rush

#769: Twenty-Three

GETTING MORE TALE #769: Twenty-Three

July 1995 was a very complex month, at least for a young 22 year old guy living in Canada, not yet named LeBrain.

The girl I really liked had just broken up with her boyfriend — a guy in our circle of friends named Nick.  Just about everybody in the world knew I had a crush on her.  She dumped him one weekend when I was at the cottage.  My buddy Aaron called me long distance just to tell me!  Nick was a bit of a cock sometimes, but I tried to be reasonably respectful to him.  I thought I should wait three weeks until I made any move.

By mid-July I still hadn’t done anything, although I talked to the girl just about every day.  My 23rd birthday was coming up, and a small group of friends decided to throw a party.  It was a joint birthday party — another girl with the same mutual friends had a birthday the same week as me.  We combined everything into one party, in my parents’ basement.  Aaron was there, my wingman.  He was good at making people laugh, so that was always helpful when I didn’t know what to say around girls.  And of course, the girl I liked was coming too!

We decided on a murder mystery party, and we were supposed to be dressed somewhat in character.  I think I was a race car driver.  Crush-girl dressed as a gypsy.  Oh my God.  I was well on my way to bonertown.  She even did an accent for her character.  Schwing!

One of my friends that came gave me my first copy of Rush’s 2112.  That alone would have made it a memorable birthday.  The most memorable thing to me, however, was the final guest to arrive.

Craig arrived late.  I didn’t know him, not really.  He was there at the invite of the girl who also had a birthday to celebrate.  But I certainly knew of him!  As soon as he came to the door, I recognized him immediately and with total surprise.  Though he was two years older, Craig and I went to the same highschool.  We even hung out in the same circles, although we’d never officially met before.  He was friends with guys like Bob Schipper and Rob Daniels.  In fact, one reason I knew Craig’s face so well was that he was actually on one of the tapes in my VHS Archives!  Back in 1989, Rob Daniels was just beginning his career in broadcasting and media.  He did a public service ad for Rogers cable.  He wrote and directed “One More For the Road”, an anti-drinking and driving ad.  Bob Schipper played the victim.  Craig played the drunk driver.  I had a copy.  I knew every line of dialogue in that ad.  It was actually really well made with a killer soundtrack.  Bon Jovi’s “Bad Medicine” is playing from the car stereo when Bob is struck down in his prime.

Some great acting from Bob

I excitedly greeted Craig at the door and told him of our mutual highschool friends.  He looked exactly the same except for the hair, which was now long and in a ponytail.  He was a short fella, funny and well read.  How cool was it that we happened to have all these connections, and then just run into each other at my own birthday party?

I was having the best time!

As the day wore on and guests began to leave, I was looking forward to spending a little more time with the girl I liked.  The only issue:  Craig didn’t seem to want to leave.  Worse, he was really making conversation with my crush.  A little too much conversation.

I sat there smiling, helplessly thinking of something to do.  I suggested that I wanted to eat, and I think he helped himself to stay for pizza or whatever we ordered.  I didn’t want to be rude.  I was on my best behaviour in front of my crush.  She was a strong independent woman and there was no way I was going to hint that I was jealous.  Inside, I was Hulk-green.

I whispered to Aaron, “Is this guy ever going to leave?”  He shrugged.  He didn’t know what to do either.

Craig clearly didn’t know about or appreciate the hard work I had been laying these last few weeks.  Hell, I was waiting for something to happen with crush girl for months!  I knew she was not going to last with Nick.  She called me to complain about him often enough.  He was too clingy.  I was playing a long game.  I’d been a sympathetic ear a long time.  She flat out told me that if she met me before him, it would have been different.  And Craig was sticking his nose in all my patience!

I know that I said earlier that I was trying to give it time out of respect for the other guy, before I made a move.  I know that sounds contradictory to the idea of a long game I had been playing for months.  It’s not really.  There’s a certain code of conduct you had to respect.  It was all very complex and mathematical.  Having discussed it with Aaron, I was convinced three weeks was the minimum amount of time I had to wait before I asked her on a date.  There was also the small matter of stumbling over my words and not knowing at all how to ask her out.  I had a serious inhibition there, stuttering and fumbling and turning back.

Extreme had a single called “Tragic Comic” that, ironically, I made a cassette tape of for the birthday girl sharing the party with me that exact dame day.  And that song has the line I really identified with:  “I’m a stut-tut-terring p-poet.”

It was dark out before Craig finally left, having failed in his quest to sway my crush his way.  I decided that was to be our first and last meeting!  My day began on such a high, and ended with me tense and frustrated.  We all headed our separate ways, and I went to bed brooding.

Time was up.  She wasn’t going to wait forever.  (In fact, she didn’t — little did I know, she banged some other guy a couple weeks earlier.  I think he rode a motorcycle, or something.  But I didn’t know.)  I finally worked myself up, said something stupid, she said yes, and I danced around the house playing air guitar.

It was so simple in hindsight.  All I had to do was be myself.  She already liked me, pimples and all.  So we dated that summer and it was awesome!  On one of my first lunch dates with my new girl, we were at an outdoor patio in Elora, and that was the first time I ever heard “Sign of the Southern Cross” by Black Sabbath.  Yes, on an outdoor patio on a lunch date in Elora.  Who else can make that claim?  It was a good summer; nay a great summer.  The year I turned 23 will always be burned into my memory.  The birthday I got 2112, and met Craig the attempted-wicked-woman-stealer.  Pretty summer-defining events!

