Friday, November 17, 2017

Eugeology: Eugene's List of Hard Rock Albums and Possible Gems Part 25 - King's X 'Gretchen Goes To Nebraska'

Yeah, I got really behind on this project. A project that I started! I'm slack at times. I just haven't been in the mood to write lately. But lets get back on this train!

I remember the day that a girlfriend played ‘Gretchen Goes to Nebraska’ for me. It was a hot day in June and we were headed for lunch at the Taco Time that used to be on High Point Road (now Gate City Blvd) in Greensboro. She drove a small red Toyota Tercel with no air conditioning.

She had a promotional cassette that was given out to radio stations a few weeks ahead of the release.

We were already familiar and in love with ‘Out of the Silent Planet’ from King’s X. So as soon as she saw that new release, she snagged it.

For me, it was MILES ahead of ‘Out of the Silent Planet’. The songs still rocked hard, but they had more of a pop music sensibility to them.

“Over My Head” is still one of my favorite songs of all time. And for some reason, it reminds me of something from Stephen King’s ‘The Stand’. I’m not sure why, but it does. The song just reminds me of Mother Abigail.

I got to see them in a club in Hickory called Cadillacs and they blew me away. They were one of the tightest rock bands that I had ever seen live. When they all reached a “quick stop” in a song, there was silence for a split second, and BOOM! They were back into the song. It was like a punch to the gut.

Doug Pinnick possesses one of the greatest voices in hard rock and how he does what he does on the bass guitar while singing has always blown my mind. Ty Tabor delivers guitar god antics without all the trappings of Stratocaster royalty. He does the job, but if you listen carefully to the craftsmanship, you’ll find out that he SHOULD reside in the guitar gods Rolodex. And Jerry Gaskill provides the drums and timing needed for these three great musicians that doesn’t get enough respect.

And between them, they really bring home big harmonies.

I love the production on this album. You could slice cheese with the sharpness of the production. And for me, there’s not a single track that I would throw away.

‘Gretchen Goes to Nebraska’ should be enjoyed with headphones or ear buds.

“Out of the Silent Planet” opens the album with a light touch of harmonies with really heavy guitars just buried underneath. The vocals are as smooth as a ride in a new Cadillac.

“Over My Head” hits you like a bullet out of the blue. I have always loved the sound of the bass guitar in this one and Pinnick’s voice is golden on this track.

“Summerland” is another lush track layered with melodic guitars and harmonies. But wait for it… The gut punch will arrive as Pinnick drives home the vocals.

“Every Body Knows A Little Bit of Something” starts off with a small salute to soul with the opening vocals. The guitars kick in and then it backs off with the lead vocals on my favorite effect, flange. And yes, it’s very “headphonic”. I love that stuff. Pinnick’s slap bass is understated and exactly what the song needs during verses. Tabor’s biting strat keeps the song anchored with molten hard rock lead.

“The Difference (In the Garden of St. Anne’s On-The-Hill)” is another lush song laced with those Cadillac ride vocals, acoustic guitars, and tasteful percussive treats from Gaskill. The song is a perfect “palate cleanser” for this album. It reminds the less than average fan of just how good these cats are.

“I’ll Never Be The Same” is another hard rocker with Pinnick’s soulful vocals laced with a hint of gravel. The song has so many riffs perfect for any air guitarist in your life. The lack of overdubs really makes this song great in my opinion, especially during the lead solo.

“The Mission” starts off with a slight melodic misrepresentation before giving you a light kick in the rump. The song is an interesting look at religion and I have used the “assembly of a social gathering” many a times regarding my views about organized religion.

“Fall On Me” has always immediately reminded me of a Robin Trower song. It just has that vibe. And it’s another song that has “the open canvas” when it comes to overdubbing. They show that you don’t need to cover up all the blankness to make a damn fine song. And remember that thing that I wrote about the sudden stop in a song that filled Cadillac’s with silence?

Well, it comes at about the 3:45 mark in the song.

“Pleiades” features the vocals of Ty Tabor. In my opinion, his vocals are a little thin but they but quite calming and subdued. If it weren’t for the guitars on this song, it would be close to a throw away. It’s my least favorite tune on the album.

Thankfully “Don’t Believe it” comes back in to wake you up. Again there are hints of Mother India in this track filled with air guitar worthy riffs.

“Send A Message” has a nice little bouncy beat to it as it melts your face. And like most of the other tracks on this album, break out your air guitars.

