Record Store Rant

I haven’t been my musical self lately and that has caused the lack of posts. Aside from work getting more intense, my trip to the local record store last Tuesday has really affected me and I have been a little jaded by it.

Last Tuesday (3/20), I made my morning trip to my local Newbury Comics in North Attleboro, MA. I get the weekly e-newsletter on Monday evenings so I had my shopping list ready for the new releases. The highlight release was the new Masterplan album, MK II, for a mere $9.99. Now that is an excellent advertised sale, I knew that I had to get there on time because the store may only stock a few copies.

I was in my car, in front of the entrance, at 9:45am. At 10, I was the first and only customer in the store. I headed straight to the New Release display…..no Masterplan. I looked under “Masterplan” in the ‘M’ section…..no new Masterplan. I checked under “Misc. M”…..nothing. So I went to the front counter and asked the salesperson if they had it in stock, this is at 10:01am. The salesperson said she would check and she looked on the computer. Sure enough, it was delivered to the store.

I shopped while the girl checked the shipment for the CD, I had picked up about $100 in CDs and DVDs on my list. The clerk came over after about ten minutes and she politely told me that the CD was delivered but it was on hold for someone already. At this point, I’m still the only customer in the store and the phone hasn’t rung since I’ve been in. Adding insult to injury was that this was the ONLY copy they received!

I’ve been a Newbury Comics customer for over ten years so I am very familiar with their store policies and the do not have a ‘hold’ policy. The only time they hold something for a customer is if the item you want is out of stock in the store you’re at, they call another to find it, and you go straight there right away. The chain doesn’t hold items in advance in order to give all customers a chance. I know this very well because I have tried to reserve/hold things in advance and have been denied the request. At the same time, they stores have extended me the coutesy of locating my item(s) in other locations and they have held them until I got there. Basically, they are flexible.

As the girl was checking the computer for other stores who received the CD, I noticed a pile of CDs at the end of the counter. I started to flip through them, and there it was, the Masterplan disc! On it was a Post-It note that read: “Employee Hold”. The salesgirl interrupted by telling me I had two options:

  1. Go to the Warwick, RI store 30 mins away (60 mins round trip) and they will hold it untill I arrive
  2. They will order it but there are only two copies in the warehouse so there is no guarantee that it will be delivered because it’s a first order/first serve basis. Also, it may take up to a week to get it so the sale price may not be valid.

I had things to do so driving an hour round trip was out of the question and ordering seemed futile. I thanked the salesgirl and continued browsing. I continued to shop but I felt disappointed because the main reason for the trip was the new Masterplan album. After another 20 mins, I put all of the other CDs and DVDs back on the shelf and I walked out buying nothing.

This might make me sound child-ish but I went for a certain CD, was the only one there, and got shut-out by an employee. I was given some other options but they weren’t as convenient as my original option, so I passed. Again, maybe a little child-ish but this has happened three other times this year. This was the fourth time I had been the first one in the door for a new release and an employee had the only copy on hold. I’ve worked in Retail since I was 15 yrs old and I know the golden rule: the customer comes first. Most companies do not allow employees to hold items aside, the employees are bound by the same rules as customers. An email to their Customer Service dept confirmed this is the policy for all Newbury locations.

It’s a week and a half later and I still haven’t picked up the new Masterplan, the shop hasn’t re-stocked it, and I haven’t spent a dime in any Newbury Comics store. So where do I go from here? Buy online where I can get it at various websites but for $5 more at the least? Wait for the shop to re-stock and pay possibly $6-$7 more for regular price? This is where the frustration comes in. Years ago, there was a “mom & pop” record store that stocked multiple copies of every new release, even Japanese imports. The store knew it’s customers and heavily stocked Rock, Hard Rock, Heavy Metal, AOR, and Classic Rock artists and releases. When I walked into that store, I always got what I went there for. Very rarely did I ever leave without a new release. Unfortunately, that local store closed down years ago.

My Tuesday routine at Newbury Comics has worked successfully ever since. Most of the time, I get what I was looking for. I have only been beaten by other customers a few times, and that was because I overslept! Most days, I am the one beating out other customers for that single copy. It’s this “employee hold” situation that has thrown me off, someone is beating me at my own game but not following the rules. What really bothers me most is that they advertise the new album, give it a superb sale price, and then they stock one copy per store. What if there are more people out there like me? Shouldn’t they stock more copies at the beginning of the sale? If 1000 people received the e-newsletter and 1% (10 people) went to the North Attleboro Newbury Comics for Masterplan, then they lose the potential business of 10 customers. The business logic astounds me. I understand that Masterplan is not as big as Gwen Stefani but asking to stock 2 or 3 extra copies on the day of release isn’t much? I also realize that I’m lucky to have a store like this in my area. Most people have Best Buy, Wal-Mart, and other ‘big-box’ retailers with no selection and they have no choice but to order online.

Has this happened to anyone else? Am I making more of it or is this the state of the record store biz?

