The LeBrain Train: 2000 Words or More with Mike Ladano
Nobody “wanted” lockdown to happen in Ontario, but here we are. You don’t have to be alone on Boxing Day, no matter where you are. This Saturday December 26, join the LeBrain Train for a special holiday episode called “Christmas Memories”. Special memories such as:
- Waking my dad up with Lego
- Getting Luke’s X-Wing
- Finding a Millennium Falcon under the tree
- Waiting for a train from Stratford in a blizzard
- Killing time…
- The Atari years
- The year I woke everybody up at 1 AM playing GI Joe
- The dawn of the Rock N’ Roll era: cassettes, cassettes, cassettes!
- Boxing Day with WWF’s Demolition
- 1989: The first CD player
- 1990: Led Zeppelin
- …and on and on!
There might be guests — or I might just open it up for anyone to join the show. You’ll just have to tune in and see.
It’s OK if you’re upset or just not in the mood. Who is these days? We have been here for each other since the start and the hope is to spread some positive feelings this week.
I’ll be on break for the next couple days. Have a drink or two, and we’ll see you Saturday December 26. Let’s get into the sweet nectar of nostalgia!
One of the classic Christmas specials that you never see on TV anymore is Nelvana Animation’s A Cosmic Christmas. Nelvana produced some of the greatest animation of the time, such as Rock and Rule (1983). Nelvana even made the acclaimed Boba Fett animation that introduced the character in 1978 for the Star Wars Holiday Special. Much like that special, A Cosmic Christmas has never been issued on DVD. Yet it truly is a special cartoon that you have probably never seen, until now.
The first time I saw A Cosmic Christmas was probably the winter of 1977. I saw it yearly, until it stopped running. Why is it no longer shown? Possibly due to a brief mention of Jesus and the star of Bethlehem?
Young Peter and his goose Lucy encounter three old wise aliens on Christmas Eve. They’ve come to Earth to investigate the appearance of a rogue star some 2000 years ago. (Nice attention to the speed of light!) Peter tells them that what they have really come to learn about is Christmas: peace, love and caring for others. He tries to show them, but Peter has a bully named Marvin (wearing purple Paul Stanley boots!) who steals his goose. Why did he do it? Because he’s a bad egg? Or just because he is hungry?
“Wait! There is something we do not understand,” says one of the wise aliens studying human culture. “How could someone go hungry, if this is Christmas?”
“Because we were so busy thinking about ourselves. We never thought about other people,” answers one of the townsfolk.
Enjoy the Christmas story that brought tears to my eyes back then, and still does today. A Cosmic Christmas.
Dedicated to SW – “A good soul”
GETTING MORE TALE #804: Freestylin’
I thought I’d try something different, and just sit down at the keyboard and write. I have a warm coffee next to me (I drink large regular now) and some music in my speakers. I’m listening to a Japanese import of Quiet Riot’s new album Hollywood Cowboys. Just listening; not reviewing. You have to spend time just listening.
I do most of my listening at my keyboard these days. My main room music setup is seldom used anymore. Only when I’m spinning something in 5.1 surround do I usually roll out the big guns. Otherwise I’m content to just listen at my desk or on a pair of headphones. It’s a nice comfortable spot for me, right by a window. Outside the ground is dusted in a shallow layer of white. It is December 20th, 2019.
I dared go to the mall today. Long story short, a bunch of stuff I ordered for Jen for Christmas got cancelled (out of stock). Not having much choice this late in the game, I went to the mall where I accomplished my mission. It wasn’t what I’d call “fun” but it was also pretty painless. I stopped at Sunrise records where I inquired about The Rise of Skywalker soundtrack. I would have taken CD or vinyl, but their stock had not yet arrived.
I do know this. A “deluxe edition” of the soundtrack is coming in March. Then, later in 2020, a 27 Blu-ray (!) Skywalker Saga boxed set. I don’t know how far that will put me back, and I actually don’t care! I’ve been enjoying speculating what could be in that box. The press release specified it was being billed as a complete Skywalker Saga. That’s 9 films. Let’s guesstimate that each movie will be a 2-disc set. That’s 22 discs, plus 5 extra Blu-rays? That’s one possibility. With George Lucas out of the picture, we could be getting an “original” original trilogy and a Holiday Special. Sky’s the limit, so let’s make some wishes.
