greatest hits

REVIEW: Kim Mitchell – Greatest Hits (1995)

KIM MITCHELL – Greatest Hits (1995 Alert)

Five studio albums, one live and an EP to boot:  Definitely enough music to justify your first solo Greatest Hits.  For added value, Kim included a bunch of new and unreleased music.  With 15 songs and over an hour of music, Kim Mitchell’s Greatest Hits is an easy buy for fans and collectors.  For new fans it’s not quite ideal, for reasons we’ll get in to.

Long time fans will remember that Kim’s prior band Max Webster issued a greatest hits called Diamonds Diamonds with two new songs.  This album follows suit with two brand new tracks recorded for this set.  “No More Walking Away”, co-written by Pye Dubois, is an electric ballad with stunning guitar tones.  This is in the same lane as some of Kim’s previous ballads from Rockland or Aural Fixations; very much a “later Kim” sound.  Long time fans will love hearing Peter Fredette on backing vocals.  The other new song, “Rainbow”, is a straight-on hard rocker.  With Andy Curran on lyrical duties, “Rainbow” is just good time Kim rock as you have grown to expect it.  It goes without saying that his guitar playing is tremendous.  The chorus goes all the way to the clouds.  “I’m bringin’ you back your rainbow,” sings Kim and you better believe it.

In addition to the new songs, this time Kim also included two re-recordings.  This is unfortunately where first-time buyers are going to be let down.  One of Kim’s biggest career hits was undoubtedly 1986’s “Patio Lanterns” from Shakin’ Like a Human Being.  This compilation includes a new arrangement, which is actually quite cool.  It’s twangy and has lots of guitar play.  But that’s not the version that old folks remember from highschool — not even close.  The tempo they used to dance to is gone.  This version, excellent as it is, unfortunately is only for people who already own the original.  The other re-recording is the less sacred “Lager & Ale”, originally from Akimbo Alogo.  The vocal line is slightly modified, but this one shouldn’t upset too many people.  The Akimbo original remains the best version.

What else is to be found on this disc?  We have the opening and closing bits called “Transcendental Soda” and “Hare Soda”, which are simply snippets from the live intro to “Go For Soda”.  Nothing too special, but elsewhere you’ll find some cool stuff.  “Expedition Sailor” is credited as “The Other Version” which is a remix from the music video, long unavailable to regular folks like us.  This fine ballad was a decent hit back in 1989-90 so it’s nice to own that elusive video mix.

That’s it for the special stuff listed on the back, but there are two hidden surprises within.  Between “Rainbow” and “All We Are” (the live version from I Am A Wild Party) you will find 30 seconds of a demo.  This is a demo for “All We Are”, and the tape could even date back to the Max Webster days since that’s when he wrote the tune.  That’s gold.  What a cool way to introduce “All We Are”.  The other surprise is evident by the track times.  Hit single “Rocklandwonderland” is missing the fade out, and runs out to its actual end.  It just ends — the guys just stop playing.  Really cool unlisted bonuses here.

As for the rest, it’s the hits!  All singles (though some only for radio), except for “Lemon Wedge” which was a hit with the fans.  Though it doesn’t suit everybody’s needs, Greatest Hits still plays well and scratches some of those big Kim itches.

4/5 stars

#870: You Can Be My Lemon Wedge, and I’ll Be Your Tequila

GETTING MORE TALE #870:
You Can Be My Lemon Wedge, and I’ll Be Your Tequila
(Part One of a two-part review of Kim Mitchell’s Greatest Hits)

The leaves turned colours, and were starting to decorate the ground.  I had been working at the Record Store for over a year.  I was well over my first relationship that went south, and was now seemingly hard at work wrecking the second.  Everything started lovey-dovey in the summer.  The first two months were bliss.  It started to sour in September and October.  “People are always on their best behaviour at the start,” she used to say in regards to “new love”.  Now that things were going bad, was it my fault?  It had to be.  What was I doing wrong?  It was in this emotional environment that Kim Mitchell released his first solo Greatest Hits CD in 1995.

As things started to go south, I anticipated that I’d need some new Kim music to get me through.  This compilation had two new songs, one rare remix, two re-recordings, and some surprising bonus music.  Decent value for a hits set.  “Ooh, it’s a messy breakup,” sang Kim on the new track called “Rainbow”.

The relationship was hitting the rocks and taking on water, and so the arguments were increasing.  Making things more uncomfortable, she was hanging out with my ex from the first bad breakup.  A lot.  I didn’t have a lot of experience, but that was weird, right?  They talked a lot.  It was obvious to me that she wasn’t happy with the way things were going and I was in no way prepared to deal with this added twist.

In October we went out on our last movie date:  Virtuosity, a terrible Denzel Washington sci-fi thriller featuring Russell Crowe as the killer.   I didn’t pick it.  I haven’t seen it since.

I was the driver that night.  Kim Mitchell’s Greatest Hits was in the tape deck.  I purchased the CD (and still own that copy) but I recorded everything to tape so my music was always mobile.

