WANTED: .38 Special – A Wild-Eyed Christmas Night (2001)

WANTED

38-special-xmas-cd1

 

.38 Special – A Wild-Eyed Christmas Night (2001)

I’ve been a fan of .38 Special since 1982 when SPECIAL FORCES was released and ‘Caught Up In You’ was all over the radio and MTV. I stopped buying .38 Special albums in 1988 when Don Barnes left the band and Max Carl took over lead vocals on ROCK & ROLL STRATEGY. Over the years, I’ve seemed to acquire almost all the .38 Special albums except this holiday album. I’ve had this one on the list for a long time but I’ve only seen it once in the stores. About two years ago I saw this CD in a used bin for $15…..not worth it. I’m in the holiday spirit so I’m hoping to buy this before this Christmas.

Guns N’ Roses – Chinese Democracy release is 7 days away!

It’s been over 10 years and we are finally going to get Guns N’ Roses highly anticipated new album CHINESE DEMOCRACY on Sunday November 23.

I don’t know about the rest of you but I am of the opinion that this will either be the greatest album of all-time or the biggest bust…..there will be no in between, no middle ground. I haven’t heard any leaks, any samples, or any downloadable tracks that have circulated in the last few years, I just haven’t been interested. Now the release is really happening so I will be at Best Buy to get my copy just to hear if 10+ years and close to $15 Million makes a great record.

Current Playlist

I’m trying like crazy to get back into the groove and catch up on a ton of new releases that are sitting on my desk but it’s hard to find the time. The holidays are right around the corner and that’s when my job gets harder, the hours get longer and the day gets more hectic. I’ve been spending more of my free time sleeping than listening to music but I have spun a few discs……

Brainstorm – Downburst (2008): I decided to revisit this album this weekend because I’ve pretty much ignored it since March. When DOWNBURST was released back in January I was really into it but it got put on the back burner for other new albums. I’ve been a Brainstorm fan since 2000′s AMBIGUITY and every album since has been really good but this album hasn’t had staying power with me.

Sammy Hagar – Cosmic Universal Fashion (2008): I’ve had Sammy’s new album for about a week and I’ve been listening regularly, I’ll save my thoughts for the review. I always liked Sammy Hagar, even in Van Halen, and I have been looking forward to this release. Sammy has put out some solid records since his first departure from Van Halen back in 1997 but I wasn’t a big fan of his last album LIVIN’ IT UP (2006).

AC/DC – Black Ice (2008): Still enjoying this album…..AC/DC needs to stop waiting eight years to release new material.

Helix – A Heavy Mental Christmas (2008): I’m already in the holiday spirit with three Classic Rock stations in my area playing non-stop Xmas music so the new Helix Xmas record has been a cool addition.

Riot – Fire Down Under (1981): One of my all-time favorite albums from one of my all-time favorite bands. ‘Swords & Tequila’, ‘Outlaw’ and ‘Altar Of The King’ are all early Heavy Metal classics. Guy Speranza had a cool voice and the first three Riot records are some of the best early U.S. Metal going.

Guns N’ Roses – Appetite For Destruction (1987): CHINESE DEMOCRACY is about a week away from it’s long awaited release so I’m starting to listen to some GNR to get ready.

Interview with Brian Vollmer of Helix

Helix has a new album out now called A HEAVY MENTAL CHRISTMAS and I had the opportunity to ask founding member/lead singer Brian Vollmer a few questions…..

12 Questions with Brian Vollmer of Helix

Santa Vollmer

HMA — Helix has a brand new album out called A HEAVY MENTAL CHRISTMAS, please tell us about the new record.

Brian Vollmer — The idea for the CD came about while I was out to dinner with Mitch Lafon of Brave Words and Bloody Knuckles when we played in Montreal last summer. When I bounced the idea off Gord Prior (my business/writing partner) he took the idea to Wal-Mart, and from there to the recording studio.

helix-xmas-cd

HMA — The Trans-Siberian Orchestra has enjoyed great success with Christmas themed Rock operas since 1996 and Twisted Sister has also released a highly successful Christmas Rock record and DVD in the last couple of years. Did those bands’ success with this concept influence you to follow the same idea?

