Tuesday, 4 December 2012

The Grinch Who Saved Christmas

The Grinch Who Saved Christmas

Christmas time for me and a lot of people is a time to look forward to. It has very little to do with religious dogma , stories of stables, uncaring inn-keepers and nosey shepherds and more to do with the occasion to eat, drink and be merry surrounded by friends and family.

A staple of my household festivities has always been the music played and among the Dean Martin’s, Sinatra and Slade getting a pounding there has always been a single album that stands high above the rest as the hallmark of the holiday season. This album is ‘A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector’ from 1963. It is an album of Christmas classics such as ‘White Christmas’, ‘I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Clause’ and ‘Winter Wonderland’ given the ‘Wall of Sound’ treatment from the Phil Spector stable of artists such as The Crystals, The Ronettes and of course Darlene Love who’s standout track ‘Christmas (Baby Please come Home)’ has been the official song for the David Letterman Christmas show for as long as I can remember.

The album was a labour of love for Phil Spector and this alone raised a few eye brows when news started to filter out from the studio about what his next project was. This after all was the work of a confirmed Jewish Atheist 22 year old guy that was known to be less than friendly to most people he met making a happy Christmas album. A guy with more enemies than friends who’s tyrannical approach to record making was ripping up the format and catching lightning in a bottle over and over again could only create jealously among his pears who couldn’t wait for his first slip up before they descended upon him to bring order back to the old guard.

The studio sessions throughout the hot summer of 1963 were fast paced and furious to the musicians involved. One commented later that it was very disorientating to be shaking jingle bells and playing Xmas songs for 11 hours then walking out side to a hot summers day and readjusting back to bikini’s and surfboards but eventually after weeks and weeks it was complete. The musicians were pushed to their very limits with sessions sometimes running into weeks rather than the standard hours slots. Roomfuls of top first call musicians such as Hal Blaine, Carol Kaye, Glen Campbell,Cher(at 17 years old!) and legend has it even Beach Boy Brian Wilson turning up to add their own musical talents (Wilson even states that this album is his favourite of all time), this was either going to be his greatest achievement or biggest commercial flop.

It is literally impossible to feel depressed while listening to this album. Christmas can after all be a depressing time for some that may be away from their family or secluded due to circumstance and although this is no magic pill definitely sugars the medicine to a level where a smile forms on even the most humbug laden individual.
The album itself was pretty much guaranteed to be a smash hit after insiders listened to the first pressings and considering the un-matched run of hits Spector had produced throughout the year it was a definite ‘sure thing’. This was stopped abruptly in it’s tracks by the release coinciding with the assassination of JFK (the same day!). The album subsequently found it’s audience and with it’s re-release by The Beatles own Apple Label in 1972 eventually found it’s way into most record collections.

I’d admit I am bias as I admire Spector’s work greatly and will hold my hands up to the fact that I have listened to this on the beach in Spain before while slowly getting sun-burnt. It’s an album for 365 days a year for me but for those that like your Christmas’s white and cold with turkey and stockings over the fire place I can’t think of a better way to spend it.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Albums of 2012

Albums of 2012

01.Boys and Girls - Alabama Shakes
Not only the discovery of the year for me personally but easily the album of the year also. Songwriting, performance, soul all combined with an honest love for the music that influenced them. Live they are a revelation that keep the crowd with both eyes on them all the way. Incredible vocals from Brittany Howard throughout.

02.Blunderbuss - Jack White
Is he ever gonna slip up? Jack White's Midas touch and ability to bring the best out of each band/artist he works with hasn't been lost when editing and producing himself. A great album from the opener 'Missing Pieces' to the cover of Little Willie John's 'I'm Shakin'.

03.TempestBob Dylan
For the doubters out there that think Dylan has lost a few steps and isn't the artist of days gone by just give his mammoth 14 minute track to the sinking of the Titanic 'Tempest' a listen and see that the winding, hallucinatory, stream of conscious lyrical ability may sometimes lay dormant but is still burning low none the less. The album also includes stone cold classics as 'Scarlet Town', 'Early Roman Kings' and the beautiful 'Soon After Midnight'.

04.Signs And Signifiers - J.D McPherson
There is a difference between being 'retro' and simply playing your influences genuinely and heartfelt, J.D McPherson is the latter. Not only does he caputure the essence and soul of the 1950's records he clearly loves but he also writes great songs as well, an area some artists have missed out when they've tried to capture an older classic sound. A great album full of great tracks including the Little Richard screamer 'North Side Gal'.

05.Aufheben - Brian Jonestown Massacre
A truly sonically impressive collection of songs from everyone's favourite rock and roll psychedelic maverick Anton Newcombe.

06.Old IdeasLeonard Cohen
2012 seemed to be the year for members of the 'old guard' to show the new guys how it should be done and with Leonard Conhen, Neil Young and Bob Dylan all producing great work that sits comfortably in their own canons of releases it's no surprise that compared to a lot of new music it proves that inspiration and imagination to re-create the form isn't only for the young but also for the 'should know better' as well.

07.Psychedelic PillNeil Young & Crazy Horse
A Psycheldic feedback drenched opus from a guy that has quit all drink and drugs? Only Neil Young does this stuff and thank God that is the case. His guitar playing hasn't progressed and still sounds like a cranky teenager who's un-refining his solo's as he gets old as to get closer to the source inside him that fires it. She's Always Dancing is a particular standout with Crazy Horse at their loose best.


09.Locked DownDr John
The good doctor returning to his 'Gris-Gris' New Orleans or 'Newarrrlinnes' R&B "Fonky" sound with the help of Black Keys guitarist and frontman Dan Auerbach. Not for everyone but the stongest thing Dr.John has produced in a long while and when the medicine is available you take it.

10.Sweet SourBand of Skulls

Tracks of 2012

01.R U Mine?Arctic Monkeys

02.DefaultDjango Django

03.I'm Shakin'Jack White

04.You Ain’t Alone - Alabama Shakes

05.HonkyThe Ho-Dads (1963) *old record but it’s new to me and it’s my list so shut up*

06.I Can’t ComplainJ D McPherson

07.Soon After MidnightBob Dylan

08.Now There Is NothingHot Chip

09.Doom & GloomThe Rolling Stones

10.Corner of an English Field - Tribes

Friday, 2 November 2012





Performing their biggest headline slot tonight at Shepherds Bush Empire are Dry the River who’ve managed to turn the historic venue into an after hours lock in. Their set list was made up of tracks from their debut album Shallow Bed including standouts such as ‘New Ceremony’ and ‘Bible Belt’ although the gig itself was short by normal standards (barely an hour long including encore). The songs were performed professionally although a little too rehearsed for my taste, almost to the point of auto-pilot (hey at this point we’ll both jump off the drum riser etc.) although they still managed to keep the music ball in the air throughout and energy high all the way through.

The band themselves are a strange bunch, they play acoustic based folk-rock but have a rhythm section that would rather be in Metallica. A strange moment in the evening came during the set where I watched the bass player head banging like Jason Newsted to a mid tempo folk ditty while the tattooed drummer flails through drum fills fulfilling in his own Tommy Lee fantasies especially in one of their harder numbers ‘Lions Den’. Somewhere in the record company there is a finger twitching stylist itching to get their hands on the group to try and ‘Mumford’ them up a little and make them a more uniformed group that actually ‘look’ like a group rather than a rag tag bunch of school mates in their first band.

The playing is professional and precise although it’s their vocal abilities that really sell the band as ‘one to watch’, with close harmonies throughout (especially on the fan favourite ‘Weights and Measures’ which was performed initially without microphones or electric instruments). The risk of trying songs a cappella is a risky one in front of a rowdy audience as a group like The Futureheads found out when they performed their recent Rant album on the road. The encore song ‘Shaker Hymns’ was performed with just acoustic guitar, fiddle and vocals sandwiched in the middle of the crowd without amplification and just the glow of a thousand phones lighting them up. Amazingly the crowd fell completely silent throughout to hear the inflections and harmonies. Overall a good gig although falling a little short of great. A strong taster of things to come in 2013.



'originally on 405'

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

get a job...sha na na na na na na

I’ve read that the biggest cause of death is retirement although from the view at my desk today I think that work may be the straw that finallu breaks the office monkeys back…

Evolution or the big white elephant in the sky gave us a brain, two arms and the ability to create and what do we do with it? Copy faxes and write emails to equally bored recipients. Money is the most important factor in the consumerism society and it literary pays for the air we breath and the food in our overfed bellies so living off the land and chilling all day is not an option, but this?

