent Reznor.  At the time, Rob Halford insisted that the resulting album, an industrial/rock hybrid, was the sound he was going for all along when he quit Priest in ’92 and formed Fight.

I don’t believe that, but they did come close on the Mutations EP. I think Fight was exactly what he wanted to do at that time. When the second Fight album fizzled I think Rob questioned his musical direction, hooked up with Trent, and did this experimental record.

Two (stylized as 2wo) were experimental by Halford’s standards, but not by industrial music standards in general. Voyeurs has all the expected bells and whistles, including but not limited to:  distorted vocals, the word “pig” in a song title, thumpy bass, ticky-ticky sounds, bloops, bleeps, and other stuff that sounds like broken machinery.

What does make this album special is that the band was “Two”, not “One”…meaning there is a second guy involved here, and what a talent he was. That guy was guitar player John 5. This was his breakthrough release. After this he hooked up with David Lee Roth, Marilyn Manson, Rob Zombie, et al. John 5’s involvement means there is some wicked guitar work here, including “I Am A Pig” which features a solo that sounds like a mashup of Morello and Satriani.

Highlight songs include “I Am A Pig” (Reznor sure loves his pig imagery), “Stutter Kiss”, “Hey Sha La La”, “Water’s Leaking”, and the epic closer “Bed of Rust”.  “Bed of Rust” could have made a pretty cool Fight track.  I would say in fact that there are no throwaway songs here.  All of them have something worthwhile to offer.  Just don’t think too much about the lyrics.  Halford’s delivery is understated and, at times, whispery. No screams. At Reznor’s suggestion,  instead Rob explored other aspects of his voice.

Other notable names:  Bob Marlette plays bass and produces.  Dave “Rave” Ogilvie does some production work.  Trent Reznor “executive produced”.  I always wondered what that means.  I picture it meaning that Trent gives the project either a “thumbs up” or a “thumbs down” when the real work is done.

JOAQIN

Of course many Priest fans didn’t get it, although a chunk of the Reznor fans (who at the time would buy anything on Nothing records) accepted and enjoyed the album for what it is.  I think if this was a release by a more popular band, like say Nine Inch Nails or KMFDM, it could have spawned two or three singles.

Japan had a bonus track called “In My Head” which is absolutely impossible to find, so good luck. I’ve never heard it.

3.5/5 stars

Postscript:

It was during this period, promoting the Two album, that Rob Halford came out.  People joked for a good number of years that Rob’s sexuality was the worst kept secret in rock.  That can’t negate the courage that it took for Rob to come out in a musical genre that isn’t always kind to anyone who’s “different” (hello, Blabbermouth!).

“I think it’s difficult for everybody, you know, in making the decision to come forward and be who you are, based on peer pressure, especially if you’re a teenager,” Halford said. “That’s where a lot of the anxiety begins, and so maybe people like myself and others that do step in front of a camera and let the world know, maybe it’s of some help, where there’s an individual that’s been successful, that’s been able to achieve dreams and visions and goals in life and not let the issue of sexuality be something to hold them back, so I think it’s an important thing.”

More:

LGTBICONS:  Rob Halford – Angel of Retribution

MTV News – Rob Halford Discusses Sexuality Publicly For The First Time

REVIEW: Fight – Mutations (1994)

Part 2 of a miniseries on Rob Halford’s solo career!  If you missed Part 1, War of Words, then click here.

FIGHT – Mutations (1994 Epic collector’s edition, 2008 Metal God Entertainment reissue)

Released in late 1994, Mutations (subtitled “collector’s edition“, which really means nothing) was a live/remix CD to follow War of Words.  I seem to remember this being marketed as some sort of “extended EP” or some kind of not-album, which again is kind of meaningless.  The original release was 45 minutes, a full length album by most measures.

Live Fight!  Shame it was only four songs, as they absolutely kick ass.  Rob Halford was still in peak voice in 1994, and every high scream is present on opener “Into the Pit”.  Fight as a live band were less stiff than on the first album.  They were no less precise, and each song is just as ferocious as its album counterpart.  On “Nailed to the Gun”, bassist Jay Jay does the low death metal growls while Rob howls like a mad dog.

I was surprised that Rob put “Freewheel Burning” on the album, as he seemed to be trying to distance himself from his past at this time.  Its the only Priest song and I don’t think they played many Priest songs on the tour at all (but I know they did cover Sabbath’s “Sweet Leaf”).  Surprisingly it’s here that Rob’s voice falters, struggling with the demanding song.  He redeems himself on the bluesy single “Little Crazy”.

I enjoy hearing live recordings from bands with two distinct lead guitar players trading off.  Russ Parrish and Brian Tilse were both very different stylistically, and the contrast is awesome.    The pace is aggressive, and these guys keep chugging on.  (Note:  Russ Parrish is not credited on this album.  He had left the band by the time of release, but there is no question that he did play on all these tracks.  Why he was not credited is a mystery, but he does appear on the remastered version cover art.)

FIGHT_0008I believe I am well on record as not being a fan of remixes in general.  There are exceptions but so many remixes add techno-crapola that often serves to reduce the songs to repetitive mockeries of themselves.  On a track like “War of Words” , they remove Scott Travis’ drums from sections, and replace him electronic beats.  At the time I thought, “Why would you want to replace Scott Travis with a drum machine?”  Today, it still bugs me.  But hey, those who doubted the sincerity of Rob’s industrial work with Trent Reznor in Two should remember these remixes!

