RECORD STORE TALES MkII:
Getting More Tale
Music, Movies, and more
The Boathouse was rocked again this past weekend as Max and his legendary Axe stormed the place with heavy riffing, some friends, and a brand new album called Status Electric.
Opening the show was singer was former Max singer Mickey Straight (“from Guatemala” as he was introduced, but I think Guatemala is Toronto). Mickey has a rock star stage presence and together with Max the Axe, they played some of their oldies such as “Mutant Mind” and “Belljar Party”. Mickey played bass as a trio with Max and Dr. Dave Haslam on drums, which we quickly learned was going to be a common theme going forward.
Second up was the biggest surprise of the night: Nancy Vicious and the Nasty Bitches. Punk rock was expected, and punk rock we had (including some Pistols and Stooges with originals). On drums…the newly rebranded “God Damn Dave” Haslam. Guitarist Mike “Mitch Bitch” Mitchell surprised us by ripping off his shirt revealing a corset. But the real surprise was Nancy Vicious herself, a young powerhouse with lungs of fucking stainless steel. Classic punk mixed with new-breed bands like Dilly Dally. I learned that Nancy has been playing the bars for years, though only 19 years old. No CDs for sale unfortunately — Nancy told me their first album was “really bad” but that they are working on a second one with (hopefully) about 13 songs. They did have merch for sale in the way of stickers, buttons and postcards.
We were under the impression that the Hellen Keller Band had changed their name to the Delusionals. This was Fake News. What is the Hellen Keller Band? An instrumental trio led by Mike Mitchell on guitar, God Damn Dr. Dave on bass, and Eric “Uncle Meat” Litwiller on drums. Mitchell’s incredible picking was quite stunning to watch. He’s got chicken pickin’ going on, and plenty of ability. And it turns out Dr. Dave is even better on bass than he is on drums. This trio was plenty of fun to watch, as they mixed covers and originals. They closed the set with a blistering Dead Kennedys “Holiday in Cambodia”.
Finally the game of Musical Chairs came to the end when Max the Axe hit the stage. Lineup: Max on lead guitar, with Eric Litwiller’s voice, Dr. Dave’s drums and Mike Mitchell’s bass. He played his entire new album, the stellar Status Electric in sequence with a break in the middle. Now, we’ve been quite clear here how great Status Electric is. Hearing it played live for the first time? Brilliant.
Litwiller opened up his powerful lungs on “River Grand”, a grungy rocker. He blasted consistently through all of “side one” while Max ripped hot licks on his Axe. After the vocal tour-de-force “Sick of Living”, they played “Mexican Standoff” from Trillion Dollar Threats, some Black Flag, and then gave Litwiller a break as Mickey Straight was invited back for two oldies. “Daddy Was a Murderin’ Man” and “I Don’t Advocate Drugs” (also Trillion Dollar Threats) were a treat. The final side of the Status Electric album was then laid out, with “Gods on the Radio” and “Scales of Justice” being the obvious best tracks. Unfortunately by this time all four band members had already played full sets with other bands, and they flubbed a few lines in “Uptite Friday Night” and “Scales”. Not that this detracted from the show. It seemed everybody was aware of how hard these guys had been playing all night!
How, you ask, do I win?
It’s simple! Just answer the easy question below by submitting it directly on the form. All correct answers will be put in a hat and one lucky winner will be drawn at random! Please remember to include your complete mailing address so we can send your prize!*
QUESTION: Name all four current members of Max the Axe.
This contest will run for one week, from December 10 to December 17, when we will draw the winner.
*Disclaimer: Canada Post is on strike and we can make no delivery guarantees.
December 7 was the anniversary of Pearl Harbor, and this came up on the calendar:
Heed the “Call of the Wild”! Max and his legendary Axe are hitting the Boathouse in Kitchener TONIGHT (57 Jubilee Drive, Kitchener, Ontario) for the release of his sixth record Status Electric. Though a late arrival in 2018, Status Electric is so bloody good that it’s likely to (spoiler?) make our Top 5 of 2018 list. When nine songs get stuck in your head for weeks on end, that’s a good sign.
Opening acts include Mickey Straight (ex-Max the Axe singer), Nancy Vicious and the Nasty Bitches, and The Delusionals (formerly the Hellen Keller Band).
$5 at the door, $10 for a CD.
If you’re anywhere near the “River Grand”, you won’t need the “Next Plane to Vegas” to join Max the Axe at the Boathouse. Even “Randy” may be there, screaming the “Call of the Wild”. If you are “Sick of Living”, don’t go to “The Other Side”! “You Gotta” go to the Boathouse instead. If you had an “Uptite Friday Night” then the best cure will be to rock with Max on Saturday. Witness the “Scales of Justice” tip forever in Max’s favour.
At the very least, you’ll hear the cautionary tale of why “Only a fool owns a deadly snake, let alone two.” That’s how it goes…so go to the Boathouse and catch them live.
These kids can play!
Tommy Shaw, accompanied by Will Evankovich, conductor Liza Grossman, and a whole orchestra full of highschool kids will blow you away on the live concert CD Sing For the Day! It’s astounding to think that this room full of kids is so good that they got to perform the hits of Shaw with the master himself, and get it released as an album. What gifted young musicians they must be.
Styx fans will adore Sing For the Day! for its roll call of classic songs, performed acoustically with the orchestra. Styx music lends itself well to that kind of pomp and circumstance. The album also boasts a number of Shaw favourites outside of Styx, like his first solo hit “Girls With Guns”. With a new arrangement, “Girls With Guns” is almost unrecognizable but yet familiar. You’ll also get Damn Yankees’ excellent “Come Again” and of course their hit ballad “High Enough”.
The album commences brilliantly with “Overture” from the newest Styx album The Mission. Bar now set “high enough”, they run through “Girls With Guns”, “Too Much Time on My Hands” and “Fooling Yourself” with aplomb and joie de vivre. You wouldn’t be going out on a limb to suggest that these kids do as good a job of it as Styx themselves do. “Crystal Ball” soars majestic. “Boat on a River” simmers quietly. Most of the arrangements offer a freshness while being true to the spirit of the originals. The only sputter is “Renegade”, which is stripped down and a little strange.
Set highlights include “Diamond” from Tommy’s 1997 album 7 Deadly Zens, a pretty incredible track. “Come Again” is brilliant, as is the bombastic oldie “Man in the Wilderness”. “Blue Collar Man” is among the best versions of the song ever recorded, and completely different from the original. Fans should enjoy just about the whole shebang. Casual listeners would recognize a number of these songs and might get a kick out of these novel interpretations.
Do not hesitate if you happen to find this CD in the wild. It’s better than you might expect.
Long nights, impossible odds? If you wanna discuss impossible odds, then let’s discuss re-recording your old hits. It’s not usually a good idea. In Styx’s case, it gave them a chance to sell some product while out on tour, but the new versions are no replacements for the old.
“Blue Collar Man” has that big fat organ riff, but it’s…different. Technology can’t reproduce magic, and the original “Blue Collar Man” was pure magic. It’s also missing Dennis DeYoung’s inimitable backing vocals. The current Styx sure can sing, but Dennis’ voice was a big part of the chorus. “Renegade” is more successful. Todd Sucherman really stretches out on the drums. The kid’s got talent!
James Young’s “Miss America” has more bite than the original. “Snowblind” benefits from the re-recording, having more depth now. Styx also get points for redoing “Queen of Spades”, now starring Lawrence Gowan. Styx have plenty of hits, but just as important to fans are the deeper cuts. Any time they get a little more spotlight is a good time. “Queen of Spades” rocks regally, riffy and progressive. “Boat on a River” is pretty authentic to the original, while “Too Much Time on My Hands” has some different keyboard flare. Both are worthy inclusions. This isn’t to say any of these versions are superior to the originals. That’s impossible. This is just to say they are enjoyable to listen to.
The bait to buy the re-recordings are two Damn Yankees songs: “Coming of Age” and (of course) “High Enough”. Styx have been known to perform “High Enough” in concert, but what are they like without Jack Blades and Ted Nugent? Surprisingly good. Styx can handle the singing, and James Young can riff and wail with the best of ’em. “High Enough” in particular sounds great. Lush and with more balls.
