folk rock

REVIEW: Jethro Tull – Too Old to Rock ‘n’ Roll: Too Young to Die! (TV special edition – 2CD/2DVD set)

JETHRO TULL – Too Old to Rock ‘n’ Roll: Too Young to Die! (1976, 2015 Chrysalis TV Special edition 2CD/2DVD)

I foresee a future time, when every man woman and child will be able to buy deluxe multi-disc box sets of just about every album ever made.  While old geezers with greying beards will sit back in a rocking chair (a hovering one, no doubt) listening to multi-track backing tapes for every single Poison CD, our children will be able to do the same with a comprehensive book-box version of the NSync debut album.  It’s going to happen eventually, so we may as well get good albums like Tull’s Too Old to Rock ‘n’ Roll: Too Young to Die! in box set form while the concept still has validity.

Of course this isn’t the first Jethro Tull album to get this kind of treatment.  A super deluxe Aqualung was a fairly recent release, and I received Benefit myself for Christmas last year.  The bold four-colour album cover for Too Old to Rock ‘n’ Roll makes for a splendid book-form box with plastic CD trays inside.  An absolutely massive (80 page) full colour booklet awaits you inside.  Rare photos are the norm of course, but a features such as “From Carmen to Tullman” about the late John Glascock are valuable reads.  Detailed liner notes will help you make sense of the track listing, and the multiple versions of each song included.  Almost all of this material is rare, previously unreleased, or newly mixed material by studio wizard Steve Wilson.

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Scan_20151229First of all, I was not aware that all of Too Old to Rock ‘n’ Roll was re-recorded for a UK television special, included here on DVD.  Anderson had a theatrical presentation in mind, so playing live wasn’t of interest to him.  But, apparently due to British law, the LP Too Old to Rock ‘n’ Roll could not be used for backing music on a “live” TV special.  Anderson’s vision seemed to involve the band miming to the album while pulling amusing faces and occasionally acting out the lyrics.  In order to mime and do it legally, brand new recordings of every song had to be made!  In fact the band painstakingly took great care in recreating the album, although there are also obvious differences.  For the DVD and CD, these tracks been newly mixed and are available for the first time.  CD 1 contains the standard stereo mix of the re-recorded album.  DVD 1 has the special in both stereo and 5.1 surround.

The original album was also meant to be remixed top to bottom in 5.1 by Wilson.   This was not possible, because the original multi-track tapes survived for only five songs, almost the whole second side:  “From a Dead Beat to an Old Greaser”, “Bad Eyed and Loveless”, “Big Dipper”, “Too Old to Rock ‘n’ Roll”, and “The Chequered Flag”.  Tull’s semi-acoustic nature lends itself well to a good 5.1 mix.  The audio field is filled out, but not to excess.  It’s a good balance and the tracks included in 5.1 shine with fresh light.  Do not be surprised to hear parts you didn’t hear before.

The bonus associated tracks are a light collection of rare Tull.  The two bonus tracks from the prior 2002 remaster, “One Brown Mouse” and “A Small Cigar” are included here unaltered on CD 2, or on lossless 96/24 stereo PCM on DVD 2.  The unreleased tracks are excellent.  “Salamander’s Rag Time” sounds like the Jethro Tull collaborating with the Beatles via “A Day in the Life”.  Meanwhile, “Commercial Traveller” is a lushly arranged and recorded ode to the road with full strings and Martin Barre guitar blazes.  “Strip Cartoon” also has quaint Beatles-isms though it is really just a bright Tull acoustic jaunt.  An incredible instrumental take of “Salamander” is pure delight, hearing it ring in live perfection.  There is also a bare acoustic version of “A Small Cigar”, and earlier versions of “Quiz Kid” and the title track.  As always, these are available on both the CDs and DVDs.  Four of these (“Salamander’s Rag Time”, “Commercial Traveller”, “Strip Cartoon” and the acoustic “Small Cigar”) can be heard in 5.1, again mixed by Wilson.  Expect the same level of lushness and quality as the album tracks, although with the acoustic arrangements, it’s more about the spaces between.

One of the great advantages of the DVD format is the ability to re-release classic Quadrophonic mixes for modern audio systems.  Like many rock bands (and especially progressive rock bands) of the early 1970’s, Jethro Tull released Too Old to Rock ‘n’ Roll in Quad.  That long unavailable version is right here in 4.0, on DVD 2.  It’s certainly an interesting animal.  Where Steven Wilson’s 5.1 mixes envelope the listener in clouds of Tull music, the Quad mixes things hard into individual channels.  It’s an interesting experience.  The vocals are mostly on the right, the flute behind, and the other instruments tucked into their corners.  If you want to hear it as if the music is coming from four separate corners of the room, then this Quad mix is that exactly.  There is something to be said for this, because you can clearly hear each instrument isolated, and easy to study.  You can easily lose yourself in a particular part of the mix, which is the benefit and weakness of the format.  Regardless, the classic 1976 Quad mix has parts you won’t hear elsewhere, and it’s available again, and that is a good thing.

