Album Review: Budgie – Never Turn Your Back On A Friend (1973, 2014 180gr repress)

This week we heard the sad news that Burke Shelley, the bassist/vocalist of Budgie had passed away. Ever since I got a bunch of signed Budgie vinyl albums from my local record store (Encore Records in Kitchener, Ontario) I had planned on reviewing a Budgie album. I’ve mentioned Budgie before in this blog when I reviewed the Metallica Garage Inc. but I’ve never reviewed a Budgie album before. Well now it is finally time to rectify that.

Breadfan – Many of you know this song from the Metallica cover, but you would be missing a ton if you never check out the original. Burke does his best teenage Geddy Lee impression, Tony Bourge shreds like his life depends on it and Ray Phillips pounds the shit out of what looks like a kids beginner drum set, while looking like a young Brank Bjork.

Baby Please Don’t Go – If Big Joe Williams had huffed in a healthy dose of helium and was backed by a wicked 70’s hard rock band that had been transported back to 1935, this would be the result.

You Know I’ll Always Love You – You Know we’ll always love you Burke. R.I.P.

You’re The Greatest Thing Since Powdered Milk – These guys were probably a hoot to hang around with. They always had to have at least one song title that made you either laugh or think wtf. The drum work here is ace. The midsection of this song is wicked to hear the sweet instrumentation of a band that is at the top of their game. The vocal section sung by Tony Bourge is a sweet addition as well. A nice, deeper contrast to Burke’s high pitched wail.

In The Grip Of A Tyre Fitter’s Hand – It has a sort of Faces meets early 70’s hard rock/metal feel to it. The best Britain had to offer at the time, even if they couldn’t spell tire 😉 .

Riding My Nightmare – This acoustic song fits perfectly into the 70’s. If A Foot In Coldwater and some of the Jackson 5 had done a duet, this might have been the result. Weird but great.

Parents – This is a one epic album closer. A heavy, proggy song that has not only squawking seagulls but wicked musicianship. It’s real long, and I like it (cue Aaron).

Thanks for the wicked tunes Burke Shelley. You will be missed.

9.9/10

Album Review: Ian Matthews -Valley Hi (1973 LP)

Yesterday Michael Nesmith passed away at his home in California. Mostly known for being the “wool hat” of The Monkees. He left the band in 1970 to move in a more country-rock vein. His early bands First National Band and Second National Band never really caught on with fans. Even though he was an early pioneer of the genre, he never really found the success that Eagles, Poco, Linda Ronstadt and others achieved. In 1972 Nesmith felt that the labels, a lot of the musical talent and studio sessions were leaving Los Angeles and moving to Nashville. He had an idea to try and reverse this trend. Nesmith bought a farm house outside of Los Angeles and converted it from a home to a music studio. From the outside it looked just like a normal house. Nesmith convinced Elektra Records to fund the start up of the Countryside label and the Countryside Ranch recording studio, which also helped by having Elektra artists record there. In June 1973 Nesmith went on a promotional tour of his new label/studio and this included an endorsement of $30,000 from Yamaha to race one of their motorcycles in the Baja 500 (this alone bumps him up a bunch of notches in the cool factor for me).

The album I am reviewing was released in August 1973, 1 month before Elektra had a restructuring and the Countryside label was dropped, making this the last album to be released by the label. It’s too bad it couldn’t have soldiered on because the talent was definitely there. At least this album helped the label and studio to go out with a bang. Ian (also billed on other albums as Iain Matthews and Ian MacDonald) earned his chops as a member of Fairport Convention, Ian Matthews Southern Comfort, Plainsong among others. The backing players Danny Lane, Billy Graham, Jay Lacy, Bobby Warford, “Red” Rhodes, David Barry, and Byron Berline were either house band members of the Ranch or Elektra/Countryside recording artists. Michael Nesmith played guitar on this album and also produced it.

Keep On Sailing – This Ian Matthews original has unique vocals. Nesmith must have used some magic in his new studio to get the “far away” sound found here.

Old Man At The Mill – This traditional song gets a modern refresh. I get a little Steve Earle from this one. That can’t be a bad thing. This was supposed to be on a Plainsong album but it never made the cut and Elektra shelved it. Luckily they brought it back here.

Shady Lies – Ian’s old bandmate Richard Thompson wrote this song and was also recorded by Fairport crony Marc Ellington(who also died earlier this year, r.i.p.). Red Rhodes’ steel and dobro playing, the lyrics and vocals are the stars here.

These Days – Jackson Browne wrote this incredible song at the age of 16. The lyrics really hit home with me, especially the line ‘..please don’t confront me with my failures, for I have not forgotten them..” Wow. I listened to the versions by both artists a few times each and got choked up. It is an incredible song that really hits home. I prefer the original more, but this is one great cover song. Of note here is the haunting steel guitar and the way the drum enters part way through the song.

