ugly kid joe

REVIEW: Ugly Kid Joe – Menace to Sobriety / “Milkman’s Son” single (1995)

UGLY KID JOE – Menace to Sobriety (1995 Polygram)

Let me tell ya folks, this album ain’t bad. Ugly Kid Joe made it hard to take them seriously sometimes, but on their second full-length Menace to Sobriety, they did what most jokey bands eventually do: Get serious. Get heavy. With former Wrathchild America drummer Shannon Larkin replacing original member Mark Davis, perhaps this was inevitable.  If not, co-producer GGGarth made it inevitable.

The first single “Tomorrow’s World” was dark-edged modern metal. No jokes, no wit, just Whit, givin’ ‘er at top lung. The album would pretty much follow suit. It felt like they got one side of their personalities out of their systems for the moment and wanted to do something a little more true to the heart.

An instrumental intro just called “Intro” gets a couple heavy riffs out of way in short order. The new drummer’s thick presence is felt immediately. This intro jumps right into “God”, a heavy wade through the mosh pit, spilling hooks all over the floor in violent celebration. Whitfield Crane sounds more menacing, but he’s still obviously the charismatic frontman. Cool wah-wah inflected solo too, which was one of the only ways you could make guitar solos work in 1995.

When “Tomorrow’s World” first hits, it’s with a beat and a rolling bass line, perfectly on brand for the 90s. After the quietly tense opening verses, Whit and the band rip it wide open with another ferocious riff and chorus. It’s well within Black Sabbath’s backyard (U.S. campus), while keeping a foot in 90s. A perfect mix of integrities.

Tempos get faster on “Clover”, with Whit taking his throat even further. The riffs are still the foundation, this one a little bit Priest-like. If the lyrics to “God” were a little on the nose at times, they’re more interesting in light of this one from “Clover”. “I was tempted, but the apple made me stronger.” Whitfield then screams that he’s here to free us. There’s more going on here than a guy who just hates “everything about you”.

The funky side returns on the speedy “C.U.S.T.” (“Can’t You See Them”).  Whit speed-raps through the impressive verses while the band jams hard underneath, wah-wah now back center stage.  Great tune and in fact better than some of the competition’s songs in this genre at the same time.  There’s a killer, clever percussion break in the middle that differentiates Ugly Kid Joe from the bands who were leading the pack.

“Milkman’s Son” was the single, an electric ballad and rightfully chosen.  It’s not soft, there’s a tasty jagged riff to keep it cool, but this is clearly the one that fills the part of prior Ugly Kid Joe hits such as “Busy Bee”.  Great tune, if a bit doomed.

The grind of a bass groove returns on “Suckerpath”, which seems about to about avoiding the ego and big head of rock stardom.  “Never goin’ down a suckerpath, baby,” insists Whit.  Unlike a lot of the tunes on Menace to Sobriety, “Suckerpath” never really explodes with power the way they have so far.  It remains in this wallowing groove, which rocks but never quite satisfies.

Another ballad:  “Cloudy Skies” has the kind of twang where you could called it “Western Skies”.  Still electric; no acoustic softness to be found, but quite excellent.  Crane seems to have tapped into something heartfelt here, and his singing is excellent.  Sticking to tunes with broad appeal, “Jesus Rode A Harley” is one of the most straight ahead and upbeat tracks on the album.

There’s an AC/DC vibe to the opening of “10/10” but then it goes pure grunge groove.  Suitably dark, impressively heavy, and utilizing tricks like conga and slide.  There’s a direction on this album and “10/10” is right down the middle.  Not an outstanding track overall but one you can headbang along to quite easily.  At the end, Whit tries to go full metal scream and does pretty good. This actually leads pretty well into the Priestly vibes on “V.I.P.”.  Priest circa Hell Bent, with a touch of Halford’s Fight.  The lead vocals are Jon Oliva from Savatage to a tee, whether intentional or not.

Finally, the jokey side emerges on “Oompa”, which is exactly what you think it is.  A heavy metal version of the Oompa Loopma song from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  And why not?  Green Jelly were having hits with this kind of song.  It’s only two minutes long and hey…it’s Ugly Kid Joe. And just misdirection.  That’s not how the album’s supposed to end.

