Alberta

REVIEW: Brocket 99 – Reservation Radio (1986)

BROCKET 99 – Reservation Radio (1986 comedy tape)

If you grew up in Canada in the 1980s, there is a chance you may have heard of Brocket 99.  This was an underground comedy tape that made the rounds in trading circles back in the day, and if you heard it, it was probably some lo-fi later generation copy.  Fair warning:  there are some out there who find Brocket 99 very offensive.  It’s a spoof of a native radio station on a reservation in Alberta, Canada.

The host of said radio station is “Ernie Scar”, played by creator Tim Hitchner, who also played most of the guests on the show.  Every other song that Ernie Scar plays is by AC/DC (sometimes two in a row), though the best tune is “Kaw-Liga” by Hank Williams Jr. The station ads usually involve alcohol in some way.  There are ads for Lysol spray (to get “ripped”) and Dr. Scholl’s foot powder (just put some in your moccasin).  Other contributors to the program include “Franklin Born With a Tooth”, and “Harley Squirrel Nuts”.

Obviously, in this country, the rights and well-being of native communities is a critical issue.  Teen suicides are only getting worse in native communities and their voices are not being heard.  I have long stood up for our native people, knowing full well their tragic history.  You may wonder, fairly so, how I can listen to this tape.  I believe the tape is clearly an over-the-top parody.  I don’t think it was created out of hate, though Hitchner had to remain anonymous for years until his death in 2011.  It seems more like a pastiche from somebody who’s familiar with these kinds of radio stations.  I’m sure a lot of this originated in Hitchner listening to reservation radio stations in his youth.  Radio people like Hitchner check out everything on the airwaves.  Much is just plain funny, regardless of the ethnic slant.  After “Kaw-Liga”, Ernie Scar proclaims “I fucking love that song”.  And now, thanks to Brocket 99, I do too.  One AC/DC track (guess which one) ends with Ernie advising to “Take your dink and sink it in the pink!”    Not everything is good, but some is.

Whatever your stance on this form of comedy tape may be, I remain torn.  Some is legitimately funny.  Instead of judging, I’ll leave this one up to you.

?/5 stars

REVIEW: White Wolf – Endangered Species (1986 Japanese CD)

wwesWHITE WOLF – Endangered Species (1986 BMG Japan)

With a name like White Wolf you’d almost expect this band to come from the forests of Northern Ontario or Quebec.  No so; they hail from provincial capital of Edmonton Alberta (pop: 800,000).  So we’ll forgive that the music video for “Shadows in the Night” (from 1984’s Standing Alone) made them looks like outdoors winter survivalists.  Long-haired sidekicks of Les Stroud?  No; they look much more indoors-y on Endangered Species, their second album before disbanding.  The album cover is notable for being a Hugh Syme work, though obviously a lesser one.

They earned some minor video play with “She”, indicating a more keyboardy direction than album #1.  Mushy sounding drums distract from the killer Don Wolf (Don Wilk) chorus.  Akin to Dokken’s “Breaking the Chains”, “She” will appeal to hard rockers who like melody with their guitars.  It’s all about that chorus though, the kind that makes you hit “repeat” and go right back to the start.

White Wolf has a weird 80s metal thud and that combined with harsh production values make Endangered Species sound terribly dated.  Techy keyboard flairs sound lifted from David Bryan’s Slippery When Wet sound library.  Anyone craving mid-tempo 80s hard rock will find enjoyable music on Endangered Species, but few songs have the same impact as “She”.  Dull verses, bland choruses and generic song titles keep things from sticking.  Sub-Jovi with none of Jon’s then-irresistible innocence is a narrow niche.

“Just Like an Arrow” comes close, but the keyboards weigh it down when it should be flying.  Too many bands (Quiet Riot, Stryper, etc.) really let the keys have too much space around this time.  “Cryin to the Wind” has an excellent acoustic intro but not enough of a song to go with it.  The drum samples are obtrusive because they don’t sound natural.  It sounds like a lot of time was taken in the studio but the technology wasn’t up to the task, and everything came out tinny and powerless.  “Holding Back” doesn’t have enough hooks.  “Snake Charmer” steals a title and a hook from Ritchie Blackmore, and appeals as a Rainbow-like understudy.  The only other track besides “She” and “Snake Charmer” that hits the spot is “One More Time”.

