george harrison

REVIEW: Cheech & Chong’s Greatest Hit (1981)

CHEECH & CHONG’S GREATEST HIT (1981 Warner)

Even if you’re not into comedy albums, Cheech & Chong’s Greatest Hit compilation should be considered for your collection.  For one, it can be found in any format for cheap.  And that justifies buying it for their classic song “Earache My Eye”.  Classic song?  It’s been covered and homaged by bands such as Soundgarden, Korn, and even Rush.  So listen up!

Cheech & Chong’s original “Earache My Eye” is heavy metal and horns gone wild.  Cheech sings as his persona “Alice Bowie”.  The song was featured in the group’s first movie, Up In Smoke.  There is also a lesser song on the album called “Basketball Jones”, but it too is noteworthy because there’s a Beatle on it:  George Harrison!  And a slew of others including Billy Preston, Carole King and Nicky Hopkins.

Everyone in the world should know Cheech & Chong’s comedy sketch “Dave”.  If you don’t, shame on you and go hear it immediately.  “Dave” is here in edited form so you’ll get the gist.  Other popular bits include “Sister Mary Elephant” (remember the teacher screaming “SHUUUT UPPP!” to the rowdy classroom?) and “Sargent Stadanko”.  Most sketches focus on (gasp) drugs!  “Let’s Make a Drug Deal” is a spoof of a popular TV show.  “Cruising With Pedro De Pacas” is a paranoid drive with a Latino stoner.  Pedro and his sidekick Man take up most of side two.

Listening to this is a real throwback.  Sneaking people into a drive-in movie back when a drive-in movie was just 50 cents per person!  It’s good stuff but it may only appeal to people who remember those times.  Cheech & Chong’s laid back style of comedy makes this album (almost 55 minutes long) difficult to finish in one sitting.  Take a break between sides if it’s too slow for you.

The most important life lesson contained within is don’t try to sneak friends into a drive-in movie in the trunk of your car.  Especially if you’re with two guys named Pedro and Man.

3.5/5 stars

Advertisements

REVIEW: The Traveling Wilburys Collection (Bonus 12″ and DVD)

This series is dedicated to my mom! Not only did she a) buy me this box set, but b) introduced me to the artists in the first place. My mom’s favourite Beatle was George. She saw Roy Orbison live, at the old Glenbriar Curling Club on Weber St. in Waterloo. Later, she had these Traveling Wilburys albums on cassette.

Today is the final installment: the DVD and bonus 12″ EP.

For Vol. 1, click here.
For Vol. 3, click here!

 

THE TRAVELING WILBURYS – Bonus 12″, DVD (The Traveling Wilburys Collection 2007 Rhino)

As mentioned in the last two reviews, The Traveling Wilburys Collection came stuffed with bonus tracks — and more if you bought vinyl.  Unfortunately, these bonus tracks (seven total) do not encompass all of the Traveling Wilburys rare tracks and B-sides.  The missing tracks include:

  • “New Blue Moon” (instrumental version), from the “She’s My Baby” and “Wilbury Twist” singles.
  • The original mix of “Runaway” from the “She’s My Baby” single.

The tracks included feature a few B-sides and unreleased songs.  I seem to recall in the 1980’s that extended mixes were very popular.  The Wilburys released two as B-sides:  “Handle With Care” and “End of the Line”.  Both tracks are included with the vinyl version of the Collection.  Basically, this involves adding instrumental sections throughout the song.  Throw on some extra echo here and there.  Each song is extended by about 2 minutes.  With a vocal-heavy band like the Traveling Wilburys, this is actually quite a treat.  It’s a chance to hear some of the bare acoustic instrumental tracks that are overshadowed by harmony vocals.

IMG_20140808_180434Exclusive to the vinyl version of the Collection, and previously unreleased, is the remix to “Not Alone Any More”.  I have made no secret of my love for this song.  This version emphasizes the lead vocal of Roy Orbison front and center.   Also unreleased, but included on the CD version, are “Maxine” and “Like a Ship”.  Both tracks were old recordings, finished in 2007 for this release.  Dhani Harrison and Jeff Lynne sang additional backing vocals, which is more than appropriate.  You can tell both are from demo sources, by hints such as George’s “Alright, that’s it,” at the end of “Maxine”.  “Maxine” is the better of the two songs; “Like a Ship” is a slow Bob Dylan trawl that gets decidedly Beatles-y by the end.  Dhani Harrison plays the guitar solo, which is a standout.

