Thursday, December 29, 2011

TWISTED SISTER "A Twisted Christmas"



(c)2006 Razor & Tie

  1. Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas
  2. Oh Come All Ye Faithful
  3. White Christmas
  4. I'll Be Home For Christmas
  5. Silver Bells
  6. I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus
  7. Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow
  8. Deck The Halls
  9. The Christmas Song
  10. Heavy Metal Christmas
  11. Untitled
Dee Snider--Lead Vocals
JJ French--Guitar, Backing Vocals
Eddie Ojeda--Guitar, Backing Vocals
Mark "The Animal" Mendoza--Bass, Backing Vocals
A.J. Pero--Drums, Percussion

I have a hard time with Christmas albums that are recorded by established, as a general rule.  They come off as little more than a cash-grab and are usually not very good, not very original, and not worth the time.  When I saw that Twisted Sister, a band which I have always loved, was putting out a Christmas album, I was greatly concerned, to put it lightly.  After fighting back some stomach problems, serious eye-rolling, and at least one anxiety attack, I picked the disc up and took it home.

I have to admit, I'm pretty glad I did.

Twisted Sister does not sacrifice who they are on this Christmas album in any way, shape, or form.  In fact, if you don't recognize the more than passing resemblence of "Oh Come All Ye Faithful" to "We're Not Gonna Take It", you either aren't a Twisted Sister fan or you are so oblivious to music I don't really know why you are reading this review.  There is also a very similar riff in "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" to the Judas Priest classic, "You've Got Another Thing Coming".  Both tracks rock very hard, especially when you remember they are Christmas tunes, and there are not a lot of little old ladies in nursing homes who are gonna slap this disc into their player to warm the hearts of their fellow residents around the holidays!  "Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow" is another furious rocking number the way TS performs it, even with the jingle bells that are tossed in for good measure.  "Deck The Halls" has a big, gang-shouted "fa la la la la" chorus and a ripping guitar solo, and the traditional "Twelve Days of Christmas" is given a Twisted make-over and is turned into the "Heavy Metal Christmas" song with some pretty funny lyrics, although I am sure many purists will not find the humor in them that I do.  I even found myself liking the power ballad-esque "i'll Be Home For Christmas" featuring a duet with Lita Ford.  Musically, this song once again hearkens back to a Twisted classic, feeling very much like "The Price" at times, especially on the intro.  Ford's voice is rather strong here, and is in much better form than she would be later on her God-awful Wicked Wonderland comeback album (more on that in another review...).

Not everything works overly well, which I suppose is to be expected.  Album opener "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" had me VERY worried when I heard it, as it doesn't rock at all and sounds like a bad lounge act performance for the first minute or so.  It does kick in a bit after that, although it would have been better being buried lower on the tracklisting, but that intro had me shivering and shaking and I wasn't out in the cold.    "The Christmas Song" (better known to some as "Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire") is okay, but not great as it is just too slow for the most part. 

The album closes with what sounds to me like a radio drop-in for the holidays with people chanting "we wish you a Twisted Christmas and a Twisted New Year".

As far as pure Christmas albums go, most people are not going to like this a whole lot.  As far as a great hard rock album, most people are not going to be able to do much with it.  As far as a great hard rock Christmas album, I think Twisted Sister has managed to record one of the best out there, although Trans-Siberian Orchestra has NOTHING to worry about!

Rating:  Why rate it?  It's a Christmas album!  Just get it and enjoy it annually!

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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

ROXX "Diamonds & Rust"




(c) 2002 Perris Records

  1. Breakdown
  2. Better Off Dead
  3. Too Little Too Late
  4. Rockin' The City
  5. Lickity Split
  6. Rock Stead
  7. Puss N Boots
  8. Hot Sweet
  9. A Girl Like You
  10. Ruff Stuff
  11. Deep In The Night
  12. Kidz Rock
  13. For You
George "Roxi" Hall--Lead Vocals
Fanky Novello--Guitar, Vocals
Marko Soccoli--Drums, Samples, Vocals
Mark Skovran--Bass, Vocals
Randy Ferri--Guitars, Vocals

Roxx is another one of those "woulda, coulda, shoulda" bands from the 1980's that not a lot of people have hear of unless they were living the scene at the time.  However, despite their looks and sound, the scene for Roxx was New York City rather than Hollywood.  These guys referred to their music as "bump and grind sex rock" and listed Aerosmith and KISS as their major influences, although neither plays prominently in the sound of the band.  (The band did take their name, Roxx, from the Aersomith album Rocks, although obviously with a re-spelling.)  I would say their sound is more akin to early Motley Crue (Too Fast For Love-era) blended with bits and pieces of Faster Pussycat and Ratt, mixing equal parts sleaze and glam to their sound, similar to a band like Kix, whose album Midnight Dynamite record is referred to as "the soundtrack of our lives..". 

This disc is comprised of demos that were recorded between 1985 and 1989, and while the majority of the songs are very good, the sound quality varies with the source it was taken from.  This is too bad, as a couple of tracks REALLY suffer in the quality department.  It would have been great to see Perris really step up and sink some money into properly remastering all of these songs and perhaps working a bit longer to find better source material.  Regardless, this collection has several high points along with a handful of lows as far as the songs themselves go.

Before getting directly into the songs, one thing of note here is the talent of the drummer, Marko Soccoli.  This guy was a machine gun behind the kit, pulling off some blistering fills and smoking double bass kicks that many thrash metal drummers only wish they could manage.  I was seriously awed by his skill from the very first time I put this album in, and right from track one, "Breakdown", his skills are on display.  Speaking of "Breakdown", this is an excellent example of this band's talent, as this is one smoking song, kicking off with a sampled motorcycle engine and ripping immediatley into a ferocious guitar riff.  It is on songs like this that the raw sounds of early Motley Crue really come to mind.  The follow-up, "Better Off Dead" is a bit more melodic, a bit more "hairy" in sound, but it is still a really good song that just reeks of 1986 or 1987, with Roxi sounding to me like a mixture of CJ Snare from Firehouse and Taime Downe from Faster Pussycat.  "Too Little Too Late" slips even further into radio-ready melodic territory, especially on the backing vocals which remind me of Enuff Z'Nuff as much as anyone.  "Rockin' The City" has some odd guitar effects being used on it, but is a more high-energy, sleazier feeling song. which is where the band is at their best.  This, however, is an example of a track that suffers a bit due to the tape source, as it is a bit hollow sounding and the mix is just a bit weak. 

"Lickity Split" is a song that took me a few listens to before I could say I appreciated it at all.  It has a definite boogie-woogie feel to the music and I can see women in poodle skirts dancing with guys in leather jackets, t-shirts and jeans, a la Grease, especially when the horn section and do-wop sounding backing vocals flare up in the chorus.  I still can't say I LOVE the song, and I have a hard time imagining the band pulling this song off live, but I think it would have been a fun filler track on a studio album and it is perfomed pretty well. 

"Rock Steady" gets things back on track and features some nice bass work by Novello.  "Puss N Boots" is another song that obviously comes from a bit weaker source tape, but is another good song with Roxi really sounding like Vince Neil here, especially on his screams.  The way the lyrics are strung together also is very reminiscent of early Crue for me. 

From this point on, the CD loses a bit of interest for me, as I am almost positive that the next four songs are very early material that is nowhere near the songwriting quality as the first half of the disc.  For example, "Hot Sweet", which is another song with serious Vince Neil/Motley Crue sounds to it, has some pretty dumb lyrics and no real hook.  Therehere is also some slight tape warble about 1:20 into the track, which is a bit distracting.  "A Girl Like You" isn't terrible but would never be categorized as anything more than filler.  It comes off like a masterpiece, however, compared to "Ruff Stuff".."Ruff Stuff" is just about unlistenable, to be honest, with a FULL MINUTE LONG spoken intro and a very garage sounding recording with a "chugga-chugga-chugga" rhythm that goes nowhere.  I'm betting this is an early song for the band because it is not at all representative of the best stuff Roxx put out.  Additionally, there is again some tape wear problems on the source tape and you can literally hear the song fade in and out as far as sound quality goes.  Total skip material here.  "Deep In The Night" gets things headed back in the right direction, although again I am guessing this is an earlier effort as it is not as catchy as the first 6 or 7 tracks are.  The band was obviously experimenting with reverb and echo on the vocal tracks which is a tad bit annoying but it doesn't ruin the song. 

"Kidz Rock" is the glammiest sounding track on the disc, but it is a really good effort until about 2:40 in the song when Roxi tries to do some spoke riffing over the looped chorus.  It's not that the spoken part is bad, it's just mixed so out front it is slightly distorted and sounds like it was added as an afterthought.  The track would have benefitted from this part being left off.

"For You" closes things out and is the band's only attempt at a ballad, although I am not sure ballad is the right term.  We have some keyboards of some sort being played and Roxi singing, but nothing else...no drums, no bass, no guitars.  It's a really odd song and I'm glad it's at the end as I skip it every time unless I just have the CD in a mix or on in the background.      

