S-Tier Songs, Vol. 14

Here we are yet again for another edition of S-Tier songs. The list of prior entries and the criteria can be found here.

I’m at an odd place with this series – I’ve been looking to get a variety of artists on here before I start repeating acts. But also this has been running for almost a year and at some point in time I just have to say the hell with it and just go with the songs I want to put on. For the time being I will stick to covering artists not yet on this list, though today’s pick changes that shape a bit.

I had been working on a two-parter for this series that would see songs brought in from two different bands, though having the same singer. The songs have the same theme and fit together and are both worthy inclusions on this list, so I thought it would be a cool thing.

But then I thought about something – if I’m going to have my first two-time singer appearance on this list, who do I really want that to be? I pushed off the other picks for a bit and made my choice for the first guy to actually appear on the S-Tier list twice, though in different artistic entities.

Bruce Dickinson – Tears Of The Dragon

Today’s song is from Bruce’s second solo album Balls To Picasso. It was also Bruce’s first album after his infamous exit from Iron Maiden in 1993. Bruce had made a few attempts to start the record with other bands and producers, but he scrapped those efforts and hooked up with Roy Z and Tribe Of Gypsies. That band would back Bruce on this effort and the partnership with Roy Z would yield great results over the ensuing years.

Tears Of The Dragon is generally viewed as the best song from Balls To Picasso. The song has over 40 million streams on Spotify, which basically obliterates the totals from any other Dickinson solo tune. While none of the solo catalog did massive numbers sales-wise and The Chemical Wedding is widely hailed as a masterpiece, it is Tears Of The Dragon that is the first song recalled when talking about Bruce’s solo career.

Our song today is not a blazing metal scorcher. It would fit quasi-ballad territory – the song opens with soft, somber verses that build to a powerful chorus suiting The Human Air Raid Siren’s voice. It is replete with the standard fare you’ll find in any good hard rock/metal song, including a fast-paced solo and also a jazzy sort of interlude that, well, I guess you don’t find in every hard rock or metal song. And yeah, the very first time I heard the song I was really thrown off, but I’ve gotten used to the bit and now I can’t imagine the song without it.

Lyrically the song deals with the idea of overcoming one’s fears to “throw myself into the sea” and see what happens. The song revolves around Bruce’s decision to leave Iron Maiden and throw himself into the sea, to experience what else might be out there that he was missing. I can’t readily access the source material for this, but Bruce gave the info in an interview with Rolling Stone when he was promoting his biography in 2017. It was a huge gamble to cast off from Iron Maiden and go at it alone. And while it might not have been a lucrative prospect, in the end Bruce does have an acclaimed solo catalog from his endeavors.

And the song’s greatest strength is that it wasn’t specifically couched in the terms of him leaving Maiden – it was a song for anyone who was unsure about a course in life, who needed that push to go ahead and jump into the sea of doubt. I think music in general will grab people at places and times, be the right song in the right place for someone. That much doesn’t consider genre or form – people have benefited from a song bringing the right message at the right time.

But I think we know rock and metal have long been the refuge of the loner, the doubter, the unsure of foot. And Tears Of The Dragon is a call to anyone feeling those kind of emotions – metal is often at its best when it appeals to the outcasts, and this is a song for those on the margins that need a push for that motivation to succeed and overcome when the odds aren’t good or even known.

It’s the overriding reason why many of us chose this kind of music as our own. We didn’t fit, we didn’t like the same things as those around us, or whatever it was, we faced life with doubt and trepidation. It was shit like this that got many of us over the hump, just as this song did when I was just before the age of 17 in 1994.

While life wasn’t exactly great for Iron Maiden-Bruce Dickinson-hard rock and heavy metal fans in 1994, we still found our own way. And a fair bit of that had to do with the mainstays like Bruce offering viable product, updating with the times yet still staying the course. It would only come to pass years later that staying the course was the true line to walk, even in the turmoil of the early 90’s, and the greater turmoil of the years beyond.

Why is this an S-Tier song?

Tears Of The Dragon is a magnificent ballad of conquering self-doubt that offered its artist an early signature hit in a period of great uncertainty. While charts and sales figures weren’t entirely kind to Bruce’s solo efforts, the talk of the time and also the retrospective analysis paints his work away from Maiden in a fantastic light, and Tears is one of the main calling cards for his time in the 1990’s wilderness. It’s a song about conquering fears and embracing the unknown, which Bruce did by word and deed in a period where many thought rock and metal as we knew it was lost forever. Yet, by simply executing what he knew, we would be led back to a new legacy we couldn’t even begin to imagine.

You might recognize the guitarist here

Album Of The Week – August 29, 2022

This week it’s anniversary time again, as the album in question was released on August 25 a very, very long time ago. The record had an immediate impact and became a huge success, still standing in the US today as the second-best selling debut album of all time.

Boston – self-titled

Released August 25, 1976 via Epic Records

My Favorite Tracks – Foreplay/LongTime, Peace Of Mind, Smokin

There is a fair bit of lore behind the first Boston album, but for sake of space I’ll do a Cliffnotes version. Guitarist Tom Scholz recorded much of the album as demos in his apartment studio. Scholz hooked up with singer Brad Delp in a covers band under a different name, then sent the demos out to record labels. The record labels rejected the original demos, including Epic Records, who later released this album.

Scholz worked up the demos over the years and tried again, this time getting the attention of higher-ups at Epic. He recorded the album, pretending to record it all in California due to an Epic union mandate but actually still using his home studio in Boston for most instruments. Brad Delp did record his vocals in Epic-approved territory, the band changed their name to Boston on advice, and the album became an instant success on release.

