Saturday, 15 June 2019

UB40 - For The Many (2019)

  

Released March 2019

Having enjoyed UB40's music since 1980, I find the current situation which has two feuding incarnations of the same band very sad. I do not take sides, I listen to the output of both groups and enjoy them. This version of UB40 contains five members from the original band - Earl Falconer, Jimmy Brown, Robin Campbell, Brian Travers and Norman Lamont Hassan. Since "Labour Of Love IV" and the country/reggae album "Getting Over The Storm", Duncan Campbell has been lead vocals and, as we know, he sounds a lot like original vocalist Ali Campbell. The latter is part of the other version of the group with toaster Astro and Mickey Virtue. Confusing, isn't it?

Anyway, this is a laid-back pleasant enough collection of catchy reggae numbers given that familiar UB40 brassy treatment. It has a nice, warm sound quality to it as well, with none of that too heavy bass that blighted late 1990s/early 2000s albums like "Guns In The Ghetto". The bass is solid and full, as it should be, but not distorted.

The cover is a somewhat shocking impression of a city skyline based on the Grenfell Tower fire.

TRACK LISTING

1. The Keeper
2. Broken Man
3. Gravy Train
4. I'm Alright Jack
5. Moonlight Lover
6. You Haven't Called
7. What Happened To UB40
8. Bulldozer
9. Poor Fool
10. All We Do Is Cry

"The Keeper" is a breezy, brassy and summery typical UB40 groove, while "Broken Man" has a deeper, dubbier rhythm but retains the trademark horn backing. Additional vocalist Kabaka Pyramid has a toasting part near the end. Lead vocals are taken by Norman Lamont Hassan, who has a deeper voice than Campbell. "Gravy Train" is a Gregory Isaacs-inspired melodic skank, with a nice dubby bit at the song's conclusion. UB40 have always been a band with a social conscience and this is expressed in the cynical "I'm Alright Jack". Its concerns are the unfairness of the property market. Pablo Rider provides the gruff, ragga-style toasting vocals. More authentic dub is featured on the
track too.

"Moonlight Lover" has Hassan on vocals again on an infectious Lovers Rock-style number. "You Haven't Called" is a slow-pace, dubby love song. Great bass and saxophone on this. "What Happened To UB40" is a disappointing, unnecessary toasting dig at the "other band". While it has a great groove  to it, its sentiments come across as churlish. No need for it. Once again, though, the dub sounds on the track are impressive.

"Bulldozer" goes full on ragga and "Poor Fool" is a return to that laid-back, sunny sound. "All We Do Is Cry" is an evocative, soulful number with Hassan again on vocals, at one point showing some Eastern influences. This album is notable for using Hassan quite a few times on vocals, so it doesn't come across like an attempt to sound like Ali Campbell, something Duncan is sometimes guilty of. This is an enjoyable forty-fifty minutes or so's listen. Recommended.

B-

Friday, 14 June 2019

Bruce Springsteen - Western Stars (2019)

  

Released June 2019

I have a strange relationship with Bruce Springsteen these days. From those heady days of hero-worship of 1977 to 1984 we’ve both come a long hard way down that little dirt track that has a sign out front sayin’ “Thunder Road”. I guess the bad seeds got sown, Sir, when the “Born In The USA” album came out and he was no longer a comparative “cult” artist that only a relatively small percentage of people in the mainstream really knew about. That album suddenly sat alongside “Thriller”, “Brothers in Arms” and the latest Phil Collins offering on the same people’s sparse record shelves. Maybe it all started to drift away a little then, down through those dead ends and two-bit bars. Not that anyone would have known, however, as I carried on seeing him live, following that dream to places as diverse as Detroit, Rotterdam and Paris. I have always stuck with him out of pure nostalgia but before I bore you all to death the point I am ponderously getting to, in classic Springsteen rambling narrative style, is that while I still habitually get everything he releases, I listen to his music only about once a year.

While old mates Steven Van Zandt and (even now and then) Southside Johnny are still keeping that mid-seventies Spectoresque, horn-driven Asbury Park flame burning on their latest albums (particularly the former, check out “Summer Of Sorcery”), Springsteen left the girls and the boardwalk behind a long time ago, save for the odd throwback like “Girls In Their Summer Clothes” in 2008. The Boss’s thing now is stripped back, bleak (ish) cowboy/old West-themed numbers, still rocking at times, but very dominated by sweeping, heavy, sonorous keyboard backing, without a horn, Bittan-esque tinkling piano or Clemons-style bullhorn saxophone within a hundred miles of earshot. It sounds like Springsteen with The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. At times it can be overwhelming, but at other times it can be uplifting and provides a dramatic backdrop for his cinematic lyrics.

