Mix CD

#719: Mystery Disc

GETTING MORE TALE #719: Mystery Disc

Cleaning out Jen’s mom’s house after she passed away was very emotional work.  Nobody’s been living there since July.  One day she got up and broke her hip.  We didn’t know it yet but the cancer was in her bones.  She never came home again.  When we started working on the house in September, everything was more or less how she left it.

Her music collection was small with a few gems.  One disc that I kept was Cat Stevens’ Icon.  I had to take it for “If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out.”  As told in Getting More Tale #702, that song seemed to make a connection with me when she was sick.  One day we went to see her in the hospital, and she was unconscious.  No longer able to communicate.  That song was stuck in my head for reasons I can’t explain.  I like to think she was sending me a message.  Not to be sad.  It would have been like her to say that to me.  I get tears in my eyes thinking about her lying there dying, and that song playing on repeat in my head.  I had the song played at her funeral.  It just seemed like such a “mum” song, even though I have no memories of us ever listening to it together.  When I found out that she actually owned that song, I got the chills again.  Finding Cat Stevens made my heart swell.

We also found a number of CD-Rs that I made, but had no labels or covers.  For today’s chapter I’m focusing on one specifically.  I can’t figure out why I made it, or who I made it for, or what it was doing at Jen’s mom’s house!

It is a lightscribe CD, and burned into the top is the old background from my website.  It’s a photo of some model guitars and guitar picks.  The 15 song track listing is most bizarre and I can’t figure out what I was doing!

Track 1:  Craig Fee saying “LeBraaaain”.  This dates the CD to 2012 at the earliest.  I liked to introduce my CDs with something amusing, so this works.

Tracks 2-4:  “Whiskey in the Jar”.  The first is Metallica’s studio cover from Garage Inc.  The second is Thin Lizzy’s take from 1972.  Last is a live Metallica version, possibly from the CD single.  That’s a lot of whiskey – 15 solid minutes worth.  Listening back, the Metallica live version absolutely kills their studio cut.  Yeah-hah!

Track 5:  Steve Earle – “Home to Houston”.  This track is from Steve’s political 2004 album The Revolution Starts Now.  I haven’t played that album in years and I don’t remember this song.  Why it stuck out enough to put it on this mystery disc, I haven’t a clue.  Good tune, but I don’t know it anymore!

Track 6:  Jeff Bridges & Colin Ferrel – “Fallin’ & Flyin'” from the 2010 soundtrack Crazy Heart.  Now, memories are starting to form.  I can remember driving around with Jen and her mom, listening to this song in my car.  Did I make this CD for her mom?  If so, why the Metallica?

Track 7:  Johnny Cash – “The Man Comes Around”.  One of the greatest Cash songs, from the best American album in my opinion.  Goosebumps, still to this day.  Jen and I love Cash and had him played at our wedding.

Track 8:  Me doing a song intro!  The backing track sounds like Motorhead’s acoustic version of “Ace of Spades” with the main lick looped and no vocals.  I made this for a past Sausagefest countdown!  The track I’m introducing:  “Renegade” by Styx!  I mention that it was covered by Daughtry and then add sound effects of Nicko McBrain burping and farting.  I have to admit it’s a pretty great (and funny) intro!  It was #30 on the 2013 countdown.  From that I can now assume I made this CD the same year.  Which is strange because I wasn’t really making mix CDs anymore in 2013.

Track 9 is a personal favourite, “Rock An’ Roll Angels” from Whitesnake’s 1982 album Saints & Sinners.  I’ve always been into rock and roll songs with boogie woogie piano. I have loved this song for three decades.  Then Track 10, another Whitesnake classic:  “Slow An’ Easy” from the landmark classic Slide It In.  That’s another personal fave, because of the slide riff.  It’s incredible and I spent many hours as a teenager playing air slide to it.  Not to mention air drums!  Cozy Powell was so fucking cool.

Then more slide!  Track 11:  The Black Crowes – “Twice as Hard”.  I was clearly trying to make the CD flow.  Indeed I used to spend hours shuffling track order until I had it “just right”.  With all this slide business going on, I wonder if the next song is going to be some “Travelling Riverside Blues”?

Nope!  A total surprise to me, Track 12 is The Tragically Hip!  “50 Mission Cap” is Jen’s favourite, for reasons you’ll understand.