The packaging is made up of two pages of band history written by bass player Franky Novello, and several pictures of flyers, ticket stubs, a band promo picture, and what appears to be a drum endorsement photo for Soccoli (which I could totally believe...the dude is WICKED on the skins!), and is generally well done.  There are individual head shots of the band members on the back and a full band shot under the clear disc tray.  No lyrics are included.  The website, www.roxxnyc.com, that is listed in the notes appears to be a dead link, and very little can be found on-line about this band, it seems.

Overall, this is about a 60/40 mix of really good to great music mixed with not-so-good to downright awful.  That being said, it is a nice collection that really shows a band that held a lot of promise but one that perhaps would have benefitted from not being so  stubborn and maybe trying to hit the Hollywood scene (Novello admits in the liner notes that the band was determined to make it in New York and not California.  Wrong choice perhaps...)

Rating:  Very hit and miss at times, so overall I would rock this at 6.5.  Still worth checking into if you can find it at a good price as the good parts outweigh the bad.

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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

ROXY BLUE "Want Some?"




(c) 1992 Geffen Records

  1. Too Hot To Handle
  2. Sister Sister
  3. Times Are Changin'
  4. It's So Easy
  5. Rob The Cradle
  6. Squeeze Box
  7. Talk Of The Town
  8. Rock-A-Bye Baby
  9. Luv On Me
  10. Nobody Knows
  11. Love's Got A Hold On Me
  12. Main Attraction
Todd Poole--Lead and Backing Vocals, Acoustic Guitar
Sid "Boogie" Fletcher--Electric and Acoustic Guitars, Backing Vocals
Scotty T--Drums, Percussion, Backing Vocals
Josh Weil--Bass, Backing Vocals

I'm not sure if Geffen wasn't paying attention or what, but by 1992 bands like Roxy Blue were essentially dead and gone.  I mean, all they had to do was look at their own label to see the havok that Nirvana was releasing upon the hard rock and hair metal world.  That being said, I am extremely glad they put out this album because it is truly one of the best pure hair metal albums of the early 90's, without a trace of attempted alternative or grunge crossover to be found.  From the hairstyles to the clothing to the interior pictures...oh, and of course the music...Roxy Blue is just about the quintessential hair metal band, and I dare say they would have been HUGE if they had been around about 5 years earlier.  This album is simply that good.

Now, I'm not going to tell you this is the best album ever made...just that it is a very good album most people have never heard.  For some reason, every time I put this CD in, I am swept away to summer, as that is the fun vibe I get from the songs here.  Overall, the musical performances are really good, even when the lyrics are a bit simplistic, such as is the case with songs like "Sister, Sister" with it's oh-so-deep chorus of "Sister...let me show you around, Sister...let me take you down".  Fletcher is a very good guitar player with some cool solos, especially the intro to "Rob The Cradle", which is obviously this band's take on Van Halen's "Hot For Teacher" in terms of style, attitude, and the bouncy rhythm contained within. 

Most of the songs are uptempo and range from the very good to the excellent.  Even the cover of Pete Townshend's "Squeezebox" is pulled off with a flair and attitude that many other cover versions seem to be lacking, and Fletcher rips off a tasty, if too short, solo in the middle.  "Rob The Cradle", as mentioned before, is chock full of swagger and I think David Lee Roth would be proud with the way this song is pulled off.  I am in no way saying it is a ripoff of "Hot For Teacher"...that's just the vibe I get from it.   "Talk Of The Town", "Too Hot To Handle", and "Love's Got A Hold On Me" are all very solid rockers that would have been a blast to hear in concert, I am sure.  "Main Attraction" closes the disc in excellent rocking fashion as well.  The required power ballads are here, also, with "Times Are Changin'" and "Luv On Me" both actually being more down-tempo songs than true ballads, but they were also both radio-worthy if this had been 1988 and not 1992.  Both of these tracks, along with "Rob The Cradle", were released as videos, but the boys from Memphis, Tennessee were simply too late to make a splash and disappeared after this album.



I keep trying to think of who lead singer Poole reminds me of, but the best I can come up with is Bret Michaels' delivery style sung in a bit lower register.  The backing vocals are excellent and remind me of the more radio-friendly, poppier backing vocals of Nelson, Trixter, and bands of the really melodic style.  This is owed, I am sure, largely to the fact that Mike Clink produced the record, and big backing vocals were his thing at that time.  The production is excellent throughout the album and the mix is nearly flawless, with no one instrument burying another.  Even the bass is prominent throughout, which was not always the case with hard rock and hair metal, especially in the early 90's as many bands seemed to try to differentiate themselves from the downtuned depressing sound of grunge.

The packaging is very simplistic, with no lyrics, which is always a bummer for me.  There is one band photo on the four page fold-out insert, and a large thank you section, but nothing other than that.  Minor details, I know, but I also know some people really care about that kind of thing...

I have seen this album fetch as much as $40 on eBay, probably because I am guessing there was a rather small print run on this disc due to lower than hoped for sales.  If you look around, you can find it for $20-25 most of the time, and occasionally it pops up quite a bit lower, at least for the starting bids.  If you can find it in a CD shop for under $20, I would definitely snap it up...it is well worth it.

Rating:  Crank this fairly hard to find gem in the rough to a very solid 8!

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Saturday, December 17, 2011

BERETTA JANE "On With The Show EP"




(c) 2007 Maydan Entertainment
 

  1. Shot Down On Sunday
  2. C'mon N Feel It
  3. Let Me Go
  4. Angel Got A Beretta
  5. So Good
  6. One More Night
Mickey Valentine--Lead Vocals
Evan Via--Lead Guitar, Vocals
Danny Mays--Bass, Vocals
Brent Allen--Guitar, Vocals
Rooobyn--Drums

Beretta Jane's 6-track EP On With The Show is a little disc that just feels like you have heard it before somewhere.  This is not a band that is trying to relive the sleazy Sunset Strip days...their music feels like they are actually there!  There is a certain comfort factor with this release that is almost tangible, like you can touch, taste...maybe even smell...the grime and grease and grit that the bands of Hollywood's underbelly were putting up on stage night after night.  In short, this is one excellent effort!

From note one, Beretta Jane treats the listener to some of the best American sleaze in quite a few years, at least in my opinion.  This EP fits right in with the style and sound of Guns N Roses, LA Guns, Faster Pussycat, and all the best sleaze rockers of the late 80's and early 90's.  This is not hair metal, folks...this is pure sleaze, from the slimy guitar tones to the scratchy, snarly vocals.  In fact, on the first track, "Shot Down On Sunday", the band sounds a LOT like the music of GnR with Taime Downe on lead vocals and in a very bad mood.  The follow-up, "C'mon N Feel It", for a very brief second, makes me think of Golden Earring's "Radar Love" with the drum rhythm at the very beginning, but this feeling is quickly shoved aside as the guys rip into another sleazy romp in an ode to essentially rocking a venue to the ground, drinking all the booze in the joint, and picking up on the sexiest, sleaziest chicks they can find.  There is a quaint little slow-down spot in the middle of this track that then morphs into a tight little solo, courtesy of mister Via, before rocking back up to full speed again.  "Let Me Go" is an interesting track, complete with barroom piano, some acoustic-type percussion, and a jangly rhythm that, again, reminds me of some of the stuff Faster Pussycat tried on their very first album when they infused just a bit of soul into their sleaze.  While definitely not a slow track, it does provide a bit of a break before the sull-bore attack of "Angel Got A Beretta" kicks in.  This song has the most modern sound of all the tracks, but don't take that to mean that the band changes styles at all, as this is still pure sleaze; the production is just a bit slicker than on most of the other songs here.  Still a solid track that has one of the best guitar solos here.  "So Good" has an almost funky feel to it, infusing a bit of a 70's classic rock feel to the sleaze they otherwise offer up on this EP.   Things close out with the slow rocker, "One More Night".  This song is the one where the band breaks formula just a bit and sounds a bit like Tesla, which is still really cool.  A good way to round out a very solid effort from start to finish.

The band is extremely tight throughout the disc, belying their relatively short existance at the time of recording.  Unfortunately, from what I understand, Mickey Valentine has left the band and I am not sure if Beretta Jane has continued on or not.  If not, this is a fine representation of what the band had to offer and is well worth tracking down if you can find it.  Soulful at times, sleazy nearly all of the time, and filled with catchy guitar hooks and short but skillful solos, On With The Show is a tasty little piece of modern sleaze that feels like it was born in 1989 instead of 2007.         

Rating:  Crank this to a sleazy 8.

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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

BLACK RAIN "A Lethal Dose Of..."




(c) 2011 SPV


Disc One
  1. Get A Gun
  2. I Need My Doctor
  3. Dead Boy
  4. She's In Love
  5. Baby Shot Me Down
  6. Overloaded
  7. Burn N' Die
  8. Heart Screams
  9. Into The Groove
  10. Addicted To Failure
  11. Rock N' Jive
  12. My Young Star
  13. Shining Down On You
  14. Rock Your City
Disc Two
  1. Get A Gun (Live)
  2. Nasty (Live)
  3. Innocent Rosie (Live)
  4. Overloaded (Live)
  5. I Need My Doctor (Live)
  6. Rock Your City (Live)
  7. Shining Down On You (Alternate Version)
  8. Baby Shot Me Down (Alternate Version)
Swan--Vocals
Max 2--Guitars
Heinrich--Bass
Iann Lewis--Drums

Black Rain is a band that is one of the very few true contenders for the throne of CrashDiet as far as the torch-bearers of the new generation of glam/sleaze bands.  These for French musicians have released an album that sounds like it was found on the streets of Hollywood in 1986 and then re-mixed and re-mastered using 2011 technology.  A Lethal Dose Of... is nearly as good as CrashDiet's Generation Wild, but it is about two songs too long, in my opinion.  More on that in a minute.

