Monday, 30 November 2009

Wichita Lineman The Best of Glen Campbell

I have never seen Glen Campbell in concert. I really like him, and his music although the opportunity has presented itself a number of times, I chose not to. Intentionally.
Todays disc is a Glen Campbell disc, its called Wichita Lineman The Best of Glen Campbell and it was released in the 90’s by Castle Communications. That sentence alone should indicate the quality of this recording. That sentence should tell you everything you need to know about this disc.
I have never seen Glen Campbell purely because of this disc, you see this is a live recording, unsure where, and the only date I can pin it to is pre 1990. It contains many covers, but that’s OK, he is a covers man. What galls me though, what angers me beyond belief and what makes state that Campbell will never get a penny of my money is, and he is totally to blame for this and not Castle Communications, is that he condenses, arguably some of the greatest songs ever , into medleys, into shortened versions, into passing nods. Bastard. 0 out of 10.

Standing On A Beach

This weekend bonus commute disc, soundtracking my journey to Villa Park for the ESPN showing late kick off was The Cure's first retrospective, Standing On A Beach.
I genuinely believe The Cure to be amongst the top three singles bands ever to pick up a guitar pick, Ash and The Jam being the other two. The problem with The Cure though is the singles, the good singles, only started really towards the back end of the period this album covers.
Obviously that statement doesnt apply to the sublime, Boys Don't Cry, on any given days one of the most perfect pop songs ever created. Better than Teenage Kicks, better than Video killed the radio star, even better than over the hills with the swords of a thousand men. On it's day.
On this album there is a bit of a wait up to that track and then a bit of a wait till the goods are produced again, Lets go to bed.
This is the start though of something rather special, and it didnt stop there, because as a band, they never got crap after that. For me from Let's Go To Bed to now, The Cure produced/s singles of the highest quality. Restricted to this album we have The Walk, Love Cats, the fantastic In Between Dayas and the equally wonderful Close To Me.
It's a pity about the stuff inbetween, all gothy and brooding and painting pictures. I could smell the patchouli and see the rooms painted black. Cheer up gothy kids, Friday I'm In Love is only 3 albums away! 6 out of 10.

Boys Don't Cry by The Cure

Friday, 27 November 2009

The Ugly Organ

Today my commute CD was the reason why I am going through my loosely alphabeticised CD albums. The reason why I needed to listen to things I may have missed, the reason I needed to give something a second chance.
Today the CD was The Ugly Organ by Cursive. At the very least I may have listened to this once before but I suspect this was the first time I had played this album. It came to my notice as I think at the end of 2003 it was featured highly in the year end lists of people who’s opinion I trusted. I must have lost it in a bulk of other CD’s though as it never made an impression at all.
So to the CD, as I said this CD and other CD’s like it is the reason that I am going through my collection, it is an absolute beauty, a real genuine great album.
Released on Saddle Creek it draws its influence, not massively, but a little from Saddle Creeks most famous son, Conor Oberst. However it’s main influence is Brand New. Sonically it draws heavily on the sound Brand New explored on their first two albums. Vocally Tim Kasher falls between that of Brand New’s Jesse Lacey and Bright Eyes’ Oberts, musically they are more aligned, at least on this album with Brand New than Oberst’s folk leanings.
It’s a stunning album though, and one I am pretty angry for missing, it is 6 years old after all, and 6 years it has been on a shelf of mine ignored. I strongly suggest that if either of the influencing artists float your boat, you seek out The Ugly Organ.
How this does differ from Brand New and Bright Eyes though is this album displays a little more aggression than those two are seemingly capable of. The Ugly Organ is a concept album that explores, Wikipedia tells me, the ugly organists life of love lust and empty sex. At times anger comes through but also despondency. It really does take you on a rather fantastic musical journey.
This all leads to the final track, Staying Alive, you recall my criticisms of the bloated Coheed and Cambrai album? Well the final track is a 10 minute epic, with contributions from a Nebraskan who’s who, after 10 minutes, I wanted another 10, I didn’t want it to end and as the album drew to a close, I wanted more. A brilliant and ridiculously good album. 10 out of 10, easily.

Staying Alive by Cursive

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Smell of Female

The Cramps came back today, yesterday it was A Date With Elvis, today though was their live album, Smell of Female. Recorded in 1983 at The Peppermint Lounge, New York.
A short album this even in its expanded state it only runs to 9 songs. I think for visceral exhuberance, Live at Napa State Mental Hospital DVD captures them live better. That said though although a little too laidback at times, its still a mighty fine record of a superb band.
Hassil Adkins, She Said pops up on this and the call and response of the audience lift it even higher than it already is. Perhaps the standout track on this album, were it not for a different cover.
Faster Pussycat makes an appearance on Smell of Female. The Bostweeds song is just so much better in the hands of Interior and Ivy. Any song sounds better by them.
This album also features the guitar of Kid Congo Powers from The Black Seeds, its not amazing to be honest, or earth shattering but notable.
All in all it’s a good album with plenty of high points. My favourite Cramps track is Thee Most Exaulted Potentate of Love, my favourite cover, Faster Pussycat. No duff tracks, therefore a well rounded 7 out of 10.

Thee Most Exulted Potentate of Love by The Cramps

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

1986 - A Year in Music

As I scrolled through the music of '86 on the internet I noticed an album by Emerson, Lake and ...........Powell. Now, I'm no progist, and know nothing about such super-group noodling, but even I've heard of Emerson, Lake and Palmer, or ELP. But Powell? It turns out it was Cozy Powell, him of Rainbow and others. Imagine if this had become a trend. We'd have Crosby, Stills and Nas (hippie rap), Crosby, Stills, Nash and Run (hippie hip hop), Talking Sheds (David Byrne teams up with Rick Witter for Britpop with a twist), The Head Kennedy's (Motorhead vs US Punks in noise fest stand-off) or maybe Huey Lewis and the Muse (It's Hip to be in a Supermassive Black Square Hole). I think I've killed that one.

So, 1986. Notable for me for two conjoined reasons, the first being my attending the Glastonbury festival for the first and only time (seem to remember Microdisney being very impressive, and Billy Bragg being outstanding), and the second being Maradonna's Hand of God against England, the very same weekend. My girlfriend of the time bought the AC/DC single listed below, and I remember going through quite a big Howlin Wolf phase about the same time. Sadly, he had no big hit singles that year. I was quite taken by The Mission, who we seemed to go and see almost every weekend. The PIL album 'Album' (with contributions from Steve Vai, Ginger Baker, Bill Laswell, Ryuichi Sakamoto) was probably my favourite album of ther year, oh and Howlin Wolf London Sessions, but that had been released in 1971. While I loathed Peter Gabriel at the time, I now love the drippy In Your Eyes, but prefer the Jeffrey Gaines version.

