Neil Diamond

#692: Summer of the Album

GETTING MORE TALE #692: Summer of the Album

I’ve had the same routine for over 10 years: get to work, turn on the radio, and listen. I would occasionally hear new bands that I had to get into. I wouldn’t want to do without Greta Van Fleet, Royal Blood, or A Rebel Few in my life. But every routine eventually gets stale.

For the last several weeks I’ve been trying something different. No matter how much radio tries to shake it up, you are guaranteed to hear certain songs and bands every single day. AC/DC, for example, are a radio staple. You will hear them on rock stations every single day, usually from a pool of 10 to 12 songs. In my regular daily album-listening life, I don’t actually listen to AC/DC that often. In fact, I’m less likely to listen to AC/DC when I hear them on the radio daily.

At the recommendation of Uncle Meat I’ve been loading up flash drives and bringing them to work instead. This has enabled me to not only listen to whoever I feel like, but also given me the ability to play full albums.

The first day without radio was an interesting experiment. In the morning, I played the entire Max Webster The Party box set in its completion. In the afternoon, an album I hadn’t played in years: Neil Diamond’s 20th Century Masters! Part of doing without radio is forcing myself to listen to albums that don’t get regular rotation at home. Especially multi-disc sets. It’s easy to listen to a box set when you’re seated at the same desk for eight hours.

A nice big flash drive means I have hundreds of my favourite albums available at a click, but there are pros and cons.

PROS:

1. The chance to spend my listening time with my own music; hopefully neglected music.
2. Hearing full albums.
3. The ability to “pause” when I am interrupted and have to do something else.

CONS:

1. No traffic or news reports.
2. A feeling of disconnection from the community and friends during the day.
3. Missing those new tunes and rarities that sometimes surprise you on the radio.
4. Going from a stereo radio behind me to a mono speaker in front of me.

It was really weird going without the morning radio news reports at first, but I’m used to it now.

This far into the journey I’ve played virtually every studio album by Kiss and Black Sabbath.  I’m working my way through Priest next, and a whole bunch of soundtracks. I actually played Jeff Wayne’s legendary War of the Worlds musical two days in a row, so enthralled was I with the album.  Featuring Justin Hayward, Richard Burton, and Philip flippin’ Lynott, it is an album I am glad to have finally caught up on.  It’s the kind of thing you need to have the time to play, the more the better.

Hopefully, listening to more albums will enable me to review more albums. The unfortunate thing is not being exposed to new and unfamiliar songs. I’ll just have to rely on readers and other sources for that.

With flash drives by my side, 2018 will be the Summer of the Album. Let’s see how this experiment works!

 

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#577: Wedding Tunes Tales

GETTING MORE TALE #577: Wedding Tunes Tales

Mrs LeBrain and I have been married nine years.  It is an incredible feeling, to have found the one made for you.  I thank God every day.  We still frequently talk about the wedding day itself, the most amazing day of my life.  The bachelor night before was legendary, but the wedding was perfect.

Well, except a few minor details.

With the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, there is one thing that really bugs me today, and that is our wedding CD.  Specifically, one track on that wedding CD.

I personally selected and approved most of the music for the day.  I was very proud to work Frank Zappa into the reception music (“Peaches En Regalia”).  I also had to make sure I had a Kiss song, so I chose “And Then She Kissed Me” from Love Gun.  We focused on Johnny Cash and the Beatles for the ceremony, killing two birds with one stone on “In My Life” for the signing of the registry.  As soon as we started sending out the “thank you” cards to all the guests, I compiled and burned dozens of copies of what you might call The Official Soundtrack Album to Our Wedding.  I squeezed in everything I could, but Jennifer insisted we include one specific song for her maid of honour, Lara.  [Note:  Lara is not evil, but she will be portraying the antagonist in an upcoming store called “Seven”.  Stay tuned.]  I guess when they used to work together in a video store, they would play “My Own Worst Enemy” by Lit a lot.  Some customer gave Lara a CD with that song on it and only that song…on repeat.  I guess this inside joke meant that “My Own Worst Enemy” was Lara’s entrance music at the reception.  And I guess that justified it being on the soundtrack CD.  That is, by far, my biggest wedding regret.  It never should have been on the soundtrack CD.  It’s the only song I absolutely have to skip every time.  It’s shit.  Sorry Lara, but your tribute song sucks!

Jen has her own decision that she would go back and change if she could.  We had the proverbial “bridesmaid from hell”.  Bridesmaidzilla, or ‘Zilla for short, was drama from start to finish.  Without getting into too much detail, ‘Zilla was at the bottom of the bridesmaid totem pole but tried to manipulate certain things to be about her.  The highlight of these efforts was what we call the “caesar salad saga”.

