Author: mikeladano

Metal, hard rock, rock and roll! LeBrain's Record Store Tales & Reviews!

REVIEW: Whitesnake – Flesh & Blood (2019 Japanese import)

WHITESNAKE – Flesh & Blood (2019 Cynjas Japanese import CD)

So you got the new Whitesnake.  Think you got all the songs just because you got the deluxe version on CD or iTunes?  Naw!  Think again!  Once again, it’s Japan with the hardest to find bonus tracks.

To be fair, it’s a give and take.  While Japan often gets their own exclusive songs, they also miss out on others.  In North America, we got a deluxe edition with “Can’t Do Right For Doing Wrong”, “If I Can’t Have You”, and three remixes of album tracks.  The Japanese CD has none of those, but instead has its own exclusive remix.

The ballad “After All” is surely one of the highlights on Flesh & Blood.  As a simple, fairly unadorned acoustic love song, it’s right in the wheelhouse of more recent “unzipped” ‘Snake.  Well, the Japanese bonus remix is even more stripped down.  The “Unzipped” mix is the same recording, just with less stuff in the mix — no electric guitars, no keyboards.  An insignificant difference?  Absolutely.  But with an acoustic song this fucking good, you may enjoy the purity of the unembellished version.  Up to you really, but if you’re the kind of collector that needs “all the tracks”, then you do need this, don’t you?

“I don’t care about bonus tracks,” you say.  “Just tell me if the album is any good!”

Check out our track by track review for full details, but in short:  fuck yes!

Flesh & Blood is being described by enthusiastic fans as “the best album since Slip of the Tongue.  They are probably correct in that declaration.  It’s stunningly good:  diverse, well written and well played.  It draws from a broader palette of sound than many of the past albums, and even dips back into the 1970s on “Can’t Do Right For Doing Wrong” (which isn’t on the Japanese CD).  There are no songs to skip through, and while not all are equally strong, none suck.  It has a high ratio of songs that could become future classics, like “Gonna Be Alright”, “Good To See You Again”, and “Sands of Time”.  So yes, to answer your questions, it’s a bloody good album no matter what version you can afford.

The domestic CD is the best buy for its songs-per-dollar value (18 tracks on the deluxe), over the Japanese (14 tracks).  Rating this purely as an album with its bonus track, it’s still a solid:

4.5/5 stars.  Could be the album of the year.

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#759: Talk, Talk

GETTING MORE TALE #759: Talk, Talk

I was browsing local news stories, and one came up that had me choking on my coffee a little bit.

It was an interview with the owner of the old Record Store, who had opened up a new location.  In the interests of keeping everyone anonymous, I’ll paraphrase instead of quoting the portion that had me shocked and annoyed.

“We want to appeal to the hardcore music fan, the kind that just want to come in and talk about and listen to music.  Hopefully one day we can have chairs and make it a hangout atmosphere.”

Sounds good.  Sounds a bit like Sonic Boom in Toronto.  Nothing wrong with that.  Except it contradicts the very first lesson he taught me at the Record Store! In Getting More Tale #575, I described a scenario where he set me up, in order to teach me something valuable about customer service.

He knowingly asked me to go help an annoying, very talky lady.  After a chat that lasted longer than I care to remember, he said to me “That’s your first lesson.  Don’t get into conversations with customers.”

I realise that times change, and with them so do business strategies.  I’m sure somebody will say, “Well that was different.”  I can’t help but think of all the times I got scolded or received dirty looks for talking “too much” about music with customers.  The impression I got was they would have preferred an impersonal assembly line.  Serve the customer, plug the CD wipes for $5.99, get the sale, and move on to the next one.  Don’t encourage extended conversation.  The handful of customers I created relationships with ended up being long-termers, however.  My dad tells me I have the gift of gab like my grandfather.  My regulars enjoyed our chats, though the bosses didn’t.

Now he’s talking about making conversation a main feature of the store.  Does that mean he was wrong and I was right all along?

#758: Len Mix Vol. I and II

GETTING MORE TALE #758:  Len Mix Vol. I and II

In the early 2000s, the best way to “share” music (note the quotations) was to burn a CD for your friends.

I had a customer, now friend, named Len. I knew him originally via some mutual highschool pals. I recognised him because he was in a Kiss air band when I was in grade 10.  I befriended him later on as a customer at the Record Store, and I learned more about his taste in music and his collection. We were on the same page in virtually every way musically.

