abbey road

REVIEW: Marillion – Live at the Forum – Christmas Tour 2014

MARILLION – Live at the Forum – Christmas Tour 2014 – 11 December 2014 (Abbey Road “instant live” CD set)

This CD was unusual in that it wasn’t a fanclub-only release.  It was an “instant live” released by Abbey Road, from Marillion’s 2014 Christmas tour — a double live album.  And unlike the official 2014 fanclub release, this one has (some) actual Christmas music on it!

“Gazpacho” is an apt way to start a celebration, which was the goal according to Steve Hogarth.  The lyrics might not be all bright and gleeful (“They say the King is losing his grip again”) but the music certainly is.  One of Steve Rothery’s catchiest riffs is coupled with Hogarth’s unmistakable voice.

“The Uninvited Guest”, an early single about HIV, is second in the setlist and one several looks back at the fondly-remembered early days.  It’s a bit loose and sluggish but the fans always sing along when prompted.  The newer “Power” follows, ominous and powerful, pun intended.  Chalk it among Marillion’s most memorable choruses.

Hits follow in quick succession:  “No One Can” and an extended “Warm Wet Circles”.   The laid back vibe continues as Marillion comfortably play for the dedicated.  They ping-pong back and forth between old and new, as the next two songs “Woke Up” and “Trap the Spark” are from 2008’s double album Happiness is the Road.  That atmospheric record has been a hard one to absorb over the years.  The songs are not immediate.  Fortunately it’s “Easter” next, a song that never fails to get the masses singing along.

“Sounds That Can’t Be Made” from the album of the same title still pleases, thanks in no small part to Hogarth’s passionate vocal.  Things start to feel seasonal, however, on “Seasons End” which sometimes (like this time!) opens with “O Come O Come Emmanuel” as only Hogarth can do it.  The song is as poignant today as folks like Greta Thunberg try to deliver the same message that Marillion had in 1989.

So watch the old world melt away,
A loss regrets could never mend,
You never miss it till it’s gone,
So say, goodbye.

Didn’t Hogarth say this concert was a celebration?  Well, Marillion have always been dark.  It’s been said that their early music with Fish was all about alcohol, and the later music with Hogarth about “death and water”.  There is a nugget of truth for that.

“Man of 1000 Faces”, from their “acoustic period” feels a bit more like a singalong.  If you can master the tricky words, that is!

I’m the man of a thousand ages,
You see my face in the stones of the Parthenon,
You hear my song in the babble of Babylon.
I’m the man of a thousand riches,
Be my guest at the feast of Satyricon,
You spend the money that my logo’s printed on.

But the whole thing coalesces into an absolutely massive mountain of music at the end, perfect for the crowd to chant alone.  It’s made for audience participation.  Then, the progressive rock epic “King” is jokingly dedicated to Harry Styles.  It’s a dubious honour, since the song was inspired by tragic figures such as Elvis and Kurt.

After a brief pause, it’s time for some Christmas music.  It’s “The Christmas Song” but not the same “Christmas Song” from the very first Marillion Christmas CD.  It’s the “real” one.  “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire…”  Apparently it didn’t go over well in Glasgow or Manchester.  “Fucking Northerners”, says Hogarth.  They bravely tried it again in London where it seemed to be better received.  “Above average!” shouts an audience member.  They top that with John Lennon’s “Happy Xmas (War is Over)”.

The show is ended with a bunch of oldies: “Sláinte Mhath”, “The Release”, and from the first album, “Garden Party”!  “The Release” is interesting because it’s a B-side, albeit a very popular one, due to its soaring chorus and everyman lyric.  Hogarth always does well on “Sláinte” though it is quintessentially a Fish song.  As for “Garden Party”, it might be Marillion’s only real party song, quaint as it is.  “I’m rucking, I’m fucking!” but Steve lets the crowd finish for him.  It’s excellent fun on a CD that is often too serious for your house Christmas party.

You can hear just why this band has such a rabid fanbase on just about any of their live albums, but this one is particularly warm and inviting.  Have a listen.

4/5 stars

 

Part 247: Her Royal Majesty

RECORD STORE TALES Part 247:  Her Royal Majesty

I never forgot this one, but I’ll let my journal tell the story from the perspective of “then”…

Date: 2004/08/12 21:36

Today sucked ass.

