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.)


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y4kTtGbNa-8


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.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9mtBXVbIqHk

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.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lbtWK8h81Sk


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 amazon.ca) 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.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nuwQ5VqHZa4

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.


now...


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.



https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BWIW6Ti0PbE


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!!



SHAMELESS PLUG TIME



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.



https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e1kP0HPjtkI



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!!



Friday, December 12, 2014

Top 5's of 2014 - York and Brenda!

Next up on our Top 5's of 2014 we have my good friends York and Brenda! York and Brenda have been collecting since the 60's, and their collection is only what I can dream mine of becoming someday. They have some of the rarest metal and punk albums ever released (always on the rarest label it seems), as well as absolutely amazing music memorabilia. The best part is that they never bought any of it thinking of future value, it was all bought for the love of the music. While they often listen to the classics, they also make sure to keep up on anything new, especially in Heavy Metal.
 
Here we go:
 
York's Top 5 albums played in 2014!
 
 
Exlibris – Afterreal

Titanium –s/t

Crucified Barbara – In The Red
 
Sanctuary – The Year The Sun Died

Soulhealer – Bear The Cross
 
 
Brenda's Top 5 albums played in 2014  (Brenda has been listening to all albums by these artists so this is her top 5 bands listened to in 2014)!
 
Kiss

Black Sabbath

T Rex

Thin Lizzy

Whitesnake
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Top 5's of 2014: Robert Johnson

 
Next up we have Fredericton's Robert Johnson. Robert is a fellow fan of hair metal and classic rock music. I love catching up with Robert and finding out what he has been listening to.



Here we go:



Top 5 albums of 2014:

 

 
 
Jack White- Lazaretto

 
 
 
 
Ace Frehley- Space Invader

 
Judas Priest- Redeemer Of Souls

 

Weezer- Everything Will Be Alright In The End

 

Foo Fighters- Sonic Highways


Honroable Mention:


Sixx A.M- Modern Vintage

 
The Vines- Wicked Nature

Friday, December 5, 2014

Top 5's of 2014: Matthew Phillips!

I always look forward to getting Matthew's year end list, he always brings it to an entire different level going well beyond only 5. Let's not forget style! I have personally seen Matthew's collection and have never seen somebody take so much pride in how they display. Looks amazing!

So here we go, Matthew Phillips Top 5 of 2014 (and some bonus albums too):



Favorite Albums Of 2014:

This year proved to be another so-so year for my musical tastes and (as with 2013) no KILLER releases were added to my collection. But 2014 did bring some surprises.

A few of my favourite albums came from PledgeMusic campaigns (I’ve made 4 pledges since the end of 2013), and I did discover some new bands.

See also:
www.pledgemusic.com

If you’re interested in the latest, hip music, or even the most popular hard rock… this is not a list for you. I am a classic rock fan thru and thru.

Here are my favourite albums released in 2014
(in chronological order):

 
The Vintage Caravan – Voyage (January 27, 2014)

Bought online from Amazon.ca

A recommendation from a YouTube music reviewer, I bought this debut album on CD having only heard two of the songs, and I was very impressed with the musicianship considering how young this band is. Hailing from Iceland and sounding like a modern take on Black Sabbath, The Vintage Caravan wrote two of my favourite songs of the year to kick off 2014 with a bang:

The trippy “Expand Your Mind”:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RET5bdAYUuQ

The epic 12+ minute “The King’s Voyage”:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BT7QtJR00do
 

Red Dragon Cartel – S/T (February 18, 2014)

A friend bought for me in Chicago at BestBuy

The return of ex-Ozzy guitarist Jake E. Lee!!!!

Last year I bought a copy of Jake’s original “Badlands” album on vinyl from MaritimeVinyl (thanks Brad!)

The Red Dragon Cartel’s debut album is probably my favourite record of the year, and features Darren Smith on vocals (who also drums for Canadian band Harem Scarem). It also features some guest vocalists like Robin Zander of Cheap Trick, Sass Jordan, and original Iron Maiden singer Paul Di'Anno. I would have preferred more vocals from Darren or Robin, but the first 4 songs on this disc are probably my most listened to songs of the year.

“Feeder” featuring Robin Zander:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q9u29BGS0QY
 
 
The Presidents Of The United States Of America signed CD discography, poster and vinyl version of their latest album
  
The Presidents Of The United States Of America – Kudos To You (March 4, 2014)

PledgeMusic campaign new album + live album + signed poster + signed discography

Some might consider PUSA a guilty pleasure, especially if you only remember them from 1995’s “Lump” or “Peaches” (which are still great songs, IMO). Since then they’ve released 5 more studio albums (all solid), some rarities collections and a recent live album called “Thanks For The Feedback!”

