singles

REVIEW: Iron Maiden – “Empire of the Clouds” (2016 Record Store Day picture disc single)

IRON MAIDEN -“Empire of the Clouds” (2016 Parlophone Record Store Day picture disc single)

The story of acquiring this single and RSD 2016 can be read right here, so without getting into the details again this is what you need to know:

  1. This was a Record Store Day exclusive (April 16 2016).
  2. There were only 5500 copies made.
  3. Everybody wanted one.

The picture disc and packaging are gorgeous.  The record is a depiction of the Eddie destroying the R-101 airship, but fear not, this is not how history actually unfolded!  This picture disc is ensconced in a die card cover with reprintings of the Daily Mirror newspaper article from the day following the disaster.  It’s a lovely keepsake for sure, but it also has an exclusive interview on the B-side.

Not that the A side is unimportant.  From my original review for The Book of Souls, I had much praise for “Empire of the Clouds”:

“Written solely by Bruce and coming in at almost 20 minutes, it is unprecedented in the Maiden canon.  Never before have the credits ‘Bruce Dickinson – vocals, piano’ been written inside one of their albums.  For the first time ever, the piano is a part of Iron Maiden’s makeup.  Maiden have used orchestras before, and the strings return as well.  ‘Empire of the Clouds’ is a peak accomplishment, something that they (and Bruce) can proudly proclaim, ‘we did that’.  The piano is a natural fit, in the way it is used to make an epic song even more dramatic.  Aviation has been one of Bruce’s favourite lyrical subjects for a long time, but ‘Empire of the Clouds’ might be his first song about airships.  You can trust him to instil it with all the drama and heaviness that you expect from Iron Maiden.”

Nicko McBrain and Bruce Dickinson discuss the making of the song, almost an album in itself, on the B-side “Maiden Voyage”.  The R101 was a massive airship (“the Titanic fits inside”) that was rushed into service and caught flame in 1930.  Bruce wrote the song on piano, which he had learned to play over the last three years.  He then researched the history of the airship and worked on the words.  The way he describes the incident on this interview track, it was a perfect storm of everything going wrong.  In its context, the airship was an expression of the ambition of the British Empire to stretch to all corners of the Earth and above as well.  Bruce says the crash was the end of this era.

Part of the story involves a storm, so Bruce came up with a piano part to depict that.  Before long he had enough components from his piano writings to build the different parts of the song.   One of the bits was written when Jon Lord (from Deep Purple) was ill with cancer.  After his death, Bruce used this piece for the part when the airship initially sets off.  It’s interesting that this era of British ambition inspired the most ambitious track that the singer had ever attempted.  This includes a musical “S.O.S.” in Morse code, something I picked up on upon first listen.

Bruce has particular praise for drummer Nicko McBrain in the building and recording of this song.  Nicko was not only a help in a technical respect, but also as a cheerleader keeping the band driven, so much was he into it.

Bruce Dickinson is a remarkable individual in heavy metal.  You don’t see many metal stars as well educated in history as Bruce, or as capable at communicating it to his audience.  Indeed, as a presenter on the BBC, Bruce has brought history to many diverse audiences.  You would think Iron Maiden fans would be one of the more challenging groups to reach, but Maiden followers are hungry for this kind of content.  We can only respect the band that much more when we realize the true depth of their work.  This coming from a licensed airline pilot, published fiction author, cancer survivor and amature fencer who also happens to be in Iron Maiden.  Extraordinary!

I’m not sure if this disc was worth the buying frenzy it spawned or the online prices you are about to see, but I’m sure glad I got my copy.

5/5 stars

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#478: Record Store Day (April 16 2016)

GETTING MORE TALE #478: Record Store Day (April 16 2016)

I thought Record Store Day was supposed to be a celebration of indi record stores.  That’s nice and all, but my first Record Store Day ever was at a chain:  Sunrise Records in a shopping mall.  I’m not sure what qualifies as “indi” but I do see a lot of similarities with Record Store Day and other much-hyped spending spree events, like Force Friday.  Overpriced items, not enough stock and waiting for stores to open seem to be the order of the day.  Having said that, I have never seen anything like Record Store Day 2016.  Nor did the staff at X-Disc-C in Kitchener, the store I chose to hit up this year.

