The record Box for Monday, Feb.23rd 2015 by John The Rock Doctor

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PHYSICAL GRAFFITI: DELUXE EDITION Led Zeppelin (Warner) ***** +Exactly 40 years to the day after appearing on record store shelves, we have the re-mastered and expanded edition of what many fans consider to be Led Zeppelin’s greatest creative achievement.  It was the first album on the band’s own Swan Song label and, as with others albums in guitarist/ producer Jimmy Page’s ongoing reissue campaign, this comes with a disc of previously unreleased companion audio.When I first heard this sprawling 2 record set at the age of 16 I was enchanted, captivated and enthralled.  Today, 40 years later, nothing has changed there.  Fans, critics and even Robert Plant points to Graffiti  as being “the essence of Zep”.  From a delicate acoustic interlude like Bron-Yr-Aur , to the playful romp that is Down By The Seaside, to the mighty riffs that propel Kashmir and Sick Again, not to mention the epic, greasy blues of In My Time of Dying… by God if one record could be said to have it all then this is it.As with the 5 re-mastered re-releases that have come before this and the others still on the way, producer/ guitarist/ curator Jimmy Page has left no stone unturned.  Initially this album, as well as all the others, was re-mastered 20 years ago for CD release.  With the advancements made in sound technology in the meantime Page felt that, especially given his advancing years (he’s now 71) that it was now or never to bring these up to snuff for CD, vinyl and digital formats one last time.  The sound quality is markedly improved, even on the computer speakers that are playing the album as I type this.What excites diehard Zeppelin fans is the disc of companion audio that is included with each re-release.  For Physical Graffiti that disc includes 6 cuts; an initial rough mix of Trampled Underfoot labeled as Brandy & Coke… a short, early, instrumental version of one of my favorite tracks, Sick Again… the initial rough mix of In My Time Of Dying that doesn’t include the studio chatter at the end…. a rough mix of Houses of The Holy with overdubs… and early version of In The Light called Everybody Makes It Through, and the Sunset Sound mix of Boogie With Stu featuring Rolling Stones co-founder/ piano player Ian Stuart.  Jimmy Page refers to these bonus tracks as “portals in time”, that help paint a fuller picture the band at the time these songs were recorded,  an insight into Led Zeppelin’s creative process at the time- for hardcore fans, a HUGE treat.As a fan, I love all of it- the sonic improvements in the songs I’m intimately familiar with, and the previously unheard of stuff.  The casual fan might say “big deal, they’re just unfinished versions of tracks I already know”, and that’s a valid point…. but as Page has noted “The fans don’t just hear Led Zeppelin they listen to it”, accurately implying a more intimate relationship with the music, the absorption of every movement, every note, wondering what it means and what it will lead to next.  That, too, is valid.In a perfect world I would own the super deluxe box of Physical Graffiti (as well as all of the others) that comes with re-mastered album on CD. The companion audio disc, both of those on re-mastered 180 gram vinyl, high-def audio download card, hardbound 96 page book, and a high quality print of the original album cover.  Alas, I work in radio and my pockets are too shallow for that Cadillac ride.  You can get the basic re-mastered album on 2 discs but I gotta have those bonus tracks too, so I’ve got the 3-CD version of this.   All of Led Zeppelin’s re-issues since last fall have been superb, but Physical Graffiti is by the best of an already impressive bunch.ESSENTIALS: Regular Album: The Rover, In My Time Of Dying, Black Country WomanBonus Disc: Everybody Makes It Through, Driving Through KashmirTAKE IT HOME Tom Cochrane (Universal) **** +How long has I been since you bought a Tom Cochrane album?  Me too- this is his first record since 2006, and a reminder of the heart that’s been missing from the music scene.Like most, I became aware of Tom with Red Rider in the 80’s, then his ridiculously successful solo career that included planet killers like 1991’s Mad, Mad World with the ubiquitous Life Is A Highway.  The success he enjoyed with Red Rider and then his solo stuff has a lot to do with the way people seem to be able to see themselves in his songs.  Even his divorce album, Ragged Ass Road spoke to people like yours truly who’ve bought the ticket for that ride- more than once.Take It Home feels semi- autobiographical, a collection of songs about a man and an artist at Tom’s stage of life.  Perhaps the end of things isn’t in sight but it’s on his mind on songs like When The Light Starts To Fade and Country Girls Never Get Old.  He’s also looking to the future with guarded optimism on Can’t Stay Here and Back In The Game, as he gears up for one more trip on the merry go-round known as the music business.  But does anybody care?  Is anybody listening?  His current cross Canada tour is doing sellout business, so the answer would be a resounding ‘yes’.Take it Home is more of an acoustic album than its predecessors, feeling and sounding very reflective, certainly appropriate at this stage as opposed to squeezing into leather trousers and trying to get the kids to rock out one more time.  I love much of what Cochrane has done over the years and always drive a bit faster when the old stuff comes on the radio, but I’m already feeling a deeper, more emotionally satisfying connection to the songs on this record than I have to any album in quite some time.  Great musicianship and lyrics that really hve something to say make this disc a winner.ESSENTIALS: Can’t Stay Here, When The Light Starts To Fade, Sunday Afternoon Hang SOUNDS OF THE 80’S Various Artists (Warner) ***What we have here isn’t your usual cash grab compilation of previously released songs.  