Saturday, January 14, 2017

GREAT WHITE "Ready For Rock N Roll"

(c) 2012 Collectors Dream Records (Germany)

  1. Sin City
  2. Love Removal Machine
  3. Ain't No Way To Treat A Lady
  4. Ready For Love
  5. Bitches And Other Women
  6. Again and Again
  7. Down At The Doctors
  8. Tangled Up In Blue
  9. Burning House Of Love
  10. Fire And Water
  11. No Matter What
  12. Lady Love
Jack Russell--Lead and Backing Vocals
Mark Kendall--Lead Guitar, Backing Vocals
Michael Lardie--Guitar, Keys, Backing Vocals
Tony Montana--Bass
Audie Desbrow--Drums

Additional Musicians
Clarence Clemmons--Saxaphone on 7

Ready For Rock N Roll is an interesting "studio" album in the catalog of Great White for a couple of reasons.  The main reason for my labeling this an interesting album is largely the lore behind the album, which is pretty cool.  As the story goes, this entire album was recorded live in the studio on a two-track recorder in November of 1989, presumably between ...Twice Shy and Hooked.  Now, if this is, in fact, a legit, straight-to-tape live studio recording, you have to give it to Great White, because it is a really, REALLY good covers album.  Jack sounds particularly strong here, running his vocal range all over the place, including some of the highest notes he has ever sustained on record.  Kendall and Lardie are also spot-on with their axe work here...heck, the whole band sounds very polished and tight here.  Of course, this is when the band was at it's peak as far as popularity, airplay, touring, etc., so perhaps these are songs they regularly played as warm-ups and soundchecks, which would explain why they are done so well. I have an issue believing this is just the band noodling around in the studio, however, because Clarence Clemmons just happens to be there are the same time and agrees to jam on "Down At The Doctors"?  Hmmmm,,,,,

The other thing about this album is, like so many other post-breakup records by Great White, it has been reissued to DEATH!  This album, including this current version, Ready To Rock N Roll, has been reissued no fewer than five times.  In 2002, Cleopatra/Deadline put out this version, called Recover...

...and then they reissued their own album a couple of years later with a second disc of covers from other albums and compilations, that looked like this....

France's Axe Killer label released it that same year, calling it The Final Cuts (which, chronologically isn't even remotely true...), but it looks like this...

...and it has a different track order.

Mausoleum Records put out their version, Revisiting Familiar Waters, in 2003 looking like this...

And in 2004, Horizon records released the album with the horribly distasteful name Burning House Of Love. Apparently growing a conscience (or perhaps bowing to legal pressures, I'm not sure), Horizon changed the name to Love Removal Machine...and released it again, with no changes other than the wording at the bottom.

Again, they ALL have the same songs, in general, just in different orders or with additional songs from other sessions mixed in.

Personally, I own all of them, including Burning House Of Love, and I can tell you there is very little, if any, difference in the sound quality from label to label.  The Ready For Rock N Roll version from 2013 is perhaps the cleanest sounding, but that could all be in my head, owing to the fact that this album first surfaced 15 years ago with Recover, so my mind might automatically assume newer technology makes it sound better.  I'm probably just crazy.

I think the song selection here is great, with my favorite tracks being the AC/DC's "Sin City", The Cult's "Love Removal Machine", which Jack absolutely OWNS on this record, Q5's "Ain't No Way To Treat A Lady", which sounds far better in the Great White version, and "Tangled Up In Blue", a Dylan song that the band has done an excellent job with.  I also like Badfinger's "No Matter What", and it's no surprise that Jack owns a powerful classic rocker like "Burning House Of Love", which really lets him drop down to the lower ranges of his vocals, although its understandable why many fans (and band members) likely never want to hear this chillingly ironic song ever again.  Other tracks are not quite as top-notch...such as "Bitches And Other Women"...but I'm not a Stones fan, nor am I a fan of this song in general, and "Again and Again", while well-done musically, is just too repetitive for me, in any form.

All in all, this is a covers record, plain and simple.  The backstory makes it a curiosity, the fact that it has been reissued so many times makes it a cash-grab by any number of labels.  But, obviously it must sell well or labels wouldn't bother going to the time to press it, which I think may speak to the quality of the recording.

If you want to hear a very strong vocal performance from Jack Russell, and you want to flash back to a time when the band members were still all friends and on good terms with each other...and if you like covers records...then you should absolutely pick this album up, in one of its numerous forms.  Unless you are an absolute die-hard collector, such as myself, there is really no benefit to owning all the various versions of this record, so I'd stick with Ready For Rock N Roll, or, if you're looking for more band for your buck, Deadline's reissue of their own album, the Recover Deluxe Edition may be the way to go.

The packaging is extremely simplistic, so as to maximize profit potential, with this particular version being a simple digipack with a three paragraph mini-bio, the track listing, and band line-up.  No more, no less.  There's not even a band photo.

Enjoyable?  Absolutely.  I listen to it frequently.  A must have?  No...but is ANY covers album a must have, really?

Rating:  I honestly say crank it for its musicianship and its not done-to-death choice of material.  Crank this to 7.

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Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Talkin' Trash with GARY HOLLAND (original Great White drummer)

Almost 3 years ago, I had the great opportunity to interview the original drummer for Great White, Mr. Gary Holland.  Gary was not only a lot of fun to talk to, but he was also very candid, very open, and actually took the part of two different days to conduct our interview.  However, as awesome as technology typically is, it can also be a real pain...especially when it stops working!  The recorder I use for phone interviews died while I was transcribing my chat with Gary, and I feared this interview to be lost.  However, after recently moving, I stumbled across the recorder (I never throw things away, according to my wife) and took a chance that a local cellphone guy could possibly fix it.  Not only did he repair it, none of the nearly two dozen interviews on the recorder was lost!  So, two years after the fact, here is my complete...and COMPLETED...interview with Gary Holland of Great White, Britton, and Blue Cheer!


Gary Holland, the original drummer for Great White and the co-creator of the short-lived band, Britton, was kind enough to spend parts of TWO afternoons talking some trash about his former Great White bandmates, about the unfortunate demise of Britton, his brush with the drummer's seat of Motley Crue, and many, many other things!  So, if you have a few minutes, pull up a chair and give Gary your undivided attention as he Talks Trash with Glitter2Gutter!

G2G:  Gary, thanks so much for taking the time to give me a call...

Gary:  No problem, Arttie.  I tried to call a few minutes ago, but you must have been changing a diaper or something (laughing).

G2G:  Actually, I wasn't changing a diaper, I was changing a sprinkler in the yard.

Gary:  (laughing)  Same difference really, right?

G2G: (laughing)  Kind of, right?  One does the sprinkling and one hopeful keeps you from getting sprinkled on!

Gary:  Exactly, man!  (laughs)

G2G;  Well, Gary, I have been a fan of Great White forever, so when I get the chance to interview one of the original members, you have to know that it's very exciting for me.

Gary:  Well, thanks, Arttie.  I appreciate that.  I hope the interview doesn't turn out to be a big letdown for you.  (laughs)

G2G:  I don't think you have to worry about that.  Now, Gary, I'm not going to try to age you or put a date on you and your career, but you have been around...well...for a long time, let's say that.  How many years have you been in the business now?

Gary:  Well, I guess it depends on what you mean by "the business".  I started playing snare drum when I was 9 years old, and that was quite some time ago.  But, I guess it's definitely several decades.  I went "pro" at 14 when I started making money at local gigs as a kid.  So, I guess it would be about 40 years in the pro arena.

G2G:  Do you recall your first band?

Gary:  I do, yeah.  It was a band of guys from my high school and we were called "Equation".

G2G:  (Laughing)  "Equation", huh?  So you were all a bunch of math majors or something, huh?

Gary:  Anything but!  (laughing)  In fact, I failed algebra five years in a row...

G2G:  Because of music?  You just didn't go, or what?

Gary:  (laughing) No, it was because of Miss Zalewski.  She was so hot that I kept undressing her with my eyes! You know, algebra is a cumulative subject and you keep building on what you've previously learned, so once you miss something you are automatically behind.  So, I just couldn't take my eyes off the teacher, and I couldn't keep my mind on the subject, so consequently I didn't earn a high school diploma.  Then, I...quote/unquote...ran off and joined the circus without so much as my diploma.  So, I guess it wasn't until 2002 that I decided to go to college, but since I didn't have my diploma I had to get my transcripts for college, because I also didn't have a GED or anything like that.  But, I aced my entrance exams so they let me in.  I earned nineteen consecutive "A's" in college and I was actually recruited to another school by the head of the honors program, and he became my academic advisor at that school.  So, I did well in school once Miss Zalewski was gone, but her body was the stuff of legend.  You know, she was so hot, Arttie, that I would say that even if she had a voice like yours I still would have been flunking algebra! (Laughter)

G2G:  (Laughing)  I won't take that as the insult that it may have been...