With all this talk of extras and remixes and surround sound, the original album is almost overlooked!  Fear not.  A bit like an afterthought, the original, stereo, classic Too Old to Rock ‘n’ Roll: Too Young to Die! is here, as the final 11 songs on CD 2.  Even the Benefit super deluxe box set didn’t include the original album on CD.  If you prefer lossless stereo, it’s there on DVD, too.

What of the original album, then?  Well, I reviewed that in 2012, and you can read all about it here.   A brief summary:


 

SAM_1882Like many Tull albums from the mid-70’s, there’s plenty of acoustics to go around accompanied by lovely flute passages and complex drum patterns.  There’s also some horns and orchestration courtesy of David Palmer (not yet a full member of the band).  Personal highlights:

  • “Salamander”, a folksy number with intricate acoustics.
  • The harmonica riffing of “Taxi Grab”, reminiscent of an earlier bluesier Jethro Tull.  The guitar soloing (both electric and acoustic) is also divine.
  • “Big Dipper”, a playful yet complex number with plenty of flute and a fun chorus.
  • The masterpiece title track (obviously), lush with ochestration.
  • “Pied Piper”, one of the most obviously catchy songs on the whole album, albeit still complex with multiple parts and section.
  • The final track of the album, a slow but dramatic grandiose number called “The Chequered Flag (Dead or Alive)”.

 

Too old to rock ‘n’ roll?  Never.  Buy this for the grandpa on your lists.

4/5 stars

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REVIEW: Jethro Tull – Songs From the Wood (Remaster)

For JT!

Scan_20150807JETHRO TULL – Songs From the Wood (1977, EMI 2003, remaster)

I love the jaunty, lighter side of Jethro Tull.  One of the reasons I started listening to Tull was that acoustic side.  It’s unique among rock bands.  They could still be pompous, but in a fun kind of way.  The critics called it “folk rock”, but that is misleading. It’s much more complicated than that.  Songs From the Wood might be considered the epitome of this kind of Tull music.  It was also the first for keyboardist David Palmer as an official member of the band, and perhaps that has something to do with the direction of the album.

The title track begins things immediately with this type of soft playful Tull song.  A multi-layered Ian Anderson sings harmonies with himself, and then the band come in backing him with gleeful but complex music.  Palmer’s synthesizer is immediately obvious, as he doubles down with John Evan, also on keys.  Certainly Barriemore Barlow has to be one of the most underrated drummers in rock, and his work here is as excellent as it is difficult.

Ian plays all the instruments himself on personal favourite “Jack-in-the-Green”.  This character from old English folklore is usually associated with the coming of spring, and the music is appropriate for that kind of imagery.  This kind of song was in part inspired by the countryside that Ian had relocated to.  While there he read a book on folklore, and that made its way into the music.  It’s hard not to like “Jack-in-the-Green”, unless you’re just a Grinch.  “Cup of Wonder” is brilliant, a celebration with orchestration and bright melodies.

“Hunting Girl” is the first song that delivers a big heavy riff (thank you Martin Barre). The song has a gallop to it, as if you are riding horseback with the Hunting Girl herself.  Martin’s guitar solo is a delight, a brief moment of rock genius.  Up next is a song that was re-recorded many years later for The Jethro Tull Christmas Album:  “Ring Out Solstice Bells”.  It doesn’t feel at all out of place on Songs From the Wood.  It fits the direction and lyrical concept of other songs, with the solstice theme.  Barrie Barlow’s drums on the outro are something else!

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Side two of the album opened with “Velvet Green”, a very percussive song.  Of the tracks thus far, it is the least instantaneous.  It’s one of the longest track at six minutes, and has a very progressive bent.  “The Whistler” on the other hand is pretty instant.  I used to mis-hear the lyrics.  I thought Ian was singing, “I have a pipe, and I’ve come to play.”  I prefer my words to the actual ones, “I have a fife and a drum to play.”  This brilliant little song is about as bright and jaunty as Tull get.  “Pibroch (Cap in Hand)” gives Martin Barre a chance to make a lot of cool noises…weirdly Kiss-like, actually.  “Pibroch” is a long bomber (8:35) and a bit too long at that, but the moments of brilliance shine through, as always.  Especially enjoyable are the quaint “Dr. Who” sounding keyboards near the end.  Just great stuff.  The closer is “Fire at Midnight”, a title that Blackmore seems to have ripped off for his Fires at Midnight album.  It is a brief mostly-acoustic number that returns to the bright spring-like sound that commenced the album.

