Category Archives: Retro Reviews

[Crate Digging] Clover – Love On The Wire

I only knew about this band because of Huey Lewis. If anyone has the biography on Phil Lynott titled The Rocker, you know what a good guy Huey is. Since I’m a huge Thin Lizzy fan, Huey is aces in my book. Clover was a California country rock band that released a couple records that did nothing, so naturally they made their way to England. LOVE ON  THE WIRE was released in 1976 and it is a weird hodge podge of songs.  There are hints of their country rock roots but it’s a mess. Not to mention the gawd awful cover of “Travelin’ Man”. Odd thing is that Huey is listed as lead vocalist but he is seemingly not used in that role. Made worse because Alex Call,who you hear every song, is not very good. “Hearts Under Fire” is the one song they trade off on and is the highlight.

Most interesting aspect of this album is what came of everyone after it. LOVE ON THE WIRE is produced by a very young Robert “Mutt” Lange.  He did alright for himself.  Guitarist John Mcfee, keyboardist Sean Hopper, and bassist Ciambotti were the backing band on Elvis Costello ‘ s debut album. Then there’s Huey.  Clover opened for Thin Lizzy and they took a liking to him so much you hear his harmonica playing on the classic LIVE AND DANGEROUS. When I listened to this as a kid, I didn’t realize the “bluesy” Huey Lewis that Phil gave a shout out to, was the same guy singing “This is It” on MTV.

In closing, LOVE ON THE WIRE is definitely not a sum of its parts. When you really examine all who’s involved it’s amazing that it’s as bad as it is.

I paid $2 for this and that is the right price.

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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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RETRO REVIEW-Big Mouth-Quite Not Right

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I am a sucker for record shows. In the past couple of years I have gotten back into vinyl and those shows are the best. Especially when there are dealers that have dollar stuff. It allows you to take a chance on something you’ve never heard before just off the band name or cover. This is how I came across Quite Not Right by Big Mouth. Seeing a bunch of long hairs in spandex usually means “here’s my dollar”. The clincher was on the back cover I could see that one of the guitar players was Chris Caffery who would later join Savatage. How could I go wrong?
Actually the back cover should have been a big warning. The other guitar player, Johnny “Jinxx” Millan, is wearing a hat that I think he stole from Queen Latifah. Alas, that was not the only warning sign. Because if you look underneath Mr. Millan and his “hat” you see he is referred to as Kevin Hupp-Drums even though he is clearly holding a pink guitar. So is the guy referred to as Johnny Millan the real drummer? The final “I know it was only $1 buy maybe I should have passed” was the singer. He was clearly decked out in the appropriate rock attire but his short hair cut made him look like he thought he was the bad guy in a John Hughes movie. Also his name is B.S..
Seriously. B.S.
Typos aside, what really counts is when you put the needle to down, The Sunset Strip looking band on the back are cranking out some LA. Sound rock but B.S is dropping some mid-80’s whiteboy rap.
Yes, rap. Bad white guys rapping in the 80’s. Not Anthrax “I’m The Man” rap but Tom Hanks Dragnet rap. It is awful. It sounds like it was crafted for some bad T&A teen movie. Besides the rapping over hard rock riffs, the lyrics are dreadful. Really immature stuff. The first song is about needing an I.D to get into a club. “Food Fight” is about, well you can guess. So bad, B.S is rapping about how your pizza can be used as a Frisbee. The only thing worse is “X-Mas Rap”about Santa and Christmas and Big Mouth and at the end of the song you pray there is a War on Xmas.

However, the crème de la crème is their cover of BTO’s “Takin’ Care Of Business”. Just atrocious. Shocked it wasn’t in a Jim Belushi movie. It is so bad you would understand if Canada would have declared war on the USA for the insult.

There is that saying about never judging a book by it’s cover. However when you look at Big Mouth and see the mistakes on the back, you could have and rightfully should have been wary. At the end of the day it was only a $1.

Final rating, I’d be happy paying…
$14.99-Regularly Priced CD
$9.99-Download from iTunes or Amazon purchase
$5.00-wait for Amazon to have it on a MP3 sale
$1.00-finding at a flea market, car wash, or pawn shop
$0-Not worth the drive space

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Aerosmith vs Van Halen-1st 6 LP Challenge

The other day on Twitter someone retweeted an article from Ultimate Classic Rock. This article was a list of the Top 10 American Rock Bands. The Top 3 were Aerosmith, Van Halen, and ZZ Top. Noted Van Halen enthusiast and author of an upcoming book on them, Greg Renoff had VH number one ahead of Aerosmith. His reasoning, not biased in the least I’m sure, was that the first 6 LP’s of VH outweighed the first 6 from Aerosmith. At first glance I agree but started thinking how many great Aersomth songs there are and how padded some of the Halen albums are. So in an excuse to listen to those albums again let’s put them head to head.

1st Album

aero1Aerosmith’s self titled debut is only 8 songs but it contains arguably their biggest song “Dream On”. Ironically the song was not a hit when the album first came out, it took a couple years later for the public to discover it. That’s why you will see some versions that has “featuring Dream On” on the cover. Another highlight is “Mama Kin” a song that is still in their live set. The rest of the album is good but you can tell that it is a first album but the potential is obvious.

