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classic album – april

April 29, 2009

April – 2004 – Musicology – Prince

Apart from the fantastic “Rainbow Children“, this is the only other really magnificent album the Purple One has released since Diamonds and Pearls in 1991. A great collection of fresh funk, jazz and pop grooves. It was orignally, like all Prince albums in the past 20 years, to be his big comeback album and in my opinion, it succeeded. He has of course gone downhill again since Musicology, but you never know with Prince, just when you think he’s lost his touch something like Musicology comes along.

Listen here.

classic album – march

March 30, 2009

March – 1972 – Just Another Band From LA – The Mothers

This great album starts off with a 25 min track consisting of Zappa´s usual hilarious crazy commentary about a mountain named Billy whose wife was a tree which growed off his shoulder called Ethyl!! Brilliant. The album´s rock virtuosity isn´t as good as some of the other Mothers and Zappa stuff, but still a classic in my eyes. my fav trck though has to be “Dog Breath”, a perfectly flowing piece of music with a fantastic rock guitar solo to boot.

Listen to it here.

my top 10 guitarists

March 14, 2009

I love compiling lists,so I thought this would be a good one to do.  It’s not based on anything except my own opinion…

10) Richie Sambora

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A great guitar player who is always overlooked, probably just because he’s in Bon Jovi, He makes my top 10 for his solos alone, his virtuosity is undeniable, showing that he is more than just part of a cheesy rock band with his incredible work on Bon Jovi’s ’95 album “These Days“.

9) Carlos Santana

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An unquestionable force, Grammy award winner Carlos Santana’s blend of salsa, rock, latin blues and jazz fusion puts him up there with the legends of the guitar.  Listening to his stunning album “Moonflower” for the umpteenth time, its still makes the hairs on my arms stand up with his sweeping guitar and use of his trademark feedback sustain.

8)  Eddie Hazel

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A pioneer of funk, Eddie Hazel’s innovative style is most regonizable in his work with Parliment/Funkadelic, their album “Maggot Brain” contains Eddie’s defining moment, with a ten minute solo in the title track, apparently George Clinton told him to “play like your momma just died” during recording and Maggot Brain was the result.

7) Jimmy Page

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The legendary Jimmy Page is a master of the trade, starting off with The Yardbirds before shooting to super stardom with Led Zeppelin, he’s been described as one of the most versatile guitarists of all time.  Page has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice with his respective bands.

6) David Gilmour

Aswell as enjoying a highly successful career with rock legends Pink Floyd, Gilmour has had a notable career as both a record producer and solo artist.  His haunting, mesmerising style has produced some of the most recognizable guitar solos of all time.

5) Django Reinhardt

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Probably the first European jazz musican to have an influence on American musicians.  Belgian born Reinhardt used inventive melodic improvisation on acoustic guitar and mixed it with gypsy-guitar.  Along with violinist Stéphane Grappelli he founded the Quintette du Hot Club de France, one of the earliest and most significant jazz groups in Europe.

4) Ry Cooder

rycooder-l2Ranked number 8 on Rolling Stones’ “The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time”, Cooder’s solo work has been an eclectic mix, taking in dust bowl folk, blues, Tex-Mex, soul, gospel, rock, and almost everything else. He has collaborated with many important musicians, including The Rolling Stones, Van Morrison, Earl Hines, Little Feat, Captain Beefheart, The Chieftains, John Lee Hooker, Pops, Mavis Staples, Gabby Pahinui, Flaco Jimenez and Ali Farka Touré. He formed the Little Village supergroup with Nick Lowe, John Hiatt, and Jim Keltner.

3) Rory Gallagher

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Unknown to too many, the late great Rory Gallagher was one of the most gifted live performers of all time.  The Irishman, noted by Brian May’s (among many others) as one of his biggest inspirations, collaborated with many greats including Muddy Waters and Jerry Lee Lewis.  His solo albums have sold in excess of 30 million copies worldwide.

2) Prince

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Prolific and sometimes controversial pop legend Prince always seems to be overlooked when it comes to actual guitar skills, which, to me, are up there with the very best.  Rolling Stone ranked Prince #28 on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.  From his early material, rooted in R&B, soul and funk, Prince has expanded his musical palette throughout his career, absorbing many other genres including pop, rock, jazz, new wave, psychedelia and hip hop. Some of his primary influences include Sly Stone, Miles Davis, Jimi Hendrix, Joni Mitchell, James Brown, Parliament-Funkadelic and Carlos Santana.

Listen to him here.

1) Jimi Hendrix

What can be said about this man that hasn’t already? There is simply no greater example of a guitar legend.  He was one of the most innovative and influential rock guitarists of the late ’60s and perhaps the most important electric guitarist of all time.

The Old Grey Whistle Test

February 25, 2009

While browsing for videos of classic tunes, I was reminded of the brilliant show I used to watch on late nights on BBC2, The Old Grey Whistle Test, an influential television music show which featured many of the greats over its 16 year lifespan.  It was created by BBC producer Rowan Ayers.

