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Archive for the ‘Ace Frehley’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: DANKO JONES-Garage Rock! A Collection of Lost Songs From 1996-1998 (2014).

Danko Jones has released nine albums an a bunch of EPs.  Back in 2014 he released this collection of songs that he wrote and recorded before his first proper single (1998).

This is a collection of raw songs, but the essential elements of Danko are in place. Mostly fast guitars, simple, catchy riffs and Danko’s gruff voice, filled with braggadocio.  With a cover by Peter Bagge!

He describes it:

Back in the 90’s,the Garage Rock scene, as I knew it, was a warts-and-all approach that favoured low-fi recordings and rudimentary playing over any modicum of musical prowess in order to glean some Rock N’ Roll essence. However, once a band got better at their instruments, songwriting and stage performance, the inevitable crossroads would eventually appear. Deliberately continuing to play against their growing skill would only evolve into a pose. There were a lot of bands who did exactly this in order to sustain scenester favour. We did the opposite.

What you hold in your hands is a document of what we were and where we came from. We didn’t know how to write songs and could barely play but we wanted to be near to the music we loved so badly. We ate, slept and drank this music. We still do. That’s why we have never had to reunite because we’ve never broken up. After 18 years, we’ve stayed the course, got tough when the going did and, above all else, we have never stopped. This album is the proof.

The first two songs are the best quality, with the rest slowly deteriorating with more tape hiss.

1. “Who Got It?” a big fat bass sound with lots of mentioning of Danko Jones in the lyrics. [2 minutes]
2. “Make You Mine” is 90 seconds long.  With big loud chords and rumbling bass Danko says “one day I’m going to write a book and let everybody know how to do it.  Seems to me there a lot of people around who want to see if I can prove it.  I been a rock prodigy since the age of 20 and my proof… my proof is right now.”
3. “I’m Your Man” is a bit longer.  The quality isn’t as good but the raw bass sound is great.
4. “She’s Got A Bomb” is good early Danko strutting music.
5. “Rock And Roll Is Black And Blue.”  He would name an album this many years later.  This song is fast and raw and only 90 seconds long.
6. “Dirty Mind Too” This is a fast stomping one-two-three song that rocks for less than a minute.
7. I’m Drinking Alcohol? This is funny because later he says he doesn’t drink.  I don’t know what the words are but the music is great–rumbling bass and feedbacky guitars with lots of screaming.
8. “Love Travel Demo” and 9. “Bounce Demo” are decent demo recordings.  “Bounce” has what might be his first guitar solo.
10. Sexual Interlude” “ladies it’s time to take a chance on a real man.  I’m sick and tired of seeing you women selling yourselves short, going out with a lesser man.
11. “I Stand Accused” Unexpectedly he stands accused of “loving you to much.  If that’s a crime, then I’m guilty.”
12. “Best Good Looking Girl In Town” a fast chugging riff, “oh mama you sure look fine.”
13. “Payback” This one sounds really rough but it totally rocks.
14. “Lowdown” Danko gives the lowdown: “You want a bit of romance?  I got you an bouquet of Flowers and a box of chocolates.  Why you crying for?  That ain’t enough?  Me and the fellas wrote this song just for you.”
15. “One Night Stand” garage swinging sound: Danko is a one woman man and you’re just his type.
16. “Instrumental” is great.
17. “Move On” is a long, slow long bluesy track about love.

It’s not a great introduction to Danko, but if you like him, you won;t be disappointed by this early baby-Danko period.

[READ: August 10, 2019] I’ve Got Something to Say

In the introduction (after the foreword by Duff McKagan), Jones introduces himself not as a writer but as a hack.  He also acknowledges that having something to say doesn’t mean much.  He has too many opinions on music and needed to get them out or his insides would explode.  He acknowledges that obsessing over the minutiae of bands is a waste of time, “but goddammit, it’s a ton of fun.”

So this collection collects some of Danko’s writing over the last dozen or so years. He’s written for many publications, some regularly.  Most of these pieces are a couple of pages.  And pretty much all of them will have you laughing (if you enjoy opinionated music writers).

“Vibing for Thin Lizzy” [Rock Hard magazine, March 2015]
Danko says he was lured into rock music by the theatrics of KISS, Crue and WASP.  But then he really got into the music while his friends seemed to move on.  Thin Lizzy bridged the gap by providing substance without losing its sheen or bite.  And Phil Lynott was a mixed race bassist and singer who didn’t look like the quintessential rock star.  What more could Danko ask for? (more…)

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kissSOUNDTRACK: WICKED LESTER-The Original Wicked Lester Sessions (1972).

wicked Wicked Lester was the band that Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley started before they created Kiss. They recorded, but never released, an album (given Gene’s money grubbing needs, I can’t believe he hasn’t released this yet).  This demo version which floats around the internet may or may not be the album.  I’d be surprised if it were because there are four cover songs.  But whatever.

