Saturday, 26 May 2012
Dear friends – get this for how out of touch our beloved Prime Minister is. David Cameron used a speech last week to praise the modern UK record industry for their innovation and inspiration. He’s clearly talking out of his top hat again because even modern music fans agree that the current music scene in B retain is stagnant and repetitive. Cameron clearly offered the praise because the record industry grew infinitesimally in 2011 according to new figures – what the Camermoron forgot to check was that a) that growth was all because of Adele’s ‘21’ record (the biggest seller in Britain since last week’s review album ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’ and b) the UK had its worse year by some margin in 2010 and things really could only have got better. This raises a whole debate of course – is an industry successful simply because it makes money or is it something bigger? After all, the Spice Girls were prime leaders in the huge record sales in Britain in the mid 90s, even outselling Oasis, and yet not even their biggest fans would claim the Old Spices had any claim to music making talent. What we dearly need is a new sound from a new band with a new direction, one that’s able to write about a pretty grim time in our history without shirking away from it or simply offering ‘escapism’ (though there’s a place for that too). Talking of ‘Dark Side’, when put on the spot Cameron named this as his ‘favourite album’ and yet when asked to comment about his favourite tracks went ‘umm err umm’ and went on to the next question (is it just me or is the UK’s most famous and best known albums simply a safe option?) Assuming for the moment that Cameron wasn’t lying (erm, it wouldn’t be the first time) let’s hope Cameron digs out his old album and listens to the track ‘Us and Them’ next time he wants to criticise disenfranchised youth who’ve been left with nothing (‘With, without...and after all, isn’t that what the fighting’s all about?’) As I’m writing this news is breaking that culture secretary Jeremy Hunt really has been a naughty boy re donations from media moguls and yet still Cameron is sticking by him (I have no evidence whatsoever to support this but doesn’t that seem a bit, well, strange to you? Is there another bigger scandal Cameron doesn’t want getting out?!...)
In other news, I’ve just heard our Eurovision entry for this year – and we’re going to get hammered. I’m all in favour of the complaints of the British press that our last few entries have been trying too hard to go for the youth vote – but surely getting in the 75-year-old crooner Englebert Humperdinck in to sing is going too far the other way? AAA fans know him best as the man who stopped The Beatles getting a record breaking 20-odd run of unbroken #1 singles, but the real reason to hate him is his music (‘Release Me’ and ‘The Last Waltz’ are two of the worst – certainly the slowest – songs to come out of the 60s. The fact that the former song is the best selling song from the whole of 1967 is a depressing statistic that I’ve pondered on many a time). Bring back Frances Rufelle or Lulu, that’s what I say...
Alas other breaking news is that Bee Gee Robin Gibb has died at the age of 62, shortly after being released home from hospital, leaving Barry as the only surviving Gibb brother (4th son Andy often gets forgotten but not by me – or anyone else who knows of his sterling work on Stephen Stills’ under-rated ‘Thoroughfare Gap’ album). Robin was a true pioneer who never got the credit he deserved, either for his amazing voice or his ability to write heartbreaking timeless songs that voices what so many people are thinking. He will be truly missed and there might well be a Bee Gees top five coming your way sometime soon...
In the meantime, it’s on with the news...
♫ CSN News: There’s yet another new CSN-related DVD out, this time featuring all three of the trio (we reviewed last year’s Crosby-Nash In Concert’ in last issue’s top five). There still isn’t a title for the set yet and not much news but we do know that it’s been recorded on the band’s current (ie 2012) tour and will feature at least three news songs (in addition, perhaps, to the two that appeared on the C-N DVD). The trio still don’t have a record contract so it’s frustrating to hear so many songs of such quality thrown away amongst ‘hits’ set like these – please, somebody reading this, CSN are too important and too good to have to reduce their talent this way, hire them now!!! By the way, the set also comes with a double CD of the audio soundtrack and new interviews with David, Stephen and Graham. More news if and when!
