Just Listening to…Jim Dead & the Doubters – Pray For Rain (2015)

Jim himself will be our guest tomorrow on the LeBrain Train.

You never know what to expect from Jim Dead.  Sometimes he’s mournfully acoustic, sometimes he’s raging electric with a full band.  The Doubters are the latter and Pray For Rain is a powerful listening experience traversing blues, rock and country.

Opener “Wooden Kimono” is a relentless electric blues.  Jim sounds tormented, as any good blues singer should.  Sabbathy guitar bends on “May the Road Rise” show that this band is not afraid to mix influences.  This is rock — like the better parts of Pearl Jam distilled.  Blues and granite mingle gladly on the title track.  It must be stated that the drums on this album are most excellently powerful.

On down the line, the album straddles the blues/rock lines, travelling all the way to the Stone Temple of grunge on “Lovesick Blues”.  The brief “Trains” goes somewhere else completely different, something from the old west but in the 2000s.  The leads into “Crows on the Wire”, the only overtly country song.  A welcome reprise from the rising tides of heaviness.

The greatest track on the album could be “Home”, a quiet dusky number which erupts with heartfelt lead vocals that rends the soul to slivers.  Echoes of Tom Waits, but not Tom Waits.  This is chased by some wicked slide on “You Coulda Said” and finally, acoustic melancholy on the closer “I’m Not Lost”.  A magnificent end.

Pray For Rain is an intense album.  It’s heavy with feeling, and guitars.  Some of the lead work is outstanding and the vocals are always fierce…yet tender.  It’s focused and raw.  Pray For Rain was recorded in a couple of days but the payoff is that you’ll want to listen to it for years.



REVIEW: Too Slim and the Taildraggers – Blue Heart (2013)

TOO SLIM and the TAILDRAGGERS – Blue Heart (2013 Underworld Records)

I first became aware of Tim “Too Slim” Langford when he and the Taildraggers played Kitchener Blues Fest 2013.  I heard them on the radio and immediately called in.  My comment was that it sounded like “dirty ZZ blues”, and that’s still a suitable description.  Gravelly vocals, references to the “muddy Mississippi”, and bluesy electric guitar licks definitely put them in that category.  The Blue Heart album was recorded in Nashville but this is electric blues!

Whether you like it blastin’ loud (“Wash My Hands”) or slow & miserable (“Minutes Seem Like Hours”), Too Slim has something for the electric blues fan in you.  There’s some honkin’ harmonica on “Blue Heart” to go with the greasy guitar.

Mixing rock and blues is a very precise science. Too much rock and it turns to cheese. Too Slim has a recipe here that works. Blue Heart is a great sounding CD, crisp and edgy.  The song titles say it all.  “When Whiskey Was My Friend” is a colourful title that should paint a picture of what it sounds like.  Dig into the energy, feel the pain and rock your blues away.

Best track:  “If You Broke My Heart”.  Blazing hot and cool as ice!

3.5/5 stars

This was a 200 word review in the tradition of the #200wordchallenge.

REVIEW: Jim Dead & the Doubters – Pray for Rain (2015)

Multi-site review! For the other Jim Dead & the Doubters reviews, click below:

Scan_20160125JIM DEAD & THE DOUBTERS – Pray for Rain (2015 Jim Dead)

I like Jim Dead’s authentic dark slant on country and blues.  I don’t know how you get such a true slab of blues out of Scotland, but there is no lack of truth in Dead’s music.  With the Doubters he gives a full-on band experience, blues-rock with drums and electric twang, but nothing has changed.  Jim Dead still sounds wracked with all the pain and agony from past records, perhaps even more so.

A “Wooden Kimono” doesn’t sound like comfortable garb, but this song is anything but wooden.  It’s played on wooden instruments plugged in with electricity, and accompanied by Dead, telling it like it is.  “Wooden Kimono” is a swampy stomp; this gives way to “May the Road Rise”, a powerful moaner of riffs and wounds.  Jim Dead has never sounded better, truthfully, than he does baring his soul on “May the Road Rise”.  “Pray for Rain”, the title track, is a storm of rock power so just get swept up with it.

This is a rough mix — the album version sounds better.

The blues vibe comes across on “Holding the Line”, with some very nice guitar work up front.  A soaring chorus and some bluesy guitars are just what the doctor prescribed.  “Lovesick Blues” is heavy shit, grunged up and ready to take it to the next level.  “I’m sick of TV, I’m sick of me,” sings Dead with the anguish you expect, but with a Glenn Danzig howl.

