Sweet Leaf

#709: The Stuff

GETTING MORE TALE #709: The Stuff

October 17 2018 was a day like any other day.  I got up, showered, went to work, worked, ate lunch, worked some more, and came home.  You might have had a similar day yourself.

I drove home with Cheap Trick in my ears (“If You Want My Love”, great pop rock) and it was a regular commute, just like any other.  Uneventful is good.  I exited the car into the cold air.  The chill has come, but as I walked towards the building, there was something new.  I smelled the Stuff.

The Stuff is legal in Canada now.  Cannabis, also known as marijuana, ganja, reefer, weed, pot, the electric lettuce…add your own to this list.  Where was I?  Legalisation.  The Justin Trudeau Liberals actually lived up to its campaign promise and the Stuff is now legal.  You can smoke it, you can grow it, and there are rules and regulations to go with it.  In the province of Ontario you can’t just walk into a store and buy it.  You have to order it online.  I heard they’re already sold out.  But it’s legal, is the point I’m making.  Somebody upstairs in the building was celebrating, and that’s fine.

My main point:  like many things, the world didn’t shift today.  I read worried nay-sayers asking questions like “Have they considered all the stoned pot heads driving during the winter while on the Stuff?”  Yes, that’s been considered.  Anybody stupid enough to drive while stoned was already doing it.  What’s one law when you can break two, I guess.  Life in Canada has gone on pretty much normally.  The mail came again.  It was all junk, again.  Gas is pretty much the same price as yesterday.  Same with milk.  Donald Trump tweeted stupid things.  Just a normal day in 2018.

There was one other minor difference today.  There was a mass email at work reminding everyone of the drug & liquor policies.  They haven’t changed though, it’s still basically “Don’t come to work drunk or stoned.”  Same as the day before.

Moving on, I like to think of all the songs I heard as a kid, loaded with references to the Stuff that I completely missed.  I was a pretty naive teenager, I guess, and I really didn’t have a clue!  “Sweet Leaf” by Black Sabbath?  I thought it was about a girl named Leaf.  Leaf isn’t a common name, but it’s a name.  “I love you Sweet Leaf, though you can’t hear.”  Hey, maybe she’s too far away to hear.  I didn’t know!  I swear to Christ almighty, believe me or not, I thought “Sweet Leaf” was about a girl.  Don’t forget Black Sabbath cassettes didn’t come with lyric sheets, so I was guessing at most of the words.  Same with “Flying High Again”.  No clue.

Early 1990, I was working at the grocery store at the mall with a guy named Scott Gunning.  I was obsessed with “Sweet Leaf” that spring.  I just got Sabbath’s We Sold Our Soul for Rock and Roll tape.  “Sweet Leaf” was one of many favourites, but I really loved that riff.  I thought the cough at the start was just an unrelated joke.  Scott, who was older and knew Black Sabbath, must have thought I was a complete stoner, how much I was talking about this song!  Meanwhile I wouldn’t have known the Stuff if it bit me on the nose!

As kids, we always preferred anti-drug songs to ones about getting high.  We were young, and we could relate to the “cleaner” lyrics of a band like Kiss.  “I don’t need to get wasted, it only brings me down.”  Clear cut and easy to understand.  Gene Simmons would be happy that his lyrics had a positive resonance with kids.

Here’s the irony:  Gene Simmons, who has always boasted that he’s only been high in a dentist’s chair, is now investing in Canadian weed companies.

Legalization is a good thing.  A lot of money is going to go right into the economy.  Hell, Mrs. LeBrain has had a prescription for a year and a half now.  Another irony:  she doesn’t take her meds.  She doesn’t like it.  And that’s another factor that people are forgetting.  There are going to be plenty of people who are going to legally try it for the first time, and they’re going to hate it.  They won’t like how it makes them paranoid, or lazy, or hungry, or whatever their reaction will be.  It’s won’t be like the nation will go pot-mad.

Even if it did, I’d rather be living here than down south.

 

REVIEW: Ozzy Osbourne – Speak of the Devil / Talk of the Devil (1983)

 

OZZY OSBOURNE – Speak of the Devil (1983 Epic)

After Randy Rhoads died, Ozzy really seemed to have gone into a tailspin. He just seems to have been completely miserable at the time and he really tries to bury the albums he made in this period. Speak Of The Devil, a live album featuring Brad Gillis (Night Ranger) on guitar, was not even included on Ozzy’s 2002 reissue program and went out of print.

Ozzy owed his label a live album, and had actually recorded one too (Randy Rhoads Tribute).  With fresh wounds from the loss of Randy, Ozzy didn’t want to do a live album at all.    So a compromise instead; Speak of the Devil (Talk of the Devil overseas) consisted entirely of Black Sabbath songs.  At the same time, Sabbath was releasing their own double live album, Live Evil.  This direct competition poured fuel over an already volatile feud.

SPEAK OF THE DEVIL_0003I always hate to compare Ozzy’s versions of Sabbath songs with the originals. Ozzy’s have always sounded different because of the guitar players he’s chosen to use over the years. These Gillis versions are about as authentic as Ozzy’s been, until the fortuitous discovery of Zakk Wylde five years later.  Gillis is a flashier player than Iommi, but without Randy’s intricate classical bent.

