RECORD STORE TALES
- RECORD STORE TALES MkII:
GETTING MORE TALE
Music, Movies, and more
GETTING MORE TALE #512: Shit LeBrain’s Wife Says
As readers here know, when I can get away with putting the minimum amount of effort into a story, I’m going to go for it. This one is lifted directly from my Facebook posts, a couple months after Jen and I got married. Her ongoing education in rock was just beginning. I can proudly say that today, Mrs. LeBrain knows the difference between Van Halen and Van Hagar. But in 2008?
Oct 9 2008:
TOP TWO QUOTES FROM JENNIFER TODAY:
#2 Some background, I was playing the track “Me Wise Magic” by Van Halen, an obscure song with David Lee Roth singing. I said to Jen, do you know who this is? And she responded:
“Yeah…is this Van Hagar?”
#1 “Wow is your beard ever grey!”
But I’m still gonna stay married to her anyway.
It’s even more grey today.
Jen likes both Van Halen and Van Hagar now, and she’s perfectly capable of telling the difference. She counts “Jump” and “Why Can’t This Be Love” as her favourite VH songs, tied for the #1 position. Considering that in my dating days, girls used to insist on listening to MuchDance95 in the car, I’m a very lucky man. I dodged some musical bullets, and somehow ended up with the best girl in the world.
LIONHEART – Hot Tonight (1984 CBS, 2008 Kreshendo reissue)
Are you fan of Iron Maiden? The early stuff, circa their first LP? If so, read on — but don’t get your hopes up.
If you’re a long-time reader, you may remember Lionheart from Record Store Tale Part 133: Die For Love. A used copy, a Japanese import, came into the store in 1996, and I stupidly passed on it. The story went:
“$20 used, but with my discount more like $15. Still, I ended up passing on it. I only really liked the one song, and I had other stuff to buy that week including the new Scorpions and King’s X. So, I made a judgement call and threw it on the shelves. I put a sticker on it that said “Dennis Stratton ex-Iron Maiden” and it sold in a couple weeks.
What I forgot to mention in that Record Store Tale was that some customer who claimed to be a “huge Iron Maiden fan”, who had “all the albums” didn’t know who Dennis Stratton was. He saw the sticker on the disc and claimed we had it wrong. Little did he know, he was shopping in the store managed by LeBrain. And LeBrain was not wrong.
Yes, Dennis Stratton was in Iron Maiden for a little while. He played on the legendary first album, and Lionheart was hyped as a “New Wave of British Heavy Metal” supergroup because the guy that was in Def Leppard before Rick Allen (Frank Noon) was also in Lionheart for a little while. There were stupid amounts of lineup changes before and after the album, which also featured Rocky Newton who later ended up in M.S.G. The singer was a hearthrob named Chad Brown who had a voice, though not a particularly unique one.
Their debut album release was a keyboard-inflected 80’s rock record with lots of attempts at concert-ready songwriting. That means lots of synth. The drums are hot, echoey samples and the keyboards are ubiquitous. It’s all very sterile and smacks of ambitions unachieved. There are attempts at Queen-like harmony vocals, but underwhelming attempts. They were clearly trying to write songs with epic qualities that would impress the musically inclined. The opening track “Wait for the Night” has shades of Phenomenon (particularly a song called “Kiss of Fire”), another “metal” supergroup from around the same time. Phenomenon however had Glenn Hughes singing. Chad Brown can sing, but his voice doesn’t have enough character. He sounds exactly like a guy singing in a Foreigner tribute band, or perhaps Coverdale-Lite.
The best song is, by far, the single “Die For Love”. The music video is legendary cheese. I love videos where bands have to embark on some kind of adventure. Remember when Queensryche had to defeat the Queen of the Reich? Or Grim Reaper vs. a man-beast in “Fear No Evil”? (For more on this subject, check out Record Store Tales Part 206: Rock Video Night.) Lionheart had something like this for their “Die For Love” clip. I know if I ever need somebody to rescue a damsel in distress from a weird creepy doctor, I’m picking the rescue team with no shirts under their jumpsuits! Look at Dennis fucking Stratton! He takes a dude out with a kick, while riffing on his guitar. Talk about multi-tasking; where do you see this kind of skill set today?
Unintentionally funny video aside, “Die For Love” wins as a song. With an unforgettable chorus, backed with a memorable riff and great performance, the track gets full marks. Just like a stopped clock must be right twice a day, everything clicked on “Die For Love”. For most people, it won’t make buying the album worthwhile. Given my history with the song, and then letting the Japanese import slip through my fingers in ’96, I don’t regret buying this album for one song.
Even the title track, the decent and hard rocking “Hot Tonight” doesn’t save the album. Ultimately, when you put the album away and try to recall how the songs went, they have completely evaporated. Only “Die For Love” and parts of “Hot Tonight” and “Nightmare” still linger in my memory banks. No focus. Everything on this disc has been done by someone else, only better. Whether it be Styx, Night Ranger, Whitesnake or any of the other bands that Lionheart sometimes sounds like, it’s all been done.
