promos

REVIEW: Queensryche – Speaking in Digital: A Conversation with Queensryche (1986 promo)

QUEENSRŸCHE – Speaking in Digital: A Conversation with Queensryche (1986 EMI America promo interview LP)

Here’s a nice little rarity for you, a full-length Queensryche interview disc from the Rage For Order era.  Promos are a funny thing for reviewing (and this is our second Queensryche promo review).  These records were never made for sale, therefore nobody reviews them.  Nobody…but us.  Is there any rock knowledge or collector’s value to be gleaned from this disc?  Let us find out.

It’s an attractive record, Geoff Tate’s digitally distorted face in black & white.  No Try-Ryche, but a neat digital Queensryche logo.  The interview is conducted by radio DJ Ralph Tortoro.  A very low-key Geoff Tate begins by answering general questions about the beginning of the band and their independent EP.  Chris DeGarmo is a bit more engaged and adds the details.  Shy Michael Wilton speaks up only on occasion.

You’ll also get bits and pieces of music:  Snippets of “Queen of the Reich”, “Warning”, and “Gonna Get Close to You”.  There are four full songs too:  a massive “Screaming in Digital” (so hot on vinyl!), “I Dream in Infrared”, “Chemical Youth” and “The Whisper”.

Interesting things I noted while listening:

  1. They hadn’t settled on the name Queensryche for the band until they had to print up the first EP, forced to make a decision.
  2. Maiden was one of their favourite bands to cover according to Chris.
  3. Tate clearly didn’t like being called “metal” even back in 1986.
  4. “NM 156” from The Warning is hailed as the track that showed the way of the future of Queensryche.
  5. Steve Harris loved The Warning and asked for Queensryche to open for Iron Maiden.
  6. Rage for Order is a “loose concept” album, examining order over three levels:  order in relationships, political order, and technological order.
  7. Other questions remain unasked.

The new digitally enhanced Queensryche of 1986 was destined to confuse people in the short term, gradually winning over fans as time went on and people “got” the album.  If you want to deepen your understanding of its themes, this record will help.  There’s more too; we won’t tell you everything.  As a fan, you should be able to decide if Speaking in Digital is the kind of thing you want in your rock and roll reference library.  The young, shy Queensryche interviewed on this LP are as cold as the machines that are striving for order in the lyrics.  It’s a dry but interesting listen.

3/5 stars

 

 

REVIEW: Helix – Live at the Marquee (1985 promo EP)

HELIX – Live at the Marquee (1985 Capitol promo exclusive EP)

Gratuity goes to two people:  Helix associate John Hockey who initially hooked me up with an mp3 rip of his copy of this Holy Grail rarity, and to Boppin for finding this original copy on vinyl!  Helix’s Live at the Marquee EP is one of those releases that lots of people have heard of, but few have heard.  First of all, it’s a promo, which means it was only distributed within the industry and never made available for sale to the public.  Promos can be very desirable collectibles, especially when they contain exclusive music.  Live at the Marquee was nothing but!  In 1985, Helix had released nothing in terms of live product, not even a live single B-side.  Live at the Marquee was the only one, and before the internet, few fans even knew about it.

For full disclosure, there is a rare Rock Candy reissue of 1984’s Walkin’ the Razor’s Edge, an unauthorized but valuable release that does contain three of the six Marquee tracks.  That 2009 release includes “Young & Wreckless”, “Rock You”, and “Animal House” from this EP.  The other three songs have yet to be reissued anywhere, so half of Live at the Marquee is still exclusive to the EP.

What you need to know about Live at the Marquee is that this is Helix at their prime.  The classic lineup was in full swing:  Brian Vollmer (vocals), Brent “Doctor” Doerner & Paul Hackman (guitars), Greg “Fritz” Hinz (drums), and Daryl Gray (bass).  They were performing their most popular tracks from the Razor’s Edge and No Rest for the Wicked LPs.  Starting with “Young & Reckless” and “Rock You”, it’s full octane in the tank and pedal to the metal.  Helix were and are known as a loud band, and this EP sure sounds like it.  They take a step back on the hit ballad “(Make Me Do) Anything You Want”.  Helix could do love songs like that without sounding wimpy.

