Def Leppard

#930 Pour Some Sugar On ’88

RECORD STORE TALES #930: Pour Some Sugar On ’88

Ah, 16!  The age you’re supposed to get your driver’s license and go on dates with girls.  Maybe even get a part time job.  Except I did none of that.

The summer of 1988 was much like any summer.  It was marked by new music, trips to the cottage, and another visit from Captain Destructo, my cousin Geoff.  Predator was in the movie theaters and WWF wrestling was hot.  Summer was not going to suck.

Super Mario on the NES

I was well tanned from days at the beach, and when Geoff and family rolled into the cottage that July, Geoff brought his new toy:  a Nintendo Entertainment System (NES).  This was a whole new world for us.  I had never seen Super Mario Brothers or Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out.  I sure saw a lot of them when Geoff came to visit.  Saw.  Not played.  I played a little bit, but Geoff monopolised the game.  I’ll never forget when he was playing Punch-Out and he was down to the second last boxer.  He thought he was going to knock him out and move on to Mike Tyson.  However my dad walked in front of the screen, Geoff started screaming, and lost the game.  You would have thought he lost the invasion at Normandy for all the fuss.  Me, I just would have liked another turn at the game.

Video games were exciting, but nothing was better than playing outside.  With Predator hot in the cinemas, and lots of plastic guns to play with, we scattered into the forest hunting for the stealthy alien.  Geoff insisted he was Dutch (Arnold Schwarzenegger).  That made me Blain (Jesse Ventura).  We forced my sister Kathryn to play Hawkins (Shane Black), the worst character and first one to die in the film.  Eventually we let her play Billy the tracker (Sonny Landham).

I love how this trailer gives away the whole movie.

Leaping, dodging, climbing.  We owned that forest.

There is so much joy running through the woods with plastic guns pretending to hunt a space alien.  And the best part was, in the movie the Predator was invisible for most of the time:  we didn’t need anybody to play the bad guy.  It didn’t take much imagination to pretend to see movement in the forest.  We were a team of three on a quest.  I know that this is one of the happiest summer memories for all three of us.

After a few days at the lake, we returned home to Kitchener, with Geoff still in tow.  We hung out in the basement watching WWF and the Pepsi Power Hour.  Cinderella were hot with “Gypsy Road” and I had to get that album.  Long Cold Winter was an odd title for a summer album, but it was most definitely a summer album.  I could not wait to get it but I had a birthday coming and I wasn’t allowed to buy stuff for myself until after.

For what was probably the last time, we went with Geoff to his grandfather’s huge property for an afternoon in the pool.  One last splash, in the bright figure-8 shaped pool.  That giant pond behind us in the background.  Maintaining that summer tan.

The three big albums for me that summer were Long Cold Winter by Cinderella, Second Sighting by Ace Frehley, and Ram It Down by Judas Priest.  I loved it for all its flaws.  It was heavy and I thought it had five potential single-worthy songs:  “Ram It Down”, “Heavy Metal”, “Hard As Iron”, and “Blood Red Skies”, in addition to the already-released “Johnny B. Goode”.  Only the Chuck Berry cover made it to music video form.  I waited all summer for a music video for “Blood Red Skies” to finally hit.  I could always predict the next single, and I just knew it had to be “Blood Red Skies”.  Week after week, I waited. I dreaded missing it during vacation at the cottage.  I just knew it would be any week now.  I had a dream one night of what it would look like.  There Priest were on the bridge of some kind of spaceship, hovering over the landscape beneath the blood red skies.  It never came.  I thought if Priest released a video for “Blood Red Skies”, it would chart.  Into the fall, Priest never released another single.  A disappointment and a mistake.

Into August, I finally got my copy of Cinderella.  After one listen correctly predicted that “Don’t Know What You Got (‘Til It’s Gone)” would be the second video.  I always looked forward to the new videos by bands, but like Judas Priest, Frehley disappointed me by never releasing a second video for Second Sighting.  I thought there were a number of potential hits, such as “Fallen Angel”, “Time Ain’t Running Out”, “New Kind of Lover” and “Juvenile Delinquent”.

In Stratford, visiting my Aunt and Uncle, I picked up Live + 1, also by Ace Frehley.  The Space Ace had two releases in 1988, with one being a live/studio EP.  This weekend was the first time I experienced strong insomnia.  I remember tossing and turning the entire night, not falling asleep once for even a minute.  Seeing the sun come up.  I was getting more and more upset that I couldn’t sleep, which made it worse.

Another cassette picked up that summer in Stratford was High ‘N’ Dry, which became an immediate favourite.  Def Leppard were the biggest band in the world that summer.  Hysteria was selling like hotcakes.  It didn’t take off in ’87, but when “Pour Some Sugar On Me” hit, that was all it took.  Many nights were spent listening to the radio at the lake, waiting for “Pour Some Sugar On Me”.  Hysteria‘s singles were harder to predict.  I didn’t expect there to be seven of them, but I definitely thought “Love and Affection” would make it before “Rocket” did.

We visited with our friends the Szabos, we played games, and we listened to a lot of music.  I had my heavy metal, my sister had Glass Tiger and was starting to get into Def Leppard.  Our Walkmen came with us everywhere.  As the summer drew to an end we made a trip up to Tobermory to take the S.S. Chi-Cheemaun to Manitoulin island.  I loved boats and islands but the trip was a bit of a bore.  The gift shop didn’t have a lot to keep us entertained.  I bought one of those black and white wrestling magazines, and a wooden postcard to send to nobody.  It took a while for me to get my sea legs.  I felt nauseous and wasn’t sure I could eat.  Eventually the rocking of the boat became fun.  The wind on the top deck was exactly like the “Jack, I’m flying!” scene in Titanic.

There was more, much more, but who can remember it all?  Watching Rob Halford interviewed on the Pepsi Power Hour, recording it, and watching it over and over again.  Seeing new Van Halen (“When It’s Love”) on TV.  Suffering through rumours of Kiss breaking up.  Looking for the latest Def Leppard 7″ singles at Zellers.  So many memories, jumbled and out of order, hard to keep all straight.

