twisted sister

REVIEW: Twisted Sister – Come Out and Play (1985)

“Twisted Sister…come out and play!”  Happy anniversary to Come Out and Play released on this day 34 years ago.

 

TWISTED SISTER – Come Out and Play (1985 Atlantic LP & Spitfire CD remaster)

What was a band at the proverbial crossroads to do? Continue along the commercial path of the 3 million copy selling Stay Hungry?  Or revert to the tried and true heavy-as-an-SMF sound of yore?

There was only one dissenting vote.  Bassist Mark “The Animal” Mendoza felt that putting “Leader of the Pack” on the new album was a mistake.  The other four voted “yes” but some grew to regret it.  Both Dee Snider and J.J. French have since realized the error of their ways.  Today, Come Out and Play is acknowledged as the beginning of the end, though it has its fans and some sturdy tracks to support it.

Twisted Sister recruited Scorpions producer Dieter Dierks and enlisted high profile guest stars like Alice Cooper, Billy Joel, Brian Setzer and Clarence Clemons.  They were top-loaded onto a old-time rock and roller called “Be Chrool to Your Scuel”, and the gamble backfired immediately when MTV banned the music video for its zombies and ghouls.  It’s an interesting track at least.  You don’t hear a sax solo on a Twisted Sister song every day, nor the kind of plucking that Brian Setzer deals in.

“Leader of the Pack” was a failure as well, actually a re-recording of a track that debuted on the Ruff Cuts EP.  The video (starring the then-hot Bobcat Golthwaite) further painted Twisted Sister as a novelty band.

Tensions, especially between Mendoza and Snider, were amplified.  The songs that sound like they were meant to be “hits” fall far short.  The impression you get from “You Want What We Got” is that it was intended to be a specific kind of hit.  Unfortunately it’s just a repetitive anthem.  “Lookin’ Out for #1” is similarly filler, a song that never quite clicks.

Some tracks maintained a heavy rock presence. They include the anthem “I Believe In Rock and Roll”.  It’s a manifesto for the PMRC generation; a decent attempt that just misses the mark.  “Come Out and Play” features A.J. Pero nailing down a speedy beat, but the production of Dierks neutered the powerful drummer.  Dierks introduced keyboards to some of the tracks, watering them down needlessly.  “The Fire Still Burns” works better than some of the other songs, and despite the production you can hear A.J. is just crushing the kit.  If the backing vocals sound unusually lush, that’s Don Dokken and Gary Holland.  “Out on the Streets” trades the speed in for plaintive melodies, and is the better for it.  Finally “Kill or Be Killed” does what it promises.  Unbelievable that A.J. could play at such a relentless velocity, but he was an absolute beast.

Strangely, some of the best tracks are the ballads.  Dark ballads.  Ballads of depression, of loneliness, of alienation.  “I Believe in You” is the first of two, bolstered by strong melodies and Dee Snider’s enviable pipes.  The one that impresses the most is the CD and cassette bonus track “King of the Fools”.  Although “Kill or Be Killed” ends the album just fine, this coda adds some substance.  Sounding like a man destroyed, Dee sings the melancholy lyrics.

What kind of kingdom has no throne?
No crown or castle do I own,
I don’t have silver gold or jewels,
Yet I’m the king, king of the fools.

It’s surprisingly thoughtful songwriting, complimenting the mournful melodies.  Yet there is a defiant, powerful streak in the choruses.

King of the fools,
Who are these people to cast stones?
King of the fools,
Better a fool than just a clone.

Dee Snider has always resonated with the underdogs, the bullied, the downtrodden.  “King of the Fools” might be the most honest of all those songs.  Some regal guitar melodies by J.J. French and Eddie “Fingers” Ojeda show that they were picking up what Dee was laying down.

Here’s the catch though.  If you’re buying this album, you need “King of the Fools”.  To get it, you’ll want the CD.  But Come Out and Play might be most notable for the album cover you can only get on vinyl.  Open up that manhole cover and out pops Dee Snider in all his…all his…rags.

Heeere’s Dee!

Do what I did.  Get CD and LP, just for the cover.  Everybody needs a pop-up Dee Snider.

2.5/5 stars

REVIEW: Twisted Sister – Big Hits and Nasty Cuts (1992)

TWISTED SISTER – Big Hits and Nasty Cuts (1992 Atlantic – Canadian CD)

When Twisted Sister split at the end of 1987, they went rather quietly into that goodnight.  No big magazine articles, no solo projects incoming, not until 1992 when Dee Snider finally re-emerged with his new band Widowmaker.  It was a quiet five years, broken only by the low key release of Twisted Sister’s first “greatest hits” compilation in March of that year.

