Reggae

#761: Gimme Some Reggae!

GETTING MORE TALE #761: Gimme Some Reggae!

Like many things, I was first exposed to reggae music as a child.  And like many things I was exposed to as a child, Catholic school did not approve!

It was grade six, the same year I discovered Quiet Riot and Van Halen.  The ironic thing was first hearing reggae in class.  There was a film we were watching, the details of which are now lost.  Most likely religious in nature.  The music might not even have been specifically reggae.  It was Caribbean music of some sort, and I remember steel drums, but what I remember most was the teacher’s comment.  A few kids mentioned that they liked the music in the film (I was one).   The teacher responded, “The music was fine, but that kind of music is usually about drugs.”

She kind of put a wet blanket over it.  I felt deflated.

At home, I asked my mom if this was true.  “Some is,” she said.  “Some.”  The door was left wide open.  My mom was good to me.

The following school year, MuchMusic debuted on Canadian television.  It began as a pay TV channel, but we had it as part of a package including movie and sports channels.  We had to talk our parents into getting it, but the fact that there was a package with sports made it easier.  My mom could watch more Blue Jays, at least when my sister and I weren’t hogging the TV with music videos.

In 1984, MuchMusic played music videos and nothing but.  Now it’s the opposite.  In 1984, there weren’t many music videos to choose from.  There are two specific videos that I remember Much playing in regular rotation right from the beginning.  They were “Voodoo Chile” by Jimi Hendrix and “Buffalo Soldier” by Bob Marley.  I didn’t care for Jimi (way too advanced for my age) but I loved Marley.  “Buffalo Soldier” clearly had nothing to do with drugs.  And that hair!  I couldn’t figure out dreadlocks.  What were they?  How did they do make them?  Dreadlocks looked cool, in an alien way.  Novel and interesting.  My sister and I loved watching Bob Marley videos on Much.  He was one of the few artists we actually agreed on.  I hated her Corey Hart and she hated my W.A.S.P.!

She and I were always in tune with each other on reggae.  There are no other genres of music that we agree so much on.  In the 90s, we rocked it to Inner Circle.  Like everyone else on the planet, we discovered them via Cops.  My dad watched Cops a lot!  He loved that stupid show and it became a Saturday night ritual.  We’d play a game where we’d point out any time a male was not wearing a shirt.  When “Bad Boys” came on at the beginning, my sister would hit that floor and dance!  And she did the same at Bob Schipper’s wedding, where she requested the DJ play that song.  We tore up the floor for that song, and avoided dancing completely otherwise.  Some may forget this, but Inner Circle had more than just one hit.  “Sweat” is actually a way better song than “Bad Boys”.

She had the cassette single for “Bad Boys” and in the summer at the cottage, we’d be cruising with my old buddy Peter in his car.  She always wanted him to blast her tape of “Bad Boys” any time we were stopped at a red light on the main drag.

I didn’t buy any Bob Marley until I was in my 20s.  Until that point, I adopted a pretty strict “metal only” policy to my music collecting.  There were few exceptions.  Kim Mitchell wasn’t metal, but he’s still firmly in the rock camp, occupying a quirky Zappa-esque corner to himself.  The kind of thing that some more adventuring metal heads were into.  The 1990s forced me to loosen my “metal only” policy.  When I began at the Record Store, I befriended Aaron and acquired my first Marley album from him.  It was the deluxe edition of Catch A Fire.  Go big or go home.

There was a kid at work, Matty K, who was way, way, way into reggae and all the associated activities.  He was whiter than white, but damn he sure knew his rap and reggae.  I began to enjoy Snoop Dogg because of him.  At night before closing the store, he always liked to play one of DMX’s prayers.  Ironically, of course.   It is reggae music that I always think of when I think of Matty K.  Listening to Marley and Peter Tosh at the store.  One of the few things we agreed on musically.

When I need something lighter, particularly for summer drives, I have a lot of genres to choose from.  Marley’s One Love compilation usually does the job.  I find it palatable to just about any passenger.  It raises the spirits and raises the roof!

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MOVIE REVIEW: Snoop Lion – Reincarnated (2013)

SNOOP LION – Reincarnated (2013 Vice films)

Directed by Andy Capper

What the hell?  It’s not April 1.  Are you on the wrong site?

Nope, it’s me, LeBrain.  And today we’re going to be talking about a Snoop Lion movie.  Snoop Lion, aka the artist formerly known as Snoop Dogg.

It may surprise you to learn that Snoop Dogg/Lion entertains me.  It was one of my old staff guys, Matty K, who exposed me to Snoop’s music.  I enjoyed the humour in the lyrics and his smoove voice.  He’s funny. And, let’s face it, who didn’t think he kicked ass as Huggy Bear in Starsky and Hutch?

