oasis

REVIEW: Hit Zone 4 – Various Artists (1998)

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HIT ZONE 4 (1998 BMG)

“If You Could Only See” the reasons I own this CD.

Nobody buys a CD like Hit Zone 4 and likes every single track.  Stuff like this was popular because it gave kids an easy way to get a bunch of one hit wonders from the rock and pop genres without buying the albums.  There were also big names on board.  CDs like this were always on the charts, year ’round.  Today, kids just go to Youtube or Spotify.  But even a curmudgeon like me can find a few songs here to enjoy.

In particular, I bought this CD for a rare non-album version of “If You Could Only See” by the underrated Tonic.  This was their big hit, and the version on Hit Zone 4 is an alternate recording with a slightly new arrangement.  The liner notes lie and say it’s from their album Lemon Parade; this is obviously false.  In fact there’s no obvious way to tell it’s a unique version without listening to it.

What else is good?  “All Around the World” by Oasis (from 1997’s Be Here Now) is one of their more Beatles-worshipping moments.  Here it’s in the form of a radio edit (4:50).  I’ve never felt “All Around the World” was one of Oasis’ best tracks, and it works better in the context of its grandly overblown album.  However, “All Around the World” is like freaking gold, compared to Boyz II Men….

Other decent music:  I have a soft spot for Chantal Kreviazuk’s ballad “Surrounded”.  Jann Arden too, and “The Sound Of” is one of her very best tracks.  I’ve seen Jann live, and she did a fantastic show with stories and jokes and unforgettable songs.  Then there’s fellow Canuck Bryan Adams, with his excellent acoustic rocker “Back To You”, from his Unplugged album.  Few Adams albums from the 90s on are worth a full listen.  Unplugged is.  “Back To You” was the “new” track used as a single.  It’s bright and alive in a way that Adams’ later music is not.  Fiona Apple’s dusky “Criminal” is classic, of course.  Finally, who doesn’t still love The Mighty Mighty Bosstones “The Impression That I Get”?  They were one band that truly deserved their hit.  They’d been at it for so long, and this song is really just that one perfect tune for the right time.

Unless you were a kid in the 90s, you’ll find yourself skipping over ‘N Sync, Backstreet Boys, All Saints, Robyn, and even Hanson.  Young Hanson can be tough to listen to.  I mean, they were kids, making music that kids liked.  It couldn’t really be helped.  I also find myself breezing past Mase, The Verve Pipe and Imani Coppola.  One hit wonders, right?  Shawn Colvin’s OK, but Boyz II Men can fuck right off.  “4 Seasons of Loneliness”?  Maybe because you guys are all wearing matching sweaters.  You can’t win friends with sweaters.

Hit Zone 4 is the kind of thing you buy in a bargain bin if you find it for $1.99.  These were once front racked at the old Record Store for $16.99 because they had so many hits from the late 90s.  It really was great value, because really, are you going to listen to Imani Coppola’s whole CD?  Be honest!

2.5/5 stars

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#562.5: The Sunrise Returns

GETTING MORE TALE #562.5: The Sunrise Returns

I was very saddened when Sunrise records shuttered most of their stores nationwide, including my regular outlet at Fairview Mall.  Not so much when the HMVs started closing.  I haven’t spent any money at an HMV in years.  Recently, Sunrise announced they would be taking over several of the old HMV locations, including the one at Fairview mall.  Yes, Sunrise has finally returned to Fairview.

Sunrise re-opened a few days after Record Store Day in a case of bad timing, but they still had some RSD stock.  I set aside my Saturday morning to immerse myself in their inventory.  As expected they had plenty of vinyl, displayed front and center when you enter the store.  It’s a good selection of the usual suspects priced in the mid-$30s.  Their vinyl catalogue selection was much better than the same for CD.  Flipping through the Kiss LPs, they had 15 or so titles from the catalogue including some of the lesser known ones such as Carnival of Souls.  Then I flipped through Deep Purple on CD.  Disappointingly, they had five copies of the hits disc Icon, one copy of In Rock (standard edition) and one copy of The Very Best Of.  The same issue plagued many artists in the CD section:  five copies of Icon, but very few actual albums on CD.   This wasn’t the case across the board.  There was a healthy Metallica section and they had all the Oasis deluxe editions.  One deluxe that I was looking for was the four disc Black Sabbath Paranoid reissue, but all they had was the double CD (and 180 gram vinyl of course).

