RECORD STORE TALES MkII:
Getting More Tale
Music, Movies, and more
GETTING MORE TALE #588: Broken Hearts are for Assholes
What music do you seek out most when your soul needs soothing?
I remember my first “real” breakup in 1994. Upset and confused, I sought solace in music. I had just ordered a new release from Columbia House. The Alice in Chains Jar of Flies EP hit me right where it hurt. Why music resonates the way it does with certain feelings in specific people, nobody knows for sure. If they did, there would be a perfect formula for writing perfect songs, but there is not.
It wasn’t the lyrics on Jar of Flies that affected me. I didn’t consider “Hey ah na na, innocence is over, over,” to be particularly revelatory. It was the music that got me. While soft, Jar of Flies was also very dark and soaked with emotions. Perhaps a lot of this had to do with new bassist Mike Inez. Jar of Flies was one of the first things they wrote with Inez. According to guitarist Jerry Cantrell, “He plays the nastiest, darkest shit but he’s got the sweetest heart in the world.” Both the weird darkness and the heart can be heard on Jar of Flies. That EP stuck to me like glue. Play it once, flip it over, play it again.
We got back together and broke up again a couple months later. This time it was final. I remember trying music again to feel better. I put on “Love Song” by Tesla. This time, this music only made me feel worse. The line “Love will find the way,” didn’t seem real to me anymore. So I put on something angrier. In 1994, I was very much into Motley Crue. I put on “Primal Scream”. I felt the tension; I felt the frustration, and the seething.
Broke dick dog,
My head slung low,
Tail knocked in the dirt.
Time and time,
Of being told,
Trash is all I’m worth.
When I was just a young boy,
Had to take a little grief,
Now that I’m much older,
Don’t put that shit on me.
This had nothing to do with the breakup, but digging into my anger brought with it a lot of baggage from being bullied as a kid at school. “Primal Scream” helped bring that to the fore. It was the beginning of a long period of self-discovery and realizing that trauma as a kid can carry forward.
Breakup #3 happened in November of 1995. Different girl this time. I didn’t want to get angry anymore. I decided to try to re-ground myself and get back to who I was before this. I started hanging out with my family more. I was listening to more old music like the Beatles. The Anthology had just come out. Via the Beatles (and co-worker T-Rev) I discovered Oasis (see: Getting More Tale #561: (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?). These new bands like Oasis weren’t that much different from the old ones.
What really clicked with me this time were bands from the extensive Deep Purple family tree. (See: Record Store Tales Part 141: When We Rock, We Rock and When We Roll, We Roll). I was playing British bands with a blues base. Whitesnake, Purple, Rainbow and so on. Why these bands resonated with me during this breakup, I don’t know. Maybe it was the male posturing and testosterone. Whatever the reason was, for a little while Deep Purple and Whitesnake really helped me put the pain out of mind. I felt more or less normal and I think the tunes had a lot to do with it. This kicked off a huge Purple obsession with me.
It’s strange but every breakup had its own music. There was a girl named Jasmine in the year 2000, and the music for her breakup was Marillion. “So here I am once more, in the playground of the broken hearts.” Both Fish (first singer) and Steve Hogarth (second singer) are real poets. With Marillion, both the music and lyrics seemed to fit. I was becoming a little bit of a broken-hearted douche bag, but I had to do what I had to do to get by.
Perhaps what I really needed was some Frank Zappa.
Some of you might not agree,
‘Cause you probably likes a lot of misery,
But think a while and you will see…
Broken hearts are for assholes,
Broken hearts are for assholes.
From Dream Theater’s acclaimed self-released series of covers albums, we have before us Master of Puppets. This was recorded in Barcelona back in 2002. Just as advertised, it’s Dream Theater doing the whole album live, in sequence, and pretty authentically too.
Dream Theater are a very different band from Metallica. This is bound to be interesting.
The most obvious difference is that Metallica have two guitar players, while Dream Theater has one and a keyboard player. On this, Jordan Rudess does aggressive keyboard solos where Kirk Hammett may have laid down one with his axe. He also plays the acoustic parts on keys. From time to time, you forget it’s a keyboard. In short, Rudess turns the prospect of Metallica with keyboards into a lesson on forgetting your assumptions about keyboards!