The man still has his innate ear for a tune and a killer turn of phrase, however, he will never lose that. He has that certain very special something that he always did that makes one sit up and listen. For that reason I find myself returning, despite my considerable misgivings about the album. To be fair to him he is making a concerted effort to produce a considerably different album, rather than doing the same old stuff. He needs credit for that, for sure. This review is four times the size of the one for "Born In The USA", for example, so there is some thought-provoking material on it. The album, from what I have read so far, is already being hailed as a work of genius by professional music journalists. I know where they are coming from and it would be easy to say the same thing, but those strings and that high voice......

Anyway, on with the show, this is what we now get in the land of hope and dreams as we still hide on the backstreets…

TRACK LISTING

1. Hitch Hikin’
2. The Wayfarer
3. Tuscon Train
4. Western Train
5. Sleepy Joe’s Café
6. Drive Fast (The Stuntman)
7. Chasin’ Wild Horses
8. Sundown
9. Somewhere North Of Nashville
10. Stones
11. There Goes My Miracle
12. Hello Sunshine
13. Moonlight Motel

Lyrically and thematically, Springsteen is channelling his inner Bernie Taupin and heading out to Tuscon trying to break in them wild Palominoes. One look at what is one of his best ever covers makes that pretty clear. The rear cover sees him in front of car in a cowboy hat and is less evocative, more obvious.

The album starts on a low-key note with the sombre, reflective "Hitch-Hikin'" which features a somewhat old-sounding, croaking vocal from Springsteen. The backing is stately - acoustic guitar and those strings. Get used to them, they're all over this album. Lyrics about "passing telegraph poles out on the road" set a familiar Springsteen theme. "The Wayfarer" is similarly gentle but appealing all the same. The strings/brass break half way through is classic fifties/sixties Western movie soundtrack fare. Springsteen even laconically sends himself up a bit as he says "it's the same old cliché, wayfarer on his way, slipping from town to town" and deconstructs his own mythology.

“Tuscon Train” has a solid rock beat and a convincing vocal but it is a bit overwhelmed by some Western movie-style orchestration in its backing. They are quite captivating, however, and I find this one is a bit of a grower. There is also a bit of piano hidden away in there. I’m quite enjoying this. Good track. I've heard it lots by now as it was available a few weeks ago. Some "proper" drums feature on it and it has an atmosphere. "Western Stars" is another pleasant track with a typical Springsteen construction, it sounds like something from "Devils And Dust" or "Tunnel Of Love" in places. All that Western imagery is present, as a Western movie actor narrates, with references to John Wayne, cowboys and riding. The character in the song was "shot by John Wayne" in a movie. It is a great song, greater the more you listen to it.

I really like the Tex-Mex-ish Mavericks-style romp of "Sleepy Joe's Café", with its decidedly Danny Federici fairground organ sound. Yes, it is the cheesiest number on the album, but I find it irresistible. The mournful "Drive Fast (The Stuntman)" is full of archetypal Springsteen imagery and characterisation. "Chasin' Wild Horses" is exactly as you would expect it to be as Springsteen lives out his cowboy fantasy. Despite its somewhat cheesy backing, it carries an appeal to it. So many of his lyrics are so descriptive. The man is a superb narrator of a story/scene. The song seems to effortlessly flow into the livelier but still down-at-heel "Sundown".

"Somewhere North Of Nashville" is a slow, acoustic number that doesn't actually make two minutes in length. "Stones" is similarly bleak-ish, a marriage break-up song, but with more orchestration. That overbearing enhancement is back again on “There Goes My Miracle”. It kicks into action with a solid, thumping rock drum backing but on this one, I find Springsteen is struggling with the vocal, trying too hard to hard to sound melodic enough to handle the strings/keyboards, or whatever it is that provides the instrumentation. It sounds a lot like some of the material on 2009’s “Working On A Dream” album, musically, lyrically and vocally. Particularly with the string “riffs”. That high voice bit at the beginning is pretty naff, I have to say. All that said, the song is infuriatingly catchy and my Wife loves it. I can’t stop singing it either.

