Wednesday, May 29, 2013


(c) 2013 Stardog Champion

  1. Aphrodite
  2. Nothing To Lose
  3. When We Fall
  4. House Of Cards
  5. The Switch
Nick Coyle--Vocals, Guitars
Aaron Fink--Guitars, Backing Vocals
Mark James--Bass
Josh Karis--Drums, Percussion

Okay, so what we have here is a band, named after the song of a defunct band (Temple of the Dog), made up of members of other bands (Breaking Benjamin, Lifer, and The Drama Club).  Now, I've heard Breaking Benjamin before, but can't say as I know anything of Lifer or The Drama Club, so as far as what I was expecting, all I had for reference was Breaking Benjamin.

This is not Breaking Benjamin.

Things get rolling with the rumbling bottom end of James' bass before Karis' drums kick in on the mid-tempo modern rocker "Aphrodite".  For some reason, this song seems very familiar to me yet I'm not quite sure why.  It reminds me a lot more of the style of songs that were being played in the post-grunge late-90's than anything that is associated with Breaking Benjamin or similar modern rockers filling the airwaves today.  The vocals of Coyle  have a lot to do with this as he uses a wider spectrum of his vocal range than most of today's "I'm pissed at the world" snarlers that are only kidding themselves into thinking we buy into their faux attitude.  In other words, I dig what he has going on here, as his voice is used as an instrument on this track, adding to the melody of the song.

"Nothing To Lose" is another slightly uptempo rocker, again featuring that post-grunge Stone Temple Pilots vibe to the music, but once again, Coyle's vocals set themselves apart from pretty much anything this band will be played alongside on terrestrial or satellite radio, which I think is a good thing.  The guitar solo here is not overblown by any means, and falls into the vein of the stuff that Audioslave utilized on their first couple of records.  It's kind of interesting to hear a band actually use hand-clapping in a song, which Stardog Champion does on the chorus here.  A pretty cool track overall.

"When We Fall" is one of my two faves here ("Aphrodite" being the other...although I also really like "The Switch").  The bouncy rhythm of the song is catchy enough to draw the listener into thinking they are hearing one type of song, only to have the more urgent/less-poppy chorus change the mood and feel of things before becoming a mixture of both styles following the second chorus.  A very polished track that I would probably use as the radio single if I was doing promotions for this band, this song is head-and-shoulders above the majority of what Sirius-XM's Octane station spins today.  If these guys decide to go for a full-length song in the near future, I would love to hear an entire album done in the style of this and "Aphrodite".

"House Of Cards" is my least favorite song here, as it comes off as very cookie-cutter to me.  This is an example of a song that I think would get totally lost in the shuffle of modern radio today, as nothing really stands out about it.  There's nothing overtly horrible about it, but it sounds tired and even dated, honestly, with the band sounding like they are just going through the motions.  The exception would be another solid, if not flashy, guitar solo.  I have to say that I think Fink is a pretty talented guitar player and I think it would serve the band well to let him stretch things out just a bit here and there.  But who am I, right?

This EP closes with "The Switch", the only ballad of the album.  The guitar tone here reminds me a LOT of "Black Hole Sun" by Soundgarden, but I far prefer Coyle's vocals.  I'm betting this song came out of a session of the band sitting around listening to "Hunger Strike" by Temple Of The Dog, all going, "see...THAT'S what we should go for!"  Another very strong song on an EP that really only misfires once.

I don't know if the completely independent nature of this EP will hinder its chances at getting airplay, but if not, I am sure people  will be able to pick out a Stardog Champion song once they know what they are listening for.  As I stated at the outset, you get the feeling you have heard these guys before, but it's not because of the bands they came from; it's because of the bands they listen to.  After hearing this album even a handful of times, it's pretty obvious that Pearl Jam's first album, Soundgarden, maybe STP, and, obviously, Temple Of The Dog, are high on the list of influences for these guys.  That being said, don't expect clones, because you will be left disappointed if that is what you are after.  Knowing what you like and COPYING what you like are two very different things, and Stardog Champion is not a clone of anyone.

Rating:  Not your typical Glitter2Gutter material by any stretch, but a very solid listen.  Rock this at 6.5, with the album's length (just 19 minutes) being an issue, especially with 20% of the record (one track in this case) missing the mark.  

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

JOHN GALT "Served Hot"

(c) 2013 Street Symphonies/Andromeda Dischi
  1. JGS
  2. Riot Radio
  3. (One More) Punk Rock Anthem
  4. Undeniable
  5. White Widow
  6. LZ Is Hot
  7. When Nature Calls
  8. Burn (Nothing In The End)
  9. Bad Brotherhood
  10. On The Loose
Ostap Molyavko--Vocals, Guitars
Alexandr Sedov--Bass, Backing Vocals
Sergei Telipko--Drums
Ivan Rybnikov--Guitars

The hard-rocking boys from the Ukraine return with a full-length follow-up to the First Run EP, one of the surprise efforts of 2011.  Are they able to catch lightning in a bottle for a second time, or should they have been happy with their 15 minutes of fame?

