Richie Sambora, Bret Michaels, Robin McAuley and more! The stars rock Kitchener (11/17/2017)

Boppin heard a rumour that Bon Jovi was coming to town. Then an anonymous source informed us that a super-secret private concert was taking place Friday night right here in Kitchener Ontario.  The list of talent:

Bon Jovi’s Richie Sambora, Foreigner’s Lou Gramm and Stephanie Calvert of Starship.
Backed by an all-star cast of legendary rockers and potential surprise guest performers:
Howard Leese
-Guitar- Heart, Bad Company, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
Hugh Mc Donald
– Bass- Bon Jovi
Doug Aldrich
– Guitar- Whitesnake, Dead Daisies, Dio
Jay Schellen
– Drums- Asia, Yes
Michael Ross
– Keys- Lita Ford Band, Missing Persons
Robin McAuley
– Vocals- MSG/Survivor
Andrew Freeman
– Vocals- Offspring, Last in Line
Paul Shortino
– Vocals- Rough Cutt, Quiet Riot
Mark Boals
– Vocals- Yngwie Malsteen, Dokken

And then our sources tell us that Bret Michaels showed up!

Richie played guitar, but also sang lead vocals without one.  According to our source:

“He did both. He was out for the middle bit of the show. He did two Bon Jovi songs, “Dead or Alive” and “Livin’ on a Prayer” and then a super extended (self serving if I’m honest) rendition of “Respect Yourself”. General consensus was that he was the low point of the night!! Even his back up singers, Robin McAuley, Mark Boals, Paul Shortino and Stephanie Calvert looked confused by the end. The night was amazing. So much energy and so much sound.”

Our source also enjoyed Robin McAuley.  “He was awesome. ”

Enjoy these photos!  Thanks to Krista Ward, our anonymous source!

 

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RIP Malcolm Young (1953-2017)

Beloved brother of Angus and the recently departed George, Malcolm Young has passed away at age 64.  Malcolm is, of course, best known as AC/DC’s founder.  This is devastating news to fans of the band, even though Malcolm was suffering from dementia for several years.

Rest in peace, Mal.

REVIEW: Iron Maiden – The Book of Souls: Live Chapter (2017)

IRON MAIDEN – The Book of Souls: Live Chapter (2017 Universal)

Not many bands can get away with releasing so many live albums so late in their career.  Iron Maiden can.  They can for three main reasons:

1: They still kick enormous amounts of ass.
2: Their setlist changes tour after tour and there will always be songs you won’t get to hear again.
3: See #1.

It doesn’t hurt that their new albums are as acclaimed as their old. Ever since Maiden’s 1999 reunion with Bruce Dickinson and Adrian Smith, we have been treated to an abnormally solid stream of brilliant records. Deal with the devil, perhaps? Faustian bargain #666?

The atmospheric and shadowy intro to “If Eternity Should Fail” is a perfect way to begin an Iron Maiden concert.  This track is magnificent.  It also serves as a dramatic way to open what is sure to be the greatest live experience on Earth. “Scream for me, Sydney!” yells Bruce to rile up the crowd. Yes, The Book of Souls: Live Chapter is taken from a number of different shows, which is a format Maiden have succeeded with before.

Another thing Maiden do successfully is top-load their live set with new songs.  The first two songs here are the same two as The Book of Souls itself.  Single “Speed of Light” really kicks up the excitement level.  To go from the epic drama of the opener to the taut single immediately causes an energy surge.  From there, we travel back to 1981 with “Wrathchild”.  It’s like a time machine to the London stages that young Maiden once trod upon.  Bruce’s scream is unholy.

Jump cut to Canada and “Children of the Damned”.  Bruce speaks French for the raving Montreal crowd, a nice touch of respect for the province of Quebec.  Maiden never sagged in popularity there.  In Quebec, Maiden’s 1995 album The X Factor (with lead singer Blaze Bayley) went Top 10.  Back to new material, “Death or Glory” is another energetic shorty.   The triple guitar solo slays.   Then it goes to epic, “The Red and the Black”, 13 minutes and the longest track on the album.  Riff overload!  Unabated, we launch into “The Trooper” and “Powerslave”, both old classics that remain as amped up as they were in the 80s.  It is pure joy to listen.  (Only qualm: backing vocals on “Powerslave” sound like tape.)

