soundtracks

#1005: Bully Graffiti

“Oh, she wasn’t that bad.” – Them

“Oh yes she was!” – Me

 

RECORD STORE TALES #1005: Bully Graffiti

The office Bully and I had to work together frequently. I’ve worked for a lot of managers over the years, but she was the worst, even worse than the guy who stressed me into a nervous breakdown. He didn’t mean to do it; he was just a shitty manager. Office Bully on the other hand was malicious, as I have described in the past.  She was not capable of separating her personal life from her job, and because I was friends with her ex-fiance, I got the shitty end of the stick every time.  I felt like there was a constant tug of war over me.  I had a target on my back, as others noticed.  “She doesn’t treat anyone else like she treats you,” said one colleague.

I will never forget one morning working together in the store in the late 1990s. She decided to test me. Test my knowledge. Of her. Of her taste in music.

Usually the staff picked the tunes for the day. I asked her what she wanted to listen to while I went to collect music for the day’s store play.

“Pick something I like,” she said.  Jesus Christ.  Pick something she would like?  What the hell did she like?  I knew she was testing me.  Testing me on how much I knew about what she liked to listen to.  How much I’d been paying attention.  She liked to play these games.  We weren’t supposed to be friends; I just wanted to do whatever I had to do to be treated like a human being in the workplace.

I knew she liked Bjork, the Band, soul music, and…I drew a blank.  Frankly it was none of my business what the hell she liked.  Not part of my job.

I decided to hedge my bet.  We had a five CD changer, and instead of picking two CDs for me and three for her, I picked five for her and hoped I got some right.  Based on the fact that she liked old soul music, I thought I’d try more oldies.  American Graffiti soundtrack?  Maybe there was something on there that she liked?  It looked pretty good.  I put the five discs that I picked into the changer and hit “play”, crossing my fingers and toes that I got it right.

A few songs went by without comment.  So far so good.  Then came an American Graffiti track into the shuffle.  That’s when she spoke up.

“You picked this, for ME?” she interrogated.

“No, I picked it for me,” I lied.  Dodged a bullet.  Barely.  I lived to work another day.

The Bully’s friends will say something predictable, like “That doesn’t sound like she was testing you, that sounds like she just wanted you to pick the music for the day.”  I would respond, “You weren’t there.”  I heard the tone of voice.  I knew the game being played.  It would have been obvious had anyone else been there.  “You picked this, for ME?”  That was the tell.

But I got away with it and to this day I really could not give a shit what kind of music she liked.  She certainly didn’t respect my tastes — once she told me only one person at my store (the one she was friends with) had good taste in music.

Why would you ask someone with poor taste in music to pick your CDs for you?  She was playing games as usual, as always.

 

REVIEW: ZZ Top – Raw – ‘That Little Ol’ Band From Texas’ Original Soundtrack (2022)

ZZ TOP – Raw – ‘That Little Ol’ Band From Texas’ Original Soundtrack (2022 BMG)

In 2019, ZZ Top bassist Dusty Hill was still alive, and filmmaker Sam Dunn brought us the critically acclaimed documentary That Little Ol’ Band from Texas.  The film was cherished for a number of reasons, not least of which was the music, old and new.  A big part of the film was seeing the modern-day ZZ Top jamming away on their classics.  And it was clear they lost nothing.

With Dusty gone, it’s appropriate to release his final recordings as the soundtrack to the documentary.  As the title boldly states, this is ZZ Top raw, playing live in the studio, as only they could.  12 tracks; nothing beyond Eliminator.  Every song a classic.

Going back to the first album, “Brown Sugar” opens with some amp hiss and seriously bluesly licks from Billy Gibbons.  Raw yes, but also crisp and clear with plenty of bottom end.  These are not simple re-recordings, nor are they vastly different re-imaginings.  They are just 12 tracks of ZZ Top playing hard and heavy, backed with modern equipment and techniques.  The groove flows right through the speakers like jelly.  Sonically the tracks are heavier simply because of the modern equipment, though they are still…you guessed it…raw!  Dusty’s bass on “Just Got Paid”…oh man.  Track after track of familiar rock will hit your ears, satisfying your need for that dirty greasy blues that ZZ Top peddle in.  Jamming solos, rolling bass and luscious blues licks await within.

