MUSIC CREDITS: “Shit” parts 1 – 5 written and performed by AARON
…Hosted by Vinyl Connection
Drew Masters’ legendary metal magazine M.E.A.T took a lot of pride in promoting Canadian talent. The next logical step was putting out a CD featuring the best of the best in unsigned Canadian rock and metal. The flagship band was Toronto’s Slash Puppet. On this first volume, only groups from the province of Ontario signed up. Even though the talent all came from a small region in and around Toronto (with one exception), it’s a surprisingly diverse selection of styles.
I look at Raw M.E.A.T as a first tapping of an oil reserve. It was a gusher. So much untapped raw talent, unheard in suburbs.
“Slow Down” by Slash Puppet was previously issued on their indi tape, but Raw M.E.A.T 1 was its first issue on CD. The track has been described as Motorhead meets Faster Pussycat and that still fits the bill. Lead singer Anthony J. Mifsud was the sandpaper throat to go with the rough and tumble music. You can hear why there was such a buzz around Slash Puppet. They had pro-level tunes and performance. All they needed was a break.
Most Raw M.E.A.T buyers knew what they were getting with Slash Puppet. The rest of the tunes were uncharted territory.
Eiffel Power, from Taranna, knocked it out with “City Action”. Singer Lionel Lois had ample range and lung capacity for this fun metal shuffle, very current for the time. Think of Extreme’s first album but with more muscle. Then there’s the instantly likeable “Feel Me Sweet” by Brampton’s own Ragadee Anne. Yes, it’s true: coming up with names for bands isn’t always easy, but “Feel Me Sweet” kicks. One reason they sound so professional is due to the production by Tom Treumuth (Triumph), surely an advantage in the studio. Glam rock with bite and youthful innocence sure sounds good.
Blackglama (Toronto) take it to the streets with the rock/rap hybrid of “Playin’ Hardball (With the Big Boys)”. This was just a year or two ahead of its time, though director Bruce McDonald used it in his 1991 film Highway 61 (but not the soundtrack CD). The next group, Washington Wives, bring it to immaculately composed AOR rock. “Memoirs, Etc.” has backing vocals from Phil Naro, from just across the border in Buffalo. Naro is best known for Talas and his work with Kiss’ Peter Criss. “Memoirs, Etc.” is vaguely familiar, as if you’ve heard its like on the radio before (Journey? Night Ranger?), but there’s no question this track was hit-ready. Zero fat content, this is all meat of the most melodic variety.
Short Avenue has another “name” attached, that being “Scarpelli”. Guitarist Gene Scarpelli is the son of Gino, of Toronto’s Goddo. Short Avenue sounds nothing like Goddo, rather more like some tough street punks ready to mix it up. With hindsight, they sound like precursors to The Four Horsemen. “Push Comes to Shove” is right in the same vein as the Horsemen’s “Rockin’ is Ma Business”. From the Horsemen to the Cult: The Cult have always been big in Canada. First impressions are that Trouble In Mind (Toronto) were very inspired by Ian Astbury. Regardless, their track “Sweet Addictions” is album quality. Lead singer Beau (just “Beau”) turned up on a later instalment of the Raw M.E.A.T series, but that’s another story.
We depart Toronto momentarily for a trip to the nation’s capitol. Ottawa’s Antix had been self-releasing vinyl since 1986, and “Kick It Up” was a new track. With a Van Halen shuffle, their track hits the right spots, but suffers from inadequate production. It’s unfortunate that the most experienced band has one of the poorest sounding tracks on the CD.
Russian Blue received their first major exposure via Raw M.E.A.T, and thanks to their incredible song “Once a Madman”, they gained a cult following. They were a double threat: a magnificent singer and a terrific guitar player. Vocalist Jo E. Donner found himself compared to a young Robert Plant. Richard Gauci backed that up with memorable guitar hooks. “Once a Madman” gets the job done in just 3:15, leaving behind an unforgettable and unique rocker that begs for repeat listens. One reason it sounds so good? Produced by a pre-fame Harry Hess of Harem Scarem.
The next band, Zyle, sound like they were going for a traditional metal sound. The Scorpions come to mind immediately, as does fellow Canadian rockers White Wolf. They needed a bit more originality. The guitar solo directly quotes Randy Rhoads, too close for comfort. But then it’s The Remains with something a little more street punk. A variation of the classic Peter Gunn riff, “Too Much” is actually never enough. It’s the right mixture of middle finger and middle eight.
