jimi hendrix

#725: “Mum’s” Music

GETTING MORE TALE #725: “Mum’s” Music

We couldn’t keep everything from “Mum’s” house.  Jen’s mother amassed a huge amount of possessions over the years.  We had to choose what to keep and what to leave behind.  Like most people, she had a lot of old worthless albums and CDs.  She also had a couple good ones, some of which baffled me.  I know I gave her the Rush CD, but I don’t know where some of these others came from!  Many are still sealed with price tags affixed.

I know I’m bad for that too.  I have many CDs that have been here for years, still sealed.  My collection is several thousand albums deep now.  There is a lot of stuff I just haven’t gotten around to hearing yet.  I guess “Mum” was the same.  I never really saw her listening to music at home although I know she loved certain artists and songs.  I don’t think she even had a working CD player anymore.  Jen says they mostly listened to music in the car.

Because she was so supportive, she owned two CDs by my sister Kathryn.  Her solo album Open is ironically still sealed.  Mum would have bought that at the CD release show, back in 2010 at the Button Factory in Waterloo.  (I was supposed to perform our song “Evil Kirk” that night but I was suffering from a throat infection so it was impossible for me to do.)  Mum loved watching Kathryn perform even if the music was beyond her.  She also had a copy of my sister’s first CD, A Recital of Works for Bass Clarinet.  I brought these back home with me.  Maybe I’ll do a contest to give them away.

Some decent greatest hits discs were found.  I think Mum would be glad that we kept some of her jazz classics.  I needed some Louis Armstrong, and now I have All Time Greatest Hits (1994) with 18 songs.  She also loved Etta James; she danced with Jen’s dad to “At Last” at our wedding.  Etta James was one of her favourites.  I’m going to do my best to appreciate her music.  Etta James’ Her Best (1997, 20 tracks) is still sealed but I’ll crack it open and give it a shot.

The Beach Boys’ Sounds of Summer also looks like a good one.  It’s 30 songs and I know virtually all of them.  Jen is a huge Beach Boys fan and I think this greatest hits is better than any she had before.  We will get lots of play from this, I know.  Then there’s Experience Hendrix: The Best of Jimi Hendrix!  This one is opened!  I never heard her mention Jimi Hendrix, not once.  We have no idea what she was doing with Jimi in her collection.  I already have lots of Jimi, but this one has a really nice booklet with liner notes.

Two sealed Beatles CDs were in the collection.  Jen and I are the bigger Beatles fans, but we didn’t own Live at the BBC Volume 1 or 2!  These are the 2013 remasters, too.  I’ll admit I’ve never liked the first Live at the BBC.  It came out during my first Christmas at the Record Store, and it stiffed.  We sat on a huge pile of them that we couldn’t sell.  Nobody wanted rough live versions of Beatles songs.  People wanted the hits, and BBC disappointed many when it appeared under the Christmas tree in 1994.  (The same thing happened with Anthology 1 in 1995.)  Now we have both BBC sets, so we’ll have to give them another chance.  She also had Abbey Road on LP, which isn’t in terrible shape.  It’s my favourite Beatles album and it will be cool to hear it on vinyl, the way it was intended.

Also among the LPs was a Beach Boys double hits LP called Summer Dreams.  I was excited to find one by Gordon Lightfoot called 2 Originals of Gordon Lightfoot.  This contains two of his complete albums, Don Quixote and Summer Side of Life.  I owned neither until now.  Some of the coolest records were the soundtracks.  We took Rocky, Chariots of Fire, and The Buddy Holly Story.  The cool thing about The Buddy Holly Story is that the cast are the actual singers and musicians.  So that means it’s Gary Busey singing and playing lead guitar.  And he’s great!  This is a classic soundtrack that I am glad to finally own.

As discussed in a previous chapter, for some reason when Mum was sick, I felt a strong connection to Cat Stevens.  Specifically it was the song “If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out”.  When we were watching over her in her last days, that song came into my head and I don’t know why.  I felt like she was trying to tell me something.  She never wanted either of us to be sad.  In my mind, it seemed like Mum was telling me not to be sad.  “Well, if you want to sing out, sing out.  And if you want to be free, be free.  ‘Cause there’s a million things to be, you know that there are.”  It seemed like something she would have said.  So when she finally passed, and we started going through her things, I found a Cat Stevens CD with that exact song on it.  It’s not on the 1975, 1990, or 2000 greatest hits albums.  But it is on Icon.  There it was, still sealed, and it had the song.  How strange, I thought, as a tear went down my face.

