triumph

#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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VHS Archives #54: Slik Toxik win Best Canadian Metal Video, tribute to Helix’s Paul Hackman (1992 MMVAs)

“You know what time it is?  It’s thrash time!” – Nick Walsh

This video is for Superdekes!  He is going to be on CBC Radio this morning (March 15 2019) to talk about Slik Toxik’s rise to stardom. 

1992 was all about a resurgence of Canadian Rock.  Slik Toxik, Sven Gali, and Big House were all making waves.  Lee Aaron and Killer Dwarfs had new music.  But it was Slik Toxik who won Best Metal Video for “Helluvatime” (directed by Don Allan).

The award was presented by Brian Vollmer (Helix), Phil X (Triumph, now Bon Jovi) and Mike Levine (Triumph).  Slik Toxik then performed…but my tape ran out!  This is what I captured.  Neal Busby is one helluva of a drummer!

VHS Archives #25: Rik Emmett of Triumph – the Holy Grail of videos – Power Hour 1987 live performance!

It’s Friday so here’s something you’ll want to watch from start to finish.  This episode of the Pepsi Power Hour on MuchMusic should be considered a “Holy Grail” find for fans of Triumph. Foreshadows of Triumph’s impending breakup can be sensed in this excellent interview, coupled with a performance of “Let the Light (Shine On Me)” and a guitar duel with protégé Sil Simone! All on live, national television.

Rik was always comfortable in the Much studios and gave great interviews.  (I have at least two more on tape.)  He is one of the world’s premier guitarists, as you will hear in the guitar duel!  Rik also performs Triumph’s “Let the Light (Shine On Me)” acoustically.  (Listen for that one bum note!  Live television, people.)

Topics discussed include going solo (seriously!), guitar, heavy metal, Whitesnake, Steve Vai, and more.

Believe me when I say you won’t regret watching this whole interview/performance.  Special mention must go to Erica Ehm, a charismatic host who had great rapport with Rik.

VHS Archives #18: Kim Mitchell wins Best Toronto Male Vocalist (1990)

An unusual but amusing one for you!  (I recorded everything.  I have a tape here labelled the “Star Trek Awards”, I can’t wait to see what that is.)

This tape comes from the 1990 Toronto Music Awards.  Mike Levine and Gil Moore of Triumph are called to present Best Toronto Male Vocalist.  Triumph were without a singer at the time, imagine if Rik Emmett were nominated!  But he’s not.  Check out the seven (!) nominees and who Kim had to beat.  “Sebastian Back” was a formidable singer and Kim said as much.

Finally, Peter Fredette is hilarious.  Listen to him singing opera style as he approaches the podium.  Did you know he was Kim’s vocal coach as well as bassist?

 

#595: Fighting for Kenner and Ivy

GETTING MORE TALE #595: Fighting for Kenner and Ivy

Sorry for the lack of musical content in this instalment of Getting More Tale, usually a series of stories about music.  In lieu of a music story, I’ll include my Top Five Tracks About Fighting for a Good Cause at the end!

 


Our friend Kenner Fee has not given up the fight, so neither will we.

Kenner has Autism. And Ivy is a Black Lab. Ivy calms Kenner’s anxieties and helps him cope with school and socializing. Outside of school, the two are inseparable. At school however, Ivy isn’t allowed to be with Kenner. The Waterloo Catholic District School Board says that Kenner doesn’t need a service dog. Kenner’s doctors, psychologists, therapists, parents and the Lions Foundation say otherwise.

Kenner’s parents, Craig and Amy. have been fighting with the WCDSB for over three years to get them to allow Ivy to attend school with Kenner at St. Kateri Catholic Elementary School in Kitchener. The fight has now escalated to the Ontario Human Rights Commission, where the Fee’s have had to invest thousands of dollars into lawyers and their charges, out of pocket. While the WCDSB has, what seems to be, unlimited taxpayer resources to pay for their lawyers.

Kenner was denied his basic human right to have his service dog in class with him.  Allow me to share a little bit about what I know of Kenner, because I see quite a few people are misinformed about this situation.