“Hello Sunshine” has an infectious, shuffling rhythm such as was used on much of the material on disc four of the “Tracks” box set. It is a bleak song, though, with a bit of country guitar and a plaintive, sad, mournful vocal from Springsteen. Once again, it has a hook to it, as I said earlier, Springsteen never loses that, but I still have to question whether I really like it, or I think “oh it’s Bruce, I have to like it”. On reflection, I do like it anyway, so that’s another positive. The question I am left with, though, is "if this wasn't Bruce Springsteen, would I like it?".

"Moonlight Motel" is a sad narrative to end this challenging album on. There are parts of the album that are not quite to my taste, and I am not sure whether I will play it endlessly, but I certainly accept that it is a beautifully-created, mature and thoughtful piece of work. It is, for me, by far the superior piece of work to "Born In The USA", so there you are. I guess what matters is Springsteen's music is now something that makes one think and go back and listen to again. He really is a remarkable artist in that respect.

B-

Thursday, 13 June 2019

Bob Marley & The Wailers - Babylon By Bus (1978)


  

Recorded live at The Pavilion de Paris, June 1978

This was Bob Marley & The Wailers' second official live album, after the seminal, now iconic "Live!" from 1975 and it features a band now at the peak of their popularity. It is recorded in Paris and that shows just how reggae had spread around the globe by 1978. Associated as a sibling of punk, Marley and his wonderful band had their biggest hit with their "Exodus" album in the previous year and this was a tour of a triumphant, commercial band aiming to please. They were no longer a cult group.

For me, this leads to a slight loss of that raw edginess that 1973's "Live From Leeds University" that comes as part of the "Burnin' Deluxe Edition" and it certainly lacks the crucial rootsiness of the "Live!" material. There are rootsy cuts, despite that, however - "Kinky Reggae" and "Positive Vibration" - but I feel some of the numbers, such as "Exodus", "Punky Reggae Party" and even "Stir It Up" are given a bit of a crowd-pleasing makeover. Both "Punky Reggae Party" and "Exodus", while thumping and powerful, lose a bit of that essential Marley dubbiness, keyboards taking over a bit.

 "Lively Up Yourself", although infectious as always, does not come over as authentic as it did on "Live!". This is very harsh, actually, because this is still a very impressive, vibrant and enjoyable live album. For some reason, I find the real essence of Marley live is to be found on "Leeds", "Live!", the live tracks from "Rastaman Vibration"'s "Deluxe Edition" and the live cuts from the "Exodus 40" release. "Rebel Music (3 O'Clock Roadblock)" sounds great, however, nice and bassy, as is "War/No More Trouble".

Guitarist Al Anderson is really making his presence felt by now and Carlton Barrett is excellent, as always, on drums. The group now have hits to offer, and the crowd duly respond to "Is This Love" and "Jamming". In between those two, pleasingly, for me, is the rootsy "The Heathen". Look, I still enjoy this album a lot, my comments are tiny, nit-picking ones. It is still highly recommended.

TRACK LISTING

1. Positive Vibration
2. Punky Reggae Party
3. Exodus
4. Stir It Up
5. Rat Race
6. Concrete Jungle
7. Kinky Reggae
8. Lively Up Yourself
9. Rebel Music (3 O'Clock Roadblock)
10. War/No More Trouble
11. Is This Love
12. The Heathen
13. Jamming

B-

Chris Rea - Shamrock Diaries (1985)


  

Released April 1985

It was 1985 now, and Chris Rea had released seven albums, would you believe. This was his most "stadium rock"-ish of his offerings so far, the one that had him sounding like a Middlesbrough Springsteen. The synth pop and new romantic keyboard influences had gone now and he was becoming more of a rocker. This was the first time I took notice of him, back then. There was some quality material on here, songs that made you sit up and take notice.

TRACK LISTING

1. Steel River
2. Stainsby Girls
3. Chisel Hill
4. One Golden Rule
5. All Summer Long
6. Stone
7. Shamrock Diaries
8. Love Turns To Lies
9. Hired Gun

"Steel River" is a Rea classic, starting off as a slow piano-driven ballad it launches into a huge gospel soul brassy chorus. Lyrically, it is a moving song about his home town of Middlesbrough. I have to say, though, that I prefer the version on the album of re-workings, "New Light Through Old Windows". The same applies to another Rea anthem, the Springsteen-esque "Stainsby Girls", a tribute to his wife, who attended Stainsby Secondary Modern School in Middlesbrough. It was this track that first brought my attention to Rea. It is an excellent slide guitar-dominated, riffy rocker with great lyrics. In 1985, this was what I wanted to hear, after several years of Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet and Culture Club forced into my earshot.