Len had a neat way of tracking his music, in the days before computers made this easy. He made a black and white photocopy of every CD cover, and filed them all in order, in a huge binder with title, year and tracklist. A work intensive process I’m sure, but it benefited me tremendously as you’ll soon see.

Len loaned me the book and said “pick anything you want me to burn for you.”

I still have all the CDs Len burned for me! One was a Kiss rarities disc (we’ll look at that another time), and another was all Bon Jovi B-sides. He made me a CD copy of the first Hurricane EP with a non-vinyl bonus track. And he put a whole ton of miscellaneous songs on two CDs that I titled, obviously, Len Mix!

The title confused a few people.  I remember I had a girl over and she saw the CDs.  “Are those all songs by the band Len?”  At that point I may have realised I should have picked another title.

I made a list of songs that Len had that I wanted.  They were generally big singles from bands I liked, that I didn’t own the album.  A lot of songs I was exposed to on the Pepsi Power Hour in the 80s.

Let’s have a listen then, shall we?

LEN MIX Vol. I

Autograph’s “Loud and Clear” is a killer rocker, far less commercial than “Turn Up the Radio”.  I do have the album today (on CD), but I don’t own the Krokus that follows.  “Midnite Maniac” is still enjoyable, especially since I haven’t played it in over 10 years.  Kingdom Come’s “Get It On” is one I own a couple times over now, and I think I like it more today than I did in the beginning.  Y&T’s “Summertime Girls” is horribly cheesy, and yet so much guilty fun.  It’s bright, it’s catchy and I don’t give a fuck!  I still don’t own it properly on album.  Nor do I own “Run Runaway” by Slade, a song I have liked since I was a little kid.  I should pick up a Slade compilation, shouldn’t I?

According to MSG, “Love Is Not a Game”.  I have this one on vinyl today, but Len Mix is still my only CD copy.  Next, a very important song for your Ozzy collection.   “Close My Eyes Forever” is by Lita Ford, featuring Ozzy in a stunning duet.  Yet it may as well be an Ozzy song featuring Lita if that’s what you prefer.  You can’t get it on any of the Ozzman’s albums.  Today I have it on a Lita CD.  Then King Kobra advise us to “Never Say Die”…”Iron Eagle”, baby!  I still don’t have this album, and the song is a guilty pleasure.  Not one of King Kobra’s proudest moments.  You gotta admire that they all cut their hair for the music video, though.

I was always jealous that Len owned a four track copy of Def Leppard’s “When Love and Hate Collide” CD single. Mine only had two tracks! So I requested that Len burn me the demo version of the song that I did not yet own.

“Why Do You Think They Call It Dope?” asked Love/Hate. I ask myself why I still do not own Blackout in the Red Room!  It was rare back then, but there is no excuse today in the age of Discogs.  The Blink 182 song that follows it sticks out like a sore thumb, but I still like a lot of Blink.  Travis Barker is a tremendous drummer, and these guys wrote some great pop punk.  Then Kingdom Come are back with their tremendous ballad “What Love Can Be”, followed by the incredible British band Thunder.  They had a number of great tracks on hard to find albums.  “Low Life in High Places ” classes up the CD by several increments, but then Y&T are back to crash the party.  “Contagious”, like “Summertime Girls”, sounds a bit dated today.  Yet it’s just so damn catchy.

The next two songs are ones I have happily acquired on CD.  Actually, Keel’s “The Right to Rock” is here on LP and CD.  It’s an old classic I grew up with, and so very 1980s.  So is Aldo Nova’s “Fantasy” but in a completely different way.

Len had some extra space on the end of this CD and so threw on Axel Rudi Pell’s “Tear Down the Walls”.  I have not played this song in over a decade, but it sounds great!  Far more modern than anything else on this disc, but Len was right to add it!  Discogs tells me that the stunning lead vocal is by Johnny Gioeli of Neal Schon’s band Hardline.  Of course!

LEN MIX Vol. II

That’s it for Len Mix Vol. I.  The rest of the songs went onto Vol. II, which like Vol. I, begins explosively.  Kingdom Come had a few bangers, and “Do You Like It” is the best of them.  This one comes from their underappreciated second album In Your Face.  (Legend has it that some stores thought the band was called “Kingdom” and the album Come In Your Face, and refused to stock it.)

