Reviews

REVIEW: Loudness – Disillusion (1984 Japanese version)

LOUDNESS – Disillusion (1984 Nippon Columbia)

For a few albums starting with their fourth record Disillusion, Loudness began recording English lyrics for outside Japan.  For the Japanese versions, the lyrics are a mixture of both languages with the choruses usually sung in English.  Whichever version you hear, Disillusion will satisfy your craving for memorable heavy riffs, brilliant vocals, and incredible guitar shredding.

Guitarist Akira Takasaki was considered the Japanese Eddie Van Halen and you can hear why on Disillusion.  Though Loudness are heavier than Van Halen, Takasaki employs techniques similar to King Edward.  Disillusion opens with the thunderous “Crazy Doctor”, on which you can hear the Van Halen chords loud and clear, though the track sounds more like heavier vintage Dokken.  As outstanding as Akira is, also unmistakable is singer Minoru Niihara.  The original Loudness frontman could really sing with all the necessary panache and metal inflection.

The opening guitar shreddery on the speed metal “Esper” recalls St. Edward once again, but Loudness could have given Metallica a run for their money on this one.  Completely over the top!  A number of fans think that Loudness softened their sound when they released their American major label debut Thunder in the East in ’85.  You can understand why they think that when you hear “Esper”.  However this is a balanced album, and the more melodic “Butterfly” slows things down so you can catch your breath.  Unfortunately “Butterfly” is the closest thing to a mistep on this otherwise brilliant disc.

There’s a Maiden-y vibe to “Revelation” circa Piece of Mind, but not just because of the name.  I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that Loudness were influenced by Maiden.  We do know that both Loudness and Maiden were influenced by Deep Purple so there might be some convergent evolution going on.

The parallels to Sir Edward continue on side two with an instrumental called “Erupt…” err, sorry, it’s called “Exploder”.  Whatever the similarities, Takasaki is an enticing guitar player and he came to public attention exactly when this kind of playing was most popular.  “Exploder” blows away most of the competition.  Only a handful of players could do stuff like this and they usually had names like “Rhoads” and “Halen”.

Vocals return on “Dream Fantasy”, another blazing hot metal extravaganza, with solid chorus intact.  It’s worth noting that Takasaki was not alone in musical excellence.  Drummer Munetaka Higuchi (R.I.P.) was a heavy-hitter who could thrash it up and come up with interesting fills.  Masayoshi Yamashita has a knack for a busy, melodic bassline, though mostly holds down the fort so Akira can fly.

“Milky Way” boasts a cool, smoother style of riff and another exemplary Minoru Niihara chorus.  It’s a challenging arrangement with different rhythms and textures.  Loudness were not simply banging out metal riffs for your rock and roll crazy nights.  They were stretching the boundaries of their abilities, playing intelligent metal like the Scorpions and Priest did in the 70s.  But they also weren’t afraid of getting down n’ dirty, as they do on “Satisfaction Guaranteed”.  Though you can’t tell without the lyric sheet, it’s the only song that is completely sung in English.  It’s not the lyrics, but the riff that will hook you.  Note the passing Maiden-esque gallop.

This version of Disillusion concludes with an epic “Ares’ Lament”.  It’s a cross between early Maiden and Scorpions with a touch of darkness, with a long shadowy outro reminiscent of “Child in Time”.  It’s a brilliant end to a pretty stunning album.

Disillusion is not immediate, except for “Crazy Doctor” which will hook you at first listen.   It’s a busy record, so you need to give it a couple proper listens to let the riffs and hooks come to the fore.  Once they do, you will uncover many elements of pleasure in the grooves within.  It sounds uncompromised and is more unique than the albums that followed.  It’s a fine example of metal forged in integrity.

4.5/5 stars

REVIEW: Bon Jovi – “Someday I’ll Be Saturday Night” (1995 single)

BON JOVI – “Someday I’ll Be Saturday Night” (1995 Mercury single)

It’s impossible to acquire a “complete” Bon Jovi collection; trust me on this. Even Jon Bon Jovi doesn’t have a complete Bon Jovi collection. Up to a certain point in time, it’s fun to collect as many B-sides and bonus tracks you can get your hands on.

