Author: mikeladano

Metal, hard rock, rock and roll! LeBrain's Record Store Tales & Reviews! Poking the bear since 2010.

It’s Synth School! The LeBrain Train with Seagram Synth Ensemble, Rob Daniels and special surprise guest Dr. Kathryn

Everything you wanted to know about synthesizer but were afraid to ask!  Thank you to the Seagram Synth Ensemble – James Reesor, James Dowbiggen and Dave Klassen whose No Moving Air album has provided many hours of listening enjoyment.  Thanks also to Robert Daniels from Visions In Sound for cohosting tonight!  And of course, special surprise guest Dr. Kathryn who had some comments and questions of her own.

Topics tackled tonight:

  • Starting out as students
  • Synths, maintenance, analog vs. digital, and more
  • The next gig (July 15 at TheMuseum in Kitchener)
  • Favourite players and influences
  • Formats such as tape and vinyl
  • Why No Moving Air was never released on CD
  • Who their favourite professor at school was and why
  • Top 3 science fiction films
  • And of course, their new single “Ephem”

“Ephem” is unique as a single, as it comes in a brand new format.  It is a piece of art and a statement about the way we consume music today.

This was a fascinating interview for me and I hope you give it a watch.

 

Please welcome the Seagram Synth Ensemble on the LeBrain Train tonight!

The LeBrain Train: 2000 Words or More with Mike Ladano & Robert Daniels

Episode 113 – The Seagram Synth Ensemble

Please give a warm welcome to James Reesor, Dave Klassen, and James Dowbiggen — otherwise known as the Seagram Synth Ensemble!  This trio of talented musicians first came to our attention with their excellent 2019 LP, No Moving Air.  Not only did the vinyl look great, but it sounded amazing.  No Moving Air is a soundtrack, or soundscape, of synth excellence, taking the listener on a journey.

Now the trio is back with a new (sold out!!) single called “Ephem” and, well folks, there’s no other word for it besides “innovation”.  The guys have not only come out with a new song, but also a new format.  It comes in the form of a small black box about the size of a guitar effects pedal.  Plug in a 9-Volt battery and a pair of headphones, and you can hear “Ephem” …but not forever!  It’s not just a song, but also a piece of art designed to make a point about listening with intent.  Music is instant and disposable these days, so the guys decided to say something about it with this project.  We will find out all about that, and much more tonight on the LeBrain Train.

Joining me for our first joint interview together will be Robert Daniels from Visions In Sound.  I can’t wait to hear his thoughts on the Seagram Synth Ensemble.

REVIEW: Fu Manchu / Fastso Jetson – “Jailbreak” / “Blueberries & Chrome” (1998 split single)

FU MANCHU – “Jailbreak” / FATSO JETSON – “Blueberries & Chrome” (1998 split Sessions Records 7″ single)

Fu Manchu turn Thin Lizzy into Thin Sludge…and it works!  Though it’s downtuned and slammin’, it’s still “Jailbreak”.  Fu Manchu went to the effort to mostly duplicate the familiar lead guitar melodies.  The hooks you remember are there.  Vocally, considering that Phil Lynott often liked to speak/sing, Scott Hill from Fu Manchu’s natural approach works just fine.  He’s different from Phil, more than you’d expect.  He doesn’t really attempt to sing the vocal melody, he just applies his own style to it.  Few people will pick this as their favourite Lizzy cover of all time, but Fu Manchu fans should adore it.  Produced by J. Yuenger of White Zombie.

On the B-side, it’s Fatso Jetson with their own brand of stoner rock.  “Blueberries & Chrome” rocks heavy with riff in your face and vocals buried deep.  It doesn’t shy away from dissonant chords but it does allow the vocals by Mario Lalli to explode on the chorus.  “Baby want sugar!”  Let’s just say it’s probably better that you can’t really hear the lyrics.  “He’s about to unwind, and it’s stuck in your face.”  Good tune though, sludgey and heavy.  The chorus is an awesome blowout.

