Amazon

#701: Amazon You Bastards

A big shout out to Derek Deke for bein’ around.

GETTING MORE TALE #701: Amazon You Bastards

This is the story of how 18 cents cost me $21.63.

I’m always on the lookout for cheap Star Wars figures.  I collect the 6″Black Series exclusively.  I keep my core collection sealed, but any time I can buy a double for cheap, I go for it.  May as well have an open one for play display.

The other night I was bored and browsing Amazon, as you do.  I noticed they had a couple Black Series figs for under $20 — usually a guaranteed threshold for buying a double.  I picked up Lando (Billy Dee Williams version) for $12.46 for my sister last week.   This week I noticed Liam Neeson, err, Qui-Gon Jinn, for $12.08.  After consulting my sister I decided to pull the trigger.  Qui-Gon isn’t the best character and for a Jedi he is pretty bland, but I like the little toy lightsabers.  He also comes with an extra hand that you can swap out to give him a Force-push kind of pose.

(I like the ability to easily swap out hands.  Dr. Kathryn does not.  Look for a future story on this called “Extra Hands”.)

“Go for it!” advised Dr. Kathryn and so I looked for something else to qualify for free shipping.  I went to my wishlist and remembered Tommy Shaw’s Girls With Guns album.  I’ve loved the title track for eons, but the CD was always somewhat rare.  In fact it ended up on a very primitive version of the old Holy Grail list.  It turns out that the quality label Beat Goes On Records has done a reissue along with the album What If in a single package.  I recently picked up BGO’s reissue of Styx’s Caught In The Act – Live and I was very happy with the audio and packaging.  I added Girls With Guns / What If to my cart at the price of $22.74, a solid buy.

Total:  $34.82.  A measly 18 cents short of free shipping.

Well, fuck!

There was only one copy of Tommy Shaw left in stock.  I wanted to keep it in the cart.  Only one thing to do.  Add another item to the cart to get free shipping.

I browsed and browsed a bit more.  Lots of Black Series figures under $20 (mostly from Rogue One), but I had doubles already.  There were a few just over $20 and ultimately I decided to buy a second Imperial Range Trooper at $21.63, far exceeding the cost of the original Qui-Gon figure that set me off on this particular shopping quest.  And here’s the kicker!  At first I decided I didn’t want to get any figures from Solo.  There are so many Black Series characters now that I had to draw a line somewhere.  But I broke when some of the new figures turned out so good, and Range Trooper is one of them.  He’ll be joining the rest of my opened Imperial troopers soon.

But:  Fuck you, Amazon!  I bet you have banks of computers spitting out algorithms to keep me just under the $35 minimum for free shipping!  Weird prices like $12.08…you think you’re getting a deal but then you buy three fuckin’ things!

I’m on to you, Amazon….

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That’s dedication, pal!

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I’m hard at work on my next series of reviews:  King’s X.  How hard, you ask?   I have eight instalments completed, with plenty more to do.  In fact just to make sure I do an extra, extra good job, I ordered two albums I was missing:  Black Like Sunday and Ogre Tones.  That’s right.  I spent money on two more CDs, just so I could do a more complete series.  That’s dedication, pal!  I must like you all, or something.

Amazon delivered these two discs free of charge.  Way to go, Amazon.

Then, like a bolt right out of the blue, look what arrived from CD Japan?

That’s right.  New Queensrÿche, Condition Hüman baby! Waiting for the Japanese release always sucks, but I have it now. Bonus track: “Espiritu Muerto”.  Also in the parcel, one re-buy: Def Leppard’s live album Mirrorball, with bonus track:  a “different version” of “Kings of the World”.

Yes, I do work hard, but it’s all for the love of rock and roll.  And you!

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#331: Where Do You Buy Your Music?

BUYING MUSIC

RECORD STORE TALES Mk II: Getting More Tale

#331: Where Do You Buy Your Music?

Where do you buy music?  I put together an informal survey of where my music has come from over the last 12 months.

DISCOGS – What a great way to fill up on old 12” and 7” singles that I am missing.  Not a great way to fill up on uber-rarities.  For example, I cannot pay $63 for Tenacious D’s Jazz EP which has only one track.  I cannot pay $58 for Iron Maiden’s “Virus” single on 12” vinyl which has two rare Soundhouse Tapes on the B-side.

AMAZON – The lion’s share of my music comes from here.  Whether it be a new release or a reissue of something in a deluxe format, Amazon is my go-to store.  The prices are fair and the shipping is free for all orders over $25, which is all my orders anyway.  Also great for gift-giving when your family has created their own Amazon wishlists.  And if you don’t want to buy new titles, Amazon has plenty of marketplace sellers who deal in affordable, good condition used CDs.  You just have to check out their ratings, like you would on eBay.

ENCORE RECORDS – The newly relocated Mecca of music shopping in Kitchener.  It was even better when Encore was located just around the corner from the great comic book store, Looking For Heroes.  Then I could kill two birds with one stone (or as Ricky might say, get two birds stoned at once).  Their selection of new and used is awesome.  Any deluxe reissues that I don’t get from Amazon can easily be found there.  T-shirts, oddball releases, singles…this is the place to go in the area.  At least, this is where I go!

