Friday, March 29, 2013

Annihilator - Alice In Hell

When I stumbled across this album I had to have it. I loved the Bag Of Tricks album, that Drew introduced me to. Then when you factor in that Alice In Hell is supposed to be this group's masterpiece album, it was a no brainer for me to have to pick up. The album opens with the Instrumental Crystal Ann, which is this totally amazing Classically inspired guitar piece. It's sweet. I mean it's mental stimulation of the highly enjoyable kind.

Then it's on to the albums title track. I've covered this song before, and when I go back to read it I find that what I said pretty much covers the song. But that was based on a slightly different version of the song. So What I'll say here is that I find this song well written, arranged and performed. I find it sounds a bit dated, and to me it feels like a period piece. But considering the album was produced by guitarist Jeff Waters, which is pretty much to Annihilator what Steve Harris is to Iron Maiden, and it was released in 1990, you can't get too fussy.

One of the things I've always liked about W.T.Y.D. is the mix of musical sound. One minute it sounds all cliche with the vocalist screaming about death, during these rapid machine gun firing riffs, then it goes and gets all fancy, just to screw with you, before going back to the angry screaming. This is a fun song when you're in the mood for it.

Everything about Wicked Mystic is very typically Metal, in all the negative stereo types. But it's still a great song. I really wish Jeff's solo had been pushed further ahead in the mix.

Burns Like A Buzzsaw Blade would have been right at home with the Trash Metal bands if Annihilator could have busted out of the stigma of being a Canadian band. That's great if you want global success, but sucks if you were hoping to spend any time at home. Especially prior to Avril, Sum 41, and some of those other Pop acts opening the doors for other Canadian artists. Also Nickelback, before they went all Rock cliche.

Word Salad is one of those songs I was never big on when it came to Annihilator. I can understand why some people would dig on it, and when it get's to the all mellow instrumental section I find it enjoyable, but then it get's a bit predictable when the solo starts up. It's fucking awesome, and better than anything I would ever think of being able to do, but still predictable. Schizos (Are Never Alone) Parts I & II is a bit on the sad side. Some of the soloing lends it some redeeming qualities, but for the most part, not really that impressive.

After the last song Ligeia comes across as a continuation of a bunch of "noise" as the old people would call it. I find it really repetitive though, and would rather not have to listen to the two songs back to back.

I've alwaysed liked Human Insecticide. My only complaint about the song is the drumming. It's so basic and straight foward, that I find hurts the song. Other than that I find this song totally bitchin'. "Psychotic tendencies have put me here for life / Dreams of smashing little things before they ruin my life / Find means capable of smothering a flea / Extermination is their end, escaping not from me / Retaliate / Decapitate--I love to see them bleed / Annihilate / I am human insecticide / Creepy black mass, I see one down below / Prepare to strike, act quickly now, strike the fatal blow / Extinguishing the menace, they will know my name / Destroying these, the lives of waste, delivered now to pain / Retaliate / Decapitate--I love to see them bleed / Annihilate / I am human insecticide / Asphyxiate the flame of life / From hatred they will die / Power kept in my control / Their souls are caged with mine / Expelled from life, they cannot hide, I will find them out / Their game's lost, I hunt them down, their end without a doubt / Psychotic tendencies, my dreams are coming true / My plans are set without repent, I'm tightening the screw / Retaliate / Decapitate--I love to see them bleed / Annihilate / I am human insecticide". I really believe if the drums were changed out for some better work, and the general mix was tweaked a bit, this song would be killer.

I would say that to me this album is the prime example of why you don't let one specific musician produce the record by themself. It's not bad, but it could have been better. For starters the drums could have been more exciting, but a guitarist isn't going to think of that. Although the bass wasn't lost in the mix, I would have liked to have heard more low end in the album. The vocals are pretty much perfect for the style that the band tends to use. However, we all know it's the guitar work that's best portrayed on this album. I really think that if this album had been produced by an outsider it would have more appeal, and would sounds less dated.

7/10 - content

6/10 - production

7/10 - personal bias

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Frank Zappa - Joe's Garage

Over the years I have owned three separate Frank Zappa CD releases, which equal five different vinyl releases. The first one I ever picked up was Sheik Yerbouti, after that came Apostrophe (') / Over-Nite Sensation, and then finally I picked up Joe's Garage for myself during Christmas that just past (2012). I would have bought more, but until recently Zappa CD's had a habit of running on the more costly side.

The first two compact discs were lost when I lent them to my friend Matt (and if he's reading this I would still like them back please). I replaced Sheik Yerbouti since then, but that's another story for that review. As for Joe's Garage that has it's own fun story.

When I was sixteen I spent the summer at my grandparents (mom's parents) house. During that time I got into my Uncle Greg's record collection and schooled myself on some great classic rock, and other albums. However, I didn't get to listen to too many of the albums because there was only one record player in the house that I felt safe playing most of them on, and that was the one in the dining room. My grandparents were open minded, but not open minded enough to let me listen to the likes of Zappa, and especially not Joe's Garage. At least not when they were around. So, I had to pick and choose which albums I listened to very wisely.

Well as I was getting ready to leave at the end of the summer, I asked my grandma if I could grab some of my uncle's albums. She didn't see a problem with it because he had left them down there for the last fifteen years or so, and it seemed he was never coming back for them. Joe's Garage was one of the albums I grabbed.

When I got home, my mom saw what my grandma had allowed me to do, and promptly called my uncle to see if it was okay. He freaked out, and I lost out on a bunch of killer albums I planned on bagging and mounting on my wall for all to enjoy visually. I had no intention of playing them until I bought a quality turn table. These albums needed proper respect. Something he clearly didn't think I was capable of giving.

Now I'll skip ahead eighteen years. I'm in Dr. Disc, drooling over the Zappa section and all the new remastered rereleases, and I finally grab Joe's Garage because it wasn't stupidly expensive. I can't remember exactly how much it was, but it had come down at least ten dollars. It was time to finally pick it up. I wish I had years before, because it has quickly become one of my favourite albums. Much to my editor's dismay. It hasn't left the CD player since Christmas, and won't be coming out anytime in the near future if I have my way.

I can understand why she has some issues with the album. Some of the lyrics come across as juvenile, crude, obscene, indecent, and down right silly. The entire Rock Opera's content would seem that way to most people, unless you actually sit down and listen to the album. I'm also sure Andria's not impressed that our thirteen year old can sing every lyric spot on at this point either. However, that's about how old I was when my dad first introduced me to Frank, so to me that's okay.

There are two major points I want to get out there before I get into the meat of this album. The first is that this album was originally released in two separate parts. Act I came out in September of 1979, and Acts II & III in November of 1979. The latter two Acts were released together as a double vinyl.

The second point that you need to know about this album is its use of xenochrony. This is basically a recording technique that uses guitar solos from older live recordings and overdubs them onto new studio recordings. According to internet sources all of the guitar solos on the album are xenochronous except for "Crew Slut" (one of my favourite fun tracks on this album) and "Watermelon in Easter Hay" (one of the best damn solos I have ever heard, and even Andria digs this song.)

Other points to know about this album come from the liner notes, and those mainly boil down to explaining the overall theme and concept behind this album. Namely that it's supposed to be done like it was being performed in a high school musical. Not your typical one, and it would fly even less as a high school production today than it would have when it originally came out in 1979.

Now let's get into this beast of a triple album, which is put together on two CDs thanks to modern convenience.

Act I

The Central Scrutinizer is the narrator for the Rock Opera that is Joe's Garage. You need to listen to this track with head phones or when you don't have a teenaged daughter rambling a bunch of verbal diarrhea. Mean while in the background you are hearing this really cool and funk track that you can totally get your groove on to.

Next is the introdcution to Joe and his garage. It's a fantastic little ditty that makes for a happy garage band that sounds much bigger than they really are. But the song is just awesome. If you pay attention to the lyrics it tells you the entire story of the band, and how Joe remember's "things". However, the music in this album is amazingly fun, that works so well for the pretentious elite that are just looking for a gimic, or a hook, while totally blasting them at the same time. Frank was always great at giving the world the middle finger with well chosen words.

Catholic Girls is one of the first songs that Frank rubs the idea of these stuck up snobs noses into what they are really like. He's showing the dirty underbelly that anyone that's dealt with these types of girls understands. All the while the music is crazy and off the hook. I find the beauty of Zappa is his use of xenochrony. He builds these amazing songs around these solos that had been previously recorded live and then essentially creates a whole new piece of art.

Crew Slut is totally bad ass sounding. This is a song about the pornagraphic side of being a rock star, and mainly focusing on how they are tired of these all American good boys. They want a band with a world full of bad girl fantasy. But the music is this total bad ass Country sounding track. This is total ass kicking Country that would make every Hard Rock fan stand up and recognize. This track has more balls in it's music than Rock has had in a long time. It's funny that when the middle music break kicks in both my daughter and my Editor stop talking, almost instantly, and then when the chorus kicks back in they start chatting again. The music is that awesome.

It's still what the Religious Hypocrits would call obscene when it comes to Wet T-Shirt Nite, and they may be right. However, I don't mind. I see it for what it is. This album is musically for the mind. Actually I have to say that I would love to have seen an animated movie done to specifically match the way the album is described to be. Maybe live action if Terry Gilliam was directing, possibly even Rob Zombie.

Next is the instrumental Toad-O Line, which is some awesome Jazz inspired guitar kick assery. I can't stress enough how the music tells the story as much as the music does. You can just let your mind drift as the music takes you away. It's so, so, sweet.

People might ask why I would let my child listen to a song like Why Does It Hurt When I Pee? First off this song is a warning, and I use it to explain that this is why you should always where a condom. Also when I was thirteen I was listening to Guns N' Roses' Get In The Ring, and this song uses nothing but perfectly acceptable PG, maybe a soft PG-13 set of lyrics. Not a single bad word, "my balls feel like a pair of maracas" is about the worst line in the entire song. However, it's an amazing piece of orchestrated music. Although not played with an orchestra.

Lucille Has Messed My Mind Up is a sweet piece in a way. It's a man's heart breaking for a woman that he never should have fallen for.

I should mention that all through out the story the Central Scrutinizer is telling the subliminal story, that's hidden in plain sight.

Also it needs to be mentioned that there are multiple vocalists playing various parts. Joe is always done by Ike Willis, and he sounds amazing. Dale Bozzio is always Mary, the Catholic girl. Frank does a few different parts, including the Central Scrutinizer, and various others do different Borgs. Yes they are called Borgs, and this album was released over ten years before Star Tek: TNG was. Although this man and machine assimulation is a little more kinky.

This ends Act I, or the first vinyl disc, from back in the day.

Act II begins with A Token of My Extreme which I think would have been on there, because it's still on the first disc of the CD and sounds like a perfect album closer. However, it would have been the starting track, and as that it starts a little slow. Alright, there had to be one twisted, but obscenely profane song on the album. Stick It Out is totally and blatantly obvious. But you can totally dance to it, if you have any sense of rhythm. It mocks so perfectly.

