Friday, March 16, 2018

Bob & Doug McKenzie: Great White North (1981)

This is a comedy record, but it contains some music, most notably, Take Off, featuring Geddy Lee of Rush. If you are a Rush completest, you need this one, but you probably already knew that. The other popular tune is the Twelve Days of Christmas, which is a reworked hoser version. This record might have been funny at the time, but I think it has lost something as the years passed.

My mom wanted to call me Doug, but my dad, thankfully, managed to change her mind.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Malcom McLaren: Swamp Thing (1985)

This is contractual obligation at its worst.
"Swamp Thing is the third album by Malcolm McLaren released in 1985. It is composed of out-takes recorded between 1982 - 1984. Tracks often built upon material previously recorded - for example, "Eiffel Tower" repurposed lyrics from the Bow Wow Wow song "Sexy Eiffel Towers" with the rhythm track of "Punk it Up" from his previous album Duck Rock, while another track from that previous album, "Soweto," found its instrumental hook reused in the track "Boom Boom Baby." The album was released to fulfill a contractual obligation with his record label. "Duck Rock Cheer" was the sole single released to promote the album. Neither the album nor the single met with commercial or critical success, though "Eiffel Tower" had earlier been featured on the soundtrack for the 1984 Jerry Schatzberg film No Small Affair." [source]

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Malcolm McLaren: Fans (1984)

I've never been sure how to describe this record, so I will defer to Wikipedia:
Fans is a 1984 album by Malcolm McLaren. It was a successful attempt at fusing opera with 1980s R&B and contains adaptations of pieces from famous operas such as Madama Butterfly and Carmen. The opera recordings were made at the Unitarian Church, Belmont, Massachusetts by Stephen Hague and Walter Turbitt. [source]
And that just leaves the question of how one might describe Malcolm McClaren himself? Again, I defer:
Malcolm Robert Andrew McLaren (22 January 1946 – 8 April 2010) was an English impresario, visual artist, performer, musician, clothes designer and boutique owner, notable for combining these activities in an inventive and provocative way. He is best known as a promoter and manager of bands such as the New York Dolls and the Sex Pistols. [source]
I think most  people who know him, know of him because of his relationship with the Sex Pistols. Of course, much happened there, including the death of Sid Vicious and the court case with John Lydon, but that is probably another story.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Paul McCartney: Give My Regards To Broad Street (1984)

Give My Regards To Broad Street is a soundtrack to the film, Give My Regards To Broad Street, a film I have never seen. I know absolutely nothing about the film. This record contains No More Lonely Nights, which was a big hit for McCartney. That track features David Gilmour, of Pink Floyd, on guitar. The record also has reworked versions of some Beatles tunes (Good Day Sunshine, Yesterday, Here, There and Everywhere, For No One, Eleanor Rigby, and The Long and Winding Road). I view this record as a total failure, apart from David Gilmour's guitar work.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Paul McCartney: Pipes Of Peace (1983)

Good lord, how did this end up in my collection? I must have paid about a dollar for it. I have never been a Michael Jackson fan and I find some McCartney solo work to be very suspect. I once turned down a free copy of Thriller. As everyone knows, MJ and Macca had a huge falling out in later years. The title track, perhaps the best tune on the record, is not terrible. The rest leaves me cold. Check out this review, from NME, quoted in Wikipedia:
Reviewing the album for the NME, Penny Reel described Pipes of Peace as "A dull, tired and empty collection of quasi-funk and gooey rock arrangements ... with McCartney cooing platitudinous sentiments on a set of lyrics seemingly made up on the spur of the moment." Reel opined that the "one decent moment" was the title track, which he found to be "a Beatlish soiree surely destined as a Christmas single", before concluding: "Even here, however, a note of insincerity in the vocal finally defeats the lyric's objective." [source]
That is scathing, to be sure. Also, the cover image sucks. I just cannot include the video for Say Say Say. I just can't.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Max Webster: Diamonds Diamonds (1981)

Diamonds Diamonds is a compilation with:

High Class In Borrowed Shoes
Diamonds Diamonds
Summer's Up
Blowing The Blues Away
A Million Vacations
Let Go The Line
The Party
Hot Spots
Paradise Skies
Overnight Sensation
Lip Service

It's a good collection and a good place to start. Hot Spots and Overnight Sensation were previously unreleased. While it's not a bad place to start, there are so many good tracks missing. I have to say that I think it's odd that no tracks were chosen from the band's last record, Universal Juveniles. Surely, once could have made the cut.

Even weirder is the CD compilation that was released in 1989. It was credited to Max Webster Featuring Kim Mitchell ‎and ponderously entitled The Best Of Max Webster Featuring Kim Mitchell. Check and Battle Scar (from Universal Juveniles) were added along with one Kim Mitchell tune, Kids in Action. It's a bizarre compilation.

