Walmart

REVIEW: Def Leppard – Yeah! II (CD Collection Volume 3)

Part Thirty-Eight of the Def Leppard Review Series

DEF LEPPARD – Yeah! II (CD Collection Volume 3 Disc 5) (2021)

This disc, exclusive to the box set, isn’t really a sequel to Yeah! as the title implies.  This CD instead collects all the Yeah! bonus tracks (aside from the live ones – they’ll be coming next week) and a few other covers from single B-sides.  19 tracks total, this is the collector’s dream disc for knocking a few rarities off the list.  There are also B-sides here going back to Adrenalize, so well overdue to appear in this series of box sets.  If you were wondering, “Hey, how come ‘Little Wing’ hasn’t popped up in this set yet even though it goes all the way back to 1992?”, now you know.

There is a lot of information here to digest, so buckle up!

1. “Only After Dark”, the original B-side mix (as opposed to Retro-Active remix) leads us off.  This Mick Ronson cover was the first Adrenalize B-side, from “Let’s Get Rocked” in 1992.  The remix added guitar overdubs by Vivian Campbell, but this one is all Phil Collen.  Great tune, and perfect for Leppard to cover.  Upbeat, cool riff, great playing by Phil and vocal performance by Joe Elliott.

2. “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”.  This and the next track are by The Acoustic Hippies From Hell, which was Def Leppard plus three Hothouse Flowers:  Fiachna Ó Braonáin, Liam Ó Maonlaí, and  Peter O’Toole.  Tin whistle, piano and mandolin are interesting accents for Def Leppard, but this is a brilliant cover, essentially live in the studio.  These Acoustic Hippies tracks originated from the 1992 “Have You Ever Needed Someone So Bad” single.  Notably, this group also recorded the Leppard original “From The Inside”, so the sound is similar.  Brilliant if surprising.  Especially considering this song is so difficult to cover without wrecking completely.

3. “Little Wing”.  Also by the Acoustic Hippies From Hell, and also from the ’92 “Have You Ever Needed Someone So Bad” single.  Quieter, darker, and slightly trippy.  The tin whistle here is really something and is the only solo instrument.

4. “Ziggy Stardust”.  This track is from the 1996 UK “Slang” single, and it is another acoustic performance.  It would not be a stretch to say it is one of Leppard’s finest covers.  I daresay nobody covers David Bowie better than superfan Joe Elliott.  An shimmery acoustic stunner.

5. “Under My Wheels”.  Very rare track from the 1999 “Goodbye” single.  Not the first time Leppard have covered Alice Cooper, but we won’t get to the first time until next time!  Very confusing, I know.  Good, if stock, cover.  Lots of bands have tackled “Under My Wheels” over the years, but the unexpected sax solo is a treat!

6. “Who Do You Love?”.  Also from the “Goodbye” single.  This Ian Hunter cover is a bit forgettable unfortunately.  It replicates the thump of the original but lacks the same sass (and harmonica).

7. “Rebel Rebel”.  Back to Bowie and another great version.  Another rarity, originating with the 2002 single for “Now”.  Electric Bowie this time, and performed near-perfect.

8. “Led Boots” from the 1996 “All I Want Is Everything” single, and not performed by Def Leppard.  It was recorded by Vivian Campbell as a solo artist for a Jeff Beck tribute album called Jeffology.  This one is way out in left field compared to the others, being a funky zig-zag of a song.  That’s Jay Schellen from Hurricane playing those funky drums, and John Alderette from Racer X on bass.  Very much in the vein of early, jammy Journey and a side of Vivian you never get to hear.

9. “‘Cause We’ve Ended as Lovers”.  Phil Collen’s solo Beck cover featuring the same rhythm section as Viv’s, with Billy Sherwood on Rhodes.  From the same 1996 CD single as well.  This song cries; it just weeps.  Again, a side of the guitarist that you never get to hear.  You’ve never heard Phil play so slow!  (Don’t worry, he burns it up later.)  Full of feel and one of the guitarist’s most memorable performances.

10. “Search and Destroy”.  Finally, onto the bonus tracks from different versions of the Yeah! album.  The Iggy & the Stooges cover “Search and Destroy” originated on the Walmart bonus CD.  It features Phil Collen on all instruments and lead vocals.  If it wasn’t for the expert solo work, you could call it fully-fledged punk.  Phil captures a snotty vocal vibe, and you gotta say it sounds authentic.

11. “How Does It Feel?”.  SERIOUS RARITY ALERT!  The only way to get this track was by iTunes download, and only with the initial release of Yeah!.  The song was discontinued thereafter and you were out of luck.  Therefore, this is a first time physical release!  The piano-based Slade cover features Joe on all instruments (piano and acoustic guitar).  It’s a beauty that sounds very different from the typical Slade sound.  Melodic as hell and Joe does a bang-up job.

12. “Roxanne”.  Another serious rarity, a previously unreleased Phil Collen demo of the Police classic.  Unsurprisingly, Phil has a Sting-like voice, so it sounds about right, though Phil sings it in an understated way.  It’s funky and Phil’s solo is perfect butter on top.

13. “Dear Friends”, a Queen cover by Rick Savage, is an album highlight.  Originally from the Walmart bonus CD, it features Sav on vocals and all instruments.  And holy shit, dear friends, did Rick ever go in left field!  Although it begins similar to the Queen original with soft layered vocals, it then goes in a Live Killers “We Will Rock You” hard rock direction!  Almost a punk rock speed to it.

14. “Winter Song”.  A seasonal sounding acoustic Lindisfarne cover from the Best Buy edition of Yeah!  (One of two Best Buy bonus tracks, with the second one appearing on Yeah! Live.)  Lindisfarne were a folk rock combo, and this version is performed as a duo by Joe and Sav.  A great addition to your favourite homebrew Christmas mix CD.

15. “American Girl”.  Fabulous Tom Petty cover from the Walmart bonus CD.  Performed by Joe and Viv, with Mark Danzeisen on drums.  Another disc highlight.  Joe and Viv captured everything you like about the song.  Its spunky upbeat vibe lasts all night.

16. “Heartbeat”.  Joe calls this cover the most “out there” of them all, but I think that honour has to go to “Dear Friends”.  “Heartbeat” was by Jobriath, the first openly gay artist signed to a major label record deal.  He only made two albums before fading into obscurity.  It’s a beautiful piano ballad performed by Joe.  You could originally get it on the Walmart bonus CD.

