Thursday, July 10, 2014

Revisiting a Classic: CSNY - Looking Forward!


It’s hard to believe that it has been 15 years since any new studio albums appeared in stores from Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. Of course, the quartet has made many appearances and even toured since, but their last studio album, Looking Forward, was released in October 1999. This is the eighth studio album for CSN and the third to feature Neil.

 
 

 
 
This album began as a CSN album, but after their label Atlantic dropped them due to low sales, they started funding recording on their own dime. It was around this time that Neil Young joined in making it a CSNY LP. Also, when Neil got involved, his label Reprise decided to pursue the album with them.

 

Even though it is not their best remembered effort, this LP does have some great moments. The song Slowpoke is my favorite. It has Neil handling the lead vocals and CSN coming in for their ever famous harmonies at the chorus. It’s a very slow tempo acoustic song with Neil’s reflective lyrics, harmonica, and a pedal steel guitar giving it that Harvest/Harvest Moon/Prairie Wind feel.

 
Another honorable mention is Crosby’s Dream For Him. It has a cool rhythm guitar with lots of hammer-on’s and palm mutes as well as a very clean lead guitar playing throughout the vocals. Plus the drummer (Joe Vitale on this tune) uses this catchy jazz style hi-hat rhythm that works well. This is a deep song looking for ways to discuss difficult issue such as death, lies and politics to a child. It has great lyrics and singing in this tune, plus I love that you can still hear the protesting hippie side of Crosby in his songs.

 

Stills and Nash also contributed on the album, handling the lead on their share. Stills’ opening track Faith in Me has a real Caribbean feel to it which is fun and Nash handles a few beautiful slow songs: Heartland and Someday Soon.

 

Even if this album is not recognized as one of their best, with these four strong songwriters creating an album together, you know it’s going to be pretty damn good and in my opinion it’s great! Plus, you know when CSNY gets together they always include an all-star list of studio musicians on their albums and Looking Forward is no exception. Some of my favorite musicians appear on this album including Spooner Oldham on keyboards, Donald “Duck” Dunn on bass and Ben Keith on pedal steel  (there are many more musicians involved in this album, but these are just three particular names that jumped out at me).

 
This album has been out of print for a long time now, but one good part of this digital era is that the music is still easily available even if the physical copies are getting trickier to find. I have yet to find it on vinyl but for now I’ll make do with my CD copy.

 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Secondspin Records is coming to Fredericton!

It’s official, Secondspin Records is opening a new store in Fredericton, New Brunswick (79 York Street). Kris from Secondspin took the time to answer a few questions below:



Please introduce yourselves and tell us a bit about Secondspin!

My brother (Mike) and I (Kris Hopper) opened the shop in Saint John in 2003 and will be celebrating 11 years in business here on July10th.....and plan on opening the shop in Fredericton on Aug 9th!!!



What is it like owning a record store in 2014? Vinyl really made a big comeback in the last five years, have you noticed a change from when you first opened in 2003 up to today? Do you typically see a young crowd coming to your store or does the age group vary?

Over the last 5 years the amount of young people getting into collecting has blown us away and all the folks that collected years ago are jumping back on it. I think right now is perfect timing for the shop in Freddy.....it was always the plan to eventually open in the Capital.



Will this location just be records or also comics and toys like St. John?

Vinyl only shop, NO CDS! Strictly vinyl, turntables (R ega & Denon), and a huge selection of posters and t-shirts.



Congratulations on the upcoming Fredericton location. I am really looking forward to the shop and I know many others who feel the same.


I hope everyone in Fredericton is ready to see some great pieces of Wax next month.....if you don't see it in the shop we will get no problem. 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Revisiting a Classic - Leatherwolf!

I’m going to have to label this summer my “Summer of Hair Metal”! While I continuously listen to folk, rock, jazz, blues, etc.. I always seem to be leaning towards putting hair metal on the turntable during the evenings.  
This week’s #1 pick is the second self-titled album by the American heavy metal band Leatherwolf.


