Happy Birthday Album Review: Black Sabbath – Heaven And Hell (1980 LP)

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This is the album that a lot of Sabbath fans feel should never have happened. They feel there was only one true Black Sabbath, and Ozzy was a part of that. I love me some Ozzy Sabbath, but I also love me some Dio Sabbath. I can have my cake and eat it too. Ozzy was in a bad place in 1979. He was so full of booze and drugs that he had to get cleaned up. Sharon Arden (later Osbourne) suggested the band work with Ronnie James Dio until her father Don Arden could convince Ozzy to clean up and get back in the band. This never happened though. Perhaps this was for the best. Both Sabbath and Ozzy were rejuvenated and released great albums separately.

This is also the album that almost never happened. The record company did not want a Sabbath album without Ozzy so they would…

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Happy Birthday Album Review: Black Sabbath – Heaven And Hell (1980 LP)

This is the album that a lot of Sabbath fans feel should never have happened. They feel there was only one true Black Sabbath, and Ozzy was a part of that. I love me some Ozzy Sabbath, but I also love me some Dio Sabbath. I can have my cake and eat it too. Ozzy was in a bad place in 1979. He was so full of booze and drugs that he had to get cleaned up. Sharon Arden (later Osbourne) suggested the band work with Ronnie James Dio until her father Don Arden could convince Ozzy to clean up and get back in the band. This never happened though. Perhaps this was for the best. Both Sabbath and Ozzy were rejuvenated and released great albums separately.

This is also the album that almost never happened. The record company did not want a Sabbath album without Ozzy so they would not back the album. The last few Sabbath albums had lacklustre sales, so the band had to fork out the cash themselves. A few days into the song writing process Bill Ward, who was stoned and drunk every day at the time, could barely play and Geezer Butler left to take care of personal issues at home. Fill-in musicians including Geoff Nichols, and Craig Gruber (Gruber has stated that he co-wrote most of the songs, and that it is actually his bass playing on Heaven and Hell) were brought in for some initial recordings. After the songs were written, Butler and Ward wanted back in. Iommi stated that Butler re-recorded all of the bass tracks and even though Ward was dealing with the death of his parents and alcoholism, he does an amazing job on the album (even if he states he did not remember recording it).

Neon Knights – You can tell 1 second into this song that this is a different Sabbath. The guitar riffs are faster, the drums are jazzier, and the vocals are crisper and higher pitched. The only thing that seems the same is the wicked bass playing. I would say Gruber should know his own playing. Sorry mate, this sounds like Geezer to me.

Children of The Sea – Such a wicked tune. The acoustic guitar at the start is so un-Iommi like. Even when the electric kicks in it is crisper than he usually sounds. Then the pounding drumming, Dio’s wonderful growl, Butler’s booming bass and Tony’s riffs. So good. So fucking good!!!

Lady Evil – Hey. I’ve heard that riff before. Ok where? It sounds like Fool For Your Loving by Whitesnake. Ok, who copied who? The Whitesnake album Ready An’ Willing was recorded December 1979 and February 1980. Heaven and Hell was recorded October 1979-January 1980. What could be the common link? Oh yeah, Martin Birch produced both albums. Now it all makes sense.

Heaven And Hell – The guitar on this one is one of the best ever, but I would place this bass playing as easily one of the top 100 bass songs of all time. If this really was Craig Gruber he would have been the most sought after bassist of the 80’s and 90’s, instead of a bass player that mostly fizzled out after Rainbow. Sit back and just listen to Geezer slappa da bass mon.

Possibly one of the best a-sides ever. Top 100 material again. Let’s listen to that again shall we.

Before we begin I shall say that side b is no slouch. Side a is that beautiful Hollywood a-list actress that everyone knows and loves. Side b is her sister. She is a long legged model that you’ve probably seen in ads, but just don’t know her name. Not as famous, but still amazing in her own right.

Wishing Well – I love this one. “Wish me love a wishing well to kiss and tell….” Wait? No. Not that shit. This is a Sabbath song, not Terence Thomas Dolby or whoever the hell.