Captured was a turning point for Journey. After this, they went from mega to uber-mega. It was their first live album, and their last with founding keyboardist and singer Gregg Rolie (who actually sang lead in Journey on their first three albums, before they discovered Steve Perry). When Rolie left and Journey hired on Jonathan Cain, they went in an even more radio-friendly direction. The live album captured (pun intended) the end of the Rolie era with basically every hit they had. They were more of a rock and roll band back then, and this album shows it.
The scorching heat of “Where Were You” is the perfect track to prime the rock n’ roll BBQ. Journey’s brand of rock is driving, but polished to a shimmery gleen. This is partly due to the impeccable pipes of Steve Perry. I’m not sure if Steve has even heard of a bum note, let along sung one. But Perry was only one of two singers in Journey, and Rolie has his first lead on the mid-tempo pleaser “Just the Same Way”. Although he is not comparable to Perry, he’s no slouch and the different singers gave Journey more dimension.
Blazingly fast, the gleeful “Line of Fire” is the hardest rocker on the album. “So don’t go sayin’ Stevie’s a liar!” he sings, and the crowd goes nuts. But Journey are probably better associated in the public eye with tender ballads. “Lights” live is a definitive version. It merges into another beautiful ballad, “Stay Awhile”. Perry’s singing here is so splendid, so perfect, so soulful and powerful that it’s hard not to just be amazed. Not to be outdone is Neal Schon with one of his most memorable guitar solos on “Lights”. A pretty version of “Too Late” makes it a trilogy.
One of the coolest treats on Captured is a new song, “Dixie Highway”, that was never recorded on a studio album. Boogie with Journey down the Dixie Highway and listen to that blazing musicianship, more progressive rock at times than radio friendly AOR. Then it’s the Rolie/Perry duet “Feeling That Way”, an out-and-out classic. The combined sheer lung power on that stage that night could not be measured by science. It is said by some that all the canines within the city of Detroit suddenly perked their ears simultaneously at that moment, with a spill-off effect happening in areas of close proximity across the border in Canada. The University of Marysville is currently investigating these reports, hoping to calculate numerically just how much Steve and Rolie sang their fucking balls off that night.
Rolling right into “Anytime” and “Do You Recall”, the listener is treated to some lesser-recognized Journey classics that are as good or better than their biggest hits. “Do You Recall” in particular boasts the kind of melodies and smooth rock grooves that radio hits are made of. With that out of the way for now, they go into a blues jam with “Walk Like a Lady”. According to Steve Perry, “We got two of the best blues players in the whole world here tonight. Two of the best! We got Mr. Gregg Rolie on the Hammond B-3 and Mr. Neal Schon on the Stratocaster!” After a blazing Schon solo, Journey blast into “La Do Da”, another one of their lesser-known rock blitzes. Bass solos! (By Ross Valory!) Drum solos! (by Steve “Machine Gun” Smith!) And then the listener is rewarded for their patience with a string of their biggest hits: “Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin'”, “Wheel in the Sky”, and “Any Way You Want It”.
That’s a hell of a double live album right there. No, Journey’s Captured is not remembered on the same level as Live and Dangerous, Frampton Comes Alive, or Kiss Alive (I or II). Captured is certainly great, but somehow falls ever so shy from achieving the same lofty heights as the aforementioned. It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly why it’s not quite up there. Perhaps it’s the perfectionist style of the band, because it’s certainly not Steve Perry.
It’s not over though: Journey included a new song, and their first ever without Gregg Rolie on keys. Studio cat Stevie “Keys” Roseman filled in, on the ironically piano-based “Hopelessly in Love”. This unsung classic is one of the strongest Journey songs in the canon. It’s too bad that it rarely gets pulled out for compilations, instead residing at the end of a near-forgotten live album.
GETTING MORE TALE #511: That Night in Kingston
What are you doing Saturday night?
Never mind; we already know.
It has been a very emotional summer for fans of The Tragically Hip, but it all ends tonight.
A few months ago, nobody ever thought this would be the last summer of the Tragically Hip. Gord Downie’s brain cancer diagnosis came as a surprise to all. We can only imagine what Gord and his family are going through, but fans have been mourning in their own ways. Mostly, they’ve been trying to go and see Gord one last time. As StubHub jacked up ticket prices to ridiculous highs, fans scrambled to win contests or find any way to see the Hip live.
The good news is, everyone can see the Hip live, anywhere.
Locally, there is a lot going on. You can join the gang from DaveRocks at local pup Bobby O’Brien’s for a Hip celebration. They will be showing the last Hip concert on a big screen. Lots of bars are doing the same thing — check your local listings. Some families are having backyard and pool parties with the neighbours, with big outdoor screens. All over Canada, fans will be celebrating separately, but together.
