Friday 25 March 2011

News, Views and Music Issue 93 (Top Ten): Random Recent Purchases

So how to round off our first article in four weeks? How about a random rummage through our latest purchases in no particular order, with a look at whether they were worth buying or not (remember, we buy the dross so you dont have to!)

1) Stephen Stills “Live At Shepherd’s Bush” (CD, 2009): It’s been out a while, this set, but so hard was it to find – and so expensive as it when I first found it – that I’ve only got round to buying it now. This live set finally redresses the balance of the weird track listing for the only other official Stills live album to date (the logically named ‘Stephen Stills Live’ from 1975) and adds no less than three exclusive covers to the Stills canon (the moody ‘blind fiddler’, the over-familiar ‘Girl From The North Country’ and the surprising choice of the Tom Petty song about bad-parenting ‘The Wrong Thing To Do’). This album also keeps the former’s strong one-side acoustic, one-side electric set and Stills’ guitar-work has never been better, especially on a riveting six minute version of ‘Rock and Roll Women’ and the under-rated and now topical again song about recession ‘Isn’t It About Time?’ A warning though – this live recording reveals the cracks in Stills’ now sadly wrecked voice like never before and there are far better live versions of many of the more famous songs on live CSN records. Still, good on Stills for stretching himself with many of the choices here and – if you can find it cheaply enough – there’s enough good moments here for most CSN/Buffalo Springfield fans.

2) The Who “Live At Leeds” (Deluxe four-disc version, recorded 1970 and released 2010): This live set, however, is disappointing. As anyone whose read our newsletter issue no 76 (our ‘live albums’ special) or our AAA review no 33 will know, ‘Live At Leeds’ is my nomination for the best live record made by anybody, with the best rock and roll band in the world at the peak of their powers. The original half hour cut down set was amazing enough but the release of two further sets (chronicling first an 80 minute highlights set and then the full two-hour show with a performance of ‘Tommy’ included intact) made perfection sound more and more perfect still. The news that Polydor had discovered the following night’s show in Hull led us to think that this four disc set might be better still (it was only left unreleased because the tapes were thought to be missing John Entwistle’s bass parts on a few songs and the original ideas was to mix the two shows together for a final record). Alas, it’s not. The Who aren’t playing badly and a couple of spots are actually better than ‘Leeds’ (namely a funky ‘I’m A Boy’ and a slightly calmer ‘I’m Free’), but for the most part the band sound tired and play more as individuals than as a telepathic single unit. One other point is that this second show in Hull is just so similar – not just the identical track listing (minus an encore of ‘Magic Bus’ I notice) which is fair enough for gigs played just one day apart but the seemingly improvised passages – the scream of guitars in ‘Amazing Journey’, the quick-changing chords of ‘A Quick One While He’s Away’ and the breath-taking improvisations in the 12-minute ‘My Generation’ (which runs a little shorter than the version on ‘Leeds’ but is otherwise identical). It’s as if The Who are trying to remember what made the previous night’s show in Leeds so special and they can’t quite relax enough to re-create it no matter how hard they try. Considering the hefty price of this set (£60 when it came out, although some shops have it cheaper at the moment), personally I’d steer clear and go back to the two-disc version, one of the greatest and most musical noises it will ever be your privilege to hear.

3) The Rolling Stones “Off The Record” (book compiled by Mark Paytress, 2004): My latest charity shop find is this excellent book made up of Rolling Stones press pieces down the years, from the famous ‘Who Kills A Butterfly With A Wheel?’ article that helped two of the Stones escape imprisonment to lesser known moments about aborted film projects and Mick Jagger’s trousers. My shelf is currently full to bursting with Stones books – there’s the official and deeply boring ‘According To The Stones’, Bill Wyman and Keith Richards’ excellent (in completely different ways!) autobiographies, a brather odd book about the relationship between Mick and Keef, the fascinating ‘Stories Behind Every Song’ book, the much-thumbed ‘Complete Guide To The Music Of’, last year’s impressive Uncut guide to the band and the downright superlative ‘Rough Guide To The Music Of...’, but this book is one of the best I’ve yet come across, with lots of forgotten pieces as well as pieces that I’ve heard about for years and never read in full. You really do need to be an obsessive anorakky fan like me to make the most of it (all the casual mentions of forgotten projects could get very confusing for those who don’t know the full story) and big events like Brian Jones’ death or the Stones’ exile in France are covered almost as an after-thought. But if you are a big Stones nut then this book is for you and more than worth the £2.50 I paid for it in hardback!