Side two continues with the single “Gimme Gimme Good Lovin'” (Crazy Elephant cover) which sounds like a blast.  Helix do not get recognition for the dual guitar alliance of Doerner and Hackman as perhaps they should.  Check out “Animal House” for more of their stellar interplay including a bit of slide.  Finally “Heavy Metal Love” closes the record, an enduring favourite today that sounds fantastic performed by the classic band.

Over the years, fans became widely aware of the existence of this release.  It would be listed and pictured among official discographies, but never found in stores.  Until/unless those final three recordings become available on CD, this record should be sought after by every serious Helix fan.  I’m happy to have a copy signed by Fritz Hinz.  Also awesome?  John Hockley hooked me up with a CD copy of the Rock Candy release of Razor’s Edge, signed by all four surviving members of the classic Helix band.  Thank you John, and rest in peace Paul Hackman.

4.5/5 stars

REVIEW: David Lee Roth – A Little Ain’t Enough (1991)

DAVID LEE ROTH – A Little Ain’t Enough (1991, Warner, digipack promo CD version)

First Billy Sheehan was gone – fired by the “note police”.  Then Steve Vai was out, to join David Coverdale in his merry international band of Whitesnake, replacing Vivian Campbell.  David Lee Roth lost his two biggest guns in the space of a year.  What next?  Replacing Billy was Matt Bissonette, brother of drummer Gregg.  Matt is a fantastic bassist, but there is only one Billy Sheehan, so naturally the band was bound to sound different.  Replacing Steve Vai was much harder.

Filling the guitar slot, but not the shoes, was new young guitar prodigy Jason Becker (from Cacophony, with Marty Friedman), and veteran axeman Steve Hunter (ex-Alice Cooper).  Becker was beginning to feel the effects of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).  Fans must have known something was wrong when Becker was not seen on tour.  Becker kept his diagnosis private for the time being. Roth tapped Joe Holmes (future Ozzy guitarist) and stated that he needed musicians who could “fly” on stage.  It was hard for fans to become attached to his new band, even wielding the firepower of two guitarists, with all these changes.

Roth’s first post-Vai album, A Little Ain’t Enough, failed to ascend the commercial heights of Eat ‘Em and Smile or Skyscraper.  “Good”, but not “great”.  Not enough of that Dave “charasma”.  Just a collection of songs, not a fierce sexed up power-packed ride through.  Roth hooked up with producer-du-jour Bob Rock at Little Mountain studios.  Rock endowed Roth with a generic sound, contrasting the high-tech Skyscraper.  Dave seemed to be trying to take a step back towards his Van Halen roots.  Roth insisted that he and his band stay in the shittiest Vancouver hotel they could find.  Prostitutes, dealers, criminals, the works.  He wanted a dirty rock album and you can’t make one of those with a $20 room service hamburger in your stomach, as per the method of Diamond Dave.

A Little Ain’t Enough wasn’t the return to dirty raw rock Roth that had hyped.

Lead single “A Lil’ Ain’t Enough” was plenty of fun, a top notch Roth party song.  “Was vaccinated with a phonograph needle one summer break, then I kissed her on her daddy’s boat and shot across the lake.”  Perfect for summer.  Second track “Shoot It” was just as fun, a big horn section delivering all the big hooks.

The one-two punch of those openers was slowed by following them with “Lady Luck”, a rock blues track written by Dio’s Craig Goldy.  Good song, but the firepower and excitement of the previous two was missing.  “Hammerhead Shark”, the fourth track, had more energy but not the killer hooks.  What it does have is some killer shredding by the guitar duo of Hunter and Becker, with Hunter on the slide and Becker on the quick pickin’.  “Tell the Truth” is another blues, slower this time, and was also released as an instrumental remix with dialogue (from a movie?) dubbed over.  Side one closed with a real Van Halen-like corker called “Baby’s On Fire”.  As the title suggests, it’s red-hot and loaded with smoking playing.

