Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Waking state (Anouar Brahem)

I have gushed about the superb work of oud player extraordinaire Anouar Brahem before. But the music on The Astounding Eyes Of Rita is of another world.

When I make my list of the best things I've heard this year, this album will be there.

The music starts softly and slowly on the first track, The Lover Of Beirut, as if you are waking up from a dream, or just understanding that you are in a dream, or just beginning the slide into a dream.

I have no words to describe the beauty of the rest of this ethereal soulful music so I will let you in on the experience instead.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

You'll never change what's been and gone (Oasis)

I love reading Liam and Noel Gallagher interviews. They speak honestly and without their guard up as a whole. That is very refreshing in the world of modern entertainment.

I recently bought a book of their collected quotes called Mad For It (The wit and wisdom of the brothers Gallagher).

You'll recall I wrote about Liam's Beady Eye band a while back. Beady Eye being basically the Oasis band without the Chief.

Here's a Liam quote I love from 1994:

I tell you , when I read that
Oasis is Noel's band that
f****** sent me...it's no one's band.
Take one away and there's nowt left.
Oh dear!

Here's one of my favourite Oasis songs to remind us about what the Gallaghers United football team is capable of.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

When you try your best but you don't succeed (Coldplay)

Two new albums under high rotate in Casa Wozza are new releases by Snow Patrol and Coldplay.

I have been a fan of both bands from release one and word "GO".

Each have managed to get themselves offside with the music press by selling gadzillions of units. Somehow that equates to mundane music in some people's eyes.

I must admit it took me a while to actually buy Parachutes, the first Coldplay album (and Songs For Polarbears, the first Snow Patrol album).

Parachutes was extremely popular and that always makes me a little suspicious - I don't like jumping on a bandwagon and I do have some aspects of the music snob - loving bands that no one else has heard of.

But I saw the first two Coldplay CDs in Tower Records in Bangkok and relaxed. I shouldn't have worried (or listened to the music snobs). Both albums are superb.

I also go against most critics position on X and Y - their third album. It's actually my favourite album of theirs and reminds me of driving around southern England in 2006.

The new one, Mylo Xyloto, has been on high rotate since I bought it. Purely because nothing seemed to stand out for ages. With repetition has come some clarity and some finer appreciation of the work, but it's not shaping up as their best work by a long chalk.

And what a crap cover. There is a strong self destructive streak in the band that emerges from time to time and never more obviously than with this shokingly pathetic cover. What the hell were they thinking?

Ditto x10 for the latest Snow Patrol album. It's okay and better than A Hundred Million Suns which was pretty dire. Looks increasingly like the band peaked with Final Straw and Eyes Open.

Gary Lightbody has a great voice but for some reason - too much success maybe - he doesn't seen willing or able to write those great melodies that were on those two albums. A case of McCartneyitis?

I've had Fallen Empires (how very apt) on rotate in the car and so far zilch. But I will persevere and I live in hope.

Meanwhile I was thrilled to find out in a Mojo interview that Chris Martin's favourite Coldplay song (more accurately he was asked for the song he'd written that he felt proudest of) is the same as mine from X and Y - Fix You.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Something's wrong (Madonna)

Dearest Madonna:

I need to send my heartfelt apologies to you, to the blogosphere's Madonna fans in general and to my favourite lead guitarist from Silent Alliance in particular for the shocking absence of Till Death Do Us Part from my list of your top five songs.

None of my vinyl has been transferred to my ipod and thereby lies the sin of omission. This is really one of my favourite songs of all time and I can't believe I left it off.

So very sorry. Hope the kids are well!

Love - Wozza

Thursday, November 17, 2011

I hear you call my name and it feels like... home (Madonna)

As promised in the previous post, here I am calling Madonna's name.

I've been a fan on and off of Madonna Louise Ciccone (born one year after me in August 1958) since she hit the world's stage (barnstormed it really) in 1983.

My first contact with Madonna was Live Aid and her strutting around doing Holiday. It was fantastic; like nothing I'd ever seen before.

She lost me after Like A Prayer, around Erotica time, and I came back on board for Bedtime Stories and onwards until I left again with Hard Candy.

Within that orbit I have enjoyed some wonderful songs and singalongs with Madge. Curiously I have never had the slightest inclination to be interested in her public/private life (where does she draw the distinction I wonder) like I have with Lennon, Harrison etc. It's her music and stellar writing that I love so much.

Here are my tight five:

1. Live to Tell (1986)

This was a watershed song (from True Blue). There was a new maturity to her voice and a change of tack from the tried and true (blue) with a less poppy bubblegum approach. The ballad format works too. She didn't really return to this voice until Bedtime Stories/Ray Of Light which was a shame I think.