A pair of top-notch new songs, “The Great Unknown” and “The Book of Souls” kick off the second CD.  These are not short tracks.  In a way this is the “meat” of the set.  It is a run of 17 combined minutes of epic Maiden, and it’s a lot to swallow.  Savour every bite; this is prime stuff.  And will they ever be played live again?  Who can say?

You know the show is drawing to a close when you hear the opening chords to “Fear of the Dark”.  This favourite has been in the set since 1992.  It’s the crowd’s chance to really sing along and be a part of it.  More favourites follow:  “Iron Maiden” and “The Number of the Beast”.  (Absent is “Run to the Hills” which is on plenty of other live Maiden albums of recent vintage.)  “Blood Brothers” from the reunion album Brave New World seems oddly placed in the second-to-last slot.  The crowd at Download festival are thrilled to sing along.  On CD, you can hear Steve on backing vocals clearly, and appreciate how he and Bruce complement each other.  Then finally, it’s a terrific “Wasted Years” from underdog favourite Somewhere in Time.

The mix here is just dandy.  There are variances in sound from track to track and city to city, but these are minor and only natural.  You can clearly pick apart the instruments in the stereo field, and it’s pure delight to do so.  Once again, Iron Maiden have released a quality product.  You cannot go wrong by investing in any version of The Book of Souls: Live Chapter.

4.5/5 stars;

REVIEW: George Carlin – What Am I Doing in New Jersey? (1988)

GEORGE CARLIN – What Am I Doing in New Jersey? (1988 Atlantic)

Why do we still look to the wisdom of George Carlin today in memes and videos?  Because his comedy was timeless.  What worked in 1988 is still topical in 2017.  On the government, Carlin blasts: “They’re against street crime, unless the street is Wall Street!”  Still true, just change the names.  Listen and you might even learn something, but you’ll be too busy laughing to realise it.

It’s actually incredible how applicable this 30 year old comedy show is.  Freedom of choice, freedom of speech, government telling you what you can and can’t hear.  I don’t think George Carlin would think much of the year 2017.  What is most appealing about George Carlin’s comedy is simply how he observes the absurdities of life.  If he makes you uncomfortable, that’s too bad, because the rest of us are laughing.

It’s not all topical observations.  Sometimes it’s helpful advice.  “Here’s one to try.  Go in to a gift shop, and ask for your gift.”  You’ll also enjoy his list of people he could do without.  “A proctologist with poor depth perception.”   True, true.  “Anyone who mentions Jesus more than 300 times in a two minute conversation.”  Yes, yes.  “A brain surgeon with ‘born to lose’ tattooed on his hands.”  Dear God yes.  And…”couples whose children’s names all start with the same initial.”  Say no more, my sides hurt!

The last 20 minutes of the album is dedicated to “More Stuff About Cars and Driving”.  From this, I gather there are many toll roads in the state of New Jersey.  Carlin goes after bumper stickers too.  Imagine what he’d think of today’s window sticker families!

Not for everybody, but possibly just what you need.

3.5/5 stars

REVIEW: I Mother Earth – Scenery and Fish (1996)

I MOTHER EARTH – Scenery and Fish (1996 EMI)

Some albums that mean everything to some, can mean nothing to others.  Take a look at Scenery and Fish.

I Mother Earth’s second album gets a slew of 4 and 5 star ratings on the Canadian Amazon.  Yet I don’t get it and never have.  I was on the I Mother Earth train very early, before their first album came out.  I loved the modern heaviness of the band.  With the tribal and funk influences seeping through, I Mother Earth put out a seriously impressive debut album:  a Canadian classic.  As any band should, they mixed it up a bit on the second album.

