Van Halen

REVIEW: Sammy Hagar – Sammy Hagar / I Never Said Goodbye (1987)

Scan_20160705SAMMY HAGAR – Sammy Hagar / I Never Said Goodbye (1987 Geffen)

Remember when everybody in the Van Hagar camp just loved each other?  Things were so happy in Van Hagar, that Sammy released a solo album in 1987 and nobody got mad.  Hell, Eddie himself co-produced it and played bass!   Hagar was obligated to do another solo album to get out of his contract with Geffen, and so the self-titled Sammy Hagar was recorded quickly.  Sammy apparently forgot he released another album also called Sammy Hagar in 1977, so this one was re-titled I Never Said Goodbye.   (I still call it Sammy Hagar.)

There was something particularly weird about this release on cassette. I had a version, purchased from Columbia House around 1989-1990, with a bizarre cover. The J-card was designed to fold around outside the cassette shell. I’m not sure why to this day, and I’ve never seen another copy like it. The artwork was obviously designed to fold on the outside rather than the inside, but I’ll never figure out why.

All the members of Van Halen even appeared in Sammy’s video for “Hands and Knees”.  The plot was simple, and perhaps a foreshadowing of things to come.  A bored Hagar calls his bandmates (including nextdoor neighbor Eddie) to jam, but nobody’s interested.  Instead, Hagar jams with a group of robots!  “Hands and Knees” was an odd choice for a first single, being a dark and slow mood tune.  The video guaranteed attention, and still garners a chuckle today (albeit a sad one, knowing these guys aren’t pals anymore).  I love Michael Anthony’s huge brick of a cell phone.  The video was better than the song, though it does have a killer of a chorus.  It’s clear if you listen that Eddie Van Halen is one damn fine bassist too.  Are you surprised?

One thing about this album, though:  it’s really commercial.  Like way, way more pop even than 5150.  It’s no surprise that some writers like the esteemed Martin Popoff have slagged this album.  The production has an airy 80’s feel, not enough oomph.  The opening track “When the Hammer Falls” is a hard rocker, but it could have been thicker with more meat.  Not that it would have helped too much.  The chorus on this one is pretty weak, which is too bad since the riff is good enough for rock and roll.

The second single, which Van Halen used to let Sammy play live acoustically, is “Give to Live”.  Van Halen’s version can be found on 1993’s Live: Right here, right now.  Hagar’s studio original is unabashedly pop, bombastic…and good.  I admit I still enjoy this very cheesy ballad.  Hagar is rarely profound, and neither is “Give to Live”, but it’s a nice song indeed.

A shitty synth (?) horn section urinates all over “Boy’s Night Out”. Speaking of synth, “Returning Home” is all but unpalatable. This is one of Sammy’s UFO yarns, a story of a guy returning back to Earth to find it wrecked. “I saw the ruins, once the smoke cleared, once upon returning home.” It’s just sunk by all this terrible synthesizer junk and programming. The UFO has crashed into the damn mountain!

ALIENS

The second side surprisingly opened with some blues jamming:  “Standin’ at the Same Old Crossroads”.  And that would be Sammy on the slide guitar.  “Crossroads” leads directly into “Privacy”, a “Radar Love” re-write that is better than “Radar Love”.  Maybe I’m just sick of “Radar Love”, but “Privacy” has some smoking playing on it, proving again that Hagar is actually a pretty badass soloist.  Side two on a whole is actually much better than the first.  “Back Into You” is a vintage-style Hagar radio rocker.  Journey must have wished they wrote “Back Into You”.  The keyboard overdubs aren’t necessary but hey, it was the 80’s and this is a great little AOR rocker.

Another tune that Hagar played live with Van Halen was “Eagles Fly”.  He actually presented the song to the band for 5150, but it was turned down.  A live Van Halen version can be found on the 1993 single for “Jump (Live)”.  He did it acoustically on stage, but the studio version is bombastic and big like “Give to Live” is.  It’s a pretty impressive tune, for pop rock.   David Lauser’s drumming makes the song, I’m a sucker for that rat-a-tat-tat!

The album ends on a ho-hum note, the soul-funk of “What They Gonna Say Now”, sort of this album’s “Inside” to close it out.  Just not good enough.  If you want to hear Eddie Van Halen playing bass up close and personal, he’s very audible here, but he’s not a flash bassist.  He plays with the groove for the song.

It’s tempting to think of this album as a collection of tracks that were not right for Van Halen, and that’s mostly true.  A lot of it, however, just wasn’t good enough for Van Halen.  “What They Gonna Say Now” could have been a Van Halen track, but it would have been the weakest tune on 5150 if so.

2.5/5 stars

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DVD REVIEW: Superbad (2007)

SUPERBAD (2007 Columbia unrated extended edition)

Directed by Greg Mottola

While the Apatow Company’s best films are behind them now, in 2007 they were coming off the dual hits 40 Year old Virgin, and Knocked Up.  Those films featured a core of recurring actors, including Bill Hader, Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, James Franco and the whole gang that we are all familiar with today.  Then, this kind of comedy was fresh.  Today, Superbad is the only Apatow I can still watch regularly and laugh like it’s the first time.

