Monday, June 23, 2008

RIP George Carlin

George Carlin mourned as counterculture hero
He might not technically have been a rock'n'roller, but he was just as important to the counter culture.
He was a brilliant satirist and comedian and he will be missed. He left us far too early.

Check out his famous "Seven Words" skit here.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Between Midnight and Day – the Last Unpublished Blues Archive

Dick Waterman was a white man who got involved with the 60’s blues revival as a promoter/manager and just happened to also take photos. He worked with true legends such as Son House, Skip James. Mississippi John Hurt, Reverend Gary Davis and many others both more and less famous.

His work with these men led to many friendships, which led to a closer and more direct access to some of these people than any photographer ever had. He has photos and stories of many intimate moments – some happy, some sad, some aggravating, some downright annoying and some immensely funny. He brings these blues gods back down to earth and shows their real character to us – the good, bad and the ugly.

The book is large format – 9x12 or so – and the photos are all reproduced nicely. Each full page photo is accompanied by a personal story from Dick. He tells of giving Eric Clapton unreleased tapes of Robert Johnson, Big Mama Thorton heckling him from the stage, Mick Jagger getting harmonica lessons from Junior Wells (with photos) and helping some of these folks get their due respect and some financial recompense.

I picked this up on a whim and think this is one of the better blues books that I’ve discovered. This is a humanizing and interesting read. Don't expect detailed biographies but do expect intimate portraits - but visually and verbally.

The Nomads - Showdown!

I’ve been a fan of this band since I first found their Outburst! album in the mid-80’s. Their amazing mix of Detroit power and 60’s garage was a template that many bands drew upon over the years and their songwriting was always ace. Their influence has been seen on bands such as the 90’s/00’s wave of Swedish/Norwegian punk’n’roll bands, like the Hellacopters and Turbonegro.

This collection, put out by the paragon of good taste, Long Gone John on his Sympathy for the Record Industry, starts with their legendary classic, “The Way (You Touch My Hand)”. Simple power chords, great melodies and wild guitar leads create one of the best songs of the 80’s! If this was the only tune these cats ever released, they would still be revered as rock gods. But this two CD collection (and they’ve put out many more records since this was released) shows their versatility and skills as interpreters as well as songwriters.

A number of songs from the Outburst release are included, such as “Lowdown Shakin' Chills”, which the Hellacopters covered and the incredible “Where the Wolf Bane Blooms”, which they found the words for inside of the MC5’s High Times record, instead of from the original Wolf Man movie!

A couple of highlights from other people’s pens are their amazing take on the Lyres’ “She Pays the Rent” and the Dictators then-unreleased masterpiece “16 Forever”. They destroy the Lyres version with a high-energy blast of punk rave-up augmented with a Saints-like horn section. They stay pretty true to the original Dictators but just the fact that Shernoff’s version wasn’t readily available made this all that much more desirable, regardless of the fact that they tear it up!

They even do a Jeffrey Lee Pierce song that he wrote from the Droogs, “Call Off Your Dogs”. Hard to say which band does this better, as they both are damn great, though pretty different.

Disc one also has one of the – if not the – last songs that Johnny Thunders ever played on, a Nomads’ original “Beyond the Valley of the Dolls”. There’s also the fine soul rock of “Fire and Brimstone”, a Link Wray tune, and a super-tough “Wimp”, from the incredible California punk rock band, the Zeros.

Disc 2 has oddities and rarities and some of them are truly odd – such as the 50’s “Red Cadillac and a Black Moustache” and “I’m a Ding Song Daddy”. There’s plenty of garage tunes – the Sonics’ “Psycho”, “Have Love Will Travel” AND “Cinderella”, “Sometimes Good Guys Don’t Wear White”, “You’re Gonna Miss Me” (fine take on this extremely over-done classic) – and more 70’s rock, like “Real Cool Time”, “The Next Big Thing” and even a terrific “This Ain’t the Summer of Love” (originally they released this as a single under the name Screaming Dizbusters with “Next Big Thing” for the fantastic fanzine of named for that Dictators’ classic).

The set closes with a great – and funny – acoustic, rockabilly version of “Motorhead” – and yes, it actually works!

The Nomads are one of the longest lasting garage-oriented bands and they still rock just as hard as they did when they burst onto the scene in the mid-80’s. This is a super collection of some of the best stuff from this time period and I just saw that they now have a part two to this comp, so I’ll have to get that one, also!

Friday, June 20, 2008

The Hellacopters – Head Off

Coming after the brilliant Rock’n’Roll Is Dead, a genius mix of pop and raw power, I was very disappointed to hear that 1) the band was breaking up and 2) their final release would be all covers.

While they have done some monster versions of other people’s songs in the past, I am so hooked on the songwriting prowess exhibited in their own releases that I was worried that it would be a let down.

Unfortunately, it is. Not that it’s a bad CD – I don’t know if that is actually possibly from this group – but most of the songs that they have chosen are just not up to par with their own tunes. Obviously, they chose numbers written by friends and bands that they admire (Peepshows, “Demons”, Gaza Strippers, BellRays, etc), but it is hard to measure up to the greatness that is the Hellacopters.

Of course, there are exceptions. From the aforementioned BellRays, the band chooses one of their soul-rock masterpieces, “Making Up for Lost Time”, and do it justice. “Midnight Angels”, originally by the Peepshows, is pretty similar to something that the ‘Copters would have done on their last album and is a pretty cool pop’n’roll tune. They claim that the Humpers’ “(I’m) Watching You” was an inspiration for “(Gotta Get Some Action) Now” but if so, they took that inspiration and ran with it because the two songs don’t even sound remotely similar. I always thought the inspiration for that was a rave-up on Hendrix’s “Crosstown Traffic” since the riffs are almost identical.

Another number that does sound like it could have come from this bands’ pen is the Maharajas’ “Another Turn” – more rockin’ pop with a true power-pop ending! I have never heard of this Swedish group but they sound pretty happening.