Not a terrible album, not a flaming turd…but not a winner either.

2/5 stars

REVIEW: Twisted Sister – Love Is For Suckers (1987)

Bought in 1997 at an unknown HMV store in Calgary Alberta, on import, for like $25.  For Aaron’s take on this CD, click here!

TS_0001TWISTED SISTER – Love Is For Suckers (1987 Atlantic, Spitfire reissue)

If the year was 1987, I would have given this CD 5/5 stars easily. When it came out in the summer of ’87 I was really into it. My best friend Bob and I used to play it all the time during that long hot summer, we had all the lyrics memorized. Unfortunately this album has not aged well, certainly not compared to their classic early albums.

One problem with the record is that it’s not actually by the band Twisted Sister! Even as a kid I wondered why people with names like “Reb Beach” or “Kip Winger” were listed in the credits. That’s because Love is For Suckers was written and recorded as the first Dee Snider solo album. Record company pressure forced Dee to release this as the next Twisted Sister album, even though no Twisted members appear on it (aside from new drummer Joey Franco). This only hastened the breakup of Twisted Sister in October of that year.

TS_0003

The album is produced by Beau Hill, a guy also known for Warrant and Winger albums (that’s why Reb and Kip are on here). Beau Hill is one of my least favourite metal producers of all time. He over-produces, uses too many samples, and glosses everything up. As such I find most of his albums pretty hard to listen to today. On Love is For Suckers, all the drums are samples and you sure can tell by that awkward gated sound, and identical snare hits.

Like when we used to climb the rope in gym class

As an 80’s glam metal album, the songs are not that bad. “Wake Up (The Sleeping Giant)” could have been a Twisted Sister song with its themes of rebellion and youth angst. “Hot Love”, the first single, was the song that got me to buy this album. A catchy pop-rocker with irrestible guitars courtesy of maestro Reb Beach, “Hot Love” was as commercial as it gets. Other standout songs included “Me And the Boys”, which was our theme song that summer. “I Want This Night (To Last Forever)” was a Van Hagar sounding pop-rocker with another great chorus. I think, if anything, Love is For Suckers sounds mostly like 5150-era Van Hagar, but with gang vocals and way more glossed up.

Love is For Suckers was reissued a while ago with 4 bonus tracks, demos from these sessions that fit right into the sound of the album. They’re just not as good. “Statuatory Date” for example suffers from extremely bad lyrics.  One of them, “If That’s What You Want” is an early version of an album song, in this case “Me And the Boys”.  Consider looking into these 4 bonus tracks when you’re choosing to purchase Love is For Suckers.

As an added little “insult to injury” following this album’s failure, producer Beau Hill took Dee Snider’s scream from one song, “I Want This Night (To Last Forever)”, and used it as the opening scream on Warrant’s smash hit album Cherry Pie.  Uncredited! I’m sure 99.9% of Warrant fans assume it’s Jani Lane.

If this album description sounds good to you, check it out. You may enjoy it as much as I did all those years ago.  For me, the years have not been kind.

2.5/5 stars

More TWISTED SISTER at mikeladano.com:

TWISTED SISTER – Live at the Marquee (2011 Rhino limited edition)
TWISTED SISTER – Stay Hungry (25th Anniversary Edition)
TWISTED SISTER – Under The Blade (1985 remix)
TWISTED SISTER – “We’re Not Gonna Take It” (1984 Atlantic single)

Part 245: Metal in my Ears

RECORD STORE TALES Part 245:  Metal in my Ears

and bonus “Shit LeBrain’s Dad Says”

Even though ear piercings on men at the record store were against our backwards “body piercing policy”, I thought for years about getting my ears pierced.  Thought about it, never really did anything about it.  This inaction went way back, even in highschool I just never got my ears pieced.  I came close on summer holidays after graduation.  Today, My Favourite Aunt still blames me for the day my cousin came home with his ear pierced.  It happened like this…

Bob, myself, cousin

Bob, myself, cousin – 1991

Summer holidays ’91, my cousin was visiting from Calgary, Alberta.  By coincidence, my friend Bob had decided to spend a few days at our cottage with the whole family, which was cool by me.   Bob was like family.  My cousin liked to be active.  He was never the type to sit quietly.  Or do anything quietly.

