Van Halen

Live Tokyo Dome

Van Halen – Live Tokyo Dome

Well here it is, sort of … the only official live album of (close to) the real Van Halen. Who’s with me that this thing is overdue by about 35 years? I was incredulous that at a time when these guys were one of the greatest and most fun live bands around that they never released something like this. 

But now here we are, original bassist Michael Anthony given the boot in favor of Eddie’s son Wolfgang, the band on a tour to support an album of newly reworked demos of rejected songs from their early days, re-formed for what is hard to describe as anything other than a cash grab, playing together onstage but not seeing or speaking to each other otherwise. So how could I have expected this to be any good?

Alex and Eddie, while not as nimble as in their youth do still thunder and erupt, Dave’s never great vocals have lost much of the swagger and style that used to make up for his lack of pipes and while Wolfgang is obviously full of enthusiasm and quite accomplished on the bass he’s not the guy who wrote these songs and is notably absent on those key backing vocals. In the end Van Halen come across as what they have transformed into, a giant party-rock band. Me, I’ll stick with my bootlegs from ’81/’82 preferring to remember them back when they were the dangerous and exciting slap-in-the-face game changer that guitar driven rock needed.

Bitwvlf

Possible Endings

Bitwvlf – Possible Endings

If nothing else this CD demonstrates just how many different types of music there can be, even within a sub-sub-sub genre like witch house. Possible Endings is a bizarre but cool offering of dark yet soothing electronic sounds broken up by glitchy clicks and grating noises. In a way it owes more to Halloween sound effect records than electronic dance music. 

I truly enjoyed the shadowy ambient aspects of the music and immediately picked up on how different this was to other Bitwvlf releases which mingled rap and hip-hop with witch house stylings. Outside of the music I also found the artwork by genre collaborator Blvck Ceiling to be a cool and fun aspect of the project. 

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Possible Endings from Bandcamp
Possible Endings from Amazon

Videosyncratic

by Jon Spira

img_6170Videosyncratic by Jon Spira

Videosyncratic is a book that used to be a video store. I know that sounds confusing but its true.  In the book author Jon Spira documents the rise and fall of home video culture and video rental stores as well as his personal involvement in the industry, first as a movie lover, then a VHS rental customer, becoming a video rental store cashier and finally as the owner of a video store named, you guessed it, Videosyncratic.  All of this takes place over the span of 20 years from the ’80s to the oughts in London, England. Surprisingly, with as fast as technology and society has changed, even though this is recent history, in some ways it is sadly like reading about events on another planet (possibly one in a galaxy far, far away) as we have become so removed from the lifestyles and daily happenings of the latter days of the previous century.

“Regeneration is inevitable, important and increasingly sad as you get older and see your world pass into the hands of the next generation.” The stories Jon tells are as hilarious as they are informative and even, at times as above, filled with wistful longing. The book itself is the exact size, shape and image of an old VHS cassette, making it a clever but compact and quick read of almost 400 small but packed pages. Evidently the book was a Kickstarter project, but I just learned of it when Amazon kindly suggested it to me, presumably as I have ordered about a half dozen other books on video and VHS culture in the past. It is worth noting that Jon is not only a fan of movies and video stores, he is also a director himself, having made 2015’s Elstree 1976, a niche documentary on the making of Star Wars and the impact it had, all told from the point of view of the actors who played secondary and tertiary characters in the film.

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Jon Spira on Twitter

Videosyncratic from Amazon

The Now Time Delegation

Watch For Today

img_6070The Now Time Delegation – Watch For Today

There are some cool coincidences surrounding this item. I ordered this 2001 release recently on a whim, picking it up cheaply in an Ebay lot.  When the package arrived I looked up some info on The Now Time Delegation only to find out that they were fronted by the Bellray’s lead singer and shared a bass player as well. When I put it on I started to feel like their garage rock take on Motown soul/James Brown funk sounded really familiar to me. I began looking back through some of my music notes (yes, music nerds and collectors like me keep notes) and sure enough, 10 or more years ago my buddy Craig L. had played this CD for me. It was during one of our music filled hang outs where we would each try to outdo the other by playing all the cool new bands we had discovered recently. I made a note back then to find it and buy it.