They staff were friendly and passed the test.  They approached me and asked if I needed help, I didn’t need to ask them, and they waited a reasonable amount of time.  Unfortunately their system isn’t quite up and running yet.  No inventory lookup.  But they tried.  You can’t judge a store too harshly a few days into their first week.  They had a promotional sale on:  Buy something on vinyl and get $5 off a T-shirt.  They had a lot of cool T-shirts, (a lot!) but if there is one thing I don’t need right now, it’s more T-shirts.  They even had brand new Star Wars turntables.  Star Wars turntables?

The one surprise I saw was in the Mr. Bungle section.  They had five copies of their legendary debut album, at a steal of $5.99 each.  Compare that with $21 on Amazon.

I hope Sunrise does well.  They made a few sales while I was there, and the store was never empty.  It was funny to listen to the people browsing.  “Is that a CD?”  “No, it’s a seven inch record.”  “NO WAY!”

Way indeed.  Welcome back Sunrise.

SUNRISE SCORES:

Four finds from four different genres.

Brant BjorkTao of the Devil CD – $18.99 (compared to $24.28 on Amazon.ca)

OasisBe Here Now 3 CD deluxe – $32.99 (compared to $31.45 on Amazon.ca)

KissMusic From the Elder 180 gram LP reissue – $32.99 (compared to $33.79 on Amazon.ca)

Steve Earle & the DukesThe Continental Club 7″ RSD 2017 single – $11.99 (not available on Amazon.ca)

 

 

#561: (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?

GETTING MORE TALE #561: (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?

In November 1995 I was going through another breakup.   A big one — my first really serious girlfriend.  After some soul-searching, I thought this would be a good time to expand my horizons a bit, including musically.  By 1995, heavy metal music was not doing well.  It was on life support.  I wanted to check out other forms of rock and roll.

Working at the Record Store was the perfect environment for exploration.  Christmas 1995 featured a lot of store play for Oasis, who my co-working buddy T-Rev was a huge fan of.  Their new album (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? was beginning to take off.  It also appealed to a metal head like me.  It had a bit of everything:  rockers, ballads, and hooks.  It was a breath of fresh air, and loud as fuck.  Grunge bands had dominated and carried with them cloudy skies for the early 90s.  Oasis brought back fun aspects of rock and roll, and were right in synch with the Beatles resurgence happening at the same time with the Anthology series.  Oasis were almost a poor man’s Beatles.

I mean, they really wanted to be The Beatles, didn’t they?

I got to listen to the CD a lot in store, but we had a long waiting list for used copies. Because of that it would be a few months before I was able to get my own copy of Morning Glory.  T-Rev was on top of things, and had been collecting Oasis singles.  Oasis had a knack for B-sides, and often saved their best tunes for singles.  This was rare; in 1995 it was unheard of to save good songs for single B-sides.  Oasis didn’t care and did it anyway.  My first Oasis purchase was actually the CD single for “Don’t Look Back in Anger”.  T-Rev made sure it was stocked, even though we rarely stocked any singles.

So “Don’t Look Back in Anger” was my first Oasis purchase ever.  Buying a new copy of the single was more expensive than buying a used copy of the album, but that’s just the way it goes sometimes.  I dug the piano part ripped from John Lennon, and the bright melody with a hint of shade.  It really felt like an homage to the Beatles.  And the B-sides weren’t half bad either.  “Step Out” and “Underneath the Sky” were both top notch songs each with their own flavour.

The track that really sold the single for me was “Cum on Feel the Noize”.  T-Rev asked, “Why would they cover that song?”  I explained it was originally by Slade, not Quiet Riot.  Oasis’ version is more authentic to the Slade original.  The song was a perfect bridge between my heavy metal past and my Oasis present.

Oasis quickly became my favourite “new” band in 1996.  That was the year that we opened up the branch of the Record Store that I managed.  I thought Oasis would be a good band for store play, and while some customers enjoyed that, no staff members did.

Oasis did their part to keep the single alive in the 1990s.  They issued box set after box set, re-releasing their old singles to those who missed them the first time.  The coolest of these were the “silver” and “gold” boxes.  They were plastic hard-shell box sets, one for the Definitely Maybe singles and one for Morning Glory.  They included an interview disc (same one in both boxes) and made it easy to get caught up on Oasis’ CD singles.

