Thursday, June 19, 2014

Blue Cheer - Outsideinside

Identified as one of the loudest albums in rock history, but even that has an asterisk. The story goes that during the recording of Outsideinside, Blue Cheer was kicked out of the studio for being too loud. So, the band decided to record the remaining material on Pier 57 in New York, and even then, ships miles away could hear the racket.

Of course, none of this eardrum breaking sonic overdose is that prevalent on Outsideinside. What remains is a thick, viscous sludge.

Fans of garage rock, early heavy metal, psychedelic freakouts and headache-inducing stereo panning will be pleased with the mucky results. It is 36 minutes of lysergic bliss, bashed out by a trio of grubby bikers who asked members of the Hells Angels to coordinate the art direction. The resulting package is an enjoyable time capsule in which Dickie Peterson is perched on a mushroom with drummer Paul Whaley and guitarist Leigh Stephens also sporting wide smiles as 5 bikers bring weed to the power trio.

The novelty of the packaging, the recording sessions and the band’s unhinged personalities all pale when those first moments of fuzz hit. Outsideinside was the second album from Blue Cheer in 1968 and its predecessor Vincebus Eruptum is the release that tends to get higher recognition.

By record number two, Blue Cheer had undoubtedly logged a few highway miles and they sound a bit tighter on the final results. But I’ll be damned if I can hear any real intricate detail in this sludgefeast, and there are still plenty of moments where the band occasionally falls off the rails, giving the entire thing a sense of legitimacy.

Which is just another way of saying “It’s awesome.” With covers of The Stones “Satisfaction” and Albert Kings “The Hunter” put into the line-up as some kind of reference point-but it hardly matters: You can hear the tape catching speed at the beginning of “Satisfaction” while “The Hunter” starts of fairly innocuous before slipping into another acid casualty by the guitar solo.

How this record ever got made it a testament to the free spirit of the record industry at that time, where even a power trio of limited competencies with loud amplifiers could get signed.  The end result is a wonderful time capsule, a soundtrack to your scrambled eggs hangover and a perfect reminder that rock and roll music was once a dangerous place, performed at dangerous volumes and fueled by dangerous substances.


Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Grace Jones - Nightclubbing

Being a fan of The Police back in the day - particularly the driving “Demolition Man” from Ghosts In The Machine - I was not too keen on hearing an androgynous Jamaican woman named Grace Jones unleash her own version of the song In fact, Jones was so completely off of my radar during the time of her original releases that I only remember her stunning look and not a note of her music, except that lone Police cover.

A reissue reminder of Nightclubbing prompted a new consideration-this time where I followed the album as it should have been absorbed originally. From it, I learned that Jones’ version of “Demolition Man” predates The Police’s version-so it really isn’t fair to claim that Jones’ cover is somehow sacrilegious to the original, since it is the original.

And any mention of her look failed to consider just how artistically creative it really was. The androgyny, the sharp angles of her clothing and hair, all of these divisive visuals now appear as groundbreaking, breaking new ground for other artists that also use provocative appearances to get noticed.

But back then, there was nobody like Grace Jones, and I suppose you could still say the same thing today. What I failed to learn then is the backstory to her career. Her musical career came with some pretty intense personal sacrifices, specifically how her controversial looks created friction with her father, who was attempting to become a church bishop. He was under the impression that his religious desire was becoming by his daughter’s look and musical content. The decision to distance himself from his daughter’s fame meant that he also would need to distance himself from her. While most parents would be proud at their kid’s success, Grace would be forced to appreciate her own independently.

Even the music itself was becoming more challenging. Jones had originally transitioned from a successful modeling career to music by means of disco. By the late 70’s, she had abandoned the genre that gave her a certain amount of success and began incorporating different styles of music into her own repertoire as well as toying with the idea of what women should look like.

To facilitate this, Jones traveled back to her native Jamaica and enlisted the help of Sly & Robbie to initiate her “Compass Point Trilogy,” of which, Nightclubbing comes in as the second installment. It is her most well-known work and it is more influential than originally thought.

