Weekend Hangover: The top 50 Hair-Metal albums of all time

Features, Music reviews, Uncategorized

hair

When men were men who wore big hair and makeup


It’s the genre that simply refuses to die. It always ends up peaking its teased-up hair, leather and spandex through the underground from which it came. While the eccentricities and the hair have been toned down ever so slightly over the years, the music went underground, but it never quite left us. Sometimes maligned in the Metal community, often prone to shaming. I’m talking of course about Hair-Metal. It’s been called Glam-Metal, Cock-Rock, Stripper-Metal and Butt-Rock among other names.

The songs had chunks of hooks, the choruses were simply too catchy to ignore, and no power-ballad was too big for MTV. The genre never fully went away thanks to camera ready stars like Bret Michaels, Dee Snider and Sebastian Bach who kept themselves in the public eye as they turned to outlets such television, radio and yes, even broadway. It was the golden age of something.

While a talented few within the genre some want to be seen as respected musician who care about more than image —with the implication being that Hair Metal is all about image— others could care less about the music’s label as long as they’re being talked about, just ask Vince Neil.

The musicians are as much fun to talk about as the music they play. Rumours, dirt about band members, lineups with one original member, whispers about hair pieces and who’s —wait for it— bald. I can’t think of too many other genres of music where rumours and speculations go hand in hand with the genre as much as Hair-Metal. Talking about the music as is as much part of the fun as listening to it.

While there likely isn’t a Hair-Metal revival happening anything soon, bands like Steel Panther, Crashdiet, Reckless Love and Crazy Lixx are keeping the genre alive and well. Besides everyone likes at least one Hair band, if you don’t admit to it, you’re lying plain and simple.

A few rules for this list: No one band can be featured twice. No Greatest Hits. No modern Glam bands. Van Halen and Guns N’Roses are not Hair-Metal. Finally, no originators (that means no New York Dolls, Sweet, Slade, Hanoi Rocks and no 70s-era Aerosmith and KISS albums).

Keep your death-metal, alternative and indie darlings to yourself, I’m off to spin Cinderella and Poison’s debuts.

 

warlock

50. Triumph & Agony, Warlock (1987)

With songs like All We Are and Make Time For Love Warlock carved themselves a spot on the list. Doro Pesch’s unique voice is as powerful as the music. The album cover suggest a Dio-type Dungeons and Dragon type of metal but Warlock so  clearly belongs to Hair-Metal.

 

 

enuff

49.  Enuff Z’Nuff, Enuff Z’Nuff (1989)

Enuff Z’Nuff proved to be a hippy-ish, weird form of Hair-Metal with their colourful imagery (mostly peace signs) over the years as they did their own thing but they do belong in the genre. The New Thing and the tender ballad Fly High Michelle from their debut are wonderful remnents of the era. Donnie Vie and Chip Z’Nuff should never be without one another.

 
damn yankees

48.  Damn Yankees, Damn Yankees (1990)

Known as Glam-Metal’s very own supergroup the Damn Yankees featured an all-star lineup in Ted Nugent, Jack Blades (Night Ranger), Tommy Shaw (Styx) and that one guy who join Lynyrd Skynard on drums. It’s the ballad High Enough that put them on the map but songs like Coming of Age aren’t too shabby either.

 

y&t

47.  In Rock We Trust, Y&T (1984)

Saxon had Denim & Leather, Y&T had Lipstick & Leather. One of the lesser known bands of their era they were certainly ahead of their time. Almost the Glam version of Anvil, people took influences from them and left them dead. In Rock We Trust is not their most Hair-Metal sounding-release but it is quite possibly their best.

 

pantera

46.  Metal Magic, Pantera (1983)

Bet you weren’t expecting to see Pantera on this list were you? I’m sure Pantera wasn’t either. It is sometime whispered on the internet that the mighty Pantera’s first three albums are straight up Hair-Metal. The allegations are true. Metal Magic is Pantera’s first album, and their best of the pre-Phil Anselmo era. Terry Glaze was their singer then and boasted much of the same vocal qualities as many frontmen did during those days. Quite a change from the Anselmo-fronted Pantera metal fans know. Songs like Ride My Rocker and Tell Me You Want It displays their KISS and Van Halen influences as well as a touch of NWOBHM, but make no mistake it is glam.

 

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45.  Trilogy, Ynwgie Malmsteen (1986)

Where else was Yngwie going to show off his musical dexterity but in a Hair-band? Say what you want about the music but the shredders of the era were technically proficient on their instrument. The man is better known as a guitar hero but when restrained Malmsteen is capable of producing some fine candy-coated songs. Case in point: You Don’t Remember, I’ll Never Forget, Queen In Love.

 

hanoi rocks

44.  Two Steps from the Move, Hanoi Rocks (1984)

It’s true I said no originators. Hanoi Rocks aren’t just originators, they were doing the music as others were making their way up in Hair-Metal. The band’s drummer Razzle got in a car with a drunk Vince Neil and Hanoi Rocks was never the same. They never got due credit outside of their native Finland and were the country’s most famous rock export for years before bands like Children of Bodom, Nightwish and HIM made their mark on metal music. Boulevard of Broken Dreams and Up Around The Bend make for excellent blues-rock wrapped up in glam coating. Better known for being one of Guns N’Roses’biggest influences than their own music.

 

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43.  Black N’ Blue, Black N’Blue (1984)

Produced by none other than Gene Simmons, Black N’Blue never hit the big time but they did feature a future KISS collaborator and current-Spaceman in Tommy Thayer. Some of the songs have held up better than time would suggest. Tell me Hold On To 18 doesn’t flat-out rock. There’s plenty to like: Chains Around Heaven, Wicked Bitch, The Strong Will Rock.

