28th October - 22nd November - Aquisitions #7

A fairly large timescale here, PC problems have got me beat. In fact I'll divide the music I've listened to /seen across two entries and a third update on my review of 'The Next Day' from earlier this year. So whilst I save up the pennies for a Mac (the way ahead for me) here goes, featuring new albums from Arcade Fire, Eminem and Jake Bugg, albums from earlier on in 2013 in Alela Diane and Jonathon Wilson, live offering from Suede and an oldie from Alison Moyet (whom I also caught live in Southend).

So, Arcade Fire and fourth LP 'Reflektor'. Already number one in six countries and top ten in many others I approached the album with some trepidation having been underwhelmed by lead ‘single’ ‘Reflektor’. However I needn’t have worried, as two or three listens later and I’m well into the album. It does move on from previous albums, much more electronic and produced, however still inventive and unmistakenly Arcade Fire. ‘Flashbulb Eyes’ is the exception, being for me the biggest waste of space the band have ever put their name too. But ‘Porno’ is outstanding, just a Phil Oakey vocal away from a Human League classic that never was. ‘Reflektor’ the track has grown on me too, though to call this a true double album is a bit of a push, drop the no good track three and the pre track one messing around and a single CD is all that’s needed, but still, though not the best Arcade Fire album they still have the distinction of not having put a foot wrong (in album terms anyway). Also check out the bands version of Peter Gabriel’s ‘Games Without Frontiers’ on Gabriel’s (?) ‘And I’ll Scratch Yours’ album, which I must also mention was performed very nicely too by Nancy Wallace at my friend Daryl Easlea’s Gabriel biog ‘Without Frontiers’ book launch on Friday (22/11) night at the Railway in Southend.

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And so onto Eminem’s 8th album proper, ‘The Marshall Mathers LP 2’. A pleasing and surprising return to form, dominated by Em’s sharp and wordy rhyming and plentiful retro sampling (The Zombies, Beastie Boys, Joe Walsh & Wayne Fontana amongst others). Quite what the 41 year old multi millionaire rapper still finds to be so angry about is a bit of a mystery, but angry he is. Do not enter if the usual expected misogyny and homophobia are likely to offend, but you know, it’s an Eminem album, so don’t be surprised. It’s still sharp, sometimes humorous and always well executed. Dr Dre and Rick Rubin are both credited as executive producers, but this has Rubin’s handiwork all over it far more than Dre’s. Of course it’s not up there when compared to the first two albums, but it comes surprisingly close. The big question though is, having had to revisit his second album in order to produce his best since his second album, what next?

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Where next for the in demand Rubin won’t be so much of a problem. He’s working with Ed Sheeran on his 2nd and just a couple of weeks after Eminem’s CD Jake Bugg's 2nd album appeared proudly bearing a Rubin production credit. ‘Shangri La’ is an earthy trad sounding album, all crisp instrumentation and it could only be Jake vocals. The songs aren’t quite as classy or varied as album number one but it’s no let down either. Whether it was the intention or not to present Bugg as a latter day British Johnny Cash I suppose we’ll never know, but that seems to be his current career trajectory, and why not. Hopefully he’ll have a little more time to write the third album but this is still a step in the right direction.

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Last of the ‘new’ albums is Suede ‘European Tour Live 2013’, available from online trader concertlive. Of the two offerings I went for the late October show in Leeds (the other being Brussels on Nov 1st). It’s a well recorded career capturing set that leans a little on this year’s LP, but nice to have and decent value. You can get it here….


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The best album I’ve purchased during the last few weeks is Alela Diane’s ‘About Farewell’, released earlier this year to the fevered excitement of the serious music press (Mojo, Uncut etc). In places sparse, in places haunted, but always immaculately written and performed, this is a beautiful, sad, ghostly and very melodic album. It got me first listen, I don’t know why because it sounds nothing like it but I feel compelled to recommend it especially to fans of Jeff Buckley’s quintessential ‘Grace’. Another music press praised release is Jonathan Wilson’s ‘Fanfare’ on the wonderful Bella Union label. It’s a record steeped in knowing rock history, mainly worthy of the reviews it gathered but less inventive and melodic that Alela Diane’s album. Could be a grower though, and Wilson is very active as a musician and producer having produced Roy Harper, Chris Robinson and Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy amongst others. Worth investigating.

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Also recently had the pleasure of catching Alison Moyet live at Southend’s Cliff’s Pavilion and picking up her 2004 covers album ‘The Voice’. The gig leaned heavily on this year’s wonderful ‘The Minutes’ album, an return to electro pop in style, classic pop in quality. Older songs revisited were interpreted with similar production values, I’d love to hear some recordings of these tracks, it felt a warm and comfortable show, the audience lacked some spark which I believe is often the case in hometown sort of gigs, but Alison’s performance was spot on, humorous and confident without being cocky. Get ‘The Minutes’ if you’ve not yet done so, and get to see Ms Moyet live soon if you can. 2004’s ‘The Voice’ which I picked up for a pound is a lusher more orchestrated album, made with Anne Dudley. Including songs by Bacharach, Legrand/Bergman, Costello, and Brel amongst others this showcases another side of Alison Moyet, as song interpreter supreme. A shame that ‘Anyone Who Had A Heart’ as performed on ‘The one and only Cilla Black’ this year wasn’t on the radar at the time, but here it is in case you missed it....

