diamond head

REVIEW: Megadeth – “Creepy Baby Head” (“Crown of Worms” CD single)

Welcome back to the WEEK OF SINGLES 2! Each day this week we’re look at rare singles.

Monday: Dream Theater – “Lie” (CD single)
Tuesday: Jimi Hendrix – “Valleys of Neptune” (7″ single)
Wednesday: Them Crooked Vultures – “Mind Eraser, No Chaser” (10″ single)

MEGADETH – “Crown of Worms” (1994 Capitol promo CD single)
also known as the “Creepy Baby Head”

Here’s a real treasure that I acquired via T-Rev’s store for about $4.  Lately this thing’s been going on Discogs for $36, which must be solely for the packaging.  All the tracks have been available on various Megadeth collections for a long time now, although “Crown Of Worms” was originally a rare track.  It’s a co-write between Dave Mustaine and Sean Harris from Diamond Head.    It kicks some serious ass, but it’s no longer a song that’s worth $36.  I think what makes this single command high prices is the bizarre baby head slip case.  That and the fact that it was a promotional CD, meaning it was never intended for sale and only small numbers were made.

A while back I made a video explaining what a promo CD was, which featured the “Creepy Baby Head”.  You can check out that video below.   The head obviously ties into the Youthanasia album artwork but otherwise there’s nothing else externally to tie it to the band.  No logo, no tracklist, just the serial number DPRO-79448.

As mentioned, “Crown of Worms” kicks some serious ass.  I was a big fan of the Mustaine/Ellefson/Friedman/Menza lineup of Megadeth, and this song was not only album worthy but single worthy.  Nick Menza sounds great on it, and the song just smokes from start to finish.  Killer riff, too.  Mustaine’s at his snarly best.

The other two tracks are both Youthanasia album songs:  “Black Curtains” and the single “Train of Consequence”.  “Black Curtains” is a lot more doomy, kind of like “Harvester of Sorrow” (perhaps).  “Train of Consequence” seemed to alienate some fans back in ’94, but I think it’s a strong single if a bit more melodic then some would have liked.  It still has a cool stuttery riff and a vintage Dave vocal.  It’s rhythmically interesting and I think the guitar solo is ace.

There is no way I would pay $36 for this thing, and I’d advise you to keep searching the used CD shops. Promos were funny things. Record store and radio stations would be sent these things, and a lot of the time nobody gave a damn. They would end up in the hands of a non-fan and sold at a pawn shop or another CD store. While today some fans will pay a lot of money for this, you know that copies will end up in used CD stores without a $36 price tag.  You just have to do the legwork and find it.

4/5 stars

MEGADETH CREEPY BABY HEAD_0003

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REVIEW: Iron Maiden – Powerslave (1983, 1996 bonus CD)

Part 7 of my series of Iron Maiden reviews!

IRON MAIDEN – Powerslave (1983, 1996 bonus CD)

Tell me why I had to be a Powerslave?

I don’t wanna die, I’m a god, why can’t I live on?

How much did I love Powerslave, especially after taking Ancient Egypt in highschool?  Finally I knew what the Eye of Horus was, and what the hell the lyrics were about!  When I was growing up and first getting into Maiden, Powerslave was the current album.  The neighbor kid had it.  We literally stared at that album cover for hours.

Derek Riggs outdid himself on the artwork this time, really outdid himself.  The Egyptian theme of the artwork allowed him to weave all sorts of hidden messages into the hyroglyphs.  I don’t have the LP, but I could swear that somewhere on the cover (front or back) it says “Indiana Jones was here”!

I taped the album from that neighbor, unfortunately on one of the worst sounding Scotch blanks I ever heard.  It was unlistenable.  Then my dad bought me the tape from the local music store, but even it sounded terrible — warbly.  I found that many Capitol Records releases in the mid-80’s in Canada had awful cassette quality.  From my Maidens to my Helix, they were mostly unplayable.