 

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42.  Lita, Lita Ford (1988)

With Kiss Me Deadly we have one of Lita’s signature songs. Then there’s Close My Eyes Forever the duet with Ozzy Osbourne she later famously abandoned. Falling In and Out of Love was written by ex-beau Nikki Sixx. Best Lita Ford album? No. But it is her most recognizable work and fits every criteria on this list.

 

 

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41.  Trouble Walkin’, Ace Frehley (1989)

It took years for Ace Frehley to surface as a solo artist following his departure from KISS but “Ace is back when he told you so”. It was hard to choose between this and the debut Frehley’s Comet album but Trouble Walkin’ just edges it out. Frehley is known for covering other artists and so it should be no surprise that the best tunes of the album are covers. Ace covers The Move’s Do Ya brilliantly and put out an effective version of KISS’Hide Your Heart.

 

night ranger

40.  Midnight Madness, Night Ranger (1983)

Some would call Night Ranger rock but I disagree. The sleek and polished sounds of Don’t Tell Me You Love Me, Rumours in the Air and their band’s definitive song Sister Christian have more in common with Glam-Metal than rock. If you get one Night Ranger album, this is it.

 

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39.  Bulletboys, Bulletboys (1989)

Often described as Van Halen-esque, Bulletboys are more than carbon copy or one hit wonder. Marq Torien’s voice made the band unique. It’s a shame they’re only known for Smooth Up In Ya because they added different flavours to their brand of music; they swing with Shoot The Preacher Down and get a little funky with For The Love of Money.

 

lee aaron

38. Metal Queen, Lee Aaron (1984)

She come like thunder risin’ from the gound. Lee Aaron was the Metal Queen (sorry Doro). Although she became more pop as the years went on —including a period where she became a Jazz musician— Lee Aaron’s 1984 opus remains her most memorable album to this day largely due to the title-track and Lady of the Darkest Night.

 

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37. Britny Fox, Britny Fox (1988)

The album jacket just screams Glam. Looking and sounding like Cinderella’s Gypsy cousins, Britny Fox were not one of the top-tier Hair-Metal outfits but they’re better than logic would dictate. Long Way To Love, Girlschool and Gudbuy T’Jane have held up better than you remember.

 

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36.  Vixen, Vixen (1988)

Is it sexist if I call them the female equivalent of Poison? Too late, I just did. Yes, we all know they didn’t write Edge of a Broken Heart but that doesn’t detract from how catchy the song is. Besides, I always preferred Want You To Rock Me and songs like Cryin’ are worth their salt.

 

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35.  Cocked & Loaded, L.A. Guns (1989)

Any of L.A. Guns’ first two albums could be considered as their best but if pressed I’ll have to give the edge to Cocked & Loaded. Sleazy Come Sleazy Go and I’m Addicted just ooze junkie Hair-Metal. It also happens to features their signature song in the form of The Ballad of Jayne.

 

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34. Faster Pussycat, Faster Pussycat (1987)

Faster Pussycat was too sleazy for MTV— OK maybe except House of Pain—but in a post-GNR era they found a niche ready to pounce on their filthy Glam-Rock. Unlike their contemporaries, they sound like they listened to the New York Dolls instead of just stealing their look. With tunes like Bathroom Wall and Babylon Faster Pussycat is vulgar, sexist and occasionally disgusting —all by design, of course.

 

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33.  All Systems Go, Vinnie Vincent Invasion (1988)

KISS axeman Vinnie Vincent teamed up with future Slaughter members Dana Strum and Mark Slaughter on his second and best album. Vinnie Vincent lnvasion had commercial success with That Time of Year on MTV and Love Kills was on the soundtrack for Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master. The only reason the band disbanded was sadly Vinnie Vincent himself. Mark and Dana went on to form Slaughter. Vinnie Vincent went on to co-write songs with KISS for their Revenge album, sued his former employers a gazillion times (never winning once) and became a recluse.

 

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32.  Leather Boys With Electric Toys, Pretty Boy Floyd (1989)

Pretty Boy Floyd made exactly one worthwhile album and that’s Leather Boyz With Electric Toyz. The melodic Wild Angels and I Wanna Be With You would’ve made be great songs on any Hair-Metal record. They also did a decent Poison-esque cover of Motley Crue’s Toast of the Town. This debut is often more remembered for its album cover than the music, but Pretty Boy Floyd delivers.

 

firehouse

31.  Firehouse, Firehouse (1992)

Its rock sprinkled with pop and its done oh so well. For my money Firehouse’s debut album is still the best thing they’ve ever made. Infectious songs like Don’t Treat Me Bad and Shake & Tumble scream good times while ballads like Love of a Lifetime are powerful and genuine.

 

trash

30.  Trash, Alice Cooper (1989)

By the end of the decade Hair-Metal was so big that even of the granfathers of rock, Alice Cooper himself, tried his hand at it. The result is an Alice tailor-made for 1989. It gave him a shot in the arm and his highest charting song in 12 years with Poison. Songs like House of Fire and Spark in the Dark are fun to this day. The guest list is impressive: Jon Bon Jovi, Richie Sambora, Steven Tyler, Joe Perry (and most of Aerosmith) and Kip Winger among others.

 

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29.  Winger, Winger (1988)

The band Beavis and Butt-Head made cool to hate. Metallica once threw darts at a picture of Kip Winger in the process of recording the black album. How could we possibly have an all-glam list without Winger? Sure it’s very pop and sometimes borders on the creepy —Seventeen may not see a release in this age— but Winger were undeniably some of the finest musicians in the genre.

 

steel

28.  Steelheart, Steelheart (1992)

Miljenko Matjevic’s voice. The man possessed an impressive instrument capable of vocal summersaults. Steelheart seemed poised for success before an onstage accident nearly killed their singer and put a halt to their career. The band’s debut remains one of the strongest album in the genre with essentials like She’s Gone and Everybody Loves Eileen.

