white lion

#523: Columbia House

GETTING MORE TALE #523: Columbia House

How many of you were members of the Columbia House music club?  Tapes or CDs?

The concept was simple.  Get 12 tapes or records for one penny.  Then agree to buy “X” more at “regular club prices” within a year.  They would usually offer all sorts of incentives, such as getting your first regularly priced item for half price.  Their “regular club prices” were fairly high, but if you played your cards right you could make joining the club worthwhile.

Every few weeks after signing up, Columbia House would send you a catalogue and an order form.  The order system was controversial, because it required a negative response if you didn’t want to buy something.  When you signed up, you could pick your favourite genre of music (I chose “metal”).  Each time a catalogue came out, your selected genre would have a “selection of the month”, usually a new release but not always.   If you did not respond with an order form expressing that you didn’t want it, they would automatically mail you the “selection of the month” and bill you for it too.  (The Columbia Record Club system was worked into a sub-plot of the movie A Serious Man by the Coen Brothers.)

For many people this wasn’t a problem.  Our parents let my sister and I sign up when I was in grade 11.  We split the membership and free tapes 50/50.  We paid for everything ourselves and diligently sent in our order forms each time.  We were both already massive music fans, so we poured over every single page.  Most times, one of us ended up buying something, if not the selection of the month itself.

I can still remember every album I received in that first shipment. Seven tapes.  These tapes went into immediate and constant rotation, which is why I remember them all so well today.

  1. Leatherwolf – Leatherwolf
  2. Motley Crue – Girls, Girls, Girls
  3. Hurricane – Over the Edge
  4. Stryper – To Hell With the Devil
  5. Stryper – In God We Trust
  6. White Lion – Pride
  7. Sammy Hagar – VOA

Our musical world opened up in a massive way, and not just because of the new music we were listening to.  The catalogues introduced us to names and album covers that we’d not experienced yet.  What is this Bitches Brew thing?  Why did Deep Purple albums have so few songs?  Did Iron Maiden copy their Maiden Japan from Purple’s Made In Japan?  Holy crap, Hank Williams Jr. has three greatest hits albums?

Everything was absorbed.  Five years later, when I started at the Record Store, my boss was surprised that I knew who most of the artists were, what sections they should go in, and even what record labels they were on.

“I read the Columbia House catalogue cover to cover every month,” was my answer!

The catalogue provided knowledge, and pictures to cut out for locker or wall.  We made the most of that catalogue every time.  It was rare when pictures were not cut out!

I was even able to acquire things that might have been considered rarities back then.  I had never seen Leatherwolf stocked in a store, but Columbia House had it.  When vinyl was being discontinued, I was still able to get Skid Row’s Slave to the Grind (1991) on LP.  They had most of the Savatage albums.

It all sounds wonderful, but Columbia House had flaws too.  The biggest one was horrendous quality control.  They licensed and manufactured the tapes themselves, which were simply not as good quality wise as the ones you could find in a store.  They would be warbling within weeks (if not right out of the case) and the J-cards were sometimes shoddy, with printing not lining up with fold lines, or just they’d just start falling apart along perforations.  They also didn’t carry certain record labels.  While they had everything Warner Bros and Columbia Records, they had nothing from EMI.  Finally, bands made next to nothing on albums that were sold through Columbia House.  Some bands such as the Tragically Hip refused to sell their music via Columbia House.  We didn’t know all of this as kids, of course.  I started to pick up on the quality issues when they seemed to take a serious dive around 1991.

The key to not getting ripped off by Columbia House was to order smart.  The 12 free tapes sounds like a great deal, but when you balance in buying the rest of your selections at full price, most people ended up on the losing side.  Get in and get out, buying the bare minimum.  That was the way to do it.  Of course, we didn’t.  We just enjoyed the convenience and stayed members for years!  No regrets since this led directly to a 12 year career in the Record Store!