 

REVIEW: Rulers of Rock – Various Artists (1988 cassette)

RULERS OF ROCK (1988 PolyTel)

When the front cover features crumbled tinfoil, you know you’re in for a seriously good time.

This tape still sounds amazing!  It was a gift 30 years ago from an old girlfriend, and it somehow survived all my cassette purges (even the one that sent most of them to Thunder Bay.)

From the fine folks at PolyTel, you get an assortment of hot rock that makes for a remarkably good listen today.  Opening with Bon Jovi’s “Living on a Prayer” you couldn’t ask for a better embarkation point.  That goes right into the back-to-basics brilliance of “Love Removal Machine” by the Cult.  I remember that old girlfriend really hated The Cult, so it was kind of her to give this to me.  I didn’t have Electric yet, so this was my first ownership of the song.

The Ozzman cometh on “The Ultimate Sin”, still relentless today even though Ozzy tries to ignore most of the Ultimate Sin era.  Ozzy and Jake made some incredible music together and this is one.  The cassette swings back towards hair metal with Cinderella and their early hit “Nobody’s Fool” from 1986.  On tape, the ballad sounds thicker and heavier.  It also appears to be the full length version and not a single edit.  Up next, it’s the non-metal of The Alarm, but “Rain in the Summertime” fits like a glove.  It’s really no softer than “Living on a Prayer” when you think about it.  Unfortunately the cassette has a warbly spot right in the middle of the song.  Kiss close the side with the softest one yet:  “Reason to Live” from Crazy Nights.

Flipping the tape, side two opens with a hit just about equal to the one that commenced side one.  The keyboards sound carpet-deep on tape, as you recognise “The Final Countdown” by Europe.  If there were only two bands battling for rock supremacy in 1987, it was Bon Jovi vs. Europe.  Side one vs side two!

Our first Canadian content is predictably by Rush.  Hey, it had to be either Rush or Bryan Adams.  “Time Stand Still” featuring Aimee Mann was the kind of mainstream hit perfect for a tape like this.  Less predictable is the presence of Yngwie Malmsteen with “Fire” from Trilogy, a song totally out of character for a tape with The Alarm and Cinderella.  Deep Purple are next to crash the party with 1987’s Bad Attitude.  Once again, it was my first time owning a song.  I imagine Deep Purple with a little less shocking next to Yngwie, though probably just as unfamiliar to an unsuspecting buyer.

Why not a little Christian content, since so many styles of rock are represented here?  Stryper’s “Honestly” may sound like a romance, but it’s a cleverly disguised prayer.  And finally, because why not? It’s “Hourglass” by Squeeze!  I was 17 years old, and I hated it!  Different story today.

30 years down the road, Rulers of Rock was a delightfully entertaining listen with twists, turns and surprises.  And it’s still the only place I own those Squeeze and Alarm songs!

4/5 stars

 

 

Just Listening to…RUSH – R40 Live

Welcome to Just Listening!  This is a new series of shorts, just talking about whatever I happen to be listening to at any given time!  These are not reviews, just a few words.  Join me have a listen?


Just Listening to…RUSH – R40 Live

I’ve been meaning to get to this release for a long time.  It’s been sitting here sealed since…a few Christmases ago?  Sometimes I don’t get around to reviewing these massive sets for a while due to the time you need to invest.  This one got lost in a pile, lonely and unloved. Because it has 3 CDs and a Blu-ray, I set it aside for a viewing day that never came!  Since the eventual full-on detailed review will take time, R40 Live is the perfect release for us to talk about for this first instalment of Just Listening!

Eddie Trunk recently complimented Geddy Lee on how great he sounded on the R40 tour.  I gotta say…and don’t hate on me for this…I disagree.  Geddy’s voice is the biggest stumbling block to my full enjoyment of R40.  Rush haters always rag on Geddy’s voice, but as age takes its toll, it’s really not a pleasant voice anymore.  He does better on some songs, worse on others.  Musically Rush is still top notch and you can’t detect any signs of physical ailment even though all three guys are in pain up there.

Rush knew that their time was up if they wanted people to remember them as the best band from the Great White North.  So they packed the set with all kinds of great songs, going backwards from the most recent to the oldest.  My favourite was “Losing It”, performed live for the first time ever!  This is how you do a final tour.  Shine a light on every part of your career and pick songs that are not just hits, but true album classics.  Are you listening, Kiss?

