Wednesday, November 25, 2020

W.A.S.P. "Re-Idolized: The Soundtrack To The Crimson Idol"


(c) 2018 Napalm Records

        Disc One

  1. The Titanic Overture
  2. The Invisible Boy
  3. Arena Of Pleasure
  4. Chainsaw Charlie (Murders In The New Morgue)
  5. The Gypsy Meets The Boy
  6. Michael's Song
  7. Miss You
  8. Doctor Rocktor
        Disc 2
  1. I Am One
  2. The Idol
  3. Hold On To My Heart
  4. Hey Mama
  5. The Lost Boy
  6. The Peace
  7. Show Time
  8. The Great Misconceptions Of Me
        Disc 3 
DVD Presentation of The Crimson Idol Movie

        Disc 4

Blu-Ray Presentation of The Crimson Idol Movie

Blackie Lawless--Lead Vocals, Guitars, Rhythm Guitars, Keyboards, Bass, Percussion
Doug Blair--Lead Guitars, Backing Vocals
Mike Duda--Bass
Mike Dupke--Drums on all tracks except "The Peace"
Frankie Banali--Drums on "The Peace"

I will make no bones about the fact that The Crimson Idol is quite possibly my favorite album of all time, and is, with no question, my favorite concept album ever recorded.  Period.  I simply love the album and have played it literally hundreds of times.  I have that album memorized from front to back, lyrically and musically (not saying I can play it, just saying I have committed to memory the drums, the guitars, the solos, the vocals, etc.).  So, when it was announced that Blackie had decided to re-record the album, and with "lost" material, no less, I was definitely intrigued...and a bit concerned.  New songs?  Yes, please!  Re-recordings of songs I was already completely enamored with?  Ummmm....

Much has been made of Blackie's Christian faith in recent years, and the fact that the past two W.A.S.P. albums, Babylon and Golgotha both feature some blatantly Christian lyrics and themes has put a lot of people into a tizzy.  I mean, what in the world is the shock-rock band W.A.S.P. and it's table-saw-codpiece-wearing front man doing singing about God and Jesus?  I'm not going to get into that here (but way to go, Blackie!), but apparently not only did Blackie want to release The Crimson Idol in the version he had originally intended (hence the new songs here), but he also desired to clean up the language of a few songs (more on that in a bit).  Add in the fact that 2018 was the 25th Anniversary of the album, and Blackie had numerous reasons to put out Re-Idolized, it would seem.

Using the same band he has recorded his last two records with, Blackie re-recorded The Crimson Idol, splitting it into two different discs now, as there is a considerable amount of new music added to this new package.  The sequencing of the album is the same, with the new tunes dropped into the order where they were originally intended to be before they were cut from the original release.  Apparently the label wanted Lawless to keep the original The Crimson Idol album to just a single-disc effort, so the interlude, "Michael's Song", the huge power ballad "Miss You", "Hey, Mama", "The Lost Boy", "The Peace" and "Show Time" were all left off the original release.  Let me just say, in doing so, the original label left a LOT of great music in the vault, and I am extremely happy to have it here!

Of these six new-to-Crimson Idol tracks, five are completely new, having never been released before.  The sixth one, "Miss You" was actually later recorded and released on Golgotha.  I said of the song at that time, "This track reminds me a lot of "The Idol" from Crimson Idol, both in the depth of emotion poured out and in the searing guitar solos (one in the middle, and a massive solo that takes the song home at the end) that just pick this already powerful track up and carry it to new heights."  Keep in mind, that I had never heard the song before and did not know it was originally made for Crimson Idol, so that should be an indicator of just how strong this track is and how much it fits with the music surrounding it.  This is a monster of a song and it is borderline criminal that it took 22 years to hear it (on Golgotha) and 25 years to hear it in the context it was meant to be heard in.  Just a great, great song!

Nearly as great is "The Peace", another massive power ballad that really shows Blackie in top form both as a singer and a songwriter.  Musically, once again, this is a song that bleeds out of the rest of the album perfectly.  The style of the track is very akin to "The Idol" and "Hold On To My Heart", and that may have honestly been what kept it off the original release.  In places, it may sound too much like "Hold On To My Heart" for the label execs that axed it.  That is unfortunate, however, because the message in this song really a key part of the musical story of Jonathan, aka The Crimson Idol.  This is the only new song that Frankie Banali played on, and as such it represents the closure of the drummer's incredible run in W.A.S.P. as likely the last track he ever recorded with Blackie (unless there is something in a vault somewhere).  

Of the remaining new tracks, "Show Time" and "Michael's Song" are basically just interludes, with "Show Time" being a 2-minute long spoken confrontation between Jonathan and his own dark side one final time before the titular character takes his own life on stage.  "Hey Mama" is another very short addition here, but it is more musical in nature than "Show Time".  The track really delves into Jonathan's love for his mom and his hatred of who he has become, as he sings that his mother should have orphaned him, let him die, or never even had him in the first place, as he feels he has totally shamed his mother.  This leads to the last new entry here, "The Lost Boy", which is an uptempo rocker with a galloping rhythm that tells even more of Jonathan's pre-Crimson Idol backstory and is actually a continuation of the story started in "Hey Mama".  Again, this is an excellent addition to the story, in my opinion, and is a song that I wish had never been left off of the original.

