–Cain: A Pound of Flesh (1975)

Cain Pound of Flesh

(I’d like to dedicate this review to the memory of my good high school friend and metal brother Dion Ronald Kajfosz, who passed away on April 24, 1996.)

–CAIN: A Pound of Flesh (Monster Records/Rockadrome Records)
“Katy girl, chocolate and sweets
you’re the prettiest girl that I have kissed
Would you really mind if I took a ride on you?”
Now that is a CAN OF CRAP! Well, not crap exactly. It’s more like a can of slimy, slithering, vile, disemboweled intestines, overflowing from the
tin can as if it were a merely a rusted-out can of baked beans boiling over the campfire. This is sick stuff, my friends, and I haven’t even taken a big whiff
or touched it, or anything.

What I’m referring to, obviously, is the graphically sick, yet perversely beautiful artwork for Cain’s A Pound of Flesh. Though the album cover
concept, which wouldn’t be inappropriate fodder for a Mortician, Disembowled Something Or Other or Dismembered Fetus disc (that actually was a grind band in Denver years back, ha!), was featured on a melodic
hard rock/metal record back in 1975, it reflected on the context of the album’s originally release–YES, that WAS some sick-ass stuff for back then. The fact that the album’s “8 Prime Cuts” reveal a majestic, grandiose, and dynamic brand of ’70s rock demonstrates that sometimes a lyrical book’s cover is, in fact, gloriously misleading.

“Katy girl, chocolate and sweets
you’re the prettiest girl that I have kissed
Would you really mind if I took a ride on you?”
Minnesota hard rock legends Cain took a lot of time to develop the mesmerizing sound found on their A Pound of Flesh debut. The band formed in the late 1960s out of the exoskeletons and peels of rival Twin Cities bands The Grasshoppers and The Bananas(!), and after breaking up eventually combined forces and changed their name to Cain. Alongside their assembly
line of drummers and keyboardists, Cain was led by phenomenal vocalist Jiggs Lee, their talented guitarist Lloyd Forsberg and the towering thunder of bassist Dave Elmeer. They sharpened their claws in the Chicago club circuit of the early ’70s, and routinely toured Milwaukee and Iowa, as well as their native Minnesota.
“Katy girl, chocolate and sweets
you’re the prettiest girl that I have kissed
Would you really mind if I took a ride on you?”
A remarkable note about Cain is that, despite their ultimate obscurity, they were actually contemporaries with some bands that would become huge
arena rock acts. Cain plowed the same club territory that bands such as Kansas, Styx and Cheap Trick also inhabited, while others like Todd Rundgren, Fleetwood Mack and Mott the Hoople were prowling clubs after
shows in search of an open stage.
A Pound of Flesh came to fruition in 1975, and the result of six years of labor was an incredibly innovative and harmonically rich piece of work, one
that grows on me and becomes embedded in my head and soul with each listen. Their sound was decidedly ’70s, of course, but they possessed a much more grandiose, and, dare I say, bombastic edge than later heavies
like Amulet.

Jiggs Lee’s ballsy throat stylings, are absolutely breathtaking, shifting from the crystalline, to wicked screams to beautifully operatic falsetto with precision. Forsberg employs plenty of monster riffs that recall Alex Lifeson and Ritchie Blackmore with equal aplomb, and his well-textured and
fiery solo sections are flawless. I can’t find any fault with the groove machine that is the rhythm section of DeRemer and Elmeer either; Elmeer’s bass
lines are ever-moving like John Entwistle, but ponderously heavy, more like Geezer Butler or Geddy Less; DeRemer anchors the band with finesse but never takes the band in too extreme of a tempo direction.
“And the Skating Rink was Heaven, I think
“The Skating Rink was Heaven I think”
It’s hard to describe accurate A Pound of Flesh in general terms, except to say that if one is in the mood for listening to mid-paced hard rock with plenty of balls and exciting, Cain generally fits the bill. I think it makes sense now to briefly jot some notes on each individual track, for they each have their own individual flair.

 1. “Queen of the Night.” This driving opener is the fastest cut on the album and an appropriate barnburner to start such a compelling record. Forsberg’s forceful, percussive opening riff recalls Rush’s “Anthem” of the same year, while Lee’s full-throated, operatic bellows recall Ian Gillan at his best. Cain adds their trademark layered vocals on the pre-chorus and chorus. These can, at times, straddle the line laid by Queen and Uriah Heep in terms of bombast, but they thankfully never cross it. A strong opener.
2. “Katy”. A gorgeous, distorted arpeggiated guitar line opens this pseudo ballad that is among the album’s best and most dramatic cuts. The unbelievable arpeggios again underline the chorus on several occasions, and combined with a flute-like sound in the background, create a haunting ambience. Lee’s vocals truly shine here as well, but “Katy,” as a whole, is a
masterpiece of dynamic variance and masterful songcraftsmanship.
3. “South Side Queen.” Track 3 opens with a cowbell-propelled riff that morphs into Forsberg’s tasty verse riff. This hard-grooving stomper boasts
catchy riffing, sweet vocal harmonies and a killer bassline.
4. “Badside.” A southern-blues kinda tune, this one is a nice change of pace from the album’s first three tracks. I call it something like swamp rock, lethargic but melodic enough to keep it fairly interesting.
5. “Born of the Wind.” This is an uptempo, straight-ahead grooving song that lacks some of the fire of the first four tracks. Not that it’s a bad song, by any means, but its hooks don’t work as well as on the earlier tracks. Neverthelsss, the song, though heavily blues-based, features some more stellar leads from Forsberg.
6. “Heed the Call.” Now, this one’s a winner! Forsberg goes to town on the Blackmore-esque opening riff. This is another mid-tempo tune that is somewhat akin to the powerful, yet mellow work of Dio-fronted Rainbow.
7. “If You Right Don’t Get You the Left one Will.” Ahh, metal needs way more songs about jackin’ off inthe bathroom to bit-titty porn magazines. Plus, it’s actually not a bad tune. It has a cheerful main riff and it’s all a cheerful and fairly catchy batch of self-indulgent pleasure.
8. “All My Life.” The album’s closer is a bit of an epic, and certainly one of Cain’s strongest songs. Forsberg’s crunchy, palm-muted opening riff gives way to some flanged chords ala Rush, followed by the pre-NWOBHM NWOBHM metallic force of the verse riff. This one’s got it all: acoustic arpeggios, awesome vocals, fluid basslines, WICKED VOCALS, a memorable
chorus, and introspective lyrics. It’s an overall good tune, ya know, and I’m simply running out of things to say about the whole deal.
“And the Skating Rink was Heaven, I think
“The Skating Rink was Heaven, I think”
Cain released their second LP Stinger to fulfill their two-album contract with ASI. The band started work on a third-LP in 1978, but it never
materialized with the onslaught of the disco movement. It’s too bad, but it’s also never too good that labels like Monster (now Rockadrome Records) are re-releasing this stuff. Of course, I highly recommend A Pound of Flesh for fans of vintage Rush, Deep Purple, Rainbow and Uriah Heep. So long suckers (to quote Lizzy Borden).
“Katy girl, chocolate and sweets
you’re the prettiest girl that I have kissed
Would you really mind if I took a ride on you?”
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~ by jonnyboyrocker on October 6, 2009.

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