19 December 2011

2010 - Other top picks....

Before I start yarbelling about 2011, lets look back at 2010 and the tunes from that 12 month period that, frankly have stood the test of time and the bands that made it great for me.

First up - and top of the list for me is Plumtree.
I know I have written about them before, and I know they split up 12 years ago, but this tune just proves that great music is timeless....
That album is bloody fantastic and was my top play for 2010 - and much of this year.  If you can't find it at a decent price, buy their greatest hits from their band website and torrent "Predicts the future" just for that track.  A flipping superb turnaround 2/3rds of the way through, great riffing and perfect vocals.

Next up - The Breeders.  I got a second wind of them and started listening to some of the deeper album tracks and odder singles.  Like this puppy...
Much like the wonderful Plumtree, but a little more "Worldly-wise" and direct. Instead of talking about company figures which I know little of and care even less, I gave a 5 minute talk on the history of The Breeders. Far more interesting.

3rd - Mogwai.  I have written about this Scottish band before, but really played them to death in 2010. And not without reason:
Proving that too many effects, when used correctly are NOT a bad thing.  Play that all the way through, mellow and thoughtful to full shred in one song.

But what about the one offs? The single tracks that kicked all kinds of bottom? Tracks sent to me, advised by friends or just single tracks from albums that tickled something inside me?

Like Deadmau5?
OK, not such an original or groundbreaking artist, but there is something about that track that really gets to me, perhaps the similarity to DJ Shadow or Daft Punk is what is going on, but I genuinely think it is a standout track.  Listened to 3 of his albums and only discovered 3 track worth rating though....

I think I may have written about Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes already, but if I was making a disc of 2010, this would be there for certain.  Simple, beautiful, memorable.  And it has whistling....

Two artists I had not given much credit to in the past, proved to me that I had missed out on something. No idea how they got together as I suspect their roads may never have crossed in normal circumstances, but a great (couple) of albums of peerless songwriting and performance.

Somebody else I never had much time for - Johnny Lydon.  However after watching a documentary on them, this track sang out to me.  Not just for the interesting structure and a better understanding of what he was trying to do with his voice but also the quote from "Guitar God" Steve Vai who was a session player on this album "Probably my greatest guitar solo on record"

Ugly Duckling - a 93 rap crew from California made a superb album and it took me this long to find it.  I had tracks on tape from way back but had no idea who they were..... Bit like De La Soul with tongue firmly in their cheek....

The Go Team! Flashlight Fight featuring Chuck D - need more be said? It starts at full throttle and continues the same way.  Nice.....

However the musical monument of the year was, for me the Film "Scott Pilgrim Vs the World".  I loved the comic book, loved the story, loved the Director (Edgar Wright was the ONLY choice) loved the film, and the soundtrack.... I think at last count there was 4 albums worth of material released - all of it inspirational from Plumtree to The Black Lips, from the well known (Bowie) to the unknown (Anamanaguchi).  Not the most popular film, but it could not be improved upon.  It is not about music - it is music. Hurrah.

05 December 2011

The Fall - The Classical

Before I get started on 2011 - I missed out on 2010, mainly because there was only two new albums I liked (even less this year) so decided not to do it.

Miserable sod.

So I am looking through a playlist "Class of 2010" this week and picking out a couple.

The playlist is simple - as is my rules - If the track was added to iTunes between 1st January 2010 and 31st December 2010 - it is in.  I then rank it by number of plays.  Fairly straight forward.  This, however isn't one of the top plays.

It does, however need to be heard.

Press Play dammit!

It's a keeper!  Now, if you don't know about, or have never heard of The Fall, you really need to go and visit the Disney website, or something.  You don't need to be here.  Whatever you think of their music - whether "It is a work of sublime genius" or "It's a load of noisy tosh" people have strong opinions on the Fall.

Plusses - John Peel loved them, often saying they were his favourite band - Quote: "They are always different, they are always the same". They are from Manchester before it was hip and have influenced dozens of bands and have released over a hundred albums (29 studio recordings)
Minuses - most of it, you really do need to be open to listen to it.  It is not easy listening.

Thank God.  There is too much music in the world that is just not worth listening to.  It is there to pass you by as clouds in the sky - unobtrusive and ignorable.

This you can't ignore - post punk and with such a "fuck you" attitude that almost is there just to piss the listener off.  Well, that seems to sum up front man and sole continual member of the band Mark E Smith.

This guy:
Not a pretty fellow after a few years the wrong side of the bar, but creative none the less.  Apparently a horrendous man to work for, the through put of musicians in The Fall is astounding - with many leaving and having fights with him even onstage.  He was once arrested for attacking a band member.  He even committed the cardinal sin of fiddling about with the bass players amps mid song.  Les Bell once said if anyone ever did that to him, they would find out whether a Fender Bass could be inserted anally.

However, he also has astonishing support, even from ex-members, none of whom would speak against him.  Is The Fall run like a cult?  He certainly seems to have that sort of following.  For example, what sort of person should read out the results on Match of the day?  A damaged alcoholic?  Probably not, but he did....

The best bit is at the end when he discusses and cuts into the presenters.
So what about the tune - the one at the beginning which prevented them from being signed to Motown (the story being it was the only album he had to had when the president of the label asked to hear them) The lyrics may have had a part to play in that - "Where are the obligatory niggers? / Hey there fuck-face!"

