yngwie j malmsteen

REVIEW: Yngwie Malmsteen – Trial By Fire: Live in Leningrad (1989)

YNGWIE MALMSTEEN – Trial By Fire:  Live in Leningrad (1989 Polydor)

Walk up to the well-schooled rock fan in your group of friends and ask, “What do you think of Yngwie J. Malmsteen?”

Even the ones who don’t like the Swedish Speed Demon’s albums will admit, “except for that one with Joe Lynn Turner; that was pretty good.”

The short-lived Turner lineup did release a live album in 1989.  Trial By Fire: Live in Leningrad was accompanied by home video of the same name with more tracks.  By 1990, Malmsteen already had a new album and singer named Göran Edman, but only Joe Lynn Turner had the marquee value to bring Yngwie a Billboard top 40 charting record (#40 with Odyssey).

Although Turner can act as a gateway to hear Yngwie for the first time, his stuff can still be pretty off-putting.  Just look at the pompous “thank you’s” on the inside sleeve.  Sprinkled in with the regular names are da Vinci, Bach, Beethoven, Paganini, HP Lovecraft and Monty Python’s Flying Circus.  Come on, Yngwie!

Joe is a versatile singer, which is one reason he’s always been sought after.  He effortlessly imbibes the old Yngwie tracks with his own attitude:  “Liar”, “Queen in Love”, and “You Don’t Remember” are better with Joe singing.  Unfortunately this is marred by a too-loud audience and Yngwie’s always excessive shredding.  More often than not, he overplays.

When it works, it works.  “Heaven Tonight”, “Queen in Love” and “Deja Vu”, the most melodic songs, click.  The instrumentals are good too, like demonstrations of immaculate neo-classical rock.  “Far Beyond the Sun” is tightly composed and arranged, though live Yngwie lets the strings fly even more.  Listen for some Deep Purple right in the middle of “You Don’t Remember, I’ll Never Forget”, and some Rainbow on “Crystal Ball” too.

Yngwie produced Live in Leningrad himself, and it’s a rather shrill affair with obvious backing tapes on some of the choruses like “Heaven Tonight”.  The problem with many Yngwie albums is that you can only listen to so much before ear fatigue sets in.  Live in Leningrad is one such album.  By the end your brain is exhausted and you have to listen to something from a different end of the spectrum.  Even Joe Lynn Turner can’t blunt the aural razorblade effect.

3/5 stars

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#474: Vertigo Records in Ottawa Ontario

Last weekend, Aaron went record shopping in Toronto while I did the same in Ottawa. Check out his post too, and see what we scored!

GETTING MORE TALE #474: Vertigo Records in Ottawa Ontario

Something very special happened on March 24, 1956.  On that day, Clifford Michael Woodhouse married young Jean, the light of his life, and they began a large and loving family.  Clifford, known as Mike, was a radar operator in the CF (Canadian Forces).  As such he and his family lived in many parts of the world at many times.  According to his son Richard, who also served in the CF:  “During the height of the Cold War he was a Radar operator, working on what was known as the Pine Line, where he monitored and collected information on the movement and position of threats to the Canadian Forces and to Canadian sovereignty.”  He was also involved in classified projects, but I can’t talk about that, or he’ll have to shoot me.

Sgt. Woodhouse ultimately settled in Ottawa after stops in France and Gander, Newfoundland.  He retired in Ottawa where he and Jean still live today.  I am lucky to have married his beautiful grand-daughter Jennifer.

A 60th wedding anniversary is a big deal.  Did you know that couples who are citizens of the British empire (including Canadians) can receive a letter from Queen Elizabeth II for their 60th anniversary?  The diamond Woodhouse anniversary celebration (held on Sunday the 20th) was not an event we were likely to miss, so Jen and I climbed aboard a train and headed east to our nation’s capital.

We stayed in the Novotel (good experience; recommended) which was a block or two away from a store called Vertigo Records.  Brilliant.  First excursion solved!  We’ll get there eventually (I promise), but lemme tell you, I’ve never been in a Hummer limo before.  Jen’s cousin Missy arranged this beast of a vehicle, 18 feet in length, and just a pleasure to ride in.  (So screw the environment I guess; I rode in a Hummer limo and enjoyed it!)  There were 14 of us inside that Hummer, including Mike and Jean, two of their kids, three of their grand-kids, and FIVE of their SIX great-grandchildren!  How incredible is that?  Even more met us at the Keg Manor; a large and incredible group of people.

