FYC

Sunday Chuckle: Cockspital

Hospitals are so much fun!  Check out this cock-shaped graffiti from the Sunnybrook elevators!

 

Graffiti aside, Sunnybrook was a good hospital.  Canadian singer/songwriter Dan Hill had his prostate cancer treated there.  How do I know that?  There were big posters of Dan Hill advertising this fact! Dan got better, which is good.

Here’s Dan Hill’s hit ballad “Sometimes When We Touch”. Listen to it while gazing at the cock graffiti for maximum giggles.

 

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#700: How Are You Doing?

GETTING MORE TALE #700: How Are You Doing?

It’s been a week since we lost Mum…and we are doing OK.  Jen’s been focused like an electron microscope on getting things done for the funeral.  My job is scanning photos and preparing music…and catching up on laundry.  Attempting to put a dent into the pile of clothes I call “Sock Mountain”.  I’m assuming reality will hit us later.

For music, Mum would have liked if we used something by my sister Dr. Kathryn.  I hope I can find something appropriate, perhaps from her Stealth CD.  At least one track.  For the reception after, I’m using Mike Slayen’s awesome acoustic guitar album DUDE.  Don’t let the title fool you!  If Mum was well enough, I know she would have been enjoying this album with us.  Probably in the car on the way to the cottage.  She would have loved it.  Me, I would have loved just having Mum with us.

This has been a very hard year for us, and I know the power of music is such that you always associate certain tracks or albums with periods in your life.  Music also has the power to raise the spirits, and it did that for me quite a few times this summer.  On every shitty drive to Toronto on the 401, to every dismal hospital parking lot, my stereo was on.  A lot of albums were repeat listens, and I worry:  “Will I always associate the Bosstones or Blotto with this shitty summer?”

I might.  And that might make the Bosstones or Blotto hard to listen to, down the road.  I think we have to try and make more memories of those bands later on.  Maybe when we finally do return to the cottage.

That aside, we sure did devour a lot of music on the road.  Just last week, between Toronto and the work commute, I polished off Marillion’s The Singles ’82-’88 (12 discs), its followup Singles Box Vol 2 ’89 – ’95 (12 more discs), and a third “box set” of eight more singles. A whopping 1.5 gig of music.  Basically all their singles and B-sides in one massive weeklong stretch.  Meanwhile, back at the office, I had my Kiss flash drive.  Basically, everything I own by Kiss in one place.  I’ve been focused on the studio albums, and each one has been spun more than once.  I realised this:  I never seem to get tired of Kiss!

Whether it was Lick it Up, Hotter Than Hell, Dressed to Kill, Love Gun, Rock and Roll OverDynasty, Unmasked, Creatures…even Asylum got multiple plays in the last couple weeks.  When a band has been your favourite for over 30 years and you can’t explain why, I guess you can just keep playing those albums in rotation.  The later albums…admittedly less so.  The emotional attachment isn’t quite there.

Get this!  While I was bopping to Kiss Unmasked one afternoon, the guy in the office next to me put on “Summerland” by King’s X!  How cool is that?  When was the last time you heard King’s X in the office?  The guy even knew the names of the members.  Said a friend recently turned him onto King’s X, but all he had was the Best Of.  Gotta start somewhere!

Thanks for checking in.  We’ll be OK.  I think we’ll manage to make it through this, but not without the support of friends and loved ones.

#699: Brief Encounter

On the dark days, you just need to find things to cheer you up.

This past weekend, caring for Jen’s mom in the hospital, I had a chance encounter that lasted just a few moments, but gave me something else to focus on.  “Mum” was staying in a very nice wing of a veteran’s hospital.  It was filled with retired war heroes, but also regular people who were fighting their final battles with cancer.  You can always sense the grief in the air.  It weighs down like a heavy, thick antiseptic mist.

Sunday morning we were making our way to see Mum, with other families to see our loved ones.  Walking in front of us was a tall guy carrying a guitar.  It was in a road case, which jumped out at me.  Most guitar hobbyists don’t need one, but professionals do.  He looked like a dressed-down star.  He held the elevator door open for us.  We got in and I had a closer look at his road case.  There was a laminated tag with his name on it, which I recognised immediately.  For his privacy, I won’t say who he was, but I Googled him to verify.  Sure enough, the guitarist in front of us was the guy who came up in my Google images search.

Seven solo albums stretching back 22 years.  12 more album releases as a sideman, for some pretty big names.  If I said them, you’d recognise them.  He has played on Leno, the Oscars, and the Grammies, and he also opened for two of my favourite bands (one of which, Deep Purple, is in my Top Five).

