vinyl

7 Inches: LeBrain’s Singles Collection Show

Tons of fun tonight as I went through my two boxes of 7″ singles!  Some dated back to the 1970s (“Smoke on the Water”, “Christine Sixteen”).   A large number (Def Leppard!) came from my vinyl collecting days in the 80s.  Most are from the 1990s to present.

This was, truthfully, one of the most fun shows ever for me!  I got to rediscover a bunch of records that I haven’t looked at in a long time, and show them all to you!  This is 98% of my 7″ singles collection, not including records that came inside box sets or magazines, which are filed in different places.  This is simply the contents of two boxes of my records, and it took a solid 90 minutes to get through them all!

There was also a special unboxing from Aaron, and some mail from Sean Kelly!  What?!  Check them out below on the LeBrain Train!

 

My 7″ Singles Collection – Show & Tell Show

The LeBrain Train: 2000 Words or More with Mike Ladano

Episode 94 – My 7″ Singles Collection

Just a simple, one hour show tonight as we go through my 7″ vinyl, record by record!

We took a glance at some favourite singles in the past, but that was when I was only able to do Facebook Live.  There have been some new additions since then.  You’ll see some surprises and even a record or two that I have not yet listened to.

There will also be a special unboxing from Aaron, and some mail from Sean Kelly!  What?!  Don’t miss this.  Check them out tonight on the LeBrain Train!

 

REVIEW: Aerosmith – The Road Starts Hear (2021)

AEROSMITH – The Road Starts Hear (2021 Universal RSD vinyl)

Are Aerosmith kicking off a series of official bootlegs too?  That would be just swell!  The label on this record indicates it comes from the “Vindaloo Vaults”.  It seems likely there would be more in the vaults besides this October 1971 recording.  But even if this is all there is, we sure got lucky.  This tape from Boston is Aerosmith’s earliest known recording, and sounds bloody great.  Currently it’s only available on RSD vinyl, but don’t be surprised if it gets a CD reissue when Aerosmith re-release their entire catalogue.

Aerosmith’s first LP was different.  Tyler hadn’t found his voice yet.  The distortion wasn’t cranked up.  But there is certainly a fondness for that period, which birthed “Dream On” and a number of other classics.  That’s the setting for The Road Starts Hear.

This record commences with some slow, laid back guitars jamming on “Somebody” while the people in the venue chit and chat amongst themselves.  Then it really starts – Tyler kicking it up, but drummer Joey Kramer being the real driving force.  This recording is clear!  There is some minor distortion on Tyler’s microphone, but you can hear both guitars distinctly, along with bass, drums and cymbals.

The blues cover “Reefer Head Woman” wasn’t recorded by Aerosmith properly until 1979’s Night in the Ruts, but this version predates the familiar by eight years!  They’re very different but both boast a Steven Tyler harmonica solo.  This transitions into “Walkin’ the Dog”, slower and bluesier than the other versions out there.  This is a long jam, and for the brilliant guitar work, it’s likely the best take of “Walkin’ the Dog” that you’ll hear.

“Moving Out” leads side two, definitely edgy and sharp.  Tyler is at the top of his game and the rest of the dudes provide the momentum.  Then they lay back on “Major Barbara”, another song they didn’t release until much later.  Though they did record it in a proper studio in 1974 for Get Your Wings, it didn’t get a release until it was added as a bonus to Classics Live in 1987!  On this version, listen for a detour into “Hail to the Bus Driver”!

“Dream On” is fully realized, Tyler tinkling on the piano, but the guitar solos still in prototypical form.  This brilliant version is probably the heaviest.  Finally “Mama Kin” closes the record, a bit different than the way it sounds on the Aerosmith album: more garage-y.

What a band Aerosmith always were!  The chemistry is evident on their earliest recordings, as is their hard edged approach to rocking the blues.  You cannot go wrong with this record.

4/5 stars

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RE-REVIEW: Def Leppard – Pyromania (1983)

Part Seven of the Def Leppard Review Series

Original review:  Pyromania deluxe (1983)

DEF LEPPARD – Pyromania (1983 Polygram)

Disruption!  Midway through the recording of Def Leppard’s crucial third album, guitarist Pete Willis was fired.  It had been coming for a while.  His alleged alcohol consumption was causing problems and the band had their eye on Phil Collen from Girl already.  They were lucky to get Phil, as he had already been approached about joining Iron Maiden to replace Dennis Stratton.

This was serious.  Once again working with “Mutt” Lange, whose schedule was booked solid, time was money.  And music, perhaps unsurprisingly, is a business.  The third Def Leppard album was critical.  The potential of the band was not underestimated.  “Bringin’ On the Heartbreak” made the top 20 in the US and the new album was intended to do better.  Lange has a songwriting credit on every song, indicating the level to which he was involved to make the album as perfect as could be.  It took 10 months to record, a mind-numbingly long time to the young band.  If only they knew….