During the celebration, the lucky couple were presented a number of precious documents in honour of their achievement.  The letter from the Queen was perhaps even overshadowed by a personal letter from the Right Honourable Steven Harper, former Prime Minister of Canada.  Family member Chris acquired this by writing to the office of Mr. Harper, who was kind enough to send a signed letter in response.  There was also a letter from David Johnston, Governor General of Canada and direct representative of the Queen in this country.

Jennifer has a great family in Ottawa and I can’t wait to return to the city, in warmer weather.  It was bitter cold that weekend, windy and unpleasant to walk in for a long period of time.  As such we didn’t go far in distance from our hotel.  I did find this interesting place that I might have to check out next time.*  It was situated beside a couple tattoo shops.  Hey, it says it’s FREE, right?

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Vertigo Records (193 Rideau St, (613)-241-1011) is an inviting and cool store selling new and used CDs, vinyl and even cassettes.  They had a copy of Metallica’s tape-only No Life ‘Til Leather, sealed for $25.  Even cooler, they had a signed Motorhead drum head (not for sale).   We arrived shortly after they opened and there were already customers browsing.  They had a lot of stock and they were putting out plenty of new stuff as I was there.  There were a number that struck my eye.

Should I have bought Goblin Cock?

Should I have bought Goblin Cock?

 

One of the first discs I noticed was Yngwie Malmsteen’s Live in Leningrad, which I have wanted for a long time but never had.  Vertigo had a good variety of tunes in rotation over the speakers, including some Motley Crue.  Maybe that’s what inspired me to pick up the double Live – Entertainment or Death.  I’ve seen a lot of copies of it in the past in just wrecked condition, so not remembering if I owned it or not, I picked this one up.  I did own it already.  So this one goes into the Aaron pile.**  In the new arrivals bin, I saw Robert Pollard/Doug Gillard’s Speak Kindly of Your Volunteer Fire Department.  I wasn’t certain if he owned it or not, so for only $6.99 it was better safe than sorry.   He does have it, so I’ll keep it.  He tells me I won’t be disappointed with it anyway, because Gillard is a guitar hero of his and I should be in for a treat.

Speaking of Aaron, he has some Deep Purple castaways coming his way.  When I saw these lovely Japanese reissues in mint, complete condition for only $14.99 each, it was all but a no-brainer to pick them up.  There are Russian forgeries on the market, but these are the genuine article from Japan.  I’m very pleased to add these to my collection and pass down my old copies to the next generation of Purple fanatics.*** And lo! More Japanese treasures were to be found! Complete with obi strip was some rare Rage Against the Machine.  I have a brief story about this CD, that was too short to make it into Record Store Tales*^ but fine for an anecdote here.

One of the few guys that actually worked at the old Record Store before me was this guy Dave.  There was the owner, his brother, two guys named Craig and Dave, and then me.  A bit later on, Dave went to Japan but kept in touch via snail mail (back then, we just called it “mail”).  I will never forget that he sent us a letter to the store, almost taunting us with rare CDs that he found in Japan.  He mailed us the obi strips for Nirvana’s Hormoaning and a Rage Against Machine CD called Live & Rare.  “Ever seen these before?” read part of the letter.  Hormoaning yes, Rage no.   I never saw it again either, until Vertigo Records.  $12.99, obi strip intact.  Dave doesn’t even have his own obi strip anymore!

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Moving on, some classic rock finds were hard to turn down.  Cream Gold ($8.99 for 2 CDs!) and Jethro Tull’s Living With the Past ($6.99) came home with me to Kitchener.  I have the Tull DVD of the same name, and it’s excellent.  And Cream?  This is my first Cream purchase.  This is something I’m glad to have fixed in my collection.

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I love me some Fu Manchu, but I missed We Must Obey the first time out.  Brant Bjork’s Punk Rock Guilt also slipped past me.  Not this time!  $7.99 each.

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Finally, I could not safely bring home a lot of vinyl on the train, so I didn’t go nuts on it.  I saw some cool stuff, believe me, and I was considering getting some Kiss solo album reissues.  I bought one 45, which was “The Devil Stole the Beat from the Lord” by the Hellacopters, taken from their Kiss-like LP Grande Rock.  The single contains two non-album B-sides:  “Holiday Cramps” and “Be Not Content”.  The devil-dragster cover art probably made Rob Zombie cry tears of jealousy.

