RECORD STORE TALES & REVIEWS: Complete Table of Contents

February 1, 2012 10 comments
Categories: Table of Contents

REVIEW: Jim Crean – Insatiable (2016)

July 26, 2016 Leave a comment

NEW RELEASE

JIM CREAN – Insatiable (2016 Rocker Records)

If you’re not familiar with Jim Crean, that’s OK.  You probably know of his famous friends.  Crean sings lead with the Appice Brothers (Carmine and Vinny) for their Drum Wars live shows.   Both brothers appear on his solo CD, Insatiable, along with other stars such as Phil Lewis (LA Guns), Mike Tramp (White Lion), Tony Franklin (The Firm/Blue Murder), Phil Naro and more.  But it doesn’t matter how many guests you fill your album with if you don’t have the tunes.  Crean has not only the tunes, but also the voice.

In a way the weirdest track is the intro by Don Jamieson from That Metal Show.  He pronounces “Appice” differently for each brother.  Carmine is “Appeece” and Vinny is “Appicee”.  Very odd.  The title track “Insatiable” features Vinny, but the song does not address the pronunciation controversy!  If you’re a fan of 80’s sunset strip rock, then “Insatiable” is for you, like Faster Pussycat but fed a steady diet of heavy metal.  Crean has range and rasp, and the result is the kind of rock that people miss today.

Vinny might be best known for his stint in Dio and Black Sabbath with Ronnie James.  With the late Jimmy Bain on bass, Appice and Crean re-created Dio’s “Caught in the Middle”.  Having original players and writers on it lends it a credibility that most covers can’t match.  Best of all, Crean can pull it off!  Singing Dio is, to put it mildly, not easy.  Crean pulls it off with confidence and ability, just as he does with his own original tune “Touch”.  Not to exaggerate, but “Touch” has to be one of the best songs to come out in 2016:  killer mid-paced rock, besides the riffs and that voice!  Another fine cover, L.A. Guns’ “Over the Edge” is performed with assistance from Philip Lewis.  A more obscure choice from 1991’s Hollywood Vampires, it’s a powerful slow rock track with a Zeppelin-y groove.  Guitarist Steve Major also needs to be singled out for a fine performance on this one (and all the tracks).

The most star-studded song is the lead single, “Can’t Find My Way”, a Mike Tramp cover.  Mike sings on it, as does Phil Naro, with Tony Franklin on bass and Carmine on drums.  (Tony and Carmine make it 2/3rds of the original Blue Murder, minus only John Sykes.)  This ballad is a bit slow, a bit long, but kicks in for the chorus. I actually prefer Jim’s original material. “Follow Your Heart” is one such original, this one featuring ex-Dio guitarist Rowan Robertson. It has a distinct Dio-ish vibe, aided and abetted by Vinny’s incomparable drum sound. The final three originals (“Shut Your Mouth”, “Turn it Around”, and “Miss Me”) are all very strong hard rock songs. Crean wrote all his originals himself. What a talent. Such a voice, with sharp songwriting chops. This guy has more talent in his pinky than CC Deville has in his entire body.

Two bonus tracks close it out, both covers: Mr. Big’s rockin’ “The Whole World’s Gonna Know”, and “Magic Touch” by Kiss. Sharp fans will recall that Crean contributed “Magic Touch” to Mitch Lafon’s Kiss tribute CD, A World With Heroes.  If you missed that now sold-out CD, you can at least get Jim’s version of the song here.  “Magic Touch” is, of course, great.  It always was, but now here’s a chance to hear it without the disco (Kissco?) trappings.  As for “The Whole World’s Gonna Know”, Jim’s version may surpass the original.

Added Can-Con bonus:  Much of the album was recorded in Toronto, just a stone’s throw away from Jim’s base in Buffalo, New York.

Added extra bonus:  My copy included a DVD with the “Can’t Find My Way” music video.

If you like hard rock with integrity the way they used to make it, then this album is for you.  If you buy one new release this week, make it Jim Crean’s Insatiable.

