Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Doolittle 20th Anniversary Concerts Announced

I spoke a few weeks ago about the 20th Anniversary of Pixies’ Doolittle. It seems that the band themselves are going to be playing the album and associated B-sides during October in Europe, according to the NME. I am hoping for a nice NIA date on the 5th but that may be wishful thinking. Either way tickets go on sale at 9am on the 3rd of July, they will be available on eBay at around 9.03am

Silver by Pixies

Home Taping ISN'T Killing Music

Read how home taping (downloading actually) isn't killing music by clicking here.

Sunday, 28 June 2009

Fathers and Mothers and Sons and Daughters

I was watching Live at Abbey Road last night on Sony, and was delighted to see Martha Wainwright and Teddy Thompson. Of course, Martha is the daughter of Loudon Wainwright and Kate McGarrigle (and brother of Rufus), and Teddy is the son of Richard and Linda Thompson. So, I thought I'd do a post on musical offspring, and wouldyoubelieveit, there am I loking at the Independent on Sunday this morning, and they've got a little piece on The 20 Best Rockstar Offspring.
The Independent left out poor old Teddy, in favour of people like Sting's son, Sean Lennon, and Lilly bloody Allen, which seems poor journalism to me if you think Keith Allen meets all the criteria of 'Rockstar'.
So, to make up for Teddy's ommission, and more, it's family friendly Sunday.

Friday, 26 June 2009

The 50 Greatest Songs In The World Ever Part...oh you get the gist

Kev is right about the lists, I make them all the time, if not physically then mentally. I am drawn to lists often skirting over the rest of a written word to the list. Lists are good. H Allen Smith said “The human animal differs from the lesser primates in his passion for lists.” H Allen knew his stuff.
Yesterday I gave you the 54 songs I felt were the best ever written, they were at least to me in 2001. Today in 2009 the songs that would still make it into a top 50 are below, with songs that I believe are the best ever written padding the list out. Sadly Mo-ho-bish-opi didn’t make the cut.

Nobody Love You When You're Down And Out by John Lennon

These did.

The Next Episode by Dr Dre
Don’t Falter by Mint Royale Featuring Lauren Laverne
Being Boring by The Pet Shop Boys
Come On My Selector by Squarepusher
Jerusalem by Billy Bragg
Back together by Babybird
Here I Go Again by Country Joe and The Fish
Gentle on my Mind by Dean Martin
Teenage Kicks by The Undertones
Wichita Lineman by Glen Campbell
The Killing Of Georgie Parts 1 and 2 by Rod Stewart
I Am I Said by Neil Diamond
The King Of Carrot Flowers Parts 2 and 3 by Neutral Milk Hotel
Since You Been Gone By Rainbow
It’s Lulu by The Boo Radleys
Heroin by The Velvet Underground
He Stopped Loving Her Today by George Jones
Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain by Willie Nelson
Hallelujah by Jeff Buckley
No Distance Left To Run by Blur
Stood On Gold by Gorkys Zygotic Mynci
Yasmin The Light by Explosions In The Sky
Someone To Watch Over Me by Frank Sinatra
Frank Mills by Hair OST
Everything’s Falling Apart by Hefner
Where is my Mind by Pixies
Nobody Loves You When You Are Down And Out by John Lennon
I Do by Weezer
My Man A Sweet Man by Millie Jackson

One Man Guy by Rufus Wainwright

These are the new entries.

Don’t Stop Believing by Journey
Disney girls by The Beach Boys
Little Democracies by Darren Hayman
Heartbreaker by The Rolling Stones
One Man Guy by Rufus Wainwright
Since You Been Gone by Kelly Clarkson
Takes Her Place by Mary Prankster
The Far Side Banks Of Jordan by Johnny Cash
The Beast In Me by Johnny Cash
Scavenger Type by NOFX
Beelzeboss (The Final Showdown) by Tenacious D
Queequeg by The Evangenitals
Off you by The Breeders
The Snake by Al Wilson
Down by the Seaside by Led Zeppelin
Tongue by Antony Harding
Books About UFO’s by Husker Du
About You Now by The Sugarbabes
At the Chime of a City Clock by Nick Drake
What Do I Do Now by Sleeper
Avant Garde Music by Ballboy
This Is Just A Modern Rock Song by Belle And Sebastian

What Do I Do Now By Sleeper

Nothing from this year, or last by the look of it, so that’s my new updated 50, must get them onto CD for the car.

Big Mouth Strikes Again

Not The Smiths, Billy Bragg. Yes, another Billy Bragg album, I haven’t counted how many Billy Bragg albums I have but I think I have a comparable number of Johnny Cash albums, I would suggest reading something else until late 2009.
Todays offering between Stafford and Coleshill is a 1992 bootleg, Big Mouth Strikes Again. Recorded in Europe, that’s all I get but from the references I am assuming somewhere in the UK.
It’s a very good recording as Bootlegs go, from the sound desk I imagine, its got a really long cover of Groove Is In The Heart. 7 out of 10. Can you tell my heart isn’t in this one.

Later that day....

That was all to rather brief, I must say that this album is my favourite bootleg of Billy’s or indeed anyone. The mix of songs is perfect and at the time when I bought it, I think it was from a stall at Glastonbury Festival, it was at a time when Billy wasn’t touring too much.
On the first track, You Woke Up My Neighbourhood it sounds as if the tape is running a little slow, only a fraction and only for a short while but slow none the less.
The backing band is Robyn Hitchcock and The Egyptians, well, an Egyptian plus various other Bragg compadres. Lorraine Bowen, and possibly Cara Tivey who was Blurs ivory tinkler during their Parklife period. Wiggy also puts in an appearance, all in all it is the best BB bootleg I have, the low score reflects my tiredness at having to revisit so many Bragg albums, when I really don’t want to.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Top 50 Greatest Songs in the World Ever Vol.II

I know it, Peter knows it, and we feel no shame. We are list-makers. We make lists. My name is Kevin and I am a list-maker. If you Google 'People who make lists' one of the results is on a business website called Hello My Name is Scott. Scott lists 43 Reasons to Make Lists For Everything, my favourite of which is

'Listing sifts through the bullshit. It gives people the guts, the meat, the good stuff, the essence and the cliff notes of your idea. Which is good, because most readers don’t have time (or care) to read anything else'.