♫ Pentangle News: Following on from the recent flurry of Bert Jansch BBC sessions, BBC6 are now repeating a set by his Pentangle colleague John Renbourn. The show will be part of the ‘Live Music Hour’ slot on Thursday, May 24th at 3am and was originally recorded at the Paris Theatre in London in 1980.
♫ Pink Floyd News: Dear readers, you may have heard me point to some sort of strange synergy before on this site that leads documentary makers to start or broadcast projects mere weeks after I’ve reviewed an album at random. Well, despite the fact that the re-issue came out nearly a year ago BBC4 are only now showing their documentary behind the making of Pink Floyd album ‘Wish You Were Here’ (one of the three box sets we reviewed last week!) The programme will be shown at 8pm on Friday, May 25th and again at 1am that night and will be followed by a repeat of the excellent ‘Floyd Miscellany’ collection of music videos compiled to celebrate the re-release of ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’ last Easter.
♫ Otis Redding News: We’re sad to report the news that Donald ‘Duck’ Dunn, the bassist with Booker T and the M Gs has died at the age of 70. The bassist – who played on all of Otis’ six records and backed him in concert – also played with AAA star Neil Young when the MGs backed him in concert in the 1990s. Dunn had been ill health for some time but his death in his sleep from unknown causes was unexpected (he played a gig in Tokyo just hours before his death). A cancer scare led to the cancellation of a planned collaboration with Young, although bootlegs of the concerts still exist and may well be issued in the future as part of the ‘Young Archives’ series. It’s for his work with the STAX label, though, and especially his recordings with Otis than the bassist will be forever remembered. His death is a sad loss to music lovers all over the world. More news if and when we hear it.
♫ Rolling Stones News: The event in Stones history nicknamed ‘World War 3’ by fans only ever had an uneasy truce, with Mick and Keef’s arguments over solo records versus commitment to the band still festering today if interviews and autobiographies are to be believed. Fan hopes were high that the Stones might still patch up their differences for a conciliatory tour in this, their 50th anniversary year, but alas the omens don’t look good. Mick Jagger’s been promoting his recent flop ‘supergroup’ with Bob Marley’s son and the Eurhythmic’s Dave Stewart a lot recently and booked an appearance on the acerbic American skit show ‘Saturday Night Live’. The Stones often appeared on the show as both guests and hosts in the 1970s and 80s and hopes were high that this might be the case again when Keef revealed he wanted to appear alongside his old partner. Alas, his appearance has been axed and Mick will be going solo – a fact that might well have repercussions for some time to come. More news if and when we hear it...
♫ The Who News: Finally, another BBC6 repeat which was on last Saturday, May 19th) in the Live Music Hour slot (and still available on I-player). It lasted for all of nine minutes but what we had was amazing: four songs from The Who at the very beginnings of their career and playing songs like ‘Good Lovin’ (which they never played on record – the Grateful Dead also did this one) and ‘Just You and Me’ (unreleased till the 1990s) plus the rather more obvious ‘Anyway Anyhow Anywhere’ and ‘Leaving Here’. Well worth a listen.
ANNIVERSARIES: Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday dear AAA members born between May 23rd and 29th (Pete Sears (bassist/keyboardist with the Jefferson Starship/Starship 1973-86) who turns 64 on May 27th; Papa John Creach (violinist with Jefferson Airplane/Starship 1970-75) would have been 95 on May 28th and Ray Laidlaw (drummer with Lindisfarne 1970-72 and 1978-2002, plus drummer with Jack The Lad 1973-78) turns 64 on May 28th), happy birthday to you. Happy 30th birthday also to Rob Jones, Who Stones and Small Faces collector and all round top guy. Anniversaries of events include: 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), John and Yoko begin their second bed-in at a hotel in Montreal (May 26th 1970), Ronnie Lane becomes the first member to leave The Faces to form his own band ‘Slim Chance’ (May 28th 1973) and finally, Roger McGuinn plays his first solo gig after the break-up of The Byrds (May 29th 1973).
Tuesday, 22 May 2012
I’ve been doing quite well for purchases recently so, in lieu of any other burning things to talk about, I thought I’d treat you to a few more mini-reviews about the AAA linked ‘second tier’ albums that have joined in with my collection recently...