The second single from “best of” album Cross Road (1994) was “Someday I’ll Be Saturday Night”, and it was a pretty clear indication of where the band would go on their next album These Days.  But — surprise bonus — this single doesn’t have the studio version (that you already own) from Cross Road.  It has an uncredited live version instead!  Added bonus — Alec John Such on bass.  He had yet to be replaced (on stage, anyway) by Hugh McDonald.  This is probably the only live version of the hit with Such on bass.

Make no mistake, “Someday I’ll Be Saturday Night” is a great song.  There’s a Bon Jovi niche for acoustic rock songs with down-on-your-luck/inspirational lyrics.  “My life’s a bargain basement, all the good shit’s gone.”  This is Jon’s bread and butter.  He wouldn’t know a bargain basement if he was shopping for old Bon Jovi singles in one, but he does this kind of rock really well.  This is one of the last of his must-haves of the genre.

Another rare one, “Good Guys Don’t Always Wear White”, is a studio track with the well-worn cowboy motif.  It’s from the movie The Cowboy Way featuring Jon’s old Young Guns buddy Keifer Sutherland.  Unexpectedly, this one is an  intricate hard-driving rocker, with a Sambora riff that he could take pride in.  Tico Torres is absolutely on fire on the kit.  That guy can lay down a groove while throwing in challenging patterns just for fun.  Why can’t Bon Jovi rock like this anymore?  This track feels more honest than the hard luck songs.

Two more live songs finish the CD.  These two are from Montreal in ’94:  “With A Little Help From My Friends” (Joe Cocker style) and “Always”.  The reason Bon Jovi can get away with “A Little Help From My Friends” is Richie Sambora, who always brings the soul and the integrity.  That’s not to say that Jon sucks.  Check out the note he holds at 3:57.  The man had lungs back in 1994!  The demographics of the audience are obvious: “Always” is almost drowned out by a sea of high-pitched screams!  It’s one of their last ballads that really deserves that kind of cheering though.

A great single is one that you can list to independently of the album, and doesn’t sound like a bunch of miscellaneous bonus tracks.  This single is like that.  There’s no wasted space, no filler, and no tracks you can get on the albums.  The live stuff is high grade and the studio track is extremely valuable for its hard rocking nature.  This is more like an EP than a single, but it’s all semantics.  Let’s just call it:

4.5/5 stars

 

You say you don’t like my kind,
A bitter picture in your mind.
No, it don’t matter what I say,
I hear you bitchin’ when I walk away.
I’ll never be what you want me to be,
You tell me I’m wrong but I disagree,
I ain’t go no apology.
Just because I don’t look like you, talk like you, think like you,
Judge and jury, a hangman’s noose,
I see them in your eyes.
Good guys don’t always wear white.

 

REVIEW: Bon Jovi – Bounce (2002, 2010 special edition)

BON JOVI – Bounce (2002 Universal, 2010 special edition)

Wrote off Bon Jovi after Keep the Faith?  Not so fast!

It was a post-911 world, which in strange hindsight was a more optimistic time than today.  Bon Jovi, always patriotic, had to respond.  While only a few songs relate to the tragedy, Bounce is easily the strongest Bon Jovi platter from the last 20 years.

That was my brother lost in the rubble,
That was my sister lost in the crush,
That was our mothers, those were our children,
That was our fathers, that was each one of us.

“Undivided” makes no bones about its subject.  It’s also one of the heaviest songs the band have ever laid down.  Much of this, according to the band, came down to a new guitar that Richie Sambora was using.  His tone is certainly aggressive and modern.

“Where we once were divided, now we stand united.”

If only temporarily.  It was certainly more inspiring in its time.  At least nothing can be taken away from the music, and Sambora’s always sublime soloing.

Lead single “Everyday” is less successful, leaning on modern production values instead of rock and roll.  At least it rocks hard and chunky for the most part.  The samples and effects could have been ejected without hurting the song.  But Bon Jovi’s biggest weakness after Keep the Faith was a dependence on ballads.  At least most of the Bounce ballads stand strong.  The first of these is one of the strongest, “The Distance”.  It utilizes Sambora’s crushing guitar effectively to create a rock/ballad hybrid.  You can headbang to the riff while crooning to the verses.  It’s topped with strings courtesy of David Campbell, making the whole thing so overblown…and so Bon Jovi.  That’s their style.  You either like it or you don’t.

