Saturday, February 25, 2017

ROYAL BLISS "The Truth"

(c) 2016 Independent Release

  1. The Truth
  2. We're All Livin' The Dream
  3. Racin'
  4. Drown With Me 
  5. Goin' To Hell
Neal Middleton--Vocals, Guitar
Taylor Richards--Guitar, Backing Vocals
Dwayne Crawford--Bass, Backing Vocals
Jake Smith--Drums, Percussion
Sean "Memphis" Hennesey--Guitars, Vocals

How in the world did this EP from Royal Bliss slip past me unnoticed?!  Who the heck forgot to tell me it was out?!  Someone needs to pay for this slight, I'll tell ya!

Anyway...  One of the most underrated bands in music today, in my opinion, returns with a five song EP called The Truth.  And, in truth, his EP could have just as easily been called the Donnie And Marie EP, because there is no denying that the band's sound here has them ranging both a little bit country and a little bit rock n roll.

The EP starts off with a very familiar Royal Bliss vibe, as the title track is a definite rocker that would have fit very well on either of their previous two full-length albums, the phenomenal Waiting Out The Storm, and the nearly equally great Chasing The Sun.  The track opens with some hard pounding drums and a nice, churning rhythm guitar line before Middleton's soulful vocals come gliding into the first verse.  The chorus is a typical, story-telling styled section that Royal Bliss does so exceedingly well, and even the guitar solo has a nice, gliding quality to it, lending the song that comfortable quality that makes you feel like you may have heard it somewhere before...even though you know fully well that you never have.

"We're All Living The Dream" takes a slight...and I mean "slight"...step east toward Nashville, but there is absolutely nothing on this track that is any more country than "Bleed My Soul" from Waiting Out The Storm, or "Home" does on Chasing The Sun, and the chorus section actually reminds me more of the kind of sing-along song that Neil Diamond might do than it does an actual country song.  At times a bit gospel sounding, and at other times very patriotic sounding...especially with the drum cadences..."We're All Living The Dream" is mid-American roots rock at it's finest, and I have to feel that somewhere, John Mellencamp is grinning as he hits repeat on this track.

"Racin'" slips a bit further into country territory, but I have to tell you, I really like this song.  Middleton has a way of writing songs that feel like an old sweatshirt...so completely warm and comfortable and familiar...that I find myself not really caring how the song is pigeon-holed or what niche it is put into.  This is a band that knows who they are and who play what they like, and it really shows on a song like "Racin'".  Could it end up on CMT or GAC?  Sure, I suppose it could.  But don't start thinking that you're in for some kind of steel guitar, fiddle and dobro hoedown song here, because that is definitely NOT what the song is about.  Rather, its a somber tune about being out on the road and dealing with the choices that we make...or don't make...and is not all that dissimilar to a song like "Crazy", especially the "non-rock", original version from Waiting Out The Storm.

"Drown With Me" combines the rock sounds of the last two albums with the good-time, hard drinking party attitude of a lot of country songs.  I discovered that this song was available quite a while ago as a digital-single, but as a typically non-downloading music consumer, I didn't know about it until this EP snuck up on me.    There is a little bit of banjo in the song that becomes evident in the second verse, but it's not like we're listening to Roy Clark on Hee-Haw here; think more along the lines of Keith Urban on some of his most rocking numbers.  Speaking of rocking numbers, it's like someone lit a fire under the band at about the two minute mark, as the guitar solo section is performed at such a frantic pace it almost doesn't even feel like the same song!  There are some cool gang vocals at work here, and one of those stupidly-addicting sing-along choruses that tend to irritate you (in a good way, of course) once they are stuck in your head for about a week straight.

"Goin' To Hell" has a definite country flair to it, especially with the picking on the acoustic guitars and the railroad rhythm of the drums, but there is still a lot of rocking in this high energy foot stomper that may be my favorite song on the EP...if "The Truth" isn't my favorite...or if "We're All Living The Dream" doesn't hold that title...  You get my drift, I'm sure.  The band semi-name drops their last album, as Middleton sings about "waiting out the perfect storm" not too long before they break into a rip-roaring jam session to close the song, and the EP, in pretty typical Royal Bliss fashion.

Look, like I said at the outset, there is a definite country element that is mixed in here, but I would argue that Royal Bliss ALWAYS had a bit of that in a lot of their songs, especially with the sing along choruses and the heart-wrenching ballads.  Like I said, a little bit country, a little bit rock n roll.  But, I'll be danged if this isn't an excellent little EP that I really wish the band had stretched out into a full-length record.  I guess it will just have to tide me over until the next album that I knew nothing about finds its way to my hands and ears.

Rating:  Call it what you want; I'm calling it crankable!  Crank it to 8!

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Sunday, February 19, 2017

FIREWIND "Immortals"

(c) 2017 AFM Records

  1. Hands of Time
  2. We Defy
  3. Ode To Leonidas
  4. Back On The Throne
  5. Live And Die By The Sword
  6. War of Ages
  7. Lady of 1000 Sorrows
  8. Immortals
  9. Warriors and Saints
  10. Rise From The Ashes
  11. Vision of Tomorrow (Bonus Track)
Henning Base--Vocals
Gus G.--Guitars
Petros Christo--Bass
Bob Katsionis--Keyboards
Jo Nunez--Drums

Greek power metallers, Firewide, return to the scene after a nearly five year hiatus as founder and guitar god, Gus G., was busy touring the world with Ozzy Osbourne and putting out solo records (both of which are fantastic, by the way).  There was actually some question about whether Firewind had breathed their last, but Gus G. insists it was always his plan to bring the band back together, and indeed the boys are back together on this newest release, Immortals.

The album opens with two melodic, yet string-melting tracks, in "Hands of Time" and "We Defy", both of which serve to put the listener on notice that Firewind is fully back and ready to reclaim their position at, or near, the top of the Euro-power metal scene.  One thing that will be immediately obvious is the new voice of the band, as Henning Base has stepped into the void left by Apollo Papathanasio.  Kelly Carpenter had been the touring vocalist for Firewind for the past couple of years, and many thought he would be the new album's voice, but I feel Base brings a style and power of his own to these songs (more on that in a bit) that I honestly don't think Carpenter would have incorporated.  I'm not sure of the reasons Carpenter was not used on this record, but the addition of Base is definitely a signature move, and his performance on these first two tracks, and the speedy, "We Defy", in particular, tell me that the right decision was made for the band. 

"Ode To Leonidas" starts off with a spoken word intro, recalling some of the things Manowar has done in the past to varying degrees of success.  This effort is short enough, I suppose, but I still find such things to be more of a distraction than an addition to the song itself, and this intro is not the exception.  Once the lead-in is finished, however, we are treated to yet another hard-charging fret-burner from Gus G. and Company, with Base's vocals really taking on an edge that the band didn't employ often enough in the past, in my opinion.  The former lead vocalist for Brainstorm and Gamma Ray, among others, has a strong, passionate tenor that he masterfully controls throughout this record, but when he adds this bit of gruffness to his vocals, it really adds to the urgency of the track.

"Back On The Throne" is a great song that I feel really hints to Gus G.'s time touring with Ozzy, as the rhythm guitars carry a tone that is reminiscent of late 80's/early 90s material.  I could definitely do without the keyboard lead-in to the song, but it is short-lived and more of a nuisance than a real annoyance.  A big, soaring guitar solo is a prominent part of this track, and again, Base really unleashes the power of his vocals on this track, which is definitely one of my favorites here.

"Live And Die By The Sword" is the album's epic moment, starting with a nice acoustic guitar over the sound of a distant thunderstorm, then slowly building in power until Base's vocals lead the charge of the band, along with some nicely stacked, gang-shouted backing vocals, that work perfectly to compliment a rhythm that builds from a moderate gallop to a full-blown charge, especially during the blistering solo section.  Katsionis is given reign to add his own mini-keyboard solo amidst the flurry of Gus G.'s guitars, as well, again showcasing the epic nature of this song.  

Rarely does the album allow the listener to catch his or her breath, but one truly shining moment on the record is the ballad, "Lady of 1000 Sorrows".  Incorporating some classic rock-sounding guitar tones in places, this power ballad sweeps and soars, especially when Base is given the chance to really hold onto a note and extend it out, especially on the closing chorus.  

Without breaking the record down in complete song-by-song fashion, I feel that this is definitely one of the band's best efforts...probably seated right behind the huge The Premonition, which I still find to be breathtaking in places.  This record is right there, however, and as I have likely made obvious, I feel that Base's vocals make so much difference on this record.  I would love to hear him tackle the best cuts of the band's rather large catalog, especially on the more epic tracks that Firewind does so well.

The keyboards are still a bit more prominent than I prefer, but such is the Euro-power sound, and I have learned to accept them for what they are.  Besides, Katsionis is a truly accomplished player and brings a level of excitement and energy to the songs that more often than not boosts, rather than hinders, the overall sound.  I can't say the same for many keyboard players in the power metal scene.  And, while on the subject of musicians, I don't think Christo and Nunez are given enough love here, as they are often thought of as mere supporting players to Gus G.'s prodigious talent, but the rhythm section here is amazing and really builds a support structure that Gus would struggle to replicate.  Top notch performances all the way around.

Rating:  Sounding like they haven't missed a beat, crank this effort to a really, really solid 8!

Saturday, February 18, 2017

SAINTED SINNERS "Sainted Sinners"




(c) 2017 Frontiers Records

  1. Knight of the Long Knives
  2. Beauty In The Beast
  3. Maybe She's Got Balls
  4. We Are All Sainted Sinners
  5. Blue Lightning Man
  6. The Love That I Have Found
  7. Did You
  8. In Need
  9. Evangeline
  10. Shine Diamond Girl
  11. Truth Is A Lie
David Reece--Vocals
Frank Pane--Guitars
Ferdy Doernberg--Keys
Frederik Burkert--Bass
"Maestro" Berci Hirleman--Drums

David Reece just seems completely unable to sit still, doesn't he.  The guy has been in more bands than I have had cars!  Accept, Bangalore Choir, The Stream, Bonfire, Tango Down, and now this newest project, Sainted Sinners...and I'm sure I'm missing more than a few bands if I really dig deep enough!  However, unlike his previous efforts, Sainted Sinners is less about melodic hard rock and more about solid, 70s-soaked bluesy hard rock in the vein of Deep Purple, Whitesnake, UFO, Rainbow, and even a bit of ZZ Top and a healthy dose of Zeppelin.

"Knight Of The Long Knives" starts things off in an uptempo fashion that is not too far removed from 70s-era Whitesnake in its approach.  There is some really good riffing going on, and the Hammond organ is absolutely killer here (and pretty much EVERYWHERE on this record)!  When Reece's vocals kick in, I'm thinking, "yeah!  I can get into this!"...but then the song just kind of sits there and stagnates.  There's no real hook or lyrical turn, no altering of tempos, and not even an overly memorable solo to just grab me by the ears and shake me...although that Hammond nearly does it.  I also find I'm not a huge fan of the chorus for some reason, and it hasn't snagged me yet, even with repeated listens.

"Beauty In The Beast" is a really uptempo, boogie-woogie number with some pretty cool guitar work from Pane, especially on the bluesy solo, and even more great Hammond work from Doernberg, who is an absolute BEAST all throughout this record!  But again, the song just isn't a big stand-out number for me...nor is the third track, "Maybe She's Got Balls", although this song is a step up from the previous two.  I can't quite figure out why on it, but after a good dozen or so trips through the album, I have pinpointed that for me, the uptempo songs on Sainted Sinners all seem to be missing something.  They are performed with expert musicianship and excellent vocals ("Maybe She's Got Balls" has some really nice female backing vocals, by the way), but none of them really and truly suck me in, which is odd, as I absolutely LOVE this type of bluesy, 70s-drenched classic rock.

"We're All Sainted Sinners" is a step in the right direction, but its also a slight step backward in tempo.  A big, thick guitar riff powers this song in a solid Deep Purple direction, with the icing on the cake being still more potent Hammond from Doernberg.  Reece pretty well dominates this song, also, and the bridge section, with the layered vocals is some really good stuff.  I would love to hear the band do more stuff like this throughout the record.

