Album Reviews (Dec 27, 2014)

Season’s beatings!  I bring you tidings of great (and not so great) metal and hard rock…

Nightmare – Power Of The Universe (1985)

NightmarePower Of The Universe was Nightmare’s second album.  It was released on the U.K. label Ebony Records.  And while Ebony had some very good bands on their roster (like Chateaux and Grim Reaper), their albums always suffered from low-rent production values.  Power Of The Universe certainly was no different.  This one sounds tattered and frayed for sure.  Still, Nightmare was able to make a convincing go of it.  Of particular note are the soaring vocals of one Jean-Marie Boix.  Sure, he’s wasn’t always pitch-perfect.  Also, his lyrics are hard to understand thanks to his thick French accent.  (Did I mention these guys were French?)  Anywayz, ol’ Jean-Marie gets by on starry-eyed exuberance and conviction alone.  Out front in the mix, warts and all, take a bow Jean-Marie (R.I.P.).  My score: B-

Blackfoot – Tomcattin’ (1980)

BlackfootHow about a little Southern-fried hard rock?  It’s hard not to get a shit-eating grin on your face when listening to Blackfoot’s tails of backwoods boozery and tomfoolery.  Blackfoot’s front man was Rickey Medlocke — a crazy-eyed son of a bitch with a great voice, Native American blood, and charisma to spare.  Don’t let the southern rock label fool you, these guys had the amps cranked up to ten.  Nope, Blackfoot weren’t content on merely front porch twangin’ — they were fixin’ for a fight.  You can practically smell the beer on their breath through the speakers.  Check out Every Man Should Know (Queenie) – a great cut!  Blackfoot had a bit of success in the early eighties with this album and its follow-up Marauder (1981).  But when MTV came along, Blackfoot didn’t really translate to the new medium du jour — their ugliness not helping matters.  My score: A

 Celtic Frost – Into The Pandemonium (1987)

Celtic FrostEnter the mind of Tom G. Warrior.  Celtic Frost’s guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter was of a strange breed indeed.  His obtuse take on metal makes for a unique first listen, though not necessarily one warranting return visits (IMO).  Warrior’s experimental nature has been greatly applauded by critics and fans, though I get the sense he was eclectic for eclectic’s sake.  That is, he was trying to please the critics — to be an “artist”.  One need only to peruse the ridiculously pretentious lyrics for proof.  Celtic Frost put some genre-bending bells and whistles on to this album — take for example filler cuts like One In Their Pride and Tristesses De La Lune (a track included on the North American issue of Into The Pandemonium).  But behind the veil, Into The Pandemonium is merely a collection of rudimentary metal songs, badly sung.  Interesting?  Sort of.  Life changing?  Hellz no.  Highlights: Mexican Radio and I Won’t Dance.  My score: C

 The Black Crowes – Shake Your Money Maker (1990)

The Black CrowesI would venture to guess that the song She Talks To Angels is responsible for more broken guitar strings than any other song in the last 25 years.  You see, She Talks To Angels has one of those great acoustic riffs that every new guitarist wants to learn (much like Over The Hills And Far Away or Wish You Were Here).  But because She Talks To Angels is performed using “open E” tuning, it means that two guitar strings have to be raised a full step, and another string raised a half-step in order to play the song.  Needless to say, you have to be careful when tightening the strings or… POP!!  You learn the hard way!  She Talks To Angels is a great song that has certainly left its mark on rock history.  A mountain of broken strings is your proof.

When The Black Crowes arrived on the scene in 1990 they were a refreshing presence.  They were old and they were new.  The Black Crowes were old because they wore their 70’s rock influences on their sonic sleeve.  They were new because not many bands were practitioners of the “classic rock” sound at the time.  Many a young rock fan raised on MTV and glam metal hadn’t even heard the slew of 70’s rock bands that had influenced The Black Crowes.  So hey, it was new to them!

Shake Your Money Maker contains no less than five essential songs — Twice As Hard, Jealous Again, She Talks To Angels, Thick N’ Thin, and Hard To Handle.  Except for Hard To Handle, all the songs on the album were written by the Robinson brothers.  Guitarist Rich came up with some great riffs (Twice As Hard is probably my fave).  And his brother Chris had the perfect voice for this brand of rock — a very smooth delivery with a slight rasp.  He also had a touch of blues, and even gospel, in his voice.  Together the two brothers and The Black Crowes made a timeless slice of rock n’ roll.  This kind of thing seems to have a universal appeal, and never shows its age.  No wonder Shake Your Money Maker is currently sitting at 5X platinum!  My score: A+

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3 thoughts on “Album Reviews (Dec 27, 2014)

  1. hey man! i’m the guy who just subscribed and sent a looong comment yesterday. here’s another long one, hope it’s ok… yeah, just read your Frost review and, well, as usual, you’re right on the money! it was a pretentious album, but to me it was certainly life-changing, just a matter of taste, of course. thanks to ‘pandemonium’ i began accepting new wave precursors such as roxy music and bowie (well, mostly their 70s output, anyway), and even, yes, the mighty (ha, not really) and way quirky wall of voodoo and other stuff i couldn’t digest beforehand, basically because of the chic 80s image and the horrid haircuts (i will always look like a black oak arkansas reject, and proud of it). yep, warrior wanted to be artsy and distance himself from the metal community (kinda like kurt cobain when he stated that for ‘nevermind’ his inspirations were the beatles and celtic frost, ironically ha! guess cobain alse needed to differentiate himself from the so-called ‘alternative’ crowd). but i’m with you concerning tom’s voice: he can’t sing a damn note. though i don’t like cookie monster vocals (except for his!), i think he felt more comfy with what he was doing before, i.e. morbid tales era. but, to my ears, ‘caress into oblivion’ has got to be one of the greatest stoner/doom songs ever crafted, and ‘i won’t dance’ is thrash-pop perfection, including those Diana Ross-like backing vocals hehe… maybe you’d sort of like their ‘sell-out’ album, ‘cold lake’- it’s not ‘glam’, it is a bonafide metal thing, great riffs, variety, catchiness and, well, a certain nwobhm-influenced flair. but, again, tom sounds like bart simpson trying to ape vince neil, or something… on the other hand, i’m super glad you praised the black crowes, a magnificent and classic group. and as the cliché goes, like wine, they just get better with age. to me, they’re as good as zeppelin or humble pie, but with an even better singer (chris robinson’s in my all time top ten)… other stuff i’d like to point out: thanks for making me appreciate Trance, after all these decades, man. and hell, i never paid attention to Wildfire, but after reading your review of 83’s ‘brute force…’, i ..uh.. proceeded to download it from another blog. they really rocked my night away! ok, have a great weekend

    • Thanks for the feedback and the insight. I really appreciate your thoughts on Celtic Frost. With those things in mind, I may be able to listen to them with a different perspective. After all, taste in music is based largely on perspective/subjectivity. I’m glad we also agree on a few things, too. I’m very happy that some of my recommendations found their way into your ears. Thanks again for the feedback. Negative or positive — it’s always welcome!

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