 

great white

27.   …Twice Shy, Great White (1988)

Its difficult choosing between this or Once Bitten but …Twice Shy sounds more glam to my ears. Great White were more a blues-based band than anything until they were locked in the studio to produce catchy, radio-friendly rock and they did exactly that. Once Bitten, Twice Shy, House of Broken love and The Angel Song are bonafide Hair classics.

 

aerosmith

26.  Aerosmith, Permanent Vacation (1987)

Once originators now less um, original, this is the one that brought Aerosmith back to the big time. More of a Hair record than Pump and sleazier than anything they’ve done in ten years. This began a new era for the band, one featuring outside writers like Jim Vallance and Desmond Child. Cock-rock opener Heart’s Done Time, the poppy Magic Touch and the groovy Rag Doll are Aerosmith’s best shots at Glam-Metal. Angel is one of their all-time great ballads and who could forget Dude (Looks Like A Lady)?

 

vince neil

25.  Exposed, Vince Neil (1993)

Speaking of Dude (Looks Like A Lady), Vince Neil was the inspiration behind the song. Released after the Grunge explosion was already in full swing, Exposed lived in a vacuum that ignored everything surrounding itself. You’re Invited but Your Friend Can’t Come was the hit from the album, but thankfully its not the only good song as its accompanied by the likes of the heavy Sister of Pain and the cruelly underrated Living Is A Luxury. Steve Stevens of Billy Idol does once again an admirable job on guitar.

 

nelson

24.  After the Rain, Nelson (1990)

The Nelson twins. Boy can they ever craft a well-written song that will stay in your head for days. Say what you will about these songs being quote-on-quote soft, Nelson had better musicianship than many of the peers. It never got better than the debut as far as Nelson is concerned but this collection of song is fantastic. Oh and it did sell 10 million copies.

 

white lion

23. Pride, White Lion (1987)

A thinking man’s Hair band? Cries for the environment and the children’s future? White Lion was something of an oddity in the Glam cannon even then, now they stand out even more. Tunes like Wait and Hungry were all good-natured fun but there’s a definitely a somber side to songs like Lonely Nights and When The Children Cry. Oh yeah, before I forget, Bratta shreds.

 

stryper

22.  To Hell With The Devil, Stryper (1986)

Good Christian boys can’t rock, can they? It turns out they can and they still deliver great albums even today. Besides, a little research will show you that Michael Sweet and the band weren’t always walking along the righteous and holy path (check out Against the Law). The band’s ’80s output is great Pop-Metal but To Hell With the Devil was their breakthrough album with the title track, Free, and the tender god-loving ballad Honestly.

 

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21.  Turbo, Judas Priest (1986)

In 1986 Judas Priest wasn’t a Heavy-Metal band dabbling with Glam, they were drenched in it. Listen to songs like Locked In, Parental Guidance and the somber ballad Out In The Cold and tell me I’m wrong. Or the title-track. It’s a more accessible Priest, one that crafted very good pop songs at that.

 

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20.  Lick It Up, KISS (1983)

It’s no wonder KISS chose to take the makeup off with Lick It Up. The band’s new pop-metal direction and look was in style and this remains their strongest Hair Metal release. KISS emphasized visuals as did MTV who showcased the band’s exclusive unmasking live. The only album to officially credit the lost Egyptian Ankh warrior Vinnie Vincent. A Million To One is of the best things ’80s KISS ever did.

 

ozzy

19.  The Ultimate Sin, Ozzy (1986)

It’s better than the jacket sleeve, I swear. Ozzy with bouffant hair and ridiculous costumes is a sight to see. The music made during this time period is largely ignored by the Ozzy camp but there’s some gems on The Ultimate Sin. Shot ln the Dark is one of Ozzy’s catchiest song and one of his biggest hits. Hair gems such as Secret Loser and Lightning Strikes have a respectable place among Hair-Metal classics as do melancholic tunes such as Killer of Giants. Jake E. Lee,man.

 

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18.  Eat ‘Em & Smile, David Lee Roth (1986)

I’m talking about a Yankee Rose! I know, I said no Van Halen but surely David Lee Roth solo has to count? DLR replaced Eddie Van Halen with Steve Vai and the party continued as if nothing happened. Eat ‘Em and Smile sounded more like Van Halen than Van Halen did at this point. Many of the songs on here are up to par with Van Halen classics. Shy Boy, Going Crazy and Yankee Rose make for good argument.

 

tesla

16. The Great Radio Controversy, Tesla (1989)

It was a tough decision between this and Mechanical Resonance but I’ll give a slight edge to The Great Radio Controversy. Tesla were more of a ’70s Arena-Rock band than anything else but their songs fit right in the ’80s landscape. Love Song was the hit here but hard rockers like Hang Tough remind us of why Tesla was more than your average Hair band.

 

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17.  Blow My Fuse, Kix (1988)

Kix unleashed many great songs in the ’80s and Blow My Fuse has a good chunk of them. Never has a more beautiful anti-suicide ballad been written than Don’t Close Your Eyes. One of the guitar players in a band l was once in sang this song just about every time he opened his mouth. Cold Blood is one of the anthems of the era and songs like Gets It While Its Hot and She Dropped the Bomb are well-worth a listen.

 

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16.  Metal Health, Quiet Riot (1983)

Hold the distinction of the first #1 Metal album on the Billboard charts. Of course by reaching the top so early it was all downhill from there. Maybe there was too much tension within the band, perhaps they ran out of Slade songs to cover, but if you put on Metal Health and close your eyes, it’s 1983 and you feel the “noize” again. Surprised to see it a little low on the list? The singles were the best songs and the rest paled Thunderbird and Slick Black Cadillac never did much for me. That or Kevin DuBrow’s attitude.

 

dang

15.  Danger Danger, Danger Danger (1989)

Lexxi Foxx’s favourite band. I swear they’re not on the list just because I like to repeat the words Danger Danger. Drummer-turned-singer Ted Poley has one of the best voices in Glam and the band’s debut is full of upbeat pop-metal anthems. Songs like Naughty Naughty, Bang Bang, Don’t Walk Away and Feels Like Love are no good for anyone’s IQ but we’ll forgive them because they’re so damn catchy.

