Ottawa

#891: Condition Critical

RECORD STORE TALES #891 Condition Critical

Allan Runstedtler was looking at my tape collection.  This was something kids did.  Every kid had a few tapes.  Maybe they even had a nice tape case to put them in.  I started the year 1985 with only one tape case.  It held 30.

Allan reached for my Quiet Riot.

Condition Critical?  What’s that?  I only know ‘Situation Critical’ by Platinum Blonde.” said Al.

I was never one of the cool ones.

There was this kid from school named Kevin Kirby.  One day I was in his neighbourhood and he introduced me to a friend of his.  Kevin asked me to tell him what my favourite band was.  I answered “Quiet Riot” and they both laughed.  I still liked Quiet Riot?  They were so 1983.

Not much time had passed, but Quiet Riot were already toast.  I felt cool for all of 3 months when Quiet Riot were big.  Metal Health was my first hard rock album.  I loved that album.  I still love that album.  I was the anomaly.  All my classmates (the few that liked Quiet Riot in the first place) had moved on.  Platinum Blonde were huge.  And rightfully so.  Standing in the Dark was a great album.  Their followup Alien Shores was also successful, going to #3 in Canada.  Platinum Blonde, however, were not for me.  They were not a hard rock band.  I didn’t even consider them to be a rock band.  I labelled Platinum Blonde with the same label I used on everything I didn’t like.  These loathsome artists were all dubbed “wavers”.  There was no greater insult to me than “waver”.  You were either a rocker or a waver.  There was nothing else in my eyes more wretched than “New Wave” music.

Quiet Riot were not wavers, they were rockers.  They had songs like “Party All Night” and “Mama Weer All Crazee Now”.  But they had made a “Critical” blunder.  They followed Metal Health with an inferior carbon copy in Condition Critical.  It was a collection of leftovers and it was obvious.  It even included a Slade cover like the prior album.  It still went platinum.  But Metal Health sold six times that.  It was seen as a critical and commercial failure.  Dubrow earned Quiet Riot no favours when he decided to trash other bands in the press.  That stunt misfired, gloriously so.

No wonder Allan had never heard of Condition Critical.  I tried to get him into some of my music.  I showed him the video for “Death Valley Driver” by Rainbow, which I thought was really cool.  He wasn’t as impressed as I was.

Going back a bit, I received Condition Critical for Easter of 1985.  Almost a year after its release.  I can remember a conversation with my mom about what kind of gifts I would like, and I answered “the new Quiet Riot, because I want to have all the albums by a band.”  Hah!  I had no idea, none whatsoever, that Metal Health was their third, not first.  In Japan, Quiet Riot and Quiet Riot II were released in the late 70s.  These featured the late Ozzy Osbourne guitar wizard Randy Rhoads on lead guitar, but I had yet to learn all these important details.  I wanted to have Condition Critical so I could have a “complete” Quiet Riot collection.  Something I’m still attempting to have.

Easter of ’85 was spent in Ottawa with my mom’s Uncle Gar and Aunt Miriam.  We all stayed in their house.  They were amazing people.  Uncle Gar was injured in the war, but always had a smile on his face.  He didn’t like my growing hair or my rock music, but I think he was happy that I turned out OK in the end.  I stayed in a little spare bedroom.  I brought my Sanyo ghetto blaster and my parent’s old Lloyds headphones.

I hit “play” on Quiet Riot not expecting to like every song, and I didn’t.  I enjoyed the two singles, “Party All Night” and “Mama Weer All Crazee Now”.  I thought the lead track, “Sign of the Times”, as as strong as the first album.  But I didn’t think much of “Scream and Shout”, “Bad Boy” or “(We Were) Born to Rock”.  And the ballad?  I was not a ballad kid, and I thought “Winners Take All” was even worse than “Thunderbird”!

I’ve softened on the ballads since (pun intended), but it’s true that this is just an album of soundalikes.  It’s not outstanding.  I knew I’d have to give it a bunch more listens, but even then I knew a “sequel” when I saw one.  Similar.  More of the same of what you like.  But not as good.