Hanging out just down the QEW are Hamilton and Oakville, from which come the last two groups. Cathouse prove that you can never have enough permutations of the classic Van Halen shuffle. “In For the Kill” nails it, with a vocalist who seems like equal parts Skid Roper and Rob Halford. Finally, Oakville’s Johannes Linstead is best known today for his flamenco guitar albums. He didn’t start there! Wildside (later to become Gypsy Jayne) are about that sleaze rock. You can hear that the guitarist is something special, though you wouldn’t predict the future from this one track.
It’s difficult to be objective, even though so many years have passed since Raw M.E.A.T 1. Many (if not most) of these bands had potential. Toronto in the early 90s was ready to explode as “the next Seattle”, but there was no “next Seattle”. 12 of these 13 songs are really fondly remembered, with one just needing a little more originality.
Balancing a music collection with a toy collection is expensive, but they do have a lot in common. For example, both feature “holy grail” items that you simply must have. In 2017, the holy grail category was won by toys for the first time. Behold! Enjoy the video at bottom.
* Terminus Giganticus is FansToys’ version of a Masterpiece class Omega Supreme action figure, to fit seamlessly with your official Transformers Masterpiece collection.
* Fucking huge.
* Comes in two packs: Pack A (September 2017) and Pack B (November 2017).
* Thanks to Madhaus Toys (facebook.com/madhaus.collectibles) for the pre-order!
GETTING MORE TALE #584: Fake News
Fake news is not recent. Fake news has been around as long as there were people! Here is a list of fake news stories from the Record Store days.
- Record Store Tales Part 194: Marilyn Manson’s Ribs
In the mid 90s, many people actually believed that Marilyn Manson had his bottom ribs removed so he could bend over and blow himself.
- Record Store Tales Part 114: Albums that Don’t Exist
From the same time period, word had spread that all five Backstreet Boys released solo albums on the same day, and that “Walmart has them.”
- Record Store Tales Part 162: “Is it out in Toronto?”
Bafflingly, and for many many years, people believed that Toronto got album releases before anywhere else in Canada. As if albums were delivered by the Pony Express.
- Getting More Tale #365: SuperShadow
Levels of hoaxes so complex it’ll make your head spin. SuperShadow was a supposed Star Wars inside informant who leaked prequel plots and characters. He was a notoriously hated spreader of fake Star Wars news, but the layers of intrigue here go down to all the way to…me…who posed on MySpace as a “fake” SuperShadow, in hopes of smoking out the real one. Fake news of fake news!
- Finally my favourite – Record Store Tales Part 285: Chinese Democracy
In an interview with Slash published in the March/April 1994 issue of M.E.A.T Magazine, the guitarist claimed the next Guns N’ Roses album would be out the following summer of 1995. Heh. Won’t get fooled again?
There are of course many “fake news” stories through the history of rock and roll. “Paul is dead.” “2 Pac is alive.” “There are two Nikki Sixx’s.” “Joey Tempest is a demon.” What are your favourites?
GETTING MORE TALE #555.5: A Short Visit to Sonic Boom
Yesterday I took Mrs. LeBrain to Toronto to see a neurosurgeon. It was a great meeting; very positive, but we will get more into that in a future tale. (Look for an upcoming Getting More Tale story called “Seize the Day” if you want to know more.) After the meeting with the doctor, she had some tests. I didn’t need to be around for the those, so with a couple hours to kill, I went down to Sonic Boom on Spadina. I was accompanied by Mrs. LeBrain’s Mom, who insisted we cab to the store. It was a rainy miserable day outside. Wet, cold, windy and unpleasant. The cab ride wasn’t unwelcome.
I’m glad I shaved my beard down to a goatee the other day, because almost every dude in that store looked the same. Bearded hipsters buying vinyl, left right and center, lookalikes all! I tuned out the background noise and focused on the cool. Upstairs they had two colouring books I almost considered getting. Do you know anyone who is a huge fan of either James Franco or Benedict Cumberbatch? If so, I am happy to report that Sonic Boom had colouring books of both. (They also had Star Trek and Star Trek: The Next Generation.) I spied the new Mastodon among the new releases, but headed downstairs where the real treasures usually lay.
Although I put in a Herculean effort, there was little to be found. Maybe I have too many CDs, because everywhere I flipped it seemed to be “got it, got it, got it, got it…” Aaron asked me to look for Danny Michel and a few other titles. Nothing to be found. I was struck by how just about everything seems to be reissued on vinyl today. The Spice Girls’ first album, Spice. I fail to comprehend. It doesn’t compute. I considered buying some Kiss reissues, but I didn’t really want to come home with something I already owned.