First of all, they installed this router at work, so we can’t use anything but the 10 sites they prescribe.  Everything else is off limits.  So, no more Google at work.  Fuckers.

OH!  By the way, I’m in a real bad mood.

This girl comes in.  Friend of Matt’s.  She’s a totally unpleasant human being.  She wanted to exchange a Deftones import she bought a month ago.  [The CD was Deftones Live (1998) which was pretty rare.]  Our exchange policy is seven days, it says so on the receipt.  We’ll stretch it to 14 without a hassle, but not over a month, even if you’re the friggin’ Pope.

She gave me a real hard time about this.  I’m thinking, “what, you live in Asia?  You can’t get here, or even call here, within seven days?  You bought a CD you didn’t like, so suck it up.  You even previewed it before you bought it (don’t think I forgot that tried it out, at length, in the store beforehand), and you still bought it.  THEN you decided you didn’t like it.  Fuck you.”  That’s what I’m thinking.  What I’m saying is something completely different, about how I can’t really accept a return after this length of time under these circumstances.

She said, “Do you treat everyone this way?”

Yes, I treat everyone the same:  by the fucking rules.  I don’t give anyone special treatment, especially when they try to push me around, like you are doing.

You know, I’m getting so pissed, I can’t even finish.

I can finish now, though.  I remember the very next thing she said was, “When is Matt working?”  In other words, I’ll return this CD when my friend is working, not you.  I explained to her that Matt wouldn’t exchange the CD, because I was Matt’s boss.  She was with her mom, and even her mom told her to drop it and accept the situation.

I also remember that she never came in again, which in my view was a good thing.  She rarely bought anything that she didn’t return, and she made us run around like chickens with our heads cut off, serving her Royal Majesty.  Yeah, I didn’t miss her at all.  In fact I even pre-emptively went to my bosses and said, “If you get a phone call complaining about me, this is what happened.”  I explained what I did and why I did it and for once, they actually took my side.

Her Royal Majesty was just reason #10,137 for me to move on from retail.

Part 231: Top 5…of all time?

RECORD STORE TALES Part 231:  Top 5…of all time?

I put in just shy of 12 years at the record store.  That’s a lot of time to work retail.  If you’ve worked retail, you know what I’m talking about.  If you haven’t, it has its ups and downs.  The ups include discounts.  The downs entail being abused by the general public on a daily basis.

I have a nice plaque around here somewhere, commemorating 7 years at the store.  It was a pretty cool gift.  It was a total surprise, how it happened.  My boss phoned me out of the blue one day.

“Mike,” he said.  “I need a list of the top 5 albums of all time.  It’s for an article we’re doing.”

“Cool!” I responded eagerly.  “But what are the parameters?  Is it like rock, or all genres?  Because that’s just a wide-open question.”

“Just what you think are the top albums of all time, that’s all I really need.”

Cool!  I started work on it.  I wanted to be objective, fair.  If I were making a personalized list of a top 5, it would be easy, I know there would be some Kiss and Sabbath in there.  I wanted to discount my own personal biases and try to be as open as possible for this particular list.

First of all, I chose The Wall.  I admit that I chose this over Dark Side due to personal preference, also I think a double album like The Wall deserves many accolades.  I obviously had to give respect to two of the greatest bands of all time, Led Zeppelin and The Beatles.  I chose Zeppelin IV and Abbey Road.  I really couldn’t choose a Zeppelin, so I went with IV as kind of a default answer.  Abbey Road is arguably the most genius the Beatles ever were, so I could easily choose that over Sgt. Pepper’s.

OK, three down!  Even though all three artists I chose were different from each other, they were all rock, so I needed to go outside that box.  To represent country, I decided on Folson Prison by Johnny Cash.  Were this a more personalized list, I would choose San Quentin, but I went with Folsom as it seems to be the best known.

I didn’t know what to pick last, so I went with a cop-out answer.  Back In Black.  What a weak, spineless choice!  What am I a college student?  Anyway, again I decided to be open and think about how many copies it sold, not about the many superior AC/DC albums.

I submitted my list.  A month or two later, I was presented with this plaque!  And these five albums were on the plaque!  My boss had collected lists from a few of us who had been there a while, and given us custom made plaques, with the CDs and everything.  It was really cool and I treasured mine for years.