AC/DC - You Shook me All Night Long
Big Black - Kerosene
Big Country - Look Away
Run DMC - It's Tricky
Paul Simon - Diamonds on the Souls of her Shoes
Peter Gabriel - In Your Eyes
REM - Fall on Me
Public Image Ltd - Rise

Steve Earle - My Old Friend the Blues
The Stranglers - Always the Sun
The Style Council - Walls Come Tumbling Down
Talk Talk - Give it Up

The Commodores - Nightshift
The Mission - Wasteland

A Date With Elvis

This morning The Cramps were my co-pilot, their album A Date With Elvis was the soundtrack. This my friends is music how it should be played. This isn’t even their best album and its better than 99% of bands produce.
On this album The Cramps inject their own humour, beligerance, style and attitude that has been with them since their first EP.
On People Aint No Good they tell us that the choir is the McMartin Preschool Choir, I suspect it isn’t. They tell us of a fictional land called Kizmiaz and this date with Elvis wishes us Aloha From Hell. They can do humour without belly laughs and that’s their charm.
They do a pretty perfect cover of Charlie Feathers It’s Just That Song, Feathers meant a lot to the psychobilly scene and along with the Ricky Nelson tribute on the sleeve, Elvis in the title and Feathers in the song, its ok celebrating the future but you got to acknowledge the past.
The thing I love a lot about The Cramps is their turn of phrase, the way they say things, the language they use, language that I think only Americans at the very least can get away with, Cornfed Dames being a perfect example, you couldn’t or at least shouldn’t have Neds Atomic Dustbin singing about Cornfed Dames, where as Lux, well Lux does it perfectly.

Now good girls can't pay the rent these days.
These cornfed dames done found a way.
Unzip that zipper...snap that snap.
Round up the cattle in the Cadillac.
Whip that cream baby 'til the butter comes

I like Lux, he was a great man.

This album in its 11 songs makes me miss The Cramps massively and it’s a band that I wish I took the opportunity to see, however, that’s one of them things.
High points are the fantastic Can your Pussy Do The Dog, hearing that even at 16, I knew it sounded rude, but I couldn’t work out why, that’s a theme with The Cramps, you know it sounds rude but you don’t know why. Hot Pool of Womanneed and What’s Inside A Girl, just track after track of excellent songs and along with Cash and the Clash, the C’s are just going to be marvellous. 9 out of 10.

What’s Inside A Girl by The Cramps

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

1985 - A Year in Music

I left school in 1985. That summer I was the only teenager in Europe who didn't see Live Aid. We were camping in the south of France and I couldn't even get it on the radio. I seem to remember reading a Frederick Forsyth thriller instead and not being too thrilled. I watched the whole thing on video when I got home, and wondered who George Thorogood was on the US one.

I never really saw the attraction of the Jesus and Mary Chain, and got heartily sick of the NME going on about them. Listening now I quite like it, although it's hardly the musical earthquake it was always painted as.

There are several songs in the list below that I bought, and they got the heavy heavy rotation that only a 15 year old can survive. She Sells Sanctuary blew my mind when I heard it first, and Eldritch and Hussey condemned me to a couple of years of black drainpipe trousers with the ultimate goth template of First and Last and Always. Spear of Destiny also dominated my listening for 12 months, as did going to see them anywhere I could (usually Hanley). The Pogues and The Waterboys opened my eyes to bang-yerself-on-the-head-pissed-up folk, and big expansive 6 minute epic angry folk, respectively.

Notice the rap/rock crossover of Timezone pre-dating Aerosmith and Run DMC by quite some time. It was recorded in a day, and it was very nearly the bloke out of Def Leppard instead of John Lydon. Hmmm.

Aerosmith - Let the Music Do the Talking
Billy Bragg - Between the Wars
Dream Academy - Life in a Northern Town

Jesus and Mary Chain - Just Like Honey
Killing Joke - A Love Like Blood
Kirsty Maccoll – A New England
Lone Justice - Ways to be Wicked

Pete Townsend - Face the Face
REM – Can’t Get There from Here
Spear of Destiny - Once in Her Lifetime
Suzanne Vega - Small Blue Thing
The Cult – She Sells Sanctuary

Tom Waits – Downtown Train
The Pogues - Dirty Old Town
The Sisters of Mercy – First and Last and Always
The Smiths – How Soon is Now (yes I know, the re-release)
The Waterboys - Don't Bang the Drum
Timezone - World Destruction

The Times - 100 Best Pop Albums of the Decade

The Times have jumped in with their list of albums of the decade, and not to be outdone by any other end of the decade list, they have spread theirs over a top 100. Annoyingly, they have also spread the list over 15 bloody pages. Some t'internet boffin at that paper should be poked in the eye with the corner of a broken CD case, preferably Kid A by Radiohead, which is their number one 'pop album'. Click here to see it from number one backwards, or here if you have an empty void in your life.


The next CD for my commute was the Catherine Wheel’s album Ferment. The debut album by the band, released in 1992.
I once met Catherine Wheel, they played Lion Street Cultural Centre where I volunteered during the nineties. They were fairly pleasant men and put me and a friend on the guestlist of a gig they were doing the following night in Shrewsbury, as it was supporting Levitation, I didn’t bother.
The current Mrs D liked them immensely when she was a lot younger, and it is her album that soundtracks the A roads of the Midlands, the abundance of CD singles and 12”s by this band are also down to her. She had a thing for shoe gazing bands, Moose, Lush, My Bloody Valentine etc, I didn’t. That’s why I greeted Ferment with a heavy heart and the knowledge that todays journey was going to be as good as yesterdays.
Or at least that is what I thought, you see that’s the reason why I am listening and relistening to all my CD albums. I prejudge things and do not give them a chance. This album contradicted my preconceived notion and you know what, although it was of it’s time, it wasn’t half bad.
The 1992 me was a big fan of bands that were not by any stretch of the imagination, I liked bands that had witty T-shirts, not serious bands like Catherine Wheel.
Ferment though is rather pleasant, even with the bandwagon jumping shoegaze sound, it has depth and songwriting that appears to have stood the test of time, even if the music style it is part of hasn’t.
There was a familiarity to the songs though, I was obviously aware of them as some of them were moderate indie hits, Black Mettalic certainly rings a bell and it is Rob Dickinson’s (cousin of Bruce) voice that adds to that familiarity, a soulful voice that I may have been quick to judge.
The melodies through out make it an enjoyable listen, where Coheed and Cambria failed yesterday was that the songs were lengthy and lacking melody and structure. Here Catherine Wheels songs are far from short but this is not important as they do have the melodies and structure.
All in all, I kept listening, I listened and liked what I heard and I think the current Mrs D may be surprised. Unsure if I could take another album by them though, I suspect time will tell on that. 5 out of 10.

Black Metallic by Rob Dickinson

Monday, 23 November 2009

1984 - A Year in Music

1984 - one of those balmy happy-go-lucky Thatcher years, where all was well with the world, apart from the miners strike, the IRA bombing in Brighton, Reegan winning another election, and John Hurt having his face chewed by a rat. In contrast to this misery if you turned on the radio you could hear Agadoo, Wake me Up Before You Go Go, Karma Chameleon and other such classics. The first Band Aid single came out (Live Aid was the following year), and Frankie finally made it to number one with Relax. Rather like 1982 it was a bumper year for quality songs, although Peter is going to moan about the Cockatoo Twins being included (but secretly love Van Halen).