“Joey” is less successful as a ballad.  It’s one of those “growing up in New Jersey” songs that Jon is good at writing.  “Blood on Blood” is the best example of that kind of song.  “Joey”, not so much.  The arrangement is generic and the words, well:  “I never cared that Joey Keys was slow, he couldn’t read or write too well but we’d talk all night long.”  I’m sure there are more lyrical ways of telling this story.

Midtempo “Misunderstood” is an album highlight (and second single).  The chorus is the selling point.  Vintage Bon Jovi melody and charisma.  Unfortunately single #3, “All About Loving You” is profoundly putrid, with drum machines and tinkling acoustic guitars aplenty.  A heavy rocker called “Hook Me Up” is also less than inspiring, although you can at least rock heavy to it in dumb fashion.

A pleasant ballad, “Right Side of Wrong” is similar to “Joey” but without the awkward lyrics.  What does it sound like?  Bon Jovi, with all the references he loves:  James Cagney, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.  Next, Sambora’s wah-wah guitar on “Love Me Back to Life” brings some heavy to another ballad, which is good, because there are three in a row.  It’s all about Sambora and the strings by David Campbell, which add some needed punch.

Most of the ballads to this point have featured piano with strings, but “You Had My From Hello” is a sweet acoustic number.  Pleasant is the word.  But the second last track “Bounce” is an ass-kicker and best track on the album.  “Call it karma, call it luck, me I just don’t give a f…f…f…”  OK, that sounds pretty cheesey.  Jon refusing to drop the F-bomb is funny when you think about it, but “Bounce” was a single, so it’s not like he’s going to swear all over it.  Richie’s solo is 2000s-era perfect, as good as mainstream music got back then.  “Bounce” rocks.  Unfortunately the album concludes on another cookie-cutter ballad, “Open All Night”.  It was written about an Ally McBeal episode that Jon guested in.  Hard pass.

The 2010 special edition includes a cool backstage pass and four live bonus tracks:  “The Distance”, “Joey”, “Hook Me Up” and “Bounce”.  The added value makes the upgrade worthwhile.

This album “bounces” back between rockers and ballads a bit much, but when the songs are solid, it fires on all cylinders.  Let’s say you trimmed two songs from the album to make it an even 10, like Slippery When Wet.  Then Bounce would be a more consistent listen, and perhaps considered a bit of a latter day classic.  It’s still probably the last “good” album they’ve released.

3.5/5 stars

REVIEW: Greg Keelor – “Pine Ridge” (1996)

GREG KEELOR – “Pine Ridge” (1996, from Pine Ridge: Songs for Leonard Peltier)

Blue Rodeo are taking some heat these days for their stance on indigenous rights.  A small group of fans are abandoning the band for (quote-unquote) “going political”, but politics is nothing new for this Canadian institution.  In 2015, they recorded “Stealin’ All My Dreams” just in time for the 2015 Canadian election.  (The mp3 file had a tag reminding fans to vote!)  It was pretty clear from the song where they stood on the issues.  Further back, in 1996, they participated in Pine Ridge, a benefit CD for Leonard Peltier.  It’s a long story that has resulted in at least three movies, a U2 song, and support from Rage Against the Machine.  Greg Keeler’s contribution to the Pine Ridge CD is one of the strongest songs of his entire career.

The track may be credited solely to Greg Keelor, but if you look at the players, it’s actually Blue Rodeo.  Jim Cuddy, Bazil Donovan, Glenn Milchem, James Gray, Kim Deschamps…the gang’s all there, the classic Five Days in July lineup.  So it’s a Blue Rodeo song in every way but in name.  At 10 minutes in length, it is unprecedented in complexity for this great band.  And they wore their politics directly on their sleeves.

The government man hate the colour of your skin and your dogshined reservation,
No reasons why those two FBI were on Oglala land chasing that red van,
And the FBI admit Leonard Peltier did not commit the killings that have
Kept him 20 years in prison.

The track runs the gamut from quiet, contemplative picking to soulful and dramatic choruses, to a funky mid-section, and a huge ending.  It’s as epic as Blue Rodeo get.  It tugs at the soul, and stimulates the mind.  It’s a protest song in the grandest tradition, right out of 1969.  And nobody can flat-out play like Blue Rodeo.  Pedal steel, dobro, organ…it’s all here.  And it’s massive.

Stay political, Greg.  Regardless of where you fall on the current situation in Canada (it ain’t pretty), we can all agree that the world is richer for all the great protest songs of the past.  Here is another one, now an oldie itself.

