Rock and roll is full of stories, sometimes shovelled with copious amounts of bullshit and other times just the simple truth is enough to provide shock and awe. There is nothing I love more than getting to share one of these tales, so come gather round and let me tell you one particular cool story about some long-haired tattooed rockers…
I often refer to the 80’s as the golden age of heavy metal. By 1983 (also the year I turned 13) melodic heavy metal was breaking down the mainstream barriers. Quiet Riot, Def Leppard, and Motley Crue led the charge and the rest of the decade became a tsunami of denim, leather, and spandex as the record companies went on a feeding frenzy to the smell of big money. As a metal-loving teenager like myself, it was simply a wonderful time to be alive as both radio and MTV provided a steady stream of long hair rock and roll! So it was sometime in 1990 when I would first set my ears upon the band, Little Caesar. It was most likely via Much Music (Canada’s answer to MTV) when they started airing the incredible hard rock cover of Aretha Franklin‘s “Chain of Fools”. Loving this version, I quickly added their debut, self-titled CD to my collection.
Signed to Geffen Records, managed by Jimmy Iovine and produced by Bob Rock! This was a veritable dream team with a track record of epic proportions, yet in the words of April Wine, “Rock and Roll is a Vicious Game”. More accurately the “business” end of rock and roll is a vicious game and just as Little Caesar were poised for rock stardom they found themselves buried in an avalanche of record company politics that literally pulled the rug out from under them. Geffen was sold, the label Manager quit, the suits took over and in a nutshell, a great record was quite honestly hung out to dry.
The band soldiered on and a second album, Influence, was released in 1992. To be honest, by this time the grunge movement was starting to temporarily erase everything even remotely resembling eighties. I don’t even remember seeing this second record and in a world pre-internet, Little Caesar dropped off my radar. The band disbanded soon thereafter as simply another rock and roll casualty.
I can only imagine the sour taste left behind from the big deal gone wrong, but time heals all wounds and the brotherhood that was Little Caesar thankfully remained intact. So after some years apart the guys began to realize how much they missed making music together and they started booking some local shows. Two studio albums followed, 2009’s Redemption and 2012’s American Dream both highlight their signature bluesy influenced hard rock and both recorded sans big money record contract, big money management and big money production but none of that matters. These records seem to reflect a band that are comfortable in their own skin. A lot less hair and possibly a few extra tattoos, they are in the game for the love of rock and roll!
So now that we are up to speed, next week (May 6th) Little Caesar is set to release Brutally Honest – Live In Holland, a double live album recorded last June during their European tour. Titled Brutally Honest because the album is truly that, a live concert captured totally live. No overdubs, no touch ups, no fixes, this is Little Caesar as they sounded on a June night on a sweaty stage last year. Not always the best method to capture a live album (Van Halen‘s Live At The Tokyo Dome comes to mind) but it’s totally something I would expect from Ron and Little Caesar. Honest rock and roll, warts and all is exactly what these guys represent.
I love Ron Young‘s intro, “Hi we are Little Caesar, it’s great to fucking be here. Thanks for coming, you honour us with your presence. Let’s fucking rock!”. There is just something incredibly sincere in his tone, it comes across that they truly appreciate getting to play rock and roll. From the intro they blast into “Supersonic” from the Redemption album and immediately I am impressed with the sound quality of the record. It sounds incredibly full and balanced perfectly, giving you the feeling that you are actually in the club with them. I can almost smell the scent of whiskey and stale beer, big kudos to the sound crew and production teams.
Brutally Honest is a total career spanning double live album that delivers the goods, all 21 tracks of it! Hard to pick highlights as I prefer to listen to live albums in their entirety but “Hard Times”, “American Dream” and a really soulful version of “I Wish It Would Rain” are three that really deserve some attention. The cover medley of “Every Picture Tells A Story/Happy” is a killer homage to some rock and roll heroes and was a bonus for me as “Happy” is my personal favourite Rolling Stones song.
A five song encore starting with the blues soaked “Dirty Water” closes out the album. “In Your Arms” could very well be one of the greatest power ballads ever penned, and the live treatment it receives here is possibly more gut wrenching than the original studio version and the tidbit of Ike and Tina‘s “Rolling on a River” was a cool addition. As every great band knows though, you can’t (or should never!) end on a ballad so they pulled out “Down to the Wire”. A barn burning rocker that was found on the soundtrack for the movie Point Break, a killer ending to a solid show.
Brutally Honest – Live in Holland is a live album that captures the true essence of rock and roll. Real musicians, playing real songs on real instruments. A stark and wonderful contrast to today’s computerized, auto-tuned dribble that we are force fed on the airwaves. Long live real rock & roll and long live Little Caesar! “Rum and Coke” anyone?
also check out this 2012 Decibel Geek interview with Ron Young and The Meister: Living the American Dream Caesar’s Way