The quality continues on the beautifully-evocative, soulful "Chisel Hill". This was Chris Rea at his moving best. I love this track. It is very Springsteen-influenced you have to say, with touches of Van Morrison too. "One Golden Rule" ploughs the same furrow, although it was still 1985, so a bit of a synth backing prevails on the surprisingly mournful "All Summer Long".

"Stone" is a solid, powerful rock ballad. This brooding, soulful, atmospheric ambience is found on "Shamrock Diaries" as well, enhanced by some jazzy, wine-bar saxophone. Chris Rea has always had an excellent voice and this song shows that, particularly. "Love Turns To Lies" is hewn from the same quarry. This is actually quite a sombre album, especially this latter half and the introspective, reflective gloom is not lifted by the moody eight minutes of "Hired Gun". Very "Brothers In Arms". Ironically, that album didn't come out until a month after this one. It breaks out into an Elton John-style chorus. Rea gives us a searing slide guitar solo too. Don't get me wrong, this is a very good song and this was a good album, but it is a very sombre one. It was Rea's finest album thus far too.

B

The Rolling Stones - Stripped (1995)


  

Released in 1995

This, the original release of "Stripped" was not a full live album. It was a mixture of six live tracks and eight studio re-workings of earlier Rolling Stones songs. Later editions under the "Totally Stripped" and "Stripped Live" titles are made up solely of live recordings from Amsterdam, Paris and London in 1995.

It, for me, is an interesting album and it benefits from having a full, muscular, bassy sound, the power of which is really impressive.

TRACK LISTING

1. Street Fighting Man (Live In Amsterdam)
2. Like A Rolling Stone (Live In London)
3. Not Fade Away
4. Shine A Light ( Live In Paris)
5. The Spider And The Fly
6. I'm Free
7. Wild Horses
8. Let It Bleed (Live In Paris)
9. Dead Flowers (Live In London)
10. Slipping Away
11. Angie (Live In Paris)
12. Love In Vain
13. Sweet Virginia
14. Little Baby

The live cuts are from the smaller venues that The Stones had been playing (Paradiso in Amsterdam, Brixton Academy in London and L'Olympia in Paris). They have an appealing intimacy that stadium versions slightly lack. I reiterate, the sound is superb. Check out those crystal clear acoustic guitars on "Street Fighting Man". Their version of Dylan's "Like A Rolling Stone" has been criticised by some, but I, as a Dylan fan as well, have never had a problem with it. It has always annoyed me that it misses one verse out though. All the live cuts are impressive.

"Not Fade Away" is give an excellent new makeover, full of verve and rhythm. "The Spider And The Fly" has a big, pounding beat plus some bluesy guitar. Another one from the mid-sixties, "I'm Free" has a solid drum/organ interplay. None of these tracks have changed noticeably, they just have a fuller, better sound. "Wild Horses" is pretty much faithful to the original. The same can be said of Keith Richards' laconic, sleepy "Slipping Away". The bluesy "Love In Vain" from 1969's "Let It Bleed" features some razor sharp acoustic guitar from Richards before the drums kick in and Ronnie Wood's slide guitar arrives. The original is great but this one is too.

The country romp of "Sweet Virginia" is as harmlessly singalong as it originally was. The previously unrecorded "Little Baby" is the album's hidden gem, an upbeat blues cover of a Willie Dixon song.

While not quite as world-shattering as it may have been in that the re-recordings do not deviate too much from the originals, and much of the live stuff had been performed and released many times before, I still find it an enjoyable album, largely because of that big, punchy sound.

B-

Wednesday, 12 June 2019

Bob Dylan - Rolling Thunder Revue: The 1975 Recordings (Sampler)


  

Released June 2019

This review is based on the ten song "sampler" currently available to listen to, so I apologise to those who may be wanting to hear about the whole fourteen disc box set.

The question I am asking myself, having purchased the extended "Cutting Edge" and "More Blood, More Tracks" box sets is whether this one justifies a similar £50 plus shell-out. Although I have immensely enjoyed the ten tracks on repeated listens so far, I suspect that five almost identical live shows from The Rolling Thunder tour that are included here are not offering me enough variety, particularly as I already have the original "Rolling Thunder" compilation, "Bootleg Series Vol. 5" which has an excellent selection of live recordings from the tour.