Side two is a mixed bag.  “40 Below” is a fun track, with shades of Halen but more focused on bluesy guitars.  “Sensible Shoes” was a single, a slinky blues that appealed to some that normally wouldn’t buy a David Lee Roth album.  The slide guitar is the main feature.  “Last Call” is another one reminiscent of classic Van Halen, and “Dogtown Shuffle” dips back into noctural blues rock. Good songs – not great, but good.

Jason Becker only contributed two of his own songs to the album:  the final two, “It’s Showtime!” and “Drop in the Bucket”.  These happen to be two of the best tracks.  “It’s Showtime!” is 100% pure Van Halen, smoking down the highway, so try to keep up.  It’s the kind of high speed rock shuffle that they invented and mastered.  Meanwhile “Drop in the Bucket” serves as a cool, smooth ending to the album.  Its impressive guitar work is only a glimpse at what Becker was capable of.

ALS be damned, Jason Becker refused to go down without a fight.  As the disease took his voice and his hands, he began composing music on a computer.  He uses a system that tracks his eye movements, much like Steven Hawking.  This way, Becker has managed to stay active musically and has inspired thousands with his efforts.

It’s a shame that Becker’s only album with David Lee Roth was a bit middle of the road.  It wasn’t the full shred of early Roth, nor as diverse as Dave can get.  In his efforts to make a straight ahead rock album, Dave shed some of what makes his music special.  The musical thrills are lessened on what is probably the most “ordinary” album in his catalog.

3.5/5 stars

 

REVIEW: Elektra’s 40th Anniversary – Plunderphonics (1991 Elektra promo EP)

scan_20170127Elektra’s 40th Anniversary – Plunderphonics (1991 Elektra promo EP)

This is one of the weirdest CDs I have ever run across.  Remember in 1990, when Elektra did that anniversary CD called Rubáiyát that featured Elektra’s new bands covering Elektra’s old bands? It was the first release of Metallica’s “Stone Cold Crazy” and the first time anyone heard a hint of what Metallica were up to in the studio after Justice.  This promotional EP is a companion piece to Rubáiyát.

So what’s this EP? A “plunderphonic” is like a remix. The big difference is, they use only finished recordings, no multi-track master tapes. No going back to strip a vocal out of a song, no fiddling. Only actual snips of complete songs are used. A “new” piece is creating by chopping up and rearranging bits from other previously recorded pieces. Therefore, anybody can make their own plunderphonic using readily available songs. The man who invented the term, John Oswald, did the “plunderphonics” for this very rare promotional EP. His lightning-fast edits keeps things surprising.

The main attraction here, and the reason I own the CD, is a piece called “2 Net” by Metallica. I bet you never heard of that one, let alone heard the piece! It is a 1:21 mash-up of “Stone Cold Crazy” with a bunch of bits and bobs from …And Justice For All, and it’s as weird as that sounds. It’s a blur, almost incomprehensible. Fitting the thrash giants’ riffs into 1:21 will tend to have that effect. Building a composition out of Hetfield barks and Ulrich snares is fun as it sounds, even though it’s over before you can figure out what’s going on. Oswald mixed in some of Queen’s “Stone Cold Crazy” vocal for some melody. Crazy!

The most interesting track is the most unlikely: A cross between Carly Simon’s and Faster Pussycat’s “You’re So Vain”. The end result, “Vane” makes the two into one. If you have ever wanted to hear Taime Downe and Carly Simon perform the song together, this is your chance. It’s incredible how well the two versions contrast, since Faster Pussycat is about as different from Carly Simon as anyone can imagine.  It zips from Taime to Carly and back again, as they trade words almost seamlessly!  Another successful track is The Doors’ “O’Hell”. This is (obviously) based on “Hello, I Love You”. Bits of other Doors songs provide more instrumentation and effects.  Fans of Morrison will absolutely adore it and imagine their own plunderphonics to invent.  The MC5 arrive with “Mother”, based off the Kick Out the Jams album.  It’s a lot of shouting and screaming and it’s all good.  For something soft, check out “Anon” by Tim Buckley.  This is taken from Buckley’s “Anonymous Proposition”, made shorter and psychedelic.