5/5 stars

 

VIDEO REVIEW: Crystal Pepsi (2016)

July 25, 2016 9 comments

#503: 22 Acacia Avenue

July 23, 2016 17 comments

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GETTING MORE TALE #503: 22 Acacia Avenue

Everything started with Iron Maiden.  At least for me.  Way way waaaay back in Record Store Tales Part 1: Run to the Hills, we revealed that pivotal moment when everything changed.  The album was Masters of Metal Volume 2, and regarding hearing “Run to the Hills” for the first time I wrote, “Some people speak of moments of clarity: That was my moment.”  Everything I was focused on and passionate about now took a back seat to rock and roll.  The year was 1984.

I taped some Iron Maiden albums off friends, and bought the double Live After Death as my first Maiden LP.  I memorised the names of the members, and made sure to include Martin “Black Knight” Birch and Derek “Dr. Death” Riggs in my memory banks.  Maiden had the best album covers, the best videos, and the best lyrics.  They had songs about World War II and the Crimea.  It was more intelligent music than the other heavy metal bands I’d heard.  I stared for hours at my Live After Death LP, so loaded was it with photos and facts.  In grade 8, I was the only kid in my school who liked Iron Maiden, and that was fine by me.

Figuring out exactly what Maiden were saying, that was another story.  Live After Death had a lyric sheet, but before that we were just guessing.  In a case of mis-heard lyrics, I assumed that the lyrics to “Number of the Beast” went, “Hell and fire are born to be the least”.  Bruce was actually singing “Hell and fire are spawned to be released.”  “To be the least” went over better with teachers and parents, but when I got Live After Death, I kept the real lyrics for myself.  I did learn a new word from that song, “spawned”.

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Maybe it was Bruce’s accent, but I really struggled to hear what he was saying, even just when he was speaking on stage.  “Scream for me, Long Beach!”, he repeated throughout the album.  I could not figure out at all what he was saying, and neither could my best buddy Bob.  It sounded like “Scream for me, lambiens!”  So we assumed “lambiens” was British slang for “my friends”.  That made sense to us.  Bob had Live After Death on cassette and there were no liner notes.  Not until I got it on LP many months later did I see that the album was recorded at Long Beach Arena, and put two and two together.  Until then, it was “lambiens”!  “Speak to me, Hammersmith!” was another Bruce phrase that we couldn’t decipher.  Until I noticed that side four of the LP was recorded at Hammersmith Odeon did it click.  Until then, I thought Bruce was talking to his bandmates on stage.  “Speak to me, Harris Smith!”

Both of us played that live album plenty.  Thanks to “Powerslave”, I was way ahead on my Egyptology.  By the time we started taking Egyptian history in grade 11, I was already well familiar with the eye of Horus.  All knew all about Alexander the Great and the Gordian Knot.  Iron Maiden brought all that stuff right to our stereos, but I don’t think they got enough credit for it.

Maiden had other subject matter as well.  Though seldom, they would sometimes write songs regarding the “fairer sex” such as “Charlotte the Harlot”.  As a young kid first getting into the band, I had no idea what that was about.  Even foggier to me was “22 Acacia Avenue”.  It was a great tune, but the lyrics were a total mystery to me.  It’s not complicated:  Charlotte sells herself for money in both tunes.  In the second, someone is trying to talk her out of this lifestyle.  “You’re packing your bags, you’re coming with me.”  Right over my head.

In art class at school, we had to draw a scary scene for Halloween.  I chose a bunch of imagery I lifted from Maiden covers:  streetlamps, grave stones, fire, dark alleys, a grim reaper and…a house with the address “22 Acacia Avenue”.  I liked how Maiden’s artist Derek Riggs hid symbols and clues in his covers, so I was trying to do the same, but just randomly.  The teacher walked up and observed my artwork, and asked me a couple questions.  “22 Acacia Avenue, is that where you live?”  No, but how the hell do I explain this to the Catholic teacher at a very Catholic school?  Scrambling for an answer I said, “No, that’s the address of an actual real haunted house.”  The teacher “Oooh’ed” excitedly and went to the next student.  An actual haunted house?  Boy did I have that wrong.  Not that I could have given the real answer!