The summer ended on a high, but what I didn’t know is that was only a precursor to my happiest school year, grade 11.  Hair metal was peaking but it was about to get even bigger in ’89.  Everything was in sync.  Summer, music, school — all extraordinary in 1988.

REVIEW: Def Leppard – Historia (1988 VHS)

DEF LEPPARD – Historia (1988 Polygram VHS)

When I was a kid, I wanted to collect “all” the Def Leppard music videos.  Hysteria was pretty much my favourite album for two years.  Their videos were ubiquitous.  Any time MuchMusic had a new one to debut, you could count on it being a hit.  “Pour Some Sugar On Me” was the anthem of the summer of ’88 and the video was on all the time.  But some Def Leppard videos were played far less frequently.

The 1988 VHS Historia collected all Def Leppard’s music videos up to “Love Bites”, along with some rare television performances that never aired over here.  They were introduced by quaint title cards, and each video was presented in full — no edits.

“Hello America” with Pete Willis was the first one we’d never seen before.  Why was the drum kit out front?  Nobody knew, but this cool song sounded like a lost hit.  The “fake live” trio of “Let It Go”, “High ‘N’ Dry”, and “Bringing on the Heartbreak” ended the Willis era of music videos.  These three were seen on TV here, but only rarely.  “Heartbreak” was the original album mix.

The big three Pyromania videos by David Mallet were up next, “Photograph” in its uncensored version.  Then there’s a TV performance (lip syncing of course) of “Too Late For Love”.  This includes a neat set up with Steve Clark and Phil Collen coming down these hydraulic staircases. When spending the money to buy a VHS tape of music videos you can see on TV, it’s nice to get real rarities like this.

“Rock! Rock! (Till You Drop)” is another serious rarity from Japanese TV. With Union Jacks draped behind, Leppard rarely looked this cool. It’s no shirt required for Rick Allen, and a mop-topped Joe Elliot screams behind his hair into the microphone cupped in his hands. Unfortunately, during the guitar solo the director chose to focus everywhere but on Phil for most of it.

After Pyromania blew up all over the world, Leppard reissued Hign ‘N’ Dry with two bonus tracks.  Music videos were made for each:  The remixed versions of “Bringing on the Heartbreak” and “Me and My Wine”.  The DVD release is mucked up and includes the wrong audio instead of the remix of “Heartbreak” but the VHS has everything right.  These two videos are exact opposites.  “Heartbreak” is a high budget extravaganza with the two guitarists playing on massive silos, smoke all around.  Then there’s Joe crucified on a barge for some reason.  The performance stuff is pretty cool at least.  But “Me and My Wine” is a total contrast, just Leppard jamming it up in a cheap flat, wrecking stuff and playing in the showing.

And then finally it’s the Hysteria era, the big big hits with the million dollar videos.  “Women” was cool, with that Def Leppard comic book theme.  “Animal” and “Hysteria” had a lot of mainstream play.  There’s also the original UK version of “Pour Some Sugar On Me”, with Leppard playing in a house in the midst of demolition.  The “fake live” US version is also included, with the familiar extended remixed intro that was actually unreleased in audio form at that time.  It is paired with “Armageddon It”, made from the same batch of concert footage.

Finally, in the days before hidden CD tracks were all that common, Leppard hit you with an unlisted bonus video.  It’s “Love Bites”, the brand new video that shortly took over the world for them once more.

Videos weren’t cheap to buy — they were $25 to $30 for something like Historia.  What you wanted was value for your money (stuff you didn’t see on TV) and rewatchability.  Historia was constantly in our VCR, often for a full play-through.  It more than earned its share of my allowance.

5/5 stars

Easter Memories: Quiet Riot, GI Joe, Alice Cooper, Def Leppard & More!

Just a short show tonight, for those stuck at home this Easter weekend with nothing much else to do! Music, toys, happy memories. Lots of audio/visual aids. Great comments and audience participation.

Quiet Riot, Black Sabbath, David Lee Roth, Def Leppard, Aerosmith, and rare Japanese imports.

Bonus: Couldn’t resist playing some music so we closed with the show with Uncle Meat singing “Fairies Wear Boots” back in 1991 with Heavy Cutting. Thank you for watching!

 

NEXT WEEK:  ANDY CURRAN!

#888: The Limewire Days

RECORD STORE TALES #888: The Limewire Days

I got into the downloading business later than everyone else. As a Record Store manager, I had zero interest in downloads. I’ve never used Napster and I sided with Lars Ulrich when it came down to it.  You might not have cared about Lars’ bottom line, but I cared about mine.  Downloading hurt us.  And we weren’t a corporate entity, we were just a small indy chain.  Eventually in the year 2001, I relented and began using WinMX and Limewire to download rare tracks. I bought so many CDs annually, I figured “why not”? I quickly discovered all the new Guns N’ Roses songs that they played in Rio.

I still remember the first time using WinMX. It was at an old girlfriend’s house and she was showing me how she downloaded music. Hey neighbour was using WinMX too, and gave her a mix CD of all the tracks she had downloaded. I’ll never forget putting on this mix CD, and suddenly from the speakers it’s “Who Let the Dogs Out”!   As the song went on, I remarked “I don’t think I’ve ever heard the verses to this song before. Just the chorus.” Do you know how the verses go?

I copied what the girlfriend showed me, downloaded WinMX, and before you know it, I was listening to “The Blues” by Guns N’ Roses.

After everything dried up on WinMX, we both switched to Limewire where I continued downloading the odd rarity. I accumulated a large music folder, and began burning all my new tracks to mix CDs. I have several volumes of mixes all with tracks downloaded during this period. But there were always odds and ends that I never fit onto a mix CD. I thought all those tracks had been lost, but I just dug up an old CD labelled “MP3 downloads”. It is here that I burned the stragglers, and then stuffed the CD in with some photo discs and forgot all about it.

The title “MP3 downloads” is misleading as there are video files here too (none of which work anymore). The downloads are also not exclusively from Limewire, as we’ll get to. Let’s have a look track by track at what mp3 files I still had in my music folder back in 2004.


