Iron Maiden

REVIEW: Iron Maiden – Another Live (1981 bootleg)

IRON MAIDEN – Another Live (1981 recording, 1990 CD release by Metal Memory)

Maiden Japan is legendary.  It is a crucial EP for all Iron Maiden fans, but also a good solid find for any metal fan in general.  It was recorded May 23 1981 in Nagoya Japan.   The live bootleg that we are looking at today also claims to be from that same show.  That claim appears to be bogus.  An A/B test on the track “Remember Tomorrow” reveals they are definitely not the same vocal performance.  Maybe this CD is taken from a show on the same tour, such as Osaka or Tokyo.

Regardless of the whens and wherefores, Another Live presents a rare treat indeed, a live CD featuring Paul DiAnno on lead vocals.  It is the Killers lineup:  Paul, Steve Harris, Dave Murray, Adrian Smith and Clive Burr.  A young Iron Maiden just before hitting the crest of their wave…there isn’t much out there officially released besides Maiden Japan.  There are a number of tracks on the rare and expensive box set Eddie’s Archive, and a handful B-sides.  For that reason, if you stumble upon Another Live, you may as well go for it!

The audio is surprisingly great for a boot, almost official quality, except scratchy in some places.  It might be a rip from a previous vinyl edition.  Unfortunately the set (wherever it was) has a few songs chopped out for time, and therefore you’re missing some of the best.  “Running Free”, “Prowler” and “Phantom of the Opera” would have been nice to have.  On the other hand there is the track “Another Life”.  You will not find any official live versions of it with Paul singing.  The only officially released ones have Bruce:  one from Beast Over Hammersmith and one from “The Trooper” 2005 7″ single.  Then we have “Twilight Zone” which you won’t find in live audio form anywhere officially.  There is definite value here in the way of rarer songs.

The performance is stellar.  A serious highlight is Dave Murray’s guitar solo on “Strange World”.  Each member has the energy of a teenager and they just blast through.  The only speedbumps really are the awkward edits between songs.  They are not done well and it’s too bad because the CD is only 51 minutes.  However if Another Live did come from an earlier vinyl bootleg, that would explain the shorter running time.

Get it if you find it.  You may not play it often, but your Maiden collection will be that much cooler.

3.5/5 stars

 

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REVIEW: Lionheart – Hot Tonight (1984)

LIONHEART – Hot Tonight (1984 CBS, 2008 Kreshendo reissue)

Are you fan of Iron Maiden?  The early stuff, circa their first LP?  If so, read on — but don’t get your hopes up.

If you’re a long-time reader, you may remember Lionheart from Record Store Tale Part 133: Die For Love.  A used copy, a Japanese import, came into the store in 1996, and I stupidly passed on it.  The story went:

“$20 used, but with my discount more like $15.  Still, I ended up passing on it.  I only really liked the one song, and I had other stuff to buy that week including the new Scorpions and King’s X.  So, I made a judgement call and threw it on the shelves.  I put a sticker on it that said “Dennis Stratton ex-Iron Maiden” and it sold in a couple weeks.

What I forgot to mention in that Record Store Tale was that some customer who claimed to be a “huge Iron Maiden fan”, who had “all the albums” didn’t know who Dennis Stratton was.  He saw the sticker on the disc and claimed we had it wrong.  Little did he know, he was shopping in the store managed by LeBrain.  And LeBrain was not wrong.

Yes, Dennis Stratton was in Iron Maiden for a little while.  He played on the legendary first album, and Lionheart was hyped as a “New Wave of British Heavy Metal” supergroup because the guy that was in Def Leppard before Rick Allen (Frank Noon) was also in Lionheart for a little while.  There were stupid amounts of lineup changes before and after the album, which also featured Rocky Newton who later ended up in M.S.G.  The singer was a hearthrob named Chad Brown who had a voice, though not a particularly unique one.

Their debut album release was a keyboard-inflected 80’s rock record with lots of attempts at concert-ready songwriting.  That means lots of synth.  The drums are hot, echoey samples and the keyboards are ubiquitous.  It’s all very sterile and smacks of ambitions unachieved.  There are attempts at Queen-like harmony vocals, but underwhelming attempts.  They were clearly trying to write songs with epic qualities that would impress the musically inclined.  The opening track “Wait for the Night” has shades of Phenomenon (particularly a song called “Kiss of Fire”), another “metal” supergroup from around the same time.  Phenomenon however had Glenn Hughes singing.  Chad Brown can sing, but his voice doesn’t have enough character.  He sounds exactly like a guy singing in a Foreigner tribute band, or perhaps Coverdale-Lite.