The world is strange indeed; or as Cat said it’s a “Wild World”.  There are coincidences that seem connected even if they are not.  The human brain has a knack for finding patterns, and many of us mistake this for deeper meaning.  Even though it could be pure chance, I think Mum was speaking to me when that song came into my head.  It’s a comforting thought.  I’ll take it.

When I write these stories about her, I miss her even more.  I can’t do it without crying at least once.  But it’s important to me that you get to know her a little bit.  She was an amazing woman, and this is just a small part of the music that she loved.

REVIEW: Wayne’s World – Music from the Motion Picture (1992)

MOVIE SOUNDTRACK WEEK

By a weird coincidence, I wrote up this review on the exact same night that Aaron wrote up his for the KMA. Weeeeeeird.

Scan_20160605WAYNE’S WORLD – Music from the Motion Picture (1992 Warner)

Today we’ll take an extreme close up look at Wayne Campbell, Garth Algar, and the movie soundtrack that returned Queen to the top of the charts.

Wayne’s World was a phenomenon.  Not only did it put Queen back on their throne, but it also kickstarted a whole wave of Saturday Night Live movie spinoffs, including the Coneheads and Pat.  The soundtrack was one that “everybody” had to have.   While I had started my Queen collection well before the movie came out, this soundtrack was the first place that I acquired “Bohemian Rhapsody”.  In many regards, you can almost regard “Bohemian” as a brand new song in 1992.  It charted as if it was brand new, and it became a cultural cornerstone only after the movie.  I know I can’t be the only one who head-banged to it in the car on weekend nights during the summer of ’92.  As one of the most campy yet brilliant tracks ever recorded in the history of rock, “Bohemian” deserved everything that came its way.

The soundtrack CD was made up of new and old material like “Bohemian”.  Also dusted off:  “Dream Weaver” by Gary Wright.  Though not to the same degree as Queen, Gary Wright experienced a bit of a renaissance thanks to the prominent usage of the song in the film.  The 1975 soft rock ballad is still cheesey fun today.  Then, Jimi Hendrix’s “Foxy Lady” was given a fresh release in one of the most memorable Garth scenes.  Admit it:  If you are over a certain age, you make the little “fox ears” on your head just like Garth Did when Jimi sings “Foxy”!  I know you do — don’t try to lie.  Although I can’t recall the song being in the movie at all, a mediocre Eric Clapton outtake from 1985 is included on the CD, in “Loving Your Lovin'”.  It’s about as memorable as you would expect a mid-80’s Clapton outtake to be; its just “OK”.  Of course, everyone knows that Alice Cooper’s “Feed My Frankenstein” was used during the Cooper cameo in the movie.  It introduced Alice to a whole new generation who still remember and love that song.

New tracks included the zippy Red Hot Chili Peppers funk blitzkrieg “Sikamikanico”.  Bass pulsing in time with the racing beats, this is the kind of Chili Peppers I love.   Meanwhile, Black Sabbath unveiled their first new material with Dio since 1981, on “Time Machine”.  This Wayne’s World version of the song is completely different from the one that was recorded for Dehumanizer, although both are included on the Sabbath remaster.  The Wayne’s World version feels faster and more frantic.  It was quite a thrill for fans to hear a brand new Black Sabbath song in a mainstream comedy movie.  (Cool scene too, with Robert Patrick of Terminator 2 fame.)  Although the soundtrack couldn’t resurrect their careers, both Cinderella and Bulletboys had new tunes on the CD.  Bulletboys tackled a cover of Montrose’s “Rock Candy”, perfect for their Van Halen worshipping vibe.  Cinderella had a new rocker to show off, a soul-infused vintage song called “Hot and Bothered”, which was a fine return to form but had no impact.  Finally, Rhino Bucket who were considered heirs to the throne of AC/DC included a new song called “Ride With Yourself” from their 1992 album Get Used to It.  It’s cleaner sounding than AC/DC but it’s in that ballpark.

Finally there are the throw away tracks.  At the time, Tia Carrere was being hyped up for a music career.  They hooked her up with Ted Templeman and recorded a cover of “Ballroom Blitz” (you know the scene in the movie) and a ballad called “Why You Wanna Break My Heart”.  Both are fine in the movie, but not really necessary for rock fans in general to own on CD.  Still, here they are!  (Tia’s version of Hendrix’s “Fire”, also in the movie, was included on the B-side of the “Ballroom Blitz” single.)  Then there is a throw-away version of the Wayne’s World theme song with Wayne and Garth singing.  I’ll take the Aerosmith version any day!

