Iron Maiden

#648: “The Mall”

GETTING MORE TALE #648:  “The Mall”

For the first 23 or 24 years of my life, Stanley Park Mall was my epicenter. If I said “Mom, I’m going to the mall!” she knew where I meant. It wasn’t the biggest mall, and certainly not the best. But it was my mall.

This very typical mall, on Ottawa Street in Kitchener, opened in 1969. It was nothing special. There was nowhere to buy music, until it expanded with a Zellers store circa 1973. As small children, we weren’t interested in music yet. Instead it was Zellers’ toy section that had us enthralled.

In 1977 my mother took me to Stanley Park to look for a birthday present for a neighbor named John Schipper, older brother of my best friend Bob. “Look mom! The movie we just saw!” I exclaimed as I laid eyes on my first Star Wars figures. My mom bought C3P0 for John, and R2D2 for me, so we could play together. Little did she know what she got me into, by buying my first Star Wars figure at that Zellers store. But to be fair, who could have known?

The mall also had a bank, and my dad soon transferred there as its manager. I used to feel like such a big shot, strolling into my dad’s office. He’d let us sit at his desk and play with his calculator and telephone. I can even remember helping him with spelling on an internal memo!  Once, when my sister was sitting in his chair, she pushed the button for the silent alarm. “Hmmm, this doesn’t do anything,” she thought. After she left, the cops arrived in force to answer the alarm. My dad realised what happened too late!

With my dad working there, plus the Zellers store, it was our main destination for shopping or just being kids. It was walking distance from home. When I was old enough to cross streets by myself, my friends and I made regular trips on our bikes. The Little Short Stop store was our main hangout. We would buy candy, pop, chips, comic books, and Star Wars or Indiana Jones cards. I managed to get a full set of The Empire Strikes Back, and Raiders of the Lost Ark. I got them slowly, pack by pack, and by trading with friends. There was a neighbor who had the one Indiana Jones card I still needed called “I Hate Snakes”. A trade was made and I completed my set. I wish I knew what happened to all the doubles and triples of those cards.

When I was older, that Little Short Stop was my store for amassing a huge collection of rock and wrestling magazines. Hit Parader was my main title and I had a complete set of every issue from 1987-1990.

The mall was also right close to our grade school. Many of my friends would “cut through” the mall as a short cut to get home. One fellow, Chris, tells me he was sometimes chased around by mall security.  Naughty kid.

I remember there was a short-lived video store there. My dad refused to rent the Twisted Sister Stay Hungry video for me. He didn’t like the look of the “guy with the ham bone” on the front cover.

In 1987, something remarkable happened. Stanley Park Mall got its first actual record store: A&A Records and Tapes. Suddenly I had close access to all kinds of music, including 12” singles. I remember flipping through their Aerosmith and Europe singles, thinking “Woah, there are songs here I have never heard of.”

We still checked Zellers, but A&A became the place for us. In fact there were even A&A coupons on the back of every box of Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes. $1.00 off tapes! We sure cashed in a lot of A&A coupons that year. I loved checking out their front charts too. Vinyl was still happening, and the front chart was a big huge display of records. Much larger and more eye catching than a CD chart. I remember rejoicing when Judas Priest’s Ram It Down was on it.

I have clear memories of Bob Schipper and I walking to the mall in early April of 1988 to pick up a new release. Two copies of course; one for each of us. Iron Maiden’s Seventh Son of a Seventh Son was an album we had been looking forward to, and we both got it on that cold Saturday in April 1988.  (It took a while to adjust to the new Maiden sound, but Bob’s immediate favourite was “Infinite Dreams”.)

In 1989 I got my first real job, and it was at that very mall. The grocery store Zehrs was my first pay cheque. I cut my hair short for that job and was teased for it at school. Not only that, but suddenly I also needed glasses!  It was a pretty drastic image change.  But it was a cool work experience. Not only was I working at Zehrs with my best friend Bob, but my dad was still working in the mall too. All three of us in one place!