BV — Personally, I think it’s a great idea! Yes. Really though, the idea has been around since Bing Crosby, etc. One of my favorite CDs of all time is James Brown’s Christmas CD.

With our CD we’ve tried to keep the “Christmas Spirit” in the tracks as well as the Helix “sound”. On the surface the songs sound very simple, but if you listen closely to what the guitars, bass, and drums are doing and compare that to the original songs, there’s a hellva lot going on. Paul McCartney’s original ” Wonderful Christmas Time” for instance, really doesn’t even have a rhythm section. Gord says the original rhythm is based on “wishes and bubbles”. The John Lennon song “Happy Christmas (War is Over)” is another example of a song which we’ve stripped down and presented as a metal power ballad of sorts. I’m singing John’s part and Yoko’s part. At first I didn’t even want to touch the song (John Lennon is sacred in my eyes) but when I heard the final result I was happy with what I heard. Ditto for every song on the CD.

HMA — A HEAVY MENTAL CHRISTMAS is available through your website, PlanetHelix.com, and will be available for purchase at Wal-Mart stores throughout Canada. Is there distribution set up for the U.S. and Europe? Are there any plans to tap into the downloading market through sites like iTunes, CD Baby, etc.?

BV — Usually we distribute outside of North America through mail order companies or through the Planet Helix website. I like to keep control over whatever I do. Anytime you give away rights to press to someone else you’re taking the chance you’ll never see any money from them. Take the case of Sanctuary, on our last CD “The Power of Rock and Roll”. Universal bought them out shortly after, and no one from Universal has even bothered to contact me or send me a statement since. It’s almost been two years now!

HMA — Helix regularly gigs across Canada, any plans to tour in support of the new album in Europe and, most importantly, down here in the States?

BV — It’s hard to tour Europe because of the overhead costs. We did however play Sweden Rock Festival in 2005 and hope to return again in 2009. The States is another situation entirely. Clubs are a dead end deal; fall fairs, concerts, or tours are the way to go if you can get them. I would rather play one gig in a concert situation in the States than 20 shitty bars. Next August we’re booked to play in Des Moines, Iowa for a flood relief concert. That will be a high profile gig just like when we played last summer at South Texas Rock Festival, which drew 30,000 fans over 3 days.

HMA — PlanetHelix.com is your official website and it’s really a great hub for fans of the band and the music. You regularly update the website with plenty of news and information but you also keep it interactive: people can come and listen to all the Helix albums, they can purchase CDs and merchandise, and you keep an open line of communication with the fans. When I discovered PlanetHelix a few years ago, I was psyched to see that you could listen to every album. Not many bands are willing to do that. How important is it to have that connection and communication with the fans?

BV — Everything. It’s the grassroots following that has kept us going all these years. I spend a large part of every day just sending emails to fans and keeping in touch with people in the business.

HMA — In December 2005, you published your autobiography, Gimme An R!, and there was a lot of critical acclaim. I read a lot of reviews on Rock websites and I noticed a lot of positive comments from people like Sebastian Bach so I bought my copy in the Fall of 2006. I’ve read it about 8 times and I always marvel at how personal it is, you really get into detail about your life and all the highs and lows of being in a Rock band. How has the response been almost 3 years after the book’s release?

BV – The book still sells. I was standing at the merchandise booth the other night and someone bought 5 at once! Since I’ve written it a lot more has happened to us, so who knows? Maybe book # 2 isn’t too far in the future! The nice thing about the book is that when you cram 30 years of your life into a couple of hundred pages it all sounds so fucking exciting! LOL. In reality there’s a lot of boring days in between.

Gimme An R! (The Story of Brian Vollmer, lead singer of Helix)

HMA — You’ve made Gimme An R! available for purchase through the website along with other Helix items like hats, t-shirts, DVDs, and CDs and it’s been a success. How has having a good online store changed the way you do business? I’m sure it’s still a lot of hard work but I’ll bet it’s a lot easier than depending on others to keep products in the retail racks.

