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REVIEW: Loudness – World Tour 2018 – Rise to Glory – Live in Tokyo (2019)

LOUDNESS – World Tour 2018 – Rise to Glory – Live in Tokyo (2019 Ear Music)

In an unfortunate twist of events, Loudness drummer Masayuki Suzuki was sidelined by stroke and could not perform on the Rise to Glory tour.  Ryuichi “Dragon” Nishida filled in beat-for-beat and appears on the live album World Tour 2018 – Rise to Glory – Live in Tokyo.  This 2 CD/1 DVD combo set is compiled from three days in Tokyo, with a bonus:  the DVD features one track with Masayuki Suzuki from the fourth day.  His performance on “Loudness” is as if there was nothing wrong with him, and he appears delighted to be playing live again.

Live in Tokyo is an energized performance, focusing almost entirely on early Loudness.  This being a hometown crowd, many of the songs are performed with their original Japanese lyrics.  1985’s Thunder in the East takes the early focus on disc one with the first six tracks all being sourced from the “big” album.  These tracks are intense, with solos by Akira Takasaki that melt the face.  Classic Loudness with jagged riffs and still-powerful vocals from Minoru Niihara.

Oldies abound.  Disc 1 also includes “Loudness” (the version with Ryuichi Nishida on drums) from the 1981 debut The Birthday Eve.  A slick, well-received version.  There’s also a punishing “In the Mirror” from third LP The Law of Devil’s Land, and the memorable “Crazy Doctor” from 1984’s Disillusion.

The second disc spotlights two lesser-known albums.  First is The Law of Devil’s Land from 1983.  The first five heavy numbers (including a second version of “In the Mirror”) all come from that platter.  This is the heavy proto-thrash that Loudness were peddling at the start of the 80s, and vicious stuff it is.  But not without hooks!  The last five originated on Disillusion, regarded by some aficionados as Loudness’ best.  From “Crazy Doctor” through the ballad “Ares’ Lament” and the finisher “Esper”, these are some great metal songs.

 

Impressively, the third disc (the DVD) highlights another batch of songs missed on the first two discs:  newer material.  “Soul on Fire”, “Go For Broke”, “Until I See the Light”, “I’m Still Alive” and a pair of instrumentals from the new Rise to Glory (2018) stand up to the earlier material.  The awesome “The Sun Will Rise Again” from the 2014 album of the same name rounds out the freshest material.  The new tunes are still heavy, riffy and melodic, but with a very slight modern edge.  “I’m Still Alive” goes thrash metal, but that’s part of Loudness’ origins.  Besides the return of Suzuki on drums for one song, the highlight of the DVD is a ballad.  After so many brutal songs, Minoru breaks out an acoustic guitar for an unplugged “Ares’ Lament”.  This is completely different than the version on CD 2, which was done fully electric.

Any classic band from the 80s or earlier, still trying to pull it off today, has the same question to answer:  How good is the singer?  Minoru Niihara is excellent.  As if no years have passed.  None of the material presents a challenge.

Considering the mixture of material over the three discs, Rise to Glory – Live in Tokyo would be a suitable entry point for any rock fan wanting to check out Loudness.  You’ll get the hits from Thunder in the East, ample early deep cuts, and a sampling of quality new stuff.  Value for the money and time invested.

4.5/5 stars

 

#874: Impossible to Display

A sequel to Getting More Tale #795:  A Case for Security

GETTING MORE TALE #874: Impossible to Display

Shoplifting accounts for over a third of inventory shrinkage in retail.*  At the Record Store we had numerous strategies to combat this, as discussed in prior chapters.  An alert staff can stop a staggering amount of theft, but the last line of defence for us was a magnetic security tag system.  Trying to lift a de-tagged item would set off alarms at the store.

Cassettes, one of of our lower-cost items compared with CDs and box sets, were protected with a single magnetic strip hidden on the seam on the shrink wrap.  These had to be de-tagged magnetically with a device — they were single use only and the tag left the store with the product after being disarmed.  Each tag cost five cents, and that added up.  Higher-cost box sets were protected with multiple tags hidden on the edges of the packaging.  CDs, which also carried significant cost but were the majority of our store, were protected by a double-edged sword.  They were housed in an unbreakable and re-usable plastic longbox, with the magnetic tag stuck to an inner edge.  These tags never had to be disarmed.  You just removed the security case with a special key and set it aside for re-use on fresh inventory.

