Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Alice Cooper - Pretties For You

Every band starts somewhere, and in the Sixties you could get signed to a label with the intensions of being able to grow. Someone would see something in a band that could be nurtured, and in many cases exploited. In the case of Alice Cooper, it was Frank Zappa and the label that allowed the original Alice Cooper Group to take root and grow.

Let me be clear about two things with this album. It is an album for those that consider themselves true Alice Cooper fans, or for people that are a fan of sixties Experimental Rock. This is like listening to early Pink Floyd, or the Beatles' raw demos from the psychedelic period, or early Frank Zappa even. This is just one of those kind of albums.

Titanic Overture opens the album up with a keyboard/organ number that is pretty cool. It's creepy, ominous, haunting, and has just the right amount of chill to it. It then moves into a piano piece that fades out.

It starts getting all weird and experimental and Noise Rock on 10 Minutes Before The Worms. This is totally for a certain kind of person. On the experimental noise side of things, it's pretty cool.

Sing Low, Sweet Cheerio is musically cool. It's hard to believe that it's the same band as the last track. If you can get over the sounds of the prodution which suffers in part due to when it was recorded, it's a really decent track. Also, to be honest the vocalist which was then listed as Vincent Furnier sounds kind of shitty. But seriously, musically this is really damn sound. What stands out to me the most in this song is Neil Smith's drumming. I would love to have heard it recorded with the amount of tracks available today.

The rawness of Today Muller is what holds this song back. It's a song that was way ahead of it's time and would be a great starting point for a band to expand on in this day and age.

Living is the first song on the album that the average listener could get into. This could have easily been a radio single. This is a track I would have expected from The Monkees, middle era Beatles, many of the West Coast psychedelic bands, but really well done.

Fields Of Regret is another song that suffers from not having the time of being further developed, or having better recording equipment. This is one of those tracks that could have been a huge favourite of the underground circuit if it had had the chance to be produced the same as Black Juju, which came out only two years later. However, one could argue that Black Juju pretty much was this song rearranged.

No Longer Umpire is one of those songs that started in the early days and continued into the first studio album, and probably should have been. It's just one of those songs that comes across as a first song ever written.

There was an Alice Cooper song I saw a very early promo video for, and I spent forever trying to find it. Eventually I came across Levity Ball (Live at the Cheetah) on this album and I couldn't understand why the studio version wasn't used. I still don't get why a proper version of this song wasn't released. I heard a demo that made me understand a little, but it pisses me off because there's a version on an unofficial release called Live At The Whiskey A-Go-Go which is fantastic. But instead, this album has some piss poor live recording. It really bugs me because this song is awesome. I love the lyrics even. So much poetry. "I got my invitation to the annual levity ball / Seeing the location is within the mirrored room / Walking in my room I found I had nothing to find / I got into my evening wear and left my clothes behind / I sat down on the stairway seven hours at a time / Writing all of this poetry that I knewq would never rhyme / The memory I knew I must have had when I came in / Was of some varied places where I've never ever been / And then in came a cake all decorated in my name / With four paper brown candles are all spelling out this name / The clock was passing out from time to time I saw it all / The beginning of the ending of my first levity ball".

I'm in the middle with B.B. On Mars. It's one of those early sounding songs that should have stayed that way, but on the other hand it does seem well developed. It's a song for those that like it raw.

If you read my review for Billion Dollar Babies you will already know the future story of Reflected, and how it would evolve into one of the great songs of the seventies, it started off here in rough and raw style. I honestly still really dig this track, and would have loved to have heard a version of it fully remastered to the fullest degree.

Apple Bush is a little too Rainbows and Unicorns kind of Hippy Rock for me. I mean this track is interesting, but not my cup of tea.

Earwigs To Eternity is a song that suffers from a lack of proper development. I think if it had been put into the hands of Bob Ezrin for a little time it could have become something a little more interesting. I can't really suggest this one to anyone other than the fans.

