Monday, 10 November 2008

News, Views and Music Issue 11 (Intro)

November 10:

The eagle-eyed among you may have noticed that there was no issue of the AAA newsletter last week. (That’s ‘eagle-eyed’ not ‘eagles-eyed’. All the ‘eagles eyed’ viewers will be too busy noticing that the eagles haven’t cropped up on these pages yet. Be patient, they will some day). There was in fact lots of news last week, but owing to a combination of recovering from a bad fibro attack, falling prey to a heavy cold and being driven monkeynuts by a computer keyboard that decided to miss out half the keys this issue has had to be delayed a week or so. Here’s what you missed, together with what’s happening now:

AAA News: Many of our early fans (well, one of them) have requested some of our AAA pages in a different format to ‘publisher’ so we’ve been busy converting files into Microsoft Word this past week. If you still can’t read these pages (well, presumably you can read this one or that sentence makes no sense, but you know what I mean) then drop us a line about any other computer programmes you would prefer to use and we’ll do our best to oblige. I even learnt how to use Microsoft Powerpoint a couple of months back, so expect a slide show edition sometime soon! Oh and a belated AAA welcome to those of you who are joining our small support club about now—you are truly one of the AAA nucleus if you are joining us this early! AAA visitors last week: 19 (and only 7 of them were me. oops, does that count?!)

World News: Of far less importance and on a much smaller note of social significance, we now have a new American president! Is the world now ready for a swing to Democrat politics, the party with a long list of presidents who turn out to be either Beach Boys or CSN fans (and in Bill Clinton’s case a Deadhead)? Did our site play it’s part with the anti-Bush releases our artists keep turning out and we keep reviewing (mainly by Crosby, stills, nash and young)? Err, probably not, but welcome to the world stage Obama and let’s hope that he really is the ‘leader’ Neil spent most of his ‘living with war’ record looking for.

Beatles News: Just when all seemed quiet on the fab four front comes news from Apple that they will be joining forces with board game giants Monopoly to create a special ‘Beatles’ edition of the property trading game. I think it’s due in the shops anyday now, but the news I came across was second-hand and sketchy (it’s certainly been advertised on Amazon already—I went to check!) For those of you who, like me, cut up sheets of A4 paper and stuck them onto your old boards to create new ones, this is a great—if expensive—alternative (I had a great set of Dr Who worlds called ‘logopoly’ as well as a general music one based on the ‘Guinness hit singles’ book—when will they be coming out I wonder?!) and is sure to be the traditional big Beatles seller this Christmas. There will be six counters to choose from in the moptop set (a walrus, a ‘sun’, Maxwell’s silver hammer, an octopus in a garden, a rocky raccoon and I forget the 6th one; —why no yellow submarine or lucy with diamonds?!), a ‘ticket to ride’ instead of a ‘chance’ card and you can collect ‘streets’ based on Beatles albums (eg three properties all relating to the white album) as well as real-life buildings like Abbey Road and the Cavern Club (as Mayfair and Park Lane, naturally). Of course if your games of Monopoly are anything like ours, they soon descend into a mirror image of the Beatles’ final years pretty quickly anyway—all those court cases and divisions between friends that wrankle for years (this will now be especially telling if you’re trying to collect all the songs from ‘Let It Be’…).

CSN News: Goodness knows when this release snuck out, but I noticed a deluxe re-issue of Graham Nash’s ‘Songs For Beginners’ album out on hi-definition stereo CD (CSN really love those 5.1 surround mixes at the moment) while in Southport HMV for last month’s fibro-meeting. I never saw any reviews for this album anyw here, but it does have a ‘2008’ copyright date so must be vaguely recent—any more news on this set out there? Perhaps its no surprise that this re-issue passed everyone by because it is a little skimpy by CSN re-issue standards (there are no bonus tracks which is dead unusual) but it’s just great to have this fine album (review no 46) out on CD again after all this time so I’ll stop complaining. Other Nash news: we might have a Graham Nash retrospective in the shops for Christmas along the lines of Atlantic’s fine 3CD David Crosby set ’Voyage’ a couple of years back. There will be some unreleased goodies, just like that release, alongside Nash tracks from CSN, CSNY and Graham’s five hard-to-find solo albums, but whether these rarities will make up a single ‘additional’ CD again or be spread across the set we don’t yet know. More news when we have it!  

Kinks News: We’ve been here before many times over the past few years, but this week came the closest to a full-blown Kinks re-union than at any time during the past 15 years (and the first time the original quartet have played music together in 40). All four original members—Ray and Dave Davies, Pete Quaife and Mick Avory—apparently got together to record three new songs for a new Kinks CD. Ray for one is hoping for a whole LP according to ceefax—the first under the Kinks name since ‘Phobia’ in 1993— and pleasingly has told the world’s press that he wants the record to be a more ‘collaborative’ process than it used it to be, with lots of co-writes between the four musicians. Of course, if this story goes even a teeny tiny bit of the way towards following the Kinks’ past headlines, the whole project will be followed by a big row and the project being shelved (and—if they get that far— two members of the group attacking each other on stage with a cymbal. Ah memories). For now, though, let’s bask in the glow that we might have another Kinks album to enjoy sometime soon...