As if to emphasize an LP side change, “Trains” fades in slowly and feels like a new start.  Jim Dead likes writing about trains.  I like that.  “Trains” is the opposite of “Lovesick Blues”; it’s a brief percussive tune that introduces the country twang of “Crows on the Wire”.  Sounding like an upbeat road tune, “Crows” reminds me of Blue Rodeo.  It defies you to stand still.  “Let it rain, let it snow,” sings Jim and this time we’ll agree to disagree.  “Home” then is ominous, with those big fat guitar tones you love, again sounding a bit like Greg Keelor’s work in Blue Rodeo.  “You Coulda Said” has one of the sweetest sounds in the whole wide world, that being a dirty slide guitar.  The final track is the quieter “I’m Not Lost”, also the name of a prior Jim Dead EP.  Call it the album epic, but at almost seven minutes it really does feel like a journey.  It starts somewhere and goes somewhere else.  That’s the key.

If you want something authentic and real to listen to, with the darkness and brightness of the real world, than look no further.  You must simply Pray for Rain, and get this CD.  This is the real thing; the genuine article.  You can buy Pray for Rain by clicking here.

4.5/5 stars

WTF Search Terms: Bodily functions edition


WTF Search Terms V:  Bodily functions edition

All of these are search terms that people typed into Google, and wound up on my site.  Today the theme is “bodily functions”.  If you missed the last one, be sure to click here!

  1. “peeing” rowboat
  2. shiting on top of a shit
  3. shit into hand while in shower
  4. poo
  5. guy pissing in doorway
  6. boy holding poop in
  7. poo pictures
  8. poo in the door way
  9. poop in the shower post
  10. when to wash your hands pinterest

“When to wash your hands”?  Definitely after all of that!

I couldn’t figure out a music video to put with this, so let’s go with “TV Dinners” by ZZ Top, since that often will cause you to need to perform search term #4.

REVIEW: Ratt – Ratt (EP)

Here’s the first review from the The Toronto Musical Collectibles Record & CD Sale! I promised I’d show you more of the stuff I scored. Here’s one!

RATT – Ratt (1984 remixed EP, Time Coast)

My understanding is that this EP, much like Twisted Sister’s Under the Blade, was remixed and re-released.  It is the remixed version that I got in Mississauga at the Toronto Musical Collectibles Record Show.  I’ve wanted this EP for a long time, but for some reason it’s only now that I finally picked it up.  I was pleased to find it an enjoyable listen, easily on a par with Out of the Cellar, possibly Ratt’s best album.

Europe got 7 tracks on their version of the original mix (wishlist!), but this remixed version only has six.  Missing is “You’re In Trouble” which in re-recorded version was also on Out of the Cellar.  6 songs is a good length, too much Ratt can sound like razorblades coming at your ears, some times!  This self-titled debut keeps things brief, each of its songs more or less delivering the goods.

RATT LABELThe opener “Sweet Cheater” and “U Got It” are the faster side of Ratt.  I love Bobby “Da Blotz” Blotzer’s simple but gleeful drum intro.  (Can’t believe this guy was in Tateryche.)  Both songs have decent riffs, once again keeping things simple.  Pearcy’s trademark vocal snark is in fine form.  Ratt are not a great rock n’ roll band, but they certainly satisfy my cravings when I need some spandex-wrapped non-wimpy LA hard rock.  No ballads.  They had their own sound, largely due to Pearcy’s one-of-a-kind voice.

The closest thing to a ballad would be “Back For More”, which is to say, it has some acoustic guitars before Pearcy yelps, “You turn him away, you tell him you’re mine, You make him believe you’re but one of a kind.”  Meaningless but cocky.  Which maybe sums up the whole Ratt experience.  This is an early version of the hit song from Out of the Cellar, a bit longer, needing some of the fat trimmed.

“Walkin’ the Dog” is a Rufus Thomas cover via Aerosmith.  Aerosmith were in no danger of being dethroned by Ratt’s version, but it’s fun.  It suits their sound, it’s heavy, they throw their own attitude into it, and I’m sure there were youngsters of the 1980’s who assumed it was their own original tune.  The guitar solo is great.

The best song is the single “You Think You’re Tough”.  If Ratt has two sides (fast, and mid-tempo) then this is the mid-tempo side.  The riff is one of their best, the chorus and bridges are great, and the video had both Ozzy and Motley Crue in it.  Cool.

