Tag Archives: 80’s rock

The REAL Top 10 Hair Metal Bands aka screw you Loudwire

 

I love music lists.

I know they are mainly designed just to infuriate readers who will then hopefully share the link and generate clicks. Still, I love them. Especially when they are horribly wrong. One of the recent ones that fit this criteria is from Loudwire. The just released the 10 Best Hair Metal Bands. I expected this to be off since everyone that works at Loudwire probably weren’t born when this genre was at the top

So in another excuse to take someone else’s idea and write something about, here is the actual 10 Best Hair Metal Bands.

Let’s get one thing out of the way, I loathe the moniker “hair metal”. It was a term thought up by music writers that had come into power with the grunge/alt rock wave. It was their not so clever way to diminish and invalidate the genre that they didn’t like. In all genre’s of music there were great bands and then the waves after of horrible imitators.

Also, let’s loosely define what “hair metal” is. For me I say it is hard rock with a commercial sensibility. A buddy came up with the term “hard pop” and I think that’s fair. There has to be either a dreamboat of a lead singer or a shred meister on guitar. Lyrics should have a bit of a blue streak to them. Power ballads are not a must but extremely encouraged.

Anyway, here is the list from Loudwire.

10. Dokken
9. Whitesnake
8. Cinderella
7. Poison
6. Ratt
5. Skid Row
4. W.A.S.P.
3. Twisted Sister
2. Def Leppard
1. Mötley Crüe

The list as a whole is not bad but there are a couple big mistakes. Two of them should not be on it. W.A.S.P. is not a hair metal band. They were more shock rock and traditional metal, even though they did dip their toes in the hair metal pond with the excellent power ballad “Forever Free”.

The other band that shouldn’t be on the list is Twisted Sister. Being honest, they are a glorified one hit wonder. While Stay Hungry is an excellent album the rest of their output is “eh”. Not to undercut the impact of Stay Hungry, more specifically the videos. However, one good album does not warrant being on this list.

If you listen to the Hair Nation channel on Sirius XM you will hear several acts that are not Hair Metal. Tesla is just a straight up rock band. Queensryche are a metal band that just had a big power ballad. Scorpions were extremely popular in the 70’s beforehand.

The other band I am removing is Poison. While they were an extremely popular act. One that you could argue are the poster boys for the genre, they just aren’t as good as the others.

10-Def Leppard-There is no denying how awesome their first 4 LP’s are. I listened to High N Dry the other day and it is still a mother trucker. So good. The reason I have them this low is because how they have distanced themselves from the genre and fanbase that loved them. In hindsight, it may have been a smart move since they are still playing big shows. However, I’d argue that it is because they were one of the biggest acts of that time.

9-White Lion-Pretty boy lead singer

Shredding guitar god

Huge power ballad √

While they did have three keys to this genre, they were also a really good band. 4 solid albums is nothing to sneeze at. As a whole they hold up better than one would think. Plus, I love their cover of Radar Love. Lastly, the fact that after the band broke up, guitarist Vito Bratta just said “fuck it!!” and left the music industry is bad ass.

8-Warrant-There are several bands that were severely harmed by their biggest hit. Extreme and Saigon Kick were so different than the songs they became known for. While “Cherry Pie” was a big hit and a popular video, it became an anchor for the band. It’s a shame because they were so much more. I remember driving and listening to Z-Rock, anyone remember that? I heard this heavy yet catchy song that blew my mind. When the DJ said it was “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” by Warrant I was dumbfounded. Previously, they were just a band that was there but that song changed my mind. Then they released the acoustic version of “I Saw Red” and was all in. But the “Cherry Pie” video with all it’s over the top cliché was the perfect touchstone for naysayers. Unfortunate because the band never got a fair chance withtheir follow-up Dog Eat Dog an oustanding album. Even their “grunge” album Ultraphobic is good. Plus, the two albums they have recorded with new singer Robert Mason hold their own with the catalog.

7-Cinderella-This is another band that is wrongfully pigeon-holed. When you look at the cover of their first album, they are totally glammed out. Because of that I think they are thought of as a Poison clone when they are clearly not. The sound is a lot heavier than one thinks. Tom Keifer’s voice is one of the more unique ones plus being a fantastic songwriter too. Cinderella really made a leap from Night Songs to Long Cold Winter. Heartbreak Station was a slip though. Keifer’s throat problems have hurt the band more than once tour-wise hindering their growth. Every time they seemed poise to have a comeback and do something big it ended up not happening. Plus, they made the most awesome commercial for a chili dog stand..