This Quiet Riot album is decent. I liked Jamed Durbin with that band. You simply cannot hear that Frankie Banali was ill. I hope Frankie fights a hard battle against that bitch named cancer, and many more albums are still to come. You can do this, Frankie. The Japanese bonus track this time out is an acoustic version of the bluesy “Roll On”.
I’ve been listening to a lot of Ozzy Osbourne over the last few weeks. You’ll see some of that in future content I’ve written. I played a few of his more recent albums, Scream and Black Rain in addition to all the classics. Those two are not bad. They hold up better than I thought they would. It’s refreshing when you get to Scream, with Gus G on guitar. Too much Zakk Wylde can lead to ear fatigue. The Randy Rhoads era stands out absolutely as the pinnacle. The way he wrote and played guitar is unlike anyone else, and there just isn’t enough Randy music in the world.
In case you’re curious, there’s one Ozzy album I never bought, and that’s Down to Earth (2001). I’ve heard it and I’m just not interested. Too many outside writers and too much influence from the producer, would be my nutshell review. I have no plans to add it to my collection, though I did buy the CD singles. I like having B-sides.
I think I’ve rambled long enough. Christmas is coming and I still have one special post to go, as a gift to a reader. Thanks for hanging in — and stay tuned for the annual year-end lists!
And may the Force be with you, always.
GETTING MORE TALE #728: Christmas Eve 2018
Way back in the 80s, my sister and I would get so hyped up for Christmas that we would actually “play” Christmas. How do you “play Christmas”? You pretend to go to bed, then one of you makes jingle bell sounds. You run to the other’s room and tell them that Santa came! Then you leap downstairs and pretend to open presents. I swear to God, this is what we did. “Oh look I got Atari Pac Man!” Killing time was hard when you’re a kid on Christmas holidays. We’d invent anything just to kill an hour. Parents would have preferred that we help out instead of playing around.
It’s 2018 now and Sis is probably working hard getting ready to host dinner tonight. Beef fondue again. Always good. If your meat isn’t cooked right, it’s your own fault!
I’ve been off for a couple days, trying not to work too hard. This year, I decided to focus on playing vinyl during the Christmas break. As I write this, to my immediate right is a bright clear pink disc spinning at 33 1/3 RPM. It’s a vinyl exclusive, which quite frankly, is the best thing to enjoy on LP. Live From the Astroturf is a very rare Record Store Day live album, featuring the surviving members of the original Alice Cooper Group reunited. I’ve been ogling it ever since it arrived a few days ago. I finally cracked the seal and placed it carefully on the platter. I had no idea what colour the vinyl would be until that moment. There are 12 randomly inserted colours! In addition, the photo on the label B-side is random (mine is Dennis Dunaway). Let me tell you people, there is nothing like the original Alice Cooper band, playing the original songs.
Another wonderful sonic experience is playing a brand minty new record, so clean that you can’t tell it’s not digital. Contrarily, it’s also unique to play an old record and hear the same pops and ticks that the previous owner heard too. The first record I played this holiday was Jen’s mom’s old Buddy Holly Story soundtrack. Got the movie, never heard the soundtrack. It does exist on a pretty rare CD, but once the needle hit the groove I realized I’d rather listen to the same record her mom did. It creates a connection, almost like a time machine. (Even though I planned on taking it easy, I did write a review and you can look for that in the new year.)
I still have time to squeeze in a couple more records before the festivities begin. I’m sure you’re busy and I won’t take up any more of your time! For those working retail: Hang in there and it will be all over soon. At least until December 26.
It’s weird to be finishing this article while the original Alice Cooper Group sings, “School’s out for summer, school’s out forever”! That’s how it worked out though, and it’s funny enough to mention. To all of you, I wish a safe and happy Christmas. It goes by so fast, try to savour the moments.
Merry Christmas readers and friends, and remember: “School’s out for summer!”
GETTING MORE TALE #727: An Aaron Xmas
How many Aarons do you know? I know several, but only one that bombards me on a regular basis with mystery parcels!
We’ve written about Aaron many, many times in these pages. There is a whole series of videos called Mike and Aaron go to Toronto, where we spend our money on all things musical. Then there are the numerous albums and even holy grail items he’s found for me over the years. Aaron is a non-stop fountain of music!