Then there is “Nobody’s Child”, originally from the Nobody’s Child: Romanian Angel Appeal CD.  I’ll admit I’ve never been fond of this sad song.  This was the Wilburys first recording after the passing of Roy Orbison, and I’m glad to finally have it, but it’s not a favourite.  Incidentally, George covered this song way back when he was in the Beatles, too.

Del Shannon’s “Runaway” is a favourite of mine.   I love that “I wah wah wah wah wonder” chorus.  I dug when Queen + Paul Rodgers covered it, but I doubtless first heard this in the movie American Graffiti.   It is said that when Roy Orbison died, Del Shannon was considered as a replacement.  Unfortunately Shannon himself would soon be gone too; he never lived long enough to see the release of the Wilburys’ cover of “Runaway” in 1990.  (He did however live long enough to hear Tom Petty mention the song in his 1989 hit “Running Down a Dream”.)  Jeff Lynne sings lead on the Wilburys version, and he does a bang-up job.  I like this version so much that I’m going to track down the “She’s My Baby” CD single so I can get the original mix too.

Included with the CD version of this set (but not the vinyl) is a DVD with a 24 minute documentary called “The True History of the Traveling Wilburys”. This fascinating inside look at the first album is well worth having.  How often do you get to be a fly on a wall during a jam session like this?  Never.  It’s also very cool to see all five Wilburys recording vocals together in one room.  Also included on the DVD are all of  the Wilburys music videos, including “Inside Out” which I had never seen before.

The vinyl box not only has extra music, but also a poster and six postcards.  Just paper, I know.  The vinyl itself are presented on 180 gram records, which are always delightful to listen to.  Take my word for it when I say that all three records sound amazing on my system.

The Wilburys never went on to record together again after Vol. 3, but a lot of fans consider Tom Petty’s Full Moon Fever to be something of an unofficial Wilburys album.  Jeff Lynne’s first solo album Armchair Theater also has some Wilbury connections, and some of that jangly sound.  All the Wilburys with the exception of Bob Dylan appeared on Roy Orbison’s last album, Mystery Girl.

As for The Traveling Wilburys Collection as a whole?

5/5 stars

REVIEW: The Traveling Wilburys Collection (Vol. 3)

This series is dedicated to my mom! Not only did she a) buy me this box set, but b) introduced me to the artists in the first place. My mom’s favourite Beatle was George. She saw Roy Orbison live, at the old Glenbriar Curling Club on Weber St. in Waterloo. Later, she had this Traveling Wilburys album on cassette, and that tape went up and back from the cottage many, many times!

In today’s installment, the second album, which of course is titled Volume 3!

For Vol. 1, click here.

 

THE TRAVELING WILBURYS – Volume 3 (1990, part of the Traveling Wilburys Collection 2007 Rhino)

When I heard the first Wilburys single from Vol. 3, “She’s My Baby”, I was surprised how heavy it was.  Jeff Lynne sings this grungy rocker, with Tom Petty and Bob Dylan.  The dirty pick slides and guitar licks resembled heavy metal more than the Wilburys’ first album.  And no wonder — it’s Gary Moore (“Ken Wilbury”) on lead guitar! “She’s My Baby” is a great rock song, but there’s no doubt that it alienated some fans as first single.

More in tune with the Wilburys vibe is Dylan’s “Inside Out”.  This track boasts a strong Beatles-y chorus, but fairly dull verses.   “If You Belonged to Me” is better, a bit more upbeat, but melodically poor.  It’s also the second Dylan lead vocal in a row, but it does boast one of his trademark harmonica breaks.

