Monday, March 20, 2017

Eugeology: Eugene's List of Hard Rock Albums and Possible Gems Part 9 - The Cult 'Electric'

My apologies for getting to this late. My excuse is work where everything went over a cliff. I'm still getting caught up with this top 50 hard rock albums and work as well. So let's get to it...

Let me just say it… ‘Electric’ kicks ass.

Sure, I thought ‘Love’ was an okay album. I liked it, but it didn’t really knock me down.

But when Adrienne put that vinyl LP on the system at Peaches Music & Video on High Point Road in Greensboro… I was like the guy in the old Maxell ad.

“Wildflower” got my attention in a hurry. One lone guitar is cranking and then the song kicks in. By the time the chorus rolled around, I was tempted to follow a dancing Adrienne around the store so we could start a conga line with other employees and customers.

Right away I knew it was the Rick Rubin sound.

I’m sure that made the rounds in the press, but The Cult didn’t necessary have my attention at that point. Rubin’s production sound has a certain imprint that is easily detected by ears familiar with his work behind the knobs.

And the important thing after a good opening number, your follow up better jam too. And “Peace Dog” certainly does that! Billy Duffy really brings the nasty with his riffs on this song while Ian Astbury’s vocals sound strong enough to bend steel.

“Lil’ Devil” brings a more playful sound to the album for a little more lighthearted sound. But what about the lyrics?

The lyrics are little trippy through the whole album. (“Lobster telephone”?) I would listen and ask myself what the hell that meant. But again, the stone cold jams make you kinda forget about the lyrics. The album is just full of rifftastic songs and it’s meant to be played louder than a jet on a tarmac.

“Aphrodisiac Jacket” really shows how Rubin uses the space (nothing) on a blank canvas to actually fill space. Sometimes less is better without overdub and overdub. The guitar overdubs are there to really punch you in the gut just when the time is right.

The rest of side one still kicks ass with the songs “Electric Ocean” and “Bad Fun”. And then side two comes in with a vengeance!

“King Contrary Man” rips up the blues scale with its scathing brand of blistering rock n’ roll. And the song is still a go-to when I pick up a guitar and need a little warm up. Unfortunately, I never really warm up that well any more since I rarely pick up a guitar. Then “Love Removal Machine” jumps right in with a slight tinge of The Rolling Stones “Start Me Up” in the opening riffs.

Now some people don’t really care for The Cult’s take on covering “Born To Be Wild”, but I think it adds a new dimension to the song. There’s a slow grind that sets up for a lead solo payload.

“Outlaw” is a great song to sing along with when you’re driving at speeds slightly over the speed limit with all the windows down and the stereo blasting. And “Memphis Hip Shake” closes out the album with rifftastic guitars.

Do I think Tim will like this?

No. Tim doesn’t care for what I like to call real rock n’ roll. He likes polished songs where every note is right and calculated. Every voice is immaculate. ‘Electric’ shows how kick ass The Cult could be and were. At time, Astbury’s vocals are straining and that’s the point of Rubin’s production. Let’s hear some real rock n’ roll pushing to the limits. And I think that’s what I like the most about ‘Electric’. It sounds like it could come off the tracks at any moment. Even after 30 years, the album still resonates with the do-it-yourself kind of mentality with the good polished edges that Rubin’s sands down for listeners.

I but I understand Tim’s problems with “less precise” music. I used to hate Led Zeppelin and The Rolling Stones because of their lack of precision. But once I started playing rock n’ roll, it didn’t matter. There’s a vibe that’s so primal and it hits most of us all right in the boogie center. And since Tim is in his 40s, I’m starting to think that he has a boogie center deficiency. He just doesn’t seem to have one. Then again, it could be there’s a stick firmly wedged so far up his poop chute that no songs or artists can hit his boogie center G-spot.

Check out Tim and Jon Lowder’s take on this album.

Thursday, March 02, 2017

Eugeology: Eugene's List of Hard Rock Albums and Possible Gems Part 8 - April Wine 'Harder... Faster'

I was always a passive April Wine fan. Sure, I knew the ‘The Nature of the Beast’ album. Everyone seemed to own it back in 1981. “Just Between You and Me” was everywhere! It was a favorite for the couples skate at Skateland USA. And “Sign of the Gypsy Queen” was a staple on the AOR station 107.5 KZL as well as the aforementioned song.

But I never owned anything else until I dated a girl that LOVED some April Wine. I discovered the greatness of the ‘First Glance’ album and the kick ass song “Roller”. But when she got to ‘Harder… Faster’, I became a bigger fan of April Wine. And when I worked for Capitol Records in the 1990s, I got as many of their compact discs that I could. I purchased used vinyl albums too. She won me over to April Wine.