The Compass Point Allstars go beyond the early 80’s reggae vibe that they had already consistently mastered by this point. Instead, they bring genres like disco, electronica, new wave into their island grooves, leaving Jones to use every song as a new role with the only thread becoming Nightclubbing’s danceability.

The deluxe edition expands Nightclubbing into two discs, but it’s the original one that you’ll want to focus on. Disc two is filled with redundant extended versions that offer little over the original album versions, with the exception of two unreleased tracks “If You Want To Be My Lover” and a great cover of Gary Numan’s “Me! I Disconnect From You” which suggest that Jones’ adherence to reinterpreting cover songs is a very worthwhile strategy, as was her unconventional appearance.

Ultimately, it’s what is found inside the packaging that reaffirms Jones’ musical output: challenging, endearing and influential. Ironically, the same qualities that are found on her album covers.

Monday, June 16, 2014

John & Yoko Interview Box Set

For any Beatlemaniac out there, there is a new box set featuring extensive interviews with John Lennon and Yoko Ono during a period of enormous creativity from the former Beatle. If you've ever immersed yourself in the finer details of the Beatles history, this sounds like it would provide some excellent material for your geeky little head. Details on the box set including its content are found below.

This eight CD box set features John Lennon & Yoko Ono's five iconic conversations with Village Voice journalist and radio personality Howard Smith. These in-depth discussions about music, love, creativity, peace and politics illuminate the couple's transformation from Beatles into revolutionaries.

These interviews have been mastered from Smith's original audio recordings, which had been buried in the back of his West Village loft for 40 years. Never before released on CD.

May 28 - 29, 1969 - Live phone interview, the Bed-In Montreal (35 min)

Smith speaks on the phone with John & Yoko, who are in their suite at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal. Among other things, they discuss selling Peace as a commodity, the Activist Movement, and Lennonʼs denial of being, nor intention of being, a leader.

Dec. 17, 1969 - Ronnie Hawkinʼs Ranch, Ontario Canada (89 min)

Smith traveled to Ronnie Hawkinʼs Ranch outside of Toronto to interview John & Yoko. While eating shrimp tempura, they discuss the ins and outs of recording with the Beatles, the bandʼs uncertain future, Woodstock vs. Altamont, and the impact of the Youth Movement.

Dec. 12, 1970 - Regency Hotel, NYC (86 min)

Smith interviews John & Yoko the day after the Plastic Ono Band albums are released, and they are in the midst of shooting 2 art films. They discuss the emotional process of their music including specific songs from the albums, their time in Janov therapy, how they handle fame, and whether the Beatles will ever get back together.

Sept. 9, 1971 - St. Regis Hotel, NYC (71 min)

Smith interviews John & Yoko on the day Lennonʼs album Imagine is released. They discuss the album, Onoʼs upcoming artist retrospective, Paulʼs, Georgeʼs and Ringoʼs own individual albums, the mediaʼs criticisms of their relationship, Johnʼs "working class" nature, and future plans.

Jan. 23, 1972 - The Lennonsʼ Bank St. apartment, NYC (86 min)

Smith drops by John & Yokoʼs West Village apartment on the day of a WPLJ Beatles marathon which can be heard at times playing in the background, often inspiring and directing the conversation. They discuss the experience of being a Beatle (and a Beatle wife) and the break up, stage fright and the emotional rollercoaster of performing, breakthroughs acquired in Janov therapy, love, and Revolution.

About Howard Smith:

Howard Smith is an Oscar winning film director, journalist and broadcaster. As a writer for more than 30 years, his articles have appeared in, among others, Playboy and The New York Times. Smithʼs weekly column "Scenes" in the Village Voice helped cement the paperʼs position within the emerging counterculture.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Yngwie Malmsteen Begins Guitar Gods Tour

You can practically smell the ego rising from the press release of Yngwie Malmsteen's Guitar Gods tour. I mean, why is it necessary to point out that Malmsteen got his own signature Fender model before Eric Clapton?

