RECORD STORE TALES & REVIEWS: Complete Table of Contents

February 1, 2012 7 comments

Part 316: Oh What A Feeling

August 29, 2014 25 comments

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RECORD STORE TALES Part 318:  Oh What A Feeling

In 1996, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Juno Awards, a box set titled Oh What A Feeling was released.  It was four CDs loaded to the gills with Canadian music, from all corners of the country and all styles of music.  It was a great set and one which sold regularly in our stores.  The original run of the set sold out briskly.  We had a hard time keeping it in stock new, and a few years later, used copies were somewhat scarce.  We sold it at a very reasonable price of $19.99, used.

We had one customer, who I never gave a name to except for “Eastern European Guy”.  He had an accent and broken English so that worked for me.  He pulled Oh What A Feeling off the shelves and asked to listen to it on one of our six crappy listening stations.  I popped in all four CDs, handed him the headphones and remote, and left him to listen.

One thing that always pissed me off was people who constantly need help on the listening stations.  It’s not hard.  Volume controls were right there in front of you.  The remote was like any remote that people would have had at home.  People who couldn’t figure out how to skip tracks pissed me off.  How do you listen to music at home?  I didn’t get it.

Eastern European Man motioned with his hand for me to come over.  “This song…there is a problem with it.  Listen please.”

“Hey, I have an idea. Let’s stick the lead guitar player behind the bassist for this video.”

I placed the headphones on my head.  It was track 1, disc one.  “American Woman” by The Guess Who.  I listened for a few seconds, nodded my head in approving time with the song, and removed the ‘phones.

“Sounds good.  What problem are you having?” I asked as politely as I could manage.

“This song…there is strange sound.  Listen again.”

I placed the headphones back on.  Dah da da da da, dah da.  American Woman, stay away from me-hee.  Sounded fine.  I heard no strange sounds.  I told him I heard nothing unusual.

“There is a sound…ticking sound.  Tick tick tick.  Listen please.”

I put the phones on for the third time.  Finally I got it.  I heard the ticking.  It was the cymbal.

“Oh, OK, I get it.  Yeah, that’s not a defect.  That’s the drummer playing cymbals.”  I made a drumming motion to get my point across.

“No, no.  There is ticking sound.  Tick tick tick.  This not right.”

I explained again, “I hear the ticking sound you’re talking about.  It’s part of the song.  It’s the drummer playing cymbals, it’s a percussion instrument, like this.”  I made the drumming motions again.

“I not like.  Can you order me other copy?”

Man, I freaking hated ordering shit in when I didn’t have to.  There was nothing wrong with Oh What A Feeling.  If I ordered in a copy, it would be coming from another store in our chain.  We carried this item as a used item, but they were all going to be the same.  When we brought in this item from another store, we wouldn’t make any money on it.  The store that sent it to us gets the sale.  So, even if he buys it which was not guaranteed since the next copy would have the same tick tick tick, I would be losing the sale.

He insisted.  I ordered in the box set, we called him, and inexplicably, he bought the new one even though they were identical.  He never even returned it, which I completely expected.

SAM_1244Later on, the same man came in and picked out Bruce Dickinson’s album Balls To Picasso to listen to.  Once again, I brought him over to the listening stations, and left him to listen.  Once again, he signaled me over with a hand gesture.  I made my way to home wondering what the hell could be wrong this time.

“Did you put in correct CD?  I know this singer.  This is…not him.”

I put on the headphones and turned it up.  It was Bruce singing “Cyclops”, track one.

“This is the right CD.  This is Bruce Dickinson,” I told him.

Puzzled, the man said, “He changed his style!”  Well, win some lose some man.  I left him to listen once again.  I got back to my work, I had lots of customers to deal with that day.  About 10 minutes later, he motioned me over once again.

“The player…it not working.”  This happened quite frequently.  Our stuff was used and abused by the lowest scum and passersby who needed to kill 10 minutes while they waited for the bus.  Tire kickers.  They like to try things, but not to buy things.  Eastern European Man was not one of these, he did buy things.  However our stuff took a lot of abuse from others and was always on the verge of failure.

Attempting to joke around with him, I put on a happy voice and said, “Oh, did you break it man?”

