#649: Denizens of “The Mall”

GETTING MORE TALE #649: Denizens of “The Mall”

Every mall has its questionable denizens.  I’m not talking about mall rats or bargain hunters.  I mean the people that are there every single day, not doing much of anything, just…being.

Stanley Park Mall in Kitchener, where I spent most of my childhood and early work life, had plenty of characters.

One of the first I was aware of was named “Butts”.  Nobody knew his real name, but he earned the nickname Butts by fishing cigarette butts out of ashtrays.  He was there frequently, and if not he was mining the ashtrays at Fairview Mall instead.  We left him alone, but one kid from school named Kevin Kirby decided to make fun of Butts one day.  Butts responded with a flurry of F-bombs.  It all seemed rather sad to me and not at all funny.  A kid making fun of this guy, and him telling a little kid to fuck off?  Why not just leave him alone?  I’m sure Butts was made fun of regularly, but Kirby was generally a dick.  (Any time he teamed up with me on a school project I did all the work and he coasted off my grade.)

Sue came along a little later.  She was in a bad car accident and was in a walker.  She really liked the Record Store I worked in, and had a bit of a crush on the owner.  We didn’t actually know about the crush until she gave him a Valentine’s Day card.  She used to park her walker at the front counter and talk to him for hours.  We didn’t assume that meant she had a crush, because there were lots of lonely people in the mall who just liked to talk.  It was one of the drawbacks of working there.  One day before leaving she gave him a card, and the owner didn’t realise it was a valentine.  He opened it in front of us, and we all saw it.  He was super embarrassed and really tried to avoid Sue after that.  I witnessed him taking a huge dive behind the counter to avoid her when she strolled by!  And that wasn’t an isolated incident.  I learned from it – I took a few dives behind the counter myself over the years.

The last regular denizen to discuss was the saddest and I don’t know what happened to him.  He was known as Johnny Walker.  Like Butts, nobody knew his real name although his first name may actually have been John.  They called him Johnny Walker because he would walk around the mall all day, every day.  The mall was like a big rectangle, and he would complete numerous circuits through the day.  He talked to himself as he did, mumbling away as he walked.  If you overheard him, it would sound like a normal conversation but with just one person talking.

I’ve been trying to find out what happened to Johnny Walker but nobody seems to know.  People at the mall said he was rich and didn’t work or need to work.  Maybe it was an inheritance.  Maybe an insurance claim.  Nobody knew.  His clothes weren’t ratty and he was clean shaven, but there was clearly something wrong with him.  It was no act.

The general rule of thumb was “just ignore him”.  Sometimes kids would make fun of him and he’d get loud and violent.  He’d been kicked out of the mall a few times after a violent or loud spell.  Then he’d go to a different mall to walk around, before finally returning to Stanley Park again.  He was never gone too long.

As told in Record Store Tales Part 6, I only dealt with Johnny Walker once at the Record Store.  He strolled in, talking to himself.  I took a deep breath and hoped nothing would set him off.  He walked, talked, and picked out a tape.  He came up to the counter and immediately stopped talking to himself.  I sold him the tape, gave him his change, and he walked out again, sharply resuming his conversation with himself.

All I really know about Johnny Walker is that at one point, he listened to tapes.

I hated seeing highschool mallrat kids following him around and shouting at him to “shut up”.  If Johnny got loud and violent, I have a feeling the kids were the root cause most of the time.  I’m sure they thought it was hilarious to harass this obviously damaged person.  But he was still a person, a human being.  Although it was sometimes startling to see someone walking around talking to themselves, it would have been nice if parents taught their kids a little respect.  We don’t know anybody’s secret battles.  Walker minded his own business any time I was present.

If anyone knows what happened to Butts, Sue, or Johnny Walker please drop us a line or leave a comment.  I hope they are all doing better.

