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REVIEW: James Horner – Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan original motion picture soundtrack (1982)

STAR TREK II:  The Wrath of Khan original motion picture soundtrack (1982 GNP Crescendo)
Composed and conducted by James Horner

The Wrath of Khan was James Horner’s breakthrough score.  He sold a bajillion albums since, for movies you probably heard of (Titanic, Avatar, Aliens, etc. etc.).  One listen is all it takes to hear why The Wrath of Khan put him on the map.

When the film came out in 1982, it felt brand new in two ways.  One, it felt like Star Trek was alive again.  Khan‘s tight pacing, dialogue and performances were miles ahead of the monumental bore than was Star Trek: The Motion Picture.  Second, the score was top-knotch.  Just as John Williams made Star Wars a brilliant audio ride, so did James Horner with Khan.  Of course this isn’t to knock Jerry Goldsmith, who score The Motion Picture (and lots of other Treks too).  Khan was a different kind of movie, with the kind of action and tension the first film lacked.  The score followed suit.

Perhaps the most exciting cue on this soundtrack is recurring Khan theme heard in “Surprise Attack”.  As stunningly good as it is, the quieter moments in the score are just as important.  Though quiet, they still delivering tension when necessary.  Check out “Kirk’s Explosive Reply”, from the scene in the film when Kirk is stalling for time to take down Khan’s shields.  When a character stalls for time, you need to feel that tension, and it is all there in the track.  “Spock” is also a lovely softer piece, from a thoughtful moment between Spock and the Captain.  There is an air of ambiguous danger.


Surprise attack!

This being Star Trek, you need regal themes for those big widescreen shots of the USS Enterprise gliding past in all her glory.  Check out “Enterprise Clears Moorings” for a the finest example of this.  Of course, Khan was probably best loved for its battle scenes.  “Battle in the Mutara Nebula” and “Genesis Countdown” combined are 16 minutes of adrenaline mixed with tense stretches of quietly humming instruments.   Even when contemplative, this soundtrack is somehow so big and bold.  It is an absolutely huge sounding score.  Brass, military drums, strings…it is a flawless collection of music.  Every bit as exciting as the film, and completely enjoyable as its own work.

People say James Horner plagiarised music from classical composers.  So did John Williams, and you don’t hear fans complaining about it!  The Wrath of Khan could easily one of the best soundtracks you ever buy.

5/5 stars

Just Listening to…RIOT – Restless Breed

Just Listening to…RIOT – Restless Breed

This remastered CD, complete with six spine-piercing bonus tracks, was a gift last summer from the one and only Superdekes.  I never owned any Riot before, and frankly didn’t even know much about the band besides the track “Born in America”.  A young pre-teen LeBrain said, “Who is this band?  They stole their name from Quiet Riot and their song title from Springsteen!”

Yeah…no.

Deke knew what I was missing and so sent me his remastered Restless Breed with Rhett Forrester on lead vocals.  Riot was right in my wheelhouse.  This is quintessential 80s, riding that fine line between hard rock and heavy metal, but leaning further towards metal.  Solid riffs, memorable tunes, guitars out yer anus!  It’s one of those albums that turns out to be exactly what I liked then, and still like now, even though I missed it for 37 years.  The key, to me, is the powerhouse vocals of Forrester, who was murdered in a carjacking gone wrong in 1994.  What pipes this man had!  He could even make songs about a “Loanshark” sound cool.  “Collecting payments overdue!  Yai-yeah!”  That gets a big “fuck yeah” from me.

I’m spinning Restless Breed for the first time in a couple months.  “Loved By You” was the standout track last time.  This time, it’s still the most obvious “hit” of the bunch.  It’s extended to eight minutes on the bonus CD, called the Riot Live EP.  Although it suffers from repetition, “Loved By You” is an easy song to love.

Thanks for the CD, Deke.  It certainly is Loved By Me!

 

Side one
1. “Hard Lovin’ Man” (Rhett Forrester, Doug Salomone) – 2:48
2. “C.I.A.” (Forrester) – 3:43
3. “Restless Breed” (Mark Reale) – 5:11
4. “When I Was Young” (Eric Burdon, Vic Briggs, John Weider, Barry Jenkins, Danny McCulloch) – 3:25
5. “Loanshark” (Reale, Forrester, Kip Leming) – 4:10

Side two
1. “Loved by You” (Rick Ventura) – 5:37
2. “Over to You” (Ventura) – 3:42
3. “Showdown” (Reale) – 3:49
4. “Dream Away” (Ventura) – 3:43
5. “Violent Crimes” (Leming, Forrester) – 2:30

2016 CD edition bonus tracks
11. “Hard Lovin’ Man” – 3:09
12. “Showdown” – 4:30
13. “Loved by You” – 8:02
14. “Loanshark” – 5:27
15. “Restless Breed” – 5:11
16. “Swords and Tequila” – 3:57

CONCERT REVIEW: Hello Hopeless and guests, Nov 30 at the Boathouse

HELLO HOPELESSThe Boathouse (Kitchener Ontario, November 30 2018) with Another Crush, Pioneer Anomaly, and Antisocial Surf Club.