KISS – Crazy Nights (1987)

KISS - Crazy Nights

KISS – Crazy Nights (1987, Mercury/Polygram)

  1. Crazy Crazy Nights
  2. I’ll Fight Hell To Hold You
  3. Bang Bang You
  4. No, No, No
  5. Hell Or High Water
  6. My Way
  7. When Your Walls Come Down
  8. Reason To Live
  9. Good Girl Gone Bad
  10. Turn On The Night
  11. Thief In The Night

Band Lineup:
Paul Stanley – Vocals, Guitars, Keyboards
Gene Simmons – Vocals, Bass
Eric Carr – Drums, Backing Vocals
Bruce Kulick – Lead Guitar

Total Time – 42:53

KISS official website

It took the full month of March but the Knights of the Rock Table have finally made it to my favorite band…..KISS! I have been a KISS fan since 1977, when I was a whole five years old. Back then, I only knew the faces, the characters, and ROCK’N ROLL OVER, my first KISS album. I had the toys and the lunchbox, the Paul Halloween costume and the posters. As I grew, I followed the band but I hadn’t become the diehard fan of the music that I would become in the makeup-less ’80s.

In the ’80s, KISS was my band. My friends had Motley Crue, Van Halen, Ozzy, and Bon Jovi for heroes but KISS was all mine. They had been larger than life, on top of the world, but now they were going against everything they stood for with the makeup and they were daring to take a new direction. Underdogs they were, but to me they were still “the hottest band in the world”. KISS released a solid string of Hard Rock albums in the ’80s starting with the final greasepainter CREATURES OF THE NIGHT (1982), moving to the non-makeup debut LICK IT UP (1983), then ANIMALIZE (1984), and ASYLUM (1985). All of these albums are extremely strong, in the traditional KISS vein, but the foundation was being laid with ASYLUM for a more mainstream approach. That foundation became the highly commercial CRAZY NIGHTS.

I can review this album from a sentimental viewpoint or a critical one. I’m going to be honest, CRAZY NIGHTS is one of my favorite KISS albums, I would place it in my KISS Top 5. There are better KISS albums but I reach for CRAZY NIGHTS because something about it really hit me when it was released. Being a KISS diehard, I liked the album anyway but I really got into it when my friends started to listen. At fifteen, your peers have a divine influence. I took a lot of crap from friends about liking KISS because there were new bands to listen to, better bands in their opinion. When the guys who worshipped Ozzy and Crue said they liked the new KISS record, I was vindicated!

This album is also the first time I saw KISS in concert (12/12/87 – Providence, RI). I can still remember being in awe of the band when they came onstage, I swear I cried. I believe they played five songs off the album that night: the title track, ‘Bang Bang You’, ‘No No No’, ‘Reason To Live’, and ‘Turn On The Night’. I bought the tour book, a Paul Stanley shirt that read “Life is like Sex, the more you put in, the more you get out.”, and I shoved a tape recorder down my coat so I could record the show. The whole night is a blur actually but it was the time of my life. Hence, the love affair with Crazy Nights.

Fast forward twenty years…..I still enjoy they album but it’s become a little spoiled by the knowledge of KISStory I possess. The Internet and tell-all insider books have shed light on why certain records were made and the ideas behind them. CRAZY NIGHTS is a tale unto itself but the quick summary is that Gene and Paul wanted to follow the successes that labelmates Bon Jovi and Def Leppard were having. Both bands scaled to heights KISS had been a decade before and they became the leaders, KISS became the followers. Also around this time, the band reportedly was having money trouble, so a big hit album on the charts would help the business side of things. Ego and money…..always a major part of KISS.

Starting right away with the title cut, the band is looking to cash in with an anthem. ‘Crazy Crazy Nights’ is a catchy song with a big gang style chorus. It’s the ’87 version of ‘Rock’n Roll All Nite’, a call to arms for the fans to rally around. Two things you notice right away: Paul Stanley has a superb voice and Bruce Kulick is the real deal on guitar.

‘I’ll Fight Hell To Hold You’ is an under-rated KISS tune that really builds on the LICK IT UP/ANIMALIZE sound. Again, an excellent vocal by Paul and Bruce really cooks. That main riff is the hardest one on the album! The lyrics are pretty good (remember it’s ’87) especially compared to the next song…..

‘Love Gun II’ or ‘Bang Bang You’, which is it? It’s a little of both because Paul’s gonna “shoot you down with his love gun baby”. The lyrics here are pure KISS cheese, surprisingly from Paul Stanley and not Gene Simmons. It’s a fun song, nice to sing along to but not enough meat but the Kulick solo is solid. I remember the band having an “audience participation” segment during the song when they played it live.

Any doubt that Bruce Kulick is a good Hard Rock guitarist needs to listen to the intro on ‘No, No, No’. What a smoking intro, absolutely blazing! The rest of the song is OK, as are most of the Gene compositions on this record. This song bores me, it’s not really that bad but I always skip it. This is a trend for the duration of the album, I tend to skip the Gene tunes, although ‘Hell Or High Water’ is the best Simmons special on the record. It has a slight crunch that, if it was on ASYLUM, would be one of the better songs. It’s actually a very simple song with a basic riff with some vocal work that harkens back to the old days.