Cassettes were checked weekly to re-secure loose tags.  We kept a close eye on everything and everyone.  Combined with good practices, the security gate at the front of the store prevented a lot of theft.  Still, there were certain items that were unfortunately hard to both a) protect properly and b) display properly at the same time.  Unusual packaging made some albums difficult to stock on the shelves with the rest of the catalogue.

December 6, 1994:  Pearl Jam – Vitalogy compact disc

Although we weren’t equipped to display records, we had no problems when Vitalogy was released on vinyl November 22, 1994.  We sold the five copies we stocked on the first day.  It was the CD release two weeks later that caused us grief because we ordered those en masse.

The CD release of Vitalogy came ensconced in a miniature cardboard book-shaped package.  It had the same dimensions as a normal CD case, just flipped upright on its short side.  You could put them in a CD security box no problem, but T-Rev discovered a weakness in its design.  Because it was thinner and more flexible than a standcard CD case, you could with a little effort force it out of the security box without unlocking it.  This meant we couldn’t safely stock it out on the shelves.

Instead, the boss man set up a small box under close watchful eye at the front counter.  He placed the Vitalogy CDs in it, with every fifth copy turned 45 degrees so he could easily count how many were in there at any given time.  If he knew that he had 20 copies in the box, but suddenly only counted 19, then he would see if anyone in the store was carrying one around to purchase it.  Eventually we just put it back in the security cases, assuming nobody would be as inventive as T-Rev in trying to get one out.

May 29, 1995:  Pink Floyd – p·u·l·s·e compact disc with flashing light diode.

The original CD release of Pink Floyd’s p·u·l·s·e had a unique gimmick.  The oversized cardboard shell contained the 2 CD album in a book-style case, plus a flashing light gimmick powered by two AA batteries in a hidden compartment.  When the CD was reissued without the light and space-consuming batteries, it could fit in a standard size CD security box.  However the full-on, limited edition original was too large to be stored in our shelving.  Once again we had to put them at the front counter, this time stacked in a pile.

What I remember most about the “pile of p·u·l·s·e” is that flashing light.  However many copies were in that heap at the front counter, the lights flashed incessantly.  You could not turn them off.  Once you purchased the CD, you could remove the batteries from the inside.  Safe in their shrinkwrap on our countertop, they just flashed and flashed away.  Never in synch.  No two copies were ever in synch.  I guess it might have depended on how much juice was still in those batteries.  Copies of p·u·l·s·e flashed for years without a battery change.

June 20, 1995:  Michael Jackson – HIStory double cassette in cardboard sleeve

Although cassettes were being slowly phased out, we still had to carry certain big releases on the format.  In 1995, Michael Jackson still sold impressive numbers.  Enough that we carried one cassette copy, which once again, was packaged in such a way that we couldn’t display it on our cassette shelves.  Unlike other doubles, which sometimes came in a “fat” double cassette case (like Phantom of the Opera) or two normal cases packed together (like The Song Remains the Same), Michael Jackson’s HIStory came with the two tapes face up, side by side, in a cardboard box.  It was dimensioned like no tape shelving system known to man.

Too cumbersome to take up valuable front counter space, HIStory was deigned be displayed without fanfare on a shelf behind the desk.  To buy a copy of HIStory on cassette from us, there were only two paths to a sale:

  1. The customer would have to notice it behind the counter when purchasing other items, and ask for it.
  2. The customer would have to ask if we carried it, and not everyone asks.

My solution was clever.  I had just acquired a computer program that enabled me to create perfectly formatted cassette J-cards for my tape collection.  I used it to print a sleeve that said “MICHAEL JACKSON – HISTORY – 2 CASSETTE SET – ASK AT COUNTER”.  I put that in an empty tape case, and filed it with the rest of the Michael Jackson cassettes.  It took forever but it must have sold eventually!  I don’t know if I was responsible because it didn’t happen on my shift.

We had a cramped little space and we made the best of it.  Given that we were constantly battling for every square inch, any time an artist came out with something that was impossible to display, it created a unique little headache for us!

 

* The other 2/3rds are largely staff theft and errors.

THREE-VIEW: KISS – Best of Solo Albums (Japanese CD)

  Best of Solo Albums (Originally 1979, 2020 Universal Japan CD)

Third review for this Kiss compilation here, but why?  A couple reasons.  For one, it’s the first-ever official CD release of this album!  It took 41 years for them to finally put out a CD, and yet only in Japan.  More remarkably, there is one track here that I’ve never heard before in this particular version.