 

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14.  The Final Countdown, Europe (1986)

Yes it’s the one with that song, but there’s more to this band than a hit single. The Final Countdown is filled with chunks of hook-laden songs like Rock the Night, Cherokee, and tender ballad Carrie. Although Europe tries very hard to distance themselves from the genre these days, this is the version of the band —and Joey Tempest’s hair— we liked most.

 

 

scorpions

13.   Love At First Sting, Scorpions (1984)

Scorpions made their teeth long before the Glam explosion, but it doesn’t change the fact that for a period time in the 80’s and ’90s they were for all intends and purpose a Hair band. They also had massive hits but never more so than on Love At First Sting. Mid-paced rocker Big City Night aged like fine wine. Still Loving You is one of the most poignant power-ballads. Do I even need to bring up Rock You Like a Hurricane? 

 

slaughter

12.  Slaughter, Slaughter (1990)

If you ask me some of the best Hair-Metal came out in the early ’90s. Slaughter is a prime example of that. The band’s eponymous release features many glamtastic songs: Eye to Eye, Burning Bridges (about none other than Vinnie Vincent), Spend My Life and that’s not including the hits Up All Night and Fly to the Angels. Like many bands on this list, Slaughter’s debut album marked their commercial and career peak.

 

dokken

11. Under Lock And Key, Dokken (1985)

Sure, Tooth & Nail was heavier and Back for the Attack has Dream Warriors and Mr. scary but Under Lock And Key has the hits and some of Dokken’s most melodic, memorable work and if there’s one thing the band was about it was melody. Songs like Unchain the Night, The Hunter, It’s Not Love and In My Dreams are enough to make any album great. Oh and they had a certain George Lynch on guitar, you may have heard of him.

 

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10.  Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich, Warrant (1989)

Where’d the down boys go? Say what you want, this one is still miles ahead of Cherry Pie althought Bobbie Brown was nowhere in sight. Jani Lane could write, RIP. Down Boys, Sometimes She Cries and what is the band’s ultimate song, Heaven. Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich is one of the must-have Hair-Metal albums.

 

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9.  Detonator, Ratt (1990)

Shocker! I’m sure many would’ve expected Out of the Cellar to make it on the list, but I feel Detonator is a little stronger overall. Ratt’s 80s output is well-known but this early ’90s effort contains gem after gem. Shame, Shame, Shame is pure Ratt. Lovin’ You’s a Dirty Job is sleazy, let’s do it in the back of the car-rock. Then there are songs like the mature Givin’ Yourself Away, the flashback-inducing One Step Away, the speedy Can’t Wait On Love. Stephen Pearcy never sounded better than he did on Detonator and Hard Time is still my favourite vocal performance of his.

 

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8.  Whitesnake, Whitesnake (1987)

Has such a simple keyboard pattern ever been used more efficiently than the one in Is This Love? This album is home to the one video every car-humping scene in cinematic history has attempted to reproduce. There’s more than the display of affection for cars that is Here I Go Again or the masturbatory Led Zeppelin-esque Still of the Night. Gimme All Your Love and Cryin’ in the Rain for instance. The album sometimes known as 1987 was a monster Hair-Metal album. It repackaged David Coverdale for a new generation and made a video vixen out of Tawny Kitaen, thank god.

 

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8.  Slippery When Wet, Bon Jovi (1986)

Although he probably would never admit any correlation to the genre, Bon Jovi was glam. The early incarnation of the band was, at the very least. Slippery When Wet is as big as it gets for Bon Jovi or Hair-Metal for that matter. Livin’ On A Prayer, You Give Love A Bad Name, Let It Rock, that’s quite the list. Wanted Dead or Alive was so good it transcended the notion of musical genres. Without Love is a sleeper hit. Not my favourite Bon Jovi (that would be the debut), but how can you go wrong with this one?

 

twisted sister

7.  Stay Hungry, Twisted Sister (1984)

There’s more to Twisted Sister than two big singles. I’ll even go on record and say We’re Not Gonna Take It and I Wanna Rock are not, I repeat not the best songs on the album. Burn In Hell and Horror-teria are both infinitely better. A mighty fine Hair album and one that could swing with some of the heavier bands out there too. Metallica once opened for them.

 

wasp

6.  W.A.S.P, W.A.S.P. (1984)

A little heavier, rougher around the edges and definitely more metallic than their peers, W.A.S.P irked Senator Al Gore’s wife and is the main reason parental advisory stickers even exist.Blackie Lawless’voice is so good because it sounds like he’s broken. He literally sounds like a soul-sucking demon from hell who just experienced a painful breakup and learned to play melodic Heavy-Metal. There’s so much to like about W.A.S.P.’s debut. The explicit Animal (F*** Like A Beast). The catchiness of I Wanna Be Somebody. The pop qualities of L.O.V.E. Machine. The irresistible, occultism of Sleeping (In The Fire). The jury is still out on what the name W.A.S.P. means. Lawless once said, “We ain’t sure pal”.

 

skid row

5.  Skid Row, Skid Row, (1989)

While 1992 Skid Row could swing with Pantera, 1989 Skid Row were playing pretty-boy rock and earning a living doing it. It’s also the Sebastian Bach-fronted incarnation of Skid Row that most of us remember. It’s the ballads 18 and life and I Remember You that stole the show but let’s not forget Youth Gone Wild.

 

cinderella

4.  Long Cold Winter, Cinderella (1988)

Night Songs may be more glam but it’s Cinderella’s sophomore album that takes the cake. It’s a blusier, better-written and more mature effort.  With melodic tunes like Gypsy Road and Last Mile, the dirty blues of Bad Seamstress and the honesty of Don’t Know What You Got (Till Its Gone) it’s no wonder Cinderella and Long Cold Winter is so high on the list.

