RECORD STORE TALES & REVIEWS: Complete Table of Contents

February 1, 2012 7 comments

REVIEW: Ozzy Osbourne – Under Cover (2005 Japanese import)

October 22, 2014 4 comments

Purchased this year at the Toronto Musical Collectibles Record & CD Sale.

OZZY OSBOURNE – Under Cover (2005 Japanese CD/DVD set)

I want to know who thought this album was a good idea to release.  Sure, we know Ozzy will do pretty much anything.  He even appeared on a tribute album to Black Sabbath (Nativity In Black Vol. 2).  So why not have Ozzy cover a bunch of songs that, by and large, the world didn’t need him to cover?

“SHARON!”

I’ve never thought much of this album, and I think you can gather why on the first track “Rocky Mountain Way” (Joe Walsh).  Why did this song need to be redone, metalized, and howled upon by Ozzy Osbourne?  It’s awful.  The female backing vocals are totally out of place, the changes made to song are unnecessary, and the vocal is stale.  The only positive thing I will say is that Jerry Cantrell (Alice in Chains) plays on Under Cover, and he’s the only thing redeeming it.  His slide and talk box solos on “Rocky Mountain Way” are swampy and great.

Whether Ozzy covers the Beatles (a pukey echo-drenched “In My Life) or Cream (“Sunshine of Your Love”) or the Stones (“Sympathy for the Devil”), nothing of value is added to the song.  It’s assembly line rock.  There are no innovations or interesting slants.  “Sunshine of Your Love” is altered to resemble Sabbath’s “N.I.B.” which doesn’t help matters at all.  Ozzy even does two solo John Lennon songs (“Woman” and “Working Class Hero”).  I get that Ozzy has a connection to the lyrics to “Working Class Hero” and is a huge fan of Lennon.  That doesn’t mean he should try doing his own version.  Most songs don’t benefit from being metalized.  I’ve even heard a good metalized cover of “21st Century Schizoid Man” better than Ozzy’s.

Best tune (only good tune):  “Fire” originally by the Crazy World of Arthur Brown.

OZZY UNDER COVER_0003Special guests: Leslie West plays some smokin’ axe on the cover of his own “Mississippi Queen”.  Ian Hunter joins Ozzy on “All the Young Dudes” but doesn’t do much other than shout along.  Others such as Gregg Bissonnette (David Lee Roth) and Joe Bonamassa are credited on the album, with no indication of what they did on which tracks.  Maybe Bissonnette was hired solely to play cowbell.  Who knows?

The final rip off to fans is that almost all of Under Cover was previously released on Ozzy’s Prince of Darkness box set earlier that year!  Many Ozzy fans such as myself picked that one up for its numerous long-sought rarities.    When Under Cover was released as its own album, four new recordings were added to make you buy it again: “Rocky Mountain Way”, “Sunshine of Your Love”, “Woman”, and “Go Now”. If you have Prince of Darkness, then you already own over 75% of Under Cover.

The Japanese bonus track was daughter Kelly Osbourne’s cover of Black Sabbath’s ballad “Changes”, with dear old dad singing with her, and lyrics adapted to suit.  If you were one of those (I hope not) who bought Kelly’s 2002 album Shut Up, then you already have this.  But like most Ozzy fans, I already have this song on the Prince of Darkness set.  This version also comes with a bonus  region 2 DVD: the music video for “In My Life” (whoop-de-do) and a long (about 45 minutes I think) feature called “Dinner with Ozzy and Friends”.  You might recognize a couple of these friends.  Road stories are shared, the funniest ones involving Ozzy being mistaken for Meat Loaf, and Lemmy for Willie Nelson.  And there’s the infamous story of Zakk Wylde and a cork.  Finally, the two sided DVD also has the entire album in “enhanced stereo”.