CD 1

1. “The World Is…The World Is…” 2:11
2. “Workin’ Them Angels/The Anarchist” 7:07
3. “Headlong Flight/Drumbastica” 8:45
4. “Far Cry” 5:31
5. “The Main Monkey Business” 6:07
6. “How It Is” 4:45
7. “Animate” 6:15
8. “Roll the Bones” 6:05
9. “Between the Wheels” 5:58
10. “Losing It” (with Ben Mink) 5:55
11. “Subdivisions” 5:48

CD 2

1. “Tom Sawyer” (Peart, Lee, Lifeson, Pye Dubois) 4:59
2. “YYZ” (Lee, Peart) 4:41
3. “The Spirit of Radio” 5:03
4. “Natural Science” 8:31
5. “Jacob’s Ladder” 7:34
6. “Cygnus X-1 Book II: Hemispheres: Prelude” 4:19
7. “Cygnus X-1 Book I: The Voyage: Part I/The Story So Far (drum solo)/Part III” 9:21
8. “Closer to the Heart” (Peart, Lee, Lifeson, Peter Talbot) 3:07
9. “Xanadu” 10:39
10. “2112: Part I (“Overture”)/Part II (“The Temples of Syrinx”)/Part IV (“Presentation”)/Part VII (“Grand Finale”)” 12:15

CD 3

1. “Lakeside Park/Anthem” 5:29
2. “What You’re Doing/Working Man” (Lee, Lifeson) 9:35
Bonus
1. “One Little Victory” 5:47
2. “Distant Early Warning” 5:24
3. “Red Barchetta” 7:08
4. “Clockwork Angels” 7:46
5. “The Wreckers” 5:39
6. “The Camera Eye” 10:21
7. “Losing It” (with Jonathan Dinklage) 6:13

#726: Misplaced

GETTING MORE TALE #726:  Misplaced

I lost my favourite flash drive.  It’s around here somewhere.  Maybe I left it in a shirt pocket that ended up in the laundry.  Flash drives can survive a go in the wash, that’s no big deal.  It has 32 gig of various music on it, and it’s my handy dandy go-anywhere music solution.  Most recently it had the complete studio albums of Black Sabbath, Van Halen, Deep Purple, and many more.  Losing it (temporarily we hope) meant putting some tunes on another flash drive instead.

This time, I loaded it up with some AC/DC, Faith No More, Led Zeppelin, Rush, Joe Satriani, Whitesnake, and more.  Jen had a day of errands to run, so I decided to use a vacation day and help her out.

Our first mission, for most people, was no big deal.  In the lives of Mike and Jen, it requires planning and preparation:  getting your photo ID at Service Ontario.  You know those lovely pictures that look like mug shots because you’re not allowed to smile or show any facial expression at all?  Those are an obstacle and a half for Jen.  Why?  Because she’s epileptic and can’t have her photo taken with a flash.  Just another day in the Mike and Jen Show.

Since this wasn’t her first rodeo, Jen knew what to do.  She learned the hard way last time.  I know what you’re thinking.  “Why don’t they just take a photo without a flash?”  They can’t.  Those cameras are hooked up in such a way that they cannot turn the flash off.  Last time Jen had to do this, the staff at Service Ontario were absolutely stunned.  This time, we called in advance and booked an appointment.  Jen told them of her condition and made sure that they were prepared for her.  Then she went to Walmart and had some photos taken without a flash.  We picked the most bland-faced one of the bunch, and she had it printed up in various sizes and finishes so we’d have lots of options.

“Print it?” you’re asking.  “Why not just give them a card with the pictures on it?”  Yeah, they can’t do that either.  So what we do, and it’s quite ingenious, is take the Walmart photo and tape it where you’d normally stand to have your picture taken.  Then, they take a picture of that, while Jen looks away.  It took a few tries but we got her photo ID today with no hassles.  That was a first for Jen!  Mission accomplished.

Then we hit the road for Mission #2.  I loaded Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap up on the flash drive.  The mission this time was really simple.  We were going to visit Jen’s best friend Lara in Brampton for lunch.  It was a lovely day for a drive and AC/DC kept my pedal to the metal.  We both had a chuckle at the lyrics to Big Balls, with me remembering what it was like to be 10 years old and laughing every time Bon Scott said “balls”.

When Dirty Deeds ended, I threw on Rush’s Moving Pictures.  On a recent episode of Eddie Trunk’s radio show, Geddy Lee left no doubt that Rush is over.  Neil Peart has not only retired from Rush, he said, but from drumming altogether.  The physical toll that those 40 years took on Peart’s body means he needed a permanent vacation.  Rush will never play again.  That was running through my mind when I selected Moving Pictures, but soon I was immersed, rushed down “the river” like a modern day Tom Sawyer.

We picked a cheap steak place for lunch called Chuck’s roadhouse.  Surf & turf for $20?  Sure, I’ll try anything once.  Better than a fast food burger.  My steak was overdone but I haven’t had a lobster tail in years!  The sweet taste of lobster and salty butter was almost too much to bear.  I could have cried with joy.  Lobster is the ocean’s steak.  That was the easiest $20 to spend, ever.  I’d go back; maybe next time the steak won’t be over cooked!

We had a great lunch.  Jen broke a plate, but like a true friend, Lara took the blame.  We dropped her back off at work and headed home to Led Zeppelin’s In Through the Out Door.  It’s a quirky one and that’s why I love it.

As we rocked to “Fool in the Rain”, Jen remarked on how much her musical taste had improved over the last 10 years.  “I’ll always love Nirvana and Stone Temple Pilots, but now I like Led Zeppelin too.”  Hey, I’m glad to have been a positive influence!

I think every music fan likes to share their favourites and hope it connects with somebody else.  The car is my favourite place to do that.  Thanks, Zep!

