RECORD STORE TALES & REVIEWS: Complete Table of Contents

February 1, 2012 7 comments

REVIEW: The Cult – Beyond Good and Evil (Australian bonus track)

August 27, 2014 12 comments

Second of a CULT double shot!  Click here for 1994’s The Cult.

THE CULT – Beyond Good and Evil (2001 Atlantic)

When The Cult finally reunited, the rock world rejoiced.  It felt like a long time, in that post-grunge wasteland, since the world had been blessed with any new Cult music.  Not only had they reunited (with their former drummer Matt Sorum, also formerly of Guns N’ Roses) but they had also reunited with producer Bob Rock, for the third time.   Much like his last outing with the band (1994’s The Cult), this Cult album sounds like none before it.  This time, The Cult have gone full-bore ground-shaking heavy metal.  The template was a song the old band were working on before they split “In the Clouds”, from 1996’s High Octane Cult.  The resemblance is uncanny.

BEYOND THE CULT_0003“War (The Process)” invites you to the stage.  Its weight is astounding; Duffy’s guitars crushing while Sorum attacks his kit as he always has.  Duffy’s guitars have acquired a much heavier metallic tone.  Bob Rock applies them in layers, which has always worked well for The Cult.  When “The Saint” enters, your head could be blown from your shoulders.  This is The Cult at their heaviest, but Billy’s melodic sensibilities are intact, and his guitars always sound like Billy Duffy.  Ian, of course, sounds like Ian, howling at the ghosts.

The single from this album was “Rise”, which is no less brutal than the first two tracks.  Its stuttering de-tuned riff recalls Kyuss or Queens of the Stone Age. Song after song, the album crushes.  “Take the Power” is a rallying crying over a noisy Duffy arrangement.  This time, the layers of guitars form this wall of awesome that threatens to fall on you at any moment.  Astbury is delivering a lot more melody with his lead vocals than he did on The Cult.

BEYOND THE CULT_0005“Breathe” offers a respite, but it’s only brief.  It soon turns into a mid-tempo groove rocker, but a forgettable one.  “Nico” is a highlight, an “Edie”-esque beauty.  It would have been my choice for a single.  Somebody should really start asking me.

No sooner have you had a chance to relax before “American Gothic” smashes through the wall.  This is one of the heaviest Cult songs to date.  Cult bassist Chris Wyse (back in the band today) has a solid groove but is overwhelmed by the sheer weight of the Duffy guitar layers.  “Ashes and Ghosts” too is groove laden and heavy as plutonium.  “Shape the Sky” has a little bit of the old Cult’s prowl, but it’s still pretty heavy like spent nuclear fuel.  Ian has a knack for a cool chorus, and this is one of them.  “Speed of Light” has a bit of that robotic pulse from 1993’s “The Witch” before it descends into a detuned metal riff and chorus.  Then, “True Believers” gives you some breathing room again, although still slammed by electric guitars.  This slow tune is a bit more about the melody than the headache.

BEYOND THE CULT_0004The final song on most editions of Beyond Good and Evil is “My Bridges Burn”.  The Cult bow out on a scorching rocker, blowing the speakers out for those who dare to follow them.   Australia received an additional song, “Libertine”, on which to close.  This song feels like a coda and is powered by an Anthrax-esque stomp.  Top that with a soaring Astbury howl and those patented Duffy guitar melodies and you have a good summation of The Cult 2001.

I think many old-school Cult fans, the kind who think they made a wrong turn on Sonic Temple, would dislike Beyond Good and Evil.  For those of us who don’t mind the Cult when they just fucking rock, I think it’s a brilliant album.  The songs are not designed to be instantly catchy.   They are designed to create a sledgehammer of an album that relentlessly powers its way into your soul.  For me, it worked.  You could listen to it once and say, “Sure, it’s heavy, but there are only a couple memorable songs.”  Keep listening.  Let Beyond Good and Evil pummel you with body blows until all you can do is let it sink in.

4/5 stars

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REVIEW: The Cult – The Cult (1994)

August 26, 2014 70 comments

First of a CULT double shot!  Come back tomorrow for another!

CULT_0002THE CULT – The Cult (1994 Universal)

This is an ugly album.  Even though a 1989 MuchMusic interview with Billy Duffy revealed The Cult would most likely not work with Bob Rock again, they did indeed re-team with the Canadian producer on 1994’s The Cult.  Duffy didn’t think the magic of Sonic Temple was something that could be repeated, based on the less than satisfactory (to him) results of working with producer Steve Brown twice.  On The Cult, however, no attempt was made in any way to recapture any sound or era.  This was brand new from the womb of 1994, and sounds very dated to that dark time.