Ivy is not a therapy dog, as some sources have stated.  She is a service dog, trained and matched by the Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides.  Some bystanders have asked, “What about kids who are afraid of dogs?”  An excellent question, and I think Kenner’s supporters have offered a lot of great suggestions about that.  The truth is, if you have ever met a service dog, you know that they basically just…lay there!  That’s part of the training.  Second, having a service dog in a school would be a rare and valuable teaching experience.  I was terrified of dogs as a kid.  I’d run and they’d give chase!  Ivy would not do that, because she is a service dog.  If I had the chance to meet a dog like Ivy as a kid, it really would have helped me get over my fear of dogs earlier.

Another legitimate question has been about kids with allergies.  Supporters have suggested solutions to these problems too.  None of them are unsolvable.  I’m terribly allergic myself.  If there happens to be only one class for Kenner’s grade, make sure the classroom doesn’t have carpet flooring, and keep Kenner on the opposite side of the room as any kids with allergies.  Ensure that teachers have a supply of each child’s allergy medication — Reactine, Visine, whatever.  Why is every other child’s needs more important than Kenner’s?  Allergies are real, but so is autism.  And the results Kenner has seen because of Ivy are extraordinary.  I know a little bit more about the situation than I can talk about, but I can say this.

I’ve seen Kenner, with Ivy at his side, give an amazing speech in front of hundreds of adults.  I couldn’t believe it.  Seeing that knocked me out; he made me see what potential can be unlocked.  He’s a gifted young man.  He deserves to be able to go to school and be at his best.  The Catholic school board keeps talking about how they assess each kid on a case by case basis.  It is interesting to note that they don’t have any service dogs in any of their schools in Ontario.  A child in Burlington is currently fighting the same battle as Kenner Fee, for the same reason.  He too has autism.  I wonder if the Catholic School Board is fighting this so hard simply because it’s easier than doing the work to accommodate. Currently, the Board is denying Kenner his basic right to fulfill his potential in school.  They say he gets good grades without Ivy.  That may be true, but he is truly exceptional when he is with her.  I have seen this and  I admire the little guy.

This is an expensive fight.  A GoFundMe page has been set up.

We’re asking the public to join us in raising  funds to help the Fee’s offset a fraction of the legal expenses they’ve personally incurred throughout the Human Rights Tribunal.  Anything raised over our target amount will be donated to the Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides, where Ivy was obtained.

Even if you can’t donate, every comment helps!  I know for a fact that Kenner is blown away by the amount of support he’s seen.  “I didn’t know so many people cared about me!” he said after a recent service dog protest.  He loves to know he has support so feel free to leave a comment, and we’ll make sure his parents get them!

#KennerAndIvy #WeStandWithKennerAndIvy #IStandWithKennerAndIvy

 


Top Five Tracks About Fighting for a Good Cause

5. Triumph – “Fight the Good Fight”

4. Warrior – “Fighting for the Earth”

3. Motley Crue – “Fight for Your Rights”

2. Bob Marley – “Get Up Stand Up”

1. Tom Petty – “I Won’t Back Down”

 

In the top photo there is a service dog and a Party Dog.  Can you tell which is which?

 

 

REVIEW: Rik Emmett & RESolution9 – RES 9 (2016)

Had I got it in time, this album could have made the Top Five of 2016 list.

scan_20161231RIK EMMETT & RESolution9 – RES 9 (2016 Mascot Music)

Rik Emmett had a long productive career as 1/3rd of Triumph, but he has rarely looked back.   Post-Triumph he has released a steady stream of jazz, rock, blues and acoustic music, sometimes revisiting Triumph songs in re-arranged form.  Finally the ice thawed and Triumph successfully conquered Sweden Rock.  In 2016 Rik released RES 9, a new rock album with his new band RESolution 9.

RES 9 is in fact a time machine.  Dial up track 1.  You will be transported back to 1990 with the rock boogie of “Stand Still”.  This is a spiritual sequel to “Drive Time” from Rik’s first solo album Absolutely.  Then punch track 2.  “Human Race” (not a Red Rider cover) could have been a single from 1986’s The Sport of Kings.  With Alex Lifeson guesting on guitar, Rik and the band tapped into the hookiness of 80’s Triumph, but with a modern integrity.  When you hit up track 3, you will find yourself in the future.  Accompanied by fellow Canadian James LaBrie (Dream Theater), Rik turns in a modern rock anthem with “I Sing”.  Big and uplifting choruses preceded by mellow verses are built for radio.  LaBrie’s vocals are the perfect compliment.  Without a shred of hyperbole, “I Sing” is absolutely one of the best songs Rik’s ever recorded.