“The Burning Down” closes out the record with Tabor handling the vocals. It sounds like The Beatles with a wall of Marshall amps behind them. It’s melodic with the loud guitars complimenting the lush vocals. At times the song meanders along, but that’s not a bad thing. The song makes for a fine closer on this album.

Check out Tim's take on this album at his blog. I would direct you to Jon's take, but he's more behind than I am. And I've been unemployed for 2 months!

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Eugeology: Eugene's List of Hard Rock Albums and Possible Gems Part 24 - Motley Crue 'Too Fast For Love'

I was never a huge fan of Motley Crue. But ‘Too Fast For Love’ is by far their best album in my humble opinion.

The Crue got too wrapped up in following trends for my tastes. They went from nasty hard rock maggots living off depravity (‘Too Fast For Love’) to made-up tarts that lived off depravity (‘Theatre of Pain’) within 3 albums. They got too big for their “raisin’” with me. Once ‘Girls, Girls, Girls’ was released, I had long since checked out.

But even though I didn’t care for many of their albums after ‘Too Fast For Love’, I still went to see them live. Motley Crue were a great band to see live. They put on a helluva show. I’ve managed to see them on tours for Shout, Theatre, Girls, and the final tour. And when it comes to power drummers, I would consider Tommy Lee one of the greatest that has ever lived. And he would push himself to extremes when it came to live performances when it was time for his drum solos.

I have never went to the bathroom or scooted off for a beer during one of Lee’s drum solos. I knew that I was going to see and hear something special each time.

‘Too Fast For Love’ came out ahead of the L.A. bands onslaught in the early 80’s. There was leather, punk attitudes, overt sexuality, and satanic imagery that fueled my desire to check them out. I thought it was all rather tongue-in-cheek, but the satanic imagery was the only thing played up by Motley Crue.

First of all, ‘Too Fast…’ is a great power pop album fueled by Nikki Sixx’s love of the rock band Sweet. So don’t be fooled by all the leather, spikey studs, and handcuffs. ‘Too Fast…’ is an album filled with sing-along songs and pretty little pop songs played REAL LOUD with B.C. Rich guitars and Marshall amplifiers.

The album opens up with concert staple ‘Live Wire’ that has shades of punk buried behind the riffs. And it has cow bell!

But then the album opens up a bit and allows Sixx to pay homage to Sweet with his hunger to move away from Frank Feranna, Jr. (Nikki Sixx’s real name) and the psychological baggage that goes along with him. I believe that’s why “Frankie” died a few different ways in the song “On with the Show”. Sixx was putting Frankie to rest and letting Nikki live out the rest of his life.

The album cover is definitely a tribute to ‘Sticky Fingers’ by The Rolling Stones, but don’t let it fool you. The album is all Motley Crue. The only cheese on this release is the poppy goodness disguised as hard rockin’ tunes.

For me, this is a fine as Motley Crue got musically. They got bigger and were allocated bigger budgets on the albums that followed. But it didn’t sound like Motley Crue to me. When I first heard their cover of Brownsville Station’s “Smokin’ in the Boys Room”, I nearly had a dry-heave. And even though I covered “Home Sweet Home” in a band, I hated that song. HATED IT.

‘Too Fast…’ is the ONLY Motley Crue album that you need. It has everything they ever were or were going to be. It’s the ugly and crusty scab that covers the debauchery inside.

I suggest that you pick that scab and put ‘Too Fast For Love’ into your collection. Play it loud often. Sing along with the songs. Get lost in the TRUE Motley Crue that we only saw for one beautiful album.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Eugeology: Eugene's List of Hard Rock Albums and Possible Gems Part 23 - Blue Oyster Cult 'Tyranny and Mutation'

“The Red and the Black” is a fitting opening for ‘Tyranny and Mutation’, the second album from Blue Oyster Cult. It’s noisy rock and roll with a hard rock gut punch that possesses a bit of boogie-ness that makes you want more of this terrific album.

Although I’m not a huge fan that owns everything BOC put out, I have a deep appreciation for everything they’ve done. For one thing, they’re not “cock rockers” that sing about their many conquests in and out of the sack. BOC wrote songs that are stories. Some are serious. Some can be quite humorous. And some can be downright head scratchers that have you picking through the lyrics to find out what they hell they’re singing about.

Even then you won’t get the answers that you seek. That’s one of the many beauties of the Blue Oyster Cult.