Bill Barilko disappeared that summer,
He was on a fishing trip.
The last goal he ever scored,
Won the Leafs the cup.
They didn’t win another till nineteen sixty two,
The year he was discovered.
I stole this from a hockey card,
I keep tucked up under.

I think the lyrics are brilliant because they tell two stories at once.  First, they tell the true tale of Toronto Maple Leaf Bill Barilko, who tragically died in a plane crash in a remote part of Quebec.  Nobody knew what happened to him until his body was found 11 years later.  The second tale is that of a young Gord Downie who read about it on the back of a hockey card.

Track 13 is another surprise:  “The Boys are Back in Town” by Bon Jovi!  Don’t scoff, this is actually a really good Thin Lizzy cover from their New Jersey period.  Lyrically, Jon and Phil Lynott were on similar wavelengths.  This is exactly the kind of tune that Jon was writing.  “Wild in the Streets” is Bon Jovi trying to re-write “The Boys are Back in Town”.

Track 14:  “Big Foot” from Chickenfoot III.  Gotta be one of my favourite car tunes.  “Got Houses Of The Holy on the box, got it all cranked up cause, yeah! That shit rocks!”  What a groove — you can’t help but stomp along.  Joe Satriani has a way with a riff.

I had a guess that Track 15 was going to be all of side one of 2112.  The track time was over 20 minutes, so I had an inkling it was either that or side two of Abbey Road.  I’ve ended mix CDs with 20 minute epics before, and I think it works.  The Beatles did it!  Granted, the 2112 epic was a side one, but it still functions perfectly in the closing position.  Try it yourself!

Listening to this mystery disc has been enjoyable, but my reasoning still escapes me.  It’s such a bizarre mix, with the front loaded threesome of “Whiskey in the Jar”.  From there it starts to make a little more sense.  But how it did it end up at “mum’s” house?

My best theory is that I made it as a gift for Jen’s Uncle Rick, and it never got mailed.  He lived in Texas at the time — maybe that’s why I included “Home to Houston”.  Rick is also a Whitesnake fan, and a Toronto Maple Leafs fan.  I’m just not sure.

How would you rate this mix CD if you were the recipient?  I think I’d give it a solid:

4/5 stars

 

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#386: ‘The Mighty Priest’ – A Mix CD

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RECORD STORE TALES MkII: Getting More Tale
#386: ‘The Mighty Priest’ – A Mix CD

In January of 2009, I determined to make another mix CD for my best friend Peter.   He really enjoyed them and wanted some more tunes from the LeBrain Library.  The theme this time was Judas Priest.  We had both been playing the video game Rock Band a lot, and I enjoyed singing lead on the song “Painkiller”, so we played that one frequently.  Peter decided that he wanted to check out some Priest, so I worked very hard to make a CD suited to his own personal needs.  I set out five constraints to my Mighty Priest mix:

1. Peter only knew three Priest songs: “Painkiller”, “Breaking The Law”, and “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin'”.

2. Peter generally hates slow songs. Therefore, unfortunately, I could not include classics like “Dreamer Deceiver”.

3. I always try to include a variety of tracks from as many albums as I can.

4. Must be limited to a single CD.

5. One rare track – my trademark is always sneaking in a rarity.

So I whittled down the 50 songs I started with to the nice and cozy 79 minutes you see below. Keeping in mind my self-imposed constraints, what would you have done differently?

PRIEST METAL

I sought feedback, and I received feedback.  My ever faithful rock compatriots had these words:

Uncle Meat: Well…Michael…valiant effort. It is a good mix of new and old Priest. But…no “Electric Eye”? What is wrong with you? I cant even believe you would make this list without including it. That “Turbo Lover” is on here…and not “Electric Eye”…kinda makes me feel dirty…unloved. And?!?!?! No “Freewheel Burning”? . I’m getting mighty confused Mr. Ladano. No “Sinner”? “Heading out to the Highway”? I know their catalogue is extensive…but the omission of “Electric Eye” especially is very disturbing….

Dr. Dave: “Rock Hard Ride Free”!!!

Sarge: No “Metal Gods”?  Actually I only ever owned British Steel, so I cant comment on anything.  “Metal Gods” was always my favourite on that album.

Andy: I’m going to have to register an alternate opinion entirely, and that is, with any band that’s been around as long as Priest has, and has done as many albums as they have, simply cannot be captured in a “best of” that is only one CD. You just can’t do it – there’s too much good stuff, even disqualifying the “slow” songs like you did. I tried it with Manowar, and ended up with a full CD after their first four albums. I’ll be doing my personal The Best of Manowar, Volume II sometime soon….

So what I would have done differently is this: Go in chronological order, and put in all of the absolute “must have” songs from each album (remembering the rules for your friend, of course). Don’t overlap songs from one album on more than one CD, so you might have to juggle the playlist a little. Then, when CD #1 is full, move on to Volume 2.  Eventually, hand over your two (or in the case of Priest, maybe 3!) CDs to your friend, apologizing that you simply couldn’t fit it all onto 1.

Johnny Sixx: What I would have done is include their track “Love Bites”…it’s a gem.

All of them made excellent points, and I think it must be concluded that a truly great single disc Judas Priest collection cannot be made.  As Uncle Meat said, I think I made a valiant effort, but 80 minutes is simply not enough time for the Mighty Priest.  The next time I attempted to do something like this, I went with Andy’s advice in the back of my head…

…And ended up with a 5 CD set!  But that’s another story.

 

#380: Custom Priest Box Set Mania!

THE BEST FUCKING COLLABORATION WEEK EVER

Alas, it’s the end of THE BEST FUCKING COLLABORATION WEEK EVER!* I made a five disc Judas Priest box set for Aaron a while ago.  Let’s take a close look at the tracks.  Dig in!

Aaron: Custom Priest Box Set Mania!

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RECORD STORE TALES MkII: Getting More Tale
#380: Custom Priest Box Set Mania!

I’ve known Aaron, your incredible co-host over at the KeepsMeAlive website, for almost 20 years.  For most of those 20 years we haven’t lived in the same town, so we kept in touch via email, text messages, and physical mail.  It wasn’t that long ago that we were sending each other parcels semi-regularly, including musical gifts and mix CDs.  Mix CDs are an art that we both take very seriously.

At one point Aaron had expressed interest in hearing more Judas Priest, so I took it upon myself to create a custom box set, by me, for him.  The official Metalogy box set is pretty good, but as I said in my review for it, “just not the box set that I would have made given the opportunity.”  Aaron gave me the opportunity so I decided to out-do Metalogy and go for a full five discs, and update him to the then-current Priest album Nostradamus.

I found a track listing that I drafted for that very set.  The final CDs that I made for him may have differed, because I was rough-guessing my disc times here.  As close as I have records of, this is the box set that I burned for Aaron.  Let’s take a look at it disc by disc and see how it holds up.

Rocka Rolla – The Old Grey Whistle Test

DISC 1

1. One For The Road
2. Rocka Rolla
3. Diamonds and Rust
4. Dreamer Deceiver
5. Deceiver
6. Cheater
7. Caviar and Meths
8. Prelude
9. Tyrant
10. Dissident Aggressor
11. Better By You, Better Than Me
12. Race With The Devil
13. Stained Class
14. Beyond The Realms of Death
15. Exciter
16. Delivering The Goods
17. Rock Forever
18. Burnin’ Up
19. The Green Manalishi (With The Two-Pronged Crown)
20. Take On The World
21. Hell Bent For Leather

In my Metalogy review, I complained about the absence of “Rocka Rolla” and “One For the Road”.  I have fixed that oversight here, but at the cost of “Never Satisfied”.  It’s not the perfect trade-off.  The ending to “Never Satisfied” was as epic as early Priest got, so it is a win for a loss.  I replaced the live “Diamonds and Rust” with the studio version though, so that is a good thing for a listener like Aaron.  I like that I included the rare “Race With the Devil”, a cover of The Gun.  There is also a healthy dose of Hell Bent for Leather/Killing Machine.  I’m not sure what I was thinking with the track order, but I probably modified that before I burned the final CD.


When the Tax Man comes for Priest’s money, he loses his head and pants!

DISC 2

1. Victim of Changes (Live)
2. Sinner (Live)
3. The Ripper (Live)
4. Breaking The Law (Live)
5. You Don’t Have To Be Old To Be Wise
6. Living After Midnight
7. The Rage
8. Desert Plains
9. Heading Out To The Highway
10. Troubleshooter
11. Turnin’ Circles
12. Riding On The Wind
13. (Take These) Chains
14. Bloodstone
15. You Got Another Thing Comin’
16. Devil’s Child
17. The Hellion / Electric Eye (Live)
18. Steeler (Live)

I see here that I included the live versions of “The Ripper” and “Victim of Changes”.  I suppose that I left these on, because Unleashed in the East is such a critical live album.  It simply must be represented on a box set like this, so I chose to keep a few songs, some of the best ones.  I also like to include rare tracks, so I snagged the live “Steeler” from the radio broadcast CD called Concert Classics. I see a lot of personal favourites on this CD, especially from Screaming for Vengeance. Pretty damn fine disc!