I didn’t bother him.  He was there for the same reason we were.  It would have been disrespectful for me to invade his privacy.

I did, however, stream some of his music on my phone.  Later on, I heard him down the hall, playing blues licks for his loved one.  It was an awesome, awesome sound.

My only real wish was, it would have been nice if Mum was well enough to come out into the hallway to listen.  Mum loved all kinds of music, including the blues.  But she was too sick.  We played some George Harrison in her room, instead.

I talked about this brief encounter all day.  I guess I was a little starstruck.

In the end, the bluesman did more than play some licks for his loved one.  He didn’t know it, but he helped me out too.  Thank you, bluesman.

 

Rest in Peace, Mrs. LeBrain’s Mom — “Mum”

Some people knew her as “Debbie”.  Some called her “sis”.  Jen called her “mommy”.  Readers here remember her as “Mrs. LeBrain’s Mom”.

As for me, she liked it when I called her “Mum”, so that’s what I did.

She’s been sick for a little while.  She was diagnosed with cancer at the same time as my wife, late last year.  Because Mum only cared about other people, she tried to protect us.  She did not tell us about it.  She lived with her secret, so we could focus on Jen.  We knew she was sicker than she claimed, but at the end of the day we had to trust her.  I don’t begrudge this.  She was right — I needed to focus on Jen, beating her own cancer.  When she did, Mum told us the news.

She’s so important to me.  We became much closer when Jen’s dad passed away in 2009.  When that happened, our little unit circled the wagons and held on to each other tight.  We invited her to come and stay with us on the weekends, and she did, probably two out of every three times.  She came and celebrated Christmas (and all the holidays) with my family.  She bought us dinners and treats and spoiled us.  She took good care of Jen.  We talked and laughed.

I already miss our talks.  I just wanna call her.

She even contributed to my website.  She co-reviewed Machete Kills with me.  She helped with two of my videos, always as comedy relief.  She was a great sport.

I miss her so much.

I could count on her for wisdom, for support, and she was always there when Jen needed her.  If Jen called, Mum would be on a train.  She just liked being here.  She wanted to retire in Kitchener.  Over the years she made a lot of friends. Lots of people here will miss her.  Her generosity won’t be easily forgotten.  She was good to everyone.

I have always tried to put on an optimistic face when it comes to health.  Until you’re done, you’re still fighting to win.  But as summer progressed, it was clear Mum wasn’t getting better.  She bravely tried a new experimental treatment.  The upside was that some tumors were shrinking, but the treatment made her incredibly ill.  She couldn’t continue.  Eventually the doctors just ran out of things to try.

The last thing she said clearly to me, many many times, was “I only trust Michael.  I only trust Michael.”

I will never forget that for the rest of my life.  “I only trust Michael.”

I guess she means to take care of Jen.  Hearing her say this, repeating it, was the heaviest moment of my life.

But it felt good at the same time.  I couldn’t have asked for the trust of a more important person.  She was a second mom to me.  I am a very lucky person to have even known her.

She fought that cancer, and fought, and fought.  She fought longer than any of the doctors said she would.

She was the toughest woman I ever knew.  I miss her like crazy.

Rest in peace, Mum.

Mrs. LeBrain’s Mom had a cameo in this video. She was a good sport and played the role well.

Update 2

On the last few Toronto drives, one band keeps getting played over and over again.  When I return from my hiatus I’m going to be writing a lot about Blotto.  Their upbeat, comedic rock and roll has been everything we needed.  There have been dark days these past weeks, but Blotto helps make us laugh again.  Blotto formed in the late 70s, never signed to a major label, released one album and several singles, and became a cult band.

One day before hitting the highway, I checked out a Blotto concert from 1982 on Youtube called Tonight At Toad’s.  It had Jen’s favourite song (“It’s Not You”) and two of mine (“Metal Head” and “Goodbye, Mr. Bond”).  I flipped the concert to mp3 and put it on the car stereo.  Together we found a new favourite, “I Wanna be a Lifeguard”, their first hit from 1979.

Music helps.  Every little thing helps.

Selected Road Tunes:

  • Blotto – Tonight at Toad’s
  • Deep Purple – The Book of Taliesyn
  • Deep Purple – With Orchestra: Live at Montreaux
  • Deep Purple – The House of Blue Light
  • Budgie – Deliver Us From Evil
  • Joe Satriani, Eric Johnson & Steve Vai – G3 Live in Concert
  • The Darkness – Live at Hammersmith
  • The Sword – Used Future

 

 

Hiatus Update

“Well, the cops have been lookin’ for the son-of-a-gun,
That’s been rippin’ the tar off the four-O-one.”

