Sunday, December 29, 2013

Blue Oyster Cult - Fire Of Unknown Origin

I picked up this album after seeing that I knew and liked three of the tracks, which are on albums I've previously reviewed. On the whole I'm really glad I did. While this album isn't the perfect album, it's a great representation of a band that I have developed a huge respect for.

The album opens with the title track, which has one of the best opening lyrics I have ever heard. "Death comes sweeping through the hallway, like a lady's dress". Really conjures up Death as a figure perfectly. This song comes very close to that fine line between decent track and sad cliche done well. It all depends on how you want to hear the music.

I remember diggin' Burnin' For You as a kid, but it took my daughter performing it on Guitar Hero for me to fall in love with it. Now everytime this song comes on she can't help but sing along. It's one of those moments when as a parent I know I raised my kid right with music. It's the perfect kind of Metal/Hard Rock for a girl to really enjoy. If you want to read a little more about what I think of this song, check out my review for their best of album.

I have loved Veteran Of The Psychic Wars since the first time I heard it in Heavy Metal, the animated film. It's classic BOC doing that wild Sci-Fi Metal I really have discovered I love. And the lyrical imagery is amazing, even without the sweet, sweet music. "You see me now a veteran of a thousand psychic wars / I've been living on the edge so long / Where the winds of limbo roar / And I'm young enough to look at / And far too old to see / All the scars are on the inside / I'm not sure if there's anything left of me / Don't let these shakes go on / It's time we had a break from it / It's time we had some leave / We've been living in the flames / We've been eating up our brains / Oh, please don't let theses shakes go on / You ask me why I'm weary, why I can't speak to you / You blame me for my silence / Say it's time I changed and grew / But the war's still going on dear / And there's no end that I know / And I can't say if we're ever... / I can't say if we're ever gonna to be free / Don't let these shakes go on / It's time we had a break from it / It's time we had some leave / We've been living in the flames / We've been eating out our brains / Oh, please don't let theses shakes go on / You see me now a veteran of a thousand psychic wars / My energy's spent at last / And my armor is destroyed / I have used up all my weapons and I'm helpless and bereaved / Wounds are all I'm made of / Did I hear you say that this is victory? / Don't let these shakes go on / It's time we had a break from it / Send me to the rear / Where the tides of madness swell / And been sliding into hell / Oh, please don't let shakes go on / Don't let these shakes go on / Don't let these shakes go on".

The only song on this album I flat out don't care for is Soul Survivor. This sounds like a bad early eighties soundtrack filler. Maybe even a cheesy opening credits track that's supposed to set the mood. Basic problem, way too heavy on campy sounding synths.

Heavy Metal: The Black And Silver is next up. This is a really decent track. Pretty much can be considered a bit stock, and cliche, but the better kind, and only by people that are mildly casual listeners.

Vengeance (The Pact) is Blue Oyster Cult kicking it with some Iron Maiden gallop. This is a huge cinematic like piece.

If it wasn't for how far forward in the mix the keyboards have been pushed, I would enjoy After Dark a lot more. I find it really cheeses up the mix. However, it's still a fun track to sing along with.

Next up is a song I only recently discovered and have really come to love. I've reviewed it before and that review covers what I have to say so I'm just going to repost it here.

I can't even begin to describe how crazy, ahead of it's time, and wild Joan Crawford is. For starters, this song was so ahead of it's time that it would have been considered complete cheese instead of the genius Proto Goth piece that it really is. I mean there is a part of me that's surprised Type O Negative never covered this one just for the fun of it. Then I listen to the complex musical pieces and remember why they couldn't, especially with the speed the piano moves at. I mean this is some serious musicianship mixed with some dark lyrics. "Junkies down in Brooklyn are going crazy / They're laughing just like hungry dogs in the street / Policemen are hiding behind the skirts of little girls / Their eyes have turned the color of frozen meat / No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no / Joan Crawford has risen from the grave / Joan Crawford has risen from the grave / Catholic school girls have thrown away their mascara / They chain themselves to the axles of big Mac trucks / The sky is filled with herds of shivering angels / The fat lady laughs, "Gentlemen, start your trucks" / Oh no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no / Joan Crawford has risen from the grave / Joan Crawford has risen from the grave / Christina / Mother's home / Christina / Come to mother / Christina / No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no / Joan Crawford has risen from the grave / Joan Crawford has risen from the grave / Joan Crawford has risen from the grave / Joan Crawford has risen".