Of course, we'd be happy to have readers of any kind, whether they read our lists or not. Hell, we'd encourage stalkers.

Anyway, Peter's 2001 list was a ragbag of both mainstream and leftfield indieness talent, made more interesting by surprise choices like Millie Jackson, and a lack of Journey. I realised when tapping in mine that there is almost nothing new, very little from the last five or even ten years, which doesn't mean that there is a lack of good music these days, it just means I haven't heard it. Songs sometimes take years to percolate in your head, or ferment. Some go mouldy and you have to discard them (often causing excessive earwax, so I'm told). It's rare, in my case anyway, for a song to go instantly shooting into the subconscious top 50 and stay there. I sat down and wrote this list off the top of my head easily, although if you asked me tomorrow it would probably have the same artists but different songs. It's odd how very little I listened to that was contemporary at the time, didn't make the cut.

So here they are in no particular order.

1. Angel from Montgomery - Bonnie Raitt & John Prine
2. I'm in a Dancing Mood - Delroy Wilson
3. Last Goodbye - Jeff Buckley
4. Mama - Jarabe de Palo
5. Whole Lotta Rosie (Live) - AC/DC
6. Dr. Feelgood - Aretha Franklin
7. Buenos Hermanos - Ibrahim Ferrrer
8. Tupelo Honey - Wayne Toups
9. Viking - Los Lobos
10. Once in her Lifetime - Spear of Destiny
11. The Patriot Game (Live) - The Clancy Brothers & Tommy Makem
12. The Weight - The Band
13. You Better Not Look Down - BB. King
14. It Doesn't Matter Anymore - Puressence
15. Old Man - Neil Young
16. Train Kept a Rollin' - Aerosmith
17. Can't You Hear Me Knocking - The Rolling Stones
18. Liquidator - Harry J. Allstars
19. Whole Lotta Shakin Goin On (live) - Jerry Lee Lewis
20. House Rent Boogie - John Lee Hooker
21. Tell Mama - Etta James
22. Rags to Riches - Tony Bennet
23. Dancefloors - My Morning Jacket
24. My Morning Song - The Black Crowes
25. Substitute - The Who
26. A Quick One While He's Away - The Who
27. 5.15 - The Who
28. Sunny Sailor Boy - Luka Bloom
29. Pick a Bale of Cotton - Leadbelly
30. Cancion Mixteca - Ry Cooder, David Lindley, Harry Dean Stanton
31. Right About Now - Ron Sexsmith
32. City of Chicago - Christy Moore
33. Don't Want to Know - John Martyn
34. Pretty Thing - Bo Diddley
35. I am the Resurrection - The Stone Roses
36. Atlantic City - Bruce Springsteen
37. Rankin Full Stop - The Beat
38. Shame and Scandal - Peter Tosh
39. Pressure Drop - Toots & The Maytals
40. Shelter - Ray LaMontagne
41. See a Little Light - Bob Mould
42. Here We Kum - Molotov
43. New Rose - The Damned
44. I Want to Take you Higher - Sly & The Family Stone
45. 537 C.U.B.A. - Orishas
46. I Hung My Head - Johnny Cash
47. Milk Cow Blues - Elvis Presley
48. Invalid Litter Department - At the Drive In
49. Mumbai Theme Tune - A.R. Rahman
50. No Regrets - Walker Brothers

The Greatest songs In The world Ever....in 2001

A respite this morning, it should have been a self made Ballboy compilation called New Balls Please but my CD player didn’t want me to listen to it. Instead I have referred in the past to a triple CD set I made myself of my favourite songs ever. The discs were compiled in 2001 and looking back now it is rather evident. Some of those songs no longer feature in my favourite ever, some artists have different songs which I adore more than others. There are 54 songs in total, listed below, in 2001 those songs were my very favourite, tomorrow I will update the list to reflect my tastes now, but for now, you get a list.

Born Slippy by Underworld
The Next Episode by Dr Dre
Don’t Falter by Mint Royale Featuring Lauren Laverne
Being Boring by The Pet Shop Boys
Come On My Selector by Squarepusher
Television, The Drug Of The Nation by disposable Heroes of Hiphoprasy
Whole Lotta Love by James Taylor Quartet
Jerusalem by Billy Bragg
Back together by Babybird
Convenience by Bob
Cannonball by The Breeders
Take The Skinheads Bowling by Campervan Beethoven
Here I Go Again by Country Joe and The Fish
Rich and Strange by Cud
Gentle on my Mind by Dean Martin
All You Need Is Love by Elvis Costello
Yesterday Once More by The Carpenters
Where Is My Mind by Pixies
Teenage Kicks by The Undertones
Touch Me I’m Sick by Mudhoney
Mr E’s Beautiful Blues by Eels
New Tricks by Mary Prankster
The Man Who Loved Beer by Lambchop
This Is What She’s Like by Dexy’s Midnight Runners
Wichita Lineman by Glen Campbell
Say It Ain’t So by Julianna Hatfield
Name (For Nameless Things) by Mo-ho-bish-opi
The Killing Of Georgie Parts 1 and 2 by Rod Stewart
I Am I Said by Neil Diamond
The King Of Carrot Flowers Parts 2 and 3 by Neutral Milk Hotel
Since You Been Gone By Rainbow
Homophobic Asshole by The Senseless Things
The Flaming Lips by Spearmint
It’s Lulu by The Boo Radleys
Heavenly Pop Hit by The Chills
Heroin by The Velvet Underground
Barbara Ann by The Beach Boys
He Stopped Loving Her Today by George Jones
Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain by Willie Nelson
Hallelujah by Jeff Buckley
No Distance Left To Run by Blur
Stood On Gold by Gorkys Zygotic Mynci
Yasmin The Light by Explosions In The Sky
Someone To Watch Over Me by Frank Sinatra
Frank Mills by Hair OST
Everything’s Falling Apart by Hefner
Superman by Cinerama
Wild Horses by The Sundays
Nobody Loves You When You Are Down And Out by John Lennon
I Do by Weezer
Since I Left You by The Avalanches
Autobahn by Kraftwerk
Ladyfingers by Luscious Jackson
My Man A Sweet Man by Millie Jackson