Things start off with a short intro that really adds nothing to the rest of the album, so we will just slide past "JGS".  From there, a familiar friend returns, as the anthem rock of "Riot Radio" from First Run is given a second shot at life, and the band offers up a nearly identical version of this track (in fact, it may be the EXACT same track).  The vocal accent is still there, but so is the smoking lead guitar, the big, fist-pumping "heys", and some pretty catchy songwriting from a band that does not list English as its first language!  While mentioning the fact that "Riot Radio" is taken from the First Run EP, it should also be noted that all three actual songs from that release, including "White Widow" and "Bad Brotherhood" are included here, so if you missed the EP, you get a chance to find out what the rest of the us who caught on early were already tuned into.  These guys can flat out rock!

So what about the new material?  Does it stack up?  I'm very happy to say that, for the most part, yes.  "(One More) Punk Rock Anthem" has all the urgency of Too Fast For Love era Motley Crue as it blazes along at full-tilt, with Ostap's scratchy snarl slightly indecipherable at times, but always packed with sass and attitude.  "Undeniable" slows things down about half a step (at most), and yet another powerful hard rocker is unleashed.  I will state again what I did in my original review of the EP; these guys have that New Wave of  Swedish Sleaze and Hard Rock sound down pat, combining just enough of the Sunset Strip sound with some modern production elements, picking up where Lepard-era Crashdiet left off blasting forward.  In fact, John Galt sounds more like that first Crashdiet album does than Crashdiet does now (not bagging on the latest Crashdiet effort, either, as I love that record).

One thing I was curious about was whether or not John Galt could handle a ballad, as they didn't attempt on on their EP.  I thought they were going to answer that question for me with "Burn (Nothing In The End)", as it started off with that haunting guitar sound that Skid Row used so well on "18 And Life", but after that little tease of an intro, we get back to the chugging, pounding hard rock that has driven every song so far...and I can't say I'm disappointed, as these guys know what they do and they do it well.  Even with a simplistic chorus like the one found on "Burn...", the band and their production team layer the vocals just right, building up the sound and keeping things interesting.  And, as always, there is the excellent guitar work of Ostap and Ivan Rybnikov that are the key elements on each of these tracks.

The album closes with another new track, "On The Loose", which finds the band enlisting the aid of a vox-box guitar and using it to pretty cool, if not overly original, effect.  Another high energy rocker, this number brings a superb effort to a close and instantly has me waiting for the chance to hear new material!  In fact, it's very difficult for me to find anything negative to write about this new release, as even the one "iffy" song, "LZ Is Hot", has some far above average guitar work in it and a catchy rhythm that saves the day, although the band's limitations with the English language are particularly evident on this number.  But in all honesty, that's it; that's all the negative I can find.  One semi-off song and a less-than-spectacular grasp on American English are all that keep this from being nearly flawless.

In all fairness, mine is a promo release, so I have no idea what the final packaging will look like, but Street Symphonies generally does a very good job with their releases, so I have to guess that they will continue in this vein and that people who pick up the John Galt CD will have all the thank yous, pictures, and perhaps lyrics, that one would desire to find.

If John Galt continues in this vein, they are going to make a LOT of Scandinavian rockers...and many Americans, as well...very happy, as they get down to the business of guitar-driven hard rock, mashing their foot down on the pedal and never letting up.  No ballads may be a let down for some, but not for me when the album is done well and varies things up just enough to keep from sounding like the same song over and over and over.  This is a great way to introduce the band to the I just hope the world is listening!  John Galt is for real and has vaulted themselves to the top of the mid-year pile of contenders for album of the year!

Rating:  відмінно (That's what Google Translate tells me is "excellent" in Ukranian!)  Extremely crankable, we have our first 9 of the year!

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WARRANT "Cherry Pie"

(c) 1990 CBS Records
  1. Cherry Pie 
  2. Uncle Tom's Cabin
  3. I Saw Red
  4. Bed Of Roses
  5. Sure Feels Good To Me
  6. Love In Stereo
  7. Blind Faith
  8. Song And Dance Man
  9. You're The Only Hell Your Mamma Ever Raised
  10. Mr. Rainmaker
  11. Train, Train
  12. Game Of War (Demo)--Reissue bonus track
  13. The Power (Demo)--Reissue bonus track
  14. Ode To Tipper Gore (can be found on original releases or as a reissue bonus track)
Jani Lane--Lead Vocals
Joey Allen--Guitars (credited as "G-String" in the album)
Erik Kramer--Guitars (credited as "Bong Riffs" in the album)
Jerry Dixon--Bass
Steven Sweet--Drums

Additional Musicians
Mike Slamer--Guitars
C.C. DeVille--Guitars
Scott Warren--Keyboards
Beau Hill--Organ, Banjo, Keyboards
Juke Logan--Harmonica
Bruno Ravel, Steve West, Fiona--Backing Vocals

Depending upon your point of view, Warrant, and specifically the Cherry Pie album was everything that was right...or wrong...about the hair metal scene and the Sunset Strip.  Huge hooks (and huge hair), hot girls, gang choruses, catchy pop-metal melodies, sexual innuendo, and sing along lyrics were all over the place on this record and it sold massively because of it.  Despite spawning four Top 40 hits and selling millions of copies, the album also received it's fair (and perhaps unfair) share of criticism from numerous places, including internally; it is not a big secret that Jani Lane hated the title track and rues the day he wrote it.