The guy behind the counter gave me the 45 for free.  “Because you’re buying so much,” he said.  What a pleasant surprise.  That was awesome.  I guess he didn’t know who I was*^^ and that I like to do this whenever I can!  We had a brief chat while he carefully put the discs and inserts in the cases.  We marveled at the folks out there who actually throw away CD packaging.  Why would anybody do such a thing?  I will truly never understand.

It was such a pleasure being in Ottawa that weekend, windy cold weather aside.  We will definitely return, and stay longer so as to check out some of the other record stores in town.  Vertigo Records is a must, a highly recommended store that I would rank as highly as my favourite Toronto record stores.

5/5 stars.

And thank you to C. Michael Woodhouse for your hospitality and for everything you have done for this country.

Mike “LeBrain” Ladano

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*I’m kidding!  I’m kidding!

**I have a lot of stuff here that I should really mail out to the friends I promised I would mail them out to.

***Hopefully Aaron and his kids.

*^Have you been reading Record Store Tales?  If not, please click here.

*^^I’ve always wanted to say to somebody, “Do you know who I am?” and then whip out my mikeladano.com cards as if I’m actually somebody.

 

 

#473.5: The Week of Flaming Turds – Feedback

FLAMING TURDS

The Week of Flaming Turds – Feedback

I hope you enjoyed the Week of Flaming Turds here at mikeladano.com.  When you amass a large collection of music, you end up with a number of stinkers because “hey, it’s part of the collection”.  Collecting could probably be diagnosed as an illness, related to OCD.  As a reviewer, I tend to review the music I listen to more often, which is (generally) stuff I like.  Hence, a skew towards positive reviews.  To break up the monotony I collected some writings about some stinkers this week and put ’em out as the Week of Flaming Turds.  And thank you Sarca for the title and logo.  She rocks, doesn’t she?

Now that we’re at the end of the week I have three questions, so please feel free to leave a comment.

1. Did you like this theme week?

2. Which of the five do you think stink the most?  If applicable, which album do you like most?

a) Shania Twain – “Party for Two” (Getting More Tale #473)
b) Bon Jovi – Burning Bridges
c) Queensryche – Tribe
d) W.A.S.P. – K.F.D.
e) Yngwie J. Malmsteen – Inspiration

3. Of these five, did you have a favourite writeup?  Or did you strongly disagree with me?

Lemme know in the comments below!  There are lots more turds in the collection to go.

 

 

REVIEW: Yngwie J. Malmsteen – Inspiration (2 CD reissue)

FLAMING TURDS

“Flaming Turds” artwork courtesy of SARCA at CAUGHT ME GAMING.  Thanks Sarca!

What better way to end the WEEK OF FLAMING TURDS than with a covers album?!  Thanks for joining us this week for some very questionable music!

Scan_20160317YNGWIE MALMSTEEN – Inspiration (1998, 2000 Spitfire 2 CD reissue)

“Woah!” said I upon spying this album for the first time, back in 1998 at the big HMV on Yonge St.  “Yngwie did a covers album!  Scorpions, Rainbow, Rush, lots of Purple…I’m in!”  For some reason, I thought that updated versions of some of my favourite songs redone by Yngwie Malmsteen would be something I’d want to hear all the time.  Eagle Rock did a reissue of Inspiration a couple years later with some bonus tracks out of the Yngwie archives, so when that one came in used at the Record Store, I swapped up for it.

Now, you might think that with such vocal luminaries as Jeff Scott Soto, Joe Lynn Turner, and Mark Boals, it would be hard to miss.  You would be wrong.  It’s impressive that all three guys served as lead vocalist for Yngwie in the early years, and returned for the covers album.  Beyond that, this album is still a turd.  Right from the orange-skinned Yngwie turd cover art, to the ghastly version of “Manic Depression” that Yngwie sings himself, this album is dreadful.  Just a real haul to try and listen to in one sitting.

Yngwie insists on producing all his music, and he has managed to make Jeff Scott Soto sound dull, sterile and boring.  No mean feat.  “Carry On Wayward Son” (Kansas) is an excuse for Malmsteen to over-shred, but Soto is not given a chance to do anything.  Even though Yngwie’s version of the song is actually shorter, it sounds way longer.  A simply atrocious “Pictures of Home” is given to Joe Lynn Turner to sing; kind of obvious since he was actually in Deep Purple for a few minutes.  How did they get drums to sound this bad?  The Blackmore obsession continues with “Gates of Babylon” (Rainbow) and even more Purple:  “Mistreated”, “Demon’s Eye”, and “Child in Time”.  Yes, that makes half of this covers album a Ritchie Blackmore covers album.  “Gates of Babylon” is pretty good, Soto finally unleashed, but then Yngwie shits all over it with a guitar solo that is way louder than the lead vocals!

