Saturday, February 10, 2018

January / February 2018 Joe Vig Top 40 Joe Perry Project, Steve Hunter, Jimi Hendrix, Ricky Byrd, Above the Sun

Rock Journalist Joe Viglione
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The Joe Vig Top 40
January / February 2018 




ian hunter
fingers crossed

AllMusic Review by   [-]

Australia's Raven Records has released another important retrospective -- a focus on guitarist Joe Perry's three solo albums and the three frontmen who put their voices on those discs. Ralph Mormon performed on Let the Music Do the Talking prior to his stint in Savoy Brown, and that may have been the better band for his bluesy voice. The excellent liner notes by Ian McFarlane give a very clear history of "The Project" and their accuracy is amazing. Given Aerosmith's success, it is odd that Sony hasn't released a similar compilation -- or that this one isn't being imported in droves, since Perry is a legend, and his work while estranged from the hard rock phenomenon that is Aerosmith deserves attention, no matter how dark the period was for the guitarist personally. The album is a very good overview while purists and fans would, of course, prefer two CDs and all the tracks. "Listen to the Rock" from I've Got the Rock & Rolls Again is missing, and that was one of their key tunes; also, there were numerous outtakes or demo tapes from the period of Once a Rocker, Always a Rocker -- lead singer Mach Bellplayed one for this writer called "When Worlds Collide" and it is incredible -- those aforementioned tracks and other goodies would have really rounded this out. But these are minor quibbles. Hearing each phase of the Joe Perry Project from start to finish is textbook rock & roll and highly enjoyable. Charlie Farreneventually landed his own deal on Warner Bros. with Farrenheit, but imagine if Perry had stayed along for that ride? The music in the middle of this disc -- "East Coast, West Coast," "Buzz Buzz," and "I've Got the Rock & Rolls Again" -- were indicators of a developing sound, and Farren was the perfect partner for Perry to develop a sound to rival, not revisit, Aerosmith. Thundertrain lead singer Mach Bell, on the other hand, is truly the guy to add chaos to this touring unit. Bell is one of the most charismatic frontmen from the New England music scene, and his Thundertrain band mixed Rolling Stones with Slade, so Perry traded a vocalist/songwriter for a total madman. The video of track 16, "Black Velvet Pants," is a story in itself, and it shows Bell in all his rock & roll glory, while the inclusion of T. Rex's "Bang a Gong" is the one cover, and perfect for Mach with his British rock leanings. The three phases of the Joe Perry Project -- blues singer Mormon, songwriter/vocalist Farren, and stage performer Bell -- is a vitally important chapter in American rock & roll, which Raven and McFarlane have lovingly packaged and preserved. If any reissue has a chance of finding a new audience, this is it.


