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#1008: Backstreet’s Back (in stock)

RECORD STORE TALES #1008: Backstreet’s Back (in stock)

 

Little known fact, people:  did you know that in the United States, the Backstreet Boys had a second self-titled album, with the same cover art as Backstreet’s Back?  It’s true, and I know it’s true because I once had about 200 brand new sealed copies in the trunk of my car.

The 1997 self-titled Backstreet Boys (as opposed to the 1996 self-titled debut) was a compilation.  It contained hits from Backstreet Boys and Backstreet’s Back.  Some of the tracks were slightly remixed, others not.  I acquired this box while dating “JJJulie”, the girl that dumped me while I was on the road opening a new store in Barrie.  For the record, I don’t blame her for dumping me.  I was miserable working that job.  I only blame her for not waiting until I was in the comfort of my own home instead of a strange hotel room.

JJJulie and I dated for two months in 2003.  If I recall the story, her mom owned one of those book clearance businesses.  The kind of business that buys and sells old overstock from other chains.  JJJulie must have got the box of discs from her.   Unable to move the product, she gave it to me.  Our store was crammed full of Backstreet Boys.  I think I might have given her 10 bucks for the whole box.  Then it sat in my trunk for months.

I did find some use for the box of BSB.  We were allowed to carry two copies at a time in our bargain bin.  We paid $1 to $2 each for bargain bin CDs.  I sold two copies to the store for $2 each.  I kept track of them.  Any time we sold a copy (every few weeks), I would sell another $2 disc from my box to the store, for the bargain bin.  That went on for a year or so.  I probably moved about 20 copies from my box before I quit.  Not a huge profit, but some small change for me.  The store would have made double what I did with their markup.

I did all this on the sly.  The owner would have said “No more Backstreet Boys!”  I had to do some things on my own, even if they helped the store in the long run, simply because the upper management tended to throw one word at me repeatedly:  “No”.  They wouldn’t have complained at the 200% markup when the discs eventually sold, but they really had pickles up the ass.  So, anytime I looked at the sales reports and saw that a copy sold, I went out to my car, grabbed another Backstreet Boys, and sold it to the store for $2.

When I eventually quit the store, I had an almost full box of BSB still left.  I didn’t know what else to do with it, so I put it in the dumpster.  Backstreet’s back…where they belonged!  In the dumpster.

#989: Moving In Stereo

RECORD STORE TALES #989: Moving In Stereo

It was May 2002 and I was a first-time homeowner.  My dad taught me, “Never rent!  Only buy.  Put your money towards something.”  So I trusted his advice and lived at home as long as could I possibly milk it!

Moving in to my new place took a day.  I had a lot of help from family and friends.  We probably had 10 or 12 people total.  I packed up all my CDs and insisted that only I handle them.  It caused me more than a little anxiety.  I figured a few jewel cases would crack, but there were some special ones I took extra precautions with.  Coloured jewel cases are hard to replace.  The most precious CD case to me is the 1996 Deep Purple In Rock anniversary edition.  The case comes etched with signatures and other text.  Breaking one of those means either living with it, or trying to find another copy with case intact.  I desired to do neither.  In Rock survived the move intact.  I would not be lying to you if I told you that this one little item was of more concern to me than anything else I moved that day.  My stereo equipment came in second.

Some people say they have a hard time sleeping, their first night in a new home.  I did not have that problem.  After a full day of moving, I was wiped.  But also eager to get going the next day and set up my new place.  Against the better judgement of everyone who helped me move, the very first thing I did was set up my CD towers.  Having those discs sitting in boxes really bothered me.  I wanted them out, so I could inspect them and ensure they all survived intact, and I wanted them accessible.  A long day of painting was ahead!

I cannot remember the first album I played in my new home.  Strange, because normally I’d commit that sort of thing to memory.  It was probably Kiss.  I like to use Kiss for firsts.  I do remember the first movie I watched.  It was The Phantom Menace.  I wanted my first movie to be a DVD, and I wanted it to be a Star Wars.  The older Star Wars films would not exist on that format until 2004.