17. “Space Oddity”.  The final Bowie cover and fifth & final track from the Walmart bonus CD.  Joe on all instruments.  Lovely version but it’s hard to top the sheer vibe of the original, no matter how faithful.  At best you can say it’s a nice reproduction.  At worst, it’s unnecessary.  However it was recorded as a gift from Joe to his dad, so can you really blame anyone?  Not at all.

18. “When I’m Dead and Gone”.  Target was the last chain to get exclusive bonus tracks, and like Best Buy they got two.  And like Best Buy, one was live and therefore appears on Yeah! Live.  The other Target bonus track was “When I’m Dead and Gone” by McGuiness Flint.  It is another folk rock cover, done up nice acoustically by Joe and Phil.  An album highlight; so damn melodic, upbeat and catchy!  And then it detours into “Ooh La La” for a minute.  The perfect ending!

19. “Stay With Me”.  Closing Yeah! II just like it closed Yeah! is The Faces’ “Stay With Me”.  This is an earlier B-side version from the “Now” CD single (2002).  Phil Collen takes on the raspy Rod Stewart lead vocal (and probably had to gargle salt water for several days after).  The version from Yeah! sounds more full than this original, but you gotta have ’em all or it ain’t complete, is it?

So there you have Yeah II, a mixed bag of a compilation from all kinds of singles and assorted releases.  One more disc of covers to go before we’re done, but Yeah II is the best listen of the three.  Though long, it has the variety and fearlessness that sounds great on the speakers compared to the original Yeah!.

4/5 stars

 

Previous:  

  1. The Early Years Disc One – On Through the Night 
  2. The Early Years Disc Two – High N’ Dry
  3. The Early Years Disc Three – When The Walls Came Tumbling Down: Live at the New Theater Oxford – 1980
  4. The Early Years Disc Four – Too Many Jitterbugs – EP, singles & unreleased
  5. The Early Years Disc 5 – Raw – Early BBC Recordings 
  6. The Early Years 79-81 (Summary)
  7. Pyromania
  8. Pyromania Live – L.A. Forum, 11 September 1983
  9. Hysteria
  10. Soundtrack From the Video Historia – Record Store Tales
  11. In The Round In Your Face DVD
  12. “Let’s Get Rocked” – The Wait for Adrenalize – Record Store Tales
  13. Adrenalize
  14. Live at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert
  15. Retro-Active
  16. Visualize
  17. Vault: Def Leppard’s Greatest Hits / Limited Edition Live CD
  18. Video Archive
  19. “Slang” CD single
  20. Slang
  21. I Got A Bad Feeling About This: Euphoria – Record Store Tales
  22. Euphoria
  23. Rarities 2
  24. Rarities 3
  25. Rarities 4
  26. Cybernauts – Live
  27. Cybernauts – The Further Adventures of the Cybernauts (bonus disc)
  28. X
  29. Best Of (UK)
  30. Rock Of Ages: The Definitive Collection
  31. Yeah!
  32. Yeah! Bonus CD With Backstage Interviews
  33. Yeah…Nah!  (Recored Store Tales)
  34. Songs From the Sparkle Lounge
  35. “C’Mon C’Mon” (picture disc)
  36. Taylor Swift & Def Leppard – CMT Crossroads (DVD)
  37. B.Sides

Next:

39. Yeah! Live
40. Mirror Ball – Live & More (Japanese import)
41. iTunes re-recordings

RE-REVIEW: Taylor Swift & Def Leppard – CMT Crossroads (2009 DVD)

Part Thirty-Six of the Def Leppard Review Series

Original ReviewCMT Crossroads (2009)

Dedication (noun):  The character trait of being so devoted to a project that you will watch the Taylor Swift & Def Leppard DVD one more time, even though you reviewed it once before and swore you’d never watch it again.

TAYLOR SWIFT & DEF LEPPARD – CMT Crossroads (2009 Walmart exclusive DVD)

You can blame Rick Allen’s brother for this DVD.  How did pop country songstress Taylor Swift and Def Leppard hook up?  Taylor was on tour with Tim McGraw and Faith Hill whose tour manager was Rick Allen’s brother. You might recognize McGraw from the song “Nine Lives” on Leppard’s last album Songs From the Sparkle Lounge.  Swift expressed interest in doing an episode of CMT Crossroads with Leppard and eventually they made it happen.  Lucky us.

The DVD starts immediately, no big long intro, with “Photograph”.  In a democratic way of doing things, it’s a Def Leppard song to open, but Taylor Swift getting the first lines.  Her smooth voice doesn’t sound right with Screamin’ Joe’s vocal lines, and takes some getting used to with these songs.  You can’t really hear her fiddle player or acoustic guitarists on “Photograph” but they sure are having fun.

The concert is intercut with interviews that help bring the context to this odd collaboration.  Taylor was born two years after Hysteria, but was exposed to Leppard’s music from birth.  She had been wanting to do a show with Leppard for some time so she made it happen.  It’s also fun watching her learn British slang.

Taylor’s “Picture To Burn” is…well, it’s a song about some guy who drives a pickup truck, it seems.  No matter how much they try to convince us that Leppard and Swift are not all that different, they sure are.  “Love Story” is more like a Leppard ballad and isn’t so hard to swallow.  Finally we get to “Hysteria” which works remarkably well as a duet.  Taylor’s vocals add rather than subtract.  You can actually hear certain parts of her massive backing back on this as well, plinking here and fiddling there.

A blues jam about Taylor’s boy trouble is amusing.  “Teardrops On My Guitar” is a nice song, a little more understated and quiet.  Stage choreography seems important with so many band members on stage, and they all seem to have their places and times.  Leppard’s ballad “When Love and Hate Collide” is one song that is the most transformed by the collaboration.  It sounds at home in both worlds.  Taylor reveals she’s long had an obsession with this hit.  It’s very fun to see Joe give her the last line of the song too.

Taylor’s “Should’ve Said No” is upbeat and twangy.  A little bit rock and roll, something a little more familiar.  There’s a great march-like arrangement towards the ending, and then the drums start thumping and you know what that means.  “Pour Some Sugar On Me” has never sounded like this before.  Fiddles and double drums…it actually sounds pretty good.  And that’s the closing song of what is a fun but definitely jarring set of hits.

