Monthly Archives: April 2014

The Pretty Reckless-Going To Hell

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Sometimes it’s good to listen to a band without knowing a thing about them. A couple years back I heard Light Me Up, the debut album from The Pretty Reckless and loved it. Great female fronted dirty hard rock. It was months later that I discovered the singer was Taylor Momson an actress from Gossip Girl. At the time she was doing the typical Hollywood actress getting older routine of fighting with her Mom and showing her tits for no reason. Thankfully I missed all that drama and got to enjoy the album and liked it so much I bought their follow up EP Hit Me Like A Man. So I was looking forward to their new offering Going To Hell.
Listening to Going To Hell you realize that Taylor Momson is not just another actress cashing in on her fame by making an album. Lindsay, Hillary, I’m looking at you. She is in fact a rock singer. She has a real good sound that borders on the gritty with a hint of blues potential. Sort of if Sass Jordan was a Mouseketeer. The band cranks out some quality hard rock here. Kicking down the door with “Follow Me Down” and the title track, you know that this is not a pop record. They get heavier on “Sweet Things” a blistering track that has some creepy counter vocals by guitarist Ben Phillips. “Why’d You Bring A Shotgun To The Party?” wins for best song title and best song. Very slinky riff that is unavoidable with a chorus to beat.
Interesting is the amount of slow songs/ballads on here. Probably could have done without several of them. “Burn” is a standout and is just Taylor singing along with an acoustic guitar. The simplicity of it works so well that you don’t mind it’s under two minutes long. “Waiting For A Friend” has a classic sound that Rolling Stones/Guns N Roses fans will recognize. The slides on the acoustic along with the harmonica are timeless alongside her smoldering voice. Now depending on what version you buy there are two more acoustic tracks. “Going To Hell” and “Sweet Things” get the acoustic makeover. Taylor and Ben do a great job of remaking the songs not just simply performing them on an acoustic. “Going To Hell” is about the half the length and the guitar has a definite Johnny Cash feel to them. Curious that “Sweet Things” was chosen for the redo since it is the heaviest track but they do it well. Now the riff does sound just like the acoustic version of Winger’s “Down Incognito” but it still works. Plus Ben’s vocals have a more sinister sound to them here.
All in all Going To Hell is another success for The Pretty Reckless. Granted there are some missteps and they could have chopped off a track or two. But it shows the growth of the band. More importantly you see the growth of Taylor Momson as a singer and songwriter. It’s that growth that makes you want to hear what is next.

Final rating, I’d be happy paying…
$14.99-Regularly Priced CD
$9.99-Download from iTunes or Amazon
$5.00-wait for Amazon to have it on sale
$1.00-finding at a flea market, car wash, or pawn shop
$0-Not worth the drive space

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V/A-This Is Your Life-A Tribute To Ronnie James Dio

 

