Stevie Nicks

REVIEW: Heavy Metal – Music From the Motion Picture (1981)

movie-soundtrack-weekHere we go with another week of movie soundtracks! It’s a case of the second one being even better than the first, so let’s start things off properly, shall we?

 


Scan_20160706HEAVY METAL – Music From the Motion Picture (1981 Elektra)

I’d never seen anything like Heavy Metal before.  It was a sci-fi cartoon with a bunch of guys from SCTV doing voices…but it wasn’t for kids!  I probably saw my first animated genitalia in Heavy Metal.  It was also the first time I heard Sammy Hagar.

Sammy’s title track opens the now-legendary soundtrack, which like many others was deleted in the 1990s and commanded heavy prices on the second hand market.  When I worked at the Record Store during that period, there were always plenty of names on the wish list for this album.  There were tracks on here that were hard to find anywhere else.  This version of Hagar’s “Heavy Metal” is different from the one on Sammy’s Standing Hampton LP, and it was not the only such exclusive.  “Heavy Metal” is one of Hagar’s best tunes, simply legendary.  It’s a pummelling good time!

The rest of the album is equally awesome.  Riggs (Jerry Riggs, later of the Pat Travers Band) has a Hagar-esque rocker called “Heartbeat” that is definitely good enough for rock n’ roll.  You might not expect DEVO to be on an album called Heavy Metal, but what’s not to like about “Working in the Coal Mine”?  I’m sure more than a few metal fans would have skipped this one back in 1981, but when compared to the next song by Blue Öyster Cult…what’s the big deal?  B.Ö.C.’s “Veteran of the Psychic Wars” leans just as heavily on synthesizer, so purists be damned.  “Veteran of the Psychic Wars” is a classic, through and through, a dark apocalyptic ballad that can’t be touched.  Some would say it was the last gasp of B.Ö.C. before a long period of mediocrity.  Cheap Trick utilised synth too, but their “Reach Out” is a rocker.  Cheap Trick were another band in a period of decline, following the departure of original bassist Tom Petersson. “Reach Out” was a damn fine tune, and not on one of their albums at the time.  (It’s hard not to notice that Tod Howarth ripped off the verses of “Reach Out” for his own song “Calling to You” with Frehley’s Comet.  Howarth later played with Cheap Trick as a sideman.)

Don Felder from the Eagles isn’t the kind of guy you’d expect to hear do a song called “Heavy Metal (Takin’ a Ride)”.  It’s an Eagles-metal hybrid and it’s pretty cool, more metal than Eagles, but you can hear them in there.  He’s followed by Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen who presents the interesting “True Companion”.  It’s progressive jazz light rock nirvana.  The punks will hate it, but the same guys who dig Captain Beyond will appreciate it.  Quite daring to include tracks like this on a CD primarily made up of rock and metal, but this helped open the minds and tastes of many metal heads over the years.  Nazareth re-centers it back to rock and roll, with “Crazy (A Suitable Case for Treatment)”.  It’s not among Nazareth’s best but it’s always such a pleasure to hear Dan McCafferty gargling glass.

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Riggs returns with “Radar Rider”.  Heavy riff in hand, it’s a slammin’ good track.  But it is overshadowed by the bombast of “Open Arms” by Journey, one of the biggest ballads in the history of balladry.  You know what’s funny?  Even though I have heard this song 106,941 times as of this morning, I still smile upon hearing it.  There must be something timeless to it that I can’t explain.

Grand Funk were in a decline (like a few of these bands), and “Queen Bee” from Grand Funk Lives was their contribution.  Good track, though it does not sound much like the Grand Funk I know from the 1970s.  And then it’s Cheap Trick again, with a noisy throwaway track called “I Must Be Dreaming”.  It’s a bizarre track from the high priests of rhythmic noise, but they do bizarre just as well as they do catchy.

There’s one band that I think blew the doors off the album.  One band that, to me, is always associated with this album.  One band that defines the phrase “heavy metal”, and that one band is Black Sabbath.  If you listen to fools, the mob rules!  This was brand new Black Sabbath at the time; Mob Rules wouldn’t be out yet for a couple months.  I have always preferred the soundtrack version of “Mob Rules” to the different recording that made it onto the album.  This could be because it was the first version I owned.  Regardless, to my ears it sounds faster and livelier…and more “Geezer-er”.  Not that it matters, because no matter how you slice it, “The Mob Rules” is a shot of adrenaline right to the heart.

