marillion

#722: Christmas Mix 2006

GETTING MORE TALE #722: Christmas Mix 2006

It took some searching, but I finally found a copy!  This is the first Christmas mix CD I ever made, back in 2006.  I didn’t start making these until I had left the Record Store.  Nobody who works retail wants to listen to Christmas music outside of work.  Once I had been gone a year, my brain and soul were freed!

As discussed in the previous Christmas Mix article, after a few years I was running short on good songs to use, so I had to repeat a few from prior years.  Several tracks from the 2006 disc made a return appearance in 2010.

Repeaters included:

1. Hawksley Workman – “3 Generations”.  Truly an incredible, family-oriented song that is a highlight of Hawkley’s excellent Christmas album, Almost a Full Moon. The 2006 CD has lots of Hawksley songs.

2. Extreme – “Christmas Time Again”.  My sister always liked this one, which sounds like early Extreme – perhaps first album era.

3. The Beatles – “Christmas Time is Here Again”.  I leaned heavily on this one, though not a great song, just because it’s the Beatles and it’s a rarity you may not have heard.

4. Jon Bon Jovi – “Please Come Home for Christmas“.  Bon Jovi have done several Christmas songs, but Jon’s solo version of “Please Come Home for Christmas” is by far the best.  Let’s face it, this is a great tune!

5. Jim Cuddy – “New Year’s Eve”.  Another one I lean on because a song about New Year’s Eve is a nice change of pace.  Plus, it’s Jim Cuddy!

6. Ted Nugent – “Deck the Halls”.  I think every Christmas mix needs a kick in the nuts to keep things interesting.  Here’s the kick!

7. Bob & Doug McKenzie – “Twelve Days of Christmas”.  It can get a little tedious, as many joke songs are, but people know it and like it.

That’s not bad for repeat.  I’m sure Kiss have repeated more than just seven songs on their greatest hits CDs….


For creative types, the first thing you try something is often the best.  Maybe that’s the case with my line of Christmas mixes.  This first instalment is a great listen, even if you hate Christmas music and everything to do with it.  Check out the amazing songs you would have heard in 2006!

“Linus & Lucy” isn’t a Christmas song at all, but it works because Charlie Brown is associated with Christmas.  Wynton and Ellis Marsalis did an entire album dedicated to the music of Charlie Brown (Joe Cool’s Blues), but “Linus & Lucy” is the most instantly memorable.  And now, all of a sudden, you’re a kid again watching the Charlie Brown Christmas special.

Hawsley Workman’s first appearance here is “First Snow of the Year”, a song that is much too happy for a song about snow!  It’s homey, upbeat and jovial.  Keeping things upbeat, I went for the Brian Setzer Orchestra next.  “Jingle Bells” mixes the big band style with jaw-dropping guitar as only Setzer can do.  I then chose to cool things out with “The First Nowell” by the sublime Eric Johnson.  His acoustic/electric instrumental contains just as much original music as it does traditional.  It’s wonderful.

There was a time when Queen’s “Thank God It’s Christmas” was a rarity.  Now you hear it on the radio.  When I first had it, it was on a bonus CD within a Queen Classics/Greatest Hits box set.   (The “Green Cover”.)   Since just about everybody likes Queen (then and now) including it is a slam dunk.  It’s 80s Queen but that’s OK, isn’t it?

I used a lot of instrumental music on these Christmas mixes, which tended to come from Merry Axemas 1 and 2.  “Joy to the World” by Steve Morse is a beautiful rendition, much like the Eric Johnson track, though Steve’s is entirely electric.  Then it’s Joe Perry’s Hawaiian guitar version of Elvis’ “Blue Christmas”.  You may recall that I put Elvis’ version on my 2010 CD.  Joe’s version is cool because it’s different, though not as popular around our dinner table.

Trans-Siberian Orchestra is, honestly, a band I don’t get.  Look, I’m a huge Savatage fan.  Massive Savatage fan.  I’ve been a fan since I was 15.  Trans-Siberian began as a spinoff of Savatage, and I was absolutely shocked when little old men and ladies would come in to the Record Store asking for them!  Trans-Siberian isn’t as “metal” as Savatage, but the bombast is all there.  They’re popular though, so I put as much Trans-Siberian on here as I could handle.  “A Star to Follow” is a pretty gothic version of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”.  Much better is “A Mad Russian’s Revenge”, an interpretation of Tchaikovsky.  I also threw on “The Silent Nutcracker” because it is a simple acoustic guitar instrumental, not at all like the other TSO tracks.

One of Marillion’s very best Christmas tunes is “I Saw Three Ships”, so for my debut Christmas mix, I used nothing but the best Marillion.  This is from 2001’s A Very Barry Christmas.  There is something special and unique about this band.  “I Saw Three Ships” is both true to the song, yet intrinsically Marillion.

Hawksley’s third appearance is a hat trick of perfect celebratory pop.  “Claire Fontaine” isn’t particularly seasonal, though it’s from his Christmas CD.  It’s about a girl who makes lovely decorative paper.  There’s a line about “going home for Christmas” but otherwise there is little connection.  Claire could use her paper to wrap gifts, though Hawksley uses it for writing.  “Your sheets are very smooth, I like to rub my pen across them.”  This was a selfish inclusion.  I just love this song.