Not understanding the humour, he answered, “Ehhh…perhaps.”

He bought the disc.  After a while, I never saw him again.  It’s funny.  You dread people like this coming into your store, and you having to wait on them hand on foot when they want to listen to something.  You hate them constantly signaling you over when you’re busy with other customers.  But, then you miss them.  You miss that eastern European accent because hey, he might have been annoying but at least he wasn’t a dick, and he did buy things.  He might have treated you like a servant to him, but technically that’s what you were.  You might have been a manager but to these guy you’re serving them, and they’re the customer, and that’s it, and I don’t begrudge it anymore.

But what happened to him?  Did he return to Eastern Europe?  Did he go online and start listening and downloading there?  Who knows.  After all, I never caught his name.  He was just Eastern European Man.

CUPFACE

 

Part 315.5: Bitches

August 28, 2014 58 comments

BITCH

I like to listen to the radio at work. On today’s Craig Fee Show on 107.5 Dave FM, a caller named Roy phoned in to complain. His reason was that Craig used the word “bitches” on the air.  (The context was, “If you don’t turn down your radio when you call into the show, I will hang up on you bitches.”)

I’ve heard Craig use the word periodically in the past. For example, to him the Boston Bruins are the “Boston Bitches”. (He’s a Canucks fan.)

Roy said that he had already called Corus head office in Toronto, and that he was going to call the CRTC next if Craig did not apologize sincerely for using the word “bitches,” by the end of his show. That was the deadline Roy set.  He was quite upset, and quite emphatic about the demand for an apology. His reason was that he had his grandchildren in the car, and they repeated the word. Roy reminded me of some of my old customers at the Record Store, who would call and complain because they didn’t like your face. I hate to go for such an obvious pun, but it’s rather bitchy, isn’t it? (I wonder if Roy lets his grandchildren listen to Nickelback – “you look so much cuter with something in your mouth”.)

I don’t know why Roy was listening to Dave FM with his grandchildren in the car, during the 3 o’clock Tedious Tiresome Trivia in the Tri-Cities, since most of the questions are sexual in nature. But rather than question his grandparenting, Craig simply responded by playing the Rolling Stones’ “Bitch”, followed by Sir Elton John’s “The Bitch is Back”. The list could have gone on, just do a Google search for songs with that word in the title! (And that’s not even including rap music.)

Do you think Roy had a point, or should he have simply chosen more appropriate programming for his grandchildren? What’s your favourite “Bitch” song? (I have two others: “Love’s a Bitch” by Quiet Riot, and “Burn Bitch Burn” by Kiss.)  Comment and let me know!

REVIEW: A World With Heroes EP

August 28, 2014 4 comments

NEW RELEASE

A WORLD WITHA World With Heroes EP – A KISS Tribute for Cancer Care (Anniversary release)

You’ve heard me talking a lot about this one lately.  It’s a release I’m really excited about.  The record shows that I heartily approved of last year’s A World With Heroes (A Kiss Tribute for Cancer Care), assembled by Mitch Lafon.  Proceeds went to benefit the Vaudreuil-Soulanges Palliative Care Residence in Hudson, Quebec.  And it was a killer, killer CD as my 5/5 star rating attested to.  To hear there was an EP coming featuring more Kiss covers, that peaked my interest.  Lafon always makes sure that there are quality tunes, performed by artists we care about.

The Killer Dwarfs do “C’mon and Love Me” just right.  I like that Russ Dwarf throws in some of Gene’s mannerisms in the chorus, but also sings it in his own voice.  If you like Killer Dwarfs and Kiss, you will love this, guaranteed.  Once again, the A World With Heroes series has delivered a solid Kiss cover that is valuable to fans.

“Calling Dr. Love” as performed by Crash Kelly is a real rarity.  You had to pre-donate to the original compilation CD to get an mp3 of it.  Now you can buy it on the EP.  They turn in a fun version of “Dr. Love”.  They make it a bit more pop rock in feel, and Sean Kelly absolutely nails Ace’s solo note for note.  It’s uncanny.  We all know Sean is a talented axeman, but that solo was flawless.