 

#719: Mystery Disc

GETTING MORE TALE #719: Mystery Disc

Cleaning out Jen’s mom’s house after she passed away was very emotional work.  Nobody’s been living there since July.  One day she got up and broke her hip.  We didn’t know it yet but the cancer was in her bones.  She never came home again.  When we started working on the house in September, everything was more or less how she left it.

Her music collection was small with a few gems.  One disc that I kept was Cat Stevens’ Icon.  I had to take it for “If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out.”  As told in Getting More Tale #702, that song seemed to make a connection with me when she was sick.  One day we went to see her in the hospital, and she was unconscious.  No longer able to communicate.  That song was stuck in my head for reasons I can’t explain.  I like to think she was sending me a message.  Not to be sad.  It would have been like her to say that to me.  I get tears in my eyes thinking about her lying there dying, and that song playing on repeat in my head.  I had the song played at her funeral.  It just seemed like such a “mum” song, even though I have no memories of us ever listening to it together.  When I found out that she actually owned that song, I got the chills again.  Finding Cat Stevens made my heart swell.

We also found a number of CD-Rs that I made, but had no labels or covers.  For today’s chapter I’m focusing on one specifically.  I can’t figure out why I made it, or who I made it for, or what it was doing at Jen’s mom’s house!

It is a lightscribe CD, and burned into the top is the old background from my website.  It’s a photo of some model guitars and guitar picks.  The 15 song track listing is most bizarre and I can’t figure out what I was doing!

Track 1:  Craig Fee saying “LeBraaaain”.  This dates the CD to 2012 at the earliest.  I liked to introduce my CDs with something amusing, so this works.

Tracks 2-4:  “Whiskey in the Jar”.  The first is Metallica’s studio cover from Garage Inc.  The second is Thin Lizzy’s take from 1972.  Last is a live Metallica version, possibly from the CD single.  That’s a lot of whiskey – 15 solid minutes worth.  Listening back, the Metallica live version absolutely kills their studio cut.  Yeah-hah!

Track 5:  Steve Earle – “Home to Houston”.  This track is from Steve’s political 2004 album The Revolution Starts Now.  I haven’t played that album in years and I don’t remember this song.  Why it stuck out enough to put it on this mystery disc, I haven’t a clue.  Good tune, but I don’t know it anymore!

Track 6:  Jeff Bridges & Colin Ferrel – “Fallin’ & Flyin'” from the 2010 soundtrack Crazy Heart.  Now, memories are starting to form.  I can remember driving around with Jen and her mom, listening to this song in my car.  Did I make this CD for her mom?  If so, why the Metallica?

Track 7:  Johnny Cash – “The Man Comes Around”.  One of the greatest Cash songs, from the best American album in my opinion.  Goosebumps, still to this day.  Jen and I love Cash and had him played at our wedding.

Track 8:  Me doing a song intro!  The backing track sounds like Motorhead’s acoustic version of “Ace of Spades” with the main lick looped and no vocals.  I made this for a past Sausagefest countdown!  The track I’m introducing:  “Renegade” by Styx!  I mention that it was covered by Daughtry and then add sound effects of Nicko McBrain burping and farting.  I have to admit it’s a pretty great (and funny) intro!  It was #30 on the 2013 countdown.  From that I can now assume I made this CD the same year.  Which is strange because I wasn’t really making mix CDs anymore in 2013.

Track 9 is a personal favourite, “Rock An’ Roll Angels” from Whitesnake’s 1982 album Saints & Sinners.  I’ve always been into rock and roll songs with boogie woogie piano. I have loved this song for three decades.  Then Track 10, another Whitesnake classic:  “Slow An’ Easy” from the landmark classic Slide It In.  That’s another personal fave, because of the slide riff.  It’s incredible and I spent many hours as a teenager playing air slide to it.  Not to mention air drums!  Cozy Powell was so fucking cool.

Then more slide!  Track 11:  The Black Crowes – “Twice as Hard”.  I was clearly trying to make the CD flow.  Indeed I used to spend hours shuffling track order until I had it “just right”.  With all this slide business going on, I wonder if the next song is going to be some “Travelling Riverside Blues”?

Nope!  A total surprise to me, Track 12 is The Tragically Hip!  “50 Mission Cap” is Jen’s favourite, for reasons you’ll understand.

Bill Barilko disappeared that summer,
He was on a fishing trip.
The last goal he ever scored,
Won the Leafs the cup.
They didn’t win another till nineteen sixty two,
The year he was discovered.
I stole this from a hockey card,
I keep tucked up under.

I think the lyrics are brilliant because they tell two stories at once.  First, they tell the true tale of Toronto Maple Leaf Bill Barilko, who tragically died in a plane crash in a remote part of Quebec.  Nobody knew what happened to him until his body was found 11 years later.  The second tale is that of a young Gord Downie who read about it on the back of a hockey card.

Track 13 is another surprise:  “The Boys are Back in Town” by Bon Jovi!  Don’t scoff, this is actually a really good Thin Lizzy cover from their New Jersey period.  Lyrically, Jon and Phil Lynott were on similar wavelengths.  This is exactly the kind of tune that Jon was writing.  “Wild in the Streets” is Bon Jovi trying to re-write “The Boys are Back in Town”.

Track 14:  “Big Foot” from Chickenfoot III.  Gotta be one of my favourite car tunes.  “Got Houses Of The Holy on the box, got it all cranked up cause, yeah! That shit rocks!”  What a groove — you can’t help but stomp along.  Joe Satriani has a way with a riff.

I had a guess that Track 15 was going to be all of side one of 2112.  The track time was over 20 minutes, so I had an inkling it was either that or side two of Abbey Road.  I’ve ended mix CDs with 20 minute epics before, and I think it works.  The Beatles did it!  Granted, the 2112 epic was a side one, but it still functions perfectly in the closing position.  Try it yourself!

Listening to this mystery disc has been enjoyable, but my reasoning still escapes me.  It’s such a bizarre mix, with the front loaded threesome of “Whiskey in the Jar”.  From there it starts to make a little more sense.  But how it did it end up at “mum’s” house?

My best theory is that I made it as a gift for Jen’s Uncle Rick, and it never got mailed.  He lived in Texas at the time — maybe that’s why I included “Home to Houston”.  Rick is also a Whitesnake fan, and a Toronto Maple Leafs fan.  I’m just not sure.

How would you rate this mix CD if you were the recipient?  I think I’d give it a solid:

4/5 stars

 

REVIEW: Rush – A Farewell to Kings (2017 super deluxe edition)

RUSH – A Farewell to Kings (2017 Anthem 3CD/1 Blu-ray/4 LP super deluxe edition, originally 1977)

And the men who hold high places,
Must be the ones who start,
To mold a new reality,
Closer to the heart,
Closer to the heart.

Today’s rock fans have a new reality of their own:  a market flood of “anniversary” or “deluxe” reissues far and wide.  The floodwaters are murkier when multiple editions of the same reissue are available, or when reissues are deleted in favour of new reissues!

2017 represents 40 years of Rush’s fine sixth album A Farewell to Kings.  An anniversary edition was guaranteed, but choose wisely.  For those who need the brilliant new 5.1 mix by Steven Wilson, you will have to save up for the 3CD/1 Blu-ray/4 LP super deluxe edition.  Only that massive box set contains the Blu-ray disc with Wilson’s mix.

To frustrate fans even further, A Farewell to Kings had a 5.1 reissue back in 2011, as part of the Sector 2 box set.  That 5.1 mix (by Andy VanDette) has received heavy scrutiny from audiophiles.  Steven Wilson, however, is well known for his work in the 5.1 field, and his work on the 40th anniversary mix lives up to his reputation.  His crisp mix is deep but unobtrusive.  It is occasionally surprising but always stunning, and over seemingly way too soon.  The separation of instruments is done with care, and without robbing the music of its power.  Rush albums were fairly sparse back then but Wilson managed to make a full-sounding mix out of it.

Powerful is A Farewell to Kings indeed.  Though the title track opens with gentle classical picking, before long you’re in the craggy peaks of Mount Lifeson, with heavy shards of guitar coming down.  Young Geddy’s range and vibrato are remarkable, though for some this is the peak of Geddy’s “nails on a chalkboard” period.

11 minutes of “Xanadu” follows the trail of Kublai Khan.  “For I have dined on honeydew, and drunk the milk of paradise!”  Neil Peart’s lyrics rarely go down typical roads, and “Xanadu” surely must be listed with Rush’s most cherished epics.  Volume swells of guitar soon break into new sections unfolding as the minutes tick by.

“Closer to the Heart” is the most commercial track, never dull, never getting old, never ceasing to amaze.  “Woah-oh!  You can be the captain and I will draw the chart!”  Poetry in motion.  “Closer to the Heart” may be the most timeless of all Rush songs.

“Cinderella Man” and “Madrigal” live in the shadow of “Closer to the Heart”, always there but not always remembered.  (Ironically enough, both these tracks were covered by other artists in the bonus tracks.)  “Madrigal” acts as a calm before the storm:  a cosmic tempest called “Cygnus X-1”.  Another great space epic by Rush cannot be quantified in language.  As it swirls around (even better in 5.1), you’re transported across the universe by the black hole Cygnus X-1.  Peart hammers away as Lifeson and Geddy riff you senseless.


The blacksmith and the artist,
Reflect it in their art,
They forge their creativity,
Closer to the heart,
Yes closer to the heart.

Next, Rush forged their creativity on the road.  They recorded their London show on February 20, 1978 at the Hammersmith Odeon.  Previously, 11 songs from this show were released as a bonus CD on the live Rush album Different Stages.  This newly mixed version adds intro music, the missing three songs and the drum solo.  (The missing songs were “Lakeside Park”, “Closer to the Heart”, and all 20 minutes of “2112”.)  Because this set has all the songs in the correct order, the old Different Stages version is obsolete.

Opening with “Bastille Day”, the London crowd is into the show from the start.  They cheer for the familiar “Lakeside Park”, which is followed by “By-Tor & the Snow Dog”.  This early Rush material is as squealy as Geddy has ever sounded.  He’s pretty shrill but Rush are tight.  It gets more adventurous when “Xanadu” begins, and from there into “A Farewell to Kings”.  Hearing Rush do all this live helps drive home just how talented they are.  The powerful set rarely lets up, as it relentlessly works its way through early Rush cornerstones.  “Working Man”, “Fly By Night” and “In the Mood” are played in quick succession, but is “2112” that is the real treasure here.  Anthems of the heart and anthems of the mind; classics all.


