vinyl

#579: Entering the Asylum

GETTING MORE TALE #579: Entering the Asylum
(Supplement to the  Re-Review series)

Back in Record Store Tales Part 3 (!), we took a nostalgic look at my first ever Kiss albums, that all arrived in one glorious batch.  The year was 1985, but Kiss also had a new album coming out in a matter of days.  Now that I had started on a Kiss collection, I would have to get their newest album too, called Asylum.  I didn’t even know how to pronounce “asylum” correctly, nor did I know what the word meant, but I did understand that it was their third album without makeup.

Next door neighbor George, who was my introduction to Kiss, came over one day talking about the new single “Tears Are Falling” and how much I would love it.  I didn’t have much money but by the time the snow fell, my dad bought me a copy of Asylum on cassette.  We got it at the Zellers store at Stanley Park Mall in Kitchener.

My meager Kiss collection at that point consisted of Alive!, Asylum (cassette) and a bunch of LPs I recorded off George.  I didn’t know much about the discography but George was a good teacher.  George actually named one of his first bands Asylum.  Before long I could name all the albums, in order.  I even predicted that the next single would be “Uh! All Night”.  I didn’t foresee the third single “Who Wants To Be Lonely” because Kiss hadn’t done a third single in ages!

George was only missing two Kiss albums:  The Elder, and Double Platinum.  He was dying to get both and finish the collection.  His record collection was fascinating to me and a goldmine of music to tape and explore.  The album covers, particularly for Kiss and Iron Maiden, had me hooked.

As my interest in Kiss grew, a new kid at school who I later found out was a “liar liar pants on fire” claimed he had “all” the Kiss albums at home.  His name was Joe Ciaccia (pronounced “chee-chaw”).  I asked him if that meant he had The Elder.  He said yes.  I told George I knew a kid who owned it, and he just about shit his pants.  I made arrangements with Joe to meet up at his place on the next Sunday to do a trade.  All I asked for brokering this trade was recording the album.

George was really excited.  “I don’t care what he wants for it, I’m not leaving without that record.”  I distinctly remember a small group of us trudging through the snow to meet Joe at his apartment.  Who came with us?  I can’t remember.  Joe lived on Breckenridge Drive, just down the street from Brian Vollmer of Helix.  One thing that I can remember very clearly was grabbing my Sanyo ghetto blaster loaded with D-cell batteries, my Asylum tape, and rocking while walking to Joe’s.

Listening to a cassette on a ghetto blaster powered by D-cells was a warbly experience that kids today don’t understand.  Our small group lollygagging through the slush listening to “King of the Mountain” on that old Sanyo is an image I’ll always remember.  I carried it through the wet melting snow.  Those Sanyo ghetto blasters were built like tanks!  You could drop them and they’d keep on ticking.

We arrived at Joe’s apartment and buzzed.  No answer.  Buzzed again.  No answer.  I began to realize my fears.  Joe was all talk and no Elder.  We hung out down there a while but there was no sign of Joe.  George was partly crushed and mostly pissed off.  At school, Joe gradually earned a reputation for tall tales.  His were beginning to rival the lies of Ian Johnson – they even lived on the same street.

We flipped the Asylum tape over and began the walk home.  A wasted trip, and Joe dodged me at school the next day.  George kept pestering me to arrange a second hookup with Joe, thinking he still had that copy of The Elder that he wanted so badly.  I realized Joe was full of shit and told George the sad truth.  The record was not there.  Joe was telling stories, trying to seem cool to me for having all the Kiss albums.  Then he got caught in the lie, after going so far as to arrange a trade and giving me the address.  Very un-cool.

George did get a copy of The Elder a few months later, and he still taped me a copy.  It was a strange album, after being immersed in Asylum for many months.  Then, I definitely preferred AsylumAsylum was special to me.  It was my first “new” Kiss album since getting into the band!  I had boarded the Kiss train and I wasn’t getting off!

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REVIEW: Rich Robinson – Got to Get Better in a Little While (10″ EP)

RICH ROBINSON – Got to Get Better in a Little While (2016 Universal 10″ clear single for Record Store Day)

This really pretty record (a single or an EP, who cares?) was found on the Taranna 2016 expedition with Mr. Books.  It’s apparently a Record Store Day exclusive from April 2016, although I had no problem getting this one for $16.99 in October.  This my first purchase of anything by Rich without his brother Chris.  Knowing the Black Crowes, I was fairly certain it wouldn’t suck.  I was still surprise to see on the back, an ad for not one not two not three but FOUR Rich Robinson “Expanded Editions” on CD and LP!  Who knew?  Not this guy!

