Mike and Aaron went to Toronto again…again…again!

As usual we came, and we conquered.  It was our fifth annual Taranna Music Excursion.  Together we did our best to rescue the precious, precious music from select stores in the city.

As before, I filmed the whole thing for a potential video doc.  When we are ready, Aaron and I will begin to roll out all the wonderful treasures we came home with from Toronto.  In the meantime, I’m going to spend today listening to tunes!



You know where we’re going today!


And if you don’t, then check out the below videos.  Today is the fifth annual adventure.  And that means music.  Lots and lots of music.


#525: Best Hats in Rock

GETTING MORE TALE #525: Best Hats in Rock

With all the head-banging going on, it’s no surprise that the majority of rockers do not wear hats on stage.  The flailing around in musical ecstasy means that hats don’t stay on top for long.  Also, with those hot stage lights beating down, nobody needs to preserve their body heat with a hat.

Yet some rockers have managed to make hats a trademark.  Let’s have a look at five of the best.*



5. Jeff Ament’s whatever hat

During the Ten period, Pearl Jam bassist Jeff Ament used to sport some cool, huge hats.  We have no idea what you call these hats, but there is no denying their 90’s cool-ness.  If I had long hair again, I’d want one of these hats.


4. Ritchie Blackmore’s pilgrim hat

Blackmore is well known for his anachronistic mixture of time periods.  Playing medieval music with electric guitars?  Sure, why not.  We don’t know why Blackmore wants to look like a passenger on the Mayflower, but it does not matter.  The hat has become iconic, though not as iconic as…


3. Lemmy Kilmister’s assortment of Motorhats

God bless Lemmy, for he had a fine collection of headgear, usually emblazoned with skulls, crossbones, and World War II symbology.  Lemmy may not have been a fashion icon, but he did own some pretty cool hats.


2. Brian Johnson’s newsboy hat

This one is near and dear to my heart.  Brian’s hat was to cover a receding hairline, but I had one just like it.  It was perfect for keeping a tangled mess of hair under cover.  Best of all, I could use it as a “hair mold”.  I would comb my hair in the morning, tuck it under the hat to “set” it, and an hour later it would come out looking perfect!


1. Slash’s top hat

At LeBrain HQ, we think Slash’s hat has become the most iconic rock and roll piece of headgear.  One look at that hat, and you automatically know who is underneath it.  The fact that Slash hid his face behind curtains of hair meant that fans had to recognize him in other ways.  That’s where the hat comes in!  Even if you wouldn’t recognize Slash’s face in a crowd, it’s a guarantee that you know his hat.


Honorable mentions:

Kim Mitchell’s OPP hat

Tom Morello’s assorted baseball hats

Mick Mars’ skull hat


What are your favourite hats in rock?


*Not including bandanas or hair pieces


REVIEW: Ace Frehley – Milwaukee Live ’97 (2015)

scan_20161014ACE FREHLEY’S COMET – Milwaukee Summerfest Live 1987 (2015 Echoes radio broadcast)

In 1987, Ace Frehley had just begun his comeback.  He recorded a well received debut as Frehley’s Comet, with a notable appearance by drummer par excellence Anton Fig.  Anton had been working steadily for the Letterman show since 1986 and so was not on the tour this CD was captured from.   This version of the Comet featured new drummer Billy Ward.  They were recorded live in Milwaukee at Summerfest on June 29th of that year.  It was taped for broadcast and somehow survived.  Live radio broadcast CDs are so common now that you can even find them at Walmart.  Some are worth the cash, others less so.  A Frehley’s Comet broadcast from the first tour is automatically interesting to Kiss collectors.

Unfortunately what buyers will discover is that this CD is a harsh chore to listen to.  Vocals are back in the mix, bass way up front, and there is a thin haze of staticky air over it.  Ace’s perennial opener, “Rip It Out” (from his 1978 solo album) is but a shadow of the better produced version on the Live + 1 EP.  This is through no fault of the band, featuring mainstay bassist John Regan, singer/guitarist Tod Howarth, and Ward.


