vinyl

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.

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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

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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!

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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?

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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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REVIEW: Foo Fighters – Saint Cecilia EP (2016 vinyl)

The Best Fucking Collaboration Week Ever, Pt. 2
 Mike and Aaron are doing simultaneous daily reviews of albums that these two intrepid music reporters have sent to each other. Buckle up, buttercups, it’s gonna be a blast!

Aaron’s review: Foo Fighters – Saint Cecilia EP

FOO FIGHTERS – Saint Cecilia EP (2016 RCA vinyl)

You know what really grinds my gears? How the media goes ape-shit gaga over every fart or burp that Dave Grohl makes.

The only problem with that is, most of what Dave Grohl says and does is usually quite good.

He’s been on a roll lately, too. The last real clunker he’s released (under any guise, be it Foo Fighters, Them Crooked Vultures, or whoever else) was Foo Fighters’ One By One. None of the following albums could be considered poor by any stretch, though Wasting Light has to be the high water mark of them. Perhaps Grohl’s only weakness is his prolific output. After a while, many of the songs just blur together in a haze of Fooey rock.

Saint Cecilia, released on iTunes last year but only now getting the vinyl treatment, is another quality Foo Fighters release. They dedicated its release to the victims of the terrorist attacks on the Bataclan hall. As usual, it boasts a variety of Foo stylings, all of them loud.

“Saint Cecilia” has become a radio smash, and while its indistinguishable from any other fast melodic Foo rocker, it does stick to your brain. This is my favourite kind of Foo Fighters song anyway — fast, easy to remember, guitar-heavy and loaded with killer drums. A great albeit obvious choice for a single. Faster still is “Sean” recalling Dave’s punk roots. It recalls the sound of the first Foo Fighters album back in ’95, but amped up with a full three guitar band. Two minutes, in-and-out, that’s it for “Sean”. Then “Savior Breath” is vintage metal, making this three genres in three songs and nine minutes! It’s good stuff and even boasts a pretty smoking 80’s guitar solo.

The B-side of the EP commences with the nifty acoustic “Iron Rooster”. It has a cool atmospheric vibe, peaceful, but with the occasional loud bursts of electric guitar. It’s the only break on an otherwise pretty relentless stream of music. “The Neverending Sigh” is anything but. It’s instead a blast of riffage, three guitar’s worth and layered effectively. It defies categorization so we’ll just call it pure Foo Fighters. It’s action packed, complex and it qualifies as one of the finest Foo Fighters compositions in recent memory. Bully for you, Mr. Grohl and Co.!

Incidentally, according to the liner notes, Foo Fighters lineup appears to have expanded to a six piece. Joining Dave, Taylor, Pat (Smear – guitars), Chris (Shiflett – guitars) and Nate (Mendel – bass) is Rami Jaffee on keyboards, listed as a member of Foo Fighters. That’s cool. I always seem to get excited when a band expands its lineup. It’s my Kryptonite!

4/5 stars

#474: Vertigo Records in Ottawa Ontario

Last weekend, Aaron went record shopping in Toronto while I did the same in Ottawa. Check out his post too, and see what we scored!

GETTING MORE TALE #474: Vertigo Records in Ottawa Ontario

Something very special happened on March 24, 1956.  On that day, Clifford Michael Woodhouse married young Jean, the light of his life, and they began a large and loving family.  Clifford, known as Mike, was a radar operator in the CF (Canadian Forces).  As such he and his family lived in many parts of the world at many times.  According to his son Richard, who also served in the CF:  “During the height of the Cold War he was a Radar operator, working on what was known as the Pine Line, where he monitored and collected information on the movement and position of threats to the Canadian Forces and to Canadian sovereignty.”  He was also involved in classified projects, but I can’t talk about that, or he’ll have to shoot me.

Sgt. Woodhouse ultimately settled in Ottawa after stops in France and Gander, Newfoundland.  He retired in Ottawa where he and Jean still live today.  I am lucky to have married his beautiful grand-daughter Jennifer.

