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R.I.P. Sammi Curr (1947 – 1986)

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Sammi Curr
1947 – 1986

One metal legend that I’ve never really discussed has been “Rock’s Chosen Warrior” — Sammi Curr.  A former student at Lakeridge High School, Sammi’s aspirations went higher than being stuck in his small town. It’s no secret that Sammi was an angry young man growing up. He cared little for authority and used his rebellious nature to propel himself to the top of the heavy metal heap in the mid-1980s. With his dangerous attitude and shock rock antics, he became a rock icon, a living legend, and amassed a large loyal teenage fanbase.

Sammi was a controversial figure during his time. While popular with teenagers, his music, lyrics and stage show were extremely controversial with parents, schools, politicians and members of the religious community. In a time when bands like Megadeth, W.A.S.P. and Motley Crue ruled the airwaves, it was Sammi Curr that felt the wrath of the media and concerned citizens the most.

That’s not to say that Sammi didn’t encourage the controversy though. Ego was another driving factor for Curr. He thrived on the adoration of his young fans and on the hatred of his detractors. Like many rock stars, Sammi wanted the attention and he lived the image of the “bad boy” to its fullest. You can’t drink blood straight from a snake’s mouth onstage and not expect some people to get up in arms about it.

Spending the majority of his music career signed to Waste City Records, some of Curr’s most loved (and despised) songs are “Trick or Treat”, “Fuck With Fire”, “Burn in Metal” and “Torture’s Too Kind”. It was in those last three songs that he used the technique of backmasking. Whether done for fun and as a gimmick or if there was a more sinister intention there, I don’t know. There are many who will argue either side.

In October 1986, Sammi petitioned to play a free concert at his old high school’s Halloween dance. He was denied this opportunity by the PTA and died just days before Halloween, under mysterious circumstances, in a hotel fire.

Sammi’s final album was to be called Songs in the Key of Death but it has never been released to the public in its entirety. The demos were set to debut on a local radio station in Sammi’s hometown at midnight on Halloween (per Sammi’s request) in 1986 but there was a malfunction with the broadcast. The demos have since gone missing.

Sammi Curr lived fast and died young. Perhaps for someone him, there was no other way.

“You cannot legislate morality, or music, or people’s minds… or we’ll bring you down, man!” – Sammi Curr

Black Sabbath – 13 [Review]

Black Sabbath – 13 [Best Buy Deluxe Edition]
2013, Republic Records

Disc 1
1. “End of the Beginning” 8:05
2. “God Is Dead?” 8:52
3. “Loner” 4:59
4. “Zeitgeist” 4:37
5. “Age of Reason” 7:01
6. “Live Forever” 4:46
7. “Damaged Soul” 7:51
8. “Dear Father”

Disc 2
1. “Methademic” 5:57
2. “Peace of Mind” 3:40
3. “Pariah” 5:34
4. “Naïveté in Black”

Band:
Ozzy Osbourne – Vocals, Harmonica
Tony Iommi – Guitar
Geezer Butler – Bass

Additional Musicians:
Brad Wilk – Drums

Produced by Rick Rubin

I won’t get into all of the stats and figures but it’s been a long time since these guys have played on an album together as Black Sabbath. It’s just a shame they couldn’t work out something with Bill Ward in order to do a TRUE reunion album/tour.

Still, this is a very important time in the band’s history. Though I’m not an Ozzy fan, I can still agree that this is a monumental occasion, so I’ll give my thoughts track-by-track:

