marbles

#350 The Year in Review / Top Five of 2014 (and 2004)

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RECORD STORE TALES MkII: Getting More Tale
#350 The Year in Review / Top Five of 2014

Another year come and gone!  Am I older and wiser?  I think so, musically speaking anyway!  It was a great year for music (and a baffling year too, hello Scott Stapp and Phil Rudd)!  Narrowing down my favourites to a Top Five wasn’t all that difficult once I thought about it.  There were some clear contenders so it was more about sorting out the order.  I’ll save the Top Five(s) for last.

I lost two friends this year, both of whom went way too soon.  Both had moved out of town long ago (one out of the country), but we recently reconnected via social media.  Warren was the guy who helped get me started on this crazy journey of writing, being the first to publish me.  George, an old friend from childhood, helped me discover Kiss.  Both left this earth in 2014, and the world is sadder for it.  Rest in peace boys.

That aside, my proudest writing achievement was finally finishing the Record Store Tales.  I had so much fun sharing those stories over the years.  I took my time ending it; I was having a good time.  But I knew there were people who wouldn’t like it; that’s happened before.   Again I’ll apologize to the two who complained, for any offence I caused them.  These two guys were friends from the store, but neither had really expressed any support for what I was doing, and I don’t think they particularly liked it.  I never had anything bad to say about either of them, but I get that they might not like things I had to say about their friends; I totally get that.  I also get that they had different experiences at the Record Store than I did.  That’s fine.  I want to be clear that my experience was mine alone.  I cannot speak for anyone but myself.  (Interesting footnote though:  Back in Part 170, I mentioned that our accountant Jonathan used to talk about who he trusted at the store, and who he didn’t.  One of the people he never trusted was one of those two guys, because of his personal friendship with the higher-ups.  Just a footnote.)

Anyway, I don’t want to focus on the negative.  I did some rough calculations and by reckoning, the number of Record Store Tales that were negative towards the store was only about 16%.

So!  Onto the lists!  My Top Ten Favourite Record Store Tales of 2014:

Part 258: Uncle Meat
Part 264: Garbage Removal Machine
Part 265: A Nightmare on Cocknuckles Street Redux: Special Edition
Part 269: CD Singles (of every variety) featuring T-Rev
Part 270: Star Trek vs. Star Wars
Part 281: People of Walmart
Part 285: Chinese Democracy
Part 289: Tom’s Frozen Beater
Part 319: The Musical Crimes of LeBrain (by Mrs. LeBrain)
Part 320: End of the Line #2 (The Last Straw)

And my of course Top Five Abums of 2014:

5. FLYING COLORSSecond Nature
4. PINK FLOYDThe Endless River
3. HELIXBastard of the Blues
2. ACE FREHLEYSpace Invader
1. JUDAS PRIESTRedeemer of Souls

As an added bonus, I also found my Top Five Albums of 2004 among my journals!  For shits n’ giggles, here is a “bonus” installment of Record Store Tales for you!  And Happy New Year to ya!

BONUS RECORD STORE TALES Part 350:
Top Five of 2004

5. BRANT BJORKLocal Angel
4. PEARL JAMLive at Benaroya Hall: October 22, 2003
3. THE KILLERSHot Fuss
2. THE HIVES – Tyrannosaurus Hives
1. MARILLIONMarbles

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Stay tuned for more Top Lists of 2014 in the days ahead!

 

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REVIEW: Marillion – Somewhere Elf (Christmas 2007)

SOMEWHERE ELF_0001MARILLIONSomewhere Elf (2007 Racket Records Christmas CD, free to Racket Club members – webfree 10)

This is, believe it not, Marillion’s 10th Christmas album of 11 total. From 2009 to present, Marillion have issued annual Christmas DVDs (which I do not collect) instead of CDs. Of their 11 Christmas albums, I have physical copies of nine. I am missing the first two, which were later reissued for purchase in mp3 format, and that is all I have in my collection.

(Note: in 2013 they released a new digital Christmas single, “Carol of the Bells”.  This song has since been issued physically on the new “best of” Marillion Christmas CD entitled A Collection of Recycled Gifts which just arrived at LeBrain Headquarters yesterday!)

The reasons I selected Somewhere Elf to review are two: 1) The included Christmas carol is hilarious. 2) The rest of the songs are taken from an invite-only rehearsal performance at Marillion’s headquarters, The Racket Club. The set largely consists of newer songs from Somewhere Else and Marbles.  The CD also contains the annual Christmas message from the band (6:22 long), partly apologizing for the previous year’s “amateurish and shambolic” message!  This soon degenerates into joking, mistakes, re-takes and acoustic Christmas jamming, so obviously the quality level has gone up this year.

Track 2 is the official 2007 Christmas song, “Let It Snow”!  This is a kazoo-laden drunken carol with new lyrics.  “The Aylsebury roads are closed, Let it snow let it snow let it snow!”  Hogarth’s campy vocal isn’t my cup o’ tea, but it’s all clearly for laughs.  They segue into “White Christmas” before returning back to the singalong.

Found some booze in a flight case,
And I’m afraid that we’re all shit-faced,
So I guess that we’ll have to go,
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

This one made it to one of my annual Christmas CDs that I give out to friends one year.

The live rehearsals might be more interesting to some.  The intimate setting means Marillion play mostly mellow, dramatic songs.  They commence with “The Last Century for Man”, a new song from Somewhere Else.  This is another one of Hogarth’s environmental commentaries, set to a slow dance this time.  An effective song, the seriously bummer lyrics are punctuated with the sarcastic chorus of “So God bless America, I mean it!  God bless the UK, I mean it!”  Elsewhere he says to “Climb into the car, I know that makes you happy.  The sound of your laughter will get you so far.”  Without turning this review into a debate, a song like this is a bit of a slap to the face, a wake up call.  I don’t have a problem with that.  Additionally I think it was one of the better songs from Somewhere Else.

SOMEWHERE ELF_0004“Afraid of Sunlight” is a song that doesn’t need much rehearsing, but I don’t mind hearing this bombastic ballad again.  One of H-era Marillion’s strongest songs, “Afraid of Sunlight” is a personal favourite of mine due to the quiet verses and explosive, anthemic choruses.   Hogarth is understated, and then wailing in top voice.  Then from 1997’s This Strange Engine is the old concert standby “Estonia”.  I always get a little bored during this long mellow trip, but it does benefit from this intimate setting with just the fortunate few fans.  They applaud politely between songs, contenders for the luckiest people in England at that moment.  A third long slow bomber, the title track from Somewhere Else, is another favourite of mine.  There are some Steve Rothery solos here that rank among his best.  Live, dare I say better?  This dramatic tension-filled song is one of the highlights of their recent career.

The Marbles album is represented by two excellent songs: “Neverland” and “Fantastic Place”.  Much like “Somewhere Else”, “Neverland” is a long dramatic piece with different sections and moods.  It’s not an easy nut to crack, but worth getting to know.  This live version is intense, and again Rothery is the star.  After that much drama, there can’t be much air left in the room, but “Fantastic Place” soars.  It’s a bit of a brighter number, beginning quietly, but culminating with the kind of melodic guitar work that Rothery does best.

A studio version of “Faith” was finally released on Somewhere Else, but the song saw first release on Before First Light, a live DVD from 2003.  It was one of many songs initially written for Marbles, but its lullaby quality did not fit the vibe.  “Feel inside the atoms where the science breaks down,” sings Hogarth on what amounts to a statement on reality, love, the universe and the human experience of it.  In a 4 1/2 minute pop song.  Is it any wonder why the mainstream shies away from these guys?  Too cerebral.

The set closes with “See It Like a Baby”, a rocking upbeat new track that they were hyping at the time.  Here in an acoustic guise, I think I prefer it to the original album version.  It’s a little more special, and the acoustics chime clear inside the walls of the Racket Club.  It’s also the shortest song they played at this very special gig.  I’m glad special shows get commemorated and made available to people in this way.  People who are truly fans got an opportunity to own a CD of a concert that only a handful witnessed, and will probably never be physically issued again.  That’s mana to the collector.  Since this CD was intended as a Christmas gift to the loyal, I rate it:

4.5/5 stars

REVIEW: Marillion (as “Remixomatosis”) – You’re Gone (2005 promo EP)

Welcome back to the Week of EPs! Each day this week, I’ll be checking out a variety of EP releases, both famed and obscure.

MONDAY: Aerosmith – The Other Side (1990)
TUESDAY: Wolfsbane – All Hell’s Breaking Loose Down at Little Kathy Wilson’s Place! (1990)
WEDNESDAY: AC/DC – ’74 Jailbreak (1984)

REMIXOMATOSIS – You’re Gone (Promotional 2005 Intact records)

REMIXOMATOSISEager to cross over to new fans, in 2004 Marillion released an album called Remixomatosis.  It was a 2 CD set of fan remixes of tracks from 2001’s Anoraknophobia.  Hogarth-era Marillion have not been remix-shy, having done something like this on 1998’s Tales From the Engine Room EP.  Aware that chances of being played in the clubs were slim, the following year Marillion released a promo EP of three more remixes under the band name Remixomatosis.  The name Marillion appears nowhere on the sleeve.

99% of the time, I really dislike remixes, especially when songs are danced up.  I bought this for the collection, but let’s give it a spin.  “You’re Gone”, originally from Marbles, sounded very little like the “Debonair Dub Mix” on this EP.  All I can hear from the original track is Hogarth’s vocals.  Maybe some keyboards, but who knows because the dominant part of the song is an annoyingly repetitive synth & beat.  This goes on for an agonizing 7:55.  This is not a song I would listen to for enjoyment.

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The “Plasma Dub Mix” of “Between You and Me” is almost twice as long as the “Marillion Vs. Plasma” version on the Remixomastosis CD.  This track adds a new bass line consisting of four notes that repeat over and over and over and over and over.  Then a little bit of Hogarth’s vocal is dubbed over synthesizer lines.  There have been better remixes of this song, notably the Mark Kelly remix from the “Between You and Me” CD single.  After a couple minutes, the remixer Robert de Fresnes throws in some acoustic guitar from the original song, which really only makes me want to hear the original song.  If you like repetitive music made by computers, go for it.

The closing track is the best (and shortest) one, the “Into the Fire Mix” of the superb “Don’t Hurt Yourself” from Marbles.  As arguably the best song on Marbles, it is a difficult track to ruin.  The remixer Cameron Lasswell wisely leaves Steve Hogarth’s vocal intact.  The vocal hooks on this song have always been fetching.  They are now cloaked in spacey synths, which I prefer to dumb repetitive synths.  It sounds like a song by Lights, perhaps, or one of her soundalikes.

I can’t rate this EP very high.  This is a collectible, pure and simple.

2/5 stars

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Part 279: Record Store Gallery Deux

RECORD STORE TALES Part 279:  Record Store Gallery Deux

I found another whack of old photos going back to the record store days.  Allow me to take you on a guided tour!

Gallery #1:  This would have been 2002.  The tragus was the most painful piercing I experienced.  It was the only time that somebody said, “he’s turning white, get him some juice to drink.”  The piercer was my friend Lois who works at Stigmata in Guelph.  She was apprenticing, with me as a test subject.  She even gave me the labret stud that they pierced it with, so the experience was free!  Note that Marillion shirt, and my then-sveldt shape!

Gallery #2:  A variety of sushi and fancy dinners with our Niagara Falls store owner Lemon Kurri Klopek, Guinness’ Book alumnus Sweet Pepper Klopek, the British piercer Sarge, and the mysterious man known only as Mr. Lebowski.

I look like a goth Leprechaun.

Gallery #3:  New arrivals! My birthday 2004! The Paul Stanley interview picture disc was from a friend in York, England named Kim. The Marillion singles were a birthday gift from a guy in France named Charly. And the Marillion Marbles deluxe edition was a gift for me, from me, that happened to arrive at the right time!

 

Last Words:  I love that this photo gallery contains three completely different facial hair styles:  A simple goatee, my Ian Paice mutton chops, and finally a full beard.  Cool!

REVIEW: Marillion – Sounds Live (2012)

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MARILLION – Sounds Live (2012 Racket Records/Abbey Road LiveHereNow/EMI)

This is one of those “Instant Live” type discs.  While the discs have art pre-printed on them, they are CDRs.  There is no track list on the case, probably because the setlist wasn’t set in stone!  (I have a Slash “Instant Live” style disc with the setlist printed on the back, which was completely wrong, as the singer had a sore throat and they had to change up the set!)  The label is Racket Records/Abbey Road LiveHereNow, licensed to EMI, but even though Racket has their name on it, you can’t buy it from them.  You can buy it from Abbey Road Live, however.

The show was recorded on 16 September 2012 at the Forum in London, on the Sounds that Can’t Be Made tour.  The sound quality is excellent!

Marillion bravely opened the show with “Gaza”, the powerful, swirling, 17 minute new song from Sounds that Can’t Be Made.  I don’t know how many new fans were in the audience that night, but if there were any, they must have been in utter confusion and shock.  Hogarth delivers the song with all the passion he can muster.

Not letting up for a moment, Marillion follow this monster with another 10 minute epic:  “This Town/100 Nights”.  Incredible.  And once again, H imbues the song with so much emotion it literally leaks out of the speakers.

“This next song is a strange song,” says H, regarding track 3.  “‘Cause everybody claps along at the beginning and by verse one, they think ‘Shit, you can’t clap to this, it’s far too sad and tragic!”  And that is how H introduces the Marbles top ten (#7!) single, “You’re Gone”.  An upbeat pop-prog track with a drum program accompanying Ian Mosely, this was probably a good selection to follow two epics in a row!

My favourite of the new songs follows:  the title track from Sounds that Can’t Be Made, a simply great catchy Marillion track.  My only beef here is that I can hear pre-recorded Hogarth backing vocals.

And then…another 10 minute track?  The incredible “Neverland” from Marbles is up next, a personal favourite, and seemingly a crowd favourite too.  This one defines the word “epic” as far as I’m concerned.  Powerful, too.

From the 2007 Somewhere Else album comes “A Voice From the Past”, not one of my personal favourites (also not one of my favourite albums).  This is followed by “Power” from the new album.  “Power” is one of the better songs from an album I just haven’t wrapped my head around yet.  In live form, the chorus soars.

Disc 2 begins with yet another Marbles classic:  the soft and uplifting “Fantastic Place”, a personal favourite.  Steve Rothery’s solo is sublime.  Another personal favourite follows, the incredible “Real Tears For Sale” from the very dense Happiness is the Road album.  It’s an album I’ve never fully absorbed, but this song is incredibly powerful and at times is even reminiscent of older works like Brave or even Script in parts (listen to the flute-like keys).

Another new song, “The Sky Above the Rain”, is one that is really starting to grow on me.  This is the last of the new songs played at the London gig.  It’s 11 minute long, and it begins lullaby-like before H’s passionate, melodic vocals begin.  There’s a sadness, but also a brightness to the music; truly the blue sky above the rain.

It’s into the classics now!  “The Great Escape” is an undeniable fan favourite, and I never tire of hearing it.  What did surprise me was the resurrection of the lengthy “A Few Words for the Dead” from the underappreciated Radiation album.  I’ve always been fond of Radiation (it was the first Hogarth-era album I heard)  but this track is absolutely a challenge.  Over 10 minutes long, it builds very, very slowly.  As the closing track on a challenging album, it was perfect.  As an encore at a Marillion concert, it’s extremely brave and mind-blowing.  This is one of the best live versions I’ve heard.

The only Fish-era song played is “Sugar Mice”, but it is one that H seems comfortable with.  I will never tire of this classic, even though H lets the audience sing the first half of the song for him!  Rothery’s anthemic solo is the centerpiece of the affair.

The final surprise is that the show closes with the morose “Estonia”, from This Strange Engine.  H dedicates the song to the family of Neil Armstrong.  I’ve never been particularly fond of this dour song, although it has been played in concert many, many times over the last 15 years.  Obviously, many fans “get it” and love it.  I’m not one of them, so for me, Sounds Live ends with a thump rather than a celebration.  I would have preferred something like “Garden Party” or “Easter”, but I’m not complaining.

Speaking of “Easter”:  Conspicuous by its absence is any music at all from Seasons End.  You can’t fit ’em all in, and tour after tour, Marillion have always changed up their setlists.  You will never see the same Marillion concert two tours in a row.

While Marillion have dozens of live albums (especially when you include the 43 Front Row Club releases), this one is a valuable inclusion in the canon as the first physical live release of Sounds that Can’t Be Made songs.   I don’t know how frequently I will return to it, given the amount of live stuff I have, but I did enjoy it.

4/5 stars

Disc 1:

  1. “Gaza”
  2. “This Town/100 Nights”
  3. “You’re Gone”
  4. “Sounds that Can’t Be Made”
  5. “Neverland”
  6. “A Voice From the Past”
  7. “Power”

Disc 2:

  1. “Fantastic Place”
  2. “Real Tears For Sale”
  3. “The Sky Above the Rain”
  4. “The Great Escape”
  5. “A Few Words For the Dead”
  6. “Sugar Mice”
  7. “Estonia”

More New Arrivals!

