Hip Today

#756: Japanese Attack!

Anybody who has spent 10 seconds glancing at this site knows one thing:  I love Japanese imports!

Every music collector has his or her own priorities.  Today, many fans prioritise vinyl, be it original pressings, reissues or both.  Some like elaborate packaging; the bigger and bolder the better!  My needs are pretty simple.  I want all the songs, and I’ll buy however many physical editions it takes to get them all.  That means that, over the years, I have purchased hundreds of Japanese CDs.  They almost always have bonus tracks, and some of those bonus tracks never see the light of day again on any other releases.  Those are the best kind!

There are two great sources for Japanese imports.

  1. CD Japan, my main store for new releases.  I have Whitesnake incoming!
  2. Discogs.

It is Discogs that is responsible for today’s content.  If you’re a music collector unfamiliar with Discogs, you need to change that right away.

A few weeks ago, one of my favourite lesser known metal bands called Leatherwolf was celebrating the 30th anniversary of their third album, 1989’s Street Ready.  (Probably their best album, but that’s unimportant.)  Someone on social media was showing off their most prized Leatherwolf collectible:  A Japanese import CD of Street Ready, with a bonus track unreleased anywhere else!  Out of print for almost 30 years, that’s a rarity if I ever saw one.  Plus it has that feature that is like catnip to me:  an unreleased bonus track.  In this case, it was a track called “Alone in the Night”, and I wanted it.  It’s rare that I go 30 years without even knowing about a song.

After a few weeks of researching, I decided to pull the trigger.  A Discogs seller had a copy in excellent condition for about $50, which I realized was about the cheapest it gets in the condition I want.  Its only flaw was a missing obi strip (the little piece of paper along the spine) which you sometimes have to accept you’ll never get.  The main thing was that bonus track.  I was happy with the seller’s 100% rating so I put it in my cart.

That’s when Discogs showed its evil side.

A message popped up, telling me that just in case I wanted to combine shipping, this seller had 81 other items from my wishlist.

81 items.  All Japanese CDs.

Click.

I spent the next few minutes frantically adding items to my cart, deleting them, adding them again, and then finally deciding on dollar amount I was willing to splurge.  I even gave it another few days to clear my head before I clicked “buy”.  This is what I ended up with.


LEATHERWOLF – Street Ready.  Bonus track: “Alone in the Night”.

Now some lucky soul can be gifted my original US compact disc, because this is my new treasure.  I loved this album as a teenager, and I still like it today.  There is some well written metal here, and now I have 11 tracks instead of 10.  I still can’t believe I didn’t know about “Alone in the Night” all this time.  If I knew that back in 1989, this CD would have been on my holy grail list long ago.

EXTREME – “Hip Today” CD single.  Bonus track “Kid Ego” (live).

I screwed up.  I already had a UK single for “Hip Today”; one of those “part one of a two disc set sold separately” deals.  However, for whatever reason, I never ripped it to my computer. I never even played it!  When I did a quick search, I couldn’t find “Kid Ego” in my files so I assumed I needed it.  I do not, but that’s OK.  This CD was only $11 because the seller listed it with no obi strip.  Turns out the obi strip is tucked inside, so that’s a win.

TENACIOUS D – The Pick of Destiny.  Bonus tracks “Kong”, “Training Medley”.

Two extra songs to be found here.  This album had more bonus tracks elsewhere, on non-physical (download only) versions.  Now I have all the physical tracks, at least.  “Training Medley” was already in the collection on a CD single for “P.O.D.”, but “Kong” was completely unknown until now.  Even our resident Tenacious D expert, Uncle Meat, has never heard it before.  (For the record, the other two bonus tracks are “Rock Your Socks” from the iTunes pre-order, and “It’s Late” which you can download if you buy the vinyl.  Vinyl wishlisted.)  Tenacious D collectables are usually very expensive.  Their single “Jazz” (which I am missing) goes for roughly $100.  I paid $26 for The Pick of Destiny.

QUIET RIOT – Alive and Well.  Bonus track:  “The Wait”.

20 years ago, the classic Metal Health lineup of Quiet Riot reunited for a new album.  Alive and Well was a mix of new songs and re-recordings, but they could have just released a 10 song CD instead, had they included “The Wait”.  It’s puzzling how songs are chosen to be obscure bonus tracks on rare editions.  “The Wait” is a ballad, very much like old Quiet Riot, and a frickin’ great one too.  Had it been included, Alive and Well could have been a well balanced 10 song album, and “The Wait” might have been the best one.  At one point Amazon were asking $100 for this CD.  I was delighted to score it for just $22.  Perhaps it was cheap because it was listed as missing the obi strip.  It’s there and looks great!   Now my Quiet Riot collection is one song closer to being complete.