I don’t always shop on Record Store Day, but when I do, it is for a good reason.  The first time I went was in 2011, for an AC/DC single featuring two then-exclusive live recordings.  That was a lot of fun, but imagine my chagrin a year later when these two songs were released on the Live at River Plate album.  It seems most RSD-exclusive items are either:

a) songs that get released on albums later on,
b) vinyl reissues of things you already have,
c) stuff that sits around for months or years after as shelfwarmers.

This year, my RSD holy grail list had only one item on it:  the 12″ picture disc single for Iron Maiden’s 20 minute epic “Empire of the Clouds”, from The Book of Souls.  Incidentally, that single was more expensive than the 2 CD album itself:  $33 with taxes.  What’s so special about it?  It has no exclusive music, but it does include a 21 minute interview with Bruce Dickinson about the R101 airship disaster that the song is based on.  That made it worth owning.   There were at least four stores in town carrying it.  Mill Pond Records in Cambridge were doing a big promotion on the radio with Darryl Law, offering big discounts and free CDs.  The had four copies of “Empire of the Clouds” in stock.  I wrote that store off the list first, gambling that it would be too busy.

I planned my strategy to acquire this very limited single (5500 copies).  Online prices later on will be far too high, at least for me unless I decide to sell my organs on the dark web.  Encore Records has long been the most reliable store in town, and they were carrying it (quantity unknown).  Failing that, just a few blocks away at X-Disc-C, there were three copies in stock.  The plan was for me to go to Encore while my wife Jen went to X-Disc-C.  We left the house at 8:15 for the 9:00 am opening.  That even left time for a coffee stop, at a way too busy Timmy’s on Weber St.  My only real concern at that point was parking downtown.  Kitchener is currently being ripped up to build a controversial light rail transit system.  The traffic tie-ups and difficult access points are only adding to the controversy.  Even so, and even with the Kitchener Farmer’s Market open since 6:00 am, parking was not a problem.  In fact there was plenty.

Encore Records was a couple blocks away, but I turned right back around as soon as I saw the line!  There were at least 40-50 people up there, waiting to get in.  I had never seen anything like that before, not on Record Store Day.  Not for records.  “Fuck this,” I said as I hiked back.  Re-joining Jen, we headed to X-Disc-C which was only a short jaunt away.  We knew they had three copies.  I had never been to this location before, tucked away on a side street near the market.  We knew we were getting near when we heard the sounds of Gordon Lightfoot serenading us on outdoor speakers.  This was followed by the new Wolfmother.  And we were first in line!  Iron Maiden would be mine!

I posted on Facebook, “First in line.  I am the line.”

About five minutes later another guy joined us, maybe a bit older than me.   We exchanged “good mornings” and chatted.

“I’m only here for one thing,” he hinted.

“Maiden?” I asked, and he nodded.  “Me too,” I said in response.  “He has three in there, so it looks like we’re good.”

“They’re already open over across the street,” he told me, referring to Encore.

“Really?  But did you see that crowd?  There were at least 40 people standing there.  Can that store even hold 40 people?”

I was surprised when he answered, “Yeah, I was second in line.  I’ve been waiting outside since 6:30 in the morning.”

Think about that for a moment.  That means there was somebody who got there even before 6:30!  People really wanted that Iron Maiden record.  Behind us, a small line began to form, young and old.

“I left to come here because I couldn’t see the Maiden when I walked into Encore.  Other people swooped in and they were gone before I could even see them.”  I expressed a little bit of surprise about the popularity of a record that only had an interview track on the B-side.  That doesn’t matter to everybody though.  “I’m not going to play it,” he said.  “I’m not even going to open it.  I’m going to frame it.”

