Metal Monday 1-24-2022

Welcome to a new weekly post that I will call Metal Mondays, where I will rank the albums of a certain artist in the metal and hard rock genre from worst to best.  As I am a list and ranking person, I am unable to have a simple discussion on what a band’s good albums are, as well as their not-so-good ones.  I must rank them in some sort of order, or I will not be able to participate!  This also makes for a fun debate, don’t you think?

NOTE:  I will rank full length STUDIO ALBUMS only.  There will be no live records, greatest hits, or EP’s here.

On February 20, 2003, an eighties hard rock band, more than a decade past its commercial prime, soldiered into a small dive with only two of its original members to play for a crowd of about 400 people.  For reasons unknown, due to the resulting finger pointing, said band set off a pyrotechnic blast to kick off their performance.  100 people died.  My thoughts and condolences go out to the family and friends off all victims, including those who survived, but are forever affected by the events.

That band was Great White.  Although the group on that tour and at The Station nightclub in West Warwick, Rhode Island was basically lead singer Jack Russell’s solo band (original guitarist Mark Kendall joined the band on the tour), the marquee promoted Great White.  Therefore, the legacy of Great White will forever that tragic evening.  While nowhere near as calamitous as a hundred people losing their lives, it is a little sad that this incredible bluesy rock and roll band will never be remembered for its lengthy and impressive musical catalog.

In its prime, Great White consisted of two incredibly talented musicians:  lead singer Jack Russell and lead guitarist mark Kendall.  Keyboardist/guitarist Michael Lardie, bassist Tony Montana, and drummer Audie Desbrow more than competently completed the line-up.  Unleashed during the era of the hair band, Great White brought a little something different to the table by combining the undeniable hooks and hard riffing of the day with a bluesy swagger.  In this aspect, Russell and Kendall worked brilliantly together.  The band released 80’s classic singles such as Once Bitten Twice Shy, Rock Me, Lady Red Light, Save Your Love among others.  However, the group put out innumerable deep cuts and proved their chops were more worthy than the fluff and cheese that was hitting the airwaves at the time, as is apparent with my number one choice in this ranking (see below).   

#13: 

Sail Away-1994

This one is a little too mellow for my liking, featuring a plethora of acoustic guitar, as well as the E Street Band’s Clarence Clemons on the saxophone.  While I cannot condemn the band for trying to expand their musical horizons, I just find this to be the least likely album I would put on to listen to Great White.

Best Song:  Momma Don’t Stop

Best Deep Cut:  Momma Don’t Stop

#12: 

Rising-2009

There’s a point in the middle of this album that I ask myself if I’m listening to a Foreigner record.  I have nothing against Foreigner or any band of that mold, however, this Great White release doesn’t contain enough of the hard driving blues that I come to enjoy from the band.  Couple that with the fact it is long-time singer Jack Russell’s swan song with the group, Rising comes off as disappointing.  That said, Substitute, All or Nothin,’ and Danger Zone are good songs.

Best Song:  Substitute

Best Deep Cut:  Substitute

#11: 

Full Circle-2017

The most recent Great White album is also the second and final release with lead singer Terry Ilous.  In my opinion, this record contains far less bite (see what I did there?) than the first Ilous offering, which is much further up in the countdown.  That said, I’m Alright, Movin’ On, and Never Let You Down are the highlights.

Best Song:  Never Let You Down

Best Deep Cut:  Never Let You Down

#10: 

Great White-1984

This first full-length release from the band showed the rawness and hunger of young musicians who had yet to find their classic sound.  This one is much heavier than one would anticipate from a Great White release.  That said, there is some good material here.  The diehards tend to defend this album and I cannot argue with them.

Best Song:  Stick It

Best Deep Cut:  Stick It

#9: 

Let It Rock-1996

By now, Great White had punched in its formula of leading off the record with a blazer, following up with something up-tempo, and throwing in a ballad at track three.  A healthy combination of the three would follow.  This is an underrated release, with the highlights including, My World, Lil Mama, Ain’t No Way to Treat a Lady, and Miles Away.

Best Song:  Ain’t No Way to Treat a Lady

Best Deep Cut:   Ain’t No Way to Treat a Lady

#8: 

Back to the Rhythm-2007

See the explanation above.  Tracks to pay attention to include the title cut, Here Goes My Head Again, and Just Yesterday.  Meanwhile, close your eyes and listen to, Still Hungry and Standin’ on the Edge, and see if it doesn’t seem like it’s 1986 all over again.

Best Song:  Back to the Rhythm

Best Deep Cut:  Back to the Rhythm

#7: 

Can’t Get There From Here

Again, see the explanation above.  This is one of my go-to Great White albums, combining even stronger material in the mold of the formula as previously outlined.  Lead-off track and single, Rollin’ Stoned is your typical bluesy GW album starter, while Ain’t No Shame, Wooden Jesus, and the amazing Hey Mister are highlights.

Best Song:  Rollin’ Stoned

Best Deep Cut:  Hey Mister

#6: 

Elation-2012

There is quite a bit to digest with this album, mainly the fact that Great White had a new singer in Terry Ilous from XYZ fame in the early nineties.  Containing a much raspier voice than Jack Russell, Ilous offered something a little bit different to the band’s barroom hard rock blues.  Once you get past the different singer, the album works.  Featuring more of the harder stuff and less ballads, Elation is a hit with me.  (I’ve Got) Something for You, Feelin’ So Much Better, Love Train, and Heart of a Man gets the record off to a rollicking start before Hard to Say Goodbye slows things down, and in a good way.  Shotgun Willie’s and Love is Enough highlight the second half. 

Best Song:  (I’ve Got) Something for You

Best Deep Cut:   (I’ve Got) Something for You

#5: 

Shot in the Dark-1986

More polished than its predecessor, Shot in the Dark is another old classic that the diehards will defend to the death.  This is the album that the band begins to capitalize on what will become its winning formula.  The title cut, She Shakes Me, as well as covers, Face the Day (the Angels)and Gimme Some Lovin’ (Spencer Davis Group) are all worthy of a listen or two.

Best Song:  Shot in the Dark

Bet Deep Cut:  Shot in the Dark

#4: 

Twice Shy-1989

Now we are getting to the big time.  This is the record that contains the band’s biggest hit, a cover of Ian Hunter’s, Once Bitten Twice Shy, but there is so much more to unfold.  The Angel Song and Mista Bone were solid radio hits, while single, House of Broken Love is the album’s finest moment.  But wait!  There’s more!  Move It, Heart the Hunter, Hiway Nights, and Wasted Rock Ranger are all worthy deep cuts.

Best Song:  House of Broken Love

Best Deep Cut:  Hiway Nights

#3: 

Once Bitten-1987

This wonderful collection kicks off with the amazing Lady Red Light, setting the tone for the band’s first taste of mainstream success.  While singles, Rock Me and Save Your Love are great tracks and turned legions of fans onto the group, deep cuts such as Gonna Getcha, All Over Now, and Fast Road more than hold up on this release.

Best Song:  Rock Me

Best Deep Cut:  Lady Red Light (I know it’s played on classic rock radio, but it was not released as a single.  Plus, it kills!).

#2: 

Hooked-1991

There is not a Once Bitten Twice Shy or Rock Me in terms of an undeniable hit single but Hooked is an all-around better album than its predecessors, and that’s saying something!  Call It Rock and Roll, The Original Queen of Sheba, and Cold Hearted Lovin’ gets the record off to a fine start, and things never really let up.  Listen to, Lovin’ Kind, Heartbreaker, Congo Square, and Desert Moon, the latter containing the unfortunate stigma as being the song the band started with the night of The Station fire.  Finally, the group’s covers of Can’t Shake It (The Angels) and Afterglow (Small Faces) are to be dealt with, as well.