With some persistence I did liberate three titles:
- The Sword – High Country (CD, used, $9.99)
- Queen – The Game (2 CD remaster, used, $9.99)
- Rush – Agora Ballroom, Cleveland Ohio, May 1975 (vinyl, new, $32.99)
The Queen set was in the recent arrivals, and that is a nice score. I’m nowhere near complete with my Queen remasters, but when I can pick them off one by one, used? That’s the best way. The Rush on the other hand is something of a chance I’m taking. This is a radio broadcast vinyl, and I’ve never bought one of those before. They had several available. I don’t have anything live from Rush in 1975, so that was the key factor. Also a non-album track: “Bad Boy”, a Larry Williams cover. 180 gram coloured vinyl to boot. Should be good times.
Not a knockout shopping excursion, but not a waste of time either. We walked back to the hospital (although Mrs. LeBrain’s Mom would have preferred a cab) and got soaked, but it’s good to stretch the legs when it’s a long day of driving and sitting. Besides, we enjoyed looking at the Toronto scenery. The fruit and vegetable markets smelled great. They even had bonsai trees.
Back in the hospital waiting room, I was able to do a little research for my Kiss Re-Review series in progress. Guess which album I have to write up next.
I don’t want to use the word “disappointing” for this Sonic Boom trip, because I am very pleased with my new albums. I told Uncle Meat I wanted some more The Sword, and Sonic Boom delivered. I’m more surprised than disappointed that I was only able to scrounge up three finds this time. Every visit is different, and I’m sure that next time I return (either in the fall with Aaron, or sooner for more tests) it will be another story. Sonic Boom is still an absolute must for any music fan visiting Toronto. Don’t miss out, and be sure to check out the new arrival bins. They are often the key to many great finds.
As always Sonic Boom gets 5/5 stars. And so does Mrs. LeBrain for being a tough-as-nails trooper.
Mike and Aaron went to Toronto again…again…again!
As usual we came, and we conquered. It was our fifth annual Taranna Music Excursion. Together we did our best to rescue the precious, precious music from select stores in the city.
As before, I filmed the whole thing for a potential video doc. When we are ready, Aaron and I will begin to roll out all the wonderful treasures we came home with from Toronto. In the meantime, I’m going to spend today listening to tunes!
You know where we’re going today!
And if you don’t, then check out the below videos. Today is the fifth annual adventure. And that means music. Lots and lots of music.
This guest review hit my inbox courtesy of Zach “I Like Iron Maiden” Britton. He is possibly (and quite probably) the only Iron Maiden fan in the world who has had a song written and recorded about his love for the band. Last night he went to see them again.
Opening act The Raven Age features Steve Harris’ son George on guitar.
THE RAVEN AGE – ACC Toronto, April 3 2016 (opening for Iron Maiden)
by Zach Britton “the Lamb Lord”
Five guys dressed like Criss Angel bring you the Twilight soundtrack.
I was not impressed. I’m not kidding about the Twilight soundtrack bit. Though certainly more metal, it spoke to me of the angst of a teen vampire boy courting a human girl. And all their stuff sounded the same to me. I’m no musicologianist*…but I know what I like.** And it wasn’t eight metally tunes about pubescent vampires.
*Zach knows this is not a word.
**He likes Iron Maiden.
“The Maiden Song” – dedicated to Zach Britton
STOMPIN’ TOM CONNORS – “Live” at the Horseshoe (1971 EMI)
Since this is the first Stompin’ Tom review ever here at mikeladano.com, we need to step back and take a quick look at the bio of a Canadian hero that may be completely unknown to most overseas readers.
Charles Tom Connors was born in Saint John, New Brunswick in 1936. A restless young Connors frequently hitch hiked and got into trouble down the east coast, and at one point wound up in Skinner’s Pond, Prince Edward Island. This is a place that has come to be associated with Stompin’ Tom over the years. I visited there myself in 2002, and saw his childhood home. I took a photo of the street sign of what is now officially called Dr. Stompin’ Tom Road.
Tom’s break happened while drifting through Timmins Ontario. Short on change for a beer at the local watering hole, the bartender told him he’d let him have the beer for whatever coins he had in his pocket, as long as he’d get up and sing a song or two. Tom got out his guitar and that turned into a 14 month stand. Before too long he had recorded eight singles.
