LeBrain

#876: Rest in Peace to my Friend

Dear friend,

I shouldn’t say your name.  The news is fresh and your family members are finding out now, just like I did.

We met four years ago via a mutual pal, but bonded immediately over a shared love of music, and a similar empathy for the downtrodden.  You were wearing your trademark Captain America T-shirt.  At least, to me it was your trademark.  How impressed I was with your history in music journalism.  Interviewing the stars, seeing your name in print.  You invited us to your wedding.  It was actually the last wedding I attended before this Covid stuff put the brakes on everything.

Last year about this time I was hitting a wall.  Stress was taking a serious toll.  You offered to go out for a coffee to talk and I said “sure”.  But part of my depression is staying in, and blowing off social engagements, so I cancelled and said “We’ll do it another time.”  Covid happened and we never did.

You treated Jen well.  When she needed a ride for an appointment, you took care of it.  Anybody who takes good care of my Jen is a good person in my books.

A week ago or so, after a period of serious physical pain, they finally diagnosed you with cancer.  You were admitted to the hospital and you never came out.  I can’t believe how quickly this happened.  A few weeks ago you were active, full of fire.  The only thing you hated almost as much as cancer was Donald Trump.  At least you lived long enough to see him defeated.  I hope you took some comfort in that.  Man, you hated Trump!  To me it was one of your most defining and amusing traits.  You always had a great meme locked and loaded!

Man, you made me laugh.

Perhaps the only thing you really cared about as much as your own family were “the needs of the many”.  It’s appropriate that I always think of you in that Captain America shirt.  You were always ready to fight for those who didn’t have the fortune that we have.  You were a good man.  You will be fondly remembered by Jen and I, and missed terribly by your loved ones.

You really were a good man.  I can’t believe you’re gone.  I remember that day in early 2020, I messaged you and wrote, “I’m not feeling up to it, can we get a coffee another night?  In a couple weeks maybe?”

“Sure, no problem,” you answered.  I imagined your understanding smile.

The coffee that was delayed by me first, was then cancelled by Covid.  “We’ll have you guys over to the house when this is all over,” you told me.

Life can change in an instant.

Rest in peace, my friend.  I’m grateful you let Jen and I into your lives and I’m sad that the things we talked about doing will never happen.

 

Best of 2020 Part 7: The Stats of Doooom

Big thanks to 2020 for making this our most successful year at mikeladano.com yet.  The final tally is:

284,513 hits from 135,708 unique viewers.  This is a massive uptick from our previous best year, 2018, which received “only” 215,440 views.  Thank you pandemic, because that’s what this totally is.  I had no new ideas for 2020; I had given up on “growth”, only for 2020 to come to the rescue with a goddamn pandemic!

One way you can tell this uptick had nothing to do with me:  All the top hits are old, old posts with deep roots on Google searches.

  1. VAN HALEN – Zero – 2331 hits
  2. AMERICAN DAD – Persona Assistant – 2133 hits
  3. #551:  You’re Wrong on Unmasked – 1318 hits
  4. RAINBOW – Rising – 1076 hits
  5. KISS – Alive II (Re-review) – 891 hits
  6. KISS – Kissworld / Re-review directory – 831 hits
  7. TRAILER PARK BOYS – Season 11 – 761 hits
  8. KISS – Unmasked (Re-review) – 727 hits
  9. #425:  The Soup Nazi – 719 hits
  10. #774:  The Original Mustard Tiger – 718 hits

The death of Eddie Van Halen caused October to be our best month ever, and helped push Van Halen to #1 this year as well as contributing to the record hits overall.  The Van Halen Zero review is now the most popular thing I’ve ever written, having been read 12,294 times.

By comparison, the best-read “new” post this year was:

  1. AC/DC – “Shot in the Dark” – 574 views

I guess the message here is:  recycle, recycle, recycle!


Hits by country in 2020:  Top Five usual suspects – the same countries as last year, just in a barely different order!


I already posted the stats for Youtube views on live streams, and I’ve also already done my look ahead at 2021.

What do these stats show us?  The power of both Eddie Van Halen and a worldwide pandemic.  I’m pleased that people chose to read my stuff at those times, but I’d give just about anything to get Eddie and our normal world back.  Since I can’t, I can only tell you this:  I don’t plan on stopping in 2021!  And that’s about all I can say.  2020 taught us that life doesn’t give a shit about your plans.  I had plans in 2021 and they didn’t involve sitting in this little space live streaming.  This time there is no plan except give ‘er.  The universe tends to unfold as it does.