Leaving Alone – This original seems like it is a real life story for Ian. The musicians life of being constantly on the road means at the end of the night, he will be leaving alone.

7 Bridges Road – This may be the single biggest and best musical accomplishment that Michael Nesmith ever achieved. The song was written and performed originally by Steve Young. Nesmith took the song and transformed it. He was quoted as saying “Ian and I put it together and we sang about six or seven part harmony on the thing, and I played acoustic. It turned out to be a beautiful recording”. The Eagles later used a live recording of their version of this song which was basically a carbon copy of the Matthews/Nesmith arrangement. Nesmith commented on the Eagles version “Son of a gun if Don Henley or somebody in the Eagles didn’t lift our arrangement absolutely note for note for vocal harmony.. If they can’t think it up themselves and they’ve got to steal it from somebody else, better they should steal it.. from me I guess.” I prefer both covers over the original but prefer the version on this album because of all the hard work involved in making it so good.

Save Your Sorrows – Another original that was also supposed to be on a Plainsong album but ended up on here instead. This has a later Beatles meets Syd Barrett era early Floyd with some country musicians thrown in for good measure. If you like late 60’s music, you will like this one.

What Are You Waiting For – This lesser known, Randy Newman penned song originally released as a single by the ever lesser known band We Talkies. I heard a snippet of their song and can tell you that it is night and day difference. More early Floydian influence mixed with country goodness here folks. A much better representation of the great Randy Newman’s amazing songwriting abilities.

Propinquity – This Michael Nesmith song originally sung by a group of Monkees sounds different here, closer to his version with The First National Band. In my opinion it’s even better than both. Shout out again to Red Rhodes steel guitar playing. That dude is pretty awesome. This song is so good I’m sure John Denver “borrowed” the arrangement for his song Take Me Home, Country Roads. Better John should steal it from Michael, I guess.

Blue Blue Day – Don Gibson originally recorded this song in the late 1950’s. It is a sad song but he sings it with an upbeat, almost happy tone that does not suit the lyrics at all. Ian is more true to form, not overtly sad, but much sadder than the original. A nice song to end the album on.

If you like Steve Earle, early Pink Floyd, later Beatles, Monkees, Fairport Convention, Jackson Browne, 70’s country rock and late 60’s rock there will be something for you to like here.

R.I.P. Michael Nesmith. You will be missed.

9.25/10

Album Review: Foreigner – 4 (1981 LP)

Over at Mike Ladano land he recently had some guests that were on and speaking about their favourite albums from 1981. I posted my 5 favourites in the comments section and this album was not included. That speaks more to the strength of the albums that came out in 1981 than it does about this albums lack of power.

This album brings back awesome memories for me. Summer of 1981 my buddies and I decided to bike the 20 kms to Elora Gorge Conservation area for a weekend of camping. I brought a change of socks, change of undies, a fresh t shirt, my new ghetto blaster and a few cassettes (this one amongst them). I hopped on my trusty 10 speed (with handle bars flipped up of course) and got to pedallin’.

Foreigner 4 was brand new in the summer of 1981 and I hadn’t even listened to it yet. I was drawn in by the simplicity of the Hipgnosis designed cover with the film leader countdown showing the number 4. I played the shit out of that cassette when we got to our campsite. If nothing else my fellow campers within a square mile were going to get to hear every note of this album that weekend.

Night Life – Continuing on with Foreigner’s 70’s era tunes but yet there is a bit of background keyboards that suit the song nicely and don’t really take over. Tom (don’t call me Thomas) Dolby will make sure the synths are awesome on this album with help from Larry Fast and Canadian Michael Fonfara (of Electric Flag, Rhinoceros, Lou Reed, Downchild Blues Band fame who died earlier this year, RIP). This one is a great melodic rocker to start this album off on a high.

Juke Box Hero – Funky grooving pulsating pounds start this one off until Mick’s wicked geetar slays us. The theme kind of reminds me of Bad Company’s Shooting Star, but with a more positive vibe about how you can become a rock and roll hero.

Break It Up – The wimpy keyboards almost had me pressing the fast forward button on this one back in the day. That would have been too bad as this is a great song.

Waiting For A Girl Like You – Ok. Now the fast forward button got a workout. This was the big single from back in the day. It probably got them a ton of crossover play on the am and the lite rock stations, plus it is probably still used as a wedding song to this day, but for a bunch of early teen boys full of piss and vinegar it was just way too wimpy. I can appreciate the song more with age, but it did foretell the way Foreigner was headed later in the 80’s.