Originally intended to be titled Uncle Tom's Cabin (with the same song being the original lead single), Cherry Pie was a microcosm of everything that was going wrong with the industry and the Sunset Strip scene at the time.  Integrity as a musician wasn't important...videos were.  Musical talent didn't matter as much as sales.  So, famously, record executives and corporate suits told the band (or specifically, main songwriter, Lane) to record a "hit" with a chorus that people could sing along to, rather than lead with the much more serious (and far more musical) "Uncle Tom's Cabin".  Lane has gone on record stating that he wrote the song "Cherry Pie" in under an hour, basically slopping together a couple of hooks and ridiculous lyrical phrases, thinking the suits would hate it and let the album proceed with its scheduled release (the rest of the album was said to have already been finished).  Obviously, that didn't happen.  Catchy as all get-out, the song sounds almost like a blatant rip-off of Joan Jett's "I Love Rock And Roll", especially in the chorus.  Further adding insult to injury is the fact that the lead guitar solo is not even performed by a member of Warrant, but rather by C.C. DeVille of Poison.  In fact, it is widely speculated that the two guitar players in Warrant, Turner and Allen, didn't even play on the album AT ALL! (Album producer, Beau Hill, has gone on record stating that the guitars were played by Mike Slamer, not by Warrant's axe tandem).  Understandably, there is a lot to NOT like about the song and the album if all you look at are the controversies and the complaints.

What I encourage people who are just now delving into the back catalog of 80's bands to do is to look deeper into the album.  In fact, if someone were to come across this album for the first time, I would encourage them to SKIP ENTIRELY the title track, and jump into the much more musically diverse or lyrically deep tracks such as " Mr. Rainmaker", "Uncle Tom's Cabin", "Blind Faith", or even the power ballad, "I Saw Red", which was written by Lane as an autobiographical account of him walking in on his girlfriend and his best friend in bed together.  (Reportedly, Lane had a nervous breakdown as a result of the incident, further adding to the depth and folklore of this track.)  Even "Train, Train", a cover song originally performed by the band Blackfoot, which is rather simplistic lyrically, has a lot more to offer musically than the title track. "Bed Of Roses" is a more mid-tempo number that is a rather cliche collection of lyrics about love, but it is still not a bad song and I'm somewhat surprised it was never released as a single.

To be sure, there are some cheesy moments on this record outside of the title track.  "Sure Feels Good To Me" isn't exactly Shakespeare set to a Mozart soundtrack, but it's not terrible, either.  The same can be said of the other raucous numbers here, especially "Only Hell Your Mamma Ever Raised" and "Love In Stereo".  "Ode To Tipper Gore" was meant to be a humorous swipe at Mrs. Gore and her P.M.R.C. group, as it is nothing more than a string of outtakes from live shows in which Lane is heard to be spewing profanity.  It's a total waste of 54 seconds and was at one time removed from the album, only to be re-added on the reissue as a bonus track.

Speaking of bonus tracks, "Game Of War" and "The Power" were both added on to the re-release of this album, and both are solid additions.  Despite the fact that both are listed as being in demo form, the sound quality is still excellent and are, again, examples of the strength of Jani Lane's songwriting as opposed to the weaker, more forced moments (yes, I mean "Cherry Pie").  In my opinion, both of these songs should have made the original cut of the album in place of the the title track and "Ode To Tipper Gore".

It really is too bad that the title track and video are what people remember most from this album because if it had never been recorded, this still would have been a very good-to-great album for a band that would actually get even better on its next release, Dog Eat Dog.  As it stands, however, how you feel about Warrant as a band has a lot to do with how you view "Cherry Pie" as a song, which leaves a lot of people missing out on a pretty good album.

Rating:  Crankable, without a doubt.  Give the original a twist up to 7.5, with the reissue getting an 8 because of the excellent bonus tracks.

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Saturday, May 25, 2013

SKID ROW "United World Rebellion Chapter 1"

(c) 2013 Megaforce Records
  1. Kings Of Demolition
  2. Let's Go
  3. This Is Killing Me
  4. Get Up
  5. Stitches
Johnny Solinger--Vocals
Snake Sabo--Lead Guitar, Backing Vocals
Scotti Hill--Lead Guitar, Backing Vocals
Rachel Bolan--Bass, Backing Vocals
Rob Hammersmith--Drums, Percussion, Backing Vocals

Let's face it.  Skid Row has been in a slump.  No, that's not a fair or accurate statement.  Skid Row has been in a NOSE DIVE since they parted ways with Sebastian Bach.  I'm not interested in rehashing whose fault it was or if Bach quit or was fired.  The plain and simple fact is that of the two factions, Bach has clearly had the better of things and still draws a pretty big crowd wherever he decides to play.  Meanwhile, Rachel Bolan, Snake Sabo, and Scotti Hill have been plugging away with drummer Rob Hammersmith and Johnny Solinger on vocals, releasing one bad and one atrocious album and playing to crowds about 20% the size they used to.  Bach and his band still rip through the classics with ease, sounding all the world like it's still the 80's or early 90's, while Skid Row, to be honest, struggles with a lot of the classic material and then mixes in songs that no one really knows from the last couple of releases.  So, to a degree, United World Rebellion Chapter 1 is an EP that could either breathe a bit of life back into the Skids machine, or that could drive a nail into the coffin of one of the truly dynamic bands of the hair era. 