Ace sings lead on most of the material, but Tod Howarth has a couple songs from the first Comet LP.  “Something Moved” and “Breakout” (co-written by the late Eric Carr) are fast paced action, while “Calling to You” is anthemic pop rock.  Howarth was in excellent voice that night, this much is certain.  Ace sings a handful of Kiss tunes as well as solo and Comet material.  Gene Simmons originally sang “Cold Gin”, but Ace took it back for himself by singing it live.  At the same time, Kiss were also playing “Cold Gin” live (a song Ace wrote) and fans will have to decide who pulled it off best.  Ace even tackles “Deuce”, a song Gene wrote.  What’s good for the goose is good for the gander?

It really is a shame that the audio hampers the listening experience.  It sounds like a legitimately great Ace performance.  Having a guy like Howarth in the band enabled Ace to have multiple lead singers like Kiss did.  On the Kiss covers, Howarth takes the Paul Stanley role.  Billy Ward and John Regan make the songs a little more complex rhythmically than the Kiss originals, but Ace also adds in new and extended solos.  The end results are enhanced, Ace-ified covers.  No notable tracks are missing; it is a really solid set list of Ace Frehley classics.

There are some who will happily purchase anything with Ace’s name on it (guilty!) and there are others who can live without.  Decide who you are and spend your money appropriately.

3/5 stars




REVIEW: KISS – Monster (Japan Tour Edition bonus CD)

This review is for reader Juan, from Spain — thank you for reading!

KISS – Monster (Japan Tour Edition, 2013 Universal Japan)

In my 32 years of collecting music, I have learned a number of immutable laws of the hobby.  The Three Laws of Collecting are:

The First Law:  Japan shall always get the best stuff.
The Second Law:  Anything worth releasing is worth re-releasing.
The Third Law:  Kiss fans shall buy anything, often more than once.

The Three Laws of Collecting are why I now have purchased my fifth copy of Kiss Monster.  The album came out in 2012, meaning I have bought more than one copy per year since its release:  Original CD, vinyl, iTunes, Japanese CD, and now this 2 CD Japan Tour Edition, which has all the tracks from all the versions, and then some.


This is not a review of Monster; we have reviewed that album twice now (once by Mike Ladano and once by Tommy Morais).  Rather this is a review of the Tour Edition’s second disc, which is a pretty cool “best of” collection covering a very nice chunk of Kisstory.  What can another greatest hits possibly offer?  Believe it or not, the Monster Tour Edition has a slightly different slant that might be interesting to die-hards.

This is the first time “Psycho Circus” has opened a Kiss compilation.  It was their tour opener in 1998-99 and so naturally fits this slot.  It was one of the stronger tracks from Psycho-Circus itself, which was otherwise a pretty disappointing reunion album.  Mainly because Peter and Ace barely played on it.  Indeed, on this track you will get Kevin Valentine on drums and Tommy Thayer on guitar, uncredited.  That said, the track still kicks ass and has proven to be the only song from that album that still gets played now and then.

I’m always happy to hear oldies like “Let Me Go, Rock ‘N’ Roll” on a hits CD.  The same goes for “Black Diamond”, one of the more epic Kiss tracks.  These old album cuts might not be as well known to casual fans and might surprise even Kiss haters.  However, no casual fan or Kiss hater is going to be hearing the Monster Tour Edition.  So the die-hards again will be hearing “Shout it Out Loud”, “Rock and Roll all Nite”, “Detroit Rock City”, “God of Thunder”, “Love Gun” and “I Was Made For Lovin’ You” for the umpteenth time.  Mixed in among these are some of the second-tier hits from the 80’s:  “I Love it Loud”, “Lick It Up”, “Heaven’s On Fire”.  The exact mixture of ingredients is different, but these songs have been on best-of CDs by Kiss before.

