rolling stones

RE-REVIEW: KISS – Unmasked (1980)

bThe KISS RE-REVIEW SERIES Part 18:  It’s a KISS three-fer!  LeBrain and Uncle Meat discuss KISS Unmasked below.  Meanwhile Deke at Stick it in Your Ear has an accompanying piece called Peter Criss:  Tossed and Turning!

  Unmasked (1980 Casablanca, 1997 Mercury remaster)

“I think Unmasked is a pretty crappy album.  It’s wimpy” – Paul Stanley, KISS Behind the Mask

Here we are at Unmasked, the very album that inspired the Kiss Re-Review series in the first place.  It’s a polarizing platter.  The band often trash it and shun it in concert.  Meanwhile, some fans have grown to appreciate it, particularly in Europe and Australia.  There is even a tribute CD on a German label with covers of the entire album.  Indeed, Unmasked is not without strengths.  Ace Frehley contributed another three songs of his own, continuing the growth he demonstrated on his solo album and Dynasty.

On the other side of the ledger, there were factors that fans see as a diluting of the Kiss sound.  Co-writers were now the norm.  Returning producer Vini Poncia had eight co-writes.  They used a track by songwriter Gerard McMahon.  Even ghost guitarist Bob Kulick had a co-write on Gene’s “Naked City”.  Most importantly, but publicly unknown at the time, was that Kiss had effectively become a trio.  Peter Criss’ substance issues had come to a head and he was not involved with the album at all.  He was on the cover, and in the credits, but all Peter did was mime some drums for the “Shandi” music video.  When that shoot was done, Peter was gone.  Anton Fig (Dynasty, Ace Frehley) returned again to fill the gap behind the scenes.

The album demonstrated a slick turn towards pop rock.  Not disco so much, although the compression on the drums and guitars gives it a disco sound.  The keyboards and slick production sweetened the album to the point that the thunder of Alive! or Love Gun was completely absent.  Kiss were becoming caricatures in pursuit of megahits.

The Gerard McMahon song “Is That You?” was selected to open Unmasked.  This sexy grind is one of the best tracks, with Paul in peak voice showing off what he can do.  The slow and dirty pop rock number gets the job done, with minimal loss of integrity.  That’s Paul on lead guitar too, one of several songs on which he solos, though it is hard to tell.  In fact Unmasked is one of those Kiss albums on which you can’t be sure who played what.

Only one Kiss member appears on the big single, “Shandi”, and that’s Paul Stanley.  On bass was Tom Harper, and Holly Knight on keyboards.  There is little doubt that “Shandi” is a fantastic song, and it worked particularly well live in the acoustic setting.  While Unmasked blurred the lines between rock and pop, “Shandi” is pure pop joy — almost adult contemporary!

Frehley’s first track was a favourite called “Talk to Me”, a song many Kiss fans easily embraced.  These first three songs were performed on the Unmasked tour, which demonstrates their worth.  “Talk to Me” has a cool guitar riff and one of Ace’s most infectious choruses – an instant classic.  Ace had really grown as a singer by this point.

The waters get murkier after the first three tracks.  Gene’s “Naked City” is a grower.  It possesses hooks and great verses, but the main guitar riff doesn’t hit the spot.  Gene’s falsetto voice is employed to great effect.  It takes a few spins, but “Naked City” has a cool darkness to it and a strange kind of class.  That is followed by the very pop “What Makes the World Go ‘Round”, a keyboard-heavy Paul Stanley tune.  It sounds very little like Kiss, but Paul’s performance (guitar solo included) is stellar.  Falsetto must have been very popular at the time.  Bee Gees, anyone?

Paul’s side two opener “Tomorrow” is just as pop as “What Makes the World Go ‘Round”.  These would be great songs for somebody else’s album.  Perhaps Rick Astley.  Fortunately the side is quickly redeemed by Ace’s excellent “Two Sides of the Coin”.  Notably, this song inspired the title of Michael Brandvold’s Kiss podcast, “Three Sides of the Coin“.  Ace’s track is a fan favourite, upbeat and melodic with just enough guitar bite.  If the production was meatier, as on Ace’s solo album, it would be an absolute killer.

Gene continues chasing the ladies on “She’s So European”, a filler track with familiar themes.  “She makes love on a brass bed, because her parents are still awake.”  Not Gene’s finest moment.  “Easy As It Seems” is a Paul track, and also not one of his finest, but the bouncy bass (by Paul) is quite great.  But is that a bloody keyboard solo that I detect?

One of the most interesting tracks, and most instrumentally impressive, is Ace’s surf rock classic “Torpedo Girl”.  This is just a fun summertime track with infectious ooh-ahh vocal hooks.  His role within Kiss resulted in some of their more unique songs, and “Torpedo Girl” is unorthodox.  Ace’s picking is enviable, and the lyrics are just pure fun.  “Come on, get your feet wet.”