Die Young – The second single off the album. It sounds so much like the song Heaven and Hell during the faster paced portions, but has a quieter portion with some spacey keys mixed in. Different but similar at the same time.

Walk Away – This is a completely different song for Black Sabbath. It almost sounds like a mash-up of some popular late 70`s rock bands. As if Dio was fronting Styx, Cheap Trick or REO Speedwagon. I`m not sure if it was an attempt to lure in non-Sabbath fans, but it is a nice change on this album.

Lonely Is The Word – More like lonely is the Ward since he left the band in a drunken haze during the tour for this album. The song is a heavy chugger to end this album on. Fans of the slower, deeper tone of the band from their earlier days (read everyone, everywhere) should enjoy this one. Also of note is the amazing guitar work here. It sounds at times as if Tony is playing in a tunnel, but it really works. Amazing guitar work is a great way to finish off a great album in my mind.

The only very minor glitch is the song placement on the back album cover. They are not in the same order as on the vinyl.

10/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

Album Review: Brian Knight – A Dark Horse (1981 Music Box pressing)

One day I found myself in a musical wormhole. I can get lost there for hours. I was reading about a virtual unknown British musician that had been in bands early on with both Brian Jones and Charlie Watts. He played with Cyril Davies and then when Cyril died he quit the music business for many years. Ronnie Wood, Peter Green and Eric Clapton were all influenced by his playing. So why had I never heard of him? One way or another I stumbled upon this release. I could not believe the guest artists on this one. Peter Green alone would almost make this a must have, but this album also has Charlie Watts, Dick Heckstall-Smith, Ian Stewart and a host of others. I knew the blogging world`s biggest Stones fan was Aaron from KMA. I wondered if he had ever heard of this one. He sent out some woohoo`s and told me he would give `er. I took that as Aaronese to mean buying a copy of the album. We decided to do a collaboration(here is Aaron’s), so here’s my review.

Boogie Beat – This one almost has a Keef sound to the vocals, in a Stones like rockabilly boogie.

Going Down Slow – The guitar work is the shit on this cover of an old St. Louis Jimmy blues standard.

Bring Your Corn To Me – This original starts off with some Thin Lizzyesque guitar chords. Then the song morphs into a good time ditty with great keys, cool background vocals, wonderful horns and more great guitar.

Trouble In Mind – Again the guitar work is the hero on this one, but the piano leaves an impression too.

Honey Bee – This one has vocals that feel like Clapton doing a cover of this Muddy Waters song.

Blues is Rock And Roll – This one would be great to hear at a 50’s diner with an old school juke box. Pass me the quarters.

Manish Boy – It takes big cojones to cover 2 Muddy Waters songs on one album. This even has Bo Diddley in the writing credits, so only pros should attempt it. Brian and the boys wear their loose pants and do this one justice.

Got The Blues – I love the guitar work and the harp work on this toe tapper. The structure of this song and the lyric placement is a little off, but it’s still a pretty good one.

Good Morning Blues – Brian speeds up this Leadbelly classic and adds some awesome harp, horns and percussion into the mix. The subtle but piercing guitar is cool too.

Cabin In The Sky – A ragtime, fun old piano number.

Bright Light, Big City – Brian croons his way alongside some cool keys and horns. The harp helps set this one on the top shelf with the good liquor.

A good release. Some may say too many cover songs. I personally don’t have an issue with that. My biggest beef is with the album jacket itself. There are no song listings to be found. What is much worse for me are the lack of credits. There is a huge listing on the front cover naming the guests, but nothing identifying what songs they played on. I can pick out subtle notes of Peter Green and Charlie Watts, but I shouldn’t have to guess. I say search this one out, and maybe go down the wormhole with me in search of more Brian Knight stuff. You bring the flashlight, I’ll bring the snacks.