"Blue Lightning Man" takes about 80 seconds before it decides to get up and get moving, and from there it turns into one of the fastest songs on the record...which, again, means its one of the lesser songs on the record for me.  I even started to question my sanity after repeated listens to this first half of the record, because everything seems to be in place for me to absolutely fall in love with this record by now, but I just don't.  Again, there is no denying the level of musicianship here, as every man on this record cuts loose with some level of excellence on pretty much every track here.  But the fast numbers just don't have...SOMETHING!  Now, "Blue Lightning Man" does have a really cool guitar solo that is part of a big tempo change about 4:45 into the song, but once things speed back up, even with the smoking Hammond work, this song just feels like  about a hudred different album cuts from the 70s that just blend into the background and take up space between a record's singles.

It isn't until track 6 that things REALLY click for me (although, again, "We're All Sainted Sinners" is a darn fine song).  "The Love That I Have Found" is a big, epic Zeppelin-ish number with a rhythm and riff that bears more than a passing resemblance to "Kashmir", but dang if it isn't catchy and performed to near perfection.  That big, chunky guitar riff, the nicely layered keys, and even a hint of orchestration.  This is definitely the pinnacle of the record for me, and I find myself going back to it repeatedly, as it is executed so well.  Excellent stuff, as is "Did You", which holds onto that Zeppelin worship for a bit longer, especially on the introductory instrumentation and another big, heavy riff, before it shifts a bit more into Deep Purple territory, especially with the Hammond firmly in place.

But then things slip once again, and it is the more uptempo material that really seems to expose the band's songwriting weaknesses.  On "In Need", Reece sounds like he is channeling ZZ Top on the verses, and even the music has some of that 70s southern blues n' boogie that ZZ Top is known for, but it just isn't all that memorable.  To be 100% honest, if I'm not spinning the song, I don't even really recall the rhythm of the track, let alone any type of hook.  "Evangeline" also doesn't do much for me, and really, it doesn't fit the style and sound of the rest of the record.  To my ears, it sounds like Reece is singing a left-over Dokken song...with a guitar solo that sounds like something Mr. Big would do, which is cool..., bit like "In Need" before it, there isn't any real hook to catch my attention, at least outside of that solo.

The album closes with two of the best tracks on the record, which is a saving grace.  "Shine Diamond Girl" is one of the true standout tracks here, and I absolutely love it.  This is pure Deep Purple worship at its finest, from the spot-on Hammond sounds, to the soulful guitar work, not to mention the best vocal work from Reece on a non-ballad on the record.  At one point during the extended solo, I swore the band was going to break into "Wild Woman From Tokyo", as that catchy riff wormed its way into the mix, but it was short-lived.

"Truth Is A Lie" has a definite Zeppelin vibe to it, especially with the rhythm guitar riff, and Reece again shines here, as he has done throughout all of the slower numbers on the disc.  A really solid way to end the record, I only wish that a couple of these heavy hitters had been moved more to the front of the record rather than being forced to wade through more than a handful of well-intentioned but still rather mediocre tracks (well...I guess I wasn't "forced", but you get my meaning.).

This is one of those rare records that, at least for me, really seems to be back-loaded, with the track listing almost completely flipped from how I would have expected it.  Perhaps the band was thinking of how this album would work on vinyl, and if that's the case, I kind of get it.  Start relatively strong, settle back, then end with a flourish, which Sainted Sinners definitely does.  The record just spends too much time treading water without enough punch between the best tracks.

From the moment the first 70's Rainbow/Deep Purple-inspired notes hit my ears, I knew that Sainted Sinners...both the band and the album...was gonna be something right up my alley musically, and I was correct.  I just wish more songs had some real bite to them, as the performances are top notch across the board, and Reece sounds right at home working this style of music.  Most of the songs just aren't that memorable and come off as a bit color-by-numbers at times.  Still a decent first effort and I hope that Sainted Sinners will be around for another album or two, as I really do dig this style of music.  I am also willing to bet that if these guys perform live and throw in some Whitesnake, Deep Purple, and Zeppelin cover tunes, they would be a MONSTER band to see, especially in a small, smokey, intimate environment, because they definitely have the chops for this type of music.   Now they just need a few more songs.

Rating:  If I were you, I'd rip this CD, completely rearrange the track order, and burn it back as a monstrous 5-6 track EP (which I did), and then file the disc away in your collection.  There is some truly EXCELLENT music here, which allows me to recommend rocking the disc at 6.5, but the weaker songs keep it out of crankable territory for this reviewer.

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Saturday, February 11, 2017

GROUPIE HIGH SCHOOL "...Ladies & Gentlemen"

(c) 2016 Independent Release


  1. Ladies & Gentlemen (Intro)
  2. Chicks With The Flips
  3. Liquid Lunch
  4. My Medicine Woman
  5. Hard To Breathe
  6. This Is How We Say Goodbye
  7. Navy Blue (Bonus Track)
Vinny Olavi--Vocals
Matt Nitro--Guitars
Smippe Youngblood--Guitars
J.J. Mickie--Drums
Tom Sebastian Dexter--Bass


Before I go any further on this review, I want to say this...it takes a LOT of cajones to get UFC ring announcer Michael Buffer to intro your EP when you are pretty much an unheard of band anywhere outside of your homeland of Finland.  And while we all know of my intense disdain for intros, I have to admit, I like the chutzpah it takes to go out and do something like that to get yourself noticed.  So, kudos to Groupie High School for taking a shot...but don't expect me to listen to it more than once.

Groupie High School is a band I know literally NOTHING about other than the fact that they are from Finland, and they like to rock hard, fast, and loud.  And by that, I mean they are seeking to tear your throat out through your eardrums!  Outside of the two very nicely done ballads, "Hard To Breathe" and album closer, "Navy Blue", these guys are balls-to-the-wall with sleazy, aggressive guitars, rumbling bass lines, and thunderous drums.  But what really sets them apart from so many other bands is the vocal approach that Olavi uses.  For the vast majority of his lower-range, mostly "verse" vocals, he employs an approach that reminds me a LOT of the type of vocals used by 80s New Wave bands like Simple Minds, which I think is just so very cool.  Why?  Because he doesn't sound like every other singer out there.  This is, again, particularly evident on the ballads, where Olavi's vocals carry an emotional quality not always felt with harder-edged, sleazy bands like Groupie High School.

Oddly, there are a couple of issues with this album, and they also revolve around the vocals.  First, Olavi sounds like he has a lot of trouble with his English enunciation.  After my first few spins, I could honestly only make out about every fifth or sixth word he was singing/screaming, and who knows if I was actually correct in guessing what he was saying (I usually start by going for the chorus).  However, this is a very minor issue, as with repeated listens I have been able to decipher quite a bit of what he is saying, and truthfully, I am usually rather forgiving of foreign bands who choose to sing in English.  The real issue is the recording of the vocals themselves.  Seriously, we are talking horrible engineering/recording of the vocals on three of the six songs here!  It sounds like Olavi was recorded in an echo chamber in places, there is so much reverb on his voice.  Everything sounds gang shouted, which can be cool on backing vocals, but on lead vocals it does NOT work at all.  And the thing is, it's not Olavi's voice that is the problem; as I mentioned previously, I actually really like his voice, especially the variance between his screams and those lower-end, New Wave-ish verse vocals I referred to.  I just wish they had been recorded better all the way throughout the record.

Outside of this vocal issue, which I do manage to get around, I think this band is definitely onto something.  I love the aggro-sleaze approach here...a lot...and the unique approach to the vocal style is refreshing.  Musically, on the faster numbers, such as the barn-burning "Chicks With The Flips", which is complemented by a Guns N Roses "Rocket Queen"-inspired porn soundtrack in the background, this album has a lot in common with the furious aggression of the seriously under-appreciated Sledgehammer Ledge, which is a dang good band to be compared to, as I absolutely love their demo and their album!  We're not talking musical clones by any stretch, but that angry edge and searing energy that Sledgehammer Ledge employs so well in their brand of sleazed-up metal is also evident here.  "Liquid Lunch" is another high energy romp that employs some excellent rhythm guitars and really allows Olavi to expand upon his range with a top-end scream that falls somewhere between Axl Rose and Dizzy Dean from Britney Fox.  It's also worth noting that I kept hearing the words "teenage wasteland" repeated in this song, and then the song ends with a keyboard line that sounds like it is straight out of The Who's "Baba O'Riley".  Check out the official video below.



The musically interesting, "This Is How We Say Goodbye", teases at being a slower song, with an intro riff that reminds me a bit of David Bowie's "China Girl", before the crushing drums and punchy rhythm guitars crash through that bit of musical nostalgia and blast this song into another full-throttle, angst-riddled rocker throughout the verses, then backing off into that quirky "China Doll" styled riff on the pre-chorus, before ramping things right back up again.  This uber-cool song is a perfect example of the band doing exactly what they want to do, not really concerning themselves with sounding like all of the other Euro-glam/sleaze bands out there, and bringing a uniqueness to the table that is sorely missing in a lot of the music of this style today.

I am so very anxious to hear what these guys come up with on their next effort now that they are getting some proper promotion and attention with Atomic Stuff.  I'm anticipating big things out of Oulu,Finland in the near future.  As for now, this is a really good EP that had the potential to be great with better production.  I would still encourage readers who like their glam/sleaze fast, loud, and nasty to track down these Finns.  I think you will agree they are onto something here.

Rating:  Definitely crank-worthy, I give this a 7, but with better engineering and production, we would have been looking at a 7.5 or even an 8.  Groupie High School is a band to keep an eye on.

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Thursday, February 9, 2017

STEPHEN PEARCY "Smash"

(c) 2017 Frontiers Records

  1. I Know I'm Crazy
  2. Ten Miles Wide
  3. Shut Down Baby
  4. Dead Roses
  5. Lollipop 
  6. Hit Me With A Bullet
  7. Rain
  8. Want Too Much
  9. What Do Ya Think
  10. Jamie
  11. I Can't Take It (Album Version)
  12. Passion Infinity
  13. Summer's End
Stephen Pearcy--Lead Vocals
Erik Ferentinos--Lead and Rhythm Guitars, Backing Vocals
Chris Hagar--Guitars
Matt Thorne--Bass
Greg D'Angelo--Drums, Percussuin


So...while Ratt (er, am I allowed to say that???) works out their legal situations about who's in, who's out, who can call their band what, and who can perform using what name, Stephen Pearcy decided to go out and record himself a new solo album.  Huh.  Imagine that....

Of course, Pearcy is not exclusively about Ratt, as he had a pretty killer side band in Arcade, and he's also dabbled in some other band projects with varying degrees of succ...no, no, I'm not gonna lie, they all pretty much sucked.  Vicious Delite...bad.  Vertex....horrible.  Then there were his solo efforts, of which only Social Intercourse really had any interest from me, although his iTunes release of 3 tracks bunched together as Sucker Punch were actually very good, although the album they were supposed to come from never surfaced that I am aware of.  But other than Arcade and a few nice solo efforts, most of Pearcy's Ratt-less musical endeavors have been pretty disappointing to me.  So, I wasn't really expecting a whole lot of anything from Smash when I was sent the album for review.

My attitude changed slightly when I saw that Beau Hill was once again involved in a Ratt-related effort, as that dude really helped the band define their sound on their first few records.  It's too bad Hill doesn't lend his considerable talents to the entire album, because if he had we might have gotten off to a better start with this record.  Why do I say that?  Quite simply, the worst song on the record is likely the lead-off song on this disc!  Seriously, I put on "I Know I'm Crazy", and I instantly agreed, as only a crazy man would have led off the album with this mid-tempo schlockfest that is, for lack of a better term, rather boring.  I mean it.  There isn't a ton of life to the song at all.  Pearcy sounds good, no doubt, and the music isn't necessarily bad, there's just no real hook to it and very little life at all, with the band sounding like its on cruise control.  If I were to tell you my mind didn't almost instantly go into Here We Go Again mode, I'd be lying.

I'm glad I didn't let that first track shape my overall opinion of this record, because starting with "Ten Miles Wide", things definitely pick up for most of the record.  Definitely more uptempo and catchier than the album's opening track, "Ten Miles Wide" finds Pearcy treading fairly close to the Ratt tracks with the guitar tone and nice hook that reminds me so much of the better material Ratt recorded for Detonator, Ratt, and Infestation.  Vocally, as usual, Pearcy sounds fantastic on the record, and I will be interested to hear how he sounds if/when he takes these new songs out live.  The backing vocals are also strong here, lending support to that sassy snarl that 80s fans know so well, and there is some pretty cool guitar work from Ferentinos here on the solo.  Definitely one of the best tracks on the record.  "Shut Down Baby" is a bit thicker, a bit more bottom-ended in its sound, maybe even a bit Zeppelinis with thebluesy romp of the rhythm and bass guitars, as this song carries one of those hooks that instantly pulls the listener in for repeated spins of the song.