Interestingly enough, it looks like all the guys recorded their parts in different studios, all over the place. Gowan was recorded in Toronto, and of interest to Rush fans is that Terry Brown co-engineered his parts. The marvels of the modern world.
I know what you’re thinking. “Styx re-recordings? Why the hell do I need those?”
You don’t. That’s why they added a new song (“Difference in the World”) exclusive to this set.
Initially, the EP Regeneration Volume I was sold exclusively online and at Styx concerts, but it was reissued with Volume II to regular retail as a double CD set. Volume II has its own exclusives, which will be discussed in a separate review. Aside from the cleaner sound, the most obvious difference is the more modern drumming by Todd Sucherman. Original drummer John Panozzo had his own style and the difference is obvious. That’s neither good nor bad; just an observation.
“Difference in the World” is a melancholy but good song. Styx have a lot of good songs. Tommy Shaw wrote another one. There you go.
“The Grand Illusion” features singer Lawrence Gowan on an old Dennis DeYoung classic. Considering how long Gowan has been with Styx now (almost 20 years!), it is justifiable to re-record old songs with him on a low-key release such as this. It’s harder to justify Tommy Shaw’s “Sing For the Day” and “Fooling Yourself” which are damn near note-for-note accurate to the originals. Tommy’s orchestral re-imaginings on his solo live album Sing For the Day! are a lot more interesting. The biggest difference are Gowan’s backing vocals. Put these versions in a Styx shuffle and they won’t be too obtrusive.
James Young takes the lead on “Lorelei”. Of the re-recordings, “Lorelei” is clearly the best. Dennis DeYoung sang the original, but James sings it live today since he’s the co-writer. Doing a studio version with James is more than justified. “Crystal Ball” is still as epic as it ever was, but has more edge with modern production. The guitar solo is to die for.
What about “Come Sail Away”? Unnecessary and perhaps detrimental to this EP. Doing it live without Dennis is one thing. It’s not a song you want to leave a Styx concert without hearing. Gowan’s fine, but redoing this one in the studio can never live up to the original in any way, and you’re digging your own hole by even trying. Magic cannot be recreated, only imitated.
GETTING MORE TALE #720: Domo Arigato
It was grade 5, and Allan Runstedtler was to blame for my first rock and roll album.
At school, I played a tape I made with three songs on it. It was a clear blue 120 minute Scotch cassette. “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap” by AC/DC was first, followed by “The Mighty Quinn” by Manfred Mann. The third might have been “Ooby Dooby” by Roy Orbison. AC/DC was my favourite because of the chorus. “He sounds like he has a frog in his throat!” I squealed. We just referred to Bon Scott (we didn’t know his name) as “the guy with the frog in his throat”. I thought the song was hilarious, and that went double for “Big Balls” since it had “Balls” in the title.
“You have to hear ‘Mr. Roboto’,” said Allan. “It’s by a group called Styx. But it’s not spelled like ‘sticks’. It’s spelled S-T-Y-X.”
I went to his house one afternoon with my trusty Fisher-Price mono tape deck. That thing was built like a tank. Wherever it is, it probably still works beautifully. Allan had the Styx LP, Kilroy Was Here, featuring “Mr. Roboto” as the lead track. He explained the concept of the story to me: a futuristic world where rock music was outlawed. We familiarized ourselves with the characters. Kilroy, the protagonist, was played by someone named Dennis DeYoung. Jonathan Chance, the secondary hero character, was Tommy Shaw. Meanwhile the evil Dr. Righteous was portrayed by the sinister looking James Young. We scanned the album credits and figured out who sang each song. (The Panozzo brothers were Lt. Vanish and Col. Hyde, but we couldn’t figure out their roles in the story.) The LP came in a deluxe gatefold, with full lyrics and pictures from the video (which we had never seen). On the cover were the masks of two “Robotos” that reminded me of the centurions from the movie The Black Hole.