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Of course, Bowie’s ‘The Next Day Extra’ has also hit the racks; see my reposted review which will follow this post later today. Also coming in the next day or so, two straight nights at the O2 (Mott The Hoople and Depeche Mode), Mott’s Columbia albums revisited, some Lou Reed, The Rolling Stones, Metallica and Caro Emerald.

7th - 27th October - Acquisitions #6

So, after three weeks, here I am back with my weekly thoughts on the music I’ve listened to/purchased. What can I say, I wasn’t in the mood for writing, but I’m (nearly) over it now, so, proverbial pen on virtual paper, here goes. This includes, Prefab Sprout vs. Tindersticks, Van Morrison ‘Moondance – Expanded’, a Tears for Fears deluxe edition, a Matthew E White special edition and another HMV 4 for a tenner deal, involving, Ian McCulloch, Massive Attack, Olympic Closing Ceremony compilation and a Talk Talk tribute thingy. And a diversion in Nicole Atkins.

So, from the top, two bands (well, one band and one “band”) revisiting their past in different ways. Firstly Prefab Sprout with ‘Crimson/Red’, in essence a Paddy McAloon solo record (written/performed/produced…) in the style of his bands heyday, a self serve Stars In Their Eyes. And for the record, it works. Ok,  so it’s not up there with the classic Sprout albums but it is (in places) a mere heartbeat away. I do hope Paddy can keep his shit together and stay healthy and bless us with more songs soon because this is a welcome return to a sound of quality from the past.

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Tindersticks on the other hand revisit their past in a more literal sense, revisiting songs from their 20 year history that they feel that they can perform better now with the benefit of age, wisdom and experience. Recorded at Abbey Road it’s a strange one, some album tracks get the treatment, some songs from Stuart Staples tentative solo projects and most definetley not a best of. However, a Tindersticks at Abbey Road album was never gonna be a failure, and though some songs are barely different at all from the originals the band have crafted yet another fine album. Standout for me is the cover of Odysseys disco ballad ‘If You’re Looking For A Way Out’, originally from 1999’s fourth album ‘Simple Pleasures’, here sounding even more soulful, plush and heartfelt than ever.

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What can you say about Van Morrison’s ‘Moodance’? By far my most favourite Van the Man album, this is a standard deluxe re-issue, a subtle re-mastering that does improve the long available standard CD edition, and a bonus disc of alternate takes and out-takes. I went for the two disc version with an 11 track 2nd disc. I found it really interesting to hear the works in progress and unreleased songs, and I have, ahem, ‘acquired’ the two extra discs from the mega expensive version with even more alternate takes. But what you really need to know, if you don’t already, is that ‘Moondance’ is a nearly unparalleled work of exquisite genius. The man himself, Van, may be aghast at this re-issue but as a fan I love it. Sorry Van. The Man.

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The Tears for Fears Deluxe reissue of debut album ‘The Hurting’ fell into my hands more by accident than design. It was there in the store, fairly reasonably priced, I was pissed off and needed something and the money was in my pocket. I’m glad I bought it. The album sounds better than ever, a very decent re-mastering job, the music really leaps out at you. Early versions, b-sides and extended versions are all swooped up on the 2nd disc, including a long time fave of mine, the extended mix of the hit version of ‘Pale Shelter’. I’m well pleased I picked this up, this a great album; I now prefer it to ‘Songs From The Big Chair’.

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Matthew E White hasn’t waited long to make critics fave ‘Big Inner’ available as a special edition, following on 9 months after its original UK release in January. No remixes or alternative versions though, simply 5 new tracks on a 2nd CD (‘Outer Face’). This is a critic’s fave in much the same way Josh T Pearson was a couple of years back. This isn’t gonna spawn any worldwide hits, but it’s smooth, well produced and recorded, an intriguing listen. It’s kind of old school soul but it has an alternative slant, quite low key in fact. It kind of demands you sit down and listen to it, it’s not driving or background stuff, you gotta pay attention. I feel quite pleased I didn’t buy it upon release as now I have the extra stuff without having to buy the main album again. Record companies really should stop fleecing fans, no wonder people do dodgy downloads.

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I also managed to find another 4 albums in HMV’s 4 for a tenner bargain bucket. Ian McCulloch’s ‘Slideling’ is his third solo album and first after re-starting Echo & The Bunnymen. The version I picked up was the recent Edsel re-issue. It’s not very good. It’s very bad either, just too safe and uninspiring. To think that the guy who wrote the words to ‘The Cutter’ or ‘The Back Of Love’ etc could end up writing this stuff is just a little sad, but that’s the way it goes, we all get older and mellow out, don’t we? Massive Attack’s ‘Blue Lines’, their debut from 1991 was given a remix/re-master work out in 2012 and this is the version I picked up. It was, still is and will always be a great album. The new version doesn’t depart radically (it’s more of a re-master, less of a remix) from the original though does sound a little less of its time, well worth the £2.50 I effectively paid for it. The ‘A Symphony of British Music – Music for the Olympic Games 2012 Closing Ceremony’ double CD is notable for some new versions of established acts great tracks. Elbow’s ‘Open Arms’ and ‘One Day Like This’ sound great here, I even like Russell Brands take on ‘Pure Imagination/I Am The Walrus’ but the Who’s new version of ‘My Generation’ is excrement. Worth it for the good stuff though. Finally the Talk Talk tribute album is a real mixed bag. Nothing I’ve listened to on it yet was terrible, some of it even pretty good. Not many well known names though, but again, at £2.50 worth a punt.