After long last, the acoustic guitars come out on the tender closer “Candle Song”.  There’s more than a hint of western twang, but if you wanted a traditional hard rock ballad closer, here you go.  “Candle Song” is excellent way to take the listener down after such intensely heavy rocking.

The band isn’t entirely done with their sense of humour.  Open up the booklet and you will find a rental house bill for damages including a food fight.  Total cost:  $12,896.81.

4/5 stars


UGLY KID JOE – “Milkman’s Son” / “Tomorrow’s World” (1995 Mercury CD single)

This single seems kind of like a double header between “Milkman’s Son” and “Tomorrow’s World” which was the music video getting all the play on MuchMusic at the time.  Two of the best tracks from the album, they are a terrific one-two punch for this CD single.

The bonus tracks are quite cool.  There’s a 1994 version of “God”, which is structurally the same but rougher sounding.  Amazing how close to the final mark it was.  Then there’s a really rough demo of “C.U.S.T.” but still very close to its final form.  Hearing these somewhat flatter sounding early versions after listening to the album is really interesting, since it is so consistently pounding, especially in the bass.

Great single for bonus material and a good score if you can find one.

4/5 stars

VHS Archives #131: Ugly Kid Joe…cancelled again?

If anything, this Ugly Kid Joe bumper for Start Me Up is just a reminder of a time when certain words were OK on national television!

VHS Archives #127: Ugly Kid Joe hit on Teresa Roncon on the Power 30 – 1993

Ahh, summer. The boys in Ugly Kid Joe were on the make with Teresa Roncon on the Power 30, in the warm rays of 1993. Their open flirtations with the host is unusual by today’s standards. If Teresa was irritated by Whitford Crane and Dave Fortman, she didn’t let on. Total professional.

Other subjects besides flirting with the host:

  • Writing for the next album
  • Meat Loaf
  • Touring
  • Violence at concerts

VHS Archives #7: Ugly Kid Joe interview (1992)

By request of Jay.

Ziggy Lorenc usually hosted soft rock on MuchMusic, but this time she got to talk to Dave Fortman and Whitfield Crane of Ugly Kid Joe! The guys discuss the video for their hit “Neighbor” and the memorable back cover of the America’s Least Wanted CD.

 

Who would you like to see next in the VHS Archives?  Vote in the comments from the artists below!

  1. Faith No More (Billy & Roddy) 1992
  2. Bruce Dickinson 1986
  3. Kiss (full band) 1992
  4. Queensryche (Wilton & DeGarmo) 1990
  5. Steve Vai 1990

#356: Cassingles

Aaron at the KMA and I have coordinated posts today about cassette singles!  If you can’t get enough, click here for his!  Geoff at the 1001 has also thrown his hat into the ring, and you can see his cassettes here!

RECORD STORE TALES MkII: Getting More Tale #356: Cassingles

Cassingle (noun): “cassette single”, a musical single release, usually consisting of two songs, on the cassette format.

A couple years ago, my parents found in their basement something I had lost and presumed would never see again: an old shoebox full of my old cassette singles!  This was especially valuable to me, because a couple of those cassettes have exclusive tracks on them that have never been released on any other format.  Helix’s “Good to the Last Drop” is one such single.  Van Halen’s “Right Now” is another.

The shoebox also contained my prized cassette copy of the Sonic Temple Collection by The Cult.  Buy cassette one (“Fire Woman”) and you can send away for the box.  Buy cassette two (“Edie”) and you get three Cult cards.  Buy cassette three (“Sweet Soul Sister”), and you can send away for a Sonic Temple pin.  (Which I still have, just not handy for a picture.)

There are some tapes that I know I’m missing.  They include three by Warrant:  “Cherry Pie”, “I Saw Red”, and the horrid “We Will Rock You”, which I probably sold at garage sales when I temporarily disowned Warrant in the 1990’s!  I could also swear that I owned Extreme’s “More Than Words”, but I don’t know what happened to that one.  I’m not worried about it since the B-side remix track is being reissued on the deluxe edition of the Pornograffitti album.  Maybe I gave it to Crazy Thunder Bay Girl!