The one unique inclusion is “Say Yeah” from 2009’s Sonic Boom, its first appearance on a hits disc.  Its place here is deserved.  Sonic Boom represented a strong return to the studio for Kiss after a decade long absence.  “Say Yeah” was one of three songs played live in concert, and sounds the most like a timeless Kiss anthem.  (Sonic Boom was represented on the last greatest hits compilation, Kiss 40, by “Modern Day Delilah”.)

Finally there is the riffy “Right Here Right Now” which was previously the iTunes bonus track for Monster.  A physical copy is always better, and a Japanese high quality HMCD is even better than that.  And don’t worry — the original Japanese bonus track, a live version of “King of the Night Time World” from the Rock the Nation tour, is still intact on disc one.  (More on that in the video below.)

This version of Monster is finally the definitive one with all the tracks in one place.  The bonus hits disc is some pretty awesome icing.  When you have as many hits discs as Kiss do, you may just wonder “what’s the difference”?  Each one is different in its own often minor ways, and fans who appreciate this stuff will enjoy hearing a couple unique tunes for a change.

The only flaw with this HMCD reissue is that it lacks the original 3D lenticular cover. That is a bummer. I simply kept my original cover (it is a separate piece you can take out) from a prior version of Monster which I later gifted to a friend.  In fact that friend reviewed the single disc Japanese Monster!

I must add another law to my Three Laws of Collecting:

The Zeroth Law*:  You shall always have some buyer’s regret.

It is true.  I had all these songs before.  The only one I didn’t have physically was the iTunes download “Right Here Right Now”.  But I “had” to have it.  I could question that.  “You could have put that money towards some new tires”.  The CD could have paid for a week of lunches at Harvey’s.    A fool and their money?

I’m fine with that.

$/5 stars

*I didn’t make that word up.  Isaac Asimov added the Zeroth Law of Robotics to his Three Laws in 1985.  


#524: Hockey Night in Canada (Video – thanks to Geoff from 1001AlbumsIn10Years)

In Getting More Tale #521, we discussed the pros and cons of DVD recorders, a now-outdated technology. In short the cons were the price, but the pros were the ability to keep a television recording virtually forever.  DVD recorders were meant to replace VCRs.  A VCR and a decent quality tape could enable you to keep a recording for a couple decades, at least.

I lamented that one recording that we lost on our old PVR was a vintage re-run of Hockey Night in Canada, May 8, 1994.  My wife, Mrs. LeBrain, had the honour of meeting Don Cherry that night, and got to be on Canada’s most popular television show.  Periodically, Leafs TV would re-run the old games, and we recorded it the last time it was on. However this was lost when the PVR bit the dust.

If only we had a working VCR…

Well, as it turns out, Geoff from 1001AlbumsIn10Years has a working VCR.  Not only that, but he also possesses an original recording of that night’s hockey game from over 22 years ago!  He dug it out, and sent the below video to me.

That’s Jen with her Dougie Gilmore sign, and Canada’s national treasure Don Cherry.

The story goes, Jen’s dad won a radio contest to see the Maple Leafs wherever the next round of the playoffs were being held.  That happened to be San Jose, California.  This happened to fall on Mother’s Day.  Jen’s dad intended to take her mom on a nice vacation.  This however was not to be, not after a young crying Jennifer bellowed “But mom doesn’t even LIKE hockey!”  It was true, and Jen got to go with her dad.

Thanks Geoff — you have no idea how much this video means to us!

Mike + Jen



REVIEW: House of Lords – Sahara (1990)


By request of reader WARDY!

scan_20161010HOUSE OF LORDS – Sahara (1990 BMG)

House of Lords put out an impressive debut but didn’t sell a lot of copies.  When the second album rolled out in 1990, their guitarist Lanny Cordola was gone and in was new guy Michael Guy.  Although Guy is credited on guitar, in reality the album was recorded with Doug Aldrich and a number of guests.  Weirdly, thanked in the credits for “additional inspiration” is Nick Simmons, who was one year old at the time.  Sahara was of course on Simmons Records.

