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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

 

 

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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.

 

#515: Dye, Dye My Darling

GETTING MORE TALE #515: Dye, Dye My Darling

Have you ever wondered how a CD-R burner works?

It’s quite complicated actually, but the basic idea is that data is encoded in binary “pits” and “land”.  If you recall your grade 10 math, binary allows you to record any data in ones and zeros.  In the CD world, this translates to “pits” and “land”.  Think of the pits as zeros, and the land as ones.  When you burn a CD at home, musical data is encoded with a laser.  The laser doesn’t actually etch the plastic or metal layers of a disc.  Instead, it burns the data into a layer of dye.  It is this dye that gives a blank CD its typical colours.  Once this information is properly encoded onto the blank CD, you can then play it on most household disc players.  But they don’t last forever.  The colour of the disc can be a clue how much life it has.  It can help indicate what dye was used in manufacturing.

  1. Cyanine dye (green)

These are the earliest blanks made, with a layer of dye that was also UV sensitive.  Unfortunately this meant that your CD could be destroyed by exposing it to direct sunlight.  The dyes were improved to make them more stable, but many people had their data destroyed simply by leaving the disc out, playing side up, where sunlight could get to it.

  1. Phthalocyanine (gold, silver, light green)

A more stable form of dye.  You’d have to leave your CD out in sunlight for two weeks to destroy it.  Unfortunately phthalocyanine dyes are more sensitive to the writing laser, and these discs required some technical advances to make for a good recording.

  1. Azo (dark blue)

Rated for a storage lifetime of decades.  More stable than the other two dyes.  It would take a month of sunlight to destroy an azo-based disc.  Also capable of faster writing speeds than other dyes.

Because it would have been easy to look at a green CD and say, “Nope, I’m not buying this one,” disc manufacturers tricked you by adding other colours to the dyes.   But the type of dye is only one factor in how good your CD sounds and how long it lasts.  A CD is like a sandwich made of plastic with layers in between where the data is stored.  Poorly manufactured CD-Rs allow moisture to seep in between the layers and destroy the disc.  And of course the quality of the burner is also critical to a good sounding CD-R.  And be careful if you’re labelling your disc with a marker.  Sometimes solvents from markers can react with the dyes.

In very rare cases, CDs and even DVDs have been known to explode during burning, according to a New York Times article from 2004.  It happened when a disc was spun too quickly, probably as a result of heat from the burning laser combined with centrifugal force.  This is why the upper limit for burning a CD is 56x.  Go faster than that and your music could go BOOM (and not in a good way).

A re-writable CD is different still from a dye-based CD-R.  A CD-RW (which can be re-written thousands of times) uses a metal alloy layer that is physically liquefied by the laser.  It’s crystalline before burning, but less reflective after burning.  Therefore a CD-RW has pits and lands made of more and less reflective spots on the disc.  And if you don’t like it, you can start all over again.  The laser re-heats the alloy, restoring it to its crystalline reflective state.

It’s all very technical and interesting, but how often do you record a CD today?   Though burning a CD will always be a pastime for many music fans, the majority have happily moved on to easier and quicker flash storage.  Is that as fascinating as a laser etching your music onto a disc?  No, but however you handle your music collection is up to you.

#504: Waiting

Note:  This tale is from 1996 and does not reflect current tech.

GETTING MORE TALE #504: Waiting

The store that I managed for the longest period of time was opened in April of 1996.  The format was 95% used stock, about 5% new.  It was fun being a part of the cutting edge in retail.

When we opened that store, we were inundated by customers who had never heard of us before.  Every day for months, somebody would wander in who had never been in one of our stores before.  It was cool.  We were different, and we wanted people to know it.  We were eager to promote our special features and strengths, such as our listening stations and reservation lists.

The reservation list caused a lot of confusion among new customers.

Here’s how it worked.  Let’s say you’re looking for a CD that is hard to find used – Pink Floyd’s The Wall.  That one was expensive brand new.  Usually it ran for about $33.99.  Customers would much rather pay less, so they put themselves on our waiting list.  At the time we opened, the waiting lists were for that store only.  We didn’t have the ability to share our waiting lists with other branches yet.  This was still a massive improvement over the old system:  a notebook with phone numbers and titles written in it.  (There were lots of names and numbers with the title “any Beatles”.)

The list operated on a first-come, first-served basis.  If you were the very first customer to put their name in for The Wall back in April ’96, then you would get dibs on the very first used copy that came in.  If you were second, you’d get the next shot at it, and so on and so forth.  What seemed to confuse my early customers the most was “Where do these used CDs actually come from?”

There was no magical land of used CDs.  There was no massive warehouse from which to pick and choose copies of The Wall in various conditions.  There was no place from which to order used CD stock like you could with new.  If there was a Used CD Magic Wonderland, then it was in your basement, because the only way we received our stock in those days was via the customer.  If a customer came in and traded a great condition copy of The Wall, then congratulations – the first person on the waiting list received the first call.

On down the list we went.  If the first person no longer wanted The Wall (a frequent occurrence) then we’d go down the list to the second person.  We would phone each customer and give them a week to pick up their CD.  Unfortunately most customers who no longer wanted the CD never bothered to tell us, so it would sit there for a whole week before we could put it back in the hopper.  We wiped out our entire waiting list for Last of the Mohicans (Soundtrack) with just one copy, because none of the reserved customers wanted it anymore.  There were five names on that list, and then suddenly none!

So: reserve a CD, and we would let you know when one was traded in.  This doesn’t seem like it should be hard to understand, but apparently for some it was.

One upset customer came in about two weeks after reserving a rare CD.  “Is it in yet?”

I checked.  “No, it’s not in stock, but since you have a reserve for it, we’ll call you when it does show up.”

“When’s that going to be?” he asked.

“Hard to say,” I responded, trying to answer his question.  “Whenever someone trades one in, which could be tomorrow or it could be next year.”

Then he bellowed, “What do I have to do to get this thing to come in?!”

Sometimes, I just didn’t know what else to say.

“You don’t have to do anything,” I said, not sure how to explain this further.  “Somebody will get tired of their copy, or just need the money.  If they sell it to me, you’ll get a phone call right away.”  Then, feeling a little snarky, I added, “Unless you know somebody with a copy that you can talk into trading it in to us.”

There was actually one nearly-surefire way to guarantee a used CD would come into stock.  T-Rev discovered this, inadvertently.  Somehow, any time either of us bought a new CD that we’d been hunting for, suddenly a used copy would show up in store.  Sometimes on the same day.  This happened more than once!  I was there when it happened with a Primus CD he was looking for.  (Wish I could remember which one.)  It was eerie.

Everything has changed today, obviously, and now you have access to the world’s inventory from your PC.  It’s hard to imagine there was once a time when you (gasp!) had to actually wait to find a used copy of The Wall!

WALL