8.5/10

 

Jersey Day Post # 1 – Helix – All I Want for Christmas… is the Leafs to Win the Cup b/w Jingle Bells (2012 – 7″ turquoise vinyl single)

Today is “Jersey Day” in Canada. Today we wear our jerseys to support the Humboldt Broncos hockey team and the community that suffered the loss of 16 lives when the team bus was hit by a transport truck last Friday. Fellow blogger Aaron gave a fitting tribute.

Today is also the start of the 2018 playoffs for my favourite team, Toronto Maple Leafs so I felt this single could multi-task.

All I want For Christmas is the Leafs to win the Cup – Brian Vollmer is the hardest working man in rock n roll and he, like me, is a long suffering Leaf fan. We suffered through the Harold Ballard years, Kerry Fraser’s famous non call, and the never ending signing of former great players that were too old and slow to regain their former glory. This song is a fitting tribute by a fellow Leaf fan. It has a fun beat, the chants are awesome and it mentions getting a Habs jersey would really suck.

Jingle Bells – The b side is a rocked up version of the Christmas song we have heard a million times. It originally appeared on the Helix album A Heavy Mental Christmas. It’s kind of refreshing, mainly because it’s not the Christmas season and I’m not bombarded by carols everywhere I go (Leafs go!!!).

 

8.5/10

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Album Review : The Sword – Used Future (Red Slushie Colored Vinyl 2018)

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The Sword have been a band I have loved for years. They put out great music and have an amazing live show, as documented here. Before this I had never reviewed one of their albums though. This was an oversight I had to rectify, so here we go.

First off, before we begin, I have to make a few comments on the vinyl itself (it’s beautiful), but more so the album cover photography. I am a car guy and so a band will get my attention by putting a car on the cover. But if you put a famous Bonneville Salt Flats race car on there with a name like Bombshell Betty then you really want me to notice. Mix in an ominous sky, a lightning bolt and some snowy looking salt and you have got me hooked. The snow effect on the Salt Flats almost gives the appearance of the car sitting on a cloud. This is a really cool cover. The front has a side view of the car, and the back has a front view of the car. Really cool indeed.

Prelude – A quick little instrumental to cleanse the palette.

Deadly Nightshade – I get elements of The Sheepdogs early that quickly morph into Ozzy era Sabbath mixed with Mountain.

Twilight Sunrise – If you like your fuzz mixed with a tiny bit of feedback and intensity, this is the song for you. The subtle key work just barely peeks it’s head out in this one. It’s a little nervous to show itself fully. Just warming up for what is to come.

The Wild Sky – A mellow drum beat begins this instrumental number and then about a minute in the drums pound, the dual guitar threat wails and some spacey keys kick out the jams. Really cool number.

Intermezzo – This instrumental synth song has sort of a Styx feel to it. More like InterMr.Roboto.

Sea of Green – I get elements of a few bands here. Early 80’s April Wine,  and early on an 80’s ballad feel. Don’t get the impression this is a cheesy 80’s sapfest though. This one has a cool groove and amazing instrumentation. It morphs into a heavier beast that just keeps growing, ready to devour Tokyo. The fuzzy guitars, smashing drums, the background vocals, and the soaring synths really set this one off.

Nocturne – Believe it or not fellow Canadians, but I get a Gowan feel from this instrumental. I know a certain strange animal from Hamilton that would love to get her bony little alien fingers on this one.

One more glance at this gorgeous vinyl before I flip it over.

Don’t get Too Comfortable – Great drumming and amazing guitar work dominate this one. The mix of fuzzy and clean guitar work really do it for me. The keys are subtle but welcomed here too.

Used Future – If Billy Gibbons and the boys swung through a Florida swamp and did an impromptu recording session with Lynyrd Skynyrd in 1973, this song may have been the result.

Come And Gone – A Floyd-esque  mellow high.

Book Of Thoth – This song isn’t fucking around. It wants you to out of your Lazy Boy and shake your ass. The fuzzy guitar and the vocals rule. Very Clutch like in a really good way.

Brown Mountain – If you like the guitar work in Journey’s Wheel in The Sky, you will like this instrumental.