Stompin’ Tom sang idiosyncratic Canadian songs. He was not interested in commercialism in music whatsoever. He stubbornly wrote and played often comical songs about the things he’d seen and done hitch hiking around the country. He became known as “Stompin’ Tom” by providing his own backbeat. Like a folk country Angus Young, he would pound his booted left foot on the floor, keeping time. He eventually had to provide his own “stomping board” because bar owners were complaining about damage to their stage. He would stomp right through the board periodically and have to replace it.
In 1971, a concert film called Across This Land With Stompin’ Tom Connors spawned the album release “Live” at the Horseshoe and became a part of Canadian history. The Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto was a legendary establishment. Now with four studio albums and one Christmas record under his belt, the legendary Horseshoe set was recorded for posterity and became a television staple for years. This live album is culled from that show, though heavily edited for single-length LP time. The original set was 90 minutes and 30 songs. My dad showed me the special as a kid. I loved it.
When EMI issued the album on CD, they retained the original LP 12 song running time. Even the nicely packaged 1998 Man of the Land series edition is only 12 tracks. The album is a mix of originals and better-known covers.
Newcomers may find Stompin’ Tom’s nasal twang unpalatable, but when that left foot starts stompin’, it’s hard to resist. “Happy Rovin’ Cowboy” introduces Tom’s band to the crowd. He bills himself as from “the potato fields of Prince Edward Island”. Then it’s his hit about the “best man in Ottawa”, Mufferaw Joe. “Big Joe Mufferaw” is a Canadian folk classic and this version from the Horseshoe is definitive. According to the lyrics, Big Joe put out a raging forest fire near Smiths Falls with just five spitballs! Just stomp along!
“Come Where I’m At” is a “Newphie” phrase, and the song beckons you to come home to Newfoundland, “So don’t stay where you’re to, come where we’re at!” It’s not Yoda-speak, it’s just Canadian! Tom then covers “The Green, Green Grass of Home”. “Now it’s almost time I sung an American song,” begins Tom. “This here is a song that made so many singers famous, that I just thought if I turned my golden Prince Edward Island voice to it, I’d prob’ly become famous too!” Probably not — Tom does it with exaggerated twang and irreverent comedic flare. Then, he covers his friend “Gordie” Lightfoot, with “Spin, Spin”, another Horseshoe regular. This time his plays the song “straight” with due respect but still with the stomp. It’s a wonderful upbeat song so feel free to stomp along. “Muleskinner Blues” has one of Tom’s most legendary vocal hooks, and it goes something like “aw wha wha wha wha wha whoo”, though it varies! This is the kind of song that people loved Tom for.
The second LP side began with an ode to all the big drinkers at the Horseshoe, with “Horseshoe Hotel Song”. You can hear them hootin’ and hollerin’ and drinking along. He pokes fun at himself in the tune, claiming he can’t really sing, he’s just another getting slushed at the Horseshoe Hotel. They eat it up, loving every witty line. Another cover, “I’ve Been Everywhere”, is one that Tom could almost claim as his own, considering its hitch hiking subject matter!
The rest of the album is all original. “Sudbury Saturday Night” is a favourite that was later covered by Kim Mitchell. Sudbury is famous for its nickel mines, and Inco was the big one. So the lyrics go:
“Well the girls are out to Bingo,
And the boys are gettin stinko,
We’ll think no more of Inco,
On a Sudbury Saturday Night.”
Once again, this version is definitive. The song is best heard with an audience hollering along. “Big Bus to Nashville” is a pleasant song that name-drops the Horseshoe, and features that boot stomping again. “Luke’s Guitar” is a story about a man who had to choose between his wife and his guitar. Again it has one of those classic Tom vocal hooks, and it goes something along the lines of “Clang-clang a-deedle dang a-deedle”. It’s hard to resist so don’t try and just go with it. Ending the album is “Bud the Spud” from the bright red mud, of Prince Edward Island. According to Tom this came by request about “150,000 times” that night. Because of the filming and recording of the live album, Tom was to stick to a strict set list and couldn’t do requests. However he went ahead and played “Bud the Spud” anyway, and it made the final album! Like several of the other tracks, this recording is definitive.
In the movie Wayne’s World, the character of Wayne Campbell, played by Canadian Mike Myers, claimed that people in the subburbs got copies of Frampton Comes Alive in the mailbox with boxes of Tide. Sadly that is not so, but in Canada, everybody should be issued a copy of this live album with their birth certificate. This album in my ears defines the country that I live in. Others may disagree and they are welcome to do that, but I believe that “Live” at the Horseshoe is a history lesson about the country that we live in as much as it is an amazing live album.