I will tell you one thing I remember:  she hated the song “Lemon Wedge”.  I wasn’t keen on it either, but it was a very popular tune with old school Max Webster fans.  It’s different.  T-Rev at the Record Store absolutely loved it; it was one of his jams.  “Lemon Wedge” is funky, horn-laden and mental.  Not at all like “Patio Lanterns”.  I was more indifferent to it.  I was puzzled that it was included on Greatest Hits at all, instead of one of the songs from Itch that I thought were better.  But I don’t skip songs; I play albums all the way through.  We’re heading home from this shitty movie and on comes “Lemon Wedge”.

You can be my lemon wedge,
And I’ll be your tequila.
I just wanna have a dance,
And I just wanna feel ya.

“This song is terrible!  Why do you listen to this?”  I didn’t think it was worth explaining that I don’t skip tracks.  That wouldn’t help.

Then, as if on cue, I made a wrong turn in the car.  I have a terrible sense of direction and didn’t know my way around town like she did.  She was really mad at me now, so I pulled over into a parking lot on Fairway Road.  Then I sat there and just took it.  This in turn frustrated her even more.

“You never stand up for yourself!” she complained.  “Whatever shit people say, you just go with it!  You can’t just keep bending over all the time!  You need to grow a backbone and start sticking up for yourself!”

I wanted to, but I was afraid of getting dumped again, so I preferred not to argue.   Getting dumped was no fun and I was not eager to do it again.  But I got her point.

“Well, I like that Kim Mitchell song,” I lied in a half-assed rebuttal.  She was not very impressed with my comeback.

My head was spinning.  This was supposed to be a movie date.  How did it turn into this lecture about me growing a spine?  I can relate to the episode of Big Bang Theory where Penny dumps Leonard.  “Just tell me what to do, and I’ll do it,” he said before she walked out.  But that isn’t what she wanted.

“I’m pretty sure it’s already over,” said Leonard with the wisdom that I was lacking.*

It really was curtains; all over except for Kim’s singing.  There were a few more arguments, but it was toast after Halloween.  I can’t remember what our last argument was about, but she was hanging out with my ex again and wasn’t answering her phone.  The ex was in fact the final “Lemon Wedge” that pushed us apart for good.  And it’s good that it happened for reasons that are obvious to anyone who is not me in 1995.

Instead of trying to win her back like I did with my last doomed relationship, I moved on decidedly.  I deleted my electronic contacts so I wouldn’t be tempted to email her.  I selected a variety of rock albums that I tailored to my listening needs.  She was into a lot of current music – Dance Mix ’95, the new Smashing Pumpkins, Lisa Loeb.  I chose to dive deep into classic British hard rock, the stuff she wasn’t into.  Deep Purple, Whitesnake, Black Sabbath.  Ozzy had a new album out and so did Iron Maiden.  There was plenty of music that didn’t remind me of her.

For a variety of reasons, that relationship took some time to get over.  She married the next guy, which is exactly what also happened with the previous ex!  I was the guy people go out with before the meet the one they were going to marry.  So I did a lot of re-evaluation, both personal and musical.  I really wanted to like that “Lemon Wedge” song just because she hated it so much, but I couldn’t force it to happen.  You either like “Lemon Wedge” or you don’t.  I wish I could say it was my favourite song in the world because of this story.  Unfortunately not every story can be about your favourite song.  Some are just about the music that was playing at the time.

Full CD review tomorrow.

 

* Ironically, Kaley Cuoco otherwise known as “Penny” was in that awful Denzel movie as a child actor.

#830: 1992

1992

I’ve never been much of a winter guy.  I get that from my dad.  The winter of ’92 was long with a number of serious snow days.  I had just learned how to drive and it was certainly a challenge.  Details are not important.  You don’t need an accounting of times my little Plymouth Sundance got stuck or struggled to make it home from school.  All you really need to know was what was in my tape deck.

I was still digesting a lot of the music that I received for Christmas at the end of ’91.  The live Poison and Queensryche sets got a lot of car play once I dubbed them onto cassette.  At this point my attention to detail was becoming overwhelming.  I painstakingly faded in and faded out the sides of the live albums onto cassette.  This had to be done manually as you were recording.  If I missed the cue I’d do it over again until I got it right to my satisfaction.  I should have known there was something wrong with me!

We had one serious snow day that year, and although class wasn’t cancelled I stayed home.  My school friend Rob V made a tape for me of David Lee Roth live in Toronto on the Eat ‘Em and Smile tour.  I know that I played that tape on that day because the memory is so clear.  It was a great concert.  Roth and Steve Vai had a fun interplay, where Steve imitated Roth’s vocal intonations with his guitar.  Vai followed his voice as Roth told the crowd, “Toronto kicks ass, because the girls are soooo fiiiine!”

Time flies, and 1992 didn’t take long to kick into gear with new releases.

I had just discovered Queen.  Suddenly here comes this new movie Wayne’s World which made Queen a worldwide phenomenon for a second time.  More important to me though was the fact that the soundtrack CD included the first new Black Sabbath track with Ronnie James Dio in a decade:  “Time Machine”!  My buddy Peter didn’t care — he was strictly an Ozzy Sabbath fan.  No Dio!  (And certainly no Tony Martin!)  But I was excited.  I wanted to get that soundtrack as soon as possible.