Paul Stanley can write Pop songs and that is exactly what ‘My Way’ is. The band is really trying too hard to write the next big KISS single. It’s an anthem, a rallying cry but it’s so cliche that it oozes cheese. It’s a positive lyric about standing up for yourself but it comes off really surgary sweet. Keyboards replace the guitar for the most point, although I dig the solo. I could see Jon Bon Jovi and co. doing this tune a lot better, this is right for them. Only bright spot is Paul’s vocal.

‘When Your Walls Come Down’ is a solid uptempo rocker with big gang vocals but the lyrics leave a little to be desired come the chorus. Another song that could fit on ANIMALIZE or ASYLUM with another great vocal and guitar performance.

‘Reason To Live’ tries to carry on in the great tradition of KISS ballads but I think it sounds like Whitesnake’s ‘Is This Love’ in some parts. It’s the year, the keyboards, the production., this is what bands did in ’87. I’m repeating myself but Paul Stanley delivers another vocal gem, the man’s voice is in top form. If KISS was banking on a hit single, this was the song that should have done the trick. I remember when it was released, I thought that it would be a Top 10 hit but it stalled in the bottom of the Top 40. This is one of the most under-rated songs of the KISS Katalog.

‘Good Girl Gone Bad’ has a good Kulick solo but the songs sucks. Honestly, I never say a KISS song sucks because I’m a KISS lifer but this one does. If I have to hear another song where Papa Gene will take care of some girl his way, I’ll be sick. This is a skip everytime. Where is the Gene that wrote ‘Fits Like A Glove’ or ‘Burn Bitch Burn’? At least those Papa Gene tunes rocked hard.

Bon Jovi song #2 or ‘Turn On The Night’? This was the third single from the album and I thought this was going to be a big hit but it stalled. It’s Pop Rock, made for the charts, KISS by the numbers. Paul is trying so hard to get the band a hit (he co-wrote with Diane Warren, Pop Rock guru) that this track just comes off as a copycat of the other bands. I really dig the song though, it has a hook that gets to me, I always find myself cranking it and singing right along.

Gene Simmons wrote ‘Thief In the Night’ for Wendy O. Williams for her 1984 album, W.O.W. The sad thing is that this is Gene’s song and Wendy did it better.Obviously the band is desparate for material from Gene and he had nothing to offer but a rehashed song. This is a skip everytime.

Bottom Line:
CRAZY NIGHTS is a good KISS album but not a great one. It’s slick, crisp, and hooky but has no balls and crunch. The best songs are from Paul Stanley, who turns in an excellent vocal performance and Bruce Kulick shows he can hold his own in the KISS machine with some blazing guitar. The lingering questions are: Where is Eric Carr and what happened to Gene Simmons? The production is so slick and watered down that Eric’s drums have no strength. Listen to the drum sound on CREATURES OF THE NIGHT or LICK IT UP and you will be amazed that this is the same drummer. Obviously it’s not Eric’s fault but his performance is non-existent. Maybe if the drums were heavier this would be a better album? As for Gene, well he doesn’t return until the REVENGE album in 1992.

I spent the whole month playing this album and I had a hard time separating the sentimental from the technical. In my mind, I couldn’t get past the memories to be impartial. I did what I had to, I went for my wife’s opinion. Back in 1987, we were dating and CRAZY NIGHTS was one of those albums we both liked. I knew she had a strong emotional tie to it but I also knew that she is the most critical of KISS and she keeps my fandom grounded. So I asked her for an opinion on the album and she said, “I loved that album back then but if you listen to it now, it sounds cheesy. The lyrics are bad and it sounds too bubblegum. It doesn’t sound like real KISS and it sounds like they are trying too hard to be another band.” She also mentioned that the album sounded weak, that if you play it loud, it has no bottom end. She’s right.

This album is still one of my KISS favorites but I seem to find less enjoyment from it…..the memories seem to out shine the actual recordings. It’s all a part of being a charter member of the KISS Army……

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March Metal Madness has concluded and I’d like to thank my fellow writers for asking me to participate. I’m hoping that the other Knights of the Rock Table decide to do this again soon as it was a blast. To get four separate opinions and memories on each release was very interesting. If you read this review, you can get three more unique perspectives on this album by heading over to Hard Rock Hideout, Heavy Metal Time Machine, and Pulses, Verses, and Other Flotsam.

