Monday, February 2, 2015

New Etsy Shop - New Etsy Banner

For quite some time the Etsy banner at the top of this blog led people to my shop Firebeard Designs, where I sell my hand made jewelry (you should check it out, great stuff). Well, I finally opened my new Etsy shop, Firebeard's Vinyldrome, where you will slowly find vinyl for sale. The new Etsy banner at the top now links to the new shop.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Chikkin - Which Came First?

Chikkin - Which Came First?

Egg EGA-3690, Canada, 1978

Not much information about this band other than that they were a three piece from the Toronto area. I can't really slot this album into any particular genre as there are so many influences thrown about that it tends to be a bit of a mash-up. Pop commercialism, rock balladry, sixties whimsy, spacey electronics, jazz excursions and a great dollop of quirkiness; they all come and go without apparent aim.

There actually are some good moments and interesting ideas to be found. Certainly album opener "Replica" with it's funky wah'ed guitar is worth a listen. As well, track 5, the jazzy instrumental "Spacious", showcases some nice guitar and piano work.
Ultimately, though,  Which Came First? fails in three important ways. The above mentioned lack of stylistic direction is one, but I don't think this is the major factor, as several bands have recorded great albums that are far from stylistically linear. A second failure I find is in the mixing. The bass and drums are too forward for my liking, often burying the other instruments. The biggest letdown, however, is in the overall sound, and especially the vocals. I have seen them described as wimpish and really, I can't say it better. There just seems to be no meat here.
All said, I don't think of this as a bad album per se, but rather a big disappointment. I do hear alot of potential here. Perhaps with more time spent writing and some better vocals Chikkin could have made a pretty good rock album. In the end I am left wondering what could have been.

Where this album excels, oddly enough, is in the packaging, so much so that I could even scratch my head and wonder if the music was written to provide reason for the physical product. The band name appears in reflective silver foil on the front cover which is only a slightly interesting gimmick (that hasn't stood the test of time well as it seems most copies are damaged in this area). However, upon removal of the vinyl from the sleeve we find that Chikkin's album, which is on the Egg label (har har), is pressed on clean white vinyl with a lovely yellow label so that the disc itself looks like a big fried egg. And this is why I, and I would suspect many others, bought this album unheard in the first place. Note that original packaging includes an inner lyric sleeve.

Side 1 - 1. Replica 2. Upthisclose 3. Martyr In Vinyl 4. Correspondence 5. Spacious
Side 2 - 1. I'm Not A Sin 2. The Quitter 3. Moonlit Hill 4. Starbrite 5. Big Dream Sell

Greg Evans-bass/synthesizer/vocals;
David Tomlinson-drums/percussion/vocals;
Eddy Valiquette-guitar/vocals.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Gabriel - Abnormal Situation

Gabriel - Abnormal Situation

private press, no label/no cat. #, Canada, 1983

Here is an interesting thrift store find. This private pressing is by a band who appear to be from Manitoba, possibly the Winnipeg area.
Playing mostly 60s/70s rock covers, with a few originals thrown in, the album is a mix of live (at the Royal Albert Arms Hotel in Winnipeg) and studio recordings, the live tracks having a muffled sound quality. The covers are not bad, demonstrating some decent guitar work. Kudos to them for even taking a stab at the Hendrix version of "Star Spangled Banner", but watch out for their dire attempt at The Police's "Roxanne"

Of the originals "Dragon Attack" is especially fine with some ripping lead guitar. I played this track three times in a row upon my first spin of the disc. The track "Fifteen", however, is pretty bad.
I have no idea if Gabriel ever made it beyond this self-released album, but I am pretty happy to have found this. A nice and obscure artifact from Winnipeg's early 80s rock scene. The Royal Albert Arms Hotel is still going with music on a nightly basis. If I am ever in the area I will certainly check it out.

Side 1 - 1. Abnormal Situation 2. Fire 3. Holiday 4. My Generation 5. Can't Explain 6. The Star Spangled Banner 7. Dragon Attack
Side 2 - 1. La Grange 2. Roxanne 3. Taxman 4. Fifteen 5. Allright Now 6. Every Little Thing 7. Goin' Down The Road

Russell Mattern-drums/vocals;
Brent DesJarlais-vocals;
Clayton Halverson-guitar/vocals;
Brad Allison-bass/vocals.

Live tracks recorded at The Royal Albert Arms, Feb. 18/19 1983.
Studio tracks recorded at La Garage 589, Oct. 10-Nov. 10 1983.

You can check out the Royal Albert Arms Hotel's facebook page here:

Sunday, March 23, 2014

V/A - The Music Of Cosmos - OST

V/A - The Music Of Cosmos - OST

I should have posted this a few weeks ago, but I have been busy with other things and haven't posted here in a while (will endeavour to change that!).
To celebrate the new updated version of the series Cosmos I present the vinyl soundtrack to the original Carl Sagan hosted series which ran for 13 episodes in 1980.