I kept giving them chances, though.  I had to.  They were the first band I wanted “all” the albums from.  When my buddy George told me that Quiet Riot were back with an awesome new song called “The Wild and the Young”, my excitement was restored.  “Kevin Dubrow even looks like Paul Stanley in the music video,” he told me.  Cool!

Of course we know how that ended.  A sterile, keyboardy comeback that fizzled out with Dubrow’s ousting.

There are bands I have given up on and never looked back.  Yet I keep buying Quiet Riot, loyally, album after album.  If they release another, I’ll buy that too.  And it’s all because of what I told my mom when she asked me what I wanted for Easter.  “The new Quiet Riot,” I answered, “because I want to have all the albums by a band.”

 

REVIEW: Raw M.E.A.T 1 – Various Artists (1990)

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RAW M.E.A.T 1 (1990 M.E.A.T Magazine)

Drew Masters’ legendary metal magazine M.E.A.T took a lot of pride in promoting Canadian talent.  The next logical step was putting out a CD featuring the best of the best in unsigned Canadian rock and metal.  The flagship band was Toronto’s Slash Puppet.  On this first volume, only groups from the province of Ontario signed up.   Even though the talent all came from a small region in and around Toronto (with one exception), it’s a surprisingly diverse selection of styles.

I look at Raw M.E.A.T as a first tapping of an oil reserve.  It was a gusher.  So much untapped raw talent, unheard in suburbs.

“Slow Down” by Slash Puppet was previously issued on their indi tape, but Raw M.E.A.T 1 was its first issue on CD.  The track has been described as Motorhead meets Faster Pussycat and that still fits the bill.  Lead singer Anthony J. Mifsud was the sandpaper throat to go with the rough and tumble music.  You can hear why there was such a buzz around Slash Puppet.  They had pro-level tunes and performance. All they needed was a break.

Most Raw M.E.A.T buyers knew what they were getting with Slash Puppet. The rest of the tunes were uncharted territory.

Eiffel Power, from Taranna, knocked it out with “City Action”.  Singer Lionel Lois  had ample range and lung capacity for this fun metal shuffle, very current for the time.  Think of Extreme’s first album but with more muscle.  Then there’s the instantly likeable “Feel Me Sweet” by Brampton’s own Ragadee Anne.  Yes, it’s true:  coming up with names for bands isn’t always easy, but “Feel Me Sweet” kicks.  One reason they sound so professional is due to the production by Tom Treumuth (Triumph), surely an advantage in the studio.  Glam rock with bite and youthful innocence sure sounds good.

Blackglama (Toronto) take it to the streets with the rock/rap hybrid of “Playin’ Hardball (With the Big Boys)”.  This was just a year or two ahead of its time, though director Bruce McDonald used it in his 1991 film Highway 61  (but not the soundtrack CD).  The next group, Washington Wives, bring it to immaculately composed AOR rock.  “Memoirs, Etc.” has backing vocals from Phil Naro, from just across the border in Buffalo.  Naro is best known for Talas and his work with Kiss’ Peter Criss.  “Memoirs, Etc.” is vaguely familiar, as if you’ve heard its like on the radio before (Journey? Night Ranger?), but there’s no question this track was hit-ready.  Zero fat content, this is all meat of the most melodic variety.

Short Avenue has another “name” attached, that being “Scarpelli”.  Guitarist Gene Scarpelli is the son of Gino, of Toronto’s Goddo.  Short Avenue sounds nothing like Goddo, rather more like some tough street punks ready to mix it up.  With hindsight, they sound like precursors to The Four Horsemen.  “Push Comes to Shove” is right in the same vein as the Horsemen’s “Rockin’ is Ma Business”.  From the Horsemen to the Cult:  The Cult have always been big in Canada.  First impressions are that Trouble In Mind (Toronto) were very inspired by Ian Astbury.  Regardless, their track “Sweet Addictions” is album quality.  Lead singer Beau (just “Beau”) turned up on a later instalment of the Raw M.E.A.T series, but that’s another story.