There is a uniquely odd gimmick to this release – though it is a CD, one side is a vinyl single! They cover “Straight Until Morning” by the fantastic Powder Monkeys. Unfortunately, the vinyl isn’t protected so mine was already a little scratched straight out of the box. Speaking of which, this comes in a CD sized box with a booklet (with very little in it except for some individual photos of the photo cover concept and lots of blank pages – check their website for song details), a button and a patch. Intricate packaging for their last effort!

Overall, this is a good release, but far from their best. I wish they could have left on a higher note, but beggars can’t be choosers – it’s still worth having! I’ll be looking for the members’ future projects, though!
(Once again, a big thanks to brother Lutz for getting this for me! You're the best, buddy!)
PS - just another note on this version. Normal playing in a CD player will scratch the vinyl side so make a copy of the song right away! Mine already skips!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Salvation Army – Happen Happened

In L.A. in the early 80’s, the only 60’s inspired bands that were gigging were the Unclaimed, the Last and the Droogs. In a short span of time, though, these bands inspired the next wave of garage groups, many of which far surpassed the originals’ fame. These included the Bangs, the Dream Syndicate and the Salvation Army, who later changed their name to the Three O’Clock due to copyright infringements. In fact, this release is actually titled "Befour Three O'Clock" due to the threatened lawsuit.

Led by Michael Quercio, who coined the phrase the “Paisley Underground” for this new batch of bands, the Salvation Army was a combination of pop, psyche and punk that clicked with a number of fans. Michael started the band as a teen and is continuing to play to this day, still writing and performing memorable psyche-pop.

This CD combines the band’s first album as well as songs from their two singles and some unreleased numbers, making a true retrospective of this era of Michael’s career.

Quercio’s bass and vocals remain constant, but the original guitarist John Blazing was replaced by Greg Guiterrez and later drummer Troy Howell left when the band changed to the Three O’Clock. Troy gave the band a punkier feel, which was a lot of fun, but I have to admit that they were much more polished after he left and they probably wouldn’t have reached the level of fame that they did if he had stayed.

Sound production on these recordings are similar to other low-budget LA punk recordings, so don’t expect pop-polish. While this is highly melodic, it is also pretty punky.

Michael has some damn good songs on here, showing a real talent at a super early age. He pulls from tons of cool influences, including doing a cover of “Grimly Forming” from Grace Slick’s first band, the Great Society.

This is a super document of the beginning of the LA 80’s/60’s pop scene which spanned bands like the Bangs (who were pretty garage-y in their early days), among many other smaller, local groups. Good stuff!

Sundial – Acid Yantra

Though I have never been much of a drug user, I have always been a sucker for good stoner music. Not mindless jams like the Grateful Dead, but extra sensory rock like early Pink Floyd, Jefferson Airplane, Big Brother, Hendrix, and newer bands like Sundial.

Still another group that brother Lutz turned me on to years ago, this is the one record/CD that I’ve managed to hold on to. I know there are a number of other albums, but I’m not overly familiar with anything else.

Basically the brainchild of guitarist/vocalist Gary Ramon, Acid Yantra provides ethereal moments mixed with some rockin’ pieces, great guitar tones, and super playing by the 3 piece band.

“Red Sky” opens with quiet, spacey guitars, but the song plays a lot with dynamics, with loud choruses and melodic lead pieces, which seem to be somewhat of a trademark for Ramon. But he’s not afraid to rock out when he feels the need and “Apollo” blasts out of the speakers with power chords and plenty of guitar riffing and lyrics about turning his mind to mush – which sounds like what he’s trying to do to the listener! Drummer Craig Adrienne and bassist Jake Honeywell are super accessories to his vision and lock in with his grooves at all times.

Acoustic guitars dominate “3,000 Miles”, but with plenty of wah-wah guitar riffing over it for texture. While the acoustics stay the main rhythm, the soaring vocals and leads build and create a real feel of motion and Gary travels the 3000 miles – at least in his mind!

A wave of feedback opens “Are You Supernatural” and a heavy, pounding riff and throbbing drums marks one of the most rockin’ numbers on the record. More groovy use of dynamics and some terrific sounding lead guitar creates a fantastic number.

Even more upbeat is “Bad Drug”, with a movin’ beat, great melody, catchy chorus and still more fine guitar playing snaking within the tune. The band returns to real psychedelia with “Fly Into the Sun” - a quiet, acoustic number with memorable vocals.

Starting with an echoed guitar chord progression, “Roller Coaster” takes you on a ride from the psych-funk of the verses to the power of the choruses – fine stuff! Pink Floydian keyboards accentuate “Nova”, another quieter psych number that has a guitar jam in the middle of it, not unlike PF in their Meddle days. This basically fades into “Yantra Jam”, which is what it sounds like – a psych jam but with plenty of layers of guitars and even flute that keep it interesting throughout.

This is an excellent example of what can be done in this genre in the modern day – and you don’t have to be stoned to appreciate it!

The Stooges – Funhouse 2 disc set

While this is definitely my favorite Stooges album (out of three fantastic albums), I have resisted picking up the massive box set with dozens of versions of each song. But when I found this 2 CD set, I thought that it would be worth having.

And, of course, having the main album on CD is something that everyone should do, but the bonus CD has some truly cool and fun stuff. Most of it is alternative versions of “Loose”, “TV Eye”, “Funhouse” (there are a couple of excellent jams on this tune), etc, which show the growth of the songs, but there are also a couple of outtakes. “Lost in the Future” is in the same vein as “Dirt” – a slower, minor key piece of intensity that would certainly have fit on the record. On the other hand, “Slide” seems to simply be a jam that actually became “Dirt”. I’m damn glad that they had the time in the studio to hone these songs into what they eventually became, because the early takes are definitely just germs of ideas. Hard to imagine a band of this status (unheard-of at the time, other than by Detroit hipsters) having this much studio time to play with. But I would shake the hand of the record company man that allowed them this time!

