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

DIRECTORY OF REVIEWS 

Music, Movies, and more

WTF?

Categories: Table of Contents

REVIEW: Marillion – Less Is More (2009)

November 23, 2014 5 comments

MARILLION – Less Is More (2009 Intact)

I’ll be honest here: I haven’t been into Marillion much, post-Marbles. 2004′s Marbles is my favourite H-Marillion album, and I wasn’t into the two studio followups. I found Somewhere Else to be a rushed and somewhat uninspired, and the sprawling Happiness Is The Road all but impenetrable. Therefore I’m not as familiar with Marillion’s recent more live output as I am with the pre-Marbles stuff, so that’s my problem reviewing Less Is More.  The song “Wrapped Up In Time”, I couldn’t tell you how the song goes until I hear it again.

I am, however, extremely enamored with Marillion’s previous acoustic CDs, the double Live At The Walls, and the fanclub exclusive A Piss-up In A Brewery. Marillion are a band that truly shine in an acoustic setting, but I wasn’t all that excited about another one.  How badly do we need more acoustic Marillion?  I didn’t think I needed another one, but I bought it anyway, because…the collection you know?

MARILLION LESS IS MORE_0002I was wrong. Less Is More (a studio acoustic recording instead of a live one) is just as great as Live At The Walls, with many songs given a fresh arrangement. Some, such as “The Space…”, are the same acoustic versions that the band has been playing for a long time, but others are fresh and inspired. Truly, this album sounds like a labour of love to me. The band’s lust for experimentation has come out beautifully in an acoustic setting, with a song like “Interior Lulu” actually quite a bit better than its original 1999 (marillion.com) counterpart. The songs are subtle, with slight percussion additions, but not a lot of bells & whistles. One of the best songs is the one new one, “It’s Not Your Fault”, which outshines some of the classics. I found the acoustic version of “Hard As Love” to be even more enjoyable than the original rocking version, and quite a surprise too, because I didn’t think it would lend itself well to an acoustic arrangement. Other highlights for me included “Memory Of Water” and “This Is The 21st Century”.

The two bonus tracks on this CD, “Runaway” and a cover of “Fake Plastic Trees”, have been released before on Live At The Walls. (“Fake Plastic Trees” was also a bonus track on the CD single for 1998′s “These Chains”.) I have always been fond of “Fake Plastic Trees” and I prefer Marillion’s version to Radiohead’s. (I’m not a big Thom Yorke fan, but Hogarth really sings his heart out on this one.)

This album is so good, it really revamped by interest in Marillion. I’m glad I bought it! For non-fans, this is a great accessible introduction to a band that by all rights should have been huge. The quality of their songs, as displayed on Less Is More, is simply world-class.

5/5 stars

#338: Answer to 4-Play Quiz No. 2

November 22, 2014 7 comments

VH 194_0006

We have a winner! Check out the big brain on Brian Zinger (AGAIN!) who nailed this one!

Here are the four tracks:

  1. Van Halen – “Oh Pretty Woman”
  2. Van Halen – “Little Guitars”
  3. Van Halen – “Secrets”
  4. Van Halen –  “Jump”

And here’s my original email to Craig explaining the answer:

“Only the real fans will get this one. I thought it was real cool yesterday when you did the “five play” with “Little Guitars (intro)”. So, here’s 4 VH songs…and when you play them, fans will realize that on the albums, all songs have INSTRUMENTAL INTROS!”  1. “Intruder” 2. “Little Guitars (intro)” 3. “Cathedral” and 4. “1984″

VH DD_0005

#338: Unreleased 4-Play Quiz No. 2

November 22, 2014 15 comments

VH PW_0001

RECORD STORE TALES Mk II:  Getting More Tale

#338:  Unreleased 4-Play Quiz No. 2 

At the conclusion of Record Store Tales, I told the story of how I earned the nickname LeBrain.  It started with a contest on the Craig Fee Show (on 107.5 Dave FM) called the 4 O’Clock 4-Play which I dominated.  I also sent Craig numerous 4-Plays of my own creation.

