Wednesday, 4 March 2015

50 years of tunes - 1971 - Jethro Tull "Aqualung"

I struggled to pick one album from '71. Quite a few I like a lot but difficult to pick one above the others. I recently got into Bowie and Hunky Dory is a corker, while The Yes Album has long been my favourite, err, Yes album. But, you probably know, I REALLY like Jethro Tull.

Aqualung is Tull's most famous album but deservedly so. It's much more than the well known title track (and spectacular riff) that opens side one and manages to blend their blues roots with a more progressive edge without sounding overblown. The short acoustic tunes help pull it all together for me and provide a nice element of contrast with the heavier rockier tracks.

1971 - Jethro Tull "Aqualung"

Released: March 1971
Label: Chrysalis
Producer: Ian Anderson, Terry Ellis

Side one: Aqualung
1. "Aqualung" (Ian Anderson, Jennie Anderson)
2. "Cross-Eyed Mary"
3. "Cheap Day Return"
4. "Mother Goose"
5. "Wond'ring Aloud"
6. "Up to Me"

Side two: My God
1. "My God"
2. "Hymn 43"
3. "Slipstream"
4. "Locomotive Breath"
5. "Wind-Up"

All songs written by Ian Anderson except where stated.


Wednesday, 25 February 2015

50 years of tunes - 1970 - The Stooges "Funhouse"

Time for a bit more Proto-Punk, their debut album missed out to the Tull but their second is phenomenal. I was lucky enough to see the reformed line-up perform the entire album, in order, at the Hammersmith Odeon back in 2005, a gig that remains one of the best I've seen.

1970 - The Stooges "Funhouse"

Released: July 1968
Label: Elektra
Producer: Don Gallucci

Side one:
1. "Down on the Street"
2. "Loose"
3. "T.V. Eye"
4. "Dirt"

Side two:
5. "1970"
6. "Fun House"
7. "L.A. Blues"


Wednesday, 18 February 2015

50 years of tunes - 1969 - Jethro Tull "Stand Up"

Tull are one of my favourite bands. They're a little different from the rest of the seventies prog crowd and have a sound that is very much their own. Stand Up is Tull's second album, their first with long term guitar player Martin Barre and the moment they really began to leave their Progressive Blues origins behind and began to really find their feet.

1969 - Jethro Tull "Stand Up"

Released: September 1969
Label: Island
Producer: Ian Anderson & Terry Ellis

Side one:
1. "A New Day Yesterday"
2. "Jeffrey Goes to Leicester Square"
3. "Bourée" (instrumental, J. S. Bach arr. Anderson)
4. "Back to the Family"
5. "Look into the Sun"

Side two:
6. "Nothing is Easy"
7. "Fat Man"
8. "We Used to Know"
9. "Reasons for Waiting"
10. "For a Thousand Mothers"


Friday, 13 February 2015

70 Favourite Films

Inspired by some list makers on Twitter I decided to do a list of my favourite films of all time. I didn't quite have enough for 100 and didn't want to drop any out to make it 50 so compromised on the slightly unusual number of 70. I love films but know I have some pretty glaring omissions (I've still not watched The Vikings before you ask!) so figured I'd list them in chronological order so you can let me know what I need to see.