It’s a different sounding House, less regal but with more hooks per acre.  The opening number “Shoot” draws liberally from the wells of both Led Zeppelin and Motley Crue.  “Chains of Love” is Coverdale-lite, with singer James Christian pouring on as much sass as possible, but without Coverdale’s sly nods and winks.  Whoever is playing the guitar solo on “Chains of Love” laid down a killer.

The acoustic cover “Can’t Find My Way Home” (Blind Faith) is pretty true to the original minus the falsetto, and would have to be one of the better power ballads from a rock band in 1990.  House of Lords turn a serious corner on “Heart on the Line”, which sounds like a title for a ballad.  This however is a speed racer, a chugging riff powering a rock-corker, which turns Cheap Trick on the chorus.  Unsurprisingly, it was written by Rick Neilsen.  Brilliant playing and soloing on this one.  Then they rip off a song title from Coverdale himself, “Laydown Staydown”.  Winger-esque sleeze rock is all this is, not even touching the brilliance of the Deep Purple song that inspired the title.

A much more impressive track opens side two, “Sahara”.  This is progressive hard rock, with drummer Ken Mary layering a tribal drum effect that would have been very ahead of its time in 1990.  This too degenerates into something more Winger-like as well, but it jumps from that back into more progressive sections, keeping things balanced and interesting.  The second slot on side two is predictably another ballad, a good one called “It Ain’t Love”.  Not just the title, but the gang chorus reminds of Dokken.  Some fine soloing resides here to sink your fangs into.

The lead single was another power ballad, “Remember My Name”, which the band did not write.  As an impressionable youth in 1990, I hated this single.  “Never lead with a ballad,” was my thinking.  I had been looking forward to new House of Lords since the debut slayed me in ’88.  I didn’t want the first song to be a ballad they didn’t write.  I still don’t think it’s a very good track.  And surely a mistake to include it on the CD right before another ballad.  “American Babylon” redeems it, coming back with a strong push.  “Kiss of Fire” nails it with the knockout punch at the end, a blazing smoker with powerful keyboards that remind us of vintage Deep Purple.  Finally it seems House of Lords nailed a song that lived up to their inspirations.

Perhaps it was the rotating cast of characters on guitar, but Sahara drifts further from the sound that made House of Lords unique in 1988. The danger of grasping for hits while taking their sound deeper in the mainstream was real. Though it is still an entertaining listen, Sahara is very uneven which makes it a bumpy ride.

3/5 stars



REVIEW: The Cult – Hidden City (2016)

scan_20161008THE CULT – Hidden City (2016 Dine Alone)

There have been a few times in Cult history when it seemed unlikely they would be making any more albums.  Thankfully, these fears were unfounded.  Thankfully, because The Cult are so damn great at making albums.

Their latest is Hidden City, and it continues their upwards trajectory.  Teamed up once again with Bob Rock, the band created a powerful recording, very Cult-like and loud.  It is a cohesive and impressive collection of songs that tend to defy individual description.  It is easy to pick our favourites such as “No Love Lost”, “Birds of Paradise” or “Hinterland” (my personal fave), but Hidden City is more than the sum of its parts.  Its components are strong compositions that highlight the strengths of the band:  Ian Astbury’s powerful and unique voice, and Billy Duffy’s unmistakable riff stylings.  Hidden City collects the light and shade and presents them as a multi-coloured hue.

Its grooves are huge but textured.  The songs reveal more hooks the more you listen.  The Cult’s performances are top notch.  The album is electrifying.  Hidden City must be considered a latter-day high water mark, an album that builds on the last few records and continues pushing forward.  The Cult rule again.

5/5 stars

This is a 200 word review in the tradition of the #200wordchallenge



#523: Columbia House

GETTING MORE TALE #523: Columbia House

How many of you were members of the Columbia House music club?  Tapes or CDs?