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

REVIEW: Star Wars: The Last Jedi soundtrack (2017) [spoilers]

STAR WARS: The Last Jedi original motion picture soundtrack (2017 Lucasfilm/Disney)

Rejoice, dear soundtrack fans, for John Williams is slated to compose the music for the final Star Wars saga film, Episode IX.  It will be a fitting close for the saga, because Williams will have done all nine films.  Star Wars is about the saga.  The anthology films are extraneous to the core Skywalker story.  Episode VIII, The Last Jedi, is mostly about two Skywalkers:  Luke, and his nephew Ben Solo, inheritor of the mighty Skywalker blood.  The film score revisits many classic cues related to the main characters.  Even Darth Vader’s shadow still looms, musically and spiritually.

The Last Jedi spends much time revisiting classic musical cues, such as “The Asteroid Field” from The Empire Strikes Back.  One of the best revisits is of more recent vintage.  It’s also very different.  “Rey’s Theme”, from The Force Awakens, stands atop the mountain in company with the best of the best Star Wars music.  Hearing it again in The Last Jedi is a ready reminder that Williams has the magic.  Rey is the hero of this particular trilogy, and in The Last Jedi she proved herself.  It’s all up to her, now.

One of the biggest and most delightful surprises was the return of Yoda.  Yoda’s theme recurs within “The Sacred Jedi Texts”.  The beloved Jedi Master brought hope to the film, and his music lifts the soul.  The Last Jedi, however, is a dark film and much of the music matches.  It could be argued that The Last Jedi is the darkest film of the whole saga, even more so than Revenge of the Sith.  “Revisiting Snoke” reflects the dark, while tension-filled pieces like “A New Alliance” keep you riveted to your seat.  There are some fantastic percussion beats in the latter.

The military-style marching of “The Battle of Crait” recalls classic Star Wars action, and the music for the Luke scene is stunningly emotional.  In fact, the music for any of Luke’s screen appearances gives goosebumps.  John Williams’ score is, in many ways, more successful than the movie at hitting home.  I think this soundtrack release will receive more home play with the average buyer than the overlong movie.

There are two minor critiques to be addressed.  One is when Leia’s theme is dropped into the end credits for the touching Carrie Fisher tribute.  Yes, it’s heartbreakingly appropriate, but the music doesn’t fit well.  It comes across as a cut and paste job without enough transition.  A second is in regards to the Canto Bight casino music.  On many Star Wars soundtracks, Williams has a chance to go outside the box.  “Cantina Band”, “Lapti Nek”, “Yub Nub” and the music by Maz Kanata’s castle band are prime examples.  The steel drumming in “Canto Bight” sounds a bit too much like a retread of the original “Cantina Band”, but with more…samba.

John Williams did it again, but will we ever see a proper 2 CD edition with all the music?  That would be nice.

4.5/5 stars

#648: “The Mall”

GETTING MORE TALE #648:  “The Mall”

For the first 23 or 24 years of my life, Stanley Park Mall was my epicenter. If I said “Mom, I’m going to the mall!” she knew where I meant. It wasn’t the biggest mall, and certainly not the best. But it was my mall.

This very typical mall, on Ottawa Street in Kitchener, opened in 1969. It was nothing special. There was nowhere to buy music, until it expanded with a Zellers store circa 1973. As small children, we weren’t interested in music yet. Instead it was Zellers’ toy section that had us enthralled.

In 1977 my mother took me to Stanley Park to look for a birthday present for a neighbor named John Schipper, older brother of my best friend Bob. “Look mom! The movie we just saw!” I exclaimed as I laid eyes on my first Star Wars figures. My mom bought C3P0 for John, and R2D2 for me, so we could play together. Little did she know what she got me into, by buying my first Star Wars figure at that Zellers store. But to be fair, who could have known?

The mall also had a bank, and my dad soon transferred there as its manager. I used to feel like such a big shot, strolling into my dad’s office. He’d let us sit at his desk and play with his calculator and telephone. I can even remember helping him with spelling on an internal memo!  Once, when my sister was sitting in his chair, she pushed the button for the silent alarm. “Hmmm, this doesn’t do anything,” she thought. After she left, the cops arrived in force to answer the alarm. My dad realised what happened too late!