That song is the incredible Paul Stanley epic “Take Me Away (Together As One)”.  On Paul’s solo disc, it fades away at the end of side one at 5:35 in length.  Here, it goes to 5:48, no fade, right to the end of the track.  It’s an ending I’ve never heard before.  This song isn’t even on the more common European version of Best of Solo Albums, just the Japanese.  And apparently the CD has an unreleased version without the fade.

“Oh boy!” you exclaim.  “I have to buy this import just to get 13 seconds of music I never heard before?”

No.  You don’t have to buy it.  I did, because I wanted a copy of this album on CD.  When I discovered the longer version of the track, I was ecstatic to unexpectedly get something extra for my money.

There’s no need to review this album track by track again.  I’ve done it twice, and I’ve also reviewed all four solos albums twice each.  There’s really no need to run through all the songs again, although this tracklist is quite different.  Unlike the European version, these songs are not arranged in three-track blocks for each member.  Additionally, seven of the European tracks were substituted with others.  That’s more than half the album!

Gene Simmons:  Instead of “Mr. Make Believe” and “See You In Your Dreams”, Japan used “See You Tonite” and “Living In Sin”

Paul Stanley:  “Move On” was replaced by the unreleased version of “Take Me Away (Together As One)”.

Ace Frehley:  “Speedin’ Back to my Baby” was removed in favour of the instrumental “Fractured Mirror”

Peter Criss:  All three of the Cat’s songs – “You Matter To Me”, “Tossin’ and Turnin’”, and “Hooked on Rock and Roll” were replaced!  I guess Japan didn’t care for those as much as they did “Don’t You Let Me Down”, “Rock Me Baby” and “I Can’t Stop the Rain”.

For me, I prefer the running order that Europe used, with each member of the band getting three songs in a chunk.  However, there are plenty of songs that I prefer on the Japanese version, such as “See You Tonite”, “Take Me Away (Together As One), “I Can’t Stop the Rain” and “Don’t You Let Me Down”.

It’s interesting that the solo albums are by and large panned by the masses, but nobody can agree on the “Best Of“.  Maybe those albums weren’t so bad after all, at least when you distil them down to the essential tracks.  The Japanese CD will become my preferred listening experience for two main reasons:  it sounds better than the vinyl, and I like more of the songs.  It would sound even better if I had an MQA decoder, a new-ish hi-resolution CD format from Japan, which will unlock an even better sounding version of the album, if you have a few grand to spend on upgrading your system.  If not, enjoy the disc and stellar packaging, with not one but two different covers to display.

4/5 stars

 

REVIEW: Alice Cooper – El Paso County Coliseum – The Classic Texas Broadcast -1980

ALICE COOPER – El Paso County Coliseum: The Classic Texas Broadcast -1980 (2016 Zip City)

At 80:33, the Alice Cooper Texas Broadcast CD release by Zip City is additional proof that you can indeed squeeze more than 80 minutes onto a CD!  The Flush the Fashion tour presented a whole slew of tracks that were rarely if ever played again.  Broadcasts of tours such as this are more than just curiosities to fans who already have all the official live releases.

An instrumental snippet of “Elected” precedes opening number “Grim Facts” from the current album.  It’s not the most outstanding song from an uneven album, but it does have a nice choppy guitar riff and solo.  Then it’s the familiar, slinky bassline that opens “Go to Hell“.  Alice’s vocal is a little erratic but of course you have to remember he’s moving around on stage, playing a part while trying to sing.  The audio is close to official live album quality, with very little excess noise.  From the same album, “Guilty” is a treat.  It’s one of the increasingly fewer rock-and-rollers that Cooper recorded after the original band split.  Alice can’t quite hit the note from the chorus hook, but that’s live music for you.  Better than an overdub recorded six months later in a little studio in another state.

Flush the Fashion boasted some really excellent tunes among the filler, and “Pain” is one of them.  Live it doesn’t punch as hard, but Alice delivers a passionate vocal.  “Talk Talk” is one of the new Alice tunes that took him into a Cars-like New Wave direction.  Filler for some, treasure for others.  Not as good as “Pain” for certain.

The first seriously classic dinosaur oldies rolled out are “I’m Eighteen” and, oddly enough, “Gutter Cat Vs. the Jets”.  Pouring on the melodrama, “Eighteen” is one for the record books, a top-notch version better than some of the official ones.  “Gutter Cat”, though?  What an odd one to pull out of the hat, and as soon as that bouncy bassline and quirky keyboard drop, we’re jumping up and down.  The arrangement’s been slightly modified from the School’s Out original but we’re just glad to hear it.

