Thursday, August 25, 2005

Musical differences

Since I did Melodic Turn yesterday, I decided to talk about another term from back then. This one I believe was used by bands more than writers, but it appeared in the metal mags all the time as a reason for why a band member left or a band broke up. Sometimes it was a real reason like when Helloween went through a major line-up change in 1993. They spent two albums struggling with a musical direction because they were divided on the musical direction of the band. It ended with two members leaving and the band replaced them and went on without further issue. Now it seems like Motley Crue and Vince Neil both claimed musical differences as the reason for Neil leaving in the early 90's. Yet when he did his solo album Exposed, it sounded like watered down Crue. So how could he leave because musical differences and then do the same kind of music? In this case (and in many others), the term musical differences was used a kind of "no comment" response. Usually it would come out at a later date that it wasn't musical differences, but rather it was "we didn't get along", "he was a drunk or used drugs to a point where it interfered with the band" or "he was or became unreliable". These tended to be the more common reasons for a band member leaving rather than musical differences.
I have been frustrated by things that Scott Ian from Anthrax has said in the past. However, I do give him some credit for how he explained Anthrax's line-up changes. He explained Neil Turbin's ousting from the band by saying that he (Turbin) wouldn't sing anything he didn't write. He explained Joey Belladonna's ousting by saying they didn't think Joey had a heavy enough voice so they wanted someone else. He may have been doing more blame than needed and I may not agree with the reasons, but at least he was honest and I can respect that. If I ever decide to stop doing this blog, I definitely won't list the reason for ending it as "musical differences".

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

The Melodic turn

Their new album has taken a melodic turn. Have you ever heard that term? Hopefully it is not being used anymore. If you were reading metal, hard rock magazines from say the mid 80's to the early 90's then you may heard this term used. It was sort of a catch phrase used by writers to basically say the band has softened or lightened their sound. I guess saying melodic turn makes it sound like a new direction rather than just making it sound like the band is wimping out. After a while I figured out that if an album review said the band had taken the melodic turn then that meant bad news because that had to mean the album in question was a weak stinker. I would much rather reviewers be more direct and don't sugar coat the review or use catch phrases then again Hit Parades and Circus could never be accused of being real journalism in any sense of the word.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

So bad it's good? Or maybe not

It's so bad it's good. Well, that's a phrase that's almost exclusively used to describe movies. It's normally a tag that's attached to B horror and sci-fi movies mainly from the 50's and 60's, but it can certainly apply to some films after that time period as well. Films like Plan 9 from outer space, Robot Monster and the Astounding she-demon are just a few of the albums that some people stuck that phrase to. So what does something have to do to earn this distinction. So first a movie would have to be bad in some way or many ways. This can be done by poor acting, lack of coherent script, low budget or a combination of all of these plus some other weaknesses thrown in. So now comes the second and more difficult part, how does a bad film elevate to the level of so bad it's good? Well, there are several views on this, but mine is that it has to be entertaining in some way. This most popular way is that it's just funny to watch how inept the over the top performances or rubber monsters. Sometimes you just might have a little respect for an actor who is steadfast and sticks it out despite the fact that they know that they are in a turkey of grand proportions.
Okay, so you are probably thinking "You have just spent a large paragraph rambling on about this gunk, but what does it have to do with music?" My thought was, if movies can earn this label then is it possible for albums to be classified this way as well? Can a band be weak in some way or ways, but still be entertaining? I guess that depends on the listener, but I think it can happen to some extent. I used to own an album by a band called Madam X and the album was We reserve the right. I believe this is the only album they did. Madam X were formed by sisters Roxy and Maxine Petrucci. Roxy left the band a while after this album and she ended being the drummer in Vixen who had some success between 88 and 90. Sebastian Bach actually sang for this band a few years after this album and before he went on to Skidrow. I bought this on cd not too long ago for a fair price. I hadn't heard it since at least 1989 and only had some memories of it. It wasn't far different than what I remembered, but it just struck me in an odd way. It was overall not very good as in the lyrics were just ridiculous and and they had every silly cliche that has ever been attached to 80's metal/hard rock. The music was competent enough, but nothing spectacular. Yet something about this cd made me listen to it several times in a row. It wasn't good by any stretch yet somehow it was amusing and entertaining enough. Does that mean I am just easily amused or that I enjoy bad music? That wouldn't be the first time I was accused of being both of those things. The Madam X cd started me thinking that maybe a band can be bad on several levels, but be enjoyable due to excelling at other levels. So is it possible? Well, I guess it is largely up to the listener to be the judge of that. Right away I think of my love for Twisted Sister when I was a teenager, mainly just the first three albums. Now right away they were a very basic band as far as any skills go, you only need to listen to the solo on We're not gonna take it to realize that. So they are weak on musical skills yet they seem (at least to me ) to be strong in other areas. Twisted Sister seemed to have a real genuine enthusiasm on their first three albums. It was almost like "We know we can't play or write that well, but we are going to take what we have and go at it with some fire behind us". That fire is what I think sets a band like Twisted Sister apart from a band like Krokus or Quiet Riot who weren't that skilled yet they didn't even that much energy to set them apart.
Like I said it's up to the listener, if you just judge on an entertainment level then perhaps music can be bad and good at the same time. I just can't believe I spent this much time talking about Madam X, Twisted Sister and Plan 9 from Outer Space.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