The challenge is to figure out the common thread that ties all four songs together. The theme could be anything: lyrical, musical, background trivia, artist related…and I liked to come up with unique themes.

Play the tracks in order as a listener would, and make a guess in the comments section!  Be specific.

  1. Van Halen – “Oh Pretty Woman”
  2. Van Halen – “Little Guitars”
  3. Van Halen – “Secrets”
  4. Van Halen –  “Jump”

Good luck!

REVIEW: Judas Priest – Painkiller (1990)

November 21, 2014 47 comments

PAINKILLER_0001JUDAS PRIEST - Painkiller (Remastered, 1990 Sony)

In the late 80′s, after the robotic Priest…Live! and the false start that was Ram It Down, a lot of metal fans wrote off Judas Priest as a vital metal band.

They were a tad premature.

Perhaps it was Halford inking a few too many tattoos into his noggin, perhaps it was the long overdue departure of Dave Holland on drums, or maybe they were just pissed off. The band had spent the summer of 1990 defending themselves in the United States against accusations of murder. Not directly, but through “backwards messages” supposedly embedded on the ancient Stained Class album.* It was a show trial designed to blame bad parenting on someone else. But the band triumphed, and came back meaner and angrier than ever before.

Having written songs with a drum machine, Priest now needed a new drummer.  They selected Scott Travis of Racer X, the band that also spawned Paul Gilbert among others.  Travis, an American, was on board and the band bunked down in the studio with veteran producer Chris Tsangarides.  What resulted from this potent mix was the best record they’d done since at least Defenders, if not far earlier. Decks had been cleared, the band meant business. Travis threw down the double bass, a thrash metal sound previously unexplored by Judas Priest.  While looking forward, the album also distilled the sounds of Priest over the last 10 years.  It  put the turntable from 33 1/3 all the way up to 45 rpm.

PAINKILLER_0002This is over-the-top metal, shiny and mean. Halford’s screaming higher and harder than any time before, almost to the point of caricature, but not quite. This chrome plated beast blew away all reasonable expectations. Tipton and Downing still thought they were interesting enough guitar players to do lead break credits on every album, but it’s a touch I like. Tipton is the more experimental one and Downing the fast and reckless one. As a combo it works; the solos are interesting, adrenaline packed and suitable to the songs.

PAINKILLER_0004The production is loud and clear; at the time I felt this was one of the best produced metal albums I’d ever heard. The drums are so loud and clear that it hurts.  Travis is doing some serious steppin’ on the double bass. To steal a phrase from Halford, this is “primo thrash metal”. More accurately, speed metal.

Almost every song is worthy. Only a few fall flat. Painkiller was more about the overall direction than individual songs,  Yes, the lyrics are cartoony, but “Nightcrawler” takes it too far and is too repetitive with a spoken word section that should have been chopped. Also embarassing is “Metal Meltdown”, a speed metal blaster that tries but fails to be as dramatic as “Painkiller” itself.  On the positive side are the incendiary title track (still classic today), the ballad “A Touch of Evil”, and the riff-by-riff metal of “Leather Rebel”, “Hell Patrol” and “All Guns Blazing”.  You wouldn’t expect an album like Painkiller to have a lot of melody, but some of these tracks may surprise you.

Bonus tracks are the out-of-place “Living Bad Dreams” (a ballad which spoils the record) and an inferior live cut of “Leather Rebel”.

Still, quite the album!.  It really gets the blood pumping, even today. I wish it came with a DVD with the insane video of the title track. Check that out if you want to have a sweat.   A mighty if imperfect return.

4.5/5 stars

* The song in question, “Better By You, Better Than Me”, was pointedly re-released as a B-side on Priest’s next single, “Painkiller”.

