Monday, 31 October 2011

October - Music Purchases

Alabama Shakes – Alabama Shakes EP Discovered via Danny and the Champions of The World this band are very new and very very good. I predict big things for this band, and everybody I have played it to has been amazed.

Grand Drive – Grand Drive bought this thinking it was the one original Grand Drive that I didn’t have, failed it’s a ‘Best of’ compilation very good but I have all the tracks....oh well back to Amazon.

Wilco – The Whole Love Next instalment from Jeff Tweedy and co never a disappointment.

Steven Wilson – Grace For Drowning latest outlet for the talent that is Steven Wilson, whether it’s solo, or with one of his many bands, No-Man, Porcupine Tree, Blackfield or Bass Communion always a pleasure. 

Foster The People – Torches Bought his because of all the hype and the fact that it was £2. Good but feels like this MGMT or Empire in The Sun. Nice but nothing new here.

Peter Gabriel – New Blood Although I have always liked Peter Gabriel but never felt the need to buy an album until last year. I bought Scratch My Back on the back of some great reviews and was blown away. This album is equally as good, orchestral reworks of classic Gabriel songs. Special mention most go to Ana Brun who replaces Kate Bush on Don’t Give Up and is a revaluation.

The Hold Steady – A Positive Rage I love the Hold Steady they fit into that pub rock style band for the masses. This is a live album and DVD package made all the better by the price (£3 I love Fopp Records)

David Sylvian – Brilliant Trees Inspired by obtaining tickets to see Sylvian next year in Manchester, started picking up back catalogue albums.

Mazzy Star – Among My Swan Had a copy of this Fopp Records forded me to buy it....

Deep Purple - Made In Europe and Come Taste The Band Childhood vinyl purchases replaced after many years on CD. Wonder after listening I will remember them so fondly. 

Manic Street Preachers - National Treasures The Complete Singles I already have a greatest hits but all the singles from a band that really are a great singles band was to tempting for me.

Instant People - Tour CD. Supporting Glen Campbell this 5 piece contain 3 of Campbell's siblings. Great 6 track CD. I predict we will hear more from this band.


Monday, 24 October 2011

Random Review #123 Pearl Jam - Ten

C5S2CD15 Pearl Jam have never really been a fashionable band, although part of the grunge explosion the ‘real’ grunge fans were fans of Nirvana not Pearl Jam. They have sold millions of albums across the world and hundreds of thousands will go to see them in concert but trying to find someone who says they are a fan is like looking for hen’s teeth!

I have never had an issue about following bands about that are fashionable or vice versa, I like what I like and that covers a wide range of music some might be mainstream and some not, I like good music full stop. Pearl Jam sits at the rockier side of my music collection and I have to say I’m a big fan. I love the music but I also love how Pearl Jam go about their business. They have an ethos and belief and they adhere to it and I admire them for that. Pearl Jam fought Ticketmaster for 2 years in the US as they disagreed with booking fees system and were only brought down when they couldn’t get venues to play. I recently watched a DVD of Pearl Jam touring Italy, Eddie Vedder brought in a Italian teacher as he felt he should try communicate with his audience in their language, I suspect very few bands would do this.

This was Pearl Jam’s debut album, released in 1992 and taken to the masses via MTV.  There are two massive hits on this album Alive and Jeremy both were shown on a loop by MTV and were lapped up by the American public. Jeremy is the dark story of a boy picked on at school and decided to take matters into his own hands. Both tracks are heavy but have the hooks that had everybody singing along and are still crowd favourites to this day. My favourite track is Black which is as close to a ballad as Pearl Jam get. When playing this album I kept flicking back to his track and I have to say one 30 minute car journey was made up of this track on repeat.

This album has been  recently been released in a number of formats,  but my copy comes with 3 additional tracks than the original release a live version of Alive and a couple of outtakes which add very little. The album is still fresh nearly 20 years on and is a great introduction if you have often wondered what the grunge movement was all about.

