Kettle of Fish

REVIEW: Fish – Kettle of Fish 88-98 (1998)

scan_20170105FISH – Kettle of Fish 88-98  (1998 Roadrunner)

Kettle of Fish, the “best of” Derek W. Dick, is the first and only CD I’ve ever had stolen from me.

I got it cheap, something like $7 brand new, from one of our stores.  Then a year later, someone stole the CD player from my car, with the Fish CD inside.  Emotionally distraught, I sought to replace it right away.  The best I could do was $30 for a replacement copy shipped from Fish’s official site.  How crushing.  I wondered with bemusement what the thieves thought of Fish’s progressive rock poetry.  I imagine they tossed the disc into a snowbank.

While Kettle of Fish is no replacement for Fish’s debut solo album Vigil In a Wilderness of Mirrors, it is a fine collection of the man’s first decade as a solo artist and an enjoyable listen through.  It also boasts a nice colourful booklet with all the relevant singles covers, photos, lyrics and liner notes by Derek W. Dick.  Incidentally my original copy was missing pages.  I wonder if that is how it ended up in our store?  A defective run, sent off to a clearance somewhere, that eventually found its way into one of our warehouses.  Missing pages notwithstanding, it’s an excellent packaging job.

Since the album is made up of singles (and two new songs that we’ll get to), you will always find that critical deep album cuts are missing.  “Vigil” was not a single, but it’s one of Fish’s greatest achievements.  There’s no “The Company”.  “I Like to Watch” is missing in action.  Instead the CD is arranged to give roughly equal time to all of Fish’s output to date.  Tracks from Internal ExileSuits, Yin, Yang and Sunsets On Empire are given fair representation.

Some of the best tracks are the lesser known variety.  “Brother 52” is hip and modern, yet still obviously Fish.  The loopy drums are perfect for the track, lending it a 90’s groove with a rock integrity throughout.  The spoken word parts of “Brother 52” are sometimes distracting, but are by and large incorporated as part of the song.  A vibrant violin solo goes for the kill and that’s all she wrote.  The Celtic jig “Internal Exile” is another immediate favourite.  The lyrics evolved from a song Marillion were working on for their unfinished fifth LP called “Exile on Princess Street”.  It was the kind of stuff Marillion were getting sick of. According to Dick, “The lyrics started to follow a more political lean with a distinctly Scottish nationalist tone. The band weren’t happy.”

I saw a blue umbrella in Princes Street Gardens,
Heading out west for the Lothian Road,
An Evening News stuffed deep in his pocket,
Wrapped up in his problems to keep away the cold.

Grierson’s spirit haunts the dockyards,
Where the only men working are on the documentary crews,
Shooting film as the lines get longer,
As the seams run out, as the oil runs dry.

The finished lyrics make you feel it. Yes the music for “Internal Exile” is bright and chipper, with a tin whistle to take your worry away. It sounds nothing like the morose music Marillion coupled it with. Maybe that’s what made all the difference.

Tracks including “Credo”, “Big Wedge” and “State of Mind” are varied and of very high quality.  You might think you put on an unknown 80s Phil Collins single if you play “Big Wedge” unannounced.  Of the two new songs recorded for the album, “Chasing Miss Pretty” is the most enjoyable.  It’s simple silly light rock for the summer time.  Fish seems to have dropped the ball a little bit on the lyrics, but “Chasing Miss Pretty” is still far more poetic than anything Jon Bon Jovi has ever written.

First of all, I caught her reflection in the window of the pharmacy store,
There I was locked up in my pick-up in the rush hour on the Delaware road.
It must have been the scent of her perfume or the glimpse of that French lingerie,
A product of my imagination, I blame it all on a hot summer’s day.

Unfortunately the other new song “Mr. Buttons” is forgettable musically and lyrically.  A song about hackers and e-crime in 1998 is going to sound quaint in 2017.

The weight of Fish’s early career casts a large shadow on everything the man has done since.  Vigil was a triumph in every way for the singer.  The early songs generally outshine the later songs.  You will find favourites in the later material, but the early stuff will probably keep you coming back for another listen.  The new songs are a nice add-on, and the packaging makes it worth a go, especially if you don’t own any Fish.  Proceed!

4.5/5 stars

 

Roger doesn't appear happy with his Fish CD.

Roger doesn’t appear happy with his Fish CD.

Part 303: Marking Your Discs

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RECORD STORE TALES Part 303:  Marking Your Discs

In the 1990’s, stealing CDs and selling them to a pawn shop or a used CD store was a fairly common way for thieves to make some money.  Today I doubt it happens at the levels I saw in the 1990’s.  You just can’t get as much for a CD today, not even close.

I had seen too many people lose valuable music to theft, and never get the discs back.  I received many visits and phone calls from upset customers, hoping that someone had sold their stolen discs to me.  But a lot of thieves were too smart to sell them in town.  They’d go somewhere else to sell them, assuming that they’d be harder to catch then.   When somebody lost dozens of CDs in a break-in, they would call all the used stores in town.  “If you see a guy bringing in a huge collection of Jazz box sets, including about a dozen Miles Davis remasters, call me.”

It was always best if you could somehow identify your collection.  Jazz box sets and Miles remasters (for example) would be easy to spot.  If somebody else called and said, “Somebody stole all my rock CDs…I had Stone Temple Pilots, Korn, Creed, Days of the New…” well, there wasn’t much hope.  These are titles that we often saw, probably every single day.  If you could somehow mark the discs as your property, however…

Different people used different methods.  In 1995, I got a call from a guy who worked at the downtown Dr. Disc.  His collection had been stolen.  He marked his discs in a unique way.  He placed a strip of tinfoil underneath the CD tray.  If somebody came in to sell a hundred CDs and they all had tinfoil under the tray, there’s your guilty party.

Most people, who didn’t care about the packaging or condition of their discs so much, would just write their name inside.  Either on the booklet, the inner tray, or the front cover.  I could never deface my music like that, and neither could T-Rev.  He came up with his own method.  Rather than mark the CD packaging itself, he wrote his initials on a tiny red sticker, and placed that somewhere unobtrusively on the CD.  If he ever wanted to remove it, he could do so without wrecking anything.

Tom didn’t share our “no permanent marks” philosophy. He embossed the front covers of his discs with a press that imprinted his initials on the front cover.  Tom gave me a couple CDs once – his initials always bothered me.  When I had the chance to swap covers with a copy that was in better condition, I did.  Tom tells me he doesn’t emboss his CDs anymore.  I’m glad he came to his senses.

T-Rev and I both have had CDs stolen, unfortunately.  Both of us had our vehicles broken into.  T-Rev never recovered the handful of discs that were in his Jeep. (I remember that one was the excellent Barstool Prophets albums Last of the Big Game Hunters.)  They never showed up, anywhere in town.  As for me, I only lost one disc – Fish’s 1998 compilation Kettle of Fish, which was inside my Discman (also stolen).  They didn’t take the CD case.  I imagine they probably threw out the CD; chances are these thieves would not enjoy the subtle sounds of Derek William Dick.  At that time, the album was not available in Canada, and I believe I had to order it directly from the official Fish site in the UK to replace it.  That cost me about $30, to replace a CD that I originally paid $7.99 for.  That was not a good day.