Wednesday, September 29, 2010

I believe I'll dust my broom (Fleetwood Mac)

The Greatest Hits run through continues apace. I'm up to the F's in the rock/pop genre and R in Jazz (Sonny Rollins in case you were wondering).

I have two Fleetwood Mac Compilations - The Essential Blues Collection compiles the Peter Green/ Jeremy Spencer/ Danny Kirwin era and Greatest Hits is exclusively the cocaine years with Christine McVie/ Lindsay Buckingham/ Stevie Nicks.

They are two distinctly different bands. One was mega commercially successful and the other played the best blues licks in the UK. I much prefer the comparatively raw latter version.

I'm pretty sure I've blogged about this before but I usually prefer the initial formats of bands that have two distinct eras with different personnel. Bon Scott AC/DC, Peter Green Fleetwood Mac, Ozzy Osbourne Black Sabbath are three, but there are obvious exceptions too - David Gilmour Pink Floyd, Steve Hogarth Marillion are two that spring to mind.

One listen to Fleetwood Mac's Oh Well (part 1) will be enough to convince you. T'other FM is nice in an airbrushed way but if you want the real deal you need to Shake Your Money Maker with the original band.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Have you never heard a way to find the sun (Nick Drake)

Regular readers will know I am steadily moving through the Greatest Hits compilations in my collection. I am up to the D's in the Rock/Pop genre and K in jazz (Stan Kenton has just left the room).

My first contact with Nick Drake was via an article in Mojo (the Feb 1997 edition). I loved the photos of Nick in that Mojo edition (an example is on the left) and had always been intrigued by the cover of his Pink Moon album which I'd noticed in the album cover books I have. Some months later I bought Way To Blue (an introduction to Nick Drake) to sample what Mojo was raving about, just in case it was rubbish. I had no time to listen to it before we had a family holiday in Taupo and so this album formed the soundtrack of that holiday. I think I played it every day. It was perfect!

The opener is Cello Song and I never tire of hearing it. His guitar style is refreshingly original. His easy vocal style suits the material perfectly and there is an abiding feeling, when you hear it, that no one else on the planet sounds like him. He was an extraordinary talent and although his suicide left behind a relatively small body of work it is of such startling depth and clarity of expression and execution that it glows ever more brightly as the years pass on by.

Friday, September 24, 2010

A change would do you good (Sheryl Crow)

The trek through the greatest hits continues apace. Into the C's and Sheryl Crow's Hits and Rarities. Again bought in Doha when I was keen to track down Run Baby Run on CD (I only had it on a sample cassette back in Nu Zild).

Run Baby Run is an awesome track. I remember watching the video which I loved and then Roger gave me a mix tape with it on. Love the organ sound here and her vocal is lived it!

What a real shame that she has never hit those heights again. Peaked very early. The CD has the usual big suspects (All I Wanna Do, If It Makes You Happy) that are okayish. The only other good moment is her version of Sweet Child O'Mine (organ makes a welcome return) which I prefer to the original.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

I'm the greatest and you better believe it baby (Ringo Starr)

It's been raining a lot in Stratford lately. That means only one thing - time to re-sort the collection.

I've thought about splitting off all the Greatest Hit compilations from the rest for some time now. The Best Of compilation has always seemed a superfluous part of a band's history in many ways. Until recently, they contained no new material that would add to the legend. Instead they are, too often, a cynical way of generating revenue for the man. For music fans though, they are also a short cut to the hits. I wanted an album of just the hit songs of The Beach Boys so that I didn't have to keep changing albums or make a tape. But really - how many times can you compile The Beach Boys? Seems to be (an) endless (summer). It seemed to me my collection would be streamlined by the relocation of these compilations.

So I did the re-sort and was a tad shocked by how many I had (199 of them on CD and I haven't started on the vinyl yet). Also shocked by how many variations of title there are. Here's a selection of what the marketers have used over the years.

Essential... The Best Of...The Very Best Of...Greatest Hits...The Collection...The Ultimate Collection...A Short Cut to...Anthology...Hit Single Anthology...The Hits Collection...A Stack Of...Remember...Classic...The Classic Years...The Essential...Golden Greats...Hits and History...The Definitive...

My favourite titles are the bespoke ones like Meaty Beaty Big & Bouncy (The Who), Last Chance For A Thousand Years (Dwight Yokam), Strictly Commercial (Zappa), Everything and Nothing (David Sylvian), The Beast of Alice Cooper, and Echoes (Pink Floyd)
I've decided to play my way through them too. Just listened to Jack Bruce's collection called Willpower (a twenty year retrospective). It's an excellent collection with unreleased songs, a brace of Cream songs, and a judicious selection from Jack's excellent solo career up to 1987. I also like how it's set out chronologically for the most part. You get to trace a career. One of my fav's is Jack's original version of Theme From An Imaginary Western that Mountain performed in a different but also brilliant way.

Currently up to Retrospective - The Best Of Buffalo Springfield. 12 tracks of gold! All killer, no filler. Generally I like these early compilations much more than the later exhaustive collections.

I must say the less is more philosophy definitely applies to Best Of.. compilations. Usually, I just want the hits. The Very Best Of Cher is a case in point. I just wanted Gypsies Tramps and Thieves, Half Breed and a couple of the Sonny & Cher hits like The Beat Goes On. Instead I get a double CD of 42 tracks!!!!! NOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!! Massive delusions of grandeur here girl. 42 tracks !! Yeech. This should have been cut down to a single album size - 12 tracks like the Springfield. Instead we get swathes of trendy dance music in the wake of Believe that I have to skip dross to get to the good bits. I remember playing it in the car in Doha and Jacky couldn't believe I'd bought it coz I only listened to a fraction of it.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Through the garden of your smile I saw the back door or your life (The Rumour)

I recently picked up a compilation of The Rumour - a NZ band of the seventies (not to be confused with The Rumour, Graham Parker's band from the UK).

Some thoughts - they started as The Surfires (two of their songs are on the compilation) who were (near as dammit) very similar sounding as the hit making Rumour.

Shade Smith was the key ingredient - his songs carry the band forward. When he was hot - so were the band. Unfortunately he wasn't hot that often. Of the 24 tracks (value!!) only five can be described as 'hits': L'Amour est L'enfant de la Liberte; Garden of Your Smile; Holy Morning; No Money On Our Trees; and Queen of Paradise. Pity the CD doesn't include the other big hit Sunshine Through a Prism that was covered by Suzanne.

The dominant style is seventies soft rock a la Bread or Air Supply. Sometimes it's successful, but other times not. For instance What Have You Done (with that day God gave you) is pretty icky.

The harmony work is superb though and these five songs still resonate. The sound isn't always great though - sounds like it was mastered off old vinyl in places.

It's a nice overall package with some great photos and details of the band's rise and fall. One slight pedantic point - why is Graham Nash's song Teach Your Children credited to someone called John J Francis?

Finally - the CD thanks Roger Marbeck. Wahoo!! Good stuff Roger. Great to see your name in print on a CD.