James LaBrie fits the silhouette of a young James Hetfield. He sings a convincing Metallica cover indeed! He cuts loose and goes for it. Metallica requires a gritty singer, going for it 110%. LaBrie handles it. For Dream Theater, doing these cover albums (from a wide variety of bands in fact) must be a lot of fun. They would have the chance to sing and play in a way that isn’t the usual for them. Guitarist John Petrucci does not often get to riff on something for five minutes straight like Metallica do.
Lars haters are naturally going to ask “What do Metallica songs sound like with a real drummer?” Hey, I’m no Lars hater. (He can play better than I can…) But in answer to that question I can only respond “fucking awesome”.
Dream Theater cover Master of Puppets without drawing attention to themselves. Mike Portnoy does not grandstand and overplay. Nobody does. If the effort was to do an authentic version of Puppets, as close to note for note as possible, then I say mission accomplished. Beat for beat, this is stunningly true to the original album. The keyboards are the most obvious deviation, and that’s minor. In anything, Dream Theater draw attention to the fact that these are great heavy metal songs. Are they Metallica’s best-ever set of songs? Some prefer Kill ‘Em All, some Ride the Lightning. Any way you slice it, Puppets is metal immortal, a very important record in anyone’s collection. Dream Theater painstakingly learned the album front to back so they could play it live for a few thousand people. They did that because it’s a great album on any day.
Dream Theater’s live covers albums (and many, many other releases) can be found on their own Ytse Jam Records website. Check out the multitude of stuff available (though some are out of print now) and try not to drain your bank accounts.
AMHERST DRIVE – “Breakdown” / “Better Way” (2017 single)
What happens when an experimental avante-garde multi-instrumentalist goes punk? You get Amherst Drive. Derek Kortepeter is best known for his multi-genre solo music in which he plays all the instruments. Naturally with Amherst Drive, he also plays and sings everything himself.
Like all of Derek’s music, Amherst Drive is memorable but challenging. Punk rock? Sure, but “Breakdown”, the first track on his new single, has none of the traditional punk rock melody. Derek has taken his unusual stylings and amped them up. “Better Way” is a ballad, but not an easy pill to swallow. Neither of these songs are easy to digest. Derek may have simplified some things and punked them up, but he has still fucked things up just enough to keep them edgy. Unusual rhythms and melodies are mixed together in very un-punk-like fashion.
Good little debut punk single here from Amherst Drive. Hopefully Derek will assemble a band and give these tunes a stretch live and see where they can go.
GETTING MORE TALE #587: Blocked!
In the pre-Record Store 1980s, it was not this easy.
In late 1987 and early 1988, a kid from school named Bobby was getting a bit too clingy. He was even a bigger nerd than I was. Way bigger nerd. His prized possession was a massive multi-volume copy of the Oxford English Dictionary. His stalking didn’t begin until grade 10 French class. I was never very good at French. I can’t really explain why I took it again in grade 10 when I didn’t have to. It was my worst class. Bobby and I would study together over the phone. It helped so we continued our phone studies. That’s how it started.
Soon after, Bobby began calling for non-school related reasons, which was still OK, but it picked up speed. The calls became very regular. First, they were every other day. Then they were daily. Then twice a night, and more. He started inviting me to go to church with him.
I was a young kid with no idea how to handle the discomfort I was experiencing. Talking on the phone was fine, but every night? I was getting smothered, except I didn’t know that was the word for it. I wasn’t sure if this was weird or not, or how to deal with it, and I didn’t want to confront him. I decided the best strategy was to start avoiding his phone calls. There were two problems with this:
I made sure my mom knew that Bobby was calling too much and annoying me, but she wouldn’t play ball! “I won’t lie for you!” she said. I can remember her answering the phone, while I’m telling her “I’m not home!” only for her to hand the phone over to me. I was furious but she wouldn’t budge on her lying policy. New techniques had to be invented.
The easiest was taking the phone off the receiver. Leaving it “off the hook” would give any caller a busy signal. No such thing as voicemail. I began taking the phone off the hook during Bobby’s usual calling hours without telling my parents. The only problem was that the handset then started making a very loud beeping sound when you left it off the hook. So I buried the receiver under blankets and pillows so it could not be heard. Of course we wouldn’t be getting any calls at all from anyone, but I figured that was the price my mom had to pay for refusing to lie! Later on, I learned how to remove the ear piece so that it wouldn’t make any noise.