Big Hits and Nasty Cuts was a compilation that both fans and band deserved.  No careless cash grabs here.  In 1992 it’s doubtful that Atlantic thought they’d be making much money off “I Wanna Rock”, one of the biggest cheerleaders of the obsolete generation.  While Kurt Cobain cashed his biggest royalty cheque yet, J.J. French was writing the liner notes for this CD.  (Mark “The Animal” Mendoza did the remastering with Ted Jensen.)

For the era, Big Hits and Nasty Cuts was one of the most fan-friendly, value-intensive CDs on the market.  Even better for American fans, this time they got the bonus track!  The album was split into two sides — the hits and the “nasty cuts”, all rare B-sides recorded at the Marquee club in England.  Fortunately the entire show has since been issued by Rhino, but in 1992, very few fans had the original 12″ singles these songs were sourced from.  Another rarity included was Twisted’s first single, “I’ll Never Grow Up, Now!”  These were first releases for the CD format!  Good thing too, because “I’ll Never Grow Up, Now!” is indelible as any of the hits.

The hits portion of the album isn’t quite predictable.  Would you have expected the heavy metal uppercut “Under the Blade”?  Or the raw “Shoot ‘Em Down”?  Here they are, and thanks to the liner notes, you can find out why.  (Oh fine, we’ll spoil one.  “Under the Blade” was included because it’s been played at every Twisted show since it was written.)  The three biggest hits are present and accounted for.  “I Wanna Rock” and “We’re Not Gonna Take It” would be the two hits that everyone knows, and “The Price” is runner-up.

Also present:  “I Am, I’m Me” and “The Kids Are Back” demonstrate Dee’s early knack for melodic songwriting, very punk-like in its simplicity especially when coupled with Twisted’s 4/4 rock.  “You Can’t Stop Rock and Roll” also had to be here.  Perhaps it’s Twisted’s best metal anthem.  Finally “Be Chrool to Your Scuel” featuring Alice Cooper ends the hits side with the last one chronologically.  (“Bad Boys of Rock and Roll” on the US version.)  There’s no “Leader of the Pack” and no “Hot Love”.  All hail the classic lineup:  Dee Snider – lead vocals.  J.J. French – guitar.  Eddie “Fingers” Ojeda – guitar.  Mark “The Animal” Mendoza – bass.  The late, underappreciated A.J. Pero – drums.  The lineup that set MTV on fire relied on catchy videos, yes, but the songs have survived equally well.

The nasty cuts may just be too heavy for the average listener.  Recorded to 2-track tape, there’s no fixing the mixes here.  The lengthy start to “What You Don’t Know (Sure Can Hurt You)” includes Lemmy’s intro and plenty of noise. There is no overlap with any other songs on the CD.  “Destroyer” grinds so hard it’s almost a parody of itself.  “Tear It Loose” is out-of-control fast, blowing away the album version.  The US got “Run For Your Life” right after “Tear It Loose”, another fast rendition once it kicks in.  (In Canada, “Run For Your Life” was only on cassette.)  The cover tunes “It’s Only Rock ‘N’ Roll” and “Let the Good Times Roll/Feel So Fine” include plenty of crowd interplay.  Just the thing to turn off Joe Average Listener, but amazing to hear the energy of the band and audience that night.

The live cuts really highlight, with 20/20 hindsight anyway, the power of A.J. Pero.  The guy could really kill a drum kit, and his timekeeping is the cornerstone of what made Twisted Sister heavy.

Don’t buy this CD if you’re looking for a party CD.  Buy it because you’re intrigued and want to learn more about a band who doesn’t get enough credit for being one of the world’s most dangerous.  Buy it to check out the rarities and get a taste of what those in the know had in their collections back in 1983.  Buy it because you’re going to get liner notes and photos of band members you never even heard of before.  Buy it because this is a great compilation, done with loving care and value.

5/5 stars

#785: Seasons End (Oh Deer) + BONUS Nutshell Review: El Camino – A Breaking Bad Movie

A sequel to #774.5: Seasons Ends. Buckle up, it’s a busy one!

 

GETTING MORE TALE #875: Seasons End (Oh Deer)
+ BONUS Nutshell Review: El Camino – A Breaking Bad Movie
+ BONUS Star Wars – The Black Series 6″ figures “Abandoned” Video Reviews

“Be careful of the deer problem,” said my dad when I phoned him from Lucknow, about 20 or 30 minutes away from the cottage.

“Don’t worry, I’ll drive safe,” I reassured him in that voice that hardly reassured him.

“You know about the deer problem?” he asked to confirm.