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Standing in the Shadow of Motown - The Funk Brothers

My follow up piece to Peter's Chuck Berry post was going to be on another Berry, Berry Gordy, but he's already been up and at 'em with another, yes another Braggist post. You get the feeling he's got enough Bragg to drive to Scotland and back, let alone his commute twice a day. Anyway, I'm struggling on with my Motown post, seeing as I watched the Standing in the Shadow of Motown documentary yesterday, and found myself enjoying ..................... Joan Osbourne!
I'm not a big Motown fan, as I'm sure I've heard all the big hits a billion times. But, this docu focused on the loose collective called the Funk Brothers, effectively the inhouse band that the label used on hundreds of their recordings. Just to put it into perspective, they played on more number one records than The Beatles, Elvis Presley, The Rolling Stones and The Beach Boys combined.
I'm sure the purists hate to hear other people singing the classics, but I enjoyed the structure of the film as it cuts back and forth from a live Funk Brothers show with guest vocalists, to interviews with members of the band, and also mentions what was going on in society at the time. Marvin Gaye was desperate to have Funk Brother James Jamerson play bass on What's Going On, went out and found him in a bar, but the guy was so pissed that he couldn't sit on a stool in the studio so had to play lying on his back on the floor. It was still good enough and made it on to the record.
If you'd asked me to sit down and watch a concert featuring Gerald Levert (nasty smooth modern R n' B) and Joan Osbourne (her of 'What if God was one of us' pop fame) I would have fled from the room lobbing excuses as I went, but the live concert from film is great. Joan Osbourne has a great, forceful, full sounding voice, and Levert had (died in 2006) a beautiful soul voice. Chaka Khan is there too, along with Ben Harper and Bootsy Collins. All manage to add something to a tune you've heard a million times over, and of course they are backed by the best.

Reaching To the Converted

For commute purposes todays music was the 1999 album by Billy Bragg, yes, Billy Bragg, Reaching To the Converted. Effectively a B-Sides compilation.
Yes, I will be glad when the B’s are over too, I have the knowledge that I still have a lot of Bragg still to go through and I have hardly touched on Bjork, I will definitely be having a week off from the alphabetic journey through my CD’s next week.
So back to this, what is different on this album, well there is a ghastly previously unreleased version of Greetings To The New Brunette that has that Johnny Marr sound all over it, bloody horrible, that’s what happens when you give Marr free reign. There are also Ry Cooder tracks, Annie McGarrigle tracks and Smiths tracks, all excellent, I mean all of the tracks are excellent. Aside of the ones messed about with.
This also contains Billys version (with Marr) of Walk Away Renee, I must admit you will be hard pressed to find a better document of young love, the sister song to Saturday Boy and the last line sums up precisely the fickle nature of teenage love. “She cut her hair and I stopped loving her”. Genius.
So how are Billy locks on this album, I should do a plus minus convoluted process where I take the first track and deduct or add points for every song I like or dislike and see what it spits out…12 by the look of it, but no, the whole album, including the odd falsetto on Ontario, Quebec and Me, the accidental number one in she’s Leaving Home, all of this points to a better than average 7, but for Marr doing that Greetings to the New Brunette, then that’s 2 off for a start, the Red Stars version of Accident Waiting to Happen, that’s another one off, It’s a cynical disc marketed at the people that are likely to own the majority of songs already. Walk Away Renee would get ten though. 4 out of 10

Walk Away Renee by Billy Bragg Featuring Badly Drawn Boy

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

The Best Of Chuck Berry

The Best Of Chuck Berry today, Disc one on the way to work, Disc two on the way home. The Best of is not a misnomer, Chuck Berry really had some greats.
Chuck Berry is one of three artists that I want to see before they, or indeed I, but hopefully they, die. Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard being the other two, the true pioneers of Rock and Roll.
This greatest hits album is of course brilliant, maybe not through out but the bits that are good are exceptional, and the exceptional of the exceptional are amongst some of the greatest songs ever recorded, Johnny B Goode, Maybelline, Roll Over Beethoven, Sweet Little 16, Sweet Little Rock and Roller and Rock and Roll Music, and that’s just a few, once you start thinking about Berrys great songs the list goes on an and on.
There are some criticisms though, No Particular Place To Go is a great song, the imitations of that formula Berry did following that release are good, but just that, imitations, and at 40 tracks you hear the imitations of Maybelline and Johnny B Goode. This is forgivable though, to hear Berry hollering Hail! Hail! Rock and Roll, to hear his guitar, to hear Johnnie Johnsons piano, to listen to these songs and appreciate how important they were then and the importance they have on what I listen to now. These aren’t museum pieces though, they rock with the best of them. Berrys Brown Eyed Handsome Man is far more believable than Buddy Hollys, you believe the stories, the indescretions, the scrapes with the law. So with all that its difficult to score, if this 40 track album was 10 tracks long it would easily be a ten out of ten, if it was 20 tracks long it would be a ten out of ten, 30 tracks and it might be nine out of ten, but at 40 tracks long its 8 out of 10.

Maybelline by Chuck Berry

Last Train to .......................

Peter made the mistake of not ordering the interesting version of 'Last Train to Memphis' and then struggled through the book, only to be saved by one bread roll too many (see below). My ex house mate Dan used to regularly take the last tube from central London (the vomit comet) back to our flat in Bounds Green, but excessive pintage, crossed with an ability to sleep standing up, often saw him over shoot his required stop, and end up at the end of the line. He then, rather bashfully, cast about for other sheepish looking travellers who also reeked of beer and fags, and they shared a taxi back in the direction from whence they came.