I wish you nothing but peace, happiness and harmony in 2021.  Let’s give ‘er together.

 

Best of 2020 Part 5: Nigel Tufnel Top Ten Albums and More of 2020

2020 may have sucked, but the music didn’t.  This year I bought and reviewed more new releases than ever before, which I narrowed down to the Nigel Tufnel Top Ten studio albums of 2020 listed below.

I would like to dedicate this list to my good pal Uncle Meat who originated the concept of a “Nigen Tufnel Top Ten” earlier this year.  It has become our thing.

BEST ALBUMS OF 2020

11. Now or Never – III

10. Mr. Bungle – The Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny Demo

9. Sven Gali – 3 (EP)

8. Kim Mitchel – The Big Fantasize

7. Corey Taylor – CMFT

6. Stryper – Even the Devil Believes

5. Harem Scarem – Change the World

4. Dennis DeYoung – 26 East Vol 1

3. AC/DC – Power Up

2. Deep Purple – Whoosh!

1. Storm Force – Age of Fear

 

Storm Force’s debut album goes straight to #1 on their very first appearance!  No surprise here.  I’ve been raving about this disc since February and I owe it to Superdekes for putting these guys on my radar in the first place.  This is a well-deserved #1.  Age of Fear is an uplifting album with depth.  It’s a thoughtful, heart-pounding blast of classic hard rock.

Deep Purple’s Whoosh! and AC/DC’s PWRUP prove two things:  old dogs that both learn and don’t learn new tricks can all be champions.  (I call this theory “Schrödinger’s Dog”.) Deep Purple’s growth continues while AC/DC managed to tap into the vein of success that always worked for them.  Both records deserve their spots in the Top 3.

It was a thrill for me to learn that Dennis DeYoung both read and enjoyed my review of his newest album 26 East Vol 1.  It’s a terrific, Styx-like conceptual work that will please the old fans.  As will the new albums by Harem Scarem and Stryper, who didn’t stray far from their successful classic hard rock formulas.  Kim Mitchell and Sven Gali on the other hand dared to be different.  Kim went laid back and acoustic, while Sven Gali went with their heaviest uninhibited inclinations.  As for Mr. Bungle, it has been 21 years since their last album California.  All four Bungle studio albums are completely different from one another — four different genres.  For The Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny, they teamed up with Scott Ian and Dave Lombardo to re-record their first thrash metal demo tape.  And it could be their best album since the self-titled debut in 1991.  Not bad for a bunch of songs they wrote in highschool.

Corey “Mother Fuckin'” Taylor makes his debut on any list of mine with his solo album CMFT.  It’s a surprising collection of commercial hard rockin’ tunes.  Also appearing for the first time is Now Or Never (NoN) with their third album called III, featuring singer Steph Honde.  It’s an excellent, dramatic metal album with light and shade.


BONUS LISTS

Most disappointing:  Ozzy Osbourne – Ordinary Man

Song of the year:  LeBrain Train by T-Bone Erickson

Single of the Year:  Mammoth WVH – “Distance”

Ultimately whether or not you liked the new Ozzy, its success or failure falls at the feet of producer/guitarist Andrew Watt.  He is already working on the next Ozzy album, so….

Huge thanks to T-Bone Erickson for the “LeBrain Train” theme song, which amazingly and unexpectedly became the song of the year in 2020!  Weird how that happened.  No bias here I assure you.

Finally, Wolfgang Van Halen finally released his first solo music under the name Mammoth WVH.  The non-album single “Distance” is dedicated to his late father Eddie.  Though musically it’s a modern power ballad, the lyrics and especially the music video evoke serious emotion.  Well done Wolfgang.  Can’t wait to check out his album in 2021.


