Sloan “12” – Vinyl Review

Full disclosure:  I write this review after having experienced Sloan at the KEE to Bala just the other night and they put on a fantastic show.  So impartial review, this ain’t.

I had been on the hunt for a vinyl copy for Sloan’s new album, 12 after streaming four of its tunes on YouTube.  The sucker had been sold out everywhere I looked, but last night I was able to score one at the show.  Well… truth be told… my Wife & Super Sexy Blogger Extraordinaire, Sarca Sim scored me one.  They had a booth selling the usual concert items, and Sarca was itching to scope it out for a T-shirt.  I handed “Ol’ Cupface” the $40 in cash I had on me and asked her to check for the album while I held claim to our stage-view table.  What she came back with was a clear, purple vinyl, US imported LP for $25:

Sloan purple vinyl

Wild stuff, no?  Needless to say I was not only thrilled at finally snagging a copy, but also proud of my wife’s eye for seeing an opportunity to get the more collectible version.  If you want to know more about our time at the show check out Sarca’s review of it right here.

As for the tunes on 12, I will fully admit how the cerebral lyrics for your average Sloan song flies firmly over my head.  For instance, the album’s closer ‘44 Teenagers‘ gives a shout out to Gord Downie that goes:

Just the other day I was reminded of
The many ways Gord Downie died
I see a kid in my head who will be seein’ red
Until his anger yields to pride

I’m sure that means something to a lot of people, but I have no clue.  Gord died only one way that I know of.  Who is this kid?  Their lyrics make me feel like the dumb one in the group who doesn’t understand what hyperbole is.  I don’t mean this as a knock against the band or their writing style since I enjoy it regardless.  I’m only pointing out my own inability to process the meaning behind abstract lyrics.  How I still enjoy Sloan can only speak to the strength of their music.

My shortcomings aside, I can speak of the album’s sound overall.  For the most part, 12 might be their most bright and cheery album to date.  Three tunes, ‘Gone For Good‘, ‘Essential Services‘, and the formerly mentioned ‘44 Teenagers‘ have a bit of a darker tone to them, but the rest of it is full with toe tappin’ Canadian rock.

Spin Our Wheels‘, ‘Don’t Stop (If It Feels Good Do It)‘, ‘The Day Will Be Mine‘, ‘Have Faith‘ are the stand outs that ooze with the positive, while the rest of the album’s solid tracks make for an excellent listen without a dog in the mix.  Perhaps it is not good enough to knock Navy Blues or Action Pact off as my top two favs for now, but every listen is bringing it closer to having a chance.

12‘s feel good vibe makes it for a perfect accompaniment to the windows rolled down, arm out the side window summer driving experience.  A lot more spins are headed toward my eardrums as it sits among the other candidates for:

sloan 12 album of the year contender


Fletch Blu-ray Review

Starring:  Chevy ChaseTim MathesonDana Wheeler-NicholsonGeena Davis, Joe Don Baker
Directed by: Michael Ritchie
Film length: 1hr 38min
Theatrical Release: May 31st, 1985
Blu-ray release: June, 2009


The film (5/5)

“What did you say your name was?”
Fletch stars Chevy Chase as Los Angeles Times reporter Irwin “Fletch” Fletcher who is investigating a drug trafficking operation on the beaches of L.A.  While undercover as a junkie, Fletch is approached by Alan Stanwyk (Tim Matheson), the vice president of Boyd Aviation.  Believing Fletch is a junkie, Stanwyk offers him $50, 000 and a solid get away plan to Rio De Janeiro if he agrees to kill him in a few days time.  Stanwyk claims to have been diagnosed with terminal bone cancer and he wishes to die before the physical agony sets in.  He needs to make it appear that he has been murdered since a suicide or accidental death would leave his family out from millions in life insurance money.

Fletch smells a rat, but reluctantly agrees to the deal.  With the help of a colleague at the paper, Larry (Geena Davis), he begins investigating Stanwyk.  Fletch goes undercover as a Doctor, insurance agent, aviation mechanic, and many others disguises to learn Stanwyk’s real reason behind his offer.