Pounding toms and a cyclical bass line, before Mark Riley strums in with the post-punk guitar synonymous with The Fall at the time.  A great and catchy tune, that would lose so much if Mark E Smiths voice was wasn't as disjointed and seemingly screechingly ambivalent to the the formation of "Classic" song formation. It is this dichotomy between the rather formulaic bass and drums against the guitar and voice that turns the tune from awful into awesome. At parts it could almost be the Cure, others PIL or even Dead Kennedys.

On top of all that he did perform singing duties to one of my favourite 90's songs in much the same vein....

I love the fact that Mark E Smith was on Top of the Pops.
The producers must have been shitting themselves....
A drunk Mr Smith with the lyrics in his hand and Simon Mayo trying to be "above it all".  My god he really deserves a punch in the clacka, doesn't he?

04 December 2011

Frank Zappa - Guitar

I am very tired and feeling ill.  However before the rundown of my "Class of 2011" annual music from the year, I thought I would touch upon my favorite album of all time.

In really quick summation, it is a double CD just made up of guitar solos by Mr Zappa.  Quite quickly you will have decided that it probably isn't for you.  And most of you will be right.

So why on earth was a double CD comprising of just 32 long tracks in existence?  Was it an experiment? Nope.
He had already released the "Shut up and Play your Guitar" Triple album - comprising the original, "Son of SUAPYG" and "Return of the Son of SUAPYG".  Why?
Well, he is just too darn individual as a player. This isn't the same solo heard on the studio version of the track he plays - it is improvisational composition on the fly.

As an avid recorder of all of his shows (apparently there are 4 underground vaults in Laurel Canyon full of every live and studio recording he made) he wasn't short of material. Even then he would play around with it in the studio. During the recording for "Joes Garage" a previous triple album he never recorded a solo in the studio.  He took the solos recorded on the 1980 tour, extracted them from the mix and made them fit into the already recorded songs.  Apparently this would piss off the engineers plenty as they would have to play about with speeds and pitches in order to get them to sync.

But why, still does this exist? In my mind it is simple.  He really is that good. The composition of each solo, when mixed with occasionally odd rhythmic backing tracks is exceptional.  There is nothing else like it.  His knowledge of how to play music along with control of feedback and tonal quality is second to none.

Quite a rarity there - on the album known as "The Secret Carlos Santana Chord Progression" that bootleg version from the 80's shows some really evil fuzz colouring his chops! The fact that the style and content of the solos could change each night is impressive.  Most guitarists would be happy just doing the same old thing, night after night, but he took it as a challenge, if not a resposibility to improvise - and well, regardless of the situation.

To finish with here is a great recording from the 70's - note in the touring band is the Jazz pianist George Duke and violinist John Luc Ponty. Most impressive (apart from his suit) is how animated and aggressive this solo is, taking into consideration they are playing outside in sub zero temperatures....
Screw 2012, bring back the 70's.
Next week - a review of 2011 on what I have heard....

03 November 2011

Henry Mancini - Shot in the Dark

Just looking up some great earworms this evening and the master turns up once again - the magnificent Henry Mancini.

Let's have a listen...
Superb - you didn't think you knew it until you pressed play, did you?
Bit of history first - Enrico Nicola Mancini was a second generation Italian immigrant to the US.  His parents made him take piccolo lessons at the age of 8 and piano at 12.  Quite late for such a bizarre instrument (I started at 7 and still don't like it), however, young Henry must have been practicing a lot more that I did at that age as he ended up at the celebrated Julliard school in New York. Nice.  I believe a certain Mr Miles Davis also passed through those doors, although a little later, seeing as after a year Mancini was drafted.

After the war finished he went straight into the music business - as the pianist and arranger for the Glenn Miller Orchestra.  Nice.

He then joined Universal Pictures - scoring for such pictures as Creature from the Black Lagoon and It came from Outer Space.  Shame.  He did then meet someone who would change his life - Blake Edwards.  Nowadays, Edwards is not seen as a great master of the silver screen, but he has a great many films which shaped modern movie making - from Breakfast at Tiffanys to The Pink Panther movies.

Mancini had already scored The Peter Gunn theme and the first Pink Panther movie - and this theme, for the second movie sits somewhere inbetween. Let's see it in context - about 3 minutes in...

It almost writes all the cliches about themes in movies - muted surf guitar means spys and detectives and it hits you in the face. Then the vibrato reedy horn sweeps in playing the melody and then about 40 seconds in you can almost hear the rest of the horn section stand up and just blow... a little lazily, relaxed but in control.
Some great double stop lines from the punchy, but still mildly subdued horns letting us know that they are still in control. About 1.10 in and a low register sax takes a solo - sultry and smokey, giving the image of mystery and intrigue. 2 mins in and the horns really show who is boss after a brief refrain, and the magical 2 minutes 30  ends on really big "Big Band" chords - boom, boom, Ba-doom.

Catchy, memorable and simple - perfect as an earworm and and excellent for a soundtrack.

01 November 2011

On Holiday! - Later with Jools Holland sucks

Well, I'm on holiday North of the border, relaxing and getting out when the road isn't flooded. More sadly, I am  watching too much television.

Have I seen anything I can say was brilliant? Not really.
I did manage to watch all 4 hours of Guided by Voiced last ever gig - a bit of a mixed bag, seeing as he got progressively more drunk and incoherent as the night went on.  He remembered all the lyrics, but I was surprised he could stand, he was so drunk at the end.