This CD is only 303 mb (of 656).

First, the video files are a weird variety of stuff I downloaded and intended to keep.  I didn’t have cable back then, so “Gene Simmons on MTV Cribs” is one I wanted.  Then there’s a file called “Gene’s hair on fire”.  Then there’s a file called “some jackass tells a cop to fuck off”.  I remember that one.  I think I had been searching for Jackass videos, and came across this idiot getting beat by a cop after walking up and giving him the finger.  Some Star Wars videos include the Star Wars Kid vs Yoda, a deleted scene from A New Hope, and something called “Episode 3 Leaked Marketing Video”.  All the video files appear to be corrupt and won’t play on anything.

Onto the music.  I can see there are some tracks here from albums I didn’t own then, but do now.  From the compilation CD Spaced by William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy, it’s “Mr. Tambourine Man”, “The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins”, “I Walk the Line” and “When I Was Seventeen”.  These are strictly novelty covers, although Nimoy does give it a good effort.  All of these songs were originally released on separate Nimoy and Shatner albums in the late 1960s.  Related to these, I also have “Shaft” by Sammy Davis Jr.  I have long loved Sammy’s glittery version of the Shaft theme.  Who’s the black private dick who’s a sex machine with all the chicks?  Sammy Davis Jr. was!  The guitar work on this is great slippery fun.  I’ll have to get a copy for real.

A fun treat next:  A full hour Peter Criss interview show by Eddie Trunk.  This is with all the songs and music.  Peter was out of Kiss once again, and he spilled the full beans on his whole perspective.  Doing the Symphony show with Tommy Thayer, Peter complains “without Ace, it’s not Kiss”.  This interview is definitely a keeper.  According to the file name, this interview is from May 4, 2004.

Several of the files are really, really low quality Dokken.  These are tiny files, they are so poor.  Demos of “Back for the Attack”, “We’re Illegal”, “It’s Not Love”, “Unchain the Night”, “Upon Your Lips”, and “Sign of the Times”.  A live version of “Paris is Burning”.  Remixes of “Nothing Left to Say” and “I Feel”.  I could have burned all these to a Dokken rarities CD, but the sound quality is poor, I knew I’d never want to listen to it.

There is also a smattering of rare Leatherwolf, including some live stuff.  Some were downloads from their social media pages at the time.  “Tension” is definitely one such official track, an instrumental solo that isn’t on any albums.  (You can tell by the file size it’s official, compared to the low quality Limewire downloads.)  I also have “Black Knight” live with original singer Michael Olivieri, and a partial instrumental called “The Triple Axe Attack”.  I’m not 100% certain what these are, but they don’t seem to have originated on the rare Leatherwolf live album called Wide Open.  Best of all the finds are the three official demos they did with singer Jeff Martin:  “Burned”, Disconnect” and “Behind the Gun”.  Martin did not last, and was replaced by Wade Black of Crimson Glory on the album World Asylum.  Fortunately I had already burned these tracks (and “Tension”) to a bonus CD.

There is a smattering of Gene Simmons demos, varying in quality.  “Heart Throb” is almost unlistenable.  “Howling for Your Love” is OK but I can’t identify if it was later rewritten into something more recognizable.  “It’s Gonna Be Alright” is bright and poppy with a drum machine backing Gene.  Then there is “Jelly Roll”, a heavier track with a riff like “Tie Your Mother Down”.  “Rock and Rolls Royce” is the track that was rewritten into “Love ‘Em and Leave ‘Em” from Rock and Roll Over.  “Rotten to the Core” was recycled way later on 2009’s Sonic Boom as “Hot and Cold”.  Like the Dokken tracks, I never burned these to CD because of the poor audio that I knew I wouldn’t want to listen to.

Other miscellaneous rarities here include Faith No More, Motley Crue and Van Halen.  Faith No More were known to mess around with covers live, and here I have “Wicked Game” (Chris Isaak) and “We Will Rock You”.  Sound quality is awful and neither are full songs, just them messing around on stage.  The two unreleased Motley Tracks are “Black Widow” and something just labelled “unreleased track” which is actually “I Will Survive”.  Both of these are officially released now so I have no reason to keep them.  Onto Van Halen, not everything sounds shite, but “On Fire” is just a few seconds of a demo.  “Let’s Get Rockin'” is complete.  A good sounding track that later was reworked as “Outta Space” on A Different Kind of Truth.  Then I have 90 seconds of the sneak preview single for “It’s About Time” (2004).  And then just two seconds of shred on a track labelled “VANHwhee”.  So strange!

Other rarities include one Def Leppard treasure called “Burnout”, which was an official download from their site.  It was also available on the CD single for “Goodbye” and a Def Leppard boxed set.  I also have an audio rip of “Lick My Love Pump” from the movie This Is Spinal Tap.  I should really take this and add it to the soundtrack as a bonus track!

I downloaded some miscellaneous songs that I didn’t own the albums for, but intended to get later:

  • Blue Oyster Cult – “Don’t Fear the Reaper” (I was watching Stephen King’s The Stand that year!)
  • Budgie – “Breadfan”
  • Buckethead – “Nottingham Lace” (might be an official download)
  • Cat Stevens – “The Wind”
  • Creedence Clearwater Revival – “Down on the Corner” (mislabelled as “Willy and the Poor Boys”)
  • Fleetwood Mac – “Go Your Own Way”
  • Iced Earth – “Dracula”
  • Iced Earth – “Jack”
  • Kenny Rogers – “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)”
  • Marty Robbins – “El Paso”
  • Mojo Nixon & Skid Roper – “Elvis is Everywhere”
  • The Pursuit of Happiness – “I’m An Adult Now”
  • The Pursuit of Happiness – “Hard to Laugh”

Of these, there are some I still have not bought and some I have no intention of getting anymore.  I do own the B.O.C., Budgie, Cat Stevens, CCR, Kenny Rogers, Marty Robbins, and Fleetwood Mac.  I’d still like to get Mojo Nixon to be honest with you!