There is no song called 'Last Train Past Bounds Green and Back Again', although there is 'Last Train to London' by E.L.O.,made more interesting by cross ferilisation with the Beastie Boys. I have my suspiscions that if you look at E.L.O. really closely in this video it is actually the Scissor Sisters with fake facial hair.

Monday, 22 June 2009

Last Train to Memphis

And lo, it came to pass that 11 months did set like the sun, and verily it was decreed that Peter would finally turn the last page on the biggest chore of a book that he had ever read. I finished it, I finally finished Last Train To Memphis by Peter Guralnick.
This was such a slog, not due to the quality of the writing or the facts presented in it, I am sure that Peter Guralnick is an excellent writer and it is Elvis Presley after all. The issue lies unfortunately in the fact that between his birth and 1958, outside of his music, Elvis was just plain dull.
I didn’t expect thrills of Gun’s N’ Roses proportions, but across 578 pages I wanted a little more than Elvis bought his momma a Cadillac, Elvis travelled by train to Texas, Elvis recorded Teddy Bear. Even the recording process isn’t detailed that much, I mean even the million dollar quartet gets only a few pages, the single greatest recording session ever committed to tape is dealt with in less than 20 pages, maybe even less than 10.
The book just never held my attention unfortunately, and that is why I couldn’t read more than 3 or 4 pages at a time, and without being too graphic, if I hadn’t eaten too much bread this weekend it may have been another few weeks before it was finished. Thank heavens for mild wheat intolerances eh!
It does deliver facts though, exhaustively it delivers facts, if you need to know who Elvis had as a companion on any particular day it gives you those facts, you want to know anything else, you are screwed.
I was going to read the second volume, Careless Love after this, I don’t think that’s a good idea at all. Not if I want to lose another 11 months of my life.

Frank Black and the Catholics

The eponymous Frank Black and the Catholics today, the 1998 album released on Spinart. Listening to this made me think of the conversation that must have happened between Frank Black and Kim Deal prior to the reformation of the Pixies.

Frank Black: Hi Kim Waassssuuuuppp!
Kim Deal: (Sigh) Hi Charles.
FB: Watcha doin?
KD: You know, just chillin.
FB: Watcha mean, chillin?
KD: You know, just hanging out.
FB: Just you?
KD: (Sigh) No Charles, not just me.
FB: Is Albini there? I bet Albini is there. Is Albini there?
KD: (Muffled receiver) He is asking if you are here!!!
Steve Albini: (In the background) Tell him no, say it’s a dog, say its you and a dog, tell him its some chien andaluscian shit, seriously Kim, you say I’m here you get Pete Waterman engineering the next record, I swear to god.
KD: No Charles, it’s a dog, a Spanish dog.
FB: I love Spanish dogs, you know there is this movie right, and its called un chien..
KD: (cutting him off) Charles, did you call for something?
FB: Oh yeah, erm, I was just watching Oprah and I started wondering if you had you heard any of my albums?
KD: Oh yeah, course, I have heard them all…..
FB: Really? I mean that’s really good, real real good. Whats your favourite?
KD: Oh you know, they are all great it’s difficult to choose a favourite….
FB: But which one is the best????
KD: You know, the, erm, the one with the songs on them, you know, the shouty one???
FB: The shouty one?
KD: The shouty one!
FB: Kim, you know when we split you got Albini.
KD: Uh-huh.
FB: And I got the dude that did the Superbad soundtrack.
KD: Uh-huh.
FB: (Serious tone) So tell me Kim Deal WHICH album do you consider to be the Shouty one.
KD: (muffled) He is asking me which album of his I like best!!!!!!
SA: (in the background) Tell him The Frank Black and The Thingies one
KD: The what and the who???
SA: I saw it today in Best Buy, its like a yellow sleeve
KD: (To FB) The one with the yellow sleeve?
SA: It was real cheap.
KD: (To FB) The real cheap one with the yellow sleeve?
SA: It was next to the second Ugly Kid Joe album, hey I bought that Ugly Kid Joe album, do you want to hear it?
KD: (To FB) The real cheap one with the yellow sleeve next to the second Ugly Kid Joe album!
FB: And your favourite song on that album?
KD: Oh you know, the one about the Mojave?
FB: Sorry?
KD: Or whores?
FB: what?
KD: spaceships?
FB: You haven’t heard a single thing I have done since the Pixies have you?
KD: Do I need to?
FB: *Click*

2 out of 10.

All My Ghosts by Frank Black

Friday, 19 June 2009

No Pop, No Style, Strictly Roots

No Pop, No Style, Strictly Roots. Billy Braggs official Bootleg from 1995 was todays music to drive to. A recording of his 1993 set at The Phoenix Festival. I will start to repeat myself soon regarding Billy, I do have a lot of stuff by him and more than one bootleg, I can only apologise, I can only say so many times that Greetings To The New Brunette is excellent. So I will try to avoid talking about the tracks too much on this bootleg.
This album highlights material from around the time of don’t Try This At Home, that album and the singles B-sides, notably Sulk and Quebec, Ontario and Me. Billy also throws out a near perfect version of weddings, Parties Anythings’s Ship In My Harbour, perhaps a highlight of the album. One song that I hadn’t come across before and unsure if it surfaced anywhere else was MBH, cant recall it being on a b-side or on any other album.
Billy’s banter with the crowd is evident and it was one of the things that made me fall in love with him as a performer, admittedly now in 2009 it seems a little corny at times, particularly when he crow bars “gags” into songs, this was an element that I loved when I was younger.
So as a live bootleg its of a good quality, the songs are pretty good, the only let down is the patter, and so it’s a 7 out of 10 for Billy.

