david bowie

#721: Christmas Mix 2010

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.

3/5 stars

 

 

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REVIEW: Queen – Hot Space (2011 bonus tracks)

QUEEN – Hot Space (Originally 1982, 2011 Hollywood 2 CD set)

Once upon a time, a band called Queen put a note in the credits of their first album: “And nobody played synthesizer”.

By 1982’s Hot Space, this credo was long gone.  In its place, a slick new sounding Queen that did not resonate with Americans the same way old Queen did.  Hot Space still bore a fair share of hits, though very different sounding ones from the olden days.

“Staying Power” opens the album with blasts of horns and funky synths.  On tracks like this, without any bass guitar, John Deacon played rhythm.  “Staying Power” represents the shape of Queen to come.  It wouldn’t have sounded out of place on 1989’s The Miracle.  The horns give it the needed punch.  Then Brian May’s “Dancer” slinks over, a disco rock tune with some (just some) trademark layers of Queen guitars.

If you feel like gettin’ down on the dancefloor, then “Back Chat” is the song for you.  It’s in the same vein as disco Kiss, but with the kind of funky authenticity that Queen can bring to the party.  “Back Chat” is the album’s first completely memorable song, provided by John Deacon.  Fortunately it has real bass, to keep that groove dirty.  As a single, it didn’t perform as well as “Body Language ↑⬱”, though it’s a superior song.  “Body Language ↑⬱” is all synth with no meat.

Roger Taylor’s funk rocker “Action This Day” boasts a cool sax solo, but the synth drums are lifeless.  It’s much better live (find this version on CD 2) with real instruments.  Brian May’s “Put Out the Fire” is a welcome return to traditional Queen instrumentation.  “Put Out the Fire” is the only song that sounds like “classic” Queen.  If you heard it for the first time, you sure wouldn’t assume it was from Hot Space.  It’s what you would call a “stock” Queen rocker.  No embellishment, no quarter.

Going topical, Freddie tackled the difficult subject of the recently murdered John Lennon.  “Life is Real (Song for Lennon)” is composed like a John song, with piano being the main musical support.  May’s solo is one of his most tender and warm, but the song is not their most memorable.  Taylor’s “Calling All Girls” is far catchier, and would probably be considered a classic if it were better known.

Brian’s ballad “Las Palabras de Amor (The Words of Love)” received worldwide attention at the Freddie Mercury tribute concert in 1992, performed with Zucchero Fornaciari. In this case, the synths work with the song and not against it. They create a dreamy landscape, perfect for Freddie’s plaintive singing. This fantastic ballad is up there with the more famous Queen classics.

“Cool Cat” was recorded as a duet with David Bowie, who was unsatisfied. Although the Bowie mix made it to a test pressing, it was removed from the album and has yet to see a re-release. A dusky, slinky tune like “Cool Cat” would sound neat with Bowie aboard. David’s there for “Under Pressure” (obviously), which doesn’t need discussing because everybody knows that song. Or should. Immediately. It is rock magic, born of a jam between the five musicians. When magic happens, it can create songs as perfect as “Under Pressure”.

Hot Space is a bit wobbly, but the bonus disc evens things out a bit.  A soul ballad B-side called “Soul Brother” might have worked better on the album than some of the songs that made it.  The single remix of “Back Chat” gives us a chance to revisit the album’s most addictive song.  Check out the fast, very dexterous live version of “Staying Power”.  It is pretty impressive even if it’s not one of Queen’s greatest songs.  The performance on the live take is a lesson by the masters on playing live, so listen up.  Similarly, live versions of “Action This Day” and “Calling All Girls” get an injection of life on the stage.

Hot Space shouldn’t be too high on anyone’s Queen want lists, but it shouldn’t be ignored either.  Check out the 2 CD version for the worthwhile additions.

3.5/5 stars

R.I.P. The Thin White Duke

Yesterday the world lost David Bowie, to cancer, at age 69.  While I own absolutely no Bowie in my collection (aside from covers of his music and guest appearances on Queen albums) I have always admired the man’s creativity.  He goes to places I don’t even understand, and maybe that’s why I never “got” David Bowie.  While recognizing his genius I was unable to penetrate beyond the singles.  Perhaps I should try again.