Finally, there are bits of pieces of funny things that I liked to have hanging around for making mix CDs.  Many are from a website that used to have mp3 files of movie quotes, and the rest are from Homestar Runner.  Does that take you back to the 2000s?  From Homestar, I have “Alright 4 2Night”, “Strongbadia National Anthem”, “Everybody Knows It”, “Ballad of the Sneak”, “Cheat Commandos”, “CGNU Fight Song”, and a computer voice saying “back off baby”!  I might have been using that as an MSN Messenger alert sound.  Any time someone messaged me, the computer would say “back off baby”!  If I didn’t, I should have.  From the movie Sexy Beast I grabbed a bunch of Ben Kingsley’s best lines.  Saying he’s going to put his cigarette out in somebody’s eye, calling someone “porky pig”, yelling “no!” repeatedly, and announcing he had to take a piss.  Because of course.

The last files I found on this CD are strange, but for the sake of a complete and thorough inventory, they are:

  • no_respect:  24 seconds of the pretty terrible “Rappin'” Rodney Dangerfield song from the 80s.
  • 50_10sec:  Actually 11 seconds of the “Smoke on the Water” riff.  I can tell it’s Blackmore.  Why did I keep this?
  • MM Jukebox Plus Upgrade:  18 second software ad that obviously got left there by something I downloaded.  This is probably the first time in my life that I actually played this track!
  • cant_holdon:  36 seconds long.  This took forever to identify.  Lyric searches told me nothing.  Then I figured it out by uploading to YouTube and waiting for the copyright block to tell me what it was!  “Can’t Hold On / Can’t Let Go” by a band called Thunder, but not the band Thunder that you know today.  Probably downloaded by mistake is my guess.  Sounds like something you’d hear in an 80s Bruce Willis flick.

I don’t know how interesting this will be for you to read, but I found it entertaining enough to do this complete inventory.  I had clearly not tried to listen to all the files before, or I would have weeded at least a few out.  It is likely that in 2004 I was getting a new hard drive put in my computer and hastily burned my mp3 files to CD, intending to eventually put them on mix discs like I did with the rest of my mp3 collection.

After a little further digging, I did find that I had burned some of these songs to a mix CD.  Not all, but some.  You can get an idea here of how I’d make use of weird stuff like this.  The rest of the tracks never made it to the mix CD stage, so finding the original mp3 disc is a fun reminder for me of just what I was doing in 2004.  And I’m going to keep that Peter Criss interview, and a few other worthwhile things too.! Productive morning spent, and I hope you enjoyed this look at the way we did things a decade and a half ago.

 

REVIEW: Jim Crean – The Book of Cryptids Volume II (2020)

JIM CREAN – The Book of Cryptids Volume II (2020 Dark Night Records)

Jim Crean, hard rock singer extraordinaire from Buffalo, New York, has issued another covers album called The Book of Cryptids Volume II.  Many will shy away at the thought of a covers album, but Crean always picks interesting covers off the beaten track.  The Book of Cryptids Volume II works because A) these are not songs you typically hear covered, and B) Jim kicks ass on them all.

It’s a varied album.  “Medusa” by Anthrax opens heavily and melodically.  You might wonder how a hard rock singer like Crean tackles Anthrax.  Without difficulty!  Jim has a bit more rasp, but where Joey Belladonna gets aggressive, Jim pays more attention to the notes.  It’s a fine trade-off.  Second in line is the seldom-covered Aerosmith classic “Kings and Queens”, which is right up Jim’s alley.  Sounds like a banjo is thrown in for texture during the verses.  For an even deeper cut, check out the flawless version of Def Leppard’s “Mirror Mirror”.  It ticks all the boxes from dual guitars to throbbing bass.  Old raspy Def Leppard is well suited to Jim, who wrenches some panache from the chorus.  An ace performance.

Gowan’s “A Criminal Mind” is definitely an unexpected cover.  The only band known for covering it is Styx — featuring Lawrence Gowan.  Jim Crean could be the only other singer to dare tackle it?  This song might be a bit of a sacred cow in some quarters, but Jim does an admirable job of it.  Not vastly different, but with its own unique vocal colours.

Keeping with a synthy 80s plot twist, “Silent Running (On Dangerous Ground)” is the old Mike + the Mechanics hit.  Cool guitar solo on this track that stays pretty true to the original.  Then “Cry For Freedom”, the White Lion slow burner from 1989, is another surprise.  Crean has covered White Lion before, but “Cry For Freedom” is a special song.  Not a ballad yet not a rocker, it leans heavily on the beat and the vocal.  Then it has a guitar burn-up near the end, and this one sounds exactly like Vito Bratta.

A keyboardy piano ballad called “Love Is” (Vanessa Williams) …well, let’s just say it takes balls of steel to put it on the same album as an Anthrax song.  Fortunately Jim makes it cool, but not as cool as the earlier “Criminal Mind”.  But then it’s a whole different ball park:  Mother Love Bone, and “Star Dog Champion”.  Again, a song that might be considered sacred in some quarters.  Jim’s voice is well suited to it, and this “Champion” is fully enjoyable.

We begin to draw to a close on the Scorpions early dark ballad, “When the Smoke is Going Down”.  It’s another song that Crean is capable of bending to his will.  Brilliant vocal on this one, especially considering that Klaus Meine has to be a top-five metal singer.  Coming down from that climax, the final denoument is surprisingly authentic to the original:  the Stones’ “Gimme Shelter”.  This is one of those mountainous peaks that only fools dare to climb.  Yet Crean’s winning streak continues unabated.  The sonics are so close to the Stones, and everything sounds completely natural.  How the hell do you replicate Charlie Watts’ drums on “Gimme Shelter”?  Dunno, but it sounds really good!

All this said, you’re still skeptical, right?  Covering “A Criminal Mind” and “Gimme Shelter”?  A healthy dose of skepticism is warranted when reading a glowing review of a covers album.  To me, covers are worth listening to when you enjoy the spin that another artist puts on the song.  In this case it’s Jim’s voice, a classic hard rock voice that I like a lot.  So I’m cool with hearing “A Criminal Mind”, because I like the way Jim sings.