TOP FIVE LIVE OR COMPILATION ALBUMS IN 2020

5. Metallica – S&M2

4. Thin Lizzy – Rock Legends

3. Sloan – B Sides Win Vol. 1 1992-1997

2. Def Leppard – The Early Years 78-81

1. Iron Maiden – Nights of the Dead – Legacy of the Beast

There were a lot of cool rock releases in 2020, so we need more lists!  Of course the brilliant new live Maiden deserved some loving attention.  Meanwhile, Sloan, Def Leppard and Thin Lizzy have continued to put out quality collections of rarities & unreleased material, well worth the time and money you’ll spend on them.  The Sloan collection is a vinyl exclusive and the first in a series of LPs re-releasing some of their B-sides and non-album and bonus tracks.  Finally, Metallica delivered the goods even without Michael Kamen on S&M2, a very different live set than the first S&M.  That’s the way to do it!


BEST LOCKDOWN SINGLE

5. Queen + Adam Lambert – “You Are the Champions”

4. Scorpions – “Sign of Hope”

3. Marillion – “Made Again 2020”

2. Marillion – “Easter 2020”

1. Alice Cooper – “Don’t Give Up”


 

A LOOK AHEAD AT 2021

It’s naive to assume that major touring and concerts will return in 2021.  This appears highly optimistic at present, with Covid still ravaging the landscape and vaccinations only just beginning.  Instead of looking ahead at things like the resuming Kiss tour, or the Motley Crue reunion, we should continue to put our faith in new music.

Accept have a new album due January 15 intriguingly titled Too Mean to Die.  It is their first without bassist Peter Baltes.  Steven Wilson has a new record out at the end of that month.  In February we get new Foo Fighters, The Pretty Reckless, Willie Nelson and Alice Cooper.  Greta Van Fleet, Weezer, Rob Zombie, Ringo Starr, and Thunder will be back soon too.  Many other bands are writing and recording without an announced due date.  Ghost, Marillion, Scorpions, Megadeth and even Ratt are hard at work to make next year suck a little less.  Support the bands by buying the music.

 

 

 

 

 

Best of 2020 Part 3: TV & Movies

Best movie: 

I’m not a Christopher Nolan junkie, nor a spy thriller fan, so it’s quite a surprise that I loved Tenet as much as I did.  I think I understand 95% of it now, and I’ve only watched it three times, so that’s not bad.  Seriously, I think John David Washington is great, as was the whole cast.  One normal and one inverted thumb up for a movie I file in my science fiction collection.  Great stuff.


Best shows:

5. Jeopardy! – final season with Alex

4. Star Trek: Picard – Season 1

3. American Dad! – Season 17

2. Star Trek: Discovery – Season 3

1. Star Wars: The Mandalorian – Season 2

Jeopardy’s never made my lists here before but watching Alex Trebek keep on going and going only weeks before his death is awe-inspiring.

American Dad had a better than average season this year.  Some of the episodes this year will go down as the series’ best:  “Brave N00B World“, “300“, and “First, Do No Farm”.  The latter features a new Weird Al Yankovic called “Rabbitage” based on — you guessed it — “Sabotage” by the Beastie Boys.  The season also featured pop star The Weeknd in an episode called “A Starboy is Born”.

I’m jumping the gun a little bit on Discovery as the season hasn’t ended yet.  However, setting the season over 900 past the days of Kirk and Spock has opened the show up to new possibilities and…discoveries.  It has been a great season with some standout episodes that felt more like The Next Generation than anything since.  Contemplative episodes with minimal (sometimes zero) violence.  Trek is back, and Discovery is currently the superior show, even over Picard, which was pretty good itself.

And finally we have Mandalorian, which despite an unimpressive initial teaser trailer went on to be the show we always hoped it could be.  And it was Bill fucking Burr’s Mayfeld that really pushed it late in the season, adding some much needed character development.  All this made it so much more delicious when Giancarlo Esposito’s Moff Gideon did all the moustache-twirling villain stuff at the end.  Then we get Boba, more vicious and primal, and the stoic but intense Jedi.  Bonus points for doing what Qui-Gon Jinn failed to do in Episode I:  just crush the fucking droid with the Force already!  Thanks, Luke.


2020 was the Year Without a Marvel.  Boo.

Best of 2020 Part 2: Sunday Screening – Top Live Streams

Strictly going by YouTube views alone (not including the two Facebook channels), here are the Nigel Tufnel Top Ten live streams in 2020 by views.  Pick one to watch and enjoy!