Luanne – Possibly the biggest sleeper on the album. Mick’s guitar is simple but effective. The lyrics involve a boy with a crush on his classmate Luanne. It suited me perfectly in 1981.

Urgent – Side 2 starts off with another scorcher. The drums pound and the guitar wails. The use of saxophone makes this song really unique though. The main sax duties are handled by Billy Joel’s main sax man Mark Rivera but the solo is handled by Jr. Walker RIP (who died this day in 1995, which was part of the reason I chose to review this album). This is easily one of the best sax songs in rock music. It would easily be in my top 10, maybe even top 3.

I’m Gonna Win – Unique instrumentation begin this one off, then Lou Gramm’s amazing vocals, the guitar and keys help this song win. The video below shows how this song can still ring true in 2021. Covid will not beat me down. I’m gonna win.

Woman In Black – A pulsating song with cool vocal harmonies (including the album producer Mutt Lange and Ian Lloyd), some great guitar work and a unique vocal fadeout at the end.

Girl On The Moon – It has kind of a mix between Bad Company with a little bit of Pink Floydian instrumentation thrown in for good measure. That sounds like a pretty cool mix if you ask me.

Don’t Let Go – Lou Gramm really pushes his vocal chords to the limit on this one. Luckily they don’t let go.

This album would probably have cracked my top 10 albums of 1981 list. It really is a great one that brings back some awesome memories for me. If you only know Foreigner by their later, softer stuff give this one a chance. You won’t regret it.

9.5/10

Album Review: Mouse Rat – The Awesome Album (2021 Cassette)

This week is Cassette Week. Why not Cassette Store Day? Cassette Store Day was the worldwide response to Record Store Day but it has unfortunately ended, for an even more unfortunate reason explained below (copied from HIfi Choice).

‘Cassette Store Day, the annual co-ordinated release of music on collectable tapes that was inspired by the success of Record Store Day, has cancelled its 2020 event in the light of sexual misconduct claims made against one of its principal participants, Burger Records.

The event was planned for 17 October worldwide and would have been a boon to the resurgent industry re-emerging after difficult times under lockdown. It was immediately cancelled when news broke that Burger, based in Fullerton, California and the fount of many of the events’ tape releases, was accused of “normalising a culture of sexual assault” at its shows and within its catalogue of artists.

Despite an attempt to rebrand and launch a separate imprint for female artists in response to the claims, Burger has been forced to shut down entirely, prompting organisers to announce the cancellation.

In a statement on its Twitter and Facebook pages, CSD, which was launched in 2013, said of Burger: “We find this behaviour to be not only abhorrent, but completely unacceptable. We stand in solidarity with those who have come forward and those who have yet to.” ‘

It seems unfair to harm everyone because of the bad actions of a few, but I guess if that is what it takes to end this type of awful behaviour then maybe that is a small price to pay.

I wanted to review some cassettes to celebrate this week properly. Maybe some old, some new, some borrowed and some blue.

For the new I will review Mouse Rat – The Awesome Album. I will forgive you if you don’t know who Mouse Rat is. You may not have ever watched the network television show Parks & Recreation. Long before Chris Pratt was a big time movie star he played homeless, lovable goofball Andy Dwyer. Previously you would have had to buy a copy of a Mouse Rat (previously known as A.D. and the D Bags, The Andy Andy Andies, Department of Homeland Obscurity, Everything Rhymes With Orange, Fiveskin, Fleetwood Mac Sexpants, Fourskin, God Hates Figs, Just The Tip, Malice In Chains, Ninjadick, Threeskin, Two Doors Down, Penis Pendulum among others) album from Andy’s shoe shine stand at the Pawnee City Hall. Now I just had to make a couple mouse (rat?) clicks on Amazon Canada and it magically arrived a few days later.

5,000 candles in the wind – An ode to the mini horse Little Sebastian that died on the Harvest Festival episode. Bye Bye Little Sebastian. Miss you in the saddest fashion.

the pit – A mix between Boston -Amanda, Alice In Chains and Hootie and the Blowfish about the pit a homeless Andy lived in so he could be close to his ex-girlfriend Ann (Rashida Jones).

sex hair – More Hootie sounding 90’s goodness. Such a beautiful mess.

catch your dream (feat. Duke Silver) – Duke Silver is the stage name of Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman). Not is he really good at woodworking, he is pretty damn good on the sax.

two birds holding hands – I know. Birds don’t have hands. The ridiculous lyrics are actually part of the appeal of this song. I’m getting a bit of a Tenacious D vibe here, and that is always a good thing.

ann song – “La di da di da…ann……she’s not in my pocket, she’s not on the driveway, she’s not even in my hand.. Thank You”

the way you you look tonight – This would fit perfectly into one of those cheeseball Christmas specials on US network television by some past prime singer. The whistling is pretty cool but the guitar work is the ace for me.

menace ball – More Hootie. I actually would think this an old Hootie song from back in the day if I didn’t know better.