Ian Anderson “Thick As A Brick 2” (2012)
We don’t often cover Jethro Tull on these pages (I discovered them a little too late for adding to this site, although that said their best known albums are – unusually – their best ones and don’t need me to talk them up) but I adore the first ‘Thick As A Brick’ which is 42 minutes (and one long song) of corruption, inspiration and madness. When we left that album in 1972 Gerald Bostock is a confused 10 year old, the winner of a poetry competition he’s excluded from for using profanity in his language and finds himself condemned by the adult world despite playing by their own rules. Part autobiography, part fiction, part good old fashioned send-up, it’s an amazing achievement that fans of most of the bands on this site will enjoy. Like many fans I’ve wondered for years what might have happened to master Bostock when he finally did reach the adult and world and master Anderson, chief singer flautist and one-legged maniac, has not disappointed. We don’t get just one answer on this album – we get lots, as the album flowers out into several parallel universes where Gerald becomes a soldier from Wooton Bassett, a scholar, a banker, a shop-keeper and a tramp (with shades of the other classic Tull album ‘Aqualung’!) It’s a shame that the album isn’t sequenced like the first one (being broken into bits rather than being one long rant is a shame) and the lack of other Tull personnel (including the absence of Martin Barre for the first time since 1968) is unfortunate, but for the most part Anderson manages to make an album that’s a convincing portrait of both what might have happened to one of rock’s most beloved characters and an album that works well on it’s own level, damning so-called progress in the past 40 years in a manner very in keeping with the original. There are a few too many instrumentals, it’s true, and the spoken word passages pall after a time but the lyrics we have are spot-on and the similarities to the record (it fades up in the same way side two of the original did and ends in exactly the same way) make it well worth your time. The packaging is also tremendous: where the original spoofed petty village life (with a replica of a newspaper that went on for pages!), this version comes with a mock-up local website with the exactly the same mix of plausible but stupid stories, band in jokes and album references. Those who don’t know the original might not ‘get’ this album, but if you love the original as much as I do then this is a must-have – certainly it’s the best thing from the ‘Tull’ camp since before they went electronic/heavy metal in the 1980s. Track to download: the banker-bashing ‘Banker Bets, Banker Wins’ and the two ‘What-ifs, Maybes and Might Have Beens’.
Henry McCullough “Poor Man’s Moon” (2009)
Don’t worry if you don’t recognise the name – chances are few of you will know it even if you own some of the album she plays on. But guitarist Henry McCullough was for an all too brief time a member of Wings, playing on the singles ‘My Love’ and ‘Live and Let Die’, the album ‘Red Rose Speedway’ and the TV show ‘James Paul McCartney’ (which still hasn’t had a proper release yet!) He left before ‘band On The Run’, refusing to go to Lagos to record the album (with good reason as it turned out, what with the muggings, monsoon weather and Macca’s collapse from a lung complaint) and to most people disappeared. Henry’s always been around though, playing small gigs (mainly in America) and releasing albums for low budget record labels (again mainly in America). His latest, ‘Poor Man’s Moon’, is the first of his many solo records to fall into my hands and its delightful, much slower and much bluesier than you’d expect for such a rocky guitarist (for both Wings and oe Cocker’s Grease Band) and Henry’s lived-in vocals suit his new acoustic compositions very well indeed. If I had a complaint its that the songs all sound so similar you’d be hard pressed to tell where one ends and another begins if you weren’t paying attention closely, but that can also be a good thing, with this album conjuring up a mood of laid-back weariness and thoughts about approaching old age and death. Henry’s always been a forgotten talent despite appearing in one of the 70s’ best-selling bands and – although not as essential a purchase as most of Denny Laine’s albums – all Wings collectors should own at least one of these records. Tracks to download (not that you can download them, but never mind): Opener ‘Too Late To Worry’ and ‘Big Old River’.
Mick Jagger “The Best Of” (2011)
A lot of fans won’t even know that Mick has released solo records away from the Stones, given how poorly most of them have sold over the years. Few will know that he’s released enough tracks to make up a 34 track album. And only the very smallest part of those would ever think that all of these songs deserve to get re-released on a two CD album. That said, considering the bad press Mick’s solo work has got over the years (causing a rift between him and Mick that still festers to this day, given some of the comments in Keef’s book ‘Life’) this set isn’t half bad. I only own two of Mick’s solo albums properly and whilst I can’t say I’ve played his first album ‘She’s The Boss’ all that much I do have a soft spot for third album ‘Goddess In The Doorway’. Mick’s sudden dalliance with disco and funk caught most fans on the hop in the late 70s and although the best of his work with the Stones has aged well (‘Miss You’) the first two solo Mick albums in a similar style aren’t anything like as good. The best songs from this set nearly all come from ‘Goddess’(‘Hide Away’ ‘Brand New Set Of Rules’) but the best song of all is a wonderful yearning ballad ‘Angel In My Heart’ from ‘Wandering Spirit’. Actually no, check that, because I’ve just been playing ‘Rules’ again and it’s even better than I first thought. It’s also clearly the first draft for one of my favourite Stones songs ‘Laugh, I Nearly Died’, with Mick regretting his recent mistakes and trying to put things right (it single-handedly manages to be the best Stones-related track of the past 30 odd years!) For that moment alone it’s worth buying this set, although 34 tracks are a good 20 too many. Tracks to download: ‘Angel In My Heart’ ‘Brand New Set Of Rules’.
Rolling Stones “Some Girls” (deluxe re-issue) (2011)
Another year, another Stones re-issue. We’ve already reviewed ‘Some Girls’ on these pages (it’s on News and Views no 30 if you want to go have a read) and it’s one of the last great Stones albums, recorded during the height of punk which really spurs the Stones on to get out of their lethargy and have fun with their music. Since writing that review I now have a copy of the live DVD ‘Some Girls Live In Texas’ and it’s a complete revelation: the songs that sounded great if a little stiff on record are majestic, with Charlie Watts driving everything at such a tempo that the Stones have never sounded younger or sparkier, even in the 1960s. Unfortunately they sound even more old and middle-aged on the outtakes here than ever before (the cover of ‘Tallahassee Lassie may well be the worst Stones recording I’ve ever heard. Yes, it’s even worse than anything on ‘Emotional Rescue!’) Most of these ‘new’ songs are aimless jams, the sort of doodle they released on ‘Tattoo You’ because they couldn’t think of anything better. Compared to the excellent re-release of ‘Exile On main Street’ in 2010 (an OK album that sounded great thanks to three or four of the best unreleased Stones tracks in their canon, easily up to the standard of the record if not a little higher) this was a disappointment. That said, ‘Claudine’ is an old rocker that sounds good in the Stones’ hands and ‘Do You Think I Really Care?’ is a good starting point for a song that never happened, with a distinctive Stones riff and some great guitar-play interplay (the lyrics would have had to be changed for a ‘proper’ take though). Let’s hope the next deluxe re-issue is back to standard (and when are the band going to release some of the outtakes for their late 60s LPs?!) Tracks to download: ‘Claudine’ ‘Do You Think I Really Care?’