“Save Your Love” is an awesome Ace song, but Matt Bradshaw’s take on it is unique to say the least.  He transforms it into a funky acoustic ballad.  But it works!  I was prepared to hate it but was pleasantly surprised.  It’s bizarre how the song completely works in this format.  This is an example of an intelligent, innovative cover — something that is rare these days.   Brilliant cover.  Seriously.

“Every Time I Look at You” was originally from the Revenge album.  Some fans assume that Bruce Kulick played the guitar solo, but it was in fact Bob Ezrin’s old pal, Dick Wagner.  Dick Wagner passed away recently, at age 71.  This was his last song ever, which makes his version of this song that much more poignant.  His quavering voice speaks of the years past, but much like a late period Johnny Cash album, it only adds character to the song.  He sounds like a cross between Bob Dylan and Keith Richards.  The guitar work is lovely of course.

The Dwarfs return with “Nothin’ to Lose” from the first album.  Once again Russ nails the Gene mannerisms, while still sounding like Russ Dwarf.  This one is replete with piano and cowbell (Piano is by Bruce Stephen Foster, who also played on the Kiss original!).  I gotta be honest with you, I like the idea of the Dwarfs covering Kiss songs.  They can do more if they want.  They’re allowed.

Sudden Flames are a metal band from Quebec City.  They heavy up “Coming Home” considerably.  It’s one of my favourite Kiss songs ever, so it’s kind of funny to hear it with drums blasting away like this.  Like “Dr. Love”, this song was only available to those who donated in advance to the original CD.  Now you can get it on iTunes too.   I enjoy hearing their Québécois accents, truly one of the greatest accents on this Earth.

I only wish this was a physical release.

4.5/5 stars

  1. “C’Mon and Love Me” – Killer Dwarfs
  2. “Calling Dr. Love” – Crash Kelly
  3. “Save Your Love” – Matt Bradshaw
  4. “Every Time I Look At You” – Dick Wagner
  5. “Nothin’ To Lose” – Killer Dwarfs
  6. “Coming Home” – Sudden FlamesA WORLD WITH EP

 

 

REVIEW: The Cult – Beyond Good and Evil (Australian bonus track)

August 27, 2014 16 comments

Second of a CULT double shot!  Click here for 1994’s The Cult.

THE CULT – Beyond Good and Evil (2001 Atlantic)

When The Cult finally reunited, the rock world rejoiced.  It felt like a long time, in that post-grunge wasteland, since the world had been blessed with any new Cult music.  Not only had they reunited (with their former drummer Matt Sorum, also formerly of Guns N’ Roses) but they had also reunited with producer Bob Rock, for the third time.   Much like his last outing with the band (1994’s The Cult), this Cult album sounds like none before it.  This time, The Cult have gone full-bore ground-shaking heavy metal.  The template was a song the old band were working on before they split “In the Clouds”, from 1996’s High Octane Cult.  The resemblance is uncanny.

BEYOND THE CULT_0003“War (The Process)” invites you to the stage.  Its weight is astounding; Duffy’s guitars crushing while Sorum attacks his kit as he always has.  Duffy’s guitars have acquired a much heavier metallic tone.  Bob Rock applies them in layers, which has always worked well for The Cult.  When “The Saint” enters, your head could be blown from your shoulders.  This is The Cult at their heaviest, but Billy’s melodic sensibilities are intact, and his guitars always sound like Billy Duffy.  Ian, of course, sounds like Ian, howling at the ghosts.

The single from this album was “Rise”, which is no less brutal than the first two tracks.  Its stuttering de-tuned riff recalls Kyuss or Queens of the Stone Age. Song after song, the album crushes.  “Take the Power” is a rallying crying over a noisy Duffy arrangement.  This time, the layers of guitars form this wall of awesome that threatens to fall on you at any moment.  Astbury is delivering a lot more melody with his lead vocals than he did on The Cult.

BEYOND THE CULT_0005“Breathe” offers a respite, but it’s only brief.  It soon turns into a mid-tempo groove rocker, but a forgettable one.  “Nico” is a highlight, an “Edie”-esque beauty.  It would have been my choice for a single.  Somebody should really start asking me.