You absolutely cannot argue with the track list (from the Ritz, in New York). This is Sabbath boiled down to its black core. These are the desert island songs, and I love that “Never Say Die” and “Symptom of the Universe” were included.  Through the classics, Ozzy sounds tremendously drunk.  Colossally smashed, not quite completely out of his fucking head yet, but close.  Still lucid, not yet totally annihilated.  His voice takes on an angry shade when he starts reminiscing about the the groupies at the old Fillmore East (“The Wizard”).  (Sounds like a naughty word was awkwardly edited of out this ramble, too.)

I do love a moment when, just before breaking into the aforementioned “Wizard”, Ozzy says to somebody (a roadie?) “Hey, what’s happenin’ man?”

The vocals sound like they’ve been sweetened in the studio.  They’ve been double tracked, or manipulated to have that effect.  I’m normally not a fan of that kind of thing, but it’s still a great listen.  There’s some annoying feedback at points…it doesn’t bother me too much, hell, when I first heard this album (on cassette) in 1991, I couldn’t even hear the feedback, for the shitty fidelity of cassette tape.  I’m sure Ozzy considers the album to be sonically embarrassing, that seems to be his modus operandi.

Of note, “Sweet Leaf” did not manage to make the original CD release, but has been restored to this version, its CD debut.  It was on the original cassette version, a cassette-and-LP-only “bonus track” at the time.  (Aaron, that means you gotta buy remastered or LP.)

Band lineup: Osbourne/Gillis/Sarzo/Aldridge/Airey.

4.5/5 stars

SPEAK OF THE DEVIL_0004

 

REVIEW: Fight – Mutations (1994)

Part 2 of a miniseries on Rob Halford’s solo career!  If you missed Part 1, War of Words, then click here.

FIGHT – Mutations (1994 Epic collector’s edition, 2008 Metal God Entertainment reissue)

Released in late 1994, Mutations (subtitled “collector’s edition“, which really means nothing) was a live/remix CD to follow War of Words.  I seem to remember this being marketed as some sort of “extended EP” or some kind of not-album, which again is kind of meaningless.  The original release was 45 minutes, a full length album by most measures.

Live Fight!  Shame it was only four songs, as they absolutely kick ass.  Rob Halford was still in peak voice in 1994, and every high scream is present on opener “Into the Pit”.  Fight as a live band were less stiff than on the first album.  They were no less precise, and each song is just as ferocious as its album counterpart.  On “Nailed to the Gun”, bassist Jay Jay does the low death metal growls while Rob howls like a mad dog.

I was surprised that Rob put “Freewheel Burning” on the album, as he seemed to be trying to distance himself from his past at this time.  Its the only Priest song and I don’t think they played many Priest songs on the tour at all (but I know they did cover Sabbath’s “Sweet Leaf”).  Surprisingly it’s here that Rob’s voice falters, struggling with the demanding song.  He redeems himself on the bluesy single “Little Crazy”.

I enjoy hearing live recordings from bands with two distinct lead guitar players trading off.  Russ Parrish and Brian Tilse were both very different stylistically, and the contrast is awesome.    The pace is aggressive, and these guys keep chugging on.  (Note:  Russ Parrish is not credited on this album.  He had left the band by the time of release, but there is no question that he did play on all these tracks.  Why he was not credited is a mystery, but he does appear on the remastered version cover art.)

FIGHT_0008I believe I am well on record as not being a fan of remixes in general.  There are exceptions but so many remixes add techno-crapola that often serves to reduce the songs to repetitive mockeries of themselves.  On a track like “War of Words” , they remove Scott Travis’ drums from sections, and replace him electronic beats.  At the time I thought, “Why would you want to replace Scott Travis with a drum machine?”  Today, it still bugs me.  But hey, those who doubted the sincerity of Rob’s industrial work with Trent Reznor in Two should remember these remixes!

FIGHT_0006I’ll be honest, I struggle getting through the remix side in one sitting.  There are some cool moments, such as the chance to hear isolated instruments and solos.  “Vicious” is an example of a remix that works for me.  It’s weird, it has an opera singer and dance beats added, but it’s pretty heavy and cool.   But in general, the Fight songs were simple and repetitive to begin with.  Making them simpler and more repetitive didn’t work for me.  Sure, I own some Nine Inch Nails albums, but this sound isn’t where my heart lies.

Goodie-goodie-gosh, Mutations was reissued as part of the Into the Pit box set, with two bonus tracks.  And these bonus tracks are (you guessed it) remixes.   More versions of “Kill It” and “War of Words”.  At least the “Culture of Corruption Mix” of “War of Words” is about half as long as the regular “Bloody Tongue Mix”.

Incidentally, why do remixes always have cliche sounding names?  “Bloody Tongue Mix”!  Raahhrr!  Why not…”Toothpaste Mix”.  Something original.  I think remixers should strive to be more original in the naming of their work.  Something nobody’s used yet.  “I’m Rob Halford and I Endorsed This Mix Mix”.

2/5 stars