RECORD STORE TALES
- RECORD STORE TALES MkII:
GETTING MORE TALE
Music, Movies, and more
GOO GOO DOLLS – Live In Alaska (2002 Earth Escapes DVD)
I bought this for myself the week after I broke up with Radio Station Girl, looking for some new music to soothe my soul. This DVD hit the spot for two reasons: the music and the scenery. I like a lot of Goo Goo Dolls’ albums, and I really love the icy landscapes of the north. Live In Alaska delivers on both. From a series called “Music in High Places”, the DVD takes us all the way to Arctic Circle among the glaciers. The band don’t play a traditional concert. Instead they made videos in unusual locations, such as outdoors next to a partially frozen lake in the tundra.
That is the scene for “Black Balloon”. There must have been some serious technical challenges to record there. There are scenes of people arriving by small plane and air drops of equipment by helicopter, and then getting into position via rubber dinghy. Wouldn’t it be hard acoustically to record songs in an open expanse? I don’t know, but they did it and I like it. The visuals add another element, and it surely must have been inspiring for the band to play in such a clean, isolated environment.
Up next, the Dolls get to participate in the sport of dogsledding on Punchbowl glacier. Lead singer Johnny Rzeznik says, “I have a really cool job. I get to do stuff like this,” and I’m jealous! It’s warm enough for just short sleeves. He is then taken by helicopter to an even more beautiful and remote location. Standing on an ice island in the middle of a sparkling blue lake in the middle of Knik glacier, Rzeznik sings “Acoustic #3″, and it’s haunting. It’s also a sight to behold. The frigid water is bluer than anything you have seen before, not to mention this is one of his most beautiful songs. You can hear the water gurgling faintly behind.
The band reconvenes in Hope, Alaksa at a tiny little bar to play the hit “Broadway” acoustically. If the locals know who they are, they don’t let on, but one does play harmonica with them. This is one of their best tunes, and I like the sound of it in this environment. Only one thing pisses me off, and that’s interrupting the damn song to edit in some interview footage! Bad editing. I don’t know why some videos do this — splice interviews into the middle of the song. Fucking stop it! I hate that! Fortunately, one of the DVD bonus features is something called “just the music”, where you can watch the song uninterrupted.
Going mudsliding looks like a ton of fun. The Dolls had a blast playing this game with kids, and getting absolutely covered in mud in the process. (Rzeznik after cleaning: “It looked like a mud bomb went off in my bathroom.”) Another cool concert location is on a train, where “Here Is Gone” is performed. I must wonder if this was a technical nightmare to record. The train appears to be moving extra slowly, perhaps to reduce noise. I am sure this scene was meticulously planned. The train was a special charter for the Dolls, and they could start and stop as they pleased. The band are in a coach car with a glass dome roof. The train enters a tunnel mid song, and things get dark, before it emerges in the light again at the end of the tune. Really cool shot.
Flying to Kotzebue, Alaska the band are greeting by a cheering crowd. The local news crews are out for this major event! The next concert location is a bridge, where they play “Big Machine”. This song isn’t as strong acoustically. The album version with its electric riff is more interesting, but hey. It’s the outdoors in Alaska in the summertime. What more do you need?
Taking a break from performing for a moment, the band next get to enjoy some native culture and music. But then it’s back to work, and they play “What A Scene” right there on a stoney ocean beach surrounded by the townsfolk. 10% of the population turned out for it! This track works a bit better acoustically to my ears than “Big Machine” did. Some of the kids in town are into it, some look bored, but soon it’s back to fun and games. People are hurled into the air via a huge trampoline-like skin. Robby Takac volunteers and gets pretty high up there! But he only does it once!
The final song of the DVD is “Slide”, another huge favourite of mine. This is performed by the full band, on another chunk of ice in the middle of a lake. You could not imagine a more perfect setting for such a bright, melodic song. Once again I wonder about the technicalities of recording this performance but it sure looks and sounds 100% live. Behind the scenes shots show giant boom mics and cameras on cranes. Great tune to close on though, a highlight of this set and their career.