It’s a fun archive.  It has a very 70s vibe (including flutes and keyboards) and is much less heavy than what they would be releasing in just a year’s time.  Two of the songs from the demo made it onto Kiss records (strangely, one not until their third release).

“Love Her All I Can” sounds not too different from the Kiss version.  Paul’s voice is much deeper. The solo is lame and it’s funny to hear “do dooo” backing vocals (and a keyboard section).  “Sweet Ophelia” has a groovy 70s vibe and a feeling that is not too dissimilar to the sound of The Elder.  I love “Keep Me Waiting” has a what, tuba sound? for the riff.  The song also has an entirely new middle section, which is very early Kiss–they liked showing off creative chops back then.  I love this song.   “Simple Type” (the version I heard is lousy qality) is a rock and roll number with (I think) Gene on vocals.  It’s got a lot less of the psychedelic elements that the other songs have.  “She” (one of my favorite Kiss songs) has a wonderfully weird vibe here, (not to mention a flue solo which is very Jethro Tull).

“Too Many Mondays” has Gene on vocals and it is a very delicate song with gentle backing oohs.  It is probably the least Kiss sounding song of the bunch because they didn’t write it.  This is the first of several covers.   “What Happens in the Darkness” has a kind of disco sound (in the backing vocals) and Paul’s lead vocals have an interesting edge to them.  It’s fairly psychedelic, including the middle section sung by Gene and the slide guitar solo.  A band called Griffin has also recorded it (and their version is better).  “When the Bell Rings” is another cover.  Gene seems to be straining a lot on falsetto vocals.  “Molly” is a gentle acoustic ballad by Paul with falsetto and everything,  “Wanna Shout It Out Loud” is another Gene falsetto song.  It’s a cover of the Hollies song and not the “Shout It Out Loud” that Kiss would later record.

I can see them not wanting this released during their heyday or during their heavier moments, but it’s not an embarrassing collection by any means.  Definitely of its time, but some interesting stuff nevertheless.  Check it out:

[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=busyMPHjKMA&list=PL2B518729242D8887]

[READ: April 9, 2014] “The Definitive, One-Size-Fits- All, Accept-No Substitutes, Massively Comprehensive Guide to the Life and Times of Kiss”

I’ve liked most of Klosterman’s writing.  I especially like his writing about music (although I have never read any of his books–some day).  But imagine my delight when Klosterman decided to write a huge article defending Kiss for all of the right reasons while at the same time loathing them for all the right reasons, too.

Kiss are very easy to dislike if you don’t know them–they are silly, they were costumes, they sing dopey pop metal about sex, and they just keep going even though they are ancient.  Kiss are even easier to dislike if you do know them–Gene Simmons is a greedy bastard who is intent upon taking as much money from his fans as he can (and is proud of that).  They keep releasing greatest hits albums with an extra song or two, they even keep making albums that are nowhere near as good as their best stuff.  As Klosterman puts it:

They inoculate themselves from every avenue of revisionism, forever undercutting anything that could be reimagined as charming. They economically punish the people who care about them most: In the course of my lifetime, I’ve purchased commercial recordings of the song “Rock and Roll All Nite” at least 15 times.

And yet…  And yet… (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: KISS-Unmasked (1980).

It was hard to like Unmasked, but, being an 11-year-old boy, who loved Kiss, I never doubted its awesomeness.  Despite kids in school telling me Kiss sucked and, peculiarly, even the cover of this album telling me they stink (whose idea was that?) I knew in my heart of hearts that Kiss was the best.

In a stroke of marketing genius, this album teased the audience with the idea of finally seeing who was under these “masks” (which is weird since everyone knew they weren’t wearing masks, but whatever).  There’s even a poster that came with my vinyl copy!  Yahoo.

I just recently found out that “Is That You?” is a cover.  I always liked the high-pitched part of the song (“you always get the boys you like”), although in retrospect it’s really not very good–simplistic in a way that Kiss songs weren’t but then became.   I always joke about Kiss doing a tour and playing “Shandi.”  It’s such a cheesy ballad and yet I think it’s really good (for a cheesy ballad–Paul sings this type of song so well).  I constantly have the “there’s another mess I’ve got myself in” line in my head all the time.

I liked “What makes the World Go ‘Round” but even I can acknowledge that the song is pretty poor.  “Tomorrow” sounds like another song off of Paul’s solo album and probably should have been a huge hit.  In fact, they could have re-released it in the 80s and it would have fit right in with their non-makeup success–Paul’s soaring choruses are always a hit.  “Easy as it Seems” is kind of the album encapsulated in one song–very sleek, very soft, lots of choruses vocals and really kind of bland.   There’s even a wimpy keyboard solo (gasp!).