Album closer “You’re All That I Want” is one of Gene’s tunes, but Paul’s vocals on the outro sell it.  It’s a little on the light side, as is much of Unmasked, but it remains a good song.

On a personal note, I have one very strong memory of Unmasked.  I first heard it by taping it off a friend, my late neighbor George.  George dropped the needle on the record, hit record on my tape, and then got out his bass and played bass along to every song.  Unbeknownst to him, his bass playing bled onto the tape.  From that point until I finally got a store-bought cassette copy, I always heard George’s bass on the fade-outs of every song.  I can still hear it in my head.  I suppose that’s one way that George is still alive, in my memory.

Unmasked was released on May 20, 1980, with a bright cartoony cover including Peter Criss.  Meanwhile the band were already preparing for their first of many lineup changes, something that was kept quiet until the right moment.

In July, Kiss were ready to unveil the new member.  Paul Caravello, from Brooklyn, impressed Kiss with his audition and humble personality.  The story that everybody remembers is that Caravello asked the guys for their autographs in case he never saw them again.  No worries there; the job was destined to be his.  But Kiss couldn’t have another guy named Paul, and his last name was too “ethnic” (obviously Italian), so his name was changed to Eric Carr.  (Fortunately, Gene’s suggestion of “Rusty Blades” was discarded.)  The newly dubbed Eric was an energetic mighty-mite of rock, and the band quickly grew to love him.  Everything was new to him.

“The Hawk”

A new makeup design was required.  This was a big deal — a new challenge.  A hawk concept was tried, but in the costume Carr looked more like Big Bird than a rock star.  He drew up an inspired fox design which immediately clicked.  The new character was born!

Carr’s first appearance with the band was at their only US date on this tour: New York on July 25 1980.  The rest of the tour took place in Europe and Australia where “Shandi” became a hit.  There were only 41 shows in total.  Despite their best efforts, Kiss’ fortunes were shifting.  Opening acts on the tour included Iron Maiden, which must have been quite the mismatch.  Given Maiden’s reputation for blowing away headliners (much like Kiss when they started out), you must wonder how this went down.  Girl, featuring future Def Leppard guitarist Phil Collen and future L.A. Guns singer Phil Lewis, also opened a handful of gigs.

Unfortunately for fans, especially in North America, this was the last tour for a long time.  It was also the only tour featuring this lineup.  While Kiss had endured their first lineup change, that was only just the beginning of the problems to solve.

Today’s rating:

3.5/5 stars


Uncle Meat’s rating:

4.5/5 steaks 

Meat’s slice:  Unmasked was released in May of 1980. A couple of months later I had heard that Kiss was going to introduce their new drummer on a show called Kids Are People Too. Seeing Kiss in the Phantom movie on TV was one thing. But knowing they were being interviewed, and introducing their newest member…Eric “The Fox” Carr. I watch it today on YouTube, and it’s so…umm…not what I remember. But it was monumental at the time for me. At this point, I had heard Unmasked once at a friend’s place and was underwhelmed. But I loved the album cover and still think it is probably their best. My take on Unmasked is much different now, and was how LeBrain’s Re-Reviews started in the first place. First of all I will address this. Mike referred in the beginning of this series to the two “Disco” era Kiss albums of Dynasty and Unmasked. Dynasty has one Disco song. Unmasked does not have anything close to a Disco song. Some would say “Shandi”, but that is Kiss capitalizing on the Soft Rock success of the day. Unmasked may not be a typical Kiss album, but thanks to Vini Poncia it’s a great album of Rock tunes and one of my favorite Kiss albums.

The drumming on this album is a major high point. Anton Fig shines all over this disc. Ace also continues his consistent roll with great rock songs like “Talk To Me”. He has such a great Rock and Roll voice. The background vocals are great too. “Two Sides of the Coin” is another song with incredible drumming, and a single writing credit. Both this song and “Talk To Me” are the only two songs on the album that don’t have an outside writing credit. Subsequently these songs sound more like classic Kiss than the rest of the album. However “Torpedo Girl” is another story. This might be the shining moment of Ace’s career in Meat’s opinion. Unbelievable guitar riff and funky drum beat. I have had it in my head for days now.

It seems that the addition of Vini Poncia to the Kiss machine inspired Gene Simmons as well. Unlike Dynasty where his songs were mostly forgettable, a couple of his songs on this album shine here. “She’s So European” is “completely ridiculous” but a “great fucking tune” (according to my longtime Kiss-mate Scott) . That about says it all. “Naked City” sees the falsetto of Gene Simmons on display here in another catchy song. There are great hooks within this song, which is indicative of the whole album really. However the album closer, “You’re All That I Want” might be the weakest track on the album. I do though love the ending, which you hear Stanley screaming in his typical live-show style.