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Van Halen’s debut is a mother trucker. You know every song on this album. From “Runnin With The Devil” to “You Really Got Me” to “Ain’t Talking About Love” they are all classic rock radio standards. Add in what “Eruption” and the immeasurable influence of Eddie’s playing on the next generations and it’s a no-brainer.
Winner: Van Halen by QUICK KO

2nd Album

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On Get Your Wings you are starting to get more of a sense of what Aerosmith would become. It has a couple more classics with “Train Kept A Rollin’” and “Same Old Song and Dance”. The sex theme shows up on “Lord Of The Thighs” along with underrated track “Seasons Of Wither”.

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On the imaginatively titled II, Van Halen does not ease up with “Dance The Night Away”, “Somebody Get Me A Doctor”, and “Beautiful Girls”. The band starts flexing its’ personality more with a heavy dose of Diamond Dave on “Bottoms Up” and more guitar greatness on “Spanish Fly”.
Both albums are great but the Van Halen one is deeper.
Winner: Van Halen by late round stoppage

3rd Album

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Now this is where it gets interesting. On the third album both bands have had a chance to record and tour so they know who they are. At this point of their careers Van Halen is a bigger band. Toys In The Album is a true classic with 3 monster songs in “Walk This Way”, “Sweet Emotion”, and the title track. Add in “Big Ten Inch”, “Uncle Salty”, “You See Me Crying” and this album that will live on your turntable.

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Women And Children First is no slouch though. “And The Cradle Will Rock” and “Everybody Wants Some!!” are two Van Halen staples. There are a couple of other tracks that everyone knows in “Take Your Whiskey Home” and “Romeo’s Delight”. However when push comes to shove, I think Toys is a much better album.
WINNER: Aerosmith by late round KO.

4th Album

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At this point in their careers both bands are pretty big. Aerosmith released album #4 with Rocks. It’s a pretty solid offering. Kicks off with “Back In The Saddle” and “Last Child”. One of my favorite tracks on here is “Nobody’s Fault”along with another underrated track “Sick As A Dog”. Almost forgot about “Lick and A Promise” one more Steven Tyler track dripping with raunchiness.

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Van Halen brought us Women and Children First. The biggies here are “So This Is Love?”, “Unchained”, and “Mean Streets”. All three of those are songs any band would kill to have created. What is interesting is Van Halen’s albums are becoming shorter. The first had 11 tracks now we’re down to 9 with two of them being under two minutes and one of those an instrumental. In a match up between the two albums I think that is a big factor.
Winner: Aerosmith by unanimous decision

5the Album

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So by the time we get to album #5 both bands are still huge and if you read Aerosmith’s book you know how far gone the whole band is. The Toxic Twins moniker has clearly been earned. Van Halen is still the party band of their time but don’t seem to be showing the cracks Aerosmith does. The band from Boston released Draw The Line and just like Toys the title track is a killer. The other big track is “Kings and Queens” but “Milk Cow Blues” should not be ignored. Plus it has “Get It Up” a highly ignored rocker.

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The fifth offering from VH was Diver Down. This is kind of an odd album in that it has 12 tracks but 5 of them are covers. And 4 of the remaining are instrumentals. Normally this would be seen a screw job to fans but it’s Van Halen. “Pretty Woman” and “Dancing In The Streets” are pretty iconic covers. As is “Where Have All The Good Time Gone” even though this is another Kinks cover. I guess if it worked once try it again. Right Quiet Riot?
Anyway. Those are all keepers as is the instrumental “Little Guitars”. I must point out that the original songs are stinkers. I don’t know what was going on in the VH camp but this seems like a rush job. I could see someone choosing Draw The Line since they are originals but I got to to with VH.
Winner: Van Halen by split decision

6th Album

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There is something interesting about the first 6 albums from these bands. 1 through 5 came out a year apart but there was a 2-year gap in between 5 and 6. Plus album number 7 had big lineup changes for both. The mighty Aerosmith were in full drug hell by this time. They were a mess and it is kind of evident here. Night In The Ruts is not a bad album but there is not a hammer here. The band seems to have wanted to get back to the blues rock/Zeppelin influence. “Cheese Cake” and “Reefer Headed Woman” are perfect examples. The best track might be “Bone To Bone” but there’s no definite one.

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I can still remember when 1984 came out. During lunch break at high school some classmates ran out and bought it and were listening to it before 4th period. It was the first Van Halen that took advantage of MTV. “Jump” was a big hit but “Hot For Teacher” knocked it out of the park. Add in that it has “Top Jimmy” “Drop Dead Legs”, and “Panama” and the last album by the original 4 was just as gi-normous as their first.
Winner:Van Halen by QUICK KO

Depending on how you scored the 5th album, you either have a draw or 4-2 in favor of Van Halen. I had an idea of how it would go before I wrote this but am kind of shocked how close it ended up being. I love Aerosmith but I think Van Halen is the bigger band. Even if you include the sober Aerosmith you then have to include the Van Hagar years and those were pretty good for them. The first and last album for Van Halen are just monstrous. So many classic songs. However in the middle ones, Aerosmith’s were a lot deeper. I don’t know why Van Halen coasted.
Either way that is a quality catalog that any band would be happy with.
How did you score it?
PS.
I had the top 3 American rock bands as KISS, Van Halen, Aerosmith.

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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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