It’s quite simple, really!  Jennifer has a seafood allergy, and any decent caesar salad dressing has anchovy paste in it.  We never take any chances, so we requested a regular garden salad for the dinner reception.  No big deal, right?  It’s a salad, but most importantly, it’s Jennifer’s wedding.  You wouldn’t believe how this salad became a bone of contention between them!  ‘Zilla looked up recipes for vegan versions online.  The salad was repeatedly brought up, but Jen had never really had caesar salad before due to her allergy.  Why would she suddenly want one for her wedding?  Bottom line, Jen chose the salad she wanted.  And for the record, since that time, she has tried vegan caesar salad and likes it.  But why would she gamble on something like that for her wedding night?  No, pick the salad you want.  Bottom line, end of discussion.

Drama continued right up to the morning of the wedding day.  As maid of honour, Lara was in charge of the bridesmaids and all communication was to go through her to relieve the pressure from Jen.  Lara would take care of any minor details so Jen would not have to be bothered.  Well, apparently a bra was needed on the wedding day, and so I received a 7:00 am phone call about it.  ‘Zilla didn’t want to call Lara because they were not getting along, at all, so they thought it would a good idea to call the groom on his wedding day, about a goddamn bra.  They actually called me to ask where you can get a bra on a holiday weekend.  Are you kidding me?

They must have called Lara and gotten it sorted because they got the bra situation taken care of without the groom having to intervene.  The wedding went off perfectly and the reception was even better.   I did my best to curate some cool music, and as a special treat, my sister Kathryn performed at the reception.  It was a jazz quartet — bass, bass clarinet, drums, guitar.  The crowning moment of their performance was a jazzy rendition of the “Cantina Theme” from Star Wars.  My sister had to order the sheet music which wasn’t cheap.  Her band’s performance that night was her wedding gift to us, and that reminds me that I do have one more regret.  That is, I wish I had filmed it.

After dinner, after the cake was served, and I was taking a rest between songs (I was a dancing fiend) I sat at ‘Zilla’s table for a bit to chat.  Jen’s friend Gordie, who is hilarious by the way, and married to one of the good bridesmaids, was also sitting with a few others at the table.  Knowing full well the drama that had gone down, Gordie mischievously commented, “That was a great wedding, Mike.  Everything was perfect and I am so happy for you and Jen.  The cake was great…the only thing I would change is the salad, if it was caesar it would have been perfect.”  Then the husband of ‘Zilla said, “We even gave them the recipe to make it…”

The last bit of ‘Zilla drama happened later in the evening as they were leaving.  The DJ played one of the special songs I picked, which was “Sweet Caroline” by Neil Diamond.  My mom, sister, aunt and new wife started dancing to it and I shouted “It’s the Ladano girls dance!”  My sister, who was right drunk at that stage, yelled out, “LADANO GIRLS, YAAAY!”  They joined with me in a circle and we danced away to Neil, singing along, having a blast, laughing.  ‘Zilla was, apparently, standing nearby waiting to say goodbye.  I felt a tap on my shoulder and she very bitchily said “BYE!” while making a talkie-talkie motion with her hand.  Yeah, bye!

Jen and I will soon be celebrating our anniversary again, and we’ll probably play that wedding soundtrack CD and relive the good memories.  And I’ve convinced her to skip Lit from now on.  Small victories are still victories.

#367: Greatest Hits 2

lebrainsgreatest2

RECORD STORE TALES MkII: Getting More Tale
#367: Greatest Hits 2
A sequel to #364: Greatest Hits

The last time we talked about greatest hits albums, I listed seven reasons that die-hard fans usually shun them.  Readers came up with some of their own, and also arguments to defend greatest hits albums.  I usually advise fans to buy key studio albums rather than compilations, depending on the person.  Yet I still own a few hundred greatest hits albums. There have to be good reasons.

And what about you?  How many do you own?  What are your favourites?  Why did you buy them?  I asked myself those three questions too.  #1. I don’t know.  #2. There are many, but Double Platinum and Killers by Kiss are up there.  #3.  Let’s talk about that in depth…I broke it down into seven points:

KENNY_00011. There are some artists that I barely know. Neil Diamond or Kenny Rogers, for example.  There might be a handful of songs I like, but not enough that I have heard to take the plunge and buy an actual album. Or, I know it’s an artist that I don’t want many albums from.  I have a feeling that I only want one or two CDs, so one of them is usually a greatest hits.  I collect a lot of music, but I can’t collect everybody. Sometimes I’ve done the research to know that I need one or two CDs and nothing more.

2. Exclusive tracks are often dangled as bait. But sometimes greatest hits albums are stuffed with exclusive radio edits and remixes that aren’t obviously credited. Kiss’ Double Platinum is one such album. Aerosmith’s Greatest Hits had a number of special edits of songs. Collectors like myself often look for such versions. They make for an enjoyable way to hear a familiar song with a slightly different slant.

SAM_17443. Artwork. Younger folks might not understand why this matters, but I come from the age of physical product. With some bands, you don’t want just the music. You want all the album covers too; they are sometimes as important as any other aspect of the music. Iron Maiden is the first, obvious example. I own several Iron Maiden greatest hits discs simply because I wanted to own all the Eddies. There is a certain satisfaction in viewing them all lined up in order.