Taking the stairs to the top floor and throwing yourself off the roof is as pointless as calling in sick for a day or two to the company heads. It’s a mild inconvenience and your work is easily distributed and amalgamated into the tapestry of grey that is the working week. The only thing we really have is music, when all is said and done it is the only thing that touches the lower internal levels of consciousness that was forgot about the moment the first cave man saw a spark of fire. I think it’s safe to say that he probably banged out a primal percussive beat for his own personal enjoyment before he decided to begin his quest for a hot meal.

Hail! Hail! Rock and Roll!

Monday, 1 October 2012

12 Dirty Bullets - Single Review

‘She Could Love You Forever’
12 Dirty Bullets
Fatman records 2012

Released 01/10/12

When the 12 Dirty Bullets first arrived on the London scene in 2009 they wore their influences on their sleeves without pretention, some Libertines, Oasis, Beatles and Jamie T licks were copped along with Dylan and singer songwriter nods and although they managed to make their own space in the crowd it seemed like they might disappear into the bunch like hundreds of other bands grabbing for the same audience.

As history shows the road can make or break bands in the first run of their ascent with only the minority managing to weather the storm in one piece. After a gruelling US, Europe and UK tour complete with a quick line up change (drums and lead guitar) the band 2.0 have found themselves and managed to gel as a driving working unit. The lead off single from what will be their 2nd album ‘Riddles’ is ‘She Could Love You Forever’ a free download for the ever faithful and taster of things to come. The track itself shows that 12 Dirty Bullets have followed the advice of their heroes and evolved both sonically and musically, incorporating both strong melody and a classic chorus which manages to be catchy without becoming cheesy. Excellent placed lead guitar work also referencing back to ‘Revolver’ era Beatles showing a maturity to arrangements and production.

The new material that has been previewed live is evidence that by adding new colours to the sound while keeping one eye on the audience and potential market they have thrown their net wider than their indie roots and could be one of the big breaks of 2013.

Launch party live @ Dingwalls,London on Friday 12th October (details on site below)



Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Needle in a Haystack...

Good afternoon my children, today I will be discussing for your reading pleasure the fabled phenomena of 'great tracks on generally duff albums'. There have been many examples over the years, where after hearing a killer single you rushed yourself to the nearest record shop (or rapidly clicked the iTunes page depending whose side you're on) and instead of just purchasing the known single took a plunge and bought the whole album, only to be bitterly disappointed by the dregs that attacked your innocent ear drums once home.

My TOP 5

By John Lennon

The album is from the now infamous 'Sometime in New York City' an collection of protest and 'newspaper' songs written by Lennon and Yoko Ono in their 'political' period where everything from John Sinclair's drug bust to IRA leaning Irish independence was crow barred into 4/4 rock and roll with hardly any highpoints. The only real gem in the pile that stands up with Lennon’s greatest hits is 'New York City' which is good ol' fashioned Chuck Berry rock n'roll in it's most un-prentious form (the way it should be).

'Every Grain of Sand'
By Bob Dylan

From his 1981 album 'Shot of Love' that ended his run of Christian rock albums after a late 70's born again experience (don't ask). This track stands head and shoulders above the rest of the album's material and indeed above the majority of his other Jesus freak songs about the 'end times' and Sunday school pap. Apparently Bono is a big fan of the whole album but then again when has that ever been a solid gold endorsement? One of Dylan's best songs that has also had some excellent cover versions (see Emmylou Harris especially)

'The Rat'
By The Walkmen

'The Rat' is still one of the most exciting songs I have in my record collection and very rarely does a DJ set go by without me dropping the track into the running order. You'd think that considering the fact that I love this track so much that there would be at least 2 or 3 other moments on the album 'Bows + Arrows' that would appeal to me? But alas it seems that they only had the minerals to hit the ball out of the park once. I even saw them live and they waited till the encore to play it. It's as if they knew.

'Sail On, Sailor'
By The Beach Boys

From the 1973 album 'Holland' (actually recorded there as well). The album sessions were put into motion in an attempt to raise Brian Wilson out of depression and drug abuse and help reabilitate him back into the dynamic producer songwriter of only a few years previous. The attempt failed and even though the addition of Ricky Fataar and Blondie Chaplin to the group did momentarily give the band a boost sonically the material just wasn't there. This highlight was a late edition to the track listings that was added at the insistence from the record company as they couldn't see any sizable sales or potential singles. The song 'Sail On, Sailor' was a Brian Wilson/Van Dyke Parks demo that was rearranged and finally completed by Wilson/Parks/Ray Kennedy/Tandyn Almer and even Beach Boys manager Jack Rieley who added some lyrical ideas. The final version is the stand out track and a live favourite of the group to this day.

'Sweet Hitch-Hiker'
By Creedence Clearwater Revival

Creedence Clearwater Revival were one of the most successful groups of their time and although they had many hits in the charts they unfortunately made the grave error of being a 'singles' group at a time when only 'albums' were taken seriously by the rock mainstream. John Fogerty was always the talent in the band, he wrote, sang and produced the songs that made them such as 'Bad Moon Rising', 'Lodi', 'Travelin' Band' and the classic 'Proud Mary'. Although with this level of success and talent the rest of the group started backbiting and fighting for their own level of attention and spotlight, after fraught recording sessions between John Fogerty and his brother Tom, John decided to write only 2 songs for their newest release 'Mardi Gras'(1972) and leave the rest of the writing to the group themselves. No surprises that the album sold poorly compared to previous releases and only managed to moderately successful singles (both written by John Fogerty) The first of these singles was 'Sweet Hitch-Hiker' which I have chosen, a classic Fogerty stomper and well worth investigating (as well as their greatest hits if you aren't already aware of the group).

Friday, 14 September 2012

Standing in the doorway...

Standing in the Doorway - Bob Dylan

For an artist such as Bob Dylan there are many songs that one could choose as a personal favourite although I have selected this one from 1997's 'Time out of Mind'.

The track is 'Standing in the Doorway' and it is one that always manages to raise my mood and help me take stock of things like my very own audio tonic. Like all great Dylan songs the lyrics are paramount and this is no exception, it has a slow dreamlike quality to the production and with lines such as "last night I danced with a stranger, but she just reminded me that you were the one" are aimed squarely at hopeless romantics among us and when followed by couplets such as "I would be crazy if I took you back, It would go up against every rule" tell the listener that just like them Dylan speaks of times where even when you know full well what the outcome will be within a relationship your heart will overtake your head ever time, and for those who know that the ghost of the 'one that got away' will always haunt you if you let it.

'originally on CALMzine '
for some others see below link

and she wrote it out in letraset...

Cornerstone - Arctic Monkeys

Some songs are written as singles, others just to fill the gaps on albums, although very few manage to break the final barrier and cross over into the psyche of the listener on a level far above that of the writer's original idea. The song I've chosen is 'Cornerstone' by Arctic Monkeys from their 2009 album 'Humbug'. This is a song that was immediately a favourite of mine from the very first time of listening due to the sentiment and imagery involved. Words and phrases that managed to cling to various memories of mine as well as managing to weave events and rose tinted nights out without ever being cheesy of overtly sentimental.

The song itself deals with the period of time between a broken relationships and the start of a new one, the limbo phase where the 'ghost' of the previous appears in the faces of strangers before eventually leading you to the latter. Laying one relationship to rest while feeling your broken heart mend as you let your own personal defences down once again. My favourite line in the song is "I elongated my lift home, yeah I let him go the long way around, I smelt your scent on the seat belt and kept my shortcuts to myself" who of us hasn't let the cab driver take a longer detoured route when dropping a girl/boy off so you could spend a few more precious moments together before waving goodbye? A bona fide gem of the Alex Turner cannon, cracking video too.


Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Wood for the trees...

Like a lot of people my age (31) it has become necessary to harvest down my ever growing collection of music, books and DVD’s. After all my twenties (especially the second half) was a hazy time of madness, alcohol and self medication that resulted in a lot of bad purchases ranging from mandolins (still haven’t learnt it) to Lightspeed Champion's solo debut (haven’t got past track 4). Various Freddy King and Ike Turner reissues still in the plastic clutter up my shelves and although I would consider myself a fan of both never find myself reaching for these compilations at any time.

With the influx of industry freebies coming through the door and those pushed into my palms at gigs when I recently sat down and had a quick flick through the pile to hopefully separate the weak from the chaff I found myself wondering why I owned so much drivel and peacefully disregarded them at the alter of musicmagpie.com.