The next three songs in a row are ones I still need to own on CD or LP:  More Y&T, Autograph and Krokus.  So far, all the Y&T songs have been pretty weak (though catchy and fun).  “Mean Streak” is anything but weak!  Y&T’s heavy metal roots are on full display with a riffy blast.  Then it’s Autograph’s return, with the previously mentioned “Turn Up the Radio”!  This song is probably better known today then it was in the early 2000s, thanks to video games and radio nostalgia.  Krokus’ “Ballroom Blitz” cover was one that, like “School’s Out”, I grew up thinking was a Krokus original!  Fortunately in time I learned the truth.

House of Lords albums were hard to come by at the time, and back then I didn’t own any but their first.  On this CD is the ballad “Remember My Name”.  This is from the second album Sahara which I now happily have.  I don’t particularly care for this one, as it has that overly saccharine faux-romantic sound that was too common in the late 80s into 1990.  But then like a kick in the face, it’s an Udo-less Accept with “Generation Clash”!  Though David Reese’s tenure in the band was brief, this song is a triumph.  I am happy to own the oddly titled album Eat the Heat today, because this darkly sparse prowl is still ace. What a voice on Reese, who could reach for those Udo screams when necessary.

Hey mom,
Have you always followed the golden rule?
Cause this just happens to be my first love.
And that being a must – a must.
That being playin’ my guitar!

It’s hard to come down from such a peak, and unfortunately the fall is broken by an out-of-place Blink 182 song.  “All the Small Things” is such a diametrically opposed song, it’s like cold water dumped on your head!  Two older goodies are not far behind:  “Blackout in the Red Room” by Love/Hate, and the amazing acoustic ballad “Loving You” by Kingdom Come.  It’s oh-so-very Zep, but what the hell.  Zep weren’t making that sound in 1989 and there was obviously a demand for it.

The aforementioned “School’s Out” by Krokus marks their last song on this set, meaning that via Len Mix I got all the Krokus songs that I knew as a kid.  Then it’s Y&T’s final song, the ballad “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark”.  It’s not one of their finest moments, but I would have requested this one because I had it on VHS but nothing else.  With the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, Y&T were obviously aiming to score that “hit ballad”, but Meniketi’s always perfect voice is still a pleasure to listen to.

Thunder’s “Dirty Love” from their first album reminds me that I really need to buy some Thunder.  Then comes a band from whom I only know one song.  It’s a good’un called “You’re So Strange”, though the band had a silly name:  Kik Tracee.  Their ace in the hole was singer Stephen Shareaux.  What a set of lungs on this guy!  He was one of many who auditioned for the vacant vocalist role in Motley Crue in 1992.  Gotta wonder what kind of music they could have made with a pair of lungs like Stephen Shareaux’s.

Moving on to the end, it’s the final Autograph song “Blondes in Black Cars”.  I don’t think it’s their best moment, but I sure have a lot of childhood memories associated with the music video. I pretty much discovered what puberty was all about thanks to that video. I must have worn out that pause button.

MSG’s “Gimme Your Love” was their other single from Perfect Timing, an album I now have on LP but would like on CD for the bonus tracks.  I’m getting the feeling an Amazon order order is forthcoming.  Following MSG is a remix of “Armageddon It” by Def Leppard, from the same since-acquired single as “When Love and Hate Collide”.  At 7:44 it’s a bit much, but I’m a Def Leppard completionist.  Once again Len had a little bit of space at the end of a CD and so wisely included the brief Dokken instrumental “Without Warning”.

It’s important to note that these CDs would have taken Len a bit of time to put together for me.  Few of us kept our music on computer.  Len would have been painstakingly switching discs in and out of his computer to make these for me.  The addition of bonus tracks shows how much care he put into it.

For Len Mix Vol. I and II, I’d say the verdict is clear.  These were a blast to listen to again.

5/5 stars

#757: The Demise of CD?

GETTING MORE TALE #757: The Demise of CD?

I don’t know if you’ve heard.  There’s this newfangled audio format that’s all the rage.  It’s called the “record”, or “long player”.  “LP” for short.  The technology is actually ancient.  It’s based on a needle running over a groove, picking up the vibrations, and converting it into sound.

Certainly not as sophisticated as the digital music that most of us consume today.  There are none of those pesky 1’s and 0’s being decoded.  It’s simple tech and maybe that’s why the LP has become so popular in recent years.  We’d never disparage the use of the LP.  It’s a physical medium, and it’ll last a lifetime if properly cared for.  Physical product is everything to the true music lover.

