vinyl

RE-REVIEW: KISS – Killers (1982 import)

The KISS RE-REVIEW SERIES Part 21:  

  Killers (1982 Casablanca, German and Japanese versions)

No matter how you feel about Kiss’s concept album Music From the Elder, it was a commercial dud.  It was Kiss’ first serious flop as a band since hitting the big time in 1975 with Kiss Alive!  More significantly, it was part of a trend:  Kiss chaos.  Since the solo albums, Kiss were fragmented.  The band weren’t playing on all the songs anymore, and members were leaving.  They had strayed from their music roots and become a comic book novelty act.  The Elder was not so much an album that people didn’t “get”, but one they didn’t care to “get”.  Fans were moving on.

The European record label, Phonogram, was in damage control mode.  They drew up plans to issue an album consisting of new and old songs; a compilation to put some money back in the coffers.  They weren’t mucking around.  They wanted a batch of new rock songs, but Kiss had effectively become a trio.  Ace Frehley hadn’t left the band officially, but he was no longer involved creatively.  Filling the guitar slot again was Bob Kulick.  As he did on Kiss Alive II, Bob played lead guitar on the new songs.  A 1988 book called Kiss: Still on Fire also named Ratt’s Robbin Crosby as a guitar player on the new songs, though this is a claim not backed up in any other source.  Paul provided the new songs, written with old and new friends:  Mikel Japp, Adam Mitchell, and some Canadian guy named Bryan something.  Bryan Adams?  Cuts like a knife indeed!  Adams co-wrote the lethal “Down On Your Knees”, and it wouldn’t be his last songwriting credit with Kiss either.

The best new tune in the batch was called “Nowhere to Run”, and it was one of the rockers that Kiss were working on before they decided to do The Elder instead. The sheer quality of this Stanley-penned underdog really supports the theory that doing The Elder was a mistake.  “Nowhere to Run” was classic Stanley, as good as anything on his solo album and exactly the kind of song that Kiss should have been doing.  In an alternate universe where The Elder never came out, what could have happened to Kiss?  Unfortunately the new compilation called Kiss Killers was never released in North America.   “Nowhere to Run” could do very little to change Kiss’ fortunes without being released in their native country.

The second-finest of the new songs is a little ditty called “I’m a Legend Tonight”.  Paul has somewhat disowned these songs since, but it is really hard to understand why.  This is a hard hitting Paul rocker, as only Paul can do.  It’s all innuendo and hot guitar licks.  The riff is simple and hooky, while Kulick plays for all he’s worth.  No longer was Bob being told to “play like Ace”.  His signature scorch really makes these new songs sound like a continuation of the Paul Stanley solo album.  Then there is “Down on Your Knees”, the one with Bryan Adams’ fingerprints on it.  It’s hard to tell, although it’s not outside the Adams ballpark.  It’s a sleazy rocker, spare and sounding great.  The new tracks were produced by Michael James Jackson, who finally captured Eric Carr’s drums properly.  Bob Ezrin buried them under mud on The Elder.  Kiss Killers sounds more like the real Eric Carr debut album.  The last of the new songs, “Partners in Crime”, is the weakest of the four.  Paul takes it down to a slow sexy grind, but “Partners in Crime” lacks the charisma of the other three.

As far as the new songs could be considered a “comeback”, it’s close but no cigar.  There’s no discernable Demon.  Where is Gene Simmons?  The lack of any audible Simmons vocals makes you question whether he even played bass on the new songs.  Regardless, Kiss is about a balance between Gene and Paul, and Killers represents the first heavy skew towards Paul.

 

The hits on the record make for great listening.  Most of the key bases are covered:  “Detroit Rock City”, “Shout it Out Loud”, “Love Gun”, “God of Thunder” and even “I Was Made for Lovin’ You”.  There are no Peter Criss songs, and the only Frehley is “Cold Gin”, which Gene sings.  The only ballad is “Sure Know Something”, a minor hit in Germany where this album was issued.  In a cool touch, the record closes with the “live” (quotation marks!) version of “Rock and Roll all Nite” that made them superstars.  It is the more well known, and arguably superior version.  (Some of the other tracks are edits or single versions.*)

Kiss’ very first Japanese bonus tracks were on Killers.  The Japanese version is an even better listen.  They put a bonus track in the second-to-last position on each side:  “Shandi” (massive hit in Australia) and “Escape From the Island” (previously unreleased in Japan — it wasn’t included on their version of The Elder).  “Shandi” is just a great fucking song, and “Escape From the Island” is a cool inclusion because of a) its obscurity, and b) its total Ace Frehley shreddery.  It is interesting to note, that only Japan had tracks from the two most recent Kiss albums, Unmasked and Music From the Elder.  The rest of the world did not.  Were Kiss already trying to bury those records?

