AC/DC – Fly On The Wall Album Review

Man, Fly On The Wall is a tough one for me to review. It is a mediocre album that is not THAT bad. I don’t think I can get more wishy-washy. But that is how I genuinely feel about it. So, the best way I can handle this one is to get through the negative and bring it back to the positive. Let’s see how I do.

For the second album in a row AC/DC’s founding members, Angus and Malcolm Young recorded sans producer. And if you listen to Angus in interviews from the mid-80’s, he is big on “not bull shitting the kids”. In other words, being something that you are not.

That meant avoiding a lot of the trendy traps of adding synths or drum pads that other hard rock bands were leaning heavily into around 1985 when Fly was produced. And it would have been very easy for them to do so. Especially since their previous two albums (For Those About To Rock and Flick of the Switch) fell short of the comparative sales of Back In Black.

Instead, the Youngs stayed committed to the traditional four-on-four rock that made them who they are. They wanted AC/DC to stand out among the polished glam/hair metal bands that flooded MTV in 1985. Be the different band that was still delivering a “pure” rock sound. I love it. Sticking to their guns is what other bands admire about AC/DC. But they overcompensated on Fly. It’s great how “raw” the album can sound at times, but it is also mixed poorly.

Take the band’s newest member (and Phil Rudd’s replacement) drummer Simon Wright and how he is mic’d with a large echo. It’s his first recording with AC/DC and he sounds like he is slapping the lids of trash cans in the men’s room. And he is LOUD. Drums overpower all else on Fly.

Meanwhile, bassist Cliff Williams is barely audible. I’m talking Jason Newsted …And Justice for All level. You have to really crank the volume if you want evidence that Cliff showed up to the studio.

Then there are the vocals. Lead singer Brian Johnson is mixed well on some of the tunes, like on Danger where he can be heard well enough. But most of the time he sounds like he does on the title track Fly On The Wall:

Brian sounds like he is singing through a wall instead of on it. This is not only how the album opens but also what AC/DC released as a single! Some say this album is when Brian’s voice took a turn for the worst but I disagree. I think the Youngs just had him pushing the vocals too hard since he sounds fine on Fly‘s follow up Who Made Who. You can also check out some bootlegs from this time that proves otherwise.

The lack of production would be easier to overlook if the songs were stronger. The album’s top two tunes, Sink the Pink and Shake Your Foundations are the proof. All be it, they are both tunes where Brian is mixed a little better on; Malcolm lays down some nice crunchy rhythm chords that Angus floats along the top of with a light bouncy lead. The lyrics are fun and they both feature a sing-a-long chorus. It’s classic AC/DC. Both tunes remain to be mint despite being mixed almost as poorly as the rest.

The rest of the album isn’t crafted nearly as well. The lyrics are an issue for one. That one line in First Blood:

Some like it hot,
And some like it… not so hot,

Oof. Seriously. That pause is there. Like he doesn’t know what to say. They left that in. Then in Send For The Man:

You make a black sheep a ram,
This ain’t no gun in my pocket,
I got the goods in my hand

Black sheep a ram? And what is in your hand? It is just plain silly. Even for AC/DC. I love Brian but he is becoming a parody of himself here. A few choruses are repeated too many times as well. Danger and Stand Up I find are the most guilty of this. Both would have benefited from some shortening up.

But, like I said… it’s not THAT bad. It is easy to individually pick apart the tunes on Fly, but collectively they make for a rockin’ headbang that appeals to my caveman half. Although AC/DC was performing live shows in arenas around the world, they wanted their albums to sound like they were in a club down the street. And for the most part, Fly does accomplish this. Send for the Man might not have the best lyrics, but damn that is a big/heavy/catchy riff. Come Hell Or High Water, Back in Business, Playing with girls… all of these tunes still have their charm even if it is buried under some poor mixing.