That’s Tawny Kitaen on the cover.  Pre-Coverdale.  She was dating Robbin Crosby at the time!

4/5 stars

Side A:

  1. “Sweet Cheater”
  2. “You Think You’re Tough”
  3. “U Got It”

Side B:

  1. “Tell the World”
  2. “Back for More”
  3. “Walkin’ the Dog”

REVIEW: Skid Row – United World Rebellion Chapter One (2013)

Don’t forget to “Like” the LeBrain Facebook page for exclusive content and discussion!

SKID ROW – United World Rebellion Chapter One (2013)

I know Johnny Solinger’s been in the band longer than Sebastian was. I know the band probably hate Sebastian’s name even being brought up in a review such as this. I’ve been standing by the band through their last two albums (2003’s Thickskin and 2006’s Revolutions Per Minute).  My interest waned quite a bit, on the long wait between releases by the band.  This new EP (5 new songs) is failing to rouse me from my ambivalence.  So I’ll just come out and say it:  Guys, get Sebastian back. It’s time.  If Eddie Van Halen can get up on stage again with David Lee Roth and grin that grin of his, then Rachel Bolan can get over Sebastian Bach.

The thing is, there’s nothing wrong with United World Rebellion.  (Last album was a “revolution”, now they’re having a “rebellion”.  What will the next album be?  Defiance, disobedience, dissension, heresy, insubordination, insurgency?)  It’s heavy like old Skid Row.  It has squealing, howling solos like old Skid Row and riffs reminiscent of the classic stuff.  Johnny’s throwing everything he’s got into his performance.   It’s just…not memorable.

The most striking song is the first one, “Kings of Demolition”, which is really good.  Only problem:  It’s more than just a little similar to “Monkey Business” from Slave.  “Monkey Business” is a great heavy song, but you’re not going to top it by re-writing it.  It’s downhill from there.  I must have played this EP eight or nine times now, and I still can’t remember how “Let’s Go”, “Get Up”, and “Stitches” go.  They are all heavy, riffy…and non-descript.  The only song that stands out is “This is Killing Me”, the token ballad (right smack in the middle of the EP), and it stands out only because it’s a ballad.  You can hear the (intended?) similarity to a certain hit ballad by the Sebastian version of Skid Row…but without his soaring vocals.  Once again, you can’t create a new memorable song if you’re repeating an old one.

Sorry guys.  I’m usually in favour of bands carrying on with new members, because I’d rather have that than no band at all.  Unfortunately, Skid Row needs Sebastian Bach as much as Sebastian Bach wants to be in Skid Row.  Johnny can take a proud bow, because he’s no slouch and he did the best job possible.  I wanna see it happen.

2/5 stars

EDIT: May 15 2013 – There is a European version coming with two bonus tracks, both covers.  Bastards.

Part 177 / REVIEW: Helix – Live! In Buffalo

Another double feature for y’all boys and girls.  First the Record Store Tale, then the review…

Brent live October 3 2007

RECORD STORE TALES Part 177:  Hot On the Heels of Love

The record store had begun selling Brent Doerner’s Decibel, the first solo album by the ex-Helix guitarist on consignment.  My buddy Chuck hooked me up with a copy.  I opened it up, and lo and behold — another buddy of mine, and one of my best customers, was playing guitar in Brent’s band!  I have talked about Shane Schedler in the past, he was a great guy and I was glad he had hooked up with Brent.

I met Brent at a Helix gig at Molly Bloom’s, told him about how I knew Shane from my store, and this led to our first interview, which I published a while ago on this site.  I did numerous other writing jobs for Brent over the years as well.

Anyway, we shot the shit for a couple hours, just talking about music.  He was very passionate about songwriting, particularly lyrics.  Sometimes he would come up with a catchy song title or interesting phrase, and try to write lyrics around it.  He was heavily influenced by the lyrics of Burton Cummings, from The Guess Who.

“I like the fact that Burton Cummings kind of sang in riddles,” said Brent.  “You could listen to the song 100 times and try to pick the meaning out of the sentences.  And therefore, it doesn’t have a high burnout factor.  When I’m writing, that’s the big challenge.  I don’t want it to have a burnout factor.”

“I worked really hard at getting unique titles…I want unique titles so I can have unique songs,” he told me.