Fletch is one of my all-time favourite films as it is the perfect vehicle for Chase’s brand of sharp quips and jabs mixed with slapstick humor.  The character does share some similarities with Chase’s better known character, Clark Griswold from the Vacation series of movies, but Fletch is way more slick than dorky.  More arrogant by far, but still charming enough that you’d still want to have a beer with him.

Chase’s performance is the window dressing for a compelling thriller that has a few twists and turns that will keep you on your toes;  not so much if Fletch will get screwed over in this deal, but more of how bad and why.  It is not surprising the story is as good as it is considering it is adapted from the book with the same title penned by Gregory Mcdonald.  (Which I highly recommend.  In fact, I highly recommend all but two of the eleven books he wrote based on the character.  Good times.)

Director Michael Ritchie keeps the film well-paced as Fletch continuously changes his appearance, comes up with silly names on the spot for the parts he is playing, while staying ahead of the police, his editor at the paper, and his ex-wife’s lawyer.  Outside of a car chase that is fun, but somewhat unnecessary, Fletch’s perfect balance of action and comedy, solid performances by the main cast, and a faithful adaptation of one of Mcdonald’s best thrillers all makes for a perfect movie.

Memorable Moments / What Stood Out to Me

Chevy Chase is dang tall

Geena Davis towered over everyone in A League of Their Own, and James Avery (aka Uncle Phil) was taller than everyone in The Fresh Prince of Bell Air.  Chevy Chase can keep up with them both!

Love Fletch’s car


Fletch is quite the character so he is going to need quite the car to go along with him.  His white 1972 Buick Riviera with a shredded soft roof is perfect to remain low-key while sleuthing.

Great Soundtrack

front cover

Movie studios in the 80s knew not having a killer soundtrack to go along with your film was leaving money on the table and I love the assignment of Harold Faltermeyer of ‘Axel F’ fame to score Fletch.  His brilliant tunes like ‘Fletch Theme’ and ‘Diggin’ In’ play while Fletch is in trouble to set the right serious, but not anxious tone.

He also produced (sung by Stephanie Mills) ‘Bit By Bit (Theme From ‘”Fletch”)’ which should have been as big a hit as ‘Ghostbusters’ or ‘Take My Breath Away’, but alas, it was not meant to be.  Probably why as of writing this, Fletch – Music for the Motion Picture Soundtrack has yet to see an official release on any platform outside of its original run on LP and cassette in 1985.  Damn shame.

Video/Audio (2/5)

This is not a sexy looking or sounding Blu-ray.  The film has been transferred from the 2008 HD DVD released without any touch ups.  The tone for the overall image is flat and there is a ton of film grain for the bright, outdoor scenes.  There isn’t much to the 5.1 DTS-HD audio mix either with only a few peeps from the rear speakers here and there.

Special Features (1/5)

Pitiful.  The features here are also a transplant from HD DVD release… and they are in SD!  Making and Remembering Fletch is a terribly unfunny 27 minute reflection piece made by some people you have never heard of.  They eventually segue to questions with some of the film’s lead actors (No Chase or Davis, of course).  The Disguises, is a decent 6 minute interview with makeup artist Ken Chase, and Famous Moments is a 3 minute montage of lines from the film you just watched.  See if you favourite moment made it!… dumb.


Final Verdict

Fletch is a solid comedy that you should catch if you never have before.  Stream it, record it off of TV, track down the HD DVD, do whatever you have to do to get this movie in you… and I’ll even begrudgingly suggest picking up this Blu-ray too.  It’s not a great print of the film, but it also isn’t a horrible way to enjoy it for $5-$10.  Yeah, Fletch is excellent enough to deserve a proper HD visual and audio boost from a remaster with some extras involving Chevy himself, but it needs to be watched while we wait for that to happen!

Captain America: Civil War – Blu-ray Review

Starring: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Don Cheadle, Jeremy Renner, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Rudd, Emily VanCamp, Tom Holland, Frank Grillo, William Hurt, and Daniel Brühl
Directed by: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
Film length: 2hr, 28min
Theatrical Release: April 28th, 2016
Blu-ray release:  2016

Full disclosure: Some of the images are not from the Blu-ray.  My copy has a scratch and it is not playing nice with the capture software, so some of these are taken from a file found on the dark web.  Like this one:


The film (3/5)

A lot going on in this one!  Although it carries the “Captain America” moniker, Captain America: Civil War is a bridge movie for all the continuing plot lines in all of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).  With already a dozen or so side stories going on, two new to the MCU major characters, Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) and Spider-Man (Tom Holland) are introduced for the first time, and with them come more side plots.  Yowza!  With every character bringing their back story to the table, this really should have been called MCU: Guess Who’s Coming to the Pot Luck Dinner?