Blue Nile – Tinseltown in the Rain

Bronski Beat – Smalltown Boy
Bruce Springsteen – Dancing in the Dark
China Crisis – Wishful Thinking
Cocteau Twins – Lorelei
Echo and The Bunnymen – Seven Seas
Frankie Goes to Hollywood – Two Tribes
Husker Du – Something I Learned Today
Killing Joke – Eighties (poor quality video clip, but they sound great)

Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – Forest Fire
Meat Puppets – Lake of Fire
Mighty Wah – Come Back
REM – Pretty Persuasion
Spear of Destiny – Liberator

The Cult – Spiritwalker
The Smiths – Reel Around the Fountain
The Stranglers – Skin Deep
Van Halen - Panama

1983 - A Year in Music

I was looking for a nice way in to this 1983 post, but I couldn't find one. When I looked through the news of the year it was so depressing (Thatcher wins by landslide) that I thought I should just focus on the music. I have a very distinct memory of hearing 68 Guns by The Alarm for the first time. It was either on or walking past Morecambe pier which, just like The Alarm, no longer exists. The similarities don't end there either, as 68 Guns and the seaside town are both blustery and full of wind, and even though they have passed their peak there is a certain faded grandeur and pomp in both, that appeals a great deal to me.

The Alarm - 68 Guns

Aztec Camera - Oblivious
Big Country - Fields of Fire
Eddie Grant - Electric Avenue
Eurythmics - Love is a Stranger
Grand Master Flash - White Lines
Heaven 17 - Temptation
Icicle Works - Whisper to a Scream

Marvin Gaye - Sexual Healing
REM - Radio Free Europe
Stevie Ray Vaughan - Pride and Joy
The Beat - Can't Get Used to Losing You
The Lotus Eaters - First Picture of You

The Mighty Wah! - The Story of the Blues (might be 1982?)
The Rolling Stones - Undercover of the Night
Violent Femmes - Add it Up

In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3

In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3 is the ridiculously titled commute album for today. It’s by American rock band, Coheed and Cambria.
Coheed and Cambria are a dolled up prog rock band, elements of Rush, Smashing Pumpkins, The Mars Volta and Placebo. I saw them once in concert, they did about 4 songs, they do really long songs. Not particularly good songs either.
This album is a concept album that fits in with a graphic novel, it is an album that’s lacking on choruses and of the 12 tracks only 2 are under 4 minutes long, and 3 are over 8 minutes long. The one and only song that I liked contains a chorus and is under 4 minutes long, the other 11 are just pompous bollocks that I may have liked in 2003 the year of its release, but now, it was a journey I could have done in silence.
Song length means nothing though, it is just highlighting the fact that these dreadful songs were very long so instead of 3 minutes of dreadfulness, they averaged a 5 minute stretch of dreadfull.
The song that is rather good though is the single from this album, A Favor House Atlantic. I do not have the first clue what that means, but I gave up on trying to understand this band shortly after getting this CD. It was a frown that spread across my face when this turned up next.
So whats so bad about it all? Well it is effectively generic emo, dressed up in scifi concepts and drawn out for a long time, Rush style drama and vocals, done very badly and without the slightest hint at any humour. You get the picture. They like preposterousness and this album labels it up thick, with a sprinkle of pomposity for good measure. Watch the video for A Favor House Atlantic, its pretty good, you don’t have to listen to anything else by them, trust me on that. 1 out of 10.

A Favor House Atlantic by Coheed and Cambria

London Calling

Not a commute as such, more a trip to the parents in Telford to collect a book. Same thing though, the next loosely alphabeticised CD album was The Clash's third album, London Calling.
London Calling is one of my very favourite albums. The Clash as a youngster didn't even feature in my life, no one I knew liked them, I never heard them, I knew very very few songs by them and it was only until I was 18 or 19 I heard anything by them, the friend that first played me Husker Du and The Wedding Present also played me London Calling. I was smitten from then on in.
London Calling is a non punk record by a punk band. Its the sound of a band leaving those roots behind, expanding their sound or going the route that so many punk bands had gone prior to 1979, the year of this albums release.
The use of horns, flirtations with ska and reggae, blues and garage rock are what made The Clash better than all of their contemporaries, their willingness to allow a pop tune to break through is non more evident than it is on this album.
In Wrong Em Boyo they take Stagger Lee and and meld it into the Clive Alphonso song, it moves along at a bouncy old pace and its not just Wrong Em Boyo that embraces the music of the west indies, Guns of Brixton's famous bassline takes you straight from Pimlico to Studio 1.

Wrong Em Boyo by The Clash

Jimmy Jazz, Lost in the Supermarket and Train In Vain up the pop quotient and do it so well, all pop music should sound like this, and although it was released 30 years ago almost to the day, it could be put out now and sound current.

Jimmy Jazz by The Clash

On Brand New Cadillac, Strummer revisits the 101ers sound, this is the blueprint for all covers of this song that came after. Do people cover this song or the original? Either way its a blistering beautiful version of a great song.

Brand New Cadillac by The Clash

As a double its faultless, a stunning album that I adore more than any other Clash album and almost more than any other album, bar a few. Its an album that should be in everyones collection, its an album that never loses its initial shine. So so good. Unsurprisingly 10 out of 10.

Friday, 20 November 2009

Handcream for a Generation

My morning CD was Cornershop this morning with the follow up to their breakthrough album, Handcream for a Generation.
I think this is the most perplexing album so far. I will come to why in a moment but just a quick note on Cornershop. I used to work with the percussionist from Cornershop, Pete Bengry. That is my Cornershop fact.
Now as to it’s perplexiness. The way I see this album is that they saw the remix worked on the single Brimful of Asha and let that dictate their sound. Its an odd album that is disjointed and has elements which are really really good, opening track Heavy Soup being the one that springs to mind. But where it should be diverse, its just a rag bag of ideas, over produced and performed unsuccessfully. It sways from reggae, to rock, to house music, all with a fatboy slim sheen. This is Clinton, the Cornershop side project but with the Cornershop name attached in a cynical attempt to sell more records. It just does not work for me though.
I really was very disappointed in its overall feel, its random at times and certainly forced, none of it seems genuine and “4 real”. Its uninspiring and cynical and all good points are lost and wiped out by the bad. The worst being a 14 minute noodling epic featuring Noel Gallagher. Dreadful, absolutely dreadful. They should be ashamed by that, but they aren’t. 0 out of 10. This is a CD that just may be bouncing off the tarmac of the A38.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

1982 - A Year in Music

In 1982 a single really was a single. They sold by the bucket load and a monster hit was a destroy all in its wake kind of a hit. Eye of the Tiger 5 million sold (I pity the fool!). Do you Really Want to Hurt Me 6.4 million and so on.

There was only two places to hear your music; Radio 1 and Top of the Pops. After being exposed to Simon Bates, Mike Read, Dave Lee Travis and Steve Wright it's a wonder I have any interest in music at all. The Top 40 run down on a Sunday night was a major highlight of the week. Some bright spark in BBC scheduling in the early 1980's followed up the chart show with Alexis Korner, thank God, and I inadvertently ended up listening to the blues.

It's almost an embarrassment of riches to choose from for my singles of the year, although this is tempered by number ones from The Goombay Dance Band, Tight Fit, Shakin Stevens and Renee and Renato. My choice for single of the year would be Aint No Pleasin You by Chas and Dave, which I think is magnificent, even though they are Spurs fans. Fittingly, this is their Top of the Pops performance, introduced by the above mentioned tit, Simon Bates.

