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Goodbye, Jeff LaBar

(March 18, 1963 – July 14, 2021)

Guitarist Jeff LaBar passed away yesterday. LaBar was best known for his work with Cinderella. He also performed with Cinderella bandmate Eric Brittingham in Naked Beggars and released a solo album in 2014. No cause of death was given as of the time of this writing.

One of my favorite guitarists is releasing a new album soon

Reb Beach 1988 Topps

This guy is hands-down one of the most under-appreciated guitarists of my lifetime. Hair metal gets a bad rap, and thanks to Beavis & Butt-Head‘s friend Stuart, Winger is the butt of many jokes. The band is really superb, though, and guitarist Reb Beach is a magician on the frets. His new album, A View from the Inside, is set for an early November release. The audio for “Aurora Borealis” just dropped this morning on YouTube, and it blows my mind.

Fun Cards: 1986 Topps, 1993 Donruss, 1996 Topps Poison

Bret Michaels Poison 1986 Topps

Poison has been one of my favorite bands for a long time. Although I’ve been disappointed that they seem to only be interested in doing “greatest hits” tours for the past 20 years, they are still fun to see in concert. Bret Michaels is supposed to be playing a solo show in my hometown at the end of next month, if it doesn’t get Covid-canceled.

CC DeVille Poison 1986 Topps

But my favorite part of the music is the guitar. C.C. DeVille is, in my opinion, a vastly underrated guitarist. I love his riffs.

Rikki Rockett Poison 1986 Topps

Bobby Dall Poison 1986 Topps

The rhythm section is solid but a bit underwhelming. Rikki Rockett and Bobby Dall are consistent, but Bret and C.C. are where the show is really at.

After three studio albums and a live record, C.C. DeVille was ousted from the band and replaced by Richie Kotzen. He was an excellent guitarist, not as flashy but more technically competent than DeVille.

Richie Kotzen Poison 1993 Donruss

The 1993 Native Tongue release was the only album Kotzen appeared on, and he was fired near the end of the year, replaced by another young solo guitar whiz, Blues Saraceno.

Blues Saraceno Poison 1996 Topps

Saraceno worked on an album called Crack A Smile. It was originally scheduled for a 1994 release, but was delayed due to an injury Michaels sustained. In 1996, Capitol Records decided to release Greatest Hits 1986-1996 rather than Crack A Smile. It was finally released in 2000, but since two of the tracks appeared on the 1996 compilation, Saraceno gets the 1996 virtual cardboard treatment.

I really love the band’s remake of “Cover of the Rolling Stone.” Check it out below…

Fun Cards: 1977, 1983, 1986, and 1988 Topps Quiet Riot

Quiet Riot drummer Frankie Banali passed away on Thursday last week after battling pancreatic cancer. Banali joined the group in 1982 and made his recording debut with DuBrow and the boys on 1983’s Metal Health. I love making “fun cards” of musicians using classic baseball card designs, and his passing reminded me that I had not created cards for Quiet Riot yet. So, without further ado, the classic 1983 Metal Health lineup of Quiet Riot: Kevin DuBrow, Frankie Banali, Carlos Cavazo, and Rudy Sarzo

Kevin DuBrow Quiet Riot singer 1983 Topps

Frankie Banali Quiet Riot drummer 1983 Topps

Carlos Cavazo Quiet Riot guitarist 1983 Topps

Rudy Sarzo Quiet Riot bass guitar 1983 Topps

Metal Health was the first heavy metal album to reach #1 on the Billboard charts on the strength of their cover of the Slade song, “Cum On Feel the Noize.”

Unfortunately, the follow-up Critical Condition did not fare as well, and subsequent releases failed to recapture that spark from 1983. On 1986’s QR III, bassist Sarzo was replaced with Chuck Wright.

Chuck Wright Quiet Riot bass guitar 1986 Topps

By 1988 DuBrow was out of the band in favor of Rough Cutt vocalist Paul Shortino (as was Wright, replaced by Sean McNabb). Shortino only appeared on one album and the group disbanded in 1989 (only to be resurrected a couple of years later by DuBrow and Cavazo, with Kenny Hillery on bass and Pat Ashby on drums).

Paul Shortino Quiet Riot vocalist 1988 Topps

Sean McNabb Quiet Riot bass guitar 1988 Topps

Membership in the band was a revolving door, regardless of your role in the band. Eight singers, seven guitarists, eight bass players, and four drummers spent time with the group. Banali was the most consistent, appearing on every studio recording except for the first two (which were released in Japan only) and the underrated 1993 compilation that featured some of the best of those records and outtakes.

Speaking of the first two records…it was 1978’s Quiet Riot II that featured the first Quiet Riot “fun cards” on the back cover, styled after 1978 Topps football cards…

Quiet Riot II 1978 Topps Randy Rhoads Kevin DuBrow Rudy Sarzo, Drew Forsyth

Thirty-five Years Ago Today: Dio avoids the “sophomore slump”

Dio Last in LineIn 1983, Ronnie James Dio released an epic debut album called Holy Diver. In 1984, he recorded with the same core lineup of Vivian Campbell, Jimmy Bain, and Vinny Appice, adding keyboardist Claude Schnell to the mix, and unleashed The Last In Line. The album reached #23 on the Billboard 200 charts, and three singles—“Mystery,” “We Rock,” and the title track—received a lot of attention from rock radio stations in the United States. The album was certified platinum in 1987.