No, but now I did.  Funny thing; I’d been driving up to the lake by myself for over 20 years and never came close to hitting a deer.  There are warning signs along all the major roads, some with flashing yellow lights.  Turns out Thanksgiving 2019 was my first on-the-road deer sighting.

It got dark quick after Lucknow, and soon it was like pitch.  I had been driving slower since the sun went down but it was Jen who saw the deer first.  I slowed down carefully until he jumped away unto the brush.  The guy behind me wasn’t paying attention and almost rear-ended me.

It’s so strange to review the dashcam footage afterwards. What felt like an eternal moment of tense surprise was really only seven seconds.*


Until that moment, we were wrapped deep in Iron Maiden.  I played the first album, with Paul Di’Anno, and the bonus tracks for the full-on experience.  This was music I’d been listening to for 35 years and under the weight of all that nostalgia, I immediately began singing along.  I remember “Charlotte the Harlot” coming up just as we were detouring past a town called Dorking.  I don’t know about you, but I think that’s funny.  Once completed, we switched over to Piece of Mind.  That’s the Maiden studio album that I have the longest deep relationship with.  Every word was dancing on my tongue, even “Revelations”.  But then again, I remember having that song memorised back in highschool.  My friend Andy and I sang it back to a rap kid named Patrick Barnes who claimed that metal lyrics are just unintelligible noise and nonsense.

All this Maiden reminiscence led to the writing of a new future chapter of Getting More Tale called “Run 2 the Hills”, a direct sequel to Record Store Tales Part 1.  Look for that one in the near future.

We had the near miss with the deer after both albums were complete, and I’d started on random tunes from Powerslave.  “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” was  the song playing when Bambi was spared by some good driving.

Upon arrival, I had get my Netflix fired up to watch El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie.  Nutshell review:


EL CAMINO: A Breaking Bad Movie (2019 Netflix)

I didn’t think I cared where Jesse Pinkman went at the end of Breaking Bad.  Turns out, I cared enough to watch this well-written coda to a great TV series.  Aaron Paul rules, equipped with very little dialogue and only his body language.  Paul gives us a hard insight to the PTSD-infested survivor Pinkman.  Every cameo you desire is in store via relevant flashbacks, fleshing out the original series a little bit.  After a while, you, like Pinkman, are disoriented and can’t remember if you’re watching past or present.

4/5 stars


It was a little freaky when I finished the film, went on Twitter, and saw Bryan Cranston announced that Robert Forster had died, just after I watched his final film.

In the morning I wrote up the rough draft of my new Maiden chapter while it was all fresh in my head, but I otherwise accomplished very little, creatively speaking.

I tried, I really did try.  When mom & dad stepped out of the house for a few minutes I thought I could squeeze in time for a Star Wars Black Series video review.  You’ll see what happened.  Something like this occurred any time I attempted to make a video.  So what you see is what you get; I gave up!


Abandoned Reviews

For entertainment use only.  Back off, fanboys!


Instead of using my creative juices for this one final weekend of the lake this season, I decided to pour it into cooking instead.  I picked up three beautiful steaks and a pound of lobster tail. I made some garlic butter, clarified it, and put the tail on the grill.  Everything was phenomenal.  I felt like we ended the season right with these meals.

There was the traditional turkey dinner the following night too, stuffed with goodness, but I feel the lobster tail and the steaks really put a cap on the season.

The drive home was enabled by Twisted Sister’s Live at the Marquee and The Razors Edge by AC/DC.  I don’t know how often I’ve played The Razors Edge in the car since it came out before I could drive.  Could this have been the first time?  I liked it better in the car than I do sitting at home.  As for Twisted Sister, Live at the Marquee is by far their greatest live product.  The raw heavy stage purity can’t be touched.

And now we are home, preparing for the arrival of winter routines and monotony.  Hibernation begins.  But spring will return again, and with it, so will the roadtrips, the steaks, and the sun.

Stay warm, my friends!

 

* It was just a young deer  When you start having more frequent animal sightings in cottage country like this, it means they are being displaced from somewhere else.  There has been a lot of building and development this year.

VHS Archives #39: Dee Snider says “Don’t drink and drive!” (1984)

This public service announcement from Twisted Sister frontman Dee Snider mostly likely aired on an episode of Toronto Rocks’ Midweek Metal Mania show, the prototype for the Power Hour. It’s probably from 1984 or 85. I don’t know its exact origin because this comes from one of the “Balasz Tapes” — stuff originally recorded by next door neighbour George and then taped by me in one of our childhood recording sessions.

It’s lower quality because it’s a tape of a tape, but I think it’s still pretty cool.

