Saturday, 29 January 2011

Random Review #13 2011 July For Kings - Swim

C4S5CD78 I can vividly remember where I was when I first heard July For Kings, I was in a Footlocker, in a shopping mall in Orlando Florida. As you can imagine I was trying to buy a pair of trainers, a right of passage for all England tourists in Orlando. I once had the misfortune of flying direct to Orlando from Newcastle, most of the passengers flew out wearing their football shirts, (mostly Newcastle and Sunderland) and returned 2 weeks later, looking like, sun burnt, bloated Eninem clones in basketball tops and brand new sneakers! The British abroad is a whole other blog so lets get back to the music.

I heard July For Kings in the shop a video was playing and whilst I was trying on trainers I was transfixed by the tune Normal Life a slice of American Rock with a great chorus, it talk about having a fast car and a pretty wife and painted a picture everything that is good about life in America. After leaving the shop I headed to the nearest music shop to purchase July For Kings Swim and wasn't disappointed with the rest of the album.

I love America rock, and I even like English rock that sounds like America rock, Lifehouse, Daughtry, Goo Goo Dolls, Dishwalla, Matchbox Twenty the list could go but I won't I'll get back to album in hand. July For Kings. I believe they were dropped after this album and have played about releasing mini albums and singer Joe Hedges has released a solo album but nothing has matched this album.

The album starts properly with Normal Life and then Girlfriend which are typical slices of soft rock, killer choruses tight guitars flying around the the chorus and lyrics that paint a picture of somebody having a great life. The album is two are three tracks long and a couple just fall into a standard formula, quiet opening with acoustic strumming behind the vocals, builds to chorus and then electric guitars clashng round the middle of the song then finish back with the acoustic moments. Having said that New Black Car is great and I have know idea why July For Kings never got the success they deserved.

Music is like this isn't as popular as it is in the States but the following is growing, people are starting to realise that good tunes can't be kept down.

Mark 7/10

January Music Purchases

I thought I hadn't really bought much music in January so I had a look, 11 albums and a music DVD! So instead of just buying I'm going to write down what I buy and monitor it over the year. So here are my buys for the month;

John Legend and The Seeds - Wake Up two stars of the new worlds of soul rework classic soul protest songs, excellent stuff.
Janelle Monae - The Archandroid cool nu soul for one of the hottest acts in the US at the minute worth checking out.
The Czars - Goodbye - Sorry I Made You Cry & The Ugly People Vs The Beautiful People Very late to the party on this one as they have already split up, discovered after buying John Grants solo album. Great Americana if that's what it's called and an brilliant cover of Tim Buckley's Song To the Siren, which is as good as This Mortals Coils bar setting version.
Gomez - Liquid Skin bought for £1 and fills a gap in my Gomez collection, good solid album from the boys that brought us Whipping Piccadilly
Neil Young - Le Noise Latest release from the man they call Old Shakey, not my favourite Neil Young album by a long shot, great reviews but struggling to find anything to make me play it again.
Ray Lamontagne & The Pariah Dogs - God Willin' & The Creek Don't Rise Rays 4 album and it's good not as good as Trouble or When The Sun Turns Black but good all the same.
Rumer - Seasons Of My Soul Very Radio 2 and I suspect every household will have a copy by the end of the year, a little bit of Dusty and a little bit of Karen Carpenter, a lot of original talent!

Cinematic Orchestra Ma Fleur and Live At The Royal Albert Hall discovered whilst listening to advert for Sky Atlantic, great music with some stunning guess vocalists Patrick Watson and Lou Rhodes to name but two. To Build A Home is on a loop at the minute can't get enough of it!
Smoke Fairies - Through Low Light and Trees make that 12 albums as just found this one! Bought it at the gig last Sunday, sounds like Clannad singing Gothic hymns sounds strange, it is a little bit but in a very special way.

Crosby Still Nash & Young Deja Vu Haven't watch it yet but should be good.

Twitter #Masterpieces

I have just finished a week of picking my masterpiece albums on Twitter. The like to the blog is
 Masterpieces go and take a look and if you want to get involved start thinking about them now it's a tough gig!

The premise is to pick 5 albums that you believe should be and deserve to be playing from start to finish. Each day announcing on Twitter your daily choice.