It COULD do either of those things...but it really doesn't do either one. 

Musically, the band is tight; as tight as they have ever been, in fact.  Things come storming right out of the gate with the thunderous "Kings Of Demolition", which sounds to me like it could have been written in the Subhuman Race sessions.  Rumbling bass, pounding drums, and some scorching lead guitar work explode from the speakers from note one and Solinger really establishes himself with an angry edge to his vocals, not attempting to sound like Bach in the slightest bit yet still managing to display a bit of that cocky swagger that Bach always delivered whenever he stepped up to the mic.  "Let's Go" is a revved up, punkish rocker that again finds the band hitting on all cylinders, charging through this high speed number, and once again, the smoking lead guitar work leads the way.  I've got to admit, I'm pretty pumped up by this point, really ready for the remaining three tracks to reestablish Skid Row as a band of significance in my CD player.

But then the ballad hits.

Now, Skid Row ALWAYS had the big, lighter-in-the-air ballad to fall back on and to suck the ladies closer to their guys at the concerts, but on the last couple of records, I really got the feeling that Skid Row was trying to move away from being "that" band.  But then here, on this EP, Snake and Bolan seem to be taking a direct stab at their past, almost feeling like they are trying to rewrite "I Remember You".  In fact, I would almost swear this was written as a sequel as the musical similarities in places are eerie.  The problems here are 1)  Solinger's voice does not have the charisma that Bach's did in handling a track like this (or one of the band's classics when performing live, for that matter), 2) the lyrics are just not good and simply repeating the title over and over and calling that the chorus is either the height of laziness or an example of a band that has run out of creative juice, and 3) as I said, the song feels like a rewrite, which again seems to indicate the band's well may have run dry.

"Get Up" starts of strong with a nice mid-tempo groove, some excellent bass work from Mr. Bolan, and a nice angry snarl in Solinger's voice, but, once again, the ridiculously simple chorus kicks in at a tempo that doesn't match the rest of the song, the weakest guitar solo section on the EP is added in, and the song essentially dies.  The band really seemed to be reaching for more of a modern sound here and end up killing off what had the potential to be one of the best two songs here. 

Things finally (mercifully?) end with "Stitches" which has a bit of the same vibe as the self-titled album did, but without much of the soul of those songs.  Bolan again really powers the band through this track, with some thunderous bass work setting a nice, tight groove for the rest of the guys to follow along in his wake.  Hammersmith is steady here, as he is throughout the record, but the leads here don't equal the strong moments of those opening two tracks, and again the lyrics are definitely not the strong point of this track.  Solinger sounds fine, but he doesn't have a lot to work withhere, which is too bad.

The production is top notch, although Solinger's voice seems mixed a bit too hot in spots and so it sounds to me like he's over-modulating at times.  The musical performances are good-to-great for about 3/5 of the record...just not always on the same songs.  The packaging is another danged digi-pack, but what's the point in complaining now as this is obviously the direction things are going to end up going for everyone.  Lyrics are included as are individual member pictures and a band picture, so that's all good and well.  So everything seems to be headed in the right direction, at least for the most part.  Are they all the way back?  No, and they have a good ways to go.  However, this is Solinger's finest hour vocally, and some of the songwriting seems to be coming back, even though the lyric writing leaves a LOT to be desired for the majority of this 5 song effort.  The thing that scares me most, however, is the fact that this is just an EP and you have to ask yourself if these were the BEST of the songs that they had come up with so far.  Were there worse songs that were left behind?  Did they leave the best songs for U.W.R. Chapter 2...or Chapter 3 (the band says there will be "several" EP's like this one coming up)One can only hope there are better tracks remaining because if this is truly the best that Snake and Rachel have left, then I'm afraid the band has run its course unless someone by the name of Sebastian decides to take the boys out on a reunion tour.

Rating:  Rock this on to 6; it's not excellent, but it is easily the best thing this band has done since the departure of Bach.

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Thursday, May 23, 2013

TOM KEIFER "The Way Life Goes"

(c) 2013 Merovee Records

  1. Solid Ground
  2. A Different Light
  3. It's Not Enough
  4. Cold Day In Hell
  5. Thick And Thin
  6. Ask Me Yesterday
  7. Fool's Paradise
  8. The Flower Song
  9. Mood Elevator
  10. Welcome To My Mind
  11. You Showed Me
  12. Ain't That A Bitch
  13. The Way Life Goes
  14. Babylon
Tom Keifer--Vocals, Guitars, Keyboards
Michael Rhodes--Bass
Tony Harrell--Piano, B3, Wurlitzer, Clavinet
Greg Morrow--Drums, Percussion