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First aired on the 21st September 1971, the name came from Tin Pan Alley,  old greys were acetates of songs and the big test was if you could whistle the tune.  The most notable host was the distinctive, soft-spoken Bob Harris, who’s style of presenting showed his great affection and avidity for the music and musicians.

The show itself focused more on the serious rock side of music rather than the glitter of showbiz chart toppers and featured many minor acts who are now music legends in their on right, like Billy Joel and Lynyrd Skynyrd.

In 1978 Bob Harris was replaced by Anne Nightingale after it was felt the program needed a revival after failing to embrace the punk era.

The final show was broadcast at the end of 1987 and paved the way for other great music shows like Later…With Jools Holland and The Tube.

Here’s some of my favourite performances….

Classic album – February

February 12, 2009

Febuary  1981 : Brian Eno and David Byrne – My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts

bushThis was a ground-breaking collaboration, first released in ’81, then reissued in 2006 featuring extra tracks and with a more balanced sound quality than its original vinyl, David Byrne and Brian Eno recorded Bush of Ghosts in 1979-80 completely unaided by computers or digital equipment.  Not a conventional work, it displays diverse audio experimentation and sounds like it was recorded a lot more recently than ’81.  In many ways it feels like a documentation of some sort of tribal adventure and some tracks take a strange approach that baffles me but still exhibit a deeply addictive atmospheric sound.  Definitely not the conventional album of the ’80s.

Vodpod added!

February 9, 2009

So I’ve just discovered vodpod and added the widget to the blog, see right!  I think this will come in very handy, I will update it regularly with my favourite tracks.

Classic album of the Month

January 21, 2009

January 1973 : Aerosmith (Self-titled)

Over the years Aerosmith have produced hit after hit with some fantastic albums and while not their best, “Aerosmith” is quite good.  This is a straight up rock record pure and simple, it was just the right platform to kick off a blistering career for these four guys from Boston.  The recording itself wasn’t flawless and Tyler’s trademark screech was quite a way from being perfected but it was raw and full of energy. It opens with the catchy “Make It”, then of course there’s the well known “Dream On”, one of the first ever power ballads, not to mention “Mama Kin”, probably the best track on the album, truly classic rock and roll.  The record finishes with a cover of a particular favourite of mine, “Walking The Dog” by Rufus Thomas.

Dream on

upcoming promising acts of 2009

January 17, 2009

Every year brings more bands, some will make their mark, others we’ll forget all too soon, here I take a look at three I feel we will definitely conquer the music scene  in 2009….

Magistrates :  These four guys from Essex (or the “armpit of England” as they put it) state Talking Heads, David Bowie and Prince as their main influences, listening to vocalist Paul Usher, the falsetto likeness to Prince is very much in evidence.  A fresh new band consisting of funky rhythmic rock with a slick keyboard sound they claim to have “a masterplan to infect the world with a dirty groove like some out of control STD!”  No release date set for the debut album but expect to hear more this year, for now you can check out the track Make This Work

www.myspace.com/magistratesband

The Temper Trap :  Sounds promising, especially with a debut album set for release in the spring and produced by distinguished Brit producer Jim Abbiss (Massive Attack, Kasabian, DJ Shadow, Artic Monkeys and quite a few others).  With a U2/Coldplay-esque sound it could be argued that they’re the last thing we need but I find something refreshing and exciting about them.  A four-piece hailing from Melbourne, Australia, they’ve been in the public eye for a while, having released an EP over two years ago, but expect to hear plenty of them over the coming year as they have been named as one of the fifteen best rising music stars in BBC’s Sound Of 2009.

Sweet Disposition

www.myspace.com/thetempertrap

Empire of the Sun :  Another Australian act who made the BBC list, is this quirky pop duo.  No strangers to the scene, they are singer Luke Steele, who has released two albums with indie group The Sleepy Jackson, and Nick Littlemore of electronic outfit Pnau and a friend of Sir Elton John.  Named after the 1984 JG Ballard novel,which was brought to film by Steven Spielberg, they promise to be one of the most intriguing acts of the year. And looking like a mixture David Bowie in Labyrinth and Adam Ant they are sure to turn a lot of heads.  “We are superheroes. We are Emperor Steele and Lord Littlemore,” proclaims the singer, cue some cosmic performances!

Walking On A Dream

http://www.myspace.com/empireofthesunsound


50 years since the magic was born…

January 15, 2009

Monday officially started the 50th anniversary of Motown Records. That’s the date in 1959 that Berry Gordy Jr. secured an $800 loan to start the company that soon would spin out chart-topping hits by, where do I start? Stevie Wonder, Jackson Five, Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, The Contours, Marvin Gaye, Mary Wells, The Temptations, Jimmy Ruffin, The Supremes, Four Tops, The Isley Brothers, Gladys Knight and the Pips, the list goes on and on.  Then of course there is the mighty Funk Brothers, the masterminds behind this brilliant label, who should never, ever be forgotten, without these men, the very backbone of Motown, the label would never have been so successful.  The Funk Brothers were Motown.