Time to Flip the tape over.

remember – Some more mix of 90’s grunge and alternative. “..You and me together forever..”

i get a kick of you (bonus) – The only song that never made it onto the show. It was recorded back in the day, but never made the cut. It was probably too short.

let’s call the whole thing off – Another short little fun ditty.

lovely tonight – Andy doing a little Elvis-like crooning makes for a nice change of pace, and the guitar work is subtle but really good.

i’ve got you under my skin – Andy needs to get some more celebrities and start the mouse rat pack.

i only have eyes for you – The jangly guitar is ace here but Chris Pratt’s vocals are pretty good too.

pickled ginger (by Land Ho!) – Andy got the band Land Ho! to get back together and Scott Tanner (Jeff Tweedy from Wilco, Uncle Tupelo) gives this song merit and it has a sort of Eagles Of Death Metal/Queens Of The Stone Age feel to it. It really sounds like the Wilco song of the same name (wink wink).

cold water by Scott Tanner (feat. Duke Silver) – Andy’s buddy Scott Tanner (Jeff Tweedy) from the band Land Ho! is great on this one, as is the guitar work, but the star is Duke Silver ((Ron Swanson) (Nick Offerman)) on the sax.

A really fun album. It made me smile. I really wasn’t feeling that great today and this album picked me up. If you like 90’s grunge, alternative, Hootie & The Blowfish, Jack Black, Queens Of The Stone Age, Eagles Of Death Metal and funny people that don’t take themselves too seriously, then check this out.

8/10

Album Review: Captain Lockheed and the Starfighters-by Robert Calvert (1974 UK LP)

Today history was made. Canadian William Shatner became the oldest man to ever be launched into space at the age of 90. To honour this accomplishment I wanted to review a space rock album. I purchased this album yesterday so I figured it was as good a choice as any. Robert Calvert’s name may not ring very many bells with you, but the list of musicians on this album is a who’s who of early to mid 1970’s space rock and out-there, experimental music, Canadian Paul Rudolph, Lemmy, Simon King, Brian Eno (credited as Brian Peter George St John Le Baptiste De La Selle), Del Dettmar (who emigrated to Canada right after this album), Nik Turner, Dave Brock, Twink, Arthur Brown, Adrian Wagner (great-great grandson of classical composer Richard Wagner) among others.

Robert Calvert was in Hawkwind for 3 years before leaving in 1973. After this he became obsessed with making a concept album about how the German Airforce purchased 916 F-104’s Starfighters from Lockheed. The jet had limitations such as short range and poor turning ability. It was basically a clear day, higher altitude rocket with wings. The German Luftwaffe had other plans. They wanted to add bombs, make it a lower altitude fighter in any weather. Add to this the lack of skill amongst the pilots and ground crew alike(the German Air Force had been grounded after WW2 for 10 years), it was a recipe for disaster. Of the 916 Starfighters flown by Germany, 292 crashed resulting in the deaths of 115 pilots. It was later revealed that Lockheed had bribed Germany and many other countries into purchasing the fighter jets.

Franz Joseph Strauss, Defence Minister, reviews the Luftwaffe in 1958. Finding it somewhat lacking in image potential – A spoken word section that sounds like WW2 German propaganda movie except done by an Englishmen using a bad German accent. These spoken word sections are laced between all the songs and sometimes come across as a Monty Pythonesque skit.

The Aerospaceage Inferno – No comedy skit here folks. This is an amazing song which could easily fit onto a stoner rock album in 2021. Driving, droning, pounding and repetitive. “..Fly through the ground like a circus hound through the burning hoop with just one bound, not even your ashes will be found, what a good way to go, what a good way to go..” Really great.

Aircraft Salesman (A door in the foot) – Amongst the musicians and singers included on this album there are others that performed the spoken word sections including Vivian Stanshall, Jim Capaldi and others. The tongue in cheek humour of this spoken word is how the Lockheed salesman ropes the German Air Defence Minister in to the sale by saying they will add a G to the end of the jets designation ( F 104 G). G for Germany.

The Widow Maker – This was the unfortunate nickname the jet got by the Germans after numerous crashes. There is nothing unfortunate about this track though. It is a mix between early 70’s Black Sabbath drone, mixed with horns and a bit of early Roxy Music that still sound great today.

Two test pilots discuss the Starfighter’s performance – More comedic spoken word skit in which the voice actors give up pretending to be German.

The Right Stuff – This one has a pre-punk era punk sound to it. If Lemmy, Brian Eno, the Sex Pistols and Kyuss would have been thrown into a time machine this song would be the result.