Best Song:  Call It Rock and Roll

Best Deep Cut:  Can’t Shake It

#1: 

Psycho City-1992

This is Great White at its absolute creative peak, although it is pushing past its commercial peak.  It doesn’t matter.  This album features the band at its finest, combining hard rock dripped with a strong side of blues, regardless of the dearth of a hit single or arena tour.  The entire collection is masterful.  That said, if asked to list the highlights, I would say the title cut, Step on You, Old Rose Motel, Maybe Someday, and Big Goodbye, which comprise of a brilliant first half of the record.  Meanwhile, the second half is nothing to sneeze at.  If you haven’t listed to this release, do so now!

Best Song:  Old Rose Motel

Best Deep Cut:  Maybe Someday

Metal Monday 1-10-2022:

Welcome to a new weekly post that I will call Metal Mondays, where I will rank the albums of a certain artist in the metal and hard rock genre from worst to best.  As I am a list and ranking person, I am unable to have a simple discussion on what a band’s good albums are, as well as their not-so-good ones.  I must rank them in some sort of order, or I will not be able to participate!  This also makes for a fun debate, don’t you think?

NOTE:  I will rank full length STUDIO ALBUMS only.  There will be no live records, greatest hits, or EP’s here.

Today, we focus on the lengthy and successful career of the Scorpions.  This German quintet has been around for more than 50 years!  Starting out with a late-60’s hippie, psychedelic sound, the Scorps have progressed into a hard-driving hard rock outfit, and even had a few missteps along the way, including a misguided foray into regular pop.

Make no mistake about it, the Scorpions made their dough on the backs of the twin guitar attack of Rudolf Schenker and Matthias Jabs, with assists from legendary axemen Michael Schenker and Uli Jon Roth, both of whom preceded Jabs.  Original vocalist Klaus Meine is easily recognizable for his long wails and shrieks, traits that have not slowed down with age.  As this ranking will display, for my money, the period with the classic lineup of Meine, Rudolf Schenker, Jabs, along with bassist Francis Buchholz and drummer Herman Rarebell, churned out the best Scorpions records, although a few of the later releases work their way into the upper half of the catalogue. 

#18:

Eye II Eye 1999

It seems like every band has an album that alienates its fanbase (see Metallica’s St. Anger and Megadeth’s Trust).  Eye II Eye is the Scorpions’ bugaboo.  And this comes with plenty of merit.  The record displayed the furthest abandonment from its classic sound in its entire collection.

Best Song:  10 Light Years Away

Best Deep Cut:  10 Light Years Away

#17:

Lonesome Crow-1972

The very first release from the band found a band trying to find its collective way.  A melodic, yet dark effort that ventured into the psychedelic sound of the late sixties, it is also the only album with Michael Schenker until 1979’s Lovedrive

Best Song:  I’m Goin’ Mad

Best Deep Cut:  I’m Goin’ Mad

#16: 

Pure Instict-1996

Here is an album that I find it difficult to write anything for.  It’s not a terrible record, however, there really isn’t anything memorable here, either.

Best Song:  Wild Child

Best Deep Cut:  Wild Child

#15:

Face the Heat-1993

The wheels were starting to fall off some, here.  Longtime bassist Francis Buccholz was replaced by Ralph Rieckermann, while drummer Herman Rarebell would depart after the tour for this record.  In addition, grunge was spelling doom for just about any band that had achieved success in the 80’s.  Alien Nation and Under the Same Sun were the singles, but I really like the ballad, Lonely Nights.

Best Song:  Alien Nation

Best Deep Cut:  Lonely Nights

#14:

In Trance-1975

The longer psychedelic songs of the first two records were replaced with harder and more concise material.  The title cut, Dark Lady, and Robot Man are the highlights.

Best Song:  Robot Man

Best Deep Cut:  Robot Man

#13:

Return to Forever-2015

This is the latest Scorpions release, although a new record (Rock Believer) is due next month.  All in all, this is a fun collection of songs that is impressive for a group this long in the tooth.

Best Song:  Gypsy Life

Best Deep Cut:  Gypsy Life

#12:

Savage Amusement-1988

Sandwiched between classics, Love at First Sting and Crazy World, Savage Amusement is the lone outlier in a string of magnificent albums, which also include Taken by Force, Lovedrive, Animal Magnetism, and BlackoutRhythm of Love is the big single, and although it is more poppy and less crunchy than previous hits, I must admit my admiration for it.  Overall, the record is more synth-driven than I would like, and frankly, many of the songs are filler.

Best Song:  Rhythm of Love

Best Deep Cut:  We Let It Rock…You Let It Roll

#11:

Virgin Killer-1976

This record got most of its publicity from the controversial original cover.  It was another step toward the hard rock sound that the Scorpions would later perfect.  Perhaps no classic rock band’s progression has been as deliberate this one, but perhaps good things come to those who wait.  Check out the title track, Pictured Life, Backstage Queen, and Yellow Raven

Best Song:  Backstage Queen

Best Deep Cut:  Backstage Queen

#10: 

Humanity Hour I-2007

A concept album, this one is based on a storyline by Desmond Child and Liam Carl that deals with humans and robots engaging in a horrific civil war.  The record gets off to a solid start with Hour I, The Game of Life, and We Were Born to Fly321 is the album’s finest track, while Humanity closes the collection in fine order.  Unfortunately, there are plenty of skippable numbers in this offering, as well. 

Best Song:  321

Best Deep Cut:  321

#9:

Fly to the Rainbow-1974

The first Scorps release with Uli Jon Roth on guitar, Fly to the Rainbow represents an example of the slow, but apparent progression toward the sound it would come to be known for.  That said, the band had not yet dropped its trippy sound, altogether.  Speedy’s Coming and the title track bookend a very underrated album.

Best Song:  Speedy’s Coming

Best Deep Cut:  Speedy’s Coming

#8:

Unbreakable-2004

This record represents a return to rock and roll form for the band, following its disastrous venture into pop.  New Generation, Love ‘em or Leave ‘em, Blood Too Hot, and Someday is Now are the standouts.

Best Song:  Love ‘em or Leave ‘em

Best Deep Cut:   Love ‘em or Leave ‘em

#7:

Sting in the Tail-2010

By 2010, the Scorpions understood their identity, and it resulted in Sting in the Tail, its latest in a string of solid albums, following Unbreakable and Humanity Hour IRaised on Rock, The Good Die Young, Let’s Rock, and the title track are meat on the bone.

Best Song:  Sting in the Tail

Best Deep Cut:  The Good Die Young

#6:

Animal Magnetism-1980

This one often gets overlooked and a little disrespected, most likely because of the records that follow it.  However, do not sleep on Animal Magnetism, which feature two of my favorite Scorpions tunes, Make it Real and The Zoo.  Meanwhile, Lady Starlight and the title cut are worthy of listens, as well.

Best Song:  The Zoo

Best Deep Cut:  Lady Starlight

#5:

Taken by Force-1977

The final album featuring Uli Jon Roth, and the one that introduces drummer Herman Rarebell, Taken by Force is the final record released before the band started to get noticed in America, and is a fine album, indeed.  Steamrock Fever, We’ll Burn the Sky, The Sails of Charon, and He’s a Woman-She’s a Man are the standouts.