He kept telling us that wanted to get his ear pierced.  We decided, “Hey, why don’t we all drive into town, and the three of us get our ears pierced?”  We found a hair salon on Queen Street in Kincardine, Ontario called The Clan that did ears (gun-style).  Somehow, on the way there, Bob chickened out.  He said, “You know, I’m starting my new job next week.  I don’t think I want to go in there with an earring on my first day.”

“Are you…what are you saying?” I asked.

“I’m not getting it done.  You can get yours, but I can’t go to a new job like that.”  Bob was standing firm.

Feeling my backbone melt away, I said, “I’m not doing it either.”

“WHAT?!” Bob and my cousin both said in unison.  “You’re chickening out?”

“I’m not chickening out!” I protested.  “We all agreed to do it.  If Bob’s not doing it I don’t have to either.”

My resilient cousin said, “I’m still doing it.”  True to his word, he did.  The crap hit the fan when we got back to the cottage.  Why was he the only one with his ear pierced?  The questions came fast and furious.  I was accused of  “tricking him” and “suckering him in”.  But I didn’t trick anyone.

I simply chickened out.

I still thought about getting an ear piercing, on and off, but the point was moot since the record store did not allow piercings on men.  Obviously this policy couldn’t stand forever or they’d never be able to hire anybody.  Finally after much petitioning and complaining by many, the day came when they changed their policies regarding earrings on men.

I knew the only person who would still give me a hard time about an earring would be my dad.  Sometimes people would ask me, “Why don’t you get an ear piercing?” and I’d usually respond, “Because my dad’s retired and I don’t want to give him a heart attack.”

My friend Shannon promised to help me to soften the blow.  She accompanied me to Tora Tattoo in Waterloo, where the young lady there (Shelley) pierced both lobes with 10 gauge rings.  I was pretty happy with the results.  My dad was not.  Upon entering the house, his only words to me were:

“I sure hope those things come out!”

No dad, I had them solder them in.  Jesus Murphy!

REVIEW: White Wolf – Standing Alone

Bought in April at the Toronto Musical Collectibles Record & CD Sale.  Not listened to in full until October.  Backlog!

WHITE WOLF – Standing Alone (1984 RCA)

From Edmonton, Alberta, Canada came White Wolf.  The land that spawned the massive West Edmonton Mall also produced a hard rock band that combined old fashioned Canadian workmanship with prototypical 80’s rock and heavy metal.  Sharing common ground with bands like Scorpions, Dokken, and even Van Halen and Rainbow, White Wolf weren’t half bad.  The singer Don Wolf (Wilk) has enough power in his voice to raise the roof just enough to be an opening band in an arena.  They’re not quite headline quality, but I bet they were damn good openers.

Their debut album Standing Alone is best known for the single/video “Shadows in the Night”, still my favourite song from the band.  In fact I think it’s quite excellent.  The chugging riff, the excellent vocals and chorus, it has everything!  It even had a suitably cheesy and sexist music video, portraying the band as some sort of wilderness totem hero/villains.  Don’t worry, maybe it’s all a dream, or  just a hell of a bush party/concert?  Hell, I don’t know.

I friggin’ love fur hats! So warm!

Thankfully the album is more than just one song.  The track “Standing Alone” is a mid-tempo but ominous opener, a mournful song about (guess what) standing alone! (Like a wolf?  Layers!)  “Headlines” is uptempo, verging on Priest territory.  Both have plenty of guitar work to go around.  They are followed by “Shadows in the Night” and the seven minute plus “What the War Will Bring”.  This a pretty respectable shot at doing an epic.  Utilizing multiple vocalists and backing keyboards, it’s a tour-de-force suitable for closing side one of the album.

“Night Rider” begins with bad King-Kobra-esque vocal harmonies, but quickly gets into a dual guitar melody before it takes off.  This would be one of the weakest songs with one of those awful, cliche titles.  “Homeward Bound” is a fun song utilizing two lead vocalists, but that riff sure does sound familiar.  Although the guitar rips off “God of Thunder” by Kiss a little bit, this is one of the better songs.  I love the dual vocalist concept, and it’s a fun sleazy romp like 80’s Kiss.  “Metal Thunder” is a pretty poor song title, but a decent stomp through territory previously explored by the likes of Judas Priest.  “Trust Me” is the final song, clearly inspired by Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow.  All it needs is Ronnie James Dio shouting, “Danger! Danger!” and suddenly it’s “Kill the King”.