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I’ve also had a relisten to the two Nicole Atkins albums so far released. Bloody great they are too. If you’ve not heard her, check them out. Great vocalist and great songs. This led me to hunt down anything else she may have sung but not put on an official album. This includes ‘Daytrotter’ session versions, EP tracks, songs given to tribute albums, and guest appearances. This resulted in a home produced CD of this stuff. Here’s what I made.

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Next week, Arcade Fire’s new album, a live Laura Marling EP and who knows what else?

30th September – 6th October – Acquisitions #5

I only received a couple of low key new releases this week, Agnes Obel’s 2nd LP ‘Aventine’ and a John Harle CD, ‘Art Music’ that I only purchased because it featured vocals on two tracks by Marc Almond. My week musically got beefed up by a Monday visit to HMV in Basildon where I picked up in their 4 for £10 deal, The Clash ‘Cut The Crap’, The Futureheads ‘Chaos’, The Velvet Underground & Nico “Andy Warhol” 2012 2CD re-issue and a 6 disc Motörhead ‘Classic Album Selection’; that’s 6 Motörhead albums on CD for £2.50! More of that later…. Also as a bonus a quick splash of Kylie Minogue sings Prefab Sprout.

Agnes Obel’s 2010 album ‘Philharmonics’ was a low key discovery that grew on me well over time. I only really investigated it because of the striking portrait of Agnes on the cover, and probably that her name was Agnes too, it sounded like an unlikely name for a recording artist, even a Danish one. So I awaited her second release, ‘Aventine’ with surprising expectation. Unfortunately after a couple of listens I find it a mild disappointment. She is described as a folk/classical artist, and both albums have a delicacy that sets her apart from the rock or indie scene. This album is more instrumental than its predecessor and bearing in mind how the debut LP grew on me I feel confident that I’m gonna end up liking this more over time. Maybe because it’s her second I feel there’s less originality about this set, I can hear some Björk and Tori Amos in particular in there, the first album brought no-one else to mind. If you like a bit of quirky, delicate, quiet and sophisticated stuff at times though I’d urge you to investigate, there’s very little else like this out there.

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My only other new release purchase of the week was a John Harle CD called ‘Art Music’, a set of music inspired by the paintings of Lucian Freud, David Hockney, Francis Bacon, John O’Connor and John Craxton. It was Marc Almond’s involvement on two of these recordings that tweaked my interest. Marc’s ‘songs’ are based on Hockney’s ‘3 January’ and ’30 March’ with words taken from or inspired by William Blake. If you’re thinking somewhat sarcastically, ‘sounds like a laugh’ then you’d not be wrong. However it’s decent sober and sombre stuff, a bit loftier in concept than my average purchase, but I is well educated. For an Essex boy, innit.

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And so onto my bargains of the week from HMV, 10 discs for £10! I’ve mentioned the Clash a bit in recent weeks. Not having ‘Cut The Crap’ on CD the chance to get it for £2.50 could not be passed up. I’ve not listened to this album since its release, so on a nice drive to Southgate & on it went…and, though still awful it was not as bad as I remembered it being. There is some variation musically and the constant terrace style chanting backing vocals at least try to summon up the ghost of Mick Jones recently departed at the time the album was made. To be clear, another nearly 30 years could easily pass before I listen to it again, but if you consider it more of a debut Strummer solo album (as such it probably would’ve been greeted with much less negativity) then at least it can lose its skid mark on a career tag.

The Futureheads ‘Chaos’, their 2010 4th album is pretty much the same album as the preceding three. I saw them supporting the Pixies at the Alexandra Palace in support of their debut album in the mid noughties. Their career feels like a bit of a wasted opportunity, but if truth be told ‘Chaos’ is sharp, well formed and very listenable, even it does reference Orville the duck (it doesn’t, IT DOES). The Velvet Underground and Nico’s self/untitled (or ‘Warhol/Banana’) LP is well known by any rock music fan of inquisitive nature. This 2012 deluxe issue sounds great but the bonus tracks add little to the legend. However, for £2.50, I’ll have some of that.

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And so onto Motörhead’s early career. The ‘Classic Album Selection’, 41.6p per disc, is a trawl through Lemmyworld and beyond. Their classic 2nd – 6th albums and 1981’s ‘No Sleep Til’ Hammersmith’ (their first 6 of 7 for Bronze) are included here, and I’ve listened to the lot, this week. So, Lemmy’s mantra for life appears to be – sleep with as many chicks as possible. If possible, don’t ask them their names. If you can get two chicks in bed at the same time, even better (no guide as to whether or not you ask for names). If the chicks happen to be in their teens even more betterer (Motörhead seem to be decent upstanding chaps, so I presume they mean over 16, legal, late teens chicks). Also, gamble, drink heavily, and be an individual that is at odds with the normal world. And have a job in a road crew if you can. Having said that though, Motörhead’s classics are classic. ‘Overkill’ is like the Damned on speed and doesn’t know when to stop, surviving two false finishes. ‘Bomber’ is a bomber, ‘Ace Of Spades’ needs no introduction; I’ll think I’ll watch that Lemmy DVD that’s sat idle on my shelf for a couple of years now.