2. Cherish (1989)

From the Like A Prayer album and we're in transition (she sings this one close to her helium mode). This is the end of the first Madonna period and before she set off on the sexually explicit stuff that isn't my preference.

My album copy is scented with patchouli oil (still - after all these years it still smells great) and this song is the aural equivalent. A fantastic little confection of a love song. There is an innocence present here that sounds genuine to me. Now that is remarkable given what we know of Madonna. Innocence and Madonna in the same sentence? Absurd right? But listen without prejudice and you'll catch the virginal.

Then you watch the video and that's all blown out of the...um...water.

3. Frozen 1998

Ray Of Light was such a great album - chockablock with cool sounds and a different approach. In many ways my favourite sequence of albums was this one, then Music and American Life and Confessions On A Dancefloor. Great music doesn't date. A lot of early 80's Madonna hasn't aged that well but those four albums will stand the test of time. She should be proud of herself. They are a remarkable achievement.

4. Papa Don't Preach 1986

This one was a bit weird. It came out during a video strike or something in the mid eighties in NZ. Suddenly you couldn't see any music videos on TV and this was death to an artist like Madonna. Her visual style has always been wound up in her music. Presentation has sometimes been at the expense of quality.

So I had to rely on a friend who owned a record shop for music videos. I remember playing this at Macleans College at lunchtime to students and it had a huge effect. The video is great and the song is so well constructed. A cautionary tale and so well captured in film.

5. Hung up 2005

2005 and me and some of my family are living in England and I was teaching in Benfleet. This song was our soundtrack in the car when I drove my daughters to school (we were all at the same place).

Every time I hear it I instantly recall the fun we had singing along!

Monday, November 14, 2011

I feel it in my leg I feel it in my shoe, tell me purty baby if you think you feel it too (Billy Thorpe & The Aztecs)

The latest Rolling Stone magazine with Steve Jobs on the cover had a number of rockers writing about their favourite playlists. Mick Jagger's top 10 on reggae, Gregg Allman's top ten on blues vocals, Billy Gibbons' top ten on blues guitar and so on...you get the idea.

It was called The Playlist Special.

Magazines like to do this from time to time and I am an absolute stone cold rickem ruckem pass the ammunition all day SUCKAH for them.

Can't help it, the boy can't help it - I LOVE LISTS.

So armed with the excuse of  if-it's-good-enuf-for-Rolling-Stone-it's-certainly-okay-for-me, here is the first of my Playlist Specials (an occasional series).

Wozza's Top Five (it's a short party - my knees aren't what they used to be) Party Starters

My parties have always been of the jump and jive around the room to loud music variety. The next ten songs are guaranteed to get the leg twitching and then I'm motorvatin' to the centre of the lounge and doing moves that David Byrne would relate to (if not exactly envy).

1. Let's Have A Party Billy Thorpe & The Aztecs 1974

This was a B side to a great version of Over The Rainbow. Talk about slow and fast. The version of Let's Have A Party zings along at a million miles an hour. It bears all of Billy Thorpe trademarks - terrific impassioned vocal, guitars turned up to 11, a stellar group of okkers called The Aztecs (a bit of a revolving cast around the central figure of Billy). It's impossible to sit still!

Jump to 2.40 in the youtube link below for the skinny on Billy!

2. Highway Star Deep Purple 1972

The live version on Made In Japan trumps the studio one on Machine Head but only just. Mainly because it's longer. Ritchie Blackmore is the ultimate air guitar hero. When he and Jon Lord get together to duke it out, like they do here, there is no one to touch them.

3. Model Gary Myrick & The Figures 1980

This song pretty much sums up 1980 for me - being a student, living in my parents' basement, beautiful summer sun and bopping and a jiving to the first Gary Myrick album. Amazingly Model is one of about five songs in a row that maintain a relentless energy.

4. Save Us Dream Evil 2002

Just to prove that age shall not weary me - this track on the Evil's 2002 Dragon Slayer album is a keeper for the next party. I play it a lot in the car and it's able to propel the car forward on its very own.

5. I Don't Want To Spoil The Party The Beatles 1965 

Part of a party should be a good old fashioned singalong and wind down before it comes to its proper conclusion. If you haven't got The Beach Boys Party! album on hand then try this lung buster from the mighty Beatles.

When you get to this bit in particular John (and a bit of Paul) gives us 100% permission to sing along at the top of our lungs. Try it - it's very therapeutic!

Though tonight she's made me sad,
I still love her,
If I find her I'll be glad,
I still love her.

And then it's time to sit down, have a rest and dig out a chill out album!