Because Yngwie has never been as universally revered as Clapton has and when you're as narcissistic as Malmsteen, you tend to point out every minute detail of your legacy, even the ones that really don't mean anything. Same thing goes for the Guitar Hero references. Who gives a shit?

Yngwie does. That's all that matters.

I won't be in the area during the time the Guitar Gods tour rolls around, otherwise, I'd be all over this. To see Yngwie and Uli Jon Roth (who may rank as one of my favorite guitarists ever) on the same stage would be pretty amazing, even if Yngwie's epic ego only allows him to log 9 dates to show off his six string prowess.

Here's the release:

(New York, NY) - The king of neo-classical shred guitar, legendary guitar virtuoso Yngwie Malmsteen, will soon return to stages across North America this summer for the first-ever "Guitar Gods" festival tour. Bringing together such accomplished axemen as Uli Jon Roth (Scorpions, Electric Sun), Gary Hoey ("Hocus Pocus") and Bumblefoot (Guns N' Roses), Malmsteen will headline an epic celebration (6+ hours!) of the instrument for a full evening of guitar pyrotechnics. Each show will also feature special surprise guests. The "Guitar Gods" tour is created and produced by April Malmsteen, Yngwie's wife and manager and is presented in proud partnership with Guitar Center. Please see below for the itinerary; more dates to be announced.

Of the upcoming tour, creator and producer April Malmsteen commented, "Being able to put together this festival has been a lifelong dream of mine. I sincerely believe that "Guitar Gods" will bring tremendous value and enjoyment to not only the guitar and heavy metal enthusiast, but also to anyone who loves music." Yngwie Malmsteen's most recent studio album, SPELLBOUND and his first book, the autobiography, Relentless: A Memoir, are both available now. Malmsteen was recently profiled about both on NPR's Weekend Edition Saturday; that segment can be heard here. In other news, the Yngwie Malmsteen premium artist signature series by Fender is now available. The series features a full lineup of Malmsteen-endorsed accessories such as guitar strings, instrument cables, gig bags, electronic tuners and more.

For nearly three decades, Grammy-nominated guitar icon Yngwie Malmsteen has been amazing audiences with dazzling technical speed and ability. Malmsteen's signature style of playing, which combines elements of seemingly disparate styles of music - metal and classical, spawned the now commonplace genres of heavy metal known as "shred guitar" and "neo classical" and earned Malmsteen the title "the Paganini of heavy metal". Malmsteen was the first guitarist to have his own Fender signature guitar model (even before Eric Clapton). He has graced the cover of more than 200 magazines worldwide, has won every guitar award imaginable and to date, has sold millions of records. Time named Malmsteen one of the "Top Ten Greatest Electric Guitar Players", an honor he shared with the likes of Les Paul, Jimmy Page and Jimi Hendrix. "Guitar Hero" enthusiasts know they have arrived when they are bestowed with the Yngwie Malmsteen award in the Xbox 360 version of "Guitar Hero 2". The award signifies a 1000+ note streak in succession.

Held in the highest regard in his own right, Uli Jon Roth brings the very special 40th Anniversary Scorpions set that he has been playing to audiences from Europe to North America, embracing his history with the band and digging deep into their catalogue for this tour.

Acclaimed for his accomplishments for perfecting his playing in multiple genres (rock, blues, surf), Gary Hoey performs his radio hits such as the Billboard Top 5 smash "Hocus Pocus" along with other favorites. 

Bumblefoot, best known for his work with Guns N' Roses, embarks on his first solo tour, playing songs from his entire critically-praised recorded history.