The other method of Bobby-blocking required the help of my best friend Bob, not to be confused with Bobby. One night my parents were out and Bob was over, when the phone rang.
“That’s Bobby calling,” I said. “Answer the phone and tell him he has the wrong number?” Bob obliged me. He was willing to lie for me! He answered and told Bobby he had the wrong number, but it was a little more complicated than that. Bobby said, “But I have this number programmed in my phone!” It was 1987. Nobody had numbers programmed into phones…except Bobby. Bob insisted that he still had the wrong number and hung up. Sure enough the phone rang again as Bobby called back. This time we didn’t answer.
Things with Bobby came to a head twice. The first time was over the phone, one of those nights he called multiple times. He asked me to go to church with him again and I said “No” very firmly. I said we had our own church to go to and I just didn’t want to go to his. To my shock he started bawling on the phone and hung up on me. He then called back, apologized and asked if I’d go to church with him again. I accepted his apology but declined church again. He started crying again and hung up again. He was Lutheran, in case you’re wondering if he was evangelical or something more obscure. Nope, just Lutheran. Pretty mainstream.
Bobby and I patched up the friendship and boundaries were re-established. There was another incident towards the end of 1988 and it was the final one.
I had 11th grade math class with Bobby and the year started fine. He sat next to me. One morning in class he took my pencil case and wouldn’t give it back. I had been drawing band logos on it, so Bobby took it upon himself to take it (and all the pens, pencils and erasers it contained) away, as if he was a parent and I was a child. I was getting more and more angry and when he finally returned it after class, I was furious. He acted like it was funny, but I wasn’t laughing. I was really pissed off. I went to the cafeteria at lunch, and I told Bob what happened. He said, “Well we just won’t let him sit with us at lunch.”
I met Bob and our group in the cafeteria for lunch, and we made sure to take up all the bench space. When Bobby arrived, Bob informed him he’d have to sit somewhere else because I was still mad at him for taking the pencil case and not giving it back until after class. That was pretty much it. Bobby and I stopped speaking completely after that, even though we sat next to each other in class. It was awkward but a certain amount of peace and quiet returned to my life.
I remember shortly after that, I caught a ride home from school with Bob. He drove a shit-brown Chevette. We were driving home when I spotted Bobby up ahead. Bob slowed down his car and followed Bobby without saying anything. He just slowly, slowly followed, at walking speed, in his car. This time it was me who found it funny, but Bobby was not amused and yelled at his neighbors to call the police! (They didn’t.)
Bobby changed schools the next year, and a mutual acquaintance told me that he “hated” me now. I accept the part that I had to play in it, but I would also suggest that where I was concerned, Bobby was obsessed. He was not gay, he was just fixated. It wasn’t going to end well no matter how it ended. One thing for certain though, the obsession had to end, because if it didn’t, my wits would.
I can’t help but wonder if much of this could have been avoided if only my mom would have played along and told Bobby I wasn’t home! We’ll never know now. Thanks, mom.
Ronnie Romero has one of the toughest jobs in rock. As the singer in Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow, he must fill the shoes of many past vocal champions: Ronnie James Dio, Graham Bonnet, Joe Lynn Turner, as well as Ian Gillan and David Coverdale from Deep Purple. The really difficult thing about it is the main guy he’s compared to: Dio. Fortunately, this Ronnie is no Dio clone.
Blackmore’s newest incarnation of Rainbow has been doing light touring and recording new material. From their 2016 show in Birmingham comes this live album, a welcome addition to the Rainbow catalogue. 20 years since their last tour with White, Rainbow has an all-new lineup including Jens Johansson, the top rated keyboard player who made his fame with Yngwie Malmsteen and Dio himself. Also on board are members of Ritchie’s acoustic Renaissance project Blackmore’s Night: David Keith and Bob Nouveau on drums and bass. Backing them are singers Lady Lynn and Candice Night from the same project.