The bluesy soul ballad “My Cathedral” gives Rik a chance to show off his impeccable chops.  His tone — unbelievable!  Moving on to “The Ghost of Shadow Town” effectively dials up 1976 in the time machine, with a dark heavy Zepp-ish blues.  “When You Were My Baby” continues down smoove blues street, throwing in some jazz licks.  “Sweet Tooth” is turn down a brightly lit side avenue, a sweet treat indeed.

A hard Triumph-like vibe permeates “Heads Up”, another fine hard rocker for the radio.  “Rest of My Life” adds the jangle of acoustic guitars to the rock and roll mixture, creating another fine concoction just begging to be a hit.  Things toughen up with the pure rock power of “End of the Line”, featuring the returns of LaBrie and Lifeson.  The sheer star power of all these Canucks in one studio must have driven the temperatures well below freezing.  Still the track smokes, and if you’ve ever wanted to hear Emmett and Lifeson go head to head, then wish no more.

But it is not the end of the line.  Back to the future, we have a bonafide Triumph reunion featuring the full trio of Emmett, Gil Moore and Mike Levine.  This long awaited reunion happens on the bonus track “Grand Parade”.  The genuine surprise here is that it’s not a hard old time hard rocker, but a thoughtful and musically deep blues ballad.  It strikes me as appropriate that this much anticipated track sounds nothing like old Triumph.  That was, after all, a long time ago.

With RES 9, Rik has re-established his rock credentials.  Whether he does another album like this is beside the point.  RES 9 is the point; a damn fine album indeed.

4.5/5 stars

 

#536: Obligatory Christmas Post 2016

This Christmas has been tinged with sadness.  Rick Parfitt, George Michael…and a man you haven’t heard of named Peter Cavan Sr.  I grew up with his son Peter Cavan Jr.  Pete was the best man at my wedding, and his dad Peter Sr. always treated me well.  The Cavans made me feel like part of the family.  In my first year of university, I decided to stay home from the cottage on Thanksgiving weekend, so I could study for my first exam undistracted.  Alone that Thanksgiving, Pete’s family had me over for dinner.  I’ll never forget their kindness.  I always enjoyed Peter Sr.’s stories, of growing up in Germany during the Second World War.  Those are tales you don’t hear every day.  And he was funny.  Peter Sr. was truly funny.  Whether intentionally or not, I knew his stories entertained us for many hours over the years.  I received the sad message on Christmas morning that Peter Sr. passed after a short battle with cancer, peacefully at home that morning.

So it is with profound sadness that I give you this year’s annual post-Christmas commentary.  My entire family knows and loves the Cavans, and we hope Pete and Joanne know we are there for them.


As it does every year, Christmas began early for me, at our office Christmas luncheon on November 25.  Just look at that food.  When you like the people you work with, an office Christmas party is a very rare and special chance to unwind with them.

My sister hosted Christmas Eve at her new place.  What a spread she put out!  Cheesey good appetizers, steak fondue, cheese fondue (the surprise winner), and chocolate fondue to boot.  The guests had a spirited debate on the merits of CD versus vinyl, with myself being the only holdout who still prefers CD.  (I know I’m not alone, just ask rock journalist Mitch Lafon which format he prefers.)  My sister did a great job of decorating her tree.  Have a gander.

And now, on to the good stuff.  Broken down into categories, let’s give’r!

Stuff You Listen To:

I have only played the Rik Emmett so far, given to me by Mrs. LeBrain who met Rik back in highschool as part of her guitar class.  Pretty cool!  It features a Triumph reunion on the bonus track, “Grand Parade”.  The Queen set is six discs of radio recordings.  The Rush set I am both grateful for and bitter about.  This is the third time I’ve received Rush 2112 as a gift in the last five years!  First as part of the Sector 1 box set, then the “deluxe edition“, and now this 40th anniversary edition which has some tracks not included on the deluxe (and a slew of artists covering Rush including Jacob Moon, Alice in Chains and Foo Fighters).  However, the 40th anniversary edition doesn’t include the 5.1 surround mix of the album, meaning…you kinda need both.  It’s sad that Rush reissues have become so exploitive.