Originally, I wanted to put ‘Cultosaurus Erectus’ on this list but I felt that this second album definitely provided a map to where the band was going to go in the future. It was a mutation. There are smatterings of pop sensibilities that pop up later on ‘Fire of an Unknown Origin’ and the huge ‘Agents of Fortune’. And there are plenty of songs that pack a wallop for those craving face melting hard rock.

To me, this album sounds like an educated Grand Funk Railroad. There are plenty of amps pumping out the hard rock, but the lyrics make you listen deeper into the music. “Hot Rails to Hell” is a perfect example.

The song titles don’t really stick with you, but the tunes surely will.

Were BOC an American progressive rock band?

You can’t exactly pin that category on them based upon the music, but lyrically there’s an argument.

‘Tyranny and Mutation’ is a riff-tastic album and if you claim that hard rock is your favorite music of choice, you need it in your collection. Hell, I would recommend everything up to ‘Club Ninja’ and even the live albums.

For me, Blue Oyster Cult will always be that “weird” kid in your class that loved horror movies and Edgar Allan Poe. You didn’t want to spend a lot of time to get to know him, but you found him intriguing and he made you pause to appreciate the darker side of things.

In my opinion, there’s not a bad song on this album. And again, it was a toss up with ‘Cultosaurus Erectus’. So give that album a shot too.

Here's Tim Beeman's take on it. We're still waiting on "Jet Setting" Jon Lowder to get back on board.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Eugeology: Eugene's List of Hard Rock Albums and Possible Gems Part 22 - Kix 'Kix'

First of all, Kix is not a “hair band”. Lets be very clear… Kix had good fashion sense, but they never pumped their hair to over-inflated heights. Kix relied on their riffs and snarky lyrics. They were a more polished and better version of AC/DC with Bon Scott. They knew how to write songs with more hooks than a bait shop. Sure, Donnie Purnell was the chief songwriter in the band, but hey… it takes a lot of cooks to prep such a delicious Kix entrĂ©e.

The main thing that I love about Kix is dual guitar attack of Brian Forsythe and Ronnie Younkins. Both of them are more than adequate lead guitarists, but when it comes to rhythm guitar I can only think of a handful of other combos that allow the song to dictate what is played over the egos of the guitarists. The interplay between the two guitarists is a beautiful thing to behold in your ear canals. Forsythe and Younkins lay back and let the music do the talking. They are fantastic to watch in a live setting. You see them trade off licks while the drummer and bassist hold things down as Steve Whiteman lets go like blonde Peter Wolf.

I’ve been fortunate enough to see them in small clubs and on stage in the Greensboro Coliseum before a sellout crowd. And every… single… time… Kix brought it! Not only are Kix in my top 5 all time favorite bands, but their ‘Midnight Dynamite’ tour stop at the old Baity’s Music Garden in Winston-Salem ranks right up there with the Queensryche, White Zombie, Gwen Stefani, and KISS shows that I’ve seen.

And they’re still great! They even have recent live and studio albums out.

This first Kix album is a mixture of hard rock, power pop, new wave, and punk rolled up into one tight little power plant. And when you listen to it, you can imagine Whiteman prancing around the stage like Mick Jagger on crank while the rest of the band stands back pumping out rock and roll so electric that they could power a small town.

Another cool thing about Kix… Whiteman and Purnell are West by-God Virginians that became “city goats” in Baltimore. Kix are to Baltimore what KISS is to New York City. What Nirvana are to Seattle. What Motley Crue are to Los Angeles.

Another interesting thing about Kix is Donnie Purnell, the chief songwriter through most of their run. After working to get the band to world supremacy, the aforementioned Nirvana put a knife in the heart of hard rock and roll with their ‘Nevermind’ album, and Kix were quickly forgotten.

All the bands associated with even a hint of hairspray were wiped off the landscape. That included Kix just as they broke the top ten on the Billboard Hot 100 chart with the song “Don’t Close Your Eyes”.

The song is one of my least favorites, but they were finally being noticed. And then they were gone. No one wanted ‘Hot Wire’ as Nirvana, Stone Temple Pilots, and Soundgarden were purging the hard rock music scene of the likes of Warrant, Ratt, and Poison.

And I believe that crushed Purnell. He gave one underrated and under-produced album on CMC International a shot and just simply checked out. From the rumors that I heard, Purnell went back to construction jobs in West Virginia. And when Kix reformed, he wanted nothing to do with it.

