cassettes

REVIEW: Gypsy Jayne – Alive and Wandering (1992 cassette)

GYPSY JAYNE – Alive and Wandering (1992 independent cassette)

There is still way too much music that was only released on tape.  Gypsy Jayne (formerly Wildside) were from Oakville Ontario. What they lacked in originality, they compensated for in classically trained guitarist Johannes Linstead. He ‘s a Juno nominee with several flamenco albums today.  Back in the early 90s, he shredded the electric.  We talked about this band briefly during Record Store Tales, but they deserve a closer look.  They were a solid quartet, with a great singer and musicianship.  All that exists of Gypsy Jayne today is their sole cassette:  six songs and a guitar instrumental.

It’s easiest to compare Gypsy Jayne to Illusions-era Guns N’ Roses; they probably had a similar set of influences.  Their namesake song “Gypsy Jayne” opens the tape with a mid-tempo Izzy-like vibe and a hell of a chorus.  Singer Andy Law had a good glam rock voice, but it’s clear right away the guitarist is something special.  The solo is carefully composed and serves the song.  “Whiskey Blues” also has a Guns vibe, particularly the Axl-ish vocals.  The guitar playing is more Van Halen than Slash, but the song smokes.  “As Good as it Gets” boasts some cool slippy slidey intro guitars before going full Guns.  Great tune, blistering solo.  Influences are quickly forgotten as the song repeatedly kicks your ass.

Beginning side two, it’s a new version of “Ready, Willing and Able”, the song they recorded as Wildside on Raw M.E.A.T. #1.  Sleazy rock, L.A. infused.  You can’t tell these guys are from an upper class town in Canada, except perhaps by the schooled guitar approach.  “So Wild” takes it slow, crawling in your ear canal and letting the groove do the work.  “Leave You Now” is acoustic nostalgia, a song about “Chasing all our dreams” and “living crazy nights, lazy days.”  For composition, this could be Jayne’s best song.

The final track is “Romanza”, a lovely solo classical guitar piece by Linstead.  This foreshadowed where he’d be going in his future.  It’s a nice coda, like Randy Rhoads would have done.

This one’s going to be hard to find — there is no listing on Discogs.

4/5 stars

 

 

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REVIEW: Rulers of Rock – Various Artists (1988 cassette)

RULERS OF ROCK (1988 PolyTel)

When the front cover features crumbled tinfoil, you know you’re in for a seriously good time.

This tape still sounds amazing!  It was a gift 30 years ago from an old girlfriend, and it somehow survived all my cassette purges (even the one that sent most of them to Thunder Bay.)

From the fine folks at PolyTel, you get an assortment of hot rock that makes for a remarkably good listen today.  Opening with Bon Jovi’s “Living on a Prayer” you couldn’t ask for a better embarkation point.  That goes right into the back-to-basics brilliance of “Love Removal Machine” by the Cult.  I remember that old girlfriend really hated The Cult, so it was kind of her to give this to me.  I didn’t have Electric yet, so this was my first ownership of the song.

The Ozzman cometh on “The Ultimate Sin”, still relentless today even though Ozzy tries to ignore most of the Ultimate Sin era.  Ozzy and Jake made some incredible music together and this is one.  The cassette swings back towards hair metal with Cinderella and their early hit “Nobody’s Fool” from 1986.  On tape, the ballad sounds thicker and heavier.  It also appears to be the full length version and not a single edit.  Up next, it’s the non-metal of The Alarm, but “Rain in the Summertime” fits like a glove.  It’s really no softer than “Living on a Prayer” when you think about it.  Unfortunately the cassette has a warbly spot right in the middle of the song.  Kiss close the side with the softest one yet:  “Reason to Live” from Crazy Nights.

Flipping the tape, side two opens with a hit just about equal to the one that commenced side one.  The keyboards sound carpet-deep on tape, as you recognise “The Final Countdown” by Europe.  If there were only two bands battling for rock supremacy in 1987, it was Bon Jovi vs. Europe.  Side one vs side two!

Our first Canadian content is predictably by Rush.  Hey, it had to be either Rush or Bryan Adams.  “Time Stand Still” featuring Aimee Mann was the kind of mainstream hit perfect for a tape like this.  Less predictable is the presence of Yngwie Malmsteen with “Fire” from Trilogy, a song totally out of character for a tape with The Alarm and Cinderella.  Deep Purple are next to crash the party with 1987’s Bad Attitude.  Once again, it was my first time owning a song.  I imagine Deep Purple with a little less shocking next to Yngwie, though probably just as unfamiliar to an unsuspecting buyer.

Why not a little Christian content, since so many styles of rock are represented here?  Stryper’s “Honestly” may sound like a romance, but it’s a cleverly disguised prayer.  And finally, because why not? It’s “Hourglass” by Squeeze!  I was 17 years old, and I hated it!  Different story today.

30 years down the road, Rulers of Rock was a delightfully entertaining listen with twists, turns and surprises.  And it’s still the only place I own those Squeeze and Alarm songs!

4/5 stars

 

 

REVIEW: Quiet Riot – Cum On Feel the Noize (1989 CBS cassette)

QUIET RIOT – Cum On Feel the Noize (1989 CBS cassette)

From the same line as the previously reviewed Trouble Shooters by Judas Priest, here’s a tape-only Quiet Riot compilation.  Like the Priest tape, Cum On Feel the Noize has nothing older than five years.  For Quiet Riot, that unfortunately means you’re only hearing songs from two albums!  (Nothing from the first two which were only released in Japan.)

The title track (and Slade cover) “Cum On Feel the Noize” goes first, muddy tape hiss and all:  this cassette has seen better days!  It’s an edited version (roughly 3:10), so perhaps something you don’t have in your collection.  The speedy album track “Run For Cover” then delivers the scalding hot metal.  Two more big hit singles follow:  “Mama Weer All Crazee Now (another Slade cover) and “Metal Health” (sometimes subtitled “Bang Your Head” in case you didn’t know the name).  These two hits will keep the party flowing, and that’s it for side one.

Proving they had more than just a passing interest in mental health, “Let’s Go Crazy” kicks off side two with a bang.  Frankie Banali is the man — his drums really sell this one.  “(We Were) Born to Rock” is another solid number, all rock no schlock.  “Slick Black Cadillac” is a shrewd inclusion.  Gotta have a car song for the road.  Then “Party All Night” finishes it off with a pretty clear message.

As a party tape, Cum On Feel the Noize would have done the trick.  You should probably just own Metal Health and Conditional Critical instead, but this is a fun tape and would have been enough Quiet Riot for most folks.

3/5 stars

REVIEW: Psycho Circus – Psycho Circus (1992 cassette)

PSYCHO CIRCUS – Psycho Circus (1992 indi cassette EP)

Psycho Circus put out their one and only album in 1993.  They were a talented band who avoided grunge cliches and instead dove into funk-metal and a darker Faith No More sound circa The Real Thing.  The album was split down the middle between the two sides.  Decades later I found an earlier indi cassette, released after they signed with SRO Management, the team behind Rush.

It’s quite clear this band had musical chops.  Opening track “Picky Purple People” is killer.  Faux-horns, massive bass and busy drums are relentless.  This is a goofier side of the band, but well executed.  If the Chili Peppers and Faith No More had a baby, it would sound like “Picky Purple People”.  Next is “Funk in Our Souls”, a track that was re-recorded for the album later.  The cassette version sounds more bass heavy.  It’s more enjoyable for that reason, not to mention the smoking guitar solo.  “Can You Feel It?” was also re-recorded for the album, but this is one of those darker songs that eschew the funk.  Singer Vince Franchi hits unreal notes.  His voice is versatile.  It’s Faith No More without the twisted mind.

The final track didn’t make it onto the CD.  “Psycho Circus” opens with traditional circus music, a full six years before Kiss did the same thing with their own song called “Psycho Circus”.  Maybe they should try suing Kiss?  It would be fun to see!  That’s the only similarity.  This is another funky track, and though the circus music is a bit silly, the chorus rocks.

The tape comes with a nice J-card and full lyrics.  In a way it’s a better listen than the album.  It doesn’t have as many great songs, but it also has less filler.

3/5 stars

REVIEW: Feel – “I Become You” video (1994)

FEEL – “I Become You” (1994 independent VHS tape)

Not all great bands make it, and Feel was a great band.  Formerly Russian Blue, Feel were active on the Toronto rock scene in the early 90s.  When things went grunge, they adapted their melodic rock to the times.  The result was dark, not-quite-mainstream hard rock that could appeal to both sides of the aisle.  Their album This (get it? Feel This?) had a number of memorable tracks.  They also released a home video for lead song “I Become You”.

The video arrived personally autographed by all four band members; a nice touch.   In addition to being a top quality song, “I Become You” is also a slick looking, well-edited music video.  It utilises tricks like slow and fast motion, still photos, and plenty of camera movement.  The result is a briskly paced video with a band always in motion.  The guitar solo segment is particularly good.  Feel were television ready, if only the chips had fallen differently.  Frontman Joe Donner had the chops and certainly appeared ready to be the next rock sensation.

4/5 stars

Make sure you watch the video to the end, as I added some bonus content!  In 1993 Feel released a sampler cassette called A Taste Of….  I included the “Introduction” track at the end of the video, as it has a sampling of the album and even an unreleased riff that didn’t make it.  Check it out and let me know what you think of Feel!

 

REVIEW: Bon Jovi – “Wanted: Dead or Alive” (1987 cassette)

BON JOVI – “Wanted: Dead or Alive” (1987 Mercury extended play cassette)

Some rarities are easiest to find on tape.

That’s definitely still the case for “Wanted: Dead or Alive”, the 1987 acoustic version originally released only on an extended play cassette in most of the world.  This version, discussed below, is a Holy Grail collectable.  What about CD or vinyl?  There was a rare Japanese version with a slightly different tracklist, but for 30 years, all I had was this cherished cassette.

The tape has four tracks.  The original studio version (titled “Long Version” here to avoid confusion with the  4:10 single edit) leads side A.  “Wanted” is Bon Jovi’s first truly brilliant song.  An extended cowboy metaphor about the road, it’s timeless.  It always has been.  Richie Sambora’s 12 string guitar made all the young guitar kids want to play one.  His backing vocals were the real highlight.  Funny thing about Bon Jovi:  the backing vocalist was better than the lead singer!  Smoking guitar solo too, where every note counts.  You can hear Richie pushing those strings and wrenching that solo from the instrument.  It’s a perfect song, with every component serving a purpose and coming together.  The old west as seen from New Jersey.

The acoustic version of “Wanted” is the real delight here.  It’s just Jon and Sambora together with two acoustic guitars.  Jon explains the details in the liner notes, but only the cassette has this information: one more good reason to hunt down the tape.  Read below:

“On March 18, 1987 or somewhere there bouts, Richie and I flew into New York to mix some live tracks for a radio special.  After a couple hours of record making, donut eating, and MTV watching we got bored, picked up two acoustics and started to jam.  The results are here on tape, the way we wrote it, just like it was in the basement on that cold January night in Jersey.”

If that doesn’t set the scene, nothing will.  Richie sings more of the lyrics, and belts out a killer acoustic solo too.  It was this recording that demonstrated to me the talents of Mr. Sambo.  What it lacks in glossy finish, it makes up for in spades with vibe.

On side B, the live version of “Wanted” is another rarity.  It’s an extended 8:13 full band version, with a long instrumental prologue.  According to the liner notes (again, only on the cassette), it was recorded at Cobo Hall in Detroit on March 11, exactly a week before the studio jam was recorded.  It’s likely this is one of the live songs that Jon and Richie were in New York mixing on the 18th.  (Production is credited to both.)  You may have lots of versions of “Wanted” already, but owning an extended take from early ’87 is better.