5/5 stars

The Pine Ridge CD also features performances by The Tragically Hip, Blue Rodeo’s Jim Cuddy, ex-Blue Rodeo keyboardist Bob Wiseman, Jane Sibbery, Michael Ondaatje, Ashley MacIsaac, Sarah McLachlan, the Skydiggers and many more.  Worth the investment.

 

REVIEW: Bon Jovi – “Real Life” (1999 CD singles)

Forget Valentine’s Day…except when it’s good for traffic!  Back in my single days I used to call it “Bon Jovi Day” and listen to nothing but Jon & Richie.  Here’s some Bon Jovi for you!

BON JOVI – “Real Life” (1999 Reprise & promo CD singles)

There was an unprecedented five year interregnum between These Days and Crush.  This pause allowed Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora to get some solo albums out of their systems before the band re-convened.  In the buildup to the new album, Bon Jovi contributed a new single called “Real Life” to the movie EdTV.  Remember EdTV?  There were two movies out at the same time about a guy who had his whole life broadcast on television 24/7.  One, The Truman Show starring Jim Carrey, was a huge hit.  The other, Ron Howard’s EdTV starring Matthew McConaughey, was the also-ran.  EdTV might have been more interesting, but bombed.  This rendered the Bon Jovi single relatively obscure.  It’s not the first time a Bon Jovi movie track misfired.  Remember “Good Guys Don’t Always Wear White”?

“Real Life” was a decent tune, but it was a ballad at a time when Bon Jovi already had plenty.  There’s little to draw your attention, aside from Richie Sambora’s always alluring guitar and vocals.  The watery guitar tone is not far removed from These Days, but that album boasted the kind of ballads you’d never forget.  Songs like “Something to Believe In”, “These Days”, and “(It’s Hard) Letting You Go” are the kind of songs you carry your whole life.  “Real Life” is not.  In the wake of These Days, it was just another ballad.

Who is “Desmond Childs“?

This commercial single has two versions of “Real Life”, but there are actually four versions out there!  For the “album version”, if you don’t want the EdTV soundtrack, look for a promo single instead.  The differences between the album version and the radio mix are slight, but the album version has more guitar where the single mix has more piano.  The third version is an instrumental mix, which is nice if you want to listen to Richie’s guitar a little more.  The fourth and final version is an alternate mix that can be found on the box set 100,000,000 Bon Jovi Fans Can’t Be Wrong.

Finally, a live recording of “Keep the Faith” rounds out the single.  It seems to be a standby live B-side for this band.    They used another version on the 2013 single for “Because We Can“.  It’s certainly one of their most accomplished songs.  The bass groove and Tico’s busy drum patterns keep your feet moving.  It’s noncommercial and it strives to be something bigger.  It might be, in a technical sense, Bon Jovi’s most unapologetic and best hit.

Interestingly enough, “Real Life” is the only Bon Jovi video without David Bryan who was away on an injury.  I don’t think he missed out on much.

2.5/5 stars

 

REVIEW: Corrosion of Conformity – “Seven Days” (1995 promo single)

CORROSION OF CONFORMITY – “Seven Days” (1995 Sony promo CD single)

COC’s landmark album Deliverance spawned three singles, the least known of which was “Seven Days”.  The promo CD single contains a rarity that makes it worth tracking down.  It’s not expensive, and thanks to online stores not hard to find.

Deliverance is a heavy album even with a few slower songs on board.  “Seven Days” is one such track.  A slow, heavy dirge can often make for a good single.  This CD has two versions, the full-length album cut and a shorter single edit with a truncated fade-out.

The special track here is a “jam box tape” of “Fuel”, a track that was as yet unreleased.  COC recorded it properly for their next album, Wiseblood.  This early version is an identical arrangement, but way way more ragged.  Pepper sounds like James Hetfield on this one, but it has far more balls than the Metallica song of the same name.  Total smokeshow.  This is the proverbial “song you buy the single for.”

3.5/5 stars

REVIEW: Corrosion of Conformity – Deliverance (1994)

CORROSION OF CONFORMITY – Deliverance (1994 Sony)

Gre-ea-easy!  That’s how the molton hot guitars sound on this landmark album.  Greasy, in the most complimentary way.  Six-stringers Woody Weatherman and Pepper Keenan have a way of making their guitar licks sound slippery and heavy at the same time.