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Playing Live After Death again today as I’m writing this is very much a time capsule.  It’s 1985 again, and Bob and I are playing air guitars to “22 Acacia Avenue” in my basement.  How badly we so wanted to BE Iron Maiden.  Hell I made a birthday card for Bob one year that had his face in Iron Maiden over Dave Murray’s!  Of 22 Acacia Avenue, Bruce sang “That’s the place where we all go.”  Good enough for us, so we wanted to go too.  If we knew what Bruce was actually singing about, I think we would have (wait for it) run to the hills instead!

REVIEW: Swingers – Music from the Miramax Motion Picture (1996)

July 21, 2016 14 comments

movie-soundtrack-week


Scan_20160714SWINGERS – Music from the Miramax Motion Picture (1996 A&M)

Now here…now here is a soundtrack!  Every track is a keeper.  With a mixture of oldies and newer songs, Swingers had a peerless balance.   If you’re down to swing, dance, or just get dirty, this soundtrack has what you need.  Bonus points for the uber-thin and young Vince Vaughn on the front cover too. Jon Favreau executive produced the soundtrack, and it’s clear the guy has good taste in music.

I love it when a soundtrack puts scenes from a movie right in your head.  Dean Martin’s “You’re Nobody ‘Til Somebody Loves You” kicks off both the CD and the movie, and all I can think is “Vegas baby, Vegas.”  That slow jazz just sets the mood for the adventures ahead.  The horns pop!  It’s money, baby.  Talk about setting the bar high for an opening track; thankfully there’s lots more to come.

“Paid for Loving” by Love Jones brings me right into the film’s setting again, but it’s Tony Bennett’s “With Plenty of Money and You” that has me seeing the bright lights of Vegas before me.  Remember Mikey and T rolling up in their suits?  You’d feel like a high roller too, with a song like this playing.  Tony is followed by Big Bad Voodoo Daddy (who appeared in the film).  Now, I do kinda wish it was the live version of “You & Me & the Bottle Makes 3 Tonight (Baby)”.  In the film, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy play it live, but this is a studio version.  I think including the live version would have been an extra treat for fans, but I’m not complaining.  If you don’t find yourself tapping your toes to it, call the coroner, because you may be dead.

Mixing new and old, Scotty and the guys from Big Bad Voodoo Daddy are chased by Louis Jordan, from way way back in 1941.  If you love muted trumpet solos, then dig right in.  A song you should recognise is the oft-played “Groove Me” by King Floyd (1970).  It’s a soul classic that found itself used on TV ads over the years.   More jazz (a couple cool instrumentals), and more Big Bad Voodoo Daddy are to be found as the CD progresses.  Daddy have three tracks on the CD, all of which were in the movie.  “Go Daddy-O” has to be a favourite for sure, but “I Wan’na Be Like You” has a tropical salsa beat.

Roger Miller’s “King of the Road” isn’t jazz and doesn’t swing, but it has the same golden oldie feel.  It’s not the only country song:  George Jones himself honours the CD with his presence.  The melancholy ballad “She Thinks I Still Care” is one of the…saddest, I guess…lyrics I’ve ever heard.  It’s a great song from a great scene in the film.

“Pick up the Pieces” by the Average White Band is the kind of song everybody needs.  “Need” isn’t too strong a word either.  You know the song, you love the song.  You have to.  It’s required.  Finally, “I’m Beginning to See the Light” by Bobby Darin completes the journey, and it’s back to the same kind of sound that Dean Martin started the album with.  And what a journey it is!  You just…feel BETTER after listening.  When I bought this CD, I felt like this line of dialogue directly applied to me:

“You’re a big winner.  I’m gonna ask you a simple question and I want you to listen to me: who’s the big winner here tonight at the casino? Huh?  Mikey!  That’s who!  Mikey’s the big winner.  Mikey wins.”