There was a new music store that had just opened at the mall about six months prior.  The very first tape I would ever buy there was the debut album by Mr. Bungle in late ’91.   It would be the very Record Store that I would later dedicate years of my life to…but not yet.  When it opened, I recall my sister and I being glad that there was finally a music store at the mall again, but disappointed in the prices.  $14.99 for a tape was a lot of cash.  CDs were unfortunately out of our price range.  New cassette releases like Wayne’s World were cheaper at $10.99, so I went to the mall before class one morning to get a copy.  And this is a funny memory as you’ll see.

When I worked at the store, the boss would give me shit if he thought I was talking to someone too much.  I think he would have preferred good old fashioned silent labour, but I don’t know that.  He also drilled into us to pay attention to every customer and don’t ignore anybody.  So it’s quite ironic that he lost a sale that day by ignoring me and talking it up with some hot girl visiting him!

I was standing there in front of his new release rack looking for Wayne’s World.  I knew it was out, but didn’t see it anywhere.  I checked his soundtracks and it was missing in action.   I wanted to ask him if he had it, but he was chatting it up with this girl.  Eventually I caught his attention, but only because as I stood there waiting, I thought he did ask me a question.  So I said, “Pardon me?”  But he wasn’t actually talking to me, he was still talking to the girl.  Once he noticed me, he informed me that Wayne’s World was sold out but he could hold a copy for me as soon as the next shipment arrived.  I was ticked off so I said no thanks, and picked it up at the Zellers store down the hall instead.

Wayne’s World in the deck, I happily rocked to Queen, Sabbath, Cinderella, and hell even Gary Wright.  Peter and I saw the movie one Saturday night at a theater in Guelph, and liked it so much that we went back to see it again the following afternoon.  I saw Wayne’s World four times that winter!

I got my fill of Queen with the recent Classic Queen CD, released later that March.  I got the CD for a good price at the local Costco!  This enabled me to get a good chunk of Queen hits all at once in glorious CD quality.

The next big release to hit my car deck was a big one.  A really big one.  An album five years in the making through triumph and tragedy.

On March 31 I went back to the Record Store on my way to class, and the new release I was waiting for had arrived.  I left gripping Adrenalize in my hands.  An album I had been waiting for since highschool and even had actual dreams about!  It was finally real.  Into the tape deck it went as I drove to school.  Less riffy…more reliant on vocal melody…not bad?  I’ll let them have it though.  After what they’ve been through?  Yeah, I’ll cut them some slack.

Two weeks later, I was digesting another massive chunk of music.

I didn’t get Pandora’s Box in 1991 when it was released.  There was so much going on.  But my parents bought it for me as an Easter gift in April ’92.  That Easter I was “Back in the Saddle” with three CDs of Aerosmith!

It was a bittersweet gift.  Traditionally the family spent Easter at the cottage.  I have lots of happy memories of playing GI Joe in the fresh Easter afternoons up there.  This time I had to study for final exams and stayed home with my gift.  I must have played that box set two times through while studying that weekend.

Exams were over by the end of April and suddenly…it was summer holidays.  In April!  It was…incredible!  I stubbornly refused to get a summer job.  I have to say I don’t regret that.  I had savings from my previous job at the grocery store and I was getting Chrysler dividends cheques (yeah, baby).  Between that, Christmas & birthday gifts, I got most of the music I wanted.  And I got to spend that summer just enjoying it all.  It felt really good after such a long and frankly lonely winter.

Pandora’s Box tided me over.  After all, it was a lot to absorb having heard very little “old” Aerosmith up til that point.  My favourite track was “Sharpshooter” by Whitford – St. Holmes.  I liked that they included a sampling of solo material by various members.  These were new worlds to discover, but what about the next big release?  Who would be the one to spend my valuable savings on?

Iron Maiden were back on May 11 after a very short absence with Fear of the Dark, their second of the Janick Gers era.  But I needed to save my money, and wait one more week for something even more important to me.  It was Revenge time.

Speaking of triumph and tragedy, it was time for some overdue spoils for Kiss.  Having lost drummer Eric Carr to cancer in late ’91, Kiss deserved to catch a break.  Fortunately Revenge turned out to be a far better album than the previous few.  I recall getting over a really bad cold, and my lungs were still congested on that spring day.  The outdoor air felt amazing.  I walked over to the mall on release day and bought my CD copy at the Record Store.  I probably ran all the way home to play it, lungs be damned.

To say I was happy was an understatement.  In 1992 you had to come out with something strong or you would sink.  It was a more vicious musical world than just a year ago.  Fortunately Kiss did not wimp out and came out with an album just heavy enough, without following trends.  It would be my favourite album of the year, though a few strong contenders were still lined up.

My birthday was coming and I would have to wait a little while to get some more essential tunes.  Fear of the Dark was on the list.  So was Faith No More’s Angel Dust, which was a must.  And, of course, rock’s ultimate royalty returned in 1992.  A band that rock history cannot ignore, though it arguably should.  A band that defined the term “odorous”.  A band with a colourful and tragic backstory.  A band making its long feared return with its first album since 1984’s Smell the Glove.  And with their new album Break Like the Wind, they proudly proclaimed, yes indeed, this is Spinal Tap.