Don Felder takes it back to a slow groove with “All of You”, a good rock ballad with some seriously cool funky bass.  All told, the Heavy Metal soundtrack has some damn fine playing on it from all of these bands — just incredible musicianship in these grooves.  Things wind down with Trust, and a very heavy track called “Prefabricated”.  Nicko McBrain was in Trust in 1981, but this does not sound like Nicko on drums.  The song would have been better without the vocals.  Especially when it’s followed by Stevie Nicks, one of the most iconic voices in rock.  “Blue Lamp” was recorded for her solo debut Bella Donna, but not used.  It’s certainly not outtake quality.  In fact it’s pretty damned classic.

That’s what the Heavy Metal soundtrack is:  a classic.  If you like heavy metal, but don’t like soundtracks, then you should still own this one.  Make it so.

4.5/5 stars

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Like many movies with a rock soundtrack, there was also a score for Heavy Metal released.  I asked our friend Rob Daniels from Visions in Sound for a few words on this score in the interests of being complete:

“It’s a great score by the late Elmer Bernstein who is best known for a lot of 80’s comedic scores including Ghostbusters, Animal House and Airplane. His score fits perfectly within the metal music atmosphere, weaving its way through the various stories and songs to the Taarna story. The “Taarna” theme was actually first written for the Farrah Faucett character in the 1980’s film Saturn 3 but was not used. It includes an unusual instrument called a Ondes Martenot, similar to a Theremin but with a physical keyboard. Bernstein used the instrument quite a lot in his scores. While a lot of people know Heavy Metal for the songs in the film the score is of equal note and probably one of Bernstein’s best.”

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GUEST CONCERT REVIEW: Fleetwood Mac 2/04/2015

GUEST REVIEW by BOPPIN


FLEETWOOD MAC – Live, February 4 2015 at the Air Canada Center, Toronto

Before reviewing the concert I have to give a brief history of my introduction to Fleetwood Mac. In the early 90’s, one of my buddies took out whatever hair band CD was in the player and put in Fleetwood Mac Rumours. WTF is that crap? It sounded like the love child of ABBA and The Eagles! After a while the band grew on me. I wasn’t exactly going to cruise down main street with Fleetwood Mac blasting out the T-tops, but I did start to enjoy it. It became one of my guilty pleasures, and my wife loves them, so this is a bonus.

Fast forward to February 4 2015. My wife and I were early, so we got to our seats before the show started. The band was not on time, but only 20 minutes or so behind schedule. By Axl Rose standards, they were 2 hours early. This gave me time to Google the setlist as I always do before a concert. 24 songs and two encores. 24 songs? Holy crap. I also read reviews of many of the recent shows. All glowing love-fests proclaiming Fleetwood Mac as the next best thing since sliced bread, with nary a whisper of negativity. Well. We shall see about that.

The lights dim and we see the shadows of band members entering the stage. The crowd roars. When the music starts you get a feeling why this band has remained so popular. The rhythm section of this band is awesome. These guys are in their late 60’s, and they still sound incredible. John McVie is the guy that likes to stay in the background. I don’t think I ever saw any hint of showmanship from him, but he played his bass flawlessly, and that is all you can ask. Mick Fleetwood is a really underrated drummer. His talents are not shown off in the mostly pop rock songs that made the band famous, but over the years I have heard enough of his songs to know he has what it takes. And for his age, he still has it. Lindsey Buckingham is a guitarist that wasn’t on my radar: until I saw him live. He was not awesome, but a very unique guitar player. For starters, he does not play with a pick. I have seen many players play acoustic without a pick but not many electric players. His right thumb seems to act kind of like a pick, but his right hand fingers do this kind of spastic fingerpicking that is hard to describe. Kind of like, if he was trying to flick crumbs from all of his fingers at the same time. I can’t quite figure out how the guitar sounds so good when his thumb and all 4 fingers seem to be flicking at the strings at the same time. But it works.