Periodically, the new songs on Kiss Killers have reappeared on single B-sides, compilations and box sets.  The best way to get them is just to pick up a copy of Killers.  Choose your format, sit back and rock!

Today’s rating:

4/5 stars

* “Shout it Out Loud” is a single version with a different mix on the lead vocals and an early fade.  “Detroit Rock City” and “I Was Made for Lovin’ You” are edited versions.

Original mikeladano.com review:  2012/07/27

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RE-REVIEW: KISS – Best of Solo Albums (1979) #0wordchallenge

Brief explanation:  After the #200wordchallenge, I was inspired to come up with an even more daunting task.   Could I do a review in 0 words — without using any words at all?  I invite you to the #0wordchallenge!  Mine is below, but use your imagination and come up with something uniquely you!  This review is a part of…


The KISS RE-REVIEW SERIES Part 19:  

  Best of Solo Albums (1979 Phonogram)


Original mikeladano.com review:  2012/09/03

REVIEW: Mastodon – “White Walker” (2016 picture disc single)

MASTODON – “White Walker” (2016 Warner 10″ picture disc single)

Disclaimer: I’ve never seen a single episode of Game of Thrones, although I will admit a crush on Emilia Clarke, and a man-crush on Kit Harington.  And I don’t really know a lot about Mastodon.  I know they rock — and that’s enough.

Since Sunrise Records in Kitchener opened up again back in April, I’ve been doing my best to support them.  Taking a chance on something I haven’t heard before, and finding the artwork badass as hell, I plopped down for Mastodon’s “White Watcher” single.  There is nothing typical about this song.  The war drums opening the track sound as if from battle.  The lyrics certainly paint a picture:  a cold and desolate land full of despair.  There is little musical backing, just some spare acoustic guitars and a few atmospheric electric licks until the haunting guitar solo kicks in.  It’s atypical of any Mastodon I’ve heard.

The B-side is the A Cappella version of “White Walker”, with just one voice.  I love how it reveals the imperfections of the human voice.  It sounds like something a character on the show might be singing, before battle.  The mourning feeling is there in the grooves of the record.

And speaking of the record, what artwork!  The A-side is a brilliant painting of a White Walker, while the B-side is a still from the show.  The snowy landscape and ragged people huddled around fires certainly illustrate what the song feels like.  Incredible single.

4.5/5 stars

REVIEW: Jimmy Page & The Black Crowes – Live at Jones Beach (2017)

Gratitude to James Kalyn of the KMA for acquiring this treasure.

JIMMY PAGE & THE BLACK CROWES – Live at Jones Beach (2017 The Orchard Record Store Day EP)

Aficionados of Led Zeppelin and the Black Crowes rejoice! It has been a long time since the fantastic concert collaboration, Jimmy Page & The Black Crowes Live at the Greek (2000).  That double CD delivered a surprisingly bang-on dose of legendary Zeppelin cuts and blues covers.  Here, it’s a seven piece band consisting of Page, Rich Robinson and Audley Freed in a lethal triple guitar lineup.  The band was completed by vocalist Chris Robinson, drummer Steve Gorman, bassist Greg Rzab and keyboard player Eddie Harsch.  Now you can hear three more tracks, from an additional concert at Jones Beach.

As expected, Pagey and the Crowes are whipped up into a blues jam rock frenzy loaded with atomic playing.  Off to Middle Earth with “Misty Mountain Hop”, a song easily conquered by Chris Robinson.  You may be surprised by how comfortably it fits the Crowes.  “Bring it on Home” seems more their style, and with Jimmy they turn it into a loud rocking assault.  The three guitarists are really able to bring to life “In the Light”, giving it the kind of depth it has in the studio.  Chris and Rich double the vocals to emulate the production on the Physical Grafitti original.

4.5/5 stars

This was a 200 word review in the tradition of the #200wordchallenge.