Sexuality by Billy Bragg

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Sunrise Sunset A Bright Eyes Compendium

The predicted Billy Bragg spell didn’t really materialise and this morning it was instead Sunrise Sunset A Bright Eyes Compendium. A very well made compilation of Bright Eyes songs someone, forgotten, made me in around 2001.
I first became aware of Bright Eyes when the Virgin Megastore in which I worked stocked the split single Bright eyes did with Her Space Holiday in 2000. Virgin stocked about 5 copies of this and I could get in the car now and drive to where 3 of them copies are. Admittedly work might wonder where I was and it would be a drain on the petrol purely to prove a point. None the less. That single was fantastic and on my way to the next B album this morning I flicked past it.
This album as I said was done for me but someone long forgotten as an exchange for a Hefner disc I did for them, the sleeve is professionally printed and it was, even more than the split single, the catalyst for my love of Conor Oberst, in a purely platonic heterosexual way.
The compilation takes tracks from the albums prior to and including Fevers and Mirrors, with tracks from the odd EP thrown in for good measure. The Fevers and Mirrors tracks are the strongest, with the odd exception, drawing on The Calendar Hung Itself, Something Vague, Sunrise Sunset and The Center of The world, but the real joy is a track from Every Day and Every Night EP, and that track is A Perfect Sonnet. A song that has been known to reduce a grown man to tears and THE track that cemented my love of the band. The only reason I don’t give this compilation a ten is that it is a compilation, nothing more. The songs are strong enough as the mix draws on the best elements of Obersts Bright Eyes work prior to 2001. Stunning. 9 out of 10.

A Perfect Sonnet by Bright Eyes

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

William Blake

From Bloke to Blake. Kev in the comments to William Bloke suggested how about William Blake. I know little about Blake, I am an uneducated heathen, what little I do know is the hymn Jerusalem, Hubert Parry’s hymn that uses Blakes poem, And Did Those Feet In Ancient Times as its basis, and if you pop into my dining room to the left of the stereo is a 3 CD compilation put together by myself of the 50 greatest songs known to man, and by man, I mean this man, as they are, or at least were, my 50 favourite tracks. On one of those CD’s is Jerusalem, it is in my opinion a work of art and one that I adore.

The version on that disc is Billy Braggs version from his mini album, The Internationale, but as to if his is the definitive version, I don’t know, I have a number of versions and all of them are perfect in their own way.

Blake's Jerusalem by Billy Bragg

The Fall covered it on I am Kurious Oranj, and as expected from Mark E Smith, whilst trying to remain in the same postcode as the original, it is Smith’s take on it so listening you get “and did those feetuuuh, in ancient tams”

Jerusalem by The Fall

Emerson Lake and Palmer cover it on Brain salad Surgery and the politest thing to say about that is thankfully it seems that Youtube doesn't produce the goods.

Even this is rather good, minus all the bloody flag waving.

Jerusalem by BBC Symphony Chorus

Brewing Up With Billy Bragg

Yesterday William Bloke, today Brewing Up With Billy Bragg. I have a lot of Bragg, I mentioned that and I think as far as commuting CD’s go, we are due to hit a patch of them, don’t get me wrong I don’t look ahead to see what is coming, I return the days CD to the shelf sticking out a little and take the next album along, they are always a moderate surprise, in as much as I don’t know which B, just that it is a B.
Brewing up with.. is Billys second album, coming out in 1984 on Go! Discs, pitching half way between folk and punk and on the whole its Billy and his guitar. Rare appearances from Dave Woodhead playing trumpet on Saturday Boy and the late Kenny Craddock adding organ to A Lover Sings, this extra instrumentation only add to the beauty of the two tracks, but anything more would destroy them.
This album is a far more political album than anything that came after it. 1984 topped off a period that had seen Thatcher secure a second term, the beginnings of the miners strike and the Falklands War was only a mere 2 years in the past. 80’s greed was tightening its grip, Duran Duran were typical of the music that was filling the charts, and Billy was atypical. This album comments on all of this and more.
Billys contemporaries were the Redskins, Specials AKA, Paul Weller and The Smiths, Red Wedge had yet to be formed when this album was released so as political voices went in 1984, you would struggle, but Billy combined pop and politics and his usual excuses. On this album it works better than any other by him. He is still young, and bilious, and not living in a Dorset pile. He cares. He might still care but he has the school run to attend to and not kick over chairs.
The music is entirely strong and very few lines will make you furrow your brow, even after all these years, that’s the thing with political music, as time goes on, its likely to leave the listener scratching their head as to what they mean or it becomes trite. Billy’s words do still seem relevant, be it the tabloid press, the complications of love or being a modern soldier.
An enjoyable album today and one that will continue to entertain me, Saturday Boy remains one of my favourite songs. 9 out of 10.

Saturday Boy by Billy Bragg

Cover Versions

If you don't like a good cover there's something wrong with you. Clearly. And how do you know if it's a good cover? You want the criteria? Well, you can't have it, yet. Great scholars were locked in a room for years writing the rules of what makes a cover version a success or not, and how to decide if it's any good or not. World leaders were consulted, great books read, and the history of popular music pored over. Nobody asked Simon Fuller.

And what were their conclusions? A whole lifetime passed, a generation waited. They, the great worthy ones, decided that all covers could be put into four categories, which I have the honour of giving the world, here listed below. It's an exclusive.

Category One
Any or all of the following.
Rubbish. Shouldna bothered. Unoriginal. Picked the wrong song. Were aiming for commercial success because you haven't got any good songs of your own. Dull. Song has been done to death already. Obvious. Nobody cares.

Category Two
Not bad enough for Category One, but still a bit pants. Worth a mention but not a repeated listen. Technically proficient but uninspiring. Album filler. B side. Contractual obligation. Done for an advert.

Category Three
Good. Interesting. Original. Worth repeated listens. Pays tribute to or at least equals the original. Possibly in a different style or language. A worthy re-imagining. A cult classic.