Leatherwolf was formed in California in 1981, and has since released five studio albums (and are still active today). Early in their career, they were often seen touring along with bands like Metallica and Slayer until being noticed by record label Tropical Records (Enigma) whom agreed to release their debut album in 1986 (this year varies from 1984-1986 in many sources I have read, www.discogs.com has it down 1986 as their earliest pressing so I’m betting on that year). This was the only album released on Tropical as they moved to the major label Island Records after its release. This is where they released the album that I own, which too is self-titled (confusing).


The lineup for this album consisted of: Michael Olivieri on vocals/guitar, Carey Howe and Geoffrey Gayer on guitars, Paul Carman on bass and Dean Roberts on drums. This three axe attack of guitars was crazy for this release. There were extreme progressive solos, dual solos, synchronized solos; I love these “battle of the guitar” type albums.

I really like the opening track Rise or Fall in particular. With the slow clean guitar intro which leads to the addition of two lead guitars, all leading to a big smash of heavy drums, distortion and glam style vocals. Now that’s a solid intro.


There are many styles of songs featured on this album, most stay in that mid tempo metal range. These songs are not too fast (and not so slow its boring), but consistent leaving lots of room for the guitarists to breathe with their complex solos. Most of the songs stick to this formula, but the always anticipated rock ballad also makes an appearance in Share a Dream, plus they threw in a cool cover of CCR’s Bad Moon Rising just for good measure.


This is at the top of the pile for hair metal albums in my collection. A safe bet for all you 80’s rock fans and a must have for any metal collection.





Saturday, June 14, 2014

Revisiting a classic: Blue Murder!

Blue Murder was a heavy metal band that was active from 1988-1994. It was formed by Whitesnake guitarist John Sykes (also played with Thin Lizzy and Tygers of Pan Tang) after he parted ways with the band. He teamed up with Carmine Appice on drums (Vanilla Fudge, King Kobra) and Tony Franklin (The Firm) on bass. Sykes tried out a few vocalists for the band including Ray Gillen (Badlands, Black Sabbath), but eventually took over lead vocals himself.


This group did not need to work hard for a record deal, Whitesnake’s label Geffen was eager to profit off of John Sykes’ ties with the hugely popular band. They also got the band a great producer, Bob Rock, who previously worked with The Cult and Kingdom Come and would go on to producer legendary albums by Metallica, Motley Crue, Skid Row, and many more. Together they released this debut self-titled album in 1989.

From their three resumes alone, it’s easy to assume the musicianship would be incredible, and it is. Carmine’s drumming is tight and non-flashy as always, and Tony is exactly what you want in a bass player for a trio like this. He keeps the bass lines busy, leaving lots of backing for John to let out his crazy guitar solos. Of course John Sykes’ guitar capabilities need no introduction after hearing his past Whitesnake material, but he really takes it to a whole new level on this album. Shredding solos with plenty of harmonic squeals (which I love). I particularly like his solos on the second track Sex Child and later on the song Billy. This album is a must-have for any aspiring heavy metal guitarist.



What got me nervous was Sykes handling the lead vocals. Oftentimes you see lead guitarists leave to release solo albums and the singing is usually subpar. That’s not the case with Sykes. He can nail these metal vocals, hitting all the screechy high notes and holding them for a hell of a long time. His singing absolutely blew me away on this album.

This debut album gathered a bit of attention when it was initially released. With plenty of heavy catchy tunes such as Riot, Sex Child and Black-Hearted Woman, it fit in nicely with the late 80’s metal. Of course no late 80’s album would be complete without a cheesy rock ballad, and Blue Murder lets us off easy with just one, Out of Love.



Unfortunately, the band was soon lost in the grunge takeover of the early 90’s only managing to release one more album, Nothin’ but Trouble (1993), before calling it quits. Blue Murder did gain somewhat of a cult status, being named by many as a major influence. I was reading in an article in Classic Rock magazine a few months back where Myles Kennedy of Alter Bridge was praising the hell out of this album, and rightfully so! 