Things start off with "Get A Gun" which leads in with some great gang shouts only to be cut off by a gunblast and then some gunfire like drums that get things rolling in a big way.  This is an awesome way to kick off the album and it is immediately apparent that as good as the band sounded on 2009's License To Thrill disc, they are out to top themselves in every way.  Despite a somewhat simplistic chorus of "Get a gun, shoot them down, get a gun kill them all, get a gun mother f**ker, get a gun, shoot them down", this is a generally strong song filled with a lot of attitude and Swan's high-pitched, glammish vocals over a sleazy musical track.  Awesome stuff, to be sure!

"I Need My Doctor" is another great song with a nice throwback vibe that really works well and keeps things rolling along.  However by track three we run into one of the tracks I think could have been eliminated.  "Dead Boy", while not a terrible song, does not fit the rest of the disc and sounds a lot more modern in its musical approach.  It kind of reminds me of the odd turn that Faster Pussycat has taken in recent years, incorporating a techno/electronic vibe into what should be a sleazy song.  It really comes out of left field, because things get right back to normal with "She's In Love", another little rocker with a nice rhythm and a simplistic, yet catchy chorus and a very strong guitar solo from Max 2 a little over halfway through the track.    "Overloaded" keeps the party going full-speed ahead, and "Burn N' Die" kicks things into hyperdrive on this punked-up sleaze romp that just drips with spit and snarl.  "Into The Groove" has a similar punkish-charm to the guitar parts, but the verses have something of a poppy quality to them that might have some people thinking of Reckless Love, another killer band that has really broken out in the past year or so.  "My Young Star" is a mid-tempo song that has a nice groove to it and a catchy hook and "Addicted To Failure" is another attitude-infused rocker that really exemplifies the sound of this excellent band.  In fact, it is songs like this that leave me wondering how it is that this band doesn't get more exposure in the scene because they are just incredibly talented and should appeal to both glam and sleaze fans in equal doses as they are not afraid to cross the fine line that separates the two sub-genres. 

"Rock N' Jive" is the other song that I don't really think fits.  Swan uses some odd effects on his vocals on this track and he never really unleashes that siren-like scream that he is known for and has become a huge part of the sound of Black Rain.  Much like I said about "Dead Boy" before, I don't think this is an out and out terrible song, it just doesn't feel like Black Rain in general and doesn't fit this album in particular. 

The only "slow" moment on this disc is "Shining Down On You", and I wouldn't necessarily call it a ballad.  Its more of a slow rocker, if that makes sense, as this isn't some cozy-up to your cutie power ballad by any means.  The disc then closes in fine fashion with "Rock Your City", another high-intensity rocker with a pulsating bass line and some scorching guitar work right from the get-go.  Swan actually takes his seemingly helium-induced vocals down just a slight notch on the verses of this track, but re-inflates them when the chorus hits.  This is a great way to wrap up an absolutely smoking disc that really only has a couple of minor hiccups along the way.

On the expanded edition of this album, the second disc includes several live cuts and a couple of alternate takes from the main album.  "Get A Gun" shows that this is a very tight band, even in a live setting, and really showcases Swan's ability to pull off his vocals in front of a crowd.  I kept waiting throughout the live tracks for his voice to crach or fall out of register somewhere, but it never did, which is pretty incredible, really.  Live versions of "N.A.S.T.Y." and my personal favorite Black Rain song, "Innocent Rosie" really sound strong here.  The alternate takes of "Shining Down On You" and "Baby Shot Me Down" are good but not so different that I think they really warranted inclusion here unless it was simply to increase the lenght of the bonus disc.

Look, if you are seeking out another KILLER glam/sleaze band from the European scene, I would not recommend anyone, except possibly CrashDiet, more than I would recommend Black Rain.  These guys just get stronger with each release and they definitely have a firm grasp on the style and sound that they are seeking to recreate.  They have a definite love for the Sunset Strip sound and they go to great lengths to successfully recreate it without sounding like a clone of anyone.  Pick up A Lethal Dose... as soon as you can, and also look for License To Thrill and even the Innocent Rosie EP while you are at it!

Rating:  Crank this to an ear-bleeding 9!

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Sunday, December 11, 2011

TRYX "DAYZ GONE BY"




(c) 2011 Demon Doll Records

  1. She's So Fine
  2. Don't Want To Know Your Name
  3. Sugar Sugar
  4. Don't You Need It
  5. Cross My Heart
  6. Hold On
  7. You've Got A Lot To Learn About Love
  8. Only For The Summer
  9. Whatever Happened To Tomorrow
  10. Do You Think About Me
  11. She's So Fine (music video)
Jessie Star--Vocals
Roxy Deveaux--Guitars
Tracy Dahne--Bass
Cody Marks--Drums

Glam fans, listen up.  One of the most over-the-top glam bands to never sign a record contract, Tryx finally has (some) of their music officially released on this nice little collection from Demon Doll Records.  Sometimes referred to as the "Purple, Red, Pink and Blue Crew", Tryx likely suffered from a visual image problem more than they did a musical image problem as these four guys were so out there with their look (check the hair in the cover photo) and style that I sometimes wonder if that is what turned record labels off.  Originally from Floriday, by all accounts, Tryx was one of the top-drawing acts on the Sunset Strip in the late 80's and very early 90's and managed to record 3 demos and an EP before deciding to go their separate ways after years of frustration.  I am very glad to finally get to see and hear an official release because I can tell you that this band's music is some of the hardest to find (at least with decent audio) and most widely sought after in the demo trading markets that I have frequented with some regularity.

For those not familiar with the scene, or the differences in styles, the glam sound that Tryx encorporated has very little in common with what a lot of people call "glam", i.e. bands like early Poison or Warrant.  Tryx is FAR poppier in approach than either of those bands and have virtually none of the hair metal sound that Poison and Warrant both incorporated.  Tryx has more in common with bands like The Sweet, T. Rex, and Slade.  This is especially apparent in songs like "She's So Fine" which bounces along with a slightly upgraded 1970's glam rhythm.  Another example is the somewhat odd cover choice of the 1969 Archies hit, "Sugar Sugar" which keeps a lot of it's late 60's charm but is juiced up just enough to bring it to the Strip.  The band's big ballad, "Hold On" would never be classified as a power ballad or Monster ballad as it is far too sugary to have likely ever garnered even Top 40 radio airplay, let alone rock radio airtime.  This is not to say that these songs are not good or don't hold a certain charm to them, but I don't want readers of this review to think they are getting a band that sounds like Firehouse or Winger or some of these other bands that are frequently mis-labeled as glam.  Think Bang Gang and not Bangalore Choir when comparing the Tryx glam sound to what some people call glam.    

The "raw, unmixed" tracks included here have a definite demo-quality sound to them of varying quality.  The rocking "You've Got A Lot To Learn About Love" doesn't really sound any different than "Sugar Sugar" or "Hold On".  On the flip side, "Only For The Summer" has a VERY garage recording quality to it, which is too bad because this mid-70's mid-tempo groover is one of the best songs the band recorded.  "Whatever Happened To Tomorrow" is so raw here that it is practically unlistenable, to be frank, and I can guarantee I would skip it every time it came on just because of the poor quality.  It is cool to hear the song, however, if you have never had the chance, and it gives the listener yet another glimpse into the overall sound of this band.   What makes it VERY frustrating to hear "Summer" and "Tomorrow" is the fact that I personally have better sounding versions of both of these songs than what Demon Doll used on this compilation.  I think Demon Doll would have been better served to have done some more snooping and digging before committing these particular versions to CD.
The video is a neat little inclusion using old concert footage interspersed with some computer graphics and shots of an obviously more recently recorded young lady dancing in her lingere to "She's So Fine".   The live footage is what really makes this and I wish they would have left the other stuff out.  It is easy to see from the video that these guys put a lot into their look and performances, and I think it would be cool to dig up some more concert footage if it is of good quality.  Am I going to watch this little video dozens and dozens of times?  Not at all, but again, for people who are new to the band, this is a good way to not only hear, but also to see, what this band was about.

Obviously, this CD does not leave me without at least some frustration.  I have collected 22 different Tryx songs through the years, with 18 of them being studio recordings of various quality, with the other four songs being live versions.  I'm not sure why Demon Doll didn't do a complete two-disc career retrospective, which I think would have made for a KILLER collection!  Also, I am a bit confused about the origin of some of these songs, as Demon Doll stated in their press release that the first seven songs on Dayz Gone By were released between '87 and '89, but all these songs were just demo recordings as far as I know...and none were on the 1991 High Stakes EP.  I don't know if this was merely an oversight or if the High Stakes EP was never an officially released album.  Maybe we will never know unless there is another Tryx CD released by Demon Doll or someone else in the future. 

