#980.5: The Adventures of an Anxious Walmart Shopper on Easter Saturday

“Hey Jen, if you’re up early enough, let’s go to Walmart tomorrow morning.  I want to look for that new Coke,” I said stupidly, not thinking about what weekend it was.

“Sure,” she agreed, and that’s how it ended up that we left for Walmart at 9:45 on Easter Saturday morning.

The “new Coke” I was referring to is “Coca Cola with Coffee”, available in three different brews:  Caramel, Dark, and Vanilla.  I want to try all three.  I was a big fan of Coca Cola Blaq about 15 years ago, their first attempt to mass market a coffee/Coke hybrid.  Coke Blaq was delicious, like regular Coke but with the extra note of coffee bean.  I’m eager to try these new ones.  Coke Blaq came in a small black bottle in these come in cans, which makes me wonder if they are similar to those creamy coffee beverages, with a Coke taste?  Or something more like Coca Cola Blaq?  Inquiring minds wanted to do, and I had heard that these were showing up in Walmart stores.

Walmart was already pretty busy and then I smacked myself and realized, “Of it is.”  Ah well.

I wore an N95 mask this time; my first time.  Easy breathing but hard on the ears.  If I’m wearing one long term I’ll have to do something about the ears.  About 75% of Walmart shoppers were masked, and 100% of the staff.  This is good since virtually everybody I know has Covid, or has had a recent close brush.  I can’t believe this is my third Covid Easter.

First I made my way to the entertainment section where I picked up the newest Blue Rodeo album, Many A Mile.  On slide guitar, The Sheepdogs’ own Jimmy Bowskill, once a child prodigy discovered by Jeff Healey at age 11.  Blue Rodeo are one of those bands where I just want to own all the albums, and stay current, even if the last five or six albums have been good but not memorable.  There’s never anything wrong with ’em.  Many A Mile is as good as any.  In some regards, it’s a throwback to the classic first three Blue Rodeo albums.  Lots of awesome guitar work and hooks.  Just gets hard to remember the songs, record after record after record.

Also found in the music department were the new albums by Slash and Greta Van Fleet, but I found myself staring indifferently at them.  I didn’t even know Greta had a new album out.  Have they already dropped off the radar that badly?

Come on, where are you Spiderman: No Way Home?  Not in stock – sold out!  They had a three-fer with all three MCU Spidey films in one, but I wanted something with the bonus features that I crave.  Ah well, next time, I’ll get you Spiderman!

Finally a trip to the toy section.  No Marvel Legends figures at all, and only a couple Star Wars Black Series.  They were well stocked in Transformers and I noticed they had some reissue Beast Wars toys.  Hard to believe Beast Wars was 25 years ago.  I never bought an original Beast Wars toy, and wanted to give one of these reissues a shot.  They only had Optimus Primal and Megatron, so obviously I chose the dinosaur.  Beast Wars has always been an enigma to me.  When it was new, the toys seemed to barely transform.  The cartoon was very primitive in terms of computer animation.  But Beast Wars appealed to kids worldwide and it saved the Transformers franchise.  Curiosity got the better of me and now I am the happy owner of a reissue purple dino Megatron.

Finally, the Coke. I scoured the racks but they did not have the coffee beverages that I require.  I shall have to try convenience stores and gas stations next.  I love Coke.  I try every variety that I can get my hands on.  I have no problem with Pepsi, but it’s Coke that I want to catch ’em all.

Walmart did have two sweet looking consolation Cokes:  Quebec Maple, and British Columbia Raspberry.  Only having enough hands for one case, I chose Quebec Maple.  Upon paying, I realized that someone swapped out one bottle of Maple and replaced it with a Raspberry.  Win!  I get to try both.

I only had one panic attack while waiting to pay, and I managed to breathe my way out of it.

Walmart had run out of plastic bags and only had the more expensive cloth ones.  I could feel the tension as word spread among the customers.  I hate standing in line at grocery stores and Walmarts.  Everybody does, but I get tense.  It passed; my glasses fell off because of the way the N95 pulls on my ears, but I paid for my stuff and got out.  Didn’t need a bag.  Didn’t have the energy to look at Sunrise Records or Toys R Us.  Just came home.