The set bounces back between old and brand new, and up next:  “Clones”, probably the undisputed best of the new Alice tunes and the only one that could be considered a hit.  Screams fill the air as soon as that synth riff hits.  A tight, feedback-laden version is rolled out in under three minutes.  Then it’s a bit of filler (“Nuclear Infected”) before they revert back to the oldies with “Billion Dollar Babies”/”I Love the Dead”.  Some blistering guitar work on “Billion Dollar Babies” would have you thinking this version was from a far earlier vintage.  Slicker than a weasel indeed!

Alice takes a break while the band do a long jam to some riffs from Alice Cooper Goes to Hell.  When Alice returns it is with an excellent rock & roll version of “Dance Yourself to Death”, far better than the Flush the Fashion original.  One dig at John Travolta snuck in, and from this point forward the Alice Cooper show is all about the classics.  The unmistakable “Only Women Bleed” provides a musical respite with understated drama.  Back to the rock with “Road Rats” from 1977 (OK, not that old by contemporary standards, but definitely of an earlier era).  The ode to roadies is seldom played but shouldn’t be.

“Sick Things”, “Is It My Body”, “Black Widow”, “Elected” and “School’s Out” are the final five, and yes that means Alice neglected a few hits.  There was no “Hello Hooray” nor “Welcome to My Nightmare”.  It doesn’t seem like anybody would have gone home dissatisfied.

The sound quality changes and improves partway through this CD, and a look at the actual setlist for this show reveals why.  Alice played “I Never Cry” that day between “Pain” and “Talk Talk”, and didn’t play “I’m Eighteen” until closer to the end.  He also apparently opened with “Model Citizen”, absent here.  He didn’t play “Billion Dollar Babies” or “I Love the Dead” at that show, but here they are.  That means this CD is not a single complete gig, but has been edited together from additional sources.

Given the rarity of most of the these tracks (many of these were the first time they were ever played live), buying this CD is a slam dunk win for any serious fan.  For the casual, you will hear a slew of well recorded Cooper classics and plenty of songs you won’t know but may end up loving.  It’s like a win-win.  Shame it’s not a full single show, but it’ll have to do for now.

3.5/5 stars

#829: Freestylin’ 6 – A Wasted Candy Script for Chaos

GETTING MORE TALE #829: Freestylin’ 6 – A Wasted Candy Script for Chaos

Buy local! That’s the mantra these days. The last time we went “Freestylin’“, I explained that I was going to try and buy as much of my music from Encore Records.  Having consumed the four albums I ordered last time, I decided to order four more!  Like before, I tried to (mostly) focus on albums I’ve never heard before.   At the same time I also wanted to pick up some music that people have been recommending to me.

First into the shopping cart:  Love/Hate – Wasted in America.  Your Heavy Metal Overlord was pleased that I enjoyed their debut album, Blackout in the Red Room, and so commanded me to acquire their second, Wasted in America.  Encore had in stock the Rock Candy reissue with two bonus tracks:  “Castles From Sand” and “Soul House Tales”.  I trust HMO with my dollars — he has rarely, if ever, steered me wrong.

My second purchase was Nita Strauss’ debut CD Controlled Chaos.  If you didn’t know, Nita plays lead guitar with Alice Cooper.  This one came highly praised by John over at 2loud2oldmusic.  “Nothing short of spectacular,” he said.  Funny enough, the last time he inspired me to purchase an album, it was another guitar instrumental:  Joe Satriani’s Shapeshifting.  I am looking forward to hearing a guitarist that, aside from live performances playing someone else’s songs, I’ve never really had a chance to listen to.  If Nita is as much of a beast in the studio as she is live, this oughta be a good album.

Uncle Meat has been telling me to buy some Cars studio albums for ages.  All I owned to this point was a Cars anthology called Just What I Needed.  Meat specifically recommended Panorama, but Encore had the expanded edition of Candy-O for just $16.99.  Maybe I’ll get Panorama next.  There is no point in getting the versions without the bonus tracks.  This one has a number of alternate versions, one B-side, and one previously unreleased song called “They Won’t See You”.

Because I ordered four CDs the first time I ordered from Encore, I randomly decided that I had to get four again this time.  My fourth was a re-buy, but a pretty mega re-buy.  The nice thing about this one is that it doesn’t replace the version I already own.  Rather, it complements the earlier version.  EMI already did a pretty excellent job when they reissued the Marillion catalogue in the 1990s.  Each of the first eight albums was stuffed with bonus discs packed with rarities and unreleased material.  My new copy of their debut, Script for a Jester’s Tear (4 CDs + 1 Blu-ray) duplicates only one track from the EMI original!