Paul Stanley’s contributions on this album are good as well, with a few curveballs thrown in. “Shandi” was a massive Australian hit, and even though the song is about as limp as it can be, I still love the song. Reminds me of the Little River Band and Ambrosia songs of the Soft Rock era that I still dig. “What Makes the World Go ‘Round” is a solid song, with some of the greatest solo guitar playing Paul Stanley has put to record. “Tomorrow” sounds a lot like .38 Special to me and is just OK. “Easy As it Seems” is a solid song that incorporates keyboards in an interesting way, and might be the best Stanley song on Unmasked.

Overall Unmasked is a misunderstood, understated classic. I am curious to see if time has changed LeBrain’s take on this album. All I can say is…this may be Kiss’s last truly great album. From here on in, the “Meat’s Slice” section will start to get a lot shorter, with a couple exceptions.

Favorite Tracks: “Torpedo Girl”, “Shandi”, “Is That You”, “Talk To Me”, “She’s so European”

Forgettable Tracks: “You’re All That I Want”, “Tomorrow” (both borderline)


To be continued…

Original mikeladano.com review:  2012/07/25

 

 

 

Advertisements

RE-REVIEW: KISS – Dynasty (1979)

The KISS RE-REVIEW SERIES Part 17:  

 

  Dynasty (1979 Casablanca, 1997 Polygram Japan remaster)

“The Return of Kiss”.  It sounds quaint today, that after a two year absence they called it “The Return of Kiss”.  Two years today means nothing.  But for Kiss, who were doing two releases a year, it did actually mean something.  Their last project was their series of four solo albums, one for each member, and unified by cover art.  This project only reinforced the idea that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

The truth is, the original Kiss were already over.  Peter Criss returned from his solo album and a car accident as a changed man, and not in a good way.  Upon walking in the door he insisted upon seeing sheet music for the new tunes.  That was a first.  It was quickly apparent that Peter was not in a condition to perform.  The band had even hired his solo album producer, Vini Poncia, to helm the new Kiss.  Poncia deemed Criss’ current abilities inadequate and he was replaced for the album by Anton Fig.  Anton was Ace’s solo drummer, and more than capable of filling in.  Previously, when Bob Kulick was hired to replace Ace on side four of Alive II, he was instructed to “play like Ace”.  Anton Fig was given no such instruction and was free to drum as he pleased.  Some Kiss fans were able to pick up on that.  Ultimately Peter Criss played drums on only one song, his own called “Dirty Livin’”.  And that would be Peter’s final appearance on a Kiss studio album until 1998’s Psycho-Circus, on which he also played drums on only one track.  Kiss was indeed broken, but few on the outside knew it.  Peter would never play on a whole Kiss album again.

A lot had changed.  Kiss’ massive marketing campaigns paid off, but was that a good thing?  Little kids were now coming to Kiss concerts.  Paul Stanley was actively seeking hits.  Together with new songwriting friend Desmond Child, Paul wanted to write a dance single.  Inspired by the clubs of New York, the pair produced “I Was Made For Lovin’ You”, the song that gave Kiss the “disco” tag.  The single sold a million copies.  Needless to say, it was not the last Kiss single written with Desmond Child.

The album went platinum and became the hit it was designed to be.  Inside the sleeve, the music was streamlined and more commercial than before.  “I Was Made For Lovin’ You” led the way, demolishing the walls between dance and rock.  Frehley had a hot solo in the mix, and the bouncy bass was performed by Paul Stanley.  The song had all the right ingredients and though thin sounding by today’s standards, it’s still a great little dance rock number.

The real revelation about Dynasty wasn’t the turn towards slicker, highly compressed recordings.  It was Ace Frehley coming out of his shell.  Newly confident after his hit solo experience, Frehley had three songs to sing on Dynasty.  Ace covered the Stones on “2000 Man”, a version that may be more beloved than the original.  It certainly sounds at home.  Ace rocks it up significantly.  Ace also had lead vocals on “Hard Times”, a track about growing up as an aimless youth in New York.  “We’d go to school, then we’d cut out, go to the park, and space our heads out.”  “Hard Times” is not an exceptional song, but it’s interesting since it’s so autobiographical.  Ace’s last song was the more aggressive “Save Your Love”.  This track closes Dynasty with the kind of rock that people often forget is on the album.  Ace’s tracks are the only ones that can be classified purely as “rock”.  He has more guitar riffage on “Save Your Love” than the other songs combined.  Without the Space Ace, Dynasty would have been a much weaker album.