With my dad working there, plus the Zellers store, it was our main destination for shopping or just being kids. It was walking distance from home. When I was old enough to cross streets by myself, my friends and I made regular trips on our bikes. The Little Short Stop store was our main hangout. We would buy candy, pop, chips, comic books, and Star Wars or Indiana Jones cards. I managed to get a full set of The Empire Strikes Back, and Raiders of the Lost Ark. I got them slowly, pack by pack, and by trading with friends. There was a neighbor who had the one Indiana Jones card I still needed called “I Hate Snakes”. A trade was made and I completed my set. I wish I knew what happened to all the doubles and triples of those cards.

When I was older, that Little Short Stop was my store for amassing a huge collection of rock and wrestling magazines. Hit Parader was my main title and I had a complete set of every issue from 1987-1990.

The mall was also right close to our grade school. Many of my friends would “cut through” the mall as a short cut to get home. One fellow, Chris, tells me he was sometimes chased around by mall security.  Naughty kid.

I remember there was a short-lived video store there. My dad refused to rent the Twisted Sister Stay Hungry video for me. He didn’t like the look of the “guy with the ham bone” on the front cover.

In 1987, something remarkable happened. Stanley Park Mall got its first actual record store: A&A Records and Tapes. Suddenly I had close access to all kinds of music, including 12” singles. I remember flipping through their Aerosmith and Europe singles, thinking “Woah, there are songs here I have never heard of.”

We still checked Zellers, but A&A became the place for us. In fact there were even A&A coupons on the back of every box of Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes. $1.00 off tapes! We sure cashed in a lot of A&A coupons that year. I loved checking out their front charts too. Vinyl was still happening, and the front chart was a big huge display of records. Much larger and more eye catching than a CD chart. I remember rejoicing when Judas Priest’s Ram It Down was on it.

I have clear memories of Bob Schipper and I walking to the mall in early April of 1988 to pick up a new release. Two copies of course; one for each of us. Iron Maiden’s Seventh Son of a Seventh Son was an album we had been looking forward to, and we both got it on that cold Saturday in April 1988.  (It took a while to adjust to the new Maiden sound, but Bob’s immediate favourite was “Infinite Dreams”.)

In 1989 I got my first real job, and it was at that very mall. The grocery store Zehrs was my first pay cheque. I cut my hair short for that job and was teased for it at school. Not only that, but suddenly I also needed glasses!  It was a pretty drastic image change.  But it was a cool work experience. Not only was I working at Zehrs with my best friend Bob, but my dad was still working in the mall too. All three of us in one place!

I was pretty loyal to A&A during those years at the mall, but in 1990 they went under. The last thing I ever bought at an A&A (though a different location) was a CD of Steve Vai’s Flex-Able and some blank tapes.

Yet every cloud has a silver lining. A former employee of A&A Records at our mall location decided to open a business of his own. Guess who he went to for the bank loan?  My dad!  Six months after A&A closed, he opened his own record store in that mall. The rest is history. The store that I now call “The Record Store” hired me on in July of 1994. And he’s still in business in 2018, albeit not in that mall anymore which suffered a slow and steady decline in the 90s.

There are no record stores in the mall anymore. Zellers went under, and Walmart took over. Their tiny little entertainment section is the only place to buy a CD. The bank is still there, and so is the grocery store, but my Little Short Shop is long gone. There isn’t much left. No Baskin Robbins, no 31 flavors.  Bargain shops and discount stores have replaced all the places I used to frequent as a kid. Sad, but not unexpected.

The strange thing is, as much as the mall has changed, I still get a huge shot of nostalgia when I walk into that Walmart that used to be my Zellers. Like a déjà vu, suddenly I am hit with the memory of finding a rare GI Joe, or flipping through Judas Priest tapes. The mall I knew from long ago is no longer the same, but the memory remains.

REVIEW: Queen – On Air (6 CD box set)

QUEEN – On Air – The Radio Collection (2016 BBC 6 CD box set)

Go big or go home.  Why buy the 2 CD version of Queen On Air when you can go for the 6 CD smorgasbord?  If you love Queen, it is the only way to do it.  Having said that, if you only “like” Queen and wouldn’t give your own blood to buy a box set, then the simple 2 disc standard edition will probably suffice.  The first two discs in this set are the same as the standard edition.  Everything else is a bonus.