There are also single mixes of “Down in the Street” and “1970”, which are completely different than the album versions and are pretty great. “Down…” even has Ray Manzarek-esque organ intertwining with the melody, which is pretty trippy on your first listen!

Of course, this album is essential for everyone’s collection and the 2 CD set has some super bonus material.

The Boomtown Rats - The Boomtown Rats

These days I’d be surprised if the average person even remembered the Boomtown Rats and if they did, I would be even more surprised if they could name a song besides “I Don’t Like Mondays”. But before Geldof was knighted and before they hit the tops of the charts, they were actually a super fun poppy punk band with some great tunes!

The first time I heard the band was with this (vinyl) release that I got in the late 70’s. Opening with the energetic and egocentric “Lookin’ After No. 1”, the band creates a cool mix of rock, punk and new wave with loud guitars and a pajama-clad keyboardist!

Definitely one of their best songs ever is “Mary of the Fourth Form”, a number about a teen nympho tantalizing teachers and students alike. A powerful “E” chord progression crashes out of the speakers as Geldof tells a lascivious tale. This is a terrific rocker and a far too overlooked 70’s punk gem!

“As Close As You’ll Ever Be” showcases their early r’n’b-flavored roots while “Neon Heart” is a catchy, a-rhythmic new wave number. They move into an almost Springsteen-esque vibe complete with horns and a wild sax solo on “Joey’s on the Street Again” – considering the influence that “the Boss” had on Patti Smith and the Dictators, that isn’t that hard to imagine!

There is a Rat ballad in “I Can Make It If You Can” then they jump back into semi-quirky, new wave with “Never Bite the Hand That Feeds” – driven by guitars with plenty of keyboard doodles throughout. “She’s Gonna) Do You In” is a cool, punky rocker, not that dissimilar to something that the Fast would do (for those who get that reference!). It’s a cool, locomotive-beat, r’n’b tune with some fine harmonica work – once again, showing their influences! Definitely something that could fit in with someone like Dr. Feelgood.

The album finished off with “Kicks” – no relation to the Paul Revere and the Raiders tune. This is a pretty straight-ahead rocker and a nice closer.

The CD has a number of bonus tracks, including demos and a single version of “Mary of the Fourth Form” which has a much-changed arrangement. Also good, but it just doesn’t do what you expect it to do! The demos are all from 1975 and show their more r’n’b side, including a high-energy take on the great “Barefootin’”.

If you’re not afraid of a bit of new wave pop in your punk, then this is another classic late 70’s album!

Aerosmith – Get Your Wings

Continuing in my quest to replace the albums of my youth (which I have played to death), this is the last of my fave Aerosmith releases that I needed on CD. Their Yardbirds/Stones-influenced 70’s rock was a big part of my teen years.

This, their second album, shows a bit of growth in songs and sound production and while it doesn’t meet the greatness that they created with the follow up, Toys in the Attic, it is still mighty rockin’!

“Same Old Song and Dance” displays the powerful two guitar riff attack of Joe Perry and Brad Whitford along with the unusual touch of a horn section, which does nothing to negate to strength and volume of this tune and just adds another dimension.

Joey Kramer starts the cheekily named “Lord of Your Thighs” with something damn close to what would be the “Walk This Way” drumbeat. The steady backing is topped with washes of 6 string soundscapes to add more layers to this lecherous rocker.

Sounds of wooshing winds open “Spaced”, a somewhat dark sounding number that nonetheless is not stoner-rock in the least! Guitars slash and burn and trade back and forth as Tyler practically screams “I really don’t care” and “I must be losing my mind!” A fast lead-guitar driven intro breaks down to a half-time “Woman of the World” with more cool interplay between Perry and Whitford. This builds back to an energetic guitar and harmonica jam which closes out the number.

Side two of the vinyl opened with another Aerosmith riff-rocker, “S.O.S. (Too Bad)” – good, head-banging heavy rock! But the highlight of this album has to be their take on the Yardbirds’ version of “Train Kept A-Rollin’”. Starting with a chugging, half-time rhythm, Joe & Brad take some flashy leads, add a tricky riff, and then the band explodes into a super-charged, high-speed, feedback drenched rave up! Great stuff!

This fades into the atmospheric “Seasons of Wither”, a slower piece of Tyler’s that shows his penchant for semi-ballads. The record closes with one of the bands silliest songs – even for their semi-misogynist sense of humor – “Pandora’s Box”. Lines like “a beach where no one gives a hoot, nobody ever wears a suit, the ladies there they look so proud, because they know they’re so well endowed” is a bit much even for Steven! Just not one of their best musically or lyrically.

But, overall, another solid piece of 70’s hard rock from one of the top bands of the era!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Kinks – Well Respected Kinks

While I am loath to throw away my vinyl, I am starting to pick up CDs of many of my treasured records. I love a bargain so when I find discounted discs, I will pick them up.

This Kinks collection was originally released in the mid-60’s as a compilation of their singles and EPs. Hence, this has some of their greatest songs from this time! Even retail for this item is inexpensive and I found it used damn cheap, so I had to pick it up.

There’s not much to say about this release – if you dig the Kinks at all you should be intimately familiar with just about every song on here! Starting with the folk-pop of “A Well Respected Man”, to the rousing “Where Have all the Good Times Gone”, to the monster “Till the End of the Day”, the hits keep coming! “Set Me Free”, “Tired of Waiting For You”, the blistering “All Day and All of the Night”, the uptempo riff-blues of “I Gotta Move”, and the outstanding, massive breakthrough of “You Really Got Me” have all got to be beloved to anyone who digs 60’s music at all!

The only clunkers are “Don’t You Fret” and “Wait Til the Summer Comes Along”, both pretty forgettable numbers.