 

VHS Archives #2: Hear N’ Aid Special – Pepsi Power Hour (1986)

The one VHS tape I’m working on currently spans a period of recordings from about July 1986 to September 1987. This Hear N’ Aid special features a MuchMusic interview conducted by J.D. (John) Roberts. There’s lots of exclusive information in this valuable video, including a tidbit on bands who refused to be in the same project as Spinal Tap!

#721: Christmas Mix 2010

GETTING MORE TALE #721: Christmas Mix 2010

Making mix CDs was a lot of fun (and work).  I used to make custom Christmas discs that didn’t suck, for my family and friends every year.  Why did I stop?  I ran out of good Christmas songs.  Let’s face it:  unless you’re one of “those” people, Christmas music is nails on a chalkboard.  You can only take so much.  If you’ve worked retail in the past (or present), you probably can’t take any at all!

2010’s Christmas CD is a good example of what I used to make.  You’ll notice there’s no Trans-Siberian Orchestra on there.  I used up all their best stuff on the previous instalments.  I tried to avoid duplicating songs from previous years although Hawksley Workman’s Christmas album is so good that I made exceptions for him.  Hawkley’s Almost A Full Moon is the best Christmas CD that I own, and probably the best one I’ve heard.  I bought it twice.  He reissued the album after only a year with two extra songs!  I forgave him, because Almost A Full Moon is so warm and perfect.

What do you think of the Christmas 2010 CD?  Would you have wanted a copy that year?

1. Bill Ward – “Twas the Night Before Christmas”.  Yes, that Bill Ward!  The Black Sabbath drummer did a spoken word recording of the classic Christmas poem, and I opened the CD with it.  I can tell you that when we played the CD at dinner time, this track was a failure.  Nobody paid attention.

2. Kathryn Ladano – “Jingle Bells”.  I got their attention back by putting on a track by my sister.  This instrumental version on bass clarinet is from her CD The Christmas Album.  Of note, her Schnauzer Ali is credited for barks on “Jingle Bells”!

3. Lemmy, Dave Grohl, Billy F. Gibbons – “Run Rudolph Run”.  This breakneck Christmas carol is done in the Motorhead style.  I played it in the car for sis.  “This is shit!” she proclaimed.  “Why do these guys get to put out albums and not me?”

4. Marillion – “Let It Snow”.  This drunken favourite is from 2007’s Somewhere Elf.  The spirit is intoxicating, as I’m sure they were!

Found some booze in a flight case,
And I’m afraid that we’re all shit-faced,
So I guess that we’ll have to go,
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

5. David Bowie and Bing Crosby – “Little Drummer Boy / Peace on Earth”.  This is the David Bowie song that your grandma likes.  It’s just lovely.  I didn’t own anything with this song on it, so I had to download.  That’s why it didn’t appear until 2010!

6. Helix – “Happy Christmas (War is Over)”.  Yes, it rocks, but not too hard!  Helix covered Lennon for their Heavy Metal Christmas.  Singer Brian Vollmer is trained in the Bel Canto technique and he’s more than capable of singing songs for your Christmas dinner in mind.

7. Extreme – “Christmas Time Again”.  My mom always liked Extreme, or “Nick Strean” as she thought they were called.  This isn’t the greatest Christmas song in the world, but it doesn’t suck.

8. Hawskley Workman – “3 Generations”.  Told you there would be some Hawksley.  This touching song is about three generations of women in the kitchen making Christmas dinner together.

9. Elvis Presley – “Blue Christmas”.  I must have downloaded this one too.  I am a bit of a sucker for Elvis.  I included Joe Perry’s instrumental version on a previous CD.

10. The Beatles – “Christmas Time is Here Again”.  Not one of their best songs, but it’s the Beatles so it had to be included eventually.  This version comes from the 1995 CD single for “Free As a Bird”.  Relatively few have heard it, and I thought that would get people’s ears perked up, but by this time, the wine was out….

11. Steve Vai – “Christmas Time is Here”.  This is from the first Merry Axemas.  It’s a lovely track and not too shreddy.  Remember this song from the Charlie Brown Christmas special?  Steve does it on guitar, of course!

12. Jethro Tull – “God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman”.  This funky flute version will get the toes tappin’.  Hard to believe that this is from Tull’s final studio album in 2003, The Jethro Tull Christmas Album!  It would have been nice to get one more, but Tull’s Christmas Album is a good one to have around.  If you need to tolerate Christmas music, you may as well listen to Tull jamming it out.

13. Brian Vollmer – “The First Noel”.  Helix’s Vollmer put out a rare charity album in 2005 called Raising the Roof on Mary Immaculate.  “The First Noel” is one of the best tracks.  Vollmer is the first artist to get two appearances on my CD.