4) Astrid Kirchherr “A Retrospective” (2010, a book edited by Matthew H Clough and Colin Fallows): One other excellent purchase is the first book by one of the Beatles’ earliest supporters. For those who don’t know, Astrid is the German photographer who became engaged to ‘fifth Beatle’ Stuart Sutcliffe, helped develop the Beatles’ early image of leathers and haircuts (as far as I’m concerned the Beatle moptop look is all down to Astrid, whatever Lennon may have claimed later) and took their earliest professional photographs. Many of them are here in this book including the famous shot of the five Beatles (without Ringo but with Stuart and Pete Best) at the fairground, seen in full shot without the close crop around the band for the first time as well as some early Brian Epstein-influenced shots of the band in suits from 1963 that aren’t often seen. Most moving of all, however, are the photos of Stuart – easily the most photogenic of the group in the days before Lennon grew into his leadership role – at work and at play and the eerie, much-discussed photo of a fragile looking Lennon taken in Stuart’s art studio the day he heard that his best friend had died, with a 17-year-old George looking concerned over his shoulder. That single rarely-seen shot is worth the price of the book alone, although do be warned that the translated interviews with Astrid, Klaus Voormann and Astrid’s one-time husband Gibson Kemp aren’t anything like as illuminating as the photographs and nor is this book exclusively a Beatles one (there’s lots of shots of Astrid and her family as well as other musicians of interest to Beatle fans such as Ringo’s first employer Rory Storm and Apple artist Jackie Lomax). Still, these are important pictures by one of the leading lights of her day (like Linda McCartney after her, Astrid had already made quite an impact by the time she met the Beatles and if anything the association hurt her own career) and the book is a well-produced labour of love that deserves better acknowledgement from fans who realise it’s worth.

5) Gustav Holst: “The Evening Watch and Other Choral Music” (2004): Amazingly, I think I’ve gone through 200 articles without revealing to you my love for the only classical music composer on a level with giants from the rock and pop world. Most of you will only know Holst from the ‘Planets’ score, which is an often misunderstood piece of work (it’s written about astrology, not astronomy!) that has overshadowed equally fine moments in the composer’s career. ‘The Evening Watch’ isn’t one of them, mind, being one of Holst’s occasional religious works that never really suit his style (his often heavenly music is enthused by a similar kind of non-religious spirituality common to most of the artists on this list), although there are other rare pieces here that are worthy additions to the Holst canon, especially the six Choruses and seven part-songs which show much more of the Holst ‘spirit’ and less of impressive chameleonic abilities. To be honest, though, if you want to know this fascinatingly complex and rule-breaking man’s work better you want to buy The Hymn Of Jesus his own superior version of Ave Maria, (OK, so forget what I said about his religious works...), A Winter Idyll, Ode To Death, Invocation, the Brook Green Suite, the piano pieces Nocturne and Piece For Yvonne, the sadly unfinished The Morning Of The Year and especially the exquisite Perfect Fool (the opera may have been booed off the stage but the opening ballet is amongst the most moving music ever made by anybody). Most fans and fellow collectors scratch their heads when I mention Holst’s name but Justin Hayward, for one, is a fan and considers ‘The Planets’ a big influence on his work (or he did once, anyway, I haven’t seen his name mentioned in interviews for a while!) and certainly Holst is the only classical composer I can stomach, the only one remotely close to writing music as powerful and meaningful as the artists on this list (and even then he has patchier moments than any of the groups on our list, I have to say...) Still, if you get bored of the music on this list (as if!) then check out one of the above recordings – and better still join me in lobbying for a performance of one of Holst’s six operas (none of which have ever been staged since his death in 1934!)

Right, that’s enough nattering for one week. We hope to be with you again soon all being well – but please bear with us if we’re not. We really are facing some problems at the moment and I’m not sure if we’ll ever fully solve them, but as long as there are those of you who visit the site I’ll do my best to keep going. Oh and I ran out of space to moan about it earlier but – what does David Cameron think he’s doing, sending missiles to shoot down leaders who until a few months ago Britain’s Government was supporting? Whilst I agree with the cause, switching sides in such a callous manner – using our weapons to fight weapons we’ve been selling for the past few decades – seems downright hypocritical to me! Just because Cameron wants his own Falklands! Oh and full marks for Obama for hanging back – America may be involved too but it’s us that’s doing all the shouting about it. Huh, up with music and down with the Coalition!