Dave Davies’ power chords blast you while Ray’s voice moves from crazed shout-singing to almost fey British-isms and the band’s group vocals pull you in as Mick and Peter pounds out the backing rhythms. This is a superb band at the height of its energy and some of the best songs of their career. Almost all of their 60’s and 70’s releases are well worth owning, but for sheer youthful exuberance and excitement, everyone should have this one!

The Pretty Things – Get the Picture?

One of the rowdiest, crazed, longest-haired, r’n’b bands from the 60’s is the fabulous Pretty Things! Their early works are legendary and have been reissued in this series with bonus tracks. Again, I am late picking these up, but damn, what amazing releases! This one is their second album and is a wild follow up to their debut!

This CD starts with the folky “You Don’t Believe Me” before moving into heavy r’n’b guitar blasts in “Buzz the Jerk”. Lots of the band’s most intense and well known numbers appear on this CD. The title cut is a fuzz-drenched masterpiece that has been covered by an uncountable number of bands. “Can’t Stand the Pain” alternates from a slow, minor key tune to an upbeat raver and I just noticed that DMZ totally ripped this off for one of the songs off of their album.

The bands covers many trad r’n’b songs as well, such as “Pain in My Heart”, “I Had a Dream”, “I Want Your Love”, etc. These are given the PT twist and all are terrific white boy versions!

More PT classics include “We’ll Play House”, the extended jam of “Get a Buzz” and the unbelievably great “Midnight to Six Man”. This is high energy r’n’b and a perfect example of just how quick these cats were becoming stunning songwriters! “Me Needing You” shows that they can move closer to traditional blues, as well.

“Gonna find me a Substitute” is another monster with the positively frightening bass tone which presages “Come See Me”. This is a wild, rockin’, lead-guitar infested, jumpin’ piece! But their most insane and fiercest rocker has to be “Come See Me”. Starting with a brontosaurus stomp of an over-driven bass, they go positively nutz with piercing guitars accentuating the choruses, wild call-and-answer vocals, and insanely noisy guitars! Wow! I can’t even comprehend what teens must have thought when these degenerate looking long hairs took the stage and screamed this at them!

This CD closes with “L.S.D”, their extremely garage-y paen to the then still legal drug! Another oft-covered work of genius!

All of the early Pretties releases are “must haves” and this is one of the best! The CD has some bonus video footage, as well. Get the Picture? Get it!

Deep Purple – Machine Head

Another one of the hugely influential albums of my youth, Machine Head, is rightly revered as one of the best heavy metal albums and one of the best Deep Purple records of any line-up.

Opening with the anthemic “Highway Star”, this takes off right from the start! Like an engine revving up, the intro builds - with some variations from Lord and Blackmore - until its explosive release. Gillian comes in with his car/girl/racing/sex analogy and while the words are a little silly, it still evokes a wind-in-your-hair freedom. A fantastic harmony solo from Ritchie and powerful keyboard leads top off this near-perfect rocker! An obvious sequel to “Speed King” from In Rock, this even surpasses that super tune and became a 70’s giant.

A little slower rocker is “Maybe I’m a Leo”, which creates a terrific groove with a super catchy lick. Ian Paice starts off “Pictures of Home” and Ritchie’s memorable guitar sections keeps this fresh. A good song, but not one of the standouts. There’s almost a funky feel to “Never Before” and still more cool licks traded between the band. Apparently, they thought that this was the most commercial tune from this batch and were surprised when it flopped as a single.

Of course, their massive smash, “Smoke on the Water” came from this album and yes, this has been overplayed beyond all belief, but it is a helluva song and is worthy of its accolades. This riff should be enshrined in a r’n’r riff hall of fame!

Purple’s blues influences come through in “Lazy”, but they can’t make it easy! Lord’s dramatic Hammond/phaser introduction sets a mood as Blackmore throws in wild riffs to lead the band through the changes as they stomp through a jumpin’ number. According to the liner notes, Ritchie was influenced by Clapton’s version of “Steppin’ Out”, and his part does sound like his take on that tune! Everyone gets to show off their stuff, including some good harmonica work from Gillian. No one would mistake him for Little Walter or anything, but he’s not bad!

“Space Truckin’” is amazingly shorter on the album than on their live excursions, but is another pounding riff that is instantly recognizable. In this abbreviated version, this could have easily been a single from this record, as well.

The first CD has a couple of bonus tracks – quadraphonic mixes (!) of “Maybe I’m a Leo” and “Lazy”, as well as an outtake, “When a Blind Man Cries”, a nice bluesy ballad with restrained guitar work from Ritchie that was the flip to the “Never Before” single.

CD 2 consists of remixes from Roger Clover. This is fun stuff for the fans, with fake intros as well as “fall apart” endings to songs that faded out on the vinyl. The sound is quite good and sharp and while not radically different, you can hear the changes that Roger made. Some of the cuts have very different solos, including “Smoke on the Water”, which makes it quite interesting. The drawn-out ending of “Smoke” has radical changes as well!

All in all, one of the highlights of 70’s hard rock has actually been improved! Get is if you appreciate the majestic power of the Purple!

Monday, June 09, 2008

The Cramps – How To Make a Monster

Without a doubt, the biggest current influence on my 80’s musical career was the Cramps. I would dare say that I was attempting to do a 60’s-styled version of their band (as opposed to their 50’s psychobilly style). Of course, I had a million other influences which kept me from a single cohesive vision and things never quite worked out. Luckily, the Cramps did a much better job and were – and continue to be – an amazing rock’n’roll band.

This self-released 2 CD set mostly showcases the band’s formative years in the mid-70’s and has a variety of demos, rehearsals and live takes. Accordingly, the sound quality is overall what you would expect in a bootleg – or from rehearsal or live tapes made in the 70’s!