With a new CD in hand, Kitchener rock band Hello Hopeless introduced the Boathouse to a fistful of new songs in a velvet glove of rock.

Playing every song from their new EP Dark Pasts, Brighter Futures plus a couple oldies and covers, the threesome kicked ass from start to finish with nary a hiccup.  The band were tight, proving that their performance on CD was no fluke.

Hello Hopeless tick several boxes:  1) Great stage presence and stage-worthy rapport.  2) Strong original songs.  3)  Great vocalists.  4) Musical chops.  5) A clear love of what they do.  With a Toronto gig on the horizon, the band are ready for the next jump.

Standout tracks included “Hurricane”, “The Match”, and acoustic ballad “Broke”.  It was the first time “Broke” was played live, and its rawness was appealing.  Singer Garrett Thomson poured everything into it, and it paid off.  The set was otherwise upbeat, fast and fully electric.  The band played a couple covers:  “Mr. Brightside” by the Killers and “She’s Out of Her Mind” by Blink 182.  Remarkably, their originals were much better than their covers.

Opening acts were Another Crush (Hamilton), Pioneer Anomaly (Toronto) and Antisocial Surf Club (Kitchener).  Pioneer Anomaly suffered technical issues, including a downed mike stand during the first song.  Fortunately a hero emerged from the audience as Max the Axe (he’s kind of a big deal) ran to the stage to fix the microphone so the band could finish the song!  Max the Axe has earned the honorific title “Max the Roadie”.  Max will be playing at the Boathouse next week, December 8, for his own CD release.  Antisocial Surf Club were notable for a few catchy originals and covers though clearly aimed at a younger crowd than Max and I.

If Hello Hopeless come to your town, see them.  If they keep playing gigs like this and writing quality originals, you will be hearing about them one way or the other.

5/5 stars

 

 

HELLO HOPELESS CD release tonight!

Local punk rock threesome Hello Hopeless will be releasing their new EP Dark Pasts, Brighter Futures tonight November 30 at the Boathouse in Kitchener!  This smoking hot release is well worth your attention and the measly $10 they are asking for it.  Support local music and go see Hello Hopeless.  Here are the details:

The Boathouse, Victoria Park
57 Jubilee Dr., Kitchener, Ontario
Show starts at 8pm

Featuring guests AntiSocial Surf Club, Pioneer Anomaly and Another Crush.

 

Come and meet me!

If I didn’t truly love this CD, I wouldn’t be plugging it.  Hope to see you at the Boathouse.

 

REVIEW: Hello Hopeless – Dark Pasts, Brighter Futures (2018)

HELLO HOPELESS – Dark Pasts, Brighter Futures (2018)

You have to admire a band that puts in 110%.  Hello Hopeless, a trio of punk rock upstarts from Kitchener Ontario, have spared no expense making their new EP sound perfect.  It’s verges close to punk metal if you asked me, but let’s not split hairs.  Whatever you want to call it, the production is surprisingly deep with loads of variety and small details.

It’s easy to compare Hello Hopeless to modern punk greats like Blink, but there’s more to it.  Opening instrumental “Dark Pasts, Brighter Futures” works things up with a Priest-like beginning (think “Electric Eye” going into “Screaming For Vengeance”).  The tension seeths into the next and best track, “Victim, Victim”.  Busy drums and a chunky riff back up a great, punchy song.  Garrett Thomson (vocals, bass) seemingly plumbs the depths of his soul when singing, but the simple, hammering riffs are what keep you coming back.  The drums (by Will Bender) are fast n’ busy, just like you want it.  Blasting on, “Save Myself” (guitar solo!) and “Inertia” continue in this direction.  “Inertia” is particular is a varied trip, and well worth it.  The dark lyrics are quite good, but the production just smokes.