My first ever PledgeMusic campaign donation was for their latest album, “Kudos To You”, which I got on CD and vinyl (all signed) along with their discography on CD (also signed!)

Although I made 4 PledgeMusic contributions this year, I am still not 100% happy with this method of buying new music. Some of the perks are nice (like signed merch) but ultimately you end up paying WAY more for your music than just waiting for the CD to show up at Walmart. Still, it feels good knowing that most of your $ goes right to the artists.
 

 
The Pretty Reckless CD collection and their latest album on vinyl
 
 
The Pretty Reckless – Going To Hell (April 19, 2014)

Bought at Bull Moose, Bangor on Record Store Day

The Pretty Reckless are a band I’d heard about but only started listening to this year. I ended up buying all of their discography (2 albums, 2 EPs) in 2014, though their latest “Going To Hell” is definitely the best thing they’ve done. It was recorded twice after Hurricane Sandy flooded their studio.

Taylor Momsen has a great voice for hard rock, and let me just say that their latest album cover also looks great on vinyl J

I regret not being able to see them play live in Portland, ME (at the Asylum) and the Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom back in November. Starting in 2015 they will be opening for Nickelback on a U.S. arena tour.
 
 
Helix – Bastard Of The Blues (May 13, 2014)

Bought direct from Brian Vollmer, signed by him

One of Canada’s hardest working bands is still touring and making records (and they just returned from Europe). While Helix will never be counted among my favourite bands, their last 2 full length discs of new material have been very good and I dare say among their best.
 
Down 'N' Outz – The Further Adventures Of... (May 15, 2014)

Bought online from Amazon.ca

A second CD from Joe Elliott’s side project featuring members of The Quireboys, and doing excellent covers from the Mott The Hoople / Ian Hunter back catalogue. Excellent classic rock with a sometimes weird twist.

Album sampler:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hTk8QvQsKHQ
 

 California Breed – Deluxe Edition w/ CD + DVD (May 28, 2014)

Bought online from Amazon.ca

From the ashes of Black Country Communion (who split up in 2013) comes Glenn Hughes’ next project, featuring (once again) Jason Bonham on drums and an unknown young guitarist, Andrew Watt.

Unfortunately this band formed, released their self-titled debut album, and dissolved all in the span of a year. Jason Bonham has moved on, and I’m curious to see if Glenn keeps this band going or starts another project.
 

 Hurstmile – Retrogrenade (June 30, 2014)

Ordered through PledgeMusic campaign

Gary Cherone (the singer from Extreme) and his brother do a pretty convincing Extreme-lite, with a nice variety of fast, mid-tempo and slow songs, just like you would expect on an Extreme disc. This is their second release, a follow-up to their self-titled album from 2011.


 

Biggest Disappointments Of 2014:

Winger – Better Days Comin'
Since reforming in 2006 (after a 13 year hiatus) Winger have put out 3 albums that have some great tracks but seem to be missing something in the writing process (when compared to their first 3 albums). The music sounds more like Kip Winger solo stuff than full-blown Winger.


Skid Row – Rise Of The Damnation Army - United World Rebellion: Chapter 2
The second EP from Skid Row in 2 years, and not much progress. Still too much punk influence for my tastes. The only one making music similar to early Skid Row is Sebastian Bach with his last two solo discs. His last album “Give ‘Em Hell” almost made it to my 2014 list.
 

Ace Frehley – Space Invader
This record from the ex-KISS lead guitarist had a lot of initial hype, and the early samples sounded great (like it was going to be a solid, guitar-solo-heavy disc). The song writing just doesn’t hold up. As my friend Tim commented, there is a reason that Ace only had a few songs on early KISS albums.


Slash – World On Fire
Guess I shouldn’t be surprised as his last disc made my biggest disappointment list for 2012. I still keep hoping for an album of material as good as his self-titled album of guest vocalists from 2010.


Devin Townsend – Z2 3-Disc Special Edition
No question my biggest disappointment in 2014 is everything Devin put out in 2014.
It started with a PledgeMusic campaign for “Casualties Of Cool” (a country rock concept album), which I was happy to support but have yet to listen to all the way through.
The extra money Devin got from “Casualties” was poured into the next, very heavy Ziltoid record, “Z2”, and it came with a bonus disc called “Sky Blue” (which feels like leftovers from his terrific album from last year, “Epicloud”). Because it’s Devin, I’m going to give this music many more listens but so far nothing has really grabbed me.
Still I hope this record does really well for him. The packaging and artwork for everything he’s done in the last few years has been impressive for such a low profile artist.