As far as surprises go, there are not many, but it is fun to hear “Legs” done in this raw settling.  The sequencers are there but back in the mix.  It’s much more rocking.  Interesting to hear no backing guitars when Billy is soloing.  “Gimme All Your Lovin'” benefits similarly from the raw treatment.  No sequencers here, just guitars, drums and bass.  No loss either.  A slow jam version of “Thunderbird” is another treat.  Finally, it’s a blast to hear Frank Beard playing hard on the surf rock of “Tube Snake Boogie”.

From rockers, to blues rockers and just plain ol’ blues, this album contains a nice cross section of songs from 1971 to 1983.  Arguably, the essential years.  While not essential itself, ZZ Top Raw should make your purchase list.  It’s an excellent set of recordings, of some of the best ZZ Top songs, with modern fidelity and of course, the last of Dusty Hill.  You loved it when you saw ZZ Top jamming these tunes in the film.  Now you can own the soundtrack.  So get on it!

4/5 stars

Thanks to John T. Snow for kindly gifting this copy!

REVIEW: Ghost – “Hunter’s Moon” (2022 7″ single)

GHOST – “Hunter’s Moon” (2022 Loma Vista 7″ single)

The new Ghost album Impera is almost upon us!  (March 11.)  The group’s sound has changed from album to album, progressing from a gothic metal band with a foot in the past, to something more perversely pop.  Their last album 2018’s Prequelle, pushed further in that direction, with at least one song (“Danse Macabre”) sounding like a keyboard-drenched rock single from back in ’86.  So who knows what we will get this time out?

The single “Hunter’s Moon” from the film Halloween Kills might be a clue. The single version does not appear in the film, but a much more elaborate mix runs during the end credits.  Presumably, the single version will be on Impera as well.

The beat is strong, and the melody is prominent.  The chorus is a little more old-school Ghost, so perhaps the album will be a hybrid of styles.  There’s a cool guitar line and the usual idiosyncratic Tobias Forge vocals.  It sounds like latter-day Ghost with a little of the early thump, and one particularly Sabbathy guitar bend.  Plenty pop, plenty gothic.  Good song though not up there with “Rats” or “Danse Macabre”.

According to Max the Axe:  “All the neat metal tricks save it from being a simple pop song, and transcends it to hook-laden heavy rock.  Lots of breaks and dynamics.”

On the B-side is the Halloween Kills main title theme by John Carpenter.  It’s a variation on the familiar, iconic Halloween piano theme, bare with synth and choir.  A very nice add-on to this cool single.

3.5/5 stars

“Remember Me” by Journey on the Sunday Song Spotlight

It was a little shocking when Steve Perry left Journey in 1997 after a very brief reunion. Even more shocking was his swift replacement by Steve Augeri of the little-known Tall Stories. It did not take long for them to release new music with the fresh-faced singer. “Remember Me” came in the summer of ’98 on the back of the hit movie soundtrack for Armageddon.

The new track sounded exactly like Journey!  A little bit harder than much of the recent Trial By Fire music.  Notably (and noticeably), “Remember Me” also features their new drummer, Deen Castronovo.  The lead singer change was the bigger news of course, but with Augeri, Journey cut a hot first track.  The classic Journey hard rock anthem sound was recaptured.

“Remember Me” begins with the chyme of an acoustic guitar but soon bursts into life with the rest of the band.  Jonathan Cain’s tinkling keyboards create a melodic undertone, but Augeri is front and center of the track.  He can hit the notes with the right amount of power, and fooled a few people into thinking he actually was Steve Perry!  Not a bad debut.

 

Remember me
Find myself all alone
In darkness without you
Now I can’t turn away
From what I must do
You know I’d give my life for you
More than words can say
I’ve shown you how to love someone
I know you’ll find a way
Say goodbye
Close your eyes
Remember me
Walk away
The sun remains
Remember me
I’ll live on somewhere in your heart
You must believe
Remember me
No way I can change my mind
I don’t have the answers
If you could see through my eyes
You’d let go of your fears
And though I have to leave you now
With the thought of each other
I miss your touch
You call my name
I am with you forever
Say goodbye
Close your eyes
Remember me
Walk away
The sun remains
Remember me
With the change we can’t explain
Remember me
I’ll live on somewhere in your heart
You must believe
Remember me
You know I’d give my life for you
More than words can say
I showed you how to love someone
I know you’ll find a way
Say goodbye
Close your eyes
Remember me
Walk away
The sun remains
Remember me
Be there to watch over you
Remember me
Feel I’m gone
My heart lives on
Remember me
Don’t you think of this as the end
I’ll come into your dreams
Remember me
Close your eyes…
Say goodbye…
Remember me
Say you will

#952: Hackers

RECORD STORE TALES #952: Hackers

The internet (otherwise known as the “information superhighway” or “the weeb”) was just beginning to enter public consciousness in 1995.  Hollywood struck while the iron was hot with Hackers, a pretty shitty movie starring Johnny Lee Miller, Matthew Lillard, and Angelina Jolie.

