White Wolf

REVIEW: White Wolf – Endangered Species (1986 Japanese CD)

wwesWHITE WOLF – Endangered Species (1986 BMG Japan)

With a name like White Wolf you’d almost expect this band to come from the forests of Northern Ontario or Quebec.  No so; they hail from provincial capital of Edmonton Alberta (pop: 800,000).  So we’ll forgive that the music video for “Shadows in the Night” (from 1984’s Standing Alone) made them looks like outdoors winter survivalists.  Long-haired sidekicks of Les Stroud?  No; they look much more indoors-y on Endangered Species, their second album before disbanding.  The album cover is notable for being a Hugh Syme work, though obviously a lesser one.

They earned some minor video play with “She”, indicating a more keyboardy direction than album #1.  Mushy sounding drums distract from the killer Don Wolf (Don Wilk) chorus.  Akin to Dokken’s “Breaking the Chains”, “She” will appeal to hard rockers who like melody with their guitars.  It’s all about that chorus though, the kind that makes you hit “repeat” and go right back to the start.

White Wolf has a weird 80s metal thud and that combined with harsh production values make Endangered Species sound terribly dated.  Techy keyboard flairs sound lifted from David Bryan’s Slippery When Wet sound library.  Anyone craving mid-tempo 80s hard rock will find enjoyable music on Endangered Species, but few songs have the same impact as “She”.  Dull verses, bland choruses and generic song titles keep things from sticking.  Sub-Jovi with none of Jon’s then-irresistible innocence is a narrow niche.

“Just Like an Arrow” comes close, but the keyboards weigh it down when it should be flying.  Too many bands (Quiet Riot, Stryper, etc.) really let the keys have too much space around this time.  “Cryin to the Wind” has an excellent acoustic intro but not enough of a song to go with it.  The drum samples are obtrusive because they don’t sound natural.  It sounds like a lot of time was taken in the studio but the technology wasn’t up to the task, and everything came out tinny and powerless.  “Holding Back” doesn’t have enough hooks.  “Snake Charmer” steals a title and a hook from Ritchie Blackmore, and appeals as a Rainbow-like understudy.  The only other track besides “She” and “Snake Charmer” that hits the spot is “One More Time”.

Not a terrible album, not a flaming turd…but not a winner either.

2/5 stars

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#387: Standing Alone

LeBrain, “Standing Alone” in front of Planet Helix, London Ontario

RECORD STORE TALES MkII: Getting More Tale
#387: Standing Alone

When I first started at the Record Store, we worked alone. Everybody worked alone. The owner worked all the days alone, and then T-Rev and I alternated nights and weekends alone. I actually enjoyed working by myself. Nights were slow enough that one person could handle it, plus still get all the stocking and cleaning done. It wasn’t until later on that we brought in a second person on Saturdays. Until then, you could still close the store for 5 minutes to go to the washroom.  You could eat your lunch in the store because you didn’t have much choice.

The way to make an 8 hour Saturday shift go faster is to play music you love! Back then we were allowed to bring in the odd CD or tape from home to play in store. My sister made me a cool store play mix tape, with a lot of top hits by artists like Sting, Barenaked Ladies, and Bryan Adams. I had the idea that we could even make tapes monthly, in the store, to showcase hits without having to constantly swap discs in and out. We only had a single disc player. We never did do the monthly tapes but it was a neat idea.

On your typical Saturday I would leave the house around 9:00 or 9:15 am and walk to the store with a bag full of snacks, drinks and music. There were usually lots of “new” used arrivals to price and display. There were sometimes customers to call and let know that their special orders had arrived. There was always something to clean, a project to do, and filing to take care of.  When you were tired there were Spin and Rolling Stone magazines to flip through.

I would get busy and overwhelmed after lunch hour, but that would pass and I could take a moment to breathe again. The busy times weren’t the problem though, it was the 8-9 hours of standing. I told T-Rev before he worked his first Saturday alone that it was hard on the legs. He discovered what I meant! We didn’t have a chair. Well, that’s not entirely true. We had one, we were just not allowed to use it. It was used as a step-stool only. The first time you stand for a whole Saturday is hard but then you get used to it.

Feet get swollen and legs get tired. My method for dealing with it was ample stretching, and changing my shoes halfway through the shift. I don’t know why, but putting on a fresh pair of shoes helped with the discomfort. It provided a fresh bolt of energy. Much, much, much later on, when I was nearing the miserable end of my dark final days at the record store, I artificially maintained energy levels with caffeine drinks and sugary snacks. I was no longer working alone, but the fun was also gone.