The Jethro Tull remaster series has been excellent.  Songs From the Wood only has two bonus tracks, which is a darn shame.  “Beltane” shares lyrical themes with other songs on the album.  I don’t know if it’s a B-side or what have you, but it’s clearly from these sessions.  It boasts some of Ian’s best flute work on the disc.  It’s of excellent quality, a worthy bonus track for a great album.  The other extra is a live version of “Velvet Green”, every bit as complex as its studio counterpart.  It’s a bit more lively, perhaps.

People who like Tull would probably love this album because it emphasizes a lot of traits that are unique about Jethro Tull.  Those who hate “folk rock” or progressive rock, or whatever else Tull gets pigeonholed as (classic rock?*) should keep their distance from Songs From the Wood.

4/5 stars

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* Hey, they won a Grammy as a “heavy metal” band.

REVIEW: Paul MacLeod – Gauge (2011)

The fifth and latest review from Mike and Aaron Go to Toronto…Again!  Aaron gave me this CD…thank you dude!

This is also a SIMULTANEOUS REVIEW!  Aaron has reviewed the same album today: take a look!

GAUGE_0002PAUL MacLEOD – Gauge (2011 Busted Flat Records)

I’ve wanted to check out some solo Paul MacLeod for a while now.  I’m a huge fan of the one and only album he released with Hibakusha, the best album Rush never made.  Gauge is not like Hibakusha.  Gauge is an acoustic record, a format that does not always appeal to me.  In this case, the attraction was immediate.  These songs are incredible.

The proceedings commence with the old-tymey fun of “Be My Girl”.  Even though it’s a MacLeod original, it sounds like it could have been written in the 1930’s.  I love that about it.  If you put scratchy record sounds over it, you might not be able to tell it’s actually from 2011. “Change Your Life” on the other hand sounds more contemporary.   It has a hymn-like quality to it.  It’s very serene.

GAUGE_0003“December” sounds almost as if it was recorded live.  I’ll point out MacLeod’s excellent picking skills here.  He lets his fingers speak.  Then, the song “Hero” sounds like something that would be excellent in an electric band format.  It boasts big verses and a catchy acoustic riff.  “The Trickster” is whimsical and lullaby-like.  MacLeod lends it a theatrical flair with his expressive voice, which seems to change from song to song.  The funny thing about that is, just as I’m really getting into all the different voices he can use, the very next track is called “Instrumental”, and that’s exactly what it is.  It’s also just lovely.  “Stop” is delicate, much like the preceding instrumental.

“Another White Band” is different yet again, upbeat this time, with an incredible chorus.  Again, I can’t help but think the song would benefit from an electric version.  Then, the final track is “It Belongs to You”, a sad sounding ballad.  But check out that guitar melody and chords.  They are transcendent, to me.  There’s something pure and classic about them.

Boy, am I glad Aaron gave me this CD.  Thanks buddy.  This is one that, I suspect, is going to grow near and dear to my heart.

4.5/5 stars

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Part 278: The Return of Dan Dan the Box Set Man

RECORD STORE TALES Part 278:  The Return of Dan Dan the Box Set Man

Astute LeBrain readers may recall that one of my customers, Dan aka “Box Set Man”, always had cool stuff in his collection.  It was he that gave me an original Ritchie Blackmore photo from a private collection in Part 168: The Constipated Ritchie Blackmore.  In January 2005 he appeared at my door once again to sell me some goodies.  While I did not record everything Dan sold to me that day, I did take note of the five that I was going to add to my personal collection!

Please excuse me if I sounded a little over excited.  I always tried to journal honestly!

Date: 2005/01/11 21:43

WOW.

HOLY SHIT.

Oh God oh God oh God!

YOU WILL NOT BELIEVE THE AMAZING ITEMS THAT CAME INTO WORK TODAY.  I am going to have an expensive January.  I am going to MISS this part of my job. [I had applied to several jobs.]

Here’s the complete list of cool shit that I need to buy:

1. DVD – Harold & Kumar.  We got in two used copies already!  [It was only released the week before, on Jan 4.]

2. CDs – Deep Purple 25th Annivesary box set–JAPANESE IMPORT BABY!  Not much on there that I “need” but it does have all three edits of “Burn”, in fact it looks to have every single edit from every 7″.  Also has two mono mixes.  Must have.

