Note: due to the nature of this series, the reviews may tend to be more in the first person than you are used to with music criticism.
Slayer - Reign in Blood
“Still Reigning After All These Years : From the Vaults of DeadSun’s Favorites”
To me, the best thing about a great album is its ability to never go stale. I’m not talking about a “nostalgic magic”, either--- I mean those albums that can you can feed to your stereo, year after year, and which never lose that power to reach out and sink into your gut.
Even as an eleven year old kid, I had a burgeoning cassette collection that bested most of the high school kids that I knew from the neighborhood--- and at that point in my life, nearly all of it was Heavy Metal. Surprised? On one day in particular, I conned my pop into buying an edition of Hit Parader magazine. Having a substantial music collection himself, which ranged from Alice Cooper, to BB King, to Cream, to Roxy Music, he was always fair about my own musical choices--- though not without a harmlessly snide comment or two thrown in for good measure.
It was in this particular copy of Hit Parader that I found a very small write up, nestled in its back pages, of a band that I had never before heard of--- and band who called themselves “Slayer”. To paraphrase this review, it was said of Slayer that, when it came to furious, intricate and relentless guitar shredding--- Slayer ranked over most of their peers as being among the best--- but that when it came to lyrical content, they ranked among Fear and the Mentors as being among the worst. My curiosity had been piqued. Turning the page, they had a concert photo of some guy called Kerry King, snarling at his axe. What more does an eleven year old kid need to see? The following weekend, as my parents were food shopping, I hot footed it over to a nearby record store, and headed straight for the “S” section.
For those of you who are familiar with what the album cover for “Reign in Blood” looks like, you can appreciate with what wonder your average juvenile delinquent might behold upon it. Having never even heard this band, I felt I had a solid case in favor of a purchase--- after all, I had discovered Iron Maiden in a similar way. I bought it without reservation. When I got home, I bolted for my bedroom, tore the cellophane away from its case, and cued it up.
What came out of those speakers was not like any music that had ever laid its sound upon my ears. What came out of those speakers was the opening riff for “Angel of Death”--- and it spoke to me in a language of power that shot straight into my guts. It was that sudden. In a matter of four minutes and fifty seconds, my eyes were opened to the world of thrash/speed metal. I knew I had been let in on one of metal’s secret weapons--- Slayer. This little “awakening” turned my cassette collecting to a whole new direction, and when I peeled away this layer, I discovered more and more bands and albums that I otherwise might not have for years--- one huge reason that “Reign in Blood” is and always will be a “DeadSun Favorite”.
I began preaching the gospel of “Reign in Blood” to everyone--- most of whom read the song titles and dismissed me as crazy. It didn’t matter in the slightest. The fact of the matter was that it was hard to take Bon Jovi seriously when I had a song like “Post Mortem” within my reach. To me, the satanic trappings were an after-thought, a complimentary embellishment to what was the fastest, heaviest, most vicious metal band I knew of at the time. I understood that overlaying the music of Slayer with words about “long walks on the beach”, or “green, verdant fields”, would be about as appropriate as opening a restaurant for anorexics.
What I didn’t realize then, was that what I had in my possession was an album that would ultimately come to be regarded as one of the most seminal, influential, and primary works that metal has served us to date--- helping in no small way to thrust open the gates of thrash, speed, and death metal before us. Referencing “Reign in Blood” is like invoking metal scripture. It is unshakably brilliant, yet ruthlessly fierce, and almost universally acknowledged as one of the most important musical reference points in the entire genre.
Since 1986, “Reign in Blood” has reigned in the realm of metaldom as a high lord of heart-pumping, intricate brutality--- and as a personal favorite is an album I feel must be present among the ranks of any self-respecting metalhead’s collection. It simply must be so.
“Reign in Blood” : a twenty-eight minute long, pulverizing, sonic blitzkrieg that can strip the tar paper off of your roof and make your neighbor’s bleed from both eyes; ergo… an inviolable classic.
Pearl Jam – Ten
Ten was the first CD I ever went to a record store and bought. So it will always have a warm place in my heart. I’m not sure which song it was, it could have been “Even Flow” or “Jeremy” but the first time I saw Pearl Jam on MTV I immediately jumped on my beach cruiser and went to The Wherehouse to buy the CD with my paper route money. I’ve never regretted it.
Some Motley Crue diehards recently disparaged PJ and Nirvana in an article I wrote. Part of one person’s argument is that Motley is one of the most influential bands of the past 20 years. That is a pretty funny statement when you try and back it up. I turn on rock radio and never hear rehashes of “Girls, Girls, Girls”. I do hear a bunch of bands trying to copy PJ, Nirvana and Alice in Chains. All of this after grunge supposedly died.