An unexpected acoustic ballad called “Broke” boasts a raw, emotional vocal and excellent melodies.  It’s a good break in the action, because it’s pedal down from here out.  Thomson and guitarist Nathan Heald share lead vocals on “The Match”, and again I’m hearing a hint of Judas Priest (the opening to “Hellrider” specifically).  Catchy vocals paired with a groovy bassline, plus a guitar solo, riffs n’ drums…what more do you need?  The closing track “Hurricane” also features shared vocals, and goes out on a suitably powerful note.  There’s even piano for a touch of the dramatic.  Once again, I hear a lil’ bit of metal.  Savatage this time.  What a way to end it.

I may be a little biased since these guys are from my home town, so let’s get that out there.  I truly think Dark Pasts, Brighter Futures is one of the better releases of 2018.  You’d do well to check it out.  So go ahead and do it, it’s on Spotify!  For those who demand a physical product, the CD is out November 30.

4.5/5 stars

Check out Hello Hopeless at the Boathouse in Kitchener on November 30 to get your CD.

REVIEW: Rod Stewart – The Story So Far: The Very Best Of (2001)

ROD STEWART – The Story So Far: The Very Best Of (2001 WEA)

Sir Roderick Stewart might be best known for his covers, though he certainly wrote his fair share of corkers.  He’s the kind of artist that made certain covers his own, to the point that some think they’re his originals.  “Downtown Train” (Tom Waits) is a good example.  So is “The First Cut is the Deepest” (Cat Stevens).  Rod’s versions are iconic.  Something about his blue-eyed raspy soul.

Stewart is also known for his successes in multiple decades.  He was big in the 60s, with Jeff Beck.  He was huge in the 70s with the Faces  as a solo artist.  He successfully rode out the disco era with a huge hit (an original, “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?”, co-written by Carmine Appice).  He became a massive pop star in the 80s, and even kept the momentum going through the start of the 90s with MTV Unplugged.  Finally he became an adult contemporary sensation in the 2000s with his Great American Songbook albums, before finally returning to writing original music.  Rod just has an ear for a good song, and an ability to wrap his inimitable voice around it.  The Story So Far: The Very Best Of Rod Stewart captures a huge chuck of music from the late 60s to 2001.  It’s separated into two discs, for two moods:  the upbeat A Night Out and the softer A Night In.

Is The Story So Far all you need?  No, but it touches the bases.  It’s easier to think of songs that aren’t included.  You’ll still want to get “Handbags and Gladrags”, “Infatuation”, “Broken Arrow”, and many more.  This CD set will help you hone in on what you want, and you’ll still get plenty of goodies.  From “Stay With Me” and “In A Broken Dream” all the way through “Some Guys Have All the Luck”, and into the unplugged “Reason to Believe”, it’s loaded with quality.  In fact there’s only one dud, which is “Don’t Come Around Here” with Helicopter Girl (who?) from 2001’s dreadful Human.   The programmed beats reek of an age past when everybody turned to computers to stay trendy.

There are even a couple hard to find tracks.  “Ruby Tuesday”, from Rod Stewart, lead vocalist was not originally released in North America.  “All For Love” is a Bryan Adams song featuring Rod and Sting from the Three Musketeers soundtrack.  “In A Broken Dream” is an oldie by Aussie band Python Lee Jackson, featuring Rod at the mic.  These are good songs worth owning.

One misfire on a compilation of 34 songs ain’t bad, and Rod’s ballads are as good as the rockers so both discs are equal in strength.  Get your “Hot Legs” on the dance floor with some “Young Turks”.  You’ll have a great time, “Ooh La La”, so “Tonight I’m Yours”.  “Tonight’s The Night”, so go get some Rod Stewart!

4.5/5 stars

VIDEO: Mike and Aaron Do Taranna 2018

MUSIC CREDITS: “Shit” parts 1 – 5 written and performed by AARON

REVIEW: Black Sabbath – Cross Purposes ~ Live (1995) Part One – the CD

BLACK SABBATH – Cross Purposes ~ Live (1995 IRS CD/VHS set)
Part One: the CD

Metal fans who recall the 80s and 90s will remember that Black Sabbath struggled to be relevant, in a time when they should have been dominant.  While Soundgarden soared up the charts with a sound that could never have existed without them, Black Sabbath limped along, with new lineups annually.  Singer Tony Martin has been relegated to the footnotes of rock — unfairly for certain — thanks to a successful Black Sabbath reunion with Ozzy Osbourne.  Fans in the know appreciate the Tony Martin era, and the tunes it produced.