The DVD has some very cool bonus features. These include a terrible text bio that nobody will ever read. The others include behind the scenes documentaries about Kotzebue and its inhabitants, and the Alaskan railroad. Some of this material is included in the main feature, but it’s not really about the band. It’s about the people and the scenery, but that’s cool in its own right. Interesting fact: Even though the sun shines all night in Kotzebue in July, they still have fireworks on the 4th. They’re not as cool, but they do have ‘em! They also have warm sunny swimming at 1 am, and the local radio station gets calls for requests all the way from Russia.
Not listed on the back of the package, but more important than the other features, are two bonus songs. These can only be found if you happen to check out the “just the music” section. “Sympathy” is the first, performed acoustically on the train. Great tune. “Do You Know” is the second, on the beach on Kotzebue. This is Robby Takac’s only lead vocal (and it was cut from the main feature)! This song reflects the Goo Goo Dolls punk rock side, from which they originated. Robby’s vocal is raspy and ragged, just like I like it!
For Goo Goo Dolls fans, I can’t recommend this DVD enough. The cool thing is that even if you’re just a casual fan who knows the hits, you’d dig it too.
RECORD STORE TALES Mk II: Getting More Tale
#347.5: Days of Christmas Past
Aaron emailed me a couple days ago.
12/18/2014 – Title “la poste”
Hey! You get anything interesting in the mail? ;)
Then, yesterday a text:
12/19/2014 – Aaron *******
Dude you get any mail YET?!
I think I can surmise a Aaron may have sent me another annual Christmas gift? A parcel did arrive yesterday, that I have to pick up at the post office. Is it my long overdue eBay order? Or is it my new Star Wars figs from Big Bad Toy Store? Or is it the Mystery Aaron Mail (M.A.M.).
I’ll let you know later on, as I plan on posting Christmas galleries this season, as I did last year. For now, I will leave you with this awesome video from 2012, probably the best Mystery Aaron Mail (M.A.M.) that I have yet received!
What could it be at the post office?
I’m on Christmas holidays now! Give’r!
This is, believe it not, Marillion’s 10th Christmas album of 11 total. From 2009 to present, Marillion have issued annual Christmas DVDs (which I do not collect) instead of CDs. Of their 11 Christmas albums, I have physical copies of nine. I am missing the first two, which were later reissued for purchase in mp3 format, and that is all I have in my collection.
(Note: in 2013 they released a new digital Christmas single, “Carol of the Bells”. This song has since been issued physically on the new “best of” Marillion Christmas CD entitled A Collection of Recycled Gifts which just arrived at LeBrain Headquarters yesterday!)
The reasons I selected Somewhere Elf to review are two: 1) The included Christmas carol is hilarious. 2) The rest of the songs are taken from an invite-only rehearsal performance at Marillion’s headquarters, The Racket Club. The set largely consists of newer songs from Somewhere Else and Marbles. The CD also contains the annual Christmas message from the band (6:22 long), partly apologizing for the previous year’s “amateurish and shambolic” message! This soon degenerates into joking, mistakes, re-takes and acoustic Christmas jamming, so obviously the quality level has gone up this year.
Track 2 is the official 2007 Christmas song, “Let It Snow”! This is a kazoo-laden drunken carol with new lyrics. “The Aylsebury roads are closed, Let it snow let it snow let it snow!” Hogarth’s campy vocal isn’t my cup o’ tea, but it’s all clearly for laughs. They segue into “White Christmas” before returning back to the singalong.
Found some booze in a flight case,
And I’m afraid that we’re all shit-faced,
So I guess that we’ll have to go,
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!
This one made it to one of my annual Christmas CDs that I give out to friends one year.