1/5 stars

REVIEW: Black Star Riders – All Hell Breaks Loose (2013)

October 21, 2014 5 comments

BLACK STAR RIDERS – All Hell Breaks Loose (2013 Nuclear Blast CD/DVD set)

Epic Review Time again!  This time it’s a CD/DVD combo set, the debut album by Black Star Riders.  You might know the guys from Black Star Riders by another name they sometimes use: Thin Lizzy.  Scott Gorham put a Lizzy lineup back together in 1996, over the years utilizing Lizzy alumni such as himself, John Sykes, Darren Wharton, and Brian Downey.  But when it came to creating new music, why did they change their name?

Let’s begin by reviewing the DVD, which answers this question and any others you may have about who Black Star Riders are.

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Scott explains that he and Brian Downey really decided not to do a “Thin Lizzy” album because of their own discomfort with the idea. Without Phil, it didn’t seem right. The rest of the band were disappointed because they had written 17 new songs they were excited about. But they would not add a Lizzy album to the canon without Phil.  Singer Ricky Warwick (The Almighty) says that once that decision was made to record with a new name, he found inspiration from a western movie featuring a gang called the “Black Star” gang. He liked the gang mentality. But Brian Downey dropped out early in the proceedings (although he did participate in writing some of the material.)   New drummer Jimmy Degrasso (Megadeth) explains that Thin Lizzy’s special sound comes from a Blues/R&B swing, and of course the “dual guitar armies”. They aimed to keep these qualities with Black Star Riders. Guitarist Damon Johnson believes that Ricky Warwick’s lyrical prowess is exemplary, and carries the Lizzy spirit. I would have to agree.

Recruiting producer extraordinaire Kevin Shirley (Iron Maiden),  the album was done in 12 days. They did one song start to finish each day. It was recorded as live as possible, simply because they only had 12 days!

Unfortunately for me, there just isn’t enough behind the scenes footage on the DVD. There’s a little: brief glimpses of writing and recording sessions. The disc is made up mostly of interviews. Gorham, Warwick, Degrasso, Johnson, bassist Marco Mendoza and producer Shirley take turns in front of the camera. It is quite extensive; this is not a short DVD. (I don’t see a time listed anywhere but I’d guess it was an hour long.)  Subjects covered include Phil Lynott, songwriting, pressure, inspiration, guitar solos, Ireland and more. Each individual song is discussed in detail.


Now that you’re familiar with Black Star Riders, we can discuss the album All Hell Breaks Loose.  Which is a killer.

You could easily mistake the title track for an outtake from the Jailbreak album, or Johnny the Fox perhaps.  Though there is only one Phil, Ricky Warwick’s voice occupies the same range.  His lyrics are storytelling much like Phil’s were, and they both share similar interests in history and gang mentalities.  This is as close as anyone has ever gotten to Thin Lizzy (and no wonder).  I love when, just before the solo, Warwick cries, “Alright Scotty!”  But Johnson joins Scott for the second part of the solo, recreating the classic Lizzy guitar sound.  Then, the single “Bound For Glory” completely captures the goodtime vibe of “Boys Are Back In Town”.  It’s a great choice for a single, and once again you could easily mistake it for an outtake from Jailbreak.   Just like Phil would do, there’s even an Elvis reference in the lyrics.  You truly get the feeling that All Hell Breaks Loose is as much a new album by these guys as it is a tribute to Lynott.

“Kingdom of the Lost” captures the Irish spirit of Lizzy.  Traditional Irish instruments join the band, and it’s in the same vein as a Lizzy track like “Black Rose”.  I should mention now that while each song feels like an homage to Phil, none sound like a re-write.  They capture the spirit without being note-for-note ripoffs, and I think that is an extraordinarily difficult thing to accomplish.

“Bloodshot” gave me a different feeling, which is while the riff has Lizzy elements, it sounds more “southern rock” to me.  Nothing wrong with that either.  “Kissin’ the Ground” then has a more “hard rock” sound, almost like something Damon Johnson might have written with Alice Cooper (who he used to play with) in mind.  But then the excellent chorus is one of the most Lizzy-like.  Then “Hey Judas” (a play on the title “Hey Jude”) is pure Lizzy, 110%. There is no question that Scott Gorham has carried so much of the Thin Lizzy sound into the present.  “Hey Judas” often finds itself as my favourite song (alternating with “Bound for Glory” and “Valley of the Stones”).   Then onto “Hoodoo Voodoo”, where I think the album sags.  I don’t think this is a standout.  Since the aforementioned “Valley of the Stones” is next, the decline is only brief.  This metallic stomp is like a highspeed Mad Max race through the desert, searching for the mystical valley of the stones itself.  Fear not through, the guitar duels keep it within Lizzy Nation.

