Friday, 18 April 2014

Top 5 Albums of 1975

1975 was the year I discovered football after Fulham reached the FA Cup final for the first, and so far only, time. Both my Dad and my Grandad were Fulham supporters so this was an exciting time in the Harris household. I don't remember much about the lead up games but by the final I had posters of both teams on my bedroom wall along with a Fulham rosette and a bunch of cuttings from the Evening Standard Cup special. Of course Fulham went on to lose 2-0 to West Ham, preparing me for the lifetime of football disappointment that was to come.

1. Pink Floyd Wish You Were Here - I was a massive Floyd fan in my teens but may have overplayed some of their biggest albums. Wish You Were Here has lasted the course though. It is probably their most accessible album but it's also a fabulous LP that I don't think I could live without. I love it from the industrial noises that usher in Welcome To The Machine, through the wonderful melody of the largely acoustic title track, to the epic conclusion of Shine On You Crazy Diamond.

2. Patti Smith Horses - Horses is the only proper Patti Smith album I own (I should probably look into that) but it's an absolute corker. Patti's voice is urgent and powerful when she sings whilst her poetic roots are evident in the spoken word introductions to Birdland & Horses. The reworking of Gloria makes the original seem quite tame and the fabulous Break It Up, co-written with Tom Verlaine, wouldn't sound out of place on a Television album (no doubt partly due to Tom's cameo on Guitar).

3. Dr. Feelgood Down By The Jetty - A relatively recent discovery having finally got over the Milk & Alcohol thing and realising how great a band they were in their early years. This was largely thanks to the soundtrack of Oil City Confidential and the inclusion of She Does It Right as a regular feature in JB & The Wolfmen's setlist. Wilko is an amazing guitarist, a true original with a genuinely unique style, and Lee Brilleaux was a fantastic front man. If you've not seen the film Oil City Confidential I highly recommend it.

4. Black Sabbath Sabotage - Hilarious cover aside this is a fabulous album. The final release of Sabbath's legendary first six after which things went downhill for all the usual reasons. There's a more progressive feel here but it also room for the fairly blatant pop of Am I Going Insane (Radio). Album opener Hole in the Sky is typical of Sabbath at their peak, a crunching Iommi riff backed by the dynamic rhythm of Butler & Ward with Ozzy's vocals managing to find the fine line between tunefulness and unadulterated screaming. The changes in pace and acoustic breaks are what makes this LP one of my favourite Sabbath albums. These are particularly evident in the London Symphony Orchestra featuring Symptom of the Universe. I was at college when I was introduced to Sabotage by a pal who was into Death Metal and wacky backy. He particularly liked the stereophonic madness of the latter part of the record, from Megalomania to The Writ, it's Sabbath at their most experimental but doesn't lose any of their trademark power. Interestingly, Wikipedia lists a David Harris as tape operator and saboteur, he's no relation as far as I'm aware. This is a good thing as it turns out Thrill of it All had to be re-recorded because of the reference tones the technician put on the master tape for the song, resulted in the original track being accidentally recorded over.

5. Bruce Springsteen Born to Run - I'm still getting to grips with Bruce's full catalogue but I had a bit of a Springsteen phase in the mid-Eighties, around the time I was revising for (and eventually failing most of) my O-Levels. I guess this was the album that really broke Bruce big and it's my current favourite Springsteen LP. The E Street band are in fine form, especially Clarence Clemons whose Sax is all over the album none more so than on album closer Jungleland. The production is sumptuous throughout and it seems no expense was spared with Bruce throwing as many instruments & musicians into the pot as possible, this never overwhelms the record though as the songwriting shines through.

Near misses; Camel The Snow Goose, Bob Dylan Blood on the Tracks, Hawkwind Warrior on the Edge of Time, Status Quo On the Level, Tom Waits Nighthawks At The Dinner and Led Zeppelin Physical Graffiti.