REVIEW: White Lion – The Best Of (1992)

WHITE LION – The Best Of (1992 Atlantic)

I’m going to keep it short and sweet this time, and defer to a 1992 review by M.E.A.T Magazine’s Drew Masters (issue 38, Nov. 92):

BEST OF WHITE LION_0001

He’s right.  I don’t agree with the single M rating though; these are mostly good tunes.  They’re sequenced awkwardly as fuck though.  The flow on this disc is just completely fucked.  The songs don’t work in the sequence they’re in.  And Drew is correct in inferring that many of White Lion’s prouder, heavier moments are missing.   Vito smokes on the live tracks, but Tramp can’t hit the notes.  Buy Pride, not this.

2/5 stars

REVIEW: White Lion – Fight to Survive (1985)

FIGHT TO SURVIVE_0001WHITE LION – Fight to Survive (1985 Music for Nations)

Growing up in the 1980’s, there were a lot of new bands coming out that we latched onto pretty quickly. White Lion was one. My buddy Bob probably liked them better than I did, but I was a fan too. Back in those days, I was the guy buying all the rock magazines, while he was starting out in college. I’d tell him all the latest rock news, what albums were coming out, and so on.

One afternoon we were chatting, and I had something pretty major to tell him. I had read a White Lion interview in Circus magazine, and it revealed something neither of us knew before: Pride was not the first White Lion album! They had done a previous, independent (and rare) record called Fight to Survive that we didn’t know existed. Even back then, Bob and I were collectors, so we sought that album with great vigor.

It took years for him to find it on cassette, and then several more for me to get it on CD. Now I have it, so let’s talk about it.

The opener is “Broken Heart”, which was re-recorded in ’91 for Mane Attraction. Perhaps this early version, sans keyboards, is the better of the two. Regardless, this had hit single written all over it even back then. The chorus kills and even though it has ballady verses, it also has enough balls to pump the fist in the air.  “Cherokee” is another one with a killer chorus.  The songwriting here isn’t perfect, or polished.  It has some clunky moments, but it definitely had something.  Unfortunately, the title track is a lame-o Van Halen rip off, trying to be something like “Mean Street” or something, but missing the mark.  The lyrics about shields and swords are out of place on an album with a song like “Broken Heart”.  Vito Bratta is ripping off Randy Rhoads rather than Eddie Van Halen on the solo, but he had really yet to evolve into the player he became.

FIGHT TO SURVIVE_0002“Where Do We Run” picks up on one of the albums themes:  great choruses (and guitar solos)  that don’t have a great song around them.  However, “In the City” has nothing much of anything going for it: it’s a real flaccid side closer.  Side two’s opener “All the Fallen Men” is much better, sounding something like a Dokken single.  This song is a standout.  The rhythm section of James LoMenzo and Greg D’Angelo had already established a good groove together.  Mike Tramp’s lyrics are not profound (nor would they ever be) but he’s trying.

“All Burn in Hell” is one of those choruses without a song.  “Kid of 1000 Faces” is a song without a chorus.  “El Salvadore” opens with a really cool classical guitar/eletric guitar duo.  This at least has an original sound, or at least for 1985 it was.  And the song itself?  Another great chorus just begging for a good song, a memorable riff — anything!  White Lion were really good at writing song fragments.  Finally, the piano-based ballad “Road to Valhalla” is one of the cheesiest, unconvincing “serious” ballads I have ever heard in my life.  Mike Tramp’s flat vocals don’t help the matter much, but this song is so cookie-cutter that it sounds as if taken from a handbook called How to Re-Write “Home Sweet Home” in Three Simple Steps.

Fight To Survive has a couple great songs, and several brilliant fragments.  If they’d tightened it up and put out five as an EP, we’d be on to something.  Unfortunately, Fight To Survive is only worth:

2.5/5 stars

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WTF Search Terms: The Never-ending Search Terms

Welcome to the semi-regular feature where I reveal stunningly weird search terms that led people to mikeladano.com  For the last installment, Questions & Comments edition, click here. Alright, let’s dive in!