Pete Willis had writing credits on four songs, including two singles.  With rhythm guitars laid down on all tracks by Willis, Collen just needed to whip up a few solos and finish off some bits and pieces.  He and Steve Clark made a formidable duo.  Collen had a more schooled sound than Willis and the contrast added a new dimension to Leppard’s solos.  Meanwhile, the songs were streamlined.  Sleaker, more hooks per minute, more direct…more commercial.

Some feel this is where Def Leppard started to go over the cliff.  The majority probably see it as Def Leppard becoming the real Def Leppard.

The opening music would have been familiar to anyone who caught Def Leppard live in the early years.  “Medicine Man” was an early track with an absolutely killer Clark riff.  With Mutt’s help they re-wrote it into the now-esteemed “Rock! Rock! Till You Drop”, but that riff is still the main feature.  After the headbanging commences, a screamin’ Joe Elliott lays down one of his most raging lead vocals.  Collen’s style is audible from the solo; a fretburner.  “Rock! Rock!” isn’t really that far off from High ‘N’ Dry, but you can tell it’s spent more time at the polishing wheel.  The production also seems colder and more clinical.

The triumphant “Photograph” really showed where Leppard were going.  Sure there’s a riff, but the main features here are the vocal melodies and harmonies.  Noticeable keyboard accents de-clawed the Leppard, and the sweetened harmonies have the full-on Mutt Lange treatment that you hear elsewhere with Bryan Adams and Billy Ocean.  None of that is necessarily a bad thing, but this is where Def Leppard decidedly left the New Wave of British Heavy Metal behind them.  “Photograph” went to #1 in the United States.  Mission accomplished.

Track three, “Stagefright” opens with a faux-live intro and a biting riff.  Credited to Joe Elliott, Mutt Lange and Rick Savage, it’s surprisingly one of the heaviest songs.  Back then Joe’s voice could deliver both menace and melody simultaneously, and he does that here.

While not a deep cut (#9 US), “Too Late For Love” is a lesser-known classic.  No music video was made though they did a lip-synched TV appearance that later ended up on their home video Historia.  A dark ballad with edge, “Too Late For Love” has cool atmosphere and just the right amount of scream.

“Die Hard the Hunter” opens with synthesised war sound effects and a soft guitar melody that deceives into thinking it’s another ballad; but no.  This rocker burns hot, but damn those drums are really sample-y sounding.  Rick Allen had a better sound on High ‘N’ Dry, but of course the times were changing.  Eliminator by ZZ Top was out the same year.

One of the big singles (#9 US once again) is the undeniable “Foolin'”.  Mixing rocker and ballad formulas, it set a template for bands to attempt to copy on their way up the charts.  The stuttering chorus is now a Leppard hallmark, and not a second of the song is boring.

You can imagine, spending 10 months in the studio, how monotonous some tasks must be, take after take after take.  The simple act of counting in a band — one, two, three, four — must be tedious the hundreth time.  Perhaps the next time, to stave off boredom, it’s uno, dos, tres, quatro.  Then something else, language by language until finally you end up with “gunter, glieben, glauten, globen”, a nonsense phrase that sounds vaguely Germanic.  And suddenly, without knowing it, you’ve created a catchphrase.  At least that’s how it happened for Mutt Lange on “Rock of Ages”!

That’s the story of “Rock of Ages” (#1 US), one of Leppard most irresistible hits, and also one indicative of the shift in Leppard’s sound.  A very synth-y bassline and tech-y drums stamp out a a robotic 80s groove that was destined for radio and video stardom.  The chorus was even more potent.  “What do you want?” yells the band in harmony.  “I want rock and roll!” you respond, fist in the air.  It all seems very contrived, and perhaps it was.  Is that so bad?  Back then, it really felt like you had to fight for rock and roll.  It seemed every church and every politician wanted to neuter rock bands.  A good, defiant, radio-ready smash hit like “Rock of Ages” tapped into the 80s.

The killer deep cut here is called “Comin’ Underfire” which, had there been five singles, would have made a fine fifth.  Tapping into the angst and tension of earlier tracks like “Lady Strange” and “Mirror, Mirror”, this is nothing but awesome wrapped up in a taut chorus like a bow.  Steady, strong, and loaded with hooks.  Pete Willis had a hand in writing it, demonstrating the guitarist’s often overlooked value.

Another wicked deep cut is the terrifically fun “Action! Not Words”, which, if there was a sixth single… Anyway, the slippery slide-y riff is reinforced by a simple and effective chorus.  Let’s face it, there’s very little fat on Pyromania.

If anything, perhaps it’s the closing track “Billy’s Got a Gun” that might be the the only one that could be argued as filler.  Laid back and emoting a dangerous vibe, it’s less exciting than the preceding material.  It is, however, the closer, which has to draw the album to a proper close, and end it on the right vibe.  “Billy’s Got a Gun” does the job.  The album concludes with a song that feels like an ending, especially with that “bang bang” at the end.

A brief record-spinning coda is tacked at the end of the album for those who let it play all the way to the end.  It probably fooled a few kids into thinking their turntable was broken, as the record seemingly spins fast and slow, over and over.