A few more people joined us in line including one guy in an Iron Maiden T-shirt.  I don’t think he had a chance anymore.  There seemed to be two dominating artists that people in line were looking for:  David Bowie, and Iron Maiden.  Then the door opened.  I grabbed the first Iron Maiden, and the guy behind me got the second.  I did not see who got the third.

At X-Disc-C, they told me they had never seen a Record Store Day opening like this before.  They seemed unprepared as most of their items hadn’t even been priced yet.  I wonder if Encore Records also got slammed unprepared at opening.  They usually only have two guys working on busy days, and I think only three people even work there at all.  It’s great to see them so busy, but I wondered about the whole experience.

These stores probably don’t make much money on these Record Store Day exclusives, and these early birds were looking for specific items.  If they didn’t have it, they walked.  They didn’t stick around to browse, nor was there room to browse.  Two people walked out before I even paid for my Maiden!   The buying frenzy atmosphere isn’t the kind of record shopping experience most of us look for.  We like to take our time, check every nook and cranny, converse and enjoy it.  These limited Record Store Day items seem to create schools of sharks swooping in on very limited items, and when they’re gone the customer buys nothing and moves on.

I will open and play my Iron Maiden record, once.  I’ll record it, and only look at it henceforce.  It’s a gorgeous picture disc in a gatefold sleeve.  The cover replicates the Daily Mirror newspaper from October 6 1930, the day after the R101 burst into flames.  An awesome Eddie illustration from the picture disc is seen through the die-cut cover.  It truly is a beautiful collectible.

Record Store Day was fun, but I don’t think it does much to celebrate the indi record store.  It does bring out the hard core collectors, but the overall atmosphere feels too much like a bloody Black Friday sale than a true record shopping experience.

Come back tomorrow for a review of the “Empire of the Clouds” RSD exclusive single.

 

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REVIEW: Queensryche – Road to Promised Land (1995 EMI promo)

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QUEENSRŸCHE – Road to Promised Land (1995 EMI promotional “best of” CD)

20 years ago, good buddy T-Rev let me know this little treasure had arrived in his store (first discussed in Record Store Tales part 120).  Released to promote the 1995 Promised Land tour, Queensryche’s Road to Promised Land AKA Arrived! was a neat little greatest hits package released well before their actual Greatest Hits several years later.  This is a promo CD released by EMI in the United States, and it covers every Queensryche release to date.

From the original EP is not “Queen of the Reich”, but “The Lady Wore Black”.  The ballad starting the set is an odd but explainable choice.  Queensryche were playing “The Lady Wore Black” on tour, but Geoff Tate didn’t enjoy singing “Queen of the Reich” and tried to avoid doing so.  Being so full of powerful metal drama, even as a ballad, “The Lady Wore Black” can work as an opener.  Then “Take Hold of the Flame” follows, one of the best Queensryche songs of all time (from the first LP The Warning).  Unfortunately that is the only inclusion from The Warning, although it is certainly a must.  Geoff Tate used screams as a art form on this song like no other.  You want metal drama?  They opening tracks are Metal Drama 101.

Two tracks are selected from Rage For Order, and they are fairly obvious choices:  “Walk in the Shadows” [“WALK WITH MEAT!“] and “I Will Remember”.  It is a given that both are high quality songs, from an album that can be difficult to pick individual hits.  The opening part of the CD feels rushed, with the critical first EP and two albums giving up only four songs.  Keep in mind that these albums now make up a large bulk of Queenryche 2015’s set, although that wasn’t the case in 1995 with their original singer.

From the brilliant landmark concept album Operation: Mindcrime are three selections:  “I Don’t Believe in Love”, “Eyes of a Stranger” and “Revolution Calling”.  Once again these are fairly obvious choices, being the three singles from the album.  Strangely, “Eyes of a Stranger” was not edited down and is the full 6:39 cut, complete with album outro.  Their most successful LP yet, Empire, was also give three inclusions.  “Best I Can”, “Jet City Woman” and “Silent Lucidity” were three great singles.  I wonder why the title track “Empire” wasn’t used?  I think it’s more identifiable than “Best I Can”.