Still, main issue with this package is one that I have had with Demon Doll releases in the past:  the remastering quality.  While Demon Doll claims to have digitally remastered the first seven tracks here, but I have to say that if that is true it is one of the weakest remaster jobs I have heard in quite some time.  The sound on some of these songs is still very tinny in places with very little in the way of bottom end.  The drums sound a bit hollow, especially on a song like "Cross My Heart", although even this sound is a couple of steps up from most of the demo copies I have heard out there.  "Sugar Sugar" also has majorly hollow-sounding drums in the recording. Now, not all songs suffer from these problems.  For example, the tape warble that is commonly heard on "Don't Want To Know Your Name" has been erased, so that is a great improvement, and this song actually has a bit of bump to it, so I know that there was some work done to at least a few tracks.  Perhaps it is a problem of limitations from the original source, but I have heard better remasters from far worse source tapes than those that I know are available from Tryx, so I come away feeling like this was a bit of a rushed or budgetarily-restricted effort on the part of Demon Doll.    

All in all, this is a great introduction to the band for fans of the glam scene of the Sunset Strip.  It is really nice to hear some of these songs, especially "Sugar Sugar" and "Cross My Heart" at least somewhat cleaned up from the demo recordings I had already tracked down.  It's also cool that guitar player Roxy Leveaux officially endorsed the project, adding still a bit more authenticity to the project despite the fact that all of these songs are at least 20 years old.  Here's hoping we get a chance to hear the rest of the catalog, with an even better remastering job done, in the not-too-distant future.

Rating:  Due to the less-than-stellar remastering job, I can't give this more than a rocking 6.5, but these songs are a glamsters dream and serious glam fans should track this disc down before it sells out.

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MYSTICA GIRLS "Metal Rose"



(c) 2011 Independent Release

  1. My Dinner
  2. Rabia
  3. Mi Sangre
  4. Metal Rose
  5. Torura
  6. Diluvio
Sofia Renie--Vocals, Violin
Cinthya Blackcat--Guitars
Red Jane--Bass
Alice--Drums

This four piece, all-girl band is from Mexico and features a rather interesting line-up which includes a violin.  That's right...a metal violin!  Previously, the band was simply called Mystica but changed their name to Mystica Girls for some reason (is there a Mystica Boys, also?).  I'm not 100% sure how this CD ended up in my hands as it is not a glam/sleaze/hair metal band at all, although I would imagine the album cover would lead someone to that assumption, as all of these very attractive ladies are dressed in their best Vixen-meets-Posion-meets-LA Guns attire.  However, when you listen to the music, these four ladies are pretty much straight-ahead classic/power metal with some thrash tendencies (especially in the drumming department), with very little in the way of glam to their sound.  That does not mean these songs are unlistenable by any means, as the music is very well-executed for the most part...they just aren't what I normally listen to. 

Musically, the performances are excellent.  The guitarist, Blackcat, is an amazing performer and you can find her doing a lot of power metal covers if you look her up on YouTube (I have tracked down covers of Rhapsody, Stratovarius, and, of all people, Joe Satriani).  The girl can flat out shred when she wants to and her solos and rhythm playing are some of the hightlights of each of these six tracks, with her work on the title track being exceptionally powerful.  The same holds true of her very melodic solo on "Tortura"  Alice, the drummer, is also extremely talented and shows this talent witha lot of thrash-styled double-thumping on her drums that would leave a LOT of her male drumming counterparts in the dust!  This is especially evident on songs like "Mi Sangre" where she just goes full-throttle for the majority of the song.  Incidentally, Red Jane shows off her bass chops on a little mini-solo in this track as well, and she takes the lead on the intro the previously mentioned "Tortura" and on disc-closer "Diluvio".

The choice to include the violin as an instrument in this style of metal is interesting.  This is not the gothic-styled hard rock or metal that one normally associates with the use of strings.  I am not completely sold on the use of the violin here, as in a couple of places it doesn't seem to be playing in the same key as the rest of the music and the tone is, well, a bit annoying.  The mournful tone that is used in "Diluvio" is fine and adds to the somewhat haunting feeling of the track, but on "Mi Sangre" in particular, the instrument takes on a kind of "yowling cat" sound.  Perhaps I am just not accustomed to the use of the violin in metal and maybe this will grow on me with repeated listens. 

The same can be said of Sofia's vocals.  I am generally not a fan of female vocals and Sofia doesn't do a lot to change that opinion, although she does have some power to her pipes.  What bugs me the most is that she employs a vibrato that just grates on me in a couple of places and, while she seems to be really emphasizing emotion in her vocals, I have no clue what she is saying, as four of the six songs are sung in Spanish and I don't understand a single word that is being said!  Sadly, to me, that is something of a deal breaker as I really like to know what is being said the majority of the time, as I think it adds a lot to the songs. 

All in all, this is not a bad effort at all, and I think my friends who are more into power/thrash metal and straight-up classic metal would likely enjoy it if they can get past the female vocals and the Spanish language barrier.  I have no idea how many albums this band has released, but Metal Rose is a decent little effort that is worth picking up if it is not too expensive as an import.

Rating:  Rock this at a 6 overall, with some definite 9 or 10 moments on individual instruments.  These ladies can flat out rock!

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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

PAISTY JENNY "Head In A Haze"



(c) 2011 Direct Hit Records

  1. Anything
  2. Back of Your Hand
  3. Hypocrisy
  4. Head in a Haze
  5. Sad Songs
  6. My Way Home
2011 may be the year of the EP, at least for me, as it seems I have reviewed more new EP's than full-length discs.  Of course, that isn't completely accurate, but it sure seems that way.  This might not necessarily be a bad thing because just about every EP I have reviewed so far has been a very solid effort and well worth picking up, in my opinion.  Does the new EP from Paisty Jenny continue that trend?

Absolutely...

Hailing from Lincoln, NE...and proving there is more to Nebraska than corn and college football...Paisty Jenny has been around for a few years now, having released a total of four albums now.  As their website (www.paistyjenny.com) states, their style and sound has been described as "arena rock with a modern edge of influences that put them in with bands like Shinedown, Hinder, and Puddle of Mudd".  I don't know about the first or last names on that list, as there is a definite sleaze factor incorporated into the sound of Paisty Jenny that simply is not found in Shinedown or Puddle of Mudd.  However, there is a DEFINITE connection with a band such as Hinder which takes a good chunk of the 80's and incorporates modern production and guitar tones to come up with what I like to simply call modern American hard rock.  

This mini-album starts off rocking and really doesn't let up for the next 21 minutes or so.  It is, however, an effort of two halves, with the first half being more of the modern sound, while the second half goes a bit more "retro", if you will.  There is not a pure ballad to be found on this disc, and there is only one even remotely slower song on the disc, with the majority of the music bouncing between mid-tempo and full-speed ahead.  Album opener "Anything" is one of the more uptempo numbers here, and is also one of the most modern feeling songs on the disc, definitely employing a kinship with Hinder, Underride, The Last Vegas, and their ilk.   "Back Of Your Hand", while still employing a modern feel, is a bit more mid-tempo in feel and sports a very good guitar solo from Mr. Liberty.  "Hypocrisy" is the hardest rocker on the album, complete with gang-shouted "hey's" leading into the chorus, and also sporting a mean guitar solo once again. 

The second half of the disc is the more retro-feeling half of the album, and this is where Paisty Jenny really shines, in my opinion.  "Head In A Haze" is another full-steam-ahead rocker extolling the life of a hard-rocking band trying to remember "what the hell she did backstage".  Sure, it's a bit cliched, but it is on a song like this that Paisty Jenny really flashes their throwback badges and drops the sludge into their sound, coming off a lot like an updated version of Bach-fronted Skid Row.  Yet again, Liberty smokes his way through a very strong solo on this track and the band comes across as being very well acquainted with each other's strengths.  "Sad Songs" is another uptempo rocker that, while solid, is not my favorite moment on the EP.  The album's closer, "My Way Home", is the most melodic effort on the release and the slowest momet as well, although it is still not a ballad by any stretch.  This is an excellent closer to a really solid effort and leaves the listener wishing that there were another three or four tracks to follow.  This is both a good and bad thing, as while it closes things out nicely, it also really makes me wish the band had come up with another song or two to put out a full length disc.     

One major step the band has taken to really help their sound is the recruitment of Michael Beck as the producer and Brad Vance to do the mastering work here.  Beck has worked with a wide range of talent from Badlands and Marilyn Manson to Ke$ha and Soilwork, and Vance has twisted knobs and adjusted sliders for such well-known acts as Plain White T's and All That Remains. 

The packaging is relatively simple and is, yes, a digipack, but to make things worse, it's a SLIPSLEEVE digipack, which I hate more than just about anything!  There are no lyrics included, nor are there any solo breakdown listings, so I am not 100% sure of who is playing each of the solos on these songs, so I have to assume Liberty is behind most of them, although  I can tell you that Lee did a good deal of the guitar work in a live setting.  I hope that these guys get the opportunity to hook up with a bigger label at some point, as I think Paisty Jenny could really benefit from more exposure to a wider audience.  There is no reason that these guys shouldn't be getting airplay alongside of bands like Saving Abel and Breaking Benjamin (both of whom they have opened for), or even the Hinders and Shinedowns of the modern hard rock world.

