Sunday, October 30, 2011

I will ease your mind (Tom & Jerry)

I maligned Art Garfunkel's albums in the previous post but his singing can not be faulted.

My two favourite moments are the version he did with Simon and James Taylor of (What a) Wonderful World. The Sam Cooke/Satchmo versions are well known but this one shows off Arthur's beautiful harmony work. The blend with James and Paul's lower registers is fantastic.

The most sublime Art G moment is, of course, Bridge Over Troubled Water. Here are three live versions to choose from (or watch all three like I've just done). First from 1969. then from 1981 and finally a duet version with Paul from 2009. It's an amazing and immortal song and it is clear that Paul Simon's lyrics/music and Art Garfunkel's voice are gifts from above.

A lifetime is so short, a new one can't be bought (The Beatles)

The latest Mojo Magazine had a 'How to buy' guide on Simon and Garfunkel.

In the top 10 the readers had picked three S&G duo albums and the other seven were all Paul Simon solo albums. No solo Garfunkel which is understandable. He is a superb singer and harmony man but his solo albums stink as a rule.

I was pleased to see Hearts and Bones in the mix at number 9. It's a superb Carrie Fisher break up album. Simon tackles the subject in a self deprecating way which makes it all the more endearing. I read Carrie's blog from time to time and, she's great and all, but, whooah - she would be hard work.

I had no arguments with the number one vote - Bridge Over Troubled Water. A sublime collection.

But where oh where was There Goes Rhymin' Simon????? The best album of 1974 according to Mr Grammy. Nowhere to be seen. So Beautiful Or So What is rated better. So is Surprise.

This is a travesty, a mockery. A mockery of a travesty.

Here then is my little plug for one of the best albums of all time and the criminally insanely great 'American Tune'.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Down the street the dogs are barking (Blind Boy Grunt)

I've always been interested in the way Dylan's songs have morphed over the years, depending on his band, his voice, his circumstances, the way the world changes, whatever.

Dylan's song One Too Many Mornings was first released on his The Times They Are A-Changin' album. It that context it was a strange, wistful reflection about two people who have, seemingly, drifted apart over one too many mornings.

The first focus in the song is on the sounds of the dogs barking as night approaches. Dylan is standing at his doorway. He's either leaving or considering leaving. Why else would he call it a crossroads?

He turns from the doorway and looks into the empty room (the woman's presence in the room is described in the past tense), his gaze returns to the street and those lonesome dog sounds.

It seems Dylan's unease at the situation with his lover is reciprocated - she is also at a crossroads and has maybe already vamoosed - We're both just too many mornings, an' a thousand miles behind.

I've included a couple of versions here - the David Gray one sticks pretty closely to the Dylan template and is more melancholy in its approach. The Dylan and Johnny Cash countrified one is plain weird in a good way.

The version I love the most though, and unfortunately it is not available on youtube, is the one on Hard Rain from the Rolling Thunder Revue tour.

Dylan's visceral live version is stripped of any wistful, lingering heartfelt feelings and becomes a dark brooding cathartic outpouring of emotion following the departure of Sara. It's wonderful.

The dogs in this version are apocalyptic, snarling, feral monsters that threaten the night. I love it!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The only thing you done was yesterday, since you're gone you're just another day (Winston O'Boogie)

Imagine you had four sons. Imagine they were called (eldest to youngest): Richard, John, James and George.

Of course, you would love them all equally. But as they grew up they would develop distinctive personalities.

Richard would become Ritchie and, later, because he wore loads of rings he would get the nickname of Ringo. As the first and second children, Ringo and John would form a close bond.

James, as the third child would try to make his mark by being different to the other three (if they wore shoes on a hot day, he'll take his off sort of thing) and he'd eventually ask that you call him by his middle name - Paul. Paul would remain the precociously annoying third child for much of his life.

George as the youngest would take his time to carve out his niche.

You would love them all but at various times you would have your favourites.

I love all of the Beatles but John is number one. George is number two.

Paul? Never my favourite Beatle.