Rolling into Promised Land for the final three tracks, it is plain sailing to hear the evolution of the band over their first decade.  Although the metal got tuned down in favour of more drama and radio-friendly elements, one thing that never changed was their urge to experiment.  Indeed, the first Promised Land single “I Am I” features plenty of daring sounds.  (This version of “I Am I” fades out rather than skipping directly into “Damaged”.)  From cello (by Chris DeGarmo) to tribal percussion to innovative vocal effects, “I Am I” proved that Queensryche could rock progressively in the increasingly alternative 1990’s.  Lyrically, they were as serious as ever but more personal.  The ballad “Bridge” was about DeGarmo’s relationship with his father.  Finally, the heavy-as-plutonium “Damaged” closes the CD abruptly.  That’s the problem with these record company assembled promo CDs.  They are not designed to play as an album.  They are designed for radio use and store play.  In other words the only real consideration is including all the individual tracks you want to plug.  Like “I Am I”, “Damaged” too was edited for radio.  They shaved three seconds off in fades, because normally these songs flow together on album.

Rating a CD like this is kind of pointless, because it was never meant to be sold.  But let’s say you don’t own any Queensryche, and you saw this used while wandering the shops.  Would it be a good Queensryche purchase for somebody looking for a good overview of the classic years?

Yes.  Absolutely.

3/5 stars

#404: Report: Aux 33 Tours in Montréal

RECORD STORE TALES MkII: Getting More Tale Report: Aux 33 Tours in Montréal

My sister, bass clarinetist Kathryn Ladano, just completed the east coast leg of her Canadian tour last month. This was followed by a western leg, but while returning home from the east there was a stop in Montréal. Kathryn is a collector too, though not to the extent that I am. She doesn’t need the physical musical media in her daily life like I do. She still collects some of her favourite bands, and has recently started buying vinyl. While in Montréal, she visited a record store called Aux 33 Tours, located at 1373 Mont-Royal Est.  According to their website, it is the largest record store in the city.  She emailed me the following day, May 27, raving about the store. I’ll let her take it from here! Enjoy the pictures.

I found the most amazing record store in Montréal yesterday! I found almost all The Spoons’ albums on LP, including ones that aren’t available on CD. I also found a promo live album by them that didn’t have a proper cover because it wasn’t supposed to be sold. They were all dirt cheap – like $2 – $7. ‎One of them was autographed and personalized “To Martin”! [Fortuitously, her husband is also named Martin!] I also got Kid A on record. Kid A and Sgt. Peppers are reissues with heavy packaging. They had an original Sgt Peppers, but the reissue was cheaper, so I got that.

I spent about $140. Which I think is good for that many albums! ‎Note: the Simon and Garfunkel and Gord Downie ones are Martin’s.

I’d also like to point out how rare that Bryan Adams single is.  He really tried to bury that song!  Watch the video, you’ll hear why.  (They sped up his voice which gives him a Chipmunks sound.)

And finally, gratuitous photos of Schnauzers and Starfleet collars:

#391.5: Mail from Cataraqui

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RECORD STORE TALES MkII: Getting More Tale
#391.5: Mail from Cataraqui

I got mail!

The only thing sweeter than the arrival of an Amazon order, or that of imported Transformers toys from China, is surprise mail from a fellow music lover. This time that music lover is Geoff over at the 1001 Albums in 10 Years blog. Geoff sent me a cryptic email a few weeks ago about some things he found that I might be interested in having for my collection:

“Mike,
I picked up a couple practically-free musical treasures at our local Value Village this week.
I’m not sure if they’ll actually play, but when I saw them I thought they’d be neat assets in the LeBrain collection!”

What a guy! I love surprises!

There are a few major audio formats that have no representation in my music collection. If I can’t play it, as a collector I generally don’t seek it out. As a music geek however, I love odd formats and releases. There are certain bands that I would collect just about anything from, and the big one is Kiss. Geoff knew this. Now I can add 8-track to the formats I own of Kiss Alive! This is definitely getting a place of honour in LeBrain’s displays of treasure. Probably right next to that weird Def Leppard Pyromania cassette that Aaron found for me at Sonic Boom.