I set up the CD towers, put the discs back in their alphabetical homes, and was relieved that only a couple cases broke.  I then painted around them.  Priorities.

The funny thing about these memories is how much space I thought I had back then.  I had so many empty closets.  I didn’t have enough stuff to put on my shelves.  To say things have changed would be an understatement.  Due to lack of storage, there are CDs everywhere in random order.  We need to hire a carpenter and get some proper CD shelving made for this place!

After a solid weekend of working, painting and assembling, I was settled into my new place.  I had my first guests over that Monday.  I loved my new place, but I did not have long to enjoy it.  The following week, I was on my way to Prince Edward Island, determined to find the home of Stompin’ Tom Connors, and eat lobster at least once a day.  Success on both counts.  But I couldn’t wait to get home again.  I had a new Deep Purple box set of official bootlegs waiting for me to finish listening.  12 CDs.  I only had time to hear the first three discs before departure.  And you can bet your last dollar that I picked up where I left off, with disc four.

Jen moved here in 2008.  It’s cramped but we make due.  Her illness set us back in the sense that we haven’t been able to move somewhere bigger.  But it’s home.  It’s our home.  It has 20 years of memories.  I’m proud to say that many of them are musical in nature.

REVIEW: Jacob Moon – Under A Setting Sun (2022)

JACOB MOON – Under A Setting Sun (2022)

I’ve only helped crowdfund two things in my life.  I’m happy to say I picked a winning horse in both cases, the second being Jacob Moon’s new CD called Under A Setting Sun.

Although Moon is certainly a stunningly good musician, and his voice could be described as “angelic”, it’s his songwriting that really sets him apart.  Each song on the EP has a different flavour.  That being the case, they all share a certain light, an uplifting feeling that just makes you feel better after a listen.

The opening track “Live A Little” feels like a morning sunrise, with gently picked acoustics ringing clear, and a hint of slide shining from the shadows.  “Today we’re going to leave all those cares behind, and live a little” sings Moon, asking us to look at the stars above.  The message here is simple but necessary.  A brilliant song with a bright glow that will sound great in just about any setting.  It’ll go great on the porch this summer.

The familiar crunch of an electric guitar is joined by the moan of organ on “Tennessee”, a brilliant slow ride.  It has a vaguely southern feel especially when the slide guitar joins in.  “And the road has got the best of me, I thought I could be free yeah, like the winds in Tennessee,” sings Jacob as a soulful backing chorus joins in.  This one will sound great in the car on a country drive, guaranteed.

A unique acoustic song called “Miles To Go” has a gentle, breezy vibe.  A terrific song; you could imagine Jon Bon Jovi clenching his fists in jealousy that he didn’t write it.  It sounds in the pocket of mid-90s Bon Jovi when they weren’t afraid of getting a little more laid back on These Days.  The track sounds more lush as it goes, building to a nice resolution at the end.

If you’ve got the guts to call a tune the “Song That Won’t Leave You Alone”, it had better be catchy!  It’s actually about the creative process, but the title demands an actual song that won’t leave you alone.  The lyrics are fascinating but the chorus is really fantastic.  Great guitar work on this one as well, an absolute gem of a song.

“A Little More Time” is a quiet ballad, but backed with a strong drum beat.  The chorus is perfect.  Once again, a certain Mr. Jovi might be gnashing his teeth that he didn’t come up with this one, but that’s just pure speculation.  He couldn’t sing it like Moon does anyway.

The title track ends the album with a string-coated song that brings the vibe of the album full circle.  If “Live A Little” sounded like morning, then “Under A Setting Sun” brings the day to a close.  Whether that’s intentional or not, that’s one interpretation if you like.  Regardless, “Under A Setting Sun” wears an understated strength on its sleeve, based on the rhythm of the acoustic guitar.  The strings raise it to the clouds, dreamy and powerful.

