Saturday, February 7, 2015

John Coltrane - Live at Birdland

As I find myself busy with family, work, and reading, jazz music is the perfect soundtrack to give me a relaxing atmosphere. It’s like a form of meditation, completely allowing me to get lost in the music, noticing a new note or drum fill buried deep in the song, always taking away just a little bit more after every listen.

The very first jazz album I bought was John Coltrane – Live at Birdland, which I found on CD at a thrift store about 10 years ago. It was a hard listen the first time, I’ll admit. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy it, I just didn’t seem to understand. To be honest I still don’t think I understand, but I’m really enjoying trying to figure it out. For ten years I’ve been looking for this on vinyl at a decent price.

Older jazz records tend to be hard to find cheap, at least in my area. It’s likely most people who bought these albums knew what they were seeking and tended to hang onto them. Also, to stereotype a bit, jazz tended to be the music of choice of higher income people, as if it represented their success like an expensive suit, Cadillac or jewelry. These fans are less likely to sell used items as the small financial gain wouldn’t be as important to them. While these albums do exist and can be bought, it is usually at a premium. At least, for the most part, jazz albums tended to be cared for by most collectors. 

Last weekend I beat the odds and found a great deal on a small jazz collection. This collection had a nice mint copy of Live at Birdland. The stereo recording on this vinyl record is so well done and crisp, it’s like rediscovering this album for the first time.

Live at Birdland contains 3 tracks that were recorded live at New York City’s Birdland Club on October 8, 1963, as well as two studio tracks recorded the following month. My favorite track is probably the studio number Alabama which was written after a white Supremacist bombing that killed four children at 16th Baptist Church in September 1963. It is so easy to tell Coltrane was expressing something traumatic even without saying a single word. It is such a sad beautiful song.

Musicians are: McCoy Tyner on piano, Jimmy Garrison on bass, Elvin Jones on drums and John Coltrane on tenor and soprano saxes.

John Coltrane had a relatively short solo recording career which spanned from 1957 until his death in 1967. Prior to that he was a sideman in many bands, most notably with Miles Davis until being fired due to his heroin addiction. Being fired led him to begin his solo career which coincided with him also playing with other bands including The Thelonious Monk Quartet (also more on/off again performances with Miles Davis). During this solo period his music changed dramatically from contemporary to modal jazz (modal jazz is based around musical notes, while contemporary is based more around chord progressions), so he is an artist where you may only like select albums, depending on your taste. Live at Birdland was recorded just before his modal jazz masterpiece, A Love Supreme.  During this period, he is still in transition, let’s say 25% contemporary and 75% modal, which makes this is a perfect record to introduce you to the latter.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Top 5's of 2014 - Mike Bravener

I know it's now 2015, but I had one late comer with a top 5 list and definitely want to share. Mike Bravener always throws recommendations my way for new music and most of the time I agree with his taste. I always look forward to find out his years favorites.
Here is Mike in his own words:


1- Paolo Nutini - Sunny Side Up 

Sunny Side up was released in 2009, so it’s a few years old and I don’t know why it took me so long to find it. It was by chance that I discovered it. When I worked at Chapters I heard this song 10 out of 10 playing in the background and I swore I was listening to a Bob Marley track. I shazam’d the track and found out that it was Paolo. He’s a Scottish born Italian with a vocal style that is soulful, reggae, mellow and fun!! This CD has 12 tracks and I couldn’t stop listening to it for almost 4 months. My favourite track is one called “Pencil Full Of Lead” and has a big band sound and is pure fun.

The Cd was followed up in 2014 by Paolo’s 3rd full release called “Caustic Love” which has an old Motown, RnB sound.

Sunny Side up was a “Heather’s Choice” at Indigo which means if you bought it and didn’t like it,
you could return it. It’s now a Mike’s Choice. Most played CD of the year for me

2- Queen - Live at The Rainbow’ 74 - 4 LP vinyl Box set

I love Queen and Freddie so getting a chance to hear Freddie and the band when they were just starting out live is a treat! He could still hit all of the high notes and he was starting to build his stage banter and repertoire. The musicianship is incredible and what you hear is Rock n Roll. Songs are from their 1st three LP’s so for anybody who only knows Queen from Bohemian Rhapsody onward and fell in love with them. GET This 4 LP collection or double CD. Also they released full concert DVD or blue ray, remixed and remastered. 