3.5/5 stars

REVIEW: Guns N’ Roses – Hard Skool (2022 Nightrain club clear 7″)

GUNS N’ ROSES – Hard Skool (2022 Geffen 7″ Nightrain club clear vinyl EP)

Back in February, Guns N’ Roses released the Hard Skool EP (or single, or whatever!), containing the first two new Guns songs since 2008’s Chinese Democracy.  With five tracks total (two studio, three live) over three separate formats (CD, cassette, 7″), it was already a pretty good listen.  Axl’s voice has adapted to singing these demanding songs, 35 years after.  But there was always the promise of more in June 2022, and now it has come.

Members of the Guns N’ Roses Nightrain club received a brand new Hard Skool release on clear vinyl, with one exclusive live track added.  The cover art colour has been changed from red to dark charcoal grey, and a “Nightrain Limited-Edition Clear” notation has been added to the front.  This wasn’t cheap, costing $60 Canadian ($45 US) dollars to join.  There are other perks but really, the truth of the matter is I paid $60 for one song.

They had better not reissue this track!

The new exclusive song is “Shadow Of Your Love”, a recent live version recorded with Axl, Slash, Duff, Dizzy Reed, Richard Fortus, Frank Ferrer, and Melissa Reese.  If you cast your minds back to the recent Appetite For Destruction super deluxe edition, “Shadow Of Your Love” was released as a single and it got a bit of airplay.  Live with the new version of the band, it does recapture that Appetite vibe and let’s face it, the song was possibly superior to a couple tunes that did make the final album.  You can hear Melissa on backing vocals, a touch that isn’t on early live versions of the song.  That backing vocal part is present on the studio version from the third disc on the Appetite box, but not the others included.  It’s cool that they’ve brought it back.  This version is just as fast as the old ones too.  It’s awesome to hear Frank Ferrer playing the drum part originally recorded by Steven Adler.  As for Axl, he adapts.  This is one of the most high and raspy of the original Guns repertoire.  Axl delivers it smooth without the rasp and still manages to get his voice way, way up there.  Say what you want about Axl Rose, he’s sounding better than many of his contemporaries.  Of course the real treat is just hearing Slash wail on it, as he should.

As for the other songs on the single; we’ve discussed them before so we won’t spend much more time on them.  “Hard Skool” is a Chinese Democracy outtake that has been reworked with Slash and Duff McKagan.  The duo have writing credits on “Hard Skool” along with Axl Rose and former members Robin Finck, Josh Freese, Tommy Stinson and Paul “Huge” Tobias.  Formerly known as “Jackie Chan”, this song comes closest to capturing the classic Guns vibe – think Illusions era GN’R.  Slash imbues the riff with his trademark snakelike style, and Axl is in full-scream mode on the powerful chorus.  The cowbell brings us back to the 80s a bit, but the experimental solo section is more modern.  The other new/old song “ABSUЯD” is much more Chi-Dem, and more divisize.  Formerly known as “Silkworms”, Guns started playing “ABSUЯD” live after a 20 year absence last year as a surprise.  Axl’s voice is pretty strange here, sounding a bit muppet-ish.  (The screaming portion sounds like tape.)  This live track will take some getting used to.  It’s not that Axl’s voice is bad just…different than what you’re used to.

Both vinyl releases came with a sticker.  This fan club edition also comes with a Nightrain 2022 pin.  The pin comes packaged in a little mini-folder.  It is made of metal and heavy for a pin.  Made for a jacket, not a shirt.  For a higher tier, you could sign up for four pins and a hoodie.  But I really only wanted to shell out for the exclusive track.

You can’t blame Axl for wanting to get some of these old songs out since he laboured for years over them.  It’s fitting that only now with Slash and Duff back in the band, the songs are “finished”.  Keep the releases coming guys.  It doesn’t have to be an album.  It just has to be Guns.