Was he soured after working so hard to get the band to the heights of the charts only to be slapped in the face by the fickle American music fans?

I think so. The guy put a LOT of work and effort into the band only to finally receive the love and then they were kicked to the curb like one of Gene Simmons’ many sexual conquests.

Although I wanted to put ‘Midnight Dynamite’ on this list, I felt that they’re first album should be represented. There’s not a bad track on the album. From the opening of “Atomic Bombs” to the closing to-this-day concert staple “Yeah, Yeah, Yeah” you get the exact profile of the band. There are songs to rock you, songs to satisfy that sweet pop music tooth, and songs that are works of songwriting beauty.

I recommend the whole album. They’re all a major part that was the soundtrack of my youth. I love them all. I’ve even used one of their songs to defuse a tense situation when my wife sharply voiced to the youngest, “Don’t tell me no!”… I yelled back to them, “Tell me yeah, yeah, yeah!”

And to be quite honest, Kix doesn’t have an album that I wouldn’t recommend. They put out a lot of quality and they’re still doing it.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Eugeology: Eugene's List of Hard Rock Albums and Possible Gems Part 21 - Y&T 'Black Tiger'

Y&T are one of the most under-appreciated bands of all time and it doesn’t surprise me that Tim doesn’t care for them. He’s a bit nit-picky when it comes to rock n’ roll. He likes it clean and processed with very little of the spirit from the moment during conception. That’s just the way he is. I accept it and yet it makes me shake my head every time.

I had trouble deciding on the which Y&T album to chose for this list. ‘In Rock We Trust’ is a good one. I love the live ‘Open Fire’ release. And ‘Mean Streak’ is a great album. The band lost me when they were seeing some commercial success with the song “Summertime Girls” which was tacked on to the ‘Open Fire’ album. They double-dipped and put it on ‘Down for the Count’ that was released later that same year.

‘Down for the Count’ was not well received by me. And then they moved over to Geffen Records for the atrocious ‘Contagious’ album. I don’t know the full story, but at the time when that album was released there were rumors that Y&T parted ways with drummer Leonard Haze because of his lack of rock star looks needed for MTV. True or not, that put a bad taste in my mouth and I moved away from Y&T.

I have never seen Y&T live before, but I did see a concert that was aired on MTV. Dave Meniketti is not only an amazing, under-rated lead guitarist, but he’s also a great front man. Granted, as Tim pointed out, he doesn’t possess the greatest of voices. But he emotes with his heart and you feel like the guy is singing his guts out.

Meniketti plays mostly Les Pauls and utilizes the toggle switch during his lead solos when the song calls for it. For some reason, it flips me out. No pun intended.

“From the Moon” pulls you right up to “Open Fire” which is one of those cheerleading songs where they tell you that they’re going to rock and how they’re going to rock you. Normally, I steer clear of those but there’s just something about that song. It cannot be denied.

“Don’t Wanna Lose” and “Hell and High Water” backs down on the punchy hard rock. But “Forever” slides in and before you know it, you’re face has been rocked off.

The title track opens up side 2. I only say that because I grew up with the vinyl album that I still have. For years you could only get it on CD as an expensive Japanese import. As much as I dug the album, I just couldn’t justify a repurchase of the album at such a higher rate. I held out and now I can stream it on Spotify all I want and just about everywhere I go. But I digress… The title track is a rocker.

Then “Barroom Boogie” comes up with a bit of humor. It’s a fun little ditty and I’m surprised that Beeman didn’t even write about it.

“My Way or the Highway” and “Winds of Change” close out the album.

Y&T were one of those bands from the San Francisco Bay area that never made it big. The former members ran into all kinds of issues and bad situations that life can hand out. And there’s a funny story involving Rock the robot from the ‘In Rock We Trust’ album.

Rock was made by A&M Records for $17,000. When they fired Joey Alves he took the robot that used to grace the stages around the world. He gave it to a friend who died and his wife took Rock. It’s been spray painted and worn for costume parties and taking first prize.

So it’s still out there, but the Meniketti still hasn’t seen it.

I suggest giving this album a spin along with ‘Mean Streak’ and ‘Open Fire’. Hopefully, you too will find an appreciation for them.

Here is Tim's take on the album. I do hope Jon hasn't abandoned the project, but hey... The guy has been jet-setting all over the place lately. So maybe he's listening and making notes. And I'm trying to get caught up with Beeman who is the only one keeping to the schedule.