A 60th wedding anniversary is a big deal.  Did you know that couples who are citizens of the British empire (including Canadians) can receive a letter from Queen Elizabeth II for their 60th anniversary?  The diamond Woodhouse anniversary celebration (held on Sunday the 20th) was not an event we were likely to miss, so Jen and I climbed aboard a train and headed east to our nation’s capital.

We stayed in the Novotel (good experience; recommended) which was a block or two away from a store called Vertigo Records.  Brilliant.  First excursion solved!  We’ll get there eventually (I promise), but lemme tell you, I’ve never been in a Hummer limo before.  Jen’s cousin Missy arranged this beast of a vehicle, 18 feet in length, and just a pleasure to ride in.  (So screw the environment I guess; I rode in a Hummer limo and enjoyed it!)  There were 14 of us inside that Hummer, including Mike and Jean, two of their kids, three of their grand-kids, and FIVE of their SIX great-grandchildren!  How incredible is that?  Even more met us at the Keg Manor; a large and incredible group of people.

During the celebration, the lucky couple were presented a number of precious documents in honour of their achievement.  The letter from the Queen was perhaps even overshadowed by a personal letter from the Right Honourable Steven Harper, former Prime Minister of Canada.  Family member Chris acquired this by writing to the office of Mr. Harper, who was kind enough to send a signed letter in response.  There was also a letter from David Johnston, Governor General of Canada and direct representative of the Queen in this country.

Jennifer has a great family in Ottawa and I can’t wait to return to the city, in warmer weather.  It was bitter cold that weekend, windy and unpleasant to walk in for a long period of time.  As such we didn’t go far in distance from our hotel.  I did find this interesting place that I might have to check out next time.*  It was situated beside a couple tattoo shops.  Hey, it says it’s FREE, right?

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Vertigo Records (193 Rideau St, (613)-241-1011) is an inviting and cool store selling new and used CDs, vinyl and even cassettes.  They had a copy of Metallica’s tape-only No Life ‘Til Leather, sealed for $25.  Even cooler, they had a signed Motorhead drum head (not for sale).   We arrived shortly after they opened and there were already customers browsing.  They had a lot of stock and they were putting out plenty of new stuff as I was there.  There were a number that struck my eye.

Should I have bought Goblin Cock?

Should I have bought Goblin Cock?

 

One of the first discs I noticed was Yngwie Malmsteen’s Live in Leningrad, which I have wanted for a long time but never had.  Vertigo had a good variety of tunes in rotation over the speakers, including some Motley Crue.  Maybe that’s what inspired me to pick up the double Live – Entertainment or Death.  I’ve seen a lot of copies of it in the past in just wrecked condition, so not remembering if I owned it or not, I picked this one up.  I did own it already.  So this one goes into the Aaron pile.**  In the new arrivals bin, I saw Robert Pollard/Doug Gillard’s Speak Kindly of Your Volunteer Fire Department.  I wasn’t certain if he owned it or not, so for only $6.99 it was better safe than sorry.   He does have it, so I’ll keep it.  He tells me I won’t be disappointed with it anyway, because Gillard is a guitar hero of his and I should be in for a treat.

Speaking of Aaron, he has some Deep Purple castaways coming his way.  When I saw these lovely Japanese reissues in mint, complete condition for only $14.99 each, it was all but a no-brainer to pick them up.  There are Russian forgeries on the market, but these are the genuine article from Japan.  I’m very pleased to add these to my collection and pass down my old copies to the next generation of Purple fanatics.*** And lo! More Japanese treasures were to be found! Complete with obi strip was some rare Rage Against the Machine.  I have a brief story about this CD, that was too short to make it into Record Store Tales*^ but fine for an anecdote here.