Best Song:  Steamrock Fever

Best Deep Cut:  Steamrock Fever

#4:

Lovedrive-1979

The fact that this is only the fourth ranked Scorpions album speaks volumes for the strength of what is ahead of it.  Lovedrive is the first release to feature guitarist Matthias Jab and solidified the lineup that would take the band through its glory days.  The highlights are many, from opener Loving You Sunday Morning, to Another Piece of Meat, Holiday, and the title track.  Meanwhile, the record’s finest hour is the instrumental, Coast to Coast.

Best Song:  Coast to Coast

Best Deep Cut:  Loving You Sunday Morning (although released as a single, I still believe it is overlooked)

#3: 

Crazy World-1990

This will always be the album known for the band’s biggest hit, Wind of Change, and for good reason.  Although overplayed by classic rock radio, it is a brilliant track.  Singles Tease Me Please Me, Don’t Believe Her, and Send Me an Angel further solidify the record, while deep cuts Lust or Love, To Be with You in Heaven, Restless Nights, and Hit Between the Eyes round out a fantastic release.

Best Song:  Wind of Change

Best Deep Cut:  Lust or Love

#2:

Blackout-1982

The band was gaining serious traction by this point.  Blackout starts with the rambunctious title track and is hardly finished.  Can’t Live Without You and No One Like You round out a powerful opening trifecta, while Dynamite, China White, and When the Smoke is Going Down highlight a strong, but overlooked second half.

Best Song:  Blackout

Best Deep Cut:  Dynamite

#1:

Love at First Sting-1984

The soundtrack to my junior high school years.  I still listen to this record fondly, as it brings me back to the days of denim jackets and high-top sneakers.  Megahits Rock You Like a Hurricane, Big City Nights, and the amazing ballad, Still Loving You highlight the album.  That said, the smash singles hardly make up the strength of the release.  Bad Boys Running Wild, I’m Leaving You, and Coming Home could easily have been career defining hits for lesser bands.  In addition, being a drummer, I remember the dirty looks I used to get from teachers for pounding the beat to Crossfire on my desk.  In reality, there is no chance Love at First Sting isn’t the number one album on this list.

Best Song:  Still Loving You

Best Deep Cut:  I’m Leaving You

Metal Monday 1-3-2022

Archived Concert Review

Kiss Alive Worldwide Tour

Worcester Centrum

Worcester Massachusetts

December 28, 1996

I remember 1996 very well.  The depressing grunge scene (although my older self can appreciate some of the artistry) was winding down.  While a return to my beloved 1980’s would never completely come back, the overall musical direction was at least heading toward something resembling a little fun again.  And then the unbelievable happened.  Kiss, the band that singlehandedly led me to become a hard rock and heavy metal fanboy, was reuniting with its original members, complete with its trademark make-up! 

The idea of seeing Kiss in the way seventies rock fans were able, was nothing short of a miracle.  I recalled all the stories regarding their legendary, and almost mythical characters.  The bombastic stage shows, the blood spitting, the breathing of fire.  I remembered the inside of my Alive II album, first seen as a seven-year-old.  I had to score tickets.  There was no way I could miss this show.

The Centrum was packed that night.  I managed to get tickets in the upper level, stage right.  Way to the right.  As in the side of the stage, looking down on raised platform.  Getting into my spot after the opening set of regional band, The 4th Floor (which had to be an amazing experience for them), I had to wait, almost painfully, for my heroes to emerge, knowing our section would get a glimpse long before most in the arena.  A large black curtain with the band logo dropped from the ceiling at a strategic point in The Who classic, Won’t Get Fooled Again, which was playing over the P.A.  The crowd was getting restless.

Finally, the lights went down.  A loud humming noise filled our ears.  Spotlights rotated around the stage.  The roar of the audience was deafening.  Then they came out!  Again, our section at side stage could see them first, in all their costumed glory.  They took their places, vocalist/guitarist Paul Stanley bucking like a raging bull about to be released into the ring.  The announcer shouted those words all to familiar to us longtime Kiss fans from the glory days.  “All right, Worcester!  You wanted the best; you got the best!  The hottest band in the world……. Kiss!”

The curtain dropped and the band launched into, Duece, the first song that lead guitarist Ace Frehley played when he auditioned for the group more than 20 years prior.  A gigantic pyrotechnic blast accompanied the song, and the band was off to the races!  This tour was featuring mostly seventies classics recorded by the original members; therefore, it was not a surprise, but still amazing to witness, Kiss segueing into C’mon and Love Me, Let Me Go Rock ‘n’ Roll, and Firehouse in rapid succession. 

The conclusion of Firehouse brought about Gene Simmons’ fire breathing stunt, much cooler in person than inside a wrinkled Circus magazine.  I couldn’t believe what I was watching!  A couple of songs later, the Frehley-sung, Shock Me, culminated with his blistering solo, complete with his smoking guitar being raised to the rafters.  Calling Dr. Love, Shout it Out Loud, I Stole Your Love, and Cold Gin highlighted the midsection of the show, with an overabundance of lights, lasers, and fire to accompany them.

Paul Stanley, never one to shy away from lauding his own band and absorbing all the accolades he can muster, hadn’t yet tired fans with his sometimes meandering between-song raps, never straying far from the arena rock cliches that mostly worked to supplement Kiss’ many over-the top-gimmicks.  This included the trademark blood spitting trick that Simmons perfected back in the day, complemented by the Dragon being raised to the top of a lighting truss to sing, God of Thunder.  Drummer Peter Criss, not wanting to be left out of the spotlight, performed a steady, if unspectacular solo mid-song, displaying just enough chops to satisfy us drummers in the crowd.

100,000 Years and Detroit Rock City closed out the main set, each with enough pyro blasts to surely make the local fire warden a little nervous, before returning with classics, Black Diamond, Beth, and the fiery Rock and Roll All Nite.  The night was complete.  There was no more that could be done.  Paul Stanley had asked the audience, “Was it all that you expected?”  I had to agree with the overwhelming consensus.  Yes!

Kiss Set List:

Duece

C’mon and Love Me

Let Me Go, Rock ‘n’ Roll

Do You Love Me

Firehouse (Gene breathes fire)

Watchin’ You

Shock Me

Ace Frehley Guitar Solo

Calling Dr. Love

Shout It Out Loud

I Stole Your Love

Cold Gin

King of the Night Time World

New York Groove (Russ Ballard Cover)

Love Gun

Gene Simmons Bass Solo (spits blood)

God of Thunder (Peter Criss Drum Solo)

100,000 Years

Detroit Rock City

Encore:

Black Diamond

Beth

Rock and Roll All Nite

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Metal Monday 12-27-2021

Archived Concert Review

An Evening With Metallica

Cumberland County Civic Center

Portland Maine

February 27, 1992

Metallica was the baddest and scariest band in the world (save maybe for Slayer) to an impressionable 19-year-old in February 1992 when I took my then-girlfriend to their Wherever I May Roam tour in Portland, Maine.  Fresh off the release of their self-titled fifth record (aka: The Black Album) the previous August, the band was taking advantage of the serious buzz the record generated by selling out arenas worldwide.  The Cumberland County Civic Center was about to have its roof blown off and I was about to witness the greatest concert I will ever see.