So no video today, just a semi-drunken rant.  All that was on TV tonight was Jools "Smug dwarf" Holland and his self congratulatory promo-fest "Later"
What an unbearable git festival of record company promoted talent free shits.  It used to be that programs like this (remember the White Room) promoted genuinely talented acts, whether they were David Bowie or Seasick Steve.

This evening, however, I was greeted by Brett Anderson, clearly back on the brown, promoting a new soul-less solo song, Florence and the Machine, trying to sell her second album, after being briefed and coached by her record company to the point where she looked less flawed and human that this time last year and more like a carefully polished mannequin. He then had an interview with Mary J Bildge who managed to enlighten us that her new song "Was all about love - because it really is all you need"

The worst act was Pete Townsend though.  He was on promoting the latest re-release of Quadraohenia.
Nothing wrong with that - good film, good album. Things wrong with it - 1. having that half deaf old pederast play and sing it on his own.  OK, he is not a bad singer, but he is not Roger Daltery. 2. "Jools" decided to improve it by joining in on the old joanna.

Who the bloody hell told him he was any good? He reduces any piece of music into a jangly cover more suited to a primary school. He may think he is adding to the acoustic bandwidth by playing the piano. He isn't - he is deconstructing music to it's raw elements and sucking all the magic out of it. Jingly jangly bumpf. Christ - I watched Rambo 3 (Rambo talks the Taliban round to join him in the fight against communism) last night, and that added more to the magic of film than Holland does to music.

Anyhow, I'm on Old Jock Radio on Thursday - go to the website, join in and slate me as much as you like then.

All the best, wish you were here (apart from Jools Holland)

26 October 2011

Old Jock Radio - 3rd October 2010

Well my writing has suffered recently, sorry about that.  I blame everything and everyone else but me.
However, some good news. Les Bell's memory seems to have taken a beating as I have been invited back to Arborath's most popular pirate internet radio station (Disclaimer: only on a Thursday night between 9pm and 11pm)

So next Thursday type in www.oldjockradio.com fire up your MSN Messenger type device and join in live - ask questions, throw abuse, start rumors.  You can join in this week if you want, or listen to old shows from the link at the top.  I can't think of a better way to spend a Thursday evening.

Well, I can, but she doesn't return my calls.

As this is about music, have this video of Led Zeppelin.  It turned up on my playlist today and all I could think was "But this is utter shite, why did they bother?" I suppose you can't always turn out gold....

When it started, I too thought it was a version of 'In the Evening' that I couldn't recall, or a cover by Donovan, but it wasn't.  It was this tired, old, frankly lackluster tune that never really goes anywhere.

Shame...  time to change that one's rating to something under 2 stars....

18 October 2011

Stone Roses - Begging You

Well with their Third Coming officially announced, I had "Only Stone Roses" on my playlist on the way back from a "Touchy Feeley" day finding out what colour energy I radiate at work.  Blueish green, if you are interested.

Thankfully this track came up - statistically, it was probably the second most likely track to show, after Fools Gold, seeing as this single had 6 different mixes on it....

So, strippers, a miming band and various stock footage of tribal dances.... Who said that rock excesses can wipe out artistic en-devours?  Well, me.

What one thing seems stranger than the rest in the video though?
German Folk dancing? Nope
Strippers with cut out face masks of the band? Nope
Band even more dour than usual? Nope

Who is the drummer? Is it Reni?  Is it heck. I see no hat!
For the third and final single from their second album, erm, Second Coming, Reni had left. A few months later, the main songwriter, guitarist John Squire also packed his bags. The 1996 Reading Festival gig was poor at best - off key vocals and a shocked audience...
Poor quality all round.  And the last gig they played. It had all got too much.

How did it get this way?  Either you know, or can read Wikipedia...

In short - Manchester fellows form band, change the line up a few times and hit it on the nose with Ian Brown, John Squire, Reni and Mani. Release a few singles through small indie labels (and Rough Trade) then sign with a larger label. Release a hit, groundbreaking album. Act like arses on TV, get bigger, then try to leave their label.  Goes through the courts for years, preventing them recording a second album.  Sort out the legalities, spend 3 years making follow up.  It gets released, is at the same time slated and lauded in the press.  Have personal problems, split up.

My history - I bought their first album on cassette (it was the future then kids, honest) and played the living hell out of Fools Gold when it was released - I can't even tell you how many releases of that I own.  I know I have a CD single of it, with 8 dreadful remixes of it. And then what did we all do? Wait, wait, wait for more from them.  Even when they weren't doing anything they were in the music press. I remember Second Coming being released and being truly excited. I didn't have enough money to buy it, but luckily my housemate The Shapesmith did.  We listened to it, avidly - I particularly enjoyed the long warbling, backwards sample-heavy introduction to the whole album.

Forgive the computer game animations and plinks and plonks - no real need for that, is there? - but the music....
I was getting into Fripp/Eno and the Orb around the end of 94, so I could hear exactly where this was coming from.  But after over 5 years of waiting for new material, this introduction seemed to embody exactly what we as listeners had been suffering - mere echoes and samples of the Stone Roses for an age when all we wanted was new tunes!   Aaagh. Please start playing for real....

