RECORD STORE TALES & REVIEWS: Complete Table of Contents

February 1, 2012 7 comments

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

October 20, 2014 2 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 18 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 3 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 13 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:

REVIEW: KISS – Alive 35: Live at Credit Union Centre, Saskatoon SK, Nov 10 2009

October 17, 2014 14 comments

ALIVE 35_0001KISS - Alive 35: Live at Credit Union Centre, Saskatoon SK, Nov 10 2009 (Concert Online)

I would buy any “instant live” type CD by Kiss — that’s a given. The sheer quantity available means I will never own a complete collection of them. What I chose to do was buy a handful, selectively. I was most interested in Canadian shows, and of course concerts where new songs from Sonic Boom were performed.

Kiss’ concert in Saskatoon on November 10 2009 fit the bill perfectly.* Something about Paul Stanley shouting, “SASKATOON!” The new songs performed that night were “Modern Day Delilah” and “Say Yeah”, both personal favourites. As a bonus to me, there’s also a version of “Shock Me” with Tommy Thayer singing. Some Kiss fans have taken exception to Tommy singing this song in addition to wearing Ace’s costume. I’m not going to get into that. All I will say on the matter is that I would rather hear “Shock Me” live than not.

ALIVE 35_0003The concert opens with four 1974 Kiss classics in a row: “Deuce”, “Strutter”, “Let Me Go Rock ‘N’ Roll” and “Hotter Than Hell”. “Let Me Go” seems to fall apart, giving the show a raucous flavour.  It doesn’t get any more retro than that.  That’s four of my favourite Kiss songs in a row; four songs I never tire of. Paul’s voice is sore, cracking in several places.  The job still gets done with the backing vocals of Eric Singer, Gene Simmons and Tommy Thayer. Eric definitely pulls a lot of weight vocally. As much as I wanted to hear new songs, “Say Yeah” suffers a bit vocally.

Highlight: Undoubtedly, a 16 minute version of “100,000 Years”. Eric Singer does his drum thing, and then Paul and Tommy both pick up their guitars and do a call-and-response jam, throwing in a few Zeppelin licks.  You don’t think of Kiss as the kind of band that executes 16 minute extended jams, but it works in a primitive, primordial way.

Paul Stanley’s stage raps are absolutely classic. Paul knows Canada. He knows that all he has to do is say “Montreal” and he gets the crowd going. Just before “Rock all Roll all Nite”, Paul informs the crowd that Shannon Tweed is in the house! The fellow Canadian is greeted warmly by the people of Saskatoon. However my favourite rap is this:

“There’s so much trouble in the world. If you came here tonight to hear some band tell you how to end global warming…if you came here tonight to hear some band tell you how to end world hunger…you are in the wrooong place tonight! I’ll tell you something, we all came here tonight to escape from the world! Tomorrow morning when we get up it’ll be just as screwed up as it is today. We might as well have a little fun! And you know if somebody says to you…’You outta be a little more socially conscious, you outta be doing what you can to help save the world.’ You say to them, ‘Listen to me. Tonight’s my night off and I wanna Rock and Roll all Nite and party every day!'”

Hard to argue with that, Paul!

4/5 stars

 *I still want a CD from a European show where they performed “I’m An Animal”, however.

#326: Not the Best Buy (RSTs Mk II: Getting More Tale)

October 16, 2014 13 comments

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RECORD STORE TALES Mk II:  Getting More Tale

#326: Not the Best Buy

I don’t shop in the big corporate record stores that often anymore. Hell, I don’t even really shop in stores anymore! I used to, even at the big stores. When I started working in Cambridge, my buddy Chris and I would go to Future Shop once a week at lunch time to check out the new releases. I would typically buy a new movie and a new CD release at least once a week, sometimes more.  I’d stock up on blank CDs, or just impulsively buy a guitar there.  It happens!

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We would do the circuit around the store. We’d start with the new releases up front, then head to the movie section. I would detour over to CDs while Chris would look at electronics and computer games. We’d meet up at the bargain bin as we left. It’s there that Chris and I acquired two copies of Back to School with Rodney Dangerfield on DVD for $4.99 each. The girl at the front counter was jealous and asked if there were any left! She always knew us as the “Tuesday new release guys”. We sometimes wondered if she thought we were a gay couple since we rarely went in without the other!

Sometime in the last few years, both Future Shop and Best Buy (which are the same company) really started to change. They moved the music and movie section to the very back of the stores, providing more room for cell phones and tablets. It was a sign that things were getting worse for people like myself who enjoy owning physical product. Chris is similar to me. He likes to own “whole collections” of movie or TV series. Some of us are just like that.  He always likes to own the ones he really loves. (Such as the Police Academy series. Yes Chris I just outed you.)

So, we stopped going to Future Shop at lunch. In fact we haven’t been in ages.  Same went for Best Buy.  Strangely enough, a Best Buy soon opened in Cambridge, right next to the Future Shop.  Even the new Best Buy store didn’t have much in the way of music and movies, so we just stopped spending our money at lunch time.

IMG_20141004_123453I can tell you exactly what CD it was that I purchased the last time I bought one at Best Buy. It was the 2 CD/1 Blu-ray/1 DVD version of Led Zeppelin’s Celebration Day (2012) which was a brand new release.  And even a release that monumental was hard to find at Best Buy!

I walked into the store a few days after the initial release.  I saw that all they had on the front “new release” display was the DVD combo sets. I went over to the Zeppelin section in music – nothing there. I checked the same in the movies.  Nada.  Then I found a Zeppelin display at the side of one of the aisles. All they had there was CD and DVD; none of the 2 CD/1 Blu/1 DVD.

I found a customer service person that wasn’t chatting up her co-workers, and asked her where they kept the brand new Zeppelin Blu-rays?

In the back room, apparently! She found one for me and I purchased it, a little confused why a Led Zeppelin new release on the hot newest format would be in their back room.

So I bought the package; the very last CD set I have purchased at Best Buy. Best Buy have really abandoned the physical music releases, and that’s too bad. I used to enjoy buying music and movies at that store due to the prices, two nearby convenient locations, and the fact that I could usually find everything I was looking for. No longer. Sorry Best Buy: you and I are no longer besties!


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