I happened to be at the release party of Head In A Haze a couple of weeks ago and was able to hear most of these songs live, which was pretty cool; I already had a good idea of where this review was headed before I actually took the wrapper off my disc.  The songs live stay pretty true to their recorded performances, so if you pick this latest effort up and enjoy it, be sure to try to catch a live show if you get the chance.  Odds are you will enjoy "getting paisted" with Paisty Jenny. 

Rating:  Crank this to 7.5...and seek out their older material as well.

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Monday, December 5, 2011

BIG GUNS "On Dangerous Ground"





(c) 1994 Zero Corporation

  1. Living It Up
  2. I Live A Dream
  3. Live & Learn
  4. Mistreated
  5. Love Gets In The Way
  6. Heart & Soul
  7. Picking Up The Pieces
  8. Let's Get Crazy
  9. City Lights
  10. Slipping Away
Ian Taylor--Lead Vocals
Neil Brockelbank--Guitars, Backing Vocals
Wayne Lawson--Guitars, Keyboards, Backing Vocals
John Ward--Bass, Backing Vocals
Robin Ward--Drums, Backing Vocals

When grunge hit the United States, the music many of us loved didn't necessarily die...in many cases it just moved east.  Far East.  As in Japan.  By all accounts, the depressing, downtuned, fuzzy tones of grunge did absolutely nothing in the hair-loving, melodic metal haven of Japan, and so a lot of bands saw this area as a chance to keep doing what they enjoyed and making the music they loved.  Mr. Big, for example, became HUGE stars in Japan, and Firehouse has had a steady following there as well.  Big Guns is a band that while never huge like either of those two bands did release a very solid album with On Dangerous Ground that, had it come out a few years earlier in the States, may have actually made a dent on the charts.  As it stands, On Dangerous Ground is a piece of melodic hard rock history that will cost you a pretty penny to track down, but it is worth it.

When listening to this album, the first thing that really hits me is just how much the lead singer, Ian Taylor, sounds like Kal Swan from Lion.  I don't mean they sound a little alike...they sound like vocal twins for the most part.  Taylor, just like Swan, sports a smooth, powerful, lower-tenor range that he never lets drift into falsetto or forced scream territory, which is definitely a good thing, as it gives these melodic rockers a sound that is distinct among all of the clone bands that really put a bullet in heart of the hair metal scene. 

Big Guns also knows how to utilize their twin guitar attack, ulike so many bands that don't really seem to do anything with two (or more) guitars on records, even if they use them to powerful effect live.  Brockelbank and Lawson (sounds like a law firm to me) are obviously not household names by any stretch, but both are extremely talented players that really know how to milk a smooth, soulful sound out of their instruments on the power ballad "Live & Learn" or on a more groove-oriented rocker like "Heart & Soul" (which I think bears at least a passing resemblence to a Back For The Attack-era Dokken in its delivery and style).   This album is full of melodic solos that don't rely on whammy bars and fret tapping to impress; these guys can flat out play. 

The Wards...I'm assuming they are brothers...form a tight, if unremarkable rhythm section.  They keep the songs in the pocket and really help these songs establish a tempo that the band is obviously comfortable with, but don't expect to hear a Billy Sheehan or anyone of that ilk on the bass...nor will you hear an overwhelmingly powerful or inventive drummer in this band.  There is nothing wrong with what is brought to the table here, but there is also nothing overly significant in the offerings by either John or Robin Ward.


Similarly, the songs themselves are rather standard fare for the most part, with nothing earth-shattering or scene-altering, but there are no clunkers here, either.  The album features just one ballad, the previously mentioned "Live & Learn", and the band really doesn't even stray into mid-tempo territory all that often.  "I Live A Dream", "Let's Get Crazy", and "Slipping Away" are all excellent rockers, with the last song again having a fairly Dokken-esque quality to it.  Album opener, "Living It Up" is also a solid rocker but it is hampered by an exceptionally long intro that stretches out for more than a minute which is REALLY distracting in my opinion.  On the more mid-tempo material, "Picking Up The Pieces", a nice acoustic-based number that starts off sounding like it is going to trend more towards the slower side of things, is probably the best with its layered chorus vocals and thumping bottom end once the electricity is turned on in the amps.  "Love Gets In The Way", which starts off in a very ballad-like mood before turning it up a notch or two, is pretty cliched and is the weakest song on the album, but even this song is so much better than a lot of the material the surviving American hairbands were trying to put out...and a thousand times better than 99% of all grunge material.  

As I mentioned earlier, fans of Lion are going to find a lot to like about this band, as there are some very definite similarities that don't stop with the vocals.  Baton Rouge is another band that will have some parallels drawn with Big Guns, and, as I pointed out on a couple of occasions, there is a definite Dokken feel to a couple of these tracks, but the vocals are better than a lot of the stuff Don was trying to force out of his pipes following the Back For The Attack album.

Zero Corporation is a relatively small Japanese label and this album is LONG out of print, so is very hard to come by and can be rather pricey.  I was told that a British label picked it up a year later, but I don't know the name of the label or if the release was legit or merely a bootleg; I don't even know what the album artwork looks like.  Regardless of the label, if you can find this disc cheap somewhere, I think just about any fan of the bands I mentioned, or fans of solid, hook-based melodic hard rock with very little in the way of AOR or prog rock, will find themselves enjoying this effort from Big Guns.  I'd keep your eyes on eBay or the used CD shops and see if you can unearth this gem for under $20...

Oh, by the way, I have heard that there was a second album recorded but NEVER released by the band, so if you see another Big Guns release out there, it is almost guaranteed to be a bootleg and I would be very wary of the quality of the recording or the material.  You have been warned....

Rating:  I'd crank this to 7.5 if you can find it at a good price, but don't burn your CD buying budget on this disc alone.

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Friday, December 2, 2011

SWITCHBLADE SCARLETT "White.Line.Fever."



(c) 2011 Retrospect Records

  1. Big Apple Baby
  2. White. Line. Fever
  3. Say Anything
  4. Heartbreaker
  5. Little Hearts
  6. Red Clay
  7. Party Girls (Can I Be Your Man)
  8. Gone
  9. Dirty Girl
  10. Lucielle
  11. Saigon Lullaby
  12. ...At Least The Rolling Stones Still Make Me Smile
Shawn Perry--Vocals, Guitar
Corey Linden--Guitar, Backing Vocals
Russ Richards--Keyboards, Backing Vocals
Spider Lane--Bass, Backing Vocals
Scott Dall--Drums, Backing Vocals

Yes!  Now this is a modern band with a totally retro sound that GETS IT!  Switchblade Scarlett is not some poser band that is trying to sound like what they interpret late-70's to mid-80's hard rock to sound like...they nail it!  Sure, the production is of the modern era, and we don't have any vinyl pop and hiss here, but who cares?  I can say without hesitation that Switchblade Scarlett is a very serious threat to crack my year-end top ten with White.Line.Fever.  It's that good...

"Big Apple Baby" starts things off with a hard rocking 1970's-styled vibe based around a banging snare drum and a cool guitar lick...then Perry's vocals kick in.  To me, he sounds like an angry Tom Keifer (Cinderella) or Dizzy Dean Davidson (Britny Fox) crossed with Jesse James Dupree from Jackyl, and he has a lot of sass and attitude to his style that is really impressive from note one.  This is one seriously rocking song that had me grinning right from the start.  The album's title track, "White.Line.Fever" (not the Merle Haggard country song) follows and brings a bit of a more glammed out 70's sound, handclaps and all.  It's a pretty simple, straight-forward song, but it is, once again, a very catchy song, this time about a heroin addict that people are trying to encourage to quit.  The guitar solo in this song just reeks of 1978 and is very cool, although it is a bit too short for my tastes.  "Say Anything" continues the party, although Switchblade Scarlett brings things a bit more into the hard rocking 80's with this song, approaching a hair metal sound here, which they pull off equally well.  Again, a nice guitar solo is utilized here, and Perry really...REALLY...cleans up the snarl from his vocals, almost sounding like a completely different singer other than in spots on the chorus.

"Heartbreaker" is a very cool, harder-edged cover of the Pat Benatar classic that really showcases not only the talent of this band, but also shows where their heads are genuinely at musically.  They pull off this cover without a flaw and manage to make it their own while still retaining the style and sound of the original.  This is one of the best covers I have heard in quite some time, and this is coming from a guy that gets WAY TOO MANY covers albums sent my way!

These first four songs, the cover included, really give the listener a feel for the way the rest of the album is going to run its course, treading the line between modernized classic 70's hard rock ("Party Girls","Little Hearts")  and slightly commercial 80's hard rock ("Red Clay", "Gone", "Lucielle", "Saigon Lullaby").  The disc only slows down one time with "Red Clay", and even that isn't a ballad as much as it's a mid-tempo rocker with a big solo and Perry again shifting between clean and snarled vocals.       

The only real snag here is the last song, as "...At Least The Rolling Stones Still Make Me Smile" is something of a throwaway acoustic, bluesy number that will remind people a lot of some of the stuff Tesla has done.  Does that mean I don't like Tesla?  Absolutely not!  Love them, in fact.  I just don't really think this particular song fits the rest of the album and I kept waiting for the song to drop the acoustic vibe and really punch things into gear.  It's not terrible, it's just a let down after such a solid, full-throttle album full of hard-rocking guitars, snarling vocals, and catchy hooks.  Maybe it will grow on me with time...