The increase in Ace’s participation was balanced by a decrease in that of Gene Simmons.  Gene only had two songs on the album, neither of which were singles.  “X-Ray Eyes” and “Charisma” inhabit the same kind of compressed audio landscape as the rest.  “Charisma” is the best, due to its unusual echoey vocals, fitting for the demon persona.  Gene’s prime interest was still the opposite sex, and both songs have the demon’s stamp.  The main hooks on both are delivered by the backing vocals during the choruses.

The dominant force on Dynasty — and as it turns out, for the coming decade – was Paul Stanley.  Not only was “I Was Made for Loving You” a massive hit, but the second single “Sure Know Something” was also one of his.  Paul wrote this dancey ballad with producer Vini Poncia.  It’s not all simply dance floor moves though, as the chorus has the power chords and lung power that Kiss fans expected.  Stanley also wrote “Magic Touch”, a lesser known album classic.  “Magic Touch” burns slow, but hot.  Paul’s falsetto was a sign of the times, but the power chords explode on the chorus.

And that leaves poor Peter.  “Dirty Livin’” was written with Stan Penridge and Vini Poncia, and it was written as something more R&B in direction.  It was Kiss-afied and included on the album as Peter’s only appearance.  You can hear that it’s not the same drummer and that it’s a very different vibe.

For all outside appearances, Kiss maintained an image of solidarity.  There was no mention of a session drummer, and Peter was there on tour for all 82 shows.  However there were some cracks visible.  Several shows had to be cancelled for poor ticket sales, in areas such as New York City and Pontiac Michigan.  With the toys, comics and merchandise, Kiss were beginning to be seen as a kids’ band.  Dynasty was the hit it needed to be, but the situation was not sustainable.

Today’s rating:

4/5 stars


Uncle Meat’s rating:

4/5 steaks 

Meat’s slice:  The first of the two supposed “Disco Era” Kiss records LeBrain referred to in the introduction of this series, Dynasty really just is a pretty solid rock and roll record other than the mega-hit, “I Was Made For Lovin’ You”.  There really is not another song on the record that could be classified as Disco.  But more on that when I talk about Unmasked.

This album sees the beginning of a couple new eras in Kisstory. The first being the band’s writing collaboration with Desmond Child.  “I Was Made For Lovin’ You” was the first hit of many for Desmond Child.  He has “songwriter” credits (and yes I am using that term loosely) on such deplorable pap as “Livin’ La Vida Loca”, “She Bangs”, and upcoming Kiss dung like “Let’s Put the X in Sex” and “Uh! All Night”.  Basically when a band gets shittier, they go to Desmond Child.  When Ratt got shittier, in came Desmond.  When the Scorpions got shittier, he pops up again.  When Aerosmith started becoming a glossy joke, here comes Desmond Child and “Dude (Looks Like a Lady)”. Yes, as good as this album is, Kiss was starting to get shittier.

As George Costanza would say, worlds collide for me on this album.  For years I had no idea Peter Criss only played drums on his own song on Dynasty.  His phantom replacement turned out to be Mr. Anton Fig, who played drums in one of my favorite bands ever, Paul Shaffer and the World’s Most Dangerous Band.  Even Anton’s dry humor on the show was a high point in Late Night with David Letterman for me.  I am a true Letterman head and always will be.  Anton Fig went on to be Ace’s drummer in Frehley’s Comet, so maybe Fig’s presence somehow inspired the Space man, since he is a high point of Dynasty.  The Rolling Stones cover “2000 Man” is a fucking great tune.  “Hard Times” is just as good and a personal favorite of many Kiss fans.

There are a few weaker-ish songs on the album but nothing egregious here.  Very good rock album with ONE disco song.  Thank you Desmond Child for injecting Kiss with your “Bad Medicine”.  (Yes, he wrote that too.  As well as writing songs for such wonderful artists like Hanson, The Jonas Brothers, Lindsay Lohan and Clay Aiken.)  Hey Desmond…in the words of Ricky…you are truly a FuckGoof.

Favorite Tracks:  “Sure Know Something”, “Hard Times”, “2000 Man”, “Save Your Love”, “Magic Touch”

Forgettable Tracks:  “Dirty Livin'”


To be continued…

Original mikeladano.com review:  2012/07/24

#469: Stump LeBrain (Getting More Retro!)

Photo0928

GETTING MORE TALE (Retro) #469: Stump LeBrain Week, by Aaron!

“Getting More Retro” is a sub-series of my music stories Getting More Tale.  I posted this back in March in 2012, when nobody was reading except Aaron and my old boss from the Record Store.  Before that, Aaron posted it on the KeepsMeAlive (Feb. 19).  And now, for the third time, here’s Stump LeBrain Week!

I had become such a dominating force on the 4 O’Clock 4-Play, my favourite music contest on 107.5 Dave Rocks, that listeners were now writing in 4-Play quizzes specifically to stump me!  For a while there it seemed everybody wanted to be the one to put an end to LeBrain’s reign!