The contents of the first two discs are The Complete BBC Sessions, 24 songs in total plus some disc jockey chit chat.  Because these tracks come from multiple BBC appearances, some songs are played more than once, such as “Keep Yourself Alive”, “Modern Times Rock ‘n’ Roll” and the epic “Liar”.  Most of the recordings are from the very early 70s — 1973 and 1974.  Queen were a rough and ready beast back then, but these versions are really not too far off from the original album tracks.  Because it’s the BBC, the recordings and fidelity are excellent.  This is a treasure trove of early Queen, all the best tracks, captured perfectly.  Any fan of the first three Queen albums will be more than satisfied with these discs.  Then, there’s a gap.  After the Sheer Heart Attack (1974) era, there is nothing until 1977’s News of the World.  That album is represented by four of the best tracks:  the fast and guitar-heavy version of “We Will Rock You”, plus “It’s Late”, “My Melancholy Blues”, and “Spread Your Wings”.

According to the liner notes, even though they were a new band, Queen were afforded unusual leeway at the BBC.  Everyone knew they were talented and capable, and so when Freddie Mercury demanded very high standards and everything just so, he was accommodated.  The pay off is that these recordings are stunningly good, and rival the official album versions for quality.  Apparently the BBC sessions were heavily bootlegged, and you will understand why.

Disc 3 contains portions of three concerts.  Shame it’s not the full shows.  I’m sure those will come one day.  In the meantime, enjoy this CD.  You will hear highlights from concerts in 1973, 1981 and 1986, again recorded by the BBC.  This makes for a diverse listen, including guitar solos and covers.  The 1981 recording from Sao Paulo, Brazil is the weakest in terms of sound, but still perfectly listenable.  The 1986 material from Germany is fabulous.  Freddie dropped an “F” bomb in “Under Pressure” as he was being recorded for radio!

This might be where most listeners have to check out.  The final three CDs are interviews with all four members of Queen — 210 minutes of interviews.  Did you know Freddie Mercury could speak Japanese?  Full concerts would be better than interviews, but here they are.  Also among the interviews is a chat with producer Roy Thomas Baker.  The interviews range from 1976 to 1992 and the tribute concert.  Queen never reveal too much, but the timeline of interviews provides a lot of detail surrounding Queen’s most celebrated albums.

The problem with the interviews isn’t so much the quality, but a matter of “when am I going to listen to all this” and “how often”.  The music is the meat of it.  This box set can be found affordably, so be aware of what’s inside and don’t pay too much.

3.5/5 stars

 

Sunday Chuckle: Fartwaft

Readers here might recall the story of “Herbert” in Getting More Tale #544:  Canned Corn.  I was in his office the other day, and I have to admit, he got me.

We were having a discussion about a customer pickup, when he pointed to the bottom left corner of his computer screen.

“What’s that say?” he asked.

I leaned in to look at the clock in the corner.  “11:30 am” I responded.  And that’s when I noticed he was “wafting” a fart into my face with his hands.  11:30 am is the time I got wafted.

#647: Cancer Chronicles 9 & Star Trek Radio tonight!

Today Jennifer saw Dr. Sugimoto for the first time since her cancer surgery.  He walked in, and said, “I don’t want to beat around the bush.  All of your test results came back negative.”  Just to make sure, Jen asked, “That’s good right?”

“Yes, that’s very good,” said Dr. Sugimoto.

They found no more traces of cancer in Jen.  The tumour was relatively small.  At this point, she has a very small chance of recurrence:  a mere 5%.  No chemotherapy, no radiation necessary.

We are both tremendously relieved although I don’t think it has really sunk in yet.  I ordered some sushi to celebrate.


Because we got this good news today, I can announce that I will be going live on the radio tonight to talk about music!

LeBrain will be LIVE at 12:30 AM (ET) Saturday morning with Robert Daniels on VISIONS IN SOUND. Tune in on your dial to 98.5 or internet to CKWR!  You folks in the UK can tune in as you enjoy some morning java!  Join Us THIS Saturday 12:30-2:30am (ET).

This week’s show:  Star Trek: Discovery.  Per Rob:   “As we head in to the first major show of 2018. This week we look at the music to the latest Star Trek TV show, Discovery. Featured will be music from the TV series by Jeff Russo (of the rock band Tonic) and I’ll have special guests that will bring their opinions on the new show as well.” 