Board Meeting (seen through a contract lense) – More fake German accents discussing how many jets will be bought and why the high costs. “G for Germany”.

The Song of the Gremlin (part one) – This one has a real Brian Eno feel. The screeches and synth work are fitting to the German theme with an early Krautrock feel.

End of side 1

Ground Crew (last minute reassembly before takeoff) – The bumbling aircraft mechanics (with British accents back) discussing a loose bolt. One says it has to give a bit in the wind, like a bridge. The skit ends with the sound of the jet crashing. Remind me if I ever get to fly at Mach 2 that I bring my tools along to check the work of the ground crew.

Hero with a Wing – This one is listed in brackets as a folk rock song on the album liner. I would say this song is more progressive rock meets space rock meets NWOBHM than folk. Sort of if Jethro Tull and Iron Maiden were to collaborate and instead of the flute had some spacey synthesizers thrown in for good measure.

Ground Control To Pilot – Basically as it sounds of chatter between ground control to the pilot but premise is the ground control is checking to see if the pilot has all of his anti psychotic meds on board.

Ejection – More pre-punk punk goodness. I can almost imagine the Sex Pistols listened to this song and used it to help form a base for God Save The Queen.

Interview – A ridiculous discussion between an German officer and new recruit(along with British accents). It almost has a Meatloaf – Bat Out Of Hell feel to it. Again, I believe this is another one that influences a future amazing album.

I Resign – Germans resigning in unison.

The Song Of The Gremlin(part two) – This has a very Pink Floyd – The Wall feel to it. Even including the part two. A third example of what I believe influenced a future amazing album.

Bier Garten – “Do you want to buy a Starfighter?” (German accents are back) “Well then buy an acre of land and wait” Ouch

Catch A Falling Starfighter – A tribal sounding song with a pounding drum, vocal harmonies, background talking and radio transmissions, explosions and haunting wind noises. A really great song to end this album where it began, on a great note.

Robert Calvert wanted to be a fighter pilot but was rejected early on due to an inner ear problem (which I share as well). He also suffered from bipolar disorder and perhaps that was part of the obsession that led to this album. After hearing this one I will be searching out more of his music and I urge you to do the same.

Congratulations on your accomplishment today William Shatner. You boldly went where no 90 year old has ever gone before.

9.5/10

Album Review: Neil Young – Harvest (1972 LP)

Today is Thanksgiving Day up here in the Great White North. We celebrate Thanksgiving on the 2nd Monday in October, roughly 6 weeks earlier than our neighbours to the south due to our colder climate. Thanksgiving has been celebrated in Canada since 1879, and even though it’s a National holiday, many people still have to work it, often receiving larger compensation for doing so. Basically Thanksgiving is a day to give thanks for a good harvest. I figured Harvest was as good an album as any to celebrate the day.

Out On The Weekend – Neil Young named his backing band for this album The Stray Gators (Ben Keith – steel guitar, Kenny Buttrey – drums, Tim Drummond – bass, Jack Nitzsche – piano & slide guitar, John Harris – piano on the song Harvest). They do a great job of starting this song off before Neil joins in with harmonica and vocals. The drums and bass especially have a hypnotic, driving beat. Simple but effective. The mouth organ sounds awesome and the steel guitar sounds sort of haunting and spooky. Neil’s vocals are some of his best. A really good lead off song.

Harvest – Today I give thanks to Neil Young and this album. It really is a harvest of bounties for the ears.

A Man Needs A Maid – Some may feel the addition of the London Symphony Orchestra is a weird addition on this album. I personally like it. The change of pace is nice. It’s kind of like hearing Uncle Neil and John Williams performing on the same album. That surely can’t be bad.

Heart Of Gold – Neil Young was performing on The Johnny Cash Show. Also performing that night were James Taylor and Linda Ronstadt. Neil asked them to help him on this album and this song is one they sang background vocals on. The Stray Gators lay down the beat, the aforementioned superstar background singers back Neil up, and Neil delivers amazing vocals, guitar and harmonica work. Possibly as close to a perfect song as there ever was.

Are You Ready For The Country – Speaking of Superstar backgound vocalists, this one features David Crosby and Graham Nash. We all know how awesome CSNY is. This one is pretty awesome as well.

Time to flip the big slab of black wax over and see how side 2 sounds.

Old Man – More James Taylor and Linda Ronstadt. More great guitar work. More amazing backing band rhythm. More near perfect song sounds.

There’s A World – The London Symphony Orchestra is back on this one. It (and A Man Needs A Maid) was arranged by Jack Nitzsche. If he was good enough to invent the Wall Of Sound with Phil Spector and be a part of the Wrecking Crew, then he is good enough to arrange a few songs here. It has a very soundtrack-like feel to it. I mean that in a very good way. Although shortly after this album Jack began to suffer from depression and often fought with the rest of the band, he does an awesome job here.