Philosophers and plowmen,
Each must know his part,
To sow a new mentality,
Closer to the heart,
Yes, closer to the heart.

What about bonus tracks?  You got ’em.  As they did for 2112, Rush invited guests to contribute bonus covers, and each does their part.  Headlining these are progressive metal heroes Dream Theater with their own version of “Xanadu”.  Dream Theater really don’t do anything small, so why not an 11 minute cover?  Mike Mangini is one of the few drummers who could do justice to such a song — well done!  Big Wreck do a surprisingly decent take on “Closer to the Heart”.  Not “surprisingly” because of Big Wreck, but “surprisingly” because you don’t associate Big Wreck with a sound like that.  Ian Thornley ads a little banjo and heavy guitars to “Wreck” it up a bit.  His guitar solo is shredder’s heaven.  The Trews’ take on “Cinderella Man” is pretty authentic.  Did you know singer Colin MacDonald could hit those high notes?  He does!  Alain Johannes goes last with “Madrigal”, rendering it as a somber tribute to the kings.

The last of the bonus tracks is a snippet of sound called “Cygnus X-2 Eh”.  This is an extended and isolated track of the ambient space sounds in “Cygnus X-1”.  Steven Wilson speculated it might have been intended for a longer version of the song.


Whoa-oh!
You can be the captain,
And I will draw the chart,
Sailing into destiny,
Closer to the heart.

Box sets like this always come with bonus goodies.  The three CDs are packaged in a standard digipack with extensive liner notes and photos.  Four 180 gram LPs are housed in an upsized version of this, with the same booklet in massive 12″ x 12″ glory.  The LP package alone is 3/4″ thick!

A reproduction of the 1977 tour program is here in full glossy glory.  This contains an essay called “A Condensed Rush Primer” by Neil.  Additionally, all three members have their own autobiographical essay and equipment breakdown.  Alex Lifeson’s is, not surprisingly, pretty funny.  Things like this make a tour program more valuable and as a bonus, this is a great addition to a box set.  Digging further, there are two prints of Hugh Syme pencil sketches.  These works in progress are interesting but it’s unlikely you’ll look at them often.  The turntable mat is also just a novelty.  Perhaps the goofiest inclusion is a little black bag containing a necklace with a Rush “king’s ring” attached to it.  Wear it to work next casual Friday!


Whatever edition of A Farewell to Kings you decide to own (the most logical is the simple 3 CD anniversary set), you can rest assured you are buying one of the finest early Rush albums.  If you have the wherewithall to own the super deluxe with 5.1 Steven Wilson mix, then let the photo gallery below tempt you.

4.5/5 stars

#665: Rant Random II: A Canadian Complaint

A sequel to Getting More Tale #509:  Rant Random

 

 

GETTING MORE TALE#665: Rant Random II: A Canadian Complaint

Saturday, March 3 2018 was a gorgeous afternoon.  Because I had been on the radio from 12:30 to 2:30 am, I didn’t get out that morning.  I usually like to run my errands before noon on the weekends if possible, when things are less busy.  I needed my beauty sleep that day.  That’s how I keep my youthful looks after all.

With the windows down, I hit “play” on Rush’s Clockwork Angels and headed out.  The sound of “The Wreckers” filled my speakers.  Stop #1 was McDonalds.  The parking lot was pretty full so I knew they’d be busy, but what I saw upon entry really pissed me off.

You know those kiosk terminals you can order from now?  My McDonalds has four.  And all four were being taken up by a single family.  A mom, a dad, and two young children were all ordering separately…and slowly.

“Mommy!  Mommy!  What do I push now?” said the young girl, as her mom was ordering for herself.  “Here sweety,” she said as she paused her own order to help the child.  On the other side, dad was doing the same for the son, who couldn’t figure out how to order.  Then, they all passed around a debit card so they could each pay.  I stood there at the front of a loose “line”, watching this unfold in agonisingly slow detail.

As soon as the little girl finished on her terminal, I jumped on, to emphasise my pissed-off-ness.

Parents:  It’s really nice that you used a Saturday at lunch hour rush to teach your children (separately) how to order from a McDonalds terminal, but don’t you think there are better lessons to learn?  Such as how to take turns and share something?

Back to the car with the food, and back to Clockwork Angels with windows down.  Next up:  first single, “Headlong Flight”.  I drove over to Tim Horton’s to get Jennifer a coffee.  Yes, they serve coffee at McDonalds (and some would say better coffee) but I had to make a special stop because Mrs. LeBrain does not drink anything but Horton’s.  And it was a nice day, and a great album to hear with the windows down.

My second complaint of the day, and a frequent one:  if you’re in the drive-through at Tim Horton’s, and it’s busy, don’t leave an entire car length between you and the car in front of you.  There’s nothing more frustrating than being next in line, but not being able to get close enough to the speaker to order.  If the guy in front had just moved ahead a few feet (he had plenty of room) this wouldn’t be an issue.

So I rolled down the windows a little further and let the parking lot hear some “Wish You Well” from Clockwork Angels.  That’s Geddy Lee and he’s a national treasure, people.