WTF SEARCH TERMS XXI:  The Never-ending Search Terms

10. guess who am i (Give me a clue?  Are you Leonard Nimoy?)

9. port elgin sucks (Harsh, dude.  Harsh.)

8. timmy loved judas priest (That’s great!)

7. kunci gitar white lion till death do your fart (Fart to the death!)

6. 107.5 dave fm craig fee them song (It is by Glenn Murphy and can be downloaded from iTunes.)

5. showing true using penis pump (Told ya I’d be getting hits for this.)

4. are johnny lee johns and sid haig the same person (Johnny Lee Johns is a fictional character played by Sid Haig.)

3. bum bum bay (Bop bop boo.)

2. 48،257 فيدو سكس (How the fuck did this lead to me??)

1. fuaked (You said it, man.)

FUAKED

REVIEW: White Lion – Mane Attraction (1991)

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WHITE LION – Mane Attraction (1991 Atlantic)

I was expecting a lot more out of Mane Attraction.  Most fans are of a mind that Big Game was not as good as Pride (to varying degrees) and the band seemed to agree with them.  In a guitar magazine interview, Bratta and Tramp proclaimed that they had toned it down on Big Game, and the next album would be much heavier, and more epic.

In many respects, that was true.  Mane Attraction has an 8-minute epic and two more songs clocking in at 7 minutes apiece.  There are heavy moments here that are equal to the heaviest on Fight to Survive.  Producer Richie Zito captured the heavier sounds with polish and clarity.  Where Mane Attraction stumbles is not on the heavy songs, it’s on the sappy, pathetic, limp, impotent ballads.  Side one has two in a row!

Things get off to a solid start.  “Lights and Thunder” is everything the band promised it would be.  This is the kind of uncompromising heavy rock that the band had been trying to do.  It has a trippy quality as it navigates different moods and sections.  It is quite probably the best song on the album.  Notably, Bratta’s style has become less fluttery and displays more balls.  “Leave Me Alone” too is adventurous, sort of a heavy metal funk hybrid.  It has a great heavy guitar groove, but Mike Tramp’s lyrics are absolute shit.  “Can’t touch this”?  Jesus Murphy.  It’s a shame because “Leave Me Alone” is pretty great musically.  You could headbang to it just fine; trust me, I know.

From Fight to Survive (the band’s indi debut) comes a re-recording of “Broken Heart”.  It is a commercial hard rocker, and it reminds me of early Europe.   New keyboard parts made it more pop and radio friendly, but it didn’t get the radio play the band needed.  Plenty of keyboards can also be heard on the other single, “Love Don’t Come Easy”.  Releasing a song this soft as the first single was commercial suicide; people were craving heavier sounds.  “Love Don’t Come Easy” (originally titled “There Comes A Time”) is a good song, but it did not make a strong first impression for a single.

On album, the band chose to chase this lukewarm single with a sappy ballad called “You’re All I Need”.

I know that she’s waiting,
For me to say forever,
I know that I sometimes,
Just don’t know how to tell her.
I want to hold and kiss her,
Give her my love,
Make her believe,
‘Cause she doesn’t know,
She doesn’t know.

Mnfnrhshitrmfn.

And then…wait for it…

Another ballad.

There is least some cool organ and bluesy guitar on “It’s Over”, but why the hell would you put so many soft songs in a row?  I’m sure back in the day the band were trying call this a blues, but that would be stretching the matter greatly.   “It’s Over” closes side one, and I need to go and get some air, because these stuffy ballads are making me feel ill.

