Best of Volume I

#601: Rob, Jedi Master of Rock

GETTING MORE TALE #601: Rob, Jedi Master of Rock

I like to describe some of my older friends who passed on their rock knowledge to me as “Jedi masters”.  The first “Jedi masters” of rock in my life were neighbors Bob and George, who got me started.  I taped a lot of albums off those two guys until I no longer needed their guidance.  I built a killer collection, but at Laurier University I met my next Jedi master.

His name was Rob, and he has appeared in these pages before.  Rob was the star of Record Store Tales Part 32:  Pranks.  He’s always been a little bit of a prankster.  At school, he was an assistant in the Philosophy department.  He told me about a prank involving a $100 bill being taped to a classroom ceiling, and observing the confused expressions.  He liked to prank me in the Record Store too.  In addition to the Deep Purple joke from Part 32, he also liked to sneakily move discs all over the store.  He enjoyed watching me try and figure out what was changed.  He kept everything in plain sight, just the wrong spots.  Rob was good for a laugh.  He actually went to highschool with the store owner; they are the same age.  And don’t worry, Rob didn’t leave without making sure I got all the discs back where they belonged.

I went to the same highschool as those guys, though I was a bit younger.  Rob and I had some mutual friends (like Bob), but we didn’t actually meet until University.  I recognized him from a Whitesnake highschool air band.  Rob played David Coverdale in 1987, but he refused to do a popular Whitesnake tune.  Instead he did “Slow An’ Easy” from 1984’s Slide It In, which nobody else at school knew…except me.  Rob was disqualified, for doing some very authentic mic stand moves a-la David Coverdale…perhaps a bit too authentic.  The school wasn’t impressed when Rob seemed to use the mic stand as a giant phallus, but that’s Coverdale for you.  That’s as authentic as a Whitesnake air band could get.  He may have been disqualified but he did make it into the yearbook.

Rob’s Jedi teachings involved Whitesnake and Coverdale’s previous band, Deep Purple.  We covered the whole family tree from Rainbow to Glenn Hughes and Trapeze.  He educated me on the labyrinthine Purple back catalogue.  Well before all their rarities were reissued on CD, he recorded songs for me.  Whitesnake’s rarities “Need Your Love So Bad”, “You’re Gonna Break My Heart Again”, and “Looking For Love” were among them.  He also recorded a couple rare Deep Purple albums – Power House, and The Anthology (not to be confused with the unrelated CD Anthology), with loads of songs you couldn’t find on CD.  It was years before these tracks were reissued officially, but I was already familiar with great Deep Purple tunes like “Painted Horse” when they were.

He and I were in touch on and off over the years.  I remember a memorable dinner at East Side Marios, when he confused the server by orderings two entrées.  He finished one, enjoyed it, and was still hungry so he ordered another.  That really seemed to confuse her.  Rob also had no use for social pleasantries.  He hated when people would ask, “How are you?” when he knew it was just something to say and they didn’t actually want to know.  The socially acceptable answer would be “I’m good, and you?”  Rob’s answer would be “my psoriasis is flaring up”.  I always liked that about him.  No bullshit.

I lost track of Rob about five years ago, shortly after I launched Record Store Tales. But he’s still around.  My buddy Craig over at 105.7 DaveRocks received a mysterious email from a listener, and it could only have come from Rob.

 

Hey Craig,
I heard LeBrain’s name mentioned today and I wondered whether he could answer that one impossible Van Halen question: when is Van Halen Best Of Volume II going to be released? He couldn’t answer that question back in the [Record Store] days.

 

Ah yes, the mysterious Van Halen Best Of Volume II that never materialized.  Rob remembered!  In 1996 when Volume I was released, one of my most hated customer questions was “When is Volume II coming out?”

The frequency of that question drove me nuts.  Hey, I get it.  Volume I didn’t have your favourite song(s).  But Van Halen had a lot of publicity in 1996 due to the aborted reunion with David Lee Roth.  It was common knowledge that they were working on a new album with Gary Cherone.  Why did so many people assume their next release would be Volume II?  Probably because they’d rather buy that than something new.  After getting that question over and over and over and over, I began answering “In 18 years.”  Customers would be baffled.  Why 18 years?  Because that’s how long it took them to put out Volume I.  I was wrong though.  More than 18 years have passed and Volume II is never coming.