Yngwie Malmsteen/Guitar Gods North American tour 2014:


13 Huntington, NY Paramount Theatre
14 Sayreville, NJ Starland Ballroom
17 Englewood, NJ Bergen Performing Arts Center
20 St. Charles, IL Arcada Theatre
21 Toronto, ON Phoenix Theatre
26 Seattle, WA Showbox Theatre
27 Portland, OR Roseland Theater


3 Beverly Hills, CA Saban Theatre
8 Tucson, AZ Rialto Theatr

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Beth Orton Central Reservation Gets The Reissue Treatment

One of my favorite records from 1999, Beth Orton's Central Reservation is a stunning glimpse into the vocalist's raw talent and abilities. For anyone who may have missed its impact when it was originally released 15 years ago (what?!), you now have a chance to catch up with the reissue treatment it receives. For reals: "Sweetest Decline" with its very first line of "She wears secrets in her hair/The whispers are not hers to share/She's as deep as a well" are the things that classic records are made upon.


Beth Orton's Central Reservation album will be re-issued by 3 Loop Music as a 2CD expanded edition to be distributed in the US by MVD Entertainment Group. Released in 1999, the album received a Mercury Music Prize nomination and helped Beth earn a BRIT Award in 2000 for Best British Female. The follow up to Beth's acclaimed debut Trailer Park, Central Reservation featured the hit singles "Stolen Car" and "Central Reservation" and spent 56 weeks in the album charts, selling over 500,000 copies. The album is also featured in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.

Re-issued for the first time with a second disc of bonus material compiled by Beth, the album contains key b-sides, including the "Spiritual Life Ibadon" remix of the title track plus unreleased live recordings and demos. The expanded packaging includes brand new sleevenotes and a new interview with Beth. She recalls, "Listening back to the record now, I enjoy hearing the melodies and how I played with them and the words. The making of records is often a period of redemption for me and the recording of 'Central Reservation' was the actualising of all my most positive hopes and wishes."

CD1 (Original Album):

1. Stolen Car - 5:25
2. Sweetest Decline - 5:39
3. Couldn't Cause Me Harm - 4:48
4. So Much More - 5:41
5. Pass In Time - 7:17
6. Central Reservation (Original Version) - 4:50
7. Stars All Seem To Weep - 4:39
8. Love Like Laughter - 3:07
9. Blood Red River - 4:15
10. Devil Song - 5:04
11. Feel To Believe - 4:04
12. Central Reservation (The Then Again Version) - 4:01

CD2 Sessions At West 54th Street:

1. Someone's Daughter - 4:02
2. Sweetest Decline - 4:38
3. Blood Red River - 5:05
4. Pass In Time - 7:26
5. She Cries Your Name - 4:04
6. Devil Song - 5:30
7. I Wish I Never Saw The Sunshine - 4:55
8. Stars All Seem To Weep - 2:19

9. I Love How You Love Me - 2:36
10. Precious Maybe - 4:02
11. Stars All Seem To Weep (Shed Version) - 2:59
12. Central Reservation (Spiritual Life Ibadon Remix) - 8:50

Demos and Rough Mixes:

13. Love Like Laughter - 2:08
14. So Much More - 1:51
15. Central Reservation Band Demo - 4:33
16. Couldn't Cause Me Harm - 6:44

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Washed Out Announce New Round Of Paracosm Dates

They're weeknight dates, but at least Iowa finds a pair of visits from Washed Out's tour after they wrap up their opening slots with The National.

Here's the promotional spin:

Washed Out has premiered a new long-form video for “Weightless,” the latest offering from his acclaimed album, Paracosm. Directed by David Altobelli (M83, Sia, Conor Oberst), the mini film, presents a "gorgeous tale" of unrequited love with dreamlike sequences throughout. Altobelli says of the video, "Unrequited love is a universal emotion. In this case, the emotions are heightened because there exists yet another wall between the protagonist and the object of his affection. It's heartbreaking and inevitable, but it's also just part of being a kid in love(see Pitchfork News Story June 4th)."