BV — I do my own merchandise and publicity. In regards to the merchandise I try to come out with different t-shirts on a regular basis as well as a few Helix collectables, like the Heavy Metal Christmas coffee mugs. It all helps fund the next Helix project. The biggest reason I don’t let other people run the merchandise however is because there isn’t enough money to go around for a “3rd slice of the pie”.

HMA — I noticed that BREAKING LOOSE and WHITE LACE & BLACK LEATHER are sold out at PlanetHelix. Is there any chance that you might produce another pressing and make them available again? They are great albums!

BV — Yes, but right now it’s not a priority for me. Maybe later next year.

HMA — What do you think of the Hard Rock/Heavy Metal scene today?

BV — I worry about young bands having a venue to develop their skills as performers and to make money to finance their recording. Back in the day we had a healthy bar circuit where we could cut our teeth as performers and get a taste of “the life”. Nowadays bands do not enjoy the same luxury and music is suffering as a result. Regardless, there are still some great bands coming out, ie. Airbourne.

HMA — If Helix were starting out today, how do you think the band would do?

BV — Fucking terrific.

HMA — What is you all-time favorite album? Why?

BV — Love it to Death by Alice Cooper. It’s a great rock album.

HMA — Is there anything you’d like to say to the fans?

BV — Thank you for all the support. Please check out our new Christmas CD A HEAVY MENTAL CHRISTMAS and look for brand new Helix material in 2009.

*** Special thanks to Brian for taking the time to answer my questions and thanks to Nick from Two Side Moon Promotions for setting everything up.

Helix – A Heavy Mental Christmas (2008)

helix-xmas-cd

Helix – A Heavy Mental Chistmas (2008, independent release)

  1. Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer
  2. Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree
  3. Santa Claus Is Back In Town
  4. A Wonderful Christmas Time
  5. Jingle Bell Rock
  6. Happy Xmas (War Is Over)
  7. Sock It To Me Santa
  8. Jingle Bells
  9. Silent Night
  10. Christmas Time Is Here Again

Band Lineup:
Brian Vollmer – Lead Vocals
Paul Fonseca – Bass
Jim Lawson – Guitars
Brent Niemi – Drums
Rick VanDyk - Guitars

Total Time = 25:26

Helix official website

For most people, it’s way too early to start thinking about Christmas but for Helix mainman Brian Vollmer, Christmas began over this past summer. The idea for a Helix Christmas album was conceived, a deal was made with Wal-Mart in Canada, and the album was recorded. A HEAVY MENTAL CHRISTMAS was released in early October exclusively through Wal-Mart and online through Vollmer’s website PlanetHelix.com. The album follows the successful formula laid out by Trans-Siberian Orchestra and Twisted Sister: Rock bands creating their own seasonal album by taking old-time Christmas classics and adding their own hard-edged sound.

The album breaks down to nine holiday classics and a new Helix song, ‘Christmas Time Is Here Again’. The band stays pretty true to the originals but they are rocked up and heavy! A few cool guitar solos are added in to add a little punch and some length but there isn’t much else added in to make these songs any different. This album is basically a holiday covers album and, even though I’m not big on cover tunes, it’s definitely a lot of fun. I like hearing the Helix versions of ‘Jingle Bell Rock’, ‘A Wonderful Christmas Time’ and ‘Happy Xmas (War Is Over)’, these are some of my favorite Xmas songs and I am one of those people that tune into the Lite Rock stations November 1st to hear the holiday music. I really enjoyed the acoustic/power ballad version of ‘Silent Night’, it sounds great with the electric guitar coming in for the instrumental section. The new Helix original, ‘Christmas Time Is Here Again’, is a pretty cool song and has more energy than the classics. Obviously the difference is that this song was written as a Rock song while the others aren’t and Helix always does a great job putting out new Rock songs.

Bottom Line:
The band sounds real tight and at the top of their game and lead vocalist/founder Brian Vollmer sounds exactly like he did when I discovered Helix back in 1983, a solid vocal performance. Production is flawless, everything is crystal clear and the album sounds great. The best song on the record is the new ‘Christmas Time Is Here Again’ but that’s because I prefer original material but all the classics are done very well. My favorites from the classics are: ‘Silent Night’, ‘Happy Xmas’, ‘Jingle Bell Rock’ and ‘Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree’…..they’re all a lot of fun!