Craig had me in the studio for the contest, live on the Craig Fee show, during what he dubbed “Stump LeBrain Week”.  Each day that week, I came in at 4 o’clock in order to play the contest on the air.  Craig selected five 4-Plays, one for each day.  If I answered correctly, I won the prize (I Mother Earth tickets).  If I was stumped, the person who wrote the 4-Play question would win the prize.

At the end of the week, I sent Aaron audio CDs of all my appearances minus commercials.  He was kind enough to document it in the written word for history.  Since very few saw this when I re-posted it at the launch of this site, I’m re-posting it once again for you!  Re-use and recycle, baby!

Big thanks to Aaron for listening to all five shows and writing it down, and of course thanks to Craig for giving me the opportunity!  Here we go.  Ready?

 


Four-Play #1 (submitted by Chris Cottingham)

01 Motley Crue – Shout At The Devil

01 Mike’s Guess: ‘tracks that were not singles’ (no)

02 Rolling Stones – Brown Sugar

02 Mike’s Guess: ‘bands that have toured with guns ‘n roses’ (no)

03 Bruce Springsteen – Cover Me

03 Mike’s Guess: ‘special lp packaging’ (no)

04 Loverboy – Working For The Weekend *

04 Mike’s Guess: ‘album covers featuring pants’ (yes!)

* at this point, before Mike’s last guess, it was exposed that the Motley Crue song was supposed to have been Live Wire, which changed everything, and he got it from there.

Comment: He still got it, even with a wrong song played. Improbable? Never! The man is a machine.

Score: Mike is 1/1.

 

Four-Play #2 (submitted by The Crook in Elmira)

01 Motorhead – Ace Of Spades (live)

01 Mike’s Guess: ‘artists who’ve done duets with Ozzy Osbourne’ (yes!)

02 Alice Cooper – School’s Out

03 Dio – Holy Diver

04 Lita Ford – Kiss Me Deadly

Comment: He nailed this one before the first song was even over. Jeez.

Score: Mike is 2/2.

Four-Play #3 (submitted by Kathryn Ladano, Mike’s sister)

01 Rush – Subdivisions

01 Mike’s Guess: ‘album covers with dogs on them’ (no)

02 Neil Young – Rockin’ In The Free World

02 Mike’s Guess: ‘all Canadian artists’ (no)

03 Guess Who – Runnin’ Back To Saskatoon

03 Mike’s Guess: ‘songs about Canadian cities’ (no)

04 Loverboy – Turn Me Loose

04 Mike’s Guess: ‘all artists who sang on Tears Are Not Enough’ (yes!)

Comment:

Broadcasted live from Chicopee ski resort. This was not the Four Play that Kathryn had wanted played, so her confidence at being able to stump her brother was pretty low, at the outset. It shocked me that Mike had never heard the Guess Who song before. I thought everybody knew that song.

Score: Mike is 3/3.

Four-Play #4 (submitted by Greg Laughtenschlager)

01 Megadeth – Hangar 18

01 Mike’s Guess: ‘science fiction, aliens, conspiracy theme’ (no)

02 Quiet Riot – Mama We’re All Crazy Now

02 Mike’s Guess: ‘books (1984, Roswell)’ (no)

02 Mike’s Extra Guess: ‘stripey pants’ (no)

03 Iron Maiden – The Trooper

03 Mike’s Guess: ‘bands that opened for Sabbath’ (no)

04 Dio – Rainbow In The Dark

04 Mike’s Guess: ‘all four albums covers were paintings with mascots’ (yes!)

Comment: Definitely a HEAVY set, which I thoroughly enjoyed. And Mike nails it. So cool.

Score: Mike is 4/4.

Four-Play #5 (submitted by Nick Byerjean sp?)

01 KISS – Beth

01 Mike’s Guess: ‘songs that originated as b-sides’ (no)

01 Mike’s Extra Guess: ‘no members of the band played on the track’ (no)

01 Mike’s Extra Guess: ‘crappy songs from great albums’ (no)

02 Guns ‘N Roses – Used To Love Her

02 Mike’s Guess: ‘single monikered album titles’ (no)

02 Mike’s Extra Guess: ‘songs with unusual percussion’ (no)

02 Mike’s Extra Guess: ‘songs people think is about one thing, but it’s about something else” (no)

02 Mike’s Extra Guess: ‘acoustic ballads’ (no)

03 Aerosmith – Angel

03 Mike’s Guess: ‘bands led by duos’ (no)

03 Mike’s Extra Guess: ‘bands who shortened their name from something longer (no)

03 Mike’s Extra Guess ‘all are bands from America’ (no)

04 Slash with Andrew Stockdale – By The Sword

04 Mike’s Guess: ‘songs released in even numbered years’ (no)

04 Mike’s Extra Guess: ‘all albums released in leap years’ (no)

04 Mike’s Extra Guess: ‘songs released in Canadian-hosted Olympic years’ (yes!)

Comment: OK, that was RIDICULOUS. Hearing him work through that last one was incredible. Even with all the extra guesses, that answer was from so far out of left field. Wow.