So here's the full list, with vids of the highlights.

Chas & Dave – Aint No Pleasin You

Fat Larry’s Band – Zoom

Africa Bambaataa – Planet Rock

Blancmange – Living on the Ceiling

Bow Wow Wow – I Want Candy

Bruce Springsteen – Atlantic City

Dexy’s Midnight Runners – Jackie Wilson Said

Duran Duran – The Chauffeur

George Thorogood – Bad to the Bone

Grandmaster Flash – The Message

Joe Jackson – Stepping Out

John Cougar Mellencamp – Jack and Dianne

Robert WyattShipbuilding

Stevie Nicks – Edge of 17 (which passed me by in 1982 but was introduced to me via the glory of School of Rock).

The Alarm – Marching On

The Associates – Party Fears Two

Willie Nelson – Always on my Mind

Hey! Bootleg

The journey through my loosely alphabeticised CD album collection continues this morning. The C’s aren’t as predictable as the B’s and todays pleasant surprise was a Cud compilation made for me by a friend called Hey Bootleg.
As time goes on I was wondering as to include self made or friends made compilations, I mean it’s not as if you can buy it, it’s not as if you may have it and agree or disagree woith my review, but for completeness I decided to keep them in and even if you don’t have a copy of Hey Bootleg, or the BRMC compilation, you may have an interest in the band.
So Cud. When I was young I used to trawl this fair land following The Wedding Present wherever they would play, be it Birmingham, be it Manchester, be it Leeds or be it Coventry. Coventry and the following date on their tour, Wolverhampton, is where I first saw Cud, supporting their Reception Records label mates and ultimately at one point, boss. Cud’s first release was put out on The Wedding Present label, Reception Records, Mind The Gap if my memory serves, and that release is present on this, effectively a greatest hits compilation. The first time I saw Cud at Coventry, they were an odd beast, similar in their looseness and beat driven sound to The Happy Mondays, similar, but infinitely better. They even had their own Bez in this man with a balaclava on and dressed in a silver lame shellsuit. Strange times indeed. I went with a friend of mine called Richard and neither of us knew songs by Cud and were very surprised that almost all of the audience knew pretty much all of the songs. From then on in I was smitten and saw them a number of times between then and their demise, and when they reformed a couple of years ago went to see them again with my wife, who was a fan but never had an opportunity to see them. They were as great then as they were when I saw them at Glastonbury Festival.
So this disc, as I said, effectively a greatest hits, my Cud, with a few singles being the exception is on vinyl, hence the need for this compilation. It spans their career in almost its entirety, from Mind The Gap to Purple Love Balloon. Cud were very good at packaging things up and making you want to buy them, Purple Love Balloon came with a make your own mobile in its 12” vinyl version.
Most of the singles are on this album, Eau Water, Robinson Crusoe and the ridiculously good Strange Kind Of Love, Only A Prawn In Whitby, Hey! Wire and more and more.
A number of covers are present, they did a lot of tracks for Imaginary Records, who were prone to putting out tribute albums, as well as putting out the three best Cud albums in Elvis Belt, Leggy Mambo and When In rome Kill Me. The covers though, go from the Quo’s Down Down, this taken from the NME’s 40th anniversary disc, Ruby Trax, Bohemian Rhapsody from the anti poll tax album, Alvin Lives In Leeds and finally their take on The Family Cat’s career high point, Remember What It Is That You Love.
So across 21 tracks, none unfamiliar to me, all great, all fantastic, superb. 9 out of 10.

Strange Kind Of Love by Cud

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

The Coral

A few years ago I went to V Festival here in Staffordshire. I can't recall all too much about it, bands etc. I do recall seeing the non Brody Dalle element of The Distillers. They weren't as pretty as the Brody Dalle element. I did see The Coral though and in all honesty it is 40 minutes of my life which I will never get back. They could play alright, trouble was that they played 20 minute jazz breakouts of their song. I recall I wondered aloud, "if I wanted this shit, I would go to Glastonbury".
Todays commute CD is The Corals debut, The Coral. Its not quite "if I wanted this shit, I would go to Glastonbury", its more the radio edit.
The Coral are hugely influenced by bands of the very late 60's, The Chocolate Watch Band being the most obvious, that San Francisco sound clearly had a huge effect on the Wirral, the chiming guitars, the beefheartesque interludes. But its a bit forced to be honest. It shouts ooh get me, I have smoked stuff, listen, thats me noodling, thats cos I'm HIGH on the druqs!!!!!1!!!!, you cant appreciate it, cos you aint high!
I wasn't high, I was driving, but the closest I get to getting high is taking ALL of the wrapper off my Magic Tree New Car Scent. I tell you it makes your head swim.
This album is my wife's she really liked The Coral, at least until that V festival and all the New Car Scent in the world wouldnt be enough to make them enjoyable.
This album isnt as bad as their live performance though, it presents the hit(s) Dreaming of You, Goodbye and Skeleton Key in their glory and the odd other track that isnt massively irritating. Its just that it gets on my wick after a while, its no better than Oasis trying to emulate people much much better than them that came before them, and doing it so badly.
I know bo diddley of course and the NME rates this as the 21st best album of the noughties, one of us is wrong. 2 out of 10.

Skeleton Key by The Coral

The Independent Catches Up with I Taught Myself How to Grow Old!

By the end of play yesterday we managed to have two posts in response to NME's rotten Best of the Decade album list, with our lists being equally as subjective and daft (Tenacious D, Green Day). Today The Independent has caught up with us in the shape of Andy Gill's response with You Call These The Best Albums of the Decade? Obviously, he is responding to the NME rather than us, as our rallying cry is 'Even our wives don't read it'. His inclusion of Ry Cooder's Chavez Ravine was heartening.

Over at Pitchfork they like a good list, with Top album lists for the different years and decades, albeit a bit left of centre and indie leaning. The Top 200 Albums of the 2000's is worth a look, but spoils the fun by having Radiohead's Kid A in the top spot.

Paste Magazine actually has a 'List of the Day', which can only be a good thing, and has their 50 Best Albums of the Decade which was posted earlier this month. Bit of a surprise number one with Sufjan Stevens' Illinois.

Uncut magazine has a Best Album of the Decade, and puts The White Stripes 2001 White Blood Cells as top dog. I did notice that they are advertising their new Wild Mercury Sound music blog as 'rash' and 'ill - thought out', which is clearly an attempt to crowd both myself and Peter out of our corner of t'internet blogosphere. It takes a lot of work to look as rash as we do.

The Community Boards at the consistently annoying Drowned in Sound (In photos - Lilly Allen at the Academy, Sheffield, for example) have a debate based on NPR's The Decades 50 Most Important Recordings. They are so important that you can download a PDF file of the full list. I had no idea that Beyonce (number 5) was quite that important, although it is nice to see some Spanish language in there in the shape of Juanes and Shakira. Their number one is On the Transmigration of Souls by John Adams, which means nothing to me whatsoever, probably as it is a classical piece. It won the 2003 Pulitzer Prize in music, and was originally commissioned as a tribute to those lost on September 11th.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

The Best Albums of the Noughties

This morning I received an email from a chap (once) called Fog, who sent me a link to the NME's Best Albums of the Noughties, as mentioned in The Guardian. I forwarded this on to co-blogger Peter, who, in his own words, pounced upon it 'like a fat boy at a buffet' (see his post below). Now, being a fat boy myself, and fond of a good buffet (preferably an Argentinian breakfast buffet) this seemed like an opportunity I couldn't pass up. Of course the NME's list is for skinny white boys with stylishly feathered locks, not a chubby baldy man like myself (or Peter - no offence). So, from the fat perspective, here are my 00's best albums. It looks like Neil Young hasn't made a decent album in ten years and I aint got the blues no more .....