  • “End of the Beginning” – This one starts off like something from The Devil You Know with a heavy, slow and doomy vibe. It picks up later in the song but at 8 minutes, it’s not how I would’ve chosen to kick off the album.
  • “God Is Dead?” – I can’t hear some of the guitar parts in this song without thinking of Weezer’s “Undone – The Sweater Song”. I can’t be the only one that hears that, can I? We’re now only two tracks into the album but sitting 17 minutes! Again, I question the track listing. Decent song but like most of the world, my socks weren’t knocked off when I heard this.
  • “Loner” – Finally the speed is picking up a bit and look — this song is only 5 minutes long! We even get an “Alright now!” from Ozzy.
  • “Zeitgeist” – Essentially this is “Planet Caravan, Part II”. If you had told me this was either a Pink Floyd song or recorded by Sabbath in the mid-70s, I’d believe you. It’s a good song but I’m a bit disappointed they basically tried to recreate something they’d previously written. Seems a bit lazy to me. But hey, they aren’t the first band to ever do that.
  • “Age of Reason” – Love the drums here (sorry, Bill!). One of the first songs from this album that grabbed me immediately.
  • “Live Forever” – Another much-need slightly more up-tempo number.
  • “Damaged Soul” – Ugh. Another 8 minute track. Fuzzy 1970s stoner vibe. Another track that really sounds like something the band recorded “back in the day”.
  • “Dear Father” – Probably feeling this song the least of all on the album.

That finishes up the proper album, now onto the deluxe edition tracks:

  • “Methademic” – Shame this one was relegated to being on the deluxe edition!
  • “Peace of Mind” – I know ’70s Sabbath when I hear it. This is it.
  • “Pariah” – Another good rocker. Has a cool melodic opening.
  • “Naïveté in Black” – Exclusive to the Best Buy edition of the deluxe album. The fastest song out of both discs. Why didn’t they write more songs like these? Kinda reminds me of modern day Metallica.

Disc 2 is very strong. The songs are a bit faster and much shorter. Disc 1 has its moments but it’s just too slow and time-consuming for its own good. Surely we could’ve swapped out “God Is Dead?”, “Damaged Soul”, and/or “Dear Father” for any of these four tracks! It’s a strange choice for them to include so many slow and plodding 7-9 minute epics on the album when they had some very good 4-5 minute rockers being released as bonus content.

13 is going over well with the Ozzy fans and I can see why. It’s definitely got that old-school Sabbath vibe to it that should be pleasing to those that prefer the band’s Ozzy years. Being someone who isn’t an Ozzy fan, I can admit that this is certainly a good album, possibly will make my Top 10 for the year, but I don’t think it’s great and it’s probably not something I’ll ever listen to much again. I can’t imagine thinking, “Man, I really need to hear that 9 minute song Black Sabbath wrote back in 2013!”

Highlights: “The End of the Beginning”, “Loner”, “Zeitgeist”, “Age of Reason”, “Live Forever”, “Methademic”, “Peace of Mind”, “Pariah”, “Naïveté in Black”

http://www.blacksabbath.com
http://www.facebook.com/BlackSabbath

Buy the album at Amazon.com

Zakk Wylde – Bringing Metal to the Children: The Complete Berzerker’s Guide to World Tour Domination (Book Review)

Bringing Metal to the Children: The Complete Berseker’s Guide to World Tour Domination
By Zakk Wylde with Eric Hendrikx
(2012, HarperCollins/William Morrow & Co.)

While I’ve always thought Zakk comes across as a cool guy, I’ve never been a huge fan of the music he’s played. That’s not a knock on his skills, I know he’s a great guitar player it’s just that Ozzy has never appealed to me much and I think all Black Label Society albums sound the same, give or take a few tracks. Still, when the opportunity to read this book came about, I figured it would be worth looking into because Zakk is a true rock star yet seems much more down to Earth than other “rock stars”.

If you’re looking for a detailed history about Zakk’s life, you aren’t going to find it here. You do pick up bits about Zakk’s early days and his family and home life but this is less of an autobiography and more of a humorous take on the good & bad that occurs on the way to finding your place in the world as a viking god of metal. The book is what the title says: a guide to world tour domination.

Mostly told through Zakk’s voice, co-author Eric Hendrikx handles a lot of the introductions to each chapter and a number of sidebars. Each one is so hilariously over the top, making metal sound so epic and majestic you’d swear these intros were written either by Jack Black or Manowar. There are also a few other “guest” writers such as UFC fighter Forrest Griffin, WWE pro wrestler Chris Jericho, TNA pro wrestler Bully Ray (aka – Bubba Ray Dudley), Zakk’s wife and various other friends & BLS bandmates.