I only wish he had worded his question differently!  If I had known in advance what he was really asking (thus spoiling the surprise) I would have chosen these five:

5. Iron MaidenPiece of Mind

4. KissAlive

3. Kiss Hotter Than Hell

2. Deep PurpleFireball

1. Black SabbathBorn Again

The original plaque is packed up in a box, as Mrs. LeBrain and I are planning a move to a bigger place.  Here’s the five albums that made it onto the plaque though, at least all albums I proudly own.  And because I don’t do anything small, I own them all in some kind of crazy deluxe box set.  Enjoy.

REVIEW: Deep Purple – Machine Head (40th Anniversary Deluxe Edition, vinyl, In Concert ’72 vinyl)

More Purple at mikeladano.com:

Live at Inglewood 1968Deep Purple (1969), Machine Head (40th Anniversary Deluxe Edition + vinyl + In Concert ’72 vinyl), Perks and Tit (Live in San Diego 1974), Stormbringer (35th Anniversary Edition), Come Taste the Band (35th Anniversary edition), Power House (1977), The Battle Rages On (1993), Shades 1968-1998, Collector’s Edition: The Bootleg Series 1984-2000 (12 CD), Listen, Learn, Read On (6 CD), Rapture of the Deep (2 CD Special Edition), “All the Time in the World” (2013 CD single), NOW What?! (2013) Record Store Tales Part 32: Live In Japan, STEVE MORSE BAND – StressFest (1996), ROCK AID ARMENIA – Smoke on the Water: The Metropolis Sessions.

DEEP PURPLE – Machine Head (EMI 40th Anniversary Deluxe Edition, vinyl, In Concert ’72 vinyl)

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For the record, Machine Head is not the perfect Deep Purple album.  I find both In Rock and Fireball to be superior.  Machine Head is, however, the best known Deep Purple album, and I guess that’s why it’s gotten such a grand reissue while the other two have to be content with simple single-disc reissues from the 1990’s.

For the 40th anniversary, there have been a number of reissues made available.  First, there is the lovely 180 gram vinyl reissue, which includes a lyric sheet and a bonus 7″ of the first single, “Never Before” / “When A Blind Man Cries”.  Then, Peter Mew remixed the 1980 release In Concert ’72 at Abbey Road, which was re-released on purple vinyl.  This too came with a bonus 7″ single (also purple), “Lucille” and an unreleased rehearsal of “Maybe I’m A Leo”.

Finally, the crown jewel release is the five disc 40th Anniversary box set.  This includes all the stuff you got with the previous 1997 25th Anniversary edition, and more.  Packed inside is a lush 64 page hardbound booklet (including Roger Glover’s 1997 liner notes).  As an added surprise, even the CDs are printed in purple plastic.  I hope this is the last time I ever need to buy Machine Head!

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Disc One:  the 2012 remaster

Hey, I found the 1997 remaster just fine to my ears.  Is this one better?  Marginally, yes.  I imagine this sounds closer to the way it originally sounded if you bought a brand-new vinyl copy back in 1972.

Machine Head is a mere seven tracks, but almost all are winners.  The album kicks off with the adrenalized “Highway Star” (written and often performed during the Fireball tour), which is one of my personal favourites.  I still marvel today at Jon and Ritchie’s unison solos, like something out of a rock n’ roll speed race.  Gillan screams that nobody’s gonna take his car, and you believe him.  “Highway Star” is Deep Purple the way I often think of them:  fast, intricate, with banshee screams.

“Maybe I’m A Leo” takes the pace to a groove, with Ian Paice and Roger Glover holding it down.  This track is quite unlike anything from the previous two Deep Purple albums (except maybe “No No No”), featuring a more relaxed, comfortable band.   It is radio-ready hit material, and a concert staple.  But in case you too were getting comfortable, Ian Paice’s pounding intro to “Pictures Of Home” will wake you up.  This is clearly the most “heavy metal” of all the new songs, and that drum intro is reminiscent of Ian’s work on “Fireball”.  Gillan’s lyrics describe the “eagles and snow” of the Swiss scenery in which they recorded the album.

