RECORD STORE TALES & REVIEWS: Complete Table of Contents

February 1, 2012 7 comments

MAINRECORD STORE TALES

Parts 1 – 50  
Parts 51 – 100 
Parts 101 – 150
Parts 151 – 200
Parts 201 – 250
Parts 251 – 300
Parts 301 – 320

    RECORD STORE TALES MkII:

GETTING MORE TALE

#321-350
#351-400


DIRECTORY OF REVIEWS 

Music, Movies, and more

WTF?

 

Categories: Table of Contents

#358.5: On the Road Again

January 26, 2015 Leave a comment

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RECORD STORE TALES MkII: Getting More Tale
#358.5: On the Road Again

Today was another day on the highway, on the road to another hospital!  We’re making progress on Jen’s epilepsy and she is currently staying at Toronto Western Hospital for a few days as they try to figure out just what’s causing these seizures.  It will be the longest we’ve been apart since we’ve been married, six years ago.

You don’t come here to read mushy stuff, you come for funny stories and to read about the rock!  The drive itself was uneventful.  The eastbound lanes are clear, but a jackknifed tractor trailer on the westbound side left just one lane open to traffic.  It was backed up as far as the eye could see, and I was grateful I was not one of the commuters stuck in it.

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We had Zeppelin on the ride into Toronto.  With your morning traffic jams that just happen, we listened to all of Led Zeppelin I, the deluxe edition with bonus concert CD, Live at the Olympia in Paris.  As good as this set is — and it is good — it didn’t suit the mood this morning.  I should have started with Queen instead.  I drove home to disc one of the new Queen Forever, and the pop sound and bright melodies of Queen were  better suited to lift the mood.  On the way there, Plant’s anguished screams only heightened my own tension.  On the way back, Freddie’s smooth crooning was just what the doctor ordered.  It was a bright sunny afternoon drive home.

As is par for the course this time of year, my car came home covered in a thick gray coating of sludge and salt.  I almost went through almost half a tank of windshield washer fluid today!

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If she’s there a while and I have to hang around there, I will definitely be checking out some record stores.  When we passed the Honest Ed’s building, I realized that we were right in the vicinity of Mike and Aaron’s Annual Taranna Record Store Excursion!  It would be weird to be so close and not check out Sonic Boom.

I’m looking forward to video chatting with Jen tonight on our laptops.  She’s got a few days ahead that will be a mixture of boredom, homesickness, and tedious testing.  Me, I’m back to bachelor living for the week.  I’m already bored.

Today’s musical lesson: Queen lifts the mood!

REVIEW: Judas Priest – Concert Classics (also known as Live in Concert)

January 26, 2015 13 comments

CONCERT CLASSICS_0001JUDAS PRIEST – Concert Classics (1998 RME, recorded 6/25/1980)

I was surprised to see this album was reissued in 2007 as Live in Concert. When I got it back in 1998, the record label was immediately served with a “cease and desist” because Priest had just released their own official ’98 Live Meltdown album, and this one isn’t authorized by the band. It’s a radio broadcast from 1980, the British Steel tour.  It doesn’t even have the right drummer pictured on the back!  The album was swiftly deleted and disappeared from store shelves, and most fans didn’t know it had come and gone. (Also, at the exact same time, Sony issued another compilation called Priest Live and Rare, further muddifying the clarification.)  After it was deleted, I acquired this CD from Tom who had just opened his own branch of the Record Store.  I paid $19.99, used.

As an unofficial part of the Priest discography, In Concert is worth picking up. Although Priest had released the live Unleashed in the East in 1979, Concert Classics was recorded in 1980 after British Steel.  Therefore, a lot of crucial future Priest classics had been added to the set.  You can’t argue with the tunes inside. Recorded live in Denver (you can tell this when Halford yells, “What you say, Denver!” right before the guitar solo in “Green Manalishi”), some of these tracks are lost gems. It’s nice to have the CD alongside Unleashed, as a companion.

CONCERT CLASSICS_0003The sound quality is OK, it’s not up to the standards of Unleashed (obviously). The vocals are not mixed loud enough.  The bass on the other hand is mixed way too loud, and Ian Hill is not that interesting as a bassist.  The band is also not the same lineup as the year before, due to the replacement of Les Binks by Dave Holland. Holland is a very blocky, robotic drummer. Play “Green Manalishi” for an idea of how the two drummers differ.  Priest with Holland was that much weaker for it.  I don’t think anyone would argue the point that Priest sound better without Dave Holland on drums.