"Dead Roses" has such a familiar, sleazy rhythm line to it I SWEAR this song could have been an LA Guns song and if it was Phil Lewis on vocals instead of Pearcy, no one would be the wiser.  Pearcy definitely pumps up the attitude for this track and he wears it well. That rhythm line I mentioned before runs entirely throughout the track and just embeds itself in your brain, making it nearly impossible to transition into the equally sleazy...but a bit less greasy..."Lollipop".  A snappy, sassy number with a fairly juvenile attitude about it, "Lollipop" is catchy as heck and has a cool bass line that runs throughout the track, and another slick solo from Ferentinos.  There are a couple of F*bombs on these two tracks, which is totally unnecessary, but I can deal with that, I guess.

"Hit Me With Your Bullet" is another catchy, Ratt-esque track that long time fans are likely to grab hold of on the first spin through the record, as is the next track, "Rain", which is also a strong contender for the best song on the record.  I have to hand it to Ferentinos and Hagar for their work on rhythm guitars on this record, as Smash has some really good work in that department scattered all throughout the record.  

"Want Too Much", which is one of the heaviest moments on the record, is actually a bit of a miss for me, as it doesn't really carry that sleazy-yet-still-melodic sound that the rest of the record does. "What Do You Think" goes the other direction with an all-acoustic number that has a roots-rock, maybe even slightly country feel to it.  While I actually think its a pretty cool, catchy number, I can believe that there are many Ratt/Arcade fans that are going to instantly reach for the skip button on this one.

"Jamie" jumps headlong back into Ratt mode, with yet another one of the best songs on the record.  In fact, "Jamie" is probably my favorite overall track and I think you could slip it into any of the last three or four Ratt records and no one would be the wiser that it's a Pearcy solo track.  Heck, you could even drop it onto Invasion Of Your Privacy and only long-time fans of the band would know that something was amiss.  It really is that good and that reminiscent of top-of-the-barrell Ratt material.  Love this song!

"I Can't Take It" is another Ratt-styled song, albeit from a later era of the band.  This is the song that Hill contributed his talents to, and it is pretty easy to hear his fingerprints all over this catchy, hooky rocker with that subtle pop-tinge to it that Hill dropped onto some of his most well-known work.  Fun and easy to sing along to, this track has summer written all over it and would have definitely been a rock radio staple back in the heyday of the band.

"Passion Infinity" is another hard rocking number with an interesting time change between the verses and the choruses, but it isn't really all that memorable.  Not bad, just not an instant repeater.

The album closes with "Summer's End" which is a bluesy, Zeppelin-inspired ballad that really works well.  I could see where a band like Great White or Kingdom Come might have attempted a track like this, but it was completely out of left field for me to hear on a record like Smash.  Despite that, Pearcy sounds right at home here, which surprised me, to be honest.  There is a stark quality to his vocals here that is not commonly found on Ratt, or even Arcade, songs of the past, and while a bit of vocal weakness shows in a couple of spots, it actually adds to the overall feel of this ballad.  I really wish it hadn't been buried at the end of the record, to be honest, as there are at least three songs I have to wade through to get to this really good piece of music.  A nice surprise, indeed, for those who stick it out to the end and don't just program all of the most Ratt-centric tracks onto repeat.  Easily a top five moment on the album for me.

The production has been complained about by a lot of people, but I have to wonder if all they had heard were the videos that had been put out for a few of these songs, as I have no real complaints about the mix or overall feel of the album.  There are no glaring imbalances or muddiness anywhere, and even though there are a couple of definite filler tracks here, there is nothing wrong with the flow of the album, to speak of, and the overall groove of the record is solid.  Maybe after 35 years of hard rock and metal my ears are starting to lose a bit of sensitivity in some areas (I don't think they have, but who knows?), but I have no complaints about the sound quality here.  It would have been fun, however, to hear what Beau Hill would have done with the full record, however, but maybe that will happen on the next (knock on wood) Ratt record.

Rating:  It's not completely Ratt, and it's not really Arcade, but it's definitely solid hard-edged rock, and Pearcy hasn't sounded better on a solo effort...ever.  Crank this to 7.5, with a couple of forgettable tracks holding it back slightly.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

ASIA "Symphonia"


(c) 2017 Frontiers Records

  1. Sole Survivor
  2. Time Again
  3. The Face On The Bridge
  4. My Own Time
  5. Holy War
  6. An Extraordinary Life
  7. Days Like These
  8. Open your Eyes
  9. Only Time Will Tell*
  10. Don't Cry*
  11. Heroine*
  12. The Smile Has Left Your Eyes*
  13. Wildest Dreams*
  14. Heat Of The Moment*
* Played with the Plovdiv Philharmonic Orchestra

John Wetton--Bass, Lead Vocals
Geoff Downes--Keyboards
Carl Palmer--Drums
Sam Coulson--Guitars

Asia is one of those bands that started off on fire with their debut effort, and then continued to smolder for the rest of their iconic career, despite the fact that they never came even remotely close to duplicating the successes of their first record.  To that end, this live album, of which half is recorded with the Bulgarian Plovdiv Philharmonic Orchestra, leans heavily on the best-known tracks of the band, with four tracks culled from that self-titled debut, as well as the two hits from the band's second album, Alpha, also being included, along with a couple of more recent songs following the reunion of the classic line-up of the band.  As is to be expected following the legal wranglings surrounding the separation of the band into two different entities, no songs from the John Payne version of Asia are included here.

The album starts off with one of the band's classic hits off their debut record, as "Sole Survivor" intros the live set.  Immediately it is evident that the band is firing on all cylinders musically, as the track is exceptionally tight and Wetton's voice, while obviously huskier with the passage of time, is still powerful and comfortable throughout the range he chooses to use.  Sam Coulson's guitar lines are something I paid particularly close attention to here, as he has the unenviable task of trying to duplicate the tones and sounds of the legendary Steve Howe, but it should be noted that Coulson performs admirably throughout this record.  But one thing is missing here: the orchestra.  It is not until further and closer inspection of the album that it is apparent that the Plovdiv Philharmonic Orchestra doesn't join the band until the second half of the show.  This will likely be particularly disappointing to fans of only the best-known songs from this legendary band, as much of this first half is comprised of songs taken from the reunion years, starting with the Phoenix album from 2008, 2010's Omega effort, and one track from the 2012 album, XXX.  While all of these songs are performed with top-notch musicianship, especially when it comes to Downe's inimitable keyboard work, I kept finding myself wanting to skip forward to the real meat of the album, although I had my appetite whetted with the inclusion of "Days Like These" from the Now & Then best-of package, which I feel is one of the band's better tracks, following those first two classic efforts.  

The orchestra joins the band for the second half of the show, and it is this section that will likely hold the most interest for casual, "only the hits" types of fans, as the majority of Asia's most well-known tracks are included here, including the band's biggest chart hits "Only Time Will Tell", "Don't Cry", "The Smile Has Left Your Eyes", "Wildest Dreams", and the band's signature track, "Heat Of The Moment".  The orchestra is relegated largely to background status on these songs, unlike the way many other band's have chosen to use orchestral sections, which was a bit of a let down for me, to be honest.  I was really hopeful more emphasis would be given to the strings and percussion from the orchestra, but that was not really the case.  There are a couple of exceptions to this observation, with on being on the acoustic ballad, "Heroine", which naturally lends itself to more orchestral involvement, and indeed the strings are far more evident here than elsewhere.  You can also hear the string contribution to "The Smile Has Left Your Eyes", and I enjoyed this musical enhancement...along with a very nicely played piano section...but I was still left wanting more, especially when the big rock movement portion of the song kicks in.  To say that I am not disappointed that the orchestra was not more involved would be dishonest, and I can't help but feel a bit let-down (although I'll stop short of calling myself mislead) regarding the album's title, cover art (which clearly features the orchestra on stage), and overarching suggestion that this is an "orchestral" effort.

There is some nice interaction between Wetton and the audience...he even speaks (or attempts to, I'm not sure) in some Polish at the outset of the concert, and he drops in some basic banter here and there.  Never a really flashy band in the live setting, this record is more about the music than showmanship.  Now, that being said, I do not have a copy of the DVD that goes along with this CD, so I cannot speak to that aspect of this particular show, but having seen Asia live once in the early 90's, I wouldn't be surprised if there is a whole lot of stand and sing/play from this band on the DVD.  Again, this band is about the music, not the show, anyway, and the addition of an orchestra usually only serves to ground a band that much further.

With the unfortunate and untimely passing of Wetton on January 31, 2017, this live release may very well be the last Asia album released.  It is too bad that Steve Howe was not a part of this show, which would have put all of the originals on what is likely the last live record we will ever hear from the band, but Coulson does a more than adequate job on guitar, and he is truly a talented player.  The addition of the orchestra is a nice touch, but I do wish it had been better utilized on more songs; the relative lack of orchestral emphasis is actually my biggest complaint about this record.  Despite leaving a couple of personal favorites off the set list, most notably, "Go" and "Voice of America", the song choice here is both logical and entertaining, and Symphonia is a nicely performed show, with a solid, clean recording that will leave fans, both new and old, with a top-of-their-game reminder of the greatness of this legendary prog rock band.

Rating:  Hitting all the high points and mixing in several tracks not likely known to casual fans, Symphonia is a solid live album, even if it doesn't quite live up to what I had hoped it would be.  Rock this effort at 6.5, only because I wanted so much more from the orchestra, and raise your glass to the loss of a legend.  RIP Mr. Wetton.




Sunday, January 22, 2017

SHALLOW SIDE "One"

(c) 2017 Thermal Entertainment

  1. We Roll
  2. Rebel
  3. Renegade
  4. Fight Or Flight
  5. Can You Hear Me
  6. Start A Fire
Eric Boatright--Vocals
Cody Hampton--Bass, Guitars
Seth Trimble--Guitar, Keyboard
Heath Fields--Drums

I love when bands take various styles and meld them into one sound, creating something just a little bit different than the norm.  I'm not saying the band invents something wholly original, because those bands are few and far between.  No, what I mean is when a band is willing to step slightly outside of the box to pull in elements of other genres to complete their musical vision.  Shallow Side is a band that manages to do just that by combining elements of modern hard rock, southern rock, and classic rock, rolling them all up in one tight package and shoving them directly into the ear of the listener who is fortunate enough to stumble upon the band.

Hailing from Alabama, Shallow Side wears their Crimson firmly on their sleeve, which is immediately obvious in the southern-fried stomp of the lead track, "We Roll", which features the line "just like the Tide, we roll".  Now, for the uninitiated, for the non-college football fans in the audience, when Boatright sings that line, he is referring to the University of Alabama football team's catch phrase and rally cry of "Roll Tide Roll".  That is a fitting line to include in this throttled up party rocker, as the energy level is high here with this drum-and-bass heavy, clap-clap-stomp styled number that feels very much like a track that will be cranked up at tailgate parties throughout Alabama Nation on Saturday afternoons.  A simple guitar line, solid backing vocals, and some supporting keys add a bit of flavor to the track that, just like a team's entrance song, leads the band out of the musical tunnel and onto the playing field that is the rest of the album.

A southern-fried guitar lick kicks off "Rebel", which then slides into a more modern rocker that alternates between softer verses and heavier, punchier choruses.  Again, a thick, chunky rhythm sets the foundation for much of this track, which is complete with hand claps, banjo, and a blues-drenched guitar solo that all come together to compliment each other perfectly in one of the truly kick-ass moments on the record.  Love this track and it's...ahem...rebel attitude.

"Renegade" is a cover of the classic Styx track, and, to be honest, is my least favorite track here, largely because I am a huge Styx fan and I'm not overly enamored with the updates to the classic rocker.  Kudos for the attempt, and had I not been such a fan of the original, I likely would absolutely love the band's take here, which does feature a slightly faster tempo and a seriously scorching, if too short, guitar solo that really deserves to be heard.  Boatright's vocal range is much lower than Tommy Shaw's is, which gives the track a different feel, but his performance is still strong and commanding.  The keys largely play the same supporting role that they do in the original, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't miss the big, layered harmony vocals that come out of the original's solo break.  As it is, this is a decent track that show the band's willingness to give a nod to their classic and southern rock influences while not just playing a note-for-note cover song just to take up space.





