Category Archives: Writeups

Album and song reviews.

Albums Of The Month Part 2

I’m pleased about deciding to continue my “Album of the Month” feature on my radio program, The Sunday Smorgasbord. It enables me to play tracks from some of my favourite albums whilst discussing some useless trivia about the album and/or artists. Hopefully it will introduce listeners to something new or let them hear something they haven’t heard for a while. This post covers the second year of the feature.

01 Highway To Hell

AC/DC’s seminal 1979 album – Highway To Hell

I’ve intentionally used the image of  the original Australian pressing of AC/DC’s album Highway To Hell. I think the flames make all the difference in the world to the cover art and find the one used overseas and everywhere today to be rather drab by comparison.

02 Showdown!

The Grammy Award winning album Showdown! featuring Collins, Cray & Copeland

I always advise newcomers to the blues that if they only end up owning one blues album from the 1980s then Showdown! has to be it. The interplay between Albert Collins, Robert Cray and Johnny Copeland is just beautiful to hear.

03 Quadrophenia

The ultimate rock opera, the Who’s Quadrophenia

The Who’s album Tommy may be more famous and Who’s Next , comprising of tracks from their abandoned Lifehouse project, may contain some of their finest moments, but for me the quintessential rock opera is Quadrophenia. I love this album from start to finish (the only way to listen to it).

04 face to face

Face To Face, an essential album for fans of Aussie pub rock

Stalwarts of the Australian pub rock scene, the Angels, hit their straps fairly early on with their career-defining sophomore album, Face To Face, released in 1978.

05 mellon collie

The Smashing Pumpkins reached their peak with Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness

Many pundits will tell you that Nirvana’s Nevermind was the album of the 90s decade. Personally, I always found it a toss-up between Blood Sugar Sex Magik by the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, OK Computer by Radiohead and this masterpiece from the Smashing Pumpkins. To release a double album of this length which remains “all killer no filler” is an amazing achievement.

06 magic box

1967’s Magic Box from The Loved Ones

I was introduced to this album in the late 1980s after hearing two cover versions of their hit, “The Loved One”, by INXS. It’s hard to imagine now how successful these guys really were in their day despite the brevity of their career. The album was also one of Australia’s earliest to be released in stereo.

07 speaking in tongues

Speaking In Tongues, a classic album from Talking Heads

I think I’m showing my age with the amount of 1980s albums creeping in to my album of the month feature. I loved Talking Heads around this time and enjoyed a midnight screening session of their live concert film, Stop Making Sense, only a few years after this album.

08 ok computer

Radiohead’s finest moment, OK Computer

I still listen to this album today despite it now being 20 years old!

09 endless forms most beautiful

Endless Forms Most Beautiful from Finland’s Nightwish

My album of the year for 2015 was Nightwish’s Endless Forms Most Beautiful. If you have a thing for symphonic metal then you need this in your collection.

10 at last

Etta James released At Last! in 1960

Etta James released one the finest debut albums you will ever hear in November 1960. Worth owning if you don’t already!

11 days of innocence

Days Of innocence featuring the mawkish “What About Me?”

I adore this album despite absolutely detesting their hugely successful single from it, “What About Me?”. Proof that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

12 number of the beast

Iron Maiden introduces Bruce Dickinson as their new lead singer on 1982’s Number Of The Beast

I still consider Number Of The Beast one of Iron Maiden’s finest moments.

 

I think anyone who decides to go out and buy these “albums of the month” listed here, and those in my previous post on this topic, will certainly end up with an interesting music collection (in my humble opinion).

In me-Moore-iam

gary-moore-04

Legendary Irish guitarist Gary Moore

Often, people are remembered on the anniversary of their death. In the case of musicians, I’m more likely to think of them when I hear their music. I was reminded of just how great a performer Gary Moore was, after playing a track on my radio show last weekend.

He started his career with a band called Skid Row where he first met a young Phil Lynott. He would go on to have an on again-off again relationship with Lynott’s band Thin Lizzy during the 1970s. However, he only appeared on one studio album as a fully-fledged member of the band, the magnificent Black Rose from 1979.

black rose

The classic Thin Lizzy album, 1979’s Black Rose

I can’t remember when I first heard Gary Moore solo but I remember obtaining his 1985 album, Run For Cover,on vinyl based on the strength of the single he performed with Phil Lynott, “Out In The Fields”. I wasn’t disappointed.

run for cover

Run For Cover released in 1985

He was a very technically gifted guitarist and during his early solo albums he concentrated on a hard rock sound. He had success in the UK, and to a lesser extent in Australia, but he was idolised in Japan. He released a live album recorded in Japan in 1983 and seven studio albums during the course of the eighties. The most successful of these was 1987’s Wild Frontier and featured a cover version of the Easybeats track, “Friday On My Mind”.