FUCKING

Intermission

Alright, I’m back, I’ve cleared my head.  Side two begins with a bang; literally.  “Warsong” was written by Tramp and Bratta as a response to the record company asking them to write “another single”.  Musically, this is a fantastic song, propelled by Greg D’Angelo’s relentless beat.  It too exhibits multiple sections and a couple killer Bratta solos (the second drastically different from the first).  Where it loses once again is in the lyrical department.  I know Mike Tramp has written many songs condemning war, and I know that the Gulf War was going on when he wrote this.  What I took issue with was the line, “I know there’s nothing good in war, I know ’cause I’ve been there before.”  I don’t think it’s cool to say you’ve “been there before” unless you actually have.  I think it’s inappropriate.

“She’s Got Everything” is a cool groove.  The lyrics suck again, but that’s expected now.  My advice is just to sing your own lyrics over Mike Tramp’s.  For example, where Mike sings this:

“So we left the party, and drove to her place,
You could see excitement written on my face.
So she took me upstairs, laid me on her bed,
When she got undressed I just lost my head.”

Try singing this:

“Sheeba dabba dobby, n’ log in fireplace,
Soo loo ba dooby doo, pooping in the place.
Shooba dooba dabba, the man in the shed,
La dee da da dee da, eating loaf of bread.”

Better, right?

“Till Death Do Us Part” is a fucking wedding song, except nobody in the entire world ever used it as such.  It has a cool, atmospheric bass intro, but then it’s off to the honeymoon in downtown Shit City.  The only good thing is Bratta’s solo, the icing over a very rotten cake.

MANE_0004

It’s too late to save the ship from sinking now.  “Out With the Boys” is another stupid lyric, but at least framed in a good rock song.  Once again White Lion lay the groove on hard.  Then Vito Bratta takes a solo slot with “Blue Monday”.  This electric blues was written and recorded for Stevie Ray Vaughan who had recently died.  Too little too late, and rendered pointless by yet another ballad.  Mane Attraction closes on “Farewell to You”, and I say good luck, don’t let the door hit you on the way out, etc.

Mane Attraction is over an hour long.  If it had been 30-35 minutes long, like rock albums from a past era, this would have been a very different review.

2/5 stars

MANE_0005I’m doing an ear-cleanse now.  To Van Halen, not Van Hagar.

 

REVIEW: White Lion – Big Game (1989)

Before I get started on the review…

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BIG GAME_0001WHITE LION – Big Game (1989 Atlantic)

When Big Game was released in 1989, hard rock was arguably at its 80’s commercial peak.  In comparison to the two-million selling Pride, Big Game was a disappointment at the cash register.  I believe this was an herald of the changing winds of rock, that would fully arrive in 1991.  At the time, it was more considered a sign that Big Game was weaker than Pride.  I don’t think that was the case.  Big Game remains today as enjoyable as Pride is, with plenty of great tunes to spare.

Pride‘s main weakness was its lyrics. Mike Tramp improved enough as a lyricist on Big Game that the words are no longer really an issue. He’s no Bob Dylan, but a lot of the immaturity has gone. An example is the first single “Little Fighter”. My best friend Bob assumed the song was a rallying cry about a person.  Tramp actually wrote it about the Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior, which was sunk by France in 1985.  To his credit, Tramp figured out how to bring his politics to hard rock music without making it obvious to those who just want to rock out.

On the other hand, the lyrics to “Broken Home” are awkward and blunt, killing my enjoyment of the album at that moment.  While nobody in their right mind supports child abuse, the stark lyrics are simply not appropriate for a hard rock album like Big Game.  It’s impossible to sing along, impossible to ignore.  Right in the middle of Side One of the album, its momentum crashes and its not because of the music.

Fortunately, musically Big Game has more of that White Lion rock and roll that propelled them to stardom in 1987.  Anthemic rockers, lighter-ready ballads, and brilliant fluttery solos by Vito Bratta are in abundance.  Big Game doesn’t sound as dark as Pride, but it is also less heavy overall.  That said, “If My Mind Is Evil” is one of White Lion’s heaviest tunes.