Testament – The Legacy (1987)

Testament - The Legacy

Testament – The Legacy (1987, Atlantic)

  1. Over The Wall
  2. The Haunting
  3. Burnt Offerings
  4. Raging Waters
  5. C.O.T.L.O.D.
  6. First Strike Is Deadly
  7. Do Or Die
  8. Alone In The Dark
  9. Apocalyptic City

Band Lineup:
Chuck Billy – Vocals
Alex Skolnick – Guitars
Eric Peterson – Guitars
Greg Christian – Bass
Louie Clemente – Drums

Total Time – 38:53

Testament official website

San Francisco Thrash Metal masters, Testament, debuted in 1987 with THE LEGACY and have provided good, consistent Speed Metal for the last twenty years. Back in ’87, I wasn’t into the Thrash scene outside of the Big Four (Metallica, Megadeth, Anthrax, & Slayer) but I remember taking a chance on this band. I remember thinking back then, “This sounds like Megadeth, like Metallica.” and I left it at that. Over the years, I have collected other Testament albums and I have come to appreciate the band’s history and music.

When this album was picked for March Metal Madness, I realized I wasn’t as familiar with it as I was the other albums. Actually, I didn’t even have it on CD, I had my original crusty old cassette. Then I had a major problem acquiring the CD when I bought another Testament album, THE RITUAL, instead and realized I already owned it. After all that, I have listened to this album daily for two weeks and I am able to come to a simple conclusion: “This is not the same as Megadeth or Metallica.” In it’s basic form, THE LEGACY is Thrash akin to the Metallicas and Megadeths roaming the scene back then but there is an undeniable rawness, and thickness, to the album that sets it apart.

Kicking the album off, ‘Over The Wall’ shifts into high gear with a wall of riffs and a machine gun drum blast. Driving guitars and Chuck going straight for the throat. ‘The Haunting’ has a great twin guitar attack, the solos are intense. I like the slow, melodic guitar intro to ‘Burnt Offerings’. It mashes into a giant riff that really leaps out, it sounds very familiar but I can’t place it. The Skolnick solo is blazing and reminds me of a faster Dave Murray or Glenn Tipton. The main riff and craching cymbals is what really hooks me, one of my favorites on the album.

‘Raging Waters’ is another speed attack that makes the listener stand to attention. Which is faster? Chuck Billy’s vocals, the guitars, the bass, or that pounding on the kit? All I know is that it is one fast track that just pushes the high gear. ‘Curse Of The Legions Of Death’ is the fastest, shortest track on the album. It’s a power punch to the gut with Chuck just screaming the lyrics and Clemente killing the drums. It’s an all out assault.

‘First Strike Is Deadly’ is one of the songs I remember from back in the day because of the solo which still reminds me of the Iron Maiden twin axe attack. ‘Do Or Die’ sounds like more of the same until the chorus which has that hook and I think Chuck Billy sounds a little like James Hetfield on this track. My favorite song of the album is ‘Alone In The Dark’. There is a sense of melody in the speed that leads into almost a different type of sound than what has been delivered. It’s a less intense vocal with some actual singing on the chorus. Chuck has a distinct delivery and the chorus breaks it up nicely. This is also my favorite guitar performance by Skolnick and Petereson, it’s not the fastest but it has the most memorable hook. Talk about just jamming, I had forgotten how good this track was and I had to go back and play it a couple more times before I got to the final track, ‘Apocalyptic City’. This is the longest song on the record, clocking in just under six minutes. Layer of guitar over layer of guitar, splintering off at solo time, and joining again. By the end, I am exhausted. That was a power packed forty minutes!

Bottom Line:
I was a little apprehensive about reviewing this album because I hadn’t heard it in probably ten to fifteen years and it was out of my realm of expertise. What I came to realize after living with this album for a couple of weeks was that I had uncovered a lost gem in my own collection. Not just a lost album, but also a lost band because I never think to reach for a Testament record. I have almost all of them and I never seem to listen to them after the intial release. THE LEGACY is a raw debut that shows the band can play as fast as the Big Four while setting themselves apart. Alex Skolnick impresses on this debut with some lightning guitar work and Chuck Billy projects the aggression that is the root of Thrash Metal. I also think the way Skolnick and Peterson play off each other adds some more bite to each track, a little more meat to the feast. THE LEGACY is worth seeking out for some old school Thrash. Favorite tracks here: ‘Alone In The Dark’, ‘Burnt Offerings’, ‘Over the Wall’, & ‘The Haunting’.

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March Metal Madness is continuing through the end of the month. If you read this review, you can get three more unique perspectives on this album by heading over to Hard Rock Hideout, Heavy Metal Time Machine, and Pulses, Verses, and Other Flotsam. We are reviewing one album together each Monday in March and we are concluding our discussion on the classic Metal of 1987 next week. Next Monday (3/26)…..you wanted the best, you got the best, the controversial and commercial CRAZY NIGHTS from…..KISS! Stay tuned…..