"Fight Or Flight" is a much more head-on modern rocker, very similar in style and approach to something Shinedown might be heard to do.  Honestly, the least memorable song on the record despite being the heaviest track here.  I'm not saying it is a bad song or that I don't like it, because its not and I do.  I just think the fact that the band loses a bit of that uniqueness, that bit of "we're doing things our own way" attitude, which keeps this song from really standing out for me. Even on the cover of "Renegade" the band puts their stamp all over a well-known classic rock staple and makes it their own.  Here, no matter how punchy and aggressive the guitars, no matter how angry the vocals, "Fight Or Flight" sounds like so many other good-yet-not-memorable rockers on the radio.  Perhaps the track is a victim of the uniqueness that surrounds it, which leaves the song sounding like something I have heard slightly different versions of in the past from other bands.

That changes when the twang of the guitars on "Can You Hear Me" lead the track in, crashing headlong into a thunderous drum section and more modern guitar tones.  This track has a harder-edged, Daughtry feel for me, which is a good thing, as I really appreciated that band's first two records.  The pre-chorus backs way off the guitars and leaves Boatright out there on his own of the drums and some ambient sounds before the guitars crunch their way back into the track.  I like the dynamics of this song, the stop-start changes to the rhythms, the variances in Boatright's vocal approach, and the overall feel here that dovetails emotion and aggression to a great degree.  Nice track here.

The EP closes with "Start A Fire", which again finds the band not going the tried-and-true route, as they experiment with some electronic drums and ambient sounds in various places, while still coming at you with edgy guitars and a huge bottom end to their sound.  Boatrights vocals remain firmly in control, even when he cuts loose on a near-shouting snarl on the chorus, and the backing vocals are definitely enhancers on this track, as they really are throughout this EP.  A pretty cool guitar lick, and a catchy rhythm, run throughout the song, which is catchy enough to make you really wish the EP had not come to an end just yet.

A couple things really ring true for me after several spins through this EP.  First, this band is tight...I mean EXTREMELY tight.  There is no slop in their play at all, regardless of the instrumentation they choose to bring to the song they are playing.  Yeah, yeah, I know that studios can make average bands sound good, but you can't fake chemistry, and you can't make up hours upon hours of playing together that gives a band its feel.  Shallow Side has chemistry in spades on this mini-album, and they sound like they are having fun, even when they sound pissed off, like on "Fight Or Flight".  Of special note here are the really good skills on the drums from Fields, and some awesome acrobatics on the guitar solos from Trimble.  For a band I have never heard of prior to this, Shallow Side seems to have hoarded some fairly significant musical talent for their little band and stashed it away so that they could unleash it upon the listeners at the time of their own choosing.

Secondly, the band knows who they are and are unapologetic about it.  One of us is a southern rock fan?  Sure, we'll drag some of that into the mix here.  Wanna play a banjo?  Sure, we'll find a place for it.  Oh, you've got something you wanna get off your chest as you scream at someone.  Yeah, we can do that, too.  I can appreciate that as a listener because while the sounds and styles vary from track to track, never do you feel like you have a bunch of CDs on shuffle here as the band changes things up.  Rather, you feel exactly like the band intends for you to feel...entertained, a bit challenged, possibly a bit physically exhausted, and still wanting more.  

Rating:  Outta nowhere, Shallow Side had me cranking the dial to 8.5.  Despite being a dyed-in-the-wool Husker fan, even I was pounding along to "We Roll"...and I never stopped all the way through this 6 track EP.  I anticipate big things from this band in the future.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

JACK RUSSELL'S GREAT WHITE "He Saw It Coming"

(c) 2017 Frontiers Records

  1. Sign Of The Times
  2. She Moves Me
  3. Crazy
  4. Love Don't Live Here
  5. My Addiction
  6. Anything For You
  7. He Saw It Coming
  8. Don't Let Me Go
  9. Spy Vs. Spy
  10. Blame It On The Night
  11. Godspeed
Jack Russell--Lead and Backing Vocals, Percussion
Robby Lochner--Lead and Rhythm Guitars, Backing Vocals, Piano, Percussion
Tony Montana--Guitar
Dan McNay--Bass, Backing Vocals
Dicki Fliszar--Drums, Backing Vocals, Percussion

Additional Musicians:
Luis Maldonado--Keyboards on "Love Don't Live Here"

I have promised myself that I am not going to allow this review to become a rehashing of the Great White breakup, the Station Nightclub Fire, or which version of the band is the "legitimate" one (my opinion is rather well-documented, anyway).  Nope, this review is going to focus solely on He Saw It Coming, the new release from Jack Russell's Great White.

One of the first things people are likely to notice and ask about (other than the...ahem...interesting cover art) is the fact that "Hard Habit", the digital single the band released in 2014 is not on the album.  I was curious about this, as well, so I asked long-time guitar player, Robby Lochner what the deal was.  He stated that the song not included as an album track simply "because it came out so long before" He Saw It Coming, but he then went on to explain "it will be on it as a bonus track", referring to physical copies of the record, although it is not clear if this is only on import versions at this time.  (My review copy was digital, so that would explain why it is absent.  For a review of the song, go here)

So what about what IS on the record?  Well, as I have been telling people on Facebook, Twitter, and in my social circle, if you are expecting ...Twice Shy II, you are going to be pretty surprised by how far off the mark your expectations are.  This is NOT a rehashing of old Great White material.  There are no re-writes of past glories or near-misses here.  This is Jack Russell's Great White, and perhaps more than at any time since the separation of the band has it been made evident that Jack Russell has a different vision for where the band should go and how it should sound.  Lochner told me, "The idea is an album experience, take people on a journey".  To that end, I would say that  Jack Russell's Great White has succeeded.

Now, before you get all concerned that we're talking about a country record or some sort of auto-tuned synth pop album, have heart, as there is still plenty here to please long-time Great White fans.  There are songs here that operate very much in the same stylistic range as the band was working in on later releases like Can't Get There From Here, Back To The Rhythm, and Rising.  "Sign Of The Times", "Love Don't Live Here", and "My Addiction" will more than satisfy the cravings of the die-hard, old-school Great White fan, as will "Hard Habit", however it is incorporated into the record.  The songs mentioned here have the majority of the moving parts one would expect from classic Great White.  "Sign Of The Times" is a cool rocker that actually sounds like it could have come from the highly underrated album, Let It Rock.  The song finds Jack lamenting the way people bury their faces in their phone screens and modern technology and don't actually connect with each other any longer, all set over a thumping backdrop of solid drums, nice, heavy bass work, and hard-edged guitar work.



"Love Don't Live Here" is a track that long time fans are going to grab hold of instantly, as the bluesy, smooth, soulful vocals that Jack has come to be known for throughout the past 30 years are really given a chance to shine.  Not really a ballad, but definitely a slower number that fits so well into the string of broken-hearted songs the band generated throughout their storied career.



"My Addiction" turns the energy back up, as this straight-up autobiographical song from Russell, is  delivered with Jack's sassier, snarlier vocal side taking the lead, and Lochner supplying a tasty up-and-down the frets run on the solo of this rocker.  Also likely to tickle the fancy of long-time fans is "She's Crazy" , a funky rocker with some definite swagger to the rhythms and some of the catchiest harmony vocals to ever grace a Great White album.  Think something along the lines of the types of harmonies often employed by a band like Extreme and you have an idea of what I am talking about here.  

There are also songs that, while still classic rocking in approach, don't fit the "classic Great White" particularly.  There's the extremely catchy...and equally quirky...title track, which takes on a decidedly Alice Cooper meets Queen vibe following a rather odd intro.  This track also has one of the coolest lyrics, with Jack opining, "America loves idols, they build them up to watch them fall..." on this track about not giving up on your dreams. "Blame It On The Night" is another rocker that Mr. Cooper would likely lend his vocals to, had he penned it.  In fact, Russell actually does a rather good Cooper impersonation here, especially when he uses the lower end of his vocal register here, really bolstering verse theatrics when he snarls out "Under the covers...hiding from the monster...", for example, on this song about child abuse.  Easily one of my favorite tracks on the record musically (its a pretty tough lyrical subject...), "Blame It On The Night" also has some nifty guitar work from Robby Lochner, once again, which for anyone who has seen the band live, should come as no surprise, as he is a truly gifted musician.



Speaking of the guitar player, I should mention that Lochner goes off on an absolute string-shredding tear to open up the high-energy rocker, "Spy Vs. Spy", which has an equally scorching solo as the song exits a cool downshift in tempo right before the last chorus.  Feeling every bit as James Bond-ish as the title would imply, this is another of my favorite tracks on the album simply because of the fun feel and the way that Lochner is allowed to explore his inner shredder.  

Ballad-wise, of course Jack Russell has something up his sleeve, but it's a bit different than you may be expecting.  "Anything For You" starts off sounding like an old phonograph recording, with just Jack and Lochner's acoustic guitar setting the tone before the deliberate static clears up and a bit more bottom end is added to the still-acoustic track that finds Russell singing about lasting love, and not love gone wrong, as he has done so often in the past.  Lochner showcases some excellent acoustic string-bending on this song that is not completely unlike the all acoustic efforts of Mr. Big or Extreme in the past, complete with the big, layered backing vocals and some really nice, subtle orchestration in the background.  A touching, emotional song, to be sure.  "Don't Let Me Go" plumbs somewhat slower territory, also, but is probably not a true, pure ballad, although it does remind me of a 1960's, Hawaiian-themed movie during a slow dance scene, with its island-esque instrumentation in the background and a simple, swaying rhythm.  Again, Lochner finds the perfect solo approach to really enhance the track here, not trying to blow anyone away with a blazing fret run, but instead offering up a crisp, clean, tasteful solo

And then there's the completely out of left-field tracks, such as "She Moves Me", which finds Russell rapping...yes, I said "rapping".  Granted, this is on a tiny section of the track and features a far more laid back, rhythmic spoken word approach than a straight-outta-Compton-gangsta approach, but I'll admit I was taken completely aback when I first heard that section, but the infectious groove of the bass line, Jack's silky smooth approach to the chorus, and the overall song structure really make me like this song, overall.  There's also the album-closer, "Godspeed", which is a modern take on the Do-Wop sound, with absolutely no instrumentation other than some beat box vocals supplied by Dicki Fliszar (who, according to Lochner, also supplies the high ends), a vocal bass line supplied by...well, the bass player, Dan McNay, and unsurprisingly, Lochner himself supplies the vocal guitar lines.  Again, I really didn't know what to think about this song when I first heard it, but after repeated listens, I find myself really liking it, although it isn't going to slip onto any "favorites" compilation I'd make.  But the listener should really give it a fair chance and truly appreciate the vocal acrobatics that are going on in the background of this song while Jack sings along over the top.  As a music fan...not as a hard rock fan or a Great White fan, but as a MUSIC fan...I have to admit to being extremely intrigued by this song (which both of my kids also really enjoy, by the way).

One of the overall lasting impressions I get when playing this album is that this is a band just having a blast while they are playing.  Jack has stated that having Tony Montana back in the band has been a bit of a musical jump-start for him, as Montana "was a catalyst for moving forward.  I was never as close to him as I am now.  We never had the opportunity to write music together before.  I also never knew he played guitar before."  That jump-start I mentioned is all over this record, and it carries across to the other members of the band.  I told people when I saw JRGW a while back that everyone seemed a bit more energized now that Tony was back in the fold, and it is apparent that energy has carried over to the recording process, as well.  When I asked Lochner about his impression of the fun and energy on the record, he simply stated, "Definitely a blast!"

The musicianship on this record is also top shelf, with Lochner really stealing the show in several spots on guitar, and just enough keyboard usage to help add texture to several songs without dominating and changing the overall song dynamic.  There are equally impressive contributions from Fliszar on drums and some really cool bottom end provided by the band's newest member, Dan McNay, as well.  And, as previously mentioned, the way the band comes together as a musical unit vocally is amazing, especially where a song like "Godspeed" is concerned.