4/5 stars

All cautions made
Every chance was given
No effort spared to save what we had
All in good faith
I would not hesitate
To extend myself and lend you my hand

But you had to play it cool, had to do it your way
Had to be a fool, had to throw it all away
Too hard school and you thought you were here to stay
If that were true, it wouldn’t matter anyway

As tempers fade
And lies forgiven
No cause embraced could break what we had
In its place
A storm is lifting
I would’ve thought you could be more of a man

But you had to play it cool, had to do it your way
Had to be a fool, had to throw it all away
Too hard school and you thought you were here to stay
If that were true, it wouldn’t matter anyway

But you had to play it cool, had to do it your way
Had to be a fool, had to throw it all away
Too hard school and you thought you were here to stay
If that were true, it wouldn’t matter anyway

You had to play it cool, had to do it your way
Had to be a fool, had to throw it all away
Too hard school and you thought you were here to stay
If that were true, it wouldn’t matter anyway

You had to play it cool, had to do it your way
Had to be a fool, had to throw it all away
Too hard school and you thought you were here to stay
If that were true, it wouldn’t matter anyway

#992: Long Weekend of The Lizard, Water, and the Scales of Justice

RECORD STORE TALES #992: Long Weekend of Lizards, Water, and Max

We rolled in Thursday night and it was so hot that we cranked open all the windows.  And that was it with any kind of warmth!  The rest of the weekend was cold, windy and required long sleeves!  Regardless of the hot and cold reception we received, I watched Brent Jensen and Alex Huard discuss Appetite for Destruction on Thursday Night Record Club outdoors as planned.

The music on the road up was, as always, good!  We started with Saigon Kick’s The Lizard, in anticipation of Friday night’s big interview.  It was tremendous fun to listen to such a great album, 30 years young, in the car.  Upon conclusion we played a tape of Max the Axe’s first gig with the present lineup, recorded August 4 2017.  Five years of Meat, Dave, Mitch and Max creating music together.  While the years have made them better, the live cassette of the first gig is good enough that we hope it will form the basis of their first live album.  The setlist consisted of eight tracks from the then-unrecorded Status Electric album, a Black Flag cover later finalized for Oktoberfest Cheer, and the Max classic “I Don’t Advocate Drugs” with Meat singing lead for the first time.

All Friday and Saturday, music took over the cold front porch.  It is hard to type with frozen fingers.  I am working on a major Kiss project that I will not reveal yet, but in preparation I played a ton of old Kiss on the porch.  Lick It Up, Creatures of the Night, Hotter Than Hell, Paul’s solo album, and plenty more.  When the Kiss was concluded, I moved on to Judas Priest (Point of Entry).  As always, it was a magical retro soundtrack that acted as a mental time machine.  I would have been playing those same albums back in ’87-’88.  The big difference being – I was stuck in my room!  Now the porch is my room.

One thing for certain. I would have loved it if I had the technology to do stop motion animation in 1987. All I had were my Transformers toys, comic books and imagination. Now I have that plus cameras and computers. I spent several hours working on animation. Let’s face it: It’s just an excuse to play with toys as an adult!  There’s nothing wrong with that and it was damn fun, especially with Judas Priest blasting in the background just like they would have in the 80s.

Saturday night we went for some nice walks and I shared stories of the old days.  No phones, no cable, no digital music back then.  The only way to was to haul all my physical music, and associated players, up to the lake to enjoy.  And enjoy we did.  Nothing has changed there except convenience and sound quality.  Playing the music that I bought at the cottage originally sure brings the memories back.  White Lion’s Big Game and Jon Bon Jovi’s Blaze of Glory were two such albums that I spun again in the old original setting.  I bought ’em both in Kincardine on cassette.  Hanging out with Bob Schipper and picking our favourite new tunes…great memories!  I remember putting the sticker for the JBJ cassette on the bottom of the top bunkbed.  Jen and I talked a lot, and perhaps there’s a number of stories there to tell in the future.

Three days came and went as quickly as a cool summer breeze.  All I have left now are the photos and videos to keep the memories fresh.  You can watch them now too, all edited together to the sound of a new remix of “Scales of Justice” by Max the Axe!  I think it’s the best cottage video I’ve ever made.  What more could you want?