Today I sit in a chair and get fat all day. It’s a trade-off for sure!

Gallery: The Toronto Musical Collectibles Record & CD Sale 2014

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T-Rev, Wes, Doug and I had a great time at the Toronto Musical Collectibles Record & CD Sale 2014. Trevor came home with some kind of Asian import of Foo Fighters’ In Your Honor with at least a dozen bonus tracks. He also scored a cool silver Grand Funk LP with a round cover. Wes stocked up on Tom Petty vinyl.

My treasures are below.  Let’s start with the Japanese imports!  Yes, the same vendor was there.  I probably cleared out his best stuff last year, but he still had some good ones left for me.

Japanese imports purchased:

  • Ozzy Osbourne – Under Cover ($25 with obi strip intact)  I am well on record as not being a fan of this album.  But it’s one of only two Ozzy albums that I didn’t own.  Finding a Japanese version made it easy to justify for my collection.  The bonus track is “Changes” with Kelly Osbourne, but I had that already on the Prince of Darkness box set.  This comes with a region 2 DVD.
  • Europe – Start From the Dark (sealed, $20)  I already had this album as a bonus CD within Europe’s Live From the Dark DVD set.  The Japanese get two live tracks from Sweden Rock 2004:  “Seven Doors Hotel” and “Wings Of Tomorrow”.
  • White Wolf – Endangered Species (sealed, $20) Last year I bought Standing Alone on vinyl, this year I got Endangered Species!  I always liked that song “She.”  There are no bonus tracks on it but it’s so hard to find this on CD at all, let alone Japanese.
  • Paul Gilbert – Get Out of My Yard (sealed, $20) I’ve long been a fan of Paul Gilbert (Mr. Big), and he’s a cult hero in Japan.  I know his solo stuff is pretty out there.  Although I have tracks of his on guitar compilations, this is the first solo album of his that I have found.
  • Aerosmith – “Pink” (sealed CD single, $15) In Record Store Tales Part 42, I made fun of the “Barefoot DJ” because he was looking for this Aerosmith dud.  Regardless, I’m probably most excited about this CD.  If there’s one thing rarer than Japanese CDs, it might be Japanese CD singles.  They’re produced in even more limited number.  I won’t get all the B-sides for “Pink” on this CD single, but it has plenty of tracks that I believe are exclusive to this disc.
  • Aerosmith – “Amazing” (CD single, $5 with obi strip intact) I had a domestic copy of this CD with the exact same tracks, just in a different order.  I wasn’t sure if I had it or not when I bought it, but for $5 I figured it’s still a win-win situation.  It’s in mint condition and I paid a fair price for it.

Other CDs purchased:

  • Anthrax – We’ve Come For You All (sealed German import, $10) I’ve always wanted this album, and I always promised myself I’d get it if I found an import with bonus tracks for a good price.  I have done that now.
  • Deep Purple – Smoke On My Mega-mix ($5) This is a bootleg.  I bought this from the same guy who sold me the Aerosmith “Amazing” single.  Years and years ago, there was a Deep Purple compilation LP called Anthology.  If you bought that and four other singles, you could mail away for a “Smoke On My Mega-mix” exclusive single.  This bootleg has that track, and a whole bunch of other rarities.  One such track is Deep Purple Mk V’s “Fire, Ice & Dynamite” which is only on a DVD called New, Live & Rare.
  • Iron Maiden – Revenge Is Living In the Past (bootleg from A Matter of Life and Death tour, $40)  This is a beautifully packaged triple-gatefold live bootleg.  One of the few recent tours that Maiden have not released a live album from was A Matter of Life and Death.  On that tour, they played the whole album live, and now I have it.  It’s really nicely packaged and I’m looking forward to listening to it soon.

 

“Holy Grails” seen but not purchased:

“Holy Grails” bought:

  • None

One funny story: At record shows, you always find vendors who “know it all”. T-Rev found a CD copy of Kim Mitchell’s self-titled solo EP for $5, but it was burned. Trevor asked, “Do you have the original CD of this? Because if you do, I will buy it.” The vendor swore up and down that no such CD exists. Trevor said, “Yes it does, my buddy has it.” He’s right, because I am that buddy. Here are pictures of my copy of that EP; Amazon are asking over $100 for it, since it went out of print. Photographic proof that it exists below (Wounded Bird CD edition):

Here’s a list of the next bunch of shows.  Attendance is pending funds:

  • London, April 18 2014 (Centennial Hall, 550 Wellington St.)
  • Cambridge, April 27 2014 (Holiday Inn, 200 Holiday Inn Dr.)
  • Woodstock, (Nostalgia Show & Sale), May 25 2014 (Woodstock Fairgrounds, 875 Nellis St.)
  • Ancaster, (Nostalgia Show & Sale), June 22 2014 (Ancaster Fairgrounds, 630 Trinity Rd.)
  • Mississauga, October 19 2014 (Capitol Cenvention Centre, 6435 Dixie Rd.)
  • London, October 26 2014 (Centennial Hall, 550 Wellington St.)