And so finally Kylie sings Prefab Sprout. Not sure how this eluded me all these years. Recorded in a part of her career when no-one really paid that much attention ‘If You Don’t Love Me’ was one the Sprouts most commercial moments, appearing on their first 'Best Of' as a new track. Kylie makes it a ballad in the vein of last year’s ‘Abbey Road’ recordings, eventually resurrecting the song on the Aphrodite tour. It’s a Prefab Sprout classic, not a Kylie classic, but I need no excuse to listen to either.

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And talking of Prefab Sprout, next week ‘Crimson/Red’ is out. The 10th official Sprout album, magazine reviews have been great, and what I’ve heard suggests this to be true. So fingers crossed, a classic should be landing on my doormat on Monday. I’ll let you know next week.

David Bowie - The Next Day Extra - 3 Disc Special Version....

So here we are, and roughly 9 months after its original release here comes a limited deluxe etc re-issue. I'll be glad to have these extra tracks, remixes and 'God Bless The Girl' on proper CD, but really, is it necessary? Or in the best interest of the fans etc... I will buy, but will feels a little aggrieved in doing so. Details below anyway...

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Here the blurb from DB's facebook post...


“And another day…” 

Some of you may have heard vague whisperings about this release, but DavidBowie.com has just posted all the exciting details regarding a 3-disc version of David Bowie’s brilliant The Next Day album.

Called The Next Day Extra, the set includes the original 14-track CD, a 10-track CD of bonus tracks and a DVD of the four promotional films made for the album: Where Are We Now?, The Stars (Are Out Tonight), The Next Day and Valentine’s Day.

The 10-track bonus CD includes four previously unreleased tracks, two new mixes and God Bless The Girl, the track that was only released on the Japanese issue of The Next Day. The remaining three tracks gather up the bonus tracks from the deluxe version of the album.
Here’s the tracklist for The Next Day Extra…

01 Atomica
02 Love Is Lost (Hello Steve Reich Mix by James Murphy for The DFA)
03 Plan
04 The Informer
05 Like A Rocket Man
06 Born In A UFO
07 I’d Rather Be High (Venetian Mix)
08 I’ll Take You There
09 God
 Bless The Girl
10 So She 

The whole thing comes in a tasty new Barnbrook package with a lyric booklet and a book of stills from the promo films.

In addition to the physical release of The Next Day Extra, there will be a 7-track digital EP bundle featuring these tracks…

01 Atomica
02 Love Is Lost (Hello Steve Reich Mix by James Murphy for The DFA)
03 The Informer
04 Like A Rocket Man
05 Born In A UFO
06 I’d Rather Be High (Venetian Mix)
07 God Bless The Girl
See DavidBowie.com for the press release and a mock-up of the package. http://smarturl.it/TNDextraPR

23rd September – 29th September – Acquisitions #4

Only a couple of purchases this week, Kings Of Leon ‘Mechanical Bull’ and Nirvana ‘In Utero – 20th Anniversary Deluxe Edition’. Not even downloaded anything this week though I did get to Fleetwood Macs first night at the O2.  

So, too it then with Kings of Leon and ‘Mechanical Bull’, their sixth album would you believe. And the good news is it’s their best since the 3rd, 2007’s ‘Because Of The Times’. The production and arrangements are less synthetic than the last two supposedly more commercial albums. The songs have a simpler touch; there are better tunes to be heard than on those albums too. I only bought the standard edition as I wasn’t expecting much from this, having barely played the last two, but having enjoyed this album I was able to get the two bonus tracks via the means of t’internet. It’s not their best, in fact it’s only their fourth best out of six albums buts it’s decent. I’ve only played this once so far, but it will be listened to again which is more than I can say for ‘Come Around Sundown’.