Fly did get a remaster in 2003 that did improve the mix a bit, but not enough. The OG vinyl I picked up recently does sound better than my 25-ish-year-old CD, but again… not a huge improvement. What does sound great is the remixed version of Shake Your Foundations on Who Made Who. THIS sound smashing. Early AC/DC producers George Young and Harry Vanda remixed the tune and got great results. They removed some of the drums, and Brian sounds a little raspy but on the right side of the wall.
So while Angus and Malcolm were right to keep away from the drum machines and keytars, perhaps a little assistance behind the mixing board might have helped this album… sink in… a little better. Once Angus hangs up the schoolboy outfit, maybe he will get around to seeing that Fly on the Wall receives the same treatment Shake Your Foundations had. Until then…

As an AC/DC album: 2/5
Compared to everything else: 2.5/5

Be sure to check out Blogger for the Bold, Super Dekes‘ review of Fly On The Wall right here.

Once you’re done with that you’ll want to check out what they are saying about Fly on Keeps Me Alive right here.

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The Soundtrack to 2019… so far…

2019 is now half over. Or is it half full?  Well, we are at the halfway point.  Side 1 is done, time to flip over to side B.  So, I thought I’d do a little write up on what I’ve been spinning most so far this year.  It might be fun to look back on this at the year’s end and see what stayed in rotation what didn’t.  But before I get started I just want to give another shout out to…

max the axeMax The Axe, Status Electric

This is a 2018 release but it took me until 2019 to get to it.  My copy was gifted to me by Max The Axe’s PR guy Mike Ladano and I did a full write up of Status Electric back in February.  The Coles/Cliff notes version of the review is it is solid rock goodness.  I’m still humming Gods on the Radio!

As for the releases from 2019 itself… there hasn’t been too much for me.  But there are a couple albums that I have been spending some time with.

south-of-reality-claypool-lennon-album

The Claypool Lennon Delirium, South of Reality

Forgive the obvious comparisons, but this does sound like Primus with a Beatles twist.  It is loaded with vibes from the experimental Beatles tunes you’d find buried on their “White Album”, which meshes well with Les Claypool’s bass groove.  It gets better with every listen on Spotify.  I will be making the plunge on a vinyl pickup soon enough.

 

rival sons feral rootsRival Sons, Feral Roots

I still need to pick this one up too, but it has been downloaded onto my phone since its release.  Rival Sons loads another 45-ish minute album with giant guitar riffs.  Another one that continues to get better with every spin.

 

 

And that is all from 2019.  I was looking forward to Gary Clark Jr.’s This Land.  Despite having some killer guitar work and tunes on it, overall the Kanye-ish opening has turned me off from picking it up.  I’m not a total prude but there are only so many N-word drops I can take.

Weezer’s new “Black Album” didn’t do much for me either.  It sounds like an album that is destined for the pop stations instead of rock ones.  I get that Weezer is a pop-rock band but these tunes are missing that guitar bite that makes the pop palatable for me.  Oddly enough…

weezer teal

Weezer, (Teal Album)

… in the same year, Weezer releases an album of 70’s/80’s pop covers that they do add their brand of guitar bite to.  I don’t know if this can count for “2019” because they are covers, but meh.  It’s my list.  I’m still not sure where No Scrubs is from but Sarca sings all the words when it comes on.  I was lucky enough to grab the teal colored vinyl RSD exclusive.  Apparently, everyone was looking for it this year.  I was just in the right place at the right time.

The rest of 2019 has been filled with “new to me” albums.  So far my soundtrack to 2019 is going to sound like the mid-80’s unless some of these newer bands get their act together…

dio last in lineDio, The Last in Line
1984
Blogger for the Bold Super Dekes is to blame for this one!  Growing up an Ozzy fan it always felt that listening to Dio was a betrayal… silly, I know!  This is the album where I’ve finally get Dio.  Don’t get me wrong… the Rainbow stuff, Heaven and Hell, Mob Rules, Holy Diver… good tunes in there.  But this one is great! 