 

REVIEW: Helix – Live at the Marquee (1985 promo EP)

HELIX – Live at the Marquee (1985 Capitol promo exclusive EP)

Gratuity goes to two people:  Helix associate John Hockey who initially hooked me up with an mp3 rip of his copy of this Holy Grail rarity, and to Boppin for finding this original copy on vinyl!  Helix’s Live at the Marquee EP is one of those releases that lots of people have heard of, but few have heard.  First of all, it’s a promo, which means it was only distributed within the industry and never made available for sale to the public.  Promos can be very desirable collectibles, especially when they contain exclusive music.  Live at the Marquee was nothing but!  In 1985, Helix had released nothing in terms of live product, not even a live single B-side.  Live at the Marquee was the only one, and before the internet, few fans even knew about it.

For full disclosure, there is a rare Rock Candy reissue of 1984’s Walkin’ the Razor’s Edge, an unauthorized but valuable release that does contain three of the six Marquee tracks.  That 2009 release includes “Young & Wreckless”, “Rock You”, and “Animal House” from this EP.  The other three songs have yet to be reissued anywhere, so half of Live at the Marquee is still exclusive to the EP.

What you need to know about Live at the Marquee is that this is Helix at their prime.  The classic lineup was in full swing:  Brian Vollmer (vocals), Brent “Doctor” Doerner & Paul Hackman (guitars), Greg “Fritz” Hinz (drums), and Daryl Gray (bass).  They were performing their most popular tracks from the Razor’s Edge and No Rest for the Wicked LPs.  Starting with “Young & Reckless” and “Rock You”, it’s full octane in the tank and pedal to the metal.  Helix were and are known as a loud band, and this EP sure sounds like it.  They take a step back on the hit ballad “(Make Me Do) Anything You Want”.  Helix could do love songs like that without sounding wimpy.

Side two continues with the single “Gimme Gimme Good Lovin'” (Crazy Elephant cover) which sounds like a blast.  Helix do not get recognition for the dual guitar alliance of Doerner and Hackman as perhaps they should.  Check out “Animal House” for more of their stellar interplay including a bit of slide.  Finally “Heavy Metal Love” closes the record, an enduring favourite today that sounds fantastic performed by the classic band.

Over the years, fans became widely aware of the existence of this release.  It would be listed and pictured among official discographies, but never found in stores.  Until/unless those final three recordings become available on CD, this record should be sought after by every serious Helix fan.  I’m happy to have a copy signed by Fritz Hinz.  Also awesome?  John Hockley hooked me up with a CD copy of the Rock Candy release of Razor’s Edge, signed by all four surviving members of the classic Helix band.  Thank you John, and rest in peace Paul Hackman.

4.5/5 stars

REVIEW: Faith No More – “Cone of Shame” (2016 RSD single)

scan_20170303-3FAITH NO MORE – “Cone of Shame” (2016 Reclamation Recordings 7″ single for Record Store Day, gold vinyl)

All hail the mighty JHUBNER, decorated hard-core hunter…of records.  Raise your Romulan ale (or what have you)!  Somewhere somehow, the subject of limited edition Faith No More singles for Record Store Day came up.  Mr. Hubner kindly took note that he had seen some at his local establishment.  With great care and expense, he packed it well, armored in a shell of cardboard that could withstand any wayward bombardments.  Thusly, I have acquired “Cone of Shame” on limited edition clear gold vinyl.  Had I thought this through, I would have asked for green, to compliment this burning green alcoholic beverage that Scotty below is hoisting to Mr. Hubner.

scotty

This is a gorgeous 45.  The cover art is quite funny: a pug (with eyes blacked out for anonymity) wearing a doggie “cone of shame”.  Would have been better with a miniature schnauzer, but pugs are fine.   The vintage style label is starkly awesome in black & white.  The pristine yellow disc is a piece of beauty indeed, clean and clear and rich with awesome music carved into its grooves.

The A-side is the standard album version of “Cone of Shame” from Sol Invictus.  This is a song I have strongly warmed up to in the last year.  I didn’t care for it at first, but I have since fallen for its weirdness and Patton’s vocal heroics.  Flip over to the B-side and you will find J.G. Thirwell’s “Calcitron Mix” of “Motherfucker”.  I love what he did with it.  Most of Patton’s voice has been wiped leaving only Roddy Bottum’s hypnotic verses.  The word “motherfucker” is chopped and looped to become the main hook.  There is very little of the original song left.  Essentially a new song has been created with Roddy’s “get the motherfucker on the phone, on the phone” hook, chopped up and given the Max Headroom treatment.  The techno backing feels like a bunch of idiots at a rave, but that’s not my thing.  I’m easily amused so the rearrangement and repetition of the word “motherfucker” keeps me entertained.