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That’s a fair few words for not a lot of opinion, that because most of my opinion has gone on this week’s other purchase, the Nirvana 20th anniversary edition deluxe 2 disc version of ‘In Utero’. So let’s be plain here, ‘In Utero’ is probably in my top ten albums of all time and is by far my most played Nirvana album. I loved the 20th anniversary edition of ‘Nevermind’, you could really plot the development of the band from indie heroes to global ‘rock’ stars, the demos showed development and craft. The re-master made a noticeable difference to the sound. Less so here. I’m the sort of person upon whom purchasing a release like this will sit down and compare the original to the re-master. Here, I could hear no discernible difference. Far more popular with me was the new 2013 Steve Albini mix, the vocals were clearer, everything a little crisper, a less muddy sound overall. Not exactly essential, but I enjoyed listening to this new ever so slightly different mix of the album. The demos however don’t reveal much. Most of the songs were born out of studio jams, and though the band were clearly on their groove the resulting mostly instrumental demos hold little interest for me. The bonus tracks on disc one are great though, nothing new apart from the two original Albini mixes presented (which any Nirvana internet hunter will have already heard, I’ve had the original Albini mix on my iPod for years), but it’s great to have the b-sides and charity album etc tracks collected in one place and it has to be said in the case of these songs, sounding better than ever. Many reviews of this release have played upon the fact that Nirvana had a lot of humour within them as a collective, but make no mistake, this album is not,  never was and never will be a light listen. It’s heavy, screechy and screamy and what happened next can be traced back to feelings expressed in these songs. Final gripe is the pricing. Whereas ‘Nevermind’ 20th box set could be got for about £50 on release this one as a box set is pushing £100. Yet if you buy the two disc set and the simultaneously released ‘Live & Loud’ DVD you’ll have only spent about 30 quid, and all you’ll be missing is the ‘Live & Loud’ audio disc and the book. No lyrics in the two disc version either, which the original album had. Still, the haul through the Nirvana vaults should be over now, leaving the music to stand on its own. As I’ve said, one of the great albums, but only an OK re-issue. 

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I was also lucky to catch Fleetwood Mac at the O2 on the 24th. I say lucky, unfortunately Christine McVie did not appear on stage with them this night, but it was still a great gig. The band were clearly loving it (hard to tell with John McVie but the other three were buzzing) and the performances were superb. Stevie Nicks sang her heart out and was most endearing whilst Lindsey Buckingham showed what a master of his instrument he is and was basically a little mad. In fact, a lot mad, though I like him even more because of it. Highlight for me was ‘Tusk’ which I filmed and you can (rather shakily and nearly completely) see below. C’mon guys, get a new album out, your public demands it!

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And that was it this week. I have revisited the Manics album and thoroughly enjoyed it on 2nd listen, also very much enjoyed the demo disc versions too. Also listened to a Kylie recording of a Prefab Sprout track (more on that next week, also a new Sprout album only two weeks away) and Green Gartside (Scritti Politti) version of Nick Drake’s ‘Fruit Tree’ from the ‘Way To Blue’ tribute project. Very nice too. 

16th September – 22nd September – Acquisitions #3

As said last time out no real acquisitions to speak off this week, however never knowing when to shut up I’m gonna talk about some stuff I’ve listened to over the week, namely The Clash ‘Sandinista’ and ‘Combat Rock’, Prince ‘The Black Album’ and Passengers ‘Original Soundtracks 1’.

On the download front, Tom Odell ‘Long Way Down’, Helghyer ‘The Mage, The Wiseman and The Lioness Part 1’ and a quick peek at Nirvana ‘In Utero 2013’.

So starting with a couple of old albums that found their way back to my ears this week. Firstly and least successfully Passengers 1995 Island album ‘Original Soundtracks 1’, basically a U2 side project with Brian Eno.  The songs were intended as accompaniments to largely imaginary films. A sizeable hit was scored with ‘Miss Sarajevo’ a fairly normal song featuring Pavarotti. It’s probably the best thing here, the remainder is largely forgettable, and a not very promising lead up to what this project’s main purpose was, the next U2 album, ‘Pop’, now largely regarded as their weakest album. It irks me a bit when people say ‘how can U2 be considered good with pompous git Bono as their front man?’ Firstly what’s wrong with a pop star wanting to be involved in good causes? Surely that’s better than a pop star just sitting at home and counting their millions? And U2 have always been capable of rolling out a corker every now and then. Having said that, the Passengers album includes no corkers, and is a relative low point for both U2 and Eno. If you ever think of listening to it again, then don’t, unless you need inspiration for an afternoon nap.

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Prince’s ’The Black Album’ was originally intended to be his 10th album and ended up being his 16th after the record company got cold feet in ’87 because of the albums more risqué than usual content. Prince himself seemed to get cold feet over the release as well and was also instrumental in withdrawing the album upon its original release date. The album is Prince’s most funk heavy album, and is basically fantastic. Yes it’s rude, there’s swearing and it’s basically psychopathic in places, but it’s a classic Prince album. Seek it out.

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As mentioned I’ve also worked my way through a couple of Clash albums from the 'Sound System’ box set that I reviewed last week. As I mentioned then the sound on these re-masters is quality so I’m gonna just quickly re-assess the albums. ‘Combat Rock’ was the LP that truly broke the band in America and just about literally broke them too. It’s a great album, containing a couple of genuine stadium hits and some truly original highpoints. Away from the rock bluster 'Straight To Hell’ and ‘Death Is a Star’ are bleak cinema noire classics, the kind Passengers could only dream of. The pop and rock though no longer revolutionary is spot on (‘Car Jamming’ & ‘Atom Tan’). A real shame the band imploded before they could recoup and flex their collective muscle again.