Reincarnated is a documentary that chronicles Snoop’s transformation from gangsta to peaceful Rasta.  This process included a visit to Jamaica, to record his first ever Reggae album (Reincarnated) with such talented artists as Bunny Wailer, Damien Marley and Stewart Copeland of The Police.  (Snoop: “We got the drummer from The fuckin’ Po-lice!”)   He also had the last surviving Wailer.  The creative process of the album is observed, and it’s always fascinating to me, to watch songs evolve.  Snoop’s singing voice does well with Reggae.  He is a natural fit, and he had some damn good guidance there in Kingston.

Snoop discusses his early adult life as a pimp bluntly and honestly, but says that he wasn’t comfortable with that lifestyle and image any longer after his friend Tupac Shakur was killed.  The night Tupac died is described in full detail; a heavy moment in the film.  After this, Snoop decided on a change of lyrical direction, under the guidance of Master P of No Limits records.  Louis Farrakhan became a guiding force to Snoop at this time, and Snoop was inspired by the Nation of Islam to clean up his act.  The process of transformation led him to many moments of epiphany, but the death of his friend Nate Dogg in 2011 really hit him hard.

I won’t lie to you, there’s a shit-ton of weed in this movie.  One memorable scene involves a trip up a mountain with some local Rastas (where they grow the herb) to smoke the herb.  While climbing down the mountain, Snoop’s cousin falls down laughing, and can barely stand, having smoked so much.  You will even see Bunny Wailer smoking a pipe made out of a carrot, I shit you not.  It’s there, it’s part of it.  If that’s not something you need to see, fair enough.

As fascinating, sincere and transformative the movie seems, I did wonder if Snoop has maintained his Rasta values and practices?  Or if this too was a phase?  In researching for this review I found that Bunny Wailer has since accused Snoop of “outright fraudulent use” of Rastafari.  This issue comes up in the film itself in a segment with Bunny.  He does not seem to like the commercialization of Rastafarian culture, through popular music, images and style.  It seems that since the movie, he lumps Snoop into that category.

Be that as it may, I’m only going to review the film, regardless of that controversy.  I enjoyed it, quite a bit actually, and I’m putting the album on my Amazon wishlist.

4/5 stars

Part 253: Angry Man Go Boom!

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RECORD STORE TALES Part 253:  Angry Man Go Boom!

September 6, 2005.

It was 11 am. Sales were slow so far on this first post-summer morning. I was feeling fantastic after a perfect night’s sleep. I only had one customer in the store. He was a somewhat odd fellow, late 30’s, liked to look stuff up in the computer, write it down, and then not buy it. Different strokes for different folks, I say. All the bosses were in the back office, as is typical. I was listening to Jethro Tull, Elvis Costello, and Max Webster. Nothing later than 1981, of course.

In walks our main character to this story. He’s a tall fellow, very tall, but even now I can’t quite put his face into focus. I can’t even clearly recall if he had a beard or not. I do remember his height, because he towered over me when I stood next to him. In his hands was a copy of Shaggy’s Hot Shot-Remixed album.

To get the proper effect, please read all of his dialogue in a Jamaican accent, a forceful Jamaican accent.  He was holding the Shaggy CD in his hands, and I saw our price tag on it.

“Yo, I bought this one but…it’s not the right one. Can I get somethin’ else?”

“Sure, just take a look around if you want. Do you have the receipt?”

His eyes got wide, he smiled a huge toothy “just ate the cat” smile, and then said, “Ahh man, I think I lost it somewhere.”

The price tag looked quite worn, it could have been purchased some time ago. We had our exchange policy: 7 days (+ an unspoken 7 more days just to avoid hassles). We also needed a receipt for all exchanges except in special cases.  All of this was clearly stated on the store signage as well as the lost receipt.

“Ahh, see, we need to have the receipt for all exchanges. Sorry man…”

“Ahh come on man! You remember me buying this thing don’t you?”

“Actually, no, I don’t, not really, without a receipt…”

“Ahh come on man I just want to switch it!”

Prior to this I was on the sales floor. I walked behind the counter, and said, “Without a receipt, I can’t do that.  The best I could do would be to buy it back from you.” I motioned for him to hand me the CD.

“Huh?” He handed me the CD. I opened the jewel case and examined the condition of the disc.

“I could buy it back from you used.”

