Alain Johannes

REVIEW: Queens of the Stone Age – Over the Years and Through the Woods (2005 CD/DVD)

QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE – Over the Years and Through the Woods (2005 Universal CD/DVD)

First thing’s first.  You will notice that the DVD has six more songs than the CD, and that’s not including the bonus features. That’s OK. While I wish there were two CDs so you get the whole show on audio, Over the Years and Through the Woods is still a damn fine live album.

No Nick? No problem. As much as I love the Nick Olivieri era of Queens, this live album smokes. Oftentimes, I don’t give a toss for Queens without Nick (Villains being an exception).  I do own and love this. Yeah, there are tunes that I miss. Yeah, I miss his screaming. But the album makes up for it in pure tuneage. (Nick’s in some of the bonus materials anyways.)

There’s a great mix of material from all the Queens albums, with a heavy leaning on Songs For The Deaf. There are even a couple Desert Sessions tunes, and an unreleased one.  It’s one awesome set, and great value for the money. It’s a CD I play at home, in the car, on the big stereo and on the earphones. Sound and video quality are fine. Don’t expect a hi-def show from the Queens though. This is sweaty and rough.

My favourite part: Josh Homme gets pissed off at some kid throwing things at him, and berates said kid in front of the crowd a bit.  “Hey cocksmoker.  Eat a bag of dicks.”  He then breaks into the “Anti-Cocksmoker Song” (“Tangled Up in Plaid”.)

Lineup: Josh Homme, Joey Castillo, Alain Johannes, Troy Van Leeuwen and Natasha Shneider.

5/5 stars. Indispensible.

 

CD
1.”Go with the Flow” – 2:58
2.”Regular John” – 5:24
3.”Monsters in the Parasol” – 4:39
4.”Tangled Up in Plaid” – 4:00
5.”Little Sister” – 2:51
6.”You Can’t Quit Me Baby” – 9:49
7.”I Wanna Make It wit Chu” – 4:27
8.”Leg of Lamb” – 3:34
9.”I Think I Lost My Headache” – 5:24
10.”Mexicola” – 5:09
11.”Burn the Witch” – 3:12
12.”Song for the Dead” – 7:47
13.”No One Knows” – 7:47
14.”Long Slow Goodbye” – 7:20

DVD
1.”This Lullaby” – 2:40
2.”Go with the Flow” – 3:12
3.”Feel Good Hit of the Summer” – 3:41
4.”The Lost Art of Keeping a Secret” – 3:44
5.”Regular John” – 5:30
6.”Song for the Deaf” – 5:09
7.”Avon” – 3:33
8.”Little Sister” – 2:52
9.”You Can’t Quit Me Baby” – 10:27
10.”I Wanna Make It Wit Chu” – 5:10
11.”Monsters in the Parasol” – 3:16
12.”The Fun Machine Took a S*** and Died” – 6:41
13.”Mexicola” – 5:17
14.”Burn the Witch” – 4:37
15.”Covered in Punk’s Blood” – 1:57
16.”I Think I Lost My Headache” – 5:07
17.”Song for the Dead” – 8:16
18.”I Never Came” – 5:54
19.”No One Knows” – 8:09
20.”Long Slow Goodbye” – 7:44

DVD BONUS FEATURES (from various tours):
From 1998:
“The Bronze” – 3:38
“Mexicola” – 5:34
From 2000:
“Better Living Through Chemistry” – 5:54
“Auto Pilot” – 4:19
“How to Handle a Rope” – 3:29
From 2002:
“Quick and to the Pointless” – 1:34
“You Think I Ain’t Worth a Dollar, But I Feel Like a Millionaire” – 2:36
“God Is in the Radio” – 11:19
“Song for the Dead” – 6:09
“Regular John” – 2:02
“Hanging Tree” – 3:16
From 2005:
“Precious and Grace” – 3:33
“Burn the Witch” – 2:41
(Band audio commentary commentary available for bonus tracks)

REVIEW: Rush – A Farewell to Kings (2017 super deluxe edition)

RUSH – A Farewell to Kings (2017 Anthem 3CD/1 Blu-ray/4 LP super deluxe edition, originally 1977)

And the men who hold high places,
Must be the ones who start,
To mold a new reality,
Closer to the heart,
Closer to the heart.