REVIEW: Rock Of Ages: The Definitive Collection (US 2005)

Part Thirty of the Def Leppard Review Series

DEF LEPPARD – Rock Of Ages: The Definitive Collection (2005 Universal)

The Def Leppard’s Best Of released in the UK in 2004, North America followed suit in 2005 with Rock Of Ages: The Definitive Collection.  We’re not going to comment on that “definitive” claim, but this new compilation covered a bit of ground that the UK version did not.  With ten years and three albums since 1995’s Vault, it was a logical time to put out an updated collection.  With the musical Rock of Ages hitting the stage in Los Angeles, everything seemed to be lined up for Leppard.

Disc One is much the same as Best Of and Vault.  Same tracks in the same order with some slight variation.  The big difference here is that Disc One closes on something very special:  The High N’ Dry instrumental scorcher  “Switch 625”.  It was a side closer on High N’ Dry and so fits the role of ending Disc One very well.  It’s the heaviest song on the disc by a mile, and the only one that was not a single somewhere.  A brilliant surprise especially to those who didn’t know Leppard’s heavy side.  This version fades in from “Bringin’ On the Heartbreak” just like it did on album.  Really, it’s a one-two combo.

Disc Two is a larger departure from that on Best Of.  They both begin with “Rock Rock (Till You Drop)” and then diverge.  Here, we carry on with a killer streak of early tracks from High N’ Dry and Pyromania.  “Let It Go”, “High ‘N’ Dry (Saturday Night)”, “Too Late For Love”, all rifftastic tracks of Clarkian proportions.  “Let It Go” isn’t on Best Of.

The key “bait” on these new greatest hits compilations was the inclusion of one new cover song.  On Best Of, it was “Waterloo Sunset” by the Kinks.  Here it is “No Matter What” by Badfinger, a truly poptastic inclusion that benefits from Leppard’s vocal prowess.  According to Phil in the liner notes, the band started playing it live on the X tour and therefore decided to record it.  With two great covers in the bag and on the shelves, we’d certainly expect the band’s forthcoming covers album to knock the socks off….

More great songs follow the Badfinger cover, beginning with the hit “Promises” from Euphoria which does deserve the spot.  “Mirror Mirror (Look Into My Eyes)” (which wasn’t on Best Of) and “Another Hit and Run” sandwich the hit “Women” from Hysteria.  It’s just a constant stream of awesome.  “Slang” follows, which although a great song indeed, sounds out of place next to these riff rockers.

The excellent ballad “Stand Up (Kick Love Into Motion)” is a disc highlight.  So is the early track “Rock Brigade”, a blazer from On Through the Night.  “Now”, from X, could have been left off.  It is however the only representation of the X album here.  The superior “Long, Long Way to Go” was included on Best Of, but not here.  Instead, we get a great epic track that was not on Best Of called “Paper Sun”.  A universal favourite from Euphoria, it really deserved to be on a compilation of some kind.  Then “Work It Out” from Slang is a modern sounding track that might not be heavy, but sure is worth uncountable listens over the years.

The closing trio of rockers are a delight.  “Die Hard the Hunter”, “Wasted” and “Billy’s Got a Gun” are beloved Leppard non-singles that have been cherished by fandom for a long time.  Particularly “Wasted”, likely the heaviest Leppard track of all time.  It’s all riff!  As for “Billy’s Got a Gun”, it gets the closing position that it should have had on Best Of.  They got the running order right this time.

Similar to the UK Best Of, this compilation has ample photos and liner notes inside.  The band track commentary remains, as does the opening essay.  For overall listening, this is probably the better of the two.

3.5/5 stars

Previous:  

  1. The Early Years Disc One – On Through the Night 
  2. The Early Years Disc Two – High N’ Dry
  3. The Early Years Disc Three – When The Walls Came Tumbling Down: Live at the New Theater Oxford – 1980
  4. The Early Years Disc Four – Too Many Jitterbugs – EP, singles & unreleased
  5. The Early Years Disc 5 – Raw – Early BBC Recordings 
  6. The Early Years 79-81 (Summary)
  7. Pyromania
  8. Pyromania Live – L.A. Forum, 11 September 1983
  9. Hysteria
  10. Soundtrack From the Video Historia – Record Store Tales
  11. In The Round In Your Face DVD
  12. “Let’s Get Rocked” – The Wait for Adrenalize – Record Store Tales
  13. Adrenalize
  14. Live at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert
  15. Retro-Active
  16. Visualize
  17. Vault: Def Leppard’s Greatest Hits / Limited Edition Live CD
  18. Video Archive
  19. “Slang” CD single
  20. Slang
  21. I Got A Bad Feeling About This: Euphoria – Record Store Tales
  22. Euphoria
  23. Rarities 2
  24. Rarities 3
  25. Rarities 4
  26. Cybernauts – Live
  27. Cybernauts – The Further Adventures of the Cybernauts (bonus disc)
  28. X
  29. Best Of (UK)