The album finishes with Don't Turn You Back, which is kind of Bluesy in a dark thick West Side Story kind of way. I would have used the last track as the closer, and moved this one up in the mix. It's more of a really solid filler, and less of a closer.

I know there are points where I take a few cheap shots at the songs on this album, but it's really a good album, exspecially for one that came out in 1981. When most bands were getting lost, this one had found parts of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal that worked for them and then exploited it very well, just by doing what they always did.

I don't want to say that it's the best five dollars I've ever spent on a used album, but track for track and dollar for dollar I got more than what I paid for. So much so that when the day comes, I'll most likely give this copy to my daughter, and then pick up the digitally remastered version for myself.

7/10 - content

8/10 - production

7/10 - personal bias

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Slash - Made In Stoke - featuring Myles Kennedy Live - Special Edition

If you've read my reviews for both of Slash's solo albums, you'll know how I feel about Slash and Myles Kennedy in conjunction with Slash. Kennedy is a top notch vocalist, and the band that backs Slash finally gets a little time to shine.

What I like the most about this album, is how it allows you to see that even though I'm not a fan of Kennedy's work with Slash, I am a huge fan of him as a vocalist. There are so many songs on this album that are sung by a variety of different vocalists. Axl, the Snakepit dude, plus all the tracks from everyone on the first Slash solo album. I only focus on Myles because Myles is the front man, and in a live album that makes him the focus.

I'm surprised that Slash would open a concert with a song that I had never heard of, figuring that most of the time they open with a hit single or something along those lines. Instead they open with Been There Lately, which after some research, I discover is from Slash's Snakepit's second album. Which I have never heard. This song makes me sort of understand why.

So we hit the first G'N'F'N'R song, which is the second track and it's Night Train. It's a really good rendition of the song. Kennedy really can do a kick ass job on Guns N' Roses songs. I often say that the original line up should get back together and tour with Myles doing the vocals and this song helps solidify that theory. Then there's that whole Slash bustin' out that killer solo live. There is a little something that seems to be missing in this song, from the original, but it's either in the production or in the rhythm section.

Ghost was one of those songs that I like, but it's not a big grab for me. This is a good version, it's just the song that leaves me feeling a little "meh."

I had to google Mean Bone. I had no clue what album this originally came from, which is surprising because it's a pretty bitchin' tune. This is from the second Slash's Snakepit, Ain't Life Grand. I have never heard the original, but this song makes me want to.

Back From Cali is the Myles Kennedy track from the first Slash solo album, and to be honest, I like this live version much better. It has a much cooler energy to it. I find Kennedy works the crowd a little harder than is needed with some cheap grabs and pops, but hell, that's what a good front man does.

Then it's on to one of my top three G'N'R tunes, Rocket Queen. We all know that Slash rips it up, and rides it through on this one, but this song has never been about the guitar. Yes, Myles give great vocals on this track, that once again have me saying, go on tour with the original group and this man. But, that's not what this song is about either. It's the drums and bass that make you want to get all nasty on this track, even when Slash is laying down an extended solo. Todd Kerns and Brent Fitz lay it down like you wouldn't beleive. Brent Fitz gets the task of replicating Steven Adler and he does it very well, while Todd Kerns tackles the Duff lines with good grace. They make it so dirty and naughty you'd think you were listening to the original band live. Which means I should also mention Bobby Schneck, he has to play Izzy's parts, and that is no easy feat. Though he does it well.

Next up is Civil War. Let's just say that the band rises up to the occasion and knocks it out of the park. The only thing that stands out from the original is the little mini fuck around section at the end of the song. Which is a bit of a tease, because you think they are going to go into Voodoo Chile.