14. Ted Nugent – “Deck the Halls”.  Much like “Run Rudolph Run”, this one smokes!  It’s a guitar instrumental at full speed.  Grandma didn’t like this one.

15. Twisted Sister – “O Come All Ye Faithful”.  I really don’t like the Twisted Christmas album.  This song was a hit though, and since it’s virtually identical to “We’re Not Gonna Take It”, I can…errr…take it.

16. Cheap Trick – “Come On Christmas”.  My sister was a huge Cheap Trick fan at one point.  She had this song before I did.  Essentially just a Cheap Trick pop rocker with Christmas lyrics.  Sounds like classic Cheap Trick to me.

17. AC/DC – “Mistress For Christmas”.  I put this song on as the joke it is.  I like to remind people that AC/DC did have a Christmas song.  “Jingle bells, Jingle bells, jingle all the day.  I can’t wait to Christmas time, when I roll you in the hay.”  Hey, it counts.

18. The Darkness – “Christmas Time (Don’t Let the Bells End)“.  In my review, I said, “Even though the guitars are thicker than a good ol’ bowl of Thin Lizzy pudding, there is no mistaking this for anything but a Christmas song.   It is a joyous rock re-imagining of a Christmas carol, with the unmistakable Justin Hawkins falsetto.”  Plus, sis likes The Darkness.

19. Jon Bon Jovi – “Please Come Home for Christmas”.  I like this one.  Fuck off.

20. Jimi Hendrix – “Little Drummer Boy/Silent Night/Auld Lang Syne”.  From an EP called Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.  Jimi and band jammed out some impressive licks but the dinner party didn’t enjoy.

21. Jim Cuddy – “New Year’s Eve”.  Cuddy’s solo debut All In Time is tremendous CD and comes highly recommended by this guy right here.  It’s like listening to a Blue Rodeo album, but only the Jim songs.  The sentimental “New Year’s Eve” is a lovely ballad that fits right in with the Christmas theme.

22. Bob & Doug McKenzie – “The Twelve Days of Christmas”.  You gotta end with a classic.  From 1981’s The Great White North comes the big Christmas hit.  We used to hear this every single year on my mom’s old clock radio.  We’d squeal with laughter trying to sing along.  “A beer…in a tree…”

 

How would you rate this one?  Trying to avoid overlap was previous instalments was my Achilles’ heel.  I’d swap out a lot of the lesser songs for better ones, but it’s not bad.  It’s listenable.  It’ll do.

3/5 stars

 

 

#648: “The Mall”

GETTING MORE TALE #648:  “The Mall”

For the first 23 or 24 years of my life, Stanley Park Mall was my epicenter. If I said “Mom, I’m going to the mall!” she knew where I meant. It wasn’t the biggest mall, and certainly not the best. But it was my mall.

This very typical mall, on Ottawa Street in Kitchener, opened in 1969. It was nothing special. There was nowhere to buy music, until it expanded with a Zellers store circa 1973. As small children, we weren’t interested in music yet. Instead it was Zellers’ toy section that had us enthralled.

In 1977 my mother took me to Stanley Park to look for a birthday present for a neighbor named John Schipper, older brother of my best friend Bob. “Look mom! The movie we just saw!” I exclaimed as I laid eyes on my first Star Wars figures. My mom bought C3P0 for John, and R2D2 for me, so we could play together. Little did she know what she got me into, by buying my first Star Wars figure at that Zellers store. But to be fair, who could have known?

The mall also had a bank, and my dad soon transferred there as its manager. I used to feel like such a big shot, strolling into my dad’s office. He’d let us sit at his desk and play with his calculator and telephone. I can even remember helping him with spelling on an internal memo!  Once, when my sister was sitting in his chair, she pushed the button for the silent alarm. “Hmmm, this doesn’t do anything,” she thought. After she left, the cops arrived in force to answer the alarm. My dad realised what happened too late!

With my dad working there, plus the Zellers store, it was our main destination for shopping or just being kids. It was walking distance from home. When I was old enough to cross streets by myself, my friends and I made regular trips on our bikes. The Little Short Stop store was our main hangout. We would buy candy, pop, chips, comic books, and Star Wars or Indiana Jones cards. I managed to get a full set of The Empire Strikes Back, and Raiders of the Lost Ark. I got them slowly, pack by pack, and by trading with friends. There was a neighbor who had the one Indiana Jones card I still needed called “I Hate Snakes”. A trade was made and I completed my set. I wish I knew what happened to all the doubles and triples of those cards.

When I was older, that Little Short Stop was my store for amassing a huge collection of rock and wrestling magazines. Hit Parader was my main title and I had a complete set of every issue from 1987-1990.