‘Sandinista’ is the sprawling fourth triple album that is both regarded as a classic in its own right and as an album that would’ve make a great single album. Both schools of thought are spot on. It’s a great set as it is, it’s ‘floors’ only add to its appeal. Who needs a new version of debut album track ‘Career Opportunities’ sung by two of Blockheads keyboardist Mickey Gallagher’s sons? Yet take it away and the LP is missing something. It does contain some of my favourite Clash tracks; the reggae influence in particular asks why there is no Clash reggae/dub compilation? As messy as it is it’s a great album, a snapshot in time of a band that had already transcended their own time. You can pick up the new re-mastered  version for £8-10. You should do this.

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As far as downloads go, I legitimately downloaded for zilch Helghyer’s ‘The Mage, The Wiseman and The Lioness Part 1’. I was intrigued by the facebook ad blurb of the EP containing traces of the singer’s Cornish heritage etc, what with Phil Burdett’s forthcoming Cornish inspired album. The EP is decent enough (slightly kooky singer songwriter acoustically tinged) and I’ll certainly listen further to see what else she can come up with. Promising if not amazing.

I sought out Tom Odell’s ‘Long Way Down’ after hearing epic hit ‘Can’t Pretend’ in the changing rooms at the gym. Allegedly ‘discovered’ by Lily Allen and a Brit winner before he had an album out, I was initially put off of Odell because of the hype surrounding him. A bit snobbish I suppose. 'Can’t Pretend’ drew me in with wistful hooks and major/minor melody, and the rest of the album has its moments too. Very Coldplay, serious singer songwriter stuff but I shouldn’t have been so dismissive.

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I also downloaded disc two of Nirvana’s 20th anniversary deluxe edition of ‘In Utero’, basically because I was too damn impatient to wait for it to turn up. I’ll comment properly when I receive my actual physical copy but basically it sounds like the bottom of the barrel is being reached. There’s nowhere near the depth of quality and intrigue that was found in ‘Nevermind’s similar anniversary release two years back. Please let Kurt rest in peace now Geffen, there can't be anything else left to exhume.

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So next week, ‘In Utero’ in more detail, Kings Of Leon’s new album, no doubt some more Clash albums re-acquainted with and who knows what else?

7th September – 15th September - Acquisitions #2 - incl The Clash 'Sound System'

CD's - The Clash 'Sound System' box set, The Strypes 'Snapshot', Goldfrapp 'Tales Of Us', The Arctic Monkeys 'AM', & the Manic Street Preachers 'Rewind The Film - Deluxe'.

Downloads - Elvis Costello & the Roots 'Wise Up Ghost', Janelle Monae 'The Electric Lady' and Volcano Choir 'Unmap' & 'Repave'.

Well, quite a big week for releases, though now the Manics album turned up early I'm not expecting anything next week. So, to start off with the big one, the Clash's 'Sound System' the nearly exhaustive ('Cut The Crap' gets conveniently written out of history) career retrospective in a slightly mad ghetto blaster style cardboard box.

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What really got me wanting this box set was Mick Jones enthusing over the audio re-mastering. And the relief is that the re-mastering is a job well done, ranging from simply crisper and heavier at least to a massively more open and revealing sound, some tracks sounding like completely different recordings. With three discs of non album recordings including some never officially released label demo sessions, a DVD with rare live recordings and all the official promo video's and a plethora of cardboard, paper and tin memorabilia, this is a must have for any saddo like me that must have the latest and best sounding versions of timeless classics. If the £80-£100 seems too much you can for £30 get all the albums proper in a smaller box. In audio terms its well worth it, if you already own this stuff perhaps you need to think about getting it again, but still, a highly recommended release. Also if you get a chance get to 'Black Market Clash' the Clash pop up shop and exhibition open only until September 22nd in Soho. Here's a link to some pics of that on my Facebook page. . 

Arriving with the Clash set were three other new release discs. Firstly, the debut album from the Strypes, one of the youngest bands I have ever seen live but already competent and confident in their own abilities. The great things about this album is that the groups own songs are the standouts, and the covers they do include serve to complement the originals, not show them up for being inferior. If this group continue to develop and grow as they have done so far then they're gonna be superstars by the time they start hitting twenty. 

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Here's a video I shot of them playing their heroes Dr Feelgoods 'Roxette' at a recent gig on Canvey Island alongside the Feelgood's Wilko Johnson and John B Sparks.

Then there was two great albums by already well established bands. The Arctic Monkey's 'AM' is a mighty thing indeed, a short, short, punchy and direct set that is quite possibly their best so far. It sort of reminds me of when Muse went a bit funky around the time of 'Supermassiveblackhole', it has the same swagger and stride, the songs are great with superb hooks and lyrically the Arctic Monkeys very rarely ever let you down. So confident in fact they can consign songs as great as this to single b-side status....

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And finally on this week’s physical releases, Goldfrapp's 'Tales Of Us'. If you were a fan of 'The Seventh Tree', their less electronic more almost folky album from 2008 (which I was) then you will love this one. The feel is lusher with fuller orchestration then their previous non electronic album, the song writing is top quality throughout, it's a very fully realised effort. I'd personally be quite happy if this direction was explored further rather than a return to electro pop. Great album, here's the single 'Drew'.