4. Historical importance. Some greatest hits albums are just historically important. Best of Van Halen Volume I for example – even if I didn’t buy it for the two new songs, I would have wanted it for the significant role it played in breaking up Van Hagar! You might want to own Their Greatest Hits by the Eagles for the fact it’s the top selling hits album of all time.

5. Sometimes, I actually do listen to greatest hits! Sure, not often by comparison. But if I’m in the car with the Mrs., she might prefer a Deep Purple greatest hits set to a 5 disc version of Made in Japan. I own ‘em, so if they’re good I may as well play ‘em. Also, If I’m going somewhere and I only have an hour or so to listen to music, a greatest hits album often scratches whatever itch I have.

6. Gateway music. My entrance into the world of Thin Lizzy was one CD (Dedication: The Very Best of).

DEDICATIONThat point is the most important one.  Using a greatest hits album to delve further in the discography is such an excellent experience.  My first two Deep Purple’s were greatest hits.  Now my Purple collection is of a prodigious size.  I don’t even know how many I have.  100 maybe?  More?  And it keeps growing!

My first Floyd? Echoes: The Best of Pink Floyd.  My first Rush?  Chronicles.  First ZZ Top? Greatest Hits.  See where I’m going with this?  These are bands that, today, I am still collecting.  I still buy whatever’s coming out.  Which brings me to my last point.

7. Personal history.  I’ve developed a relationship with some of those greatest hits albums over the years, even if they have been superseded by better ones.  Something about the familiarity, I suppose.  But even though all my first greatest hits albums were on cassette, I still went and bought CD copies of them all.  In some cases, vinyl too!

What are your favourites?  Does it bother you to own multiple copies of the same songs?  If your favourite band came out with a greatest hits album tomorrow, would you consider buying it?  Let me know!

 

REVIEW: Deep Purple – The Book of Taliesyn (1968)

It’s Purple Week at mikeladano.com!  It’s all Deep Purple and Deep Purple alumni, all week.  This is Part 2.  

Part 1:  Shades of Deep Purple

DEEP PURPLE – The Book of Taliesyn (1968 EMI, 2000 remaster)

I’m not a big fan of The Book of Taliesyn, and that’s not because I don’t like Deep Purple Mk I. I do like Deep Purple Mk I, or at least some of it. I think the third Purple album from ’69 is one of the band’s all-time best, and an underrated classic. The Book of only scratches the surface. The band had yet to find their sound, which would emerge fully formed a year later on Deep Purple In Rock. This album does represent significant growth, but not in the heavy metal direction that Purple would co-pioneer.  Instead, Book of travels further down the orchestral roads with Jon Lord.

The Book of Taliesyn, like Shades of Deep Purple before it, is built with cover songs as its cornerstones. It contains one of my favourite Deep Purple Mk I tracks: their version of Neil Diamond’s “Kentucky Woman”. Energetic, ragged and rocking hard, “Kentucky Woman” is the absolute best track here.  Ian Paice is the MVP, but singer Rod Evans is well suited to this kind of tune. Other standouts include “Wring That Neck”, the legendary instrumental (also called “Hard Road”) that the band continued to play through the decades even after Blackmore left the band in the 90’s.  “The Shield” isn’t bad, as it features a long instrumental break featuring Jon and Ritchie.  There is also the track “Anthem”, a Jon Lord helmed piece that delves into classical, forshadowing the “April” suite from the third album, as well as the Concerto for Group and Orchestra itself. So, the band was certainly stretching out here. There is a definite growth from the first album. Unfortunately, the album is bogged down by another slow, boring Beatles cover (“We Can Work It Out”, this time) and also “River Deep, Mountain High”, a whole 10 minutes thereof, which does nothing to help the band.  The only notable thing about it is Jon’s “Thus Spoke Zarathustra” intro.

DP BOOK OF TALIESYN_0003Like the other two albums in this series of remasters on Spitfire, there are five previously unreleased bonus tracks. All are valuable in their own way. Keep in mind that these tapes are old and may not sound as good as you’re used to. But, “Playground” is a bright instrumental from BBC tapes, and “Wring That Neck” is presented live. “Hey Bop a Re Bop” is buried treasure, an early version of what would become “Painter” on the next album.  There are two more cool covers to boot.  “Oh No No No” is a studio outtake, but I don’t recognize it.  It’s a mid-tempo pop rocker with splashes of Jon’s organ that quench the thirst.  Nicky Simper demonstrates some impressive bass chops, but he just wasn’t the right fit for the band.  A BBC Top Gear session yielded a song called “It’s All Over”, a slow country blues ballad that Thin Lizzy could have done at the same time.  This is a great tune, and it’s a shame that Purple never recorded it properly.

The colourful cover art is a quaint reminder that once upon a time, album covers were 12.375″ x 12.375″ and you could gaze upon the finer details for hours.  CD just doesn’t cut it.  This cover was so different for the band.  Their name and the album title appear on it several times, and each band member is credited (first names only) on the front.  The bizarre landscape foreshadows the Hieronymus Bosch painting on the next album.

2/5 stars. Not quite the band we know and love, but slowly getting there.