I’m a special guest!

It’s exciting to get behind the microphone again.  Due to the stress of Jen’s cancer, I wasn’t able to make it to Visions in Sound for Rob’s Star Wars specials in December.  And here’s a crazy coincidence.  Rob’s wife Dorothea battled and defeated cancer too…and her doctor was also Dr. Sugimoto.  Small world, and great support to have!

Hope you tune in tonight.  I know I’m in a great mood for celebrating music, and life!

 

#646: “O Canada”

GETTING MORE TALE #646: “O Canada”

What’s the worst first impression you ever made?  Mine must be unique.

Every Canadian knows the national anthem.  The music was written in 1880, and the modern lyrics emerged in 1908, updated slightly in 1914.  Even so, it did not become Canada’s official national anthem until 1980 when it finally received royal assent from the Queen.  My dad remembers singing both “God Save the King” and “God Save the Queen” in his school days.  Today, true north strong and free, we are all taught “O Canada” from our youngest years.  We are brought up to know and respect the anthem, and in fact we always honour it every year at Sausagefest.  Before the festivities begin, hats are removed and we all stand for “O Canada”.

Controversially, the government of Canada just announced a lyric change.  The line “In all thy sons command” has been altered to the gender-neutral “In all of us command”.  Less poetic, yes.  How do you feel about that?

When I was in Catholic school, you really had to sing it.  The teacher would walk around the room, listening to make sure we were all singing, not just going through the motions.  This went for all the hymns we had to learn as well.  If you were just mouthing the words and not singing, eventually you’d get caught.  We all learned to belt it out.  A general rule of thumb at Catholic school was:  thou SHALT sing along.

Our anthem is far easier than the more complex “Star Spangled Banner” that our neighbours to the south must sing.  All the notes are generally within range, and the words are easier to remember, even the bilingual version.  (And we don’t have rockets and bombs in our anthem either!)

When I graduated grade 8, I went into the public school system.  I didn’t consider myself Catholic anymore, but I was more interested in putting some distance between me and some of the school bullies.  I would be making a fresh start in grade 9.

First day of grade 9, I arrived in class but didn’t know anyone.  I was seated next to a guy named Steve Van Der Veen, potentially my first new friend.  The national anthem came on, and I sang it as I was accustomed to.

 

“O Canada!
Our home and native land!
True patriot love in all thy sons command.
With glowing hearts we see thee rise,
The True North strong and free!…”

 

I thought I was doing a good job, until it was over.

 

“From far and wide,
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
God keep our land glorious and free!
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee!”

 

“If you’re going to keep sitting next to me, never sing again,” said Steve.

It was at that moment that I realized nobody else was singing.  Not one person.   Just me.  Apparently, in the public schools, you didn’t have to sing “O Canada” like you did in the Catholic system.  You just had to stand at attention.  I didn’t know, and I didn’t notice.

First day of class, first impressions, and I blew it!

 

 

Rene Rancourt is my favourite anthem singer of all time.  Enjoy your retirement, Rene!

REVIEW: Big Wreck – In Loving Memory Of… (20th Anniversary edition)

BIG WRECK – In Loving Memory Of… (Originally 1997, 2017 Linus Entertainment anniversary edition)

“You need to get into some new bands, man,” said my buddy T-Rev.

Trevor had a point.  Most of my collection was rooted in the 70s and 80s.  New bands weren’t appealing to me, one or two excepted.  But I did hear this new band on the radio (Q107) called Big Wreck that I didn’t mind.  “Like a bluesy Soundgarden with a hint of Rush” said the DJ.  Their first single “The Oaf” was pretty awesome.

“I found a new band I liked,” I told Trevor.  “Big Wreck.”

“Hahaha, oh man.  You found a new band and they suck!” he retorted.  Trevor was really into Brit-pop and probably hoped I would have discovered the Bluetones or Supergrass.  Alas, it wasn’t to be this time.  I bought the Big Wreck album In Loving Memory Of…, and I liked it enough to get the 20th Anniversary Special Edition two decades later.

