AC/DC

#987: The Summer Awakens

RECORD STORE TALES #987: The Summer Awakens

It’s official:  the earliest swim on record for any summer at the lake is May 13!  If you don’t believe in global warming, then I can tell you that past weekends in early May, we were snuggled up in jackets and long pants.  This year, early May was as warm as early July used to be.  What an incredible weekend.  Clear and sunny until late Saturday.  By then we were indoors waiting for the Toronto Maple Leafs to once again exit the playoffs in the first round.  But I’m jumping head of myself!

Traffic was light but the music was heavy.  Albums for the drive up:

As expected, both were awesome on the road.  There was no clear winner.  Interestingly, Jennifer liked “Roots In My Boots” by Scorpions, which I considered a bit of a throwaway.  Regardless, both albums did well on the highway and rocked us safely to the cottage in two hours.

First music on the porch:

  • Kathryn Ladano – Open

Not a new release, but since the good Doctor was next door, it felt right to serenade her with some of her best music!

From there we settled in with the first hot dogs of the year, and I began to prep for my show that night (Top 11 Star Wars movies) by watching The Phantom Menace.  10 years ago, the only way to do that would be to bring a DVD and watch it on the laptop.  If we wanted to watch a Star Wars movie 30 years ago, we needed to bring the tape and a VCR!  Everything is so easy now, but dependent on a good internet connection.  That connection enabled me to do the first cottage show of the year, and a success it was.  I experimented with some new lighting and it worked way better than last year after sundown.  A successful show — and one of the best we’ve ever done.   Certainly one of my favourites.

It’s always hard to sleep after a caffeinated show like that.  I got four or five hours, and was up and at ’em early Saturday.  It was so quiet.  Most cottagers have not opened yet — their loss!  They were not able to listen when I rocked Kiss on the front porch on Saturday.  Kiss albums this weekend included Dynasty, Kiss, Hotter Than Hell, Peter Criss, and Rock and Roll Over.

I made fish for breakfast (trout) and went to go pick up my new bass from neighbor Donna.  Her brother was Don Simmons of Helix, and this bass used to belong to him.  It is my honour to play it on the porch in his memory.  Although I use the word “play” very loosely.  I have never played bass before and can only “barely” play guitar as it is.  It took some time to get used to the size of the body.  Even the neck felt huge.  But it sounded great and really rumbled the porch.

I made chicken and steaks on the barbecue and burned up a bunch of old wood — without losing my glasses this time.  After being on my feet all day Saturday, I took it easy in the evening, missing the bright orange sunset.  I had been on my feet all day and it felt good to rest up in the evening.

We departed for home early Sunday.  Albums for the road home:

These albums, Priest especially, gave me some serious retro vibes, as if I had stepped into a time machine and was 16 again.  I had this happen numerous times last year, and I wrote about that feeling in multiple previous chapters.  It’s a very intense feeling, as if I was no longer living in the year 2022, but had stepped into 1987 again.  It felt as real as the steering wheel in my hands.  Looks like this summer will be no different.  Lots of flashbacks in store!

An excellent start to what I hope will be an amazing year.

RE-REVIEW: Def Leppard – High ‘n’ Dry (The Early Years Disc 2)

Part Two of the Def Leppard Review Series

Original review: High ‘n’ Dry (1981)

 

DEF LEPPARD – High ‘n’ Dry (The Early Years Disc 2) (Originally 1981, 2019 remaster)

Leppard’s pride in their debut album only extended so far.  They knew that the sound they heard in their heads was not captured on tape.  So they waited, and waited, and waited, until AC/DC producer Robert John “Mutt” Lange was available.  When he had completed the recording of Foreigner’s 4 (six million copies sold), they got to work on Leppard’s second record.  And work they did, with the band members unsure after many takes if they could even play it any better.  They could, and they did.  With Lange on hand to help refine the songs they had written, Leppard had never sounded better.

Today, High ‘n’ Dry is often cited by diehards as the band’s best record.  It bares the teeth of AC/DC, but the attention to melody and harmony was typical of more commercial bands.  It was a winning combination; High ‘n’ Dry has no filler songs.