There were no B-sides or bonus tracks recorded.  No extras, no unreleased songs.  Talk about having your eye on the prize!

Pyromania had broad appeal.  The numbers showed it.  It put Leppard in the big leagues.  To date it has sold 10 million copies in the US.  It was the end of obscurity.  The band toured relentlessly.  Though they did not release a live album, the 2009 Pyromania deluxe edition contains one from the L.A. Forum in 1983.  We’ll look at that next time.

5/5 stars

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  • Pyromania bonus disc Live – L.A. Forum, 11 September 1983

REVIEW: Def Leppard – Too Many Jitterbugs (The Early Years Disc 4)

Part Four of the Def Leppard Review Series

Original reviews:
The Def Leppard EP (1979)
“Wasted” / “Hello America” (1979)
“Hello America” / “Good Morning Freedom” (1980)
“Bringin’ On the Heartbreak” (1981)

DEF LEPPARD – Too Many Jitterbugs (The Early Years Disc 4) (2019)

Because of the non-chronological nature of The Early Years box set, we are now back at the beginning:  Def Leppard’s first rare EP, and singles releases.  Only on Disc 4 do we finally get to go back to the original Def Leppard EP, which has seen a few re-releases over the years, but none as convenient as this.

The story goes that young Def Leppard used money loaned to them by Joe Elliott’s father, and booked a studio for one weekend.  Drummer Tony Kenning was fired just before the start of recording, for being sidetracked by a girlfriend.  Frank Noon from The Next Band (featuring Rocky Newton on bass) was chosen to fill-in temporarily.  It was The Next Band’s own three-song EP release that inspired Leppard to make their own.  They only had a handful of rehearsals with the drummer completed before it was time to hit the studio.

“Ride Into the Sun” was properly perfected when it was re-recorded in 1987 as a Hysteria B-side.  The original still boasts the same relentless riff, but without the increased velocity.  The chorus is a bit different, but here it is:  the beginning!  Out of the gates with a good song, with room to improve.  And improve young Def Leppard would.

Next on the EP is “Getcha Rocks Off”, the only track that has been available on CD for three decades.  It saw its first digital release on Lars Ulrich’s excellent 1990’s NWOBHM compilation.  The version that eventually made its way to On Through The Night is heavier, but this ground-floor version has an identical arrangement.  The solo work shows the band had early talent, and the riff demonstrates their ability to come up with the goods.

Finally: “Overture”, the big Def Leppard epic that later closed On Through the Night.  A little progressive, the 7:45 track meanders from mellow acoustic opening to galloping riff to blasting guitar workouts.  Much of it is first takes, with Joe having little time to finish the vocal.  However the job was complete.  The record was made.

All that was left was to ask Frank Noon to join the band full-time, which he declined.  15 year old Rick Allen was selected instead.  (Noon later reunited with Rocky Newton in Lionheart.)

All 1000 copies of the EP sold within a week.  Radio started to play Def Leppard.  Finally they signed the big record deal and the rest is history.  Still, there are plenty of rare tracks from the early years that were recorded.  Most were released but some are here in this box set for the very first time.

“Wasted” with “Hello America” on the B-side was originally released in 1979.  These are early versions that differ from the Tom Allom-produced tracks on the album.  Neither are as as heavy, with “Wasted” in particular needing more bite.  These versions, by Nick Tauber, were deemed not worthy of album release by the record company.  The ferocious “Wasted” riff is there but needs to be turned up – way up!  “Hello America” fares better as a more melodic rock tune.  It lacks that synth riff on the chorus of the song, which makes it a little more raw.  It also has a really long fade-out.

The Tauber sessions yielded two more songs that were never released.  “Rock Brigade” and “Glad I’m Alive”, for whatever reason, were held back until The Early Years box set.  “Rock Brigade” is probably the best of these tracks.  Rick Allen’s marauding drum rolls steal the show, but not as much as on album.  In general, the Tauber versions are less aggressive recordings, and Joe’s vocals are not as unleashed as on the final album.  “Glad I’m Alive” is the only one that didn’t make the album.  It is the song with the lyric “too many jitterbugs”, but is otherwise unremarkable.  Not many hooks (if any).  It is only available in The Early Years.

Leppard’s next B-side was “Good Morning Freedom” from the eventual “Hello America” single.  This is a song that surprisingly and delightfully was resurrected by Leppard live (more on that later in the series).  It is early quintessential early Leppard, centered on the riff and designed to get the heads-a-bangin’.  It is not without hooks, and might be as good as anything else On Through the Night has to offer, “Wasted” notwithstanding.

The next tracks are the disc are single edits, which are padding to some and valuable curiosities to others.  Moving into the High ‘n’ Dry era, they are edits of “Let It Go”, “Switch 625” and “Bringin’ on the Heartbreak”.  Nice to have to be complete, but not essential listening.  All three are obviously better in their full length versions, but you gotta try what you gotta to get on the radio.  “Let It Go” has a shorter intro, and a truncated middle section, weakening its impact.  “Heartbreak” fades out early.