Wild Frontier

1987’s Wild Frontier

In the 1990s he reinvented himself as bluesman, by returning to the kind of music that inspired him in his youth. “Still Got The Blues”, released in 1990, turned out to be the most successful album of his career and featured two legendary bluesmen in Albert King and Albert Collins.

still got the blues

Still Got The Blues released in 1990

His next studio album, After Hours,  featured another blues legend in B.B. King before he formed a supergroup of sorts, with Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker of Cream fame. They called themselves BBM (Bruce-Baker-Moore) and released one album, Around The Next Dream in 1994.

bbm

1994’s Around The Next Dream by BBM

Moore would return to the blues on his tribute album to Peter Green, Blues For Greeny, released in 1995. Peter Green, founding guitarist of Fleetwood Mac, was an idol of Moore’s and he had sold Moore his 1959 Gibson Les Paul after Moore got to play support for Green with his first band, Skid Row. Blues For Greeny was recorded using that very same guitar on material composed by Green and originally recorded during his tenures with Fleetwood Mac and John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers.

blues for greeny

Blues For Greeny released in 1995

Moore then chose to modernise his sound on his next studio album, the excellent Dark Days In Paradise, released in 1997.

dark days

1997’s Dark Days In Paradise

In the 21st century Moore once again focused on the blues, releasing another five studio blues albums between 2001 and 2008.

If you’ve never considered owning any of his albums there are plenty of compilations available for you to sample his wares, or you could dive right in with both feet and get hold of some of the albums featured in this blog post.

What better way to remember a musician then by playing their material?

A life without Pop?

It’s hard to imagine a musical landscape that will no longer include Iggy Pop. He’s been releasing music for my entire life time and even though his output has been of varying quality at times, when it’s been good it’s been very good indeed. After his former cohort, David Bowie, released his final album just prior to his death earlier this year, it seems fitting that Iggy would choose to release his final album in 2016 too.

My earliest memory of Iggy is his iconic performance on ABC TV’s Countdown with host Molly Meldrum. From his electrifying mimed performance of “I’m Bored” to his bouncing up and down in the interview chair and attempting to say “G’day mate”. Youtube it, it’s worth a viewing.

For many fans it is his groundbreaking work with The Stooges that earned him the nickname “The Godfather of Punk”. Despite the commercial failure of the first two studio albums they did contain some great tracks such as “I Wanna Be Your Dog”, “No Fun” and “TV Eye”. But it was the third Stooges album, Raw Power, featuring James Williamson in the band, that became a cult classic. It was the first time Iggy worked with David Bowie as the album needed remixing at the record company’s insistence. A difficult task for Bowie as the 24 track master had the band on one track, the lead guitarist on another and Iggy on a third. Not a lot to work with. But it did include the seminal tracks “Search And Destroy”, “Your Pretty Face Is Going To Hell” and “Gimme Danger”.

raw power

Raw Power, released in 1973

After the demise of The Stooges (again) Iggy recorded his debut solo album with David Bowie producing and co-writing the material. The album, The Idiot, was named after the novel by Fyodor Dostoyevsky and featured such fantastic tracks as “Sister Midnight”, “Nightclubbing” and the original version of “China Girl”, a hit for Bowie later.

the-idiot

Iggy’s debut solo album, 1977’s The Idiot

Released a mere five months after his debut, Lust For Life remains a career pinnacle for Iggy. Co-produced by Iggy with both Bowie and Colin Thurston, the album features what many consider his signature tune in the title track, along side other classics like “The Passenger”, “Tonight” and “Success”.

lustforlife

The much-loved Lust For Life, also released in 1977

Co-produced by former Stooge James Williamson, 1979’s New Values was Iggy’s first solo album not to have any involvement from Bowie. It featured the aforementioned classic “I’m Bored” and “Five Foot One” as singles.

