picture discs

#921.5: All I Wanted For My Birthday Was…

I wasn’t feeling very social on my unhappy worstday.

However, rotten moods eventually fade and I thought I would try to fulfill my social obligations on Tuesday. I picked up Jen and we went to go visit my parents. They had special donuts for us and a birthday card for me.

I couple weeks ago, I was talking to someone about having the vaccine, and the province re-opening. She asked me “What kind of things are you looking forward to doing now that you are vaccinated and things are opening back up?” I have simple needs so I answered, “I’d like to go shopping at Toys R Us and a record store.” So far I’ve done one of those two things. Realizing I had a birthday coming too, I added “and I’d really like to watch TV with my dad.”

Watching television with the old man is an experience. The way he flips channels, his running commentary…I haven’t watched TV with my dad since Christmas 2019. I realized yesterday that the only birthday present that I really needed was to watch TV with my dad.

He had Pawn Stars on. I sat on the couch, and after an hour had gone by…I started to feel normal again.

A guy was selling “rare” picture discs. The Pawn Stars offered him $60 for five. I had one of the five! It was a shaped picture disc for Iron Maiden’s “The Clairvoyant”. I paid $10 for it back in 2001.

The Pawn Stars explained that the discs were not a gold mine, because picture discs have an inferior sound, which is true. Still, $60 for five discs is $12 each USD. And I only paid $10 CAD. So that’s not bad. The same guy also had “Infinite Dreams”, some Pee-Wee Herman, and a Ghostbusters disc.

It was the first time I’ve been in the same room as my parents without worrying about masks, viruses, and sanitizer. It was the first “normal” visit in a year and a half. It felt strange, and then it felt normal.

All I wanted was to watch TV with my dad for my birthday. I got what I wanted.

I feel alright.

Gallery: A closer look at Alice Cooper and Japanese import unboxings

This week’s live show included some cool unboxings.  Here is a closer look at the three new arrivals at LeBrain HQ.

#1 Dokken – The Lost Songs: 1978-1981 Japanese import.  Old unreleased demos polished and finished for release.  This baby has a bonus track called “Going Under”.

#2 Accept – Blind Rage Japanese import.  2014 studio album.  “Thrown to the Wolves” is the name of this Teutonic terror’s bonus track.

# Alice Cooper – “Don’t Give Up” 7 inch picture disc single.  Great to finally have this new Covid-related recording on a physical format.

 

REVIEW: Mastodon – “White Walker” (2016 picture disc single)

MASTODON – “White Walker” (2016 Warner 10″ picture disc single)

Disclaimer: I’ve never seen a single episode of Game of Thrones, although I will admit a crush on Emilia Clarke, and a man-crush on Kit Harington.  And I don’t really know a lot about Mastodon.  I know they rock — and that’s enough.

Since Sunrise Records in Kitchener opened up again back in April, I’ve been doing my best to support them.  Taking a chance on something I haven’t heard before, and finding the artwork badass as hell, I plopped down for Mastodon’s “White Watcher” single.  There is nothing typical about this song.  The war drums opening the track sound as if from battle.  The lyrics certainly paint a picture:  a cold and desolate land full of despair.  There is little musical backing, just some spare acoustic guitars and a few atmospheric electric licks until the haunting guitar solo kicks in.  It’s atypical of any Mastodon I’ve heard.

The B-side is the A Cappella version of “White Walker”, with just one voice.  I love how it reveals the imperfections of the human voice.  It sounds like something a character on the show might be singing, before battle.  The mourning feeling is there in the grooves of the record.

And speaking of the record, what artwork!  The A-side is a brilliant painting of a White Walker, while the B-side is a still from the show.  The snowy landscape and ragged people huddled around fires certainly illustrate what the song feels like.  Incredible single.

4.5/5 stars

REVIEW: Anthrax – Live from Sonisphere Festival 2010 (picture disc EP)

Welcome back to the Week of the Singles 3! Each day this week we’ll be looking at rare singles and EPs.

MONDAY: OZZY OSBOURNE – Ultimate Live Ozzy (1986 CBS picture 12″ record)
TUESDAY: BON JOVI – Livin’ On A Prayer (double 12″ EP)

ANTHRAX – Live from Sonisphere Festival 2010 (picture disc EP, Record Store Day exclusive)

I don’t get these Record Store Day exclusives, honestly.  I saw this thing for a reasonable price on Amazon and bought it without even knowing it was some kind of “exclusive”.  I sure didn’t buy it at a record store, but I won’t turn this into a Record Store Day rant.