3. CD – Jethro Tull – Bursting Out-Live (remastered)

4. CD – Jethro Tull – Jethro Tull Christmas Album

5. CD – Queen – On Fire: Live At The Hollywood Bowl

One cool thing is that I still have all five of these items, all still in the same condition that I found them in!  Thanks Dan, wherever you may be….

REVIEW: Jethro Tull – A / Slipstream (CD/DVD)

JETHRO TULL – A / Slipstream (2004 Chrysalis CD/DVD, originally 1980)

Unlike most Jethro Tull remasters, A did not contain any bonus tracks.  Rather, it includes the only official DVD release of Slipstream, an old Tull live/music video VHS release.

Cole’s Notes version of the history:  A began life as an Ian Anderson solo album, featuring new Tull bassist Dave Pegg and ex-Roxy Music multi-instrumentalist Eddie Jobson.  Jobson brought along his drummer friend Mark Craney, and then finally Ian asked his Tull bandmate Martin Barre to come in and play on a couple tracks.  Somehow, this turned into Martin playing on the entire album.

Anderson says that the record label, who were pushing for A to be released under the Jethro Tull banner, suddenly announced that Craney and Jobson were replacing current Tull members Barriemore Barlow, John Evan, and David Palmer.  This and other factors led to that exact lineup change, but with Jobson listed as a “special guest”.

A_0004Regardless of the office politics, A is a solid albeit very different and 80’s sounding Jethro Tull album.  I’m not a huge fan of the opener “Crossfire”, but I think that “Flyingdale Flyer” is a great combination of progressive rock Tull with the modern tweaks.  “Working Joe, Working Joe” is OK, but I’m not a fan of that funky synthy bass line.  I love the spacey sci-fi intro to “Black Sunday”, a precursor of sorts to “The Final Countdown”. Then it changes to something a little more challenging with the flute leading the charge.  At 6:39 and with multiple sections and tempos, this is easily the most epic track.

The digital pulse of “Batteries Not Included” is pretty cool, but it’s not really an outstanding track.  “Uniform” rolls along solidly.  “4.W.D (Low Ratio)” is a guilty pleasure.  “The Pine Marten’s Jig” sounds as the title implies, but perhaps just a little more complex than the average jig!  The closing song is the dramatic “And Further On”. Its mood is appropriate for a closer, and I dig that cascading piano.

Incidentally, this is one of those CDs that were “Copy Controlled”.  Boy, did that piss people off.  Some people said you had to take a black magic marker to the outer edge of the disc in order to copy them.  I never felt the urge to try this trick, and it doesn’t matter because the obsolete software does nothing to inhibit ripping today.

And that’s the album.  The DVD Slipstream opens with a homeless-looking Anderson (sleeping under a Thick As A Brick newspaper) being chased by the balloons from The Prisoner.  He then stumbles into a Jethro Tull concert, not a security person in sight!  When has this happened to you?

A_0005Tull then open with a hard rocking “Black Sunday”.  Martin Barre and Ian Anderson are really the only guys that look like they’re in the same band!  The excellent “Dun Ringill” is presented music video style.  It’s like Anderson playing over the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey, when Bowman’s in the pod.  “Flyingdale Flyer” is better, with Tull as some sort of band of interstellar explorers.  Anderson’s facial expressions make this one irresistible.  The next song is once again live, and it is the classic “Songs From the Wood”.  Jobson’s got his hands full with two keyboards!  This is paired with “Heavy Horses” sounding unfortunately cumbersome due to the domination by those same keyboards.

“Sweet Dream”, one of my all time favourite Tull songs, ever, cannot be tamed by the keyboards.  They are there, but the song is powerful nonetheless, as it should be.  In this clip, Anderson plays both the homeless ragged man, and…a vampire!  I actually like this clip a lot.  My favourite clip is “Too Old  To Rock ‘N’ Roll”, the entire band dressed as old men.  This is the album version of the song.

Next is the lovely “Skating Away on the Thin Ice of a New Day”.  On this track, which is live, Eddie Jobson plays a neat electric mandolin.  “Aqualung” is pummeling, Mark Craney keeping busy while also hitting hard.  The set closes with “Locomotive Breath” which starts completely awful, as a new-wave-funk-prog song of some kind, before finally picking up steam as it should.  The flute solo is as brilliant as ever, and I’ll never get tired of watching Martin Barre shake his skullet wildly.

3/5 stars

Sausagefest XII: The Complete Countdown!

There were some pretty awesome picks this year.  I have to give Scottie props for “Coming Home” by Iron Maiden, from the excellent Final Frontier album.  I found some things a bit surprising, such as the overplayed-on-radio “Black Betty” by Ram Jam, placing so high.