These were good times.  Though a breakup with a girl was the trigger, Oasis was the remedy.  Some songs, like “Cast No Shadow” had me wallowing in my own pity, but it was hard not to feel good things with “She’s Electric” and “Roll With It”.  For that reason, although there may be better Oasis albums, What’s the Story remains the most personal to me.

TOP FIVE REASONS TO LIKE OASIS:

5) Lars says it’s OK .

4) They had a member (Paul “Guigsy” McGuigan) who looked like Mr. Bean.

3) Noel frequently refers to Liam derisively as “our kid”.

2) Wibbling Rivalry

1) Liam Gallagher’s unibrow.

Part 269: CD Singles (of every variety) featuring T-Rev

Welcome back to the WEEK OF SINGLES 2! Each day this week we’re look at rare singles. Today, we’re looking at lots and lots of them!  WARNING:  Image heavy!

Monday: Dream Theater – “Lie” (CD single)
Tuesday: Jimi Hendrix – “Valleys of Neptune” (7″ single)
Wednesday: Them Crooked Vultures – “Mind Eraser, No Chaser” (10″ single)
Thursday: Megadeth – “Creepy Baby Head” (“Crown of Worms” CD single)

IMG_20140205_130852

RECORD STORE TALES Part 269:  CD Singles (of every variety)

Featuring T-Rev

I’m going to take the blame for this.  It was I who got T-Rev into collecting singles in 1994-1995.  Oasis kicked his addiction into gear big time, but it was I that sparked his interest in singles.  According to Trevor today, “I suppose it was Oasis that started that ball rolling…then Blur taught me the tricks…Metallica helped mix the sauce…and then I was almost a pro, like you!”

T-Rev was already familiar with the dominance of singles in Europe.  “They’re so much cheaper in England!” he told me then.  “They have entire walls of them, like we do here with albums, but with them it’s singles.”

He had seen me go crazy for some of the singles that came into the store in the early days.  He saw me plunk down my hard earned pay for CD singles by Bon Jovi, Def Leppard, and many more.  He didn’t get why I was spending so much money on so few songs.  CD singles are much rarer here and commanded (new) prices similar to full albums.

IMG_20140205_130708“Why do you buy singles?” he asked me one day.  “I don’t get it.  The song is on the album, they come in those little cases, and they’re expensive.”

“I buy them for the unreleased tracks,” I explained.  “I don’t buy a single if it has nothing unreleased on it, but I want all the different songs.”

“But the unreleased songs aren’t usually any good, are they?” he continued.

“Sometimes,” I answered.  “But check out this Bon Jovi single here.”  I handed him a CD single that I had bought recently at an HMV store. “This one has ‘Edge of a Broken Heart’.  It’s a song that was recorded for Slippery When Wet, but it didn’t make the album.  Sometimes you find these amazing songs that are totally worth having.  Sometimes you only get live songs or remixes, but I still collect those because I try to get everything.”

When Oasis came out with (What’s The Story) Morning Glory, there were ample new singles out there to collect with bonus tracks galore.  T-Rev got me into the band very quickly.  Oasis were known not just for their mouths, but also for their B-sides.  Noel Gallagher was passionate about giving fans good songs as B-sides; he wanted them to be as good as the album.  Oasis had a lot of singles from the prior album Definitely Maybe as well, and one non-album single called “Whatever” that was absolutely marvelous.

Once T-Rev got onto the singles train, he had his own rules about what he wanted to collect and what he didn’t.  Packaging was important to him.  He hated CD singles that came inside little cardboard sleeves.  He couldn’t see them once filed on his CD tower, because there was no thickness to it; no spine to read from the side.  It didn’t matter what was on those CD singles; if the packaging sucked T-Rev was not usually interested.  This applied when we both started collecting old Metallica singles.  I found an Australian copy of “Sad But True” with the rare B-side “So What” at Encore Records for $20. This came in a cardboard sleeve; T-Rev didn’t want it.  (He also already had a live version via the Live Shit: Bing & Purge box set.)  Oasis started releasing their old singles in complete box sets, but T-Rev was only really interested in collecting the UK pressings.  There were a lot of variables to consider.  If you can’t or don’t want to buy everything, you have to set rules and pick and choose.

Once we understood each others’ needs, we were able to keep an eye open for each other.  T-Rev knew if it said Bon Jovi, Faith No More, or Def Leppard on it, that I’d be interested.  If it was a Brit-pop band like Blur or Supergrass, he’d want it (as long as it didn’t come in a paper sleeve).  Foo Fighters too, or virtually anything with Dave Grohl.  Our collections grew prodigiously with rare tracks, EPs we never heard of before, and loads of Metallica.  I believe at one point, T-Rev and I had nearly identical Metallica collections, duplicated between us.  More than half was singles and rarities.  We used to joke that there were probably only two copies of some of these things in town, and we had both of them in one apartment.