Washed Out has added August and September to his 2014 tour schedule in support of Paracosm. The tour now spans June 4th in Richmond, VA at The National and currently ends on September 14th in Tampa, FL at The Ritz Ybor. Tickets for the August and September dates go on sale Friday, June 6th at 10a.m. ET.

 Festival highlights for the tour include: June 6th in New York, NY at The Governors Ball; June 8th in Toronto, ON at Field Trip; June 15th in Manchester, TN at Bonnaroo Music Festival; June 20th in Dufur, OR for WTF?! What The Festival; June 22nd in Dover, DE at Firefly Music Festival; August 29th in Chicago, IL at North Coast Music Festival; and September 6th in St. Louis, MO for Lou Fest. Please find a complete list of tour dates below.

Washed Out’s Paracosm is available now on CD / LP / DL in North America via Sub Pop and Europe via Weird Word.

Tour Dates
Jun. 04 - Richmond, VA - The National*
Jun. 05 - Washington, DC - 9:30 Club*
Jun. 06 - New York, NY - The Governors Ball / Randall’s Island
Jun. 06 - Brooklyn, NY - Brooklyn Bowl (Late Show)
Jun. 08 - Toronto, ON - Field Trip / Historic Fort York and Garrison Commons
Jun. 09 - Pontiac, MI - Crofoot Ballroom*
Jun. 10 - Cleveland Heights, OH - Grog Shop*
Jun. 11 - Columbus, OH - Newport Music Hall*
Jun. 12 - Lancaster, PA - Chameleon Club*
Jun. 15 - Manchester, TN - Bonnaroo Music Festival
Jun. 20 - Dufur, OR - WTF?! What The Festival
Jun. 22 - Dover, DE - Firefly Music Festival
Aug. 25 - Knoxville, TN - Bijou Theatre
Aug. 26 - Norfolk, VA - The NorVa
Aug. 27 - Millvale, PA - Mr. Smalls Theatre
Aug. 29 - Chicago, IL - North Coast Music Festival / Union Park
Sep. 01 - Minneapolis, MN - First Avenue
Sep. 02 - Iowa City, IA - Blue Moose Tap House
Sep. 03 - Des Moines, IA - Wooly’s
Sep. 05 - Lawrence, KS - The Granada Theatre
Sep. 06 - St. Louis, MO - Lou Fest / Forest Park
Sep. 07 - Tulsa, OK - Cains Ballroom
Sep. 08 - Dallas, TX - Granada Theatre
Sep. 09 - Austin, TX - The Mohawk
Sep. 10 - New Orleans, LA - House of Blues
Sep. 12 - Orlando, FL - The Plaza Live
Sep. 13 - Fort Lauderdale, FL - Culture Room
Sep. 14 - Tampa, FL - The Ritz Ybor
* w/ Wunder Wunder

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The Doors - L.A. Woman: The Workshop Sessions

If the chief complaint against L.A. Woman was its lazy interpretation, then the rehearsals leading up to that recording session can only be described as a feast of stoned immaculate friends.

The Workshop Sessions find The Doors in a particularly amiable mood, in a recording that was never intended on seeing the light of day. I suppose, in that respect, we can't complain too much about how sloppy John Densmore's drumming is, or how Robby Krieger plays with such half-assed concentration that he completely stops playing in some areas. Even Jimbo remained seating during some of these takes, which may or may not be indicative of whatever role he might have been pondering at this point in the Doors career.

To be honest, The Workshop Sessions sound more like an opportunity for session bassist Jerry Scheff to learn the material-and most of the evidence presented here demonstrates that the tunes don't present him with any trouble whatsoever.

Even Ray Manzarek is in fine form, dutifully making sure the songs remain on a start/stop schedule and staying close to the patterns that everyone is by now familiar with from the final product of L.A. Woman.

The Workshop Sessions may signal that there is very little left in the band's archives to milk their posthumous output, but its quality is enough to capture the curiosity of their loyal fans-and for them, this release will be warmly received.