I was pretty loyal to A&A during those years at the mall, but in 1990 they went under. The last thing I ever bought at an A&A (though a different location) was a CD of Steve Vai’s Flex-Able and some blank tapes.

Yet every cloud has a silver lining. A former employee of A&A Records at our mall location decided to open a business of his own. Guess who he went to for the bank loan?  My dad!  Six months after A&A closed, he opened his own record store in that mall. The rest is history. The store that I now call “The Record Store” hired me on in July of 1994. And he’s still in business in 2018, albeit not in that mall anymore which suffered a slow and steady decline in the 90s.

There are no record stores in the mall anymore. Zellers went under, and Walmart took over. Their tiny little entertainment section is the only place to buy a CD. The bank is still there, and so is the grocery store, but my Little Short Shop is long gone. There isn’t much left. No Baskin Robbins, no 31 flavors.  Bargain shops and discount stores have replaced all the places I used to frequent as a kid. Sad, but not unexpected.

The strange thing is, as much as the mall has changed, I still get a huge shot of nostalgia when I walk into that Walmart that used to be my Zellers. Like a déjà vu, suddenly I am hit with the memory of finding a rare GI Joe, or flipping through Judas Priest tapes. The mall I knew from long ago is no longer the same, but the memory remains.

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#631: The Locker Door

GETTING MORE TALE #631: The Locker Door

Before the first day of highschool even began, I had selected the posters I was going to hang up inside.  For my first locker ever, at the beginning of grade nine, I chose Gene Simmons.  It was a weird picture of him from the Asylum era, no makeup, and his tongue pinned to the neck of his bass by the strings.  I was truly disappointed that girls found the picture repulsive and didn’t want to talk to me.  I’m still proud that I was flying the Kiss flag right from day one.  For some reason, I also had a picture of Mr. Mini Wheats, from a box of the same-named cereal.

Meanwhile, my best buddy Bob had something cooler.  It was a poster of Bruce Dickinson, circa 1986, standing next to the giant stage Eddie from Somewhere in Time.  Everybody seemed to agree that the new Blade Runner Eddie was the coolest one yet, and that poster was the envy of the hallway.  When he was done with it, Bob passed the locker poster down to me.  I was thrilled — so much that I used it again the next year.

Bob moved on to Samantha Fox.  She took over from where Eddie and Bruce once were.  “Hey, that one’s topless,” remarked the English teacher Mr. Payette as he strolled past.  She was covering her modesty with her arms, but she was indeed missing her top.

In grade 10, Bob and I did something sneaky.  On the first day of school, he advised me to bring an extra lock, and see if I could snag an extra, unoccupied locker.  I did — right next to my own, in fact.  So that year, Bob and I had this spare locker that we shared right next to mine.  He had this little Nerf basketball set.  You could hang a net from the locker door.  We also had gotten into remote control cars.  We stashed them in the spare locker and played with them during the lunch hour.  We got caught by the stern science teacher, Mr. Branday.  “Take this to the gym!” he shouted at us.

Branday was a weird guy.  Every year, he began his science class with the same line.  “Science is a tool of the mind.  With it, one can open more doors than with the bare hands alone!”

Bob and I had such a good time, that year of the two lockers.  A fresh succession of posters went up, although I hung onto Bruce and Eddie until it was literally falling apart.  One I liked a lot was a cardboard cut out of ZZ Top’s Eliminator car, from a Monogram model kit I built.  I always wanted to rig up a Walkman with a speaker in the door of that locker, but we figured if the racing cars got us in shit, music would even more.

Locker posters usually came from magazines such as Hit Parader, but it had to be a vertical poster.  A horizontal one would only be good for home.  A kid down the hall, Michael Wright, had a picture of a computer in his locker one year.  I tended to stick to rock stars.  Def Leppard went in there, and so did a rare picture of Vinnie Vincent in his Kiss makeup.

Some of the posters that survived

I tried to take care of my posters so I could use them again.  They seemed like a big part of my identity.  I brought my posters to school on the first day every year, so my locker would never be bare.  Nobody but Bob seemed to get that.  I always enjoyed carefully packing them up on the last day of school before summer holidays.  Except for the last year of highschool, when I knew it was the very last time.  There would be no more lockers.  The very last locker posters were coming down, for good.  I hated the feeling, the finality of it.  Knowing life was about to change and almost all my old friends would be gone doing their own things.  It was a…lonely feeling.  The lockers were always a communal place.  You’d chat with friends before or between classes.  Life really felt different afterwards.

Somewhere in this house in an old video tape, of my grade 13 year circa 1990.  Bob and I rented a camera one weekend, went into the unlocked school and did a tour.  On that video is a detailed look at my locker posters of 1990-1991.  One day I’m going to have to get a USB VCR and take a look.

#626.4: The Big Lists of 2017 Part Four: LeBrain brings the reign

LeBrain’s Top Lists for 2017

2017 was, from almost every angle, a shit year.  Another onslaught of losses in music, entertainment and sports (another list on its own).  2017 was as devastating as 2016, but perhaps all that loss was turned into musical dividends.  Before the year was even half over, I had already found my #1 album of 2017 from a surprising corner.  I knew as soon as I heard it that it was something remarkable.  I pencilled it into the #1, wondering who would topple it.  Over the months, no-one did.  Though my annual Top Five Albums list was not finalised until last week, the #1 album never changed.

Before we get to albums, however, let’s check out some winners in other categories!

BEST BOX SET

MAX WEBSTER – The Party

I put my reputation on the line when I recommended The Party to everyone I knew.  I only got good reviews in return.  For the record, it was our own Uncle Meat, back in July, who broke the news of this box set.  He knows someone involved with the remastering and was aware of the project well before the public was.  Though the packaging was bare bones, the reissue otherwise hits all the bases.

BEST REISSUE

DEF LEPPARD – Hysteria 30th anniversary edition

What was probably my #1 album for Christmas 1987 is my favourite reissue in 2017.  In a year featuring fantastic reissues by Marillion (Misplaced Childhood) and Whitesnake (1987), none brought me back in time like Leppard’s Hysteria did.

 


TOP FIVE ALBUMS OF 2017

In case you doubt, check out Deke’s list over at “Arena Rock”.  One of my favourite rock scribes agrees with me on most of these releases.  ‘Twas Deke who turned me onto the #5 album — thanks bud.

Normally I exclude live albums from my lists, but this has been a special year.

 

5 1/2 IRON MAIDEN – The Book of Souls: Live Chapter

5. STEPHEN PEARCY – Smash

4. ALICE COOPER – Paranormal

3. THE DARKNESS – Pinewood Smile

2. GRETA VAN FLEET – From the Fires

1. STYX – The Mission

I haven’t cared so much about Styx since I was 10 years old!  What an incredible album The Mission is.  And I’m counting it as CanCon, because of singer/pianist Lawrence Gowan (but you can call him Larry).


 

Other fun categories!

BEST NEW ARTIST – Greta Van Fleet

BEST SOUNDTRACK – John Williams, Star Wars: The Last Jedi

BEST SOCIAL MEDIA – Michael Sweet (Stryper)

BEST ARTWORK – Deep Purple, for InFinite

MOST IMPROVED BEHAVIOUR – W. Axl Rose (Guns N’ Roses)

BEST COMEBACK – Quiet Riot, for Road Rage

BEST GUITARIST – Tom Morello (Prophets of Rage)

BIGGEST DOUCHEBAG – Gene Simmons (KISS)

SECOND BIGGEST DOUCHEBAG – Kid Rock

BIGGEST MISTAKE – Black Sabbath and Bill Ward not playing together at all before The End, a wasted opportunity to set things right.

 

REVIEW: Iron Maiden – The Book of Souls: Live Chapter (2017)

IRON MAIDEN – The Book of Souls: Live Chapter (2017 Universal)

Not many bands can get away with releasing so many live albums so late in their career.  Iron Maiden can.  They can for three main reasons:

1: They still kick enormous amounts of ass.
2: Their setlist changes tour after tour and there will always be songs you won’t get to hear again.
3: See #1.

It doesn’t hurt that their new albums are as acclaimed as their old. Ever since Maiden’s 1999 reunion with Bruce Dickinson and Adrian Smith, we have been treated to an abnormally solid stream of brilliant records. Deal with the devil, perhaps? Faustian bargain #666?

The atmospheric and shadowy intro to “If Eternity Should Fail” is a perfect way to begin an Iron Maiden concert.  This track is magnificent.  It also serves as a dramatic way to open what is sure to be the greatest live experience on Earth. “Scream for me, Sydney!” yells Bruce to rile up the crowd. Yes, The Book of Souls: Live Chapter is taken from a number of different shows, which is a format Maiden have succeeded with before.

Another thing Maiden do successfully is top-load their live set with new songs.  The first two songs here are the same two as The Book of Souls itself.  Single “Speed of Light” really kicks up the excitement level.  To go from the epic drama of the opener to the taut single immediately causes an energy surge.  From there, we travel back to 1981 with “Wrathchild”.  It’s like a time machine to the London stages that young Maiden once trod upon.  Bruce’s scream is unholy.

Jump cut to Canada and “Children of the Damned”.  Bruce speaks French for the raving Montreal crowd, a nice touch of respect for the province of Quebec.  Maiden never sagged in popularity there.  In Quebec, Maiden’s 1995 album The X Factor (with lead singer Blaze Bayley) went Top 10.  Back to new material, “Death or Glory” is another energetic shorty.   The triple guitar solo slays.   Then it goes to epic, “The Red and the Black”, 13 minutes and the longest track on the album.  Riff overload!  Unabated, we launch into “The Trooper” and “Powerslave”, both old classics that remain as amped up as they were in the 80s.  It is pure joy to listen.  (Only qualm: backing vocals on “Powerslave” sound like tape.)

A pair of top-notch new songs, “The Great Unknown” and “The Book of Souls” kick off the second CD.  These are not short tracks.  In a way this is the “meat” of the set.  It is a run of 17 combined minutes of epic Maiden, and it’s a lot to swallow.  Savour every bite; this is prime stuff.  And will they ever be played live again?  Who can say?

You know the show is drawing to a close when you hear the opening chords to “Fear of the Dark”.  This favourite has been in the set since 1992.  It’s the crowd’s chance to really sing along and be a part of it.  More favourites follow:  “Iron Maiden” and “The Number of the Beast”.  (Absent is “Run to the Hills” which is on plenty of other live Maiden albums of recent vintage.)  “Blood Brothers” from the reunion album Brave New World seems oddly placed in the second-to-last slot.  The crowd at Download festival are thrilled to sing along.  On CD, you can hear Steve on backing vocals clearly, and appreciate how he and Bruce complement each other.  Then finally, it’s a terrific “Wasted Years” from underdog favourite Somewhere in Time.

The mix here is just dandy.  There are variances in sound from track to track and city to city, but these are minor and only natural.  You can clearly pick apart the instruments in the stereo field, and it’s pure delight to do so.  Once again, Iron Maiden have released a quality product.  You cannot go wrong by investing in any version of The Book of Souls: Live Chapter.

4.5/5 stars;

#589: Metal 101 – Learning the Basics in the Original School of Rock (Circa 1984-86)

GETTING MORE TALE #589:
Metal 101 – Learning the Basics in the Original School of Rock (Circa 1984-86)

I started getting really serious about rock and roll in the mid-80s. I was 12. Much Music had arrived. I had instant access to so many great bands. Thanks to the Power Hour, I had an hour dedicated to heavy metal every week.  I also had friends like Bob and George who were willing to let me tape things from their collections.  I started buying rock magazines.  But there was a learning curve.

Take Van Halen, for example.  All I knew of them were a couple singles from 1984.  I had seen the video for “Jump”.  I had also learned from my friends that Eddie Van Halen was the greatest guitar player alive.  Since I didn’t know the difference between a guitar and a bass, I assumed Michael Anthony was Eddie Van Halen.  I don’t know why I assumed that, except I probably liked Michael’s beard.  Bob and George corrected me, but I wondered, “How can you tell a guitar from a bass guitar?”

“A bass only has four strings”, they told me.  And you could tell the number of strings by the tuning pegs.  I got it!  Soon I was able to start piecing the rest together.  George bought a bass a few months later.  There is a local musical legend that lived on our street named Rob Szabo.  He is a very talented player, singer and songwriter.  He was starting to put together his own band, and all he needed was a bassist.  George was adamant that he was that bassist.  He decided this before he even bought a bass.  Rob was too nice a guy to tell George that they wanted someone else with more experience.  He didn’t expect George to buy a bass because of the vacancy in the band.  To his horror, that is exactly what George did.  I think he jammed with them once or twice before they let him go.  Maybe not even once.

Undeterred, George learned the instrument by playing along to records.  He put together a couple bands of his own, like Asylum and Zephyr.  His singing was shit, but his bass playing wasn’t bad at all.  He got pretty good at it.  But sadly, in our neighborhood, George might be best remembered for his attempts at singing.

George’s bedroom window was right next to our front step where I hung out a lot as a kid.  Bob and I would be up there listening to music, or even playing GI Joes on the lawn.  Sometimes we’d sit there in just listen to George.  You’d hear him put on a record, start playing along on bass, and when he got singing you’d think a cat was being tortured up there.  It was horrendous, but he seemed to have no idea how awful his singing really was.

George worked at Long John Silver’s which was about a 20 or 30 minute walk.  In the early hours of the morning, I saw George walking down the street alone with his headphones on, heading for work.  Suddenly he burst out:  “ALRIGHT! LOVE GUN!”  Then came the barely recognizable chorus of one of my favourite Kiss songs.  It was the kind of scene that you’d make sure you got on video today.  Another time, he was singing Judas Priest.  We ran into him that time and asked him what’s up?  “It’s Priest Week,” he answered.  He was only listening to Judas Priest that week, it seems.

One time George was over playing his bass, and he asked me if I knew how to pick out a bass line in a song.  I actually did, and I learned it by hearing him play bass along with his records.

Besides Kiss, Priest, and Van Halen, I was learning about bands such as Iron Maiden and Black Sabbath.  Bob had a Black Sabbath tape with a baby devil on the cover.  He brought it over one time, raving about a song called “Zero the Hero”.  We listened to it and it was cool.  I especially liked the spooky music between songs.  That was my first taste of Black Sabbath.  I knew who Ozzy Osbourne was, but I didn’t know he was in Black Sabbath before.  All I knew was the singer of Black Sabbath had long black hair and looked really evil.  Ian Gillan was my first Black Sabbath singer.

George was really cool about letting me tape his stuff, to the point that he’d bring his VCR over so I could even record his videos.  We did this on about two or three occasions, as he had quite a collection of taped videos.  I was interested in getting some more Dio.  I had heard “Holy Diver” and wanted some more, so I got the video for “The Last in Line”.  The clip was a trip to a hellish underworld of monsters and musical vigilantes.  A bit later, we got to a Black Sabbath video for “Neon Nights”.  I recognized the two moustache guys.  But who was that singer?

I timidly asked George, “Hey…did Dio ever have anything to do with Black Sabbath?”

“Yeah, that’s him.”

No way!  My brain expanded about six levels that afternoon.

Sabbath had a singer before the long black haired guy.  Unreal.  George told me that guy (Ian Gillan) was the singer from Deep Purple.  Holy shit!

A few months after that, we were in the park listening to Sabbath’s Paranoid on cassette.  “That’s Ozzy singing!” shouted Bob above the music.  I simply could not believe it.  And not long after that, I was watching Much Music again when they debuted a brand new Sabbath video with yet another singer!  A bearded guy!  Some guy named Glenn Hughes?  Never heard of him before.  He had a beard and a suit.  Not really very rock and roll.  Could you imagine my reaction if I knew at that time that Glenn Hughes was also a singer in Deep Purple?