P.S. I know what you're thinking - Holy Fulele Wozza - five bopping party songs and no Madonna?? How is that possible? To be honest I'm not quite sure myself so next list will be five of the best from The Divine Miss M (the younger).

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Which side are you on? (Billy Bragg)

I've posted before about my theories regarding The Beatles and The Velvet Underground being polar opposites. Musical tastes are derived from one or the other source (the Wozza theory).

The press often likes to play up a rivalry between bands.

The Beatles vs Stones line of thinking never gained much traction and was bogus anyway. Even though John and Paul gave them a really lame song to record (I Wanna Be Your Man) they still actually liked the Stones and weren't in competition with them. They were plowing different fields.

As are bands generally. They are all trying to carve out a niche for themselves.

From time to time competitions like the graphic below are set up to get music fans who are passionate about 'their band' to duke it out.

It's kinda fun if kinda pointless.

I tried the one above because it includes Nu Zild and aussie bands. It's a weird list that includes some classic bands like The Rolling Stones, Nirvana and Led Zeppelin but there are no Beatles, The Who, Oasis etc etc etc.

Anyway it pitches similar rock bands against each other. So suddenly it's Pink Floyd vs Deep Purple!! Soundgarden vs Smashing Pumpkins!! Tough calls.

In the end my quarter finalists for the above list were: Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Rolling Stones, U2, Metallica, Tool, Bruce Springsteen, Smashing Pumpkins.

Semi finalists: Led Zep, Stones, Bruce and Tool.

Finalists: Led Zep vs Bruce.

Champ: Led Zeppelin

See - silly but fun. Give it a go.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Thunder! Lightning! Fighting! Heavy metal in the night! (Dream Evil)

I really dislike pressure sales-people. But what I dislike even more is allowing myself to be pressured into buying something.

I allowed myself to be persuaded to buy a CD called Brush-Fires Of The Mind by a band called Sons Of Liberty. Dumb dumb dumb.

Why did I buy? Three reasons.

It was in the Mall of the Emirates Virgin Megastore, and the sales guy has recommended some good stuff to me before (Russell Allen's Atomic Soul and Stratovarius are two that come to mind). That's the first.

Second - Sons Of Liberty is a project by Jon Schaffer from Iced Earth. I really like Iced Earth - an American hybrid of Iron Maiden with lyrical stuff that is more philosophically interesting than the norm.

Third - The CD was in digipak form. Usually a good sign. I love Porcupine Tree and Steven Wilson's stuff. He usually goes for the upmarket digipak format.

Stupidly I, therefore, made a tenuous link to Wilson and thought - solo, digipak, trustworthy sales guy.

Mr Schaffer in action
I did have a nagging, nagging thought it was a mistake  (the name and cover pic rang bells and I'd just finished a Lee Child book about the lunatic fringe militia groups in America). But 60 dirhams? What the hey, right?

Starts off fine - opening track Jekyll Island is like Iced Earth musically. That's a great thing. And to be fair, for the most part the music is excellent.

The bad stuff? It's a concept album. A heavy metal concept album...with a...message. Eeeeeeeiigggghhhhhhhh!!

Jon writes about the message inside the CD (damn you shrink wrap). I wish I'd seen this sentence before I parted with my cash:
It's crucial for all of us to learn the real history and the real agenda of the Federal Reserve System, the 3rd Central Bank of the United States.
I am not making this up!!

I've listened to the CD three times now - just to check out my initial thoughts and I know I will never listen to it ever again. Anybody want my copy?

I'm going to go back to Iced Earth and Dream Evil to try to wash the taste off.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Love, love will tear us apart again (Joy Division)

Songs about break ups have been around since Eve whistled a melancholy little tune as she exited Eden.

Teenagers love to wallow in self pity and I was no exception (even if I didn't have a break up to feel melancholy about) and I'm betting that you weren't either.

Everybody has experienced the pain of unrequited love at some stage, and many have loved and lost.

Songs about such things hit a universal chord (pun intentional). Everybody who wants to tap into the universal gestalt has a song about a break up in them.

Here are my top five break up songs of all time (with five it has to be all killer, no filler):

I've kicked off with a brilliant song from a great break up album, maybe the greatest of all time - Blood On The Tracks.

Bob Dylan's If You See Her, Say Hello is a thoughtful, poignant request of a song that means a painful parting has resulted in a reflective period and then acceptance that she will live forever in his heart. Not only that - she can always visit if she's got the time.

We had a falling out
like lovers often will
and to think of how she left that night
still gives me a chill

And though our separation
it pierced me to the heart
she'll always live inside of me
we've never been apart

Love Will Tear Us Apart (Joy Division) is another extra-ordinary break up song. It's of the raw and bleak type rather than the sappier melancholy school of break up songs - why is the bedroom so cold?