Ace was the star of Dynasty, and he gets three more songs on Unmasked.  “Talk to Me” is one of his repetitive songs that drives me a bit nutty (never liked that “talk to me-e” part).  It’s interesting how much Ace moved into prominence on these albums, especially since he was headed for the door soon.  “Two Sides of the Coin,” is a decent rocker, but listen to those crazy synth drums during the instrumental break.  “Torpedo Girl” is the most interesting track on the disc.  It has the cool opening “man battle stations torpedo,” a really funky (!!) bass line from Gene (who knew he had that in him) and a cool weird riff at the opening.  It’s then got a very catchy chorus (although honestly, “c’mon get your feet wet”?).

Gene has a bit more prominence here.  “Naked City” has a pretty menacing riff to open with, but Gene turns in one of his more melodic turns (with some pretty high notes in the chorus)!  The solo, while not blistering, is pretty great (as with Dynasty, the solos are too short).  “She’s So European” aside from being a really stupid title and lyric is the song that really puts this album over the edge–the twinkly keyboards, the “you ought to see her” falsetto, and, basically the same chord structure as “Living in Sin” on the verses.  Gene ends the disc with “You’re All That I Want,” a rather uninspired song that reminds me of the songs on side 4 of Alive II.

You’ll notice that Peter doesn’t get a vocal turn on this album.  In fact, he didn’t play anything on it at all (Anton Fig on drums again), but he was contractually obligated to appear on the cover (perhaps that’s why they did a cartoon).

No matter how much I listened to it back then, I can still admit that this album isn’t really very good.  Although interestingly, some of the songs and sonmg styles foreshadow the kind of music they’d play on Lick It Up: simple songs without a lot of substance, and that album was huge!

[READ: November 2, 2011] “Wildwood”

After reading “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao” in the New Yorker, I saw that they had also published Lola’s “Wildwood” adventure as an excerpt from Oscar Wao the novel.

As you can see, this excerpt came out around the same time as the novel.  And as far as I can tell, this excerpt is exactly the same as the novel except for one line that was in the excerpt but not in the novel (the part in italics):

Hija de Liborio she called you after you picked your tia’s winning numbers for her and when you guessed correctly how old to the day she’d been when she left home for the U.S. (a fact she’d never told anyone).  You assumed….

The only other noticeable difference is that the first section of this excerpt is not really separated from the rest of it.  The first section is told in the second person, while the rest is in the first person.  In the novel, the second person section is set off by itself, so it’s a little less jarring when you jump to first person, but I think any reader could cope with that pretty well. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: KISS-Dynasty (1979).

I was pretty excited to buy this album when it came out–a new Kiss album that wasn’t solo albums!  Woo hoo!  And the fact that it was disco?  Well, even though I said I “hated disco,” I didn’t really know what disco sounded like then (and really, aside from the middle “I Was Made for Lovin’ You” it’s not really a disco record) and plus my other favorite band was the Village People (and really, that makes a lot of sense–tw0 bands in over-the-top costumes talking about sexuality that I totally didn’t understand).

So, this album is hard for me to be critical about because it was such an essential part of my childhood, especially “I Was Made for Lovin’ You.”  I love it, and yet I can listen critically and appreciate that it’s really not that good.

But I’ll move on to the other songs.  “Sure Know Something” and “Magic Touch” really don’t seem that out of place chronologically with, say, the Kiss solo albums–they sound an awful lot like something off of Paul’s album.  So, despite the sort of slinky 70’s bass on “Sure Know Something”, they can’t have been that much of a surprise.  The guitar solos are short but have some interesting Ace sounds (I like the harmonics on “Magic Touch”).  It seems that while the other guys were embracing disco, Paul was keeping the Kiss sound alive.

Then there’s the Ace songs.  “2,000 Man” made total sense as an Ace song. I had no idea it was a Rolling Stones cover until fairly recently (and I like Ace’s version much better).  “Hard Times” feels like the sequel to “New York Groove.”  Not the music so much although maybe a little, but the lyrics–now that he’s in the city here’s what happened–the gritty reality. It’s one of Ace’s great, lost songs.  And check it out, Ace sings on three songs here!  (Guess having a #1 hit wasn’t lost on the Kiss powers).  “Save Your Love” has a cool descending chorus and a nice bass feel to it.  Ace certainly wins on this record.

Peter got only one song, “Dirty Livin'”.  In fact, this is the only song that Peter had anything to do with (his drums were re-recorded by Anton Fig).  It reminds me (in retrospect) of the Rolling Stones disco era even more than “2,000 Man,” the backing vocals remind me of something like “Shattered.”  I always liked this guitar solos on this (cool feedback).  Although I liked the song (along with the rest of the album), I don’t think it holds up very well.

