Five From the Shelf Friday – 2/17/23

Happy pre-weekend, y’all! The response to last week’s instalment of Five From the Shelf Friday was so upbeat it prompted me to continue on. I know I originally said I would write brief anecdotes about the albums I’ve selected, but, well, this week I’m a bit gabbier. I have a mix of rock, soul, electronic, metal and some horror romp music that’s far better than the dreck it serves. Enjoy, my friends!

Van Halen 5150

If you were around when it happened, you no doubt recall the vicious division inside the Van Halen camp nudging an angry David Lee Roth to go solo, while the band recruited sweat rocker Sammy Hagar to fill Roth’s seemingly irreplaceable shoes. The DLR band went large with Roth hiring the best freelancing guns available in 1986: Steve Vai, Billy Sheehan and Greg Bissonette. Eat ’em and Smile and Skyscraper were as large as they sounded, big-time anthem rock filled with far more flurrying chops and scales than Van Halen. Roth was out to make a point, a George Steinbrenner or Jerry Jones of the rock trade. And yet the home camp delivered two albums without Roth that defined a generation as much as the Roth-led Van Halen albums did. Some diehard Van Halen fans balked at Sammy Hagar’s run with the band on 5150, OU812 and For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge. In fact, so divisive are listeners this period of the band’s history is often referred to as the “Van Hagar” era. So competitive were the stakes between 5150 and Roth’s Eat ’em and Smile in 1986 it was the fans who were rewarded more than robbed. “Yankee Rose” versus “”Dreams,” whew, the stakes couldn’t have been higher back then.

For Van Hagar, I mean Van Halen’s purposes, 5150 became a summertime infatuation, even though it came out in March, and I had it on cassette on release day. So far in theory from its predecessors, 1984 on back, the emphasis on a more commercial sound, staked out with “Jump” and “Panama” an album prior, 5150 was a pop rock juggernaut in its own right. I mowed my parents’ lawn and idled on their yard swing with “Good Enough,” “Best of Both Worlds,” “Why Can’t This Be Love” and “Dreams” (perhaps the most uplifting song Eddie VH and company ever dropped) through my Walkman while my knees jackhammered in time to the manic craze of “Get Up.” TJ and I had a glorious revisit to 5150 in the car and we sang nearly the entire hook-laden album together, while she gyrated in her seat like we were at the old Capital Center near Washington, DC. I told her about the time I switched my Spanish teacher’s instructional cassette with 5150 in her player as a prank, Sammy Hagar’s lead-in yowl, “Heellllloooooo baaaaaaaby!” startling the entire class. Good times, Senora Kirschensteiner, you were such a great sport. Those are the things dreams of made of…

deadmau5 while (1<2)

I began my music journalism career in 2003 covering electronic and Goth. Back in the day, it was still called “techno” with its numerous subcategories “chill,” “house,” “trip hop,” “breakbeat,” “trance,” “ambient,” “downtempo” and of course, the blanket phrase, “electronica.” Nowadays, it’s simply “EDM.” Whatevs. Joel Thomas Zimmerman, known better behind a console and turntable as deadmau5, has become one of the industry’s most respected (and to some, as reviled as Paul Oakenfold and Moby) electronic artists. A lot of electronic music fans label deadmau5 as progressive house music, which is more applicable to the bookend of his eight studio album (at this time) catalog. Earlier albums like Get Scraped, Vexillology, Random Album Title, For Lack of a Better Name and 4X4=12 show deadmau5 more in humming DJ mode as one of the most skilled remixers out there. Yeah, Zimmerman’s balloonish mouse headgear onstage has been one of his gimmicky draws, even if Marshmello hijacked his shtick and ran to the bank with it. 2016’s W:/2016Album/ was a sort of return to basics for deadmau5, but it’s 2014’s while(1<2) showing the man’s true progressive side.

This is a double album depending less upon deadmau5’s trademark throbbing bass bombs (the whumping opening number “Avaritia” and “Infra Turbo Pigcar Racer” aside) and going for broke with more articulate structuring using downtempo and ambient elements. For certain, deadmau5 was flaunting his love of Trent Reznor and Nine Inch Nails and not just from the blistery remix of NIN’s “Survivalism.” It’s blatant amidst his own numbers, “Creep,” “Acedia,” “Invidia,” the “Coelacanth” interludes and “Errors in My Bread,” the latter seeming like Reznor’s own outtake from the With Teeth album. Many fans express their joy with “Seeya,” featuring the vocals of Colleen D’Agostino, yet my lock-in to procuring the rare Best Buy version of while(1<2) came thanks to my son, who suckered me into watching him play the first Goat Simulator in many sittings. The ragdoll effect video game features an appearance by deadmau5 in animated form jamming to a mindless, droning crowd atop a building roof to the infectious twisted disco fling, “Petting Zoo,” available only on the Best Buy edition. Ba bum bump, ba bum bump, ba bum bump, ba ba…