Since that time, I learned that Kilroy was a Dennis project and the other guys weren’t too happy with it. As kids in the moment, the whole thing seemed custom built for us! The music was (mostly) good (I’ll get to that) and there were robots and heroes and good vs. evil. There was a story to follow along. There was production value in the packaging. This wasn’t just stupid rock music to us. It seemed part of something much bigger. At Allan’s house, I recorded the album on my tape deck, open air style. We quietly crept upstairs while the LP side played so we wouldn’t ruin the recording with noise. When we heard the music stop, we went back down and flipped the record. Tiptoeing back upstairs to the sound of “Heavy Metal Poisoning” is a one-of-a-kind memory.
We poured over the liner notes. I observed, “It’s weird that Dr. Righteous is against heavy metal music, but he’s fighting back using a heavy metal song.” The hypocrisy was not lost on Allan and I. “Heavy Metal Poisoning” was Dr. Righteous’ message to the kids of future America.
What the devil’s goin’ on,
Why don’t you turn that music down,
You’re going deaf and that’s for sure,
But all you do is scream for more.
It was the heaviest song on the album, and at that point probably the heaviest music I ever heard in my life! And I had a good point. Dr. Righteous was clearly against heavy metal music, but here he was presenting his message in a heavy rock song!
I brought the tape home. I was so excited to have some music of my own. “I can’t wait to play my new tape for Grandma,” I said to my mom for reasons completely unknown to me.
“I’m sure she’ll be thrilled,” mom deadpanned.
Even at that age, a taped copy wasn’t good enough. I had to get the album. The pictures, the lyrics, the liner notes…it was all necessary. Mom took me to Zellers at the mall where I purchased my own copy, and my very first rock album. It sat in my collection next to my beloved John Williams soundtracks. After all, Kilroy Was Here is a soundtrack of sorts! Only this time, the movie was in our imaginations. Allan and I used to discuss what that movie would be like.
I memorized every word to “Mr. Roboto”, not to mention every “ooh” and “ahh”. I sat in the basement and wrote them out on paper. I also figured out that I didn’t like every song equally. Allan and I were pretty much on the same page as to the good/bad songs.
My list of the “good” songs, in order from best on down:
I never listened to any of the ballads. We were simply not interested. “Don’t Let It End” was nothing like the reprise version, which was essentially “Mr. Roboto” over again! In my kid-sphere, I was oblivious to the fact that in the larger world, “Don’t Let It End” was a hit. I just didn’t care. Couldn’t have told you how “Haven’t We Been Here Before” or “Just Get Through This Night” went if you paid me. For Allan and I, Kilroy Was Here just had six songs. Well, five songs and a reprise.
Sad to say, but I temporarily “outgrew” Styx. The “moment of clarity” was when I first heard Iron Maiden. I tuned into heavy metal exclusively at that point, and discarded my old music. (Which wasn’t much — just some soundtracks and a Springsteen tape.) I remember playing the Styx album during the start of the heavy metal years, and it was suddenly too soft and pop for me. I lost the record at some point, either in a move or at a garage sale. I didn’t hear Kilroy again until a friend picked up a copy for me in Toronto, on CD. I was 32.
Guess what! I don’t mind the ballads anymore. “Just Get Through This Night”, in particular, is outstanding.
To Allan I would like to say: domo arigato, for getting me into Styx!
HELLO HOPELESS – The Boathouse (Kitchener Ontario, November 30 2018) with Another Crush, Pioneer Anomaly, and Antisocial Surf Club.
With a new CD in hand, Kitchener rock band Hello Hopeless introduced the Boathouse to a fistful of new songs in a velvet glove of rock.
Playing every song from their new EP Dark Pasts, Brighter Futures plus a couple oldies and covers, the threesome kicked ass from start to finish with nary a hiccup. The band were tight, proving that their performance on CD was no fluke.
Hello Hopeless tick several boxes: 1) Great stage presence and stage-worthy rapport. 2) Strong original songs. 3) Great vocalists. 4) Musical chops. 5) A clear love of what they do. With a Toronto gig on the horizon, the band are ready for the next jump.