The three bonus tracks are “Our Song” (written in 9th grade for Taylor’s highschool talent show), “Love” (new Leppard song), and “Two Steps Behind”.  These Taylor songs really take some effort to digest when you’re a Leppard fan, until Joe starts singing at least.  Giving her credit, Taylor sure knows how to command an audience, but it’s irritating to see Vivian ripping up the fretboard, but being unable to hear him in the mix.  More interesting is “Love”, the only choice from Songs From the Sparkle Lounge.  It really benefits from all the extra backing singers and musicians, becoming something really big and huge.  The final bonus track “Two Steps Behind” has eight guitar players and a nice intro from Joe explaining how the song was written electrically in 1989 to become a hit acoustically later in 1993.

To Def Leppard fans at least, some of the best content might be contained in the bonus interviews.  It’s clear Leppard had a new but genuine appreciation for Taylor Swift and how her songs are constructed.  They discuss all the things they have in common with Taylor, such as age.  Rick Allen turned 16 opening for AC/DC and Taylor of course released her first hit album at 16.  Allen reveals his parents were supportive of him leaving highschool in order to tour with Def Leppard, but made him get a tutor.  They understood that it was a once in a lifetime opportunity.  Both artists discuss what it’s like to be pigeonholed into a genre be it “country” or “heavy metal”.  But the coolest thing is the foreshadowing of Leppard’s new album Diamond Star Halos.  “You know who else is a huge Def Leppard fan?  Alison Krauss,” reveals Taylor.  And in 2022 she too collaborated with Def Leppard.

In addition to the interviews, there’s a press conference with Joe, Phil and Taylor where they discuss their history with each others’ music.  They are obviously having fun with their collaboration, even if you are not.  One of the things Joe says is that they would love to work with Taylor in the studio any time anywhere.  Rather than ask why this hasn’t happened any time in the last 13 years, let’s just be glad it hasn’t.  This is a difficult DVD for the Leppard fan to finish in one sitting so let’s just be glad that’s all there is.

2.5/5 stars

Previous:  

  1. The Early Years Disc One – On Through the Night 
  2. The Early Years Disc Two – High N’ Dry
  3. The Early Years Disc Three – When The Walls Came Tumbling Down: Live at the New Theater Oxford – 1980
  4. The Early Years Disc Four – Too Many Jitterbugs – EP, singles & unreleased
  5. The Early Years Disc 5 – Raw – Early BBC Recordings 
  6. The Early Years 79-81 (Summary)
  7. Pyromania
  8. Pyromania Live – L.A. Forum, 11 September 1983
  9. Hysteria
  10. Soundtrack From the Video Historia – Record Store Tales
  11. In The Round In Your Face DVD
  12. “Let’s Get Rocked” – The Wait for Adrenalize – Record Store Tales
  13. Adrenalize
  14. Live at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert
  15. Retro-Active
  16. Visualize
  17. Vault: Def Leppard’s Greatest Hits / Limited Edition Live CD
  18. Video Archive
  19. “Slang” CD single
  20. Slang
  21. I Got A Bad Feeling About This: Euphoria – Record Store Tales
  22. Euphoria
  23. Rarities 2
  24. Rarities 3
  25. Rarities 4
  26. Cybernauts – Live
  27. Cybernauts – The Further Adventures of the Cybernauts (bonus disc)
  28. X
  29. Best Of (UK)
  30. Rock Of Ages: The Definitive Collection
  31. Yeah!
  32. Yeah! Bonus CD With Backstage Interviews
  33. Yeah…Nah! – Record Store Tales
  34. Songs From the Sparkle Lounge
  35. “C’Mon C’Mon” (picture disc)

Next:

37. B-Sides
38. Yeah! II
39. Yeah! Live
40. Mirror Ball – Live & More (Japanese import)
41. iTunes re-recordings

REVIEW: Def Leppard – Yeah! Bonus CD With Backstage Interviews (2006)

Part Thirty-Two of the Def Leppard Review Series

DEF LEPPARD – Yeah! Bonus CD With Backstage Interviews (2006 Walmart exclusive)

Hard truth:  A lot of the Yeah! bonus tracks were better than the album itself.  Bonus tracks were issued to iTunes, Best Buy, Target, and Japan, but Walmart received an entire bonus CD.  If you could only afford two versions, Walmart would have been the way to go.  Sold separately, their bonus CD included both Japanese bonus tracks, three exclusive songs, and three exclusive backstage interview tracks.  That means if you owned this CD, you didn’t have to track down the Japanese printing to get all the songs.  You just had to buy three other different versions too!

The five songs on the Walmart set are as follows:

  • “American Girl” (Tom Petty)
  • “Search & Destroy” (The Stooges)
  • “Space Oddity” (David Bowie)
  • “Dear Friends” (Queen)
  • “Heartbeat” (Jobriath)

Because these tracks are included on a disc called Yeah! II in The CD Collection Vol. 3, we will review them individually (along with the other five bonus tracks) when we get there.  For now we’ll just give you some spoilers.  The Petty song is incredible, surprisingly so.  “Dear Friends” features Rick Savage on vocals and all instruments, and is completely different from Queen’s original (in a good way).  In fact all the songs tend to spotlight one or two members without the full band.  When we get to that disc in The CD Collection Vol. 3 then we’ll spill all the beans.

The CD Collection does not include the interviews, which isn’t surprising.  They remain exclusive to the Walmart CD.  They are in the 2-3 minute range and total just 7:55 combined.  Still, that’s better listening than 45 minutes of Lars Ulrich in the Metallica box set.

Backstage interview #1 is compiled from all five members, and concerns the 2005 tour, and Leppard’s longevity.  It was Joe’s first tour as a non-smoker, though they didn’t get around as much as they would have liked.

Interview #2 is about the Yeah! album.  Joe is credited with the idea by Phil, having wanted to do his version of Bowie’s Pin-Ups album.  Coincidentally, someone at the record label thought it would be a good idea to do right at the same time that Joe felt the same way at the end of the X tour.