The truth is, he sends me far more stuff than I send in return. Hopefully he’s not keeping track too hard. But now it is Christmas! I sent him a couple CDs last week (Max the Axe and Styx), and he has returned the favour with interest (as he usually does). Let’s see what’s inside, shall we?
Christmas came early indeed! Aaron and I have discussed Gowan before. Many today know Gowan as the lead singer of Styx, but before that he had a couple decades worth of a solo career under his belt. I told Aaron, “I want to start a Gowan collection, all of it.” Amazingly I didn’t find any last time we were in Toronto, but Aaron doesn’t quit.
Check this out: the two Gowan albums I wanted most! Strange Animal, and Lost Brotherhood. Woah! What names in the credits! Tony Levin on stick and bass, on both albums. Alex Lifeson (Rush) and Kenny Greer (Red Rider) on guitar for Lost Brotherhood. Talk about the best of the best of the best. And between the two albums, I get all the Gowan songs that I like (so far)! Those would be “Strange Animal”, “A Criminal Mind”, and “All the Lovers in the World”.
But that’s not all!
Clearly, Aaron remembered that I once had a crush on “Sporty Spice”, Melanie C. I even owned her first solo album Northern Star. I still think Mel C is the best Spice Girl; she even worked with Bryan Adams. She’s arguably the most talented and the one with the most integrity. My crush is long gone, but she’s still beautiful today; even more than 1996. Yeah, I still like Sporty! Knowing this, Aaron bought me the “Unofficial” Sporty Spice In My Pocket book. From this, I learned that Mel C once worked in a fish and chip shop. What a couple we could have been. I love fish!
You know, I wasn’t actually looking forward to Christmas, until now. It’s been a horribly downer year for us. Thank you again Aaron for the thoughtful gifts. I’m feeling the spirit now! Maybe I’ll go put some Christmas lights on. I’m a “Strange Animal”, that’s what I know, but Aaron seems to know what makes me tick.
Thanks buddy! Did you know that Sporty Spice was kicked out of a gym in Japan because they saw her tattoos and thought she was Yakuza? Ominus Spiritus!
GETTING MORE TALE #721: Christmas Mix 2010
Making mix CDs was a lot of fun (and work). I used to make custom Christmas discs that didn’t suck, for my family and friends every year. Why did I stop? I ran out of good Christmas songs. Let’s face it: unless you’re one of “those” people, Christmas music is nails on a chalkboard. You can only take so much. If you’ve worked retail in the past (or present), you probably can’t take any at all!
2010’s Christmas CD is a good example of what I used to make. You’ll notice there’s no Trans-Siberian Orchestra on there. I used up all their best stuff on the previous instalments. I tried to avoid duplicating songs from previous years although Hawksley Workman’s Christmas album is so good that I made exceptions for him. Hawkley’s Almost A Full Moon is the best Christmas CD that I own, and probably the best one I’ve heard. I bought it twice. He reissued the album after only a year with two extra songs! I forgave him, because Almost A Full Moon is so warm and perfect.
What do you think of the Christmas 2010 CD? Would you have wanted a copy that year?
1. Bill Ward – “Twas the Night Before Christmas”. Yes, that Bill Ward! The Black Sabbath drummer did a spoken word recording of the classic Christmas poem, and I opened the CD with it. I can tell you that when we played the CD at dinner time, this track was a failure. Nobody paid attention.
2. Kathryn Ladano – “Jingle Bells”. I got their attention back by putting on a track by my sister. This instrumental version on bass clarinet is from her CD The Christmas Album. Of note, her Schnauzer Ali is credited for barks on “Jingle Bells”!
3. Lemmy, Dave Grohl, Billy F. Gibbons – “Run Rudolph Run”. This breakneck Christmas carol is done in the Motorhead style. I played it in the car for sis. “This is shit!” she proclaimed. “Why do these guys get to put out albums and not me?”
4. Marillion – “Let It Snow”. This drunken favourite is from 2007’s Somewhere Elf. The spirit is intoxicating, as I’m sure they were!
Found some booze in a flight case,
And I’m afraid that we’re all shit-faced,
So I guess that we’ll have to go,
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!
5. David Bowie and Bing Crosby – “Little Drummer Boy / Peace on Earth”. This is the David Bowie song that your grandma likes. It’s just lovely. I didn’t own anything with this song on it, so I had to download. That’s why it didn’t appear until 2010!
