Monthly Archives: August 2014

Tracii Guns League Of Gentlemen-The Second Record

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Last years debut album from former L.A. Guns guitar player Tracii Guns new project League Of Gentlemen, The First Record, was a huge surprise and ended up being one of my favorite releases of 2013. His new band of unknowns and their reverence for 70’s rock were a treat. They have returned with the appropriately named The Second Record. I pre-ordered this from Amazon and was giddy like a kid at Christmas when the UPS guy dropped it off.
When I looked at the CD I noticed a lot of familiar song titles. Now The League are no stranger to covers as there were 2 of them on the debut. It was then I realized this was a covers album and my giddiness soon faded. I do like a good cover but after suffering through that Enuff Z’Nuff one recently I was a tad reluctant. I did like the fact that they did not do a bunch of obvious covers and only a handle full are “hits”.
Into the player the disc went and my hesitance slowly ebbed. The Second Record opens with “Anywhere We Want To Go” and I thought it was one of their songs. It fits perfectly for them. Singer Scott Foster Harris has this frantic style at times and that was upfront here. Plus John Bird’s keys establish that it is not just filler but an integral part of the band. The theme to this album was an homage to 70’s inspired psychedelic rock and that was the prefect opener. “Sunshine” a song by the recently passed Dick Wagner is a great selection. The song has a poppy psychedelic quality that is highlighted here. It has that 60’s loose jangly feel to it while still sounding modern. That’s followed by “Days” by The Kinks, another overlooked of song that gets a great treatment. Another song I hadn’t heard before was “You Get What You Deserve” by Big Star and features a pseudo surf guitar sound from Tracii. The band went deep into the vault and found “Strychnine” a track from The Sonics. Like the first song, the band made it seem like it was one of their own.
Some of the more well known songs are Neil Young’s “Cinnamon Girl” and Buffalo Springfield’s“For What It’s Worth”. Both are fine, they did put their touch on them but since they are so well known you can only do so much. You could say the same about “Hey Bulldog” by The Beatles but since it’s one of those tracks that you hardly hear it works. To me one of the highlights is the cover of “White Rabbit”. The band does a great job of tweaking it with a spooky bass line and Scott’s swirling echo vocals. This might be seen as sacrilegious to some but the cover of The Rolling Stones “Citadel” is a lot better than the original. This version is a lot more coherent and tight but has more of that psych-pop feel than the Stones’.
My copy has two bonus tracks of 50’s songs “Devil Or Angel” and “Eeny Meeny Miney Moe”. Each have a similar feel to Guns N Roses’ “Since I Don’t Have You”. The pair were a fun way to finish off the album. I usually like covers songs but a full album of them can be daunting. Especially one that has 14 tracks. However, Tracii Guns League Of Gentlemen did a stupendous job on The Second Record in song selection and execution.

Final rating, I’d be happy paying…
$14.99-Regularly Priced CD
$9.99-Download from iTunes or Amazon
$5.00-but it as a used CD
$1.00-streaming it on Spotify
$0-Not worth the drive space
No video but here are samples

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Ace Frehley-Space Invader

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In the lead up for release of his new album, Space Invader, Ace Frehley was saying he was going to out KISS, KISS. I got a chuckle out of it not because KISS’ latest release Monster was anything special. It was just that Ace does not have the best track record. From the Frehley’s Comets stuff up til Anomaly, there was some great songs but not a great album. Well Ace has broke that trend and really knocked it one out of the park with Space Invader.

Space Invader is 12 tracks of everything that is great about Ace Frehley. Hooky as hell hard rock with lots of his signature playing over it. From the jump there’s the title track, “Gimme A Feelin’”, “I Wanna Hold You”, three songs that Gene and Paul probably wish they did. “Gimme A Feelin’” might be one of Ace’s best songs ever. “Toys”,“Immoral Pleasures” and “Reckless” all seems to be Ace dealing with some of his past dalliances. I believe that he’s finally out of that dark tunnel so they all have a good feel to them.