Black Stone Cherry – s/t (2006)

Black Stone Cherry - s/t

Black Stone Cherry – s/t (2006, Roadrunner)

  1. Rain Wizard
  2. Backwoods Gold
  3. Lonely Train
  4. Maybe Someday
  5. When The Weight Comes Down
  6. Crosstown Woman
  7. Shooting Star
  8. Hell And High Water
  9. Shapes Of Things
  10. Violator Girl
  11. Tired Of The Rain
  12. Drive
  13. Rollin’ On

Band Lineup:
Chris Robertson – Lead Vocals, Lead, Rhythm & Slide Guitar
Ben Wells – Rhythm, Lead Guitar, Electric Sitar, Backing Vocals
Jon Lawhon – Bass, Backing Vocals
John Fred Young – Drums, Percussion, Backing Vocals

Additional Musicians:
Reece Wynans – B3 Organ on ‘Rollin’ On’ & ‘Tired Of The Rain’

Total Time – 46:23

Black Stone Cherry official website

Black Stone Cherry are from Kentucky and they bring a southern flavor to their brand of straight forward Hard Rock. I think the best comparison I can give is that they sound like Black Oak Arkansas, Creed, Black Crowes, Grand Funk Railroad, and a lite Black Sabbath all rolled into one.

You can hear the Southern Rock influence right away wrapping around the heavy riffs that seem to flow freely through every song. There’s a ’70s classic rock feel to the music, probably due to the pounding bass and drums and the distorted guitars. There’s a Stoner Rock/Doom feel to the music, the Sabbath influence, but it ties into the grassroots feel. The only time the band sounds modern is when singer Chris Robertson does his best Scott Stapp (Creed) impression.

Bottom Line:
I’m not really sure what to add except the basic feel. I’ve lived with this album for close to two months, playing it everday, and I’m still not sure what to think. I think the album is a grower, this brand of Southern Hard Rock takes a little time to absorb because there are subtleties within the heaviness that you have to listen for. So far, my favorite tracks are ‘Violator Girl’ and ‘Crosstown Woman’. I’m going to continue to spin this disc and see if I really catch on to it. If you want some straight forward Hard Rock, with big guitar and pounding drums, this is something new to check out. It’s not the usual listen but fits right in with the rest of the scene.

Shaw/Blades – Influence (2007)

Shaw Blades - Influence

Shaw/Blades – Influence (2007, VH-1 Classic)

  1. Summer Breeze (Seals & Crofts, 1972)
  2. Time Of The Season (The Zombies, 1968)
  3. Your Move (Yes, 1971)
  4. I Am A Rock (Simon & Garfunkel, 1966)
  5. Lucky Man (Emerson, Lake, & Palmer, 1970)
  6. The Sound Of Silence (Simon & Garfunkel, 1964)
  7. California Dreamin’ (The Mamas & The Papas, 1963)
  8. On A Carousel (The Hollies, 1965)
  9. Dirty Work (Steely Dan, 1972)
  10. For What It’s Worth (Buffalo Springfield, 1967)
  11. Dance With Me (Orleans, 1975)

Musicians:
Tommy Shaw – Electric & Acoustic Guitars, Keyboards, Percussion, & Vocals
Jack Blades – Bass, Acoustic Guitar, Percussion, & Vocals
Michael Lardie – Keyboards
Brian Tischy – Drums
Kelly Keagy – Drums on ‘Dirty Work’
Ben Krames – Drums on ‘Time Of The Season’
Colin Blades – Backing Vocals on ‘Your Move’
Randy Mitchell – Loops

Total Time – 39:02

Shaw/Blades official website

If you’ve been reading this website regularly, then you know that I have a problem with cover songs. It’s not that I am totally against them but I don’t like to see them taking up space on a new album of fresh material. Even if the cover is a good one, I will still be disappointed that the artist/band didn’t use an original composition instead.

In the case of this latest album by Tommy Shaw and Jack Blades, I knew coming in that it was a collection of cover songs rather than original material. Normally I don’t buy into this type of album, unless it’s by a band I really enjoy. I have always been a big fan of Night Ranger, Styx, and Damn Yankees so I knew that the performance would be top-notch at the least. Shaw and Blades have a chemistry that works very well and their versions of these Classic Rock songs from the early ’60s to mid ’70s are extremely good. Favorite songs on this record are: ‘Your Move’, ‘Dirty Work’, and ‘Lucky Man’.

Bottom Line:
There really isn’t much to review here. I could go song by song but, if you’ve ever listened to Classic Rock radio, then you’ve heard most of the original versions. The band does a nice job in putting their own spin on these classics while staying true to the original song. It’s a nice listen but it makes you want a little more…..maybe that unreleased third album by Damn Yankees? If you like these songs in their original form, then you won’t mind picking this up. Then again, you could turn on any Classic Rock station and listen for an hour. I’d bet you would hear at least four of these tunes. It’s a very well done album, it’s a decent listen, but it’s not essential.

CD Scavenger Hunt – The “2 Weeks Worth” Edition – 3/5/07 & 3/12/07

It’s been a hard week for me to post so I’m putting my last to expeditions together. Let’s also just say that the pickings have been very slim for new releases and used CDs at the local stores so I haven’t really bought all that much.

3/5/07
Shaw/Blades – Influence (2007) – $9.99: I’m a big Night Ranger/Styx/Damn Yankees fan so I was on for this album by Tommy Shaw and Jack Blades. Something about their collaborations really sticks with me so I ran out at 10am to the local shop for this at a bargain price. I know it’s a covers album and I have a track record against covers but I have definitely been intrigued since this was announced last year.

