Classic Rock Bottom

There's a few CDs I have that I haven't or hadn't gotten around to listening to yet. Whether they are too "old" or I end up not really having much to say about them, I'm not doing a full on review.

Instead, I'm just putting in a sentence or two about what I thought of them. I'll probably keep updating this thread as I get around to various albums that have been sitting waiting for me to play them.

Joe Bonamassa - Blues of Desperation - While there were a couple of tracks I wasn't all that enamored with, overall this album was another winning blues solo album from Bonamassa.

Boneyard Dog - Bluesbound Train - Another bluesy rock and roll record, this debut album was pretty much kicking my ass each time I listened to it.

U2 - The Joshua Tree 30th Anniversary Deluxe Edition - Sadly, while I absolutely love the album itself (it is one of my all-time favorites), the anniversary edition isn't much to write home about. Disc 1 is the original album while Disc 2 is a live concert from the Joshua Tree tour. It's not bad, but there's nothing special about it really.

Inglorious - S/T - I was really kind of hyped up about this album but I think the fact I've already sold it off on eBay might give you a hint about my final reaction to the album. Okay, that might be slightly unfair but after listening to the album four times and I couldn't really pick a single memorable song out of it, there's obviously something of a disconnect.

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Gary Hoey - Animal Instinct (1993) - I picked this CD up from my friend's record shop. It's the only one that he had amongst a big collection he'd acquired. 

While Hoey is much more known these days for both his blues rock albums and his annual Xmas shows, this album which is just about entirely instrumental, is far more rock oriented than you might expect if you are a newcomer to his music.

I'm not usually a fan of instrumental rock. I'm more oriented towards singers and vocals but this album was a joy to discover. This is just so good! I used to have an abiding love for the early work of Joe Satriani and would play his albums over and over again. That's what I thought of as I listened to this one. I'm definitely going to play this repeatedly. 

The opening track "Mass Hysteria" was great and I liked "Motown Fever" a lot too. 

I think even more surprising to me was who else played on the album. Tony Franklin, who has played with nearly everyone including Blue Murder as his most notable success, handled the bass. I found out from research that he played on a number of Hoey releases back in the day. The drummer was Quiet Riot/W.A.S.P drummer Frankie Banali. The keyboards were handled by Claude Schnell, who you might remember as having played with Dio.

So this was a nice little gem of a record and I'm looking forward to the next time I spin it.

Mike Tramp - Museum (2014) - I've owned this particular disc for more than a year but never got around to listening to it until just before I saw Tramp live in concert. Lately, I've been playing this album a lot.

As it turns out, I'm glad that I listened to it before the show because the album kicks off with the song "Trust In Yourself" which has instantly become one of the best songs I've ever heard from Tramp. It's a killer song that is written as a sort of protest song from Tramp himself, with him seemingly declaring his philosophy of life. While that might sound a bit boring, believe me, it wasn't. Also, you can adopt it as your own. It may not be lyrically exact for yourself but the sentiment the song conjures seems to fit.

The rest of the songs on the album are also top notch. A song about his mother (aptly titled "Mother") is particularly emotionally involving. And I liked "Freedom" a lot as well. Of course, to be honest, I liked each of the 10 songs on the disc and think that this album is another top notch example of just how different Tramp's music is these days.

Wayne - Metal Church (2001) - This album was a bit controversial at the time of its release. The band was named after lead singer David Wayne. Best known for fronting the band Metal Church, he left the band and put this band together while appropriating the logo style for the band moniker and then naming the album after his former band. 

I'm not quite sure of all the details, but let's just say that the actual Metal Church band wasn't happy with what he did. To be honest, it's kind of why I never picked up the album when it came out.

But all these years later, I got the chance to pick it up and took it. As it turns out, this was a good idea on my part. Not just for getting to listen to a surprisingly good album but also learning that guitarist Jimi Bell and drummer B.J. Zampa were part of the group. They are now known for being part of House of Lords, and they also play in a tribute band or two that makes the rounds near me. 

The album features ten songs and of those, eight of them are stone cold killer metal! In fact, it is the first eight songs of the track listing that are the best ones. The standout tracks of those eight are "The Hammer Will Fall", "D.S.D", "Nightmare Part II" and my personal favorite of all of the songs, "Burning At The Stake".

The songs vary their pacing but all fall on the more uptempo side of things. The ballad track "Ballad for Marianne" was the only original song that really left me cold. The decision to cover Mountain's "Mississippi Queen" as the closing track didn't do much for me either. The song gets an added dose of metallic energy to rev it up, but I just didn't think Wayne's vocal style meshed all that well with the song.