This book is definitely not for the timid. The book is filled with very colorful language on each page and lots of gross out humor. If you’re turned off by tons of cursing, alcohol, detailed accounts of bodily functions and lots of talks about penis & vagina don’t bother picking this book up. The things Zakk says about his wife! That gal has a great sense of humor to sign off on this book.

There are stories involving Ozzy but the book mostly focuses on Zakk’s time since starting up Black Label Society. It’s obvious Zakk takes heavy metal and the Black Label brotherhood very seriously but at the same time everything is open for jokes. I really enjoyed the self-deprecating humor that Zakk displays in the book. Nothing is off limits and the book is written tongue in cheek. He’s not some rock star looking down on everyone trying to play it off like he’s the coolest guy around (though he may be) saying “here’s what you need to do if you wanna make it like I did, kid”.

Zakk may not drink anymore but he’s comes across as the kind of guy you could just walk up to and shoot the breeze with at a bar and have totally normal conversation. Books like these can sometimes be used as a weapon to take shots at certain people but Zakk doesn’t do that here (well, maybe other than the music labels) and I have to commend him for that. It’s a fun book with not a single self-important or mean-spirited page to be found.

While Ozzy fans and BLS fans should have a particular interest in this book, I also recommend it to metal fans in general if you’re looking for a good laugh and some fun/gross stories about playing in a rock ‘n’ roll band.

Buy the book at Amazon.com

Book Review – RAT SALAD: Black Sabbath, The Classic Years 1969 – 1975

Rat Salad: Black Sabbath, The Classic Years, 1969 – 1975
(2006, St. Martin’s Press)
By Paul Wilkinson

Here is a short review for a book I had considered buying on and off for years. While I have read a number of Black Sabbath books, I held off on this for awhile because it focuses on the Ozzy era up through 1975 and it’s well-known that I prefer the likes of Ronnie James Dio & Tony Martin over Ozzy Osbourne’s tenure. Still, when I found out it was available from the local library, I checked it out and gave it a shot.

To be honest, I got about 80 pages into this 240 page book before I decided to walk away from it. I am a huge Sabbath fan but you not only need to be a major Ozzy-era fan but also a musician to really get the most out of this book. All the talk about C sharp, E minor or whatever is absolutely boring to me. I am not a musician, so that detailed information means nothing to my brain. I read a review that stated this book is like a text book, in some ways, I agree.

In addition to that, the author tries to interject his own personal history into the book. I found this to be quite odd and it really disrupts the flow of the book whenever he delves into his personal life. If he wants to talk about how Sabbath affected his teenage years, fine, but I don’t care to learn about his school days, his best friends or first kiss. It’s really out of place and the author comes off as a self-important snob but then I guess most of us music critics are exactly that.

Bottom line: if you love the early years of Black Sabbath AND are a musician, you’ll probably like the book a lot. For those of us that like to listen but can’t play a note, there are much better books on Black Sabbath out there.

Buy ‘Rat Salad’ at Amazon.com

Stryper – The Covering

Stryper – The Covering (2011, Big3 Records)

1. “Set Me Free” … 3:45
2. “Blackout” … 3:58
3. “Heaven and Hell” … 6:11
4. “Lights Out” … 3:44
5. “Carry On Wayward Son” … 5:16
6. “Highway Star” … 5:45
7. “Shout It Out Loud” … 3:15
8. “Over the Mountain” … 4:21
9. “The Trooper” … 3:53
10. “Breaking the Law” … 3:02
11. “On Fire” … 3:08
12. “Immigrant Song”  … 2:18
13. “God” … 4:55

Band:
Michael Sweet – Lead Vocals, Guitar, Backing Vocals
Oz Fox – Guitar, Backing Vocals
Timothy Gaines – Bass, Backing Vocals
Robert Sweet – Drums