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And then finally, finally for CD's on Saturday the Manics new album landed on my doormat, the deluxe edition which I'd pre-ordered from the bands website was also signed by the three members of the band. The album starts off lively enough, it too is a softer, acoustic, folky affair. There are guest vocalists, most notably Richard Hawley on the title track. However, they're not a band at the peak of their powers, the album weakens towards the latter parts, it's not the weakest Manics album to date but it's nowhere near the best, it is a brave step for the band, and it's very well produced with a great sound, there's just not enough memorable tunes. Hopefully it'll grow on me with repeated plays. Like most recent Manics deluxe editions the album is also included in demo form in full, also with 5 tracks from an o2 show in December 2012.

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Also on my radar this week has been, a), Elvis Costello and the Roots 'Wise Up Ghost'. I've never downloaded a Costello album before buying before, but with fewer and fewer moments of joy on his recent albums now seemed like a good time to try before I buy. 'Wise Up Ghost' has a nice feel, it's a warm album, and many tracks are re-works of older Costello songs, given a new lick of paint musically and lyrically. The standout track for me was 'Stick Out Your Tongue', a reworking of the classic 'Pills & Soap'. I'll probably purchase this at some point, maybe when it drops in price a bit. B), I've also listened to both Volcano Choir (Bon Iver's Justin Vernon and friends) albums. The older 'Unmap' was the more difficult one to get through, the newie 'Repave' a more straightforward listen. Not as complete a listen as the last Bon Iver album, but worth a go anyway. C), I've also downloaded Janelle Monae's new album, having read so many good things about it. I've not listened to it yet though a cursory browse suggests it could well be a future purchase. 

Finally a read of a NME.com feature, '50 Of The Most Hauntingly Beautiful Cover Versions', lead me to downloading a clutch of the songs and adding some favourites of my own in compiling a cover versions CD. This is the track listing for that CD.

1) Feist - Secret Heart
2) Johnny Cash - First Time Ever I Saw Your Face
3) Arctic Monkeys - Baby I'm Yours
4) Bat For Lashes - I'm On Fire
5) Amy Winehouse - Someone To Watch Over Me
6) Bon Iver - I Can't Make You Love Me
7) Cat's Eyes - The Crying Game
8) Elliott Smith - Jealous Guy
9) Eddie Berman & Laura Marling - Dancing In The Dark
10) Grizzly Bear - He Hit Me (And It Felt Like A Kiss)
11) The Smashing Pumpkins - Landslide
12) Dave Edmunds - Born To Be With You
13) Hanne Hukkleberg - Break My Body
14) Elbow - August And September
15) Kate Bush - Rocket Man
16) Deacon Blue - I'll Never Fall In Love Again
17) Pavement - Killing Moon
18) Frankie Goes To Hollywood - San Jose
19) Cassandra Wilson - Wichita Lineman
20) David Gilmour - Hushabye Mountain

If anyone can name all the originals to my satisfaction I'll send them a copy. That's it, may not be be anything to write about next week, though a week's a long time so who knows.....

30th August – 6th September – Acquisitions #1 - incl Glasvegas 'Later...When The Tv Turns To Static'

CD’s: Glasvegas ‘Later…When The Tv Turns To Static’, Babyshambles ‘Sequel To The Prequel’, Phillious Williams ‘Stay Ugly Beautiful’, Charlotte Gainsbourg ‘5:55’ and Songdog ‘Bacharach & Kerouac (All You Gotta Do Is Press Play)’.

The 3rd Glasvegas album proper arrived in deluxe format with a DVD containing live performances, interview and videos, all in a lovely book bound presentation, though the contents of the book amount to little more than a lyric book. The album itself, though much better than the second album still sees the band fail to deliver on their early promise, though only just so. Musically this is a more complete offering, the overall sound pushes sonics with reverb and feedback and a generally cacophonous feel. As a whole if flows well and the softer moments sit low fi enough to add to the feel. However lyrically it’s a bit cumbersome (although truly heartfelt) and for me James Allen’s heavy Scottish brogue occasionally get’s to be too much. I’m probably nitpicking, the album as a whole is worthy, it just feels that the band have come up just short again. Except for the bonus DVD that is. The band runs through the new album in a 19th century church somewhere in Glasgow, and a mighty fine thing it is too, the songs benefitting from a softer and subtler presentation.

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Also there with a 3rd album (and first for 6 years) are Babyshambles. It’s no letdown but also moves the band on no further than the previous album did. Pete has still produced better post Libs records than Carl despite his well documented issues with, well many things really. There’s gonna be no new fans won but if you’ve followed what’s come before then you’ll like this one too.

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Also this week I came across Charlotte Gainsbourg's 2006 CD ‘5:55’ at a boot sale, I think I paid 50p for it. With songs written by Jarvis Cocker, Neil Hannon and Air and produced by Nigel Godrich it can’t fail to be fine thing and is a bargain worth every one of the 50 pennies I paid for it. Also into my possession came a fine Songdog sampler assembled for me by a friend, a double disc best of, beautifully handmade packaging and also a very fine thing. I’ve only got through one disc one of it so far but mightily enjoyed it and I’ll definitely investigate the band further.
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CD find of the week though is Phillious Williams’s first proper band CD which I picked up from Leigh On Sea bar/eatery Ten Green Bottles. This version is a limited edition CD with four extra tracks, not sure how the final version being launched in a few weeks time will differ (the main album has just 7 tracks, more of a mini album really) but it’ll be hard to improve on it. I’m already familiar with many of the songs and am well pleased with versions offered up; if you’re fan of anything that’s quality you should go for this. It’s a punk, rock’n’roll, country and spaghetti western hybrid. The version of ‘Teenage Punk Queen’ deserves to be heard everywhere, and though two of the bonus tracks are instrumentals they are indeed superb instrumentals, ‘Ride Boldly Ride’ clocking in at nearly 10 minutes but feeling like half of that. Not just my favourite CD of the week but one of the best this year too. You can get it here ….

or indeed the previously mentioned Ten Green Bottles if you’re that way inclined.