Albums are like clothes, when you’re living in the times they were made and fashionable they seem like the bread and butter of your whole personality, but add the benefit of 10-15 years on top and your amazing vintage boot cut jeans which you envisioned yourself wearing until you were 50 seem as inviting as a ‘Best Soft Rock Ballads ever’ compilation that was given away free with the Sunday newspaper one hung-over morn.

I started off with Blues. It was the genre that was the root of my musical playing guitar wise. Hours, weeks, days and years were spent copping licks from Albert Collins, B.B King, Albert King and Buddy Guy records on repeat from the sanctuary of my teenage bedroom. Despite the rose tinted glasses I can’t think of the last time I pulled out Guy’s ‘Stone Crazy’ or Collin’s ‘Ice Pickin’ (both which I used to love) and played it for listening pleasure alone. Has my musical palette changed so drastically or is it a case of eating cereal everyday for 20 years and then one morning you’re just not hungry at all?

You must be ruthless when having a clear out. They are just cd’s, no one is judging you and by throwing away a Babyshambles single (that you already had on the album anyway) doesn’t mean you’re throwing your memories of nights gone by at Pete Doherty secret gigs and throwing great times into the void, it’s simply about shelf space. Many friends made the complete move over to digital years ago, as soon as ITunes appeared on the scene many downloaded their whole collections and then sold them all to the record exchange in the knowledge that everything was safe and secure on their lovely shiny hard drive. Unfortunately 9/10 times they then either dropped a drink on their computer, sat on their laptop or just downloaded another ‘free’ song which was so ravaged with computer viruses that if it was a horse it would’ve been shot shortly after and their collections were once again back to zero.

Should we use the same old maxim that is given to our wardrobes for our music collections? If you haven’t fancied listening to an album in 2 years, you have to accept that you probably never will and bin it. Can we be that hard lined with the soundtracks of our lives? Should we realise that the ‘3 for £20’ sales are just tricks to make us consume more 2-3 star albums that we didn’t want for free but as they are in the sale are worth a score of your hard earned cash?

There are some mainstays of course. The Beatles (repeated listens regularly), Bob Dylan (although I could probably fling a few out from the ‘Street Legal’ phase and 6 cd’s of ‘The Basement Tapes’ is definitely overkill for anyone), Jimi Hendrix is solid and definitely gets played a few times a year to keep me on my musical toes (although the 'BBC sessions' could probably get lost without me noticing). The rest are a mixed bag of styles and artists that get the occasional nod but are really there for other people to notice and pull out so I can educate them in why their collections are rubbish and pointless.

My ‘desert island disc’ choices would be pretty easy if I was completely honest as probably without me noticing I could check the glove compartment of the car or look at my ‘most played’ tracks on my iPod to quickly make a true and accurate list. Of course if you asked me down the pub I’d rattle off some long lost 1965 ‘45’ by a defunct Detroit garage rock group followed by Radiohead and finally resolved with a new band from Japan who’s MySpace page I found when looking for an old school mate.

A total of 80 cd’s were shaved off the collection and are no longer in my flat. The scary thing isn’t that I’ll immediately go and recoup all the sold titles when they are digitally re-mastered and remixed next year or that some long forgotten group will return on a wave of nostalgia and everyone will be talking about how “they always liked them”, but more the case that I could probably ditch another 80 without breaking a sweat. Have I always had such bad taste in music?

Glove compartment mainstays:

Hunky DoryDavid Bowie

The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from MarsDavid Bowie

Safe as MilkCaptain Beefheart and the Magic Band

Submarine original soundtrackAlex Turner

The Singles collectionThe Smiths

Thursday, 23 August 2012

IC1s Interview - August 2012

John Campbell – Guitar (JC)
Andy Faulkner – Drums (AF)

Q. What makes a good rock n’ roll band?

A. JC: Be yourself, be real, be genuine, have a personality and don’t follow the rules. By that I mean too many bands pick up the imaginary textbook of ‘How To Be A Rock Star’ like throwing TV’s out the window and thinking you have to wake up covered in vomit with a bottle of Jack Daniels in your hand. Do that if you want but don’t do that because you think that’s what you have to do to become a rock star. Anyone can do that. I see so many wannabe Liam Gallagher’s in bands yet they don’t take his advice from the opening line from Oasis’ first single (Supersonic)… ‘You need to be yourself; you can’t be no one else’. Granted he wants to be John Lennon so the circle of imitation keeps rolling. Sound wise I think all members need to be at the top of their game. You won’t make a great band if only one member is the nuts and the rest are adequate.

Q. IC1s have always been very outspoken, do you think this can get in the way of what you’re actually trying to say as a band i.e. everyone is just looking for the ‘funny quote’ or the ‘mug off’ to another band etc.

A. AF: We’re outspoken in terms of what’s around us - other bands these days don’t seem to have anything to say. We do love to banter, things would be pretty dull if we didn’t but I don’t think our integrity has ever been questioned. We have great songs and work hard, that’s why we’re turning heads within the industry not because we might be outspoken, laddish or witty... That’s all just a bonus.

Q. Live you’ve been playing variations of the same set for a while now, when are you looking to record the debut album and how many of the set list songs will make it to the final cut?

A. JC: I would like to think that we would have recorded our debut album by the summer of 2013. We have plenty of songs to choose from already and seem to be churning songs out every time we get together. So either expect a 20 track debut double album with pop up pictures and booklets of choreographed dance moves or just a 10 track ball breaking, no nonsense debut album. Rest assured most of the set would be on the debut so expect ‘Levitate’, ‘Not Perfect’ Whack Jack’ etc. Excited aren’t ya?

Q. Do you think your sound has evolved as a band since you started, is this something you consciously try and do or are you more from the ‘if it’s ain’t broke, don’t fix it‘ school of thinking?

A. AF: I’d like to think we have a trade mark sound, something instantly recognisable, but it’s evolving there’s no doubt about that. How can it not? You’ve always gotta be trying new things in music and testing the boundaries. We’re writing songs now that we would never have thought of doing when we first got together but each new song has to fit with the IC1s sound and ultimately it’s the fans that determine what sinks or swims (although most swim of course!).

Q. You’ve recorded with different producers in the past; do you think any of them have captured the essence and ‘true’ sound of the band yet?

A. JC: Yes and no. It’s been said that we have a more energetic and raucous sound live and that’s not been evident on record yet. I think that’s obvious given that our shows are usually fast paced and adrenaline fuelled but I don’t necessarily think that should transcend on the studio recordings. I feel that sometimes capturing that mayhem may make the songs messy but then at the same time we don’t want to be over polished either. So I guess our sound is somewhere in the middle! Given that we have limited time with the producers we have had has meant trying to find this middle ground as quickly as possible so I suppose we haven’t managed to capture our true sound just yet but the band would be more than happy to work with all 3 again and are sure that we can get our sound perfect… If not we’ll just find someone else ha-ha

Q. In regards to the lyrics of the songs, do you write them from experience or is it just imagination and a feel for what sounds good and fits the song?

A. JC: I’m pretty sure Dan (Coburn) would say a majority is based on experience with some elements of his overactive imagination. I mean some songs are pretty self explanatory and are stories he has experienced and some are quite imagery and profound but still experience related. Dan has a fantastic way of speaking from personal experience but making it universally understood by others. For example ‘Beautiful Ugly’ was written after a messy break up with an ex of his but anyone else can relate to it as everyone has experienced a break up and can feel those same emotions expressed in the song. I believe it’s crucial to write songs about real things and real experiences really coz if you can’t feel it and believe it then how can your listener?

Q. Having two guitar players in a band can cause issues with the spotlight and guitar hero ego type thing although I’ve found that in IC1s both Jesse and John swap roles between rhythm and lead guitar parts without any problem, how is it decided who is going to take the riff or solo?

A. JC: Well technically Jesse is better than I am so he tends to take the face melting solo’s ala ‘Whack Jack’ and ‘In Freefall’ whereas I’m a sucker for an infectious riff that you would whistle all day long to ala ‘Not Perfect’ and ‘Levitate’. Having said that though it’s not something that’s set in stone so we are more than happy to mix it up now and again if the parts played work. Jesse was brought up on Jimi Hendrix records and has a huge love of metal bands like Metallica which is where his finger skills come from whereas I got my education from the Noel Gallagher School of simple but effective guitar playing. This is why we sound so f*cking good together. Keith Richards once said something along the lines of "Ronnie Wood and I aren’t the greatest on guitar, but put us together and we are the best guitarists in the world". I strongly believe Jesse and I are bastard sons of this ethos.