Also in the package, and presumed worthless by Geoff, are two 45’s. According to Geoff’s accompanying letter, the records “you would be able to play, but are too damaged to do so!”

Fooey. My USB turntable only cost $50. Let’s give it a shot.

Both singles are records I didn’t have before. Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It” / “You Can’t Stop Rock ‘N’ Roll” has a different B-side from the 12″ single that I do have. The 7″ has the studio version of “You Can’t Stop Rock ‘N’ Roll” instead of the live. And it played fine! It was dusty but cleaned up fine.  Score!

The Kiss single, for “I Was Made For Lovin’ You” / “Hard Times”, was not as fortunate.  It is massively warped.  I measured the warp at 1/4 inch at its largest point.  But get this…it played!  It didn’t sound the greatest, but it played!

In his letter, Geoff says “Thought they still work as collectibles or conversation starting coasters.”  Well, Twisted Sister and Kiss Alive! are officially entering the LeBrain Library.  As for “I Was Made For Lovin’ You”?  Though it plays, I don’t think I will play it again.  I think this might make an excellent wall decoration, however!

Thanks Geoff!  I’ll find something funky and cool to send in return.

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REVIEW: Bon Jovi – “Born To Be My Baby” (7″ single)

I thought it would prudent to post a mini-review today, lest some of you thought I had lost my mind earlier.  What’s the date again?

BON JOVI – “Born To Be My Baby” (1988 Polygram 7″ single)

This single is a beauty.  I bought this 45 at the Zellers store at Stanley Park Mall in Kitchener when I was a young fella.  It doesn’t have any exclusive tracks — not even single edits which were very common on Bon Jovi 7″ singles.  Instead it came in a collector’s package with cardboard picture sleeve, and three postcards.

The postcards are interesting to me for a reason.  Look at the group photos of the band.  Jon’s face is always obscured.  These pictures from the New Jersey period represent a brief time when Jon was trying to give the band more face time.  Check many photos from that era — his back is often to the camera while the others look straight ahead.  I read a quote in a magazine where Jon was pissed that people only knew Richie Sambora as “the guy in the cowboy hat”.  He was trying to give them attention and I think that’s cool.

The two tracks on the single are two of my New Jersey favourites!  “Born To Be My Baby” was always a cool groove.  I enjoy listening to Tico Torres’ drums on this track.  Understated but perfect.  But “Love For Sale”?  Shit, I think that’s the best tune on New Jersey!   Proof of the talent of this band, drunk or sober.  Hard to imagine it was just something that happened and got recorded.  It actually makes me a little sad today — sad that Jon and Richie have now broken up this amazing chemistry.

Fun single though!  Glad to have kept it all these years.

4/5 stars

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REVIEW: KISS vs Momoiro Clover Z – “Samurai Son”/”Yume no Ukiyo ni Saitemina” CD singles

NEW RELEASE

MOMOIRO CLOVER Z vs KISS – “Yume no Ukiyo ni Saitemina” / “Samurai Son” (2015 King Records Japan CD singles, sold separately)

Here they are, the new singles featuring the Kiss vs Momoiro Clover Z collaboration.  “Samurai Son” appeared on the current Best of Kiss 40 CD, billed there as the “U.S. Mix”.  That meant there are other versions out there, so I ordered the singles (two separate releases) from Japan.  Even if I did not like the other versions of the song, the single covers were cool enough to keep as collectibles.  As it turns out they are printed on high quality textured parchment style paper, and have stunning inner and outer art.  They also come with transparent outer shells with shiny embossed symbols and writing.  For packaging, it’s 5/5 stars for these singles.

Between the two singles, there are four different mixes from the “U.S. Mix” of “Samurai Son”.  All feature Kiss, to a certain degree.  Here’s how the versions break down, from “Least Kiss” to “Most Kiss”:

5. “Yume no Ukiyo ni Saitemina”.  This is the full-on Japanese version with the spotlight primarily on Momoiro Clover Z.  They take the lead vocals and their elements of the song and style and brought up in the mix.  It’s funny to hear Kiss singing background vocals in English, underneath the Japanese lead vocals!  Who know if the words actually go together in any way.