2022 has been a year for strong releases already.  Add the name Jacob Moon to your list of must-hears.

5/5 stars

 

REVIEW: Guns N’ Roses – Hard Skool (2022 CD, cassette, 7″ vinyl)

GUNS N’ ROSES – Hard Skool (2022 Universal CD, cassette, 7″ vinyl EP)

The first new physical music from Guns N’ Roses since 2008’s Chinese Democracy has finally arrived in the form of an EP!  Good enough; we’ll take it.  Beggars (and hangers-on) cannot be choosers.  Considering how scarce new Guns music has been since the early 90s, the new Hard Skool EP almost feels like manna from the gods.

There are six tracks in total spread over multiple formats:  two new studio songs, and four live.  The last of the live songs, “Shadow Of Your Love”, shipped in June 2022 on a club-only clear 7″.  The other five tracks are all here.

To the disappointment of some, the two new songs are slightly old:  Chinese Democracy outtakes that have been reworked with Slash and Duff McKagan.  The duo have writing credits on “Hard Skool” along with Axl Rose and former members Robin Finck, Josh Freese, Tommy Stinson and Paul “Huge” Tobias.  Formerly known as “Jackie Chan”, this song comes closest to capturing the classic Guns vibe – think Illusions era GN’R.  Slash imbues the riff with his trademark snakelike style, and Axl is in full-scream mode on the powerful chorus.  The cowbell brings us back to the 80s a bit, but the experimental solo section is more modern.

The other new/old song “ABSUЯD” is much more Chi-Dem, and more divisize.  Formerly known as “Silkworms”, it was largely enjoyed by those who knew it from live bootlegs but thought it should have been on the album.  The keyboard intro has been axed, the riff emphasized and the lyrics slightly modified.  The main hook “What can I do, with a bitch like you?” has been replaced with a refrain of “Absurd!” The words are otherwise just as angry.  “Listen motherfuckers to the song that should be heard!” bellows Axl on the opening line.  “Parasitic demons sucking acid through your heart!”  I wonder who this was written about?  Vocally, Axl’s in the faux accent he utilized on “Down on the Farm” and you’ll love it or hate it.  Interestingly former keyboardist Chris Pitman, who was credited with songwriting on the original “Silkworms” version, no longer has a credit.  It is now credited to Axl, Slash, Duff and Dizzy.  Presumably the Pitman parts were chopped.  At the time of its writing, Pitman said: “It ended up being this incredible track that sounded like Guns N’ Roses 10 or 15 years in the future. It was so far removed from our other songs that we had to put it in this other place. Concept-wise, it didn’t fit with Chinese Democracy. We hope we will have other songs that match that kind of futuristic sound. It’s a really exciting track because it morphs into this crazy sound, but it was out so much in the other direction that we have to let time catch up with it.”  While that was true of “Silkworms”, the version known as “ABSUЯD” is more guitar-oriented.

The live songs commence with “Don’t Cry”.  Slash and rhythm guitarist Richard Fortus sound great together on this, but Axl struggles when the singing gets high at the end.  It’s a demanding song, and 1991 was a long time ago.  “You’re Crazy” on the other hand is really good.  Using the slower Lies arrangement, but played on electric, this version is like brand new.  A real cool addition to your GN’R library.

The third live track is exclusive to the 7″ vinyl:  “ABSUЯD”.  Not only do we get new songs on this EP, but we already get one in a live version.  Guns started playing “ABSUЯD” live in 2021 as a surprise before it was released on iTunes.  Axl’s voice is pretty strange here, sounding a bit muppet-ish.  (The screaming portion sounds like tape.)  This live track will take some getting used to.  It’s not that Axl’s voice is bad just…different than what you’re used to.

The 7″ vinyl came with a sticker while the cassette and CD versions come with no extras.  The CD is packed in a slipcase, and the cassette in a cassingle cardboard sleeve.  This got crushed a bit in the mail; a jewel case would have been better.