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Monday was declared “Motown Day” by Michigan and Detroit dignitaries at the Motown Historical Museum, the former studio.
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So as music fans celebrate the 50th birthday of this star-studded label, I want to take a closer look at those great men behind the scenes.  The Funk Brothers have played on more number-one records than The Beatles, Elvis, The Rolling Stones, and The Beach Boys combined.  Now that is some record, but despite this feat, most people you ask will never have even heard of these great men never mind name one of them.  The original core line-up had on drums Benny “Papa Zita” Benjamin and Richard “Pistol” Allen, Joe Hunter and Earl Van Dyke on piano, on bass the amazing James Jamerson and after his unfortunate early death Bob Babbitt.   Robert White, Eddie Willis, and Joe Messina played guitar, Jack Ashford played tamborine and percussion,vibraphone and marimba, Jack Brokensha on vibraphone and mariimba and Eddie “Bongo” Brown on percussion.  Hunter left in 1964, replaced on keyboards by Johnny Griffith and as bandleader by Van Dyke. Uriel Jones joined the band as a third drummer.

The band used innovative techniques. For example, most Motown records feature two drummers, playing together or overdubbing one another — Marvin Gaye‘s “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” used three drummers. A number of songs utilized instrumentation and percussion unusual in soul music. The Temptations‘ “It’s Growing” features Earl Van Dyke playing a toy piano for the song’s introduction, snow chains are used as percussion on Martha & the Vandellas‘ “Nowhere to Run“, and a custom oscillator was built to create the synthesizer sounds used to accent Diana Ross & the Supremes‘ “Reflections” A tire iron was used in the Martha & the Vandellas “Dancing in the Streets”.

Thanks to the documentary Standing in the Shadows of Motown, the Funk Brothers got some of the recognition they deserved.  Originally studio musicians were not credited by Motown.  After years of grinding out hit after hit The Funk Brothers were dismissed in 1972, when Berry Gordy moved Motown to Los Angeles. A few members, including Jamerson, migrated to Los Angeles, but found the environment uncomfortable. Sadly, Jamerson died in 1983, Brown in 1984, Van Dyke in 1992, White in 1994, Allen and Griffith in 2002, and Hunter in 2007.

They have also received 3 Grammys, in 2002 they won “Best Compilation Soundtrack Album For A Motion Picture, Television Or Other Visual Media” for Standing In The Shadows Of Motown, and also in the same year “Best Traditional R&B Performance” for “What’s Going On” with Chaka Khan.  Later, in 2004, they received the Lifetime Acheivement Award.  James Jamerson was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000 and drummer Benny Benjamin in 2003.

The Funk Brothers and Chaka Khan – What’s Going On?

To find out more about Motown I recommend checking out BBC Radio 2, which is currently doing a series of shows and documentaries on the subject…

www.bbc.co.uk/radio2/motown

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My sad and memorable moments of 2008

January 14, 2009

2008 was tinted with a lot of sadness, too many great names in music were taken from us. On April 17, Danny Federici, keyboardist and founding member of Bruce Springsteen‘s legendary E Street Band, passed away after a battle with melanoma.

Isaac Hayes passed away August 10 at the age of 65. The Soul Legend left behind a legacy that included everything from soul, funk, R&B, pop. Hayes was a pioneer in multiple genres, and paved the way for disco and rap.

Legendary producer and music businessman Jerry Wexler died at his Florida home on August 15. He was 91. Wexler coined the phrase “Rhythm and Blues,” headed Atlantic Records during some pretty cool years (1953-1975), and mentored Aretha Franklin and Led Zeppelin.

Founding Pink Floyd member Rick Wright died on September 15 at the age of 65 after a battle with cancer. He primarily worked as a keyboardist, though he also contributed vocals and had numerous songwriting credits on a number of Pink Floyd’s records, including “Dark Side of the Moon” and “Wish You Were Here”.

Still on the sad subject of death but in a different way, in July 2008 someone stole Ian Curtis‘s headstone! The late Joy Division frontman’s headstone was stolen from the Macclesfield Cemetery in his hometown of Macclesfield, England.

The end of an era also came in 2008 when Jazz musician and broadcaster Humphrey Lyttelton announced his retirement from presenting BBC Radio 2‘s jazz programme after forty years.

2008 also saw the return of some rock greats, Rage Against the Machine headlined the Big Day Out festivals in Australia and New Zealand, their first shows outside of the United States since reforming, and their first Australian shows in 12 years.
On 18 August 2008, Columbia Records announced the 18 October Australian release, and 20 October worldwide release, of AC/DC‘s sixteenth studio album Black Ice. The 15-track album is the band’s first studio release in eight years.

Former Beatle Paul McCartney made a single concert in Israel at Tel Aviv park for the first time since The Beatles were banned from Israel in 1965.

And on the 21st December Leonard Cohen‘s “Hallelujah” becomes the first song to simultaneously reach the first and second positions of the UK Singles Chart since 1957 with Alexandra Burke’s and Jeff Buckley‘s covers.

My fav albums of the year….

Hot Chip – Made in the Dark
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Coldplay – Viva La Vida

Kings of Leon – Only By the Night

Elbow – The Seldom Seen Kid
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John Mellencamp – Life, Death, Love and Freedom