I’ve learned a lot in the last week and a half.  I think I have mastered this “driving the 401 to Toronto” thing.  It really boils down to three easy steps:

  1. Watch the signs and you won’t get lost.
  2. Stoppy-starty traffic is perfectly normal.
  3. Motorcycles can and will drive between lanes of stopped traffic.

See?  Easy.

Timing is also fun.  What takes 80 minutes on a good day takes 120+ minutes on another day.  It’s like a guessing game you can enjoy with your friends.

OH!  And last Saturday in Toronto, I dropped my brand new glasses into a pissy hotel toilet.  Thankfully, it was my own piss.

When we have something to update you on, we’ll update you!  Until then, keep watching the roads….

 

 

A sampling of Road Tunes:

  • Deep Purple – Burn
  • Deep Purple – Stormbringer
  • Deep Purple – Come Taste the Band
  • Blotto – Combo Akimbo
  • Thin Lizzy – Renegade
  • Thin Lizzy – Dedication
  • Stompin’ Tom Connors – Bud the Spud

 

Well it’s Bud the Spud from the bright red mud
Rollin’ down the highway smilin’
The spuds are big on the back of Bud’s rig
They’re from Prince Edward Island
They’re from Prince Edward Island

Now from Charlottetown or from Summerside
They load them down for the big long ride;
He jumps in the cab and he’s off with the Pride Sebagoes
He’s gotta catch a boat to make Tormentine
Then he hits up that old New Brunswick line
Through Montreal he comes just a flyin’
With another big load of potatoes

The Ontario Provincial Police don’t think much of Bud

Well, the cops have been lookin’ for the son-of-a-gun
That’s been rippin’ the tar off the four-O-one;
They know the name on the truck shines up in the sun – “Green Gables”
But he hits Toronto and at seven o’clock
He backs her up again at the terminal dock
And the boys gather ’round just to hear him talk
About another big load of potatoes

Temporary Hiatus

Mikeladano.com will return after a brief hiatus.

#698: Cancer Chronicles 12: The Battle Rages On

At LeBrain HQ this summer, we have been burning the candle at both ends.  Caring for a sick family member is not easy especially when they are out of town.

Mrs. LeBrain has been on trains and busses for half of every week, going up to Toronto to provide love and support.  She can’t drive because of the seizures so she’s at the mercy of bus and train schedules.  One night she spent five hours getting home from Toronto.

I’ve been given strict instructions from her aunt:  “Don’t let Jen burn herself out”.

Easier said than done!

She’s been doing an amazing job.  Since I work full time I am only free to drive down to Toronto on weekends.  That’s exhausting too, though not as much as public transit.

We haven’t had as much time to recharge our own batteries.  It’s sad to say but we won’t be going to the cottage at all this summer.  On the hot days, we would love nothing more than to jump in the refreshing waters of Lake Huron.  It’s not happening this year.

And I haven’t had as much time to work on my reviews here at mikeladano.com.  I come home from work mentally wiped out.  I’m still playing and enjoying music every day but not writing about it very much.  Thankfully guest writers like Holen MaGroin, Kovaflyer, Harrison Kopp and Derek Kortepeter have stepped up to provide some content and relief!  (And there will be more content from Mr. MaGroin soon.)

My job, supporting Jen, is the easier of the two.  I go to work, get paid, drive her where she has to go when I can, and try to take care of her.  She’s got the harder job.  If I’m not around these parts as much, or haven’t responded to your comments, that’s why.  The struggle continues and the battle rages on.

We are not quitters!

 

#S18-4: “Who Gives a F*** About Transformers!” — Sausagefest 2018 was More Than Met the Eye

On Friday I was itching to go.  I made a post here, critiquing my passenger Uncle Meat for wanting to stop at both Walmart and Value Village before hitting the Sausage Road.  He’s a grown man and could be a little better prepared…but I too am a grown man who can admit when he is wrong.  And I was wrong.  The Walmart and Value Village stops were actually two of my favourite things that happened.

