George W Bush

REVIEW: Bill Ward – “Straws”, “The Dark Half Hour”


BILL WARD – “Straws” (mp3: October 9, 2002  CD: October 11, 2003)

A true rarity indeed, this is one that I wished I owned a physical copy of.  Sadly I do not.  Only 2200 were made.  1200 were sent out to the heads of state all over the globe, including George W. Bush.  The other 1000 copies were sold at, and are so rare now that Discogs doesn’t even have a listing for it.  Each copy was signed and numbered with the proceeds going to your choice of five charities.  For all the details, check out Joe Siegler’s excellent article at

Jesus Murphy!  George W. Bush owns a Sabbath related CD that I don’t??

I’ve had to make due with a mere mp3, also purchased directly from Bill’s site.  The charity I chose was the National Veterans Foundation.  Now, even the mp3 is unavailable for purchase, making this a true rarity today.  We can hope that Bill’s Beyond Aston solo album will one day be released, as over 10 years have passed since this single from it was released!

Previously on LeBrain’s Record Store Tales & Reviews, we took a look at Bill’s excellent debut, Ward One: Along the Way.  “Straws” is reminiscent of that and his second solo album, When the Bough Breaks.  Like much of his solo work, it is complex and passionate.  Understated but powerful.  It begins jittery but soon evolves into an anthem of sorts with some very heavy Bonham-esque drums performed by Ronnie Ciago.  On this track, like When the Bough Breaks, Bill does not play drums.  He is only singing on Beyond Aston.  He did, however, write all 17 tracks slated for that album himself.

“The Dark Half Hour” (2005)

According to Joe Siegler’s information, Beyond Aston has been completed but shelved.  I hope this is not a permanent situation.  The only other track released was called “The Dark Half Hour (web mix)”.  It was made available for free in 2005 and is still available for free.  It too has the stomping Zeppelin drums, but is much heavier than “Straws”.  This is Sabbath-level heaviness.  It has some solid riffing and some amazing buzzy noisy solos on instruments I can barely identify!  This is one heavy track, saturated with distortion.  Since this is “not the final version” I would expect the sound to be cleaned up for CD.  I kind of like it overdriven and noisy though.

If these two tracks are any indication, Beyond Aston is going to be an incredible album, if it is ever released.

5/5 stars for each track



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