My five choices were;

Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago

The Blue Nile Hats

Talk Talk - Laughing Stock

Dakota Suite - Navigators Yard

Radiohead - The Bends
    I love all of these albums but the hardest thing was leaving some albums out, it was like picking your favourite child!

    I'm already thinking about my next five it I get a chance as some of the CD's that I left out ain't speaking to me now!!

    If you want to follow me on Twitter @andy_brown4430

    Random Review #12 The Delgados - Universal Audio

    C3S2CD7 When I picked this CD off the rack I could not remember what The Delgados sounded like, I had bought this CD about 6 or 7 years ago and played it once or twice before filing it. I haven't played it since, and this is where this exercise is really helpful as it is forcing me to listen to music I don't remember.

    Saying that I have played it again and now know why it has stayed on the rack untouched buy human hand, for me it's just such a 'grey' album, I'm sitting here trying to get animated about this album but can't either to be nasty or nice about it. It doesn't move me in anyway and that's the problem.

    The music is jangly indie pop, with vocals being shared between and male and female vocalist, I should look up their names but really I can't be bothered. The songs are ok and inoffensive and that's the problem for me, they just wash over me and leave me wondering if I have listened to the album or not and nothing sticks with me.

    This might be somebody else's favourite album but it ain't mine. I must have bought it blind on the back of a review as I can't find one song that would make me buy it.

    Picking random CD's from my collection was a way to force me to reconnect and rediscover some of my music, I'm 12 reviews in now and it has done actually that, but it's also made me realise that I have CD's I don't play for a reason and have no reason to keep them. I have 2 that are going free to a good home when I have a few more I'll list and if people want them they can have them.

    I'm sorry to say this but The Delgados you are out of here!

    Mark 2/10

    Friday, 28 January 2011

    Gig #2 2011 Band Of Horses Newcastle Academy

    Great gig from Band of Horses who played for around 1hr 45 minutes covering material from all 3 albums. my favourite was There Is a Ghost from the Cease To Begin album and Factory from their latest offering Infinite Arms. They opened with a brand new song and then were in top gear very quickly for what turned out to be their first gig in 3 months.

    It has taken me a few days to right this as gig was spoilt a bit firstly by an Australian guy who was so drunk he had know idea where he was (well it was Australia Day) and then 2 really drunk guys who shouts HORSES on a loop through out all the songs even when the band were reduced to two for a stripped down acoustic song, just idiots!

    Band Of Horses were supported by 2 bands Goldheart Assembly who were young and keen but not sure we'll ever hear from again. The highlight of their set was a cover of Tom Waits -Clap Hands, and Mojave 3 who were great. They only played for about 35 minutes but seemed classy and confident. I need to go and investigate the band and suspect they will be in my purchased in February.

    So a good gig, but will it be in my top 5 at the end of the year.....unlikely.

    Tuesday, 25 January 2011

    Random Review #11 Prefab Sprout - Steve McQueen

    C6S1CD10 It’s with great pride and delight that my random selector has picked this CD. For those that don’t know I from Newcastle in the North East of England, Prefab Sprout are from the North East and this album was released on the Kitchenware Record Label which is a local label that is still in existing and boasts Editors as one of their main acts. So here is my review of the local guys who made it.

    Prefab Sprout hit the music scene in the 1980’s and would go on to have commercial success worldwide with From Langley Park to Memphis, singing about Hotdogs and Jumping Frogs! This was their second album and although they would have more commercial success with FLPTM and later release Jordan the Comeback this is by far my favourite Prefab Sprout album.

    I remember Prefab Sprout being on all the early evening chat shows playing (plugging) When Love Breaks Down and if I remember rightly it was re-released as a single a couple of times before having some chart success. The album was released to critical acclaim and listening to it again some 26 years on it still stands up to that praise. Although the production is very eighties (crisp with the snare high in the mix) what you can’t get away from is the stunning quality of the song writing. Although opening track Faron Young is good the album moves up a gear. I think tracks 2 through to 5 are simply stunning and I would put that those 5 tracks up against any other 4 consecutive tracks on any album I own. Bonny, Appetite, When Love Breaks Down, and Goodbye Lucille #1, make amazing listening, great tunes, great melodies and lyrics that we can all relate t to. Although When Love Breaks down was the hit single, Goodbye Lucille #1 is my favourite it appears to be an ode to a broken heart played out in a call and response manner with Wendy Smith (The female vocalist) singing Oh Johnny Johnny repeatedly, and Paddy McAloon singer and songwriter and of the band kind of sympathising with the young guy who has been dumped (by Lucille I assume) whilst basically telling him to get over it! “You’re not the first, though It hurts” and “why don’t you join the Foreign Legion” kind of say yeah I know you have been dumped it’s sad but hell it’s happened to us all! Saying that the lines “Life’s not complete, ‘til your hearts missed a beat, and you’ll never make it up, or turn back the clock” Is just beautiful and in two lines describes that moment we all fall love and how we feel when we are dumped and you wish it had never happened (or at least that what it means to me!!)

    After track 5 the album is still good but doesn’t match the first half of the album, other than Desire As which has the great line “ I have six things on my mind, you’re no longer one of them” which is kind of saying yeah I’m over you and I’m telling you so.

    Paddy McAloon continues to record to this day to great reviews and I think at one point suffered temporary blindness for nearly a year

    If you like Crowded House there will be lots to like here and with a swell in my chest I can say this is a great album from a great North East band

    Mark 8/10

    Monday, 24 January 2011

    Gig #1 2011 The Smoke Fairies The Sage Gateshead

    My first gig of the year saw me buying a ticket on the back of a recommendation from Classic Rock magazine that this band was one to watch in 2011. So I bought a ticket for £9 (bargain) and wandered down to The Sage to see what all the hype was about.

    The support for the night was Sea of Bees, quirky looking like an American from the 70's transported to the stage from an episode of the Partridge Family! Although the music was not to my taste I found Sea of Bees engaging and passionate about what they are doing and that is enough for me. Next up was Jonny and Lucy a folk duo, Jonny from Newcastle and Lucy from Kent although OK, they seems unprofessional, "we made a set list but we left it in the dressing room", "I forget the CDs if you want to by one give the money and we'll post it" "what time is it, have we got time for another" really pissed me off. 1000's of bands would give their right arm to have a chance like this and to not do the best you can is just a waste!

    So Smoke Fairies, famous endorsements aside (Jack White likes them!) Smoke Fairies were unlike anything I have heard before, at times they sounded like a Gothic Clannad, and other tracks lead me to think of Midlake with medieval overtones however all of these references are unfare as what they have is a unique sound.

    They played for a hour and finished with a Killing Joke cover, stamped with their own style all over it!

    I expect great things for Smoke Fairies and expect to hear a lot more of them and look out for their album Through Low Light and Trees this could be the start of something big.

    Random Review 2011 #10 Bobby Womack - Understanding

    C8S11CD12 If you have Gorillaz critically acclaimed album Plastic Beach then you have heard the sweet vocals of Bobby Womack.

    Bobby Womack started in a gospel group The Valentinos I think, before deciding to chance his arm at mainstream soul. Through the years he has dipped back into Gospel -(Back to My Roots), Disco, Country and Western (BW does CW) all with a certain amount of success.

    Understanding finds Bobby in a soul mood, but on the whole it's a pretty mixed bunch, the good the bad and the down right ugly!

    I suspect that only 2 of these would make it onto a Bobby Womack Greatest Hits, The opening I Can Understand It, 6.30 minutes of Bobby at his best driving soul and killer hooks, and the closing Harry Hippie with Bobby putting his signature all of this classic track. sandwiched between these tracks is a couple of dreadful cover And I Love Her (The Beatles) and Sweet Caroline (Neil Diamond) both are truthfully awful and are nowhere near as good as the originals and therefore I question why to do them in the first place. Simple Man is worth a mention all full of Sly and The Family Stone fuzzy driving bass and vocals that belong to James Brown.

    There are far places to experience Bobby Womack any greatest hits package that should also include Across 110th Street (classically used by Taratino in Jackie Brown) and what I think is Bobby best cover California Dreamin' which is just sublime. The Poet is seen as Bobby's greatest album release and I can't disagree with that.

