Monday 15 December 2008

News, Views and Music Issue 16 (Intro)

Ho! Ho! Ho! Welcome to the first of our two Christmas special newsletters which have been carried to you by virtual reindeer sitting on a virtual sleigh, pulled by the members of Slade as penance for that Xmas single that seems to be everywhere again this year. Well, there’s not much news to tell you about again this week - except that Christmas is coming and the Spice Girls’ wallets are getting fat. Again. Still there’s enough material here to fill a Pink Floyd concept double album, so if you’re still in search of some CDs to fill some stockings stay tuned for our handy guide to the best AAA releases of 2008!

Beatles news: Firstly, though, a small addition to last week’s article about the Beatles I-tunes downloads saga. Paul Gambacini was debating the issue on his radio two programme on Saturday night and guest Pete Waterman had some unusually interesting comments (alongside the usual plugs for Kylie and Jason Donovan). He said that if the Beatles do issue all their material in one go as planned then we could well see the first ever top 20 or even top 50 chart filled by a single artist, possibly for weeks on end if enough Beatle fans have converted to using MP3s and suchlike. It would be interesting to see which Beatles track comes top too as fans and newcomers should have the whole of the fab four’s 1960s catalogue to choose from (we reckon it’ll be #1 Hey Jude, #2 Yesterday and #3 A Day In The Life). Alas, though, the EMI/ Apple dispute is still going on, making this whole paragraph redundant for the time being the EMI/ Apple cry seems to be ‘don’t let me down’(load)! (Why haven’t the BBC used that joke yet? Do they not know any Beatles B-sides for goodness sake?!)

CSN news: Crosby, Stills and Nash will be touring in America next year, but with a very interesting difference. Like the Rolling Stones before hand they are inviting fans to nominate their favourite songs now for inclusion in their set lists next year – only this time it won’t just be one song that’s chosen from a handful of selections but a more or less complete gig. I know we Brits won’t get to see them perform on their American tour but a) this site might make it to a worldwide search engine over the Winter without me realising and b) chances are the trio will follow it up with a British/ European tour, hopefully following the same idea. So get your nominations in now and visit            . Personally, I’d love to see the band revive Crosby’s ‘Laughing’ (not performed regularly since Crosby-Nash’s concerts in the early 70s), Stills’ ‘Word Game’ (which was last a setlist regular in 1976 and – to the best of my knowledge – only performed on Stephen’s solo tours) and Nash’s ‘Another Sleep Song’ (which was most likely only performed once, for Graham’s solo appearance on the Old Grey Whistle Test in 1974). What other CSN songs would readers like to see them do? And is anyone lucky enough to get tickets?

Hollies news: Sorry for the late mention, but guitarist Tony Hicks made a rare radio appearance as Suzi Quatro’s guest on Radio Two last Saturday. Speaking about his influences, Tony chose the music that had inspired him, including the Mamas and the Papas’ ‘Monday Monday’ (he and Graham Nash attended the recording session apparently – I’d not heard that story before!), Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Hey Joe’, ‘Don’t Run And Hide - a Hollies cover from the rare Everly Brothers album ‘Two Yanks In England’ (on which the duo are backed by the Hollies, along with guitarist Jimmy Page) and, err, a meandering song by Foreigner. We in Britain haven’t heard Tony talk at this length about his music for ages (though he used to be on German radio a lot not long ago I believe) so this was a welcome early Christmas present from Radio Two (I think its still available from the BBC’s online I-player for a couple of weeks if anyone missed it).    

It wasn’t mentioned on the above programme, but Tony Hicks (Hollies guitarist 1963-present) is also celebrating his birthday this week (he turns 65 on December 16th), along with Keith Richards (Rolling Stones guitarist 1963-present, although if you needed me to tell you what group he was in you’re probably looking at the wrong site!) who also turns 65 on December 18th (who would have thought looking at them that baby-faced Tony Hicks was the elder of the two?!) and Carl Wilson, who would have been celebrating his 62nd birthday on December 21st. Anniversaries of events this week include: George Harrison’s deportation from Hamburg after being found playing with the Beatles in a Hamburg club while under-age, an event which effectively splits the group up for a couple of months (December 16th 1960); The Who call it a day – for the next seven years at least – after playing a ‘farewell’ gig in Toronto on December 17th 1982 and the Beatles begin their first and only stage show, ‘The Beatles Christmas Show’, with a performance at Bradford Gaumont on December 21st 1963. Forget the lukewarm reviews of ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ on telly at Boxing Day – this forgotten segment in the fab four’s history was actually the first poorly received Beatle enterprise in the general public eye and it too has a Xmassy link. , Alas, though, us post-60s fans will never know for sure – unlike the godawful Take That and Girls Aloud concerts on over Christmas this year no one thought to record it for posterity!