Shaggy was quite scratched indeed. I chose not to say anything about it, since he’d claim he bought it like that. They always say that whether they did or didn’t, so my saying anything about it wouldn’t help. However, to buy it back in that condition normally we would give less, to cover the cost of having the CD buffed back to a new finish. I chose not to do that either, since I was being a hard ass on the rules I’d cut him a break on the condition.

“I can give you four dollars for this.”

“What?” Eyes go wide again. “I just want to switch it man, I’m the customer!”

“I know, but as I said, I can’t do that for you. What I can do is give you four dollars for that CD, but that’s the best I can do.”

“You know what, I’m the customer, and [accent gets too thick for me to continue]…”

Then, he took the CD in his hands, jewel case and all, and crushed it.  Pieces went flying everywhere. He stomped to the door, where he stood in the doorway and yelled “I am the customer!”

Out he went.  There was this moment of awkward silence. Then, the man at the lookup computer (who I’d forgotten all about) chimed in.

“So, let me get this straight. You were going to give him $4 for that CD.  Then he crushed it. Now he can’t get anything for it. How did that guy think that was a good idea?”

Took the words out of my mouth.

REVIEW: Rush – Moving Pictures (CD/blu-ray deluxe edition)

 

Everybody got to evelate from the norm…

RUSH FRONT

RUSH – Moving Pictures (2011 Anthem remaster with 5.1 blu-ray)

The great musical academic, Tom Morwood, once called Moving Pictures “the greatest album of the 1980’s”. I think he has an arguable position. Besides the obvious “Tom Sawyer”, you get such classics as “Red Barchetta”, “YYZ”, “Limelight”, and of course “Vital Signs”. This is back in the day when 7 or 8 songs made an album, and Moving Pictures’ 7 songs are a hell of a concoction.

Although the Rush catalogue was last remastered back in ’97 (or there ’bouts), this was the first Rush deluxe edition to hit the shelves. Unlike most deluxe editions, this one contains no “bonus tracks” per se, at least none in CD form. Disc one is Moving Pictures, in stereo, and disc two is the entire album in hi-def 5.1, plus three music videos. Disc one has been remastered (yet again!), but don’t fret — unless you’re an audiophile, you don’t need to worry about that. The 1997 CD edition sounded fine, as does this. You’re buying this for the 5.1, and if you can’t play 5.1 just stick with the original CD which sounds pretty much the same to the average Joe Listener.   (There’s also a “96k PCM stereo” with “256 times more resolution than a CD” on the blu-ray disc.)

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If you don’t own this album yet, then what are you waiting for?  You couldn’t find a better CD to start with.  Although Geddy had brought the keyboards out, this album still represents the perfect mix of Alex’s guitar and Ged’s keys — not fighting for space in the mix, but sharing it equally and powerfully.

RUSH CD

Do I really need to talk about “Tom Sawyer”?  It’s Rush’s most recognizable riff.  I can think of few other songs where the drum part carries just as many hooks as the other instruments.  But that’s Rush, that’s the Professor.  That’s part of their genius.

“Red Barchetta” is a futuristic tale.  The Motor Law has been passed, banning cars.  Romance for the old vehicles still exists in some, who seek the thrills.  I always felt the subject matter was similar to the movie The Last Chase, which didn’t come out until the following year.  Musically, the song twists and turns like the roads it’s about.

“YYZ” is perhaps Rush’s best known instrumental, a slammin’ piece of polyrhythmic madness.  It’s stuff like this that Rush is best known for, and “YYZ” is one of the best examples of it.  Alex’s guitar work is nothing short of stunning, meanwhile Geddy’s bass licks are perfect.

Meanwhile, “Limelight” represents the simpler pop side of Rush that the band were interested in exploring at the time.  It is still anchored by a solid riff, but with Geddy’s vocal melody enduring.  A song like this is an appropriate lead-in to “The Camera Eye”, a more complex piece featuring Geddy’s synth.  It’s over 10 minutes long, and perhaps the kind of thing people expect from Rush.

“Witch Hunt” is a shorter one, but ominous and dramatic.  Alex’s riff is the main focus, although Neil certainly throws in plenty of interesting accents.  The final track, “Vital Signs”, is my favourite.  Finding words to describe it is difficult.  It’s perfect — an amalgam of incredible playing with interesting influences and complex arrangements.  There is a clear reggae vibe, as they had been listening to a lot of The Police.  It’s also extremely memorable.  Neil’s drum work on this is stunning.

And that’s the album!  Seven songs done and dusted.