It is very hard to describe the complexity of these tracks.  There could be hundreds of individual edits per song, because there is so much going on.  The Simon/Pussycat song is a great example of how this is more than just a gimmick.  It’s art, and anybody can try to do one themselves.  In fact, without knowing the name for it, I have heard many plunderphonics before, at our annual Sausagefest countdown.  Tom and Uncle Meat are skilled at making them, but I have never heard anything like these five tracks before — ever.  These are above and beyond anything I’ve heard in the field.

The liner notes indicate that five more plunderphonics were planned for this CD, but not included.  “Recipes” for making your own are inside.  It’s almost like five bonus tracks, but you have to make them yourself!

Rating this CD is difficult, and since it was never meant to be sold, almost pointless.  However you can find reasonably priced copies on Discogs, so a rating is necessary.  This CD is interesting.  It’s good, but it’s not meant for listening for pleasure.  It almost acts like caffeine to the brain.  Every song has so much going on that you are constantly listening and trying to catch it all.  It’s also short, so buy wisely.

3/5 stars

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#508: The Weirdest CD that I Own

GETTING MORE TALE #508: The Weirdest CD that I Own

The size of my personal CD collection now has exceeded my ability to store it properly.  I count it not in the hundreds but the thousands, my best guess right now being about 3500 titles on CD.  As one would expect, with that many titles here, you’re going to find some odd ones.  In fact, for the second-last chapter of the original Record Store Tales, Mrs. LeBrain brought out 10 of her favourite weird finds in my collection.  She missed the strangest one of all.

Scan_20160731 (2)Promos Volume 6 – Don Buchwald & Associates Inc.

This CD was given to me by a short-lived employee named Damien.  Damien will forever be scorned in the annals of Record Store History, for he quit (to become a roadie for the summer) with zero days notice, on the day before my vacation.  And boy, did I get in shit for going on vacation anyway.  This was one more incident that caused my direct supervisor, the one I call the “office bully”, to stop speaking to me for three weeks straight.*  The punishment far outweighed (and outlasted) the crime.  Cut that shit out, act like a damned professional.

So I will always have memories surrounding this strange 2 CD set, Promos Volume 6 put out by a New York talent agency in the late 1990’s.  It’s a free promo that has 87 samples of various performers such as Joy Behar and Stockard Channing showing off their voice talents.  “Chevy Chase stars in Modern Problems, tonight on HBO!” says Behar.  “Jack Lemmon starring in five movies, all day on Cinemax.”  She has a bit for Comedy Central, and so on.  Each voice talent name on these discs (the majority of which you’ve never heard of) has roughly a minute of samples to show off their skills.

None, not even Joy Behar, have anything on Dee Snider of Twisted Sister.

“From a frenzy of emotion, to a frenzy of violence.  What happens when fans become fanatics?  It’s an athlete’s worst nightmare:  Being stalked by a fan whose devotion becomes obsession.  [gunshot sounds]  CNN presents:  Fans who turn the field of sports, into a field of screams.”

Wow.  Who writes this stuff?  I can all but guarantee that any one of my readers can come up with a better tagline than that paid CNN employee!  Snider delivers his lines with the sobriety necessary.  But that’s nothing.  Nothing at all, compared to Sexy Snider.

The scene is set with sweltering sax, to go with the velvet voice of Snider’s sultry seduction.

“Lifetime has what you’ve been waiting for.  Spend every night of the week with a different man.  We’re not talking boys here.  We’re talking men, who leave you breathless.  Richard Gere.  Tom Cruise.  Kevin Costner.  Sean Penn.  All this week, only on Lifetime.”