In early 1996 I received a promo CD for the first single from the second album, “One More Astronaut”, with the album version and a 4:35 edit.  It didn’t seem too different, maybe just a bit more concise than some of the first album’s longer jams.  This isn’t indicative of the album in general, which is a wild ride of different styles.

The exotic percussion (by Luis Conte and Daniel Mansilla) is still intact, melded with the funk bass, but the overall sound is very different.  Paul Northfield’s production is cleaner and slicker than Mike Clink’s on the first LP.  He still enables to band to exercise their instruments unfettered, but perhaps with a more radio friendly backing.

Although I’ve tried over and over again through the past two decades to let Scenery and Fish “click”, it just won’t.  Other fans certainly have their favourite tracks:  “Like a Girl”, “Raspberry”, “Used to be Alright”, “Another Sunday”.  These are indeed some of the best tracks on the album, yet I struggled to remember how they go.  “Another Sunday”, for example has an incredible blast of hooks for a chorus, but no memorable verses.  Maybe this album is too thick with musical ideas and passages for the average mortal.

But that’s just me.  You might think I’m nuts.  There are those who think I Mother Earth can do no wrong, but fans in general love Scenery and Fish, while I simply don’t get it.  I’ll always enjoy “One More Astronaut” and “Like a Girl”, which by the way features a friend of theirs named Alex from some band called Rush.

2/5 stars

 

REVIEW: Blue Rodeo – 1000 Arms (2016)

BLUE RODEO – 1000 Arms (2016 Warner)

It’s hard keeping up with Blue Rodeo! They’re always working, either as a band or on their own projects. They’ve released new albums consistently without gaps. That’s 15 studio albums (one of them a double) spanning 30 years. Countless amazing songs…but mathematically their growth have kept me from growing with their new music as much as the old. There are only so many hours in a day, and days in a week, and it’s hard to imagine the day that 1000 Arms will surpass Five Days in July for number of spins.  It’s inevitable that when listening to newer Blue Rodeo music, it doesn’t feel as close to you as the early stuff.

Blue Rodeo maintain their knack for incredible songs and playing on 1000 Arms.  Greg Keelor conjures up the same old, not-quite-broken spirits as before.  “Nothing I ever do is good for you, will I ever realize?  You’re never satisfied.”  Biting lyrics, chiming mandolin and perfect Cuddy/Keelor harmonies combine to make the opener “Hard to Remember” a future classic.  Jim Cuddy takes the wheel next on an upbeat number called “I Can’t Hide My Feelings Anymore”.  When has Jim ever hid his feelings?  Not the point — another great tune.

The disc is loaded with great tunes.  “Jimmy Fall Down” (vocals: Keelor) maintains the bright, upbeat direction.  Things don’t slow down until track 4, “Long Hard Life”.  It’s quieter but no less enjoyable.  It’s only a temporary reprieve, as “Rabbit’s Foot” brings a classic guitar vibe.  The title track is old style Cuddy storytelling.  Greg’s penchant for slow and dramatic music is carried on by “Dust to Gold”.  There is even sly humour on “Superstar”, something you don’t always get with a Blue Rodeo album.  “Start a business, organics door to door, ’cause nobody buys records here anymore.”

We could go on and continue to describe this batch of new tunes, but rest assured there are no duds.  (Do stay tuned for a heavy exotic turn on closing track “The Flame”.)  I hope that, over time, these songs become as much a part of me as the old tunes.  There’s little difference in terms of quality, and the musicianship is always tops.  Colin Cripps would be responsible for many of the tasteful guitar solos, but 1000 Arms is the last Blue Rodeo album to feature mandolin player (and Kitchener, Ontario resident) Bob Egan.  (That’s why he’s front and center of the band photo.)  Bob departed after making this one, and he went out in great style.

4/5 stars

#613: Writer’s Block

GETTING MORE TALE #613: Writer’s Block

Writer’s block?  I’ve got it.  Can’t tell?  That’s because I have built up a backlog of posts ready to fill the gap when needed.  It’s called planning ahead.  Being prepared for the inevitable.  Writer’s block strikes when it wants to.