I saw Hackers in the fall of ’95 at a drive-in.  It was so bad that when the film broke partway through the movie, I didn’t even care.  “I want to see the rest of the movie!” complained my girlfriend in the other seat.  She was mad; she didn’t want a refund, she wanted to see Hackers.  They eventually got the movie back up and running, for what it was worth.  We mocked the corny dialogue about “14400 BPS modems” and terrible visuals.  “That isn’t what the internet looks like!”  She was right.

The only lasting impact the movie had was its CD soundtrack, which was still in demand six months later.  Featuring the Prodigy, Orbital, and Underworld among others, Hackers was popular with the growing electronica crowd.  It was also hard to find used, and expensive new.

As discussed in Record Store Tales #795: A Case for Security, CD theft was a major issue for local stores in the mid-90s.  There was a roving gang of thieves called the “Pizza Guys”* who ripped off CDs from major chains and then sold them all over town.  The cops were aware of the situation, and instructed us to keep buying from them so they could collect evidence.  We followed their instructions and they had pages and pages and pages of information on these guys.  What they sold, where, and when — and what ID they were using.

Nobody liked dealing with those guys.  They were rude, and drew attention to themselves with the massive amounts of new releases they were selling — multiple copies.  They were cocky and got bolder week by week.  But not as bold as the rookie employee dubbed “The Boy that Killed Pink Floyd”.

He wanted the Hackers soundtrack.  He wasn’t willing to pay new prices and he had his name in the computer for a used one.  Then he got a bright idea.  He didn’t “ask” the Pizza Guys for a copy.  He just made it really obvious that he wanted one.

One day when we were buying CDs off the Pizza gang, the kid asked, “No Hackers in here, eh?”

A few visits later, the gang was back.  Entering the store, one of the leaders smiled, nodded and simply said “Hackers!”   He had somehow acquired a copy, and even acknowledged the request.  I don’t know how our kid didn’t get fired for that one.  The boss was not impressed!  He finally got his walking papers after special ordering an expensive Pink Floyd CD single, deciding he didn’t want it, and putting it on the shelves to sell as a used item.  That was the end of the Boy Who Killed Pink Floyd!

 

*Because they served up hot slices.

 

REVIEW: Kevin Kiner – Star Wars “Rebels Theme” (Limited edition picture single)

STAR WARS “Rebels Theme” (Limited edition Disney 2015 picture disc single)
Music by KEVIN KINER

You know where I stand on remixes, right?  Most of them are shite, especially when you try to dance-ify music that was not intended for dancing.  If that kind of remix is your thing, that’s cool.  You appreciate something that I do not.  I just recommend that you hit the “back” button on your browser right about now, that’s all.

I liked Star Wars Rebels.  Although it did come across more “kiddie” than Clone Wars, the era and characters it covered were more to my liking.  The Imperial era, not the Republic.  Of course, it later grew and merged with Clone Wars into a greater lore, but that is not for this review.  Just saying, check it out if you haven’t.  It’s on your Disney Plus.

Rebels’ composer, Kevin Kiner, was tasked with coming up with a new theme cue.  He did this by incorporating and adapting John Williams’ original cues.  It’s almost like a mega-mix of hero themes, in 55 seconds.  It’s just a cartoon after all, not a feature film.  Kiner’s rendition of these landmark themes is perfectly suitable to the show and honours the era in which it is set, and the spark of rebellion.

Though Star Wars Rebels has two volumes of music available on soundtracks, they were never issued on physical formats.  This single is the only place you can get a physical copy of Kiner’s “Rebels Theme”.