Gary:  (Laughing)  You know, I haven't seen her since, and I don't know what happened to her...

G2G:  Maybe she's waiting for you...

Gary:  I don't think so!  (Laughs)  I heard she didn't age well, but...I don't know... It's probably one of those things that's just better left in the past.

G2G:  Alrighty, then...we'll try to move forward a bit...

Gary:  (Laughing) Probably best...

G2G:  I know a lot of people are probably familiar with you most due to your work in Great White, but a lot of people probably don't know that you were in one of the very first versions of Dokken, correct?

Gary:  That's true, yeah.  That was certainly pre-Great White, or even pre-Dante Fox...pre-anything, really.  That came about...well, we have to go back a bit.  I was a founding member of a group called Suite 19, and we were all 19 and this all happened in Glendale, California.  We played together for a couple of years, you know, doing backyard parties and such, until we got into the Hollywood club scene, which really didn't take long.  So, we started playing the Starwood and the Whisky, and every club in LA and Hollywood and the surrounding areas and all that.  Eventually, we had a falling out with the singer/guitar player, a guy by the name of Greg Leon.  Now, he's a great guitar player and a great singer and he has a lot going for him, but he tends to be a little hard-headed and non-negotiable.  In fact, I used to call him the "Blonde Hitler"...

G2G:  (Laughter)

Gary:  So, Suite 19 kind of split up and we did other things for a year or so, and I never really found anyone who played like him, and he never found anyone who played like me, so I don't remember if we bumped into each other or one of us called the other one, know how when time passes you forget the negative things and only remember the positive things?  Well, that happened with us.  So we decided to put together another project, and we went out to celebrate at the Starwood where we bumped into Don Dokken.  Don said he had this European tour coming up.  Now, Don was completely unknown in Hollywood at the time, but he had done a previous tour in Germany and so he was beginning to develop a following over there.  So, he's got no band, but he's got a tour with numerous dates already set, and he had to be on a plane in 30 days.  So, Greg and I said we could put our plans on hold for a while and go do this thing...that would be pretty know, kinda fun.  So Don went and found a bass player, then waited a full week before he called us back. Eventually, he did call and said things were a go, but now we were down to just three weeks to get ready!  In the meantime, I had my tonsils out and they had given me all of the high parts to sing...which I still remember to this day, by the we got together in this very dirty industrial area down in Torrance.  I mean, it was horrifying.  It was like something out of Mad Max or Blade Runner or something, and we were in this tiny room where we rehearsed every single day for 21 days before we got on a plane and headed out to Europe.  So, we wrote and rehearsed everything in 21 days, then got on that plane to Germany and did the whole tour.  It was crazy. 

G2G:  So are you on that first album that Don released over in Europe then?

Gary:  Well, the album that most people refer to, and I think it's the one you are talking about, Don didn't actually release that.  That was actually a bootleg that was recorded over there by somebody, and they were selling it.  Now, Don had no way of controlling it so he just started giving it away.  He thought, you know, "well, if somebody's out there selling this, and I can't stop them, then at least I can stop them from making any money off of it by just giving it away." 

G2G:  Did it serve to give him some publicity too?

Gary:  Well, by the time people over here got their hands on that, the next phase of Dokken was already out and doing quite well, so I don't think this did all that much for him, really.  It may have played into it a little bit, though.

G2G:  So from there, you ended up getting involved in Sister, which later on ended up becoming W.A.S.P., correct?

Gary:  Yeah, but before Sister, there were a couple of other groups that I was involved in.  One was called Flash To Bang, and there was a guy named, oh, I forget his first name, but his last name was Hanson and he was in a group called the Brooklyn Brats...anyway...Paul Hanson!  That was his name!  Anyway, he was a phenomenal guitar player and we had this bass player, Billy West, who later went on to be in London...and I think he's still with them, actually...and I don't remember who our singer was.  But we were going through the musician thing, you know, playing a few gigs but mostly just rehearsing.  So, we were rehearsing in this place, Sun Valley, I think it was, and it was called I.R.S....International Recording Studios...and there were a number of bands rehearsing there at
the same time as us.  Do you remember a band called Hughes/Thrall?

G2G:  Yeah, the Glenn Hughes project with Pat Thrall....

Gary:  Yeah, Hughes and Pat Thrall from Pat Travers' band...that's it...and actually Frankie Banali was playing in that band, also.  So, anyway, they were rehearsing there, Angel was rehearsing there, and Motley Crue was rehearsing there, also.  Now, I mean, Motley Crue at that time, they hadn't done anything, nobody knew who they were, and one night I went to rehearsal and...well, if you recall, Tommy Lee talks about the fact he had a band called Suite 19, but the thing was when I left Suite 19, he replaced me.

G2G:  Oh, really?

Gary:  Yeah, he was my replacement in Suite 19.  So, anyway, he came out of a band called US 101, but that's a whole other story.  So, I actually coached Tommy for three years.  I had been doing this longer than him and I knew more about it, so we got together, we talked about drums, we talked about touring, we talked about know, all the theatrical stuff that we could think of...and, we met them (Motley Crue) by way of my old singer and guitar player, Greg Leon.  He knew their manager and Tommy's father had built Tommy a rehearsal studio inside of the family garage, and it was really well done.  It was like a room inside a room.  Back in those days, rehearsal space was really hard to find, so we kind of made a deal where if I showed Tommy what I knew, we could practice there for free.  So, I would go over there and show him what I knew, and I would play on his kit and we would just rehearse there; it was like free rehearsal for us.  So, consequently, he ended up playing in a similar style to me at the time, and there were all of these comparisons made between us.  So, there was a point where Great White's manager, Alan Niven, wanted to get us together, Tommy and I, and we both drove Corvettes, so he wanted us to back our Corvettes up together, and then me and Tommy were going to stand similarly back-to-back with dueling pistols, and they were going to send that out to the rock media...

G2G:  Hit Parader and Metal Edge...

Gary:  Yeah, all those, but unfortunately, it never happened, I'm sorry to say.  That woulda been a pretty cool picture to have., I knew the guys in Motley Crue before they really knew each other...well, except for Vince and Tommy because they went to high school together.  So, when they all got together, it wasn't like they really expected anything to happen because nobody really knew who these kids were, you know.  So, that group that I was in, Suite 19, Nikki (Sixx) had actually auditioned for us. There was a time when we were looking for a bass player, and he was still Frank at the time, and he came and auditioned for us, but he couldn't play, couldn't write, couldn't sing, and he didn't have any of his own gear.  I mean, he was a nice kid, you know, but we kind of patted him on the head and sent him on his way, but we stayed buddies with him, you know.  He was, like I said, he was a good kid.  So, me and the guys are at this mall one day, and I hear, "hey, Gary".  And I turned around and there was this guy, and he had this black hair that was sticking straight up except his bangs were pulled down straight over his eyes, so we couldn't see who he was.  So he lifts his bangs up and he's like, "it's me, Frank!"  And I'm like, "Frank?"  And he's, "Yeah, Frank Feranna, but call me Nikki."  I'm like...okay...that was weird!  (Laughing)  But, anyway, Nikki I've known a
Is this the Frank that Gary knew?
long time, and Tommy I've known since he was 15, and I was showing him everything I knew, for that rehearsal time, you know.  So, those guys got together, and it was like, okay, I knew everybody separately and now I know everyone together, right.  And, so they set up to rehearse IRS studio, where we were, and I walked into a rehearsal one night and there was this counter there, you know...kinda like a candy counter, or whatever.  And Mick Mars was standing behind the counter and when I walked in, he was like, "Hey, I've been looking for you."  I was like, really, why, you know.  He starts making these motions in the air, like he was drumming, so I kind of got the message, and I said, "why, what's wrong with Tommy?"  And Mick says to me, "well, let me put it this way.   I can have a 12 year old in my band if he acts like he's 21, but I can't have a 21 year old in my band acting like he's 12, know what I mean?"  (laughs)

G2G:  (Laughs)  Sounds like Tommy...

Gary:  And, you know, I really was not interested in being a member of Motley Crue.  So I was like, well, I've got rehearsal, so let me get back to you, right.  So when I came out after rehearsal, he wasn't there.  So then there was Nikki.  He was like, "hey, Gary, my car broke down, can you give me a ride home?"  So, I'm like okay.  So we get into my car and he's staying with this girl who is a drummer for a band called The Orchids, which was this all-girl metal band that Kim Fowley had put together.  So we're headed down there, and on the way we stop at this place for coffee, and he talks to me for like two hours about joining Motley Crue.  But, still, I really didn't want to do it.  Now, when I get to this part in the story, people typically ask me, "You said no to Motley Crue?"