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In case you didn’t know, Machine Head was recorded at a hotel in Switzerland, by the Rolling Stones Mobile and Martin Birch.  The band occupied several suites, and managed to extract an incredible sonic quality from them.  According to the liner notes, it was simply too much work for the band members to walk through the various suites (needing to go outside onto balconies to do so, due to blocked doorways) down to the mobile to hear playback.  Instead, the band simply plowed through without hearing many of the playbacks, and the result is a spontaneous sounding album.

The first single “Never Before” is next, closing side one.  This is the one predicted to be the hit, only it wasn’t.  It’s not particularly a standout Purple track.  It’s short, simple and sweet but not nearly as powerful or memorable as the other six album tracks.SAM_2369

Side two opened with a track thought to be a mere throwaway, “Smoke on the Water”.  Completed after the infamous Frank Zappa gig at the local casino which resulted in the place burning down, Glover coined the title.  The rest of the band initially balked:  “Sounds like a drug song.”  Of course we know the song and title were the perfect match for each other.  This riff is the riff, the mother of all guitar riffs, never to be topped nor equaled by anybody, including Deep Purple.

“Lazy” was the band’s jam song, a sprawling seven minute stretch, greatly expanded upon live.  It begins with Jon Lord and Ritchie Blackmore playing off each other, a fun blues, until Gillan enters.  Ritchie’s solos are sublime, not to understate the greatness of Jon’s.

Side two closed with “Space Truckin'”, another song which was greatly extended live.  This is not one of my personal favourite album songs, but one cannot deny its importance.  It is an extended concert staple, but in its studio version it isn’t even a full 5 minutes long.

The disc ends with a bonus track, the sublime B-side “When A Blind Man Cries”.  This is a slow, mournful blues featuring some of Ritchie’s incredible six-string feel.  You can see why it wasn’t included on the album proper, as it is unlike anything else on Machine Head.  Restored to the CD as a bonus track, it is now a highlight.  Ian Gillan deserves special praise for his emotive delivery.

SAM_2348Disc two:  the 1997 Roger Glover remix

For the 25th Anniversary CD, Roger went back into the studio with the master tapes and built an alternate, remixed Machine Head.  This was done to provide added value, since no outtakes from the album existed.  This remix is not radically different.  What it is, is a fresh take on an album that I (and perhaps you) have played hundreds of times.  Glover incorporated alternate solos and unheard takes into the songs, making them sound new again.  In fact, this is my “go-to” version of “Smoke on the Water”, with my preferred alternate guitar solo and Ian’s “Break a leg, Frank!” restored to the end.  I tire of the original; this version sounds fresh to me.

Like the 1997 issued version, this also includes Roger’s remix of the B-side “When A Blind Man Cries”.  Missing are the Quad mixes of “Lazy” and “Maybe I’m A Leo” from the ’97 version, but they are included on another disc in the 40th Anniversary version.

SAM_2349Disc three:  Quad SQ stereo mix

Like many hit albums in the 1970’s, Machine Head was mixed in quadraphonic and released on a special LP.  Of course, nobody really has a quad setup at home anymore.  The interesting thing about many quad mixes, Machine Head included, is that it featured a very different mix, including alternate solos.  This version of the album has been mixed down to stereo and included for the sake of completion and historical value.

There are two bonus tracks on this CD, single edits of “Lazy” from a Japanese 7″, and a US edit of “Smoke on the Water”.  The Japanese reduced “Lazy” from almost 7 minutes to a mere 2:30!  I believe both single edits have been made available on box sets and compilations before, but they are included here to make this version of Machine Head the most complete ever assembled.

SAM_2350Disc four:  In Concert ’72, the 2012 remix

This album was previously available on CD, in a compilation that included BBC sessions from 1970 and 1972.  This set collects and remixes the 1972 recordings, complete, and restored to the correct running order.  Previously, “Smoke on the Water” was pushed to second-last in light of its later success.

This is a stunning live album, with clear sonic quality, and a powerful band playing almost all of Machine Head a month before its release!  “Pictures Of Home” is excluded, a song Ritchie did not want to perform live, and it is replaced by “Strange Kind of Woman”.

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Highlights for me include the aforementioned “Strange Kind of Woman”, complete with Ian and Ritchie’s interplay.  Lazy is quite a tour-de-force, and “Space Truckin'” is over 20 minutes long.  It is the full jam that folks would later come to know and love, with ample guitar, keyboard and drum solos.

