Sunday, 19 March 2017

Ramones: Hey Ho let's go

It's 1976 and the latest craze is disco music, while the rock mega-stars of recent years are finding themselves increasingly out of touch with the youth they once represented - In the UK saccharine music from the likes of Abba and Brotherhood of Man were dominating the charts, and there was something of a rock and roll revival with the likes of Showaddywaddy scoring multiple chart hits. Looking back at the acts that were shifting vinyl by the ton it is incredible to think that we were on the cusp of a music revolution that would rival the birth of rock and roll in both its intensity and cultural shift.

It was across the pond in American, the birthplace of Rock and Roll, that a band called The Ramones took several steps back to basic three chord rock and roll and somehow hurled themselves forwards to define the way music was going to go.

The self titled debut album was recorded in just seven days at a budget of not much over six thousand US bucks, the sound was primitive and yet incredible fresh and yes this album more than any other can be pinpointed as the birth of punk rock. This is high octane music with basic chord structures that any novice could play and lyrics delivered by Joey Ramone in a cod-English accent and dealing with violence, drug abuse and that old chestnut, teenage love. I wanna be your Boyfriend, the fourth track on the first side, is absolutely gorgeous.

'Beat on the Brat
Beat on the Brat
Beat on the brat with a baseball bat, oh yeah' 

Goes the simple lyric of a track entitled suitably enough, Beat on the Brat and that's as far as the lyics go but the track is delivered with a humorous bend and a driving almost subdued back-beat.

"When I lived in Birchwood Towers in Forest Hills with my mom and brother. It was a middle-class neighborhood, with a lot of rich, snotty women who had horrible spoiled brat kids. There was a playground with women sitting around and a kid screaming, a spoiled, horrible kid just running around rampant with no discipline whatsoever. The kind of kid you just want to kill. You know, 'beat on the brat with a baseball bat' just came out. I just wanted to kill him."
—Joey Ramone on "Beat on the Brat."

The album came packaged in a stark black and white photograph of the band leaning against a wall - a simple enough concept but this has become one of the most copies album covers in history. The album too, whilst not initially a commercial success has become a recognised classic, an album of true importance and one that regularly features in the top ten of the best albums ever recorded. In fact in my opinion it is the best punk album ever recorded -  It marks the ascension  of one of the fundamental artists of the last century. It is without any doubt one of the most skillfully executed and conceptually original recorded works of all time.

'I'd a shock trooper in a stupor
Yes, I am
I'm a Nazi Schatze
Y'know I fight for the Fatherland'

Without The Ramones there would have been no Sex Pistols and although the Ramones may have not been the first truly punk band, they were the most important in terms of cultural revolution.

A stunning album that deserves a place in every collection.

Thursday, 29 December 2016

Blue and Lonesome - The Rolling Stones

I held back on reviewing this album because I haven't been able to stop listening to the bloody thing, it's still on constant rotation after almost a month. To be frank it's a fucking remarkable album, on Vinyl it's a double album - I mean let's face it The Stones are a bit long in the tooth, and it could be argued that their last truly essential album came out sometime during the 1970's, and to my particular tastes they've never topped their excellent Sixties run of albums - OK Satantic Majesties may be a blip but I'd take it over anything, with one or two possible exceptions, released after the mid Seventies. And now at the tail end of 2017 they come out with an album of Blues covers that have them sounding spookily alike those 1964 rebels who the Daily Mirror were terrified were going to marry your daughters. When this plaetter spins you can close your eyes and be transformed back to the smokey atmosphere of the Crawdaddy Club, or the gold lined streets of Swinging London.

This is the first album since the band's first to be made up entirely of covers - recorded in just three days the album has the feeling of a tightly packed jam with musicians bringing their love of the blues genre to the forefront and producing a smoking hot set.

This is an album that can be enjoyed and cherished by matter what your age, even if you weren't born during the Stones first run of albums, or if you, like Granny were around to hurl your knickers at the boys during the first manic years of Stones dominance.

This little old lady, who confidentially once had a romantic interlude with Keef - find details in my book, Murder Plot, was shaking her stuff and excercising muscles I don't think I've felt since 1965.

Blue and Lonesome was never planned  - Incredibly it was made on impulse, as a much-needed break during other studio work. And it shows how tight this band are and how well Jagger can still sing. Solos are brief, evoking  the original recordings by the original bluesmen.


Friday, 5 February 2016

Even after all these years The Solo Beatles still dissapoint.

Just been spinning Side 2 of the new 180g pressing of Abbey Road, and sitting there, perfectly positioned between the speakers,  I realised that even after all these years The Beatles solo work still dissapoints. I'm not saying there are not some excellent albums among the Beatles solo stuff because there are, in fact several are truly essential. And yet. listening to Abbey Road you realise that the possibilities suggested by this work of true genius were never really realised. The second side of Abbey Road is  the dog's bollocks as far as rock is concerned. It would never get better than this, no one would ever top this. No matter who you talk about, no matter which genius you care to nominate,  no one ever topped Side 2 of Abbey Road - Not Bowie, not the Stones, not Nirvana, not Led Zepplin and not the Beatles themselves. Oh sure, Paul McCartney has several times tried to build song medleys that would equal Abbey Road but to be honest he's failed miserably. I guess all of the Beatles were going to be overshadowed in their solo careers by their collective selves - Guess they should have realised, - you're gonna' have to carry that weight a long time.'