Category Four
Amazing. Better than the original. Becomes the definitive version. Awakens the world to the genius of the original unfairly forgotten artist. Takes the song to a new astral plain. Audio perfection. Ushers in hope for a new generation and provokes world peace.

In order to get your badge of merit, which will allow you to enjoy a lifetime of covers, please place the following in the most appropriate category.

1. Anything by Boyzone or Joan Baez.

2. Britney's Baby, One More Time by either Travis or English folkie Richard Thompson.

3. Vanessa Paradis singing Walk On By

4. The Clash Bankrobber

To further put you to the test, have a look at these.

Press the red button to vote now.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

The Choir With No Name

My friend Marie runs a choir called The Choir with No Name. It was her idea in the first place and she has done an amazing job to get it off the ground, and keep it going. To read all about it click here, but to quote from their website

"The Choir with No Name is made up of homeless people and of other men and women from the very edges of our society. We're a diverse bunch of people; male and female, black and white, big and small, young and er, not quite as young, up and down...
We sing pop, rock, soul, gospel, reggae, musicals.. you name it, we'll give it a go.. although we've yet to try any thrash metal or grime. We rehearse once a week (with a decent dinner at the end of rehearsal!) and we perform in London regularly. We were founded on the premise that singing makes you feel good; it distracts you from all the nonsense in life and helps you to build up your confidence and abilities"

They recently appeared on This Morning, so here they are


I'm quite enamoured with Mavis Staples at the moment. A few years ago I was on holiday in the US and walked into a record shop in Philadelphia to the strains of a 1962 Staple Singers album called Hammer & Nails. I wish I'd bought it there and then as I've never seen it again. Over 40 years later (from 1962 that is) Mavis Staples is still releasing albums, and We'll Never Turn Back from 2007 is top draw. It's a concept album by somebody called Mavis, so what are the chances of quality? It's produced by Ry Cooder, with some familiar old favourites (Down in Mississippi, Jesus is on the Mainline, We Shall Not be Moved), and is all about the American civil rights movement. I'd bet this video didn't get too much airplay on daytime TV. Watch it to see what I mean.

William Bloke

Billy Bragg was my travelling companion today, specifically his 1996 album, William Bloke. The follow up to Don’t Try This at Home and 5 years in the making.
Billy’s first album for Cooking Vinyl following his tenure at Go Discs, this album is the last Bragg album I genuinely liked a lot, loved maybe, and from what I have heard it is the last Billy Bragg album that remained true to his sound, at least to me it was.
So songs are inspired by the birth of his son and the impact that has on his life and his political stance, Billy suggests on Brickbat

“I used to want to plant bombs at the Last Night of the Proms, But now you'll find me with the baby, in the bathroom, With that big shell, listening for the sound of the sea,The baby and me”

It’s a long way from rotting on remand.

William Bloke is a thoughtful album, sticking closely to the subjects Bragg does well, Love and Politics but more centred on this album on love, that’s what a baby will do for you. The political songs are present, the extremely clumsy Northern Industrial Town which ends with “Its Belfast” just in case you didn’t guess. I realise I may have spoiled that track for you as you may wanted to have guessed yourself. The Pict Song which is a Rudyard Kipling poem, and GoalHanger, but in the main its love that Billy is professing on this album, and it is all the better for it. 8 out of 10.

Upfield by Billy Bragg


My back-knack requires me to go and have physical therapy. Before doing the exercises (that are all a bit Liza Minnelli as they require lifting legs and pointing feet) I am required to lie on my side for about half an hour while they zap me with machines, or put hot sticky things on my lower back. It's not bad, although as I have my back to the man with hot sticky things I try not to speculate as to what the hot sticky things actually are. I take a book or a magazine. I don't like the cold gell much, but you can't have everything (maybe warm gell....).

Yesterday I was reading the Guardian's 'Heartbreak' part of their '1000 Songs Everyone Must Hear'. It's a daft title. I mean, 'Everyone' and 'Must'. I can see a fella out of my window working on a roof. Does he need to hear 'No Children' by The Mountain Goats? I'd wager not. He needs to find a job that isn't on a roof.

So, to heartbreak. Bettye LaVette, a woman with more E's than the Shamen with a bag of E's, is yet another person who has recorded with Drive By Truckers (Booker T has just done an album with them). The Truckers' Patterson Hood's dad was part of the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, so maybe that's the connection between the alt-country outfit and soul n r n'b stars. Aaaaanyway, she was in the 'Must Hear' list, and 1965's 'Let Me Down Easy' is described as a 'soulful wrecking ball of a record'. Judge for yourself.