Alabama – I can imagine the record execs not wanting to alienate fans from an entire state by recording this song, I can also imagine Neil not giving a rat’s ass. Sometimes it’s best to admit you did a people wrong, apologize, and promise to do better, and never do it again.

The Needle And The Damage Done – Drugs seem to go hand in hand with rock and roll, but heroin in particular was really taking it’s toll on musicians in the late 60’s and early 70’s. Neil’s bandmate in Crazy Horse, Neil Whitten was part of the inspiration for the song. Unfortunately Whitten did not take heed of the lyrics of this song and died 9 months after the albums release. This song is a live version with Neil playing a concert at Royce Hall-UCLA(Los Angeles) in 1971 with an acoustic guitar.

Words/(Between The Lines Of Age) – The editing between the last song and this is a little awkward. Hard to know where one stops and the other begins. Other than that it’s a pretty damn fine song. This time Steven Stills helps Graham Nash out on background vocals. The Stray Gators and NSY as it were. That sounds like a great combo to me. Neil’s guitar work especially is a great way to close out this album. A really underrated song that never gets radio play. Too bad.

This album has twice been voted to being the 2nd best Canadian album of all time. I would concur that it is probably one of the best.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. Even if you don’t celebrate it I want to give you thanks for reading my blog. Cheers.

10/10

Album Review: Eddie Van Halen-VHBNVH (2021)

Today marks the 1st year anniversary of the death of Eddie Van Halen. I still can’t believe he’s gone. I stopped blogging for a while during 2020 but Eddie’s death hit me real hard. I almost gave in and wrote a post that day but I didn’t. Today, hopefully I make up for that. I wanted to respect his greatness by reviewing an album. I narrowed it down to the DLR era. However, I hold those albums in such great regards, as do many others, so I felt that I would be preaching to the masses. Saying 1984, 1978’s S/T, WACF, II, and Fair Warning were great albums would be like saying water is wet. My favourite album by the band is Diver Down, and I contemplated that one. Many people would put it way down the list, but it was the first VH album I bought, with my own money that I earned on my paper route. Also, it was my first cassette purchase ever, and you know how I feel about cassettes. Diver Down holds a special place in my heart. I was close to doing a review of that album but wasn’t ready yet. I’m not sure how to describe it. How can I tell others what this album means to me? I think it would take me days, maybe weeks to write about that album and how it makes me feel. Who has that kind of time? Not me. Therefore I chose to review an imaginary solo Eddie Van Halen album called VHBNVH (Van Halen But Not Van Halen). For the sake of honouring Eddie, I will imagine that all of the songs were EVH solo songs, and any additional vocalists/musicians were guests on his solo album.

That’s Why I Love You – Van Halen III never gets the love. Probably wrong place at the wrong time for Gary Cherone. It might have been better for him if Eddie had just asked him to do the vocals for a song on his solo album. He probably would have been seen in a better light over time.

Crossing Over – This Japanese bonus track/single from the Balance era has been heard by few VH fans. This is a shame that will be rectified by this EVH solo album.

Joy To The World – I am not a huge fan of hearing Christmas songs in October, however if the song has a a mix of Steve Lukather and Eddie Van Halen I could make an exception.

Blinded By Pain – Eddie showed off his prowess not only on guitar but bass on this track. Rich Wyman does a pretty good job handling the vocals on this one.

Untitled (Gene Simmons Demo-Vault Collection) – It’s my imaginary album, so I say there is a killer song that Gene didn’t want to release because a) he was jealous b) he couldn’t take all the money from c) all of the above.

Eastern Bloc – When Thomas Dolby wasn’t getting blinded by science, he and his wife were hanging out with Eddie and Valerie Bertinelli, and not even producer Andy Johns crashing his car on Eddie’s property or Alex Van Halen telling Thomas he was not welcome could keep this song from being on the album.

Bluesbreaker – Brian May and Eddie trading off riffs in tribute to Eric Clapton. Sounds like a bluesbreaking trifecta to me.

Eagles Fly – Sammy Hagar singing on the Eddie Van Halen solo album. If only there was a cutesy name that could represent the collaboration. Eddie Hagar? Sammie Van Halen? How about Van Hagar? Yes!!

Twist The Knife – Eddie actually plays the bass and lets Toto guitarist Steve Lukather take the guitar/vocal duties for this song which started out as a demo for the 5150 album called “I Want Some Action”.

Respect The Wind – Hey Bro, do you want to do a song on the Twister soundtrack with me?

We’re The Greatest – “I got Van Halen, I don’t need a bass line.” LL Cool J gets it.

Lost Boys Calling – Roger Waters will only work with Eddie if he does his best David Gilmour impression. That is ok with Eddie and it’s totally fine by me.

Can’t Get Away From You – I listened to this song years ago on Nicolette Larson’s s/t solo album years ago. As I was listening I was looking at the credits to this song. The guitar musician was credited as a question mark. The first second of the solo I knew who it was. Eddie takes credit here on his solo album.

Beat It – Say what you want about Michael Jackson’s personal life. The man could really make a pop song “pop”.

Evil Eye – Eddie was in England and Tony Iommi invited him to his house. They went to the local music shop where Tony asked the chaps if Eddie could borrow a guitar(a signature EVH series). This song is both the result and the album closer.

Rest In Peace Eddie. Say hi to Ronnie James Dio and Gord Downie for me.

National Day for Truth and Reconciliation Album Review: The Band – Music From Big Pink(1968 LP)

Today marks the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. This is a day to honor the survivors of Canada’s residential school system, and those that did not. It was a black mark on Canada’s history and this day is a step toward repairing the damage that was done. I chose today to honor Robbie Robertson, whose mother was both Cayuga and Mohawk. Robbie would often visit Six Nations Reserve to visit family and it was there that he learned to play guitar. So we have the peoples of Six Nations to partly thank for the incredible music Robbie has given us.

Songs From Big Pink by The Band. No, not the band Steel Panther, although that title suits them perfectly, but The Band. They began as The Hawks, the backing band for Ronnie Hawkins, then later were the backing band for Bob Dylan. In the late 1960’s Bob Dylan lived in Woodstock NY and The Band took up residence in nearby West Saugerties NY. The siding on the West Saugerties home was pink, hence the nickname Big Pink. Not only this album but also Dylan’s The Basement Tapes were first played there. In fact 100’s of songs were conceived there in a short period of time. The talent level in that home may have been unlike any other home ever. The Band went to studios in NYC and Los Angeles to record this album but they wanted it to sound just like it did in the basement.

Tears Of Rage – One of 3 songs on the album that Dylan had a had in. Robbie’s guitar wails so amazingly on this one I could swear it was an organ. The keys work is amazing, the drums so pronounced, the horns hauntingly creepy and even the rattlesnake-like tambourine set this album off on an amazing musical journey.

To Kingdom Come – The bass is more pronounced here. It has both piano and organ work, both excellent. The vocals are amazing of course. It is The Band. However, I think Robbie’s guitar work may be the best part of this song, and that’s saying a lot.

In A Station – Old timey keys start this one off. It could have been a throwback song played in a western saloon during the gold rush. However it was more modern. A mix of clavinet and piano that sounds very psychedelic at times but 100 years old at others.

Caledonia Mission – I’m always happy to see the name of a Canadian town in a song title. Not surprising since 4 of the 5 members are Canadian. Again Robbie’s guitar may the best part of this song, but the keys and vocal harmonies are really great as well.

The Weight – What can I say about this song that hasn’t been said? A perfect song that we’ve all heard a million times.

Time to flip the record over folks.

We Can Talk – Thankfully it’s not a Joan Rivers song. It’s just a song with great vocal harmonies and even a shuffle beat.

Long Black Veil – A haunting song originally done by Lefty Frizzell. Lefty has that old man whistling ‘s’ sound that reminds me of the creepy old dude on Family Guy though. Johnny Cash does an amazing version. However, this version is perfect. SOOO GOOD!! One of those few examples of a cover that is better than the original.

Chest Fever – Those keys. Those amazing keys. The wicked drums. The unique guitar work. Another perfect song. The vocal harmonies and amazing production by John Simon are enough to make Brian Wilson go crazy. Sorry(how Canadian of me), bad choice of words. One of the heavier songs in The Band’s repertoire, and one of the best.

Lonesome Suzie – This one has an almost Motown like soul sound to it. Robbie switches up the guitar tone (I assume he used a unique guitar on this one).

This Wheels On Fire – Early wah pedal funkiness and psychedelic keys mixed with Bob Dylan co-writing credits can never be a bad thing.

I Shall Be Released – The album closer is the only one written entirely by Bob Dylan. As usual it is written wonderfully. A different version was used on The Basement Tapes, however I much prefer The Band version. Richard Manuel’s vocals here are so high and so right.

Since today was also called Orange Shirt Day I wore my orange Miami Dolphins jersey while I wrote this. I suggest to all my fellow Canadians to don your orange shirts and play some music by indigenous artists. This one might be a great place to start.