CD JAPAN – I’ve been buying on and off from CD Japan for over a decade, but only in the last year have I really gone hogwild.  (Thanks, Mitch.)  When I can find Japanese versions of albums with bonus tracks for only a little more than the domestic versions, I’m in.  These guys have never let me down.  I’ve bought about a dozen discs from them in the last 12 months, none of which I would have been able to buy affordably anywhere else that I shop.  My biggest score ever was my recent Thin Lizzy At The BBC box set.  CD Japan price, brand new?  $140.  Discogs price, for US issue?  $322.

SUNRISE – Now closed at Fairview mall.  Too bad.  I used to buy a lot of stuff there.  They had great sale items.  I stocked up on Zappa reissues there for $9 each!

ITUNES – For exclusives only.  I will never buy anything on iTunes that can be had physically.  This year I purchased Mitch Lafon’s A World With Heroes EP on iTunes, and the odd bonus track here and there.  That’s it.  iTunes can fuck off otherwise.

TARANNA – Aaron and I do our annual Toronto trip and end up with many treasures every time!  See our videos for more details.  Also included here is the Toronto record show I attend each April.

And of course, sometimes you just have to buy music directly from the artist. Artists such as Lee Aaron and Helix have earned my dollars via their own websites this year.


Then, there are places I haven’t bought anything from this past year.  Walmart, Best Buy…there’s no point, really.  Others include:

EBAY – I have bought no music from eBay in over two years.  When I’m looking for uber-rarities, this is a very expensive way to get them.  A last resort only.

My old store – Although Aaron finds stuff he wants there all the time, I haven’t had any luck in the last 12 months.  However that is simply because I have so many CDs.  It’s not due to the quality of that store.  They are excellent at selling good condition used items.  I just haven’t found much this year.  I’m sure I will again.  I’m just very picky about which versions of items I want, and if I don’t find the exact version I just want to keep looking.  I still recommend my old store to anyone looking for cheap, good quality used CDs.

Regardless of where I obtain my music, one thing is certain:  The collection keeps growing, and growing, and growing.  I am confident with 100% certainty that it will continue to grow, thanks to the fine vendors listed here!

Part 204: An Introduction to sHEAVY

sHEAVY_0002

Back then in the olden days, you were actually expected to type that whole url into your browser!

RECORD STORE TALES Part 204:  An Introduction to sHEAVY

MARCH, 2000.  Saturday night.  One of our store owners was throwing a house party.  Tom, being the usual musical selector at parties, put a cassette on for me.  He rewound to the beginning and hit “play”.

“Mike,” he said, wild-eyed with excitement.  “One of my customers gave me this tape.  It’s the new Ozzy.  It’s not out yet.  This is a bootleg copy.”

This intense, guitar heavy distortion faded in.  The voice, also distorted and processed, was a dead ringer for a young Ozzy!

“Ozzy’s singing great, isn’t he?” Tom inquired mischievously.

“That’s not Zakk Wylde on guitar,” I retorted.  “I’d know if it was Zakk, and that guy’s not Zakk.”

Tom faltered.  “That’s, uhhh, the new guy.”

I called bullshit.  “This isn’t Ozzy.  It sounds a hell of a lot like early Sabbath, and it’s really good, but it’s not Ozzy.”

“Fuck!” Tom spat out.  “I can’t believe you got it so fast.  When I heard it, I truly thought it was new Ozzy at first.  At least the way the new Ozzy should be, you know what I mean?  Hear all that fuckin’ Sabbath going on there?”

I did indeed hear all the Sabbath going on.  In fact, of all the bands that people hyped to me as being “Sabbath-y”, this band came closest.

The band is from St John’s, Canada, and they are called Sheavy.  They kicked serious ass.  The album we were listening to was 1998’s The Electric Sleep.  The song:  “Virtual Machine”.  Often found on many bit torrent sites as a “lost” Black Sabbath reunion song.  It is not.  It is Sheavy, and that’s how close they nail the vintage Black Sabbath sound.

sHEAVY_0003The singer is a fellow named Steve Hennessey, and according to the CD booklet, he once had an audition with Tony Iommi and Black Sabbath’s then-producer, Bob Marlette!  What could that have been for?  An Iommi solo album, or Sabbath itself?  The CD doesn’t reveal.  “Special thanks to Tony Iommi, Bob Marlette, Ralph Baker and Paul Loasby for the audition and an experience I will never forget,” is all it says!  He nails every inflection that Ozzy used to do, it’s that uncanny.

I marveled at the music, and decided to buy it the next day.  I ordered it from Amazon along with Jalamanta, the first solo album from then-Fu Manchu drummer Brant Bjork.  (Even though I worked in a record store, there was no point in trying to order obscurities like these through our supplier.)  When they arrived, I was blown away by both.  I occasionally brought Sheavy to the store to play at work, and many people asked if this was the new Sabbath or the new Ozzy.  “Nope,” I’d say.  “This is a band from Newfoundland and Labrador called Sheavy.  They’re awesome.”

Unfortunately for a Canadian band, their albums were really hard to find!  A little while later, I picked up the next album, Celestial Hi-Fi, on Japanese import, from HMV.  The bonus track “Nine December” is an asskicker that made it worth the extra cash.  They’re just an awesome band, and they grew past the Sabbath-clone tag after a couple albums.  Unfortunately, toiling away in relative obscurity for almost 20 years has taken its toll, and the band’s future is uncertain.  For that reason I’m grateful they’ve left many great albums behind.

Tomorrow, we’ll look at The Electric Sleep in a detailed review.  Check back soon.