With a lineup featuring original members Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler, Sabbath rolled tape at the Hammersmith for a live video also featuring their newest drummer Bobby Rondinelli (Rainbow) and longtime keyboardist Geoff Nicholls.  They were on tour supporting Cross Purposes, their first since an aborted reunion with Ronnie James Dio.  This video was released in 1995, packaged with a CD that was shortened by three songs.

Today we’ll review the audio, and tomorrow a guest will review the video.

Some context:  in some circles, Tony Martin was seen as a Dio clone.  Therefore, it was brave and somewhat cheeky for Black Sabbath to open the show with “Time Machine”, a song specifically recorded for the Dio reunion!  The whole Dehumanizer era was dicey to begin with.  Tony Martin supposedly recorded an alternate set of vocals for that album just in case it didn’t work out with Ronnie.  Cheeky or not, Tony Martin was more than capable of covering Dio’s song, though with less of Ronnie’s unmistakable grit.

Back to Master of Reality, “Children of the Grave” is bloody sharp with Bobby on drums.  Nothing against Vinnie Appice or Cozy Powell (or Eric Singer or Bev Bevan or Terry Chimes or Mike Bordin or Tommy Clufetos) but I think Bobby Rondinelli was absolutely perfect for Black Sabbath.  His hard-hitting style really turned up the heavy, and he also adapted it to the old Bill Ward songs better than some of the other drummers did.

Sabbath churned out album after album, year after year, and they always played new tunes live.  Cross Purposes was a remarkably solid album, probably due to Geezer Butler’s influence.  “I Witness” was worthy of the Sabbath canon, fitting perfectly among the speed rockers like “Neon Nights”.  Next in the set was “Mob Rules” which was cut from the CD for time, so we skip through to a pretty authentic and unabridged “Into the Void”.  With Tony Martin in the band, Black Sabbath were able to do songs from any era.  That’s due to his versatility and his ability to put ego aside.

“Anno Mundi” (from 1990’s Tyr) should be next but it’s axed for time and instead it’s straight into “Black Sabbath”, a song that makes fools out of most singers.  And truthfully, nobody but Bill Ward can capture the random madness that is his original drum performance.  Sabbath ’94 do OK.

Another track is edited out (“Neon Nights” of all songs; who chose these?) and an odd choice from Cross Purposes is left in:  “Psychophobia”, a stuttering metal slab of anger.  Aimed at Ronnie?  You be the judge, when Tony Martin howls, “It’s too late now, it’s time to kiss the rainbow goodbye.”  The groove is pretty unstoppable whatever the motivation.

The surprise plot twist is “The Wizard”, an Ozzy oldie that few singers have dared to attempt with Black Sabbath.  First time in 24 years, according to Tony.  The harmonica part brings it closer to the old blues that Sabbath began with, and Tony Martin does fine with his own take on it.  Then it’s time for the Cross Purposes ballad, a killer “Cross of Thorns”, though one gets the sense of anticlimax after a track like “The Wizard”.  It would have worked better early in the set, but it’s an example of the quality heavy rock songs that Sabbath were still writing.  Martin’s voice cracks raw at times from pouring it all in, and Iommi’s guitar solo is one of his most melodically enticing.

Back once again to the past, “Symptom of the Universe” is a smokeshow, including the oft-skipped psychedelic groovy outro.  It kills any version by any lineup except the original quartet, and that’s due to Tony Martin’s throat-destroying singing.  Bobby Rondinelli gets a drum solo before “Headless Cross”; not the first time he’s had to play drum parts originated by Cozy Powell!  “Headless Cross” is a rhythm-based song with or without Cozy.  Geoff Nicholls helps out Tony Martin for the impossible notes in the chorus.

“Paranoid”, “Iron Man” and a downtuned “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” make for a fine conclusion, but “Heaven and Hell” was conspicuous by its absence on this tour.  It was only played in form of a brief segue between songs.

The CD release is 71 minutes, so given time limits of the day, that was about as many songs as they could squeeze in.  If you want to be creative, why not find the other three tracks and add them as a bonus CD?  Until a complete deluxe edition comes our way, this will have to do for audio aficionados.  Our bonus CD is 16:08 of more Sabbath, though at a noticeably lesser quality.  Tony remarked that picking a setlist was near impossible, but that “Mob Rules” had a “fucking good place in this set”, so why not the CD?  It’s a full-speed cruise that is over before you can break a sweat.  “Anno Mundi” is a special treat, as it was only played on the UK tour dates.  Another fine example of underrated Martin-era material that wasn’t given a fair shake, but at 6:20 it takes a lot of space.  As for “Neon Nights”?  “This is a fucking good track,” says Martin accurately.  There’s a lot of speedy metal on Cross Purposes ~ Live, but two of the most important ones in “Mob Rules” and “Neon Nights” were not on the standard CD.  Surely a better series of cuts could have been made.