The best song is, by far, the single “Die For Love”.   The music video is legendary cheese.  I love videos where bands have to embark on some kind of adventure.  Remember when Queensryche had to defeat the Queen of the Reich?  Or Grim Reaper vs. a man-beast in “Fear No Evil”?  (For more on this subject, check out Record Store Tales Part 206: Rock Video Night.)  Lionheart had something like this for their “Die For Love” clip.  I know if I ever need somebody to rescue a damsel in distress from a weird creepy doctor, I’m picking the rescue team with no shirts under their jumpsuits!  Look at Dennis fucking Stratton!  He takes a dude out with a kick, while riffing on his guitar.  Talk about multi-tasking; where do you see this kind of skill set today?

Unintentionally funny video aside, “Die For Love” wins as a song.  With an unforgettable chorus, backed with a memorable riff and great performance, the track gets full marks.   Just like a stopped clock must be right twice a day, everything clicked on “Die For Love”.   For most people, it won’t make buying the album worthwhile.  Given my history with the song, and then letting the Japanese import slip through my fingers in ’96, I don’t regret buying this album for one song.

Even the title track, the decent and hard rocking “Hot Tonight” doesn’t save the album.  Ultimately, when you put the album away and try to recall how the songs went, they have completely evaporated.  Only “Die For Love” and parts of “Hot Tonight” and “Nightmare” still linger in my memory banks.  No focus.  Everything on this disc has been done by someone else, only better.  Whether it be Styx, Night Ranger, Whitesnake or any of the other bands that Lionheart sometimes sounds like, it’s all been done.

2/5 stars

#503: 22 Acacia Avenue

GETTING MORE TALE #503: 22 Acacia Avenue

Everything started with Iron Maiden.  At least for me.  Way way waaaay back in Record Store Tales Part 1: Run to the Hills, we revealed that pivotal moment when everything changed.  The album was Masters of Metal Volume 2, and regarding hearing “Run to the Hills” for the first time I wrote, “Some people speak of moments of clarity: That was my moment.”  Everything I was focused on and passionate about now took a back seat to rock and roll.  The year was 1984.

I taped some Iron Maiden albums off friends, and bought the double Live After Death as my first Maiden LP.  I memorised the names of the members, and made sure to include Martin “Black Knight” Birch and Derek “Dr. Death” Riggs in my memory banks.  Maiden had the best album covers, the best videos, and the best lyrics.  They had songs about World War II and the Crimea.  It was more intelligent music than the other heavy metal bands I’d heard.  I stared for hours at my Live After Death LP, so loaded was it with photos and facts.  In grade 8, I was the only kid in my school who liked Iron Maiden, and that was fine by me.

Figuring out exactly what Maiden were saying, that was another story.  Live After Death had a lyric sheet, but before that we were just guessing.  In a case of mis-heard lyrics, I assumed that the lyrics to “Number of the Beast” went, “Hell and fire are born to be the least”.  Bruce was actually singing “Hell and fire are spawned to be released.”  “To be the least” went over better with teachers and parents, but when I got Live After Death, I kept the real lyrics for myself.  I did learn a new word from that song, “spawned”.

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Maybe it was Bruce’s accent, but I really struggled to hear what he was saying, even just when he was speaking on stage.  “Scream for me, Long Beach!”, he repeated throughout the album.  I could not figure out at all what he was saying, and neither could my best buddy Bob.  It sounded like “Scream for me, lambiens!”  So we assumed “lambiens” was British slang for “my friends”.  That made sense to us.  Bob had Live After Death on cassette and there were no liner notes.  Not until I got it on LP many months later did I see that the album was recorded at Long Beach Arena, and put two and two together.  Until then, it was “lambiens”!  “Speak to me, Hammersmith!” was another Bruce phrase that we couldn’t decipher.  Until I noticed that side four of the LP was recorded at Hammersmith Odeon did it click.  Until then, I thought Bruce was talking to his bandmates on stage.  “Speak to me, Harris Smith!”

Both of us played that live album plenty.  Thanks to “Powerslave”, I was way ahead on my Egyptology.  By the time we started taking Egyptian history in grade 11, I was already well familiar with the eye of Horus.  All knew all about Alexander the Great and the Gordian Knot.  Iron Maiden brought all that stuff right to our stereos, but I don’t think they got enough credit for it.

Maiden had other subject matter as well.  Though seldom, they would sometimes write songs regarding the “fairer sex” such as “Charlotte the Harlot”.  As a young kid first getting into the band, I had no idea what that was about.  Even foggier to me was “22 Acacia Avenue”.  It was a great tune, but the lyrics were a total mystery to me.  It’s not complicated:  Charlotte sells herself for money in both tunes.  In the second, someone is trying to talk her out of this lifestyle.  “You’re packing your bags, you’re coming with me.”  Right over my head.

In art class at school, we had to draw a scary scene for Halloween.  I chose a bunch of imagery I lifted from Maiden covers:  streetlamps, grave stones, fire, dark alleys, a grim reaper and…a house with the address “22 Acacia Avenue”.  I liked how Maiden’s artist Derek Riggs hid symbols and clues in his covers, so I was trying to do the same, but just randomly.  The teacher walked up and observed my artwork, and asked me a couple questions.  “22 Acacia Avenue, is that where you live?”  No, but how the hell do I explain this to the Catholic teacher at a very Catholic school?  Scrambling for an answer I said, “No, that’s the address of an actual real haunted house.”  The teacher “Oooh’ed” excitedly and went to the next student.  An actual haunted house?  Boy did I have that wrong.  Not that I could have given the real answer!

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Playing Live After Death again today as I’m writing this is very much a time capsule.  It’s 1985 again, and Bob and I are playing air guitars to “22 Acacia Avenue” in my basement.  How badly we so wanted to BE Iron Maiden.  Hell I made a birthday card for Bob one year that had his face in Iron Maiden over Dave Murray’s!  Of 22 Acacia Avenue, Bruce sang “That’s the place where we all go.”  Good enough for us, so we wanted to go too.  If we knew what Bruce was actually singing about, I think we would have (wait for it) run to the hills instead!

REVIEW: Iron Maiden – “Empire of the Clouds” (2016 Record Store Day picture disc single)

IRON MAIDEN -“Empire of the Clouds” (2016 Parlophone Record Store Day picture disc single)

The story of acquiring this single and RSD 2016 can be read right here, so without getting into the details again this is what you need to know:

  1. This was a Record Store Day exclusive (April 16 2016).
  2. There were only 5500 copies made.
  3. Everybody wanted one.

The picture disc and packaging are gorgeous.  The record is a depiction of the Eddie destroying the R-101 airship, but fear not, this is not how history actually unfolded!  This picture disc is ensconced in a die card cover with reprintings of the Daily Mirror newspaper article from the day following the disaster.  It’s a lovely keepsake for sure, but it also has an exclusive interview on the B-side.

Not that the A side is unimportant.  From my original review for The Book of Souls, I had much praise for “Empire of the Clouds”:

“Written solely by Bruce and coming in at almost 20 minutes, it is unprecedented in the Maiden canon.  Never before have the credits ‘Bruce Dickinson – vocals, piano’ been written inside one of their albums.  For the first time ever, the piano is a part of Iron Maiden’s makeup.  Maiden have used orchestras before, and the strings return as well.  ‘Empire of the Clouds’ is a peak accomplishment, something that they (and Bruce) can proudly proclaim, ‘we did that’.  The piano is a natural fit, in the way it is used to make an epic song even more dramatic.  Aviation has been one of Bruce’s favourite lyrical subjects for a long time, but ‘Empire of the Clouds’ might be his first song about airships.  You can trust him to instil it with all the drama and heaviness that you expect from Iron Maiden.”

Nicko McBrain and Bruce Dickinson discuss the making of the song, almost an album in itself, on the B-side “Maiden Voyage”.  The R101 was a massive airship (“the Titanic fits inside”) that was rushed into service and caught flame in 1930.  Bruce wrote the song on piano, which he had learned to play over the last three years.  He then researched the history of the airship and worked on the words.  The way he describes the incident on this interview track, it was a perfect storm of everything going wrong.  In its context, the airship was an expression of the ambition of the British Empire to stretch to all corners of the Earth and above as well.  Bruce says the crash was the end of this era.

Part of the story involves a storm, so Bruce came up with a piano part to depict that.  Before long he had enough components from his piano writings to build the different parts of the song.   One of the bits was written when Jon Lord (from Deep Purple) was ill with cancer.  After his death, Bruce used this piece for the part when the airship initially sets off.  It’s interesting that this era of British ambition inspired the most ambitious track that the singer had ever attempted.  This includes a musical “S.O.S.” in Morse code, something I picked up on upon first listen.

Bruce has particular praise for drummer Nicko McBrain in the building and recording of this song.  Nicko was not only a help in a technical respect, but also as a cheerleader keeping the band driven, so much was he into it.

Bruce Dickinson is a remarkable individual in heavy metal.  You don’t see many metal stars as well educated in history as Bruce, or as capable at communicating it to his audience.  Indeed, as a presenter on the BBC, Bruce has brought history to many diverse audiences.  You would think Iron Maiden fans would be one of the more challenging groups to reach, but Maiden followers are hungry for this kind of content.  We can only respect the band that much more when we realize the true depth of their work.  This coming from a licensed airline pilot, published fiction author, cancer survivor and amature fencer who also happens to be in Iron Maiden.  Extraordinary!

I’m not sure if this disc was worth the buying frenzy it spawned or the online prices you are about to see, but I’m sure glad I got my copy.

5/5 stars

#478: Record Store Day (April 16 2016)

GETTING MORE TALE #478: Record Store Day (April 16 2016)

I thought Record Store Day was supposed to be a celebration of indi record stores.  That’s nice and all, but my first Record Store Day ever was at a chain:  Sunrise Records in a shopping mall.  I’m not sure what qualifies as “indi” but I do see a lot of similarities with Record Store Day and other much-hyped spending spree events, like Force Friday.  Overpriced items, not enough stock and waiting for stores to open seem to be the order of the day.  Having said that, I have never seen anything like Record Store Day 2016.  Nor did the staff at X-Disc-C in Kitchener, the store I chose to hit up this year.

I don’t always shop on Record Store Day, but when I do, it is for a good reason.  The first time I went was in 2011, for an AC/DC single featuring two then-exclusive live recordings.  That was a lot of fun, but imagine my chagrin a year later when these two songs were released on the Live at River Plate album.  It seems most RSD-exclusive items are either:

a) songs that get released on albums later on,
b) vinyl reissues of things you already have,
c) stuff that sits around for months or years after as shelfwarmers.

This year, my RSD holy grail list had only one item on it:  the 12″ picture disc single for Iron Maiden’s 20 minute epic “Empire of the Clouds”, from The Book of Souls.  Incidentally, that single was more expensive than the 2 CD album itself:  $33 with taxes.  What’s so special about it?  It has no exclusive music, but it does include a 21 minute interview with Bruce Dickinson about the R101 airship disaster that the song is based on.  That made it worth owning.   There were at least four stores in town carrying it.  Mill Pond Records in Cambridge were doing a big promotion on the radio with Darryl Law, offering big discounts and free CDs.  The had four copies of “Empire of the Clouds” in stock.  I wrote that store off the list first, gambling that it would be too busy.

I planned my strategy to acquire this very limited single (5500 copies).  Online prices later on will be far too high, at least for me unless I decide to sell my organs on the dark web.  Encore Records has long been the most reliable store in town, and they were carrying it (quantity unknown).  Failing that, just a few blocks away at X-Disc-C, there were three copies in stock.  The plan was for me to go to Encore while my wife Jen went to X-Disc-C.  We left the house at 8:15 for the 9:00 am opening.  That even left time for a coffee stop, at a way too busy Timmy’s on Weber St.  My only real concern at that point was parking downtown.  Kitchener is currently being ripped up to build a controversial light rail transit system.  The traffic tie-ups and difficult access points are only adding to the controversy.  Even so, and even with the Kitchener Farmer’s Market open since 6:00 am, parking was not a problem.  In fact there was plenty.

Encore Records was a couple blocks away, but I turned right back around as soon as I saw the line!  There were at least 40-50 people up there, waiting to get in.  I had never seen anything like that before, not on Record Store Day.  Not for records.  “Fuck this,” I said as I hiked back.  Re-joining Jen, we headed to X-Disc-C which was only a short jaunt away.  We knew they had three copies.  I had never been to this location before, tucked away on a side street near the market.  We knew we were getting near when we heard the sounds of Gordon Lightfoot serenading us on outdoor speakers.  This was followed by the new Wolfmother.  And we were first in line!  Iron Maiden would be mine!

I posted on Facebook, “First in line.  I am the line.”

About five minutes later another guy joined us, maybe a bit older than me.   We exchanged “good mornings” and chatted.

“I’m only here for one thing,” he hinted.

“Maiden?” I asked, and he nodded.  “Me too,” I said in response.  “He has three in there, so it looks like we’re good.”

“They’re already open over across the street,” he told me, referring to Encore.

“Really?  But did you see that crowd?  There were at least 40 people standing there.  Can that store even hold 40 people?”

I was surprised when he answered, “Yeah, I was second in line.  I’ve been waiting outside since 6:30 in the morning.”

Think about that for a moment.  That means there was somebody who got there even before 6:30!  People really wanted that Iron Maiden record.  Behind us, a small line began to form, young and old.

“I left to come here because I couldn’t see the Maiden when I walked into Encore.  Other people swooped in and they were gone before I could even see them.”  I expressed a little bit of surprise about the popularity of a record that only had an interview track on the B-side.  That doesn’t matter to everybody though.  “I’m not going to play it,” he said.  “I’m not even going to open it.  I’m going to frame it.”

A few more people joined us in line including one guy in an Iron Maiden T-shirt.  I don’t think he had a chance anymore.  There seemed to be two dominating artists that people in line were looking for:  David Bowie, and Iron Maiden.  Then the door opened.  I grabbed the first Iron Maiden, and the guy behind me got the second.  I did not see who got the third.

At X-Disc-C, they told me they had never seen a Record Store Day opening like this before.  They seemed unprepared as most of their items hadn’t even been priced yet.  I wonder if Encore Records also got slammed unprepared at opening.  They usually only have two guys working on busy days, and I think only three people even work there at all.  It’s great to see them so busy, but I wondered about the whole experience.

These stores probably don’t make much money on these Record Store Day exclusives, and these early birds were looking for specific items.  If they didn’t have it, they walked.  They didn’t stick around to browse, nor was there room to browse.  Two people walked out before I even paid for my Maiden!   The buying frenzy atmosphere isn’t the kind of record shopping experience most of us look for.  We like to take our time, check every nook and cranny, converse and enjoy it.  These limited Record Store Day items seem to create schools of sharks swooping in on very limited items, and when they’re gone the customer buys nothing and moves on.

I will open and play my Iron Maiden record, once.  I’ll record it, and only look at it henceforce.  It’s a gorgeous picture disc in a gatefold sleeve.  The cover replicates the Daily Mirror newspaper from October 6 1930, the day after the R101 burst into flames.  An awesome Eddie illustration from the picture disc is seen through the die-cut cover.  It truly is a beautiful collectible.

Record Store Day was fun, but I don’t think it does much to celebrate the indi record store.  It does bring out the hard core collectors, but the overall atmosphere feels too much like a bloody Black Friday sale than a true record shopping experience.

Come back tomorrow for a review of the “Empire of the Clouds” RSD exclusive single.

 

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GUEST REVIEW: The Raven Age (opening for Iron Maiden at the ACC Toronto, April 3 2016)

This guest review hit my inbox courtesy of Zach “I Like Iron Maiden” Britton.  He is possibly (and quite probably) the only Iron Maiden fan in the world who has had a song written and recorded about his love for the band.  Last night he went to see them again.

Opening act The Raven Age features Steve Harris’ son George on guitar.

THE RAVEN AGE – ACC Toronto, April 3 2016  (opening for Iron Maiden)
by Zach Britton “the Lamb Lord”

Five guys dressed like Criss Angel bring you the Twilight soundtrack.

I was not impressed.  I’m not kidding about the Twilight soundtrack bit.  Though certainly more metal, it spoke to me of the angst of a teen vampire boy courting a human girl.  And all their stuff sounded the same to me.  I’m no musicologianist*…but I know what I like.**  And it wasn’t eight metally tunes about pubescent vampires.

 

?/5 stars

*Zach knows this is not a word.

**He likes Iron Maiden.


“The Maiden Song” – dedicated to Zach Britton

#463: The X Factor Failure

SAM_1043

GETTING MORE TALE #463: The X Factor Failure

When Bruce Dickinson left Iron Maiden in 1993, the metal world was rocked yet again by another major defection.  First Vince Neil, then Rob Halford, and now Bruce!  It seemed the old guard of 80’s metal had suddenly fallen from the top of the world, to critical condition on life support.