6-Dokken-It’s funny researching all these bands, it seems like 4 albums in and it goes off the rails. Same with Dokken but I get why they broke up, Don is kind of an ass and George is no saint himself. The band has an interesting backstory in that Don essentially joined George’s band yet somehow they ended up using Don’s last name. In between all the ego clashes and silliness, they released some essential albums. Great mix of a commercial sound with a heaviness to it. Plus Lynch was a monster player. Even their comeback album Dysfunctional is good. It was originally released in Japan simply titled Dokken. It sold so well that Elektra in the States picked it up, added some songs and remixed it. Get the original Japanese version as it sounds more like classic Dokken while the US version tries to make them sound alternative. It still sold over 300k copies which is amazing at that time. Since then been a lot of misses and drama. The Erase the Slate album with Reb Beach on guitar is severely overlooked. I think most of the criticism of the band nowadays is because of the band fighting than the music. Shame.

5-RATT-It has always amazed me how overlooked RATT are. I don’t know if it’s because they were one of the first bands to break through but they have a fantastic catalog. The 5 studio albums have at least 2 hits per. That doesn’t even include their EP with “You Think You’re Tough” arguably their best song. They never had the big power ballad that others did but I kind of respect them for not forcing one. Warren DeMartini was the requisite guitar hero and he’s still held on high regard. Bonus points for their comeback album Infestation being so good it holds its own. The legal fighting over who holds the band name has not helped the bands profile though.

4-Whitesnake-Now some may wonder how I can include Whitesnake here when I left off the Scorpions since both bands were active in the 70’s. One, it’s my list. Two, Whitesnake was basically a blues band until John Sykes joined the band and guitar driven, stripper anthems emerged. I have always said if there is a Stripping Hall Of Fame, Whitesnake should be in there. The amount of dollar bills that went flying because songs from the ’87 album came on is innumerable. The album before it, Slide It In is often overlooked and is the blueprint for ‘87. While the videos of Tawne Kittaen and multiple Jaguars looks silly, the songs still hold up after all these years. The lyrics are dripping with sexual innuendo that became passe, listening to them now they just seem fun. A deep dive is the import album Starker in Tokyo, an acoustic album with just Dave and Adrian Vandenberg. The last two releases Good To Be Bad and Forevermore should not be overlooked.

3-Skid Row-Rolling Stone magazine once declared Sebastian Bach as the last genetically engineered front man. While it has been decades since they wrote that I still thinks it holds true. He was like David Lee Roth with an anger streak. He’s tall and good looking with unbelievable pipes and he knows it. They had the huge power ballad but they were able to not be defined by it. Amazingly they got heavier as they went along. Seeing the video for “Slave To The Grind” after being bombarded by “ I Will Remember You” the previous year was like seeing a color TV the first time. You have to remember on this album they took Pantera out as their opener. After that came Subhuman Race, released in 1995 and is one of the greatest albums that most people never heard. I understand some will say I have them too high since they ostensibly had only 3 albums and most only heard of two.

They need to revisit the catalog.

2-Motley Crüe– It’s tempting to put this band at number one just because of their autobiography The Dirt. Seriously, that book is a degenerate bible. And I mean that in a good way. Nonetheless, the band’s music is pretty legendary. They ended on Dr. Feelgood, their biggest album which is highly unusual. Motley seemed to go up a rung on every album while changing their look and style. Even weirder they changed the logo every album too. No one has ever done that. They sounded so raw on Too Fast For Love that it’s almost punk. It’s a shame Elektra cleaned it up the mix, that’s why you should try to find the original copy on Leathur Records . I don’t know if it’s a demerit but for me their best album is Motley Crue the one without Vince Neil. John Corabi added so much as a singer and lyricist it’s a shame we didn’t get to hear more. Still there are hits after hits on the Neil ones. Look at the setlist for the retirement shows and there are at least a half dozen songs they could’ve added. I know I should take off points for their obvious “going through the motions” retirement tour. Tommy’s drum kit messing up on the last show was an unfortunate yet fitting coda for them.