The stage was revolutionary for 1992, a diamond-shaped platform, allowing for 360-degree viewing for both the band and audience.  Microphone stands littered the stage, assisting band members to remain within arms reach of a mic whenever needed.  Large lighting trusses were also mobile, lifting from the stage to reveal the band at the show’s beginning, while rotating and angling to provide special effects throughout the concert.  Drummer Lars Ulrich came with two drum kits that raised through the floor of the stage and pivoted to allow him to play to different sections of the crowd.  Meanwhile, the stages’ centerpiece was a chiseled-out section in the middle, called the Snake Pit, reserved for radio contest winners and hand-picked overly enthusiastic fans, giving them the opportunity to witness the show from Ground Zero.

There was no opening act on this tour.  Given Metallica’s status as the emerging biggest rock act in the world, there was no support band that would fit the bill.  This would be a self-serving three-hour victory lap(s) around the stage.  In lieu of a band to throw stuff at, fans were treated to a 25-minute documentary about the band and its history.  The highlights of the movie were when the live cameras took over from the dressing room and we were greeted by the band members themselves, complete with enough bravado and vulgarity fit for a group of 20-something year-old-musicians.  Us teenagers ate it up.

The familiar Metallica intro song, Ennio Morricone’s The Ecstasy of Gold came on, accompanied by Tuco (Eli Wallach) running through the cemetery from the movie, The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly on the video screens.  It was time!  The lighting trusses lifted, and the band launched into their huge (and then current) single, Enter Sandman.  It was clear that this was going to be a special night.

Creeping Death, Harvester of Sorrow, and Welcome Home (Sanitarium) brought things to an early fever pitch, before we were given a dose of newer material, including, Sad but True, Wherever I May Roam, Through the Never, and The Unforgiven.  It was obvious by the fans singing along that most in the crowd were plenty familiar with the new stuff.  Rhythm guitarist and vocalist James Hetfield’s sarcastic introduction to Sad but True (“It contains three simple words”) left no doubt that even the uninitiated would be able to participate.

As was the concert norm back in the day, the band provided the obligatory solo sections, including a Jason Newsted bass solo and a Kirk Hammet guitar showcase.  Meanwhile, Ulrich performed a short drum solo, before engaging in a duel with Hetfield, who, on the spare drum kit, more than held his own.  Personally, I think these solo sections slow momentum, although with a show as long and sweaty as Metallica’s, I can give the band a pass.

The show rose to an entirely new level once the solos were complete.  I’ll give Metallica credit.  While a 10-minute guitar solo can indeed kill momentum, all it takes is a few classics to rev things up again.  For Whom the Bell Tolls, Fade to Black, and Whiplash more than did the trick, the latter ending with a climatic pyrotechnic blast from the back of the stage.

Metallica could be forgiven if they walked off the stage for good at that point, its faithful exhausted and satisfied.  However, they were merely getting started.  Master of Puppets and Seek and Destroy came next, with the Kill ‘Em All classic coming as an 18-minute singalong, as Hetfield took a microphone around the stage and encouraged (bullied?) the audience into shouting out, again, “Three simple words!”  As if that wasn’t enough, he climbed into the crowd and elicited lucky random fans to shout the words with him.

The band exited the stage again, but only temporarily, as they returned following a two-minute series of intense pyrotechnics and fireworks, a display that would make most town’s Independence Day celebration proud.  It was almost a given at that point that One would be next.  Strobe lights and a final pyro blast in sync with the phrase, “Landmine, has taken my site…….” brought the band’s (up to that point) biggest hit to a mesmerizing crescendo. 

But they still were not done!  A rapid-fire trifecta of Last Caress, Am I Evil, and Battery brought the house down, before the band delivered their final number, a cover of Queen’s, Stone Cold Crazy.  That was it.  We had nothing left.  Not the band.  Not the audience.  I recall looking around the arena and seeing everyone in a universal stupor.

My girl and I drove home.  She was a true metalhead and Metallica was her favorite band.  Yes, she was also the same girl who made me take her to see the Scorpions (see the review I wrote about this show) just so she could see Trixter.  Perhaps this is proof positive that I will never figure women out, but I digress.  On this night, we couldn’t stop talking about how amazing this show was, an impression that has remained to this day.  This show is available on YouTube, and whenever I watch it, I am transformed back to the night I saw the greatest concert of my life.

Metallica Setlist:

Enter Sandman

Creeping Death

Harvester of Sorrow

Welcome Home (Sanitarium)

Sad But True

Wherever I May Roam

Bass Solo

Through the Never

The Unforgiven

Justice Medley (snippets of Eye of the Beholder, Blackened, Frayed Ends of Sanity, And Justice for All)

Drum Solo

Guitar Solo

For Who the Bell Tolls

Fade to Black

Whiplash

Encore #1:

Master of Puppets

Seek and Destroy

Encore #2:

One

Last Caress

Am I Evil

Battery

Encore #3:

Stone Cold Crazy    

Metallica-Portland Maine 1992

Metal Monday 12-20-2021

Welcome to a new weekly post that I will call Metal Mondays, where I will rank the albums of a certain artist in the metal and hard rock genre from worst to best.  As I am a list and ranking person, I am unable to have a simple discussion on what a band’s good albums are, as well as their not-so-good ones.  I must rank them in some sort of order, or I will not be able to participate!  This also makes for a fun debate, don’t you think?

NOTE:  I will rank full length STUDIO ALBUMS only.  There will be no live records, greatest hits, or EP’s here.

We’re back to the album rankings this week.  I can think of no musician more fascinating than Ronnie James Dio.  Here is a legend that began his recording career in the infancy of rock and roll in the 1950s.  I am amazed at the number of musicians and classic acts that Dio has played with, from Richie Blackmore with Rainbow to Tony Iommi with Black Sabbath, not to mention those from his solo band.  In this ranking, we will span Dio’s career from Rainbow in 1975, through Sabbath in the early 80’s, and all the way through his solo catalogue. 

# 17: 

Dio-Angry Machines 1996

Recorded near the tail end of the grunge movement, even the great Ronnie James Dio succumbed to the curse that haunted many classic metal musicians by trying to fit into something he was not.  Easily the worst album of his career.

Best Song:  Don’t Tell the Kids

Best Deep Cut:  Don’t Tell the Kids

#16:

Dio-Magica 2000

I may get some flack from some of the diehards with this low ranking, as I find there are some niche Magica fans here.  Dio’s only true concept album, I find much of the record to be plodding and meandering.

Best Song:  Challis

Best Deep Cut:  Challis

#15

Dio-Lock Up the Wolves 1990

Again, not much to write home about when compared to earlier Dio offerings.  This is the record that features then-18-year-old guitarist, Rowan Robertson.

Best Song:  Evil on Queen Street

Best Deep Cut:  Evil on Queen Street

#14

Dio-Strange Highways 1993

A heavy record, I find Strange Highways to fly under the radar a littlePerhaps this is because it came out at the height of grunge.  Jesus Mary and the Holy Ghost and the title track stand up to just about anything in Dio’s catalogue. 

Best Song:  Jesus Mary and the Holy Ghost

Best Deep Cut:  Jesus Mary and the Holy Ghost

#13:

Dio-Master of the Moon 2004

The final Dio solo album was a very good one.  One More For the Road, the title track, and Then End of the World get things off to a strong start, while Living the Lie and In Dreams highlight the second half.

Best Song:  Living the Lie

Best Deep Cut:  Living the Lie 

#12:

Black Sabbath-Dehumanizer 1992

The first reunion to feature Dio and drummer Vinny Appice with Sabbath, Dehumanizer is by far the weakest of the three albums to feature Dio on vocals.  The time together turned out to be short lived, as well. 