Moody Blues News: More on those Moodies re-union CDs we mentioned last issue. My copies should be arriving any day now (they’re due for release on November 10 but still hadn’t arrived as of November 12th) so I can’t tell you any more about the sound—but I have found out more about those bonus tracks. They are: on ‘Octave’ (1978) four tracks taken from the Moodies’ American tour that year (the last with original keyboardist Mike Pinder); on ‘Long Distance Voyager’ (1981) alternate mixes of ‘The Voice’ and ‘Gemini Dream’ and on ‘The Present’ (1983) alternate mixes of ‘Sitting At The Wheel’ and ‘Blue World’. Note: in the last issue we said that the bonus track of ‘wheel’ was the 12” and moaned about how similar that mix was to the one we knew and loathed anyway—well, shock horror, we got that wrong. The bonus track will be the Japanese 12” version of the song which apparently is quite different and something special! (why didn’t we get that mix over here then? And why did I waste 50p at a car boot sale if our 12” mix is actually one and the same version as one moodies site reckons—I thought it sounded familiar!)

Oasis News: Err, oops again. I know we promised that ‘electric proms’ set list in full this week but, well, I put it down somewhere really obvious where it was safe after the show had been on and now it’s so safe even I can’t find it. More next week (if I can find the flipping thing! Thanks fibro-fog!)

Neil Young News: We weren’t expecting much good to come out of BBC4’s Neil Young documentary ‘Don’t Be Denied’. You see, it’s not as if we’ve been starved of Neil Young documentaries in recent years and trying to stuff what is surely the most prolific career of any of our AAA artists into a single hour seemed to be asking for trouble. However, flawed as it was, ‘Denied’ was an excellent documentary, restricting the talking heads to people who were actually there (no 20-year-old rock journalists for this documentary—although, ahem, I’ll gladly give my opinions to the next documentary crew who ask) and even getting some interesting insights out of a tired and crotchety looking Neil. It’s also amazing that no previous documentary had thought to use Neil’s most autobiographical track to date (’don’t be denied’ from ‘time fades away’ 1973) as it’s lynchpin, dealing as it does with Neil’s childhood and first foothold on the rungs of stardom. There was quite a bit of rare footage too including CSN rehearsals and a hilarious Buffalo Springfield clip of the band singing Mr Soul which says more about the rivalry between camera-shy Young and show-off Stills than any amount of interviews does! Highly recommended.

Anniversaries This Week:  Apologies to those who missed their birthday-sakes last week (Art Garfunkel and Gram Parsons—Byrds,1967—both November 5th). This week anniversaries include: Neil Young who turns 63 on November 12th and Gene Clark (a member of The Byrds from 1964-66 and 1972) who would have turned 67 on November 17th. Anniversaries of events this week include: the first live appearance of the Human League in 1980 (November 12th), the first number one scored by the first Moody Blues line-up back in 1965 (’Go Now’, November 13th) and in 1987 Dire Straits became the first group to sell over 3 million copies of an album in Britain (’Brothers In Arms’, released in 1985). 

News, Views and Music Issue 11 (Top Five): Political Songs

And finally, the latest in this week’s top fives: songs about Presidents and/ or politics.

5) ‘I Wanna Grow Up To Be A Politician’ (The Byrds/ Byrdmaniax, 1970). Roger McGuinn thinks he’s written a comedy song here, if the tooting horns and tongue-in-cheek delivery are anything to go by. But actually the words to this song could be used equally well for a serious song on the subject, of how the narrator is determined that if he is given the power to rule over people, he would never be ‘scary’ like so many of the world leader’s he’s known so far in his life and the feeling that, unlike most of them it seems, he would respect ‘the old red, white and blue’. Something tells me George Bush junior never actually heard the song during his time in office, because he broke every single rule mentioned in the song.

4) The whole 2 hours of ‘Preservation’ (The Kinks/ Preservation Acts 1 and 2, 1972-73). ‘I visiualise a day when people will be free and we’ll be living in a new society, no class distinction slums or poverty, so people of the nation unite…’ How we wanted to believe, but that nice if rather emotionless Mr Black isn’t all he seems. Yes here it is again making its third or fourth appearance on this list; Ray Davies’ concept about the emotionless Mr Black getting ousted by conman Mr Flash really is so similar to our present age that it makes me wonder whether the elder brother had a time machine at his disposal. As far as I know, however, Obama was never a second-hand car spiv and McCain never intended to introduce a 14-hour-a-day curfew. Don’t believe everything you see on CNN.