To me, this project is everything bands like The Darkness tried to be...and failed at.  Swichblade Scarlett wears the stripes of their influences proudly and have a lot of fun playing the music they obviously love.  These five guys from Ohio are a band that I am definitely going to keep an eye and ear out for because I think they have the potential to be the next Jet or Silvertide...only better! 

Rating:  Crank White.Line.Fever to 9 and party down, folks!  This is some killer stuff!

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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

HOODLESS "Music For Jerks"





(c) 2010 Too Big To Fail

  1. Touch & Cry
  2. Waiting
  3. Innocent
  4. Down
  5. GAPO
  6. Say It Loud
  7. Run Away
  8. Be My Whore
  9. Underground
  10. Why So Serious?
Twon--Vocals
Finn--Guitar
Paul Alan--Guitar
B Lee--Bass, Vocals
Carter--Drums

I have been sitting on this review for a little while now simply because I am not really sure how I would go about categorizing or characterizing the sound of Hoodless.  Sent to me by a friend overseas, I had never heard of this CD...or even the band...so I did a bit of research to see what I was dealing with.  A couple of places said that these guys sounded a lot like Guns N Roses, so I was like, "Alright!  This will be right up my alley!"  I popped the CD in...then immediately did another internet search to see if the people who said Hoodless sounds like GnR had been arrested for possession of drugs or maybe checked into rehab because they sound NOTHING like GnR...period.  They are not even in the same universe, soundwise.  Hoodless has a much more modern production sound, and a far more alternative vibe, than GnR ever had.  On top of that, Twon sounds nothing like Axl Rose...and I mean nothing like Axl, no matter what register he is singing in.  I really don't get the comparison between bands at all, so I'm just going to pretend it doesn't exist out there in cyberspace and I suggest anyone seeking out Hoodless doesn't use the GnR reference when looking to pick up this CD because they will be sorely disappointed.

I keep trying to come up with someone that this band reminds me of, and the closest two comparisons I can come up with are going to be a bit obscure for some people.  For anyone who is a fan of Liberty N Justice, the song "Snake Eat Snake" (found in acoustic form on Independence Day and then plugged-in on Chasing A Cure) is a very good cross-reference to Twon's vocal style, at least on several of the songs, but the music doesn't match LnJ's melodic hard rock.  Interestingly, Twon also reminds me of a lower-register Jani Lane at times. I say this is interesting because musically, if there is anyone who bothered to pick up Warrant's Ultraphobic album, there are some similarities to the bizarre althernative slant that Warrant took there, but this disc is not a Warrant album by any stretch, either.      

The album opener, "Touch & Cry", is about as modern as it gets in everything from the downtuned, somewhat fuzzy guitars to the stop-and-go song structure to the production quality.  This song is something of an oddity, however, as it is not really representative of the entire album and may give first-time listeners the wrong impression of where the band is at.  I say this because the band doesn't stick to this style even on the next song.  "Waiting", the second track on the disc, is more of a sludgy, yet still melodic song...but this isn't who or what Hoodless really is, either.  Track three, "Innocent" takes yet another angle and heads off into a very alternative-sounding direction, giving us three songs with three very different feels overall.  However, it is the third, more alternative-yet-melodic sound that Hoodless seems to prefer for the majority of their songs.  There are a couple of numbers where they are a bit heavier than on others, with "Be My Whore" and "Why So Serious" both being pretty heavy songs, but I think Hoodless is at their best when they keep things more melodic, such as on the album's strongest cut, "Down".  "Run Away" is another good example of their alternative take on melodic hard rock.      

One thing that disappoints me is the fact that this band has two guitar players yet they rarely use this to their benefit.  There are no great lead-over-rhythm guitar parts that really hook the listener in.  There are solos, yes, but they are rather subdued for the most part and never really grab you by the ears and shake themselves into your head.  The band is tight, there is no question, but lacking any real punch to most of the songs.
The packaging is incredibly basic, with no lyrics, thank you's, or really any information other than the very basics, to be found anywhere.  It is also a dreaded digipack, which... say it all together, readers...I HATE, but these things are likely due to budgetary restrictions on this independent project. 

Overall, it's really hard for me to get a feel for where this album is going most of the time.  Are they hard rock?  Are they alternative?  Do they want to be heavy?  Do they want to be melodic?  All in all, I think fans of the late 1990's heavy alternative scene will likely find a lot to like about Hoodless and Music For Jerks, but it is a bit out of place in 2011.  The overall lack of a consistent musical direction hurts a bit, but I think the band has talent and potential if they could just figure out what they want to sound like and stick to it.  I can't honestly say, however, that this is an album that I, or many of the other readers of Glitter2Gutter, are likely to pull out and play very often.  

Rating:  Rock this at 5.5.

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Monday, November 28, 2011

RANSOM "Ransom"





(c) 1991 Intense Records/2010 Intense Millenium Records

  1. Lasting Love
  2. Rumors
  3. Memories Of You
  4. Fool That I Am
  5. Break Into Darkness
  6. Tonight
  7. Etched In Stone
  8. Fallen Angel
  9. Your Broken Heart
  10. I'll Never Leave You
  11. When I Die
  12. Sticks & Stones (I.M. Bonus Track)
  13. Sin Killer (I.M. Bonus Track)
  14. To Be Like You (I.M. Bonus Track)
  15. All My Heart (unlisted I.M. Bonus Track)
Lisa Faxon--Vocals
Tony Ortiz--Guitars
Michael Ciado--Bass
Randy Kantor--Drums

Ransom was, quite likely, the best of the fully-female fronted Christian bands of the "hair era".  Not only did Lisa Faxon have some incredibly strong vocals, the band, as a whole, was very talented, with guitar player Tony Ortiz being one of the better axe slingers you have probably never heard.  Ciado and Kantor are no slouches on their respective instruments as well, and, as a result, Ransom the band put out a very good album in Ransom...the...uh...album.

Stylistically, the album is very much in the vein of the Sunset Strip bands of the time, often compared with bands like Ratt or even Dokken at times, and when they are rocking out they are considerably more powerful than a band like Vixen or Femme Fatale.  Personally, I think the band's sound is far more in line with a band like White Lion than anyone as they are extremely melodic and Ortiz has a definite Vito Bratta feel to his playing.  This is evident right from the start with the very hook-oriented "Lasting Love" which, after a keyboard intro, sets the album off rocking right from the start.  There was actually a video that was recorded for this song (I think it can still be found on YouTube) that I think would have been a nice addition to this package, but that is of minor importance.  What is important is the energy that this band put into the music here, with Ortiz ripping off a very catchy lead and Lisa's vocals searing their way through this excellent opener.  "Rumors" is another great rocker that I think a lot of people will swear they have heard before, especially when the guitars kick in, as it is an excellent song that really encompasses the entire Hollywood sound.

The next track is an anti-suicide ballad called "Memories Of You".  The song has a very powerful message that Lisa really wraps her silky vocals around and, as per usual, Ortiz layers in an excellent, emotional solo.  "Fool That I am" does just that...fools the listener into thinking they are getting another ballad with the intro, but it eventually kicks into a song that, at least based on the intro and guitar lead-in, will have people thinking they are hearing White Lion's "Wait".    

"Break Into Darkness" is another stand-out track featuring some killer double-bass by Kantor, and "Etched In Stone" has a scorching guitar rhythm and a pretty heavy bottom end that really grabs the listener.  Both also give Faxon a chance to add a bit of snarl to her voice, which is pretty cool and gives her a more distinct sound than anything Vixen ever put down.  The same can be said of "Fallen Angel", which is another good, up-tempo rocker, although it is a bit more in the classic hard rock vibe than the more metallic approach taken on other songs.  Meanwhile, "I'll Never Leave You" is a ballad that has that real lighter-in-the-air feel that would have gone over extremely well live, I think.

There are a couple of minor misses here.  "Tonight" is just too sugary for me musically, (think "Honestly" by Stryper...same icky, syrupy feel...including the tinkling keyboards) but it does feature some very strong Christian-themed lyrics that don't venture into the preachy territory that many secular fans would turn off immediately.  "Your Broken Heart", while not bad, doesn't do a lot for me and sounds like the most obvious stab at radio, although it does contain another KILLER solo by Ortiz.  "When I Die" is another strong song lyrically, but it is something of a throw-away track for me as it is completely acoustic and is very...VERY...short, at just over 2:30 on the clock.     

The best part of the re-issue is the bonus tracks which were taken from the 1988 demo Once And For All.  In all honesty, these four songs are the strongest that Ransom ever recorded, in my opinion, and it is very easy to see why the band got signed based on the strength of this demo.  "Sin Killer" is a full-bore rocker that really showcases Faxon's vocals.  "Sticks And Stones" has an incredibly catchy chorus and some very strong fretwork from Ortiz, however there is a bit of tape warble that comes from the tape that this was taken from.  It does not make the song unlistenable, and actually adds a bit of charm to it for old-school fans like myself, but it is too bad that a more pristine copy of the demo couldn't be found for remastering.  "To Be Like You" is a ballad that, as with "Sticks And Stones" suffers from the source tape, but again shows an extremely talented band that, with more label support, likely could have gained airplay at the time.  The last song on the album is an unlisted demo track called "All My Heart".  Taken from the pre-Ransom days when the band was called First Aid, this is a mid-tempo rocker and is of much better source quality than the previous two songs.  It is an acoustic-based number at the start, leading the listener to believe they are in for another ballad, but the juice kicks in and Lisa and the Boys set to rocking again, albeit never cranking the tempo up full-bore.  I am not sure why this track is not listed on the disc or the tray insert...I really should ask my friend Bill Bafford of Roxx Productions who was one of the executive producers on this disc.    