Firstly, the sound quality is tremendous. Those flubs and studio banter are crisp and full of fidelity. You're a fly on the wall to their inner sanctum-and there were enough of those moments for me to appreciate this release.

The only other item that will sway Doors fans is the unreleased track "She Smells So Nice/Rock Me" which is not so much a lost song as a pretty simple blues jam who's only claim to fame is the ad-libbing that Morrison does at the end, marking the first appearance of the "Mr. Mojo Risin'" line into the rock and roll lexicon.

It's more of a spontaneous utterance rather than a "Eureka!" epiphany, and the fact that it comes well after the jam has run its course signals that "She Smells So Nice/Rock Me" was included with this release solely on the novelty of capturing one of the most well-known lines in rock history rather than providing us with a lost gem.

The Workshop Sessions qualifies as being both the cash-grab that cynics will label it as while being an indispensable recording for serious Doors fans who would have purchased any bit of material laid in front of them. With the packaging and source material as good as it is on this release, The Workshop Sessions makes it a worthy issue but hardly one that will appeal to anyone beyond the already devoted.

Monday, June 2, 2014

The Doors - L.A. Woman

To the Doors faithful, L.A. Woman was a continuation of the band's peak moments, a picture of the white bread blues the would carry the band through the 70's, with short bursts of jazzy blends and the peaceful, easy feelings that would saturate the scene for the rest of the decade.

Of course, the Doors faithful could also be incredibly wrong, and the mantra "take it easy" could also be seen as "spoiled laziness" among other observers, and The Doors certainly had a track record of taking the path of least resistance.

The reality of L.A. Woman is somewhere in the middle. There are moments of true brilliance, mostly contained within the epic sprawl of "Riders On The Storm" and the title track, both lengthy offerings in the band's penchant for drawn out dramas. The difference being that both of the tracks that ended up closing out sides one and two on the original release sounded nothing like their track record of over-seriousness, where charming film school boys could get away with a few moments of poetry recall and pouty snapshots.

For L.A. Woman, those boys were fat and fuzzy, wallowing in the notion of new directions and the new found grittiness that the Sunset Strip had gone from seedy to scary ("Motel, money, murder, madness").

By the time they called up L.A. notable Bruce Botnick, who took over after original Doors producer stood firm in his belief that "Love Her Madly" was a piece of shit. Botnick simply documents the band, so the hints of new directions and the reliance on the band's continual assertions that they are perfectly capable of playing the blues are found throughout L.A. Woman.

The fact remains that The Doors weren't the best interpreters of the blues, but at least Morrison's transition into middle-age (from a physiological standpoint) makes such blurts like "Well I've been down so goddamn long" sound halfway legitimate.

I say "halfway" because Jimbo is the weakest link throughout L.A. Woman. He farts around the same four or five notes throughout the entire record and his delivery is as lazy as its ever been.

If you get the sense that Morrison wanted to be somewhere else, then you'd be pretty spot on. While the rest of the band were busy plotting their ways to remain relevant in  the new decade, Jim was thinking about a new life in Paris, where he would be able to focus on his poetry without the distractions of being in a rock and roll band.

The argument could be made that L.A. Woman is less about being required listening and more about being the last recorded documents of Jim Morrison. As an admitted fan, I can't subsribe to that cynicism because the record also contains some of his best work as a lyricist.

Those aforementioned long players are classic rock radio royalty, but there's a few under appreciated gems like "The Changeling," "Cars Pass By My Window," and "The WASP (Texas Radio and the Big Beat)" finally gets a proper release for its "stoned, immaculate" imagery.

Morrison even works up a bit of mysterious foreshadowing with "Hyacinth House." He revisits a bit of Greek mythology just like he did with "The End," (even quoting from the song itself, at one point) and in the very first line of the track, Jim visualizes his final resting spot ("I see the bathroom is clear") and gives fans a clear link to where he wants to go next.