IMG_00000064T-Rev sold a lot of his singles but not all.  He still has some treasures.  Highlights include a Steve Earle tin can “Copperhead Road” promo (that he got from local legend Al “the King”).    There’s also Megadeth’s uber-rare “Sweating Bullets” featuring the in-demand “Gristle Mix” by Trent Reznor  Then there was a Blur thing, some kind of “special collectors edition” signed by Damon Albarn, in a Japanese pressing.  Trevor’s seen one sell for upwards of $100.  Then there was another band called “A”.  As Trevor said, “Remember these guys? It was like ‘Britpop punk’. I liked it anyway.”

Also still residing in his collection:  a Japanese print of Oasis’ “Some Might Say” that has two bonus tracks over the domestic version, and two versions of Foo Fighters’ “Big Me”.  One is from Canada, the other from the UK.  Both have different tracks.  I’d forgotten about these until I saw the pictures.

Those were the glory days of collecting.  I miss collecting CD singles.  I preferred hunting the stores downtown to get all the extra tracks to the way it is now.  Now, often you need to buy an iTunes download and several “deluxe editions” to get all the songs.  CD singles were just better, period.  Even just for the cover art of those Oasis singles, singles were much more fun to collect.  I miss those days!
T-Rev’s pics:
LeBrain’s pics:

Part 222: Mr. Self Destruct

RECORD STORE TALES Part 222:  Mr. Self Destruct

In a previous chapter, I mentioned that in 1994, I had created our store’s very first online ads.  They were in colour, made in full glorious ANSI, and eye-catching.  We even had a flashing logo on screen!  I did this for free, because I was so passionate about the store.  And it was fun!  (Tip: One thing I had to learn was that if you do something for free once, it becomes expected later.)

The reactions were mostly positive.  One guy, a 14 year old kid who went by the online handle “Mr. Self Destruct” (I think his real name was Justin), posted a message that was a bit of a wake up call.

“The kind of things I look for,” he said, “like imported Nine Inch Nails and Pop Will Eat Itself singles, you can’t get at a mall store like the one that Mike works at.  You can only get those downtown, at the good stores.”

That burned!  So I decided to do something about it.

The boss had always told T-Rev and I to order stock that we thought the store needed.  We both took this to heart.  T-Rev for example made sure we stocked things like the new Guns N’ Roses single (“Sympathy for the Devil”) and several other up and coming titles.  Later on, Trevor made sure we stocked all the Oasis singles.  I took care of the Nine Inch Nails side.

GNRNIN_0001I ordered in “Sin”, Pretty Hate Machine, “Head Like A Hole”, Fixed, and Broken.  Fixed had just been deleted, we missed that one.  I ended up buying copies of “Sin” and Pretty Hate Machine for myself (we ordered 3 copies of each).  Unfortunately, it wasn’t like having a few of these titles in stock changed the fortunes of our store.  They sold all but immediately, but there was no sudden and dramatic jump in numbers.  Yet, by summer 1995 we had a much cooler selection.  I like to think we made a difference, albeit a small one, to music lovers.  We sure did try anyway.  It was more about just loving the job and store, and wanting to give 200%.

By that summer, we were even carrying live bootlegs.  The boss picked them up in Toronto, and he’d walk in with a box full of 20 or 30.  I remember T-Rev and I drooling all over them and the boss warning us that there would be no discount on these puppies!  (I didn’t need a discount to want them!)

This period circa 1995-1996, was probably my personal peak at the record store.  It was my peak time for happiness, for motivation, input, pride, and satisfaction.  It was a time of mutual respect, fellowship, and hard work.  I loved every day of it.

Our inventory now had some stuff that you couldn’t get at the cool downtown stores.  I still have some of the bootlegs that I bought:  bands like Guns N’ Roses (Covering ‘Em) and Nine Inch Nails (Woodstock 94).  There were lots more titles (such as the Pearl Jam edition of Covering ‘Em), and our boss would try to get multiple copies of the good ones, like Nine Inch Nails. We even started getting in Japanese imports!  I remember when we carried Hormoaning, by Nirvana, it was like $60 with taxes.  The one guy who bought it had to trade in most of the rest of his collection to buy it.  My buddy Aaron got the other copy.