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Very rarely are “tribute” albums a good thing. Either they are modern artist playing classic rock songs because the label thinks it’s a good idea, KISS My ASS or Zeppelin-Encomion. Or you get gimmick-y crap like Country Does Metal. Ugh. Lastly, there’s what I call the Cleopatra effect. A label uses a group of older artists to do classic rock tributes. The label Cleopatra had an assembly line of 80’s rockers doing songs of 70’s acts. It became comical to see Jizzy Pearl of Love/Hate or Joe Lynn Turner on every release from Cleopatra. Very rarely do you get a tribute album of well known acts doing songs in the same genre of an iconic artist.
Lo and behold, here comes This Is Your Life-A Tribute to Ronnie James Dio. They did a great job of collecting metal artists for this record and the songs they covered range throughout his career. As an added bonus most of these songs are new recordings. With this kind of an album I think it’s best to go track by track.
Starting us off is “Neon Nights” by Anthrax. They do a nice and faithful version of the song. It’s a perfect album opener. If you heard last year’s Anthems you know they can do great covers. Following that is is Tenacious D’s “The Last In Line”. It has a nice acoustic opening but once it kicks in… the only way to go is down…… I love these guys but doing an electric metal song doesn’t work. Plus Jack Black does not have the pipes for this song. We are then greeted with Adrenaline Mob’s “The Mob Rules”. This was done on their covers EP a while back and I was not a fan of it then and still feel the same. Most of Stone Sour tries their hand at “Rainbow In The Dark”. They are joined by guitarist Satchel of Steel Panther fame aka Russ Parish from Paul Gilbert’s band and Fight. Doing such a well known song can be tricky but they put their spin on it. It’s a little heavier and just a tad faster. What is interesting is Corey Taylor’s vocal choice. His delivery is very restrained thereby letting the guitar riff to shine. At first it’s surprising because you expect him to go big but this works a lot better.
Young ones Halestorm try on “Straight Through The Heart”. The band proudly wears it influences on its’ sleeves and have done a couple of covers EP’s already. I know I’m supposed to like them but something about them doesn’t click. Lizzy Hale has a killer voice and on the second half of the song she steps it up a notch and it’s is killer. However the band is very blah and the guitar playing is bar band level. I know her brother is the drummer but she needs to be with some players.
The first track released was “Starstruck” with Biff Byford of Saxon singing with Motorhead. Just typing that sentence is a metalhead’s wet dream. Listening to it is even better. Biff’s gravel works great with Motorhead’s dirty delivery. It’s just so simple and so great. Another legacy act is next with the Scorpions doing “The Temple of the King”. The Rainbow track fits right in the Scorpions wheelhouse. The mid pace song is perfect for Klaus Meine’s vocals. It sounds like it should have been on their MTV Unplugged album. The Metal Queen herself, Doro gives us “Egypt (The Chains Are On)” and it is as glorious as you would think. When Ronnie passed they did a couple of tribute shows and she sang this song. It was done awhile back but chances are most people haven’t heard it. Another already available track is “Holy Diver” by Killswitch Engage. Done when Howard Jones was still the singer, it’s still a pretty cool cover and even better video.
Glenn Hughes takes the lead alongside Dio veterans Simon Wright, Rudy Sarzo, and Craig Goldy on “Catch The Rainbow”. Since this is very ballad-like it reminds me of some of the Black Sabbath stuff Glenn did. I like that he chose a song that he could do use his blues voice but it doesn’t really work. Next is one of my favorite songs Ronnie sang.”I” ,from the Black Sabbath-the Dio Years, is better than anything on that gawd awful 13 record. Former Lynch Mob singer Oni Logan is joined by Jimmy Bain, Rowan Robertson, and Brian Tichy, Musically its good but Oni cannot match the defiance that was so evident on the original.
One of the tracks I was really looking forward to was “Man On The Silver Mountain” with Rob Halford on vocals. When Dio dropped out of Sabbath when they were going to open for Ozzy’s retirement shows, Rob stepped in. He did a terrific version of “Children Of The Sea” so my expectations were high. Unfortunately time has caught up with the Metal God and his voice is flat and very uninspiring.
The mighty Metallica do a medley on “Ronnie Rising”. It’s made up of “A Light In the Black, Tarot Woman, Stargazer, Kill The King”. It’s tremendous. Any long time fan will know that they love to do covers and it shows here. Especially on “Stargazer/Kill The King” sections.
The album ends with Dio himself singing the title track. It’s just him and a piano and it’s phenomenal. A little heard track and it shows what a powerhouse he was.
There are some other songs depending on what version you buy. The digital download has “Buried Alive” by Jasta. I like it since we get to hear Jamey actually sing and this track works for him. The Japanese version has Stryper’s “Heaven and Hell” which was available on their covers LP from a couple years back. It’s good but they changed some lyrics and that kind of bugged me. Dio Disciples crank out “Stand Up and Shout”. I don’t have that version but it’s either Oni Logan or Ripper Owens singing so it should be good.
As with any tribute there are some hit or misses. As a whole This Is Your Life is a fitting tribute for Ronnie and with all the proceeds going to the Stand Up and Shout cancer fund that was set up after his passing it’s even more fitting.