“Ring Out Solstice Bells” is also a selfish inclusion, because although it is a brilliant track, nobody I knew actually liked Jethro Tull.  In fact some, like Mrs. LeBrain, are quite anti-Tull.  So who was this song for?  Me!  And I stand beneath the Christmas tree, doing my best Ian Anderson single-leg stand.

Lo, what is this I hear?  More Hawksley?  Yes, Hawksley Workman had four tracks on my Christmas CD.  That is a full one-half of his original album!  I chose “Common Cold” for the last Hawksley.  Nobody gets through the holidays without getting sick, not in my family anyway!  (Last year I had the flu.)  “Nearly OD, on Vitamin C, you’re standing in a lineup with a gift just for me.”

The disc ended with a slew of tracks I’d use again.  Cuddy, Nugent, and Bob & Doug closed the CD.  A joke song makes a good closer sometimes, so that’s why I re-used Bob & Doug in the exact same position on 2010’s CD!

I like this CD, but I today I would axe the first two Trans-Siberian tracks.  I don’t think I’d change anything else.  In fact I’m quite thrilled to hear “Linus & Lucy” again for the first time in ages.  (I’ll have to give the whole Wynton & Ellis CD a spin again.)  Hawksley is always a delight, and I used his very best Christmas songs here.  And that Jethro Tull song is brilliant; I don’t care what cynics say.

I’ll give myself a solid:

4/5 stars

 

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#721: Christmas Mix 2010

GETTING MORE TALE #721: Christmas Mix 2010

Making mix CDs was a lot of fun (and work).  I used to make custom Christmas discs that didn’t suck, for my family and friends every year.  Why did I stop?  I ran out of good Christmas songs.  Let’s face it:  unless you’re one of “those” people, Christmas music is nails on a chalkboard.  You can only take so much.  If you’ve worked retail in the past (or present), you probably can’t take any at all!

2010’s Christmas CD is a good example of what I used to make.  You’ll notice there’s no Trans-Siberian Orchestra on there.  I used up all their best stuff on the previous instalments.  I tried to avoid duplicating songs from previous years although Hawksley Workman’s Christmas album is so good that I made exceptions for him.  Hawkley’s Almost A Full Moon is the best Christmas CD that I own, and probably the best one I’ve heard.  I bought it twice.  He reissued the album after only a year with two extra songs!  I forgave him, because Almost A Full Moon is so warm and perfect.

What do you think of the Christmas 2010 CD?  Would you have wanted a copy that year?

1. Bill Ward – “Twas the Night Before Christmas”.  Yes, that Bill Ward!  The Black Sabbath drummer did a spoken word recording of the classic Christmas poem, and I opened the CD with it.  I can tell you that when we played the CD at dinner time, this track was a failure.  Nobody paid attention.

2. Kathryn Ladano – “Jingle Bells”.  I got their attention back by putting on a track by my sister.  This instrumental version on bass clarinet is from her CD The Christmas Album.  Of note, her Schnauzer Ali is credited for barks on “Jingle Bells”!

3. Lemmy, Dave Grohl, Billy F. Gibbons – “Run Rudolph Run”.  This breakneck Christmas carol is done in the Motorhead style.  I played it in the car for sis.  “This is shit!” she proclaimed.  “Why do these guys get to put out albums and not me?”

4. Marillion – “Let It Snow”.  This drunken favourite is from 2007’s Somewhere Elf.  The spirit is intoxicating, as I’m sure they were!

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!

5. David Bowie and Bing Crosby – “Little Drummer Boy / Peace on Earth”.  This is the David Bowie song that your grandma likes.  It’s just lovely.  I didn’t own anything with this song on it, so I had to download.  That’s why it didn’t appear until 2010!

6. Helix – “Happy Christmas (War is Over)”.  Yes, it rocks, but not too hard!  Helix covered Lennon for their Heavy Metal Christmas.  Singer Brian Vollmer is trained in the Bel Canto technique and he’s more than capable of singing songs for your Christmas dinner in mind.

7. Extreme – “Christmas Time Again”.  My mom always liked Extreme, or “Nick Strean” as she thought they were called.  This isn’t the greatest Christmas song in the world, but it doesn’t suck.

8. Hawskley Workman – “3 Generations”.  Told you there would be some Hawksley.  This touching song is about three generations of women in the kitchen making Christmas dinner together.

9. Elvis Presley – “Blue Christmas”.  I must have downloaded this one too.  I am a bit of a sucker for Elvis.  I included Joe Perry’s instrumental version on a previous CD.

10. The Beatles – “Christmas Time is Here Again”.  Not one of their best songs, but it’s the Beatles so it had to be included eventually.  This version comes from the 1995 CD single for “Free As a Bird”.  Relatively few have heard it, and I thought that would get people’s ears perked up, but by this time, the wine was out….