A NOW COMPLETE List Of Top Five/Top Ten/TOP TWENTY  Entries 2008-2019
1) Chronic Fatigue songs

2) Songs For The Face Of Bo

3) Credit Crunch Songs

4) Songs For The Autumn

5) National Wombat Week

6) AAA Box Sets

7) Virus Songs

8) Worst AAA-Related DVDs

9) Self-Punctuating Superstar Classics

10) Ways To Know You Have Turned Into A Collector

11) Political Songs

12) Totally Bonkers Concept Albums

13) Celebrating 40 Years Of The Beatles' White Album

14) Still Celebrating 40 Years Of The Beatles' White Album

15) AAA Existential Questions

16) Releases Of The Year 2008

17) Top AAA Xmas Songs

18) Notable AAA Gigs

19) All things '20' related for our 20th issue

20) Romantic odes for Valentine's Day

21) Hollies B sides

22) 'Other' BBC Session Albums

23) Beach Boys Rarities Still Not Available On CD

24) Songs John, Paul and George wrote for Ringo's solo albums

25) 5 of the Best Rock 'n' Roll Tracks From The Pre-Beatles Era

26) AAA Autobiographies

27) Rolling Stones B-sides

28) Beatles B-Sides

29) The lllloooonnngggeesssttt AAA songs of all time

30) Kinks B-Sides

31) Abandoned CSNY projects 'wasted on the way'

32) Best AAA Rarities and Outtakes Sets

33) News We've Missed While We've Been Away

34) Birthday Songs for our 1st Anniversary

35) Brightest Album Covers

36) Biggest Recorded Arguments

37) Songs About Superheroes

38) AAA TV Networks That Should Exist

39) AAA Woodtsock Moments

40) Top Moments Of The Past Year As Voted For By Readers

41) Music Segues

42) AAA Foreign Language Songs

43) 'Other' Groups In Need Of Re-Mastering

44) The Kinks Preservation Rock Opera - Was It Really About The Forthcoming UK General Election?

45) Mono and Stereo Mixes - Biggest Differences

46) Weirdest Things To Do When A Band Member Leaves

47) Video Clips Exclusive To Youtube (#1)

48) Top AAA Releases Of 2009

49) Songs About Trains

50) Songs about Winter

51) Songs about astrology plus horoscopes for selected AAA members

52) The Worst Five Groups Ever!

53) The Most Over-Rated AAA Albums

54) Top AAA Rarities Exclusive To EPs

55) Random Recent Purchases (#1)

56) AAA Party Political Slogans

57) Songs To Celebrate 'Rock Sunday'

58) Strange But True (?) AAA Ghost Stories

59) AAA Artists In Song

60) Songs About Dogs

61) Sunshiney Songs

62) The AAA Staff Play Their Own Version Of Monoploy/Mornington Crescent!

63) What 'Other' British Invasion DVDs We'd Like To See

64) What We Want To Place In Our AAA Time Capsule

65) AAA Conspiracy Theroies

66) Weirdest Things To Do Before - And After - Becoming A Star

67) Songs To Tweet To

68) Greatest Ever AAA Solos

69) John Lennon Musical Tributes

70) Songs For Halloween

71) Earliest Examples Of Psychedelia

72) Purely Instrumental Albums

73) AAA Utopias

74) AAA Imaginary Bands

75) Unexpected AAA Cover Versions

76) Top Releases of 2010

77) Songs About Snow

78) Predictions For 2011

79) AAA Fugitives

80) AAA Home Towns

81) The Biggest Non-Musical Influences On The 1960s

82) AAA Groups Covering Other AAA Groups

83) Strange Censorship Decisions

84) AAA Albums Still Unreleased on CD

85) Random Recent Purchases (#2)

86) Top AAA Music Videos

87) 30 Day Facebook Music Challenge

88) AAA Documentaries

89) Unfinished and 'Lost' AAA Albums

90) Strangest AAA Album Covers

91) AAA Performers Live From Mars (!)

92) Songs Including The Number '100' for our 100th Issue

93) Most Songs Recorded In A Single Day

94) Most Revealing AAA Interviews

95) Top 10 Pre-Fame Recordings

96) The Shortest And Longest AAA Albums

97) The AAA Allstars Ultimate Band Line-Up

98) Top Songs About Sports

99) AAA Conversations With God

100) AAA Managers: The Good, The Bad and the Financially Ugly

101) Unexpected AAA Cameos

102) AAA Words You can Type Into A Caluclator

103) AAA Court Cases

104) Postmodern Songs About Songwriting

105) Biggest Stylistic Leaps Between Albums

106) 20 Reasons Why Cameron Should Go!