Coffee in hand, I headed back home with Geddy, Neil and Alex.  Not a bad album to go out on, by the way.  If you have to retire it’s nice to be able to go out on a high note like Rush did.  It felt like a very Canadian afternoon — out celebrating a warm day in March; always a joy when it happens.  It’s great to be Canadian, where the biggest complaint you have is about the line at Tim Horton’s.  Keeping our minor peeves in perspective, let’s be glad to be Canadian.

#661: Cancer Chronicles 10 – The “Firepower” of Positivity

Only good news today. Mrs. LeBrain just met with Dr. Sugimoto, for what is likely to be the very last time. “Dr. Sugi” inspected her incision and is very happy not only with how it’s looking, but how well Jen has managed since her surgery almost two months ago. She’s been out and about every day for the last few weeks, sometimes even by herself. She’s getting stronger. Personally I think she’s stronger now than she was before the surgery.

“Dr. Sugi” says we don’t have to come to London anymore.  He is satisfied that Jen has kicked cancer’s ass.  No more trips to London, and sadly, no more Dr. Sugimoto.  It’s been an emotional time and we’ve grown very attached to him.  It’s weird to say, but we will all miss him.

The drive down to London was a piece of cake. Rush’s A Farewell to Kings was the soundtrack. I don’t know how it’s possible but she fell asleep during “Cygnus X-1”. For the trip home, I chose All The World’s A Stage. She was blown away by Peart’s legendary drum solo.

Remaining positive in the face of adversity is not easy, But Jen has managed to do it. She gets up each day and kicks ass, and looks forward to doing it again the next day. We still struggle knowing we cannot have kids, but being alive and healthy is so much more important than that. It really is. Her positive attitude through this has been inspiring. I hope readers have gained that much from her.

We had one errand to run on the way home.  As you hopefully already know, March 9 is the release date of Judas Priest’s brand new Firepower album!  I ran in and out of the mall in less than five minutes — I am the man!  The deluxe edition of Firepower is in my happy hands.  Rock journalist Mitch Lafon says it’s already his #1 album of 2018.  Time to put Firepower to the test!

#645: Catching Up

GETTING MORE TALE #645: Catching Up

The last couple months were pretty crazy.  I was clocked out.  My wife’s cancer diagnosis and surgery really took their toll on me.  This resulted in me getting very sick right during Christmas holidays.  There has been so much chaos that I really haven’t paid attention to music.  I neglected my reading, I didn’t buy anything, and I didn’t listen to much either.  I’m just starting to get caught up now that Jen’s surgery seems to have gone so well.  She’s getting a little more independence back, and I’m able to take a little time to listen to music and write about it again.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about my history with the band Queen.  I am on a Queen kick, but until recently I was missing two of Queen’s discs in the 2 CD format:  Hot Space and A Kind of Magic.  Eager to get back into the game, I ordered both from Amazon on a whim.  I’m surprised how much I’m enjoying Hot Space.  You wouldn’t think those synths and I would get along, but I’m digging the soul!  I already owned one version of A Kind of Magic, the 1991 Hollywood CD, but the extra disc has seven bonus tracks.

Soon after, the new CD by Mike Slayen called DUDE came by the post.  That enjoyed a couple spins, but I really wanted to go shopping again.  I haven’t been to a record store since the stress kicked in.  I had no idea what I was going in for, but I wanted to leave with a purchase.  There have been plenty of new releases that I missed, and reissues too.  The problem with new releases is, I don’t like to buy anything until I know what is on the Japanese version.  I want the maximum amount of bonus music.  So I decided to look at reissues instead and skip new releases.  Fortunately for me there was plenty going on in reissues.

Big Wreck’s 20th Anniversary edition of their debut In Loving Memory Of… was my first grab.  I didn’t think it was going to have bonus tracks on it, but it does:  “Ill Advice” and “Still Holding”.  I used to love that album, and I don’t know those two songs, so that was an easy buy.  For those who don’t know this band, check out the big single “That Song”.  Other hits you may know from this album are “The Oaf (My Luck is Wasted)” and “Under the Lighthouse”.

I then spied the recent 40th Anniversary edition of Rush’s classic A Farewell to Kings.  The 3 CD set was $30, so I tucked it under my arm.  Then I thought to myself, “You know what, I’d better check to make sure there isn’t another edition with more songs.”  Good thing I did.  Blabbermouth told me that there was a version with a brand new 5.1 surround mix by Steven Wilson on a blu-ray.  OK, then.  That had to be the one I get.  Via the Sectors box sets and other super deluxe editions, I already had every other Rush 5.1 mix.

How much?

$149.99.

Ahh, fuck it.  I earned this.

3 CDs, 1 blu-ray, and 4 LPs of vinyl, plus assorted goodies like a Rush turntable mat, a tour program and lithographs.  The CDs and vinyl include an unreleased (in full) concert, Live at Hammersmith Odeon – February 20, 1978.  A portion of this concert (11 tracks) was released in 1998 on a bonus CD to Rush’s live Different Stages.  This box set has the full 14 song (plus drum solo) performance, newly mixed by Terry Brown himself.  On blu-ray you will find the 5.1 and the stereo mix of the album A Farewell to Kings, in studio-quality clarity, plus three music videos.  Mixer Steven Wilson is generally considered one of the great masters of the 5.1 art.  The Sector 2 mix by Richard Chycki received a mixed to negative reception from fans, so I look forward to comparing.

