Saturday, 30 April 2011

April Music Purchases

Madness – The Liberty Of Norton Folgate As much as I appreciate the attraction of Madness I have never been a fan of the Nutty Boys but after @spurssimon put this in his #masterpieces list I thought I would give it a go. I found it in an independent record store for £1.99 how could I resist. I wasn’t expecting too much but I was pleasantly surprised. The album is a really mature piece of work, classy songs beautiful bass lines and lyrics that at times remind me of Ian Dury. Thanks Simon!

Paul Weller – At The BBC. Only the 2 disc version (rather than the 3 disc box set) but enough to remind me why I love Weller.  I have struggled with the last 2 albums and feel the music press are at a point where they can’t tell Weller the truth such is his gravitas. The last couple of albums have been self indulgent and at points unlistenable to me, but this is a compilation of his best moments at the BBC and is class, studio sessions and a Live In Concert make this a bargain at £5.

Electric Light Orchestra – Out Of The Blue £3 purchase of an album from my youth. Guilty pleasure for some but I am happy to admit to loving ELO and this album was released when the band were at the peak of their fame. Turn to Stone, Mr Blue Sky and Sweet Talkin’ Woman were the lead singles and all are pure pop masterpieces. Mr Blue Sky seems to be used for TV adverts on a regular basis at the minute, BMW and M&S and sounds as fresh today as it did in the 80’s.

James Vincent McMorrow – Early In The Morning Lovely album Irish singer songwriter, bits of Bon Iver and even James Morrison in this but really good debut. I haven’t stopped playing this all month. I have been banging on about this guy for weeks on Twitter but I really think he could be massive this year.

10’ Vinyl - its Boss Time In celebration of Record Store Day 2011, if you don’t know what this is check out, 2 great blogs on Choose My Music and and you can find the link on my page. This is a 4 track EP by 4 different artists, The Magic Numbers, Willie Nile, Billy Franks, and Danny & The Champions Of The World, covering Springsteen tracks, I haven’t listened to it yet but I love Springsteen and I love 3 of the 4 artists involved (Never heard of Willie Nile) so can’t imagine this isn’t going to be a winner!

Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros - Up From Below American band playing Latitude and Leeds Festivals in the UK and part of Dave Matthews Band Caravan in the USA, sound a bit like The Polyphonic Spree crossed with Low Anthem if that is possible?

The Lake Poets – Self Titled  A local North East band that sound pretty good to me discovered them on a free CD on local culture magazine. NARC. On Twitter @lakepoets  follow them and get link to download EP for free.

Monsters Of Folk – Self titled Alt Folk Super group (yep I did say it) Members of Bright Eyes, My Morning Jacket, and She & Him. Haven’t listened to it yet, but can’t imagine I’ll not like it.

John Waite - Rough & Tumble 'that' John Waite of 80’s fame with Missing You, went to see him in concert, great gig, with the added bonus of having Kyle Cook (from Matchbox 20) playing guitar. Bought the latest album, some nice melodic rock album, if you like that sort of thing.(and I do)

Fergal Sharkey – Songs From The Mardi Gras Always loved this album when it came out, had a vinyl copy and just managed to get a copy on CD. Was never a huge Undertones fan, but have found memories of this album, let’s hope I still do.

Friday, 29 April 2011

Random Review #51 Wilco - (The Album)

C1S12CD8 picked by @bearclarj whose daily commentary of the perils of public transport makes me chuckle, and next week’s #masterpieces picker (see previous blog about #masterpieces).

When Jay Farrar and Jeff Tweedy split the cult band Uncle Tupelo they both went their separate ways, Farrar disappeared into obscurity and Tweedy set up Wilco. I came across Wilco around 1996 when they released their second album Being There, a sprawling double album that really encompassed everything that was great about the Alt-country/Americana scene at the time. Since then Wilco have continued to release albums of the highest quality, never sitting back on their laurels and at times pushing themselves so far that their record company refused to release their music (think it was the album A Ghost is Born). They eventually managed to get out of their record deal and obtain rights to the album and released it to huge critical acclaim.
Wilco have a fierce live reputation which I can confirm after seeing them for the first time last year; the performance was intense and emotional and there were moments of sheer brilliance where I couldn’t imagine any live concert being any better than that moment in time.