Big Wreck were a little bit of a throwback.  Their use of blues was different from the post-grunge bands they were competing with, and that’s what initially appealed to me.  And yes, Ian Thornley could be compared to Chris Cornell in terms of singing power.

The album boasted a number of immediate standouts.  “The Oaf” was the tough introduction, but “That Song” followed it with something immediately accessible.  “Look What I Found” takes a trip to the levee, emulating a Zeppelin stomp through the production of 1997.

There’s a balance of heavy/light here, that skews too much on the light side.  Fortunately the two CD bonus tracks put the scales back on the heavy side.  The only real weakness to In Loving Memory Of… is a reliance on slow songs within the bulk of the album.  Some of the quiet songs are incredible.  “Under the Lighthouse” (a single in Canada only) has atmosphere out the wazoo.  Echoes of heartbreak are smeared through “Blown Wide Open”, another single.

If I had to put my money on it, I’d say “Under the Lighthouse” is the best song on the disc, ballad or not.

In Loving Memory Of… is most enjoyable when jaunting through bluesy rock guitars.  The musicianship is always exceptional.  “How Would You Know”,  “Fall Through the Cracks”, “Overemphasising” and “Between You and I” are comfortably in rocky framework, with outstanding lead work.  The album does run a bit long, though.  In 1997, the full length value of a CD was being utilised more than today, now that bands realise less is often more.  The original 13 tracks ran an hour long, which is probably 15 minutes too long.

Yet the two additional bonus tracks are excellent.  Both speed along at a good clip.  The bright “Ill Advice” is more upbeat than most of the album, save “That Song”.  “Still Holding” has punch.  The album would have been stronger for their inclusion if they had been there all along, despite its length!

Fixin’ for a shot of 90s nostalgia?  The Big Wreck anniversary edition might be what you needed.  The band are playing the whole album in sequence on their current tour, so you may as well become re-acquainted.

3.5/5 stars

 

#645: Catching Up

GETTING MORE TALE #645: Catching Up

The last couple months were pretty crazy.  I was clocked out.  My wife’s cancer diagnosis and surgery really took their toll on me.  This resulted in me getting very sick right during Christmas holidays.  There has been so much chaos that I really haven’t paid attention to music.  I neglected my reading, I didn’t buy anything, and I didn’t listen to much either.  I’m just starting to get caught up now that Jen’s surgery seems to have gone so well.  She’s getting a little more independence back, and I’m able to take a little time to listen to music and write about it again.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about my history with the band Queen.  I am on a Queen kick, but until recently I was missing two of Queen’s discs in the 2 CD format:  Hot Space and A Kind of Magic.  Eager to get back into the game, I ordered both from Amazon on a whim.  I’m surprised how much I’m enjoying Hot Space.  You wouldn’t think those synths and I would get along, but I’m digging the soul!  I already owned one version of A Kind of Magic, the 1991 Hollywood CD, but the extra disc has seven bonus tracks.

Soon after, the new CD by Mike Slayen called DUDE came by the post.  That enjoyed a couple spins, but I really wanted to go shopping again.  I haven’t been to a record store since the stress kicked in.  I had no idea what I was going in for, but I wanted to leave with a purchase.  There have been plenty of new releases that I missed, and reissues too.  The problem with new releases is, I don’t like to buy anything until I know what is on the Japanese version.  I want the maximum amount of bonus music.  So I decided to look at reissues instead and skip new releases.  Fortunately for me there was plenty going on in reissues.

Big Wreck’s 20th Anniversary edition of their debut In Loving Memory Of… was my first grab.  I didn’t think it was going to have bonus tracks on it, but it does:  “Ill Advice” and “Still Holding”.  I used to love that album, and I don’t know those two songs, so that was an easy buy.  For those who don’t know this band, check out the big single “That Song”.  Other hits you may know from this album are “The Oaf (My Luck is Wasted)” and “Under the Lighthouse”.

I then spied the recent 40th Anniversary edition of Rush’s classic A Farewell to Kings.  The 3 CD set was $30, so I tucked it under my arm.  Then I thought to myself, “You know what, I’d better check to make sure there isn’t another edition with more songs.”  Good thing I did.  Blabbermouth told me that there was a version with a brand new 5.1 surround mix by Steven Wilson on a blu-ray.  OK, then.  That had to be the one I get.  Via the Sectors box sets and other super deluxe editions, I already had every other Rush 5.1 mix.

