Alternate Album Cover Art

While I consider myself an album collector, it’s a rare case that I purchase multiple copies of the same album. I’ll usually grab the first copy of the album I can get my hands on, but this doesn’t always go so well. When an album has been out for several years, it will often get reissued if there is still a demand for it. This could be for a plethora of additional reasons, such as another record label acquiring the distribution rights, the launch of the album was done so on a small print run, an expanded version of an album is released to commemorate some sort of anniversary, or it underwent either a remastering or full-blown re-mix. On many occasions, this results in the album cover undergoing a transformation.

Changing an album’s artwork is somewhat controversial. Sometimes there is a valid reason for doing so, and other times it is more questionable. There are several examples of this that I can point to within my collection alone, so I’ll focus on five of these at a time, and discuss other covers in future posts. Additionally, since this is a music blog, I’ll include some links in the title of each section where you can sample a song off each album even though I won’t dwell much on the music itself.

Bill Evans and Jim Hall – Undercurrent

This cover leaves quite an impression on me. It’s very fitting of the title, though it seems a bit unsettling for what I’d associate with a jazz record. It wouldn’t look out of place as an image that a gothic rock or depressive shoegaze band could use. There’s no certainty that the woman in the photo is dead with her face being above the surface, but this still image comes off as strikingly dark. It really makes the user question how the woman got to the state she is in.

The photo was taken by photographer Toni Frissell in 1947 and is titled “Weeki Wackee, Florida”. The image has been licensed for use on not just Undercurrent, but other album covers as well. That’s the only troubling thing I’d have if I were to ever release an album of my own. I’d probably prefer to use a piece of art that is exclusive to my album sleeve, but still, if you find the right image, why not use it regardless? As Undercurrent is usually considered a highly-regarded recording by jazz aficionados, this has likely stood as the most famous appearance of the photo.

The album has been re-released with slights variants to the above. Sometimes the image is a brighter shade of blue or green, sometimes there is text on the front, etc. Here’s an edition of the album that I own.

No, I wasn’t testing out my Crayolas. Those scribbles are a legit design choice. Is there any significance to it? The use of an artist photo is not at all surprising to use on a rerelease. It’s just unfortunate that they couldn’t find a suitable photo of Bill Evans and Jim Hall together, with a smaller pic of Hall being relegated to the back.

It’s labelled as being part of The Douglas Collection, who released a bunch of these in 1972. It appears that there were many big jazz names (with Kenny Dorham, Charles Mingus, Billie Holiday among them) who couldn’t escape the stroke of Harold and his purple crayon. Or his red, his yellow, his green…

 

Korn – Issues

I have owned Issues twice. The first time, I received it as a Christmas present, which was the original album cover.

As far as I know, this is the version you can still find readily available in your local music store. I even had a shirt with this cover art on it when I was in high school, which had the text “I have Issues” printed on it, allowing me to perpetuate an image of being a disturbed adolescence to a group of peers who were (hopefully) not buying it. Anyway, this image was the grand prize winner from a contest run through MTV. That sounds like a very corporate-sounding endeavor for a band to partake in, but the platform does allow for them to cast a wider net in hopes of finding a great artist.

Here’s a scan I took from the liner notes of Issues, which shows three other finalists for the contest.

When I was in high school (my peak Korn listening days), I preferred the cover with the cartoon depictions of each member of the band. Like each of the other finalists, I think the image was a bit too busy. The contest winner, while still a great painting, allows for some space in the top-left corner to stick the name an album title. According to Wikipedia, they ranked in the contest from 1st to 4th going clockwise starting from the top-left.

Here’s a closer look at the cover from my second (and current) copy of Issues.

It’s difficult to make out what is going on here. I see a photograph with two people on it, with a few candles surrounding the frame. I assume it is representing a memorial for two people that died, with the chalk drawings possibly acting like chalk outlines in a crime scene. It doesn’t pop off the shelf like the doll cover does, and I can see why it didn’t rank higher than the other three.

I’m curious as to whether or not the entrants to the contest were told in advanced the title of the album, or if it was a matter of submitting art with no descriptive attached. Also, are any cover versions more scarce than the others? I’m sure there’s a re-seller or two that may charge a premium price for the less common images, but considering how popular Korn were in the late-90s to early-2000s, each version probably had at least 100,000 printed.

 

Deftones – White Pony

Just a year after Korn threw a multitude of album covers into the marketplace, Deftones, another band the press frequently dubbed as “nu-metal”, did something similar. This time, in my opinion, the variations are nothing to write home about. First, we have the original cover.

This is the version I used to own. It’s a simple design, but effective, with the grey colour serving as a good contrast to the white pony. I’ll have to describe this as another one of those covers that gives no hint as to what style of music you are dealing with. The minimalism and diagonal lettering in a sans serif font makes me think more of an electronic or dance album. As this is the first album featuring turntables / synthesizer player Frank Delgado on board as a permanent band member, it seems like a suitable time to make this shift in art direction, but it’s likely just a coincidence. They’ve done a decent job over the years since then of varying their cover designs, which seem to have all been handled by Frank Maddocks.

When comparing each White Pony cover side-by-side, there really isn’t much to complain about. They all have the pony, so your preference can pretty much come down to what your favourite dominant colour is or the placement and size of said pony. The copy you are likely to find in stores today is the white cover.

The pony now takes centre stage, with a black border now necessary to distinguish this from that other white cover by that obscure band whose name escapes me. I’m not sure why this cover became the version that most editions are now printed on. Did the band prefer this version? Was is record label meddling? It turns out other versions exist with a few tweaks. Here’s a red version, which came out as a limited edition around the same time as the original grey cover.

The limited edition also came in black, but as it featured the same layout as the red (which shows the track numbers and run times), I won’t waste the page space showing it. The thing that bothers me with these variants of the White Pony releases is the actual music content. The initial gray cover version had eleven tracks. The red cover version had a twelfth bonus song “The Boy’s Republic” tagged onto the end. The white version also has twelve tracks, but added the extra song “Back to School (Mini Maggit)” at the beginning of the album.

My impression of this type of thing is that it’s more of a cash grab than anything else. At the time, you didn’t really have the option of jumping on iTunes to buy these extra songs. At least it was around the time that Napster emerged, so I wouldn’t fault someone owning the grey cover at the time for stealing the other two songs. The label should know better than force the public to buy two extra albums to get the two bonus tracks. Singer Chino Moreno was allegedly displeased with this tactic, and I’m sure his band mates would back him up on that. I know I was certainly unhappy when I got my grey version when I was a teenager with little money to speak of.

 

Mahavishnu Orchestra – Between Nothingness & Eternity

Let’s start off with the original cover. Yes, I know compact discs didn’t exist in 1973, but it’s practically identical to the vinyl cover of the time.