I love a movie with a great rock soundtrack, and Superbad features Van Halen (“Panama”), Motorhead (“Ace of Spades”), and Ted Nugent (“Stranglehold”).  There’s even The Roots! Even better, and incorporated into the comedy, is the Guess Who’s “These Eyes” as performed by Michael Cera.  It is a case 0f mistaken identity and Cera’s character Evan is in a spot.  I’m cracking up thinking about it. “He’s Jimmy’s brother, the guy! The singer! He’s the guy with the beautiful voice that I was telling you about!” And then, “My brother came all the way from Scottsdale Arizona to be here tonight. And you’re not going to sing for him? You sing, and sing good!” The last song I would have chosen to sing under such circumstances would have been “These Eyes”, but that’s why this is a comedy movie.

Seth (Jonah Hill) and Evan (Michael Cera) are highschool versions of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, who wrote this movie, but were too old to play the parts. It’s the end of highschool, and together with their friend Fogell aka “McLovin” (Christopher Mintz-Plasse, who absolutely nails it in his film debut), they aim to score some liquor for a party. Once they have booze, they will be like heroes to Jules (Emma Stone) and Becca (Martha MacIsaac) at the party, and possibly score some coitus. McLovin has the fake ID, but acquiring the alcohol is only the first of many stumbling blocks.

Seth Rogen and Bill Hader play incompetent cops, but their intentionally stupid scenes will make you groan rather than laugh. Bad decisions by all the characters may have you shaking your head asking “why?”, but you have to put your mind in the hormones of a highschool kid aiming to get his first touchy feely. Guys do stupid things not unlike the people in this movie. I know guys who’ve done things like this when they were kids. I’ve made plenty of stupid decisions while chasing someone of the fairer sex. Granted, I’ve never been hit by a car and then talked into not calling the cops in exchange for going to a badass party where I can steal some booze. That exact situation has never happened to me or anyone I know. But it’s fucking hilarious.

The most enjoyable comedy usually comes from the banter between Hill and Cera. Their blunt vulgarity has a certain art to it. I can still quote lines from this movie, and people know which ones I’m talking about. “Something like 8% of kids do it, but whatever.”

In this film, Seth and Evan are going to different colleges and there is a tension between the two characters over this.  Both of them feel differently about it, and this is the most relateable part of the movie.  The end of highschool feels like the top of the world for a brief moment, but then in the fall friendships split up, sometimes forever (until Facebook came along anyway).  Superbad  is basically a movie about two guys trying to get some, but the tension in the friendship is ultimately what drives the story to its conclusion.  Cera and Hill are funny indeed, but the friendship they portray seems real.

The unrated edition is loaded to the gills with bonus features, and honestly a good chunk of them are worth checking out. You can skip the “Cop Car Confessions”, but definitely watch “Everyone Hates Michael Cera – The Unfortunate True Story”. And of course, don’t miss “The Music of Superbad” either. Bootsy Collins and Lyle Workman put together an unexpectedly cool soundtrack.

4/5 stars

#433.9: Top 15 on the 15th (by Iron Tom Sharpe)

NOTE:  Because of the three Top 15 on the 15th posts today, there will be no posting for Wednesday.  A directory to all the Top 15 on the 15th posts can be found here.  Browse them all!

Getting More Tale #433.9 presents: A worldwide online event!
THE TOP 15 ON THE 15th – Guest shot by Iron Tom Sharpe

Latest to throw his hat into the Top 15 on the 15th ring is Iron Tom Sharpe, Meaford’s Greatest Athlete. One of the most knowledgeable rock fans in the country, Iron Tom is a national treasure. He is a former Record Store owner, and one of the Jedi masters who instructed me.

His message to me upon completion of his list: “Fuck that was tough…and I know I left off some big ones…I just know it…Ah fuck, The D! Max!”

There may be no Tenacious D, and there may be no Max Webster. But here is one kick-ass #Top15onthe15th.

 

WARP15. The Sword – Warp Riders

MASTER14. Metallica – Master of Puppets

PERFECT13. Deep Purple – Perfect Strangers

BONGO12. Frank Zappa – Bongo Fury

PHYSICAL11. Led Zeppelin – Physical Graffiti

SKY10. Kyuss – Sky Valley

FAIR9. Van Halen – Fair Warning

PHASES8. Willie Nelson – Phases and Stages

CLOSE7. Yes – Close to the Edge

POWERSLAVE6. Iron Maiden – Powerslave

ACTION'5. Fu Manchu – The Action Is Go

ALRIGHT4. Steve Earle – I Feel Alright

MISPLACED3. Marillion – Misplaced Childhood

II2. Queen – Queen II

MOVING1. Rush – Moving Pictures

 

 

Almost made it:

  • Orange Goblin – Time Traveling Blues
  • Crosby Stills & Nash – CSN
  • Pink Floyd – Animals
  • Motorhead – Another Perfect Day
  • Black Sabbath – Heaven and Hell

 

And finally…an extra bonus.  Iron Tom’s Top 5 Live!