It’s great stuff and I’ve used it for filler at the end of mix CDs before, when I needed something less than a minute long to max it out.  What I really love is how Snider’s New York accent really comes out when he says “Sean Penn”.  Damien may have been a dick, but this one track 51 second in length has given me…many minutes…of enjoyment over the years.

The 2 CD set comes in a “fat style” case, taking up far too much room for its 51 seconds of dubious value.  I wouldn’t trade it away for all the specials on HBO and Lifetime combined…but I also don’t need Volumes 1-5!

What’s the weirdest CD that you own?

* Three weeks was the standard waiting period for her to get around to speaking to me again.  Pretty awkward when you work together every almost single day.  This happened on multiple occasions.  

 

REVIEW: Blue Rodeo – Just Like a Vacation / “Joker’s Wild” bonus track (1999)

The Best Fucking Collaboration Week Ever, Pt. 2
 Mike and Aaron will be doing simultaneous daily reviews of albums these two intrepid music reporters have sent to each other. Buckle up, buttercups, it’s gonna be a blast!

BLUE RODEO – Just Like a Vacation / “Joker’s Wild” bonus track from Stardust Picnic  (1999 Warner)

I spent a lot of days in the summer of 1999 working in the Record Store in Cambridge. That was T-Rev’s store, normally, but he was out of town. He was Ajax, I think, helping build our next franchise. T-Rev is handy so his role was, in theory, supposed to transition to building new stores full time. That never fully happened, which in a way was a good thing, because they never had a plan for filling T-Rev’s time slot as store manager in Cambridge! In the interim, they sent me there and I was responsible for managing two stores. Not the first time and certainly not the last time.

’99 was a great summer for double live albums. There were two in particular I played daily: Sloan’s 4 Nights at the Palais Royale, and Blue Rodeo’s Just Like a Vacation.  Despite the added stress and mileage on the car, these two double live albums helped ensure that summer was hot and fresh with great music.  Blue Rodeo are one of the greatest live bands I’ve seen and I had long been awaiting a full-on double CD set of the live concert experience.

Just Like a Vacation is the absolutely perfect document of the Blue Rodeo experience circa 1999.  Hard edged and jamming, Blue Rodeo were at this time a mixture of country crooning and long noisy Neil Young jams.  The set is taken from a variety of shows and assembled into a coherent running order.  Perhaps the first track, the upbeat country of “Til I am Myself Again” was recorded in Stratford; Jim warns the crowd they may be snowed in that night, a common threat at the Stratford festival during their annual show there!

The first seven Blue Rodeo albums, from Outskirts (1987) to Tremolo (1997) are all essential listening.  This live set is loaded heavy with some of the best songs from that era, from the tender Jim Cuddy ballads (“Try”, “After the Rain”, “Bad Timing”) to the more epic Greg Keelor blasts of power:  “Hasn’t Hit Me Yet”, “Diamond Mine”, “Girl in Green”.  There’s country jazz (“Piranha Pool”), songs for singalongs (“Cynthia”) and even comedic stories of heartbreak (“Florida”).  Jaw-dropping musicianship ensures there is never a dull moment.  Even the slow dance hit ballad “After the Rain” boasts a long, noisy guitar jam at the end.  Blue Rodeo are fearless on stage and this album delivers that.

Some fans noticed that earlier tracks from Outskirts such as “Rebel” and “Joker’s Wild” were seldom played as Blue Rodeo amassed more and more studio albums.  Thanks to HMV, one bonus track is available to add to this live collection:  “Joker’s Wild”, from their promotional Stardust Picnic Sampler CD.  The back cover of the Stardust CD claims there was no room left for “Joker’s Wild” on Just Like a Vacation, but that’s not true.  The first disc is under an hour, and the second is 1:07.  Lots of room on either disc for a four minute bonus track!  Regardless, here is “Joker’s Wild”, a rarity to be sure since it was never available for purchase.  “Joker’s Wild” is done acoustically, very different from the original version.  It transforms from a spy movie theme to a swampy jam with slide and fiddle.