Best Song:  Too Late

Best Deep Cut:  Too Late

#11:

Dio-Dream Evil 1987

Guitarist Craig Goldy’s debut with the band has its moments but continues a noticeable downward spiral that started with 1985’s Sacred HeartNight People offers an all-out thrash blitz, while the title cut, and Sunset Superman are worthy of a listen.

Best Song:  Dream Evil

Best Deep Cut:  Night People

#10

Heaven and Hell-The Devil You Know 2009

Sadly, this is the final studio album to feature Ronnie on vocals.  Indeed, this is not a bad way to go out.  Due to Black Sabbath currently working with Ozzy Osbourne, this lineup featuring Dio, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler, and Vinny Appice went with the moniker, Heaven and Hell to avoid any confusion.  Atom Evil, Bible Black, Double the Pain, Eating the Cannibals, and Follow the Tears are the highlights for me.

Best Song:  Bible Black

Best Deep Cut:  Bible Black

#9: 

Dio-Killing the Dragon 2002

I feel this release does not get nearly enough love as it deserves.  For me personally, coming off two subpar records, Killing the Dragon represents a return to form of sorts.  Listen to the title cut, Along Comes a Spider, Push, and Guilty.

Best Song:  Killing the Dragon

Best Deep Cut:  Killing the Dragon

#8: 

Dio-Sacred Heart 1985

As mentioned above, Sacred Heart proved to be a drop off from the first two Dio albums, and was the final record to feature guitarist, Vivian Campbell.  There are some major highlights that save the record, namely, King of Rock and Roll, Rock ‘n’ Roll Children, and Hungry for Heaven.  Unfortunately, the rest offers too much filler material.

Best Song:  King of Rock and Roll

Best Deep Cut:  Sacred Heart

#7: 

Rainbow-Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll 1978

Dio’s last collaboration with Rainbow and Deep Purple guitarist, Ritchie Blackmore, Long Live Rock and Roll is the weakest of the lot, although there is plenty of solid material in the title track, Lady of the Lake, and the amazing Kill the King.

Best Song:  Kill the King

Best Deep Cut:  Lady of the Lake

#6: 

Black Sabbath-Mob Rules 1981

Dio’s second album with Sabbath is where I began to have trouble ranking the records.  The title cut and The Sign of the Southern Cross are classics.

Best Song:  The Sign of the Southern Cross

Best Deep Cut:  The Sign of the Southern Cross

#5: 

Dio-The Last in Line 1985

It’s hard to imagine that this outstanding record is only number five in this ranking.  That speaks volumes as to the strength of the four other releases above it.  The title cut, We Rock, Evil Eyes, and Egypt (The Chains Are On) are the highlights.

Best Song:  We Rock

Best Deep Cut:  Egypt (The Chains Are On)

#4: 

Black Sabbath-Heaven and Hell 1980

The first and finest Dio-led Sabbath album perhaps saved the doom metal legends’ career.  Side One is a masterpiece, with Neon Nights, Children of the Sea, Lady Evil, and the title cut.  Meanwhile, don’t fall asleep on Side Two.

Best Song:  Neon Nights

Best Deep Cut:  Lady Evil

#3: 

Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow-1975

Deep Purple’s Ritchie Blackmore’s new band, before it shortened its name to simply, Rainbow. Man on the Silver Mountain is the big hit here, however, Black Sheep of the family, The Temple of the King, and If You Don’t Like Rock and Roll secure this album as an all-time Dio-fronted classic.

Best Song:  Man on the Silver Mountain

Best Deep Cut:  Black Sheep of the Family

#2: 

Rainbow-Rising 1976

Dio and Blackmore outdid themselves with the follow up to their debut.  Tarot Woman and Starstruck highlight the first half, while Stargazer and A Light in the Black offer an epic one-two closing punch.

Best Song:  Tarot Woman

Best Deep Cut:  A light in the Black

#1: 

Dio-Holy Diver 1983

Dio’s first solo album is an all-time rock and roll classic, complete with an all-star band of Vivian Campbell on guitar, Jimmy Bain on bass, and Vinny Appice on drums.  The record provides everything, including huge hits, such as the title track and Rainbow in the Dark.  Meanwhile, Stand Up and Shout, Don’t Talk to Strangers, and Straight Through the Heart offers undeniably great deep cuts. 

Best Song:  Holy Diver

Best Deep Cut:  Stand Up and Shout

Metal Monday 12-13-2021

Concert Review Archive

Scorpions with Great White, Trixter

Knickerbocker Arena

Albany NY

April 22, 1991

The Scorpions have always been one of those bands that have flown under the radar for me.  While I have enjoyed them, I have rarely loved them.  This, even though they have authored some of the greatest songs in hard rock history.  Upon the coaxing of my then-girlfriend, who badly wanted to see opening band Trixter, I scored a couple of tickets for the Scorps’ Crazy World tour stop in Albany, NY.

Surprises come in many shapes and forms.  I’ve been surprised by wives and girlfriends that have informed me they didn’t want to be in a relationship with me anymore.  I’ve been startled by people quietly coming into the room.  I’ve been surprised when my trail camera didn’t pick up any new pictures despite being set up in an area conducive to deer activity.  And, I was pleasantly surprised by the solid and workmanlike performance turned in by the Scorpions at this show.  While I don’t always give them credit where it is due, this concert is one of the best I have ever been to.

The house lights went out and a smattering of strobe lights lit up the darkness, tastefully accompanied by the sound of thunder.  Once fully lit, the stage displayed long ramps on both sides of the drum riser, as the group tore into the lead single from the Crazy World album, Tease Me Please Me.  Klaus Meine’s high pitched vocals were in fine form as he led the group through new album cuts, Lust or Love, Hit Between the Eyes, Don’t Believe Her, and the not-yet huge hit, Wind of Change.  Not to be left out, some of the band’s earlier hits found their way into the first half of the show, including, Bad Boys Running Wild, The Zoo, and their cover of The Who hit, I Can’t Explain.

Visually, fans were treated to a blinding light and laser show that effectively reflected the mood of the song being played.  Meanwhile, Meine commanded the stage with his presence and vocal prowess.  While lead guitarist Matthias Jabs, bassist Francis Buchholz, and drummer Herman Rarebell personified the solid but unspectacular charisma the Scorpions hold in my mind, it was rhythm guitarist Rudolf Schenker who fans had difficulty taking their eyes off.  Schenker bounced around the stage like a giddy school child, playfully interacting with fans and never taking his foot off the gas pedal.

The second half of the show saw more hits and deep cuts, such as Rhythm of Love, Blackout, Coast to Coast, Can’t Live Without You, Dynamite, and the main set closer, Holiday.  Not close to being finished, the band returned for the classic four song encore of Big City Nights, No One Like You, Still Loving You, and Rock You Like a Hurricane.  From the guitar solo to the end of the finale, the lighting rig transformed into the shape of a giant scorpion, a very cool effect for 1991.

I was originally reluctant to buy a ticket for this show, only relenting as a young guy wanting to appease his girl.  I suppose I thought by doing so, and bringer her to see Trixter, I may be rewarded in the end, and if memory serves me correctly, I was indeed.  However, the biggest reward was being able to witness a longstanding and professional rock and roll band such as the Scorpions.