However, nearly a year later in November 95 the final single was released. Begging you.
Backwards guitars throughout, pounding drums and Mani's superb bass lines weaving a driving tapestry around Ian Browns mystical, apolcalyptic vocals.  I remember buying the CD single and playing it non-stop - all 6 remixes, until the very same Shapesmith couldn't take it anymore and burst in asking me to either change it or turn it off. Quite right too....

Was the album any good? Yes - crikey yes! As good as the first one, but different - that long a break when you are as creative as that affects you.  It was embracing the changing scene - Blur and Oasis were around and hip, Nirvana was imploding and exploding at the same time and dance music had taken hold and split into various genres. More production, samples and certainly a "heavier" sounding slab of vinyl.

What will 15 years have done to the band? God only knows.  I just hope that musically they have aged well.  It will be a lot different, but what the fruits of their labour will be, we can only wait and find out.

This song, really is one of their classics, with funky upbeat vibes, twisted rock guitars and dynamics that other bands could only wish for.

I've just realised something really odd.  At this time I was seeing a Mancunian lady who I nick-named Mani - it was short for her name, but would a Freudian say it was a subliminal replacement for a man-crush on the Stone Roses bass player? Eurgh... God, I hope not. The Stone Roses lasted a lot longer than we did....

28 September 2011

Delays.... so bonus video

Yeah.  So, more delays.

Work is the main excuse, but also I have new wheels.... so that cost a fortune and cost me about 6 months of my life due to stress.

I was going to upload Diesel Power in celebration of the fact that I am now significantly old and own my first Diesel.....  balls to that though as it isn't really a good Prodigy track.

The car does have a fairly good stereo, 6 disc MP3 multi changer thingamy.  So I let it rip with more Nirvana on the way back from the dealer....

I particularly liked the recently released live at the Paramount disc - great recording quality - something missing from much of the previous released live material.  The DVD isn't too bad either as apparently it is the only live recording on 35mm, rather than digital equipment.  Or VHS to old people.

Enjoy this as a break....

You know, I don't even mind the "quirky" angles.  Remember, at the time programmes like "The Word" and "Rapido" made this kind of thing their mainstay.  It's a bit honest, of it's time and, oh heck, yes, a Golden Memory....

23 September 2011

Nirvana - Sappy

Well, it's about time for the 20th anniversary of Nevermind, and it is being re-released again.

However - 1 disc version - about £7
2 disc version - £11
4 disc and DVD - £75

Balls to that.  And I love this album.
I will explain what the picture to the left is, and why you shouldn't pay anymore money for this stuff, but do have a listen to the stand out track on the release:


Not a bad video that either.

My opinion is that that track really stands out as one that could have been released posthumously.  Along with "I know You're Right".  Never was.  The story goes that it was recorded many times during their career, but it never was of the standard that they wanted. The fantastic chord changes are particularly original - but as you'll hear from the different versions on this page, they clearly never managed to record what they heard in their heads....

So how come on my computer I have 8 versions of it already?
It's all to do with a bunch of things that happened all at the same time. Ranging from personal computing to Courtney Love.

We know the Nirvana story - I'm not going through it at length again.  His suicide was inevitable as winter following autumn.  And we all watched it happen.  Week after week that poor bastard was on the cover of NME, either performing at a concert off his tits, or being hospitalized after swallowing every pill he could find. And we bloody lapped it up.

This was before September 11th 2001 and before Diana slammed into a Paris tunnel.  There was a more cynical, sarcastic air to celebrity.  Both of those events made us more empathetic towards people we had never met or had a connection with.  Kurt Cobains suicide was not a surprise.

What also has to be remembered is that they were bloody massive. Musical trends and fashions move a lot faster today - and the internet helps with that - spreading music globally for free.  You don't have to wait for delivery of albums in stores, or learn through monthly magazines what the news is - it is now instant.  If I want to listen to Dennis Bovell playing with Steve Mason, I can just search for it online.  I can buy it, or steal it within 5 minutes.

Back then this wasn't the case....
We had to physically search for news, and releases.  Nirvana was so big, there was a huge blackmarket for bootlegs.  CD duplication was getting cheap and easy - and once it had been 'saved' somewhere there was no drop in quality as time went on.  Recordings from the radio (Peel sessions etc) made it onto CDs and then onto market stalls.  For Nirvana this became such a problem, they released the album "Insecticide" made up purely of live and rare recordings.  However, for hard core fans (and there were a lot of them) this wasn't enough by far.

One of the most famous set of bootlegs was called "Outsecticide" series.  Expanding on the premise of Insecticide, this collected the live recordings, as well as the rare tracks from earlier days (the Fecal Matter cassette) TV and Radio.  I feel it was the success of this series of bootlegs that forced the hands of Geffen et al to release the "With the Lights out" box set.

What a great live version......
However, that took far too long to get released, thanks to Courtney Loves bizarre ideas as to how Cobains legacy should be managed.  Frankly the only people suffering from the arguments between Love and Grohl and Novaselic are the fans.  So if they can't get what they want, they'll invent it.

And that is the modern version of what was going on.  The internet couldn't deliver bandwidth capable of video streaming - or even music streaming.  People could, however, rig their video players up to their computers and rip the audio tracks from it.  They could also then compile 70 odd minutes up and then master a whole CD.  Play around with Photoshop and make a cover.  Burn 100 copies and they could easily find their way around the world.