Piano and accordion duties were handled by Christine McVie. Her strength however is her vocal prowess. All I can say is that anyone that saw this band in the last 16 years prior to this tour should ask for their money back. She left the band during that time due to an intense fear of flying. What an absolute loss that was. She completes this band, the way Van Halen was completed when David Lee Roth came back. They were great without him, but awesome with him. Her voice is so crisp and it reminds me of the first robin you hear in the spring. You can’t help but smile. For a 71 year old lady, she still looks and sounds beautiful. Kind of like an older Judith Light. She must have been a real force to deal with in her heyday.

The final member is the resident scarf twirler, tambourine banging, top hat wearing lady named Stevie Nicks — probably the most famous member of the band. She is the only member to have a productive solo career. Unfortunately life, and possibly hard partying have caught up to Stevie. Her voice is down at least 1 octave, and she can’t hit the high notes anymore. She still has a great stage presence and she is possibly better at her age than some singers in their prime.

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Now for the bad.

“Tusk”. The mere mention of this song turns me off. However, I did prefer the live version of this song to the original, but that is not saying much.

“Second Hand News” is my favourite song by this version of the band. This live rendition however was ruined by whatever annoying sound effect they had in place of the bass line that the original had. And the “bowm bowm bowm bowm bowm…” is a little off. It might be too fast paced for the elder statesmen.

Even though I commended Lindsey, he is not without fault. His voice progressively got worse as the night wore on. I was hoping they would actually mute his mike, and just let his guitar do the talking. When he did a vocal solo, his voice reminded me of a pre-pubescent mixed with The Hobbit. I was waiting for him to say “precious’. There were also times in the night that he yelled and screamed much louder than he needed to. And I won’t even mention the skinny jeans he borrowed from One Direction.

The song choices could have been better in my opinion. There were a few duds near the middle, and even one song from the Peter Green era would have been nice. Not many people realize the band did “Black Magic Woman” before Santana. Also, they could have done a cover of “Werewolves of London”. John and Mick were the rhythm section on the Warren Zevon song. These would have been good substitutions.

Stevie Nicks though a good stage presence, kind of reminds me of an old hippie cat lady from Woodstock, New York. She is about three puffs on a reefer away from being bat shit crazy. She was rambling a few times during the night. Something about Lindsey in high school and he knew her but she didn’t know him blah, blah. Next about the store that influenced the song “Gypsy”…zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. I told my wife to nudge when she stopped rambling.

I read in another interview how the giant screen behind the stage and the smaller screens near the front made the show so much better. Apparently this person was not sitting where I sat. The smaller screens blocked my view of members of the band. When Mick was doing a sweet solo, I wanted to watch his arms flailing. But instead I got to see a stupid screen in my way.

In conclusion, this was a concert worth seeing. I watched the Youtube clips of the show, and they don’t shed a good light on the band. The band does sound much better when you are seeing them in concert than what it looks and sounds like on a computer. Although I was much worse on them than any other reviewer I read, I still enjoyed the show. I can finally say I saw them, and I would recommend them to others.

I would rate them:

7.5/10
(3.75/5 stars on the LeBrain scale)

MACThanks Boppin for the awesome review once again! — LeBrain

 

Blu-ray REVIEW: Sound City (2013)

“The internet’s cool for some stuff, but like many things, there’s no book store, there’s no music store, and there’s no Sound City.” — Josh Homme

SOUND CITY (2013 Roswell Films)

Directed by Dave Grohl

Uncle Meat persuaded me to see this movie, and I’m glad that he did.  He said it wasn’t optional; that it was a must and that I would love it.  So I bought it on Blu-ray, invited him over to co-review it with me, and we viewed it one afternoon after work in 5.1 surround.   Needless to say, Sound City was good.  So good that we never felt we could do it justice in a review, so I sat on my notes for over a year!  Having recently re-watched Sound City (directed by Dave Grohl) with Mrs. LeBrain, now I can finally finish what Meat and I started last year.

Van Nuys, California.  Sound City Studios, the legendary place where everybody who is anybody recorded.  Nirvana?  Check.  Fleetwood Mac?  Rick Springfield?  Tom Petty?  Check.  Slipknot?  Also check.  Neil Young recorded much of  After the Gold Rush there, after being enamored of the vocal sound that he got on “Birds”.  Keith Olsen learned his craft there.  It’s not much to look at on the outside:  according to producer Butch Vig, it’s “kinda dumpy”. On the inside, there’s booze and cigarettes everywhere.  Big room, huge floor. Lots of black magnetic tape.