4. “Yume no Ukiyo ni Saitemina” (instrumental version).  Kiss are the backing band on this track and you can clearly hear Tommy soloing, but the Kiss and J-pop elements are mixed fairly equally here.  These first two renditions of the song are on both versions of the single.

3. “Samurai Son” (instrumental version). From the CD with the artwork emphasizing Kiss.  This instrumental is based on the Kiss rather than the Momoclo version of the song.  Tommy is in the spotlight a bit more on this version, as the instrumental mix leaves more room for his guitar licks to take the spotlight.

2. “Samurai Son”.   From the same CD as the above track, this is a Kiss-heavy version similar to the “U.S. Mix” on Best of Kiss 40…but not quite the same.  It follows the same blueprint of Kiss being up front and the Momoclo girls audible in the background and on the chorus.  It has vocal, guitar and J-pop parts that are not as apparent in the “U.S. Mix”.  Gene’s vocals also sound higher in the mix.  It’s audibly mastered way, way louder than Kiss 40, as you can see from the Audacity waveform below.  Track 3 from the CD is on top, the “U.S. Mix” from Kiss 40 is beneath.

1. “Samurai Son” (U.S. Mix). The Kiss 40 version; the mix that is geared to appeal mostly to Kiss fans.  Logically, it sounds the most like Kiss.  It’s only on Kiss 40; neither of these two singles have this mix which makes it a little more special for Kiss fans.

MOMOIRO CLOVER Z VS KISS_0004There are more tracks, but I’ll be frank — I didn’t even rip them to the computer.  These tracks are vocals and instrumental covers by Momoiro Clover Z of “Rock and Roll all Nite”.  I listened to it; it’s cute.  If you want to try and get your little niece into rock music, this might be the way to do it.  It has some guitars but it’s very cutesy.  (Probably still better than Poison’s version though, Mr. Rockett.)

Finally there is the Blu-ray containing the music video, that I cannot play due to region restrictions.  That’s why they invented Youtube, I think….

I give Kiss credit for doing something different like this and making it accessible to different audiences.  My favourite version is the one on Kiss 40, but that one was custom built for people like me.  These two singles are fun additions to the collection.  It’s one of those conversation pieces you can show that one guy you know who says he has “all” the Kiss CDs.

3/5 stars

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REVIEW: Jethro Tull – “Ring Out Solstice Bells” (2004 Christmas single)

This review goes out to Jonathan who asked me about a year ago for more Jethro Tull reviews! Here you go buddy, and Merry Christmas!

IAN ANDERSON & JETHRO TULL“Ring Out Solstice Bells” (2004 R and M)

Although Ian Anderson had played seasonal music many times before, The Jethro Tull Christmas Album in 2003 was the band’s first full-blown Christmas disc. The following year, Anderson released an independent single from it called “Ring Out Solstice Bells”, with proceeds set to help a wild cat benefit that he supports. The track “Ring Out Solstice Bells” is an Anderson original, jaunty and gleeful. Jethro Tull’s signature enchanted acoustic sound is well suited to seasonal music, and the vibe is captured on a great original song that doesn’t annoy like other seasonal tunes often do.
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The traditional “God Rest Ye Gentlemen” is a live version from 2004. It’s worth noting that even though Tull’s Christmas Album was reissued and expanded to include a live CD called Christmas at St. Bride’s 2008, these B-sides are from 2004.  They are still exclusive only to this single. “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” was arranged by Ian to be a jazzy and playful upbeat jam, virtually impossible to hate.  It even goes menacingly electric before the ending.  Then, from Aqualung is the brief “Slipstream”, also live from 2004.  It is backed by lush keys.