Staring at giant piles of CDs…over 3000 of them aching to be listened to, reviewed, discussed, and appreciated.

“I can’t find anything I wanna listen to.”

Collecting music for over 30 years.  Selling it to the public for 12.  Managing a Record Store for 10.

“I can’t think of any good stories to talk about.”

Fuck you, writer’s block!  Can’t be inspired to write about anything?  Then I’ll write about you, writer’s block!  Take that, you asshole.

There are ways around just about anything – especially when the only thing stopping you is you.

It’s absolutely incredible that I can be sitting here with over 3000 of my favourite pieces of music and can’t be arsed to put two thoughts together.  What’s the deal?  Well, I’m distracted.  Distracted by real life, by loved ones who are more important than words, and by sheer exhaustion.

Take a break?  I am on a break!  See above note about backlog and try to keep up!

Writing is one of my great joys.  Music is another.  Combine the two together and I have the most enjoyable, rewarding creative endeavour.  It’s work, but it doesn’t pay very well, so in reality it’s pleasure.

It’s a pain in the ass when my brain refuses to be inspired.  That’s life.  It could get worse before it gets better.  Sometimes, the heart lies elsewhere.  Family comes first, as it should.  Life happens whether you like it or not.

I love putting an article or review together.  The process of polishing and finishing one is actually even more enjoyable than the writing.  Coming up with accompanying photos, replacing old tired words with better ones – it’s all fun and invigorating.  Seeing the finished published product and reading the comments are all things that bring me great happiness.

Even though I currently “can’t find anything to listen to,” I have no intention of stopping.  I’ve slowed down in the past – 2016 had fewer posts than 2017 – but this is far too much fun.

Fuck you, writer’s block.  Writing about music isn’t a chore, it’s just the opposite.  I won’t let you stop me.

 


Bon Jovi wrote “While My Guitar Lies Bleeding in My Arms” about writer’s block

REVIEW: Max Webster – Live Magnetic Air (1979)

MAX WEBSTER – Live Magnetic Air (originally 1979, 2017 Anthem remaster)

So you’re the canker banker?  They’re just Max Webster, here to thin the thickness of your skin.

Any good 70s act worth their salt had to have a solid live album. Max released theirs after four studio albums, a good basis for a fulfilling concert set. The 10 songs (plus one reggae jam) only begin to scratch the surface of their bizarre and rocking history, but a good 10 songs they are.

Want some rockers? Tap into “America’s Veins”. 70s radio rock? Take a lift up into the “Paradise Skies”.  Looking for some progressive rock?  You’ll find it “In Context of the Moon”.  The adventurous and quirky arrangements of some tunes are a direct contrast to the catchiness of others.  “Gravity” blends quirky and catchy into one successful gestalt.  “Charmonium” both challenges and pleases the ears at once.  Whether you’re soaring on “Night Flights” or biting into “Lip Service”, there is no filler on Live Magnetic Air.

One expects great playing on any Max Webster platter. Live Magnetic Air has plenty of that gonzo Kim Mitchell guitar work that he is known for.  Terry Watkinson’s keys explore different tones within single songs, never getting boring.  Yet it’s Gary McCracken’s drum work that seems to really shine, especially on the 2017 remaster from The Party boxed set.

It is difficult to throw too much praise at Max Webster, because surely they deserve it.  They were not as famous as Rush and not as worshipped as Zappa.  But those are the kind of names thrown about when speaking of Max Webster.  Each Max album is loaded with amazing material, but if you were looking to start with something, why not make it Live Magnetic Air?  The party atmosphere and ace selection of songs are the basic ingredients of a classic live album.  Now that it’s finally been properly mastered for CD, you can hear it the way you were always meant to.  For those who just wanna rock, the guitars have the crunch.  The discerning fan will enjoy the new clarity and depth that this remaster offers, without overdriving the levels.

Once again we wholeheartedly recommend The Party boxed set, but if you find Live Magnetic Air on vinyl, pick it up and hear what some genuine “Sarniatown Reggae” sounds like.

