Tom Walker – Live!

Another legendary live event from Banquet Records saw Tom Walker basking in the glow of his number one debut album, What A Time To Be Alive. I wouldn’t have normally picked up his album but as I checked out the gig on the Banquet website I thought “Why not?”.  I admit it didn’t immediately grab me on first listen but his songs allow him to stretch both high and low, being equally engaging to listen to and more so live.  He was clearly thrilled with the albums reception and to be playing in London. He worked through his debut with real energy, his voice so much more powerful as you might expect from a live performance. His slightly growly delivery resonates with every note and clearly he writes and performs from the heart.   Leave A Light on blistered with emotion and one of the things I like about live performances is when the guitars kick in more than on record, and Tom Walker has a few to play with! I hope Tom enjoyed his first live outing in London because we certainly did.

Check out What A Time To be Alive here

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The Revolution – Live!

img_2580A few weeks ago one of my musical dreams came true when I got to see The Revolution live. Of course that we’re missing one particular element of their original configuration but having these five individuals on stage performing the songs that they helped create was amazing. Back in ’86 when Wendy, Lisa, Bobby Z, Brown Mark and Dr. Fink last performed in the U.K. I wasn’t really a Prince fan (my first Prince gig was seeing the Lovesexy tour in ’88) and so I never thought about seeing them until they were gone. The Revolution were more than “the baddest band in the universe”, as Prince once delighted in proclaiming on stage.  The Revolution era of Princes career is a particularity special one, as it is without doubt that without them we wouldn’t have seen the likes of the albums Purple Rain, Around The World in a Day or Parade as well as the multitude of other tracks that didn’t make those particular LP’s. Wendy & Lisa had a special collaborative relationship with Prince, providing many musical influences to his music that ranged from classical to pop.  To my mind the Revolution era, with its origins around ’82, it’s semi-officialdom in ’83 (with “dna eht noituloveR” appearing on the 1999 album cover), and it’s official beginning in 1984 (with the addition of Wendy to the band), provided music unmatched in Prince’s career.  It was always nice to dream that perhaps one day Prince would get the old band back together, and although it was indeed Prince who brought them together, it turned out to be for the worst ever reason.

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Opening with the classic line “Ladies and gentlemen, The Revolution” (from the Purple Rain film) the crowd understandably went nuts, and from song one it was party time.  If your a Prince fan, when you read the set list you will see why:

America
Computer Blue
Mountains
Take Me With U
Uptown
D.M.S.R.
17 Days
Raspberry Beret
Erotic City
Let’s Work
1999
Sometimes It Snows in April
Let’s Go Crazy
Delirious
Controversy
Head (Doctor Fink synthesizer solo)
Visions (Lisa Coleman piano solo)
Kiss
When Doves Cry
Purple Rain

Encore:
I Would Die 4 U
Baby I’m a Star

Oh my god! What a set of songs. They played 17 Days for goodness sake! One of my all time favourite tracks. Just to hear them go through these songs, one after the other, tune perfect – what a joy!  Of course there was tribute paid to the missing leader of the band with Wendy expressing the reasons for them getting back together as a catharsis, but this was a celebration no matter what the reason.  It was such a special night and one I had waited for with great anticipation. I wasn’t disappointed and I imagine anyone else there felt the same. Wendy promised a return to London to play “deeper cuts” which makes the prospect of them coming back even more exciting.  I can’t wait!

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Kanye West – The College Dropout

I like hip hop and rap but I don’t really download any artists albums, although I do have kanyeseveral individual tracks from artist like Kanye West. I like the tone of his voice and the rhythm of his delivery which are obviously important elements to rap, but hip hop artists are diverse and different styles don’t appeal in the same way.  There are some interesting tracks on this album but the problem for me is that after a while it just gets boring. With albums you do get duff tracks but listening to 40 minutes of this album it just starts to get a bit dull. Maybe I haven’t found the right hip hop album yet but there are more coming on the bucket list. I enjoyed bits of it but was kinda glad when it finished.

Standout track : The New Workout Plan

Keep or delete? Delete. Sorry Kanye.

Metallica – Metallica (The Black Album)

So here we go, album number 1 of my 100 Album Bucket List!  The 1991 self-titled metallica-black-albumMetallica, also called the Black Album due to its cover, is Metallica’s biggest selling album to date. It also marks a shift in their sound from thrash to a less-frantic heavy metal. I have picked up this album numerous times while browsing record store shelves thinking it was Prince’s infamous Black Album, but it’s the first Metallica music to hit my music collection.  I was expecting not to like this album, but I think the fact it is less of a thrash metal album makes it more likeable.  Blistering guitar solo’s and some good heavy rock make this an enjoyable listen.  Is it iconic? Not to me, but it must have done something right to be their biggest seller.

Standout track : Enter The Sandman

Keep or Delete? Keep. Nice to have a bit more heavy rock in my music collection!

100 Album Bucket List

As a big music fan I often get given music-related gifts and this Christmas was no exception. Some good friends have given me a scratch-off wallchart with a Bucket List of 100 Albums. There are a bucketfew on there that are already  favourites of mine but for the most part there are plenty on there that I have never listened to. If ever there was an opportunity to hear some music and artists that I wouldn’t normally choose then this is it!