The live rehearsals might be more interesting to some. The intimate setting means Marillion play mostly mellow, dramatic songs. They commence with “The Last Century for Man”, a new song from Somewhere Else. This is another one of Hogarth’s environmental commentaries, set to a slow dance this time. An effective song, the seriously bummer lyrics are punctuated with the sarcastic chorus of “So God bless America, I mean it! God bless the UK, I mean it!” Elsewhere he says to “Climb into the car, I know that makes you happy. The sound of your laughter will get you so far.” Without turning this review into a debate, a song like this is a bit of a slap to the face, a wake up call. I don’t have a problem with that. Additionally I think it was one of the better songs from Somewhere Else.
“Afraid of Sunlight” is a song that doesn’t need much rehearsing, but I don’t mind hearing this bombastic ballad again. One of H-era Marillion’s strongest songs, “Afraid of Sunlight” is a personal favourite of mine due to the quiet verses and explosive, anthemic choruses. Hogarth is understated, and then wailing in top voice. Then from 1997’s This Strange Engine is the old concert standby “Estonia”. I always get a little bored during this long mellow trip, but it does benefit from this intimate setting with just the fortunate few fans. They applaud politely between songs, contenders for the luckiest people in England at that moment. A third long slow bomber, the title track from Somewhere Else, is another favourite of mine. There are some Steve Rothery solos here that rank among his best. Live, dare I say better? This dramatic tension-filled song is one of the highlights of their recent career.
The Marbles album is represented by two excellent songs: “Neverland” and “Fantastic Place”. Much like “Somewhere Else”, “Neverland” is a long dramatic piece with different sections and moods. It’s not an easy nut to crack, but worth getting to know. This live version is intense, and again Rothery is the star. After that much drama, there can’t be much air left in the room, but “Fantastic Place” soars. It’s a bit of a brighter number, beginning quietly, but culminating with the kind of melodic guitar work that Rothery does best.
A studio version of “Faith” was finally released on Somewhere Else, but the song saw first release on Before First Light, a live DVD from 2003. It was one of many songs initially written for Marbles, but its lullaby quality did not fit the vibe. “Feel inside the atoms where the science breaks down,” sings Hogarth on what amounts to a statement on reality, love, the universe and the human experience of it. In a 4 1/2 minute pop song. Is it any wonder why the mainstream shies away from these guys? Too cerebral.
The set closes with “See It Like a Baby”, a rocking upbeat new track that they were hyping at the time. Here in an acoustic guise, I think I prefer it to the original album version. It’s a little more special, and the acoustics chime clear inside the walls of the Racket Club. It’s also the shortest song they played at this very special gig. I’m glad special shows get commemorated and made available to people in this way. People who are truly fans got an opportunity to own a CD of a concert that only a handful witnessed, and will probably never be physically issued again. That’s mana to the collector. Since this CD was intended as a Christmas gift to the loyal, I rate it:
RUSH – 2112 (2012 Universal CD/Blu-ray 5.1 deluxe edition)
I received this deluxe CD/Blu-ray edition of Rush’s immortal 2112 for Christmas two years ago. I meant to review it back then, but it slipped between the cracks. Apologies.
The set includes: the entire album on Blu-ray in 5.1 surround sound, the entire album on CD, three live CD-only bonus tracks, hardcover packaging including a comic book, a new essay by David Fricke, and more. Not to mention that the Blu-ray is a motion comic that combines the album with the included comic, seamlessly.
2112 was Rush’s fourth album. It was make or break for Rush, and they went ahead and made an album with six songs, one of them being a side-long 20 minute epic! That side would go on to be Rush’s best known epic, “2112”, which itself is subdivided into seven chapters (but not tracks).
Any truly epic album should open with an instrumental, and “Overture” is one of the best you’re likely to find north of the 49th parallel. This regal anthem of guitars, bass and drums quickly leaps into action as an Iron Maiden gallop, long before Iron Maiden did gallop. In this one brief intro, there are as many as four great timeless riffs. It’s guitar riff nirvana. All these musical themes will re-emerge later on in the “2112” story, but here they are condensed into one maelstrom of awesome.