107) The AAA Pun-Filled Cookbook

108) Classic Debut Releases

109) Five Uses Of Bird Sound Effects

110) AAA Classic Youtube Clips Part #1

111) Part #2

112) Part #3

113) AAA Facts You Might Not Know

114) The 20 Rarest AAA Records

115) AAA Instrumental Songs

116) Musical Tarot

117) Christmas Carols

118) Top AAA Releases Of 2011

119) AAA Bands In The Beano/The Dandy

120) Top 20 Guitarists #1

121) #2

122) 'Shorty' Nomination Award Questionairre

123) Top Best-Selling AAA Albums

124) AAA Songs Featuring Bagpipes

125) A (Hopefully) Complete List Of AAA Musicians On Twitter

126) Beatles Albums That Might Have Been 1970-74 and 1980

127) DVD/Computer Games We've Just Invented

128) The AAA Albums With The Most Weeks At #1 in the UK

129) The AAA Singles With The Most Weeks At #1 in the UK

130) Lyric Competition (Questions)

131) Top Crooning Classics

132) Funeral Songs

133) AAA Songs For When Your Phone Is On Hold

134) Random Recent Purchases (#3)

135) Lyric Competition (Answers)

136) Bee Gees Songs/AAA Goes Disco!

137) The Best AAA Sleevenotes (And Worst)

138) A Short Precise Of The Years 1962-70

139) More Wacky AAA-Related Films And Their Soundtracks

140) AAA Appearances On Desert Island Discs

141) Songs Exclusive To Live Albums

142) More AAA Songs About Armageddon

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159) A (Not That) Short Guide To The 15 Best Non-AAA Bands

160) The Greatest AAA Drum Solos (Or Near Solos!)

161) AAA Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall Of Fame Acceptance Speeches

162) AAA Re-Recordings Of Past Songs

163) A Coalition Christmas (A Fairy Tale)

164) AAA Songs About Islands

165) The AAA Review Of The Year 2012

166) The Best AAA Concerts I Attended

167) Tributes To The 10 AAA Stars Who Died The Youngest

168) The First 10 AAA Songs Listed Alphabetically

171) The 10 Best Songs From The Psychedelia Box-Sets ‘Nuggets’ and ‘Nuggets Two’

172) The 20 Most Common Girl’s Names In AAA Song Titles (With Definitions) 

180) First Recordings By Future AAA Stars

185) A Tribute To Storm Thorgerson Via The Five AAA Bands He Worked With

188) Surprise! Celebrating 300 Album Reviews With The Biggest 'Surprises' Of The Past Five Years Of Alan's Album Archives!

190) Comparatively Obscure First Compositions By AAA Stars

193) Evolution Of A Band: Comparing First Lyric With Last Lyric:

200) The Monkees In Relation To Postmodernism (University Dissertation)

202) Carly Simon's 'You're So Vain': Was It About One Of The AAA Crew?

217) AAA 'Christmas Presents' we'd most like to have next year

221) Dr Who and the AAA (Five Musical Links)

222) Five Random Recent Purchases

223) AAA Grammy Nominees

224) Ten AAA songs that are better heard unedited and in full

225) The shortest gaps between AAA albums

226) The longest gaps between AAA albums

227) Top ten AAA drummers

228) Top Ten AAA Singles (In Terms of 'A' and 'B' Sides)

229) The Stories Behind Six AAA Logos

230) AAAAAHHHHHH!!!!!!! The Best Ten AAA Screams

231) An AAA Pack Of Horses

232) AAA Granamas - Sorry, Anagrams!

233) AAA Surnames and Their Meanings

234) 20 Erroneous AAA Album Titles

235) The Best AAA Orchestral Arrangements

236) Top 30 Hilariously Misheard Album Titles/Lyrics

237) Ten controversial AAA sackings - and whether they were right

238) A Critique On Critiquing - In Response To Brian Wilson

239) The Ten MusicianS Who've Played On The Most AAA Albums

240) Thoughts on #CameronMustGo

241) Random Recent Purchases (Kinks/Grateful Dead/Nils Lofgren/Rolling Stones/Hollies) 

242) AAA Christmas Number Ones 

243) AAA Review Of The Year 2014 (Top Releases/Re-issues/Documentaries/DVDs/Books/Songs/ Articles  plus worst releases of the year)

244) Me/CFS Awareness Week 2015

245) Why The Tory 2015 Victory Seems A Little...Suspicious

246) A Plea For Peace and Tolerance After The Attacks on Paris - and Syria

247) AAA Review Of The Year 2015

248) The Fifty Most Read AAA Articles (as of December 31st 2015)

249) The Revised AAA Crossword!

251) Half-A-Dozen Berries Plus One (An AAA Tribute To Chuck Berry)

252) Guest Post: ‘The Skids – Joy’ (1981) by Kenny Brown

254) Guest Post: ‘Supertramp – Some Things Never Change’ by Kenny Brown

255) AAA Review Of The Year 2018

256) AAA Review Of The Year 2019 plus Review Of The Decade 2010-2019

257) Tiermaker

258) #Coronastock

259) #Coronadocstock

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