I understand why Van Halen wanted to call their best of “Volume I”.  It was to make clear that the band was not done; that this was only the first, and they had no plans on quitting.  Unfortunately the message that fans heard from that title was “Volume I is half of a whole”.  Naming it Volume I was a bad move.  People were far more interested in the mythical Volume II than anything new by Van Halen.

It’s funny how something like that can jog a million memories.  Rob’s email to Craig concluded:

 

If you have time for a request can you play Blue Rodeo’s “Lost Together” and dedicate it to LeBrain? Let’s see whether it will jar any memories.

 

You got me there.  I played Blue Rodeo in store a lot, including that song, but no other memories are jarred.  Sorry Rob!  I’ll have to email him and find out what the story was!*

Nice to hear from the old Jedi masters again.  I hope you’re doing well Rob, and I don’t say that just out of social obligation!

 

 

 

* Update:  I contacted Rob and found out.  His memory is incredible.  “I recall you mentioned some of the difficulties you had with [an ex-girlfriend] in relation to communicating with one another. You listened to Blue Rodeo’s song ‘Lost Together’ as a way of making sense of that relationship during that particular time.”

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#367: Greatest Hits 2

lebrainsgreatest2

RECORD STORE TALES MkII: Getting More Tale
#367: Greatest Hits 2
A sequel to #364: Greatest Hits

The last time we talked about greatest hits albums, I listed seven reasons that die-hard fans usually shun them.  Readers came up with some of their own, and also arguments to defend greatest hits albums.  I usually advise fans to buy key studio albums rather than compilations, depending on the person.  Yet I still own a few hundred greatest hits albums. There have to be good reasons.

And what about you?  How many do you own?  What are your favourites?  Why did you buy them?  I asked myself those three questions too.  #1. I don’t know.  #2. There are many, but Double Platinum and Killers by Kiss are up there.  #3.  Let’s talk about that in depth…I broke it down into seven points:

KENNY_00011. There are some artists that I barely know. Neil Diamond or Kenny Rogers, for example.  There might be a handful of songs I like, but not enough that I have heard to take the plunge and buy an actual album. Or, I know it’s an artist that I don’t want many albums from.  I have a feeling that I only want one or two CDs, so one of them is usually a greatest hits.  I collect a lot of music, but I can’t collect everybody. Sometimes I’ve done the research to know that I need one or two CDs and nothing more.

2. Exclusive tracks are often dangled as bait. But sometimes greatest hits albums are stuffed with exclusive radio edits and remixes that aren’t obviously credited. Kiss’ Double Platinum is one such album. Aerosmith’s Greatest Hits had a number of special edits of songs. Collectors like myself often look for such versions. They make for an enjoyable way to hear a familiar song with a slightly different slant.

SAM_17443. Artwork. Younger folks might not understand why this matters, but I come from the age of physical product. With some bands, you don’t want just the music. You want all the album covers too; they are sometimes as important as any other aspect of the music. Iron Maiden is the first, obvious example. I own several Iron Maiden greatest hits discs simply because I wanted to own all the Eddies. There is a certain satisfaction in viewing them all lined up in order.

4. Historical importance. Some greatest hits albums are just historically important. Best of Van Halen Volume I for example – even if I didn’t buy it for the two new songs, I would have wanted it for the significant role it played in breaking up Van Hagar! You might want to own Their Greatest Hits by the Eagles for the fact it’s the top selling hits album of all time.

5. Sometimes, I actually do listen to greatest hits! Sure, not often by comparison. But if I’m in the car with the Mrs., she might prefer a Deep Purple greatest hits set to a 5 disc version of Made in Japan. I own ‘em, so if they’re good I may as well play ‘em. Also, If I’m going somewhere and I only have an hour or so to listen to music, a greatest hits album often scratches whatever itch I have.

6. Gateway music. My entrance into the world of Thin Lizzy was one CD (Dedication: The Very Best of).

DEDICATIONThat point is the most important one.  Using a greatest hits album to delve further in the discography is such an excellent experience.  My first two Deep Purple’s were greatest hits.  Now my Purple collection is of a prodigious size.  I don’t even know how many I have.  100 maybe?  More?  And it keeps growing!