Having said that, the rest of the band are playing great, and Halford’s voice was in fine, peak shape. He was able to hit all the notes in “The Ripper”.  He didn’t quite nail the one on “Victim of Changes”, but he was close!  This doesn’t sound like there were any overdubs or other assorted mess-arounds. Which is the way I like it.

Other notables:  No “Metal Gods” (although the concert opens with the metal hammering sound from that song).  “You Don’t Have to be Old to be Wise” is a nice surprise, and it sounds great live!  There are plenty of tunes from Sad Wings and British Steel, a trio from Hell Bent, and samplings from Sin After Sin and Stained Class.  The set list is well rounded.

3/5 stars. Somewhat collectible, since Priest would probably like this CD to be buried. Good tunes, and an important era of Priest history documented on CD for the metal historian.

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#358: The Personal Impact of Led Zeppelin

January 25, 2015 39 comments

ZEPPERS

RECORD STORE TALES MkII: Getting More Tale
#358: The Personal Impact of Led Zeppelin

Christmas 1990 was another major turning point in my musical life. I know others who can say the same thing for the same reason. Led Zeppelin had released their first box set, a 4 CD collection of 54 essential tracks, remastered by Jimmy Page himself. This was the impetus I needed to finally take the Zeppelin plunge.

Prior to this, I had stayed away from Zeppelin.  I only knew a couple live videos from MuchMusic, which didn’t appeal to me at all.  A rock band wearing sandals?  The fuck was this?  I couldn’t wrap my head around the violin bow solo, nor the band.  I remember watching the old live “Dazed and Confused” video with my friend Bob.  “You can tell that guy’s on drugs,” he said of Jimmy Page.

That was in the 1980’s.  By the turn of the decade, I was starting to tire of plastic sounding pop rock bands. I was craving authenticity, and I know I wasn’t the only one. Bands like Warrant were wracked by controversy, when it was revealed that they employed two guitar teachers to write their guitar solos and teach the members how to play them. Too much fakery for me — at that point I decided to stop listening to them.  I sold my Warrant tapes.  Warrant in turn accused Poison, the band they were opening for, of using backing tapes live. All kinds of bands were accused of using backing tapes. Sebastian Bach was quoted as saying, “The only band out there that doesn’t use backing tapes live today is Metallica, and that’s a fact.”  (I am fairly certain Iron Maiden are above such tom foolery as well.)


The old “Dazed and Confused” video that Much used to play

I didn’t want backing tapes, I wanted authentic pure rock music. There was a bustle in my hedgerow. I wasn’t satisfied with the new releases coming out either. A lot of groups that I really liked released disappointing albums in 1990.  From Dio to Iron Maiden to Winger, there were too many bands that failed to impress that year.   A band like Zeppelin seemed to have not only authenticity, but solid consistently.  They were hailed as the greatest rock band of all time by just about every rock group I heard of!

I received the box set from my parents on Christmas day 1990. The following day, Boxing day, I had set aside to listen to the entire box set from start to finish – about five and a half hours of listening. I took a brief lunch break between discs 2 and 3. I emerged from my room that afternoon, dazed, but not confused at all. There were some songs that I didn’t care too much for – “Poor Tom”, “Wearing and Tearing”, “Ozone Baby” – mostly songs from Coda. They were vastly outnumbered by the songs that absolutely blew me away, even though I had never heard of them before: “Your Time Is Gonna Come”, “Immigrant Song”, “Ramble On”, “The Ocean”, “All My Love”…I could not believe the sheer quality of the music.

Sure, Led Zeppelin’s songs weren’t produced as slick as I was used to. They were a far cry from Whitesnake. Jimmy Page wasn’t a shredder like Steve Vai, but I felt a personal shift. I thought bands like Whitesnake and Cinderella had been exhibiting the epitome of integrity, with the ace players and incredible musicianship. Like athletes, musicians only seemed to achieve loftier heights over the decades with their playing. This was exemplified by a guy like Steve Vai who pushed guitar into entirely new frontiers. Cinderella, on the other hand, had even worked with Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones, who provided strings to their bluesy Heartbreak Station LP. I thought Cinderella were the blues! But now, my eyes were really opening.  It was like Obi-Wan Kenobi had prophesized:  “You’ve just taken your first step, in a larger world.”

IMG_20150114_182807Led Zeppelin (and also ZZ Top) were talking about blues artists I never heard of. Muddy Waters? Lightning Hopkins? Robert Johnson? Who were these people that were so influential that Zeppelin were known to lift entire songs from them?