Sy Borg finishes off the first CD, and does it with a really cool and mellow groove. This is a total love track, but of a sexy seduction type. It's the sensual side of man and machine loving. It was about having sex with a toaster, before having sex with a toaster meant one of the modern BSG skinjobs. I will say that the lyrical content on this track is a little more PG-13. Some would say obscene and that's because they need a good shag. That doesn't mean that you shouldn't sensor it to some extent. Also how shorting out that toaster from really twisted sex can lead to imprisonment, because those robots have rights too. The next few tracks, which I'm pretty sure made up the entire first side of the second disc ,pretty much make up a Gay Porn set in a prison.

Dong Work for Yuda is naughty, and the modern upity Gay community might have issues with this one. If they have or are willing to have a slightly dirty sense of humour they would love this one. Imagine Oz the prison show mixed with Grease, and you get an idea.

Keep It Greasey is totally prison rape raunchy wrapped up in musical delight. It's a genius of writing. This album was way beyond it's time. Although I think today it would have a larger fight because of how censorship has only gotten worse. Outside Now is the last track in Act II. It's a really good transition piece and sets up the coming part of the album beautifully. How does a musician survive in the world after being on the inside. Especially when that world has made music illegal. This is your typical singing the monologuefor the sake of making it a musical type of song, but since I have mentioned it in a while. The music is totally astounding, and instrumentally interesting.

On top of Frank Zappa's lead guitar, there's Warren Cuccurullo's rhythm guitar, Denny Walley's slide guitar, each also contributing vocals as well as Ike Willis' lead vocals, Peter Wolf and Tommy Mars' keyboard's, Arthur Barrow's bass and vocals, Ed Mann's percussion, Vinnie Colaiuta's drums and combustible vapors (as listed in the album note's), Jeff (like Sting or Madonna) on tenor sax, baritone sax suplied Marginal Chagrin, and bass sax by Stumuk, with other vocals by Dale Bozzio and Al Malkin, and the harmonica by Craig Steward. At least that's for the first act.

The second and third acts use Frank, Warren, Denny, Ike, Wolf, Barrow and Ed, doing all the same things as on the first act. However, now there's Patrick O'Hearn on bass for the song Outside Now, and Vinnie is doing drums and optomentric abandon.

He Used to Cut the Grass is the reflective piece that opens Act III. This is one of those pieces that is meant to give a bit of a story recap, and allow time for a set up for the continuing of the story. But you get it with some really wild freeform Jazz inspired styling. At least that's the way I see it.

Packard Goose is one of the biggest middle finger's I have ever heard anyone give to the record companies. This song was written from the heart, and I find it funny as hell as I'm writing a review for it. According to the song I would be the worst kind of sleeze. How, the government have pretty much taken over the music industry with regulations in order to keep the people stupid. This track also contains an old wiseman's vision, like Obi-Wan doing his blue ghost talk to Luke on Degobah. However, it's the voice of Mary. This also has the distinct privilege of being the longest song on the album.

There are many people that would argue that Watermelon in Easter Hay contains Frank Zappa's best solo. His son Dweezil would be one of them. This solo is surrounded only by two pieces of commentary by Central Scrutinizer. The commentary pretty much is meant to warn you about the dangers of music and to quote "MUSIC can get you pretty fucked up." Once again though I can't stress the music part enough. This is the perfect closing track to the instrumental side of the album. It's so mystical and beautiful. As for the solo itself, it is amazing, as I'm currently listening to my son simulate the notes in the way that we teenage boys do. You don't even notice how long it is. You just float away on a beautiful cloud of guitar notes.

A Little Green Rosetta is that big end of the song chorus piece, where the background repeats over and over, and while some would say what would be considered the closing remarks for the night. I picture Steve Martin saying some zany lines at the end of Saturday Night Live, or Kermit dealing with crap durign The Muppet Show, for the Jim Henson days. It's the perfect closing piece.

This is an album that you have to totally pay attention to, or you'll miss the point. This is a concept album, to totally fuck with your mind, by daring to say the word fuck, at the right time, in the right way.

I love the clarity and the sound textures of this music. This album was using what could best be describe as sampling, before sampling was sampling, and it was doing it to make silly repeating loops. This was imagination and musical invention. This is one of those albums I will be listening to for years.

10/10 - content

10/10 - production

10/10 - personal bias

Monday, March 25, 2013

Black Label Society - Stronger Than Death

I start this review by expressing the joy I get from Black Label Society, and how much I love Zakk Wylde's ability to deliver some kick ass Hard Rock.

I haven't been able to pick up too many B.L.S. albums, being unemployed for a couple of years really hurt the music budget. So, my good buddy Drew hooked me up with some burns. Like the way we use to make album tapes as teens.

Stronger Than Death is one of the four albums he burnt for me, and I'm glad he did. At least I know it's an album worth buying, and where to put it on that list of CDs to pick up. Let's say it's on the list, but not high up, unless I find it second hand for the right price.

The album opens with All For You which is a really strong start, and a great way to kick off the album. However, it sets the mood for the album really quickly. Which leads to the album sounding either a little stockish, or like a bunch of over extend jam riffs, mixed with some cool lead guitar work.

I love the way Phone, Smiles & Fake Hellos opens up. It's different and unique, and then leads into a song that I find a bit stockish by the end. Totally bad ass, but not exactly special in the grand picture of B.L.S.

I went back to see what I had written about 13 Years Of Grief when I covered it on Skullage. The song didn't seem to impress me all that much then, and it still doesn't now. It rocks hard, and will have you want to bang even harder, but it's nothing overly special. It's just really fucking awesome hard riffing rock.

If I'm going to have an issue with anything with Zakk Wylde, it'll be the fact that his vocals are a little Grunge sounding. They have that drone that have me thinking of Alice In Chains. Hell, I think Alice In Chains fans would really dig on Black Label Society if they opened their minds. I notice this while Rust plays on by, but then a solo starts up, and it's beautiful. Saying so much while not overplaying it on the notes. It was a true Rock solo. If this song had come out in the height of grunge some might have accused Zakk of being a sell out. I think it's a nice change on this album.

Superterrorizer brings the album back to it's beastly nature. This is one of those songs for the Metalheads. It's big, and brash and all kinds of foot stompin, fist pumping rage. The music fits the song well. That's one thing I like about Zakk, he understands how to make a song feel. Every song he does, is as heavy as a storm on the river Styx, especially with Zakk playing the ferry man, trying to collect early. However, they don't all sound the same. There are traits that remind you of many other songs he's done, but in an AC/DC kind of way. Just really heavy.

Counterfiet God oddly sounds like the production was pulled back for no reason, but in a good way. It gives it more of a Rock sound, and a little less Mass Distotion Metal. I do find that the main riff gets a bit annoying after a bit. It's that same droning noise I mentioned earlier. It's awesome mixed in with other CDs. Not so great just on it's own.

I could have seen Ain't Life Grand being an Ozzy tune. In fact, part of me thinks that this song would have been done better with Ozzy performing the vocals. I would have also liked to have heard the lead guitar pushed a little further ahead in the mix. I love the way Zakk sounds on slower songs like Just Killing Time. During the parts when his voice isn't being pulled back in the production, because you notice how much more thought goes into his words. They aren't just lost in the mix. Also this song is a totally beautiful Southern Rock ballad. This is taken right out of a Lynyrd Skynyrd play book. "I sit reflecting / I feel the end has begun / It seems my days now mirror the setting sun / So many places that I have been / This ride that was long seems so short in terms of now and then / For All that has been / And All that is / All that's to be / Lord, I'm just killing time / And time's killing me / Dead man breathing, just taking up space / Calloused and weathered like the lines on one's face / Dead man breathing, my conscience is bare / The lining of my soul is torn yet I no longer care / For All that has been / And All that is / All that's to be / Lord, I'm just killing time / And time's killing me". Then there's the guitar solo and I'm all wet. I mean this is the type of guitar playing that makes Zakk the man. No one plays like that anymore, at least no one that I'm hearing.

Stronger Than Death sounds exactly like a song with that title should. So, its loud brash, and everything that good Metal needs.

The album finishes with Love Reign Down. It's a solid finish. You could say that the song is multi-parted. I can say that when you hit the halfway point of the song, I find it gets a lot more interesting. If not for that, the song would be more stock sounding.

The biggest problem with this album is how structurally ridged it is. It's a lot more Metal in that regard, and I find I like Zakk better when he's playing a loose Rock. I get why the Metalheads would love this album. I also think the Grunge people out there, could really get behind this album. As a Rock guy this album is decent, but I like it in a mix. Not as one consecutive listen.

7/10 - content

7/10 - production

6/10 - personal bias

Friday, March 22, 2013

Coheed And Cambria - The Second Stage Turbine Blade

So, there's a small story behind my reviewing this album. My friend Birkner specifically requested the review, and I didn't own a copy of the CD. Coheed And Cambria are just one of those bands that I haven't gotten around to buying anything from. Therefore, in order to actually write this review I had to borrow the CD from Drew, and it seems he liked this album so much he had burnt out his original copy, and had to burn himself a backup disc. This totally annoys me, because none of the computer information comes up, except for the track length. This means I have to pay a little more attention to the packaging than I want to.

Now, I've enjoyed Coheed And Cambria's music since I first heard/came across one of their music videos. I'm not sure what song it was, or even what the video looked like, but I recognized the talent of this band right away. However, based on the time in which I saw the video, I'm going to guess it was Devil In Jersey City. Which was the only video from The Second Stage Turbine Blade album.

I'm going to start this review with everything negative I can think of with this album. First off it's a Prog Rock band, with a really high pitched male vocalist, and there's more to this story than one simple album. With a little research I discovered that Second Stage is actually the second part of a five-part pentalogy, telling the story of The Amory Wars. But, it's the first album from the band. Right away this is going to be too complex for many people, and even I'm a little annoyed by this. I hate starting a story in the middle.

Which takes me back to the vocalist issue. Claudio Sanchez, which is the primary vocalist, as well as guitarist, sounds like a woman. He's not high pitched like Geddy Lee, I mean I mistook his voice for that of one of the female Pop tarts more than once. This shouldn't be an issue and normally wouldn't, except that I find I have to pay more attention to the written words (read the lyrics) than just listening to the album, especially because of the story complexity. Which annoys the hell out of me. It's like buying an audio book, so you can read along with your paperback copy. It doesn't help I find the vocals disappear into the mix a lot as well.

The opening track is really creepy in that classic horror movie kind of sound. This is also the title track. I like that it sounds like it was even recorded back in the fifties or sixties for a movie. But it's really more of a short soundscape that sets a great mood.

Time Consumer follows that up. Musically this has a great soundtrack. Which takes you on a journey all on it's own. You can hear experimentation, and exploration, for the sake of adding rich flavour to the song.

I do feel bad that I don't care for the vocalist, because they do remind me a lot of Rush, but then again I don't care for all Rush songs either. However, I can listen to just the music and let it take me away.