Consider this.  We’re 10 months into a worldwide pandemic and gigs have dried up.  Some artists, like Jim Crean, are recording and releasing music, and we should be supporting that.  He gives you good value for the money.  This copy came signed, with a custom Jim Crean guitar pick and signed photo.  Not to mention some quality covers of great songs off the beaten track.  The Book of Cryptids Volume II comes with cool artwork of various cryptozoological specimens including a kraken, Bigfoot, some sirens and an alien.  You can buy this package direct from the artist, so you know the money goes to the right people.  Check it out — guaranteed a few of these tracks will put a smile on your face.

4/5 stars

Best of 2020 Part 5: Nigel Tufnel Top Ten Albums and More of 2020

2020 may have sucked, but the music didn’t.  This year I bought and reviewed more new releases than ever before, which I narrowed down to the Nigel Tufnel Top Ten studio albums of 2020 listed below.

I would like to dedicate this list to my good pal Uncle Meat who originated the concept of a “Nigen Tufnel Top Ten” earlier this year.  It has become our thing.

BEST ALBUMS OF 2020

11. Now or Never – III

10. Mr. Bungle – The Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny Demo

9. Sven Gali – 3 (EP)

8. Kim Mitchel – The Big Fantasize

7. Corey Taylor – CMFT

6. Stryper – Even the Devil Believes

5. Harem Scarem – Change the World

4. Dennis DeYoung – 26 East Vol 1

3. AC/DC – Power Up

2. Deep Purple – Whoosh!

1. Storm Force – Age of Fear

 

Storm Force’s debut album goes straight to #1 on their very first appearance!  No surprise here.  I’ve been raving about this disc since February and I owe it to Superdekes for putting these guys on my radar in the first place.  This is a well-deserved #1.  Age of Fear is an uplifting album with depth.  It’s a thoughtful, heart-pounding blast of classic hard rock.

Deep Purple’s Whoosh! and AC/DC’s PWRUP prove two things:  old dogs that both learn and don’t learn new tricks can all be champions.  (I call this theory “Schrödinger’s Dog”.) Deep Purple’s growth continues while AC/DC managed to tap into the vein of success that always worked for them.  Both records deserve their spots in the Top 3.

It was a thrill for me to learn that Dennis DeYoung both read and enjoyed my review of his newest album 26 East Vol 1.  It’s a terrific, Styx-like conceptual work that will please the old fans.  As will the new albums by Harem Scarem and Stryper, who didn’t stray far from their successful classic hard rock formulas.  Kim Mitchell and Sven Gali on the other hand dared to be different.  Kim went laid back and acoustic, while Sven Gali went with their heaviest uninhibited inclinations.  As for Mr. Bungle, it has been 21 years since their last album California.  All four Bungle studio albums are completely different from one another — four different genres.  For The Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny, they teamed up with Scott Ian and Dave Lombardo to re-record their first thrash metal demo tape.  And it could be their best album since the self-titled debut in 1991.  Not bad for a bunch of songs they wrote in highschool.

Corey “Mother Fuckin'” Taylor makes his debut on any list of mine with his solo album CMFT.  It’s a surprising collection of commercial hard rockin’ tunes.  Also appearing for the first time is Now Or Never (NoN) with their third album called III, featuring singer Steph Honde.  It’s an excellent, dramatic metal album with light and shade.


BONUS LISTS

Most disappointing:  Ozzy Osbourne – Ordinary Man

Song of the year:  LeBrain Train by T-Bone Erickson

Single of the Year:  Mammoth WVH – “Distance”

Ultimately whether or not you liked the new Ozzy, its success or failure falls at the feet of producer/guitarist Andrew Watt.  He is already working on the next Ozzy album, so….

Huge thanks to T-Bone Erickson for the “LeBrain Train” theme song, which amazingly and unexpectedly became the song of the year in 2020!  Weird how that happened.  No bias here I assure you.

Finally, Wolfgang Van Halen finally released his first solo music under the name Mammoth WVH.  The non-album single “Distance” is dedicated to his late father Eddie.  Though musically it’s a modern power ballad, the lyrics and especially the music video evoke serious emotion.  Well done Wolfgang.  Can’t wait to check out his album in 2021.


TOP FIVE LIVE OR COMPILATION ALBUMS IN 2020

5. Metallica – S&M2

4. Thin Lizzy – Rock Legends

3. Sloan – B Sides Win Vol. 1 1992-1997

2. Def Leppard – The Early Years 78-81

1. Iron Maiden – Nights of the Dead – Legacy of the Beast

There were a lot of cool rock releases in 2020, so we need more lists!  Of course the brilliant new live Maiden deserved some loving attention.  Meanwhile, Sloan, Def Leppard and Thin Lizzy have continued to put out quality collections of rarities & unreleased material, well worth the time and money you’ll spend on them.  The Sloan collection is a vinyl exclusive and the first in a series of LPs re-releasing some of their B-sides and non-album and bonus tracks.  Finally, Metallica delivered the goods even without Michael Kamen on S&M2, a very different live set than the first S&M.  That’s the way to do it!


BEST LOCKDOWN SINGLE

5. Queen + Adam Lambert – “You Are the Champions”

4. Scorpions – “Sign of Hope”

3. Marillion – “Made Again 2020”

2. Marillion – “Easter 2020”

1. Alice Cooper – “Don’t Give Up”


 

A LOOK AHEAD AT 2021

It’s naive to assume that major touring and concerts will return in 2021.  This appears highly optimistic at present, with Covid still ravaging the landscape and vaccinations only just beginning.  Instead of looking ahead at things like the resuming Kiss tour, or the Motley Crue reunion, we should continue to put our faith in new music.

Accept have a new album due January 15 intriguingly titled Too Mean to Die.  It is their first without bassist Peter Baltes.  Steven Wilson has a new record out at the end of that month.  In February we get new Foo Fighters, The Pretty Reckless, Willie Nelson and Alice Cooper.  Greta Van Fleet, Weezer, Rob Zombie, Ringo Starr, and Thunder will be back soon too.  Many other bands are writing and recording without an announced due date.  Ghost, Marillion, Scorpions, Megadeth and even Ratt are hard at work to make next year suck a little less.  Support the bands by buying the music.

