rush

#808.5: “Rare Rush”

Many years ago…I think I was still living with my parents…there was an amazing website with mp3s of just about everything Rush that you could imagine.  The site went down soon after, and I was unable to download any full concerts.  What I did get was all the singles and bonus tracks they had available.

I burned these tracks to a double CD and called it Rare Rush.  I printed the tracklist on brown paper so it would somewhat match with Chronicles.

Most of these tracks are alternate versions, some from promo releases.  The website had all the details, so they are now lost.  However I know some of these are very special versions.  “The Weapon” is the famous single version featuring Count Floyd (Joe Flaherty).

 

The quality varies from track to track depending on the original source (some are from cassette).  All are interesting to obsessive Rush fans.

Who wants to read a review of Rare Rush?

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#808: Remembering Neil – Ten of his Best

Forever I’ll be grateful for Neil Peart.  If there was ever one shining example of a rock star you’d want to emulate, it was Neil Peart.  He was a giant.  Musically he was untouchable.  Considering Rush have 19 studio albums and other odds and ends in their discography, it’s a daunting task to make a list of the best.

Probably half the list fell together immediately.  The other half was agonizing.  Focusing on songs, not necessarily solos, made it a simpler task.  Any one of Neil’s big live solos are essential listening anyway.  “The Rhythm Method” on Different Stages comes highly recommended.

At one point I had nine tracks and needed one more.  I asked Facebook for help.  Facebook responded with so many great runners-up that I have to list them.

  • “War Paint” (T-Rev)
  • “The Pass” (Leo)
  • “Afterimage” (Leo)
  • “The Body Electric” (Jamie)
  • “Xanadu” (Jamie)
  • “Mystic Rhythms” (Jamie)
  • “Animate” (Jamie)
  • “Between the Wheels” (HMO)
  • All of Hemispheres (Uncle Meat)
  • “Natural Science” (Scotty G)

A good showing for Presto tunes there, notably.  T-Rev always loved that album.  Ultimately I used none of these suggestions and completed the list below.  A list that I believe are the 10 best songs to represent Neil Peart.

All of these songs (above and below) will enrich your lives.  Enjoy.  And rest in peace, Neil Peart OC (Order of Canada), one of our proudest native sons.


Novelty #11: 

The Hockey Theme

I use the term “novelty” with a caveat: really, only because the song is 70 seconds long.  Neil’s arrangement of the classic Hockey Night in Canada theme written by Dolores Claman deserves note as one of very few tracks credited to him as a solo artist.  This track shows off his roots and his ability to make anything sound heavy!  Yet dig in and listen to his meticulously arranged drum part.  He put just as much creativity into this as he did any of Rush’s originals.


#10:

“One Little Victory”

A victory indeed!  Neil suffered immeasurable tragedy in the late 1990s when he lost both his wife and daughter.  He disappeared on a motorcycle, remaining out of sight for five years, the wind on his back as he sought healing.  His return was “One Little Victory” from Vapor Trails with a crescendo of power drumming.  It’s Rush saying, “He’s back, baby.  The Professor is back!”


#9:

“Bravado”

This track from Roll the Bones is a personal favourite.  Well, they all are, but this one is for just one moment in time. At 3:50 of the song, Peart performs a drum roll that I can only describe as pure ecstasy.

And if the music stops, there’s only the sound of the rain.


#8:

“Red Sector A”

80s Rush rules! Neil was using more and more electronic percussion, but to no less lethal effect. Give this number from Grace Under Pressure a spin.  The programmed pulse of synth topped by the crashing clank of Neil’s electronic drums give this track a digital, otherworldly feeling.  By this time, Peart’s cymbal work was just as interesting as what he was doing elsewhere on the kit.  Listen to him ride that beat and accent it with the perfect touch.


#7:

“The Spirit of Radio”

This enduring track from Permanent Waves is a lyrical and rhythmic triumph.  It’s easy for cynics to mock descriptive phrases like “Invisible airwaves crackle with life, bright antennae bristle with the energy.”  But there is no denying the truth that is “Emotional feedback on a timeless wavelength, bearing a gift beyond price, almost free.”  Music.


#6:

“Cygnus X-1”

A Farewell to Kings was Rush during their progressive peak, a stream of albums with side-long concepts.  “Cygnus X-1” utilises such Peart favourites as bells.  And it’s 11 minutes about a black hole.


#5:

“Cotton Tail”

In 1994, Neil Peart organized the Buddy Rich tribute album Burning For Buddy, uniting the Buddy Rich Big Band with drummers such as Dave Weckl, Steve Smith, Matt Sorum, Simon Phillips, and of course Neil with his debut in the jazz section.  His groove on “Cotton Tail” is unlike anything he’s done in Rush. It’s unreal that he could master both rock and jazz like this.


#4:

“Vital Signs”

80s Rush rules!  Introducing reggae vibes seems natural in hindsight given Neil’s willingness to explore new rhythms.  Peart’s creativity knew no bounds.  His delicate touch on the Police-like “Vital Signs” (from Moving Pictures) is so good that it should probably be higher on this list.  But there are some key tracks still to come.