Completing this tracklist is “Shadow Of Your Love (Live)” on an additional 7″ single, available only by joining a “Nightrain” membership on the official site.  The cheaper of the pricey packages gives you access to the usual online perks such as pre-sale tickets, but your only physical merchandise is the vinyl, a sticker, and a pin.

The cover artwork includes an interesting visual clue.  On a school locker door, the classic Guns N’ Roses logo is stickered overtop a graffiti style logo reminiscent of Chinese Democracy.  Almost a metaphor for what these new songs are.

It’s encouraging that Guns N’ Roses have finally released something new, even if the songs are just reworked tunes from 20+ years ago.  Perhaps they’re clearing the decks before working on truly new material.  It’s all but certain that we will see more, and hopefully a longer release next time.  While some moments on the live tunes are shaky, and the new tunes were not as warmly received by some, the Hard Skool EP is wonderful to hold in hand.  New physical music from GN’R!  About time.

4/5 stars

All cautions made
Every chance was given
No effort spared to save what we had
All in good faith
I would not hesitate
To extend myself and lend you my hand

But you had to play it cool, had to do it your way
Had to be a fool, had to throw it all away
Too hard school and you thought you were here to stay
If that were true, it wouldn’t matter anyway

As tempers fade
And lies forgiven
No cause embraced could break what we had
In its place
A storm is lifting
I would’ve thought you could be more of a man

But you had to play it cool, had to do it your way
Had to be a fool, had to throw it all away
Too hard school and you thought you were here to stay
If that were true, it wouldn’t matter anyway

But you had to play it cool, had to do it your way
Had to be a fool, had to throw it all away
Too hard school and you thought you were here to stay
If that were true, it wouldn’t matter anyway

You had to play it cool, had to do it your way
Had to be a fool, had to throw it all away
Too hard school and you thought you were here to stay
If that were true, it wouldn’t matter anyway

You had to play it cool, had to do it your way
Had to be a fool, had to throw it all away
Too hard school and you thought you were here to stay
If that were true, it wouldn’t matter anyway

The Aftermath: Tim’s Vinyl Confessions Episode 351 with Tim and LeBrain

On Saturday Tim Durling, and I recorded a fantastic episode of Tim’s Vinyl Confessions about rare CDs that received loads of comments and questions!  Tim has been wanting to try going live for a while now, so Sunday morning we went for it with a followup show!

So, yes: That means this weekend there were three hours of Tim and I yammering about music!  But apparently they were a good three hours according to viewer feedback.  Here’s the “Aftermath” show that we did at 7:30 AM on a Sunday!  Loads of fun — I love mornings!


LeBrain Train Upcoming Live Schedule:

  • Friday February 18, 7:00 PM:  Top Albums from the Year 2000
  • Friday March 12, 7:00 PM:  Ten Year Anniversary of Record Store Tales
  • Friday March 26, 7:00 PM:  Two Year Anniversary of the LeBrain Train
  • Friday April 1, 7:00 PM:  The Prank Show featuring Michael Morwood and Chris Thuss

Tim’s Vinyl Confessions Ep. 351: Rare CDs with Mike Ladano

This morning I had a blast taping this episode of Tim’s Vinyl Confessions! Together we showed off some of our rarest CDs.  That’s part of the pleasure of being a collector:  sharing our treasure with you!

Thanks for having me Tim!  Enjoy this awesome two-hour extravaganza of digital rarities!

REVIEW: Jethro Tull – The Very Best of Jethro Tull (2001)

JETHRO TULL – The Very Best of Jethro Tull (2001 Chrysalis)

Every fan had their first Jethro Tull purchase.  Mine was 20 years ago, with their newly released Very Best of Jethro Tull.  Why not?  I was working at the Record Store when a used-but-mint copy dropped in my lap for only $8 (staff discount).  It was only right of me to ensure it got a good home.