The live tracks included on here are played pretty much identically to those I already own - the reggae-ish version of "It Ain't Me Babe", the shuffling, staccato "The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll", the rock version of "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall", "Isis", "Hurricane" and "Romance In Durango". The one new gem is a good version of "I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine". It may be just me, but the sound seems better on the "Bootleg Series" recordings - fuller and warmer.

Performance-wise, though, Dylan and his sizeable band are on fire - crackling with it. However, I had always had the impression that The Rolling Thunder tour was a big, loose behemoth of a tour with rambling, changeable set lists so it was a bit of a surprise to find that the set lists were all pretty static. I should have known that, I guess, but I didn't, I was influenced by that famous picture of Dylan and his band walking through a field by a river like a troupe of wandering ad hoc minstrels.

The sampler gives you an interesting rehearsal version of "If You See Her, Say Hello" with different lyrics, a rudimentary demo of "Tonight I'll Be Staying Here With You" and the folky "Easy And Slow", a sort of "new old Dylan song".

Although my answer is that I do not need all these very similar live recordings I know exactly what will happen - I will "cherry pick" the live tracks I do not have from the tour, of which I have identified eight, plus another ten or fifteen rehearsals and demos and purchase them as downloads. Then it will say I need to spend another £25 to complete my purchase, so eventually I will. That is what happened with "More Blood, More Tracks".

TRACK LISTING (Sampler)

1. Tonight I'll Be Staying Here With You (S.I.R. Studio Rehearsals)
2. If You See Her, Say Hello (S.I.R. Studio Rehearsals)
3. Easy And Slow (Seacrest Motel Rehearsals)
4. A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall (Live in Montreal)
5. It Ain't Me Babe (Live in Boston)
6. The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll (Live in Montreal)
7. I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine (Live in Montreal)
8. Isis (Live in Montreal)
9. Romance In Durango (Live in Boston)
10. Hurricane (live in Boston)

B+

Bob Dylan - Live At Woodstock (1994)


  

Recorded live at Woodstock in 1994

This is one of the now legally available, radio broadcasts of live shows. They proliferate the market these days, particularly as downloads. The sound quality on them is wildly variable. However, this one is pretty good, with relative clarity and a warm bass sound. Bob Dylan finally made it to Woodstock, twenty-five years after snubbing the initial festival.

The opener, "Jokerman" suffers a bit from muffled-ish sound, but thereafter the sound improves and we are treated to some lively performances from a Dylan still worth the ticket price. Highlights are a bluesy, rocking "It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry", a committed, solid, "Just Like A Woman", a slowed down, mysterious "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue" and an atmospheric "Masters Of War". Dylan changes his vocal delivery considerably on these performances from their originals, singing a lot of them in the style he would use on "Dylan: Unplugged" a year later.

A real rarity is the inclusion of the heavy thump of "God Knows" from "Under The Red Sky". "I Shall Be Released" is a delight - dignified and guitar-driven with a great, characterful vocal from Dylan. Excellent guitar/drum/piano interplay near the end. "Highway 61 Revisited" rocks, an ageing Bob could still rock out at this point. The guitar is searing on here. I have never been a fan of "Rainy Day Women #12 & 35" but it is great at this show, full of bluesy rock verve. Dylan sounds as if he is really enjoying himself, something that can not always be said. "It Ain't Me Babe" is given a laid-back, bassy makeover, with acoustic guitar interjections, a different version to the one Dylan played in the seventies' "Rolling Thunder" era, which was reggae-ish. Here it is about the gently melodic bass. Then, at the end, we get a harmonica/guitar solo. Great stuff indeed.

A lot of these "unofficial but legal" releases are quite poor, but this one is worth checking out. It is packed full of excellent, lively performances.

TRACK LISTING

1. Jokerman
2. Just Like A Woman
3. All Along The Watchtower
4. It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry
5. Don't Think Twice, Its Alright
6. Masters Of War
7. It's All Over Now, Baby Blue
8. God Knows
9. I Shall Be Released
10. Highway 61 Revisited
11. Rainy Day Women #12 & 35
12. It Ain't Me Babe

B

Bob Dylan - Live At The Royal Albert Hall (1966)


  

Recorded live at The Royal Albert Hall May 1966

This is the actual "Royal Albert Hall" concert from May 1966. The original bootleg for many years claimed that the Manchester Free Trade Hall infamous "Judas" concert from a week earlier was from the Albert Hall. It wasn't.

Anyway, both are now available and have exactly the same set lists. Personally, I fond the sound on the Manchester one (part of the Dylan "Bootleg Series") to be the better one, finding it warmer and more bassy. The atmosphere is cracking on that one for obvious reasons as Dylan and The Hawks (as The Band were then known), respond to heckling from folkies by producing a positively incendiary electric set. This concert is in exactly the same format - seven acoustic songs followed by eight electric ones. The heckling is not so pronounced, indeed, you sense this audience want to give Dylan a chance. His between-song chats are as slurred and drug-addled as on the previous one though. It is interesting to listen to both concerts, but I will always choose the Manchester one, due to the sound and the pugnacious atmosphere.

TRACK LISTING

1. She Belongs To Me
2. Fourth Time Around
3. Visions Of Johanna
4. It's All Over Now, Baby Blue
5. Desolation Row
6. Just Like A Woman
7. Mr. Tambourine Man
8. Tell Me, Momma
9. I Don't Believe You (She Acts Like We Never Have Met)
10. Baby, Let Me Follow You Down
11. Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues
12. Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat
13. One Too Many Mornings
14. Ballad Of A Thin Man
15. Like A Rolling Stone

B-

Bob Dylan - Live In Manchester (1966)


  

Recorded live in Manchester 17 May 1966

Erroneously billed as "The Royal Albert Hall" concert, this epochal "switch from acoustic to electric" show made famous by the shout of "Judas" from a folky in the crowd was actually recorded at Manchester Free Trade Hall. Here it is, all these years later, as part of the excellent, official "Bootleg Series". The sound is really impressive, certainly as good as you could expect it to be from 1966.

The concert it separated into two halves - a seven song acoustic first half including excellent renditions of recent lengthy masterworks in "Visions Of Johanna" and "Desolation Row". The sound is crystal clear on the whole, apart from tiny bits of live concert hiss and Dylan's voice and delivery is top notch. His diction far better than it would be in later years. The protest songs were long gone and Dylan's abstract poetry delivered in song abounds in these two songs and also in obscurely romantic ones like the beguiling "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue".

Then, for the second half, a wired-up Dylan tells The Hawks (as The Band were then known) to "play f****** loud" and they duly do just that, pounding out that "wild mercury sound" in incendiary fashion. The clashing power of it is visceral and you can feel the tension in the air crackling as earnest folkies realise their worst nightmare is happening before their very ears as Dylan "goes electric". He attacks songs originally written for acoustic guitar like "I Don't Believe You (She Acts Like We Never Have Met)", "Baby Let Me Follow You Down" and "One Too Many Mornings" with a searing electric verve that almost renders them different incarnations. The organ swirls all over them and the drums pound. This was a seminal moment in contemporary music history. Every track is delivered with a real supercharged intensity. For proof, just listen to "Like A Rolling Stone" or that bass/drum interplay near the end of "Tell Me, Momma". It is before "Like A Rolling Stone" that the "Judas" thing occurs and the instruction to play loud. It is one of rock music's greatest moments, captured here forever.

TRACK LISTING

1. She Belongs To Me
2. Fourth Time Around
3. Visions Of Johanna
4. It's All Over Now, Baby Blue
5. Desolation Row
6. Just Like A Woman
7. Mr. Tambourine Man
8. Tell Me, Momma
9. I Don't Believe You (She Acts Like We Never Have Met)
10. Baby, Let Me Follow You Down
11. Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues
12. Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat
13. One Too Many Mornings
14. Ballad Of A Thin Man
15. Like A Rolling Stone

B+

Tuesday, 11 June 2019

Chris Rea - Water Sign (1983)


  

Released March 1983

This was the album that started to get Chris Rea a little bit better known than he had been. The eighties were in full swing and he would find his easy listening rock sound gaining more and more fans as the decade progressed. He was more than just dinner-party music for the mid-twenties/early thirties, but it was that group which gave him his initial popularity.

TRACK LISTING

1. Nothing's Happening By The Sea
2. Deep Water
3. Candles
4. Love's Strange Ways
5. Texas
6. Let It Loose
7. I Can Hear Your Heart Beat
8. Midnight Blue
9. Hey You
10. Out Of The Darkness

"Nothing's Happening By The Sea" is a meditative opener, inspired, I am sure, by Van Morrison's "Inarticulate Speech Of The Heart" album from the same year. This was the sort of laid-back, walking pace, contemplative song that would come to characterise Rea's work throughout the eighties and nineties. It was the eighties, of course, so we could expect a synth-driven, new romantic-style number and duly got it in "Deep Water". "Candles" is another track augmented by some contemporary keyboard sounds, although Rea's distinctive, smoky voice is far removed from the haughty tones of the new romantics. Rea's guitar near the end is very Dire Straits-ish.