Standout tracks included “Hurricane”, “The Match”, and acoustic ballad “Broke”. It was the first time “Broke” was played live, and its rawness was appealing. Singer Garrett Thomson poured everything into it, and it paid off. The set was otherwise upbeat, fast and fully electric. The band played a couple covers: “Mr. Brightside” by the Killers and “She’s Out of Her Mind” by Blink 182. Remarkably, their originals were much better than their covers.
Opening acts were Another Crush (Hamilton), Pioneer Anomaly (Toronto) and Antisocial Surf Club (Kitchener). Pioneer Anomaly suffered technical issues, including a downed mike stand during the first song. Fortunately a hero emerged from the audience as Max the Axe (he’s kind of a big deal) ran to the stage to fix the microphone so the band could finish the song! Max the Axe has earned the honorific title “Max the Roadie”. Max will be playing at the Boathouse next week, December 8, for his own CD release. Antisocial Surf Club were notable for a few catchy originals and covers though clearly aimed at a younger crowd than Max and I.
If Hello Hopeless come to your town, see them. If they keep playing gigs like this and writing quality originals, you will be hearing about them one way or the other.
It has been a long hard road for Jen and I this whole year. It’s Sunday though, and that means a Sunday Chuckle, not a Sunday Mope! A few days ago, Jen finished cleaning out her mom’s house. We found some incredible stuff there. One of the books (from her dad’s collection) is over 200 years old. A few others were dated from the 1800s. Lots of cool stuff, but….
Also some not-so-cool stuffs.
In the penultimate episode of Record Store Tales (Part 319: The Musical Crimes of LeBrain), my wife made fun of me for owning one song by Nickelback. The controversial Canadian quartet appeared on the ZZ Top tribute album A Tribute From Friends, performing (of all songs) “Legs”. Quite badly! She mocked me by writing, “Three words: MIKE OWNS NICKELBACK!” [Bold and underlining are hers.]
This is what I found in her old bedroom. You can tell it’s hers by the rainbow wallpaper.
There you have it. I had a song, but you had the poster, baby. You had the poster.
Still love you most though!
GETTING MORE TALE #719: Mystery Disc
Cleaning out Jen’s mom’s house after she passed away was very emotional work. Nobody’s been living there since July. One day she got up and broke her hip. We didn’t know it yet but the cancer was in her bones. She never came home again. When we started working on the house in September, everything was more or less how she left it.
Her music collection was small with a few gems. One disc that I kept was Cat Stevens’ Icon. I had to take it for “If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out.” As told in Getting More Tale #702, that song seemed to make a connection with me when she was sick. One day we went to see her in the hospital, and she was unconscious. No longer able to communicate. That song was stuck in my head for reasons I can’t explain. I like to think she was sending me a message. Not to be sad. It would have been like her to say that to me. I get tears in my eyes thinking about her lying there dying, and that song playing on repeat in my head. I had the song played at her funeral. It just seemed like such a “mum” song, even though I have no memories of us ever listening to it together. When I found out that she actually owned that song, I got the chills again. Finding Cat Stevens made my heart swell.
We also found a number of CD-Rs that I made, but had no labels or covers. For today’s chapter I’m focusing on one specifically. I can’t figure out why I made it, or who I made it for, or what it was doing at Jen’s mom’s house!
It is a lightscribe CD, and burned into the top is the old background from my website. It’s a photo of some model guitars and guitar picks. The 15 song track listing is most bizarre and I can’t figure out what I was doing!
Track 1: Craig Fee saying “LeBraaaain”. This dates the CD to 2012 at the earliest. I liked to introduce my CDs with something amusing, so this works.
Tracks 2-4: “Whiskey in the Jar”. The first is Metallica’s studio cover from Garage Inc. The second is Thin Lizzy’s take from 1972. Last is a live Metallica version, possibly from the CD single. That’s a lot of whiskey – 15 solid minutes worth. Listening back, the Metallica live version absolutely kills their studio cut. Yeah-hah!
Track 5: Steve Earle – “Home to Houston”. This track is from Steve’s political 2004 album The Revolution Starts Now. I haven’t played that album in years and I don’t remember this song. Why it stuck out enough to put it on this mystery disc, I haven’t a clue. Good tune, but I don’t know it anymore!