The first track I heard from this album was a cover of Steve Miller’s “The Joker” and I was not too impressed. It has a more laid back feel to it than the original plus the guitar is distorted as hell. However, as I’ve listened to this album over an over, I have since changed my mind. Now I absolutely love it and that laid back feel I mentioned earlier is more like a drunken singalong at 3am vibe.

The only complaint one might have is that he misses having another voice in the band. “Change” is a real good song but with it’s slower and heavier tone, a Todd Howarth or Ritchie Scarlet who are actual singers could have taken it to another level.

Singing is not what Ace is known for it’s what he does with a guitar. And this is some of his best guitar playing in a long time. I don’t know if all this Hall Of Fame drama stirred something up inside him but he has the sound and attitude that made me love him when I was a kid. But at the same time showing a lot of growth, especially on the the instrumental album closer “Starship”. While it does harken back to the “Fractured Mirror” tracks, it’s a lot smarter and mature than anything else he’s done.

Don’t know what’s gotten in Ace Frehley but hopefully it finds it’s way over to his ex-bandmates. This is a return to form that people were hoping for. Space Invader might be the best KISS related album in over 20 years,

Ace is back and he told you so.

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

$9.99-Download from iTunes or Amazon
$5.00-but it as a used CD
$1.00-streaming it on Spotify
$0-Not worth the drive space

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Enuff Z’NUff-Covered In Gold

1957I’ve always liked Enuff Z’nuff. Their unique blend of Beatles worship and hard rock, never failed to deliver. Yet, they never really broke through. Even with Rolling Stone magazine praising them and Howard Stern, the King Of All Media, being a big fan even having them on his show. As fortune and fame eluding them, singer Donnie Vie and bassist Chip Z’nuff have kept trudging along. The band has apparently called it a day as Donnie has just released an album called Goodbye:Enough Z’nuff with a tombstone on it. So the all covers album Covered in Gold is the bands final salute as the walk out the door.
It’s not so much a salute as it is a middle finger. Many of these have already been released. “Tears Of A Clown”, “All Apologies”, “Stone Cold Crazy”,”Jealous Guy”, “Hide Your Love Away”, “Jean Genie” and “When Doves Cry”. That’s half of the songs on here that are already available in one form or another. Out of those “Tears of A Clown” is the best version. Great melding of the classic version with hard rock. “When Doves Cry” is pretty good as well since they did not do a straight cover and made it their own song. Of course the two Beatles tracks are good, that’s right in the bands wheelhouse. “All Apologies” sounds like Donnie did a shot of heroin and was about to pass out as he sounded so tired.
Now of the new covers, most of them are misses. The best of those is Cheap Trick’s “Everything Works If You Let It”. Great song that works perfectly for the boys and you wonder whey they hadn’t done other CT covers before. “The Stroke” is an interesting choice but on record is doesn’t work nearly as well as it probably does at a show. Downhill from there. There’s a scene in the movie That Thing You Do where the Tom Hanks character is telling the band they need to do those songs from the Play-Tone catalog. Enuff Z’Nuff doing “Believe It or Not”aka the theme from Greatest American Hero seems like the same situation. The last time I heard someone cover it was when Hep Alien did it on Gilmore Girls as a goof. David Lee Roth’s “Yankee Rose” is absolutely butchered here. The guitar player Donnie Monaco doesn’t have the chops to replicate Steve Vai’s talking guitar and it comes off sad. Plus he apes the same banter that Diamond Dave does and it’s very embarrassing.
For as much praise Enuff Z’Nuff have earned Covered In Gold is an embarrassing way to close it out. I’m just going to pretend that this never came out and remember the good albums. I don’t know if this is a contract fulfillment or just a cash grab. Hopefully it’s not the later because if you buy this, shame on you.

Final rating, I’d be happy paying…
$14.99-Regularly Priced CD
$9.99-Download from iTunes or Amazon
$5.00-but it as a used CD
$1.00-streaming it on Spotify
$0-Not worth the drive space

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Top 10 Dokken Songs

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If it’s rockin’ it’s got to be Dokken!