Campbell, Bain, Schnell, and Appice used the name of this album to form a new band in 2012, teaming up with vocalist Andrew Freeman to perform Dio classics and write new material. The group has released two albums so far, Heavy Crown in 2016 and II in 2019. Sadly, Bain passed away in 2016; Phil Soussan took over bass guitar duties.

20 Years Ago Today: Dokken Erases the Slate with a new guitarist

Dokken Erase the SlateDokken was known for high-pitched wails from singer Don Dokken and some of the most shedtastic riffs from guitarist George Lynch. The pair had worked together since the group’s full-length debut Breaking the Chains in 1981. In 1999, Dokken, Jeff Pilson, and Mick Brown teamed up with Winger guitarist Reb Beach, one of the most underrated rock guitarists in history, and released Erase the Slate, the first full-length Dokken record without George Lynch.

The album was released by CMC International, an independent record label that was known for promoting hard rock bands from the 1980s who found themselves without a label home after the rock implosion of the early 1990s. CMC International’s roster boasted some of the biggest names in hard rock history, including Judas Priest, LA Guns, Slaughter, and Warrant.

At the time of Erase the Slate’s release, I was working at a small radio station in Hartford, Kentucky. I spearheaded a format change at the radio station, switching from country music to classic rock (and new music by classic rock artists). My definition of classic rock music included such bands as Ratt, Mötley Crüe, and Poison—more progressive at that time than most—so it was not difficult to work Dokken into the rotation as well. Two songs from Erase the Slate were featured heavily on the radio station: “Maddest Hatter” and the cover of Harry Nilsson’s “One.”

Beach only lasted one album with Dokken; he has since recorded with Whitesnake and the reunited Winger. John Norum of Europe fame played guitar on Dokken’s next release, Long Way Home; he had previously played on Don’s 1990 solo effort, Up From the Ashes. .Jon Levin manned the position on the last three.

35 Years Ago Today: Twisted Sister releases Stay Hungry

Twisted Sister Stay HungryDee Snider and company were made for MTV, and thanks in large part to the music video channel Stay Hungry became a tremendous success. The multi-platinum album reached #15 on the Billboard 200 charts, featuring the band’s two greatest hits “We’re Not Gonna Take It” and “I Wanna Rock.”

“We’re Not Gonna Take It” entered the Billboard Hot 100 at #80 on July 28, 1984, and peaked at #21 the week of September 22, 1984. The video featured numerous shout-outs to the 1978 John Landis comedy Animal House and starred Mark Metcalf, who played Doug Neidermeyer in the film. Metcalf also starred in the band’s video for “I Wanna Rock,” which included a cameo by Stephen Furst (Kent Dorfman/Flounder).

Twisted Sister re-recorded the entire album in 2004 and released the new production under the title Still Hungry. For my money, the original is better.

Fun Cards: 1983 Topps Phil Collen & 1993 Topps Vivian Campbell (Def Leppard)

Phil Collen

Guitarist Pete Willis was fired by Def Leppard during the recording of Pyromania. He was replaced by Phil Collen, whose band Girl with Phil Lewis (who later joined L.A. Guns) never quite caught on in the United States.

Vivian Campbell

Following Steve Clark’s death in 1991, the band forged on with only Collen playing guitar on 1992’s Adrenalize. Vivian Campbell, formerly of Dio, was soon hired to fill the missing guitar seat. His recording debut with Def Leppard came on 1993’s RetroActive.

Fun Cards: 1980 Topps Def Leppard (Joe Elliott, Steve Clark, Rick Allen, Rick Savage, Pete Willis)

Joe Elliott

Def Leppard‘s first full-length album, On Through The Night, was released in 1980, and featured one of my favorite Lep songs, “Rock Brigade.” The album reached No. 15 on the UK Albums Chart and No. 51 on the Billboard 200.

Pete Willis

Def Leppard was one of the first bands to break through the resistance against “hair metal” on classic rock radio stations. “Photograph,” “Pour Some Sugar On Me,” and “Foolin'” were just too good to ignore, despite the amount of Aqua Net used by the band.

Rick Allen

Def Leppard still tours frequently and will be hitting the road with arena rock legends Journey next week.

Rick Savage

Their catalog is deep, but I’m not much of a fan of their work past 1987’s Hysteria, the last album recorded with the late Steve Clark.

Steve Clark

Fun Cards: 1988 Topps Marq Torien and Mick Sweda (BulletBoys)

Continuing the hair metal love…

I just found out the BulletBoys will be playing in Cincinnati this weekend, so I thought I would whip up a couple of music “fun cards”…

Marq Torien

Marq Torien is the original vocalist and only remaining original member in the current lineup. The band has changed its sound on several occasions, but the hair metal heritage is strong on the 1988 debut album. The big songs are “Smooth Up In Ya” (US Hot 100 #71, US Mainstream Rock #23) and the cover “For the Love of Money” (US Hot 100 #78, US Mainstream Rock #38).

Mick Sweda

Mick Sweda is no longer with the band, but his guitar skills played a major role in the band’s early success. The BulletBoys’ cover of Tom Waits‘ “Hang On St. Christopher” on the second album, Freakshow, is out of this world.

The band’s third album, Za-Za, was their last for Warner Bros. Records, and the last appearance of Mick Sweda with the group.

The current lineup of the BulletBoys (Torien, Nick Rozz, Chad MacDonald, and Anthony “Tiny” Biuso), along with openers Enuff Z’nuff and a ton of local groups, will be performing at The Venue Saturday night. Click here to buy tickets!

Click here to buy the latest BulletBoys album, From Out of the Skies.

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