The concept was simple.  Get 12 tapes or records for one penny.  Then agree to buy “X” more at “regular club prices” within a year.  They would usually offer all sorts of incentives, such as getting your first regularly priced item for half price.  Their “regular club prices” were fairly high, but if you played your cards right you could make joining the club worthwhile.

Every few weeks after signing up, Columbia House would send you a catalogue and an order form.  The order system was controversial, because it required a negative response if you didn’t want to buy something.  When you signed up, you could pick your favourite genre of music (I chose “metal”).  Each time a catalogue came out, your selected genre would have a “selection of the month”, usually a new release but not always.   If you did not respond with an order form expressing that you didn’t want it, they would automatically mail you the “selection of the month” and bill you for it too.  (The Columbia Record Club system was worked into a sub-plot of the movie A Serious Man by the Coen Brothers.)

For many people this wasn’t a problem.  Our parents let my sister and I sign up when I was in grade 11.  We split the membership and free tapes 50/50.  We paid for everything ourselves and diligently sent in our order forms each time.  We were both already massive music fans, so we poured over every single page.  Most times, one of us ended up buying something, if not the selection of the month itself.

I can still remember every album I received in that first shipment. Seven tapes.  These tapes went into immediate and constant rotation, which is why I remember them all so well today.

  1. Leatherwolf – Leatherwolf
  2. Motley Crue – Girls, Girls, Girls
  3. Hurricane – Over the Edge
  4. Stryper – To Hell With the Devil
  5. Stryper – In God We Trust
  6. White Lion – Pride
  7. Sammy Hagar – VOA

Our musical world opened up in a massive way, and not just because of the new music we were listening to.  The catalogues introduced us to names and album covers that we’d not experienced yet.  What is this Bitches Brew thing?  Why did Deep Purple albums have so few songs?  Did Iron Maiden copy their Maiden Japan from Purple’s Made In Japan?  Holy crap, Hank Williams Jr. has three greatest hits albums?

Everything was absorbed.  Five years later, when I started at the Record Store, my boss was surprised that I knew who most of the artists were, what sections they should go in, and even what record labels they were on.

“I read the Columbia House catalogue cover to cover every month,” was my answer!

The catalogue provided knowledge, and pictures to cut out for locker or wall.  We made the most of that catalogue every time.  It was rare when pictures were not cut out!

I was even able to acquire things that might have been considered rarities back then.  I had never seen Leatherwolf stocked in a store, but Columbia House had it.  When vinyl was being discontinued, I was still able to get Skid Row’s Slave to the Grind (1991) on LP.  They had most of the Savatage albums.

It all sounds wonderful, but Columbia House had flaws too.  The biggest one was horrendous quality control.  They licensed and manufactured the tapes themselves, which were simply not as good quality wise as the ones you could find in a store.  They would be warbling within weeks (if not right out of the case) and the J-cards were sometimes shoddy, with printing not lining up with fold lines, or just they’d just start falling apart along perforations.  They also didn’t carry certain record labels.  While they had everything Warner Bros and Columbia Records, they had nothing from EMI.  Finally, bands made next to nothing on albums that were sold through Columbia House.  Some bands such as the Tragically Hip refused to sell their music via Columbia House.  We didn’t know all of this as kids, of course.  I started to pick up on the quality issues when they seemed to take a serious dive around 1991.

The key to not getting ripped off by Columbia House was to order smart.  The 12 free tapes sounds like a great deal, but when you balance in buying the rest of your selections at full price, most people ended up on the losing side.  Get in and get out, buying the bare minimum.  That was the way to do it.  Of course, we didn’t.  We just enjoyed the convenience and stayed members for years!  No regrets since this led directly to a 12 year career in the Record Store!


REVIEW: Union – Union (1998, 1999 reissue with bonus track)

The third and final Kulick review from our Kulick week at mikeladano.com!