The mall was also right close to our grade school. Many of my friends would “cut through” the mall as a short cut to get home. One fellow, Chris, tells me he was sometimes chased around by mall security.  Naughty kid.

I remember there was a short-lived video store there. My dad refused to rent the Twisted Sister Stay Hungry video for me. He didn’t like the look of the “guy with the ham bone” on the front cover.

In 1987, something remarkable happened. Stanley Park Mall got its first actual record store: A&A Records and Tapes. Suddenly I had close access to all kinds of music, including 12” singles. I remember flipping through their Aerosmith and Europe singles, thinking “Woah, there are songs here I have never heard of.”

We still checked Zellers, but A&A became the place for us. In fact there were even A&A coupons on the back of every box of Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes. $1.00 off tapes! We sure cashed in a lot of A&A coupons that year. I loved checking out their front charts too. Vinyl was still happening, and the front chart was a big huge display of records. Much larger and more eye catching than a CD chart. I remember rejoicing when Judas Priest’s Ram It Down was on it.

I have clear memories of Bob Schipper and I walking to the mall in early April of 1988 to pick up a new release. Two copies of course; one for each of us. Iron Maiden’s Seventh Son of a Seventh Son was an album we had been looking forward to, and we both got it on that cold Saturday in April 1988.  (It took a while to adjust to the new Maiden sound, but Bob’s immediate favourite was “Infinite Dreams”.)

In 1989 I got my first real job, and it was at that very mall. The grocery store Zehrs was my first pay cheque. I cut my hair short for that job and was teased for it at school. Not only that, but suddenly I also needed glasses!  It was a pretty drastic image change.  But it was a cool work experience. Not only was I working at Zehrs with my best friend Bob, but my dad was still working in the mall too. All three of us in one place!

I was pretty loyal to A&A during those years at the mall, but in 1990 they went under. The last thing I ever bought at an A&A (though a different location) was a CD of Steve Vai’s Flex-Able and some blank tapes.

Yet every cloud has a silver lining. A former employee of A&A Records at our mall location decided to open a business of his own. Guess who he went to for the bank loan?  My dad!  Six months after A&A closed, he opened his own record store in that mall. The rest is history. The store that I now call “The Record Store” hired me on in July of 1994. And he’s still in business in 2018, albeit not in that mall anymore which suffered a slow and steady decline in the 90s.

There are no record stores in the mall anymore. Zellers went under, and Walmart took over. Their tiny little entertainment section is the only place to buy a CD. The bank is still there, and so is the grocery store, but my Little Short Shop is long gone. There isn’t much left. No Baskin Robbins, no 31 flavors.  Bargain shops and discount stores have replaced all the places I used to frequent as a kid. Sad, but not unexpected.

The strange thing is, as much as the mall has changed, I still get a huge shot of nostalgia when I walk into that Walmart that used to be my Zellers. Like a déjà vu, suddenly I am hit with the memory of finding a rare GI Joe, or flipping through Judas Priest tapes. The mall I knew from long ago is no longer the same, but the memory remains.

REVIEW: Twisted Sister – A Twisted Christmas (2006)

TWISTED SISTERA Twisted Christmas (2006 Razor & Tie)

One thing I love about Christmas time is the ability to knock out all these Christmas album reviews.  I can only listen to this stuff seasonally, and I wouldn’t subject you to it otherwise.  In my quest to Review Everything I Own and Then Some, we must occasionally delve into Christmas music.

Rock bands doing Christmas tunes is…well, I mean it worked out OK for Elvis, and then later on Twisted Sister and the guys from Trans-Siberian Orchestra.  Each of those artists had success with Christmas music for good reasons, but I think Twisted Sister’s was purely the novelty value of it.  The humour.  The nudge-nudge-jokey-ness of it.  It wasn’t that they made a Christmas album laden with integrity.  It’s a joke album as the intro implies.

The album commences with Dee & company singing a traditional acoustic version of “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”.  They are then interrupted by someone saying “This isn’t Twisted Sister!”  It then goes metal with a dash a punk.  “Ho ho ho!  Let’s go!”

The biggest joke is that, apparently, “We’re Not Gonna Take It” was always just “Oh Come All Ye Faithful” in disguise.  This was the big Christmas hit that put Twisted back in the spotlight, and it’s certainly the most enjoyable track on the CD.

Songs follow vague heavy metal blueprints.  “White Christmas” is imbued with an Iron Maiden gallop and a couple chords from “SMF”.  One thing is clear, and that is Dee Snider’s voice still has it.  The guy is a hell of a singer, period.  He’s joined by Lita Ford on “I’ll be Home for Christmas”, in the style of Twisted’s original epic ballad “The Price”.  Unfortunately this one stinks like Christmas cheese that should have been thrown out last year.  A shouty “Silver Bells” is done with a splash of AC/DC, but ends up sounding more like Poison.  Bassist/producer Mark “The Animal” Mendoza has a pretty kickass bass solo, though.