 

Me when this tune gets angry…

patrick

Mike Landano also did a solid write up of this album right here.

gnr liesGuns ‘n Roses, Lies
1988
I haven’t been much of a G’NR guy outside of Appetite for Destruction, but $1 for the copy Lies on CD at our local thrift seemed like a safe gamble.  I’m not a fan of the last tune, One In A Million.  It’s racist/homophobic lyrics are gross (Maybe I am a prude).  And I still can’t sit through Patience.  I’ve never been a huge fan of it.  But… the rest is some good times Rock ‘n Roll.  The “live” first half (which isn’t live at all) is killer with an Aerosmith and a Rose Tattoo cover.  Slash has that swing to his guitar playing that shines through it all.

Of course, Mike Landano has already reviewed this one in depth right here.

outter sleeveTwisted Sister, You Can’t Stop Rock In Roll
1983
Another write up from Blogger for the Bold, Super Dekes turns me onto another album!  That guy needs to start doing some negative reviews so I can save me some cash!  I technically still don’t own a copy of this, but I have been listening to it a lot on Spotify.   I’ve always thought these guys were a bit of a novelty act, and they can be at times.  But their second album here is loaded with legit rock ‘n roll from start to finish.

And check this out, I found a classic write up for this album in the archives over at Keep Me Alive right here.

So… what have you lot been listening to in 2019?  What have I overlooked and have been missing out on?  Let me know in the comments!

How I Messed Up My First Twisted Sister Purchase

I loved Twisted Sister videos when I was a kid.  Both of my parents were too cheap to get a cable channel past 13 on the dial, so my main avenue for watching music vids was the CBC’s Video Hits with host Samantha Taylor.

Hey, the show was legit.  They even picked up Much Music’s most recognizable host this side of Erica Ehm, Gallagher for a hot minute and renamed it Dan Gallagher’s Video Hits.

The graphics done up in all lower case let’s you know they mean business.

Anyway… I used to put on Video Hits just waiting to see what Huey Lewis, Cyndi Lauper, or David Lee Roth would do next. I didn’t care what the genre was as long as the videos were fun to watch!  Twisted Sister’s We’re Not Gonna Take It was one of my favs.

The winner of my award for best YouTube comment on this video goes to John Buhl: “5 cross dressers violently assault Vietnam Vet in his own home“.  LOL!

And how spoiled was this kid?  A TV, Atari 2600, a skateboard, AND a Fender Stratocaster all in his room?

rich kid

Although I suppose he does share the room with his brother considering there are two beds in it.

two beds

Even if the video is cheesier than a greasy plate of Applebee’s nachos, the premise was good enough for Michael Jackson to rip off seven years later:

I’m not sure why Mikey copied the intro since it doesn’t fit in with the song’s message.  He probably liked it because it featured a small boy. (Topical!)

ANYWAY…. back to my cock up…

We’re Not Gonna Take It is on Twisted Sister’s biggest selling album, Stay Hungry.  It was the only album of theirs that was on my radar and I was only casually looking for it.  If I found a playable copy on vinyl for $5(?), I’ll grab it kind of thing.

But then Blogger for the Bold, Super Dekes wrote a glowing review of their previous album, You Can’t Stop Rock N Roll and suddenly this becomes a priority.  I know of this album since I passed on the copy my sitting at my local store for $10.  The only tune I recognized on it at the time was I Am (I’m Me).  After reading how the rest is given the Super Dekes’ Seal o’ Approval, it reminded me of how I needed to give this a Spotify test run.

It passes the “steam a bit from my work computer” test, the “download onto my phone and listen while I’m out for a walk” test, and finally the “I’d rather listen to this again instead of a podcast for my commute home” test.  Not all albums past these tests.

I’m now have a mission for my next visit to the record shop.  Get You Can’t Stop Rock N Roll.  I’m unable to visit the store until the following weekend but luckily it is still there. Huzzah!  I inspect the vinyl before I buy.  The sleeve is in good shape and the disc will need a bit of cleaning but it is playable.  Worth $10.

outter sleeve

It isn’t until I get the LP home and put it on the platter that I notice the ROOKIE mistake I had made.  I didn’t check the label!  The disc in the sleeve is not You Can’t Stop Rock N Roll but it is Stay Hungry instead!

record label

D’oh!