Tuesday: Blackjack – Blackjack (1979)
Wednesday: Blackjack – Worlds Apart (1980)

scan_20160928UNION – Union (1998, 1999 Spitfire reissue)

A mighty Union was formed from the ashes of two classic bands’ lesser-known lineups.  First up is Bruce Kulick, formerly of Kiss and now in Grand Funk.  Kulick had been taking an increasingly important role within Kiss, leading to the Carnival of Souls LP which Bruce was instrumental in writing and recording.  With him was John Corabi who had just been booted from Motley Crue after making (arguably) their best album (or one of).  Corabi was in a bit of a state.  His confidence in himself was shaken after the Motley experience, who seemed impossible to please when their album tanked.  John told Bruce that he didn’t want to sing anymore, he just wanted to play guitar.  Bruce’s response was “Dude, you’re fuckin’ high!”

And so it was that Bruce and John teamed up (with Brent Fitz and Jamie Hunting) in the aptly named Union.

You wouldn’t call Union a supergroup, but they did create a fine album.  It is in the mold of the last albums these guys made separately (Motley ’94 and Carnival).  Union turned out as an angry, dark rock record, very much a child of the 1990’s.  With Kulick on guitar, Union was more than a 90’s alt-grunge retread.  The 90’s are omnipresent in the droning riffs and staggered rhythms, but then Bruce dumped out his tackle box of guitar tricks.  Bruce evolved over the years from a guy who played really fast on 80’s Kiss albums to a serious player interested in pushing his own limits.  Where he used to be content to play flurries of notes, on Union he goes for maximum gut impact.  It’s less about playing the notes than bending them to his will.

It’s also quite clear how much writing Bruce and John did in their respective bands, judging by the sound of this.  “Around Again” bears groovy similarities to tracks like “Jungle” by Kiss and “Uncle Jack” by Motley.  There’s a pissed-off attitude, and musicianship that would make Nikki Sixx crap his pants.  Thankfully Union have a good batch of songs backing them.  Much like the previous Kiss and Crue records, Union is not instant love.  It takes about three good listens to penetrate its metal-grunge (with a touch of Beatles) hybrid sound.  Union usually seem to go for the guts rather than singalong melodies.

One of the exceptions to this rule is the pure fun “Love (I Don’t Need it Anymore)”.  This is the one that hooks you on the first round.  With a funky little riff and a chorus that sinks right in, it slays.  The ballad “October Morning Wind” is another catchy track, an acoustic number a-la Zeppelin.  Think of a track like “Loveshine” from the Motley album for the right ballpark.  Stealing a Zeppelin title, Union’s song “Tangerine” is a groove rock tune like a heavier Aerosmith.

On the other side of the spectrum:  psychedelic rock.  “Let It Flow” is a trippy song broken up into sections called “The Invitation”, “The Journey” and “The Celebration”.  I think John was smoking something green when he wrote the lyrics, but Bruce’s sitar-like guitar is the perfect complement.  “Empty Soul” has similar scope, being a pretty huge song with musical goodness coming out the wazoo.

Adding the Beatles cover “Oh Darlin'” to a reissued version of the album is a little greedy, but fortunately worth it.  As it turned out this band only made two studio albums, so more Union is good Union.  If you recall the original song, Paul McCartney gave it his best rasp screams.  Up to bat is John Corabi who can sing that way in his sleep.  It’s a perfect match and “Oh Darlin'” is a nice little extra on which to end an exceptional album.  The only issue I have with “Oh Darlin” is actually its placement as the last song.  Previously, the solo-written Corabi acoustic ballad “Robin’s Song” was the closer, much like “Driftaway” was on the Motley album.  You become accustomed to “Robin’s Song” as a closer, because it has that quality to it.  “Oh Darlin'” is not a closer.  It would have worked better earlier in the track list, so feel free to shuffle as you choose.

Whatever version you acquire, any fan of Kulick and/or Corabi would be foolhardy to live without this CD.  It ranks as one of the best albums by either.

4.5/5 stars