Not on the soundtrack CD, but prominently featured in the film, was Ugly Kid Joe’s hit “Everything About You”.  No big loss; you should be able to find their Ugly As They Wanna Be EP for under $5.  Party on!

3/5 stars

DVD REVIEW: A Serious Man (2009)

“When the truth is found to be lies, and all the joy within you dies…then what?” — Rabbi Marshak

 


 

Scan_20160215A SERIOUS MAN (2009 Alliance)

Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen

A Serious Man is a black comedy about Larry Gopnik, a Jewish mathematics professor, age unspecified, who realizes one day that his life seems to be falling apart. The setting is a very convincing 1967 in Minnesota.

His brother is sleeping on the family’s couch and constantly nursing a monstrous (but never seen, thank God) cyst on his neck. Then he learns that his wife is leaving him for his friend Sy Ableman. His son Danny is smoking pot and signed up for the Columbia Record Club, under dad’s name.  Santana’s Abraxas was automatically mailed but no payments have been sent!  Danny’s selling the records for drug money, but he’s more worried about taking a beating from Mike Fagel (“a fucker”) over a $20 pot debt when he should be worried about Hebrew school and his upcoming Bar Mitzvah.  (“Studying Torah, asshole!”)   His daughter Sarah is always either washing her hair or out with her friends. Within this setting, innumerable irritants and stumbling blocks fall in his way, usually within the same scene. Jefferson Airplane’s “Somebody to Love” is the opening and recurring music to a heap of problems the characters get in.  (Rock fans also take note: Jimi Hendrix shows up later.)

All that Larry (Michael Stuhlbarg) wants is to make something of his life, and become “a serious man”. Expectations, demands and obligations seem to obstruct him at all times.  Confusing advice from Rabbis, a neighbor who seems to tease him by sunbathing topless, a South Korean exchange student offering him bribes, another neighbor seemingly encroaching on the property line, his card-counting brother, and his own faith seem to taunt him at every turn. It’s not a complex story: it is character driven, comedic, dramatic and nostalgic all at once. In other words, typical Coen fare.  I love the ironic but authentic touches like a doctor lighting up a cigarette in his office.

The recurring theme of the movie is (or isn’t) Shroedinger’s paradox.  Larry’s about to get tenure at work even though everything else is falling apart.  “Even I don’t understand the dead cat,” says Larry near the beginning of the film, but it is clear that actions do have consequences.  All Larry needs are answers, but they are not forthcoming.  He thinks that perhaps the reclusive Rabbi Marshak can help him, but he knows that the math says you can’t ever know anything with certainty.

As is par for the course with Coen films, special features are sparse. There is a brief bit explaining all the Jewish terminology in the film done as entertainingly as possible. There’s a great feature on how they made the neighborhood look exactly like 1967, and how they got the cars, costumes and locations. Finally there is a feature with the Coens and actors on the film itself, what it means, and what inspired it.

I particularly enjoyed the unconnected short story that opened the movie.  Jewish folklore and the vivid minds of Coens collided and this short story is the result. I think it’s designed to set a mood, but also to act something like an opening cartoon which used to precede movies in the 60’s.  This tale of the returned dybbuk is subtitled and presented in the old fullscreen format instead of wide.

Look for The Big Bang Theory‘s Simon Helberg in a small role as Rabbi Scott.

5/5 stars

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REVIEW: Def Leppard – “Have You Ever Needed Someone So Bad” (1992 CD single)

Part three in a series on singles from Def Leppard’s Adrenalize, including hard to find B-sides!

DEL LEP SINGLE_0005DEF LEPPARD – “Have You Ever Needed Someone So Bad” (1992 Phonogram CD single)

On their last single, “Make Love Like a Man”, Def Leppard released their first acoustic recording in a song called “Two Steps Behind”.  This time, they went all-in.  Not content with a couple acoustic guitars, Joe called up some friends from Hothouse Flowers (Fiachna Ó Braonáin, Liam Ó Maonlaí, and  Peter O’Toole) and formed an octet* called the Acoustic Hippies from Hell!  As the Acoustic Hippies, they did three songs:  an unreleased Joe original called “From the Inside” and two covers.  The Flowers brought tin whistle, piano and mandolin to the table.

“From the Inside” is a haunting number, with Joe singing about addiction from the perspective of the drug.  “I’ll shoot through your veins, I’ll drive you insane.”  Joe first played it for a television program called Friday at the Dome.  Liam Ó Maonlaí and he played it together as an experiment in artists from two different fields colliding.  Joe liked the song enough to record it here with the Acoustic Hippies.  This song was re-released in 1993 on Retro-Active, but added the original count-in from the session.  It’s certainly a good song but not easy for some Leppard fans to appreciate.

The guys then jam on 7 1/2 minutes of “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”.  This is a highlight of the single, a fantastic version that deserves more attention. You might be surprised just how good this is. It sounds 100% live, with people calling out cues and hoots and hollers. Almost as good is Hendrix’s “Little Wing”. Softer and less rambunctious, it is haunting more like “From the Inside”.  Thankfully these two tracks were later reissued on the Adrenalize deluxe edition.

These three B-sides completely outshine the A-side, the putrid “Have You Ever Needed Someone So Bad” from Adrenalize.  This annoying title is only slightly worse than the song itself, one of the most by-the-numbers ballads that Def Leppard have foisted upon the fans.  Of course it became a top 10 charting single in the US.

3.5/5 stars

* There are no drums but Rick Allen is credited for “acoustic inspiration”.

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Adrenalize singles:

Part 1:  “Let’s Get Rocked”
Part 2: “Make Love Like a Man”

Up next:  “Heaven Is”

REVIEW: Alice Cooper – Raise the Dead: Live from Wacken (2 CD/1 Blu-ray)

NEW-ish RELEASE

Epic review time.

ALICE COOPER – Raise the Dead: Live from Wacken (2CD/1 Blu-ray, 2014 UDR)

This beast of a set was a gift from the ever-faithful Aaron, and I do thank you so much for it.  Alice Cooper in 1080i hi-def, 5.1 surround sound.  The CD has more songs than the Blu-ray, so I’m going to review both simultaneously, but let you know when it’s a track that’s exclusive to CD.  Let’s give’r!

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“Hello Hooray”!  It’s still daylight in Wacken, when Alice proclaims to “let the show begin, I’ve been ready”.  Alice is resplendent in his sharp red and black stripped tux.  Australian beauty Orianthi has a drip of blood in the corner her mouth, and smears of it on her guitar and arms.  “Hello Hooray” leads directly into a modern version of 1989’s “House of Fire”.  With the three guitars live, it has a lot more bite to it, and neat six-string twists.  (“House of Fire” briefly segues into the riff from “With a Little Help From My Friends”.  Remember that.  That’s important.)  Not letting up for a second, it’s into “No More Mr. Nice Guy” and then immediately “Under My Wheels”!  There’s simply no let up as the crowd starts surfing.  Alice’s six piece band are visual and boast three lead soloists.

IMG_20150102_104812Newer song “I’ll Bite Your Face Off” is one of only two songs from Welcome 2 My Nightmare.  The cool thing is how easily Orianthi digs into the vintage guitar stylings of it.  She is an absolute natural.  Even though there are four other talented musicians on stage, she commands attention without even trying.  Alice chases her around the stage, as she casually throws down classic guitar licks.  He has changed into a black leather jacket.

“Billion Dollars Babies” takes the focus temporarily back to the oldies.  Alice wields a sword impaled with money, taunting the crowd.  The wheels temporarily come off with “Caffeine”.  I always welcome newer material, but I’d prefer just about any other song from Welcome 2.  Alice has traded the sword for a giant coffee mug that he holds dear like his “precious”.  Thankfully Orianthi lays down a blazing solo (actually two) , because otherwise I’d say this is my song on which to pee.  But, I wouldn’t want to miss the classic “Department of Youth” from the original Welcome to my Nightmare, one of my top 10 Alice tracks of all time.

I like a rock show with variety, so I’m glad Alice pulled “Hey Stoopid” out of his 1991 hat.  In the 5.1 mix, I don’t like the way some of the guitars just kind of drop out in the verses of this arrangement.  I’ll have to listen to that again.  It didn’t sound right.  Otherwise it’s great with plenty of shredding.  “Dirty Diamonds” was another surprise.  I saw Alice play that one here in Kitchener on the Dirty Diamonds tour.  That whole album is excellent, but the title track has a smoking riff.   Drummer Glen Sobol gets a moment in the spotlight, accompanied by bassist Chuck Garric.  A drum solo in the middle of an Alice Cooper show is not always a good thing, but this is actually a cool, worthwhile solo.  There’s some crazy hand-over-hand stuff, tricks with sticks, and interesting cymbal work.  Then it’s Orianthi’s turn.  She is, without a doubt in my mind, one of the best guitar players out there today.  Every note is worth something.  The whole band come together at the front line, and the crowd goes nuts!  Meanwhile….