In interview #3, Joe discusses the reasoning for picking the songs.  There were three rules:  all songs had to be hits, British, and pre-date Leppard signing their record deal.  Clearly, these rules applied to the core album only and not the bonus tracks!  When it came down to the members agreeing on covers, things went much more smoothly than anyone expected.

With the very cool exclusive songs here alongside the interviews, this Walmart CD was a must!  It’s less so today due to the songs now being reissued in box set form, but Leppard fans will certainly enjoy giving it a spin.

4/5 stars

Previous:  

  1. The Early Years Disc One – On Through the Night 
  2. The Early Years Disc Two – High N’ Dry
  3. The Early Years Disc Three – When The Walls Came Tumbling Down: Live at the New Theater Oxford – 1980
  4. The Early Years Disc Four – Too Many Jitterbugs – EP, singles & unreleased
  5. The Early Years Disc 5 – Raw – Early BBC Recordings 
  6. The Early Years 79-81 (Summary)
  7. Pyromania
  8. Pyromania Live – L.A. Forum, 11 September 1983
  9. Hysteria
  10. Soundtrack From the Video Historia – Record Store Tales
  11. In The Round In Your Face DVD
  12. “Let’s Get Rocked” – The Wait for Adrenalize – Record Store Tales
  13. Adrenalize
  14. Live at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert
  15. Retro-Active
  16. Visualize
  17. Vault: Def Leppard’s Greatest Hits / Limited Edition Live CD
  18. Video Archive
  19. “Slang” CD single
  20. Slang
  21. I Got A Bad Feeling About This: Euphoria – Record Store Tales
  22. Euphoria
  23. Rarities 2
  24. Rarities 3
  25. Rarities 4
  26. Cybernauts – Live
  27. Cybernauts – The Further Adventures of the Cybernauts (bonus disc)
  28. X
  29. Best Of (UK)
  30. Rock Of Ages: The Definitive Collection
  31. Yeah!

Next:

33. Yeah…Nah!  (Record Store Tales)

#980.5: The Adventures of an Anxious Walmart Shopper on Easter Saturday

“Hey Jen, if you’re up early enough, let’s go to Walmart tomorrow morning.  I want to look for that new Coke,” I said stupidly, not thinking about what weekend it was.

“Sure,” she agreed, and that’s how it ended up that we left for Walmart at 9:45 on Easter Saturday morning.

The “new Coke” I was referring to is “Coca Cola with Coffee”, available in three different brews:  Caramel, Dark, and Vanilla.  I want to try all three.  I was a big fan of Coca Cola Blaq about 15 years ago, their first attempt to mass market a coffee/Coke hybrid.  Coke Blaq was delicious, like regular Coke but with the extra note of coffee bean.  I’m eager to try these new ones.  Coke Blaq came in a small black bottle in these come in cans, which makes me wonder if they are similar to those creamy coffee beverages, with a Coke taste?  Or something more like Coca Cola Blaq?  Inquiring minds wanted to do, and I had heard that these were showing up in Walmart stores.

Walmart was already pretty busy and then I smacked myself and realized, “Of it is.”  Ah well.

I wore an N95 mask this time; my first time.  Easy breathing but hard on the ears.  If I’m wearing one long term I’ll have to do something about the ears.  About 75% of Walmart shoppers were masked, and 100% of the staff.  This is good since virtually everybody I know has Covid, or has had a recent close brush.  I can’t believe this is my third Covid Easter.

First I made my way to the entertainment section where I picked up the newest Blue Rodeo album, Many A Mile.  On slide guitar, The Sheepdogs’ own Jimmy Bowskill, once a child prodigy discovered by Jeff Healey at age 11.  Blue Rodeo are one of those bands where I just want to own all the albums, and stay current, even if the last five or six albums have been good but not memorable.  There’s never anything wrong with ’em.  Many A Mile is as good as any.  In some regards, it’s a throwback to the classic first three Blue Rodeo albums.  Lots of awesome guitar work and hooks.  Just gets hard to remember the songs, record after record after record.

Also found in the music department were the new albums by Slash and Greta Van Fleet, but I found myself staring indifferently at them.  I didn’t even know Greta had a new album out.  Have they already dropped off the radar that badly?

Come on, where are you Spiderman: No Way Home?  Not in stock – sold out!  They had a three-fer with all three MCU Spidey films in one, but I wanted something with the bonus features that I crave.  Ah well, next time, I’ll get you Spiderman!

Finally a trip to the toy section.  No Marvel Legends figures at all, and only a couple Star Wars Black Series.  They were well stocked in Transformers and I noticed they had some reissue Beast Wars toys.  Hard to believe Beast Wars was 25 years ago.  I never bought an original Beast Wars toy, and wanted to give one of these reissues a shot.  They only had Optimus Primal and Megatron, so obviously I chose the dinosaur.  Beast Wars has always been an enigma to me.  When it was new, the toys seemed to barely transform.  The cartoon was very primitive in terms of computer animation.  But Beast Wars appealed to kids worldwide and it saved the Transformers franchise.  Curiosity got the better of me and now I am the happy owner of a reissue purple dino Megatron.

Finally, the Coke. I scoured the racks but they did not have the coffee beverages that I require.  I shall have to try convenience stores and gas stations next.  I love Coke.  I try every variety that I can get my hands on.  I have no problem with Pepsi, but it’s Coke that I want to catch ’em all.

Walmart did have two sweet looking consolation Cokes:  Quebec Maple, and British Columbia Raspberry.  Only having enough hands for one case, I chose Quebec Maple.  Upon paying, I realized that someone swapped out one bottle of Maple and replaced it with a Raspberry.  Win!  I get to try both.

I only had one panic attack while waiting to pay, and I managed to breathe my way out of it.

Walmart had run out of plastic bags and only had the more expensive cloth ones.  I could feel the tension as word spread among the customers.  I hate standing in line at grocery stores and Walmarts.  Everybody does, but I get tense.  It passed; my glasses fell off because of the way the N95 pulls on my ears, but I paid for my stuff and got out.  Didn’t need a bag.  Didn’t have the energy to look at Sunrise Records or Toys R Us.  Just came home.

Put the Coke in the fridge, pulled up a chair and started listening to the Blue Rodeo.  They’re usually pretty good for reducing the anxiety. I feel a lot better already!  Happy Easter everyone, and stay away from places like Walmart if you can!