Chatting away, Brent told me of some future song ideas.  “I really want to write a song called ‘Hot on the Heels of Love’,” he said.  At first, I was quiet, and kind of confused.  Brent seemed to be waiting for my reaction.

“Brent,” I said, “You already have a song called that.”

“No I don’t,” he answered, and then paused.  “Really?”

“Yeah you do.  It’s on one of the Helix live albums,” I told him, trying to not embarrass him!

“Really?  Which one?” he asked me.

We were in his basement, sitting at this beautiful bar.  He had a small CD tower down there in the basement, with a complete selection of every Helix album he’d ever appeared on.  I studied the tower and spotted the album I was looking for:  Live! In Buffalo, which was recorded in 1983 but not released until 2001.

“Right there…Live! In Buffalo,” I said, “you have a song on there called ‘Hot On the Heels of Love’, that you sang, but as far as I know Helix never recorded a studio version of it.”

Brent grabbed the CD and looked it over.  Sure enough, there it was.  “Hot On the Heels of Love” is track #9.

I guess this shows that a good song title is a good song title no matter what.  But it was also the first time that LeBrain schooled a member of Helix!  (It was not the last time!)

Onto the review!


HELIX – Live! In Buffalo (2001 Dirty Dog Records, recorded September 29, 1983)

Right from Vollmer’s first “Let’s rock!” at the beginning of this CD, Live! In Buffalo kicks you in the face and doesn’t stop until the end. Only one ballad (and barely a ballad at that, when performed at this volume), this concert sounds like it was a real sweaty affair. Helix were at the top of their game in ’83, hot on the heels of No Rest For The Wicked and “Heavy Metal Love”. This album is loud, there are no overdubs, this is a pure rock concert with no frills. The music is broken up with the occasional (breathless) intros by Vollmer, but then it’s right back into the high-octane rock.  Incredible to think this album was recorded in the middle of the day!

Sometimes I’ve felt that a good bootleg is much better than a well-recorded live album. There’s no fakery on a bootleg, and there is no fakery here. This was recorded for a radio broadcast, and miraculously the tapes were in good enough shape to release as a CD.

Helix opened with the title track from their current album.  “No Rest For the Wicked” is pounding, Fritz Hinz on the skins, pummeling them into submission, Brent on backing vocals while Vollmer seemingly shreds his own vocal cords.  This version is faster and heavier than the album version, as is every song on Live! In Buffalo.  Even a melodic rocker like “Let’s All Do It Tonite” has more bite.

Brian’s on stage raps are from the Paul Stanley school of thought.  For example, “White Lace & Black Leather”.

“This next song is about those ladies that you meet that got lots of class.  Lots of class…elegance.  When it comes to etiquette they’re at the top of their class…you’ll never find them with the fork on the wrong side of their plate.    You dare never tell a dirty joke to this lady because she’ll get up and leave the table.  But you get that same lady home, that very same night, get her back to your place, get her behind closed doors…she’ll turn out to be a moaner every time!  This is called ‘White Lace & Black Leather’!”

Elsewhere, a grizzled “Ain’t No High Like Rock and Roll” combines catchy licks with a driving melody.  A lot of these early Helix songs are among the best tunes they ever wrote.  Yet unfortunately, they are seldom if ever played anymore.  Thankfully, this album exists to remind us how great Helix can be.

Historically, this is also cool for a couple reasons. One, some of these songs had yet to be recorded on a studio album, such as “6 Strings 9 Lives” and “You Keep Me Rockin'”, which would turn up on the next album.  As mentioned in the above Record Store Tale Part 177, one tune was never released on a studio album at all. That is Brent Doerner’s “Hot On The Heels Of Love”, sung by Brent (don’t forget he also sang “Billy Oxygen”, one of Helix’ first hits from the debut album). It is a gritty fast rocker, with a memorably galvanic riff.

There are some other live offerings out there by Helix, such as Half-Alive and the promo-only Live At The Marquee, but this one blows them all away even though it was just for a radio broadcast. One of my favourite live albums, and one of my favourite Helix CDs.

5/5 R’s!


Part 178:  Some really kooky movie makers…

REVIEW: Foo Fighters – Wasting Light (2011 CD, iTunes edition)


FOO FIGHTERS – Wasting Light (2011 Roswell Records)

The much anticipated new Foo Fighters album was a big deal to us fans — for the first time, a five-man lineup, three guitar players, and the return of Pat Smear. In other words this album has the same lineup as the glorious Colour and the Shape era of the band, plus Chris Shifflet. Add on expert production by Butch Vig, mixing by Alan Moulder. It sounds glorious! What it lacks in the diversity from the previous two albums, it makes up with the sheer youthful energy from the first two.