“Heartbreak’s” B-side was a fast and heavy fan favourite called “Me An’ My Wine”.  It was given a raucous and fun music video when it was remixed by Mutt Lange in 1984.  Both “Wine” and “Heartbreak” were remixed for 1984 reissue, and were included in updated editions of High ‘n’ Dry.  All versions, original and remixed, are present in this box.  For some, the remixed “Heartbreak” with added keyboard accents will be the favourite, because it’s the one they grew up with.  It sounds more like a Pyromania single.  The keys do help spruce up the song, which honestly has a couple dead spots otherwise.  As for “Me An’ My Wine”, it has a longer intro and the drums have been treated to sound a little more 80s.  Incidentally, though you can get them on old High ‘n’ Dry CD pressings, this is the first time that these remixes have been available in a remastered form.

And that’s the disc — a damn fine one in fact, because it manages to include every non-album track that Leppard released during those early years.  It makes for a fun listen, as you hear the band evolve.  Even if some songs repeat, they are different enough to not interrupt the flow.  Many of the B-sides have never been released on CD format before, so the value here cannot be understated.

4.5/5 stars

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  • The Early Years Disc Five – Raw – Early BBC Recordings

RE-REVIEW: Def Leppard – High ‘n’ Dry (The Early Years Disc 2)

Part Two of the Def Leppard Review Series

Original review: High ‘n’ Dry (1981)

 

DEF LEPPARD – High ‘n’ Dry (The Early Years Disc 2) (Originally 1981, 2019 remaster)

Leppard’s pride in their debut album only extended so far.  They knew that the sound they heard in their heads was not captured on tape.  So they waited, and waited, and waited, until AC/DC producer Robert John “Mutt” Lange was available.  When he had completed the recording of Foreigner’s 4 (six million copies sold), they got to work on Leppard’s second record.  And work they did, with the band members unsure after many takes if they could even play it any better.  They could, and they did.  With Lange on hand to help refine the songs they had written, Leppard had never sounded better.

Today, High ‘n’ Dry is often cited by diehards as the band’s best record.  It bares the teeth of AC/DC, but the attention to melody and harmony was typical of more commercial bands.  It was a winning combination; High ‘n’ Dry has no filler songs.

The sharp opener “Let It Go” makes the changes apparent.  A better recording, a more confident (and screamy) Joe Elliott, and an incessant bass groove propels it.  The guitars cleverly lay back until necessary for the big rock chorus.  All dynamics missing from On Through the Night.  This time, they could afford a real cow bell — no more tea kettle!  With “Let It Go” opening on such a solid, fast note, where do we go from here?  No letting up!  “Another Hit and Run” is even better, with quiet parts contrasting with the increasingly heady!  Joe has found his voice, and uses it to rip and shred.  Don’t try to follow the lyrics — it’s all about how the frontman screams them at you.

Finally, Rick Allen is permitted to slow down for the sleek, slower groove of “High ‘N’ Dry (Saturday Night)”.  This tenacious track takes its time to blow you away.  It was also one of three they recorded in a single session for music video purposes.

Another video from that session was the hit ballad “Bringin’ on the Heartbreak”, although MTV aside, it didn’t really have the intended impact until later.   Originally titled “A Certain Heartache”, with Mutt’s help they steered it away from its Zeppelin-y origins and honed it closer to a hit.  Sad verses are coupled with a chuggy riff at the chorus, which is beefed up by the backing vocals of Mutt and the band, gradually finding that sound step by step.  The lyrics are nothing to write home about with, “You got the best of me,” predictably rhyming with “Oh can’t you see.”  But then the track ends not with a total fade, but with the urgent pulse of a new bass track.  It’s the brilliant instrumental “Switch 625”, paired with the ballad as if to say “don’t worry folks, we haven’t lightened up.”  Leppard were, after all, a part of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal bands.  “Switch 625” is something that would have generated melting heat on that scene.  Written solely by Steve Clark, this is one instrumental that is not filler in any way.  It’s a song.

So ended side one, but side two commenced with the crash of “You Got Me Runnin'”, a single-worthy number that scorches the skin with its burning tower of riffs.  Joe bemoans a girl that he don’t trust, while Steve Clark and Pete Willis do their best Angus and Malcolm.  Rick Allen, all of 17 years old now, keeps the beat minimal while Rick Savage maintains the pulse on bass.  When Pete breaks in with his guitar solo, it’s one of the best of his time with Leppard.  But it’s the crucial chorus that keeps you coming back, a singalong brute with gang vocals that could have been lifted from an era past.

Then things get eerie with “Lady Strange”, hurling multiple riffs at the speakers, and boasting a chorus to back it all up.  Tough guy Joe claims to have never needed love before meeting his “Lady Strange”.  This is the only track with a Rick Allen co-writing credit, and features a scorcher of a Clark guitar solo.  Elliott’s screams have never sounded more tormented.  Brilliant stuff.