It’s a fairly standard and even short album to talk about – 8 tracks with a 37 minute album length. Of course there is so much more to talk about, as the album is one of rock music’s defining legacies.

More Than A Feeling

This was the lead single for the album and thus the world’s first exposure to Boston. Given how quickly the album sold and how many trillions of times the song has been played on the radio in the decades since, I’d say it worked out.

The song was inspired by a love affair Scholz had that ended, though the track isn’t specifically about it. It is a bittersweet song that imparts a melancholy feeling in among a bright, triumphant instrumental composition. There isn’t much more than needs to be said about it – the song is immortal and has lived on for nearly half a century since its inception.

Peace Of Mind

Another of the album’s singles and also a big hit that reverberates to this day. It’s a tune about finding something more in life than the typical pursuit of what was the American Dream in the 1970’s. The acoustic strumming that leads into the song’s arena rock renders it instantly recognizable when it comes on the radio, as it frequently does.

Foreplay/Long Time

A 2 in 1 affair comprising the instrumental Foreplay and the vocal-laden Long Time. Long Time itself was released as a single but the song is usually presented with Foreplay attached to it. Foreplay is a very well-rendered work that holds interest, it is not the meandering kind of instrumental usually encountered. Long Time gets into the heady issue of leaving the past behind, again while a topic with huge gravity, the riffing and arrangement propel the song to massive heights. Like with most of this album, find a rock radio station on the dial and you’ll hear this song before too long.

I’m pretty sure most people know this song, here’s a live version

Rock N Roll Band

This track lays out the rise of a young band who cut their teeth in the bar scene and finally get discovered by a record label. This wasn’t actually the story of Boston, who hadn’t played a show before being signed, the song was just one Scholz decided to record. While not a single, the song was in constant rotation at radio during the AOR days and, yes, they still play it all the time.


A small bit of creative departure here, as Scholz did not compose this song alone – Brad Delp co-wrote the track. This track also foregoes a bit the polished “arena rock” approach of the album and gets more into a old-school rock n roll jam. And that’s what the song is about – getting high and jamming out. Like everything else, this one was all over the airwaves and still is.

Hitch A Ride

Our final three tracks don’t appear as often in classic rock radio playlists as the others. They can still be found, just not nearly as often. Hitch A Ride has a bit of 1960’s folk rock feel to it but still fits the band’s AOR/arena rock sound. It’s another one that romanticizes leaving it all behind.

Something About You

A tune about a guy finding feelings for a girl, it’s a bit more high-minded expression of that sort of thing than was commonly found in rock music. It’s also a pretty rocking number in what is now Boston’s standard beat by this point in the album.

Let Me Take You Home Tonight

The album closer is distinct in that it was solely composed by Brad Delp. It employs quite a bit of acoustics and even a little twang. It’s also about being into someone, a fairly common rock refrain.

From 2004, when Brad was still around

Boston was a huge success and it started right out of the gate. FM radio, a generally album-focused format, ate up the record and the band were popular before they set out on their first tour. The record went gold in a few weeks and got its first platinum certification just under 3 months after release. It would not stop selling, either – to date the album has 17 US platinum awards and has sold over 20 million worldwide. It is the second-best selling debut album in US music, behind only Appetite For Destruction. It is also tied for the eighth-best selling album in the US overall, locked with Elton John’s Greatest Hits.

The record also had a huge effect on rock music. The sheen and polish found in the production would inform rock acts going forward, as “power-pop” would become a central sound. The shift out of a blues-based sound of rock’s old school was a massive defining moment in music history.

There are a few performances to highlight when talking about this album. The fact that Tom Scholz could record this in his damn apartment studio is just crazy. It’s beyond mad genius stuff and is like Marvel superhero territory. And Brad Delp’s voice was among the finest in rock music. He could carry a tune the way the song needed to go, but he could also belt it out and showcase some truly astonishing vocal prowess too. Most likely an underrated voice in rock music.

Boston would go on to carve out a legacy over the decades, though the shadow of this first record would always loom large. More success would follow, though the band worked in spurts and fits, eventually being sued over their lack of timely album offerings. Scholz won that lawsuit and continued running Boston through the mid 2000’s, where the terrible suicide of Brad Delp left a dark mark on the group. Scholz still pressed on, enlisting vocal help that included Michael Sweet for a time.

Boston’s debut made a massive, immediate impact that reshaped rock sounds and launched one of rock’s most successful careers. The album is ever-present in classic rock lore and was even one of the main influences on the creation of the radio format. Its intertwining of somber, bittersweet lyrical themes with flowing guitars, vocals and organ arrangements brought in audiences hook, line and sinker. Like it or hate it, there is no escaping the monolith that is Boston’s debut.

Down In A Hole – Vinyl Prices In Late 2022

From time to time I like to revisit the topic of vinyl record prices. I talked about them not too long ago and, while returns are still early, it looks like the bottom might not be falling out of the market after all. There’s also a huge piece of news for a highly-coveted album from the 90’s being reissued.

While the US is apparently in an unsaid recession, inflation has been falling a bit and so far most collectibles markets seem to be holding steady. I keep an eye on the price of a few different LPs just to see how the price is moving, and so far nothing is off. No falloffs big or small, everything is holding steady. Maybe the number of sales are declining some, but that’s not information I have real access to.

I said last time that a vinyl crash wouldn’t be a good thing for buyers, even if prices fell. It looks like maybe, must maybe, we won’t see the worst case scenario of an all-out crash. I would expect some attrition in a down economy, but as of now we don’t know just how down this economy will truly be. At least at this point, things appear to be holding steady enough.