Today’s rock fans have a new reality of their own:  a market flood of “anniversary” or “deluxe” reissues far and wide.  The floodwaters are murkier when multiple editions of the same reissue are available, or when reissues are deleted in favour of new reissues!

2017 represents 40 years of Rush’s fine sixth album A Farewell to Kings.  An anniversary edition was guaranteed, but choose wisely.  For those who need the brilliant new 5.1 mix by Steven Wilson, you will have to save up for the 3CD/1 Blu-ray/4 LP super deluxe edition.  Only that massive box set contains the Blu-ray disc with Wilson’s mix.

To frustrate fans even further, A Farewell to Kings had a 5.1 reissue back in 2011, as part of the Sector 2 box set.  That 5.1 mix (by Andy VanDette) has received heavy scrutiny from audiophiles.  Steven Wilson, however, is well known for his work in the 5.1 field, and his work on the 40th anniversary mix lives up to his reputation.  His crisp mix is deep but unobtrusive.  It is occasionally surprising but always stunning, and over seemingly way too soon.  The separation of instruments is done with care, and without robbing the music of its power.  Rush albums were fairly sparse back then but Wilson managed to make a full-sounding mix out of it.

Powerful is A Farewell to Kings indeed.  Though the title track opens with gentle classical picking, before long you’re in the craggy peaks of Mount Lifeson, with heavy shards of guitar coming down.  Young Geddy’s range and vibrato are remarkable, though for some this is the peak of Geddy’s “nails on a chalkboard” period.

11 minutes of “Xanadu” follows the trail of Kublai Khan.  “For I have dined on honeydew, and drunk the milk of paradise!”  Neil Peart’s lyrics rarely go down typical roads, and “Xanadu” surely must be listed with Rush’s most cherished epics.  Volume swells of guitar soon break into new sections unfolding as the minutes tick by.

“Closer to the Heart” is the most commercial track, never dull, never getting old, never ceasing to amaze.  “Woah-oh!  You can be the captain and I will draw the chart!”  Poetry in motion.  “Closer to the Heart” may be the most timeless of all Rush songs.

“Cinderella Man” and “Madrigal” live in the shadow of “Closer to the Heart”, always there but not always remembered.  (Ironically enough, both these tracks were covered by other artists in the bonus tracks.)  “Madrigal” acts as a calm before the storm:  a cosmic tempest called “Cygnus X-1”.  Another great space epic by Rush cannot be quantified in language.  As it swirls around (even better in 5.1), you’re transported across the universe by the black hole Cygnus X-1.  Peart hammers away as Lifeson and Geddy riff you senseless.


The blacksmith and the artist,
Reflect it in their art,
They forge their creativity,
Closer to the heart,
Yes closer to the heart.

Next, Rush forged their creativity on the road.  They recorded their London show on February 20, 1978 at the Hammersmith Odeon.  Previously, 11 songs from this show were released as a bonus CD on the live Rush album Different Stages.  This newly mixed version adds intro music, the missing three songs and the drum solo.  (The missing songs were “Lakeside Park”, “Closer to the Heart”, and all 20 minutes of “2112”.)  Because this set has all the songs in the correct order, the old Different Stages version is obsolete.

Opening with “Bastille Day”, the London crowd is into the show from the start.  They cheer for the familiar “Lakeside Park”, which is followed by “By-Tor & the Snow Dog”.  This early Rush material is as squealy as Geddy has ever sounded.  He’s pretty shrill but Rush are tight.  It gets more adventurous when “Xanadu” begins, and from there into “A Farewell to Kings”.  Hearing Rush do all this live helps drive home just how talented they are.  The powerful set rarely lets up, as it relentlessly works its way through early Rush cornerstones.  “Working Man”, “Fly By Night” and “In the Mood” are played in quick succession, but is “2112” that is the real treasure here.  Anthems of the heart and anthems of the mind; classics all.