This is a very nice looking picture disc. I wouldn’t recommend playing it too often, you know how quickly a picture disc can wear out. If you’re lucky enough to own the Big Four Live CD box set, you won’t need to play this.   I don’t have that very limited set, but these two Anthrax performances make me want it! “Medusa”, an oldie from the Anthrax days of yore (Spreading the Disease), is just as powerful as ever.  Belladonna’s voice has changed, but not enough to matter.  The song has been tuned down, but that really only makes it heavier.

“Only”, the first single from the John Bush era of the band, is on the other side.  This is one of the best Anthrax songs ever, in my opinion.  Joey certainly turns a more than able performance.  He sounds at home, and I quite enjoy his version, especially when he starts shrieking before the guitar solo.

I loved this single, and I was surprised how awesome Joey sounded. I really lost track of Anthrax after the We’ve Come For You All period and haven’t been too excited about all the rotating singers since then. However since Joey’s been back (for hopefully the rest of the band’s life) I’ve been a lot more interested, and that’s why I bought this. I didn’t know how good he would sound on the Bush-era stuff, and “Medusa” smokes with furious intensity too.

Good single, I’d really like that box set.

4/5 stars

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REVIEW: Ozzy Osbourne – Ultimate Live Ozzy (picture disc EP)

Welcome to the third WEEK OF SINGLES!  Once again, we’ll be looking at singles and EPs all week.  Up first is a really odd one.

Click here to see directories for the last two installments:  The Week of Singles, and the Week of Singles 2.

OZZY OSBOURNE – Ultimate Live Ozzy (1986 CBS picture 12″ record)

T-Rev bought this for me a year or two ago, God knows where he found it!  All I know is that one day I got a text from him saying, “Mikey, Ultimate Live Ozzy picture disc, do you need it?”  I obviously said yes,  I didn’t care what it was exactly.  I figured it was probably live cuts from The Ultimate Ozzy home video release.  I know that Ozzy picture discs go for crazy amounts of money at record shows, and this one was affordably priced.

Picture discs don’t sound the best, and this one even has a label on the front warning the consumer of this fact.  Unfortunately my plastic sleeve isn’t in the greatest shape, although the record is absolutely perfect.  I love the way the turntable spindle sticks out of Ozzy’s tongue on one side.  The other side has a picture of Ozzy and guitarist Jake E. Lee with the girl from The Ultimate Sin album cover.  Jake’s taking a bite out of her bum.

Here’s the weird thing.  Even though the label clearly states these are live versions from Kansas City in 1986 (the Ultimate Ozzy video shoot), there are no live songs.  There are three tracks per side, and both sides are identical.  They contain the studio versions of “The Ultimate Sin”, “Never Know Why”, and “Thank God for the Bomb”.  The studio versions — not live versions!  Somebody screwed up somewhere; you have to assume one side was meant to have the live tracks, and the other the studio counterparts.  Information is scarce, except that there are multiple reports of the same issue for this picture disc on the web.

Thankfully, the three missing live tracks are on the Prince of Darkness box set.   It’s always nice to get some live Ozzy stuff with Jake E. Lee, since it’s so rare to find.  Randy Castillo (R.I.P.) is on drums, and like him or not, he has a signature style that he utilized with Ozzy.  I enjoy his drumming.  The live versions are more keyboard heavy than the studio counterparts.  I enjoy Jake’s echoey guitar intro to “Thank God for the Bomb” which sounds cool live.

I’d love to know if these three live tracks were actually released on vinyl at all in 1986.  Prince of Darkness was released in 2005; that’s a long time to wait to finally get the tracks in an audio format!  I do have the Ultimate Ozzy video on VHS, but it has never been released on an official DVD.  Knowing of Ozzy’s loathing for this period, I wonder if it ever will be.  I doubt it.  It’s too bad, because some have a fondness for The Ultimate Sin and its songs.

If this picture disc had contained the live tracks it was supposed to, I’d give it 4/5 stars.  However, for a screwup this colossal:

0/5 stars.  At least it looks cool.

Final note:  When originally released, this disc came with postcards and a poster.  I have neither.