1-Winger-OK. I know people are calling me names after seeing I have Winger at number 1. I don’t care. I think they are the best band of this genre. Forget about the videos of Kip dancing around and concentrate on the music. Incredibly well crafted hard rock. They were the perfect package. The band are all incredibly competent musicians. Kip studied classical music before playing with Alice Cooper where he met guitarist/keyboardist Paul Taylor. Reb Beach had been a sought after session guitarist and drummer Rod Morgenstein played with the Dixie Dregs. Plus they had the songs. Their MTV popularity was what killed them when Beavis and Butthead came in to popularity. A real shame because they had just released Pull, a truly great album. If given a chance I think people would see the growth they always accused the band of not being capable of. Winger broke up but got back together for IV. After that was Karma and lastly Better Days Comin‘. The band has figured out a schedule to work around everyone’s solo stuff and get back together and make great music. That freedom allows the band to relax and just be themselves. They don’t seem to run from their history like others. Time has passed and on and the line “She’s Only Seventeen” gets changed to “She’s Only 43” at shows nowadays. It’s perfectly pays homage to the song while acknowledging that everyone has gotten older. Older but still having fun.

So there its is. I doubt many, if any, will agree with my list. That’s fine. If you haven’t listened to any of the albums I used to justify a bands rating. I urge you to give it a spin and see if I changes your mind.

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Sweet & Lynch-Only To Rise

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Geez, another project album?

Really?

This one features Michael Sweet of Stryper fame on vocals joined by the magical fingers of guitarist George Lynch. Somehow these two men who have been creating music for most of their lives came up with the name Sweet & Lynch.

Ugh.

That “moniker” does not reek of creative genius for the prospective buyer. Band name aside, the prospect of these two guys working together is intriguing. The last Stryper album was good as was Michael’s subsequent solo offering. The same can be said of George’s latest output. The two Lynch Mob EP’s were terrific and his other project band, KXM, was on many people’s Top 10 lists. Also have to mention that the band is rounded out with the rhythm section of James Lomenzo and Brian Tichy. Two very capable veterans that have played together and with a variety of acts,

One of the main reasons this intrigued me so much was to hear Michael Sweet away from Stryper’s safety net. I was never really a big fan of them. The religious stuff was a bit too heavy handed plus the outfits were just silly. The prospect of him being able to shun those restraints is very appealing.

Sweet & Lynch sound exactly as you might think, a more melodic sounding Lynch Mob. At times it does sound a bit more Stryper-ish. That is heard right from the get go on “The Wish”. It gets a bit slinkier on “Dying Rose” with it’s Lynch Mob sound but Michael’s voice gives it that something extra. His high pitched vocals return on “Recover”. With George’s playing it really hearkens back to the glory days. Now the track that George shows off the most on is “Divine”. The guitar sound is so nasty sounding it’s almost pornographic. Only To Rise ends with the title track, probably my favorite song on the album. Brian Tichy’s double bass drumming really amps it up and makes it one of the heaviest tracks any of the guys has done.

With the pedigree of these two you expect a power ballad. Naturally there are a couple with “Love Stay” being the best. The rhythm section really help and takes a song that could have been very generic into something a lot more interesting. “Me Without You” is a nice one as well, though it seem to echo Dokken’s “Alone Again”.

Purely accidental I’m sure.

Sadly there are a couple of misses here. “Stretch in Numbers” sounds like they never knew which way to take the song. The keyboard is so out front you wonder if George just forgot to play on it. Then there’s “Hero Zero” which has some of the silliest lyrics I’ve heard in a long time. The hero is a zero, he’s just a highwayman. That’s bad. So bad that it ruins what could of been a good song.

It’s a shame that the new release shelf has been flooded with so many of these projects. I think fans may have soured on the gimmick-ness of these “dream projects” and in turn they overlook the ones that are actually good. Sweet & Lynch is one of those good ones with Only To Rise delivering on it’s promise of mixing together Stryper and Dokken into a audibly tasty treat. If you are a fan of either of those bands I recommend Sweet & Lynch wholeheartedly.