Okay, it's clear with Changing Arranging that the band understood from day one that an album needs to be closed out just right, and if it's hard and heavy that's all that much better. I really wish Dennis Dunaway's bass was pushed further ahead in the mix, and the drums were mic'd better, but it would have given this song a fuller sound that would have been killer. This is a track that Bob should have pushed to redo with the band later.

All in all this album is actully pretty decent for it's time. I really think some of these songs should have been given a second life in Bob Ezrin's producer hands later on. Maybe as a bonus album to the original Greatest Hits album, if it could have been done.

7/10 - content

6/10 - production

7/10 - personal bias

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Rammstein - Made In Germany

The reviews I hate writing the most are Rammstein reviews, and that's because I feel that I can never do them justice. For starters, I don't know the language, for which I am sorry, so I have to rely on internet translations. There are some exceptions to that rule, those being songs with English lyrical content, and any track found on the video collection Lichtspielhaus. If you put on the subtitles, you can get the English lyrics to those songs. My son taught me that trick, after he stole my DVD a few times.

However, it's in trying to translate the songs to English where I feel I cause the most damage in my reviews. Those are German words and they are meant to be German words, and sometimes other languages, because that is how Till Linderman delivers his amazing operatic style. I'm not talking about the high soaring vocal stylings of Bruce Dickinson. This is more like a classic Viking or Barbarian Warlord singing of his pain and pleasure and triumphs and failures. I don't need to know the words to let them take me away.

As for the album Made In Germany, it's a best of I picked up for my son for his birthday. I own all the albums and didn't need this one, but my kid sure is happy to have it. Which makes me happy.

Engel leads off the album. This is a good song, but never one of my favourites. I understand why it's on here, but I would have personally thrown it in the middle of the album and opened with the next track instead.

If I had been in charge of selecting the lead off track to this album it would have been Links 234. First off, it's quick, and it has such a steady gripping marching rhythm that it instantly pulls you into the album.

I've never been able to make up my mind about Kein Lust. Part of me loves the track, and enjoys politely banging my head at a gentle nod, while the other part of me will skip it and move on to something I enjoy a little more.

The first song on this album I find truly powerful is Mein Teil. Musically it has a little of everything. Tempo changes, vocal changes, dynamic fluctuations and fantastic timing are all perfectly spread through this song. The constant build ups to the pre chorus and chorus are top notch, while the explosion delivered during the mentioned sections gets the heart pounding and the fist pumping.

If you know any song from Rammstein it's most likely Du Hast. This was the song that truly opened the band up to the North American mainstream. I know the language barrier hasn't helped in the U.S., even though the band does have a strong following there. I personally found that Canadians tend to be more accepting, but no where near as accepting as much of Europe. To be honest I'd rather see Rammstein in Germany where they can do a proper stage show than see a tamed down one in North America. As for the song in question, it's a good track to get you pumped, but I would compare it using the idea of songs one might find on Iron Maiden's self titled album compared to tracks that would be found on Number Of The Beast. Fast, furious, but minimalistic and not as lyrically in depth as songs that were released later.

I often wonder is Du Riechst So Gut has become one of my son's favourite songs, just because of how much he loves singing the English lyrics in a sly mocking manner.

Ich Will has been one of my favourite Rammstein tracks since I first heard it. I love the sound and production on this track. I love the delicate textured layering of the instruments and the way the keyboard is being sprinkled through out the entire song. Christian "Flake" Lorenz may be the most underlooked member of the band when it comes to the actual music. His textures and sounds add so much flavour to so many of this band's songs.

It was only inevitable that eventually the band would try to get more and more orhestrated, and they show that with full luxurious style on Mein Herz Brennt. There's a full sounding string section that powers off the choruses while the verse tends to stay more to accoustic sounds, and then during the pick up leading into the chorus the band turns it up to eleven.