“The Devil’s Been Busy” features lead vocals from everybody, and plenty of George Harrison’s sitar.  It’s an interesting mix, but not a standout song.  The sitar is the highlight; I always enjoy hearing it in a pop rock context.  From “The Devil’s Been Busy” to “7 Deadly Sins”, this song sound likes like a ballad straight out of 1952.  But it’s yet another Bob Dylan lead vocal.  Five songs in, and it is readily apparent that Vol. 3 lacks the vocal variety of Vol. 1, and that is one of its weaknesses.  Dylan is who he is, and a Dylan song isn’t usually as melodic as a George Harrison song.

Tom Petty redeems the album with “Poor House”, a down-home country boogie.  Throw in some of George’s delicious guitars and you’ve got a song you can’t ignore.  It’s this kind of diversity that a Wilburys record needs.  This is the first bonafide classic on Vol. 3, the previous songs short of the mark.

IMG_20140808_180022

Bob’s back on “Where Were You Last Night?”  This one has more presence from the other Wilburys and it’s stronger for it.  It’s a tale about a girl who’s been “messing around”.    “Where were you last year?  You sure as hell weren’t here.”  Tom Petty returns for lead vocals on “Cool Dry Place” another enjoyable song, but not terribly memorable.  It’s enjoyable hearing Tom listing all the instruments he has stored in his cool dry place, and kind of hilarious hearing him singing about mold and mildew!  A pleasure to listen to, but not a classic.

“New Blue Moon” sounds a lot more like the first album.  George and Jeff sound great singing together.  All the guys contribute to a song that has a timeless sound.  The ballad “You Took My Breath Away” is helmed by Tom Petty, but equally important are those classic Harrison chords.  It’s not a standout song regardless, unfortunately.  Vol. 3 is plagued by songs that are not as memorable as the first go-round, and that is still apparent listening to them back-to-back today.

Finally there’s “Wilbury Twist”. This single featured a music video starring John Candy. I’m not sure how that came to be, but to me that’s the most memorable thing about it. That and the silly lyrics about the dance, the Wilbury Twist:

Lift your other foot up (other foot up)
Fall on your ass (fall on your ass)
Get back up (get back up)
Put your teeth in a glass (teeth in a glass)
Ain’t ever been nothin’ quite like this
It’s a magical thing called the Wilbury Twist

Needless to say, we did not ever attempt to dance the full Wilbury Twist.  We never made it past the first couple lines!

That’s it for Vol. 3, a Traveling Wilburys album that has always, and will always, lie the shadow of its superior predecessor.  But that’s not it for this series.  When The Traveling Wilburys Collection was finally reissued in 2007, it included several bonus tracks.  The 2 CD/1 DVD version had four, but the 3 LP box set had seven.  We’ll look at them all tomorrow.

As for Vol. 3?

3/5 stars

REVIEW: The Traveling Wilburys Collection (Vol. 1)

This series is dedicated to my mom!  Not only did she a) buy me this box set, but b) introduced me to the artists in the first place.  My mom’s favourite Beatle was George.  She saw Roy Orbison live, at the old Glenbriar Curling Club on Weber St. in Waterloo. Later, she had this Traveling Wilburys album on cassette, and that tape went up and back from the cottage many, many times!

We’re going to be looking at the Wilburys albums, plus a DVD and bonus 12″ EP, over the course of three installments.  Today is the album that started it all.

 

THE TRAVELING WILBURYS – Volume 1 (1988, part of the Traveling Wilburys Collection 2007 Rhino)

If ever there was a group that deserved the word “supergroup”, it would be the Traveling Wilburys.  Grown out of an extension of the B-side sessions for George Harrison’s Cloud Nine, this group of five legends produced only one album in its original lineup.  It’s really something when the lesser royalty of the supergroup included names like “Tom Petty” and “Jeff Lynne”.  That’s because in comparison to George Harrison, Bob Dylan and Roy Orbison, they were relative newcomers to the game.  It still blows my mind that this album exists; that this actually happened.  Fortunately the CD version of this box set includes a DVD; behind the scenes and interviews that prove it wasn’t just a dream!  (The Wilburys’ drummer was Jim Keltner, an unofficial sixth member.)