How much?

$149.99.

Ahh, fuck it.  I earned this.

3 CDs, 1 blu-ray, and 4 LPs of vinyl, plus assorted goodies like a Rush turntable mat, a tour program and lithographs.  The CDs and vinyl include an unreleased (in full) concert, Live at Hammersmith Odeon – February 20, 1978.  A portion of this concert (11 tracks) was released in 1998 on a bonus CD to Rush’s live Different Stages.  This box set has the full 14 song (plus drum solo) performance, newly mixed by Terry Brown himself.  On blu-ray you will find the 5.1 and the stereo mix of the album A Farewell to Kings, in studio-quality clarity, plus three music videos.  Mixer Steven Wilson is generally considered one of the great masters of the 5.1 art.  The Sector 2 mix by Richard Chycki received a mixed to negative reception from fans, so I look forward to comparing.

And there’s still more:  new Rush covers by Dream Theater, Big Wreck (hey, Big Wreck again!), The Trews and Alain Johannes.  Plus a final mystery bonus track called “Cygnus X-2 Eh!”

It’s going to be fun digging into the Rush over  the next week or so.  But I wasn’t done catching up.  Because of all the shit that happened, I didn’t get to see Star Wars in the theatres.  Yes, I’m sorry folks, I’ll admit it:  Until now I only saw The Last Jedi online.  This, of course, could not stand.  I must see every Star Wars Saga film in the theatre three times, minimum.  For The Force Awakens, it was four.  Fortunately the Waterloo Galaxy still had a 3D screening, which has disappeared elsewhere in town.  Now I just have to see it two more times (2D will do fine).

I still have quite a few issues with The Last Jedi.  The slow motion is annoying as hell, and the Finn/Rose side story is still just a side story.  The ending is still at odds with set style of the saga Saga, and the movie could have used some editing.  In general I enjoyed the film more this time.  The Last Jedi is more poem than plot, but it has many rhymes.  I think it’s a fine Star Wars movie, and the fanboy overreaction is ridiculous.

Catching up feels great.  Music and movies still work as the best kind of escape.  I highly recommend both.

 

 

 

REVIEW: Mike Slayen – DUDE: A Guitar CD (2018)

MIKE SLAYEN – DUDE: A Guitar CD – 12 Notes & the Truth (2018 Mike Slayen)

San Diego’s Mike Slayen crowdfunded his latest album, titled DUDE: A Guitar CD.  I think Mike was born with the perfect name; after all, he’s just slayin’ it on this album.

The format is laid back acoustic instrumentals.  Upon first track “Chill”, you’ll be hooked immediately.  Slayen’s writing on DUDE is consistently memorable.   The arrangements have just enough meat — bass, drums/percussion and occasional keys back up the main guitar melodies.  The key element to each song is the lead melody.  Similar to fellows like Joe Satriani, Mike writes catchy guitar melodies to take the focus.  Each track is memorable for that reason.

The musicianship and recording is immaculate.  The warm atmosphere is inviting for return listens.  DUDE is a perfect CD for chilling and relaxing and it’ll work particularly well on the porch during summer.  Mike explores different tempos, and demonstrates an intimate knowledge of the acoustic guitar with his intricate picking.  Yes intricate at times, but never anything less than enjoyable.  DUDE is a guitar CD but not necessarily for guitarists.  DUDE is just a good CD to have for folks who enjoy relaxing and memorable music.

Check out songs such as “The Secret”, “Ice Cream” and “Chill” for a taste of what Mike Slayen does on DUDE.  There are exotic and latin influences along the way, and enough variety to make the CD an easy one to listen through.  There is even one fairly heavy piece — heavy for acoustic anyway — which is the title track “Dude”.

Go to MikeSlayen.com and check out DUDE.  Discerning fans of instrumental guitar music are unlikely to be disappointed.

4/5 stars

Full disclosure:  I first “met” Mike Slayen as a reader on this site.  I believe that this review is impartial and I would have given DUDE the same score even if I didn’t know Mike.