“Thick As A Brick” was the live version, so just over 10 minutes.  Other long bombers included all of “Supper’s Ready” by Genesis, which resulted in a tirade by Phil for just as long, about how much he thinks it sucks!  (And he’s an old-school Marillion fan…surprising.)  And of course there were several Maiden tunes that clock in well over 5 minutes.

For your edification, here is the official Sausagefest XII Countdown:  75 tracks, plus 35 tributes.  One tribute for each person that submitted a list!  110 songs over one weekend!  Awesome.

1 Toronto Tontos Max Webster
2 Long Cool Woman in a Red Dress The Hollies
3 The Grudge Tool
4 Rooster Alice in Chains
5 Supper’s Ready Genesis
6 Papa Was a Rolling Stone The Temptations
7 Mississippi Queen Mountain
8 Black Betty Ram Jam
9 Locomotive Breath Jethro Tull
10 I’m Your Captain Grand Funk Railroad
11 Wasted Years Iron Maiden
12 Low Hanging Fruit Tenacious D
13 Green Eyed Lady Sugarloaf
14 Hey Joe Jimi Hendrix
15 Headlong Flight Rush
16 Roadhouse Blues The Doors
17 Thick as a Brick Jethro Tull
18 Powerslave Iron Maiden
19 Bohemian Rhapsody Queen
20 Trapped Under Ice Metallica
21 Nautical Disaster Tragically Hip
22 No Quarter Led Zeppelin
23 Mr. Blue Sky Electric Light Orchestra
24 The Wizard Black Sabbath
25 Mama Told Me Not To Come Three Dog Night
26 Blackened Metallica
27 Jungle Boogie Kool and the Gang
28 Telegraph Road Dire Straits
29 Sanitarium Metallica
30 Renegade Styx
31 Eulogy of the Damned Orange Goblin
32 Throw Down the Sword Wishbone Ash
33 Electric Worry Clutch
34 The Alabama Song The Doors
35 Rise of the Fenix Tenacious D
36 Livin Thing Electric Light Orchestra
37 The Shape I’m In The Band
38 Mother Danzig
39 The Chain Fleetwood Mac
40 No One Knows Queens of the Stone Age
41 Die Young Black Sabbath
42 Bang Bang Terry Reid
43 Caught Somewhere in Time Iron Maiden
44 Buried Alive Avenged Sevenfold
45 Dream Police Cheap Trick
46 Would Alice in Chains
47 Don’t Fear the Reaper Blue Oyster Cult
48 Zero the Hero Black Sabbath
49 Pool of Booze Volbeat
50 Parabola Tool
51 Why Cant We Be Friends? War
52 Rock and Roll Led Zeppelin
53 While My Guitar Gently Weeps The Beatles
54 Breadfan Budgie
55 Strutter KISS
56 Holy Wars Megadeth
57 Old Man Neil Young
58 Southern Man Neil Young
59 The Pusher Steppenwolf
60 Tempus Fugit Yes
61 Fight Fire With Fire Metallica
62 Kielbasa Tenacious D
63 Green Onions Booker T and the MG’s
64 Weird Beard Fu Manchu
65 Tonight’s the Night Neil Young
66 BYOB System of a Down
67 The Zoo Scorpions
68 As the Years Go By Mashmakhan
69 Toxicity System of a Down
70 Deuce KISS
71 Space Truckin’ Deep Purple
72 South of Heaven Slayer
73 Rocky Mountain Way Joe Walsh
74 Roadie Tenacious D
75 Rock and Roll Motorhead
TRIBUTES
TOM Earache My Eye Cheech and Chong
ERIC Rosanna Toto
BUCKY A Day in the Life WAR
LAMB LORD The Wizard Uriah Heep
LEBRAIN Well You Needn`t Herbie Hancock Quartet
TROY Caught Up in You .38 Special
ERNIE Apocrophon The Sword
SCOTTIE Coming Home Iron Maiden
RYAN Still Counting VolBeat
SEB Demiurge Meshuggah
PHIL Under Black Flags We March Arch Enemy
CHUCK New Fang Them Crooked Vultures
TYLER G. Come on in my Kitchen Robert Johnson
C Time After Time Savage Steel
CHAD She`s a Rainbow The Rolling Stones
DR DAVE Ogre Battle Queen
LOGAN Cowboys From Hell Pantera
GRANT Around the World Red Hot Chili Peppers
WAYNE Inside Looking Out Grand Funk Railroad
CAM Red Hot Mama Funkadelic
AARON High Caliber Consecrator Clutch
JOHN B. I Stay Away Alice in Chains
TAL Dear God XTC
LAMB LAD Kick Out the Jams MC5
ALEX Chicken Strut The Meters
TREVER Volare Dean Martin
FRANK Whiskey in the Jar Metallica
JAGGER Frozen Love Buckingham/Nicks
MARK E. Are You Mine? The Arctic Monkeys
JON K. Stone Deaf Forever Motorhead/Metallica
TYLER W. We Are All on Drugs Weezer
MARK S. People are Strange The Doors
JUSTIN Monsters Blue Oyster Cult
MIKE Monarchy of Roses Red Hot Chili Peppers