REVIEW: The Black Crowes – Freak ‘N’ Roll…Into the Fog (2006)

The rather late first review from Toronto Record Store Excursion 2013!

 

CROWES FREAK ROLL_0002THE BLACK CROWES – Freak ‘n’ Roll…Into the Fog: All Join Hands, The Fillmore, San Francisco (2006 Eagle Records)

I somehow missed this when it first came out!  This double live album (acquired at Sonic Boom Music for the awesome price of $7.99), recorded in 2005, reunited the Robinson brothers with members from the classic era.  Returning are Marc Ford (guitar),  Ed Hawrysch (keyboards, from Toronto Ontario), Sven Pipien (bass) and original drummer Steve Gorham.  I believe the original bassist, Johnny Colt, was busy with Rock Star Supernova at the time…

Anyway, with a set concentrated on classic Crowes tunes from the earlier albums with a few other gems, this is an awesome collection.  There are a few later songs, such as a mind-blowing psychedelic version of “Soul Singing” (Lions).  Many of the songs, “Soul Singing” included, turn into long extended jams.  I wouldn’t call them meandering jams; they are spellbinding and with purpose at every moment.

The Crowes are backed by guests:  the Left Coast Horns and backup singers.  The horns kick ass on the extended “(Only) Halfway to Everywhere”.  They transform “Welcome to the Goodtimes” into something a little more sassy, likewise with “Let Me Share the Ride”, and “Seeing Things” from the first LP.  They also help stretch “Non Fiction” into 10 minutes of exploratory rock.  The backup singers really compliment “My Morning Song” transforming it into an ecstatic moment.

I have always taken a bit of flak from other Crowes fans over my favourite album.  Mine is Amorica, and most people I knew favoured Southern Harmony.  Regardless, it’s a delight to hear “Wiser Time” from Amorica on this album.  Songs like this are really special, and with most of the original players on it, “Wiser Time” shines.

I enjoy that the Crowes threw some rarities, covers and B-sides on Freak ‘n’ Roll.  “Sunday Night Buttermilk Waltz” and “Mellow Down Easy” are among the highlights of these tracks, but I was most excited about “The Night they Drove Ol’ Dixie Down”.  The original is a favourite of mine so I couldn’t wait to hear the Crowes’ interpretation.  And guess what?  It’s awesome.  It would be ludicrous to compare it to the original by The Band.  All that matters is that the Crowes wring more soul out of the song than you’ll hear in modern rock on any given day.

The Walmart version of the CD came with a download code for a bonus track, the Stones’ “Loving Cup”.  I obtained it via the seedy underbelly of the internets.  On the DVD this was played after “Welcome to the Goodtimes”.  I’m glad to have this song because the horns really fatten it up nicely, and it’s also a great tune!

5/5 stars

Record Store Excursion 2013!

PART 1

PART 2

GALLERY: Three More Great Finds

This time, I was in a store that a buddy of mine runs, the same location that Uncle Meat used to work in.   My buddy wasn’t in (sick) but one of my old trainees was working  I trained him towards the end of my run as a Record Store Dude.  I was pleased to see that he was as nice as ever, and had grown an awesome big bushy beard.

I found two treasures, and took a gamble on one vinyl purchase.  Here’s the details:

1.  GENE SIMMONS – Gene Simmons Family Jewels Season 1, with bonus CD

For $9.99, this was a decent find.  It’s missing the outer case, which I can live without.  I bought this for the bonus CD.  This is apparently an Amazon.com (not .ca) exclusive, currently selling for $13 plus shipping.  So I paid an acceptable amount.  The CD contains two songs:  “Rain Keeps Falling” (sounds like a Crazy Nights outtake) and “You’re My Reason For Living” (sounds much more recent).  These are from the “forthcoming” Gene Simmons box set called Monster.  (I’m guessing he won’t be using that title now.)  Considering that Amazon.com advertises the Gene Simmons Monster box set as coming in 2007, I thought it might be nice to have these two songs.

2. THE ROLLING STONES – “Doom and Gloom” 10″ single

This one was…I dunno…I like the song, “Doom and Gloom”, and I won’t be buying that Stones box set any time in the near future, so this seemed like a good way to get it.   What troubles me is this is a remix by somebody named Jeff Bhasker.  So I have no idea if this will be any good.  We’ll see.  Apparently it’s one track, with the second side etched with a Stones logo.  I haven’t cracked the seal yet.  At $18.99, this one was probably overpriced.  But I’m a sucker for gimmicky vinyl, so, whatever.