The twisted “Gone”, unorthodox and sparse, was a shock to the system.  Once the listener gets his or her bearings, it’s actually a great fucking song.  Just a little off-kilter; enough to sound as if it’s not being played right.  It’s a whole new side to The Cult.  I wonder how much of this has to do with the new lineup, including bassist Craig Adams (The Sisters of Mercy/The Mission) and drummer Scott Garrett (Dag Nasty).  Ian Astbury’s delivery was also quite different.  Rather than simply howling those patented Astbury melodies, Ian barks, whispers and bellows.

“Coming Down (Drug Tongue)” was the first single, very different from the hits from the past two or three albums.  It had a droning, U2-ish vibe.  It’s quite a good song, but it wasn’t love at first listen.  “Real Grrrl” has a slower sway to it, and there is a lot to like about the song.  It’s interesting to hear Bob Rock using open space a lot more in his production; this is right after the supersaturated Motley Crue album.  Much of the instrumentation is very dry, but then there are Bob Rock trademarks, such as the Scott Humphrey synth on “Real Grrrl.”

Sounding much like a Superunknown (the softer side thereof) outtake, “Black Sun” is dark and quiet.  Ian sings of abuse.  The band back him with the barest of instrumentation, before the Billy Duffy solo around 3:20.  It is impossible to ignore the similarities to all the grunge bands of the time.  The basic, stripped down guitar parts and rhythm-driven arrangements speak of the time.

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There are few standouts on The Cult.  The album is more cerebral than past Cult albums, and is more about its overall direction than individual songs.  The aforementioned tracks are all great, as are a few others.  They include “Star” (also a single) which is a song that was re-worked many times going back to Sonic Temple.  Previously, it had been known as “Tom Petty” and “Star Child”, and can be found in both forms on the expansive Rare Cult box set.  It is one of the few songs that slightly resemble “old Cult”.  “Be Free” was a single (in Canada at least) given away with a case of beer.  How Canadian, eh?  (I sold mine on eBay for $10).  It too is a pretty good song.  Then there’s “Sacred Life”, a somber ballad naming Abbie Hoffman, River Phoenix and Kurt Cobain as painful losses to the world.  Album closer “Saints Are Down” is a powerful epic, and also a standout.

The Cult broke up/went on hiatus after this album.  They reunited in 1999 (with Matt Sorum on drums) and released a new song called “Painted on the Sun” written by Diane Warren (!!) from the Gone in 60 Seconds soundtrack.  This was followed by the excellent Beyond Good and Evil CD, also produced by Bob Rock.  This self-titled departure remained just that, as The Cult went full-bore metal on Beyond Good and Evil.  This album is an experiment that went unrepeated, and that is fine.  I like it for what it is, but I don’t need another.

3/5 stars

Part 315: Character Studies

August 25, 2014 13 comments

HAMMOND ORGAN

RECORD STORE TALES Part 315:  Character Studies

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I’m getting closer to the end of the line with the Record Store Tales.   These are some bits and pieces I had lying around that I never managed to make full stories out of.  Below are four memorable characters from the Record Store days.  It’s funny how even 20 years have gone by in some cases and I still remember these customers.

1.  Richard the Indian.  I don’t like making racial jokes, but Richard the Indian (nickname applied by himself) liked to make them, and always about himself!  Richard had a First Nations Status card, which he had to present to us to be exempt from the Provincial Sales Tax.  He used to joke at the front counter about his barely-working Discman:  “This Discman must have been made by Indians, it already broke!”  He was a nice guy, but I always felt like I couldn’t laugh at that joke!  You know what I mean?

2.  “Oops There It Is” Kid.  This kid came in every week for a year, looking for the song “Whoomp! (There It Is)” by Tag Team (except he couldn’t say the name right).  Being a kid, he wasn’t allowed to spend money, so he could never buy one of the albums we had.  Then one day, we got in a whole bunch of cassette singles on clearance, including “Whoomp! (There It Is)”.  It was a buck or two.  You should have seen his eyes when we finally got a copy in that his mom would let him buy!  I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a happier kid.

3.  Hammond Organ Man.  I think this may be the same customer that I referred to as Jaded Rock Guy.  The reason he was also known as Hammond Organ Man was that he refused to believe that one of our store managers even knew what a Hammond organ was (even though she did).  I don’t know why that’s so hard to believe.