Q. Summer is here once again, are there any plans for more festival slots this year?

A. AF: We’ve just got back from a couple of festivals and during the Olympics we were invited to play on the Emerging Icons Stage in the Olympic Park. Emerging Icons got in touch again this week and we’re returning to play at the Paralympics. It’s a great honour to be part of it all.

Q. When you look at bands such as The Rolling Stones do you feel that you will still be making music at that age or is rock and roll a young man’s game?

A. AF: The Stone are living proof that age is not a factor in rock n roll but you gotta know when you’ve had your time right!? As great as the Olympics was, I would have loved to of seen more up and coming bands perform on the big stage. We’re the first to pay tribute to English greats like The Who, McCartney and Ray Davies but it was disappointing to see so many old acts hogging the limelight. Oi! Roger (Daltrey) stop reaching for your microphone and start reaching for your prescriptions!


Thursday, 16 August 2012


There have been many icons since the phenomenon of Rock and Roll began back in the mid 50’s, from the un-restrained swagger of Elvis to the screaming wild persona of Little Richard, the faces and stories were part of the character and the music and as a complete package in the pre-music video world this was a sure fire recipe for success. Somewhere along the line the backroom stories and after hours activities started spilling out from under the velvet rope and these icons started getting judged not on their music or performance but instead by their appetites for destruction and bodily self abuse. Jazz artists such as Charlie Parker and Billie Holiday can’t be discussed without their drug habits being mentioned within the first paragraph and almost recall their musical and cultural contributions as an afterthought.

Today musical legends such as Motorhead frontman Lemmy, Keith Richards, Iggy Pop, Keith Moon and Ozzy Osborne are held up as pirates of the modern age, whose road to excess led them to the musical palace of wisdom. Although as the stories add up and the bar tabs get paid the musical credibility of the releases fall on the back burner and are ignored while another yarn is told about “the time when we all drank some poison and still played a show in front of a crowd of millions without anyone noticing…blah, blah”. It seems the true measure of a man in the world of rock and roll all depends on how much can you drink, snort, inject and swallow rather than what they are saying when they are stone cold sober.

Maybe it’s just a case of growing up and seeing your heroes fall by the wayside by drugs, drink or lack of imagination in their craft. But lets be honest, whilst figures such as Keith Moon sound great to go out for a drink with you’d almost certainly slam the door in their face if they arrived with a suitcase for a holiday. Upon closer inspection, and with the passage of time, the ‘live fast-die young’ brigade seems very silly and boring when you look at the bigger picture. For the purposes of this article, that bigger picture is Neil Young.

Formerly of Buffalo Springfield, member of super group Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young and superstar solo artist in his own right, with an impressive 33 studio albums under his belt, Neil Young is a survivor, a poet and someone who has never followed trends, but instead followed his own muse to the hilt. He is also the father of three children that each have medical impairments. His two sons Ben and Zeke both suffer from cerebral palsy and his daughter Amber Jean has epilepsy (like Young himself). In 1986 Young helped found the ‘Bridge School’ project, an educational organisation that helps children with severe physical and verbal disabilities. There are annual concerts where Young as well as some of the world’s biggest acts perform to help fund the organisation. During the 1980’s Neil Young and his wife Pegi raised their children and overcame the limitations and barriers laid in front of them. Although some help was taken, no publicity or star power was thrown at it. They pulled together as a family and for the outside world it was a closed shop.

Young’s career suffered in the 1980’s as a consequence, certainly from a critics point of view with many albums getting very poor reviews indeed. Albums such as ‘TRANS’ received critical attacks due to it’s synthesizer based arrangements and accompaniments. Calls that he’d “gone too far” and was “trying to be current and go electro” were ignored by Young himself, since in his eyes he was singing to his sons. Using vocal synthesizers and singing barely understood lyrics he was showing the public through this music “this is what it’s like trying to communicate to my own children”. It was very brave and some tracks such as ‘Sample and Hold’ and ‘Transformer Man’ have held up extremely well (especially the MTV Unplugged version which received cheers) and could be considered gems in his cannon. Other albums released in this period were done so to fulfil contractual obligations to his label only and were released to get himself out of his contract with David Geffen who by this time was suing Young for making “un-Neil Young sounding music”. Young carried on regardless, never losing sight of his ultimate aim to put his family first.

Anyone can shoot up heroin or drown in their own puke, it takes a real man to look after his family and weather the storm life throws at you, putting his own burgeoning career on hold to ensure the wellbeing of his children. It doesn’t take a strong heart to drink 40 shots of vodka and drown in your swimming pool, but it does take one to look after your disabled children, have a happy marriage and still stand up on stage night after night, sending 20,000 people home happy after you’ve played two hours of their favourite music. For men out there looking for a hero and a role model in rock and roll I’d point you in Neil Young’s direction.

originally on www.thecalmzone.net

Friday, 3 August 2012

What's in a name?

After the recent news that Snoop Dogg wants to be further known as Snoop ‘Lion’ I am reminded that there have been many, many ‘nom de plume’s out there in POP world over the years. Some of them stranger than the original names, some the catalyst that made them famous in the first place.

“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet” ; William Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo & Juliet’

A quick selection of well known and lesser known name changes

Snoop Dogg/Snoop Doggy Dogg/Snoop Lion – Real Name: Calvin Cordozar Broadus Jr.

Elvis Costello – Real Name: Declan Patrick MacManus

Bono – Real Name: Paul David Hewson

Paul McCartney – Real Name: James Paul McCartney

Madonna – Real Name: Madonna Louise Veronica Ciccone

Marilyn Manson – Real Name: Brian Werner

Johnny Marr – Real Name : John Maher

Meat Loaf – Real Name : Marvin Lee Aday

Freddie Mercury – Real Name : Farrokh Bulsara

George Michael – Real Name: Georgious Krylacos Panayiotou

Joni Mitchell – Real Name : Roberta Joan Anderson

David Bowie – Real Name: David Jones

Elton John – Real Name: Reginald Kenneth Dwight

Cliff Richard – Real Name : Harry Rodger Webb

Cee Lo Green – Real Name : Thomas Callaway

D’Angelo – Real Name : Michael Archer

Tina Turner – Real Name : Anna Mae Bullock

Alicia Keys – Real Name : Alicia Augello Cook

Lady Gaga – Real Name : Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta

Sting – Real Name : Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner

Slash - Real Name : Saul Hudson

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Bob Dylan - 'Tempest'



Columbia Records announced today that Bob Dylan’s new studio album, Tempest, will be released on September 11, 2012. Featuring ten new and original Bob Dylan songs, the release of Tempest coincides with the 50th Anniversary of the artist’s eponymous debut album, which was released by Columbia in 1962.

Tempest is available for pre-order now on iTunes and Amazon. The new album, produced by Jack Frost(Bob Dylan), is the 35thth studio set from Bob Dylan, and follows 2009’s worldwide best-seller, Together Through Life.

Bob Dylan’s four previous studio albums have been universally hailed as among the best of his storied career, achieving new levels of commercial success and critical acclaim for the artist. The Platinum-selling 'Time Out Of Mind' from 1997 earned multiple Grammy Awards, including Album Of The Year, while 'Love and Theft' continued Dylan’s Platinum streak and earned several Grammy nominations and a statue for Best Contemporary Folk album.

Modern Times, released in 2006, became one of the artist’s most popular albums, selling more than 2.5 million copies worldwide and earning Dylan two more Grammys. Together Through Life became the artist’s first album to debut at #1 in both the U.S. and the UK, as well as in five other countries, on its way to surpassing sales of one million copies.

Those four releases fell within a 12-year creative span that also included the recording of an Oscar- and Golden Globe-winning composition, 'Things Have Changed', from the film Wonder Boys, in 2001; a worldwide best-selling memoir, Chronicles Vol. 1, which spent 19 weeks on the New York Times Best Seller List, in 2004, and a Martin Scorsese-directed documentary, 'No Direction Home', in 2005. Bob Dylan also released his first collection of holiday standards, Christmas In The Heart, in 2009, with all of the artist’s royalties from that album being donated to hunger charities around the world.

This year, Bob Dylan was the recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country’s highest civilian honor. He was awarded a special Pulitzer Prize in 2008 for “his profound impact on popular music and American culture, marked by lyrical compositions of extraordinary poetic power.” He was also the recipient of the French Commandeur des Arts et des Lettres in 1990, Sweden’s Polar Music Award in 2000 and several Doctorates including the University of St. Andrews and Princeton University as well as numerous other honors.

Tempest is available for pre-order now on iTunes and Amazon.

Monday, 16 July 2012

July 2012

Just a quick update to let you all know that I haven't fallen off the edge of the world and I will be updating my page very soon. I have never been one to post for the sake of posting and there are only so many 'best of' lists that can be created before people get bored.