5. Iron Maiden – Live After Death

4. Jimi Hendrix – Band Of Gypsys

3. Supertramp – Paris

2. Dire Straits – Alchemy Live

1. Eric Clapton – Just One Night

#433: Top 15 on the 15th (by LeBrain)

15

Getting More Tale #433 presents: A worldwide online event!
THE TOP 15 ON THE 15th

This is an event spanning many sites and writers in the World Wide Web today!  I will link to as many as possible.  A few months ago, the challenge was thrown down to all comers:  List your top 15 albums of all time!  The date September 15 was chosen for the deadline.

Hashtag it:  #top15onthe15th

You might have to wait for some of these to go live, but here are the links I have so far:

J at Resurrection Songs – Top 15 on the 15th
Uncle Meat – Top 15 on the 15th
Iron Tom Sharpe – Top 15 on the 15th
James at the KMA – Top 15 on the 15th
Sarca at Caught me Gaming – My Top 15 Music Albums of All Time
Deke at Arena Rock – DeKEs All Time Top 15 (Kinda,Sorta)
Geoff at the 1001 – Top 15 Albums
Aaron at the KMA – Top 15 on the 15th
Danica at Living a Beautiful Life – My Top 15 Albums of All Time
1537 from 1537 – Top 15 Books About Music
We Left This World Today – 15 is not enough…
Andytallman from A Hole in the Head – Top 15 Albums of All Time
Pop Culture Forays – Top 15 Albums
Brian from Boppin’s Blog – Top 15 on the 15th
Ovidiu Boar at Tangled Up In Music – Top 15 on the 15th
80sMetalMan – My Top 15 Albums
Jimmy at kingcrimsonblog – Top 15 on the 15th
Another Bad Conversation – My Top 15 on the 15th
Nick from Nick Green’s Reviews – Top 15 on the 15th
Zack at The Audible Stew – #top15onthe15th
Quirky T at The Guitar Train – The Guitar Train’s Top 15 Albums
Ian at The 80s didn’t suck – Top 15 Albums (Plus 54 Others)


Oh, how I loathe lists! Readers seem to love “Top Whatever” lists; different kinds, but I sure do hate making them.

However, I don’t like doing things in half-measures either. So for this, the Top 15 on the 15th, I’ve gone one step beyond. Not only do you get my Top 15 on the 15th, but also a list of the Top 15 tracks to listen to from these 15 amazing albums.

As of today, here are my Top 15. These will change periodically, probably tomorrow, and again the day after. See why I hate lists?  In the end I decided that I wanted to fairly represent some of my favourite artists.  But enough whining from me — let’s rock.  Spin these little bastards for a good time!

LEATHER15. Judas Priest – Hell Bent for Leather (Killing Machine)

VACATIONS14. Max Webster – A Million Vacations

NEWS13. Queen – News of the World

SCHOOL12. Alice Cooper – School’s Out

BEATLES11. The Beatles – The Beatles (The White Album)

JOHNNY10. Thin Lizzy – Johnny the Fox

HOUSES9. Led Zeppelin – Houses of the Holy

SAN8. Johnny Cash – At San Quentin

ANGEL7. Faith No More – Angel Dust

MOVING6. Rush – Moving Pictures

19845. Van Halen – 1984

Let’s stop here for a moment.  The thing about my top albums list is, the top four never change.  Four of these five albums have been in my top five for a long as I can remember making lists for.  The order may change, but that top four have been my top four, forever.  They are indelibly heat-stamped onto my grey matter.  These are as much a part of me as my left arm!

PIECE4. Iron Maiden – Piece of Mind

HOTTER3. Kiss – Hotter Than Hell

FIREBALL2. Deep Purple – Fireball

BORN1. Black Sabbath – Born Again

Right there are 15 incredible collections of music, both studio and live. But let’s not fool ourselves. Nobody is going to listen to all 15 of those albums just because some guy on the internet who goes by the name of “LeBrain” said so. I have chosen to distill these 15 amazing records down into 15 key tracks. I’m sure nobody needs an introduction to the big hits, so here are tracks you may not have heard. If you have ever cared about rock music, then you need to listen to these Top 15 Songs from the Top 15 Albums, on the 15th!

1. Rush – “Vital Signs”

2. Black Sabbath – “Disturbing the Priest”

3. Queen – “It’s Late”

4. Iron Maiden – “Where Eagles Dare”

5. The Beatles – “Dear Prudence”

6. Johnny Cash – “San Quentin”


“If any of the guards are still speakin’ to me, can I get a glass of water?”

7. Led Zeppelin – “The Ocean”

8. Thin Lizzy – “Massacre”

9. Alice Cooper – “Gutter Cat vs. the Jets”

10. Deep Purple – “Fools”

11. Iron Maiden – “Revelations”

12. Judas Priest – “The Green Manalishi (With the Two-Pronged Crown)”

13. Alice Cooper – “My Stars”

14. Queen – “Spread Your Wings”

15. Deep Purple – “No No No”

Astute readers will realize that one singer appears on two albums. Ian Gillan was fronting Black Sabbath in ’83 for Born Again, and of course is best known as Deep Purple’s lead howler. Does this double appearance make Ian Gillan the greatest rock vocalist of all time? No. But the greatest does appear, with Queen on News of the World – Freddie Mercury!