The Keel reissue of The Right to Rock has a bonus track, a remix of “Easier Said Than Done”.  And this is my first time owning any version of Jethro Tull’s first album, This Was.

Stuff You Read:

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Stuff You Play With:

The Force Is With This Stuff:

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Stuff You Watch:

The Sopranos set I orchestrated myself.  Sometimes-contributor Thussy and I both always said:  “If the blu-ray set drops below $100, we’ll buy it.”  A few weeks ago he texted me that Amazon has it on for 24 hours only at just $80!  So this Christmas holiday, we will be enjoying some Sopranos and Italian food.

Stuff That Transforms From Stuff Into Robots:

Pictured below are the official Transformers Titans Return Astrotrain figure and a couple very interesting third party figs.  These are Masterpiece scale and heavy as fuck with plenty of die-cast parts.  Please meet Generation 1 Decepticon Reflector, incarnated here as KFC’s Eavi Metal series “Opticlones”.  Representing the Autobots is Dinobot Snarl, produced by the excellent Fans Toys in their Iron Dibots line as “Sever”.  I long ran out of room for more Masterpiece figures (especially Dinobots)…but who cares.

And finally…

Stuff That Flies:

I always wanted to try flying a drone.  My mom and dad surprised me with this starter drone, and is it ever a lot of fun.  I can almost get it to hover!  Getting it to fly in the direction I want is still a challenge.  So far there are no serious injuries.  Jen has a couple bruises.  I think my mistake was calling her into the room when I got it into the air, rather than when I figured out how the controls worked.  That was a lesson there.

 

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That’s another Christmas for the books!  I hope each and every one of you had a safe and happy holiday.  As I think of my friends the Cavan family, I ask you to remember that life is short.  Tell the people who matter that you love them.  Let’s try and make the world a better place in 2017.

LeBrain

REVIEW: Triumph – Edge of Excess (1992)

Bought in Taranna at Kops for $2.50!


 

Scan_20160102TRIUMPH – Edge of Excess (1992 Virgin)

When Triumph split in ’87, Rik Emmett went off in a pop direction leaving his two bandmates with no singer/guitar player, and without their most recognizable member.  As bassist Mike Levine said in M.E.A.T Magazine, “We couldn’t just be Duo-umph”.  Since Triumph always had two lead singers in Rik Emmett and drummer Gil Moore, this time Gil simply stepped up and sang everything.  Then they needed a guitar player.  Gil and Mike Levine wrote and recorded most of Edge of Excess with Mladen Zarron in Toronto, before hiring ex-Frozen Ghost (current Bon Jovi) shredder Phil X.  Five years after the split, the new Triumph emerged with a heavier and darker album, Edge of Excess.

Triumph boldly opened the album with a whole minute of nothing but bluesy guitar noise.  If there was a stronger way to say “We don’t need Rik,” I don’t know what that would be.  This guitar noise serves as an intro to the first Triumph song without Emmett, “Child of the City”, a harder edged Triumph song with the same kind of hooks.  It’s hard to determine who is playing lead guitar, Mladen or Phil X, but rest assured that whoever it is has laid waste to the land.  Rik Emmett wasn’t just a shredder, but a talented player who composed his solos with class and ability.  Mladen and Phil have done the same, but without emulating Rik.  (Phil’s going to have his work cut out for him in Bon Jovi, though.)

The rip-roaring “Troublemaker”, easily the fastest and heaviest Triumph track to date, was featured on the soundtrack to Hellraiser III, and it’s easy to see why.  It’s as close to speed metal as Triumph have been, and I shouldn’t need to tell you that again the solos shred.  Who’s playing?  Fucked if I know, there are three guys credited on the song.  The song is actually very close to high-octane Whitesnake and it would be easy to imagine Coverdale’s crew doing it.