Philosophers and plowmen,
Each must know his part,
To sow a new mentality,
Closer to the heart,
Yes, closer to the heart.

What about bonus tracks?  You got ’em.  As they did for 2112, Rush invited guests to contribute bonus covers, and each does their part.  Headlining these are progressive metal heroes Dream Theater with their own version of “Xanadu”.  Dream Theater really don’t do anything small, so why not an 11 minute cover?  Mike Mangini is one of the few drummers who could do justice to such a song — well done!  Big Wreck do a surprisingly decent take on “Closer to the Heart”.  Not “surprisingly” because of Big Wreck, but “surprisingly” because you don’t associate Big Wreck with a sound like that.  Ian Thornley ads a little banjo and heavy guitars to “Wreck” it up a bit.  His guitar solo is shredder’s heaven.  The Trews’ take on “Cinderella Man” is pretty authentic.  Did you know singer Colin MacDonald could hit those high notes?  He does!  Alain Johannes goes last with “Madrigal”, rendering it as a somber tribute to the kings.

The last of the bonus tracks is a snippet of sound called “Cygnus X-2 Eh”.  This is an extended and isolated track of the ambient space sounds in “Cygnus X-1”.  Steven Wilson speculated it might have been intended for a longer version of the song.


Whoa-oh!
You can be the captain,
And I will draw the chart,
Sailing into destiny,
Closer to the heart.

Box sets like this always come with bonus goodies.  The three CDs are packaged in a standard digipack with extensive liner notes and photos.  Four 180 gram LPs are housed in an upsized version of this, with the same booklet in massive 12″ x 12″ glory.  The LP package alone is 3/4″ thick!

A reproduction of the 1977 tour program is here in full glossy glory.  This contains an essay called “A Condensed Rush Primer” by Neil.  Additionally, all three members have their own autobiographical essay and equipment breakdown.  Alex Lifeson’s is, not surprisingly, pretty funny.  Things like this make a tour program more valuable and as a bonus, this is a great addition to a box set.  Digging further, there are two prints of Hugh Syme pencil sketches.  These works in progress are interesting but it’s unlikely you’ll look at them often.  The turntable mat is also just a novelty.  Perhaps the goofiest inclusion is a little black bag containing a necklace with a Rush “king’s ring” attached to it.  Wear it to work next casual Friday!


Whatever edition of A Farewell to Kings you decide to own (the most logical is the simple 3 CD anniversary set), you can rest assured you are buying one of the finest early Rush albums.  If you have the wherewithall to own the super deluxe with 5.1 Steven Wilson mix, then let the photo gallery below tempt you.

4.5/5 stars

DVD REVIEW: 2010: The Year We Make Contact

Welcome back to the Week of Rockin’ Movies.  Each movie we take a look at this week will have a significant connection to rock music.  Today’s installment may surprise you. 

MONDAY:  House of 1000 Corpses (2003)
TUESDAY: The Devil’s Rejects (2005)

2010: The Year We Make Contact (1984)

Directed by Peter Hyams

 

Was there ever a film that needed a sequel less than 2001: A Space Odyssey? If any movie had ever defied sequel-making, it was the original 2001. It is impossible to talk about 2010 without mentioning Stanley Kubrick and the groundbreaking film that started it all. With that in mind, 2010 is still a great science fiction film, intelligent and exciting, while feeling light years away from the original.

Dr. Heywood Floyd (Roy Scheider) has taken the fall for the disasters that occurred aboard the Discovery back in 2001. The infallible supercomputer H.A.L. 9000 (Douglas Rain) did fail, four astronauts were murdered, and Dr. David Bowman (Keir Dullea) has disappeared (presumed dead). Nobody knows why, not even H.A.L.’s creator Dr. Chandra (Bob Balaban) . The Discovery is in a decaying orbit around Jupiter, and the Americans plan on sending a team there to find out just what happened. One problem:  the Russians will get there first. Floyd has been offered a ride on the Russian ship, the Alexei Leonov, to combine missions.

SCENE

You can do that now?