Highlights:

The brilliant opener “Going Home Tonight”, an irresistible hard rocker.  The bright single “Little Fighter”.  “Living On the Edge”, a fun anthem not at all like the Aerosmith song.  “Don’t Say It’s Over”, a melancholy mid-tempo song that Bon Jovi would have given his left nut to write.  The stunning closer, “Cry For Freedom”, which is lyrically blunt but not as depressing as “Broken Home”.

I even like the Golden Earring cover, “Radar Love”.  The original is a radio classic of course, but White Lion did a pretty decent cover version thanks to Vito’s sublime guitar.  I thought the music video was pretty cool too.  Anything with a car chase, right? Thank God Mike Tramp is wearing jeans in this one. How many people did he scare away with his ridiculous pants (and dancing) in the “Little Fighter” video?

Since the album was considered a bit of a failure in some quarters, White Lion tried to change things up for the next album, Mane Attraction. That too failed to drum up sales, and after some lineup changes, they quickly disbanded.  Look for my Mane Attraction review in a matter of days.

3.5/5 stars

REVIEW: White Lion – Pride (1987)

Enjoy this first of two White Lion reviews. Stay tuned for the second in a couple days!

PRIDE_0001WHITE LION – Pride (1987 Atlantic)

I’ve had some fierce arguments with some rock fans about this album.  Regardless of its flaws, I steadfastly defend it and especially the talents of one Vito Bratta, the best guitarist to never become a guitar hero.  After the breakup of White Lion in 1991, Bratta retreated from public life and music completely.  Some have argued to me, “If he was such a talent, he’d still be around.”  Such talk is ignorant of the facts.  Bratta spent many years as a caregiver to ill parents, and whatever decisions he made have to be respected.

I mentioned that this album is flawed, so I’m going to get that part out of the way first.  There are two things about this album that suck.  One is the production, by the normally awesome Michael Wagener (engineered by Canadian “Gggarth” Richardson).  It’s really muddy, echoey, and annoying.  It is indicative of the times.

The second thing that drives me nuts are the lyrics.  I know Mike Tramp is Danish and English is his second language, but there were three guys from New York (Staten Island and Brooklyn) in the band that could have helped.  As Exhibit A, I present you “Lady of the Valley”:

Lady of the valley
Can you hear me cry
In the stillness of the night
I have lost my brother
In the fights of the war
And my heart has broken down

I always stumble over that “In the fights of the war” line.  That’s one of the “serious” songs, something that White Lion tackled frequently (improving over the years).  For their flaws I’ll at least respect Mike Tramp’s willingness to present a personal point of view on specific issues (“Little Fighter”, “Cry For Freedom”, “Warsong”, “El Salvador”).  Unfortunately Pride is loaded with songs about young girls and what Mike Tramp would like to do with them.  Below, Exhibit B:

Keep your engine running high
When you take my love inside
But hold the trigger on my loaded gun (“Hungry”)

Little miss Dee’s got a dirty mind
All around the boys she’s one of a kind
If you wanna good time you can take her home
Cause everyone knows she is good in bed (“Sweet Little Loving”)

I’ll stop there.

Musically, and performance-wise, Pride is a joy to listen to.  What an untapped well of talent Vito Bratta is.  In the guitar magazines, he was noted for having captured some of the magic of Eddie Van Halen, and I agree with that.  Bratta has definitely mastered the Van Halen book of rock.  His riffs are much like Van Halen’s, with one guitar playing the rhythm and flicking in and out with tricky little licks.  It sounds difficult as hell.  “Hungry” is the most Van Halen-like.  The difference is that Bratta sounds like a much more schooled player.  Everything sounds meticulously planned and written.  When he takes a solo, it’s a combination of Van Halen and neoclassical discipline.  And every song is absolutely loaded with fills and tricks.  Pride is very busy guitar-wise, in a good way.