new values

1979’s New Values

After a few rather unsuccessful albums of somewhat patchy quality, Iggy reunited with Bowie for the fantastic Blah Blah Blah in 1986. Although the album’s drum sound is a little dated by today’s standards, it featured some great tracks that were all released as singles. “Shades”, “Fire Girl”, “Isolation”, “Real Wild Child (Wild One)” and my personal favourite “Cry For Love”.

blah

Blah Blah Blah released in 1986

Collaborating with such musicians as Slash, John Hiatt, Waddy Wachtel and Kate Pierson of the B-52s, really paid off for Iggy on 1990’s Brick By Brick. “Candy”, the duet with Pierson, would end up being the biggest hit of his career. The album was helmed by renowned producer Don Was, a long time Stooges fan.

brick

Brick By Brick, released in 1990

Also in 1990, Iggy dueted with Blondie’s Deborah Harry on a fantastic cover version of “Well Did You Evah?”, originally performed by Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby. The track was part of the compilation, Red Hot + Blue: A Tribute to Cole Porter, an album released in order to raise money for AIDS research. It is worth obtaining this album just for Iggy’s performance in my humble opinion!

red hot blue

1990’s Red Hot + Blue: A Tribute to Cole Porter

Continuing his career resurgence Iggy released the album, American Caesar, in 1993. Although not as successful as its predecessor the album spawned another hit single in “Wild America”. Humourously, the cover came with a sticker with the wording, “Parental Warning: This Is An Iggy Pop Record”, which says it all really.

american_caesar

Iggy’s 1993 album, American Caesar

Iggy would work again with Don Was as producer, on his 1999 critically acclaimed album, Avenue B. Not as successful commercially as some of his other albums, it is still an album well worth a listen.

ave b

Avenue B released in 1999

Although he has been quite prolific since the turn of the century including a couple of albums with the re-formed Stooges and a pair of French-inspired albums in Préliminaires and Après, he has never really regained the popularity he attained earlier in his career. If his latest release, Post Pop Depression, really is his last then it is a career-ending high note. Working with Josh Homme as producer and co-writer, the album also features Homme’s fellow band member from Queens Of The Stone Age, Dean Fertita, and the Arctic Monkeys drummer, Matt Helders.

post-pop-depression

Iggy’s finale, 2016’s Post Pop Depression

I picked up my copy on Friday 18th March 2016, the first day of release, and I am sure it will be one of my favourite releases of the year.

Clutching At Straws?

I was “clutching at straws” to come up with a name for this blog post as it’s really a gig review. So I went with the obvious. I went to the Metro Theatre in Sydney on 4 March 2016 to see one my favourite bands in recent years, Clutch. They are touring to promote their latest album, Psychic Warfare.

Clutch-Psychic-Warfare-album-art

Clutch’s latest, Psychic Warfare, released in 2015

There were two support acts on before Clutch and we saw an interesting set from King Of The North, a duo of just guitar and drums amped to the max! They were a great heart-starter before the main event. The second support act was Cosmic Psychos who released their latest studio album, Cum The Raw Prawn, in June 2015. For me, I admittedly  have never been a fan, and nothing they did in concert changed my mind. The vocals were so distorted as it to be unintelligible and the same two chords played ad infinitum do nothing for me without some shadow and light. Ho hum, bring on Clutch!

cosmicpsychos-cumtherawprawn

Cum The Raw Prawn released by Cosmic Psychos in 2015

The wait was definitely worth it as Clutch were awesome! A shit-hot band so tight that at times sounded funky and bluesy at the same time! Neil Fallon, the vocalist and occasional guitarist, held the audience in the palm of his hand and his animated performance was the focal point for most of the audience. This freed up the rest of the band to do what they do so well, just play damn good music! Tim Sult’s incendiary guitarwork was ear-shatteringly good and the rhythm section of Dan Maines on bass and Jean-Paul Gaster on drums were unstoppable and unbeatable. It was definitely worth the trip to Sydney.

The setlist is detailed below and as one would expect most of it came from their last two studio albums the afore-mentioned Psychic Warfare and 2013’s Earth Rocker. Can’t wait until they come again.

earth rocker

Earth Rocker, released in 2013

Setlist:

X-Ray Visions
Firebirds!
Crucial Velocity
Burning Beard
The Regulator
Earth Rocker
A Quick Death In Texas
Sucker For The Witch
D.C. Sound Attack
Pure Rock Fury
Behold The Colossus
Our Lady Of Electric Light
Unto The Breach
Son Of Virginia
Gravel Road
The Mob Goes Wild
Electric Worry/One Eye Dollar

Albums of the Month

It’s now been just over 12 months since I commenced my feature “Albums of the Month” on my community radio program The Sunday Smorgasbord as heard on TYGA FM. The idea behind the feature was to provide listeners with several tracks from one of my favourite albums each month with the aim of giving a better indication of what an album is like. Hopefully those liking what they have heard would then obtain the album for themselves. It harks back to why I got involved in community radio in the first place. To share my music with others. I felt I had no choice but to begin with one of my favourite albums of all time, Layla And Other Assorted Love Songs by Derek and the Dominos.