The sharp opener “Let It Go” makes the changes apparent.  A better recording, a more confident (and screamy) Joe Elliott, and an incessant bass groove propels it.  The guitars cleverly lay back until necessary for the big rock chorus.  All dynamics missing from On Through the Night.  This time, they could afford a real cow bell — no more tea kettle!  With “Let It Go” opening on such a solid, fast note, where do we go from here?  No letting up!  “Another Hit and Run” is even better, with quiet parts contrasting with the increasingly heady!  Joe has found his voice, and uses it to rip and shred.  Don’t try to follow the lyrics — it’s all about how the frontman screams them at you.

Finally, Rick Allen is permitted to slow down for the sleek, slower groove of “High ‘N’ Dry (Saturday Night)”.  This tenacious track takes its time to blow you away.  It was also one of three they recorded in a single session for music video purposes.

Another video from that session was the hit ballad “Bringin’ on the Heartbreak”, although MTV aside, it didn’t really have the intended impact until later.   Originally titled “A Certain Heartache”, with Mutt’s help they steered it away from its Zeppelin-y origins and honed it closer to a hit.  Sad verses are coupled with a chuggy riff at the chorus, which is beefed up by the backing vocals of Mutt and the band, gradually finding that sound step by step.  The lyrics are nothing to write home about with, “You got the best of me,” predictably rhyming with “Oh can’t you see.”  But then the track ends not with a total fade, but with the urgent pulse of a new bass track.  It’s the brilliant instrumental “Switch 625”, paired with the ballad as if to say “don’t worry folks, we haven’t lightened up.”  Leppard were, after all, a part of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal bands.  “Switch 625” is something that would have generated melting heat on that scene.  Written solely by Steve Clark, this is one instrumental that is not filler in any way.  It’s a song.

So ended side one, but side two commenced with the crash of “You Got Me Runnin'”, a single-worthy number that scorches the skin with its burning tower of riffs.  Joe bemoans a girl that he don’t trust, while Steve Clark and Pete Willis do their best Angus and Malcolm.  Rick Allen, all of 17 years old now, keeps the beat minimal while Rick Savage maintains the pulse on bass.  When Pete breaks in with his guitar solo, it’s one of the best of his time with Leppard.  But it’s the crucial chorus that keeps you coming back, a singalong brute with gang vocals that could have been lifted from an era past.

Then things get eerie with “Lady Strange”, hurling multiple riffs at the speakers, and boasting a chorus to back it all up.  Tough guy Joe claims to have never needed love before meeting his “Lady Strange”.  This is the only track with a Rick Allen co-writing credit, and features a scorcher of a Clark guitar solo.  Elliott’s screams have never sounded more tormented.  Brilliant stuff.

Without a break, we plow “On Through the Night”, and one of the fastest tracks on the album.  There’s a surprising, quiet Zeppelin-y middle breakdown that’s welcome, but otherwise this track is built for speed.  “Rock n’ roll is no safety net!” screams Joe.  If there were any single track to delete from High ‘n’ Dry, you could make an argument for “On Through the Night”.  However, fact is you need it to set up “Mirror, Mirror (Look Into My Eyes)”.

Displaying their penchant for parentheses, “Mirror, Mirror (Look Into My Eyes)” takes Def Leppard back to dark territory.  A single spare Clark riff carries the song while Allen and Savage lay back.  It’s the kind of brilliant construction that Clark was becoming the master of.  Tension building riffs, stinging solos, topped with another perfect Joe Elliott vocal melody.

Finally it’s the all-out chaos of “No No No”, a memorable way to close out a hell of an album.  Breakneck pacing, top lung screaming, and a blitz of a Willis riff.  Melody?  Unimportant!  If the guitars weren’t so obviously well arranged, this could have been punk rock.

Different versions of “No No No” run different lengths.  This one is 3:12 with a slight fade and then abrupt stop.  One can never go wrong with an original vinyl LP, featuring an infinite groove at the end, with Joe Elliott shouting “No!” over and over again, until you either stop the record yourself, or wait until the ultimate end of the universe — your choice.  Another variation of interest is the the 1984 reissue of High ‘n’ Dry, with two remixed bonus tracks.  We will discuss those later as they are included on Disc Four of this set.

Praise today for High ‘n’ Dry is fairly universal.  Martin Popoff rated it higher than Pyromania.  It truly is a remarkable photograph (pun intended) of a brief period in Def Leppard when they were still solidly riff-focused, but with the moderate temperance of Mutt Lange.  A period that has never and can never be repeated.