The Kinks “Deluxe Re-issues” (Kinks Kontroversy-Face To Face-Something Else) (1965-67/2012)
I’m still trying to track down the early and later albums from the mammoth six-album deluxe Kinks re-issue series, but I have at least managed to track down half of them. Frankly, I’m disappointed. Pye had already released pretty darn special single CD sets of all the 60s Kinks albums with a mouth-watering selection ofg a few choice bonus tracks at a decent price. These two CD sets are mainly made up of the same bonus tracks again (but added to a second disc), a few alternate mixes and a handful of BBC sessions which are either out already on ‘The Kinks At The BBC’ 2CD set or are due out on the mammoth Kinks BBC set in August. All that just leaves a handful of new tracks: ‘Kontroversy’ has a second version of ‘Mr Reporter’ with Ray on lead (not Dave), a looser take on ‘Never Met A Girl Like You Before’ (nice but a shame the ending is missing!) and the piece-de-resistance, a cracking alternate take of ‘I’m Not Like Everybody Else’. ‘Face To Face’ includes the fascinating first attempt at ‘Dead End Street’ as featured on the ‘Kinks Music Box’ set (Ray hated the recording and prayed that producer Shel Talmy, on what would turn out to be his last session with The Kinks would let him re-record it with the stern austere tone he wanted; as chance would have it the producer dislocated his shoulder putting his coat on to go him and didn’t turn up to the next session, leaving Ray to do what he wanted), plus a slower jazzier and even more laidback ‘You’re Looking Fine’ and an equally jazzy first go at ‘Little Miss Queen Of Darkness’ (with Pete Quaife on bass, not John Dalton as per the album). For me the weakest album of the three is the much-lauded but directionless ‘Something Else’ – however this set is easily the best of the three with a long list of new recordings to savour. ‘Sand On My Shoes’ is a sweet first go at ‘Tin Soldier Man’ (there’s also a backing track for the song), an early version of ‘Afternoon Tea’ sounds even more like a Noel Coward vignette than a Kinks song, ‘Mr Pleasant’ is sunnier and funnier, although Ray’s vocal is clearly a guide vocal rather than a proper take, an alternate mix of ‘Lazy Old Sun’ sounds even more warped and psychedelic than the finished one and BBC sessions for ‘Autumn Almanac’ and especially Dav Davies’ wonderful ‘Susannah’s Still Alive’ make for entertaining glimpses at how these songs must have sounded live in the day. A few interesting and a couple of essential additions to the Kinks Kanon then, but really these few extras aren’t worth forking out £15-£18 for if you already own these albums and considering what we know Ray Davies has sitting in his studio attic a real disappointment for long-term Kinks Kollectors. Tracks to download: from the original albums ‘Milk Cow Blues’ ‘Fancy’ and ‘Love Me Til The Sunshines’ respectively, plus the outtakes of ‘I’m Not Like Everybody Else’ and ‘Dead End Street’.
Harry Nilsson “The Point” (1972)
Yes, I know Harry Nilsson isn’t an AAA member, but there is logic to my reasoning. When The Monkees split in 1970 Davy Jones and Micky Dolenz were at a loose end. Deciding they wanted to get back to theatre, they travelled to England and met up with their old Monkees writing partner who had just come up with a weird musical and needed a pair of names for the stage show who could act and sing. Not many people know about this show – it didn’t last very long and sadly there’s no recordings of Davy and Micky singing the songs. But we do have Harry’s album of his songs and fascinating they are too. The plot concerns a world of cxreatures where everyone is born with a ‘point’ on their heads. All except poor Davy who doesn’t (the joke being that because he doesn’t look like the others he is ‘pointless’). Micky played the baddy, who picks on poor Davy before seeing the error of his ways. Typically mad and as zany as everything its creator ever made, this is clearly his crowning glory (and I say that as someone whose sat through the complete Nilsson box set, albeit only once) and deserves to be better known, even if it would have been better to hear Micky and Davy singing (I’ve never been a big fan of Nilsson’s voice, though I do enjoy his writing). I actually used this album a lot in my ‘Monkees and Postmodernism’ dissertation and I’ve been dying to hear the songs to go with the plot and the snippets I know from Youtube. The songs are inter-spliced with lots of talking, which doesn’t make for the easiest album to listen to but does help explain the plot! The songs thsemlves are a pretty good bunch, even though my MP3 always seems to give me the deliberately annoying jingle ‘Buy My Album’ every time I put it on random (it’s one of those songs guaranteed to stick in your head for years!) Not for every Monkees fan, but interesting to me at least! Tracks to download: ‘Lifeline’ and ‘Down To The Valley’
And that’s all for another week. Join us next time for the long-awaited results of our lyric competition – remember there’s still time to enter. Just have a read of News and Views Issue 140, work out which AAA bands you think sang each of these lines from songs and send in your answers to firstname.lastname@example.org!