Yes I own bootlegs - from rare Nirvana, even rarer Orb and Pink Floyd Remixes and I love them.

Could it happen again?  No.  There is no taste or market for carefully produced entire albums.  Due to a drop in bandwidth constraints and the ease of recording, video is available almost instantly from live shows on Facebook etc.  You can see how easy it has been for me to find this track half a dozen times.  But as a track, rather than on an album.

And that is why this new box set is pointless.  The bootleggers have been there first.  20 years ago.
Ironically, of course, this new boxset was available online for free about a week ago.  Some good cuts, some doubled or tripled over the discs.  I'm probably still going to buy it.  Again.  I hate marketing.
They've even released another Cobain limited edition guitar.  I am seriously thinking of buying for investment purposes.  What kind of stupid bastard scumbag does that make me?  Damn.

21 September 2011

Elvis Costello - Radio Radio

Well, I was caught today at work.

Not drinking, or touching myself, but something far more embarrassing.  Singing.  Just two lines....

"When I'm not with you, I lose my mind"

I stopped immediately, instantly realising what I had just sung.
Hoping nobody else recognized what I had just done.
5 seconds go by.
10 seconds.  I'm in the clear.
20 seconds....

"Geej, were you just singing Darius' operatic version of 'Hit  me Baby, One More Time'?"

I wasn't singing that version, but I was singing Britney.  It is a great pop song
That doesn't stop the fact I was caught singing it being embarrassing.

Luckily, it wasn't today's 23rd Track.  I immediately put on a playlist which I think I called "Angry" just to get Ms Spears out of my head.....

Today's visitor to 23rd Track is Mr Declan Patrick McManus.  And that fact could win you a point in a pub quiz.

Now I have a bit of a soft spot for Elvis Costello, not just because of the shared spectacles fetish, and that he is a great songwriter, but he knows how to get some great sounds on record.  Just listen to "Watching the Detectives"  - one of the greatest snare sounds in recorded history.

Quite a zany look and style there - some of the worst teeth - and certainly one of the most recognizable voices in pop.  Musically very accomplished as well - no Verse, Chorus, Verse set up here.  The superb band The Attractions, fronted by Steve Naive just rounds the whole presentation off to a tee.

Lyrically though, lets do a bit of a comparison - an unfair one, yes, but lets just have some fun - it's all pop, innit?

Let's compare the first Verse and Chorus of "Hit me Baby" with "Radio Radio" - first up, Ms B. Spears

Oh baby baby
Oh baby baby

[Verse 1]
Oh baby baby
How was I supposed to know
That something wasn't right here
Oh baby baby
I shouldn't have let you go
And now you're out of sight yeah
Show me how you want it to be
Tell me baby cause I need to know now oh because

My loneliness is killing me
(And I)
I must confess I still believe
When I'm not with you I lose my mind
Give me a sign
Hit me baby one more time"

And now Mr. McManus;

I was tuning in the shine on the light night dial
Doing anything my radio advised
With every one of those late night stations
Playing songs bringing tears to my eyes
I was seriously thinking about hiding the receiver
When the switch broke 'cause it's old
They're saying things that I can hardly believe
They really think we're getting out of control

(CHORUS) Radio is a sound salvation
Radio is cleaning up the nation
They say you better listen to the voice of reason
But they don't give you any choice 'cause they think that it's treason
So you had better do as you are told
You better listen to the radio

I wanna bite the hand that feeds me
I wanna bite that hand so badly
I want to make them wish they'd never seen me"

Right - so Ms Spears little ditty is about.... um.  Not really sure.  Is it an airheaded girl trying to get back with a boy she dumped previously and offering herself up for physical abuse?  Is that it?  Seems a bit of a rum do to me....

Elvis Costello, however, doesn't use the word "Baby" once and was written about the overcomercialisation of radio playlists and the moral high ground taken by stations by refusing to play politically aware punk songs.  There is even a reference to the Sex Pistols "God Save the Queen" being banned as many thought playing it was tantamount to treason.  

A much simpler time.....

The man can write.  Nice.  He also famously in the US on Saturday Night Live refused to play their previous single as requested and played this instead - ending up with him being banned from Saturday Night Live for decades.

That ban ended wonderfully in 1999 when he gatecrashed or should I say "Sabotaged" the Beastie Boys playing Sabotage to play.....

Nice.  Now if you don't own any Elvis Costello, he is one of those artists that a Greatest Hits album, is just that.  A decent bloody album filled with real hits, rather than, as in the case of certain 'pretty boy karaoke contest winners' greatest hits - the third album.  Most his greatest hits albums concentrate on 70s-80s work.  If you want something a bit more modern the album "Brutal Youth" is as close as you can get to somebody who has rediscovered youthful anger on record.

Anyhow, tomorrow may be delayed..... I am being "forced" to go out drinking.  £1.50 Jaagerbombs.....

19 September 2011

Chick Corea - Moment's Notice

I think I should call this the "Rum Reviews" instead of 23rd Track.  Yes it is the 23rd track, but I have found so much ease getting to sleep and relaxing after work thanks to cheap rum, it's embarrassing.

Buying a large bag of ice, two bags of mint and 4 limes along with a bottle of Value Rum.... not the greatest sight in Tesco this evening.

However, this bloody fantastic tune is one of those that, for me at least defines "Jazz".