G2G: I was going to say it, myself...
Who knew what they would become?!

Gary:  Right, I know.  First, you have to remember that nobody knew who they were...except them.  They hadn't accomplished anything yet, and they were, truthfully, maybe the worst band you'd ever heard in your life.  They hadn't done anything, nobody knows who they are, they don't have any songs, nobody can sing, nobody can write, and nobody can play.  They're like this band in a bowling alley bar that even their girlfriends are ashamed of. (Laughs)  And then they say, "hey, would you join our band?'  You don't even have to say anything!  (Laughs)  Who would say yes?!  There was no "Dr. Feelgood" yet, none of that.  There was "Public Enemy Number One" and all that, but it wasn't good at all.

G2G:  So in their book The Dirt, they describe themselves as a gang first, a band second.  Would you say that was accurate?

Gary:  Well, I don't know how far down the line the term "band" would fall, but I wouldn't have even said they were a "gang", really.  I mean, when you think gang at the time, you think of someone getting in a lot of fights and being good at it. So, I'm not sure they were good at that, either.

G2G:  Maybe just a bunch of hoodlums?

Gary:  Yeah, I guess. (Laughs)  Now, it probably sounds like I'm bragging that I was too good to be with them, and really, I'm not.  It's not like that at all.  I just didn't want to do it.  But, I've got to hand it to them.  I mean, let's take a look at a band like Journey...I was gonna say Hardline, but Journey is even more to my point.  Look at the talent in that band.  I mean, the songwriting, the musicianship, the vocals, just how on top of their business they were, those guys were so good at everything they do, it was almost impossible for them to NOT make it, you know.  But with Motley Crue, it was the other way.  You take a bunch of guys who can't play, can't write, can't sing, have no family lineage in the business, and for all the obstacles that are thrown at them, they are now contenders for the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame.  That is nothing short of miraculous.  I mean, that is a serious accomplishment.

G2G:  And from all I've read and heard, they did it their own way.

Gary:  Absolutely.  They certainly did.  They learned on the fly.  Now, Nikki is a very shrewd businessman, and he picked up on the business as he went, and I really gotta hand it to them with what they've done.  Now, you don't have to be a great musician to be a great songwriter. In fact, sometimes I think being a great musician is a liability to a songwriter, because if somebody is, let's say the fastest guitar player in the world, then that skill becomes the centerpiece of their entire presentation.  But they lose sight of the fact that guitar players don't sell records, songs sell records.  Great songs and great marketing sell records.  So, if you're a really great say a Steve Vai...but you don't know how to be a showman and you don't have great songs, you aren't going to be famous.  It took David Lee Roth, who love him or hate him is a hell of a showman, it took David Lee Roth to show Steve Vai how to be a showman.  You know, I always tell people that musicians, we are in the same realm as professional wrestling...

G2G:  This I gotta hear...

Gary:  (Laughs) No, really.  It's all acting and presentation and showmanship.  Talent and success aren't necessarily mutually exclusive or connected to each other in anyway.  You can be extremely talented and totally unsuccessful, or you can be very untalented and be very successful.  It's the marketing.  Those two things...talent and success...really have nothing to do with each other.  So, if you're willing to dye your hair purple, put on a tutu, bend over and touch your toes, but 10,000 people are willing to pay $150 a night to watch you do that, you've got a career.  And every generation, there's a few bands who really, somehow, figure their thing out and drive that point home.

G2G:  And they figure it out.

Gary: Exactly!

G2G:  So, speaking of bands who were willing to do something shocking to get your attention...tell me about WASP, or at least what would become WASP, one of your old bands, Sister.  Who was in there with you that we would now know as WASP?

Gary:  Well, Blackie (Lawless) was playing guitar and Randy Piper was playing lead guitar, but they didn't have a bass player.  So, they were looking at this guy named Don Costa, who was playing for a band called Dante Fox.  Now, Costa and Dante Fox didn't really fit, stylistically.  Don was going off in a completely different direction than the band was and as time went on, that rift became clearer and clearer.  Now then, Don looked and played, already, like he shoulda been in Sister, so Blackie was relentless about trying to recruit Don.  Blackie would take me to the Troubador every time Dante Fox played, and he would attempt to speak to Don about leaving Dante Fox and joining Sister, but Don wasn't having any of it.  He would ridicule Blackie's attempts to get him to quit.  Meanwhile, as much as I thought of Blackie's songwriting abilities, he was such a miserable bastard to be around, and I didn't get the feeling that anything was going to come from him that was going to come out being something good for me, and after seeing how he treated Chris Holmes, I was right.  So, I couldn't get away from Blackie fast enough.  I just quit.   I didn't even have another band to go to, I just quit.  Shortly thereafter, I ended up at the Troubador and I saw Mark Kendall.  He just happened to be there, and I remembered how good they were as far as they could really write songs, they had great harmonies, and Jack was UNBELIEVABLE as a singer.  I mean, if you think he's good now, you shoulda heard him then!

G2G:  Really?

Gary:  Oh yeah!  And, so I asked Mark Kendall how tight they were with their drummer and he said, "not really, why?" And I told him "because you guys need a new drummer, and I'm him!"  (Laughs)  He asked me, "can you sing?", and I said,. "I can sing lead if I have to, yeah, I can sing."  So he says, "hang on, let me get my singer", and he goes and gets Jack.  So we scheduled a little meeting over at Jack's parents' house, and it was Jack, Kendall, and me, and we got together and we sang all day.  We just harmonized over everything.  We tried all these different harmonies and it just sounded like we had been singing together all of our lives.

G2G:  Very cool...

Gary:  Yeah, it was.  So, I think it was a few days or a week later, and Costa and Kendall came down to Randy Piper's rehearsal studio where I had my kit set up, and they asked me to play them some stuff, and that was it, I was in.  Just like that...

G2G:  Well, obviously from the way you jumped around in these bands, the stories everyone hears about how Hollywood during this time was just one big metal melting pot has to hold at least some merit, right?

Gary:  Oh, absolutely.  Everyone was in everyone's band, it seems like.  What really was happening was like musical chairs.  Everybody was trying out every possible combination to find out where they would fit the best.  It wasn't like anybody thought there was any kind of time limit on this or anything, I think we all thought we could do this indefinitely until we found the right combination.  You always knew right away if something was going to work or it wasn't, you know.  You'd jam with some guys, and I would just know.  I had people tell me, "hey, I remember you.  You came into our rehearsal studio, you set up all your gear, you played for like three minutes, then stopped in the middle and you were like, 'nope, sorry, this ain't gonna work.'"

G2G:  (Laughter)  That quick, huh?

Gary:  Oh yeah.  I go, "yeah, that sounds like me!"  But you just I knew with Blackie.  Now, did I know WASP was going to be big?  No, but I knew what was going on when I was with Blackie and Sister, I knew that wasn't going to work for me, you know. It was just that...just that quick for me most of the time.  It was a city for musicians, and there was no real band roster yet, if you wanna look at it like that.  Bands would get together, write some songs, go out and play them live, you know, run the band and the songs up the flagpole, so to speak, and see if anyone saluted or not.  You know, if it didn't work, bands would break up, or someone would leave and a new chemistry would be formed, good or bad, you was just a lot of musical chairs.  You know, I wound up being a member of Dante Fox before the other drummer even knew he was gone....

G2G:  Oh, wow...

Gary:  Yeah, you know, they were in the studio demoing some songs, and they already had Tony's (original drummer) drums on it, you know, and I helped them do all the background vocals.  And, then at the very last, Don Costa asked me if I would overdub my drums onto that demo.  And, I said, I don't know, I've never done that before; I could screw the whole thing up.  They just said, fine, if that happens, we'll redo the whole thing.  So, I ended up replacing all his drums with my drums and then, on Thanksgiving Day, they called Tony to tell him, "dude, you're out".

G2G:  Ouch!

Gary: (chuckles) Yeah, I know, right.  So, anyway, there was  this vacancy in Sister that I had created by leaving, and Tony ended up filling that vacancy; we swapped bands.  So it was that kind of musical chairs type of thing that I'm talking about at the time.

 G2G:  And sometimes it has as much to do with image as it did talent, right?

Gary:  Well, everybody was always looking for the best-looking guys to be in their bands.  But, for me, the groups I played in, musicianship played a big role as well.  You had to be able to play, you couldn't just look good.  And believe me, there were some guys who looked really good, but they could not play.  Shouldn't even be picking up an instrument.  But that was never a deal with bands I played in.  We could play.

