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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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?

Wolf Alice – Visions of a Life

Their name was the  first thing that attracted my attention – I love interesting band names! I’ve been meaning to mention Wolf Alice for a while after seeing them live, which wasWolf-Alice-art- totally brilliant. Ellie Rowsell is one of those performers you can’t take your eyes away from as she lets rip her dynamic vocals with the occasional lupine snarl. Their latest album rubs punk-infused ire alongside Prog-rock expansiveness. It’s one of those albums where you can just enjoy musicianship that takes you from one place to another.  Seeing them live just sealed it for me and they are now one of my favourite bands. This year also sees them nominated for a well deserved Mercury Music Prize. I am now getting into the deluxe version of their first album My Love is Cool but Visions is a brilliant album and if you can catch them live then go!

Standout track : Beautifully Unconventional

Great Music – Live!

GKC1With the charts continuing to be awash with electronica, dance and rnb (although there’s nothing wrong with any of those) you might be wondering if there was still any good live music out there. Well if you have any doubts then get yourself along to one of Abbie McCarthy‘s Good Karma Club nights in London to catch bands that you’ve probably never heard of (yet!) and more to the point are really great. Going to see bands you have never heard (assuming you don’t Spotify them) means you never know what you are going to get, but last Thursday what we got was three brilliant live sets.

Being on first Island Club played to an undeservedly small crowd. I’m loving the 80’s influenced keyboard and drum sound that some bands have at the moment. I just instantly enjoyed their music which doesn’t often happen. Although all three bands were great I think Island Club took pole position on the night. Great songs, great music. Check out their headline tour dates here.

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Calva Louise up next provided a loud and lively set very reminiscent of a late 70’s/early 80’s Pucalva louise 2nk band. For three people they make a lot of noise and lead singer Jess’s frenetic guitar work was brilliant. It’s this sort of band that makes live sets their own. heir energy was immense and I would have loved to have seen more from them. I’ll be keeping an eye out for more chances to see them again.

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Easy Life provided yet another different style, showing how great a night Abbie puts together. A kind of soul/jazz Brit hip hop sound that sounded so great. If the talented front man switching between keys, guitar, and trumpet wasn’t enough the rest of the band slid between instruments with equal ease. I never thought I would see an electronic clarinet (?) again either!! Check out their Creature Habits tour dates here.

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I’ve been enjoying all three bands on Spotify over the weekend and check out all three bands music here, here and here., but as is quite often the case nothing is as good as seeing them live so if you can catch any of them on their own tours then you should. Also do yourself a favour and check out Abbie’s upcoming Good Karma Club nights here. Well worth a trip to the East End!

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David Bowie – Legacy

Bowie is a genius. His music is brilliant. Most people acknowledge that already so i’m not David_Bowie_Bowie_Legacy_Album_Coverdoing a review, but as a casual-ish Bowie fan I have been on the lookout for a greatest hits compilation for a while and finally got around to picking one up. However I suffered from a typical problem with picking a collection, particularly when the artist has such an extensive back catalogue.  There is always one or two tracks that are inexplicably  missing. The 2 Disc version of Legacy is pretty comprehensive but for me the stark omission is Suffragette City. I guess they had to cull something but it is a brilliant track and as the track listing runs chronologically it was easy to slip in from another collection. Although I don’t mind new mixes when it comes to a greatest hits I want original version’s and although Life On Mars is good alternative version I just had to replace it with the original. Now I have the ultimate Bowie collection and it sounds great! Which greatest hits have you had to “upgrade”?

Standout track : Oh, come on…..seriously, you weren’t really expecting me to pick one?

 

 

Kate Bush – Live!

Well OK not exactly, but as blimmin’ well close as you are going to get this side of 2014 when our Kate last played Hammersmith. Cloudbusting have been on my radar for a while but I finally got to see them last week at the Half Moon in Putney. You are never quite sure what you are going to get with a tribute band but I am very pleased to say that they did NOT disappoint! Mandy Watson nails the vocals without sounding forced. Her passion for Kate’s music is clear and performed songs from 1979’s The Kick Inside to 2005’s Aerial. Being at one of Kate’s early 1970’s venues with the KT Bush Band made it extra special (although I’m pretty sure the stage has moved since I was last there in the 90’s!). If you are a Kate fan then Cloudbusting are a must see, and if you are even luckier you may get to see Del Palmer perform with them!

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