Stands up to and beats, in my opinion, any Queen live concert footage from the 80’s. Complete with liner notes and mp3 download card, I now have Freddie singing me to sleep through my iPod most nights. Stone Cold Crazy originally from the LP Sheer Heart Attack, and here live at the Rainbow.

3- Queen - Forever 2 cd deluxe edition

OK People complained that the queen marketing machine took mostly songs that have been released, which is true, added 3 new unreleased Freddie tracks and voila an easy $15.00. The 3 unreleased tracks are great. One unreleased track includes Freddie singing with Michael Jackson “There Must Be More To Life Than This” What’s interesting Michael Jackson’s vocal was weak and leads me to believe his portion was a demo. I dunno for sure. The other 2 unreleased tracks are strong and have that classic Queen sound. I’m hoping they got more because it’s great hearing new tracks from my favorite vocalist of all time. Let Me in Your Heart Again is on repeat when I drive, Great and haunting tune. It’s like Freddie is asking us to open up to Old Queen again.

 And that’s what this collection does. It takes some familiar Queen tunes like “Love Of My Life” or “Somebody To Love” and puts them alongside incredible tracks like “Nevermore” You’re probably saying “Never heard that tune. It’s on their 2nd LP Queen 2. So you listen to that song and wonder hmmm what’s the rest of the LP Like? I think it could be right up alongside A Day At The Races and A Night at The Opera. Some of their best material is on Queen 2

4- Bruce Springsteen - High Hopes

Well what can you say about the BOSS. Some really neat tunes on here, Almost like they were left over from Wrecking Ball. Two cuts stand out and play regularly on my iPod. First “Frankie Fell In Love” Catchy fun tune about what love is and how it doesn’t make sense. The 2nd track that stands out is a track called “This Is Your Sword. I love hope and this song screams hope, never give up and that’s why I love this LP. the title track High Hopes should have been on the radio somewhere. I know this will get me in trouble with a lot of people but I believe that the modern King Of Rock N Roll is Bruce Springsteen. Sorry Elvis!

5- Dolly Parton - Both Sides of

Now this is a surprise to me, but I’m hooked on to Dolly Parton, and this LP has a collection of some of her greatest hits. Pure fun, pure story telling, and the more you listen to Dolly’s voice you get hooked. Did you know she’s outselling Carrie Underwood, Taylor Swift and others in Europe? Yessiree. Now I’ve know about her, liked her songs but the more I dug into her discography I discovered that there is some great Americana.

And here is something interesting… Try and find a Dolly LP on vinyl in great shape in any record store. You Can’t. When Dolly joins that great bluegrass combo in the sky her LP’s will be worth their mint in gold. Her first single, Puppy Love, was listed on eBay recently for $5000.00

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Cory Paul Hill - Where We Live

Where We Live is the debut album from Fredericton’s own Cory Paul Hill. According to his bio on his website, Cory considers himself a songwriter first and instrumentalist second. This album proves he has what it takes to succeed at both. He is a strong multi-instrumentalist and an even stronger lyricist. This album features twelve songs of heartache, loss, love and death.

The music falls close to the folk-rock genre, but I hear lots of country influence in his vocals as well. During slow numbers like The Right Time, it reminds me of a Garth Brooks ballad with slow acoustic picking and strong vocals (I can swear I also hear a pedal steel far away in the background). These slow ballads like The Right Time and I Do is where I think Cory excels the most as a songwriter.

But all songs are not this slow and folky: the opening track, Where We Live, has some distorted guitars and drums sounding steering it farther away from folk and closer to rock.

Cory did all the recording himself and did a decent job. The mix is not consistent and I found myself adjusting the volume on my stereo often between tracks. Some songs have his vocals a bit too loud, but others have it damn near perfect. I don’t see any of this as negative, he did a hell of a job doing this by himself, but perhaps with a little bit of guidance he could make this even better.

