Boston

Part 232: Amanda

RECORD STORE TALES Part 232:  Amanda

Although by this time, 2004, I had become a jaded prick in the relationship game, I decided to give dating another shot.  I met this girl from Cambridge named Amanda, nice girl, nothing wrong with her.  It was quickly obvious however that it wasn’t working out.  She liked Trailer Park Boys and had her own car which was a bonus.  She just didn’t get my passion for the rock.

Back at that time I was already working on the Record Store Tales.  In the original sequence of events, I was actually writing what was then supposed to be Part 13:  Perspective.  Most of the original Record Store Tales were excised, but the original Part 13 would have fit in between what became today’s Part 4 and Part 5.  As I was home writing Part 13, Amanda was on MSN, wanting to chat.  Even though my record store bosses regularly accused me of abusing MSN Messenger at work, I have never like it.  I’m an email guy. I always found it annoying.

AMANDAI told Amanda I was deep in a creative mode and I wanted to finish writing this chapter.  She waited about 10 or 15 minutes before pestering.  She was bored, but I was in the midst of what seemed like a multitude of musical and personal revelations.  It was just one sign that she didn’t really get what I was about.

That weekend it snowed.  I was working the Saturday, and after work she picked me up to go and get something to eat.  I had just read an article about Yusef Islam, the former Cat Stevens, and how he was on a no-fly list in a world of post-911 paranoia.  Two subjects I’m passionate about are music and politics.  While I leave politics aside for LeBrain’s Blog, I do like to discuss issues in private.  Making conversation, I asked her if she’d heard this story about Cat Stevens.  She was irritable about having to drive in the snow, and didn’t answer.  I quietly asked again, trying to thaw the personal ice a bit.

“Did you hear that story, about Cat Stevens?” I prodded.

“Actually, I don’t care,” she answered.

We went out to eat, but those words just ate away at me.  She didn’t care.  And music is the most important thing in my life.  Who was I trying to fool?  This wasn’t going to work out.

The next time we spoke, we agreed to part ways.  She was pretty upset.

Looking back, the funny thing to me is the day when I was all wrapped up in the writing of the original Part 13.  For all my bluster about being a “writer” and “an artist” working on “my story”, and pouring all my soul into it, Part 13 didn’t even make the cut in the end!  Crappy writing is crappy writing and some would say I haven’t improved much since!

Advertisements

REVIEW: Extreme II – Pornograffitti (1990)

EXTREME II – Pornograffitti (1990 A&M)

1990:  Everybody was buzzing about the sophomore album by Boston’s Extreme, and their stellar lead guitarist Nuno Bettencourt.  Extreme II: Pornograffitti (“A Funked Up Fairytale”) is one of the last great hair metal albums of the era.  It is chock full of diverse songs, great playing, great writing, and adventurous arrangements. Big kudos must of course go to Nuno whose guitar playing is at once tasteful and (pardon the pun) extreme.  Not to be outshone is lead vocalist Gary Cherone who was at his peak here.

EXTREME II_0007A loose (very loose) concept album, Extreme II commences with atmospheric rainfall, which introduces us to “Francis”: our protagonist and the kid on the front cover. The crashing licks of “Decadence Dance”, the first single, interrupts this moment.  Gary’s lyrics are witty and Nuno’s fingers nimble.  The song kills.

There is a wide swath of styles covered on Extreme II. Obviously funk is a big one (“Get the Funk Out” with a blazing horn section, “When I’m President”, the title track.)  Of course there are the landmark acoustic ballads “More Than Words”, “Song For Love” and “Hole Hearted”. The cool thing about this trio of singles is that all three ballads are different.  None of them share the same style as well.  “Hole Hearted” is more a campfire rock song than a ballad anyway.  While “More Than Words” is now considered the prototypical acoustic ballad, it must be remembered that when it came out, it was unlike most. It contains no drums and only one acoustic guitar. Gary Cherone’s vocals merge harmoniously with Nuno’s creating this lullaby effect.

Other interesting songs include the lounge tune, “When I First Kissed You”. I once read Nuno saying that his inspirations were Queen and Prince, artists who were fearless to include different styles on their albums. Meanwhile, “Flight of the Wounded Bumblebee” contains some of the greatest and fastest guitar soloing of any era. It doesn’t get much more diverse than this withoug losing coherance, but Extreme II holds together as a concept and an album.

The album is filled out with killer hard rockers: Songs like “Suzy Wants Her All-Day Sucker” and “He-Man Woman Hater” are some of the catchiest rock songs this side of Aerosmith, but are tricky enough to keep your interest peaked. By the time the album ends, you’ll be exhausted from rocking out so much, but you’ll still want to start over again from the beginning.  The album appears to be designed that way, since it closes with the same rain and thunder.