The packaging for “Ring Out Solstice Bells” is pretty basic, just a single panel digipack.  I do like the little touch of the inside cover doubling as a Christmas card.  If you so wish, you could give this CD to a friend for Christmas, by inscribing their name under “To”, and your own where it says “From Ian  Anderson, Jethro Tull and.”  Of course no collector would do such a thing.

4/5 stars

REVIEW: The Darkness – “Christmas Time (Don’t Let the Bells End)” (single)

THE DARKNESS“Christmas Time (Don’t Let the Bells End)” (2003 Warner CD single)

The Darkness wins when it comes to Christmas songs.  Not content to rock up a classic, or write a crappy original, they did something that very few artists do:  They wrote an original Christmas tune as good as any of their prior singles.  For that reason, I heartily recommend “Christmas Time (Don’t Let the Bells End)” to discerning rock fans everywhere.   If you can’t find or don’t want the single, you can still get the track on the UK best-of compilation The Platinum Collection.

Even though the guitars are thicker than a good ol’ bowl of Thin Lizzy pudding, there is no mistaking this for anything but a Christmas song.   It is a joyous rock re-imagining of a Christmas carol, with the unmistakable Justin Hawkins falsetto.  It is incredibly difficult not to smile.  A suitably joyous music video was made for this song, featuring the band opening gifts from each other such as a double-neck guitar.


“You know those guitars that are like, double guitars?”

The B-side is a non-album track called “I Love You 5 Times”.  This slow ballad features Justin teasing like a purring cat, stuttering, and joking around.  It’s not one of their most outstanding songs, and wouldn’t make my own Darkness mix tape.  It is however a non-album Darkness song with a typically great guitar solo, so not completely a throw-away.  The A-side is the reason to get this single.

And that A-side is holly jolly good time.

4/5 stars

REVIEW: Fight – “Christmas Ride” (1994 single)

1db1835968cbc23429860145ff5 (1)FIGHT“Christmas Ride” (1994 single, 2009 free download reissue)

Some people think Halford III: Winter Songs was Rob’s first Christmas release.  Truth be told, I don’t even own Winter Songs.  Christmas music is barely just above tolerable for me.  The completist in me wants to own everything; the music lover in me doesn’t really care for Christmas tunes, metal or otherwise.  Besides, in 2009 Rob’s website was offering a limited time free download of “Christmas Ride”, a song Rob recorded in 1994 with Fight!  20 years ago!  Unreal.

Don’t let the jingle bells throw you.  That soon turns into revving engines, and a chugging Fight riff not too dissimilar from the stuff they did on War of Words.  This was, however, probably recorded during the Small Deadly Space sessions, because Mark Chaussee is credited on guitar, even though Russ Parrish appears on the cover.

Either way, it’s purely metal.  Rob is screaming in his upper register for all but the choruses, for which he howls.  There’s absolutely nothing Christmas-y about the music (which is fine) but I just can’t get into the chorus of “Christmas ride!”  The lyrics are funny enough.  Fight have paid tribute to Santa this time: “The fat man’s coming and he knows no fear, He’s a big red rebel with some mean reindeer.”  There’s even a reference to breakin’ the law: “Cruising ’round town breaking every law, He’ll come back next year to crank it up some more.”

I’m assuming Rob is referring to the crime of break & enter.  He may also be breaking various aviation laws, but I don’t know how that works.  I’ve never read about any charges being pressed, or warrants being issued, so I’m assuming that these minor infringements have been overlooked because of all the gift giving and so on.

But OK, it’s an alright song.  Nothing special, though it does quote the “Nailed to the Gun” riff at one moment.  It was released as a promo-only fanclub release in 1994, which I have never laid eyes upon.  The free download offer was a legal way for me to get the tune.  It also came with “Rob Halford’s Holiday Greeting” (11 seconds)! “Hey everybody, this is Rob Halford from Fight, wishing you all a crazy heavy metal Christmas and an insane, wild manic New Year!”  There I spoiled it for you.

Would love a physical copy of this, for the collection.  This is for fans only.  Grandma will not dig it if you play this at your Christmas dinner this year.

3/5 stars

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