Once again I am using the great podcast Rock An Or Roll as the basis for an article. Greg Renoff returns but this time, he and host BJ are talking about Dokken. I am in agreement with them in feeling that Dokken is a vastly underrated band. I believe they get dismissed for their videos that do not seem to age well. Musically they can be denied. Don Dokken was a master at creating a nice blend of melodic yet heavy rock songs. Plus George Lynch is a monster on guitar. In the podcast they do a nice job of giving a history of the band with some info that I’ve never heard of before. Instead of Don becoming the singer for Exciter, which was George’s band, he somehow convinced them to join him. Supposedly he took the Exciter demo around, which he didn’t sing on, around and got the band a record deal. There is some other cool tidbits that you should listen to the podcast for.
After going album by album they gave their respective Top 10 songs. The songs are from the albums that had the original Dokken line-up. So no Erase The Slate with Reb Beach on guitar that I loved. Greg did include a song from Dysfunctional, the 1995 reunion album that BJ is not too fond of. Also I do need to point out that I did not include “Mr. Scary”. While it is an outstanding bit of playing, it’s an instrumental. Also, the reunion album Dysfunctional was a remix of the Japan import Dokken, that came out a year before. Dokken is vastly superior. One Night Live was another import that was released before Dysfunctional came out over here. When Dokken came out the store I was working in sold about 30 copies. That’s an impressive number considering what was popular at the time plus it cost $30. I do recommend going on eBay and buying a copy.
So here’s my list of the Top 10 Dokken songs.
Honorable Mention: Usually it ticks me off when people do this but since BJ did it, I guess I will too.
From the Beginning-One Night Live– I know there is a version on Dysfunctional but I like this one better. It’s a little more subdued and not as bright as the other. Bonus points for choosing something not so expected.

10-”Til The Livin’ End” from Under Lock and Key-This is one of the heaviest songs Dokken ever did. It is borderline metal. Great solo from George and Mick Brown shows what a powerhouse drummer he can be.

9-”Paris Is Burning” from Breaking The Chains-This was a song that was originally done by Exciter but re-recorded by Dokken. Staring off with some shredding from George, it also features some trademark Dokken harmonies.

8-Prisoner from Back For The Attack-In all honesty this is a pedestrian song but what does it for me is that dual guitar hook at the beginning of the song that comes back at the chorus. Those 4 simple notes are irresistible.

7-”Just Got Lucky” from Tooth and Nail– This was one of their bigger songs and I think it showcases all the bands strengths. Great singalong chorus too. Quick aside, this was when George was looking like Limahl from Kajagoogoo.

6-”Long Way Home” from Dokken– The version on the reunion album to clarify. While Dysfunctional is good, the self-titled is better. It was mixed like a Dokken record while Dysfunctional was mixed for a mid-90’s American audience. This song I think is a great representation of the band, just down tuned. Great riff and chorus.

5-”It’s Not Love” from Under Lock and Key– Just like “Prisoner” a simple guitar lick is the hook. I love how it slow builds to the chorus. Another great singalong chorus plus the spoken word section is what clenches it for me.

4-”Burning Like A Flame” from Back For The Attack-Another track that starts slow then kicks it in to high gear. It’s a very commercial sounding song but it’s oh so good.

3-”The Maze” from Dokken– Once again this version is better than the Dysfunctional one. I know it’s strange that I chose this ballad when “Alone Again” is one of their most popular tracks. I think this is a more mature ballad while the others were “obligations”. The acoustic version is pretty solid too.

2-In My Dreams from Under Lock and Key-The harmonies on this track are amazing. Simple, hooky chorus and great playing from George and he shows that you can show virtuosity in the confines of a pop song.

1-”Into The Fire”Tooth and NailTooth and Nail is not the best sounding of their albums. However, I think it’s that sound that I love about this song. It’s not as slick as the other stuff. Once again the harmonies on the chorus are infectious. Again, a great singalong that you cannot help but like. I’ve always loved that little breakdown that comes after the guitar solo.