4.  Johnny.  This guy was a burn-out from my old highschool.  He was in the same class as the store owner.  In mid ’94 he was always coming in asking, “When is the new Cult out?”  We hadn’t seen any release dates at all, but every week he asked the same question.  “When will the new Cult be out?”  Finally my boss answered him, “Next week,” just to see what Johnny would say.   His eyes went wide.  “Really?  Can you hold one for me?”  My boss told him he was just kidding, but he stopped asking about the new Cult album.  Then when it finally came out in October  ‘94, he hated it!  He bought it from me new and sold it to me used.

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge: I’ve Been Challenged!

August 24, 2014 6 comments

ICE

I have been challenged for the #ALS #IceBucketCompetition. SARCA from Caught Me Gaming has passed the baton to me and 3 members of the “Cupface Crew”. Rock fans know that ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease) afflicts the genius musician Jason Becker.  The above isn’t my attempt, just a simulation on what my attempt may look like!

The idea isn’t to dump a bucket of ice water on your head. The idea is you donate $10 to an ALS fund (I chose ALS Society of Canada), dump a bucket of ice on your head, and challenge three more to do the same. (I have already selected my victims.)  I don’t personally know someone affected by ALS, but I do so hate the neurological diseases with a passion.  Like many others, for my video I will also add my own LeBrain twist. Stay tuned!

Hundreds of celebrities have already done the challenge, so here’s a video of Kiss’ and Def Leppard’s attempt! They were challenged by Motley Crue.

Pre-ordered: A World With Heroes EP (Tracklisting revealed!)

August 24, 2014 2 comments

A WORLD WITH

Let the record show that I heartily approved of last year’s A World With Heroes (A Kiss Tribute for Cancer Care), assembled by Mitch Lafon.  Proceeds went to benefit the Vaudreuil-Soulanges Palliative Care Residence in Hudson, Quebec.  And it was a killer, killer CD as my 5/5 star rating attested to.

And now the tracklist is revealed for the new iTunes exclusive anniversary EP:

  1. “C’Mon and Love Me” – Killer Dwarfs (new track)
  2. “Calling Dr. Love” – Crash Kelly (rare – previously only available to those who pledged in advance to order the original CD)
  3. “Save Your Love” – Matt Bradshaw (new track)
  4. “Every Time I Look At You” – Dick Wagner (new track – Dick played on the original Kiss version – R.I.P. Dick!)
  5. “Nothin’ To Lose” – Killer Dwarfs (new track)
  6. “Coming Home” – Sudden Flames (rare – same as the Crash Kelly track)

I’ve pre-ordered mine.  The new A World With Heroes EP will be released on August 27.

REVIEW: Guns N’ Roses – “The Spaghetti Incident?” (1993)

August 24, 2014 26 comments

SPAGHETTI_0002

SPAGHETTI_0003

GUNS N’ ROSES – “The Spaghetti Incident?” (1993 Geffen)

The hype surrounding this album was palpable. The disappointment was legendary. When I began working in a record store in July 1994, less than a year after the release of “The Spaghetti Incident?”, we couldn’t give these away, no matter how low we marked them down. This disc effectively ended Guns N’ Roses domination and ushered in an era of a new wave of bands, the post-grunge onslaught. GN’R survived grunge only to be put to bed with this terrible album!

The reason is, while most of these songs are great in their own rights, these versions are not. The recording is sparse and basic, a far cry from the layered intricacy of the Illusions albums. While Slash’s goal was to get the production back to basics (read: Appetite), this album was an ugly beast and not even close to the shiny black gleam of Destruction. Some songs are just plain boring. “Since I Don’t Have You” was an odd choice for a single, and “Black Leather” just plain sucked. I think there were quite a few fans who were baffled by the number of Duff lead vocals too.

The best song (which wasn’t even recorded by GN’R), is Johnny Thunders’ “You Can’t Put Your Arms Around A Memory”. This is actually a Duff McKagan solo track, an outtake recorded for his first solo album, Believe In Me. Other standouts include Axl’s raging “I Don’t Care About You”, Duff’s “Attitude”, and “Down On The Farm” which had been played live way way back when Izzy was still in the band. A lot of fans were off-put by Axl’s faux-English accent on “Down On The Farm”, but that’s the way it was played live and I don’t mind. The New York Dolls’ “Human Being” is a great Guns cover.  “Ain’t It Fun” is also an angry standout.