But, it would be an injustice to close this review without mentioning the strength and power of Russell's vocals on this record.  Whether its the wide range of styles and ranges he employs on his lead vocals, or the intricate work he (along with Lochner) applies to the backing vocals, it should be evident to the listener that Jack is, indeed, back, and he hasn't lost a vocal step.

If I have any complaint at all, it would be the album cover which...well...I don't like it.  At all.  Let's just leave it at that.

I truly hope the band incorporates several of these songs into their live set, as I think "Sign Of The Times", "He Saw It Coming", "Spy Vs. Spy", and "Love Don't Live Here" would all slide almost seamlessly into the massive catalog of Great White classics.  

Rating:  Crank this eclectic collection to an excellent 9.5, but give it time to grow on you organically.  Don't try to force the record into being Psycho City II or Shot In The Dark II, because you will be being unfair to yourself and to the record.

For more on Jack Russell's Great White, check out these interviews:

Jack Russell
Robby Lochner

Back To Reviews Index

Saturday, January 14, 2017

GREAT WHITE "Ready For Rock N Roll"


(c) 2012 Collectors Dream Records (Germany)

  1. Sin City
  2. Love Removal Machine
  3. Ain't No Way To Treat A Lady
  4. Ready For Love
  5. Bitches And Other Women
  6. Again and Again
  7. Down At The Doctors
  8. Tangled Up In Blue
  9. Burning House Of Love
  10. Fire And Water
  11. No Matter What
  12. Lady Love
Jack Russell--Lead and Backing Vocals
Mark Kendall--Lead Guitar, Backing Vocals
Michael Lardie--Guitar, Keys, Backing Vocals
Tony Montana--Bass
Audie Desbrow--Drums

Additional Musicians
Clarence Clemmons--Saxaphone on 7

Ready For Rock N Roll is an interesting "studio" album in the catalog of Great White for a couple of reasons.  The main reason for my labeling this an interesting album is largely the lore behind the album, which is pretty cool.  As the story goes, this entire album was recorded live in the studio on a two-track recorder in November of 1989, presumably between ...Twice Shy and Hooked.  Now, if this is, in fact, a legit, straight-to-tape live studio recording, you have to give it to Great White, because it is a really, REALLY good covers album.  Jack sounds particularly strong here, running his vocal range all over the place, including some of the highest notes he has ever sustained on record.  Kendall and Lardie are also spot-on with their axe work here...heck, the whole band sounds very polished and tight here.  Of course, this is when the band was at it's peak as far as popularity, airplay, touring, etc., so perhaps these are songs they regularly played as warm-ups and soundchecks, which would explain why they are done so well. I have an issue believing this is just the band noodling around in the studio, however, because Clarence Clemmons just happens to be there are the same time and agrees to jam on "Down At The Doctors"?  Hmmmm,,,,,

The other thing about this album is, like so many other post-breakup records by Great White, it has been reissued to DEATH!  This album, including this current version, Ready To Rock N Roll, has been reissued no fewer than five times.  In 2002, Cleopatra/Deadline put out this version, called Recover...


...and then they reissued their own album a couple of years later with a second disc of covers from other albums and compilations, that looked like this....



France's Axe Killer label released it that same year, calling it The Final Cuts (which, chronologically isn't even remotely true...), but it looks like this...

...and it has a different track order.

Mausoleum Records put out their version, Revisiting Familiar Waters, in 2003 looking like this...



And in 2004, Horizon records released the album with the horribly distasteful name Burning House Of Love. Apparently growing a conscience (or perhaps bowing to legal pressures, I'm not sure), Horizon changed the name to Love Removal Machine...and released it again, with no changes other than the wording at the bottom.


Again, they ALL have the same songs, in general, just in different orders or with additional songs from other sessions mixed in.

Personally, I own all of them, including Burning House Of Love, and I can tell you there is very little, if any, difference in the sound quality from label to label.  The Ready For Rock N Roll version from 2013 is perhaps the cleanest sounding, but that could all be in my head, owing to the fact that this album first surfaced 15 years ago with Recover, so my mind might automatically assume newer technology makes it sound better.  I'm probably just crazy.

I think the song selection here is great, with my favorite tracks being the AC/DC's "Sin City", The Cult's "Love Removal Machine", which Jack absolutely OWNS on this record, Q5's "Ain't No Way To Treat A Lady", which sounds far better in the Great White version, and "Tangled Up In Blue", a Dylan song that the band has done an excellent job with.  I also like Badfinger's "No Matter What", and it's no surprise that Jack owns a powerful classic rocker like "Burning House Of Love", which really lets him drop down to the lower ranges of his vocals, although its understandable why many fans (and band members) likely never want to hear this chillingly ironic song ever again.  Other tracks are not quite as top-notch...such as "Bitches And Other Women"...but I'm not a Stones fan, nor am I a fan of this song in general, and "Again and Again", while well-done musically, is just too repetitive for me, in any form.

All in all, this is a covers record, plain and simple.  The backstory makes it a curiosity, the fact that it has been reissued so many times makes it a cash-grab by any number of labels.  But, obviously it must sell well or labels wouldn't bother going to the time to press it, which I think may speak to the quality of the recording.

If you want to hear a very strong vocal performance from Jack Russell, and you want to flash back to a time when the band members were still all friends and on good terms with each other...and if you like covers records...then you should absolutely pick this album up, in one of its numerous forms.  Unless you are an absolute die-hard collector, such as myself, there is really no benefit to owning all the various versions of this record, so I'd stick with Ready For Rock N Roll, or, if you're looking for more band for your buck, Deadline's reissue of their own album, the Recover Deluxe Edition may be the way to go.

The packaging is extremely simplistic, so as to maximize profit potential, with this particular version being a simple digipack with a three paragraph mini-bio, the track listing, and band line-up.  No more, no less.  There's not even a band photo.

Enjoyable?  Absolutely.  I listen to it frequently.  A must have?  No...but is ANY covers album a must have, really?

Rating:  I honestly say crank it for its musicianship and its not done-to-death choice of material.  Crank this to 7.

Back To Reviews Index

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Talkin' Trash with GARY HOLLAND (original Great White drummer)

Almost 3 years ago, I had the great opportunity to interview the original drummer for Great White, Mr. Gary Holland.  Gary was not only a lot of fun to talk to, but he was also very candid, very open, and actually took the part of two different days to conduct our interview.  However, as awesome as technology typically is, it can also be a real pain...especially when it stops working!  The recorder I use for phone interviews died while I was transcribing my chat with Gary, and I feared this interview to be lost.  However, after recently moving, I stumbled across the recorder (I never throw things away, according to my wife) and took a chance that a local cellphone guy could possibly fix it.  Not only did he repair it, none of the nearly two dozen interviews on the recorder was lost!  So, three years after the fact, here is my complete...and COMPLETED...interview with Gary Holland of Great White, Britton, and Blue Cheer!

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Gary Holland, the original drummer for Great White and the co-creator of the short-lived band, Britton, was kind enough to spend parts of TWO afternoons talking some trash about his former Great White bandmates, about the unfortunate demise of Britton, his brush with the drummer's seat of Motley Crue, and many, many other things!  So, if you have a few minutes, pull up a chair and give Gary your undivided attention as he Talks Trash with Glitter2Gutter!

G2G:  Gary, thanks so much for taking the time to give me a call...

Gary:  No problem, Arttie.  I tried to call a few minutes ago, but you must have been changing a diaper or something (laughing).

G2G:  Actually, I wasn't changing a diaper, I was changing a sprinkler in the yard.

Gary:  (laughing)  Same difference really, right?

G2G: (laughing)  Kind of, right?  One does the sprinkling and one hopefully keeps you from getting sprinkled on!

Gary:  Exactly, man!  (laughs)

G2G;  Well, Gary, I have been a fan of Great White forever, so when I get the chance to interview one of the original members, you have to know that it's very exciting for me.

Gary:  Well, thanks, Arttie.  I appreciate that.  I hope the interview doesn't turn out to be a big letdown for you.  (laughs)

G2G:  I don't think you have to worry about that.  Now, Gary, I'm not going to try to age you or put a date on you and your career, but you have been around...well...for a long time, let's say that.  How many years have you been in the business now?

Gary:  Well, I guess it depends on what you mean by "the business".  I started playing snare drum when I was 9 years old, and that was quite some time ago.  But, I guess it's definitely several decades.  I went "pro" at 14 when I started making money at local gigs as a kid.  So, I guess it would be about 40 years in the pro arena.

G2G:  Do you recall your first band?

Gary:  I do, yeah.  It was a band of guys from my high school and we were called "Equation".

G2G:  (Laughing)  "Equation", huh?  So you were all a bunch of math majors or something, huh?

Gary:  Anything but!  (laughing)  In fact, I failed algebra five years in a row...

G2G:  Because of music?  You just didn't go, or what?

Gary:  (laughing) No, it was because of Miss Zalewski.  She was so hot that I kept undressing her with my eyes! You know, algebra is a cumulative subject and you keep building on what you've previously learned, so once you miss something you are automatically behind.  So, I just couldn't take my eyes off the teacher, and I couldn't keep my mind on the subject, so consequently I didn't earn a high school diploma.  Then, I...quote/unquote...ran off and joined the circus without so much as my diploma.  So, I guess it wasn't until 2002 that I decided to go to college, but since I didn't have my diploma I had to get my transcripts for college, because I also didn't have a GED or anything like that.  But, I aced my entrance exams so they let me in.  I earned nineteen consecutive "A's" in college and I was actually recruited to another school by the head of the honors program, and he became my academic advisor at that school.  So, I did well in school once Miss Zalewski was gone, but her body was the stuff of legend.  You know, she was so hot, Arttie, that I would say that even if she had a voice like yours I still would have been flunking algebra! (Laughter)

G2G:  (Laughing)  I won't take that as the insult that it may have been...

Gary:  (Laughing)  You know, I haven't seen her since, and I don't know what happened to her...

G2G:  Maybe she's waiting for you...

Gary:  I don't think so!  (Laughs)  I heard she didn't age well, but...I don't know... It's probably one of those things that's just better left in the past.

G2G:  Alrighty, then...we'll try to move forward a bit...

Gary:  (Laughing) Probably best...

G2G:  I know a lot of people are probably familiar with you most due to your work in Great White, but a lot of people probably don't know that you were in one of the very first versions of Dokken, correct?

Gary:  That's true, yeah.  That was certainly pre-Great White, or even pre-Dante Fox...pre-anything, really.  That came about...well, we have to go back a bit.  I was a founding member of a group called Suite 19, and we were all 19 and this all happened in Glendale, California.  We played together for a couple of years, you know, doing backyard parties and such, until we got into the Hollywood club scene, which really didn't take long.  So, we started playing the Starwood and the Whisky, and every club in LA and Hollywood and the surrounding areas and all that.  Eventually, we had a falling out with the singer/guitar player, a guy by the name of Greg Leon.  Now, he's a great guitar player and a great singer and he has a lot going for him, but he tends to be a little hard-headed and non-negotiable.  In fact, I used to call him the "Blonde Hitler"...

G2G:  (Laughter)

Gary:  So, Suite 19 kind of split up and we did other things for a year or so, and I never really found anyone who played like him, and he never found anyone who played like me, so I don't remember if we bumped into each other or one of us called the other one, but....you know how when time passes you forget the negative things and only remember the positive things?  Well, that happened with us.  So we decided to put together another project, and we went out to celebrate at the Starwood where we bumped into Don Dokken.  Don said he had this European tour coming up.  Now, Don was completely unknown in Hollywood at the time, but he had done a previous tour in Germany and so he was beginning to develop a following over there.  So, he's got no band, but he's got a tour with numerous dates already set, and he had to be on a plane in 30 days.  So, Greg and I said we could put our plans on hold for a while and go do this thing...that would be pretty cool...you know, kinda fun.  So Don went and found a bass player, then waited a full week before he called us back. Eventually, he did call and said things were a go, but now we were down to just three weeks to get ready!  In the meantime, I had my tonsils out and they had given me all of the high parts to sing...which I still remember to this day, by the way...so we got together in this very dirty industrial area down in Torrance.  I mean, it was horrifying.  It was like something out of Mad Max or Blade Runner or something, and we were in this tiny room where we rehearsed every single day for 21 days before we got on a plane and headed out to Europe.  So, we wrote and rehearsed everything in 21 days, then got on that plane to Germany and did the whole tour.  It was crazy. 