There’s a certain kind of Canadian mediocrity that exudes from bands like White Wolf and label-mates Thor.  This even extended to bands like Triumph and Helix, at various parts of their careers.  I don’t know what it is, but so many Canadian bands of this sub-genre just failed to explode into fully-fledged world-classic song writing and recording.  Maybe it’s touring in a little van during harsh Canadian winters, but I think I’ve made a valid observation.

All that being said, for the $7.00 I paid for this record, I have no regrets.  Standing Alone doesn’t overstay its welcome, nor does it fail to raise a smile any time I’ve played it.  I’m glad to finally have “Shadows in the Night”, and I’m pleased to induct songs like “Homeward Bound” into my collection for the first time.

3/5 stars

MOVIE REVIEW: FUBAR II (2010)

“Knowledge of non-knowledge is power. “  – Dean Murdoch

FUBAR II

FUBAR II (2010 Alliance, directed by Michael Dowse)

Most sequels aren’t worth owning.  Fubar II is.  Plus, it comes with a bonus disc: Fubar, the original complete film. This was a total surprise to me. I had no idea it was going to be in there. I’m a little bummed that I bought the original film on blu shortly before this.  I gifted it to my buddy Cliff at work who also adores the exploits of Terry and Deaner.

Synopsis:  5 years after surgery, Deaner is celebrating these years of good health. Even though an eviction is looming, he and Terry have no real worries.  During a drunken house-trashing party, Tron tells them they have jobs waiting in Fort McMurray. Terry and Dean pack up their meager belongings and head to work in the oilsands.

As with the first Fubar, tragedy must eventually strike. Terry and Dean come to blows over a girl, Trish, who Terry has moved in with. Dean gets some bad news, and Terry gets even more unexpected news from Trish. For a while, Fubar II becomes much darker than the first film.

Unbelievably, a stroke of scripting genius turns Dean’s tragedy into triumph. This ending was as satisfactory as it gets. I ended Fubar II with a huge smile on my face. This sequel does something very unusual: it is funnier than the original, it has more emotion than the original, yet it doesn’t copy it. I have to say this is one of the best sequels I’ve seen.

The footage of the oilsands is really cool.  It looks like a cross between Vegas and the Mustafar system – a whole other planet. One thing about this movie, you can tell it had a budget this time, compared to the original. There are some really nice looking shots, and the movie itself looks great. The graininess has been replaced by slick production. The documentary style has been mostly dropped in favour of more traditional storytelling, although a few interview segments are scattered within.

For music geeks, Justin Hawkins of The Darkness has a vocal cameo near the end.  You’ll know it when you hear it!  The movie also features excellent tunage by Ronnie James Dio & Black Sabbath, The Gun, and Dean’s own classic “Whale Hunter”.

I mentioned the bonus disc with the entire original film, bonus features intact.   Other special bonuses in this set include a ton of deleted scenes. While some were overly long and you can seen why they were edited or pared down, others add to the story and comedy. There were several regarding Dean’s illness that might have worked well in the movie. One, “Mixing Meats,” was a shorty that just had me howling. Also, like the original film, this one comes with a commentary from Michael Dowse and others. Better though will be the in-character commentary by Terry and Dean. This was a real treat on the original film, and I’m sure this one will be too. I’ll have to check that out on next viewing.

Pick this up. Just give’r.

5/5 stars

REVIEW: Bidiniband – The Land is Wild

Part 2 of the Aaron Challenge:  He has challenged me to get out of my comfort zone.  Together, we will be reviewing some of the albums he bought in Toronto during Record Store Excursion 2012.  I’ve never heard any of these albums before, in fact I know almost nothing about most of these bands.  This time, I’m going into it at least knowing the Dave Bidini was in the Rheostatics!

Aaron paid $7.99 for each of these discs, at Sonic Boom Music.

Check out his thoughts on the exact same album right here!