5/5 stars

Previous:  The Early Years Disc One – On Through the Night 

Next:  The Early Years Disc Three – When The Walls Came Tumbling Down: Live at the New Theater Oxford – 1980

#776: (Wag)yu Shook Me All Night Long [Reblog]

Today is our anniversary!  In this throwback post from 2019, enjoy some wicked looking steaks.


RECORD STORE TALES #776: (Wag)yu Shook Me All Night Long

For highway driving, nothing quite hits the spot like AC/DC.  It feels right.  Who Made Who works as a quickie “greatest hits” selection for a quick spin down Highway 401.  Mrs. LeBrain and I were heading to the GTA to celebrate 11 years as a married couple.  We rocked to “You Shook Me All Night Long” on the dance floor that night, and we were returning to the very same location once more.

Highway 401 is in a perpetual state of construction, but good music helps take the edge off.  This was my first drive that way in the new vehicle, and also the first with my latest gadget, a nifty dash cam that is sure to provide lots of content for my YouTube channel in the coming months.

Sorry, quick tangent:  Phil Rudd is the “man”, but Simon Wright doesn’t get enough credit for his time on the AC/DC drum stool.  AC/DC isn’t an easy beat to get the feel for, and every AC/DC drummer has their own approach.  The 1980s were a period of hard-hitters and Simon Wright was the perfect drummer for that era.  His precision is absolute on “Who Made Who” and it just sounds right.  Compare the original to Chris Slade’s interpretation on AC/DC Live.  That’s all I have to say about that.

We arrived at the hotel mid-afternoon and I settled into the jacuzzi pretty quickly.  I wanted to do a funny gangsta style photo in the hot tub with me holding a couple of American dollar bills.  I was thinking about when Floyd Mayweather threw the $1s at Conor McGregor.  And holy shit did Facebook react.

“Dude you look like if Kuato from Total Recall was successfully removed from his twin, grew up, lived a long and depressing life and got really excited when someone gave him 2 bucks to sh!t in the local YMCA jacuzzi.”

Two things:  Yes, I had pants on.  And yes, that “gang sign” is the Vulcan salute.  Relax.  Let a man enjoy his jacuzzi, publicly on social media like damn 20 year old.  Are you not entertained?!

We did some shopping.  Because, like an idiot, I forgot to bring a nice pair of shoes for dinner, I had to get a new pair just for this one night.  Then we met up with Jen’s best friend Lara for lunch.  Did some more shopping.  I wanted to go to stores that we don’t have at home.  There isn’t much of that, just the same old chains.  We did hit one up cool store, where I bought something called “Jean Guy”, but we couldn’t find any cool music or toy stores.  At least I got my shoes!

So where were we headed?  In ’08 when we got married it was the Pavilion Royale, but now it is a high end restaurant called 17 Steakhouse & Bar.  It’s very different on the inside, but recognizable.  There was the dance floor, where I once spun to “You Shook Me All Night Long”.  But we chose 17 for more than sentimental reasons.  The main draw was the real Japanese A5 wagyu.  And that’s what this chapter is really about.

I’ve never had real wagyu in my life and American wagyu was not going to do it.  You only live once.  Carpe diem.  Go big or go home.  It’s only money.  All that bullshit.  I’d done my research, I knew what I was getting my wallet into.  I’d been planning it over a year.

We started with a simple but delicious field green salad, with incredible goat cheese.  The smoothest goat cheese I’ve ever tasted.  Only when we finished the salads did they began firing our steaks.  None of that “here comes your main dish before you’ve finished your starter” nonsense.  Jennifer chose the US prime T-bone, medium rare, and let me tell you, that alone could have been the best steak I’ve ever tasted.  It was 25 oz, so more than enough to share.  So tender!  With cripsy, tasty fat.

Jen’s steak could easily have been the most tender I’ve ever tried, if not for my Japanese A5 wagyu.  Market price was $30 per oz.  I chose an 8 oz striploin, medium rare.  You should always get a wagyu steak cooked to medium rare.  I was electric with tense anticipation.  The steaks arrived, cooked precisely to order.