Albums to try; Brian Eno Another Green World, Curtis Mayfield There's No Place Like America, Neil Young Tonight's The Night, Neil Young & Crazy Horse Zuma and Nils Lofgren Nils Lofgren.


Friday, 11 April 2014

Top 5 Albums of 1974

Nothing remarkable springs to my mind about 1974, though this might have been the year I accidentally cycled into an old lady who was walking down our road. I got a serious thump for that from my Dad, who didn't accept my claim that it wasn't my fault as I'd been transfixed by the pattern of the pavement whooshing by as I cycled head down as fast as I could. Dad went and checked she was OK but I've always felt very guilty about it, realising afterwards that my over the shoulder shouted apology, as I hurriedly cycled off in the opposite direction, didn't quite cut it.

Wikipedia tells me that this was the year Swedish pop group ABBA won the Eurovision Song Contest with Waterloo. I don't really remember a time when ABBA weren't a fixture in Mum & Dad's record collection so I guess this was before my interest in music took hold. 1974 was also the year the Watergate scandal finally caused U.S. President Richard Nixon to resign and, of more direct import to me, the year Ceefax started by the BBC.

1. Genesis "The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway" - The fourth year in a row that Genesis have featured, which I guess shows that I really quite like them. It took me longer to get to grips with The Lamb than any of their other albums, it's a double with a fairly epic scope, but that might be why I still hold it in such high esteem. There's a background story that, if I'm honest, I never fully got to grips with but that aside this is a fine collection of songs. It was the perfect conclusion to the Gabriel era, and though the band made many more albums, I don't think they ever bettered this.

2. Richard & Linda Thompson "I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight" - Fairport Convention's late sixites output is fantastic but they didn't make an album I really loved in the seventies. This is Richard Thompson's second solo LP (though the first credited as Richard & Linda) and it has become a bit of a favourite for me since picking up a copy last year. Linda has a great voice that brings out the warmth in Richard's compositions. Meanwhile the music is sublime and Thompson's guitar really shines.

3. Hawkwind "Hall of the Mountain Grill" - For me (and I think Lemmy) this was Hawkwind at their peak. Robert Calvert is absent, and his madcap input could only be missed, but this line-up includes Dave Brock, Lemmy & Nik Turner who were all on very fine form. The album opens with The Psychedelic Warlords (Disappear in Smoke) a corker of a tune that was also released as a single. Lost Johnny (written by Lemmy with Mick Farren of The Deviants) is a real rocker and was subsequently rerecorded by Lemmy's post-Hawks band, Motorhead. Side two starts and ends with a live track, both recorded at the Edmonton Sundown in January 1974, which might not suggest the most consistent of albums but actually work really well.

4. Camel "Mirage" - OK, a small confession. I'm not entirely sure this album is better than the entry at number five BUT I really wanted to squeeze Camel into my top 50 and, not wanting to give away any spoilers, already had a Status Quo albums making the cut. I listened to a lot of Camel in the build up to this, and struggled to nail down my favourite. The Snow Goose, Moonmadness and Breathless came close but Mirage edged them all out by a smidge. Mirage couldn't be more Prog with the punchy opener of Freefall and two epic tracks, the Lord Of the Rings influenced Nimrodel/The Procession/The White Rider and the 12 minute, multi-part genius of Lady Fantasy.

5. Status Quo "Quo" - So, not only have I slightly falsified it's position in the cannon of 1974 albums I also feel a little guilty that this doesn't score higher on my list of Quo albums. It's Quo's rockiest effort, thanks largely to the increased input of original bassist Alan Lancaster. The recent Frantic Four reunion shows have revived my love of Quo and also reminded me how brilliant an album this is. Perhaps if I ever revisit this top 5 or the whole 70s top 50 it will get it's due reward. In the meantime just know this is a cracking rock album that you really ought to own.