For a cool interview with Bidini himself, check out my buddy Patrick Finch’s article right here!

the land is wild

BIDINIBAND – The Land is Wild

Last time, I took a look at In the Rock Hall, without knowing a thing about Dave Bidini.  Now, I’m a little more prepared.  And it just so happens that The Land is Wild is a very different kind of album, much catchier and more immediate.

Album opener, “Desert Island Poem”, is a beautiful acoustic guitar/piano tune with clever lyrics:  “Rheostatics eat their drummer,” and “Martin ran out of the van,” and then references to the incredible Drumheller Alberta, one of my favourite places in the world.  But lyrics aside, melodically and instrumentally this is just a great song.

Some more beautiful acoustics open track #2, “Memorial Day”.  It features one of my favourite instruments, under utilized in rock music: the clarinet.  It’s a slow mournful number juxtaposed with that playful clarinet.  This being Dave Bidini though, of course it takes a twist.  At 3 minutes it becomes more electric and distorted, but without losing direction.

“We Like To Rock” is a gleeful number with some catchy electric guitar licks.  It’s a melodic winner, I like this song a lot.  “This is how we like to live!  This is why we’ll never stop!  This is how we like to live, it’s how we like to rock!”  And how do they like to rock?  Not in any generic way, that is for sure.  This song is unique as any Bidini I have heard thus far, yet it’s a bit more straightforward and to the point.

The next song, “Take A Wild Ride” isn’t even a minute long and it strikes me as something jokey.  But fear not, for “Terrorize Me Now” is next, with an unforgettable chorus and a reference to both Malcolm and Roddy McDowell!  It’s just as playful as all the previous songs, with some intricate guitar parts and lush backing vocals.   I would have liked to have found the lyrics to this song online; no such luck though.

A longer song is up next, the title track, over six minutes, and little more along the lines of what I grew to expect from the last Bidini album I heard, In the Rock Hall.  It’s a bit more challenging, with some atonal guitar feedback, atypical drum beats, and different sections.  Good stuff.

“Last Good Cigarette” is a song I can’t relate to, lyrically, never having smoked one in my life.  Musically though, this is another nice acoustic number, with plenty of intricate guitar parts hanging around in the mix to grab my attention.   It’s over too soon though, and then we’re into the next one, “Song Ain’t Any Good”.  This is a funny self-deprecating number:

This song ain’t any good,
It’s not quiet, it’s not loud,
Its lyrics are warm and tepid,
Of them I’m not very proud.
This song ain’t any good,
You prob’ly heard these chords before,
Its melody is dry and chalky,
The words are lonely cold and boring.

He’s wrong though.  This song is great!

Then comes the 8 minute epic, “How Zeke Roberts Died”.  I had to look up who Zeke Roberts was (an old NFL player apparently, but I can’t figure out the lyrical connection).   This is a cool folk rock tune with several people taking lead vocals.  I love songs with multiple lead vocalists and this is a great one.  Awesome tune.

After such an epic, the playful “Pornography” came as a surprise.  It begins with a programmed drum beat and another humourous lyric.  For better or for worse, you’ll be walking around the house singing “Pornography, pornography…” after playing the album.  Be forewarned!  Ironically the song seems to be more about George W Bush than pornography!

“The Continuing Story Of Canadiana And Canadiandy” has more of that tasty guitar pickin’ that I love.  And of course, it also has more of those humourous lyrical acrobatics.  Another gleeful winner.  The guitar work is insane.

And then, the end:  “The Ballad of 1969” is an 8 minute epic, so the Bidiniband is not leaving you without filling your head with rock.  Delicate drums and electric guitars introduce the piece.  Eventually this morphs into surf rock “ooh ooh oohs” and riffing, but like many Bidini tracks it has multiple sections.  These songs have to be a bitch to play live!

But wait!  A hidden track about Tim Horton’s emerges?  And then…”Chad Kroeger, Chad Kroeger, you’re killing us now.”  Amen brother!  (This track is apparently called “The List”.)

This album is a hell of a lot more immediate than In the Rock Hall, but yet maintains the challenging arrangements and clever, tongue-in-cheek lyrics.  Strongly recommended.

4/5 stars

MIKE AND AARON GO TO TORONTO