The image may seem a bit generic in retrospect. The similarly-minded progressive rock band King Crimson had an album (Islands) with a comparable cover. However, the vastness of space is a concept with very wide appeal. From the fifties through to present day, show me one genre of music that hasn’t had a single artist getting caught up in the space race, Martian madness, or expressing similar interplanetary interests. Even Santa Claus got in on the action! The guy had enough trouble making sure I got the right Ghostbusters action figure, yet he expands his operation to Mars…

I’m guilty of getting lost in images like this every now and then. Even when looking at images of earth, be it maps or aerial photos, the thought of how small humanity is in the grand scheme of things always made my head spin. Galaxy-spanning shots like the above sets a good tone for a jazz fusion band who themselves try to stretch out as musicians to create other worldly sounds, so I definitely buy into their cover concept.

Between Nothingness & Eternity has been released with variants on the above image such as colour changes, but also with few other radical transformations. Here’s what my copy of the album looks like.

Leave it to my home and native land of Canada to try to be different. It appears that this version was oddly exclusive to Canada. What? Was Buffy Sainte-Marie thinking of using the image for her own album, and they wanted to avoid confusion? Vinyl enthusiasts will delight in the fact hat this version has gatefold packaging. Puzzling enough, the original album art can be found on the inside along with a poem excerpt from guru Sri Chinmoy’s “The Flute”. Couldn’t they have placed this art on the inside instead?

It makes sense to show the band on stage for a live album cover, but I don’t think it should be mandatory. As long as ‘live’ is listed in the title, you don’t need the picture to drive the point home. Besides, there are plenty of live albums that feature a picture of the artist(s) on stage whose legitimacy has been put into question (cough Unleashed In The East cough). I’d like to know if the photo is taken from the shows from which this live album was captured (August 17-18, 1973 at the Schaefer Music Festival in Central Park, New York). The skyline shown above the band looks like it could be New York, which would certainly be appropriate.

I’m not deeply against the cover I have, but I’d rather be among the stars.

 

Megadeth – Killing Is My Business… and Business Is Good!

I’ll shake this one up by showing the reissued cover first. If you’ve recently ate, try not to scroll too far down past this one.

By all accounts, this represents what was the artwork was originally intended to look like. Somewhere along the line, let’s just say that the wires got crossed to put it lightly.

It’s sad to think that this was most of the world’s introduction to Megadeth’s iconic Vic Rattlehead mascot. Heck, even Ronald McDonald got messed up royally the first time out. Coincidentally, Dave Mustaine has described this eyesore along the lines of being a skull with ketchup for blood and pickles on it.

The record label didn’t follow Mustaine’s original sketch concept very well. They got the skull, covered the eyes, and surrounded it with whatever could be found in the discount bin of the local hardware store. It’s also bizarre seeing Megadeth written in that lettering, as well as seeing the album title not being listed with each word starting with capitals.

The album design is credited to Donald J. Munz, with a photography credit to Dan Rizzi. Are they to share the blame? I can’t find much information about Rizzi, but Munz seemed to be one of the go-to art guys of independent label Combat Records. The label’s stable of artists evidently had a bit of a skull obsession, seeing as they were depicted on Combat-branded recordings by the likes of Savatage, Devastation, Forbidden, D.B.C., The Exploited, Death, Nuclear Assault, Possessed, Trouble, and Oz, to give you a good enough sampling of the 80s underground.  Sure, some say the skulls are just a metal thing, but it’s not as if every disco album cover had a mirrored ball, every rap album had a mugshot, or every modern country album has a “Best Listened to at Barely Audible Volumes” sticker (my humble suggestion). Think outside the box!

How they butchered this cover the way they did is baffling. Mustaine even gave them his own drawings to work off of, and from the look of it, they could have simply taken a picture of that and walked away victorious. While he didn’t do the painting, Munz was responsible for the art direction of Exodus’ legendary Bonded By Blood, so you would have thought he would have shown more enthusiasm over tackling such an interesting concept.

The reissued version is truly a cover being remade properly. It’s a shame they had to censor their colourful rendition of Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots” to somewhat tarnish the repackaging.

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Vai – Light Without Heat??

I’ve recently purchased The Ultimate Fortress box set by hard rock band Alcatrazz, a band most famous for having two legendary, virtuoso-level guitar players, Yngwie Malmsteen and Steve Vai, in their lineup during early phases of their respective careers. It’s been fun exploring the audio and visual content of this package, and the Steve Vai presence reminded me of another topic I wanted to discuss.

This entry starts with yet another gem of an ad that I found in an old music magazine.

This was pulled from the July 1993 issue of Musician. It took up around half of a page, wedged to the left of the magazine’s production credits. It’s very non-descriptive and rather bland visually considering the space it took up. Aside from the word Vai and the fact it’s being released through Relativity (the label that also helped launch his sophmore album, Passion and Warfare), you may even doubt this was an ad for a Steve Vai-led project. VAI could very well have been an acronym of some kind (Virile Austrian Imports? Vampire Assassins Incorporated? Virtuous Artistic Inbreeding?)

This album would be released as Sex & Religion when all was said and done. It’s unusual that the incorrect name went to print so close to when the album was released, which was in late-July. If ads like this appeared in other publications, did listing the Light Without Heat title impact on the album’s commercial success? Nonetheless, I can’t help but wonder if Sex Without Lights was used an intermediate name.

When compared to other so-called guitar “shredders”, I always felt that Steve Vai’s work stood out due to his interesting rhythm tracks that form the foundation of many of his songs. Some of the less memorable guitarists of the era essentially sounded as if they were jamming over a drum machine, making their songs seem more like practices in dexterity instead of compositions. I’d liken his writing approach to another guitar-playing Steve, Steve Morse, though the execution differs. They both keep the melodies strong without sacrificing the rhythm’s intricacy or ability to drive the composition forward.

While some tracks of his feature more of a sparse backdrop over which he lays down his leads, such as perhaps his most famous solo album piece “For The Love Of God”, he has established significantly varied approaches to songwriting. He’s also penned tracks like “The Attitude Song” that demonstrates as much skillful playing from the bass and drums as it does the guitar, “Bad Horsie”, which is more groove-based and showcases an imitative (of a horse, of course!), playful side, and “The Fire Garden Suite”, which pretty much goes all over the map. It’s hard to pin down what a typical Vai composition is gonna sound like.