Sure, you could go and buy a Blue Rodeo Greatest Hits CD with your hard-earned dollars.  That’ll get you 14 songs; this’ll get you 22.  Blue Rodeo songs are just as great live as they were in the studio, just different.  You won’t have to suffer through a too-loud audience track, so get Just Like a Vacation instead and experience Blue Rodeo in the venue they were intended for — the stage.  There are even liner notes with a story or two about every song.  It’s a package to be enjoyed for a long period of time, and years later you will still smile.

5/5 stars

 

REVIEW: Queensryche – Road to Promised Land (1995 EMI promo)

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QUEENSRŸCHE – Road to Promised Land (1995 EMI promotional “best of” CD)

20 years ago, good buddy T-Rev let me know this little treasure had arrived in his store (first discussed in Record Store Tales part 120).  Released to promote the 1995 Promised Land tour, Queensryche’s Road to Promised Land AKA Arrived! was a neat little greatest hits package released well before their actual Greatest Hits several years later.  This is a promo CD released by EMI in the United States, and it covers every Queensryche release to date.

From the original EP is not “Queen of the Reich”, but “The Lady Wore Black”.  The ballad starting the set is an odd but explainable choice.  Queensryche were playing “The Lady Wore Black” on tour, but Geoff Tate didn’t enjoy singing “Queen of the Reich” and tried to avoid doing so.  Being so full of powerful metal drama, even as a ballad, “The Lady Wore Black” can work as an opener.  Then “Take Hold of the Flame” follows, one of the best Queensryche songs of all time (from the first LP The Warning).  Unfortunately that is the only inclusion from The Warning, although it is certainly a must.  Geoff Tate used screams as a art form on this song like no other.  You want metal drama?  They opening tracks are Metal Drama 101.

Two tracks are selected from Rage For Order, and they are fairly obvious choices:  “Walk in the Shadows” [“WALK WITH MEAT!“] and “I Will Remember”.  It is a given that both are high quality songs, from an album that can be difficult to pick individual hits.  The opening part of the CD feels rushed, with the critical first EP and two albums giving up only four songs.  Keep in mind that these albums now make up a large bulk of Queenryche 2015’s set, although that wasn’t the case in 1995 with their original singer.

From the brilliant landmark concept album Operation: Mindcrime are three selections:  “I Don’t Believe in Love”, “Eyes of a Stranger” and “Revolution Calling”.  Once again these are fairly obvious choices, being the three singles from the album.  Strangely, “Eyes of a Stranger” was not edited down and is the full 6:39 cut, complete with album outro.  Their most successful LP yet, Empire, was also give three inclusions.  “Best I Can”, “Jet City Woman” and “Silent Lucidity” were three great singles.  I wonder why the title track “Empire” wasn’t used?  I think it’s more identifiable than “Best I Can”.

Rolling into Promised Land for the final three tracks, it is plain sailing to hear the evolution of the band over their first decade.  Although the metal got tuned down in favour of more drama and radio-friendly elements, one thing that never changed was their urge to experiment.  Indeed, the first Promised Land single “I Am I” features plenty of daring sounds.  (This version of “I Am I” fades out rather than skipping directly into “Damaged”.)  From cello (by Chris DeGarmo) to tribal percussion to innovative vocal effects, “I Am I” proved that Queensryche could rock progressively in the increasingly alternative 1990’s.  Lyrically, they were as serious as ever but more personal.  The ballad “Bridge” was about DeGarmo’s relationship with his father.  Finally, the heavy-as-plutonium “Damaged” closes the CD abruptly.  That’s the problem with these record company assembled promo CDs.  They are not designed to play as an album.  They are designed for radio use and store play.  In other words the only real consideration is including all the individual tracks you want to plug.  Like “I Am I”, “Damaged” too was edited for radio.  They shaved three seconds off in fades, because normally these songs flow together on album.

Rating a CD like this is kind of pointless, because it was never meant to be sold.  But let’s say you don’t own any Queensryche, and you saw this used while wandering the shops.  Would it be a good Queensryche purchase for somebody looking for a good overview of the classic years?