G2G:  So are you on that first album that Don released over in Europe then?

Gary:  Well, the album that most people refer to, and I think it's the one you are talking about, Don didn't actually release that.  That was actually a bootleg that was recorded over there by somebody, and they were selling it.  Now, Don had no way of controlling it so he just started giving it away.  He thought, you know, "well, if somebody's out there selling this, and I can't stop them, then at least I can stop them from making any money off of it by just giving it away." 

G2G:  Did it serve to give him some publicity too?

Gary:  Well, by the time people over here got their hands on that, the next phase of Dokken was already out and doing quite well, so I don't think this did all that much for him, really.  It may have played into it a little bit, though.

G2G:  So from there, you ended up getting involved in Sister, which later on ended up becoming W.A.S.P., correct?

Gary:  Yeah, but before Sister, there were a couple of other groups that I was involved in.  One was called Flash To Bang, and there was a guy named, oh, I forget his first name, but his last name was Hanson and he was in a group called the Brooklyn Brats...anyway...Paul Hanson!  That was his name!  Anyway, he was a phenomenal guitar player and we had this bass player, Billy West, who later went on to be in London...and I think he's still with them, actually...and I don't remember who our singer was.  But we were going through the musician thing, you know, playing a few gigs but mostly just rehearsing.  So, we were rehearsing in this place, Sun Valley, I think it was, and it was called I.R.S....International Recording Studios...and there were a number of bands rehearsing there at
the same time as us.  Do you remember a band called Hughes/Thrall?

G2G:  Yeah, the Glenn Hughes project with Pat Thrall....

Gary:  Yeah, Hughes and Pat Thrall from Pat Travers' band...that's it...and actually Frankie Banali was playing in that band, also.  So, anyway, they were rehearsing there, Angel was rehearsing there, and Motley Crue was rehearsing there, also.  Now, I mean, Motley Crue at that time, they hadn't done anything, nobody knew who they were, and one night I went to rehearsal and...well, if you recall, Tommy Lee talks about the fact he had a band called Suite 19, but the thing was when I left Suite 19, he replaced me.

G2G:  Oh, really?

Gary:  Yeah, he was my replacement in Suite 19.  So, anyway, he came out of a band called US 101, but that's a whole other story.  So, I actually coached Tommy for three years.  I had been doing this longer than him and I knew more about it, so we got together, we talked about drums, we talked about touring, we talked about sticks...you know, all the theatrical stuff that we could think of...and, we met them (Motley Crue) by way of my old singer and guitar player, Greg Leon.  He knew their manager and Tommy's father had built Tommy a rehearsal studio inside of the family garage, and it was really well done.  It was like a room inside a room.  Back in those days, rehearsal space was really hard to find, so we kind of made a deal where if I showed Tommy what I knew, we could practice there for free.  So, I would go over there and show him what I knew, and I would play on his kit and we would just rehearse there; it was like free rehearsal for us.  So, consequently, he ended up playing in a similar style to me at the time, and there were all of these comparisons made between us.  So, there was a point where Great White's manager, Alan Niven, wanted to get us together, Tommy and I, and we both drove Corvettes, so he wanted us to back our Corvettes up together, and then me and Tommy were going to stand similarly back-to-back with dueling pistols, and they were going to send that out to the rock media...

G2G:  Hit Parader and Metal Edge...

Gary:  Yeah, all those, but unfortunately, it never happened, I'm sorry to say.  That woulda been a pretty cool picture to have.  Anyway...so, I knew the guys in Motley Crue before they really knew each other...well, except for Vince and Tommy because they went to high school together.  So, when they all got together, it wasn't like they really expected anything to happen because nobody really knew who these kids were, you know.  So, that group that I was in, Suite 19, Nikki (Sixx) had actually auditioned for us. There was a time when we were looking for a bass player, and he was still Frank at the time, and he came and auditioned for us, but he couldn't play, couldn't write, couldn't sing, and he didn't have any of his own gear.  I mean, he was a nice kid, you know, but we kind of patted him on the head and sent him on his way, but we stayed buddies with him, you know.  He was, like I said, he was a good kid.  So, me and the guys are at this mall one day, and I hear, "hey, Gary".  And I turned around and there was this guy, and he had this black hair that was sticking straight up except his bangs were pulled down straight over his eyes, so we couldn't see who he was.  So he lifts his bangs up and he's like, "it's me, Frank!"  And I'm like, "Frank?"  And he's, "Yeah, Frank Feranna, but call me Nikki."  I'm like...okay...that was weird!  (Laughing)  But, anyway, Nikki I've known a
Is this the Frank that Gary knew?
long time, and Tommy I've known since he was 15, and I was showing him everything I knew, for that rehearsal time, you know.  So, those guys got together, and it was like, okay, I knew everybody separately and now I know everyone together, right.  And, so they set up to rehearse IRS studio, where we were, and I walked into a rehearsal one night and there was this counter there, you know...kinda like a candy counter, or whatever.  And Mick Mars was standing behind the counter and when I walked in, he was like, "Hey, I've been looking for you."  I was like, really, why, you know.  He starts making these motions in the air, like he was drumming, so I kind of got the message, and I said, "why, what's wrong with Tommy?"  And Mick says to me, "well, let me put it this way.   I can have a 12 year old in my band if he acts like he's 21, but I can't have a 21 year old in my band acting like he's 12, know what I mean?"  (laughs)

G2G:  (Laughs)  Sounds like Tommy...

Gary:  And, you know, I really was not interested in being a member of Motley Crue.  So I was like, well, I've got rehearsal, so let me get back to you, right.  So when I came out after rehearsal, he wasn't there.  So then there was Nikki.  He was like, "hey, Gary, my car broke down, can you give me a ride home?"  So, I'm like okay.  So we get into my car and he's staying with this girl who is a drummer for a band called The Orchids, which was this all-girl metal band that Kim Fowley had put together.  So we're headed down there, and on the way we stop at this place for coffee, and he talks to me for like two hours about joining Motley Crue.  But, still, I really didn't want to do it.  Now, when I get to this part in the story, people typically ask me, "You said no to Motley Crue?"

G2G: I was going to say it, myself...
Who knew what they would become?!

Gary:  Right, I know.  First, you have to remember that nobody knew who they were...except them.  They hadn't accomplished anything yet, and they were, truthfully, maybe the worst band you'd ever heard in your life.  They hadn't done anything, nobody knows who they are, they don't have any songs, nobody can sing, nobody can write, and nobody can play.  They're like this band in a bowling alley bar that even their girlfriends are ashamed of. (Laughs)  And then they say, "hey, would you join our band?'  You don't even have to say anything!  (Laughs)  Who would say yes?!  There was no "Dr. Feelgood" yet, none of that.  There was "Public Enemy Number One" and all that, but it wasn't good at all.

G2G:  So in their book The Dirt, they describe themselves as a gang first, a band second.  Would you say that was accurate?

Gary:  Well, I don't know how far down the line the term "band" would fall, but I wouldn't have even said they were a "gang", really.  I mean, when you think gang at the time, you think of someone getting in a lot of fights and being good at it. So, I'm not sure they were good at that, either.

G2G:  Maybe just a bunch of hoodlums?

Gary:  Yeah, I guess. (Laughs)  Now, it probably sounds like I'm bragging that I was too good to be with them, and really, I'm not.  It's not like that at all.  I just didn't want to do it.  But, I've got to hand it to them.  I mean, let's take a look at a band like Journey...I was gonna say Hardline, but Journey is even more to my point.  Look at the talent in that band.  I mean, the songwriting, the musicianship, the vocals, just how on top of their business they were, those guys were so good at everything they do, it was almost impossible for them to NOT make it, you know.  But with Motley Crue, it was the other way.  You take a bunch of guys who can't play, can't write, can't sing, have no family lineage in the business, and for all the obstacles that are thrown at them, they are now contenders for the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame.  That is nothing short of miraculous.  I mean, that is a serious accomplishment.

G2G:  And from all I've read and heard, they did it their own way.

Gary:  Absolutely.  They certainly did.  They learned on the fly.  Now, Nikki is a very shrewd businessman, and he picked up on the business as he went, and I really gotta hand it to them with what they've done.  Now, you don't have to be a great musician to be a great songwriter. In fact, sometimes I think being a great musician is a liability to a songwriter, because if somebody is, let's say the fastest guitar player in the world, then that skill becomes the centerpiece of their entire presentation.  But they lose sight of the fact that guitar players don't sell records, songs sell records.  Great songs and great marketing sell records.  So, if you're a really great musician...like say a Steve Vai...but you don't know how to be a showman and you don't have great songs, you aren't going to be famous.  It took David Lee Roth, who love him or hate him is a hell of a showman, it took David Lee Roth to show Steve Vai how to be a showman.  You know, I always tell people that musicians, we are in the same realm as professional wrestling...

G2G:  This I gotta hear...

Gary:  (Laughs) No, really.  It's all acting and presentation and showmanship.  Talent and success aren't necessarily mutually exclusive or connected to each other in anyway.  You can be extremely talented and totally unsuccessful, or you can be very untalented and be very successful.  It's the marketing.  Those two things...talent and success...really have nothing to do with each other.  So, if you're willing to dye your hair purple, put on a tutu, bend over and touch your toes, but 10,000 people are willing to pay $150 a night to watch you do that, you've got a career.  And every generation, there's a few bands who really, somehow, figure their thing out and drive that point home.

G2G:  And they figure it out.

Gary: Exactly!

G2G:  So, speaking of bands who were willing to do something shocking to get your attention...tell me about WASP, or at least what would become WASP, one of your old bands, Sister.  Who was in there with you that we would now know as WASP?

Gary:  Well, Blackie (Lawless) was playing guitar and Randy Piper was playing lead guitar, but they didn't have a bass player.  So, they were looking at this guy named Don Costa, who was playing for a band called Dante Fox.  Now, Costa and Dante Fox didn't really fit, stylistically.  Don was going off in a completely different direction than the band was and as time went on, that rift became clearer and clearer.  Now then, Don looked and played, already, like he shoulda been in Sister, so Blackie was relentless about trying to recruit Don.  Blackie would take me to the Troubador every time Dante Fox played, and he would attempt to speak to Don about leaving Dante Fox and joining Sister, but Don wasn't having any of it.  He would ridicule Blackie's attempts to get him to quit.  Meanwhile, as much as I thought of Blackie's songwriting abilities, he was such a miserable bastard to be around, and I didn't get the feeling that anything was going to come from him that was going to come out being something good for me, and after seeing how he treated Chris Holmes, I was right.  So, I couldn't get away from Blackie fast enough.  I just quit.   I didn't even have another band to go to, I just quit.  Shortly thereafter, I ended up at the Troubador and I saw Mark Kendall.  He just happened to be there, and I remembered how good they were as far as they could really write songs, they had great harmonies, and Jack was UNBELIEVABLE as a singer.  I mean, if you think he's good now, you shoulda heard him then!

G2G:  Really?

Gary:  Oh yeah!  And, so I asked Mark Kendall how tight they were with their drummer and he said, "not really, why?" And I told him "because you guys need a new drummer, and I'm him!"  (Laughs)  He asked me, "can you sing?", and I said,. "I can sing lead if I have to, yeah, I can sing."  So he says, "hang on, let me get my singer", and he goes and gets Jack.  So we scheduled a little meeting over at Jack's parents' house, and it was Jack, Kendall, and me, and we got together and we sang all day.  We just harmonized over everything.  We tried all these different harmonies and it just sounded like we had been singing together all of our lives.

G2G:  Very cool...

Gary:  Yeah, it was.  So, I think it was a few days or a week later, and Costa and Kendall came down to Randy Piper's rehearsal studio where I had my kit set up, and they asked me to play them some stuff, and that was it, I was in.  Just like that...

G2G:  Well, obviously from the way you jumped around in these bands, the stories everyone hears about how Hollywood during this time was just one big metal melting pot has to hold at least some merit, right?

Gary:  Oh, absolutely.  Everyone was in everyone's band, it seems like.  What really was happening was like musical chairs.  Everybody was trying out every possible combination to find out where they would fit the best.  It wasn't like anybody thought there was any kind of time limit on this or anything, I think we all thought we could do this indefinitely until we found the right combination.  You always knew right away if something was going to work or it wasn't, you know.  You'd jam with some guys, and I would just know.  I had people tell me, "hey, I remember you.  You came into our rehearsal studio, you set up all your gear, you played for like three minutes, then stopped in the middle and you were like, 'nope, sorry, this ain't gonna work.'"