G2G:  So it was really more when MTV kicked in that we started seeing all these "cookie cutter" bands with some people questioning whether or not band members even played on their records or if they could even play instruments, period...

Gary:  I think...just from personal experience...or from what I knew about the situation at the time...I didn't really know any bands that didn't play on their own records.  Now, I heard some sort of rumor about whether Warrant played on their own record...

G2G:  Yeah, their guitar players were rumored to have not played on that debut album...

Gary:  Right...I'm not knowledgeable about whether or not that's true, but I sorta doubt it.  I mean, I've heard them play and I think they're really competent players, so...why would you not?  I mean, its common knowledge that Cinderella's drummer, Fred Coury, didn't play on any of their records, that they brought in Cozy Powell to play on the first record...maybe it was the first and second record, I don't know...

G2G:  I believe it was just Long Cold Winter that Cozy played on.  They had a different drummer in the band when Night Songs was recorded...Fred wasn't even in the band yet...

Gary:  Maybe that was it...they weren't even originally an LA band...but, out in LA, I don't know of any bands that didn't play on their own records.

G2G:  Gary, while we're on the subject of recording, what can you tell me, or what do you recall about recording Out Of The Night with Great White when you guys first got that deal, and you...well, you actually became Great White, honestly...what really stands out for you about that recording session?

Gary:  Well, that EP actually came before the record's pretty much what got us the deal.

G2G:  Really?

Gary: Yeah, I know some people have put that out on compilations or reissues or whatever, but that was was basically just our best demo, in a way, and it got picked up by radio and started getting airplay.  Now, you know, we had done demos before and we were constantly in the studio recording demos...

G2G:  ...which I keep trying to find, by the way!  (Laughs)

Gary:  Well, I have some of them....even going back to when we were still Dante Fox...I have some demos, and Jack has some...but all of the masters, I believe, got burned up in a house fire when Audie Desbrow's house burned down.  So we lost all the masters to those recordings, unfortunately.  But, any time we'd put together five or six songs, we'd get to a studio and put together some money to go in there and record a bunch of songs.  And, really, it was done in a pretty haphazard way until we started working with Michael Wagner.  Michael would really dissect the songs in pre-production so that every note that was played was accounted for.  It's not that he was telling us what to play, he was just doing a producer's job, which is to, you know, let you know if a note or something is not necessary, just leave it out.  Or if there's something they think could be played better, then the producer tells you how it could be played better.  Stuff like that.  So, nothing was done by accident.  Everything...we wrote everything, but he gave an objective air to what we were doing.  That was the first time any of us had been exposed to that level of scrutiny in terms of song writing.  So that's one thing that definitely stands out to me.  And, to be fair, it ended up being a much better product as a result of it.  By the time we got to actually recording it, we knew that stuff very well...backwards and forwards...I mean, we coulda played that stuff in our sleep.  (Laughing)

G2G:  (laughing)

Gary:  I also remember...Kendall and Lorne and I were in one big room, and we didn't have a visual with Jack because there was a control room in was this big, concrete, kind of a warehouse thing...and so the three of us played live together...

G2G: Oh, really?

Gary:  Yeah, and then the vocals were added later, and the lead solos were added afterwards, also.  I remember we recorded seven songs and then five of them made the cut on that Out Of The Night EP.  I don't remember what the other two were at this point, but I really liked that record.  I thought that EP, Out Of The Night, was a really good record.
Back cover of reissued Out Of The Night EP. Gary is seated.

G2G:  Now, when you went to do the first actual album, after you guys got signed, did you re-record that material, like "Out Of The Night" and "On Your Knees", and stuff, did you re-record those or were those the same takes from the EP?

Gary:  No, those were not the same recordings.  We recorded the first record (the Out Of The Night EP) with probably a $10,000 budget and we did that record over the course of a weekend.  So, when that record hit the airwaves, we kind of became local sensations almost overnight.  So when we actually officially got signed, we were now working with like a $200,000 budget in the bank, so we thought, well, now we can go into the studio and record these songs properly, like they should have been done in the first place.  And we had a lot more money to do it better than we had done it before.  So, we went and we spent, I think it was $70,000 making that first actual record, but to be honest with you, I don't think we ended up with a better product.  We just ended up with more songs.  I really didn't like how the drums got buried, and I wasn't allowed to use a click track on either one of those records...the EP or the album.  So, you know, it was hard to get the meter just right when you're not playing with a click, but they're still holding you to a higher standard, so it might have been nice to play with the click, but I'd never played with one before and they said now's not the time to start.  So, they wouldn't allow me to play with the click.  But, like now, I practice with a click, I rehearse with a click, I record with a click, I play live with a click...I wouldn't be without one, now.  But, that was just craziness back then!  (Laughs)

G2G:  (Laughs)

Gary:  I mean...doing a full-length, major label album without a click?  No way, no thank you. (Laughs)

G2G:  So then what is your discography with Great White?  I could be missing something, but I think I've got it...the albums that you are actually on with Great White are the Out Of The Night EP, the self-titled debut album, and then you're on the Recovery: Live album, right?

Gary:  I'm actually on half of the Recovery: Live album.  There were two know, vinyl and all...there were two sides and I think one side was called "1982" or "1983", and the other side was called "1986" (NOTE:  Side one is both "1982" and "1983"...)...and so, they took five songs that we did in the studio...  Okay, we got signed and we got ready to go record the first full-length album for EMI, and we had to throw down just a really quick version of all the songs, live, to a two-track recorder, and then give that to the label as like a courtesy demo.  Like a, "hey, guys, here's what you're paying for" kinda thing.  Like, "the band's gonna be recording these songs here, if you have any objections, speak now or forever hold your peace", kinda thing.  So, they kept it, and while it says "live", it's not a complete lie because we did play it live in the studio, and it was just recorded as we played it...there was no mix-down, it was very
raw, it was...well, it was live.  But there was no audience there, it was just in the same studio, Total Access, that we had used for everything else, and we had everything set up and ready to record the album, but before we could really go for it, we had to throw this live demo together, added the vocals from Jack, and then sent that off to the label, to EMI.  So, then after I left, somebody had the idea, "hey, let's take that old half-inch, two-track master, and throw an audience on it, and throw that out there as a live album".

G2G:  Really?  Wow...

Gary:  If you look, it actually says it was recorded at Perkins Palace, but I'm here to tell you that we never, ever recorded live together as a band under any circumstances. Honestly, nobody ever thought of it.

G2G:  There didn't seem to be any market for it, or...?

Gary:  Yeah, I mean, I guess if we thought that a live album would be a big deal, then we would have actually maybe done one, but at this point, we only had one album.  I mean, now, everybody does it...everybody has a live record.  But out of all the live shows we were playing, we never recorded one.  Not one.

G2G:  Wow, I didn't know that...I'm learning new stuff about my favorite band all the time. (Laughs)

Gary:  Now, like when we were on tour with Judas Priest, we played at the Capitol Center in Landover, Maryland.  And we were actually on our way to the venue to play the show when we found out that they were actually doing a live, two-camera shoot because they had this huge scoreboard in the had like four screens on it...and they would have two guys crawling around on stage, filming you playing live, and they would project it up on the screens so that the people up in the nosebleed sections could see the show and get a good look at you.  Now, all we would have had to do was give them a VHS video cassette, and we could've recorded that.  And I said to the guys on the way to the show, "we don't have a tape anywhere", and we didn't.  So I said let's just stop at a drugstore or something and grab a VHS tape or something, but nah, nobody wanted to do it...(laughs) killed me because there we were, playing in front of like 15,000 people with Judas Priest, which we were doing like four or five nights a week, and that whole performance could've been captured on video tape, and all we lacked was a stupid video cassette!

G2G:  Someone would probably just have grabbed a Beta tape or something anyway...

Gary:  (Laughs)  Probably!  All I know is they had the recording machines ready, and all we would have had to do was just pop in the tape...who knows, maybe a Beta woulda worked...and we would've had that for posterity.  But nobody wanted to stop, so that performance just went up on the screen and that was it.  Nothing was ever recorded.

G2G:  Now, Gary, since I have you on the phone, I wanna ask.  You know 1986 rolls around, Shot In The Dark comes out, and lo and behold, you're not around.  Where'd Gary go?