There we be an important announcenment coming soon for all of you that like my writing as well.

In the mean time here are a few choice cuts currently making the replay list.

River - Joni Mitchell
I Think It's Gonna Work out Fine - Ike and Tina Turner
Baby, Lets Stick Together - Dion
Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere - Neil Young & Crazy Horse
Word on a Wing - David Bowie

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Brian Wilson at 70!

On this day 70 years ago Brian Douglas Wilson was born in California. Happy Birthday Brian!. I will spare you from a skinny recap of The Beach Boys history due to the fact that their recent release (their 29th Studio release no less) ‘That’s Why God Made The Radio’ will call to arms every hack and journalist in every music publication and website to churn out bio’s and opinions running up to the release date and instead just cut to the meat of the matter. The songs.

Here are my Top 10 Brain Wilson moments for you to listen to, dig out and SMiLE along to…

01) Time To Get Alone

This album track from the groups 1969 release ‘20/20’ has always been a personal favourite for many reasons. One being that it’s completely solo in it’s writing credits, which for an artists like Brian Wilson shows that it’s conception wasn’t creatively trapped within any guidelines or formula that may have been put on him when faced with a collaboration. The second reason is the glorious production, the layering, the echo chamber being used on certain lines and phrases let alone the harmonies. Happy to see the song make an appearance in his live set when I saw him.

02) Till I Die

From the ‘Surfs Up’ album this track has always been a very popular Brian Wilson piece as it shows that even throughout his darkest periods mentally he is able to conjure up classic beauty and feelings without ever creeping over to depressing or self indulgent music. Written after Brian in one of his introspective moods pictured himself in the grand scheme of things describing himself as a 'cork on the ocean', a 'leaf on a windy day', a 'rock in a landslide'. He wondered about his life as a whole i.e. was he in control of his own life? Was he ever? Record producer Don Was once commented in an interview that Brian told him that he wrote the music by just making different shapes with his fingers on the piano and messing around making different versions of that and suddenly a melody appeared. Whether that’s true or not it shows the kind of child like willingness to explore his imagination that Wilson prefers over the typical song writer with pen in his hand and metronome on his desk that some of his contemporaries chose.

03) God Only Knows

What can be said about this song that hasn’t already been said a thousand times and much better. Paul McCartney calls this ‘Pet Sounds’ track ‘the greatest song of all time’ and who are we to argue? Especially the harmony vocal build up at the end accompanied by snare fills. Perfection.

04) Caroline No

Also from the ‘Pet Sounds’ album and strangely enough the only track that was released as a one off Brian Wilson ‘solo’ single. It was never a hit song and in my opinion it never had the sort of pop sensibility to ever be one. Written in collaboration with lyricist Tony Asher the song was originally entitled ‘Carol I Know’ although mis-heard by the partially deaf Wilson while composing the music he sang “CAROLine No” and it stuck.

05) In My Room

Often described as the point in the Beach Boys catalogue when Brian pushed away from the surf and sunshine image and instead started his personal journey inwards. Written in tandem with Gary Usher this melancholy ballad shows a side of Wilson that needed his own hiding place and artistic freedom from the pop rollercoaster even in the early days of the group. So unclassifiable in it’s presentation and true meaning the accompanying footage of the group singing the song had them sitting in a library in suits!

06) Still I Dream of It

This choice is one I originally heard on the groups ‘Good Vibrations’ box-set. An un-released track that was supposed to be part of the still un-available ‘Adult/Child’ project Brian was creating in 1977. He later commented that he was trying to write more adult songs that would lend themselves to more Sinatra types of performances and productions. This song was later included in demo form on the retrospective documentary ‘I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times’ although this version is best to be avoided as it’s rough, scratchy and nowhere near the quality of the full version discussed here.

07) Please Let Me Wonder

‘Please Let Me Wonder’ is more of a typical Beach Boys song from their early period pre-‘Pet Sounds’ era although you can definitely see a thread of change evolving through the melodic and production tricks being used by Wilson. Influenced by Phil Spector just as much as the Four Freshman and Chuck Berry this track could have been a standard doo-wop style song if it wasn’t for the almost jazz like chord movements and extensions which Wilson was casually using regularly and confidently. It these sophisticated song-writing choices and tricks that were blowing a lot of minds across the pond, especially in Abbey Road studios.

08) Kiss Me Baby

Another early choice cut from the same cloth as a lot of other early singles, this track was selected as much for the instrumentation layering involved in the production as for the vocals. A master class in depth, space and the ability to ‘play the studio’ as an instrument itself.

09) Surfs Up

Originally written during the sessions for what would be the aborted ‘SMiLe’ project. With lyrics from esoteric writer Van Dyke Parks and combined with a wonderful music cradle including 10 chords in just the verse alone with multiple key changes and subtle shifts in pace this is the work of a man on top of his game and peaking musically. Jimi Hendrix famously sang “you’ve never hear surf music again” although after listening to ‘Surfs Up’ the gauntlet was laid down to everyone who doubted the importance of the group or Wilson himself as a prime creative force in pop music. Later included on the ‘Surfs Up’ album spliced between a live solo version and the groups own studio accompaniment.

10) Surfer Girl

The first song Brian Wilson every wrote for the group (and in fact the first release where he was officially credited as the producer). Inspired by the Disney song ‘When You Wish Upon a Star’ this song created the image and feel of the group from then on. Although played at every concert since this has been one that hasn’t lost it’s identity and still sounds as full and fresh today as it did when it was first released in 1963.

Monday, 18 June 2012

Paul McCartney at 70!

It was 70 years ago today…

Paul McCartney, James Paul McCartney, Macca!, the pretty Beatle is 70 years old today and as he tucks into his veggie birthday cake I have decided that 70 years is a milestone that needs to be celebrated with a quick look back over the solo career of the most successful pop star still alive today. Yes he has made some absolute shockers in his time but he has also wrote some stone cold classics as well. Here a few to remember, dig out and YouTube/Spotify if you don’t have them to hand.

Throughout his 42 year solo career he has only made in my opinion 2 strong full albums and they are ‘Ram’ and ‘Band on the Run’, although he has written many other great songs they have been few and far between and sandwiched between mediocre and generally half arsed work.

The reasons behind this pendulum of gold vs. shit is hard to explain although one would say that the fact that he has had so much success may blinker his vantage point to what should be left in the archives and what should be released as a single (no matter how many copies it might sell by the Beatles faithful). It seems that it just comes too easy to him to create, if you sit him down at a piano or with an acoustic guitar and leave him alone for an hour and you’ll have a song on your hands, it’ll be better than anything most can write but not better than tracks he himself has already written, and that is the crux of the problem, McCartney doesn’t have any internal editing tool in place to say “nah Paul ditch that one”, in short he’s missing a ‘Lennon’, now he has a gaggle of paid sycophants who applaud every twang and tinkle like he’s just created another ‘Sgt Pepper’ which creatively doesn’t help matters. Either that or to put it bluntly, the hobby that became a career has once again become a hobby to a man with no more peaks left to climb musically.

Here are a few gems that need to be extracted from the rotten tooth of ‘Ebony and Ivory’ type schmaltz and 30’s inspired rinky-tinky-tooty wartime ‘McCartney-isms’.

Maybe I’m AmazedMcCartney (1970) – Although the first solo album after the split (‘McCartney’) was patchy at best and not in the league of either George Harrison’s ‘All Things Must Pass’ or John Lennon’s ‘Plastic Ono Band’ it did include this track which shows that he was far from over musically, in fact he was just getting started. The stripped down and almost garage rock approach has held up surprisingly and has found a new generation of fans as the years have gone on thanks to the reissues.

Monkberry Moon DelightRAM (1971) – Criminally underrated track from ‘Ram’, showing that when the chips were down McCartney could get weird and heavy with the best of them, ‘Helter Skelter’ manic vocals and Dylan-esque word-play.

Uncle Albert/Admiral HalseyRam (1971)

Back Seat of My CarRam (1971) – Full production, polar opposite to the minimalist arrangements on the ‘McCartney’ album.

Let Me Roll ItBand on The Run (1973) – Using the sun studios slap-back tape echo on his voice that although had been popularised by Elvis and Gene Vincent was mostly recognisable from John Lennon’s use of it. Sparse verse punctuated by twin guitars and Hammond organ.

Band on The RunBand on The Run (1973) - A real showstopper and patchwork of genres from the man that inspired Brian Wilson to create Pet Sounds and the ‘Smile’ song cycle project.