Here are 17 of that most flamboyant of decades’ best known songs, re-done by some of today’s best known stars.  Originally released in the UK back in November in conjunction with BBC Radio 2, this Canadian edition has been available since Feb.10th.The 80’s were a twisted time for me- married for 4 years to an impossibly hot woman that every guy I knew wanted to nail ( I wish I was kidding), the death of both my parents, years that I spent either high or drunk, or both, and my being quite the slut to boot was not a good scene.  A lot of people say that the music of the 80’s sucked, but it was many of these infectious pop ditties that saw a desperate young disc jockey through some hard times.The songs come alive again here in the hands of other capable artists.  Hardly carbon copies, these, but they feel true to the spirit of the originals.  It makes sense to have Sam Smith cover Whitney Houston’s How Will I Know and turn it into a mournful ballad as only he can, and Kylie Minogue’s version of Bette Davis Eyes works a treat as well.  Some of these artists I’ve never heard of before, but that seems appropriate for a cranky old bastard.  Many of them I do know, however, yet that doesn’t seem to be overly important when considering this collection.Sounds Of The 80’s is a lesson in great songwriting along with how to take a well known song and re-do it completely without losing its essence.  The overall vibe comes off as contemplative, but with plenty of heart.  What makes this a Canadian edition is Scott Helman’s brilliant cover of Tom Waits’ Jockey Full Of Bourbon and Eleven Past One’s beautifully updated version of Spandau Ballet’s True.If you see Sounds of The 80’s the next time you visit a music store or are going through I-Tunes and looking for something interesting to check out,  have a look at the list of songs and the artists that are “re-imaging” them, and consider picking it up.  I’m one of the first thumb my nose at most 80’s music, but I’m really enjoying this.ESSENTIALS: Drive (The Script), How Will I Know (Sam Smith), Bette Davis Eyes (Kylie Minogue) FAT MAN’S SHINE PARLOR Smokin’ Joe Kubek & Bnois King (Blind Pig/ Stony Plain) *** ½ Kubek & King’s brand of blues has long been described as “powerful, hard-nosed, authentic roadhouse blues” by Living Blues magazine and, as a longtime fan that feels like the truth to me, and their muscular brand of blues feels like home.A young Joe Kubek ventured into a declining and somewhat unsavory neighborhood of Dallas in the wee hours, in search of fried chicken, and became fascinated with the shoe shining store that this disc is titled after.  This relic, located in a seedy African American commercial district was, from the 20’s through the 50’s, a hotbed for jazz and blues.  The difference, of course, is that establishment thrived on patrons’ gambling, drinking and womanizing habits.  The Shine Parlor in my CD player right now is a treasure chest of greasy blues and sleazy pleasures of the musical variety.Recorded in Dallas and produced by Smokin’ Joe Kubek, Fat Man’s Shine Parlor is one of the best sounding discs I’ve heard in awhile.  From the tasty soloing of Kubek and King’s guitars right down through to the snap of Eric Smith’s snare drum the mix and the grooves are perfection and every instrument is right where it should be.  With Bnois doing all the singing those tasty solos are surely courtesy of Kubek’s Les Paul on these mostly up-tempo numbers. Though I’m not familiar with the joint that inspired this disc’s name, I can get a real feel for it through the 12 original tracks that populate this album and imagine that we can also feel the pool halls, pawn shops and tattoo parlors that could also be found in that neighborhood.Fat Man’s Shine Parlor is what I call party blues- if you listen to this on a Saturday night, it might not be a bad idea to go to church Sunday morning.  Playfully wicked and energetic, these songs are ready, willing and able to show you a good time but, unlike certain friends, family and neighbors, they won’t judge you… they’ll just thank you for stopping in.ESSENTIALS:  One Girl By My Side, Done Caught the Blues, Diamond Eyes PDB The Paul Deslauriers Band (Zeb Media) *****This is my first encounter with The Paul Deslauriers Band, pillars of the Quebec blues scene and, if there is a God, it won’t be my last.  PDB is an intense experience, and that’s putting it mildly.The Paul Deslauriers Band is a trio consisting of Paul on guitar and vocals, Sam Harrison on drums and Greg Morency on bass.  This disc is a collection of originals and unique re-workings steeped in the blues and simmered in rock & roll.  They recorded each track several times live off the floor and picked the best performances without any fixes.  The result is an authentic recording full of spontaneity and undeniable chemistry.Steve Marriner of Monkeyjunk stopped by the studio to lend a hand, blowing some great harp on the two opening cuts, and playing keys on a couple of others.  Steve Strongman makes an appearance too, engaging in a friendly guitar duel with Paul on All I Want, which they wrote together while waiting for a flight to the North Pole.  Yes, really.As PDB is pretty much live off the floor, it’s obvious that their reputation as a hot live act is well deserved.  I can well imagine them working a bar full of beered up blues fans into a frenzy, then dropping their sublime version of Robert Johnson’s Love In Vain on them- an 8 minute slow moving slide blues orgasm that makes for what my dad would have called “fine belly rubbin’ music”.  I’m listening to that song as I type this, and the hair on my arms is standing up.When I first put this disc on, I was certain that PDB stood for “Paul Deslauriers Band”, but after just a couple of spins through, I think it means “Pretty Delicious Blues”.  From the first track to the last this is just a great record, period.ESSENTIALS: Love In Vain, She Should be Mine, Not Fade Away, Nobody’s Fault But Mine 

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