Track 6: Jeff Bridges & Colin Ferrel – “Fallin’ & Flyin'” from the 2010 soundtrack Crazy Heart. Now, memories are starting to form. I can remember driving around with Jen and her mom, listening to this song in my car. Did I make this CD for her mom? If so, why the Metallica?
Track 7: Johnny Cash – “The Man Comes Around”. One of the greatest Cash songs, from the best American album in my opinion. Goosebumps, still to this day. Jen and I love Cash and had him played at our wedding.
Track 8: Me doing a song intro! The backing track sounds like Motorhead’s acoustic version of “Ace of Spades” with the main lick looped and no vocals. I made this for a past Sausagefest countdown! The track I’m introducing: “Renegade” by Styx! I mention that it was covered by Daughtry and then add sound effects of Nicko McBrain burping and farting. I have to admit it’s a pretty great (and funny) intro! It was #30 on the 2013 countdown. From that I can now assume I made this CD the same year. Which is strange because I wasn’t really making mix CDs anymore in 2013.
Track 9 is a personal favourite, “Rock An’ Roll Angels” from Whitesnake’s 1982 album Saints & Sinners. I’ve always been into rock and roll songs with boogie woogie piano. I have loved this song for three decades. Then Track 10, another Whitesnake classic: “Slow An’ Easy” from the landmark classic Slide It In. That’s another personal fave, because of the slide riff. It’s incredible and I spent many hours as a teenager playing air slide to it. Not to mention air drums! Cozy Powell was so fucking cool.
Then more slide! Track 11: The Black Crowes – “Twice as Hard”. I was clearly trying to make the CD flow. Indeed I used to spend hours shuffling track order until I had it “just right”. With all this slide business going on, I wonder if the next song is going to be some “Travelling Riverside Blues”?
Nope! A total surprise to me, Track 12 is The Tragically Hip! “50 Mission Cap” is Jen’s favourite, for reasons you’ll understand.
Bill Barilko disappeared that summer,
He was on a fishing trip.
The last goal he ever scored,
Won the Leafs the cup.
They didn’t win another till nineteen sixty two,
The year he was discovered.
I stole this from a hockey card,
I keep tucked up under.
I think the lyrics are brilliant because they tell two stories at once. First, they tell the true tale of Toronto Maple Leaf Bill Barilko, who tragically died in a plane crash in a remote part of Quebec. Nobody knew what happened to him until his body was found 11 years later. The second tale is that of a young Gord Downie who read about it on the back of a hockey card.
Track 13 is another surprise: “The Boys are Back in Town” by Bon Jovi! Don’t scoff, this is actually a really good Thin Lizzy cover from their New Jersey period. Lyrically, Jon and Phil Lynott were on similar wavelengths. This is exactly the kind of tune that Jon was writing. “Wild in the Streets” is Bon Jovi trying to re-write “The Boys are Back in Town”.
Track 14: “Big Foot” from Chickenfoot III. Gotta be one of my favourite car tunes. “Got Houses Of The Holy on the box, got it all cranked up cause, yeah! That shit rocks!” What a groove — you can’t help but stomp along. Joe Satriani has a way with a riff.
I had a guess that Track 15 was going to be all of side one of 2112. The track time was over 20 minutes, so I had an inkling it was either that or side two of Abbey Road. I’ve ended mix CDs with 20 minute epics before, and I think it works. The Beatles did it! Granted, the 2112 epic was a side one, but it still functions perfectly in the closing position. Try it yourself!
Listening to this mystery disc has been enjoyable, but my reasoning still escapes me. It’s such a bizarre mix, with the front loaded threesome of “Whiskey in the Jar”. From there it starts to make a little more sense. But how it did it end up at “mum’s” house?
My best theory is that I made it as a gift for Jen’s Uncle Rick, and it never got mailed. He lived in Texas at the time — maybe that’s why I included “Home to Houston”. Rick is also a Whitesnake fan, and a Toronto Maple Leafs fan. I’m just not sure.
How would you rate this mix CD if you were the recipient? I think I’d give it a solid: