REVIEW: Raw M.E.A.T 1 – Various Artists (1990)

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RAW M.E.A.T 1 (1990 M.E.A.T Magazine)

Drew Masters’ legendary metal magazine M.E.A.T took a lot of pride in promoting Canadian talent.  The next logical step was putting out a CD featuring the best of the best in unsigned Canadian rock and metal.  The flagship band was Toronto’s Slash Puppet.  On this first volume, only groups from the province of Ontario signed up.   Even though the talent all came from a small region in and around Toronto (with one exception), it’s a surprisingly diverse selection of styles.

I look at Raw M.E.A.T as a first tapping of an oil reserve.  It was a gusher.  So much untapped raw talent, unheard in suburbs.

“Slow Down” by Slash Puppet was previously issued on their indi tape, but Raw M.E.A.T 1 was its first issue on CD.  The track has been described as Motorhead meets Faster Pussycat and that still fits the bill.  Lead singer Anthony J. Mifsud was the sandpaper throat to go with the rough and tumble music.  You can hear why there was such a buzz around Slash Puppet.  They had pro-level tunes and performance. All they needed was a break.

Most Raw M.E.A.T buyers knew what they were getting with Slash Puppet. The rest of the tunes were uncharted territory.

Eiffel Power, from Taranna, knocked it out with “City Action”.  Singer Lionel Lois  had ample range and lung capacity for this fun metal shuffle, very current for the time.  Think of Extreme’s first album but with more muscle.  Then there’s the instantly likeable “Feel Me Sweet” by Brampton’s own Ragadee Anne.  Yes, it’s true:  coming up with names for bands isn’t always easy, but “Feel Me Sweet” kicks.  One reason they sound so professional is due to the production by Tom Treumuth (Triumph), surely an advantage in the studio.  Glam rock with bite and youthful innocence sure sounds good.

Blackglama (Toronto) take it to the streets with the rock/rap hybrid of “Playin’ Hardball (With the Big Boys)”.  This was just a year or two ahead of its time, though director Bruce McDonald used it in his 1991 film Highway 61  (but not the soundtrack CD).  The next group, Washington Wives, bring it to immaculately composed AOR rock.  “Memoirs, Etc.” has backing vocals from Phil Naro, from just across the border in Buffalo.  Naro is best known for Talas and his work with Kiss’ Peter Criss.  “Memoirs, Etc.” is vaguely familiar, as if you’ve heard its like on the radio before (Journey? Night Ranger?), but there’s no question this track was hit-ready.  Zero fat content, this is all meat of the most melodic variety.

Short Avenue has another “name” attached, that being “Scarpelli”.  Guitarist Gene Scarpelli is the son of Gino, of Toronto’s Goddo.  Short Avenue sounds nothing like Goddo, rather more like some tough street punks ready to mix it up.  With hindsight, they sound like precursors to The Four Horsemen.  “Push Comes to Shove” is right in the same vein as the Horsemen’s “Rockin’ is Ma Business”.  From the Horsemen to the Cult:  The Cult have always been big in Canada.  First impressions are that Trouble In Mind (Toronto) were very inspired by Ian Astbury.  Regardless, their track “Sweet Addictions” is album quality.  Lead singer Beau (just “Beau”) turned up on a later instalment of the Raw M.E.A.T series, but that’s another story.

We depart Toronto momentarily for a trip to the nation’s capitol.  Ottawa’s Antix had been self-releasing vinyl since 1986, and “Kick It Up” was a new track.  With a Van Halen shuffle, their track hits the right spots, but suffers from inadequate production.   It’s unfortunate that the most experienced band has one of the poorest sounding tracks on the CD.

Russian Blue received their first major exposure via Raw M.E.A.T, and thanks to their incredible song “Once a Madman”, they gained a cult following.  They were a double threat:  a magnificent singer and a terrific guitar player.   Vocalist Jo E. Donner found himself compared to a young Robert Plant.  Richard Gauci backed that up with memorable guitar hooks.  “Once a Madman” gets the job done in just 3:15, leaving behind an unforgettable and unique rocker that begs for repeat listens.  One reason it sounds so good?  Produced by a pre-fame Harry Hess of Harem Scarem.

The next band, Zyle, sound like they were going for a traditional metal sound.  The Scorpions come to mind immediately, as does fellow Canadian rockers White Wolf.  They needed a bit more originality.  The guitar solo directly quotes Randy Rhoads, too close for comfort.  But then it’s The Remains with something a little more street punk.  A variation of the classic Peter Gunn riff, “Too Much” is actually never enough.  It’s the right mixture of middle finger and middle eight.

Hanging out just down the QEW are Hamilton and Oakville, from which come the last two groups.  Cathouse prove that you can never have enough permutations of the classic Van Halen shuffle.  “In For the Kill” nails it, with a vocalist who seems like equal parts Skid Roper and Rob Halford.  Finally, Oakville’s Johannes Linstead is best known today for his flamenco guitar albums.  He didn’t start there!  Wildside (later to become Gypsy Jayne) are about that sleaze rock.  You can hear that the guitarist is something special, though you wouldn’t predict the future from this one track.

It’s difficult to be objective, even though so many years have passed since Raw M.E.A.T 1.   Many (if not most) of these bands had potential.  Toronto in the early 90s was ready to explode as “the next Seattle”, but there was no “next Seattle”.  12 of these 13 songs are really fondly remembered, with one just needing a little more originality.

4.5/5 stars



REVIEW: Arkells – High Noon (2014)

ARKELLS – High Noon (2014 Universal)

Thank rock and roll for new bands like the Arkells!  I’ve been happily enjoying their singles for years.  I really fell in love when I saw the Hamilton band open the 2017 NHL Awards.  A starstruck Max Kerman (vocals) gleefully fist-bumped with Wayne Gretzky.  I knew I had to get one of their albums.  On vinyl!  I chose their 2014 release High Noon to be my first Arkells, for its unforgettable single “Leather Jacket”.

Kerman managing to keep his shit together on national TV with The Great One

High Noon was a sound choice.  “Leather Jacket” has been an earworm for a long time.  High Noon also has another sterling single, “Come to Light”.  Its basis is similar to Bowie’s “Modern Love”.  While there is no mistaking the year, the Arkells put a slick 80s slant on these songs.  Whether it’s in the beats or the keyboards, there is a love of 1980s rock here on High Noon.

There are numerous highlights and few forgettable ones.  Album opener “Fake Money” has a strong piano riff, a classic U2 vibe, and an anti-corporate attitude.  One of the catchiest, more summer-y fun tracks is ironically “Cynical Bastards”.  Good time upbeat rock with solid beats to shake your butt to!  “11:11” is primed for dancing .  Everyone will pick out their own favourites, because there aren’t any poor songs on this wax.  Check out “Crawling Through the Window” for a slower tune with all the integrity intact, or the strange Disco hop of “Systematic”.

A band can make or break based on the lead singer.  I really like the expressive and sincere singing style of Max Kerman.  He stands out from first listen.  It’s hard to say exactly what makes him stand out, but he certainly does.  A band to watch.

4.5/5 stars

#526: Location, Location, Location

GETTING MORE TALE #526: Location, Location, Location

I worked at many Record Store locations over the years, often temporarily for training and managing.  Some of them I spent a few days at, others were several weeks or months in total.  Each one had its own flavour and clientele.  While experiences and mileage may vary, here are some memories of some favourite locations (all in Ontario, Canada).


cambridge1. Cambridge

The store in Cambridge was our first to carry movies, initially in VHS format.  It was a lot of fun working there from time to time, buying and selling used movies.  There was always something I wanted for my collection, and it broke up the monotony of seeing nothing but CDs every day.

Cambridge was also interesting because we used to get a number of people coming in just to ask where the strip club was.  “It used to be around here!”  I don’t know why the dudes looking for the strip club kept stopping in the Record Store (as opposed to the Tim Hortons or a gas station or anywhere else), but they did indeed used to ask.

Some of the customers in Cambridge were…well, let’s just say they were not all our best and brightest.  T-Rev managed that store, and I took over temporarily when he was on road trips elsewhere setting up new stores.  The customers there wore me down more than anywhere else.  Especially when they came in to sell, which was frequently.  Cambridge bought a lot of stock.  If the customer wasn’t happy with my offer, they’d ask when the “regular guy” would be back.  Maddening since I was more generous than a lot of other folks.

There was one customer in Cambridge who hated selling to me, he always asked where “the regular guy” was.  He asked my name and I told him it was Sanchez.  When T-Rev came back, we had a laugh over the employee named “Sanchez” who was apparently low-balling this customer for his dance CDs.


hamilton2. Hamilton

The store I worked at in Hamilton was pretty quiet most of the time.  There was a lunch time rush when kids from the nearby highschool would come in to listen to and occasionally buy CDs.  Given Steeltown’s reputation, I was pleasantly surprised to find the kids I dealt with to be polite and friendly, more than I was used to seeing.  The adults weren’t always so friendly, but no more or less than any of the other stores I worked in.  Hamilton was a shitty place to drive (confusing one-way streets), but I didn’t mind working there at all.


kitchener3. Kitchener

I worked in three different stores in the Kitchener area.  One of the other guys there used to refer to Kitchener as a “ham & egger” town, a phrase I never heard before.  A lot of blue collar customers.  It was still a step up from Cambridge, depending on which Kitchener location I was working in.