The tape ends on “I’d Die For You”, a song that was good enough to be a single in its own right.  However, it wasn’t.  It’s just an album track from Slippery When Wet, but it’s safe to say it’s a bit of an unsung classic.  The Japanese CD version, on the other hand, comes with the non-album rarity “Edge of a Broken Heart”, one of their best tunes ever.  After “Edge”, there is an exclusive unlisted interview with all five band members.  Inside, Japan also got a “Bon Jovi Dictionary (R to Z)”.  Presumably the other volumes of the dictionary can be found in other Japanese CDs.

Though this cassette has an overabundance of “Wanted”, you simply need to get that acoustic version.  You want the one that’s 5:31 long, recorded in March ’87.  In fact, you need that one.  And even though CD is the superior format, the tape has the liner notes and other details you won’t find on CD.

5/5 stars

Thanks to Mitch Lafon for helping me locate a CD copy of these tracks!

REVIEW: The Candidates – Who’s Your Daddy Now? (1998 EP)

THE CANDIDATES – Who’s Your Daddy Now?  (1998 EP)

When the Candidates burst onto the local rock scene in the late 90s, I was on board from the get-go.  The Candidates were one of the “Record Store Bands” I wrote about in Record Store Tales Part 40.  They were the product of a former band, The Mighty Fisherman, who put out an actual CD album.  Members of that band formed the Candidates – great guys who made great music.  I don’t use the word “great” lightly.  All four songs on their debut EP (never released to the public) are as good as anything on a major label at the time.  When the guys recorded this EP, they loaned it out to various friends, and so I made my own copy.  (My own liner notes, too!)

I always felt the Candidates had a sound not unlike Sloan, The Who, and the Jam rolled into one.  (Maybe even a hint of Kiss; check out the slow-down ending to “Cash Money”.) The point is: they rocked.  It was rock and roll, nothing but.  No ballads, no fluff, no solos.  Great lyrics, solid riffs and rolling bass lines out the wazoo.  The whole thing is over n’ out in under 12 minutes.

First up, “You’re All Heart”, the song with the most pop in its melody, and a little twang in the six-strings.  The handclaps are a nice touch, as are the rolling thunder drum fills.  Tambourine is thrown in for good measure on “Good to Go”, a song defined by its catchy bassline.  I always liked the line, “There’s nothin’ on the walls, and woo!  There’s nothing on…”  The beat just kills.  “So leave your boyfriend at home, and come hit the town with me.”  It’s the kind of tune that, in our early 20s, was a bit of an anthem.  More handclaps!

Things start to slam heavier on “Cash Money”; a banger of a riff.  “Got my good-to-go boots and I’m gone.”  They don’t come any more rock and roll than “Cash Money”.  Although, as a younger man, I identified most with “Barely Bruised”.  It seems I was constantly having bad luck with the ladies.  I really liked the lines, “I’ve been beaten but I’m barely bruised, I’m lost but I cannot lose.”  I liked the idea of being knocked down and getting back up for more, never giving up.  The band dedicated this one to me in concert one time, and I’ll tell ya, it made my night.  The song itself is a battery of broadsides, so put your dukes up.

Since this EP was never sold, and you’ll never hear it, reviewing it is rather strange and maybe pointless. Eventually, somebody somewhere will google this band, and smile when they read these words.  I just had to tell you about these guys.

5/5 stars

Have a look at my humorous liner notes.  I also stole a setlist from an unknown gig!

REVIEW: Judas Priest – Trouble Shooters (1989 CBS cassette)

JUDAS PRIEST – Trouble Shooters (1989 CBS cassette)

Readers understand that I’m pretty anti-cassette.  For most of my life, I had shitty equipment and shitty tapes so my memories of fiddling with tapes are not happy ones.  You do tend to find oddities on cassette that don’t exist on any other media, which is one reason I’ll always need a tape deck.

