Thursday, March 01, 2007

Bad Buys (Volume 2)

Once again, 5 garbage albums we have purchased:

Todays installment will focus on our guitar hero years.

It was a younger, more innocent time, that found a little Awkward Toad traveling the rolling hills of Limestone, a candy red Fender Stratocaster strapped across his tiny back, quietly assured of a lucrative, ax-shredding future of rock superstardom.
(It was an Amercian Standard Strat, mind you, no Mexican made, poorly constructed, second-rate nonsense for the son of Marion and Scotty.)

He was on his way to guitar lessons, where he weekly sat in a smoky basement and watched his neighbor Steve needle around the guitar neck for twenty minutes then hand it to the Toad and quickly teach him how to play "Smoke on the Water" or "Smells Like Teen Spirit" before collecting $20 dollars of his parents money. It may seem like it was a scam, until you realize that the University of the Arts got upwards of 40 grand from Mom and Pop Toad for doing about the same thing.

The following five albums appeared in the collection during this phase:

David Lee Roth - Eat 'Em and Smile - Steve Vai plays lead guitar on this '80's gem, Diamond Dave's second post-Van Halen effort. What's that? You can't believe Diamond Dave had post-Van Halen efforts? Well, apparently, you didn't come of age in the 1980's, possibly the worst era for popular music in recorded history.
(Close rival: 1590's - William Byrd hits a sophmore slump with Cantiones Sancrea II his totally overblown and self indulgent follow-up to the hugely popular Cantiones Sancrea I.) Highlights off Eat 'Em and Smile include the first single "Yankee Rose," which features a wailing, guitar/vocal call and response between Dave and Vai and the album cover art, which gives us Dave dressed in some unidentifiable, vaguely tribal face paint.

Eric Johnson - Tones - We actually own three Eric Johnson albums (the other two have way worse names - "Ah! Via Musicom" and "Venus Isle") but we chose to feature Tones because, well, it has a picture of the dude on the cover. Vaguely Rod Stewart without the Rod Stewart-quality, Johnson is revered by guitar magazines for his pristine tone, which, we have to say, is exceptional. Unfortunately, the songs themselves put you to sleep, especially on the tracks where he tries to sing. (Think late-era Eric Clapton as sung by Barry Manilow with a fifteen minute guitar solo in the Dorian mode.) All this being said, "Cliffs of Dover" is a hot track. You should download it.

Joe Satriani - Dreaming #11
- Look, some Joe Satriani albums are good, or at least interesting. The problem is that the Toad bought all of Joe Satriani's albums and tried vainly to learn the guitar solos from them. This one, an Ep released in 1988 after his breakthrough album Surfing with the Alien is described by as "a recommended disc for musicians and fans, but not essential to the casual collector." Removed from our guitar hero days, we now feel that nothing by Joe Satriani is essential, music-wise. However, fashion-wise, Satch's jacket on Dreaming #11's cover could be a must-have this coming spring.

Van Halen - OU812 - At this point, picking on Van Halen feels a bit like throwing food at the kid sitting by himself at lunch. It's easy and it's mean, but it must be done.
(Or at least it seemed like it had to be done, because every day of high school the Toad would get at least a few fries in the back.) We had a hard time deciding which album to include. OU812 gets the nod because of its ridiculous title, lame "family portrait" album cover, and completely unmemorable track list. Unlike most Halen records, which generally contain at least one tune that sticks in your head (sometimes to the point where you are pounding it against the pavement trying to forget the finger-tapping solo ) the cuts on Sammy Hagar's second effort with the group are tremendously unremarkable. We are looking at the track list and cannot conjure a single memory of any of these songs. "Source of Infection", "Finish What Ya Started", "Black and Blue"? Does anyone remember these things?

Yngwie J. Malmsteen - The Yngwie J. Malmsteen Collection - "Black Star", the Malmsteen collection's lead-off number, is pure guitar hero brilliance. It's 5 minutes of astonishingly pristine metal/classical shredding over a minimal, almost heartbeat-like drum and bass backing track. Anyone who can play 5 runs from this thing is a guitar god as far as we are concerned. Unfortunately, Yngwie's taste for pop music isn't quite so good. For most of the other tracks, he adds some lame metal crooner and wanks up and down the fretboard in between cliche lyrics like "Why did you turn away/Let your love fade away and die/You became so cold/You made me feel so old/You don't remember/I'll never forget!" Neither will we Yngwie, but we sure wish we could. Ohhh! Blaoww! Deal with that!

More to come...


At 7:17 AM, Blogger SMangat said...

Well done Birdman! Next step is to review all the Vai, Satriani and Eric Johnson albums and finish them off with a review of the G3 concert you hit up.

ps - didn't the guy who taught you guitar used to sit around in his drawers high on smack?

At 2:28 PM, Anonymous Mick said...

I think that album cover of Joe Satriani looks like a homosexual prince, if thats even possible.

At 3:13 PM, Anonymous Neil said...

Im very glad to see a return to this great feature...When I think about the hours wasted listening to those crappy "guitar heroes" I can think of only one group to blame, Guitar Teachers. Since I know our collections share many of these albums (in my defense I usually only have one album rather then their entire catalog) I can see how our fragile egg-shell minds were exploited by these so-called teachers. Anyway great work,

FYI: Bass is spelled wrong in the Yngwie portion.

p.s. Yngwie's music has been used to great effect in the popular indie/underground/off-boardway short film "Spanish Marionette Doll"

At 5:44 PM, Blogger The Awkward Toad said...

I did want to mention "Spanish Marionette Doll" but I thought it best to wait until the film finds a distributer and gets a broader release.

- thanks for the spelling correction

At 4:17 PM, Anonymous Lucinda said...

Thanks for writing this.


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