Thursday 19 May 2011

News, Views and Music Issue 100 (Intro)

May 19th:

Well, here we are at issue 100 guys (I know we celebrated our 200th article seven issues ago but that was 101 reviews, five specials and three april fool’s day articles to take into account!) There were times when I didn’t think we’d ever get here what with computers crashing, websites uprooting, business plans and health crises getting in the way but nevertheless here we are some 33 months after I first wrote those words ‘welcome everyone to Alan’s Album Archives’. What a lot has changed in those few months (in fact we’ve been going for longer than some bands I could mention like the Buffalo Springfield or the Small Faces) – we’ve lost Rick Wright, Pete Quaife, Tony Clarke, legends all. We’ve seen The Beatles turned into a successful computer game and been re-issued and re-mastered (properly at last!) to delight a whole lot of audiences all over again. We’ve had the unexpected resurgence of Brian Wilson, ‘comebacks’ for Belle and Sebastian and Yusuf/Cat Stevens, the break-up of Oasis, seen some career highs from Paul McCartney, Oasis/Beady Eye and Cat Stevens/Yusuf again, had some pretty good documentaries and TV and radio programmes (Lulu even got her own show for the first time in 40 years!) and seen several projects sadly crumble into dust before our eyes. Alas that Pink Floyd reunion – so talked about in the wake of Live 8 – never happened, CSNY never did get to make that career best album with Johnny Cash producer Rick Rubin and The Who reunion seems to have fizzled out before time. In fact of the news stories we covered in our original issue, only the Brian Wilson solo album ‘That Lucky Old Sun’ actually happened as expected (I did eventually buy it – for £1 rather than £22 would you believe – and it’s reviewed in newsletter no 55) and alas the CSN/Y rebirth I hoped for never appeared. I could add at least another hundred songs to my very first top five for fibromyalgia sufferers as well (The Stones’ ‘Rocks Off’; The Beatles’ ‘I’m So Tired’ Cat Styevens ‘I’m So Sleepy’ Belle and Sebastian’s ‘We Are The Sleepyheads’ and Lindisfarne’s ‘Sleepless Nights’ among them) and am still fighting the effects of chronic fatigue every day. In addition, we’ve lost an incompetent prime minister in Gordon Brown and got a corrupt one and his lackey in instead – there’s the power of democracy at work for you. We’ve also had fun plugging the site in a million and one ways I’d never have dreamed of a decade ago: Amazon lists of the greatest and most neglected AAA albums, a Facebook page and a Twitter profile, answering questions on ‘Yahoo Answers’ (yes the Beatles were pretty crucial to the 1960s actually – and yes they most definitely are better and more popular than Justin Bieber!) a thousand and one adverts for the site spread across various directories and music fansites and forums, plus five videos starring a dog with a cane and a big hat talking about music with his Grand-doggy! Along the way we’ve also had a whole host of unexpected and wacky newsletters, including a whole review by Lulubelle III (the cow on the front cover of Pink Floyd album ‘Atom Heart Mother’), been sent articles from our future and been sent back into the past to review a live gig 37 years in the past, seen the mess the Coalition make of our days to come and discussed what messes Nixon and co made of our past. We’ve been a time capsule, you and me, attempting to sum up and unravel just exactly what’s been going on those past 33 months. I can’t say I understand much more of it now to be honest, but I’ve had fun learning titbits along the way – such as the fact that Coaltions are always going to fail when their parties are diametrically opposed, that I still really really hate the Spice Girls and that music can be the most powerful tool on Earth (and beyond) when used in the right way by people who have talent. Here’s to the next 100 issues and what we’ll have learnt by then (assuming, of course, Alan’s Album Archives survives the cataclysms of December 2012!) Till then enjoy this latest issue, which starts off far back into the distant past (1964) and goes back up to date with a mini review of last month’s Human League CD ‘Credo’...