11. December 18 – The Best Bands You Don’t Know – 83 views

10. June 11 – Live Albums – 85 views

9. October 24 – Steph Honde – 89 views

8. (TIE) December 4 – T-Bone – 100 views

7. (TIE) November 27 – One Hit Wonders – 100 views

6. (TIE) November 20 – Brent Jensen – 100 views

5. September 4 – Storm Force – 102 views

4. October 9 – A Tribute to Eddie Van Halen – 106 views

3. October 16 – New Release Friday – 110 views

2. December 11 – Iron Maiden Deep Cuts – 128 views

1. November 6 – Frank Loffredo – 167 views


You want my personal recommendation instead of just going by the numbers?  No problem.  I have some special favourites that I’d love for you to watch.  Any time we had a special guest interview was cool, so watch:  Steph Honde, Storm Force, Frank Loffredo and Brent Jensen.  Beyond that….

My Nigel Tufnel Top Ten personal favourite (non-interview) live streams in chronological order:

 

Thanks for watching in 2020 and making all this possible!

Storm Force Friday! Greg Fraser and Patrick Gagliardi join us tonight!

Deke and I are beyond psyched to welcome Greg Fraser and Patrick Gagliardi of STORM FORCE to the show tonight!

If you didn’t already know, Storm Force released their debut album Age of Fear in January.  Nine months later it remains one of the best records of the year.  If you haven’t heard it yet, you will want to after our chat with Patrick and Greg.  It’s been praised by reviewers from Canada, the US, Australia and Sweden as a must-hear for fans of melodic hard rock “the way you remember it”.

Tune in at 7:00 PM E.S.T. at the location of your preference below.

Facebook:  Michael Ladano or Facebook:  MikeLeBrain.  YouTube:  Mike LeBrain.

 

VIDEO: Geek VLOG 2.0 Time Well Wasted Episode 2.0

Recently I had the absolute pleasure of being interviewed by Mr. Sebastien Munier for his brand new Geek VLOG series. (Long time followers may remember Seb from my short-lived Tyler & LeBrain series of podcasts.)  His excellent new YouTube show features 10 questions for geeky friends.  Thank you Seb for having me on, it was an honour and I hope everyone subscribes to your new show.  I know I will continue watching.

Please enjoy the interview below.

1980: In Depth Stream with Mike and Deke!

Thanks to Rob Daniels for this episode’s title!  This week Deke and I took a trip back to 1980 to discuss some 40 year old albums, in a little more depth than usual.  We each chose three to reminisce on.  There are dozens of critical albums we could have picked from that year, so we each chose three that we important to us on a personal level.

The stories flow like beer, and the laughter can be heard from one side of Ontario to the other.  Join us as Mike mocks the Leafs and Deke praises Buried On Mars.  (There is a good story about Mars’ site and one of the most important albums from 1980.)

Points of interest:

To start with some unboxings, go to 0:02:55 of the stream

The 1980 retrospective starts at 0:09:45 in the stream.

Attention:  Geoff Stephen!!  0:14:00.

For the Back In Black shenanigans skip to 1:28:20.

There’s some audio lag on the latter part of the video; sorry about that.  I hope you enjoy this chat as much as we did!

Deke and LeBrain return to the year 1980 – tonight!

Going solo was fun, but nobody can yammer on about music like Deke and LeBrain!

Tonight’s theme was the brainchild of our collective chit chat.  Have you noticed how many great albums are celebrating their 40th anniversary this year, including Back in Black?  It’s hard to turn on the radio or follow social media without noticing all the albums turning 40 this year.  Deke and I decided to talk about some in depth that were special to us personally.  He doesn’t know exactly which ones I picked, and I don’t know which ones he picked.  All we know is that it’s gonna be a blast!

I will also be doing an unboxing before Deke joins us.  Sometimes it’s worth tuning in early.  Chris Sarre is slowly learning this.

Join us tonight at 7:00 PM E.S.T. as we hop in the DeLorean with the flux capacitor set to the year 1980.  Facebook:  Michael Ladano

 

 

Nostalgia Stream – Full Video

That was intense!  What follows is two hours of stories, friendship, music, hardship, music, childhood, Record Store Tales, music, and emotion.  I don’t think I’ll be able to do a show like this one again.  But I’m glad I did it and thank you for watching.

This episode may not be for everyone and I will warn you right from the start that there are some serious heavy, raw emotions about to outpour.  This is your trigger warning.  There is very little in this live stream that I have not written about in the past so if you have been reading Record Store Tales and Getting More Tale, then you’re all caught up anyway.