Still, eight out of ten is a really good ratio and despite the controversy the album had behind it, this is actually a solid release.

Vixen - Live Fire (2018) - Though this live recording of a Vixen show that took place in Chicago, Illinois came out last year, I didn't pick it up until May 3rd of this year when I got my own chance to see the band live in concert.

Of course, there's been a sizeable change to the band since this album was released. Singer Janet Gardner left the group to pursue a solo career. She's been replaced by ex-Femme Fatale singer Lorraine Lewis so Live Fire is essentially the "final" document to the Janet Gardner era of the band.

Now I've become particularly disenchanted with live albums as of late. Most of them just don't measure up. Yes, some do but mostly, live albums are just run of the mill type collections of the band's material in a live setting. They don't usually feature something that sets the material apart from the studio versions.

That said, I did like getting to hear this version of the band in a live setting. I never got to see the band back in the day and it was good to get a sense of what they sound like in concert. (I have a review of the Lorraine Lewis fronted version of the band coming up soon).

Besides the expected songs like "Edge of A Broken Heart" and "Cryin'", the band had a nice mix of their material and included a cool sounding cover of "I Don't Need No Doctor" that features bassist Share Ross on vocals. I also got a new appreciation of songs like "Love Is A Killer" and "Love Made Me". And they played "Big Brother", a song they'd never done live before.

There's a couple of studio tracks including an acoustic version of "Edge of a Broken Heart" that I really liked.

Overall, while it isn't a live album that would be considered one of the defining examples of the genre, Live Fire does does more than a creditable job documenting Vixen and their music.

Accept - Russian Roulette (1986 / 2002 Remastered Edition)

It's taken me quite a while but I'm finally getting around to adding more of the Accept studio catalog to my CD collection.

I started off the new round of acquiring with a three album purchase and the first one that I put into the player was Russian Roulette.

I didn't have much in the way of expectations because I really didn't know what material was on the disc beforehand. After seeing the Dirkschneider tour, I was familiar with "Aiming High" and that is easily my favorite track on the album. But I have to say that of the original ten songs on this disc, the first eight of them are pretty great songs. Straightforward metallic anthems but really good from "T.V. War" and "Monsterman" to "Walking In The Shadow" and "Another Second To Be". That last song is another particular favorite of mine.

The last two songs on this one are "Man Enough To Cry" and "Stand Tight" and unfortunately they didn't really do much for me.

The version of the album that I have is the 2002 remaster which contains two live bonus tracks, "Metal Heart" and "Screaming For A Love-Bite". There's also a 2014 reissue which has three different live songs as bonus tracks.

I don't know where this album sits in the hearts and minds of other Accept fans, but I found that I really enjoyed it for the most part and I am looking forward to listening to it again soon.

Accept - Restless and Wild (1982) - Surprisingly enough, outside of the best known songs from this album, I've never heard the full Restless and Wild album until just now.

The results of this first listen left me a little wanting as there are the expected high points, but they are accompanied by rather low points as well.

The first four songs on the album are outstanding. You have the legendary "Fast As A Shark" as well as the title track, "Ahead of the Pack" and "Shake Your Heads". That last song was surprisingly effective for me.

But then comes a run of mediocre or just outright uninteresting songs like "Neon Nights", "Get Ready" and "Flash Rockin' Man". Tracks like "Demon's Night" and "Don't Go Stealing My Soul Away" are marginally better but not great songs in my estimation. The album closes with "Princess of the Dawn". It's good but I'd put it on the latter half of any "Best Of" Accept song list.

So I'd say that while there is some good music on this album, Restless and Wild was mildly disappointing overall for me.

Riot - Thundersteel (1988) - I really didn't pay much attention to Riot back in their "heyday". They just weren't a band that seemed to appeal to me. But a couple years back I picked up a couple of their reissued albums from the latter portion of the band's run under the "Riot" banner. I really liked the album "Inishmore" a lot.

But it has been both Fire Down Under and Thundersteel that stand out as the recognized best albums the band put out. I've had this album for a while now and ever so often I'd pull it out and give it a listen.

But for the life of me, I just can't see what the big deal about this album was for fans. Try as I might, I just don't think this is anything more than a relatively standard collection of songs. There's nothing terribly BAD about any of the material but I have to say that each of the 9 songs on the disc kind of just run together. For me, the album really just lacks material that stands out above the rest.

I hate saying that because I would of course like to enjoy everything I put my money into but for me, the Thundersteel album was a pedestrian metal album that I felt doesn't deserve the accolades I've seen others throw around about it.

Black Sabbath - Born Again (1983 / 1996 Castle Communications)

This album was originally released in 1983 and I have the 1996 UK release. It doesn't appear to have been upgraded or anything, just a UK CD release.