A personal favourite, Layla And Other Assorted Love Songs released by Derek & The Dominos in 1970.

A personal favourite,
Layla And Other Assorted Love Songs
released by Derek & The Dominos in 1970.

I’ve always been a big fan and supporter of Australian music so I’ve made certain to include some classic Australian albums as well, not just those from international artists.

INXS's Shabooh Shoobah, released in 1982.

INXS’s Shabooh Shoobah,
released in 1982.

Each of the albums I feature also have to have resonated with me on some level in the first place. In some cases I can even remember the circumstances of where and when I first heard them. There is only ever one first listen.

The 1971 album from the Stones, the seminal Sticky Fingers

The 1971 album from the Stones,
the seminal Sticky Fingers

Australia’s musical landscape has always heavily featured both US & UK artists, as well as our own, so it was inevitable that my “Albums of the Month” would too.

Cold Chisel's 1982 album, Circus Animals

Cold Chisel’s 1982 album,
Circus Animals

The classic Darkness On The Edge Of Town, released by The Boss in 1978

The classic Darkness On The Edge Of Town,
released by The Boss in 1978

I’ve always believed that most music-lovers like to hear a little bit of everything, the whole modus operandi of my radio program. I always advise listeners if they don’t like what’s playing, just wait five minutes, because the next one will be different. Hopefully, over time, the artists I’ve featured in my “Albums of the Month” will also illustrate the diversity of my taste.

Human Frailty, a classic Hunters & Collectors album, released in 1986.

Human Frailty, a classic
Hunters & Collectors album,
released in 1986.

Blood Sugar Sex Magick, the 1991 album from the Red Hot Chili Peppers

Blood Sugar Sex Magick,
the 1991 album from the
Red Hot Chili Peppers

I’ve also tried to feature albums from different eras and different genres. But ultimately we are limited by our own experiences. Some albums featured will be ones I grew up with, whilst others I will have discovered later in life due to either their release date or when I eventually became aware of them.

Daisies of the Galaxy, an album released in 2000 by Eels

Daisies of the Galaxy,
an album released in 2000 by Eels

When January rolls around my first show of the year always features my favourite music released in the previous 12 months. I call it my “Year In Review Special”. Consequently I decided to make the January album of the month my favourite one released the previous year. For 2014 that was the one released by Slash featuring Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators.

World On Fire from Slash, featuring Myles Kennedy & The Conspirators. My pick of 2014.

World On Fire from Slash,
featuring Myles Kennedy
& The Conspirators.
My pick of 2014.

I can remember some Regurgitator fans being disappointed with their change in sound on their second album. The band embraced their reaction in advance kicking off the album with the hilarious I Like Your Old Stuff Better Than Your New Stuff. Personally, I thought Unit was brilliant.

Regurgitator's second album, Unit, released in 1997.

Regurgitator’s second album, Unit,
released in 1997.

Some albums also indicate a change in direction for an artist or hint what is about to come. Hunky Dory did this brilliantly, bringing together the musicians that would become The Spiders From Mars as well as demonstrating that David Bowie’s songwriting had reached another level since The Man Who Sold The World album.

The album that culminated in the formation of The Spiders From Mars, David Bowie's Hunky Dory released in 1971.

The album that culminated
in the formation of
The Spiders From Mars,
David Bowie’s Hunky Dory
released in 1971.

This brings me to this month’s “Album of the Month” from Queen. Although they would release another two studio albums before his death, A Kind Of Magic would be the last studio album to be accompanied by a tour from the Freddie Mercury era of the band. The tour ended up leading to some of their finest live performances, none better than their performance at Knebworth, thankfully captured on film for posterity.

A Kind Of Magic by Queen, the unofficial Highlander soundtrack, released in 1986

A Kind Of Magic by Queen,
the unofficial Highlander soundtrack,
released in 1986

So there we have a baker’s dozen of albums I’ve featured on the program. So to quote Molly Meldrum, “Do yourself a favour”, add some of these to your music collection, you won’t regret it.

