After a week of vacation and a long week of after-vacation catch-up, I’m back with a Friday Five. I know you’re excited.
Dio - "The Last in Line" (The Last in Line, 1984)
One of my favorite Dio songs, and Vivian Campbell just rips on that guitar solo. Too bad the video was so cheesy. Cyborg overlords harnessing the power of teenagers playing video games?! But hey, it was the 80s.
Queen - "You Take My Breath Away" (A Day at the Races, 1976)
Beautifully melancholy tune that is reminiscent of Sheer Heart Attack's “Lily of the Valley” in places.
Led Zeppelin - “Hots on for Nowhwere” (Presence, 1976)
Boogie number that I nearly always manage to skip when listening to Presence. It’s not that it’s a bad song, but how in the world can you top “Achilles’ Last Stand”?!
Poundhound - "Rev" (Massive Grooves From The Electric Church Of Psychofunkadelic Grungelism Rock Music, 1998)
“Have you ever been to the electric church?” 21-second opening track from Doug (dUg) Pinnick’s Poundhound solo project that may have been the inspiration for his “Welcome to the First Church of Rock ‘n’ Roll” speech during the middle section of “Over my Head” on recent King’s X tours. I love Doug in the context of King’s X and even most of his side-projects, but for some reason I’ve never really been able to fully get into his solo stuff. By the way, he has new solo album called “Naked” due out in May. Not necessarily my cup o’ tea, but it might be yours. And with that, I have written more about a throwaway intro track than any other song in my Five. Meh.
Anthrax - "Packaged Rebellion" (Sound of White Noise, 1993)
Some Bush-era Anthrax closes out today’s Five. I didn’t quite get this album at the time, what with the departure of Belladonna and the change of style, but I’ve grown to really like it over the years. “If you say it, mean it; if you mean it, do it.”
Queen, KISS, King’s X, Spock’s Beard, and Saxon? Hard to ask for a better Friday Five!
Queen - "Flick of the Wrist" (Sheer Heart Attack, 1974)
I have expressed my love of Queen’s Sheer Heart Attack here, haven’t I?! I thought so. I have absolutely nothing bad to say about anything on this album, especially the 3-track mini-suite in which “Flick of the Wrist” is sandwiched. Stellar performances throughout by all the members of the band.
KISS - "Got to Choose" (Alive, 1975)
From my favorite Queen album to one of my favorite KISS albums. I love the solo Ace lays down on this one. It shows his genius as a guitarist despite his lack of technical prowess. And please let me continue to pretend that this was completely live with no overdubs.
King’s X - “We Are Finding Who We Are” (Austin Acoustic, 1991)
This comes from a 10-track bootleg of a 1991 in-studio recording of King’s X at Austin’s KBLJ 93.7 FM. If you can overlook the piezo “quackiness” of the guitars, it’s a great performance of a collection of tunes up through Faith Hope Love.
Spock’s Beard - “Waste Away” (Beward of Darkness, 1996)
My discovery of King’s X in the late 80s raised the bar for me and completely changed how I viewed and judged music. That band, combined with a few others that I had been listening to at the time like Metallica, Anthrax, Queensrÿche, and a few SST bands, opened me up to an appreciation of music with complex rhythms, thoughtful lyrical themes, and in some cases, completely oddball song structures. This appreciation led me later to bands like Dream Theater, Atomic Opera, and Spock’s Beard, one of my favorite bands of the 90s prog revival. Founder and frontman Neal Morse—my primary reason for liking the Beard—has since moved on, and unfortunately, so has my love of the band. “The Doorway” is my favorite from this album, but “Waste Away” is another bright spot, catchy, driving, and a bit more of a rocker than the rest of the album.
Saxon - "Voice" (Into the Labyrinth, 2009)
NWOBHM front-runners Saxon have been slogging away for 35 years. Later this month they will release their 20th studio album, and based on what I’ve heard, it sounds like a great one (minus a couple of so-so songs and one dud), proving they still have something to bring to the table. As for “Voice,” it’s one of the better tunes from a somewhat mediocre Saxon release—not bad, but not necessarily all that good either. Your mileage may vary.
Hayseed Dixie - "Detroit Rock City" (Kiss My Grass: A Hillbilly Tribute to KISS, 2003)
Hayseed Dixie is always a good time no matter who they are covering. Here they put their bluegrass spin on a KISS classic.
John Davis - “History” (Arigato, 2007)
Superdrag frontman pummels his way through this track from his self-released second solo album. Arigato! is a fun listen if you like Davis or Superdrag.
Queen - "Bring Back That Leroy Brown" (Sheer Heart Attack, 1974) Sheer Heart Attack will always be my favorite Queen album if for no other reason than it is so over-the-top in the way it bounces back and forth between heavy (almost metal) songs and quirky numbers like this one.
Dream Theater - "Only a Matter of Time" (Live at Budokan, 2004)
Live recording of a Kevin Moore-penned track from Dream Theater’s debut album When Dream and Day Unite. I really like the original, but good grief, LaBrie’s vocals on this version are downright annoying.
“‘39” is Queen’s unconventional folk tune with a sci-fi time travel twist written and sung by Brian May for 1975’s A Night at the Opera. This live singalong version features Freddie Mercury on vocals and comes from one of my favorite Queen albums, Live Killers.