CLOUD NINEThe song that started it all was “Handle With Care”, written as a Harrison B-side.  It was apparent to all concerned that the song was too good to throw away like that.  Instead it became the first single and opening track from The Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1.  George sings the verses, Orbison the chorus, and the others the bridges.  Although George Harrison sounds youthful and Beatles-esque, it is Orbison who steals the song.  His angelic voice simply shines.  Also exciting is George’s eloquent slide guitar.  Let us not forget what an excellent slide player he was.

Bob Dylan sings lead on the fun “Dirty World”.  Although it shares the same acoustic, upbeat vibe as “Handle With Care”, Dylan infuses the song with his flat funkiness.  I mean that in the nicest possible way!  Horns accent the song, as do the backing vocals of the other Wilburys.  Sonically this sounds like Harrison’s Cloud Nine, and no wonder.  Both albums were produced by Jeff Lynne and George Harrison!

Speaking of Lynne, he sings lead on “Rattled”, a great little country rocker.  “Rattled” is a suitable title since it seems designed to get people shakin’.  And you gotta love when Roy Orbison does his signature “Rrrrrrr!”  Roy sings a bit more on the reggae-stylee of “Last Night”.  Tom Petty sings the verses, while Roy takes the bridges to a whole other level.  I get chills when he sings:

I asked her to marry me,
She smiles, pulled out a knife,
“Your heartache’s just beginning”, she said
“Your money or your life.”

“Last night” indeed!  It’s impossible not to like this song.

WILBURYS_0006Finally, the moment I had been waiting for:  a Roy Orbison lead vocal!  “Not Alone Any More” is golden.  There will only be one Roy Orbison, and this song is as essential to his songbook as any of his other hits, in my opinion.  It sounds timeless, and it boasts that powerful, mournful voice.  It speaks volumes that no other Wilburys sing prominently on this song; they obviously gave Roy the space that his voice deserved.  It is a classic song.  It is a shame that no music video was made for this, the third single.

Side Two opened with “Congratulations”, a slow-as-molasses Bob Dylan turn.  This has always been one of the lesser songs, but on an album full of shiny diamonds.  Its slow, dreary vibe can be hard to penetrate at first.  The key is focusing on the lyrics of Dylan.  “Heading For the Light” then is an upbeat Harrison number, another one that easily could have been on Cloud Nine.  It boasts those chiming guitars, and a great chorus with Jeff Lynne helping out.   The sax solo (by Jim Horn) is another treat.

“Margarita” always sounds a bit odd when it opens.  A synthesizer of all things pulses away, but soon all the live instruments fade in.  More horns, more of those chiming guitars, and George’s slide.  Once again Bob Dylan sings lead, although the song was primarily written by Tom Petty, who shows up later in the song.  It has an exotic sound, and it’s something I associate with summer.

Epic time.  “Tweeter and the Monkey Man” (famously covered and punked up by the Headstones) is Bob Dylan’s album centerpiece.  A tale about an undercover cop and other shady characters, this is Dylan as only Dylan can do.  Words cannot really do this song justice.  It’s one of those tracks that demands multiple listens, since there is so much going on lyrically and even vocally.  This is the only song on the album to which Roy Orbison did contribute.

Nothing like the Wilburys version.

Although a song like this could have easily closed an album, the Wilburys had one more track of their sleeves.  “End of the Line” was an apt farewell, and again, it’s hard not to get chills when Roy sings.  This single features George, Tom and Jeff prominently along with Roy Orbison, but Bob doesn’t sing any lead parts.  “End of the Line” feels like a bookend with “Handle With Care”; two similar songs opening and closing the record.

I’m going to skip discussing the bonus tracks for now; we’ll get to them in Part 3 of this series of reviews.  Besides, the 10 core tracks on Vol. 1 are plenty enough to discuss.  Within a couple months of its release, Roy Orbison would pass away at the young age of 52.  The Wilburys bestowed upon Roy another chance in the spotlight, and he worked hard to complete his solo album Mystery Girl, while playing shows and filming music videos.  Although he had been experiencing chest pains and had meant to see a doctor, he never did.

I was as surprised as anyone when the remaining four Wilburys re-convened to record another album.  Vol. 3 appeared two years later, and was dedicated to the memory of Orbison…or at least his Wilburys alter-ego, Lefty Wilbury.  Check back tomorrow when we’ll look at that album in detail.