Not the best video - not even the best still, but my ears tell me that is at least the right version of the John Coltrane classic tune "Moment's Notice".
What's that?  You don't know the tune?  Shame on you - Go out and buy "Blue Train" right now - one of the most important albums you will ever own.  Buy "Kind of Blue" first, but "Blue Train" second....

Notice the amount that both versions share and importantly how they are different (apart from the first version is shorter...).
In many ways it reminded me of the theme music to Stella Street;

Chick Corea is one of the great post-Coltrane pianists and his really classy use of different chord voicings (is it called inversions in the muso world?  I can't remember) during the introduction move and build the tune up to that early introductory crescendo.

But who is he?  Well, he is a fusion/jazz pianist who started off playing with Blue Mitchell (writer of one of my favorite pieces of music - Dorado) and more importantly replacing Herbie Hancock in Miles Davis' band for two of his most groundbreaking albums In a Silent Way and Bitches Brew.
So you know he must be good.....

I had this version on a compilation CD - Late Night Jazz, purchased for £4 from the entrance to a Sainsbury in Guildford years ago.  You know, sometimes those compilation CDs are worth the money you spend on them.  Every track is a winner - from Stan Getz and Dave Brubeck to Stephane Grappelli, Wynton Marsalis, Dexter Gordon and Art Blakey.  A veritable and genuinely impressive collection.

Many a night I have listened to this disc from beginning to end, whilst getting progressively drunker in the company of friends, or woken in the lazy morning and needed something to listen to and love.  This is it. It reeks of wine and rolled fags, or fun and frolics.  Of times when you don't need to talk, but can just enjoy the company of the musicians playing, at the peak of their game, pushing the boundaries.  Just joyous.

Anyhow.  Go grab a drink, or mix a rum based cocktail, settle back and listen to your favorite "Evening Jazz" album.  I know I am. Nice.

18 September 2011

Daft Punk - Alive 2007

I am pissed off.  I need to buy a car.  Need, not want. Obviously one of the top requirements is a decent stereo, however, it all fell apart when the one I wanted was sold mere minutes before I walked in.....   

What to cheer me up on the iPod then.....

Well we touched upon DP last week with their foray into animated movies. They managed a lot of things in those first few years.

Hit debut album, groundbreaking videos, huge DJ presence and touring like BillieO. 
They also released a compilation of their first videos (DAFT), certainly their DJ set on Radio 1 was astonishing. Mez had managed to record it on Minidisc (look it up kids, it was the future, back in the past) and we loved it. An astonishing mix of tunes we knew and tunes we didn't. This was back when the Internet had only a few hundred sites and we couldn't look it up and find out who had written this wonderful music. 

All we knew was that it was chosen by Daft Punk. Who were cool. 
So when they released a live album, after that long first tour "Alive 1997" we were all over it. 

In hindsight, it probably wasn't all that good, but the appetite for this 'up beat' form of disco dance music was such that we wanted everything. 

Look!  They were normal humans once!

Two albums and ten years later, Daft Punk revisited their past triumph with "Alive 2007", in celebration of their tour to support "Human After All".

Their third album tour had been risky from before planning stages. Was there an audience for them still? How can you make 2 chaps in robot helmets pressing hidden buttons a live show?

They tried out a few formats the previous summer by auctioning off their only live festival date to the highest bidder. The Scotsman in me says 'Canny'. It gained them a lot of column inches, especially when they accepted all of the bids. It was even rumoured that they hired stand ins to at for them, as no-one knew what they looked like. Probably cobblers.  

So 3rd album is released, and if I am honest, I still don't find it as inventive or as new as the previous two. A little plain, slow without much depth.  

 However, live is another matter. In the 10 years since Homework, music tech had really increased. Just take a look at their work desk for that tour.... Whut?

Seriously... WTF is all that? No keyboards or decks? All computer control equipment.

The most important development for our French Duo was Ableton Live. Now, although I am a genius and know just about everything, I know very little about this. 

From what I can gather, you can load all your samples, beats and loops into this bugger and you can automatically 'remix' live.  Have a look at this example of what can be achieved with a simple controller....

What this did was drastically alter their set, playlist and alter their tracks.  In fact, by forcing different tracks into each other it brought some of the drier tracks on "Human after all" to life.

That is a great example, should have put it at the top....  

The new live mixing technology formed how their live set was to be performed, in itself re-formatting the style and composition of the pieces themselves.

And of course, it rocks....  There are loads of live videos out there on You Tube - some good bootlegs from Vegoose but what makes it for me is the Encore - which in this video below also mixes in Stardust's "Music Sounds Better With you" - one of the best pieces of pop/disco/dance music of the era and written by half of Daft Punk.


14 September 2011

Lenny Kravitz - Always on the Run

Hurrah it's 1991 again.

Whether you think he is some sort of twat or a sex god, you have to admit that this tune is a good un.

Apparently Slash wrote this for Guns and Roses.  I really can't imagine those twits going all 70's funk.

I remember seeing this on MTV whilst on holiday as a kid, thinking it was 'far out' and groovy.
I found the dual riff of guitars quite intriguing.  The bass and the drums playing the back beat and stings from the horns - all this was completely new to me.  It's amazing, I love it, how do I play it?

Of course - none of it is original - it's all based on something else.
Lets start with the most obvious one, Stevie Wonder's Superstition...
How about a Jeff Beck version?
What else?
Wild Cherry - Play that funky music White boy.  Indeed.