Lest you think that ballads were a thing of Triumph’s past, “It’s Over” has a country & western feel. Unfortunately of the two singers, Moore had the less commercial voice.  This is where Gil’s voice reveals its limitations.  On backing vocals, some big names are on hand such as Fred Coury of Cinderella and Steve DeMarchi of Sheriff, to help beef up the big chorus.  It’s not enough to make a memorable song.  They cook up some groove on the title track, tapping the vein of Van Hagar.  But without Rik Emmett, Triumph lost part of what made their unique sound.  On Edge of Excess it’s too easy to compare them to contemporaries.  “Turn My Back on Love” is better, occupying a dirty mid-tempo groove, and with Phil X handling all the guitars himself.  The big chorus is the closest thing to old Triumph on the album.

That’s the side; the second one opens with “Ridin’ High Again”, a sleezy rocker that sounds like Don Dokken emigrating to Canada.  Phil X really can shred though, and anyone who’s curious what he can do should check it out.  I don’t think Phil will be able to play to his strengths in his new band, so give this a listen and hear the guy blaze like Vai meets Van Halen.  “Black Sheep” starts as a total surprise; a blues right in the middle of the album.  No drums, just claps.  Sadly instead of sticking with this, it transforms into a stock hard rocker.  “Boy’s Nite Out” has a grammatically incorrect title:  The lyrics are clear that it is not a boy’s night out, but “the boys”, plural.  It should therefore be called “Boys’ Nite Out”.  Here I am bitching about the grammar and not the word “Nite”…anyway, back to the song.  Standard rocker.  Plenty of great shreds, but this album is far too burdened by generic rockers.  Rik Emmett used to bring a variety of influences to the table, and their albums with him may have had their weaknesses, but they were more diverse than Edge of Excess.  Without enough identity, Triumph forged a batch of largely forgettable bluesy hard rock songs.  Lots of crunch, not enough stick-to-your-brain hooks.

Fortunately the classy power ballad “Somewhere Tonight” helps wind things up properly.  Identity is still a problem, but at least this is a break in the rut the album had been in.  Right back into the rut for “Love in a Minute”, the last in a batch of heavily generic rock songs that sound like about a dozen bands…none of them Triumph.

Like any fan, I was pleased that Triumph kept going despite such a huge setback as losing your main guy.  Unfortunately the album they produced in ’92 was not up to par, and I guess that’s why it took me 23 years to finally buy it!  A couple good songs early in the album, but not much more.

2.5/5 stars

#398: New Rock, Old Rock

RECORD STORE TALES MkII: Getting More Tale
#398: New Rock, Old Rock

A selection of songs I’ve been rocking out to on the radio lately, for your consideration and perusal.

ROYAL BLOOD – “Figure It Out”
It seems that bass/drums duos are all the rage. I like this awesome, aggressive groove from the English duo of Royal Blood. Just slammin’! Proof that you don’t need more than two people to make good heavy rock!

DEATH FROM ABOVE 1979 – “Trainwreck 1979”
Having ignored these two Canadian guys for years, I have recently become infatuated with “Trainwreck 1979”. I could do without the piano touches and the “woo ooo ooo’s” but it’s hard to deny that this is a slamming song living up to its name. Well done, Death From Above 1979.

THE TREWS – “New King”
This aggressive riff-based song combines three elements I love about the Trews – guitar hooks, memorable melodies, and a great singer. Bonus points for cool lyrics like, “A bitter hipster hick, Can’t stop talking shit, The F’N idiot, Don’t know when to quit.”

DANKO JONES – “Do You Wanna Rock”
No surprises here! Danko Jones = Danko Jones = Danko Jones, but it’s always nice to hear a new track. This one’s pretty simple — it’s about rocking! More cowbell!

I MOTHER EARTH – “The Devil’s Engine”
Different from anything I’ve heard this band do before, “The Devil’s Engine” combines traditional IME percussion with metallic riffs and licks. With the prior single “We Got the Love” out in 2012, it would be nice to get a new album by I Mother Earth.

THE PRETTY RECKLESS – “Follow Me Down”
I haven’t been a fan of the Pretty Reckless. Until now I’ve found their music to be tiredly generic. This track, however, kicks it! Taylor Momsen’s turned herself into a metal howler, in her natural environment. Her songs can get repetitive but I’m not bored with this one yet.