The story is pretty simple, and is also nicely laid forth in the comic. Our protagonist, who lives in the oppressive Solar Federation, has found an ancient guitar in a cave behind a waterfall. He brings it to the Priests (of the Temples of Syrinx), to show them this wonderful discovery and the sounds it brings forth. He is crushed to find that the Priests do not approve of this “music”!
Pretty highschool, right? Maybe, but certainly no worse than what passes for Hollywood fodder today!
“The Temples of Syrinx” is chapter II of the story. This is a ferocious metal assault, with Geddy in full-on scream mode, introducing the titular Priests. They are the law, on this planet. In my opinion, this is one of Rush’s finest musical achievements. It’s heavy, concise and blazing fast. In surround sound, I will admit I was expecting more. The music fills the room in 5.1, but it’s not as enveloping as I had hoped. It’s hard to specifically describe what’s missing. Whatever it is, chapter III “Discovery” works better. This takes place in the cave behind the aforementioned waterfall, and the water sounds have some depth to them.
“Presentation”, chapter IV, is when it all goes to shit for our protagonist. It is here that he brings his newly discovered guitar to the Priests. The motion comic makes it quite clear that the Priests do not approve! “Yes we know, it’s nothing new. It’s just a waste of time!” The hero pleads with them, and tries to convince them that the world could use the music as a positive force! But the Priest smashes the guitar on the ground and has no more to do with this nonsense. “Another toy that helped destroy the elder race of man!” he claims of the guitar’s history.
“Oracle: the Dream” is chapter V, a mellow moment at first. Then the character’s dream begins, and Geddy returns in full voice. He dreams of change. Alex’s guitars have a nice shimmer, as they fill the field directly in front and to the sides. Waking from his dream, chapter VI is “Soliloquy”. Like “The Dream”, guitars dominate. Geddy’s pleading lead vocal is an album highlight, as is Lifeson’s Sabbath-y guitar solo. It all ends in chapter VII: “Grand Finale”. In a nice twist to the motion comic, Geddy Neil and Alex appear as characters from the invading and returned elder race of man! The era of dominance of the Priests is over, as is side one.
“ATTENTION ALL PLANETS OF THE SOLAR FEDERATION! WE HAVE ASSUMED CONTROL.”
The motion comic does not end here. Each song from side two of 2112 receives its own panels, and the band appear in each one — a very cool touch that I did not expect. “A Passage to Bangkok” was the lead track from side two. This crushing anthem with an Oriental feel is one of Rush’s few drug songs. In fact it’s the only one I can think of right now. “Sweet Jamaican pipe dreams, golden Acapulco nights…” Rush somehow had a way of making this all sound classy and cultured, and perhaps from their perspective it was. In the comic appearance, the Professor has his nose buried in a book on a train, as he often did. Once again I’m underwhelmed by the 5.1 mix. I want to feel enveloped by the music, but I don’t get that as much as I’d like. I do hear more of Geddy’s bass, and that’s never a bad thing. I’m noticing licks I never picked up on before.
“The Twilight Zone” is a different song for Rush, as it has a slower sway to it. Lyrically, I can identify several of the old Twilight Zone episodes that Geddy is singing about. Can you? I don’t think this will top anybody’s charts of Rush’s best lyrics, but it’s goofy fun and sometimes that’s enough. A Zeppelin flavour inhabits “Lessons” which has the acoustic-electric mix that Zep mastered. Likewise, the backing mellotron in “Tears” reminds me of John Paul Jones. This is a mournful slow song, not at all what many people expect from Rush.