Hollies News: One last week of comments on the new Hollies box set The Clarke-Hicks-Nash Years and then Ill stop, I promise. Because now after a week of waiting its finally back in stock and I now own a copy! And what a fab set it is too EMI have really done the band proud with their packaging and even use my favourite picture of the Hollies, the little seen Dear Eloise/King Midas sleeve for the CD inlay of disc six (which has been my laptop screensaver whilst writing up at least the last years worth of newsletters!) Theres also an intriguing interview with Graham Nash, which manages to be revealing despite telling us little we didnt already know although its a shame that theres nothing from Allan Clarke or Tony Hicks. The unusual running order I commented on last time around also makes much more sense now Ive read the booklet and realised that all the tracks are in recorded order (The Hollies are one of the few acts whose sessionography is complete and its regularly reprinted (in the Hollies excellent On A Carousel fanzine, in three issues of the 1990s Record Collector magazine and recently the other Hollies box set The Long Road Home) although its a shame that none of the oodles of unfinished songs have made their way onto this set). This should really irritate me, as on other sets that do the same it means you get ballads next to ballads and one guys vocals for three or four tracks in a row, but The Hollies were so eclectic that this alternative viewpoint of their canon is fascinating, with even misfires like Stewball sounding all the better in their new home.

Talking of Stewball there are also three Hollies songs sung in French which have never been released before (in addition to Regardez Par Des Fenetres on Rarities) including that track which oddly sounds better than it does in English with much tighter harmonies, theres the long awaited B-side to the bands San Remo Song Contest entry of Non Prego Per Me which until now had only been released in Italy, the long lost 1966 version of A Taste Of Honey (which isnt up to the 1968 version but is still nice to hear) and a cracking eight song concert from one of Nashs last shows in Lewisham in 1968 of which only a decidedly Mancunian version of The Times They Are A Changin has been released till now. Oh and contrary to the running order I saw before release EMI have done the sensible thing and added all nine hard-to-find tracks from the Rarities album in addition to the alternative Were Through and Schoolgirl from the two At Abbey Road sets, the three EP only tracks (What Kind Of Love When Im Not There and Honey and Wine), three compilation-only songs (Poison Ivy Little Bitty Pretty One and Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah) and bits and pieces from the Long Road Home box set. If only EMI had added the three short songs from the live disc of Long Road Home then this set really would be complete for the 1963-1968 period (as released so far) and its also irritating that we have to wait until 1966 for the Hollies recordings to be heard in stereo (the bands stereo mixes are pretty much all superior to the mono recordings I think although conversely Butterfly, the last album here, has always sounded more mysterious and other-worldly in mono!) No matter this set is still 99% perfect and long overdue for recognising what a cracking and consistent band The Hollies were and is the perfect (and cheap!) introduction to newcomers who want to know what the band were all about. Lets hope a follow-up Clarke-Hicks-Sylvester Years set comes out soon...In fact this set is a shoe-in for released of the year come December (although see below for two other main competitors...)       

Human League News: Hmm why do all the good releases have to come out in the same month? Yes thats right Ive finally got hold of Credo, the new League album, and its pretty darn good, vastly superior to last album Secrets and deeply undeserving of the sniffy reviews that have followed it. I know Id normally give you a full review of new AAA releases but Im deeply suspicious of what will happen if I review the League in full my computer has had to be repaired both times I tries to start one!  Anyway all you really need to know is this: the band have finally returned to their earlier Travelogue era sound of dark edgy lyrics and hypnotic trance-like backing, with themes about being an outsider. In fact album highlight Night People is a dead ringer for Only After Dark with its tale of people who live unusual, non-regular lives seeing more of the world than the people who are always in bed early. The line-up meanwhile has changed yet again with newcomer Robert Barton now Phil Oakeys main sparring partner, although thankfully cocktail waitresses Joanne Catherall and Susan Sulley continue the recent League trend of records by having much more involvement. Not every track is great the album dips badly on the last three tracks, especially the lyrics which are always the Leagues Achilles heel but its still the bands most consistent album since my own personal favourite and overlooked gem Romantic? Never mind the two star reviews I keep seeing this record gets a fat 7/10 for me. 