In the dead of night, Love Bites

DISC 3

1. Love Bites
2. Jawbreaker
3. Rock Hard Ride Free
4. The Sentinel
5. Some Heads Are Gonna Roll
6. Night Comes Down (Live)
7. Heavy Duty
8. Defenders of the Faith
9. Turbo Lover
10. Parental Guidance
11. Reckless
12. Out In The Cold (Live)
13. Metal Gods (Live)
14. Freewheel Burning (Live)
15. Ram It Down
16. Hard As Iron
17. Blood Red Skies

From Defenders of the Faith to Ram it Down, the 80’s can be a tricky period of Judas Priest to navigate. This third CD could have been the worst. I opened with the studio version of “Love Bites”, where Metalogy utilized an unreleased live version. I think it makes a great disc opener. For rarities I went with the live “Night Comes Down” instead, a great version from the Priest Re-Masters.  I also had to represent Priest…Live! from this era, so I chose its dramatic concert opener “Out in the Cold” as a live version.  The live version of “Metal Gods” from that album is more melodic than others, so I went with it too.  I look at this disc as some of the very best Priest from this period.

Priest with Ripper – Blood Stained, live in London

DISC 4

1. Heart of a Lion (Demo)
2. Painkiller
3. Hell Patrol
4. One Shot at Glory
5. Jugulator
6. Rapid Fire ‘98
7. Burn In Hell
8. A Touch of Evil (Live)
9. Blood Stained (Live)
10. One On One
11. Feed On Me
12. What’s My Name
13. Running Wild (Live)
14. The Ripper (Live)
15. Diamonds and Rust (Live)
16. The Green Manalishi (With The Two Pronged Crown) ‘98

There it is! “Heart of a Lion” is one of the best rare Priest demos, only available on the Metalogy box set, but recorded in the Turbo era.  It would make a good disc opener, but following it with “Painkiller”?  I’m not sure about my transition there.  It could be like a sledgehammer of awesome, or it could be an awkward stumble.  I think the most difficult mixture of different periods has to be the sudden change of lead singers.  When Tim “Ripper” Owens replaced Rob Halford on 1997’s Jugulator, the band’s sound changed.  That’s probably why I chose a remake of the oldie “Rapid Fire” to be one of the first Ripper songs on this CD.  There are also plenty of live versions here of old Priest classics, from the various live albums Priest did with Ripper.  “Blood Stained” was a live take on a new Ripper song, from their ’98 Live Meltdown album.  I think it’s vastly superior to the original version on Jugulator.   “What’s My Name” is included as a rare B-side from the Japanese version of Demolition.  On the whole I think this is a pretty good CD representing a difficult period in Priest history, and in hindsight it could use more tracks from Painkiller.

The Hellrider, live — same version that I used

DISC 5

1. Judas Rising
2. Revolution
3. Worth Fighting For
4. Demonizer
5. Angel
6. Hellrider (Live)
7. Between the Hammer & the Anvil (Live)
8. Eat Me Alive (Live)
9. Dawn of Creation
10. Prophesy
11. Revelations
12. Death (Live)
13. Persecution
14. Calm Before The Storm
15. Nostradamus

I remember having a really hard time with this disc. I wanted to give Nostradamus a fair shake, but as a double concept album it didn’t lend itself well to chopping up into bits for a mix CD.  By the time I got to this mix CD, all I had left to include were two studio albums (Angel of Retribution and Nostradamus) and a live album (A Touch of Evil) to utilize.  The version of “Hellrider” from that live album is among my favourite tracks due to Rob Halford’s over the top screaming.  This disc doesn’t appear to have any rarities among its tracks.  Not a bad disc but I think I could have done better here.

I remember having difficulty burning the CDs to my satisfaction.  There was some quirk happening with my Nero version, and ultimately I just abandoned the project and sent the discs to Aaron.  Apparently I didn’t even bother making a track list or covers for him.