Judas Priest’s “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin'” is the foundation of “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus”, and it is at this point that you realise a whole album of this stuff is a bit too much.  “Let It Snow” is given the doomy treatment, as an amalgam with Black Sabbath’s “Children of the Grave”.  I suppose the doomy direction does go better with lines like “The weather outside is frightful”.  Maybe Dee & company are on to something here, but I’m not too sure about the Sabbathy version of “Deck the Halls” with echoes of “War Pigs” and “Never Say Die”.

“Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire” is a little dull, and “The Twelve Days of Christmas” is too long, as it often is.  The only version of “Twelve Days of Christmas” anyone needs for a novelty is Bob & Doug McKenzie’s classic.  That’ll make your party pop a lot better than Twisted’s version.

Let’s check some boxes.  Is this album:

  • Fun?  (sometimes)
  • Heavy?  
  • Twisted?  
  • Creative?  

All well and good.  But will you:

  • Listen to it more than once a year?  
  • Enjoy as much as something else you could have played instead?  
  • Be able to use more than one or two songs for your Christmas party?  
  • Ever really look forward to hearing it again?

It is good that A Twisted Christmas brought the band the kind of success they deserved, but it is truly a shame that it is the final Twisted studio album.  They were always considered a joke to the critics, they shouldn’t have gone out on vinyl as a joke.

2/5 stars

 

 

#508: The Weirdest CD that I Own

GETTING MORE TALE #508: The Weirdest CD that I Own

The size of my personal CD collection now has exceeded my ability to store it properly.  I count it not in the hundreds but the thousands, my best guess right now being about 3500 titles on CD.  As one would expect, with that many titles here, you’re going to find some odd ones.  In fact, for the second-last chapter of the original Record Store Tales, Mrs. LeBrain brought out 10 of her favourite weird finds in my collection.  She missed the strangest one of all.

Scan_20160731 (2)Promos Volume 6 – Don Buchwald & Associates Inc.

This CD was given to me by a short-lived employee named Damien.  Damien will forever be scorned in the annals of Record Store History, for he quit (to become a roadie for the summer) with zero days notice, on the day before my vacation.  And boy, did I get in shit for going on vacation anyway.  This was one more incident that caused my direct supervisor, the one I call the “office bully”, to stop speaking to me for three weeks straight.*  The punishment far outweighed (and outlasted) the crime.  Cut that shit out, act like a damned professional.

So I will always have memories surrounding this strange 2 CD set, Promos Volume 6 put out by a New York talent agency in the late 1990’s.  It’s a free promo that has 87 samples of various performers such as Joy Behar and Stockard Channing showing off their voice talents.  “Chevy Chase stars in Modern Problems, tonight on HBO!” says Behar.  “Jack Lemmon starring in five movies, all day on Cinemax.”  She has a bit for Comedy Central, and so on.  Each voice talent name on these discs (the majority of which you’ve never heard of) has roughly a minute of samples to show off their skills.

None, not even Joy Behar, have anything on Dee Snider of Twisted Sister.

“From a frenzy of emotion, to a frenzy of violence.  What happens when fans become fanatics?  It’s an athlete’s worst nightmare:  Being stalked by a fan whose devotion becomes obsession.  [gunshot sounds]  CNN presents:  Fans who turn the field of sports, into a field of screams.”

Wow.  Who writes this stuff?  I can all but guarantee that any one of my readers can come up with a better tagline than that paid CNN employee!  Snider delivers his lines with the sobriety necessary.  But that’s nothing.  Nothing at all, compared to Sexy Snider.

The scene is set with sweltering sax, to go with the velvet voice of Snider’s sultry seduction.

“Lifetime has what you’ve been waiting for.  Spend every night of the week with a different man.  We’re not talking boys here.  We’re talking men, who leave you breathless.  Richard Gere.  Tom Cruise.  Kevin Costner.  Sean Penn.  All this week, only on Lifetime.”

It’s great stuff and I’ve used it for filler at the end of mix CDs before, when I needed something less than a minute long to max it out.  What I really love is how Snider’s New York accent really comes out when he says “Sean Penn”.  Damien may have been a dick, but this one track 51 second in length has given me…many minutes…of enjoyment over the years.

The 2 CD set comes in a “fat style” case, taking up far too much room for its 51 seconds of dubious value.  I wouldn’t trade it away for all the specials on HBO and Lifetime combined…but I also don’t need Volumes 1-5!