Corrosion of Conformity (“COC”) did something really smart when they set out to record this album.  After the departure of bassist Phil Swisher and singer Karl Agell (who both turned up later in Leadfoot), they promoted Pepper Keenan to lead vocals, and brought back founding member Mike Dean on bass.  Pepper scored a hit for COC last time out with a lead vocal on “Vote With a Bullet”, so it was a logical move.  As for Mike Dean, his punk roots and busy bass are important to the sound of this band.  Dean was also COC’s vocalist from time to time in the past, and gets a lead vocal once again on the title track.

The resulting album Deliverance is 14 tracks (give or take an instrumental or two) of heavy, dirty metal they way they make it in Raleigh, North Carolina.  Pepper’s vocals lent them a southern edge.  Metallica are fans — Pep auditioned for them on bass when Newsted left the band.  (What a sound Metallica could have had, with James Hetfield backed up by Pepper Keenan on vocals!)

Regardless of who’s singing or playing, COC nailed all 14 songs.  None of the proverbial “filler”.  This is one hell of a trip, an album that demands to be listened to from start to finish, no skipping.  John Custer’s crisp and chunky production brought out the metal side more than ever.


“Help me Jesus, help me clean my wounds. He said he cannot heal that kind.”

Check out the choppy riff on the single “Clean My Wounds”.  The song is a tour-de-force, a textbook example of all the right ingredients.  The riff is outstanding, but the verse and chorus melodies slay.  Drummer Reed Mullin has a spare groove, but he knows exactly when to accent it with some heavy hitting.  The multi-tracked vocal in the chorus (“Knock it down!”) is the perfect fit, but the Lizzy-ish guitar solos are an additional layer of perfection.

Another key track, “Albatross” is too heavy to be a ballad so let’s call it a dirge.  You can hear what Mike Dean brings to the table — a slinky, Geezer style of bass that provides subliminal melody.  “Albatross” flies on the wings of a strong melody and heavy performance.  It has a vibe similar to “Outshined” by Soundgarden but more mournful.

The aforementioned instrumentals are integral parts of the album.  Remember how a Black Sabbath album had key instrumental bits, usually introducing another song?  That’s what COC do here.  “Without Wings”, a dark acoustic guitar figure, leads into the heavy-as-fuck “Broken Man” exactly like a Sabbath song.  Later on, “#2121313”, an electric guitar piece, is joined directly onto “My Grain”.  “Mano de Mono”, another acoustic piece, is basically the front end of “Seven Days”, a mid-paced groove single.

Speaking of “My Grain”, it’s the most punk rock track, but even so it features a kickass bass solo!  Other noteworthy tracks include the wah-wah inflected title track (Mike Dean on vocals).  Jittery, jumpy riffs dominate “Señor Limpio”, another blistering blitz.  Finally there is “Pearls Before Swine”, the slowest and bluesiest of the tracks and a seriously heavy closer.

Corrosion of Conformity have made some good (albeit very different) albums over the years, but like many bands they have a clear peak.  That is Deliverance, the one perfect album they made.

5/5 stars

REVIEW: The Guess Who – Greatest Hits (1999)

THE GUESS WHO – Greatest Hits (1999 RCA)

Fun fact:  every Canadian citizen in good standing is issued a Guess Who album when they turn voting age.  Instead of that one, I upgraded to the remastered Greatest Hits in 1999.  The timing for a new compilation was right for the Canadian institution.  Though they never broke up, they had a big reunion tour in 2000.  Burton Cummings (Guess Who singer/pianist 1966-1975) and guitarist  Randy Bachman (1962-1970) had been out of the band a long time.  There was a 1983 reunion but even that was far in the past.  It was the Guess Who’s time in Canada once again, and in talking to Record Store customers, they couldn’t have been more excited if it was the Beatles.

18 tracks of Guess Who hits cover most of the well known bases.  Opening with the dramatic ballad “These Eyes” (made famous once again by Canadian Michael Cera in the movie Superbad) I’m reminded what a tremendous singer Burton Cummings is.  From the ballads to rockers like “No Time”, he could do it soulful or raspy.  Whatever the songs required.

And let’s not forget ex-James Gang six-stringer Domenic Troiano.  The Italian-Canadian guitar wiz was brought in on in 1974 and quickly aided and abetted the group in songwriting.  Only one Troiano-penned track is included here (“Dancin’ Fool”) but his slick riff is totally tasty.  (Unfortunately, Troiano is probably best known as the guy who Gavin Rossdale had to pay off to call his band “Bush” instead of “Bush X”.  Troiano had a band called Bush in 1970.)