I spread the word online, and a few of those people became customers.  Guess who was among them?  Mr. Self Destruct!

Part 208: Flashback 1995

RECORD STORE TALES Part 208:  Flashback 1995

November/December 1995 was freakin’ busy.  We sold a lot of discs that Christmas.  What we didn’t do was listen to a lot of discs!  No; our boss really, really liked Don Henley and TLC.  He played them ad-nauseum.  Like on repeat three times in a row.  I’m not kidding about that.  I distinctly remember the repeat.  Here are the Top Three Discs I Had to Listen to Until My Ears Bled, December 1995.

3. Boney M – Christmas Album

2. Don Henley – Actual Miles

1. TLC – CrazySexyCool

Trevor on the other hand was introducing me to Oasis and managed to get a few cool discs into rotation:

3. The Beatles – Anthology Vol. 1 (usually just disc 2)

2. Foo Fighters – Foo Fighters 

1. Oasis – (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?

We were also working with this new guy, Donnie, and we let him pick Dance Mix ’95 a few times.  Unfortunately, the Big Shiny Tunes series hadn’t begun yet.

I didn’t get to pick as many discs as the others — the boss didn’t like my picks.  When I did, I chose the new Def Leppard – Vault (Greatest Hits 1980-1995).

Looking back, there were also a few albums that I found utterly disappointing that season.  They included:

3. AC/DC – Ballbreaker

2. Lenny Kravitz – Circus

1. Savatage – Dead Winter Dead

All three were albums that I was solidly looking forward to, but largely disappointed me.  I never did buy Circus.  I own the other two, but only because I’m a completest (and I got AC/DC for $3).

Finally there were three albums that really got me through that season.  I had just been dumped by my first serious girlfriend and I was really angry about it.  Away from work (my boss didn’t want these ones played in the store) these three albums totally spoke to me that Christmas:

3. Alice in Chains – Alice in Chains

2. Ozzy Osbourne – Ozzmosis

1. Iron Maiden – The X Factor

Let me tell you something people:  I still fuckin’ hate TLC.  I’ll never go chasin’ waterfalls, ever again.

Next time on Record Store Tales…

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…

REVIEW: Iron Maiden – No Prayer For the Dying (1990, 1996 bonus disc)

Part 13 of my series of Iron Maiden reviews!

IRON MAIDEN – No Prayer For the Dying (1990, 1996 bonus disc)

Regrouping after a six-month break, Maiden returned to writing mode a changed Beast.

The Seventh Son of a Seventh Son album was artistically rewarding but the band were eager to return to their stripped down heavy metal roots and make a live-sounding album more like Killers or The Number of the Beast, without the production values and ten minute songs that were becoming the norm.

Both Adrian Smith and Bruce Dickinson were coming off solo albums (A.S.a.P.’s Silver and Gold featuring Zak Starkey (Oasis, The Who), and Bruce’s Tattooed Millionaire).  Bruce’s was successful commercially and critically, Adrian’s less so.   Still, it came as a complete shock to the fans when it was announced that Adrian Smith had left Iron Maiden.

Or, perhaps, been nudged out.  Steve Harris was worried that Adrian was becoming unhappy, and it was especially obvious during the writing sessions for the next album.  While Steve, Dave and Bruce were contributing heavy songs, the usually prolific Adrian had nothing but a song called “Hooks In You” that he had written with Bruce.  He was clearly unhappy that Maiden were not progressing down the road pointed to by Seventh Son, and were going heavier.  Steve took him aside.

When asked how into it he was, the answer came “about 80%”.  Steve has always had a simple policy for membership in his band — you had to be into it 110%, or it wouldn’t work.  The fans wouldn’t buy it, and Steve couldn’t look them in the eye knowing somebody on stage wasn’t completely into it.  Adrian was out.

The band already knew Janick Gers, and he and Bruce had developed a successful writing partnership on his Tattooed Millionaire solo disc.  Janick was nevertheless shocked when Bruce phoned him up and asked him to learn some Iron Maiden numbers.  Janick initially said no, because he assumed Bruce was talking about his solo project, and they had already agreed to do no Maiden numbers.  When Bruce explained it wasn’t for the solo band, it was for Maiden, Janick was horrified.