11. Steve Vai – “Christmas Time is Here”.  This is from the first Merry Axemas.  It’s a lovely track and not too shreddy.  Remember this song from the Charlie Brown Christmas special?  Steve does it on guitar, of course!

12. Jethro Tull – “God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman”.  This funky flute version will get the toes tappin’.  Hard to believe that this is from Tull’s final studio album in 2003, The Jethro Tull Christmas Album!  It would have been nice to get one more, but Tull’s Christmas Album is a good one to have around.  If you need to tolerate Christmas music, you may as well listen to Tull jamming it out.

13. Brian Vollmer – “The First Noel”.  Helix’s Vollmer put out a rare charity album in 2005 called Raising the Roof on Mary Immaculate.  “The First Noel” is one of the best tracks.  Vollmer is the first artist to get two appearances on my CD.

14. Ted Nugent – “Deck the Halls”.  Much like “Run Rudolph Run”, this one smokes!  It’s a guitar instrumental at full speed.  Grandma didn’t like this one.

15. Twisted Sister – “O Come All Ye Faithful”.  I really don’t like the Twisted Christmas album.  This song was a hit though, and since it’s virtually identical to “We’re Not Gonna Take It”, I can…errr…take it.

16. Cheap Trick – “Come On Christmas”.  My sister was a huge Cheap Trick fan at one point.  She had this song before I did.  Essentially just a Cheap Trick pop rocker with Christmas lyrics.  Sounds like classic Cheap Trick to me.

17. AC/DC – “Mistress For Christmas”.  I put this song on as the joke it is.  I like to remind people that AC/DC did have a Christmas song.  “Jingle bells, Jingle bells, jingle all the day.  I can’t wait to Christmas time, when I roll you in the hay.”  Hey, it counts.

18. The Darkness – “Christmas Time (Don’t Let the Bells End)“.  In my review, I said, “Even though the guitars are thicker than a good ol’ bowl of Thin Lizzy pudding, there is no mistaking this for anything but a Christmas song.   It is a joyous rock re-imagining of a Christmas carol, with the unmistakable Justin Hawkins falsetto.”  Plus, sis likes The Darkness.

19. Jon Bon Jovi – “Please Come Home for Christmas”.  I like this one.  Fuck off.

20. Jimi Hendrix – “Little Drummer Boy/Silent Night/Auld Lang Syne”.  From an EP called Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.  Jimi and band jammed out some impressive licks but the dinner party didn’t enjoy.

21. Jim Cuddy – “New Year’s Eve”.  Cuddy’s solo debut All In Time is tremendous CD and comes highly recommended by this guy right here.  It’s like listening to a Blue Rodeo album, but only the Jim songs.  The sentimental “New Year’s Eve” is a lovely ballad that fits right in with the Christmas theme.

22. Bob & Doug McKenzie – “The Twelve Days of Christmas”.  You gotta end with a classic.  From 1981’s The Great White North comes the big Christmas hit.  We used to hear this every single year on my mom’s old clock radio.  We’d squeal with laughter trying to sing along.  “A beer…in a tree…”

 

How would you rate this one?  Trying to avoid overlap was previous instalments was my Achilles’ heel.  I’d swap out a lot of the lesser songs for better ones, but it’s not bad.  It’s listenable.  It’ll do.

3/5 stars

 

 

#718: Phases

GETTING MORE TALE #718:  Phases

Do you go through phases?  Perhaps you had a Hawaiian shirt phase (I did).  Maybe you had a period when you were really into crème brûlée.  It’s alright.  Don’t be ashamed.  Lets talk about different phases.

There’s always a spark.  Look back at your own phases.  Can you pinpoint something that started it?

The first time I heard Marillion was by pure chance.  A customer who liked me came in and sold three minty Marillion remasters.  (The bosses hated this customer, but he liked me because I gave him good money for his music.  The bosses thought I paid him too much and “spoiled” him so to speak.)  The three Marillion remasters he sold were  Script For A Jester’s Tear, Fugazi, and Misplaced Childhood.  Iron Tom Sharpe recommended I buy Misplaced as my first.  I spent a weekend with it and wanted more.  “Kayleigh” was absolutely immediate.  I knew it was the hit after a few verses.

A painful breakup later that year intensified my Marillion lust.  I went to their website and was astounded by what I saw:  a dozen or so exclusive albums only available online.  Some were sold out, such as Live at the Borderline.  Those that were not sold out went into my shopping cart, and showed up at my house a couple weeks later!  I even signed up for the fan club to get the free Christmas CD, and I pre-ordered their next studio album (unheard of back then).

I wasn’t done.  I wanted to track down the unavailable things.  Ebay had some and that’s how I ended up paying $300 for marillionrochester.  Only 2000 copies of it were ever made, which were sent directly to fans who donated to their 1997 American tour fund.  It’s signed and it is a holy grail item if there ever was one.  And I have it and it’s a much-loved part of my collection.