RCA Victor ABL1-4003, Canada, 1981

Presented in a gatefold sleeve this album features excerpts (sadly) of music featured in the series. While heavy on classical pieces, notable inclusions for progressive fans include music from Vangelis, Synergy and Roy Buchanan, which are full of electronic atmospherics befitting a journey through the galaxy.
The pieces are arranged in three suites per side and segue into each other. Sometimes this works, sometimes not so much. All in all it is an interesting artifact and because of this album I will be seeking out a copy of Roy Buchanan's 1978 LP "You're Not Alone".

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Kops 2

Kops Records in Toronto has a new second location at 592 Bloor Street West and they are having a special grand opening showcase this Saturday, September 28th,  featuring plenty of bands and DJs. They will also be offering $5 off purchases over $30. Go show your support for the bands and find some great vinyl.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Space Opera - st

Space Opera - st

Columbia ES 90116, Canada, 1972

With a name like Space Opera you'd be forgiven for expecting some tripped out cosmic space rock somewhere between Pink Floyd and Hawkwind, but that, of course, would be far too obvious. What Space Opera play is a high quality country rock full of jangly 12-string, vocal harmonies and excellent twin lead guitar. Progressive movements elevate the music, as does some accomplished fuzz guitar, buzzing like a swarm of angry bees on "Holy River", feverish and frantic on the 7 and a half minute instrumental "Guitar Suite". Elsewhere the band utilise flute, harmonica, cello and harpsichord to good effect. The album sits well alongside Grateful Dead, CSN and the like and it is too bad they didn't get wider recognition which may have led to further albums. Both tracks on their sole single (Epic 10971) are taken from the album.

Many collectors believe that Space Opera were a Canadian band (as did I), but they actually formed in Texas in 1969. They later moved to Canada in the early 70s, recording the album at Manta Sound in Toronto. The American pressing was released on Epic (32117).

Side 1 - 1. Country Max (3:20) 2. Holy River (5:26) 3. Outlines (4:10) 4. Guitar Suite (7:36)
Side 2 - 1. My Telephone Artist (3:46) 2. Riddle (3:05) 3. Prelude #4 (3:52) 4. Lookout (2:46)
5. Blue Ridge Mountains (2:11) 6. Over And Over (5:56)

Brett Wilson-drums/percussion;
Philip White-bass/guitar/keyboards/vocals;
Scott Fraser-guitar/keyboards/vocals;
David Bullock-guitar/flute/harmonica/vocals.

Recorded at Manta Sound, Toronto.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Terence - An Eye For An Ear

Terence - An Eye For An Ear

Decca DL 75137, USA, 1969

The Terence of this album is Canadian 60s pop icon Terry Black from British Columbia. Black had his first hit in 1965, at the age of 15, with his second A-side "Unless You Care" (Arc 1074) which charted at #2 in Canada and #99 in the USA. This was quickly followed by several other charting singles and a "Best Male Vocalist" award in the same year. A brief move to the US followed where this album was conceived, though recorded in both New York and Toronto. An Eye For An Ear generally does not appear in Terry Black discographies and it is believed that this album is a "studio project" rather than an outright release by the artist.

While certainly not bad, this is also not a great album to my ears. Too much pop balladry, orchestration and blasts of brass. Black's deep, soulful vocals remind me of other late 60s psych-crooners like Damon and Beauregarde and quite frankly lack the depth or nuance to keep me inspired. That said, this is still an album of its time with decent fuzz guitar licks and hip organ flourishes to be heard throughout. The standout track for fans of psych is the side two opener "Fool Amid The Traffic" featuring a hypnotic organ and drum backing to a healthy spread of wah-wahed and fuzzy guitar. This track would be a great addition to any psych compilation. For fans of the weird and experimental the non-song "The Emperor" offers sound effects, wordless female vocals and Terry Black's spoken retelling of the emperor's new clothes tale.

I don't believe there was a Canadian pressing, this American issue covering both markets. There was, however, a 1969 German pressing on MCA (MAPS 1884) with different cover art. The Museum of Canadian Music website values originals at $45.00, though I consider this to be high. Indeed, friends in England have told me that over the last decade or so An Eye For An Ear has been a common charity shop find at a few quid (this may refer to the German press).

German issue.

Side 1 - 1. An Eye For An Ear 2. Rap 3. Second City Song 4. Power 5. Exiles
Side 2 - 1. Fool Amid The Traffic 2. Priscilla 3. Lighting Frederick's Fire 4. The Emperor 5. Does It Feel Better Now?