RECORD STORE TALES MkII:
Getting More Tale
Music, Movies, and more
In 1989, I proudly sported my Moscow Music Peace Festival T-shirt in the highschool halls. It was cool to see the rock bands on the forefront of heavy metal bringing music to the Soviet Union. Scorpions, Bon Jovi, Motley Crue, Cinderella, Ozzy Osbourne and Skid Row joined Russian metal band Gorky Park in the name of peace and being drug free.
Drug free? Ozzy? It’s true that this was a little strange, but Motley were at least clean for the first time in their lives. The Scorpions had played behind the Iron Curtain before, and Sabbath were huge in Russia. Meanwhile Bon Jovi were one of the few bands to legally release an album in the USSR, and in return they brought Gorky Park to the US. I was lucky enough to have a girlfriend who recorded the televised part of the concert off MTV and sent me a copy. It was a pretty mindblowing video. Those Russians were going absolutely nuts, seeing their idols on stage.
Later on, the bands each contributed a song to a compilation album called Stairway to Heaven/Highway to Hell, each covering an artist who had been touched by substance abuse. The CD was produced by the biggest name at the time, Bruce Fairbairn himself. The proceeds went to an anti-drug charity, for all the good “just saying no” does. The album itself was a pretty great compilation of mostly exclusive music. Though almost all of it is now available elsewhere, that wasn’t the case in 1989, making this a tempting buy.
Gorky Park, the up and comers, started off with “My Generation”. Some find it too putrid to stomach. It’s virtually an original song with only the lyrics recognizable. The riffs and melodies seem otherwise new. So give Gorky Park some credit for at least not attempting a carbon copy, but then you gotta take off some points for turning “My Generation” into a Bon Motley song. Unfortunately for Gorky Park, their momentum halted when singer Nikolai Noskov quit in 1990.
Skid Row surprised the hell out of everyone with the Pistols’ “Holidays in the Sun”. It was the first indication that Skid Row had punk roots. “Holidays” was very much a look ahead to where they would go on Slave to the Grind. They were on the punk bandwagon a full two years before Motley decided to cover the Sex Pistols. It’s always strange to hear flashy metal guitar solos on a Pistols song, but it’s sheer joy to hear Sebastian spitting and screaming up a storm.
Scorpions had a new compilation out called Best of Rockers ‘n’ Ballads. Another Who song, “I Can’t Explain” was taken from it to be used on this CD. It is by far the better of the Who covers, as Scorpions really made it their own. Next, Ozzy’s track is quite interesting. It’s the only studio recording of the lineup including Zakk Wylde, Randy Castillo, and Geezer Butler. Geezer quit the band shortly after, and this incredible lineup never recorded anything else. I consider it the strongest band that Ozzy had after Randy Rhoads. The quartet did a live sounding cover of “Purple Haze”, unfortunately not the greatest version. It is at least a showcase for Zakk Wylde to go nuts on the wah-wah pedal.
I will argue that the best track on this album came from the band that was riding a brand new high: Motley Crue. Clean and mean, they were incredibly strong in 1989. They the balls to choose an obscure Tommy Bolin (Deep Purple) solo tune: “Teaser”. Motley put on that Dr. Feelgood groove, and Mick Mars laid waste to the land with his slidey guitar goodness. It’s no surprise that “Teaser” has reappeared on Motley compilations several times since. It has balls as big as a bus!
Another strong contender is Bon Jovi’s take on Thin Lizzy. “The Boys are Back in Town” fits seamlessly with that small town New Jersey vibe that Bon Jovi used to have. Lynott must have had some influence on a young Jon Bon, because all his old tunes are about the boys – back in town! Dino’s bar and grill could be in Sayreville NJ. Of course, Bon Jovi are a competent enough band to be able to cover Thin Lizzy and do it well.
Another surprise: Cinderella doing Janis Joplin. Singer Tom Keifer suited Joplin, though you don’t immediately associate the two! “Move Over” takes advantage of that Keifer shriek that isn’t too far removed from Janis. From there on though, it’s filler. Jason Bonham, Tico Torres and Mickey Curry do a pretty boring “Moby Dick”. It’s funny how John Bonham sounds bigger on the original, than three drummers on this remake. Then it’s a bunch of live jams from the Moscow concert: “Hound Dog”, “Long Tall Sally”, “Blue Suede Shoes” and “Rock and Roll” (Bonham on drums again for the latter). Vince Neil is hopelessly out-screamed by Sebastian Bach on the Zep tune. All the singers participated, but Sebastian Bach and Tom Keifer blew ’em all away.