No sooner have you had a chance to relax before “American Gothic” smashes through the wall.  This is one of the heaviest Cult songs to date.  Cult bassist Chris Wyse (back in the band today) has a solid groove but is overwhelmed by the sheer weight of the Duffy guitar layers.  “Ashes and Ghosts” too is groove laden and heavy as plutonium.  “Shape the Sky” has a little bit of the old Cult’s prowl, but it’s still pretty heavy like spent nuclear fuel.  Ian has a knack for a cool chorus, and this is one of them.  “Speed of Light” has a bit of that robotic pulse from 1993’s “The Witch” before it descends into a detuned metal riff and chorus.  Then, “True Believers” gives you some breathing room again, although still slammed by electric guitars.  This slow tune is a bit more about the melody than the headache.

BEYOND THE CULT_0004The final song on most editions of Beyond Good and Evil is “My Bridges Burn”.  The Cult bow out on a scorching rocker, blowing the speakers out for those who dare to follow them.   Australia received an additional song, “Libertine”, on which to close.  This song feels like a coda and is powered by an Anthrax-esque stomp.  Top that with a soaring Astbury howl and those patented Duffy guitar melodies and you have a good summation of The Cult 2001.

I think many old-school Cult fans, the kind who think they made a wrong turn on Sonic Temple, would dislike Beyond Good and Evil.  For those of us who don’t mind the Cult when they just fucking rock, I think it’s a brilliant album.  The songs are not designed to be instantly catchy.   They are designed to create a sledgehammer of an album that relentlessly powers its way into your soul.  For me, it worked.  You could listen to it once and say, “Sure, it’s heavy, but there are only a couple memorable songs.”  Keep listening.  Let Beyond Good and Evil pummel you with body blows until all you can do is let it sink in.

4/5 stars

BEYOND THE CULT_0006

REVIEW: The Cult – The Cult (1994)

August 26, 2014 76 comments

First of a CULT double shot!  Come back tomorrow for another!

CULT_0002THE CULT – The Cult (1994 Universal)

This is an ugly album.  Even though a 1989 MuchMusic interview with Billy Duffy revealed The Cult would most likely not work with Bob Rock again, they did indeed re-team with the Canadian producer on 1994’s The Cult.  Duffy didn’t think the magic of Sonic Temple was something that could be repeated, based on the less than satisfactory (to him) results of working with producer Steve Brown twice.  On The Cult, however, no attempt was made in any way to recapture any sound or era.  This was brand new from the womb of 1994, and sounds very dated to that dark time.

The twisted “Gone”, unorthodox and sparse, was a shock to the system.  Once the listener gets his or her bearings, it’s actually a great fucking song.  Just a little off-kilter; enough to sound as if it’s not being played right.  It’s a whole new side to The Cult.  I wonder how much of this has to do with the new lineup, including bassist Craig Adams (The Sisters of Mercy/The Mission) and drummer Scott Garrett (Dag Nasty).  Ian Astbury’s delivery was also quite different.  Rather than simply howling those patented Astbury melodies, Ian barks, whispers and bellows.

“Coming Down (Drug Tongue)” was the first single, very different from the hits from the past two or three albums.  It had a droning, U2-ish vibe.  It’s quite a good song, but it wasn’t love at first listen.  “Real Grrrl” has a slower sway to it, and there is a lot to like about the song.  It’s interesting to hear Bob Rock using open space a lot more in his production; this is right after the supersaturated Motley Crue album.  Much of the instrumentation is very dry, but then there are Bob Rock trademarks, such as the Scott Humphrey synth on “Real Grrrl.”

Sounding much like a Superunknown (the softer side thereof) outtake, “Black Sun” is dark and quiet.  Ian sings of abuse.  The band back him with the barest of instrumentation, before the Billy Duffy solo around 3:20.  It is impossible to ignore the similarities to all the grunge bands of the time.  The basic, stripped down guitar parts and rhythm-driven arrangements speak of the time.