Once again, quite a bit of music to absorb.  I had been anticipating the Iron Maiden.  I heard the first single “Be Quick or Be Dead” on Q107 late one night, and didn’t think much of it at first.  I was concerned that Bruce Dickinson’s voice was becoming more growly and less melodic.  The album helped assuage these concerns with a number of melodic numbers including “Wasting Love”, “Afraid to Shoot Strangers” and “Fear of the Dark”.  But the album was infected with lots of filler.  “Weekend Warrior”, “Fear is the Key”, “Chains of Misery”…lots of songs that were just not memorable.  Fear of the Dark sounded better than its predecessor but could you say it was better than Seventh SonSomewhere in Time Powerslave?  No.

Though it was murky and dense, the Faith No More album blew me away.  The M.E.A.T Magazine review by Drew Masters gave it 2/5 M’s.  I gave it 5/5.  I wanted something heavy and weird from Faith No More.  I got what I wanted.  Peter was a big Faith No More fan too, but I don’t think he dug Angel Dust as much as I did.  We both appreciated the comedic aspects but I really got into the samples, nuances and rhythms.  It was, and is, a masterpiece.  I believe I can say that I was of that opinion from the very beginning.

And Spinal Tap, dear Spinal Tap.  The Majesties of Rock took a little longer for me to fully understand.  And no wonder, for Spinal Tap are playing musical 4-dimensional chess inside your ear canals.  I simply had to accept that several years had passed since Spinal Tap last recorded, and they had grown in their own stunted way.  I’ve always thought that the title track was sincerely brilliant.  But I never liked that Nigel Tufnel had so few lead vocals.  I have long appreciated bands that had multiple lead singers.  While this time even bassist Derek Smalls stepped up to the microphone, it was David St. Hubbins who sang lead on 11 of the 14 tracks.  Now, this is certainly not to criticise the enviable lead pipes of St. Hubbins, but merely to state that there wasn’t enough Nigel.  Having said that, Nigel did branch out by employing a new guitar playing technique — doubling his solos with vocals, like Gillan used to do with Blackmore.  He also got to unleash his new amps that went up to infinity, which debuted live at the Freddie Mercury tribute concert in April.

Like all things, summer eventually came to an end and it was back to school once again.  That fall and into Christmas I got some of the last new releases that were on my radar.  I missed Black Sabbath when Dehumanizer came out in June.  That one took a long time to really like.  While the production was incredibly crisp, the songs didn’t seem up to snuff to me.  At least at first.  In time, it became a personal favourite album.

That Christmas came the new Bon Jovi album Keep the Faith, Queen’s new Greatest Hits, and of course AC/DC Live.  It was also the Christmas that I first realized there was something wrong inside my head, and I realized it because of those albums.  It was partly the obsessive-compulsive disorder, but also a massive hangup about being ignored.  I wanted the AC/DC double Live, but was given the single.  I wanted Keep the Faith and Queen on CD but got cassette.  As I grew older and learned more about myself, I realized that I became very upset if I felt like someone was not listening to me or understanding me.  Nobody seemed to get why I wanted specific versions (because of my OCD actually), and I couldn’t explain it, so that set me off even further.  I became extremely grumpy that Christmas over these gifts, and it was ugly.  I isolated myself to stew in my own negativity.  It’s not something I’m proud of, and you can call me a spoiled brat if you want to (you wouldn’t be wrong).  At least I’ve worked at trying to figure out my defects.

It’s not like any of it mattered in the long term.  I have re-bought all of those albums twice since, each!

1992 went out much like it came in, cold and snowy.  Canadian winters are hard.  Some people have the DNA for it, but I don’t.  I’m half Italian.  I wasn’t designed for snowy, damp winters.  That’s why music is so important to me in the winter months.  Music can be a completely indoor activity and I had a continually fresh supply.  1992 was a big year for heavy metal even though the grunge revolution had already started.  Of course, things were not to stay as they are.  Iron Maiden and Faith No More were about to hit some major speedbumps, and Black Sabbath had already split in two by the end of the year!  1992 was the last time we could pretend heavy metal was still in good health.    Hard rock was about to endure further challenges and hardships.  At least we had ’92.

 

REVIEW: The Guess Who – Greatest Hits (1999)

THE GUESS WHO – Greatest Hits (1999 RCA)

Fun fact:  every Canadian citizen in good standing is issued a Guess Who album when they turn voting age.  Instead of that one, I upgraded to the remastered Greatest Hits in 1999.  The timing for a new compilation was right for the Canadian institution.  Though they never broke up, they had a big reunion tour in 2000.  Burton Cummings (Guess Who singer/pianist 1966-1975) and guitarist  Randy Bachman (1962-1970) had been out of the band a long time.  There was a 1983 reunion but even that was far in the past.  It was the Guess Who’s time in Canada once again, and in talking to Record Store customers, they couldn’t have been more excited if it was the Beatles.

18 tracks of Guess Who hits cover most of the well known bases.  Opening with the dramatic ballad “These Eyes” (made famous once again by Canadian Michael Cera in the movie Superbad) I’m reminded what a tremendous singer Burton Cummings is.  From the ballads to rockers like “No Time”, he could do it soulful or raspy.  Whatever the songs required.