“Got to Get Better in a Little While” is a Derek and the Dominoes cover, apparently one that Crowes used to do regularly, as does Rich.  You have to hear this if you like bluesy rock that produces pure smoke from sheer musical chemistry.  Yes, Clapton is God and the original can’t be touched, but a real jackass could easily make this song sound like shit.  Rich does the opposite, and it sounds as part of his musical being.  There’s some deep bass that just cuts through, and this goes on for eight and a half minutes of jam session heaven.  Just bop along.

The second side has two Rich originals.  Greasy late night blues is on the menu.  “Look Through My Window” sets a scene of steamy Tennessee dusk.  Brilliant stuff for any fan of slippery slidey guitars.  Then an acoustic/electric tune called “Falling Away” closes on a first light of a quiet dawn.  Great tunes, both, making up a tidy little 16 minute EP.  Or single.  Whatever!

The vinyl itself is clear and thick.  The package doesn’t say anything about clear vinyl, but you almost expect clear or coloured when you buy these limited editions.  It looks lovely spinning with its green label.  Great little EP, reasonably priced for the collector and fan.

4/5 stars

 

RE-REVIEW: KISS – Creatures of the Night (1982/1985)

The KISS RE-REVIEW SERIES Part 22:

  – Creatures of the Night (1982 Casablanca, 1985 Polygram reissue, 1997 Mercury remaster)

The internal problems with Kiss continued full-bore into their next album, the surprisingly powerful Creatures of the Night.  Ace Frehley was on the cover, and in the music video, but like Peter Criss before him, he didn’t play a note.  In the midst of recording with new producer Michael James Jackson (Red Rider), they were also auditioning new guitarists to replace the Ace.

As a result of the embarrassing failure of their concept album fiasco Music From the Elder, Kiss had little choice in what to do next.  If they had any hope of survival as a musical entity, they had to return to rock.  What may have come as a surprise given their recent history including two pop “Kissco” albums was that their new music was really, really heavy.  Kiss were unleashed and went full-bore heavy metal.

Aiding and abetting this:  drummer Eric Carr was unchained on Creatures of the Night.  His drum sound, inspired by the massive slam of Zeppelin’s John Bonham, was completely off the hook.  These are by far the biggest sounding drums on any Kiss album.  Also helping the band get heavier:  a new songwriting partner.  Vincent Cusano wrote and played on several tracks on Creatures.  His talent was evident to all.

In fact there is a school of thought today regarding Mr. Cusano, later redubbed “Vinnie Vincent”.  A large vocal group of fans proclaim today that “Vinnie Saved Kiss”.  And that theory does hold some water.

Other contributors to the LP included Canadian writing team Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance.  Adam Mitchell and Mikel Japp also wrote with Paul and Gene.  Guitarists Robben Ford, Steve Farris and Adam Mitchell lent chops and solos to the album.  One guy who Gene claims came to the studio, but did not play, was one Eddie Van Halen.  According to Gene Simmons, Eddie came down and poured his heart out complaining how miserable he was in Van Halen…and then asked to join Kiss.  Believe it…or not?

The incendiary title track “Creatures of the Night” is powerful and instantaneous enough to be used as a concert opener.  The metallic chug was new to Kiss, but not alien to them.  This anthemic Paul Stanley rocker had the goods.  Kiss were back, and in a big way.  Just listen to those opening drums!  It’s as if Kiss knew that Eric Carr still needed a more suitable introduction, and they gave it to him.

Creatures is notable for one major “first”.  It was the first of many Kiss studio albums to only feature two lead singers, Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley.  Gene’s debut on Creatures is the incredible “Saint and Sinner”, heavy but low-key and based on a killer verse melody.  “Get me off this carousel, you can do as you please…you can go to hell,” sings an angry Demon.  And that’s Vinnie, absolutely smoking with a brilliantly melodic guitar solo.  What a player…but only when he can control his instincts to play too fast.

Paul turns up the sex on “Keep Me Comin’” (har-de-har har!), a sleazy Kiss rocker with a heavy Zeppelin groove.  While not quite filler material, “Keep Me Comin’” and another Paul track called “Danger” are definitely on the lower rungs of this album.  “Danger” is the prototype for a kind of speed metal Kiss rocker that Paul threw on all the albums from this point to 1985.