Last Minute Yoko Ono News: Mrs Lennon is celebrating 50 years of being an artist with an exhibition of many of her works in London (Gateshead I think, but my shorthand let me down taking down this news item this morning!) Lots of the displays will be well known to Beatle fans, including an ‘Imagine Peace’ banner, a video of the JohnandYoko Amsterdam bed-in for peace and, most movingly, a step-ladder leading up to the word ‘yes’ written on a ceiling (the art piece that brought the pair together at a similar back in 1968). Sadly, there has been no mention of the Yoko trademark ‘grapefruit’ on any of the news reports – get that book reprinted Yoko! Whether your avent grateful or avent garde a clue (joke copyright George Harrison 1969) it might be worth a trip if you’re a fellow Beatlesnut.

News, Views and Music Issue 16 (Top Five): Releases Of The Year 2008

♫ We end this newsletter and wave an early goodbye to 2008 with our latest top five – the best releases of the year. It’s not been a vintage year for fans of AAA artists by any means, but we have had a smattering of juicy re-issues (with an emphasis on complete unreleased live performances this year I’ve noticed) and a few return-to-form new releases to savour throughout 2008 and beyond.

5) “Bark”/ “Long John Silver” (Jefferson Airplane, 1971/72). It may seem strange that I’m listing probably the two worst records out of a handful the original Airplane ever made as one of the best CD sets of the year – especially as this set has no bonus tracks included - but there’s a reason for my madness. These two sets may not be vintage Airplane but they are far too good to have waited a staggering 21 years since the first sale of a CD player to be re-issued and re-released, especially ‘Bark’ which has more than its fair share of minor gems lurking between the filler material. Both albums are also a case in point for how good CD mastering can be when it’s done right – both albums sounded horribly, often unplayably murky on vinyl, as if the Airplane’s fine band interplay was going on down a wind tunnel somewhere just out of ear-shot. While neither album sounds ‘clear’ in the traditional sense on CD, it’s still nice to hear them in their ‘true’ state at long last and both of these neglected and rather unloved sets are in firm need of appraisal. Alas, though, it’s a sign of our times that I never saw this set in the shops even once – I had to order mine from a mail order catalogue and even that doesn’t seem to be listing this CD set anymore.It’s worth seeking out though, if only to hear Grace Slick insulting the world in German – because, as she correctly guessed, the American censors would be too lazy to translate it!  

4) “The Present” (Moody Blues, 1983). Another album long long loooong overdue for a proper CD re-issue (it came out as a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it set in the late 80s which I have never seen once in 15 years of collecting all things Moodies, even at some exorbitant price in a second-hand shop), this set and its two companions (‘Octave’ and ‘Long Distance Voyager’) are often overlooked in the Moodies’ back catalogue. None of these first three reunion sets can compare to the band’s original seven – but then what can? ‘The Present’ is a particularly sturdy set, full of glorious Justin Hayward ballads, a classic moody Graeme Edge piece, some of the better uptempo John Lodge songs of the later Moodies era and Ray Thomas seemingly going mad at the end of the album – all pretty much for the last time, sadly, as in my opinion only Hayward seems to be intermittently on form on any of the band’s later albums. And like all good Moodies releases, it’s commercial and catchy without sacrificing depth; full of then-contemporary technology without sacrificing the classic late 60s sound that the Moodies mined better than pretty much everyone in their day. Alas the bonus tracks on all three sets were a bit of a let down but, hey, it’s Christmas, forgive and forget.   

3) “Déjà vu” (Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young DVD, 2008). Social commentary is always a hard thing to control in popular mainstream music – ignoring issues going around you for the whole of your career can make an artist seem ‘soft’ and unimportant, while throwing yourselves into a cause head-first puts off all of your fan-base that don’t think the same way as you. But CSNY at their best – whether solo, in pairs, as a trio or, rarely, as a quartet – have always done their best to reflect their times and give their fans a voice that otherwise might not be heard. For the first time in too long, this Neil Young dominated DVD finds the band flying head-first down the ‘social comment’ road, with every song on this 2006 tour a dig at George Bush’s ‘fake’ presidency somewhere down the line. The audience at the concerts don’t know what to make it, half of them cheering and half of them jeering, but for CSNY fans with open minds this tour souvenir was a welcome reminder of how brave and how special this band really are. All together now, ‘Let’s impeach the president for lying…’

2) “Electric Arguments” (The Fireman aka Paul McCartney and Youth, 2008). I doubt they’ve even heard of my website, but since my review for this album (newsandreviews 13a) every critic in the land seems to have joined in and called this album ‘McCartney III’ in honour of the two experimental, improvised albums that came out either side of Macca’s Wings discography. Temporally escaping from his world tour band for the first time in three albums, this is the special, experimental side of McCartney’s character that we don’t get to see very often and – after more or less 15 years in the wilderness – few of us ever thought we’d see throughout a whole album again. Performing under a pseudonym and giving full reign to his improvisation skills seems to have given Mr Macca new lease of life at long last, freed of his huge overbearing weight of a musical past and allowing him to go back to actually enjoying his music. Linda, always the biggest supporter of Macca’s more eccentric tastes, would have been dead proud. Heather Mills, on the other hand, seems to have been uncharacteristically stunned into silence after the release of this album and its uncharitable Mills-slaying opening track. More please Macca!