After that comes Devil In Jersey City, which is a fast paced head bopper. It's layered with a bunch of layers and textures and I would say that it's like listening to an Emo version of Metallica's ...And Justice For All. There's a shit load of killer riffs thrown together, with detailed lyircs interwoven in the music. To the casual listener, it's easy to miss the point. As a fan this is the birth of a religion. There's even some customary screaming.

I enjoy the addition of simple sound effects to help add effects to a song. It adds more to the audio table for me. Everything Evil really gives off a vibe that the title would imply.

Delirium Trigger has a bit of Funk to it. It has a creepy, yet some how sexy, feel going on. The best way I know how to describe listening to this album is like listening to a Rammstein album. I know words are being said, and they sound cool in the music, but I don't know what they are. However, mixed with the music it sounds awesome. It would be like going to an Opera for me.

Heartshot Kid Disaster starts off with some screaming, and makes me think of My Chemical Romance. Another band where I love the overall sound, but find myself unable to pay attention to most of the lyrics. I think that would be a great description. But I all I hear is a lot of Rush in this song. The bass has a total Geddy Lee like tone, and there is some beautiful tempo changes, but it has more screaming than I like in my music.

When 33 kicks off my attention is caught once again. This song fires off like a shot, and it moves like a foot chase in the middle of the night.

I will say that I notice the passage of time, or how it seems to go a little slower while listening to these songs. I get it, and why it's done. It's just not my thing.

Junesong Provision sounds like a high paced version of the last couple songs. At this point it feels like the album is becoming one of those albums that complain about with Prog, until the odd vocals kick in, and change the dynamic in a much needed way. The tone it comes back with also adds a bit of punch. Then the song kind of starts to remind me of a Screamo version of Pink Floyd. Then somewhere around the three and a half marker I think it changes to a new song but it's still the same one.

Neverender starts up with another one of those classic Horror soundtrack soundscapes again, before kicking into a song that seems very similar to the rest of the album at this point. I get why some people love them, I just don't care for them. As for this song I just find it boring. I am sorry, it's a vocals thing. I get that it sucks, but I have a buddy that doesn't care for Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden's vocals, which is why he can't get into Maiden.

God Send Conspirator finishes up the official album, which is a bit of Latin Flavoured Jazz Funk. It's a pretty cool sounding number. By the point this song hits three minutes I notice it seems a little long. This reminds me of Rush's mid Eighties work, but with guitars instead of keyboards.

Then there's three demo tracks. Well there's supposed to be. The copy Drew included in here only has two of the demos, and I'm okay with that. So I can only talk about Elf Tower New Mexico, and Everything Evil.

The first track opens up with one of those classic soundtrack sounds I've already mentioned, before going into a song that has everything except for the drums pushed forward. This is a demo, so I won't bitch. I think it's good for what it is

The demo for Eveything Evil is long. The version on the album is just shy of six minutes. The demo is over thirteen. I do enjoy the music aspect to it, it takes you somewhere. On what one may call an astral ride. This song feels totally cosmic to me. Even if it's a space battle. I do like the trippy instrumental around the four minute marker. It's different, and has a cool effect.

Also it seems that the other reason this track is so long, is due to a hidden bonus track. IRO-bot starts at 7:25. This is an accoustic track, that's really creepy in a Jefferson Airplane kind of way. This is some totally freaky stuff. There does come a point when I would like the music to have more variation and I find it a bit repetitive, but it serves a larger purpose.

I understand why Birkner and Drew love this album so much. It's only my personal bias that keeps me from totally digging on it.

8/10 - content

7/10 - production

6/10 - personal bias

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Rob Zombie - Hellbilly Deluxe2

I'm sure I've mentioned before that I like Rob Zombie better than White Zombie. The main reason, is less Thrash and more Hard Rock.

I'm also going on record with I like Hellbilly Deluxe 2 better than the first Hellbilly deluxe.

The album opens with Jesus Frankenstein, which is a great opening track. It totally kicks off the album perfectly. It gets the body pumping, and the heart pounding. It's that awesome horror story of B cinema, or European insanity, pouring out through music artistry. That being said I'm not actually that big of a fan of the song.

That's followed up with Sick Bubblegum, which is the perfect blend of classic tongue-in-cheek dirty lyrics, mixed with a song that makes you wanna, "Rock mother fucker / Rock mother fucker". This song screams a whole lot of hell yeah, without actually saying it.

What? to me is total stream on consciousness writing, set to a blisteringly awesome Surfer Rock beat. This is just pure darkly artistic fun. "Alright! / My human duplicators with a / prehistoric women and Jack the Ripper / said WHAT? / She married a monster on the very / last day and the she turned around / and said WHAT? / I was a teenage a something or other / with a Judge Five man [WHAT?] / Vampire Lovers in a wild bikini / say uh-huh, uh-uh,uh-huh / Cannibal man and a jungle girl / say uh-huh,uh-huh,uh-huh / Here we go! / Like a son of Kong, like a Fu Manchu / They do not know what to do WHAT? / I got a vulture with a rabid eye and a killer bee screaming WHAT? / A real mastermind , a genius of some kind but I do not understand WHAT? / Vampire Lovers in a wild bikini / say uh-huh, uh-uh,uh-huh / Cannibal man and a jungle girl / say uh-huh,uh-huh,uh-huh / Midnight offerings in a mini skirts and / Mr. Rock N Roll / Satan's Cheerleaders / Bouncing Pom Poms / Bouncing Pom Poms / Rave on with me / Rave on with me / Rave on with me / [Here we go] / Vampire Lovers in a wild bikini / say uh-huh, uh-uh,uh-huh / Cannibal man and a jungle girl / say uh-huh,uh-huh,uh-huh / Rave on with me / Rave on with me / Rave on with me / Aww and the oh yeah! / Rave on with me / Rave on with me / Rave on with me / Awww and the ohhh yeah!"

I love the Southern Cowboy theme that opens Mars Needs Women. You'd almost think Black Label Society had been a part of making this album. Instead it's another group of guys that understand that everything makes great Hard Rock. Oh yeah, then this song turns into a giant, Earth stomping, ground thundering, monster of blasting sonics. Oh yeah, it's also totally hardcore Sci-Fi, baby!

Werewolf, Baby is more of that classic B-Movie Horror movie mixed with awesome Rock riffin', but with a total Southern flair. I mean this is the type of music that gets me off. Although this is a song that I don't feel a need to listen to on my own. I'm not a fan of Virgin Witch. I know some people will love this big nasty monster of beastliness, I just think it's stock. No harm, no foul, every album can have a little stock like this.

I am so in love with Death And Destiny Inside The Dream Factory. I love hearing Rob Zombie deliver the lyrics, with a song that chugs along at break neck speed. "Free your mind and feel the passion, baby / Death and suntan, still in fashion, baby / Hollywood, In Hollywood / Yeah, Crush your idols, they can afford it, baby / Permanently vile and fascinating / Hollywood, in Hollywood / Break it down / Please stop calling / I'm so sick / I think i'm falling / Break it down / Please stop calling / I'm so sick / I think i'm falling / Inside the mind fucking, meat grinding, unwinding, soul sucking factory of all your dreams / Cinema regressing at you, baby / Charge it to production, will ya baby ? / Hollywood, in Hollywood / Yeah, Somewhere in a canyon, death is waiting / Hippie freaks and convicts congregating / Hollywood, in Hollywood / Break it down / Please stop calling / I'm so sick / I think i'm falling / Break it down / Please stop calling / I'm so sick / I think i'm falling / Inside the mind fucking, meat grinding, unwinding, soul sucking factory of all your dreams / Break it down / Please stop calling / I'm so sick / I think i'm falling / Break it down / Please stop calling / I'm so sick / I think i'm falling / Inside the mind fucking, meat grinding, unwinding, soul sucking factory of all your dreams".

I'm not a fan of Burn, but I do really like the "papa oom mow mow". Totally appeals to the kid in me that loved The Beach Boys and Alice Cooper equally, up until I was twelve or thirteen.

I dig Cease To Exist as a total art piece. It's so very well done, and has a great music score, which is the best way to describe it.

I don't know if Werewolf Women Of The SS was inspired for the fake movie trailor for the Grind House Double Feature, of the same name, or the trailor was created from the concept of this song. Either way I want to see the movie. Also, I totally love the Surfer Rock in this song. Johnny 5's guitar playing is amazing. The man is brilliant.

The album finishes with The Man Who Laughs which is a total performance piece. Even the drum solo, which helps extend this song to the 9:44 marker, is totally performance, and not just rhythmic hitting.

This album is a must have. It's heavy, it's hard, it's sexy, it's itelligent, it is Rock for the mind. This is artistry, for people willing to express a free mind, and understands why monsters are cool.

8/10 - content

10/10 - production

9/10 - personal bias

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Hole - Celebrity Skin

I've been a Hole fan from the moment I first saw the video to Violet. This album, however, takes a slightly different path. This is from the time period when Courtney Love decided to clean up her act to a small degree and go Hollywood. So, she cleaned up her image for Tinsel Town, while she was acting and this album reflects that as well.

This album has seven different writers. Courtney Love, Eric Erlandson, Melissa Auf Der Maur, Patty Schemel (which make up the band), as well as Billy Corgan of Smashing Pumpkins fame, Charlotte Caffey from the Go-Go's, and Jordon Zadorozny, fellow Canadian and former band mate to Auf Der Maur. Love writes all the lyrics herself, but the music is written by any of the seven listed above. Although Eric is the only one to write on every song's music, and even Love can't say that.

The album kicks of with the title track, which shows off the Grunge Queen's more polished and styled music. It's a prime example of Courtney and group growing as musicians and discovering real production. I instantly fell in love with this song the first time I heard it, and I still love it now.

After that comes Awful, which is almost a step removed from the Grunge scene. I'd almost go as far as to say it's Power Pop, or maybe a hybrid of the two, that has a really polished sound. What I enjoy the most is the melody of the song.

Hit So Hard is a nice song, but a bit mellow for my liking. However, I do often find myself singing along with this song, especially the chorus. "Put me up above the boy / The one I love I should destroy / My sweet tooth has burned a hole / Forget about it all / He hit so hard / I saw stars / He hit so hard / I saw God / He's cold give me my candy coat / He can't swim but he can float / One by one they all fall down / I look at him and drown / He hit so hard / I saw stars / He hit so hard / I saw God / He's so candy my downfall / Melts in my mouth till he's nothing at all / This keeps me I can't sleep / He rages to be true / He hit so hard / I saw stars / He hit so hard / I saw God / Oh, man he hit so hard / I saw stars / He hit so hard / I saw God". My only real complaint about this song is that it's the second song in a row that moves into a slight downtrodden vibe for a few seconds, before going back into the actual music that is part of the song.

Malibu was one of the singles for this album, and for me it was always a bit of an over hyped song. To me it basically sounds like nice girls doing Alice In Chains, with the exception of having more of the classic Courtney Love voice. The grated, rough, and raspy sound that made the vocalist famous.

Reasons To Be Beautiful is more like Hole from Live Through This, but one of the mellower tracks. This song's music was also written by five out of the seven writers on this album. With the exception of Corgan and Schemel.