Check out what remains of my cassingle collection below.

REVIEW: Glenn Tipton – Baptizm Of Fire (1997, 2006 reissue)

GLENN TIPTON – Baptizm Of Fire (1997, 2006 reissue)

One cool thing about working in a record store:  I actually bought this album 3 times.  Essentially, I bought it once and the other two times were upgrades!  When it first came out in 1997, I ordered in three copies — one for myself, and one each for my regular customers Len and Shane.  Then another regular, Conrad, traded in the Japanese version.  I upgraded mine, trading it in and paying the slight difference.  Then in 2006 when the remastered edition came out (with the addition of the bonus track “New Breed”), I traded up once more, this time getting some money back for my Japanese printing.  All for an album I don’t even like that much! 

In fact, if this album came out today, without my staff discounts, most likely I would have skipped it. Back then though, things were very different.  Priest was seemingly on ice since 1991.  There wasn’t a new Priest album to look forward to. Halford’s most recent solo material (Fight’s A Small Deadly Space) had failed to excite me the way his debut album had.  Now it was now up to Glenn to carry the Priest flag for me, and I eagerly ordered three copies of his debut solo CD from our distributor, for me and my customers.

The problem with Baptizm of Fire is, sadly, Glenn’s voice. Glenn’s always sung backup vocals with Priest, but as a lead…sorry. I don’t think so. Sounding like an out-of-breath Dave Mustaine, Glenn definitely gives it his all, which just isn’t enough.  Not for metal this powerful.  You need a soaring vocal to give you a melody to sing along to, not to whisper.

The songs are good enough though. I really liked “Fuel Me Up”, “Hard Core”, and “Extinct”. Back then, mainstream magazines like Rolling Stone treated rockers like Tipton as dinosaurs, better off extinct!  Well today, things have changed and they are considered living legends. Such was the 90’s! Tiptop furiously refutes the claim that he was a dinosaur in “Extinct”, one of the best songs on Baptizm Of Fire.

The original Japanese bonus track, “Himalaya” is included on the remaster, a tribute to the Japanese people according to the liner notes on that version of the CD. Well, Glenn, I am really sorry to be the one to break this to you. Japan is nowhere near the Himalayas. I’m not sure I get it.  The other bonus track is included, “New Breed” is of unknown origin but I assume from the album sessions.

In fact so much was recorded that there’s a companion album available:  Edge of the World, consisting of tracks recorded with the late John Entwistle and Cozy Powell.  More outtakes, they were released under the name Tipton, Enwistle & Powell

Glenn generated some pre-release hype by loading up this album with guests. Besides the aformentioned Entwistle and Powell, there’s also the devastating Billy Sheehan, Rob Trujillo, Neil Murray on bass! Cozy Powell on drums! Don Airey on keys! And Ugly Kid Joe drummer, the excellent Shannon Larkin!  There’s absolutely nothing wrong with the performances.

Production-wise, this is a little over-processed sounding, a bit like the soon to come Jugulator album by Judas Priest.  Tipton had a hand in producing both. 

I’m sorry Glenn. I really wanted to love your solo album, but today it sits on a shelf, seldomly played. Sorry man.

2/5 stars

  1. “Hard Core” – 4:39
  2. “Paint It Black” – 2:56 (yup…Stones cover…and not that good) 
  3. “Enter the Storm” – 5:56
  4. “Fuel Me Up” – 3:02
  5. “Extinct” – 5:33
  6. “Baptizm of Fire” (Instrumental)5:16 (one of the best tracks if not the best!)
  7. “The Healer” – 4:56
  8. “Cruise Control” – 4:08
  9. “Kill or Be Killed” – 3:21
  10. “Voodoo Brother” – 5:36
  11. “Left for Dead” – 3:45
  12. “Himalaya” (Bonus track on Japanese and remastered editions)
  13. “New Breed” (Bonus track on remastered edition)