Additional Musicians

Jeff LaBar--Guitar (Track 9)
Pat Buchanan--Guitar, Harmonica (Tracks 4, 6, 8, 11, 13)
Gary Burnette--Guitar (Track 11)
Ron Wallace--Acoustic Guitar (Track 6)
Jim Horne--Saxaphone (Track 4)
Crystal Taliaferro, Etta Britt, Savannah Keifer, Vichy Carraco, Chuch Turner--Various Backing Vocals

Cinderella fans are suckers for abuse.  Seriously.  How many years have we been teased, taunted, and tormented about a new Cinderella record, and we keep hanging around with bated breath, waiting and waiting and waiting?  Give up?  Consider this...Still Climbing came out in 1994!!!  That's nearly 20 years, folks!  Sure, we've been given umpteen best of's, live albums, rehashed live albums, extended cuts, blah blah blah, but never new music.  And, yes, we know about the contract fight between the band and their label, but COME ON...20 years?

The wait is over.  Sort of.

Cinderella lead yowler, Tom Keifer, has finally unleashed his solo record on the Cinderella faithful (I say finally because he reportedly started writing for this record in 1997!), and at 14 tracks there is a lot to consider here.  Not surprisingly there are a number of tracks that sound a lot like where I think Cinderella would be now had they continued down the path of Long Cold Winter and Heartbreak Station.  Keifer's raspy, bluesy moan is right at home on these types of tracks, which include album opener, "Solid Ground", "Babylon", "Mood Elevator" (which features fellow Cinderella alum Jeff LaBar on guitar), which is the album's heaviest track, and the Aerosmith-esque "The Way Life Goes".  (Speaking of the Boston band, "You Showed Me", which is actually a quasi-ballad, also has a certain Get A Grip era quality to it and is the best slower moment of the record.)  The best track on the disc for my money, is "Cold Day In Hell", which sounds like it was likely written in the Still Climbing sessions and is a prime example of the power of Keifer's writing with a killer chorus and a strong hook.  "It's Not Enough" has a bit of that Heartbreak Station feel to it as well, and "Fool's Paradise", which doesn't rock nearly as hard as most of the previously mentioned tracks, still finds Keifer mining more mid-tempo, blues-based Cinderella territory to great effect.  "Welcome To My Mind" is as close to straight up electric blues as the project comes and the effects used on Keifer's voice give  the track a bit of an eerie feel during the verse portions of the track, and not surprisingly, Keifer pulls off this particular song with seemingly little effort, although I suspect he put a LOT of effort into the tasty little guitar solo that pops up at about the 2:18 mark of the song.

But then there are the non-Cinderella moments to consider.

At times, this record sounds like the songs could have been written for Bryan Adams, such as with the piano-driven "Thick And Thin" which echoes "Everything I Do (I Do It For You)" in places.  At others, specifically on "Ain't That A Bitch", you expect to hear Tom Petty's voice leap off the record rather than Tom Keifer.  Rod Stewart seems to be the intended target of a track like "The Flower Song", while in other places, such as "Ask Me Yesterday", the influence of Keifer's adopted hometown of Nashville seems to seep into the songwriting.  While none of these are horrible songs, they don't really serve to advance the music forward, either.  With all of these various styles mixed in, the record comes across as a bit unbalanced at times.  I applaud Keifer's exploration of various tempos and styles, but at 14 tracks, perhaps the album is a bit bloated and may have been better served if a couple of tracks ("Flower..." and "Yesterday..." come instantly to mind) had been left on the cutting room floor.    

Keifer's voice is strong throughout and doesn't show any remnants of the vocal problems he has struggled with over the past several years.  His guitar playing is also top-notch, which I found to be interesting, as I never considered him to be more than a contributor to the Cinderella song, at best, as LaBar more than capably handled lead duties for the band.  Now I find myself wondering just how much Keifer played on some of those albums.  The rest of the "band" is tight and competent, if unspectacular.  I wonder how much Cinderella material the band tackles live, and how well these guys pull it off.

Generally solid, and at times excellent, The Way Life Goes is ALMOST worth the 20 year wait for new Cinderella-related material.  As it stands, it will likely make our year-end Best Of... list, but probably won't sit at the top.

Rating:  Crankable, but bloated.  Turn the knob up to 7.5 here, but if you make your own mix, judiciously lopping off a couple of tracks, you could probably squeeze an 8 out of it.

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Tuesday, May 21, 2013

STEPHEN PEARCY "Sex, Drugs, Ratt & Roll: My Life In Rock" (Book Review)

(C) 2013 Gallery Books

Sometimes it's frustrating to read the memoirs and autobiographies of famous rock stars. Quite often, the shine is taken off of the star, if you know what I mean.  While I have never had any illusions as to the sleaze factor of Mr. Pearcy and his Ratt brothers, that doesn't diminish the fact that when I had turned the final page on this book I felt a little dirty.  A lot of memoirs toss in some lewd and lurid details for shock value, but it was almost surprising to me that the pages to this tome weren't pre-stuck together at the printing press!  Seriously, there are more sex stories in this book...and in more detail...than in several of the other books I have read combined!  Now, I'm not a prude or anything, but, we have to hear about what was done with a condom and a passed out groupie?  Do we need to be given graphic detail of what the bath house girls in Japan would do for a rock star and his entourage?  Maybe some people do, but I really don't...