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As good as the solos are, in the context of the Alice Cooper show, they were merely a distraction.  Where did Alice go?  The opening strains of “Welcome to My Nightmare” indicate Act II has begun.  He has emerged as the Showman.  Weilding a dagger in one hand, he leads the charge into 1976’s “Go to Hell”.  The two songs serve as a wicked intro to the theatrical part of the show.  Alice attacks lead soloist Ryan Roxie with a whip, but it doesn’t phase the guitarist who safely evades him.

IMG_20150102_120925Out of Alice’s trick bag comes “He’s Back (The Man Behind the Mask)” the legendary campy 80’s theme from Friday the 13th Part III.  Stripped of the keyboards and drum machines, it functions as a living, rocking entity.  The three guitars enable the band to fill the spaces previously played by synths in the studio.  Orianthi’s guitar solo just leaves my jaw on the floor.   Keeping with the monster theme is “Feed My Frankenstein” from Hey Stoopid and Wayne’s World.  Alice has changed into a blood smeared smock.  He is strapped to an evil looking device by “Igor” and electrocuted!  Then a monster-sized Franken-Alice appears to finish the song!  The real Alice returns in a straight jacket for the still haunting “Dwight Fry”.  This most intense Cooper classic is well served by three guitarists, loaning a “Freebird” epic quality to it live.  “I’ve gotta get out of here!” screams Alice with the agony he manages to muster for every performance.  Breaking free of his bonds, he attacks Nurse Sheryl, only be executed to the tune of the exit music from “Killer”.  It’s the guillotine again for Alice Cooper.  His head is hoisted into the air by a black-clad executioner to a chorus of “I Love the Dead” (Alice singing off-stage).  Act II is over.  Act III is beginning.

Though uncredited, the opening music for “DaDa” (from 1983’s DaDa, a cool cameo) plays as Alice is surgically resurrected in the graveyard of the Hollywood Vampires. The Hollywood Vampires were the drinking club down at the Rainbow…the teachers and the students.  Lennon and Keith Moon passed down the ways of drinking to the likes of Vincent Furnier and Marc Bolan. A voice booms to Alice, “What are you going to do?  Raise the dead?”  So that’s what Alice does….

RAISE THE DEAD 2_0001First it’s Morrison.  The Doors’ “Break on Through” finally has balls to it!  I never liked the Doors.  I like Alice doing the Doors, so they can’t be all that bad.  What’s interesting is how Alice can morph his voice to suit these covers.  He uses a lower, howling early Alice voice to do the Doors.  For the next track, “Revolution” (exclusive to CD) he uses his nasal Cooper voice, to cop that Beatles feel.  He also does the opening McCartney scream…of course.  You have to have that.  The band hit the high backing notes perfectly too.  The classic riff to “Foxy Lady”(exclusive to CD) indicates that Jimi Hendrix is the next Hollywood Vampire to be honored.  Another cool connection is that both Alice and Jimi were important musical icons honored in the movie Wayne’s World.  And the song was “Foxy Lady”.  Next it’s Keith Moon and “My Generation”.  Chuck Garric gets a moment to shine on those glorious Entwistle bass licks.  It’s quite a bit more modern and slick than the Who’s, but the backing vocals are remarkably authentic.

Thematically “My Generation” connects to “I’m Eighteen”.  Ryan Roxie and Orianthi both play solos on “Eighteen”, and smoke each one.  Then, “Poison” is the final song of the set, a slick reminder that Alice Cooper survived the 1970’s only to become more popular than ever in the 80’s, 90’s and present.  “Poison” has stood the test of time.  It’s not a particularly simple song; just listen to those backing vocals.  They have to be right, they can’t be off.  Although I hadn’t really thought of “Poison” as a set closer, it does work in that slot and ends the show on a celebratory note.

RAISE THE DEAD 2_0003The encore of “School’s Out” is the real celebration of course; the stage ablaze with lights and Alice clad in gold.  It’s a mash-up with “Another Brick in the Wall”, proving again that mash-ups can sometimes produce fascinating results.   I love Alice’s stage introductions for the musicians.  “In a world where evil has a name, and that name is…Orianthi!  And playing the part of Alice Cooper tonight…me!”

But Nurse Sheryl returns to the stage one last time and stabs Alice!  I have a feeling our anti-hero will be back to terrorize us again on another tour….