JetBand on The Run (1973)

Coming Up!McCartney II (1980) – Proving that even though The Beatles were no more the relationship between Lennon and McCartney was always one of friendly competition, when Lennon heard this track whilst on holiday in Bermuda he was inspired to start writing the tracks for what would be his last album ‘Double Fantasy’. Apparently Lennon was content in playing house husband while Paul churned out what he would call below par rubbish but when he released good work the competitive side inside Lennon rose like a dormant phoenix and felt inspired to throw down his own gauntlet in retaliation to his old writing partner.

WaterfallsMcCartney II (1980)

Here Today Tug Of War (1982) – His slow tribute to John Lennon after his 1980 assassination.

The World TonightFlaming Pie (1997) – The ‘Flaming Pie’ album was seen as a ‘come back’, perhaps inspired by the recent Beatles ‘Anthologies’ that were released and he managed to write his strongest collection of songs for many a year.

Flaming PieFlaming Pie (1997) – The title song from the album of the same name. The war-time jangle piano starts it but pulling his trusty Epiphone Casino out off mothballs and chugging out a ‘fab’ guitar track saved this from the chopping board.

Shake A Hand Run Devil Run (1999) – Little Richard cover from this ‘oldies’ collection. McCartney always ‘did’ the best Little Richard impression and was in fact taught the trademark scream by the man himself in Hamburg. A nice addition to the album itself and a benchmark of artists ‘rediscovering their roots’ by actually choosing songs they want to record rather than the usual suspects of safe choices i.e. ‘Long Tall Sally’, ‘Good Golly Miss Molly’.

Friends To GoChaos and Creation in the Back Yard (2005) – Written as a tribute to George Harrison. McCartney began writing this song just as another track for the album that he was making with Nigel Godrich. Godrich had asked McCartney for some more material as some of the previous attempts had been refused by the ballsy studio wizard as being not good enough. In a move that both shocked and inspired to pull his song writing socks up and present some crackers worthy of his name and legend.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

The Beach Boys - Love You

The Beach Boys

To mark the occasion of The Beach Boys new album release ‘That’s Why God Made The Radio’ (coming soon in June) I thought it would be worthwhile to take a closer look and shine a light upon a true lost classic in the Brian Wilson cannon, titled ‘LOVE YOU’.

The post ‘Pet Sounds’ late 1960’s and early 1970’s weren’t strong commercially for The Beach Boys with their releases only very rarely cracking the top 100, which if you think about their run of high end monster hits in the mid 60’s is quite a drop in status. The material was still great on albums such as ‘Friends’ (1968), ‘20/20’ (1969), ‘Sunflower’ (1970) and the exceptional ‘Surfs Up’ (1971) although the sentiment of love and peace seemed out of place after Altamont and while everyone else was playing loud fuzz guitars and throwing anti-War/Nixon sentiment slogans across their work The Beach Boys were still trying to shake the tag of ‘all American surfer boys’. Around this time the group actually considered changing their name to simply ‘Beach’, they reconsidered at the final hour perhaps realising that their fans would be their backbone in the oncoming years and re-inventing the wheel this late in the day might not be the best idea for all involved.

One of the main reasons for the lack of direction within the group was the fact that leader and producer of the group Brian Wilson had suffered a drug induced nervous breakdown and wasn’t in any shape to crack the whip in the studio and create magic anymore. Whilst the band were left to their own devices they all brought their own influences and input into the group but without a guiding spirit leading the way, too often they only managed to produce a muddled collection of tracks with the occasional gem hidden within.

Throughout this period the group tried many different tactics to get Wilson firing on all cylinders again and even built a studio in his house where they would convene daily to record and write. He sometimes came to the studio if he heard something that he felt he could improve or had an idea for, otherwise he’d hide in his room and wait until they left before walking around the studio like a museum of days gone by and imagining ghosts from the past surrounding him.

After the success of the greatest hits package ‘Endless Summer’ (1974) the group got a definite second wind in popularity due to the fact that a new generation of kids had appeared at their shows and could appreciate their sixties songs as ‘new’ material. This release apart from fulfilling contractual obligations also helped the group bounce back from another failure, the lacklustre ‘Holland’ (1973) album. The ‘Holland’ album was refused upon its completion by the record company until Brian was almost forced into a room and completed the song ‘Sail on Sailor’ (with ‘SMiLE’ collaborator Van Dyke Parks) which was hastily added as track one as it was clearly the only high point on a below par collection of songs.

On the wave of the success of the greatest hits tour the band felt the need to make another new album and after the false start of ’15 Big Ones’ (1976), and another critical hammering, Brian (who was beginning the early stages of therapy) started writing demos almost as a mental exercise and for what would be his own solo album. It had taken almost ten years between the aborted ‘SMiLE’ sessions and 1976 but it seemed that the group and management were finally going to let Brian actually write, produce the music that he wanted to and hand the creative reigns back to him after spending the previous four or five desperately trying to pull them away from him at all costs. It was this creative freedom that helped unlock the now dormant magic and for him to create one of their strongest albums. As usual in the face of punk and disco the album sunk without a trace although time has been much nicer to this album then many others and certainly it has lasted longer than many of the flavour of the month disco groups that outsold it. The album also included more audio experimentation and new sonic boundary pushing with extensive use of new synthesizers and Moog keyboards throughout.

The album is laid out in contrasting sides with the opener Side A being more upbeat, fast songs with the flip side concentrating more on slow, melancholy (a genre Brian Wilson has always excelled in). Some of my favourite moments on this record include the almost childlike ‘Solar System’ which sounds like a soundtrack to a grade school science documentary about the milky way but has so much genuine feeling and happiness in it you can’t help but feel cradled by the chords and repeating harmonies as they flow and repeat throughout. The standout track of the album that showed that they were still yet to be a spent force as a group is the excellent ‘The Night Was So Young’ which includes vocals from the whole group and is the most contemporary moment here. The Moog Synthesizer is used throughout as both keyboard effect and bass, this is shown to great use on ‘I Bet He’s Nice’ which includes a low register Bass line played on it and shows that even though everyone else may have pigeon holed Wilson as a sixties relic he was still on the cutting edge and creativity. ‘Mona’ has been quoted as being one of Brian Wilson’s favourite songs he’s written as well as being his favourite on the album itself. It is an old fashioned song and ‘musical compliment’ to Wilson’s musical hero Phil Spector (naming his songs throughout) wrapped up in a sixties rolling doo-wop arrangement sung by Dennis Wilson (who by this time was battling his own drink and drugs demons and whose voice was almost as shot and raspy as brother Brian’s).

There are tracks that fall over the line and sound too much like half ideas and demos but some of these, including the single line, 57 seconds long, ‘Ding Dang’ (which amazingly took two people to create) is silly although has a certain charm.

One of the tracks presented here that shows the deeply personal nature of the songs has to be ‘Lets put our Hearts Together’, a duet sung by Brian and his then wife (although soon to be divorced) and mother of his two children Marilyn Wilson. Her voice throughout isn’t perfect although she was far from being a novice as she had already had records released as part of the group The Honeys (produced by Brian in the mid 60’s to flex his Phil Spector aspirations). The song itself is more about the sentiment rather than execution of the vocalist and combined with Brian’s cocaine and cigarette husky tenor it works well. The message of the song is clear upon first glance although on repeat listens it does give the listener the idea that maybe you’re listening to a man completely delusional about his marriage while it collapses around him.

The history of The Beach Boys will always be crowned with their string of hit singles in the 1960’s as well has having the album jewel of ‘Pet Sounds’ as the centrepiece but for casual fans and new comers alike ‘Love You’ is an album for those looking for something a little different, as I fear you won’t get it from their new Mike Love helmed release.

Monday, 21 May 2012

The Great Escape 2012

Photos by Jodie Meggs

The Great Escape

Brighton 10th-12th May 2012

The Great Escape Festival has always been a favourite of mine to both attend and cover due to the location as well as the fact that the majority of acts play inside venues that aren’t bogged down with the usual problems you face at outside festivals throughout the British summer. Looking at the gigantic list of all the times and places of the bands performing over the weekend it seemed that a spot of band pruning would be required as I didn’t want to miss anyone great because they were on at the same time as an amusingly named trendy band. As for some of these bands, I think they need to sit down and have an honest and frank conversation with themselves. It’s not funny or clever to take famous actor/musicians name and swap the first letters around, it’s lazy and lame. So please hang you head in shame Com Truise, Chet Faker and Himi Jendrix (Ok I made up the last one but you can see where I’m going with this right?).