Final rating, I’d be happy paying…

$14.99-Regularly Priced CD

$9.99-Download from iTunes or Amazon

$5.00-buy it as a used CD

$1.00-streaming it on Spotify

$0-Not worth the drive space

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Big Trouble-Long Start To A Short Career

06rs

After finding this under the pile of other new releases, several things came to mind. Why does the name Big Trouble sound familiar? How old is this? Is this another reissue of a lost album? If this is new how in the hell how has no one used this name before?
This EP from Big Trouble is new material but they are an old band. Long Start To A Short Career was released on Retrospect a label that specializes in finding demo’s and albums from bands that never quite made it. Big Trouble is one of those bands that got close but never got their “big break”. Despite creating a substantial following in the Southeast the dastardly flannel wearing boys from Seattle shifted the musical winds.
Upon listening to Long Start, this sounds like they are left over songs from 2 decades ago. “What’s Going On?” is very reminiscent of Roth era Van Halen complete with a wise cracking banter. It makes me think of all those Swedish and Norwegian bands that are coming out now sounding like they are 1989 LA bands playing at Gazzari’s. Everyone seems to be a parody of one another. Not a scintilla of originality and worst of it’s boring. I can handle something being unoriginal, everyone rips off everyone, but when it is boring that is unforgivable.
The best track on here is “Now You See Me” a solid rock tune. Basic song with a nice hook and no overtly sexual lyrics from a guy in his mid to late 40’s. Hey, I’m the same age so I know how creepy it is. That’s kind of a problem with bands like this doing 80’s hard rock. David Lee Roth and Taime Downe can get away with overtly sexual stuff because that’s what they’re known for, they built up cache. Bob in Detroit sounds really icky to anyone not knowing who he is.
I almost feel bad hammering these guys because they got back together and made something. That is to be commended. However, I wish they would do more songs like “Now You See Me” and less of “Candyland”.

Final rating, I’d be happy paying…
$14.99-Regularly Priced CD
$9.99-Download from iTunes or Amazon
$5.00-buy it as a used CD

$1.00-streaming it on Spotify
$0-Not worth the drive space

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Top 5 Live Albums That Mean The Most Personally

Once again to get myself out of a writing drought I have stolen an idea for an article from a podcast. A recent episode of the Decibel Geek Podcast had Luc Carl the Ayatollah of Jack & Cola and a Sirius/XM host on their show. During this episode they listed their 5 most personal live albums. These are not the best live albums in their opinions but the ones that meant the most to them personally. It was an interesting episode and as one that liked making lists, sounded like a fun exercise.

Dokken_-_One_Live_Night
5)Dokken-One Night Live-There always has to be an odd choice, doesn’t there? I know people are thinking if you are going to chose a Dokken live album, why not Beast From The East? It is a great album after all. True but it came out when that genre was at it’s apex and I wasn’t that big a Dokken fan back then. Fast forward 8 years later and Seattle has wiped away Dokken and all of their contemporaries. After a couple years of the grunge scene, the morose flannel wearers had gotten boring and people remembered they liked blow jobs. While Japan did embrace grunge they never shunned bands like Dokken. So after a very good reunion album, get the Japanese version, they got the band to do an live acoustic one too. To be honest it is pseudo-acoustic as George in plugged in. One Night Live showed how great the band is and it is a nice snapshot of those guys enjoying the music they created with each other. They did a nice job of reworking their songs to fit acoustically. Plus it’s where we first heard their cover of “In The Beginning” and “Nowhere Man”. The reason this resonated with me so much as it was a life line in some dire music times. While I did enjoy a lot of the Seattle stuff , the Dokken reunion helped re-ignite my love for the cockrock of 80’s & 90’s Hard Rock.

Maiden
4)Iron Maiden-Live After Death-Iron Maiden is a gateway band and I mean that as a compliment. I think most rock fans around my age grew liking KISS and as we got older wanting something new, Iron Maiden filled that bill. The way their album covers attracted fans could not be overstated. They were a huge draw to the teenage metalhead. Then upon hearing them it was all over. The dueling guitars and Bruce Dickinson’s air raid vocals you were hooked. Maiden was a great pathway to the Metallica’s & Slayer’s we later discovered. Live After Death was the first live album that featured Bruce and the band was arguably at their peak. Even to this day it holds up. Plus, think how many American kids know the Churchill speech just from listening to this album.