There is only one Blu-ray bonus feature.  The pre-Wacken interview with Alice is cool because it’s completely uncut.  It’s only 20 minutes, but it’s insightful. Cooper is always a pleasure to listen to.  The concept behind Raise the Dead revolves around his old, long gone buddies from the Hollywood Vampire.  With this show, Cooper is paying tribute back to those guys, his idols and friends.  The show has some history to it, he says.  A little bit of a lesson.  But the kids already know the songs, says Alice.  The tunes like “Foxy Lady” and “Break on Through” are already familiar to them.  Every kid seems to own a classic rock T-shirt.

Cooper muses that his live show is probably as close to Broadway as many of his new young fans will ever see.  He reminds us that he has his own Broadway influences — “Gutter Cat vs. the Jets” from West Side Story, for example.  His own solo band is so tight now that he doesn’t have to worry about the music part.  Alice can get on with the show and performance, because the music is in good hands.  He has particular praise for the stage presence and chops of Orianthi.  As for the show, It’s no longer about shock, says Alice.  You can’t shock the audience anymore.  Now, it’s about entertainment.  Give them something entertaining and of good value.

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The hidden theme in the show is that everything is connected.  The kids pick up on the connections behind the music.  “School’s Out” and “Another Brick in the Wall” are presented as a medley.  Who produced both songs? Whose kids are on both songs? Bob Ezrin.  Connections!

The Blu-ray also has a substantial booklet included, the kind of thing that people who buy physical product still care about.  I’d rather have this than a crappy photo slide show or text on a DVD.  My only quibble is that I was underwhelmed by the 5.1 mix.  I may have had my setting messed up, and I will have to try again.  It was “Hey Stoopid” where this was particularly unpleasant to me.  I’ll have to check that and try again.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with the CDs, which sound friggin’ great.

4.5/5 stars

This product is…

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#322: Highway to Hell (RSTs Mk II: Getting More Tale)

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RECORD STORE TALES Mk II:  Getting More Tale

#322:  Highway to Hell

The big peave that I have today in my current work is my daily commute. It’s not far at all (I can do it in 10 minutes if there’s no traffic) but it can be hairy. To understand this, you would have to see the poor planning that went into the roads in Kitchener-Waterloo-Cambridge, otherwise known as the tri-cities area.

To get from work (in Cambridge) to home (in Kitchener), there are only a handful of good routes. The trick is getting across the Grand River, and there are only three nearby bridges to access. One of them is Highway 8 into town (two lanes each way but expanding), which is always in a state of construction. Another is the King St. bridge (one lane each way) and another is Fairway Road (a bit too far out of my way). Any accidents can cause jams on any of these routes, but the worst location is what I call the “sweet spot”:

The Tri-Cities "Sweet Spot"

The Tri-cities “Sweet Spot”

The “sweet spot” is on Highway 401, between Hespeler Road and Highway 8 into Kitchener. An accident there at the right time of day (3-4 o’clock) will tie up traffic going into town on any of my routes. Prior to the opening of the Fairway Road bridge, accidents there have delayed me by almost two hours (on a normally 10-15 minute drive). Add in winter weather conditions for part of the year and you’re in for a real good time.

There are accidents on my 10-15 minute drive home nearly every day. Once a month there will be an accident in the dreaded “sweet spot” causing major delays. Last week there were two in a row!  On those days, all I can do is study the traffic map, select a route and hope for the best!

When I first started this commute, all I had was a single disc CD player in my car. Each day I’d pick an album to listen to.  I only had room for one or two CDs in the car at a time.  Length didn’t matter; a Van Halen album would be perfectly fine for my commute on a good day. On a bad day however, you can count on running out of music and having to start over! Fortunately I have since switched to a couple 8 gig flash drives, avoiding traffic tie-up repeats.

On the bright side, a “sweet spot” traffic tie-up informed my review of Sloan’s The Double Cross (which I got to hear twice in one drive), during my drive home.

Other commuting misadventures that I witness on my way home, on a daily basis:

1. Motorcycle idiots passing between two cars. On the highway. Last seen on Friday last week.
2. People passing on the shoulder of the 401.
3. Being cut off in traffic, daily.
4. Idiots on cell phones.
5. Somebody in a Dodge Ram weaving in and out of traffic, trying to make it further along than anyone else, only to get stuck behind a transport truck.

These stories are not so unique. If you live in a major metropolitan area, you witness these same things too. As I progress into the RST Mk II’s, I intend to vent about traffic again in the future. (In fact, I’d like to buy a dash-cam. The video gold I could produce every day would provide endless blog fodder.)