    I love Bobby Womack but this isn't his greatest work and not the best place to jump in!

    Mark 5/10

    Random Review 2011 #9 No-Man Together We're Strangers

    C5S9CD6 No-Man are Tim Bowness and Steve Wilson, I know very little about Tim, and a little bit about Steve. Steve Wilson releases music under 5 different guises that I know of;

    Porcupine Tree - Prog /Melodic Rock (Steve Sings)

    Steve Wilson - Solo Artist (Steve Sings)

    Blackfield - Melodic Rock (Aviv Geffen Sings)

    No-Man - Ambient (Tim Sings)

    Bass Communion - Ambient (Nobody Sings)

    I started with what I think is the heaviest working down to Bass Communion which is on the ambient side of ambient. Steve Wilson is also a musical historian and a brilliant producer recently remastering some of King Crimsons earliest releases.

    So onto No-Man this was Steve's first project and in the early days he and Tim had some minor chart success with ambient dance tracks. Steve started Porcupine Tree as a side project to No-Man but Porcupine Tree have left No-Man behind and they have gained more and more critical acclaim and increasing record sales.

    Together We're Strangers is 7 tracks some that appear to merge into others, some that stand alone. All are beautiful pieces that float like clouds through your speakers wrap you up in layers of smooth vocals and multiple instrumentation and leave you by the end of the CD wanting more and more.

    Stand out tracks for me are All The Blue Changes and Back When We Were Beautiful but truthfully all of these tracks are with mentioning as all are brilliant.

    There are 2 versions of this CD the original that has just the 7 tracks (same picture in yellow) on and a remastered version with the album replicated in 5.1 surround sound and DVD extras.

    I can't recommend this CD highly enough, if you like Pink Floyd or just very relaxing music that can smooth away the wrinkles of a bad day then try No-Man.

    From what I remember No-Man have released 5 or 6 CD's I have 3 and a DVD of a live concert and I love them all.

    Once you have got the Steve Wilson bug I suspect you'll end up like me buying up all his musical projects and in truth I am yet to be disappointed by a album that Steve Wilson has been involved in!

    Mark 9/10

    Friday, 21 January 2011

    Random Review 2011 #8 Ray Lamontagne Till The Sun Turns Black

    C4S6CD14 Ray was a joiner who inspired by listening to Stephen Stills decided he wanted to make music and so did. I listen to Steven Stills and a lot more artists and they all make me want to make music, unfortunately I don't have to talent of Mr Lamontagne! His first release Trouble exposed the world to Ray Lamontagne's beautiful voice but as well as an amazing voice he has a real talent for writing heartfelt songs dripping in emotion taking you back to a time where Laurel Canyon was the place where all the cool guys hung out and wrote classic songs for fun!

    Of Ray Lamontagne's four releases this is his second and my favourite. I must say whilst I have the opportunity, I hate the cover to this CD, a torch really, I know the title intermates a eclipse of the sun but if the best the record company could think of was having a torch on the cover then they would have been better off being leaving it totally black.

    Rant over, onto the important stuff the music, this album has so many great track on it I don't know where to start, Be Here Now opens the album and it builds quietly into what I believe is one of Ray Lamontagne's greatest songs. It starts with the music gradually growing in volume whilst Rays voice is no more than a hushed whisper calling out "don't let your heart get heavy" and "don't let your soul get weary" before he breaks into the command "Be Here Now". I have seen Ray twice live and this song was my absolute highlight. On a note about concerts Ray suffers with really bad stage fright which makes the interaction between songs somewhat awkward however the music makes up for this tenfold.

    I could write about this album for ever and a day dissecting every track but I suspect some of you will be ready to stop reading now, if in fact anybody ever gets this far down! So what I will say Empty, Barfly, Three More Days are Till The Sun Turns Black are all gems of songs and Truly Madly Deeply as a beautiful instrumental which says so much without actually saying anything.

    I hardly every start playing this album without playing it all the way through it's just special and I recommend anybody who likes, timeless music made by people who love making music for all the right reasons to go and get this if you haven't already!

    Mark 9/10

    Random Review 2011 #7 Neil Young Dreamin' Man Live '92

    C7S8CD12 I think before I start this review I must confess that I have 29 Neil young CD's which isn't all of his releases but it is a fair few. so I may be somewhat biased with regard to this review.