Additional Musicians:
Charles Foley – Keyboards, Organ, Piano

Producer: Michael Sweet

And Stryper continues their trend for having AWFUL album covers. =P

Luckily, the album art is not a good indicator of the music itself because this is seriously one great album of covers! When I first heard it was going to be a cover album, I kind of rolled my eyes. That’s usually a sign that a band is slowing down and/or giving up on new material but then they started releasing all these samples and they sounded amazing. I guess the band has caught some flack from their Christian fanbase for having the gall to cover secular music and evil bands such as Judas Priest, Black Sabbath and KISS but whatever. Get over yourselves! Christian acts don’t need to be singing about God & Jesus in every single song. Just because you want to cover Van Halen and Scorpions it doesn’t mean you’ve turned your back on the Lord.

Anyway, what a great line-up of bands to cover! In order, they are: Sweet, Scorpions, Black Sabbath, UFO, Kansas, Deep Purple, KISS, Ozzy Osbourne, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Van Halen and Led Zeppelin. The only original song of the bunch is “God” which is a fantastic hard rocker that just doesn’t let up and gives me hope that maybe the band will put out an entirely new and original album later this year.

It was Murder By Pride that pulled me onto the Stryper bandwagon. That was a very good album. Sometimes a veteran act seems to be going through the motions even when they release new material but that wasn’t the case then and even though the band is covering songs here, they still sound energetic and on fire. “God” gives me hope that maybe the band will put out an entirely new and original album later this year because they are on a roll.

The band stays pretty faithful to the source material only making slight alterations here and there but these are some killer covers. “Blackout” and “Lights Out” are pure fire and it’s interesting to hear Michael Sweet vocals on these songs. I think he’s got a unique singing style and it’s interesting hearing him find some middle ground between his own style and the styles in which these songs were originally sung.

One of the better cover albums I’ve heard. Essential pickup for 2011.

Highlights: “Set Me Free”, “Blackout”, “Lights Out”, “Shout It Out Loud”, “On Fire”, “God”

http://www.stryper.com/
http://www.facebook.com/Stryper

Buy ‘The Covering’ at Amazon.com

Black Sabbath – Black Sabbath

Black Sabbath – Black Sabbath [Remastered] (1987, Warner Bros. Records)
Original Release: 1970, Warner Bros. Records

1. “Black Sabbath” … 6:20
2. “The Wizard” … 4:24
3. “Wasp”/”Behind the Wall of Sleep”/”Bassically”/”N.I.B.” … 9:45
4. “Wicked World” … 4:47
5. “A Bit of Finger”/”Sleeping Village”/”Warning” … 14:15

Band:
Ozzy Osbourne – Vocals, Harmonica
Tony Iommi – Guitar
Geezer Butler – Bass
Bill Ward – Drums

Producer: Rodger Bain

I hate when songs are combined onto one track. This seems to be a common practice with albums from the early ’70s. What is the point? This is a 5-track CD that could’ve easily been made into 10 (even though a few are instrumentals). The UK Vertigo Records release of this album didn’t combine songs onto one track so why did Warner?

Anyway, this is yet another album that is so classic and influential it’s been talked to death already so what can I really add? “Black Sabbath” is a purely evil sounding song and you can here the complete heavy metal genre stemming from it. “The Wizard” features the band’s blues roots, coming off like a Led Zeppelin rocker. Of course, “N.I.B.” is another classic as well in which you can here the song’s influence in many other metal bands. The rest of the album furthermore displays the blueprint for a number of different metal genres like doom metal and stoner metal.

I can’t say this album is a favorite of mine (the Ozzy years have never been my preference), but this album’s power and impact and legacy cannot be denied. One of the most important rock albums of all time.