If things have been a bit heavy, then the gleeful “Someday Salvation” captures that “Dancing in the Moonlight” swing of early Lizzy.  Then “Before the War” has an appropriate military beat.  I’m sure this is an excellent song in concert; you can shout along.  The last song on the regular edition of the CD is “Blues Ain’t So Bad”, a dusky slow rock song.  But I think the better closer is the “bonus track” “Right to be Wrong”.  That “better believe it!” shout-along hook is just great, and this upbeat song just smokes.

As you can no doubt see, I would have found it an impossible challenge to write this review without comparing to Thin Lizzy.  But I don’t think that’s important; the band clearly intended to follow in those footsteps.  If anybody has a right to, it’s Black Star Riders.

4.5/5 stars

#327: Flash! (saviour of the musicverse!) (RSTs Mk II: Getting More Tale)

October 20, 2014 16 comments

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RECORD STORE TALES Mk II: Getting More Tale

#327: Flash! (saviour of the musicverse!)

My current vehicle is my first to have a built in USB port.  What a revelation!  Only in the last few years did I finally make the digital leap with my Sony mp3 player.  Now with the car USB port, I finally have the ability to bring music with me in the car, without worrying about damaging a CD or packaging.  It’s a very liberating little gadget.  Listening to a Deep Purple box set in the car is no longer an exercise in delicacy.

The first music that I began ripping and loading onto a flash drive were in fact my box sets.  Let’s face it: some box sets (Pearl Jam’s Ten, Pink Floyd’s Shine On, Deep Purple’s Listen Learn Read On) are not very portable.  I find the car to be a great place to listen to a box set.  This week, I decided to revisit my 12 CD Marillion singles box sets, straight through.  Everyone who drives to work on a daily basis probably spend a lot of time in their cars.  It works for me to listen to something really long and involved on my drives, over the course of a week.  Many of my reviews have been mentally composed in my vehicle.

Unfortunately it’s not the perfect setup.  The GM factory stereo has some flaws.  One thing that bugs me is it doesn’t display the track times, unless you’re fast-forwarding or rewinding.  It also doesn’t interface well with the big 32 gig flash drives I’ve tried.  The stereo can’t remember where it left off on a drive that big.  Now I use a couple 8 gig drives, which work much better.  I can pick up the tunes exactly where I left off.

The biggest and most annoying flaw is that it will not play certain mp3 files.  I have never figured out why.  I get an “id3 tag error” on some files.  Some cassette rips, and some bootleg CDs will give me that error when ripped and played in the car.   Some official CDs even give me an issue once ripped.  Anthrax’s Anthems EP for example won’t play in my car after I ripped it.  (I should try re-ripping and see what that does.) Others are no problem.

It’s incredible how much things have changed since I was a kid, when it comes to listening to music.  When I think back to packing cassettes, and then CDs, for road trips…and now just loading up a flash drive, it’s amazing.  Yet the process remains the same: I still go through album after album trying to find the perfect batch for a particular trip.  The ease of doing so has been a massive shift for my listening habits.  I don’t know if they still make vehicles without USB ports, but unless something better comes along, I will never do without one.

WE’RE BACK: Toronto Record Store Excursion 2014 success!

October 19, 2014 28 comments

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Aaron and I have returned safely from Toronto, with treasures in hand! He has posted to the KMA a non-spoiler update regarding the trip. We both did very well. As a “Taranna First” I was providing live photographic updates of the trip via social media.

As I did on the previous two trips, I took plenty of photos and video with the intent of creating another great trip video! With that in mind, we don’t want to spoil too much about our adventure, so this is just a brief preview. Of note, Aaron bore gifts, and one of them is a book that I am just as happy to get as I am some of my musical finds. Aaron also helped add to my 6″ Stormtrooper army!