My first Floyd? Echoes: The Best of Pink Floyd.  My first Rush?  Chronicles.  First ZZ Top? Greatest Hits.  See where I’m going with this?  These are bands that, today, I am still collecting.  I still buy whatever’s coming out.  Which brings me to my last point.

7. Personal history.  I’ve developed a relationship with some of those greatest hits albums over the years, even if they have been superseded by better ones.  Something about the familiarity, I suppose.  But even though all my first greatest hits albums were on cassette, I still went and bought CD copies of them all.  In some cases, vinyl too!

What are your favourites?  Does it bother you to own multiple copies of the same songs?  If your favourite band came out with a greatest hits album tomorrow, would you consider buying it?  Let me know!

 

REVIEW: Van Halen – Best Of Volume I (1996)

I will be live on the Craig Fee Show on 107.5 Dave FM this afternoon 12/01/14, around 5:20 pm Ontario time, to discuss one of the tracks included on this album. Listen live by clicking right here to stream!

EDIT – Show went great!  Thanks for listening!

This review is a companion piece to my previous “Van Halen (Not Van Hagar!)” series of reviews:
Part 1: The Early Years (Zero – 1977) VH_0003
Part 2:
On Fire (Van Halen – 1978)
Part 3: Somebody Get Me A Doctor (Van Halen II – 1979)
Part 4: Everybody Wants Some!! (Women and Children First – 1980)
Part 5: Push Comes to Shove (Fair Warning – 1981)
Part 6: Intruder (Diver Down – 1982)
Part 7: House of Pain (1984 – 1984)
Coda: Can’t Get This Stuff No More & Me Wise Magic (1996 singles)

VH BEST OF V1_0001VAN HALEN – Best Of Volume I (1996 Warner)

Van Halen’s first “greatest hits” compilation was historic in its fallout.  The band had talked for years about putting out a “best of” set, with one disc of Dave and one disc of Sammy.  That never happened but the concept continued to be discussed in the Van Halen camp, with Sammy Hagar adamantly against it.  When Hagar’s friend and Van Halen’s manager Ed Lefler passed away, he was replaced by Canadian Ray Danniels, who was also handling Rush, Extreme, and King’s X. Hagar and Danniels never quite saw eye to eye and when push came to shove, Hagar refused to participate in the recording of new music for the compilation.  The Van Halen camp considered this to be highly hypocritical of Sammy, since he had done just that for his own solo “greatest hits” CD, Unboxed (1994).  All of this led to a tense telephone standoff with Eddie Van Halen himself, the revelation that Ed had already started working on new songs with former singer David Lee Roth, and Hagar quitting the band.  (On top of all that, and unbeknownst to Hagar or Roth, was that was Van Halen were also eyeballing Gary Cherone, who Ray Danniels brought in from one of his other bands, Extreme. They had even recorded some test tracks with Mitch Malloy who ultimately turned the gig down.)

When Best Of Volume I was finally released in fall of 1996, there was so much confusion in the air that many fans really had no idea who was in Van Halen or what the hell was going on.   At the Record Store, I had one guy come in and return this on the day of release, October 22, 1996.

“Yeah, I want to return this CD,” he said.  “I already have these songs.”

What?!  You couldn’t tell that from the title Best Of Volume I?

That’s indicative of the confusion in fandom.  This guy had assumed, like many people, that Van Halen had a brand new album of songs out with David Lee Roth singing.

VH BEST OF V1_0004Another common urban myth was that there was such a thing as Best Of Volume II.  People would constantly ask if we had it, when it was coming out, and sometimes even insist they had seen it before in stores.  When asked when Best Of Volume II was coming out again and again, I started answering “18 years”, because that’s how long it took for them to come out with Volume I.

T-Rev wrote up a quickie review for our store newsletter.  He praised the remastering job, but bemoaned that only one song was included from Van Halen II, and that there wasn’t enough Dave in general.  I would agree.  At the very least, a song like “Can’t Stop Loving You” should have been ditched for something else like “Everybody Wants Some!!”  However, to put this into context, in 1996 that was one of Van Halen’s most recent hit singles, just over a year old.   The rest of the album takes tracks from each studio record (sans Diver Down which Eddie doesn’t speak too highly of). The most notable omissions were “Hot For Teacher” (only available on the Japanese release of Best Of) and “Love Walks In” (which I can do without). Presumably there would have been more tracks on a Volume II, which never materialized.  (18 years my arse!)

