Thursday, April 21, 2011

We're Getting the Band Back Together!

In the history of rock music there have been some heart-breaking dissolutions, whether through tragedy or break-up - Led Zeppelin sits atop my list of pure perfection cut short and one of the biggest "what ifs?" of all time. There have also been some surprisingly successful personnel changes - AC/DC and Van Halen seem to be the most vaunted examples. But what of those that didn't overcome the odds and imprint themselves on the consciousness of the record-buying public?  Here are three less dramatic transitions, yet still ones that interest me as bands' catalogues evolve, each with varying degrees of success.

Stranger in Us All - Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow - 1995
What happens the "band" is just one founding member?  As long as it's the essential cog, which seem's to be Ritchie Blackmore's role in any group he plays with, things are usually OK. Twelve years after the final studio platter with Joe Lynn Tuner, Bent Out of Shape, Blackmore resurrected the Rainbow brand with new players and vocalist Doogie White, whose prior claim to fame was losing out to Blaze Bayley in Iron Maiden's own shake-up fiasco. A good album, Stranger in Us All is not a great album and serves as an odd coda following the much better career capper, Finyl Vinyl. "Wolf to the Moon" and a metallic "In the Hall of the Mountain King" are really the only worthwhile items on an odd (and immediately dated in 1995) relic that appears to have ended a great band's career once and for all.

Another Perfect Day - Motörhead - 1983
After a run of six stone-cold classic records with "Fast" Eddie Clarke on guitar, Motörhead nearly went off the rails after recruiting Brian Robertson as a replacement. Robertson was no slouch himself, also appearing on six legendary albums with Thin Lizzy but, with shorts and ballet shoes as his onstage attire, certainly did not fit in with the Motörhead aesthetic. He stands out on the recording, too, and Another Perfect Day sounds great - there's a clarity here that was heretofore nonexistent in the band's discogrpahy - but it also sounds different.  And with Motörhead, different is not always the best way to go. "I Got Mine," "One Track Mind" and "Shine" all show off Robertson's undeniable chops but they stray too far from the signature sound the three-piece had built themselves around. Robertson was shown the door following the album's tour, drummer "Philthy Animal" Taylor took a hiatus as well and Lemmy rebuilt Motörhead again, though this time he gave us the superb, very Motörhead Orgasmatron and all was right with the world. As for Another Perfect Day, "Dancing on Your Grave" and "Back at the Funny Farm" have stood the test of time, though, and time itself, of course, has proven that Motörhead solidered on just fine.

Danzig 5: Blackacidevil - Danzig - 1996
Glenn Danzig has made it clear since Samhain that his namesake band was designed as a revolving group. And while that has been the case for the last 15 years or so, one cannot deny that the American Records-era lineup with John Christ, Eerie Von and Chuck Biscuits was by far the most successful and whose output is readily recognized by the average music fan. When that unit dissolved following the 4p album and tour it struck many listeners as a surprise to hear such a shift in style when Blackacidevil hit the shelves with little fanfare from new label, Hollywood Records (who, being a Disney imprint, washed their hands of the band almost immediately after the record came out). While still dark as hell, this is heavy industrial music, losing a lot of the drama that the previous records had emoted. This was not a total shock to faithful fans as 4p was certainly experimental and numbers such as "Cantspeak" combined with tour support from Godflesh were omens of a change in the wind. Still, the question remains, is Blackacidevil a success?  Unfortunately not. Coming two years behind Nine Inch Nail's genre-defining Downward Spiral, it cannot help but fall way short. It rocks. It rocks hard. But even with the more-than-competent Jerry Cantrell guesting on some guitar, there's not a damn thing memorable and the standout single, "Sacrifice," has not aged well. That said, Danzig pressed on and the follow-up, 6:66 Satan's Child, was a huge evolution in Danzig's sound and struck a better balance of Danzig's past, Blackacidevil included, with a sound totally in the now. The roster has continued to revolve, each new album is better than the last and Danzig, the band, remains a force to be reckoned with.

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