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This Week On Visions In Sound – The 20th Anniversary Of The Big Lebowski – Drop in to see what condition your condition is in this week as this week we celebrate the 20th of the Coen Brothers cult classic The Big Lebowski. We will also be live on Facebook!
RECORD STORE TALES Part 254: You Don’t Need To See My Identification
In Ontario, to sell any used goods to a pawn shop or used CD store like ours, you had to present valid, government issued photo ID. That was the law, even though many of my customers thought I made that up just to be a prick. No; that was indeed the law. I couldn’t buy a used stick of gum from you without a driver’s license, passport, or other form of official photo ID.
One day, I was buying some discs from a man, and we just needed his ID to finalize the deal. Upon asking to see it, this exchange occurred:
Me: I just need a piece of photo ID from you.
Him: I have a membership.
Me: …I’m sorry?
Him: I have a membership here.
Me: I’m not sure what you mean. We don’t have “memberships”.
Him: Whatever it’s called. I’m in your system.
Me: That may be but I still need your ID to prove you are who you say you are.
Him: But I’m a member.
Me: I really don’t know what you mean. I’ve been working here for years and even I’m not a “member”!
Another time, I asked a fellow for identification, and it went down something like this:
Me: I’ll just need a piece of ID and your signature.
Him: ID? What for? They’re not stolen.
Me: That’s the law in Ontario. I can’t buy anything used off anybody unless they show me ID.
Him: Like a license? Will my driver’s license do?
Me: Yup, sure will.
Him: Alright, I’ll drive home and get it, I’ll be back in 10.
So he left, and I’m standing there thinking, “What an idiot. What if a cop pulled him over?” Why wouldn’t you just put your wallet in your pants so you have it with you?
Then there were the paranoid ones. They were rare but they were out there, occasionally surfacing, to raise funds by selling off CDs or DVDs.
Me: And I just need a piece of ID.
Him: Don’t got any.
Me: None? Nothing at all? Driver’s License, Health Card?
Him: Nope. I don’t want the government knowing my affairs.
Nor did he want them to know he was selling off his Tammy Wynette albums, I suppose.
Bottom line: I was surprised how many people in this fine city walk (and sometimes drive) around without any sort of identification on them. Just an observation, is all, from the front lines of the record store.
CRAZY HEART Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (2010 NewWest)
Produced by T Bone Burnett and Stephen Bruton
I grew up on this kind of music. I remember long drives to the cottage, singing away to the hits by Hank Jr., Hank Sr., Johnny, Willie, and Waylon…all those great artists. So to hear Jeff Bridges perform his character Bad Blake’s songs on this soundtrack is already in the ballpark of music I love. The great thing about this soundtrack is that it’s loaded with awesome original tunage such as “Fallin’ & Flying'” and “The Weary Kind”, but it also has great oldies by Townes, Buck and Waylon. There’s even a classic Lightnin’ Hopkins blues.
Buck Owens’ “Hello Trouble” (1964) is lyrically as apt as ever. Townes Van Zandt’s “If I Needed You” (1972) is laden with emotion within an inventive dual-track lead vocal. But it’s “Once A Gambler” by Hopkins that I am spellbound by. It’s shocking how vibrant this old recording is, and it’s gotta be 50 years old. Much like the singer’s name, the playing, singing and song itself are electrifying. You couldn’t record this better today with all the computers in the world.
Meanwhile, Jeff’s performance on “Somebody Else” is more rock n’ roll; this is an original tune by T Bone Burnett and Stephen Bruton. It has a live sound to it. Bridges’ lead vocal edges into nasal territory, but the dude was 61 years old at the time. Another new tune, “I Don’t Know” by Ryan Bingham is firmly in 80’s Steve Earle territory, and that’s fine by me.
I saw Crazy Heart and I thought they did a fairly credible job, but I very rarely like it when Hollywood types do these types of films. Leave the singing to the singers (I’m looking at you, Gwenyth Paltrow!). Still, this Bridges/Ferrell track is roadhouse-worthy.