Next:

31. Yeah!

Sunday Screening: Transformers “Overload!” A new original animation featuring the music of Max the Axe

Lots of Laughs with Jason Bieler & John Snow on the LeBrain Train

LeBrain Train exclusive!  Find out how Jason Bieler inadvertently caused Michael Sadler of Saga to go on a fitness regime!  Only here!

In all seriousness, Jason Bieler was an awesome guest and we had a great time quizzing him about as many of his projects as we could squeeze in.  Thank you John T. Snow for getting this interview, and for ample research and questions!  From his collaborations with Jeff Scott Soto to the Baron Von Bielski Orchestra and back to Saigon Kick and Super TransAtlanric, we tried to cover it all.  With a guest such as Jason, the jokes also flowed steadily and we had plenty of laughs and insight.

If you missed it live, check out what Jason had to say about:

  • The new single “Sic Riff”
  • Upcoming singles and the next album
  • The comments section
  • Being a singer
  • Rock Candy reissues, deluxe editions and box sets
  • Guitars and gear
  • Working in Sweden vs. at home
  • Influences
  • Videos and collaborations with other artists
  • And yes, the Michael Sadler story

It was truly a pleasure to spend Friday night with Jason.  Keep your ears open for plenty of new music over the coming months

NEXT WEEK:

The Seagram Synth Ensemble

 

Jason Bieler Boards the LeBrain Train Tonight!

The LeBrain Train: 2000 Words or More with Mike & John

Episode 112 – Jason Bieler (Saigon Kick, Super TransAtlantic, The Baron Von Bielski Orchestra)

Thanks to John T. Snow of 2Loud2OldMusic for this one!  JASON BIELER of Saigon Kick fame will be on board tonight to discuss his newest project The Baron Von Bielski Orchestra, new tune “Sic Riff”, and his past as well.  Known as one of the funniest and nicest guys in rock, Bieler is multi-talented.  His brand of rock runs the gamut from progressive to mainstream.  His collaborations with artists such as Bumblefoot and Jeff Scott Soto are highly praised.  This is a chat that we are looking forward to big time!  “What You Say”?  Take the pain to far and distant places, and if you ask of Jason, he’ll tell you all the stories of life!

Do not miss this one — we will try and ask your viewer questions live!

Friday June 17, 7:00 PM E.S.T.  on YouTubeFacebook and also Facebook!

REVIEW: Ugly Kid Joe – Menace to Sobriety / “Milkman’s Son” single (1995)

UGLY KID JOE – Menace to Sobriety (1995 Polygram)

Let me tell ya folks, this album ain’t bad. Ugly Kid Joe made it hard to take them seriously sometimes, but on their second full-length Menace to Sobriety, they did what most jokey bands eventually do: Get serious. Get heavy. With former Wrathchild America drummer Shannon Larkin replacing original member Mark Davis, perhaps this was inevitable.  If not, co-producer GGGarth made it inevitable.

The first single “Tomorrow’s World” was dark-edged modern metal. No jokes, no wit, just Whit, givin’ ‘er at top lung. The album would pretty much follow suit. It felt like they got one side of their personalities out of their systems for the moment and wanted to do something a little more true to the heart.

An instrumental intro just called “Intro” gets a couple heavy riffs out of way in short order. The new drummer’s thick presence is felt immediately. This intro jumps right into “God”, a heavy wade through the mosh pit, spilling hooks all over the floor in violent celebration. Whitfield Crane sounds more menacing, but he’s still obviously the charismatic frontman. Cool wah-wah inflected solo too, which was one of the only ways you could make guitar solos work in 1995.