Speaking of material left off of the original, there is actually plenty of room for at least the interludes and one song, if not two or three songs and no new interludes on the original if they leave out "Jonathan's Story", which takes up a good chunk of time at the end of the 2-disc version of the original.  I mean, while that's a pretty cool narrative, it isn't something I listen to more than once in a while, and I wish it had been put on the bonus disc in lieu of one or more of the songs that were omitted.


As for the songs from the original Crimson Idol release that have been at least partially re-recorded, I am generally pretty happy.  I say "at least partially re-recorded" because some of the songs contain parts that are so note-perfect they feel like they had to be lifted from the original recordings.  If not, Blackie is an amazingly skilled player, because we are talking NOTE PERFECT sections.  Doug Blair is an excellent guitar player and his work on the new songs is spectacular and blends into the old material perfectly, but the magic that Bob Kulick created on the original simply can't be duplicated.  Case in point are the two solo sections on "The Idol", which I argue are possibly the greatest guitar solos ever recorded by anyone (seriously, I LOVE the guitar work on the song that much).  Blair performs admirably on the re-recording, and I have no doubt he handles the solos about as well as anyone could in the live setting, but they are simply not of the caliber that Kulick laid down on the original.  The same can be said of Dupke's drum work.  He is a great drummer, no question, but Banali had a way with fills and with patterns and tempo changes that few others had, and nowhere was that on greater display than on the original Crimson Idol, in my estimation.  Duda is rock solid on bass here (Blackie also contributed some bass work), and this incarnation of the band works exceptionally well together, as the last two albums have shown.  I just miss the passion that Kulick poured into his solos on the original, and I mean that not as a sleight to Blair at all.

Blackie, for his part, sounds in great form, and despite the 25 years of wear and tear on his vocals, I think he sounds just about spot-on for the most part.  Some of the spoken-word parts don't work as well here, but I think has more to do with the way they were mixed/produced this time around than it does with how they were performed.  Blackie's range is still solid, however, and he still has that gravelly howl that he has been known for throughout his career.  

Lyrically, Blackie has cleaned up a couple of songs, removing some f*bombs and other offensive terms, most notably in "Chainsaw Charlie (Murders In The New Morgue)".  The confrontation between Jonathan and his manager at the end of "I Am One" has been cleaned up for its language, as well, and is the one place where I feel the language should have been left in, to be honest, as it really showcases just who Jonathan had become and who his manager was.  Regardless, the song is by no means ruined because of this lyrical cleansing, and unless you really, really cling to the lyrical content of the original are you likely to even notice some of the subtle changes.  I mean, "maggots" works just as well as homosexual slur does for the lyric, although the latter really shows just what kind of person Chainsaw Charlie was.  

I am curious about one omission from this record, and that is the track "Phantoms In The Mirror", which can be found on the bonus disc of the two-disc version of Crimson Idol.  I was always under the impression that "Phantoms..." was a part of the story, as well, and lyrically it really fits, with the song's character (Jonathan?) singing to the darker image of himself that he has created.  I've always loved that song and wondered exactly where it should have fit into the story, but it wasn't included here.  If you have never heard it, you need to track it down to hear Kulick rip into his guitar and Banali blast his kit one more, it's a really cool song that, again, should never have been left out of the original release.  Also left off was "The Eulogy", which is a haunting, nearly all-instrumental piece that only has vocals in the last 60 or so seconds of the nearly 4:20 long song.  I guess I'm okay with that one being left off, but would have loved to hear "Phantoms..." in the mix.

In my perfect world, I would have Blackie mix the original Crimson Idol with the new material on Re-Idolized...PLUS "Phantoms In The Mirror"...then have it all equalized and volume-levelled so that the two recordings meld together flawlessly, giving us the full, complete story of Jonathan as Blackie had originally intended it to be heard.  As it stands, Re-Idolized: The Soundtrack To The Crimson Idol is probably the closest we are going to come, and it is truly great to finally hear what we have here in one package!

I would be remiss if I didn't mention that in the full. four-disc package, the Crimson Idol movie is included in its entirety, in both DVD and Blu-Ray formats.  Additionally, there is a large booklet with all the lyrics, including those to the new songs, as well as writing and performance credits.  All in all, this is an impressive package put together by Napalm Records and is the version I would suggest people seek out, although I have been told there are simple, 2-CD packages out there (I have never seen one).

Rating:  Crankable, definitely.  Part of me wants to rate it higher than the original due to the completion of the story and the inclusion of (nearly) all the missing music, but another part of me wants to rate it lower because...well because Bob Kulick and Frankie Banali aren't playing on this new version.  So, in the interest of fairness...

Re-recorded Material:  8
Previously Unreleased Material:  9.5
DVD/Blu-Ray Movie:  9
Overall Package Value:  9

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