Don’t forget you can listen to my program 8pm Sunday nights on 98.9 TYGA FM here in the beautiful Derwent Valley, stream online at http://www.tygafm.org.au or listen with your mobile device via the TuneIn app.

Spinal Tap anyone?

As a teenager I got to see Rob Reiner’s fantastic “mockumentary” film, This Is Spinal Tap. I thought it was utterly hilarious. Mainly due to its similarity to some actual hard rock acts I knew and loved. One of the things that stood out was their so-called album covers. In the film the band were attempting to release an album called Smell The Glove featuring some rather inappropriate cover art. I now think I know which band specifically inspired this part of the story. Although I am sure the inspiration was probably more general relating to the genre itself, I think German hard rock act, Scorpions, are prime contenders as the main influence.

There are many bad album covers out there and many websites dealing with those album covers so I’m just going to concentrate on Scorpions. In 1975 Scorpions changed their musical style to the hard rock sound to which their fans have become accustomed with the release of their third studio album, In Trance.

In Trance released by Scorpions in 1975

In Trance released by Scorpions in 1975

In Trance was controversial for its cover art and the first of several risque, inappropriate or just plain weird album covers. When it comes to weird though nothing can surpass their 1979 album, Lovedrive. What on earth inspired such ludicrous artwork?

The extremely weird cover for Lovedrive, released in 1979

The extremely weird cover for Lovedrive, released in 1979

I think the album that is most likely the direct inspiration for the scene in the This Is Spinal Tap film as described earlier is none other than 1980’s Animal Magnetism. Is it meant to suggest that the woman depicted is of the same status as the man’s dog or something more sinister?

1980's Animal Magnetism

1980’s Animal Magnetism

Scorpions then seemed to have a rather sedate series of album covers over the next few years by comparison with their earlier albums. But they weren’t quite done yet. Just look at Pure Instinct from 1996.

Pure Instinct

Pure Instinct

I do think however that their most tasteless album cover has to be the original cover art for their 1976 album, Virgin Killer. But I’ll let you Google that one yourself rather than reproduce it here.

That Good Ole Country Music

I must start off by saying I am very proud of TYGA FM for its involvement in the Derwent Valley Country Music Muster. I think it’s a great thing for the station and the other community groups involved, great for the town and supporting Australian music is always a fantastic idea!

That being said I have to admit I am not a fan of country music. Never have been. Never will be. I do like the occasional song but generally find most country music unbearable. I remember that classic line from the Blues Brothers film when they turn up to do a show impersonating another band called The Good Ole Boys and get informed “We like both types of music here … country and western.” That line has always stuck in my head and I think I prefer the “western” variety. I think that’s why my preferred C&W artists are the man in black himself, Johnny Cash, and the creator of the seminal Western album of all time, Marty Robbins.

The man in black himself, Johnny Cash.

The man in black himself, Johnny Cash.

Johnny Cash always intrigued me. I think it was the tone of his voice. Even when I was a child his voice seemed to have an affect on me. There always seemed to be an edge, or a hint of danger present when you listened to Cash. I rediscovered him again when I was older when he rejuvenated his career with the Rick Rubin produced American Recordings series of albums.

I remember listening to “El Paso” by Marty Robbins from one of my parent’s albums when I was growing up. I loved the story telling of it. Years later I discovered it was part of his best-selling album “Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs”. This is his seminal album released in 1959 and if you’re a fan of the Western genre you absolutely must own this!

Marty Robbins 1959 album, Gunfighter Ballads & Trail Songs

Marty Robbins 1959 album, Gunfighter Ballads & Trail Songs

I think my problem with modern country music is that it is all very samey and tends to fit the description of country rock. I was once asked by a neighbour if I liked country music. He was quite shocked when I said I didn’t. He asked why I didn’t like it which only resulted in an even bigger shock for him. I told him it was because it was “eunuch rock” i.e. rock with the balls removed. No offence to those that like the genre but it’s simply not for me.

I guess that’s one of the great things about music, there’s room for all tastes and genres. I wish everyone attending the Derwent Valley Country Music Muster a great day and I hope the event continues to be successful and a regular feature on the calendar. In case you haven’t guessed though, and as much as I love to support all things TYGA FM-related, I won’t be there.