 

def

3.  Pyromania, Def Leppard (1983)

I like Hysteria, but I love Pyromania. It just rocks harder. With Pyromania Def Leppard were able to crossover to mainstream commercial success while keeping the rock crowd happy, no easy feat. This was when Def Leppard was still cool to like. If you ask me the sound of Def Leppard is perfectly encapsulated in Photograph. Its got some serious companionship with the anxious Rock! Rock! (Till You Drop), the memorable intro to Rock of Ages, the desperation of Too Late for Love and the beauty of Stagefright.

 

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2.  Look What The Cat Dragged In, Poison (1986)

An argument could be made for any of Poison’s first three albums but the debut edges everything out by a single Aqua-Net sprayed hair. It was the first time the world heard of and saw them. MTV, the album cover, from the moment they first showed up on TV screens across America the very image of Poison had been etched into popular-culture. As such Poison is perhaps the utmost definition of glam and Hair-Metal. Between Talk Dirty to Me, I Want Action, Cry Tough, I Won’t Forget You and the title track there’s enough bubblegum-rock to chew on for days. A favourite now as it was then.

 

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1.  Dr. Feelgood, Motley Crue (1989)

Best Crüe album? Arguably. Glammiest? That would be Theatre of Pain. Biggest album with the most hit singles? It has to be Feelgood hands-down. Dr. Feelgood blends together everything that was fun about the ’80s —and the genre for that matter— in a decadent, unapologetic cocktail. The title track, Kickstart My Heart, Same Ol’ Situation, Don’t Go Away Mad (Just Got Away), Without You, Slice of Your Pie, Time For Change are all reasons why Dr. Feelgood is numero uno.

 

 

Retro-gaming: the choice of a new generation but at what cost?

Features, Uncategorized

 

Atari-cartridges

You can almost smell the cartridges, admit it.


 

Nostalgia is a very lucrative business with many believing in the value behind the sentiment, ready to relive or cash in on this phenomenon. Retro-gaming as a hobby is rapidly gaining traction among gamers young and old, allowing many to get immersed in the nostalgia surrounding vintage school video games. The devout retro-gamer and collector sleeps with one eye open, a list of must-have titles in one hand. Much like The Legend of Zelda, there is a continuous quest to find the Triforce, the holy grail so to speak. On the surface it seems like a harmless and glamorous hobby if one judges by the impressive collections displayed by various YouTube channels. A collector posts a video of a stacked collection and every fan in the comment section is in awe and just about faints. Instant gratification. The bigger the collection, the greater the fawning. That’s not to say there isn’t a somber side to collecting coins, princesses and old-school video games.

 

    $ is the name of the game

It is difficult to be upfront about retro games without mentioning their cost. It is one expensive hobby! Collectors will no doubt find it expensive to purchase every game they want with the sheer amount of overpriced and in-demand titles. The reality is that being the devout fan with near-complete collections (even if it is console, franchise or genre specific) requires a lot of time, money and effort. A great bargain can still be found of course, but hunting for certain games can take years of rummaging through flea markets, thrift stores and gaming shops. With retro-gaming, most of the games that marked my childhood will cost me more than I’m comfortable spending on a single item— especially when buying complete games including the box/case and manual. Never mind video game consoles, that’s another story. It’s also hard to escape the fact that many vintage titles will cost more than a brand new video game that just hit stores.

 

games

I used to spend a lot of time going through shelves that looked just like this one.

       eBay

The advent of the internet and eBay has made it easier to obtain nearly any game in multitude of conditions. However with eBay, people often name their prices on specific items. Games such a Conker’s Bad Fur Day for the Nintendo 64 can fetch as much as $200 if they include the original box/container and manual (if your eyes widened even slightly please do not google Earthbound). Not too shabby for what was essentially dormant market in the late 1990s to early 2000’s when you could often find older titles for a minimal price.

 

      It’s a very addictive hobby

Perhaps too addictive. When I was collecting retro video-games I wanted more, all the time. It didn’t even need to be quality stuff, I just wanted more of it. I was like a smoker contemplating his next cigarette, done before I ever inhaled. As a result my collection grew. Before I knew it I had amassed titles in my collection I never played — not even once (NHL Stanley Cup, Yoshi’s Cookie, anyone?). In my mind they served as trophies to boost my cred among my fellow collectors. Surely someone would be impressed by my collection, or so I thought. Although I did play most of them, what the games really represented were dusty reminders of an unhealthy, possibly OCD-driven obsession.

 

      No money back guarantee

It can prove difficult to make your money back if you’re trying to part with pieces of your collection, even rare, sought after titles. When time came for me to move out it was necessary for me to part with my retro-games and systems. I was in great need of money and didn’t have the time to put all the items I possessed on eBay. Here’s the deal: everyone is looking for a bargain with hardly anyone buying. Shopping them around earned me only a small fraction of what I had paid for them.From experience, collecting vintage video games is not about turning a profit (unless you manage to find a rare steal). I would sell parts of my collection and then purchase what I had sold at a later time. Then I would miss a system or game and had to buy the item once more; it became a vicious cycle and I was helpless.

 

      Competition

I tried selecting only the games dear to my heart, I really did, but temptation is everywhere. A part of me always felt in competition with other collectors due to the nature of the hobby. Sometimes I would buy games because it was mentioned on greatest video games lists on the internet and magazines. Maybe people would find it impressive that I owned a piece of their childhood somehow. Perhaps the most unfortunate aspect of retro-gaming is it is often about what one doesn’t have than what they own.

 

       More than games

It is no longer about owning the games. There’s all sort of toys and decorative figurines adorning gamers’ shelves. Whether its classic figurines or the recent Amiibo and Funko characters, there will always be the need for more stuff. Framed posters, mini-arcades, plushies… the list goes on. It used to be about owning the games but now it is also about the extras. Special editions, imports, the list goes on.Where do we draw the line? I like games, but not to the point of it consuming every single inch of living space. Collectors dedicate entire rooms and create shrines to their 8, 16 and 64 bit possessions.