Scorpions Setlist:

Tease Me Please Me

Lust or Love

Bad Boys Running Wild

Make It Real

Hit Between the Eyes

The Zoo

Wind of Change

I Can’t Explain

Don’t Believe Her

Rhythm of Love

Blackout

Concerto in V

Coast to Coast

Can’t Live Without You

Dynamite

Holiday

Encore:

Big City Nights

No One Like You

Still Loving You

Rock You Like a Hurricane

Show opener Trixter was the newcomer to the hard rock scene in 1991 and the New Jersey quartet delivered a brief set solely from their self-titled debut, including the MTV hits, One in a Million and Give It To Me Good.  Meanwhile, blues rock veterans Great White, reaching the waning moments of their peak in popularity, and long before their career-defining involvement in the tragic Station night club fire in Rhode Island, delivered a solid set that combined tracks from their newly-released album Hooked, as well as hits from previous records, including, Mista Bone, Save Your Love, and Once Bitten Twice Shy.

Trixter Setlist:

Bad Girl

Heart of Steel

Play Rough

Ride the Whip

One in a Million

Line of Fire

Give it to Me Good

Great White Setlist:

Call It Rock ‘n’ Roll

All Over Now

Cold Hearted Lovin’

Mista Bone

Desert Moon

Save Your Love

Can’t Shake It

Once Bitten Twice Shy

Metal Monday-Archived Concert Review

Guns N’ Roses with special guest Skid Row

Saratoga Performing Arts Center

Saratoga Springs NY

June 10, 1991

It was a comfortable late spring evening when Guns N’ Roses brought their brand-new Use Your Illusion tour to upstate New York.  The double albums of the same name (1 And 2) were still three months from release, but you wouldn’t know it by the electrified crowd that filled the theater and swelled the lawn.  With Skid Row charged with opening the show, the audience braced itself for a night of drunken debauchery.

New Jersey’s Skid Row was releasing their new album, Slave to the Grind the very next day.  The band was firing on all cylinders that evening, opening with the frenetic title track, before following up with Piece of Me and Big Guns from their 1989 self-titled debut.  It was clear that the quintet understood the magnitude of the performance, that they were solely responsible for firing the crowd up enough to compensate for what was likely to be a lengthy delay, given GnR frontman Axl Roses’ penchant for showing up late to his own concerts.  A quick, but powerful run through new tracks Monkey Business and Get the Fuck Out, plus a cover of Tiny Bradshaw’s, Train Kept A-Rollin’, with GnR’s Slash making a cameo appearance, finished up the main set, before the Skids came back for an encore of classics, I Remember You and Youth Gone Wild.  For what it was worth, the band did their part to make this a memorable night.

Skid Row Setlist:

Slave to the Grind

Piece of Me

Big Guns

Riot Act

Monkey Business

Sweet Little Sister

Get the Fuck Out

Train Kept A-Rollin’

Encore:

I Remember You

Youth Gone Wild

As to be expected, the wait for the headliners was quite prolonged.  After about an hour, the venue started playing 1989’s Batman movie, starring Michael Keaton, on the big screen.  This was fine until more than 45 minutes of the movie went by, and fans started getting restless.  The booing reached a crescendo before, mercifully, the lights went down, and the jeers turned to cheers.

Guns N’ Roses opened with a pair of tracks from its debut smash, Appetite for Destruction, Nightrain and Mr. Brownstone.  All seemed to be forgiven even though it was about 11 PM before the group made its appearance.  The band sounded tight and appeared to be in shape, the benefits of seeing a band in the infancy of a long tour.

I have several qualms about the show, however.  As the new records had yet to be released, the audience did not know much of the new material, save for the already released, Civil War, creating a lull in the momentum gained with known songs, such as It’s So Easy, Welcome to the Jungle, My Michelle, Rocket Queen, and Sweet Child o’ Mine.  While the crowd was treated to hearing future classic, November Rain for the first time, and can brag about having the Get in the Ring chant recorded at its show, even the encores were littered with unrecognizable tracks.

Another issue was the never-ending solo sections of the show.  Matt Sorum’s drum solo.  Slash’s guitar solo and his Love Theme from the Godfather bit.  The long jams that segued from song to song.  It hindered the concert from sustaining any energy that the audience had mustered.  Say nothing about Axl Rose and his preaching raps in between songs.  They get old, unnecessary, and, again, kill the festivities.  And Axl was just getting warmed up.  He was a mere three weeks away from his infamous incident in St. Louis, and a little more than a year from inciting the Montreal riot.

I enjoy Guns N’ Roses’ albums, especially the timeless debut, one of those has a permanent place on my mental “flawless” list, along with the debut Van Halen record, Def Leppard’s High and Dry, and Metallica’s Master of Puppets.  I may even put Slave to the Grind in this illustrious company.  That said, this was the first time I saw GnR live, and the last time.  I found their show to have too many fits and starts to build any sort of force and considered Axl Rose a little too obnoxious to take for two and a half hours.  I hear that Axl has mellowed with the passing of decades and the band’s current show is a killer.  I’m glad to hear that.  However, I probably won’t see them again.

Guns N’ Roses Setlist:

Nightrain

Mr. Brownstone

Double Talkin’ Jive

Dust n’ Bones

Bad Obsession

It’s So Easy

Dead Horse

Civil War

Welcome to the Jungle

14 Years

Patience (with I Was Only Joking intro)

My Michelle

November Rain

Drum Solo

Slash Guitar Solo

Speak Softly Love (Love Theme From The Godfather)

Rocket Queen

Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door (with Only Women Bleed intro)

Sweet Child o’ Mine (with Bad Time intro)

Encore 1:

Live and Let Die

Estranged

Encore 2:

Yesterdays

Paradise City

Metal Monday 11-29-2021

Welcome to a new weekly post that I will call Metal Mondays, where I will rank the albums of a certain artist in the metal and hard rock genre from worst to best.  As I am a list and ranking person, I am unable to have a simple discussion on what a band’s good albums are, as well as their not-so-good ones.  I must rank them in some sort of order, or I will not be able to participate!  This also makes for a fun debate, don’t you think?

NOTE:  I will rank full length STUDIO ALBUMS only.  There will be no live records, greatest hits, or EP’s here.

This week we are discussing the British sensations, Def Leppard.  Originally upstarts in the New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM) movement in the late 1970’s, Def Leppard has transformed their sound throughout the decades, first hitting the mainstream has a hard-driving unit, before exploring with a variety of genres, including grunge and straight-up pop.  The band has experienced their share of hardships along the way, including the car accident in which drummer Rick Allen lost his arm, as well as the untimely death of guitarist Steve Clark.

#10: 

Slang-1996

Do you remember the grunge and alternative rock movement of the 1990’s?  I do.  I hated it back then.  It took away the feel-good, party rock and roll that I grew up on.  Today, I have grown in my musical taste and have accepted, and now even enjoy, some of the bands that thrived during this time.  However, it is not a good sound for Def Leppard.

Best Song:  Blood Runs Cold

Best Deep Cut:  Blood Runs Cold

#9: 

X-2002

Now, You’re Beautiful, Cry, and Scar are decent tracks, but still too much filler on this release.

Best Song:  You’re Beautiful

Best Deep Cut:  You’re Beautiful

#8: 

Euphoria-1999

This album marks a return towards the sound that most Def Leppard fans came to love, however, like X above, there is still too much filler on this record.  As I have lamented before, I would much rather listen to an album with 8-9 good tracks, than one with 13-14 songs just to fill a disc.  The hit, Promises, Demolition Man, and the wonderful, Paper Sun are the highlights here.

Best Song:  Paper Sun

Best Deep Cut:  Paper Sun

#7: 

Adrenalize-1992

This first album without Steve Clark has its moments, however, it was the first Def Leppard record that disappointed me overall.  While there is a collection of solid songs, such as Let’s Get Rocked, White Lightning, Stand Up (Kick Love into Motion), and Tear It Down, the album comes across as a little formulistic, with most of the material failing to stand up to previous releases.  Tonight has the potential to be a Def Leppard classic, however fizzles in the end.