When “Tomorrow’s World” first hits, it’s with a beat and a rolling bass line, perfectly on brand for the 90s. After the quietly tense opening verses, Whit and the band rip it wide open with another ferocious riff and chorus. It’s well within Black Sabbath’s backyard (U.S. campus), while keeping a foot in 90s. A perfect mix of integrities.

Tempos get faster on “Clover”, with Whit taking his throat even further. The riffs are still the foundation, this one a little bit Priest-like. If the lyrics to “God” were a little on the nose at times, they’re more interesting in light of this one from “Clover”. “I was tempted, but the apple made me stronger.” Whitfield then screams that he’s here to free us. There’s more going on here than a guy who just hates “everything about you”.

The funky side returns on the speedy “C.U.S.T.” (“Can’t You See Them”).  Whit speed-raps through the impressive verses while the band jams hard underneath, wah-wah now back center stage.  Great tune and in fact better than some of the competition’s songs in this genre at the same time.  There’s a killer, clever percussion break in the middle that differentiates Ugly Kid Joe from the bands who were leading the pack.

“Milkman’s Son” was the single, an electric ballad and rightfully chosen.  It’s not soft, there’s a tasty jagged riff to keep it cool, but this is clearly the one that fills the part of prior Ugly Kid Joe hits such as “Busy Bee”.  Great tune, if a bit doomed.

The grind of a bass groove returns on “Suckerpath”, which seems about to about avoiding the ego and big head of rock stardom.  “Never goin’ down a suckerpath, baby,” insists Whit.  Unlike a lot of the tunes on Menace to Sobriety, “Suckerpath” never really explodes with power the way they have so far.  It remains in this wallowing groove, which rocks but never quite satisfies.

Another ballad:  “Cloudy Skies” has the kind of twang where you could called it “Western Skies”.  Still electric; no acoustic softness to be found, but quite excellent.  Crane seems to have tapped into something heartfelt here, and his singing is excellent.  Sticking to tunes with broad appeal, “Jesus Rode A Harley” is one of the most straight ahead and upbeat tracks on the album.

There’s an AC/DC vibe to the opening of “10/10” but then it goes pure grunge groove.  Suitably dark, impressively heavy, and utilizing tricks like conga and slide.  There’s a direction on this album and “10/10” is right down the middle.  Not an outstanding track overall but one you can headbang along to quite easily.  At the end, Whit tries to go full metal scream and does pretty good. This actually leads pretty well into the Priestly vibes on “V.I.P.”.  Priest circa Hell Bent, with a touch of Halford’s Fight.  The lead vocals are Jon Oliva from Savatage to a tee, whether intentional or not.

Finally, the jokey side emerges on “Oompa”, which is exactly what you think it is.  A heavy metal version of the Oompa Loopma song from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  And why not?  Green Jelly were having hits with this kind of song.  It’s only two minutes long and hey…it’s Ugly Kid Joe. And just misdirection.  That’s not how the album’s supposed to end.

After long last, the acoustic guitars come out on the tender closer “Candle Song”.  There’s more than a hint of western twang, but if you wanted a traditional hard rock ballad closer, here you go.  “Candle Song” is excellent way to take the listener down after such intensely heavy rocking.

The band isn’t entirely done with their sense of humour.  Open up the booklet and you will find a rental house bill for damages including a food fight.  Total cost:  $12,896.81.

4/5 stars


UGLY KID JOE – “Milkman’s Son” / “Tomorrow’s World” (1995 Mercury CD single)

This single seems kind of like a double header between “Milkman’s Son” and “Tomorrow’s World” which was the music video getting all the play on MuchMusic at the time.  Two of the best tracks from the album, they are a terrific one-two punch for this CD single.

The bonus tracks are quite cool.  There’s a 1994 version of “God”, which is structurally the same but rougher sounding.  Amazing how close to the final mark it was.  Then there’s a really rough demo of “C.U.S.T.” but still very close to its final form.  Hearing these somewhat flatter sounding early versions after listening to the album is really interesting, since it is so consistently pounding, especially in the bass.

Great single for bonus material and a good score if you can find one.

4/5 stars