 

 

 

 

 

#830: 1992

1992

I’ve never been much of a winter guy.  I get that from my dad.  The winter of ’92 was long with a number of serious snow days.  I had just learned how to drive and it was certainly a challenge.  Details are not important.  You don’t need an accounting of times my little Plymouth Sundance got stuck or struggled to make it home from school.  All you really need to know was what was in my tape deck.

I was still digesting a lot of the music that I received for Christmas at the end of ’91.  The live Poison and Queensryche sets got a lot of car play once I dubbed them onto cassette.  At this point my attention to detail was becoming overwhelming.  I painstakingly faded in and faded out the sides of the live albums onto cassette.  This had to be done manually as you were recording.  If I missed the cue I’d do it over again until I got it right to my satisfaction.  I should have known there was something wrong with me!

We had one serious snow day that year, and although class wasn’t cancelled I stayed home.  My school friend Rob V made a tape for me of David Lee Roth live in Toronto on the Eat ‘Em and Smile tour.  I know that I played that tape on that day because the memory is so clear.  It was a great concert.  Roth and Steve Vai had a fun interplay, where Steve imitated Roth’s vocal intonations with his guitar.  Vai followed his voice as Roth told the crowd, “Toronto kicks ass, because the girls are soooo fiiiine!”

Time flies, and 1992 didn’t take long to kick into gear with new releases.

I had just discovered Queen.  Suddenly here comes this new movie Wayne’s World which made Queen a worldwide phenomenon for a second time.  More important to me though was the fact that the soundtrack CD included the first new Black Sabbath track with Ronnie James Dio in a decade:  “Time Machine”!  My buddy Peter didn’t care — he was strictly an Ozzy Sabbath fan.  No Dio!  (And certainly no Tony Martin!)  But I was excited.  I wanted to get that soundtrack as soon as possible.

There was a new music store that had just opened at the mall about six months prior.  The very first tape I would ever buy there was the debut album by Mr. Bungle in late ’91.   It would be the very Record Store that I would later dedicate years of my life to…but not yet.  When it opened, I recall my sister and I being glad that there was finally a music store at the mall again, but disappointed in the prices.  $14.99 for a tape was a lot of cash.  CDs were unfortunately out of our price range.  New cassette releases like Wayne’s World were cheaper at $10.99, so I went to the mall before class one morning to get a copy.  And this is a funny memory as you’ll see.

When I worked at the store, the boss would give me shit if he thought I was talking to someone too much.  I think he would have preferred good old fashioned silent labour, but I don’t know that.  He also drilled into us to pay attention to every customer and don’t ignore anybody.  So it’s quite ironic that he lost a sale that day by ignoring me and talking it up with some hot girl visiting him!

I was standing there in front of his new release rack looking for Wayne’s World.  I knew it was out, but didn’t see it anywhere.  I checked his soundtracks and it was missing in action.   I wanted to ask him if he had it, but he was chatting it up with this girl.  Eventually I caught his attention, but only because as I stood there waiting, I thought he did ask me a question.  So I said, “Pardon me?”  But he wasn’t actually talking to me, he was still talking to the girl.  Once he noticed me, he informed me that Wayne’s World was sold out but he could hold a copy for me as soon as the next shipment arrived.  I was ticked off so I said no thanks, and picked it up at the Zellers store down the hall instead.

Wayne’s World in the deck, I happily rocked to Queen, Sabbath, Cinderella, and hell even Gary Wright.  Peter and I saw the movie one Saturday night at a theater in Guelph, and liked it so much that we went back to see it again the following afternoon.  I saw Wayne’s World four times that winter!

I got my fill of Queen with the recent Classic Queen CD, released later that March.  I got the CD for a good price at the local Costco!  This enabled me to get a good chunk of Queen hits all at once in glorious CD quality.

The next big release to hit my car deck was a big one.  A really big one.  An album five years in the making through triumph and tragedy.

On March 31 I went back to the Record Store on my way to class, and the new release I was waiting for had arrived.  I left gripping Adrenalize in my hands.  An album I had been waiting for since highschool and even had actual dreams about!  It was finally real.  Into the tape deck it went as I drove to school.  Less riffy…more reliant on vocal melody…not bad?  I’ll let them have it though.  After what they’ve been through?  Yeah, I’ll cut them some slack.

Two weeks later, I was digesting another massive chunk of music.

I didn’t get Pandora’s Box in 1991 when it was released.  There was so much going on.  But my parents bought it for me as an Easter gift in April ’92.  That Easter I was “Back in the Saddle” with three CDs of Aerosmith!

It was a bittersweet gift.  Traditionally the family spent Easter at the cottage.  I have lots of happy memories of playing GI Joe in the fresh Easter afternoons up there.  This time I had to study for final exams and stayed home with my gift.  I must have played that box set two times through while studying that weekend.

Exams were over by the end of April and suddenly…it was summer holidays.  In April!  It was…incredible!  I stubbornly refused to get a summer job.  I have to say I don’t regret that.  I had savings from my previous job at the grocery store and I was getting Chrysler dividends cheques (yeah, baby).  Between that, Christmas & birthday gifts, I got most of the music I wanted.  And I got to spend that summer just enjoying it all.  It felt really good after such a long and frankly lonely winter.

Pandora’s Box tided me over.  After all, it was a lot to absorb having heard very little “old” Aerosmith up til that point.  My favourite track was “Sharpshooter” by Whitford – St. Holmes.  I liked that they included a sampling of solo material by various members.  These were new worlds to discover, but what about the next big release?  Who would be the one to spend my valuable savings on?

Iron Maiden were back on May 11 after a very short absence with Fear of the Dark, their second of the Janick Gers era.  But I needed to save my money, and wait one more week for something even more important to me.  It was Revenge time.