Incidentally, for collectors who may seek out the original 1991 version, the cover artwork is identical, minus the "20th Anniversary Edition" banner that runs across the lower right-hand corner.  Howver, I would STRONGLY encourage you to pick up the reissue.  The eleven songs have all been remastered and have far superior sound, plus the addition of the demos is a great touch.  The of both have the lyrics to all eleven of the originals, and each has one picture not found in the other (the reissue has a black-and-white band picture, the original has full-color individual pictures).  The reissue does not include any of the thank you's, old fan club information, or booking information.  Those things would have been nice to include, but are not essential.  Some folks may also be turned off by the fat that the new version doesn't have any songwriting credits, but people, let me help you out:  Lisa wrote nearly all the lyrics and Ortiz most of the music, with a couple of credits also going to Ciado for the music.  Overall, this is an excellent album that not enough people have had the opportunity to hear.  The most unfortunate thing about how good this disc is how much of a letdown the follow up is...but that's for a later review.

Rating:  Crank this to a very solid 8!

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    Wednesday, November 23, 2011

    VARIOUS ARTISTS "Reborn In Sleaze: Tribute To Dave Lepard"


    (c) 2011 Street Symphonies
    1. Knokk 'Em Down (performed by Midnite Sun)
    2. Riot In Everyone (performed by Speed Stroke)
    3. Queen Obscene (69 Shots) (performed by Skull Daze)
    4. Breakin' The Chainz (performed by Peep Show)
    5. Needle In Your Eye (performed by Superhorrorfuck)
    6. Tikket (performed by Ragdolls)
    7. Out Of Line (performed by Cyanide 4)
    8. It's A Miracle (performed by DNR)
    9. Straight Outta Hell (performed by Hell In The Club)
    10. Back On Trakk (performed by Shining Line)
    11. Lost Horizons [bonus track] (performed by Black Rain)
    It's hard to believe we are coming up on the sixth anniversary of the death of Dave Lepard, the charismatic original lead vocalist of Crashdiet.  January 20, 2006 seems like a long time ago in some respects, and yet it seems not all that long ago that Crashdiet was bursting onto the scene and playing a massive role in the explosion of the Swedish sleaze scene.  Following the well-received, self-titled EP that the band released in 2001, they EXPLODED with the amazing Rest In Sleaze album in 2005, the last with Lepard as the vocalist.  It is from this record that this tribute album is created; this tribute is a complete track-for-track re-creation of Rest In Sleaze with bands who were contemporaries of Crashdiet or who burst through the door that Crashdiet had kicked open.

    Due to the fact that most people who are going to purchase this album are already fans of the band, I am not going to really get too deeply into the style and sound of each song, unless it is significantly changed by the contributing band.  Rather, I intend to speak more to the performance of each band and the overall feel of the album and I will attempt to give each track at least a cursory rating on an individual basis.

    Things start off with Midnite Sun, a relatively unheard of band, tackling one of the band's better known songs, "Knokk You Down".  While the music is extremely faithful to the original here, I can't say I am a big fan of the vocals, especially on the chorus.  The lead singer sounds like he is being strangled a bit as he tries to produce extra power on some of the higher notes here.  Is this the usual sound of Midnite Sun?  I can't say, as I have never heard these guys before.  Track rating:  6.5

    Next up is Speed Stroke's take on "Riot In Everyone", which has always been one of my favorite Crashdiet songs.  Speed Stroke is again very faithful to the sound of the original, but I want to comment that the guitar work on the solo here is excellent, and the bass work is phenomonal!  I really like the way the band put this song together and the vocalist is far more than simply competent here.  I will be tracking this band down to hear how they sound on their own material, as I was very impressed here.  Track rating:  9

    Skull Daze, a band which I have liked for quite some time, lends their considerable talents to "Queen Obscene/69 Shots", which is, once again, one of the best scorchers that Crashdiet has recorded.  The vocals here are closer in attitude to what people expect from the first Crashdiet record and the music, while a bit simple, is still pretty faithful to the original overall.  There are no suprises here, but it is still a fun listen.  Track rating:  7.5

    Peep Show is another band that I am not overly familiar with, but they do a solid job with "Breakin' The Chainz".  My main complaint here is the guitar solo is changed up quite a bit from the original and the gang vocals are missing.  To me, this detracts quite a bit from the feel of the song.  I am not looking for a complete clone here, but those big vocals are part of what I love about this song.  The lead singer is definitely good and he has a lot of snarl and attitude to his voice, which I love.  I will also be tracking this band down soon...  Track rating:  7

    Superhorrorfuck...well, they are a band that is kind of in their own league, and I was frankly surprised to see them on this tribute.  It's not that they can't perform this style of music, as they actually do a credible job overall, but these guys are more known for their horror-punk style than the sleaze they contribute here with "Needle In Your Eye".  Lead vocalist, Dr. Freak, uses his lower, snarling register to good effect here, and I like the pounding drums which are especially evident at the end of the track.  This is one of the more groove-based songs from the original album, but Superhorrorfuck dismisses a bit of that style for a more straight-forward sleaze sound that works pretty well.  Not as faithful musically as some tracks, but a pleasant surprise, nonetheless.  Track rating:  8.

    Speaking of horror-punk, Ragdolls are up next with "Tikket".  If you go back and re-read my review of this band's album, everything I said then still stands true now.  The talent is definitely there, especially musically, but Vikki Violence's voice just lacks a lot of emotion or inflection, so it kind of falls flat on this song.  Musically, the band absolutely shreds this song to pieces and I really like what they are attempting to do here.  I'm not going to skip the effort by any means, but I just wish Vikki did more with his vocals than growling and snarling in a "hey, I just gargled with glass" kind of way.  Track rating:  6.5

    "Tast of cyanide" is part of the chorus to the song "Out Of Line", so perhaps it comes as no surprise that Cyanide 4 takes on this song.  As such, these guys turn this song into more of a straight-up hair metal song than a sleaze song, which should be expected by anyone who has heard this very good, very talented band before.  The solos are a bit cleaner than the sleaze-drenched sound Crashdiet utilized on the original, and the vocals are definitely smoother, but the band makes it work.  This is the closest any of the bands really comes to changing the overall feel and sound of a track, and they do it well.  I like what Cyanide 4 has done here.  Track rating:  7.5

    I don't know anything about DNR, but they contribute to this tribute with "It's A Miracle".  This is easily my least favorite effort on the album as it sounds like it was rushed a bit.  The vocals are off, for a lack of a better word, and the backing vocals are out of tune in spots.  The lead guitar player shows some flash and flair on a very short solo here, but overall I am just not impressed with this effort.  Track rating:  5

    Hell In The Club has really made a name for themselves over the past couple of years and they contribute one of the top songs to this disc.  These Italians do an excellent job with "Straight Outta Hell", adding a bit more distortion to the guitars and vocalist Dave Moras lends an edge to his otherwise generally smooth vocals to really nail this song.  Hell In The Club is hitting on all cylinders on this track and it is definitely a worthy contribution.  If you haven't done so yet, you should track this band down as soon as you can...really good stuff.  Track rating:  8.5

    Shining Line is yet another band I know nothing about, but I will be seeking them out because they have obvious talent.  Once again, a bit more of a hair metal band than a sleaze band, but they do a very good job with original album closer "Back on Trakk".  The vocals lend themselves more to the style of a Ron Keel than anything that comes immediately to mind, but since I love Keel, that's not a problem at all!  The guitars are very good, if a bit simplified on the solo, and the band has a very solid feel overall.  Definitely a band I want to hear more from and a good one to include here.  Track rating:  7.5 

    The closing track is a bonus track by Swedish veterans, Black Rain.  "Lost Horizons" is a song that can be found on the Crashdiet Unreleased Demos compilation, and it is easily one of my favorite songs these guys ever recorded.  Why it didn't make it onto an album, I am not sure.  Black Rain absolutely nails the feel and emotion of this ballad, which is not surprising as I think Black Rain is quite possibly the reigning kings of the Swedish glam/sleaze scene now.  This is a killer, killer song that wraps up this very good tribute in excellent fashion, and it also gives casual fans a song they may not have heard previously.  Track rating:  solid, solid 10.

    Overall, this is an excellent tribute to a voice that was silenced far too soon.  While I have enjoyed every Crashdiet album that has been released, both with and without Dave, there is something about Rest In Sleaze that always calls me back in a way that the others don't (with the exception of the equally excellent Generation Wild album).  Reborn In Sleaze is not only a great way to remember Dave and his music, but it is also a chance for people to hear some new bands doing songs they may already be familiar with.  Street Symphonies did themselves and the memory of Dave Lepard proud with this tribute, and I strongly suggest sleaze fans track this down.