Just like my Top 10 KISS songs of the 80’s list, this could change if you ask me tomorrow. In fact I’m pretty sure that I will change the order in between finishing the final draft. Dokken is a great band that the wave of Seattle swept away, unfortunately. However, we can still appreciate them by digging out our vinyl, still have mine, and cranking it up. We’ll just forget all the bad hairdo’s George and Don sported and enjoy the tunes.

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KIX-Rock Your Face Off

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I’ve written this review three times now. It’s very easy to write about an album that’s really good. Even easier if it’s really bad. However when it’s just “eh” it takes a lot of effort. I’ve heard Kix for a long time. I remember when they broke and they had a couple of good commercial hard rock albums. Listening back to Blow My Fuse and Hot Wire and there is some nice stuff. I remember when Seattle happened and every band that had sniffed Headbangers Ball got dropped and Kix were one of the ones ended up recording for CMC Records. It was kind of cool to hear a dirty rock record when we were being inundated with grunge songs featuring millionaires whining about how bad the world is. But in hindsight I never went out of my way to listen to them. Didn’t immediately turn the channel when they came on but never got excited when they did either. My apathy aside, Kix has kept on going and for the past couple of years have been headlining the M3 Festival in Maryland.
Naturally, they returned to the studio and have just released Rock Your Face Off. Their first album in almost a decade and it’s exactly what you’d want, solid bar band hard rock. It stars off great with “Wheels In Motion” and soon followed by “Rollin’ In Honey” (no idea what that means but it sounds awesome). My favorite track is “You’re Gone” with a little slower tempo that has a sleazier vibe to it. They do the requisite ballad “Inside Outside Inn” but it’s about as formulaic as it gets. After that it seems like it’s all something we’ve heard before . Nothing bad but nothing really stands out. There are 12 tracks and it would have been a better if there were only 10 and maybe a cover.
I feel bad because I am not liking this more. I love a lot of the recent albums from Kix contemporaries. Krokus, Warrant, Winger have all made real good records as of late. I wish Rock Your Face Off was as good as those but it’s not. Kix sounds like the local bar band that got lucky and have found their level.
Unfortunately.

In light if this album I’m changing up my rating system a tad.

Final rating, I’d be happy paying…
$14.99-Regularly Priced CD
$9.99-Download from iTunes or Amazon
$5.00-but it as a used CD
$1.00-streaming it on Spotify
$0-Not worth the drive space

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Overkill-White Devil Armory

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The first time I saw Overkill I really didn’t want to see them. They were the opener on Slayer’s South Of Heaven tour that also featured Motorhead. The only exposure to Overkill I had was their “Hello From The Gutter” video. It was alright but didn’t grab me. Me and my buddy Kevin went to the show late to miss them and catch Lemmy before Slayer destroyed the place. In true metal club fashion the show was running late and we ended up seeing Overkill. They were unreal. A perpetual thrash machine was on full display. They annihilated during the allotted time. I was a fan of theirs until the lineup carousel started and they faded into the woodwork. However, with the release on Ironbound in 2010 they have been on a roll. Now we get White Devil Armory and the momentum hasn’t stopped.
All the staples are here. Bobby Blitz sounding as good as ever. DD Verni’s signature bass sound. And some quintessential thrash riffs from David Linsk. White Devil Armory punches you in the gut from the start. “Armorist”, “Down To Te Bone” and “Pig” are a lethal triple threat. The band was wise to put “Bitter Pill” next since it starts off slow and gives you a chance to breathe. However “Where There’s Smoke” is next and they’re off to the races again and they don’t stop until the album finishes. My version of White Devil Armory has 2 bonus tracks. “Fight Song” has a tinge of soccer singalong to it. Lastly there is a cover of the Nazareth track “Miss Misery” with fellow New Jersey thrash legend and current Accept singer Marc Tornillo
It’s amazing to think that after 30 years Overkill is still killing it. Playing high level thrash nonetheless. Ponce Del Leon went looking for the fountain of youth in Florida, when apparently it’s been in New Jersey and Overkill found it. In today’s scene I don’t think there is another metal band that has released 3 quality albums in a row like Overkill has. White Devil Armory doesn’t show that Overkill still has it, it shows that they never lost it.

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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