Gene only gets two songs.  It amuses me how little he has to do with these late 70s albums even though he is always the leader of the band.  I always liked “Charisma” (I had to look the word up back then) even though it is, admittedly, rather discoey and really not very good.  It is fun to ask “What is my…charisma?”  But “X-Ray Eyes is the better Gene song on this record.  It harkens back to earlier Kiss songs and even has a bit of menace in it.

So, Dynasty was a huge hit for the band.  And they even got to mock it in Detroit Rock City the movie.  Cynical marketing ploy or genuine fondness for disco?  Who would ever know.

[READ: November 1, 2011] “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao”

Readers of this blog know that after finding an author I like, I will try to read everything that he or she has written.  Close readers will know that if a writer is reasonably young and reasonably unpublished, I will try to read his or her uncollected work as well.  Well, I really enjoyed Oscar Wao the novel, so I decided to see what else Díaz had written. There’s really not a lot, to be perfectly frank.  There’s his short story collection Drown and a few fiction pieces published here and there (mostly in the New Yorker) and a few non-fiction pieces as well.

So this “short story” from the New Yorker (with the same title as the novel) is in fact an early, mostly the same, version of the Oscar story in the novel.  The thing here is to note the date: 2000(!).  The novel came out in 2007.  So, Junot had been working with this character for easily five years (giving time for the publishing industry to get a book out and all). The remarkable thing the is just how accomplished and polished this piece is and how much of it was used in the novel.

I’m curious to know whether this was written as a short story (it’s quite a long short story) or if it was always intended as a part of a novel.  Interestingly, when you read this story by itself and you realize that it is pretty much all of Oscar’s story in the novel, you realize just how little of Oscar is actually in the novel.  The novel is about Oscar, obviously, but it is really about his family and the fukú that was placed on them by the Trujillo clan.  Oscar is sort of the touchstone for the fukú, and the person whom the narrator knows most intimately but his story is also brief. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: KISS-Ace Frehley (1978).

Unlike Peter’s album, Ace’s solo album is probably the most Kiss-like of the four, and I think that most of the songs on here are better than Ace’s Kiss songs.  I also liked that his had his cool autograph on the back.

“Rip It Out” opens with some great rough guitars and a supremely catchy chorus.  His voice also sounds much more assured than it had on the Kiss records.  “Speeding Back to My Baby” is a bit too “rock n roll” for me as well (I don’t like all the backing vocals on the choruses) but the guitar is absolutely on fire in this song–the solo is noisy and insane.  In fact, he really highlights his melodic soloing skills on this disc.  This song always bothered me because he clearly says “maybe I should turn around maybe I should stop” and then second later proceeds to sing “speeding back to my baby and I don’t mean maybe.”  Very confusing. 

The guitars on “Snowblind” are jagged and very cool (and the drums are really techno and a little silly but they sound cool and spacey).  And of course, there’s another great solo.  “Ozone” is a wonderful guitar workout, showing off what Ace does best.  Lyrically it’s a bit of a nonentity, but it is fun to say “O-zone” over and over again.  “What’s On Your Mind” is a poppy little number with a super catchy bridge (although again, a lot of “maybes” in this song).

“New York Groove” is such an anomaly.  A top-40 hit, and I’m not sure why exactly.  It’s so simple, with kind of a funky guitar.  But I guess that super catchy simple chorus could win anyone over.  The spoken word part in the middle cracks me up, his accent is so strong: “Here I am.  In the city.”  “In Need of Love” has an odd feel to it, kind of sinister, but that guitar solo–wow.   “Wiped Out” is wonderful from start to finish.  The crazy cackle in the beginning, the wonderful slippery bass, the cool guitar solo that precedes each chorus and the fast, fun-to-sing verses.  It’s just a great song (it’s probably the most successful flirtation with disco of all four solo albums).

The album ends with the magnificent “Fractured Mirror.”  It starts off as a simple enough guitar picking song.  But it keeps building.  And building.  And then a solo comes in.  And it builds more…until it ends like it began.  It’s a masterpiece of guitar overdubbing.

This album is pretty darn awesome.

[READ: October 8, 2011] “Off the Shelf”

There were four one-page pieces in this week’s New Yorker under the heading “Sticky Fingers.”  Each one was about theft in some way (this being the money issue, that ‘s a nice connection).

When the New Yorker groups four essays under the same heading, the first one really sets the tone for the others.  So it came as no surprise to me that Patti Smith was going to write about shoplifting too (frankly, she was punk goddess, how could she not have shoplifted?).  But her story is quite different and it was one that I found incredibly moving.

Her story concerns the time she stole an encyclopedia.  Not the whole thing (she still weighs less than a whole set), but the first volume, from the grocery store. (more…)

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