#S18-0: Sausagefest 2018 prelude

#687: Chronic Complainers

GETTING MORE TALE #687: Chronic Complainers

There will always be people who relish complaining.  Maybe they feel that life wronged them somewhere.  Perhaps they got up on the wrong side of the bed.  Some people are just miserable and like to spread the misery.  Others are just cheapskates.  Whatever the category, we saw ‘em all at the Record Store.

If you don’t like a store, why do you shop there?  Chronic complainers had many grievances, but were still coming on a regular basis.  It’s not like we were the only game in town.  We weren’t the cheapest either.  So why did the chronic complainers like to make our lives misery?  Every retail job has “horror stories”, but those are amplified in a buy-and-sell environment.

I think a lot of people used to have the wrong about idea about what a “used CD store” was all about.  One of the old managers, Joe, used to say we were nothing but a “glorified garage sale” disguised as a store.  A lot of complainers seemed to see it that way too.  They wanted to haggle.  They wanted a better deal than what was on the sticker.

Me personally, when I walk into a store, I don’t assume every price is negotiable.  Some people do.  I still know people who love to haggle.  At the store, we all hated when customers tried.  Only the owner had any real authority to haggle, and he didn’t work at a cash register.

We carried a small selection of new CDs in addition to our used stock.  Some folks loved to whine about pricing.  Chronic complainers would tell you that “Walmart has the new Metallica for cheaper than you.”  Great, super, thanks for the help.  You know that an indy shop can’t compete with Walmart’s buying power, right?  Their costs were much less than ours, and there was no way to beat them.  Why didn’t you just buy Metallica at Walmart when you were there if the prices are so great?

Selection was another subject for complaint.  We might have had 10,000 used CDs in stock but complainers loved to point out what we didn’t have.  “This is the only Zeppelin you have?” they’d ask as they held up a copy of Encomium – A Tribute to Led Zeppelin.  “You never have any good Zeppelin.  When are you getting more?”  I’d explain that you can never predict when a specific used CD would be traded in, but I could put them on a waiting list.  “Nah, I’ll just check back.”  Well, then don’t complain when someone else snags the next Zeppelin before you.

We had a pretty good system for a waiting list.  It was all computerized so if something particular came in, it would automatically get flagged.  We could also have stock sent from other stores to pick up locally.  There was one woman that only came in during our first summer open…a chronic complainer that eventually fucked off.  She always had a complaint, every visit.  You don’t have this, you don’t have that, why is this taking so long?  She ordered in a CD from another store, didn’t pick it up on time, and by the time she came in (a month later), it was gone.  I remember telling the staff, “Keep this one on hold.  She’s really mean.  Give her extra time.”  Eventually though I had to put the album out and sell it.  I know that we called and left a message that she only had a week left to pick it up.  She still came in too late, and that’s when she ripped me a new one.

“I had to drive an hour to get here!” she complained.

“Would our Waterloo location be more convenient for you?” I asked, trying to be helpful but also hoping to dump this annoying customer on another store.

“NO!” she exclaimed.

Maybe you should have called in to see if the CD was still here before you made the trip.  I would have.  I think that was her last visit, and it was one customer I was happy to lose.  The owner probably wouldn’t like to hear me say that, but he didn’t have to deal with her.

When I was running our website in the early 2000s, I received a complaint about one of our locations that would not refund some used CDs.  I called the manager up to get her side of the story before I responded.  She said that the guy was yelling and screaming and wouldn’t let her finish a sentence, as she was trying to explain the return policy.  Some customers treated our female employees like dirt, preferring to deal with males.  I got the sense that this complainer was one of them.  He threatened to go to the Chamber of Commerce, but he didn’t get his refund.

There were also chronic complainers who primarily just sold CDs to us.  They wanted a lot more for their CDs than you can offer, and sometimes even act insulted about it.  When you wouldn’t give in to them (because you’re not allowed), they’d be grumpy about it, to put it mildly.  There was one construction worker that came in regularly who was my first surly nemesis.  (And no, he never sold me any Village People albums.)  Then there was the prick that worked at CD Plus down the street.  He kept coming in over and over again to sell, even though he complained each time.  He had tiger-striped hair.  What an annoying fuck he was.  I sure was glad when CD Plus shut down operations and I never saw him again.  (The former CD Plus owner, David Cubitt, still has his mullet but now sells beer for a living.)  Whatever that fucking tiger-stripe guy’s name was, I couldn’t stand dealing with his arrogance.

Tiger-stripe loved to argue.  He quizzed me about what kind of CDs we would pay the most for.  At the time, the Beatles’ original albums were expensive and in demand on CD, so that was one.  “We’ll pay top dollar for the Beatles, they’re still very popular.”

“Why the Beatles?  Neil Diamond has sold more albums than the Beatles.”

Yeah, not the point man.  You could buy a Neil Diamond CD brand new for half the price of a Beatles CD at that time, and he knew that.  His store made their coin selling “super saver” titles.

Any time he brought in a bunch of discs, he would only sell a handful of them and keep all the best ones.  If he could get more for them elsewhere, why was he coming to us at all?

The constant negativity of the chronic complainers could become a real drag on your day.

If you catch yourself complaining regularly at a favourite establishment, maybe it’s not a favourite after all, and maybe the problem is you.

REVIEW: Stryper – God Damn Evil (2018 Japanese import)

STRYPER – God Damn Evil (2018 Frontiers Japan)

Timothy Gaines ejected from Stryper, unfortunately not on the best of terms.  He was swiftly replaced by Perry Richardson of Firehouse, who fit into the rock regime smoothly and easily.  God Damn Evil is Stryper’s first with the new bassist, but latest in a long string of credible and crucial Christian metal albums.

But first a word about Walmart, who refused to stock this album based on the title alone.

This exemplifies two huge problems in society today.  One:  the inability to think for oneself.  Two:  pandering in fear to the whims of the general public.  Walmart were afraid they’d get complaints about an album called God Damn Evil, and so refused to offer it.  It’s patently obvious what the title means; just look at the cover art.  God is damning the evil.  Spelling it out even further, the evil is clearly depicted as “money”.  (Maybe the corporate mega-giant doesn’t like this anti-capitalism message.)