REVIEW: Thin Lizzy – Vagabonds Kings Warriors Angels (2001 box set)

November 20, 2014 19 comments

IMG_20141109_085906

LIZZY VAGABONDS BOX_0001THIN LIZZY – Vagabonds Kings Warriors Angels (2001 Mercury 4 CD set)

This is one of the best boxed sets that I own. Of course, it’s not a complete collection of rarities. Such a thing does not exist, the Lizzy catalogue is so labyrinthine with EP’s, singles, and Phil’s solo projects. It takes a scholar just to keep it all straight. This set however does include a very generous slice of rarities, including one rare exclusive. It also includes pretty much every Lizzy hit and album cut you could want. Everything from my own obscure favourites (“Hollywood”, “The Sun Goes Down”) to the biggest hits (“Jailbreak”, “The Boys are Back in Town”) are on here.

The set is divided into four discs, each one reflecting a phase of Thin Lizzy. From the Eric Bell power trio years (was “power trio” even a phrase back then?) to the final Phil single “Nineteen” (famously covered by Bad 4 Good), there is no era of the band overlooked. The liner notes are also excellent, with lots of photos and text, and detailed credits.

The rarities and B-sides are pure gold. It’s also important to remember that in Lizzy’s day, non-album singles were the norm.  Many of those singles are crucial tracks.  “Randolph’s Tango”, with its intricate flamenco solo, is one.  The storming “Little Darling” is another necessity.  I love the reggae of “Half Caste”. How hard it must have been being Phil Lynott growing up. “The boy ain’t black, the boy is brown,” goes the painful lyric. “Sitamoia” (written by Brian Downey) is a ferocious tornado as only Lizzy could do. “Sugar Blues” is a live jam blast, featuring the underrated Snowy White doing what he does best: the blues.

IMG_20141109_085733Most of the B-sides and rare tracks have since been released on the various Thin Lizzy deluxe editions.  Not necessarily in these versions though.  One track you won’t find on a deluxe edition is “Song For Jimi”, originally from a magazine flexi-disc.  This track features a reunited original Thin Lizzy with Eric Bell, recording in 1981!

With complete honesty, there isn’t one single track I would have changed on this set. I think of all my favourites (Lizzy, solo, and otherwise) and check to see if they’re on here. “Johnny the Fox Meets Jimmy the Weed”? Check. “Massacre”? Check. “The Rocker”? Check. “King’s Call”? Check. “Fool’s Gold”? Check. “Romeo And The Lonely Girl”? Check. “Dancing In The Moonlight”? Check. In fact the only thing I can think of that’s missing is the posthumous “Dedication”, but it’s arguable that it doesn’t belong, since it has a sort of early 90′s sound and was finished by Gorham and Downey on their own.

I wish Thin Lizzy became as big a name as some of their contemporaries, such as Zeppelin, Aerosmith, or Purple. They certainly had the musical chops, they had a multitude of influences and variety of sounds (all Lizzy though), and of course they had the unequaled lyrical talents of Phil Lynott. A poet like Lynott will never come again. Let’s celebrate his life, even though it’s too late for him to celebrate with us.

5/5 stars

#337: Oh Say Can You Scream

November 19, 2014 14 comments

NOTE:  None of the information below should be taken as actual singing advice!

RECORD STORE TALES Mk II: Getting More Tale
#337: Oh Say Can You Scream

In the 1980’s, screamers were king.  Rob Halford, Bruce Dickinson, Brian Johnson, Udo Dirkschneider…all of them were able to scream the high notes, sending chills up and down your spine.  We all wanted to be screamers back then!  None of my friends were able to croon like Coverdale, so screaming seemed like a viable option.  We worked on our screaming voices with practice, practice, practice.

My buddy Bob came up with two ways to practice our scream techniques:

  • At home: Go to your bedroom and close the door. Put on AC/DC’s Who Made Who cassette, and grab a pillow.  Then, scream along with Johnson directly IN to your pillow.  Nobody should be able to hear you!  The pillow should muffle your wailing Johnson imitation.  You can belt it at top lung power without disturbing mom and dad’s TV shows.  Just remember to lift your head from the pillow for breathing!  (That part is really important.)
  • If out at dusk: Go to your local park. Make sure the coast is clear.  Then, just sing and let it out!  Bob and I did this one frequently, walking through our local Stanley Park.  We serenaded the neighbors with a selection of AC/DC and Iron Maiden.