What everything really has to come down to is the lead vocalist. Ronnie Romero cut his teeth with Chilean band Lords of Black, a power metal group with some minor Blackmore influences. Ritchie obviously has a good ear. One wouldn’t immediately think of Romero has the next singer for Rainbow, but the fit is good and snug. Ronnie can sing the old Dio material and is an instantly likeable frontman. He has the power and range available to do Dio material, but his rasp is actually reminiscent of another Rainbow singer, Graham Bonnet. On this album, Romero does the hit single “Since You Been Gone”, originally performed with Graham. It’s the most authentic version of the song since the original.
As online forums have discussed and debated, Rainbow have a very Purple-heavy set. Nine songs are Purple classics, making up the majority, including an odd choice in “Child in Time”. Have Rainbow ever performed that song before? Perhaps it was put back in the set simply because Purple haven’t played it in 20 years either. “Burn” is no problem for Ronnie Romero though. He’s very comfortable in David Coverdale’s range.
Could more Rainbow songs have been squeezed in at the expense of a Purple oldie like “Woman From Tokyo” or “Highway Star”? Sure. But it’s Ritchie’s ball game. He wrote those songs, and if he wants to open his set with “Highway Star”, he sure can. “Soldier of Fortune” originally from Stormbringer is a surprise and all the more successful for it. Whitesnake will sometimes play it live, but Purple do not, and Rainbow may never have before. That leaves seven Rainbow songs, mostly Dio era. “Stargazer”, “Catch the Rainbow” and “Long Live Rock ‘N’ Roll” are indispensable.
The only real issue with the recording lies with Ritchie. The guitar should be louder. It’s far too quiet. You cannot hear enough of what he is doing. Comparing to another live album, Black Masquerade recorded in 1995, the guitar was in your face and seemed more aggressive. It seems strange that a guitar-dominated band like Rainbow would have the instrument toned down on the live album, but many listeners have said the same thing: “Needs more guitar”.
All the new musicians are more than capable, and after hearing these songs done a million times, it’s nice to hear some new twists on solos and fills. Romero’s native tongue is Spanish, and there are times he slips up on some old Deep Purple lyrics (particularly “Perfect Strangers”). This never matters, because nobody screws up Deep Purple lyrics more than Ian Gillan himself! The main thing is Romero has the right voice. It’s unbelievable that he can sing a long set like this with such power throughout, seemingly with ease.
Long live rock ‘n’ roll, long live Rainbow, and long live Ronnie Romero. It’s easy to be skeptical, but most doubters will be silenced by the newest incarnation of Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow. This is a pleasant surprise and one of Rainbow’s most enjoyable live albums due to the charismatic Romero.
Both Alice Cooper and Bob Ezrin had a lot to live up to with their latest collaboration Paranormal. Excluding 2015’s covers album Hollywood Vampires, their last record together was the remarkable Welcome 2 My Nightmare in 2011. Bob Ezrin has already produced one of the more impressive rock albums of 2017, Deep Purple’s InFinite. Considering this recent track record, one might say we expect the goods this time too.
Paranormal is a great album, loaded with fantastic Alice Cooper material of different rock and roll styles. It is not up to the level of brilliance of Welcome 2 My Nightmare. That album (a concept album sequel) was dense with ideas and composition. Paranormal is a step towards something less conceptual and more like a traditional album. The big surprise this time out is the drummer: U2’s Larry Mullen plays on 9 of the 10 core songs, and you’d never guess that without reading the credits.
The title track is impressive on its own. It has a haunting guitar hook and vocal, and is built a bit like Alice’s horror material from the 80s. That’s Ezrin’s pal, Roger Glover from Deep Purple on bass. Back to the early 70s, get down with some hard rocking “Dead Flies”, but don’t let your guard down. Relentlessly, “Fireball” blazes down the terrain, kicking aside everything not nailed down. Alice doesn’t have anything that sounds like “Fireball” on any of his other albums.
The lead single “Paranoiac Personality” (a single worth tracking down for an exclusive live B-side) is similar to “Go to Hell” (from 1976’s Alice Cooper Goes to Hell). It’s the kind of magic that happens only when Alice Cooper and Bob Ezrin work together. Memorable Alice Cooper rock, accessible enough for radio play, but within the personality of Alice.