There are two ways to lower the price of secondary market titles that have huge price tags -crash the vinyl market to the point of oblivion, or reissue the old material. The second option is much preferred. And there is a heavy hitter coming to the reissue market soon.

In September, the market will see a new pressing of Dirt, the 1992 masterpiece from Alice In Chains. I can’t say for sure how many copies of the new pressing there will be – I thought somewhere said it was 2,000, but I can’t say for sure. Hopefully there will be enough to go around, again I don’t know the details.

It is a fantastic time for a repress of Dirt, because prices were getting out of control. All year it has sold at or near $100 US for a 2009 reissue (the one I happen to have). Not much movement since the reissue news, though a copy did sell for $60. Listing still abound at over $100, but I don’t see many copies moving until the new reissue’s stock makes its way through the market.

And I wonder what happens at the end of it all – will the 2009 press crash in price, or will it hold if the new reissue is limited in scope? I know the Facelift reissue awhile back was somewhat limited in nature, but I also know there are still stray copies out there at retail prices. Will Dirt get snatched up before anyone knows what happened or will it linger on shelves for a little while?

So Dirt is getting bailed out, at least for a bit. But what about the other coveted Alice In Chains records? The self-titled has never seen a reissue and costs an arm and a leg right now. If we are to use 30th anniversaries as a planned reissue guide, we have three years to go before a reissue. That’s a long time.

And what about Alice In Chains MTV Unplugged? The record was at retail prices not all that long ago, in fact I picked one up for roughly $30 late 2020 or whenever. Now? That thing can’t be had for under $200. And there isn’t a reissue in ready sight for it. I’ve said it before and haven’t done it yet, but I’m tempted to cash out on that one and get me some damn money.

That’s the one I’m really gonna watch over the next few months. I’m curious how Dirt does, but with no reissue in sight, how far does Unplugged go? A potential buyer apparently can’t rely on a shit economy to depress prices, so should a seller lean into the good times and cash out? I ask to myself to decide what I should do with a coveted record I could turn into several other records, and I ask in a general sense in our weird, shaky economy when we try to decide what to do with the relative value of stuff.

The Alice In Chains record prices are something I’ll keep an eye on in the next few months. In terms of blogging, I want to see how Dirt does after the reissue. I would think the older reissue, like mine, would tank, but early indications don’t show that. And we’ll see how the economy holds up, and if there are people out there still willing to throw down $300 plus on Unplugged, or if things start going south and demand softens.

There’s the general vinyl economy, and apparently there’s also the Alice In Chains vinyl sub-economy. Let’s see if I should ride it to the moon or get out while it’s hot out.

Album Of The Week – August 22, 2022

Yesterday, August 21, marked the 25th anniversary of a monumental album. While the band’s first two records would be known as worldwide sensations, their third one was a bloated mess that sold like hotcakes on release but quickly soured among the fans. It would be the final nail in the coffin of the musical movement the band had helped bring to international attention.

Oasis – Be Here Now

Released August 21, 1997 via Creation Records

My Favorite Tracks – D’ Ya Know What I Mean?, Stand By Me, Don’t Go Away

Oasis came into the recording of Be Here Now off the high of their historic live sets at Knebworth in August 1996. With their public visibility came the attention of paparazzi, and the Gallagher brothers made rich targets for the tabloid hounds. Add in a healthy dose of cocaine, and the table was set to record the third album.

It’s easy to see the one of the primary faults of the album without even playing it– 12 songs clocking in at 71 minutes. This isn’t a prog album and nothing justifies that kind of length. It’s coupled with curious production choices, such as excessive layering of instruments, that bog down what truly are some quality song ideas.

Nevertheless, we have this chonk of an album to get through.

D’ Ya Know What I Mean?

The lead single also opens the record. It’s one song that seems too long by its near 8 minute runtime but for some reason actually works. It’s also another of many Oasis songs that really aren’t about anything – this is just a rock in and rock out tune, not offering much in the way of discourse. Sure it has lyrics, but good luck analyzing them.

I do still quite enjoy this song even with apparent faults. It’s one of a few from the record that don’t throw me off and holds places in playlists I make today. The single did extremely well for Oasis, charting well in many different countries.

My Big Mouth

This is one of two songs from the record that were aired out live at the Knebworth gigs a year prior. It was a highlight of that live set but studio choices made render the studio version somewhat lesser. Here, Noel decided to layer his guitar a lot, and it did not enhance the song. It’s kind of a mess to listen to, even though a very good track is hiding under all of the guitar. The version on the Knebworth live recording is much more worthy than the studio cut.

Magic Pie

A song title that came about because Noel misread the word “magpie.” This track is interesting, in that it both sucks and is really good. The messy production suits the song well and the overall vibe is a melancholy affair that gets my attention. But the song is WAY too long and also there are a few stupid lyrics thrown in. Very much a mixed bag here.

Stand By Me

The album’s second single and one that sees a decent runtime at 5:55. Noel apparently wrote it after getting food poisoning but Noel at times also states that he doesn’t remember writing it, so who knows. This is one of Oasis’ strongest songs after the first two albums and it’s one from this album that works well without needing any real editing.

I Hope, I Think, I Know

For all the criticism of the album’s length, it’s a song that comes it at a very acceptable 4:22 that is a total castaway. The song isn’t “bad” per se but it’s totally forgettable. Should’ve been a B-side.