WANTED: Laurence Archer – LA (1986)

WANTED

Laurence Archer - LA (1986)

Laurence Archer – LA (1986)

Laurence Archer is one helluva guitar player that played in the NWOBHM band Stampede, joined Grand Slamm (featuring Phil Lynott) and moved on to UFO in 1992 for HIGH STAKES AND DANGEROUS MEN. This album is Archer’s only solo record, a Japan exclusive. I have never heard a song from the album but I want it! Why? I’ve been tracking this album for the last 10 years and I have seen it go for over $1500 on Ebay, I want to hear the hype! I have featured this album many times in my Ebay Madness column and it always seems to fetch a high price in the hundreds.

I have wanted this CD for years and I almost had one in my grubby little hands! Just before my computer’s died two weeks ago, I received an email from a CD collector in the U.S. that had just discovered this website. This guy read the Ebay Madness features and emailed me to see if I would be interested in an original copy for a reasonable price. Money is tight but I had permission from the wife to buy it if it was reasonable, it would be my Xmas gift! Then the computer died and all my saved email was lost in the abyss! So close yet so far!

KISS Mixtape

I rediscovered my favorite band, KISS, while I was on hiatus with the computer troubles. It sounds odd to say that you are rediscovering your favorite band but I know the KISS catalogue so well that I get sick of it easily! I know every album by heart and that leads to skipping songs so I try to listen to KISS shuffled up on my MP3 player to give a little variety.

Here’s the first dozen songs that showed up (song-album-year):

  1. ‘Thrills In The Night’ – Animalize (1984)
  2. ‘Christine Sixteen’ – Alive II (1977)
  3. ‘Read My Body’ – Hot In The Shade (1989)
  4. ‘Larger Than Life’ – Alive II (1977)
  5. ‘Silver Spoon’ – Hot In The Shade (1989)
  6. ‘Strange Ways’ – Hotter Than Hell (1974)
  7. ‘You Wanted The Best’ – Psycho Circus (1998)
  8. ‘King Of Hearts’ – Hot In The Shade (1989)
  9. ‘I Walk Alone’ – Carnival Of Souls (The Final Sessions) (1997)
  10. ‘Rain’ – Carnival Of Souls (The Final Sessions) (1997)
  11. ‘Beth’ – Destroyer (1976)
  12. ‘Master & Slave’ – Carnival Of Souls (The Final Sessions) (1997)

Bonus Track: ‘Move On’ – Paul Stanley (1978)

I should have just pulled out CARNIVAL OF SOULS and HOT IN THE SHADE instead of shuffling the songs, these two albums got three songs each! CARNIVAL OF SOULS is a cool record in the same hard-edge style as REVENGE (1992) but HOT IN THE SHADE is my least favorite KISS record. I’ve had that album since the day of release and I still don’t enjoy it almost 20 years later! ‘Thrills In the Night’ and ‘Strange Ways’ are great songs that made up for the fact that the overplayed ‘Beth’ snuck into the mix! I skip that song everytime I hear it! The bonus track, ‘Move On’, from the under-rated Paul Stanley solo album, is a classic.

I’m back!

After two weeks of computer problems, I am finally back online and firing on all cylinders!

As you know, I got hit with a trojan horse virus that shut down my main computer. My laptop was also infected because it somehow snuch through the wireless connection and got there. Lucky for me I installed a new McAfee Virus Protection into the laptop because it didn’t take much to get it to recover. The problem was that the main computer needed 2 separate visits from the tech guy and I couldn’t connect the wireless until the main was fixed! Unfortunately, I lost everything stored on the main computer. Everything from downloaded programs to pictures, documents to songs, and any other custom enhancements we’ve made in the last 2 years. I backed up a few things on the laptop and disc but not everything.

Now that everything is fixed and the main is back to the original factory settings, I can get back online! I’ve been listening to plenty of music in the last couple of weeks so watch for new posts this week. One thing I’ve been trying to do is sort my lists for the end of the year: Top 30 Albums, Top 5 DVDs, Top 5 Worst Albums. That will all come in the last week of December.

It’s good to be back! Cheers!

– Steve