Now, I can't be arsed to look up anything on Mr Kravitz, or Mr Slash, but I do know that The Verve had the living daylights sued out of them by Andrew Loog Oldham for stealing a riff  - wheras this seems a bit of a bigger fish to me.

What a bloody rip off....

Done well, no doubt and I do like the solo, but what a fake load of stolen riffs pretending to be original. Booooooooooo.  I've heard your original tunes and they are dull.  Leave those supermodels alone, Mr Kravitz and go back to school.

In other news, I am still drinking and after running out of white rum, can conclude that mixing vodka and dark rum is not the same and turns Mojotos into some sort of "Angry Potion" for me....  Perhaps I should stop.....

13 September 2011

Haircut 100 - Fantastic Day

Yes, it's pop again.  I may be running a few days late on this bugger, but the 23rd track this is....

Ah, Haircut 100 - for our younger readers may not know who the hell this is, but once upon a time pop music was not a dirty word, and it wasn't all manufactured crapola.

Sometimes friends who played instruments came together and formed "Pop Groups".

Sometimes they were shite.
Sometimes Pop Gold came out of it....

Formed in 1980 (Same year as yesterdays rather miserable in comparison track) Haircut 100 claim to have had a number of influences (The Jam and The Clash - really?) but what can be said in all truth is that they were a bit different.  Not much, but enough to be noticed.
If you want labels - jazz-funk style pop with Talking Heads guitars.

They really had a bunch of hits - and quite right too - original, quirky pop tunes, smiling clean cut image - and just look at those jumpers - completely non-threatening. Even Simon Bates liked them.....

So what happened?  Drugs?  Sex with Pepsi and Shirley? Or did their next album go a bit too far on the jazz side?

Nope.  Mental Illness.  Plain and simple.  Their rise to the top of their game was so fast and, to be honest, so high, that something had to give.  After returning from the States where they had hit it super big as well as Japan and the UK, it appears that Nick Heyward had more or less a breakdown.  Huge great bouts of depression and self loathing.  The rest of the band wanted to get recording on their second disc whilst they could, so went ahead without Heyward. When he did finally turn up to the studio, they basically told him he wasn't needed.  So he left.

Not a good thing.

So he decided on a solo career - with some success, perhaps amazingly.  Why so critical?  Well, solo careers aren't the best thing in the world are they? There must only be half a dozen young chaps who on leaving successful bands have anything close to that as a solo artist.

Nick Heyward did - 4 charting singles in 1983 and 4 more the following year.  Most memorable?  Probably this fellow,
Quite similar - a tad slower, but still really quite good.

You see Pop isn't rare, but good pop is more rare than rocking horse shite.  Even a tired old music fascist like myself though can see the innate beauty in these great tunes from the beginning of a dark decade.

12 September 2011

David Bowie - Ashes to Ashes

Welcome to the Eighties pop-pickers.

Probably one of the first Bowie songs I had ever heard (I know the first was 'Loving the Alien') and already in 1980 it sums up a lazy ideal of that horrid decade.

Rather funny looking, 30 years down the line, but in 1980, that, my friends, was the Dog's proverbials when it comes to computer doo-dads and video effects.  Admittedly, most video cameras gave up on such 'cheap' looking effects 10 years ago, but in 1980 that 3 minute 50 cost a quarter of a million quid.  Really.

One of the most expensive videos ever, and at the time it made it a hit.  Bowie claimed it was to 'close' the 70's where he was the king of glam and to herald a new decade.  Well, it does that with aplomb doesn't it?  Lots more glam make up - Steve Strange and the 'Blitz kids' group, terrible eye makeup, which was to last a few more years and certainly setting the scene for Adam Ant.

Lyrically, a cross between a nursery rhyme and a continuation of the tale of "Major Tom" from Space Oddity. - And if you can't remember what that was, shame on you.

Superb production values, as was the fashion in that time with Tony Visconti behind the mixing desk, but most interestingly for me is the guitarist - Carlos Alomar.  Carlos who had once played with James Brown has appeared on more Bowie tracks than any  other musician - Including Eno.... Why is that interesting?  Well, he co-wrote loads of Bowie material - Ashes to Ashes and fantastically this great guitar riff....

Bowie on Soul Train? Raaaare!

Back to A2A - a great little tune, not Bowie's greatest, but very much of it's era, vaulting the gap between two decades.  Just Glam enough to keep the old fans and new enough to inspire another bunch of insipid wannabe groups for another 10 years.....

God, I hate the 80's. And that TV programme based in that awful decade.  What was it called again?

09 September 2011

More excuses

Well, excuses.  Work is taking up a lot of energy.  As has reclaiming drinking as a past-time. I do blame the Ginger witch and her evil elf friend.  The drinks at Gatsby's bar in Berkhampstead are devilishly strong.
However  - a quick home brew for you:

You will need -
Elderflower Cordial (Available from Ikea or supermarket)
Fresh Mint (Garden)
Whole Lime
Ice - Crushed -  buy an ice crusher - essential
White rum - cheaper the better

Squeeze the whole lime into a glass, chop a big handful of mint into it.
Crush a glass of ice - and I mean crush it.
Add this to the lime and mint.
Pour a small measure of elderflower cordial over the ice.
Fill with white rum.