One of Paul’s best songs, and longest lasting in concert, was the ballad “I Still Love You”.  This is one heavy ballad, but Paul’s singing is completely over the top.  Again, it’s more like a heavy Zeppelin blues ballad.  A track like this proves why Paul is considered one of the greatest hard rock singers of all time.  Not too many can do it like Paul on “I Still Love You”…and that’s Eric Carr on bass, by the way.  Gene doesn’t play bass on most of Paul’s songs.  Jimmy Haslip (ex-Blackjack featuring Michael Bolton and future Kiss member Bruce Kulick) and Mike Porcaro took over bass duties on “Danger” and “Creatures” respectfully.

As for Gene, Creatures really sounds up his alley, with tunes like “Rock and Roll Hell”, “Killer”, and “War Machine” suiting his dark persona.  And what tunes these are, particularly “Rock and Roll Hell” which simmers with a midnight intensity.  The song rides the basic bassline with not much in the way of additional crunch, into chorus time.  The interesting thing is the song is actually a thorough re-working of an old Bachman-Turner Overdrive song written by Jim Valance.  In fact, Valance claimed that Simmons only insisted on reworking the song in order to get writing royalties.  Either way, “Rock and Roll Hell” just burns like an ember.  Then in another interesting twist, the song was later covered by Ace Frehley (Origins Vol. 1)!  A Kiss cover of a Kiss song he never played on.

“Killer” reeks of Vinnie Vincent.  One of the key guitar riffs sounds quintessentially Vinnie, and kind of similar to his later solo track “Boyz Are Gonna Rock”.  It’s a brilliant track, right up Gene’s alley, with intense speed and hooks.  The female backing vocals in the outro are a surprise.  “War Machine” on the other hand sounds purely Gene, even though it’s a co-write with Valance and Bryan Adams.  Something about it personifies the “monster plod” sound that Gene specializes in. It’s apocalyptic Kiss metal for your nightmares.  It’s strong and relentless.

The single was, of course, the overplayed “I Love it Loud”, which in turn was transformed into a killer music video featuring Ace Frehley miming Vinnie Vincent’s guitar.  “I Love it Loud” is insanely catchy and unshakeable during its first several listens.  After that, it’s too simple to maintain interest too long.  It’s kind of baffling how this song has remained in set lists well past its sell-by date, especially when tracks like “Killer” and “Saint and Sinner” are not.

In 1985 this album was reissued with new non-makeup cover art.  On the cover they replaced Ace Frehley, who never played on the album, with Bruce Kulick…who never played on the album.  Three songs were remixed:  “Creatures of the Night”, “War Machine”, and “I Love it Loud”, but only “Creatures” was included on the 1985 album.  The remixed “I Love it Loud” was later issued on a compilation, and the remixed “War Machine” has yet to be released.  The remixes by Dave Wittman generally toned down the awesome drum sound, weakening the experience overall.

Vinnie Vincent joined the band officially after Creatures was recorded, and was given his own makeup design:  The “Ankh Warrior”.  A strange choice for a new character; perhaps Kiss were plain out of ideas or just didn’t care.  It’s the only Kiss makeup design to never be seen on an album cover.  Then, Kiss embarked on their first American tour in years, the 10th Anniversary Tour.  It featured a stage with a tank for a drum riser.  “Killer” indeed!

Today’s rating:

4.5/5 stars


Uncle Meat’s rating:

2.5/5 steaks 

Meat’s slice:  When Creatures of the Night was released in 1982, Kiss had been on the back burner for me for a couple years.  Obviously still loved the classics, but 12 year old Meat was starting to become a huge fan of Heavy Metal music.  Two different friends of mine and I were discovering new music together.  Albums like Ace of Spades, Maiden Japan and Saxon’s Denim and Leather were the gateway drug for me on my way to being addicted to Heavy Metal. So when Creatures came out I recall being so into it, primarily because this was a “Heavy Metal” Kiss record.  What’s not to like?  The video for “I Love it Loud” was awesome and renewed my love for the band at the time.

So I listened to Creatures from stem to stern the other day, 35 years after it was released, and my take on this album is now quite a different story.  I am expecting that many will disagree with my slice on this one, but circumstances dictate my review.  Metal music just doesn’t inspire me the way it used to.  The love is still there but the lust is gone.  Obviously there are staples that I will always love, and new exceptions pop up all time time, but the truth is I would rather put on stuff like Steely Dan, Sly and the Family Stone, Grand Funk Railroad, Yes, Steve Earle, Drive by Truckers etc etc.