To me, the hits part of this disc is just preamble. The reason fans went out and bought this CD was the return of David Lee Roth on the two new singles. Nobody cared about the hits they already had.  Indeed, as implied by T-Rev’s review, most of us didn’t really agree with most of the hits selected.

They stuck “Can’t Get This Stuff No More” and “Me Wise Magic”, the first new songs by the original Van Halen in over a decade, at the tail end of the CD.  As fans, we were elated to hear new music that clearly hearkened back to the pre-synth, pre-1984 sound of Van Halen. Dave’s voice was lower and less powerful, but no less expressive.  His delivery is pure gleeful Dave, even on these darker songs. His lyrics (which according to Roth, Eddie didn’t like) are as Diamond Dave as ever.  As far as guitar goes, Eddie’s letting it, basing both songs purely on riffage. This was a pretty cool about-face from the too-commercial sounds of Balance.

Neither song was really single-worthy, but they would have made solid album cuts, had this incarnation of Van Halen continued to make an album.  Of course, that didn’t happen.  Best Of Volume I is, thus far, the only place you can buy them.  And that means if you love original Van Halen, you need to buy this album.

For Van Hagar fans, there was the excellent newbie “Humans Being”, with its angry modern verses and bright shiny chorus.  I’ve always liked the song, because of the chorus and Eddie’s guitar.  The verses, not so much, but as a song it holds together as something different for Van Halen.  In some ways it pointed the way forward to Van Halen 3.  This is the only ‘Halen album where you can get “Humans Being”, saving you from having to buy the terrible Twister soundtrack.

(Missing is a track called “Respect The Wind” billed by Eddie & Alex Van Halen from the same soundtrack.  It’s not really that good, and it’s not billed as Van Halen the band, so seek as per your own needs.  Presumably, “Respect the Wind” was from the batch of music that they were working on while Sammy refused to record.  See KeepsMeAlive for a review of the Twister soundtrack CD.)

VH BEST OF V1_0003

Roth mentioned in his autobiography Crazy From the Heat that he hated the cover art and booklet for this.  It looked devoid and sucked dry of all life.  I would agree.  A music video was planned but nixed.  The concept was the trio of Michael Anthony and Eddie & Alex Van Halen playing on a stage, with a big screen behind them of Dave singing.  Insulted, Roth refused to do it.

Of interest, if you’re lucky enough to own a first pressing of this CD, you might have a mini-rarity.  There was a version with an error on it.  You may own a very rare alternate mix of “Runnin’ With the Devil”, released by mistake, where the verses, chorus and solos were arranged in a different order than that of the originally released album version. Take a listen and see if you’re one of the few.  That version was quickly discontinued and corrected.*

3.5/5 stars. Despite the brevity, this album doesn’t overstay the party.


*My friend at 107.5 Dave FM, Craig Fee, had this to add about the “error” mix of “Runnin’ With the Devil”:

You just solved a huge mystery for me. Something that has been bugging me for YEARS.

When I first moved here, I was listening to Dave FM one day. I heard this fucked up version of “Runnin’ With The Devil” with the “whoooooo whooooooo” part at the end edited out. I mentioned it, but Darryl didn’t do anything about it. 5 years later, we are still playing this version. It sounded like a bad edit made by an overzealous producer who was trying to do something to the song.

Until this post, I had no idea why somebody would butcher the song like that. Now I know why. The majority of the big ‘hits’ were dubbed from that CD.

I have the version I bought the day it was released. I listened to it twice. I have no idea if it’s the edited version.

Craig advised me to load both versions (Best Of and Van Halen I) into Audacity and sync them.  I did and I could see right away visually that they did not match up.  I hit “play” and everything was synced until around 1:15.  Then, as Craig puts it, “all hell breaks loose” and the two versions completely deviate.    So apparently I do have both.

RUNNING WITH THE DEVIL WAVEFORM COMPARISON

 

The only modification I made to the tracks was to reduce the version from Van Halen in volume by 7%, so they were roughly the same.