1984 hard rock/metal awards

Ah, 1984 was without a doubt the best year for hard rock and metal. Metal was bigger than ever and a lot of bands released albums in 84. Van Halen, the Scorpions, Iron Maiden and Judas Priest all soared to new heights of popularity. We also saw debut lp's from Ratt, Queensryche, WASP, Anthrax, Black-n-Blue, Keel and many others. Bands I am not normally big on like Dokken and Whitesnake had very good albums. Even Great White and Lita Ford's releases in 84 were decent. It was hard to make a top ten for 1984 because I did have to eliminate albums that would have easily made my top ten if they had been released in another year. Ratt's Out of the cellar, Whitesnake's Slide it in and even Anthrax's Fistful of metal were the top albums that I had to eliminate from the top ten. I also had to do a bit of a cop out and have a tie for number ten just because I could not see either of these albums not making it to my top ten. Either one of them may have made the top five in other years during the 80's. Just goes to show how good of a year this was.

Top ten albums
1)Metallica- Ride the lightning
Metallica went through a huge growth in songwriting skills in between Kill 'em all and this album. The album still stands up as a great fusion of solid metal and early speed/power metal.
2)Iron Maiden- Powerslave
Iron Maiden show a confidence in their sound here that few bands could show.
3)Van Halen- 1984
Van Halen bounce back from Diver Down to deliver a great one.
4)Judas Preist- Defenders of the faith
Similiar in style to the previous album, but just a little weaker.
5)Scorpions - Love at first sting
A number of different kinds of songs and all of them are solid.
6)Dio- The last in line
Probably Dio's second best album next to his debut.
One of the best debuts of the mid-80's.
8)Mercyful Fate- Don't break the oath
Mercyful Fate are even stronger here than on Melissa. Unfortunately their last until they reformed in the early 90's.
9)Twisted Sister- Stay Hungry
Another example of their ability to ride on enthusiasm and energy.
Dokken- Tooth and nail
Deep Purple-Perfect Strangers

Dokken's best album by far delivers all that a good commercial hard rock album should.

Deep Purple's reunion album brings far more energy than most people thought they had. A decent mix of their 70's sound and what was going on in the mid 1980's.

Golden Turd
Seriously I cannot think of an album from 84 that deserves this award. Kiss, Quiet Riot and Ted Nugent all put out albums that weren't that good, but they weren't all that bad either. So I think an album at least needs to be bad to win this award and I could not think of an album from this year that was that bad or disappointing. If you think of one then let me know.

Top album covers
1)Van Halen- 1984
2)Iron Maiden- Powerslave
3)Scorpions- Love at first sting
4)Ratt- Out of the cellar
5)Grim reaper- See you in hell

Worst Album cover
Accept- Balls to the wall

Well, now I am all caught up and to the year I am working on. My top ten for 1985 will be out at the end of the year.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

1983 hard rock/ metal awards

It's 1983 and metal is definitely getting more popular. The LA scene is heating up and there is still some life coming out of the NWOBHM scene. Kiss take off their make-up and Van Halen, Def Leppard and Iron Maiden are all huge in popularity by this point.