 

         Time’s up

For me it was time to wave on my fellow collectors goodbye as the retro-gaming ship passed me by. I loved holding the controllers of my beloved Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo between my hands and devouring the classics from my childhood, but I could no longer continue financially or mentally. I became entrapped by the possessions I owned, always on the search for more. Never would I be able to own all the games I wanted nor compete with others and I decided I’d had enough. I still have a fondness for retro-gaming and certain games will always hold a place in my heart. I’ll forever enjoy the occasional rounds of Mario Kart 64 and I’ll always have fond memories of Contra and Castlevania, but I am no longer a card-carrying member of the retro-gaming community.

Looking in the rearview mirror, I think I made the right choice.

 

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Which is your favourite retro-gaming console? Are you a retro-gamer? If so what do you collect? Agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments.

 

 

Why I’m addicted to BoJack Horseman and so should you

Features, TV, Uncategorized

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“Can everyone stop talking about people that aren’t me?”


 

What do you get when a talking horse adopts three kids? 9 seasons of popular ’90s sitcom Horsin’ Around. What do you get when you follow the life of the show’s lead star turned has-been celebrity? BoJack Horseman.

BoJack Horseman is slowly but surely becoming Netflix’s sleeper hit. A television show about a talking horse displaying near-unparalleled amounts of depth ? Yeah right. Then came the surprise. Instead of being just another mindless show, it made me face my depression head-on. I couldn’t hide. I realized it wasn’t the dumb, funny show I thought it was. Compared to some of the thoughts and sentiments expressed by Bojack, Brian from Family Guy looks deep for about a quarter of a second. With BoJack, I felt understood in ways I never thought would be possible with TV.

The show is one of the latest animated series targeted toward adults. Make no mistake, despite it’s animation and cutesy sound effects, it deals almost strictly with adult themes and content. The Netflix brainchild is rewarding if you can get past the fact that  anthropomorphic animals interact with humans and no one ever bats an eyelash. Don’t take it from me, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings has said BoJack Horseman is his favourite original series on the streaming platform.

Rest assured, it’s not all depth and doom in BoJack’s world. There’s also comedic relief in the form of BoJack’s best friend, the couch-crashing Todd Chavez, and Princess Carolyn’s beau Vincent Adultman.

Part of the genius of BoJack Horseman is in its various background gags, with some of the visual jokes being quite obvious, others a tad subtler. With repeated viewings you pick up on things that you’ve never observed before. There already exist lists that point out these gags such as this one.

BoJack Horseman received its fair share of criticism early on yet quickly became a darling among major publications and critics using words such as complex and melancholic — and accurately so — to describe the series.

Some of the criticism is valid. At first glance there doesn’t seem to be much significance to a show about a has-been celebrity who also happens to be a horse. As such, I believe some viewers have given up on the show too early. It’s only as the show’s first season progresses that its viewers take the plunge, drenching themselves in this anthropomorphic existential comedy ( hold the comedy and replace it with melancholy). It’s comedy but it’s dark comedy.

If it doesn’t get you right away, that’s perfectly normal. BoJack Horseman is a grower, not a shower. It was around season one’s seventh episode when I decided that I was madly in love with this show. I never turned back and devoured season 2 and 3.

BoJack Horseman is funny, self-deprecating and satirical when it needs to be; it’s sad, aware and real when unexpected. It made me feel things in a way a cartoon should never make you feel. BoJack made me feel sad. It forced me to acknowledge depression. It made me examine the roots and cause of feelings. Darnit, TV! I got more than I bargained for when I hit play on that first episode. Damn you Netflix and damn you Will Arnett.

This existential comedy is a rare phenomenon in that it’s a critical darling and the people’s show without alienating one or the other.The viewer wants BoJack to find serenity perhaps with selfish hopes of finding possible comfort for oneself. At every turn the show takes the unexpected route. Bojack is miserable in season 1, gets what he wants in season 2 and deals with the repercussion of obtaining everything he dreamed of in season 3.

 

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“Great story Bojack you should put that in a podcast so l can unsubscribe.”

The show messes with the viewers psyche by making them wonder if they’re Zoes or Zeldas (watch season one then come back, you’ll understand), if they’re really good deep down or just emotional wreck. BoJack Horseman may be clever and funny, but its audience is smart enough that to know he is probably not meant to have a happy ending. In BoJack’s mind he is smarter than the people he encounters (sounds familiar?) but unlike them, he can’t figure out how to be happy and that’s part of what makes him so appealing and relatable.

“He’s so stupid he doesn’t realize how sad he should be,” says BoJack of the happy-go-lucky yellow Lab Mr. Peanutbutter.

The cherry on top of the Sunday is the soundtrack that accompanies and complements the cocktail of melancholy and depression served to us by Netflix. It is also the perfect backdrop to the show’s pop-culture references. Add a few catchphrases and choice celebrity guest spots such as Sir Paul McCartney and Daniel Radcliffe and you have a hit animated sitcom for adults.

I realize that on the surface the show sounds like a roller coaster ride. You should you take the bait and go fishing? Absolutely. Did my analogy make any sense? Nay way José (Get it? Because it’s a thing horses say and… I’m not going to finish or live down this quote).

The show’s third season just dropped on us and season four was just announced by Netflix, yet there simply aren’t enough episodes of the show to binge-watch, just like there aren’t enough articles yet written about BoJack Horseman on the internet. In a culture where people want to feel good about themselves while doing nothing hoping it’s “not too late” — or insert other cliché — BoJack is a slap of much-needed reality.

          Bojack Horseman season 3 is now out Netflix.

 

Guns N’Roses’ triumphant return to Toronto

Concerts, Features, Live/Concerts, Uncategorized

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The calm before the storm. Guns N’Roses July 16 at Rogers Centre, Toronto by: Morais, Tommy.