2014 releases I have been meaning to get:
  
AC/DC – Rock Or Bust - maybe their last?

Big Sugar – Yardstyle - you would have a hard time finding reggae music in my collection, and to be quite honest I will probably hate this album. But as with Devin Townsend, I feel like I owe Gordie Johnson my support.

Ronnie James Dio This Is Your Life – Various Artists

Tom Petty – Hypnotic Eye - I have a soft spot for his 1994 “Wildflowers” album but I haven’t loved any of his music since.

Joe Satriani – The Complete Studio Recordings (Box Set)

Led Zeppelin – I am waiting to see if they release a boxset for all the 2014 remasters
 
Queensr├┐che – A second disc from the re-invigorated band featuring Todd LaTorre on vocals is in the works on PledgeMusic and being released (hopefully) in early 2015.


Releases I am looking forward to in 2015:
Some favourite bands I am pretty confident will be releasing new music in 2015:

Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds

The Darkness


Faith No More - not a fan of their recent “Motherfucker” single that also got a vinyl release for Black Friday but I have yet to dislike one of their albums with Mike Patton.

Stereophonics

The Winery Dogs

 … Iron Maiden?

 …Guns ‘N’ Roses?

 
Some random vinyl I was happy to find this year including:
Brian Wilson's (The Beach Boys) first solo album
Metallica "Lords Of Summer" 12" single from Black Friday
INXS 12" vinyl singles
Joe Satriani 12" EP re-release
Ghostbusters green glow-in-the-dark single for Record Store Day
Devin Townsend "Luck Animals" signed single
Poison "Unskinny Bop" 12" picture disc single
 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Top 5 of 2014 - Uncle Rob!

Another year is coming to a close which means its time for year end lists all over the web to start popping up. This is the third year doing these Top 5 Lists for Maritime Vinyl and they have proven to be quite popular.

These lists are a bit different than others, being that the albums did not have to be released in 2014. These lists are the Top 5 albums that vinyl lovers listened to in 2014.

So lets start this off with Uncle Rob from 105.3 The Fox, this being his 3rd year contributing (thanks Rob):

Uncle Rob:

The top 5 vinyl to visit my turntable in 2014 would probably look something like this…

 


 
 5. Tokyo Police Club-Forcefield (2014)…making pop music cool again, VERY cool indeed.

4. Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers-L.A.M.F. (1977) Johnny personifies no-frills rock n roll.

3. The Waterboys-This Is The Sea (1985)…We’ll call this a huge rediscovery.

2. Arctic Monkeys-AM (2013)…these guys have a knack of sucking me in. Love the vibe of this LP.

1. Motherhood-Diamonds & Gold (2013)…because it’s perfect.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Classic Single: Rush - In The Mood!


In the Mood is a single from the Canadian progressive rock band Rush from their debut self-titled album which was released in 1974. It is one of two singles from this early LP: the other being the album opening track called Finding My Way.
 
 
 
Neil Peart was not yet a member of Rush for this first album, instead it features original drummer John Rutsey (who left the band after this album due to health reasons). While Peart’s later addition definitely helped give Rush their unique full sound, Rutsey has some solid drumming here. Even without Peart, with Alex Lifesons guitar and Geddy Lee’s vocals and bass, there is no questioning its Rush straight from the opening notes.

 

The original sessions for this album were recorded at Eastern Sound Studio in Toronto and were completed during the studios slow time late at night which allowed them much cheaper rates. These initial recordings were produced by Dave Stock, but the band was unhappy with the outcome so they re-did most of the album at Toronto Sound Studios and did the production themselves. This single, In The Mood, was recorded during the initial sessions at Eastern Sound.

B-side to In The Mood is What You're Doing which opens side B on the album.
 

The debut album was initially released by Rush on their own record label, Moon Records, since no other label showed any interest. As it gained popularity, they were signed to Mercury Records where it was re-released. Mercury released this single: In The Mood.

 

Note** Rush’s true first single was Not Fade Away (Buddy Holly cover) which was released on their Moon label prior to their first album.

 

It never ceases to amaze me how collectible these Rush singles are becoming. While they are not easy to find, they do seem to show up frequently here in Canada. Rush is bigger than ever in other countries lately, and these fans sure do pay top dollar for the singles. Their original Moon records single Not Fade Away demands well over $400 anytime it appears, while early singles like In The Mood often bring in $50-100 (sometimes higher if in really great condition).