Wilco The Album from Wilco the Band which includes Wilco the Song, where they utter the words “Wilco loves you so” and I think they must keep releasing music of this quality. If I had written this review at the beginning of the week when I started listening to this album, I would have said it was a good but not great Wilco Album; that it was Wilco at their safest doing what they do well and giving their fans another quality Wilco album. Sitting here now I must confess I have continued to listen to the album on a daily basis and must have heard  it, at least 7 times in full and tracks 3 to 6 (played in sequence) at least a dozen times. Those 4 tracks, One Wing, Bull Black Nova, You And I, and You Never Know are a reflection of everything that is great about Wilco: songs that build in tempo, that pull you in emotionally with an intensity that demands you listen and listen and listen. Bull Black Nova is a classic example, the song starts with one note being played over and over again, this builds into a repetitive riff that is played almost throughout the whole of the song, It keeps coming back louder and higher in the mix, building whilst Tweedy sings about, “Blood on the Sofa, Blood in The Sink, Blood in the Trunk “with a menace of a serial killer. The song is very hypnotic and gets more frenetic the longer it goes on before finishing leaving you wondering what is coming next. The genius of Tweedy is that he follows this with a beautiful country style romantic ballad (You and I) with Leslie Feist (from the wonderful Feist) adding the female vocal. Wilco’s ability to marry these styles is what I love about them, both very different but both sounding like Wilco, if that makes sense?

Purists would say that the best place to start if you were new to Wilco would be Summerteeth or maybe Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, I would say their back catalogue is so strong it  doesn’t matter -  dive in and enjoy!

Mark 8/10

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

The Story So Far Random Reviews

As the page views seem to be increasing and I have about 100 extra Twitter followers since I started my Random reviews in January thought I would take a minute to explain what I'm doing in case you didn't know.

Like most I'm guilty of playing my favourite CD's rather than some of the one's I've dismissed as OK, or just can't remember how good/bad they are. As you can see a have a few CD's, roughly about 1900 excluding downloads and box sets etc. So in January I embarked on a challange to listen to 3 CD's a week picked at random, and as I had his blog thought I would write down my thoughts after listening to the CD.

I set up a very compilcated random selection system, (I'm joking here) 3 envelopes with squares of numbered card in, that depicted the column. shelf and CD. I started picking these myself but time has moved on they are now mostly picked by Twitter and Facebook friends.

I listen to the CD's a minimum of 2 times, and truthfully sometimes that's how many times I have listened to them previously. As I write this I'm listening to the next pick to be reviewed for the 4th time. I have enjoyed it so much. So far I have sent two CD's to the charity shop Cody Chesnutt and Kelly Clarkson, rediscovered how much I love Prefab Sprout, and to some extent relived times in my life that were just distant memories to me, as the albums evoked a time or a place in the past for me good and bad! I have been surprised to how much I have enjoyed this and look forward to the picks being made.

I intend to do this for 2011 which will only cover 156 CD's and doing a rough calculation it would take be about 12 years to get through my existing collection, not allowing for the new stuff I buy on a monthly basis.

If anybody that reads this who doesn't follow me on Twitter wants to pick some numbers for me. I need 3 numbers 1st number between 1=10 2nd Number between 1=12 and 3rd number between 1-16. Leave them in the comments box and I'll dig out the CD's.

Who knows what the rest of the year will turn up for me to listen to but hopefully it will be as fun as the first 50!

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Random Review #50 Lone Justice - This World Is Not My Home

C1S7CD14 Picked by @helenburdess over worked and underpaid, but always working hard and with a smile on her face.

Lone Justice were one of the forerunners of what we now call Americana or Alt-Country but at the time I don’t even think we had a word made up for what Lone Justice, Green on Red and maybe The Long Ryders were doing. Whilst listening to this the word Cowpunk came into my head, and reading the liner notes this is mentioned, it also sounds very rockabilly in parts but it adds up to country with a bit of an edge, or as already mentioned Americana as we know it today.