What’s the weirdest CD that you own?

* Three weeks was the standard waiting period for her to get around to speaking to me again.  Pretty awkward when you work together every almost single day.  This happened on multiple occasions.  

 

REVIEW: Dee Snider’s S.M.F.s – Live / Twisted Forever (1997)

Scan_20160602DEE SNIDER’S S.M.F.s – Live / Twisted Forever (1997 Pulse)

When Twisted Sister split in 1987, I don’t think anybody ever really expected there to be enough demand for a reunion.  How wrong we were!  During the downtime when the band was acrimoniously separated, Dee Snider carried on with a low-key solo career.  Widowmaker’s Blood & Bullets (featuring Al Pitrelli and Joey Franco) was heavy as fuck even compared to early Twisted Sister, but failed to make any sales impact.

A few years later (1995), Dee went on the road with the S.M.F.s (Sick Mutha Fuckers, of course) playing nothing but classic Twisted Sister.  It went almost completely unnoticed, but a live album (recorded raw, straight to two track tape) was recorded and released as Twisted Forever.  This hard to find disc is well worth having.  Dee played a variety of Twisted material, some of which you’ll probably never hear live again.  It was a surprisingly good album on some fly by night label, and an easy must-have for any Twisted fan that finds it in good shape.

Just like the good old days at the Marquee in England, Dee opened with “What You Don’t Know (Sure Can Hurt You)”, one of the fastest tunes in the Twisted catalogue.  Only the true fan will realize by listening alone that the band is not Twisted Sister.  I don’t know any of these guys, but they are more than up to the task.  As for Dee, the year may as well be 1981 for all the ferocity he pours into every shriek and every scream.  With a double shot of early Sister, “The Kids Are Back” lives up to its name, and the crowd are behind Dee 100 fucking percent.  “Stay Hungry” only gets them going more and more.  The audio quality is good enough for rock n’ roll.  Think of it as a great bootleg, a desk mix.  You can hear the bass clearly, not always true for bootlegs, and the vocals are clear as a bell.  What is also clear is that this is 100% live.

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Dee Snider never changes and there is plenty of time for lightning-fast stage rants!  “Am I in your way?  Oh that’s OK, now the fucking BEER comes through here!  NO!  This is my fucking stage, do me a favour, and get the fuckin’ beer off the stage!”  Then, “Yes, but I’ve mellowed with fuckin’ age.  No I haven’t!”  It’s true, though his schtick is probably at least partly done because it’s expected of him.  (Later, he does a Cornholio impression, and rips into Al Gore.  Ah, the 1990’s!)  Dee even does some of the same song intros, such as “Destroyer”.  “You got hands!  Use ’em!” screams Dee as the riff begins.  Now you can bring that tough New York street vibe into your living room.

Hit after hit, and fan favourites galore, Twisted Forever is especially desirable for some more obscure songs.  1985’s Come Out and Play was the album that more or less did Sister in.  Dee can’t seem to remember when he recorded it (1987 he says).  The Come Out and Play medley is an eight minute stream of tunes includes parts of the title track, “Leader of the Pack”, “I Believe in Rock ‘N’ Roll” and “Be Chrool to Your Scuel”.  A little bit later in the set is the awesome “Wake Up (The Sleeping Giant)” from 1987’s controversial Love is For Suckers.  Dee says they do those tunes due to relentless demand from the fans.  I believe it:  “Sleeping Giant” is one of those hard rock songs that should have been a classic.  All these tunes are heavier than the somewhat limp album versions, and Dee could still hit all the notes.

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I think Twisted Sister is a band that were always better than people assumed they were.  Their new film, We Are Twisted Fucking Sister, demonstrated just how driven they actually were, with care and craft put into their reckless music.  These are songs that might not be known to the masses, but should be.  I’d rather hear “You Can’t Stop Rock ‘N’ Roll” on the radio than the oft-played “We’re Not Gonna Take It”.  There is so much emotion on this album.  At one point, Dee stops to tell the crowd, “I’d appreciate it, if everybody would stop smiling for the next 30 minutes or so.  You’re making it very hard for me to act mean on stage.”  This particular moment is from a home gig in Long Island, and it sounds like a family reunion of the twisted kind.  The climax of the CD is Twisted’s signature ballad “The Price”, and Dee didn’t even need to sing, the crowd could have done it all for him.  All that’s left after a song like that is “S.M.F.”, over and out!

For my money you can’t beat a good raw live album recorded in a small club.  Twisted Forever delivers.  It might not be Twisted Sister…but when I listen to it I honestly don’t care!

4/5 stars

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