I’ve also recently rediscovered some of these tracks that I knew very well, but have been dusted off on the radio recently.

AC/DC – “Rock the Blues Away”
I’m glad that after “Play Ball” and “Rock Or Bust”, this excellent AC/DC track has been chosen as the newest single from AC/DC’s latest. It’s absolutely a favourite of mine! Great choice for a single.

NEIL YOUNG – “Downtown”
I’m pleasantly reminded of this collaboration between Uncle Neil and Pearl Jam, showcasing their kickass new drummer Jack Irons. A great, simple little rock tune.

TRIUMPH – “Lay It on the Line”
This is undeniably a Canadian classic of double-necked guitar majesty. I noticed that the version getting airplay today is the beefier remixed version, from Greatest Hits Remixed. (I was the only listener that noticed, I know because I wrote in to ask about it!)

WTF Comments: Everyone’s a Critic edition

MUPPET-CRITICS

WTF Comments II: Everyone’s a Critic edition

Jeez, everyone’s a critic these days! Even critics have critics! Welcome to another installment of WTF Comments. This time I collected comments from readers who had a bone (or two, or three) to pick with my reviews!  I realize that sometimes my reviews can be a bit acerbic, but I calls ’em like I sees ’em.  Sometimes I can be a bit harsh, but it’s all in fun.  It serves me right to have some critics of my own take some shots at me! First up, Bryan did not like my 3.5/5 (70%) review for the Rival Sons. Bryan’s comment was lengthy so I took the liberty of highlighting the parts I like best!

your gimmicky comment is idiotic. They record with real vintage gear because they are trying to create that vibe not for one song, but that’s who they are and frankly I’m glad. So much of what is out now is 150 tracks of productions and tricks that cater to the ADD society who needs a new sound effect coming at them every 10 seconds to keep their attention. Just enjoy the fact that these are guys are setting up a few mics into some of the best gear studios can pull out of the closet and they deliver great songs that they can actually reproduce live with backing tracks…hey, there’s a concept. If you can appreciate that you shouldn’t be reviewing music…you know..music???

also, STOP comparing them to Led Zeppelin just because the drums are open mic’d and there’s space. Go back and read the reviews when Zep was playing…the critics killed them…but somehow now their the greatest thing ever. Have you ever hear them live? I love Zep but Jay Buchanan can hit EVERY note on the album live, Plant couldn’t do that a lot of the time. But I don’t even compare the two, just enjoy the band without having to pigeon hole them. Basically your saying here’s this band, but we don’t really validate them because I heard something similar before. The album has potential…Geez.. the album kicks ass so just get past yourself and get on board. How about this for a review…”Hey everyone, in this day and age of laptops and samples, finally a band just plugs in and records to tape and here it is…enjoy some great rock with soul and vibe and enjoy these guys laying it out there while not pitch correcting and time aligning everything. AND, when you see them live they’ll sound like what you heard on your iPod, how refreshing. Rival Sons should be applauded and you should buy the CD”.

:-)

Thanks, Bryan!  I always thought being compared to the mighty Zeppelin was quite a compliment, myself. Then there’s Dave.  Dave also does not think much of my writing skills, in regards to Triumph’s 1986 turd The Sport of Kings:

This article is pretty lame. Please do some research before you post stuff like this. Triumph had issue with the producer Ron Nevison. He wanted them to have a hit single and he was trying to craft the songs to be radio friendly. The band had been pretty much cranking out an album a year for the whole decade and touring in between and the record company was demanding more. The band was spent! Some of the songs aren’t as strong as previous outings, but it sounds like you were never much of a fan in the first place. Never be embarrassed about the music you like…whether it’s Triumph, Kenny G or Michael Jackson. I like what I like and i don’t care what anyone else thinks!

Somebody needs to tell Dave that you don’t have to be “much of a fan” to write a music review!

Then lastly, there’s scm.  He or she isn’t a person of many words, but smc didn’t think too much of my Man of Steel movie review.

You continue writing articles about what great screen writers & film makers bring son. Man of Steel 4.5/5.

For the record: I am not scm’s son!  Hope you enjoyed these comments.