More VH:

VAN HALEN – 3 (Collectors’ tin 1998)
VAN HALEN – 5150 (1986 Warner Bros.)
VAN HALEN – A Different Kind of Truth (2012)
VAN HALEN – Balance (1995 Warner – Japanese version included)
VAN HALEN – “Best of Both Worlds” (1986 Warner 7″ single)
VAN HALEN – The Best of Both Worlds (2005 Warner)
VAN HALEN – “Can’t Stop Loving You” (Parts 1 & 2, inc. collector’s tin)
VAN HALEN – “Right Now”(1992 cassette single, Warner)
BRIAN MAY & FRIENDS – Star Fleet Project (w/ Edward Van Halen)

REVIEW: Van Halen – “Can’t Get This Stuff No More” / “Me Wise Magic” (1996)

VAN HALEN (Not Van Hagar!) Coda: Can’t Get This Stuff No More

Welcome to the final installment in my latest series of reviews at mikeladano.com:  an in-depth look at all the classic VAN HALEN albums, with David Lee Roth.  If you missed anything, don’t fret: the complete list is right below.  Dig in!

Part 1: The Early Years (Zero – 1977) VH_0003
Part 2:
On Fire (Van Halen – 1978)
Part 3: Somebody Get Me A Doctor (Van Halen II – 1979)
Part 4: Everybody Wants Some!! (Women and Children First – 1980)
Part 5: Push Comes to Shove (Fair Warning – 1981)
Part 6: Intruder (Diver Down – 1982)
Part 7: House of Pain (1984 – 1984)
Coda: Can’t Get This Stuff No More (Best Of Volume I – 1996)

VAN HALEN – “Can’t Get This Stuff No More” / “Me Wise Magic” (1996 Warner promo singles)

Van Halen had been doing just fine, thank-you-very-much, with Sammy Hagar for a decade.  There had always been rumors that they were on the verge of a split with Hagar.  I remember hearing those rumors on MuchMusic in 1987, around the time Sammy had released his self-titled solo album.  The rumors returned when Sammy released his Unboxed compilation in 1994.  When the split did finally occur in 1996, it was explosive.  Especially when Van Halen announced that they had resumed work with David Lee Roth, and two brand new songs featuring his voice would be released on the forthcoming Best Of Volume I album.

A somewhat embarrassing MTV Awards appearance by the reunited Van Halen stoked the fire. They presented an award to a stunned looking Beck, who thanked them in his speech. Dave, always the ham, made the most of the opportunity to address the crowd. Edward looks uncomfortable, keeping his distance and trying keep the subject on the “Best Male Video” award.

As predicted, the reunion was strictly temporary.  A tense studio situation (with new producer Glen Ballard) produced two cuts.  The first, “Can’t This Stuff No More”, was considerably darker than most of the Van Hagar tunes the band has been putting out.  You can hear some quiet organ overdubs, but it is otherwise void of keyboards.  Roth uses his lower voice, as he had on his previous solo album Your Filthy Little Mouth.  Eddie’s guitar sounds a bit like his work on 1984, but with a much fatter tone.  As a single, “Can’t Get This Stuff No More” is a bit of a disappointment.  If it had accompanied a whole album of new material, it would have made an excellent album cut.

“Me Wise Magic” is the one with the catchy chorus.  It too has a dark tone to it, perhaps reflective of the mood in the Van Halen camp.  Roth again uses his low voice, until the chorus when he lets those patented Dave shrieks loose.  They’re older, more ragged and tamed, but it’s that same Diamond Dave “charasma!” that we had missed for so long.  The chorus isn’t bad, but the song doesn’t boast one of those classic guitar riffs that albums such as Women and Children First were loaded with.  There’s no mistaking the player as Edward, especially come solo time, but it is undeniable that these two “new” songs lack a certain magical aura.   Both would have made excellent album songs, surrounded by others of different tempos and types.  As “new” compositions on a greatest hits collection of questionable intent…

3.5/5 stars

Whether you are traveller or tourist, this is the end of the ride; the series stops here.  We know what happened next:  Van Halen 3, inactivity, followed by years of confounding turbulence.  Finally, the album A Different Kind of Truth (2012), and redemption.