The band were known to close their sets with Little Richard’s “Lucille” at the time, and it closes this BBC session as well.  There are a few versions of “Lucille” out there, this one is tame by comparison with some of them.  That’s not to say it’s inferior, as Ritchie’s solos are incredible, almost out-of-control, and Ian’s screams as powerful as ever.

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As I mentioned, the vinyl version of In Concert ’72 includes a bonus 7″ single.  This single is the only place you can get the previously unreleased “Maybe I’m A Leo” rehearsal.  It fades in on what seems like a bum note on Jon’s keys, and is a bit more laid back than the one that they played during the proper set.  Ian noticeably takes it a bit easier on the vocal, presumably saving his voice.  Ritchie plays a different solo.

For me, speaking as a collector, having this one rare track on such a cool looking colour single made it worth re-buying In Concert ’72 on vinyl like this.

SAM_2351Disc five:  Original quad mix, 96/24 LPCM stereo version, bonus 5.1 mixes

For a lot of people, this DVD is the main reason to buy this box set.  For audiophiles, there’s a high resolution version of the stereo mix.  For completists and history buffs like myself, you can finally hear the quad mix like people heard it in the 1970’s.  The album has been converted to 4.1 surround so you can play it on your home theatre system.   I very much enjoyed hearing the album in this way, as opposed to the stereo version available on disc three.  The cool thing is, Peter Mew did the original 1972 quad mix, and here he helmed its transfer to 4.1!

The quad is interesting not only because it differs noticeably from the original, but also because of the instrument separation.  You obviously can’t judge a mix like this and compare it to a 5.1 mix of today.  It’s not as full, or powerful.  But it’s also an historical piece.

It’s cool to hear the quad version’s guitar solo on “Highway Star”, Blackmore making his guitar rev like an engine through the front speakers.  I like the way Gillan’s voice multiplies in the mix during “Maybe I’m A Leo”, and the alternate guitar solo on the same song is also cool.  Jon’s keys come from behind, a bit gimmicky by today’s standard, but probably astounding back then.  “Pictures of Home” features Ritchie’s guitar tracks split between different corners, allowing one to hear the separate parts clearly.  The separation of instruments on “Lazy” allow you to hear clearly each member’s playing as well.

As an added bonus, they remixed three songs in 5.1:  “When A Blind Man Cries”, “Maybe I’m A Leo”, and “Lazy”.  I’m sure a lot of people will complain that they didn’t do the entire album in 5.1.  Me, I’m sure they’ll save it for the 50th anniversary.  “Blind Man” is absolutely stunning; it shimmers.  New nuances can be detected.  “Maybe I’m a Leo” shakes the Earth with stomp, its clarity outstanding.  Blackmore’s solo sounds as if he is in the room.  Finally, “Lazy” is spacious and warm.  The different tones of Lord’s organ are incredible.

Conclusion:

I’m very satisfied with this box set.  As if all that music wasn’t enough, the booklet will keep you going for hours with its full-colour photos, liner notes and essays.  Yes, it can be a bit much, having four versions of one album in a single box set.  However, twice I listened to the whole thing in order, and didn’t find myself bored.  You know why?

It’s because Machine Head is a great album.

5/5 (highway) stars

R.I.P. Jon.

REVIEW: Marillion – Sounds Live (2012)

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MARILLION – Sounds Live (2012 Racket Records/Abbey Road LiveHereNow/EMI)

This is one of those “Instant Live” type discs.  While the discs have art pre-printed on them, they are CDRs.  There is no track list on the case, probably because the setlist wasn’t set in stone!  (I have a Slash “Instant Live” style disc with the setlist printed on the back, which was completely wrong, as the singer had a sore throat and they had to change up the set!)  The label is Racket Records/Abbey Road LiveHereNow, licensed to EMI, but even though Racket has their name on it, you can’t buy it from them.  You can buy it from Abbey Road Live, however.

The show was recorded on 16 September 2012 at the Forum in London, on the Sounds that Can’t Be Made tour.  The sound quality is excellent!

Marillion bravely opened the show with “Gaza”, the powerful, swirling, 17 minute new song from Sounds that Can’t Be Made.  I don’t know how many new fans were in the audience that night, but if there were any, they must have been in utter confusion and shock.  Hogarth delivers the song with all the passion he can muster.