So that’s why I chose ‘Harder… Faster’ as one of my top 50 great hard rock albums. I just don’t think April Wine, from Canada, get the respect they deserve in America. When bass player Steve Lang died back in early February, I had to explain who he was and what April Wine songs people would know.

April Wine were a rock band that possessed a talent for writing catchy tunes. And when they wanted to melt your face, they could flip a switch and you’d be blistered.

“I Like To Rock” leads off the album with a catchy hook and lyrics about… What else? Rockin’ with a side of sexual innuendo. And that extends over to the songs like “Say Hello”, “Ladies Man”, “Babes In Arms”, and “Better Do It Well”. I always thought it was cool how they worked papaya into that last song. It made it seem somewhat less dirty for some reason.

But overall, the album is stocked full of hooks. “I Like To Rock”, “Say Hello”, “Ladies Man”, “Babes In Arms”, and “Better Do It Well” could give any aspiring hit maker a good course in how to build a catchy song.

And if that weren’t enough, you get a pretty darn good cover of King Crimson’s “21st Century Schizoid Man” to close it out. And it is the longest cut on the album.

The shorter and catchier tunes were a precursor to the much more polished and hit producing album ‘The Nature of the Beast’.

I remember being disappointed when Myles Goodwyn and Brian Greenway both released solo albums on Atlantic during 1988. They just weren’t the same without the other. But I have them in my collection nonetheless.

If you’ve never heard any April Wine… Here are a few places to start:
‘Harder… Faster’
‘The Nature of the Beast’
And ‘First Glance’

See what Jon Lowder and Tim Beeman had to say about the album that I chose for them this week.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Eugeology: Eugene's List of Hard Rock Albums and Possible Gems Part 7 - Enuff Z'Nuff 'Strength'

I apologize for my lateness to the party. It's been a busy week and I really should just carve out some Sunday time to write a proper review of these great albums that I'm trying to turn my friends Tim Beeman and Jon Lowder on to.

First of all, Enuff Z’Nuff’s self-titled debut album was marketed as glam metal. That was totally wrong. Enuff Z’Nuff are a power pop band with weird sort of psychedelic twist. They were like Elvis Costello fronting Cheap Trick. I loved that debut album and saw them play on that tour at the old Baity’s in Winston-Salem.

They had Marshall stacks stacked up to the rafters inside and they were second loudest band that I have ever seen. Motorhead at the Fillmore in Charlotte with my buddy Hinzy had us seeing over 130 decibels on the meter at the soundboard. Enuff Z’Nuff were nearly painful even with earplugs. The girl that I was seeing at the time didn’t much care for them, BUT they won her respect when they played a cover of “Dear Prudence”.

When ‘Strength’ came out they blew me away. The tunes are great and fit all kinds of different occasions.

“Heaven And Hell”, “In Crowd”, and “Something For Free” are PERFECT songs for rocking out with your windows down as you’re ripping through the rural countryside.

“Missing You”, “Goodbye”, and “Time To Let You Go” are those contemplative songs about relationships that have gone sour and they go well with whatever alcoholic beverage you’re drinking during a heartbreaking episode.

The production on the album is stellar. And the mixing pays tribute to The Beatles and the psychedelic trip that the band was on. You’ll hear drums on one side and a guitar on the other side. Personally, I love it.

‘Strength’ should have been the album that catapulted the band to hard rock super stardom, but the grunge movement had other plans. ‘Strength’ kicks ass. ‘Strength’ can strike many a chord. ‘Strength’ was every right thing about Enuff Z’Nuff and they never quite recovered after that album.

Check them out on Letterman HERE when they were promoting the album.

If you dig The Beatles and Cheap Trick, by gods check out Enuff Z’Nuff. They’re like their love child if those bands had the chance to mate.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Eugeology: Eugene's List of Hard Rock Albums and Possible Gems Part 6 - Black Star Riders 'All Hell Breaks Loose'

I wanted to see Judas Priest on their farewell tour when it rolled through Winston-Salem a few years ago. But the mighty Priest wasn’t the only reason… There were three more. Scott Gorham, Brian Downey, and Thin Lizzy.

I had never seen them. Sure, Phil Lynott has been dead for a couple of decades but this reconstituted band was the closest that I was ever going to get. And I got close being about 15 rows back from center stage.

They were awesome. And they spoke onstage about recording an album and hitting the road again.

They did the right thing and decided to drop the classic name of Thin Lizzy for Black Star Riders. Personally, I felt that they honored the work of Lizzy’s creative force Lynott with the live shows. But it just didn’t seem right to put out new material as Thin Lizzy.