Speaking of triumph and tragedy, it was time for some overdue spoils for Kiss.  Having lost drummer Eric Carr to cancer in late ’91, Kiss deserved to catch a break.  Fortunately Revenge turned out to be a far better album than the previous few.  I recall getting over a really bad cold, and my lungs were still congested on that spring day.  The outdoor air felt amazing.  I walked over to the mall on release day and bought my CD copy at the Record Store.  I probably ran all the way home to play it, lungs be damned.

To say I was happy was an understatement.  In 1992 you had to come out with something strong or you would sink.  It was a more vicious musical world than just a year ago.  Fortunately Kiss did not wimp out and came out with an album just heavy enough, without following trends.  It would be my favourite album of the year, though a few strong contenders were still lined up.

My birthday was coming and I would have to wait a little while to get some more essential tunes.  Fear of the Dark was on the list.  So was Faith No More’s Angel Dust, which was a must.  And, of course, rock’s ultimate royalty returned in 1992.  A band that rock history cannot ignore, though it arguably should.  A band that defined the term “odorous”.  A band with a colourful and tragic backstory.  A band making its long feared return with its first album since 1984’s Smell the Glove.  And with their new album Break Like the Wind, they proudly proclaimed, yes indeed, this is Spinal Tap.

Once again, quite a bit of music to absorb.  I had been anticipating the Iron Maiden.  I heard the first single “Be Quick or Be Dead” on Q107 late one night, and didn’t think much of it at first.  I was concerned that Bruce Dickinson’s voice was becoming more growly and less melodic.  The album helped assuage these concerns with a number of melodic numbers including “Wasting Love”, “Afraid to Shoot Strangers” and “Fear of the Dark”.  But the album was infected with lots of filler.  “Weekend Warrior”, “Fear is the Key”, “Chains of Misery”…lots of songs that were just not memorable.  Fear of the Dark sounded better than its predecessor but could you say it was better than Seventh SonSomewhere in Time Powerslave?  No.

Though it was murky and dense, the Faith No More album blew me away.  The M.E.A.T Magazine review by Drew Masters gave it 2/5 M’s.  I gave it 5/5.  I wanted something heavy and weird from Faith No More.  I got what I wanted.  Peter was a big Faith No More fan too, but I don’t think he dug Angel Dust as much as I did.  We both appreciated the comedic aspects but I really got into the samples, nuances and rhythms.  It was, and is, a masterpiece.  I believe I can say that I was of that opinion from the very beginning.

And Spinal Tap, dear Spinal Tap.  The Majesties of Rock took a little longer for me to fully understand.  And no wonder, for Spinal Tap are playing musical 4-dimensional chess inside your ear canals.  I simply had to accept that several years had passed since Spinal Tap last recorded, and they had grown in their own stunted way.  I’ve always thought that the title track was sincerely brilliant.  But I never liked that Nigel Tufnel had so few lead vocals.  I have long appreciated bands that had multiple lead singers.  While this time even bassist Derek Smalls stepped up to the microphone, it was David St. Hubbins who sang lead on 11 of the 14 tracks.  Now, this is certainly not to criticise the enviable lead pipes of St. Hubbins, but merely to state that there wasn’t enough Nigel.  Having said that, Nigel did branch out by employing a new guitar playing technique — doubling his solos with vocals, like Gillan used to do with Blackmore.  He also got to unleash his new amps that went up to infinity, which debuted live at the Freddie Mercury tribute concert in April.

Like all things, summer eventually came to an end and it was back to school once again.  That fall and into Christmas I got some of the last new releases that were on my radar.  I missed Black Sabbath when Dehumanizer came out in June.  That one took a long time to really like.  While the production was incredibly crisp, the songs didn’t seem up to snuff to me.  At least at first.  In time, it became a personal favourite album.

That Christmas came the new Bon Jovi album Keep the Faith, Queen’s new Greatest Hits, and of course AC/DC Live.  It was also the Christmas that I first realized there was something wrong inside my head, and I realized it because of those albums.  It was partly the obsessive-compulsive disorder, but also a massive hangup about being ignored.  I wanted the AC/DC double Live, but was given the single.  I wanted Keep the Faith and Queen on CD but got cassette.  As I grew older and learned more about myself, I realized that I became very upset if I felt like someone was not listening to me or understanding me.  Nobody seemed to get why I wanted specific versions (because of my OCD actually), and I couldn’t explain it, so that set me off even further.  I became extremely grumpy that Christmas over these gifts, and it was ugly.  I isolated myself to stew in my own negativity.  It’s not something I’m proud of, and you can call me a spoiled brat if you want to (you wouldn’t be wrong).  At least I’ve worked at trying to figure out my defects.

It’s not like any of it mattered in the long term.  I have re-bought all of those albums twice since, each!

1992 went out much like it came in, cold and snowy.  Canadian winters are hard.  Some people have the DNA for it, but I don’t.  I’m half Italian.  I wasn’t designed for snowy, damp winters.  That’s why music is so important to me in the winter months.  Music can be a completely indoor activity and I had a continually fresh supply.  1992 was a big year for heavy metal even though the grunge revolution had already started.  Of course, things were not to stay as they are.  Iron Maiden and Faith No More were about to hit some major speedbumps, and Black Sabbath had already split in two by the end of the year!  1992 was the last time we could pretend heavy metal was still in good health.    Hard rock was about to endure further challenges and hardships.  At least we had ’92.

 

Live Stream – Rare Box Sets – Saturday April 18

 

Related links:

REVIEW: Def Leppard – Los Angeles 1992 (bootleg)

Gifted to me by the notorious Aaron of the KMA!

DEF LEPPARD – Los Angeles 1992 (Red Line bootleg CD)

It’s the Seven Day Weekend tour!  Def Leppard brought back the “in the round” stage concept from their previous tour and played a set of hits with a few deeper cuts.  This audience recorded bootleg captured the Los Angeles date permanently.

Wasting no time, it’s straight into the first single “Let’s Get Rocked”.  I have never particularly felt this song was as strong as past efforts, but Def Leppard had overcome such tragedy.  I was willing to forgive them for painting by numbers a bit with the new songs.  One thing apparent on a bootleg with no post-production sweetening:  Def Leppard’s vocals are 100% live.