The Girl In The Dirty Shirt

Noel wrote this about his then girlfriend, who was ironing a dirty shirt because she didn’t bring enough clothing along for a tour. It’s a decent track that sounds good and isn’t burdened with overproduction.

Fade In-Out

A bluesy rock anthem that would be fine for most bands but does sound odd coming from Oasis. Overall it’s a pretty cool song, though. Johnny Depp played slide guitar on it.

Don’t Go Away

The album’s final single, released only in Japan and North America for whatever reason. It could easily be called the album’s best track, everything works here and there isn’t any room for criticism. It’s a sad affair about not wanting to lose someone close and might have been influenced by cancer scares among mothers of the band members around the time.

Be Here Now

The title track offers a pretty good rock tune with some annoying sound choices with whistling and a cheap piano (apparently Noel wrote the original piano line on a toy one belonging to Mick Jagger’s kid). The annoyances are minor though and the song is overall solid.

All Around The World

The album’s third single clocks in at over 9 minutes. The song is fine but not really needing that long to run. It’s a definite “homage” to the Beatles, something Oasis have been accused of being time and again. It’s not one I play very often.

It’s Getting Better (Man!!)

This was the other song played at Knebworth a year before seeing a studio release. The studio version has some sloppy production and is over a minute longer than the live version, another case where the live cut wins the battle. It’s still a decent offering.

All Around The World (Reprise)

We close out with another two minutes of All Around The World, because we needed to I guess.

Be Here Now was initially a massive success for Oasis. Out of the gate the album sold everywhere and cracked the top of the charts in 17 countries and an impressive number 2 in the US. The album went platinum in Britain within 24 hours of release and was the nation’s fastest selling album until Adele many years later.

And then people listened to the album they just bought in droves. Be Here Now quickly became the album most sold back to music stores. The critical reception was tepid and the band had fallen far short of delivering a masterpiece worthy as a follow-up to (What’s The Story) Morning Glory? Noel Gallagher would begin the process of re-producing the album in the mid 2010’s but abandoned the concept after only working with the first song.

Oasis would live on for another 12 years after the record, but the era of Britpop was now dead. Other influential acts like Suede, Blur and Pulp had intentionally abandoned the sound, while Oasis tried and failed to recreate the anthem rock magic of their first two records. The band would live on through reputation and a few scattered hits in the 2000’s, but the golden era of Oasis was over.

I do have a hard time truly summing up what I think of the album. There are good songs on it, and I think a few other songs would benefit from more attention to detail in the studio. But – I don’t think the album is a hidden goldmine of great music either. Many of the songs are secondary tracks and even some of the stuff that works doesn’t touch the heights of the first two records. The songs that stand out were the album’s singles and those are known quantities among the fanbase. The songs didn’t outshine the massive hits the band had in their early stage.

I could say that Be Here Now is one of their stronger albums when compared to the rest of the catalog, but that’s honestly saying more about the records that came after than it is finding strengths about this album. In the end I don’t think a better production job would have raised the album’s bar a whole lot, but a few tracks would benefit greatly from it. This is still a middling affair, even if more care had been taken to shape it sonically.

This was the end of the road for Oasis as a world-conquering entity. The past few years have seen a great deal of retro appreciation for the works that put the band on the map, but now we’re into the 25th anniversary of the work that marks the stopping point. The band is still broken up with little realistic odds of getting back together, and even that would be a celebration of hindsight as opposed to a new creative era. England itself would be no worse for the wear in the absence of Britpop, as Radiohead were queued up to command the music world’s attention just as Britpop was being laid to rest.

Tony Hawk and Punk Rock Karaoke – In The City

Today’s single is my most recent acquisition – I saw info floating around about it and I made the purchase. It’s as much a curiosity as anything but it’s cool to have one of the most influential figures from my era on a recorded piece of music for the first time (that I know of).

To start let’s talk about Punk Rock Karaoke for a bit. The band has been around since 1996, formed by Circle Jerks and former Bad Religion guitarist Greg Hetson. It was formed for the purpose stated in the band’s name – to do punk rock “karaoke” covers for parties. It is possible to actually sing for the band at a gig, just like karaoke but with a real live backing band.

The present incarnation of the band includes Stan Lee (of The Dickies, not that Stan Lee) on guitar, Randy Bradbury of Pennywise on bass and Darrin Pheiffer of Goldfinger on drums. All are credited and present for these two songs as they are fronted by Tony Hawk. The Birdman is a legend among legends in skateboarding and recounting his career accolades would take far longer than it will to briefly discuss two songs he sang on.

During 2021, Punk Rock Karaoke got together with Tony and did a few songs. They were laid down in remote fashion, now a common feature of the “new normal” of COVID. A bit over a year later a record was pressed and here we are today to talk about it.

In The City

The A-side to this release is a cover of a 1977 song from England’s The Jam. This group were noteworthy for their punk-era run through Britain until their break-up in 1982. The band featured Paul Weller, known today as a long-running solo artist of some renown.

Here today we have a cover of their debut single, executed by PRK and with Tony Hawk handling vocals. The song itself is played well by the band, it’s a faithfully executed cover and a song I’d wager they’ve run through more than once in their karaoke gigs.

The real question is “How are Tony Hawk’s vocals?” and honestly he totally kills it. He isn’t just serviceable and is even beyond competent – he absolutely has a voice for punk rock and it is on full display here. It’s very easy to say that Tony should front his own band, but I doubt the guy who made a zillion dollars off his video game franchise wants to start a punk band in his 50’s. But he could totally pull it off.