Now here is my dilemma… do I return this or keep it in hope of finding a suitable sleeve for Stay Hungry and a playable disc for You Can’t Stop Rock N Roll.  I’m wondering if anyone has successfully done this in the past.  What are my chances of making this happen?  I’m not too confident and feel like I’ll be buying both again.  But if I keep it at least I can listen to Stay Hungry in the meantime!  What should I do?

AC/DC – ’74 Jailbreak EP Review

Forgive my nerdiness for this review, but I dislike ’74 Jailbreak‘s existence for a nerdy reason.  It is part of what makes collecting early AC/DC tunes more difficult than it should be. *pushes up glasses*

The confusion begins with its title.  It is incorrect.  The song ‘Jailbreak‘ wasn’t released or recorded in 1974.  It was part of the original Aussie version of Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap recorded in 1976.  With the rest of the EP’s tunes recorded in 1974 for the Aussie version of High Voltage, a more accurate title would be:

’74, Jailbreak

Meaning there are some songs on here from 1974 and ‘Jailbreak’.  But ‘Jailbreak’ is first on the track list.  So an even more accurate title would be:

Jailbreak, ’74

Just to be clear though, this EP wasn’t released in 1974.  It was released in 1984.  So I think a more accurate title would be:

Jailbreak, ’74, in ’84

Ah, but the cover photo is of Angus from no sooner than ’83.  I can tell because his Gibson SG here is set up with a vibrato bridge and a “zebra” pickup in the neck position.  This is a guitar he used almost exclusively during the Flick of The Switch tour.  See the following video (or just look at the thumbnail) and compare it with the the album cover:

 

'74 jailbreak

So really, the title should be:

Jailbreak, ’74, with a photo of Angus from no sooner than ’83, in ’84

OK, I’m taking the piss but I have to ask why does this bewildering EP exist?  Well, its premise is innocent enough.

With AC/DC’s Flick of The Switch released ’83, ’74 Jailbreak was designed to cover a gap before the band’s next album Fly On The Wall in ’85.  Ideally, what their label Atlantic should have done at this point is retire all international versions of AC/DC’s albums and made the Australian ones world-wide.  Maybe hold off on Dirty Deeds for a bit since its international release in North America just happened in ’81, but Aussie High Voltage and T.N.T would have been fair game.  And at least the mess would have begun to clean itself up 35 years ago.

But if we couldn’t have that, well… I suppose putting out some previously unreleased “rarities” isn’t the worst idea.  And it does makes sense to feature the song  ‘Jailbreak’.  Not only is it a solid rocker, it already had a video made in ’76 for Australian telly.  So, that would get them something for the MTV on the cheap.

But I can’t understand why they settled on an EP that only used 5 tracks:

  1. Jailbreak
  2. You Ain’t Got A Hold On Me
  3. Show Business
  4. Soul Stripper
  5. Baby, Please Don’t Go

…since they left 4 more still in Aussie limbo:

  1. Stick Around – Aussie High Voltage
  2. Love Song – Aussie High Voltage
  3. School Days – T.N.T.
  4. R.I.P. (Rock In Peace) – Aussie Dirty Deeds

Heck, add ‘Cold Hearted Man’, a track stuck in European limbo and we have a fairly solid album here.  By 1984 AC/DC were world-renowned so there was no excuse to hold back.

Anyway, I’ll eventually get reviewing the Aussie albums and I’ll go into more detail about the music then.  For now, I’ll just say the tunes picked for ’74 Jailbreak are a mixed bag of awesome and some forgivable “early band awkwardness”.  ‘Jailbreak‘ and the cover of Big Bill Broozy’s ‘Baby, Please Don’t Go’ are solid tunes.  The others are the better ones from Aussie High Voltage that I dig as an AC/DC fan.  Your mileage, however, may very.