Lone Justice released 2 albums in the mid Eighties, their self titled debut and the follow up Shelter and for a time were the darlings of the music industry, receiving glowing reviews and supporting U2 across America. Sadly they disappeared as quickly as they had appeared. This compilation is a reflection in how short Lone Justice’s recording career was as it is a bit of a ‘Best Of’ and a bit of a ‘Rarities’ collection with a couple of live versions thrown in for good measure and sadly this makes it really a bit of a ‘pigs ear’ as we would say in the North east of England. It’s a bit of mess.

We have 3 tracks from both their studio albums, a couple of live versions of favourites, plus 6 unreleased which may have been B-sides and a couple of covers including Lou Reed’s Sweet Jane on which Bono lends a hand. As an album it’s all over the place, the running order seems weird and you  don't get to see the progression that you can see in the 2 original releases, from the rawness of the first album to the subtleness of the second album where Maria McKee seems to want to control her voice more rather than blasting each song as if it was her last. I love the 2 original Lone Justice albums I have they really mark an exciting time in music for me, where a new genre of music was evolving and it’s a genre I still love now, but this compilation adds very little to the work of Lone Justice and in some ways listened to in isolation devalues the music they made.

Maria McKee went on to be a solo artist and in Show Me Heaven (From the film Days of Thunder) a ‘One Hit Wonder’ in the UK. Her solo work has been of the highness quality and deserves more credit than it has been received.  I especially love the album ‘You Gotta Sin To Get Saved’ which is possibly her most commercial work.

My little bit of trivia with regard to Maria McKee is that she wrote A Good Heart which was a hit for Fergal Sharkey, who then recorded You Little Thief  which was written be McKee’s ex boyfriend Benmont Tench, both songs were about their failed relationship!

If you a fan of Americana then Lone Justice are worth looking in to but I wouldn’t start with this CD, pick either of their original recordings.

Mark 4/10

Monday, 25 April 2011

Random Review #49 Sweetmouth - Goodbye To Songtown

C7S12CD11 This CD says “featuring Brian Kennedy” on a sticker on the case and also on the front cover so the first thing I’ll say is I guess this album features Brian Kennedy!

I can’t remember when I first discovered Brian Kennedy, I remember having his album The Great War of Words on a cassette and that was well before Van Morrison took him under his wing. (he sang on a number of Van's albums) This album came out after The Great War of Words, and before Kennedy’s Van Morrison residency and I find it amazing that the focus is all about Kennedy as the real star of the show is the other half of Sweetmouth, Mark E. Nevin. Now I know Brian Kennedy has the voice of an angel but he has sometimes been lazy in his choice of material which has left is back catalogue somewhat patchy, but here he found the perfect foil. Nevin had already had a huge hit as co-writer of Perfect with Fairground Attraction and a successful debut album in The First Of A Million Kisses. When Fairground Attraction split Nevin had these songs already written and Kennedy had been supporting Fairground Attraction on their last tour and so.......

This album didn’t get to recognition it deserved as it is a little gem and still stands the test of time. I can’t believe this album is 20 years old it’s fresh, lyrically clever and at 10 songs (39 minutes) long just the perfect left for an album. No filler just 10 well crafted pop songs.

Stand out tracks are the opening Dangerous, I Know Why The Willow Weeps and Fear Is The Enemy Of Love but as I write this I look at the track listing and want to add more tracks. Nevin is truly a talented songwriter and along with Gary Clark (Danny Wilson, King L) and Boo Hewerdine (The Bible) never really got the fame or success that they deserved.

Brian Kennedy has gone on to release a number of successful albums, and tour on a regular basis. (I think he even sang at George Best’s funeral) Nevins career seems to have drifted after this looking at Wikipedia he released a couple of albums in his own name and has a new album out in May, which is hardly a prolific output for 20 years! What I know is that in 1991 two talents guys got together and made one hell of an album.

(Sick with the video clip it looks like it comes from some Saturday Morning TV show)

Mark 8/10

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Random Review #48 The Black Crowes - Three Snakes And One Charm

C2S4CD6 picked by @aldowankenobi DJ, font of all musical knowledge, friend to the stars, and the glue that keeps the Twitter phenomenon that is #masterpieces going.