I had a thought: “From this moment on, I will never be able to listen to rock bands the same way again. I used to think Cinderella were authentic blues. How can I ever go back to listening to Cinderella with the same feeling of passion? How can I play bands like Slaughter and Judas Priest, and think for a second that these guys are any better than the old guys like Zep?”

Fortunately I found that eventually Cinderella, Whitesnake and Led Zeppelin could co-exist in my collection. Liking one does not mean you can’t like the others. Even though Led Zeppelin raised the bar to extraordinary heights, I found it wasn’t too hard to “lower my standards” sometimes and enjoy a little “Slow An’ Easy” with David Coverdale. Zeppelin simply opened my eyes: that there was an entire history of blues that I hadn’t really been aware of before. My musical life journey was about to expand exponentially.

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REVIEW: Chickenfoot – Chickenfoot (CD/DVD set)

January 24, 2015 17 comments

CHICKENFOOT_0001CHICKENFOOT – Chickenfoot (2009 Redline CD/DVD reissue)

This reissue of the fantastic debut Chickenfoot CD is a decent but imperfect repackage. The music is so good, I can’t stay mad about the double-dip. You can get this cheap if you hunt, so keep that in mind. First let’s talk about the music, before we get into the reissue.

I will go out on a limb and call this the best album Sammy Hagar had made in many years, and better than most (if not any) Van Hagar album. Part of the reason is the performances by this cast of pros (Sammy, Joe Satriani, Michael Anthony, Chad Smith), and part of the reason is solid songwriting. What’s left is youthful energy, which this band of old dudes has plenty of.

The first obvious highlight for me was the glorious return of the Van Hagar harmony vocals. Michael Anthony was responsible for a lot of that in Van Halen, and it was just a joy to hear him harmonizing with Sammy again. Close your eyes and you’d think you’re listening to some lost Halen track circa For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge. Then you recognize those warm Satriani guitar tones and tricks. Finally you hear Chad Smith on the drums, making it all sound easy. This actually sounds like a real band.

Highlights: The single “Oh Yeah”, “Sexy Little Thing”, “Runnin’ Out” (definite sounds like a long lost Halen tune), “My Kinda Girl” (my kinda chorus!), and “Turnin’ Left” (which just grooves).  “Bitten By The Wolf” has this bluesy Satriani-circa-Flying kind of vibe.  There are no weak songs, and nothing which doesn’t fit the direction of this band.  There’s no point going song by song.  Each one features the stellar playing, singing and melody that you would expect for this band of pros.  Satch’s tone is rich, beautiful and perfect.  This is most definitely hard rock.  There’s nothing too wussy about Chickenfoot.  Even the ballad “Learning to Fall” has the integrity of an outtake from Flying in a Blue Dream.  It’s hard not to enjoy something with Joe Satriani on guitar!

“Bitten By The Wolf”, of course, was the original bonus track on the vinyl and download versions of Chickenfoot. Now you can get it on a proper CD with this two-disc reissue. In addition you get an hour long DVD. This disc contains a couple fun music videos, interviews with each guy, and some excellent live stuff. Two things I noticed right away on the live stuff: One, Joe plays a lot more solos. Watching him play is a real treat. I’ve never seen Joe play up close on a DVD before. My God this man’s fingers move fast. Plus he’s entertaining as a showman. Two, Chad Smith is great to watch. On CD he makes it all sound easy. On DVD he makes it all look easy. This tower of a man just locks in and powers through. Awesome to watch. No wonder he is so in-demand with everybody from the Dixie Chicks on down.

Of note:  There are many who do not like this album as much as I.  Craig Fee from 107.5 Dave FM told me that this record was “disappointing, like seeing an all Toronto Maple Leafs NHL All-Star team, standing there in their blue jerseys.”

I only had two disappointments. One, the original CD had no booklet, only a link to download a pdf file. That remains so on this edition. I would have loved a booklet. Two, the original also had this awesome heat-sensitive packaging. The cover was almost entirely black, but when you placed your warm hand on it, pictures of the band members appeared. That packaging is not a part of this edition. Instead, the black has been replaced with white and now you can see the pictures unobscured. Two very small qualms. I still own the original CD and a vinyl copy to boot, so it’s not a big deal to me.

Get your buzz on!

5/5 stars

#357: “Dream Bands” (1990 version)

January 23, 2015 104 comments

ROB

RECORD STORE TALES Mk II: Getting More Tale
#357: “Dream Bands” (1990 version)

I’m sure you and your friends have made these lists many times: put together a lineup of your dream band! Any living players can qualify.