The main plot centers around the United Nations intention to control The Avengers.  While they are considered to be heroes by most, their methods create a lot of collateral damage which put many innocent lives at risk.  It is an interesting part of the growth process for this team who has never fully been on the same page of who they are and what they stand for.  They touch on the subject in the previous films, but it is a subject that has remained on the back burner while the more pressing matter of saving the world is focused on.

It seems more likely that the free spirited Tony Stark, A.K.A. Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) would be the one to balk at the idea, but it is instead the boy scout Steve Rogers, A.K.A Captain America (Chris Evans) who does.  While Tony is weighted by the responsibility for his part in the creation of Ultron, Steve is not feeling the government’s decision to give the kill order on his friend “Bucky” AKA The Winter Soilder (Sebastian Stan), who is believed to be responsible for a terrorist bombing.

Having directed the previous film the Russo brothers are behind the camera again, and do a solid job.  This movie is loaded with action and most of it takes place between heroes who for the most part are not really at each other’s throats, but are instead looking to put you down for a bit while they make a run for it.  They are able to pull of this feel by finding the right balance between action and slapstick.


While Tony, Steve, The Black Panther, and others have some serious beefs, the banter between the other characters (Especially Spidey) kept it light and fun. Think more of a Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade romp than The Dark Knight‘s doom and gloom.


Memorable Moments / What Stood Out to Me

Young RDJ!


Like Michael Douglas in Ant-Man, Robert Downey Jr. is given a fresh coat of CG so we can see him interacting with his parents in 1991.  My wife Sarah commented how he looked just like he did in some old movie and I wrote it down.  But then she made fun of me for writing it down so the reference is now lost forever.

The VW ‘Beetle’!


Oh yeah.  Love me some cars with character in films and this 1965 Volkswagen Sedan ‘Beetle’ is loaded with it!  Love the rust on the bottom of the door!  Steve Rogers picks this while he is in hiding because it is “low profile”.  It is anything but!  He’d stick out like a sore thumb!  Speaking of a low profile….

So many ball caps!
Civil War continues the tradition of characters wearing ball caps when in “low profile mode”.  This one is loaded with them!  Look at it!:

Who are they supposed to be fooling?!?!

Bonus: Stan Lee cameo review! (5/5)


Stan-the-man plays a FedEx worker looking for “Tony Stank”.  lol, good times!

Bonus: Bluth Stair Car cameo review! (5/5)


You can’t clearly read the name on its side, but the paint job is a dead give away!  The Bluth family’s main mode of transportation in the television series Arrested Development is only seen for a brief moment during the showdown at the airport, but still… major points just having it (or at the very least a good facsimile) there.

bluth stair car

The Bluth stair car from the TV Series Arrested Development.

Special Features (3/5)

The special features are not bad.  There is over an hours worth of featurettes including:

  • United We Stand, Divided We Fall A two-part feature with cast and crew examining all aspects of making the film including story, characters, stunt work shooting locations, props, etc, etc, etc. 
  • Captain America: The Road to Civil War  Focuses on Cap and Chris Evans’ performance.
  • Iron Man: The Road to Civil War This one is the same but about Tony Stark.
  • Open Your Mind: Marvel’s Doctor Strange A sneak peek at the then upcoming Doctor Strange.

Deleted & Extended Scenes reveal nothing mind blowing and were cut for a reason. Gag Reel was alright.  Audio Commentary is with directors Anthony & Joe Russo, and a couple of the writers.  It’s a pretty good track with some slow spots, but overall the crew is enlightening and informative while talking.