Highlights: “Black Sabbath”, “The Wizard”, “N.I.B.”

www.black-sabbath.com

Ozzy Osbourne – The Ultimate Sin

Ozzy Osbourne – The Ultimate Sin [Remastered] (1995, Epic Records)
Original Release: 1986, Epic Records

1. “The Ultimate Sin” … 3:45
2. “Secret Loser” … 4:08
3. “Never Know Why” … 4:27
4. “Thank God for the Bomb” … 3:53
5. “Never” … 4:17
6. “Lightning Strikes” … 5:16
7. “Killer of Giants” … 5:41
8. “Fool Like You” … 5:18
9. “Shot in the Dark” … 4:16

Band:
Ozzy Osbourne – Vocals
Jake E. Lee – Guitar
Phil Soussan – Bass
Randy Castillo – Drums

Additional Musicians:
Mike Moran – Keyboards

An okay album that, despite the very metal looking original cover, is firmly dwelling in the realm of commercial (pop) metal. It’s a slice of cheese pizza loaded with Parmesan. If you don’t believe me, all you need to do is look at photos of Ozzy and his band from this time. I’ve always thought Ozzy looked ridiculous with that blonde hair and sequined, sparkly robes and pants.

The album starts off pretty good and promising with the catchy “The Ultimate Sin” and “Secret Loser” but falls apart over the course of the next three tracks. The action picks up again with “Lightning Strikes” and “Killer of Giants” (which was the original title of the album) and ends with “Shot in the Dark”, the real reason I bought this album. I’ve always loved that song and it’s probably my favorite Ozzy song, period. On this remastered edition (yes, again with the awful border on the cover), “Shot in the Dark” has been edited down for some reason.

Basically, despite a few cool songs, this is just another Ozzy album to me and I only bought it because I own pretty much everything else Sabbath-related and I was able to get this for just a few bucks.

Highlights: “The Ultimate Sin”, “Secret Loser”, “Lightning Strikes”, “Killer of Giants”, “Shot in the Dark”

http://www.ozzy.com
http://www.facebook.com/ozzyosbourne
http://www.myspace.com/ozzyosbourne

Ozzy Osbourne – No More Tears

Ozzy Osbourne – No More Tears (1991, Epic Records)

1. “Mr. Tinkertrain” … 5:55
2. “I Don’t Want to Change the World” … 4:04
3. “Mama, I’m Coming Home” … 4:11
4. “Desire” … 5:45
5. “No More Tears” … 7:23
6. “S.I.N.” … 4:46
7. “Hellraiser” … 4:51
8. “Time After Time” … 4:20
9. “Zombie Stomp” … 6:13
10. “A.V.H.” … 4:12
11. “Road to Nowhere” … 5:09

Band:
Ozzy Osbourne – Vocals
Zakk Wylde – Guitar
Bob Daisley – Bass
Mike Inez – Bass
Randy Castillo – Drums
John Sinclair – Keyboards

Producer: Duane Baron & John Purdell

Here’s the thing about Ozzy: I know he has this tag as being the “godfather of heavy metal” but other than the Sabbath years he’s never really been all that heavy to my ears. Though metal and at the very least hard rock, his solo stuff has always had a more commercial melodic sound so I’ve never really gotten the hype surrounding him being the “Prince of Darkness” (let’s be honest, a lot of his stuff has a pop-metal vibe). I’ve found that throughout most of his career, he’s a mediocre singer who has been lucky enough to almost always be surrounded by talent musicians and songwriters.

Onto the album itself, No More Tears is one of Ozzy’s best selling albums and featured a number of hit singles. For this reason, despite having just recently purchased the album, I’m kind of already sick of it because I know these songs well. “Mama, I’m Coming Home”, “Time After Time” and “No More Tears” are still radio staples in my area after all these years so it’s hard to judge them with a clear mind and say whether they are true album highlights because I’m so sick of both. It’s really the lesser known songs that I find myself enjoying. I think “Desire” and “Hellraiser” are especially strong (Lemmy wrote lyrics for both).

A classic to many, filler to me.