The first band I saw after making my merry way along the lanes of the Brighton seafront was School is Cool, a five piece of multi-instrumentalists that juggle between percussion, guitars, bass and violins with ease and planned performance. Their set is tight, well thought out and with their stage personas being both funny and engaging (hopefully on purpose otherwise I’m going to hell) they managed to tick every box that I needed to see from a new unknown band. They played well, had great songs and even managed to up the cool and avant-garde stakes by using the stage to stomp and drum on during a free for all percussion solo involving the whole group.

Finding out early in the day that new indie hopefuls Tribes had pulled out threw a curve ball in the direction of what to do next but with some other great bands lined up an alternative was decided upon. I caught the end of Pond’s set before Eugene McGuinness took the stage with his band. I haven’t seen McGuinness before and was immediately impressed by his command of the stage and strong tight band that rocked through his set never letting up. His new single ‘Shotgun’ was announced and although it’s a definite single it seems strange that McGuinness isn’t a lot bigger and widely known already as he seems to tick every box required in this business. A great set.

Bass Drum of Death helped blow away the cobwebs and although both loud and raw they seemed to go over the same riff and arrangement constantly throughout their set. Reminiscent of a magician showing you a trick, by the 10th time it’s not that impressive. The evening of the first night ended with Bwani Junction, a Scottish four piece who played loud, fast and sung in their own accents which made a nice change from the mid west American twang that has been appearing out of the voice boxes of artists from Belgium, Norway and Sheffield of late.

The Black Belles arrived in Brighton in their full stage attire, they are definitely a Third Man artist and like their mentor Jack White before them, the look and the image of the band is just as important as the music itself. With their jet black hair, makeup, covered only by vintage dresses and Black Fedoras, The Black Belles brought Halloween mixed with vintage Fuzz Blues to Brighton and lifted the bar very high for the rest of the artists who could be heard talking about them long after the show finished. Their set was compiled from songs off their first album including the opener ‘Wishing Well’ and their excellent cover of 60’s garage rock band The Knickerbockers song ‘Lies’. The 3 piece (the 4th member absent this evening for undisclosed reasons) are a well drilled and powerful combo with each taking turns to hold down the groove while the other takes a solo, special kudos to drummer Shelby Lynne as well for her almost demonic treatment of the kit throughout and for putting that ‘Meg White’ female drummer conundrum to rest.

The final day of the festival saw a few great acts playing at venues such as Komedia as well as car parks (King Charles) but it was the double hitter of J.D McPherson and Alabama Shakes that stole the festival for me personally. J.D McPherson plays rock and roll, honest true to the bone rock and roll, from a time when it was still considered the ‘devils music’, a time when it was still called ‘boogie woogie’ and rock ‘n’ roll diners were still a glint in the taxman’s eye. With his Chuck Berry attack on guitar in songs like ‘Fire Bug’ to his bona fide Little Richard primal scream in single ‘North Side Gal’ McPherson led his 4 piece backing band through a fast packed wall shaking ‘across the tracks’ performance that I doubted could be beaten at this festival.

Alabama Shakes have been growing in popularity very quickly of late with everyone from Arctic Monkeys singer Alex Turner, Bernard Butler and Jack White queuing up to shout their support and love of the group to anyone that will listen. Arriving at the venue ‘Komedia’ I immediately saw the massive queue snaking up the street in support and this dear readers was just the queue for us humble hacks, the actual queue for the fans was double that. It seemed that the arrangers of the festival hadn’t planned for the massive increase in popularity of the band as well as the fact that they would be gracing the cover of NME the week of the festival. After finally getting in I was hit immediately by the sheer power of the group, not in volume but just in vibe and presence on stage. It’s very easy to make obvious comparisons to Janis Joplin, Lorraine Ellison and even Otis Redding as lead singer and guitarist Brittany Howard tears through the songs with a voice full of honesty and true emotion but it’s the cradle of her band that shows the true greatness of the music. This is a group where the musicians aren’t looking for the spotlight; they are old school players that are there to make sure the music and the singer sound as great as they can with no ego trip or guitar pyrotechnics involved. The set included single ‘Hold On’ as well as ‘Heavy Chevy’, ‘I Found You’ and the soul stirring ‘You Ain’t Alone’ (from their ‘Boys & Girls’ debut album), the later which pushed the gig over the edge from being a ‘set’ to ‘standout performance’. This summer real music is making a massive comeback and Alabama Shakes will be leading the charge.

Monday, 14 May 2012

The Black Belles INTERVIEW@The Great Escape 2012

Interview with The Black Belles
The Great Escape 2012

Q. I first heard The Black Belles from your cover version of The Knickerbockers track ‘Lies’, would you say that this late 60’s era is the genre that influences you as a group the most?

Shelby Lynne (Drums): I’d say we all have individual influences that are separate but then as a band there’s a lot that we all really love and that’s what comes out of us with our music I think. We do love lots of 60’s music, 50’s and 60’s really and then we all have separate little decades that appeal to us in unique ways.

Olivia Jean (Vocals/Guitars): I love girl bands, surf music and Phil Spector.

Q. I hear a lot of Link Wray, Duane Eddy, Dick Dale on the guitar especially, would you say that’s true?

Olivia Jean: Yeah I like surf music (laughs)

Q. You have a very striking image with the hats, makeup and overall look of the group, do you feel that this is just as important as the music itself and do you think that too many indie bands lack imagination with this area of things?

Shelby Lynne : Yeah!

Ruby Rogers (Vocals/Bass): Definitely, we like to dress for the stage. It’s nice to have a uniform as it does help to unify the band and prepare us.

Q. Would you say that it helps get you into the right frame of mind and gets you ready for the show?

Shelby Lynne: It definitely helps to have a hat on (laughs)

Q. There have been a few different stories about the origins of the band and your connection with Jack White. Did he see you playing and then decide to record you or was it a group that he invented and put together under his own design?

Olivia Jean: Yes, well we’ve all been playing music for a long time but we all have mutual friends at Third Man (Third Man Records) so it’s not like he (Jack White) picked us up off the street and threw us in a room (laughs) and put a group together, it wasn’t like that at all. Some people try and make up their own wild stories about the whole thing but it’s not a manufactured band at all.

Q. How is he (Jack White) to work with? He produced, co-wrote and directed your video…

Olivia Jean: He’s always really easy to work with, really open to ideas, very funny.

Ruby Rogers: I think that he definitely has a vision though about what he wants, but there is definitely collaboration between us although ultimately he has total control.

Q. Are there any plans for the summer festivals in the UK?

Shelby Lynne: We don’t know, we haven’t talked to our booking agent in regards to any at this stage.

Olivia Jean: They are sorting some stuff out and still confirming some other shows, I know that we have a few shows throughout the summer that are booked sporadically in the U.S and Canada.

Ruby Rogers: We’re also in talks with some shows in Spain as well.

Q. As a Third Man artist I would assume you have the same opinion on the download verses Vinyl debate as they do. Do you prefer people listening to your album as a whole piece or downloading individual tracks?

Olivia Jean: At this point in our career the whole thing definitely (laughs). I’d prefer them to listen to everything as a whole, as we’re still growing up. This is our first album so we’re trying to find the solid Black Belles sound. So on the album a lot of the songs sound really different from one another. You won’t get a real idea about what we’re trying to do if you just listen to one song.

Shelby Lynne: Exactly and I think that the general rule is that it’s really important to listen to the whole album from start to finish, look at the front cover, the back, the artwork it all ties together. Especially with this band the visuals are an important aspect, we really put a lot of care into each part of it.

Olivia Jean: Lots of tears went into it (they all laugh)

Shelby Lynne: Yes a lot (laughs) even the track listing we played really close attention to all the minor details right up to the way it looked finally.

Ruby Rogers: We’d hope that people use the sleeve of our album as a poster on their wall, we really love the artwork.

Q. Congratulations with getting your music added as the intro music for The Elvira Show in the U.S. Do you see a Black Belles movie in the pipeline? The Black Belles VS The Black Keys perhaps?

(All Laugh)

Olivia Jean: We’ve never thought about it but now you’ve planted the idea, the seed… now it sounds like something we’d want to do (laughs).

Ruby Rogers: We have frequently talked about directors and movies and genres of movies that we like that we’d like our songs to be in for soundtracks.

Q. There was a film that the band Ash made on tour called ‘Slashed’ that included a lot of other bands playing different characters/killers such as The Hives, Coldplay and Dave Grohl, a real old school slasher movie. Would that type of thing appeal to you?

Ruby: That would be cool

Shelby Lynne: Yeah (laughs) in black and white obviously, high contrast.