Final Verdict

While Civil War might not come to a satisfying conclusion, or stand on it own without the context of the other MCU films, this is a fun movie with a lot of solid action.  Having become invested in the characters, I really do want to see where they will go next.  Seeing the budding relationships between Tony and Peter Parker, Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), Vision (Paul Bettany) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), and even Bucky and Falcon (Anthony Mackie) are fun to see grow.  And if anything we do finally get a better understanding of where these character stand, and what they are willing to do for their beliefs.  This character building will only make the next film that much more fun to watch and help take your mind off of how they are designed to keep you invested until they decide to stop making them.

How I would rank The MCU movies from best to worse so far:

Thor: The Dark World
Guardians of the Galaxy
Iron Man

Captain America: The First Avenger
The Avengers
Captain America: Civil War
The Avengers: Age of Ultron
Iron Man 2
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
The Incredible Hulk
Iron Man 3

Jimi Hendrix – Both Sides of the Sky vinyl Review

Jimi Hendrix died at the age of 27 almost 50 years ago, so I can see how it would sound silly that there are still “unreleased” tunes being found.  And it is true how after Jimi died his catalog was treated with a quantity over quality mindset.  Anyone with even the smallest hand in the pie cashed in with re-releases, demos, and live shows.  Reprise, MCA, Warner, Capitol Records, among many others are all guilty.  It got so bad there is even a wiki page dedicated to posthumous Hendrix albums:

Some of these releases are so unnecessary, they have me wondering if an engineer accidentally recorded Jimi ordering a ham sandwich if a record label would try to package and sell it.


This really hasn’t been the case since 1995 after Jimi’s dad formed Experience Hendrix, L.L.C.  In the 90’s they cleaned up old contracts and sued their way to tightening reigns on the catalog.  Since then, the emphasis has been quality over quantity.  So much so, Both Sides of the Sky is only the seventh collection of Jimi’s demos, singles, alternate tracks in nearly 30 years and their first since 2013.


Both Sides of the Sky is the third in a series of compilation albums that began in 2010 with Valleys of Neptune and continued in 2013 with Hell, People and Angels.  As with the previous albums, these tracks have been remixed by Eddie Kramer, who engineered all of Hendrix’s albums while he was alive.  While it is true, you can and probably do have alternate takes of ‘Lover Man‘, ‘Hear My Train A Coming‘, ‘Power of Soul‘ and ‘Stepping Stone‘ on other compilations, Kramer’s efforts have these tunes popping off the vinyl far better than they ever have before.  His contribution is worth the price of admission alone.

Both Sides contains a few solid collaborations with other artist as well.  Stephen Stills appears on two tracks; ‘$20 Fine‘ is a groovy little number which has Stills on vocals and organ while Jimi does his guitar thang; and ‘Woodstock‘ (featuring Jimi on bass).  While this version of ‘Woodstock’ will never replace the one that would eventually become a hit for Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young it’s still fun hearing Jimi take Neil Young’s place on lead. Now we can debate who did it better for the ages.

Johnny Winter is on the slide guitar for the cover of Guitar Slim’s ‘The Things I Used to Do‘ while Jimi is on vocals and handles the final guitar solo.  Hearing these two blues legends swap licks together on this track is a real treat.  Kramer has Johnny and Jimi’s guitars separated onto the left and right tracks, which I love.

Lonnie Youngblood is on vocals and tenor sax for ‘Georgia Blues‘.  This tune features a pre-Hendrix Experience Jimi on rhythm guitar and was included on the Martin Scorsese Presents The Blues compilation.  I remember reading how Youngblood was suing the Hendrix Estate and Scorsese for not giving him a writing credit and the royalties that go with it, but I guess that didn’t go too far since he doesn’t have one here too.

Send My Love To Linda‘ has Jimi grinding on that ‘Seattle Sound’ 20 years prior to Nirvana or Pearl Jam producing a single note.  Neil Young might have had to share his “Godfather of Grunge” title if Jimi had stayed around a little longer to evolve that flat tone.

Jungle‘ and ‘Sweet Angel‘ are instrumentals that sound like the bones of an unfinished idea, but still make for an interesting listen.  The slow jam of ‘Cherokee Mist‘ which features Jimi noodling away on the sitar is the only track that I can agree is… slightly… ho hum… but hey, it is only one out of thirteen.

Besides the music, I like the packaging for the album too.  The tracks are spread out onto two 180 gram vinyl LPs, and it comes with a large glossy insert loaded with colour photos.