This Marillion phase also inspired a small Scottish phase.  I’m half Scottish and Marillion’s early lyrics got me interested in exploring that side of my history.  That culminated in my Rampant Lion tattoo.  I’m sure the actual Scottish guy at work, who was born and raised there, must have thought I was a wannabe.  (I probably was.)  I’m also half Italian but all I could think of for that tattoo was a bowl of spaghetti.

The shirt phase was a real thing too.  I bought a lot of shirts and not just Hawaiian.  This phase merited its own chapter:  Record Store Tales Part 249:  The Shirts.

Ugggh.

There was a Lego phase.  This was sparked inadvertently by T-Rev.  He had a giant sack of Lego from his childhood.  A lot of it was space Lego.  We spent an afternoon organising it to sell on Ebay.  He eventually got a few hundred bucks for the sack, but that afternoon of going through it all was naturally nostalgic.  So, I bought a Star Wars Lego set.  It was the Ultimate Collector Series X-Wing fighter.  Go big or go home.

It starts with one, and it just escalated from there.

The problems with collecting Lego are multiple.  Not only is it a real rabbit’s hole, but it’s just not easy to display.  When Lego gets dusty it’s a pain in the ass to clean.  Bits and pieces pop off when you dust.  And spouses tend to knock them over and try to put them back together without you noticing.  Some of those sets are just too huge to display.

My Lego collecting ended with the Star Wars prequel trilogy in 2005.  The new releases became boring after that, and the shelf space issue had peaked.  I sold almost all of it in favour of my next phase:  robots.

Transformers were a huge part of my childhood, probably more so than Lego originally was, because Transformers had an ongoing Marvel comic series keeping me on the edge of my seat waiting for the next issue.  Transformers came back into my life in 2006, just by fiddling with a Beast Wars toy that was sitting around the office.    This phase has not really abated.  These transforming figures are more than just toys.  The high-end ones are functional pieces of art.

There were a few years of a Black Sabbath phase, where I obsessed to collect “everything” just like I did with Marillion.  I had a couple really good years of collecting Deep Purple in bursts.  The internet opened up a lot of avenues.  It was easy to get rare things like Stormbringer on CD.  You just had to be prepared to pay for it.

What about tattoos and piercings?  Were they a phase?  No — I still have one earring (left tragus) and it’s more a professional thing today.  And priorities.  My “thing” for tattooed and pierced girls must have been a phase, though.  Mrs. LeBrain has neither!  Not even her ears.

All my interests over the years have ebbed and flowed, except one:  my love of Rock and Roll.  35-odd years and we are still together.  And more in love than ever.  It’s been there for me every time.  Virtually every story on this site is associated with music.  That’s a beautiful thing.

 

#700: How Are You Doing?

GETTING MORE TALE #700: How Are You Doing?

It’s been a week since we lost Mum…and we are doing OK.  Jen’s been focused like an electron microscope on getting things done for the funeral.  My job is scanning photos and preparing music…and catching up on laundry.  Attempting to put a dent into the pile of clothes I call “Sock Mountain”.  I’m assuming reality will hit us later.

For music, Mum would have liked if we used something by my sister Dr. Kathryn.  I hope I can find something appropriate, perhaps from her Stealth CD.  At least one track.  For the reception after, I’m using Mike Slayen’s awesome acoustic guitar album DUDE.  Don’t let the title fool you!  If Mum was well enough, I know she would have been enjoying this album with us.  Probably in the car on the way to the cottage.  She would have loved it.  Me, I would have loved just having Mum with us.

This has been a very hard year for us, and I know the power of music is such that you always associate certain tracks or albums with periods in your life.  Music also has the power to raise the spirits, and it did that for me quite a few times this summer.  On every shitty drive to Toronto on the 401, to every dismal hospital parking lot, my stereo was on.  A lot of albums were repeat listens, and I worry:  “Will I always associate the Bosstones or Blotto with this shitty summer?”

I might.  And that might make the Bosstones or Blotto hard to listen to, down the road.  I think we have to try and make more memories of those bands later on.  Maybe when we finally do return to the cottage.

That aside, we sure did devour a lot of music on the road.  Just last week, between Toronto and the work commute, I polished off Marillion’s The Singles ’82-’88 (12 discs), its followup Singles Box Vol 2 ’89 – ’95 (12 more discs), and a third “box set” of eight more singles. A whopping 1.5 gig of music.  Basically all their singles and B-sides in one massive weeklong stretch.  Meanwhile, back at the office, I had my Kiss flash drive.  Basically, everything I own by Kiss in one place.  I’ve been focused on the studio albums, and each one has been spun more than once.  I realised this:  I never seem to get tired of Kiss!

Whether it was Lick it Up, Hotter Than Hell, Dressed to Kill, Love Gun, Rock and Roll OverDynasty, Unmasked, Creatures…even Asylum got multiple plays in the last couple weeks.  When a band has been your favourite for over 30 years and you can’t explain why, I guess you can just keep playing those albums in rotation.  The later albums…admittedly less so.  The emotional attachment isn’t quite there.