3. ERIC MARTIN – Pure (Japanese Import)

Eric Martin is, of course, the lead throat from Mr. Big, a band that is basically big only in Japan.  This solo EP collects new acoustic versions of his solo tracks and Mr . Big hits.  It even includes stuff written in his pre Mr. Big days, from his Sucker For A Pretty Face album.

I paid $8.99, which was way underpriced for this.  A European import version goes for about $7 on Discogs, but the much rarer Japanese you’ll be lucky to find for under $40.  They didn’t have the disc cataloged in their system as Japanese so I’m thinking they didn’t notice.  I did though!  The Japanese writing on the back was the dead giveaway, even though the obi strip is missing.

Another funny thing:  Somebody put a sticker over the cover statue’s nipple!  A pasty, so to speak.  (Sticker removed for this gallery; it’s only a statue after all.)

So; another enjoyable shopping experience.  Some treasures found.  Good tunes, good times.  Look for reviews one day on LeBrain’s Blog.

For ethical reasons, I don’t identify the place I used to work, considering the nature of the Record Store Tales.  However if I did a Store Report Card as I have done for other record stores, I would rank this particular location:

3.75/5 stars

Doom and Gloom

Part 128: VIDEO BLOG – Mike & Aaron Go To Toronto! (now with Store Report Card!)

Join Mike and Aaron as they hunt for rare albums!

REPORT CARD

Sonic Boom, 782 Bathurst St – 5/5 stars

BMV, 471 Bloor Street West – 3.5/5 stars (Mike) 4/5 stars (Aaron)

Rotate This, 801 Queen St. W – 3/5 stars  (no rating from Aaron)

Pauper’s Pub,  539 Bloor Street West – 3.5/5 stars

Paradise Bound, 270 August Ave – 4/5 stars * note I got the name wrong in the video

Moonbean, 30 Saint Andrew Street – 5/5 stars

Sonic Boom Kensington, 201 Augusta Ave – 4.5/5 stars

HMV, 333 Yonge Street – 1.5/5 stars

Sunrise, 220 Yonge Street, 1.5/5 stars (no rating from Aaron)

 

See what Aaron bought by clicking here!

FINAL NOTE:  I procured a the Japanese import from eBay a week later, October 27, for $41, free shipping.

Part 56: Top Five Flops

This isn’t some definitive list or anything like that.  Just five memories that stand out among the others:  my Top Five Flops.

#5. The Rolling Stones – Bridges to Babylon.  I know this album didn’t sit well for a few people, but we just flat out ordered too many.  They started coming in used within days and before too long, we had so many used copies that they were starting to show up in bargain bins.  Never a good sign when you’re the so-called greatest rock and roll band on Earth.

#4. Van Halen – III.  Same deal.  We ordered 50 copies.  I don’t know why.  This one was going to be a flop even before it was released.  Gary Cherone had no marquee value whatsoever in 1998.  We ordered 50, we ended up selling (probably) 5.

#3.  Hole – Live Through This.  Yes, it was huge in 199x, but by the late 90’s, you would have been a fool to pay more than $5.99 for this stinker, such was the frequency of the trade-ins.

#2. Titanic – Soundtrack.  Yeah, yeah, I know.  One of the biggest soundtracks of all time.  Well, as soon as Celine put out her own album with “My Life Will Go On” on it, the trade-ins began.  At one point we were bundling it with DVDs and VHS tapes just to get it out of the store.

#1.  Spin Doctors – Turn It Upside Down.   I recall at one point we had something like 20 copies, used, in stock.  We couldn’t give it away even for $3.99.  I wouldn’t know from listening to it, but I am pretty sure that it sucks.   It sold so infrequently, that I would be willing to bet that there are still copies in the 10-15 year-old-range, sitting there unsold today.

Part 47: Love You Live

When I first started out, the boss taught me a really smart lesson.

If someone comes in and asks for something we don’t have, never say, ‘I can order it for you’.  Instead, you should say, “I can call you when the next one comes in”.

That was really smart.  People feel guilty about ordering stuff, so not all people want to do that.  But if you word it as if it was coming in anyway, they don’t feel bad about putting you out, and it seems like less of a big deal if they don’t pick it up. 

Usually the next question was, “When is the next one coming in?”  You’d give the standard answer of “one to two weeks”.  And that usually was the case.

Except this one time, a guy walked in looking for the Stones.  Specifically, he wanted Love You Live

“Have you heard of a Rolling Stones album called Love You Live?” he began.  Of course, I had.  Live at the El Mocambo in Toronto.  I knew we didn’t stock it, but the Stones were on Sony and easy to get. 

“Yep, I know it.  We don’t have one in right now, but I can give you a call when the next one comes in,” went the standard answer.

“Really?”  he asked.  “You carry that?”