The next song is really pretty. Dying is written by Corgan and Erlandson, at least the music is, while Love wrote the lyrics. "You see the cripple dance / Pay your money, baby / Now's your chance / Eyes like cyanide / I am so dumb / Just beam me up / I've had it all forever / I've had enough / Remember, you promised me / I'm dying, I'm dying, please / I want to, I need to be / Under your skin / Our love is quicksand / So easy to drown / They steal the gravity, yeah / From moving ground / Remember, you promised me / I'm dying, I'm dying, please / I want to, I need to be / Under your skin / And now I understand / You leave with everything / You leave with everything I am / Withering / And now I know that love is dead / You've come to bury me / There's nothing left here to pretend / Anything / Remember, you promised me / I'm dying, I'm dying, please / I want to, I need to be / Under your skin / I'm dying, I'm dying, please / I'm dying, I'm dying, please / I'm dying, I'm dying, please / Under your skin / Under your skin".

Use Once & Destroy is one of the only songs on the album I really don't care about. It does nothing for me. But, I don't dislike it either.

Northern Star is the only song on the album I'll say that I don't like. It's too accoustic, for the way Courtney delivers her most hard core thrashy vocals to this point on the album. To me this track sounds more like it should have been a b-side. Boy On The Radio is pretty decent. It's nothing overly special, but it's enjoyable.

Heaven Tonight is oddly one of my favourite tracks on the album. I don't have a rational explanation, but it makes me smile and feel all warm and fuzzy on the inside, and I like that.

I really love the Eastern feel added to Playing Your Song, especially since this song sounds like that harsh Live Through This kind of Hole. It makes for a great complimentary contrast sound that's totally enjoyable.

To this day I still don't know if I like or dislike Petals. I do know that I think this track should have been switched with Playing Your Song as the last track on the album. I think this was a weak closer, but it is a strong song, just not closer strong.

To this day I have yet to listen to the Nobody's Daughter album, the follow up album that was released over a decade after this one, nor the Pretty On The Inside which came out before Live Through This. Which means I can only compare this album to Live Through this, and I do like this one better. Although most of that comes from the production, which is better on this album. I do enjoy the overall content a bit better as well, but not that much.

It's the mix of pretty and polished, along with rough, and harsh that makes this album pretty damn good. It's a shame that Love couldn't keep it together and instead deteriorated back into her self destructive ways, because this could have really changed her music career drastically.

7/10 - content

7/10 - production

8/10 - personal bias

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

AC/DC - Let There Be Rock

There is only one Bon Scott era AC/DC album I don't care for and it's Let There Be Rock. I've owned this album for a decade or so at this point, and have only listened to it a hand full of times. I find it to be a filler album, that only has a few good tracks on it.

To me this album comes across as a left over album, which is to say that it's made up from tracks that weren't good enough to make it onto any album that came out prior to this one. It could also be that many of these songs sounded too much like other tracks from their previous albums, so that it was best to leave them off.

Take the lead off track Go Down, for example. This track reminds me way too much of Can I Sit Next To You Girl from the High Voltage album. Right down to the thin sounding Bluesy vibe. Also a weak start to the album. I think it should have been switched with the next song instead.

Dog Eat Dog, sounds like T.N.T. meets Dirty Deeds, which makes it a stronger track that the album should have started with, but for the most part it sounds to me like this song was a bit uninspired, at least with Bon's vocal delivery. It's almost like his heart wasn't into it, and he was running on autopilot as he performed the lyrics.

Actually I like the term autopilot, because I find that's the perfect description for how the entire album sounds. The title track is next up. Let There Be Rock is a good song, and I do actually prefer this version compared to the over extended live version I'm more used to hearing, but over all I'm just not a fan of this song. I don't have a good reason, it's just personal taste.

I'm totally neutral about the song Bad Boy Boogie. I understand why people like it, but it barely gets my foot tapping. There is some great guitar work on it, which is what saves my opinion about this song.

Now for some reason, that can't be logically explained, Atlantic Records opted to remove Crabsody Blue's from the album after the initial international vinyl release, and jammed in a slightly shorter version of Problem Child from Dirty Deeds Done Dirty Cheap, and it stuck that way ever since. It would seem that record companies really have an issue with songs about STD's. As for the replacement track, you can visit my review for it on the Dirty Deeds review.

Which brings me to the question of, songs about overdosing are okay, but songs about having crabs aren't? Both are warnings if you ask me. However the next track, Overdose, is not a song I've ever paid attention to. This is another track that sounds thin, and like a left over from another one of the older albums.

To me the best two tracks on this album are the last two. The first of those is Hell Ain't A Bad Place To Be, which is a song format that would later be used on other albums with Brian Johnson, I'm thinking specifically For Those About To Rock, but at the time this album came out it would have been a little more original sounding.

Then the album closes with the classic Whole Lotta Rosie. The first time I heard this song I wasn't fond of it. However, over the years it's grown into one of those songs that I can't help but love. Although, I will say I do prefer this song in its live version. It seems more wild and unconstrained.

If you want to be a hardcore AC/DC fan you must own this album, but if you just want to enjoy the good stuff just listening to the songs that can also be found on live albums or video's will be more than sufficient.

5/10 - content

6/10 - production

5/10 - personal bias

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Johnny Cash - American IV: The Man Comes Around

I'm not going to say that everyone picked up American IV when it came out, but it sure seemed to me that everyone I was hanging out with at the time did. The part that annoys me about that, is that everyone seemed to be picking this album up for just the cover of Nine Inch Nails' Hurt. Which is a great song, and admittedly was a major influence on my picking this album up as well. However, there's so many good songs on this album that should have gotten more exposure.

I would also like to point out that this album contains both covers and original songs, although most of the originals are rerecordings of classic Cash songs. The opening track is a prime example of this.

The Man Comes Around opens this album percfectly. It's a bit of a shame that Cash himself wasn't able to play his classic track, however his age and time roughened voice sounds spectacular. Like every track on this album Rick Rubin did an amazing job keeping the classic sound, but giving the production a modern kick.

Next up is Hurt. I love this cover so much more than the original. Namely because it sounds like a real band, and not just a computer with a vocalist in it. I also like that Cash changed the lyrics to swap out the profanity. This version is absolutely moving, and has brought me to tears more than once just because of how powerful it is.

Give My love To Rose is another update of a classic Cash song. Well I don't exactly care for the song, I do enjoy the story in the lyrics. "I found him by the railroad track this morning / I could see that he was nearly dead / I knelt down beside him and I listened / Just to hear the words the dying fellow said / He said they let me out of prison down in Frisco / For ten long years I've paid for what I've done / I was trying to get back to Louisiana / To see my Rose and get to know my son / Give my love to Rose please won't you mister / Take her all my money, tell her to buy some pretty clothes / Tell my boy his daddy's so proud of him / And don't forget to give my love to Rose / Tell them I said thanks for waiting for me / Tell my boy to help his mom at home / Tell my Rose to try to find another / For it ain't right that she should live alone / Mister here's a bag with all my money / It won't last them long the way it goes / God bless you for finding me this morning / And don't forget to give my love to Rose / Give my love to Rose please won't you mister / Take her all my money, tell her to buy some pretty clothes / Tell my boy his daddy's so proud of him / And don't forget to give my love to Rose " Other than that I find it kind of a typical country song.

I find it amazing how much Paul Simon's Bridge Over Troubled Water sounds like it's a Johnny Cash original, at least on this album. It really has a great sound and vibe to it, and I can understand why it was selected to be on this album. I even like Fiona Apple's background vocals on this song. She does a great job.

I had no clue that I Hung My Head was originally a Sting song. Namely because I've never been a Sting fan and this cover was also my first exposure to the song. But lyrically, as well as with the musical performance on this track, it totally comes across as a classic cowboy kind of song. "Early one morning / With time to kill / I borrowed Jebb's rifle / And sat on a hill / I saw a lone rider / Crossing the plain / I drew a bead on him / To practice my aim / My brother's rifle / Went off in my hand / A shot rang out / Across the land / The horse, he kept running / The rider was dead / I hung my head / I hung my head / I set off running / To wake from the dream / My brother's rifle / Went into the sheen / I kept on running / Into the south lands / That's where they found me / My head in my hands / The sheriff he asked me / Why had I run / And then it come to me / Just what I had done / And all for no reason / Just one piece of lead / I hung my head / I hung my head / Here in the court house / The whole town was there / I see the judge / High up in the chair / Explain to the court room / What went on in your mind / And we'll ask the jury / What verdict they find / I felt the power / Of death and life / I orphaned his children / I widowed his wife / I begged their forgiveness / I wish I was dead / I hung my head / I hung my head / I hung my head / I hung my head / Early one morning / With time to kill / I see the gallows / Up on a hill / And out in the distance / A trick of the brain / I see a lone rider / Crossing the plain / And he'd come to fetch me / To see what they'd done / And we'd ride together / To kingdom come / I prayed for god's mercy / For soon I'd be dead / I hung my head / I hung my head / I hung my head / I hung my head".

I don't care for First Time I Saw Your Face. I don't recall ever hearing this song prior to picking up this album, even though it was a very popular song amongst Folk artists and a hit song for Roberta Flack. I might like one of those versions, but for some reason I doubt it.

The next song is a cover of Personal Jesus. It's one of the only Depeche Mode songs that I knowingly like, and I love Marilyn Manson's cover of this song as well. This version is totally cool, and has a great upbeat tempo on this album. For me it's the musical interpretation that really makes this song. I love the Honky Tonk like sound.

I have never cared for any version of In My Life. I didn't like The Beatles' original, or the Ozzy Osbourne cover, and the same applies to this version as well. It fits on this album, but it's not my cup of tea.

Sam Hall is another redo of classic Cash. This is a really fun and enjoyable tune. Lyrically it's a classic bad boy story, that starts with blood shed and finishes the same.

I've never understood the affinity people have for Danny Boy. It may be because I was born in a completely different time, or that I'm not British, Scottish or Irish, or the child of an immigrant with strong ties to those countries. It could also be that I've never really cared for many funeral songs. Either way I could do without this song being on the album.

I can't stand The Eagles, and have no use for the song Desperado. It's a boring song that distracted people from much better songs that share the same title. I will say that Cash performing this song make sense, and it fits well in this collection, but I still don't like it. I would have rather heard Johnny do a cover of Alice Cooper's Desperado instead. That would have been totally bad ass, and less romantic tripe.

I'm So Lonesome I Could Die is true Classic Country. The Hank Williams song is amazingly well performed by Johnny Cash and Nick Cave. The two of them sound perfect making this into a sort of duet. This is also one of the few songs where Johnny Cash is credited as a guitar player, which makes me happy in a nostalgic kind of way.

Tear Stained Letter is the last Cash redo. It's also the last upbeat song on the album. I do enjoy this song, and will admit that it's a real toe tapper.

Streets Of Laredo is a really cool track. This is a classic cowboy song, and I totally dig the lyrics. Especially the verse, "Then go write a letter to my grey-haired mother, / "An' tell her the cowboy that she loved has gone. / "But please not one word of the man who had killed me. / "Don't mention his name and his name will pass on."

The album finishes with We'll Meet Again, which was originally written during the opening days of World War II. I'm not sure what it is about songs from this time period that I enjoy so much, but I think it has something to do with growing up listening to Chris De Burgh. As for this version of the song, I think it's great and the perfect album closer.

This was the last album during Johnny Cash's life. There were two more American albums that he had been working on with Rick Rubin prior to his death, but he sadly passed away before they were officially finished and released. However, I think this album was the perfect way of completing his ledgendary living career.

8/10 - content

7/10 - production

8/10 - personal bias

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Jack White - Blunderbuss

When I heard that The White Stripes were calling it quits I was really bummed out. Then I heard that The Raconteurs were calling it quits, and I got a bit distraught. Luckily, that turned out to be a bit of BS. They just took a break, which allowed Jack White to do a solo album, and I'm happy he did. His first, hopefully it won't be his last, solo album is a great album.

I picked up Blundrebuss when it first came out and it's been in my CD player ever since. I would have reviewed it sooner, but this is one of those albums that requires time to grasp the full richness. There are so many tones and flavours to the music that it's more than just a simple Rock album, or a Folk album, or a Country album.

The album opens with Missing Pieces. This song is a great lead off track. It has a bit of Raconteurs vibe, and a little taste of White Stripes, and yet is it's own flavour. It's a great way to introduce people to the album.

Sixteen Saltines reminds me of The White Stripes big time, right down to the drumming. Sure there's more to it than just that, but if you dig the Stripes you'll really enjoy this one.

Freedom At 21 is the first song on the album that doesn't remind me of either of Jack White's previous bands. This is the first song that sounds completely like it's own, and in a really good way.

I can't think of which song it is that Love Interruption reminds me of, but it has a total sixties vibe that has me thinking of all those folk artists that made up the flower power movement. This is even apparent in the lyrics. "I want love / To roll me over slowly / stick a knife inside me, / and twist it all around. / I want love to / grab my fingers gently / slam them in a doorway / put my face into the ground. / I want love to / murder my own mother / and take her off to somewhere / like hell or up above. / I want love to / change my friends to enemies, / change my friends to enemies / and show me how it's all my fault. / I wont let love disrupt, corrupt or interrupt me / I wont let love disrupt, corrupt or interrupt me / Yeah I wont let love disrupt, corrupt, or interrupt me anymore. / I want love to / walk right up and bite me / grab a hold of me and fight me / leave me dying on the ground. / And I want love to / split my mouth wide open and / cover up my ears, / and never let me hear a sound. / I want love to, / forget that you offended me / or how you have defended me, / when everybody tore me down. / Yeah I want love to / change my friends to enemies, / change my friends to enemies / and show me how it's all my fault. / Yeah I wont let love disrupt, corrupt or interrupt me / I wont let love disrupt, corrupt or interrupt me / I wont let love disrupt, corrupt, or interrupt me anymore."

The album's title track has a great Smokey Mountain Waltz kind of feel to it. I can so easily picture couples dancing to this song, in Tennesse or Kentucky in the 1800's.

I enjoy Hypocritical Kiss, but in the mix of this album it comes off as a bit of a filler, but only because it sounds like so much of the rest of the album. It contains many elements that are commonly found in many of the other tracks, and kind of hodge podges them all together into a well written song.

Weep Themselves To Sleep is much like the last track, except that it sounds heavier and thicker. I think this song would have been better if Jack played his guitar more on this track instead of focusing on the piano which doesn't really do much for the song. Also when he does use the guitar, it seems a little like it was just thrown in there for sound, and not for the musicianship.

I'm totally into I'm Shakin'. It has a great beat, and although musically one of the simpler songs on the album, it's well arranged and played. Also, after the last couple of songs it's up tempo feel is a welcome change. The lyrics are also enjoyable and performed in a way that reminds me of classic Motown Soul.

Trash Tongue Talker is another great track, with that classic vibe I mentioned in the song above. Lyrically I find the song a bit goofy, but that's okay, it works in the context. "I got no truck with you, woman / Always comin' over when I ain't home / You hand a buck to me baby / Tried your luck, you tried to get in my song / Oh well your mama was a bastard / Had your plastered face all over the scene / You got hassled by your daddy / Always pushing trying to make you come clean / You broke your tongue talking trash / Now you're tryin' to bring your garbage to me / I got some words for your ass / You better find somebody else up the street / Two monkeys jumping on the bed / And one fell off and hit his head on the ground / The other monkey called the doctor / Said another body dead on the ground". These lyrics then repeat a second time during the song, without adding any new words.

I'm still not sure where I stand with Hip (Eponumous) Poor Boy. It's a decent enough song, and well arranged with a variety of musical stylings. However, I do find it a bit jagged, and aside from the choruses, it doesn't really grab my interest much. I Guess I Should Go To Sleep is the one song on the album I will flat out say I don't care for. I can understand why it's tucked in on the later half of the album, in a spot that one might consider buried. If it had been up to me, I may have tried to talk Jack into leaving it off the album altogether.

On And On and On has a really cool slinking kind of sound to it. It's almost like a snake trying to slither into your mind, and get your body to sway and flow on and on. Yeah, it's not just a clever title. It's a vibe that's captured and manipulated musically to give a very distinct sound and style. I also would describe this song as being very Beatles influenced, even if it isn't. I can hear the Fab Four all over this song.

The album finishes with Take Me With You When You Go. The song starts off rather slow, and would seem like a snoozer, and a bad way to finish. However, it does pick up and get's movin' and groovin' in a Classic Folk Rock kind of way to finish the album off well.

I can't flat out say that White Stripes fans would like this album. Nor can I say that Raconteur fans would like this album either. This album is it's own musical beast, with it's own life and soul. I will say that this album does offer a very different and unique sound compared to most albums that have been released in recent years. It's almost an album out of time. Not a single song on this album sounds like it was released after 1967. Even the production has that sound matched perfectly, to give a great over all period style.

I will say that I am a bit put off by the sound, though. I don't like that Jack's vocals are generally pushed into a cleaner area of the mix, while the instruments get a bit muddied in the mix. That's one of those time period things I never cared for, with music prior to the mid 1960's.

8/10 - content

6/10 - production

7/10 - personal bias

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Alice Cooper - Zipper Catches Skin

I am the biggest Alice Cooper fan any of my friends have known, the only exception may be an old buddy by the name of Leigh. He's a little more fanatic about the Coop, but I'm more of a well learned disciple. That comes with being asked some really weird questions, a lot of general knowledge questions, and then questions in which people need to wrap their heads around. I bring this up because one of the first Alice Cooper discussions I ever had with my friend Pat, who I've mentioned many time before, went something like this...

Pat: "Is there really an Alice Cooper album called Zipper Catches Skin?"
Me: "Yep."
Pat: "That's fucked up." I don't think he used those exact words.
Me: "No. Fucked up is the little drop of blood smeared across the cover."
Pat followed that up with some comment about it being twisted, or gross, or something along those lines. I think it's some of that beautiful sick humour that only the master can get away with.

As for the album itself I'm not even sure where to begin. I think that most of this album is humourous. Some of that humour is satire, some is cheeseball, and other tracks are not so much funny ha ha, as funny stab stab. I can't take any of this album seriously, but that doesn't mean it's a crap album. It's different, in a not so good way.

The album kicks of with Zorro's Ascent, which is a pretty good lead off track. It has a great starting gallop, and then moves into a more mellow story telling style, but returns to the gallop for the choruses. I'm not big on the production, or the cheap synth work, but I love the guitar. I also like the fact that the guitar is finally pushed forward in the mix, compared to the last two albums. I think a lot of that comes from the fact that Dick Wagner is back on this album. He hadn't played on an Alice Cooper album since From the Inside.

After that comes Make That Money (Scrooge's Song). I've read over the years that this was originally written for a Rock Opera version of A Christmas Carol that Alice had been working on. Based on this track I have to say that I really would have liked to have heard that album. This is actually a really strong track, and has a great sound to it. In fact, I think I've under rated it over the years. Also once again the guitar work is damn amazing.

Now after a relly good start the album takes a major drop. I Am The Future was a song Alice recorded, but had nothing to do with the writing, for a movie called Class Of '84, which was a Canadian movie. You'd think that would be cool, but I wouldn't. I really don't care for this song.

The next song, No Baloney Homosapiens is musically interesting and lyrically a total laugh riot. "Hey you out there in outer space / You're lookin' at some style and grace / The blood and gutty human race / Well, come on down here to meet us / And all you sightings up there in the sky / Feel free to drop in anytime / Anytime you're just kinda passin' by / And you get the urge that you want to see us / Oh, we're fun and games / Just guys and just dames / But don't call us names / And most of all, please don't eat us / 'Cause we're no baloney, homosapiens / We ain't phoney / Oh we're no baloney homsapiens / Listen, just 'cause you got / More ears than eyes / That just gives you more places to cry / And acutely hear all the moans and sighs / Of the relatives of the people / You disintegrated / And don't you say we're easy prey / 'Cause buddy, that's the day / Your underestimation will defeat you / But don't worry, we're civilized / And we won't eat you / 'Cause we're no baloney, we're homosapiens / We ain't no phoney / Yeah, we're no baloney homosapiens / We're black and white / You're green and blue / Well, we're all right, so are you... I think / My blood's thick red / You bleed black glue / So, let's not bleed at all / Is that all right with you / Yes, we're no baloney, we're homosapiens / We're not phoney / Yeah, we're no baloney homosapiens / Yes, we're no baloney, homosapiens / Take it back with ya / We're no baloney homosapiens / No baloney, homosapiens ".

It's funny, I had forgotten that this album is classified as one of the "blackout" albums. There are three albums that share this honour, Special Forces was the first, this is the second, and DaDa was the third. These albums were all released during the worst of Alice's drinking, and he can't remember much about recording any of them. I think this also helps to explain a lot about them as well. If you look at how he had to change to try and stay current, with Flush The Fashion I would have started drinking heavily too, and I would have drank even harder to keep Special Forces out of my mind, which would lead to this odd album you are currently reading about, and then the inevitable suicide note that DaDa comes across as. Although that album is wickedly awesome.

Adaptable (Anything For You) is a cross between Hard Rock and New Wave. It works in some ways, but in others it's totally silly, specifically in the lyric department. "If you were Lucy / I'd be your Ricky / When you were juicy / I'd get real sticky / And when you're magic / It makes me tricky, too / Yeah, I'm a Sony / You're Panasonic / I'm heavy metal / You're philharmonic / If you get earaches / I'd turn my volume down / A notch or two for you / 'Cause I will do anything for you / Anything you want me to / I'm so adaptable to you / Was untrappable 'til you / I will do for you / Anything for you / Adaptable to you / Adaptable to you / If you do that fold out / I'll scream and holler / But when you hold out / I'll spend three dollars / One way or other, babe / I'll spend the night with you / That's true / Now, you ain't no Hepburn / And I ain't no Fonda / But if you were drownin' / In Golden Ponda / Mouth to mouth / I'd resuscitate with you / Because I'm so adaptable to you / Anything you want me to / I'm so adaptable to you / Was untrappable 'til you / I will do for you / Anything for you / Adaptable to you / Adaptable to you / Adaptable to you / So plug me into you / Say you're Vampira / And needed plasma / And I was dying / From chronic asthma / I'd leave my death bed / To draw some blood for you / Just for you / Because I will do anything for you / Anything you want me to / And I will do anything for you / Anything you want me to / Yes, I'm so adaptable to you / Leave a craps table for you / On a winning streak / I will do for you / Anything for you / Adaptable to you / Adaptable to you". Although this song has inspired some of my own writing over the years, but not on purpose.

I Like Girls isn't a bad song, but it's not a good song either. This is a total cheeseball song. It has some artistic merit, but not much. However, when mixed with the next track, Remarkably Insincere, the two make a cool combo. They work well together, but I would suggest either for your listening pleasure.

Tag, You're It, has a lot of the same musical feel of Zorro's Ascent's faster parts, but the production keeps it from sounding as brutal as it could especially since the song is about the lead monsters in slasher flicks that made up the horror side of the movie industry in the late seventies and early eighties. It even talks, and I do mean talks, about Halloween. This song, I think really could have been more than it was.

If this album had been more popular than it was I would say that Violent Femmes stole their main riff for Blister In The Sun from the song I Better Be Good, or they were heavily inspired by it. As for the song I Better Be Good, it really isn't that good. It's a bit of a filler to me.

Every albm has a song that I would call my favourite, and on this album it would be I'm Alive (That Was The Day My Dead Pet Returned To Save My Life). The only reason I can give for this is the song title. Musically there are better songs on this album, and the lyrical content is corny, but I do really enjoy the song. For the longest time it was the only song on the album I would listen to, but mostly because I love the silly lyrics. "I was just kicking down the street / And the sun was in my eyes / So I couldn't see the truck / That was sixty times my size / And just seconds off from splattering me / Let me tell you / I was so scared I couldn't move / Like my boots were full of glue / Then I felt a little tug / And I thought of good Old Blue / And he pulled me from that catastrophe / That was the day / My dead pet returned to save my life / I'm alive / He's alive / I'm alive / I was spitting in the canyon / Near the cliff up on the mountain / When an unexpected sneeze / Hung me in the breeze / At forty five degrees in the sky / Suddenly I felt something / Had me by the belt / And in between my praying / Swore I heard a stallion neighing / Was the ghost of my horse / And I cried, yes I cried / That was the day / My dead pet returned to save my life / That was the day / My dead pet returned to save my life / I'm alive / He's alive / Hey, I'm alive / Things were getting gory / Got caught on territory / Belonging to the Crutches / In an alley in their clutches / Looking kind of dismal that night / Well the leader's name was Fats / Swinging broken baseball bats / Things got really frantic / Starting jumping in their panic / Hallucinating billions of rats / Lots of rats / That was the day / My dead pet returned to save my life / That was the day / My dead pet returned to save my life / I'm alive, I'm alive, real alive / That was the day my dead pet returned / That was the day my dead pet returned / That was the day my dead pet returned / That was the day my dead pet returned / To save my life / I'm alive, I'm alive / He's alive, he's alive, he's alive / I'm alive, yeah / He's alive, he's alive / I'm alive, real alive / Alive, alive, alive / Alive, alive, alive, alive / Alive, alive, alive, alive / I'm alive".

At the end of this album I would have to say that this album is the worst in the Alice Cooper catalogue, but only because of how cheesy most of it is. Musically it's the best out of Flush The Fashion, Special Forces and Zipper Catches Skin. Production wise it's okay, but not great. It's equal to Flush The Fashion, but for different reasons. The sound quality is better, but it's not really produced all that much.

I will say that if it wasn't for Zorro's Ascent, Make That Money and the last track, I would have almost nothing to do with this album, and it would collect a lot more dust on the shelf, than it does now. I would also never suggest anyone but the hard core fans pick up this album. Especially since it's an import, and that tends to cost more money.

5/10 - content

6/10 - production

5/10 - personal bias

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Alice Cooper - Special Forces

If I had to pick a worst Alice Cooper album it would be a toss up between Special Forces and Zipper Catches Skin. However, by the time I'm done reviewing the latter, I'll have a clear decision. I will say that there are a few decent tracks on this album, and that I was super happy to hear one track from this album played live when I saw Cooper on the second leg of the Bare Bones tour. In fact it was much better live than it was on the album.

The track in question is the lead of track on this album, and that's Who Do You Think We Are. This is also the longest track on this album. It starts with a long and acceptabley drawn out Synth opening that sets a mood that is quickly ripped apart. When the song gets going it's rough, rugged, and harsh, until it slips into a little more of a New Wave sound. My biggest complaint about this song is that the guitar solos are totally burried in the mix, which suck because both of them are pretty good.

I should mention that most of the songs on this album run between three and four minutes, which is a change from the previous album, Flush The Fashion. This allows for the music to breathe a little more, and isn't as lyric heavy. However, one shouldn't take that to mean that this album doesn't have some decent lyrics, but it's nice to hear some actual music.

The next song is the shortest song on the album. Seven & Seven Is has been reviewed by me in the past, when done on Rush's cover album Feedback. I can't stand this song. It was well ahead of it's time when originally recorded in the sixties, but on this album, along with the Rush version it just sounds like New Wave garbage.

Musically I don't care for Prettiest Cop On the Block, but lyrically I find it totally hilarious. This is one of those classic Alice gender bending tracks. "I'm 6 foot 3 with a fist like a hammer / And I work with the Vice Squad when I can / And when I pull out my badge they forget all my glamor / Little guys all surprised / Take a seat / Peek at me / It's a bust / I'm a man / I'm the prettiest cop on the block / I set your souls on fire / Yes, I'm the prettiest cop on the block / I'm cool and I'm so mean / Oh, I'm the prettiest cop on the block / I've handcuffed your desire / I've got a stiff reputation with a stick like a rock / My kids are confused and my wife is in shock / I'm a full blooded man not a weak immitation / I like to flex my arms in the neon lights / I'm a queen on the street and a king at the station / It's a secret of mine, not a sign I'm gonna make that right / Because.. / I'm the prettiest cop on the block / I set your souls on fire / Yes, I'm the prettiest cop on the block / I'm cool and I'm so mean / Oh, I'm the prettiest cop on the block / I've handcuffed your desire / I've got a stiff reputation with a stick like a rock / My kids are confused and my wife is in shock / I must look pretty shocking / In my bullet proof vest / With my black lace stockings / All this hair on my chest / When the boys see me coming / All the boys start to run / They all got their empty holsters / And I got the only gun / Because.. / Because, I'm the prettiest cop on the block / I set your souls on fire / Yes, I'm the prettiest cop on the block / I'm cool and I'm so mean / Yes, I'm the prettiest cop on the block / I handcuff your desires / I got a stiff reputation with a stick like a rock / My kids are confused and my wife is in shock / I'm the prettiest cop on the block / I set your souls on fire / Yes, I'm the prettiest cop on the block / And I'm cool -- so mean / I'm the prettiest cop on the block / I handcuff your desires / I'm so pretty, I'm so pretty, so pretty / Yes I'm gorgeous / I'm really lovely / And I'm so mean, so mean / I'm oooo I'm mean / But I'm pretty / And I'm mean / Sooo Pretty / But I'm mean / And I'm pretty . . ."

Don't Talk Old To Me is interesting on one hand, but on the other I really don't care for it. There is some stylistic flair, but at the same time it's complete New Wave garbage to me.

Richard Podolor did a decent job of producing this album, I think it's one of the few saving graces on this album, but on the other hand he opted to have too much of a synthetic feel.

When I first picked up this album I couldn't understand why Alice opted to include a live version of Generation Landslide, but after listening to it the first time I understood why there was now a Generation Landslide '81 (live). I don't care for the way the song is played live, it uses too much of Alice's new sound (at the time), but there's now a whole new verse that extends it. "over indulgent machines were their children / And there wasn't a way down on earth here to cool 'em / Cos they look just like humans at Kresge's and Woolworths / But decadent brains were at work to destroy / Brats in batallions were ruling the streets and / Generation landslide, close the gap between them / And I laughed to myself at the men and the ladies / Who never conceived those billion dollar babies / La da da da daa / Militant mothers hiding in the basement / Using pots and pans as their shields and their helmets / Molotov milk bottles heaved from pink highchairs / While mothers' lib burns birth certificate papers / And dad gets his allowance from his sonny the dealer / Who's pubic to the world but involved in high finance / Sister's out til 5, doing banker son's hours / But she owns a Mazarotti that's a gift from his father / Stop at full speed, at 100 miles per hour / The Colgate invisible shield finally got 'em / And I laughed to myself at the men and the ladies / Who never conceived those billion dollar babies / La da da da daa". This is where the new lyrics kick in for those that don't know. "No one gives an oink about prom night or football / Cos just getting home from school safe is a gamble and a blessing / Girlsies play with girlsies and boysies with boysies / Bored with one another, like old broken Christmas toysies / Kids are all hot and their parents so are noisy / And I laughed to myself at the men and the ladies / Who never conceived those billion dollar babies". I would like to have heard a classic studio version of this song with the extra lyrics, because I think it would have been better than what we got on here.

Skeletons In The Closet is one of those songs that should be redone with Ezrin at the helm. I think it would have been much better than it is. This song should sound a lot darker musically than it is. It had the potential to be really creepy, but instead it is too Pop sounding.

After that comes You Want It, You Got It. I have no clue how to discuss this song. This is one of those odd songs that's more like a spoken word piece set to digital sounding music. It's not for everyone and I can say that.

You Look Good In Rags is a victim of it's production. This could have been a really good song if it had been released in the seventies, except for Lace And Whiskey, or one of the new millenium albums. I would like to hear Alice redo this one, and let the band do what really needs to be done with it.

My favourite song on this album is You're A Movie. I think Alice's performance is top notch, and the lyrics are really singable. "I fearlessly walk into battle / With a shine on my boots and my teeth / Never flinch, never blink, never rattle / My blood is like ice underneath / Oh, I'm the reincarnation of Patton / And I've got Hannibal's heart in my chest / God told me I would have rivalled / Alexander the Great at his best / (You're a movie) / Quite / (You're a movie) / Yes / (The exception) / That's right / (You're the final kind) / (You're a movie) / More of an epic / (Please include me, send us to the line) / Mm, that's right / Very good / Bullets repel off my medals / And my men are in awe when I speak / All chaos my strategy settles / My mere presence gives strength to the weak / For me it seems really alarming / I'm really just only a man / With five million sheep in this army / I seem to be the only one fit to command / (You're a movie) / I'm quite aware / (You're a movie) / Yeah / (The exception) / Oh, you've noticed / (You're the final kind) / (You're a movie) / Hey, very true / (Please include me, send us to the line) / Mm, if you're lucky / I must go now and save the world / Move aside mere drop of water, let the ocean pass / (You're a movie) / Quite right / (You're a movie) / (The exception) / (You're the final kind) / (You're a movie) / (Please include me) / Mm hmm / (Please include me) / (Please include me) / Possibly / (Send us to the lines) / Good man / (Send us to the lines) / I'll be at the front, please / (Front of the lines) / Oh, alright / Follow me / Another day, another victory / Another gold stripe, another star / Really quite boring sometimes / I wish they'd send someone equal to my strategies / What a guy / I'm really quite a guy / (Movie ...) That last part repeats over and over until the end. If you roller skate, this is a great song to get your roller disco on to. Yes, I understand how disturbing that sounds.

The album finishes with Vicious Rumours, which isn't that bad. Once again it's the production that hurts this song, but I do like that at the end there's a bit of a reprise of Who Do You Think We Are to finish off the album by giving it a full circle kind of feel.

Actually, after listening to this album back to back with Flush The Fashion I think this album may be on par with that one but in different ways. I do like the production better on this one. It sounds a little too New Wave for me, but the over all sound quality is better than Flush The Fashion. The content is about the same, although in a different way. The last album I found the music kind of crappy, while the lyrics were decent. On this album I find both more balanced, but over all it doesn't improve the album as a whole. As for my personal bias, I'm less likely to listen to this album than Flush The Fashion, and I can't give a good reason why.

5/10 - content

7/10 - production

5/10 - personal bias

Monday, March 4, 2013

Alice Cooper - Flush The Fashion

After reviewing the Welcome To Our Nightmare tribute I thought I should review a couple from the master himself. But, I figured I'm going to cover the dark years of Alice Cooper, 1980-1982. I already reviewed 1983's DaDa, which I think is one of the best, yet darkest albums Alice ever did. However, there were three really odd albums that came before that.

The thing to keep in mind is that New Wave came out with a vengeance. Especially in the early 80's, when it was pretty much dominating the air waves and destroying radio forever. Especially since no one had recovered from Disco yet. So, Rock bands had only a few choices. They could either go underground, conform to the new music scene, try getting in with the Punk crowd, or head to Europe. Alice ended up doing option one by accident, and option two on purpose. Option Four also sort of happened, because 1981's Special Forces was decently recieved in the U.K. and France. That was also the last tour in support of an album until Constrictor was released in 1986.

However, the album that lead the charge into the new Alice Cooper music style was 1980's Flush The Fashion. This is an interesting album on one hand, and horribly wrong on another. Of the ten songs that make up this album, three of them are not penned by Alice at all, which includes the album's only single, and probably the best track, which I'll get to.

The lyrical content for most of the songs is really heavy on the social commentary. Think of an entire album of Generation Landslide, but with varying themes. However, to this day I don't know if I'm supposed to take the lyrics seriously, or if they are just a really big joke, because that's how they come off most of the time. At least to me. I'm sure the music doesn't help either. As I said, this is more or less a New Wave album. Not cool New Wave like Devo or Blondie either. More like Thomas Dolby or Adam Ant, sorry to anyone that liked them.

The album starts with Talk Talk, I normally skip this song. I find it boring and a rather lame way to start the album. The only thing that I like about this song is the way it flows into the next track.

Clone (We're All) is next up, and is the best song on the album. I'll never forget the first time I heard this song live. I was around twelve and it came on WRIF during an Alice Cooper triple play, and it blew my mind. This is not a typical Alice rock song. I couldn't believe what I was hearing, and I instantly fell in love, even though the song is very New Wave, but there's something about the lyrics and the music that was intriguing. "I'm a clone / I know it and I'm fine / I'm one and more are on the way / I'm two, doctor / Three's on the line / He'll take incubation another day / I'm all alone, so are we all / We're all clones / All are one and one are all / All are one and one are all / We destroyed the government / We're destroying time / No more problems on the way / I'm through doctor / We don't need your kind / The other ones / Ugly ones / Stupid boys / Wrong ones / I'm all alone, so are we all / We're all clones / All are one and one are all / All are one and one are all / Six is having problems / Adjusting to his clone status / Have to put him on a shelf / "Please don't put me on a shelf" / All day long we hear him crying so loud / I just wanna be myself / I just wanna be myself / I just wanna be myself / Be myself / Be myself / I'm all alone, so are we all / e destroyed the government / We're destroying time / No more problems on the way / I'm through doctor / We don't need your kind / The other ones / Ugly ones / Stupid boys / Wrong ones / I'm all alone, so are we all / We're all clones / All are one and one are all / All are one and one are all / I'm all alone, so are we all / We're all clones / All are one and one are all / All are one and one are all".

After that comes Pain. I enjoy this song a lot more now than I did when I first heard it, which was when I bought this CD. Musically I think this song should have gone darker to match the lyrical content. "I'm hidden in the scream / When the virgin dies / I'm the ache in the belly / When your baby cries / And I'm the burnin' sensation / When the convict fries / I'm pain / I'm your pain / Unspeakable pain / I'm your private pain / And I'm the compound fracture / In the twisted car / And I'm the lines on the face / Of the tramp at the bar / And I'm the reds by the bed / Of the suicide star / You know me- I'm pain / I'm your pain / Your own private pain / Unfathomable pain / And it's a compliment to me / To hear you screamin' through the night / All night / Tonight / I'm the holes in your arm / When you're feeling the shakes / I'm the lump on your head / When you step on the rake / And I'm the loudest one laughing / At the saddest wake / Yes I'm pain / I'm just pain / Dear old pain / You need your pain / And I'm the loudest one laughing / At the saddest wake / I'm the salt in the sweat / On the cuts of the slaves / I was the wound in the side / While Jesus prayed / I was the filthiest word / At the vandalized grave / Yes, pain / Do you love me pain / I love my pain / I'm your pain / It's a compliment to me / To hear you screamin' through the night / All night / Tonight". Instead the music sounds a little too pretty and not as Goth as it should be. I almost wish this song had been on DaDa instead, so it would have sounded right.

The biggest problem with this album is the lack of Bob Ezrin at the production chair. Roy Thomas Baker did an okay job, but Bob would have given this album the darker edge it would have needed to be better.

I don't care for Leather Boots at all. This is total crappy New Wave to me, and once again the music doesn't match the lyrics. The music is too happy, and the lyrics are about ass kicking. But it's not fun, happy stab stab, like you'd expect from Alice. Instead it's more like "Hey, let's put these lyrics on this music and release it as a filler track."

Asprin Damage is interesting. I don't care for the music, but the lyrics are catchy. "I get these killer headaches / I get one everyday / I wake up with a migraine / Since you ran away / Got a load of tension / Burnin' up my neck / Something is wrong with my suspension / So pass those tablets to this wreck / Aspirin damage, Aspirin damage / Kills the pain, destroys the brain / No one told me 'bout Aspirin damage / Sometimes I find myself shakin' / From the medication taken / Oh yeah. / I balance my Excedrin / And Anacins in stacks / I'm a pain reliever junkie / I got a Bayer on my back. / I went to see the doctor / He walked me down the hall / Said "Strip down 'til you're naked / Your suit, your tie and all." / Aspirin damage, Aspirin damage / Kills the pain, destroys the brain / Aspirin damage, my disadvantage / Sometimes I find myself shakin' / From the medication taken / Oh yeah. / Aspirin damage, Aspirin damage / Kills the pain, destroys the brain / No one told me 'bout Aspirin damage / Sometimes I find myself shakin' / From the medication taken / Oh yeah ". I would love to hear a remake of this song with all the digital crap removed, and a real Rock band playing it hard. Instead of this light fluffy stuff coming out of my speakers.

Nuclear Infected is catchy and some what enjoyable, but everything I've complained about musically so far applies to this song as well.

One of the more interesting things about this album is, with the exception of Pain, most of the songs are around three minutes or less. Pain clocks in at 4:06 and the next track Grim Facts is the second longest at 3:25. As for Grim Facts this is one of the best Rock songs on this album, as it's one of the only ones. However, it still sounds too light compared to the lyrical content. " The boy's got problems / The boy's got stress / The boys' a .38 hidden in his desk / The boy's got a chickie / With four months to go / Grim facts / Every parent better know / The girl's a heavy teaser / Wants to do a private show / She's got a hundred thousand fantasies / She wants the band to know / She likes to brush across my Levis / She likes to watch him grow / Grim facts / Every parent better know / Grim facts / Every parent better know / Red lights, gang fights / Brewing in the heat / Cop cars, gay bars / On your precious street / That ain't so neat / Sister's on the street now / Looking for some Joe / Only got about an hour / To pay for her new nose / She gets a hundred for her body / A nickel for her soul / These are grim facts / Every parent must know / Grim facts / Every parent must know / Red lights, gang fights / Brewing in the heat / Cop cars, gay bars / On your precious street / That ain't so neat / And I'm feeling itchy / Got a fire down below / I'm a walkin' loaded time bomb / Just about to blow / Tries to slide inside my pockets / But it's strictly SRO / Grim facts / Every parent got to know / Grim facts / Every parent got to know / Red lights, gang fights / Brewing in the heat / Cop cars, gay bars / On your precious street / That ain't so neat / Mm grim facts / You know, growing all the time / Mm grim facts / Real grim, yeah / Grim facts".

Model Citizen is yet another song that could have been better than it was if it was produced by someone else. But for the most part this song is a bit cheesy to me.

Dance Yourself To Death is a little New Wave mixed with Country, and I think that it's supposed to be funny, but I'm not entirely sure. "They kinda compromise my social position / And my cool-ativity is suffering too! / I get a kiss good-bye / I get all numb and high / From all the smoke left on their breath / I smile and wish them well / Then I pray like hell / They go and dance themselves to death / Ahh dance, real hard / I get a kiss good-bye / I get all numb and high / From all the smoke left on their breath / I smile and wish them well / Then I pray like hell / They go and dance themselves to death / Come on momma / Come on daddy / Come on skinny / Come on fatty / Shake it Martha / Shake it Larry / Shake it Mr. Coronary / You gotta dance dance / Come on and dance dance / Dance til you're outta breath ". I will say that I do enjoy this song as a joke, but if it's supposed to be serious that a completely different story.

The album finsihes with Headlines. Lyrically this song applies to the American mentality of fame as much as it did in 1980. "I hope that they catch my best side / Popped out / From a cake / At the President's ball / What a big mistake / Fifty guns / Aimed at me / I was nearly killed / But what publicity / Nominated / Something big / Stole the hottest scene / Says the Globe And Trib / Porno movie / Comes to light / But I was starving then / So that's alright / I wanna be in the headlines / Anything to be in the headlines / As long as the spell my name right / Hope that they catch my best side / Keep my sidewalk status star bright / Feel free to walk on me tonight / Just don't spit on me. / Headlines, headlines, / Headlines, headlines, / Headlines, headlines, / Headlines. ". Musically I have the same complaints as I did on every other song.

As I've said before I think the biggest problem with this album is the production, it's not badly produced, it's just produced wrong. The music is way too Poppy, and nowhere near as dramatic as it should be. In fact this album comes off sounding kind of thrown together because of it. Lyrically I find this album very interesting, but then again that's why I've always loved Alice Cooper. But even better is how thirty-three years later so much of the content is still socially relevant.