A lot of words too.


Jimi was young when he died after a relatively short career 50 years ago, so it would appear that any worthwhile material would have been been found, catalogued, and heard already.  But when you consider how Jimi’s method for finding musical perfection was through continuous improvisation and experimentation; you can understand how it is possible for him to leave us with numerous recordings to still be sifting through to find hidden gems.

So, really the only question is the quality of the tracks on Both Sides of the Sky.  For me the answer is: they are top notch making this is an easy album to recommend.  While it is obvious how Jimi had not finished some of the tunes, and others are available on other compilations; with Eddie Kramer at the production helm they are as close to how Jimi intended you to hear them as we will ever get.  And the track selection is a bluesy-rocking swinging good time for 90% of its duration with not a single ham sandwich order.



The Sheepdogs – Changing Colours Review

The Sheepdogs have been a group that I have respected and enjoyed for some time but never REALLY got into.  That all changed after my first sampling of their latest album, Changing Colours.  I loved its late 60’s/70’s boogie rock vibe and made my way to grabbing a copy as soon as I could.  The album clocks in at almost 50 minutes with a whopping 17 tracks!  Well… a few of those are short instrumentals to showcase the band’s mad-handling of their instruments, including new lead guitarist Jimmy Bowskill. Bowskill has floated around the Canadian Blues scene for almost a decade now and he is a tremendous get for this band.

The Sheepdogs were a bit of a one man show before with lead singer/guitarist Ewan Currie handling all of song writing (and he still does the heavy lifting on this album), but Bowskill co-wrote the short instrumentals.  They work to bridge the songs together;  some are blues-y, some are bluegrass-y, but it’s all great rock ‘n roll.

The driving boogie rock of ‘Nobody‘ kicks off the album with Ewan’s lyrics about a young person’s determination.  Ewan and Bowskill’s double guitar work which will be featured a lot on this album, so I hope you’re a fan of The Allman Bros Band!  I’m a sucker for some solid slide guitar too, and Bowskill’s solo delivers in this one.  Check out the video and its nod to a classic scene from The Blues Brothers:

I’ve Got a Hole Where My Heart Should Be‘ is the album’s first single (A least here in Canada).  A solid 70’s riff rock groove with some excellent keyboard work by Shamus Currie on the hammond organ.  It is finished off with a few strummed chords before the party rock groove of ‘Saturday Night‘ takes off; featuring some excellent guitar work from Bowskill.

Bowskill breaks out the pedal steel guitar for ‘Let It Roll’ and suddenly I’m on the farm.  Shamus’ keys are a highlight here too.  ‘The Big Nowhere‘ has a strong Santana vibe that I absolutely dig.  The chorus repeats:

You’ve got to remember
or you’re bound to lose

Tell me that doesn’t fit on a Santana album.

I Ain’t Cool’ sounds like if Chicago’s trumpet section rubbed up against The Guess Who, and ‘You Got to Be a Man‘ is a good tune with a rolling rock groove.  ‘Cool Down’ is another with a slow Santana vibe which blends seamlessly with the rockin’ instrumental ‘Kiss the Brass Ring‘.  These two should probably be one tune but gotta split up them tunes for the royalty checks, y’all!  They even tie them together when they play them live:

Gorgeous tune.  My man crush for Jimmy Bowskill hasn’t gone too far until I start wearing flowered shirts with a cowboy hat.

Cherries Jubilee‘ is a nice little double guitar number with a catchy chorus.   ‘I’m Just Waiting for My Time‘s opening reminds me of The Moody Blues before moving towards a Pink Floyd type of deal.  More great guitar work here by Bowskill.

The bluegrass vibe of ‘Born a Restless Man‘ / ‘The Balieboro Turnaround‘ are next.  ‘Restless Man’ features some harmonizing vocals and Bowskill’s banjo work before he switches to the pedal steel for the instrumental Balieboro.  I’ve been humming this one around the house a lot lately.

My dream is that every Canadian from Vancouver Island to Cape Code will be cranking ‘Up in Canada‘ / ‘H.M.S Buffalo‘ during their long car drives this summer long.  Maybe Canadian radio will pick up on it one day.