Remixes are what they are.  You either like them or you don’t.  I usually lean towards the opinion that an original is better than a remix, 99% of the time.  There are the odd exceptions.  I think you need to use a different measuring stick when talking about remixes.  Instead of “did it make the song better”, perhaps the question should be “did it make the song different?”  In this case “Motherfucker” has been reimagined as something new, and that’s pretty cool.

3.5/5 stars

REVIEW: Monster Truck – Sittin’ Heavy (2016 double vinyl)

“I don’t care ’bout the weather, the band’s here to play.” – Jon Harvey

img_20161113_081455 MONSTER TRUCK – Sittin’ Heavy (2016 Dine Alone 2 LP edition)

Why are you not rocking?  This is the question that Monster Truck ask to open their 2016 release Sittin’ Heavy, easily the best record the quartet have released to date.  “Rock and roll might save your life, it might save your life tonight.”  Perhaps this is the Truck’s modus operandi, because judging by Sittin’ Heavy they are interested in delivering the rock and doing it right.

From the short blitz of an opener, Truck go right into the first single “Don’t Tell Me How to Live”.  The track has been a radio staple in Canada for most of 2016, and it’s easy to see why.  The slow riffy groove is easily digestible by rock fans craving that sound, backed by a searing chorus about eagles and lions.  Some have compared this band to another Nickelback, but on Sittin’ Heavy they have moved far beyond those measures.  Nickelback has never delivered anything this classic sounding.  Track three, “She’s a Witch” has a modern swampy vibe that Chad Kroeger couldn’t hope to taint.  Three songs in, Monster Truck delivered three completely different tunes, though all with the rock solid Truck groove.  One ingredient that separates the Truck from the crowd is the soulful organ provided by keyboardist Brandon Bliss.  “She’s a Witch” is one track with a bizarrely heavy soul-metal vibe.  That vibe culminates with “For the People”, an uplifting track that closes side one of the vinyl.  The soul-rock vibe is obvious and augmented by Ian Thornley of Big Wreck who lays down some of his trademark wicked slide guitar.  The Wreck-ifying of the track unites the two bands in a cool, celebratory way.

Flip the vinyl, and take a moment.  “Black Forest” is a organ based track, slow and mournful, and very different from any of the four on side one.  When a band like Monster Truck turn down the volume, they risk revealing that there is little substance beneath the howling distortion.  This is certainly not the case here.  “Black Forest” has a more subtle touch, and the band allow it to breath.  As a result it’s one of the most stand-out tracks.

“Another Man’s Shoes” walks us back into familiar territory.   The Truck don’t make things complicated, and guitarist Jeremy Widerman’s Frehley-like solos are just what the doctor ordered for these musical bruisings.  They take a left turn down Abbey Road next by adding some Beatles-like piano vibes to “Things Get Better”, an outstanding track.  “I got a feelin’ thing’ll get worse before they get better,” sings Jon Harvey but he couldn’t be more wrong.  Sittin’ Heavy keeps getting better the more you play it, and “Things Get Better” is a high water mark.  Side two blasts its way to a finish on “The Enforcer”, which races home with plenty of the Truck’s trademark “woah-woah-woah” gang vocals.

The third and final side (we’ll talk about that shortly) begins darkly with a Sabbath-like “To the Flame”.  Widerman and Harvey seemed to study at the feet of Iommi and Osbourne when composing this menacing crawl.  “Midnight” takes the tempo back up to cruising speed.  Going in at low altitude, the Truck bomb your senses with a vinyl-only bonus track.  Considering the price you pay for a record vs. a CD, it is nice to get something like a bonus track for your dollars.  In the 80s, it was common to put a bonus track on the CD, since it was the most expensive format at that time.  Now the situation is reversed.

A choppy riff introduces “New Soul”, a purely enjoyable return to the church of soul-rock.  It’s a head-bangin’ good time.  Clap your hands for a good time (unless you’re listening to this while driving, in which case, keep ’em steady on the wheel).  Then the final track is appropriately the ballad “Enjoy the Time” which sounds like a natural way to end a soulful rock album like Sittin’ Heavy.  Its Supertramp-like keyboard tones lend it a unique sound over the rest of the album.  It also sums up the vibe of the whole album:  “Enjoy the time we have, before they’re gone away.”