Get this!  While I was bopping to Kiss Unmasked one afternoon, the guy in the office next to me put on “Summerland” by King’s X!  How cool is that?  When was the last time you heard King’s X in the office?  The guy even knew the names of the members.  Said a friend recently turned him onto King’s X, but all he had was the Best Of.  Gotta start somewhere!

Thanks for checking in.  We’ll be OK.  I think we’ll manage to make it through this, but not without the support of friends and loved ones.

#S18-4: “Who Gives a F*** About Transformers!” — Sausagefest 2018 was More Than Met the Eye

On Friday I was itching to go.  I made a post here, critiquing my passenger Uncle Meat for wanting to stop at both Walmart and Value Village before hitting the Sausage Road.  He’s a grown man and could be a little better prepared…but I too am a grown man who can admit when he is wrong.  And I was wrong.  The Walmart and Value Village stops were actually two of my favourite things that happened.

WALMART

“I wanna stop at the Walmart up by St. Jacobs,” said Meat.  Cool.  I try to make a point of checking the toy section at every Walmart, because it’s the out-of-the-way ones where you can find the rare stuff.  I made a beeline and lo!  One, two, three, four, FIVE brand new Transformers figures.  I grabbed all five and hit the checkout, so excited about my excellent find.  These are toys that collectors are having a hard time finding anywhere.  This led directly to…

VALUE VILLAGE

“I want something ridiculous,” said Uncle Meat as we hit the T-shirts.  Immediately, I spotted an Optimus Prime shirt waiting right there for me, the first shirt we saw.  My size!  I then found rather quickly a bright orange George Jones “The Living Legend” shirt.  It had to come with us to Sausagefest.  Finally, after going through just about every shirt in the store, Meat found it like destiny:

These two stops really set the tone for the whole weekend.  They were:

1. Everything coming together perfectly, and
2. Dr. Dave Haslam’s hate-on for Optimus Prime.

I love when a plan comes together.

One plan that did not come together was my tent, which broke immediately just out of the box.  Fortunately you can always count on certain Sausagefesters to always bring gorilla and/or duct tape.  The tent weathered both nights.

DAY ONE

The Countdown began promptly at Whenever O’clock and rapidly ticked down 50 + 2 tracks in one night, plus numerous bits and sketches.  50 +2?

We lost one of our own this year and Rush’s “Dreamline” was played in his honour.  Many were decked in neon orange in honour of his old orange boiler suit.  Troy was a truly good soul, a human being with a solid heart of gold.  He always made me feel welcome from my first Sausagefest on, and many years before that too as we had friends in common.  “Learning that we’re only immortal for a limited time” was a poignant lyric, but what really made it special was a tribute that Jeff Woods himself recorded for it.  The Legend of Classic Rock participated in a sketch/tribute that made eyes wet and some bellies laugh.  The tone was flawless and it is truly good to know what integrity looks like up close and personal.

“Dreamline” was not part of the official countdown, nor was a bit that I snuck into my own intro as a part of The Mamas and the Papas’ “California Dreaming”.  I sandwiched my personal introduction into Jeff Russo’s “Main Title” from Star Trek: Discovery, a show I’ve been hyping all year long.  Russo (of the rock band Tonic) composed a dramatic, striking piece working in elements from the original show.  I’m glad to have a chance to showcase it in its entirety, albeit with a long interlude of my shit in the middle.

Don’t forget the two minutes of “improvised scatting”, precisely because Troy would have hated that kind of shit!  And it was so funny that I couldn’t breathe for two minutes straight.  The Countdown (all a blur to me now) ran from #100 to 91 (10 songs total) with no comedy bits, because Troy always said “Less talk, more rock!”  They cut the crap and just played the tunes.

I can tell you that we heard Styx that night (“Mr. Roboto” and “Light Up”), some Five Alarm Funk, Beastie Boys, Metallica, Iron Maiden, Willie Nelson, and…a blur of songs and comedy.  There were a few rap tracks this year, certainly a record number.  Afroman and Cypress Hill made their debuts.  A list is forthcoming.

DAY TWO

50 more tracks to count down.

Uncle Meat was up early (for him) at 9:30, and in great spirits despite a bad back the night before.  We made our way to Flesherton where Uncle Meat destroyed the men’s toilet at the Flying Spatula.  Emerging from the washroom he announced to the world, “Don’t use the one on the left!”  He annihilated the toilet again on our way out, and that of an outhouse on the way back to the farm.  I felt bad for the next guy in line waiting to use the outhouse, but Meat made it out of there really quick.

But I digress.  The Flying Spatula was a great ol’ time even though the Lamb Lord got mad at me for taking a picture of his food.

 

Back on the farm, we played a cool game I call “Knife Chucking”.  It’s kind of like axe throwing, but more special because those daggers were hand-forged by our very own Chuck.  And it was way fun!  A knife actually got lost in the dirt, and then plowed over by mistake by tractor.  But we found it as a team with a metal detector (for real!) and a rake!

I goaded Dr. Dave to rant some more about the Transformers. Man, he really hates the Transformers.  Do not watch this video if you are easily butthurt!

The second night commenced with lamb, perfectly marinated and cooked to medium by our chef the Lamb Lord.  It was gone so fast that Uncle Meat didn’t even get a slice.