Put the Coke in the fridge, pulled up a chair and started listening to the Blue Rodeo.  They’re usually pretty good for reducing the anxiety. I feel a lot better already!  Happy Easter everyone, and stay away from places like Walmart if you can!

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!



LeBrain Train Easter Weekend Schedule

The LeBrain Train: 2000 Words or More with Mike Ladano

Episodes 57 and 58 – Max the Axe & Easter Special weekend!


Happy Easter everyone — a weekend I have traditionally looked forward to ever since I was a kid.  Spring is in the air!  The last two Easters have been pretty weird, but I’m glad to spend some time with you during this global crisis.  It’s only getting worse currently here in Ontario as the third wave threatens to undo all our progress.  So, this weekend I’ll be doing two shorter shows instead of one long one.  Here’s the plan:

Thursday April 1 – Max the Axe “Straight Outta Lockdown” session – 7:00 PM E.S.T.

For the first time in almost a year, Max the Axe reunited for a rehearsal.  It was rough and ragged but lead vocalist Uncle Meat has given me the thumbs-up to play some songs from this session, including the brand new “Pygmy Blowdart”.  Special guest:  the one, the only Max himself!

Friday April 2 – Good Friday – Easter Memories – 7:00 PM E.S.T.

Similar to the “Christmas Memories” show from last year.  I had a lot of good Easters.  Join me on Good Friday for some happy memories, musical and otherwise.  Such as:

  • Easter ’85 – Condition Critical in Ottawa
  • Easter ’86 – Quiet Riot air guitar weekend, Turbo, Crossbows & Catapults on the kitchen floor
  • Easter ’87 – Digging trenches in the back yard for GI Joe.
  • Easter ’88 – Skyscraper in Ottawa
  • Easter ’91 – Welcome to My Nightmare?
  • Easter ’92 – Pandora’s study regime
  • Easter ’16 – Record Store shopping in Ottawa

Hope to see you this weekend on the LeBrain Train.  NEXT WEEK:  Andy Curran!

REVIEW: Marillion – “Easter” (2020 Version)

MARILLION – “Easter” (2020 video recorded in quarantine)

Count on Marillion to bring the light in the dark.

It has been over 30 years since Steve Hogarth and the Marillios first serenaded us with “Easter”.  As a surprise gift in 2020, they’ve re-recorded the track from isolation.  All five guys with their home setups recorded and filmed their parts for a new video.

“As it’s Easter Weekend, Mark [Kelly] had the cool idea of us virtually-getting-together to record a new version of Easter in our homes. Hopefully it will put a smile on your faces.”

It’s poignant, watching the guys play from their personal spaces, unable to connect in person just like us.  While “Easter” has always contrasted light and shade, this time the contrast is sharper, though that may simply be in the minds of the listeners.

A bare acoustic version with a shortened and re-arranged ending (probably due to necessity), “Easter” soothes.  Even under these circumstances, Marillion pulled together a new recording of an old classic and did it quite well.  (Meanwhile behind closed doors they continue to write for their next studio LP.)  If Marillion can use technology to stay connected and celebrate creativity and ingenuity, then so can we all.

Happy Easter.

5/5 eggs


REVIEW: Marillion – Seasons End (2 CD remastered edition)

The first of two Marillion reviews, enjoy! Tomorrow, another!

MARILLION – Seasons End (1989 EMI, 2 CD remastered edition)

Hard to believe that Seasons End is 25 years old now. In the last 25 years, Steve Hogarth has stepped outside the impossibly big shadow cast by Derek W. Dick (“Fish”) as lead singer of Marillion. While some Marillion fans refuse to accept any Hogarth output post-Brave (I’m looking at you, Tom) many have embraced his work and the latest phases of Marillion. Seasons End was the first, tentative step in that journey. Even the great cover art reflects the change. The Jester and other visual clues from the past are there, inside Marillion’s new photographic artwork direction.