Janick Gers was really the only guy I can think of that was right for Maiden, also being from the era of the NWOBHM bands (White Spirit).  He’d also been in Gillan (the incredible Magic album) and worked with Fish.  The songs for the album were already written, all Janick had to do was head over to Steve’s farm, where they were recording the album, and learn the songs.

But that’s all just background, just context.  That’s all important, especially to this album, but what is also important is the bottom line.  And the bottom line is that this is the first time Maiden turned in something that was almost universally received as a disappointment.

While some fans were clamoring for a return to basic heavy metal songs, short and bangin’ and to the point, others preferred the epic scale of Seventh Son.  And it was clear that you can’t just replace Adrian Smith.  The songs on the new album, titled No Prayer For the Dying, seemed less finished and not quite up to standard.  Not to mention Janick and Dave hadn’t had time to properly gel together, and never quite sync up on this album the way Dave did with Adrian.

The opening song “Tailgunner” is good enough though, not quite an “Aces High” but certainly adequate.  Being tailgunner might have been the worst job on the Lancaster bomber, since it didn’t have a belly gunner! (Neither did Enola Gay, tailgunner was certainly the worst job on a B-29)!  But Steve and Bruce failed to really nail it lyrically, with lines such as “nail that Fokker, kill that son, gunna blow your guts out with my gun” not living up to past Maiden historic glories.

Steve and Bruce also wrote “Holy Smoke”, the first single.  This reckless fast number showcased a manic Janick Gers solo, demonstrating how different he was from Adrian.  Where Adrian used to compose solos with beginnings, middles and endings, Janick just went for it!  Dave was also somewhere between the two approaches.  Now, without Adrian’s melodic touch, the band were moving sharply to a more live and spontaneous guitar style.

“Holy Smoke” is about TV preachers, and while they always make a good target in heavy metal songs (I prefer Ozzy’s “Miracle Man”) this one also fails to excite.  As a song it doesn’t have much in terms of melody.  On No Prayer, Bruce is shouting as often as he’s singing, and with the songs’ new emphasis on raw power, there’s less memorable melody to go around.  Janick’s manic gonzo solo does fit the vibe of the song!

The title track is third, a number that tries to be an epic in under 5 minutes.  It does indeed have all of the trademark qualities of a Maiden epic except the length:  Multiple parts, multiple tempos, soul-searching Steve lyrics, and ample anthemic guitar melody.  Yet the song fails to nail it home like, say, “Hallowed Be Thy Name” did.

Better is the badly titled “Public Enema Number One”.  This Dickinson/Murray rocker is riffy, straightforward with some decent melodic bits.  But again Bruce is hoarsely shouting the verses, and the song careens from section to section that don’t feel like they quite all fit together probably.  Like other songs on No Prayer, the song sounds slightly unfinished.

And better again is “Fates Warning”, this time written by Steve and Dave.  The opening soft guitar part is a nice change of pace, and a great example of Dave Murray’s tremendous feel.  Perhaps in a past life he was a bluesman.  Nicko then kicks the song into gear while Steve’s lyrics question the seemingly random nature of life and death.  In the middle, is an old-school dual Maiden guitar lead, before Dave nails another perfect one of his own.

Side two begins with the stuttery “The Assassin”.  Written solo by Steve, it is rhythmically complex as it is propelled forward.  It has a fairly decent chorus but it doesn’t quite resolve itself nicely.  Some of the guitar and bass melodies are reminiscent of “To Tame A Land” from Piece of Mind.

This is followed by the superior “Run Silent Run Deep”  Submarine warfare is a good topic for a Maiden song, and the song chugs forward like those big diesel engines.  This is one of the better songs on No Prayer.  Steve and Bruce wrote it together, and Nicko’s precise drum fills accent the song perfectly.

Next is the worst song on the album:  Bruce and Adrian’s “Hooks In You”.  Lyrically this is one of the worst things ever on a Maiden album. Judging by the opening line, “Got the keys to view at number 22,” it sounds like Charlotte is back to her old tricks.  Unfortunately, the band subjected people to this song live.  I’ll admit it’s got a great little riff, but Bruce’s shout-growl vocals, lack of melody, and lack of any lyrical intelligence just sinks this one.

And then the baffling #1 single, “Bring Your Daughter…to the Slaughter”.  This Bruce song is actually an outtake from his solo project.  He recorded and released the original version with Janick Gers on the soundtrack to A Nightmare on Elm Street 5.  I seem to remember that soundtrack being panned as “the worst soundtrack of all time” at one point.  Steve heard the song, went nuts, and said, “Don’t put it on your solo album:  I want to save this one for Maiden.”