As an AC/DC EP: 2/5
As a collector of all things AC/DC: Why does this exist?
Compared to everything else: It’s got Jailbreak on it so… 3/5

Max The Axe – Static Electric Album Review

Full Disclosure:  I was gifted a copy of this album by the Mighty Mike Ladano who John over at 2Loud2OldMusic accurately dubbed as: Max The Axe’s “PR guy“.  Also, Max The Axe’s lead singer Eric Litwiller goes by the moniker Uncle Meat; a “character” I enjoy reading about on Mike’s blog.  So take what you will from that.

All I can say is this is my honest thoughts on the album.  If I didn’t care for it I simply would not review it.  For the 15 or so people who read this blog (I love you all!), it would not be worth the hassle of getting into it over a negative review.  If asked, I’d just pretend to be aloof and claim to haven’t gotten around to listening to it yet, Bill Murray style.

So, I say this without reserve: Static Electric is solid rock goodness.

The album has several different flavours throughout its listen.  The first thing that stood out to me during the opener ‘River Grand‘, was how Mike Koutis (AKA Max the Axe) has an identifiable Iommi growl to his guitar tone.

But by the next song, however, the tone switches gears.  ‘Next Plane to Vegas‘ has a James Bond-ish less tremble sixties guitar riff, and a few of the tracks like ‘Sick of Living‘, ‘The Other Side‘, and ‘Uptite Friday Nite‘ have a garage rock vibe.  By the time we get to the album’s closer ‘Scales of Justice‘, we get a greater refined and polished rock tune.  Almost as if it belongs on a follow-up.

Regardless of the style though, every song is Max the Axe.  Their sound maybe garage-ish at times but the guitar playing and solos are closer to 70’s metal-rock, and Eric’s Jack Black-ian vocals are a consistent force that ties the tunes together.

I really enjoyed the vocal melodies; especially the choruses.  Even ‘Randy‘ with its repeating of “Randy”.  It has mysterious way of being a weird song at first, then growing on you after a few spins.  Since I listened to this album mostly in the car without the track listing, I couldn’t believe what my ears were telling me the first time I heard ‘Randy’.  I thought… Randy?… Are they singing Randy?… Who writes a song about a guy named Randy… That’s the guy from the Trailer Park Boys.

randy

Randy?

Nah, it’s got to be Mandy or something that sounds like Randy…  but no, it is Randy.  This is now one of my favourites on the album.  Here they are doing ‘Randy’ live courtesy of their PR department’s YouTube channel.  The tune starts one minute into the video:

It’s excellent.

My favourite, however, is ‘Gods On The Radio‘.  Dang, this is one catchy tune.  The lyrics are fun with references to Scott Baio and Phil Collins.  It has a great hook with the “You Gotta” chorus too.  This is the one that I play two or three times before moving on.  Good times.

All in all, Status Electric is a fun listen.  The only tune I really didn’t care for too much is ‘Call of The Wild‘ and it is not all that bad.  Big thanks to Mike for introducing me to this band.  Make sure to check out his review of the album:

REVIEW: Max the Axe – Status Electric (2018)

And one more plug for John’s too:

Max the Axe – ‘Status Electric’ – Album Review

I’ll be keeping an eye on their facebook page and hopefully one day swing by the Kitchener-Waterloo area to catch them live.

Book Review: Not Dead Yet by Phil Collins

Just like the last autobiography I read, Phil Collins is another angry dude that I wanted to read about.  I heard how he became a recluse who was fed up with all the trash said about him on the internet.  He became tired of the noise about how he “ruined” Genesis by pushing out lead singer Peter Gabriel, was responsible for cocking up the Led Zeppelin reunion at Live Aid in ’85, and produced some of Eric Clapton’s worst solo albums in the 80’s.  Well, considering what his life has been like for the last ten years I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that he has been oblivious to what any internet trolls have been saying about him.

In his autobiography, Not Dead Yet Phil explains the reasoning behind his retirement is how his body is failing him.  He begun taking cortisone shots in the ’80s which would relax his vocal cords and allow him to sing through sore throats and colds.  One of the side effect of cortisone, however, is osteoporosis.  Something that he wasn’t made aware of until much later in life.  So yeah, Phil’s got some weak bones.  His back received the brunt of the disease, which is now held together by eight screws.