Yes.  Absolutely.

3/5 stars

#404: Report: Aux 33 Tours in Montréal

RECORD STORE TALES MkII: Getting More Tale Report: Aux 33 Tours in Montréal

My sister, bass clarinetist Kathryn Ladano, just completed the east coast leg of her Canadian tour last month. This was followed by a western leg, but while returning home from the east there was a stop in Montréal. Kathryn is a collector too, though not to the extent that I am. She doesn’t need the physical musical media in her daily life like I do. She still collects some of her favourite bands, and has recently started buying vinyl. While in Montréal, she visited a record store called Aux 33 Tours, located at 1373 Mont-Royal Est.  According to their website, it is the largest record store in the city.  She emailed me the following day, May 27, raving about the store. I’ll let her take it from here! Enjoy the pictures.

I found the most amazing record store in Montréal yesterday! I found almost all The Spoons’ albums on LP, including ones that aren’t available on CD. I also found a promo live album by them that didn’t have a proper cover because it wasn’t supposed to be sold. They were all dirt cheap – like $2 – $7. ‎One of them was autographed and personalized “To Martin”! [Fortuitously, her husband is also named Martin!] I also got Kid A on record. Kid A and Sgt. Peppers are reissues with heavy packaging. They had an original Sgt Peppers, but the reissue was cheaper, so I got that.

I spent about $140. Which I think is good for that many albums! ‎Note: the Simon and Garfunkel and Gord Downie ones are Martin’s.

I’d also like to point out how rare that Bryan Adams single is.  He really tried to bury that song!  Watch the video, you’ll hear why.  (They sped up his voice which gives him a Chipmunks sound.)

And finally, gratuitous photos of Schnauzers and Starfleet collars:

REVIEW: Marillion (as “Remixomatosis”) – You’re Gone (2005 promo EP)

Welcome back to the Week of EPs! Each day this week, I’ll be checking out a variety of EP releases, both famed and obscure.

MONDAY: Aerosmith – The Other Side (1990)
TUESDAY: Wolfsbane – All Hell’s Breaking Loose Down at Little Kathy Wilson’s Place! (1990)
WEDNESDAY: AC/DC – ’74 Jailbreak (1984)

REMIXOMATOSIS – You’re Gone (Promotional 2005 Intact records)

REMIXOMATOSISEager to cross over to new fans, in 2004 Marillion released an album called Remixomatosis.  It was a 2 CD set of fan remixes of tracks from 2001’s Anoraknophobia.  Hogarth-era Marillion have not been remix-shy, having done something like this on 1998’s Tales From the Engine Room EP.  Aware that chances of being played in the clubs were slim, the following year Marillion released a promo EP of three more remixes under the band name Remixomatosis.  The name Marillion appears nowhere on the sleeve.

99% of the time, I really dislike remixes, especially when songs are danced up.  I bought this for the collection, but let’s give it a spin.  “You’re Gone”, originally from Marbles, sounded very little like the “Debonair Dub Mix” on this EP.  All I can hear from the original track is Hogarth’s vocals.  Maybe some keyboards, but who knows because the dominant part of the song is an annoyingly repetitive synth & beat.  This goes on for an agonizing 7:55.  This is not a song I would listen to for enjoyment.

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The “Plasma Dub Mix” of “Between You and Me” is almost twice as long as the “Marillion Vs. Plasma” version on the Remixomastosis CD.  This track adds a new bass line consisting of four notes that repeat over and over and over and over and over.  Then a little bit of Hogarth’s vocal is dubbed over synthesizer lines.  There have been better remixes of this song, notably the Mark Kelly remix from the “Between You and Me” CD single.  After a couple minutes, the remixer Robert de Fresnes throws in some acoustic guitar from the original song, which really only makes me want to hear the original song.  If you like repetitive music made by computers, go for it.