Gates of Babylon

Gates of Babylon

The best things about these remakes could be the keyboard of Jens Johansson: not trying to copy Jon Lord in any way, but certainly a fun player to listen to if you’re into the neo-classical.  Unfortunately even he can’t save some of these tracks.  “Child in Time” is truly awful, simply not worth listening to.  Why waste eight minutes on this when you can play the original?  On the brighter side, a heavy version of “In the Dead of Night” by the progressive rock supergroup, U.K. is pretty good.  It’s a song you may recognize (I knew it from somewhere), but perhaps the reason I dig Yngwie’s version is that the original isn’t ingrained in my mind.    Mark Boals sings it, and his voice is strong and ripping!

Then we have the bonus CD.  (The Japanese version of the CD has a bonus track, Hendrix’s “Spanish Castle Magic”, but I don’t care.)  The best track on this disc is the song “Voodoo” from Yngwie’s album Magnum Opus.  Mike Vescera was the singer, and I always liked his era in Malmsteen.  It’s a heavy original tune with buckets of drama.

The balance of the bonus CD is a mixture of early Yngwie rarities and interviews…mixed together.  Meaning you don’t get actual full songs.  You get bits of songs and then Yngwie talking about the album and the music that inspired him, including Paganini.  I really hate when songs are chopped up like this.  The interview is not riveting but is good.  Childhood musical memories, early bands, and influences are notable topics.  Yngwie’s preoccupation with his own playing is fascinating.  He calls it an “obsession” and it’s clear from his work that he plays only to please himself.  And that’s just dandy.

Inspiration as a whole is overplayed, sonically sterile, and comes across as completely uninspired.  When Yngwie overplays on his own originals, that’s OK.  That’s the way the songs were written.  When you go nuts soloing all over “Sails of Charon” (Scorpions), all the listener really wants is to hear the sultry, original tones of Uli Jon Roth.  Inspiration is still a chore to finish, and it’s now going back on the shelf for a very long time.

1/5 stars

 

REVIEW: Stryper – The Covering (2011)

STRYPER – The Covering (2011)

In general, I hate covers albums. I remember spendling something like $25 on an Yngwie Malmsteen covers album a long time ago. I came out of that experience $25 lighter for an album I’ll never listen to again. I swore I’d never buy another covers album by a metal band unless I knew I wouldn’t be wasting my money.

Then I started reading about Stryper’s covers album. Stryper? A covers album??

But I was reading good things. Then finally the trusted Tommy Rose posted his Amazon review, and I ordered the album that night. Sold!

The Covering is a damn fine slice of metal, my friends. The cynical must remember that Stryper neither fit in with mainstream Christian rock, nor the mainstream of metal. They have always been outsiders and a lot of their cringe-inducing 80’s music (I’m looking at you, In God We Trust) was due to record company pressure and outside producers. At their hearts, they’ve always been headbanging heavy metal loving Christians, and The Covering proves it.

Featuring the entire classic lineup (Michael Sweet, Robert Sweet, Tim Gaines, Oz Fox) for the first time in ages, The Covering is the Stryper album to get even the most hardened cynic back into the band. Not that this is the first time, I think Reborn was a damn fine record (check out “Passion”). This however is Stryper at their most accessible and pummeling.

It’s next to impossible to pick favourites, because so many of these songs are ingrained into our collective minds. I found “Breaking The Law” to be absolutely great fun! Stryper’s style and Priest’s style mesh well. Less successful was “Highway Star”. Stryper’s angular, blocky playing doesn’t really complement our memories of Blackmore’s smooth riffing. However a nice fat organ playing Jon Lord’s original arrangement keeps the song from straying too far.

“Blackout” (Scorpions) was interesting because Michael Sweet’s enunciation echoed Klaus Meine’s ever so slightly without becoming parody. I can only surmise that this is due to Sweet knowing that song inside and out, backwards and forwards. “Over the Mountain” (Ozzy Osbourne) was another highlight, as Stryper just nail that Randy Rhoads riff and keep pummeling. “On Fire” (Van Halen) was a pleasant surprise. Oz Fox plays Eddie’s harmonics perfectly, proving he’s got the goods. Not to mention Sweet can hit David Lee Roth’s screams without trouble. (Also without the grit, but that can’t be helped, nobody has David Lee Roth’s grit.) And of course who else could sing Robert Plant’s part on “Immigrant Song”? “Immigrant Song” also features Tim Gaines playing John Paul Jones’ bouncy bass part just perfectly. I’m not too keen on the production in spots, but all I need to do is hear Gaines playing that bass line and I’m back on board!