And let’s not forget ex-James Gang six-stringer Domenic Troiano.  The Italian-Canadian guitar wiz was brought in on in 1974 and quickly aided and abetted the group in songwriting.  Only one Troiano-penned track is included here (“Dancin’ Fool”) but his slick riff is totally tasty.  (Unfortunately, Troiano is probably best known as the guy who Gavin Rossdale had to pay off to call his band “Bush” instead of “Bush X”.  Troiano had a band called Bush in 1970.)

The Guess Who were a remarkable band in their day, with a firm hand on both ballads and slick boogie rockers.  Yet their best known song, 1969’s “American Woman” is one of their least remarkable.  Written while tuning up at a curling club (look it up) in Kitchener (says Bachman) or Scarborough (says Cummings), it’s just sledgehammer rock.  Which is fine — there is nothing wrong with that kind of rock.  It’s just bizarre that it’s “American Woman” that people remember when The Guess Who had 20 or so better songs.   Check out “Albert Flasher”, a piano boogie that rivals the best of the genre.

This set is a fine listen from start to finish, and I can only really think of one rocker that’s not present — “Bus Driver”.  Otherwise it covers all the important stuff from the beginning to Cummings’ departure.*  It’s not an album for deep cuts or obscurities.  If you’ve spent extended periods of time listening to Canadian radio, you’ll know 50-80% of these songs.  If not, you hopefully already know “These Eyes” and “American Woman”.  Maybe even “Laughing” or “Undun”.  The Guess Who were always solid with just a little bit of quirk to them.  Solid bouncy musicianship, clever arrangements and lyrics, and a killer voice.  That’s Greatest Hits by The Guess Who.

4.5/5 stars

* The Guess Who continues today with a lineup including original drummer Garry Peterson and Quiet Riot’s Rudy Sarzo.

REVIEW: Jim Crean – Greatest Hits (2018)

In a surprising turn of events, Jim Crean has been named the new singer for Vinnie Vincent! So it is a perfect time to review Jim Crean’s Greatest Hits.

JIM CREAN – Greatest Hits (2018 Visionary Noise)

Buffalo’s Jim Crean has four solo albums under his belt.   That’s a good minimum before you release a greatest hits.  There is enough material here for a solid listen, including two new songs from Crean’s forthcoming fifth album.

Several of the best tracks are hard rockers from Crean’s Insatiable. “Touch” remains a standout, a great song any rock songwriter would be envious of.  Not to mention Crean’s power-pipes lay waste to the chorus.  Check out the metal riffing on “Follow Your Heart”, too.  These taffy-sweet tracks claw into your cranium via your ear canal.  All you can do is surrender to it.

Crean’s also capable of standout ballads.  “Make It” and “Can’t Find My Way” (a duet with Mike Tramp) are fantastic.  Then he goes vintage Aerosmith on “She Goes Down”, a song that could have fit nicely on an album like Toys in the Attic.

There are a handful of covers on the 16 track album, and interesting choices too.  “Caught in the Middle” is, of course, Dio, performed with Jimmy Bain and Vinny Appice.  “Over the Edge” is early 90s L.A. Guns, an excellent groove.  Crean also covered fellow Buffalo band the Goo Goo Dolls with the acoustic “Cuz You’re Gone”, one of the Goo’s finest ballads.

What about the new songs?  “Scream Taker” sounds like a Ronnie Dio tribute, with the lyrics cut and pasted from Rainbow, Black Sabbath and Dio songs.  “Scream Taker” indicates that Crean has gone heavier on his fifth record.  The other new song, “Conflicted” has a strong traditional metal riffy vibe.  (Is that Billy Sheehan on bass?)  Both these new songs hint at a great album to come.  Guitarist Steph Honde, who plays on both new songs says that while the new Crean album will be a bit heavier, there will also be some great ballads.

Don’t have any Jim Crean yet?  Pick up his Greatest Hits to catch up.

4.5/5 stars

REVIEW: Judas Priest – Greatest Hits (2008 Sony Steel Box)

 

Welcome back to GREATEST HITS WEEK! This week we are looking at different, interesting hits albums from various bands. Today we re- visit the Mighty Priest, for the second of a Priest double-shot!

Monday:  EXTREME – The Best of Extreme: An Accidental Collication of Atoms? (1997)
Tuesday: JUDAS PRIEST – The Best of Judas Priest (1978/2000 Insight Series)


JUDAS PRIEST – Greatest Hits (2008 Sony/BMG Steel Box Collection)

Ever buy a CD for no real good reason?  I have all these songs, because I already own every song Priest has ever released.  I saw this Judas Priest compilation, from the “Sony Steel Box” collection, at my local Best Buy for a few measly dollars.  There are a few artists who have hits albums in this collection, such as Aerosmith.  I just wanted one of the steel boxes, so I chose Priest.  I chose Priest because of the brief, but interesting track listing.  There are some odd choices for a greatest hits disc:  “Rock Hard Ride Free”, and “Rock You All Around the World”, for example, instead of “Heading Out to the Highway”, “A Touch of Evil”, “Painkiller”,  or other better know singles.  Hell, where’s “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin'” or any song from Screaming?  You do get two “new” songs from Angel of Retribution.  Needless to say, for a 10-track hits CD, it was an interesting selection of songs, so I chose this one.  I have only played it once, so it’s time to revisit and assign a rating.