Gary:  That's a very long answer, honestly.  But the short answer is not very exciting.  Well, actually the long answer isn't very exciting, either...(laughs).  But, it goes like this.  The band, once we got signed, we became a corporation and so the four members of the band were equal corporate shareholders in Great White.  And when you have a corporation, then you have an internal agreement, which is a contract that dictates how you're going to conduct yourselves in your day-to-day business affairs.  And, in that plan, it was laid out that each of us was getting an equal share of the corporate shares.  We each had, like a stock certificate.  So, it was Lorne made as much as I did, who made as much as Kendall, who made as much as Jack.  And there was a clause in the contract that stated the band could not continue under the name Great White unless there was at least Jack Russell and Mark Kendall in the band.  Now, had my name been in that clause, honestly, I would probably still be with them and nobody would even know who Audie Desbrow was.  But, I'm sure there was a point where somebody said, "hey, hold on a second.  We've got a drummer who's making an equal amount of the corporate profits...and we also have a bass player who's making an equal amount of the corporate profits..."  You I'm sure it was like, if we can delete those two guys and hire hourly, or salaried guys, you know, just find a drummer and pay him a salary and hire a bass player and just pay him a salary, first of all, we double our paychecks, and second of all, there's two less people we have to get consensus from.  Because, you know, when you're an equal corporate entity, any decision, music or business, you must get consensus for that decision.  So, as long as Lorne and I were in the group, they had to get consensus from us to make any music decisions or any business decisions, and they had to share all monies with us equally.  So, we were, Lorne and I, basically eliminated.

G2G:  So then, is this still a lot of what Jack and Mark were still fighting about all these years later with the two versions of Great White?  Doesn't it really kind of go back to the ownership of the name and having both Jack and Mark in a band using Great White as a name?

Gary:  That corporate entity, Great White Productions, Incorporated, was dissolved many, many years ago.  So that agreement is no longer in effect.  I'm sure that there's probably been one, or maybe two, corporate entities that have been created subsequent to the first one, and whatever the terms of those agreements are, I don't know.  But with that first know, I didn't have my own lawyer, Lorne didn't have his own lawyer, so there was nobody there to tell us, "hey, this clause in this contract could really come back to haunt you, and you should make sure that your name is in there, as well."  Now, any time that band members enter into a management contract with someone, almost the first sentence you see in that contract is "to advise and counsel".  So, you're hiring a manager to advise and counsel a collective band...and I happen to think that advising your client, i.e., the drummer and the bass player, that maybe you should have your own lawyer to look after your best interests.  But, I'm sure there are reasons Alan Niven didn't want Lorne or I to have our own lawyers.  First of all, probably because he envisioned getting rid of Lorne and myself from the beginning and then supplanting himself into the corporation.  So he had this grand design, I believe, from the beginning, and he didn't want anything getting in the way of that grand design, so he didn't want us to have our own attorneys because any competent attorney would've taken a look at that contract and said, "  My client is going to be named in that clause, as well."  And had that been the case, they never would've voted me out, they never would have been able to, and I might still be a member of Great White to this day.  But that clause sunk me, and it sunk Lorne, too.

G2G:  So you're out of Great White, and really, the next time you show up is in a band that you created, Britton, right?

Gary:  Right.  I had to start over from scratch, because the LA 80s scene, and the street scene, by the time I was on my own again, that scene was over and done.  So, it wasn't like there was any other group I could jump on board with, and there was no such thing as the internet back then, so...where do you start, you know?  So, I started back at the bottom again, and I found a local band called
Romeo.  The singer was really good, and he wrote really good songs, and he had great vocal harmonies, and they were all really top musicians in the band.  So, I said, okay, I'm gonna start from scratch, but I went on the same premise that I went with when I joined Dante Fox.  Then, at some point we changed the name to Britton, and over the course of about five years, we wrote, I believe, about 600 songs, we recorded about 100 of them, and recorded a total of one album with about 10 or 12 songs on it (laughs). And, we put it out there and nobody wanted to sign us.  Now, by that time, we're close to five years into the thing, and we were all starting to go into different musical directions.  We were evolving musically as people, where as in the beginning we had a uniform musical vision.  But after five years of frustration, it was getting harder and harder to hold it together.  We couldn't find a musical direction that we could all agree on anymore, so that broke up, too.

G2G:  So, I did a quick Internet search, because after Britton, you kind of fell off the scene, but you actually did a lot of studio and session work with some big names.  

Gary:  Right, yeah, I stayed busy...

G2G:  Let's worked with Ozzy, Twisted Sister, Autograph, Don Dokken again on his solo album...

Gary:  Yeah, all those guys...and some others...

G2G:  What was it like going from being THE guy in a touring band to being a guy doing most of his work behind the scenes?

Gary:  You know, I never had an ego about it.  All I wanted to do was just work, so anytime someone was willing to put me to work, I would do it.  If it was a high profile situation, that was great to get my name out there again, but even if it was a nobody kind of situation and just a chance to make some money doing what I loved, that was great, too.  Maybe I'd get an album credit, maybe not, but I'd take any work that came my way.  There were a lot of groups out there that I went into the studio and they put out an album that went nowhere, but if you wanna dig deep enough, you'll see on the album credits that I'm there doing additional vocals, or harmonies, or whatever they wanted to call it.  I'm on a lot of recordings out there.  Actually, it got to the point that I was singing more than I was drumming, so at some point I decided that if there was ever a point to do this, it was now, so I decided to become a lead singer.  So then, I ended up putting a band together called Skin On Skin, and there was a guitar player from Lizzy Borden named Gene Allen who was in the band with me, along with the bass player, Mike Inez, you know, from Alice In Chains.  So, we started playing and everybody was trying to get a piece of us, you know, trying to tear a guy away from the band, and the first to go was actually Mike who went on to join Ozzy's band.  So Skin On Skin broke up because, honestly, I couldn't really replace him.  He was one of a kind.

G2G:  Yeah, he's very talented...

Gary:  Oh yeah.  So, he's in the studio recording with Ozzy and Michael Wagner, who I had known from doing all the Great White stuff, he was producing, and they both knew me and knew my vocals, so I was invited to come in and do background vocals on a couple of albums, so that worked out pretty well, too.

G2G:  You also worked with Blue Cheer for a little while, right?

Gary:  Yeah, that was very strange how that came about.  I was at a friend's house and he said he had some friends over at Love Connection, if you remember that television game show...

G2G:  We'll be back in two and two!

Gary:  (Laughing) Exactly!  So, my friend, he says they just love you over there at Love Connection.  I didn't believe him, so I say to him, "well, what's the number?"  So he picks up the phone, dials it, and handed it to me.  So, one thing led to another, I auditioned for the game show, and I ended up getting on it, and I was the picker, and I picked some girl and we went on a date, and I ended up getting on television. (Laughs)  So, then I got a call from the Love Connection people and they said they had some mail at their office for me.  So, this girl named Mary, from New Jersey, she was a manager, and she was managing this drummer from New York or New Jersey or something, and she said her guy had a call to do the Blue Cheer tour in 93, and he didn't want to do it.  So she said she was watching television one night and saw me on Love Connection and said to herself, "what the hell is this guy doing on Love Connection?"  (Laughs)  So she wrote Love Connection and they
forwarded it to me, and she ended up representing me, but she was representing me as a singer only at the time.  So one night we were talking and she said, "by the way would you take any drumming work if it came along", and I was honest and I told her I hadn't picked up a set of drum sticks in over two years.  I didn't even remember what size of sticks I used to use at that point.  She said, "well, I heard about this European tour, and if you're interested in it, I'll talk to them about it."  So, I said okay, and she called me back the next day and told me she had got me the tour.  But at this point, I didn't even know who it was.  So she told me it was Blue Cheer and that I had to be on a plane at noon and the tickets would be at my door that morning.  (Laughing)

G2G:  Oh my gosh! (Laughing)

Gary:  I was like, are you kidding?!  I didn't even know if I could still play, you know, at a professional level.  So I hung up the phone, but sure as hell, this guy shows up at about 10:30 with these plane tickets and I ran down to LAX and I got on a plane.  I landed in Frankfurt, and I met the band and their manager, and they gave me three cds and a big wad of cash of a couple thousand bucks, and said learn all these songs.  So, you know, here we are in the middle of the Black Forest in southern Germany, and we just started rehearsing.  We rehearsed about ten hours a day for eleven days, and then on the twelfth day we traveled, and so I guess it was on the thirteenth day after I got there that we did our first show.  We played a two hour set with a seven minute drum solo sandwiched in the middle, and I managed to play like I'd been playing this stuff for ten years.  But it was a grueling tour, because over the course of three summer months, we had one true day off.  One.  We were criss-crossing all over Europe.  I don't know who put that tour together, but I should take them out and beat the shit out of them! (Laughs)

G2G: (Laughs)  I saw a picture on Facebook where you got up on stage with Jack not too long ago and played with him again.  Was that just a one-off deal?