I think part of PJ and the other Seattle bands appeal was the fact that they were not image over substance. They broke rock down to the basics again and instead of writing cheesy songs calling sluts “cheery pie” they talked about real experiences and the alienation that generate x felt at that time. If anything the glam boys were a continuation of the early 60s cheese-pop and grunge was a continuation of the late 60s rock. Music that was supposed to say something, not just entertain. But PJ never fell short in the entertainment arena either. If you went to a PJ show you didn’t get all of the fireworks and men in women’s clothing, but you did get a genuine rock concert. And still do.
Ten was one of the few CDs I have ever heard that still sounds as good today as it did thirteen years ago. “Alive”, “Black”, “Oceans”, “Even Flow” and “Jeremy” are all classics in my book. I’ve spent half my life listening to this CD and it never grows old. It has aged well and if it happened to be released today, I could definitely see it being just as successful. Because this album wasn’t about a gimmick, it was about the music and that shows when you listen to it.
[Edit note: This review is being published two days before the 13th Anniversary of the release of Ten]
Ike Reilly – Salesmen and Racists
I’m cheating a little bit for my first contribution to favorites. I had to, when I heard that one of my favorite artists of the past five years was finally releasing a new CD I grew really excited—something that doesn’t happen often these days. Then I became a little sad because his last album never received the audience that it deserved. (Plus the boss pulled rank and decided to review the new CD himself ) I hope that the next one will break out and give the world a taste of Ike Reilly’s musical genius when his new CD comes out next month. But before that happens, I want people to have a chance to discover Ike’s amazing debut CD “Salesmen and Racists”. With that in mind, I’m cheating by resubmitting the “5 star” review of that CD I wrote a few years ago as an Artist of the Month feature. I figure many people here have not seen it, so here is a second chance at discovering a rather remarkable CD. (And after you hear it you will be even that much more motivated to buy his new one.) – aG
Sometimes genius is found in the most unusual of places. In 1963 a new musical voice sprang forth from the working class industrial port town of Liverpool, England--The Beatles changed the face of popular music forever by breaking all the rules and most preconceived notions of what pop music was all about; they forged their own style and became legends in the process.
Fast forward 38 years, gazing upon the music scene of today it would appear everything possible in “rock” music had been done, experimented with, packaged, marketed and mass produced. But while you were busy watching the passing parade on TRL and the Billboard Charts a record producer, Mike Simpson (produced Beck’s odelay), made an unusual discovery in the blue-collar town of Libertyville, Illinois.
Simpson, who is 50% of the famous “Dust Brothers” got his hands on a demo by one of the most unusually gifted artist he had heard since his days of working with Beck, and his enthusiasm sparked a fire in the record industry which led to a bidding war for the eclectic 38 year old songwriter from the Chicago suburbs named Ike Reilly.
When the dust settled, Ike Reilly had inked a deal with Republic Records, with the label’s A&R boss, Tom Mackay, overseeing the process of turning the vision of the former cemetery worker and hotel doorman into a cohesive album. Ike handled production duties along with his guitarist Ed Tinley and industry veteran Mickey Petraila (Beck, Luscious Jackson, the eels) and the final result is the auspicious Ike Reilly debut Salesmen and Racists.
Republic Records was the perfect home for Reilly and his band, while Republic is part of the largest record label group in existence (Universal) it is really an indy label at heart. They are one of the only major labels that actually ventures outside the “popular” box to find gripping and interesting new music. Ike Reilly is a perfect case in point; his music is unlike anything else currently riding the charts and record store shelves. To call him eclectic would be a bit of an understatement, he ventures into so many different genres giving each his own personal spin that it’s impossible to nail him down. Even going as far as saying that Ike Reilly is what you’d get if you mixed the DNA of Joe Strummer, Elvis Costello, Lou Reed, Beck, Bob Dylan and Sheryl Crow doesn’t quite convey what’s he’s all about.
In an age where popular music seems to getting progressively mindless, Ike Reilly is a much-needed breath of fresh air. He proves that rock music can still be versed in artistic expression instead of being simply a slick commercial product at the same time delivering addictive hooks and melodies. Far beyond your normal prosaic lyrical content, Ike plays the part of beat poet weaving stories interspersed with irreverent subject matters. If you’ve been waiting for an artist to renew your faith in rock n roll, look no further, Ike Reilly’s debut album is a landmark release of the year 2001, quite simply an album that comes out of left field and knocks you on your ass causing you to shout proclamations of gratitude to the heavens for delivering you from the inane humdrum of today’s music scene.
The reader must really experience this CD for themselves, no words can begin to convey what Ike Reilly is all about, so follow the link below in the "Want More? section to hear clips from this album and then run don’t walk to your nearest record store and pick up a copy of Salesmen and Racists, it will be the best musical investment you’ve made in years!