It was a long while before I got a listenable version of the album.  Then it hit me like a ton of bricks — holy crap, this is GOOD!

“Aces High” and “2 Minutes To Midnight” are the two singles, and of course they lead the album.  I only wish “Churchill’s Speech” was included as it was in the “Aces High” video!  As kids we always preferred “Aces High”.  It combines the manic speed of early Maiden, with the anthemic Dickinson choruses.  Just great.

“Aces High” was yet another song that my dad didn’t mind me listening to out loud, since it was about one his favourite historical subjects:  the Battle of Britain.

“2 Minutes”, a reference to the Doomsday Clock,was a Dickinson/Smith composition.  At 6 minutes long, it wasn’t an obvious single.   Vocally, it’s a lot less catchy than “Aces High”.  Bruce doesn’t so much sing a melody as he does spit the words out like a furious machine gun!  Musically, the riff seems lifted directly from later Budgie, and early Diamond Head.  See if you can spot it.

Up next is an instrumental, the first since Killers!   “Losfer Words (Big ‘Orra)” is really the only weak song on the album.  As an instrumental, it’s not as exciting as something like “The Ides of March”.  The riff is rather simple and it sounds like an unfinished song, like Bruce didn’t show up that day or something.  The guitar playing (well, all the playing) is of course stellar, there’s always that!

Then comes “Flash of the Blade”, a fucking awesome track, and one of my favourites.  I remember trying to learn that riff as a kid, as it’s catchy but uncomplicated.  This one’s penned by Dickinson alone, and is about…of course…fencing.  Like Steve Harris was on the exact same wavelength, his song, “The Duelists” is up next.  Yet another song incorporating fencing, this one was my personal pick for a third single.  I remember even drawing my own cover art, with Eddie dueling the Devil!   The middle section is an intricate dance of delicate guitars, you can almost picture the men parrying and feinting.

And that ended side one.  Side two opened with “Back In The Village”.  This would be the only other song beside “Losfer Words” that doesn’t make my road tapes.  Another Smith/Dickinson song, it’s got a cool signiture Adrian riff, but up against the rest of these songs, it just doesn’t stand out to me.

But “Powerslave” does!  This is another solo Bruce writing credit, and a powerful song it is!  Bruce metalizes Ancient Egypt with that cool riff, and his lyrics are a labyrinth of Egyptian mythology.  Very cool.  The best part of the song however is the middle section.  The song slows down at roughly 3 minutes, and there’s some pretty amazing soloing (sounds like Dave).  Then things pick up at 3:52, and Adrian plays my favourite Iron Maiden guitar solo of all time!  (Of all time, Kanye!)  Damn I love that solo!  I always have, even when all I had were those crappy cassettes.  And as if that wasn’t enough, then there’s a harmony part with Dave and Adrian together, and then Dave’s off on another amazing solo of his own!

(For the record:  if there was a second favourite Maiden guitar solo for me, it’s “The Wicker Man”, also performed by Adrian.)

Before you know it, we are at the end.  But not quite, for the final song on Powerslave is 14 minutes long!  “Rime Of The Ancient Mariner”, based of course on Coleridge, is the latest and perhaps the greatest so far of Steve’s epics.  I don’t know if I want to even think about ranking his epics anymore, but “Rime” is certainly a favourite.  That opening riff alone would have made a song on its own.  But this is a complex song, and it twists and turns and goes through all sorts of different adventures before we’re done.  As kids I remember were all blown away that this whole song was written by just one guy!

Talking about “Rime” in words is tough.  Lyrically I loved it.  Suddenly I understood Coleridge, and it wasn’t at all painful!  But musically this is just about perfect.  Bruce’s delivery is flawless, and the guitars are woven into epic and amazing solos once again.  Just about every section of this song is memorable.  It lags a bit in the atmospheric middle section, but this is soon replaced by a triumphant vocal with bright bass guitar melodies.