Without a break, we plow “On Through the Night”, and one of the fastest tracks on the album.  There’s a surprising, quiet Zeppelin-y middle breakdown that’s welcome, but otherwise this track is built for speed.  “Rock n’ roll is no safety net!” screams Joe.  If there were any single track to delete from High ‘n’ Dry, you could make an argument for “On Through the Night”.  However, fact is you need it to set up “Mirror, Mirror (Look Into My Eyes)”.

Displaying their penchant for parentheses, “Mirror, Mirror (Look Into My Eyes)” takes Def Leppard back to dark territory.  A single spare Clark riff carries the song while Allen and Savage lay back.  It’s the kind of brilliant construction that Clark was becoming the master of.  Tension building riffs, stinging solos, topped with another perfect Joe Elliott vocal melody.

Finally it’s the all-out chaos of “No No No”, a memorable way to close out a hell of an album.  Breakneck pacing, top lung screaming, and a blitz of a Willis riff.  Melody?  Unimportant!  If the guitars weren’t so obviously well arranged, this could have been punk rock.

Different versions of “No No No” run different lengths.  This one is 3:12 with a slight fade and then abrupt stop.  One can never go wrong with an original vinyl LP, featuring an infinite groove at the end, with Joe Elliott shouting “No!” over and over again, until you either stop the record yourself, or wait until the ultimate end of the universe — your choice.  Another variation of interest is the the 1984 reissue of High ‘n’ Dry, with two remixed bonus tracks.  We will discuss those later as they are included on Disc Four of this set.

Praise today for High ‘n’ Dry is fairly universal.  Martin Popoff rated it higher than Pyromania.  It truly is a remarkable photograph (pun intended) of a brief period in Def Leppard when they were still solidly riff-focused, but with the moderate temperance of Mutt Lange.  A period that has never and can never be repeated.

5/5 stars

Previous:  The Early Years Disc One – On Through the Night 

Next:  The Early Years Disc Three – When The Walls Came Tumbling Down: Live at the New Theater Oxford – 1980

#945: Spinning Vinyl ’75

RECORD STORE TALES #945: Spinning Vinyl ’75

If there was ever a photo that prophesized the future, I have found it.  Taken in late 1975, there I am listening to a record with a big pair of headphones on.  I was merely three, but look at the smile on my face.  And the clothes…am I wearing shoes in the house?

Behind me, the original family stereo.  Every family in the neighbourhood had one.  Ours had an 8-track player and a turntable.  You can tell I’m playing a record, and not a tape, because the cover is off the turntable.  The big clunky headphones didn’t fit my head, but they would later.  Because this system had an 8-track deck, it also came with two microphones.

Oh my God I just realized my mom put a plant on top of the stereo!

Since this is before Star Wars, I probably wasn’t listening to music.  I only remember owning two records.  One was a Lone Ranger story record, and the other was The Flintstones.  But they came out after this picture was taken.  If this photo had been taken in the Instagram era, the cover would be prominently displayed behind me.  Sadly we’ll never know what I was listening to.

REVIEW: Triumph – Allied Forces (40th Anniversary Box Set)

TRIUMPH – Allied Forces 40th Anniversary Box Set (Originally 1981, 2021 Round Hill Records RSD set)

Triumph is under-celebrated.  That’s a fact.  To the unknowing, they were “the other Canadian power trio with the high voice”.  To the Allied Forces, they were Rik, Mike and Gil:  Triumph!  And really incomparable to Rush except in superficial ways.  Finally, some of their back catalogue has received the treatment it deserves and that is Allied Forces, for its 40th anniversary.  Overseen by Andy Curran,* this vinyl box set (no CD) features some exclusive music and a wealth of goodies packed within.  The usual content like booklets and reprints, but also a little surprise awaits you inside.  Released for Record Store Day back in May, limited quantities were later made available for the schmucks like us who couldn’t snag one in time.


Allied Forces itself is pressed on a picture disc.  The brilliant yellow A-side shows bullet belts and a Spitfire.  Vibrant imagery that only serves to enhance the tunes you’re about to hear.  Opening with “Fool For Your Love”, the beautiful picture disc sounds great with low surface noise.  Rik Emmett goes deep with some wicked slide guitars, on a good time rocker sung by Gil Moore.  In the luxurious liner notes, Rik explains that there are four tracks of guitar layered.  Indeed, Canada’s greatest guitarist sounds nice and thick with a delectable crunch.  With a nice tasty riff to bite down on, this opener stands as one of Triumph’s most enjoyable pure rockers.

The iconic #8 single “Magic Power” introduces Rik’s acoustic contemplative side.  Triumph succeeded in marrying all their facets on Allied Forces, and “Magic Power” is a fine example of this.  It has a quaint folksy vibe, but when the electric guitar kicks in, it becomes a pop rock classic.  With lyrics about drawing a “magic power” from music on the radio, what could be fitting?  Mike Levine’s big Hammond B3 is the ultimate accoutrement.