Unfortunately, that next step would lead him to leaving this world entirely, and it's not exactly clear if The Doors would have continued on with additional success in the 70's had Morrison lived, or if Jim would have found an audience receptive to his poetic proclamations.

What is clear was how L.A. Woman became linked to greatness on the sheer fact that it followed tragedy.

While it is a fine Doors release, it is nowhere near the heights of  their debut or even the band's first attempt at defining lazy SoCal blues with Morrison Hotel. It may not have been the album that made Morrison's passing more tragic, it certainly contains enough moments to warrant appropriate mourning-particularly among the remaining band members  who were willing to risk tainting their legacy with a pair of records after his departure.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

King Diamond - Abigail

Jesus Christ.

Or should I say "Hail Satan!"

Whatever God you subscribe to, the correct answer is that you should be worshipping King Diamond instead.

And Abigail will become your Holy Bible.

Like most non-believers, I dismissed King Diamond records when they were first issued. The falsetto was humorous. The face paint predictable. The music wasn't compelling enough for me to focus on. And on top of it all, there was a guy I used to work with at a radio station that thought the world of them.

Come to think of it, the guy kind of looked like King Diamond, minus the white face and plus a hundred pounds. His hair was receding and he wore these creepy glasses. But other than that, he kind of looked like King Diamond.

And who am I kidding? The guy was a creeper, glasses or contacts, and he said lots of inappropriate things to women.

He was in his early 30's, and what the university would call a "non-traditional" student. He wore sweatpants and track pants a lot, but he was by no means athletic. He drove a brand new Yugo (no shit) and lived in the basement of his mother's home.

If it seems like I'm painting a very unflattering portrait of this man, it's because I am. I invested some time in him and overlooked a tremendous amount of faults in order to be swindled somewhat, and I don't take too kindly to things like that.

Initially, our relationship began with metal. I was coming off of it, but this cat was in the full swing of it. In a way, his advancing age and reluctance to dismiss metal like a proper adult was inspiring. Plus, he had an incredible amount of knowledge about heavy metal and hard rock.

On top of it all, he had a great  radio voice, so I put him in charge of the station's heavy metal program that we had just scheduled into the format for Saturday nights. Prior to it, we had a show called "Saturday Night Live," where we played nothing but live albums for three hours straight. I argued that nobody is going to want to listen to a bunch of live records if they're looking for a soundtrack to their Saturday night.

But metal fans? Fuck yes.

I got a kick of watching him work. He smoked cheap cigarettes, but other than that, he was a teetotaler. He'd shut off most of the lights in the studio, have his entire show booked in advance-starting with a trippy, twenty-minute long mix of creepy metal and sound effects.

It  was cool.

Anyway, King Diamond, Judas Priest, Queensryche, that  kind of shit, typically lead off his Saturday Night metal show.

He'd get animated with his discussion and he rightfully challenged me in my newfound contempt of the genre. He could tell I was cracking, that there was no real logic behind why I turned my back on metal.

And he was right.

Nonetheless, I wasn't ready for King Diamond, and whenever that falsetto hit, any attempt to try and sell me on his art was 86'd.

He'd break out in a  Diamond falsetto at  the drop of a hat, just to get my goat. It was all in fun, and he gave good conversation. As a result, I lobbied hard for the guy, got him out of the weekend schedule and put him on  the sales team during the days-where he began to STEAMROLL some accounts for the station. This success suddenly put him in the position of General Manager to my roll as Program Director-thereby leapfrogging him above me in terms of hierarchy.

Not that it mattered, because we were friends.

The success went to his head, and that's when the inappropriate comments towards women started. Staff members began to avoid him, and their uncomfortableness made me uncomfortable, particularly since I had vouched for the guy, yo.

When I confronted him about it, he shut down. He isolated himself in his office. He went a little bit nutty.

After a few months of this nonsense, I backed a talented young woman to replace him, and this made more of a distance between us. We went for long period of not speaking, and then suddenly his attire began to improve. Before long, he was wearing tied. Crazy shit.