Fortunately, music does soothe the savage beast. Rather, technology does.  Back in Record Store Part 16: Travelling Man, I stated “when you’re stuck in traffic on the 403, in a torrential downpour, listening to Winger, it still sucks pretty much as bad as it would if you weren’t listening to Winger.”  What has changed since then?   Well, I’m not driving that far for one.  GPS and Bluetooth have reduced the stress greatly.  Having 16 gig of albums in the car is also better than five cassette tapes.

What’s your favourite album for being stuck in traffic? Take it from me: Sloan’s Double Cross works really well!

REVIEW: Skid Row – B-Sides Ourselves (1992)

SKID ROW – B-Sides Ourselves (1992 Atlantic EP)

This was a great EP, ranking among some of the better examples of such a format in metal.  I love the MAD-Magazine-esque cover artwork.  I also loved the concept of this EP as a bit of a treat to tide the fans over during the excruciatingly long four year wait between albums. The five selections are all fun, performed competently, and sound like Skid Row. They also sound like a band who truly loves these songs and knows them backwards and forwards.  It’s not quite as satisfying as you want it to be, as it’s only about 18 1/2 minutes long.   (I mean hey, there’s a Ramones cover on here so there you go.)  This is meant to be nothing more than a fun snack, and as such pay no more for this than you’d be willing to pay for any 18 minute CD.

Tracklist time!

1. “Psycho Therapy”

Bassist Rachel Bolan sings this Ramones-approved cover (backed by Faster Pussycat’s Taime Downe).  It was chosen as the first single/video. Excellent cover, very authentic. So well received, it was even included on their Forty Seasons: The Best Of CD.

2. “C’Mon And Love Me”

Classic Kiss cover from Dressed To Kill! A great riffy Kiss song. Skid Row do it justice.  It’s one of those solid, meat & potatoes rock songs that requires no frills, just some solid guitars.  I think this is definitely one of my favourite Kiss covers ever.

3. “Delivering the Goods” (Live)

Featuring the Metal God himself, Rob Halford, in a duet with his buddy Baz! One thing that is immediately obvious is that Baz is absolutely pumped. But then again, he does state that he’s been waiting his whole life to share a stage with Halford.  Great cover, very live sounding, mistakes and all.  Still, “Delivering the Goods” is the weakest of these covers…yet it still blows away most bands.

4. “What You’re Doing”

Perhaps the best cover on the album. This is a first-album Rush cover. Back when Geddy was writing the lyrics, and before Rush were singing about how trees are talking to each other and how different sides of your brain works, or outerspace bullshit. It’s an absolutely ferocious, angry Skid Row cover with Baz paying tribute to his countrymen. Excellent, obscure choice and the only cover on the album that I hadn’t heard somebody else do before (or since).

5. “Little Wing”

A surprisingly great turn on the Hendrix classic. Very different from Jimi’s version (obviously), this sounds nonetheless authentic and classy. Of note, the Skids also did a live-in-the-studio version for the music video.  I wish that version was released on a CD as well.  Unlikely we’ll see that happen.

Covers records can be so very hit-or-miss, but this one is five hits.  Battleship sunk.  Just wish it wasn’t all over in 18 minutes.

5/5 stars

SKID ROW B-SIDES_0003

REVIEW: Jimi Hendrix – “Valleys of Neptune” (2010 7″ single)

Welcome back to the WEEK OF SINGLES 2!  Yesterday we took a look at Dream Theater’s “Lie” — click here if you missed it.

 

JIMI HENDRIX – “Valleys of Neptune” (2010 Experience Hendrix, Record Store Day release)

I’m just a casual fan, certainly not an expert on the labyrinthine Hendrix back catalog of songs. There are so many takes both released and “previously unreleased” of so many songs. Anyway, bottom line, here is “Valleys of Neptune”, a previously unreleased 40-year old take of a Hendrix song, the title track to the 2010 album it comes from. This is via the official Hendrix-family-approved reissue program. It’s a pretty cool looking single, with suitably 60’s cover art suiting the title, and painted by Jimi himself. The tune itself is a catchy toe-tapping Hendrix rocker performed with Mitch Mitchell and Billy Cox.  It’s pieced together from recording sessions in 1969 and 1970.

The B-side is a previously unreleased version of “Cat Talking To Me”.  This one was not made available on Valleys of Neptune, not even as a digital download bonus track.  You can only get it on this single.  Jimi cut this one with the Experience in 1967, but Mitch Mitchell and Noel Redding returned to the studio in 1987 to add the bass and drums.  Why it wasn’t released in ’87, I don’t know.  I like this one better than the A-side.  It has a good little groove going, at times anticipating where Aerosmith would take American rock and roll in the 1970’s.  The lead vocal is by Mitchell.