The official video

Part 189: Hiding the Music

RECORD STORE TALES Part 189:  Hiding the Music

1985:

There was a group of kids on the street (Bob, myself, Rob Szabo, and Peter Coulliard) that were competing for a cassette copy of Kiss Alive II.  There was only one copy that we knew of in town on cassette.   Guys like Bob and Szabo would know that — they were older, had nice bikes, and probably had been checking all over town.  The only copy we knew of was at a store called Hi-Way Market.

Other kids on the street such as George and Todd had the album on vinyl, but Bob and myself didn’t really have any decent equipment for playing records at the time.  Cassette was portable, it was our primary medium in 1985.  In 1985, you didn’t listen to “albums”, you listened to “tapes”.  The cassette copy at Hi-Way Market was priced at $12.99.  This was more expensive than most, because it was considered a “double album” even though it was still just one tape.

KISS ALIVE II BACK

None of us had $12.99 plus tax right then, but Hi-Way Market had this tape we all wanted.  Hi-Way Market was a great store.  It had old creeky wooden floors.  Downstairs were groceries and clothing.  Upstairs, the greatest toy store in town.  Every Christmas they did a giant Space Lego display.  It was incredible.  But off to the side of this store, up a narrow staircase, was a little record store.  I bought my first Iron Maiden (Live After Death, on vinyl) there.  (I think the deciding factor in buying the vinyl of that album was the massive booklet, a rarity in those days.)

Since none of us had the money, Peter Coulliard hid the copy of Alive II behind something else in the store.  Something where no Kiss fan would ever look for it.  Probably behind Duran Duran or Michael Jackson.  This enabled Peter to have the edge when he finally did gather the necessary funds, thus edging Bob, Szabo and I out in the battle for Alive II.

1999:

These two kids kept coming into the store that were fascinated by my copy of Kiss’ Carnival of Souls.  These were young kids…well, about the same age as Bob, Peter and I were back when we pulled this stuff.  They did not have the $10.99 ($12.64 with tax) to purchase Carnival of Souls.  We didn’t have the only copy they could find, but we did have the cheapest one.  The mall stores were asking at least $20 for new copies.

So these kids came in day after day, week after week, moving Carnival of Souls.  They continually got more creative with their hiding places.  My job was to make sure the shelves were also straight and orderly, and when you’d find Kiss under Anne Murray, you’d put it back.  When bosses found Kiss under Anne Murray they’d give you crap.  So, much as I sympathized with the kids’ musical choice, they were grinding my gears as manager.

Finally I got fed up.  I sent the CD to Trevor’s store with an explanation of why he had to keep it and sell it there.  Then the two kids came in again.

“Hey, umm, do you have Kiss Carnival of Souls?” asked the first one.

“Nope, sold it yesterday,” I lied.

“Awwww…” said the second kid.

It had happened.  I had become “the man”!  I had lost sight of my old self.  Didn’t I pull that “hide the album” stunt myself? In fact, didn’t I do it with GI Joe figures at Hi-Way Market?  I did!

NEXT TIME ON RECORD STORE TALES…Early Birds.

REVIEW: Ani DiFranco – Little Plastic Castle (1998)

Part 3 of the Aaron Challenge:  He has challenged me to get out of my comfort zone.  Together, we will be reviewing some of the albums he bought in Toronto during Record Store Excursion 2012.  I’ve never heard any of these albums before, in fact I know almost nothing about most of these bands.  But I do know I sold a lot (a lot!) of Ani DiFranco during my time at the record store.

Aaron paid $2.99 for this, at Sonic Boom Music.

Check out his review here!

Ani_DiFranco_-_Little_Plastic_Castle

ANI DIFRANCO – Little Plastic Castle (1998 Righteous Babe)

I remember working at the store back in ’98, and the general reception from Ani DiFranco fans to this album was positive, but mildly critical.  There was a vibe that she had sold out for bigger success.  That was just what I was hearing.

Having not heard the previous albums, all I can say is good music is good music.  Yes, the production is lush and not what you’d think of “indy”.  Listen to those mariachi horns on the title track.  Not exactly low-fi.  But it sounds great!  What an upbeat, entertaining track.  Awesome.  Not to mention her guitar work is excellent.  The lyrics seem to be about public perception of what she should and should not be.