“Something for Nothing” ends the album on a solid hard rock note. Thematically, it is full circle, as the character in this song also seeks answers in life. Rush close the album on a furiously jamming note, ending with a song that has all the Rush trademarks rolled into one short ride. If the last couple songs just didn’t have enough juice, then “Something for Nothing” ends it right. Side 2 of 2112 isn’t perfect, it has its ups and downs, but this is an “up”.
The vintage live CD bonus tracks are all unreleased. They include the first two parts of “2112”, and “A Passage to Bangkok”. Geddy coyly says that this song “deals with foreign matter”. I’ve no doubt! Incidentally I’m of the belief that “Bangkok” is better live than on album. Having said that, the Exit…Stage Left version remains definitive. Blu-ray bonus features include a goofy photo gallery of blow-dried haircuts, kimono, mustaches and concert shots. Looking at these photos, I’m reminded that Rush were for all intents and purposes, just kids when they created 2112. With that in mind, it’s pretty impressive.
As for this reissue, I’m not very blown away by the forgettable 5.1 mix. Too bad. It’s a blown opportunity. On the other hand, I very much enjoyed the included comic. I think it’s excellent, and geared straight to Rush fans. So:
For the album: 4.5/5 stars
For the reissue: 3.5/5 stars
Average rating: 4/5 stars
She’s back with another guest shot! Enjoy this two-fer Tale.
RECORD STORE TALES Mk II: Getting More Tale
Here’s one thing I never understood, either in the Record Store days or today: People who are obsessed with Tim Hortons coffee. I’m married to one and I still don’t get it.
I worked with people who never showed up at a shift without their double double in hand. I worked with others who had to do a daily Tim’s run. I served customers who left their empty cups on our shelves, or at the front counter. That was always a favourite of mine, and it’s not unique. I’ve shopped at many stores, finding the brown empty cups sitting there on shelves. Somebody else’s problem, right?
I fail to understand the obsession. Jen has to have one (large decaf with three cream and one sweetener) every single day. There was an old urban myth (an untrue one) that Tim’s put nicotine in their coffee to keep you hooked. The only reason that myth has such long life is that Horton’s Addiction (HA) is so prevalent in Canadian society.
Now that Burger King, an American company, has bought out Tim’s, I fear for our friends south of the border.
I see a future littered with brown cups. I envision our American friends unwittingly becoming addicted to Hortons’ secret brew. I picture, somewhere in the US, a record store manager not unlike my younger self, pulling empty brown cups from their shelves as I once did.
Just say no to Tim’s. Make your own coffee at home. Hell, just drink water! Don’t fall into the trap of Horton’s Addiction, an affliction for which there is no known cure.
50 years ago, one of the greatest defensemen in NHL history decided to expand his horizons, and open a coffee & doughnut [his spelling] empire. That man’s name was Tim Horton, and he made a damn good cup of coffee.
One thing that is very special about “Timmie’s” (as we call it) is its consistency. Your coffee in Kitchener Ontario will come out exactly the same as your coffee in Kitchener BC.
Every coffee drinker has their ideal cup of coffee, and sometimes it takes years to find that combination of cream and sugar that is right for you. When you do find it, Tim Hortons has dispensing equipment designed to maintain that perfect coffee for you, no matter what size you order it or where you order it from. (The only exception to this rule is Splenda sweetener which is dispensed by hand from packets.) Rival chains such as Starbucks make the customer add their cream and sugar themselves, creating human inconsistencies.
I love the texture of the cream; the feeling inside takes me to a special place. It also doesn’t hurt that they use 18% cream, a treat in itself.
Contrary to the way LeBrain makes it appear, I really do like all kinds of coffee. My Keurig machine is well used in the LeBrain household, but Tim Hortons is the champion, and whenever possible that brown cup will be in my happy hands.
Even LeBrain himself knows that if he ever does something to get him in shit, a five minute trip to the drive-through can fix the situation!
The two greatest things on this planet are hockey and coffee. There was a man who brought those two worlds together, and his name was Tim Horton.