Sure, in some cases I would agree with that. Nobody needed Eddie Murphy to make an album for example. In the case of “Fallin’ & Flyin'”, I really like this track. It was written to suit Jeff’s leathery but expressive singing voice. Jeff Bridges is no slouch; I’m sure Kris Kristofferson taught him a few tricks when they jammed behind the scenes during Heaven’s Gate. Jeff’s slant on “I Don’t Know” is more country than Bingham’s and features piano and squeezebox. I believe I am well on record for being a fan of the Dude in the first place.
There’s only one tune I didn’t like, which is “Reflecting Light” by Sam Phillips (2004). Sorry Sam. It’s not you; it’s me.
My only regret is picking up the single disc version before I knew there was a double disc with even more tunes. At some point in the future I’ll trade up. I got this used, at Encore Records, so not a huge expense (I paid $10) and I can always trade up.
JOHNNY CASH – American IV: The Man Comes Around (2003 American)
I have published over 300 reviews here at mikeladano.com (use the search button on the top right to look up anything you want). Yet, I still hadn’t got around to Johnny Cash! That’s strange, because Johnny Cash is very special to me.
Everybody “says” they love Johnny Cash. Many of them jumped on board when he died and became “cool” again. Take Dandy, for example, a trend chaser who inked Johnny’s face on his arm a few months after he died. But hey, if you’re on board now, that’s cool. There’s plenty of room for everyone.
Johnny Cash was my first concert. In Canada in the early 1980’s, Johnny had an endorsement deal with Canada Trust, where my dad worked. Their brand new ATM machines were called Johnny Cash machines, and my dad even had some promotional Johnny Cash bills, a cool marketing gimmick. He went to see Johnny, his idol, when Johnny came to town. The first night of a two-nighter, my dad met him. On the second night, he brought me along (I didn’t get to meet him). Johnny modified his original concert opening by saying, “I’m Johnny Cash, 24 hour money machine” (in reference to the ATMs). I still remember June kicking off her shoes!
The Man Comes Around is my favourite of the American Recordings, helmed by Rick Rubin. It was also the last one released in Johnny’s lifetime. It is, all at once, extremely powerful, morose, joyful, and catchy. All filtered through Johnny’s unmistakable baritone, worn and weary but no less strong and expressive. Like other American albums, it is a mixture of originals and covers, oldies and more recent fare.
The most well-known song on American IV was “Hurt”, the Nine Inch Nails cover. It is remarkable by being so different, yet true to the spirit of the original. I prefer Johnny’s take on it to Trent’s, truthfully. “Hurt” is only one of many remarkable covers on this album. Johnny and Fiona Apple tend “Bridge Over Troubled Water”, with quiet mellotron in the background.
My favourite song is Sting’s “I Hung My Head”. I couldn’t believe the credits when I read that (having skipped Sting’s Mercury Falling album). I thought for certain this had to be a new Cash original. Lyrically, I was convinced this tragic tale came from the mind of the Man in Black, but I was wrong. It’s a spellbinding song, painting a clear picture, and Johnny’s delivery is perfect.
“In My Life” is the favourite of Mrs. LeBrain. She’s a huge Beatles fan. We selected this song for the signing of the register at our wedding. I received kudos on the musical selection from Tom Morwood and Jen’s Uncle Rick, who loved the Johnny. While very different from the Beatles version, I think I can safely say I like both equally.
I’m not too keen on the Depeche Mode cover (“Personal Jesus”), but I don’t like Depeche Mode much. I know some who think the cover is brilliant, so we’ll go with that. Johnny and Rubin tranform the song into a dark acoustic stomp.
Other highlights include the classic “Sam Hall”, which Johnny also performed on his 1965 album, Johnny Cash Sings Ballads of the True West. I love Johnny’s energetic delivery on this traditional. We enjoyed this one at the record store, a lot. “Danny Boy” is another from 1965 (Orange Blossom Special) that Johnny takes a second crack at. This time it’s a more intimate affair without the backing vocals. Johnny compensates with his rich storyteller’s voice, each flaw telling a story of its own.