This disc has been out of print a while, but isn’t too hard to find. 80s rockers need to have it for its historical value.
Not really a part of the The KISS RE-REVIEW SERIES
My sadness cannot be expressed, nor can the shock. Actor John Dunsworth, best known as the beloved Jim Lahey from Trailer Park Boys, has died at age 71 after a short illness.
Way she goes, bud.
Sometimes a tune just comes outta nowhere and takes over. Greta Van Fleet’s very Zeppelin-like “Highway Tune” is one such song. Who are Greta Van Fleet? Three young brothers and a buddy from Frankenmuth, Michigan of all places! (These guys weren’t even born yet when I was last in Frankenmuth singing Zeppelin karaoke, so I cannot claim to have influenced them at all.) They describe themselves as “a blues influenced rock n roll band picking up where classic rock left off”. Black Smoke Rising is their second EP, after the very rare Greta Van Fleet: Live in Detroit (2014).
They call themselves “blues influenced”, but the truth of the matter is that they sound like the second coming of Led Zeppelin. That’s not a terrible thing, and given their ages, certainly forgivable. They have a whole career ahead of them in which to grow. The good news is that regardless of the various shades of Zep, all four tracks are excellent.
Singer Joshua Michael Kiszka is a born star. At times he’s a dead ringer for young Robert Plant. At others he’s more like Andrew Stockdale. He also shows his own character and lung power. The point is, this guy is special. Not that anyone in the band is a slouch, but there is one obvious immediate standout.
It’s easy to compare these tracks to earlier ones. “Highway Tune” is a bit of an amped-up “The Rover”. Zep bleeds into “Safari Song”. You can hear “Down By the Seaside” and “Your Time Is Gonna Come” at the tail end of “Flower Power”. Their most unique song is closer “Black Smoke Rising”. If anything it sounds more like “Fight the Good Fight” by Triumph than anything like Zeppelin, but it’s more than that. It sounds like a hint of what this band can progress into.
Keep an eye on Greta Van Fleet and by all means, get this EP.
I don’t like spicy food. I’m a wuss. Mrs LeBrain knows this and usually makes sure our meals cater to my wussy tastes.
This week in her haste, she bought M&M’s Louisiana style chicken wings. In the small print it said “spicy”. She didn’t notice, but “Louisiana” caught my eye and then I noticed the wings were spicy.
“Sweety, these are spicy wings,” I told her.
“They’re the kind we usually get,” she retorted.
I replied “Are you sure? I don’t remember ever seeing Louisiana on the package before.” She’s 1/4 Indian and likes things a lot spicier than I do. But, she was fairly sure we’d bought these wings before and that I liked them. So, stupidly, I cooked the whole box.
I’m sure you can tell where I’m going with this. I ate one wing. Then I was running to the fridge, drinking milk straight from the carton, doing whatever I could to sooth the burning in my wussy mouth. You know what works even better than milk? Table cream. I swallowed a mouth full.
So here we have comedy of errors. Jen can be forgiven for thinking she bought the right wings, but I was a dunderhead for cooking them all! Now she has to finish them! Good thing she likes spicy.
WTF SEARCH TERMS XXXVIII: Surströmming edition
Heyo, LeBrainiacs! It’s time for more WTF Search Terms, those weird and wacky things that people typed into search engines to bring them here. I’ve gathered 10 more for your enjoyment.
People often search for “naked lebrains”. Should I be flattered? Setting the record right, once and for all: I have never, and will never, do porn. I’m glad that you keep searching for it, but give it up will ya?
This isn’t a how-to site, but I loved this next question. It had to be from a Trailer Park Boys fan. Nobody else would think of it. Bless you, whoever you are:
True north strong and free!
These folks also had some Trailer Park Boys questions:
It sure looked like they did, in Stockholm after opening a can of putrid of fish called surströmming. Nothing appeared to be faked for the cameras!