Wasting Light hits you right away with the one-two punch of “Bridge Burning” and “Rope”, fast jagged hard rock songs with riffs and Grohl screams. Not totally immediate, but they set the stage for some of the best tunage the Foos have ever laid to wax.

The dark and powerful “Dear Rosemary” is the first bonafide classic on this album, and you can definitely hear the benefit of the three guitars as rhythm & catchy licks merge into one moving whole.  “Dear Rosemary”, features Bob Mould (Husker Du) sharing lead vocal duties.  What an incredible song.  It was a bit of genius inspiration, working with Mould on it.  The result is an instant classic, one of the best Foo tunes in the canon.  (A Foo-Du tune?)

“White Limo” starts with a brutally heavy metal riff, something that harkens back to Voivod, with Grohl doing his best distorted metal screams overtop. This is primo thrash metal, a total surprise for me. I always knew Grohl was a metalhead, but I didn’t expect anything this overtly metal to appear on a Foo Fighters album. But it’s a welcome change, and my current favourite song for pure adrenaline pumping energy.

“Arlandria” starts slower, but builds to a melodic, dramatic chorus with crashing chords and cymbals. By this time the album has begun to take shape: It has melody but the foundation is the guitar riffage. “These Days” is a total change of pace, a much softer song, but still propelled forward by the beats of Taylor Hawkins, and of course the guitars still crash come chorus time.

“Back and Forth” has a pretty crummy snare drum sound, but Nate Mendel’s bass rings clear and true underneath. It takes a while to get going, but the chorus is still solid. “A Matter of Time” is the weakest song so far, an awkward, jagged non-standout rocker.

“Miss the Misery” is a return to form, starting with a brief “Nobody’s Fault But Mine” drone before settling into an i irresistible set of melodies, punctuated by catchy guitar licks buzzing in and out of the mix. Again, you can hear where three guitar players is coming in handy, as there is a lot going on here guitar-wise. Fee Waybill on guest vocals! Next, Nirvana fans will be excited by an appearance by Krist Novoselic on “I Should Have Known”. Including Pat Smear, this is a reunion of the three surviving members of the final Nirvana lineup, a little mini-historic event in the annals of rock. It is a slow mournful song, with Grohl’s voice back in the mix, singing “I cannot forgive you yet”. It is a beautiful song, and a welcome change of pace. Novoselic’s bass, when it kicks in about halfway, just rumbles. It ends as dramatically as anything else on the album.

The standard edition of the album closes with a song called “Walk”. This is a brighter song, guitars chiming and ringing, and exactly the way an album like this needs to end. But suddenly the pace picks up, and the guitars cascade like the greatest Foo songs of old. This one reminds me, for a number of reasons including riffs, melody and pacing, of “New Way Home”, the awesome closer from Colour and the Shape.

The Foos have created another fine album, not an easy thing to do when you have albums like Colour and the Shape and In Your Honor under your collective belts. They certainly have lost nothing to age, and they have not exhausted their energies. I also think that, after two very diverse albums, it was exactly the right move to return to a predominantly rock direction for this album. It re-grounds the bands back to their roots.

It’s not over yet though, as the iTunes and Japanese editions of the album have bonus tracks. iTunes have an absolutely useless remix of “Rope” by Deadmau5. I guess people who like this kind of music will appreciate it, but it has no place on an album like this. It is monotonous and boring, a waste of five minutes of my time. Much more appropriate is another song called “Better Off”. “Better Off” is almost Beatles-y in melody, but with heavy layered guitars pummeling your ears. I love the lyrics as well — “You know you’re better off, you bastard!”

Wasting Light has been a great and pleasant surprise to me. I wasn’t sure what direction the Foo Fighters were going to take with this record, but I’m pleased that they took a step back to guitar-based basics, yet still retained all the lessons they learned about melody, songwriting and arranging.


BONUS! Just to do something special and unique, and to make a point about recording this album straight to analog tape (no computers!), Dave Grohl has sliced up his original master tape for Wasting Light, and included a piece inside the first run of the CD. Cool, man.  Worth hunting down a first pressing for, if you care about such things!

5/5 stars!