All four of us had a blast.  In the car, Wes commented, “I don’t think I’ve ever had musical conversations like this before!”  Then, I found something out.  Last year, Wes gave me a copy of Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It.”  He did this on condition that I rip and email him the tracks.  I did that as soon as I got home, only I sent them via Trevor, since I didn’t have Wes’ email.

Wes said he never got them.  “I emailed the tracks like a year ago,” I replied.  I explained that Trevor instructed to just send them to him, and he’d forward them along.  That never happened.  Wes said, “All this time I thought it was Ladano’s fault, turns out it’s my friend right here!” and points at Trevor.

This is turning into an annual event.  We might make it semi-annual by checking out the October show.  I’ll be sure to be you posted!

REVIEW: White Wolf – Standing Alone

Bought in April at the Toronto Musical Collectibles Record & CD Sale.  Not listened to in full until October.  Backlog!

WHITE WOLF – Standing Alone (1984 RCA)

From Edmonton, Alberta, Canada came White Wolf.  The land that spawned the massive West Edmonton Mall also produced a hard rock band that combined old fashioned Canadian workmanship with prototypical 80’s rock and heavy metal.  Sharing common ground with bands like Scorpions, Dokken, and even Van Halen and Rainbow, White Wolf weren’t half bad.  The singer Don Wolf (Wilk) has enough power in his voice to raise the roof just enough to be an opening band in an arena.  They’re not quite headline quality, but I bet they were damn good openers.

Their debut album Standing Alone is best known for the single/video “Shadows in the Night”, still my favourite song from the band.  In fact I think it’s quite excellent.  The chugging riff, the excellent vocals and chorus, it has everything!  It even had a suitably cheesy and sexist music video, portraying the band as some sort of wilderness totem hero/villains.  Don’t worry, maybe it’s all a dream, or  just a hell of a bush party/concert?  Hell, I don’t know.

I friggin’ love fur hats! So warm!

Thankfully the album is more than just one song.  The track “Standing Alone” is a mid-tempo but ominous opener, a mournful song about (guess what) standing alone! (Like a wolf?  Layers!)  “Headlines” is uptempo, verging on Priest territory.  Both have plenty of guitar work to go around.  They are followed by “Shadows in the Night” and the seven minute plus “What the War Will Bring”.  This a pretty respectable shot at doing an epic.  Utilizing multiple vocalists and backing keyboards, it’s a tour-de-force suitable for closing side one of the album.

“Night Rider” begins with bad King-Kobra-esque vocal harmonies, but quickly gets into a dual guitar melody before it takes off.  This would be one of the weakest songs with one of those awful, cliche titles.  “Homeward Bound” is a fun song utilizing two lead vocalists, but that riff sure does sound familiar.  Although the guitar rips off “God of Thunder” by Kiss a little bit, this is one of the better songs.  I love the dual vocalist concept, and it’s a fun sleazy romp like 80’s Kiss.  “Metal Thunder” is a pretty poor song title, but a decent stomp through territory previously explored by the likes of Judas Priest.  “Trust Me” is the final song, clearly inspired by Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow.  All it needs is Ronnie James Dio shouting, “Danger! Danger!” and suddenly it’s “Kill the King”.

There’s a certain kind of Canadian mediocrity that exudes from bands like White Wolf and label-mates Thor.  This even extended to bands like Triumph and Helix, at various parts of their careers.  I don’t know what it is, but so many Canadian bands of this sub-genre just failed to explode into fully-fledged world-classic song writing and recording.  Maybe it’s touring in a little van during harsh Canadian winters, but I think I’ve made a valid observation.

All that being said, for the $7.00 I paid for this record, I have no regrets.  Standing Alone doesn’t overstay its welcome, nor does it fail to raise a smile any time I’ve played it.  I’m glad to finally have “Shadows in the Night”, and I’m pleased to induct songs like “Homeward Bound” into my collection for the first time.

3/5 stars