REVIEW: David Lee Roth – Eat ‘Em and Smile (1986)

Scan_20150728DAVID LEE ROTH – Eat ‘Em and Smile (1986 Warner)

1986 was the year it all went down. If you were a Van Halen fan, it was time to choose.

Of course, nobody really had to choose between Van Hagar and David Lee Roth. It’s not like every fan had only $10 to spend on albums that year. Fans did choose anyway, and even today almost 30 years later, we still argue about who’s best: Diamond Dave or the Red Rocker?

No matter who you sided with, there is no question that David Lee Roth stormed into 1986 with a killer new band and album.

Steve Vai! That’s enough right there to make for an incendiary band — just ask David Coverdale. Before Little Stevie Vai was a household name, he had earned the respect of Frank Zappa who hired him on after Joe’s Garage. He made his Zappa debut on Tinseltown Rebellion, before being snagged by Graham Bonnet in 1985 for Alcatrazz’s Disturbing the Peace. In that band, he had the unenviable task of replacing a Swedish guitar player you may have heard of called Yngwie J. Malmsteen. Needless to say, Steve Vai was already experienced in filling big shoes by the time David Lee Roth made contact.

Billy Sheehan! A lot of people think he’s the world’s greatest bass player, period. Eight finger lead bass, baby! Three albums with Talas didn’t do much in terms of sales, but the material was strong enough that one song was re-recorded for the Roth album.

Gregg Bissonette! Once you learn how to properly spell his name, you will recognize Bissonette on loads of album credits. Joe Satriani come to mind? How about Spinal Tap? For your information, Gregg Bissonette is still alive, and is still the current Spinal Tap drummer.

Combine those three virtuosos with the greatest frontman of all time, and you have best new band of 1986.

Van Halen’s 5150 came out in March, going to #1. That’s a hard act to follow. Eat ‘Em and Smile, however, ending up standing the test of time. I would argue that even though it’s not Van Halen, it’s still the best Van Halen album since 1984….

As if to say “Eddie who?”, the album opens with Steve Vai’s trademark talking guitar. I’m talkin’ about-a-“Yankee Rose”! Here’s the shot heard ’round the world indeed. Lyrically, musically, and instrumentally, this song truly is the spiritual successor to classic Van Halen. David Lee was still in prime voice, and does he ever pour it on! Sassy as ever, Roth sounds exactly how he should: the showman in the rock and roll circus. And let’s not forget Billy and Gregg. Sheehan’s slinky bass on the outro is space age groove.

“Shyboy” is an atomic bomb. Billy brought in this song from Talas, but there is no question that Dave’s version is vastly superior. I have no idea how Vai makes his guitar create these sounds. When he goes into syncopation with Billy on the fastest solo of all time, your head may be blown clean off. Please, do not attempt to listen to “Shyboy” in the car, without testing it at home first. As Steve’s guitar flickers from left to right, Billy’s bass is the fastest, baddest groove on record. “Shyboy” is of such high quality that I do not think any self-respecting rock fan can live without it. Virtually every trick that Steve had at the time was in this one song.

One thing that was special about Van-Halen-with-Dave was their fearlessness in doing odd covers, such as “Big Bad Bill” or “Oh Pretty Woman”. Dave took that with him, and included oldie swing covers like “I’m Easy”. Horn laden and with Steve’s expert licks, it should be no surprise that they nail this one. It’s much in the spirit of Dave’s solo EP, Crazy From the Heat, only better.

Perhaps the most outstanding song on Eat ‘Em and Smile would be “Ladies Nite in Buffalo?” Dave has always said he loves disco and dance music. This is the most perfect melding of that world with rock. Vai is rarely so funky, and there is no question that Dave has the vibe right. Smooth and steamy, “Ladies Nite in Buffalo?” is a tune perfectly in synch with activities of the nocturnal persuasion. Who else but Dave would be perfect to deliver this message?

“Goin’ Crazy” was a great track to make into one of Dave’s typically high flying music videos. It’s party rock time, with a tropical vibe. “Goin’ Grazy” worked particularly well when Dave re-released it in Spanish, as “¡Loco del calor!”. I used to consider this tune a bit of a throwaway, but it has certainly endeared itself over the years. Another meticulously perfect Vai solo doesn’t hurt, and Billy’s bass popping helps end side one on an up note.

Now there is a story here that needs to be told. Billy Sheehan was in Canadian progressive rock band Max Webster for “about three weeks” according to lead singer Kim Mitchell. Upon joining Dave’s band, he introduced them to Kim Mitchell’s solo track “Kids In Action”, which they decided to cover. Bill called Kim up to ask him for the lyrics, because they couldn’t quite make them all out. Kim supplied the words, and Dave recorded the song. However, it was dropped at the 11th hour, for another cover — “Tobacco Road”. David Lee Roth’s version of “Kids In Action” has yet to be released or even bootlegged. Not that I am complaining about “Tobacco Road”, another old cover! Yet again, the reliably awesome Steve Vai just sells it. There is no question that the whole song just smokes, but getting to hear Stevie playing this old blues?  Pretty damn cool.

That’s nothing. You thought “Shyboy” was fast? Check out “Elephant Gun”! Billy’s fingers didn’t fall off, but mine would have. “I’ll protect you baby with my Elephant Gun”, claims Dave. Nudge, wink! Steve Vai’s been known to write blazing fast songs, and “Elephant Gun” is so fast it’s almost showing off. Wisely though, things get slow and nocturnal once again on “Big Trouble”. That’s a title Dave recycled from an old unused Van Halen song. (That song became “Big River” on A Different Kind of Truth.) Steve’s guitar melodies and solo on this are particularly celestial. Roth uses his speaking voice, spinning a tale as only he can. “Bump and Grind” is a perfectly acceptable album track, a sleaze rocker as only Dave can do. If I am interpreting the lyrics correctly, Dave is a dance instructor in this one. “Shake it slowly, and do that Bump and Grind”.

Much like “Happy Trails” ended Diver Down on a jokey note, Dave ends his first solo album with a cover: “That’s Life”, the song that Sinatra made famous. Coming from the guy who did “Just a Gigolo”, we know he can do that kind of thing very well. The first time I heard the album years ago, I shrugged and said, “Another one?” Now, older and fatter, I sez it’s all good! Zop-bop-doop-zooby-dooby-doo indeed. Funny thing though. When I think of Diver Down, I think of a fun but fairly shallow album of half covers. When I think of Eat ‘Em and Smile, I don’t question the integrity of it. I don’t know why I seem to hold that double standard.

In this writer’s humble opinion, Eat ‘Em and Smile was David Lee Roth’s finest moment as a solo artist. It was not nearly as well known as 5150, OU812, or any of Van Hagar’s albums, and that is almost criminal. The talent in this band, pound for pound, outweighed anybody else going at the time, including Van Halen. Shame they couldn’t make it last.

5/5 stars

#407: Summertime

SHIRTS

RECORD STORE TALES MkII: Getting More Tale
#407: Summertime

I’ve always been a summer guy.  I was born in July.  I don’t like the snow.  My spirits are stronger and moods happier in the summer.  Summer holidays were glorious days to be spent at the cottage.  The beach, swimming, new music, no school…plus my birthday.  My whole year revolved around July and August!

Working at the Record Store in the summer was fun.  The sun pouring through the windows, opening the door and letting the breeze in…it was wonderful.  Not to mention that, as a single male, I didn’t mind female customers coming in dressed for summer.

Of course summer wasn’t all peaches and cream.  It meant the return of the infamous “No Shirts, No Shoes, No Service” sign and its enforcement thereof.   I hated having to kick people out for coming in with no shirt, but it had to be done.

Me: “Hey, do you mind putting on a shirt in the store?”

Him: “Why, are you serving food here?”

No, it’s just that I don’t want to have to watch the bead of sweat dripping off your nipple ring.

T-Rev made a different sign.  His said:

Because highschool is free,
And Jerry Springer does not work here,
Shoes and Shirts must be worn in store.

But I don’t know if he ever hung it up.  I hope he did.

People with no shoes were just as bad, particularly the Barefoot DJ who tried to fight us for his human rights to walk around with no shoes on.  All I know is that I had standing orders to kick him out, human rights be damned.  You can do whatever you want out there, but inside the store where insurance companies tell us what to do, you gotta obey the rules!  (If a CD case fell off the shelf and broke, and he stepped on a piece and cut his foot, he could sue.  And CD cases fell of the shelf and shattered every day.)

Because we had these big glass windows, sometimes the heat in the summer would get to be too much.  It was like a greenhouse.  There was always a constant battle over the air conditioning level, and it seemed we could never arrive at a compromise that made everyone comfortable.  My final summer at the store (2005), it was so hot inside that I tended to leave the big overhead counter lights off.  It made it harder for me to inspect incoming CDs for quality, but it also kept me from sweating all over them.

Summer album releases were memorable.  Metallica’s Load (June 4 1996) was the soundtrack to that summer for me.  In store, in car, it didn’t matter.  Load saw a lot of store play.  I’m quite fond of Load, and I’m sure the fact that it was Metallica that could be played in-store had a lot to do with that.  The same summer, Kiss were out there on their reunion tour, and I had their You Wanted the Best live compilation (June 25 1996) to keep me company at work.

I expect summer 2015 to rock just as much.  I don’t know what my album for the summer will be this year, but Van Halen’s Tokyo Dome Live in Concert is a contender.  I’ve already shorn my mane to cope with the summer heat.

Still, when it comes to summertime, I truthfully think Sammy Hagar said it best:

“We made it through the cold
And that freezin’ snow is gettin’ old, hey!

Woo! Summer nights and my radio
(Ah-ah) Well that’s all we need, baby. Don’tcha know?
We celebrate when the gang’s all here
(Ah-ah) Ah, hot summer nights, that’s my time of the year-ow!”

Have a great summer everyone!