    I came to Neil Young late in life he was a bit like Bob Dylan for me, I appreciated that they are both great songwriters who both had pivotal roles in shaping popular music over the last 30 or 40 years but I struggled with their voices, and although I am ashamed to say it I preferred to listen to their music sung by others. This all changed when I bought Neil Young's Harvest in a supermarket for £3. I was blown away be the completeness of the album and the quality of the songs and the fact that Neil Young sand in a very high pitched whine (well it is admit it) didn't matter. Dylan would take a little while longer but I'm getting there (listening to Desire as I write).

    Neil Young works hard to keep his music fresh, playing on his own with a full band and sometimes going totally left field releasing an album of guitar feedback (Arc) or synthesiser music (Landing On Water) that ended with his record company suing him as it didn't sound like Neil Young!

    So enough of the preamble and onto the CD. Dreamin' Man is part of Archives Series with Neil Young releasing selected live concerts from his collection. This is from 1992 and it's Old Shakey (that's what they call Him) on his own with nothing more than his guitars, a piano and a harmonica to keep him company. Although I suspect the concert lasted for more than these 10 tracks, what we get is the whole of The Harvest Moon album stripped down and played beautifully by Mr Young.

    The tracks are not in the order of the Harvest Moon release but it's interesting to hear the tracks stripped down to I guess how they were conceived.

    The Highlight for me are the Title Track from the original album Harvest Moon and the stunning Natural Beauty 11.30 minutes where Neil Young squeezes every ounce of emotion out of the song.

    If you want to try Neil Young's music this release isn't the best place to start, Harvest, or After The Gold Rush will introduce you to the Genius of Mr Young. This, although good is more for the hardcore fans collecting different versions of Neil's back catalogue.

    Mark 6/10

    Thursday, 13 January 2011

    Random Review 2011 #6 Cheap Trick At Budokan The Complete Concert

    C2S9CD13 OK so where does this CD fit within my musical history. In 1980 I was 15 and living on a sample diet of rock music, Iron Maiden, Sammy Hagar, UFO where my favourites if I remember rightly and I poured over music weeklys every Thursday. Sounds (sadly no longer going) was or paper of choice as it reflected our taste at the time and I believe they annouced that I Want You To Want Me was their single of the week so we had to know more.

    Lots of us had never heard of Cheap Trick but as soon as I Want You To Want Me hit the airwaves we were hooked. IWYTWM is a slice of pure power pop that bounces along and I defy anybody not to sing along when the song is playing.

    At Budokan was originally released as a 10 track single album which I bought in Germany whilst on a school football tour.(I could right a short story about the week long trip to Germany but maybe not in this Blog!) The cover was the same stills as this CD but in colour and as this CD has had singer Robin Zander and Bassist Tom Petersson on the front cover. They look like any other rock band of the 1980's long hair perfect smiles cool personified, but this was only the half of it! On the reverse are the other 2 members of the band. Drummer Bun E. Carlos looks like a librarian and guitarist Rick Nielsen may as well be the dictionary definition for zany, short hair (not sure if he has hair as I have never seen a photo without a cap) bow tie, checkerboard motif on anything and everything and guitars with 2 necks, 3 necks and I believe now 5 necks, but under all this clowns clothing was a great guitarist and the lynch pin of Cheap Tricks songwriting. People compare Cheap Trick to The Beatles for the close harmonies and 3 minute pop songs but that's a cheap comparison and an insult to both groups.

    These 2 'couples' that made up the band were like ying and yang as they worked in perfect harmony to produce catchy rock tunes that crossed over into mainstream charts as they delivered great songs with choruses that people could not stop spinning round in their head for days on end.

    So to the album, the version I have now is a 20th Anniversary Edition and contains the full concert 19 tracks rather than the edited version I originally owned. As I have mentioned in the past I sometimes believe less is more with regard to music and this is sadly the case with this. Although I loved this album I prefer the edited version which rattled along at a pace with 10 great tunes. Listening to this again Cheap Trick seem heavier than I remember but we still get the great pop songs in I Want You To Want Me, Surrender, and slow burners like Need Your Love and final closing frenetic crowd pleaser Clock Strikes Ten.