There were a couple specific Maiden songs that Bob and I really enjoyed screaming along to.  One was a classic from Powerslave: “Rime of the Ancient Mariner”.  Such an excellent, challenging choice.  We would focus on the line, “Then down in falls comes the raaaaaaaaaaain!”  We’d scream that section over and over again until we were satisfied that we had it right.

After a few years, I became quite good at hitting the high notes.  I moved on from my screaming by the time I was in University, and focused on the Bee Gees.  I knew that screaming Maiden tunes wasn’t a good way to attract female attention.  Singing “Stayin’ Alive” note for note though?  That may have had potential!  (Note: it didn’t.)

Although I can no longer perform the song as I used to, I am proud to say that I used to be able to hit every note in “Stayin’ Alive”.  Something to be proud of at Karaoke.

REVIEW: Sebastian Bach – Angel Down (2007)

November 18, 2014 23 comments

SIMULTANEOUS REVIEW! Check out Aaron of the KMA, who is reviewing this same album today!

bach angel down_0001SEBASTIAN BACH – Angel Down (2007 EMI)

You don’t have to like Sebastian Bach (the person) to like Angel Down. He may be a bit of a blow-hard, but damn, he made another great album. By my counting this is his third legitimately great album (Slave to the Grind and Subhuman Race being the other two.)

Baz’s voice is still powerful, and he still has most of his range. In fact, after the disappointing Bring ‘Em Bach Alive I thought it was all over for the voice. Not so! Angel Down proves it. Bach’s still got the goods. He’s got more character in his voice than he did when he was 19 or 20.  More grit.  But his lungs are as powerful as ever, absolutely mind-bogglingly so.

This was (by far) the heaviest album that Baz had made to date. This is way heavier than anything Skid Row has done with or without him. Bach’s working with great people on this, including Roy Z and members of the old Halford band. It doesn’t get much more metal than this. It’s heavier than most Priest albums, and the songs are all strong. They won’t sink into your skull on first listen, or even the third. It’s a challenging listen, the pummeling of guitars and drums are constant and brutal. Having said that, eventually the melodies, riffs, and Bach’s vocals will worm their way into your brain like a virus.

Highlights for this listener included:

  • “(Love Is) A Bitchslap”, which you may have heard in preview form on season 7 of Trailer Park Boys.  This smoker is a duet with Baz’s buddy W. Axl Rose!  You can literally smell the rubber burning.
  • “Back In The Saddle”, the powerful Aero-cover, and another duet with the reclusive Axl Rose. To hear Axl and Baz singing together again is awesome; two rock gods shattering the glass and gargling with it after.
  • “You Don’t Understand” with its patented Roy Z guitar riff (which really is just a patented Maiden riff).
  • “Falling Into You”, a Skid-Row-esque ballad along the lines of “Wasted Time” with some gorgeous strings (synth?) and guitar harmonies.  Another standout ballad is “By Your Side”, along similar lines.
  • The brutally heavy “American Metalhead”. Ignore the fact that Baz lived most his childhood in Canada and considers himself Canadian. I can appreciate that singing “Canadian Metalhead” wouldn’t have the same impact to his core (American) record buyers. Either way, it’s a brutal assault of the ears, as Baz screams his way out of your headphones.
  • “Angel Down”, the title track, which starts atmospheric like a Sabbath opener before hitting that pummeling Pantera riff;  Baz ripping the vocal cords again.

14 songs, and that’s just a handful of favourites listed above. There are lots of great moments on this CD. I can’t praise it enough, songwriting and performance wise.  It really surprised me.  I didn’t expect something this solid.  Top it off with another of his dad’s paintings on the cover, and this was the comeback album that fans were hoping for but never expecting.

Think you can handle it? Buy Angel Down.

4/5 stars.

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