This is a must-own classic for any hard rock fan who likes it smart.

5/5 stars

Once you absorb this album, you have to pick up the following companion pieces:

1. The “More Than Words” and “Hole Hearted” singles, which contained different remixes of “More Than Words”, one being A Capella with congas.

2. The “Song For Love” single, the B-side of which was Extreme’s amazing cover of Queen’s “Love of my Life”. Incredible cover, which was designed to segue into “More Than Words”.  They did it this way when played live, as they did at the 1992 Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert.

3. The Guitars The Rule the World (the first one, not Vol 2).  This has a Nuno Bettencourt electric blues instrumental called “Bumble Bee (Crash Landing)”.  This is the second part to “Flight of the Wounded Bumble Bee”, which on the album was trimmed down to exclude the “Crash Landing” portion.   When I recently ripped this album to my computer, I used Audacity to recreate the original complete “Bumble Bee” track.  I dropped the file into the correct place on the album to create an “unedited” Pornograffitti experience.   It was kind of cool how it worked, segueing into “He-Man Woman Hater”.

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: Anthrax – Anthems (2013)

ANTHEMS COVER

ANTHRAX – Anthems (2013 Megaforce Records)

Anthrax have recorded some of the most entertaining covers of the last 30 years.  Many of them have appeared as hard to find B-sides or bonus tracks.  Anthems is Anthrax’s new covers EP, readily available, and a welcome addition to a metal lover’s collection.

As if they needed to show off how well they could play, the EP kicks off with “Anthem” itself, a Rush cover, and a stunning one at that.  Joey Belladonna’s voice strains to reach the highest of notes, but he hits ’em.  This is one dead-on accurate Rush cover, not an easy thing to execute.  And it’s heavy as balls.

“T.N.T.” is a blast.  Again, this is not an easy song to cover, because it is so indelibly linked to AC/DC and Bon Scott.  Incredibly, Anthrax do so with as much accuracy as they did Rush.  Joey sounds perfectly in his element paying tribute to Bon.  Up next is “Smokin'” as performed by Boston.  Like a chameleon, suddenly Joey is in Brad Delp’s shoes.  As great as the entire band is on Anthems, at this point, it is Joey that is blowing me away the most!  What’s also cool about “Smokin'” is that the lengthy organ solo is intact, performed by Canadian Fred Mandel (ex-Alice Cooper).  An extended keyboard solo with Anthrax?  Smokin’!  (No kidding though, it’s great.  Like it or lump it!)

We all know Joey Belladonna is a huge Steve Perry fan.  It is a joy to hear him having a chance to pay tribute to his hero on “Keep On Runnin'”.  Scott Ian proclaims in the liner notes that “On paper, Anthrax covering Journey may seem weird,” but he reminds us that “the song just fucking rocks”.  Charlie Benate ensures this with surgically inserted blasts of drum fury.

“Big Eyes” is a Cheap Trick song I had somewhat forgotten about.  It has a monster groove and yet another fantastic lead vocal.  Anthrax bring the song to its knees.

“Thin Lizzy is arguably the most underrated and under appreciated band of our time,” says Scott in the liner notes.  Amen brother!  But he also points out their paradoxical great importance and influence.  Scott reveals he’d like to do an entire record of Lizzy covers.  Phil Campbell of Motorhead plays the solo, as per the Live and Dangerous version.  I love hearing Joey do the “Hey you, good lookin’ female! Com’ere!” line.  So much more menacing than Phil Lynott!

From Anthrax’s most recent record, Worship Music, comes “Crawl”.  I am on the fence with this song, as all I can think of is Soundgarden.  “Fell On Black Days”.  Can you hear it, there in the first minute of the song?  (Maybe it’s their Soundgarden cover, eh?)  Also on the EP is the remix of “Crawl”, which was previously only available on the Japanese version of Worship Music.  So this purchase worked out well for me.  I had been putting off buying Worship Music until I could find a reasonably priced Japanese import.  I prefer to get all the bonus tracks, so with Anthems now in hand, I can just pick up the domestic Worship Music and be done with it!

As a nice touch to collectors, Anthrax released this EP with six different covers.  I pre-ordered this thing from Amazon, so I didn’t get the luxury of picking my cover art.  If I did, I might have chosen the Rush or Journey versions.  What I got was the Cheap Trick cover, but I think I like it best anyway.

5/5 stars