3) ‘Campaigner’ (Neil Young/ Decade, 1977). ‘I am a lonely visitor, I came to late to cause a stir, though I campaigned all my life towards that goal’. Some seven years after he wrote ‘Ohio’ about tin soldiers and Nixon coming and 30 years before he started singing ‘let’s impeach the president for lying’, Neil returned to his apolitical stance with this subdued song inspired a photograph of Richard Nixon looking battered and harassed after the Watergate trial, standing at the entrance to a hospital where one of his relations (we’re not sure which) was dying. Looking at the nearlies and also-rans of the political world, this forgotten Young song is a place where ‘even Richard Nixon has got soul’. So moving is the song that – even after hearing the burning cauldron of anger that’s Ohio – you want to sympathise. Blimey.

2) ‘Americana Panorama’ (10cc/ Windows In The Jungle, 1983). OK, so ‘americana panorama, Reagan was a right banana’ isn’t the best lyric that Eric Stewart ever wrote, but it still makes us laugh. Juxtaposing Reagan’s infamous stint as a Hollywood actor with all the very real and scary things relating to the end of the cold war that were happening in the 1980s, this is nightmare played as comedy and all the more chilling for it, appearing as it does on 10cc’s most frivolous-sounding but actually hardest-hitting LP.

1) ‘Let’s Impeach The President’ (Neil Young/ Living With War, 2006 and CSNY/ Déjà vu Live, 2008). Funny how this one keeps cropping up this site but hopefully this will be the last appearance of this song for a while (unless Obama goes the same way as his predecessor, but then he’d have to lose a lot of promising talent very quickly). Anyway, here is a quick reminder of how not to win people’s hearts and minds, with Bush’s contradictory statements about 9/11, the Iraq War and his foreign policy in general heard over a chorus of ‘flip…..flop’ while a solo horn tries in vain to drown out the song with a passage from ‘america the beautiful’. Half the audience walked out on the CSNY ‘freedom of speech’ tour of 2006 when they played this song and – despite the AAA’s best efforts to stay neutral – something about this song seems to have clicked for most CSNY fans too. Time for the world is running out…roll on January (to paraphrase another Neil Young song).  

That’s all for now, see you next week!

Johnny Cash "American Legends" (2008) (News, Views and Music 11)

An old favourite I’m Currently Grooving To: Johnny Cash “American legends” (compilation) “My name is Sue, how do you do?!?” As £3 3CD sets from Woolworths go, this is one of my better bargains of recent years. The man in black’s early catalogue is now out of copyright and turning up in the most haphazard of selections and running orders—and yet, despite the reputation of most cheap Woollies sets, worth a lot more than the price would suggest (the 3CD Small faces set is great value too if you don’t have this stuff already—and if you do there’s still one or two unreleased alternate mixes to be found. Ditto the Buddy Holly set, although there are too many of the Pick’s posthumous overdubbing sessions used over Buddy’s superior originals to make it a ‘classic’). Johnny Cash’s ballads haven't aged too well, but his Tennessee Three-led early rock and roll singles sound surprisingly fresh and contemporary, more so than most 1950s recordings. His own songs too are an under-rated mix of rockers and ballads known to everyone, which here include ‘Folsom Prison Blues’, ’I Walk The Line’, ‘Give My Love To Rose’ and (is this a mis-print because surely it’s Lonnie Donegan’s, although most books seem to agree that Johnny had something to do with the genesis of it) ‘Rock Island Line’. Add in a live version (but not the famous live San Quentin Prison version) of Cash’s most successful song ‘A Boy Named Sue’ and things are looking quite good for this little set.

All the best stuff seems to be on CD two however. There, Cash’s weak country ballads and gentle frivolous pop songs don’t get in the way of the album as often as they do on CDs 1 and 3. The band are able to pick up a bit more steam and the Tennessee Three finally get to develop their own style without having to be constrained by the hits and styles of the day (the band seem to be sleepwalking through standard teen stuff like ‘Straight A’s In Love’ and so too does the listener). Talking of building up steam, Cash is at his best on the live tracks towards the end of the second disc, especially set highlight ‘Orange Blossom Special’ which comes complete with train whistles, large dollops of Blues harmonica and train-like drumming that comes close to outdoing Keith Moon’s train impersonations on ’Quadrophenia’. All the things that work against Cash on the studio tracks and particularly B-sides — occasionally off-pitching vocals and a tendency to repeat his licks throughout several songs—comes alive on the stage, offering the Tennessee Three a chance to show off a bit of the ‘freedom’ they talk about in their songs. Most reviled moment: Johnny and June Carter Cash growling and squealing their way respectively through a version of classic duet ‘Jackson’. June’s usually much better than this—and why weren’t any of the many superior live recordings of this song used for the set instead?! Even so, for £3 this 2-hour set is a happy find. Overall rating: ♫♫♫♫♫♫ (6/10).