Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Eugeology: Eugene's List of Hard Rock Albums and Possible Gems Part 13 - Masters of Reality 'Masters of Reality (Blue Garden)'

There have now been two hard rock albums with Beau Hill at the helm and now its time to drop a second from Rick Rubin.

And this album was forced upon me.

I remember arriving at my girlfriend Melanie’s apartment and before I could drop a single complaint about my day, she grabbed me and dragged me into the living room while saying “You’ve got to hear this shit!”

Well… To be honest she had the stereo cranked up louder than most law enforcement officers would allow within the city limits. And what I heard along the way had my undivided attention. I could hear what got her excited because the sounds of this album filled the air with electricity.

Melanie immediately stopped the CD and restarted it at the beginning.

“Theme for the Scientist of the Invisible” introduces us to the Masters of Reality who take their name from a Black Sabbath album (a favorite of most Sabbath fans). And that introduction is the pebble that rolls down the hillside causing you to look up towards the top. But there’s no escape. There's a boulder coming and it's going to crush you.

“Domino” kicks your eardrums in the teeth. It’s the perfect song to follow the opening instrumental track.

“Gettin’ High” is one of my favorites on the album. There’s moments of boogie beauty complimented by the shear hard rock of overdriven guitars.

“The Candy Song” is a sweetie and the record label sent out edible panties wrapped around the CD single. I kept the package for years until the undies ripened and became one with the CD single.

Other stand out tracks include “Magical Spell” (I dig the innuendo in the lyrics), “Sleep Walkin’”, “Lookin’ To Get Rite”, and “Kill The King”.

The last track reminded me immediately of how KISS ended “Black Diamond” to close out their debut album.

Overall, the first Masters of Reality album is a stoner rock classic. It’s a thing of beauty. But something happened along the course of a year…

The album was released in 1990 and then it just went away for a short period of time.

I was working at a record store and I would always recommend the album to my like-minded friends. But after reorders, it just wasn’t showing up anymore.

Then it was released on the Delicious Vinyl imprint best known for putting out the Tone Loc albums. But the artwork was changed and horrible. The songs were reordered with an additional track. It just kind of lost the original vibe. I suppose the bonus cut was bone thrown to those of us that didn’t like the change.

When Melanie and I split up… This album was a point of contention in our redistribution of the compact discs that we acquired as a couple. Ultimately and rightfully so, she got the original with the cover pictured above. We both had a great appreciation for the cover artwork and despite having a bonus track on the Delicious Vinyl release; I just couldn’t talk her out of the original version. She had dibs on it since she got her stoner rock loving hands on it first. But I tried my best used car salesman approach to make it mine.

Sadly, this album isn’t streaming on Spotify so whatever happened during that year of changing artwork and tunes it still hasn’t been cleared up. At least, that’s my guess… Some legal crap is keeping that MOR goodness away from us.

The second release ‘Sunrise on the Sufferbus’ really disappointed me and MOR just fell off my radar. I even missed the released deluxe re-release of that first album complete with live cuts.

But should you find yourself any copy of this album I suggest one simple rule for a first listen… Play it LOUD!

Monday, April 10, 2017

Eugeology: Eugene's List of Hard Rock Albums and Possible Gems Part 12 - Twisted Sister 'Love Is For Suckers'

Yeah, I'm late. I'm not proud of it. I've just been like a bulletin board at work... Everyone has been coming up to me and pinning something onto my "to-do" list. And when I think I'm reaching a "caught up day", something wildly unexpected happens.

Today is a fine example of that, but dammit... I'm posting this after finally getting around to writing it up over the weekend.

I was pleasantly surprised with Jon and Tim's take on the album. So here goes...

From the opening track of Twisted Sister’s ‘Love Is For Suckers’ you come to the realization that they had arrived to an understanding of their short lived success. Dee Snider, since this was actually supposed to be a solo album, knew the costumed days were over. In a sense, Twisted Sister were the sleeping giant that needed a good shake for a wake up.

They had become the caricature that they portrayed in the videos. The band lost touch with reality and thought they could just rely on what they had built.

Sure, they broke away from the gimmick with the video for “The Price” but they went full on Icarus. Twisted Sister seemed to ignore all the warning signs and they put out a horrendous follow up to ‘Stay Hungry’ with ‘Come Out and Play’.

