Savatage

REVIEW: Black Sabbath – The Eternal Idol (deluxe edition)

I’m addicted to buying these deluxe editions.  I think this is the last of my Black Sabbath deluxes. Check out more of my Sabbath deluxe reviews by clicking here!

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BLACK SABBATH – The Eternal Idol (2010 deluxe edition)

The years of chaos were seemingly coming to an end as Black Sabbath stabilized into a solid core of Tony Iommi, Geoff Nicholls, and new lead singer Tony Martin. The drum and bass positions would continue to swirl for another year, right up until the Headless Cross tour. Getting to this point was not without struggle, and this new Deluxe Edition illustrates this beautifully.

I’m going to sidestep the issue of “Does The Eternal Idol really deserve the Deluxe Edition treatment?” and just be glad it’s out. There are, after all, two B-sides here that were ridiculously expensive to acquire on 12″ vinyl. Those songs, “Some Kind of Woman” and the original version of “Black Moon” (which would later be re-recorded on Headless Cross) finally complete the Eternal Idol picture. And they’re not bad songs either, particularly “Black Moon”. “Strange Kind of Woman” I haven’t wrapped my head around yet. It’s this uptempo boogie rocker, and aside from “Blue Suede Shoes” I don’t think I’ve ever heard Black Sabbath boogie before. But it’s not bad, Tony’s playing is awesome, but maybe…ill advised is the term I’m looking for?

The bonus disc is the entire album’s original recording with former vocalist Ray Gillen (their seventh singer) before he was replaced by Martin (their eigth). This had been mostly available on a very common bootleg called The Ray Gillen Years, but missing a couple tracks. Now, the entire album as recorded by Gillen can be heard, and in much better sound quality.  Gillen was a very different type of singer, bluesier, very Coverdale-esque.  He later reappeared with his Sabbath-mate Eric Singer in Jake E. Lee’s Badlands.

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I can still remember keeping up with the Sabbath story via their music videos on MuchMusic. I was surprised when I saw that the “new” singer, the bearded Glenn Hughes, had been replaced by the much cooler looking Tony Martin. Skeptical, I watched the video for the first and only single “The Shining”. Lo and behold, the song was awesome! The riff (which goes back to an old unreleased Sabbath song from 1984 called “No Way Out”, featuring a lineup of Iommi, Geezer Butler, Bill Ward and David “Donut” Donato) was powerful and epic.  As good as any riffs Sabbath had done with Ronnie James Dio. The new chorus shimmers with intensity. This new singer rocked! Unfortunately, Martin would spend his entire career with a “mini-Dio” or “Dio-clone” tag. The similarities are that Martin has a similar range and equal amount of power, but not the grit, and a different character. Fortunately for him, Martin would stick around for 5 albums, but never shook the “replacement singer” tag.

Aside from “The Shining”, I find The Eternal Album to lack lustre. “Glory Ride” is the only other song that was single-worthy, a great romp that reminds me heavily of “Strange Wings” by Savatage (a song that featured Ray Gillen on backing vocals, coincidentally!) The rest of the songs…well, they ain’t bad, I guess. They’re just unremarkable, which is not good for a band that has seldom been anything but.  “Born To Lose” is fast and furious, as is “Lost Forever”. “Scarlet Pimpernel” is one of those atmospheric Sab instrumentals that they were known for in the early days, and its inclusion was very wise. However, the songs so tend to meld into one another, with only “The Shining” and “Glory Ride” making my personal Sabbath road tapes.

I mentioned the creation of this album was chaotic. Aside from the replacement of the lead singer position mid-album, there were also two drummers: Eric Singer departed to be replaced by ex-Sabbath drummer Bev Bevan! But by the tour, Bevan would be replaced by ex-The Clash drummer (Dr.) Terry Chimes. Dave (brother of Dan) Spitz partially recorded the bass to be replaced by ex-Rainbow and Ozzy bassist Bob Daisley. Daisley was gone before the video for “The Shining” was filmed, to be replaced by a mystery man who nobody bothered to catch the name of. You can see him in the video. The story goes, they needed a bassist for the video and pulled this guy off the street. For the tour, Jo Burt filled the bassist slot. Neither Chimes nor Burt would stick around to the next album, Headless Cross.

Did you get all that?

The Eternal Idol was a crucial step towards solidifying Black Sabbath once again, after the chaos of the previous years, but it would be the next album, Headless Cross, that was a resounding return. A much more solid album, Headless featured the new nucleus of the two Tonys and the legendary Cozy Powell on drums. Session bassist Lawrence Cottle (a great fretless player) was replaced for the while by Cozy’s longtime rhythm partner, Neil Murray. That lineup of Powell, Murray, Iommi and Martin (always with Geoff Nicholls on keys) would prove to be one of the most stable in the band’s history and the one that I saw when I first saw Sabbath live in 1995 on the Forbidden tour.