For the 2020 box set version of Script, the entire album is remixed, meaning I will need to hang onto my original.  The Market Square Heroes EP is also remixed.  The only song duplicated over both versions is “Charting the Single”, but here it is in a fresh 2020 remastering.  Discs three and four are an unreleased concert, Live at the Marquee Club.  “But I have that already!” you protest.  Do you?  No.  The concert on the Early Stages box set was recorded December 30, 1982.  This one was recorded the day before, December 29th!  While the setlist is identical, the concert is a completely unreleased one.

Finally the Blu-ray disc has the usual music videos and hi-def audio tracks, but most importantly it also has Script remixed in 5.1 surround.  It even includes the entire Recital of the Script live video (81 minutes)!   In other words, this version of Script is packed to the gills, yet amazingly without rendering your old copy obsolete.

Guitarist Steph Honde told me that the official Marillion website is sold out and he hasn’t been able to find a copy anywhere.  Fortunately the Marillion store says they will have more this week.

Thanks to Mark at Encore Records for keeping the rock rollin’.  This has been so important to my mental health.  I have always ordered new music to give myself something to look forward to in the mail.  The only difference in this new reality is that I sanitize the parcels thoroughly.  After too many weeks of no new music, ordering from Encore has been awesome.

Wonder what I’ll order next time?  Recommend four CDs to me.  If Encore carries them, there’s a possibility I might end up buying your favourite album next.

 

 

 

 

#823: A Cure for The Cult

GETTING MORE TALE #823: A Cure for The Cult

The Cult were big in highschool. “Fire Woman” debuted in the spring of ’89. It was an instant hit. Their momentum continued through the fall with “Edie (Ciao Baby)” and into the following year with “Sweet Soul Sister”. There was no stopping The Cult! With a new unknown drummer named Matt Sorum, The Cult toured the world and cleared up any remaining confusion that this was indeed a rock band.

The only Cult confusion that remained might have been with my friend Danesh.

Ian Astbury

I discovered that we both liked The Cult. I recall his amusement at the lyrics for “New York City” off Sonic Temple.  In particular he thought the aggrandizement “Hell’s Kitchen is a DMZ” was pretty funny.  It might have had something to do with the annual school trip to New York, that we didn’t attend but a friend of ours did.  Their bus was broken into and they had their stuff stolen.  Not particularly funny in and of itself, but I think we were amused because of who it happened to:  The legendary Brett Bowerman of Brett-Lore fame.  Indeed, in our highschool comic strip, the Geography teacher Mr. Robinson went to New York City to find a missing Brett!  This was inspired by us assuming Brett would get lost in New York and left behind.  In our sketches, Ian Astbury himself made a cameo.  This happened in a chapter titled “Brett Lore III:  Brett Takes Manhattan”.  In one panel, we find the Ayatollah Khomeini, a dead cat, and Skid Row (presumably because I didn’t know the difference between New York and New Jersey).  The Cult’s logo was scrawled on a wall, but scratched out.  Hell’s Kitchen is a DMZ after all!

Note that Elvis visited New York in 1989, apparently.  I also like that you can actually identify each Skid Row member by appearance alone.

Adding to the comedy, I recall that Brett purchased a samurai sword in New York.  I don’t remember if it was among the stolen possessions.  I think it probably was.

Back to the Cult.  Danesh was getting into rock music and wasn’t as well educated in the fine art of electric guitar as I was.  I think it’s very possible that he accidentally bought Disintegration by The Cure, confusing them with The Cult.  I do know that Danesh was terribly embarrassed about owning that Cure CD.  Compact discs were a new thing, and he owned up to having The Cure when we were listing some of the CDs that were in our collections.  I asked if he owned any discs that had “bonus tracks”.  The Cure did — two in fact.  That’s when he told me about it.  But he refused to tell me how he got it.  I had the Cure/Cult mixup theory, but he never confirmed nor denied.  To this day, 30 years later, I still don’t know!

Danesh really hated that Cure album.  When my family had a garage sale in 1991, he handed me the Cure CD to get rid of.  The garage sale was his only hope.  I put a sticker on there that said “BONUS TRACKS” and priced it at $12.  That was about half as much as you’d pay new.  But too much for garage salers.  I dropped it to $10 but no go.

Danesh was heartbroken when I returned the disc to him the following Monday.

“I would have been fine with a lower price if you called to tell me it wasn’t selling.”

Well, shit.  Sorry man.