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Led Zeppelin Remasters!

I have been anxiously waiting for these Led Zeppelin remasters that were released this week. This is the most excited I have been for a reissue since The Beatles in 2009, but this is even better since they have included so many extras, including a live concert from Paris in 1969.

This post is not a review, but instead my observations. It’s kind of a bragging post if you will, since I love them so much. There are literally hundreds of reviews online, so there is no need for me to repeat what has already been said.

I have been eyeing each of the different editions online since they were announced a few months back. If you don’t already know, here are the options:

1-      Original album remastered – available on vinyl and CD
2-      Deluxe editions: This includes the original remastered album in addition to an extra disc of rarities. These are all double albums except for Led Zeppelin 1 which comes on three vinyl (but still only 2 CD’s).
3-      Super Deluxe Box Set: This contains the deluxe vinyl, deluxe CD, high resolution downloads, tour program reissue, press photos, a numbered print of the album cover and a hardcover book.

I was originally planning on just getting the deluxe vinyl issue of each, but unfortunately they have been backordered at most record stores in Canada (a few have them, but I think their distributors are from the USA). I planned on waiting, but patience is not one of my strong points. Instead, I opted to buy Led Zeppelin 1 – Super Deluxe box, and Zeppelin 2 and 3 on deluxe CD.


First, I will discuss the deluxe CD’s. I was pretty nervous to get these since the packaging looked similar to The Beatles remasters. I absolutely hate the CD sleeves for The Beatles since when you slide the CD in the gatefold, it often hits the seam causing glue on the edge of the CD’s. Once I discovered this flaw I simply inserted a folded piece of paper between the CD and the sleeve to fix this issue, but still, a poor design in my opinion.  


What’s great is these sleeves are much better than this. They fold out three wide and the discs insert from the top rather than the side. NO GLUE! Perfect. I am super happy with this new packaging. The new remasters sound amazing and the bonus material is all fantastic. There is not one single track that I didn’t enjoy. Plus, they each come with these great book inserts.

Now the real gem, The Super Deluxe!!



This is the first vinyl super deluxe box set I have ever bought, so this is a real treat for me. The actual box is beautiful hard covered with a textured finish. It opens up to reveal the beautiful 180gram vinyl. There are two sleeves, one for the original album and one for the double bonus live concert. The cover on the bonus discs is different as well.
Both CD’s are packaged in mini replica sleeves of the vinyl.


The hard cover book is very attractive and loaded with all kinds of goodies like magazine articles and photos.


The print of the album cover comes on some nice heavy textured paper and looks great up on the wall.


The tour program replica is a nice addition. It included two photo inserts, as well as a bunch of original write-ups including band bios.

I haven’t downloaded the high resolution songs yet. I’d be content just with a CD rip, but it’s nice to have the option.

As you can tell, I am very pleased with the new additions to my vinyl collection. I would strongly recommend these to any Led Zeppelin fans.


Sunday, June 1, 2014

David Bowie - 40th Anniversary 7" Picture Discs!

Since 2012, Bowie fans have been treated to these beautiful 7” picture discs, each released to commemorate the singles 40th anniversary. The real bonus is that they always add some goodie to the B-side (example: Starman has a Top of the Pops version on the B-side, which was recorded in 1972). These gems are a real steal when picked up at the retail price which is usually under $10, but you have to be quick, once they sell out people charge up to $250 each on eBay (and they sell quick even at this price).  



This insane increase in price is because of the super limited quantities being released. I’m ok with limited editions, but some of these take it a bit too far and it’s making them annoying to collect. Since it’s an easy investment, they are being snagged quickly by people looking to flip them for a fortune (and these people are buying as many as they can get) or record stores are hanging onto them by request for customers. They are still around, but I rarely see these as readily available stock on record store shelves. I thought they may have addressed this recently as Sorrow and Rebel Rebel seemed a bit easier to get (amazon had them available and they seemed to have a lot), but then they announced their plans for Changes.  