Final rating, I’d be happy paying…
$14.99-Regularly Priced CD

$9.99-Download from iTunes or Amazon

$5.00-wait for Amazon to have it on sale
$1.00-finding at a flea market, car wash, or pawn shop
$0-Not worth the drive space

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KISS in the 80’s aka Scott looks back fondly on his teenage years

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One of my favorite podcasts, ROCK AND OR ROLL SHOW, just did an episode on KISS in the 80’s. In that episode they went over each KISS album from that decade, talking about each album plus all the band happenings. At the end of the episode, the two hosts chose their Top 10 songs from that decade of KISS. Me being a sucker of music lists, got inspired and decided to do one of my own. Please listen to the podcast as it’s very well done and has oodles of KISS trivia.
I grew up with KISS, they are my band. The band that no matter what they do you still like them. Even when you don’t. I remember my Uncle Brian giving me his copy of The Originals and being entranced. I watched the dreadful KISS Meets the Phantom Of The Park and loved it. Still do today but on another level. The big turn for me was the release of Dynasty. When my Dad said he liked a couple songs I knew something was wrong. Then the 80’s hit and my favorite band was just another act. When I looked at the cover for Unmasked and the comic has someone saying “They Stink” on it, it was telling. Line-up changes and dwindling sales turned KISS from being the “biggest band in the world” to just another rock act. So I re-listened to the albums from Unmasked through Hot In The Shade. Ironically the biggest selling album of the decade was Smashes, Thrashes, & Hits, a compilation with 2 new tracks neither I wanted to remember.

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The aforementioned Unmasked was released in 1980. It would be drummer Peter Criss’ last official album as he had one foot out the door. Like all of the 80’s albums, it is very hit or miss. The productions is way off. I don’t know if it’s because they just did the disco album or if producer Vini Poncia felt just like Peter.”Shandi” was the single and I bought the 45, it’s around here somewhere. In hindsight it is a very lackluster love song and I still have not met anyone named Shandi. Got to say I’m a little disappointed by that. My pre-teen mind did not understand but was still fascinated by some of the odd song titles, “Torpedo Girl” & “She’s So European”. That and the opening line of , cats drooling on the bar stool, from “Is That You” still makes me smile to this day. Although it took me years to realize he didn’t mean a feline when referencing cat. There are two songs from this album I still like. “Is That You” and “Tomorrow”. Both Paul songs with the second one being just a perfect pop rock gem.

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Next is the very odd Music From “The Elder”. This concept album was supposed to be the catalyst for a movie. Never happened and after listening you know why. Poor Eric Carr gets his big break in joining KISS and this is what happen. Also, over hyped and glorified one hit wonder Lou Reed did some writing with them insuring that this would be KISS” worst LP. I remember staying up late to watch them on the show Fridays. They did “World Without Heroes” a ballad where Gene literally sheds a tear and “The Oath”. The only song I really like is “I”. Very upbeat, uplifting rocker that is a motivational poster in audio. Plus having Paul and Gene both sings lead is pretty cool too.

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1982 ushered in another change for KISS. Guitarist Ace Frehley and his car lost a fight with a tree and he exits. Even though he is on the cover of Creatures Of The Night, he doesn’t play on it. Most of it is done by his replacement Vinnie Vincent who also co-wrote a bunch of songs. This album is a welcome return to the bands hard rock roots. “I Love It Loud” was all over MTV and “War Machine” became a staple of entrance themes for pro wrestlers. Watching Humongous use it coming to the ring back in the Mid-South days.

The standout track is the title track a full on metal song and one of the heaviest for the band.

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That was supposed to be a comeback album for KISS but it did not sell well. I guess The Elder put a stench on the band that could not be washed away so quickly. KISS ditched the makeup and released Lick It Up. The not too subtle named album was a big seller and had two big videos from it. The title track and “All Hell’s Breaking Loose”. Both featured a post-apocalyptic world that was in vogue back then.
Thank you The Road Warrior.
Lots of people, including the podcast, do not like “Breaking Loose” but I love it. Paul’s rap is so Paul that I don’t see how you could not like it. Plus it has an infectious guitar riff.