The video is worth a watch at the end, as Tony tears down his backdrop and heads back to his day job.

Neat Neat Neat

The B-side is a cover from The Damned and the opening cut of their 1977 debut album Damned Damned Damned. While The Damned might be most recognized for their cover of The Sweet’s Ballroom Blitz (recorded with Lemmy), this song is often the go-to original from the group.

Again, Tony and PRK handle the cover brilliantly. The Damned’s early snarling and rough attitude isn’t going to replicated but this cover does justice to the song and isn’t just a clean, polished rendition. It packs much of the same punch as the original.

That does it for today’s single. Not something I was ever expecting but one I was very happy to grab when it did come around. And Tony Hawk is beyond capable of handling some punk rock vocals, making this more than a mere gimmick release.

The Song Remains The Same – Jump

It’s time again for my silly little game where I compare a bunch of different songs with the same name. This current edition crosses genre lines and is a true cross-section of music from several parts of the soundscape. It also has a blatantly obvious winner before I even begin typing so I’ll just save that one for the end. Lazy content is still content, remember that.

Today’s song is Jump. Again, I’m sure most everyone can guess who I’ve already handed the award to. But in the interest of fairness, let’s review a handful of other acts who’ve recorded songs called Jump. There are a few hit-makers here and also a few legacy acts who I wasn’t aware had songs called Jump. I stumbled into a list of nine major artists who’ve done a song called Jump, and a cursory Spotify search turns up about a trillion results, so I’ll cull this down to five other acts and our winner. Let’s have at it.

Kris Kross

The first contestant offers up a noteworthy entry into the contest. Kriss Kross’s Jump was a massive smash hit in 1992. It topped charts in many different countries and was the best-selling single of that year with over 2 million copies moved. It was the the first rap song ever to spend 8 weeks on top of the Billboard Hot 100, and the first song since The Police’s Every Breath You Take to accomplish that feat.

And fair play to Kriss Kross – this was a justified smash hit. The two Chris’ who comprised the group were a year or so younger than me when they delivered this magnum opus. Even in the sea of grunge and Metallica in 1992, this song was all over the place. There’s no arguing with success and this was a total masterstroke.

Kylie Minogue

Speaking of massive hits, we have one of the world’s biggest hitmakers in Kylie Minogue right here. She did that “loco-motion” song in the 80’s and then did that one song in the early 00’s that literally took over every chart on the planet. I’d be here until next week running down her accolades.

And this isn’t one of them. Her version of Jump is a deep cut off of a 1997 album – it wasn’t released as a single and it’s nothing to write home about. It is some kind of nice electro-pop slow jam, the song isn’t bad by any stretch, but it’s also not winning any awards.


This cut comes from the group’s 1981 breakout album Get Lucky. The album features Loverboy’s signature song Working For The Weekend and was a big seller. Loverboy’s Jump was the final single from the record and also features an interesting collaboration – the track was co-written by Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance. That duo were slinging songs left and right for any takers before Adams’ big breakout in 1983. I don’t know the history behind this, if it was an Adams/Vallance song that the band decided to use or if that writing pair and Loverboy collaborated on the song, but here we have it.

It’s a pretty cool song, certainly fitting of Loverboy. It doesn’t outdo what we know is coming, and honestly I wouldn’t rank it ahead of Kriss Kross either, but it’s a fun song. Honestly I’m more curious about the specifics behind Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance being involved with it than anything.


Our most recent entry to the series is from the Barbados superstar’s 2012 album Unapologetic. It was a single from the record and apparently a well-regarded song by critics, though for Rihanna standards it lags behind many other songs in streaming numbers (a paltry 43 million compared to her busting a billion twice and being close to that with several more tracks).

It is a cool song that samples Ginuwine’s 1996 mega-hit Pony, which was everywhere in Europe for the few years I spent there. Rihanna’s Jump hasn’t lived up to her usual measure, but in fairness she is often the gold standard of modern music releases and I guess everyone has to have other songs besides mega-hits.

Simple Plan

One more song before we get to where we all know we’re going. This from a Canadian pop-punk act who have been around for quite awhile but I’m not really familiar with. Simple Plan’s Jump comes from their 2004 album Still Not Getting Any (2004 me hears you, bro).

I almost feel obligated to talk shit about this since it’s pop punk, but truthfully I have no problem with it. It’s a fine song, not one I’m going to race to write a massive essay about, but still solid. I never really listened to much pop punk but I never had any real issue with it either. I still have a bigger death metal and black metal collection than a lot of other people so it doesn’t matter what I think about pop punk anyway.

Out of these five entries, I’d easily give the award to Kriss Kross. Their Jump was iconic, massive and essentially ruled the world for an extended time on its release. None of the other songs here really measure up to it.

But, of course, there’s one more Jump out there. And it’s my obvious winner.

Van Halen

Jump was the lead single to Van Halen’s 1984, their final album from the initial run with David Lee Roth and a massive success. Jump itself shot to the top of the Billboard charts and stands as VH’s biggest single from their career span.

Though some VH fans do poo-poo the synth and pop direction of Jump, I’m not one of them. I was 6 years old when I first heard the song, it wasn’t going to deter me that they might not have the same edge as their debut. Nothing in the years since has changed my mind that it’s a fantastic song from a masterpiece of a record.

And nothing any other musical act did could topple Van Halen from the “Who did the best Jump?” contest. It’s time to hand the trophy to VH and call it a day on this edition of the game.

Album Of The Week – August 15, 2022

This week I want to have a look at an album that was commercially successful, has some divided fan opinion though is generally looked on fondly, but is completely disavowed by the artist.