1931 - City Lights (Chaplin)
1939 - The Lady Vanishes (Hitchcock)
1944 - Arsenic and Old Lace (Capra)
1949 - Kind Hearts and Coronets (Hamer)
1949 - Passport to Pimlico (Cornelius)
1951 - The Lavender Hill Mob (Crichton)
1954 - Seven Samurai (Kurusawa)
1954 - Rear Window (Hitchcock)
1958 - Touch of Evil (Welles)
1958 - Vertigo (Hitchcock)
1959 - Some Like It Hot (Wilder)
1959 - Twelve Angry Men (Lumet)
1959 - North by North West (Hitchcock)
1959 - School for Scoundrels (Hamer)
1960 - The Apartment (Wilder)
1962 - To Kill A Mockingbird (Mulligan)
1963 - Carry On Cabby (Thomas)
1964 - Goldfinger (Hamilton)
1966 - Farenheit 451 (Truffaut)
1968 - Carry On Up The Khyber (Thomas)
1969 - The Italian Job (Collinson)
1971 - French Connection (Friedkin)
1972 - The Godfather (Copolla)
1973 - Mean Streets (Scorcese)
1974 - The Godfather II (Copolla)
1974 - Dog Day Afternoon (Lumet)
1974 - The Taking of Pelham 123 (Sargent)
1975 - French Connection II (Frankenheimer)
1977 - Star Wars (Lucas)
1977 - Annie Hall (Allen)
1979 - Alien (R.Scott)
1980 - The Shining (Kubrick)
1980 - The Blues Brothers (Landis)
1980 - The Empire Strikes Back (Kershner)
1980 - Raging Bull (Scorcese)
1980 - Restless Natives (Forsyth)
1980 - The Long Good Friday (Mackenzie)
1981 - Blade Runner (R.Scott)
1984 - Paris, Texas (Wenders)
1984 - This Is Spinal Tap (Reiner)
1985 - Ran (Kurusawa)
1987 - Raising Arizona (Coens)
1990 - Goodfellas (Scorcese)
1991 - Thelma & Louise (R.Scott)
1992 - Reservoir Dogs (Tarantino)
1993 - True Romance (T.Scott)
1993 - Three Colours: Blue (Kieslowski)
1994 - Three Colours: White (Kieslowski)
1994 - Three Colours: Red (Kieslowski)
1994 - Pulp Fiction (Tarantino)
1994 - Leon (Besson)
1994 - The Shawshank Redemption (Darabont)
1994 - Ed Wood (Burton)
1995 - The Usual Suspects (Singer)
1996 - Fargo (Coens)
1996 - Trainspotting (Boyle)
1996 - Trees Lounge (Buscemi)
1997 - LA Confidential (Hanson)
1997 - Boogie Nights (Anderson)
1999 - Fight Club (Fincher)
1999 - Magnolia (Anderson)
1999 - Jackie Brown (Tarantino)
2001 - The Man Who Wasn't There (Coens)
2001 - Black Hawk Down (R.Scott)
2002 - City of God (Meirelles/Lund)
2005 - Sin City (Rodriguez/Miller)
2005 - Hidden [Cache] (Haneke)
2007 - The Departed (Scorsese)
2007 - No Country For Old Men (Coens)
2010 - Monsters (Edwards)
2012 - Amour (Haneke)

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

50 years of tunes - 1968 - Johnny Cash "At Folsom Prison"

Johnny Cash is one of my favourite artists and you won't find a better example of why than this album, the first of his live prison albums. It's also one of my favourite live albums, the connection Cash makes with the inmates is palpable and many of the songs sound better in this form than the original studio recordings.

1968 - Johnny Cash "At Folsom Prison"

Released: May 1968
Label: Columbia
Producer: Bob Johnston

Side one:
1. "Folsom Prison Blues" (Johnny Cash)
2. "Dark as a Dungeon" (Merle Travis)
3. "I Still Miss Someone" (J. Cash, Roy Cash Jr.)
4. "Cocaine Blues" (T.J. Arnall)
5. "25 Minutes to Go" (Shel Silverstein)
6. "Orange Blossom Special" (Ervin T. Rouse)
7. "The Long Black Veil" (Marijohn Wilkin, Danny Dill)

Side two:
1. "Send a Picture of Mother" (J.Cash)
2. "The Wall" (Harlan Howard)
3. "Dirty Old Egg-Suckin' Dog" (Jack H. Clement)
4. "Flushed From the Bathroom of Your Heart" (J.Clement)
5. "Jackson" with June Carter (Billy Edd Wheeler, Jerry Leiber)
6. "Give My Love to Rose" with June Carter (J.Cash)
7. "I Got Stripes" (J.Cash, Charlie Williams)
8. "Green, Green Grass of Home" (Curly Putman)
9. "Greystone Chapel" (Glen Sherley)

Friday, 6 February 2015

Top 5 Albums of 2014

Not only did I leave this until 2014 was completely over but I've left it to the tail end of my top fives of the year thereby ensuring I'm only eight months ahead of the major music publications Albums of 2015.

1. Sharon Van Etten "Are We There" - I first discovered Sharon Van Etten after her third album Tramp did well in the 2012 end of year round ups. Had I heard that album earlier I’m sure it would have done well in my own top 5 that year. My expectations for Are We There were, therefore, pretty high and initial listens a little disappointing. Are We There is a sparser record with some fairly downbeat themes so not the sort of album that you’ll instantly love. However, repeated listening proved rewarding. It is a heartrendingly wonderful collection of songs full of emotional resonance. Eleven tunes that I think are all superb and at least five of which were contenders for my song of the year.

2. Shellac "Dude Incredible" - This may well be my favourite Shellac album ever. It’s intense and loud and brilliant. I’m a big fan of Steve Albini’s ability as a sound engineer and he’s done an amazing job on Dude Incredible. It’s a bit of a cliché but the drum sound is particularly incredible. Every beat is crystal clear and resonates with the enormous power of Bob Weston’s sticks.