Top ten
1)Def Leppard- Pyromania
One of the most perfect hard rock albums of it's decade.
2)Iron Maiden- Piece of mind
They really settle in to a sound that would be present in many of their following albums.
3)Dio- Holy Diver
Dio's debut is probably the best of his solo career.
4)Motley Crue- Shout at the devil
A great hard rock album with an edge to it.
5)Mercyful Fate- Melissa
A very flowing style of early power metal.
6)Slayer- Show no mercy
Just barely touches the surface of the heaviness Slayer would later show, but it does display they energy and speed that would define most of their better albums.
7)Metallica- Kill 'em all
Just like Slayer, the energy and speed are it's strengths. Their writing skills would increase greatly between this and Ride the lightning.
8)Motorhead- Another perfect day
This is an album that has grown on me. It has a different sound due to the departure of Fast Eddie Clark, but it still has enough of that Motorhead sound to earn it a spot in my top ten.
9)Exciter- Heavy Metal Maniac
Another debut from an early speed metal band. Not as influential as Metallica or Slayer, but a solid effort none the less.
10)Twisted Sister- You can't stop rock and roll
I almost gave this spot to AC/DC or even Y&T, but I changed my mind after giving another listen to Twisted Sister's sophomore effort. They were never the best musicians, but what they lacked in talent they made up for in enthusiasm and just being a fun listen.

Best album covers
1)Iron Maiden- Piece of mind
2)Black Sabbath- Born Again
3)Dio- Holy Diver
4)Ozzy- Bark at the moon
5)Ratt- s/t

Worst album cover
Dokken- Breaking the chains

Golden Turd award
Black Sabbath- Born again
It had to look good on paper. Black Sabbath had come back in the early 80's and done two solid albums in Heaven and hell and Mob Rules. Even though Ronnie James Dio and Vinnie Appice had left, Iommi and Butler were there and they wrote most of the music. So then Bill Ward decides to return after a four year absence and Ian Gillain comes on. So on paper we have 3/4 of the original line-up of Sabbath plus the best singer from Deep Purple so this next album should be good, right? Unfortunately something went wrong. The songs are just lame and any energy from the two Dio albums is gone on this release. I have listened to it a few times and I still can't figure out what they were trying to do, but it just doesn't work on any level.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

1982 hard rock/metal awards

This was a very good year for hard rock/metal with the NWOBHM reaching or nearing it's peak plus even a little life from the American scene with debuts from Motley Crue and Twisted Sister. I think a great deal of this year as my favorite albums from Maiden, Priest, the Scorpions, Motley Crue and Venom all came out in 1982.

Top 10 hard rock/ metal albums

1)Iron Maiden-The number of the beast
One of the most perfect metal albums ever made.
2)Judas Priest- Screaming for vengeance
Judas Priest hit their peak.
3)Motorhead- Iron Fist
Unfortunately the last album with Eddie Clark.
4)Scorpions- Blackout
The Scorps continue their run of solid albums.
5)Motley Crue- Too fast for love
It's simple, but I love the raw sound and the vocals.
6)Venom-Black Metal
They still are not quite in control of their instruments, but they do fast and heavy.
7) Rush- Signals
They begin to adopt a lighter sound, but still fairly sharp.
8)Van Halen- Diver Down
Probably the weakest of the DLR albums and it does have way too many cover songs. However, it has some cool songs as well and just being a Roth era album earns it a spot in my top ten.
9) Kiss- Creatures of the night
Kiss bounce back after earning my Golden Turd award for 80 and 81. This was a good, solid almost fun hard rock album. It's just a shame they didn't do more like it in the 80's.
10) Twisted Sister-Under the blade
It's very simple yet to the point. They just edge out Raven, Tank and Hanoi Rocks for the 10 spot.

Best album covers
1) Iron Maiden-The Number of the beast
2) Black Sabbath- Live Evil
3)Judas Priest- Screaming for vengeance
4) Manowar- Battle Hymns
5) Kiss- Creatures of the night

Worst album cover
Van Halen- Diver Down

Golden Turd
Ted Nugent- Nugent
I do hate to give the award to the Nuge, but this album is just completely weak and so surprisingly lame. It also comes after a string of six good to great studio albums, a good live album and a truly great double live album. Unfortunately he has yet to do an album as good as the ones he did between 75-80.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

1981 hard rock/metal awards

It's 1981 and hard rock is coming back strong plus NWOBHM is getting stronger and starting to infiltrate our shores as well.