But the strangeness didn’t stop there. Checking out the album I saw one of the songs, Getting’ The Corners, was a cover of a track by local Houston legends The TSU Tornados, a sibling fronted Southern soul band from the late ’60s. And if that’s not odd enough, the album artwork of Watch For Today is an homage to artwork on The TSU Tornados’ only album. Check it out below and compare it with Watch For Today above. Sadly The Now Time Delegation, a product of the prolific indie music and art legend Tim Kerr, only ever recorded this one album, but sometimes music is just all kinds of magic!

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Watch For Today from Amazon
Watch For Today from iTunes

The Bellrays

Have A Little Faith

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The Bellrays – Have A Little Faith

I had sadly never heard of this band until I saw them open for The Damned earlier this year. While they seemed an odd choice as an opener for Dave Vanian and Captain Sensible’s aging punky-goth rock (or is that gothy-punk rock?) I was still pretty impressed by The Bellrays with their cool combo of classic rock spiked with funk and sprinkled with soul.

I snagged this CD kind of at random from their catalog. It seems they’ve been around since the mid-’90s and boast 8 full length releases. Have A Little Faith dates from 2006 and while a little more mellow than I expected it to be given their live performance I really like it and intend to seek out more from them.

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The Bellrays on Facebook
The Bellrays Website

Have A Little Faith on Amazon
Have A Little Faith on iTunes

Cheap Trick

Reputation Is A Fragile Thing by Mike Hayes

Cheap Trick – Reputation Is A Fragile Thing by Mike Hayes 

I have wanted to own this book for a few years but since only around 1,000 were printed in 1998 they all sold out and were in high demand from fans in the aftermarket (and therefore quite expensive). With the band’s recent resurgence brought on by 2016’s Bang, Zoom, Crazy… Hello album and their Hall of Fame induction, original publisher and co-author/editor Ken Sharp teamed up with author Mike Hayes to bring it back into print. 

Mike Hayes compiled the book from his own interviews of the band, working on it for many years as a labor of love. Before it was all over he had enlisted the help of Cheap Trick drummer Bun E. Carlos, as well as renowned rock and roll journalist/author/publisher Ken Sharp. The book features amazingly detailed info on the band’s career, boasts over 250 pages, contains over 150 b&w photos, has a forward by Roy Wood of The Move/ELO/Wizzard and remains essentially the only biography on Cheap Trick ever written.

Please note that while this is a new printing of the book it is essentially an exact copy of the original publication. It has not been revised or updated so it still only covers the years 1973-1997.


Cheap Trick on Facebook
Cheap Trick Website

Reputation Is A Fragile Thing from Ken Sharp

Cheap Trick

We’re All Alright!

Cheap Trick – We’re All Alright (deluxe version)

Not too many rock bands who have been together for closing in on 45 years can match their longevity with their quality, especially with their latter day output. But this could not be more true for Cheap Trick. Following closely behind last year’s Bang, Zoom, Crazy… Hello and their overdue induction into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, We’re All Alright! keeps the Cheap Trick party rolling on. 

Robin’s voice is still as mind-blowingly versatile as ever with Rick (guitars), Tom (bass) and Rick’s son Daxx (drums) giving him everything he needs to rock out, deliver a punk snarl or touch your heart with soft crooning. While the album lacks a standout hit like last year’s “When I Wake Up Tomorrow” the diversity provided by the power pop of “Nowhere”, grinding blues backing of “Lolita” and acoustic beauty of “Floating Down” more than make up for this absence. 

The deluxe CD contains 3 extra tracks that are well worth the couple of extra bucks. 

Cheap Trick on Facebook
Cheap Trick Website

We’re All Alright! (deluxe) on Amazon