Unfortunately, the exclusive B-side of this single is the horrid “Flux Pavilion’s The Ghost Remix”.  It adds digital beats, noise and manipulations to the “Rebels Theme” and extends the thing by five times!  For the hell of it, there’s some laser blasts, some Wookiee howls, and some yelling.  This is utter garbage that young kids might enjoy, but makes me wanna hurl.  It deviates so far from the blueprint that it’s clear the ol’ hyperdrive needs some recalibrating.  The remix is at least memorable, for whatever that’s worth.

The picture disc is nice though.  On the A-side (which is unfortunately the remix side!) it’s hero Ezra Bridger with Jedi Kanan Jarrus and droid C1-10P, aka “Chopper”.  On the B-side, the original “Rebels Theme”, you get an Imperial Stormtrooper taking aim to fire (and miss)!  One of the coolest things about the Rebels show was that it used old Ralph McQuarrie designs from Star Wars pre-history.  Chopper is based on preliminary drawings of R2-D2.  Likewise the loveable character of Garazeb Orrelios is based on early designs for Chewbacca.

Being that the decent B-side is 55 seconds long while the remix is five times that length, the rating for this single cannot be high.

2/5 stars

Soundtrack Stream! Nigel Tufnel Top Ten with Rob Daniels and Surprise Guest!

Thanks to Rob Daniels for not one but two awesome lists, and terrific co-hosting duties!   The knowledge of this man is unsurpassed.   Down to microscopic detail, Rob is able to discuss virtually any soundtrack on a dime.  This show was long overdue!  It was the Nigel Tufnel Top Ten Soundtracks with lists from:

My hope is that this show will give you some new music to check out,  I know I’ll be adding some discs to my wishlist.  You’ll have to watch and see!

An extra-special thanks to Dr. Kathryn for her first video appearance and an awesome list!  Apologies for the technical issues, such is the nature of live streaming.  It only gets harder when I’m on location.  The LeBrain Facebook page lost its feed close to the end, but if you missed anything it’s all on Youtube below.

Also thanks to Holen, Erik, Frank, Meat, Chris, Candace and everyone else for your great comments!

Soundtrack Stream this Friday with Robert Daniels from Visions In Sound

This long-delayed instalment of LeBrain & Friends (temporary title) is brought to you by the power of soundtracks!

Due to scheduling, this episode has been pushed back a couple times.  If I’m doing soundtracks, I have to have ‘Mister Soundtracks’ on the show himself.  That would be Rob Daniels from Visions In Sound.  There are very few people who know more about film, TV and video game soundtracks than Rob, so prepare to be educated!

The weather looks good but can sometimes mess with the internet.  If I am unable to go live tonight then I will reschedule the show.

Tonight Rob and I will run down the Nigel Tufnel Top Ten Soundtracks!  Everything is fair game.  In fact my understanding is that Rob will be bringing us two lists:  scores, and standard soundtrack discs!  Participants include:

Tune in tonight, September 11 at 8:00 PM E.S.T.

Facebook:  Michael Ladano or Facebook:  MikeLeBrain.  YouTube:  Mike LeBrain.

REVIEW: Bon Jovi – “Someday I’ll Be Saturday Night” (1995 single)

BON JOVI – “Someday I’ll Be Saturday Night” (1995 Mercury single)

It’s impossible to acquire a “complete” Bon Jovi collection; trust me on this. Even Jon Bon Jovi doesn’t have a complete Bon Jovi collection. Up to a certain point in time, it’s fun to collect as many B-sides and bonus tracks you can get your hands on.

The second single from “best of” album Cross Road (1994) was “Someday I’ll Be Saturday Night”, and it was a pretty clear indication of where the band would go on their next album These Days.  But — surprise bonus — this single doesn’t have the studio version (that you already own) from Cross Road.  It has an uncredited live version instead!  Added bonus — Alec John Such on bass.  He had yet to be replaced (on stage, anyway) by Hugh McDonald.  This is probably the only live version of the hit with Such on bass.

Make no mistake, “Someday I’ll Be Saturday Night” is a great song.  There’s a Bon Jovi niche for acoustic rock songs with down-on-your-luck/inspirational lyrics.  “My life’s a bargain basement, all the good shit’s gone.”  This is Jon’s bread and butter.  He wouldn’t know a bargain basement if he was shopping for old Bon Jovi singles in one, but he does this kind of rock really well.  This is one of the last of his must-haves of the genre.