I know this is hard to believe, but it’s the episode called “Copenhagen”. Because it’s the capital of Denmark. C’mon guys, use your heads before asking Siri to find out for you.
Not in Europe.
I plead the Fifth.
This next one is related to Kiss. I wish this is what I titled from review of Kiss at the Ritz:
And then there’s this, obviously triggered by “Kiss” and “Maiden” who I’ve reviewed, but I don’t know what this person was searching for:
And then in the “Conspiracy Theory that Just Won’t Die” category…guess who’s back!?
Thanks for checking out these search terms. Subscribe so you never miss any!
Sometimes, an album is just perfect. Nothing needs to be added or taken away. It is simply right the first time.
The Foo Fighters got it right the first time when they released The Colour and the Shape in 1997 At 47 minutes, it was already a bit longer than the average album, but what a towering 47 minutes they are! There is a reason that The Colour and the Shape is consistently the album that all others are compared to. It’s that one magical, flawless album that can never be equalled no matter what Dave Grohl & Co. come up with next.
The Colour and the Shape was a product of its time and all the things Grohl was going through. The drummer (William Goldsmith) was fired mid-way and Dave re-recorded all the drums himself, bar two ballads. Maybe that’s one reason that the album is so special. When Dave plays the drums, the energy level goes through the roof and comes out the speakers. That’s what happens on “Monkey Wrench”, “My Hero”, “Everlong”, “New Way Home” and “Hey, Johnny Park!”, five of the most exciting tracks. The energy simply cannot contained. The Law of Conservation of Energy dictates that it all comes out of your body as you rock to this album!
Of one were to give a negative critique to any of this album, it might be Grohl’s screaming on “My Poor Brain” and “Enough Space” among others. It is true: Grohl chips the paint with his voice from time to time. This works though, as an appropriate contrast to the soft melodies of “Walking After You” and “February Stars”. The album is well rounded. It joyfully careens from those heavy blasts, to quiet acoustic bits of pop glory.
The Colour and the Shape has the songs, it has the riffs, and mindblowing drums. It has the vibe, and it reeks of passion. Whatever Grohl was going through at this time, it ended up in the music. The production by Gil Norton is a bright contrast to the lo-fi of the debut album Foo Fighters. It simply cannot be improved upon. Even the lyrics go full circle. Listen to “Doll” and “New Way Home” and see if you catch it.
When Sony Legacy added seven bonus tracks, it beefed the album up to well over an hour. If you listen to the CD as a whole, it completely changes the listening experience, and not in a good way. It’s Coke vs. New Coke. Adding essentially a third side of B-sides doesn’t make it better. It would be advised to collect the original Foo Fighters singles from which these tracks were taken. And if you do, you’ll get more songs that weren’t included on the Sony Legacy, such as live and acoustic versions. Of the bonus tracks, the Gary Numan cover “Down in the Park” is particularly exceptional. The new liner notes by bassist Nate Mendel are quite cool.
The Colour and the Shape is one of the best albums of 1997, if not the very best of that year. It’s tough to beat and adding bonus tracks didn’t do the trick. Therefore, The Colour and the Shape gets two ratings:
Original 1997 CD: 5/5 stars
Sony Legacy 2007 CD: 4/5 stars
GETTING MORE TALE #604: Heavy Vinyl is a Tactile Experience
Now that vinyl is back in a big way, you may have noticed more and more heavy vinyl in your local record store. 180 gram vinyl records are very popular, particularly for reissues. You’ll notice the front cover stickers touting the weight, but what does this all mean?
As it turns out, not very much. Heavier weight vinyl is a preference, but not one that particularly pays off in improved sound quality.
Typical records are pressed on 120 grams on vinyl. It starts as vinyl pellets, which are melted and expertly pressed between two plates. A record is plenty thick enough to accommodate grooves pressed into both sides. Thickness is not the issue. Sound quality depends on other factors much more. Virgin plastic, not recycled, is preferred by connoisseurs. The quality of the presses, the experience of the engineers, and of course the mastering of the music for vinyl are all critical. Thickness, not so much. The groove in a record depends more on surface area in order to get a good sound, and that comes from width. Sound issues arise when a side of a record is so long, that the grooves need to be squeezed onto that 12″ diameter. Then you lose clarity and distinction. A thick record might cut down on vibration from the turntable, but a good platter will do the same job.
