REVIEW: Mr. Big – Get Over It (1999)

MR. BIG – Get Over It (1999 Atlantic)

Mr. Big broke up in 1996, and reformed in 1999 without Paul Gilbert.  It wasn’t personal; he just wasn’t available.  He was working with a revamped Racer X, and his solo albums were popular in Japan.  In a stroke of genius, Mr. Big tapped a contemporary of Gilbert from his Shrapnel records days — Richie Kotzen.  Kotzen, like Mr. Big, was popular, could shred, and could write commercial music.  Kotzen has a distinct soul/blues vibe that he introduced to Mr. Big along with his own vocals.

The resultant Mr. Big album, Get Over It, was an amalgam of the two artists.  Different, but still a good fit.  Leadoff track “Electrified” is almost like a new band, based on the quality of the old.  Kotzen, like Gilbert, can shred – check out “Hiding Place”.  He just does it with more blues.  He also sings co-lead vocals on “Static”, the only Kotzen solo writing credit.  With him and Eric Martin in the same band, you get two of the most soulful hard rockers on Earth in one place at one time!

The song that, in past days, would have been the “bit hit” is a track called “Superfantastic”.  This campfire rock track recalls the good old days, but the bluesy stuff is more interesting.  Kotzen pours on the slide for “A Rose Alone”, which sounds like an old Shaw/Blades tune.  “Try to Do Without It” is a delightful confection of soul and bluesy guitar.

Get Over It lacks in one way.  Mr. Big albums are usually peppered with many unforgettable standout tracks throughout.  Get Over It only has a handful of those, stacked near the beginning.  It’s an enjoyable listen throughout, with no dull or skipable moments, but it’s missing those high points.  The songs you remember for days after.  Instead, Get Over It plays like cool bluesy (and sometimes funky) background CD.

3.25/5 stars


REVIEW: Guns N’ Roses – Acoustic Session in NY (1987 radio broadcast)

GUNS N’ ROSES – Acoustic Session in NY (1987 radio broadcast, Laser Media release)

Radio broadcasts of historic value can be found for dirt cheap.  Guns N’ Roses played an intimate set on October 30 1987 at CBGB’s in New York, and today you can own a CD of it just by being in the right Walmart.

The GN’R Lies EP was still over a year away but several tracks were previewed:  “Patience”, “Used to Love Her”, the acoustic version of “You’re Crazy” and the controversial “One in a Million”.  It was only the second time “One in a Million” had been played live and the audience doesn’t particularly react where you think they would.  They do, however, get quite a kick out of “Used to Love Her”.  According to Rolling Stone, there were about 100 people in the club that night.  They also got to hear the unfamiliar “Move to the City” and “Mr. Brownstone”.

The balance of the CD is from an unknown gig, fully plugged in: “Sweet Child O’ Mine”, a ferocious “My Michelle” and a very early cover of “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” by the original five.  Since you’re never poorer for owning vintage live Guns with Izzy and Steven, the three tracks are welcome bonuses (though a source listing would be nice).

3.5/5 stars

200 word

REVIEW: Judas Priest – Firepower (2018)

JUDAS PRIEST – Firepower (2018 Sony)

It’s 2018 and the Priest is back.  The excitement for the mighty metal band’s return has been restrained by the knowledge that Glenn Tipton is too ill to tour.  Parkinson’s disease — what a bastard that is.  Co-producer Andy Sneap has stepped up to take over Glenn’s guitar parts on tour.

Meanwhile on album, Glenn’s contributions to Firepower can be heard.  Sneap and classic Priest producer Tom Allom recorded one of the most biting Priest albums to date.  More impressive than the sound they captured are the performances.  Rob Halford in particular is more expressive than he has been in years.

At 14 tracks and almost an hour, Firepower suffers only from too many tracks.  There are a couple that clearly could have been cut and left for B-sides or bonus tracks.  “Flame Thrower” (similar to “Hot For Love” from Turbo), though a cool title, would have been great on a B-side.  On album, I’d rather race ahead to some of the more exciting tracks.

Firepower throws it back to sounds of the past.  Sometimes it’s Painkiller, and sometimes Angel of Retribution.  Rock writer Heavy Metal Overload noticed sonic similarities to Halford’s Resurrection CD.   At other times it’s brand new, because guitarist Richie Faulkner brings new things to the table, such as slide.