Rufus Wainwright - Poses

Foo Fighters – One by One
Audioslave – Audioslave
Johnny Cash - American IV: The Man Comes Around
Maná - Revolución de Amor
Los Lobos - Good Morning Aztlán

Molotov - Dance and Dense Denso
The Frames – Set List

Loretta Lynn – Van Lear Rose
Ray LaMontagne – Trouble
Green Day – American Idiot
The Soundtrack of Our Lives – Origin Vo1. 1

The Boxer Rebellion – Exits

Bruce Springsteen - We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions
Jerry Lee Lewis – Last Man Standing

Mavis Staples – We’ll Never Turn Back
Robert Plant & Alison Krauss – Raising Sand

Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes

Mumford & Sons – Sigh No More

Is This It? NME's Best Albums of the Noughties.

The NME like lists, as do Kev and I. I dislike the NME though so I got this list from The Guardian. This latest in an ever ongoing list of lists tells us of the 50 best albums of the noughties. 2000-2009.
First of all this is the NME, that’s an apology by the way, but basically its going to be NME favoured bands, and why not, if I wanted Def Leppard to be in there I would buy Classic Rock. You get the gist.

OK, number one, surprisingly was the debut by The Strokes, Is This It. The one with the lady’s bum on it. I like that album sleeve. Its nice. Its not a bad album as well. We had been playing the demo’s of it for a long time prior to its release, and then when it was released, it was pretty good but there was the element of, is this it? If this is the best album of the noughties, is the response, is this it? No it isn’t it, its good, but its not quite right.

Hard To Explain by The Strokes from Is This It

10 years of albums condensed into a list of 50 and the best of that list is The Strokes debut? At this point I refer myself back to my opening comments. Of that list though what should take its place? I do rate a large selection of the top 10 quite highly, oddly enough. I think a large selection are better than The Strokes, Libertines debut being a perfect example (however did The Strokes begat The Libertines???), Arctic Monkeys debut, Yeah Yeah Yeah’s, Fever To Tell and The Street’s debut and undoubtedly Arcade Fire’s genius Funeral. Obviously just in the ten there is some head scratching pile of shite Primal Scream’s xtrmntr, (Ld f bllcks more like) being the one that leaps out.

Wake Up By Arcade Fire from Funeral

The album that I rate the best of the noughties though isn’t on that list, the one that I rate as the second best of the noughties is on that list but is way down at number 31. The best is of course the eponymous debut by Tenacious D. Its time for a review will come, at the rate my commute CD’s are taking me, some time at the back end of 2019. The second best, and the NME’s 31st best of the noughties is Bright Eyes I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning, an album, according to the NME, worse than Klaxons’ Myths of the Near Future, really?

At The Bottom of Everything by Bright Eyes from I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning

Taste is a personal thing though, hence no mention of Tenacious D, and after all this list was put together by bands, label owners and producers, so would not expect to see The D propping it up. What we do learn about popstars taste though, they like mainstream indie. The care little for pop, be it crafted and shiney, not much for folk, for jazz, for easy listening, for dance, hip hop or RnB, world music has passed them by and gabba techno no longer floats their boat. For innovation, for forward thinking music, for being groundbreaking, for the future? In the main, Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you white boys with guitars.

1. The Strokes - Is This It
2. The Libertines - Up the Bracket
3. Primal Scream - xtrmntr
4. Arctic Monkeys - Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not
5. Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Fever to Tell
6. PJ Harvey - Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea
7. Arcade Fire - Funeral
8. Interpol - Turn On the Bright Lights
9. The Streets - Original Pirate Material
10. Radiohead - In Rainbows

Full list

Floatier Than A Floaty Thing Disc 1

Today I confirmed just how ungrateful I am. I played a CD someone did for me nearly 10 years ago, its part two of a two disc set of a particular artist. Today’s CD was called “Floatier Than A Floaty Thing” and it is one half of a lengthy Cocteau Twins compilation.
Before I regale you with my thoughts on disc two, let me bring you up to speed on my relationship and knowledge of the Cocteau Twins.
Firstly, in our house they are called the Cockatoo Twins, this is due to an ex-girlfriend of a friend calling them that in all seriousness. She also said that “you don’t know bo-diddley”, instead of you don’t know diddley. She was like a modern Del Boy. I digress, that’s what they are known as in our house, The Cockatoo Twins.
I know one song by them, just one, I think its called Iceblink Luck. My wife thinks they are no better than Enya. That there ends my knowledge on the Cocteau Twins.
This CD proved they were no better than Enya. It wasn’t shit, it was sub shoe gazing nonsense that had me reaching for the sleeve on more than 3 occasions wondering why the hell are there still 10 tracks to go. There was perennially 10 tracks to go.
It wasn’t offensive, just taxing if you are stuck in a traffic jam (which I was) late for work (which I was) and wondering why the heater wasn’t warming me up (which I was). Therefore it was taxing beyond belief. One song of meaningless singing I can tolerate, then you say OK, that’s good, what else can you do though?
Not much it seemed as 19 tracks later and nary a sail away sail away Orinoco flow in name but certainly in delivery and I am thinking all that they can do is that. I was ready to turn Sir Terry on at one point.
So that all said, not to my liking, but not awful, 3 out of 10. I can’t wait for disc one, whenever that may be.

Iceblink Luck by Cocteau Twins

Monday, 16 November 2009

Johnny Cash and His Hot and Blue Guitar/ Johnny Cash Sings The Songs That Made Him Famous

We hit the C section good and proper today, and we hit it running with a double disc pack by Johnny Cash, hist first two albums to be precise, Johnny Cash With His Hot And Blue Guitar and Johnny Cash Sings The songs That Made Him Famous.
Johnny Cash means a great deal to me, his music has been with me since I was a very small child and I have yet to hear a song by him that I disliked. Periods that divide other fans, I adore, its hard to be subjective when you struggle to see anything wrong with him and so this is more of an apology as I have quite a number of Johnny Cash discs and I love all of them.
Where to start? Lets start with the debut …Hot and Blue Guitar. Released in 1957, not only Johnny’s debut album, but the first LP to be released on Sam Phillip’s Sun Records. A milestone not just for the label but I will wager for Rock n Roll, Rockabilly, and Country music.
On this album Johnny is backed by Luther Perkins, Marshall Grant and session musician Al Casey, at this point drummer WS Holland hasn’t joined the band and the Tennessee Three is merely the Tennessee Two.
As a statement of intent, this is a brash and as fierce as the famous ad of Johnny giving the finger. It comes out swaggering and against the grain of 50’s hillbilly music.
A number of covers are present, his take on Rock Island Line on this album is the best of anyones, Luthers guitar driving that train. Also he takes on Hank William’s (I Heard That) Lonesome Whistle, pretty faithful to the original and its clear across the tracks that Williams is the major influence, not just in his song selection and reinterpretation, but also in his own songs, and it is in his own songs where his strength lies and this is where the swagger, the statement of intent and the self belief come in. Undoubtedly the strongest songs on this album are the ones penned by JR Cash.

