Slash Puppet: ‘Studs & Gems’

Released in November 2021 (MIF Entertainment)

It may surprise some Sleaze Roxx readers but about 15 years ago, I “discovered” the Sleaze Roxx site, which was run at the time by Skid, the man who created the website in the first place. I loved the Sleaze Roxx’s Top Ten Albums of the Year lists as it enabled me to discover some new bands putting out some really good music. One of the bands whose album landed on the Sleaze Roxx’s Top Ten Albums of 2007 was a group unknown to me at the time — Slash Puppet. It is kind of sad that I didn’t know about Slash Puppet back in the day (1989 to 1995) when they were tearing up the Toronto rock scene since back in the early ’90s, I would regularly come to Toronto (mainly to play tennis tournaments) anywhere from four to eight times per year. Unfortunately, by that time, I wasn’t following the hard rock / heavy metal scene on a regular basis having traded my Hit Parader and Circus magazines for tennis magazines.

As it turns out, you can have more than one passion going on at the same time but back in those days, it was kind of all or nothing for me. I was either totally immersed in the hard rock / heavy metal world listening and discovering all of the great ’80s bands that I still love to this day or I was totally engulfed into playing and following what remains my favorite sport — tennis. Fast forward to 2007 and Slash Puppet‘s album No Strings Attached was released via Suncity Records. It consisted of older tracks that from what I understood hadn’t been released on CD before. I quickly bought a copy of No Strings Attached based on Skid‘s review of the album on Sleaze Roxx and I have to say that he was right on the money with how he described Slash Puppet’s sound. “If you haven’t heard Slash Puppet before (in which case you should rectify that situation immediately) imagine Skid Row music being sung by a gruff throated frontman. Even though the music is top-notch, it really is the voice of Mif that takes Slash Puppet over-the-top. He has one of those unique voices custom made for hard rock, at times sounding like a more accessible version of Ratt‘s Stephen Pearcy.”

Finding either one of Slash Puppet‘s EPs — The Demo (1989) and Slash Puppet (1993) — is a difficult and pricey task these days so Slash Puppet frontman Mif (who has gone on to have a successful acting career) decided to re-release the band’s best songs in a compilation type album, which turned out to be Studs & Gems. If Studs & Gems was an album of new material, I can guarantee that it would be included in Sleaze Roxx’s Top Ten Albums of 2021. However, greatest hits albums and live records do not qualify for Sleaze Roxx‘s various year end top album lists but that shouldn’t stop you from picking up Studs & Gems because it’s one of those albums that captures the great music from the early ’90s so well before grunge reared its ugly head. In fact, when I was initially listening to Studs & Gems, I was thinking, ‘This is what the Sleaze Roxx sound really is.’ In other words, Sleaze Roxx admittedly covers a wide range of bands — and perhaps not wide enough for some — but at its core, it is bands that sound like Slash Puppet that represent to me what Sleaze Roxx is really about.

In terms of the songs themselves on Studs & Gems, they are all good to great. I have a soft spot for the songs that appeared on The Demo EP such as “Hard On Love”, “Slow Down” and “Squeeze It In.” I find that the songs emanating from the Slash Puppet EP have a wider range quality wise than the ones from The Demo EP. The first three songs on Studs & Gems — “When The Whip Comes Down” (perhaps the band’s best known song), “Rippin’ On A Wishbone” (check out the mean slide guitar) and the absolutely killer ballad “Eyes of A Child” are all standout songs. However, I find that “Stop Tellin’ Me Lies” with its singalong chorus, background vocals galore and very upbeat feel sees the band trying to get that big hit single by branching out into territory that doesn’t really fit it that well. It reminds me a lot of Cinderella‘s single “Shelter Me” which is not a compliment in any way.

The one really intriguing track on Studs & Gems is the live track “Stranger Danger” which was recorded at Toronto’s infamous but now defunct Rock N’ Roll Heaven venue. If a song was recorded live, one would think that there are more live tracks that are available. Wouldn’t it be amazing if Slash Puppet released a live record? One can only wish. For now, Studs & Gems should be in every Sleaze Roxx reader’s CD collection, and particularly if you do not already have the band’s two EPs in your music arsenal.

Track List:
01. When The Whip Comes Down
02. Rippin’ On A Wishbone
03. Eyes of A Child
04. Evil Woman
05. Hard On Love
06. Stop Tellin’ Me Lies
07. Hitch A Ride (On A Train)
08. Slow Down
09. Squeeze It In
10. Overload
11. Stranger Danger (Live)

Band Members:
Mif  – lead vocals
Frank Bartoletti – guitars, backing vocals
Lou Garscadden – guitars, backing vocals
Franklin Wyles – drums, backing vocals
Pete Dove – bass, backing vocals (4, 5, 8, 9, 10)
Dave Carreiro – bass (1, 2, 3, 6, 7)

Produced and mixed by Archey Hachey and Slash Puppet (4, 5, 8, 9, 10)
Engineered by Archey Hachey (4, 5, 8, 9, 10)
Mastered by Gregg Fulkerson and Chris Fafouros (4, 5, 8, 9, 10)
Produced by Anthony Vanderburgh and Slash Puppet (1, 2, 3, 6, 7)
Engineered by Lenny Derose and Dave Horner (1, 2, 3, 6, 7)
Assistant engineer: Eric Ratz (1, 2, 3, 6, 7)
Mixed by Richard Chycki (1, 2, 3, 6, 7)
Mastered by Ted Carson and Richard Chycki (1, 2, 3, 6, 7)
Executive producers: Rob Frastaglio and Rob Zuk (1, 2, 3, 6, 7)
Mastered by Andri Zubyk (11)
Remastered by Joey Greco (11)

Band Website:
Facebook – MIF Entertainment

Reviewed by Olivier for Sleaze Roxx, December 2021

Slash Puppet‘s “Slow Down” video:

Slash Puppet‘s “When The Whip Comes Down” video: