#988: I Gotsta Get Paid

I get this alot.

“How much did Def Leppard pay you for your assistance?”

The initial reaction from a lot of people that I get is that I should be compensated monetarily for sending Def Leppard a bunch of live versions of their tracks.  Their intellectual property; songs that they wrote, performed and toured.  All I did was download them for free when they were offered, over 20 years ago.  I imagine a lot of people did.  The only thing I did differently was burn them to a CD so I could keep them forever.

It was suggested that I should have asked for $10,000.  I’ve even been told that Leppard should have let me have some copyright action so I can play the songs on my show without getting a strike.  My show didn’t exist when I sent them the tracks, and I can’t even imagine how that arrangement would work out.  (Short answer – it wouldn’t.)  But I wasn’t going to hold these tracks hostage for some kind of deal.

When I was initially contacted about the Def Leppard live rarities in my collection, I was eager to contribute.  Anything I could do for one of my favourite bands.  I just wanted to help Def Leppard make the best box set they could.  The concept of compensation never entered my mind.  But I was compensated, with a free copy of the CD Collection Vol. 2, and a big huge thank-you in the liner notes.  Additionally they credited my website so they could direct curious traffic straight to me.

Since that time, I’ve maintained contact with my label insider and have enjoyed our chats about what’s coming, what’s impossible and what we wish for.  I value that relationship and enjoy our “off the record” conversations about what’s going on behind the scenes.

I never felt entitled to compensation.  I didn’t write the songs.  I didn’t record them.  I just sent back the files that I downloaded from Def Leppard in the first place.  To see my name in that special thank-you credit was more than enough!  How many people do you know personally who were credited in a box set by a band as big as Def Leppard?  And that’s forever.  Long after I’m gone, my name will still be in there.   That is reward enough for me!

#987: The Summer Awakens

RECORD STORE TALES #987: The Summer Awakens

It’s official:  the earliest swim on record for any summer at the lake is May 13!  If you don’t believe in global warming, then I can tell you that past weekends in early May, we were snuggled up in jackets and long pants.  This year, early May was as warm as early July used to be.  What an incredible weekend.  Clear and sunny until late Saturday.  By then we were indoors waiting for the Toronto Maple Leafs to once again exit the playoffs in the first round.  But I’m jumping head of myself!

Traffic was light but the music was heavy.  Albums for the drive up:

As expected, both were awesome on the road.  There was no clear winner.  Interestingly, Jennifer liked “Roots In My Boots” by Scorpions, which I considered a bit of a throwaway.  Regardless, both albums did well on the highway and rocked us safely to the cottage in two hours.

First music on the porch:

  • Kathryn Ladano – Open

Not a new release, but since the good Doctor was next door, it felt right to serenade her with some of her best music!

From there we settled in with the first hot dogs of the year, and I began to prep for my show that night (Top 11 Star Wars movies) by watching The Phantom Menace.  10 years ago, the only way to do that would be to bring a DVD and watch it on the laptop.  If we wanted to watch a Star Wars movie 30 years ago, we needed to bring the tape and a VCR!  Everything is so easy now, but dependent on a good internet connection.  That connection enabled me to do the first cottage show of the year, and a success it was.  I experimented with some new lighting and it worked way better than last year after sundown.  A successful show — and one of the best we’ve ever done.   Certainly one of my favourites.

It’s always hard to sleep after a caffeinated show like that.  I got four or five hours, and was up and at ’em early Saturday.  It was so quiet.  Most cottagers have not opened yet — their loss!  They were not able to listen when I rocked Kiss on the front porch on Saturday.  Kiss albums this weekend included Dynasty, Kiss, Hotter Than Hell, Peter Criss, and Rock and Roll Over.

I made fish for breakfast (trout) and went to go pick up my new bass from neighbor Donna.  Her brother was Don Simmons of Helix, and this bass used to belong to him.  It is my honour to play it on the porch in his memory.  Although I use the word “play” very loosely.  I have never played bass before and can only “barely” play guitar as it is.  It took some time to get used to the size of the body.  Even the neck felt huge.  But it sounded great and really rumbled the porch.

I made chicken and steaks on the barbecue and burned up a bunch of old wood — without losing my glasses this time.  After being on my feet all day Saturday, I took it easy in the evening, missing the bright orange sunset.  I had been on my feet all day and it felt good to rest up in the evening.

We departed for home early Sunday.  Albums for the road home:

These albums, Priest especially, gave me some serious retro vibes, as if I had stepped into a time machine and was 16 again.  I had this happen numerous times last year, and I wrote about that feeling in multiple previous chapters.  It’s a very intense feeling, as if I was no longer living in the year 2022, but had stepped into 1987 again.  It felt as real as the steering wheel in my hands.  Looks like this summer will be no different.  Lots of flashbacks in store!

An excellent start to what I hope will be an amazing year.

VIDEO: May 13-15 Weekend / Max the Axe “Space Marine”

Amazing weekend at the lake once again, and you can see it all right now, to the tune of “Space Marine” by Max the Axe from Trillion Dollar Threats!  This short metallic blitz of a song is a condensed and concentrated rewrite of “Hard Drive” from their 1995 EP Bodies of Water.  It’s a fantastic tune from Max with another killer riff.

This year represents the earliest “first swim of the year” on May 13, a record.  A sign of a hot summer to come.

In this video you will see my new Fender acoustic bass.  This originally belonged to Don Simmons of Helix and I am fortunate enough to have bought it from his sister Donna.  This will provide many hours of summer entertaining at the cottage as I slowly become acquainted with this lovely instrument.  Tomorrow you’ll get the full story of the weekend in Record Store Tales #987:  The Summer Awakens.

REVIEW: Def Leppard – Rarities 4 (CD Collection Volume 3)

Part Twenty-Five of the Def Leppard Review Series

DEF LEPPARD – Rarities 4 (CD Collection Volume 2 Disc 7) (2019)

These box sets are not easy monsters to review.  It makes more sense to discuss the bonus tracks in context with the related studio albums.  Regardless, Rarities 4 deserves a little extra attention.  This is the disc that I had a little bit of personal involvement with.

Back in the years 2000-2001, before Def Leppard had an official standalone live album or box sets, the released 11 tracks worth of live material on their own website, for free.  Unreleased and sourced from the Slang and Euphoria tours, these tracks were not just valuable but essential additions to your Def Leppard collections.  Like many things that exist online only, they eventually disappeared.  If you had them, you had them.  If you didn’t, you wouldn’t.

The full 11 tracks were:  “Two Steps Behind”, “Women”, “Demolition Man”, “When Love and Hate Collide”, “Action”, “Animal”, “Bringin’ On the Heartbreak/Switch 625”, “Miss You In A Heartbeat”, “Rock! Rock! (‘Til You Drop)”, “Goodbye” and “Paper Sun”.

A few years ago, I was contacted about my Def Leppard live tracks.  I was asked if I could provide the files, for use in a future box set.  I said “Hell yeah!”  Having a thank-you inside this set is one of my proudest moments.  They didn’t use them all, but instead they even dug up some addition live tracks that had never been released before.  For the record, the tracks from the original download collection that remain physically unreleased are:  “Two Steps Behind” (San Antonio 2000), “Women” (Salem 2000), “Action” (London 1999), “Animal” (Nashville), and “Rock! Rock! (‘Til You Drop)” (Cardiff 2000).  Instead for this they focused on special songs that were a little harder to find live versions of.

It’s really cool for something that once only existed as a file on your hard drive, to now sit as an officially pressed black vinyl record.  Hearing the tracks in a way never before.

The live tracks are organized in batches.  The first grouping comes from Montreal on the Slang tour in 1996.  First is the epic medley of “Bringing On the Heartbreak” and the rare “Switch 625”.  These are awesome versions.  They have a raw, unpolished sound yet the band still nail all the vocals and guitar thrills.  “Switch 625” is always a welcome track for its heaviness.  This version is extra chunky.  “Ladies and gentlemen, the best drummer in the world, Mr. Rick Allen!”

Then another rarity:  the ballad “Miss You In A Heartbeat” acoustic with “Phillippe” Collen on lead vocals, but not before some shenanigans to the tune of “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door”:

“Mama take this gin from me,
I can’t drink it anymore,
Where’s the sink, I gotta pee,
Looks like I’m checking into Betty Ford…”

It’s a delight to finally be able to share this version I’ve had for years with the world!

“Miss You In A Heartbeat” is always best in its fully electric version, but acoustically with Phil on vocals, it’s something special.  Truly it sounds great live, stripped and with Phil’s rasp.

Def Leppard must have found the original tapes for this Montreal gig, because I didn’t supply them with “Work It Out” or “Deliver Me”, two rarely heard bangers from Slang.  “Work It Out” was a single, a stuttery 90s construction that explored new territory for the British band.  They had come a long way from their New Wave of British Heavy Metal roots and were still writing new kinds of songs.  “Work It Out” has interesting guitars happening live, very different from the usual, but still Def Leppard.  “Deliver Me” is dark, heavy and maybe not idea for a Def Leppard concert, hence its rarity.  It’s cool to hear Leppard apply their vocal talents live to a song like this.  There are hooks but not happy bouncy ones.  This is more serious rocking.

This wraps up the live material from Montreal.  The CD detours into some interesting studio B-sides before we return to live songs later on.

“When Saturday Comes” doesn’t feature every member of Def Leppard – just Joe, Phil and Sav, and written by Joe.  This song and the instrumental “Jimmy’s Theme” are from the CD singles for “All I Want Is Everything” and a film called When Saturday Comes.  As such, they’re a little different.  Even it’s from the Slang era, “When Saturday Comes” has the bright anthemic singalong quality of a movie theme song.  “When Saturday comes, nothin’ else matters to me!”  Sounds like the good-time Leppard we remember regardless of the year.

“Jimmy’s Theme” on the other hand is a laid-back instrumental with a slightly bluesy feel.

Other B-sides from the “All I Want Is Everything” singles show up on a later box set, so fear not if you’re worried they left some out.  Moving on to the Euphoria era, there’s a sudden sonic shift as the band returned to a polished production sound.  “Burnout” (from one of the “Goodbye” CD singles) immediately sounds like the Leppard of Adrenalize.  Whether that’s your preference or not, it’s a heavy tune that probably could have served a useful purpose in toughening up the Euphoria album.  Some great guitar trickery on this one, and the return of the Leppard hook machine.  “Immortal” (also from the “Goodbye” single) is more upbeat, but does have a certain B-side quality.  Not bad, but something about it says “B-side”.

The singles for “Promises” had a couple cool B-sides as well.  “Worlds Collide” has to be one of the heaviest Leppard songs to date.  A solid pounder with a psychedelic bent, “Worlds Collide” proves Leppard hadn’t lost it.  Even in the Euphoria era, which felt like a grasp at past glories, there’s cool stuff like this that rocks without repeating history.

Finally there is “I Am Your Child”, the original Japanese bonus track from Euphoria.  It would have been nice to have it restored to the end of that album, because it really does make a fine coda.  “I Am Your Child” is a truly great Leppard tune with a variety of light and dark parts, and a super chorus.

Missing B-side from the “Promises” single is the “Album Snippets” featuring a three minute medley of some of the album tracks.  Not really necessary even for completists, but if you want it out you’ll have to buy the original single.  The cover tune “Who Do You Love” from the “Goodbye” single will turn up on a future box set.

Back to my live tracks to close the set:  “Demolition Man” from Denver in 1999 is so fast it sounds like they can barely keep up!  A real rarity that doesn’t get live action anymore.  Definitely a valuable inclusion, and a great listen due to the sheer energy of it.

Three tracks from Tokyo in 1999 end this disc.  “When Love and Hate Collide” has been heard a number of times in this box set, but this is the first fully electric live version in The CD Collection Volume 2.  Joe’s voice has a touch of rasp which gives it a little more edge.  Pretty great live version, justifying its inclusion over some of the other tracks.  Finally it’s two rare Euphoria tracks:  the epic “Paper Sun” and apt disc closer “Goodbye”.  “Paper Sun” just lays waste to the land, as one of the tracks that really has serious weight.  “Goodbye”, being a stock ballad, doesn’t have as much impact, but a live rarity it remains.

This brings us to the end of the The CD Collection Volume 2, the biggest most epic release I’ve ever had my name in.  To have that honour is so cool, something I will always treasure.  I don’t think Leppard needed my help with the Montreal tracks after all, but Denver and Tokyo sound like mine.  I hope one day they find reason to release the rest of the 11 download-only live songs.  Perhaps they’ll find the full tapes for Cardiff, Salem, San Antonio, London and Nashville.  Perhaps not.  Leppard are far from done issuing rarities.

The CD Collection Volume 2 is absolutely a valuable purchase for any Leppard fan looking to add the B-sides and EPs to their collections.  It’s not 100% complete, but it does cover most of the bases.  You’ll still want to track down a deluxe edition of Slang, and perhaps some CD singles if you have to have things like all the edit versions.  You may have noticed that things like cover versions haven’t popped up too much; you’ll understand why when we get to The CD Collection Volume 3.

4/5 stars

Next though, Joe Elliott and Phil Collen blow off some steam in their Bowie cover band / Mick Ronson tribute, The Cybernauts.  We’ll take a close look at two discs:  Cybernauts Live and The Further Adventures of the Cybernauts before the Leppard story continues!


  1. The Early Years Disc One – On Through the Night 
  2. The Early Years Disc Two – High N’ Dry
  3. The Early Years Disc Three – When The Walls Came Tumbling Down: Live at the New Theater Oxford – 1980
  4. The Early Years Disc Four – Too Many Jitterbugs – EP, singles & unreleased
  5. The Early Years Disc 5 – Raw – Early BBC Recordings 
  6. The Early Years 79-81 (Summary)
  7. Pyromania
  8. Pyromania Live – L.A. Forum, 11 September 1983
  9. Hysteria
  10. Soundtrack From the Video Historia – Record Store Tales
  11. In The Round In Your Face DVD
  12. “Let’s Get Rocked” – The Wait for Adrenalize – Record Store Tales
  13. Adrenalize
  14. Live at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert
  15. Retro-Active
  16. Visualize
  17. Vault: Def Leppard’s Greatest Hits / Limited Edition Live CD
  18. Video Archive
  19. “Slang” CD single
  20. Slang
  21. I Got A Bad Feeling About This: Euphoria – Record Store Tales
  22. Euphoria
  23. Rarities 2
  24. Rarities 3


26. Cybernauts – Live

“You Got the Best of Me” by Journey on the Sunday Song Spotlight

Journey is back!  Their new album Freedom will be out this summer (July 8) and one of the new tunes, “You Got the Best of Me”, is pure hot summer fun.  Built for the car, so hit the highway with the windows down.

It’s unclear who played on everything as yet.  Narada Michael Walden played some drums, as did Deen Castronovo.  There are two keyboard players in Journey now (Jason Derlatka and Jonathan Cain), and though Randy Jackson played bass on the album, he’s no longer in the band.  We know that Neal Schon sounds Halen-wailin’ on that stuttery main riff.  Arnel Pineda is strong as ever, the longest-lasting Journey singer ever, now surpassing Steve Perry himself in tenure.

“You Got the Best of Me” isn’t overly heavy, but is the kind of hard rocker that the band is known for.  The keyboard accents soften it up a bit, and you can clearly hear two keyboard parts simultaneously.  The star of the song is really Arnel Pineda, who delivers the endless hooks.

Revenge of the Lists: All 11 Star Wars films discussed in detail!

Did Harrison really cause Erik and Rob to walk off the show?  Did Rob drop two “F-bombs”?  Did Harrison actually smile in the featured image?  Was this one of our best shows ever?

“It’s true.  All of it.”

Our esteemed panel of Jedi masters tonight were:

  • Erik Woods – movie and soundtrack expert
  • Robert Daniels – movie and soundtrack expert
  • Harrison Kopp – young fella who grew up on prequels and Clone Wars
  • LeBrain – old fart

Opinions veered wildly on the 11 Star Wars films we examined in great detail tonight.  While you may never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy, I also will contend you will not find a more passionate Star Wars discussion than the one we had this week.

Truly one of our best shows, and we barely scratched the surface of these films.  Perhaps a deeper dive is in order for the future.


Tonight! May the Rankings Be With Us: All 11 Star Wars films rated by our panel of experts!

The LeBrain Train: 2000 Words or More with Mike Ladano and Friends

Episode 108 – All the Star Wars films, ranked!


This is a show that has been in the works a long time.  A long time.  I understand you’re Star Wars fans yourselves!  Then you will love this show we have lined up for you tonight.

The Nigel Tugnel Top Ten list format — a top 11 — is perfect for cases like this.  Tonight our panel of experts (top men!) will rank all 11 films (9 Saga movies plus 2 spinoffs).  This is sure to get hairy (Wookiee style) due to the diversity of the panel:

  • Erik Woods – movie and soundtrack expert
  • Robert Daniels – movie and soundtrack expert
  • Harrison Kopp – young fella who grew up on prequels and Clone Wars
  • LeBrain – old fart

Note:  We are only counting the 11 live action theatrical films, not any made-for-video films, or the animated Clone Wars (which did have a brief theatrical run).  Oh sure, Harrison might try to throw a curve ball but the rules are clear.

At the end of the night, will we have consensus?  I sure hope not!  What I do expect is plenty of lively conversation with maybe a little trash-talk.

Friday May 13, 7:00 PM E.S.T.  on YouTubeFacebook and also Facebook!

VHS Archives #131: Ugly Kid Joe…cancelled again?

If anything, this Ugly Kid Joe bumper for Start Me Up is just a reminder of a time when certain words were OK on national television!

The Adventures of Tee Bone Man – Chapter Four: Tee Bone Man And The Rink Of… Doom? (By Aaron KMA)


by Aaron

Tee Bone Man was exhausted. Going to hell will do that to a guy. Our masked hero was collapsed on a chaise lounge of rock in the basement of Deke’s Palace, drinking fine scotch with the ever-amazing hero Superdekes, his trusty partner in (repeatedly) saving the world.

Superdekes was saying something wise and interesting about Eddie Van Halen’s tapping technique on the guitar, and Tee Bone Man was trying desperately to pay attention, but he was falling asleep. Being Canadian, he naturally felt bad about being rude, but unconsciousness was very quickly gripping him despite his best intentions. What was going on? And then….

Where was he? This wasn’t Deke’s Palace. Superdekes wasn’t there. This didn’t even look like Earth… It was a vast, darkened room with a high ceiling, an echo that was only exacerbated by the cement floor. As Tee Bone Man’s eyes adjusted to the darkness of his surroundings, though, he saw a score clock, hanging from the ceiling of the room. He saw white boards with yellow dashers and thick glass around the top, with ads on them… he was standing at the hash marks of a hockey rink. In summer, clearly, because the floor was cement rather than ice.

Even though he knew he was dreaming, in that weird dream logic he also knew that this experience was completely real and his heightened super senses put his guard up immediately. His exhaustion vanished as his eyes darted around and his ears strained to pick up any noise of danger in the empty space.

Suddenly the score clock lit up, and loud music began blaring through the rink. The message on the board read Welcome To Your Doom, Tee Bone Man!, and the timer on the clock started counting down from ten minutes. Moving to the center ice circle, Tee Bone Man walked around the clock from underneath, but saw nothing of danger, no bomb, no guns, no evil henchmen. Not even a single demon to be found.  Then he heard laughter echoing around the massive space, and saw a light come on in the announcer booth above the stands at center ice. A silhouetted figure stood there, arms wide, laughing.

The music stopped and a gravelly voice came over the PA, still laughing, saying “Welcome to your demise, Tee Bone Man. You have been brought here to be decimated once and for all. There is no escape. Your time is running out, now less than nine minutes. Your end will do the world a favour!”

Facing the dark figure, Tee Bone Man struck the most awesome super hero pose ever, and said loudly “Who are you? Why are you doing this? Stop this madness at once!” The voice boomed overhead, “You know who I am, you love to hate me. I am a hero myself, but the heel of every situation. I am a friend, but also always the enemy. It is time for me to be the hero, and to do that I must end you to make way. Good bye, Tee Bone Man.” And with that the light in the announcer booth went dark, leaving Tee Bone Man alone at center ice with an inexorably ticking clock overhead.

His eyes having fully adjusted to the dark, Tee Bone Man made a quick survey of his surroundings. Nothing impeded him from free movement on the floor of the rink, so he headed towards the zamboni gate but found it locked. Quickly crossing the floor to the far side again, he headed to the team benches, hopped the boards, then climbed the shorter glass into the bleachers. Taking the stairs three at a time, he made his way up into the concourse. All the concessions were closed. Damn. A pretzel at the end of everything would’ve been nice, would’ve helped him think.

Running around the concourse to the announcer booth, Tee Bone Man was able to see the clock ticking down, now under eight minutes. As he ran, he thought about this situation. He knew it was a dream but it felt so real. Who was the figure in the announcer booth? What would he find when he got there? Rounding the last corner of the walkway, the announcer booth came into view. Tee Bone Man slowed up and started a cautious approach. No one was visible. He ducked down a few rows into the stands and approached the booth from underneath. Less than seven minutes now as he crouched and watched for any sign of movement, any booby traps or henchmen. There was nothing.

It seemed he was alone in the building. Had the figure already left? And if so, why did bad guys do this? Why construct some elaborate death trap and then leave a full ten minutes for the good guy to figure it out. And why leave, so there’s no way of confirming you’d been successful? He supposed that this was why the bad guys were always caught: they weren’t necessarily always the brightest.

Seeing no movement, he crept forward as the clock ticked past six minutes. Soon he was directly underneath the announcer booth. He carefully climbed the steps and, constantly checking his surroundings for booby traps and attack, he approached the booth. The door was locked. But now he heard a faint struggling sound behind the door. Looking around, he saw the handle of an old Sherwood hockey stick, solid wood and missing its blade, leaning against the wall. Grabbing it, with now five minutes left on the clock, he smashed the door knob with one mighty, well-aimed swing of the stick, surely a five minute major penalty so hefty was that swing. The door swung open slowly, revealing the gloomy interior of the booth.  The struggling sound got louder.

Rushing into the room, expecting a fight with the mysterious figure, Tee Bone found only a different figure, tied up, lying on the floor. Flicking on the light switch, he saw Superdekes bound and gagged, lying at his feet. Quickly undoing the bindings, our two heroes got caught up. “Thanks, Tee Bone, that was a close one.” Quickly scanning his pal for injury, Tee Bone Man asked him “What happened? Who tied you up? Why are you here? Does this feel like a dream to you too?” Rubbing his wrists to return circulation after being bound, Superdekes said “I don’t know who is doing this. I was drinking scotch and then woke up here, tied, in this dark room. I’m very glad you found me. As for being a dream, yeah, it all feels unreal somehow.” Tee Bone Man recapped his own story so far, and then the two heroes talked about next moves. There was now three and a half minutes left on the clock. They left the booth to search for clues.

With two better able to cover ground than one, they pair quickly searched the main areas of the concourse and found nothing of danger. With less than two minutes on the clock, they found themselves near the exit to the rear parking lot. Behind them was the door to the dressing rooms. “C’mon, Superdekes, we need to check here as well.” Our intrepid heroes, well aware that time was running out, crept through the door and down the hall to the team dressing room. Slowly pushing open the dressing room door, they found the light on but no one in view. Relaxing slightly, Superdekes was just turning to Tee Bone Man to say this was a dead end when wham-o, he was crosschecked from behind! Tee Bone Man swung around to face the assailant and saw a short, strong man in a black hood standing over Superdekes!

“Tee Bone Man, you found me! Your time is almost up!” Looking at a watch on his wrist the figure laughed and said “Less than a minute now!” Moving faster than he’d ever moved, Tee Bone Man sprang forward, swinging the Sherwood stick handle he’d never set down, catching the villain flatfooted with a mighty blow to the chest, sending him to the floor. Superdekes was getting up, stretching out his sore back and looking for revenge as Tee Bone Man stood over the figure. Kneeling on their assailant’s chest, Tee Bone Man snatched the black hood off the figure’s head to reveal… Brad Marchand! The evil Bruins forward, notorious rat, shit disturber and face licker, now holding up his hands in self-defense, crying now that it was all a joke and he’d meant no harm. Grabbing Marchand’s wrist, Tee Bone Man saw on the watch that the time had elapsed to zero but there’d been no explosion, no consequence at all.

Grabbing Marchand by the front of his collar and yanking hard, Tee Bone Man hauled Marchand up and, with fire in his eyes that was a look that could kill if there ever was one, shouted “What happened here? The clock’s run out, what happened? Speak, you fiend!” Marchand looked pained and fearful, repeating “Nothing! Nothing! It’s never anything! I was just trying to have some fun…” Quickly binding Marchand’s hands, our dynamic duo turned around to see police officers filling the hallway and bursting into the room. The day was saved. Marchand was taken away to serve his time, and our heroes were free to go home to try to make sense of it all.


Tee Bone Man started awake on the chaise lounge in Deke’s Palace. There was an empty bottle of scotch on the table, and Superdekes was just coming around as well. “Man, I had the weirdest dream, just now,” said Tee Bone Man. “You were in it, and we were in the Owen Sound rink, and…” Superdekes nodded and said “I know, I was there. I remember it all too.” They looked at each other a moment. “But that was a dream, so how…” Superdekes shook his head. “I dunno, brother, but I’m nursing a pretty good headache at the moment, and the one thing that helps with that is the good ol’ hockey game, the best game you can name…” And with that he snapped on the TV and there were the Toronto Maple Leafs facing off against the Boston Bruins! And the announcer was just saying, as they tuned in, “…and the Bruins will be without their star forward Brad Marchand tonight, out with a concussion sustained in the Bruins last game against the Rangers…”

Tee Bone Man and Superdekes started laughing, and settled in to watch the game. Tee Bone Man cracked a new bottle of scotch and Superdekes passed Tee Bone Man a pretzel.

REVIEW: Styx – The Same Stardust (2021 RSD EP)

STYX – The Same Stardust (2021 RSD EP)

Anecdote:  I wasn’t able to get this Styx EP with seven exclusive tracks on Record Store Day, so I knew I would have to pay the “late tax”.  I was surprised that pretty much every copy for sale on Discogs was coming from Russia.  Given the current situation I didn’t want to risk having a record coming in from Russia.  I found one from somewhere else (Estonia perhaps) and bit the bullet and ordered.  Two days later I got an email saying, “We are relocating to Russia!  We will mail your record from there!”  I almost asked to cancel but decided to be patient, and it has finally arrived.  In perfect shape.  Whew.

To accompany their excellent new album Crash of the Crown, Styx released an EP with two exclusive studio bonus tracks, and five live.  Not bad value for an EP when all of them are previously unreleased.  The record is on beautiful, heavy transparent blue vinyl, is low on surface noise, and just sounds wonderful!

The title track “The Same Stardust” opens, and it’s a theme we often hear in science:  we are all, every one of us, made of the same matter from a star that exploded billions of years ago.  It’s a unifying theme, but not a wimpy song.  A crescendo of drums leads us to an upbeat rocker with lead vocals by Lawrence Gowan.  There’s a great little riff after the chorus, and Gowan’s lead vocal recalls the Beatles.  “Walk away from hate!” he sings, reflecting the sentiments of the Fab Four.  Tommy Shaw sings the powerful bridge and then rips into a melodically cool solo.  Easily of album, or single quality.

The second exclusive studio song is called “Age of Entropia” and it is best described as progressive like Styx of old.  Tommy sings this number with a gentle acoustic opening.  It builds into a more robust construction in time, really sounding like only one band:  Styx.  Good song but less instant.

Side two contains the live material, and the side opener is a track as desirable as the unreleased studio songs, if not more: a new live version of “Mr. Roboto” from 2020!  This often shunned hit has finally been recorded again in a live setting, now with Gowan on vocals.  It’s been tuned down a bit, but it still thrills.  As soon you hear that trademark keyboard opening, you can’t help but smile.  Especially knowing how rarely it gets played live.  We all miss Dennis DeYoung but it is clear that Tommy Shaw doesn’t really want to hear about him.  Gowan does an admirable job, as do all the Styx vocalists, as there is a lot going on.  He even adds some of his own flare.  There’s a slightly harder edge on this “Mr. Roboto” and that’s just fine.

Another treat, at least to those in the know, is “Radio Silence” from the excellent album The Mission.  One of the best tunes from that sci-fi concept album indeed, and the first live release of any song from it.  So that’s special, even if Crash of the Crown may very well have topped The Mission.  That’s subjective…but possible.

Classics follow, dominated by Tommy Shaw tuneage.  “Man in the Wilderness” has the same vibe as the newer material, cut from the same cloth.  The heavy solo section is jaw-droppingly cool with wicked wah-wah effects.  James Young gets the spotlight on his heavy hitting “Miss America”.  Always a welcome listen, his unique vocal stylings are necessary for the overall Styx sound.  And that riff!  Speaking of riffs, Tommy closes the disc with the legendary “Renegade”.  Still classic, still awesome, still hard to resist the urge to shake it!  And though it does sound tuned down, Tommy’s voice has an incredible timeless youth.

The Same Stardust is a damn near essential add-on to your Crash of the Crown album.  It would have made an awesome bonus disc to a deluxe version of…oh, man.  After what I paid for this, if they put The Same Stardust on a future deluxe edition of Crash of the Crown, I’ll be pissed!

4.5/5 stars