5/10 - content

6/10 - production

6/10 - personal bias

Friday, March 1, 2013

Welcome To Our Nightmare - A Tribute To Alice Cooper

Without Alice Cooper Rock N' Roll only would have had bad boys, but never any villians. There would be no Rob Zombie, and Michael Jackson never would have gotten into doing the stage shows that he became famous for. I'm not making that up either. He said on multiple occasions how Alice's stage shows inspired him. I could go on and on, but this tribute has nothig to do with any of those huge artists. In fact this album goes the other way. This tribute is performed by a multitude of independant bands, that take the master's work spanning from Pretties For You to Trash, and they do it their own way.

There are a few bands on here I had known prior to picking up this album, but not many, and there's only one that I can say I knew other than by name alone. I had heard of Of Cabbage And Kings, The Hangmen, They Eat Their Own and Vandals, but I didn't know anything about them or any of their music. The only group I had known any music from was Flaming Lips, and that was only the song She Don't Use Jelly. So, needless to say this album was a surprise to me when I picked it up and listened to it for the first time.

I can still remember my opinion of it after that first listen. "What the fuck is this shit!?" I wasn't very impressed and to be honest I'm still not, but there are a few tracks on here that I think are really cool, and well done. However, the best part about this album is the track listing. You can tell by the songs that these are real fans, not just a bunch of artists trying to cash in on someone else's work and fame.

The album opens with Reflected, and if you know your Alice you'll know that this song was later recycled into Elected, and performance wise I find that is the song more represented here. Dramarama's version of this song is decent, and honestly well performed. It's pretty faithful to the original and for the most part I can't really complain, except for what I already said. Wallison Ladmoh (featuring Paul Cutler and Don Bolles) take on one of my favourite early Alice Cooper Group songs, Levity Ball. The interpretation is a respectable modernization, but it's not as good as the version from Live At The Whiskey A Go Go, which was much better than the version on Pretties For You. I feel the problem with this cover is that they went for replication of music instead of trying to capture the original vibe.

John Trubee and the Ugly Janitors Of America take on Refrigerator Heaven. It's okay, but nothing special.

Of Cabage And Kings cover Lay Down And Die, Goodbye, which is one song I've never been a fan of, but I feel the band missed the point of this song, which is that it was primarily an instrumental. Over all I'm not impressed with this song, but like I said I never was.

Now it's on to the major label years with Caught In A Dream being the first song to appear from Love It To Death. I love this song, but not this cover. It sounds too Pop Punk for my likings. It's like Rubber City Rebels were trying to go for a Ramones kind of vibe, but with the attitude of Blink 182 (which weren't out at the time of this album's release).

Lydia Lunch & Rowland S. Howard crank out Black JuJu, and they do it with some real style. Although they lose some of the original vibe in the middle of this song, for the most part they do a decent enough job. It's not the original, but they do give it a good go, and even add their own acceptable tweaks and twists. Also, the vocalist reminds me a fair bit of Courtney Love circa Celebrity Skin.

Now when it comes to Alice Cooper there are some songs that are like a religion that you just don't fuck with them, and if you screw them up you better be ready to have your ass kicked. Bug Lamp decided to be brave and take on one of those songs, Ballad Of Dwight Frye. However, the were very faithful in the sense that they actually start with Second Coming. That scores huge points with me, because I love the two songs back to back on the original album. What costs them points are the vocals. I want to punch the vocalist in the face, because he shouldn't be singing this song. His voice is ass. Also I don't like how they picked the tempo up on Second Coming either. It's suppoed to be slow and somber. This version sounds rushed, which kills the mood for what comes next. Now what it should be and what we get are two completely different things. Ballad Of Dwight Frye is about the slow mental meltdown of a man trapped in an asylum. This version is some some stupid attempt at jacking up a song by adding unnecessary force. If I had my way Bug Lamp would be beaten with the chair Bob Ezrin stacked on Alice while recording this song

This is followed by the final track from Love It To Death, Sun Arise, which is technically a cover of a cover on this album. It's also performed by the only band I knew prior to this album, The Flaming Lips. They do a really good job on the song, and I respect their cover. The thing is though, I never cared for the Alice version of the song, and I never knew the Rolf Harris version until I decided to listen to it as I'm writing this. The Australian ditty is actully pretty cool, and I like it better than both Alice Cooper and The Flaming Lips versions. However, this album's version is still pretty good.

Bulimia Banquet performs under My Wheels. I don't care for the vocals, and the intro prior to the song kicking in is pretty stupid. However, this band nails this song musically. I mean they really, really do a great job, and throw in a little nod to Bowie as well for good measure and it works really well.

One of my favourite jokes in the movie The Commitments is when the drummer says that Animal from The Muppets is one of his influences. I love it so much because I claim the same thing. I love The Muppets. I love Alice Cooper. I loved when Alice was on The Muppet Show. The reason I bring this up is because the next song sounds like muppet monsters performing Halo Of Flies, and doing it well. It's actully a band by the name of Haunted Garage, but as far as I'm concerned this was recorded during that amazing episode, and never released. This is one of the few songs on this double CD set that I'll throw on my Mp3 player. From what I gather from a quick online search this band is a gore fest live, and clearly get this song. I even respect the personal touches they added to this song.

The first disc finishes with what seems to be a live version of Desperado, by Chris Connelly. I don't care for it at all. Most of the songs on this CD have pretty decent production value, especially cosidering this is a collection of underground bands. This song on the other hand sounds completely like shit. It's almost like it was recorded during a sound check by someone holding a microphone in the middle of the room instead of connecting to the mixer board.

Disc two kicks off with another song that is holy to me, and once again the band performing it doesn't just do the one track, but they do two tracks back to back the way it was meant to be done. Shadow Project takes a crack at Dead Babies and Killer, and they do it well. Not only did they get the vibe right, but keep it faithful with their own personal touches that fit right into the song. My only real complaint about the cover is the slightly altered tempos. It's nothing drastic, but at times I find it a bit rushed. However, this one is decent enough to have been on my Mp3 player more than once. I should also mention that the production on this song combo is really good. It's almost as if Bob Ezrin himself produced this cover.

Now I understand when bands change up songs and make their own interpretation, especially in the case of songs that have been covered a million times, by a million different bands. A prime example of this to me is Type O Negative's version of Black Sabbath's Paranoid. That being said I will gladly kick every member of Reverb Motherfuckers in the balls for what they did to School's Out. Clearly these assholes didn't even bother to learn the original, except for the lyrics, and even then it's sketchy. Musically this is a complete nightmare, and totally wrong on so many levels. It doesn't even capture the essence of the original song.

Claw Hammer does Generation Landslide. It sucks. It's a shitty garage band performing a song that, requires more than the band clearly has to offer. I can't stand the vocalist, although some of the music isn't bad. However, skip this one.

When Alice Cooper originally did Working Up A Sweat one of the best parts about the song was the tongue in cheek lyrics. The fact that the song was just as dirty if not dirtier than Aerosmith's Walk This Way, but still just as radio friendly. This version from Royal Court Of China opted to make the song vulgar instead, which is a shame because musically it's really good. The worst part is that it was the change of only one line that wrecked it for me. The original went "The hardest part's explainin' / All those blisters on my - nose!" Which is so much naughtier than "The hardest part's explainin' / All those blisters on my - dick!" Which this band used to cheapen the song. I also don't like that they go all punk starting at the 3:16 marker. It could have been a really good cover otherwise.

I never really cared for Teenage Lament '74. I never understood why it was a single from the Muscle Of Love Album. I also don't understand why this bad accoustic version by Tyla was included on here either. It does even less for me than the original. When a band called Cold Ethyl covers Welcome To My Nightmare, you either get ready to panic, or get ready to enjoy. In this case you can relax and enjoy. The band is also featuring Steve Perkins, and I only mention this because he's mentioned on the back cover with the band, and not because he's played in Porno For Pyros or Jane's Addiction. Normally that would turn me off. I do enjoy this cover though. It's done well.

Carnival Art takes a crack at Cold Ethyl, and I kind of want to take a crack at them with my sledge hammer for this cover. They speed the song up in a bad way, take all the sexy out of it, and in general piss me off. This is one of my top three Alice Cooper songs, and if you aren't going to do it right you shouldn't do it at all.

I can't stand Only Women Bleed. I have heard one cover of the song ever that I thought was good, and it was done by a band for a D.I.Y. cover album that the band I once played with was supposed to be a part of, but in the end I ended up just doing the web site for it. I loved the way they sped up the song and gave it a whole new flavour. I wish I could remember the name of the band, or that the website still existed, but it doesn't. This cover on the other hand sounds like the original, but with a really bad vocalist. Musically this one is pretty faithful, and I will give credit to The Hangmen for that, but their vocalist sucked. I'm even okay with the added touches they put in.

I was both surprised and a little let down that Serious, originally off From the Inside was included on here. I was let down because it was the only song on here from that album, but it's cool that it was included. As for the cover, I would suggest skipping it. Sloppy Seconds sounds like a sped up demo version of the original version. It's pretty faithful, but done too quickly, and a little to Punk sounding for my likings.

You want to talk about a weird album to have two covers on this collection, 1980's Flush The Fashion. The first song included on here is Clones, which is titled incorrectly from the original track, but that's excuseable. This is one of those songs that's a guilty pleasure for Alice Cooper fans, but I think They Eat Their Own capture the original flavour quite well. I'm sure part of what helps is that for the one album in which this band existed they were a New Wave Pop band. This band included Tish Ciravolo who is the President & Founder of Daisy Rock Guitars. I like this track while it's playing on the CD, but it's not the original. Thankfully it's not as shitty as the Smashing Pumpkins cover of this song either.

The next track from that weird eighties album is Pain, covered by Dutchess De Sade. I don't like it at all. I'm not sure what they were trying to do, but it didn't work. So you can skip this song too.

The album ends with the one Alice hit I've never been fond of, Poison. This is done by a Punk band called Vandals, that I only knew through name, because of my buddy Ian. Now as much as I don't care for the original, I still feel a need to become very violent towards this band because of what they did to this song. I can over look the horrible instrumentation to a very small degree, and can even laugh at them for using part of Bell Biv Devoe's song by the same name, however what they did to the lyrics makes me angry beyond belief. I mean Alice Cooper's Vengeance Is Mine kind of angry.

If you can find this album cheaply, it might be worth picking up for the experience. You may even like some of the tracks better than I do. I must admit I'm very biased, because Alice is God to me. Sorry Lemmy. So, messing up his songs is as sacreligious, as holy rollers would find my statement of Alice is God.

On the other hand if you are a die hard Alice Cooper fan, I would suggest that you tread lightly because you aren't going to like this one.

As an off handed production note, some of the songs on this album are an eight or higher, most of which are on the first disc. With the exception of Dead Babies/Killer most of the second disc is a seven or less.

6/10 - content

7/10 - production

4/10 - personal bias