Near misses; John Cale "Fear", Tom Waits "The Heart Of Saturday Night", King Crimson "Red" and Jethro Tull "Warchild"

Albums to try; Budgie "In For The Kill", Eno "Here Come The Warm Jets" & "Taking Tiger Mountain", King Crimson "Red", Neil Young "On The Beach", Rory Gallagher "Irish Tour 1974", David Bowie "Diamond Dogs" and The Residents "Meet The Residents".


Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Chop's Gig Reports - February & March 2014

I've been distracted by the 70s Album countdown and got behind with my gig post reminders. Here's the latest four, all absolutely cracking nights for many different reasons.

Anaïs Mitchell at The Elgar Room, Royal Albert Hall - Tuesday 18th February 2014 - This was the first time I'd seem Anaïs live and I couldn't have asked for a better introduction. The Royal Albert Hall is an impressive venue, tonight's show was in the Elgar Room, tucked away on the circle level but still exuding the aura of a posh night out.

Ezra Furman & the Boy-Friends at The Sebright Arms - Wednesday 19th February 2014 - The Day of the Dog was one of my top 5 albums of last year but it doesn't sound like a contemporary 2013 release. When I first heard Tell Em All To Go To Hell I thought it was by some obscure 70s glam act. The album is full of potential hit singles and, to my ears, could easily be a greatest hits compilation. I'm possibly not the best judge of what makes a top selling act but I really can't recommend that record highly enough.

JB & The Wolfmen at The Alleycat Club - Thursday 20th March 2014 - Having stumbled across this venue a few years back when in search of a late night beer after a Jim Jones Revue gig, it's taken me far too long to actually get along to one of these regular Blues From The Crypt evenings. Tonight's event saw four fairly diverse bands stretch the definition of Blues to it's outer limits for the princely sum of three pounds. A bargain if ever I've seen one.

Status Quo & Wilko Johnson at Hammersmith Odeon - Friday 28th March 2014 - Roughly this time last year I saw the classic "Frantic Four" line up of Status Quo live for the first time. It was everything I hoped it could be. Francis Rossi was never going to completely submit to a return to the old Quo long term though and so, for now, this was my last chance to see the greatest live band this country has ever produced and I sure wasn't going to miss it.


Friday, 4 April 2014

Top 5 Albums of 1973

I remember 1973 being a fabulous year, though I'm not entirely sure why. I was 5 so this was the year I started primary school and the year I first got to know my best mate. It was the year of the final Apollo mission and I really got into things to do with space including collecting the Race Into Space PG Tips cards which I think I still have tucked away in a box in the loft somewhere. It was also the year that IDEAL toys released the Evel Knievel stunt-cycle. I never had one but I did get a go with a friend's and remember it turning out to be a little disappointing.

1. Status Quo "Hello!" - Regular readers may remember that Hello! is my favourite Quo studio album. Having discovered them in the early 80s (I had my finger on the pulse of current music!) that's to such Radio 2 fodder as Rock'n'Roll and Marguerita Time, Hello! was one of the first classic Quo albums I discovered. They'd nailed their trademark sound with 1972's Piledriver but Hello! was the first album to feature all original compositions and their first UK number one.

2. John Cale "Paris, 1919" - This is perhaps a little higher than it should be. When I first compiled my 70s top 50 I was on a bit of a Cale groove and probably overestimated how much I liked it. There's no doubt this is a very fine album though. I'm not a big Velvet Underground fan at all but enjoyed the album Cale released with Lou Reed about Andy Warhol (Songs For Drella) and really should have investigated his solo catalogue sooner.

3. New York Dolls "New York Dolls" - I'd always ignored the New York Dolls due to the Glam image. There were a lot of 80s hair metal bands who took their image from this band who really weren't my thing. However, that view began to change when I read the book Please Kill Me about the American Punk revolution and realised how big an influence they were on many bands I like. Opening with the excellent Personality Crisis the pace rarely let's up, ten cracking originals and a storming cover of Bo Diddley's Pills.