The circle was becoming complete.  This kind of trivia was like candy to me.  I ate it up, every last morsel that I could absorb.  Band “A” led me to Band “B” and Band “C” via these kinds of connections.  Ozzy even connected back to Quiet Riot, the first “metal” tape I ever bought, via original guitarist Randy Rhoads.  He was about the only guy who could rival Eddie Van Halen in the guitar stakes, according to my friends.  But there was a new up-and-comer that Much Music kept talking about, named Yngwie Malmsteen.

Much was an advantage my neighbors didn’t have.  Neither Bob, nor George, nor Rob Szabo had the channel.  I began growing and developing tastes of my own, though still heavily influenced by my friends.  On my own, I found White Wolf, Sammy Hagar, Savatage, Queensryche, Aerosmith…and Spinal Tap.

Yes, Spinal Tap.  “Hell Hole” became one of my favourite songs during the summer of ’86.  My sister liked it.  She hated her Catholic school, and as we’d drive by, she’d sing “Don’t wanna stay in this Hell Hole!”  That school was a indeed a “hell hole”.  Shitty teachers and shittier bullies who did not like heavy metal.

It’s true that the teachers gave me hell for wearing a Judas Priest T-shirt.  It is also true that we went to a retreat for a week, where music T-shirts and players were forbidden.  I have always been drawn to music since my earliest memories.  What did these teachers have against music?  I knew.  It was the old myth that these groups were “Satanic” and would drive us to all do drugs and die.  What those teachers didn’t know was that the music made me feel good without drugs.  I was even expanding my vocabulary.  Bands like Judas Priest and Black Sabbath were not simplistic with their lyrics.  I learned words such as “pyre” and “pneumatic”.  Through Iron Maiden, I was learning about literature and history.  I knew stuff that they weren’t even teaching in school, about Alexander the Great, the Gordian Knot, and the Rime of the Ancient Mariner.  How could that be bad?

Fuck ’em.  I trusted myself.  I was smart enough to know better than they did.

I look back at these early days, and I’m not surprised that it’s these bands that the core of my tastes are built around today.  Long live rock and roll.

 

WTF Search Terms: WOO! edition

WTF SEARCH TERMS XXXVII: WOO! edition

What are “WTF Search Terms”, you ask?  Simply, they are phrases that people typed into a search engine to wind up at mikeladano.com.  They’re sometimes weird, sometimes wonderful, and always amusing.  I hope you enjoy this 37th instalment of WTF Search Terms!

First please welcome “Nature Boy” Ric Flair to the WTF Search Term family!  The 16 time world wrestling champion was immortalized in the Legendary Klopeks song “Ric Flair” from their album Straight to Hell.  Someone googled the lyrics:

i wanna do a chop i wanna do a woo i wanna be like ric flair cause he’s so fucking cool

I love that somebody heard that lyric and had to google it.  Next up:

does anyone like the 2002 version of blizzard of ozz

The answer is yes:  Sharon does.  But next is a band that Sharon does not like.

benjamin of beef iron maiden

Oh, autocarrot.  I think they meant Benjamin Breeg.

This next person mixed up two bands, but it also could be autocarrot.  Funny either way:

deep leppard heartbreak

Then a grouping of searches for Snake the Tattoo Man.  But people need to decide where he’s from.  (It’s London).

snake from brantford tattoo guy
guy named snake in london, on
the man called snake, london, on

I got a chuckle from this next one:

fankie banali sucks

Well, let’s be fair.  Frankie Banali is an awesome drummer.  I’d never say he sucks.  I never have.  But his current version of Quiet Riot does kinda suck.  Unlike the following album:

europe last look at eden satanic lyrics

Oh, come on.  I’m sick of the “satanic” accusations levelled at this band.  Some deluded people actually think Joey Tempest is a demon.  I’m not fucking kidding.  Next question.

does album slave to the grind have any value?

Only what the music is worth to you.

which rock band was dressed to die in 1974

Hah!  None.  But Kiss were Dressed to Kill in 1975.

Thanks for reading!  The WTF Search Terms keep rolling in, so there will always be more….

 

 

 

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

 

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