If I would have done these Meat Slices let’s say…20 years ago?…I probably would have panned Unmasked and praised this album.  But now it is the opposite.  The album’s title track, “I Still Love You” and “I Love it Loud” are still enjoyable to me, but pretty much every other song sounds very forced and downright boring to me.  This is what happens when a band, who was used to ruling the world, tries to regain said status by joining the new Heavy Metal revolution.  Trying to be something they are not.   The albums previous (with maybe the exception of the song “The Oath”) and the albums that followed were not Metal albums.  The following albums have some heavy songs, but are definitely not Heavy Metal records.  You have to fast forward a decade until they released Revenge, and even that album had some different styles within it.  It’s so strange to me that a Kiss record that sees Kiss trying SO HARD to be a heavy metal band, turns to Bryan Adams for inspiration?  What’s Metal about that?  Hello.  McFly?

Rating this album was tough for me. I had to consider how much I loved it when it came out, and that the Creatures of the Night tour was my first Toronto arena concert.  I can’t say I dislike the album, but I can say that of all the Kiss records I have revisited doing these slices, it’s this album that truly disappointed me because I went into the listen looking forward to hearing it again.

My final thoughts are this.  Would diehard Alice Cooper fans consider Flush the Fashion a classic Alice Cooper record?  It’s an album I owned on vinyl and I like the album, but it’s a blatant grab at the New Wave market and sounds nothing like the rest of his career.  Celtic Frost has done everything possible to erase the memory of the deplorable Cold Lake, since it is a very un-Celtic Frost like record for the band.  Creatures of the Night is not genuine to me.  Most of the album sounds like the inspiration for Spinal Tap’s album, Smell the Glove. Especially the song “Heavy Duty”, and not surprisingly it was released not long after this in 1984.  So, to end this slice I will refer to the immortal Derek Smalls and put it like this.  Creatures of the Night is a disingenuous collection of head banging bullshit that to me is forgettable.  It sounds square, clunky and has way too many forgettable songs on it.  I would rather listen to Bryan Adams’ 1983 album Cuts Like a Knife.   But Kiss…I still love you.

 Favorite Tracks:  “I Love it Loud”, “Creatures of the Night”, “I Still Love You”

 Forgettable Tracks:   The rest


LeBrain’s rebuttal:  You’re Wrong on Creatures

For this Kiss Re-Review series, I have purposely avoided reading Uncle Meat’s reviews, and vice-versa, until they are ready to post.  We wanted to avoid influencing each other.  Creatures is an exception.  Meat sent this to me a couple weeks ago, long before I even started my review.  And now that I have read it…I feel like crying a single solitary tear of sadness, just like the one Gene shed in the video for “A World Without Heroes”.

Uncle Meat has a point about the switch to heavy metal music seeming like an act of desperation.  I don’t doubt that if The Elder had been a hit instead of an abject nearly career-ending failure, Kiss would have continued in that direction.  But we are talking about Kiss here.  This is a band that have usually been followers, not leaders.  Were they the first to wear makeup and heels?  No.  Did they invent disco with “I Was Made For Lovin’ You”?  No.  Going forward into the future, you will see Kiss continuing to chase other people’s sounds, such as Jon Bon Jovi and Alice in Chains.  Even Revenge, which Meat mentioned above, seemed like an effort to bring things in line with what was happening in rock and roll.

Having listened to Creatures again for what must be the 30,000th time, my love for it is still strong.  I’ve bought Creatures five times over the years.  Every time I play it, I’m a 13 year old again.  I sink into the guitar tones, which Vinnie just nailed on this album, and enjoy the booming echo of the drums.  “I Love it Loud” no longer pitches my pup tent, but mostly due to overexposure.

On this, the Meatmaster General and I will have to agree to disagree.  It’s something we often do when it comes to music, but the benefit is that it generates rich discussions, just like this one.  — LeBrain

To be continued…

Original mikeladano.com review:  2012/07/28

 

RE-REVIEW: KISS – Killers (1982 import)

The KISS RE-REVIEW SERIES Part 21:  

  Killers (1982 Casablanca, German and Japanese versions)

No matter how you feel about Kiss’s concept album Music From the Elder, it was a commercial dud.  It was Kiss’ first serious flop as a band since hitting the big time in 1975 with Kiss Alive!  More significantly, it was part of a trend:  Kiss chaos.  Since the solo albums, Kiss were fragmented.  The band weren’t playing on all the songs anymore, and members were leaving.  They had strayed from their music roots and become a comic book novelty act.  The Elder was not so much an album that people didn’t “get”, but one they didn’t care to “get”.  Fans were moving on.