Fall over, or make a pass at the person to your left and right.
Apparently you should add soda water to this, but I say balls to that, just make sure there is loads of ice.

I think it would be even better if the big handful of mint is liquidised, arab-style with the ice like a slushy.

Mmmmmm.  Summer never ends.

Daft Punk - Interstellar 5555

What do you mean you've never heard of this?

Well, I'll tell you all about it...  but first, yes, apologies. Work is horrid, I finish and turn up at home, knackered.  I'll fill in at the end.

However, if you like Daft Punk (and I know you do) you may wonder what the chicken liver pate this is...

Perhaps listening and watching a bit of this video may help.... How about the trailer?

Hang on, you should be saying, isn't that just the music to Daft Punks rather spiffy second album, the 2001 release Discovery.  Well yes.  Yes it is. But animated and two years later.  By some Japanese chaps.  It looks all a bit like "Battle of the Planets" for people born in the early 70's.....
If you don't remember what that was - it was also known as "G-Force" and looked like this....

Wow.  that really is a blast from the past - nice 70's MGM style backing music - and I only realise now that the fat one was probably supposed to look like Ernest Borgine.  I never really understood that cartoon, "Protecting earth from aliens from beyond space"  Where the hell is 'beyond space'? And when they became 'one' did they die?  Each week? Or am I imagining that?

Anyway, back to disco kings Daft Punk.  They clearly not only loved things like Battle of the planets, but wanted to branch out a bit more with their second album.

Their first had been a huge goddamn hit - not an overnight success - they had worked hard to get their music pressed, remixing and touring like nobodies business, but their debut had blown everyone away.  Continual airplay and requests as DJs on radio stations had made them not only "Superstar DJs" but media darlings.  That they didn't like.

So they invented personalities and masks they could hide behind.  Their silly robot masks.  Brilliant marketing idea, to be honest.
Ageless and give the owners the ability to be "non-participants" to their own promo opportunities if they want.  Brilliant.  One of the great rumors of a few years ago was that they never showed up to one of their own gigs.  Very hard to prove, if you don't know what they look like....

With this bit of freedom, they decided to invest in their videos.  Something they had always done in the past rather well - using the talents of Michel Gondry, et alia in the nineties.  For Discovery they wanted something with a common thread though, and used the idea of a make believe band from another planet as the unifying theme.  Interstellar 5555 is the story of the kidnap and rescue of an alien pop group, put to Daft Punks music.  Or rather, formed around the track from Discovery - not necessarily in the same order.

These formed the promotional videos for the album.  For example - Aerodynamic....
All a little story condensed into that single track - "The kidnap of the band" - I especially like the fact that the first "One shot" of the video is of the guitarist running away, which combines with the first time we hear that great solo guitar line - chance or planning?  Planning, I am sure.


Their music has always been rather 'soundtrack-esque', certainly their first albums videos were collected together and given some extra shot to seque it better, and the third album was a little more difficult to listen to.
However, their fourth was the genuine soundtrack for Tron 2. Which they also 'played themselves' on the big screen.  How droll.

But - opinions - The Album 'Discovery' love it.  Can't work out if it is better or worse than Homework though.  The video 5555 - also great fun, and I do put it on occasionally. But the best representation of this music, I am afraid is on the Alive 2007 album - it gave it a whole new dimension  of freedom it was otherwise missing.... Magic

31 August 2011

Youngblood Brass Band - New Blood

Well, it is apologies time again.  Whole bunch of reasons and nobody cares!

However, I have been listening to a lot of podcasts from the Edinburgh Fringe festival instead of music on the way into work for a few weeks, so music took a little break.

However, had a nice break with the Mez clan and was dutifully informed that I should get back to writing.  Or else.

I come back to this and the 'writing' interface has all changed - I hope I can make it at least seem similar to before.  So.... what was todays Track 23?  Not this track, but this band.... and the track below is more than a fair representation of them.
As I pointed out to Mr Mez whilst carefully putting myself outside a bottle of red in the bar of the hotel - everything is better with horns. Just think about Beyonce.  Without a horn section she is just a particularly pleasant wobbly bottom.  But how do you describe these chaps? Hip Hop Brass? Jazz?  Well sort of.

They have had rappers in the group (Skogen and DJ Skooly) as well as rather touching performances from Ike Willis in the past.

Music wise, they certainly are quite "New Orleans" in the fact that there is a lot of them playing horns, jazz in their breaks, but particularly with this track - listen to the Tuba.  It takes sole charge of the bass line, with short stabbing notes, like a bass player plucking at his strings.

What other tracks are worth listening to?

MARCH!!!! Now that is a track worth turning the volume up for.  A nice soft increase in urgency from all the instruments until it punches through the back of the speakers, in a style reminiscent of Rage Against the Machine, then reduces down to a softer backing for the New York poet style lyrics.

But it isn't just noise that they are capable of - listen to what happened when Zappa favourite Ike Willis joined them....
A lot more mellow, but with the same hip hop ethos towards timing and attack.  They have released a couple of great albums, nothing recently though.  In fact, little bro just called in the middle of me writing and asked "what are you upto?".  "Oh just writing about Youngblood Brass Band" - I said this wishing to appear hip, naming a band he had never heard of.... "Oh yeah, seen them twice".  Trendy git.  They have spent their time touring, and building their name up.  As they should.

Everything is better with horns and seeing as these guys all play horns, they must be great.