REVIEW: Bruce Dickinson – Skunkworks, Skunkworks Live EP (1996)

Part 24 of my series of Iron Maiden reviews!

BRUCE DICKINSON – Skunkworks (1996)

Bruce’s studio band from the last album, Balls To Picasso, had a regular gig to get back to (Tribe of Gypies) and Bruce formed a new young band he called Skunkworks:  Alex Dickson (guitar), Chris Dale (bass), and Alessandro Elena (drums).  Dickson’s since turned up on Robbie Williams albums.  (I know because I bought one.)

Why Skunkworks?  Well, you know Bruce and his love of aviation.  Skunk Works is the top secret project that brought to life the Lockheed Martin SR-71 Blackbird among other advanced aircraft.

Dryden's SR-71B Blackbird, NASA 831, slices across the snow-covered southern Sierra Nevada Mountains of California after being refueled by an Air Force tanker during a 1994 flight. SR-71B was the trainer version of the SR-71. The dual cockpit to allow the instructor to fly.

Skunkworks, the album, was a new direction once again.  Just as Balls To Picasso was very different from Maiden, Skunkworks was another hard left turn.  It polarized fans:  Some praised Bruce for doing something new and different again, others were puzzled and disappointed.

And some were just pissed that he’d cut his hair.

With most songs of the 13 clocking in between 3 and 4 minutes (none exceeding 5), Bruce and Alex had written a set of tight songs.  Bruce was clearly in tune with what was happening with music in the 1990’s as most songs have that alterna-90’s vibe mixed with a heady prog-rock tendency.  The sound of the album is dry and in your face.

The problem for me is most of the songs are just not memorable.  The single “Back From the Edge” (which we’ll talk about later) is great, a rocket trip to the moon in a very sleek vehicle.  Also great is the metallic and  angry (but lyrically obtuse) “Solar Confinement”.  These songs I like a lot.  Most of the lyrics have a sci-fi bent that Bruce would revisit on later solo albums, which is also fine by me.

I don’t mind the epic closer “Strange Death In Paradise”, nor the chrome choruses of “Inside the Machine”.  I like the velocity of “Innerspace”.  But a day after listening to it, I couldn’t tell you how it went.

I love the Floydian artwork that unified the album with its singles.  Compared to later Bruce albums, the artwork doesn’t stand out as much, but as a whole with all the singles it works great.

As I mentioned, fans are really polarized on this album.  There has to be something here that I’m missing.  I do like the B-sides, which were mostly fantastic!  Some were heavy, some melodic, some acoustic.  All worth having.

 

“Back From the Edge” CD1 contained:

  • “Rescue Day”
  • “God’s Not Coming Back”
  • “Armchair Hero”

 

“Back From the Edge” CD2 contained:

  • “R 101”
  • “Re-Entry”
  • “Americans Are Behind” (one of Bruce’s trademark joke songs)

 

And the “Back From the Edge” 7″ picture disc contained:

  • “I’m In A Band With An Italian Drummer” (another joke song based on Alessandro Elena)

SKUNKWORKS – Live (1996 Japanese EP)

There would also be a cool live EP, billed under the name Skunkworks, and just titled Live.  This was only made available in Japan, and I paid $30 for a copy at HMV 333 Yonge St.  Now, this and all the B-sides are available on a deluxe edition of the album.  Then, I spent a lot of money to get all the songs, but the end result is a bunch of cool looking discs with united artwork.

The Live EP had four tracks, three from Skunkworks:  “Inertia”, “Faith”, and “Innerspace”.  It was capped off by a Maiden cover, “The Prisoner”, something Bruce was only beginning to do as a solo artist.  As a cover it highlights the differences in bands.

For the album Skunkworks:

2.75/5 stars

For the EP Skunkworks Live:

3/5 stars

Perhaps Bruce felt a tugging in his heart for heavy metal, or perhaps the fans were too vocal in their rejection of Skunkworks.  Whatever the case may be, Bruce decided to abandon the band Skunkworks.  He turned to his friend Roy Z, from Tribe of Gypsies and co-writer of Balls To Picasso.

“I want to make a heavy metal album,” said Bruce.  “Do you have any metal riffs?”

As it turned out, Mr. Z had plenty.  The Balls To Picasso lineup was back.  And that wasn’t the only reunion in the works.