“Fuel” is one I’d heard before from Aaron.  I liked that one too.  I like when she’s goofy. This is beat poetry with a backing band.  Normally I go for a lead vocal with melody, but this works due to Ani’s well-composed expression.  From there it’s on to “Gravel”, a fast melodic one with more dexterous picking from Ani.  Another great tune, with melody to spare.    It’s a sparse arrangement, just guitar and voice with some percussion, and that’s it.

Drums introduce “As Is”, a soft pleasant song with barely audible keyboards in the background.  It’s laid back and slightly mournful but also playful, and pretty much perfect as is (pun intended).  “Two Little Girls” is dark, a tale of a difficult childhood.  Ani’s excellent picking, and a bouncy backing bassline, makes it entertaining, but lyrically it seems loaded with pain.

“Deep Dish” is the first song I didn’t enjoy.  It features samples and long spoken word bit, and is very rhythmic.  It did nothing for me, though.  Sorry Ani.  Nothing personal!  “Loom” however is a brief (under 3 minutes) explosion of drums and acoustic picking, more along the lines of what I like.  “Pixie” follows, one I didn’t click with.  Ani sings in a soft whisper, expressive as ever, I just didn’t like the song.  It didn’t have enough melody or punch for me.

A long song, “Swandive”, is a bit of a change of pace since most of the previous tunes were in the 4 minute range.  This one builds slowly.  “I’m gonna do my best swan dive, into shark infested waters,” sings Ani, while picking more of those great guitar parts.  “Glass House” totally changes the pace, with a bouncy wah-wah infested bass melody intro.  This is great.  I didn’t see that coming, nor the weird caterwauling trumpet that followed it!  Ani then whispers the lyrics, underlined by a pulsing bass, with the odd electronic effect.  Then just as you’re getting used to it, the drums kick in, accelerating the tune forward, and the vocals get angry.  Ani is nothing if not diverse, I’m learning, even within one song.

“Independence Day” is a beautiful song, melodic and passionate, slow and pretty.  A hit song in any just world.  The final song, “Pulse”, is another slow builder, with a beat poetry vibe to the verses.  It’s not brief either!  14 minutes!  It sounds a bit like a jam, but I wonder, since the whole album has more of a vibe of being carefully assembled rather than jammed out.

Little Plastic Castle is an excellent sounding album.  The guitars are lush, full and clear.  The snare drum sound is perfect. Production-wise, it’s a total triumph (and self-produced by Ani).  I think the album tends to sag a bit in the middle, after such a fine start, but it’s still a great album.

4/5 stars

MIKE AND AARON GO TO TORONTO

REVIEW: Bidiniband – The Land is Wild

Part 2 of the Aaron Challenge:  He has challenged me to get out of my comfort zone.  Together, we will be reviewing some of the albums he bought in Toronto during Record Store Excursion 2012.  I’ve never heard any of these albums before, in fact I know almost nothing about most of these bands.  This time, I’m going into it at least knowing the Dave Bidini was in the Rheostatics!

Aaron paid $7.99 for each of these discs, at Sonic Boom Music.

Check out his thoughts on the exact same album right here!

For a cool interview with Bidini himself, check out my buddy Patrick Finch’s article right here!

the land is wild

BIDINIBAND – The Land is Wild

Last time, I took a look at In the Rock Hall, without knowing a thing about Dave Bidini.  Now, I’m a little more prepared.  And it just so happens that The Land is Wild is a very different kind of album, much catchier and more immediate.

Album opener, “Desert Island Poem”, is a beautiful acoustic guitar/piano tune with clever lyrics:  “Rheostatics eat their drummer,” and “Martin ran out of the van,” and then references to the incredible Drumheller Alberta, one of my favourite places in the world.  But lyrics aside, melodically and instrumentally this is just a great song.

Some more beautiful acoustics open track #2, “Memorial Day”.  It features one of my favourite instruments, under utilized in rock music: the clarinet.  It’s a slow mournful number juxtaposed with that playful clarinet.  This being Dave Bidini though, of course it takes a twist.  At 3 minutes it becomes more electric and distorted, but without losing direction.

“We Like To Rock” is a gleeful number with some catchy electric guitar licks.  It’s a melodic winner, I like this song a lot.  “This is how we like to live!  This is why we’ll never stop!  This is how we like to live, it’s how we like to rock!”  And how do they like to rock?  Not in any generic way, that is for sure.  This song is unique as any Bidini I have heard thus far, yet it’s a bit more straightforward and to the point.

The next song, “Take A Wild Ride” isn’t even a minute long and it strikes me as something jokey.  But fear not, for “Terrorize Me Now” is next, with an unforgettable chorus and a reference to both Malcolm and Roddy McDowell!  It’s just as playful as all the previous songs, with some intricate guitar parts and lush backing vocals.   I would have liked to have found the lyrics to this song online; no such luck though.

