Pete Writes: *tap* ... *tap-tap* ... is this thing on?

Pete Writes: Colossal insight (with thanks to Roots Manuva)

2005-11-25More journeying back in time, with Hard 'N Heavy... ^_^

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I have rather an affinity for samplers, particularly ones fished out of chuck-out bins, sale items and magazine cover discs. Perceived value is a highly personal thing, but most of us would probably agree: getting something good at a bargain price is highly satisfying.

This isn't to say I'm a cheapskate, per se: a number of bands I like have releases only in the UK through import (eg, Tokyo Suits Me which was well worth the £25+ for a solid live Wildhearts performance...) I'll go out of my way in trying to track down rare stuff if it's good. However, a mediocre collection I like a couple of tracks off will tend to see those tracks ripped and the disc sticking around, whereas something I felt ripped off by at full price won't. (I'd actually rather track down singles than keep an awful album.)

This entry is about one of my favourite finds. A tape, in fact, which dates this for me — I don't even keep anything near me that plays tapes any more. Somewhere in the region of eight years ago, I'm guessing. A third of my life ago. I'm mildly surprised it still plays.

[tape cover]
  1. Judas Priest - Painkiller
  2. Dio - Born on the Sun
  3. Killer Dwarfs - Dirty Weapons
  4. Megadeth - Holy Wars (The Punishment Due)
  5. Testament - Souls of Black
  6. Annihilator - Stonewall
  7. King Diamond - Eye of the Witch
  8. Bruce Dickinson - Tattooed Millionaire

  9. Poison - Unskinny Bop
  10. Ratt - Lovin' You's a Dirty Job
  11. Helix - Running Wild in the 21st Century
  12. House of Lords - Can't Find My Way Home
  13. Vixen - Love
  14. Haywire - Short End of a Wishbone
  15. Skid Row - I Remember You
  16. Faster Pussycat - House of Pain
     

There's a huge helping of nostalgia here... I don't mind most 80s metal (stuff that these days often wouldn't be called metal; the recording blunts the bludgeoning edges) but each one of these songs has taken residence in my head. If I survive long enough to succumb to dementia, it's stuff I'll remember over names of any nieces and nephews...

Several months ago I actually managed to track down every song on Gnunet2 within a day. Not great encodings, but nor are the tape copy or the original masters top quality. Anyway... I'd like to get a copy of the original CD. Because there is one, it seems.

Update on that... I scored a copy off eBay US, for a dollar plus postage! Yay!

Hard 'N Heavy was released by Quality Special Products when it was just beginning to take on new recordings in 1991. The division of Quality Records had been acquired by R-Tek following closure in 1985, before which it had a tradition of distributing foreign artists in Canada dating back to the Fifties. Hard 'N Heavy was released on vinyl, tape, and CD — as QRSP 1133, QRSPC 1133 and QRSPD 1133 respectively — which suggests that at one point it was a full-price compilation. The specifics of how it ended up in an Asda chuck-out bin for £1.99 half a decade later are anyone's guess, but I'm glad it did.

Anyway, that's the "if you know where I can get a copy for a reasonable sum, get in touch" spiel out of the way... what does it sound like?

Opener Painkiller originates from a bit of a comeback album for Judas Priest, with vocals from Rob Halford, one of the best voices in the business. The next few tracks take us through some solid but unassuming tracks, offering a good overview of styles on offer at the start of the decade. The next real highlight is Eye of the Witch, which has a fade that pairs up wonderfully with the percussive kick of Tattooed Millionaire by classic Iron Maiden vocalist Bruce D. Admittedly, some of the songs are cheesy to the point of being crap... Unskinny Bop is a case in point. I doubt the lyrics made more sense in 1990.

After that, the second half is much more chilled out than either hard or heavy. Can't Find My Way Home is an outright ballad, as is House of Pain. The nearest thing to a throbbing pulse is Haywire's Short End of a Wishbone. I subsequently went out and got the Skid Row album and copies of the Dio album Born on the Sun is from (Lock up the Wolves) and Bruce Dickinson's Balls to Picasso to listen to. Much, much later I got the Bruce Dickinson "Best Of" album only to find I rarely listened to it. Skid Row was a also fairly short-lived wonder. Like I said, it's the songs on the tape that have really stuck.

One thing about samplers is that they're often highly unrepresentative of a band's other recorded output — Skid Row contribute the ballad from their self-titled album to this one, for instance — which does tend to put one off randomly purchasing further without a good listen. Eh, it's a curio from when I was getting into music, anyway... most of my wants from bands of this style and vintage are fulfilled by a few Iron Maiden CDs, such as Powerslave and the two-disc Best of the Beast. Oh, and Meat Loaf. I'm not too fussed that that my appreciation of this record owes a lot to growing to know it so well.

Thanks are due to this Dio site for the catalogue number, which I found by putting "hard n heavy" into Google Image Search. That was the first evidence I had a CD version was produced. Information about Quality came from The Canadian Encyclopedia, and some information about the format releases from googling catalogue number abbreviations.

Also, expect backdated blog entries like this one to appear every so often. They're stuff that I felt like writing and started ages ago, rather than 'real' news.


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