I gently cut a thin slice, which came off like butter.  There was a lovely char on the outside, a crisp splash of flat, and then the most tender meat you can imagine.  It was seasoned simply and perfectly, the saltiness enhancing that beefy umami.  On the tongue, it was like butter with only the slightest sensation of a meaty texture.  I probably didn’t even have to chew.

It’s a very rich piece of meat, far more than I anticipated.  I’d estimate that I finished about 3/4 of my meal, leaving a $60 chunk of wagyu in my takeout bag.  And that chunk of leftover wagyu was the best lunch I ever had the following day.

For sides, we ordered the fingerling potatoes roasted in duck fat and thyme, the asparagus with hollandaise, and the scalloped potatoes au gratin.  Of those three, the asparagus was the clear winner, with the potatoes au gratin in second place.  Only I liked the fingerling potatoes; Jen didn’t care for them, leaving her batting average with any form of duck to be zero.

We had an incredible dessert of cheesecake, Crème brûlée and whipped cream which was supernaturally good. Everything was.

Having had probably the most expensive steak I’ll ever buy, was it worth it? If you are a steak lover, then yes, it is worth it.  And I love steaks.  A little goes a long way, but every steak lover should try real Japanese wagyu once.  It’s unlike anything I’ve had before and it is easily categorised as a true delicacy.  Having said that, should we return to 17 Steakhouse in a year, I don’t know that I would order it again, and that is only because there are other interesting features on their menu that I would like to try.  The 36 oz tomahawk would be a sight to behold, though I couldn’t eat it all myself.  I would also like to try the Porterhouse, the lobster bisque, and beef tartare.

Yes, the wagyu was worth it, and I can still taste and feel its texture on my palette.  It won’t be for everyone except in small doses.  They have a 4 oz minimum order, and I suggest that may the perfect size to experiment with.

17 Steakhouse & Bar gets 5/5, and so does the wagyu. 

We started with AC/DC so we’ll finish with AC/DC.  Who made wagyu?  17 Steakhouse did, and it was hell’s bells!  I couldn’t wait to sink the pink steak in my mouth.  It’ll shake your foundations just like it shook mine.  It’s a little bit of a ride on, down the 401, but worth the drive.  Hell ain’t a bad place to be(ef)!*  For those about to rock, I wagyu.

* Courtesy 1537

“Bootleg Richard Dreyfuss”, Kevin and Harrison talk Bootleg Albums on the LeBrain Train

This has been one of my personal favourite episodes!  Bootlegs were the subject, and we saw a wide variety.  Yet even with the limitless possibilities of bootleg recordings out there, we still ended up with one duplicate.  You’ll have to watch and see which one was on two lists!

Your panel:

John wins “best collection” award.

Lots of audio/visual backup here to go with these bootlegs too.  For that reason alone, this was one of the best shows we’ve ever done.  Thanks for watching and being a part of it!

Mike Fraser takes us inside the recording studio on an epic LeBrain Train

“What happened to the guitars? Well put them back the way they were!” – Jimmy Page

A huge, huge, huge thanks to Mike Fraser for hanging out on a Friday night!  Growing up a young rock fan in Canada, we heard legend of Little Mountain studios in Vancouver.  Tonight, Superdekes and I got to ask the questions we wanted to know for over 30 years.  And Mike delivered!

Krokus.  Loverboy.  Honeymoon Suite.  AC/DC.  Aerosmith.  Bryan Adams.  The Cult.  Coverdale-Page.  So much more!  We tackled some of our favourite albums and a few cult classics.  From the Stone Gods to Canadian folksters The Rankin Family, we tried to explore the slightly obscure corners of Mike’s discography.  And we had a blast!  We took a few viewer questions, and if Mike comes back to the show again in the future, then maybe we can ask him the rest.

As I often do, I started early with an unboxing.  Start the video from the beginning if you want to catch that.  If you’re only interested in Mike (couldn’t blame you) then skip to 0:08:00 of the stream.

Make sure you watch all the way to the end to catch the brand new music video by T-Bone Erickson:  “Balls of Steel”.  This song is a tribute to Superdekes, who hooked us up with Mike Fraser for this show.  Thank you Deke, and thank you T-Bone for this awesome premiere video!

Feedback has been saying that this was the best LeBrain Train yet.  Do you agree?