The rock resumed.  The Blues Brothers was #1…Clutch #2…and Twisted Sister at #3 with “Burn in Hell”.  More Five Alarm Funk, Queen, Tool…just a blur of songs.  But probably most impressive to some of us:  “Grendel” by Marillion, in its entirety.  A 17-minute track within the top 20, and yet momentum was strong.

I have a literal Meat-ton of a video to sift through, but with perfect weather and setting, Sausagefest 2018 was once again utopia on Earth.

And a big, big, big thank you to Jeff Woods, the real Legend of Rock and Roll, for helping us out this year.  Meat sent you a personal gift as well.  I know you’re about 40 kilometers downriver from us in the valley.  Uncle Meat kept having to shit that day sir.  Meat took a shit in the river, and his shit signal should be with you by now.  Mr. Woods, you are a huge inspiration and truly a man among men.

And woman!  One woman.  Sausagefest has its first woman and she is one of the guys!  A massive first that may have been overdue!

My sun baked skin is aching for the comfort of a shower.  Enjoy the photos.  Lots more to come.

 

 

 

Gallery: Marillion Christmas Comes Early

It’s that time of year again!  When Marillion fans gather around post boxes and anxiously check on message boards.  “Has it come yet?  Do you have yours yet?”

Yes, it has come, and yes we have ours now!  What is “it”?  Why, the annual Marillion Christmas release and Web UK Magazine of course!  Since 1998, Marillion have offered free Christmas exclusives to those who sign up for the fan package.  This year’s is a DVD:  Christmas at the Club.  This was a private fan gig at the band studio The Racket Club.  It was an invite-only crowd, treated to live versions of the latest tracks from 2016’s Fuck Everyone and Run.  Tracks like “The Leavers” and “Living in FEAR” sit among old favourites like “The Great Escape”, “Splintering Heart” and “Real Tears for Sale”.  Can’t wait to get this one on the big TV screen.

The magazine is also a treat.  Marillion recently conquered the Royal Albert Hall, and inside is the glorious photographic proof.

The Christmas season never feels like it has begun until the Marillion CD or DVD arrives.  I am happy to announce that it has now officially started!  Time to enjoy some Christmas at the Club.

 

REVIEW: Marillion – A Piss-Up in a Brewery / Christmas 2000

MARILLIONChristmas 2000A Piss-Up in a Brewery (2000 fan club CD)
MARILLION A Piss-Up in a Brewery (19 track download version released 2010)

Being a member has its advantages, and when joining the official Marillion fan club entails a free exclusive CD, you can always count on me to be on board.  Marillion’s third, A Piss-Up in a Brewery, was my first.  The original 12 track Racket Records printing (WebFree 03) is a treasure.  It was made available again to members of the Front Row Club subscription service in 2003, as Bass Brewery Museum, Burton, UK – 17th November 2000 (FRC-011).  CD has space limitations, but in 2002 a DVD of the full 19 song show was released.  Then in 2010, the audio (mp3 or FLAC) of all 19 tracks was made available for download.  Anyway you want it, you can get the complete performance as it was.

Marillion were invited to perform intimate gigs at the Bass Brewery and get their own signature beer.  They chose an acoustic format with new material, special covers and a guest.  They were hard at work on their new album Anoraknophia, “which you’ve already bought” said Steve Hogarth, referring to their innovative pre-ordering scheme.  The second gig was recorded for the fan club-only Christmas CD.

A quiet “Go!” begins and gently builds to the throbbing chorus, “Wide awake at the edge of the world.”  The second song also quietly builds from calm beginnings.  “After Me” is one of their most memorable pop melodies, infused with integrity from the start, and stripped bare in the brewery.  Then from their 1994 concept album Brave comes the single “Alone Again in the Lap of Luxury”.*  Intense songs for an intimate show.  “Lap of Luxury” smoulders, and as it burns, Steve Hogarth blasts for all he’s got.

The first big surprise of the evening was the Fish-era B-side “Cinderella Search”, albeit the shortened 7″ version and not the full-on five and a half minutes of brilliance from the 12″ single.  The amusing thing is when a spoiling audience member blurts out the title having attending the night before.  “Oh, there’s always one,” says Hogarth.  The singer had never performed the song before these gigs.  The acoustic setting alleviates any pressure to be like Fish.  It also enables them to seamlessly meld the song onto “The Space”, already popular in acoustic form.

“A Collection” is another B-side with dark subject matter.  It’s about “an uncle” with an interesting hobby, but it’s also an ironically bright tune.  “Beautiful”* and “Afraid of Sunrise”* both date back to 1995’s Afraid of Sunlight, a pair really made for the intimate setting.