During this decade Gene started dabbling in other things and his songs really took a backseat. However, his sexual innuendo laden “Fits Like A Glove” I really like. Now it might be due to hearing this as I was going through puberty.

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1984 had the band replacing another member. Out went Vinnie Vincent and in came Mark St. John. Animalize is his only appearance as Reiter’s Syndrome forced him out of playing. “Heaven’s On Fire” was the hit but it was “too simple” for me. I did like “Thrills In The Night” but the album as a whole was kind of boring. They really missed having Vinnie Vincent as a writer. If KISS would have recorded some of the songs from his Invasion album…..

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The year of 1985 was same song, different day for KISS. Guitarist Mark St. John was out and Bruce Kulick was in. He had been touring in place of St. John but Asylum was his recording debut. The videos for this album are hideous. Bright colors, fringe, and volcanoes, just ewwww. Unfortunately those images are what people remember and not the songs. “Tears Are Falling” was the lead video and warning image. Nice song that featured curtains being ripped down which somehow became a staple in the 80’s.

Asylum was a showcase for Paul’s songwriting. The standout track for me was “Who Wants To Be Lonely?”. He just knows how to write a catchy love song.

Thankfully, with Gene dabbling in acting Paul made sure we did not go without a sex song. The working for the weekend anthem got turned on it’s literal back for “UH All Night”. The sex sells idea of the 80’s was on full display here. However I think this is where the “Paul Is Gay” rumors start. That captains hat paired with his open chest was a curious choice.

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Crazy Nights broke the revolving guitarist streak. The album reflected the band actually having a steady lineup. Still Simmons was off doing things so Kulick got more writing time. They even let him do some shredding on the lone good Gene track “No No No”. KISS also brought in Desmond Child and Dianne Warren. Yes that Dianne Warren, she of the Aerosmith ballad lame, I mean fame. The host of the podcast, BJ,  loved her track “Turn On the Night” but I found it too Bon Jovi with its keyboard popness.


The title track was interesting since the video had Gene and Paul putting the makeup back on. It was a pretty good song too even though the standing up for yourself lyrics had grown tired by then.


The other notable song is “Reason To Believe”. Paul and Desmond created a terrific ballad that is right in Paul’s wheelhouse. It fit in with the 80’s hard rock at the time but it was still KISS.

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Next up was the Smashes, Thrashes, & Hits compilation. For a greatest hits collection it was alright, it did touch on all their history. But it also had Eric Carr re-record “Beth” which he, and the fans, were not too fond of. Paul wrote both of the new tracks and they were as subtle as a pool party at the Hustler mansion. “(You Make Me) Rock Hard” and “Let’s Put The X in Sex” try way too hard and would have been better off left on the demo pile.

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The Eighties finished up with Hot In The Shade. Rolling Stone magazine made a list of Top 10 KISS records and they had this #10. To be fair there is some good stuff but is weighed down with 15 songs, about 5 too many. It has “Hide Your Heart”which former KISS guitarist Ace Frehley covered and was on his solo album that came out a week before KISS’. It is a Stanley/Child song that did not make it on Crazy Nights and was offered to other artists, but still. I do like KISS’ version a lot.

Paul’s love for ballads had him co-write a song with future white man of soul Michael Bolton on “Forever”. Another great ballad from Paul and it was a big hit for the band, even landing in the Top 10.

Interestingly, there are two Gene tracks that he co-wrote with future KISS guitarist Tommy Thayer. Neither are worth writing home about. Eric Carr finally got the chance to sing on “Little Caesar”. It has a nice chorus but the riff is kind of generic. Shame he didn’t get a chance to sing more.
So there was the overview on the 80’s KISS albums. After sorting through them, warts and all, here is my….

Top 10 KISS tracks of the 80’s
10)-Fits Like A Glove
9)-Uh! All Night
8)-Is That You?
7)-All Hell’s Breaking Loose
6)-Who Wants To Be Lonely
5)-War Machine
4)-Forever
3)-I
2)-Tomorrow
1)-Creatures Of The Night
I’ve switched these around several times in the past day. If you asked my next week I might have a different list.
What do you think?

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