The album closes with “We’ll Meet Again”, the Vera Lynn classic. I always think of Kubrick (Dr. Strangelove) when I hear this song. So for me, I can hear a sly wink in “We’ll Meet Again”, a hint of humour, as if Johnny knew this would be the last song on the last album released in his lifetime.
But it’s not really the last song. On my wishlist is the vinyl edition, which had two bonus tracks: Marty Robbins’ “Big Iron” (another personal favourite) and an exclusive version of “Wichita Lineman”.
My copy of the album came with a bonus DVD. Nothing to get excited about, it’s just the music video for “Hurt”. Granted that’s a great video, but the DVD is less special in 2013 than it was in 2003. Now, everybody Youtubes.
IRON MAIDEN – Maiden England ’88 (2013 CD reissue)
It only took 25 years, but Iron Maiden have finally released a complete 2 CD edition of their legendary Maiden England recording. A video was released in 1989, and a truncated CD version in 1994. These were great, but less than 100% satisfying.
The first thing you notice is the striking cover art. This is by somebody named Hervé Monjeaud. It resembles Derek Riggs’ Eddies enough to fit in fairly seemlessly with the 1988 era. I wish they used the original motorcycle cover art by Derek Riggs, but at least they credit him inside as the original artist.
Also checking the credits, I was pleased to find that the audio was not remixed. This is the same mix that Martin Birch produced at the time. The three unreleased songs are freshly mixed by Kevin Shirley, but there’s no tampering. This is the authentic Maiden England.
Last year when I reviewed every Maiden release in a row, I discussed Maiden England. Please check that review out if you’re looking for a more comprehensive review of the songs and content. Back then, I gave it 4/5 stars. I found the sound a tad muddy, I complained about the brief running time, and I didn’t like that the CD did not include every song from the VHS version. The missing songs were “Hallowed Be Thy Name” and “Can I Play With Madness”. This edition restores them to the running order, and even adds three more songs that were cut completely from the original release! So right there, two of my beefs have been addressed.
What about the sound? Bloody great! Whatever it was about the first CD release, the flatness of it, is gone. It’s like when you take your car to the wash, how it shines. Maiden England ’88 sounds so much better than the original CD. And of course there’s a nice substantial booklet with photos and lyrics. No notes from Steve or anybody else, disappointingly. I always like those “producer’s notes” or what have you. But that’s window dressing, this is really such a pleasure to listen to, I assure you. As I wrote these words, Dave Murray was wheedly-wheedly-ing in my ears. And I liked it.
With the added material and fresh sound, Maiden England ’88 takes its place alongside other Maiden classics such as Live at Donington or Rock In Rio. Of course it cannot usurp Live After Death, nothing ever will. Maiden England ’88 has some really awesome Maiden material that didn’t make Live After Death, such as “Still Life”, which remains dramatic and stunning. “Killers” and “Sanctuary” are two other songs that were not on Live After Death. Not to mention, by 1988 Maiden had two more albums to draw from. That means you’ll also hear “Wasted Years” and “The Clairvoyant”, songs that stand strong among the old stalwarts.
The three unreleased songs are “Run To The Hills”, “Running Free” and “Sanctuary”. These were the encores. They are not mixed onto the end of the show, but follow a pause and have a noticeably different sound. It’s hard to describe how the sound differs, but you can hear a change. I’m not sure why these weren’t included on the original VHS. Surely not for quality reasons. The running time of the original video was 95 minutes. Would another 15 have bumped them into a higher, tax, uhh, you know? (120 minute tapes were common back then too.)
There’s a DVD too, but I don’t have that yet. One thing at a time! Send me a copy, EMI, and I’ll be happy to review it!
THE BIG LEBOWSKI (1998, directed by Joel & Ethan Coen)
10th Anniversary Limited “Bowling Ball” Edition
Way out west there was this fella… fella I wanna tell ya about. Fella by the name of Jeff Lebowski.