Reprise – Just like the title says, this song goes back to the beginning of Prelude. Then you flip the record over and it’s an endless loop of greatness.

This is a band that has grown people. the early on, stoner dudes will never like them anymore. Not unless they do a Age Of Winters 2. These superfans want The Sword to quit the dad rock bullshit and just play what they want to hear. The band has evolved though. They mix in more synth, more 70’s/80’s elements and deeper lyrical content. I like the old, I like the new. I like anything this band has done and this is no exception.

9/10

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LED ZEPPELIN ANNOUNCE 50TH ANNIVERSARY REUNION TOUR AND NEW ALBUM

Your prayers are answered people. You’ve asked for a reunion and a new album since the band broke up in 1980. Well now you have it. The band has officially announced a 50th anniversary reunion tour and new album. The only glitch is that the three original band members are too busy to be bothered. This is purely a money grab by the record company. The band will consist of David Coverdale on vocals (originally it was Kingdom Come front man Lenny Wolf, but since he has never heard of Led Zeppelin he was nixed), Spirit bassist Mark Andes (who was quoted as saying “I have all of the Led Zeppelin albums in my collection, but have never played them”), CC Deville on guitars (pink hair and all), and Lars Ulrich on drums.

Get advance copies of the upcoming album and concert tickets here

Concert Review : Earthless, Kikagaku Moyo, JJUUJJUU, Lee’s Palace Toronto 2018

This past Wednesday was a hectic day for me. I had just flown in from Cuba and rolled into bed at 3am. When I awoke, I had to get some work done and then rush off to Toronto for meetings. I was hoping I would have enough time and/or energy to see Earthless. The opening bands for the show were new to me. Kikagaku Moyo is a Japanese psychedelic band and JJUUJJUU (featuring Phil Pirrone of Desert Daze Festival fame) is a psychedelic kraut drone band from LA.

I was able to get to the venue before the bands went on and grab up some albums. I proceeded to the right front of the stage, put my earplugs in and JJUUJJUU walked onto the stage. Perfect timing.

JJUUJJUU were first to hit the stage and they did a great job. I could tell the other musicians were digging it as well. Earthless and the lads from Kikagaku Moyo were also digging it. I could see them in the back control room area above the stage checking the show out. The vocals reminded me of a trippier Burton Cummings. If The Guess Who and early Pink Floyd had a love child, it would be JJUUJJUU.

Kikagaku Moyo – These lads flew across the Pacific Ocean with one thing on their minds. To completely rule the stages of North America. They put on one hell of a show. The musicians behind the scenes were in disbelief of what they were hearing. So were we out in the audience. Not since the days of The Beatles have a band had such an amazing sitar sound. Mix that with late 60’s/early 70’s psychy, trippy vibes and I felt like I was transported back 50 years to a fans acid trip at Fillmore.

Lastly, Earthless took the stage. Any lesser band would have hopped on the tour bus before their set and got the heck out of Dodge. The acts before were so strong that they would have to be pretty much perfect to follow. Lucky for Earthless and those in attendance, the band was on fire. Including a number of instrumental psych songs from their past and a bunch of songs with vocals off their new album, they were the complete package. Something for everyone to like. Of note during the Earthless set was the light show provided by LA based Mad Alchemy Liquid Lightshow. It was very space trippy. It reminded me of watching the Hilarious House Of Frightenstein. There was a minor glitch with the lighting that was quickly fixed. This was the only minor miscue all night.

Overall I would say this was easily my best concert so far in 2018. It will be very hard to top. Sadly the video I took of the other bands had poor sound so I won’t do the bands a disservice by posting them. I guess I’ll just have to see them again. Of note for me was the comradery these 3 bands showed, the respect they showed each other by watching  their fellow musicians play, and not just hang out in the dressing room all night. Also, the fact that members of all 3 bands hung out after the shows with the audience shaking hands, chatting, signing stuff and being really cool. Thanks dudes.

10/10