Anyway, I’m going off on a tangent. My point was to show that this album was really not the “comeback” that it could have been, but merely a step towards rebuilding Black Sabbath. You have to admire Tony Iommi for not giving up. The Eternal Idol is not for those fans who just like Ozzy, or just like Dio. Eternal Idol is for the metal maven who wants to know every chapter in the band’s history. Otherwise, I can’t recommend it, except for the two songs “The Shining” and “Glory Ride”. Purchase accordingly.

3/5 stars

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Part 154: Cassettes Part IV – LeBrain’s Tapes (What Remains)

RECORD STORE TALES Part 154:  

Cassettes Part IV – LeBrain’s Tapes (What Remains)

I used to have a lot of tapes.  So many, that T-Rev converted my closet doors to shelving, just to store my numerous cassettes!  It was quite a feat of engineering on his part.

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If you’ve read the other three parts of this series on cassettes, then you’ve already seen some of the awesome artwork that T-Rev used to come up with for his tapes.  Doing those articles got me nostalgic, but very few of my own tapes remained.  A year or two before I met Mrs. LeBrain, I briefly dated this one girl who was getting into hair metal.  I had succeeded in replacing most of my tapes on CD (although still incomplete; I need a copy of Live Fast, Die Fast by Wolfsbane, and Phenomenon 1).  All my tapes were redundant, and I gave her boxes and boxes full of them.

God knows where those tapes are now.  I doubt she took them back home to Thunder Bay when it was all over, they probably ended up in a landfill.  No big loss really, the only shame of it is that, like T-Rev, I used to make a lot of my own custom artwork.

Mrs. LeBrain and I were visiting her mom yesterday, and I found some of my old Beatles tapes that I had made, at her place!  Her dad drove a delivery van with nothing but a tape deck inside.  He was more than happy to receive my old Beatles tapes, and he loved them.  And there they were, still at the house, complete with my computer generated J-cards.  Nothing elaborate, although I did paste the cover for Abbey Road onto that tape.

This inspired me to dig through some boxes here, and see if I had any of my own tapes left.  Surely there must be something here, with some of my own custom cover art!  There was just a handful left, stuff that I wouldn’t have parted with at the time, and lo and behold, there was my old artwork.  These sure brought back memories!

Back in the early record store days, cassette was my primary medium.  They were portable, you could leave them in the car and not worry about them getting banged up, so I recorded everything onto cassette.  It wasn’t until I had left the record store in 2006 that I got my first car with a CD deck.  Before then, I had one of those adapter kits to play a discman in the car, but it sounded shite.  I was glad to find the following treasures tucked away in a box!

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Ahh, Spinal Tap.  A Spinal Tap Reunion was recorded from a 1992 TV special.  Unavailable on DVD today, as far as I know.  That’s a shame.

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I bought Grande Rock by The Hellacopters on vinyl, to get that bonus track “Angel Dust”.  Or, more accurately, one of my record store compatriots got it for me at Orange Monkey Music in Waterloo.  I dutifully recorded it to cassette without making elaborate packaging, but I did put some effort into the cassette spine.

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You Fat Bastards by Faith No More was the full show that was released on CD in truncated form on the Live at the Brixton Academy CD.  This was from a VHS release.

Guns N’ Roses did a couple cool TV specials.  I recorded Live at the Ritz off T-Rev, who stuck on some demos for bonus tracks.  The cover was made by adapting an old Appetite For Destruction J-card.  I think this turned out pretty cool.  Invade Paris! was a TV special from 1992.

These two Maiden tapes were from VHS releases.  It’s a shame that Raising Hell was never released on a CD.  Here’s hoping the band will put that out on a future box set.  It was Bruce’s “final” show.  I just edited out the crap sections with “magician” Simon Drake.   Maiden England is also taken from VHS, but this is the full show.  The CD release omitted two songs:  “Can I Play With Madness”, and “Hallowed Be Thy Name”.  My cassette didn’t!  I thought my J-card for Maiden England turned out pretty cool, using an old Seventh Son cover as its basis.

Unfortunately, this is all that remains of my old cassette art.  I did some much more elaborate things, which Thunder Bay Girl probably tossed out.  One was for Savatage’s Dead Winter Dead.  When I recorded that one to cassette, I actually painted the gargoyle onto a J-card.  Wish I kept that one.  Rush’s Test For Echo may have been the most elaborate one I’ve done.  Using some old cardboard and a full-page ad for the album, I created my own digipack for that cassette.  It would be nice to still have.  Ahh well.

It seems funny, in today’s age of mp3 files and players, that a format as crappy as cassette was anyone’s main format.  But there you go.  Before I could play CD’s in the car, they were the best way to bring music with me.  I’ve always believed a music collection was for showing off as much as listening to, plus I enjoyed making the artwork.  I’m glad some still survives today!

S*** LeBrain’s Dad Says: Howlin’ Banshee!