Yes, there is some amazing sloppiness – check out Lux’s guitar playing on “Lux’s Blues”! – but this also shows their consistency of vision right from the start. Ivy could really play, Lux could really sing, and while it took a while to pull together the rest of the band – convincing Brian Gregory of the importance of fuzz and obtaining the proper drummer, who turned out to be Nick Knox – the songs and concepts are there.

Though most of the first CD is early takes, there are some 80’s demos, with much improved sound quality. CD2 includes two live sets from ’77 and ’78 both of which are rockin’ and sound pretty darn good!

Definitely not a first purchase for novices, but for fans, this displays a great insight to this phenomenal band!

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Union Carbide Productions

One of the favorite bands from the 80’s (that wasn’t from L.A.) was Sweden’s Union Carbide Productions – one of the wildest and noisiest Detroit-styled bands ever and an obvious influence on the later Northern scene of bands like Turbonegro and the Hellacopters. Guitars were layered seemingly by the dozens and the sound, augmented by crazed saxophones, is a wonderful slab of power and madness.

In The Air Tonight opens with “Ring My Bell” and all of the elements are there right from the start. Feedback drenched, wah-wah guitars, wailing saxs, pounding piano and a manic energy that doesn’t let up for a split second. You are nearly plastered to the wall by the force of the blast coming out of the speakers!
“Financial Declaration” continues in the same vein – Ebbot shrieks like he is pissed as hell that “I want more!” as the maelstrom continues swirling around him. This is so goddam beautiful and ugly at the same time – chaos at its best! Everyone literally sounds like they could fall apart at any second and yet it all comes together as a fantastic whole. Coming at a time when drek like glam-metal and new disco was popular, this was a true revelation – heavy on the reveling! Seriously, this is so good is damn near takes my breath away.

The lyrics in “Summer Holiday Camp” seem to be making fun of partiers as the band continues to fight each other musically and the winner is the listener! Still more wackiness prevails in “Cartoon Animal” which concludes with Ebbot imitating the Tazmanian Devil while guitars scream around him!

Showing their debt to the MC5, “So Long” is UCP’s version of the 5’s “Come Together” – the tones are almost identical, which caused much jealousy from me! Of course, they change it up and make it their own, but the homage in undeniable.

Jarring, a-rhythmic musical yelps of pain dominate “In the Air Tonight” as Ebbot holds a conversation with himself about living in his own world. “Three Mile Eyes” (most certainly a play on 3 mile island) is a more rockin’ rhythm experiment continues to explore the madness.

More noise emanates from “Teenage Banker”, a story of someone born into money trying to defend himself while the instruments seem to arguing with him in the background. This does fall into disarray at the end as the guitar tries to have the last “word”!

“Pour Un Flirt Avec Toi” is a free-jazz saxophone exploration between singer Ebbot and guitarist Bjorn. Whether or not this was directly due to the MC5’s jazz leanings or not, it certainly adds to the comparison.

The album closer is drenched in practically ambient noise by guitarists Olsson and Patrik Caganis– but with a beat as bassist Per Helm and drummer Henryk Rylander try to hold things together – while Ebbot explains to you why you needn’t worry! This sounds like it could be the soundtrack to Paradise Lost as it sucks you in!

I need to have a better understanding of the chronology of Union Carbide, but I believe that the following album was Financially Dissatisfied, Philosophically Trying (taken from a Mick Jagger quote, of course). This has a very similar sound and style to In the Air Tonight.

This opens with just some quiet random sound as “At Dawn” before exploding into “Born in the 60’s” – super high energy and super loud guitars dominate as Ebbot screams about – to my ears – hippies and idealists turning their backs on their beliefs and becoming their own worst nightmares.

“San Francisco Boogie” is off-kilter enough to sound almost Captain Beefheart influenced in the verses, though it is a little more “normal” rock in the choruses. Very cool and very uniquely UCP. More lyrics about hippies and shout-outs (sing-outs?) to 60’s songs, too!

There is a short, mid-Eastern excursion in “13th Trip” before moving into a darker, minor-key mood piece called “Down on the Farm”. They cut back on the tempo but not the intensity for this piece. I love the line “see the world through a bottle of wine” which echoes the desperation of “do we still have time?!”

After that interlude, they come back as strong as ever in the vile “Maximum Dogbreath”! The pace and the guitars are relentless on this one with wails of feedback and gang choruses singing counter-point to Lundberg’s tale of bad breath!

More swaths of pure noise bathe “Here Comes God”, a slow pounder that is fierce and unrestrained despite holding back on the speed. But the sound is augmented with sitar, spinet and acoustic guitars. A tough yet lovely mix of sounds.

Pure r’n’r returns with “Another Rock’n’Roll Statement” – faster and louder than ever! “Glad to Have You Back” has a beat like a Detroit assembly line and more discordant piano and sax layered over the backing. Much more psychedelic is the acoustic dominated “Career Opportunities” (this has nothing to do with the Clash song!). This reminds me slightly of the Thunderclap Newman tune, “Something in the Air” or Ebbot’s later outings in Soundtrack of Our Lives.

The dissonant and cacophonous (and oddly titled) “Swedish Meatball Revival” jam finishes out FDPT with an appropriate clamor!

For those who think that r’n’r should be teetering on the edge of madness and be blaring and obnoxious as hell, as for those who would like to see where bands like the Hellacopters got their ideas, pick up these two fantastic albums!


One of the first things that I noticed when I initially heard Danzig was the terrific sound production. I think this was probably the first time that I heard anything that Rick Ruben had done and I gotta admit I was impressed!

The band sounds live in the studio (overall) and you hear every damn thing. The drum sound is fantastic - including one of the best bass drum tones I have ever heard! Of course, Chuck Biscuits is one of the greatest punk/r'n'r drummers ever and he pummels his kit mercilessly. You can actually picture just how hard he is hitting when you listen to the record! The time I saw the original Danzig line up Biscuits was the visual highlight - he was such a monster player that you couldn't take your eyes off of him!