Monday, 15 June 2009

Watch You Bleed : The Saga of Guns N’ Roses

Holiday over and 2 books read, and if this blog was about Butlins and its former employees I would be telling you about Never Mind The Redcoats by Paul Wojnicki, as it isn’t, as it is about music, and commuting, but mainly music, I am going to tell you about the first book that I read over my holiday and that is Watch You Bleed : The Saga of Guns N’ Roses.
When I was young, 17 I went on a Spanish holiday, I will be honest with you, it wasn’t a grand tour around the sights mentioned in Don Quixote or retreading Hemingways steps, it was effectively a holiday drinking alcohol to celebrate my 17th birthday. On that holiday, in 1987 some recommended the metal-tastic, Appetite For Destruction, the debut full length by Guns N’s Roses. Bear in mind that my soundtrack in 1987 was The Wedding Present and if my memory serves I was not displaying any metal tendencies. So upon my return to the UK I sought out Appetite For Destruction and cranked it up to 6 (my nan was having a nap). Enough to say that album only got the one outing and Guns N’ Roses and my paths never crossed again until an approximation of the band played Download festival, (in so much that if you believe Axl Rose is Guns N’ Roses, then they did play Download, by the same token I saw Morrissey at Reading festival so for all intents and purposes I have seen the Smiths, Joe Strummer at V/The Clash and Fish on a tube in London/Marillion.) So there you have my experience of GN’R, its limited.
The whole point of me reading this book was to expand my knowledge of a band, I am not a fan, but as lives go, the members have lived theirs thrice over, and perhaps in Slash’s case, 4 or 5 times over. They have lived and that is what I look for in a biography, you are aware that I have been reading about Elvis’s early life since August, and I still am, I have 40 pages to go and I see it taking until next August. The difference between Elvis up to 1957 and Izzy Stradlin is that Elvis bought a brand new tux and this is considered noteworthy, where as Izzy Stradlin used to flog heroin to Aerosmith. You see what I am getting at here, I am not condoning drug use, at all, but Elvis, even with all his greatness was pretty dull, admittedly compared to Guns N’ Roses dull could apply to just about anyone, but the reason why I whizzed through this book in 3 days and Elvis is still unfinished after 10 months.
So of the book, it’s a good read, no denying that, if something like The Dirt is your thing, tales of music business debauchery, rock stars and groupies then this is your thing. The author Stephen Davis penned the Led Zeppelin biography Hammer of the Gods, an utterly significant music biography that not only displays a genuine love for the band but also gets under the skin of the beast, literally. Hammer of the Gods presented a warts and all document of the worlds biggest rock n roll band, not afraid to shy away from Jimmy Page’s affection for what was effectively a child, or from the drug and alcohol consumption that was ingested in their ranks. It seems that Hammer of the Gods was the blueprint for Watch You Bleed, just as Led Zeppelin was the blue print for Guns N’ Roses.
Slight inaccuracies aside the book really fulfils what was required of it, tell the story of the formation of the classic Guns N’ Roses line up and concentrate on this, “the saga”, the flab at the end highlights the various bit part players that tried to fill the shoes of Izzy, Slash, Steve and Duff and don’t really command any thing other than a nod. We learn about the young Saul Hudson (Slash) and how he became what he is now, Izzy’s long term battle with drugs, a battle that Izzy initially didn’t want to win. Salient facts like Duff McKagan invested in a fledgling Starbucks and Microsoft, and of course Axl’s Napoleon complex and what really was his mental illness and spousal abuse episodes.
All in all it’s a book that is immensely captivating and educating, you see Axl’s excuses for his homophobic racist ranting, which Davis seems happy enough to let go, as he does it seem happy to almost make excuses for Rose’s abuse of his ex wife and girlfriend. I guess Davis is there to tell the story and not to judge. You learn of the band’s misogyny, the drugs, the sex, the rock n roll, the life on the road and widely the LA music scene of the 80’s. You don’t read about Graceland or the ticket sales for a concert in Biloxi. That’s for a different day.

St. James Infirmary and the Return of Towl

Peter has been flying the How to Grow Old flag for quite some time now, what with his trawl through the cd's on his drive to work, gig going, and all round keeping his end up. Back-knack has kept me away from the blog, but with the blood circulating again, and the stitches out today, I will make my triumphant return with this, surely an apt title - St. James Infirmary (Blues). Everyone from Louis Armstrong to the White Stripes has done a version of this, although I only heard it for the first time recently. There's a whole list of pre-war versions here. Even Betty Boop has done it.

First up is Red Allen from 1964, putting a bit of soul into his jazz version.

Paul Butterfield, legendary harp player, provides the second version. Sorry there's not much to watch.

I was going to put The White Stripes here, but then I watched it, and realised just how bad their live version was. Particularly when you listen to someone who can play the piano, so here is New Orleans legend Allen Toussaint doing it some justice.

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club

Todays album is a self made compilation that I put together around 2002. Its features the work of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, BRMC. There was considerable fuss surrounding the band around that time and I wanted to effectively see what the fuss was about. I shouldn’t have bothered.
I am trying to be objective here, and as far as the songs are concerned they are good songwriters, the problem with BRMC is that they are extremely derivative and wear their influences for all to show, and this is what distracts me.
Distracts is a bit light, I was actually sitting in the car and didn’t know if I was enjoying the 17 tracks that I put on the CD, 17 tracks and it covers their early period of Spread Your Love, Red Eyes and Tears, Love Burns etc. I just didn’t know, I could hear that they had good tunes but I think the way they were presented made me think otherwise. The Verve, Jesus and Mary Chain and Big Star all feature incredibly heavy and it’s a combination that grates. Particularly the JAMC influence, I don’t really like the band and so another band so blatantly influenced by them isn’t going to get my seal of approval.
BRMC, like Jet and The Datsuns came about off the back of The Strokes and were at the forefront of what the NME called the New Rock Revolution. It was effectively watered down garage rock for the young set. I do however know people that loved all that and they hadn’t been part of the young set for some time. So maybe its me missing the point, maybe its my ears that are wrong, maybe BRMC were/are good and its me that doesn’t get them. Perhaps if I get past the heavy worn influences and listen to the songwriting I will appreciate them all the more? Maybe, or maybe I will pop this compilation in the bin on my way home and recycle the jewel case. 1 out of 10

Spread Your Love by Black Rebel Motorcycle Club

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Last Splash

A bonus commute disc today, the first after my Hellenic week. I wasn't commuting in the traditional sense of the word though, a trip to Telford, to see the sights. Anyway, the disc was Last Splash by The Breeders, their second album.
I first heard of this album, well a track on this album when I lived in Lincoln and a club was playing Cannonball, I hadnt heard it before and the DJ played the track, I was quite taken back by it, I couldnt believe that someone connected to the Pixies could write something so out and out pop, perhaps its out and out popness was the reason that Albini didnt engineer it, either that or he was busy with Rapeman.
So, Title TK, played just before I went on holiday is my favourite Breeders album, but this album is probably their best. It is chock full of hits, if you can call them hits, Cannonball, Do You Love Me Now, Divine Hammer, and the cover of Ed's Redeeming Qualities' Drivin on 9. The weak tracks do not exist and the strong tracks are difficult to better.
So how do I mark this, currently Title TK is my favourite Breeders album, but I believe that Last Splash is a great album with the best and for my money the definitive Breeders line up. So with all this in mind and the fact that I heard it probably 7 times in a row today and didnt tire of it, 10 out of 10.

