15 selections from the artistry of Dick Wagner on a compilation entitled Full Meltdown come with the obligatory 4 page liner notes/insert that we who appreciate classic rock need. So to the xerox machine at Staples I went to enlarge the type and translate it all for you, dear reader.
Five minutes and 20 seconds of “Still Hungry” open the disc, a 1991 production created at Trax Studios in Los Angeles with Jack White on drums, Matt Bissonnette on bass and Fred Mandel on keyboards/B3. It slips into “Blue Collar Babies”, one of six songs recorded at Gil Markle’s Long View Farm in 1979 with a band called Meltdown, managed by the late Charlie McKenzie, he of the group Boston and Willie Loco Alexander fame.
The 90s and 70s material actually sounds very 80s, infringing on the territory that Eddie Money, 38 Special and Van Halen traveled, though Wagner has more grit than Money and 38 Special and his formidable songwriting skills make these titles a bit more appealing than some of the music that actually made it to radio.
“Insatiable Girl” from the 1991 Los Angeles sessions could be a sequel to the 1989 Grammy winner from Robert Palmer, “Simply Irresistable” while “I’d Take The Bullet” was recorded that same year, 1991, in Lawrence, Massachusetts with Brad Hallen from Ministry and Boston’s Pastiche on bass. This tune and “Another Twist Of The Knife” which follows would’ve been good for Alice Cooper back in the day…and though the music flips from Los Angeles to Lawrence to back to Los Angeles it is all very consistent. The delightful cover of “Stagger Lee” opens with a John Lennon-styled vocal straight out of Double Fantasy…I played this for Buzzy Linhart over the phone tonight (11/22/09) and Buzzy thought the arrangement was fantastic (it is)…Linhart calling this one of the greatest songs of all time and one he has his own arrangement for. (Prakash John, Steve Hunter and Penti Glan, all cohorts of Wagners, appear on a recent release of Linhart’s entitled Studio; Buzzy is the guy whistling from the audience on Lou Reed’s Rock & Roll Animal album…with a real…and loud… whistle, probably on the song “Heroin”)…”Stagger Lee” is close to four minutes and the song becomes a Bob Seger-like “Hollywood Nights” talk/song…the material from Long View Farm was lost to the ages until recently, Gil Markle telling GemmZine “Many of these tracks were recorded at Long View in 1979, and lay undiscovered in a mis-labeled packing container for almost 30 years. The members of Charlie McKenzie’s Boston-based band “Meltdown” played on some of them. The rest were recorded a few years later, mostly in L.A. I re-mastered the material for Dick a few months ago in Tobago.”
“Ecstasy” nicks a bit of the melody from Van Halen’s “I’ll Wait” (from their MCMLXXXIV CD a.k.a. 1984) but it veers off into a different territory, the riffing and guitars moving from pop/rock into progressive becoming something totally original in the process. You can listen to Van Halen here just for fun: Van Halen’s “I’ll Wait”
For Alice Cooper fans there’s Dick’s own version of the co-write that he created with Desmond Child and Cooper, “I Might As Well Be On Mars”. Released on Cooper’s 1991 disc, Hey Stoopid, it’s as close to Christopher Cross’s “Sailin’ as Alice will ever get…and Dick does a fine job on voice and all instruments as recorded in 1995 at Fenton Woods Studio in Fenton MI as well as Disc Ltd. in Eastpointe MI.
It’s great to have this music produced by Dick Wagner compiled so uniformly, the liner notes precisely telling where and when each track was laid down and who plays on it along with two letters from Dick to the reader/listener all packed in a good compilation for his long-time followers and those who appreciate superb musicianship and creative songwriting.
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Dick Wagner has been invited to participate in Rock Con: The Weekend of 100 Rock Stars scheduled for July 30, 31 and August 1 at the Sheraton Meadowlands in New Jersey. TMRZoo will be there!
Tickets go on sale April 15th through the website www.NationalRockCon.com.
For further info, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (203) 795-4737.