Okay sir, you’re a Lebowski, I’m a Lebowski, that’s terrific, I’m very busy so what can I do for you? Well, I’m gonna tell you about this movie. First of all, for the rockers who read LeBrain’s blog, rest assured, there is a music connection. And that’s the killer soundtrack. From Captain Beefheart, to Bob Dylan (the incredible “The Man In Me”), Elvis Costello, CCR, the Gipsy Kings (“Hotel California”), Kenny Rogers & The First Edition, and even the fuckin’ Eagles, this movie is loaded with solid tunes. There are even appearances by Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Aimee Mann, and Flea! (Yes, that Flea.)
Ahh, who am I kidding? If you’re a fan, you don’t need me to sell you on this movie. Hence, I shall review this movie in two parts: For fans, and for non-fans. Dudes and Un-dudes.
The new “bowling ball” edition of Lebowski is awesome. Finally we’re given the special features that we’ve been asking for, for years! No audio commentary track, but the Coens and the Dude himself will give you some insight to the film and its characters. After two disappointing editions, this is so overdue. Two discs, featurettes, that weird intro, Lebowskifest, an interactive map of Los Angeles, it’s all here. Most of your questions will be answered, but of course not all…some mystery must always remain. Plus the bowling ball just looks cool. I have mine on my entertainment centre, and it’s a conversation starter. “What is that bowling ball doing there?” It’s sturdy and it houses the DVDs in two slip cases. Life does not stop and start at your convenience, so be sure to pick this up and enjoy while you can, it’s limited edition.
One important thing about this film that I must stress is, don’t try to understand the plot on first viewing. It’s every bit as stupifying to the first time viewer as it is to Jeffrey Lebowski. Just enjoy. My feeling (and this is just my feeling) is that The Dude himself (Jeff Bridges) doesn’t know what the heck is going on, so neither should you. The plot is not complicated, but your thinking about it might be very uptight. I don’t necessarily recommend that you stick to a strict drug regimen to keep you mind limber, but having a few white Russians might help.
The Dude (the laziest man in Los Angeles) is unemployed (or “a bum” to some) and spends most of his time having acid flashbacks and bowling with Walter (John Goodman) and Donny (Steve Buscemi). One day his home is broken into by two thugs looking for money. They have mistaken The Dude for a millionaire with the same given name: Jeff Lebowski. During this break-in, Wu micturates on The Dude’s rug. That rug really tied the room together. Walter tells The Dude to try to take up the rug issue with the other Jeff Lebowski, the millionaire (David Huddleston). And this is where our adventure begins.
An amazing soundtrack backs a hilariously confusing movie about a guy in way over his head. There are a lot of facets, a lot of ins and outs, a lot of interested parties and strands to keep in Duder’s head. Along the way you will meet The Stranger (Sam Elliot), Brant (Philip Seymore Hoffman), Bunny Lebowski (Tara Reid) and a group of nihilists lead by Peter Stormare. Things are complicated by the appearance of Maude Lebowski (Julianne Moore), a kidnapping, and a ransom note. Can The Dude recover the million dollars? All he wants is a finder’s fee. Perferably in cash. He has to check with his accountant on this, but he’s worried about being put in a higher tax, uhh, you know. All this with next round-robin of the bowling tournament starting. And The Jesus (John Turturro) is ready to take them down next Wednesday, baby.
Brilliantly written, brilliantly directed, brilliantly performed. Yes, you should be confused the first time you view it. By second, third, and fourth watch, those stands in Duder’s head come together, supported by musical cues (listen for CCR), odd bits of dialogue (“Johnson”) and other clues.
I can’t recommend this movie enough. You too will become a Little Lebowski Urban Achiever, and perhaps even an obsessive fan, dressing up and going to Lebowskifests. You never know. At the very least you might just find a new enjoyment of white Russians. Just don’t run out of non-dairy creamer. Is there a Ralph’s around?
A treat for you boys & girls today! A guest shot, a vintage concert review, and a significant one at that. Remember when Metallica was just an opening act for mediocre bands? Meat does. And he’s back to tell you the story. Enjoy the first guest shot of 2013, by Meat!