Well, you work all day
While you're wantin' to play
In the sun and the sand,
With a face that's tan.
At the end of the day,
When your work is done,
You ain't got nothin' but fun.

Country Boy, you may not have shit, but you aint got no worries either. Maybe Johnny put it a little more eloquently than that, but basically that’s what he is saying.
If Country Boy was the only original song on this debut that would be enough, but Cry Cry Cry and So Doggone Lonesome also appear along with I Walk The Line.
The stand out track for me, easily the stand out track was the beligerant, unapologetic, snarling song that is Folsom Prison Blues, easily one of Johnny’s best, and on a given day it may be his best. Musically magnificent, lyrically brilliant. A perfect song.

I shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die. Exceptional. 10 out of 10.

Folsom Prison Blues by Johnny Cash (an absolutely fantastic performance it is too)

Which brings us on to Johnny’s second album, 1958’s Johnny Cash Sings The Songs That Made Him Famous.
Following up such a strong debut must be intimidating, but to follow it up and have more faith in your own songs, at a time when you had singers, and you had songwriters, that’s just massive self belief. That is though what Johnny did on the follow up, more of his songs.
There are still nods to his hero Hank Williams in his cover of Williams’ I Can't Help It (If I'm Still in Love With You), and Williams influence is still apparent in Cash’s tone, but that’s was soon to disappear as Cash slowly becomes his own man.

Just around the corner there's heartache
Down the street that losers use
If you can wade in through the teardrops
You'll find me at the Home of the Blues

Home of The Blues on this album is possibly my favourite, chronicling an unhappy childhood, a partner to Heartbreak Hotel, but where that was love, this is more circumstance. Johnny Cash carving out a niche as the dark man of country, the man in black isn’t quite there yet, but he isn’t a million miles away.

Big River continues the theme, sadness, and dark moods, a gorgeous song and a great great closer to this album.

Through Ballad Of A Teenage Queen, the reappearance of I Walk The Line, through to Guess Things Happen That Way and Next In Line, this album is just perfect, still the Tennessee Two haven’t been augmented by WS Hollands drums but you don’t miss them, Luther Perkins guitar style is such that you don’t need the drums.

Another fantastic album. 10 out of 10

Home of The Blues by Johnny Cash

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Darren Hayman Attacked.

Some very shocking news, on Friday Darren Hayman was brutally attacked and mugged in Nottingham at the start of his short tour of the UK. He is currently in hospital recovering, fine, but in a lot of pain. Obviously the subsequent dates have been cancelled and I can only extend my personal wishes for a swift recovery.

Update: Via information from Antony Harding and Jack Hayter it seems that Darren was mugged on Friday, receiving a kicking whilst lying unconscious. They believe that he will be out of hospital today (Monday) He has had a cat scan and thankfully nothing serious has shown up. I am sure that he would appreciate your well wishes over at his blog

Another update: Antony has posted on his Twitter that he is being kept in hospital as it seems now that Darren has a fractured skull. Bad times indeed, thoughts go out to Darren and Helen, Darren's wife.

Update...again: A nottingham newspaper is reporting the attack here

Final update: Darren is home, his wife has posted in various places what happened and an update.

Hopefully he will up and at em soon. Possibly not touring the provinces though.

Friday, 13 November 2009

Mumford and Sons - Sigh No More


Learning from your mistakes.
Nick Drake, happy at 50.
Wuthering Heights in Tijuana
Del Amitri on steroids.
Banjo'd Elbow.
Los Lobos composing a new theme tune for Emmerdale.
Arcade Fleet Fire Foxes.
Impure hearts.
Stephen Stills' Tree Top Flyer crash lands in Ireland and picks up The Pogues.
Strength through pain.
The Band tied to a post.

Sigh No More, the debut album by Mumford and Sons, is all these things and more. It's a full harvest. Where they come from doesn't matter. Where they're going doesn't matter. This album stamps on the floorboards and soars in equal measure. It takes you up the mountain and into the seas. It's English and Irish and American and derivative and new and old and undoubtedly, undoubtedly my record of 2009.

Houses Of The Holy

Houses of the Holy, Led Zeppelins 5th album and the soundtrack to my commute.
This album leaves behind the blues influences that make up the 4 previous albums, and it seems that Led Zeppelin are intent on ripping off The Beastie Boys. Shocking really as no writing credit is given to MCA, AD Rock or Mike D. I would get my lawyers on to Zep if I were them.
I am of course being facetious. This album is markedly different to all that came before it though for those reasons. Production has turned up a gear, songwriting alters a little and the entire package is being thought on, similar I guess to its predecessor Led Zeppelin IV but different enough.
The Ocean is the stand out track for me on this album, I was a little disappointed when it finished, this is a track that The Beastie Boys sampled on their debut, it’s a gorgeous tune, worth having a listen to even if the rest of the album isn’t really your thing.
This album sees some humour coming through aswell, notably in The Crunge, with the call “have you seen the bridge”, you might need to take that in the context of its cod James Brown funk, also D’yer Maker, one part of the joke, My wife went to the West Indies on her holidays…Jamaica? No she went of her own accord. Badda Tish.
Its not all laughs a plenty with Zeppelin though, Houses of The Holy can be quite dark in parts, not too dark though, after all the fantastic Dancing Days is on this album and that adds light to any release. The Rain Song to my ears is a dark song though, not bad dark, just not as light as the rest of the album, still fantastic and different and proof that Led Zeppelin didn’t stand still.
All in all it was a very enjoyable album, I listened intently as opposed to letting it wash over me, and that is a measure of a good album. Last of the week for this week. 8 out of 10.

The Ocean by Led Zeppelin

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Led Zeppelin

Well I thought today's was the last Led Zeppelin for the week, but no, another tomorrow. Today though, their debut Led Zeppelin.
Thoroughly entrenched in a typical late 60's sound, a small hint of psychedelia, a hint of garage rock, a hint of blue cheer, a little bad company, but altogether Led Zeppelin.
I must admit it is perhaps the most unfamiliar album to me, and perhaps the least played. Not that it is bad, as I have said I prefer their more reflective material and this is by no means reflective, but conversely it is Whole Lotta Love.
Riffs yeah? well the riffs are there, Communication Breakdown comes on like an articulated lorry, not so much a juggernaut.
I did enjoy the album, enjoyed it very much. You might think when faced with Sir Terry or Moyles that anything is enjoyable. Not the case, unsure why I found it enjoyable and that's the struggle.
Soundwise its not the Zeppelin that I love, lyrically I suppose it gives what I like in spades, metaphors for love making. I like them.
Bit of a nothing review this I am afraid, enjoyed it, but don't know why. The tracks were long but I lived with it, I didn't really know many songs, all reasons not to like it, but I did. 7 out of 10.