Alice Cooper, Welcome to my Nightmare DVD

Alice Cooper, when he re-emerged from the ashes of the Alice Cooper Group, backed by Lou Reed’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Animal band, was a major event. How do you top the edgy excitement of the original Cooper five which probably felt as abandoned as Big Brother and the Holding Company once Janis Joplin left for the Kozmic Blues tour? The Cooper clan, like Big Brother, was a special unit, but Hunter/Wagner were their own touring equivalent of the famed Wrecking Crew, perhaps only equaled by Janis Joplin’s Pearl set of musicians, the Full Tilt Boogie Band. These were the musical equivalent of cosmic storms that come by once in a lifetime. Cooper had the right combination in mind for this tour, as exhibited on this DVD, it was simply that his change in direction for his fan base that was more of a jolt than Joplin fronting a kinda sorta clone of Blood, Sweat and Tears.
The Welcome to My Nightmare musicians – Steve Hunter and Dick Wagner – were a larger-than-life presence, and as potent as Keith Richards / Mick Taylor, making for the two best rock and roll guitar duos on the planet. And though the Kozmic Blues was to this critic’s ears an amazing transformation for Janis (yes, I’m a huge Big Brother fan too, for different musical reasons,) it was the songwriting on Welcome To My Nightmare that took itself too seriously and veered off from the specialized rock that was generated on the Love it to Death and Killer albums by Cooper, as easy a comparison to make as Jethro Tull’s Aqualung vs Ian Anderson’s concept, The Passion Play. Do you want to hear Passion Play or Aqualung? It’s as rhetorical a question as asking if you want to spin Love it to Death and/or Killer over Nightmare.
Alice Cooper gets an A for effort with both the cinema release of the Wembley Stadium shows and the television movie, but where Lou Reed revisited the Velvet Underground, the tried and true “new” band (as in Lou’s band -Hunter, Wagner, Colcord, Glan and Prakash John replacing Peter Walsh) bringing the Killer album to life on the big screen would have been a sure-fire hit…and far more welcome for this writer/reviewer and millions of fans as well.
As a concept Welcome/Nightmare’s script was the actual misfire in 1975 and this supporter/advocate/disciple of both Cooper and Reed feels the same (semi disappointed) way today as when I first purchased the album and then saw the show at the Boston Garden April 24, 1975. But having the performances professionally recorded and preserved give that A for effort an A plus for posterity. “Only Women Bleed” shows what a gifted singer Alice is, the ability to play to a rock crowd with growls and screams, and middle of the road radio with a hybrid of Perry Como and Mick Jagger, competing with Kenny Rogers, Helen Reddy and the Bee Gees on the soft rock airwaves.
This TV special airing three years after Alice’s mesmerizing performance on the very first In Concert ABC special in November of 1972, is – as stated – historic, but lacks the excitement of both that amazing first In Concert special where Cooper’s riveting extended “I’m 18” (as the band was said to have originally performed it before it was truncated for Top 40 radio) certainly ushered in the new ABC concert show on Friday nights with more than a proverbial bang. It’s just that the Broadway feel of “Welcome to my Nightmare (the song) was not what the fan base expected; it reflects Alice’s love of films (West Side Story in particular, screen version from the 1950’s play of the same name) as with the original Cooper group invoking Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim’s “Jet Song” (“Gutter Cat vs The Jets,” on School’s Out) – it was outside of their ”sphere of operations,” if you will, and not what Warner Brothers was promoting to the world. (Nightmare was released on the Atlantic label rather than Warner, a change of labels but still under the WEA umbrella.)
As I review this forty two years later the best tracks on Welcome to My Nightmare live are “No More Mr. Nice Guy,” “I’m 18,” “Billion Dollar Babies,” and “School’s Out” as re-interpreted by the Lou Reed band, a group that did the same for the music of the Velvet Underground with Reed in 1973, two years prior. The fluid guitars of Hunter and Wagner on “Billion Dollar Babies” are as eloquent as they were with Reed in Sheffield at Oval Hall, September 9, 1973. Find the tape on YouTube or Wolfsgang’s Vault, very worth listening to, especially if you want to explore the nuances of this DVD and its musical pedigree. With two years and a week on the road, the band that was magnificent when it first launched with Reed, September 1, 1973, is efficient, but more restrained by the cinematic and television duties.
My favorite all-time concert today is still the very first gig by this “Rock n Roll Animal” group – the September 1, 1973 Lenox Massachusetts (Berkshire county) show where Wagner/Hunter and Reed put on an explosive, experimental night that was a once in a lifetime experience. The sun setting at the Lenox Music Inn (see the Inn’s history here: ) and this band that emerged from the Berlin sessions, augmented with Peter “Pops” Walsh of Seatrain on the bass, Steve Hunter on guitar, the late Dick Wagner (RIP July 30, 2014) on guitar, the late Pentti “Whitey” Glan on drums (RIP Nov 7, 2017) and – most likely at this show – the late Ray Colcord (Feb 5 2016) on keyboards. With the passing of Lou Reed October 27, 2013 – (his wake December 13, 2013 at the Apollo Theater) it is important to get the history of this unique and inspiring / influential crew documented properly. Would John Cougar ever have even put together his 1978 Australian hit “I Need a Lover” in the fashion that we know it without “Intro/Sweet Jane” from the 1974 Rock n Roll Animal album? (as recorded in New York on December 21, 1973 – two days after the Boston show – see Cougar-Mellencamp information here: )
The ultraviolet lamp on Lou’s face as the twilight descended on the open-air venue, folk and slide guitar renditions of “Pale Blue Eyes” and “I’ll Be Your Mirror” from the Velvet Underground, a folk version of “Heroin” which had the band enter and start building over Lou’s simple guitar strums into an explosive unit, so much more exciting and involved (and complex) that when the band returned to Boston on December 19, 1973 – two nights before the recording of Rock and Roll Animal at Howard Stein’s Academy of Music in New York, it was a sort of a let down. Sure, the concert was great, RR Animal went gold in 1978 (must be platinum now?) – as did Welcome to My Nightmare – which did go platinum as the sales increased. Ultimate Classic Rock notes that the “Nightmare” critics at the onset weren’t as thrilled about the transition …but have warmed up over the years. This critic hasn’t…it still is not the first Cooper lp I will pull out of the vault to play for fun…
BUT…with so many great Alice Cooper DVDs out there covering his amazing theatrics, having a true Halloween movie such as Welcome to My Nightmare is essential. Even if the concert footage directed by David Winters comes off somewhat awkwardly like Rollin Binzer’s direction of Ladies and Gentlemen The Rolling Stones (also on Eagle Rock) – which, as with my first thoughts seeing that film in theatrical release, is good but not great.
So too with Welcome to my Nightmare, more important to me as a moment in Cooper time than something to watch repeatedly, but not to be quibbled with too much: it did inspire Michael Jackson to put Vincent Price on his Halloween film, Thriller, did it not?