New friend Stephanie Sobey-Jones on cello is invited onstage for a sombre “Sympathy”, both a single and a Rare Bird cover.   Cello also features on the new song “Number One”.  It had simple beginnings, explains Hogarth.  “I had some words, and Mark had some chords.”  Interjects Mark Kelly, “Three, actually. I’m not joking!”   The track takes a stab at the artificiality of modern pop music, but was only included on the pre-ordered deluxe edition of Anoraknophobia.  Simple, but extremely intense.  The cello stays for “Dry Land”, a favourite ballad from 1992’s Holidays in Eden (and even earlier).  The voice of Steve (Hogarth) rings true on even the most difficult note, while the guitar of Steve (Rothery) makes for a sweltering solo.

Back to 1987, and the old favourite “Sugar Mice”.*  Of all the old Fish classics, “Sugar Mice” is the one that Hogarth most easily adopts.  The scars that he is nursing at the end of the bar sounds like his own.

Yet still the humour is always there.  As they warm up for the Mexican-sounding “Gazpacho”, Mark Kelly asks “Am I in the wrong band?”

“You have been for years,” deadpans Pete Trewavas.

“Gazpacho” gets you moving as the concert enters its final third.  Away, yon darkness; the music stays largely celebratory from here, though the lyrics maintain some bite.  Elvis Presley, O.J. Simpson and Mike Tyson were mentioned as inspirations for the lively song.  Celtic sounds invade “80 Days”,* an ode to the audience who clap along to every beat.  “80 Days” was always acoustic, and “The Answering Machine”* has existed in a popular acoustic alternate arrangement for years.  The brewery crowd clearly liked both very much.

A slew of covers are encore treats.  Crowded House’s “How Will You Go” (from 1991’s Woodface) is a brilliant song and choice.  There’s one more original (drummer Ian Mosely smokes on “Cannibal Surf Babe”) before they do Carole King’s “Way Over Yonder”* and The Beatles’ “Let It Be”.*  Rothery gets a bluesy guitar showcase on “Way Over Yonger”, though Hogarth has the soul credentials too, as “Let It Be” ably proves.

For a long time, I felt that the original Christmas 2000 release of A Piss-Up in a Brewery to be one of the best Marillion live albums, period.  It’s still magnificent in its full length, though perhaps they should have just made it widely available to everyone in the first place.  Maybe it wouldn’t have been a hit, but if they were on Santa’s good list that year, you never know.

5/5 stars

* Indicates this song was not on the 2000 Christmas release of A Piss-Up in a Brewery, but only the DVD and download versions.

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.

REVIEW: Marillion – The Jingle Book – Christmas 2006

scan_20161213MARILLIONThe Jingle BookChristmas 2006  (2006 Racket Records WebUK membership CD)

Gather ’round the glow of your computers children, and get your hot chocolate in hand, for it is time for a look at another Marillion Christmas CD.  The Jingle Book is a doubly clever title, for Marillion’s Christmas song for 2006 was a cover of “That’s What Friends Are For” from The Jungle Book. A surprising choice, it is rather movie accurate and partly acapella.  There is also the traditional and always silly Christmas greeting from the band.  In what may also be a Marillion tradition, this short message requires multiple takes!

The bulk of the CD is a live set from Poland in 2006.  The festival setting lends this CD a different atmosphere than other live Marillion discs.  From the sonics to the feel, The Jingle Book doesn’t work like typical Marillion sets.   There are only a few long bombers, lots of singles, and no tracks earlier than Seasons End.  Decent quality audio will satisfy all but the pickiest of fans; remember this amounts to an official bootleg.

An ass-kicking “Separated Out” was chosen for opening position.  This song, among Marillion’s most energetic, would have got the crowd’s attention.  Drummer Ian Mosely is a monster on “Separated Out”, which is immediately followed by the band’s hit single “You’re Gone”.  The mosh pit vibe gives way to ethereal dance.  Floating like smoke in the air, “Fantastic Place” and “Easter” are rolled out in powerful performances.  Talking is minimal though Steve “h” does attempt some Polish.

Afraid of Sunlight is given a nod with the ballad “Beautiful”, and progressive epic “Out of this World”.  “Beautiful” is as lovely as its name, and has the feeling of celebration.  The mood darkens immediately on “Out of this World”, as there are very few positive songs about nautical disasters.  Steve Rothery’s immaculate guitar tone sings its own song, sad but hopeful.

The beat picks up with the electrifying “Accidental Man” from This Strange Engine.  As a highlight from that often overlooked album, “An Accidental Man” does not get showcased often, and this organ-heavy take is satisfying.  Boppy Beatles-y single “The Damage” (from Marbles) is sheer delight.  With genie now out of the box, “Neverland” begins a long slow climax.  As one of the most dramatic of all Marillion epics, “Neverland” haunts the air like burning incense.  Then like a halogen light, Rothery brightens it up with his un-immitatible string magic.  Consider the heart that “h” puts into his singing here, combined with Rothers’ liquid guitars, and this could be the best ever live version of “Neverland”.

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Rolling into the encores, “Between You and Me” and “Cover My Eyes” exude glee and positive vibes.  There is much common ground between the two albums those songs are taken from (Holidays in Eden and Anoraknophobia) so it is unsurprising that they work together so well in the encore position.  A brilliant pairing, crisp and refreshing like Sauvignon Blanc with a healthy avocado salad.