But what of the CD?  The compact disc has been our friend and companion since 1982.  Like many friendships, we have had our ups and downs.  For many of us, the CD still reigns supreme.  It’s smaller than an LP.  It’s easier to keep in mint condition than LP.  On a typical non-audiophile household setup, it sounds better than LP and is certainly superior to mp3.  For convenience, you can convert the CD to mp3 files and take it with you in just one click.  It’s a lot trickier to do that with an LP.  For many of us, the CD is the perfect format.  Plus they have all the bonus tracks, bonus discs, and musical extras that are rarely included on the LP versions.

Canadian comedian and rapper Tom Green recently announced his very first solo album.  It is being produced by Ship to Shore Phono Co.  It will be on green vinyl…but there will be no CD release.

Here we are in 2019, and Tom Green is releasing his solo debut…with no CD release.  This isn’t some indi artist.  This is a well known comedian who started in the CD age, made it big on MTV, and later became a fan favourite on Big Brother.  No CD release, just LP!  Cool, right?  Sure, but what does this mean for the beloved compact disc?

I’m not entirely sure.

These things go in phases and there is always a chance that CD will experience a nostalgia phase like LP is right now.  But it’s hard to get nostalgic about that little silver 5” disc.  Kids of today know them as those quaint things their parents had lying around but they weren’t allowed to touch.  Are these signals for the beginning of the end of CD?  Will there ever be a special “CD Store Day” for those of us who still think the silver discs are superior?

Time will tell.

#756.5: New Ride

If rock and roll is only about three things — girls, cars, and booze & drugs — then I took care of 1/3rd of my Rock N’ Roll Duty last night.

The new vehicle is as yet unnamed, but my new Chevy Equinox has arrived just in time for an oversized Sausagefest 2019.  No sleeping in this car, Uncle Meat!

The only thing that really matters to you, of course, is what’s up with the stereo?  A lot has changed in the 10 years since I bought ol’ blue, aka “Dougie Carmore”.  USB ports in the dash were brand new back then.  That car was a huge factor in my use of flash drives for all my music needs.  Now every car has one.  Funny thing though — the salesman who sold me the car had no idea you could just plug in a flash drive to listen to tunes.  He was trying to convince me to stream music from my phone.  Not necessary, my friend!  I came prepared with a 32 gig flash drive.  I plugged it in, and the stereo sounded great.

“I didn’t actually know you could do that,” he said.  Well now you know!  Am I the only guy who listens this way?

The first album played (in part) in the new car was Buddy Holly’s Millenium Collection.  The dash doesn’t display album cover art like others do, but that’s not a big deal.  The main thing is, I can play and access my music the way I am used to and equipped for.  Needing to give the stereo more of a workout, I chose Van Halen’s Diver Down to play next.  Both albums sounded terrific.  My new car is quieter, so now I can hear the music better at lower volume.

Big thanks to Craig and Samantha at Bennett GM in Cambridge for making this my easiest car purchase yet.  No pressure from them; nothing but courtesy and great service.  In and Craig’s case, a mutual love of rock.

On the road to rock, baby!

 

VHS Archives #76: David Lee Roth discusses change and disses Ozzy (1994)

Here’s David with Avi Lewis talking about the 80s, change, and dissing Ozzy Osbourne.

Sunday Chuckle: Cockcakes

What the hell, Facebook!?  See the picture below?  This is a dessert shop in Guelph that Facebook recommended to me.

I have to give them for authentic looking cock cakes.  I like the added touch of the frosting on the one, and I like the inclusiveness of the different colours.

But why, Facebook why?

VHS Archives #75: The craziest Iron Maiden interview you’ll ever see (1988)

Bruce Dickinson is extra naughty and caffeinated here with bandmate Dave Murray and Power Hour host Erica Ehm!

Seventh Son of a Seventh Son was brand new and the music video hadn’t even come out yet.  Bruce and Dave discuss:

  • The concept
  • The video
  • Lucifer
  • Whether Deep Purple are good football players or not
  • Recording
  • Bruce’s forthcoming book The Adventures of Lord Iffy Boatrace
  • Going folk?

This hilarious interview is a must-watch for Maiden fans worldwide.

R.I.P. Roky Erickson (1947-2019)

He didn’t have an easy life, so we hope he will rest in peace.  Roky Erickson was a songwriter extraordinaire, an innovator, and an influencer.   He impacted a young Dave Grohl and befriended ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons.  He was a founder of the psychedelic rock movement with the 13th Floor Elevators.  He also suffered from schizophrenia and endured horrific electro-shock therapy.

