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 face, 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 and 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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