This is where we run into the flaw with these Sony steel boxes — the front cover and back cover art is just a sticker, that wraps around the case.  When you open the case, it damages the sticker where it covers the hinge, digging huge creases all over the spine.  I’ve opened my copy a couple of times and see what it looks like already?  That’s me being careful.

IMG_20150809_081711

“Breaking the Law” has always worked well in the opening position.  Off with a bang (literally; the first sound is a snare drum), we are now off to the races.  This Greatest Hits concentrates almost entirely on material from British Steel and after, collecting a lot of Priest music from their simple, straightforward metal period of the 1980’s.  There is nothing wrong with that of course, but it lacks the balance that earlier more complex tracks like “Victim of Changes” would have brought to the table.  “Breaking the Law” and “Living After Midnight”, both classics culled from British Steel, get the job done on a hit laden note.  The sound is fine, as it appears these were lifted from the Priest remasters.

I’m not sure the logic in choosing “Out of the Cold”, a synth-laden slow crawler from Turbo.  There is nothing wrong with it of course, it was and remains a stormy fan classic.  That’s just it though, it’s a fan classic, not a well known hit that the band play in concert.  On a 10 song CD, it seems an odd choice, but it leads well into the dark “Love Bites”.  I went through a period of about three days in grade 8 of being completely obsessed with this song.  The things I liked about it, such as the choppy rhythms and hypnotic vocals, are still striking today.  It also flows perfectly into “Rock You All Around the World”, which unfortunately is pretty much just filler that should have been donated to the Scorpions.

I still think it terms of albums having “sides”, and I wonder if whoever sequenced this CD had the same thought?  “Rock You All Around the World” is a great side closer, as it filled that slot on Turbo.  Then the next track is the very different “Diamonds and Rust” (live version from Unleashed in the East).  It’s as if you have started a new side.  Another track from Defenders of the Faith (“Rock Hard Ride Free”) brings the listener back to the 80’s.  Although it was not a single, it was good enough to be one.  Back to the Turbo album for the third time, “Turbo Lover” is a song that still gets occasional radio airplay.  It’s funny how this robotic and very dated song is still loved today.  I wouldn’t have predicted that.

“Turbo Lover” is the last of the golden oldies, since the last two tracks are off Angel of Retribution, Priest’s glorious reunion album with Rob Halford after a long solo career.  Strange though that the single “Revolution” is not one of these tracks.  “Deal With the Devil” was an OK tune, a good heavy album tune that was of the same quality as similar songs from Painkiller.  “Worth Fighting For” was excellent – a midtempo quiet rocker that almost borders on ballad territory.  This song was a triumph, a really excellent song worth of the Priest canon.  Unfortunately in this case, a quiet midtempo near-ballad does not work to close a Priest compilation.  It works as a song to build into another song, but here it just leaves you hanging.  Sloppy sequencing.

Rating the steel book CD is not a reflection on the songs or the band, just the CD itself.  There are too many serious omissions (“Metal Gods:, “Freewheel Burning”, hello!) for it to rate highly.  The flawed packaging design is the final nail in the steel box.

2/5 stars

JUDAS PRIEST GREATEST HITS 2008Thanks to Geoff over at the 1001 Albums in 10 Years for the “Excel”lent inspiration!

 

 

 

#367: Greatest Hits 2

lebrainsgreatest2

RECORD STORE TALES MkII: Getting More Tale
#367: Greatest Hits 2
A sequel to #364: Greatest Hits

The last time we talked about greatest hits albums, I listed seven reasons that die-hard fans usually shun them.  Readers came up with some of their own, and also arguments to defend greatest hits albums.  I usually advise fans to buy key studio albums rather than compilations, depending on the person.  Yet I still own a few hundred greatest hits albums. There have to be good reasons.

And what about you?  How many do you own?  What are your favourites?  Why did you buy them?  I asked myself those three questions too.  #1. I don’t know.  #2. There are many, but Double Platinum and Killers by Kiss are up there.  #3.  Let’s talk about that in depth…I broke it down into seven points:

KENNY_00011. There are some artists that I barely know. Neil Diamond or Kenny Rogers, for example.  There might be a handful of songs I like, but not enough that I have heard to take the plunge and buy an actual album. Or, I know it’s an artist that I don’t want many albums from.  I have a feeling that I only want one or two CDs, so one of them is usually a greatest hits.  I collect a lot of music, but I can’t collect everybody. Sometimes I’ve done the research to know that I need one or two CDs and nothing more.

2. Exclusive tracks are often dangled as bait. But sometimes greatest hits albums are stuffed with exclusive radio edits and remixes that aren’t obviously credited. Kiss’ Double Platinum is one such album. Aerosmith’s Greatest Hits had a number of special edits of songs. Collectors like myself often look for such versions. They make for an enjoyable way to hear a familiar song with a slightly different slant.

SAM_17443. Artwork. Younger folks might not understand why this matters, but I come from the age of physical product. With some bands, you don’t want just the music. You want all the album covers too; they are sometimes as important as any other aspect of the music. Iron Maiden is the first, obvious example. I own several Iron Maiden greatest hits discs simply because I wanted to own all the Eddies. There is a certain satisfaction in viewing them all lined up in order.