    I have really enjoyed revisiting the CD but think I will edit down the album on my I-pod to reflect the original version.

    Cheap Trick are still going today and I recently got their most recent release The Latest which I got free with a magazine, it's a real return to form and has all the elements of a great Cheap Trick album. and made me remember what a great band they were/are.

    Mark Original Version 8/10 Re-packaged version 6/10

    Tuesday, 11 January 2011

    Random Review 2011 #5 Patrick Watson - Wooden Arms

    C5S10CD15 Leads me to Patrick - Watson Wooden Arms. So where do I start, here is what I know or what I think I know about the band called Patrick Watson.

    Although Patrick Watson is the mainstay of the band, Patrick Watson is a band rather than an individual and they hail from Canada, Quebec I think, although don't hold me to that.

    If you add their music to your i-tunes library it automatically categorises the music as 'Rock' and truthfully the music of Patrick Watson is miles away from Rock as I see it.

    I'm not sure how I came to have CD's by Patrick Watson, I bought Close To Paradise first, and I bought this blind on the back of a review (I do this a lot!) I think they said that the music was progressive and being a fan of Porcupine Tree, Pure Reason Revolution, and Black Mountain I took a chance on finding some new progressive rock music. What I got was not what I expected but something truly exciting. Patrick Watson are progressive if you mean they they are progressing music in a way that is not being done anywhere else, like Radiohead did after they threw the book out after OK Computer then they are progressive. I can only describe the music as Radiohead playing folk music, the songs on the most are unstructured to some extend and sometimes build adding layer on layer of sound until you are completely engrossed in the music. I have no idea how many instruments were played on this CD but I'm sure it ain't just guitar, bass, and drums!

    I found it hard to listen to this CD in the car, some music is easy to listen to in the car, driving chorus', and dashboard thumping lyrics. Some songs lend themselves to the car, (Don Henley's Boys of Summer for example) but this CD demands your attention and forces you to concentrate on the music, it pulls you in and when driving this might not be the best idea! Eyes front watch the road! I deserves your full attention sitting relaxing, with a good glass of red wine, if you are so inclined. You should give yourself the opportunity to become lost in the CD and let the beauty immerse you.

    The stand out tracks for me are Beijing, and Big Bird In A Small Cage which is simply stunning. It reminds me of Sufjan Stevens Size Too Small a fragile masterpiece of a song. The vocals sound a bit like Devendra Banhart singing Radiohead around the time of Kid A, with the volume turned down to 5. That might sound mad but this is how it sounds in my head.

    Both of the Patrick Watson CD's I have are great, my favourite track is The Great Escape from the previous album and I'm not even sure how many CD the band have released ( I know of at least one more) but have listened to this CD again I'm off to find more Patrick Watson music.

    If you like the music of Sufjan Stevens, Radiohead and Devendra Banhart and also like a challenge then I highly recommend this CD. Take a chance I'm sure you'll enjoy.

    Mark 8/10

    Saturday, 8 January 2011

    Random Review 2011 #4 Doves Lost Souls

    C3S3CD6 made me smile, although it was an album I hadn't listened to for a long time it was a album that I was familiar with and loved.

    For some reason when I think of Doves I think of Elbow and vice versa. I'm not sure why this is, they don't sound like each other, or maybe they do a bit. They are both from the Lancashire area (I think) and both arrived on the music scene around the same time in 2000. I think they both remind me at times of the late works of Talk Talk, and this can only be a good thing as I love Talk Talk.

    So on to the album, the cover has a very atmospheric black and white photograph of a boxer, and this sets the tone for the CD. I always thing of Doves early releases as a soundtrack to a beautifully shot B&W art house film that says very little but leaves you feeling really good about life by the time it finishes.

    Doves are one of the few bands around now that manage to mix stylish instrumental pieces along side beautifully crafted pop songs and manage to make them all seem relevant and never make you want to skip a track. There is a completeness to this CD that makes you want to play the album from start to finish and in this day and age where artists persist in filling CDs with 70 minutes of music (20 of which is no more than average) when 50 minutes of brilliant music will more than keep me happy!