Phil Collins Recording In Genesis

Phil Collins, the drummer for the prog rock group Genesis.

While his body began failing him, Phil began to wind down his career.  His final album of original material was Testify in 2002 which he followed with a Farewell tour in 2004 – 05.  He then wrapped up Genesis with their farewell tour in 2007-08, and he quickly got bored.

By 2010 he was back in the recording studio making a compilation of Motown covers and he compiled his band with original members of The Funk Brothers (the band who played many of the original Motown recordings) to get an authentic sound.  He planned on getting back into touring but could only manage six shows after he pinched a nerve in his left hand.  He could no longer grip onto a drumstick on his own.  He tried taping the stick to his hand but it clearly wasn’t working.

Forced to cancel the tour meant he now had a lot of time to fill.   He unfortunately turned to the bottle to fill his time.  The alcohol abuse mixed with the medication he was on for osteoporosis had disastrous consequences and he came close to death a few times.  So, yeah… that’s what he has been up to.

Now, as for the dirt I wanted to find out about: the rumors of how he pushed Peter Gabriel out of the Genesis is false.  Phil and Genesis’ former lead singer are still good friends.  Pete wanted to leave; it’s as simple as that.  Phil begrudgingly filled the void left behind the mic after the band couldn’t agree on a new singer and the studio time was ticking away.  He is very proud of how successful Genesis became when he, Mike Rutherford, and Tony Banks, were the only three original members left, but that was a complete uncertainty when Pete left.  At the time all but Pete wanted the band to stay together.

peter-gabriel-and-phil-collins

Phil Collins and Peter Gabriel during the Genesis years.  They’re still friends today.

Phil also had very little to do with the Led Zeppelin’s mangled reunion at Live Aid in ’85.  Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page and Robert Plant didn’t want to rehearse and couldn’t agree on a drummer to replace the late John Bonham.  Page wanted Tony Thompson and Plant wanted Phil.  They decided to go with two drummers.  This was before it was a Zeppelin “reunion” as John Paul Jones had yet to commit to the show, which happened at the last-minute.

Phil tried to arrange with Tony to keep the drumming simple, something he knew was necessary from experience playing with a second drummer in the past.  See what happens during Whole Lotta Love here at the 6:30 spot:

Tony is doing anything but keeping it simple, lol.  By 7:50 Phil is completely lost.

As for his work as a producer on those solo Clapton albums in the 80’s, people do remember the lackluster Behind the Sun from ’85.  He lays that pile of mediocrity on the record label who convinced Eric to re-record some tunes after hearing how “downbeat” the original was.  The result was a disjointed album that still sold much better than Clapton’s previous solo album Money and Cigarettes.  Conveniently forgotten, however, is Phil’s work on the follow-up album in 1986, August.  By then Phil’s No Jacket Required was a monster hit and the label stepped back.  This free-form collaboration of Eric’s blues rock mixed with Phil’s soul pop marked the beginning of Eric’s comeback; making August Eric’s best-selling solo album until the 90’s.

phil collins

Phil replaced all of his original album covers with current photos of his face for the Take a Look at Me Now boxset.  Unfortunately, this occurred after Not Dead Yet was published and I would have liked to get some insight on that decision.

Anyway, besides combating with the reality of aging and needing to slow down, as someone who grew from humble beginnings in London, Phil is loaded with stories and insight on becoming the only person to sell over 100 million albums as a solo artist and another 100 million as the front man for a rock band.  The only stuff I skimmed through in Not Dead Yet was when he was talking about his early childhood.  It was heavy on the British slang and I found it hard to follow, but things really pick up once we get closer to the Genesis years.  I do have a favorite story involving some Beatles, but I’m going to save it for another post.

I’m glad to see that Phil is back to touring, although at a much slower pace.  His back problems, an injury he received in the 80’s which caused one of the bones in his foot to chip, and the pinched nerve now have him sitting down when singing and using the aid of a cane to walk.  But it is a good sign that he is keeping his demons away by doing what he loves.  I recommend Phil’s book to anyone who is a fan of music in general.