Drivin on 9 by The Breeders.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars

The final commute album prior to my holiday, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. Let me be candid with you here, in my car I sing, in my car I am Paul Potts, I am the greatest singer this country has ever seen, I am Caruso, Meat Loaf and H from Steps all rolled into one. In my car. Alone. When any of these variables change, this is the odd part, but when any of these variables change I am what is known in showbusiness as a shit singer. Whilst in my car, alone I do two very very good impressions of people, I do an uncanny version of the lead singer of The Kings of Leon and David Bowie. Some might say that my David Bowie doesn't sound like David Bowie at all and its just an effeminate Keith Richards, them people don't know shit.
Impressions aside then, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, I bought this album in the last 2 years as I heard 5 years and liked it, so I got the album. Around the same time I bought a lot of "classic albums" as I felt there were holes in my collection.
The album itself undoubtedly contains some great songs, looking down the tracklisting its apparant that these songs, all of these songs are known to most music fans, but does that really mean that its a great album?
In Hang on to yourself take off the vocal track and its The Ramones, pre-empting their sound by a good five years. The album predates glam rock in the Ziggy Stardust, but goes all cliched on Sufragette City with its wam bam thank you mams.
It is a massively diverse album though, not entirely glam rock, not entirely punk rock, not ballads, not pop. But was it enjoyable?
It was enjoyable, I played it more than twice which is always a good sign, but it wasnt earth shatteringly out of great for me, so it isn't a ten. It maybe should be a nine, but it isn't, a critical 8 out of 10.

5 Years by David Bowie

Tuesday, 2 June 2009


The shortened review below is down to a realisation, then the check that 2009, specifically April was the 20th anniversary of arguably one of the greatest albums ever made. Certainly in my world it is and I would assume that even if you think it wasn’t one of the gretest, you do consider it to be a great album. I am talking of the Pixies album, Doolittle. Released on April 17th 1989.
In 1989 after The Wedding Present my favourite band was Pixies, and 20 years later The Wedding Present mean nothing to me but The Pixies are still one of my favourite bands. In 1989 the world, my world was gripped by The Stone Roses who had released their debut, Manchester was kicking in doors and I have to say outside of that magnificent debut, very little from Manchester entertained me, I didn’t like dance beats clumsily tacked over Byrds influenced indie and bands proclaiming there had always been a dance element to their music, it didn’t wash. Pixies didn’t stray massively from their path and so one spring morning in 1989 I happily made my way to Herrick and Watsons, Skegness’s premier retailer of top audio delights to get my copy, on tape, of the new Pixies album Doolittle. My friend Alex was responsible for introducing me to Pixies, another band in a long line that he introduced me to and for a couple of years prior to the release of Doolittle I had been playing on rotation Surfer Rosa and Come On Pilgrim. The juxtaposition of tunes like Gigantic and Caribou sat nicely for me next to Tony’s Theme, to this day potentially my favourite Pixies song.
Doolittle had to be bought on tape as working at Butlins the only way of playing music was on a small tape player I had in my chalet. I recall vividly the first listen, and how it made me feel, and 20 years later with however many hundreds of times that album has been played, it still makes me feel that way. I always used to say that if a tally of the music I had played over the years had been kept, that album would be by far the most played. In 1989 though two albums vied for my attention, Doolittle and The Stone Roses and nothing got close to a look in.
These days if I hear a solitary Pixies song on my iPod, so ingrained is that album, but if I hear There Goes My Gun, I expect a Hey! To be shouted at the end of it, any other song seems out of place. I think there are very few albums, to me at least that are that familiar to me.
So twenty years, that slipped by by the look of it, but it shouldn’t. A truly great album that even though it was released at a time that other releases seem dated and entrenched in nostalgia, Doolittle is as vibrant and fresh now as it was then.

Debaser by Pixies

Title TK

Todays CD should have been A Hard Days Night by The Beatles, but it isn’t, because somehow my copy of this album wont play in my car stereo. All other Beatles albums have so far, I am not best pleased.
I hightailed it back into the house and the next CD along was The Breeders third album, Title TK. The Steve Albini produced album was a long time coming in our house and as of early morning on the 2nd of June it is my favourite Breeders album.
I need to be brief as I want to post something else but Title TK is a fantastic record, and the only thing stopping me giving it a ten is that I think two tens in two days is a little over the top.
If you liked Last Splash then this album is for you, pretty faultless on the whole and as good as anything I have on my shelves. A self editing 9 out of 10.

Off You by The Breeders

Monday, 1 June 2009

Let It Be

I have a short week this week as I fly off on holiday on Thursday. Greece as you asked. The thing with Greece, Puressence were quite big in Greece, and Kev used to, and excuse the vernacular here, but Kev used to bum Puressence like no other band. They were like precursors to Doves.
Puressence has nothing to do with todays CD, which is The Beatles Let it Be. Released the year of my birth, 1970 it was the final Beatles studio album although recorded before Abbey Road, it was released after Abbey Road. Produced by noted murderer Phil Spector it tied in with the film of the same name that documented the recording of the album.
I have to say this is my favourite Beatles album and I do consider it to be utterly faultless as albums go. Taking songs that have been played repeatedly over the past 39 years, Let it Be, Long and Winding Road and Get Back its easy to see why The Beatles are held in such reverence and put on a pedestal. But then specifically on this album you dig a little deeper, Two of Us, I Me Mine, For You Blue and Across The Universe and already this album outstrips any Beatles album that came before it, any album in consideration. Take One After 909, one of their earliest songs, recorded and released in 1970 and it is not out of place in the slightest.
The band on this album seem totally confident in their abilities and are happy to let their blues influences come to the fore, whilst still retaining a pop sensibility. A truly great album, and therefore the first 10. 10 out of 10.

I Me Mine by The Beatles