Best of 2020 Part 7: The Stats of Doooom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

 

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

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

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

BEST ALBUMS OF 2020

11. Now or Never – III

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

9. Sven Gali – 3 (EP)

8. Kim Mitchel – The Big Fantasize

7. Corey Taylor – CMFT

6. Stryper – Even the Devil Believes

5. Harem Scarem – Change the World

4. Dennis DeYoung – 26 East Vol 1

3. AC/DC – Power Up

2. Deep Purple – Whoosh!

1. Storm Force – Age of Fear

 

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

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

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

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


BONUS LISTS

Most disappointing:  Ozzy Osbourne – Ordinary Man

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

Single of the Year:  Mammoth WVH – “Distance”

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

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

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


TOP FIVE LIVE OR COMPILATION ALBUMS IN 2020

5. Metallica – S&M2

4. Thin Lizzy – Rock Legends

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

2. Def Leppard – The Early Years 78-81

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

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


BEST LOCKDOWN SINGLE

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

4. Scorpions – “Sign of Hope”

3. Marillion – “Made Again 2020”

2. Marillion – “Easter 2020”

1. Alice Cooper – “Don’t Give Up”


 

A LOOK AHEAD AT 2021

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

REVIEW: AC/DC – Power Up (2020 Light Box edition)

AC/DC – Power Up (2020 Sony “Light Box”)

FAQ:

  1. No, Malcolm Young doesn’t play on it.
  2. No, Axl Rose is also not on the album.
  3. Yes, it is as good as you’ve heard.

41 minutes is all it takes to rock the world.  We needed AC/DC in 2020, and we got it.  This isn’t the first time AC/DC have put guitars on magnetic tape without Malcolm.  That era began with 2014’s Rock Or Bust, but this album is better.  The riffs are Malcolm’s, and nephew Stevie Young performs them admirably as he always has.  As for Brian Johnson, he sounds as if time stopped back in 1995.

“Realize” is catchier than the average AC/DC, with a few guitar overdubs to sweeten it up.  “Rejection” is similarly fun, despite its title.  Good tunes.  Not immortal classics in the making, just good album cuts as AC/DC have done for decades.  Even the first single “Shot in the Dark” doesn’t sound like the kind of AC/DC tune that radio will be pounding out in 10 years, even though they sure are playing the crap out of it today.  Good songs all, but comparison to the back catalogue is a doomed endeavour.

The one tune that does sound like a future staple is “Through the Mists of Time”, a title that seems more like Zep than Acca Dacca.  Focused on melody and spare guitar picking, it’s a bit softer than what most people expect.  The “Ahh-ah” backing vocals sell it.  This is probably the song you’ll remember years from now.

Moving on down the tracklist, we have a few songs with potential to grow.  “Kick You When You’re Down” has some cool pickin’ rhythm.  Also cool is “Witch’s Spell”, another title that doesn’t seem like AC/DC at first.  It’s among the most memorable tunes thanks to a stuttery guitars and a fun chorus.  The mood changes on “Demon Fire”, an excellent song similar in style to “Safe in New York City” from 20 years ago.  It’s got that fast 4/4 beat, coupled with a low Brian Johnson growl (at first).

After “Demon Fire”, we’re in for a series of workmanlike AC/DC tracks without a lot of distinction.  There’s “Bad Reputation” (mid-tempo), “No Man’s Land” (slow and menacing), “Systems Down” (mid-tempo), “Money Shot” (mid-tempo with bite), and “Code Red” (slinky).  Power Up, like any AC/DC album since about Flick of the Switch, gets the job done.  The only true classic is “Through the Mists of Time”, but there is plenty of strong material headlined by “Demon Fire”, “Shot in the Dark”, “Realize”, “Witch’s Spell” and “Money Shot”.  It’s still early of course, and in three months you might have some clear favourites.  This album has room to grow.

Now, the $60 “Light Box” is…disappointing.  It’s a box, made of cardboard, with a sound chip that plays exactly 17 seconds of “Shot in the Dark” through a little speaker in the top, while flashing.  (I call it a “Seizure Box”!)  It stays lit for a few more seconds, and then stops.  You can push the button as many times as you like, because it comes with a handy-dandy USB charging cable.  (I bet you needed another one of those!)  So that’s all it does.  Inside is the standard CD digipack wedged between two sturdy foam slats.  On the left hand side with the button and charging port, a cardboard strip is attached to prevent the button from being pushed in the stores.  Removing this piece, which you need to do to recharge the box, is difficult and I tore mine.  I glued it back, but you can still see it.  $60 box, ripped just like that.  Bummer.

