All The colours of the fricin Rainbow?: Black Sabbath – Paranoid

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Even in 1970, Paranoid was a monster of a record. Released worldwide in every format of the time (yes that does mean 8 track), Black Sabbath put out what remains their quintessential album. The original vinyl can be found just about anywhere at decent prices by crate hoppers… with one HUGE exception. For whatever reason, Paranoid did not carry the same cover or even title in several countries including Israel. Instead it was called Attention with a ridiculous black and white cover of the band members faces.

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The only thing that remained of the art work was the swirl design on the record itself. While finding copies of Attention is not too difficult, your wallet will feel the punch if looking for the 1970 Israeli edition. Discogs has it priced over $300 CAD, and while ebay has inexpensive listings for copies from Yugoslavia and Germany there are none currently for that rare Israel disc. Of course, if you want a genuine first pressing from the US, that could also set you back several hundred as ebay will quickly direct you to one for over $400.

So, lets look at new editions that will not break the bank… yet.

In the last few years, Paranoid has had multiple vinyl releases in a bunch of colours that seem to match a small box of crayons. In 2010 NEMS gave us several different versions on 180 gram vinyl including a clear wax edition. The following year they added a red translucent vinyl edition to the collection and a picture disc.

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Jump ahead to 2015 and more colour fills the sky. Warner Brothers put out two editions for the general public. The first was a blue marble 180 gram disc with the other being a two disc black vinyl edition in a gatefold cover.

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At the same time, a limited 140 gram version of the record was being sold through Vinyl Me Please on a very cool purple vinyl disc that also included a poster and cocktail card.

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Simultaneously, NEMS jumped back into the rainbow by releasing a grey marbled 180 gram disc in Europe while UK label Sanctuary adding a light blue heavy weight wax version.

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Due to demand, 2016 saw more reprints from Warner of the Deluxe 2 disc set and blue vinyl. As far as I can tell from the music forums, people do not seem to like the NEMS sound quality. Per usual those same sources will tell you to search out the original pressings. However, I’m quite enjoying my Vinyl Me Please disc, and have gifted it as well. Anyway you decide to go…PLAY IT LOUD!!!

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The Hard Rock Blue Print or Aerosmith – Toys In The Attic

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Say what you want about Aerosmith, and I know that opinions vary wildly, but they were at one time the most important rock ‘n’ roll band in the U.S. of A. Too heavy to be power-pop, too light to be metal they were the popular bridge between the so-cal sounds of Fleetwood Mac and the raw power of Black Sabbath. The path that Aerosmith helped to create in the ‘70’s is what every glam-hair-metal band rode in on the 80’s. Furthermore, Toys In The Attic was the blueprint used by many of these bands trying to find mainstream success. A couple all out naughty rock tunes (“Walk This Way” & “Sweet Emotion”), a ballad (“You See Me Crying”) some quirky humour (“Big Ten Inch Record”), deep cuts to give a bit of depth (“Uncle Salty” & “No More No More”) and you have the recipe used by everyone from Faster Pussycat to Bon Jovi.

Of course Toys In The Attic sold close to 8 million records, so finding a copy isn’t a problem. The real issue is finding what is worth owning from a fidelity point of view. While original copies are plentiful, finding a great copy while crate digging can be hit and miss. Looking at discogs, you can see a virtual ton for under $5.00, but warning, buyer beware. This was about the time record companies began to release material on crappy vinyl. Standard was 120 gram, and some companies began to cut back to as low as the wobbly 80 gram. Inspect it first, or only buy from a reputable vendor. As for the reissue and re-mastered market, you got a couple really good options.

I don’t usually recommend CD’s, but in 1993, Columbia released a limited and re-mastered edition of Toys In The Attic on a super bit mapping 24k gold disc as part of their legacy collection. After buying it back in the 90’s, I sold my original CD copy and retired my old worn out vinyl edition. The sound from the gold CD blew them away. Still it can get a bit pricey finding one in great shape. Resellers have them listed anywhere from $30 to upwards of a $100.

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Still, being a bit of a vinyl enthusiast I picked up a new 180 gram limited edition (5000) copy on Record Store Day 2013. This is also a newly re-mastered edition. With the two playing back to back I noted a couple of small differences. The vinyl seemed to have a much warmer sound on the bass and drums while the CD put a bit more emphasis on the vocals and guitars.