This is my 48th pick, 16 weeks reviewing 3 CD’s a week either randomly picked by me or others and this is the first artist to be picked twice. The Black Crowes have already been picked albeit the last pick was a live album with Jimmy Page concentrating the songs of Led Zeppelin rather than the work of The Black Crowes.

I love the album cover to this release the centre from a 45 record being morphed into a snakes heads is simple but effective and this album has a feel for that the whole way through the album, the CD packaging is 2 sides long naming the tracks, the players, and not much else and colours are not much more than monochrome. The music reflects this style as well and simple but effective and this is when The Black Crowes are at their best.

I have 14 Black Crowes CD’s and one by the Robinson Brothers (Brothers Of A Feather) and I have to be honest I was surprised by this for a couple of reasons;

  • I didn’t think they have released so much material (I think I’m missing one release a live version of the Warpaint album)
  • That I have amassed so much of their work as I would have said I was no more than a casual fan.

The Black Crowes for those that don’t know a real retro rock act, they do what has been done for years, playing solid rock songs with a melodic edge played well, throw in the odd ballad and celebrity girl friend and you have a blueprint that has been used since the 70’s and still seems to be popular today. This style of music is replicated all around the world only the image changes depending on where you are, The Stereophonics, Jet, Dirty Sweet, The Trews, all plough the same furrow and whether the hair is short or long or the jeans are skinny or flared the formula is the same and for me it works.

This has all the trappings of everything I have mentioned, hard rockers, Nebakanezer, Blackberry, ballads, Better When You’re Not Alone, and acoustic lighter numbers, How Much For Your Wings. Throw in some harmonica, a brass section (the awesome Dirty Dozen Brass Band guest) and you have the formula for a good rock album. The Black Crowes sometimes move away from this (the awful Lions springs to mind) and lose their way when they do this, but this is classic Black Crowes, and although it does match the urgency of their amazing debut Shake Your Money Maker not much ever will.

If you are new to The Black Crowes Shake You Money Maker, The Southern Harmony And Musical Companion or their Greatest Hits 1990-1999 would be a better place to start but this isn’t a bad album just not maybe their best,

Mark 7/10

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Random Review #47 Soundtrack to Standing In The Shadow Of Motown

C9S2CD5 another pick from @alnwickist and she’s be pleased to see this one isn’t an Pop Idol winner, in fact these musician are the responsible for more number 1 hits than The Beatles and yet most of us wouldn’t even know their names.

This CD is the Soundtrack to a Motion Picture of the same name Standing In The Shadows Of Motown which brings back together the House band that played on all of Motown songs that we know and love for over 14 years without getting any real acknowledgement. These guys or The Funk Brothers as they were know and they played in the Motown Studio in Detroit or The Snake Pit as they called it. The film is a beautiful documentary bringing back together the living members of the group to discuss their experiences and for a celebration concert using guest vocalists to replace the original Motown artists. The Documentary won 2 Grammy’s and if you watch it (and I recommend you do) you will understand why, the emotion of bringing these guys back together and the fact that the industry is acknowledging their contribution is truly heart-warming.

The CD (I have the deluxe version) covers the concert and also additional tracks that the band played on, conversations with the band members and also instrumental versions of the Motown hits so you can really hear the guys play.

The guest vocalists are Joan Osborne, Ben Harper, Me’shell Ndegello, Chaka Khan, and Bootsie Collins, and although they do a good job but they are always going to struggle when you are covering tunes by Marvin Gaye, The Temptations and Smokey Robinson. Special mention must go to Joan Osborne and Ben Harper who work hard on covers of What Becomes Of The Broken-hearted, and I Heard It Through The Grapevine. The concert is true to the DVD but what you miss is the sheer enjoyment of the faces of The Funk Brothers as they play.

The rest of CD as I say is made up a couple of cover tracks they played on, Boom Boom by John Lee Hooker, and Jackie Wilson’s Higher and Higher and then a number of instrumentals the version of Bernadette which is principally just the bass on the song is especially interesting as you really get to hear the Motown beat that was so integral to what made Motown so great.