Roky Erickson eventually got the right treatment and made a return to recording and touring.  Yet it’s his 60s and 70s material that remains immortal.

Recommended listening:  The Evil One on CD, which is essentially two albums combined into one.  Every single song is amazing, but here’s “Mine Mine Mind” (produced by Stu Cook of CCR).  You can tell he was haunted.  Rest in peace, Roky.

REVIEW: Alice Cooper – A Paranormal Evening With Alice Cooper at the Olympia Paris (2018)

ALICE COOPER – A Paranormal Evening With Alice Cooper at the Olympia Paris (2018 Edel)

You don’t so much ask if a new Alice Cooper live album is good; instead you just ask what songs are on it.

A Paranormal Evening With Alice Cooper at the Olympia Paris (what a mouth full) features “Hurricane” Nita Strauss on lead guitar, Chuck “Beasto Blanco” Garric on bass, drummer Glen Sobel, and guitarists Ryan Roxie and Tommy Henriksen.  Guys like Garric and Roxie are the veterans, but Nita Strauss is a serious focal point.  She can really shred.

The setlist spans most of Cooper’s career.  The CD even opens with “Brutal Planet”, which was the set opener back in 2000 on the Brutal Planet tour.  The industrial-tinged song is less jarring live.  From there, onto the oldies:  “No More Mr. Nice Guy”, “Under My Wheels” and “Department of Youth”.  Alice’s band are capable backing singers and they tend to focus on the melody while Alice does his schtick with character.  I won’t tell you who Alice name-drops in “Department of Youth” (remember, it used to be teen idol Donny Osmond).  That’s a surprise.

Another surprise:  the fabulous “Pain” from Flush the Fashion.  The powerful dark pop is heavier live, enriched by three guitars in harmony.  Alice can still infuse the song with suffering, even decades later.  Back to an oldie for a moment with “Billion Dollar Babies” (absolutely massive with three guitars) and then another surprise:  “The World Needs Guts”.  Very few songs from Constrictor get played live, and this one is a live album debut.  There’s a certain nostalgia now for the Kane Roberts era, and “The World Needs Guts” thrills my gorilla on this album.  Then to another niche album, 2005’s garage rock of Dirty Diamonds.  It’s an underrated gem of an album, and so “Woman of Mass Distraction” is a welcome selection, though others would have been more interesting.

“Poison” is a perennial, and here it is again representing 1989’s Trash album.  Every Cooper lineup has its own touch with it.  This one isn’t the sleekest version but it’s the most thunderous.  To cap off the first CD, it’s “Halo of Flies” from “Killer”, almost 11 minutes in length.  This is the kind of deep cut you crave, complete and unedited.  Once again, the three guitars really enrich the sound.

Another regular, “Feed My Frankenstein”, is one I could live without.  But this one is a generational song.  Fans who grew up in the early 90s remember it from Wayne’s World.  It’s the song Mrs. LeBrain sang along to in the car.  Boring to some, a highlight for others.  Then it’s back to “Cold Ethyl” from Welcome to My Nightmare, a stone-cold classic (pardon the pun) highlighting the rock and roll side of Alice.  The trade-off guitar solos are a newer twist.  From the same album comes “Only Women Bleed”, and really the only slow song in the set.  Alice doesn’t need to take it slow!

It took this long to play the one and only new song, “Paranoiac Personality“.  It’s not always like this — in the past Alice has peppered his set heavily with new material.  For whatever reason, this time the focus is on the variety.  There are new songs that will unfortunately never get the chance to shine live.  Still, it’s hard to complain, especially when the next song is “Dwight Fry”, the second epic on the album.  A medley of “Killer” and “I Love the Dead” keep that same vibe.

“I’m Eighteen” is the beginning of the end, with “School’s Out/Another Brick in the Wall” ringing the final bell.  Listen to the band introductions for something that Alice rarely does.  Take a minute and appreciate how great Alice’s band is — and always has been no matter the lineup!

A Paranormal Evening With Alice Cooper at the Olympia Paris (say that three times) comes highly recommended.  Anyone who collects Alice Cooper will find something here that they’ve wanted to hear live.  Has any artist been as great as Alice for as long as Alice?  Very few, and this album proves he’s still the one and the only.

4/5 stars