"Love's Strange Ways" is a beautiful, late-night bluesy ballad enhanced by some killer Spanish-style guitar. "Texas" is not the song that appeared on the later "Road To Hell" album in 1989. It is a nice song with Rea now really developing his bluesy but romantic method of deliver. "Let It Loose" rocks solidly, and "I Can Hear Your Heart Beat" proved to be one of Rea's first songs that would go on to become well-known. It features a very Talking Heads-esque guitar riff.

"Midnight Blue" is a sumptuous, soulful ballad, with Rea showing just what a knack he was developing for writing a quality, moving slowie. An excellent song, best on the album. That trademark slide guitar makes its first real appearance half way through too. "Hey You" has a very eighties, summery vibe but it is again lifted by Rea's superb voice. "Out Of The Darkness" starts off like The Human League, with Rea going all Phil Oakey on the introductory vocal. Some solid rock riffs differentiate it from anything new romantic, though, as did the saxophone solo.

Chris Rea's albums had, up until this point, been very impressive, but somehow culturally out of kilter with the zeitgeist. Not any more, this was a very good eighties album and fitted right in with the "wine bar" sound that was beginning to proliferate. It was more than just background bar music, though, this was a good offering that still sounds good today.

B-

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers - Live At Paradise, Boston (1978)


  

Recorded live in Boston in July 1978

This is one of those now readily-available radio broadcasts that have flooded the market, particularly the download one, in recent years. This one dates from 1978 and has a relatively youthful Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers playing thirteen songs superbly, full of vigour and enthusiasm. Although they hung onto the coat-tails of punk and new wave, particularly in the UK, they were much better than that. They certainly show that here.

The main point about this album, as well as The Heartbreakers' excellent performance, is the absolutely superb sound, especially considering it dates from 1978. It is worlds apart in quality from "Southern Accents: Live In The Sunshine State" from seven years later in 1985. The sound is crystal clear, the bass warm and thumping, the guitars and vocal distinct. Furthermore the crowd noise is kept at a low volume.

The material is largely taken from the band's first two albums, plus some interesting covers at the end - "I Fought The Law", "Shout", "Route 66" and "I'm A King Bee". I would highly recommended this download. Superb stuff.

TRACK LISTING

1. Anything That's Rock 'n' Roll
2. Fooled Again
3. I Need To Know
4. Don't Bring Me Down
5. You're Gonna Get It
6. Breakdown
7. American Girl
8. Strangered In The Night
9. Too Much Ain't Enough
10. Shout
11. I Fought The Law
12. Route 66
13. I'm A King Bee

B+

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers - Pack Up The Plantation (1985)

  

Recorded live in Los Angeles in November 1985

This was Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers' first official live album. It has Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers playing fourteen songs, so it is not a full concert set list, but the sound quality is truly excellent, much better, for example, than the muffled and crowd noise-dominated now-legal bootleg "Southern Accents In The Sunshine State" from 1993. Yes, the crowd noise is still on this one (which is good for the live authenticity), but the music always overrides it, and there is a sharp clarity to the sound that makes it a much more enjoyable listen than "Accents", which leaves you a bit shell-shocked after an hour.

What is also good about this one is that it contains a few live rarities such as Petty's excellent covers of The Byrds' "So You Want To Be A Rock & Roll Star" and The Searchers' "Needles And Pins", featuring Stevie Nicks. She returns to contribute to "Insider" too. Also covered is the Isley Brothers' "Shout". Old favourites like "Breakdown", "American Girl" (enhanced by a horn section) and "Refugee" are always welcome, plus there are good versions of "Rebels", "Southern Accents" and the brassy Stonesy funk of "It Ain't Nothin' To Me" from what was the group's latest album, "Southern Accents". The latter also features a very Mike Garson (David Bowie)-influenced piano solo.

While the four CD "Live Anthology" is probably the Petty live bible, so to speak, this is an enjoyable and interesting worthwhile addition to one's collection.