If I’m honest I would recommend that you buy the DVD as this really is where the beauty is, but I suspect once you have seen the film you’ll want the Soundtrack as well.

Mark 7/10

Monday, 18 April 2011

Random Review #46 Various Artists – Dirty Laundry The Soul of Black Country


C8S12CD4 This CD was picked by Chris Newby, mate and all round good guy. Oh yeah he’s useless at giving CDs back so lend at your peril.... (Only joking Chris)

So my second compilation and my second soul compilation and this one is a little bit more obscure than The New Orleans Funk reviewed in Random Review #27. This compilation is on the Trikont Label a German label that has put out a number of out soul compilations of outstanding quality that usually feature ‘left of centre’ subjects, songs about Black Power and the role of African Americans in the Vietnam War spring to mind. This album as implied in the title brings together established soul singers from the 60’s and 70’s attempting to cross over into the world of country music. 
This may sound mad but Ray Charles had paved 1&2. Charles was the first black artist to do this and others saw the potential. I know that Bobby Womack released a full album of Country Music BW Does CW and I suspect that other artists on this album did the same.

As with all Trikont releases the liner notes are substantial and comprehensive and I have to say the picture of Bobby Womack dressed as a cowboy, sitting on a horse, wearing a Stetson hat and smoking a pipe is worth the cost of the CD alone, but don’t worry there is enough great music on hear to justify the cost. We have a lot of the soul heavyweights here, James Brown, Curtis Mayfield, Etta James, Candi Staton, and Bobby Womack, and then some lesser know but great soul artists, Betty Lavette, Bettye Swann, Solomon and Solomon Burke and then the real obscure in Freddie North, Andre Williams, and Stoney Edwards. In total 24 artists, and 2 versions of Your Cheatin’ Heart (made famous by Ray Charles) and other classics like Stand By Your Man (Staton) You Are My Sunshine (Earl Gaines) are reproduced with very degrees of success and if I’m honest varying degrees of ‘Country’.

Some of the artists have really  tried to embrace the country music style and some have really just added some lap steel guitar to what essentially is a soul standard and then called it country. This compilation is somewhat of a novelty however the standard of the music is of such a strong quality you forget this very quickly.

I’m not going to single out individual tracks as this is an album that deserves to be listened to in its entirety. If you love soul music or country you will enjoy love this slightly off beat compilation or if you are just curious about an interesting time in the history of music then try this album out.

Video is a great peace of TV of James Brown singing Your Cheating Heart. Just brilliant!

Mark 8/10

Friday, 15 April 2011

Random Review #45 Gomez - In Our Gun

C4S9CD13 picked by ex colleague and twitter mate @robfederick blues lover and fan of odd shaped balls.......

Gomez shot onto the music scene with Bring It On and promptly won the Mercury Music Award, sadly they have never quite reached the peak of their debut and although have released some good material since, this album is not one of them. Bizarrely they appear to be bigger in the US now than in the UK where they really seem to have dropped off the radar.

I have listened to this album all week at least 5 times and I have tried to write this blog 3 times and have stopped every time, because I couldn’t think of anything nice to say. It isn’t a bad album but it’s not good either, it wash’s over you and before you know it is finished and you don’t have anything to hang onto or say about it. All the Gomez traits are hear blues related tunes, good vocals but it lacks something that made Bring It On so special.

I have 6 Gomez albums so I class myself as a fan, but it feels like Gomez were trying too hard with this release, the first track Shot Shot has a saxophone part which is straight out of a Morphine song ( anyone remember them, guy played to sax at the same time!) and is just alright. It sounds like Gomez have added loops and drum machines to this album and one part actually sounds industrial. The track Army Dub actually sounds like Autobahn by Krauftwerk honestly!( check out vidoe below) Maybe they were trying to stretch themselves but I’m not sure why leave that to Radiohead lads!

Best track to look for is Rex Kramer which does sound like classic Gomez but sadly not much else on the album reaches this standard.

If you are new to Gomez buy Bring It On, it’s brilliant, steer clear of this one!

Mark 4/10