The album finally slows down and gets real mellow dramatic when Mutter starts up. This is a very slow and pretty song when it first starts. Musically it's like a music box with a ballerina in it, if it was played by a full band. The chorus reminds me of a warriors mournful howl for their fallen comrade, and pretty much the only word spoken during those choruses is "Mutter", which you can't help but sing along to.

I don't want to say that Pussy is one of my favourite Rammstein songs, but it really is. I love the complete and utter hilarity of this song. The way that they mock English speaking women, and their obsession with bad boy foreigners is just genious. At least that's how I take it. If I were the same dumb ass kid that got into Rammstein I would love this song for the cheap reasons msot people do. It's fast, fun, and all kinds of dirty.

Rosenrot is only the second song on the album that I could either take or leave. It's not a bad song by any means, but I think it's one of those ones that suffers because of the language barrier.

Halfisch is full of so much fun and bouncy energy. This song is like some German beer polka meets the heavy depths of Metal, with a little whimsical texturing for the tongue in cheek fun. It's also a really good pick up after Rosenrot, and is an even better warm up for the next track.

I hate to come off sounding anti-American but I do have a bias towards them, which is why I love Amerika so much. I love it even more when you think about how popular this song got in the U.S. because Rammstein was using English lyrics, even though those lyrics were meant to be mocking. "We're all living in Amerika / Amerika ist wunderbar / We're all living in Amerika / Amerika / Amerika / We're all living in Amerika / Amerika ist wunderbar / We're all living in Amerika / Amerika / Amerika / Wenn getanzt wird will ich führen / Auch wenn ihr euch alleine dreht / Lasst euch ein wenig kontrollieren / Ich zeige euch wie's richtig geht / Wir bilden einen lieben Reigen / Die Freiheit spielt auf allen Geigen / Musik kommt aus dem Weißen Haus / Und vor Paris steht Mickey Maus / (We're all living in Amerika) / We're all living in Amerika / Amerika ist wunderbar / We're all living in Amerika / Amerika / Amerika / Ich kenne Schritte die sehr nützen / Und werde euch vor Fehltritt schützen / Und wer nicht tanzen will am Schluss / Weiß noch nicht dass er tanzen muss / Wir bilden einen lieben Reigen / Ich werde euch die Richtung zeigen / Nach Afrika kommt Santa Claus / Und vor Paris steht Mickey Maus / We're all living in Amerika / Amerika ist wunderbar / We're all living in Amerika / Amerika / Amerika / We're all living in Amerika / Coca-Cola, Wonderbra / We're all living in Amerika / Amerika / Amerika / This is not a love song / This is not a love song / I don't sing my (mother's) tongue / No, this is not a love song / We're all living in Amerika / Amerika ist wunderbar / We're all living in Amerika / Amerika / Amerika / We're all living in Amerika / Coca-Cola, sometimes war / We're all living in Amerika / Amerika / Amerika ". I especially love the part where he says "This is not a love song". That mixed with the chanting that's like a fucked up paraody of It's A Small World from the Disney World theme park, makes this song so much humorous fun.

Sonne was the very first Rammstein song that made me look at the band as serious contenders in the grand scheme of music. While every song from this German powerhouse group tends to be as heavy as Led Zeppelin's Kashmir, Metallica's Thing That Should Not Be, or Iron Butterfly's Heavy, this song is full of so much emotion that the heavy only gets deeper and darker. This song is the true description of beautiful Metal.

Take everything I just said about Sonne and then make it into the epic sound genious of the already mentioned Kashmir, or Metallica's Orion (if it had words), or Iron Maiden's Fear Of The Dark and you get Ohne Dich. This song is the perfect way to cap off all the already widely avaiable material.

Mein Land was released specifically as new material for this album. It's an okay track, but not how I would have ended the album. I really think ending the album with this track makes it seem very last minute, which the song does enough on it's own anyway.