9.95/10

Album Review: Toronto – Get It On Credit (1982 LP)

Toronto were a short lived Canadian band from the early to mid 1980’s. While they were around they had a succession of hits on Canadian radio and one from this album that made the U.S. charts. After 1985 the band was no longer and lead Holly Woods was left twisting in the wind. It’s too bad because they had the chops. If Ann & Nancy Wilson can still be plying their trade 45 years later, then Holly should be as well.

Break Down The Barricades – The start reminds me of 70’s Supertramp meets 80’s Styx. Then a wicked female vocalist belts out the lyrics and you know we’re in for something completely different. Holly has that sweet spot right between Ann Wilson and fellow Canadian Darby Mills(Headpins) covered. The guitar work here is great and the keys are cool but not over the top 80’s.

Your Daddy Don’t Know – This is an uncommon theme in rock music with a female rock singer promoting female empowerment and sex. Hi Infidelity indeed. Also uncommon was a rock band that had not only a great female vocalist but an amazing female lead/rhythm guitarist in Sharon Alton. A really good rocker that still holds up today.

Start Tellin’ The Truth – Gary Lalonde(later of Honeymoon Suite) was the new bassist for this album and he asserted himself on this song. The guitar work was great and Holly does a great job as well.

You’re A Mystery To Me – New drummer Barry Connors'(later of Coney Hatch) drum work and Scott Kreyer’ keys are the heroes here.

Don’t Walk Away – The song has an almost crying effect to the guitar similar to The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald. That is one of my favourite songs so I’m all in. Holly proves she can do a ballad as easily as belting out a rocker.

Get It On Credit – This one picks up the pace. The mix of pounding guitars, drums and bass followed by quieter sections focusing mostly on Holly’s quieter vocals make this a cool dual threat song.

Sick N’ Tired – Not a bad song that has really good elements but the keys are a bit dated in 2021.

Ya Love To Love – It kind of reminds me a bit of a Bryan Adams song. In a good way. If the backing band for Bryan had joined with Ann Wilson this would be the result.

Why Can’t We Talk? – I know guys. This is the last thing a dude wants to hear from a woman. However, this one is actually worth putting down the remote to listen to.

Run For Your Life – There was only a split second between the end of the last song and the beginning of this one. Here we have a rocker that closes out the album in fine fashion. The keys are just right, not too much this time. The bass is a bit louder than some of the past few and the guitar is great, including really nice solo. Holly belts out the tune in her usual great fashion.

If you like female fronted rock bands that truly know how to play, you can’t do much better than this one.

8/10

Album Review: Max The Axe – Oktoberfest Cheer (2021)

Before I begin the review I will show you a rough copy of an email I am proposing to send to Kitchener City Council.

Dear Kitchener City Council. I am writing you today to propose that today (and moving forward every opening day of Oktoberfest) be Max The Axe Day. ‘Why should we do this?’ you ask. Good question. The answer is simple. Max The Axe rules. Do you have any more questions? ‘We already have enough fame and notoriety with Oktoberfest. Why do we need it to also be Max The Axe Day?’ you ask. This answer is also simple. Oktoberfest sucks. Max The Axe rules. No really. Oktoberfest has crap music. Stale Beer. Drunken idiots spilling their drinks and heaving. Loud obnoxious goofs. ‘Oktoberfest also has ladies in dirndls’ you say. Yes, that is pretty awesome, but if you add Max The Axe Day to that you would have a real party on your hands. Looking forward to hearing from you. I hope you can see my logic. Please do not make me send my legion of devoted followers (at least a half dozen at last count) to City Hall carrying a ghetto blaster playing the Nickelback’s Greatest Hit cd (it’s just one song on repeat).

Pygmy Blow Dart – Do you like Josh Homme’s music but detest his douchebaggery and his stupid face? Yeah me too. If so, then give this song a spin. The bass and guitar solos are wicked. The drums pound they way they should and the vocals are like a much less slappable version of Josh Homme. The “round and round” and “Dope” parts threw me off a bit but the song is still awesome.

Thirsty And Miserable – Like the way I always felt in the 3 mile lineups at Oktoberfest. The musicianship here again is awesome but a special shout out to Mike on the geetar. Really great. Eric does a wicked job as usual on the vocals.

Oktoberfest Cheer – Like the best 80’s Canadian punk band you ever heard. Imagine DOA, NOmeansno or Dayglo Abortions crashed the stage at Oktoberfest when Mike Ladano’s favourite old customer Walter Ostanek was up there schlepping his polka oom blah blah accordion. Instead of botting him off stage they let him join in. Big shot out for the guitar effects on this one.

Thanks to Max The Axe/Mike Ladano for gifting me a copy of this new ep. I really appreciate it. Hopefully as much as Kitchener will appreciate Max The Axe Day.

8.5/10