Somehow, Steve was right, as it went straight to #1 in the UK, the first and only time this has happened to Iron Maiden.  I don’t get it.  I don’t get what people like about this song.

“Mother Russia” ends the album on a sour note.  Lyrically simple, musically pretty good, “Mother Russia” is certainly not up to the standards of past Maiden album closers.  Although it tries to be an epic along the lines of “Seventh Son of a Seventh Son” (featuring a similar keyboard section in the middle), it’s just not as great as past epics.  At five and a half minutes, “Mother Russia” is the longest song on No Prayer.  It is made up of excellent components; I like the melody and the solos big time, but it’s just…not comparable in quality.

Nicko McBrain said on MuchMusic that No Prayer was “the best Iron Maiden yet.”  Steve said that the album’s biggest problem is that it didn’t sound live enough without an audience track.  I disagree with both.  I think the album has an abnormally high quantity of unfinished songs and filler.

Even the cover art was substandard.  To go with the live, stripped down sound, Riggs too stripped his artwork of the symbolism and fantasy.  Instead, Eddie goes for the throat of a groundskeeper as he emerges (once again) from the grave.  All hints to continuity are gone, as Eddie’s lost his lobotomy scar, cybernetic implants, and that bolt that kept his skull on!  He even has his hair back.  I guess somebody wasn’t happy with the artwork, because it was heavily tweaked for the 1998 remaster, repainting much of it and removing the groundskeeper.

The B-sides to the first single, “Holy Smoke” were the excellent “All In Your Mind” (a cover from somebody called Stray) and Golden Earring’s “Kill Me Ce Soir”.  Both songs are pretty damn good.  I prefer both to some of the album tracks!

“Bring Your Daughter” had two of its own B-sides:  “Communication Breakdown” and “I’m A Mover”.  Maiden tackle Led Zeppelin and Free less successfully than they did they other two B-sides.  “I’m A Mover” ain’t bad as it allows Maiden to get into a groove they normally wouldn’t, and Bruce seems to have fun with the vocal.

3.5/5 stars

Part 120: T-Rev Appreciation Day!

I was sitting here, trying to think of some new content to write.  Then it hit me:  T-Rev Appreciation Day!  

RECORD STORE TALES PART 120:  T-Rev Appreciation Day!

T-Rev, a past contributor here at LeBrain’s Blog, is a man whom I owe a lot.  Not only is he one of the best buds I’ve ever had (sniff) but he’s also responsible for getting me so damn many of my treasures.  Directly responsible.  Like, I’m not talking about stuff like, “Mike, you really need to buy some Oasis, Max Webster, and Steve Earle.  Oh, and while you’re at it, the second Four Horsemen album is awesome!” 

He did, in fact, turn me onto all four of those things.  But I’m talking more about the kind of situation where a combination of his eagle eyes, musical knowledge, and friendship scored me some discs!

Here’s two:

QUEENSRYCHE – Road To Promised Land aka ARRIVED!

This 1995  promo CD is a neat little greatest hits, going chronologically from the first EP to the Promised Land album!  The only exclusive track is a radio edit of “Damaged” but Trevor saw this one and gave me a call.  He knew I loved Queensryche, especially since I was going to see them with Tom that summer.

DIAMOND HEAD – Lightning To The Nations (original mix!)

T-Rev and I were both Metallica fans, and were both aware that they had covered numerous Diamond Head songs.  This, like the Queensryche disc, came into Trevor’s store.  While I wouldn’t fault him for snagging this one for himself, he deemed it slightly out of the scope of his core collection.  I’m glad he did, because this disc rocks!  And this is the original “Lars Ulrich approved” mix of the album, ripped straight from the LP.  Most CD editions were remixed, and the master tapes are now lost.  So this is a real treat and hopefully I’ll get around to reviewing it.   15 tracks, from the album itself plus B-sides and so on. 

I raise a glass to Trevor, surely one of the finest Record Store Dudes to ever grace a cash register!  My memories, and my collection, would be poorer without you.

   

REVIEW: Oasis – Wibbling Rivalry (1995 CD single)

OASIS Wibbling Rivalry (single/bootleg, 1995)

It all started with an interview with Q magazine.  The spark was only the slightly mischievous question, “How do you feel about the fact that, already, Oasis have attracted a reputation for being rock’n’roll animals?”