The album was heavily promoted by the record label, but Twisted Sister kept with the same style of videos without realizing that they had become tiresome. With the atrocious cover of “Leader of the Pack” and “Be Chrool To Your Scuel”, they went for mass appeal. Any shot at retaining the Twisted Sister that I loved was gone. Sure, the album scored gold with over 500,000 in sales but it was a piece of crap.

‘Love Is For Suckers’ shows the band with growth and maturity. The songs sound a little more polished and shined up for crossover acceptance without pissing off the main denim clad fan base. The album has its fair share of sweaty fist shaking anthems (“Tonight”, I Want This Night (To Last Forever)”, and “Yeah Right!”) but it shows a band that had grown musically and lyrically. They had finally grown into the sister with just the right amount of twist. They could even rock your face off with the ballad “You Are All That I Need”. They could summon up some old style rock and roll with the underrated gem that is “One Bad Habit”. The song has the snarky quality that makes it sound like an Alice Cooper cover.

Eddie Ojeda and Jay Jay French show much more skill on the guitars for this album. The production from Beau Hill really shows them in the greatest light of their careers on ‘Love Is For Suckers’. The drums of Joey “Seven” Franco (replacing AJ Pero) have that huge Led Zeppelin sound that kept the band firmly planted in hard rock territory while exploring facets of possibilities that Twisted Sister could have offered fans.

Yes. ‘Love Is For Suckers’ is a gem. At least it is in my heart.

I was handed a promotional copy that was sent to the record store and instructed to put it in “the stack” for in-store play. Even though I owned every album and a few imports by Twisted Sister at that time, I wasn’t looking forward to hearing anything new from them. They really burned me with an all-white clad Dee Snider (he should always be seen as the “black hat” as well as the rest of the band, after all they are “twisted”) that was presented during the ‘Come Out and Play’ album and videos.

I didn’t bother to play the album in the store. I had no burning desire to see what kind of new crap they were putting out, but someone else’s curiosity got the best of them. I cannot be sure, but I believe that it was Blake Faucette who finally put the LP into a night’s rotation.

After hearing the opening song, I knew that I wanted to hear more. And I purchased myself a copy of the compact disc on the next employee purchase day.

For me, there’s not a bad song on the album. Snider isn’t using the thesaurus for lyrics. He just keeps it natural. He doesn’t force it. The band, even though they were absolutely hating each other at the time, sounded better than they ever did on record. Every song had that hit potential.

Hell, my friends even covered “One Bad Habit” with their band.

Give it a shot. Put it in your canon and let your inner SMF out.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Eugeology: Eugene's List of Hard Rock Albums and Possible Gems Part 11 - Montrose 'Montrose'

No real story as to how I was turned on to Montrose. I just remember digging what I heard from Sammy Hagar with his ‘Standing Hampton’ release and I just backtracked from there.

I remember how the guitar gods of the early 80s were talking about Ronnie Montrose and all I knew was the first Gamma album that I tried with a fraction of a penny when I joined a record club like RCA/BMG or Columbia House.

I knew “Bad Motor Scooter” was a kick ass tune, but when I heard “Rock Candy” playing before some early 80s rock show at the Greensboro Coliseum I knew that I needed the first Montrose album.

The production on this album still holds up well. The stereo mix makes it quite atmospheric at times. And I love the solo that’s recorded backwards on “Space Station #5”. I dig the boogie bit on “I Don’t Want It” and the decent take on the classic song “Good Rockin’ Tonight”.

“One Thing on My Mind” is the only track that I would throw away. It sounds a bit lifeless and paint-by-the-numbers, but the mix on the lead solo that always gives me second thoughts. Thankfully, “Make It Last” closes out the album on a strong note. The song has that classic Hagar riff style and Ronnie Montrose, the highly underrated guitarist that he was, delivers some mighty fine slide guitar.

Personally, I thought Tim would trash this one. But he managed to surprise me a bit.

And just the other day while giving this album another listen I posted this on Facebook… “You know who doesn’t get enough respect? Sammy Hagar”

And he really doesn’t!