What the reader is given here is a blow-by-blow (and there are various meanings to the term "blow" here...) of Pearcy's rise from his Mickey Ratt days to the height of fame during the 80's MTV Headbangers Ball years, to the band's collapse.  Pearcy's struggles when his original band left to form Rough Cutt are discussed, as are his deep friendship with Robbin Crosby, Crosby's plummet into drug addiction and HIV infection, and Pearcy's own struggles with addictions, multiple children by various women (two of which are "bought and paid for"), his failed marriage, stints in rehab, and his one true love...drag racing.  

To his credit, while the stories are cringe-worthy in many places, Pearcy doesn't make excuses for his behavior or try to gloss it over or sugar-coat it.  He admits that he could be an "asshole" when he was under the influence, that he had personal relationship problems with women, his bandmates, and other people who crossed the Ratt path.  Pearcy gives his own interpretation of stories involving Ozzy, Nikki Sixx (and the rest of Motley Crue), Vanity, the porn star Savanna, and several others, some of which have been heard before but from another person's perspective.  He discusses the band getting their big break as openers for Ozzy and then helping to break then-unheard-of bands Poison and Bon Jovi into the big time.  Pearcy also spends a bit of time talking about his post-Ratt bands, although only Arcade is given any real attention, with Vertex and Vicious Delite garnering only passing mentions (and rightfully so).    

Interspersed throughout the book are thoughts from various friends, bandmates (including Fred Coury from Arcade/Cinderella), and Ratt crew members who expand upon Pearcy's stories, share their insights, and sometimes even appear to pity Pearcy.  Much like Pearcy, these people don't gloss over much in the way of bad behavior, which adds a realness to this book that others don't always have.  Could these people be lying for Pearcy?  It's possible, I suppose, although the stories that are retold or enhanced certainly aren't the type of thing that I think I would want to put out their for the world to hear if I was simply making them up.  This also leads me to wonder how Pearcy's daughter, Jewel, reacted the first time she read a copy of this memoir (assuming she has).    

I didn't end up coming away with a better opinion of Pearcy once I was finished reading, but perhaps I have a better understanding of some things.  The rise and fall stories of the band as told by Pearcy are not far from the same stories told in Bobby Blotzer's memoir, which lends some believability to these particular Ratt tales, especially considering the strained relationship Pearcy and Blotzer both admit to having with one another.  The pain the band, and particulary Pearcy, felt when Crosby died also sheds a bit more light on the demise of one of the hardest working...and hardest partying...bands of the 80's hair metal scene.  So while I will never nominate Pearcy for "outstanding individual in the rock world", I do applaud the guts it likely took to retell some of these stories, as even the author seems to wince a bit when he looks back on some of the debauchery of his younger years and then looks forward at what may lie in front of him and his band.

Recommended reading for fans of the band, but I suggest keeping a large bottle of hand sanitizer nearby, as you may feel just a bit smudged and stained as you turn through the pages.  Perhaps the book should come pre-packaged with a pair of latex gloves for those who choose to read it...and a biohazard bag for storing the book in once it has been finished.  If there is a sleazy story Pearcy has left out of this book, I don't think I would want to hear it, as he covers plenty in this effort.

Co-Written with Sam Benjamin
309 pages

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Friday, May 17, 2013

BAD BOY EDDY "Over The Top"

(c) 2012 Demon Doll Records
  1. Fever
  2. She Gives Me A Feeling
  3. I Don't Want You
  4. Super Sonic Freak
  5. Living Lies
  6. Funky Monkey
  7. Rad Ruby
  8. Teenage Sacrifice
  9. Fly Away
  10. Maker Of Dreams

Eddy Vega--Vocals
Dave Saker--Lead Guitar, Vocals
Eddie Nixon--Guitar
Tim 'Tee' Sanders--Bass
Larry Bernal--Drums

Music can be a time machine when it is done well.  Hearing a certain song, or even just a specific lyric, can take you back in time to a happier, more fun moment if you are having a particularly bad day.  The funny thing is that Bad Boy Eddy achieves this effect despite the fact that I had never heard them before!  These guys perform completely 80's-sounding hard rock/sleaze in such an effortless, honest fashion that you honestly swear you have heard this album...and many of these songs...somewhere before.

For example, take the opening screamer of a track, "Fever".  Once you hear Eddy Vega cut loose on his vocals, you would swear this is some sort of Skid Row/Sledgehammer Ledge hybrid song instead of a track straight outta 2012! Same thing with the heavier, yet slightly more mid-tempo "She Gives Me A Feeling", which has Vega in prime Sebastian Bach mode, especially when he hit the chorus.  "I Don't Want You" has audience noise mixed into the background, but it's pretty obvious this isn't a live recording.  Still, Bad Boy Eddy continues to hit on all cylinders with thunderous drums and tight guitar playing on this catchy, anthemic number.  Other stand-out cuts would be the more "hair metal" sounding "Rad Ruby", which is poppier in sound than anything else here, reminding me of a sequel to Cats In Boots' "Shotgun Sally", and the album closer, "Maker Of Dreams" which showcases some pretty flashy guitar work at the intro and interspersed throughout, along with some of Vega's most Skid-styled vocals on the record.  Once again, the live crowd noise is mixed in on the hairy "Maker...", which is fine, although I don't really understand what the point is, as no one is going to be fooled into believing that this song is live.  