1) “Pacific Ocean Blue”/ “Bambu” (Dennis Wilson, 1977 and unreleased recordings, mainly from 1979). We Beach Boys fans have waited for a proper CD release of this album for so long, it positively hurt. And, unlike many ‘lost gems’ (Brian Wilson’s ‘Smile’ firmly excluded) this album didn’t disappoint. Here’s drummer Dennis Wilson at the crossover point of his life – his voice already gruff and lived in after years of excess and success, but still functioning well enough to put his sorrows into words and with oh so much on his mind. The second CD, full of tracks from an unfinished but still album-length follow-up release ‘Bambu’, is just as good if not better. Taken together, these two projects sounds like Tony Asher’s confused and lovestruck lyrics from ‘Pet Sounds’ set to the raging, ever-changing and always engaging music of ‘Smile’, all set to heartbreaking orchestral accompaniment, Dennis’ razor-sharp heartmelting voice and a large dollop of help from fellow genius and baby brother Carl Wilson. Which, as almost any Beach Boys fan will tell yopu, as good as music is ever going to get. Take ‘Smile’ out of the equation (and the Hollies’ long-lost 1973 album ‘Out On The Road’, issued in the UK for the first time in 2005) and this album is a strong candidate for best release of the decade by any artist. It was certainly the highlight of my year.      

Other new releases of the year you might have missed:

♫ Belle and Sebastian “The BBC Sessions”

Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young “Déjà vu Live” (soundtrack CD)

♫ David Gilmour (and Rick Wright) “Live In Gdansk

♫ Graham Gouldmann and Kevin Godley aka 10cc “Clever Clogs” (live DVD with new material)

♫ Grateful Dead “Live In Egypt 1978” (previously unreleased live recording)

♫ Jefferson Starship “Tree Of Liberty” (a series of covers of ‘influential’ songs)

♫ The Kinks “Music Box” (6 CD box-set with a dozen unreleased tracks)

♫ Moody Blues “Octave” and “Long Distance Voyager” (first proper CD issues of old material)

♫ Oasis “Dig Out Your Soul”

♫ Rolling Stones “Shine A Light” (DVD and live soundtrack CD)

♫ Cat Stevens “Tea For The Tillerman” (Deluxe Re-issue)

♫ Brian Wilson “That Lucky Old Sun”

♫ Neil Young “Sugar Mountain” (one of Neil’s ‘Archive’ live recordings from 1968)

 Well that about wraps it up for another issue – see you next week for our last newsletter of 2008 and our last here at the AAA before our Winter break (set to include the top five AAA-related Xmas songs!) Happy listening till then!

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

What difference does a name make? Arguably not much if you’re already a collector of a certain group, for whom the names on the album sleeves just...

This week’s top ten honours the humble motor car. The death trap on wheels, the metaphor for freedom, the put-down of capitalism, a source of...

This week we’re going to have a look at the 10 AAA singles that spent the most weeks at number on the American chart ‘Billboard’ – and it makes for...

Following on from last issue’s study of the American Billboard charts, here’s a look at which AAA albums spent the most weeks on the chart. The...

There are many dying arts in our modern world: incorruptible politicians, faith that things are going to get better and the ability to make decent...

This week we’ve decided to dedicate our top ten to those unsung heroes of music, the session musicians, whose playing often brings AAA artists (and...

Naturally we hold our AAA bands in high esteem in these articles: after all, without their good taste, intelligence and humanity we’d have nothing to...

What do you do when you’ve left a multi-million selling band and yet you still feel the pull of the road and the tours and the playing to audiences...

‘The ATOS Song’ (You’re Not Fit To Live)’ (Mini-Review) Dear readers, we don’t often feature reviews of singles over albums or musicians who aren’t...

In honour of this week’s review of an album released to cash in on a movie soundtrack (only one of these songs actually appears in ‘Easy Rider’...and...

Hic! Everyone raise a glass to the rock stars of the past and to this week’s feature...songs about alcolholic beverages! Yes that’s right, everything...

154) The human singing voice carries with it a vast array of emotions, thoughts that cannot be expressed in any other way except opening the lungs and...

Everyone has a spiritual home, even if they don’t actually live there. Mine is in a windy, rainy city where the weather is always awful but the...

Having a family does funny things to some musicians, as we’ve already seen in this week’s review (surely the only AAA album actually written around...

Some artists just have no idea what their best work really is. One thing that amazes me as a collector is how consistently excellent many of the...

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