But, John Christ is also an amazing guitarist (though I think he was well served by Glen reigning in his excessive tendencies)and again, the tone achieved is superb - kind of a mix of traditional heavy metal with some more modern sounds. Of course, Glen is one of the best singers to come out of the punk movement (despite his overly dramatic moments in this band). Eerie Von on bass, while he looked great, was pretty forgettable musically – other bassists were often jealous of him and the Cult bass player because they made big bux doing such incredibly easy jobs!
The songs on these first records were really well crafted dark metal tunes. Yes, Glen gets carried away with his “evilness” and sometimes is overly bombastic in his delivery, but these are real songs. Cool guitar riffs, super heavy beats and sing-along lyrics that allows the kids to pretend to be tougher than they really are!

The self-titled first album opens with “Twist of Cain” and sets the standard for the best of this band – raw guitar riffs, pounding drums, Glenn’s melodic screams and a sing-along chorus. But you realize that he can’t be overly serious when he sings “twist of cain-o, yea, drives my brain-o”! “Not of This World” carries on in a similar vein and then “She Rides” opens with its slower, sexier beat. Still intense and heavy, but shows that they’re not afraid to vary things a bit. Glenn continues to work with memorable melodies, too.

“Soul on Fire” has a heckuva soaring guitar solo by Christ before moving into a wild double-time number that was guaranteed to make the entire audience bang their collective heads! “Am I Demon” is again driven by Biscuits’ drums and you have to move to the rock! John Christ also puts in a couple more stellar solos. He later complained that Danzig constrained his playing, but he seems to do just what the songs require on these records.

The hit of this record (I don’t know how popular it actually was) starts out with a creeping chord progression, which Glenn sings over, then Christ basically plays counter-point to himself before the band all joins in, trying to pulverize your ears while singing about “Mother”! Shades of Norman Bates!

“Possession” is another half-step progression head-banger, with lyrics about “crawling inside your skull” – Glenn’s obsession with b-movies certainly shows throughout this record!

I still find it hard to believe that Glenn claims credit for the song “The Hunter”, though, and that was a bit disappointing. Yes, he changes a couple of words, but only a couple, and anyone would recognize this as the oft-covered blues tune (probably most famously by Led Zeppelin and Blue Cheer). But in his defense, I don’t know who originally wrote it either and on line I’m finding credit given to, alternatively, Albert King and Booker T & the MGs, though I thought it was someone like Muddy Waters. It’s a good cover, but I’m surprised that he didn’t get into trouble for this.

The record closed with “Evil Thing”, another hard-hitting riff-rocker that ends the album on a strong note.

Danzig II – Lucifuge continues in the same vein and there’s nothing wrong with that! (In fact, when Glenn went into other directions is when he lost his way.) There is also a nod to the Doors in many of the photos for this CD – compare the back cover photo to the picture on the front of the Doors first album. Of course, Glenn’s vocals are certainly similar, though he is a bit rawer and rougher.

Opening with a wall of feedback, “A Long Way Back From Hell” has the same ingredients as the first album – powerful drums, loud guitars and Danzig’s pained yet melodic vocals. Very rockin’!

This blends directly into the opening, descending riff of “Snakes of Christ”, where the band plays with dynamics a bit and creates another cool tune. Another slower number is “Killer Wolf” – more intensity and more fine vocal lines. Taking a cue from none other than Kiss, Danzig is smart enough to use the first person in many lyrics – “I’m the wolf”, “I’m the one” – so that the kids singing along can feel that they too are bigger than life. Smart stuff. Same with “Tired of Being Alive” – but far from endorsing suicide, it is a defiant tirade and what teen can’t appreciate that?

Blues roots are brought to the foreground in the quiet “I’m the One” – a simple blues riff and the entire song is pretty much just guitar and voice. A nice change of pace and it shows the debt that is owed to the many bluesmen and women who sang about the devil for decades before this band.

“Her Black Wings” opens with a hypnotic riff, has some nice dynamics and builds into a loud, group vocal chorus complete with “whoa-oh’s! Christ does some downright pretty finger-picking for “Devil’s Plaything” before they bombard you with a wall of guitars and energy! “777” begins with a very sparse, quiet guitar lick and then moves into a high-energy, slide guitar blues-rocker and trade off with these two parts a couple times throughout the tune.

The band actually does a power ballad of sorts with “Blood and Tears” before back into their more standard territory with the power chords opening the simply titled “Girl”, which lyrically seems to be a true love song. This doesn’t mean that Glenn backs off from his delivery, though, which makes it sound lustful, despite the words.

“Pain in the World” finishes Lucifuge with an ominous sounding guitar riff propelling a tune that sounds like a soundtrack for the bad guy to stalk his next victim before exploding into a high-speed ride of manic proportions!

Yes, the “spookiness” can be a little over the top at times (but is fun overall), and while Glenn has a terrific voice, he can be a bit overblown, but overall, these are great examples of 80’s/90’s hard rock/heavy metal!

Monday, June 02, 2008

Black Sabbath – Black Sabbath

Black Sabbath exploded onto the scene with one of the most ponderous and darkest tunes of all time as the title song of their first album. Slow almost to the point of absurdity, Ozzy still managed to create a melody over the back drop as Tony Iommi actually defines heavy metal guitar. Before it gets to be too much, though, Tony takes off on a speedier riff and the tune turns into a head-banger. This was a far cry from the blues-bar-band that they had been before bassist Geezer Butler came up with this wild new direction!

One of their most underrated yet greatest songs of their career is “The Wizard”. Another super-heavy riff – not that dissimilar to the one used by Blue Oyster Cult on “Cities on Flame with R’n’R” – which the entire band pummel mercilessly. Drummer Bill Ward is wild on this with almost off time beats that still propel the power - while Ozzy sings his semi-bizarre occult lyrics over the chaos. A great, flat-out aural assault!