All in all this is a pretty good collection. I think it represents the band decently. To be honest this could have easily been a double album, and maybe it should have been. I can think of five or six songs that should have been on here, two of which were actually singles, and that's just off the top of my head. But if you have never owned anything Rammmstein and don't want to go and pick up every album, as you really should, then you can go with Made In Germany and rest easy that you made a good choice to start with.

8/10 - content

8/10 - production

9/10 - personal bias

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Shocker - No More Mr. Nice Guy - The Music

In 1989 Wes Craven released a movie called Shocker. The idea behind it was kind of interesting, but on the whole it kind of came off as a second rate Nightmare On Elm Street. Along with the movie came a soundtrack, that for reasons that only my friends can understand, and Alice Cooper fans could half ass respect, I traded Zeppelin IV for years later. Early in the summer of 1995, which makes a difference when it comes to one of these songs.

A friend of mine from an area of Quebec called Saddlebrook, which is a sub section of Saint-Lazare, by the name of John, traded me this copy of a CD that I would define as being rare for obvious reasons. As I go along I will explain why I traded for this disc. I'll also explain why I have only one friend that could love this disc more than me.

Let me start by saying Desmond Child was the music supervisor for the movie. He also co-wrote most, if not all, of the original material on this album. I'm sure that my buddy Pat is already sporting a little chub upon reading this. I should also warn you good sir (Pat) that most of this review will be directed at you.

The album opens with Shocker which is chocked full of late 1980's creepy ambiance, as well as vocals by both Desmond Child and Paul Stanley. I mean this thing is produced to be Arena Rock greatness. Then you have to add in drums by Tommy Lee, Rudy Sarzo on Bass and guitars by Vivian Campbell and Guy Mann-Dude. I'm not sure why there was a need to put some big uplifting section into the track, but why the hell not. It's 1989 and people dig that shit. I think I need to make a copy of this album for you to enjoy Pat, you would really love The Dudes Of Wrath.

Iggy Pop and a song called Love Transfusion makes total sense, but this sounds totally like a left over from the keyboard heavy section of Alice Cooper's Trash album. Thank you Desmond Child. In all honesty this one isn't that bad.

When I first traded for this album I had no clue Megadeth would be releasing Hidden Treasures in July of 1995. I traded for the album in late June, I believe. So, getting a copy of No More Mr. nice Guy covered by Megadeth seemed like a pretty big deal to me at the time, it was like one of those hidden gem kind of finds. It's a great cover and I love the way Mustaine handles the song.

Okay, Pat, this next song is totally for you. Bonfire's Sword And Stone is so damn fucking powerful and rockin' and you will sing along with this bitch and love it. Totally serious dude. Okay, the lyrics might be a little cheese, but I don't give a shit. This is that crazy arena shit mainlining cocaine.

You want power ballad, well, here you go. I give you the mother of power ballads. Sandi Saraya belts out Timeless Love so carazily that it causes the computer to start skipping and can't continue broadcasting an audio signal. I kid you not.

Next we move on to the reason I had to have this album. Shockdance which features Alice Cooper rapping. I fucking shit you not. One could argue it's spoken word, and I could be one of those, but this piece is fucking so awesomely cheesy that as I listen to this I bang my head, and want to go out killing. "He drags his foot and he clutches his knife / As the people in the city wait in fear for their life / He's a maniac, heart attack, wired to kill / A cold blooded lunatic, hungry for a thrill / Love is the victim in the world gone bad / Hate is like nitro when you're stark raving mad / Electrocute, execute his evil is relentless / Repentless, senseless, and you're defenless / In the name of the fater, in the name of the son / This unholy ghost has only just begun / Bless our souls when we take a last breath / Deliver us from evil in this valley of death / Shockdance, hey! Shockdance, hey! / Stone cold monster of the man / Half Jack the Ripper, a pinch of Son of Sam / Gashes, slashes, he's malicious and vicious / He's a killing machine and he never does the dishes / Once I'm inside you. Im gonna smoke you, / I'll choke you, he's gonna croak you / "Pinker the stinker" the headlines begin / The on the scene reporter says he's gonna do you in / In the name of the fater, in the name of the son / This unholy ghost has only just begun / Bless our souls when we take a last breath / Deliver us from evil in this valley of death / He's a shocker, a rocker. he's a heavy metal mean / unjustifiable, combustible his blood is kerosene / Throw away your guns, forget about mace / 'cos now he's on TV, right in front of your face / Shockdance, hey! Shockdance, hey! / When I was born / I was born a bad seed / Everybody cut me down / Now I'm making them bleed". The other vocalist on this track is the dude that plays Horace Pinker. The band is once again The Dudes Of Wrath.