I can honestly say that, for me, there are only two lowlights to this album. I’ve never been a fan of “Set Me Free” (Sweet) and “Carry On Wayward Son” (Kansas). Yngwie covered “Wayward Son” on his covers album if I remember correctly, and I’ve just never been a fan. “Set Me Free” is one I’ve been sick of for a long time, after hearing numerous covers from Vince Neil and Helix over the years.

Finally, we have the new original Stryper song “God”. Stryper have always felt like they have not been taken seriously as Christians because they have recorded secular music, but “God” is as blatant as it gets. Not to mention it is an absolute ball-crusher. If you don’t know it’s coming next, your first thought as a listener is, “What classic riff are they covering here?” But it’s not a classic riff — it is their own original one, and it’s a great riff to complement this great song. The vocal harmonies soar and hopefully this is a harbinger of what Stryper have in store down the line. The solos are also to die for.

The packaging for this album is great, in digipack, and featuring page after page of comic book artwork.

If you have never bought a Stryper album before, or if you haven’t checked out the band in years, this is the album to get your juices flowing again. Pick it up. Although it is a covers album, it was one of my favourites of 2011.

4/5 stars.

REVIEW: KISS – Animalize (1984)

Part 21 of my series of Kiss reviews, leading up to the release of Monster!  Still flushing out the last of the lo-fi cell phone pics, sorry about that.

ANIMALIZE

KISS – Animalize (1984)

Exit Vinnie Vincent.  Enter Mark St. John aka Mark Norton, a music teacher that came highly recommended, but had no touring experience.  Looking for the next young hot shot to compete with Eddie Van Halen and Yngwie, Kiss took a chance.

In addition to yet another lineup change and third lead guitar player, there were other fractures setting in.  Gene Simmons was dead set to become a movie star, and played the villain role alongside Tom Selleck in a movie called Runaway, written and directed by Michael Crichton.  Paul Stanley was left to produce the next album.

Paul and Gene recorded in separate studios, shuffling Mark St. John between them when needed.  Gene didn’t play bass on several of Paul’s songs, and studio musicians were brought in to add guitar solos, drum overdubs, and backing vocals.  All songs but one were co-written by outside writers.

Animalize is one of those albums that was hugely popular (2 x platinum I think?). It has a couple hot singles, a couple decent album cuts, but disappointly Animalize is mostly filler. Gene’s material is particularly forgettable and uninspired. It’s like you’re listening to half a band.
Mathematically, here’s how it breaks down:

1. I’ve Had Enough (Into The Fire) – good song
2. Heaven’s On Fire – good song (but overplayed)
3. Burn Bitch Burn – bad
4. Get All You Can Take – great song
5. Lonely Is The Hunter – bad
6. Under The Gun – bad
7. Thrills In The Night – great
8. While The City Sleeps – terrible
9. Murder In High Heels – terrible

4 out of 9 good songs, and not one of them by Gene Simmons. All of Gene’s stuff on Animalize sucked, leaving the kids of the 80’s to think that he was a sideman and Paul was the main guy. Gene also has the worst lyric in Kisstory here: “I wanna put my log in your fireplace.”

However, a highlight of the album are some of the solos.  A fast neoclassical/jazz player, St. John was miles away from Kiss’ roots. It was the era of the fast classically trained player. Even so, when the band thought that Mark wasn’t nailing the feel, they asked Bruce Kulick to fill in on two songs.  He appears on “Lonely Is The Hunter” and “Murder In High Heels”.  So, technically Animalize was Bruce’s first Kiss album, although nobody knew at the time that Kulick was destined to replace St. John, who was struck with a freak arthritic condition that left him unable to tour.

Kulick wouldn’t be granted full member status until the next album, while the band felt him out.  Later, St. John too went on to make some great solo work — check out his Magic Bullet Theory CD.

Animalize is far from outstanding. I would rank it among Kiss’ three worst albums, the other two being Hot In The Shade and Psycho-Circus. It’s historically important because of how popular the tour and album were. Most of the good songs, however, can be found elsewhere such as the Kiss box set.

2/5 stars.

Mark St. John passed away in 2007.  Rest in peace.