Some fans gave up.  The loyal waited eagerly for news.  First were the rumours that Paul Di’Anno would come back (quickly shot down by Steve Harris).  Then Michael Kiske from Helloween had his name dropped in a few speculative magazine articles.  Finally in 1994, the identity of the new singer was released:  Blaze Bayley, ex-Wolfsbane.  In North America, the majority  muttered, “Who?”  The fans who still cared, anyway.  Those who did not cut their hair and moved on to Soundgarden and Alice in Chains.

Another long quiet year went by before new Maiden music hit the shelves.  When it did, in the form of the album The X Factor, it was clear that Iron Maiden had changed.  They were now a quieter, darker animal, with a singer to suit that sound.  The departure was not well received.  Fans were not impressed by the long, repetitive songs, nor the lower-voiced singer.  The album failed to make a significant dent in the charts, although it sold well initially in Quebec,  the last stalwart of metal in Canada.  One fan who did accept and embrace the changes was yours truly, Mr. LeBrain, but not without taking flak for it.

When the CD was released, I was already working at the Record Store, so I bought it immediately.  We didn’t stock enough copies to get it in early, or even offer a good price on it.  In other words, we ordered just three copies of the new Iron Maiden CD, with one of those being reserved for me!   That’s how far Maiden had fallen.  It took two or three good listens to adjust to the new softer Maiden, but certain songs jumped out fairly quickly, such as “The Sign of the Cross” and “Lord of the Flies”.  I enjoyed the darkly introspective lyrics on new songs such as “The Aftermath” and “Look for the Truth”.

The girl I was dating at the time was not into rock music; not in the least.  The last CD I bought for her was Much Dance ’95, featuring such hits as “What is Love” by Haddaway, “Saturday Night” by Whigfield, and of course, “Macarena”.  I even took a bullet and listened to it with her, the whole thing.  In turn, she tried to give my Joe Satriani a shot, but she wasn’t particularly interested.   I knew there was no chance she’d be into Iron Maiden, but since I was excited that they had new music out, I was talking about it a lot.  I tried to tell her how much I was enjoying the new lyrics on the album.

That’s when she said the words I will never, ever forget:

“Why are you even listening to new Iron Maiden?  You know they will never be popular again.”

 

Aye carumba!

Popular?  What true Maiden fan ever bought an album because it was popular?

I was deeply disappointed in her words, and even a little hurt.  I was trying to convey to her that the words and music were impacting me; I was feeling something and wanted to express that.  It is always good when music provokes thoughts and feelings.  I would have loved for the album to be successful, but that wasn’t the point.  I never listened to Maiden to be cool.

She dumped me shortly after I bought the new Lisa Loeb album for her.  Damn you, Lisa Loeb.  Then, she started banging an ex-girlfriend of mine, and her new boyfriend…at the same time.

Let me repeat that for you just in case you missed it.

Then, she started banging an ex-girlfriend of mine, and her new boyfriend, at the same time.  Both of them.

Henceforth, I dove headfirst into that Maiden album to drown my misery, and it became one of several discs that were my soundtrack to that miserable winter for me: Maiden, Ozzy’s Ozzmosis, and Oasis’ (What’s the Story) Morning Glory.  If there is a reason I have a soft spot for The X Factor by Iron Maiden, you can blame that girl who said they’d never be popular again.

While all is forgiven today, I have not forgotten that remark (obviously), and the amazing thing is that she was 100% wrong.  Maiden are more popular today than they ever have been.   Their T-shirts have become fashion statements.  Kids who weren’t even born when Bruce left the band are buying tickets to see them live in 2016!  But much more important than that, they have achieved a level of artistic integrity and consistency that most bands should be envious of.

Maiden, never popular again?  File that under failed predictions from the 90’s, right next to the Y2k scare!  Up the Irons!

SAM_1037

#460: Appetite for Reunions

GETTING MORE TALE #460: Appetite for Reunions

Unless you have been living under a pile of rock (and roll), then you know that the hype machine for a 2016 Guns N’ Roses “reunion” has already begun.