Here’s one from my personal collection that I bought in early 1990.

Bob Schipper knew my favourite band in 1989/1990 was the mighty Priest.  He told me of a cassette I didn’t have called Trouble Shooters.  The one detail I can’t recall is what store he saw it in, but I gave him some money and he got me the tape.

I was disappointed that it was a cheap tape with nothing on the inlay, but I now had a Priest tape I didn’t own before.  I spied the release date:  1989.  It looked odd sitting in my tape cases filed as the “newest” Judas Priest release, with Les Binks on the front cover.  Trouble Shooters was in fact a bargain bin compilation made up of songs from Sin After Sin, Stained Class, Hell Bent for Leather, Point of Entry, British Steel, and Defenders of the Faith.  Another thing that looked strange:  the uber-metal Priest logo on the front.  Turning it up to 11, it’s rendered as the insane-o looking Jüdäs Priést.

The running order on these tapes is usually pretty random, but side one of Trouble Shooters goes down really well.  “Let Us Prey/Call For the Priest” is a pretty cool way to open a tape, with that low hum of instruments before the regal guitarmonies enter.  (Note that the second part of the title isn’t printed anywhere.)  “Let Us Prey” is suited to commence a Priest tape that is heavier than the average.  Its proto-thrash pacing represents Judas Priest at an early peak.  Then, sensibly, Trouble Shooters gets the “hit single” out of the way early, in this case “Living After Midnight”.  Casual music buyers picked up these tapes in discount bins, so you have to put on the hit early; the second slot working best.

I appreciated that they included two songs from Point of Entry as that has always been a personal favourite.  The title track is parsed wrong as “Trouble Shooters” when it should be all one word.  Still a good song, with Priest taking a simple sassy 4/4 time stance.  “Turning Circles” from the same album is lesser known but possesses a slower groove that works just as well as the fast ones.  The secret seems to be Rob Halford, who twists and turns every word for maximum expression.

Side One is granted an epic quality thanks to “The Green Manalishi”, my favourite Priest song of all time and certainly a crowd pleaser too.  (Yeah, yeah, I know it’s a Fleetwood Mac cover.)  You just can’t find a better closer for a Side One anywhere else in the Priest canon.

Continuing the excellent sequencing is a song heralding the arrivals of “Metal Gods” on Side Two.  Then “Some Heads Are Gonna Roll”, the most recent song from 1984’s Defenders of the Faith.  Nothing from Turbo or Ram It Down.  I wonder if there were rules about what could and couldn’t go on these budget compilations.  Maybe they were limited to music five years old or more.  Back to the tape, “Some Heads” follows a similar sonic mood as “Metal Gods”, though the production is less sleek and more muddled.  It’s still apocalyptic metal for breakfast.

Finally it’s back to the start with a couple epics from the early days.  For me, I think I would have ended the tape on “Sinner”, but it comes before “Saints In Hell” here.  Much like “Let Us Prey” on Side One, these songs show off the early savage side of Judas Priest, ripping meat from the bone raw and ugly.  It’s barbaric metal with sharply precise moves.

I don’t know why I hung on to this tape when so many of them ended up in a Thunder Bay landfill.  I’m glad I did:  this was a fun cassette to review.

3.5/5 stars

 

#641: Farmer’s Market Tapes

GETTING MORE TALE returns! You have spoken — you like the series and you like the numbering system.  Therefore we aren’t changing a thing.  Here’s chapter 641!

GETTING MORE TALE #641: Farmer’s Market Tapes

Much of my highschool downtime was spent trying to build a complete Judas Priest collection.  While I was still in grade school, my first Priest was Screaming for Vengeance in 1985.  Defenders of the Faith was taped off my buddy Bob.  Then came highschool.  I bought Turbo at Zellers in 1986.  It was followed Priest…Live! in 1987, cementing my love for the band, for real.  Collecting began in earnest.