THE SWORD – Apocryphon.  Bonus tracks:  the same five from the deluxe edition, plus “Hammer of Heaven”.

This album has been frustrating for me.  There are two versions, one with 10 tracks and one with 15.  Because there’s no track listing on the back cover, I’ve never taken a chance on it.  I didn’t want to bring it home only to find it’s the 10 track version.  I’ve wanted this album ever since “Cloak of Feathers” made it to number 15 on the 2017 Sausagefest countdown.  The only thing better than a confirmed 15 track edition?  A CD with 16 tracks!  Japan received “Hammer of Heaven”, which was a standalone single in 2012.  It’s a boogie as heavy as plutonium!  This would be its only CD release!  Obi is intact, for just $25.  (I’m still going to want the single for “Hammer of Heaven” since it had a live B-side of “Ebethron” not included here.)


Not a bad little spending spree.  Most of these Japanese imports were pretty affordable.  It seems like I spent a lot of money for just a handful of songs, but such is the quest.

 

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REVIEW: Extreme – Waiting for the Punchline (1995)

scan_20170114EXTREME – Waiting for the Punchline (1995 A&M)

Sometimes you just gotta laugh.  Extreme released two of their finest albums after grunge wiped the slate clean.  Extreme were the punchline, but that didn’t stop them from making a smokin’ fourth album.  In 1992 Nuno envisioned the next album as “really funky”, and there is some funk here.  However Waiting for the Punchline was much more straight ahead: stripped down, no orchestras, no rap, just guitar rock through and through.

“There Is No God” sounds like an odd title from a band as Christian as Extreme were, but Gary Cherone has always been a lyrical champion.  It’s not as simple as it appears, but the groove just lays waste.  The next track “Cynical Fuck” turns it up further.  It is pure smoke, and perfect for the decade it was written in.  “Tell Me Something I Don’t Know” takes the soft/hard approach with a loud droning Nuno riff.  It’s another brilliant song, and harder than what Extreme were doing before.  Much of Waiting for the Punchline is driven by the bass and drums.  The interesting thing about this is that drummer Paul Geary left during the making of this album, and was replaced by Mike Mangini who is now in Dream Theater.  You hear two very distinct drum styles through the CD.  Geary has a straight ahead approach, while Mangini is capable of just about anything.  His first track is the single “Hip Today” and you can hear how his beats are anything but basic.

“Hip Today” is a good tune and a good indicator of what the album sounds like: Bass, drums, guitar. Listen to how the rhythm guitar drops out when Nuno solos. Just like the first classic Van Halen. The lyrics sound bitter as Gary warns the next generation of bands that their time too will end.  Things slow down a little on “Naked”, before the side-ending instrumental “Midnight Express”.  This is a truly brilliant track, proof that Nuno’s stunning plectrum practice has paid off.   When it comes to acoustic guitar work in rock and roll band, Nuno is among the very best.  “Midnight Express” gives me callouses just thinking about it.

Dark moods commence the second side with “Leave Me Alone”, a sentiment many of us understand.  Don’t worry about me — I’m happy alone sometimes.  Nuno uses volume swells a-la Van Halen’s “Cathedral” to create a nifty riff.  Into “No Respect”, Nuno makes his guitar purr, while the rhythm section throws it into overdrive.  “Evilangelist” tackles the religion questions again, with a funky riff and cool digitized chorus.  The dark and heavy vibes give way to light shortly on “Shadow Boxing” and “Unconditionally”.   Both tracks are brilliant but different.  “Shadow Boxing” might be considered the “Hole Hearted” of this album, while “Unconditionally” leans towards “More Than Words”.  Neither are re-writes, but those are the easiest comparisons.

One final surprise is the unlisted bonus track.  It wasn’t on the cassette version, but you will find the title track “Waiting for the Punchline” after “Unconditionally”.  There are two cool things about this.  One: it’s an awesome track, much like the angrier stuff on side one.  Two: it closes the album even better than “Unconditionally”.  Great little surprise so don’t hit “stop”!