A longer song is up next, the title track, over six minutes, and little more along the lines of what I grew to expect from the last Bidini album I heard, In the Rock Hall.  It’s a bit more challenging, with some atonal guitar feedback, atypical drum beats, and different sections.  Good stuff.

“Last Good Cigarette” is a song I can’t relate to, lyrically, never having smoked one in my life.  Musically though, this is another nice acoustic number, with plenty of intricate guitar parts hanging around in the mix to grab my attention.   It’s over too soon though, and then we’re into the next one, “Song Ain’t Any Good”.  This is a funny self-deprecating number:

This song ain’t any good,
It’s not quiet, it’s not loud,
Its lyrics are warm and tepid,
Of them I’m not very proud.
This song ain’t any good,
You prob’ly heard these chords before,
Its melody is dry and chalky,
The words are lonely cold and boring.

He’s wrong though.  This song is great!

Then comes the 8 minute epic, “How Zeke Roberts Died”.  I had to look up who Zeke Roberts was (an old NFL player apparently, but I can’t figure out the lyrical connection).   This is a cool folk rock tune with several people taking lead vocals.  I love songs with multiple lead vocalists and this is a great one.  Awesome tune.

After such an epic, the playful “Pornography” came as a surprise.  It begins with a programmed drum beat and another humourous lyric.  For better or for worse, you’ll be walking around the house singing “Pornography, pornography…” after playing the album.  Be forewarned!  Ironically the song seems to be more about George W Bush than pornography!

“The Continuing Story Of Canadiana And Canadiandy” has more of that tasty guitar pickin’ that I love.  And of course, it also has more of those humourous lyrical acrobatics.  Another gleeful winner.  The guitar work is insane.

And then, the end:  “The Ballad of 1969” is an 8 minute epic, so the Bidiniband is not leaving you without filling your head with rock.  Delicate drums and electric guitars introduce the piece.  Eventually this morphs into surf rock “ooh ooh oohs” and riffing, but like many Bidini tracks it has multiple sections.  These songs have to be a bitch to play live!

But wait!  A hidden track about Tim Horton’s emerges?  And then…”Chad Kroeger, Chad Kroeger, you’re killing us now.”  Amen brother!  (This track is apparently called “The List”.)

This album is a hell of a lot more immediate than In the Rock Hall, but yet maintains the challenging arrangements and clever, tongue-in-cheek lyrics.  Strongly recommended.

4/5 stars

MIKE AND AARON GO TO TORONTO

Part 164: “You scratch my back…”

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RECORD STORE TALES Part 164:  “You scratch my back…”

In the past, (Part 120, in fact) I talked about how T-Rev would keep his eyes peeled for discs that he knew I wanted.  It worked out to be a mutually advantageous arrangement;  a large chunk of my collection came to me simply because T-Rev knew I wanted something.  I’m sure the reverse was also true.  But this referred just to discs that showed up in our respective stores.

I had a different arrangement with “QUO”, who worked with me at my own store.  In this case, we’d actually buy each other stuff while we were out on our own record shopping excursions.  I found the following entries in my journal, illustrating exactly the kind of “you scratch my back…” arrangements that we had.  It was pretty awesome.

Date: 2005/10/25
16:26

Today I picked up a Bright Eyes 45, an Arcade Fire 45 for QUO, and the new Motley DVD since I didn’t see the tour. I hope the documentary footage kicks ass! The last Motley DVD (given to me by an ex) really sucked. Maybe Vince actually sings on this one instead of letting the fans do it all!

I actually picked up the Bright Eyes 7″ for QUO as well, but he already had it, so I just kept it for myself.  I don’t know which Arcade Fire I bought for him (it was probably “Rebellion”), but the Bright Eyes was “Gold Mine Gutted”.  (The Motley DVD I am referring to was Carnival of Sins.)

This was in return of a favour QUO did for me, one week prior!

Date: 2005/10/18
10:00

QUO picked up three CDs for me in Toronto last night:

1. Bon Jovi “Have A Nice Day” single (has two live tracks first released on the box set, but in studio versions).
2. Bruce Dickinson Tyranny Of Souls Japanese import with bonus track.
3. Iron Maiden “The Trooper” CD single.

I remember giving QUO a wishlist.  This was back when HMV Toronto still carried Japanese imports (which they no longer do, see rant here).  I remember putting Avril Lavigne CD singles on that wishlist too!

This is what obsessive Record Store Guys do.  We help each other out.  It’s in our blood, the blood of the collector!