The Guess Who were a remarkable band in their day, with a firm hand on both ballads and slick boogie rockers.  Yet their best known song, 1969’s “American Woman” is one of their least remarkable.  Written while tuning up at a curling club (look it up) in Kitchener (says Bachman) or Scarborough (says Cummings), it’s just sledgehammer rock.  Which is fine — there is nothing wrong with that kind of rock.  It’s just bizarre that it’s “American Woman” that people remember when The Guess Who had 20 or so better songs.   Check out “Albert Flasher”, a piano boogie that rivals the best of the genre.

This set is a fine listen from start to finish, and I can only really think of one rocker that’s not present — “Bus Driver”.  Otherwise it covers all the important stuff from the beginning to Cummings’ departure.*  It’s not an album for deep cuts or obscurities.  If you’ve spent extended periods of time listening to Canadian radio, you’ll know 50-80% of these songs.  If not, you hopefully already know “These Eyes” and “American Woman”.  Maybe even “Laughing” or “Undun”.  The Guess Who were always solid with just a little bit of quirk to them.  Solid bouncy musicianship, clever arrangements and lyrics, and a killer voice.  That’s Greatest Hits by The Guess Who.

4.5/5 stars

* The Guess Who continues today with a lineup including original drummer Garry Peterson and Quiet Riot’s Rudy Sarzo.

VIDEO: “Here Comes LeBrain Again” 2020 – by Uncle Meat and Iron Tom

In 2014, Tom and Uncle Meat made a video for their “Here Comes LeBrain Again” parody which I gladly used as my theme song. In 2020 that video is a little out of date, so I decided to make an updated one. Check both versions out below and let me know.

Thanks to Meat and Tom for recording the song and making the original.


2020 VERSION



2014 VERSION

REVIEW: Rush – Rare Rush (bootleg)

RUSH – Rare Rush (2002 home made CD set from acquired downloads)

Once upon a time there was a cool, but doomed, Rush fansite.  This site had countless downloads for free, and was shut down in short order.  While it was up, I grabbed all the studio rarities that they had, and one official live track I was missing.  This compilation is made from all of it.

The rarities begin at the start, with the only two tracks featuring John Rutsey on drums.  They are significant ones.  “Not Fade Away” and “Can’t Fight It” were their very first single on Moon records in 1973.  It’s early Rush, more rock n’ roll, and way more high pitched.  These are very basic recordings, copied from vinyl.  “Not Fade Away” is the old Buddy Holly classic, but harder and with Geddy Lee walkin’ that bassline.  “Can’t Fight It” is an original, co-written by Lee and Rutsey.  It’s a simple but busy rocker.  Alex cuts loose some solos, Rutsey goes bananas on the kit, and Geddy holds it all down with a little bit of flash.  One listen to this and you’d know Rush were going places.  There’s an electricity on the single that carried over to the first album.  They were kids but they could play.

An edit of “Bravado” from Roll the Bones sounds like a CD single was the source.  What a song.  Is it a ballad?  Who cares.  It burns.  Neil kills it with a drum roll beyond perfect, right at the start of the fade-out, which is why you need the full-length original.  It also contains one of the most poignant Neil Peart lyrics:  “And when the music stops, there’s only the sound of the rain.”

Next is the three part interview “It’s a Rap”, from the Roll the Bones era.  Alex’s portion comes from a 7″ single, Geddy’s from a rare European CD single, and Neil’s from the more common one.*  Neil’s is probably the most interesting.  He discusses the controversial rap section from the “Roll the Bones” single, which was his idea. Robbie Robertson and John Clease were two people they thought of to deliver the rap, before Geddy did it himself.  Speaking of Geddy, his interview has the best quote:  “I don’t know how we got this image.  Maybe we wore too many robes in the 70s.”

The “pre-release” tracks here from Counterparts are slightly different in the mix.  The differences are very subtle.  Some more prominent keyboard here, a less double-tracked vocal there.  “Ghost of a Chance” has unique Lifeson fills in the last part of the song.  These tracks will be fun for any fan of Counterparts (a great album).  Some of the best songs have these “pre-release” tracks.  From “Animate” through “Double Agent”and finally “Everyday Glory”, these are awesome tunes.  “Cold Fire” absolutely smokes.  Unfortunately these tracks are not as clear as others, as they came (as I recall) originally from a rare promo cassette.