FIGHT_0006I’ll be honest, I struggle getting through the remix side in one sitting.  There are some cool moments, such as the chance to hear isolated instruments and solos.  “Vicious” is an example of a remix that works for me.  It’s weird, it has an opera singer and dance beats added, but it’s pretty heavy and cool.   But in general, the Fight songs were simple and repetitive to begin with.  Making them simpler and more repetitive didn’t work for me.  Sure, I own some Nine Inch Nails albums, but this sound isn’t where my heart lies.

Goodie-goodie-gosh, Mutations was reissued as part of the Into the Pit box set, with two bonus tracks.  And these bonus tracks are (you guessed it) remixes.   More versions of “Kill It” and “War of Words”.  At least the “Culture of Corruption Mix” of “War of Words” is about half as long as the regular “Bloody Tongue Mix”.

Incidentally, why do remixes always have cliche sounding names?  “Bloody Tongue Mix”!  Raahhrr!  Why not…”Toothpaste Mix”.  Something original.  I think remixers should strive to be more original in the naming of their work.  Something nobody’s used yet.  “I’m Rob Halford and I Endorsed This Mix Mix”.

2/5 stars

REVIEW: Johnny Cash – American IV: The Man Comes Around (with DVD, 2003)

For Lara, and Rob.
CASH FRONT

JOHNNY CASH – American IV:  The Man Comes Around (2003 American)

I have published over 300 reviews here at mikeladano.com (use the search button on the top right to look up anything you want).  Yet, I still hadn’t got around to Johnny Cash!  That’s strange, because Johnny Cash is very special to me.

Everybody “says” they love Johnny Cash.  Many of them jumped on board when he died and became “cool” again.  Take Dandy, for example, a trend chaser who inked Johnny’s face on his arm a few months after he died.  But hey, if you’re on board now, that’s cool.  There’s plenty of room for everyone.

Johnny Cash was my first concert.  In Canada in the early 1980’s, Johnny had an endorsement deal with Canada Trust, where my dad worked.  Their brand new ATM machines were called Johnny Cash machines, and my dad even had some promotional Johnny Cash bills, a cool marketing gimmick.  He went to see Johnny, his idol, when Johnny came to town.  The first night of a two-nighter, my dad met him.  On the second night, he brought me along (I didn’t get to meet him).  Johnny modified his original concert opening by saying, “I’m Johnny Cash, 24 hour money machine” (in reference to the ATMs).  I still remember June kicking off her shoes!

The Man Comes Around is my favourite of the American Recordings, helmed by Rick Rubin.  It was also the last one released in Johnny’s lifetime.  It is, all at once, extremely powerful, morose, joyful, and catchy.  All filtered through Johnny’s unmistakable baritone, worn and weary but no less strong and expressive.  Like other American albums, it is a mixture of originals and covers, oldies and more recent fare.

The most well-known song on American IV was “Hurt”, the Nine Inch Nails cover.  It is remarkable by being so different, yet true to the spirit of the original.  I prefer Johnny’s take on it to Trent’s, truthfully.  “Hurt” is only one of many remarkable covers on this album.  Johnny and Fiona Apple tend “Bridge Over Troubled Water”, with quiet mellotron in the background.

My favourite song is Sting’s “I Hung My Head”.  I couldn’t believe the credits when I read that (having skipped Sting’s Mercury Falling album).  I thought for certain this had to be a new Cash original.  Lyrically, I was convinced this tragic tale came from the mind of the Man in Black, but I was wrong.  It’s a spellbinding song, painting a clear picture, and Johnny’s delivery is perfect.

“In My Life” is the favourite of Mrs. LeBrain.  She’s a huge Beatles fan.  We selected this song for the signing of the register at our wedding.  I received kudos on the musical selection from Tom Morwood and Jen’s Uncle Rick, who loved the Johnny.  While very different from the Beatles version, I think I can safely say I like both equally.

I’m not too keen on the Depeche Mode cover (“Personal Jesus”), but I don’t like Depeche Mode much.  I know some who think the cover is brilliant, so we’ll go with that.  Johnny and Rubin tranform the song into a dark acoustic stomp.

Other highlights include the classic “Sam Hall”, which Johnny also performed on his 1965 album, Johnny Cash Sings Ballads of the True West.  I love Johnny’s energetic delivery on this traditional.  We enjoyed this one at the record store, a lot.  “Danny Boy” is another from 1965 (Orange Blossom Special) that Johnny takes a second crack at.  This time it’s a more intimate affair without the backing vocals.  Johnny compensates with his rich storyteller’s voice, each flaw telling a story of its own.

Elsewhere, I love “Desperado”.  And that’s interesting because like the Dude, I hate the fuckin’ Eagles.

The album closes with “We’ll Meet Again”, the Vera Lynn classic.  I always think of Kubrick (Dr. Strangelove) when I hear this song.  So for me, I can hear a sly wink in “We’ll Meet Again”, a hint of humour, as if Johnny knew this would be the last song on the last album released in his lifetime.

HURTBut it’s not really the last song.  On my wishlist is the vinyl edition, which had two bonus tracks: Marty Robbins’ “Big Iron” (another personal favourite) and an exclusive version of “Wichita Lineman”.

My copy of the album came with a bonus DVD.  Nothing to get excited about, it’s just the music video for “Hurt”.  Granted that’s a great video, but the DVD is less special in 2013 than it was in 2003.  Now, everybody Youtubes.

Wow, I just used “Youtube” as a verb.

Anyway.  5/5 stars!