There are many highlights among the 14 tracks.  “Evil Never Dies” and “Never the Heroes” both immediately jump out for their melodic mastery.  Rob is sounding better than he has on the last couple, with a few tasty screams to enjoy.  As time goes on, new favourites will replace old.  Perhaps it’ll be “Spectre”, “No Surrender”,  “Children of the Sun”, “Rising From the Ruins” or even “Flame Thrower”!  Another highlight:  mellow album closer “Sea of Red” which bears lyrical similarities to “Blood Red Skies” from 1988’s Ram It Down.  In general, Firepower is about fighting back.

The cover art by Claudio Bergamin is Priest’s new mascot, “Titanicus”.  Silly name aside, this one Priest’s best album cover in decades.  (Mark Wilkinson continues to contribute to the packaging art as well.)  Notice how Bergamin’s lines match up with the style of past Priest albums like Screaming for Vengeance.

It’s hard to imagine a better album this late in their career.  Priest have done it again.  Firepower lives up to its name.

4.5/5 stars


REVIEW: Helix – The Power of Rock and Roll (2007)

HELIX – The Power of Rock and Roll (2007

When Helix seemingly dropped off the map in the mid 90’s, I didn’t think they’d ever really come back with more studio albums. Yet they did thanks to the power of the internet. The Power Of Rock And Roll is a return to roots of sorts, after the alternative stylings of 2004’s Rockin’ in My Outer Space. This is a throwback to the basic guitars/bass/drums/shredding vocals of the Helix of yore!  “It’s a party that’s better than a beer, it’s a party in your ear!”  That’s their modus operandi on “Fill Your Head With Rock”, a song they wrote for the Sweden Rock festival.  They named it after the Kim Mitchell song of the same title, also recorded for Sweden Rock.

The Power Of Rock And Roll is essentially a reissue of the earlier seven song EP, Get Up! with five additional tracks added. If you already have Get Up! (which is now out of print), you still need The Power Of Rock And Roll because those five new songs are just awesome. Wait until you hear the power of “Nickels And Dimes”, an awesome track with a great chorus.  “Eat My Dust” might be the fastest song Helix has ever done.  “The Past Is Back (To Kick Your Ass)” is truly a statement of purpose. And kick your ass, this album will!

Personal favourite:  “Get Up!”  Can’t get enough of that chorus!  “We don’t need a reason to party, so get up get up!”  The first time I heard “Get Up!” was when Helix opened for Alice Cooper in Kitchener in early 2006.  It was a brand new song, but instantly memorable.  Brian Vollmer noticed I was in the second row singing along to the chorus.  He came down and slapped my hand!

Guitars are by session musician Steve Georgakopoulos who used to play Ace Frehley in the London tribute band Alive. As such, you may notice some very Ace-like bends and licks. Steve co-wrote every song on this album with Vollmer and Gord Prior (ex-Blu Bones). The only thing that I disliked about this album is that then-current members of the live Helix band doesn’t play on it. Rick VanDyk (ex-legendary Kitchener band Zero Option), Jim Lawson, Brent “Ned” Niemi, and Paul Fonseca did not appear, although they’d play everything live. In their stead are the aforementioned Steve Georgakopoulos on guitar, ex-Sven Gali drummer Rob MacEachern, and ex-Helix bassist Jeff “Stan” Fountain. I guess this is fine — these guys have a longstanding relationship with Helix. MacEachern even later joined the band in 2009. They’re all studio pros, and the album does not suffer for it. It’s just a personal taste thing. I prefer the members of the band to play on the albums. I’m traditional that way.

There’s a bonus track, a remake of the hit “Heavy Metal Love” which is almost as great as the original. Casual listeners might not even notice the difference. This was done to coincide with the use of the song in the first Trailer Park Boys movie.

If you’ve ever been a Helix fan, you will be delighted and pleasantly surprised by The Power Of Rock And Roll. Every single song kicks, no ballads. It is pure, raw, well recorded, well played, and Vollmer signs his ass off.

4.5/5 stars

Notice the Japanese symbol for “power” on the back?

#660: It Was Six Years Ago Today…

GETTING MORE TALE #660: It Was Six Years Ago Today…

…that launched!  Some of you have been here since the beginning. (Hi Aaron! Hi Craig! Hi mom! Hi old boss from the store!)

It all began on March 9 2012, with Record Store Tales Part 1: The Beginning – “Run to the Hills”. Record Store Tales grew to 320 chapters, continued today in Getting More Tale. And here we are at #660!

Thank you for reading these past six years. If you’re new and you like what you see, why not go back and check out the whole story from the beginning? It’s an epic tale of slinging the rock in Kitchener Ontario, from the front lines of a Record Store. 12 years in the trenches resulted in an older, wiser man with stories of legendary music, infamous parties, trials, Tribble-lations, retribution and vindication. It is the rise, fall, and resurrection of yours truly. And who am I? Just a guy with some great stories.