I Can't Quit You Baby by Led Zeppelin

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

1981 - A Year in Music

If you look at the Wikipedia page for 1981, under the heading of 'Events' it lists notable points in history for that year; Ronald Reegan became president of the USA, Rupert Murdoch bought The Times, Muhammad Ali entered the ring for the final time, and so on. But right there in April, somewhere between Bobby Sands winning a by-election and Mitterrand becoming president of France, is this

The rock band Yes splits up (regrouping in 1983).

Now, I'm all for music finding its rightful place in the priorities of life list, but surely, surely, this doesn't merit the words devoted to it. As if this wasn't bad enough, the bastards re-formed two years later, and it's that little bracket at the end which is like salt in the wound.

My top picks for the music of the year is a mixture of those that obviously registered with me at the time (The Specials, Stray Cats, Altered Images) due probably to Top of the Pops performances, and also songs and artists that I found I liked many years later (Randy Crawford, Mission of Burma, Colin Hay from Men at Work). I remember finding Under Your Thumb quite unnerving. Then again, most things were unnerving as I was 12.

On with the list then.

Altered Images - I Could be Happy
Bauhaus - The Passion of Lovers
Godley and Creme - Under Your Thumb

Hazel O'Connor - Will You
Human League - Love Action
Men at Work - Overkill
Mission of Burma - That's When I Reach for My Revolver

The Ramones - The KKK Took my Baby Away
Randy Crawford - You Might Need Somebody
Siouxsie and The Banshees - Spellbound
Soft Cell - Bedsitter
Teardrop Explodes - Reward
The Specials - Ghost Town
The Stray Cats - Runaway Boys

Led Zeppelin II

Led Zeppelin again today, the penultimate Zepellin of this little stack of CD’s I think. Led Zeppelin II to be more precise, their second album. Tomorrow it’s the debut, but for today it’s the sophomore effort.
This is a great album for all intents and purposes, its almost a great album, its one song off a great album. Yes I could be spending blog inches telling you perhaps what you already know about the atlantic soul beauty of The Lemon Song, or Whole Lotta Love was THE greatest theme tune outside of Ronnie Hazlehursts work, or Heartbreaker being one of the most fantastic rock songs ever written. I could tell you all this, and those alone could be the reason why this album is noted as one of the greatest rock albums ever written.
This is all negated by Ramble On. Ramble On destroys everything else on this album due to one verse.

Mine's a tale that can't be told, my freedom I hold dear
How years ago in days of old when magic filled the air
'twas in the darkest depths of Mordor, mm-I met a girl so fair
but Gollum and the evil warg crept up and slipped away with her
her, her, yeah, and ain't nothin' I can do, no

Christ. Minus this song 9 out of 10, with this song 1 out of 10.

Ramble On by Led Zeppelin

1980 - A Year in Music

Don't you just love the 80's? No? Well, you've got a point. If you were to ask my wife what the 80's meant for her she'd have to say something along the lines of learning to walk and leaving the nappies behind. For me the 80's immediately conjures up mental images of TV news footage of many a grim going on; hunger strikes, the Falklands war, Handsworth and Brixton riots, unemployment, the miner's strike, CND and so on. It's not a pretty picture, and for a lot of the 80's, growing up in a fairly depressed midlands new town (not that I was economically affected), not a pretty picture is about as well as I can put it. A couple of the upsides that spring to mind are the Sony Walkman and post punk, a great combination.

So, get off your BMX, hitch up yer leg warmers, and have a look at my top picks for the year 1980, the year John Lennon got shot.

UB40 - King
Echo & The Bunnymen - Villiers Terrace
Bob Marley - Redemption Song
Dexy's Midnight Runners - Geno
Dolly Parton - 9 to 5

Hot Chocolate - Emma
John Martyn - Sweet Little Mystery
Stevie Wonder - Master Blaster
The Ruts - Staring at the Rude Boys
The Specials - Do Nothing
Willie Nelson - On the Road Again

The Who - You Better You Bet
Neil Diamond - America
AC/DC - Have a Drink On Me
Wah! Heat - Better Scream

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

A Year in Music - 1979

For reasons known only to myself (and other closet list makers) I have been putting together compilations based on particular years. This started in a round about way when, after a string of random songs on the ipod of more or less the same age, and with no hobbies or interests or friends to speak of, I decided to group some music by year, just for the sheer edge-of-seat, surf the internet / burn a cd crazy wildness of the thing.

As a starting point I chose 1979. Don't ask me why. The lists, of course, only consist of things I would listen to. There are ridiculous omissions, whole genres ignored, but they are true to the year they purport to be. Some years seem ridiculous in the amount of decent music released, while others are dusty barren tumbleweed strewn wastelands (1986 springs to mind).

My starting year, or year zero, is 1979, and there are far too many decent songs to choose from. It was year zero for Britain also, as Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister on May 4th, and nothing was ever the same again.

So, my 1979 top picks, interspersed with a couple of vids are

London Calling - The Clash
ELO - Don't Bring Me Down
AC/DC - If You Want Blood
Amii Stewart - Knock on Wood
The Charlie Daniels Band - The Devil Went Down to Georgia

Elvis Costello - Accidents will Happen
Joe Jackson - Is She Really Going Out With Him
Joy Division - She's Lost Control
Eddie Grant - Livin' on the Front Line

Madness - The Prince
Motorhead - Overkill
Rainbow - All Night Long
The Beat - Rankin Full Stop
Stiff Little Fingers - Alternative Ulster
Sugarhill Gang - Rappers Delight
The Cure - Killing an Arab
The Jam - Eton Rifles
The Undertones - Teenage Kicks
XTC - Making plans for Nigel

Led Zeppelin III

Chronologically speaking we are going backward today and the final strains of Led Zeppelin III ended as a woman in a fucking Corsa cut me up a short distance before Coleshill. Its usually a Volvo, or an Audi, or a BMW. I thought there was some form of fraternal aspect amongst small car drivers. Clearly not.
This has nothing to do with my commute CD though, consider it a scene setter. If you really want a scene setter, it was just by The Bellfry golf course, at that roundabout where people either come off the M6 Toll. That’s more than enough scene set.
Led Zeppelin III was released on the day that I was born, October the 5th 1970, this is a fact that I have always been aware of and one of the few things I knew about the band. I also know that Robert Plant holds an executive position at Wolves (along with Rachel Heigh Ho Flint, apologies if that isn’t how you spell her name) and he also can be seen occasionally in Bridgnorth in Shropshire. My Led Zeppelin knowledge was to say the least, lacking.
What Led Zeppelin’s third album taught me though was that there was more to this album than Immigrant Songs’ “aaaaaaaaaaahaaaaaaaahaaaaaaaaaaaaaa” that Immigrant Songs’ “aaaaaaaaaaahaaaaaaaahaaaaaaaaaaaaaa” was more the exception than the rule. It moves away from the ballsy rock that most associate with the band and pitches up at the Delta. None more so than on Hats off to (Roy) Harper, from the Page’s steel guitar to Plants vocals, made to sound, to my ears like one of those old Son House recordings, its an effect that works quite well.
Kev mentioned Gallis Pole in his last entry and it is on this album as Gallows Pole that they tackle that tune, rather marvellously I thought. That’s the thing with Zeppelin, even though they were fast and loose with writing credits, they do genuinely love the songs and this is reflected in the overall tone of pretty much all the tracks on this album.
The stand out track for me is “That’s The Way”. I think if anything comes close to the music Plant is making now, this is it. Reflective, restrained, and rather beautiful. Not totally at odds with anything on this album, but not similar either. That’s really the entire album summed up. It’s a diverse an album as any, changing in tone and character throughout and it is all the better for it. 8 out of 10.