The sad news: Even though I was quite confident that we would find at least one item from somebody’s KMA Holy Grail list, we did not. I was sure that we would at least be able to find one of Sarca’s, such as the Ray Lyell CD. I was surprised that we didn’t. I might have an easier time finding it locally.

Having said that: I encourage you to check out the KMA Grail list and add your own long-sought albums to it.  Though we did not have luck with it this time, we did look hard.  The more people who participate in the Holy Grail list, the better, so as my buddy Aaron would say GIVE’R!

Enjoy the photo gallery, and if you missed the videos from the 2012 and 2013 trips, you can check those out below.

LeBrain (who, I am glad to say, did not fart once in Aaron’s car this time.)

2013: PART 1

2013: PART 2

2012:

REVIEW: White Lion – Fight to Survive (1985)

October 19, 2014 8 comments

FIGHT TO SURVIVE_0001WHITE LION – Fight to Survive (1985 Music for Nations)

Growing up in the 1980’s, there were a lot of new bands coming out that we latched onto pretty quickly. White Lion was one. My buddy Bob probably liked them better than I did, but I was a fan too. Back in those days, I was the guy buying all the rock magazines, while he was starting out in college. I’d tell him all the latest rock news, what albums were coming out, and so on.

One afternoon we were chatting, and I had something pretty major to tell him. I had read a White Lion interview in Circus magazine, and it revealed something neither of us knew before: Pride was not the first White Lion album! They had done a previous, independent (and rare) record called Fight to Survive that we didn’t know existed. Even back then, Bob and I were collectors, so we sought that album with great vigor.

It took years for him to find it on cassette, and then several more for me to get it on CD. Now I have it, so let’s talk about it.

The opener is “Broken Heart”, which was re-recorded in ’91 for Mane Attraction. Perhaps this early version, sans keyboards, is the better of the two. Regardless, this had hit single written all over it even back then. The chorus kills and even though it has ballady verses, it also has enough balls to pump the fist in the air.  “Cherokee” is another one with a killer chorus.  The songwriting here isn’t perfect, or polished.  It has some clunky moments, but it definitely had something.  Unfortunately, the title track is a lame-o Van Halen rip off, trying to be something like “Mean Street” or something, but missing the mark.  The lyrics about shields and swords are out of place on an album with a song like “Broken Heart”.  Vito Bratta is ripping off Randy Rhoads rather than Eddie Van Halen on the solo, but he had really yet to evolve into the player he became.

FIGHT TO SURVIVE_0002“Where Do We Run” picks up on one of the albums themes:  great choruses (and guitar solos)  that don’t have a great song around them.  However, “In the City” has nothing much of anything going for it: it’s a real flaccid side closer.  Side two’s opener “All the Fallen Men” is much better, sounding something like a Dokken single.  This song is a standout.  The rhythm section of James LoMenzo and Greg D’Angelo had already established a good groove together.  Mike Tramp’s lyrics are not profound (nor would they ever be) but he’s trying.

“All Burn in Hell” is one of those choruses without a song.  “Kid of 1000 Faces” is a song without a chorus.  “El Salvadore” opens with a really cool classical guitar/eletric guitar duo.  This at least has an original sound, or at least for 1985 it was.  And the song itself?  Another great chorus just begging for a good song, a memorable riff — anything!  White Lion were really good at writing song fragments.  Finally, the piano-based ballad “Road to Valhalla” is one of the cheesiest, unconvincing “serious” ballads I have ever heard in my life.  Mike Tramp’s flat vocals don’t help the matter much, but this song is so cookie-cutter that it sounds as if taken from a handbook called How to Re-Write “Home Sweet Home” in Three Simple Steps.

