Saturday, April 30, 2016

I'm glad that I have been with you (Zed) #552 - 555

Zed Oh! Daisy/ Leaving Me (Universal, 1998)
Zed Starlight/ Watching The World/ This One/ Starlight (video) (Universal, 2002)
Zed Hard To Find Her/ The Import/ Digital Girl/ Zed in weed (video)/ Hard To Find Her (video) (Universal, 2003)
Zed She Glows/ Going Home/ The Saddest Thing (Universal, 2004)

The much missed Zed were that rare thing in NZ - an intelligent pop band. They wrote great catchy songs, played them superbly and as a rocking live combo, they were very popular with the younger set. And I loved them too!

Only Evermore is in the same NZ league.

Oh! Daisy came from their first album (Silencer). It's good but in hindsight the second album (This Little Empire) would prove to be a KILLER album in comparison.

She Glows is a brilliant pop song, and Hard To Find Her is a simply glorious pop song that Brian Wilson/Mike Love would have been proud to call their own back in the day.

Hidden gems: Leaving Me is a non album B side - catchy too!

Staggeringly, Going Home (brilliant guitar solo!), The Saddest Thing, The Import, Digital Girl, Watching The World/ This One were all studio tracks not included on the parent album!

Not a dud amongst them.

THAT'S how good This Little Empire was!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

I've been lost in the maze of emotional confound (Yes) #551

Yes Saving My Heart (Arista, 1991)

Kind of a single this one - it was released as such but my copy is a promo for the much maligned Union album and so the only track on it is Saving My Heart.

I thought Trevor Rabin brought a lot to the party at the time in terms of his guitar prowess. This is his song so the lyrics kind of make sense; I do prefer Jon Anderson's mind twisters but it was nice to have some variation.

The song itself is very representative of the whole mainstream rock album and a good choice for a single.

Admittedly, it's not very Yes like but, like I said, variety isn't always a bad thing.

You took a white orchid turned it blue (The White Stripes) #550

The White Stripes Blue Orchid/ Though I Hear You Calling, I Will Not Answer  (Third Man Records, 2005)

I'm a relative late comer to the charms of Jack White - although I have a vinyl copy of Elephant, it's his solo albums and work The Raconteurs that I'm most fond of.

Having said that, Blue Orchid is a great riffola exercise that is perfectly complemented by wife Meg's crushing drum pounds and cymbal crashes.

Hidden gem: The blues are alive and well and living inside Jack and Meg White! 

Great B side - straight from the delta and not part of the Get Behind Me Satan album.

Gets extra gem status because of the raw record skips!

Friday, April 22, 2016

Oo-ee-oo I look just like Buddy Holly, Oh-oh, and you're Mary Tyler Moore (Weezer) #549

Weezer Buddy Holly/ Say It Ain't So/ Hash Pipe/Island In The Sun/ Beverly Hills/ Perfect Situation  (DGC Records, 2008)

Just like it says on the tin - six of the best from Weezer (the link will take you to Weezerpedia for more info).

Are you ready to have some FUN ? (do that in your best Kramer voice).

Nuthin too deep here - just great songs full of hooks, guitars, hooks, falsettos, guitars, rockin' beats, and hooks.

Basically we're talking about a young punk Steve Miller's kid brother hit machine!

Hidden gems: If we call the first three the A side, then the next three yeah - the B side: The boys dial it back a tad for Island In The Sun - insanely catchy! and Beverly Hills is the closest to a glorious Steve Miller style romp.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

You've been waiting in the sun too long (Travis) #546 - 548

Travis Coming Around/ Rock 'N' (Salad) Roll/ The Weight (Sony, 2000)
Travis Sing/ River/ You Don't Know What I'm Like/ Beautiful  (Sony, 2001)
Travis Re-offender/ Definition Of Wrong/ Enemy/ The Sea  (Sony, 2003)

Part two of my Travis-a-thon kicks off with the non-album track Coming Around released in between The Man Who and The Invisible Band (from whence cometh Sing).

It's okay but not to the standard of singles from The Man Who. The omens weren't good...

But then Sing came along and all was well with the world of Travis, for a while.

Re-offender, from 12 Memories, is pleasant but without an edge, Travis by numbers (sorry - couldn't resist).

Hidden gems: The Weight is an AMAZING song and it NEVER gets old. Travis slow it down a tad but otherwise do a faithful version.

The other B sides reflect the general slide in quality control that was going on at the time.  

Monday, April 18, 2016

The radio is playing all the usual and what's a wonderwall anyway? (Travis) #542 - 545

Travis Writing To Reach You/ Green Behind The Ears/ Only Molly Knows/ Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah/ High as A Kite  (Sony, 1999)
Travis Why Does It Always Rain On Me?/ Village Man/ Driftwood (live)/ ...Baby One More Time/ Multimedia  (Sony, 1999)
Travis Driftwood/ Writing To Reach You (live)/ Good Day To Die (live)/ Baby One More Time (live)  (Sony, 2000)
Travis Turn/ River/ Days Of Our Lives/ Heart Of Gold (live)/ Baby One More Time (live)  (Sony, 2000)

Welcome to a Travis-a-thon this time. This is part one.