I don’t mean that as a snobby thing. Lynott was the creative force behind Thin Lizzy. Sure, Gorham lent his licks to Lynott’s songs but to claim the material as Thin Lizzy just didn’t seem right to me.

I read some articles promoting the new album’s release and there it was… A name change was announced. That particular version of Thin Lizzy didn’t feel that it was right either.

I jumped on ‘All Hell Breaks Loose’ when I had a subscription to Zune Pass. I devoured it the first day. I had the album in my random rotation. I was happy as a hermit crab in a new shell. I had some new stuff from Scott Gorham. Dare I say it, I was giddy.

While this album sounds like Thin Lizzy and reeks of Irish sounds, it’s not Thin Lizzy. Black Star Riders were in effect.

There’s enough of Black Star Riders that causes the initial Lizzy feel to fade some when listening. Yeah, there’s a wink in the lyric about “wearing dead man’s shoes” in the title track. Marco Mendoza’s solid bass playing along with Damon Wharwick’s vocals breathe new life into the classic sounds of Lynott’s ghost.

‘All Hell Breaks Loose’ is a darn good hard rock album. There are ear-catching hooks and the lyrics keeps the Lizzy tradition of storytelling that actually has meaning when you’re singing along. The production is solid. This is a good album for driving some winding mountain roads or sitting around with friends knocking back a few cold ones.

Standout tracks for me are “Bound For Glory”, “Kissin’ The Ground”, “Hey Judas”, “Hoodoo Voodoo”, “Valley of the Stones”, and “Blues Ain’t So Bad”.

And I also recommend the other two albums ‘The Killer Instinct’ and the latest ‘Heavy Fire’.

Check out what Tim Beeman and Jon Lowder have to say about it on their blogs.

Thursday, February 09, 2017

Eugeology: Eugene's List of Hard Rock Albums and Possible Gems Part 5 - Rob Zombie 'Hellbilly Deluxe'

So we enter the 1990s on my list of hard rock favorites and it’s a good ‘un!

Let me begin with this… Rob Zombie is a twisted and talented genius. And yet I haven’t watched a single one of his films that caused me to walk away saying “That was great!” That’s because they’re just not even the slightest bit entertaining for me.

I first discovered White Zombie while working at Peaches Music & Video on the old High Point Road in Greensboro. A coworker was digging the 1989 album ‘Make Them Die Slowly’. I borrowed it for a listen and thought it was okay enough to purchase. It was a little sludgy and punkish. But I liked it.

As I have gotten older, my “like” for the album has dramatically waned.

But when I heard their major label debut ‘La Sexorcisto: Devil Music Volume 1’ I was Zombie for life.

They were incorporating audio from movies and television. That was something that I was doing with my mix tapes. White Zombie churned out incredible riffs and they had the kind of groove that made you feel as if you could watch sleazy strippers gyrate and twist all night long.

But for my money, Rob Zombie didn’t quite hit his stride until he ditched the “White” and released his first solo album ‘Hellbelly Deluxe’.

Rob Zombie, for me at least, was an Alice Cooper for a new generation. The horror imagery was neck-high and his voice had the same type of gravely character. And the shows!

Zombie shows are a sight to behold.

Although I’ve never seen a solo show I did get to see White Zombie on the Astro-Creep tour with Rev. Horton Heat and Social Distortion at the LJVM Coliseum in Winston-Salem. My sister Tina didn’t care for them, but came out of the place saying… “You know… That was a really good show. I’m glad that I went.”

The only “negative” thing that I can say about Zombie’s music is… I have to read the lyrics most of the time in order to understand them. His delivery along with the vocals buried in the mix doesn’t allow me to hear them clearly.

But I get it… Zombie’s voice is just another instrument in the mix so it doesn’t necessarily have to be front and center.

The standouts on this album include “Living Dead Girl”, “Dragula”, and “Superbeast”. But there are other dark little gems on this album… like “The Return of the Phantom Stranger” that sounds as if that stranger is dragging a foot while trying to catch you.

There’s the industrial grind in the rest of the songs like “Demonoid Phenomenon” and “Meet The Creeper” that makes dancing to these songs a possibility. “Demonoid Phenomenon” comes with some riffs that would make Tony Iommi proud.

The production is fantastic and the mixing begs you to put on the headphones or squeeze the ear buds in. Throw in some entertaining short tracks to “horrifically” fill the segue selections on the album and boom! You’ve got one of the great hard rock albums of the 1990s. It's just another fun and jamming album. There's nothing to really dissect with a high-brow knife. Just turn on, tune out, and enjoy.

Check out the other two perspectives of this album with Tim Beeman and Jon Lowder. Let's see if we're all in agreement or not. I find reading the other perspectives quite fun!