“Air Raid” is an interlude, a sonic experiment honed at the band’s new home studio, Metalworks.  It serves as a war-like intro to “Allied Forces”, one of Triumph’s heaviest.  A rallying cry for the live setting.  According to Uncle Rikky, it’s Triumph letting out their Deep Purple side, and you can certainly hear “Speed King” and “Highway Star” in its DNA.  Gil Moore rips it up on drums and vocals.  Triumph at their most Purple, and powerful.  But to end the side properly, they go for a good-time party rocker in “Hot Time (In This City Tonight)”.  Of course in the live setting, this enabled Triumph to honour their host city every night.  Just change the words to “Hot time in Cleveland tonight,” as we’ll see!  With a hot boogie behind him, Rik Emmett sings some ongodly high notes and wails away a fresh solo laden with wicked licks.

Flipping the record over, Side B depicts a triumphant B-17 bomber dropping its massive payload.  A strong graphic statement.  “Fight the Good Fight” is the clear album centerpiece.  Built upon Rik’s 12-string depth, it boasts many strengths.  Gil Moore’s complex beat and Mike Levine’s keyboards accent the song and build upon its heart.  Emmett’s solo is a sub-composition until itself, as they often are with him.  It has peaks, valleys and hooks of its own.  Adding to the true weight of “Fight the Good Fight”, the liner notes add the wrinkle that the song was inspired by a battle with cancer.

“Ordinary Man” is one likely to split opinions.  Fans of the progressive side will love the choir and acoustic arrangement.  Rawkers will say, “bah, pombous prog bullshit!”  Gil expresses regret that they didn’t play it live; it certainly would have been a challenge.  Queen-like vocals and guitar layers would be hard to perform by a power trio.  Speaking of power, that kicks in around the three-minute mark.  That’s when the riffing starts; full-on metal mode.

In the penultimate position, Rik’s classical instrumental (a Triumph institution) is “Petite Etude”, which also boasts some jazzy chords if you listen carefully.  Finally Rik ushers in the album closer “Say Goodbye” with more of that juicy slide guitar.  A pop rocker in the truest sense, and a Rik construction.  Mike and Gil seem a little cool on it in the liner notes.  It might not seem like the kind of song that fits on Allied Forces, but it does close the album on a really bright note, which is not a bad thing.  Mike’s Hammond B3 returns to add some integrity.

And that’s Allied Forces, a great album with no weak songs.  A solid 4.5/5 on a bad day.  But this box set has so much more to go.


“Magic Power” (Live in Ottawa 1982) is an exclusive 7″ single.  The A-side is the live version of the Triumph classic, unavailable elsewhere.  With the Triumph logo emblazoned on the right, a female mechanic services a World War II-era warplane on the sleeve.  As for the track, it’s a brilliantly energetic performance although you sure do miss that Hammond B3.  Still you can’t beat it for the electricity in the air.

The B-side was a bit of a mystery until we did a little digging.  “Allied Forces 2021” is not a re-recorded version by Triumph.  It is a new version by former Triumph guitarist Phil X, reportedly for an upcoming tribute album that’s in the works.  Phil’s version is way heavier, but he sings it pretty good and the solo work is absolutely wicked.  It doesn’t seem to say anywhere in the box that this version is by Phil X, but the RSD site credits the Bon Jovi guitarist properly.  It’s certainly far heavier than anything coming out of Jon’s camp these days.

A nice little bonus single here, and a nod to Phil X who helped keep Triumph going in the early 90s.


Live In Cleveland – 1981 will be the serious bonus here for many fans.  Although this concert was released on CD in 1996 as King Biscuit Flower Hour (In Concert), this is its first vinyl release and remastered at Metalworks.  By the time Triumph hit Cleveland, they were on their fifth studio album and had plenty of great material to play; all now classics.  Only a few tracks from Allied Forces had worked themselves into the set, the bulk of which is still made up of earlier material and long instrumental stretches.

From the previous album Progressions of Power, “Tear the Roof Off Tonight” opens on a Zeppelin-y party rock note.  Before you can say “Rock and Roll”, they’re into the second track “American Girls” from 1979’s Just A Game.  A nice tasty riff with bite, and two Gil Moore tunes in a row, the drummer working extra hard.  Dig that break into “The Star-Spangled Banner” right before the incendiary solo.

Rik’s up with the first epic of the night, “Lay It On the Line”, 12-string majesty ringing clear and true.

“Same old story, all over again.  Turn a lover into just another friend.  I wanna love you, I wanna make you mine…won’t you lay it on the line.”

Then Rik misses the mark and there are a couple extra power chords before he picks up the vocal where he left off.  Things that only happen on true untampered live recordings.  This passionate version of “Lay It On the Line” has some of Rik’s most incredible singing ever captured.  Period.