We depart Toronto momentarily for a trip to the nation’s capitol.  Ottawa’s Antix had been self-releasing vinyl since 1986, and “Kick It Up” was a new track.  With a Van Halen shuffle, their track hits the right spots, but suffers from inadequate production.   It’s unfortunate that the most experienced band has one of the poorest sounding tracks on the CD.

Russian Blue received their first major exposure via Raw M.E.A.T, and thanks to their incredible song “Once a Madman”, they gained a cult following.  They were a double threat:  a magnificent singer and a terrific guitar player.   Vocalist Jo E. Donner found himself compared to a young Robert Plant.  Richard Gauci backed that up with memorable guitar hooks.  “Once a Madman” gets the job done in just 3:15, leaving behind an unforgettable and unique rocker that begs for repeat listens.  One reason it sounds so good?  Produced by a pre-fame Harry Hess of Harem Scarem.

The next band, Zyle, sound like they were going for a traditional metal sound.  The Scorpions come to mind immediately, as does fellow Canadian rockers White Wolf.  They needed a bit more originality.  The guitar solo directly quotes Randy Rhoads, too close for comfort.  But then it’s The Remains with something a little more street punk.  A variation of the classic Peter Gunn riff, “Too Much” is actually never enough.  It’s the right mixture of middle finger and middle eight.

Hanging out just down the QEW are Hamilton and Oakville, from which come the last two groups.  Cathouse prove that you can never have enough permutations of the classic Van Halen shuffle.  “In For the Kill” nails it, with a vocalist who seems like equal parts Skid Roper and Rob Halford.  Finally, Oakville’s Johannes Linstead is best known today for his flamenco guitar albums.  He didn’t start there!  Wildside (later to become Gypsy Jayne) are about that sleaze rock.  You can hear that the guitarist is something special, though you wouldn’t predict the future from this one track.

It’s difficult to be objective, even though so many years have passed since Raw M.E.A.T 1.   Many (if not most) of these bands had potential.  Toronto in the early 90s was ready to explode as “the next Seattle”, but there was no “next Seattle”.  12 of these 13 songs are really fondly remembered, with one just needing a little more originality.

4.5/5 stars

 

#474: Vertigo Records in Ottawa Ontario

Last weekend, Aaron went record shopping in Toronto while I did the same in Ottawa. Check out his post too, and see what we scored!

GETTING MORE TALE #474: Vertigo Records in Ottawa Ontario

Something very special happened on March 24, 1956.  On that day, Clifford Michael Woodhouse married young Jean, the light of his life, and they began a large and loving family.  Clifford, known as Mike, was a radar operator in the CF (Canadian Forces).  As such he and his family lived in many parts of the world at many times.  According to his son Richard, who also served in the CF:  “During the height of the Cold War he was a Radar operator, working on what was known as the Pine Line, where he monitored and collected information on the movement and position of threats to the Canadian Forces and to Canadian sovereignty.”  He was also involved in classified projects, but I can’t talk about that, or he’ll have to shoot me.

Sgt. Woodhouse ultimately settled in Ottawa after stops in France and Gander, Newfoundland.  He retired in Ottawa where he and Jean still live today.  I am lucky to have married his beautiful grand-daughter Jennifer.

A 60th wedding anniversary is a big deal.  Did you know that couples who are citizens of the British empire (including Canadians) can receive a letter from Queen Elizabeth II for their 60th anniversary?  The diamond Woodhouse anniversary celebration (held on Sunday the 20th) was not an event we were likely to miss, so Jen and I climbed aboard a train and headed east to our nation’s capital.

We stayed in the Novotel (good experience; recommended) which was a block or two away from a store called Vertigo Records.  Brilliant.  First excursion solved!  We’ll get there eventually (I promise), but lemme tell you, I’ve never been in a Hummer limo before.  Jen’s cousin Missy arranged this beast of a vehicle, 18 feet in length, and just a pleasure to ride in.  (So screw the environment I guess; I rode in a Hummer limo and enjoyed it!)  There were 14 of us inside that Hummer, including Mike and Jean, two of their kids, three of their grand-kids, and FIVE of their SIX great-grandchildren!  How incredible is that?  Even more met us at the Keg Manor; a large and incredible group of people.