I can remember having big arguments at school with the Paul is better than John brigade. The guys were probably trying to wind me up. It worked. John ruled. Paul didn't.

With the benefit of hindsight I stick by my position.

Paul's career as a musician falls into four distinct, productive periods.

   Pre-Beatles 1957 to 1962 (5 years) - being a sponge and learning stuff so this doesn't really count.
1 Beatles - 1963 - 1969 (7 years)
2 Paul is solo part 1 - 1970 (1 year)
3 Wings - 1971 - 1979 (9 years)
4 Paul is solo part 2 - 1980 - 2011 (31 years)

If I was to rank these in quality it would be:

7 years as a Beatle in the sixties
9 years in Wings in the seventies
1 year solo in 1970
31 years solo since 1980

That's quite a decline!!

Basically since 1980 he has fallen comparatively short in the quality and consistency stakes.

How is it he could be unbelievably superb for 7 years, pretty damn good some of the time with Wings (although there are plenty of shonky Ebony and Ivory and Broad Street moments) but then consistently poor for 31 years.

The Fireman? Please.

The only bright spots in that 31 year lack lustre period are Tug of War (1980) Flowers in the Dirt (1989). And they are wildly inconsistent within themselves.


The answers according to me:

John Lennon (Macca's most successful partner post Lennon was Elvis Costello on Flowers in the Dirt);

youthful energy, ignorance (the freedom and bravery of youth);

George Martin (Tug Of war benefits from his expertise).

But yet...but yet...I still love Macca. He was a bloody Beatle when all is said and done.

Friday, October 14, 2011

I'm going off the rails on a crazy train (Ozzy Osbourne)

I am reading I Am Ozzy at the moment and how he is still alive is beyond me.

Actually how he and Keef could remember anything about their past life is also a puzzler. Praps they were hypnotised or something.

Anyway, I am enjoying the romp through his druggy, drunk, sexually promiscuous past.

Also makes me appreciate his music more, given the context it was created in.

For me, his best moment post Sabs was easily Crazy Train.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Beautiful Boys (Yoko Ono)

Today (October 9) is of course John and Sean Lennon's birthday.

John was born in 1940 so he would have been 71 today.

Sean was born in 1975 so that makes him 36. Hope it's a good one, Sean.

I'd give up all my life to be in the book of heavy metal (Dream Evil)

I had a look at the stats button of this blog and I was staggered to find out that the most popular blog post I'd done (and it wasn't even close) was one on DEEP PURPLE.

I checked out the post and it was a run down on my favourite Purple moments.

Coincidentally (part 1) GK's latest post was about the purps Smoke On The Water. Coincidentally (part 2) I am currently listening to Rapture Of The Deep (a DP album from 2005 I think). Coincidentally (part 3) the new Opeth album has moments that remind me more of DP than it does Opeth.

Their new album is called Heritage and is vying for first place in my affections with Damnation as my favourite Opeth album.

There are hints of DP as I said (the hammond organ/guitar mix), but there is also a return to that moody mellotron sound and the jazz/rock fusion of bands like Return to Forever. The over-riding feeling is that the erstwhile black metaller boys have clearly been listening to a lot of King Crimson lately.

It makes for a heady brew and the album is revealing more and more with each listen.

It is certainly a very different band sound compared to their metal classics like Blackwater Park, Watershed and Ghost Reveries.

Heavy Metal. Oh why do I love you so?

We've been in the middle eastern emirate of Abu Dhabi for about a year now and I've bought loads of CDs as is my vice.

Many of these fit within the broad expanses of the Heavy metal genre.

Joining my collection in New Zealand when we eventually return home will be albums by the following:

Russell Allen (of Symphony X)
Avenged Sevenfold
Black Mountain
Black Sabbath
Black Stone Cherry
Coheed and Cambria
Deep Purple
Def Leppard
Devin Townsend Project
The Gathering
Iced Earth
Iron Maiden
James LaBrie (of Dream Theater)
Lacona Coil
The Man Eating Tree
Steve Morse Band
Mostly Autumn
Ted Nugent
Queens of the Stone Age
Symphony X
Uriah Heep

That's quite a list for 12 months of off shore collecting.