I went through a period of infatuation brought on by their stupendious The Man Who album.

All of these A sides come from that parent album and they are all fabulous songs.

Weird how the peculiar alchemy of a place and time can coalesce around a band like Travis. The combination of smart, well produced music (by Nigel Godrich), layers of guitars and Fran Healy's smoooth emotive vocals all lined up on these songs from The Man Who and the band haven't really been able to reproduce that form or evolve beyond them since in such a impressive way since.

Why Does It Always Rain On Me? is the knock out punch here (although Turn comes a close second). Just a great song with a great vibe: slight melancholy, slight triumph, slight self deprecation. It's a cathartic singalong delight.

All captured perfectly in the video below.

Hidden gems: The purple patch extends its glow to the B sides - none of the extra studio tracks, amazingly, appear on the parent album.

River (the Joni Mitchell song) is a highlight - a perfect song for Travis: I wish I had a river I could skate away on...mmmmmmmmmm

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Hope I made you proud (The Streets) #541

The Streets Never Went To Church/ When You Wasn't Famous  (679 recordings, 2006)

The Streets is really a vehicle for Mike Skinner; he's the vocalist, writer and multi instrumentalist behind The Streets.

And when he's on, he's on. His A Grand Don't Come For Free album, for example, is a great shaggy dog story that Arlo Guthrie would admire.

He can often sound like a musical David Beckham, which he does on this really affecting song about his dad. That's not to say that it's offputting - for me, it makes it even more authentic sounding.

Sidebar: At one point he thanks Paul McCartney and says, "The cheque's in the mail" - presumably because he rips off The Beatles' Let It Be for this song. At least he has the good sense to steal from the best, and acknowledge it! 

Hidden gem: The B side was released as an A side in another format but, for me, there is nothing like the same magic as there is in Never Went To Church.


Saturday, April 9, 2016

I'm stuck out here, it's been forever (Steriogram) #540

Steriogram Go/ Free  (EMI, 2005)

NZ band Steriogram were actually more of a big deal outside of Nu Zild. 

Either my daughter Samantha bought this while we were living in the UK, or I did. A sticker on the cover says '2 Track Single - expect to pay no more than 2 pounds' so it definitely came from living there in 2005.

The music is probably more her than me (the sound of young NZ) but I do like the odd punk thrash, so... 

Go is at the catchy poppy punk end of the continuum but isn't all that memorable. Five minutes later and I can't recall the melody or the lyrics so I guess it's not THAT catchy.

I can hear the Nirvana influence and unless you knew they were a kiwi band you wouldn't guess it.

The boys haven't released anything since 2010, with band members now spread over several countries. That seems to be the kiwi band lot really - apart from some rare exceptions (Split Enz, Crowded House), most kiwi bands flame out after a couple of albums if they're lucky (one if they're not). The market in NZ is just too small and the tyranny of distance always works against us.

The general model for NZ bands is - get a following in NZ/exhaust the small market/move to Sydney or London/experience hardship/come back to NZ severely chastened by the experience/get a different job.

Steriogram are just one of many to go down that particular rabbit hole.

Hidden gem: Free is not originally from the parent album (Schmack!) but it was added to a special tour edition. It's much more hardcore than Go so a good B side in that it showcases a different side to the band's sound.

Monday, April 4, 2016

I been in my mind, it's such a fine mind (Neil Young) #536 - 539

Stereophonics Have A Nice Day/ Surprise/  Piano For A Stripper/ Heart Of Gold (live)/ Have A Nice Day (live)  (V2, 2001)
Stereophonics Step On My Old Size Nines (live)/ Everyday I Think Of Money (live)/ Just Looking (live)/ Caravan Holiday (live)/ Everyday I Think Of Money (live/ video)  (V2, 2001)
Stereophonics Mr Writer (live)/ Hurry Up And Wait (live)/  Don't Let Me Down (live)  (V2, 2001)
Stereophonics Moviestar (live)/ The Bartender And The Thief (live)/  Help Me (She's Out Of Her Mind) (live)/ Behind the scenes (tour video)  (V2, 2004)

Part two of the Stereophonics CD experience kicks off (and peaks early) with the sublime Have a Nice Day then it's a live, largely acoustic, trip through the other A sides.

They are fine, especially the sentimental tinge to Size Nines but Have a Nice Day stands out - great singalong material with Kelly Jones in fine form.

Hidden gems: Again, it's the covers that provide the real gold here. My favourite Beatles song - Don't Let Me Down is given an acoustic treatment which strips the song to a heartfelt plea and kinda accentuates Lennon's double entendre of she done me good: the sexual and the intangible idea that 'she did me a lot of good'.

Neil Young's Heart Of Gold is given a carbon copy treatment cos it's such a great song. Again, it's Kelly Jones' vocals that provide the point of difference.