Friday the 13th Part VIII – Jason Take Manhattan score – Fred Mollin

Let’s face it; there’s only one reason to discuss Friday the 13th Part VIII – Jason Take Manhattan and that’s the music. I remember going to see Friday VIII in the theater with a buddy, turning it into a review assignment for the entertainment section of my college newspaper. I used the phrase “Pushing it?” as my by-line, since the eighth installment of the sleazy and gory (degrees varying per movie) horror series might as well have been called “Jason Take a Cruise” instead. To Vancouver, since it was used for most of the city footage doubling as New York. The film is an utter disgrace (though nowhere as asinine as Jason Goes to Hell and Jason X) and yet I have Fred Mollin’s highly effective, synth-clashed score. In fact, I confess to owning the scores for all of the first eight Friday the 13th films. I have no shame in it. I only own the first four and the sixth movies as remembrance pieces of my teen years. Back in the day, the Friday films were party time for 80s teenagers. Such a wonderful era to be alive with your rowdy peers from school hollering at the cannon fodder characters, throwing popcorn at the screen, scaring girls in the crowd, which, in turn, got the whole theater screaming then laughing. The carnival atmosphere for Jason Voorhees’ antics stopped at the fifth film, which carries the notorious misnomer “A New Beginning,” this following the fourth film’s blunt lie of being “The Final Chapter.” But I digress. The preposterous ending of Friday V changed fans’ outlook, even though the sixth film, Jason Lives, was one of the best and funniest in the series. The period of forgiveness was short-lived.

By the time Jason Takes Manhattan came about, that theater was half full and nobody was laughing or chattering. A lot of groaning and complaining, though. Death by guitar bludgeoning? Punching a boxer’s head off with one blow in a seriously dumb duke atop a rooftop? Jesus wept. Only when Jason flashed his gnarled face to a group of smartass punkers in Times Square did anyone show life they were still there watching. Some people complained the lack of Harry Manfredini’s trusty ki ki ki ma ma ma stalking echo within the music did Friday VIII a bigger disservice. Manfredini composed the first six films, though some passages were cannibalized over and over throughout the other films including Part VII: The New Blood, which Fred Mollin contributed to. All said in what was a suicide mission, you have to give Mollin credit for his moxy being affiliated with a such a turd. A shame, since he puts a game effort into his work here.

Separated from the film itself, Mollin’s cataclysmic keys were representative of the direction horror soundtracks were heading in the late 80’s, though the tip of the hat goes to John Harrison earlier in the decade with his synth scores behind Creepshow, Day of the Dead and Tales From the Darkside. Even Manfredini himself expanded his horizons by blending synths and electronic into his often-peppy score for Jason Lives. Fred Mollin, who would go on to score Friday the 13th: The Series for television, did a terrific job in a wasted effort, so much his opening rock number, “The Darkest Side of the Night” became an unexpected fan jam only to horror geeks. Partnering up with multi-instrumentalist Stan Meissner, the song is included on the expanded Friday the 13th Part VIII soundtrack, which also includes the terrific rocker “Broken Dream” and “J.J.’s Blues,” numbers created for the female axe shredder in the film, played and pantomimed by Saffron Henderson. I am a total whore for “The Darkest Side of the Night,” which resurfaced again under the band name, Metropolis, go figure. Still, the pumping number remains one of my favorite power rock cuts of the entire decade. Just show some respect and try to survive…on the darkest night…

VoivodKilling Technology

1987, one of my all-time favorite years. I was 17, a junior in high school, working 25 sometimes 30 hours a week in a grocery store outside of school. I had a girlfriend, one I thought I would one day marry, until she went away to college the following year. A lot of excellent memories of 1987. Headbangers Ball ruled midnight Saturdays. U2’s The Joshua Tree, Whitesnake’s seventh self-titled album, Manowar’s Fighting the World, GBH’s No Need to Panic, Public Enemy’s Yo! Bum Rush the Show and Voivod’s Killing Technology.

Voivod is, perhaps, a new name to you, but for the metal music society, this Quebecois progressive thrash band are nothing less than icons. Far more advanced than their speed metal contemporaries, decades ago and even now, Voivod is one of the dearest bands to my heart. I always say they’re in my DNA. I kept a calm reserve when I interviewed lead vocalist Denis “Snake” Belanger for Pit magazine, and I’m thrilled to pieces I maintain friendly open dialogue with former bassist, Jean-Yves “Blacky” Theriault, one of the fiercest and most articulate players to pick up the instrument. His low-keyed fuzz tones are all his own and referred to in the industry as a “blower bass” sound. The man could keep up, note-for-note, with Voivod’s late guitarist, Denis “Piggy” D’Amour, a shred legend in his own right.