The European record label, Phonogram, was in damage control mode.  They drew up plans to issue an album consisting of new and old songs; a compilation to put some money back in the coffers.  They weren’t mucking around.  They wanted a batch of new rock songs, but Kiss had effectively become a trio.  Ace Frehley hadn’t left the band officially, but he was no longer involved creatively.  Filling the guitar slot again was Bob Kulick.  As he did on Kiss Alive II, Bob played lead guitar on the new songs.  A 1988 book called Kiss: Still on Fire also named Ratt’s Robbin Crosby as a guitar player on the new songs, though this is a claim not backed up in any other source.  Paul provided the new songs, written with old and new friends:  Mikel Japp, Adam Mitchell, and some Canadian guy named Bryan something.  Bryan Adams?  Cuts like a knife indeed!  Adams co-wrote the lethal “Down On Your Knees”, and it wouldn’t be his last songwriting credit with Kiss either.

The best new tune in the batch was called “Nowhere to Run”, and it was one of the rockers that Kiss were working on before they decided to do The Elder instead. The sheer quality of this Stanley-penned underdog really supports the theory that doing The Elder was a mistake.  “Nowhere to Run” was classic Stanley, as good as anything on his solo album and exactly the kind of song that Kiss should have been doing.  In an alternate universe where The Elder never came out, what could have happened to Kiss?  Unfortunately the new compilation called Kiss Killers was never released in North America.   “Nowhere to Run” could do very little to change Kiss’ fortunes without being released in their native country.

The second-finest of the new songs is a little ditty called “I’m a Legend Tonight”.  Paul has somewhat disowned these songs since, but it is really hard to understand why.  This is a hard hitting Paul rocker, as only Paul can do.  It’s all innuendo and hot guitar licks.  The riff is simple and hooky, while Kulick plays for all he’s worth.  No longer was Bob being told to “play like Ace”.  His signature scorch really makes these new songs sound like a continuation of the Paul Stanley solo album.  Then there is “Down on Your Knees”, the one with Bryan Adams’ fingerprints on it.  It’s hard to tell, although it’s not outside the Adams ballpark.  It’s a sleazy rocker, spare and sounding great.  The new tracks were produced by Michael James Jackson, who finally captured Eric Carr’s drums properly.  Bob Ezrin buried them under mud on The Elder.  Kiss Killers sounds more like the real Eric Carr debut album.  The last of the new songs, “Partners in Crime”, is the weakest of the four.  Paul takes it down to a slow sexy grind, but “Partners in Crime” lacks the charisma of the other three.

As far as the new songs could be considered a “comeback”, it’s close but no cigar.  There’s no discernable Demon.  Where is Gene Simmons?  The lack of any audible Simmons vocals makes you question whether he even played bass on the new songs.  Regardless, Kiss is about a balance between Gene and Paul, and Killers represents the first heavy skew towards Paul.

 

The hits on the record make for great listening.  Most of the key bases are covered:  “Detroit Rock City”, “Shout it Out Loud”, “Love Gun”, “God of Thunder” and even “I Was Made for Lovin’ You”.  There are no Peter Criss songs, and the only Frehley is “Cold Gin”, which Gene sings.  The only ballad is “Sure Know Something”, a minor hit in Germany where this album was issued.  In a cool touch, the record closes with the “live” (quotation marks!) version of “Rock and Roll all Nite” that made them superstars.  It is the more well known, and arguably superior version.  (Some of the other tracks are edits or single versions.*)

Kiss’ very first Japanese bonus tracks were on Killers.  The Japanese version is an even better listen.  They put a bonus track in the second-to-last position on each side:  “Shandi” (massive hit in Australia) and “Escape From the Island” (previously unreleased in Japan — it wasn’t included on their version of The Elder).  “Shandi” is just a great fucking song, and “Escape From the Island” is a cool inclusion because of a) its obscurity, and b) its total Ace Frehley shreddery.  It is interesting to note, that only Japan had tracks from the two most recent Kiss albums, Unmasked and Music From the Elder.  The rest of the world did not.  Were Kiss already trying to bury those records?