W.A.S.P. w/ METALLICA and ARMORED SAINT – January 19, 1985
I was lucky at a young age to have the opportunity to see some great concerts. The first concert of my life was at The Center in the Square in Kitchener, Ontario. It was The Monks (remember “Drugs in my Pocket”?) and I went with my childhood friend, Scott Hunter, and his mother. I also saw the almighty Black Sabbath play the Kitchener Memorial Auditorium, three days before my 12th birthday, on the Mob Rules tour on November 19, 1981. I saw Triumph on the Allied Forces tour play the Center in the Square, with my father not long after that. But really my early concert experiences were mostly, and most memorably, with the aforementioned Scott Hunter. I believe it was his uncle who had connections with a concert promotion at the time called CPI. He would leave free tickets at Will Call for us at Maple Leaf Gardens or wherever the show was. We saw the last Kiss tour with makeup at the time (Creatures of the Night tour) on January 14, 1983 with The Headpins opening. Also saw the first ever Kiss tour without makeup (Lick it Up tour) on March 15, 1984 with Accept as the opening act. As well as Motley Crue on the Shout at the Devil tour on June 10, 1984, at what is now the Ricoh Coliseum, also with Accept as support. Many of these shows are quite memorable and monumental, but none so much as the first time I saw Metallica live.
I remember the first time Scott and I heard Metallica. We would have a sleepover at his place every Friday night specifically because Toronto radio station Q107 had their “Midnight Metal Hour” on that night. We would have first heard Metallica (“Seek and Destroy”) either late 1982 or early 1983, before Kill ‘Em All was even released. Obviously it was an instant shot of Metal Up Our Ass! Kill ‘Em All was released on vinyl and cassette on July 25, 1983. I specifically remember (but not exactly when) walking into a record store downtown Kitchener called Records on Wheels and buying that album, Anthrax’s Fistful of Metal and Van Halen’s 1984 on vinyl, all during the same visit. I also remember buying Metallica’s second album, Ride the Lightning, the day it was released. Thanks to the World Wide Web, I know now that date was July 27, 1984. Starting grade ten that September, I was pushing Metallica on anyone that would be open to it at my high school. There were a very select few of us who were die-hards and would have Sony Walkmans stuck to our heads at every opportunity possible. Now I cannot recall if we got free tickets for this particular show, but I do remember how pumped I was when I knew I was gonna see Metallica live.
The bill was as follows: Armored Saint (with Anthrax’s John Bush on vocals), Metallica and W.A.S.P. Yes you read that right. Metallica was opening up for W.A.S.P. I do know that further along on the tour, Metallica and W.A.S.P. would trade headlining sets due to the obvious buzz around Metallica at the time. Here is a picture of an actual ticket stub of this show. Note the price ($15.00) and Armored Saint being spelled wrong on the ticket.
One thing I will add before I go on. Of all the concerts and bands I have seen multiple times live, it is kinda strange I only saw Metallica live twice ever. One of the reasons for this is quite obviously that after their album Load (otherwise known as Mighty Load of Shit), I never really had a great interest in seeing the band live again. But it is worthwhile noting that I have seen Metallica live twice and BOTH TIMES they were opening for someone else. (The second time being the strange bill of The Black Crowes / Warrant / Metallica / Aerosmith on June 29, 1990 at CNE Exhibition Stadium in Toronto) Again, note the ticket price for this. This was before The Eagles ruined ticket prices for all acts with the ridiculous prices for their shows. To quote “The Dude” I hate the fuckin’ Eagles.
So there we were, January 19th 1985 standing in line in front of the late great Toronto concert venue named The Concert Hall. It was freezing cold out, and windy too. So since this was a General Admission event, standing in line braving at least -15 Celsius weather, you can imagine how cold and bitchy people were. I recall the rush of metalheads being ushered quickly into the venue. The second I got in there I went straight for the merch booth and bought a Ride the Lightning tour shirt for me and a high school friend named Joe DeLeo. After that, like seemingly everybody, I had to take a wicked piss. After doing that, I was horrified when I tried to zip my probably really tight jeans back up, and couldn’t because my hands were numb from the cold. My embarrassed horror turned to laughter as I turned my head to see dozens of much older and much larger long-haired headbangers all having the same problem. Only in Canada I guess eh?