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On vinyl I’ve also acquired the new Pixies 10” EP, which I’d burned to CD the moment my FLAC download had arrived at my inbox a couple of days previously. I’m loving these new Pixies tracks. Yes they lack some of the intensity of original Pixies stuff but then again this is what you’d hope the band would sound like if they carried on making music over the last 20 years. There a lot more pop sensibility on display, in fact an almost sunny Californian feel to some of it, but the edge is still there too. Great stuff. Snap up the vinyl while (if) you still can, there’s only 5,000 worldwide.

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And finally coming my way via downloads this week. Though first of all I’ll explain my stance on downloads. I don’t agree with something for nothing, artists need income in order to survive and develop and flourish. However a guy like me can only spend so much on music and there’s just so much I read about that I wanna hear. So, I’ll often download, mostly by torrent, things I want to hear but just can’t risk the cash on. If I like it, I’ll buy it, always, as most recently with the mighty fine Daughn Gibson. Or in the case of the Beach Boys new box set, If I’ve already invested heavily in an artist who then releases something containing stuff I already 90% have I may download the bonus stuff. The CD ‘Made In California’ set contains one disc of previously unreleased/unheard or rare stuff, and none of its essential. It’s a fine set in whole, particularly if you don’t own previous Beach Boys box sets. But if you do, then save your money. I’ve also had the Arctic Monkeys new album (which I’d already pre-ordered); I’ve not listened yet but I’ll talk about it when the CD turns up. And I’ve investigatively downloaded the 1975’s debut too, not listened to it either but I may mention it once I have.

So apart from further working towards completing an exhaustive trawl through Martin Stephenson’s complete recordings, that this week is my musically acquired life. Some of this will be in a rapidly approaching podcast.


Things I have realised whilst listening to Scott Walker – The Collection 1967-1970

I have been increasingly familiar with these albums (Scott 1-4 & 5/‘Til The Band Comes In’) for the best part of thirty years now. I have them on CD, most on vinyl and have a few (some quite rare) compilations on vinyl, most notably ‘Sings Jacques Brel’, ‘Fire Escape In The Sky – The Godlike Genius Of Scott Walker’ and ‘Spotlight on Scott Walker’ not to mention some cracking CD compilations, ‘Boychild’ and ‘5 Easy Pieces’ being standouts. In short I’m well familiar with this material.

So listening to the latest re-issue in release order over the last few days and reinforced certain opinions rather than enlighten me. Namely...

1 – What a fantastic run of five albums, surely rarely if at all bettered in the history of popular music.

2 – Common perception is that ‘Scott 4’ is the pièce de résistance, and indeed it is amazing. For me though ‘Scott 3’ slays all comers. Its overall feel and presentation, the melancholy and delicacy of the orchestral arrangements, the first really self written of the albums (though it does have three Brel tracks tacked on the end), it’s truly heart stopping stuff. Also the sleeve may not be as iconic as Scott 1, but, I really like it.

3 – Should I have purchased this all again? Well, yes. The remastering is subtle; not the usual boosting of the extreme dynamic ranges, in fact the CD’s seem somewhat quiet. But there’s more detail there, more to appreciate than ever before. And its only £21.41 on Amazon (be quick, it’s already gone up by 4 quid since I ordered it). You should really buy it if you have an appreciation for diverse music, especially if you don’t already own this stuff.

4 – Listen, as the enclosed booklet suggests to ‘Til The Band Comes In’ as Scott 5, the self written tracks 1-10 in isolation. At 25.55 in length it’s not the most epic of albums but without the covers at the end It makes more sense as an album, the covers at the end are OK but add nothing to the whole.

An immense reissue. Each and every home should have one

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Podrophenia - Bowie Special on Radio Nova Lujon.

Listen to this, tonight at 9.00 - Should be good!

'Commencing countdown engines on – for a Podrophenia Bowie special or Bowiephenia you could say..

So what’s in our Velvet Goldmine of glittering goodies. Exclusive covers from The Wolfmen, the Southend Allstars and a list of other legends and listeners. Dave Woodcock joins us for live music. And behold – a preview of the due-soon Eight Rounds Rapid secret single. Our first release on the Podrophenia label. Come on all you young (and not so young) dudes, Moonage Daydreamers and Lady Stardusts – lean back on your Radio Nova Lujon for some cat’s layin’ down some rock ‘n’ roll.

Join us at Novalujon – live from 9. Or swing by the Facebook page and say hello…'

Listen Here - 

30.05.12 Podrophenia Bowie Special