These are the Record Store Tales. Thank you for reading!



Parts 1 – 50
Parts 51 – 100
Parts 101 – 150
Parts 151 – 200
Parts 201 – 250
Parts 251 – 300
Parts 301 – 320

REVIEW: Helix – Long Way to Heaven (1985)

HELIX – Long Way to Heaven (1985 Capitol Records)

Helix’s fifth album was an important one.  They were following the “big hit” album (Walkin’ the Razor’s Edge) and there were expectations.  The band collected another batch of original material and hit the studio with producer Tom Treumuth again.

1985’s Long Way to Heaven is the second album with the “classic” Helix lineup:  Brian Vollmer, Brent “the Doctor” Doerner, Paul Hackman, Greg “Fritz” Hinz and Daryl Gray.  All but drummer Fritz contributed songs, with Vollmer, Hackman and Doerner leading the pack.

The two singles were the opening tracks.  “The Kids Are All Shakin’” is a catchy for American radio play.  It has always been a damn fine song.

Down in New York City,
All the way to L.A.,
Boys and girls are gonna shake it,
Yeah, each and every day.

There’s also a reference to a fan letter from Poland that was a big deal to the band at the time.  “Kids Are All Shakin’” is a great rock and roll celebration, but the single version with additional keyboards is better.

The other single was the hit acoustic/electric ballad “Deep Cuts the Knife” written by Hackman and Bob Halligan, Jr.  To this day it remains one of, if not the very best ballad Helix have done.  It has atmosphere and bite, and a killer vocal performance by Brian Vollmer.

There are good tracks after the first two, but nothing quite as memorable.  “Ride the Rocket” (Vollmer/Halligan) is fun but silly.  I’m sure you can guess what kind of rocket Brian is singing about when he says “Reach in the pocket”.  Other decent songs include the title track, which has a great chorus melody, and the heavy-as-fuck “House on Fire”.  There’s also another ballad called “Without You (Jasmine’s Song)” that is worthy of praise.

There is nothing wrong with any of the other tunes, and some have some pretty cool moments.  “Don’t Touch the Merchandise” has a nifty a cappella section that proves what great vocalists the band are.  It’s just that none of the other songs really have a lot of staying power in the brain.

Long Way to Heaven was one of those follow-ups that was good enough, but always remain in the shadow of the more successful predecessors.

3.25/5 stars

REVIEW: Alice Cooper – The Sound of A (2018 EP)

ALICE COOPER – The Sound of A (2018 Ear Music EP)

“The Sound of A” is in the air…but it took 50 years to get there!

Alice Cooper’s Paranormal was one of the most delightful rock releases of 2017, which really came as no surprise.  Alice has been consistently awesome for several albums in a row.  Any time he works with producer Bob Ezrin, you can count on quality.  The new five track Sound of A EP is quality.

The song “The Sound of A” was written in 1967 by Alice and bassist Dennis Dunaway.  When Cooper reunited with members of the original band for some songs on Paranormal, Dunaway suggested revisiting “The Sound of A”.  With Bob Ezrin’s help, “The Sound of A” has become another in a long line of understated Cooper classics.  It has the sound of Welcome to My Nightmare with a hint of the present.  Another apt (but coincidental) comparison would be “Journey of 1,000 Years” by Kiss.

“The Sound of A” is packaged with four unreleased live songs:  “The Black Widow”, “Public Animal #9”, “Is It My Body” and “Cold Ethyl”.  Of these, the real treat is “Public Animal #9”, an old School’s Out favourite that has never seen release on any Alice live album.  This is from Columbus Ohio in May 2017.  As is often the case, “The Black Widow” is shortened live, but “Public Animal” is damn fine.  Can you believe it took this long to get a live version?  It’s one of the best on School’s Out, albeit in the shadow of a big hit.  Even “Cold Ethyl” is hard to find live.  You can locate it on 2011’s No More Mr. Nice Guy via Concert Live, and the semi-official Extended Versions and Alone in His Nightmare.

Don’t miss The Sound of A.  Consider it a live EP with some stuff you’ll be glad to have.

4/5 stars

REVIEW: Leonard Nimoy & William Shatner – Spaced Out! (1997)


Although William Shatner has enjoyed a slightly more high profile musical career, it was actually Leonard Nimoy who struck musical gold first!  Nimoy’s debut solo album Mr. Spock’s Music from Outer Space beat Shatner’s The Transformed Man by a year, in 1967.  Both records are considered novelties, yet were followed up by even more albums.  Shatner’s last, Ponder the Mystery (2013) featured Steve Vai and Rick Wakeman among many others.