First new song of the night is “Allied Forces”, Gil going in extra hard on the lead vocals.  Rik screamin’ in the back.  Triumph were frickin’ hot in 1981.  “Allied Forces” is a work-out before Triumph lets loose some more serious epic material.  “Fight the Good Fight”, impressive itself, is followed by “Blinding Light Show / Moonchild”.  This is just a solid 15 minutes of compositional and instrumental brilliance.  Not to mention a lead vocal tour-de-force from Rik.  Serious drum thunder from Moore on “Moonchild”, and Mike Levine relentlessly laying down a melodic rhythm the whole time.

Gil demonstrations his ability to scat out a wicked song intro on “Rock ‘N’ Roll Machine”.  It ain’t easy to front a band from behind the drum kit but here he does a song intro to rival Paul Stanley.  They blast through that tune, complete with Rik’s signature solo, and then “I Live For the Weekend”.  It’s Triumph at their most Van Halen, boogying and soloing with the big boys.  Then it’s “Nature’s Child”, a drum solo, and an instrumental jam.  They exit on “Rocky Mountain Way” and “Hot Time (In Cleveland Tonight)”, two live standards.

Live In Cleveland is not the definitive live Triumph album.  That will remain to be Stages, which had a better song/solo ratio.  This is however the heaviest live Triumph album and its rawness and unpolished veridity make it the perfect one to accompany this box set.  Listen to the whole thing in one sitting, is my recommendation.


There is a treasure trove of relevant Triumph goodies included inside.  Box sets sold in Canada included an exclusive replica poster for Triumph live at Maple Leaf Gardens, New Year’s Eve 1981.  For a show at the Gardens, it’s pretty ballsy for them to use a picture of Rik Emmett wearing a Habs shirt.  This box set is loaded with Rik in the Habs shirt!

Deke and I also received a Rik Emmett 2021 guitar pick taped to the front shrinkwrap of our sets.  Picks are the kind of added bonus we really appreciate.  Something material.  The included replica backstage pass is also cool, as it looks better than just a piece of paper.

There are lots of paper goods inside too including:  a massive 24″ x 36″ poster, three lyric sheets, three sketches, the booklet and Allied Forces replica tour book.  Plenty of photos and text to sift through.  There are interviews with Rik, Mike and Gil, and a song-by-song breakdown.  Everything about the making of Allied Forces from to the music to the iconic cover.

Hopefully the powers that be continue to honour Triumph’s history as it deserves to be.  Allied Forces is a triumph indeed but it’s ridiculous that it was released in such limited numbers.  Let all the fans have a chance to get one.

5/5 stars

Personal note:  This box set was released June 12 2021, for Record Store Day.  Deke and I tried mightily but were interviewing Andy Curran at the exact moment the box was released.  Having failed to buy the box, Curran advised us not to pay inflated second-hand market prices to get it.  “Something special is planned,” he hinted.  A few weeks ago, the remainder of stock was made available via Rock Paper Merch.  A kind viewer left a comment here with the link to buy, and both Deke and I managed to get one.  Thank you Andy, and thank you viewer!  It goes great with my official Triumph hockey jersey.

REVIEW: Joe Satriani – Joe Satriani (1984 EP, 2014 RSD reissue)

JOE SATRIANI – Joe Satriani (1984 Rubina EP, 2014 Relative Record Store Day 180 gram reissue)

In 1984, The Squares guitarist Joe Satriani quietly put out a low-key instrumental EP on his own label, Rubina records.  How limited was the release?  An exact figure is hard to find, but original copies today run about $500.  Four of the five tracks were reissued on Joe’s Time Machine album, but the fifth track’s master tape was damaged.

This is a release most people assumed they’d never own without parting with some serious dough.  Then in 2014, for the 30th anniversary, the original Joe Satriani EP was reissued for Record Store Day.  Unfortunately, due to the lack of liner notes, we don’t know how this was accomplished.  The damaged track, “Talk To Me” is intact and sounds just fine.  Was it sourced from an original vinyl?  Was it restored?  You can now experience a 180 gram “replication” of the original 1984 EP that started it all.

Guitar Player magazine went nuts for the EP, which is remarkably performed entirely on guitar.  Every instrument you hear is a guitar.  The “drums” are Joe tapping on his pickups.  The “bass” is a detuned six string.  The sound effects and other “instruments” are Joe wringing every sound he could think of from his instrument.  It’s truly innovative.  It’s even pretty listenable.

The record opens with “Talk To Me”, which could be seen as a precursor to Joe’s uptempo guitar anthems like “One Big Rush”.  In fact, there’s a familiar lick in this track that Joe used as a main hook on Flying in a Blue Dream‘s “Back to Shalla-Bal”.  This track, thought long lost, is probably the best of the five and most indicative of where Joe was headed.

“Dreaming Number Eleven” is an interesting song, with a suitably dream-like opening that soon gives way to a funky beat complete with “slap bass”.  The experimental side of Joe manifests in the sound of a roaring train, all performed on guitar.

Side two commences with the light and tropical “Banana Mango”, a breezy track with blazing speed laid overtop.  This contrasts with the nuclear “I Am Become Death”, a gothic dirge.  There is a middle section that sounds like the wind blowing through a wasteland.  Then, a backwards guitar section that foreshadows part of Flying in a Blue Dream.  Finally, “Saying Goodbye” is a brief but tender ballad as Joe is known to do.  It is constructed from gentle volume swells.