What followed was, possibly, the greatest train wreck interview in all history, which luckily was recorded and released by a label called “Fierce Panda” under the name Oas*s.

I really have nothing else to say.  I’ll let Noel and Liam say it all.  Just buy it.  You need this.  Some highlights:

Liam: No…No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No!
Noel: Fuck off! Bullshit! Bullshit!

Or how about this classic:

Liam: You get into situations…
Noel: No…you think it’s rock’n’roll to get thrown off a ferry, and it’s not.
Liam: I don’t think it’s rock’n’ roll.
Noel: You fucking…that was your quote, you prick! That was your quote!
Liam: No it weren’t! No it weren’t! No it weren’t!

My favourite:

Noel: Do you know John Lennon?
Liam: Do you know him?
Noel: I don’t, but do you?
Liam: Yeah.
Noel: Well, you must be pretty old. How old are you? 21?
Liam: No. About a fucking thousand-and-five fuckin’ one.

5/5 fucking stars

Please note: a fucking thousand-and-five fuckin’ one” is not an actual number.

Part 82: Impact

Your gracious host

Your gracious host

The first time a record store person had any impact on me was actually well after high school.  Until then, I never spent much time interacting with them.  I always knew how to find what I wanted, and I never special-ordered anything because the stuff I wanted, they couldn’t get anyway.  I had to order my rare albums from magazines.

In 1990, Peter and I got heavily into Faith No More.  Peter got Introduce Yourself before I did, but I found We Care A Lot first.  I found it at Sam The Record Man, generally considered the best store in town at the time.  Angel Dust had just came out on CD, but I hadn’t got it yet.  We Care A Lot was a rarity; therefore a priority in my spending budget.

It was there, on cassette.  $14.99.  Not cheap.

Al King was behind the counter.  Al King was the undisputed music guru in town.  Undisputed.  I strived to be what he represented.  Heck he even had a feature spot on a weekly local TV program — The Metal Mike Show — which I watched many times.

“Do you have the new Faith No More yet?” Al asked me as he took the security tag off my purchase.

“No, not yet.  I saw this and I had to get it because I’ve never seen it before,” I answered.

“The new one is…pretty different.  Have you heard Mr. Bungle?” he inquired.

Al was engaging me.  He had just seen Bungle live.  He liked Bungle, but the new Faith No More was still growing on him.  He explained to me that you could really hear the Bungle influece on it.  The next time I came in, he told me he had just seen Faith No More.  He told me everything about the show.

Years later, things cycle around, and I found myself in Al’s shoes.  Kids were coming up to me and asking my opinion on things.  I tried my best to be honest and treat them with respect.  I had my bad days — we all do — but I certainly didn’t want to recommend music that I didn’t think was any good.

When I saw a young guy or girl come in buying Kiss, that was an instant obvious coversation starter.  Tall One and Short One, who I talked about several chapters ago, started getting into bands like Kiss and Oasis, so I tried to steer them into the albums I was into.

I made a lot of friends that way.  Shane Schedler, who I’ve talked about twice before was one guy who trusted my opinion implicity.  There was another guy, Italian Tony, who always wanted to know what I was into.  I sold him Slash Puppet that way, I knew he would be into that band.  And then there’s my buddy Statham.  Some found me on Facebook, some I just run into randomly.

Of course I had just as many failures.  Sometimes you expect someone to be into a new Maiden album just because they liked the old Maiden, for example.  Then they don’t trust you anymore.

I don’t think I appreciated my position back then.  I don’t think I saw myself as Al King.  I think I saw myself as still trying but not quite succeeding at being that guy.  It’s only now that I talk to people and get it.  Somebody will say to me, “You told me to buy this album, and I did, and it’s in my top ten of all time now.”  That’s a cool feeling.  I wish I appreciated it back then.

The truth is, it was a job just like any other.  You were a business and businesses were supposed to make money.  Stores have to be cleaned, books balance, shelves stocked.  Sometimes it felt like conversation was keeping you from your job.  And spend too much time with a single customer, and you got dirty looks from people with the authority to give you dirty looks.

I appreciate now though, that conversation was the job.  Conversations that I don’t even remember have turned out to have huge impacts on people’s musical lives.  Al King was a trusted musical guru to me.  It’s weird to think that I might be that to other people.   But if that truly is the case, I have to say thanks, because that’s all I ever really wanted anyway.

Well…that and a staff discount.

Yeah. Slash Puppet, baby.