Best Song:  White Lightning

Best Deep Cut:  White Lightning

#6: 

Songs From the Sparkle Lounge-2008

I must admit, I don’t believe I had ever listened to this record until I was preparing this column.  I had to scramble this weekend, as for some reason, this one slipped through the cracks.  I was pleasantly surprised once I did listen to it.  The album is full of catchy choruses with big hooks.  While impossible to compare to the brilliance of its earlier releases, the band delivered in a way few thought one at this stage in their career could.

Go, Nine Lives, C’mon C’mon, Tomorrow, and Gotta Let it Go are the highlights.

Best Song:  Tomorrow

Best Deep Cut:  Tomorrow

#5: 

Def Leppard-2015

I had heard Def Leppard’s self-titled release from 2015, although I needed to take the time to refamiliarize myself with it.  Much like with Songs from the Sparkle Lounge, this album is an overlooked surprise in the band’s catalogue.  Let’s Go, Dangerous, Man Enough, Forever Young, and Wings of an Angel are worthy of your time.

Best Song:  Let’s Go

Best Deep Cut:  Let’s Go

#4: 

On Through the Night-1980

You’re about to see where my allegiances lie regarding Def Leppard, seeing as the top four albums in this ranking are from the 80’s.  On Through the Night is the debut release and show a band who is raw and hungry to break out of obscurity.  While lacking the polish of future records, you begin to realize that Def Leppard was a band about to break out.

Rock Brigade, Hello America, and Wasted are criminally underrated DL classics in my book.

Best Song:  Wasted

Best Deep Cut:  Wasted

#3: 

Hysteria-1987

We go from the obscure to the ginormous opus with 1987’s Hysteria.  Released four years after the previous record, due, in most part, to the accident and amputation of Allen’s arm, the album brings to light the poppier side of the band, no doubt due to the electronic drum set-up Allen utilized.  The record spawned seven hit singles, and really took off when the third single, Pour Some Sugar on Me, hit the airwaves. 

Obviously, the hits are there, with Animal, Rocket, Armageddon It, Love Bites, and the title track all enjoying success on the charts, while the deep cuts are plentiful and fruitful, such as, Gods of War, Don’t Shoot Shotgun, and Excitable.

Best Song:  Hysteria

Best Deep Cut:  Excitable

#2: 

Pyromania-1983

Under the direction of hit maker Mutt Lange at the controls, the band catapulted into superstardom with this album.  There are plenty of hits, including, Photograph, Foolin,’ Rock of Ages, and the amazing, Too Late for Love.  Meanwhile, there is plenty more to knock your socks off with, Rock Rock (Till You Drop), Stagefright, Die Hard the Hunter, and Comin’ Under Fire.

Best Song:  Too Late for Love

Best Deep Cut:  Comin’ Under Fire

#1: 

High ‘n’ Dry-1981

One of my favorite albums of all time, High ‘n’ Dry features Def Leppard for the first time with Mutt Lange.  While only Bringing on the Heartbreak broke through as a major radio hit, the rest of the record is an absolute masterpiece.  One of the rare albums that has no bad songs, very similar to the debut Van Halen release.  I could name off the highlights, but I’ll save you some time and tell you to listen to the whole thing.

Best Song:  Lady Strange

Best Deep Cut:  Lady Strange 

Metal Monday 11-22-2021

Welcome to a new weekly post that I will call Metal Mondays, where I will rank the albums of a certain artist in the metal and hard rock genre from worst to best.  As I am a list and ranking person, I am unable to have a simple discussion on what a band’s good albums are, as well as their not-so-good ones.  I must rank them in some sort of order, or I will not be able to participate!  This also makes for a fun debate, don’t you think?

NOTE:  I will rank full length STUDIO ALBUMS only.  There will be no live records, greatest hits, or EP’s here.

This week, we take a look at a band from Southern California that is often credited with saving the fledgling rock and roll scene of the late 1970s.  Of course, we’re talking about Van Halen.

Any synopsis of this band would have to begin with the guitar wizardry of Eddie Van Halen, who gave rock music its first electric guitar virtuoso since Jimi Hendrix.  Brother Alex, himself extremely underrated, created numerous drum parts that were copied and covered by skinsmen from coast to coast.  And we couldn’t forget the flamboyant and bombastic original vocalist, David Lee Roth, who was without a doubt, one of the best frontmen of all time.

Perhaps one of the most impressive traits of Van Halen is that they didn’t record an album that was a complete flop, at least quality music-wise.  As you will see, even the lower ranking records have their share of fine moments, something that cannot be said of just about all the acts I have covered in this column.

#12:  

Van Halen III-1998

Poor Gary Cherone.  Already a successful and talented vocalist from the popular band, Extreme, he had the daunting task of replacing Sammy Hagar and David Lee Roth in Van Halen.  He hadn’t stood a chance.  Nor did this album.

For all the strikes against this record from the start, and despite musical experimentations that would be considered unforgivable among Van Halen diehards, there is some impressive stuff here.  Without You, From Afar, Dirty Water Dog, Josephina, and Year to the Day are all worthy of your time.  But, alas, there must be a worst album in every band’s catalogue, and this would be it.  Poor Gary Cherone.

Best Song:  From Afar

Best Deep Cut:  From Afar 

#11:  

Diver Down-1982

Originally scheduled to record an EP, the band ultimately were pressured into a full long play, the result being a rushed and disorganized effort.  Cover songs were aplenty here, although Where Have All the Good Times Gone and (Oh) Pretty Woman were done nicely.  Little Guitars is the strongest original tune on the record.

Best Song:  Where Have All the Good Times Gone

Best Deep Cut:  Where Have All the Good Times Gone

#10:  

Balance-1995

The final Sammy Hagar album.  This one gets a bad rap and does have its share of filler.  However, the highlights are still plentiful and strong.  Radio hits, Can’t Stop Loving You, and Don’t Tell Me (What Love Can Do) are catchy enough, but it’s the deeper cuts that make the record go.  Listen to Big Fat Money, Not Enough, Aftershock, and the brilliant, Feelin’.

Best Song:  Feelin’

Best Deep Cut:  Feelin’

#9:  

A Different Kind of Truth-2012

You never thought it would happen, did you?  And when it did, you had no idea it would be this good, did you?  I’m talking about a new Van Halen record with David Lee Roth.  Containing riffs and lyrics left over from the 1970s and 80s, the album is as solid a release as could be expected from a band this late in its career.  

There is plenty to choose from on this album, including, Tattoo, She’s the Woman, You and Your Blues, Blood and Fire, As Is, The Trouble with Never, Outta Space, Beats Workin’, and the bluesy, Stay Frosty.  A triumphant return for the band’s original lineup.  Sadly, it would be the last.

Best Song:  The Trouble with Never

Best Deep Cut:  The Trouble with Never 

#8:  

OU812-1988

A strong album that features big singles When It’s Love and Finish What Ya Started.  However, again, the deep cuts mold the record.  Listen to Mine All Mine, AFU (Naturally Wired), Cabo Wabo, and Sucker in a 3 Piece.

Best Song:  Finish What Ya Started

Best Deep Cut:  Cabo Wabo

#7:  

For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge-1991

A commercial smash, F.U.C.K. (Get it?) spawned four hit singles, including, Poundcake, Runaround, Top of the World, and the piano driven anthem, Right Now.  Van Hagar was at their absolute peak.  Nobody on the outside was wiser to the internal strife that has infiltrated the band.