For something cool to add to your collection, you can’t go wrong with “Valleys of Neptune”. It looks neat, it sounds great, and the cover art and rare track are sure to make this a collectible.

4/5 stars

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REVIEW: Jimi Hendrix – Merry Christmas and Happy New Year (2010)

MERRY CHRISTMAS_0001JIMI HENDRIX – Merry Christmas and Happy New Year (2010 Sony EP)

I couldn’t resist picking this single up on CD when I found it at my local Sunrise, although I wish I had also picked up vinyl. It wasn’t a huge expense, and if you’re an old-school music fan like me, you won’t mind paying to have an actual physical format with full colour cover art and liner notes.   A quick browse on Discogs reveals average prices today for all formats:  About $5 for CD, $7-10 for two-track 7″, and about $14 for the 10″ single.

The Band of Gypsys’ 1969 instrumental take of “Little Drummer Boy/Silent Night/Auld Lang Syne” sounds largely improvised and spontaneous.  It is, in my humble opinion, a brilliant interpretation and serves to remind us that no matter what he did, nobody sounds like Jimi Hendrix. It’s incredible to me that today, 40 years after his death, there is still nobody that sounds like Jimi Hendrix.

“Three Little Bears” is the same version as on War Heroes so you may have this version already. Then the third track is an extended version of the first, which actually is pretty cool since it’s still over way too soon.

Inside the package are the aformentioned liner notes, as well as an alternate shot from a 1967 “Jimi dressed as Santa” photo shoot, holding copies of Axis: Bold as Love. Liner notes are detailed for a single, revealing the whens and wherefores of the recording sessions.

Recommended for all Hendrix fans, perfect for downing some ‘nog by the fire this winter.

4/5 stars

REVIEW: David Lee Roth – Diamond Dave (2003)

DIAMOND DAVE_0001DAVID LEE ROTH – Diamond Dave (2003 Magna Carta)

One can indeed judge a book by its cover. David Lee Roth is hands-on with every aspect of his product, be it a photo shoot, a recording session, or an interview. He must have known his Diamond Dave album was crap, so he made a terrible cover to match it. Check out the tan, that wig and them pants!  (Also notice:  furry walls!)

This album, following up another aborted Van Halen reunion and the surprisingly powerful album DLR Band, switches gears and shows Dave’s “multi-faceted side”. Sure, we all know Dave likes disco, jazz, blues, showtunes, and standards.  It’s Dave doing what he did very successfully on Crazy From the Heat, and trying to do so again.  To make an album of this stuff would be fine, but Diamond Dave lacks any sort of zap.  At all.  It’s just one “who cares” cover after another, a couple crappy originals, and a Van Halen tune.

Dave’s voice just doesn’t generate the heat it once did, and all of Diamond Dave suffers for it.  The way Van Halen did A Different Kind of Truth used a lot of production on Dave.  Here, Roth is a whimper, a wheeze, a breathless gasp at the greatness that once was. To listen to this album in one sitting is an exersize in stamina. I know because I’ve done it.

Positives:  Instrumental moments on the Steve Miller cover “Shoo Bop”.  The ace rhythm section of LoMenzo and Luzier are complimented by a guitarist named Brian Young who is shit-hot on this.  Then Dave goes all dance-y on it…ugh.  “She’s Looking Good” is old-school and well done.

The indigestible:  The Doors’ “Soul Kitchen”.  Nobody needs to cover the Doors; Dave makes them sound like Smash Mouth.  Hendrix’ “If 6 Was 9” has too much of Dave’s boring talking voice, but not enough crooning.  His cover of the otherwise excellent Beatles number “Tomorrow Never Knows” (which he actually had the audicity to rename “That Beatles Tune”!?) sucks all the life and innovation out of a great song, as he wheezes to the finish line.    This is by far the worst song, even though he also covers “Let It All Hang Out”.

There is only one number here worth owning, which is his Las Vegas version of “Ice Cream Man”. He did this shortly after Your Filthy Little Mouth with Edgar Winter, Omar Hakim, Greg Phillinganes, and Nile Rodgers!  According to Dave’s autobiography Crazy From the Heat, this was recorded in a live in a video shoot.  The video was never released, but the audio was finally released.  It lives up to the hype if not the wait.

Decide what you are willing to pay for one or two songs, and buy accordingly.

1/5 stars