All is not perfect on this record, however.  "Funky Monkey" is just about as juvenile a song as I have heard since the last time I put on a Steel Panther record.  This funk-infused rocker about a porno addiction is just plain stupid lyrically, although the music works surprisingly well (but don't hold your breath waiting for some Extreme-styled hard funk rock, as you will be left wanting).  Also of note is the ballad, "Fly Away", which shows off the fact that Vega can sing as well as screech, and also puts on display the band's softer side.  The problem is not the performance, its the fact that, unfortunately, this type of ballad is also very dated sounding and, as such, the song falls kind of flat. Too much sugar makes this stab at a straight-from-the-strip glam ballad the only truly skip-worthy track in this collection.  And, while a ball-buster musically, "Teenage Sacrifice" sounds somewhat comical coming from a band that is, no offense, NOT a bunch of teenagers!  These three tracks aside (two songs if you only consider "Funky Monkey" and "Teenage Sacrifice" for their lyrics and not their music), there really isn't much to NOT like about Over The Top except for the usual packaging issues I have with 95% of all Demon Doll Records releases (poor insert quality, lack of lyrics, etc.).  The production is of solid quality (live audience noise not withstanding), and there are no major flaws in the mix or the performance, which leads to a very solid album that I am able to enjoy without hitting the skip button more than once (just can't do the ballad...sorry...), although I do admit to cringing at a couple of lyrical turns as well.

If you are looking for a band that can intermix some straight up hair worship alongside something a bit heavier than most of the current retro-sleaze rockers, Bad Boy Eddy may very well be right up your alley, as they put on one heck of a show on this effort.  Hopefully we will get another quality release from this band in the not-too-distant future!

Rating:  Crank-worthy, no doubt.  Crank this very fine showing to 7.5!

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Saturday, May 11, 2013


(c) 2013 Timothy D. Minneci
When reading through this book, I think it is abundantly clear that 1) the author obviously loves this type of music, 2) he apparently has a LOT of free time, 3) he most likely lives in his parents' basement, and 4) he lost a bet of some sort and had to write this book!  I mean, come on...who else has the time or drive to sit and listen to hundreds of songs all in a quest to determine if a song is truly a power ballad, and then whether or not said song is any good?  And to then come up with a system to determine whether or not a song is a power ballad based on butt-rockability (among other things) requires a dedication that I am not sure a lot of people possess!
All kidding aside, I found this book to be pretty entertaining, actually, and while I disagree with the author's stance on the quality level of some of the songs, and the inclusion or exclusion of certain songs into the "winners" or "losers" category, I have to admit that I kept turning pages to find out where some of my favorite songs were slotted.  Were all the best tracks by Great White included?  Was there too much Bon Jovi and Poison and not enough Winger and Whitesnake?  Does Bad English rate higher than Journey or Foreigner?  What about Shark Island???  (You need to read the book to understand this reference.)  Why do Motley Crue's "Home Sweet Home" and Cinderella's "Don't Know What You've Got..." rate so highly, while Giant's "(I'll See You) In My Dreams" suffers so mercilessly?  And where the hell are Mass, Shy, Keel...or The Cult (again, you need to read to find out about The Cult)?!  And NO UNRULY CHILD?!  My first dance at my wedding was to an Unruly Child power ballad! At least I think it was a power ballad...I may need to test that theory now that Minneci has given me the absolute and definitive power ballad criteria.
This is a self-produced effort, with no pubisher's backing, no book company to help promote the effort, and, as is obvious in some spots, no editor (or at least no budget for a professional editor...Minneci admits he had to have friends help edit for free).  These things don't distract from what I found to be an extremely entertaining read that had me laughing out loud at times, firing off emails of protest and complaint (Minneci's not a real fan of this, I'm sure...), and discussing my own personal opinions of THE AUTHOR'S opinions with my wife (who has no opinion about either my or Minneci's opinions).  It's a fun read and one that I hope he follows up, which I think he somewhat hints at by referring to this edition as "Volume One". 

This book definitely belongs in your rock reading collection, even if it's simply to start your own compilation of songs, your own list of tracks to hunt down, or your own book to counter Minneci's.  A lot of fun and well worth the few hours it takes to read.  To pick up your own copy, jump over to Amazon here.