Tomorrow a guest reviewer will have a look at the VHS.  For the CD, the math is simple:

4.5/5 stars

– minus 1 star for the missing three songs equals =

3.5/5 stars

 

Sunday Chuckle: Past Lives

This one goes out to reader Harrison, who asked why I haven’t reviewed Black Sabbath’s Past Lives yet.

Here’s why!

This is what happens when Mrs. LeBrain parks the laundry cart too close to my CD tower spinner.  This got caught on the cart, and riiiiiiiip!

Note:  the guitar pick inside was undamaged, and I have since bought a new case.

#541: When the Packaging Gets Wrecked

GETTING MORE TALE #541: When the Packaging Gets Wrecked

It’s so easy for a store to wreck the very product that you want to buy.  It happens every day.  A CD jewel case helps protect your precious music…if it comes in a CD jewel case.  How did stores wreck the packaging?  Here are some of the most common!

  1. Box cutters

When you open up a fresh shipment of music, it’s very easy to damage the product inside with a box cutter and it happens all the time.  If it’s LPs inside the box, or digipack CDs, it’s very easy to cut open the top-most item inside the box.  Not only do you see this happen with music but toys and games too.  I’ve seen a few toys on shelves with the bubbles accidentally scored by overzealous box cutters.  I’ve accidentally done it to a few CDs because I wasn’t being careful enough.

  1. Price (and other) tags

I have some great examples here.  The first revolves around a rare Led Zeppelin Complete Studio Recordings box set.  This deluxe box set was released in 1993, but by 1996 it was deleted and hard to find.  The boss man apparently knew somebody from Warner who supposedly had a cache of them stashed away.  If so that would have been a potential goldmine.

If there was a cache of them or not, I don’t know, but we did get one to sell.  We sold it as new, but because of the format of stores (all CD cases on display were empty), the boss opened it up.  I believed this to be a mistake and I still do.  I think we could have sold it just as easily had we kept the sealed box on display behind the counter somehow.  But we didn’t, and we had to put stickers all over the now opened box set to proclaim that it was BRAND NEW and OUT OF PRINT.

IMG_00000655

One customer came up to the counter to complain.

“Why is this thing so expensive?” he asked, for good reason.

“It’s brand new,” I answered.  “The owner brought this one in sealed, and he opened it himself, so I can vouch for the fact that it’s brand new.”

“Yeah but he put stickers all over it!” complained the customer.  “Can you give me a deal?”

We were only selling the box for a few dollars over cost, so no deals were to be had.

We eventually sold that box set after it had sat there for a few weeks.  The stickers came off no problem, but had they stayed on there a while longer, they might have been an issue.  Sticker residue on paper can leave nasty stains, sticky spots, or even tears.

Our price tags were usually pretty good.  At one point we ordered a cheaper batch, and they were just awful.  You couldn’t peel them off in one piece, and you’d always leave paper on whatever you were peeling them off from.  Whenever we re-priced something, we were supposed to completely remove the old tag, leaving nothing behind.  These tags made that a chore.  It was a relief when that batch was used up.

The worst price tags I have seen in any store in my life came from Dr. Disc.   They are still around, though only in Hamilton now, and I don’t know if they still use the Yellow Tags of Death.  These tags had a magnetic security chip embedded in them, and left a horrible red residue on everything.  It was like taking a red crayon and melting it on your CD cover.  You could never get the red residue off, unless you used a product like Goo Gone, but it left its own oily residue behind that was equally impossible to remove.  I had to replace the case on every used CD I ever bought from Dr. Disc.  Every single case!

  1. Regular wear and tear

This is all but unavoidable.  Stuff gets damaged in shipping.  Customers drop stuff.  In our store, just about every front cover of Metallica’s Load CD was dog-eared.  Its thickness made it hard to put back in the CD case.  When the CD came out new, our display copies took severe beatings.  The front covers were so damaged that we had to sell them as used.

If you see something in a store that’s a little dinged up, but not too badly, ask if you can get a discount.  If you ask nicely, they will usually agree.  Whether it is worth it or not, is up to you!  Remember, most things tend to show up again.  You can usually wait until you find a better condition copy.

Are you picky?  Some of my customers were so picky that I actually told them “I don’t think buying anything used is really for you.”  Do you want everything as mint as possible?  Let us know in the comments.