#395: Dutch Boy

RECORD STORE TALES MkII: Getting More Tale
#395: Dutch Boy

As kids in the 1980s growing up in Kitchener, we would buy our music anywhere we could find it.  A lot of mine came from the mall: stores like Zellers and A&A Records.  Other places to find music included Hi-Way Market on Weber Street.  That place was incredible.  They had the largest toy section I’d ever seen, and every Christmas a professional Lego builder would put together a giant display.  None of these places exist anymore.

Another place that carried a small section of music was actually Dutch Boy Food Markets, just down the street from Hi-Way Market.  It too is long gone, but I have many memories of that place.  It had a small music section, but they also sold food, toys and clothing.  It was considered a supermarket but it had a little bit of everything.  My dad remembers buying many of my beloved G.I. Joe figures at that store.  He also says that we bought our Atari 2600 there.  That Atari still works today.  I think we got it in 1982.  My aunt actually used to work at a Dutch Boy location (not the same one) in Waterloo.

My friend Bob used to go there frequently.  I used to think it was because he was Dutch, but it probably had more to do with the fact that one of the Kitchener stores was within biking distance.

One afternoon in early ’88, we hopped on our bikes and hit Dutch Boy to check out the music section.  This “new” band called Whitesnake had been in our ears lately, but we only knew two albums:  Slide It In and Whitesnake/1987.  I didn’t even know they had any albums out before Slide It In at that point.  You can imagine our surprise when we found numerous other Whitesnake titles at Dutch Boy:  Snakebite, Trouble, Lovehunter, Come An’ Get It, Saints & Sinners, and Live…in the Heart of the City.  All reissued by Geffen, all on cassette.

WHITESNAKE FRONT

“Woah!” Bob exclaimed.  “Whitesnake!  Is this the same band?”

“No it can’t be.” I said.  “They’re only supposed to have two albums!”

Each of us grabbed a mitt full of Whitesnake cassettes and began examining them for more details.

This Whitesnake and our Whitesnake were both on Geffen.  This Whitesnake shared the same logo that was found on Slide It In.  It had to be the same band after all.  I explained this to Bob.

“This is the same Whitesnake,” I said.  “Look…they are using the same logo.”

“Yeah,” he replied, “but have you ever seen that guy before?”  He pointed to Mickey Moody on the cover of the live album.  He sure didn’t look like anybody I knew from Whitesnake, but it was impossible to ignore the evidence.

MOODY

“I think,” concluded Bob, “that Whitesnake are another band that had albums out before we heard of them.”  That happened from time to time.  We would discover a “new” band like White Lion or Europe, only to find that they had some little-known earlier albums.  It made it both frustrating and exciting to try and collect albums.

We both started collecting the earlier Whitesnake music.  Bob was first, picking up Saints & Sinners at Dutch Boy.  He brought the tape over one afternoon for me to copy. We loved the original version of “Here I Go Again”, as well as “Crying in the Rain”.  Later on, I added Snakebite and Come An’ Get It to my collection.  I enjoyed the earlier, more rock & roll sounds of these previously unknown Whitesnake tapes.

I’m not sure exactly when Dutch Boy closed, but I do remember the last album I bought there.  It was now spring 1990, and I had a CD player by then.  Once again Dutch Boy did not disappoint.  I found a Van Halen disc there that I had never seen before on any format other than vinyl.  The album was Fair Warning.   Since it was the most “rare” Van Halen I had found so far, I chose to buy it.  It came to about $24 with tax, a lot of money for an album that was barely half an hour long.  It should go without saying that Fair Warning was one of the best purchases that my young self ever made.

Too bad Dutch Boy had to shut its doors.  It was a good store and I hear a lot of fond memories of it from others.  Do you remember?

DUTCH BOY

#389: LeBrain Trivia Facts!

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RECORD STORE TALES MkII: Getting More Tale
#389: LeBrain Trivia Facts!

Time to get to know your host here a little better. Here are 10 facts I bet you didn’t know about LeBrain.

1. I don’t wear a watch. I was sick of them always breaking, plus I don’t find them comfortable.  When I worked at the Record Store, I would take off my watch at the beginning of every shift and put it on again afterwards.

2. When I was really really young, I didn’t know the difference between a guitar and a bass, until somebody told me a bass only has four strings and therefore four tuning pegs. Until that time, I had assumed Michael Anthony was actually Eddie Van Halen, because he looked cooler to me!

3. My very earliest exposure to rock music was through a couple TV shows – The Flintstones, and the Hilarious House of Frightenstein!  Frightenstein featured a character called “The Wolfman”, based on Wolfman Jack…but a wolfman!  He would spin Rolling Stones and Kinks singles.

4. My first musical idol was John Williams. I loved his movie soundtracks and played them until they skipped.  Star Wars and Indiana Jones were awesome, but his best was the 2 LP set of The Empire Strikes Back, which was loaded with photos.

5. After John Williams came Johnny Cash, my very first concert at age 12.

6. I have been given a speeding ticket a total of three times over 24 years of clean driving.

7. I come from a musical family, but I can’t really play anything.

8. I make stop motion Transformers movies using my toy collection. I have never released any of them, even though I think I did better in one weekend with $0 than Michael Bay did in a year with a $Zillion dollars.