5/5 stars

REVIEW: O Brother, Where Art Thou? – Soundtrack (2000)

July 20, 2016 22 comments

movie-soundtrack-week


O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU? – Music from a film by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen (2000 Universal)

Hot damn!  It’s the Soggy Bottom Boys!

Even if you hated the film (have a doctor check to see if you still have taste left), you can’t deny the fun and authentic roots music on its soundtrack.

A bizarre re-telling of Homer’s The Odyssey set in the 1930’s depression-era south, O Brother was nothing if not unique.  It mixes a liberal interpretation of Greek mythology, with Americana and the mythology of the blues era.  Some people don’t get it, some people do but don’t like it, and others have long been swept away by its charms.  Those with an allergy to George Clooney, fear not:  he does not actually sing on this soundtrack, although his co-star Tim Blake Nelson certainly does (on “I’m in the Jailhouse Now”). Dan Tyminski from Alison Krauss & Union Station sings for Clooney’s character Ulysses Everett McGill on the signature hit, “Man of Constant Sorrow” though many people assume it’s George.

The soundtrack CD is a mixture of light and dark.  The first two songs  are the perfect example:  “Po Lazarus” is a chain-gang work song, just before Ulysses Everett McGill and his two companions break free and embark on their Odyssey.  It’s followed by a 1928 recording by Harry McClintock, “The Big Rock Candy Mountain”, a joyful nonsense song about a hobo finding paradise on the rails.

“Where the boxcars all are empty,
And the sun shines every day,
On the birds and the bees,
And the cigarette trees,
The lemonade springs,
Where the bluebird sings,
In the Big Rock Candy Mountains.”

The composite of light and dark reflects the movie itself, but makes for a fairly inconsistent listen.  The soundtrack follows the progress of the film, but without the story backing it up, it’s harder to go with the flow from song to song.  The a capella “O Death” (Ralph Stanley) for example is squeezed between the popular songs “Man of Constant Sorrow” and “I’m in the Jailhouse Now”, so most people will typically skip it.

I look at this soundtrack CD as a great “starter kit” for exploring more genres of music.  The dominant ones are folk and bluegrass, but there are also blues tracks and hymns.  Norman Blake’s “You Are My Sunshine” sounds wonderful sitting in the shade on a summer day.  Immediately after that, you get the velvet tones of Alison Krauss, from the baptism scene with “Down to the River to Pray”.  You have never heard a more perfect version, serene, still and deep as the water.  And, yes, the Soggy Bottom Boys!  In the film, Ulysses Everett McGill and his companions Pete, Delmar and Tommy Johnson (loosely based on Robert) wind up cutting a record.  There are four versions of “I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow” on the album.  The first is the acoustic track shown being recorded in the film.  The version that became a hit single in the real world is from the climax, a fully augmented mix with fiddles and slides.  That is included closer to the end of the disc. There is an instrumental version on acoustic guitar by Norman Blake, a fine take indeed.  The fourth is an instrumental version on fiddle by John Hartford, barely recognisable.  All four are quite different but valuable.

Blues singer and guitarist Chris Thomas King was cast in the film as Tommy Johnson, and his solo track “Hard Time Killing Floor Blues” is a fine example of acoustic blues.  There is plenty of sunny and gleeful folk, such as “Keep on the Sunny Side”, “I’ll Fly Away”, “In the Highways” and of course “In the Jailhouse Now”.  Tim Blake Nelson is certainly a multi-talented guy, but the yodelling part is not performed by John Turturro as it appears in the film.  Still Pat Enright’s yodel part is one of the highlights of the entire album.  It’s important to note that producer T Bone Burnett captured authetic sounding performances here.  Close your eyes, mix some scratchy vinyl sounds over it, and you can imagine these are vintage recordings from the 1930’s.