Wings-over-America-2-cover-
3)-Wings-Wings Over America-If you have cable you’ve probably seen the Wings concert “Rock Show” in the past couple of months. That is the more or less visual equivalent of the Wings Over America album. And if you’ve seen it you know how good the band was. When I was a kid my Dad was a huge Beatles fan and in turn I became one too. I took his copy of the White Album and traced a ball pen over the raised logo. He was not happy. So he had this album and in turn I had this album playing the 3 LP release incessantly. At first I was drawn to “Magneto & Titanium Man” because it was a song about comic book villains and I loved comics. But in true McCartney brilliance it was also a very catchy song. “Jet”,”Live and Let Die”, “Silly Love Songs” and the Beatles tracks still hold up to this day.

thin-lizzy-life-live
2)-Thin Lizzy-Life Live-Much like my Dokken choice, you are wondering why I chose this Thin Lizzy album instead of the much ballyhooed Live & Dangerous. Well, I came to be a Thin Lizzy fan a bit late in the game. Late being, they had just broken up. I read a blurb in my copy of Hit Parader, remember those, about the band calling it quits and recording several of the farewell shows. Several months later I saw the finished product in my local Sound Warehouse. It is an absolute stunner. The playing on it is so goddamned good and Phil is Phil in all his glory. It is a great showing of the bands history but it really showcased the recently released Thunder & Lightning. Add on that you get to hear a young John Sykes showing what he is capable of. Around that time I had just started getting into Gary Moore and knew he was once a member of Thin Lizzy. He’s here too and all of them play together on the finale “Rocker” and Sykes blows everyone off the stage.
This is a big album for me as it started me down the road to Lizzy fandom. Been obsessed with them every since as well as Gary Moore and whatever John Sykes is doing. Hell, I even bought the 21 Guns album that Scott Gorham did. It’s strange reading the Lynott biography and seeing how people hate the sound because I love it.

Alive_2_cover
1)-KISS-Alive II-I don’t know if people nowadays understand just how huge KISS was back in the day. Being a teenager during this time, they were my biggest obsession. The first time I heard them was when my uncle gave me his copy of Originals. I still have that on my shelf. The first song I learned the words to was “Making Love” even tough I had no idea what making love meant. So by the time Alive II was released they were my band. When you opened the album’s gatefold the pics inside showing the band in all its glory is beyond spectacular. At that time the only other time you would’ve seen this was either at a show or in CREEM or Hit Parader. It was everything a fan could dream of. After dropping down the needle, what came through the speakers was bliss. 3 sides of the Hottest Band In The Land doing what they do best. Plus there was Side 4 that had new songs. WHAT?!?! New songs too ?!?! Out of the 5 tracks 3 of them are keepers. I think they played “All American Man” live a couple years ago. “Rocket Ride” is arguably one of the best Ace songs, top 5 at least.
Even though I haven’t listened to the live stuff in years, it’s still my favorite live album for how it sucked me into the KISS vortex.
So there is my list in all its’ confusing glory. Unlike some of the other lists I’ve done I am pretty confident these picks.
What are your Top 5 live albums?

PS

Here’s the link to the Decibel Geek Podcast episode

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RETRO REVIEW-Big Mouth-Quite Not Right

Quite+Not+Right+Big_Mouth__Quite_Not_Right__fr

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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Black ‘N Blue-Hell Yeah

 

Black ‘N Blue is an interesting band. Interesting in that what they are best known for has nothing to do with their music. What they are best known for their connections to KISS. Black ‘N Blue was the first band signed by Gene Simmons and was his pet project. Sadly, the hype wore off and did not result in any memorable songs. When the band faded away, their legacy was now being known as the training ground for future Ace Frehley imitator/replacement guitarist Tommy Thayer. My big recollection of them was that their CD’s were never available in the States but had been in Japan. I remember seeing them available on eBay for $150 for the 3 of them.

You have to love collectors.

Like many of their peers, Black ‘N Blue reformed and have released several new albums including their latest offering Hell Yeah. Now I would like to say that Black ‘N Blue have followed RATT and Warrant in releasing a good album. However, my Mom always told me that it is not nice to lie. Hell Yeah is 15 songs of hard rock banality that proves why Black ‘N Blue are not known for their music.

The album starts out alright with “Monkey” a fine hard rocker and is soon followed by “Hail Hail”. A nice enough ode to rock n roll, a theme that is sorely lacking in today’s songs. Unfortunately, that is about it. The rest of the album is just filler, lots and lots of filler with nothing standing out. The musicianship is decent but nothing notable. Singer Jamie St. James has no real presence in the songs nor does his voice make up for that. It is a little of a misnomer to say that there are actually 15 songs when three of the tracks are jokes. One is about singer Jamie having beer and that shows you the level we are dealing with.

It’s rather fitting that the last song on the album is called “ I Smell a Rat” because this album stinks like a dead rat you would find in the basement. Hell Yeah is the perfect tombstone for a band that should have died the first time around. Fans would best served by saving their money and spending it on lost gem CD’s that were overlooked when the first came out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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