His Sex & Religion album could be argued to be his most straight-forward release, but I appreciate it as it seemed to be going against expectations. While many likely wanted to see how much further he could push instrumental rock music, he opted to simplify his approach to music in a way. For his third solo album, he actually assembled a band, a rather solid one at that. You get fellow School of Frank Zappa graduate Terry Bozzio behind the drum kit, with the slap-happy T.M. Stevens on bass to complete the rhythm section. Possibly most noteworthy, this project introduced vocalist Devin Townsend’s to a wide audience. Filling the background vocal roles includes (among many) Ahmet Zappa (Frank’s son) and everyone’s favourite Rambo impersonator, Kane Roberts.

Being a fan of much of Devin Townsend’s output throughout his career, learning that he had sung on a Steve Vai album as a twenty year old surprised me. The only sampling of Devin I had heard prior to hearing Sex & Religion was a few of his albums with Strapping Young Lad. I had yet to listen to much of his solo material, the exceptions being “Vampira” and a few other songs that were still practically straight-up hard rock and metal songs. I did not quite know exactly how powerful he was as a vocalist. Here, he not only demonstrated power, but a unique combination of tenderness and rage one might not expect to find in a kid from New Westminster, British Columbia. And if you listen to Sex & Religion in it’s entirety and still don’t think Devin Townsend has enough character, this Headbanger’s Ball appearance will put that doubt aside, and then some!

Stylistically, this album brought the focus back towards the rock band dynamic that began in Alcatrazz and gained him wider fame with David Lee Roth and Whitesnake. I have to say, I really enjoy the results. This album could have easily been accomplished with an excess of guitars taking on the role of vocalist in handling melody over top of the rhythm tracks, but I think taking a chance on an unknown vocalist was a worthwhile experiment. While there are still several solos to be found and colorful guitar flourishes aplenty, the middle of the album’s “Touching Tongues” and “State of Grace” seem to be what you’d most expect for a guitarist’s instrumental album, but they serve to break up the more conventional hard rock songs.

Using vocals had the potential to reach a wider audience, which surely must have played into some of Vai’s decision making. You usually don’t get Desmond Child to help co-write a song (“In My Dreams With You”) without aspirations for at least a minor hit. As far as what I believe to be the highlights, I’ll direct you to check out “Here & Now”“Still My Bleeding Heart”, and “Survive”.

So why did the ad print with Light Without Heat as the album title? I still haven’t figured it out. I thought it may have been pulled from a lyric on the album, but I don’t see it listed. Could it have to do with the Russian play of the same name? The album is full of religious references, so is it in reference to the burning bush in which God appeared to Moses? It could simply have been a working title Steve Vai would slap onto something until a better idea formed. After all, he must have had at least a minor obsession with the phrase, using it as a label to release a significant portion of his discography.

As if to make up for the error (or last-minute change in title), guess what the cover story in Musician was the following month.

Not only that, the issue featured a full-page advertisement (now in colour!) to give the music a proper introduction.

It’s a slightly modified version of the album cover. That being the case, I never noticed until seeing this image that the border around the nearly-nude man with the arrows in him (Devin Townsend) subtlely contains the word “Vai” repeated in a loop. Between the feature article and stunning ad, there’s so much detail this time around.

What a difference a month can make!

Tales of the Unauthorized – Metallica: Bay Area Thrashers (The Early Years)

Metallica is a band that pushes my nostalgia meter into the red like few others.  Naturally, the relatively recent news of a deluxe box set reissue of their essential Master of Puppets album made me as giddy as a schoolboy.  As I already have a copy of the album, my brother (who needs it) rushed out to pre-order it, and has promised to grant me full access to all that sweet bonus content.  It made me ponder my own Metallica collection, which was lacking a copy of Kill ‘em All.  A large chunk of money later, and I decided to invest in the deluxe box set of that album, which was released a year ago.

While I’m very pleased with this bundle and it’s exploration of Metallica in their rawest incarnation, the most glaring omission from this box set is the complete absence of demo material.  It’s not as if there wasn’t enough of it available, such as their Power Metal demo, and most famously, No Life Till Leather.  This all reminded me of the placeholder CD in my collection that filled the void of teen-aged Metallica.

I was unsure what this was when I purchased this.  Was it a live album?  Was it a demo?  I couldn’t tell from the packaging, but it didn’t look like an official release.  I know that in the early 2000s, I’d see this release floating around in the CD racks at my frequent stomping grounds of HMV and CD Plus.  I got my copy (guessing) around 2010.  I was always dying to know what it was, though if you judge the album by its cover, you can tell it will be a bit of a Frankenstein job.

Why not use a band promo pic of their early days?  The only person that I’m certain is of the proper era is bassist Ron Mcgovney.  Dave Mustaine’s photo may also be faithful to the time frame (within a couple years at least), but James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich are far from it.  I’d date them around 1988 or 1989, possibly slightly later.  When you’re trying to make a quick buck, why bother striving for accuracy?

The back of the sleeve gets a little better.

It’s hard to screw up one photo, yet I’d still argue that they did.  Could they have found a photo where Hetfield’s face isn’t obscured by the microphone?  Again, it’s not the whole band, but the Ron Mcgovney sighting to his left at least guarantees that it’s authentic to the earliest days of Metallica.  Surely the inside of the booklet will give us a better taste of the beginnings of the band, right?

There’s the whole band!  James?  Check.  Lars (with age-appropriate lip fuzz)?  Check.  Two guys that had nothing to do with this recording?  Double check.  It’s clearly a Ride The Lightning promotional photo, as one could guess from the bolts of lightning in the backdrop.  We are treated to two additional Dave Mustaine photos, one of younger Dave, and another from what looks like the Rust In Peace era for no explicable reason.   If we’re going to jump nearly ten years into the future with these pictures, why not include one showing what Ron did in his post-Metallica days while we’re at it?

Photos aside, at least we finally get some technical info on the recording, though I have never heard of anybody listed as part of the production team.  In addition, you get a few sentences to finally give the listener some context about this CD.  We learn “These are the earliest known recordings by Metallica”, but I’ll explain why this is false later.   You would think at this point they would actually use this opportunity to list the musicians that were in the lineup at the time.  If you were to count up all the different people shown in the packaging, you may be lead to believe Metallica was once a six-piece.

Thankfully, any lineup questions are answered when listening to the recording, which begins with the following spoken-word intro:

The tape you are about to hear was recorded by Jimmy Rich Hardell, the CBS producer, in 1981. It was for a new series of heavy rock bands in the West Coast area, and features a little known band called Metallica. This early lineup comprised James Hetfield on rhythm guitar and vocals, Lars Ulrich on drums, Ron Mcgovney on bass, and Dave Mustaine on lead guitar and vocals. These songs later made it onto the now legendary No Life Til Leather demo, and some say precipitated the birth of thrash metal”

Of any bootleg material I’ve got my hands on, it’s this type that I truly see as a massive rip off to the fans.  The fans are being lied to straight-up in this case without having heard a single note.  Once you do get to the songs, it doesn’t take a keen ear to notice something is fishy.  I’ll attempt to fact-check the recording as well as the introduction.