Over the years, Voivod crafted ingenuine prog metal masterworks like Dimension Hatross, Nothingface, Angel Rat and later after Piggy’s death, The Wake and Target Earth. This is a band that once housed former Metallica’s Jason Newsted, for the record. Before all that, there was Killing Technology, the band’s third offering. On Voivod’s prior two albums, War and Pain and Rrroooaaarrr, speed and punk crunch were key, while Killing Technology dusted nearly all thrash and death metal acts of the late Eighties. This while fusing unfathomable melody amidst the breakneck velocity of “Overreaction,” “Tornado,” “Too Scared to Scream,” “This is Not an Exercise” and the outrageously fast title track. I was blown out of the water when I first heard Killing Technology, my first introduction to Voivod. It was an instant love affair which prompted me to declare Voivod in the same college newspaper I mentioned earlier as “the band of the future” during the Nothingface cycle. Their former label, Mechanic Records, were so thankful for my write-up they mailed me a full press kit with glossy photos, stickers, posters and my very first CD copy of Nothingface. This, before I actually owned a CD player. When I pulled Killing Technology down for a listen this week, I let myself loose like I did at age 17. Age 52, it hurts more to headbang, but well worth it, in this case.

Diana Ross + The SupremesThe Ultimate Collection

My early childhood years were filled with psychedelic rock and soul. Motown was always playing in the apartment my mom and dad began our lives in. Even though they would divorce after eight years, I still hear the echoes of Janis Joplin caterwauling over the acid screech of Big Brother and Holding Company on the Cheap Thrills album, while my dad and mom shared a lot of soul and R&B albums which mostly went to my dad, then came to me later. We’re talking Al Green, The Four Tops, The Temptations and of course, Diane Ross + The Supremes. Unfortunately, the records were in such disrepair I had to scrap them. However, for one of the finest Christmases I’ve ever had in 1996, my mother stuffed a box filled with classic soul and funk CDs to reinstall them to my library. All of the aforementioned, plus Barry White, Stevie Wonder, Curtis Mayfield, The Spinners, Isaac Hayes, Earth, Wind and Fire, Marvin Gaye, Sam Cooke, Parliament, Kool and the Gang, Maxine Nightingale, Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, just a big box o’ soul. Keep in mind, my momma, whiter than white but hoisting a fistful of hippie inside, never missed an episode of Soul Train back in the day. I can still see her grinding that booty all around our living room on Saturday afternoons. Funny enough, the country stylings of Hee Haw followed Soul Train on our local UHF station and she watched that as well. It taught me early on to give a chance to music from all walks of life.

Later in life, I visited the Stax Records Museum in Memphis and rounded out my soul collection, coming home with Sam and Dave, Booker T & The MGs, Carla Thomas, Rufus Thomas, The Bar-Kays, The Dramatics and a few others. I kept comparing Stax to Motown in my head since it’s an inevitable topic, given the two classic soul labels were vying to rule the American airwaves. In terms of mainstream crossover acceptance, Motown won out easily, culling a diverse audience of races, while Stax had more “it” factor, more punch, more fang, more funk. Stax has a delicious dirty tone I love far more than Motown, and yet, what came out of Motown was soooooo grand, so layered, so rich. Three core guitars, including that shrill, singular note strike floating in the back of most Motown jams. The heated beats, the tapered textures of horns, strings, xylophone, organs, piano and bass…and then…Diana Ross and her Supremes.

My dad had the Supremes A’Go-Go and I Hear a Symphony albums and I used to stare at the cover of the former album with Mary Wilson, Florence Ballard, and the supremest of The Supremes, Diana Ross, twisting and jiving inside separate windows. I loved their colorful mod clothes, I loved their beautiful skin and ‘dos. It never once registered to me back then they were black, and I was white. I was smitten by them. When I heard them sing, I was entranced. As a 52-year-old man going on 53, I still am. This collection my mom selected for me is reminder of what a hot-selling powerhouse The Supremes were. While the biggest tunes they did are front-loaded, it’s simply awesome to hear how many hits continue to roll on this compilation. It’s damned hard to resist the lovesick dreaminess of “Where Did Our Love Go,” “Baby Love,” “Come See About Me,” “You Can’t Hurry Love,” “Reflections,” “Back In My Arms Again” and “Stop! In the Name of Love.” There is very little filler on this 25-song comp, making it mandatory if you want the Supremes in your life. What resonates harder the older you get is the estrogen-fueled retaliation torching a toxic relationship with the snarling “You Keep Me Hanging On.” Or the fierce defiance of “Love Child,” as much as the hopeful ode to love eternal at the end of the collection, “Someday We’ll Be Together.” Oh yes we will. Yes we will.

–Ray Van Horn, Jr.

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