I'd never listened to this album before but I've heard all sorts of bad stuff about the album. But I wondered if it was just piling on or if the album is really as bad as everyone seems to say.

I will say that "Trashed" and "Hot Line" are halfway decent Deep Purple songs. However, since this is SUPPOSED to be a Black Sabbath release, I'd say that is a pretty damning indictment of the album as a whole.

The rest of the material on the album was pretty bad, spectacularly so on the song "Zero The Hero", which I kept thinking was Sabbath trying to do a parody song.

Of all the Sabbath albums that I've heard (and I've heard pretty much all of them), this is by far the worst one of them all. It is just NOT representative of Black Sabbath at all. The notion that the collaboration between the band and Ian Gillan being a colossal mistake is now confirmed for me.

It is unlikely I'll ever listen to this album again.

Blind Guardian - Battalions Of Fear (1991) - For all the melodic greatness Blind Guardian has achieved over their career, it was really quite surprising to me to discover that this album was a far cry from the band's more polished sound.

The Battalions Of Fear album forgoes much in the way of subtlety. Instead it relies on pure speed, power and aggression. And while that may work for some, I was pretty disappointed in this album as a whole.

The lead track on the disc, "Majesty", remains a song the band has in their set list but it sounds a lot different now than it does on this album. Still, it is the best of the 9 tracks on this album. Otherwise, I found really nothing worth remembering and kind of wish I'd skipped buying this album on a whim.

Metal Church - Masterpeace (1999) - When this album first came out I was really excited to listen to it. Then I did. And let's just say that it didn't even come close to living up to the status implied by the album title. I hated it so much that I  got rid of it.

A few months ago, I picked it up at my friend's record shop so that I could be that much closer to having a complete set of the band's albums. 

I've been listening to it a lot lately so that I could really get a grasp on what I think of the album NOW. And to be honest, it still isn't all that great. I think the album is best summed up by guitarist Kurdt Vanderhoof. He's on the record saying this about the album:

""'Masterpeace', which I like to call 'Disasterpeace'. The whole thing was a great idea, but when we tried to put together, it just didn't work. We got forced into doing some stuff, and, I swear, when we played Wacken with David Wayne, the whole thing fell apart with having all the original members. They literally forced us into doing that, and I was telling the management and record company, 'Look, this is a bad, bad idea.' We played, and we sucked — I mean, it was horrible. I was, like, 'Fuck you. I told you, and I warned you that this is bad.'" When asked about the reunion, he explains, "Well, David Wayne couldn't sing anymore — he was fucked up on drugs; prescription drugs, because that's 'different.' It was fun to play with John Marshall, but Kirk couldn't do it because of his health, and that's when I had to cut ties with Kirk. He didn't play, and he barely played on the record, and it took forever to get that done. It just didn't work. It was a horrible feeling. We did a tour and it was awful. We're still recovering from that now." He then adds, "Literally, 'Masterpeace', that era was when I decided I am never, never doing that again."

Now, I did like one song back then and still today. That's the lead song "Sleeps With Thunder". Time has given me an appreciation for "Lb. of Cure" as well. The title track is actually an instrumental which isn't bad.

Other than that, the songs are just mediocre filler at best. At times during the numerous spins of the disc I've done of late, I'd think I'd heard something that would make me say nicer things about the album but honestly, I was just grasping because I love the band so much.

This is NOT a very good album.

Black Sabbath - Forbidden (1995) - This was the only Black Sabbath album I needed to complete my collection of the band's studio releases.

I'd bought it a couple weeks back but only got around to listening to it today.

I don't know what anyone was thinking that this record ever saw the light of day. I've long heard that is considered the worst Sabbath album but I hadn't heard it myself so I couldn't judge. Now that I have, I can. And the judgement is that this is just a really awful album. And please don't tell me to check out the remixed version of the album because nothing can salvage this turkey. 

There's no song here that made me want to hear it a second time and what was up with Tony Martin's vocals? This album is a total non-starter with me.

Bob Seger - It's A Mystery (1995) - I'm not quite sure what others might think of this album but since I am slowly accumulating Seger's studio albums I knew I would get this one sooner or later.

Unfortunately for me, I didn't get too excited over this album. I've listened to It's A Mystery a few times now, and I really don't think there's many OUTSTANDING songs on it. Most of the material feels calculated to be as middle of the road as possible.

The one song that I can say got me a little fired up was "Lock and Load" and otherwise I just think this album is one you listen to and kind of move on with your life afterwards. 

There's just not the feeling of urgency to the album's other 11 songs that I would've expected.

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