Fight To Survive has a couple great songs, and several brilliant fragments.  If they’d tightened it up and put out five as an EP, we’d be on to something.  Unfortunately, Fight To Survive is only worth:

2.5/5 stars

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REVIEW: Gun – Taking on the World (1989)

October 18, 2014 20 comments

TAKING ON THE WORLD_0002GUN – Taking on the World (1989 A&M)

Haven’t heard of Gun?  That’s OK, I hear that a lot.  You might know Gun best from their 1994 cover of Cameo’s “Word Up” which was a minor hit here on MuchMusic.

I first read about this band in 1990, and first picked up the debut CD in ’96.  I don’t actually know a lot about them except that they are Scottish and this is the first of several albums.  “Better Days” was the first single I heard.  Its bright, sparse rock wasn’t quite what was happening with the mainstream in 1989.  It’s very melodic, but in an unconventional way for hard rock bands at the time.   The vocals of Mark Rankin were unlike other rock singers on the scene at the time; he’s understated.  They also had an unusual image feature two short haired dudes and a frontman with his hair in a ponytail — you didn’t see that in 1989 unless you were INXS.  Musically too, they kind of rode a line between hard rock and 80’s alternative.  These are some of the qualities that attracted me to the band in the first place.  “Better Days” is a stand-out track, possessing a rhythmic base, a chorus that kills and a soulful vibe that helps sell it.

Second in line is “The Feeling Within” which is harder.  It still has the sparse vibe and understated vocals, but with a harder guitar riff.  It too boasts a winning chorus (reminding me of late-80’s Rush actually).  Once again I think Rankin is a highlight of the song, and he is accompanied on the chorus by an uncredited female backing singer.  Then “Inside Out” takes us to an upbeat, sunshiny place.  While Gun remain undoubtedly guitar based, the guitars are not oppressive like most hard rock, and the song has plenty of room to the breathe.  It’s another standout song.

The first song that I dislike is “Money (Everybody Loves Her)”.  It has a vibe similar to “Way Cool, Jr.” by Ratt, but without any balls.  I’ll pass on this one.  Fortunately the best song is next: the title track “Taking on the World”.  Quiet acoustics back Rankin’s laid-back voice.  Outstanding melody and song construction here!  It gradually picks up steam, electric guitars slowly drawing in.  The bass provides a steady pulse  as the song builds.  It closes side one on a strong note.

“Shame on You”, side two’s opener, is similarly constructed upon the pulse of the rhythm section.  It has a drone-y but catchy riff, not to mention chorus.  Darker tones shade “Can’t Get Any Lower”, still a good song, but lacking the punch of a memorable chorus.  Unfortunately the title “Something to Believe In” is well overused, and this isn’t really a great song.  It’s probably the weakest so far, though it does have some great vocal moments.  But then there’s the funky “Girls in Love” which I have a strong dislike for.  At least it’s the shortest song, but this sounds like a bad Bootsauce song or something.  After a couple tunes like these, you need a strong album closer.  Gun fail to deliver with “I Will Be Waiting”.  It’s too laid back.  It would have been better elsewhere on the disc, but it’s not that strong.

In summation, Taking on the World has a pretty damn good first side, but takes a hard slide on the second.  Too bad.  There’s enough goodness here to warrant:

3/5 stars

TOMORROW: Toronto Record Store Excursion 2014

October 17, 2014 14 comments

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Yes it’s that time again folks.  For the third year in a row, Aaron and myself will be venturing to Toronto…the T-Dot…Hogtown, the Big Smoke!  Once again we will be going looking for music and other sundry scores.  Aaron will be bringing the KMA community “Holy Grail List” of rarities, so we can hunt for YOUR music, too!

Admittedly though, my goals focus on me, myself, and I.  There are several items I’d like to bring home with me, including the new Flying Colors album.  I’m also going to look for some cheap, used Helix CDs for my friends overseas who don’t have easy access to such things.  Other than that, my own plan is simply to see what I can find and make my purchasing decisions accordingly!  We did very, very well last year, as you can see by the videos below.

Oh!  The videos.  Yes, I also plan to make another video, this year.  However I won’t be rushing myself, so don’t expect it right away.  It’s hard work!

Wish us luck.  Tomorrow is a day I look forward to every year, and I expect many treasures to be found!

2013: PART 1

2013: PART 2

2012:

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