And there’s still more:  new Rush covers by Dream Theater, Big Wreck (hey, Big Wreck again!), The Trews and Alain Johannes.  Plus a final mystery bonus track called “Cygnus X-2 Eh!”

It’s going to be fun digging into the Rush over  the next week or so.  But I wasn’t done catching up.  Because of all the shit that happened, I didn’t get to see Star Wars in the theatres.  Yes, I’m sorry folks, I’ll admit it:  Until now I only saw The Last Jedi online.  This, of course, could not stand.  I must see every Star Wars Saga film in the theatre three times, minimum.  For The Force Awakens, it was four.  Fortunately the Waterloo Galaxy still had a 3D screening, which has disappeared elsewhere in town.  Now I just have to see it two more times (2D will do fine).

I still have quite a few issues with The Last Jedi.  The slow motion is annoying as hell, and the Finn/Rose side story is still just a side story.  The ending is still at odds with set style of the saga Saga, and the movie could have used some editing.  In general I enjoyed the film more this time.  The Last Jedi is more poem than plot, but it has many rhymes.  I think it’s a fine Star Wars movie, and the fanboy overreaction is ridiculous.

Catching up feels great.  Music and movies still work as the best kind of escape.  I highly recommend both.

 

 

 

REVIEW: Max Webster – A Million Vacations (1979)

MAX WEBSTER – A Million Vacations (originally 1979, 2017 Anthem remaster)

Why are Max Webster still held in such high esteem by their devoted fanbase?  Possibly because they concocted an ideal mixture of humour and incredible playing and composition.  Much like Frank Zappa, Max Webster felt that humour does indeed belong in music.  It’s “smart kid rock” but never taking itself too seriously.  From playful musical sections to the words of lyricist Pye Dubois, Max could also be counted on to poke you in the ribs.

A Million Vacations is certainly one of their best albums, if not their absolute magnum opus, but that’s all a matter of opinion.  At this stage of the game, Max was really cooking.  The 10 songs within represent some peak level songwriting, and several are still on the radio today.  Through the airwaves, “Paradise Skies”, “Let Go the Line”, “A Million Vacations” and “Night Flights” might be speeding over Canada somewhere as you read this.

“Paradise Skies” indeed!  One of Max’s most immediate tracks is the party opener.  Total mainstream Max: catchy hooks, insane playing, and a chorus that’s ready to blast off.  Terry Watkinson’s “Charmonium” is more complex but no less catchy.  The keyboardist wrote the song and does the lead vocals as well.  Dig into those flurries of notes making up some tasty solo sections.  Losing no momentum, “Night Flights” keeps a jaunty pace.  Pye Dubois’ poem about the love of touring reminds us how important Pye was to the band.  How many bands have a touring lyricist?

Breaking the fun-loving character for just a moment, a day-dreamy “Sun Voices” has connections to the next songs, “Moon Voices” and “A Million Vacations”.  “In my chair, chaise lounge…” and how many songs can you think of with a chaise lounge in the words??  “Sun Voices” is a meditative poolside view.  Perhaps then the side-closing instrumental “Moon Voices” is the loud party, after the sun goes down?

“A Million Vacations” (written by drummer Gary McCracken and Pye Dubois) on side two is a party-ready Canadian summer anthem.  Part of being Canadian is hibernating for our cold, dark winters.  Once we have endured the freeze, and life returns with the spring thaw, it is like a celebration.  “A Million Vacations” has that feeling.  “Throwin’ out all kinds of fishing line, Friday Friday is a good time to shine.”  Yes indeed, hitting the outdoors is a Canadian weekend tradition in the summer time.

“Look Out” is an often forgotten buried gem.  The chorus is written around a catchy keyboard riff, which suddenly gives way to a conga jam.  It’s Max as only Max can do, daring but never fearing.  But side two’s centerpiece is undoubtedly the magnificent ballad “Let Go the Line”, with Watkinson back on lead vocals.  Kim Mitchell orchestrates a guitar chorus for the main instrument hook and it’s instant love.  For sheer smart pop songwriting, “Let Go the Line” is Max’s finest.  The new 2017 remaster from the recommended box set The Party really reveals a lot of nuance in the back that were hard or impossible to hear on previous CD editions.

Kim gets a little goofy with “Rascal Houdi”, an undeniable party rocker.  “I’m switching out, I’m out to lunch,” and it’s a teenage blast.  But the party finale, “Research (At Beach Resorts)” takes it to the max (pun intended).  “Line up crowds at the pavilion, Max is playing ‘Vacations'”.  It’s a beach party, and Max is “in Newport for research, to get abreast of things…”  What about Wasaga Beach on Georgian Bay?  Already taken care of, friends.  “We’ve just researched Wasaga Beach, bonfire pits at midnight.”  But what the heck are they “researching”?

“What is it that we stare at?
Is it the passports and campsite stars?
Or the monogrammed bikinis and cars?
Or maybe we just need some perspiration ’cause we’re frostbitten Canadian boys!”

There are few bands better than Max Webster, folks, and Max’s A Million Vacation is an easy album to love, so flip it over and play it again like I’m about to.

5/5 stars