Periodically, the new songs on Kiss Killers have reappeared on single B-sides, compilations and box sets.  The best way to get them is just to pick up a copy of Killers.  Choose your format, sit back and rock!

Today’s rating:

4/5 stars

* “Shout it Out Loud” is a single version with a different mix on the lead vocals and an early fade.  “Detroit Rock City” and “I Was Made for Lovin’ You” are edited versions.

Original mikeladano.com review:  2012/07/27

RE-REVIEW: KISS – Best of Solo Albums (1979) #0wordchallenge

Brief explanation:  After the #200wordchallenge, I was inspired to come up with an even more daunting task.   Could I do a review in 0 words — without using any words at all?  I invite you to the #0wordchallenge!  Mine is below, but use your imagination and come up with something uniquely you!  This review is a part of…


The KISS RE-REVIEW SERIES Part 19:  

  Best of Solo Albums (1979 Phonogram)


Original mikeladano.com review:  2012/09/03

REVIEW: Mastodon – “White Walker” (2016 picture disc single)

MASTODON – “White Walker” (2016 Warner 10″ picture disc single)

Disclaimer: I’ve never seen a single episode of Game of Thrones, although I will admit a crush on Emilia Clarke, and a man-crush on Kit Harington.  And I don’t really know a lot about Mastodon.  I know they rock — and that’s enough.

Since Sunrise Records in Kitchener opened up again back in April, I’ve been doing my best to support them.  Taking a chance on something I haven’t heard before, and finding the artwork badass as hell, I plopped down for Mastodon’s “White Watcher” single.  There is nothing typical about this song.  The war drums opening the track sound as if from battle.  The lyrics certainly paint a picture:  a cold and desolate land full of despair.  There is little musical backing, just some spare acoustic guitars and a few atmospheric electric licks until the haunting guitar solo kicks in.  It’s atypical of any Mastodon I’ve heard.

The B-side is the A Cappella version of “White Walker”, with just one voice.  I love how it reveals the imperfections of the human voice.  It sounds like something a character on the show might be singing, before battle.  The mourning feeling is there in the grooves of the record.

And speaking of the record, what artwork!  The A-side is a brilliant painting of a White Walker, while the B-side is a still from the show.  The snowy landscape and ragged people huddled around fires certainly illustrate what the song feels like.  Incredible single.

4.5/5 stars

REVIEW: Jimmy Page & The Black Crowes – Live at Jones Beach (2017)

Gratitude to James Kalyn of the KMA for acquiring this treasure.

JIMMY PAGE & THE BLACK CROWES – Live at Jones Beach (2017 The Orchard Record Store Day EP)

Aficionados of Led Zeppelin and the Black Crowes rejoice! It has been a long time since the fantastic concert collaboration, Jimmy Page & The Black Crowes Live at the Greek (2000).  That double CD delivered a surprisingly bang-on dose of legendary Zeppelin cuts and blues covers.  Here, it’s a seven piece band consisting of Page, Rich Robinson and Audley Freed in a lethal triple guitar lineup.  The band was completed by vocalist Chris Robinson, drummer Steve Gorman, bassist Greg Rzab and keyboard player Eddie Harsch.  Now you can hear three more tracks, from an additional concert at Jones Beach.

As expected, Pagey and the Crowes are whipped up into a blues jam rock frenzy loaded with atomic playing.  Off to Middle Earth with “Misty Mountain Hop”, a song easily conquered by Chris Robinson.  You may be surprised by how comfortably it fits the Crowes.  “Bring it on Home” seems more their style, and with Jimmy they turn it into a loud rocking assault.  The three guitarists are really able to bring to life “In the Light”, giving it the kind of depth it has in the studio.  Chris and Rich double the vocals to emulate the production on the Physical Grafitti original.

4.5/5 stars

This was a 200 word review in the tradition of the #200wordchallenge.

 

REVIEW: Helix – Live at the Marquee (1985 promo EP)

HELIX – Live at the Marquee (1985 Capitol promo exclusive EP)

Gratuity goes to two people:  Helix associate John Hockey who initially hooked me up with an mp3 rip of his copy of this Holy Grail rarity, and to Boppin for finding this original copy on vinyl!  Helix’s Live at the Marquee EP is one of those releases that lots of people have heard of, but few have heard.  First of all, it’s a promo, which means it was only distributed within the industry and never made available for sale to the public.  Promos can be very desirable collectibles, especially when they contain exclusive music.  Live at the Marquee was nothing but!  In 1985, Helix had released nothing in terms of live product, not even a live single B-side.  Live at the Marquee was the only one, and before the internet, few fans even knew about it.