The local Zellers store always had a number of Priest tapes in stock.  Adding British Steel, Point of Entry, and Hell Bent for Leather to the collection was just a matter of time and allowance money.  Anything before Hell Bent was much harder to find, at least on tape, which was my format in the 80s.

We are fortunate in Kitchener to have two excellent farmer’s markets.  The one downtown is cool, but just a little to the north is the big one in St. Jacobs.  In the summer, my mom would take my sister and I to the market.  Sometimes Grandma would come with us.  You could buy anything at the St. Jacobs market.  There have always been music dealers with tables there.

July of 1989, I thought I struck rock solid gold at the market.  One vendor had a bunch of Priest I’d never seen on tape before, ever.  Tapes were $8 each, no tax.

Sad Wings of Destiny and The Best of Judas Priest came home with me that day.  I didn’t really know any of the songs, except one:  “Rocka Rolla”.  Earlier that summer, I bought the Rocka Rolla album on vinyl from Sam the Record Man, figuring I’d never find the tape.  The market had Rocka Rolla on tape, and then some!  For good measure, I also bought Unleashed in the East that day.

It was wonderful being inundated with fresh Priest.  So many tunes I’d never heard before!  “The Ripper” and “Victim of Changes” immediately blew me away.  “Diamonds and Rust” kicked my ass some more.  But something was wrong with two of the tapes.

Sad Wings and Best Of were both originally released on Gull records, and then reissued and reissued and reissued again, often very cheaply.  The two farmer’s market cassettes had very nicely printed cover art, but the tapes were utter garbage.  They were so shitty that there was only music in one channel.  The left side was fine, but there was nothing but a faint echo on the right.  Unleashed in the East, released on CBS, was fine.  Sad Wings and Best Of were awful.  After a few listens, I just couldn’t take it anymore.  It was heartbreaking because I was enjoying the songs, but listening to those tapes was horrendous.  I eventually replaced them with better copies, and stuck the cover art to a school binder.

Buyer beware!  Tapes and their quality issues are no longer really a problem today, but if you’ve never heard of the issuing label, you might want to do your research.

 

#615: “Shhhh! Be quiet, we’re recording!”

A prequel to Getting More Tale #344:  Childhood Recording Sessions.

 

GETTING MORE TALE #615:  “Shhhh, be quiet, we’re recording!”

 

Kids today have it easy!  Want a song?  Just copy and paste a file.  There’s no skill in it.  Not like we had to do it when we were really young.

My old Sanyo tape deck didn’t have audio in and audio out jacks.  It didn’t have a dual tape deck.  It had a headphone plug and that was it.  You couldn’t record anything except with the built-in microphone.

Like kids of the 80s always would, we improvised and did the best with the equipment we had.  Recording back then required planning and discipline for pretty shoddy results.

How did we do it?  In the most primitive way imaginable.

Step one:  Phone a friend who also had a tape deck.

No dual tape deck?  No problem, all you needed was a friend who also had something to play music on.  Come on over!

Step two:  Shhhhhh!  Be quiet!

We’d find a space in the house without a lot of commotion.  In our house, that was the basement.  We’d set up two tape decks, facing each other, about three or four feet apart.  One for playing, one for recording.

We’d tell all parents and younger siblings to “be quiet” and “stay out”!  Once this message was received we could begin recording.  Press “record” on one tape deck and “play” on the other.  Then, very very quietly, step out of the room let the tapes run until the whole side was recorded, open air style, in glorious mono.

The end product was usually awful, but as pre-teens we didn’t know any better.  You could usually hear us whispering at the start or stop.

This is how I first got Styx’s song “Mr. Roboto”.  It’s how I made copies of my Quiet Riot Metal Health tape for my friends.  I sold them for $1 per copy.  I thought I was some kind of entrepreneur!  I even recorded the audio of Star Wars off the TV so I could listen to it, before we had a VCR.

Hard to imagine this was the best we could do, but for years we made it work!