Moving on to sleaze rock, “Fallen in Love” is a strong entry. If it sounds a little greasy, that’s probably because Billy Gibbons is on it. It’s followed by a speedy trip called “Dynamite Road” with a neat spoken-word style vocal. It suits Alice’s storytelling lyrics. After a couple of heavy bashers, it’s good to get back to a groove on “Private Public Breakdown”. These are some impressive songs, each different from the other but fitting the whole.
A kickin’ horn section joins Alice on “Holy Water”, a fun and unorthodox rock and roll sermon. Then there’s a good old fashioned punk rocker called “Rats”. It might remind you of Michael Monroe’s classic “Dead, Jail or Rock ‘N’ Roll”. It’s the only song on disc one that Larry Mullen doesn’t play on. “Rats” has the surviving original Alice Cooper band: Michael Bruce, Neal Smith, and Dennis Dunaway.
Going for a haunting close, there is an understated song called “The Sound of A” to end the album proper. This truly recalls Welcome to (and 2) My Nightmare. Original bassist Dennis Dunaway co-wrote and plays bass on the track. Although he was not in the band during the Nightmare era, that is what immediately comes to mind. This is the kind of song that has the potential to become an Alice classic a few years down the road.
Cooper has been generous with bonus tracks on his last few albums, and Paranormal has a fully loaded second CD. There are two more brand new songs featuring the surviving members of the original Alice Cooper band. Steve Hunter is also on board with some slippery slide goodness. “Genuine American Girl” is a transgender celebration, the kind of thing that would have been cutting edge in 1972, but today is just timely. Smith co-write this with Alice and Ezrin, and it’s a remarkably catchy little tune. “This is no-man’s land and I live here every day” sings a gleeful Alice. It does sound like something the original band could have played back then. “You and All Your Friends” (Cooper/Dunaway/Ezrin) is more of an anthem. A crowd could definitely sing along. These two tracks serve as reminders to what great players the original band members are. Neal Smith is absolutely a drumming maniac and Dennis Dunaway is still one of kind.
There are six more bonus tracks, all live cuts from 2016 featuring Alice’s stellar live band. It’s good to have these, because really the only thing missing from the new songs is guitarist Nita Strauss. She’s a monster player. For those hoping to hear Nita on Alice’s new album, at least she’s on the bonus tracks. The live cuts are a fairly standard selection of 70s hits (all but “Feed My Frankenstein”). You know what you’re getting: expertly performed Cooper classics by his gang of professional rock and roll misfits.
Paranormal is yet another late-career triumph by Alice Cooper. It’s just a hair shy of mind blowing.
My sister, world-travelling bass clarinetist Kathryn Ladano, is in Scotland!
This should surprise no-one, but one of the things she is doing in Scotland is drinking beer.
As luck should have it, on her first day, she had a fall at a pub. I am assuming alcohol was involved, but that’s not important to the story. She spotted a black Scottish Schnauzer, and jumped up to see it. She bumped her head and injured her shoulder. In her email to the family, she said, “I have a lump, but I didn’t have to go to the hospital.” Glad she’s OK!
My dad read this email first, and he immediately announced to the family that “Kathryn had a great start to her vacation…got a concussion, dislocated a shoulder. In a hospital.”
Talk about misreading! My dad has been known to 1) stretch the truth, and 2) immediately go to worst-case scenario, but I’ve never seen anything like this before! She specifically said she didn’t have to go to the hospital, and she made sure to put that up front so my dad wouldn’t worry too much. Well shit!
Even if you’re not into comedy albums, Cheech & Chong’s Greatest Hit compilation should be considered for your collection. For one, it can be found in any format for cheap. And that justifies buying it for their classic song “Earache My Eye”. Classic song? It’s been covered and homaged by bands such as Soundgarden, Korn, and even Rush. So listen up!
Cheech & Chong’s original “Earache My Eye” is heavy metal and horns gone wild. Cheech sings as his persona “Alice Bowie”. The song was featured in the group’s first movie, Up In Smoke. There is also a lesser song on the album called “Basketball Jones”, but it too is noteworthy because there’s a Beatle on it: George Harrison! And a slew of others including Billy Preston, Carole King and Nicky Hopkins.