Mark 8/10

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Random Review #122 Kevin Mcdermott Orchestra - Mother Nature's Kitchen

C4S5CD9 An album I first owned on vinyl automatically says to me that it’s an old album but I was shocked to see that it was released in 1989, 22 years ago. Like most of my vinyl it has subsequently been replaced by the small shining discs and looking at the CD I notice that Kevin McDermott Orchestra were signed to Island Records so I suspect big things were expected from thisthe  album. Looking at the video I have posted it was filmed in Mexico and looks like it had a big budget which re-enforces this thought.

At the time I guess U2 could do no wrong, and on the back of that success The Waterboys and The Hothouse Flowers had hit the charts and I guess lots of labels were looking for that brand of Celtic rock that would bring them a hit album. Unfortunately this album failed to bother the charts which is sad as it’s not a bad album.

As mentioned it ploughs that semi-acoustic, sing along type music that was popular at the time but it lacks the killer single that The Waterboys (Whole of the Moon) and the Hothouse Flowers (Don’t Go) both had. This album is enjoyable without setting your world alight, there is nothing that offends or makes you him the skip button but conversely there is nothing that demands to be listened to and makes you go wow where did that come from.

Opener Wheels of Wonder, Where We Were Meant To Be, and the closing Healing At The Harbour are all worth a mention as they have pace and ambition to be contenders for that big hit, but just fail to deliver on their opening promise.

Kevin McDermott has continued to produce music, I know I have bought a couple of albums (albeit from the bargain bin!) and was also one third of the Scottish Comedy ‘super group’ know as The Uncle Devil Show (Justin Currie from Del Amitri was also involved).

If I had to describe this album I would say it was a ‘nice’ album it doesn’t offend nor does it challenge it floats along and before you know it it’s over but it passes you by, and sadly NICE albums don’t become best sellers.

Mark 6/10

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Random Review #121 ALT - Altitude

C1S1CD11 Did you hear the one about the ‘super group’ made up of a member of the Hothouse Flowers, an Irish Folk Artist and the brother of the most famous musician in New Zealand? No? Well I think possibly I was one of the few that bought the album back in 1995 and in hindsight I have to ask myself why?

The band were called ALT and consisted of Andy White (A) Liam O Maonlai (L) singer with Hothouse Flowers and Tim Finn (T) brother of Neil Finn, founder of Split Enz and sometime member of Crowded House and claim other name opinions were TAL, TLA and LAT! These songs seem to have been recorded between day jobs in Ireland and Australia and it feels a bit like that. Some songs sound like The Hothouse Flowers and some like Crowded House but when I say that I mean they sound like songs  the bands would dismiss as not good enough to record. The recordings here are at best  loose  in arrangement and at worst they sound no better than some demo’s that need to be developed into fully formed songs.

I have been a bit harsh on this album it does have a few decent songs but it’s like mining for gold, you have to sift a lot of crap to find a nugget of any quality. Opener We’re All Men has a Hothouse Flowers feel to it, I Decided To Fly would have been a great 4 minute pop song, unfortunately its over 6 minutes long. It has a couple of less than average instrumentals that add nothing to the album.

I suspect that there is a half decent album in here somewhere it just needs a lot of work done on it. In 1995 I guess that at least 2 of the 3 artist featured here could have taken recordings of themselves howling at the moon and got them released and there is a bit of me that thinks it might have been a better listen. This album for me is self indulgent and in truth I expect more from the collective talents of these artists.

Mark 4/10

Friday, 14 October 2011

Random Review #120 - Solomon Burke - Don't Give Up On Me

C8S2CD11 Solomon Burke was a larger than life character and I don’t just mean in the physical sense. Although the size of Burke towards the end of his career meant that he would sit on stage in a huge purpose built throne with an ermine cloak  drapped round him and crown perched on his head, he was married 4 times, had 21 children and at the last count around 90 grandchildren and was an ordained minister so you can see what I mean when I say larger than life.

This album was released in 2002 and was the start of a rebirth for Solomon Burke. Just like Rick Rubin did with Johnny Cash and Neil Diamond, Joe Henry re-ignited Burke’s career by doing a bit of a makeover on him. Burke was a 60’s soul artist most famous I guess for the song Everybody Needs Somebody To Love which featured in the original Blues Brothers film. This album would catapult Burke into the world of Grammy nominations and awards and accolades,(Mojo's Album of the year) appearances on Later, and this would lead to a host of artists knocking on his door wanting to work with him. The weirdness of which for me was a tour with The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion as a backing band!