Gary:  Well, I hooked up with him in Toronto and then I hooked up with him again in Hollywood, and then recently in New York.  So, its just a matter of every once in a while I'll show up and we'll get together on stage and play.  But Jack and I have talked about doing something, whether he appears on my next record, or I appear on his next record doing something, or if we just put something completely different internally by ourselves, I don't know.  We haven't nailed anything down, but I would love to do something with him.  And, I've had people speculate, you know you should play in Jack's band or something, and I don't want to do that.  I've told Jack I'm not interested in that.  He's got an excellent drummer in Derrick Pontier, and I'm not interested in playing anything that Audie Desbrow recorded, so that would be a pretty big limiter anyway.

Gary and Jack on stage
G2G:  So it's obvious that you and Jack still have at least some form of a good relationship and stay in contact.  Do you and Mark (Kendall) have any sort of relationship at all now?

Gary:  I did until about 1999 or 2000.  Well, actually, the last time we spoke civilly was 2008.  I had contacted him to tell him that I had just returned from the 5 year anniversary show for the Station fire.  And he spoke about it like it was some kind of a natural disaster, like some kind of lightning strike or some kind of forest fire or flash flood, or something, not like what it was, which was a case of negligence on a grand scale.  And, you know, I started questioning why I ever had any respect for this guy, to be honest.  And, well, now I don't.  For the record, when I left Great White, it was such a surprise, it came out of nowhere, just came out of left field, and I couldn't imagine that Mark Kendall was behind it. I truly believed it was Jack Russell and Alan Niven who were behind it the whole time, and I, in fact, had no doubts Alan was behind it, but I didn't think Mark was involved.  And after I left, I was getting shelled in the press, relentlessly, just like Jack's been getting shelled by his former bandmates, and specifically Mark Kendall.  But back then, every time that I read Mark Kendall said this, that, or the other thing, I always thought it was Jack speaking through Kendall, and I blamed Jack for all of this for so long.  I mean, even as recently as 2010, I had said to Mark Kendall that at least I hadn't had to spend my life being a stooge to a guy like Jack Russell and I'm sorry I said that now because once Jack and Mark split up, and I got a chance to see how they waged war, I realized that Mark Kendall was behind every nasty thing that was ever said about me in the press.

G2G:  What, you could tell by the style...?

Gary:  It was exactly the same way he was treating Jack...almost word for word in some cases.  It was just completely and blatantly obvious.  He was saying all the same things about Jack that he had been saying about me.  And he just fights so dirty and just tells complete lies.  And, unfortunately, the people who are reading this stuff don't know any better and give Kendall all this credibility he doesn't deserve.  I mean, if you're going to say something about me, or Jack, or whoever you're going to talk about, at least make it true!  If it's true, I got no problem with it.  But if you're going to lie, or lace lies with flecks of truth, then that's unacceptable.  So, back to your original question, I don't keep in touch with Kendall anymore, and frankly I don't allow people like that in my social circle.  I'm sorry I ever met him.  He's not the person of character or integrity that I would allow in my social circle.  And it pains me to say that because I, too, gave him a lot of credibility that he did not deserve.

G2G:  How do you see this thing playing out between Jack and Mark?

Gary:  I think they are done.  I really do.

G2G:  Well, Jack told me that it would basically take an act of God for him and Mark to ever work together...

Gary:  I believe that.  I believe that, completely. Because as much as rock bands are a business, they are also a family, and Mark Kendall is trying to destroy that family.  I would never step on stage with Mark again, either.  In fact, I would never even acknowledge his existence by showing up at one of his band's gigs.  I sometimes wonder if he's consumed so much alcohol, and has killed so many brain cells, that he doesn't even know the difference between the truth and a lie anymore.  Or, is he really that evil that he would just lie and commit character assassination just in trying to play in the hearts and minds of his fans.  The reason this has gotten so divisive is because Mark Kendall has made so much..detail..about Jack public, and it's really none of their business.  That should only be brought up in a closed forum, like a court of law.  But when one person tries to turn everybody against one side, and the whole thing becomes divisive, I lay all of that right at Mark Kendall's feet.  All of it.

G2G:  So what are you doing to stay busy, Gary?

Gary:  I've done some soundtrack work for some movies, and I've got a home studio set-up where I can work with pretty much anybody anywhere in the world over the internet, which is pretty cool.  I stay busy that way, and there's a guy I've been working with here, he's just a really, really good writer, and he and I have been putting songs together whenever we've got time.  But hopefully, eventually, we'll have an album full of material.

G2G:  Very cool.  Would love to hear it someday.  How do people stay in touch with you and find out what's going on in your world?

Gary:  Well, I'm on Facebook...I have a pretty heavy presence on Facebook and presently I'm an admin on a Great White group there.  So I'm pretty easy to find.  I'm not hiding or anything.

G2G:  Well, it's been great talking to you Gary.  I hope you stay in touch.

Gary:  Well, thanks for having me and for taking an interest.  I hope your readers find something interesting in what we've talked about.  Take care, Arttie.


So awesome to get to talk to Gary and extremely happy that I was finally able to share this interview with everyone who reads this site!  Make sure to keep up with Gary and all that he's doing on Facebook!

For more Great White interviews, check out:

Talkin' Trash with JACK RUSSELL
Talkin' Trash with ROBBY LOCHNER

Back to Talkin' Trash Index

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

LIVESAY "Frozen Hell"

(c) 2016 Kivel Records

  1. Intro
  2. Leaving
  3. Slaved and Bound
  4. With or Without You
  5. Age of Reason
  6. Welcome to the Real World
  7. Stop Believing
  8. Comes of Age
  9. Since You've Been Gone
  10. Frozen Hell
  11. Spread Your Wings
Shawn Pelata--Lead and Backing Vocals
Gregg Livesay--Guitars
Matt Mahoney--Bass
Tony Stahl--Keys, Vocals
Tim Huntington--Drums

Additional Musicians: 
Ty Simms--Keys on 8
Tony Stahl--Bass
Pete Newdeck--Backing Vocals

Livesay is one of those bands that I have always heard good things about, but never actually heard.  No particular reason; I had just never snagged an album by the band.

But then Kivel Records signed the band, and I was intrigued.  

And then Shawn Pelata got involved...and I had to get the new album!

For those who may not be aware, Shawn Pelata is a wonderfully talented melodic metal vocalist who has fronted numerous bands and projects throughout the years.  Just a few of the bands he has worked with include: Oracle, K-Octave, No Less Human, Liberty N Justice, Line Of Fire, Final Sign, and 7HY.  I'm likely missing something, but anyone familiar with any of those band understands the power Pelata sings with, as he incorporates a strong mid-range tenor with the ability to reach some pretty high range notes when necessary, all while retaining a powerful control of his voice and not drifting into-and-out of range, which a lot of singers seem to do when riding the vocal elevator.  So, with what I already knew about Shawn's vocals, combined with what I had always heard about Gregg Livesay's guitar playing, I felt like this was a perfect storm kinda thing, and I wanted to be present when it hit.

I was not disappointed.

Well, okay, I was a little disappointed.  Why?  Because...dangit!...the album starts off with an intro!  Argh!  Okay, so it's not an album killer, but it feels like an "X-Files" episode is about to begin for the first 30 seconds or so of the album, and it doesn't really fit into the track that it leads into, which just frustrates the crap outta me.  Thankfully, the intro is short and Gregg Livesay's furious rhythm guitars snap me out of my intro-hating frustration as "Leaving" roars to life.  Showcasing guitar skills that many are going to compare to Yngwie Malmsteen or Chris Impellitteri, "Leaving" is a perfect vehicle for introducing Pelata's vocal style to Livesay fans.  I'm told this is actually a re-tread of a song that appeared on one of the band's earlier efforts, but it's new to me and a great way for my Livesay education to begin.  Speaking of Livesay, Livesay--the man (I think I'll just call him Gregg from here on out) absolutely tears into his guitar on a solo that will have any fan of the old Shrapnel Records shredder stable absolutely drooling.  This guy can flat out fly on his axe and it is impressive to hear a man run the frets in such a manner.  Wow.

"Slaved And Bound" starts off much more slowly than "Leaving" does, with Pelata's vocals carrying much of the song's weight at the outset.  That slow tempo is short-lived, however, as the band cranks up the energy on what turns out to be a really powerful, uptempo rocker.  Again, Gregg rips through a solo prior to the last run through the chorus that many people are going to instantly equate to the work Malmsteen did early in his solo career.  This comparison continues with the next song, "With Or Without You", which sounds like it could have appeared on Malmsteen's Trilogy album, what with it's moderately heavy use of keys, especially on the song's intro, it's big drums (listen to the double-kicks on the outro), and the use of layered vocals (lots of "whoa-ah whoas"), and melodic mini-solo drop-ins throughout the song.  After numerous listens, I would have to say that "With Or Without You", which again, is apparently a remake, is definitely my favorite track on the record.