Right into something better, it’s “Tear It Down”, better because it’s originally a B-side from the inspired Hysteria sessions.  Speaking of Hysteria, onto “Women”!  You can hear that new guitarist Vivian Campbell fit right in, seamlessly.  A couple seriously great tunes follow — “Too Late for Love” from Pyromania and Hysteria‘s title track.  Two of Leppard’s most accomplished singles.  Slower, ballady, and not at all weak.  “Hysteria” live begins just a little differently, but quickly becomes familiar and authentic.

I never cared for “Make Love Like a Man”, but it’s a temporary speedbump before a deeper track.  “White Lightning”, the tribute to the late Steve “Steamin'” Clark is very hard to find live.  This is the first version I’ve owned.  It’s every bit as epic as it deserves to be.  The stone cold classic “Foolin'” follows, and the Los Angeles crowd goes nuts when the track explodes.  They are just as excited for “Animal”, sounding brilliant in live form, although hampered on audio by a loud talker in the crowd.  New guy Vivian Campbell gets a big showcase solo next.  I’m sure this show is edited down to fit on CD, since Phil usually gets a big solo too.*  Viv’s is impressive and he gets to show off his shred a little bit, though his solo is more of an instrumental composition that sounds delightfully Vai-ish.

Another big epic, “Gods of War” from Hysteria is a serious thrill and chill.  Say what you will about Leppard’s more pedestrian material.  When they wanted to do something a little more challenging, they nailed it.  A big long version of “Rocket” including the “Whole Lotta Love” segue closes the CD prematurely, which is a shame, and one can hope that the second half of the set was issued elsewhere.

4/5 stars

*Here is the full setlist that night according to setlist.fm:

  • Let’s Get Rocked
  • Tear It Down
  • Women
  • Too Late for Love
  • Hysteria
  • Make Love Like a Man
  • Guitar Solo (Phil Collen)
  • White Lightning
  • Foolin’
  • Animal
  • Guitar Solo (Vivian Campbell)
  • Gods of War
  • Rocket (
  • Acoustic Medley Section
    Enter Sandman (Metallica cover) (Vivian)
    Back in Black (AC/DC cover) (Phil)
    Tonight (acoustic)
    You Can’t Always Get What You Want (The Rolling Stones cover) (acoustic)
    Bringin’ on the Heartbreak (acoustic/electric)
  • Have You Ever Needed Someone So Bad
  • Armageddon It
  • Rock of Ages
  • Pour Some Sugar on Me
  • Encore:
    Love Bites
    Photograph

#768: Scanning the Notebooks

GETTING MORE TALE #768: Scanning the Notebooks

Mrs. LeBrain and I have been downsizing of late, and getting rid of old stuff we don’t need anymore.  In the process we have discovered lots of cool treasures we have been hanging onto.  In the last few months I’ve shown you a treasure trove of cassette and VHS rediscoveries, and things keep turning up all the time. The lady that helped us downsize, Elanda, didn’t understand why I needed to hang onto old yearbooks and CDs.  This kind of thing is important to me.  I’ve built an entire series of stories on nostalgia!  Preserving this stuff, to me, is preserving musical history.  It’s a part of the extended story of these bands.  It’s my autobiography.

Another great place to find old treasures is the parents’ basement.  I didn’t realize they hung on to some of my old, beat up highschool notebooks.  The covers are falling off, but like an archaeologist, I have to preserve this stuff for posterity.  Look what I found!

I didn’t just scribble band logos on my notebooks.  I painted them on.  My mother had a basement full of paints for her ceramics classes.  I had access to all the brushes, colours and textures you could ask for.  Most of the paints I used were water soluble, so I probably sprayed this binder with a clear coat to protect the paint.  30 years later, my artwork is still about 90% intact.

The Van Halen, Def Leppard, Dio, and Van Halen logos are self explanatory.  Look a little further.  I took the trouble of drawing Ratt’s titular mascot using three colours, including silver for his sunglasses.  The lightning bolts here are there are meant to be a reference to Frehley’s Comet.  (From looking over my homework inside, it seems I also signed my name with a lightning bolt.)  In the bottom front corner of the binder, “Dawn Was Here” was written on there by one of my sister’s annoying friends who took ceramics class at our house.

Digging inside, I discovered that I clearly put more effort into the front covers than my English homework.

Next to the very bored notes about American literature are more logos, more lightning bolts, a few grim reapers, and designs for multi-neck guitars.  More rats!  Cartoon portraits of Gene Simmons (no makeup; it was 1988) and Rob Halford.

Judging by my careless scribbles, it seems I was not a fan of Huck Finn.  The notes in English class are not legible and it looks like I didn’t do much homework.  That’s not to say I wasn’t working hard in class.  Some of the best sketches came from English class.  I obviously spent a lot of time on some of them.  A page called “Scenes of Death” looks alarming at first, until you look a little closer and notice that one guy is getting jumped by a giant Schnauzer.

 

And, of course, a giant page of logos.

Everyone had the giant page of logos.

Bob Schipper had the idea of calling our “band” Paragon.  “Not Paradox,” he stressed, “but Paragon.  It means we’re among the best.”  Our logo is the centerpiece of the page, coloured in yellow highlighter.  The entire page is like a “Where’s Waldo?” of bands and references.

My science and history notebooks are much cleaner.  Fewer band logos, more meticulously taken notes.  Still,  found of portrait of Satan in my History book.  I was trying to copy the style of Derek Riggs.

I’m grateful my mom and dad hung on to these books.  It makes up for my dad throwing out my Chopper Strike board game and damaging my ZZ Top Eliminator model.  There is still a ton more stuff at their place for me to go through, including a mountain of cool T-shirts that I forgot I owned.  My original Judas Priest shirt is there, the one that got me in trouble at Catholic school.  Imagine if ol’ Mrs. Powers at the Catholic school had seen my later Satan drawing!  I’m certain it would have raised concern and probably a meeting with my parents.

I’m glad I switched out from a Catholic grade school to a mainstream high school.  My logo and Satan drawing skills certainly flourished there, even if my appreciation for Huck Finn did not.