G2G:  (Laughter)  That quick, huh?

Gary:  Oh yeah.  I go, "yeah, that sounds like me!"  But you just knew...like I knew with Blackie.  Now, did I know WASP was going to be big?  No, but I knew what was going on when I was with Blackie and Sister, I knew that wasn't going to work for me, you know. It was just that...just that quick for me most of the time.  It was a city for musicians, and there was no real band roster yet, if you wanna look at it like that.  Bands would get together, write some songs, go out and play them live, you know, run the band and the songs up the flagpole, so to speak, and see if anyone saluted or not.  You know, if it didn't work, bands would break up, or someone would leave and a new chemistry would be formed, good or bad, you know...it was just a lot of musical chairs.  You know, I wound up being a member of Dante Fox before the other drummer even knew he was gone....

G2G:  Oh, wow...

Gary:  Yeah, you know, they were in the studio demoing some songs, and they already had Tony's (original drummer) drums on it, you know, and I helped them do all the background vocals.  And, then at the very last, Don Costa asked me if I would overdub my drums onto that demo.  And, I said, I don't know, I've never done that before; I could screw the whole thing up.  They just said, fine, if that happens, we'll redo the whole thing.  So, I ended up replacing all his drums with my drums and then, on Thanksgiving Day, they called Tony to tell him, "dude, you're out".

G2G:  Ouch!

Gary: (chuckles) Yeah, I know, right.  So, anyway, there was  this vacancy in Sister that I had created by leaving, and Tony ended up filling that vacancy; we swapped bands.  So it was that kind of musical chairs type of thing that I'm talking about at the time.

 G2G:  And sometimes it has as much to do with image as it did talent, right?

Gary:  Well, everybody was always looking for the best-looking guys to be in their bands.  But, for me, the groups I played in, musicianship played a big role as well.  You had to be able to play, you couldn't just look good.  And believe me, there were some guys who looked really good, but they could not play.  Shouldn't even be picking up an instrument.  But that was never a deal with bands I played in.  We could play.

G2G:  So it was really more when MTV kicked in that we started seeing all these "cookie cutter" bands with some people questioning whether or not band members even played on their records or if they could even play instruments, period...

Gary:  I think...just from personal experience...or from what I knew about the situation at the time...I didn't really know any bands that didn't play on their own records.  Now, I heard some sort of rumor about whether Warrant played on their own record...

G2G:  Yeah, their guitar players were rumored to have not played on that debut album...

Gary:  Right...I'm not knowledgeable about whether or not that's true, but I sorta doubt it.  I mean, I've heard them play and I think they're really competent players, so...why would you not?  I mean, its common knowledge that Cinderella's drummer, Fred Coury, didn't play on any of their records, that they brought in Cozy Powell to play on the first record...maybe it was the first and second record, I don't know...

G2G:  I believe it was just Long Cold Winter that Cozy played on.  They had a different drummer in the band when Night Songs was recorded...Fred wasn't even in the band yet...

Gary:  Maybe that was it...they weren't even originally an LA band...but, out in LA, I don't know of any bands that didn't play on their own records.

G2G:  Gary, while we're on the subject of recording, what can you tell me, or what do you recall about recording Out Of The Night with Great White when you guys first got that deal, and you...well, you actually became Great White, honestly...what really stands out for you about that recording session?

Gary:  Well, that EP actually came before the record deal...it's pretty much what got us the deal.

G2G:  Really?

Gary: Yeah, I know some people have put that out on compilations or reissues or whatever, but that was really...it was basically just our best demo, in a way, and it got picked up by radio and started getting airplay.  Now, you know, we had done demos before and we were constantly in the studio recording demos...

G2G:  ...which I keep trying to find, by the way!  (Laughs)

Gary:  Well, I have some of them....even going back to when we were still Dante Fox...I have some demos, and Jack has some...but all of the masters, I believe, got burned up in a house fire when Audie Desbrow's house burned down.  So we lost all the masters to those recordings, unfortunately.  But, any time we'd put together five or six songs, we'd get to a studio and put together some money to go in there and record a bunch of songs.  And, really, it was done in a pretty haphazard way until we started working with Michael Wagner.  Michael would really dissect the songs in pre-production so that every note that was played was accounted for.  It's not that he was telling us what to play, he was just doing a producer's job, which is to, you know, let you know if a note or something is not necessary, just leave it out.  Or if there's something they think could be played better, then the producer tells you how it could be played better.  Stuff like that.  So, nothing was done by accident.  Everything...we wrote everything, but he gave an objective air to what we were doing.  That was the first time any of us had been exposed to that level of scrutiny in terms of song writing.  So that's one thing that definitely stands out to me.  And, to be fair, it ended up being a much better product as a result of it.  By the time we got to actually recording it, we knew that stuff very well...backwards and forwards...I mean, we coulda played that stuff in our sleep.  (Laughing)

G2G:  (laughing)

Gary:  I also remember...Kendall and Lorne and I were in one big room, and we didn't have a visual with Jack because there was a control room in between...it was this big, concrete, kind of a warehouse thing...and so the three of us played live together...

G2G: Oh, really?

Gary:  Yeah, and then the vocals were added later, and the lead solos were added afterwards, also.  I remember we recorded seven songs and then five of them made the cut on that Out Of The Night EP.  I don't remember what the other two were at this point, but I really liked that record.  I thought that EP, Out Of The Night, was a really good record.
Back cover of reissued Out Of The Night EP. Gary is seated.

G2G:  Now, when you went to do the first actual album, after you guys got signed, did you re-record that material, like "Out Of The Night" and "On Your Knees", and stuff, did you re-record those or were those the same takes from the EP?

Gary:  No, those were not the same recordings.  We recorded the first record (the Out Of The Night EP) with probably a $10,000 budget and we did that record over the course of a weekend.  So, when that record hit the airwaves, we kind of became local sensations almost overnight.  So when we actually officially got signed, we were now working with like a $200,000 budget in the bank, so we thought, well, now we can go into the studio and record these songs properly, like they should have been done in the first place.  And we had a lot more money to do it better than we had done it before.  So, we went and we spent, I think it was $70,000 making that first actual record, but to be honest with you, I don't think we ended up with a better product.  We just ended up with more songs.  I really didn't like how the drums got buried, and I wasn't allowed to use a click track on either one of those records...the EP or the album.  So, you know, it was hard to get the meter just right when you're not playing with a click, but they're still holding you to a higher standard, so it might have been nice to play with the click, but I'd never played with one before and they said now's not the time to start.  So, they wouldn't allow me to play with the click.  But, like now, I practice with a click, I rehearse with a click, I record with a click, I play live with a click...I wouldn't be without one, now.  But then...man, that was just craziness back then!  (Laughs)

G2G:  (Laughs)

Gary:  I mean...doing a full-length, major label album without a click?  No way, no thank you. (Laughs)

G2G:  So then what is your discography with Great White?  I could be missing something, but I think I've got it...the albums that you are actually on with Great White are the Out Of The Night EP, the self-titled debut album, and then you're on the Recovery: Live album, right?

Gary:  I'm actually on half of the Recovery: Live album.  There were two sides...you know, vinyl and all...there were two sides and I think one side was called "1982" or "1983", and the other side was called "1986" (NOTE:  Side one is both "1982" and "1983"...)...and so, they took five songs that we did in the studio...  Okay, we got signed and we got ready to go record the first full-length album for EMI, and we had to throw down just a really quick version of all the songs, live, to a two-track recorder, and then give that to the label as like a courtesy demo.  Like a, "hey, guys, here's what you're paying for" kinda thing.  Like, "the band's gonna be recording these songs here, if you have any objections, speak now or forever hold your peace", kinda thing.  So, they kept it, and while it says "live", it's not a complete lie because we did play it live in the studio, and it was just recorded as we played it...there was no mix-down, it was very
raw, it was...well, it was live.  But there was no audience there, it was just in the same studio, Total Access, that we had used for everything else, and we had everything set up and ready to record the album, but before we could really go for it, we had to throw this live demo together, added the vocals from Jack, and then sent that off to the label, to EMI.  So, then after I left, somebody had the idea, "hey, let's take that old half-inch, two-track master, and throw an audience on it, and throw that out there as a live album".

G2G:  Really?  Wow...

Gary:  If you look, it actually says it was recorded at Perkins Palace, but I'm here to tell you that we never, ever recorded live together as a band under any circumstances. Honestly, nobody ever thought of it.

G2G:  There didn't seem to be any market for it, or...?

Gary:  Yeah, I mean, I guess if we thought that a live album would be a big deal, then we would have actually maybe done one, but at this point, we only had one album.  I mean, now, everybody does it...everybody has a live record.  But out of all the live shows we were playing, we never recorded one.  Not one.

G2G:  Wow, I didn't know that...I'm learning new stuff about my favorite band all the time. (Laughs)

Gary:  Now, like when we were on tour with Judas Priest, we played at the Capitol Center in Landover, Maryland.  And we were actually on our way to the venue to play the show when we found out that they were actually doing a live, two-camera shoot because they had this huge scoreboard in the rafters...it had like four screens on it...and they would have two guys crawling around on stage, filming you playing live, and they would project it up on the screens so that the people up in the nosebleed sections could see the show and get a good look at you.  Now, all we would have had to do was give them a VHS video cassette, and we could've recorded that.  And I said to the guys on the way to the show, "we don't have a tape anywhere", and we didn't.  So I said let's just stop at a drugstore or something and grab a VHS tape or something, but nah, nobody wanted to do it...(laughs)...so it...it killed me because there we were, playing in front of like 15,000 people with Judas Priest, which we were doing like four or five nights a week, and that whole performance could've been captured on video tape, and all we lacked was a stupid video cassette!

G2G:  Someone would probably just have grabbed a Beta tape or something anyway...

Gary:  (Laughs)  Probably!  All I know is they had the recording machines ready, and all we would have had to do was just pop in the tape...who knows, maybe a Beta woulda worked...and we would've had that for posterity.  But nobody wanted to stop, so that performance just went up on the screen and that was it.  Nothing was ever recorded.

G2G:  Now, Gary, since I have you on the phone, I wanna ask.  You know 1986 rolls around, Shot In The Dark comes out, and lo and behold, you're not around.  Where'd Gary go?

Gary:  That's a very long answer, honestly.  But the short answer is not very exciting.  Well, actually the long answer isn't very exciting, either...(laughs).  But, it goes like this.  The band, once we got signed, we became a corporation and so the four members of the band were equal corporate shareholders in Great White.  And when you have a corporation, then you have an internal agreement, which is a contract that dictates how you're going to conduct yourselves in your day-to-day business affairs.  And, in that plan, it was laid out that each of us was getting an equal share of the corporate shares.  We each had, like a stock certificate.  So, it was Lorne made as much as I did, who made as much as Kendall, who made as much as Jack.  And there was a clause in the contract that stated the band could not continue under the name Great White unless there was at least Jack Russell and Mark Kendall in the band.  Now, had my name been in that clause, honestly, I would probably still be with them and nobody would even know who Audie Desbrow was.  But, I'm sure there was a point where somebody said, "hey, hold on a second.  We've got a drummer who's making an equal amount of the corporate profits...and we also have a bass player who's making an equal amount of the corporate profits..."  You know...so I'm sure it was like, if we can delete those two guys and hire hourly, or salaried guys, you know, just find a drummer and pay him a salary and hire a bass player and just pay him a salary, first of all, we double our paychecks, and second of all, there's two less people we have to get consensus from.  Because, you know, when you're an equal corporate entity, any decision, music or business, you must get consensus for that decision.  So, as long as Lorne and I were in the group, they had to get consensus from us to make any music decisions or any business decisions, and they had to share all monies with us equally.  So, we were, Lorne and I, basically eliminated.

G2G:  So then, is this still a lot of what Jack and Mark were still fighting about all these years later with the two versions of Great White?  Doesn't it really kind of go back to the ownership of the name and having both Jack and Mark in a band using Great White as a name?