Unlike some “hits” compilations, this one didn’t strike with clusters of songs I wanted to focus on in the future.  Other compilations can do that.  For example I decided to hone in on the Brian Robertson Motorhead album immediately after hearing a double best-of.  With The Very Best of Jethro Tull, I liked it all equally.  I just wanted to get them all, with no particular priority.  It all sounded great to me.

The album is non-chronological and contains some edit versions.  “Thick As A Brick” is cut down from 44 minutes to just three — makes sense.  They chose the first three minutes, which are ojectively the best known.   Other edits are the single versions of “Too Old To Rock ‘n’ Roll: Too Young to Die” and “Minstrel in the Gallery”, while “Heavy Horses” gets a new edit bringing it from nine minutes to a more single-like three.  The songs span the 1968 debut This Was to 1995’s Roots to Branches.  Several albums are not represented at all, such as Benefit, A Passion Play, A, Stormwatch, Under Wraps, Rock Island, Catfish Rising, and J-Tull.com.  Justifiable?  That’s up to personal taste.  Several non-album singles are included instead, such as the well known “Living In the Past” and the wicked string-laden “Sweet Dream”.

The album has an excellent flow, only interrupted with the synth-y “Steel Monkey” from 1987’s Grammy-winning Crest of a Knave.  Preceded by the savage “Locomotive Breath” and followed by the tender picking of “Thick as a Brick”, it doesn’t fit in except as a speedbump.  If I may be so bold, I believe “Steel Monkey” was included simply because it would be odd not to include something off that controversial Grammy winner.

While I enjoyed all the songs, the one that stood out particularly strong was “Bourée”. I never heard Bach swing like that before! The diversity of this CD, spanning all styles of rock from progressive to blues to folksy. Yes, the flute can rock and Ian Anderson is the Eddie Van Halen of the instrument.

4/5 stars

#943: Irate With a Beeper!

RECORD STORE TALES #943: Irate With a Beeper!

There was once a time before we had our infamous “no questions asked” return policy.  In 1996, we were able to…shall we say, “express ourselves” more freely as managers of Record Stores.

We learned from the best, and we didn’t take kindly to someone trying to rip us off.   Some time in early September 1996, I received a call from T-Rev at his own store.  “Mikey,” he said, “Just a warning.  There’s a guy coming your way with the new Rush CD, that he wants to return.  Now I had a look at it, and it is just hacked.  There was no way he opened it like that.  I wouldn’t let him return it.  You’ll see what I mean when he gets there.  He’s this little short guy with glasses and short hair.  You’ll know him when you see him.”  A prepared myself for the Rush fan with Napoleon complex.

The new Rush album, Test For Echo, was received with mixed reactions.  We started seeing used copies early on, traded in by ordinary fans (albeit impatient ones) who simply didn’t like it.  T-Rev and I both thought it was a step down from Counterparts, while acknowledging that sometimes a Rush album needs time.  We liked a couple tracks, and disliked a few as well.  (“Dog Years” and “Virtuality” were on the shit list.)  We were not surprised to see people returning it, but Nerdlinger here was unique.

The little guy stormed in, straight up to the counter, and asked to return the Rush CD.  “I don’t like it,” he said simply.  I dutifully opened the case and, as T-Rev has warned, the disc was mangled.  Probably due to a car CD deck, which were common and had a habit of murdering discs.

“I’m sorry,” I began, “but I can’t take this back.  It’s seen some pretty serious use and it’s scratched up really bad.”  I didn’t know what else to say.  “I’m sorry,” I added lamely.

He was irate.  “‘Seen some serious use’?” he quoted back to me.  “How?  I just got it at your other store.  It’s a day old!”

Customers always asked “how” their CDs got scratched.  How the fuck am I supposed to know what he did with it?

“I don’t know how it got scratched up this bad, but they don’t come this way out of the shrinkwrap.”  I grabbed our store play CD to show him.  “See, this is one we just opened a few days ago and we’ve been playing it every day.”  He glared through his glasses at our copy.