First of all, I’ve never heard of Jimmy Rich Hardell, or Ardell, depending on your interpretation of the speaker’s accent.  The few references I have found to the man on the internet are in connection to this album.  The narrator announces him as if his name should resonate with us, as if he’s a man of gravitas. If this was the raw Metallica live album it claims to be, his contribution to this would likely be the pressing of the “Record” button on the tape recorder as he held it over his head Cusack-style in the back of the club.  What ever happened to the rest of those West Coast band recordings, and furthermore, shouldn’t his name have been listed among the credits in the booklet?

Also, the material was not recorded in 1981.  If anything, their recording of “Hit The Lights” for the Metal Massacre compilation may have taken place that year, but that’s likely all. The band was formed that year, but they didn’t even play their first show until the following year. Metallica’s first gig was on March 14, 1982, if we are to believe the clipping from Lars Ulrich’s personal notes shown in the Garage Inc. booklet.

After the introduction closes with a rather pointless echo effect (perhaps as a reason to further justify Richard Driscoll’s producer title), we can now put aside all hope of this living up to the hype.  You can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig.  This recording is certainly not as advertised.

This album is essentially the No Life Till Leather demo, but the track order is re-arranged, which helps to explain why there are hard edits between the songs rather than a continuous flow.  Who in their right mind would make hard cuts in between songs in a legitimate live recording?  That would be the best opportunity to capture the rabid nature of the Metallica fanbase.  I’d expect to hear a mess of guitar feedback, the bass being re-tuned to prep for the next song, some drunk guy yelling “Metal Up Your Ass!!!”, a scuffle in the crowd erupting over a patch torn off a denim vest, anything really.

I’m glad to have a copy of these demo songs (it’s the main reason I still own this CD), but unfortunately, the audio quality is rather faded.  I wonder how many generations of tape copying that this had been through to factor into this deteriorated sound. Thankfully, there are sharper versions of the demo on Youtube, and they even re-released it on cassette tape for Record Store Day a few years ago.  You can clearly hear the same vocal inflections and reverb of this unauthorized release when comparing it to the proper demo.

Speaking of reverb, that’s how I got a hint that this CD was not actually a live recording.  I’ve seen enough footage of Metallica to know that they rarely (if ever) used that much processing on Hetfield’s vocals in concert. The fake cheering they use to sell this as live is quite grating to the ears.  Any attempt to integrate it into the mix appropriately is seemingly nonexistent.  The recording captures some great crowd work by James Hetfield, with a hoarsely screamed “Seek… And… Destroy!!” prior to said song, a playful “What’s the matter with you people? You’re not makin’ enough fuckin’ noise!” before “Phantom Lord”, while “We fuckin’ love it!” precedes “Metal Militia”.

That’s all fine and dandy, that is, if you’re willing to overlook that these were sampled from concert footage released on their Cliff ‘Em All videotape.  Just in case you thought that Hetfield sounded like a confident front-man for such a young guy, think again. Dave Mustaine was often the one acting as front-man for much of their earliest gigs as he had more performing experience than anybody, and dealt with less stage-fright.  For a bit more accuracy, they should have considered using some Mustaine lines ripped from early Megadeth shows, though maybe a string of rants about how much Metallica sucks would only confuse fans further.

If I could do it over again, would I have purchased this album?  Probably not, at least not for what I paid (around $10 CAD).  If you have to ask yourself if an album has more or less credibility than Milli Vanilli, that’s not a good sign.  If you see this album somewhere, unless it only costs a buck or two, put it down and walk away.

Rock Star Concert Cards

How can an adult still obsess over 2 ½ by 3 ½ inch pieces of paper?  I can’t quite nail it down.  I view it partially as a link back to my childhood, and partially as a way to learn a thing or two about something.  When it comes to sports cards, collecting them can give you a deeper appreciation about the history of a sports league or sometimes forgotten facts about a favorite team (such as learning that Hockey Hall of Famers Jacques Plante and Bernie Parent briefly shared goalie duties for the Toronto Maple Leafs in the early 70s), and can serve as an amusing reminder of players who may not have lived up to their massive hype (sticking to hockey, I’ll namedrop Alexandre Daigle and Patrik Stefan).

I’m not as interested in non-sports trading cards for the most part, but having a pulse that aligns to the beats of the Bonhams and Blakeys of the world, a set featuring music in some form will often get my attention.  I’m not the sports statistics buff that I used to be, but I seldom turn down the opportunity to learn about musicians, even some I don’t listen to if their story seems interesting enough.  Music cards can occasionally serve as that jumping off point in expanding my knowledge.

I’ve deliberately searched for music-themed trading cards in the past, but my discovery of this set came completely out of the blue. I went to a local sports card store that I only recently learned existed, and had hopes of finding some interesting rookie cards or ones of players from my favourite teams.  After sifting through stacks of cards about to give up hope in finding much worthwhile, this ridiculously retro-looking box caught my eye as I was about to leave.

Twenty dollars may not sound like a honey of a deal, but if you give any consideration to eBay pricing, I could easily have spent at least three times the price had I gone that route.  Would I recommend paying those kind of prices?  Not really, but it’s a neat little purchase if you shrewdly bargain hunt.

It’s nice for the prospective buyer that you at least get to see the top card of the pack, which can assure you that if buying one individually, you will take at least one non-duplicate card home with you.  The design wouldn’t exactly a subject worthy of an arts degree thesis paper.  The cards edges are rounded like those in a deck of playing cards, which I think is their best quality.  While this makes for more difficulty in dinging the corners when shuffling through them, the poorly cut edges take away from the smooth appearance.  But dwelling on such concerns any longer falls under nerdy collector-speak, and that ain’t rock n roll.

For such a small set of 108 cards (minus two set checklist cards), variety is easily one of it’s strengths.  While pretty much everybody included in this set was a household name when it was released (1985), you get a good mix of pop and rock icons who were dominating the MTV screen time.  Want something with a heavier edge?  Get your hands on the Ozzy Osbourne and AC/DC cards.  Do you have pop sensibilities?  You’ve got the Thompson Twins and Wham for that.  Something your parents could enjoy? Save them the Huey Lewis and The News and Hall & Oates cards.  And where are the ladies?  Patty Smyth and Pat Benetar await your selection.

The way my luck is, I could not complete an entire set of these cards.  Not only that, I’m missing two of the cards that would arguably be the most popular in the set: Mick Jagger and George Michael.  If you have purchased virtually any box of trading cards that is at least 20 years old, you’ll find that as little surprise at how poorly the cards are randomized in each pack.  Most cards come in the same sequence pack after pack, so you’d likely need to buy two boxes worth to get the whole set, and even that isn’t guaranteed.  This left me with a stack of duplicates that outnumbered the ones I held onto to compile a set.  That tends to be why I often avoid packs and boxes and just target cards I want.