5/5 stars

Sunday Chuckle: No Quarter (by Mrs. LeBrain)

Currency is a method used to pay for goods and services in the country or region where these good and services are provided.  Its denominations are very specific and exact.  Often, the customer cannot pay the vendor an exact amount so the vendor is required to return the difference to the customer to complete the transaction.  This action is commonly referred to as making “change”.

Money is highly recognisable to its users.  Larger denominations are made of universally sized paper and plastic sheets referred to as “bills”.  Smaller denominations are metal pieces with a circular shape in a variety of sizes known as “coins”.  The different sizes typically indicate value so they can easily be detected and assessed by their users.  Many nations have ‘coins’ very similar in colour and shape, but with the value of these coins being so small, most users cannot be bothered to examine these pieces closely to confirm authenticity.

A common coin in Canada is known as a “quarter” which has a value of 25 cents.  (1/4 of a dollar) To put this into perspective, my daily coffee costs about eight quarters and an ass-kicking rock CD would cost Lebrain about 80 of these things.

One afternoon, after having a morning coffee with one of my girlfriends, we decided to visit the “Golden Arches” for a quick and unhealthy lunch.  The order came out to $11.25, and for once I had EXACT change (woot!!!).  I reached into my purse and pulled out my ten dollar bill, my one dollar coin (known in Canada as a ‘Loonie’) and what I thought was a “quarter”.

The cashier and her supervisor examined the coin closely and gave it back to me.

McD:  “What is this?”

Me:  “A quarter.”

McD:  (In a rude, shaming tone) “No it isn’t and we can’t accept it from you”

I took the coin back and gave the cashier a fifty dollar bill (making her provide me with a lot of change to complete the transaction.  It turns out the “quarter” was a Swiss Franc with an exchange value of $1.27 CAD.

Their loss, my gain.  I just hope they didn’t spit in my fries.

Mrs. LeBrain

#612: Remembering Their Sacrifices

At the the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918, the Armistice was signed, ending the fighting in the Great War. At least, they called it the Great War, or “The War to End All Wars”. Today we just call it World War I, because even greater horrors followed.

My grandfather “Sam” (Crawford) fought in World War II, helping bring an end to the evil of Hitler and Nazi Germany. I think my grandfather would be disgusted today to see Nazis being referred to as “very fine people”. What did he fight for, if we are to casually welcome that evil back to the streets?

“Gar” and “Sam” Winter

We can never forget the sacrifices those soldiers made. My grandfather survived and came home to raise a family with my grandmother. His brother wasn’t so lucky. He lived, but was injured in the trenches and he never walked right again.

I tend to think of the veterans and the soldiers of the present year round. My wife goes out of her way to thank veterans any time she sees one in uniform.  I think of them every time I am free to write whatever I want to, in this great land of Canada. Had the Nazis won, there would be no freedom here. On November 11, at 11am, we have a moment of silence to honour all the soldiers from every war in which they fought and died for our freedom. That is an important tradition to keep. But I think we should think of them more often.

“Sam”

My grandfather rarely told war stories around the kids, but I do remember one night when he told my dad about looking up and seeing a Panzer tank coming. “I shit my pants,” he said and I think he was being truthful. Imagine those young guys — kids, really — in a country far from home, running from a tank. The bravery is awesome. I can’t even imagine.

My grandfather died (cancer) when I was too young to appreciate what he did. I knew he fought, and I got to watch him lay a wreath at the cenotaph every November 11. I didn’t understand the significance of what it means to be a soldier until I was older. If I were a little older, I would have tried to get him to tell me about it.

Bryan Adams’ 1987 album Into the Fire has the best song about Remembrance Day that I know.  This very special track was made into an emotional music video.   In 2014, The Trews came out with something almost as good:  a song called “Highway of Heroes”.  The Highway of Heroes is an actual highway (the 401), given this nickname for the stretch of road on which the bodies of fallen soldiers are brought home.  The Trews’ song is a touching tribute.

Check out these two songs and remember why you’re even able to listen to them.  Because of the Heroes.