Emmylou Harris, Gillian Welch, the Fairfield Four, the Cox Family and more…this CD is a great way to both enjoy an hour of music from the film, and kickstart a collection of folk, bluegrass and more.  Dig in!

4.5/5 stars

Final bonus:  Sh*t LeBrain’s Grandma Says!

I love my grandma with all my heart, but sometimes she gets the names of movies wrong.  We took her to the theater to see “There’s Mail Waiting for You” (You’ve Got Mail), and she also really enjoyed this movie, which she calls “Brother Can You Spare a Dime?”

REVIEW: AC/DC – Who Made Who (1986 soundtrack to Maximum Overdrive)

July 19, 2016 45 comments

movie-soundtrack-week

Today’s movie soundtrack comes by no coincidence.  Today’s my birthday!  And I got this album on this day in 1987 from my partner in crime for many years, Bob!

 


AC/DC – Who Made Who (1986 Epic soundtrack to Maximum Overdrive, 2003 remaster)

As a movie director, Stephen King is a great novelist.

30 years ago, Maximum Overdrive was King’s directorial debut.  The movies based on his books had been box office gold so far, but King always complained about the adaptations of his original material.  So why not hand the reins over to him?

King’s goal was to make “the loudest movie ever made”, and part of that was leaving the soundtrack to AC/DC.  King issued the film with instructions that “this film is to be played as loud as possible.”  The funny thing, according to him, was that most theaters did it.

AC/DC did the entire soundtrack, a mixture of old and new material.  It was an unorthodox move and it left AC/DC with what some consider to be their first real “greatest hits” album; this coming from a band who in 2016 has yet to issue an actual greatest hits album!

The robotic pulse of “Who Made Who” commences the affair, a massive hit still a radio staple today.  One of AC/DC’s most recognisable tunes, “Who Made Who” was a bigger smash than the movie that spawned it.  That’s Simon Wright on drums, emulating the perfect beats of Phil Rudd before him, creating a fine facsimile.  The keys to the song though are the simple and catchy guitars of Angus and Malcolm Young.  Having nailed down the art of writing catchy bases for songs, the brothers Young really perfected it here.

They also perfected it on 1980’s “You Shook Me All Night Long”.  Placing the biggest AC/DC hit of all time second in line is almost like nailing the coup de grâce prematurely, but there is plenty more firepower on the album.  It works in the second position, cleaning up anyone left standing and getting them shakin’ on the dance floor.

AC/DC added two brand new instrumentals to this soundtrack (“Johnson was sick that day”, joked Angus).  “D.T.” is the first of them, somewhat unremarkable and echoey on the drums.  But this is designed as background music for movie scenes, so it really shouldn’t be measured by the same yardstick as, say, a Rush instrumental.  The second on side two is the peppier “Chase the Ace”.  Punctuated with some cool Angus licks, “Chase the Ace” is simple and effective like “D.T.”.

There were a few tunes from the recent Fly on the Wall album, all killers.  “Sink the Pink” (oh, Brian!) is recorded so muddy that you can’t hear the words, but it does rock.  Angus’ guitar break is pure fun, and the song gets your ass moving.  That leads into the sole Bon Scott inclusion, “Ride On”, from a quieter moment in the film.  What’s really cool is that even though these songs are from all over the place, Who Made Who sounds like a fairly cohesive trip.

Side two commences ominously with “Hells Bells”, a fine way to distribute classic tunes evenly across the sides.  “Shake Your Foundations” is on its tail, hitting you with another blast of AC/DC right in the face.  One of the better tunes from Fly on the Wall, “Shake Your Foundations” does its advertised job.  Yet, I do believe there was only one way to properly end this album.  That would have to be the cannon-fire of “For Those About to Rock”.

Who Made Who was actually my first Johnson-era AC/DC album, given to me by my buddy Bob on this day in 1987.  If this review is slanted ever so slightly in the “pro” direction, so be it.

4.5/5 stars

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