CULT_0003

There are few standouts on The Cult.  The album is more cerebral than past Cult albums, and is more about its overall direction than individual songs.  The aforementioned tracks are all great, as are a few others.  They include “Star” (also a single) which is a song that was re-worked many times going back to Sonic Temple.  Previously, it had been known as “Tom Petty” and “Star Child”, and can be found in both forms on the expansive Rare Cult box set.  It is one of the few songs that slightly resemble “old Cult”.  “Be Free” was a single (in Canada at least) given away with a case of beer.  How Canadian, eh?  (I sold mine on eBay for $10).  It too is a pretty good song.  Then there’s “Sacred Life”, a somber ballad naming Abbie Hoffman, River Phoenix and Kurt Cobain as painful losses to the world.  Album closer “Saints Are Down” is a powerful epic, and also a standout.

The Cult broke up/went on hiatus after this album.  They reunited in 1999 (with Matt Sorum on drums) and released a new song called “Painted on the Sun” written by Diane Warren (!!) from the Gone in 60 Seconds soundtrack.  This was followed by the excellent Beyond Good and Evil CD, also produced by Bob Rock.  This self-titled departure remained just that, as The Cult went full-bore metal on Beyond Good and Evil.  This album is an experiment that went unrepeated, and that is fine.  I like it for what it is, but I don’t need another.

3/5 stars

Part 315: Character Studies

August 25, 2014 13 comments

HAMMOND ORGAN

RECORD STORE TALES Part 315:  Character Studies

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I’m getting closer to the end of the line with the Record Store Tales.   These are some bits and pieces I had lying around that I never managed to make full stories out of.  Below are four memorable characters from the Record Store days.  It’s funny how even 20 years have gone by in some cases and I still remember these customers.

1.  Richard the Indian.  I don’t like making racial jokes, but Richard the Indian (nickname applied by himself) liked to make them, and always about himself!  Richard had a First Nations Status card, which he had to present to us to be exempt from the Provincial Sales Tax.  He used to joke at the front counter about his barely-working Discman:  “This Discman must have been made by Indians, it already broke!”  He was a nice guy, but I always felt like I couldn’t laugh at that joke!  You know what I mean?

2.  “Oops There It Is” Kid.  This kid came in every week for a year, looking for the song “Whoomp! (There It Is)” by Tag Team (except he couldn’t say the name right).  Being a kid, he wasn’t allowed to spend money, so he could never buy one of the albums we had.  Then one day, we got in a whole bunch of cassette singles on clearance, including “Whoomp! (There It Is)”.  It was a buck or two.  You should have seen his eyes when we finally got a copy in that his mom would let him buy!  I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a happier kid.

3.  Hammond Organ Man.  I think this may be the same customer that I referred to as Jaded Rock Guy.  The reason he was also known as Hammond Organ Man was that he refused to believe that one of our store managers even knew what a Hammond organ was (even though she did).  I don’t know why that’s so hard to believe.

4.  Johnny.  This guy was a burn-out from my old highschool.  He was in the same class as the store owner.  In mid ’94 he was always coming in asking, “When is the new Cult out?”  We hadn’t seen any release dates at all, but every week he asked the same question.  “When will the new Cult be out?”  Finally my boss answered him, “Next week,” just to see what Johnny would say.   His eyes went wide.  “Really?  Can you hold one for me?”  My boss told him he was just kidding, but he stopped asking about the new Cult album.  Then when it finally came out in October  ‘94, he hated it!  He bought it from me new and sold it to me used.

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge: I’ve Been Challenged!

August 24, 2014 6 comments

ICE

I have been challenged for the #ALS #IceBucketCompetition. SARCA from Caught Me Gaming has passed the baton to me and 3 members of the “Cupface Crew”. Rock fans know that ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease) afflicts the genius musician Jason Becker.  The above isn’t my attempt, just a simulation on what my attempt may look like!

The idea isn’t to dump a bucket of ice water on your head. The idea is you donate $10 to an ALS fund (I chose ALS Society of Canada), dump a bucket of ice on your head, and challenge three more to do the same. (I have already selected my victims.)  I don’t personally know someone affected by ALS, but I do so hate the neurological diseases with a passion.  Like many others, for my video I will also add my own LeBrain twist. Stay tuned!

Hundreds of celebrities have already done the challenge, so here’s a video of Kiss’ and Def Leppard’s attempt! They were challenged by Motley Crue.

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