Maybe Stryper should have titled this album God Damn, People Are Stupid.  You can’t buy God Damn Evil at Walmart, but you can buy Night of the Demons on Blu-ray.  Go figure.

The music is what matters most, and the word on the street is that God Damn Evil is their best album yet.

That’s a tough claim.  After all, Fallen and No More Hell to Pay are both excellent metal albums, and surely rank among Stryper’s top five.  God Damn Evil shares a similar heavy direction, and even matching cover art, forming an ad-hoc trilogy.  The new one is the heaviest of the three.  Fans were taken aback by lead track “Take It to the Cross”, the closest Stryper have been to thrash metal.  From guttural grunts to screams so high they border on self-parody, “Take It to the Cross” is aural shrapnel of the best kind.

The only other track that comes close to “Take It to the Cross” in terms of speed is the Priest-like closer “The Devil Doesn’t Live Here”.  There is no question that Stryper can make metal as gleaming as their heroes do.

More traditional is “Sorry”, a metal groove with a slaying chorus on top.  It’s one of many contenders for “favourite song”, along with a swaggering “Own Up”.  “Lost” reduces the tempo, but not the power.  The message is there too, but not overwhelming.  Anyone can headbang along.  The title track “God Damn Evil” is unexpectedly different, being a straightforward hard rock tune with an anthemic chorus.  Stryper fear no evil in “The Valley”, a heavy metal retelling of Psalm 23 (“the valley of the shadow of death”).  Another top track is “Beautiful” which bears a Sabbath groove the likes of which is the basis of the genre.  It’s melodic, but not a ballad.  There’s only one of those:  “Can’t Live Without Your Love”, available in Japan in two versions.  The standard 80s-sounding power ballad would stand proudly next to “Is This Love” by Whitesnake.  The Japan-exclusive acoustic version is even better.

The highlights are many, and filler nonexistent.  Without giving up a shade of their integrity, Stryper have managed to remain true to their origins and yet evolve into higher, heavier grooves.  The key is the eternal youth of singer Michael Sweet.

Although some still think Stryper are a synonym with bad 80s bands, you’d be wrong to discount them now.  Stryper may well indeed have done their best album in 2018.

5/5 stars

#581: Attention Walmart Shoppers

GETTING MORE TALE #581: Attention Walmart Shoppers

On June 10 2017, Mrs. LeBrain was at the Walmart at Fairview Mall looking for Transformers for her husband (me).  She came home with an injury so bad she was immobile for the rest of the night.

She already has mobility issues due to numerous falls and fractures, but June 10 she aggravated her sciatica.  Some idiot was there with two kids, but too busy texting to notice what was about to transpire.  The baby was seated in a shopping cart, and a young boy had control of the cart.  Mother was deep in texting.  You can see it about to happen can’t you?  Kid hits my wife in the leg with the cart, then does it again.

Jen says to the lady, “Would you mind watching your kids?”

The lady responded with the very typical, “Why don’t you mind your own business.”

“It is my business!  Your kid hit me in the leg with your shopping cart, twice!”

There’s a baby in this shopping cart, remember!

The lady then said to the kid, “Stop that.”  She didn’t offer an apology.

When Jen got home that’s when the nerve pain really kicked in.  We managed the pain the best we could through a very sleepless night and went to the doctor (emergency appointment) the following day (a Sunday).  All that because some kid wasn’t being minded by his distracted mother.

People, we’ve bitched about Walmart shoppers here before, but Walmart’s not to blame.  It’s the idiot parents, and this is nothing new.  Back in Record Store Tales Part 29, we recalled the dad who didn’t care about his kid that just demolished the country section.  People, watch your kids.  It’s not hard, and if you do such a poor job that your kids cause injury to someone else, maybe you should have got your shit together before having kids.

Sunday Chuckle: 8:30 am Walmart Run

When you know the guy ran out of toilet paper at 8:30 am on a Saturday, but didn’t want to put just the toilet paper on his debit card.

walmart-haul

 

And then I got home and it turns out I bought the “wrong” toilet paper.

Blu-ray REVIEW: Star Wars: The Force Awakens [Full-on spoilerific]

NEW RELEASE – SPOILERS

STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS (2015, 2016 Lucasfilm Blu-ray DVD set)

When we last saw our heroes in 1983, Evil had been defeated.  Seemingly, Luke Skywalker fulfilled the prophecy of the chosen one who would bring balance to the Force, via his father Anakin Skywalker.  Appealing to the good still within Darth Vader, the evil henchman of the Empire turned back to the light and betrayed his Sith lord, Emperor Palpatine.  The Rule of Two was broken and the Sith were destroyed, along with their ultimate weapon, the second dreaded Death Star.  In death, Vader redeemed himself.  Luke smiled when he saw the ghost of his father standing next to those of his old masters Yoda and Ben Kenobi.  He turned to rejoin his friends in the celebration of victory.  Roll credits.

For decades, we were told “that’s it”.  That’s the end of the story, said the man who wrote it, George Lucas.  Sure there was talk of a sequel trilogy before, even two sequel trilogies!  This seemed highly unlikely in 1983 as George was adamant that he was letting Star Wars go to work on other projects.  The legacy of a sequel, of “what happened to Luke, Han Solo and Princess Leia later” was left first to novelist Timothy Zahn and then to a whole new generation of writers who filled the galaxy with stories of what came next.  Of course, we all knew that should George actually change his mind and allow sequels to be made, all of that old stuff from the books would go out the window.  No way was anybody going to try and adhere to continuity that somebody else wrote in a novel.

In 1994 there was hope.  Lucas re-emerged and began working on the mysterious and long-awaited Star Wars prequels, Episodes I, II and III.  Questions now could finally be answered.  Who were the Jedi?  Who is Luke Skywalker’s mother, only briefly mentioned before and never seen or named?  Most importantly, how did Anakin Skywalker transform into Darth Vader, and why did the Repulic fall to be replaced by an Empire?   One of the problems with this situation was that some questions are often best left to the imagination.