As for Vol. 1?

5/5 stars

GUEST REVIEW: The Beatles – Stereo Box Set LP version


THE BEATLES – Stereo Box Set (2009 LP version, Apple/EMI)

By: Lemon Kurri Klopek

I’m a sucker for a good boxed-set. I own several. A couple from The Beach Boys, and The Who, one from David Bowie, The Rolling Stones, heck, even The Monkees. When we’re talking The Beatles though, I have a number of them. The original bread box set of CDs, the Singles Collection, the E.P. Collection, the Anthologies, The Capitol sets, the Mono box and the Stereo box. Then of course the individual solo sets. The Lennon box, Onceuponatime, the Darkhorse Years, the list goes on. I have the special editions from each member’s solo catalogue. All Things Must Pass, Band On The Run, etcetera.  So when I saw the giant LP collection sitting there staring at me in the record store, it was no surprise when I found myself lugging it, double bagged out to the trunk of my car.

I must say it is an impressive set. All original UK releases plus Past Masters, all stereo versions, and all on 180 gram vinyl. These sets of vinyl are on the retail shelves for close to $350. I bought mine from a local establishment that was running a sale that weekend. I walked out having parted with 276 of my dollars. That’s tax included too. Not a bad deal considering there are 14 records (two of which are doubles.) That is less than $20 per record if you’re keeping track.

BEATLES

One small added bonus is, there is a foam cushion in the box that when removed makes room for the Yellow Submarine Songtrack and the #1s double record released years ago. Now I’m sure you could put other releases in there like, I don’t know, Love, or Yesterday and Today but I put in #1s and Yellow Sub. You put in whatever you like, it’s a free country… Anyway…

I figured the thing to do was to start at the beginning. So after unsheathing the box from its’ cellophane wrapping, (one of the best parts of buying a record and sadly something a generation will miss out on entirely) out came the beefy 180 gram stereo version of Please Please Me. I placed it on my Rega turntable and dropped the needle. In an instant it was the 11th of February 1963 and I was standing in EMI Studios on Abbey Road in London. Listening to what for all intents and purposes is a recording of The Beatles live set at the time. George Martin’s stereo mix of “I Saw Her Standing There” which was released a month after the original Mono mix, was filling my living room. The second release With The Beatles followed and then of course, A Hard Day’s Night. Stellar the lot.

5/5 stars

Contents:

Please Please Me (1963)
With The Beatles (1963)
A Hard Day’s Night (1964)
Beatles for Sale (1964)
Help! (1965)
Rubber Soul (1965)
Revolver (1966)
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)
Magical Mystery Tour (1967)
The Beatles (1968)
Yellow Submarine (1969)
Abbey Road (1969)
Let It Be (1970)
Past Masters (1962–1970)

Further reading:
THE BEATLES – In Mono (2009)

Part 131.5: The Crimson Guard

RECORD STORE TALES PART 131.5:  The Crimson Guard

Sort of an intermission here:  People often come to me and say, “LeBrain, what’s with that GI Joe you that’s in all your Record Store Tales?”

I say, “Oh, you mean this guy?”

“I used him for re-enacting scenes from the old days at the store.  I’ve chosen him due to his uncanny resemblance to the real thing.”

Part 122: Death of an Icon

RECORD STORE TALES PART 122:  Death of an Icon

Because our internet access was blocked from the most useful sites, while at work you often had no idea what was happening in the outside world.  Sometimes your only clue was what customers were requesting.

For example, here’s a typical day of phone calls, when something really big has happened.

PHONE CALL #1:
“Do you have any George Harrison?”

PHONE CALL #2: 
“Do you guys have any Beatles or George Harrison solo?”

PHONE CALL #3: 
“Hi, I was wondering, do you have anything in stock by George Harrison?”

Us being primarily a used CD store, we would usually be cleaned out of that artist by the fourth call or so.

PHONE CALL #4:
“Hey, do you have George Harrison?”

At this point my curiousity would be peaked.

“Actually I just sold out about 10 minutes ago.  I’ve had so many requests for George and the Beatles today.  Has something happened?” I queried.

“Yeah, he died.  They just announced it on TV today.”