During the celebration, the lucky couple were presented a number of precious documents in honour of their achievement.  The letter from the Queen was perhaps even overshadowed by a personal letter from the Right Honourable Steven Harper, former Prime Minister of Canada.  Family member Chris acquired this by writing to the office of Mr. Harper, who was kind enough to send a signed letter in response.  There was also a letter from David Johnston, Governor General of Canada and direct representative of the Queen in this country.

Jennifer has a great family in Ottawa and I can’t wait to return to the city, in warmer weather.  It was bitter cold that weekend, windy and unpleasant to walk in for a long period of time.  As such we didn’t go far in distance from our hotel.  I did find this interesting place that I might have to check out next time.*  It was situated beside a couple tattoo shops.  Hey, it says it’s FREE, right?

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Vertigo Records (193 Rideau St, (613)-241-1011) is an inviting and cool store selling new and used CDs, vinyl and even cassettes.  They had a copy of Metallica’s tape-only No Life ‘Til Leather, sealed for $25.  Even cooler, they had a signed Motorhead drum head (not for sale).   We arrived shortly after they opened and there were already customers browsing.  They had a lot of stock and they were putting out plenty of new stuff as I was there.  There were a number that struck my eye.

Should I have bought Goblin Cock?

Should I have bought Goblin Cock?

 

One of the first discs I noticed was Yngwie Malmsteen’s Live in Leningrad, which I have wanted for a long time but never had.  Vertigo had a good variety of tunes in rotation over the speakers, including some Motley Crue.  Maybe that’s what inspired me to pick up the double Live – Entertainment or Death.  I’ve seen a lot of copies of it in the past in just wrecked condition, so not remembering if I owned it or not, I picked this one up.  I did own it already.  So this one goes into the Aaron pile.**  In the new arrivals bin, I saw Robert Pollard/Doug Gillard’s Speak Kindly of Your Volunteer Fire Department.  I wasn’t certain if he owned it or not, so for only $6.99 it was better safe than sorry.   He does have it, so I’ll keep it.  He tells me I won’t be disappointed with it anyway, because Gillard is a guitar hero of his and I should be in for a treat.

Speaking of Aaron, he has some Deep Purple castaways coming his way.  When I saw these lovely Japanese reissues in mint, complete condition for only $14.99 each, it was all but a no-brainer to pick them up.  There are Russian forgeries on the market, but these are the genuine article from Japan.  I’m very pleased to add these to my collection and pass down my old copies to the next generation of Purple fanatics.*** And lo! More Japanese treasures were to be found! Complete with obi strip was some rare Rage Against the Machine.  I have a brief story about this CD, that was too short to make it into Record Store Tales*^ but fine for an anecdote here.

One of the few guys that actually worked at the old Record Store before me was this guy Dave.  There was the owner, his brother, two guys named Craig and Dave, and then me.  A bit later on, Dave went to Japan but kept in touch via snail mail (back then, we just called it “mail”).  I will never forget that he sent us a letter to the store, almost taunting us with rare CDs that he found in Japan.  He mailed us the obi strips for Nirvana’s Hormoaning and a Rage Against Machine CD called Live & Rare.  “Ever seen these before?” read part of the letter.  Hormoaning yes, Rage no.   I never saw it again either, until Vertigo Records.  $12.99, obi strip intact.  Dave doesn’t even have his own obi strip anymore!

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Moving on, some classic rock finds were hard to turn down.  Cream Gold ($8.99 for 2 CDs!) and Jethro Tull’s Living With the Past ($6.99) came home with me to Kitchener.  I have the Tull DVD of the same name, and it’s excellent.  And Cream?  This is my first Cream purchase.  This is something I’m glad to have fixed in my collection.

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I love me some Fu Manchu, but I missed We Must Obey the first time out.  Brant Bjork’s Punk Rock Guilt also slipped past me.  Not this time!  $7.99 each.