The only real flaw I found on this album is that he seems to be trying to make some songs catchy using gimmicks. There are a few too many “la de da’s” and “do dee do’s.” My favorite track on the album is I Do, but I personally think it doesn't need those added fillers in the background. Cory has enough talent and skill as a songwriter that the “catchiness” is not required, these songs can hold their own ground.

Where We Live is available for as a CD or digital download at It’s a great first effort from some young local talent. With the right guidance and loads of persistence, I can see Cory going far with his music.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Top 5's of 2014 - Bete Smith

Next up on our Top 5's of 2014 we have another good pal Bete Smith. It's always exciting for me to get Bete's list as he mainly listens to Hip-Hop. I love this genre but am usually lost on what to try. Luckily Bete gives me a few picks throughout the year to help keep me in the loop on the genre. 

Here is Bete in his own words:

My picks for 2014 (with a few short comments) are below:

Top 5 (in no particular order)

Flying Lotus - You're Dead: Growth

D'Angelo - Black Messiah: Worth the wait

Diamond District - March on Washington / M.o.W. Redux: The best hip hop album of the year, followed by the year's best remix collection. Well done.

Budos Band - Burnt Offering: Sinister. In the groove.

The Bug - Angels and Devils: Badman.

(honourable mention)

Shabazz Palaces - Lese Majesty

Sturgill Simpson - Metamodern Sounds in Country Music

Taylor McFerrin - Early Riser

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Top 5's of 2014: Shawn Williston

Next up on the Top 5's of 2014 we have my pal Shawn Williston. A fellow blogger and music nut, I always look forward to Shawn's list and still miss the old days when he would bring a mixed tape of his favorites to the New Years party. 

Here is Shawn in his own word:

I won't go crazy with big write ups this year, as the blog moved into more of a reviews site this year and I feel like I already said most of what there is to say. And instead of ranking them like I usually do, this year I boiled it down to five nominees with the winner being announced later. So these are in alphabetical order:

AGAINST ME!: Transgender Dysphoria Blues
Though it may be an album explicitly about gender transformation, Against Me's sixth album ends up being implicitly more about accepting one's true nature without fear or judgment. That it also happens to be packed with some of the band's sharpest, most personal tunes makes it an unflinching, unforgettable record that begs to be played and played again.
Check out: Osama bin Laden as the Crucified Christ, FUCKMYLIFE666, Black Me Out

Best known for pioneering vanguard groups At The Drive-In and The Mars Volta, Omar Rodriguez-Lopez and Cedric Bixler-Zavala are beginning to build a reputation for burning it all down and starting over whenever they see fit. There weren't many places to go from the gonzo stylings of The Mars Volta, so Antemasque finds them reaching back even further than At The Drive-In, dabbling in '80s post punk and new wave with typically thrilling results from a duo whose forte is thrilling results.
Check out: 4AM, In the Lurch, 50,000 Kilowatts

HE IS LEGEND: Heavy Fruit
One of the most under-the-radar hard rock bands of the '00s wake from a half-decade slumber with another major progression in sound. Their bag of tricks threatens to overflow by times, but this monstrous record proves they're not just trying on hats; they're making them all look good.
Check out: This Will Never Work, No Visitors, Time to Stain

Seeking to reestablish guitars as the driving force behind their divine racket, Cope finds Manchester Orchestra squeezing every last drop of blood and sweat from all six strings. Their trademark vulnerable beauty still resides underneath, but this time out it's drowning under a thick blanket of churning, guttural noise.
Check out: Top Notch, The Ocean, Cope

SWANS: To Be Kind
If 2012's The Seer was an out-of-nowhere late career highlight 30 years in the making, To Be Kind is a simultaneous refinement and unraveling of that record. Challenging in the best possible way, this is a record that straps you down demands attention for the entirety of its two hour runtime. It's provocative but stunning, exhaustive but majestic. A complete and total triumph.
Check out: A Little God in My Hands, Bring the Sun/Toussaint L'Ouverture, Oxygen

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Top 5's of 2014 - Kevin Osmond!