Armed with almost a full album’s worth of nearly complete music (see: Clutching at Straws bonus CD), Marillion set out to fill two enormous positions in the band: Lead vocalist, and lyricist, and not necessarily in that order. Due to the monstrous poetic talents of Fish, lyricist John Helmer was tapped to contribute lyrics to the music they had already written with Fish. (Fish took his lyrics and used them on his solo albums Vigil in a Wilderness of Mirrors and Internal Exile.) Then, ex-The Europeans and How We Live singer and keyboardist Steve “H” Hogarth was brought on board. Hogarth brought with him an infamous red bucket full of his own completed musical ideas. In that bucket were bits of what later became “The Space…” and the hit single “Easter”.

With that much music behind them it almost seems inevitable that Seasons End would be a winner. Indeed, since most of the music was written with Fish still in the band, it careens joyfully from progressive, moody tendencies to the brighter moments that Hogarth contributed. The result is possibly the perfect album to introduce a new singer: Just enough like the old band that people can relate, but not a copy. Hogarth himself was night-and-day different from Fish: He didn’t sing songs about getting drunk in a bar, or songs about Scottish freedom.  He had a quieter style as a frontman, and killer vocal range as a singer.

Seasons End starts off with a long moody intro before kicking in with Steve Rothery’s triumphant guitar melodies and Ian Mosely’s perfect drum rolls. From there it becomes slower, but hopeful: Welcome, “The King of Sunset Town”.

“Easter” is next, a near-perfect ballad for 1989. While it begins quite slow, it gets brighter and more upbeat by the time H sings the, “What would you do with the wire and the gun?” section.  Irresistible song.  Lyrically excellent, musically perfect.  I find a lot of ballads wear out over time.  Not “Easter”.

“The Uninvited Guest”, to me, is filler despite its status as a single. There are better songs on the album, and this one is to me just a straightforward standard rock song. The lyrics are interesting — a look at HIV from the virus’ perspective. The lyrics also have a quiet little Scottish reference — look up “first footing” and how heavy 15 stone is, and tell me if you think it’s a shot at Fish.

“Seasons End”, Marillion’s first song about global warming (but not the last) is both lyrically and musically great. I have always enjoyed when they opened shows with this song, prefaced by “O Come Emanuel”.

Side two of the original LP began with a pair of songs I’m not too keen on, the dark “Holloway Girl” and the sax-laden “Berlin”. Some people love both, but I believe these two songs only build the tension.  It is the next song that steals the second side.   “After Me” is a bright one, a song that coulda woulda shoulda been a single.  Its music goes back to the Fish days, but the vocal melody is 100% Hogarth.

Next, “Hooks In You” is a short firecracker of a rocker and very out of character for Marillion. Its simplicity is such that it was chosen as the first single/video. Personally to me is it the most skip-worthy on the album.  It doesn’t have the longevity that the rest of this album possesses.  Whatever magic similar tracks from the past such as “Incommunicado” have, is missing from “Hooks In You”.

Finally the original album closes with “The Space…”, a longer progressive epic. I quite like “The Space…”, always have, and the band still play it live today. In fact it was recently done on their acoustic album Less Is More. Great song with interesting cryptic lyrics.

As on all Marillion remasters, the bonus disc here is loaded with treasures. “The Bell in the Sea” is a B-side and quite possibly the first song that the H-fronted Marillion have done on the subject of water — someone once said that H’s lyrics were all about “death and water”. This song could be the first of many in the water category. Another great B-side, the poppier “Release” (quite similar to “After Me” in direction) is a total winner. The rest of the disc is rounded out by a 12″ mix of “Uninvited Guest” and six demos. One demo is “Uninvited Guest” which means you have to hear this unremarkable song three times.

Personally while I always enjoy getting bonus material on albums like this, I find the demos to be tedious because they are similar to the album tracks in arrangement, but demo quality in fidelity. So, not really something overly interesting to listen to. If you want more remixes and live B-sides, be sure to check out Singles Box Set 89-95 which has them all and then some!

A remarkable reboot for a band that they had written off. The next challenge was to learn to write with the new singer. But that’s another album….

4.5/5 stars