“Oh no!” I responded.  “The cancer got him?”

“Yeah,” came the answer.

That was a grim, depressing day.  The world had not lost a Beatle in over 20 years.  But November 29, 2001, we lost my favourite Beatle, George.  Unfortunately that’s how I found out about most music deaths, by an abnormal amount of requests for that artist.  Those were rarely fun days.  We dutifully hung some George posters in our back room, and mourned the death of an icon.

Mrs. Lebrain’s favourite George song

Part 15: Dating a Radio Station Girl

RECORD STORE TALES Part 15:  Dating a Radio Station Girl

You would think a Record Store Dude and a Radio Station Girl would make beautiful music together.  (Sorry I couldn’t resist saying that…I promise I’ll never do it again.)

When I first starting dating Radio Station Girl in 2003, I was really excited.  She seemed pretty cool and she worked at a radio station, so how awesome was that?  We had the music career thing happening.

Disappointingly, she turned out to be so un-musical, it was crushing.  She worked at 1240 CJCS in Stratford Ontario.  They were in what she called the “oldies” format.  She also enjoyed cheesy stuff like Barenaked Ladies.

Our first date was the Kelsey’s on the main street of Stratford.  She was moonlighting at Blockbuster video, so I picked her up there and we went to Kelsey’s.  It was February and it was snowing but we were having a great time talking about our respective careers, food, and movies.

Then the Beatles came on.  I can’t remember which song.  Either way it seemed like a good topic of conversation.  George Harrison’s death was still fresh in my memory, as he was my favourite one.

“Elli, who’s your favourite Beatle?” I queried.

“I don’t know.  I can’t name any of them.”

Say what?  Whathefuck??

She worked at a radio station, and couldn’t name a Beatle?

John Lennon maybe?  Ring any bells?

I really should have known.  Honest.  But is bad musical taste enough to not date someone?  If it is, it’s a crime I’ve commited on numerous occassions.  I dated girls who listened to crap dance music, and no fewer than three who have seen New Kids on the Block live.  That I know of.  That is, there were three who admit it. 

I married one of them, but let’s not get into that now!  I love my wife dearly, in spite of and sometimes because of her flaws.

Anyway, the musical sins continued.  She made me download a whole bunch of crappy songs and burn them for her, because in Stratford in 2003, all they had was dial-up.  It was truly awful, like not even kidding awful.

We broke up three times total.  That is, she dumped me three times.

The first time we got back together, she emailed me saying she just finished eating a tub of Hagan Daas.  This guy I worked with says, “That means she wants you back, dude.”  She did, and we got back together.  I made her a mix CD with “Disturbing the Priest” by Black Sabbath on there.  Just a little surprise, you know?  Like a middle finger for dumping me in the first place and then eating a tub of ice cream and changing her mind.

The second time we broke up, I think she probably just got back together with me so she had a date to this one CJCS radio station charity event appearance.   That was actually cool, I got to throw a pie at her face.  Afterwards, I forced her to listen to Thick as a Brick in the car as sort of a retribution.  She had never heard Jethro Tull before in her life.  She didn’t get it.

There would be no third reconciliation.  She made up a bullshit story about moving to Vancouver, and I never saw her again.  The nice thing about that is that I’d never have to hear Moxy Fruvous, Puddle of Mudd, or fucking Gilbert O’Sullivan ever again.

Coda:

What followed this was actually one of the top five worst weeks of my life.  I was house and dog sitting for my parents, when I suddenly got a throat infection.  So I got dumped by this girl, I can’t swallow anymore, I’m taking care of two houses and two stubborn dog, that’s enough to handle already.  Schnauzers, you know how they are.  Well this one particular bad schnauzer is named Ani.  Ani pooped herself and got all the poop matted in her butt fur.  It was stuck in there so bad that I had to cut it out with a scissors, and then bathe her, all just minutes before I had to leave for work.  And then, just when I thought that the week was over and things would get back to normal soon, I busted my glasses.  I was scraping the ice off my windshield, and I slipped.  I somehow got caught onto the antenna which sprung loose and thwacked me right in the face.  My glasses, minus one lens, was down in the snow.  A fucking brilliant week.