Next up we have Kevin Osmond from Always great to see another vinyl fan with a love for 90's music.

Here's Kevin in his own words:

These albums got the most play on the turntable, MP3 and CD.

Alice in Chains - all of it - epic stuff and got to see them in Halifax in 2014 and the "new" singer killed it!

Catherine Wheel - Chrome - reminded me of what a spacey, rocking album this is and a great driving companion.

Methods of Mayhem - Tommy Lee and friends kicking butt and taking names.

 System of a Down - Toxicity - melodic, operatic rock. Dig the shifting speeds and erratic rythyms.

Bush - they had a good run on Sattelite Radio this Fall, so I pulled out the CD's and downloaded some of their best stuff.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Top 5's of 2014 (KISS EDITION) - Tim Durling

Next up on the Top 5 lists is Tim Durling. Actually, instead of a top five this year Tim decided to discuss all the great new Kiss items released in 2014. Tim has a great new video blog called Tim's Vinyl Confessions as well. This is a great blog that has loads of great info, Tim sure knows his stuff. He has a link at the end of his write-up, so be sure to check out his site.

So here is Tim in his own words:

My year end review is going to be a little different. My personal musical tastes tend to run in the classic rock vein, and although there were a handful of decent releases this year by some of my 70s-80s favourites (i.e. Winger, Helix, Night Ranger, Tesla, Skid Row) there were no new albums that completely knocked me out.

But that doesn't mean it wasn't an exciting musical year for me.

To the dismay of their many critics over the years, KISS reached their fortieth year as a recording act in 2014, and with the new year came plenty of new KISS "product." Now as a fan, I will say that over the years, I grew weary of all their "product" because it was getting to the point where the merch was outweighing the music. I have a full set of the 1997 Todd MacFarlane KISS figures, couple of t-shirts, and a few other similar items, but I don't crave that stuff. Call me animal, but I happen to enjoy KISS for their music. And thankfully, this year the products they released were (mostly) musical.

First, let's the get the elephant in the room out of the way (which is no doubt the sentiment of many in the nominating committee in Cleveland)...15 long years after first becoming eligible, the "Hottest Band in the World" finally received their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. However, for a group whose hits include titles like "Shout it out Loud" and "I Love it Loud," the ceremony was a rather muted affair. Due to continued backbiting between former members Ace Frehley and Peter Criss, with founders and constants Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons, no one in any of their respective camps could come to an agreement beyond going up and making their speeches (only the original four members were inducted, though to their credit, Paul and Gene did acknowledge all members past and present) -- meaning that no version of KISS performed. Which is a real shame, because I feel it would have shown the music "intelligensia" which had rallied against KISS as being all visual no substance, that this band is comprised of good musicians and good songs.

(Side note: to any of you reading this who don't have any appreciation for their music, well, thanks for reading this far!! But also, I would encourage anyone to watch their MTV Unplugged performance. You may still not enjoy their music, that's subjective, but upon viewing I can't see where anyone couldn't admit, that this band does indeed know how to play.)

Now, the music. There have been several KISS compilations released over the years, to say the least. And in my opinion, none of them have been anything you could call comprehensive, for various reasons. First of all, a group as prolific as KISS (especially in the 70s through the mid 80s) can't fully be distilled onto a single CD. The closest thing would probably be 1988's Smashes, Thrashes, and Hits, even though that raised eyebrows for replacing Peter Criss's vocals on "Beth" with those of then-current drummer Eric Carr, who tragically passed away in 1991. Also, in the years following the 1996 reunion of the original foursome (which didn't last), compilations that followed (and indeed, the group's own setlists) tended to downplay, or just plain omit the group's non-makeup years, which produced more than a few hit singles.

KISS '40' (subtitled "Decades of Decibels") changed that in 2014.  