WALMART

“I wanna stop at the Walmart up by St. Jacobs,” said Meat.  Cool.  I try to make a point of checking the toy section at every Walmart, because it’s the out-of-the-way ones where you can find the rare stuff.  I made a beeline and lo!  One, two, three, four, FIVE brand new Transformers figures.  I grabbed all five and hit the checkout, so excited about my excellent find.  These are toys that collectors are having a hard time finding anywhere.  This led directly to…

VALUE VILLAGE

“I want something ridiculous,” said Uncle Meat as we hit the T-shirts.  Immediately, I spotted an Optimus Prime shirt waiting right there for me, the first shirt we saw.  My size!  I then found rather quickly a bright orange George Jones “The Living Legend” shirt.  It had to come with us to Sausagefest.  Finally, after going through just about every shirt in the store, Meat found it like destiny:

These two stops really set the tone for the whole weekend.  They were:

1. Everything coming together perfectly, and
2. Dr. Dave Haslam’s hate-on for Optimus Prime.

I love when a plan comes together.

One plan that did not come together was my tent, which broke immediately just out of the box.  Fortunately you can always count on certain Sausagefesters to always bring gorilla and/or duct tape.  The tent weathered both nights.

DAY ONE

The Countdown began promptly at Whenever O’clock and rapidly ticked down 50 + 2 tracks in one night, plus numerous bits and sketches.  50 +2?

We lost one of our own this year and Rush’s “Dreamline” was played in his honour.  Many were decked in neon orange in honour of his old orange boiler suit.  Troy was a truly good soul, a human being with a solid heart of gold.  He always made me feel welcome from my first Sausagefest on, and many years before that too as we had friends in common.  “Learning that we’re only immortal for a limited time” was a poignant lyric, but what really made it special was a tribute that Jeff Woods himself recorded for it.  The Legend of Classic Rock participated in a sketch/tribute that made eyes wet and some bellies laugh.  The tone was flawless and it is truly good to know what integrity looks like up close and personal.

“Dreamline” was not part of the official countdown, nor was a bit that I snuck into my own intro as a part of The Mamas and the Papas’ “California Dreaming”.  I sandwiched my personal introduction into Jeff Russo’s “Main Title” from Star Trek: Discovery, a show I’ve been hyping all year long.  Russo (of the rock band Tonic) composed a dramatic, striking piece working in elements from the original show.  I’m glad to have a chance to showcase it in its entirety, albeit with a long interlude of my shit in the middle.

Don’t forget the two minutes of “improvised scatting”, precisely because Troy would have hated that kind of shit!  And it was so funny that I couldn’t breathe for two minutes straight.  The Countdown (all a blur to me now) ran from #100 to 91 (10 songs total) with no comedy bits, because Troy always said “Less talk, more rock!”  They cut the crap and just played the tunes.

I can tell you that we heard Styx that night (“Mr. Roboto” and “Light Up”), some Five Alarm Funk, Beastie Boys, Metallica, Iron Maiden, Willie Nelson, and…a blur of songs and comedy.  There were a few rap tracks this year, certainly a record number.  Afroman and Cypress Hill made their debuts.  A list is forthcoming.

DAY TWO

50 more tracks to count down.

Uncle Meat was up early (for him) at 9:30, and in great spirits despite a bad back the night before.  We made our way to Flesherton where Uncle Meat destroyed the men’s toilet at the Flying Spatula.  Emerging from the washroom he announced to the world, “Don’t use the one on the left!”  He annihilated the toilet again on our way out, and that of an outhouse on the way back to the farm.  I felt bad for the next guy in line waiting to use the outhouse, but Meat made it out of there really quick.

But I digress.  The Flying Spatula was a great ol’ time even though the Lamb Lord got mad at me for taking a picture of his food.

 

Back on the farm, we played a cool game I call “Knife Chucking”.  It’s kind of like axe throwing, but more special because those daggers were hand-forged by our very own Chuck.  And it was way fun!  A knife actually got lost in the dirt, and then plowed over by mistake by tractor.  But we found it as a team with a metal detector (for real!) and a rake!

I goaded Dr. Dave to rant some more about the Transformers. Man, he really hates the Transformers.  Do not watch this video if you are easily butthurt!

The second night commenced with lamb, perfectly marinated and cooked to medium by our chef the Lamb Lord.  It was gone so fast that Uncle Meat didn’t even get a slice.

The rock resumed.  The Blues Brothers was #1…Clutch #2…and Twisted Sister at #3 with “Burn in Hell”.  More Five Alarm Funk, Queen, Tool…just a blur of songs.  But probably most impressive to some of us:  “Grendel” by Marillion, in its entirety.  A 17-minute track within the top 20, and yet momentum was strong.