    So 12 tracks, all killer no filler, Catch The Sun and Here It Comes, are typical Doves and couldn't be mistaken for anybody else, driving bass, and hook laden chorus' that stay in your head for days. If you haven't heard Doves before The Places Between a best of collection might be a better place to start but I suspect that once you have that you will be one set away from purchasing all the back catalogue.

    Mark 9/10

    Wednesday, 5 January 2011

    Random Review 2011 #3 Cody ChesnuTT The Headphone Masterpiece

    C7s11CD7 takes me to the genre of Nu or is it Neu Soul, and a CD I don't think I have listened to since I bought it in 2002, and after listening to it again it's unlikely it will ever grace my ears again!

    That's a harsh opening sentence so lets rewind a little bit and give this release a fair crack of the whip.

    I love soul music and although I struggle with rap music, some of the newer R 'n' B artists have produced song great soul music over the last few years.

    Can I just ask why does music from artists like Beyonce, Mary J Blige, Alicia Keys etc get labelled as R 'n' B ? Where I come from this stands for Rythmn and Blues and means exactly that, and although what they do has Rythmn it ain't the blues!

    So back to The Headphone Masterpiece, 36 tracks tracks over 2 CDs, ChesnuTT spelt with 2 capital T's in the surname, (don't ask I don't know) and a CD I bought on the strength of a review in a music magazine (Mojo I think) that said that this release was an essential purchase. So was it? Not for me and here is why.

    36 tracks some which sound unfinished, like sketch's of songs that later would be worked into full songs or thrown away, 36 tracks that sound like they recorded in someone's bedroom. This is what I thought before I did a little research and found out that they were recorded in Cody's Bedroom.

    I'm sure that there is a good album hidden in all these tracks but you get lost in the minute musings and expletive heavy raps. B!%@* I'm Broke (it's not me that censored this and I think if you want to swear in your songs at least have the bollocks to write it in the title!)) is a prime example of this. It's offensive and not needed and adds nothing to the album, other than a bad taste in your mouth.

    So what are the good points, well The Seed is a great song, later covered by The Roots, parts is sound like Lenny Kravitz and the sometimes the vocals sound a lot like Terence Trett D'arby, and truthfully I don't hate this CD, it just needs editing down to get rid of the rubbish. (the wonders of i-tunes will allow me to do this)

    In the past I would never have given a CD away, as it was part of my collection, good or bad, but as time goes by I realise it's more about economies of scale and quality over quantity, so if anybody would like this CD it's yours for the price of the postage just let me know!

    Mark 3.5/10 (sorry Cody)

    Monday, 3 January 2011

    Random Review 2011 #2 Crosby Stills & Nash - Greatest Hits

    Column 2 Shelf 12 CD1 (C2S12CD1) Brings me to Crosby Stills & Nash Greatest Hits. so here is what I know about the collective. Graham Nash was in The Hollies, David Crosby has been in jail, for drugs or fireman offences, (or both), he has donated sperm to Melissa Etheridge (she may turn up in this column in the future) to have 2 children, and they have all recorded solo and also as CSNY, the Y being Neil Young.

    So they you go that is the abridged gossip relating to the album but I'm sure that I could write a book on the life and times of these 3 guys (and I suspect many have) but lets talk about the music.

    After getting into Neil Young In started to read about the Californian music scene of the 1970's specifically what was know as the Lauren Canyon scene which included The Eagles, Neil Young, and Joni Mitchell among others.

    Prior to buying this the CD I didn't think I would know any of the tracks but I suspect unless you haven't had a TV set for the last 10 years you will have heard Our House as it was used for some building society advert in order to encourage us to switch mortgages or run madly into their offices with a wheel barrow of cash!

    What you get on this CD is 19 tracks from 4 albums, the most famous of which is Deja Vu. Checking the CD insert it's notable that most of the tracks are written by one of the individuals and only a couple of tracks are co-written. They share lead vocals however this doesn't disjoint the album as all the songs share the beautiful harmonies that these guys were famous for. The track Guinnevere sounds like Midlake or I should say that Midlake sound a lot like the track Guinnevere, as the track out dates Midlake by some 25 years or more, but the medieval melodies are very similar. The quality of the songs is very high and you get the feeling that these guys really enjoyed what they were doing. Marrakesh Express seems to be one of the more popular tunes but it's Suite: Judy Blues Eyes that opens the CD that really gets me, a stunning 6.30 minutes of pure magic.