Everyone in the world should know Cheech & Chong’s comedy sketch “Dave”. If you don’t, shame on you and go hear it immediately. “Dave” is here in edited form so you’ll get the gist. Other popular bits include “Sister Mary Elephant” (remember the teacher screaming “SHUUUT UPPP!” to the rowdy classroom?) and “Sargent Stadanko”. Most sketches focus on (gasp) drugs! “Let’s Make a Drug Deal” is a spoof of a popular TV show. “Cruising With Pedro De Pacas” is a paranoid drive with a Latino stoner. Pedro and his sidekick Man take up most of side two.
Listening to this is a real throwback. Sneaking people into a drive-in movie back when a drive-in movie was just 50 cents per person! It’s good stuff but it may only appeal to people who remember those times. Cheech & Chong’s laid back style of comedy makes this album (almost 55 minutes long) difficult to finish in one sitting. Take a break between sides if it’s too slow for you.
The most important life lesson contained within is don’t try to sneak friends into a drive-in movie in the trunk of your car. Especially if you’re with two guys named Pedro and Man.
Respect to Lee Aaron! She’s persisted through the decades with a multi-faceted career, including her early metal roots. What she really needed was some kind of compilation CD that captured it all. 1992’s Powerline is a good compilation but some of Lee’s most interesting work came after. Radio Hitz and More… fills in some of the blanks from the past 20 years. You can only get it via Lee’s website as a promotional item. I bought a T-shirt and got the CD with it, signed and personalized.*
Even if it haunted her career at times, “Metal Queen” is a damn fine song. Period, end of sentence. Today we can see that “Metal Queen” had it all: killer quintessential riff, howling vocals and a searing solo. Few metal singers could touch Lee Aaron’s ability. While the fans knew she could do more than metal, she absolutely owned it on “Metal Queen”. Hail to the queen.
Lee eventually shifted into a hard rock mold. “Whatcha Do to My Body” was a big hit, and it’s next in radio edit form. It delivered big hooks and didn’t require any song doctors. Lee Aaron and her longtime guitarist John Albini wrote it and were rewarded with loads of MuchMusic video play. However the two did collaborate with an outside writer on “Powerline” (1987) and that outside writer was surprisingly former Rainbow singer Joe Lynn Turner. “Powerline” is a bit light and heavily reliant on keyboards, sounding a little like Heart.
The songs included from Lee’s “rock” period are all pretty much hits in Canada. “Hands On” followed “Watcha Do to My Body” in regular video rotation. “Sweet Talk” and “Sex With Love” were singles from another big Lee Aaron album, Some Girls Do (1991). The title track “Some Girls Do” is here and very Van Halen. Two of Lee’s most stunning ballads are included too. “Barely Holdin’ On” could be her best song, period. “Only Human” was from the 1987 pop rock era, but is a strong ballad regardless. Only a few notable singles are missing. The always likeable Disco-dis “Shake it Up” is too hard to find out there in the wild. Another big ballad, “Peace on Earth” is missing in action. However the space does not go to waste.
In 1996 Lee Aaron resurfaced with a new band called 2preciious. The lineup included Lee and the three Dons from Sons of Freedom! A strange combo to be sure, and the alternative-flavoured album they came out with didn’t make waves, though it got decent reviews. “Mascara” is edgy acoustic rock, completely unlike Lee’s previous work. There’s even a rare European-only track called “Concrete and Ice” which is a bass-heavy 90s groove rocker. Great stuff; it’s unfortunate it didn’t gain traction, because with Alanis Morissette being so big at the same time, perhaps Lee could have tagged along.
The next stage of Lee Aaron’s career was her entry into the jazz world. 2000 saw the release of her album Slick Chick, and in 2004 there was Beautiful Things. Tracks from both are here, including the instantly likeable “I’d Love To”. It’s a little jarring to hear “Handcuffed to a Fence in Mississippi” in the middle of a bunch of rock tracks, though.
This compilation is great for gathering together a bunch of Lee Aaron’s diverse hits, but that’s not all. Track 18 is a little bonus for collectors. From Sweden Rock, it’s killer track “Baby Go Round” originally from Emotional Rain. This live version is available nowhere else, which is like catnip for collectors.
77 minutes of music, for free? How do you spell N-O-B-R-A-I-N-E-R?
*If ordering, check before assuming they still offer signed CDs.