Ozzy Osbourne – The Ultimate Sin

Released February 22, 1986 via Epic Records

My Favorite Tracks – Lightning Strikes, The Ultimate Sin, Shot In The Dark

Ozzy’s fourth album saw the return of Jake E. Lee to the guitar spot for his second and final work with Osbourne. Bob Daisley was out of the band for this one (at least the recording), replaced by Phil Soussan on bass. And Randy Castillo would join the group on drums, a position he would hold up until the mid ’90’s.

Of course the personnel and especially writing credits are murky for this album, as they often are in the shadowy world of Osbourne rights and finances. Bob Daisley did extensive work on this album before splitting from the band when Ozzy took time to prepare for a one-off Black Sabbath reunion in 1985. Drummer Jimmy DeGrasso was also involved in the early sessions, though he too would leave for Y&T and later Megadeth. Daisley was omitted from credit on the initial presses of the album but his contributions were noted on later pressings.

The controversy over writing credits would lead to issues down the line and are the true likely reason this album is slagged by the Osbourne camp, but we’ll get to those issues after running through the songs. 9 tracks at 40 minutes to go through here.

The Ultimate Sin

The title track opens the record with some super sick riffing from Lee, one could be forgiven for thinking that Ozzy’s next guitarist was the one shredding on this. Ozzy and sin go together like peanut butter and jelly and this song works exceptionally well.

Secret Loser

Another rocking track that offers up pretty much what the title says – Ozzy looks cool and all but is really a loser, or whatever. It’s probably something like that but honestly it’s not that deep and is a really nice song.

Never Know Why

Enough of the “inner loser” thing, here Ozzy and company are back out to rock. The detractor, of which Ozzy had many around this time, will never know why we rock. It’s not hard to figure out – just listen, how could you not rock?

Thank God For The Bomb

The pace comes up a bit for this song that is far less nihilistic than the title suggests. Here Ozzy is offering that the threat of mutually assured destruction is keeping nuclear annihilation from happening. It is not a “pro-nuke” song like, well, the 100 million pro-nuke metal songs out there.


A tune about fate, the great mysteries of life, the various beliefs people hold about all that, and so on. Ozzy offers a pretty fatalistic and down to earth approach to the song. Lee’s guitar gets to go off a bit more here than on other tracks too.

Lightning Strikes

A listener could find that the songs on this album, while quality, aren’t necessarily holding up to the sterling reputation of Ozzy’s past work. Here we have an entry that fits the more melodic sound of this record but also puts itself out there as the star of the show. This track is Jake Lee-era Ozzy at their best. They turned stuff up to 11 and slammed this one home.

Killer Of Giants

Another song about the bomb but this time a mournful account of the sheer power and potentially apocalyptic consequences of nuclear warfare. It could be called a ballad but it doesn’t stray into the saccharine territory that other ballads of the period got into, the song holds its place with the harder rockers on this album.

Fool Like You

A pretty simple one, Ozzy is having a go at someone he doesn’t like. No idea if it’s personal or if it’s aimed at one of society’s adversaries.

Shot In The Dark

The album closes with the home run track that was the signature hit. It is also a pre-existing song offered up to Ozzy by bassist Phil Soussan, which is likely a massive contributing factor to the song and this album being disowned by the Osbourne camp.

The song is a total winner, a very somber yet still rocking track that fits 1986 Ozzy like a glove. The song became Ozzy’s most successful single at the time and is a long-cited fan favorite from across his entire catalog.

Shot In The Dark also might as well not exist in the Osbourne version of history. It has generally been left off of greatest hits collections and was replaced later on the one it did show up on. It is on the 1993 live album Live And Loud, so something must have happened later on to dissuade Ozzy and his handlers from messing with the song anymore. It is presumably arguments over the actual songwriting credits, as Phil Soussan’s prior bandmates had worked up the original version of the song. There are enough shady dealings in Ozzy’s writing credits history to fill a book, so I would have to guess that the actual origins of Shot In The Dark keep it out of Ozzy’s lexicon.

The Ultimate Sin was a smash success for Ozzy. The album charted well in many countries and hit platinum in the United States within a few months of release. And for a number of reasons not entirely clear to the public, the album is persona non grata as far as its creator is concerned.

Ozzy has been on record with his criticisms of the album – they involve the production of Ron Nevison. Ozzy felt that the songs all “sounded the same” and that the recording could have gone better.

And in that I think Ozzy is right – there is a samey quality to many of the songs. A few do stand out, like Lightning Strikes and Shot In The Dark, but the presentation of the record as a whole could be called a bit sterile. I do think it’s a fair take.

But in the end I have to believe that the overriding issues are that of writing credits. No legal issues have ever presented themselves regarding Shot In The Dark, though obvious matters of uncredited writers are there. And even outside of that one, this album was written mostly by Bob Daisley and Jake Lee while Ozzy was away. Lee was fired after the tour cycle for this album in a shocking decision, while Daisley has long had legal issues with the Osbourne team over his contributions to several records.

It’s no secret that Sharon Osbourne has spent a great deal of time and energy in consolidating the rights to all of Ozzy’s music. She secured control of the Black Sabbath catalog from Tony Iommi and has ruled over that with an iron fist, and the buffet of issues surrounding Ozzy’s solo work make for juicy gossip any time they’re aired out in public. Bob Daisley, Jake Lee, and Lee Kerslake are the more prominent members of the “I wrote a song for Ozzy and all I got was this lousy t-shirt” club. Sharon’s battle to control Ozzy’s catalog credits has been long-ranging and largely successful, though with gross missteps along the way, like the ill-suited idea to re-record parts of classic albums in 2002 to remove Daisley and Kerslake.