1. Welcome to My Nightmare
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2. Years Ago
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3. No More Mr. Nice Guy
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4. Years Ago
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5. Billion Dollar Babies
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6. Years Ago
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7. I’m Eighteen
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8. Years Ago
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9. Some Folks
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10. Cold Ethyl
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11. Only Women Bleed
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12. Devil’s Food
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13. The Black Widow
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14. Steven
(with Nightmare Reprise)
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15. Escape
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16. School’s Out
(with Escape Reprise)
Alice Cooper tour dates on Cooper archive
ABC Online
Joe Viglione is the Chief Film Critic at He has written thousands of reviews and biographies for,, Gatehouse Media, Al Aronowitz’s The Blacklisted Journal, and a variety of other media outlets. Joe also produces and hosts Visual Radio, a seventeen year old variety show on cable TV which has interviewed Jodie Foster, director/screenwriter David Koepp, Michael Moore, John Cena, comics/actors Margaret Cho, Gilbert Gottfried, Gallagher, musicians Mark Farner and Don Brewer of Grand Funk Railroad, Ian Hunter of Mott The Hoople, Ray Manzarek, John Densmore, Felix Cavaliere of The Rascals, political commentator Bill Press and hundreds of other personalities.


After the Complaints released the driving CD singles, “Trade Up,” and the Chris Lord-Alge produced “South Side Suicide,” they bring the angst down a few notches for this release, Talk to Me, an exquisitely packaged and beautifully crafted collection of eight compositions along with a reworking of the first track, “The View.”    And it is a perfect way to open and close the disc, both renditions subtle and commanding, it’s the kind of melody and lyric that Fleetwood Mac, Bruce Springsteen, and the Eagles would certainly wish they came up with. Dean Petrella – vocalist, guitarist, keyboard player, wrote the majority of the words (except “Mountains” which the liners note was written and performed by The Complaints and Adam Go.)   “The View” opens and closes the disc though it metamorphoses into two different perspectives a la George Harrison’s “Isn’t it a Pity” on All Things Must Pass, a light poppy venture to begin the journey, a darker quasi-dance mix to bring this very strong album to its conclusion.  Play both “View” renditions back to back and it is most revealing.
Co-produced by the band and legendary engineer Phil Greene (Buddy Guy, John Cafferty/Beaver Brown, New Kids on the Block – as well as guitarist with the vastly underrated Swallow on Warner Brothers) the album is balanced and compelling.  “Hanging Out” is one of four songs (of the 9 tracks) that hit the 3:52 mark, time-wise, most of the material clocking in around 2:40 – 3:20, short and sweet and making the point.    It’s an easy going dissertation, at least by pop standards, with the next track, “Atlas (Carry You)” a minute shorter.   Both tracks – “Hanging Out” and “Atlas” Triple-A rock with authority.   And has it been 17-18 years since the Complaints released the Fear disc, with Criminal Mind in 2002?  This veteran group just grows stronger through the years like fine wine and this recording has real staying power throughout.
“Wouldn’t Change A Thing,” track five, has all the markings of a radio-friendly composition with the potential to be memorable.  “Talk To Me,” which precedes it, also has that captivating mood.  Phil Greene and the Complaints smartly combine their talents to create something very special.  Each tune has its own identity, and the sequencing is perfect as the listener is taken on a journey.  From  “Breathe,” not the Pink Floyd song, to “Home,” drop the needle/sequence button anywhere and there’s something entertaining and thought-provoking within.
Chris Cruz on bass and vocals, Anthony Marotti on drums/vocals and Dean Petrella are The Complaints.    Add “Trade Up” and “Southside Suicide” to this disc as bonus tracks and you have an amazing set of recordings.

39)Thee Fightin' Fish

With menacing opening guitar throbs on “The Creeper” (not the famous punk song by Boston’s Unnatural Axe, another creeper!) Thee Fightin’ Fish enter the ring with gloves off. If you like early New York Dolls barreling all-out assault which begins with lyrical admonitions while adding smart, tight musical attitudes at the start, middle and finish of each blitzing tune, this well-recorded quartet of selections will fit the bill. Track 4, “You’ll Get Yours” is probably my favorite with liberal use of the “f” word and George Kondylis drumbeats rocking along with Bob Roos’ incessant guitar. Andy Excuse is on vocals, Matt Robinson on bass and on “Lost My Job” and “Don’t Make Me Suffer” they provide a unified front. Great stuff that you can sample on Reverb Nation dot com / Theefightinfish with no g after “fightin.”
The Creeper
Lost My Job
Don’t Make Me Suffer
You’ll Get Yours
* Andy Excuse – Vocals
* Matt Robinson – Bass
* George Kondylis – Drums
* Bob Roos – Guitar

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