The obsession with excessively amplified blues rock music began way back in the early seventies with Black Sabbath's Paranoid and Master Of Reality albums, Uriah Heep, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin.

Three of the four are represented in the list above!!

What do I still like about the genre 40 something years later?

Extended guitar and organ wig out duels, screaming banshee vocals, loud pounding drums, guitar riffs, and heads down boogie action ddoes it fer me.

By the way - the DP album Rapture Of The Deep is pretty good and a worthwhile addition on the whole. No Jon Lord so there is some synthesizer as well as the organ. Steve Morse's guitar is a little restrained than usual (no heroic guitar solos on this one), and Ian Gillan is quite mannered in his vocals these days - no screaming lung busters, but quite acceptable all the same. His main problem (and the band's) is his lyrics which, with a few exceptions on Machine Head, have always been either feeble, juvenile or both.

The strengths of the band are found in Ian Paice's drumming, Roger Glover's bass and the collective distinctive, DP sound. Still crazily good after all these years, even if a little diluted in 2005.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Many trains and many miles brought you to me (Laura Marling)

We had been in the Dubai Mall during my birthday last Saturday. I had bought three CDs from Virgin.

We had reached the car and I was asking Jacky which of the three she could bare to listen to on the way home (an hour and a half drive).

We have (I said) a melodic prog metal band (Stratovarius); a hard rock band (the Chickenfoot CD of the previous post); or a kind of folky female singer (Laura Marling). Pick one!

A no brainer for Jacky!

We listened in wonder to Laura's second album - I Speak Because I Can - about three times right through on the drive home.

It's a rare, rare piece of music that captures both of us. Bon Iver's first album is the only one that comes to mind immediately. So Laura is in very good company.

She is a real original. There are fragmented suggestions of iconoclasts like Dylan, Joni Mitchell, and Patti Smith at times and she is clearly linked to a long English folk song tradition but really this is a fully formed original and timeless new voice.

She has a new album out. Only 10 songs (I love the less is more stance). In an interview in Uncut she said there were three songs that she cut at the last minute because they didn't actually add anything new to the collection that wasn't present in the other 10 songs (something along those lines). Fantastic.

It's been added to the list (along with the first album).

Great (and scary) thing is that she is only 21 years old.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

You've seen all the heavy groups (Grace Slick at Woodstock)


Not an auspicious name is it. Why would someone think that's a great name for a rock band?

I picked up the CD about 5 times and put it back in the racks at the Virgin Megastore in the Dubai Mall before thinking - sod it - I like the individual members so why not.

Those members? Take two guys from Van Halen who are not named Van Halen. So that would be the bassist and lead singer, Michael Anthony and Sammy Hagar. Take the drummer from Red Hot Chili Peppers (Chad Smith) and add the guitar genius that is Joe Satriani and it couldn't fail right?

Well it could.

How many 'supergroups' have bitten the dust in a cloud of too many cooks disappointment over the years? Blind Faith, UK, Them Crooked Vultures, The Firm, Velvet Revolver, Audioslave, Heaven and Hell, Dead Weather, and The Highwaymen are some that have disappointed me in the past.

I haven’t heard Super Heavy yet (Jagger’s super thing) but I don’t hold out high hopes.

On the plus side - super groups have also worked a number of times for me too – Cream, ELP, CSN&Y, Golden Smog, Traveling Wilburys, Journey and Zwan (yes really) have spun my wheels over the years.
And so to Chickenfoot. You can see why I wavered. Would this be a kind of luke warm version of Van Halen? I love Sammy Hagar's vocals but his subject matter and lyrics can be pretty juvenile at times.
The clincher was the name of the fifth member of the band – producer Andy Johns. His track record is beyond dispute.
And woe – does he make a difference. This is one super recorded effort. Clarity and power. A lost art because when I heard this CD for the first time each instrument’s power is right in your face without any clutter. I realized how much I miss this sound. It's amazing.
The verdict is out – forget the stoopid name and treat yourself to some old fashioned rawk!