Sometime later, Armored Saint took the stage. I remember them being great and how loud it was in there. They were received well and that venue was filling up. While enjoying their set my buddy Scott gets my attention and points to the much-shorter person beside me. Immediately I recognized him as Russell Dwarf from the Toronto band Killer Dwarfs. Their name was very apropos considering this band consisted of nothing but short dudes with long hair. I can only imagine how this band got together. Wonder if an ad went out that said. “Metal musicians needed. Must not be over 5 foot 6 inches tall and have long hair”. I loved that first album. If you don’t know of them, here is their first single and video.
It was time for the Mighty Metallica. They started out with the first track off Ride The Lightning, the classic riff-monster “Fight Fire With Fire”. At this point I was probably about mid-way to the stage in a sea of metalheads. This was before the days of the “moshpit”. This was more of a Hair Swarm packed with long-haired sardines covered in denim and leather. It would have been about half-way through the show that I wormed my way to the front of the stage. This was no easy task as I am sure you can imagine, however being only 15 and much smaller than the masses (with the exception of the Killer Dwarfs of course), there I was literally feet from what would become the best-selling metal band of all-time. This brings me to a memory I will cherish forever. The seemingly monstrous Cliff Burton was right in front of me. I reached out and had in my hand, the bottom leg of his ragged bell-bottom jeans. He tried to kick me in the face, and thankfully missed. Can’t blame him either for trying to kick my head off, and honestly it was the first thing I thought of when said legend died in a bus accident a year and a half later in Sweden on September 27, 1986. R.I.P. Clifford Lee Burton. Check out this YouTube audio clip I found of Metallica playing “Seek and Destroy” from this exact show. Gotta love YouTube.
Check out this set list of the show the next night in Buffalo at some place called the Salty Dog Saloon. (I couldn’t find the Toronto set list online but I am sure it is identical)
“Fight Fire With Fire”
“Ride the Lightning”
“(Anethesia) Pulling Teeth”
“For Whom the Bell Tolls”
“The Call of Ktulu”
“Seek & Destroy”
“Am I Evil?”
Which brings me to winding down this novel of a concert review. How could W.A.S.P. possibly follow Metallica? Well, I do remember chants of “you suck”. I remember that the front was nowhere near as packed as it was for Metallica. Maybe Blackie thought he could follow them by drinking fake blood out of a skull (which he did). Here is a quote from Mr. Blackie Lawless comparing separate tours with both Slayer and Metallica and musing about this particular tour.
Blackie: I’ll tell you what was worse – us and Metallica. It was our first or second U.S. tour. It was us, Metallica, and Armored Saint. When they (Slayer) went out with us, they were still an up n’ coming band, didn’t have a lot of fans, so there was a pocket of division every night. With Metallica, I kid you not, it was like an invisible line was drawn right down the middle of the room, and half was theirs and half was ours. It didn’t matter what we were doing on stage. It looked like two opposing armies. Sometimes we just stopped what we were doing and watched. It was a war.
I realize that the merit of music is subjective and it is all in the Ear Of The Beholder. But lets face it. W.A.S.P. really does kinda suck. Some good moments but really not much to speak of. During their set myself and others that with us were just kind of mulling about as most others were really. It was during this time that a guy we were with named Kevin B. (nicknamed Little Dude) said that he saw Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson leaving out a side door during their set. Now to give some perspective on this, this person was a known bull-shitter. None of us believed him. True story: Kevin years later had trans-gender surgery and now is known as Treva. But anyways, we shrugged this off as yet another lie from Little Dude. It was months later reading a Blackie Lawless interview in Circus magazine that I read this quote. “Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson were actually at one of our shows in Toronto last year…. But they were not there to see us.” A classic example of the Little Dude who cried wolf.