RUSH BLU RAY

The 5.1 mix, done by Toronto’s own Richard Chycki (he’s been doing Rush and Triumph remixes for years now) is pretty damn good. It’s different. Listen to “Vital Signs” for example. It’s different, the balance of instruments and vocals. Considering the original stereo mix was perfect, and you can’t fairly compare to perfection, I will just say the mix is different. It’s definitely a great listen on a good system, I liked what Chycki did. Again, listen to “Vital Signs”. What he did there just creates this amazing field of sound. There’s a great separation of instruments. Moving Pictures was a great choice to mix in 5.1, you can really hear the individual playing.

The music videos are old, and don’t look so hot, even on blu. I have always loved watching the “Tom Sawyer” video, Neil bashing his kit in Le Studio with that big glass window behind him in the dead of winter. Geddy with those big glasses.  My best friend Peter, he loves Geddy’s glasses!  There’s also “Limelight”, which is seen less frequently.  The “Vital Signs” video, from the same taping, is previously unreleased.

The liner notes are by David Fricke, and are quite different from the who-played-what-when notes in previous deluxe editions. Fricke’s don’t go into great detail regarding the making of the album nor the 5.1 mix, as previous deluxe editions do. However, it’s David Fricke, and therefore a good read. Enjoy while immersed within this album, in sublime hi-def 5.1.

5(.1)/5 stars

GUEST SHOT: 30 Albums that Uncle Meat Thinks You Should Visit (Or Re-Visit) Part 2

Missed part 1? Click here.

Here’s part 2 of 3 – 30 albums essential to Meat’s being, that should be essential to yours, too!  So, without anymore preamble, I’ll leave you with Uncle Meat, as he discusses 10 more albums, in alphabetical order by title, that you need to visit (or re-visit).

 

HIGH TENSION WIRES  –  STEVE MORSE (1989)

Simply put, Steve Morse is my favorite musician of all time.  I have had the pleasure of seeing Mr. Morse a total of 6 times when you combine The Dixie Dregs, Deep Purple and The Steve Morse Band.  Unlike the releases of some of his contemporaries, High Tension Wires is not your typical shredder album.  Oh it shreds alright, but Steve Morse is much more than a trickster.  There are beautiful compositions, unforgettable solos and some just plain ol’ rocking too.  Included is the link to a live version of a track perfectly named “Tumeni Notes”.  For more examples of the greatness of Steve Morse, introduce some Dixie Dregs into your collection.  You can thank me later.

 

HOT HOUSE  –  BRUCE HORNSBY (1995)

When Bruce Hornsby said goodbye to The Range, he immediately said hello with Harbor Lights, a heavily jazz-infused turn that completely changed the music world’s perception of him.  Hot House sees Hornsby taking that one step further.  The album’s cover speaks a thousand words.  It is a painting of an imagined band session between Bluegrass legend Bill Munroe and Jazz legend Charlie Parker. Nuff’ said there.  This recording contains many musical giants including Pat Metheny, Jerry Garcia, Bela Fleck and Chaka Khan.   Hot House is very addictive.  I know most of the words off by heart on this record.  Hopefully someday you will too.

JEFF BECK GROUP  –  JEFF BECK GROUP (1972)

This album definitely falls under the underappreciated category.  Sometimes known as  The Orange Album, Beck’s playing has never been better on this collection of original compositions and covers.  I would call this more of a Soul album than anything.  The incredible vocals of Bobby Tench seem to highlight this record at times, as you will see on the live performance of “Tonight, I’ll Be Staying Here With You” I have included for this entry.   Also worth noting, this album is one of the first recordings of the late Cozy Powell’s career.  The guitar work alone on “Definitely, Maybe” is enough reason itself to seek this record out.  Perhaps a rock n’ roll legend’s best work.

JOHN PRINE  –  JOHN PRINE (1971)

I actually discovered the music of John Prine while working at the same record store chain that Mr. Ladano speaks of in this blog.  There is no one quite like John Prine.  Some artists write great songs.  Some artists write great lyrics.  Only a select few truly do both this well.  There is no doubt that John Prine’s self-titled album contains some of the best lyrics ever written.  “There’s a hole in daddy’s arm where all the money goes.  Jesus Christ died for nothin’ I suppose?”  That is just brilliant shit.  “You may see me tonight with an Illegal Smile.  It don’t cost very much, but it lasts a long while”.  I have said this many times and I am still saying it now.  John Prine is THE best lyric writer …. Ever.  Fuck Bob Dylan.  Yeah, I said it.