TRACK LISTING

1. So You Want To Be A Rock And Roll Star
2. Needles and Pins
3. The Waiting
4. Breakdown
5. American Girl
6. It Ain't Nothin' To Me
7. Insider
8. Rockin' Around With You
9. Refugee
10. Southern Accents
11. Rebels
12. Don't Bring Me Down
13. Shout
14. The Stories We Could Tell

B+

Monday, 10 June 2019

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers - Southern Accents In The Sunshine State (1993)


  

Recorded live in Gainesville Florida 1993

This is another of those radio broadcast concerts that is now, thankfully, legally allowed to be released. This time it finds Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, such an honest, hard-working live band, performing in front of an enthusiastic Gainesville, Florida crowd. As many have commented, the crowd noise certainly makes you feel as if you are there - whoops and hollers abound throughout. It is a little distracting, I guess, but not too much so, indeed it sort of adds to the live atmosphere. The sound is ok for one of these broadcasts, but I will certainly not say that it is "audiophile" (God I hate that term!). It has that "very good bootleg" quality to it, a little bit muffled on the drums. It is a bit difficult to describe what I mean by that type of sound but you know it when you hear it. There is a good, solid bass, though. Actually, being totally honest, after about an hour of it, the sound starts to grate. If you turn it down you lose the annoying crowd noise, but the music becomes more indistinct. If you turn it up, the crowd deafens you.

Petty and his marvellous band attack all the material with a commitment and honesty that is hard to beat. The songs are a healthy mixture of material from Petty's recent solo work, The Heartbreakers' recent albums and crowd-pleasing classics like "I Won't Back Down", "Refugee", "Free Fallin'", "Don't Come Around Here No More" and, of course, "American Girl".

Nevertheless, there is much better live Petty material out there (The "Live Anthology" is probably the best - a huge four CD collection of live material). This is still a lot of fun on the occasional listen, though. Americans were really lucky that so many great concerts were broadcast live on the radio, something that has never really happened in the UK.

TRACK LISTING

1. Love Is A Long Road
2. Into The Great Wide Open
3. Listen To Her Heart
4. I Won't Back Down
5. Free Fallin'
6. Psychotic Reaction
7. Ben's Boogie
8. Don't Come Around Here No More
9. Something In The Air
10. Mary Jane's Last Dance
11. King's Highway
12. A Face in The Crowd
13. The Ballad Of Easy Rider
14. Take Out Some Insurance
15. Thirteen Days
16. Southern Accents
17. Yer So Bad
18. Drivin' Down To Georgia
19. Lost Without You
20. Refugee
21. Runnin' Down A Dream
22. Learning To Fly
23. Rainy Day Women #12 & 35
24. American Girl
25. Alright For Now

B-

Saturday, 8 June 2019

Zoot Money




Zoot! (1966)
The Best Of Zoot Money's Big Roll Band

Ziggy Marley & The Melody Makers




Conscious Party (1988)

Zap Pow




Last War - The Best Of Zap Pow

X-Ray Spex




Germ-Free Adolescents (1978)

Wizzard




Wizzard Brew (1973)

War




The World Is A Ghetto (1972)
Why Can't We Be Friends? (1975)
Galaxy (1977)

Walter Trout




Survivor Blues (2019)

U-Roy




Original DJ

Traffic




The Low Spark Of High-Heeled Boys (1971)
Shoot Out At The Fantasy Factory (1973)

Traffic Gold

Toots & The Maytals




Reggae Greats

Tony Joe White




Black And White (1969)

Tony Allen




No Accommodation For Lagos (1978)
No Discrimination (1979)

Tom Tom Club




Tom Tom Club (1981)

Tin Machine





Tin Machine (1989)
Tin Machine II (1991)

Them




The Angry Young Them (1965)
Them Again (1966)
The Complete Them (1964-1967)

Thelonious Monk




Straight No Chaser (1967)

The Yardbirds




Roger The Engineer (1966)
The Yardbirds Story

The Who




My Generation (1965)
A Quick One (1966)
Live At Leeds (1970)
Who's Next (1971)
Quadrophenia (1973)
The Who By Numbers (1976)
Who Are You (1978)
Face Dances (1981)
It's Hard (1982)
Endless Wire (2006)

The Wailing Souls




Fire House Rock (1982)

The Vibrators




Pure Mania (1977)
V2 (1978)

The Undertones




The Undertones (1979)
True Confessions The Singles A's & B's

The Traveling Wilburys




The Traveling Wilburys Collection

The Stylistics



The Very Best Of The Stylistics

The Small Faces




The Ultimate Collection