In 1997, the Space Channel assembled a fantastic greatest hits compilation of both Starfleet officers’ best.  In 2017, Sir Aaron the Surprising sent me a sealed copy on a lark.  It was meant to be a gag gift, but little did Aaron know I’d actually wanted this CD for a long time!  After all, Shatner’s “Mr. Tambourine Man” has long been a hilariously bad favourite, and Nimoy’s “Ballad of Bilbo Baggins” truly is a hoot.  Spaced Out! is a blast-off!

Shatner’s material tends to the so-bad-it’s-funny side of things.  His spoken-word vocals definitely re-imagine many classic songs, including “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds”.  Nimoy, meanwhile, uses his baritone to sing charming ditties like “I Walk the Line” and “If I Was a Carpenter”.  In character as Spock, “Highly Illogical” is highly fun.  Nimoy also had a knack for ballads, and perhaps just missed out on a career as a crooner?

Less successful, Leonard goes country on “Ruby Don’t Take Your Love to Town”.  He may have been able to play cowboys in movies, but playing one in music is much more difficult.  Nimoy’s music leaned more to the mainstream, while Shatner’s was experimental, bombastic beat poetry to music.  Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.  “It Was A Very Good Year” is highly questionable.

Top Star Trek geek moment:  Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991) took its name from a line in Shakespear’s Hamlet (1602).  In Shatner’s musical recording, “Hamlet”, he actually recites that line a couple decades before the movie was made.

Who would fardels bear
To grunt and sweat under a weary life
But that the dread of something after death
The undiscovered country from whose bourn
No traveler returns, puzzles the will
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?

Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought
And enterprises of great pitch and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry
And lose the name of action

For fans, it’s ultimately cool to have a copy of Shatner reciting those lines.

Let’s not deceive anyone, Spaced Out! is a novelty.   You will chuckle and cringe more frequently than you will tap your toes to the music.  Trekkies/Trekkers owe it to themselves to add this to the collection to expand their own universes.

2/5 stars


REVIEW: Mr. Big – Big, Bigger, Biggest! The Best Of (1996)

MR. BIG – Big, Bigger, Biggest! The Best Of (1996 Atlantic)

The mid-90s were the time that every hard rock band in the world released a greatest hits.  Why?  Most of them either split, got dropped by the label, or both.  Tesla, King’s X, Slaughter, Extreme, and Mr. Big are among the sidelined bands whose labels released a greatest hits mid-decade.

Big’s at least had four unreleased tracks, topping off 12 familiar cuts from their first four albums.  Three of the songs were newly recorded.  Unfortunately, the label stacked a bunch of ballads and made this disc really hard to finish in one sitting.  The running order and track selection is a little wonky.

“Addicted to that Rush” is the jet-speed opener, as it should be.  Big’s 1989 debut was instrumentally thrilling but light on hits.  A so-so album track, “Rock & Roll Over” should probably have been left off.  Lean Into It (1991) was the big one.  “To Be With You” sits at track 4, because the CD is chronological, but the song has always worked better in the closing position.  Placing it at track 4 is anticlimactic.  Lean Into It spawned three more singles, all present:  “Green Tinted Sixties Mind“, “Just Take My Heart”, and “Daddy, Brother, Lover, Little Boy”.  This spurt of songs is a bit too soft.  Two are ballads, one a pop track, leaving only one to instrumentally smoke you.  That’s unfortunate because their cover of Cat Stevens’ “Wild World” is next in the pack.  Though it is a fabulous and underappreciated cover, it’s too much mush at the start of the CD.

A buyer who picks this CD up as their first and only Mr. Big purchase will assume they are just another pop rock band.  Another Bon Jovi, another Warrant.  Though there are some serious moments of instrumental shreddery, that side of the band is too overlooked.  “Colorado Bulldog” from 1993’s Bump Ahead is about the only remaining song with that kind of force.  This is why suits shouldn’t compile CDs.  Their studio albums are more balanced.

Unfortunately, none of the four unreleased songs are spectacular.  The acoustic ballad “Seven Impossible Days” is from a Japanese EP called Japandemonium.  The other three are new recordings.  “Not One Night” is another acoustic ballad.  Sonically beautiful, but it’s too much saccharine.  “Unnatural” isn’t a ballad per se, but it is mostly acoustic (and features the lead vocals of guitarist Paul Gilbert).  “Stay Together”, which is a dead ringer for vintage Van Hagar, is probably the best of these four songs.