     Freshly reunited (sorta) rockers Guns N’Roses made the only Canadian stop of their ongoing North-American tour at the Rogers Centre on Saturday night.

The tour —dubbed the Not In This Lifetime tour— offered young generations of concert-goers the chance to catch the band they thought they’d never see while granting another opportunity for longtime fans to witness the gunners in a live setting once more.

The unpredictability of the band kept the packed Rogers Centre on it’s feet. Would the band breakup on this momentous occasion? Would Axl lose it? That uncertainty is part of the ritual that comes with attending a GNR concert. On this night there were no hints of tension or drama as Axl Rose, Slash and Duff McKagan shared the same stage.

It was a far cry from the Guns N’Roses that played Toronto just two short years ago when they hit the Sound Academy stage with Axl the sole remainder of the band’s glory days. The lineup then consisted of Rose with several musicians who would be unknown to anyone who hasn’t kept up with the band in 25 years. Flash forward two years to a sold-out crowd of 50,000 as the current version of the band appears on the top of the world bringing rock to Toronto— and the masses.

Although members of GNR’s original lineup have kept busy with various projects over time —including notable absentees Izzy Stradlin (who isn’t a part of the tour) and Steven Adler (who briefly performed guest spots on the tour in Cincinnati and Nashville) — Axl, Slash and Duff looked to be right at home onstage at the Roger Centre with the band that made them household names and members of the Rock N’Roll Hall of Fame. It may not be the full-fledged original lineup, but that didn’t stop fans from buying tickets in ’92-93 during the Use Your Illusion/Spaghetti Incident-era when neither Izzy or Steven where around. Why should it now?

The lineup was rounded out with longtime members Dizzy Reeds on keyboards, Richard Fortus (who could very well pass for the son of longtime Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood) on guitar, Frank Ferrer on drums and fresh face Melissa Reese on keys and vocals. With a few shows under their collective belt, this lineup of the sunset-strip rockers brought a well-oiled production to Toronto.

The Gunners took the stage around 9:45 PM, almost on time —and practically spot-on by it’s previously established standards—and surprisingly early for a band notorious for being especially late. The machine that is Guns N’Roses had the audience in the palm of its hand with opener It’s So Easy. Welcome To The Jungle received the biggest pop of the night. “You Know where you are Toronto?”, announces Axl to roars from the sold-out crowd.  The song’s reception was rivalled perhaps only by that of Sweet Child O’Mine‘s and Paradise City‘s. Songs from Appetite for Destruction were played side by side with material from the Axl-lead Chinese Democracy —including Better and the new added, Sorry—along with classic Use Your Illusion I & II era favourites like Civil War and the long epic November Rain (complete with Axl on piano).

The band played a massive minute set clocking in at just under 3 hours, comprising 27 songs including a guitar duel between Slash and Fortus and a 4 song encore. The last time I saw Guns N’Roses live circa 2010 they played a set that was just as long at 2 hours and 45 minutes.

Unlike the notorious frontman’s wardrobe changes (Roses loves his hats; cowboy, Crocodile Dundee-inspired, sombrero-style, it’s all good in his book), interactions with the crowd were kept to a minimum except for some Canada-related banter. Until Axl shared the woes experienced by the band at the Canadian border, that is. According to the frontman, someone from the organization brought a gun with them delaying their entrance in the country.

“They were very nice, they were very understanding. You know, it happens: You can forget you have a fucking gun,” said Rose just before a rendition of the bad-boy anthem Out To Get Me“It wasn’t my gun”.

The matter wasn’t made public before the show, as such, fans in the audience got the “scoop” firsthand.

Was it worth the hype?

While it wasn’t the full-on Appetite for Destruction-era reunion many had hoped for, the 3/5 classic Guns members experience definitely brings a bang for the buck with their lengthy performance and expert musicianship.

Axl’s voice was in excellent shape throughout the concert as he displayed the wide vocal range he is known for. The only signs of wear in his voice happened during the closing encore Paradise City at the end of a complete near 30 song set. Judging by visible panting and the expressions on his face after hitting the high notes, Rose truly gives his all for the fans.

The enthusiastic crowd was also delighted to see Slash, the ever cool top-hat, leather clad guitar slinger. SkyDome was buzzing when the fuzzy-haired, Les Paul-clad guitarist played the blistering solos to songs like Sweet Child O’Mine, but admittedly it looked slightly out of place when Richard Fortus played the solos created by Slash.

Bassist Duff McKagan even got his share of the spotlight as he sang lead on Attitude as the gunners covered punk outfit The Misfits.

I will gladly tell anyone who will listen that I was at Guns N’Roses 2016 . I’ll proudly add, “I survived Guns N’Roses 2016, including scorching heat and a tight, rough crowd”.

****/*****

Setlist:

It’s So Easy
Mr. Brownstone
Chinese Democracy
Welcome to the Jungle
Double Talkin’ Jive
(with Slash intro solo)
Estranged
Live and Let Die
(Wings cover)
Rocket Queen
You Could Be Mine
Attitude
(Misfits cover) (with “You Can’t Put Your Arms… more )
This I Love
Civil War
(with Voodoo Child Outro)
Coma
(with band introductions)
Speak Softly Love (Love Theme From The Godfather)
(Andy Williams cover) (instrumental, Slash guitar solo)
Sweet Child O’ Mine
Sorry
Better
Out Ta Get Me
Slash & Richard Fortus Guitar Duet
(“Wish You Were Here” with “Layla” outro)
November Rain
Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door
(Bob Dylan cover)
Nightrain

Encore:

Jam
(“Angie” by the Rolling Stones)
Patience
The Seeker
(The Who cover)
Paradise City

Tweets:

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Hall of Fame Inductee Turns Heads

Features, Interviews

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      Oshawa, On- Eric Lindros stands in the lobby of the Oshawa City Council. 01/02/2016 Morais, Tommy.