One casualty of that battle is The Ultimate Sin. The album hasn’t been reissued since 1995, leaving collectors to scramble for original editions, especially on vinyl. If the album is mentioned by Sharon at all, it is with venom and spite. The album was even deleted from the Ozzy catalog in the early 2000’s, but curiously was submitted for streaming services once they became a thing. I guess money is money after all.

Whatever the issues held by creators and rights-holders, The Ultimate Sin is still an excellent statement from Ozzy that slotted very well into the sound of the latter 1980’s. Even with noted production faults, the album still delivered a quality selection of songs. And no matter the attempts to erase history, it’s an album that can’t and shouldn’t be ignored by anyone seeking quality music.

Tales From The Stage – Crowbar and Spirit Adrift

Back on Tuesday, July 26th, I took in what was – uh, I guess it’s actually my first metal show since the pandemic. Probably since some time in 2019. Some kind of metalhead I am, right?

Anyway, so I drug my poser ass out to a show. There was no way to ignore this one – Louisiana sludge legends Crowbar were in town and they brought one of doom metal’s hottest current names with them, Spirit Adrift from Texas.

I was all about the show when it was announced, but then the realization set in – it’s a weekday show and I’m in my mid-40’s. It wouldn’t have phased me in my 20’s or even 30’s, but dammit I’m old and cranky and need my sleep. Yes, yes, I know that people older than I do the road warrior shit for shows to much further extremes than me going to a place that’s honestly 2 miles away from my house, but that didn’t stop that weariness and dread from setting in a few hours before the show.

But alas, I manned up and went to the show. Two local acts played – being unable to tell time, I missed the first one. The one I did catch was named Martyaloka, they are a newer act local to Springfield and this was my first exposure to them. They do a very noisy and nasty take on death metal with sludge-like riffs that were very much at home at a Crowbar show. I haven’t been in touch with the local metal scene since the pandemic hit and tore everything apart, I’ll have to keep an ear out for these guys in the future.

It was straight into Spirit Adrift after a quick line change. It does amaze me how quickly even small clubs execute their gear changes now – back in decades past it could take eons for gear to get swapped on stage, now it’s like a Formula One pit crew.

Anyway, Spirit Adrift are a band I’ve been jamming out to the past year or so and I was really excited to see their name on this tour. While plying their trade in doom, this isn’t the slow and downtrodden “everything sucks” kind of doom. Instead it’s a riff-filled journey that hits the right groove and translates very, very well to a live stage.

Spirit Adrift played a great set from songs pulled from their four studio albums and handful of EP’s. There was no “big hit” or anything like that, the group is very consistent and the set was killer from start to finish. The band got their set in despite time running a hair long, but we’re talking a matter of minutes, no Axl Rose drama here to delay anything for hours.

Below is a full set video from a SA performance earlier in the year. I haven’t found any suitable video from this specific tour.

After Spirit Adrift it was on to the main event. Crowbar are celebrating over three decades in existence and continue to pound eardrums with their heavy-as-hell sludge and doom. While never “famous,” Crowbar is known the world over as masters of the metal scene and they retain a solid fanbase after all these years plugging away from coast to coast.

To anyone’s knowledge, Crowbar had never played in Springfield before the show a few weeks back. Kirk Windstein had been through town as a member of Down, but this was the first time Crowbar had been booked here.

Crowbar ran through a career-spanning set, including stuff from their latest album, 2022’s Zero And Below. They are at that point where they have to make some choices, having 12 studio albums to construct a set from.

The band ran through tunes old and new in the death-dealing heat of southwest Missouri in late July. It was stupid hot, both inside and out. I had to duck out once or twice to catch some air but thankfully I remained upright for the set’s duration. Even Louisiana native Kirk Windstein commented on the heat, and it’s something he’s probably used to.

It was a great show from Crowbar and one that the crowd ate up. I’ve noted a lack of energy and movement from Missouri concert crowds over the decades, but the lot at the Crowbar show that night was into it and having a good time. It’s pretty easy stuff to get into when you can literally feel the riffs pounding through you.

Seeing Crowbar and Spirit Adrift was a great way to get back into the show scene, something sorely lacking from life since COVID changed all the rules two years back. (And no, despite being in a small room with a lot of people, I or no one I know fell ill to it or anything else). I might not have caught a ton of sleep that night, but hey, sacrifice is what life is all about. We don’t get a ton of shows our way these days, or at least stuff I’d like to see, so having this one was pretty awesome.

Here is a performance from Crowbar on the next night of the same tour.

Voivod and At The Gates – We Are Connected/Language Of The Dead

Today’s single is another split release. It features two bands both well-known and heralded in metal’s lexicon, though in different aspects. Both bands were labelmates with Century Media Records in 2015 and that is the likely reason for this single being in existence. (Both still are with CM, as far as I can tell). One band is a Canadian group revered for their strange yet masterful takes on music, while the other group is a Swedish outfit hailed as a pioneer on the melodic death metal front.

The single was released in three versions – 1,000 copies on black vinyl, 500 on white and 500 on red. Red is what I went for, and now trivia time – red is my favorite color. If you press a record on red, I will go for it. Overall I’m cool with whatever vinyl colors and I dig the wide variety of stuff available, but just like Sammy Hagar, I’m gonna go for red when it’s out there.