Finally, the mystery was too much for me. I asked him about the getup. He flat out told me that he had given himself "to the Lord Jesus Christ." There was a hint of craziness in his eyes, or maybe it was just that creepy big man fucking with me. I didn't know, by that point.

He told me that he had met a woman at his mother's church. She was an attractive blonde, clearly out of his  league, but she was on the rebound after a breakup, and he put away his crude commentary long enough to string him along into believing he had a shot with her.

But the first thing he needed to do to win her heart was to get rid of those pesky Satanic records.

By the next week, motivated by the time when I finally broke the silent treatment and spoke to him, he called me into his office.

"Todd, would you be interested in buying some of my cd's?"

"Which ones?"

"Oh," he paused for dramatic effect. "All of them."

I asked why. He told me the story. I said, "Are you sure?" It was pathetic as all get out, but this was a time when compact discs were like little pieces of silver, and they retailed for nearly as much.

He was offering sweeeeet deals, so I drove over to his mother's house in Waterloo and he walked me down to the basement where he kept a bachelor pad motif, that is if you can ever really have a bachelor pad in the basement of your mother's house.

He lobbied hard for King Diamond, but I stuck out for a bunch of Marillion imports. This really bothered him, as he searched the synapses of his grey matter to go over the lyrical content of this British progressive rock band.

He determined that there was indeed some evil within Marillion. As well as Aerosmith's Get Yer Wings, Guns 'N Roses Appetite For Detruction (he wanted too much for the original vinyl pressing, so I stuck with the standard cd version) and a copy of AC/DC's Highway To Hell. There were a few other titles as well-more cds than vinyl-and I made my way home with the booty.

Not more than a month later, he was back to wearing sweatpants, bumming cigarettes, and becoming a bit more social. But it was too late. Bridges had been burned. Metal shows hosted by another (not as good) host. Advertising accounts had been left unattended, only to be hustled by other stations.

And religious girlfriends will typically put the dumpy King Diamond guy out to pasture, the moment their ex-boyfriend calls again, promising to conform.

"Hey Todd," the deflated man said before he exited my life for the final time, "Would  you ever consider selling back those Marillion albums back to me?"

I'd actually be quiet interested to see how he's doing, but I needed to write out this long-winded introduction to a King Diamond review to remind myself why that would be a bad idea.

The stories intersect only on the two minor details that 1.) The radio dude kind of looked like a fat, balding version of King Diamond and 2.) he really liked King Diamond.

I'm sure he told me all about the concept of Abigail, just as I'm sure as I ridiculed it, deeming it not worthy of further consideration. But if the years have made me more nostalgic, they've also made me wiser and more tolerant of such topics as theatrics-specifically, the kind that originate in Europe.

Diamond, a Dane, lifts heavily from classical scales and operatic drama in his work. With Abigail, he creates a lyrical Victorian nightmare-its plot a detailed story arc of murder, ghosts, and some obligatory seven horsemen.

The arrangements are just as detailed, with loads of fingertapping flourishes and speedy scale runs, all punctuated by drummer Mikkey Dee's impressive kit work.

But it's Diamond's vocal strategies-alternating from a metallic bark to an operatic wail, even in mid-verse. His performance verges on pure insanity in some moments, while other times it sounds as those there may indeed be someone else behind the wheel of Diamond's twisted art.

Abigail is straight-up frightening if you let the album take hold and allow Diamond under your skin. To merely point out his attention-grabbing appearance and over-the-top vocal performance is only a lazy observation. The reality is that somebody spent an awful amount of attention to detail to come up with this nonsense, while we let bands with substantially less vision rule the roost in the American arenas.

Abigail proudly uses the metal vernacular to execute a very credible concept album that still sounds like nothing else you've ever heard. It's an album that many generations will continue to namecheck, but very few of its worshippers will be have the same royal bloodline that King Diamond has fathered with this near metal masterpiece.