The guy is a great guitarist and an even better vocalist. And like Tim mentioned in his review, I will admit that I like Van Hagar just a tad better than the David Lee Roth stuff. For me, they’re like too different bands. The Roth years remind me of an unruly teenager that’s rude and vulgar while the Hagar years bring not only a better vocalist but, another guitarist and a songwriter that gave the band a more “grown up” feel.

The first Montrose album and ‘Paper Money’ are a couple of albums that every hard rocker should have in their collection.

And let’s not forget the greatness of Ronnie Montrose either. The day that I heard that he killed himself, I made a point of giving the first Montrose and Gamma albums a listen again.

If you haven’t discovered those gems, give them a listen on Spotify.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Eugeology: Eugene's List of Hard Rock Albums and Possible Gems Part 10 - UFO 'Strangers In The Night'

This was originally supposed to be posted on March 16. My job became a tornado of all kinds of things the Friday before and didn’t let up until last Friday night when I left work at 7:15pm. My apologies, but as they say… Better late than never.

‘Strangers In The Night’ is perhaps one of the greatest live albums out there. But unfortunately, very few people know the greatness of the band UFO. And that’s sad really.

I did my best in junior and senior high to spread the word, but UFO just couldn’t compete with Judas Priest, Van Halen, and the rest of the 80s hard rock bands. The mentality seemed to be “if they weren’t on MTV then why bother”.

So yeah, I was a bit of a square peg during those years.

‘Strangers…’ sounds very much LIVE. There are times where you’re going “Why didn’t they overdub the vocals here?”

I wanted to really give Tim and Jon the ‘Phenomenon’ album, but I felt like UFO deserved a “greatest hits” with the guys. But Tim would bitch and moan over some kind of “hipster” ideals that he’s adopted so I went with this FANTASTIC ass kicking live album from 1979. UFO had a lot of great songs, but their albums could be a hit or miss to someone being turned onto them for the first time.

“Hot n’ Ready” is the perfect opener that starts working the ol’ one two with some fancy footwork that borders on the funky side. And Pete Way keeps things in rock perspective with his solid style of playing.

This album shares many of the great UFO tunes from their expansive catalog. Michael Schenker is probably one of the greatest guitarists alive, but the majority of Americans don’t even know him or his work. It’s a damn shame really. The guy can just blister the paint on the walls with a screaming guitar solo or lull a kitten to sleep with a different and more melodic solo. He can squeeze in note upon note like Vinnie Vincent or he can make just one sing and soar with the ease of a hawk riding the wind. Schenker does every song justice with his brand of guitar playing. But sadly, Schenker tarnished my image of him with the McAuley Schenker Group in the late 80s. MSG were cool, but Schenker dissolved the band and rebuilt it. It just wasn’t the same.

I know Tim likes my little background stories about the discoveries of these albums, but I have none with UFO.

I started toying around with guitars and read just about everything that I got my hands on. I especially read the magazines that contained tablature because I can’t read music. There were interviews with the guys on top of the hard rock scene and a lot of them kept mentioning Michael Schenker and UFO.

My art teacher in junior high had a book of album covers from all kinds of different rock bands. And the UFO covers always got my attention. Even though the cover for ‘Lights Out’ always had me scratching my head as to what that was about.

So I saved my lunch money instead of eating and purchased a used copy of ‘Phenomenon’. That was the day I became a UFO fan. I had my face melted off. Just one listen to the song “Rock Bottom” and I was hooked. And like I mentioned before, I tried to spread the UFO word.

I never got to see UFO, Michael Schenker, or any other member of UFO perform live. They stuck mostly to the bigger cities to the north and west here in America. Michael’s brother Rudolph on the other hand… I’ve seen him perform a few times with the Scorpions.

I have the LP of this album and when I was working for Capitol Records, they went through a phase of reissuing UFO albums on CD. So yeah, you know that I jumped on acquiring those babies like blitzing linebacker after a sack-shy quarterback.

This album shows the quiet moments as well as the face-melting Marshall stacked rock that can give a dead man an erection.

Standouts on this album include “Hot n’ Ready”, “Mother Mary”, “Doctor Doctor”, “This Kid’s”, “Lights Out”, “Too Hot To Handle” (why wasn’t that a big hit??), and “Shoot Shoot”.

I beg of you… Give UFO some love on Spotify.

Check out Tim's take on this album. Jon Lowder's posting is NOW later than mine. But he gets a pass since he was out of the country.

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.