Grohl narrates, personal anecdotes flow, then he steps out of the movie’s way.  Grohl has a nice visual style, a combination of close ups and wide shots with plenty of details to look at.  He infuses the movie with plenty of humour, sometimes at his own expense.  The film has two phases:  the first is a history lesson regarding the studio and the artists who created the hits there.  The second consists of Dave purchasing the studio’s Neve board, moving it north to his own studio, and recording a brand new album with the same legendary artists.  Pretty cool concept.

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The huge Neve console was built like a “brick shithouse” (Keith Olsen), or a “tank” (Neil Young).  Its original purchase price: bought for $75,175  in 1969 dollars.  A nice house at the time cost around $30,000!   The Neve was one of only four.  Combined with the room itself at Sound City, the drum sound you can capture is incredible.  The studio’s acoustics were not designed; it was a complete fluke.  It was originally a box factory that happens to sound magical.

As for that Neve console, it is of course entirely analog.  The one at Sound City was unique, considered the best sounding one. Rupert Neve tried to explain the electronics of it to Grohl in one of the movie’s more humourous scenes.  The very first song recorded on that board was “Crying in the Night”, by Buckingham Nicks.  This led directly to Mick Fleetwood hearing them while at the studio, and hiring not only the studio, but also Buckingham and Nicks!  Essentially, the modern Fleetwood Mac formed right there at Sound City. The studio’s success really began with Rumours.  Then, everyone wanted to record there.   As for Tom Petty?  It appears that Tom Petty pretty much spent his entire career at Sound City.  In fact one of the coolest scenes was an old behind the scenes video from the 1990’s.  Seeing Rick Rubin produce Tom Petty and being brutally honest was very interesting.

Rick Rubin to Tom Petty:  “Sounds like you’re aiming a little lower today than you should be.”

Along came the compact disc, and the infancy of digital recording.  Digital was the latest trend, and you could do new things with a computer that were harder to do on tape.  Sound City suffered during this time, as newer rival studios were on trend. Sound City was dead…but one album helped resuscitate it:  Nevermind.  Then came Rage Against the Machine, Tool, Slayer, Kyuss.  Analog tape and vintage equipment became popular again.  Rick Rubin and Johnny Cash recorded Unchained there with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.  Nine Inch Nails combined the old with the new, by bring in their own computers to record on ProTools along with the Neve.

Unfortunately ProTools was heavy competition, and working with tape was so difficult by comparison, that Sound City finally shut its doors.  They just couldn’t pay the bills anymore, even after selling off their excess equipment.  Then Dave bought the board.  It is amazing to watch it taken apart, boxed up, reassembled and functioning in Seattle.  Regarding the sale of the board, Grohl says, “I think they knew that I wasn’t just going to bubble wrap it, and stick it in a warehouse.  I was gonna fuckin’ use it.  A lot.”

SOUND CITY_0001On November 2, 2011, reassembly of the board began at Dave’s Studio 606.  Then he invited all the original artists back to record a new album on it, produced by Butch Vig.  Regarding Stevie Nicks, in a memorable moment Vig says, “Fuckin’ A, that girl can sing!”  More artists arrive.  The Foo Fighters plus Rick Springfield create a monstrous sound together, a neat amalgam of their respective genres.  Lee Ving (Fear) is hilarious, and performs the fastest count-in of all time.  I discovered a new respect for Trent Reznor, a guy who uses the technology to create original sounds, but desires the warmth of tape.  It’s incredible to see him collaborate with Homme and Grohl.  It’s the sound of humans communicating with instruments.  And they wrote a pretty frickin’ cool song together.  Then, watching Paul McCartney writing “Cut Me Some Slack” with the surviving members of Nirvana is a moment that I’m glad was frozen in time.

Grohl:  “What can’t it always be this easy?”

McCartney:  “It is.”

The blu-ray bonus features include three additional performances: “From Can to Can’t”, “Your Wife is Calling”, “The Slowing Down”.  It was these bonus features that inspired Meat and I to add “Your Wife is Calling” (with Lee Ving) to our 2014 Sausagefest lists.  Our votes allowed the song to clock in at #64.  (The track was my #1.)

Sound City is a complete triumph of a music documentary.  It is the kind of music documentary designed for serious fans, not just passers-by.  I would welcome another movie directed by Dave Grohl with open arms.

5/5 stars