9. Much like everyone who grew up in the 1980’s, I owned Thriller by Michael Jackson and Born in the USA by Bruce Springsteen, on cassette.

10. My last name has been misspelled for about the last 100 years. Can you guess how it was originally spelled?

The two videos I chose for this post have a specific common element. Can you name it?

REVIEW: Van Halen – OU812 (1988)

Review by special request of reader Wardy!

OU812_0001VAN HALEN – OU812 (1988 Warner)

Those who were displeased with 1986’s 5150 album were optimistic about the next Van Halen.  “I heard it’s supposed to be heavier like old Van Halen,” were the whispers in the highschool halls.  “More like the stuff with David Lee Roth.”  Even though Van Hagar plotted their own course with tremendous success, there were and always will be factions that prefer Diamond Dave.  It is all but impossible to review a Van Hagar CD without asking, “is it as good as the classic records?”

I like OU812, a lot. It’s probably my favourite Van Hagar album and I’ve liked it since it came out. It is a little harder than 5150, and it does sport old school Van Halen shuffles like some from the days of old.  I would often argue that where Sammy Hagar fumbled in Van Halen is in the lyrical department.  But few of his lyrics on OU812 outright suck, and some are pretty cool.  Eddie’s guitar tone was beefier than it was on 5150.  Most importantly, the band were all fired up and still writing great rock songs and ballads.

Keyboards remained on the new album, as heard on opener “Mine All Mine”.  The context now was a harder rock song, and they work effectively.  Hagar turns in a surprisingly penetrative lyric regarding religion and self reliance.  “You got Allah in the East, Jesus in the West — Christ, what’s a man to do?” sings Sammy, never one to mince his words.  The breakneck track serves as an excellent starter for the new Van Halen.

“When It’s Love” kills the momentum momentarily.  It was a huge hit and also happened to be Van Halen’s first actual “music video” since David Lee Roth quit the band years before.  As far as ballads go, it’s edgier than “Love Walks In” or “Dreams”, although I don’t think it’s as good as either of those.  Thankfully the boys chase this with the weird-titled “A.F.U. (Naturally Wired)”.  This blazingly fast Van Halen shuffle isn’t too dissimilar from the style of song the band used to do with Dave.  Eddie, of course, knocks everybody down with his impossible licks.  Meanwhile, drummer Alex Van Halen gleefully enjoys the odd beats and searing tempo.

One of the best Van Hagar songs of all time closed side one, and it’s the song that loaned its name to an award-winning tequila:  “Cabo Wabo”.  A laid back summer classic, I challenge even the most cynical fan to not tap their toes during “Cabo Wabo”.  Hell, feel free to air-drum along.  Eddie lays down some juicy chords in that trademark brown sound.

“Source of Infection”, side two’s opening song, is barely a song at all.  I have always been convinced that Sammy ran out of time and didn’t have any lyrics written for this song so he just went in and sang stuff.  We know that Van Halen were indeed rushed in the studio.  I think “Source of Infection” is evidence of that, as there are barely any words to it.

Hey!OU812_0002
Alright!
Woo!
How ’bout ‘cha now, come on!
Oh yeah!
Dig it! That’s right
Is everybody ready? Let’s go!

(Movin’ up and down) Up ‘n down
(Round and round) Oh, round and round
(Movin’ up and down) In ‘n out
(Round and round) Yeow!

Crank it! Blow out!
Uh! Ouch!
Help me
Now flip on over
Oh baby, you know that I like it
(Woop! Woop! Woop!)

I think I’ve made my point.

It’s actually a smoking track, one of the heaviest Van Hagar blazers ever recorded, but to call it a “song” would be too generous and misleading.

I’ve been on record here for trashing Van Hagar ballads in the past, but I really like “Feels So Good”!  It’s the bright upbeat one.  Eddie’s keyboard sound on it is unique.  You have to give Eddie credit as a keyboardist, because that is so overshadowed by his guitar playing.  Eddie has always manufactured cool keyboard hooks, and accompanied them with an identifiably unique keyboard tone.  “Feels So Good” continues that tradition.  Top that with an Eddie solo complete with two-handed tapping and tricks, and you have a flawless Van Hagar pop rock track.

The country-flavoured “Finish What Ya Started” is one of the best top 40 hits about blue balls that I can think of.  I suffered from a high level of burnout from this track in ’88-’89, due to its saturation on radio and MuchMusic, but you can certainly hear why radio went for it.  The blue balls theme probably went right over their heads, and it’s accessible with plenty of incredible guitar hooks.  You just don’t hear Eddie playing like this often.  I also have to praise Alex’s snare drum sound here, so full and authentic.

“Black and Blue” was actually the first single, although no video was made for it.  It’s a slower Van Halen blues groove, but I don’t think it holds up particularly well after repeated listens.  (I caught hell for playing this album at work once, because Sammy sings “Bitch sure got the rhythm,” on this song.)  And unfortunately I don’t think “Sucker in a 3 Piece” is particularly awesome either.  It’s probably the weakest track on the album, although I remember one kid at school thought it was the best one, so there you go!  “Only Eddie Van Halen could come up with ‘Sucker in a 3 Piece’,” he praised.  I don’t see what his fuss was all about.