Gary:  That corporate entity, Great White Productions, Incorporated, was dissolved many, many years ago.  So that agreement is no longer in effect.  I'm sure that there's probably been one, or maybe two, corporate entities that have been created subsequent to the first one, and whatever the terms of those agreements are, I don't know.  But with that first one...you know, I didn't have my own lawyer, Lorne didn't have his own lawyer, so there was nobody there to tell us, "hey, this clause in this contract could really come back to haunt you, and you should make sure that your name is in there, as well."  Now, any time that band members enter into a management contract with someone, almost the first sentence you see in that contract is "to advise and counsel".  So, you're hiring a manager to advise and counsel you...as a collective band...and I happen to think that advising your client, i.e., the drummer and the bass player, that maybe you should have your own lawyer to look after your best interests.  But, I'm sure there are reasons Alan Niven didn't want Lorne or I to have our own lawyers.  First of all, probably because he envisioned getting rid of Lorne and myself from the beginning and then supplanting himself into the corporation.  So he had this grand design, I believe, from the beginning, and he didn't want anything getting in the way of that grand design, so he didn't want us to have our own attorneys because any competent attorney would've taken a look at that contract and said, "uhhhh...no.  My client is going to be named in that clause, as well."  And had that been the case, they never would've voted me out, they never would have been able to, and I might still be a member of Great White to this day.  But that clause sunk me, and it sunk Lorne, too.

G2G:  So you're out of Great White, and really, the next time you show up is in a band that you created, Britton, right?

Gary:  Right.  I had to start over from scratch, because the LA 80s scene, and the street scene, by the time I was on my own again, that scene was over and done.  So, it wasn't like there was any other group I could jump on board with, and there was no such thing as the internet back then, so...where do you start, you know?  So, I started back at the bottom again, and I found a local band called
Romeo.  The singer was really good, and he wrote really good songs, and he had great vocal harmonies, and they were all really top musicians in the band.  So, I said, okay, I'm gonna start from scratch, but I went on the same premise that I went with when I joined Dante Fox.  Then, at some point we changed the name to Britton, and over the course of about five years, we wrote, I believe, about 600 songs, we recorded about 100 of them, and recorded a total of one album with about 10 or 12 songs on it (laughs). And, we put it out there and nobody wanted to sign us.  Now, by that time, we're close to five years into the thing, and we were all starting to go into different musical directions.  We were evolving musically as people, where as in the beginning we had a uniform musical vision.  But after five years of frustration, it was getting harder and harder to hold it together.  We couldn't find a musical direction that we could all agree on anymore, so that broke up, too.

G2G:  So, I did a quick Internet search, because after Britton, you kind of fell off the scene, but you actually did a lot of studio and session work with some big names.  

Gary:  Right, yeah, I stayed busy...

G2G:  Let's see...you worked with Ozzy, Twisted Sister, Autograph, Don Dokken again on his solo album...

Gary:  Yeah, all those guys...and some others...

G2G:  What was it like going from being THE guy in a touring band to being a guy doing most of his work behind the scenes?

Gary:  You know, I never had an ego about it.  All I wanted to do was just work, so anytime someone was willing to put me to work, I would do it.  If it was a high profile situation, that was great to get my name out there again, but even if it was a nobody kind of situation and just a chance to make some money doing what I loved, that was great, too.  Maybe I'd get an album credit, maybe not, but I'd take any work that came my way.  There were a lot of groups out there that I went into the studio and they put out an album that went nowhere, but if you wanna dig deep enough, you'll see on the album credits that I'm there doing additional vocals, or harmonies, or whatever they wanted to call it.  I'm on a lot of recordings out there.  Actually, it got to the point that I was singing more than I was drumming, so at some point I decided that if there was ever a point to do this, it was now, so I decided to become a lead singer.  So then, I ended up putting a band together called Skin On Skin, and there was a guitar player from Lizzy Borden named Gene Allen who was in the band with me, along with the bass player, Mike Inez, you know, from Alice In Chains.  So, we started playing and everybody was trying to get a piece of us, you know, trying to tear a guy away from the band, and the first to go was actually Mike who went on to join Ozzy's band.  So Skin On Skin broke up because, honestly, I couldn't really replace him.  He was one of a kind.

G2G:  Yeah, he's very talented...

Gary:  Oh yeah.  So, he's in the studio recording with Ozzy and Michael Wagner, who I had known from doing all the Great White stuff, he was producing, and they both knew me and knew my vocals, so I was invited to come in and do background vocals on a couple of albums, so that worked out pretty well, too.

G2G:  You also worked with Blue Cheer for a little while, right?

Gary:  Yeah, that was very strange how that came about.  I was at a friend's house and he said he had some friends over at Love Connection, if you remember that television game show...

G2G:  We'll be back in two and two!

Gary:  (Laughing) Exactly!  So, my friend, he says they just love you over there at Love Connection.  I didn't believe him, so I say to him, "well, what's the number?"  So he picks up the phone, dials it, and handed it to me.  So, one thing led to another, I auditioned for the game show, and I ended up getting on it, and I was the picker, and I picked some girl and we went on a date, and I ended up getting on television. (Laughs)  So, then I got a call from the Love Connection people and they said they had some mail at their office for me.  So, this girl named Mary, from New Jersey, she was a manager, and she was managing this drummer from New York or New Jersey or something, and she said her guy had a call to do the Blue Cheer tour in 93, and he didn't want to do it.  So she said she was watching television one night and saw me on Love Connection and said to herself, "what the hell is this guy doing on Love Connection?"  (Laughs)  So she wrote Love Connection and they
forwarded it to me, and she ended up representing me, but she was representing me as a singer only at the time.  So one night we were talking and she said, "by the way would you take any drumming work if it came along", and I was honest and I told her I hadn't picked up a set of drum sticks in over two years.  I didn't even remember what size of sticks I used to use at that point.  She said, "well, I heard about this European tour, and if you're interested in it, I'll talk to them about it."  So, I said okay, and she called me back the next day and told me she had got me the tour.  But at this point, I didn't even know who it was.  So she told me it was Blue Cheer and that I had to be on a plane at noon and the tickets would be at my door that morning.  (Laughing)

G2G:  Oh my gosh! (Laughing)

Gary:  I was like, are you kidding?!  I didn't even know if I could still play, you know, at a professional level.  So I hung up the phone, but sure as hell, this guy shows up at about 10:30 with these plane tickets and I ran down to LAX and I got on a plane.  I landed in Frankfurt, and I met the band and their manager, and they gave me three cds and a big wad of cash of a couple thousand bucks, and said learn all these songs.  So, you know, here we are in the middle of the Black Forest in southern Germany, and we just started rehearsing.  We rehearsed about ten hours a day for eleven days, and then on the twelfth day we traveled, and so I guess it was on the thirteenth day after I got there that we did our first show.  We played a two hour set with a seven minute drum solo sandwiched in the middle, and I managed to play like I'd been playing this stuff for ten years.  But it was a grueling tour, because over the course of three summer months, we had one true day off.  One.  We were criss-crossing all over Europe.  I don't know who put that tour together, but I should take them out and beat the shit out of them! (Laughs)

G2G: (Laughs)  I saw a picture on Facebook where you got up on stage with Jack not too long ago and played with him again.  Was that just a one-off deal?

Gary:  Well, I hooked up with him in Toronto and then I hooked up with him again in Hollywood, and then recently in New York.  So, its just a matter of every once in a while I'll show up and we'll get together on stage and play.  But Jack and I have talked about doing something, whether he appears on my next record, or I appear on his next record doing something, or if we just put something completely different internally by ourselves, I don't know.  We haven't nailed anything down, but I would love to do something with him.  And, I've had people speculate, you know you should play in Jack's band or something, and I don't want to do that.  I've told Jack I'm not interested in that.  He's got an excellent drummer in Derrick Pontier, and I'm not interested in playing anything that Audie Desbrow recorded, so that would be a pretty big limiter anyway.

Gary and Jack on stage
G2G:  So it's obvious that you and Jack still have at least some form of a good relationship and stay in contact.  Do you and Mark (Kendall) have any sort of relationship at all now?

Gary:  I did until about 1999 or 2000.  Well, actually, the last time we spoke civilly was 2008.  I had contacted him to tell him that I had just returned from the 5 year anniversary show for the Station fire.  And he spoke about it like it was some kind of a natural disaster, like some kind of lightning strike or some kind of forest fire or flash flood, or something, not like what it was, which was a case of negligence on a grand scale.  And, you know, I started questioning why I ever had any respect for this guy, to be honest.  And, well, now I don't.  For the record, when I left Great White, it was such a surprise, it came out of nowhere, just came out of left field, and I couldn't imagine that Mark Kendall was behind it. I truly believed it was Jack Russell and Alan Niven who were behind it the whole time, and I, in fact, had no doubts Alan was behind it, but I didn't think Mark was involved.  And after I left, I was getting shelled in the press, relentlessly, just like Jack's been getting shelled by his former bandmates, and specifically Mark Kendall.  But back then, every time that I read Mark Kendall said this, that, or the other thing, I always thought it was Jack speaking through Kendall, and I blamed Jack for all of this for so long.  I mean, even as recently as 2010, I had said to Mark Kendall that at least I hadn't had to spend my life being a stooge to a guy like Jack Russell and I'm sorry I said that now because once Jack and Mark split up, and I got a chance to see how they waged war, I realized that Mark Kendall was behind every nasty thing that was ever said about me in the press.

G2G:  What, you could tell by the style...?

Gary:  It was exactly the same way he was treating Jack...almost word for word in some cases.  It was just completely and blatantly obvious.  He was saying all the same things about Jack that he had been saying about me.  And he just fights so dirty and just tells complete lies.  And, unfortunately, the people who are reading this stuff don't know any better and give Kendall all this credibility he doesn't deserve.  I mean, if you're going to say something about me, or Jack, or whoever you're going to talk about, at least make it true!  If it's true, I got no problem with it.  But if you're going to lie, or lace lies with flecks of truth, then that's unacceptable.  So, back to your original question, I don't keep in touch with Kendall anymore, and frankly I don't allow people like that in my social circle.  I'm sorry I ever met him.  He's not the person of character or integrity that I would allow in my social circle.  And it pains me to say that because I, too, gave him a lot of credibility that he did not deserve.

G2G:  How do you see this thing playing out between Jack and Mark?

Gary:  I think they are done.  I really do.

G2G:  Well, Jack told me that it would basically take an act of God for him and Mark to ever work together...

Gary:  I believe that.  I believe that, completely. Because as much as rock bands are a business, they are also a family, and Mark Kendall is trying to destroy that family.  I would never step on stage with Mark again, either.  In fact, I would never even acknowledge his existence by showing up at one of his band's gigs.  I sometimes wonder if he's consumed so much alcohol, and has killed so many brain cells, that he doesn't even know the difference between the truth and a lie anymore.  Or, is he really that evil that he would just lie and commit character assassination just in trying to play in the hearts and minds of his fans.  The reason this has gotten so divisive is because Mark Kendall has made so much..detail..about Jack public, and it's really none of their business.  That should only be brought up in a closed forum, like a court of law.  But when one person tries to turn everybody against one side, and the whole thing becomes divisive, I lay all of that right at Mark Kendall's feet.  All of it.

G2G:  So what are you doing to stay busy, Gary?

Gary:  I've done some soundtrack work for some movies, and I've got a home studio set-up where I can work with pretty much anybody anywhere in the world over the internet, which is pretty cool.  I stay busy that way, and there's a guy I've been working with here, he's just a really, really good writer, and he and I have been putting songs together whenever we've got time.  But hopefully, eventually, we'll have an album full of material.

G2G:  Very cool.  Would love to hear it someday.  How do people stay in touch with you and find out what's going on in your world?

Gary:  Well, I'm on Facebook...I have a pretty heavy presence on Facebook and presently I'm an admin on a Great White group there.  So I'm pretty easy to find.  I'm not hiding or anything.

G2G:  Well, it's been great talking to you Gary.  I hope you stay in touch.

Gary:  Well, thanks for having me and for taking an interest.  I hope your readers find something interesting in what we've talked about.  Take care, Arttie.


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So awesome to get to talk to Gary and extremely happy that I was finally able to share this interview with everyone who reads this site!  Make sure to keep up with Gary and all that he's doing on Facebook!

For more Great White interviews, check out:

Talkin' Trash with JACK RUSSELL
Talkin' Trash with ROBBY LOCHNER

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