    If you like The Eagles there will be lots to like here and also Crowded House fans might enjoy this.

    Marks 8/10

    Sunday, 2 January 2011

    Random Review 2011 #1 Train - For Me, It's You

    OK so my first random choice was Column 7 Shelf 1 CD 6 (C7S1CD6) and that was Trains 5 studio release and 6th release over all if you include the live album imaginatively titled Alive at Last.

    So where do I start, Train originate from San Francisco and truthfully other than singer the Pat Monahan who looks a bit like Kelly Jones' (Stereophonics) older brother, I would and could have walked past the rest on the group in the street and not recognised them.

    I first came across Train with the release of the great single Drops of Jupiter which seemed to be all over VH1 and MTV in 2001 when I actually watched these channels. It was a blast of American Rock from a sunnier place that suited my musical taste perfectly back then. Looking back the lyrics were crap 'the best soy Latte that you ever had and me' really! I've been to San Francisco twice and still never heard anybody ask for a soy latte! However the hooks of the song are great and lyrics aside I love the song.

    So then I like Train enough to have all their CD's and also Pat's solo release (just sounds like Train) but truthfully without the aid of my random selector if I was looking for a Train CD to play I would have picked Drops Of Jupiter or the recent release Save Me, San Francisco which includes the infectious Hey Soul Sister so straight away the new system has forced me a road I may not have travelled, so what did I think?

    I'm on my second play and have to say I'm really enjoying it, it's no different from any other Train CD, songs about love lost, love, or trying to find love, delivered with a West Coast smile and a ray of optimism that makes you want to smile. Song titles like All I Ever Wanted, If I Can't Change Your Mind, and Am I Reaching You Now, give you an idea of where the CD's sentiments lie. The lyrics are sometimes basic and childish but they are delivered in such a way that you want to punch the air sing along and in my case find a beautiful woman in the street and give her a bunch of flowers, (yes I'm that twee sometimes) I'm sure if I lived in California I would be doing it all the time!

    Last night when I listened to the CD I thought to myself if Train brought out a Best of Cd how many of these tracks would make it onto the CD and my thoughts were 2 or 3 max. I still think this is the case but as last night I thought the choice was easy this morning the choice seems a lot harder. All I Ever Wanted is a killer track and a perfect lead off track and single, but tracks like Cab and Always Remember have really grown on me.

    If you like bands the Goo Goo Dolls and fancy a change, or just want to be transported to the West Coast of America for 50 minutes then Train will be worth checking out.

    I have really enjoyed listening to this album and sure I will revisit it sooner rather than later and it's inspired me to set up a Train Playlist for my i-Pod.

    Mark 6.5/10

    Saturday, 1 January 2011

    Random Reviews 2011

    OK as you can see I have a few CD's by my rough calculating about 1800 on the shelves you can see. That doesn't include the box sets on the top, digital downloads, and stuff I haven't listened to yet, (it doesn't get sorted until it's been listened to at least twice!) but it's a good few to be starting with.

    The Cd's are sorted by genre and alphabetically (sad I know) but truthfully their is a lot of CD's I haven't listened to in a long time and I have decided to do something about this in 2011.

    So here is the plan, using a very complicated system (numbered cards in envelopes!) it's my intention to randomly select a CD at least three times a week and review the said CD) When I thought this up I was going to do a CD a day but realistically I don't think I could do this, so a minimum of 3 per week seems achievable, some might be old favourites and some might be re-discoveries and in one or two cases it might be Cd's I forgot I had!

    I'm going to be a true as I can to the card selection, but as we all know from watching the lottery numbers sometimes "the balls fall strangely" and much that I'd be happy to review Dave Matthews Band Cd's for weeks on end I'm sure you'd get bored of yet another review of a 30 minute jam of the song #41, so maybe every now and again I might have to throw one back but hey I'll let you know!

    Right I'm off to pick the first CD of 2011 so hold tight, I'll be back soon!