What follows is an almost 11 minute medley of 4 song segments – “Wasp”, “Behind the Wall of Sleep”, Bassically” and “N.I.B.”. This starts as a mid-tempo, heavy, head-banger – the usual good stuff from the Sab. I assume from the title that the “Bassically” section is Geezer’s bass solo that leads into the monsterous “N.I.B.” – super ponderous and rockin’, with heavy riffs from both Geezer and Tony. Iommi soars over the beat with twin lead guitars at the end, showing that he was among the best of the time.

“Wicked World” starts as a high-energy guitar work-out, before cutting the tempo in half for another head-banging outlet for Ozzy. Good, rockin’ stuff!

The final song of the 5 song (!) album is another medley, starting with the finger-picking “A Bit of Finger” (possibly a nod at the fact that Tony sliced off several fingertips and fit them with homemade prosthetics). Of course, the loud, over-driven guitars come in with another Brontosaurus-worthy riff which he then stretches out and solos over. I’m not sure where “Sleeping Village” or “Warning” actually starts, but at some point, the song comes down enough for Ozzy’s vocals and, once again, I am impressed by the fact that he manages to fit a melody over the licks. This medley twists and turns with varied segments and even starts and stops to allow Tony to burst out a flurry of notes before returning to the original or a new theme.

This was one helluva debut and truly is one of the originators of heavy metal!

Blue Oyster Cult – Agents of Fortune

BOC became superstars with their massive hit, “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” from this, their forth album. They had been building their fan base with their first three heavy metal outings and here they cleaned up a bit and went for the gold (actually, platinum in album sales)!

The album opens with a song that was originally written and performed by an LA underground band, the Imperial Dogs. Sure, BOC changed it up a bit and personalized it, but “This Ain’t the Summer of Love” was a Dogs’ tune. This is a pretty prophetic number, coming just before punk rock broke around the world. It’s also a great rock’n’roller and quite fitting for BOC.

One of the few early BOC songs that I don’t care for is “True Confessions”. Sung by keyboardist Allen Lanier, is just doesn’t click with me. Not particularly rockin’ or interesting.

But, Buck Dharma’s “Reaper” is a true classic. Starting with a nice finger-picking guitar line, Buck sings lead on this one, with intertwining vocals parts flowing around the melody and, of course, fine, melodic guitar lines. There’s a somewhat odd bridge section that seemingly has nothing to do with the rest of the song, but it does give it a bit of a burst of energy, before returning to the main theme. Overall, a pretty flawless song of love living on beyond the grave.

“E.T.I. (Extra Terrestrial Intelligence)” has another cool guitar riff (of course!) not unlike the famous “Cities on Flame with Rock’n’Roll” lick. This isn’t quite as manic as that song and is more melodic, but is still a rocker, even if a bit polished. Dharma plays some soaring guitar on this, as well.

Patti Smith makes her first vocal appearance on a BOC album (though she had previously contributed lyrics) on “The Revenge of Vera Gemini”. I love this and think it is one of the highlights of the album. Eric and Patti trade off lines throughout as Patti’s then-boyfriend Allen adds moody organ. This is an odd mix of ethereal and rock, with fine use of dynamics.

“Daredevil, she-devil, princess devil, demon, I love you like sin but I won’t be your pigeon” is the catch phrase from “Sinful Love”. Again, more subdued than in the past, but a good, mid-tempo rocker – fine stuff, but without the raw edge of the earlier records.

“Tattoo Vampire” starts with the rhythmic scratching on guitar strings and bursts into one of the more energetic numbers on the record. This sounds like something that could have appeared on Secret Treaties. Then they return to the mellower edge with “Morning Final”, that has an almost “Last Days of May” feel – maybe not quite as ballady, but a melodic, keyboard dominated song. “Tenderloin” has a similar feel – not quite ballad, but far from their previous raucousness. Again, the songs are good, just not what had been expected from the “thinking man’s heavy metal band”.

The album closed with their version of Kiss’ “Beth” – a song about the girl waiting for the rocker to come home to her. “Debbie Denise” is a faux-string-ridden ballad and not one of their better songs.

This bonus tracks on this include the original version of “Fire of Unknown Origin”, a demo of the mediocre “Dance the Night Away” and the cool demo of “Reaper” that shows that Buck pretty much had the entire song arranged, but does show the evolution of the tune. There is also a demo of a song that I’m not familiar with titled simply “Sally” that has sections similar to “Tattoo Vampire”.

Not their best release, but pretty essential for “Summer of Love”, “Vera Gemini” and “Reaper”, which is a helluva lot more than a lot of bands can say!

Blue Oyster Cult – Secret Treaties

Probably my favorite BOC album is this, their third outing. I think this was the first thing I heard by these cats, just before they broke with “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” and Agents of Fortune.

This album opens with another BOC patented catchy-as-hell, half-step riff and obscure lyrics in “Career of Evil”. This sounds pretty damn perverse with lines like “I want your wife to be mine”, “I choose to steal what you choose to show”, “you’re mine for the taking” and “I’d like to do it to your daughter on a dirt road”! Whew! Great song, though!

“Subhuman” is a bit more keyboard dominated and a little slower, but still dark sounding with some more terrific Buck Dharma guitar parts. They band picks up the pace again with “Dominance and Submission” – yes, this is a pretty twisted album! This rocks fiercely with intricate harmony guitar lines and the call and answer of “dominance” /”submission”/”radios appear” (where Radio Birdman got their album title) is a pretty genius touch. The ending builds to a wild climax of intensity and lead guitars! Excellent!
And then they take off with the even wilder “ME 262”! This is ultra-high-energy, super-sonic r’n’r with lyrics about aerial dog fights in World War II, complete with bomb-dropping and siren sound effects!