Not in Canada? No problem. There are viewing parties in major US cities such as New York and L.A. They will even be watching the Hip in Rio de Janeiro as the Olympics close. And it will be streamed worldwide. The CBC has all the details.
How are you planning to enjoy the Hip show? Here at LeBrain HQ, we are going to make some food, order in some gourmet chicken wings, and watch the Hip in 5.1 surround sound. It will be a turbulent experience. We don’t know much about Gord’s cancer except that it’s not treatable. We don’t know how he feels. All we know for certain is that we have been told this is the last tour, and that more than likely means this is the last show, forever. The band has not done any press, nor said much to address the many questions. It is like a giant elephant in the room. But tonight, I want to put all that out of my mind and just enjoy the music. I don’t want to think too much about what it all means. There will be plenty of journalists doing that. Tonight is for the fans, so let’s enjoy it, for us.
And for Gord.
The rock press went nuts for Bonham in ’89. Finally, after long wait, the son of legendary Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham finally made his move into the music world. Fans had seen him in The Song Remains the Same. Some knew that Jason Bonham jammed with Zeppelin in 1988 at Atlantic’s 40th anniversary bash. It was a much more successful reunion than 1985’s Live Aid.
The music world in 1989 was far removed from the days of Zeppelin. Pretty boys with big hair and flashy videos were the norm. Bands who could get up there and jam for 20 minutes or more on a single track were few. With much naiveté, the magazines drooled over Jason Bonham’s new band, simply and obviously called Bonham. The singer, a young Canadian named Daniel MacMaster, had the youthful curls and range of a young Robert Plant. The bassist, John Smithson, was a talented multi-instrumentalist just like John Paul Jones. The band had to be a quartet; there could be no other way. They tapped Bob Ezrin to produce, a guy who has never done anything that sounded like Led Zeppelin, but someone who was able to take young bands and push them ahead a few levels.
The resultant album The Disregard of Timekeeping attained a lot of attention, making many magazines’ year end lists. Best new group, best new album, etc. etc. And while it is an ambitious record for a debut, it does fall very short of those lofty marks.
Going for the bombastic, the CD opens with a two minute instrumental of keyboards, guitars, violins and the odd burst of drums. It makes little impact besides setting up the first single “Wait For You”. Conceptually, it sounds as if they collectively said, “Right, so let’s write a song that sounds like something that could have been on the next Zeppelin album after In Through the Out Door.” So it’s big, echoey and loaded with keyboards and effects. It does recall Zeppelin, particular the remarkable pipes of MacMaster. It has the necessary big chorus that you needed to have in 1989, and the two sides of rock that Bonham inhabited were melded together in fine fashion. “Wait For You” is a success, but Ezrin’s production in the late 80’s seemed hollow.
Is the Bonham DNA present? Yes, of course. It comes out most naturally via the drum parts, but a lot of the material sounds intentionally contrived. Still, there were a number of really good tracks on the album, enough to make it worth buying. Young Jason, sounding exactly like his dad, counts in the quality track “Guilty” with a “One, two, ha ha ha!” It sounds less like Led Zeppelin, and more like late-80’s Deep Purple. Which is fine of course; we’re talking about quality comparisons. Especially great though is John Smithson’s violin solo. I’m especially fond of the violin in rock music. I like out of the box thinking, and it’s this kind of experimentation that made Bonham more like Zeppelin in the long run. Smithson nails it with the perfect tone.
Another pretty decent tune is “Holding on Forever” which has a Zep funk, with a modern 80’s chorus. “Dreams” though is nearly tanked by a long intro, featuring a guy coming home, brushing his teeth, setting his alarm and going to bed. Yes, that is correct. You have to listen to a guy coming home, brushing his teeth, and going to bed. You gotta blame Bob Ezrin for that mistake. Who wants to buy a rock album and sit through a guy brushing his teeth…only to get a ballad out of it? At least “Dreams” is a decent, progressive sounding ballad, but in the CD/mp3 age, how many people are gonna hit “skip” before the actual song, while the guy hasn’t finished brushing his teeth?
Having unloaded their best songs on side one, the second side is a bit of a chore to complete. Songwriting was not the band’s strongest suit. The two best songs (“Wait For You” and “Guilty”) were co-written by Bob Ezrin, and I don’t think that’s insignificant. Other songs on the album, such as “Playing To Win”, “Cross Me and See”, and “Just Another Day”, are competent. What they lack is the magical ingredient that makes a song stay with you forever. Bonham embraced the past and present, modern production and old-fashioned playing, but that alone was not enough to forge a truly great album.
Finally the album left one of the most impressive songs for the end, “Room For Us All”, an ambitious track over seven minutes long. Soft and anthemic, “Room For Us All” has subtlety that is missing elsewhere on the album. It’s an impressive end…but too little, too late.