There was a CD bonus track on this, a rare novelty back in 1988.  I already had “A Apolitical Blues” on the flipside of the “Black and Blue” single.  For the first time since Diver Down, a cover (Little Feat) on a Van Halen album! Granted, only on the CD version, but still.  On MuchMusic, Eddie explained how this song was recorded about as low-tech as you can get:  four guys, two microphones, one room.  It sounded great on that scratchy old 45, but it’s not as memorable as a Van Halen cover can be.

Interesting and sometimes annoying factoids about the albums:

1. No producer is listed anywhere in the credits.  There is only “Recorded by Donn Landee”.

2. The tracks are irritatingly and purposely listed in the wrong order on the back cover, and in the lyric book.  They are alphabetical.  Who does that anymore?

4/5 stars

Final note:  A rare 3″ CD single with a remix of “Finish What Ya Started” and the album version of “Sucker in a 3 Piece” found its way into our store.  It came in with no packaging, so I bought it and stuck it in with my CD of OU812 as “disc 2” in a 2 CD case.  The remix version is notable for not being audibly different from the album version in any detectable way!

REVIEW: Van Halen – Tokyo Dome Live in Concert (2015 – LeBrain’s review)

For another perspective, check out Tommy Moraisreview of this CD, here!

NEW RELEASE

VAN HALEN – Tokyo Dome Live in Concert (2015 Warner)

I’d like to begin this review by diving head-on into the thick of it.  Everybody’s been talking about Dave’s voice.  It’s all anybody seems to talk about regarding the new Van Halen Tokyo Dome Live in Concert CD.  Even Sammy Hagar, always eager to open his mouth and opine on all things Halen, had this to say:

“I’m trying to tread lightly on the whole thing.  Every time they do something, I’m like, ‘Oh my God, can these guys do anything worse to their reputation and to the level of the music of the band?’”

Sammy couldn’t be more wrong (or bitter sounding).

Newsflash:  the new Van Halen is good!

Sonically, this CD is monstrous.  The bottom end sounds so good, and what a bottom end it is!  Lil’ Wolfgang Van Halen has become quite a bassist, which surely comes as no surprise.  His vocals with pa Eddie keep the melody grounded while David Lee Roth freestyles it.  No, he doesn’t sound like Michael Anthony, but surely you knew that by now.  I have always loved Mike’s backing vocals.  But Mike’s not coming back to Van Halen, and if you miss Mike that much, Chickenfoot have two excellent albums for you to pick up.

TOKYO DOME

The setlist: in a word, phenomenal.  All seven DLR-VH albums are mined for hits and deep cuts.  This means that you get to hear tracks like “Romeo Delight”, which I bet you never thought you’d hear live again.  “I’ll Wait”, “Ice Cream Man”, “Beautiful Girls”…almost all of my favourites are here!  But what really blew my mind was “Hear About It Later”, one of my desert island tracks, from Fair Warning.  I understand that the setlists were often decided between Dave and Wolfie, and you sure can’t find much fault in their choices.  The only one I didn’t particularly care for in the live setting was the recent single “Tattoo”, with its taped backing vocals.  It’s kind of an oddball Van Halen track as it is.

Now, Dave’s vocals:  They are what they are.  There are moments he’s out of breath, wheezing, and missing notes.  They are fewer than you’d expect.  I think one thing that didn’t help this album’s early reputation was that they released some questionable preview tracks.  Dave’s vocals on “Panama” are not as hot as they are on something like “Ice Cream Man”.  Definitely, he does better on some songs than others, but he succeeds in injecting every line with that Dave “charasma”.  He cheats his way around certain melodies, and speaks where he used to sing, but other singers his age do the same thing.  Rob Halford changes the vocal melody live quite often.  So, given that age and time do things to the human voice, and given that Dave is a smoker, you cannot compare Roth in 2013 to Roth in 1983.  (Let’s just hope that some day, we get a CD/DVD set of that US Festival, eh?)  And keep in mind: Roth’s so-so vocals are only proof that this album is live, no tampering in the mix (unlike the live album they did with Sammy which was heavily re-recorded).

Last, but certainly not least: Edward Van Halen himself.  It seems kind of pointless to say “he’s playing awesome”, but I do think it’s important to get it out there.  He’s had health scares, and he definitely hit a low point back in 2003.  His singing and playing here is awesome.  There is nobody in the world who sounds like Eddie Van Halen, though there are many who have tried.  In a blind taste test, 100% of Van Halen fans chose Eddie.

Filler:  Alex’s drum solo “Me & You”, a tropical jazz inflected moment that simply does not fit the show.  But the guys are getting up there and a mid-show drum solo gives Dave and Eddie a chance to rest for a few minutes.  In every other way, Alex Van Halen is awesome on this album.

I recommend any serious Van Halen fan to ignore the hype (and Sammy) and pick up Tokyo Dome Live. It’s cheap (about $13-15), it sounds excellent (it’s self-produced) and it has all the songs you want.  After all, we didn’t spend all these years moaning that we wanted Dave back in the band, only to bitch and complain about the live album, did we?

4/5 stars

VH LIVE_0001