Top ten hard rock/metal albums of 1981
1)Van Halen - Fair Warning
A bit different and even dark for Van Halen, probably why it's my favorite album of theirs.
2)Iron Maiden- Killers
Their music began to take the shape it would have for years to come. A more layered sound replaced some of the more basic songs that were on the debut.
3)Rush- Moving Pictures
Not as sharp as Permanent Waves, but every song is solid.
4)Def Leppard-High and dry
It didn't take these guys long to get things together.
5)Ozzy- Diary of a madman
Ozzy and his band sound very comfortable on this one. It would be another 10 years before Ozzy put out an album as good as this one.
6)Black Sabbath- The Mob Rules
Almost as good as Heaven and hell, a few tracks toward the end take it out of the top five.
7)Judas Priest - Point of entry
Not their best and different from previous albums, but it's still solid overall.
8)Hanoi Rocks-Bangkok Shocks, Saigon Shakes, Hanoi Rocks
The debut is more of a straightforward rock albums than some of their later efforts. Very influential on Guns and Roses and other mid-late 80's LA bands.
9)Venom- Welcome to hell
They didn't always know how to play their instruments, but they did get some very heavy sounds out of what they did. A huge unfluence on early speed metal and thrash.
10)Raven- Rock 'till you drop
Along with Motorhead and Venom, these guys were also a major influence on the speed metal scene that would follow.

Best album covers
1)Iron Maiden- Killers
2)Iron Maiden- Maiden Japan
3)Rush- Moving Pictures
4)Accept- Breaker
5)Ted Nugent- Intensities in Ten Cities

Worst album cover
Y&T- Earthshaker

Golden Turd Award
Kiss- Music from the Elder
I don't mean to pick on Kiss, but they deserve it for this album. Actually has two songs that might be better than anything on Unmasked, but it has several that are far worse than anything on that album.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

1980 Hard rock/metal awards

I have spent some time listening to albums from 1985 in preparation for compiling my top ten metal albums for that year. In doing so, I decided to go back a little further and document my top tens for the beginning of that decade. So I will start with 1980 and there will be four categories, two are favorable and two are not. The main one is the top ten albums ranked in order then the other good list is the top five album covers. On the downside will be the worst album cover and the golden turd award. The latter will be given to an album that obviously is bad, but a bit of a disappointment in some ways as well. So more than likely the winner of this award will either be a band I liked at some other time or a band that had a lot of hype around them, but failed to live up to it. The only rules are live albums and ep's cannot be considered for the top ten or the golden turd, but they can be considered for top or worst album cover.

Here are the awards for 1980.

Top ten albums
1)Rush-Permanent Waves
This was a tight pick over Ozzy, but I think everything falls into place on this one.
2)Ozzy- Blizzard of Ozz
Just gets edged out for the top spot.
3)Motorhead-Ace of spades
Motorhead were perhaps getting to their peak at this point.
4)Judas Priest-British Steel
Takes the sound that started on Hell bent for leather one step further.
5)Black Sabbath- Heaven and hell
Sabbath's best album in five years.
6)Scorpions-Animal Magnetism
Another solid album for the Scorps and sometimes very underrated.
7)Iron Maiden
A strong debut that showed a little of what was to come.
8) Van Halen- Women and children first
It's DLR era Van Halen so it has to be good, but too many filler songs keeps it out of the top five.
9)Saxon-Wheels of steel
A good, basic straight to the point heavy rock/metal album.
10)Ted Nugent- Scream Dream
The last really good Nuge album for quite some time.

Best album covers
1)Black Sabbath-Heaven and hell
2)Motorhead- Ace of spades
3)Iron Maiden
4)Rush-Permanent Waves
5)Def Leppard-On through the night

Worst album cover
1)AC/DC- Back in black

Golden turd award-
Kiss- Unmasked
Maybe it should have been called Unflushed. Just a weak blending of several bad styles of music. Sadly enough I think Kiss have at least two albums worse than this one.