For full disclosure, there is a rare Rock Candy reissue of 1984’s Walkin’ the Razor’s Edge, an unauthorized but valuable release that does contain three of the six Marquee tracks.  That 2009 release includes “Young & Wreckless”, “Rock You”, and “Animal House” from this EP.  The other three songs have yet to be reissued anywhere, so half of Live at the Marquee is still exclusive to the EP.

What you need to know about Live at the Marquee is that this is Helix at their prime.  The classic lineup was in full swing:  Brian Vollmer (vocals), Brent “Doctor” Doerner & Paul Hackman (guitars), Greg “Fritz” Hinz (drums), and Daryl Gray (bass).  They were performing their most popular tracks from the Razor’s Edge and No Rest for the Wicked LPs.  Starting with “Young & Reckless” and “Rock You”, it’s full octane in the tank and pedal to the metal.  Helix were and are known as a loud band, and this EP sure sounds like it.  They take a step back on the hit ballad “(Make Me Do) Anything You Want”.  Helix could do love songs like that without sounding wimpy.

Side two continues with the single “Gimme Gimme Good Lovin'” (Crazy Elephant cover) which sounds like a blast.  Helix do not get recognition for the dual guitar alliance of Doerner and Hackman as perhaps they should.  Check out “Animal House” for more of their stellar interplay including a bit of slide.  Finally “Heavy Metal Love” closes the record, an enduring favourite today that sounds fantastic performed by the classic band.

Over the years, fans became widely aware of the existence of this release.  It would be listed and pictured among official discographies, but never found in stores.  Until/unless those final three recordings become available on CD, this record should be sought after by every serious Helix fan.  I’m happy to have a copy signed by Fritz Hinz.  Also awesome?  John Hockley hooked me up with a CD copy of the Rock Candy release of Razor’s Edge, signed by all four surviving members of the classic Helix band.  Thank you John, and rest in peace Paul Hackman.

4.5/5 stars

REVIEW: Faith No More – “Cone of Shame” (2016 RSD single)

scan_20170303-3FAITH NO MORE – “Cone of Shame” (2016 Reclamation Recordings 7″ single for Record Store Day, gold vinyl)

All hail the mighty JHUBNER, decorated hard-core hunter…of records.  Raise your Romulan ale (or what have you)!  Somewhere somehow, the subject of limited edition Faith No More singles for Record Store Day came up.  Mr. Hubner kindly took note that he had seen some at his local establishment.  With great care and expense, he packed it well, armored in a shell of cardboard that could withstand any wayward bombardments.  Thusly, I have acquired “Cone of Shame” on limited edition clear gold vinyl.  Had I thought this through, I would have asked for green, to compliment this burning green alcoholic beverage that Scotty below is hoisting to Mr. Hubner.

scotty

This is a gorgeous 45.  The cover art is quite funny: a pug (with eyes blacked out for anonymity) wearing a doggie “cone of shame”.  Would have been better with a miniature schnauzer, but pugs are fine.   The vintage style label is starkly awesome in black & white.  The pristine yellow disc is a piece of beauty indeed, clean and clear and rich with awesome music carved into its grooves.

The A-side is the standard album version of “Cone of Shame” from Sol Invictus.  This is a song I have strongly warmed up to in the last year.  I didn’t care for it at first, but I have since fallen for its weirdness and Patton’s vocal heroics.  Flip over to the B-side and you will find J.G. Thirwell’s “Calcitron Mix” of “Motherfucker”.  I love what he did with it.  Most of Patton’s voice has been wiped leaving only Roddy Bottum’s hypnotic verses.  The word “motherfucker” is chopped and looped to become the main hook.  There is very little of the original song left.  Essentially a new song has been created with Roddy’s “get the motherfucker on the phone, on the phone” hook, chopped up and given the Max Headroom treatment.  The techno backing feels like a bunch of idiots at a rave, but that’s not my thing.  I’m easily amused so the rearrangement and repetition of the word “motherfucker” keeps me entertained.

Remixes are what they are.  You either like them or you don’t.  I usually lean towards the opinion that an original is better than a remix, 99% of the time.  There are the odd exceptions.  I think you need to use a different measuring stick when talking about remixes.  Instead of “did it make the song better”, perhaps the question should be “did it make the song different?”  In this case “Motherfucker” has been reimagined as something new, and that’s pretty cool.