Highlights: “Mr. Tinkertrain”, “Desire”, “Hellraiser”, “Road to Nowhere”

http://www.ozzy.com
http://www.facebook.com/ozzyosbourne
http://www.myspace.com/ozzyosbourne

Metal Evil Is Here

 

As I’ve mentioned on the Metal Excess Facebook page, for the month of October I will be reviewing some of the darker bands in rock history in order to celebrate Halloween! I’ve got a lot of good stuff lined up from W.A.S.P., Lizzy Borden, Black Sabbath, Ozzy and more! So keep checking back because this month METAL EXCESS is METAL EVIL! >=E

OZZY OSBOURNE – Scream

Ozzy Osbourne – Scream (2010, Epic Records)

1. “Let It Die” … 6:05
2. “Let Me Hear You Scream” … 3:25
3. “Soul Sucker” … 4:34
4. “Life Won’t Wait” … 5:06
5. “Diggin’ Me Down” … 6:03
6. “Crucify” … 3:29
7. “Fearless” … 3:41
8. “Time” … 5:31
9. “I Want It More” … 5:36
10. “Latimer’s Mercy” … 4:27
11. “I Love You All” … 1:04

Band:
Ozzy Osbourne – Vocals
Gus G. – Guitar
Rob “Blasko” Nicholson – Bass
Tommy Clufetos – Drums, Percussion
Adam Wakeman – Keyboards

Producer: Ozzy Osbourne & Kevin Churko

I picked this one up along with Vince Neil’s Tattoos & Tequila at BestBuy.com for $7.99 and free shipping and just like the Vince Neil album, I originally had no plans to pick it up. That’s the one good thing about the music industry being in the dumpster these days — low prices finally, otherwise I wouldn’t have given this album a second thought.

At $8, I figured if I didn’t like the album I wouldn’t be losing too much and at least it’d be another new release to review. To my surprise, I’m actually enjoying the album a lot. It was a blind purchase, I hadn’t read any reviews at the time of purchase and it’s a good thing — most reviews are saying it’s either average or bad. Of course, I’m wouldn’t really call myself an Ozzy fan so my expectations were quite low in the first place and went in with an open mind.

It seems the major controversy surrounding this album is the new guitarist Gus G. replacing Zakk Wylde. Honestly, you really can’t tell Zakk’s not here. Most of the album was written by the time Gus signed on and there was very little wiggle room to leave his own personal stamp on the songs. He’s basically playing as if he was Zakk which makes you wonder why Ozzy/Sharon got rid of Zakk in the first place. I think most fans would have accepted Gus with open arms if he had been given free rein but the fact that he wasn’t seems to be the deciding factor for most people. I’m told Gus is a great guitarist from his days in Firewind but I’m totally unfamiliar with that band. Oh well, I’m sure within the next year or so Ozzy will put out yet another live album to document the upcoming tour and then maybe the guitar aficionados will be pleased with Gus’ performance then.

Scream keeps the pace with his last two albums… or with what I’ve heard from them. Ozzy’s always done a good job of keeping his sound updated (even if the songs themselves aren’t always good) and he continues on the post-grunge/nu-metal/low-tuned guitars path that he started with 2001’s Down to Earth. There’s not a lot of flash on this album, it’s modern sounding heavy metal and the only time Ozzy gets close to his ’80s heyday is with the ballads but those ballads are very well done. The album is bogged down with a few generic metal numbers but overall I’ve enjoyed the it… and a bit more than self-proclaimed Ozzy fans have apparently!

Previous to this, the only Ozzy albums I’ve owned were Blizzard of Ozz and Diary of a Madman. Both albums have their moments but neither are personal favorites of mine. I’ve just never taken to Ozzy’s voice or bought into the whole image that he’s the end-all be-all of heavy metal. He’s always been a bumbling fool to me, even previous to becoming a reality star/heavy metal joke. Still, I’ve come to appreciate his run with Black Sabbath and after being entertained by this disc, I’m interested in checking out some of his other solo work.

The Ozzy logo and album title you see on the album cover is not actually a part of the artwork. For my copy, it was a sticker on the cellophane wrapper. Pretty strange but it peeled off easy & clean and I slapped it on the cover of the jewel case to make it look proper.

Highlights: “Let It Die”, “Soul Sucker”, “Life Won’t Wait”, “Diggin’ Me Down”, “Fearless”, “Time”

http://www.ozzy.com/
http://www.myspace.com/ozzyosbourne

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