But this is not a reunion.  This is not Axl, Slash, Duff, Izzy, and Steven.  Matt Sorum is not involved, nor is Gilby Clarke.  The new lineup is supposed to consist of:  W. Axl Rose, Slash, Duff “Rose” McKagan, Richard Fortus, Frank Ferrer, Dizzy Reed, and Chris Pittman, with new member Dave Kushner (Velvet Revolver) in the third guitar slot.

Of course, many lineups labelled as “reunions” in the past were not.  Van Halen’s current “reunited” lineup consists of three classic members and one new guy, Wolfgang Van Halen.  Any time The Who go out there for a tour, there are only two original members.  Not much can be done about that, with Keith and John both gone.  Not that it matters since both bands have made millions on these tours, and both bands even managed to put out new albums, without the full original lineups.  New music always trumps a tour.

Few bands seem to reunite with all the beloved members intact, either due to death or stubbornness.  There are exceptions, obviously.  The Eagles and Fleetwood Mac came together with their most beloved lineups, and a tremendous amount of success, but even they couldn’t make it last.  Don Felder was fired from the Eagles years ago.  Christine McVie only recently returned to the Mac after being gone for ages, and meanwhile the band did a new album without her.   And Black Sabbath?  Their farewell tour only has ¾ of the original lineup!  Meanwhile Bill Ward sits at home, having alienated the band and Sharon Osbourne.  The chances of Ward ever playing drums again in the band he co-founded are slim to none.  One does not piss off the Osbourne camp without consequences.  Regardless of his reasons, justified or not, a Black Sabbath farewell tour without its still capable original drummer is a hollow thing indeed.

Even when you do get the full original lineup of a band that you wanted, that doesn’t necessarily mean the band is returning to full functionality.  When Kiss reunited in 1996 with the full original band, Ace Frehley and Peter Criss were hired hands.  They didn’t get a say, they didn’t get a vote.  They got a contract stating their responsibilities and compensation.  As if Paul and Gene would ever give up any control in their band, now!  So what we saw live was Kiss, but what we got behind the scenes and on the album Psycho-Circus was just “more of the same”.  Ace and Peter didn’t even appear on many of the songs, even though they were on the album cover.  But that’s nothing new for Kiss!

What band has had the most successful reunion?  I’m not talking in terms of numbers; then we would probably have to include Spice Girls and New Kids on the Block.  Who has had the most success in terms of quality?  That would have to be Iron Maiden.

Steve Harris did something very creative when he reunited with Bruce Dickinson.  Instead of just bringing Bruce back into the band, he also brought in Bruce’s guitarist and former Maiden member Adrian Smith.  But Adrian was not cool with coming in to replace somebody else.  “What about Janick Gers?” he asked.  Janick had been in Maiden for a successful decade, and Adrian didn’t want him out of a job.  Steve always envisioned a three-guitar Iron Maiden, and Adrian Smith coming back gave him that opportunity.  It worked out brilliantly, especially live, when it could have been a train wreck.  Technically, what Iron Maiden did is the same thing Guns N’ Roses are said to be doing:  a new version of the band, with both classic and current members.  Maiden made it last, too.  Harris was very clear with Bruce:  nobody was coming back to Maiden just to hang around a while and leave again.  Anybody coming back to Maiden was coming back for life, and that is exactly what happened.  Five more studio albums later, Maiden rule absolutely.

What will happen with Guns N’ Roses?  That is harder to predict.  It is unlikely their most talented member, Izzy Stradlin, would want to return to the circus of insanity that is a GN’R tour.  As for Slash, he has always preferred a stripped down band.  It’s hard to imagine how he will be happy playing in a band with two keyboardists, but that’s what they say is happening.  How long will it last?  A few shows?  Coachella and gone?  Much like Ace Frehley, Slash will probably be a contracted musician.

A band of Guns’ stature all but had to reunite.  The fans have been loudly demanding something like this for over a decade.  The fans hoped Izzy and Steven Adler or Matt Sorum would be a part of it, but that has always seemed unlikely.  Slash couldn’t even get Izzy into Velvet Revolver.  What they are doing is probably the closest to a reunion that is likely.  Perhaps Izzy will show up to guest as he has in the past, but fans shouldn’t get their hopes up of seeing Adler on stage.

Perhaps this, the most anticipated “reunion” since Led Zeppelin (also a new lineup with Jason Bonham), will stop the constant questions from the media and fans.  “Will you ever get back together?”  It must be tiring answering that question daily, when you have new music out there to play.  Sometimes a band just has to give in and take a step backwards.  Sometimes, as in the case of Iron Maiden, the way forward is to go backwards.