That is followed by Nothing To Say instead. Which is a good track, but I do actually like this version a bit better. Once again there's a certain sound and energy to it that really kicks it up compared to the studio album version. After that is the next Myles Kennedy song Starlight. I like this rendition about as much as I like the studio version. It's okay, but that's about it.

Promise is the last track on the first disc. This was originally a Chris Cornell vocal track. I like Myles better, and once again this track has a great vibe that makes it pop more for me on this album than it does on the original album. Slash introduces Todd Kerns as the Vocalist for Doctor Alibi, which was co-written by a man born in Stoke. Lemmy Kilmeister, can not be replicated by anyone, but I love how Kerns busts it out. I have a special affinity for Todd, because I enjoyed the few songs I heard from his earlier group Age Of Electric.

Speed Parade is a forgetable track that follows, which also lowers the chances that I will pick up the second Snakepit album. Next up is Watch This, which was the killer instrumental from Slash's first solo album. It's the perfect track to have in this live set and the band really rocks it out.

Beggars & Hangers On, the only song I distinctly remember from the first Snakepit album, is the next track. I don't really remember the original that much, but this version may help explain why. It's a good solid filler, with a catchy chorus, and not really mush else.

Myles explains he can't whistle and asks the crowd to join in on Patience if they like. I personally just want to skip the song, as I always do. I really don't understand why Slash felt the need to include this track in the live set.

That is followed by Godfather Solo. Slash on one of his well planned and perfected solos. It's always a little on the brilliant side, and a little sexy. There are even times when it sounds like he may shred Eddie Van Halen's Eruption. I'm glad that wasn't the case. The only down side is that Sweet Child O' Mine follows that up.

If there are three Guns N' Roses songs I could spend the rest of my life never hearing again, or hearing live, it would be Sweet Child O' Mine, Don't Cry and Patience. If it weren't for that wicked solo on the previous track, this whole section of the concert would be bothersome. All personal feelings aside, it's a good live version.

Then it's on to the only Velvet Revolver track to make the album. Slither is a great track, but if there was only going to be one song from VR it should have been one of the faster tracks. At least based on the placement in the set list. However, this is the time they use to introduce the band, and then rip into a great rendition of the song.

One song flows seemlessly into the other when they go into By The Sword. This is a very good and faithful version of the song. If you like the original, you should like this one. To be honest I found that the last part of this set list has been too laid back, and by the time we get to the end of this song I am really thankful, just because the pace is going to pick back up again.

If you are a former member of Guns N' Roses and you have to pick two songs to close out the night, the next two songs are the ones to do it with.

First comes the amazing and always fun and wild Mr. Brownstone. One of my favourite Gunner tunes. This is the only track where Myles fails with trying to do Axl. It's not a huge fail, it's just that his voice doesn't hit it right. Then again this isn't exactly the easiest song to sing. But either way it's a great way to begin the ending of the night.

The last track of the night has a fake intro. Slash would almost make you think Patience was coming back or maybe The Rolling Stones Wild Horses. That is until Mr. Kennedy decides to throw down the gauntlet and say flat out, "This is Paradise City." Then it's into what I think is the most popular G'N'R song. I know people like Sweet Child O' Mine better, but people are stupid. Okay, I'm sorry that's rude, but there's a reason why Slash closes the night with this track. Leave 'em on a high note.

Given a choice between the first disc and the second disc, I will always pick the first disc in this set. I find the second disc really causes it all to drag out longer than it is. I think part of that also comes from the fact that this is a two and half hour live set, featuring twenty-two live songs. This is for the hard core fan. Especially when you throw in the bonus DVD as well.

I will probably listen to this one a lot. And when I'm in the mood to "Liven" up the CD player this one will most likely end up in the mix. However, in the grand scheme of live albums, this is a pretty basic one. Nothing overly special or crazy, just good old fashioned Rock 'N Roll.

7/10 - content

6/10 - production

8/10 - personal bias