Released in May, '40' is a sprawling, two-disc set of music from their 1974 debut album, all the way through their most recent studio album, 2012's Monster. What is remarkable about this release, is that it is the most balanced compilation ever conceived by any combination of band and/or label. This follows a strict rule of one song per album, including live albums, previous comps that had new material, and one song from each of the original four's 1978 solo albums (collectively known as "The KISS Albums"). There are also plenty of live cuts starting at '75 and ending in 2010. So even though there are bound to be certain fans' "must-haves" missing, the casual fan will recognize most of the songs here, even if some are alternate and/or live versions. They even included a never-before released demo from 1977, "Reputation." This is a Gene Simmons penned and sung tune quite typical of the Demon's output at that time. In fact, astute fans will hear bits of what became later "actual" KISS songs like "Christine Sixteeen," "Ladies Room," even "Radioactive" which appeared on Gene's eclectic 1978 solo disc.

Besides the great track selection, I also have to commend the inner sleeve artwork and contents. Each page contains pictures of the group, along with the associated albums. The back cover of the booklet also lists every member of KISS, even late guitarist Mark St. John, whose tenure with the group only lasted for one album (1984's Animalize) and only part of the ensuing tour.

Another KISS release followed later this year, with the deluxe reissue of 1977's Love Gun. This album was for many years, the highest charting KISS album, going all the way to #3 here in Canada, #4 in Billboard. It contained the top 30 single "Christine Sixteen," as well as other songs which would become concert staples, such as "I Stole Your Love," Ace's debut as a vocalist "Shock Me," and the iconic title cut, one of Paul Stanley's personal favourite KISS songs, which he claims to have written on a plane, without any instruments.

As part of Universal Music's Deluxe Edition series, this is a generally well-done release. I have their reissue of Def Leppard's Hysteria, and want to pick up two others that just came out this year, namely Bon Jovi's New Jersey and Bryan Adams's Reckless. But I digress...

The draw for longtime fans is obviously the material on disc two, a grab-bag of demo versions of familiar songs, songs that had never been released before (including another appearance of "Reputation") live tracks, and a 1977 CHUM-FM interview with Gene Simmons prior to their show at the Montreal Forum -- a show, I might add, with a brand new opening act by the name of Cheap Trick.

For me, the most fascinating bit is the "Love Gun" teaching demo which is literally what it sounds like, Paul Stanley showing someone (presumably Ace) how to play a song that up till then, only existed in the mind of the Starchild.

Now onto important stuff like the packaging. The original Love Gun record came out with all kinds of goodies, as was the norm for KISS in their 1970s heyday, not least of which was an actual toy "love gun" that is just about impossible to find these days, especially unassembled. The deluxe reissue CD was advertised as containing a reproduction of the gun as a magnet.

I stress the word 'advertised' because my copy (purchased from contained no such magnet :-( On the bright side, I did receive a slight discount for this reason. Guess I will have to learn to live with it (that was sarcasm.)

The inner packaging is also very well done, starting off with an essay by none other than Def Leppard vocalist Joe Elliott, who incidentally co-headlined a successful tour with KISS this past year. For me it was cool to see the singer of one of my favourite bands, waxing poetic about another of my favourite bands. Yet it was puzzling to me because being a DL fan for much longer than I've been into KISS, I have read and seen countless interviews with the various Lep members talking about their influences, and never seen KISS mentioned. Joe would always give props to mostly intrinsically British acts like Mott the Hoople, David Bowie, Sweet, the Who, Mott the Hoople, Thin Lizzy, Queen, oh, and Mott the Hoople. I'm not saying he wasn't a genuine KISS fan back then, it just struck me as a little surprising that he would get the job of doing the writeup, as opposed to someone a little more "hip," for instance Tom Morello, who I must admit did a fine job introducing KISS at the Hall of Fame induction.

I look forward to possibly more deluxe treatments of their albums in the future. Dynasty, maybe?

2014 also brought a new album from original KISS guitarist Ace Frehley, his first since 2009's Anomaly. Given the vastly altered state of buying and selling music these days, it is perhaps not so surprising that Ace fans and the KISS army (not necessarily one and the same) purchased enough copies of Space Invader to give it a #9 debut in Billboard, far and away the highest charting Ace Frehley album; though obviously chart position means far less than it did in previous years. (If one of Ace's Frehley's Comet albums debuted in the top 10 back in the 80s, it would have no doubt outsold any of KISS's albums during the same period.)