I’m more of an album listener so this is right up my street, suffering the duff tracks as much as enjoying the stormers. I’ve decided to listen to each album twice, once on the way to work and once on the way home. Then I’ll make a simple decision- keep it or delete it!

The range of music is pretty diverse so it’s definitely going to be interesting.  Looking forward to it!

 

 

The Beatles – The White Album (2018)

I have never really felt anything post-Pepper to be a “proper” Beatles album, tainted by the now apparent path to their break-up in 1970 and exemplifying how the individual creativity of the Beatles was widening the cracks that had already started to appear in the band. The White Album was released following a time of turmoil and upheaval for the band that began with Sgt. Pepper.  The relentless touring of their early years had tired them in every way, their whitealbumfront_index manager Brian Epstein had died from a drug overdose,  the psychedelia of ’66 was giving way to a more spiritual outlook, the Magical Mystery Tour film had failed to give them direction and John had allowed Yoko into the Beatles studio sanctum.  In these circumstances the White Album seems to signpost the beginning of the end, easy as it is to be preconditioned that such a large collection of songs highlight each Beatles individuality rather than a cohesive band effort.  The release of the 50th Anniversary new stereo mix of the album presents the opportunity to not only listen to the album with a new set of ears, but to also consider it as a collective release rather than an album of disparate music recorded in an atmosphere of conflict and enforced toleration.

It is thought by some that the mono version is the way the Beatles intended their albums to be heard as the band directly involved themselves in the mixing.  Giving a more “in your face” listening experience I have always mainly listened to the mono albums.  The engineers at EMI created the stereo mixes which in most cases suffer from severe channel separation, great for picking out particular musical elements but for me rarely an enjoyable listening experience overall.  This is where the White Album becomes distinct from their earlier albums as the Beatles themselves participated in the stereo mix of the White Album and for the first time it was only available in Stereo in the US,  mono being phased out and now becoming the novelty.   Mixed as its own entity, there are some things that set it apart from the mono version which was also mixed by the Beatles and released in the UK.   The extended Helter Skelter and right-speed Don’t Pass Me By make for a better listen than their mono versions but the harsh channel separation has always been too uncomfortable for me, even though there are some tracks that do sound better in the stereo mix. I wanted to hear how good a job they have done with the 50th Anniversary remixes and this provided an opportunity to have a proper listen to the three versions of the album to see how they sounded.  To do this I created a playlist featuring the 2009 mono remaster, the 2009 stereo remaster and the new 2018 mix, sequencing each track one after the other.

Immediately I was surprised that the mono sounds really dull in a way I hadn’t noticed before, sounding much less clearer than the original stereo. You can hear different elements of the songs, perhaps aided by the channel separation, but there is a definite clarity there that is missing from the mono.  A few of the original stereo mixes are actually pretty good, not having such harsh separation of sound, and for this mono die-hard my appreciation of the original stereo mix has been raised up a notch (although the channel separation is still jarring).  However with the new 2018 mix we get the best of both worlds. The stereo separation has been improved across all tracks, centralising vocals and other elements and creating a much wider stereo soundscape. The clarity is further improved from the 2009 stereo remaster with elements like the drums and the bass really standing out without overpowering everything else. In some tracks the vocals have been brought a little more into the foreground and there seems to be something in every track that makes you think you are hearing it for the first time.  This new mix provides a far superior listening experience than either the 2009 mono or stereo mixes, replacing the mono version as my go-to listen, although I still enjoy the head-on mono experience.  It has also made me think about creating a similar mono-stereo-new stereo playlist for Sgt. Pepper to see if another mono-crown can be usurped.

As for whether I am able to appreciate the White Album as a “proper” Beatles album, well I’m not completely there yet.  Certainly the Sessions recordings found in the Super Deluxe edition do elicit the band having a bit more fun than might be expected but it still feels like less of a band creation than previous albums.  Perhaps my mindset will shift a little more with every listen and I will certainly be listening to the White Album a bit more often than I have up until now.

One more thing in case your wondering, I didn’t to listen to Revolution 9 three times in a row.  It’s an interesting track but i’m not sure that would have helped my appreciation of the album!

Standout track: Too many to pick, but how about Dear Prudence to start with?

Aretha Franklin – Young, Gifted and Black

Whenever a musical icon passes it always leaves a hole and with Aretha Franklin this is certainly no exception.  Her voice was distinctive and magical, as befits the Queen of ygbSoul.  Some artists have vowed never to sing certain songs again after Aretha performed them.  I probably heard her voice first in the Blues Brothers film revisiting 1968’s Think but soon got to know more of her musical catalogue. This album is a pretty good place to start if you haven’t heard an Aretha album. Released in 1972 and is amazingly her 20th album, winning her a Grammy.  Her vocal talent just shines here, effortlessly delivering the soul of the ballads and dropping the amazingly funky Rock Steady.  Another true talent departs but leaves behind an amazing legacy that you really should make time to explore.

Standout Track: Rock Steady