He insisted he didn’t scratch it, that he bought it that way from T-Rev’s store and he wouldn’t return it.

I didn’t know what else I could say.  “Well, I showed you what they look like coming out of the shrinkwrap.”  Then, poking the bear just a smidge, I chided, “Did you drop it?”

“NO, I didn’t drop it!” he expressed in a mocking tone.  Knowing he was not going to get anywhere with me, he left.  And, much like many tenacious customers of his guilt-free mindset, he returned later that day on the night shift.  A time he assumed I wouldn’t be working.  But he didn’t get anywhere with the night staff.  They knew something wasn’t right about it and asked him to return when the manager is in.  So, like any douchebag worth his salt, he left a pager number for me to call the next day.

“Oh, joy” I said to myself upon seeing the note waiting for me.

I never called a beeper before.  I noted the occasion for its novelty.

A short while later, Nerdlinger stormed back into the store with his Rush CD.  He must have been so dejected upon seeing I was the manager.

And so for a second time I refused to return his CD, and he did the usual expected temper tantrum.  I’m never shopping here again, I’m telling all my friends, I’m this and you’re that.

And life got incrementally better, knowing I’d never have to see that fucking Nerdlinger again.

 

VIDEO: Mail Call! 6 CDs from Robert

I thought these six CDs had been lost in the mail. I am so, so glad to be wrong.

#941: Design Flaws – the CD Jewel Case

RECORD STORE TALES #941: Design Flaws – the CD Jewel Case

While CD has proven to be an enduring format (40 years old now!), its packaging has been, shall we say, less successful.  I’m not referring to the “long box” packaging that CDs originally came with, a disposable (but now collectible) piece of cardboard that served a couple different purposes.  It enabled stores to display their CDs in existing LP shelving, and it discouraged theft.  It also also created waste, and was phased out rather quickly.  However worse than that is the jewel case, the same damn jewel case we use today.

You are as familiar with the flaws of the traditional jewel case as much as I.  They have a number of common breakage points:

  1. The hinges snap off quite easily.  Hinges are commonly broken in shipping.  This is really a flaw inherited from its predecessor, the cassette jewel cases.
  2. A ring of plastic teeth holds in the CD in by the center hole.  Weak inner rings often came broken right out of the package.  This is a deadly flaw, because it leaves plastic shards underneath the CD itself, jiggling around and scratching the disc.  Plus the CD itself cannot be secured inside and moves around as well.  Ugly disc damage all but guaranteed.
  3. Also often broken during shipping are the little plastic tabs that hold in the CD booklet.  Not a fatal flaw, but an annoying one.
  4. All of this amounts to a tremendous amount of plastic waste when a broken CD case or component is discarded and replaced.

The music industry, driven by environmentally conscious artists such as Pearl Jam and Neil Young, thought to try the digipack as a solution to the packaging and waste problems of the jewel case.  This was only moderately successful.  While making CD packages such as Vitalogy out of paper did keep plastic out of the landfill, it did not help with longevity.  Unless extra care was taken every time, the CD would scratch itself coming in and out of its cardboard sleeve.  Many were eventually rendered unplayable.  And then you have plastic in the landfill again.  These paper sleeves were also prone to damage quite easily.  Shelfware, scuffs and rips are common.

Some decent packaging solutions worked well but never caught on, probably due to cost.  For example, look at the Super Audio CD (SACD) case.  Some regular CDs also came packaged in these “super jewel cases”, such as Queen remasters.  It features a much stronger hinge design and thicker plastic.  Not unbreakable, but certainly more difficult to break.  You can still crack them right across the front, but at least the jewel case will still function the way it was intended to:  holding the CD in securely without damaging the surface.

While there is nothing you can do about a CD case damaged in shipping, if you take a reasonable amount of care of your collection, you will end up with very few broken cases.  At least there’s that!