200 gram vinyl. Notice the thick edge.
Heavy vinyl feels amazing in the hand. 180 grams or even 200 grams are very common today. Like buying a heavy-duty vehicle, you feel the weight and sturdiness and associate it with quality. Generally, you would be correct. When a label presses a release on 180 gram vinyl, it’s often the case that this is some special reissue. Perhaps it’s been specially re-mastered for vinyl, or manufactured in limited quantities too. Sometimes these come in special gatefold packaging. If the remastering is done well and not overdriven like a lot of modern releases, chances are you’ll be getting a good sounding record.
120, 180, 200 grams…how heavy can these things get? Is there an upper limit? I asked Gerald McGhee, vice-president of Precision Pressing in Burlington Ontario. He also sings in Canadian band Brighton Rock.
“You can go higher. 200 is in vogue right now. 140 is standard, and 180 is getting more traction, but very little difference in sound quality,” says McGhee.
In theory you could take vinyl to absurd limits, but what would be the point? Maybe if you’re Blink 182, you could do a special 182 gram release. (Make sure I get my cut for the idea if you do.) If you as a consumer buy heavy vinyl, you’re doing it mostly because you enjoy it for reasons other than sound. Perhaps you buy them because you are used to getting a good mastering job with such releases. Perhaps, like me, you also enjoy the satisfying feeling of handling such a record. Perhaps you just like to collect variations. But if you are not one of those, you may just want to save the extra few bucks and buy a cheaper version.
GETTING MORE TALE #603:
Canada Wants to Tax Your Staff Discount
Record store employees! Have you heard? Now the Canada Revenue Agency wants a piece of your staff discount.
According to CTV, “when an employee receives a discount on merchandise because of their employment, the value of the discount is generally included in the employee’s income.” They will calculate the tax by using the “equal to the fair market value of the merchandise purchased, less the amount paid by the employee.” That is unless the discount is “available to the public or a segment of the public, at some point during the year.” Those car deals where you “pay what the employees pay” wouldn’t count as a taxed staff discount, which is good for people who work at dealerships. CD stores generally don’t have a “staff discount sale”.
Let’s say, just like when I was working in the Record Store, an $11.99 CD gets sold to you at the discount price of $7.99. The government now wants to tax you on the $4 discount that was the only perk of a crappy retail job.
I used to buy several CDs a week. Let’s say for the sake of conservative estimates that I bought three CDs a week with my discount. Let’s take the same $4 discount used in the example above, with Ontario’s 13% sales tax. That’s $0.52 of tax now added. $0.52 per CD on three CDs a week, multiplied by 52 weeks: That’s $81.12 a year of brand new taxes, enough to buy several albums instead.
Conservatives are accusing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of exploiting Canadians who can least afford it. Lisa Raitt, Conservative Deputy Leader, said the government is “picking the pockets of minimum wage earners.” Finance critic Pierre Poilevre says the tax will “target those who can least afford to pay more”. Other commentators have noted that staff discounts will need to be rigorously tracked for taxation.
It is true. At the Record Store, a manager would simply ring in the staff sale with discount. Now, copies of receipts will have to be kept, filed and forwarded to Payroll, with the original price and discount. This will cost businesses time, but they will have no choice but to comply with whatever law takes shape. All paperwork would have to be kept in case of audit.
If this goes through on January 1, it will stink to high heaven.
Staff discounts on a CD, or a pair of shoes, or a meal are part of the perks of working a thankless job. It’s something people can look forward to. Celebrate passing your three month probationary period with a discounted purchase.
Who is going to pay this tax, the employee or the employer? It will hurt both regardless. Employees may have to stop taking advantage of discounts and just buy less from their places of work. Some people only buy non-essential luxury items from work (like CDs), but what about those who get a staff discount on necessities? That’s a part of their shrinking budget.
Canadians are tired of being nickel and dimed to death with taxes. It’s hard enough making ends meet, and this tax goes after something previously held sacred. It’s not good for Canadians and we certainly hope it does not come to pass.
UPDATE: Feds are now denying this story and say there’s no such tax coming. Hmmm.