(315 Pages, Paperback)

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

WHITESNAKE "Made In Japan (Deluxe Edition)"

(C) 2013 Frontiers Records

  1. Best Years
  2. Give Me All Your Love Tonight
  3. Love Ain't No Stranger
  4. Is This Love
  5. Steal Your Heart Away
  6. Forevermore
  7. Six String Showdown
  8. Love Will Set You Free
  9. Drum Solo
  10. Fool For You Loving
  11. Here I Go Again
  12. Still Of The Night
CD 2
  1. Love Will Set You Free
  2. Steal Your Heart Away
  3. Fare Thee Well (Acoustic)
  4. One Of These Days (Acoustic)
  5. Lay Down Your Love
  6. Evil Ways
  7. Good To Be Bad (Acoustic)
  8. Tell Me How (Acoustic)
David Coverdale--Vocals
Doug Aldrich--Guitars & Vocals
Reb Beach--Guitars & Vocals
Michael Devin--Bass & Vocals
Brian Tichy--Drums & Vocals

Special Guest
Brian Ruedy--Keyboards & Vocals

David Coverdale dusts off the Whitesnake machine again for the band's third live release in the past 7 years and fourth in the last 15.  Once again he enlists the help of guitar whizzes Doug Aldrich and Reb Beach along with a superb drummer in Brian Tichy and a more than capable bass player, Michael Devin.  This package is culled from the band's Loud Park Festival in 2011 and the band was obviously touring their most recent studio album, the very strong Forevermore.  So, with so much going for it, the outcome should be nothing less than amazing, right?  Not so fast...

First, make no mistake, David Coverdale is apparently ageless.  Sure, his voice has lost some range, especially following his vocal injuries from a few years back, but the man still exudes rockstar in both his vocal and visual performances.  The guy doesn't ever seem to age and just carries himself with amazing levels of class and poise, all the while making his performance look as effortless as drinking a glass of water.  The same can be said of the blistering performances of Reb Beach and Doug Aldrich who absolutely tear things up on their "Six String Showdown", which is fun not only to listen to, but also to watch.  But for as great as these performers are, the bands' collective performance is just incredibly flat to listen to for a couple of reasons.    

First, the set list almost completely ignores anything pre-Whitesnake (1987). The only tracks from Slide It In to appear anywhere on this record are "Love Ain't No Stranger" and the acoustic version of "All Or Nothing" on the bonus disc.  Where are "Slow And Easy", "Standing In The Shadow", "Hungry For Love" or "Slide It In"?  Good question.  Likewise, there is no "Judgement Day" from Slip Of The Tongue, which I think is one of the most overlooked songs in the band's catalog.  And no "Still Of The Night"?  No "Crying In  The Rain"?  Is this even a Whitesnake show?!  Well, yes, but one that focuses very heavily on newer material, which I can understand, but it does leave the viewer/listener feeling like they only attended half of a concert when over half of the band's biggest hits aren't there.  

My next problem with this effort is my biggest one, and effort is the catch word.  The band is so smooth, so comfortable, so polished that it looks like they aren't even trying...and it sounds that way, also. Other than the guitar showdown, and I guess you could throw Tichy's drum solo in there as well, the performances are generally pretty flat.  The flash and flair is all but gone from the sound.  Visually, they guys, especially Reb, still put on a show, but there is no punch to the music.  The keyboards are featured way too much for my taste, which also takes some of the steam out of the twin guitar attack which is ridiculous when you have two guitar players the caliber of Aldrich and Beach.  I don't know how much studio overdubbing was done before this package was released, and maybe there were no touch-ups at all, but everything here just glistens like highly polished stainless steel which just leaves it feeling lifeless for the most part.  And that's the real bummer of this disc because all of the guys are just so dang talented that you expect the music to just jump out of your speakers at you.  This never happens.

Visually, the DVD is very well shot with multiple camera angles and far above average sound quality, which is why it was likely very easy for Frontiers to just lift the music from the video and make the CD out of it.  As I mentioned previously, Coverdale looks great, prowling across the ENORMOUS stage with an energy a lot of younger singers simply don't have or at least don't exhibit.  As I've stated on numerous occasions, I don't spend a lot of time watching performance DVD's, and this one will be no exception, but it is not due to a lack of quality.  The DVD bonus material is nothing special, featuring a couple of slideshows and a couple of videos for "Forevermore" and "Steal Your Heart Away".

The packaging is a bit weird, at least in my opinion.  The liner notes are actually excerpts from Michael Devin's journal that he kept while on tour.  It's an interesting read, I suppose, but not something I will likely read again.  There are a few cool pictures and a complete list of credits and thank-you's, so I don't really have any complaints here, and, honestly, Frontiers Records generally does a good job with packaging their releases (even if this is a dreaded digipack!!! Grrr....).

In the end, this CD/DVD set reminds me a lot of a color-by-numbers rendition of a masterpiece painting; it may look great, but some of the artistry is gone.  That's how I feel when listening to this live album; the musical talent is definitely there, but the performance lacks any real grit or flair and it feels like the band is on autopilot for much of the recording.  For me, the real highlights are the guitar solos and the acoustic renditions of some lesser known tracks on the second audio disc, which doesn't really bode well for the whole project.  That being said, the acoustic numbers are done VERY well, and it makes me think a full acoustic album might be a pretty cool thing from Whitesnake.  As to live performaces, however, I would strongly recommend Live...In The Shadow Of The Blues, which has a much stronger set list and a ballsier performance.  

Rating:  I honestly would recommend you Turn This One Down 4.5, but the bonus disc might salvage a Rock It rating of 5.  The set list is lacking as is the punch in the performance.