The backs of the cards tell a good story about each musician and band. Learn of the extensive music background of Police guitarist Andy Summers, Loverboy vocalist Mike Reno’s love of cooking and Monty Python, or Steve Pearcy of Ratt’s dashed racing aspirations.  You also get the all the vital information of their birthdate and birthplace, hometown, and their musical instrument.  Pre-Wikipedia, these cards would have made for a great starting point for some kid’s research.  My best discovery on the back of one of these cards?  A reference to Ozzy bassist Bob Daisley’s old band, Chicken Shack, some great heavy British blues I’d like to get my hands on one day.

The backs of band cards differ slightly from those of the individual members.  They include a checklist for all band member cards at the top, and a brief write-up, followed by a discography featuring official albums and singles.  Some cards of more established artists, such as The Rolling Stones, do not list their singles alongside their albums due to a lack of space.  However, a band like Quiet Riot’s card lists all Slade’s their most-popular singles.

Each pack also contains a sticker with some sort of music-themed expression emblazoned across it.  I’m only one sticker shy of having all twelve.  Without digging for the answer, I can only hazard a guess that sticker #12 would read something as banal as “If it’s too loud, you’re too old!”, “Rock ‘till you drop!” or “I survived a Kenny Rogers concert, and all I got was this lousy sticker”.  Since they are much smaller than the main cards, I’ve crammed them all onto the scanner at once for your viewing pleasure.

To finish things off, here are a few of my favourite images in the set.

I went to the store to get hockey cards, and gosh darn-it, this is close enough! A great looking St. Louis Blues shirt on Triumph’s Mike Levine.

I’m glad they chose a border color to match Bill Wyman’s suit. Who said Mick and Keith are the coolest Stones? Looking sharp, Bill!

I bet he’s an absolute riot at parties.

Classic Rudolf guitar face! If I posed for a photo with him, I’d demand he make this face so there’s no mistaking him for someone else.

The prerequisite for Loverboy membership: regrettable neck ornamentation.

The only way to get more American than this photo give him a baseball bat, an apple pie, and some silicone implants.

Huey looks as if he has something else on his mind that’s distracting him.  Sports, perhaps.

Rock Star Concert Cards: Generically named, somewhat generically designed, yet I still kind of like them.  How about you?

My Music Autograph Collection

It’s show and tell time!

I’m not a huge autograph seeker.  I’ve spoken to a number of musicians at concerts I’ve attended, but never feel the urge to ask for an autograph.  I haven’t used an autograph book since I was a kid when I would go to the Oldtimers charity hockey games featuring retired NHLers.  I don’t carry an autograph book anymore, so what else could I get a musician to sign?  It involves too much planning to bring CDs or whatever else with you to a show, considering that I usually go to a concert straight from work and want to take as little with me as possible.

I’ll start out with the one that should have the most mass appeal: Iron Maiden.

I didn’t even notice that this was autographed until after I purchased it. It was in the “final sale” bin at a favourite used music store of mine, Deja Vu Discs.  It had a huge disclaimer sticker which was blocking a large chunk of the cover.  Fear Of The Dark was missing from my Maiden collection, and all I considered was the reasonable price ($4).

It’s rather evident that black pen is not a wise choice for this album cover.  The most prominent signatures here belong to drummer Nicko McBrain and either guitarist Dave Murray or singer Bruce Dickinson at the top-right corner.  The remaining signatures are done with a thinner pen, and some are partially obscured by the left side of the cover.  I count five signatures in total, and since I can’t make out the name of ex-vocalist Blaze Bayley anywhere here, I’m led to believe all these names are from those that actually appear on the album.

To me, that’s quite a relief.  I find it weird when someone signs an album they had nothing to do with.  An exception could be made if it was someone in the band that toured the album, but that’s about it.  There’s a good anecdote in comedian Marc Maron’s book Attempting Normal where he expresses disappointment when getting his copy of Lou Reed’s Transformer album signed by musicians that were not in Reed’s band at the time.  I actually happened to get Maron’s autograph after watching his stand-up act, and thankfully there was no way a similar screw up could be made unless his touring manager insisted on co-signing his posters.

These next two artists’ signatures share something in common.  It appears that they will sign absolutely anything under the sun. And they both happen to be named Mike.

The first is Mike Vennart.  He was the guitarist/vocalist of the (in my humble opinion) criminally underrated rock band Oceansize, and a touring guitarist with Biffy Clyro.  He announced his first solo album in 2015 through a campaign on PledgeMusic, so I grabbed myself a copy of The Demon Joke in a neon green vinyl LP / CD bundle.  I think it may have cost a bit more for him to sign it, but I bought it regardless.

The next year, he released an album with his project British Theatre through PledgeMusic.  Not only did he sign the album, but so did fellow collaborator Richard “Gambler” Ingram, who also happened to play in Oceansize.

Earlier this year, he announced the release of a DVD/CD package Target ’15 featuring tour performances his projects had done over the course of 2015.  Since Vennart never came to North America as a solo act, I jumped at the opportunity to obtain a copy.  To my surprise, the package included a postcard featuring yet another autograph. This time, his personalized inscribing came gratis.  I’ve included both the front and back to show his minimal but highly stylish logo, of which I almost bought the matching t-shirt.

Next up is Michael Gira, best known as the main man behind so-called “no wave” band Swans.  You don’t even need to ask the man, and you’ll likely get his autograph if you make an order off his label, Young God Records.  I pre-ordered The Glowing Man, knowing that his autograph would arrive as a neat bonus to an expansive 2-CD / DVD package.

The entire sleeve was paper bag brown, so much like the inner covers of a high school yearbook, there was plenty of space for Mr. Gira to choose to write.  However, I’m not sure how I feel about signatures appearing on the inside of a package rather than on the cover.  On one hand, the album isn’t as interesting as a display piece.  On the other hand, leaving the front cover unmarked could be done out of respect for the occasionally overlooked contributions of the visual artist.  Ideally, if I brought an album sleeve to get autographed, I’d aim to get each band member to sign above or next to their photo.  That way, it leaves the guessing game aspect of identifying the signature out of the equation.

When catching Swans live on the tour supporting The Glowing Man, I gleefully raided the merch table to grab a t-shirt, and a large chunk of their discography that I was missing.  I found it unusual that the copy of Children of God / World of Skin I just purchased was unsealed, but I should have known why.

Jarboe’s signature (the woman in the right of the photo) may be missing from the above photo, but this next one is also a woman of significant talent.