“Oh sure,” I said.  “We have usually have it in, I just sold our copy last week, so a re-stock is on order anyway,” I lied.

He seemed absolutely shocked, then overjoyed, then offered me $50 personally to get it in for him.  That is, the price of the CD plus a $50 tip.  That seemed a little out of place to me, but hey, guy was a fan, right?

What I neglected to do was check the catalog from our distrubuter.  Instead, I just wrote the guy’s name and number down and told him we’d give him a call.  Well, when the boss went to order that CD, it was not in the catalogue.   It also wasn’t in the importer’s catalog.  However, that didn’t mean we couldn’t get it, so he dutifully ordered it anyway and I assumed all would be well.

For whatever reason, Love You Live (much like some other important albums like Kill ‘Em All and Garage Days) went out of print in the 90’s.  This was usually due to record label disputes and whatnot.  Love You Live was commanding $50 and $60 price tags, used, at record shows at that time.  I was not aware of this.  No wonder the guy seemed so excited.

Well, it took a few weeks for me to realize that the CD was not coming in.  In those few weeks, the guy showed up every Wednesday asking if his disc was in.  He looked so crushed every time I told him no.  But it should be here next week.

The album was remastered and reissued in 1998 at a reasonable price, and remastered yet again in 2010 to milk it one more time.

Still, I want to personally apologize to Mr. Stones Fan for probably ruining your year.  Sorry man.   My bad.


Got this update from my buddy Aaron:

Dude

Yeah, I had to get my copy of Love You Live, at the time, in the box set I got as a gift. Covered 1971-1989. It’s a sweet live record. Especially the last four tracks of the set, holy.

My memory tells me there were others of theirs that were hard to get for a long time, too (before remasters). Couldn’t tell you which ones, though. I had them all. ;)

Aaron:  http://myleftthumb.wordpress.com/

and Aaron:  http://keepsmealive.wordpress.com/

Part 13: Klassic Kwotes II

As with the first Klassic Kustomer Quotes, everything below is true.  Only the names have been changed to protect the guilty.  Here’s 10 more.

  • “Yeah, I’m the original drummer for the Rolling Stones.  I was first.  I helped those guys form the band.  Then they stole all my shit.  Bunch of assholes.”  Said to me by a confused guy about five years my senior.
  • “Where the fuck are my sunglasses?  I left them right here!  You must have taken them!  Where the fuck are my sunglasses?”  Said to us by a guy who had forgotten that he was wearing his sunglasses on his head.
  • “All five Backstreet Boys released solo albums on the same day!  How come you don’t have them?  Walmart has them!”  No such releases ever existed, by the way.
  • I admit that sometimes our “we buy used CD’s” sign could be confusing.  But I was still as surprised as any to hear the question, “How much will you give me for my royal wedding collector’s plates?”

 

  • After both a debit card and a credit card being declined, I was asked, “Will you take a cheque?  No?  How about my Sears card?”

 

  • “I saw Journey play the Casino last weekend.  They were AMAZING!  Steve Perry was amazing!  He still sings the same as he always did!  And he even still looks the same!”  Said to me by an excited lady who had no idea that she saw Journey with Steve Augeri.  Steve Perry quit the band five years earlier.  By the way, Augeri doesn’t even remotely resemble Steve Perry except they both have brown hair.
  • “It still plays fine.  I played it on the way here.  It didn’t skip.”  Said to me by a guy who didn’t noticed that his disc has a giant crack in it.
  • “Hey man, the owner always gives me a discount.”  This was a pretty common one.  Not many people had a discount, certainly not many that I didn’t know.  But this one kept going.  “I’m the one who gave him the idea for selling used CD’s.  I said, ‘Hey man you know what you gotta do?  Sell used CD’s.  That’s what you gotta do.  Sell them used CD’s and you’ll make a mint.’  That’s what I said to George.”  The owner’s name was not George.
  • “Hey, if I buy a blank CD, can you guys just load it up full of good tunes for me?”  Comment not necessary.
  • And of course, my favourite.  “I’ve gotta take a shit real, real bad.  Can I use the can?  Like I gotta go so bad man, you have no idea.”  I’ll admit, it was against company policy to let any customer use the washroom in any situation, but I had to break the rules on this one.  After all, I actually had someone take a shit in my store before.  No, I’m not talking about me.  There’s this girl, and she shit her pants in the store, and I don’t think she even knew it.  I still see her at the mall sometimes.  You never…ever…forget the face of someone who took a shit in their pants right in front of you.  The smell…was ungodly.  She stepped up to the counter.  She asked a question.  She asked numerous questions.   The stink was so bad!  I stood as far back as possible without trying to look like I was stepping back as far as possible.  I stepped on a CD case against the wall, the crack was audible.  And she kept asking questions.  I will never be convinced in a million years that this girl even knew she had shit her pants.