But what about the fourth side?  What’s on that?  Check out the etched vinyl, baby!

img_20161113_080846

If you are looking for a new rock album that sounds classic, then you have found one.  Those who like a rock record to be a journey of highs and lows and with a satisfying conclusion, then Sittin’ Heavy is the one.  With little doubt, this one is going to be on a few best of 2016 lists at the end of the year.

5/5 stars

 

REVIEW: Metallica – “Lords of Summer” vinyl & download singles (2014)

img_20161120_080611METALLICA  – “Lords of Summer” (2014 Blackened Record Store Day single, additional download versions)

This past Friday, Metallica ended the eight-year long wait for a new album and put out the sharp-edged Hardwired…To Self-Destruct.  If you go for the deluxe edition (a measly $16!) then you’ll get the full 78 minute studio album and a bonus CD (to be reviewed later) with another 14 tracks.  That’s another 79 minutes of metal for a grand total of $16.  The value is insane.

Cast your minds back to 2014.  Metallica, embarking on a summer tour, released a new single called “Lords of Summer”.  The concept of “Lords of Summer” was pretty simple.  It’s a song about touring season, and it was one of the new pieces of music that the band were working on for the next album.  Ultimately, a slightly shorter and re-recorded “Lords of Summer” was included on the bonus CD for Hardwired.  The vinyl single (Record Store Day, limited to 4000 copies) has the original “First Pass Version” (8:20).  This was also made available via download.  If you’re already familiar with “Lords of Summer” then this is the version you know.  The “First Pass” is not as polished as Hardwired, but similar in direction with the same focus on metal riffs and melody.  Like much of the album, “Lords of Summer” careens from riff to riff blasting away at different tempos.  While not one of Metallica’s most remarkable songs, it has some cool individual riffs cooked up within it.

For the sake of completion, we should also discuss the “Garage Demo Version” of “Lords of Summer”.  This was included as a bonus track with Metallica’s official live downloads from that tour.  It was first played in Bogota Columbia, March 16 2014.  The “Garage Demo” (also 8:20) is different recording from the “First Pass”; very similar but even rougher.  Fans familiar with Metallica’s usual demos know that they are often so rough that the lyrics are not yet in place.  This time, the song was already fully formed in its demo stage.

The Record Store Day vinyl single contained a bonus live version, recorded in Rome on July 1 2014.  By that time the band had been playing it all summer, so it’s tight.  Kirk’s solo is drowned out in the mix, but of course you can hear the drums loud and clear.  Compare this to the version in Bogota, which captures the song played live for the first time ever.  The arrangement is the same, but it’s still coming together in Bogota.  The Roman version demonstrates that practice makes perfect.  But why stop there?  There are a total of 33 different live versions available for download on Metallica’s site!

There is one last bonus, which is the etched B-side on the Record Store Day vinyl.  Admittedly it looks pretty…but it’s just an “M”.  It’s minimalist cool, but what happened?…they couldn’t afford to etch the etallica?

img_20161120_065505

For this review, we listened to the following:

  1. “First Pass Version” (8:20, available as single download or on vinyl Record Store Day single)
  2. “Garage Demo Version” (8:20, available with purchase of a concert at LiveMetallica)
  3. July 1, 2014, Rome Italy (8:48, available on vinyl Record Store Day single or for download at LiveMetallica)
  4. March 16, 2014, Bogota Columbia (9:18, available for download at LiveMetallica)

With 31 more live versions online, plus the new album version at 7:09, there are in total 36 official versions of “Lords of Summer” out there to consume.  Happy hunting.

3/5 stars

 

 

REVIEW: Iron Maiden – “Empire of the Clouds” (2016 Record Store Day picture disc single)

IRON MAIDEN -“Empire of the Clouds” (2016 Parlophone Record Store Day picture disc single)

The story of acquiring this single and RSD 2016 can be read right here, so without getting into the details again this is what you need to know:

  1. This was a Record Store Day exclusive (April 16 2016).
  2. There were only 5500 copies made.
  3. Everybody wanted one.

The picture disc and packaging are gorgeous.  The record is a depiction of the Eddie destroying the R-101 airship, but fear not, this is not how history actually unfolded!  This picture disc is ensconced in a die card cover with reprintings of the Daily Mirror newspaper article from the day following the disaster.  It’s a lovely keepsake for sure, but it also has an exclusive interview on the B-side.