Nerina Pallot, a singer/songwriter from the UK, is currently the only female musician in my autograph collection.  I was introduced to her through the BBC documentary When Albums Ruled The World, and she was playing a Carole King song off the massively popular Tapestry (it may have actually been the song “Tapestry”).  Not only did this inspire me to get some Carole King into my collection, but also some of Nerina’s own work.

Yet again, she’s another musician that announced in partnership with PledgeMusic news of her latest album at the time, The Sound and the Fury, so I got a signed pre-order of her CD.  And on top of her musical talents, I’ve got a bit of a crush on her.  That being the case, her addition of “Love” before her name makes me smile a bit, and that is not at all pathetic.

Using the best for last cliché, here’s the latest addition to my autograph collection.  It was difficult to get a photo while fighting the reflective frame, but it’s good enough for the purpose of this blog.

This poster has not one, not two, not three, but four signatures of rather big names in jazz circles. You have two undisputed living legends in guitarist John Scofield and drummer Jack DeJohnette, along with two comtemporary jazz players in keyboardist John Medeski and bassist Larry Grenadier. This poster was only available in limited supply during the pre-order of their collaborative Hudson album. The odds were long that I’d ever get a chance to meet each one of these men, so I leaped at the opportunity. I wanted the CD anyway, so why not get a little bit extra to go along with it?

I wish they hand-numbered the posters to give it more of a collector’s appeal, but since I’m not planning on reselling it, it’s a trivial thing to worry about.

Do I have any autograph-hunting regrets? Like I mentioned in an earlier entry, it would have been cool to have gotten Allan Holdsworth’s when I had the chance.  I also could have affordably snatched up a few signed vinyl records at a local record store that would be welcome in my collection: Al Di Meola’s Tirami Su, and Marillion’s Script From A Jester’s Tear album signed by vocalist Fish.  A friend of mine actually picked up the Marillion when the store closed it’s doors a few years ago, so I’m glad it has a good home.

Aside from that, I nearly obtained a Primus gig poster signed by the band on their Primus in 3D tour featuring their Green Naugahyde-era lineup.  I can’t remember how much more it cost compared to a blank one, but I probably would have justified the purchase now.  Not a huge deal, though, as it stands rather well on it’s own.  In addition, it would have been a purchase, and not part of a meet-and-greet with the band.  After all, the best way to get an autograph is in-person, if only to awkwardly tell them the first thing that springs to mind while they’ve little choice but to nod and smile politely.

 

 

Packaging Perspective: Night Passage by Weather Report

This album rarely gets discussed.  It was the second Weather Report album I ever owned (Heavy Weather being the first), and the first that I spent my own money on.  It may not get the acclaim that the bulk of their 70s recordings receive, but I think this album holds its own in terms of the songwriting (on top of which is an upbeat Duke Ellington cover). However, I’m not going to get too deep into the album. It’s the packaging that I wish to discuss.

The front cover isn’t out of the ordinary, looking very typical of something released in 1980, especially the font that wouldn’t be out of place on a science fiction novel or a Radio Shack advertisement.  I never gave it much thought when I purchased it, and I still don’t.  I was looking for more music featuring bassist Jaco Pastorius at the time, so this one met that demand.  Simple as that.

What’s the first thing I typically do when buying an album?  I pull out the sleeve, usually even before I place it on the turntable or in the CD player.  Imagine my surprise when I unfolded this sleeve for the first time.

No, my scanner isn’t broken (actually, I do get Ink Cartridge Failure warnings whenever powering the thing up, but that’s beside the point).  The sleeve is as white as driven snow.  It’s mainly upsetting because there is a fold in the paper, leading me to believe at first that there would actually be liner notes.  With nothing on the inside, why didn’t they make the sleeve half the size to skip the necessity of folding?  Could the quality of paper needed to print on both sides really be that pricey?

For the sake of completion, here’s the back of the CD sleeve. It isn’t really worth discussing.  It’s just a dark backdrop with a red object resembling an Easter egg or a balloon.

Or a jelly bean

Some people may be thinking that Weather Report is an instrumental jazz fusion band, so there are no lyrics required to be printed.  Still, it doesn’t justify leaving a blank white sheet.  My brother told me that he believed his copy of Al Di Meola’s Elegant Gypsy (also released on Columbia Records) suffered the same sleeve problem, but it turns out that even that included a little more (a re-listing of the song names in white text with a turquoise background).  That almost sounds like a pointless inclusion, but at least I can rule out that my booklet was a defective printing.

I had to look up the initial vinyl release of Night Passage to see if it was as lacking in detail.  Sometimes, when an album was initially issued on CD (as is the case of my copy), they will simply copy the sleeve of the LP record.  Perhaps the record had no inner sleeve, and therefore, nothing ready to print.  Of course, that wasn’t the case, and the record was chalk full of delicious descriptives (see here). You get the lineup, production details, management, just about everything a growin’ boy needs.  Why the discrepancy?

Regardless, I’m sure I have another album or two with this problem in my collection.  It got me thinking what could best be done with an album like this.  Should I write the missing album information inside for convenient reference?  In the age where quick internet research is possible, I could find plenty to include in here.

The band’s lineup is nowhere to be found, so that could be a good place to start. The back of the CD case shows each member’s photo, but no names were included.  Some people may not recognize the man on the bottom-left (Robert Thomas Jr.) because he didn’t play on their previous studio album, Mr. Gone.  They even had the live album 8:30 come out just prior to this, so you could confuse him for Erich Zawinul (keyboardist and bandleader Joe Zawinul’s son), who contributed some percussion on that album.

There’s that red pill again!

And who wrote the songs?  The listener can just assume Joe Zawinul wrote any given tune and be right more than half of the time, but the booklet is truly where this information should be listed.  The writing credits are printed on the CD, but you would have to be holding the disc in your hand to read it, so you couldn’t check as you are listening to a song.  Most CD players cover the disc to make any attempt to read the disc impossible anyway, not to mention the rapid rotation speed.  A record spins significantly slower, so I’d be slightly more forgiving if the vinyl edition left the info off the sleeve rather than with the CD.

There are plenty of other things that would be nice to know about this album. Is “Port of Entry” live or were the crowd noises overdubbed? Where did some of the unique song titles like “Dream Clock” or “Three Views of a Secret” come from?  Someone lacking in musical theory may want to know the time signatures used in a composition. Back in the heyday of jazz, an album would often be accompanied by a descriptive essay that would answer many of the listener’s curiousities. Sometimes, a band leader would write his or her own description of the music, or a music critic (such as Ralph J. Gleason or Nat Hentoff) would chime in with their own impressions.  While this tradition may not have been as commonplace into the 80s, there’s no reason not to bring this practice back.  With disciplined control over my writing utensil (or a very precise plotter to do the writing), I could squeeze my own essay into this space.