I had deep, long conversations about this with my friends in highschool. One of them simply listed the four members of Led Zeppelin (Jason subbing in for John) as his dream band. You could certainly make an argument for that. My highschool dream band (1990-91 year) was instead made up of the players that I thought were the absolute best in their fields.  Can you guess who I was listening to that year? Lineup:

  1. Lead vocals – Rob Halford
  2. Lead guitar – Steve Vai
  3. Rhythm guitar – Malcolm Young
  4. Bass – Billy Sheehan
  5. Drums – Scott Travis
  6. Keyboards – Jon Lord

As a joke, I also added a seventh bonus member, Walter Ostanek on accordion!  That was for my buddy Andy, who also played accordion.  Upon submitting my official list for consideration, I removed Ostanek.  But I figured that Walter could show up for a guest appearance on a track or two, because everyone loves accordion.

An interesting band lineup to be sure, but as my highschool friends pointed out, they would probably implode after only one rehearsal. Steve Vai and Malcolm Young in the same band? I can’t see how that would work. Sorry, LeBrain circa 1990. Fail!  I’m glad I kept this stuff though, because it’s so funny to look back on it now.  25 freakin’ years ago!

Who would you place in your “dream band” lineup today? One stipulation: the artist must be alive and able to play. For example I couldn’t put Malcolm on my list today, nor could I put Phil Collins on drums, since he can no longer play them due to injury.

Have at it! Let’s see your lists!

metal smurf

 

REVIEW: Savatage – Hall of the Mountain King (1987)

January 22, 2015 20 comments

 

HALL OF THE MOUNTAIN KING_0001SAVATAGE - Hall of the Mountain King (1987, 2002 Steamhammer remaster)

Man, I just love Hall Of The Mountain King! Who can forget that classic video…the little elf running through the mountain trying to steal the King’s gold! Any time in the past that I have thrown an “80’s metal video” party, that one was the star of the night.

Elf or no elf, the album is solid front to back.  Savatage have many different styles, from thrash to ballads to progressive metal, and have housed three different singers over the course of their long but too brief career! Hall Of The Mountain King falls into the first era with original lead howler Jon Oliva, and captures them at their most “metal”.  Which isn’t to say that other influences aren’t audible.  Progressive rock was definitely starting to creep in.  You can tell by the rendition of Grieg’s “In the Hall of the Mountain King” (here listed as “Prelude to Madness”).  When metal bands start playing classical pieces, you know that rock operas aren’t far behind (and they weren’t: four of them, to be exact).

One important factor that separates Hall from earlier and later ‘Tage albums is the riffage of Criss Oliva (RIP.) By this time, working with producer Paul O’Neill, the writing was becoming very focused and the riffs and melodies very sharp. I don’t think the riffs had ever been honed to an edge like this on Savatage albums before.  They are just crushing.  Criss of course passed away in the early 90’s, and his riffs were never to be heard again. This, in my humble metal heart, is the absolute best of Savatage’s early metallic phase.

There are no bad songs on this album, though “Prelude To Madness” runs a little long and is a tad too synth-heavy. But since it segues right into the title track, we’ll forgive Savatage.

The metal on this album begins with a groove called “24 Hours Ago”.  Jarring riffs, great bass lick and patented Oliva screams — what an opener. Just rips your head off!  “Beyond the Doors of the Dark” is where the album really begins, in my opinion. This is just an awesome, heavy rocker with a riff of carbon steel as only Savatage could forge. One of their all-time best songs.  Joining it is “Legions”, another Sava-classic.  Again, it’s dark and riffy, with great lyrics and melodies from Jon. Definitely makes my desert island.  Closing side one is a bit of a surprising song: “Strange Wings”.  This one is more hard rock, but it’s certainly great. The late Ray Gillen (ex-Black Sabbath & Badlands singer) duets here, and raises the bar up another notch. His vocal soars. Both singers kill it.  Manager Paul O’Neill, who also produced the first Badlands album, was was managing both that band and Savatage!

“Hall of the Mountain King” is the song most people know Savatage for.  Its riff will drill its way into your head, and that is a promise.  I fell hard for this band, and it all started with this one song.  You might want to skip that long intro, unless you’re dying to hear Grieg played by a metal band (and even if you do, Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow also covered the same Grieg piece on Strangers in Us All).

HALL OF THE MOUNTAIN KING_0004Tempo slides back a notch on “The Price You Pay”, this one’s a little more Dokken. Yet with another great Criss riff, and more great vocal melodies from Jon, it’s not filler.  “White Witch” isn’t either, but it’s the weak link.  This is thrash metal like old-school ‘Tage. Reminds me of “Skull Session” or songs of that ilk…fast Savatage with Jon screaming his face off.  Then finally “Last Dawn” is a Priest-like instrumental intro to “Devastation”. The riff to “Devastation” is awesome. Chris was at the top of his game, riff wise, in 1987.  What a way to end the record. So memorable, and classic ‘Tage.