I did feel bad.  I would have preferred selling it for him too.  But he still wouldn’t tell me why he owned it!  Was it a gift?  Did he like one song and then hate the rest?  Did he freak out when he saw what they looked like?  I remember his reaction the first time he saw a photo of Night Songs-era Cinderella.  It wasn’t positive!  The only album he owned was Heartbreak Station.  He didn’t know about Cinderella’s glam past and he wouldn’t let it go!

But these are just guesses.  For whatever reasons, Danesh would never tell me why he owned Disintegration by The Cure, nor would he tell me why he was ashamed of it.

As a final explanation, I’m going to go with the Cure/Cult mixup and consider this case closed.  An understandable mistake like that can be easily forgiven.

 

VIDEO: Kathryn Ladano album release – live performance of “Flow”

Enjoy music just a little different from the norm?  Here are Kathryn Ladano and opening act, combining members of Harp+ and Seagram Synth Ensemble at the TWH Social After Dark Space January 11 2020.  My Samsung couldn’t get a good image in the dark, but the audio is decent in full stereo.  Enjoy the track “Flow” from the new album Masked and clips from other tracks on the disc!

The synthscape of the opening act was quite awesome.  Now, I don’t normally drink, but I was with Max the Axe.  Before long I had a rum and Coke in me and I was taken on this wild synthesizer trip through the cosmos!  For roughly 30 minutes, a stream of music emanated through the room, like a slideshow of NASA photos from the 1960s.  Can’t wait to hear the Seagram Synth Ensemble’s album which was for sale and now in my collection.

Kathryn Ladano played interpretations of music from her album Masked.  “Interpretations” because the music is improvised and never the same twice, they just follow the same rough blueprints.  “It’s better live” whispered Max (you can hear this in the video), and Dr. Ladano agreed.

Great show, great venue, try and catch them live!

 

REVIEW: Judas Priest – Angel of Retribution (2004 CD/DVD)

“Sabbath are heavy, but Priest are metal.” – K.K. Downing

JUDAS PRIEST – Angel of Retribution (2004  Sony CD/DVD deluxe set)

Like Iron Maiden before them, Judas Priest pulled off a successful reunion tour before venturing into the studio to record a new album.  When the new music finally came, a deluxe package was made available featuring live videos from the reunion tour.  In this deluxe-sized review, we’ll take a close look at both the CD and DVD content.


The CD

Pure anticipation preceded the arrival of the Angel of Retribution.  Two underwhelming albums with Tim “Ripper” Owens on lead vocals caused Judas Priest’s star to diminish in the 90s and 2000s.  The return of the Metal God, Rob Halford, meant a reunion of the successful 1990-1991 Painkiller lineup.  The new album cover even featured the return of the Painkiller character, now the Angel of Retribution.  But a long time had passed.  Could Priest hope to live up to the hype, and their legacy?

The answer is mixed.  While Angel of Retribution contains enough classic Judas Priest metal to consider it a success, it also has some truly legendary filler, of sub-Ram It Down quality.  Instead of running through the album track by track, let’s break it down in terms of song integrity.

Priest wrote a natural sounding album, with elements from virtually all eras of Priest past.  They say it came about organically, and it does sound that way.  Some of the best material are the songs that sound like variations of classic Priest.

The opening song “Judas Rising” brings it back to 1976’s Sad Wings of Destiny with that fade-in opener inspired by “Victim of Changes”.  Then it transforms right into the Painkiller era, with something that sounds like a far more intense “Hell Patrol”.  Solid 5/5.

The slightly psychedelic first single “Revolution” ranks among the better songs, although perhaps it’s actually most similar to “Little Crazy” by Rob Halford’s Fight.  It has flavours of Rocka Rolla and Killing Machine, and is far from what anyone expected Priest to put out for a first single.  Dig that slide guitar bit in the solo!  Solid 5/5.

Worth Fighting For” isn’t a ballad; it’s a little harder edged than that.  It’s the one song that is unique in the Priest catalogue, and remarkably strong.  The riff has a nice chug to it, while Rob ably carries the melody to a higher place.  A special song, and a 5/5.

Demonizer” is Jugulator meets Painkiller, faster than a hellriding devil dog (whatever that is), but “the Painkiller rises again!”   So testifies Halford.  It’s so ridiculously over the top that it can only be worth a solid 5/5.  Likewise the similar “Hellrider” on side two.  Both feature double bass so fast that it’s almost a parody of itself, but both rock so hard you’ll break your neck keeping up.  “Hellrider” is also notable as the song where Rob Halford inexplicably name drops “Megatron”.  Similar songs, both solid 5/5’s.