Okay, at this point I have to admit this album is so fucking horribly cool it's going into the CD player when I reload it. My son will probably think it's some killer new album. Hell, this might warrant a follow up article.

Demon Bell (The Ballad Of Horace Pinker) is so fucking Metal! I mean this is some of that crazy ass Dungeons & Dragons Metal. Oh, and if you know bands that you only know because you remember a very specific time in music, Dangerous Toys may ring a bell. Drew, stop laughing. No, seriously stop laughing. Matt you too.

Voodoo X anyone? Come on I want to hear it for Voodoo X and their smash hit The Awakening! I shit you not, there's no reason this song couldn't have been a hit, if this soundtrack had gone somewhere. Oh wait, there was a band that did this kind of thing, they were called Whitesnake. I mean seriously this is a band that totally was inspired by Whitesnake and Today would be able to cash in on camp value.

Different Breed from Dead On follows that up. Okay, this band reminds me of Annihilator. I mean this is some serious head banging shit that's bitching crazy. This track cements it. This album is so going in the CD player. Holy crap, Desmond is a damn artist as a producer. This album has been way too under valued. "He sees himself apart from you and I / Is he from down below,or is he from the sky / They've got their eyes on you / Patrolling what you do / They only want to govern your soul / Now your time has come to stand, / Fight or run / No,you can't chosse you'll lose / Now the real test begins to see if good or evil wins / You can't change the hands of fate / You're locked in tight ,you see your might / You can escape what can't be real / Now your time has come to stand / Or fight or run / No, you can t choose ,you fucking loser / Breed different breed / Breed different breed / His eyes burn through you, it's time to go / On your little red vacation down below / You enter a new state of mind, no help / from a prayer / Little do you know,you ll entered the demons liar / No,you can t chosse you ll lose / Breed different breed / Breed different breed".

Shocker (Reprise) finishes off the album, and this is that big happy, shiny, rainbows and kittens part of Shocker, that I didn't understand in the first place, but picture that cranked up to eleven. I mean seriously Desmond Child hit the true eleven, and the soloing is awesome. I mean the solo being buried under that heavenly chorus is jaw dropping. This is pure studio wizardry at it's most amazing.

Dude (Pat) seriously, if we currently owned and operated our own version of Wheels, this disc would get played on a Thursday night or something like that. I mean this is some serious stuff that would throw people for a loop if introduced now. It would blow minds.

Realistically speaking this album is a production dream, and I would love to try and make it become the most sought after album, and become some type of cult classic, but I don't think it will happen. But it should be. This album is an album you need to own for no reason at all except for that it needs to be owned and used to fill out the perfect 1989 night. That being said I really have no clue what to rate the content. No clue at all.

?/10 - content

10/10 - production

10/10 - personal bias

Friday, November 1, 2013

Madonna - The Confessions Tour

So, it's Saturday morning, closing in on noon, and Andria and I are starting out the day. I have a monster list of reviews I want to write, and she wanted something to sing while she makes brunch. Which means I am now writing a review for The Confessions Tour.

I am not a Madonna fan and I will take some cheap shots at her in this review, however I've watched the concert and it was amazing. I give the woman her props and totally respect her as a showman. I also respect her artistry. The way she has many of the songs on this live show reworked is fantastic. It creates a fantastic story of sorts. You don't quite get the full effect with the audio cd, but what are you going to do?