"Age Of Reason" follows up, and in an odd twist, we go from my favorite track on the album to my least favorite here.  This song is the only one on the record where Pelata's vocals don't match up well with the backing vocals, particularly on the chorus when he sings, "I try to see the good in people".  Something is just off.  The rest of the song is very good and Livesay (the man) again flashes a virtuoso-styled solo, but I struggle to get past that vocal issue on the chorus.

Things rapidly right themselves as "Welcome To The Real World" jumps right back to the upper echelon of songs on this record.  A simple acoustic guitar intro leads things in, but the thunder of drums can be heard in the distance as the song builds, with gang vocals adding even more to the build up before the guitars become electric and amplified and the full band kicks in.  Pelata adds a bit of an angry edge to his vocals throughout the verses, and the backing vocals are superb here as they trade on-and-off with the vocal leads in excellent fashion.  The double bass drum work on the pre-chorus sections is also a very nice touch.  Gregg has a particularly fret-melting solo on this song, his fingers flying up and down the guitar's neck with a combination of speed and precision that is nowhere to be found among the vast majority of today's guitar players.  Truly stunning work here.  (For what it matters, this song is the absolute favorite of my four year old who sings along with Pelata throughout the chorus sections!)

"Stop Believing" is another top-notch rocker with a catchy hook and a really nice groove to it.  The backline is absolutely in lock-step on this track, as Mahoney and Huntington carve a pummeling channel through the song that the rest of the band just falls into and glides across ever-so smoothly.  Gregg's solo here is a bit more restrained, as the shred-head shows a bit more of a melodic approach, and it works well.

"Comes Of Age" is the song where I think Pelata sounds the most comfortable, as he really powers his way through the lower end of his tenor range here, and it works really, really well.  In fact, it gives even more emphasis to those times when he decides to elevate and let his upper vocal range really rip.  Gregg has a decent solo here, but the shock of this track has to be the BASS solo that is slipped in before the final chorus run.  Nice to hear Mahoney given a chance to shine.  It's also worth noting that Ty Simms (Bombay Black) provides the keyboards for this song, but, in perfect fashion, they are utilized as a backing instrument rather than being shoved out front like so many melodic/AOR band are wont to do.  Again, its a minor thing to most, but to my ear it is a major deal that actually does damage to a lot of otherwise great songs and/or albums.  In my world, keyboards are not lead instruments.  Just sayin'...and nice job, Livesay!

"Since You've Been Gone" is a track that virtually any fan of melodic hard rock fan is familiar with.  Personally, I was first introduced to the track by the previously mentioned band Impellitteri, and their powerful vocalist, Graham Bonnet, on the Stand In Line album.  Since then, I have heard the song covered by several other acts, with Impellitteri's version still being my favorite.  Livesay doesn't change that opinion, but they come darn close as the interplay between Shawn and Gregg works beautifully, and Gregg rips off one of the catchier solos on the entire record, which is saying a lot.  

The speed is turned back up a bit for the title track, Frozen Hell, with big, thundering drums pounding away beneath Gregg's tight rhythm work and some excellent supporting keys (is that a Hammond, I hear) from Stahl that play off of...and along with...Gregg's riffing, especially on the outro to the song.  Again, the backing vocals are a perfect counter balance to Pelata's soaring leads, and the last rocker on the album is definitely one of the best. 

The ballad, "Spread Your Wings" closes things out, and despite being a slower track, it is definitely a powerhouse number.  Pelata really packs the emotion into this track, bordering on being Perry-esque at times, although this song is heavier and punchier than any Journey ballad I can instantly recall.  Someone warn the fire department because there are going to be more than a few flames held aloft when this song comes on!  Strong backing vocals, nice, laid back drum work, and tastefully done piano accompany Pelata's powerhouse performance here, and Gregg's solo is a great example of his ability to deliver an emotional turn on the guitar, again in a fashion that Malmsteen fans are likely to instantly identify with. While I realize the odds of the album being recorded in the exact tracking order it appears on the record are slim, it really does feel like you can hear Shawn Pelata growing in confidence with each song, and that confidence and power really shines through here at the end.

If there is one complaint that I have about this record, and it tends to be an across the board issue when I listen to the record, it is that Gregg's solos sound as if they were recorded in a completely different fashion than the rest of the record, and the production quality on the solos is different than the rest of the music.  To my untrained ear, it sounds like the guitars were recorded on equipment used in the 80s, and then spliced into music used in today's studios.  I've listened on three sets of speakers now, as I thought initially it might just be an issue with my computer speakers, but I hear it in every set of speakers I listen through.  It doesn't ruin the sound of the album by any stretch, but it is definitely something I notice.

Livesay carries the melodic hard rock sensibilities of the late 80s and early 90s into the 21st century by combining both metal and AOR elements on Frozen Hell, the 4th full-length album from this band that has been around in some form since 1991.  If all of their previous efforts sound this good, I have no idea how this band has flown under my listening radar for 25 years, especially since I had a serious affinity for top-notch shredders back in the day...and Gregg Livesay definitely falls into that category.  

Rating:  A really. really good record that easily cranks to 8!

Monday, January 2, 2017


(c) 1984 Mausoleum Records

  1. Tracker
  2. Danger
  3. Running With The Devil
  4. Don't Dream Too Much
  5. Sad Girl
  6. Midnight Killer
  7. Hungry For Blood
  8. Rock N Roll
  9. Teaser Woman
Pierre Bechet--Vocals, Bass
Jean-Michael Mauffray--Guitars
Alain Amie--guitars
Dominique Henry--Drums

FISC.  Never heard of 'em?  Not surprised, unless you happened to grow up in Europe...specifically the 80s and early 90s.  And, if you haven't heard of them, its not really your fault, because despite the fact that metal was blowing up by this time, France didn't have anywhere near the success in spawning bands that crossed the ocean and achieved success that England, Germany, Norway, or Japan (different ocean, I know), did.  Were it not for some European metal friends of mine, I would likely not have heard of this band, either.

FISC is fairly representative of what was going on in Europe at the time.  In other words, the NWoBHM movement was in full swing, but the Germans...specifically Accept and the Scorpions...were still doing their thing, as well.  So...being stuck geographically in the middle, perhaps it should come as no surprise that FISC sounds suspiciously like a combination of the two styles, and their sound is not that dissimilar to those Euro bands that eventually morphed into a more trendy, pop metal (hair metal) direction. 

Tracker was, I am told, originally the second demo the band put out, but it was pressed as an actual album once the band signed with Mausoleum Records in 1983, which was not overly uncommon as labels looked to make quick and easy money by repackaging a product that was already recorded and ready to press.  Not judging at all, as that was the way the music business worked back then, and I'm sure bands made up of teens and early-twenties kids were more than willing to do what was needed to get themselves an actual record deal.  

Tracker starts off well with the full throttle rocker that is the title track, as well.  Featuring a gritty rhythm guitar and typically early 80s-sounding drums with lots of emphasis on the snare and far less concern with the big bombastic bass drums and cymbal crashes that would become so big in the late 80s arena scene, "Tracker" is a fast, aggressive rocker that many will find to be in that early Accept vein, albeit with lower register vocals.  Bechet, who also serves as the bassist for the band, actually proves to have a fairly large range later on on the album, but here he stays fairly controlled in the lower end of his voice, sounding a bit like Udo Dirkschneider...but far less German.  Guitar slinger, Alain Amie flashes a pretty cool solo here that really only hints at his considerable talent, and the album is off and running in nice form.

The best track on the record is up next, as I think "Danger" is a great NWoBHM sounding track, with aggressive rhythm guitars and some pretty rapid fire drumming, big, gang-shouted backing vocals, and some ripping lead guitar work from Amie.  Fans of bands like Diamond Head, Angel Witch, or even early Judas Priest, are going to find this track right up their musical alley.  The same can be said for the next track, the nearly as good, "Running With The Devil".  Not to be confused with Van Halen's song, FISC turns in another high speed rocker for most of the track, although there is a pretty cool section in the middle where the band slams on the breaks, the drums pull way back to just a simplistic rhythm, and Amie goes to town on a string-bender that shows a good deal of emotion, all before the band kicks back in at a nearly-thrash tempo, again reminiscent of those early Accept records that showcase so much speed at times.  Good stuff!

"Don't Dream Too Much" is FAR more laid back than the first three scorchers, although it is definitely not a ballad.  Think more of a mid-tempo Accept riff-rocker like "Head Over Heels".  The lead guitar work is again solid, with Amie even doing his best Eddie Van Halen impersonation with hammer-ons and some finger-tapping, and the gang vocals really work here (again, think of how Accept liked to use those gang shouts, such as in "London Leatherboys", for example).  I get the feeling FISC felt the need for more of a radio-stab after blazing through the first three cuts here, and "Don't Dream Too Much" is certainly that.