 

KRIS KRISTOFFERSON  –  KRIS KRISTOFFERSON (1970)

For the sake of alphabetical order by album, this Kristofferson follows the John Prine album on this list.  Really it should be the other way around.  While I stand by my earlier praise of Prine lyrics, I would certainly listen to the argument that there wouldn’t be a John Prine without Kris Kristofferson.  The songs on this album show a huge diversity and a sense of patience that just makes him so cool.  “Best Of All Possible Worlds” is just insanely-good storytelling and “Me and Bobby McGee” became a mega-smash for Janis Joplin.  Of all the great concerts I have seen, watching Kris Kristofferson and a guitar for two hours in 2006 will always be one of the best concerts I will ever see.  The true greats just need to show up.

LEGALIZE IT  –  PETER TOSH (1976)

After being a key member of Bob Marley & The Wailers for years, Peter Tosh embarked on a solo career.   On his first solo release, Legalize It, I personally believe Tosh recorded the greatest Reggae album of all time.  Fuck Bob Marley.  Yeah, I said it. (Wait why am I so hostile? Ha.)  Remember that one of Marley’s biggest hits “Get Up Stand Up” was co-written with Peter Tosh.  I love this album from beginning to end, and the album’s cover remains a visual anthem for Marijuana activists everywhere.  Sadly, Peter Tosh was taken from us when he was shot in the head during a home robbery.  Rastafarian music at its finest.

LITTLE EARTHQUAKES  –  TORI AMOS (1992)

There is only one way to put it.  During the spring of 1994 I became a literal disciple of Tori Amos.  By the end of 1996 I had seen her live 7 times.  Several of them in 2nd or 3rd row center seats, since this was back when you could actually wait all night for tickets and be rewarded for it.  This album spoke to me in a way no other album has, or really could.  Frustration with women, with Christianity and with life, I didn’t want to hear about hope in the horizon.  I obviously needed to experience the frustration of someone who understood.  I still have a red-head obsession because of Tori.  This is in my ten favorite albums of all time and always will be.  Little Earthquakes is full of intense and pretty compositions. The humor of “Happy Phantom” contrasts the pain of “Me and a Gun”.  And the included track here is “Precious Things”, which sees Tori Amos exposing herself as the angry and sexual piano player she truly is. Myra Ellen Amos is quite simply a beast.

 

MELISSA  –  MERCYFUL FATE (1983)

Mercyful Fate’s first two albums are among the best Metal albums of all time.  When you realize that this album came out a full year before Kill ‘Em All did you can start to see just how important this band truly were.  Mercyful Fate are the High Priestesses of underappreciation.  Yes King Diamond looks kinda ridiculous. And yes their lyrics are nothing short of evil incarnate.  Lines such as “Drinking the blood of a new born child” and “I’ll be the first to watch your funeral, and I’ll be the last to leave” sometimes are  so over the top that I guess it is understandable how an album this good could be ignored.  If Thin Lizzy and Iron Maiden had a baby, and that baby grew up listening to nothing but Black Sabbath, the end result would have to look and sound something like Mercyful Fate.  It’s no coincidence that the best thing Metallica has recorded since …And Justice For All is their medley-cover simply-titled “Mercyful Fate”.  One of the greatest Metal albums of all time hands down.  Click on the YouTube link and hear the start of “Curse of the Pharaohs”.  If you don’t immediately recognize “2 Minutes to Midnight” you are lying to yourself.

 

NEVER, NEVERLAND  –  ANNIHILATOR (1990)

After Annihilator’s first album, Alice in Hell, it was time for a new lead singer.  Out was the awful singing of the ridiculously-named Randy Rampage, and in was ex-Omen singer Coburn Pharr.  The second album of this Ottawa, Ontario band was a vast improvement  over the first album in every way.   Without question the guitar playing of Jeff Waters alone makes this an absolute must-have recording for fans of thrash guitar or just guitar in general.  If you can think of a better Metal album to  come out of Canada then I would love to hear it.  If you have never heard this album, and you consider yourself a “Metal guy” then you are missing out huge.  I am having a hard time trying to pick a song to post here for listening purposes.  That is how truly great this record is from beginning to end.

 

OPUS EPONYMOUS  –  GHOST (2011)

I know, I cannot believe it either.   Only the second of twenty (so far) albums to be released after 1999 that appear on this list.  This album by Swedish band Ghost is nothing but special.  Before I heard this album I was told that it sounded like a cross between thrash metal and Blue Oyster Cult.  As it turned out that description really was right on the money.  Melodic background vocals nestled in between heavy riffing.  I have to say that this album is my favorite Metal album in probably the last twenty years.  The PERFECT blend of melody and heaviness.  This is the only album that since I have got my iPod, every time I switch the music on it I leave this whole album on there.  Every minute of this album is pure genius and I am super-stoked for their upcoming 2nd album titled Infestissumam that will be released this spring.  Hail Satan!!!!

 

That’s it for now, stay tuned for part 3, coming soon…