Not letting up for a moment, Marillion follow this monster with another 10 minute epic:  “This Town/100 Nights”.  Incredible.  And once again, H imbues the song with so much emotion it literally leaks out of the speakers.

“This next song is a strange song,” says H, regarding track 3.  “‘Cause everybody claps along at the beginning and by verse one, they think ‘Shit, you can’t clap to this, it’s far too sad and tragic!”  And that is how H introduces the Marbles top ten (#7!) single, “You’re Gone”.  An upbeat pop-prog track with a drum program accompanying Ian Mosely, this was probably a good selection to follow two epics in a row!

My favourite of the new songs follows:  the title track from Sounds that Can’t Be Made, a simply great catchy Marillion track.  My only beef here is that I can hear pre-recorded Hogarth backing vocals.

And then…another 10 minute track?  The incredible “Neverland” from Marbles is up next, a personal favourite, and seemingly a crowd favourite too.  This one defines the word “epic” as far as I’m concerned.  Powerful, too.

From the 2007 Somewhere Else album comes “A Voice From the Past”, not one of my personal favourites (also not one of my favourite albums).  This is followed by “Power” from the new album.  “Power” is one of the better songs from an album I just haven’t wrapped my head around yet.  In live form, the chorus soars.

Disc 2 begins with yet another Marbles classic:  the soft and uplifting “Fantastic Place”, a personal favourite.  Steve Rothery’s solo is sublime.  Another personal favourite follows, the incredible “Real Tears For Sale” from the very dense Happiness is the Road album.  It’s an album I’ve never fully absorbed, but this song is incredibly powerful and at times is even reminiscent of older works like Brave or even Script in parts (listen to the flute-like keys).

Another new song, “The Sky Above the Rain”, is one that is really starting to grow on me.  This is the last of the new songs played at the London gig.  It’s 11 minute long, and it begins lullaby-like before H’s passionate, melodic vocals begin.  There’s a sadness, but also a brightness to the music; truly the blue sky above the rain.

It’s into the classics now!  “The Great Escape” is an undeniable fan favourite, and I never tire of hearing it.  What did surprise me was the resurrection of the lengthy “A Few Words for the Dead” from the underappreciated Radiation album.  I’ve always been fond of Radiation (it was the first Hogarth-era album I heard)  but this track is absolutely a challenge.  Over 10 minutes long, it builds very, very slowly.  As the closing track on a challenging album, it was perfect.  As an encore at a Marillion concert, it’s extremely brave and mind-blowing.  This is one of the best live versions I’ve heard.

The only Fish-era song played is “Sugar Mice”, but it is one that H seems comfortable with.  I will never tire of this classic, even though H lets the audience sing the first half of the song for him!  Rothery’s anthemic solo is the centerpiece of the affair.

The final surprise is that the show closes with the morose “Estonia”, from This Strange Engine.  H dedicates the song to the family of Neil Armstrong.  I’ve never been particularly fond of this dour song, although it has been played in concert many, many times over the last 15 years.  Obviously, many fans “get it” and love it.  I’m not one of them, so for me, Sounds Live ends with a thump rather than a celebration.  I would have preferred something like “Garden Party” or “Easter”, but I’m not complaining.

Speaking of “Easter”:  Conspicuous by its absence is any music at all from Seasons End.  You can’t fit ’em all in, and tour after tour, Marillion have always changed up their setlists.  You will never see the same Marillion concert two tours in a row.

While Marillion have dozens of live albums (especially when you include the 43 Front Row Club releases), this one is a valuable inclusion in the canon as the first physical live release of Sounds that Can’t Be Made songs.   I don’t know how frequently I will return to it, given the amount of live stuff I have, but I did enjoy it.

4/5 stars

Disc 1:

  1. “Gaza”
  2. “This Town/100 Nights”
  3. “You’re Gone”
  4. “Sounds that Can’t Be Made”
  5. “Neverland”
  6. “A Voice From the Past”
  7. “Power”

Disc 2:

  1. “Fantastic Place”
  2. “Real Tears For Sale”
  3. “The Sky Above the Rain”
  4. “The Great Escape”
  5. “A Few Words For the Dead”
  6. “Sugar Mice”
  7. “Estonia”

Part 154: Cassettes Part IV – LeBrain’s Tapes (What Remains)

RECORD STORE TALES Part 154:  

Cassettes Part IV – LeBrain’s Tapes (What Remains)

I used to have a lot of tapes.  So many, that T-Rev converted my closet doors to shelving, just to store my numerous cassettes!  It was quite a feat of engineering on his part.