Many albums will list a break down of the lineup of musicians track-by-track.  Guests have the tendency to sit in on a song or two in the jazz and fusion scene.  Some albums even have completely different lineups recording on each track.  In their case, Weather Report have been a band in transitional phases in the midst of some of their recording sessions. For example. Black Market featured the band’s departing bassist, Alphonso Johnson, playing on the majority of the album, and Jaco Pastorius joined the group in time to contribute with both “Barbary Coast” and “Cannon Ball”. Were there any guests or interesting lineup variants in Night Passage sessions?  Like most other facts about this album, I was left to wonder.  It appears (from my research) that the lineup was consistent track-to-track, but a list of gear and instruments on each song would be a great thing to write down.

Or should I be more inventive with the space?  Why not go the experimental route?  I should be viewing this as a blessing, a chance to spread my wings on this 9.5 × 4.75-inch canvas.  I could write my own lyrics or poetry to fit some of the songs, give each band member a new name based solely on the provided photographs, or doodle my own alternative album cover and fold the sleeve in the opposite direction.  I could hand a young child some crayons, and have them draw based on how this album makes them feel.

That last one may not be the best idea after all.  If it goes anything like my introduction to jazz, I’d imagine the page to remain as blank as the look on the kid’s face.

Albums Worth Waiting For

Sometimes life gets in the way of a good hobby.  I’m single, so it’s not as if I have family concerns that limit how I spend any excess income.  If that weren’t the case, I’m sure the idea of excess income would rapidly become a fantasy.  In that regard, perhaps I should correct myself.  Sometimes an excess of hobbies can get in the way of a good hobby.  Better?

In the quest to build the perfect music collection, I tend to come across so many different artists that I end up chasing the albums that most recently come to my attention, pushing more and more music further down my want-list.  When factoring in other hobbies, lifestyle choices, and expenses, my music collecting goals can get delayed.  As Mick Jagger sings in what is undoubtedly a different context, you can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, well you just might find you get what you need.

Here are five albums that took me years to obtain, but I’m pleased to say were all worth the wait.

Gorguts – Obscura

In my first few years of listening to metal, my curiousity was sky-high.  I started with thrash and more traditional heavy metal, but I’d always make attempts to step out of my comfort zone.  Though I was stuck with a weak dial-up connection during my teen years, the internet was still one of my major music discovery methods.

The BNR Metal Pages was one of my first go-to sources for learning about metal music online.  It may seem primitive by today’s standards, but I’m glad to see the site still exists.  I was curious about finding some metal bands from my native land of Canada, and this site featured an outline of the more notable ones.  Rush, Voivod, Strapping Young Lad, Annihilator, etc.  Basically the higher profile, usual suspects that people normally identify with Canadian rock/metal would show up on my radar (though I had developed a brief Razor fascination as a teenager).  Then came Gorguts.

Gorguts was such an unusual name to me.  This was before I exposed myself to much death metal, so vulgar sounding names were a novelty to me.  I never heard them until a long while after learning about them, or if I did it was one of their earlier Roadrunner Records-era songs.  When I finally decided to invest time in finding Gorguts’ music, I needed a starting point.

Obscura kept showing up as their most notable work. It received a lot of mixed reactions because people didn’t know what to make of it at the time of it’s initial release in 1998. It’s similar to the backlash that Atheist received when they released Unquestionable Presence.  Though there’s a seven year gap between these albums, many death metal fans still weren’t open to new approaches.  Opinions have changed since then, and it is now considered a landmark album.  There’s even a notable technical death metal band that adopted Obscura as their moniker.

Unfortunately, Obscura was long out-of-print, so copies of it weren’t exactly priced to move. I put it out of my mind until Luc Lemay reformed the band to create the album Colored Sands with a new lineup featuring Dysrhythmia members Kevin Hufnagel and Colin Marston.  I loved the album, saw them live promoting said album, and shortly after learned that (at long last!) they were going to re-release Obscura.  I quickly placed an order for the fancy-schmantzy blue coloured vinyl edition.

Anyone ever get that feeling when your heart races when you unexpectedly come across an album when pouring through the shelves in a music store?  Finding a copy of Obscura in the bargain bin of a used CD store did that to me.  I was so stunned by it’s presence that I temporarily forgot I had the vinyl on pre-order!  In this case, it was the original Olympic Records version, so I easily parted with the four bucks.

I’m now the proud owner of two copies of the album.  I usually don’t grab multiple versions of the same album, but I’ll call this one a happy accident.  While they modified the cover slightly to incorporate their current logo (the pic I’ve provided is the original cover), the expanded liner notes provide great insight to the creative process and musicians.  For fans of more straight-forward death metal looking to broaden their horizons, Obscura is well-worth checking out, especially now that it is plentifully available.

Oceansize – Efflorese

This is the case of an album that was never financially out of reach, yet it still took longer than I wanted to obtain it.

My introduction to Oceansize (named after the Jane’s Addiction tune) came soon after I stumbled across a valuable music resource on the internet, Prog Archives.  The site featured a media player that showcasing songs of artists selected for inclusion in their archives.  For Oceansize, whom the site categorizes as psychedelic/space-rock, they included a track off Effloresce titled “Massive Bereavement”.  To fresh ears, it reminded me of an easier-to-digest Mr. Bungle, especially during the second half of the song.   That’s all it took to sell them to me.

I attended university in a smaller city in Canada with few music stores.   Fortunately, the HMV in the area would order in albums that you did not need to pay for in advance.  Seeing as the store’s selection wasn’t often up to my standards, I took frequent advantage of their policy.  It wasn’t too long after my Oceansize discovery before I requested that they order in a copy of Effloresce.  I expected to get a call from the store within a couple months, but that would not be the case.

Thankfully, the band, like most, had more than one album.  I received Frames as a Christmas gift months that very year , and it certainly held me over.  I had recently seen some live rehearsal-style footage on Youtube, and luckily, my copy of Frames came with the DVD featuring this among the footage.  That album helped get me through the stresses of post-secondary education, so it was very much a worthy placeholder.  In fact, the HMV called me around a week or two before I was to move back home from school to tell me that they could not fulfil my order.

Soon after heading back home, I found Self-Preserved While The Bodies Float Up at Sonic Boom Records.  Don’t get me wrong!  I like that album, but the void remained. I still hadn’t tracked down the original album that brought Oceansize to my attention.

Once I found a stable job and moved out of my parent’s house, I finally grabbed my own credit card and began making online music purchases.  Effloresce was near the top of my shopping list, so it was naturally one of the first that I crossed off it.