It was undeniably wonderful to finally return to the Star Wars galaxy, but it is also impossible to overlook how ill-received by fans the prequel movies were.  The stiff acting, the wooden dialogue, the unlikely scenarios and muddled plots of these movies made them difficult to fully enjoy.  Although entire cottage industries had grown out of anticipating the possibility of a sequel trilogy, many fans were happy all the same if they never got made.  Lucas pooh-poohed the idea, now claiming Star Wars was always two trilogies, six movies, and the story of Anakin.  There were no stories beyond that, he continued.  It would be fun, he said, to see what Luke and Han were up to later, but ultimately they would just be extraneous to the actual story of Darth Vader.  The end.

 

"Everyone said, 'Well, are you going to do sequels to the first three?' But that was an afterthought; I don't have scripts on those stories. The only notion on that was, wouldn't it be fun to get all the actors to come back when they're 60 or 70 years old and make three more about them as old people."

“Everyone said, ‘Well, are you going to do sequels to the first three?’ But that was an afterthought; I don’t have scripts on those stories. The only notion on that was, wouldn’t it be fun to get all the actors to come back when they’re 60 or 70 years old and make three more about them as old people.”

 

Or not.

Quietly and in secret, Lucas once again had a change of heart and began work on the Star Wars sequel trilogy.  Realizing that he would not be able to undertake such a massive project at his age, he made the brave choice of handing Lucasfilm over to Kathleen Kennedy, and selling Star Wars to Disney.  Lucas’ story and characters were thrown out, but used as inspiration for what would eventually become Episode VII.  Artists dug way back into the Ralph McQuarrie archives for inspiration, and so decades-old designs for Star Wars were finally able to leap onto the big screen.

Much of this information is the included documentary, Secrets of the Force Awakens: A Cinematic Journey.  Though that feature does document the emotion and gravitas of what a sequel really means, it fails to really express the true feeling of it all.  For decades, we were told this movie was never coming, but Episode VII was what we all really wanted, not Episode I.  After the credits rolled on Return of the Jedi, did we all not grab our action figures of Luke, Han, Leia and Chewie and try to play out what happened next?  The toy company Kenner tried to come up with new villains (I’m sure “Mongo Beefhead Tribesman” would have been a big hit), and Marvel Comics introduced a new villain called Lumiya, the Dark Lady of the Sith.   Mace Windu, Darth Maul and Qui-Gon Jinn did not exist.  The truth is, even in 1983, we didn’t really care about prequels.  We wanted to know what happened next much more than what came before.  So the dual challenge with Star Wars Episode VII was to not only make a movie that continues the story of the Skywalker family appropriately, but also to live up to everything we imagined and played out as kid.  No pressure, right?

Director JJ Abrams felt the pressure, but what he and his creative team emerged with in The Force Awakens is everything that fans needed it to be.  Not that there were no complaints.  The heaviest criticism laid against The Force Awakens is that it imitates the first Star Wars (A New Hope) slavishly.  Some derisively refer to The Force Awakens as a “reboot”.  The parallels are there, but let us also not forget that Lucas himself tried to make his trilogies “rhyme” with similar circumstances.  Did they go too far trying to copy the original?

A cute heroic droid carries a secret message on a desert world that must get back to the heroes.  A new young character, a loner who is unwittingly Force sensitive, meets this droid and decides to help it.  The desert world is escaped in the Millenium Falcon.  They are pursued by the bad guys, led by a Force-using guy in a black mask and cloak with a crimson red laser sword.  The bad guys have an ultimate weapon, a planet destroyer, and they use it.  Our heroes must stop them from using it again.  This large spherical weapon must be blown up, and a battle of X-Wings vs Tie Fighters will decide the fate of the galaxy.  An old hero from a prior trilogy makes the ultimate sacrifice.  Finally, our young new hero character concentrates to use the Force, and defeats the evil.  Roll credits.

That paragraph describes both A New Hope and The Force Awakens perfectly.   But a lot has changed, too.

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Although we know the events that occurred 30 years prior off by heart, we know very little about what actually took place between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens.  Here is what we do know.

After the Battle of Endor and the defeat of the Emperor, Han Solo and Princess Leia had a son named Ben.  The Blu-ray special features reveal that Ben Solo was powerful in the Force, but with equal portions of light and dark within him.  Director JJ Abrams tells us that the man known as Snoke, a dark side user, had his eyes on Ben Solo from the very start.  So, much like his grandfather Anakin Skywalker, young Ben was being watched by a dark side master from the very beginning, and slowly seduced to the dark side.  We also know that Luke was training a new generation of Jedi, but that Ben destroyed it all.  Luke went into hiding, feeling responsible for his failure.  We do not know anything concrete about this Snoke, or where he comes from.  All that we know is that he seems very, very afraid of Luke.  Ben Solo wants to find the map that leads to Luke’s hiding place.  Snoke on the other hand wants that map destroyed if it cannot be recovered.  He would rather that Luke never return to the affairs of the galaxy, where Ben is desperate to find that map, and therefore his uncle Luke.

Our new hero, the girl known only as Rey, has a Force vision in the movie that tells us a little bit more about what happened.  We see brief clips of a massacre in the rain.  Betraying Luke’s students by surprise in the night, it appears Ben, now known as Kylo Ren, has slaughtered Luke’s younglings with the help of his henchmen, the Knights of Ren, about whom we know nothing at all.  We glimpse Luke placing his robotic right hand on his trusted droid R2-D2, perhaps shutting him down.  And most interestingly, we see Kylo Ren killing someone through the back with his lightsaber, from the perspective of someone down below.  Someone small like a child perhaps.

In that vision, which seems to be from the perspective of Rey as a little girl, Kylo Ren appears to be killing one of his fellow Knights of Ren.  Is that indeed what is happening?  Why did Kylo kill that man from behind?  Did Kylo spare Rey from him?  And who is Rey?

There seems little question that Rey is indeed a Skywalker.  It also seems clear that Kylo Ren knows, or at least feels, that there is more to Rey than anyone else knows.  It is Kylo who freaks out every time somebody mentions the scavenger girl from Jakku.  Why?  What is it about the idea of a girl from Jakku that has him so on edge?  Rey is powerful enough to not only resist Kylo’s mind probe, but also reverse it and read Kylo’s mind.  “You’re afraid,” she boldly proclaims, “that you will never be as powerful as Darth Vader!”  She is strong enough to defeat Kylo Ren, at least semi-trained in the lightsaber, in a dual.  Much like three other key characters in Star Wars (Luke, Leia and Anakin Skywalker), she has latent Force talents that are emerging on their own.  And this terrifies Kylo Ren, very much.  “You need a teacher!” he tells Rey, trying to avoid being bested by a girl.  “I can teach you the ways of the Force!”