This 2 CD deluxe edition includes a bonus disc with all the B-side goodies.  Didn’t you always love that cover for “Aces High”?  Eddie in the Spitfire, flying on, even with a bullet in his head?  The B-sides include a live version of “Number of the Beast” that used to annoy us as kids, since Bruce only sings “six!” and gets the audience to finish with “six six!”.  With hindsight, who cares, it’s a great live version.  It’s just funny how I have that memory so very distinctly!

“King of Twilight”, a cover from a band called Nektar, isn’t a standout though.  I like that “Ahh, ahhh, ahh” section and I love the pounding drums.  Otherwise it’s not a road tape classic.

“2 Minutes To Midnight” had two excellent B-sides:  “Rainbow’s Gold” and “Mission From ‘Arry”.  The riff that kicks off “Rainbow’s Gold” is just really catchy, as is that vocal melody.  This is a cover from somebody called Beckett.  Gotta give Maiden credit for trying obscure covers!  Love this song.

And…”Mission From ‘Arry”.  Not a song at all, here’s the story.  One night, Nicko was asked to extend his drum solo while Harris (‘Arry) got his bass rig up and running.  ‘Arry sent his roadie to tell Nicko, who was distracted by the roadie and fucked up his drum solo.  Furious he launched into said roadie and gave him a good solid dressing down.  After the show, Steve in turn told Nicko that he was out of line and to apologize.  In walked Bruce Dickinson with a hidden tape recorder and a mischievous grin!  The rest is history, as released on this B-side!

Now, I’m from Canada and I don’t know my British slang that well.  Do you guys often use phrases like “Fuck my old boots!”?

I don’t think Powerslave was the album that Piece Of Mind was, but maybe I like it a fraction better than Beast.  I dunno.  It’s so hard to rank, we’re really splitting hairs here.  Powerslave was a little colder sounding, a little brittle compared to the past.  Steve’s bass is a little rinky, not warm and deep enough.  But that’s the sound of the LP, the songs still rise above.

4.75/5 stars

Part 120: T-Rev Appreciation Day!

I was sitting here, trying to think of some new content to write.  Then it hit me:  T-Rev Appreciation Day!  

RECORD STORE TALES PART 120:  T-Rev Appreciation Day!

T-Rev, a past contributor here at LeBrain’s Blog, is a man whom I owe a lot.  Not only is he one of the best buds I’ve ever had (sniff) but he’s also responsible for getting me so damn many of my treasures.  Directly responsible.  Like, I’m not talking about stuff like, “Mike, you really need to buy some Oasis, Max Webster, and Steve Earle.  Oh, and while you’re at it, the second Four Horsemen album is awesome!” 

He did, in fact, turn me onto all four of those things.  But I’m talking more about the kind of situation where a combination of his eagle eyes, musical knowledge, and friendship scored me some discs!

Here’s two:

QUEENSRYCHE – Road To Promised Land aka ARRIVED!

This 1995  promo CD is a neat little greatest hits, going chronologically from the first EP to the Promised Land album!  The only exclusive track is a radio edit of “Damaged” but Trevor saw this one and gave me a call.  He knew I loved Queensryche, especially since I was going to see them with Tom that summer.

DIAMOND HEAD – Lightning To The Nations (original mix!)

T-Rev and I were both Metallica fans, and were both aware that they had covered numerous Diamond Head songs.  This, like the Queensryche disc, came into Trevor’s store.  While I wouldn’t fault him for snagging this one for himself, he deemed it slightly out of the scope of his core collection.  I’m glad he did, because this disc rocks!  And this is the original “Lars Ulrich approved” mix of the album, ripped straight from the LP.  Most CD editions were remixed, and the master tapes are now lost.  So this is a real treat and hopefully I’ll get around to reviewing it.   15 tracks, from the album itself plus B-sides and so on. 

I raise a glass to Trevor, surely one of the finest Record Store Dudes to ever grace a cash register!  My memories, and my collection, would be poorer without you.