The premise itself shows us that the cinematic universe has changed. Politics were all but inconsequential in the first film, but here they form major plot points in the whole story.  The Soviets are still deep into a cold war with United States, but recent flare-ups threaten to go nuclear at any time. The President’s finger is hovering over the button. Amid this chaos, the Americans don’t want the Soviets to get to Dicovery first.

Heywood Floyd needs  Discovery and H.A.L. to find out what went wrong last time, with five lost lives on his hands. Along for the ride are Dr. Chandra to reactivate H.A.L., and Dr. Walter Curnow (John Lithgow), the man who built Discovery. The Russian crew, portrayed excellently by mostly Russian actors for authenticity, are distrustful of the Americans. Their commander, played by Helen Mirren, is also an officer of the Russian air force and finds her loyalties tested when Dr. Floyd tells her that the phantom of Dave Bowman has warned that they must leave Jupiter in just two days.

Is it a phantom or has David Bowman really returned?  Or at least something that once was Dr. Bowman? Keir Dullea, not looking a day older even though nearly 20 real-world years have passed, is eerie in his portrayal of Bowman.  He is clear that Jupiter’s orbit will no longer be safe, but offers no explanation other than, “Something is going to happen. Something wonderful.”

2010 BOOK SCAN2010: The Year We Make Contact was based on the Arthur C. Clarke novel 2010: Odyssey Two.  Left to his own devices and without Stanley Kubrick’s collaboration, Clarke’s story featured much more dialogue.  (The book also included entire chapters about a rival Chinese mission to Jupiter’s moon Europa, and David Bowman’s journey.)  Peter Hyams wisely chose not to try to copy Kubrick’s style for 2010, as that would have been pure folly.  The end result was a more accessible but less mind-altering film.  It is certainly less authentic (for example there is no sound in a vacuum) and less ground breaking.

In one of the more human scenes, look for the late Natasha Shneider of Queens Of The Stone Age and Eleven as the cosmonaut Irina.  Roy Scheider and Natasha Shneider have a memorable scene together that adds a lot of realism to the film.  Shneider was a sometimes-actress in the 1980’s while trying to get her music career off the ground.  When she formed Eleven with Jack Irons (ex-Red Hot Chili Peppers and future Pearl Jam drummer)  and her partner Alain Johannes, a little bit more recognition came her way.  Besides touring as a member of Queens of the Stone Age supporting Lullabies To Paralyze, she also featured heavily (writing and performing) on Chris Cornell’s solo debut album Euphoria Morning.  She died of cancer July 2, 2008 at age 52.  How sad that she never saw the year 2010 herself.

 

This film is a suitable sequel for this sci-fi fan. Such science as “aerobraking” is shown on screen, and the possibility of life on Europa is explored. And, finally, we get to see what life on Earth in 2010 actually looks like! (Not quite like the real thing turned out, sadly!)

In an effort to “explain” the mysteries of the original Odyssey, 2010 succeeds by leaving just enough to the imagination. The ancient monoliths and the beings behind them are never fully explained. There are questions left behind, thus far only explored in the pages of Clarke’s novels. (Tom Hanks once expressed interest in making a film version of 3001: Final Odyssey but that idea, thankfully, is dead.) This movie could have been a disaster in many ways, but fortunately was not. While nothing can ever equal or top 2001, or come even close to breaking the ground that it did, this film serves as a satisfying coda and it is good to watch them both together.

DVD contains a decent documentary called “2010: The Odyssey Continues”.

4/5 stars. If this were any other sci-fi film franchise, it would have been 5/5. But when comparing to the original, nothing could be equal to it.

1998 MG DVD release

1998 MGM DVD release

Roy Scheider as Dr. Heywood R. Floyd
John Lithgow as Dr. Walter Curnow
Helen Mirren as Tanya Kirbuk
Bob Balaban as Dr. R. Chandra
Keir Dullea as Dave Bowman
Douglas Rain as the voice of HAL 9000
Natasha Shneider as Irina Yakunina
Candice Bergen as the voice of SAL 9000 (credited as “Olga Mallsnerd”)