Not that the A side is unimportant.  From my original review for The Book of Souls, I had much praise for “Empire of the Clouds”:

“Written solely by Bruce and coming in at almost 20 minutes, it is unprecedented in the Maiden canon.  Never before have the credits ‘Bruce Dickinson – vocals, piano’ been written inside one of their albums.  For the first time ever, the piano is a part of Iron Maiden’s makeup.  Maiden have used orchestras before, and the strings return as well.  ‘Empire of the Clouds’ is a peak accomplishment, something that they (and Bruce) can proudly proclaim, ‘we did that’.  The piano is a natural fit, in the way it is used to make an epic song even more dramatic.  Aviation has been one of Bruce’s favourite lyrical subjects for a long time, but ‘Empire of the Clouds’ might be his first song about airships.  You can trust him to instil it with all the drama and heaviness that you expect from Iron Maiden.”

Nicko McBrain and Bruce Dickinson discuss the making of the song, almost an album in itself, on the B-side “Maiden Voyage”.  The R101 was a massive airship (“the Titanic fits inside”) that was rushed into service and caught flame in 1930.  Bruce wrote the song on piano, which he had learned to play over the last three years.  He then researched the history of the airship and worked on the words.  The way he describes the incident on this interview track, it was a perfect storm of everything going wrong.  In its context, the airship was an expression of the ambition of the British Empire to stretch to all corners of the Earth and above as well.  Bruce says the crash was the end of this era.

Part of the story involves a storm, so Bruce came up with a piano part to depict that.  Before long he had enough components from his piano writings to build the different parts of the song.   One of the bits was written when Jon Lord (from Deep Purple) was ill with cancer.  After his death, Bruce used this piece for the part when the airship initially sets off.  It’s interesting that this era of British ambition inspired the most ambitious track that the singer had ever attempted.  This includes a musical “S.O.S.” in Morse code, something I picked up on upon first listen.

Bruce has particular praise for drummer Nicko McBrain in the building and recording of this song.  Nicko was not only a help in a technical respect, but also as a cheerleader keeping the band driven, so much was he into it.

Bruce Dickinson is a remarkable individual in heavy metal.  You don’t see many metal stars as well educated in history as Bruce, or as capable at communicating it to his audience.  Indeed, as a presenter on the BBC, Bruce has brought history to many diverse audiences.  You would think Iron Maiden fans would be one of the more challenging groups to reach, but Maiden followers are hungry for this kind of content.  We can only respect the band that much more when we realize the true depth of their work.  This coming from a licensed airline pilot, published fiction author, cancer survivor and amature fencer who also happens to be in Iron Maiden.  Extraordinary!

I’m not sure if this disc was worth the buying frenzy it spawned or the online prices you are about to see, but I’m sure glad I got my copy.

5/5 stars

#478: Record Store Day (April 16 2016)

GETTING MORE TALE #478: Record Store Day (April 16 2016)

I thought Record Store Day was supposed to be a celebration of indi record stores.  That’s nice and all, but my first Record Store Day ever was at a chain:  Sunrise Records in a shopping mall.  I’m not sure what qualifies as “indi” but I do see a lot of similarities with Record Store Day and other much-hyped spending spree events, like Force Friday.  Overpriced items, not enough stock and waiting for stores to open seem to be the order of the day.  Having said that, I have never seen anything like Record Store Day 2016.  Nor did the staff at X-Disc-C in Kitchener, the store I chose to hit up this year.

I don’t always shop on Record Store Day, but when I do, it is for a good reason.  The first time I went was in 2011, for an AC/DC single featuring two then-exclusive live recordings.  That was a lot of fun, but imagine my chagrin a year later when these two songs were released on the Live at River Plate album.  It seems most RSD-exclusive items are either:

a) songs that get released on albums later on,
b) vinyl reissues of things you already have,
c) stuff that sits around for months or years after as shelfwarmers.

This year, my RSD holy grail list had only one item on it:  the 12″ picture disc single for Iron Maiden’s 20 minute epic “Empire of the Clouds”, from The Book of Souls.  Incidentally, that single was more expensive than the 2 CD album itself:  $33 with taxes.  What’s so special about it?  It has no exclusive music, but it does include a 21 minute interview with Bruce Dickinson about the R101 airship disaster that the song is based on.  That made it worth owning.   There were at least four stores in town carrying it.  Mill Pond Records in Cambridge were doing a big promotion on the radio with Darryl Law, offering big discounts and free CDs.  The had four copies of “Empire of the Clouds” in stock.  I wrote that store off the list first, gambling that it would be too busy.