This album was made in 4 days recorded in the studio, live. I watched a documentary on the making once and you could see that Burke wasn’t really sure what Joe Henry was up to as he says as much worried about the recording techniques which were very different that he was used to. Ironically at the end of the documentary after the Grammy nomination, Burke is quoted say ‘I knew we had something special’ which made me laugh but hey wether he was sure or not he let Joe Henry do what he needed to do. In the liner notes Henry talks about how they recorded the songs. He talks about picking a tight but understated band, and waited for Solomon to sing the songs and woked the arrangements around how Solomon phrased the lyrics rather than writing an arrangement and getting Solomon to sing round that.this works beautifully as the sound is so natural and showcases Solomons voice. The 11 songs were all donated for the project from various songwriters, and if I said Dan Penn, Van Morrison, Tom Waits, Brian Wilson, Bob Dylan, and Elvis Costello you are starting to get the picture as to the quality of the songs. Add in guest appearances from Daniel Lanois and The Blind Boys Of Alabama and you star get the feel for an album oozing in talent.

The album starts with Don’t Give Up On Me a heartfelt plea which could be interrupted as Burke’s view of his career at that point in time.The Waits penned Diamond In Your Mind always reminds me of Always Look On The Bright Side of Life from Monty Pythons Life Of Brian for some reason but is still a great track but if hard to pick out tracks on an album of this standard. The band do what they need to do quietly filling out the songs with quality playing that never overpowers Burke as this album is all about quality not quanity. The Blind Boys Of Alabama guest on None Of Us Are Free, and add that gospel sound like only they can.  Henry mentions that the Blind Boys turned up sat down sang then chatted to everybody and then left, no mention of whether the take was good enough, they just knew it was! I have been lucky enough to see both artists perform live but unfortunately never at the same time which would have been something special.

Burke released another 4 albums after this between 2002 and 2010 when he sadly died. All of them I have a couple more Nashville and Make Do With what You Got which are both exceptional releases. Although it is always sad when someone dies Solomon Burke’s musical legacy is there for all to admire. Enjoy.

Mark 9/10

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Random Review #119 McAlmont & Butler - The Sound Of....

C4S5CD5 Before the dawn of the digital world buying albums had an element of risk involved when it came to new artists. You would hear the first single and in most cases other than magazine review, and maybe the odd radio show playing a random album track you were buying blind.

Although I was aware of Bernard Butlers work in Suede I had never been a fan, and I had no idea who the chameleon like creature going by the name of David McAlmontwas or had done prior to this record, but I knew the first single from the album Yes was utterly incredible. It started like a jet plane taking off and then soars like Diana Ross and The Supremes on the wildest speed trip ever. Butler rings every ounce of sound that he could from his guitar, whilst McAlmont tries to out sing Butler by finding notes from his voice that hadn’t been charted yet! Sadly it was all downhill from here the album peaks with the first track and never really recovers. The voice and the guitar are still there but the song writing doesn’t match that of Yes. You have to wait until track ten and You’ll Lose A Good Thing which finds McAlmont accompanied by nothing but a Hammond organ lamenting the breakup of a relationship, it’s simple, emotional, and classy. The last track You Do nearly rescues the album but 3 tracks don’t make an album and overall it’s a disappointment.

McAlmont and Butler would split before getting back together for one more album Bring It Back, before Butler went onto be a top producer and songwriter for the likes of Duffy. McAlmont would continue to release solo music that receive critical acclaim without ever obtaining the level of mainstream success McAlmont and Butler received.

Although in the world of Spotify, iTunes, etc it’s easier to ‘try before you buy’ with regard to music but I still like to buy CD’s ‘blind’ sometimes every now and again you might get a duff one but the anticipation of listening to a CD for the first time and not know what you are going to get is an experience still worth hanging on to.

Mark 5/10