One of the few guys that actually worked at the old Record Store before me was this guy Dave.  There was the owner, his brother, two guys named Craig and Dave, and then me.  A bit later on, Dave went to Japan but kept in touch via snail mail (back then, we just called it “mail”).  I will never forget that he sent us a letter to the store, almost taunting us with rare CDs that he found in Japan.  He mailed us the obi strips for Nirvana’s Hormoaning and a Rage Against Machine CD called Live & Rare.  “Ever seen these before?” read part of the letter.  Hormoaning yes, Rage no.   I never saw it again either, until Vertigo Records.  $12.99, obi strip intact.  Dave doesn’t even have his own obi strip anymore!

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Moving on, some classic rock finds were hard to turn down.  Cream Gold ($8.99 for 2 CDs!) and Jethro Tull’s Living With the Past ($6.99) came home with me to Kitchener.  I have the Tull DVD of the same name, and it’s excellent.  And Cream?  This is my first Cream purchase.  This is something I’m glad to have fixed in my collection.

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I love me some Fu Manchu, but I missed We Must Obey the first time out.  Brant Bjork’s Punk Rock Guilt also slipped past me.  Not this time!  $7.99 each.

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Finally, I could not safely bring home a lot of vinyl on the train, so I didn’t go nuts on it.  I saw some cool stuff, believe me, and I was considering getting some Kiss solo album reissues.  I bought one 45, which was “The Devil Stole the Beat from the Lord” by the Hellacopters, taken from their Kiss-like LP Grande Rock.  The single contains two non-album B-sides:  “Holiday Cramps” and “Be Not Content”.  The devil-dragster cover art probably made Rob Zombie cry tears of jealousy.

The guy behind the counter gave me the 45 for free.  “Because you’re buying so much,” he said.  What a pleasant surprise.  That was awesome.  I guess he didn’t know who I was*^^ and that I like to do this whenever I can!  We had a brief chat while he carefully put the discs and inserts in the cases.  We marveled at the folks out there who actually throw away CD packaging.  Why would anybody do such a thing?  I will truly never understand.

It was such a pleasure being in Ottawa that weekend, windy cold weather aside.  We will definitely return, and stay longer so as to check out some of the other record stores in town.  Vertigo Records is a must, a highly recommended store that I would rank as highly as my favourite Toronto record stores.

5/5 stars.

And thank you to C. Michael Woodhouse for your hospitality and for everything you have done for this country.

Mike “LeBrain” Ladano

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*I’m kidding!  I’m kidding!

**I have a lot of stuff here that I should really mail out to the friends I promised I would mail them out to.

***Hopefully Aaron and his kids.

*^Have you been reading Record Store Tales?  If not, please click here.

*^^I’ve always wanted to say to somebody, “Do you know who I am?” and then whip out my mikeladano.com cards as if I’m actually somebody.

 

 

REVIEW: Keel – The Right to Rock (1985)

IMG_20150613_084127KEEL – The Right to Rock (1985 A&M)

From the Gene Simmons Song Factory, heeeeere’s Keel!

Like many Gene Simmons productions, Keel’s The Right to Rock bears his name on a few writing credits.  The rest of the songs are basically reworkings of tracks from Keel’s first album Lay Down the Law.  That album, like Ron Keel’s debut with Steeler (featuring one Yngwie J. Malmsteen) were on Shrapnel.  For the A&M Records debut, they pulled out the big guns.  They got Gene Simmons in all his wig-ness, and put out a very corny but tremendously fun music video.

It is “America 1989”, and rock and roll is outlawed. “Those who are apprehended suffer severe consequences.”  Can our young teenage Keel lookalike get away from the rock police?  Quiet Riot did something similar with their “The Wild and the Young” video a year later. It’s corny fun.

The song too is corny fun. I guess it’s a classic now. It has that stock heavy metal riff that you need: something Motley Crue or the Scorpions would be comfortable with. It has that rebellious rock theme that was so prominent in the 80’s. It has a shoutalong chorus. “You got it! The Right to Rock!” Hey, I grew up in a Catholic school. I know what this is about. “Don’t let anyone tell you how to live your life!” I had a teacher call me out on the first day of school for wearing a Judas Priest T-shirt. I could relate to this song in a big way when I was 13.