Best Song:  Right Now

Best Deep Cut:  Judgement Day

#6:  

5150-1986

The first Van Halen album with Sammy Hagar was received with trepidation, but fears proved unnecessary with one listen through 5150.  The record contained four big hits in, Why Can’t This Be Love, Dreams, Best of Both Worlds, and Love Walks In.  Meanwhile, Good Enough and Summer Nights serve as solid deep tracks.  It was a lighter, poppier, and more radio friendly Van Halen, but it was much better than no Van Halen at all.

#5:  

Van Halen II-1979

As we reach the Top 5, one thing is certain.  Other than the top two spots, positions 3-5 could be determined using a coin flip.  Today, I give the fifth spot to band’s sophomore effort.  Dance the Night Away and Beautiful Girls are the radio hits, while Somebody Get Me a Doctor, Outta Love Again, Light Up the Sky, and D.O.A. are more than worthy of your attention.

Best Song:  Dance the Night Away 

Best Deep Cut:  D.O.A.

#4:  

Fair Warning-1981

Another tough choice as far as specific ranking.  This album has just one big hit in Unchained, but it may be the best Van Halen song in the entire catalogue.  Mean Street, Dirty Movies, Hear About It Later, and So This Is Love are strong deeper tracks.

Best Song:  Unchained

Best Deep Cut:  Hear About It Later

#3:

Women and Children First-1980

Van Halen’s third record kicks off with the hits, And the Cradle Will Rock and Everybody Wants Some.  However, the amazing Romeo Delight, Loss of Control, the bluesy Take Your Whiskey Home, and the Americana sounding Could This Be Magic round out a very diverse and outstanding album.

Best Song:  Romeo Delight

Best Deep Cut:  Romeo Delight 

#2:  

1984-1984

The top two positions in this ranking are non-negotiable.  The second slot goes to the commercially epic release, 1984.  Though hinted at during earlier albums, Eddie’s fascination with synthesizers becomes quite prevalent here, especially on the album opening title track that leads into the band’s signature single, Jump.  I’ll Wait gave the record another poppy synthesizer driven single, while Panama and Hot for Teacher satisfy the hardcore fans with its guitar driven hard rock that also includes Alex at his absolute best.  

Meanwhile, there are plenty of deep cuts to listen to, including, Top Jimmy, Drop Dead Legs, and Girl Gone Bad.

Best Song:  Panama

Best Deep Cut:  Top Jimmy

#1:  

Van Halen-1978

Van Halen exploded onto the scene, and quite possibly carried hard rock with its self-titled release in 1978.  Moreover, it gave the scene its own guitar god, and influenced thousands of young kids to pick up the axe.

There isn’t a filler song to be found here, as all 11 tracks are winners.  In fact, how about I save myself from naming the entire track listing and just say this is a Top 5 record of all time for me?

Best Song:  Jamie’s Cryin’ (although there are 5-6 others that could go here, depending on the day)

Best Deep Cut:  On Fire

Archived Concert Reviews

Motley Crue w/Faster Pussycat

Knickerbocker Arena

Albany NY

April 11, 1990

It was a comfortable spring Wednesday evening when Motley Crue brought their machine-like Dr. Feelgood tour to the brand-new Knickerbocker Arena in Albany NY.  At the time I was a baby-faced, mullet-wearing teenager (I’m dating myself here) who was ecstatic to be seeing his first rock concert.  Well before YouTube and setlist.com, I had only the experiences of others at previous concerts and had no idea how this night would transform me into someone who has seen so many bands that he can officially say he has probably seen his final live show.

In 1990, Motley Crue was the biggest band in the world.  Their latest opus, 1989’s Dr. Feelgood spawned no fewer than five hit singles and became the group’s first number one record.  The tour to support the album was selling out arenas and amphitheaters across the US, with stops in Europe and Russia thrown in for good measure.  By the time the show touched down in Albany, the tour had been rolling for six months.

The lights went down, and we were treated to a laser show of a ghoulish looking figure (band mascot Allister Fiend) who was recounting the band’s history up to that point.  Once he was finished, there was a loud explosion, and the opening chords of Kickstart My Heart began to ring out.  Drummer Tommy Lee was entrenched behind his red Dr. Feelgood kit, while the rest of the band made their appearance through trap doors on the stage, accompanied by another explosion.  It was on!

Expecting little more than one of my favorite bands playing its popular songs in front of me, I was blown away by the enormity of the show.  Blinding lights were carefully placed above the stage, choreographed to the beat of each song.  The sound, later said to be more than double what was necessary for a venue of that size, gave me a ringing ear that lasted several days.  I still remember feeling the boom of the kick drum in the pit of my stomach.  Scantily clad lady back-up singers, dubbed, The Nasty Habits, stood high above the band, complementing the group with high harmony vocals, while providing the teenage boys in the audience a visual that was sure to stay with them far into the night. 

The band tore through Red Hot, Rattlesnake Shake, and Too Young to Fall in Love, before arriving at Shout at the Devil, projecting upside down pentagrams from the rotating pods above the stage.  A searing column of flame kicked the band into the main rhythm, burning my eyelids nearly shut.  Lead vocalist Vince Neil and bassist Nikki Sixx were rarely still, often sprinting from one end of stage to the other, each side fit with their own, “I’m a rockstar,” platform.

Following a blistering solo from criminally underrated guitarist Mick Mars, Tommy Lee appeared behind an electronic drum kit on steroids that was suspended from the roof of the arena.  Pounding out beats to famous classic rocks songs at the time, such as Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, and Rick Derringer, Lee addressed the crowd with a mouth only a mother could love.  After leaving the drum kit and swinging down to the main stage via a long rope, Lee unfortunately mooned the crowd, much to the delight of the ladies, and to the chagrin of the guys.

Looks That Kill, Smokin’ In The Boy’s Room, Wild Side, and Girls Girls Girls ended the main set, each song ramping up the momentum already built by the drum solo.  After a brief intermission, the band returned to encore with its latest single, Without You, before ending the show with its huge hit, Home Sweet Home, and the title track to the new album.  The show ended with enough bombastic flash pots to split every eardrum in the building.

I remember the severe high I was on in the days and weeks following this concert.  For a year or so, Motley Crue was all I ever played on my Walkman and car stereo (I’m dating myself again).  The show made me thirst for others, which I fulfilled over the next few years.  While I have seen dozens of bands, many technically light years ahead of Motley in a musical sense, there is only one first concert, and the Crue will always hold a special place in my heart because of this night.

Hair metal upstarts Faster Pussycat opened the show, mainly featuring songs from its latest album, Wake Me When It’s Over, ironically released on the same day as Dr. Feelgood.  The band’s brand of blues and sleaze rock more than adequately served as a proper warm-up to the Crue.  Highlights were the huge hit, House of Pain, as well as older songs, Don’t Change That Song and Babylon.   

Motley Crue Setlist:

Kickstart My Heart

Red Hot

Rattlesnake Shake

Too Young to Fall in Love

Shout at the Devil

Live Wire

Same ‘Ol Situation

Slice of Your Pie

Guitar Solo

Drum Solo

Looks That Kill

Smokin’ in the Boy’s Room

Wild Side

Girls Girls Girls

Encore:

Without You

Home Sweet Home

Dr. Feelgood

Faster Pussycat Setlist:

Where There’s a Whip There’s A Way

Slip of the Tongue

Little Dove

Poison Ivy

Don’t Change That Song

House of Pain

Bathroom Wall

Babylon

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