Kylo Ren is an interesting and complex villain.  He has the fiery temper of his grandfather, but even more wild and untamed.  His unfinished lightsaber is amaturish and dangerous.  Unlike Anakin, he does not feel pulled to the dark.  “I feel it again.  The call to the light,” he confesses to Darth Vader’s melted helmet in meditation.  “Show me again, the power of the dark side,” he begs the spirit of his grandfather.  Wait…”again”?  What’s this “again” business?  When Anakin died, did he not revert to good?  It seems highly likely that Kylo Ren’s master, Supreme Leader Snoke, is manipulating him with this Vader business.  We will not know for sure until Episode VIII…or IX.

As for Snoke, we know he’s a Force user because we are told that he senses Kylo’s weakness, his compassion.  We also know this because he says he’s going to complete Kylo Ren’s training.  And that doesn’t sound too good for Kylo!  His mucking around, trying to retrieve the map from Rey instead of destroying it in BB-8, caused the First Order to lose their gazollion-credit superweapon, the Starkiller.  Think Darth Vader was in shit when he let the first Death Star get blown up?  Just imagine the shit that Kylo Ren is in now.  That new scar across his face his the last of his worries.  When Snoke finds out that he not only got the base blown up, but also let the girl get away and the Resistance find Luke Skywalker…well, let’s just say I wouldn’t want to be Kylo Ren right now.  The “completion” of his training will result in an even meaner and more intense Kylo Ren in Episode VIII.

Kylo’s father Han Solo went down a hero in The Force Awakens.  Now, true Star Wars fans could have seen this coming right from the day they announced the movie was going to be made.  Han Solo was supposed to die in Jedi.  At first, George Lucas wanted balance.  The victory of the heroes should be balanced by a tragic loss, because that’s life.  He eventually backed out of this.  It seemed obvious that the idea would be resurrected for The Force Awakens.  But for Han to go down the way he did?  Perfect.  Flawless.  Some complain that Han should have had the last word;  he did though — his hand on his son’s face says 1000 words.

Chewbacca’s rage in that moment reflected the shock of everyone in the movie theater.  Rey and Finn’s shock and sorrow was what we all felt, even though it was telegraphed from a mile away.  If those gangsters chasing Solo earlier in the film didn’t hint that his luck was running dry, then the moment Solo walked out onto that catwalk surely indicated it was time for his end.   If there is one rule in Star Wars, it’s be careful of catwalks.  Have these people not yet invented the safety rail?  On Earth, that catwalk would have violated so many regulations that General Hux would have been busted down to Colonel.

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The Blu-ray has deleted scenes, and some of them reveal a little bit more detail.  In one, Rey is told that Finn is going to be just fine, something left ambiguous in the final film.  In another, Kylo Ren and a squad of Snowtroopers board the Millenium Falcon after its crash landing on the Starkiller planet.  Knowing Ren would have grown up on that ship, you can only imagine his feelings as he stands in the cockpit.  Other cut scenes, like a battle with Finn and Rey using Snowspeeders, would have made the movie drag.  So here they are for your enjoyment, and separate from the film on a bonus disc.

The bonus disc also includes interesting bits about the different BB-8 droids that were built for the film, and the various creatures and monsters.  Composer John Williams is the star of one featurette.  The CG effects are gone over, and so is the end lightsaber battle with Kylo and Rey in the woods.  Few lightsaber battles in past movies were filmed in a night time setting.  In order to get the reflective glows on film, the actors used actual glowing lightsaber props for the scene.  The result is more realistic lighting in a scene featuring many trees and lots of snow.  Finally, there’s a bit about the famous “table read”.  When the cast were assembled and the script was read in one room for the first time, the photo of this epic “table read” went viral.  You may wonder, what did Mark Hamill do during this table read?  Did Luke have zero dialogue or not?  Good question:  Mark read the narration.  It’s only a shame the full two hour table read wasn’t included.

That brings us to Mark Hamill and Luke Skywalker, the ideal place to leave this epic review.  There he was at the end, after 30 years of wondering “What happens to Luke, the only Jedi left in the galaxy?”   Hamill’s face speaks volumes of what happened to Luke.  Epic pain…sad wisdom…incredible knowledge.  Luke has seen these things and much more, and it is in his eyes.  His light beige cloak is a sharp contrast to the black clothes we last saw him in.  In Star Wars, this communicates a purity awash in the good side of the Force.  Whatever he has done in the years since he left, it is implied that Luke has become as powerful as the Emperor predicted.  Probably more powerful even than Darth Vader ever was.  Supreme Leader Snoke fears Luke Skywalker more than anything the pitiful Resistance can muster.  Who do you think gave Snoke those horrific scars on his head?  Perhaps the reason Snoke fears the last Jedi so much is that he has tasted the blade of that Jedi.

The Force Awakens may take all its plot cues from the original 1977 Star Wars, and that is a fair critique.  As we have shown here, there is also much more to it.  There are layers of mystery that are waiting to be peeled.  When George made the first Star Wars in 1977, he didn’t know he would ever make another one.  There were not as many questions to answer.  What Kathleen Kennedy, JJ Abrams, Lawrence Kasdan and Michael Arndt came up with here was a story once thought impossible to write.  They succeeded in coming up with a sequel idea that continues the story of the Skywalkers, introduces new heroes and villains, and doesn’t seem tacked on or mismatched with the original movies.  It feels completely organic and natural.  Indeed, The Force Awakens feels far more like Star Wars than any of the three prequels did.  That’s something many thought impossible, like making the Kessel run in 12 parsecs.

Everybody’s going to buy this Blu-ray, so the only question left is which version to buy?  I chose Walmart’s which came in a BB-8 case with a little “trading disc” inside.  Only humbug: all those trailers we sat around and watched are not among the bonus features.  But there are many versions out there and here’s a breakdown of them:

  • Walmart – BB-8 case and trader disc.
  • Best Buy – Steelbook case.
  • Target – 20 minutes of additional bonus features including interviews with John Boyega and Daisy Ridley.
  • Disney – free lithographs.

Buy accordingly!

4/5 stars