It should be noted that Gene Simmons, as a producer, is not known for his sonics. The Right to Rock sounds pretty good for the period, but the drums ring shallow and weak. There’s not much presence for the bass guitar, and the backing vocals are the typical rock mush. That’s what you get with Gene behind the console.

“Back to the City” has a good Priest-like chug to it. I think Keel were going for something middle of the road with their music, like Priest-meets-Scorps-meets-Crue-meets-Kiss. If so, this hit the mark. Ron’s vocals are overwrought but that’s his style. If you don’t like that kind of vocal, you won’t like Keel.

Kinda stinky is “Let’s Spend the Night Together”. You know, I still gotta give the guys credit. They have made this into a pretty fine pop metal song. If you didn’t know the song, you’d assume it’s an original, in the pop metal genre. So from that perspective, I think it’s kinda cool. Stinky and cool — like good gorgonzola.

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“Easier Said Than Done” was written by Simmons/Weissman, the same team responsible for much of the Animalize album. The lyrics even reference “Russian Roulette”, a song title Gene had been toying with for years. (A song called “Russian Roulette” was finally release on Sonic Boom.) So, guess who “Easier Said Than Done” sounds like? That’s right — it is a dead ringer for Simmons-style Kiss. And it’s actually a pretty good song. The problem is Ron’s Gene impression. I can’t help but chuckle at his dead-on Gene vocals. I dare you to refrain from a giggle yourself. Same deal with “So Many Girls, So Little Time”. Kiss fans will recognize that’s a line recycled from the Kiss song “Burn Bitch Burn”.

Onto side two, “Electric Love” is a Keel original, but you immediately notice that the song isn’t as immediate as the two previous Simmons tunes. “Speed Demon”, another original, sounds exactly as the title implies. Quality-wise, it’s only at “Priest outtake” level (Defenders of the Faith era). Then it’s back to Simmons outtakes, with “Get Down”, the weakest of the Simmons songs by a long shot. “You’re the Victim (I’m the Crime)” is a Gene-like title, but this too is a Keel tune. It’s in the same vein as “Speed Demon”, and the same level of quality.

It’s fun to revisit The Right To Rock periodically…but sparingly.

3/5 stars

#404: Report: Aux 33 Tours in Montréal

RECORD STORE TALES MkII: Getting More Tale Report: Aux 33 Tours in Montréal

My sister, bass clarinetist Kathryn Ladano, just completed the east coast leg of her Canadian tour last month. This was followed by a western leg, but while returning home from the east there was a stop in Montréal. Kathryn is a collector too, though not to the extent that I am. She doesn’t need the physical musical media in her daily life like I do. She still collects some of her favourite bands, and has recently started buying vinyl. While in Montréal, she visited a record store called Aux 33 Tours, located at 1373 Mont-Royal Est.  According to their website, it is the largest record store in the city.  She emailed me the following day, May 27, raving about the store. I’ll let her take it from here! Enjoy the pictures.

I found the most amazing record store in Montréal yesterday! I found almost all The Spoons’ albums on LP, including ones that aren’t available on CD. I also found a promo live album by them that didn’t have a proper cover because it wasn’t supposed to be sold. They were all dirt cheap – like $2 – $7. ‎One of them was autographed and personalized “To Martin”! [Fortuitously, her husband is also named Martin!] I also got Kid A on record. Kid A and Sgt. Peppers are reissues with heavy packaging. They had an original Sgt Peppers, but the reissue was cheaper, so I got that.

I spent about $140. Which I think is good for that many albums! ‎Note: the Simon and Garfunkel and Gord Downie ones are Martin’s.

I’d also like to point out how rare that Bryan Adams single is.  He really tried to bury that song!  Watch the video, you’ll hear why.  (They sped up his voice which gives him a Chipmunks sound.)

And finally, gratuitous photos of Schnauzers and Starfleet collars:

REVIEW: Helix – No Rest For the Wicked (1983)

Part 3 of 3 in this week’s Helix miniseries.  The original review was posted in August 2012, but this is completely new and improved!