If this cover art looks very "classic KISS," there's a good reason for that. Ace was smart enough to enlist the design talents of one Ken Kelly, who was also responsible for the album art of Destroyer and Love Gun. As for the album itself, in my opinion not terribly different from any other Ace album. A few standout songs and a lot of filler. This was the first single, and probably one of the better cuts on Space Invader.

Ace just isn't a vocalist, and could really have benefitted from a co-lead singer on this. When the song suits him, the results are catchy and cool. But to listen to that voice over the course of an entire album, well...

Also, unusual for Frehley, for once he doesn't hit it out of the park with a cover tune. In the past, Ace has demonstrated perhaps surprising insight when it comes to covering songs. In his time with KISS, he was the only member of the group to score a hit with the 1978 solo albums, with his version of the Russ Ballard-penned "New York Groove," a UK hit for the group Hello in 1975. (note: Ballard was also a member of the band Argent, and with that band penned the song "God Gave Rock and Roll to You" which KISS recorded and partially rewrote in 1992, long after Ace had left. If you're a Ritchie Blackmore/Rainbow fan, you'll know Ballard's writing from their "Since You Been Gone" and "I Surrender.") And he completely reinvented an obscure Rolling Stones song to suit his persona, when he covered the Jagger-Richards composition "2000 Man" in 1979. Over the course of his solo years he also delivered faithful covers of ELO's "Do Ya" and more recently Sweet's "Fox on the Run." So I was extremely disappointed in Ace's rendition of Steve Miller's "The Joker." First of all it is such an overplayed tune that it is practically impossible to breathe new life into it; also he attempts to alter its arrangement which in my opinion falls completely flat, and creates even more wasted "space" on Space Invader. Don't get me wrong, I like Ace and I'm glad he put out some new music, but I always feel he's capable of better.


Given that this is Maritime Vinyl, it's only appropriate (it's only right now?) that we talk about vinyl.

Universal Music recognized KISS's 40th year in a big way this year, with a massive vinyl reissue campaign.


For the insane (read: filthy rich) fan, there's the massive vinyl box set. And for the rest of us, the records (love saying 'the records') are available one by one. Now as a longtime fan, I already had much of their vinyl, but now albums from the 90s and beyond became available that had never been on vinyl in North America, and in some cases ever.  

1992's Revenge is generally considered to be one of the finest KISS albums from the non-makeup era. It was a return to harder rock after flirtations with Bon Jovi-style pop metal which probably reached its apex with 1987's Crazy Nights album. This album would have been released in various territories on vinyl when it first came out, but this is the first time I got a copy.

I was so excited to get this on vinyl. The striking artwork on this album was done by none other than Hugh Syme, one of the finest in rock album art design. If you're a fan of Rush, you'll be familiar with his work, having worked with that band (who early on shared many a stage with KISS) from Caress of Steel onward.

Also exciting for me was the vinyl release of 1998's Psycho Circus. Universal faithfully produced, in glorious 12x12" dimensions, the lenticular cover art that was on the CD of this release.

I am sure I will be making more purchases of the 2014 KISS vinyl reissues, but for now, I'm just glad to see them available. And lest anyone think no one under the age of 40 is interested, my 14 year old nephew Will (a newly-minted HUGE fan) has purchased way more of the vinyl than I have, snapping up KISS, Dynasty, Lick it Up, Asylum, Revenge, and Monster, and I'm sure more to come. Long Live Vinyl my friends!!


I hope you've enjoyed reading this, and if you're fan of classic rock (since I already know you're a fan of vinyl), I urge you to check out my show Tim's Vinyl Confessions on Facebook and YouTube. This is my KISS TVC episode.

In closing, 2014 appears to have been a great year for KISS, it was a fantastic year for me, and I hope it was for you as well. Wishing you all Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!