    Rating:  Tributes are tough to rate as a general rule, but I would strongly recommend cranking this one to 7.5, which is just a notch or two below what I give the original!  (by the way...pull out a calculator and do the math...7.5 is almost EXACTLY what the track average is!  Just sayin'....)

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    Sunday, November 20, 2011

    SCORPIONS "Comeblack"




    (c) 2011 Sony Music

    1. Rhythm Of Love (new)
    2. No One Like You (new)
    3. The Zoo (new)
    4. Rock You Like A Hurricane (new)
    5. Blackout (new)
    6. Still Loving You (new)
    7. Wind Of Change (new)
    8. Tainted Love (Gloria Jones)
    9. Children Of The Revolution (T. Rex)
    10. Across The Universe (Beatles)
    11. Tin Soldier (Small Faces)
    12. All Day and All of the Night (Kinks)
    13. Ruby Tuesday (Rolling Stones)
    Klaus Meine--Vocals
    Rudolph Schenker--Guitars, Vocals
    Matthias Jabs--Guitars
    James Kottak--Drums
    Pawel Maciwoda--Bass

    Why?  That is really the only question I can ask when I listen to the "new" album by the supposedly-retiring Scorpions.  Why would you take some of the greatest songs you have ever recorded (at least from the casual fan's perspective) and re-record them, then toss in a rather odd selection of cover tunes?  The ONLY thing I can think of is that this is a contract fulfiller for the band, officially getting the last album of a deal with Sony out of the way or something similar.  Otherwise, there is really no reason for this record to even be made.

    Is it terrible?  No, not necessarily.  The re-recordings are fine musically, with Schenker and Jabs still showing their considerable skill on the guitar, and the new rhythm section of Kottak and Maciwoda is definitely solid and tight, giving these songs some killer foundations.  Even Meine sounds to be in pretty good form, although I think he has lost just a tiny bit of range which leads some of these songs to sound like they were recorded in a lower register, and the guitars downtuned a bit to match the vocals.  Again, these re-recordings aren't terrible, but to clarify the issue I have with these new recordings, as I was sitting here listening to the songs as I started sketching out my thoughts, my wife who is no more than a casual fan said to me, "why are you reviewing this?  I'm sure it's been reviewed a thousand times....".  What did she mean?  She thought the songs were the SAME RECORDINGS!  There is not enough of a difference musically to really distinguish the older recordings from the new.  Really the two main differences are: 1)  the production on a song like "The Zoo" or even "Hurricane" is quite a bit cleaner and beefed up a bit due to newer studio technology, and 2) the previously mentioned lower-register vocals employed by Meine.  Really, that's just about it for differences, which takes me back to my original question of "why?".

    As to the covers, well, I guess you could say at least they aren't the tried-and-true covers that everyone has done to death.  The best two, in my opinion (and that is why you are reading this, correct?) would be the cover of the Kinks classic, "All Day And All Of The Night", and the Stones' "Ruby Tuesday", but even these sound a bit tired in the execution.  "Children..." has always been one of my favorite T. Rex songs, and while the Scorps do a credible version, it lacks that glammy sound and energy that the original had.  "Tainted Love" isn't terrible, but it really doesn't do anything to substantially upgrade the song and is kind of, well, flat as far as energy.   "Across The Universe" is just one of the most grating Beatles songs I have ever heard (sorry to all Beatles fans out there) and I skip this cover every time I hear it.  The Small Faces cover of "Tin Soldier" is just kind of there, not really bad but not overly good, either.  It seems like the band could have done more with this song, but I'm so jaded by covers now that they have become the "in thing" for bands to do that I really just don't find myself overly moved by ANY cover song I hear now, with the exception of a couple of Stryper's efforts and a small handful of others.  (On at least a semi-ironic side note, Stryper's cover of the Scorpions' "Blackout" is one of the best covers on THAT band's disc....)

    So, after reading through the entire review do you see my point?  Why bother recording this album?  The covers, while decent, aren't overly inspiring in the performance, and the re-recordings don't do anything to substantially separate themselves from the originals.  So, in essence, I am sitting here with an album that is half greatest hits, half covers, and wholly a waste of recording time for a band that really could have gone out on a high note with their last studio effort, Sting In The Tail.  I'm still guessing that we are going to hear a new Scorpions disc in the not-so-distant future, but they will be on a different label and we will find out, as I have speculated, that this is simply a contractual obligations killer of an album.

    Rating:  Rock this at a pretty average 6...nothing terrible, nothing special.

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    RED ROSE "Live The Life You've Imagined"



    (c) 2011 Barkerteam/Scarlet Records

    1. Turn Back The Time
    2. Name On The Stone
    3. The Last Drop
    4. Gone With The Sunrise
    5. Live The Life You've Imagined
    6. Dreamer
    7. Tough To Love
    8. When The Sun Goes Down
    Leve Laiter--Vocals
    Elnur Aliev--Guitars
    Deion Kristen--Keyboards
    Eli Reeve--Bass

    Hailing from Israel, Red Rose, to my ears, is a bit more progressive, AOR-ish version of Helloween, incorporating big, soaring vocals (that sound more than just a little like Helloween's Michael Kiske), melodic-yet-powerful keyboards, and some excellent guitar work.  In fact, it is the guitars of Elnur Aliev that really keep my interest here, as if it wasn't for the harder edge that his axe brings to many of these songs, I fear the project would have drifted off into a keyboard-burdened progressive/AOR fluff album that reeks of potential but never delivers.  That is NOT the case here, as Aliev saves the day on numerous occasions and helps this young band deliver an album that is reminiscent of the late 1980's fledgling power metal scene combined with an arena rock sensibility.

    Admittedly, I was a bit fearful upon hearing the very first track, because if the rest of the album had been this heavily dominated by keyboards, I would have shelved it without hesitation.  "Turn Back The Time" is not a poorly written song by any means, it is just done in a style that holds absolutely zero interest for me as it is just too keyboard-driven and, for some unknown reason, Aliev's guitars are relegated to little more than rhythm playing with no discernable solo to enliven the track.  Yes, folks...I was VERY worried about this album after this song.

    "Name On The Stone" went a long way to disspelling those fears, however, as Aliev's chugging guitar work on the song kicks in instantly, giving a completely different sound and life to this song that that of the previous track.  "The Last Drop" is a bit more mid-tempo, but it is another solid song with an excellen guitar solo which I found very reminiscent of the solo on W.A.S.P.'s song, "The Crimson Idol".  It is not a rip-off, but it has a very similar feel...which, trust me, is a very good thing to my ears, as that is one of my favorite guitar solos in all of hard rock and metal.  "Gone With The Sunrise" is another edgier, harder rocking track with some very nice guitar work and some solid bass and drum work in the background, and once again, the Helloween similarities are glaring to me. 

    The title track veers almost fully into 80's AOR/arena rock territory, leaving behind the power metal stylings of the first handful of songs, and it works very well.  In fact, this is a style that I think fits the band very well, with the music reminding me a bit of Pretty Maids from that same late 80's/early 90's era.  Perhaps this has something to do with the fact that the album was produced by none other than Tommy Hanson, producer of what many consider to be the Pretty Maids' definitive album, Future World, along with producing...you guessed it...Helloween!  Sure, there is still a keyboard flourish here near the end of the track, but overall, this is a much more straight forward rocker that I wish the band would have used throughout this disc.

    From here we go back into quasi German power metal mode with "Dreamer", which again reeks of Helloween worship.  "Tough To Love" is a short but gritty number that takes us back to more of a straight ahead classic metal feel, although we now have a bit of Hammond organ-sounding keyboard mixed in along with some great rhythm work from Aliev.  The album closes with an acoustic song, which I honestly felt should have been left off the album as it doesn't fit anything else the band recorded here.  Now, if there were two or three more tracks to follow, I wouldn't have had an issue with the inclusion of "When The Sun Goes Down", but to close an otherwise fairly hard rocking album in such a bland fashion is a considerable let down, especially considering how short the album is.

    With just 8 songs here which add up to just a hair over 35 minutes, this album can't afford to have throw away songs.  Unfortunately, I find myself skipping both the first and last tracks when I put this album in, which cuts down on my enjoyment of the album.  Still, I am left with six tracks of solid German-inspired metal that has Tommy Hansen's production skills just dripping from them, which is a good thing for fans of Pretty Maids, Helloween, PC69, Jorn, etc.  If Red Rose can take what they have learned here, come up with a solid ten or eleven songs, and really let Aliev's guitars come rocking through at full-force, this band is on to something, even if that something is not overly original or ground breaking.  A solid debut effort with just a couple of hiccups; unfortunately, those hiccups come at the very beginning and very end of the album, which is a distraction, to say the least.

    One note to those seeking out Red Rose:  this is an album which I have only found on import CD sites and it is rather costly, sometimes fetching between $30 and $40.  Keep this in mind when hunting down an album of such short playtime....  Check out their stuff on YouTube or elsewhere on the 'Net before you drop any serious coin on this disc.

    Rating:  Rock this at a very promising 6.5 and keep Red Rose on your list of bands to watch out for in coming years. 

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