As with any past Marillion Christmas CD, you can’t buy this anymore and the chances of stumbling upon one in the shops are nil, even with the help of all of Santa’s elves.  However you can still download it and the others by joining the official Marillion webUK fan club.  Members receive three thick, glossy full colour magazines, the Christmas CD, and other downloadable content.  Worth thinking about, or adding to your Christmas list.

4/5 stars

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REVIEW: Marillion – Merry Xmas to Our Flock – Christmas 2005

scan_20161204MARILLION Merry Xmas to Our FlockChristmas 2005 (2005 Racket Records WebUK membership CD)

Every year, like the most reliable loyalty program in the world, Marillion reward their fanclub members with a special Christmas release.  Each one has exclusive music on it, some more Christmas-y than others.  The main exclusive on the 2005 Christmas release is a live set by “Los Trios Marillos”:  a stripped down trio version of the band.  Los Trios does acoustic versions, usually for radio sessions, and consists of singer Steve Hogarth, guitarist Steve Rothery, and bassist Pete Trewavas.  These 13 tracks were recorded in Washington DC for XM radio, featuring a wonderful cross-section of Hogarth-era favourites.

That’s not all, of course!  Marillion deliver their traditional Christmas message at the start of the CD, campy and tipsy.  Bonus points if you’re from North America but can still translate everything the band says.  It takes them a few takes to finally get it to their, err, satisfaction.  “We hope you have a really good Christmas, don’t get too drunk, and we’ll see you next year.”  Then, “That’s not written down at all!”  Usually these albums include a brand new studio Christmas track too, and this time it’s the celtic “Erin Marbles”.  It’s a hyperactive Irish jig with mandolin, tin whistle, squeezebox, fiddles and bodhran.  Calling this a Christmas track is a bit of a stretch, as it is basically the song “Marbles” from the same-titled album done up for fun, mixed with a medley of Christmas tunes.  There is no question it’s fun for the fans, but nobody except fans will “get it”, so it’s not really useful for mom’s Christmas mix CD this year.

The Los Trios set commences with the downer “Hollow Man” which is an abrupt change of moods.  The was recorded live with an audience, but they are so quiet during “Hollow Man” you could hear a pin drop, which makes the song that much more haunting.  It is performed solo by Hogarth only accompanied by piano.  “It’s a little early in the morning to be singing,” says Steve.  Fortunately things become upbeat if only for a little while on “Cover My Eyes”, a song that is brilliant acoustically.  If you have heard Marillion’s piano treatment of this single, then you will recognize this arrangement.  It might have been too early to sing that morning, but Steve manages just fine, including the high “pain and heaven” section that challenges every mere mortal.  Rothers and Pete join Hogarth at this point for the B-side “The Bell in the Sea”, which Steve mis-introduces having lost his place in the set list!  It’s live radio, folks.  This is the jazzy bass-oriented acoustic version that the band had been performing since at least 1998, very different from the nautical epic original.  They then return to the song that H was beginning to introduce, “Runaway” from Brave.  It was the song that kickstarted the whole concept of the album.  It is a dark and emotional band and fan favourite, but stripped down to a trio format, it is even more delicate.

The first of four songs from the most-recent Marbles is the dancey hit “You’re Gone”.  Acoustically  it is a different animal, but just as beautiful.  The focus isn’t on the beats but on the melody.  Another song that is completely altered is “Dry Land” from Holidays in Eden.  It is slowed down with a gentle electronic pulse as it rolls softly.  “Fantastic Place” from Marbles flows naturally from there, and Rothery’s solo is absolutely supernatural.  The set really moves at this point, with minimal talking.  “This is the 21st Century” from Anoraknophobia burns quietly but strongly.  On album it percolates with unusual electronic effects, but live it simmers with the hot tone of Steve’s guitar.

“Easter” is a bright light in the set.  This version starts very quiet, slow and understated.  It’s an inventive take, and it slowly builds to the resemble the original, though it ends early.  “Marbles 1” and “Don’t Hurt Yourself” are the last of the new songs presented, and the audience get right into it.  “Don’t Hurt Yourself” has to be one of the best songs Marillion has ever written, and the clapping crowd energizes it.  “Don’t Hurt Yourself” was one of many highlights on Marbles, but here it is head and shoulders the winning track.  A wonderful performance of an exceptional track.

Old favourites end the radio session:  “Answering Machine” (from Radiat10n) and “Man of a Thousand Faces” (from This Strange Engine).  “Answering Machine” should be very familiar, as this acoustic mandolin and guitar arrangement has been recorded many times before.  The handclapping crowd returns to finish “Man of a Thousand Faces” with class.  This song has always been acoustic, so this does not tread far from its roots, though it is shortened for the trio format.

You can’t buy this CD anymore and the chances of stumbling upon one in the shops are nil, however you can still download it by joining the official Marillion webUK fan club.  It is well worth it.  You get three thick, glossy full colour magazines, this year’s Christmas CD, and access to download all the old ones and much more.  Worth thinking about, or adding to this year’s Christmas list.

4/5 stars

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