Another rare one, “Good Guys Don’t Always Wear White”, is a studio track with the well-worn cowboy motif.  It’s from the movie The Cowboy Way featuring Jon’s old Young Guns buddy Keifer Sutherland.  Unexpectedly, this one is an  intricate hard-driving rocker, with a Sambora riff that he could take pride in.  Tico Torres is absolutely on fire on the kit.  That guy can lay down a groove while throwing in challenging patterns just for fun.  Why can’t Bon Jovi rock like this anymore?  This track feels more honest than the hard luck songs.

Two more live songs finish the CD.  These two are from Montreal in ’94:  “With A Little Help From My Friends” (Joe Cocker style) and “Always”.  The reason Bon Jovi can get away with “A Little Help From My Friends” is Richie Sambora, who always brings the soul and the integrity.  That’s not to say that Jon sucks.  Check out the note he holds at 3:57.  The man had lungs back in 1994!  The demographics of the audience are obvious: “Always” is almost drowned out by a sea of high-pitched screams!  It’s one of their last ballads that really deserves that kind of cheering though.

A great single is one that you can list to independently of the album, and doesn’t sound like a bunch of miscellaneous bonus tracks.  This single is like that.  There’s no wasted space, no filler, and no tracks you can get on the albums.  The live stuff is high grade and the studio track is extremely valuable for its hard rocking nature.  This is more like an EP than a single, but it’s all semantics.  Let’s just call it:

4.5/5 stars

 

You say you don’t like my kind,
A bitter picture in your mind.
No, it don’t matter what I say,
I hear you bitchin’ when I walk away.
I’ll never be what you want me to be,
You tell me I’m wrong but I disagree,
I ain’t go no apology.
Just because I don’t look like you, talk like you, think like you,
Judge and jury, a hangman’s noose,
I see them in your eyes.
Good guys don’t always wear white.

 

REVIEW: Bon Jovi – “Real Life” (1999 CD singles)

Forget Valentine’s Day…except when it’s good for traffic!  Back in my single days I used to call it “Bon Jovi Day” and listen to nothing but Jon & Richie.  Here’s some Bon Jovi for you!

BON JOVI – “Real Life” (1999 Reprise & promo CD singles)

There was an unprecedented five year interregnum between These Days and Crush.  This pause allowed Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora to get some solo albums out of their systems before the band re-convened.  In the buildup to the new album, Bon Jovi contributed a new single called “Real Life” to the movie EdTV.  Remember EdTV?  There were two movies out at the same time about a guy who had his whole life broadcast on television 24/7.  One, The Truman Show starring Jim Carrey, was a huge hit.  The other, Ron Howard’s EdTV starring Matthew McConaughey, was the also-ran.  EdTV might have been more interesting, but bombed.  This rendered the Bon Jovi single relatively obscure.  It’s not the first time a Bon Jovi movie track misfired.  Remember “Good Guys Don’t Always Wear White”?

“Real Life” was a decent tune, but it was a ballad at a time when Bon Jovi already had plenty.  There’s little to draw your attention, aside from Richie Sambora’s always alluring guitar and vocals.  The watery guitar tone is not far removed from These Days, but that album boasted the kind of ballads you’d never forget.  Songs like “Something to Believe In”, “These Days”, and “(It’s Hard) Letting You Go” are the kind of songs you carry your whole life.  “Real Life” is not.  In the wake of These Days, it was just another ballad.

Who is “Desmond Childs“?

This commercial single has two versions of “Real Life”, but there are actually four versions out there!  For the “album version”, if you don’t want the EdTV soundtrack, look for a promo single instead.  The differences between the album version and the radio mix are slight, but the album version has more guitar where the single mix has more piano.  The third version is an instrumental mix, which is nice if you want to listen to Richie’s guitar a little more.  The fourth and final version is an alternate mix that can be found on the box set 100,000,000 Bon Jovi Fans Can’t Be Wrong.

Finally, a live recording of “Keep the Faith” rounds out the single.  It seems to be a standby live B-side for this band.    They used another version on the 2013 single for “Because We Can“.  It’s certainly one of their most accomplished songs.  The bass groove and Tico’s busy drum patterns keep your feet moving.  It’s noncommercial and it strives to be something bigger.  It might be, in a technical sense, Bon Jovi’s most unapologetic and best hit.

Interestingly enough, “Real Life” is the only Bon Jovi video without David Bryan who was away on an injury.  I don’t think he missed out on much.

2.5/5 stars