Big, Bigger, Biggest! The Best Of Mr. Big does not represent the Mr. Big that fans have known all these years.  Their favourite songs are rarely the ballads.  Too many killer deep cuts are missing, and, I hate to sound like a broken record, there are too many ballads!

2.5/5 stars


REVIEW: John Corabi – One Night in Nashville (2018)

JOHN CORABI – One Night in Nashville (2018 RatPak)

John Corabi needs no introduction in these pages.  We have ranted and raved about the awesome 1994 Motley Crue album and the complimentary Quaternary EP.  We’ve broken down the details of his departure from Motley Crue and the chaos that followed.  We’ve also gone on record loving the Union project with Bruce Kulick.  In short, John Corabi can’t really do much wrong in our books.

One Night in Nashville is John’s live run-through of the entire Motley Crue album with his ace band, including his son Ian on drums.  Many of these songs have never been played live, and never in sequence like this.  Veteran producer Michael Wagener ensured a kickass sound.

Ian Corabi has no problem duplicating Tommy Lee’s hard hitting style on opener “Power to the Music”.  John’s voice is still more than capable of shredding these songs two decades later.  His rasp and power have barely ebbed.  Compare this to Motley Crue’s final live album The End and…actually, no don’t compare.  Corabi buries The End.

As fellow rock reviewer Mr. Deke has stated, “Uncle Jack” is one of the most pounding tracks on this CD.  It was a departure for Motley Crue, a deadly serious track, and John nails every scream.  The guitarist also duplicates Mick Mars’ underrated solo, note for note.  Yes, underrated.  Mars is rarely given the credit he deserves for creating his own style, and thereby defining the sound of the Crue.

If you know the album then you know these songs; if you don’t then buckle the fuck up.

Through the single “Hooligan’s Holiday”, Corabi and Co. breath life into songs we only know from the album.  “Everybody wants a piece of the pie” — at least in this Nashville crowd they do, soaking up every riff and blistering scream.  Even the complicated “Misunderstood” burns it down.  Guitars instead of keyboards, backing band instead of Glenn Hughes, and it’s full speed ahead.  Once again the solo is note for note, but there’s a brand new outro where it once faded.

“Loveshine” is a bit of a respite, a nice little acoustic jam a-la Zeppelin III.  These last two songs are so far above and beyond what Motley Crue were capable of when Vince Neil was in the band.  Corabi opened up entire new soundscapes for them to explore, and “Loveshine” is cool on the psychedelic side.  Back to the rock, “Poison Apples” is a tribute to glam rock and what Motley Crue are about.  “Took a Greyhound bus down to Heartattack and Vine, with a fist full o’ dreams n’ dimes…”  Of all the tracks on Motley Crue, “Poison Apples” was the closest to the original Motley sound, and John owns it.

This is where you’d flip sides on the original album, so it’s the perfect spot for telling a story:  track 7,  “John Joins the Band”.  He got the call before it was even announced that Vince had left the band, and he couldn’t say a word to anybody.  One of the first songs they wrote together was “Hammered”, an old riff that John brought to the band.  Even darker is “Til Death Do Us Part”  which was actually supposed to be the title of the album at one point.  It’s one of many long bombers, but things lighten up a bit on “Welcome to the Numb”.  Dig that slide guitar riff, another very Zep aspect to this batch of songs.    By John’s intro, it sounds like a ball-baster of a song to play live.  He says they didn’t think they were going to be able to do it!  But they killed it, and John says that’s due to the hard work of guitarist Jeremy Asbrock.

Your head receives a good solid smack with “Smoke the Sky”, a waste-laying blitzkrieg of a smokeshow.  Corabi touts the health benefits of rolling a joint.  “Home grown version complements the senses, opens up my mind.”  Perhaps Peter Tosh put it better, when he sang “Birds eat it,” and “It’s good for the flu, it’s good for the asthma.”  Regardless of who said it best, “Smoke the Sky” is a flat-out mosh.

“Droppin’ Like Flies” continues the ass-kicking, but at a more sensible pace, trading speed for mass.  And although in theory it shouldn’t work, after this fairly relentless assault, the album always closes on a ballad called “Driftaway”.  After a sentimental version for the Nashville crowd, there’s a bonus track.  This is another ballad, “10,000 Miles Away” from the Japanese Quaternary EP, live for the first time.  Icing, meet cake.

This Corabi live album is far stronger than any of the three Motley Crue live albums.  In terms of performance, John’s band just kills Motley Crue.  Of course, they had a brilliant set to work with.  Finally hearing these songs live, and in album context, is a long fulfilled wish.  John Corabi has long been respected by the rock community and this CD is a testament to why.

5/5 stars