Olivia Jean: That would be fun, some time in the future but no plans for the time being.

Thank you very much

http://theblackbelles.com/ (official site)

Thanks to Andy Barding and Ben Swank at Third Man Records

The Futureheads ; INTERVIEW @ CAMDEN CRAWL 2012

The Futureheads

The Futureheads
Ross Millard – Vocals/Guitar/Banjo
Barry Hyde – Vocals/Guitar/Mandolin
David ‘Jaff’ Craig – Bass/cello/vocals
Dave Hyde – Drums/bass/vocals

Q. For a band that have toured world wide and played all the major festivals why did you choose Camden Crawl?

Barry: They made us an offer we couldn’t refuse (laughs) I think we are here mainly because we love playing KOKO and the last time we played Camden Crawl, we played here. In fact, halfway through the set last time one of the support bands maliciously decided to set the fire alarm off.

Ross: Sabotaging the gig.

Barry: Yeah, knowing that if the fire alarm goes off in this venue that all of the electricity and all of the PA electricity shut off automatically so we’re here for revenge…

Q. I’ve noticed that all your albums seemed to have been released in May-June was this on purpose or coincidence?

Barry: We didn’t really plan to release stuff in spring but I think it’s a pretty good time to release things as people are more open to new music whereas in winter they tend to be hibernating (laughs) I just think that we used to have a cycle of recording then touring and recording again but with this album (‘Rant’) it took us a year to make it on and off and then later this year we are releasing two more albums as well.

Ross: although ‘Rant’ did actually come out in May (laughs).

Barry: We are really trying to break old habits and break the cycle of things although, three albums in one year it looks like we’ve succeeded.

Q. Do you write on the road?

Barry: No.

Ross: Its quite difficult when you’re touring as you’re preoccupied with doing the gigs and enjoying the experience of being ‘on tour’ although you do remember individual ideas that you’ve put to one side for a better time that you can then bring to the table when we get back at a later date. But writing on the road isn’t really something we do; I don’t think many bands do it either that we’ve met.

Barry: Linkin Park! I heard that they have a tour bus that is a recording studio, there aren’t any beds on it or anything like that, they are literally recording whilst travelling which I think is quite amazing really.

Ross: Although they usually fly everywhere in jets so they must have to have a REALLY good idea to take the bus (all laughs) that’s really big deal megastar stuff really, the best we’d get would be a 8 track in the van (laughs)

Barry: Obviously when you’re travelling in a vehicle or walking somewhere, that tends to be a common time for you to have ideas when you’re kind of distracted, so I think in a sense songs begin on the road when you’re just going about your daily business and then you have to make a date really and decide to work on the song on this day and record it on this day and then the rest of the process just takes over. You don’t stop writing a song until it’s mastered. I consider the mixing process just as important as the lyrical process or the guitar process, it’s not finished until you essentially press stop.

Q. Is a song ever finished? For the ‘Rant’ album you’ve re-recorded some songs from your back catalogue for example and then performed them live including different arrangements once again.

Barry: In that sense, in the terms of a life of a song absolutely it never ends, you can stunt its growth (laughs) or you can be really rigid with it and play it the same every night but that’s quite tedious for the band so everything slowly starts to take its own quality, but what we’ve done on this acoustic album we’ve made as when we made ‘Rant’ we re-invented some of our old songs for other instruments not just vocals.

Ross: Help give them some CPR! (Laughs)

Barry: By doing this they really do feel like new songs to us and its strange that for some people when you’re releasing albums that aren’t entirely of new material that they think “Oh they must have ran out of ideas” but to re-record an old song is as much of an idea as writing a new one, it takes as much work if not more as you have the original attachment to the song and the initial relationship so in that respect you have to let them change and evolve.

Ross: It’s very rare that you play every song off an album live anyway so it’s only when we’re re-arranged them that they have actually made it to the set, they just seemed to fit better in that acoustic setting this time around.

Q. Can you see a time where you’d do both versions in a live setting?

Barry: I think you could get away with that.

Jaff – Well in fact a friend of ours who heard ‘Rant’ said “well there were a couple of the re-recorded ones that were better than the original and some that weren’t” which was strange because we then had to explain that we weren’t trying to replace any of the originals or do them better as such we were just trying something new and trying them out in this setting and arrangement for our own enjoyment really.

Barry: It’s strange that people always need to attach reason to things. Sometimes there isn’t a valid reason behind something and you have people asking “so what are you trying to achieve with this album?” and we have to say…well nothing, we are trying to ‘achieve’ an album nothing more; it’s nothing about the demographic (laughs)

Ross: we just feel we’ve become better musicians as we’ve progressed and are trying new things out and it’s just as valid an experience to us as anything else that we’ve done.

Q. You’ve taken risks musically by recording a whole album of acapella songs. How did that come to pass?

Barry: We did a session for Jo Wiley and when you do a session for the Live Lounge it’s a good little challenge as you do one of your own songs, you have to do an arrangement of some else’s song that is in the charts that week so we chose ‘Acapella’ by Kelis and we managed to arrange it in about half and hour and then went and sang it live straight on the radio (laughs) and that was a much bigger risk than anything we’d done up to that point, although we enjoyed taking that risk definitely and got a lot out of it. It’s similar to when you play a bunch of new songs live at a gig, the feeling of relief when you’ve played them, and played them all correctly, is worth all the built up anxiety beforehand and leading up to it. It’s that risk that’s important because if you don’t care then what are you risking?

Ross: I think that a lot of bands feel misunderstood by others at certain times but with an acapella album, what’s there to misunderstand? You can’t really miss that one, you can’t hide behind anything, and it’s really upfront.

Q. Have there been any outside bands or artists that have influenced the writing and playing of the recent albums/recordings?

Ross: Led Zeppelin

Barry: 'Led Zeppelin 3' mainly, they took a risk there and it didn’t really pay off for them but at least they then followed it up with number 4 and ‘Stairway to Heaven’ so you have to think would they have ever written that if they’d never made number 3?

Ross: I think it was just speaking to each other as well that influenced the album, saying ok well we’ve always sang in 4 part harmony and added certain acapella parts to songs so why not try and do a whole albums worth of purely acapella songs, I think that by reducing the instruments as well it helped push the idea for a live situation as well as you can’t really do a whole 80 minutes of acapella music, you’d be asking too much of the crowd to sit there in silence throughout, especially when a good 90% of people aren’t capable of giving that much attention to something for that length of time when they’ve come to a rock and roll show. I mean no disrespect to anyone but it is very intense to do that for a whole show so we added the acoustic and older instruments like mandolins and cellos.

Barry: We like the old instruments as well as they are so old as they are very ancestral instruments to us so it’s a good feeling when the songs go across in this way, songs like ‘The Keeper’ are very elemental in their presentation, we are trying to present something old as new songs, the melodies are so strong and so familiar as well as they were written in an era when the songs meant more and there was more of a craft, where as nowadays its not as much about the craft its about being crafty (laughs)

Ross: that’s what we really like about these songs as well, they are so simple in their construction, there are no mathematical riffs to remember or strange time signatures to remember, it’s about getting up there, playing the songs and having a good time.

Barry: I’d say that the build up over the previous four albums have been a kind of apprenticeship to this stage that we’ve arrived at now and once you get to that stage it’s almost validation of what you’ve achieved and you can then look at things objectively and say right what can we do now?

Q. Have you heard Todd Rundgren’s 1985 album ‘Acapella’? If so was it an influence on the concept?

Barry: You mean Dolph Lundgren? (Laughs)

Ross: It’s when he sampled himself and used the vocals through a synth type emulator.

Barry: oh no, no I haven’t heard, I’d like to though definitely.

Jaff: I saw him when he came over for the ‘A Wizard, A True Star’ gigs in Hammersmith and that was amazing although I wasn’t too sure about him also doing the blues band stuff at the start but the main show was really great.

Barry: It might be a good idea actually to have a bad support band then the crowd is so appreciative of the first note of your set (laughs)

Q. What are the plans for The Futureheads for the summer/rest of the year?

Ross: We have a handful of festivals through the summer and a gig at Shepherds Bush Empire coming up, then after we will be releasing the next part of the acoustic albums. We have also been recording each of our shows on the tour so hopefully we’ll have a live album out as well to follow.

Q. Can the fans expect a return to the electric line up after?

Ross: Yes well we have a gig next week that’s full on band, so sooner than they think (laughs).

Barry: It’s been a very rejuvenating experience playing acoustic and acapella so going back to electric instruments after such a long time off will be exciting, we can’t wait.

Thank you

Many thanks to Chris and Ric at Artrocker