“Hungry” is a great song, a dark Dokken-esque opener.  Also similar to Dokken is the second track, the mid-tempo “Lonely Nights”.  It’s another strong track, and I find Mike Tramp’s raspy voice similar to Jon Bon Jovi’s from time to time.  Bratta executes a fluttery solo, and then it’s on to the next one, “Don’t Give Up”.  Again, I find the lyrics tedious.  I like positivity, but I don’t find, “Don’t give up, even when it’s tough,” to be very profound.  Thankfully this uptempo banger is another winner musically.  Once again I struggle to keep up with Bratta’s stunning fretwork.

“Lady of the Valley” is pretty impressive.  It’s the “epic” I suppose, 6 1/2 minutes in length.  The riff is choppy and smoking, and the rhythm section of James LoMenzo and Greg D’Angelo is spot-in.  Then Bratta gets his echoey acoustic guitar out and the song mutates.  An anthemic chorus tops a great song.

Side Two of the album was packed with singles:  the hits “Wait”, “Tell Me”, and “When the Chrildren Cry”.  “Wait” and “Tell Me” are both songs that Bon Jovi would have given their nuts to write.  Tramp’s raspy vocals are absolutely perfect, as was his blonde mane, and the girls went wild.  “When the Children Cry” was and still is an impressive acoustic performance.  Even in 1987 I was impressed that White Lion chose to forgo drums and backing instrumentation.  This simple, quiet song is the template for what Extreme would do three years later with “More Than Words”.  Bratta was a guitar player able to pull off such an arrangement without sacrificing integrity.

The album is rounded out by “All Join Our Hands” and “All You Need Is Rock N Roll”, two odes to the greatest music ever invented.  “All You Need Is Rock N Roll” is quite cool, beginning with what sounds like a drunken acoustic jam, and ending with with some killer bluesy playing from everyone.  Both songs are great.  I have always felt that the album tracks were as strong as the singles; like an album of 10 singles.

Shame about the sound and the lyrics, though.

 3.5/5 stars

Part 171: VIDEO – Record Store Gallery

RECORD STORE TALES Part 171:  Record Store Gallery

Part 156: Value

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RECORD STORE TALES Part 156:  Value

The art of buying and selling used music mainly hinges on two factors:  condition, and re-sell value.

Condition can be subjective.  Is it slightly scratched?  Heavily scratched?  Do those minor marks from wiping the CD count as scratches?  Our upper management tried to give us consistent guidelines to follow on condition.  The customers didn’t always agree, but we tried to be consistent – not an easy task when you have dozens of buyers!

Value, on the other hand, could get very subjective.  For example, let’s say the year is 1996.  You went out and bought yourself a brand-spankin’ new copy of Live Through This, by Hole.  You paid $23.99 for it at your local store.  You played it a couple of times and didn’t like it, and they won’t take it back without the receipt.  So, you come to see me with a mint condition copy, only played twice.  You’re hoping for good money.  You paid $23.99, maybe you’d like to cut your losses and get $10 back?

Well, it never worked that way.  We’d never pay that much for a single regularly priced CD for many reasons:

  1. If you paid $23.99 for Live Through This by Hole, you still paid way too much, even in 1996. You could have got it cheaper elsewhere.
  2. We have to make a profit on it too.  Whatever we pay, we’d generally have to double it to make a profit, after the overhead of running a store are considered.
  3. What if we already had a couple copies, that have been sitting here for a month or two?  Do I really need a third to sit there?

These are all factors that came into play.

The next thing the customer would often say was this:

“I’m not looking for my money back, just another CD.  Can I just trade this to you, one for one?”

Well, again, no.  There’s no profit in that either.  I’m just swapping your disc for my disc and not making a dime on the transaction.  Essentially, I’d be doing you a favour and that’s all.  And chances are, you’d want to trade it for something better than Live Through This!

One time, while having this very same discussion, I explained to a customer why I couldn’t pay him $10 for his CD.  “Because that’s what we sell it for, I wouldn’t be making any money on it.”  He shrugged and said, “That’s your problem, not mine.”  No, it’s your problem, since I won’t be paying you $10 for your disc.