AC/DC sound like AC/DC the most when Phil Rudd is in the band.  With Phil, Brian Johnson and Cliff Williams all back for one more round, authenticity is not an issue.  This is an album that deserves multiple listens.  You’ll have your own favourites too.

3.75/5 stars

 

 

New Release Friday Live Stream

The LeBrain Train – 2000 Words or More with Mike Ladano
Episode 32

We were supposed to talk about the upcoming big releases in music last week — and then King Edward died.  Devastating.  We needed to talk about Eddie.  But now, we’ll talk some AC/DC, Iron Maiden, Sloan and more!  The angle is based on something Deke said (and others have echoed) a few weeks ago:  something along the lines of “2020 needs new AC/DC”.  And it does.  We deserve it.

This week’s panel will include John from 2loud2oldmusic, the expert on all things New Release-wise.  He will be joined by AC/DC scholar Kevin / Buried On Mars, who will bring the perspective of the diehard, deep cut kind of fan.  I’ll probably just stand by and drink coffee!

For those who show up early, there will be the customary unboxing, this one courtesy of CDJapan!

7:00 PM E.S.T.  Facebook:  MikeLeBrain  YouTube:  Mike LeBrain


New artwork!

The new LeBrain Train artwork was made by Weeping Willow Creations.  If you don’t like it, blame me, not her!  She took the image I had in my head and made it digital.  All aboard the LeBrain Train — thank you Weeping Willow Creations!

 

REVIEW: AC/DC – “Shot in the Dark” (2020)

AC/DC – “Shot in the Dark” (2020 Sony single)

Be honest with me.  Until recently, did you really expect a new AC/DC album in 2020?  The notoriously private band were spotted at a studio in Vancouver a while ago, but aside from that it’s been total radio silence.

Until now.  Power Up!

Brian “Beano” Johnson found himself the recipient of brand new, high-tech in-ear monitors enabling him to sing live once again.  Phil Rudd put his past behind him.  This was enough to get Cliff Williams back on board.  Angus Young had been sorting through dozens of riffs written by Malcolm.  With nephew Stevie Young still in the fold to play those riffs, AC/DC were a band once more.

2020’s Power Up (or PWRϟUP) will be the first AC/DC album since the death of both George and Malcolm Young.

“Shot in the Dark” is the first single, available now on iTunes when you pre-order the album.  “Shot in the dark, beats a walk in the park.”  I highly doubt that it was a walk in the park, but the thing about AC/DC is that they make everything better.  (This week’s episode of the LeBrain Train was supposed to be about AC/DC bringing us exactly what we needed in 2020.  It has obviously been postponed so we can talk about Eddie Van Halen instead.)  If Black Sabbath’s “Rock and Roll Doctor” was a real person, there is little question that they would have prescribed us some AC/DC in 2020.  We needed this.  Like an Aspirin when your head is achin’, we needed a “Shot” of AC/DC.  Something bright and shiny to look forward to.

What AC/DC do, only they can do right.  There’s nothing even remotely unique about “Shot in the Dark”.  It’s AC/DC.  It is what it is and does what it does, and it’s pretty simple.  All you need is a beat, a catchy guitar lick, and a belting singer.  “Shot in the Dark” has all that.  The things that do jump out this time are Angus’ solo — slidey goodness — and the sheer joie de vivre of it all.  Brian is sounding great.  Some have noted that AC/DC sounds more like the genuine article when Phil Rudd is on drums.  His thrift and pocket groove are peanut butter and jelly.

Rating a new AC/DC song is kind of pointless.  They always come out with something good, albeit familiar, for a first single.  1990’s “Thunderstruck” was an exception.   It’s been this way since 1995’s “Hard As a Rock”.  AC/DC drop a new single, and it’s always the same.  Good and familiar.  Same thing here.  Ratings are meaningless so we’ll call it a perfect score just because we should all be happy as fuck that AC/DC are back.

5/5 stars