Friday, March 09, 2018

Max Webster: Universal Juveniles (1980)

I lost interest with Max Webster when this record came out. I did buy it, and then I sold it, and then I found a cheap copy somewhere and picked it up again. I do like some of the tracks, but I think they had lost the plot by this point. Well, maybe that's what I used to think. I listened to this recently, and liked it better than I thought I did. Maybe I was reacting to the departure of Terry Watkinson (who appears only on Battle Scar). In fact, the only original members left are Mitchell, and Dubois, if you consider him to be a member. This record might really be a Kim Mitchell solo record, especially if you consider the cover image. I could never have worn anything like that.

Rush fans, of course, will need to have a copy of this LP because of the track Battle Scar, a tune that features all members of both bands. That means, two singers, two drummers, two bassists, two guitarists, and a keyboardist. I wouldn't say that this is top shelf Max Webster, but if you like the band, I guess you need to own it.

By the way, I have always been irritated by later CD releases which included the "featuring Kim Mitchell" on the cover. I mean, I get it, but I wish they would have had more respect for the original cover. I wonder if Kim approved of that move.

Thursday, March 08, 2018

Max Webster: Live Magnetic Air (1979)

Here's a live album. It's pretty good.

Those of you following the band will know that a box set was released in 2017. It includes all of the band's records, a limited edition bootleg, and the debut solo Kim Mitchell EP. I wonder why they included the EP. I did not consider buying the box set, because I already own the vinyl copies of everything, apart from the Limited Edition Bootleg. There were only 250 produced, but I have to assume that remasters of the individual vinyl records will be, or already are, available.

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Max Webster: A Million Vacations (1979)

A Million Vacations contains the fourth moon tune, Moon Voices, which is an instrumental piece.  Incidentally, the title track -- A Million Vacations -- is not sung by Kim Mitchell. Instead, Gary McCracken (the drummer) takes over, which makes sense, because he co-wrote the track with Pye Dubois. 

Terry Watkinson sings lead on two tracks, Charmonium and Let Go the Line. In fact, Watkinson wrote two tracks and co-wrote another with Pye Dubois, sung by Mitchell. And then he left the band. I find that weird, since he wrote Let Go the Line, the best song on the record, and one of the band's best known and most enduring track.

Paradise Skies is arguably the band's biggest hit, even making it onto the UK charts. Although this record moved a bit into commercial territory, the last two tracks reclaim the earlier weirdness of the band.

Here is part of Let Go the Line:

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Max Webster: Mutiny Up My Sleeve (1978)

We're just musicians
Here to thin the thickness of your skin

Mutiny Up My Sleeve may be the best Max Webster record, and it contains perhaps the best Max song, Beyond the Moon, the third moon song. Oddly, none of the moon tunes appear on the Diamonds Diamonds compilation from 1981. This record introduces Dave Myles, the new bass player. I think he did the job. Even though this might be the best Max record, my fav is still the debut.

Watkinson wrote two tracks -- Astonish Me and Let Your Man Fly - but doesn't sing either, which seems odd.

The Party, one of my top five Max tunes, appears on this record. 

Monday, March 05, 2018

Max Webster: High Class in Borrowed Shoes (1977)

"Oh war, it's been done before
That's what they say
I wasn't there, they say there's one today
I don't care, I'm not there today

'Cause I'd say fuck you instead of thank you
Your choice under your breath
Oh, say go to hell, I'll go American Express

Oh war, history says you are in it
Your sister's boyfriend's in it
So so long soldier, wash your socks and guns and just remember
If you don't see a profit you sell your stocks and run"

I'd say that the second record from Max Webster is almost as good as the first. They had a drummer change between records, for whatever reason. This record is probably the best introduction to Max Webster, but that doesn't mean it's the best one from the band, though I'd place High Class in Borrowed Shoes in my top five max tunes.

For the first time, Terry Watkinson sings lead on his own composition, Rain Child.

If you are paying attention, you will note that there is a song called Coming Off the Moon on the debut record, This LP contains a tune called In Context of the Moon. This is maybe the best song on the record. It's like a short prog song. There's an anti-war song (Oh War!), which is a killer tune. It contains a couple of f-bombs (a term I hate), which may have kept it off the radio.

The record cover might be the most interesting thing about this record. It's some mad stylin' for sure. It sort of looks like glam, even though the music doesn't match that label.

The bass player - Mike Tilka - left after this record.

Friday, March 02, 2018

Max Webster: Max Webster (1976)

Here's a band that so many people (especially non-Canadians) have probably never heard of. Because of the band's name, they are often misunderstood to be a person. As I have already mentioned, the same is true of Matt Bianco, which is also a band, not a person. Even in the 21st century -- again, as I have already mentioned -- I see records for both groups misfiled in record stores, with Max Webster under W and Matt Bianco under B. In my mental list of best Canadian bands, I would include Max Webster. By the way, I would exclude The Barenaked Ladies.