Special shout-outs go to bassist Johnny Lee Middleton and drummer Steve “Dr. Killdrums” Wacholz for some damn fine metal performances. And, of course, producer/manager/co-writer/arranger Paul O’Neill. He changed the band forever, and Hall Of The Mountain King was just the beginning.

The 2002 Steamhammer version contains two live bonus tracks.  From Cleveland in ’87 come “Hall of the Mountain King” and “Devastation”.   While the vintage recordings aren’t as beefy as the album itself, they are a very nice add on.  “Are you metal?” asks Jon.  Yes, yes we are!

Don’t miss this classic. If you enjoyed it, pick up Power Of The Night and Sirens.

4.5/5 stars

REVIEW: Ted Nugent – Shutup & Jam! (2014)

January 21, 2015 28 comments

Thank you to fellow reviewer Deke, who gave me this album!  Check out his review here!

FolderTED NUGENT – Shutup & Jam! (2014 Frontiers)

Alright Nuge, it’s been a bumpy ride between you and I.  It’s been a love/hate thing with us.  Let’s see if I can stomach 2014 Ted, or if the politics are overshadowing the music.  As we Canadians say, Give’r!

One thing for sure: there is no denying that Ted has lost absolutely nothing.  The opening title track is faster, meaner and more fun than 99% of the flock.  The great Gonzo still shreds a chaotically perfect solo as if the studio is Cobo Hall.  “There just comes a time when you just gotta rock,” he sings.  Sounds good to me Ted, I’m on board for that!  Ted keeps it rolling with a vicious riff on the excellent “Fear Itself”, and old pal Derek St. Holmes lends lead vocals to “Everything Matters”.  A whole album of Ted’s shrieking has never been easy to swallow, so I’m always glad to hear Derek’s smooth pipes.  By the slippery bluesy rock, you might think it’s ZZ Top.

Speaking of old friends, Sammy Hagar (who is friends with everyone except the current members of Van Halen) shows up to sing lead on “She’s Gone”.  It’s a ball crusher of a song (basically just a variation on “Going Down”), but  I guarantee that the guitar solo will sound great wailing out of your car windows this summer.  Even better though is the pure fucking joy in the riff for “Never Stop Believing”.  I have a new favourite riff and it’s “Never Stop Believing”.  The song ends on some really nice laid back picking from Ted, reminding me that he is one of the most underrated players from the classic rock era.

“I Still Believe” indicates to me that Ted really wanted to get his point across when he said he’d “Never Stop Believing”.  The opening riff apes “Helter Skelter” a little bit, but the rest of the track is pure Nuge.  I like that Nuge is singing fairly tame things like “I still believe in America” and “I believe in liberty” rather than “fuck the Democrats”.  The next patriotic statement Ted has for us is “I Love My BBQ”.  And I absolutely dig the shout-out to us Canucks.  “I love my Barbeque, it’s what Canadians do” sings Ted in the first verse!  A small minority may be offended but my mouth is drooling. But I really don’t think it’s Ted’s primary intention to upset you.  I think he’s really just trying to be funny, like a stand up comic.  Sometimes comedy involves a little bit of a poke and a prod.  If Weird Al sang a song about a delicious hamburger, nobody would have a problem with it.

Kicking ass is Ted’s business and “Throttledown” is just one of those pedal-to-the-metal rock instrumentals.  “Do Rags and a .45″ sounds like Anvil except for that title.  “Screaming Eagles” doesn’t give up an inch either, guitars fueled and ablaze.  None of these songs overstay their welcome.  Shutup & Jam features five songs in the 2 minute range in a row!  “Semper Fi” is the last of these five, a stomper rather than a screamer.  Ted then tells us he’s going to “Trample the Weak Hurdle the Dead”.  “War is not the answer,” sings Ted. “I only know evil has got to go.”  It’s a great tune and it’s not hard to sing along.  And that’s the key.  All of these tunes are immensely catchy with lyrics I can sing without having to worry about being considered a right-wing radical by my neighbors.

A blues version of “Never Stop Believing” closes the album; a rough recording appropriate for the gritty approach.  It’s a bit of a throw-away compared to the regular version, decent but not nearly as special.  Ted’s playing is always the reason to listen.

I really liked Shutup & Jam.  If I had heard it in 2014, it would have been a contender for the Top Five list.

4/5 stars

TED LOVES HIS BBQ

 

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