In the meantime, plenty of folks far and wide have posted tributes to the man, his music and even his movies.  Rather than pretend I know what I’m talking about, I’ll let these fine writers do it instead.  Rest in Peace, David Bowie.

And fuck you, cancer.

Last and not least,

  • Joe at 1537 – David Bowie R.I.P. (“The planet is, without a doubt, a touch poorer than it was yesterday.”)

 

BOWIE

He always looked so young.

 

Top Five(s) of 2013 – Part 1

No bullshit, let’s just get to the lists!  Yes, lists!  This year I asked some past contributors & readers to give me their Top Five Albums of 2013.  Some have left comments with their lists.  So let’s get to the lists — I also threw my hat into the ring!

Lemon Kurri Klopek

5. OST- Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa.
Mostly for the Alan Partridge banter between tracks. Insanely funny stuff from Steve Coogan. Some decent music too. Featuring an eclectic playlist featuring the likes of; The Human League, Glen Campbell, Carly Simon, Sting and OMD.
STEVE4. TravisWhere You Stand
Quietly released in August. Solid record from the Glasgow quartet.
3. David BowieThe Next Day
I’m one of the people who like all eras of Bowie. That’s it.
2. Sigur RósKveikur
Love this band. Everything they’ve done.
1. Steve Earle and The DukesThe Low Highway
Some of the best songs Steve has written. This record is up there for me with I Feel Alright and El Corazon.

Seb

Black_Sabbath_13Sebastien, whom I first met at Sausagefest is a talented guy and you will be hearing from him in the future!  He’s a musician/ producer/ filmmaker/ Star Trek fan and we’ll be collaborating on something in 2014 for sure.   Consider this Seb’s first guest shot.

5. Killswitch Engage –  Disarm the Descent
4. Black Sabbath13
3. Philip H. Anselmo & The IllegalsWalk Through Exits Only
2. Avenged SevenfoldHail to the King
1. Protest the HeroVolition

Tom

Tom is our host at Sausagefest, and one of the Jedi Masters who helped instruct me in the ways of Rock.  Top Five was simply not possible for this rock warrior.

GHOST11. Vista Chino Peace
10. MotorheadAftershock
9. Deep PurpleNOW What?!
8. Charles BradleyVictim of Love
7. AnthraxAnthems
6. VoivodTarget Earth
5. Steve EarleThe Low Highway
4. Black Sabbath13
3. Orange GoblinA Eulogy For The Fans
2. Clutch Earth Rocker
1. Ghost Infestissumam

Meat


You guys already know Uncle Meat from his numerous lists in the past.  Please welcome back the one, the only, the man the myth the legend, Uncle Meat.  He’s submitted a Top 8 this year.  That’s cool with me.

8. MotorheadAftershock
7. EminemThe Marshall Mathers LP 2MEAT
6. Vista ChinoPeace
5. GhostInfestissumam
4. The SadiesInternal Sounds
3. Black Sabbath13
2. Sound City PlayersReal to Reel
1. Steve EarleThe Low Highway

LeBrain

NOW WHAT_0003I thought I had my Top Five nailed down weeks ago.  Then, Aaron threw a spanner in the works by giving me the new Pearl Jam for Christmas.  Instantly enamored with this sure-to-be classic, I had to re-think my Top Five.

Then, just two days ago I realized that one of my albums is a 2012 release.  But I felt so strongly about it, that I can’t take it out.  So here’s a Top Six.


6. Queens of the Stone Age…Like Clockwork
5. Pearl JamLightning Bolt
4. Alice In ChainsThe Devil Put Dinosaurs Here
3. Flying ColorsFlying Colors 2012 release
2. Black Sabbath13
1. Deep PurpleNOW What?!

I would also like to give credit to the new self-titled Dream Theater for putting out an album that caused me to rethink this list over and over and over again!

2013 was an interesting and exciting enough year that I’ve decided to do another buncha lists tomorrow!  We’ll be looking at movies, television and more.  Come back then for some bonus Top 5’s of 2013.

Oh…and HAPPY NEW YEAR!  See you in 2014!

FURTHER READING:  Check out Aaron’s 2013 lists at the KeepsMeAlive.