The first verse is remarkable for a pop song and I'm always a sucker for the simple overuse of a conjunction in poetry or prose.

When routine bites hard,
And ambitions are low,
And resentment rides high,
But emotions won't grow,
And we're changing our ways,
Taking different roads.
http://youtu.be/qHYOXyy1ToI (for JD)

One of the greatest ever I'm leaving you songs is Jimmy Webb's By The Time I Get To Phoenix. Doesn't matter which version you listen to as the story and the sentiment behind the song stand up time and time again. The version I've included here is by Glen Campbell but only because nearly 20 minutes of Isaac Hayes is probably too long on the blog but do yourself a favour and have a listen to it on the link if you get a chance. There is nothing to equal it in all of musicdom.

http://youtu.be/9bbdJSW3pvM (for IH)
At number four is the all class representative of the idea that love-stinks-and-I'm never-doing-that-again sub-genre that is I'll Never Fall In Love Again.  The kicker is always in the last verse in this type of song. Hal David's version is:
What do you get when you fall in love?
You only get lies and pain and sorrow
So for at least until tomorrow
I'll never fall in love again

Finally - the fifth song stands up (lies down?) for all those weepy pathetic excuses of songs that just simply feel sorry for themselves. Eric (All By Myself) Carmen is a masterful exponent of this type of break up song.
Boats Against The Current is also a great example of the not quite type of relationship. It hints at the desperate need to stay in a relationship long after it has become clear that each person is in a different boat rowing against the current.

Again the first verse sets the scene and largely sums up the song's intentions:
To say these songs are the tip of the break up iceberg is doing a huge disservice to icebergs but they do represent the key strands within the break up sub genre within the Love Song tradition.
I know it's over
You know it's over
We're just goin' through the motions
But we're sailin' separate oceans worlds apart
And you know it's breakin' my heart

The break up is a topic that never runs out of appeal and song writers will continue to exploit the need we have for them until the sun explodes. 

Sunday, November 6, 2011

I think I busted a button on my trousers, I hope they don't fall darn (Mick Jagger)

You find me knee deep in a mini Stones-a-thon. A recent visit to Al Jimi's Carrefour resulted in the purchases of two DVDs - Ladies And Gentlemen, The Rolling Stones and a documentary on the making of Exile On Main Street called Stones In Exile. This is easily my favourite period of the Stones - around the early 1970s.

Unlike my Beatles' collection, my Rolling Stones collection is respectable without being anything like completist.

I only have compilations of the early pre sixty-seven material: Flowers; England's Newest Hitmakers; Big Hits (High Tides and Green Grass); Hot Rocks 1964-71. That sort of stuff.

I don't own any of the studio albums prior to 1968 but from Beggars' Banquet on I have them all except for Black and Blue (The Ron Wood debut). Was put off that one by their videos at the time starring a pimped up Jagger badly lip synching to some boring shite like Hot Stuff. Tell me I'm wrong!

The early albums sound really thin to me without the genius combination of group + brilliant producer (such as George Martin). I love the singles and that's why the compilations. My favourite song of the early period is Get Off Of My Cloud. It sums up the sixties so well.

My top 5 Stones albums are easy to assemble and I suspect they are the same as a lotta people. Needless to say they all come well before the risable Hot Stuff!

What a sequence of records. Can anyone apart from the Beatles beat this five in a row? Beggars' Banquet; Let It Bleed; Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out; Stcky Fingers; Exile On Main Street.

Exile is the business though, isn't it! Dirty, rocking, bluesy, erzatz gospel, faux country, sloppy, all in all a kick ass/ mean it maan collection of songs that was their finest hour.

How will it end?  Can it be anything else but a whimper now? Keef will always be Keef but, by the same token, Jagger will never be pre Hot Stuff ever again.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Should I close my eyes and prophesize? (My Morning Jacket)

Being laid up sick at home for two days means some therapeutic music choices need to be made. A sinus headache means Mastodon's The Hunter CD is naturally replaced by somewhat more soothing sounds.

Yesterday was definitely more of a Simon and Garfunkel melancholy mood experience (the previous post) but today I felt marginally better. I tried some Return To Forever but that was too jarring. I found that some Wishbone Ash was okay in the afternoon, along with Fleet Foxes, Bon Iver, Laura Marling and Feist.

But My Morning Jacket was right on the money all day long. The album is called Circuital. My knowledge of the band is very limited (I bought the CD after a glowing Mojo review).

The band appear to be big on group dynamics - the inner sleeve book is big on group rehearsal/recording long shots.

The music is eclectic and Fleet Foxy original (does that make sense?).

What I do know is that this wonderful album got me through a snotty mucus filled day!