Another reason that people expected more money for a disc was rarity.  If something was considered rare, yes, we would generally pay more.  But who decides if something is rare?

220px-Lionbigame

I remember a guy holding up a copy of Big Game by White Lion, saying, “This CD is worth over $50!”  Well, maybe somebody was asking $50 for it somewhere, and maybe somebody was willing to pay that.  So yes, to those two people, it’s worth $50.  But if you look, you could definitely find it for under $10, guaranteed.  Even in 1996.  All you had to do is hunt a little.  I did, and I got my copy for under $8.  It’s a title that was not in demand.

Some things that WERE considered rare:

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The Traveling Wilburys – Volume I.  We asked $50 for that one.  It was out of print for many years.  Out of print Bob Dylan is worth a lot more than out of print White Lion!

220px-Metallica_-_The_$5.98_E.P.-Garage_Days_Re-Revisited_cover

Metallica – Garage Days Re-Revisited.  Also out of print.  We asked $50 for that one too, until it was reissued as a part of Garage Inc.  Reissues would usually kill the value of an our of print disc.

Some things that were NOT considered rare:

A lot of old soundtracks.  Soundtracks were a tricky thing.  You might be the only person in town that gives a crap about the Operation Dumbo Drop soundtrack for example.  Maybe it’s out of print, and maybe you collect soundtracks, but maybe I already have a copy priced at $5 that has been sitting there half a decade!

We tried to be as fair as possible, but it’s not always easy to see when I’m giving you $4 for a CD that you paid $24 for.  You can’t please all the people all the time.  Still, it was better than a garage sale!

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Most Unrightfully Ignored Albums of the 1990s – LeBrain’s List Part 4

This is it!  The end!  In alphabetical order, here’s Part 4 of 4:  88 albums that meant the world to me in the 1990′s but never got the respect I felt they deserved.   Thanks for joining in!

Savatage – Streets:  A Rock Opera (sheer brilliance, their first and best rock opera)
Savatage – Edge of Thorns (an album to give Queensryche a run for their money)
Savatage – Handful of Rain (recovering from tragedy to create a triumph)
Savatage – The Wake of Magellan (how did this band just keep getting more brilliant?)
Scorpions – Face the Heat (had a couple good heavy rockers on there like “Alien Nation”)
Shaw/Blades – Hallucination (Tommy Shaw, Jack Blades, campfire goodness)
Skid Row – Subhuman Race (when you’re pissed off and you know it, bang thy head)

Sloan – 4 Nights at the Palais Royale (one of the best live albums of all time – ignored internationally)
Dee Snider’s SMF’s – Live / Forever Twisted (fuck, I missed Dee in the 90’s!)
Spinal Tap – Break Like the Wind 
Stryper – Can’t Stop the Rock (a compilation with two great new tunes)
Sultans of Ping F.C. – Casual Sex in the Cineplex (see here)
Talas – If We Only Knew Then What We Know Now… (Billy Sheehan and the boys reunited for one night, and has the wisdom to record it)
Tesla – Bust A Nut (in some ways it’s better than their prior records)
Testament – The Ritual (really heavily slagged at the time as a sellout)
Tonic – Sugar (much better than the first record, you know, the one that was a hit)
Devin Townsend / Ocean Machine – Biomech (one of his more accessible albums)
Union – Union (Bruce Kulick + John Corabi = better than what the Crue or Kiss was releasing)
Steve Vai – Sex and Religion (Devin Townsend — lead throat)
Veruca Salt – Eight Arms To Hold You (their best album, better than the big hit one)
White Lion – Mane Attraction (it was a little mushy, but brilliant guitars by Vito Bratta)
Whitesnake – Restless Heart (back to his blues rock roots, it wasn’t even released here)

We’re done!  88 albums that meant a lot to me in the 1990’s, but in some cases were criminally ignored.  Check them out.