Will it work?  The only way to find out is to stay tuned.  You know where you are?  You in the jungle, baby.

Let’s see if the bad boys of rock and roll can still survive the jungle.

GNR

#459.4: 2015 Year-End Lists, part 4 – Dr. Dave!

One more list for 2015 arrived at the last minute!  Enjoy the rock as prescribed by Dr. Dave Haslam.

DAVE

GETTING MORE TALE #459.4:
2015 Year-End Lists, part 4 – Dr. Dave Haslam!

First of all – it had to happen sooner or later, but when it does it is still a shock. RIP Lemmy. A true lifer for the rock and roll.

10. Paradise Lost – The Plague Within
9. Drudkh – A Furrow Cut Short
8. Panopticon – Autumn Eternal
7. Mgla – Exercises in Futility
6. Iron Maiden – The Book of Souls
5. Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats – The Night Creeper
4. High on Fire – Luminiferous
3. Deafheaven – New Bermuda
2. Ghost – Meliora
1. Clutch – Psychic Warfare

Honourable Mentions:

  • Faith No More – Sol Invictus
  • Lamb of God – VII: Sturm und Drang
  • Failure – The Heart is a Monster
  • Baroness – Purple
  • Elder – Lore

Dishonourable Mention:

  • Slayer – Repentless (without Lombardo and Hanneman they are a shadow of their former selves.)

SLAYER

Thanks Dr. Dave for his list!  Happy new year!

#459.3: 2015 Year-End Lists, part 3 – LeBrain!

GETTING MORE TALE #459.3:
2015 Year-End Lists, part 3 – yours truly, LeBrain!

Unlike my companions in rock, Tom and Uncle Meat, I’m going to be a bit more verbose here with my top lists of 2015.

I thought I had my top five albums down.  I didn’t expect any changes, but then a couple respected writers started praising the new Def Leppard album.  I decided, against my better judgement to go ahead and buy it.  What can I say?  Those reviewers were right.  It’s a good album.  Def Leppard 2015 cracked my top five list, necessitating a top six.

LeBRAIN’S TOP SIX(!) ALBUMS of 2015

6. Def Leppard – Def Leppard
5. Stealth – …listen
4. Queensryche – Condition Hüman
3. The Darkness – Last of Our Kind
2. Faith No More – Sol Invictus
1. Iron Maiden – The Book of Souls

2015

LeBRAIN’S TOP FIVE TV SHOWS of 2015

I actually watched enough TV this year to make up a list!

5. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
4. The Big Bang Theory
3. Star Wars: Rebels
2. Better Call Saul
1. American Dad!

BIG BANG

LeBRAIN’S TOP MOVIES of 2015

As far as I know, only one movie came out this year, right?

1. Star Wars: The Force Awakens

FORCE

2015 IN SUM

The high quality of new albums by returning bands continues to amaze me.  The last band I expected a quality album from this year was Def Leppard.  Of course, on the flip side of that, we have Bon Jovi who choked to death on pop dreck.  Given what was coming out this year, and what the stakes were (a possible final album from Iron Maiden, the first Faith No More CD in 18 years), you couldn’t have realistically hoped for better than we got.  Meanwhile on the new music front, it is hard to find a better debut than …listen, by Stealth.  Not rock in any way, but more mind-expanding than anything else I heard in 2015.

And talk about high stakes on the movie front!  The most anticipated movie of all time is going to be the most successful movie of all time, thanks to it pushing all the right buttons while moving the story into its next phase.  Because of my wife’s health condition (epilepsy) I don’t go out to movies very often, preferring to wait for the blu-ray.  Age of Ultron and Ant-Man pleased me immensely.  But worth more than just an honourable mention is Mad Mad: Fury Road.  Unlike Star Wars, Mad Max rebooted while going off into a startling new direction.  It was probably the most impressive film of the year…but even so, my 2015 was only about Star Wars.  Just trust me — see Mad Max: Fury Road.  See it many times.

Finally:  Rest in peace Lemmy Kilmister, Philthy Animal Taylor (that’s 2/3rds of the classic Motorhead lineup, wiped out), Scott Weiland, Chris Squire, Ornette Coleman, Ben E. King, Percy Sledge, A.J. Pero, Andy Fraser, and of course, B.B. King.

Happy New Year, everybody!

 

fnm