6. Helix – “Happy Christmas (War is Over)”. Yes, it rocks, but not too hard! Helix covered Lennon for their Heavy Metal Christmas. Singer Brian Vollmer is trained in the Bel Canto technique and he’s more than capable of singing songs for your Christmas dinner in mind.
7. Extreme – “Christmas Time Again”. My mom always liked Extreme, or “Nick Strean” as she thought they were called. This isn’t the greatest Christmas song in the world, but it doesn’t suck.
8. Hawskley Workman – “3 Generations”. Told you there would be some Hawksley. This touching song is about three generations of women in the kitchen making Christmas dinner together.
9. Elvis Presley – “Blue Christmas”. I must have downloaded this one too. I am a bit of a sucker for Elvis. I included Joe Perry’s instrumental version on a previous CD.
10. The Beatles – “Christmas Time is Here Again”. Not one of their best songs, but it’s the Beatles so it had to be included eventually. This version comes from the 1995 CD single for “Free As a Bird”. Relatively few have heard it, and I thought that would get people’s ears perked up, but by this time, the wine was out….
11. Steve Vai – “Christmas Time is Here”. This is from the first Merry Axemas. It’s a lovely track and not too shreddy. Remember this song from the Charlie Brown Christmas special? Steve does it on guitar, of course!
12. Jethro Tull – “God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman”. This funky flute version will get the toes tappin’. Hard to believe that this is from Tull’s final studio album in 2003, The Jethro Tull Christmas Album! It would have been nice to get one more, but Tull’s Christmas Album is a good one to have around. If you need to tolerate Christmas music, you may as well listen to Tull jamming it out.
13. Brian Vollmer – “The First Noel”. Helix’s Vollmer put out a rare charity album in 2005 called Raising the Roof on Mary Immaculate. “The First Noel” is one of the best tracks. Vollmer is the first artist to get two appearances on my CD.
14. Ted Nugent – “Deck the Halls”. Much like “Run Rudolph Run”, this one smokes! It’s a guitar instrumental at full speed. Grandma didn’t like this one.
15. Twisted Sister – “O Come All Ye Faithful”. I really don’t like the Twisted Christmas album. This song was a hit though, and since it’s virtually identical to “We’re Not Gonna Take It”, I can…errr…take it.
16. Cheap Trick – “Come On Christmas”. My sister was a huge Cheap Trick fan at one point. She had this song before I did. Essentially just a Cheap Trick pop rocker with Christmas lyrics. Sounds like classic Cheap Trick to me.
17. AC/DC – “Mistress For Christmas”. I put this song on as the joke it is. I like to remind people that AC/DC did have a Christmas song. “Jingle bells, Jingle bells, jingle all the day. I can’t wait to Christmas time, when I roll you in the hay.” Hey, it counts.
18. The Darkness – “Christmas Time (Don’t Let the Bells End)“. In my review, I said, “Even though the guitars are thicker than a good ol’ bowl of Thin Lizzy pudding, there is no mistaking this for anything but a Christmas song. It is a joyous rock re-imagining of a Christmas carol, with the unmistakable Justin Hawkins falsetto.” Plus, sis likes The Darkness.
19. Jon Bon Jovi – “Please Come Home for Christmas”. I like this one. Fuck off.
20. Jimi Hendrix – “Little Drummer Boy/Silent Night/Auld Lang Syne”. From an EP called Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Jimi and band jammed out some impressive licks but the dinner party didn’t enjoy.
21. Jim Cuddy – “New Year’s Eve”. Cuddy’s solo debut All In Time is tremendous CD and comes highly recommended by this guy right here. It’s like listening to a Blue Rodeo album, but only the Jim songs. The sentimental “New Year’s Eve” is a lovely ballad that fits right in with the Christmas theme.
22. Bob & Doug McKenzie – “The Twelve Days of Christmas”. You gotta end with a classic. From 1981’s The Great White North comes the big Christmas hit. We used to hear this every single year on my mom’s old clock radio. We’d squeal with laughter trying to sing along. “A beer…in a tree…”
How would you rate this one? Trying to avoid overlap was previous instalments was my Achilles’ heel. I’d swap out a lot of the lesser songs for better ones, but it’s not bad. It’s listenable. It’ll do.