When the rock world got together in 1992 to celebrate the life of Queen singer Freddy Mercury, Extreme were, in my humble opinion of the time, the highlight of the show. Not, I hasten to add, because I loved Extreme and wanted to see them, but because they blew everybody else off the stage. “That guy,” I said to people at the time, referring to singer Gary Cherone’s onstage attire, “will single handedly bring spats back into style.” Extreme were riding high at the time, two-years after their breakthrough album, Extreme II: Pornograffitti (A Funked Up Fairy Tale), and it wasn’t absurd to imagine Extreme breaking through to the next level, into the pantheon of huge rock acts.
Alas, it was not to be and by 1996 Extreme had split and singer Cherone was fronting an ill-advised version of Van Halen, having replaced Sammy Hagar in that particular piece of disfunction.
Twenty-five years after the release of Extreme II, Universal Music has given the album the remastering treatment, giving us a chance to re-examine the Funked Up Fairy Tale. On closer inspection, and the lens of time, it turns out Extreme II: Pornograffitti (A Funked Up Fairy Tale) is a better album than I remembered it.
I don’t remember, for example, it fading in with a little piano interlude over a rainfall backdrop, starting off with a hint of The Who’s Love Reign O’er Me before Decadence Dance kicks things seriously into gear at about 1:30. I don’t remember either the almost jazzy When I First Kissed You, Cherone crooning more than belting it out. As well Song for Love, both very melodic and slightly anthemic, didn’t immediately come to mind upon hearing it. The thing is, they’re not just forgotten songs, they’re all excellent, giving the album some different sounds, different flavours throughout. Even Cherone’s hippity-hop routine in When I’m President works well and sounds good.
Then there’s the stuff you do remember: “He turned me on to how funky rock ‘n’ roll can be,” guitarist and songwriter Nuno Buttencourt says of guitar legend Pat Travers. Travers adds a vocal to Get The Funk Out, an appropriate homage, as Get the Funk Out is one of the funkiest hard rock songs you’ll ever hear. Hole Hearted is a Bettencourt gem, my longtime favourite off this album and it holds up spectacularly.
Then there’s More Than Words. You’ll remember it, a lovely romantic ballad that was everywhere for a year or two. Turns out though, while it’s still lovely, it’s hardly romantic. A closer inspection and you realize, not simply a lovey dovey song:
Saying I Love You
Is not the words I want to hear from you
It’s not that I want you not to say,
but if you only knew
How easy it would be to show me how you feel
Shut Up and Show Me wouldn’t be an inappropriate title, although it might have sold a few less records. No, More Than Words isn’t a romantic ballad, it’s an extraordinary vocal song, once again different than the rest of the album, just in this case, the best song on the album. Possibly the best song of 1990.
As always with these remasters, there is a Deluxe Edition that features bonus material. In this case, it’s an extra disk, that features some interesting snippets. A couple of b-sides, a radio edit of More Than Words. But beyond that, some alternate mixes of More Than Words prove beyond a shadow of a doubt it’s a pretty vocal song that works very nicely regardless of accompaniment - even with nothing but a conga drum - and are worth a listen. And Get the Funk Out (What The Funk? Mix) is a straighter up rock version of the song that gives you a hint of what the song may have been, and shows how versatile Extreme’s rhythm section was.
I can honestly say, I’ve been enjoying both the original album and the bonus material these past few weeks. Extreme II: Pornograffitti (A Funked Up Fairy Tale) is well worth revisiting.
- Decadence Dance
- Li’l Jack Horny
- When I’m President
- Get the Funk Out
- More Than Words
- Money (In God We Trust)
- It (’s A Monster)
- When I First Kissed You
- Suzi (Wants Her All Day What?)
- He-Man Woman Hater
- Song For Love
- Hole Hearted
- More Than Words (Remix)
- Nice Place to Visit (Single B-Side)
- More Than Words (Edit)
- Decadence Dance (Edit)
- Money (In God We Trust) (Edit)
- More Than Words (Non Percussion Version)
- Get the Funk Out (What The Funk? Mix)
- More Than Words (A Cappella With Congas)
- Get The Funk Out (12″ Remix)
- Sex N’ Love (Single B-Side)