3. Thee Silver Mt. Zion "Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light On Everything" - A bit like Shellac, this might be my favourite Silver Mt Zion album. It's certainly their most commercial, though this is a statement based on my fairly skewed idea of what might constitute commercial and with the understanding that TSMZ are about as far from commercial as you can get without reaching the outskirts of the Avant Garde.

4. Johnny Cash "Out Among The Stars" - I wondered whether this album was really eligible seeing as it was originally recorded in 1981. However, seeing as it was released for the first time in 2014 it surely does. Recorded when Cash’s career was on a downward path, his record company at the time refused to release it. In the nineties the American Recordings series reinvigorated Cash's career but also captured his gradual decline in health. Some of the later releases became quite an emotional listen as his voice became more fragile. What makes Out Among The Stars particularly enjoying is hearing Johnny Cash in his prime again. There’s some real joy in these tunes, a little cheesy in places perhaps but some proper high points too. Baby Ride Easy is a lovely duet with June Carter Cash, Tennessee has a chorus sung by school children that will melt your heart and both Out Among The Stars and She Used To Love Me are proper Cash classics.

5. Mogwai "Rave Tapes" - Mogwai just don’t release bad albums. Rave Tapes might not be quite as fantastic as Hardcore Will Never Die but it's still a fabulous record. I saw them live on this tour at an amazing gig back in January where my restricted view seat was almost as good as having a back stage pass.


Wednesday, 4 February 2015

50 years of Tunes - 1967 - Aretha Franklin "I Never Loved A Man The Way I Love You"

My favourite Aretha album, the first of a run of seminal long players that are all outstanding, this one is absolutely spellbinding

1967 - Aretha Franklin "I Never Loved A Man The Way I Love You"
Released: March 10, 1967
Label: Atlantic
Producer: Jerry Wrexler

Side one:
"Respect" (Otis Redding) – 2:29
"Drown in My Own Tears" (Henry Glover) – 4:07
"I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)" (Ronnie Shannon) – 2:51
"Soul Serenade" (Curtis Ousley, Luther Dixon) – 2:39
"Don't Let Me Lose This Dream" (Aretha Franklin, Ted White) – 2:23
"Baby, Baby, Baby" (Aretha Franklin, Carolyn Franklin) – 2:54

Side two:
"Dr. Feelgood (Love Is a Serious Business)" (Aretha Franklin, Ted White) – 3:23
"Good Times" (Sam Cooke) – 2:10
"Do Right Woman, Do Right Man" (Dan Penn, Chips Moman) – 3:16
"Save Me" (Curtis Ousley, Aretha Franklin, Carolyn Franklin) – 2:21
"A Change Is Gonna Come" (Sam Cooke) – 4:20


Friday, 30 January 2015

Top 5 TV Shows I saw in 2014

I spent most of 2014 trying to get through the backlog of TV programmes on my TiVo. I was fighting a losing battle as the faster I watched stuff the more I recorded so the box rarely dropped below 50% full. We went to Cornwall for a week in August and by the time we got back the box was over 80% full and I don't think it ever recovered. The box died totally a few weeks later and I lost a lot of telly, saw loads of good stuff before it failed though so we're cool for a top 5.

1. The Bridge (Series 2) - My favourite show of 2012 was back for a second series and didn't disappoint. The fallout from the first story runs through the plot this time and brought a different feel to the show but the drama remained strong and the pace of the plot was perfectly pitched. The two lead actors, Sofia Helin & Kim Bodnia, are exceptional and the show really revolves around the magic of their on-screen chemistry.

2. Parks & Recreation (Series 3) - And my favourite show of 2013 comes a close second. Hot on the heels of Series 2 BBC carried on showing this fabulous comedy. Some extended story arcs including the complete shutdown of Pawnee government departments due to budget constraints and the on/off love affair between Andy and April worked really well but the strength of the show is in it's ensemble cast who all have their moments to shine.

3. Line of Duty (Series 2) - Finally something from the UK. I'd enjoyed the first series of this though it didn't quite make my top 5 from that year. This series had me gripped from the start though. Martin Compston & Vicky McClure reprised their roles from the first series and were both excellent though powerful performances from Mark Bonnar and Keeley Hawes really raised the game. There were twists and turns a plenty and you were never quite sure who was good and who was bad. There was also a nice cameo from Jessica Raine early on which made it clear this was a drama that wasn't going to play by the rules.

4. Stewart Lee Comedy Vehicle (Series 3) - The funniest series yet for Lee's Comedy Vehicle, this one had me laughing out loud more than anything else I saw this year. Particular respect for the UKIP episode in which Lee nails everything appalling about the rise of that party and shows them up for the sham of a party they really are. The Shilbottle episode was also superb, proving Lee doesn't always have top be political to get a good laugh.

5. The Walshes (Series 1) - Only three episodes but this was shown again on BBC2, after an initial run on BBC4, so I've seen them all at least twice. They crammed enough laughs into the episodes to knock most six episodes series into a crocked hat too, though it did take me a while to fully appreciate this. Created by comedy group Diet of Worms but with added writing flourish & directorial skills from Graham Linehan, I'm hoping they'll be back with a longer series next time out.


Wednesday, 28 January 2015

50 years of Tunes - 1966 - The Sonics "Boom"

Starting the 50 years of tunes list with a double whammy by the brilliant Sonics. Boom is the band's second album and features two more absolute belters in Cinderella & Shot Down. I saw The Sonics live in Brighton last year and they were absolutely blistering, not bad for a bunch of septuagenarians.
1966 - The Sonics "Boom"
Released: 1966
Label: Etiquette
Producer: Kent Morrill & Buck Ormsby

Side one:
"Cinderella" (Roslie) - 2:39
"Don't Be Afraid of the Dark"
(Roslie) - 2:16
"Skinny Minnie" (Bill Haley, Milt Gabler, Rusty Keefer, Catherine Cafra) - 2:11
"Let the Good Times Roll" (Leonard Lee) - 1:56
"Don't You Just Know It" (Huey "Piano" Smith, John Vincent) - 2:49
"Jenny Jenny" (Enotris Johnson, Little Richard) - 2:16
"He's Waitin'"
(Roslie) - 2:35

Side two:
"Louie, Louie" (Richard Berry) - 2:52
"Since I Fell for You" (Buddy Johnson) - 3:55
"Hitch Hike" (Marvin Gaye, William Stevenson, Clarence Paul) - 2:41
"It's All Right" (Chris Andrews) - 2:10
"Shot Down"
(Roslie) - 2:08
"The Hustler" - 2:03

Friday, 23 January 2015

Top 5 Books I Read in 2014

I had a dreadful year for reading books and only managed to complete nine. This was partly deliberate as I'd intended to spend more time watching films but if I'm honest that didn't happen either so the truth is I probably frittered away the time on Twitter. I still read some good stuff and the top five are highly recommended but I will try and read more often this year, that book pile isn't getting any smaller.

1. "Mudhoney: The Sound & The Fury From Seattle" Keith Cameron - Brilliant biography of the band that were the heart and soul of SubPop records and did as much as anyone to put Seattle firmly on the musical map. Keith Cameron always writes brilliantly about music and his involvement with them both then and now mades him the perfect candidate to document a true underdog band. A fabulous read that reinvigorated my interest in the band and had me rapidly filling in the gaps in their back catalogue.

2. "God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater " Kurt Vonnegut - I'm a big Vonnegut fan but still have a long way to go to get through his canon of work. I picked this up as the kindle version was quite cheap but it's one of my favourite Vonnegut books so far. Quite short but a thoroughly absorbing read with a feelgood message.

3. "The Lowland" Jhumpa Lahiri - This was from the 2013 Booker Short List and was another very enjoyable read. Tells the story of two brothers who were born and grew up together in India but make choices that mean their futures are very different. It's a quality bit of writing that makes the most of a fairly subtle story line.

4. "Roy Hodgson - A Football Life" Richard Allen - The first (and so far only) biography of England's current manager written by Fulham author & blogger Richard Allen. I suspect it's an indication of the media's lack of enthusiasm for Hodgson as a person that means there hasn't been a flurry of books about him yet. Richard spotted this gap in the market and with a wealth of information about Roy from his time with Fulham was well placed to put this excellent book together. Initially only available on Kindle (and the catalyst for me starting to read ebooks on a regular basis) there was also a short print run and you can still get physical copies via A valuable read for anyone who wants to know more about what makes Hodgson tick and how he found his way from Maidstone to Malmo, Switzerland to Inter Milan and Fulham to England.

5. "The Great Cassette Experiment - The Joy of Cassettes!" Neil Pace - The third eBook on the list and the perfect read for my travels by public transport. A meandering journey through 130 albums on cassette. For six months the only music Neil listened to in his car was the albums he owned on the most unloved medium of music storage. A smashing collection of witty essays dissecting a real cross section of music from the Eighties & early Nineties. Neil is a particular fan of electronic music, which isn't my bag at all, but his style of writing ensured there was something of interest in every chapter, he even had me listening to albums I'd have never considered trying before.