An edit of “Virtuality” from the (honestly dreadful) Test for Echo album is a drag.  I don’t like to speak ill of the dead but “Net boy, net girl” is not one of Neil Peart’s best lyrics.  In the 90s there was a trend of internet-themed songs, and none of them were really any good.  Moving onto “Nobody’s Hero”, which is a “master edit” (not sure what that is).  It’s only short by about 20 seconds at the end as it fades early.

The only live track on here, “Force Ten”, comes from the very rare and expensive Japanese import for Different Stages.  It could possibly be the only Japanese bonus track that Rush have.  Much like the album itself, this track is awesome and harder hitting than its studio counterpart.

Disc 2 opens with a radio edit of “Test for Echo”, one of the best tunes from that album.  Really cool is an instrumental mix of “One Little Victory”, though it’s so fuckin’ overdriven.  Vapor Trails reduced to mp3 (especially back then) is a harsh sound.  This is very brickwalled.  But as an instrumental, it’s worth suffering through.  Compare that to the crisp “Show Don’t Tell” (promo edit) that follows.  Now you have depth and texture.

Vintage vibes return on an old “Spirit of Radio” edit — two of them actually.  One is 2:59, the other 3:23.  They crackle of old vinyl.  Consider that the original is almost five minutes!  Radio edits are what they are — chopped to cram more songs in between commercial breaks.  “Shatter the illusion of integrity, yeah.”

Some high-tech songs shake it up a bit.  “Big Money” and “Red Sector A” are edited and truncated (“Big Money” for a music video).  “Red Sector A” is missing a whole minute of music from the middle, which you definitely miss.  The edit is just yucky, as is the one at the start of “Secret Touch” from Vapor Trails.  I’m realizing that, on its own, I can listen to Vapor Trails.  But I cannot listen to them one song at a time on a mix CD like this.  That overdriven mix is too drastic for a compilation.  (This is why Rush remixed tracks for their own Retrospective 3 album.)

“Time and Motion” is a “work in progress” pre-release, and it’s harder to listen to than the album version from Test For Echo.  More enjoyable is an edit of “The Pass” (Presto).  This brilliant, minimalist Rush tune was the start of a new kind of sound for them.  An awkward edit of “Tom Sawyer” cuts the song down to 3:32, a real shame.  Here’s thing:  “Tom Sawyer” was Rush tightening things up; making them concise.  There was no fat to trim on that song.  Everything that was there belonged.  This edit is a butcher job, cuts all over the place, an absolute travesty.

Next we arrive at the remixes.  The “Punchit Scratchit” and “Rock Slamfist” mixes of “Tom Sawyer” come from a promo single for the Small Soldiers soundtrack.  They’re pretty terrible.  Nobody needed to overdub somebody going “rock! rock!” over it.  There’s a neat loop repeated in both mixes, but most fans will call these tracks “abominations”.  Don’t forget that these were done for a kid’s movie.

Saving one of the best for last, it’s “The Weapon” featuring Joe Flaherty as “Count Floyd”!  Fans of SCTV know who that is.  The 7″ single this originated from goes for about 45 bucks on Discogs.  Definitely an item reserved for those with an all-expenses paid Rush card!  It really is a treasure though, considering the importance of SCTV to Rush over the years.  Joe Flaherty on a Rush single — yes, I want that.

The compilation ends on an up note, with an edit of “Time Stand Still”; though a bit choppy.  It stands as a reminder that Rush are not serviced well by single edits.  Indeed, any edit on this set is noticeably inferior to its album counterpart.  These particular Rush songs were honed in the studio to the necessary elements already.  Further thinning did not need to happen and only hinders enjoyment.

But, they’re rare, is the thing.  And collectors live for anything different from the album versions.  It’s part of our disease.  I won’t say “go and track down these promo singles”.  No, don’t do that.  That’s expensive.  I just hope you found this information interesting.  There are definitely treasures worth spending money on, among these downloads.  But sellers know that, and charge according to what they feel they can soak you for.  It’s unfortunate but owning this stuff physically is hard to prioritise, and for that reason, most of us will have to settle for downloads and bootlegs.

 

* Neil’s interview is the only one that I own physically on CD single.