The ballad “Angel” is a little soft, unexpectedly so on an album with so much heavy metal.  Yet, Priest can do anything.  The acoustic “Angel” could be the quietest ballad since the early days.  “Put sad wings around me now,” sings Rob to the angel, an appropriate callback.  As his voice aged it acquired more depth.  That helps make “Angel” a respectable 4/5.

Deal With the Devil” and “Wheels of Fire” fall in a netherworld of pedestrian Priest.  These both feel like filler from Point of Entry or Ram it Down.  Less explosive, less memorable.  The autobiographical “Deal With the Devil” is amusing for its many lyrical callbacks: “Under blood red skies”, “Took on all the world”, references to razor blades.  Likewise the short one, “Eulogy“, which is really an intro for another song that we’ll get to.  “They remain still as stained class”, “Guarded by the Sentinel”, and so on.  3/5 each.

The worst of all songs is “Loch Ness“, a mess so atrocious that we had to devote an entire entry just to that one song.  Combined with its intro “Eulogy”, it’s over 15 minutes of mire that has no reason to exist.  Many people simply stop the album after “Hellrider” and leave this foul turd to rot unheard.  “Loch Ness” could very well be the worst Judas Priest song of all time.  A flaming turd to extinguish all flaming turds.  The worst of all putrid, rancid filler songs ever foisted upon the faithful.  0/5.

 


“Reunited” DVD

It’s worth getting a copy of this album with the bonus DVD.  For one, there’s a documentary from the Priest Reunited tour.  Secondly, there are seven uncut live songs here for you to enjoy, and it’s the only official video release from the Reunited tour.  The live footage is something to see, especially if you own the robotic Rising in the East DVD.  In that concert, Rob Halford was a stiff mannequin instead of a frontman.  Here, he comfortably in charge and engaged.  The entire lineup is energized.  “Breaking the Law” sees them powered up and working hard.

But how did the seemingly unlikely reunion begin?  According to the documentary, the band and Halford met to discuss the forthcoming Metalogy box set.  Glenn Tipton states that they decided to reunite later the same day.  It was like they’d never been apart.  Terribly British, says Rob.  “Have a cup of tea, see you later.”  Rob does express regret for his actions (reportedly he gave Judas Priest his notice in 1992 by fax), but it seems all was forgiven over time.

Beware which version you buy.  This CD/DVD combo set contains the documentary plus the full live songs:  “Breaking the Law”, “Metal Gods”, “A Touch of Evil”, “Hell Bent for Leather”, “Eletric Eye:”, “Diamonds & Rust”, and “Living After Midnight”.  The DualDisc version does not; it only includes edited fragments of those tracks.  Which is a shame, because the band sounded fantastic and Rob was in full-lunged form.  This is probably the best live version of “A Touch of Evil” available, for example.  Not everyone likes the acoustic version of “Diamonds & Rust”, but it’s certainly different. The only bonus to DualDisc is that you also get the album in “enhanced stereo”.  Avoid that; get this.


Although Angel of Retribution is overall a very strong Judas Priest album, “Loch Ness” is impossible to ignore.  It does serious damage to an album that was otherwise an impressive listen.  In the included DVD, K.K. Downing says they had to pick and choose from an overabundance of songs.  Can you imagine how bad the leftovers are if “Loch Ness” made the album?

3.5/5 stars

REVIEW: Max the Axe – Overload (2008 EP)

MAX THE AXE – Overload (2008 Mutant Mind EP)

The ever-prolific Max the Axe has plenty of CDs under his belt, but the 2008 EP Overload is one of his most pleasing.  Featuring vocalist Terry Guirey, Overload has six rocking tunes, clocking in at roughly 18 minutes.  No fuss, no muss, no fat to be trimmed.

Opener “Overload” (heard in the video below) begins quiet and ominously enough, but just when you’re expecting a Scorpions power ballad to start, in comes the heavy! “If I told you once, I told you over and over,” sings Guirey over a simple grungey punk riff. “‘Cause I’m prone to overload…” he says, so stand back. No guitar solo, just punk rock heaviness.

A jolt of feedback in “Blood Runs Red” illustrates the rawness of the recording. All you need is a riff and a melody, and Max serves it up blood-raw. He’s also not content to only give you just one riff per song! That’s also the case with “Labyrinth”, which settles into a nice groove.

If “River Grand” sounds familiar, it should. 10 years later, it was re-vamped with vocalist extraordinaire Eric “Uncle Meat” Litwiller on the Status Electric album.  While the Meat version is superior due to a tour-de-force vocal performance, the original still rocks with a grungier flavour.