I pre-ordered this when news of the split first came down and I’ve had it since release. Slapping At The Gates on a record is a sure-fire way to get me to buy it.

Voivod – We Are Connected

This 2015 song was initially a standalone release. The song would appear a year later on the EP Post Society. Voivod has also aired the song out live.

I won’t even bother trying to describe what Voivod sounds like. It is a useless task and words, especially mine, won’t do any justice to Voivod’s music. They are one of the most unique entities in metal and really all of music.

We Are Connected is a nice jam that extends over seven minutes, not a common runtime on the 7-inch/45 release format. It is weird, in keeping with the band’s traditions, but yet this one doesn’t go to any really challenging places and can be taken in without a ton of effort. There’s a bit to chew on and digest here but it’s a well-presented package.

At The Gates – Language Of The Dead

This song from the Swedish death metal legends was originally available a year prior to this single, as a bonus track on a deluxe version of their 2014 comeback album At War With Reality. It was the band’s first album since 1995, the juggernaut Slaughter Of The Soul that still casts a large shadow over metal to this day.

Language Of The Dead is the case of a bonus track song that people ask “why the hell was this a bonus track?” I mean, don’t get me wrong – I love At War With Reality. Hearing ATG be able to record viable music decades after their moonshot album was a thrill.

But this song is just absolutely great. It has the old-school feel that calls back to the band’s glory days while still sounding fresh and new. I don’t know how or why bands and labels choose songs to be on a record or to be cast aside for bonus material, but I agree with many others that the song could have easily slotted on to the album.

But hey, it doesn’t matter. I have the album and I have this single also, it’s all there. The two bands seem an unlikely pairing but both are revered in many circles and the end result works very, very well. This is one split that offers something a bit more than the sum of its parts, even if it was born of the convenience of having both bands on the same label.

S-Tier Songs, Vol. 13

It’s time yet again for another edition of S-Tier songs. Here’s a list of who’s in so far and the criteria behind it all.

It looks like unlucky number thirteen is up. What against the odds, damn it all band could possibly live up to that distinction?

Motörhead – Ace Of Spades

This homage to gambling would not just serve as a band’s hit, it would become the signature song associated with one of heavy metal’s most influential acts. Motörhead would not find massive commercial success, but after decades of recording and tearing up the pavement all the world over, they would become a stud in the crown of metal music.

Ace Of Spades was a single release a month ahead of the band’s fourth album of the same name. The song got noticed and hung out on the UK charts for a few months, it would also receive a UK gold certification for sales in excess of 400,000. The album Ace Of Spades would chart modestly well throughout Europe and also go gold in the United Kingdom for sales over 100,000.

And those fairly modest sales figures would be one of the biggest commercial successes of the band’s 28-year career. Motörhead were never a super popular or financially successful act, yet they endure as one of the heavyweights of the metal genre. Bassist and vocalist Lemmy Kilmister, praised in many circles as God, would make far more money writing songs for Ozzy Osbourne than for his own band.

Yet, when all comes due, it is Lemmy’s vehicle Motörhead that remains as a bastion of heavy music.

And even among the “great unwashed” who aren’t radically familiar with the music of Motörhead, it’s a damn safe bet that a lot of people have heard this song. It’s known far and wide as one of heavy metal’s greatest tunes.

The song is pretty simple in its premise – it is a buzzsaw, but with enough subtlety to distinguish it from the later-to-come death and black metal. It embodies rock, punk, speed and thrash, the latter two terms not even yet existing when it was released in 1980. Motörhead were already an edgy gambit in the few years leading up to this release – this song would cement a young legacy.

The tale of the song’s construction is fairly simple, and told in great detail in this 2017 article by Louder Sound. Drummer Phil “Philthy Animal” Taylor and guitarist “Fast” Eddie Clark were jacking around in the studio with producer Vic Maile, who was familiar with Lemmy from the latter’s time in Hawkwind. A series of riffs had been thrown around and the band worked them up while Lemmy was out on the prowl.

The lyrics would come from Lemmy later – he truly just slammed a bunch of gambling references together. It might have been in the back of a van while speeding along a freeway as he recalls, or it might have been on the shitter, as Phil Taylor would guess. Either way, the band had their title track down.

And in the wake, one of heavy metal’s immortal songs was born. Again, there is no mentioning Motörhead without Ace Of Spades. And there isn’t a lot of what we call heavy metal without Motörhead – everyone was influenced by the speedy, punkish outfit. This blend of nasty, noisy rock would give way to thrash in just a few year’s time, and by the end of the 1980’s, extreme metal was well on its way to being more than just a footnote in history. And much of all this noise owes its presence to Motörhead and principally Ace Of Spades.

It’s fair to say that this is Motörhead’s most famous song. Hell, their second most famous song is probably a pro wrestler’s theme song that the band didn’t even write. The group never really “got their due” in terms of huge success, yet they are almost without exception mentioned as a forefront influence on the music that has come from the decades since 1980. And while the band have a hefty catalog with several worthy albums and songs to choose from, there is little doubt that Ace Of Spades is the calling card that rallies all points home. When anyone mentions Motörhead, no doubt it is this gnarly riff and Lemmy’s gruff vocal delivery about losing your ass at cards that first enters one’s mind.

Why is this an S-Tier song?

Ace Of Spades is the banner by which Motörhead flew under for decades. It is a barnstormer of a song that both used and defied the music of the time to offer a new construct upon which much of the heaviest music of the ensuing years would be based off of. Everyone knows that Lemmy and Motörhead kicked ass, and everyone knows that Ace Of Spades is the signpost for the ass kickings.