HELIX – No Rest For the Wicked (1983 EMI)

Finally!  The big break came, after nearly 10 years of hard work.  The trick was re-branding Helix as a “metal band” instead of a plain old bar rock band.  An early video for “Heavy Metal Love” was filmed in T-shirts and jeans.  It was only after they switched to leather clothing and a more “metal” image, did people start to take notice.  “Heavy Metal Love” was re-filmed for a more metallic music video, and Helix were more or less off to the races. They had a boost from CanCon rules, which meant the video went into rotation on MuchMusic.

“Heavy Metal Love”, written in a crummy hotel room in Seaforth Ontario, is an ode to Joan Jett; or rather a fantasy about  Joan Jett.  It remains as fun now as it was then. Helix re-recorded the tune in 2006 for their Get Up EP, but it is this version produced by Tom Treumuth that has become timeless.  Indeed, it was chosen for the wedding scene in the Trailer Park Boys movie that same year.  It’s still a great groove, and a whole lot of fun.

“Fun” is a great word to describe Helix’s music in general, and No Rest For the Wicked is perhaps their strongest effort, at least from their years on Capitol Records.  It is true that I gave Breaking Loose (1979) high praise and a 5/5 star rating, but No Rest is easier to sink your teeth into on just one listen.

Helix in 1983 consisted of:

  • Brian Vollmer – lead vocals
  • Brent “the Doctor” Doerner – guitar
  • Paul Hackman – guitar
  • Mike Uzelac – bass
  • Greg “Fritz” Hinz –  drums

The only lineup change this time was the drum seat.  Leo Niebudek departed, and was replaced by Fritz Hinz, ex-Starchild.  (Starchild’s claim to history is an early single produced by some unknown guy named Daniel Lanois.  Fritz played on their later, uber-rare Children of the Stars album.)  With Hinz, the band had acquired an easy-to-love showman who had the chops required.  I shall never forget the sight of Fritz’s buttless chaps, giving us the moon at a 1987 concert.

Even though I hold Breaking Loose in very high esteem, No Rest For the Wicked is probably just as good, but in a different way.  The new heavier direction didn’t alienate their old fans, but it did gain them plenty of new ones.  It seemed a lot of kids on my street had a copy of this LP or cassette.  It’s more than just the one song — every track is great, every single one of ’em.  The title track still serves as Helix’ show opener.  Live, they change part of the lyrics to “Ain’t no rest for the Helix band!”  It’s true!  It’s an unrelenting and cool metal assault.  But again…plenty fun.

Need some party rock?  Look no further than “Let’s All Do It Tonight”.  Listen to that one, and then try to forget the chorus!   If you like that kind of melodic hard rock, then you’ll probably also dig “Don’t Get Mad Get Even”, the second (much less seen) video made for the album.

Need some sleeze?  Then “Check Out the Love”, before you do the “Dirty Dog”.  Both songs are killer grooves.    “Dirty Dog” never fails to make the setlists today.  It is suspended by a killer riff and Vollmer’s shredded vocal cords. And let’s not forget “White Lace and Black Leather”. (Like they did with the track “Breaking Loose”, Helix put the title song on the next album!) This is about as dirty as they get, and I love it.

Need a ballad? Naw, didn’t think so. But just in case, Helix put on a ballsy one, in “Never Want To Lose You”. Sounds wimpy, yes, but it has the guitars and heavy chorus necessary to keep you from losing your cool.

Need a boost of adrenaline? Then the doctor prescribes “Ain’t No High Like Rock ‘N’ Roll”. Kicking up the pace a few notches, it still retains that Helix knack for melody.

Also recommended, chase this with the live album called Live In Buffalo, which was  recorded for radio shortly afterwards.  It has high-octane live versions of most of these tracks as well as a sneak preview of the next album, Walkin’ the Razor’s Edge.

I think this one sounds particularly good on vinyl. Gimme an R!

5/5 R’s