And now for the evening’s worst kept secret,” says mayor John Henry as he kicked off the introduction of this year’s Oshawa Sports Hall of Fame inductees at city council.   The Sports Hall of fame is one of the most anticipated events of the evening. During this yearly event,inductees are announced and recognized for their individual contributions to sports in the city of Oshawa.

This year, one particular inductee stands out. At 6 ft 4, retired NHL player and former Oshawa General Eric Lindros casts an imposing figure. His large stature draws attention when he stands next to council members and his fellow inductees. Yet, on this occasion, Lindro’s most noticeable feature on is easily the bright, wide smile he sports on his face. He received thenews of his induction in the Hall of Fame twelves days prior to the event.

“I was honoured [to] get the call,” he said.

The 1991 NHL first round draft pick just might be the most popular inductee in Oshawa’s Sports Hall of Fame this year. As he leaves the room, a small crowd of students follows Lindros out of the council and into the lobby. When students badger him with questions, some of professional nature, others rooted in fandom. He smiles and politely answers.

The father of three says being recognized by the city of Oshawa is not just another in what is now a long line of accomplishments.

“I have so many great memories, friends and history here,” says Lindros of his time in an Oshawa Generals jersey. “I remember getting lost on Oshawa Boulevard the first night I got here.”

Touted early on in his career as “the next one” (a reference to Wayne Gretzky as “the great one”), Lindros left his mark in the 13 seasons he spent in the NHL playing for the Philadelphia Flyers, New York Rangers, Toronto Maple Leafs and the Dallas Stars accumulating 372 goals, 493 assists in 760 games for a total of 865 points.

His resume also includes a gold medal at the 2002 Olympics, a Hart Trophy (1995), one Lester B. Pearson award (1995), and 7All-Star game appearances (1994, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2002).

“Communicating success is easy… but Communicating failure is just as important.”- Eric Lindros

The retired NHL player took the opportunity to talk to the small audience surrounding him about the See the Line foundation in which he currently serves the role of honorary chair. See the Line works on research and raising concussion awareness .

“Communicating success is easy,” says Lindros.  “But people need to know that communicating failure is just as important.”

The Oshawa Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremony takes place on May 25 2016 at the General Motors Centre.

 

Conversations with a female tattoo artist

Features, Interviews

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WALKERTON,Ont. -Verna Riel Wilson sitting at the kitchen table, “the office”. Photo by: Tommy Morais.

 

Apple started out in Steve Jobs’ garage. Actor Jim Carrey worked as a janitor to help support his family long before he became an actor. Tattoo artist Verna Riel-Wilson’s aspirations began in her mother’s kitchen.

Like her upbringing, Riel-Wilson’s beginnings are humble. “I started by tattooing myself,” she said, pointing to various ink scattered across both of her arms. “That’s how it started, tattooing my family, friends and myself in the kitchen”. She has been an artist for as long as she can remember, drawing since she was a little girl. 2016 marks her 35 years as a tattoo artist.

I’ve tattooed policemen, firemen,judges but the most surprising of them all had to be a local priest.

“First thing I say is if you don’t have any, don’t start,” warns Riel-Wilson. “They’re addictive.” She feels that people get tattoos generally as tributes or decorative pieces but some tell a story. When asked about some of the deeper meaning behind the ink, she explains that they’re part of who she is. “To me they tell a story about a certain time in life that the person’s going through. For me, I have them as tributes for my son,” says Riel-Wilson.

For the most part, tattooing is a positive experience. The artist gets huge satisfaction out of seeing her clients’ faces when they see the end result. Taking ideas and making them come to life can be a long and difficult process, but one that is ultimately rewarding. “When a customer tells you after you’ve done a tattoo how much they like it, it’s a boost on your ego,” she says.

Riel-Wilson explained that even people in highly regarded positions get tattoos. The reason? According to her it’s simply because people like art. “I’ve tattooed policemen, firemen,judges,” she says. “The most surprising of them all had to be a local priest. A tattoo is clearly not the taboo subject it once was. “The only thing I refuse to do is art that represents any form of racism because of my beliefs,” she says.

The tattoo artist is no stranger to judgement. “My uncle used to say my money was dirty,” Riel-Wilson says. “I said it pays my bills and I asked him how much his welfare cheque was,” says the artist with a certain air of satisfaction. As a female tattoo artist, she also dealt with a fair share of sexism. “They called me a biker bitch and I didn’t even ride a bike!” she says.

“Years ago I took town council to court so I could make sure one [tattoo shop] was allowed,” she says. “They realized there was a strip bar in the area and so they had to give me a shot.”

The artist revealed that when she first opened a tattoo shop people thought she was the help and not the owner, which shocked quite a few. Riel-Wilson had to fight for her art going as far as to engage in legal activities. When she first set up shop, she was the only tattoo artist in town and was denied a business licence three times. “Years ago I took town council to court so I could make sure one [tattoo shop] was allowed,” she says. “They realized there was a strip bar in the area and so they had to give me a shot.”

The Walkerton resident credits her mother as the motivation behind her career trajectory. Her mother was always very supportive of her art. “My mom asked me to do something with my art before she passed,” says Riel-Wilson. “I don’t know if that’s what she would’ve wanted, but I did it.”  She is semi-retired and now mainly works with preferred customers. On the subject of permanently retiring she laughed saying she’ll quit, “When I can’t hold a [tattoo] gun anymore.”

In her own unconventional way Riel-Wilson is a pioneer for gender equality and an inspiration to women everywhere. The world of tattooing was very much a boy’s club when she first started. It has since gone through an evolution and now women such as Kat Von D are now respected artists at the forefront of the tattoo scene. She may never get the credit she deserves, but it’s because of women like her who forged their way in a male-dominated culture that women have their rightful place in the field today.

And for that we thank you Verna,- happy international women’s day!