Forbidden – Twisted Into Form

I learned about Forbidden because Slayer’s drummer at the time I discovered them, Paul Bostaph, was once a member (as was Machine Head’s Robb Flynn).  I believe I first saw the band listed on a Slayer fan-site that I can’t seem to locate.  I also saw a brief 15-second clip of their performance of “Chalice Of Blood” from the concert video Ultimate Revenge 2.  It was such a short sampling because it was on a VHS compilation tape from Metal Head video magazine (Volume 1) that either my brother or I found at a pawn shop when we were around 16.  Albeit a very short taste, the riffage in that song sounded so devastatingly powerful that we knew one of us had to get an album of theirs.  The trouble was that their work was long out of print, so we did what we normally did to build up our CD collections.  We waited.

I typically have good fortune when checking my nearby Deja Vu Discs location’s stock of used CDs. When it came to Forbidden, lady luck did not shine down upon me. I’d estimate it took around four to five years before they had either of Forbidden’s first two albums in one of their stores. My brother grabbed Forbidden Evil, and I got Twisted Into Form, both of which appeared on the same trip.

The album was exactly what I was hoping for.  Top-notch Bay Area thrash rivaling the quality that I’ve grown accustomed to with Puppets/Justice-era Metallica or the first four Testament albums.  Russ Anderson is more in the traditional/power metal school of vocalist compared to others in thrash metal that have more grit in their voices, but I liked the contrast.

Oddly enough, I ended up purging this album from my collection after about a year or so of buying it.  I’d routinely do this type of thing when I was younger during stretches of unemployment.  If I wanted to buy more music, I’d sell some albums that I wasn’t so enthusiastic about at the time in order to free up some money.  I also remember getting rid of my copy of Dreaming Neon Black by Nevermore (which also features Tim Calvert as a guitarist) around the same time, so that’s another wrong that needs righting eventually.

I re-purchased Twisted Into Form at some point this year to cure my feelings of seller’s remorse.  It’s not the original edition I previously owned, but this version includes the Raw Evil Live at the Dynamo EP as bonus tracks, so that’s good for a taste of some Forbidden Evil material as well as a faithful cover of Judas Priest’s “Victim of Changes”.

Cardiacs – A Little Man and a House and the Whole World Window and On Land and In The Sea

Cardiacs are a hard band to describe to people.  They’re a bit proggy, a bit punk, a bit psychedelic, a bit poppy, and a bit silly.  Much of their songs sound as if you’re playing a 33 1/3rpm record on the 45rpm setting.  That may not all sound particularly appetizing, but it is to this guy.

I first heard of them when I was first getting into Napalm Death, and bassist Shane Embury mentioned them as an influence in the Noise For Music’s Sake liner notes.  I never properly checked the band out until Napalm Death recorded a cover of “To Go Off and Things” to help raise money for Cardiacs bandleader Tim Smith’s medical expenses.  It sounded rather different from Napalm Death, but they’ve always seemed to name-check a great range of influences.

It took a few songs to figure them out, but it didn’t take much for their unique sound to grow on me.  I really dug the songs “Dirty Boy” (which reminded me of Devin Townsend’s work) “Day Is Gone” “A Little Man and a House” and “Is This The Life?” which was the closest they had to a hit.  Funnily enough, a few years after listening to that Napalm Death cover, I noticed that guitarist Dan Mongrain was wearing a Cardiacs t-shirt live when his band (Voivod) co-headlined a tour with (you guessed it!) Napalm Death.  Message received!  It was time to take getting a Cardiacs album seriously.

I didn’t look in much detail over the span of the internet like I’ve just recently started doing for some obscure stuff.  I tended to stick to Amazon, which is still usually the first place I look, where a Cardiacs album typically sells at the same price as three or four standard-priced albums.  Given the option, I’d take the three-to-four albums 99 times out of 100.

This was a case where I finally bit the bullet and put down a bit more money than I would normally spend on CDs.  I acquired the two pictured albums as a bundle on eBay. They weren’t exactly cheap, but it got to the point of waiting that I didn’t want to hold off any longer.  Compared to the outrageous listed prices on other sites, finding theses CDs at around $25 CAD a piece is a relative steal.  In fact, I just snagged a copy of Heaven Born & Ever Bright from the same eBay seller nearly one year later at around $20.  If this trend remains, I should be ordering Sing to God from the same guy for $15 at some point next year.

If you’re gonna dream, dream big!

Sadus – A Vision Of Misery

The first time I heard Steve Digiorgio’s bass playing, I was completely enthralled. It coincided with my introduction to Death through watching the music video for “The Philosopher” when I was around 18.  I’m not 100% certain that it was my first exposure to fretless bass, but it was definitely my introduction to fretless bass playing in a metal context.  It was around this time that I bought my musically like-minded twin brother a copy of The Sound of Perseverance as a Christmas gift.  This album did not have Digiorgio on it (though still a great listen), so I had to do a bit of digging for albums featuring my new bass inspiration.

While The Sound of Perseverance was the only Death album available at the local mall, it wasn’t long before I found a second-hand copy of Individual Thought Patterns at Deja Vu Discs.  I’d also found his appearance in other sources such as his stint with Testament (see The Gathering) and his stand-in session work on Quo Vadis’ Defiant Imagination.  However, I was intrigued to hear more of Digiorgio’s work in his pre-Death band, Sadus.

Back when downloading MP3s was a big deal, my brother and I would vigorously search the interwebs in hopes of discovering more great metal bands.  We loaded up a stellar collection of lo-fidelity audio (that unmistakable sound as if it’s being played under water) of metal bands ranging from Agent Steel to Zyklon.  We never really dabbled with Napster or similar music-sharing sites, opting to record label or band sites, which commonly had a downloads section where you can get a song or two per album for free.  In this routine process, we found some Sadus songs on the band’s official website.  I don’t know all of their songs they featured, but one I definitely recall is “Aggression” off of Elements of Anger.  The problem was that each of their songs would fade out at around the two minute mark.  Good enough sampling for me, and I was sold.  The problem was that I couldn’t find their albums anywhere.

Fast forward fourteen years later, and one of my long Youtube video journeys led me to stumble across the song “Deceptive Perceptions” off A Vision of Misery. After sampling a few other Sadus tracks in their discography, I decided that would be the album with the most appeal.  Still, it really didn’t matter where I started because all of their albums have been out of print for a good decade and at seemingly low supply.  So I waited yet again to do some bargain hunting.  Twenty dollars may not sound like a deal on a used CD, but it was the lowest listed value I was able to find after a few extra months of patience.

––

Am I alone out there in waiting so long in making such purchases?  Would it be a better strategy to get an album at any cost rather than waiting potentially years for it?  Or should I scrap my physical music collection altogether and become devoted exclusively to iTunes or Spotify?