The thing about Waiting for the Punchline is that it’s a grower.   The first couple listens, I thought “It’s not as good as their old stuff, but what is these days?”  The new stripped down Extreme didn’t seem as interesting as the lavish one from Extreme III or the flashy one from Extreme II.  After a few listens, different textures began to emerge, add their own colours and depth.  Particular with the guitar work, but also the rhythms, there is much delight to be discovered here.

5/5 stars

scan_20170114-3

Part 217: My F****** Neck!!

NECK

RECORD STORE TALES Part 217:  My Fuckin’ Neck!

Kids – do not crack your neck.  Don’t do it.  I know it feels good.  Just don’t.  I know the feeling, the release of pressure.  The sudden relaxation of the nearby muscles.  The temporary but instant relief from pain.

I used to crack my neck, apparently a bit too much, and by early 1996 it had caught up with me.  I was about to go out for lunch at Casey’s with an ex-girlfriend of mine.  We’d started to hang out again.  I thought there might be a chance of getting back together, so I was looking forward to it.

I was toweling dry my hair, perhaps applying a bit too much force on one side, when suddenly:  snap.  Something hurt.  Something hurt a lot.  I collapsed to the ground, cradling my suddenly-too-heavy head in my hands.  I’d experienced neck pain before (which started me on cracking it in the first place), but nothing like this!  I was completely immobile.  I sat like that, in pain holding my head in my hands, for 15 minutes.  Finally I was able to find a comfortable way to stand up.

I took some Aspirin, and collapsed again in the stairway.  I literally could not take both hands off my head without being in extreme pain.  I had to be holding my head with at least one hand at all times.  I considered cancelling the date with the ex, but quickly dismissed that option.  The perceived opportunity for pity outweighed the physical pain.  Now all I had to do was figure out how to put on my boots.

The ex arrived to pick me up, and she advised me to see a doctor.  Nahh!  I said.  I took an Aspirin.  Doctor Schmockter.  I did know that, feeling the way I did, there was no way I was going to put able to pull a 4 hour shift at the record store that night.  All that bending over and filing…one handed?  No.  Even though I was very proud of my perfect attendance record (no sick days in almost 2 years, a milestone I wanted to reach), I had to call in sick.  I felt the pain of my now tarnished sick record.

We sat down at Casey’s, and I stupidly ordered French onion soup.  Only when the dish arrived did I realize how hard it was to get the spoon all the way to my mouth without leaning.  Leaning equaled pain, but by moving slowly and steadily, I gradually ate the soup.

I had a heavy scarf around my neck, and the warm soup going down my throat felt great too.  Plus, the painkillers were kicking in.  My mood brightened by the time my chicken arrived.  When I had finished that, my sore neck muscles began to loosen up.  I was regaining some mobility.  Plus, the lunch was going splendidly!  Conversation was brisk and good humoured.

“You know what,” I said to the ex, “I think I’m going to work after all.”

“Are you sure?” she queried.  “Your neck looks really stiff.”

“It is,” I replied.  “But it’s Wednesday.  It’s a slow night.  New stock arrived yesterday, Trevor would have finished stocking everything.  I’ll be OK.”  Plus, I was digging the new Extreme and wanted to hear it again.

Mike Mangini on drums

I excused myself to go to a pay phone and call the store.

“Hey man, it’s Mike,” I said when my boss answered.  “Have you got anybody to fill my shift yet?  Because I can do it.  I feel alot better.”  He told me that he was just going to work straight through.  I assured him I was OK, and I got the ex to drop me off at the store.

I walked in, head cocked at an awkward angle, wearing a silly scarf.  My boss was with a customer but he glanced at me, noting my odd posture.  As soon as he was done with the customer, he turned to me.

“Oh, Mike…how in the heck did you do that again?”

Slightly embarrassed I answered, “Drying my hair.”

“You did THAT drying your hair?” he cried.

“Yeah,” I said sheepishly.  “Does it look bad?  Can you tell?”

“Can you tell?” he replied.  “It’s as obvious as the nose on your face!”

Oh man.  Oh man.  I didn’t realize how comical I looked.  Sure enough, several customers asked about my strange posture.  And all of them had the same question:

“How in the heck did you do that?”

Drying my hair!  Now leave me alone about it!!

Unfortunately this was merely the first of many such episodes.  A high price to pay, for the temporary relief of cracking your neck.  I should have just said it was whiplash from banging my head too much.