I have a literal Meat-ton of a video to sift through, but with perfect weather and setting, Sausagefest 2018 was once again utopia on Earth.

And a big, big, big thank you to Jeff Woods, the real Legend of Rock and Roll, for helping us out this year.  Meat sent you a personal gift as well.  I know you’re about 40 kilometers downriver from us in the valley.  Uncle Meat kept having to shit that day sir.  Meat took a shit in the river, and his shit signal should be with you by now.  Mr. Woods, you are a huge inspiration and truly a man among men.

And woman!  One woman.  Sausagefest has its first woman and she is one of the guys!  A massive first that may have been overdue!

My sun baked skin is aching for the comfort of a shower.  Enjoy the photos.  Lots more to come.

 

 

 

REVIEW: Eric Carr – Unfinished Business (2011)

The KISS RE-REVIEW SERIES Part 42:  Eric Carr solo #2.

EC_Unfinished_Business_2011ERIC CARR – Unfinished Business (2011 Auto Rock Records)

Even though 2000’s Rockology compilation released a treasure trove of unheard goodies for the fans, there is always more to sell.  For the 20th anniversary of Eric’s passing, another batch of tracks were unearthed.  Some are mere filler, some are pretty decent.  Fans of the beloved  drummer will have to sift through the bad to get to the good.

There are a couple Kiss songs here for the diehard fans.  “No One’s Messin’ With You” is yet another demo of what would become “Little Caesar” from Hot in the Shade.  A third called “Ain’t That Peculiar” was released on the 2001 Kiss Box Set.  This is an almost completely different set of lyrics, although it does have the “Hey Little Caesar” chorus.  In chronological terms, this version probably falls between the other two, with lyrics still a work in progress and a different verse melody.  Then there’s “Shandi”, from Eric’s Kiss audition tape, with brand new acoustic backing music.  Unfortunately, Eric’s shaky voice (or a warbly tape) makes this totally unlistenable.

One of Rockology‘s highlights was “Just Can’t Wait” which was crying out for a lead vocal to finish it off.  This was completed by Ted Poley of Danger Danger.  Though the backing track lacks the fidelity of a proper Kiss recording, the song has taken shape as the shoulda-coulda-been hit that it is.  Eric would have been proud and very happy to hear it as a finished song.

The unfinished “Troubles Inside You” is a demo with regular Kiss collaborator and Beatlemania member Mitch Weissman.  It was recorded at Gene Simmons’ house, but the old cassette must have deteriorated pretty badly.  The music is barely audible, though hints of a good song shine through.  Two more Kiss outtakes include the legendary “Dial L For Love” and “Elephant Man”.  These were written for Crazy Nights and Revenge, respectively.  Neither were finished by Carr.  “Dial L For Love” has the bones of a good song with a unique riff.  Eric only managed to finish the lyrics for “Elephant Man”, but here it is given music and life by a group of musicians including the late A.J. Pero of Twisted Sister, and ex-Europe guitarist Kee Marcello.  Singer Bob Gilmartin did a great job of it, turning “Elephant Man” into a cross between ballad and rocker, and something Kiss totally could have done on Revenge.  “Midnight Stranger” is another unfinished riff.  Ex-Kiss guitarist Mark St. John was slated to overdub brand new solos for this instrumental, but he too passed before he could finish.  This is the original cassette demo.  The riff sounds like a brother to “Carr Jam”.  They are definitely related.

“Carr Jam 1981” is, unfortunately, not the original unaltered Elder demo.  It is a cover by drummer Joey Cassata, and a very authentic one at that.  Same with “All Hell’s Breakin’ Loose”.  Just a cover, not a demo, by Cassata’s band Z02. Pretty good stuff, at least.  New backing music was recorded for “Eyes of Love”, a song previously released on Rockology.  The Rockology version with Bruce Kulick on guitar is superior.

Finally, some real serious archival treasures:  an Eric Carr drum solo basement tape (same as his live Kiss solo), and a 1967 recording by Eric’s first band The Cellarmen!  That’s Eric on lead vocals too.  It definitely sounds of its time. Added filler include a few interview bits and clips, including one with former Kiss manager Bill Aucoin about Eric.

If the first Eric Carr CD release was best left to hardcore fans, it’s doubly true of the second one.  This is a fans-only release, period.  It is highly unlikely anyone else would get much enjoyment from this low-fi set.

2/5 stars

Although Carr’s loss was devastating to both fans and the band, there was no question Kiss would carry on with imminent Revenge….