Max Webster's prehistory took place in Sarnia, a small town on the Canadian side of the St Clair River, almost 300 KM west of Toronto. By 1973, they had shifted to Toronto and settled on a name. 
The mighty Max featured a massively underrated guitar player. Later, Kim Mitchell achieved greater fame as a solo artist, and then he started a radio career, but I think he was overlooked as a guitarist. Some have compared Max Webster to Frank Zappa, and I have read that Zappa liked the band. I can accept that comparison. Allmusic, summarized the band as follows: "Toronto's Max Webster blended metal, prog, and rock elements into a genre-defying blend that won the group a cult following in the mid- to late '70s." [source] I can accept that too, but I think using the term metal is misleading.

I was lucky enough to have seen the band when they played my high school. My school also booked Teenage Head one year, and I loved that show too. I thought that was awesome until someone told me that Rush played their high school. Rush were big Max fans, and they often shared the bill with them and even recorded a band duet on Max Webster's final LP, Universal Juveniles. The two bands were label mates on Anthem records, as well.

The first Max record contains the wacky Toronto Tontos, and I think therein lay the problem for the band. Some of the music was too strange to make any commercial impact, which is fine with me. Later, the band became a little more accessible, bust still managed to be interesting. In the USA, this debut LP carried the title Hangover, even though that song was only ever released as a b-side to the first single, Blowing the Blues Away, which is really a rather pleasant tune.

One interesting thing about the band is that it had an unofficial fifth member, Canadian poet Pye Dubois, who functioned as the band's lyricist, and he wrote some really bizarre lyrics. Of course, this should remind you of Pete Sinfield, who wrote lyrics for King Crimson between 1969 and 1971. People unfamiliar with Pye Dubois may have heard some of his lyrics without even knowing it. He co-wrote Rush's Tom Sawyer with Neal Peart.

Max Webster begins with the poignant Hangover:

Tomorrow don't be here today
Take a cruise take a holiday
Cold morning and the drums
Blue eyes in the window sun

I don't feel you but I know you're around
I can feel you cause i feel the sound
Cold morning and the drums
Blue eyes in the window sun
Alka-Seltzer, Tang and a 50
It's all over

Some non-Canadians are probably wondering what a 50 is. "Labatt 50 is a 5% abv [alcohol by volume] ale launched in 1950 to commemorate 50 years of partnership between the grandsons of the brewer's founder. The first light-tasting ale introduced in Canada, Labatt 50 was Canada's best-selling beer until 1979 when, with the increasing popularity of lagers, it was surpassed by Labatt Blue. Labatt 50 is fermented using a special ale yeast, in use at Labatt since 1933." [source]

Yes, I have had a few bottles of Labatt's 50 over the years, but none for ages, as I can no longer drink regular beer.

"Embedding disabled by request." That's dumb, so watch this or just watch this entire broadcast of a Max Webster concert from the Roxy Theatre in Barrie. It was simulcast on CITY TV (when it was still Channel 79, I think) and CHUM FM. I watched this at the time. Ah, memories. (Hangover starts at 41:00, if you are curious, but the whole thing is interesting to see).

Here are the crazy lyrics to Toronto Tontos:

Bonjour aux amis de malheur
Nous sommes fous
Radio Moscow U.S., audio bandits
Sweden Solo, London Soho, candids
Free publicity is not free when it's public
Put down a little life from a morning cosmic
Bonjour aux amis de malheur
Nous sommes fous, c'etait plust fort que moi
Pas de chas pas de deux, nous sommes fous
Put down a little life from a morning cosmic
Toronto tontos, Vegas babies, transit
Arctic market, frantic Spanish onions
Free publicity is not free when it's public
Put down a little life from a morning cosmic
Bonjour aux amis de malheur
Nous sommes fous, c'etait plust fort que moi
Pas de chas pas de deux, nous sommes fous
Put down a little life from a morning cosmic
Bonjour aux amis de malheur
Nous sommes fous
I've got no fire on me
I got no fire on me
No cigarettes, no matches

I can't think of another song that sounds anything like this. It's truly odd and cool.

The rest of the album has some really catchy tunes, like Summer's Up, Coming off the Moon (the first of the four moon songs), Only Your Nose Knows, etc. I would rank this as one of the best records from Max Webster.

The only thing that pisses me off is that the centre label on my copy is adhered incorrectly, and so the stylus will careen across the label when it hits the run-out groove. I have to linger around the turntable when the record approaches the end. That is so irritating.

The cover image is a reference to an iconic Canadian beer store experience.