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Finally, I could not safely bring home a lot of vinyl on the train, so I didn’t go nuts on it.  I saw some cool stuff, believe me, and I was considering getting some Kiss solo album reissues.  I bought one 45, which was “The Devil Stole the Beat from the Lord” by the Hellacopters, taken from their Kiss-like LP Grande Rock.  The single contains two non-album B-sides:  “Holiday Cramps” and “Be Not Content”.  The devil-dragster cover art probably made Rob Zombie cry tears of jealousy.

The guy behind the counter gave me the 45 for free.  “Because you’re buying so much,” he said.  What a pleasant surprise.  That was awesome.  I guess he didn’t know who I was*^^ and that I like to do this whenever I can!  We had a brief chat while he carefully put the discs and inserts in the cases.  We marveled at the folks out there who actually throw away CD packaging.  Why would anybody do such a thing?  I will truly never understand.

It was such a pleasure being in Ottawa that weekend, windy cold weather aside.  We will definitely return, and stay longer so as to check out some of the other record stores in town.  Vertigo Records is a must, a highly recommended store that I would rank as highly as my favourite Toronto record stores.

5/5 stars.

And thank you to C. Michael Woodhouse for your hospitality and for everything you have done for this country.

Mike “LeBrain” Ladano

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*I’m kidding!  I’m kidding!

**I have a lot of stuff here that I should really mail out to the friends I promised I would mail them out to.

***Hopefully Aaron and his kids.

*^Have you been reading Record Store Tales?  If not, please click here.

*^^I’ve always wanted to say to somebody, “Do you know who I am?” and then whip out my mikeladano.com cards as if I’m actually somebody.

 

 

REVIEW: The Tom Green Show – The Complete Series – Inside & Outside the Box (2005)

Thanks Dave FM for the chance to meet Tom Green!

GREENTOM GREEN – Inside & Outside the Box – The Tom Green Show: The Complete Series (2005 VSC)

As longtime LeBrain readers know, I was named King of the 4-O’clock 4-Play by Craig Fee on Dave FM.  I won a lot of stuff on that show.  One of the best things I won was a pair of tickets to see Tom Green at Crysalids Theatre, 9/22/11 with my best buddy Peter.  Tom was great, it was a celebration of the true spirit of stand-up comedy and he stuck around to take photos and sign stuff with everybody afterward.  I don’t think Tom Green gets enough respect for being an innovator as a comedian.  That’s why I felt inspired enough to write this review.

The most important thing to know about Tom Green:  MTV ruined Tom Green!  The MTV years, although peppered with some genius sketches such as “Undercutter’s Pizza”, was not at all what the original Tom Green Show was about.

This 3 disc set comprises Tom Green’s entire Comedy Network shows. In other words, the good stuff.  The weird stuff.  The offensive stuff.  The stuff that Jackass ended up ripping off (particularly Bam Margera).  Best of all though, this is the pre-fame stuff.  Tom Green could still run around downtown Ottawa without people knowing it was for a TV show.

You will see herein:

* Tom throwing all of Glenn Humplik’s clothes out of a plane in an evil double-cross.
* Tom burning Glenn’s shirt.
* Will Ferrell proclaiming that he hates Glenn and wants to punch him.
* Tom turning grape juice into pee (for science)!
* The dead raccoon.
* Tom demonstrating how a bus cannot move if you place your face on the bus.
* Repainting his dad’s car with a huge portrait of two naked women (the “slutmobile”).
* “Scuba Hood”.  He robs from the poor (fountains in malls, apparently) and gives to the rich (banks).
* Hanging his painting, “Tiger Zebra”, in the Ottawa Art Gallery, and then defacing it.
* and much, much more….

What you won’t see:

* You won’t see any bums on Swedishes.  That’s MTV stuff and not even half as good as this earlier stuff.

What I still like about the Tom Green show is that it is seldom mean spirited.  He picks on his friend Glenn a lot, which I can’t help but think that Kenny Hotz ripped off later on.  Everything else was done in this pseudo-naive childish fashion, and that is why I can watch The Tom Green Show over a decade later and laugh like the first time I saw it. This DVD for me has rendered obselete all of his old VHS tapes that I collected religiously. That stuff is on here, and it’s as fresh as ever.

I wonder whatever happened to Glenn’s clothes?

5/5 stars