#3:

“YYZ”

Rush’s most famous instrumental.  This number showcases all three of Rush’s members.  Of course Neil Peart’s drums are in integral part of it all.  And there’s a reason they call him “The Professor”.  According to minds more musical than mine, “The piece’s introduction, played in a time signature of 10/8, repeatedly renders “Y-Y-Z” in Morse Code using various musical arrangements.”


#2:

“Subdivisions”

This track from Signals exemplifies Neil’s philosophy of drums as an active part of the composition of a song.  Every beat matters; everything the stick hits is a hook.  Never before have the drums been so integral a part of what makes a song truly great.


#1:

“Tom Sawyer”

The quintessential Neil Peart song.  Iconic, untouchable.  Barenaked Ladies even quoted his famous drum part in their song “Grade Nine”. When people think of Rush 100 years from now, it’ll be the image of them jamming “Tom Sawyer” at Le Studio, with Neil framed by that big window and snowy landscape behind.

 

 


Epilogue:  Meanwhile, in England…

Sarge from the piercing shop Metal Fatigue in Bournemouth tells us “I have been listening to Rush…ALL DAY.  Really loud.  He added, “I did 40-odd piercings today with that soundtrack!!”  Absolutely brilliant.

The Ghost Rider is Gone – Rest in Peace Neil Peart (1952-2020)

“Endlessly rocking…”

 

This afternoon I was in the mood for some Rush music.  It had been a while.  Maybe a month since I last played Rush.  Signals, I chose.  A personal favourite.  Still craving more, I picked the followup album Grace Under Pressure.  That complete, I finally, and strangely, went for Vapor Trails.  I say “strangely” because Vapor Trails was a special album for Neil Peart.  After suffering the terrible twin tragedies of losing his daughter and his wife, Neil Peart took a step back from music to take care of himself.  There was a time in the late 90s and early 2000s when the reality was that there wasn’t a Rush.  And we weren’t sure if there ever would be one again.  But then Neil made a pretty epic comeback on Vapor Trails and I like to think of it as “his” album in my mind.

The fortitude of the man, to come back after such loss, was inspiring.  What strength.

Halfway through Vapor Trails, during the track “Secret Touch”, this happened.

The greatest rock drummer of all time…

Is gone.

Like a vapor trail.

I say “greatest of all time” because I can, confidently.  There will be those who disagree, and there will be others to put them back in their places.  He might also be the greatest lyricist in rock history, though that’s a far more wide open field.  Some of his lyrics hit home in emotional ways.

We are young,
Wandering the face of the earth,
Wondering what our dreams might be worth,
Learning that we’re only immortal,
For a limited time.

Neil Peart was a star I always identified with:  an introvert with his nose in a book.  Yet on stage he was a dynamo.  He did things with two sticks that most drummers cannot.  He paved the way for the Portnoys and all the greats that followed.  His lyrics of alienation resonated within the subdivisions.  And he was reportedly also one of the nicest, most down to earth human beings to those whom would he would let in.

Personally speaking, it was “Subdivisions” that hooked me.  The singer kind of weirded me out, with the glasses, nose and high-pitch.  It took me a while to accept Rush into my life.  I was 21 years old when it finally happened.  It had so much to do with the drums, and the percussive mini-compositions within every song.  Seeing Neil Peart interview Jean Chrétien on MuchMusic solidified my belief that this was an intelligent rocker, far different from all the others.  By this time, he was also writing articles in Macleans magazine.  His travel book The Masked Rider became an immediate favourite, as Neil painted verbal pictures of African savannas from the seat of a bicycle.

Brain cancer is an evil bitch.  It’s the same monster that took down our beloved Gordon Downey, and now it has taken from us someone deeply dear.  Neil accompanied me on many of my most impactful life moments.  My first relationship & accompanying breakup, my job at the Record Store, finishing school, all of it.  Neil was there with beats and words to raise the spirits higher.  I tended to take the words my own way.  Which is how Neil would have wanted it.

Rush are one of the few bands, unlike Kiss or Motley Crue, that went out with class.  They simply played their final shows and retired without making a big fuss.  We all knew it was a big deal, and they did too — but they didn’t act like it.   Neil Peart went back home to spend time with his new family, something everybody was happy for him to do.  After all that tragedy, it was a delight to see that Neil has picked up the pieces and made a new clan.  And now that family is shattered, in incomprehensible pain.

The song that got me into Rush was “Subdivisions”, but instead of posting that track here, I have chosen “Dreamline” from Roll the Bones. Rest in peace Neil, and thank you for albums that will always be close to my heart.

Fuck cancer.

 


Uncle Meat has a few words to add.

One likes to believe in the freedom of music,
but glittering prizes and endless compromises
shatter the illusion of integrity.

His lyrics were as good as his drumming. And that is saying alot. Neil Peart was the opposite of a rock star. He wanted nothing to do with any of that bullshit. When Neil Peart joined Rush after their first album he turned Rush from just another rock band, into the greatest rock band of all time. Many life long friendships have been founded and cemented within the musical and lyrical gifts he gave us. A big long hug to all of you (and you know who you are)…

What a fucking beast he was.

RIP Mr. Neil Peart

 

#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.