The closing track is the best (and shortest) one, the “Into the Fire Mix” of the superb “Don’t Hurt Yourself” from Marbles.  As arguably the best song on Marbles, it is a difficult track to ruin.  The remixer Cameron Lasswell wisely leaves Steve Hogarth’s vocal intact.  The vocal hooks on this song have always been fetching.  They are now cloaked in spacey synths, which I prefer to dumb repetitive synths.  It sounds like a song by Lights, perhaps, or one of her soundalikes.

I can’t rate this EP very high.  This is a collectible, pure and simple.

2/5 stars

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REVIEW: Van Halen – “Can’t Get This Stuff No More” / “Me Wise Magic” (1996)

VAN HALEN (Not Van Hagar!) Coda: Can’t Get This Stuff No More

Welcome to the final installment in my latest series of reviews at mikeladano.com:  an in-depth look at all the classic VAN HALEN albums, with David Lee Roth.  If you missed anything, don’t fret: the complete list is right below.  Dig in!

Part 1: The Early Years (Zero – 1977) VH_0003
Part 2:
On Fire (Van Halen – 1978)
Part 3: Somebody Get Me A Doctor (Van Halen II – 1979)
Part 4: Everybody Wants Some!! (Women and Children First – 1980)
Part 5: Push Comes to Shove (Fair Warning – 1981)
Part 6: Intruder (Diver Down – 1982)
Part 7: House of Pain (1984 – 1984)
Coda: Can’t Get This Stuff No More (Best Of Volume I – 1996)

VAN HALEN – “Can’t Get This Stuff No More” / “Me Wise Magic” (1996 Warner promo singles)

Van Halen had been doing just fine, thank-you-very-much, with Sammy Hagar for a decade.  There had always been rumors that they were on the verge of a split with Hagar.  I remember hearing those rumors on MuchMusic in 1987, around the time Sammy had released his self-titled solo album.  The rumors returned when Sammy released his Unboxed compilation in 1994.  When the split did finally occur in 1996, it was explosive.  Especially when Van Halen announced that they had resumed work with David Lee Roth, and two brand new songs featuring his voice would be released on the forthcoming Best Of Volume I album.

A somewhat embarrassing MTV Awards appearance by the reunited Van Halen stoked the fire. They presented an award to a stunned looking Beck, who thanked them in his speech. Dave, always the ham, made the most of the opportunity to address the crowd. Edward looks uncomfortable, keeping his distance and trying keep the subject on the “Best Male Video” award.

As predicted, the reunion was strictly temporary.  A tense studio situation (with new producer Glen Ballard) produced two cuts.  The first, “Can’t This Stuff No More”, was considerably darker than most of the Van Hagar tunes the band has been putting out.  You can hear some quiet organ overdubs, but it is otherwise void of keyboards.  Roth uses his lower voice, as he had on his previous solo album Your Filthy Little Mouth.  Eddie’s guitar sounds a bit like his work on 1984, but with a much fatter tone.  As a single, “Can’t Get This Stuff No More” is a bit of a disappointment.  If it had accompanied a whole album of new material, it would have made an excellent album cut.

“Me Wise Magic” is the one with the catchy chorus.  It too has a dark tone to it, perhaps reflective of the mood in the Van Halen camp.  Roth again uses his low voice, until the chorus when he lets those patented Dave shrieks loose.  They’re older, more ragged and tamed, but it’s that same Diamond Dave “charasma!” that we had missed for so long.  The chorus isn’t bad, but the song doesn’t boast one of those classic guitar riffs that albums such as Women and Children First were loaded with.  There’s no mistaking the player as Edward, especially come solo time, but it is undeniable that these two “new” songs lack a certain magical aura.   Both would have made excellent album songs, surrounded by others of different tempos and types.  As “new” compositions on a greatest hits collection of questionable intent…

3.5/5 stars

Whether you are traveller or tourist, this is the end of the ride; the series stops here.  We know what happened next:  Van Halen 3, inactivity, followed by years of confounding turbulence.  Finally, the album A Different Kind of Truth (2012), and redemption.