“Cagey Cretins” is only slightly less intense, but still has guitars flying right & left as singer Bloom wails “it’s so lonely in the state of Maine”! This segues directly into “Harvester of Eyes”, which cuts back slightly on the speed, and has another choppy lick, somewhat reminiscent of “OD’d on Live Itself”. Utterly bizarre lyrics, even for these cats – it sounds almost like a serial killer keeping the eyeballs of his victim for souvenirs, though I couldn’t say for sure that is the case! This cuts into a half-time dirge that then blends into some music-box melody before blasting into “Flaming Telepaths”.

Again, I’m not going to claim to know the minds of the songwriters, but this seems to be about drug abuse (because of the line “I opened my veins to many times” and “poisons in my bloodstream”). It’s also a moody, mid-tempo, synth-driven number with a truly memorable melody.

The album closer was the ballady “Astromony”, a mellower piece of work that none-the-less does build at the end to a rhythmic rocker with shouted “heys!” in all of the right places before the rousing “astronomy, the stars” finale.

The CD release contains no less than 5 bonus tracks and these are some of the best of the bonuses on any of the reissues.

The first is “Boorman the Chauffer”, an album outtake that would certainly have fit in anywhere in the record, sound-wise. A little more musically wacky than the rest of the tunes, it is another uptempo number with cool guitar/keyboard interaction and vocal harmonies.

“Mommy” is twisted musically and lyrically and maybe even somewhat misogynist but is another cool rocker, even with the weird time changes. “Mes Dames Sarat” is yet another fast r’n’r number – this may be their most speed-driven album ever! More fine use of dynamics and rhythms and, of course, great playing by everyone!

BOC covered Steppenwolf’s classic, “Born to be Wild”, fairly traditionally on the live On Your Feet or On Your Knees album, but this studio version (the b-side to the single of “Career of Evil”) is a complete re-working. The main lick is turned inside-out and the song is slowed down to a menacing, pounding pace. Truly original and truly superb!

The CD closes with the single version of “Career…”. This seems to be the album instrumental track with a new vocal. Interesting to hear the slight differences!

Overall, one of the best from the “thinking man’s heavy metal” band!

RIP Bo Diddley

Rock pioneer Bo Diddley dies at age 79

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Bo Diddley, a founding father of rock 'n' roll whose distinctive "shave and a haircut, two bits" rhythm and innovative guitar effects inspired legions of other musicians, died Monday after months of ill health. He was 79.

Diddley died of heart failure at his home in Archer, Fla., spokeswoman Susan Clary said. He had suffered a heart attack in August, three months after suffering a stroke while touring in Iowa. Doctors said the stroke affected his ability to speak, and he had returned to Florida to continue rehabilitation.

What a bummer! I know he's been sick, but he will be missed. He was a true living legend and a genius at blues and r'n'r.

I raved a bit about Bo here

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Deep Purple - Burn

I’ve been a fan of DP since “Hush” first hit the radio – what a great freakin’ single! – but I admit that I didn’t really delve “deeply” into the band until they hit with “Smoke on the Water”. Machine Head was a fantastic album all the way through and I then backtracked through the other tunes on their past outings and also thought that Who Do We Think We Are was pretty damn cool.

Once DP Mach II (with Ian Gillian and Roger Clover on vocals and bass respectively) broke up, though, of course everyone wondered if they could come back as strong.

Well, it was a yes and no answer. While the next line-up, with Glenn Hughes on bass and previously unknown David Cloverdale on vocals, was very strong, they never hit the popularity that they had with Gillian and Glover.

Burn was their first album with the 3rd line up and I still think it is pretty killer!

Opening with the title cut, DP showed they were back with a vengeance with this powerful riff-rocker. When Cloverdale comes in it is a revelation – he has a super vocal tone, and while quite different from Gillian, he is just as powerful. More soulful, I suppose but he totally worked in this context. Bassist Hughes is also a terrific vocalist and the two traded off regularly, adding another dimension to the sound.

The instrumentalists are as tight as ever, as well, and Blackmore’s playing is mind-boggling on this tune as he rocks out the main riff, takes a wild solo and does simultaneous lick playing with Jon Lord on organ. This is just as tight as the previous line-up and an amazing album opener.

“Might Just Take Your Life” continues the dark lyrics of David’s but is another very hip, rockin’, heavy riff. More nice harmonies and trade-offs from the two new singers, too.

They step up the energy with “Lay Down, Stay Down” – the band certainly didn’t want anyone to think that they wimped out with this record! Once again, David and Glenn do a cool job of each taking a verse and then singing harmony parts together. Definitely a new dimension to the group, while the group continues to cook behind them.

Still another groovy riff from Ritchie starts out “Sail Away”, which is more a funky feel – in a British white boy way – probably some of Hughes influence there.

Ian Paice gets to show off some of his superb drumming skills with “You Fool No One”, a percussion driven number that again has a bit of a funky riff to it. It’s still definitely Purple, though! Paice is one of the best drummers from the time and he and Glenn do lock together and let Blackmore and Lord shine over them with their intricate solos.

They get a little bluesier with “What’s Going on Here” but are still as heavy as ever! Nice piano solo from Lord on this one. They go for the slow blues in “Mistreated”, while still maintaining the prominent guitar riffs. Cloverdale gives a passionate, if slightly over-done, delivery – a bit like a heavier Joe Cocker or Paul Rogers, who the band was considering as a replacement for Gillian at one point.

The album closer in a synthesizer driven and somewhat mediocre tune simply titled “ “A” 200”, which, funnily enough, is a lice remedy! The song is pretty forgettable though.

The CD includes several bonus tracks, including “Coronarius Redig”, a b-side from one of the singles from this album and a cool instrumental in which Blackmore really stretches out and shows off. Nice stuff.

The other 4 tracks are simply remixes of songs from the album and aren’t radical enough for the changes to really stand out. Good for completeists, but not truly essential.

But this is another great album from these heavy rockers and well worth the purchase!