yngwie malmsteem

REVIEW: Rulers of Rock – Various Artists (1988 cassette)

RULERS OF ROCK (1988 PolyTel)

When the front cover features crumbled tinfoil, you know you’re in for a seriously good time.

This tape still sounds amazing!  It was a gift 30 years ago from an old girlfriend, and it somehow survived all my cassette purges (even the one that sent most of them to Thunder Bay.)

From the fine folks at PolyTel, you get an assortment of hot rock that makes for a remarkably good listen today.  Opening with Bon Jovi’s “Living on a Prayer” you couldn’t ask for a better embarkation point.  That goes right into the back-to-basics brilliance of “Love Removal Machine” by the Cult.  I remember that old girlfriend really hated The Cult, so it was kind of her to give this to me.  I didn’t have Electric yet, so this was my first ownership of the song.

The Ozzman cometh on “The Ultimate Sin”, still relentless today even though Ozzy tries to ignore most of the Ultimate Sin era.  Ozzy and Jake made some incredible music together and this is one.  The cassette swings back towards hair metal with Cinderella and their early hit “Nobody’s Fool” from 1986.  On tape, the ballad sounds thicker and heavier.  It also appears to be the full length version and not a single edit.  Up next, it’s the non-metal of The Alarm, but “Rain in the Summertime” fits like a glove.  It’s really no softer than “Living on a Prayer” when you think about it.  Unfortunately the cassette has a warbly spot right in the middle of the song.  Kiss close the side with the softest one yet:  “Reason to Live” from Crazy Nights.

Flipping the tape, side two opens with a hit just about equal to the one that commenced side one.  The keyboards sound carpet-deep on tape, as you recognise “The Final Countdown” by Europe.  If there were only two bands battling for rock supremacy in 1987, it was Bon Jovi vs. Europe.  Side one vs side two!

Our first Canadian content is predictably by Rush.  Hey, it had to be either Rush or Bryan Adams.  “Time Stand Still” featuring Aimee Mann was the kind of mainstream hit perfect for a tape like this.  Less predictable is the presence of Yngwie Malmsteen with “Fire” from Trilogy, a song totally out of character for a tape with The Alarm and Cinderella.  Deep Purple are next to crash the party with 1987’s Bad Attitude.  Once again, it was my first time owning a song.  I imagine Deep Purple with a little less shocking next to Yngwie, though probably just as unfamiliar to an unsuspecting buyer.

Why not a little Christian content, since so many styles of rock are represented here?  Stryper’s “Honestly” may sound like a romance, but it’s a cleverly disguised prayer.  And finally, because why not? It’s “Hourglass” by Squeeze!  I was 17 years old, and I hated it!  Different story today.

30 years down the road, Rulers of Rock was a delightfully entertaining listen with twists, turns and surprises.  And it’s still the only place I own those Squeeze and Alarm songs!

4/5 stars

 

 

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REVIEW: Hear N’ Aid – Stars (1986)

HEAR N’ AID – Stars (1986 LP, Japanese CD)

It is hard to believe that this monumental album, a piece of rock history, was only issued on CD in Japan! Finding a domestic LP or cassette isn’t hard (I’ve owned it on all three formats including CD) so hunt your record shops.  I know Wendy Dio has a CD/DVD reissue lined up, hopefully including the full album, single edit, and the video and interviews.  If you’re reading this Wendy…

At the time, all funds went to starving people in Africa, hence the name Hear N’ Aid.  The inspiration was something fairly obvious:  No heavy metal people outside of Geddy Lee was involved in the numerous famine relief projects of the time!  (Geddy sang a lead on the excellent “Tears Are Not Enough” (1985) by Northern Lights, but nobody metal could be seen in “Do They Know It’s Christmas” or “We Are the World”.)

“Oh, you knoooow that we’ll be there!”

Showing the world that heavy metal bands and fans aren’t a bunch of assholes, Jimmy Bain and Vivian Campbell of Dio came up with the concept for Hear N’ Aid.

The main track, “Stars”, by Hear N’ Aid is a tour-de-force. Written by Bain, Campbell and Dio, this is essentially an epic extended track with a soft intro and heavy verses, and tons of guests. They assembled virtually every major metal singer who was willing and available to take part. That means you will hear Quiet Riot singers Kevin DuBrow and Paul Shortino (still with Ruff Cutt at the time) singing together for the first and only time in history! Rob Halford, Don Dokken, Eric Bloom, Geoff Tate, Dave Meniketti, and Dio himself all take lead vocal slots too.

When the guitar solo kicks in, prepared to be blown away. With Iron Maiden guitarists Dave Murray and Adrian Smith playing backing harmonies, you will hear the monstrous talents of George Lynch, Yngwie Malmsteen, Vivian Campbell, Craig Goldy, Neal Schon, Buck Dharma, Carloz Cavazo, Brad Gillis and Eddie Ojeda all taking a few bars. No charity track had ever attempted to assemble not just singers, but guitar players, on one track before.

All this is backed by drummers, bassists and keyboard players from Dio and Quiet Riot. There are more backing singers than I can name, but most notably, Derek Smalls and David St. Hubbins from Spinal Tap. Of course.

The rest of the album is filled out by songs donated by bands who couldn’t take part in the song, but still wanted to help the starvation situation in Africa. Therefore you will get a live “Heaven’s On Fire” from Kiss, from their Animalize Live Uncensored home video. This is the only place that the audio track was released on. There is an unreleased live “Distant Early Warning” by Rush, and rare ones by Scorpions and Accept as well.

Tracklist:
1.Hear ‘n Aid – “Stars”
2.Accept – “Up to the Limit” (live)
3.Motörhead – “On the Road” (live)
4.Rush – “Distant Early Warning” (live)
5.Kiss – “Heaven’s on Fire” (live)
6.Jimi Hendrix – “Can You See Me”
7.Dio – “Hungry for Heaven” (live)
8.Y&T – “Go for the Throat”
9.Scorpions – “The Zoo” (live)

5/5 stars