I was expecting "Sad Girl" to be a ballad, but it is actually anything but a ballad.  The band returns to a more speed-based sound here, although the lyrics to this track are rather simplistic and the chorus is out-and-out lame, which perhaps are the result of a French band performing entirely in English.  Bechet does unleash an eardrum-piercing scream in this track, and Amie again runs the frets on a pretty catchy solo, but the song, in general, is not overly memorable.

Following a woman's scream, "Midnight Killer" has a catchy rhythm guitar to start things off, and there is some twin guitar harmonizing going on that hints at Iron Maiden, but this is another relatively unremarkable track, falling into the filler category, but not something that makes the listener jump for the skip button.

"Hungry For Blood" has some more cool twin guitar riffing, and Bechet's bass is given more of a voice on this track.  Judas Priest is an obvious influence here, but I can also hear shades of early Krokus, as well.  There are some interesting effects used during a brief spoken voice section before Amie goes off on a fairly extended solo run that is backed by a galloping drum cadence.  Bechet's vocals threaten to get a bit out of control on the top end, but he manages to stay largely in tune, or at least close enough for metal.  "Hungry For Blood" is probably the best song on the second half of the album.

"Rock N Roll" starts off in rather plodding fashion before settling in as a rather mid-tempo rocker with one basic guitar riff, a couple of lead runs, and another bland chorus that is delivered with relatively little energy.  Its odd because lack of energy is not a problem on the rest of this record, so I don't know if the band was going for a "cool" sound here, or if this was a late addition in the recording session.  There is a nice Maiden-esque lead guitar section at about the 2:45 mark of the song, which then morphs into more of a Priest-like solo some 20 seconds into it.  There is also one of his faster solos to outro the song, which is really cool, as well.  Amie was obviously a rather talented guitar player, and even on a lesser track like this one, he shows some flair and style to his playing.  

The album closes with another lyrically-lacking song, "Teaser Woman", which I was concerned may end up coming closer to Spinal Tap as far as the lyrics go, than it actually does.  Musically, the band plays it pretty straight-forward here, again settling into a pretty typical Accept-meets-Maiden approach, with some more high-speed soloing from Amie and some pretty nifty bass work from Bechet, as well.  As was often the case with songs in the early 80s, when the band decided they were done, the song just ENDS, like it hits a brick wall, or something, which I was never a fan of.  All in all, not a horrible song, but again, just not that memorable.

FISC went on to release at least 4 more albums after this one between 1985 and 1989, and their later material, I am told, went in a more radio-friendly direction, although I have never heard any of them.  I just wasn't able to get copies of them back in the day, and prices for their releases now are a bit too high for me to just go on a nostalgia trip that basically no one else I know could go on with me.  I just didn't have many friends who were into the Euro metal bands like I was, with many only being exposed to NWoBHM through Metallica covers, early Accept, Iron Maiden, and Judas Priest records, or Def Leppard's first efforts.  

If you can find them, FISC is a fun listen if you are fans of this style, but they are not a band that was going to alter the musical landscape.  Easier to find on vinyl than on CD (beware of bootlegs, although I believe Axe Killer did reissue 1985s Breakout album), plan to pay between $25 and $45 for used copies.

By the way, I have heard that the track listing for this album on vinyl is different than it is on CD, which may be an indication of a bootlegger thinking the album flowed better by moving a track or two without having to worry about the time constraints of a two-sided vinyl record.  I have never personally had a vinyl copy of Tracker, so I can't confirm this...nor does it really matter to me.

Rating:  Not the best record out there, but certainly a nice time capsule of the metal scene of an under-represented country.  Rock Tracker at a  6.

LEAVES' EYES "Fires In The North" EP

(c)2016 AFM Records

  1. Fires In The North
  2. Fires In The North (acoustic)
  3. Edge Of Steel (2016 version)
  4. Sacred Vow (2016 version)
  5. Sword In Rock (2016 version)
Elina Siirala--Vocals
Alexander Krull--Vocals, Keys
Thorsten Bauer--Guitars, Bass
Pete Streit--Guitars
Joris Nijenhuis--Drums

I seem to be getting a lot of epic symphonic power metal for review lately, and Leaves' Eyes definitely falls into that category.  I know absolutely nothing about the band, but apparently Siirala is a new vocalist for the band, so to introduce her to their fan base, Leaves' Eyes decided to record one new song (actually two versions of a new song), and also have Siirala sing a couple of the band's older songs on this new EP, Fires In The North.

The new song here is the title track, "Fires In The North".  Musically, the band is not completely unlike most symphonic metal bands, to be honest.  Again, I am not overly well-versed in these types of bands, but there are a lot of big, sweeping guitar runs and huge drums here...including some very cool tribal-sounding drums at the opening of the song...much the same as I have found with bands like Rhapsody Of Fire, for example, who I do have some familiarity with.  What is different with Leaves' Eyes, however, is the juxtaposition between the clean, operatic vocal style of Siirala, and the harsh, gutteral, deathy vocals of Krull.  To hear Siirala utilize a powerful soprano vibrato for much of the verse, only to have Krull come snarling in underneath is quite a contrast in styles, and one that I was surprised to find myself enjoying quite a bit.  The theatrics that are created with this interplay are something I am definitely not accustomed to, but it is something that I feel I may need to explore a bit more.

The second track is an acoustic re-working of "Fires In The North", but the feel is quite a bit different.  Originally, I figured this version was simply to be used to showcase the strings that are used as supporting instruments on this track, and to give Siirala a cleaner musical environment to allow fans to get a better idea of what she is capable of.  However, after several listens, I find that I actually enjoy this version more than the "metal" version, probably because the supporting instrumentation and the group vocals here add a depth to the music not present in the beefier version.  Alexander's gruff vocals are limited to mostly some interjected shouts before the chorus sections, and Siirala tackles pretty much all of the remaining lead vocals herself, but the backing vocals are really enhancing to this presentation of the song, and there is a much more atmospheric feel to the song here, with the tribal percussion I mentioned earlier really coming through on this version.  

The last three tracks are all re-recordings, as is evidenced by the band labeling them as "2016 versions".  "Edge Of Steel" is probably my favorite here, as the rhythm guitar work is really solid here and sets an aggressive pace right from the start, and the drums keep a strong cadence throughout.  It sounds to my ear like there may be some bagpipes and other strings intermixed in the background, along with some supporting keys (I'm assuming from Krull), but I only have a digital review copy, so additional musicians are not listed in my notes.  Once again, Krull is an integral part of the overall sound with his harshly barked vocal lines, which really serve to enhance the beauty and power that Siirala brings to the track.  The other two remakes are solid as well, with "Sacred Vow" using some rather dynamic tempo changes to drive the song; in the faster sections, Nijenhuis powers the song through some high-speed double kick work, with Bauer rumbling right along with him on bass, with some nice string sections (again, uncredited) and big backing vocals scattered throughout the slower, more melodic portions of the song.  "Sword In Rock" starts off in a jig-like fashion, like I have heard Blind Guardian do before, and I imagine the Hobbits dancing around in Tolkein's "Return Of The King" movie.  It isn't long before the guitars and drums come crushing in, but Siirala continues to sing along in a vocal pattern that matches the jig intro, with Krull barking some power into portions of the verses.  Again, not knowing what to expect, I found myself rather enjoying this song.  

The bass seems to be a bit low in the mix for much of this EP, but not being an expert on this style of metal, perhaps that is by design.  It's there, but not as prominently as in other genres.  The guitars are powerful and huge, and the drums of Nijenhuis are a definite force to be reckoned with.  But it is the dynamics of Siirala and Krull that really set Leaves' Eyes apart from other bands of this ilk that I have encountered, and I am definitely impressed.  I am somewhat tempted to check out the back catalog of Leaves' Eyes to hear what the old vocalist sounded like, but I also don't want to ruin my current opinion of the band by comparing Siirala to the old vocalist, whom I have read is actually Krull's wife (ex-wife?  I don't know...), Liv Kristine.  Additionally, I have been told that long-time fans of the band are rather torn on this EP and the new singer, so I may wait until there is a proper full-length of new material with Siirala before I make a comparison of the two versions of the band.

As it stands, I found myself liking this EP quite a bit.  It's not world-changing for me, and I haven't become a big symphonic metal fan simply because of Fires In The North.  However, it does what I imagine the band intended for it to do: it has sparked my interest in the band and has made me curious about what the band has in store next.

Rating:  I'm going to crank this to 7 and wait to hear what the band comes up with next.