That’s The Way by Led Zeppelin

Monday, 9 November 2009

Get the Led Out & The Roots of Led Zeppelin tells me that the origin of the phrase is 1930's America and means 'Move!', although of course there is a different spelling, with a crucial inserted letter 'a,' hence 'Get the lead out of your ass/britches/but/feet'.

I was quite surprised to see my co-blogging partner Peter 'Get the Led out' in his previous post Led Zeppelin IV although I think his swinging of it in such an enthusiastic manner may have something to do with Villa winning at home (incidentally, while watching the Wolves v Arsenal game on Saturday, broadcast here in Chile on the Argentinian based Fox Sports, there was a shot of a rather crumpled looking Robert Plant watching the game from the stand, and as the commentator didn't know who it was, he simply described him as 'exotico'). I fear for the safety of Peter's Ford Fiesta if he moves over to heavy raaawwk full time.

In his post he alluded to the fact that I might know a bit about the blues influence of the album, and indeed I do (up to a point), but this influence is only the half of it really as there was the music of the time and the clear folk flavours of parts. Of course Led Zep are one of those bands that seem to provoke a reverent, obsessive type following on the internet (the hobbly gobbly mystical magic references are enough to inspire this, let alone the music), and I am not the man to add anything new to this, although I can pick out bits of interest related to their 4th album, as this is the music that fuels Peter's automobile and propels him into the breach / Birmingham.

Before I start passing off information I have copied as my own, I should mention that there is a dirt cheap 4 CD boxset simply called The Roots of Led Zeppelin, as well as another single CD called the Early Blues Roots of Led Zeppelin.  The blues CD has the obvious Gallis Pole by Leadbelly (which Page and Plant were still doing in the 90's) and When the Levee Breaks by Memphis Minnie. I'm always slightly peturbed to see John Lee Hooker's Boogie Chillen, as if it isn't that it's Dimples, and of all the fantastic songs he recorded why only focus on those? Anyway, half the time the songs on these types of CD's seem to be more based on what labels they have access to, rather than meeting the criteria set out in the title of the disc.

Memphis Minnie When the Levee Breaks

In his Dazed & Confused - The Stories Behind Every Song Chris Welch says that it would be difficult to track down the true creators of the blues songs Led Zeppelin incorporated into their work (according to an interesting piece here at Turn Me On Dead Man), other than the outright covers obviously. Here's another cover, Blind Willie Johnson's Nobody's Fault but Mine, which is on Led Zep's Presence album.

Of course there are others, although some less straight covers, more re-workings or just bits borrowed. Robert Johnson's Travelling Riverside Blues was done by Zep, although it's quite different. They also borrowed some of the lyrics for the Lemon Song, although Wikipedia report that Robert Johnson may well have borrowed them himself, from Roosevelt Sykes. Killing Floor by Howlin Wolf is also present during the Lemon Song. It goes on and on. Who borrowed from who? Led Zep settled out of court with Willie Dixon in the mid 80's as Dixon's You Need Love had been re-imagined by the long haired Brits for a number called Whole Lotta Love (they also did a cover of Willie Dixon's You Shook Me).

Apart from the obvious blues related links there were other folk influences, and of course the sounds of the contemporary music of the late 60's and early 70's. A chap called Zharth has put together a site called The Roots of Led Zeppelin Project and his mission statement is to provide a comprehensive database of information regarding the musical influences and sources that inspired the songs of Led Zeppelin. If you have a look at Peter's beloved Led Zep IV there are all sorts of influences listed. Black Dog is said to have been inspired by Muddy Waters and based on Fleetwood Mac's Oh Well.

Rumour has it that Fleetwood Mac's cover of the Little Richard classic Keep a Knocking inspired Zep's Rock and Roll, with Bonham pounding out the intro to the song, and Page just adding a new riff. Judge for yourself.

And finally, to wrap things up, there is the song that right now is being played badly in 14 year old boys bedrooms all over the world even as I type this, Stairway to Heaven (there is a record shop in Leura in the Blue Mountains in Australia, called Stairway to Kevin), said to sound not at all like Taurus by Spirit.

And I think it's now time to put the led back in the box.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Led Zeppelin IV

The sun was shining yesterday, it shone on Villa Park clearly as a 5-1 pummeling of Bolton happened. The soundtrack on the journey, and the next CD in my loosley alphabeticised CD album collection was, to quote Wikipedia, Four Symbols, , The Fourth Album, Sticks, ZoSo, Untitled, The Hermit, Runes, or simply, IV.
Led Zeppelin IV is what it is known as the most though and that is what I will call it.
I am realtively new to Led Zeppelin, relatively new to enjoying Led Zeppelin is more realistic. It would be difficult not to be aware of them, aware of their music, but I was resolutely anti them for quite some time. Then, as is the case more and more these days, I read a book, in this case it was "Hammer of The Gods", Stephen Davis's book. Following that I felt I needed to investigate the band and so I did, initially buying their debut and their 2 subsequent albums, then Led Zeppelin IV.
So some time later Led Zeppelin are a band that at this point in my life are pretty important to me, I went from not knowing much by them at all, to having all of their albums, and enjoying all of their albums, and loving most of their albums.
I think my co-blogger Kev could write a great piece on the blues "influence" on Led Zeppelin, but as someone who has limited knowledge of blues music and the origins of the songs that proliferate Led Zeppelin albums, I take this and their others at face value.
So onto Led Zeppelin IV, its only 8 tracks long, so difficult to go wrong in 8 tracks, and of course they don't, from the start of Black Dog to the end of When The Levee Breaks, and all points in between, it is just a stunning album that saw my strained voice try to recreate as I passed through the average speed check areas of the M6.
When The Levee Breaks in particular, a huge huge tune with Bonhams drums taking over the whole piece, that is until Plant comes in with arguably the best vocal, the best opening line on the whole album, screaming it, but controlling it, "If it keeps on rainin', levee's goin' to break". Stunning. I could listen to the song up to that point and be happy with it.
Of course the most well known song on this album is Stairway To Heaven, there is no denying its a great song, its longevity and popularity have proven this but for me although I like that Led Zeppelin tone, a more considered tone, a quieter, more reflective tone, for me it is my least favourite track on the album, but that at this point in my life is like saying my least favourite child. Still a great track but there are so much more that are better on this album.
Through Going To California, Misty Mountain Hop, Rock and Roll and Battle of Evermore, this is an album that sways between the blues, thumping rock, traditional folk and more than anything, rock n roll.
You get all of that and on The Battle of Evermore you also get one of the most beautiful voices you will ever hear in Sandy Denny, perfection upon perfection. A stunning album and as a run of Led Zeppelin starts, feel it is going to be a great week. 10 out of 10.

When The Levee Breaks by Led Zeppelin