It’s clear from this record that Joe was going to be a formidable composer, let alone player.  Just as interesting as the guitar work are the arrangements.  They are all meticulously constructed, and though some tracks are more listenable than others, they all make up a snapshot of who Joe Satriani would become.  Within three years of its release, Joe would change rock history by Surfing With the Alien, his talents now fully expressing themselves.  The Joe Satriani EP is an experimental prototype to the genius to come.

3/5 stars

REVIEW: Styx – Cornerstone (1979, coloured vinyl reissue)

STYX – Cornerstone (Originally 1979 A&M, 2020 Universal red vinyl reissue – limited to 1000 copies)

With Cornerstone, Styx were on their fourth album in their most successful incarnation:  Dennis DeYoung, James Young, Tommy Shaw, and Chuck & John Panozzo.  Shaw was the newest member and a fierce creative force in songwriting, on guitar, and with his own lead vocals.  Styx had a string of hits with this lineup including Crystal Ball, The Grand Illusion, and Pieces of EightCornerstone would be their biggest yet.  Though imperfect, it’s loaded with memorable songs and dynamite performances from the poppy-pretentious-prog-rock quintet.

What a terrific song “Lights” still is, with that big fat keyboard lick and Tommy Shaw’s delicate lead vocal.  You can hear why the punk rockers sought to eradicate the likes of Styx and their contemporaries.  But Cornerstone went to #2 in the album charts, and “Lights” was one of the singles released in Europe.  It’s a song about performing on stage, something that most of us will never be able to relate to.  But there’s something in its sincerity that is just charming.  “Give me the lights, precious lights, give me lights.  Give me my hope, give me my energy.”

Another single follows called “Why Me” (which wasn’t intended to be a single, but we’ll get into that).  A head-bopping light rock delight.  One of those tracks where you say, “Yeah, decent song.”  You might forget about it later; you might forget which album it’s on.  But it’s cool, especially when a blistering saxophone solo hits the speakers.

The big hit is in the third slot:  legendary power ballad “Babe”, Styx’s only #1.  Its strength is its pure corniness.  Surely, it must have been corny in 1979 too.  Yet a word comes back to me – “sincerity”.  Dennis DeYoung sounds completely sincere singing, “Babe, I love you,” like he means it.  Indeed as I research the album, “Babe” was written for Dennis’ wife.  You can hear it.  And if I was writing a song for my wife, you’d find it corny too.

A natural follow up to this Dennis-fest is a solid Tommy Shaw rocker called “Never Say Never”.  One of those album tracks that couldn’t stand on its own as a single, but has a perfect slot on side one after the big ballad.  That is an important slot for any rock band’s side one.  You have to get the blood pumping and the circulation back into the extremities with something that has some pep.  Because before you know it, the side will be done.

And side one closes on an epic:  Tommy’s mandolin-inflected “Boat on a River”.  Shaw on mandolin, guitar and autoharp.  Dennis on accordion, Chuck Panozzo on double bass with a bow.  Although fully acoustic with no electric, “epic” is the best word to describe it.  Perhaps it is a precursor to the the current popular “sea shanty” trend.  Well, Styx did one in 1979.

Side two kicks off with a blast:  “Borrowed Time”.  It’s amusing to hear Dennis start the song by saying, “Don’t look now, here comes the 80s!”  But this fun romp will be almost completely forgotten when you are suffocated by “First Time”, one of the most syrupy ballads ever foisted upon us.  Too syrupy, though the string section is a nice touch.  And it would have been the second single, had Tommy Shaw not objected.  “Babe” was a smash, and so “First Time” was selected to follow it.  Tommy expressed concern at two ballads in a row for the first two singles, and threatened to quit the band over it.  Things got so nasty that Dennis DeYoung was briefly fired and then re-hired over the issue.  And thus “Why Me” was chosen as second single instead.  Probably for the best…though you never know.

What do we need now?  A James Young rocker!  “Eddie” is his sole writing and singing credit on Cornerstone.  And it rocks hard, James pushing the upper register of his voice.  You wanna talk deep cuts, well “Eddie” is one of the best.  Interestingly it’s also one of those songs where the verses are slightly better than the choruses.

The closing slot on Cornerstone is left to Tommy Shaw’s “Love in the Midnight”, an interesting choice, echoing the side one closer when it opens acoustically.  It is the most progressive of the songs, featuring an absolutely bonkers Dennis keyboard solo and suitably gothic “ahh-ahh-ahh” backing vocals within a section with odd timing.  Things get heavy and punchy.  Definitely going out with a bang and not a whimper on this one.

This transparent vinyl reissue looks and sounds nice. It’s a gatefold sleeve with lyrics, pictures, and moustaches.  Not as cheap as buying a vintage vinyl or CD…just a lot nicer to look at.

4/5 stars