Pink Floyd News: First up, the bad news. Im sorry fellow Floyd fans but its come to this. Come September were going to have to go without food for at least a year, borrow a bed from any neighbour who can spare it, trade in everything we own that isnt directly musical (or the computer you use to read these articles, obviously!) and mortgage the house. Its the only way. The good news is that EMI and the remaining members of the Floyd have finally come to an agreement over re-issue series of the bands back catalogue that will see all of the 14 Floyd albums re-issued with new tracks. Most of the new tracks are said to be substantial Dark Side Of The Moon, for instance, will be available as a six CD box set featuring every possible alternate mix, version and live performance under the sun such as an early work-in-progress version of The Great Gig In The Sky before Clare Torry added her vocals and an early version of Money when the song still went at a faster pace. The earlier Floyd albums meanwhile feature important live tracks from the tape vaults and collectors. Wish You Were Here will now be a five disc set featuring a series of alternate mixes, including violinist Stephane Grapellis contribution to Wish You Were Here up high in the mix at last, after four decades being buried under a series of storm sound effects. The Wall will now have seven CDs including Roger Waters original demo for almost the entire album as presented to the band in 1978 alongside The Pros and Cons Of Hitch-hiking so they could sort out which project to work on and which should be a Waters solo album. Theres also a rare early version of Another Brick In The Wall Part II with Rogers original lyrics (We dont need your adulation, we dont need your starry gaze...) Best of all, though, must be the news that the band have unearthed unheard recordings of Syd Barrett in concert with the band a live recording from Broadhearst Gardens in 1966 recorded so the band could enter a Melody Maker competition!

All the albums, released under the advertising banner Why Pink Floyd?, are due out in one great whoosh just like the Beatles sets of 2009 and have been worked on for more than a year according to an EMI report. The news comes just four months after the band agreed to drop a legal dispute against EMI over having their mainly concept albums split up for downloading individually in fact the band have now re-signed to EMI for another five years! More news if and when we hear it with lots to be discussed around September I dare say...

ANNIVERSARIES: We’re 100 issues old, but how aged are our AAA members this week (born between May 21st and 27th)? Pete Sears (bassist/keyboardist with the Jefferson Starship/Starship 1973-86) turns 63 on May 27th and honorary AAA man Paul Weller turns 53 on May 25th . Anniversaries of events include: two important dates for The Who on May 21st : 1965 sees the release of second single ‘Anyway Anyhow Anywhere’ and the band’s first appearance on Ready Steady Go, the TV show that will become synonymous with the group (1965) while Pete Townshend marries first wife Karen Astley in 1968; The first – of many – posthumous CSNY releases, the live record ‘4 Way Street’ is released (May 22nd 1971); The Beach Boys release their ‘response’ to Beatlemania with ‘I Get Around’ (May 23rd 1964); Another legendary release – The Who’s double album ‘Tommy’ turns 41 on May 23rd; The Beatles’ posthumous album Let It Be’ sets a then-record amount for pre-order sales (3.7 million – May 23rd 1970); the Grateful Dead play their first ever date in the UK in Newcastle some five years after their debut despite their cult following in Britain (May 23rd 1970); Jefferson Starship find that their planned free concert in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park – a venue they made their own 10 years before – has now been outlawed after authorities ban the use of electronic instruments at outdoor events. The ban inspires the #1 Starship hit ‘We Built This City’ some eight years later (May 23rd 1977);  milestone ‘comeback’ single ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash restores the Rolling Stones to the top of the charts for the first time in three years (May 24th 1968); Simon and Garfunkel become the first artist since The Beatles to replace themselves at the top of the album charts when ‘Bookends’ replaces ‘The Graduate Soundtrack’ (May 25th 1968); The Who perform a secret gig to a handful of fans to end the rockumentary film ‘The Kids Are Alright’  - it will be the last time Keith Moon plays with the band (May 25th 1978) and finally,  John and Yoko begin their second bed-in at a hotel in Montreal (May 26th 1970).

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