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Honestly, I’m on the fence this time. I’ll take the vinyl on a great system with headphones, but the CD sounds awesome on everything that has a decent set of speakers.

Anyway, the RSD vinyl is still widely available for under $30 for anyone who is thinking of taking that route. I have no regrets with mine.

So Bad, It’s Brilliant! Or The Darkness – Last of Our Kind

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Back in the mid 80’s when the crimping iron was king and glam-rock-metal kids wore makeup in the fashion of Poison, a movie came out that was so bad it was absolutely brilliant – Maximum Overdrive. The villain was a big rig truck wearing a Green Goblin mask, the hero was Emilio Estevez, and the director was none other than the master of horror himself, Stephen King. Trucks, lawnmowers and even vending machines turned homicidal in a film King himself would admit to being done as he was “coked out of his mind.” Ultimately it was a film that stretched “suspension of disbelief” beyond any reasonable limit.

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Well, I certainly can’t say what or even if The Darkness was ‘on anything’ but it certainly takes a sense of humour to enjoy this record. The Darkness always seemed to have their tongue planted firmly in cheek, but now I have my doubts. You see, I’m not quite sure if this is a band that takes itself seriously or not anymore; and I’m not sure if their intention is rock supremacy or parody; I just know that the guitar “licks” are straight from the era of Whitesnake, White Lion and vocals are over the top cliché. The big hair 80’s had music was catchy, the subjects silly and spandex was thought to be cool.

From track number one “Barbarian” the axe swings a heavy blow against… well… it swings a mighty blow, and the falsetto screams of… well… screams. “Reducing the feeble citadels to ashes and blood stain / enslaving the sweet women folk / while every man is slain” is hilarious in its “epic-ness” as a description of story rather than storytelling itself.

Things get even more… um… colossal (that sounds good) throughout the record as The Darkness take on sounds of Queen doing the soundtrack for Flash Gordon. We are told to “open up your mighty wings and fly” in that high pitch testimonial climax on “Mighty Wings.” Regardless, it has all those metal moments of high drama and sound. You can imagine waves crashing, lightning flashing, broken hearts and quests for the nature of existence.

It isn’t that The Darkness have put out a bad record, it’s just that like Maximum Overdrive it stretches the “suspension of disbelief” beyond my capacity. Do they know they have broken the forth wall down and have in essence become a musical episode of Disney’s Phineas & Ferb? Is Last Of Our Kind a parody, and if so, who is it a parody of?

Technicolor Horror Story or Faith No More – Sol Invictus

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So much more than just another ‘alt-rock’ or ‘metal’ band Faith No More could pack influences into music so tightly I would have no other choice but to call it ‘genre skipping.’ Crazy as that sounds they do it in individual songs. Funk, hip hop, metal, and even easy listening soft rock balladry naturally bounce around so well you’ld think they were a basketball.

Add that to the fact that Mike Patton is the best living rock vocalist on the planet (seriously, he has a vocal range that stretches six octaves) and you have a powerful explanation as to why music fans are salivating at the mere thought of a new Faith No More record.

Eighteen years between records and Faith No More not only picks up from where they left off, but do it as if both a love letter to fans and kiss off to anyone else. In fact, the feel of Sol Invictus is far more reminiscent of Angel Dust than the commercially lauded The Real Thing. The result is an album that just seems to go in whatever direction the wind is blowing at any given moment. Which isn’t to say that Faith No More lets anything get away from them, but rather that the transitions seem natural.

The title track opens with a bit of a circus atmosphere before breaking off into atmospheric melody. “Superhero” takes medal riffs and builds them towards a climatic cliff that is followed by the sinister “Sunny Side Up” which comes off as the proclamations of a narcissist. Characters are littered throughout Sol Invictus creating a type of epic short story one might imagine as the work of Flannery O’Connor or Richard Bachman. Listening to “Black Friday” as it describes living in the “age of the mercenary” comes with the realization that hope is a matter of perspective. Faith No More may not have created a pop masterpiece, but they have made a record that tells dark stories of broken people in vivid sonic colours. Sol Invictus is an album that stays with you long after the needle has lifted, and compelling enough to keep you up long after your head hits the pillow.

For you fans of vinyl, Faith No More have given you a couple options. Sol Invictus can be ordered in clear (limited edition) or black 140 gram vinyl and of course their web store also has a variety of bundles to make a true music geek happy.