Making mix CDs to my own satisfaction is a lot of work.  I know I sunk a lot of time into this Priest set, ripping the discs and meticulously choosing the songs.  Ultimately though, it was just fun to hand pick the Judas Priest songs to help Aaron in his exploration of this awesome band.

Monday: QUIET RIOT – Metal Health
Tuesday: DANKO JONES – Born A Lion
Wednesday: Aaron’s Black Crowes B-sides
Thursday: THE CULT – Pure Cult: The Singles 1984-1995

* Not the last collaboration, however.  Stay tuned.

#363: The Art of the Mix CD

For more reading of this nature, I recommend the 1001 Albums in 10 Years site, by Geoff.  He is always posting interesting musical nerdiness like this so cheers to Geoff and his excellent site.

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RECORD STORE TALES MkII: Getting More Tale
#363: The Art of the Mix CD

We have come a long way from the mix tape. If you’re of a certain age, you probably made many mix tapes. I know I did. Dozens upon dozens, spending hours doing so. We had to make the tapes in real time. I would meticulously cue up the tapes so there wouldn’t be excessive gaps between songs, or awkward edits. I couldn’t have a song getting clipped at the start or finish. Mix tapes were a matter of pride and I sank a lot of time into making them, from the recording to the J-card. Sometimes the tapes were for me, but most often they were for someone else (usually a girl I was trying to woo).

Making a mix CD is much easier than making a mix tape. Still, for my level of perfectionism, it requires a lot of work and attention to detail. I have certain “rules” that I always adhere to, when making a mix CD. In the past, I have burned and then thrown away many CD copies that did not meet my exacting standards. I would not settle for a mix CD with an annoying flaw in it! My friends deserve better!

Here are my rules:

1. All songs must be more or less equal in volume.

Nothing worse than diving for the volume knob when a song that was mastered waaaay too loudly comes on! Nero has a built-in “normalize” function that analyzes and automatically equalizes the volume on all tracks. However it doesn’t always work well. It can create volume swells within an actual track that weren’t there before. I do not use this feature any longer. Now, I use Audacity to raise or lower a track’s volume manually, before adding it to my mix.  Painstaking, but you get better results.

GOB2. All live songs must have fade-ins and fade-outs.

I cannot stand the sound of crowd noise starting and stopping abrubtly. I add my own fade-ins and fade-outs. Sometimes this is tricky, because certain live albums may have the song breaks in odd locations. There may not be enough room at the start or end of a track. So, sometimes I have to manually add in enough crowd noise to enable a fadeout, a time consuming fix. I also enjoy doing the occasional cross-fade between songs, which used to be very hard on Nero but is easy as pie with Audacity.

3. CD must have a start, middle and ending.

All tracks are carefully selected for each one of my mix CDs, but usually there are several contenders for opening and closing songs. I try to create a flow, with slow parts and heavy parts, through the disc, with a dramatic climax. I don’t always succeed but my goal is to create a mix CD that works like an album. It has to have a direction.

4. Throw on a rare track.

It doesn’t matter who I’m making a mix CD for, I want an obscure song or two on there. I don’t want to make a mix CD entirely of songs you already know. I want to surprise you with something I know you’ve never heard before, but will probably like.

5. All songs must be properly labelled.

Don’t you hate getting a CD from somebody without having a clue what’s on it? Every CD I make for a friend comes with a computer generated cover, including full and accurate track list, down to every punctuation mark and detail. Sometimes I’ll even throw some pictures or logos on the cover for fun, if there is room. Nero also encodes the song and artist names onto the CD. So I have to make sure the file names are all done correctly too, because when you pop my mix CD into certain players (like my car deck) you’re going to see the titles come up automatically. This must always be done correctly. No spelling mistakes, or I’d junk it, and make a new one.

And finally, there is the optional not-rule:

6. Optional – Include short, funny bits between songs to surprise the listener.  

This only applies in certain circumstances.  The “Integrity Mix” CD shown here, with G.O.B. and Franklin Bluth on the cover, has such bits at strategic points.  One is the song “Big Yellow Joint” from the show Arrested Development, and the other is the appearance of the “Hot Cops” busting George Michael from the same episode.  You can see I wanted to keep those bits a surprise for whoever ends up with a copy, because I didn’t number the tracks and didn’t list the bits.  So in a sense they are “hidden” until the listener stumbles upon them.

Are you as picky as I am, or is your quality control as extreme as mine? What are you own techniques in the art of the mix CD?

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