The album opens with Future Lovers / I Feel Love. To me this is an over extended music loop. This is something that would go over great at raves, gay clubs, or bars that no self respecting straight white male would want to be at(this is coming from a guy that is a fan of the original Melrose Place). It's fucking awesome to watch live, but has you questioning why it needs to be so long when you listen to it.

That being said, I even want to bop around the house to the Disco inspired reinterpretation of Like A Virgin. It's fun, it's bouncey, it's all well performed musically. There are musicians that do perform on these songs, or at least they make it look that way.

It's when the next song starts that you really hear what's going on. Jump which is a club kind of track originally, even get's a musical vibe change to "Disco" it out. It's still very dance club for my liking, but it's easy to figure out why so many people enjoy it.

Next up is Confessions. This is a gripping and moving piece of musical art. It contains various spoken word pieces with different people saying "confessions", which are set to music. I have no clue if this was done for just this tour, or if this had been on an album, but for artistic purposes of an album, it works as a fantastic interlude kind of piece. However, that doesn't mean I don't skip it when given a chance.

Next up is a song that gets stuck in your head, Isaac. This is a really cool song, and you can hear how it grabs the audience and get's them moving. I love all the different musical variations on this track as well. It get's a little too dance club sounding for me, but whatcha goin' ta do, girls wanna dance and sing, and boys wanna watch and smile. I should also mention that this song does seem to really run on for a while. I'm thinking it was meant for users of E, or maybe other stimulants.

I only know Sorry from this album. I just had to check which album this was originally on, because I had no clue. But I've heard this version so many times now that I guess I just know it like it's the original, which I've never heard.

Then there's the Sorry (Remix). Skip it. This should have been left off the album.

Madonna doing a song called I Love New York makes total sense. Madonna pretending to be a guitarist on the song is a joke. Also, I don't get the need to preserve such a cheap shot at George Bush. Sure I think he's the hand puppet of Satan (not really), but that's saying that people can go to Texas and suck his dick is just silly to keep on CD.

Let It Will Be is a nifty little tune. It will help you get your groove on. It feels a little long and repetitive to me, but what you going to do.

For the next song we are treated to a bunch of radio channels switching until we get to the music. Disco Inferno meets Madonna's Music. It works. It works really well. I honesty dig the song Disco Inferno, so the fact that it's used as the new main riff to a tune I normally don't care for is a great mash-up, before mash-up's were really a thing, and Madonna was doing it live. My props to you.

I find a lot of the songs on this album run long, but when you watch the live show you don't notice it at all. I really do think that this album could have greatly benefitted from some editing. I understand preserving the artistic integrity, plus it allows the music to get a little spot light, but in a lot of cases I find it drags out, which prevents other song from being included. At the minimum with a little editing they could have snuck La Isla Bonita into there as well.

I'm not a fan of Erotica, which is the next song. It's one of those songs that's just too Dance for me.

There are four songs on this album I can sing along to; Like A Virgin, Music Inferno (because of a cover by a group called Out Of Your Mouth), Lucky Star and Hung Up. Those last two are the last two songs on this album. Lucky Star is Lucky Star on Disco extended jam. It's enjoyable.

Hung up is honestly a great album closer even though it drags on for ever. It's one of those songs that works great in concert, but has you asking "Why does it drag on for so long?" Then Madonna answers with "Time goes by / So Slowly" over and over again. You work the crowd Madonna. You work that crowd like the artistic porn merchant that you are. I mean that in the most sincerly flattering way possible.

Would I ever own this album without Andria's intervention? Hell no! Would I have ever seen the concert without her? Probably not, but who knows. It was played on Network Television. But let's be clear that just because this music for the most part just really isn't my thing. Doesn't mean it doesn't deserve some respect, though.

8/10 - content

8/10 - production

7/10 - personal bias