3.5/5 stars

REVIEW: Monster Truck – Sittin’ Heavy (2016 double vinyl)

“I don’t care ’bout the weather, the band’s here to play.” – Jon Harvey

img_20161113_081455 MONSTER TRUCK – Sittin’ Heavy (2016 Dine Alone 2 LP edition)

Why are you not rocking?  This is the question that Monster Truck ask to open their 2016 release Sittin’ Heavy, easily the best record the quartet have released to date.  “Rock and roll might save your life, it might save your life tonight.”  Perhaps this is the Truck’s modus operandi, because judging by Sittin’ Heavy they are interested in delivering the rock and doing it right.

From the short blitz of an opener, Truck go right into the first single “Don’t Tell Me How to Live”.  The track has been a radio staple in Canada for most of 2016, and it’s easy to see why.  The slow riffy groove is easily digestible by rock fans craving that sound, backed by a searing chorus about eagles and lions.  Some have compared this band to another Nickelback, but on Sittin’ Heavy they have moved far beyond those measures.  Nickelback has never delivered anything this classic sounding.  Track three, “She’s a Witch” has a modern swampy vibe that Chad Kroeger couldn’t hope to taint.  Three songs in, Monster Truck delivered three completely different tunes, though all with the rock solid Truck groove.  One ingredient that separates the Truck from the crowd is the soulful organ provided by keyboardist Brandon Bliss.  “She’s a Witch” is one track with a bizarrely heavy soul-metal vibe.  That vibe culminates with “For the People”, an uplifting track that closes side one of the vinyl.  The soul-rock vibe is obvious and augmented by Ian Thornley of Big Wreck who lays down some of his trademark wicked slide guitar.  The Wreck-ifying of the track unites the two bands in a cool, celebratory way.

Flip the vinyl, and take a moment.  “Black Forest” is a organ based track, slow and mournful, and very different from any of the four on side one.  When a band like Monster Truck turn down the volume, they risk revealing that there is little substance beneath the howling distortion.  This is certainly not the case here.  “Black Forest” has a more subtle touch, and the band allow it to breath.  As a result it’s one of the most stand-out tracks.

“Another Man’s Shoes” walks us back into familiar territory.   The Truck don’t make things complicated, and guitarist Jeremy Widerman’s Frehley-like solos are just what the doctor ordered for these musical bruisings.  They take a left turn down Abbey Road next by adding some Beatles-like piano vibes to “Things Get Better”, an outstanding track.  “I got a feelin’ thing’ll get worse before they get better,” sings Jon Harvey but he couldn’t be more wrong.  Sittin’ Heavy keeps getting better the more you play it, and “Things Get Better” is a high water mark.  Side two blasts its way to a finish on “The Enforcer”, which races home with plenty of the Truck’s trademark “woah-woah-woah” gang vocals.

The third and final side (we’ll talk about that shortly) begins darkly with a Sabbath-like “To the Flame”.  Widerman and Harvey seemed to study at the feet of Iommi and Osbourne when composing this menacing crawl.  “Midnight” takes the tempo back up to cruising speed.  Going in at low altitude, the Truck bomb your senses with a vinyl-only bonus track.  Considering the price you pay for a record vs. a CD, it is nice to get something like a bonus track for your dollars.  In the 80s, it was common to put a bonus track on the CD, since it was the most expensive format at that time.  Now the situation is reversed.

A choppy riff introduces “New Soul”, a purely enjoyable return to the church of soul-rock.  It’s a head-bangin’ good time.  Clap your hands for a good time (unless you’re listening to this while driving, in which case, keep ’em steady on the wheel).  Then the final track is appropriately the ballad “Enjoy the Time” which sounds like a natural way to end a soulful rock album like Sittin’ Heavy.  Its Supertramp-like keyboard tones lend it a unique sound over the rest of the album.  It also sums up the vibe of the whole album:  “Enjoy the time we have, before they’re gone away.”

But what about the fourth side?  What’s on that?  Check out the etched vinyl, baby!

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If you are looking for a new rock album that sounds classic, then you have found one.  Those who like a rock record to be a journey of highs and lows and with a satisfying conclusion, then Sittin’ Heavy is the one.  With little doubt, this one is going to be on a few best of 2016 lists at the end of the year.

5/5 stars