Mob Rules – Ethnolution A.D. (2007) – $10.88: I got into Mob Rules back in 1999 when they debuted with SAVAGE LAND and I haven’t been disappointed since. I have a weakness for German Power Metal but this band really does it right. I had forgotten all about this album, it came out February 20th in the U.S., but I stumbled on a copy mixed in with the Dio albums. A nice price for a new release.

Elf – s/t (1972) – $7.99: An absolute score! I have been looking for the Elf albums locally on either vinyl or CD for a while now and gotten zilch for my efforts. When I have seen the debut at record shows, the vinyl commands at least $25. This has been on CD for many years but it’s hard to find…..the last time I saw one was somewhere around 2003 when my favorite record store shut down. I didn’t buy it back then because I had a basket of CDs already and I was sure I’d see it again. I’ve never heard any of the Elf material so I am very interested in how Ronnie James Dio sounds on what is basically his major label debut.

Total – $29

3/12/07
Metal For Muthas (Vol. 2) (2000) – $2 used: This is the CD reissue from 2000 but for $2 I’ll take any NWOBHM compilation that includes bands like Trespass, Dark Star, White Spirit, and Chevy.

Dokken – From Conception (Live 1981) (2007) – $16: Always been a Dokken fan so this was one of the reasons I went out. I knew it wasn’t on sale and I’d have to pay regular price…..I would have paid the same with shipping had I ordered online so at least I got it right away. It’s early live recordings of the band from ’81 with four of the songs previously unreleased and never recorded on a studio album.

Dokken – Unchain The Night DVD (2007) – $9.99: Reason #2 for going out to the record store. I remember this video being pretty good back in 1986 so I was definitely picking it up when I read that four unreleased videos were included. Ten bucks? Easy money!

Damn Yankees – Uprising Live! DVD (2007) – $13: This is a re-release of the VHS from 1992. Big Damn Yankees fan so this concert video was a must for me. Nice to have a live souvneir of DY, I saw them in Providence, RI opening for Bad Company back in 1990. Damn Yankees blew the Paul Rodgers-less Bad Co. away!

Metal Mania Stripped Vol. 3 (2007) – $12: I picked this up as an afterthought. It came out on the 5th but I passed on it then because I wanted to read some reviews first. Never got around to searching for reviews so I grabbed both this and the new Messiah’s Kiss album, Dragonheart. Messiah’s Kiss was $9.99 but I have never heard them before so I went with the safe bet. Looking at the tracklist, I’m mostly interested in the “stripped” versions of Autograph – ‘Turn Up The Radio and Accept – ‘Balls To The Wall’.

Total – $53

So I spent $82 in two weeks, that’s well below my usual spending habits but I’m trying to save some of my treasure for the online order that’s going to come and cost a couple hundred dollars. Biggest surprise had to be the Elf album and the Metal For Muthas Vol. 2 used at $2. I probably should have waited on the Stripped album and gone with Messiah’s Kiss. Either way, some new music, some old music, and two really good DVDs.

Van Halen & the Hall Of Fame

Van Halen was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame yesterday and it was the biggest letdown I’ve witnessed in a long time. What should have been a raucous celebration of the legendary band’s full career was more like a soft whimper.

I’m never big into award shows but the anticipation of seeing all of the primary members of Van Halen on the same stage really got me excited. Then Eddie and Alex pull out, then David Lee Roth, leaving only Michael Anthony and Sammy Hagar to accept the band’s induction. I can understand Ed being in rehab but Alex Van Halen could have shown up but, then again, he doesn’t want to piss of Ed. Diamond Dave could have really made the event a spectacle, and shown some class, but he let his ego get the better of him again. I have always been a big DLR guy but the guy should have been there.

The introduction from Velvet Revolver seemed put together at the last minute as was their performance. I bet Mike and Sam were backstage laughing it up at just how bad Velvet Revolver was. And why did it have to be Velvet Revolver? Don’t forget, they have a new album coming. Honestly, some of the contestants on American Idol could have done ‘Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love’ and ‘Runaround’ better than Guns Temple Pilots.

I thought that Mike’s acceptance speech was from the heart and he showed major class by thanking everyone, even Gary Cherone, for their part in the VH legacy. Same goes for Sammy, he thanked everyone and wished EVH well in his recovery. I think it’s obvious that the problems in the Van Halen organization are not because of these guys.

I’m glad the band got in but I’m letdown that it all blew up again. If this is the last image of Van Halen that the world will get, then this is a sad end to a great career.

R.I.P. – Brad Delp

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I was in the car Saturday morning when I heard the news of Brad Delp’s passing on Friday afternoon. I had just heard ‘Hitch A Ride’ and the local DJ came on and said that they would be playing a lot of Boston in Brad’s memory. I just couldn’t believe it. I found myself sitting at a red light, not really thinking but definitely lost in a moment.