4. Historical importance. Some greatest hits albums are just historically important. Best of Van Halen Volume I for example – even if I didn’t buy it for the two new songs, I would have wanted it for the significant role it played in breaking up Van Hagar! You might want to own Their Greatest Hits by the Eagles for the fact it’s the top selling hits album of all time.

5. Sometimes, I actually do listen to greatest hits! Sure, not often by comparison. But if I’m in the car with the Mrs., she might prefer a Deep Purple greatest hits set to a 5 disc version of Made in Japan. I own ‘em, so if they’re good I may as well play ‘em. Also, If I’m going somewhere and I only have an hour or so to listen to music, a greatest hits album often scratches whatever itch I have.

6. Gateway music. My entrance into the world of Thin Lizzy was one CD (Dedication: The Very Best of).

DEDICATIONThat point is the most important one.  Using a greatest hits album to delve further in the discography is such an excellent experience.  My first two Deep Purple’s were greatest hits.  Now my Purple collection is of a prodigious size.  I don’t even know how many I have.  100 maybe?  More?  And it keeps growing!

My first Floyd? Echoes: The Best of Pink Floyd.  My first Rush?  Chronicles.  First ZZ Top? Greatest Hits.  See where I’m going with this?  These are bands that, today, I am still collecting.  I still buy whatever’s coming out.  Which brings me to my last point.

7. Personal history.  I’ve developed a relationship with some of those greatest hits albums over the years, even if they have been superseded by better ones.  Something about the familiarity, I suppose.  But even though all my first greatest hits albums were on cassette, I still went and bought CD copies of them all.  In some cases, vinyl too!

What are your favourites?  Does it bother you to own multiple copies of the same songs?  If your favourite band came out with a greatest hits album tomorrow, would you consider buying it?  Let me know!

 

REVIEW: Whitesnake – Greatest Hits (1994)

WSWHITESNAKE – Greatest Hits (1994 Geffen)

I don’t own this CD.  Never have, actually.  I gave it enough in-store play (only while working alone!) that I have no problem reviewing it. This Greatest Hits CD dates back to 1994, the year I first started working at the Record Store. As such, it was the first ever official Whitesnake Greatest Hits CD, the first of many. The band had been broken up for about four years at that point. Even by 1994 standards, it was only an OK release. It did contain some rare tracks, but was limited to Whitesnake’s 1984-1989 Geffen output only. For budget-priced collections, I would recommend the cheaper 20th Century Masters – The Millennium Collection because it still has all the hit singles from that period at a lower price. For fans who need more, the much better Whitesnake Gold or Silver Anniversary Collection make a more complete picture with more rarities and deep album cuts. These of course weren’t available in 1994.  Today music buyers have a lot more to choose from.

One inclusion that some listeners may not enjoy about Greatest Hits is the version of “Here I Go Again” chosen. This is not the well-known album version that most people have heard. This is the “single remix” with different guitar solos (by guest Dan Huff) and more keyboards. Some radio stations do play it from time to time, but I think most casual buyers would listen to this and say, “I don’t like it as much”.  And nor do I, but it is a rarity.

Otherwise, this album (like 20th Century Masters) contains every hit single from the period, and nothing from the blues-based records before. It does feature some other cool rarities: the B-side “Sweet Lady Luck” featuring Steve Vai, “Looking For Love”, and “You’re Gonna Break My Heart Again”. However, with the many compilations and remasters released since 1994, these songs are no longer hard to find. “Sweet Lady Luck” was even released on a Steve Vai boxed set!

Rounding out this selection of hits and rare tracks are deeper album cuts.  These are include the glossy Kashmir-esque “Judgement Day”, “Crying in the Rain ’87”, “Slow Poke Music” and the wicked “Slide It In”.  They help balance out the ballad-y hits that Whitesnake were adept at writing.

Interestingly, when this album was released, David Coverdale assembled a new, shortlived Whitesnake and toured for it. That version of Whitesnake included former members Rudy Sarzo and Adrian Vandenberg, both of the 1987-1990 version of the band. It also included drummer Denny Carmassi (Coverdale-Page) and guitarist Warren DeMartini (Ratt). Shame that no live recordings from this version of the band have never been released. The band disolved for several year again after this, only to reform in 1997 with a new lineup including Carmassi and Vandenberg.

This album is only mildly better than 20th Century Masters, but is inferior to the more recent, more comprehensive compilations I have mentioned. Buy at a sensible price point.

2/5 stars
WSBACK

#364: Greatest Hits

RECORD STORE TALES MkII: Getting More Tale
#364: Greatest Hits

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, greatest hits records have been around for as long as rock and roll has.  Elvis’ Golden Records, one of the most famous early greatest hits albums from 1958, has sold over 6 million copies.  Some believe it to be the  very first greatest hits album, ever.  Elvis only had four albums out at that point, one of them a Christmas record.  It was a selection of Elvis’ single A’s and B’s, and its success meant that it would be followed by many sequels.  (Interestingly, five hits on it were composed by the duo of Lieber and Stoller!)

A couple decades later, the Eagles released their best selling album of all time.  Their Greatest Hits (1971–1975) has sold over 42 million copies to date, and is the third highest selling album in history.  Not long after, Aerosmith released their first Greatest Hits, a collection of single edits and radio versions of their best songs, and one non-album track (“Come Together”, from Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band soundtrack).  It has sold over 11 million copies.