I’ve said many times that my favourite store was the original one, in a small mall in Kitchener.  It was our only mall store ever.  It was a special place to work.  It was tiny and compact.  It could get really busy on the weekends.  There were a lot of regular customers, more than I remember elsewhere, probably due to the fact we were in a mall.  There was a familiarity – I knew them, and they knew me.  When I was eventually given a larger store elsewhere to manager, I missed the faces I would see on a regular basis at the mall.

I also missed the “unique” individuals you’d meet at the mall store.  Malls have a whole ecosystem of life forms, unlike others in the outside world.  There was Johnny Walker, so named because every day he would walk the circuit around the mall, talking to himself, all day.  One day, something peculiar happened.  He came in, stopped talking to himself, and bought a tape.  He paid for his cassette and then resumed walking and talking to himself again.  I only saw that happen once.  There was Butts, the guy who would dig through ashtrays looking for cigarette butts.  Let’s not forget Trevor the Security Guard, and the drunks at the restaurant next door.  It was a blast!  I didn’t care for the mallrats, but they were a minor annoyance.


oakville4. Oakville

I did not like working on Oakville, as was discussed in Record Store Tales Part 16: Travelling Man.  Many of those customers were snooty; just too good for you.  They felt entitled to park in the fire lane, because they were more important than you.  Read the Oakville tale for the misery that was working there.



5. Mississauga

More than any other location, I may have resented Mississauga the most.  It was a shit location.  There was nothing of any value around.  There was a health products store, but nowhere to buy a snack or a lunch.  There was no foot traffic.  Across the street was an empty field.  It was a dead store from the day it opened.  I invested myself deeply in my work.  There are many things in life that can crush your soul.  One of them is working hard at something (training employees, helping set up a store) and seeing it come up to nothing.  That was Mississauga.  In the used CD business, you depend on customers bringing in good stuff for you to re-sell.  Mississauga provided very little good stuff.


There were more, all with tales of their own.   These however were five of the most memorable, each for its own reasons.  While a change of scenery is nice once in a while, there is nothing better than working in a location you love.


REVIEW: Monster Truck – The Brown EP (2011)


From the snowy climbs of Hamilton, Ontario roars the Monster Truck.  I first heard this band via the fine folks over at 107.5 Dave FM.  When they started playing “Righteous Smoke” in rotation, I knew I had to check out Monster Truck.  Uncle Meat has questioned my liking of this band, however.  He compared them to Nickelback and implied it was hypocritical of me to like one band and hate the other.

I don’t equate the two bands, although I admit similarities exist.  Monster Truck appear to be more rooted in classic 70’s hard rock, where Nickelback have always sounded to me like a watered down version of all the bands of the 1990’s.  (We called them “TheoryofaNickelCreed” back in the Record Store days.)  Monster Truck are sweaty rock. The presence of the organ on The Brown EP sounds more like Uriah Heep than Chad Kroeger.

With that out of the way, The Brown EP is an enjoyable 15 minutes(!) of hard Canadian rock.  I think Monster Truck are at their best whilst rocking out, so my least favourite track on the EP is “Seven Sea Blues”.  It has become a bit of a hit single, so I might be alone on that one.  Meanwhile, “Righteous Smoke” rocks solidly to the head and gets it banging.  It has a solid groove and it sticks to the brain like peanut butter.  “I Am Freedom” has a similar vibe, and the keys backing the riff help Monster Truck achieve their own slant on this sound.

“Love Attack” almost sounds like a classic Alice Cooper track at first, but it’s a shorty at just 1:42.  “Sworded Beest” is awesome.  I’ve always dug bands that had multiple lead singers, and this song has two: lead vocalist/bassist Jon Harvey, and guitarist Jeremy Widerman.  Their vocals work well together, kinda like a Billy Gibbons/Dusty Hill deal.  “Sworded Beest” rocks like a juggernaut but goes full-on heavy metal at the end.

My only real beef with the EP are the drums.  Yes, they are hard, heavy and loud in the mix — all good things to me.  But they sound a little dead, and I crave a snare sound that sounds more like a snare, and cymbols that don’t just sizzle all the time.

Not a bad EP.  I’d like to get their album Furiosity next, because the single “Sweet Mountain River” from that disc is my favourite so far.

3.5/5 stars

JACOB MOON – “Subdivisions”

Just watch, and listen. There’s a reason he was asked to play at the Marillion convention in Montreal!