When you hear a song like ‘Hitch A Ride’ or ‘More Than A Feeling’, the song takes you to a place where you forget about everything and you just feel good. It’s a celebration of life. To have that celebration linked to a person’s passing is an odd sensation. I’ve never met Brad Delp, I never saw Boston in concert, but those albums have always had a special place in my music collection and in my life. My attachment to the music, and to the artists, is a passionate one. When something like this happens, one can’t help but have an emotional reaction. My reaction of disbelief caused me to hold up everyone when the light turned green. It was a quick instant but I had daydreamed to another place.

My 8 yr. old daughter was in the backseat and, after she told me we had a green light, she asked, “Dad, who died?”. All I said was, “Listen to this.” and I put on the debut Boston album from my MP3 player. Sometimes music can make people understand things they normally couldn’t. All I heard again from the back was, “Wow.”

Thank you Brad Delp for all the memories of the past and the ones to come. May you rest in peace…..

Dio – Dream Evil (1987)

Dio - Dream Evil

Dio – Dream Evil (1987, Warner Bros.)

  1. Night People
  2. Dream Evil
  3. Sunset Superman
  4. All The Fools Sailed Away
  5. Naked In The Rain
  6. Overlove
  7. I Could Have Been A Dreamer
  8. Faces In The Window
  9. When A Woman Cries

Band Lineup:
Ronnie James Dio – Vocals
Craig Goldy – Guitars
Jimmy Bain – Bass
Vinny Appice – Drums
Claude Schnell – Keyboards

Total Time – 44:03

Ronnie James Dio official website

After releasing two classic landmark Heavy Metal albums, Dio stumbled slightly with the more commercial SACRED HEART (1985). It was another success story for the band but was panned by some as lighter than the previous albums. For the follow-up, DREAM EVIL, guitarist Vivian Campbell was replaced by former Giuffria axeman, and Ritchie Blackmore disciple, Craig Goldy. With new blood on guitar, Ronnie James Dio set his sights on a return to the heaviness of HOLY DIVER (1983) and THE LAST IN LINE (1984).

DREAM EVIL starts off with the speed rocker ‘Night People’ that immeadiately takes the listener back four years to the debut. Right away, Ronnie’s voice is in top form and Goldy displays his finger acrobatics with a killer riff and vicious solo. The title track has a guitar intro that sounds very similar to the one that begins ‘Man On The Silver Mountain’ by RJD’s old band, Rainbow. The main riff may draw similarities but the song is an anthem that sits well among other Dio classics ‘Holy Diver’ and ‘Rainbow In The Dark’.

‘Sunset Superman’ is another uptempo track that follows the normal Dio formula until the chorus which tends to be the weak link. Vinny Appice lays down that pounding drum sound during the chorus and solo break. The song sounds like two different ideas completely, the band coming up with another Dio classic but taking it in a different direction with the chorus. Not sure on the title either, I get thrown off by the word “superman”. It’s not one of my favorite tracks but it still fits within the Dio framework. ‘All The Fools Sailed Away’ slows it down for seven minutes and is the epic showcase of the album. It’s a combination of Rainbow meets HEAVEN & HELL era Black Sabbath with more keyboard rather than Hammond Organ. Ronnie’s voice really shines and the interplay between Goldy and Schnell lends the song more depth. The Sabbath trend continues with ‘Naked In The Rain’. It’s a thick song, Goldy doing a Tony Iommi-lite impression. It sounds like it could fit on HEAVEN & HELL from the Sabbath days.

Another Rainbow-esque guitar intro starts the uptempo ‘Overlove’. Appice and Bain turning in another solid backbone while Goldy does more Blackmore with the main riff. Schnell is subdued, just sprinkling the keyboards and letting the guitar shine. The first single off the album, ‘I Could Have Been A Dreamer’, is an average song for the band. It’s a slower number that is fine until the chorus. Even though it’s catchy, very sing-a-long, it’s a bit weak and un-Dio probably due to the overt keyboards that layer the song. The weakness of the chorus makes the lyrics seem a bit cheesy but RJD has always been about dreams, rainbows, and shooting stars. A very commercial song that sounds right at home on the previous offering, SACRED HEART.

Going faster with ‘Faces In The Window’, Goldy provides the main gallop riff while layering the guitars. Schnell at his best subdued and providing a bit of depth. It’s a breath of fresh air after ‘I Could Have Been A Dreamer’ with the band continuing where they left off after ‘Overlove’. The Appice drum intro signals ‘When A Woman Cires’ and the song takes on a Rainbow/Sabbath feel until Schnell comes in with a diddling keyboard riff. I like the keyboard layer on the chorus, it makes it sound mystical and mysterious, very Rainbow. It’s that annoying fingering during the song that bothers me. The main guitar sounds like Sabbath but not as heavy. The man at the mic turning in another stellar performance.