I planned my strategy to acquire this very limited single (5500 copies).  Online prices later on will be far too high, at least for me unless I decide to sell my organs on the dark web.  Encore Records has long been the most reliable store in town, and they were carrying it (quantity unknown).  Failing that, just a few blocks away at X-Disc-C, there were three copies in stock.  The plan was for me to go to Encore while my wife Jen went to X-Disc-C.  We left the house at 8:15 for the 9:00 am opening.  That even left time for a coffee stop, at a way too busy Timmy’s on Weber St.  My only real concern at that point was parking downtown.  Kitchener is currently being ripped up to build a controversial light rail transit system.  The traffic tie-ups and difficult access points are only adding to the controversy.  Even so, and even with the Kitchener Farmer’s Market open since 6:00 am, parking was not a problem.  In fact there was plenty.

Encore Records was a couple blocks away, but I turned right back around as soon as I saw the line!  There were at least 40-50 people up there, waiting to get in.  I had never seen anything like that before, not on Record Store Day.  Not for records.  “Fuck this,” I said as I hiked back.  Re-joining Jen, we headed to X-Disc-C which was only a short jaunt away.  We knew they had three copies.  I had never been to this location before, tucked away on a side street near the market.  We knew we were getting near when we heard the sounds of Gordon Lightfoot serenading us on outdoor speakers.  This was followed by the new Wolfmother.  And we were first in line!  Iron Maiden would be mine!

I posted on Facebook, “First in line.  I am the line.”

About five minutes later another guy joined us, maybe a bit older than me.   We exchanged “good mornings” and chatted.

“I’m only here for one thing,” he hinted.

“Maiden?” I asked, and he nodded.  “Me too,” I said in response.  “He has three in there, so it looks like we’re good.”

“They’re already open over across the street,” he told me, referring to Encore.

“Really?  But did you see that crowd?  There were at least 40 people standing there.  Can that store even hold 40 people?”

I was surprised when he answered, “Yeah, I was second in line.  I’ve been waiting outside since 6:30 in the morning.”

Think about that for a moment.  That means there was somebody who got there even before 6:30!  People really wanted that Iron Maiden record.  Behind us, a small line began to form, young and old.

“I left to come here because I couldn’t see the Maiden when I walked into Encore.  Other people swooped in and they were gone before I could even see them.”  I expressed a little bit of surprise about the popularity of a record that only had an interview track on the B-side.  That doesn’t matter to everybody though.  “I’m not going to play it,” he said.  “I’m not even going to open it.  I’m going to frame it.”

A few more people joined us in line including one guy in an Iron Maiden T-shirt.  I don’t think he had a chance anymore.  There seemed to be two dominating artists that people in line were looking for:  David Bowie, and Iron Maiden.  Then the door opened.  I grabbed the first Iron Maiden, and the guy behind me got the second.  I did not see who got the third.

At X-Disc-C, they told me they had never seen a Record Store Day opening like this before.  They seemed unprepared as most of their items hadn’t even been priced yet.  I wonder if Encore Records also got slammed unprepared at opening.  They usually only have two guys working on busy days, and I think only three people even work there at all.  It’s great to see them so busy, but I wondered about the whole experience.

These stores probably don’t make much money on these Record Store Day exclusives, and these early birds were looking for specific items.  If they didn’t have it, they walked.  They didn’t stick around to browse, nor was there room to browse.  Two people walked out before I even paid for my Maiden!   The buying frenzy atmosphere isn’t the kind of record shopping experience most of us look for.  We like to take our time, check every nook and cranny, converse and enjoy it.  These limited Record Store Day items seem to create schools of sharks swooping in on very limited items, and when they’re gone the customer buys nothing and moves on.

I will open and play my Iron Maiden record, once.  I’ll record it, and only look at it henceforce.  It’s a gorgeous picture disc in a gatefold sleeve.  The cover replicates the Daily Mirror newspaper from October 6 1930, the day after the R101 burst into flames.  An awesome Eddie illustration from the picture disc is seen through the die-cut cover.  It truly is a beautiful collectible.

Record Store Day was fun, but I don’t think it does much to celebrate the indi record store.  It does bring out the hard core collectors, but the overall atmosphere feels too much like a bloody Black Friday sale than a true record shopping experience.

Come back tomorrow for a review of the “Empire of the Clouds” RSD exclusive single.

 

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