A pair of Max favourites closes the CD.  “Livin’ the Country” and “Mexican Standoff” have to be heard live to fully appreciate them.  The CD will have to do for now.  “Livin’ the Country” is like Paranoid-era Sabbath, loosely riffing your balls off.  Stand by for a unique, patented Max guitar solo.  Then “Put your hands up!” for the “Mexican Standoff”.  If you live to tell the tale, you’ll want to hear it again.

Max should consider re-recording some more of these songs with Litwiller.  Max has the goods on Overload, an excellent primer for what was yet to come.

3.5/5 stars

REVIEW: Vinyl Disc – a CD and a record all in one

VINYL DISC

If you love physical media (and chances are that you do or you wouldn’t be reading this) then you probably love it in all its myriad shapes and forms. Let’s be honest, when it comes to sheer varieties, there are far more weird vinyls out there than CDs. Picture discs, shaped discs, discs with liquid or actual objects inside the record, odd speeds, colours, thicknesses…you can take the vinyl LP in so many different directions. When you mess around with the CD format (shaped discs, enhanced discs, CD/DVD DualDiscs) you often end up with a product that won’t play in all players. Vinyl tends to be good to go for whatever turntable you have, though you will need a manual over an automatic when it comes to the Vinyl Disc.  That’s because it’s a 5″ disc, not a 7″, so you want to make sure you drop the arm on the media and not the platter.

When it comes to odd formats, Youtuber Techmoan (or Mat if you’re not into handles) is the expert.  When I saw his video on the subject, I knew I wanted to get a Vinyl Disc just for the novelty value.  This is a CD that has normal CD content on one side, but a groove on the other.  This groove can be played on a record player, revealing a bonus track.  I wondered if any bands I liked had ever released one.

It turns out, one had:  The Hellacopters, who are vinyl-mad in the first place.  I have a couple albums of theirs with vinyl-only bonus tracks.  I didn’t own the album Head Off, so I went to Discogs and got the Vinyl Disc version.

In his video, Techmoan complained of the poor sound quality on the vinyl side of the CD.  My copy of Head Off was factory sealed, but still suffers from pops.  Perhaps I should not have played the CD side first.  The vinyl side could have picked up dust from inside my computer.  I played the vinyl side twice, the second time after a light cleaning.  Both times there were loud, distracting pops.  You can see them clearly in Audacity.

The sound quality was never going to be as good as a real record, not with those grooves packed so tight.  And how deep can they actually be?  Of course it has to play at 33 1/3 RPM.  While it’s not as bad a flexi-disc quality, don’t expect much better performance than that.  It’s flat and indistinct.

You also end up with inner groove distortion over the entire song, simply because a Vinyl Disc is basically all inner groove.  Look at the pictures below.  The entire disc is well within the runout groove on an LP, being just a little larger than the label.  It’s darned close on a standard 45.  Point is, compared to real vinyl, this disc is tiny, and that has consequences.

Distortion and noise matters less with a band like the Hellacopters.  A little inner groove distortion sounds OK on them, but not for other groups.  So, the vinyl side of the Vinyl Disc is a novelty.  Serious record fanatics are not going to want to listen to it, because it won’t be up to par for them.

What about the CD side?  No issues whatsoever.  It plays exactly like it should, with no side effects that sometimes plague non-standard CDs.  In this case, the album is only 36 minutes long, which I am sure will have many people asking “then why bother with putting another song on the other side?  Why not put them all together on the CD side?”

A very good question.

Look, this type of CD was launched in 2007 and only lasted about a year.  There was a reason it didn’t catch on, and you can hear that reason.  For 99% of the population, all they would have needed was all the songs on the CD.  It’s the 1% of us nutters that love weird stuff like this.  There is a very, very low number of people who sit up at night thinking, “Would it possible to play a CD on a record player if it had grooves?”  But I promise you, we exist, and our questions have been answered.

Yes, it’s possible.

But no, there really isn’t a good reason to want to do it.  Oh, I suppose if you had an album that was just over 80 minutes, and you needed to leave a song off (like Extreme did), you could have put it all on one Vinyl Disc.  But for far less cost, you also could have just included two CDs.

The vinyl disc comes with a little spacer, like a foam donut, so the larger CD hole will fit nicely on a record player.  This ensures nice smooth play.

Whoever it was that figured out how to marry a CD to a record, they are unsung geniuses. They answered the questions of insomniac format-heads worldwide, and they got it to work.

Just because it doesn’t work particularly well doesn’t mean it wasn’t worth it.