At the last minute they decided to release a picture disc for Changes for Record Store Day 2014 (they missed the 40th anniversary for this single, but decided to make up for it). The B-side of this disc is where it gets really tricky for collectors. They have 500 copies of 4 separate B-side variations, each having a different live version of Changes. Besides the song being different the picture is too, each with a live photo taken from that particular live performance. But that’s not all, after record store day they were releasing 8 additional live versions with 8 more photos. So a total of twelve different copies of Changes will be available, with 500 of each being pressed.  


Note: While the above information on the Changes disc was taken directly from the official David Bowie website (www.davidbowie.com), I don’t think these actually made the shelves for Record Store Day nor have the other 8 versions been released, so it is unclear when/if these will become available.   

Even though it is tricky (and expensive) to get all of these Bowie picture discs, I’m happy with any that I can find. They are beautifully done and look great displayed. I’m anxiously waiting for the next single Diamond Dogs which has June 23rd, 2014 as a release date.  

Below is a list of picture disc singles available: 

Starman 
John I’m Only Dancing 
The Jean Genie 
Drive In Saturday 
Live On Mars 
Sorrow 
Rebel Rebel 
Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide (UK only) 
1984 (North America only) 
Changes (?????) 


Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Otis Redding - (Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay!

I just picked up another single full of history through my vinyl digging adventures. 

(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay is one of the most beloved songs by Otis Redding. Writing began where else, but while sitting on a houseboat, enjoying the moment. He had bits and pieces of the song written and went to Steve Cropper (Stax producer and guitarist in Booker T and the M.G.’s) to help him finish.  

 


Otis was backed by Booker T and the MG’s, the house band at Stax, for the recording of the song. Members were: Steve Cropper on guitar, Donald Duck Dunn on bass, Al Jackson on drums, Booker T on piano, and Wayne Jackson on horns.

This song was quite different from Otis’ early recordings, leaving the classic soul sound for a more pop-oriented feel. There are also lots of effects added to the recording giving it the ‘on the dock’ feel. This included sounds of waves crashing in and seagulls in the distance. Some of the seagull sound was created by Cropper overdubbing electric guitar fills (not quite sure the exact science of how he accomplished this, but I thought it was a fun fact). The remaining seagull sounds were added in a later date through sound effects. Another memorable part of the song is the ending. When Cropper was arranging the song he left an instrumental break at the end so Otis could ab-lib, but at the moment he couldn’t think of anything so he instead whistled, which worked out nicely.


The song was presented to Stax president Jim Stewert, but he was not impressed. He wanted a typical soul song from Otis, not something so different. Otis strongly disagreed, believing the song would be a huge hit. Unfortunately, Otis didn’t get the chance to see the look on Stewert's face when he was proved wrong. Just a few days after recording was completed in December 1967, Otis and five touring band members (and the pilot) were killed in a plane crash.

Atlantic Records producer Jerry Wexler asked for an Otis single as soon as possible (Atlantic handled distribution for Stax) upon hearing of his death. Cropper went to the studio and mixed (Sittin’ On)The Dock of the Bay. Jerry didn’t like the initial mixing, requesting Otis’ vocals to be louder. Cropper, who was happy with the mix, left it alone and instead switched it from stereo to mono which made the vocals a little louder, tricking Jerry.


The single was released on January 8, 1968 on Volt Records (owned by Stax) and became Otis’ first single to chart after his death and also winning two Grammy’s: Best R&B Performance and best R&B Song.

The copy I have is on the Atco label and is an original Canadian pressing (Atco, a subsidiary of Atlantic, had a partnership for distribution with Stax from 1961-68). I don’t see this particular pressing online often since Canada was the only country to release it on the Atco label making it a bit more collectable, often demanding a higher price.