You may have already watched me open my brand new Sloan – Twice Removed deluxe box set.  In that video, I mentioned a had a few parcels come in.  Here’s two more that I am currently enjoying!  Watch for LeBrain’s Reviews in the coming days and weeks on mikeladano.com.

 

THE DARKNESS – Hot Cakes (finally, the elusive version with the 4 bonus tracks!)

Hot Leg and the Stone Gods are no more.  The original lineup is back, without missing a single beat!  It’s 2003 all over again!

MARILLION – Sounds That Can’t Be Made (deluxe CD / DVD combo set)

It’s far too early for me to say anything about the music or the direction this time out.  Early impressions:  Epic like Marbles, catchier than Happiness Is The Road, with a nod and a wink to Radiat10n, but certainly nothing drastically different.  The opening track “Gaza” is 17 minutes!

I love the cover art:  the Arecibo message! I have been obsessed with the Arecibo message since first reading about it in a long-forgotten science fiction story when I was a kid. Wish I could remember the story. Regardless, the message is cool in its deceptive simplicity, and I love that Marillion used it for their cover.  Printed faintly in behind is the binary version of the message.

Part 109: The Summer From Hell!

RECORD STORE TALES Part 109:  The Summer From Hell

Summer, 2004.

I had one really, really awful summer at the store.  My full-time backup had quit, and head office made the decision not to hire a replacement until the Christmas gear-up season.  Instead, they decided to spread out the part-timers to cover the hours.  They were always eager for hours, but not necessarily weekend hours!

I was required to work two Saturdays a month anyway.  That summer, I had to pull a lot more than that.  Saturdays, Sundays, the odd 12 hour shifts…I didn’t get to the cottage very much that summer.  Allegedly, one head office staffer was overheard saying to another, “It’s going to be funny watching Mike try to work all summer without a full-timer.”  Good to know they had my back. 

I was furious.  But I was also defeated.

I had one weekend booked off in July.  I couldn’t miss that weekend.  My grandma’s 80th birthday party was that weekend.  There was no way in hell that I was going to miss my grandma’s 80th birthday party.  It was a 2 hour drive away, in Kincardine Ontario.  I only have one grandma (88 this year!), but wouldn’t you know it?  Nothing ever went smooth for me….

I had a date the previous night (Friday), with this girl who was originally from Thunder Bay.  We went out and we had a nice meal followed by a night of drinks.  I woke up slightly hungover, but eager to hit the lake, and say hi to grandma.  Then, my phone rang.  Not a good sign.

My least reliable employee, Wiseman, was calling in sick.  The truth was more likely that he was calling in wasted.  Somebody had to get the hell over there and cover him.  And that someone was me.

I pulled in, unshowered, unshaven, and pissed off.  I had never been so mad at Wiseman in my life.  It was becoming a far, far too regular occurrence that he was always “sick”, and someone had to cover for him.  You can’t expect every part time employee to give up their Saturday plans and work on no notice, but a manager had to.  

To her credit, there was one head office person on duty that weekend, and she came in to take over.  I will always be grateful to that person for covering me on my grandma’s 80th birthday weekend.  If memory serves, my great aunt Marie, her sister, made it that weekend too.  I think that was the last time I ever saw her, she passed away not too long after. 

My relationship with head office people was rocky to say the least, especially after that “It’s going to be funny watching Mike try to work all summer…” crack.  But she did cover me when I needed it.  I won’t forget that, and I’ll always be grateful.

The rest of the summer was what it was, weekend after weekend of working, the same grind and drudgery.  The musical light in the tunnel that summer was the release of Marillion’s double Marbles CD.  It is my favourite Hogarth-era Marillion to this day, and when I received it that summer, it got me through.  We didn’t carry it in stock in our store, but it was in my car, and on my home player, all summer.  It brightened the mood, it kept me going, waking me up in the morning and getting me out the door.  The Summer of Hell’s bright spot was Marillion, and my grandma.

I would like to dedicate this installment of the Record Store Tales to that one head office person who stepped up and covered for me that day.  We had many knock-down-drag-out arguments over the years, and I’m sure that her side of many events differ from mine.  Regardless, if it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t have been present for my grandma’s 80th, and for that I owe her a debt of gratitude.

Thank you.  It meant a lot to me.

Below:  the soundtrack to that summer