One day in the winter, I was getting up for another day at the record store.  My dad was already up obsessing about the Weather Network.

“Are you going to work today?”

“Yeah dad…why wouldn’t I?  It’s Thursday.”

“Well you better be careful, it’s a howlin’ banshee out there today!”

I look out the window, and saw literally two snowflakes floating through the air.

Sheesh!

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Most Unrightfully Ignored Albums of the 1990s – LeBrain’s List Part 4

This is it!  The end!  In alphabetical order, here’s Part 4 of 4:  88 albums that meant the world to me in the 1990′s but never got the respect I felt they deserved.   Thanks for joining in!

Savatage – Streets:  A Rock Opera (sheer brilliance, their first and best rock opera)
Savatage – Edge of Thorns (an album to give Queensryche a run for their money)
Savatage – Handful of Rain (recovering from tragedy to create a triumph)
Savatage – The Wake of Magellan (how did this band just keep getting more brilliant?)
Scorpions – Face the Heat (had a couple good heavy rockers on there like “Alien Nation”)
Shaw/Blades – Hallucination (Tommy Shaw, Jack Blades, campfire goodness)
Skid Row – Subhuman Race (when you’re pissed off and you know it, bang thy head)

Sloan – 4 Nights at the Palais Royale (one of the best live albums of all time – ignored internationally)
Dee Snider’s SMF’s – Live / Forever Twisted (fuck, I missed Dee in the 90’s!)
Spinal Tap – Break Like the Wind 
Stryper – Can’t Stop the Rock (a compilation with two great new tunes)
Sultans of Ping F.C. – Casual Sex in the Cineplex (see here)
Talas – If We Only Knew Then What We Know Now… (Billy Sheehan and the boys reunited for one night, and has the wisdom to record it)
Tesla – Bust A Nut (in some ways it’s better than their prior records)
Testament – The Ritual (really heavily slagged at the time as a sellout)
Tonic – Sugar (much better than the first record, you know, the one that was a hit)
Devin Townsend / Ocean Machine – Biomech (one of his more accessible albums)
Union – Union (Bruce Kulick + John Corabi = better than what the Crue or Kiss was releasing)
Steve Vai – Sex and Religion (Devin Townsend — lead throat)
Veruca Salt – Eight Arms To Hold You (their best album, better than the big hit one)
White Lion – Mane Attraction (it was a little mushy, but brilliant guitars by Vito Bratta)
Whitesnake – Restless Heart (back to his blues rock roots, it wasn’t even released here)

We’re done!  88 albums that meant a lot to me in the 1990’s, but in some cases were criminally ignored.  Check them out.

Part 36: The Hunt

Before the record store, during the record store, and after the record store, one thing remained constant:  the Hunt.

The hunt for something long sought.  The hunt for something cool.  The hunt for something rare.  Peter and I hunted for all these things together.  The problem was that Peter and I like the same music, so if we’d only find one copy, who got dibs was who found it first.

Peter was at a record show once and asked a vendor, “Do you have Ward One: Along The Way by Bill Ward?”  This solo album by the original Black Sabbath drummer featured guest vocals by Ozzy, making it a must have for both of us  The guy didn’t have it there, but he did have it in his shop in Brampton.  The following week, Peter jumped in his car, headed down to Brampton, and bought it.  I’ve only ever seen this CD twice, and the second time was the time that I bought it.  In the interim, Peter taped it for me.

Kids today would be shocked at the lengths we went to to get albums.  Peter and I once headed down to Michigan with the (essentially) sole purpose of finding rare things.  Peter had heard about this comedy tape called The Jerky Boys that was not out yet in Canada.  Score!  I added to my Savatage collection on the same trip, picking up Power of the Night, which I had never even heard of before.  On another US trip, Peter picked up the Black Sabbath box The Ozzy Osbourne Years.  The set was a pretty decent overview of the first six Sabbath platters plus the then-rare track “Evil Woman”.

Peter and I used to also look at bootleg videos on our many trips to record shows.  Once again, the hunt for Ozzy and Sabbath continued.  Peter snagged a rare 1995 Ozzy club show with the short lived lineup of Geezer Butler (bass), Deen Castronovo (drums) and Joe Holmes (guitar).  This lineup never recorded an album.  It was memorable for that reason, and also the fact that  when Ozzy shouted, “Do you people want to hear some Sabbath songs?” the crowd responded “NO!“

Even though I was working at the store, I couldn’t rely on the store to complete my collection.  You had to think outside the box, you had to travel, to find those rare items.  I found the rare first Vinnie Vincent Invasion album in Kincardine, Ontario.  The one with Robert Fleichman singing.   I also found a Helix single there with a then-unreleased remix on it.  My boss never understood why we’d shop anywhere we didn’t get a discount.  This was why.  You found the coolest stuff in the small towns, the out of the way places.  But you sometimes also had to venture into the epicenter of a record show, and pay a little bit more, to get what you need.

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