That said there is still some great stuff among the solo albums, just nothing quite as orgasmic as Side 2, but given the way we listen to music these days, on tablets, MP3 players, on our phones even, I decided to set myself the task of making a solo Beatles playlist. The rules were 17 songs, the length of the average CD,  and so without giving any of the Beatles preferance I present my solo Beatles playlist, which I'm going to title ......

Even after all these years

1 - Instant Karma - I imagined my playlist was a genuine album, and so I thought about the way I would structure the songs and this rocker from Lennon is the perfect album opener.

2-Maybe I'm Amazed - Macca's best love song. This power ballad, the live cut from Wings Over America being the preferred version, represents one of the times when he has come very close to his Beatles greatness.

3- Uncle Albert, Admiral Halsey - One of the weirdest songs any of the Beatles ever did and it rocks, rolls and lurches as it powers through time shifts. This would have fitted right into Pepper's era Beatles and it is all the better for it.

4-  Photograph - Written by George, this is Ringo's best solo song - there's no doubt of that at all.

5-All Things Must Pass - Reminds us that nothing is forever and does it in such a beautiful way that this had to feature in out playlist.

6- Mother - it's a painful song but Lennon manages to get his soul into the piece. This is quite excellent in a fucked up kind of way.

7-Gimme Some Truth - Lennon at his rocking best.

8-Watching the Wheels - this late Lennon classic harks back in sentiment to Beatles numbers such as I'm so Tired and I'm Only Sleeping

9- Back Seat of my Car - Macca's doing what he's always done best, with this rock symphony about the good things in life - making out in the back seat, baby!

10-What is Life - George asks the universal question.

11-Early 1970 - a cracker from Ringo that namechecks his fellow Beatles

12-Band on the Run - this is an excellent song in five distinct movements and a brilliant Beatles style chorus.

13-Working Class Hero - John reminds us that even with all their fame, their wealth, he still considered himself a man of the people.

14 - When we were Fab - George gives us his most Beatley sounding song as he remind us why they were fab.

15 - Wanderlust - Macca in best lush production mode.

16-Imagine - This peon to peace is Lennon's signiture song

17- This One - ending the playlist was always going to be tough but in the end I decided on this cut from McCartney's Flowers in the Dirt album.

Those of you who have a large Beatles collection may want to compile your own solo Beatles playlist - maybe share the list in the comments below.

Saturday, 23 January 2016

Sex for your ears

A kind of Blue is the jazz album that many rocks fans have in their collection - Miles Davies lived a life that was pure rock and roll, and he played from the soul - I bloody love this album. It truly is sex for your ears.

Well as all you groovers know vinyl is back in a big way, and currently there's a new magazine, one of those part work things, on sale at newsagents. And each issue comes with a classic jazz album on genuine virgin 180g vinyl - even better the first issue is priced at a special low of £4.99 and comes with A Kind of Blue, on 180g vinyl - man, the album is worth at least £20 so this is a bargain you won't want to miss.

I think the regular price of the magazine will be £14.99, but coming with a LP record and an excellent magazine looking at the record in question, it is a set worth collecting. I've subscribed anyway - I'm not that knowledgable on Jazz, so I'm going to use this collection to explore the genre. Previously, A Kind of Blue and a few Louis Armstrong albums have been the only jazz in my collection.

I love Kind of Blue...did I mention that it is sex for your ears! And not just your standard run of the mill sex but sex with a hot chick from a fetish bar.

Monday, 11 January 2016

DAVID BOWIE: Where the fuck did Monday go?

Two days ago I reviewed David Bowie's new album, Blackstar - that was Saturday and today,
Monday I'm writing about his death.

Where the fuck did Monday go? Bowie asks on one of the songs on his new album, which seems to be a seven track meditation on mortality. It's an amazingly good album, but very bleak, black even and no doubt, Bowie, knowing the end was close, designed it to be his last word.

Something happened on the day he died, spirits rose a meter and stepped aside - Blackstar

Look up here, I'm in heaven
I've got scars that can't be seen
I've got drama, can't be stolen
Everybody knows me now -
Lazarus, the second track on the new album.

Bowie was, without any doubt, one of the most influential artists of the rock era. He is truly immortal like only a select few - John lennon, Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, Johnny Cash and  Elvis Presely all come to mind and Bowie's name will take rightful place besides these true icons, for each of them have left an imprint on music that has become a part of rock's DNA and not just in musical terms but in their very persona. There was something about these people that made them stand out, made them truly great. And Bowie was definitely a great.