These releases, and many more, have made greatest hits discs a lucrative cash cow for record labels.  On it on it goes; you’re not a success until you’ve released your first greatest hits disc.  Some bands have always resisted releasing collections of pre-existing music, others have not put such value in their integrity.  Hits albums are usually looked at with disdain by the die-hards and “purists”, but make an easy gateway purchase for people not (yet) interested in the discography.

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Why do die-hard fans look down on hits albums so much?

1. A more recent practice from the 1980’s and 1990’s was to include two or three new songs, forcing fans to buy old songs over again just to get the new ones.  It’s such a common practice now that it’s expected, but we still resent it.

2. Live versions. Even if we choose to buy or listen to a greatest hits album, a lot of the time the familiar original versions are replaced with inferior live ones.  Casual music listeners don’t usually seek live versions, and die hard fans usually already have the live albums.  It just serves to make the listening experience less than it should be.

3. While it is certainly not a rule, for the kind of music we listen to, a studio album is often a self contained work, not just a collection of songs.  There is usually a direction and purpose for the songs.  Listening to songs out of their intended context doesn’t always work, but nine times out of ten, they are best appreciated on the original album.

4. Who else but a die-hard fan would be a better self-proclaimed expert to criticize the song selections on a “greatest hits”?

5. Artistic non-involvement. Few hits albums have any input from the artists themselves.  Without the artist contributing, a greatest hits becomes just another product assembled by record company suits, most of the time.

6. Cash grab. Many greatest hits album stink of the whiff of “record company cash-grab”, usually at opportune times.

7. Snob attitude. “Don’t buy the greatest hits!  Just buy all the albums!”

What do you like about greatest hits albums?

lebrainsgreatest

REVIEW: Foo Fighters – Greatest Hits (CD/DVD set)

These 16 songs are what we’re calling our “Greatest Hits.” Not to be confused with “Our Best Songs” or “Our Favorite Songs,” it is a collection of the songs that have defined our band’s identity to most people over the years. The other 65 album tracks… well, some of those might be our greatest songs. “Aurora”, “New Way Home”, “MIA”, “Exhausted”, “A320” … depends on whom you ask. Personally, I don’t think we’ve written our greatest songs yet. But that door is always open. – Dave Grohl, 2009

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FOO FIGHTERS – Greatest Hits (2009 Roswell Records CD/DVD set)

November 2009 was a great month for Dave Grohl fans, with this release of their Greatest Hits CD, a slew of Nirvana, and Them Crooked Vultures. As far as the hits disc goes, I would recommend that you purchase the version that comes with the bonus DVD. It includes almost all of the Foo’s wonderful witty and goofy music videos as well as live cuts.

I actually don’t have too many beefs with the CD track listing itself. Granted, Foo singles and Foo album tracks are often two different beasts and equally good. As Dave points out in the liner notes (great liner notes by the way) maybe “Aurora” should have been included in a tracklist of the “best” Foo songs. More songs from the first album could have been here. I’m sure you could pick out a dozen more. All the tracks here are singles or new songs. By and large though, no big deal, as long as you dig deeper into the Foo catalogue after hearing this CD.

What about those two new songs?

“Wheels” has a neat opening riff that sounds like country music with feedback! I like this song alot. Honestly, I think this is a country song in disguise. Imagine Dwight Yoakam doing it. See what I mean? As far as Foo songs go, maybe this would fit right in with There Is Nothing Left To Lose material. Great chorus, there’s even a little twang in the chorus. It has an epic quality. Cool crashing chords in the chorus, too.

“Word Forward” starts acoustic, punctuated with some electric guitar. Not quite as strong as “Wheels”, the melody is a bit more awkward. This sounds more like B-side material to me. It’s a shame because I quite like the clean-picked opening guitar, the dynamics, and a lot of the chords, it’s just the melodies of the song that don’t work for me.

IMG_00001618_editThe flow of the songs isn’t perfect. A song like the electric version of “Everlong”, to me, is a song that goes on the later half of a CD (aka “side 2” to us old folks). To me it’s a song that builds up to a closing climax of an album. If I had chosen this exact same track list, I would have had the songs in a different order so they flow better in terms of mood. Also, I think a few too many fast Foo tracks are presented in a row without enough of their wonderful slower songs to break things up. Look at the first four tracks in a row: “All My Life”, “Best Of You”, “Everlong” and “The Pretender” are four fast heavy ones in a row, followed by “My Hero” which is still pretty heavy. It’s like putting your foot on the gas pedal and not taking it off even when your passenger is giving you terrified looks!

The album ends with an acoustic version of “Everlong” (not from the Skin and Bones CD, this is an unreleased 1996 demo). While this spare, Grohl-only version of the most epic of epic Foo songs is great, as a closer it’s not my choice, at least not for an album like this. It kind of left me hanging.  I’m not bitching about getting an unreleased demo of a classic song, I just don’t think last was the right place in the running order for it.

I can only give the CD-only version 3.5/5 stars, because it’s a little underwhelming and I’m sure you, as a fan, could have made a better mix CD. Pick up the version with the DVD — 4.5/5 stars on that one.