Bottom Line:
I’ve long considered DREAM EVIL to be the “lost” Dio album. It went Gold in the U.S. but it had the hard tasks of following three superb Dio records AND competing in the overcrowded landscape that was Heavy Metal in 1987. Maybe the use of a stronger song for the first single might have helped but I do remember the video getting a lot of airplay on MTV. The album is a blend of Ronnie’s career, from Rainbow through Sabbath to Dio, and it sounds more like a continuation of Dio’s first two albums. Craig Goldy provides a fresh contribution to the guitar slot and replaces Vivian Campbell easily, maybe adding a little more meat to the Dio sound. Of course, the Appice/Bain rhythm section turning in another solid performance and the man himself proving why he is considered a master of the vocal craft. This is an album that many need to re-discover. Favorite tracks: ‘Night People’, ‘Dream Evil’, ‘All The Fools Sailed Away’.

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March Metal Madness is going strong and we are only on Week 2! If you read this review, you can get three more unique perspectives on this album by heading over to Hard Rock Hideout, Heavy Metal Time Machine, and Pulses, Verses, and Other Flotsam. We are reviewing one album together each Monday in March and we have only just begun to discuss the classic Metal of 1987. Next Monday (3/19) there will be a round of reviews on the debut from Testament – THE LEGACY. Are you ready for some speed? Some thrash? Some Testament?! Stay tuned…..

Shuffle Mode – The work edition

Tale Of The Tape:
Dell DJ 30 (1st gen)
3138 songs (265 full albums) 

I was able to get some listening in at work tonight so I fired up my Dell DJ, selected “Play All Tracks”, and hit “Shuffle”. Here are the first 25 songs to come on (band-song-album):

  1. Pantera – All Over Tonight  (Projects In The Jungle)
  2. Judas Priest – Victim Of Changes  (Priest In The East)
  3. Alice Cooper – I Love The Dead  (Billion Dollar Babies)
  4. Dio – Better In The Dark  (Killing The Dragon)
  5. Trans-Siberian Orchestra – The Lost Christmas Eve  (The Lost Christmas Eve)
  6. Pantera – Takin’ My Life  (Projects In The Jungle)
  7. Saxon – Beyond The Grave  (Lionheart)
  8. Q5 – Ain’t No Way To Treat A Lady  (Steel The Light)
  9. MSG – Shadow Lady  (Tales Of Rock’n Roll)
  10. Alice Cooper – Yeah, Yeah, Yeah  (Killer)
  11. KISS – Mr. Speed  (Rock’n Roll Over)
  12. Westworld – Ivory Towers  (Westworld)
  13. Iron Maiden – The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Runner  (Somewhere In Time)
  14. Surrender – Sunrise Goodbye  (Better Late Than Never)
  15. Quiet Riot – Trouble Again  (Down To The Bone)
  16. Dio – Night Music  (Lock Up The Wolves)
  17. UFO – Unraveled  (Covenant)
  18. Krokus – Flying Through The Night  (To Rock Or Not To Be)
  19. Iron Maiden – Wrathchild  (Live After Death)
  20. Iron Maiden – Wildest Dreams  (Death On The Road)
  21. Vinnie Vincent Invasion – Invincible  (Guitars From Hell)
  22. KISS – Shandi  (Unmasked)
  23. Judas Priest – Love Bites  (Defenders Of The Faith)
  24. Def Leppard – Guilty  (Euphoria)
  25. Wig Wam – Slave To Your Love  (Wigwamania)

Now Playing – Home and Work playlists

As some of you know, I was a third shifter for ten years so I was able to get in at least seven hours of music while I worked. The change this past October from the overnight shift (12-8am) to the 6pm-2am shift has taken it’s toll on the work playlists. I don’t work with a skeleton crew anymore, I actually have to manage my workers now and that means no CDs or MP3 players until midnight. When I went in at 6pm Monday evening, I had no idea I would be staying until 4am but that gave me four hours of pure music:

KISS – Crazy Nights (1987) - I’m preparing for my March Metal review but I’m a huge KISS fan and this is one of those albums I have an emotional attachment to. I’ll save the review for March 26th.

UFO – Essential UFO (1992) – Another one of my favorite bands and a great compilation of UFO featuring Michael Schenker on guitar.

Dio – Dream Evil (1987) – Another prep listen for my March Metal Madness review slated for this coming Monday.

Wig Wam – Wigwamania (2006) – Take 1986 and apply it to Hard Rock in 2006. Wig Wam has made a gem of an album that the Poisons, Bon Jovis, and Def Leppards of the world wish they could make. Why does a relatively new band get such critical acclaim by going ’80s retro and the old bands receive a ton of criticism for going “current”? Odd, isn’t it? This album is just full of hooks.

To round out the remainder of the shift, I hit “shuffle all tracks” on my Dell DJ and I heard songs by Tygers Of Pan Tang, Savatage, Kidd Wikkid, Krokus, Alice Cooper, more KISS, and Alcatrazz.

I got home at 4:30, and got three hours of sleep before it was time to get up with my youngest daughter and the dog. After we got home from the record store (another post later), I was able to give the Winger album a few more spins, and I was able to listen to Black Stone Cherry - s/t (2006), Tankard – The Beauty And The Beer (2006), and the new Shaw/Blades – Influence (2007).

Nothing like a day of music…..