Bowie lived the rock and roll lifestyle to the full - drink, drugs, bisexuality all played a large part in his life. It can be argued that the 1970's was his most creative decade with albums like Low, Ziggy Stardust, Station to Station, Hunky Dory and Diamond Dogs all cementing his position as rock's greatest innovator but albums that came after his golden decade were pretty damn good, in fact for Bowie it seemed as if his golden years never really ended. Scary Monsters and Super Creeps kicked off Bowie's 1980's  and although he entered a fallow period following this record, his 1983 album, Let's Dance was his most commercially successful - Let's Dance, to my mind, was too poppy and had none of the brilliance of his 1970's work, but it did yield several hugely successful singles in Let's Dance, China Girl and Modern Love.

In the early 1990's Bowie seemed to turn his back on his solo career and instead became a member of Tin Machine, but although he intended the band to be a democracy it was the Bowie name that dominated. Bowie constantly shifted styles in the following years, scoring many successes but to my mind his next truly great album was 2002's Heathen, which was followed a year later by the even better (to my mind) Reality. One track on the album, Never Get Old just rocks as Bowie screams out, 'never gonna be enough money, never gonna be enough sex, never gonna be enough drugs.Never ever gonna get old.' But you know what - Bowie had gotten old and it suited him.

 Then Bowie seemed to fade away and official word was that he had retired, while rumours did the rounds that he was seriously ill, dying even - He surprised fans in 2013 when he released a new album, the Next Day which sounded both fresh and at the same time a rollback to Ziggy era Bowie. His final album, Blackstar came out last weekend, released on Bowie's 69th birthday, and then he once again took fans by surprise by dying after secretly battling cancer for more than 18 months. NO doubt Bowie had planned for the last album to be released on his 69th birthday, all too aware that his own end was imminent. Bowie, it seemed, had died the way he had lived...on his own terms.

Bless you gave so much and we carry you in our hearts.


Saturday, 9 January 2016

Blackstar - David Bowie goes Noir

Bowie's new album, his 25th studio platter, is the sound of an artist giving the modern music industry the finger - still this shouldn't come as a surprise as Bowie's often pulled the rug from under our expectations and gone in a totally unexpected direction. Remember the Berlin Trilogy all those years ago!

Well after his previous album, The Next Day which saw Bowie return to the recording studio after ten years and release a set that owed much to classic Bowie, we could have been forgiven for expecting more of the same when a new album, Blackstar was announced back last year. Of course those of us who know Bowie's work would have expected no such thing, because we know the Thin White Duke, the stardust covered Alien, the starstruck jester is a man of many faces and many sounds. And Blackstar is a kick in the bollocks for those who wanted more Ziggy era-alike vibes...this album is more Low than Scary Monsters...and may be the best thing he'd done for some considerable time. Expect awards aplenty - album of the year, and all that.

Containing only seven tracks - admittedly mammoth tracks, the shortest being 4 mins, 40 seconds, while the longest is 9 mins, 58 seconds - the album is short by modern standards, but it matters not for there is no filler here and each track propels upwards with a jazz infected vibe. I've been playing the album constantly now for the past two days and it's really under my skin - I liked The Next Day but I have no doubt this is better...much better.

Donny McCaslin's saxophone drives the album and is every bit as important to this set as Bowie's voice - the songs are all about death, the end of days...basically your everyday bundle of laughs...and done with such craft that they really get under your skin and each new listen brings up new aural delights, and the odd thought provoking lyric. Bowieologists already are likening the album to his great Berlin experiments Low or "Heroes."  Though that may be missing the point -  Blackstar is its own strange, perverse thing, the ­latest move in a boundlessly ­unpredictable career.

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Vinyl is Back in a big way

Who would have thought it but in the age of MP3's. music streaming services and fast food joints where the  phyiscal record shops used to be,  that vinyl, that dinosuar of music delivery, would make a come back. But would you believe it! Suck my Losin-Dant and frown - the good old twelve incher is ramming its way back into my life.

'Touting its success this Christmas shopping season, Amazon revealed on Monday that its top selling home audio product this year was the Jensen JTA-230 3-Speed Stereo Turntable with Built-in Speakers. While it features a USB port for converting vinyl records to digital, and features an auxiliary input for connecting a digital media player, the No. 1 bestseller is decidedly old school, playing 33, 45 and 78 RPM records with a belt-driven three-speed stereo turntable.

The Jensen turntable outsold Amazon's second-hottest home audio product of the fall of 2015, the Yamaha RX-V677 7.2-channel Wi-Fi Network AV Receiver. Notably, the Yamaha receiver features built-in support for Apple's wireless AirPlay protocol, allowing users to transmit music from an iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Mac or Windows PC.' Apple Insider.

This Christmas saw an unexpected present under Granny's tree - Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band on vinyl. As soon as I opened it I smiled so wide that my dentures bounced off the cat's head. That'll teach it for snuggling up on my lap. As I held this record, gazed at the cover art and felt the vinyl inside I realised that I'd forgotten the pleasures of a good twelve inches.

Trouble is I don't have a record player!!!