Nazareth’s “Hair of the Dog” is underwhelming although Axl does nail the lead vocal. Why GN’R covered a Soundgarden song (“Big Dumb Sex”) is beyond me, and of course there’s the worst track on the album, and most legendary — Charles Manson’s “Look At Your Game, Girl”. Axl’s obsession with Manson was just another nail in the coffin for GN’R, as most fans couldn’t wrap their heads around it. It didn’t help that Slash publicly said that the song “sucked” and that he refused to play on it.*

“The Spaghetti Incident?” will go down in history as the last music of the Illusions sessions to be released, and also is the only album of the Rose/Slash/McKagan/Sorum/Clarke/Reed lineup. By the time Guns N’ Roses released their next single (another cover, the Stones’ “Sympathy For The Devil”), Gilby Clarke was fired by Axl and replaced by Axl’s hometown bud Paul Huge. And that was the last straw for Slash, and the beginning of what would later be known as Chinese Democracy. And that was it. “The Spaghetti Incident?” is the last album to feature Slash, Duff, and Matt, and I think that is just sad and kind of weird too.

If you love Guns N’ Roses, then you already have this, because you have everything by the band. If you only “like” Guns N’ Roses, you don’t need this. You’ll play it a few times and then file it away, never to be heard again.

Instead of this, pick up:

All three would have been great GN’R albums, but sadly none were.

2.5/5 stars

* In 2000, Axl Rose stated that “Look At Your Game, Girl” would be removed from future printings of the album.  That never happend.

REVIEW: Budgie – The Definitive Anthology: An Ecstasy of Fumbling (1996)

August 23, 2014 14 comments

BUDGIE – The Definitive Anthology: An Ecstasy of Fumbling (1996 Repertoire)

Dear young and old, far and wide:

This 2 CD compilation is an excellent starting point for digging into the monumental sound of Budgie, formerly Six Ton Budgie. (That’s a really heavy bird!) Helmed by the Geddy Lee lookalike Burke Shelley and his shifting cast of players, Budgie is a power trio and the prototype for the sound of bands as diverse as Rush, Black Sabbath, AC/DC, Metallica, and Iron Maiden. Formed in ’67, Budgie predate them all.

Want some proto-Sabbath sludge? It’s here. AC/DC-type fast riff rockers with simple beats? Also here. Songs driven by catchy, eloquent basslines? Look no further. Metallic gallops? These guys were doing it while Steve Harris was still struggling away in Gypsy’s Kiss! Everything good that happened with heavy metal had already been done by Budgie before those sounds hit the mainstream. All with a singer who could have been Geddy Lee’s long lost brother (and look at those glasses too)!

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This album includes some of the best tracks from their albums 1971-1982. It also includes B-sides, single versions, and EP tracks. Burke Shelley stopped gigging with Budgie in the late 80’s but returned with some serious thunder and a 2006 comeback album. This stuff, however, is some of the creme de la creme of the initial phase of Budgie.

Highlights for me included:

  • “Homicidal Suicidal” – a 6 minute exercise in bass-driven groove.
  • “Whiskey River” – a shorty; killer bassline, catchy as hell.
  • “In The Grip Of A Tyrefitter’s Hand” – another one with a catchy as hell bassline.
  • “Breadfan” – you already know Metallica’s version of this proto-thrash number.
  • “Beautiful Lies” – rare, synth-driven ballad.  Previously unreleased.
  • “Forearm Smash” – fast heavy AC/DC style rocker.
  • “Wildfire” – very much like Maiden’s “2 Minutes To Midnight” riff.
  • “Time To Remember” – Spacey, echoey, epic.
  • “I Turn To Stone” – the gallop at the end is pure Iron Maiden with some Blackmore type soloing.
  • “Superstar” – great fast rocker.
  • “She Used Me Up” – another one that AC/DC fans will love.
  • “Panzer Division Destroyed” – pure proto-thrash brilliance.

 

That list is very incomplete, because I think every one of these 29 songs are really good.  Some go beyond that into “great” territory, and others one step further to “fucking awesome.”

Photo0317Truly, Budgie were way ahead of their time. Chances are the kids on your street have never heard any of these songs, except when covered by Metallica and Iron Maiden. Now it’s time to prove to them who knows their rock music. Pick this, or any Budgie album, up today.  If you go with this one, you’ll also get a gigantic booklet with ample liner notes about the band and every single track.  I consider it a great stroke of luck, the day that one of my customers sold this one to me.  (His name was Dan and he’s the same guy who sold me tons of great stuff before.)  I was aware of Budgie because of Maiden and Metallica, but mostly because Martin Popoff raved about them in his first book, Riff Kills Man!  I had to have it.  I’m glad I bought it.

If I Were Britannia I’d Waive The Rules, but I would also make sure that everybody knew who Budgie was!

5/5 stars

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