The two and a half minute doubling guitar instrumental of ‘Espirit des corps‘ finishes with the sounds of a Canadian campfire in the bush before one the album’s best, ‘Run Baby Run‘ wraps it up.  This tune sounds like the Pet Sounds era Beach Boys dragged Greg and Duane Allman into the studio for a collaboration.  The song concludes with one more chorus from ‘Restless Man’ to tie the last half of the album together.  Nicely done.

Changing Colours is a pure joy to listen to all the way through.  The connection is strong with all of influences I mentioned, and you will hear more with every listen.  With The Sheepdogs pouring their own flavour into every song, they deliver something fresh in with the old.  This is my cup ‘o tea.

An easy: 5/5

And easily a :
sheepdogs changing colours album of the year contender

Saxon – Thunderbolt Review

Thunderbolt is my first Saxon album (I know, super late to the party) and I am impressed.  The only song I knew of prior to this was ‘Wheels of Steel’.  Groovy track that I liked whenever it came on, but not enough to get me to check anything else out.  Then, prior to the album’s release a few months ago I stumbled on (aka, someone posted it in one of their blogs) the video for the title track:

Well, my ears perked!  Then I read how another track was written and dedicated to Motörhead!  Specifically about Saxon’s time with the band during the ‘No Sleep To Hammersmith’ tour.  Take my money, please!

There is a total of 12 tracks that clock in at 47-ish minutes, and let me tell ya, these geezers rock!  67-year-old lead singer Biff Byford must consume an extraordinary amount of Omega-3 fatty acids because he doesn’t sound a day over 35.  Guitarist Paul Quinn and Doug Scarratt rock out some solid licks as they swap back and forth for lead guitar duty.  And the rhythm section is held down tightly by Nibbs Carter on bass and Nigel Glockler on drums.

Thunderbolt opens with ‘Olympus Rising‘; a short and slow instrumental that acts as the  build up track diving seamlessly into the swingin’ ‘Thunderbolt‘.  ‘Thunderbolt’ is about Zeus and the crew are about to get medieval on the Titans who are making war on earth.  Great tune to kick off the album with.

The Secret of Flight‘ is next which is one of my favourites.  The lyrics follow humanity’s advancements in aviation.  A history lesson that rocks!  ‘Nosferatu, The Vampire’s Waltz‘ is not a bad song but I found it a little boring.  The band must disagree though because they gave it an official video and there are two version of it on here.

They Played Rock And Roll‘ is the track that is dedicated to Motörhead and they honoured them with a great tune.  It has a Motörhead-ish sound with Saxon flavour.  The lyrics fit in some recognizable references well and you just know that Lemmy would have covered this one himself à la the RAMONES covering his R.A.M.O.N.E.S.

Predator‘ has a real solid groove and would have been my favourite tracks if it didn’t feature the vocal “Cookie Monster” styling of Johan Hegg.  Hegg is admired greatly by those who enjoy hearing dudes breath inwardly while belting out a tune, but they do nothing for me.  (Believe me, it is a blessing.  There would be too much to listen to if I enjoyed it.)

The next five tunes are all killer.  They start with ‘Sons of Odin‘ which has ‘Dio’ vibe.  ‘Sniper‘ is straight up rockin’ metal.  Its slow chug during the bridge and screaming guitar solos are highlights.  The dueling guitars during ‘A Wizard’s Tale‘ is fun to listen to.  ‘Speed Merchants‘ is a rocking driving metal tune with a catchy chorus.   And finally, I’m not sure why ‘Roadie’s Song‘ is buried at the bottom of the album since it is easily one of the best. I would have put this one in at the number 3 slot.

Nosferatu (Raw Version)‘ is a not available on vinyl.  I really didn’t need another version of this tune.

Thunderbolt is Saxon’s 22nd studio album…. Twenty-second… and it is an overall solid metal album.  Producer Andy Sneap (This dude is on some sort of monster roll lately as he also co-produced Judas Priest’s recent solid output Firepower) captured whatever makes Saxon swing.  I personally would have switched up the song order a bit (I regularly skip Nosferatu both times) and would have told cookie monster to stay home, but these are minor grips for what otherwise is perfection.


thunderbolt album of the year contender