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If you’ve read the other three parts of this series on cassettes, then you’ve already seen some of the awesome artwork that T-Rev used to come up with for his tapes.  Doing those articles got me nostalgic, but very few of my own tapes remained.  A year or two before I met Mrs. LeBrain, I briefly dated this one girl who was getting into hair metal.  I had succeeded in replacing most of my tapes on CD (although still incomplete; I need a copy of Live Fast, Die Fast by Wolfsbane, and Phenomenon 1).  All my tapes were redundant, and I gave her boxes and boxes full of them.

God knows where those tapes are now.  I doubt she took them back home to Thunder Bay when it was all over, they probably ended up in a landfill.  No big loss really, the only shame of it is that, like T-Rev, I used to make a lot of my own custom artwork.

Mrs. LeBrain and I were visiting her mom yesterday, and I found some of my old Beatles tapes that I had made, at her place!  Her dad drove a delivery van with nothing but a tape deck inside.  He was more than happy to receive my old Beatles tapes, and he loved them.  And there they were, still at the house, complete with my computer generated J-cards.  Nothing elaborate, although I did paste the cover for Abbey Road onto that tape.

This inspired me to dig through some boxes here, and see if I had any of my own tapes left.  Surely there must be something here, with some of my own custom cover art!  There was just a handful left, stuff that I wouldn’t have parted with at the time, and lo and behold, there was my old artwork.  These sure brought back memories!

Back in the early record store days, cassette was my primary medium.  They were portable, you could leave them in the car and not worry about them getting banged up, so I recorded everything onto cassette.  It wasn’t until I had left the record store in 2006 that I got my first car with a CD deck.  Before then, I had one of those adapter kits to play a discman in the car, but it sounded shite.  I was glad to find the following treasures tucked away in a box!

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Ahh, Spinal Tap.  A Spinal Tap Reunion was recorded from a 1992 TV special.  Unavailable on DVD today, as far as I know.  That’s a shame.

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I bought Grande Rock by The Hellacopters on vinyl, to get that bonus track “Angel Dust”.  Or, more accurately, one of my record store compatriots got it for me at Orange Monkey Music in Waterloo.  I dutifully recorded it to cassette without making elaborate packaging, but I did put some effort into the cassette spine.

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You Fat Bastards by Faith No More was the full show that was released on CD in truncated form on the Live at the Brixton Academy CD.  This was from a VHS release.

Guns N’ Roses did a couple cool TV specials.  I recorded Live at the Ritz off T-Rev, who stuck on some demos for bonus tracks.  The cover was made by adapting an old Appetite For Destruction J-card.  I think this turned out pretty cool.  Invade Paris! was a TV special from 1992.

These two Maiden tapes were from VHS releases.  It’s a shame that Raising Hell was never released on a CD.  Here’s hoping the band will put that out on a future box set.  It was Bruce’s “final” show.  I just edited out the crap sections with “magician” Simon Drake.   Maiden England is also taken from VHS, but this is the full show.  The CD release omitted two songs:  “Can I Play With Madness”, and “Hallowed Be Thy Name”.  My cassette didn’t!  I thought my J-card for Maiden England turned out pretty cool, using an old Seventh Son cover as its basis.

Unfortunately, this is all that remains of my old cassette art.  I did some much more elaborate things, which Thunder Bay Girl probably tossed out.  One was for Savatage’s Dead Winter Dead.  When I recorded that one to cassette, I actually painted the gargoyle onto a J-card.  Wish I kept that one.  Rush’s Test For Echo may have been the most elaborate one I’ve done.  Using some old cardboard and a full-page ad for the album, I created my own digipack for that cassette.  It would be nice to still have.  Ahh well.

It seems funny, in today’s age of mp3 files and players, that a format as crappy as cassette was anyone’s main format.  But there you go.  Before I could play CD’s in the car, they were the best way to bring music with me.  I’ve always believed a music collection was for showing off as much as listening to, plus I enjoyed making the artwork.  I’m glad some still survives today!