4. Pink Floyd "The Dark Side of the Moon" - Perhaps an album I overplayed when I first got into Floyd. It is still a special album, I love the way it flows into one piece of music, but it doesn't quite enthrall me as much as it used to. This was one of two album covers I remember my junior school art teacher showing in class one lesson (the other was Animals so I guess this would have been around 1976) and it made a big impact on me and must have influenced my early interest in music that wasn't in my Mum & Dad's record collection.

5. Genesis "Selling England by the Pound" - Probably the most commercial of the Gabriel era albums. It's got a more polished sound than their earlier stuff and features the band's first charting single I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe) which reached number 21 and opened the band up to a new audience. It also includes one of my all time favourite Genesis tunes Firth of Fifth which pretty much sets the standard for Prog bands trying to use awkward time signatures.

Near misses; Black Sabbath "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath", The Stooges "Raw Power", Tom Waits "Closing Time" and Captain Beefheart & The Magic Band "The Spotlight Kid".

Albums to try; Roxy Music For Your Pleasure, Lou Reed Berlin, Bob Marley and The Wailers Catch A Fire, David Bowie Aladdin Sane, John Martyn Solid Air, Man Back Into The Future and Budgie Never Turn Your Back on a Friend.


Friday, 28 March 2014

Top 5 Albums of 1972

I think 1972 is the first year I have any vague recollection of. I was four and I remember driving a red plastic pedal-racing car in the back garden while my Gran & Grandad came to visit. I also remember being grumpy a lot of the time and my Mum asking why I didn't smile more, a possibly pivotal moment in my upbringing.

1972 was the year the British government declared a state of emergency over a miners' strike, I remember the regular power cuts though back then I didn't have many toys that needed electricity. In other news The Godfather was released in cinemas and the Watergate scandal broke.

1. Nick Drake "Pink Moon" - It took me while to really click with Nick Drake. I had Bryter Layter & Five Leaves Left for some time but hadn't really fallen in love with either. My pal @rich_thyer got me to reconsider and championed the sparse instrumentation of Drake's 3rd & final LP. It's a beautiful album made poignant knowing Nick took his own life a year or so later and had been too depressed to do any more arrangements after the piano on the title track. I love those earlier albums now as well but Pink Moon is astonishing and a record I don't think I could ever tire of.

2. Genesis "Foxtrot" - Hot on the heels of Nursery Cryme, Foxtrot was another step up for the band. I love every note from start to finish. Can-Utility & The Coastliners is probably my favourite track though it is run close by opener Watcher Of The Skies & the seriously epic Supper's Ready. Now I've seen the classic Quo line-up reform, Genesis with Peter Gabriel & Steve Hackett are my next big reunion wish.

3. Deep Purple "Machine Head" - This is the best album Deep Purple ever made. Recorded during December 1971 in Montreux, Switzerland which as anyone who has heard Smoke On The Water will know is "On the Lake Geneva shoreline". Smoke might be a hard song to really enjoy having heard it a few million times but I still love the lyrics a lot and you can't deny that riff is a bit special. Album opener Highway Star is probably my favourite Purple song but Lazy, Space Truckin' and Maybe I'm A Leo are all corkers too.

4. David Bowie "The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars" - I'd been steadfastly ignoring Bowie for most of my life. I'm not entirely sure why but in the last few years I've been gradually dipping into his back catalogue. The @LPGrp listening sessions have helped with this, Ziggy won the poll for best concept album and that was the final push I needed to really enjoy the album.

5. The Rolling Stones "Exile on Main St." - Similarly Exile was the album that finally broke the Stones for me. Prior to hearing this album I only really knew their singles and, good as they were, wasn't massively interested in getting the albums. Exile is a collection of songs that work really well together though probably none are amongst the bands best known. I think it's an album that works really well as a collection, possibly a record that's greater than the sum of it's parts.

Near misses; ZZ Top Tres Hombres, Lou Reed Transformer, Status Quo Piledriver, Pink Floyd Obscured by Clouds, Captain Beefheart & The Magic Band Clear Spot, Jethro Tull Thick As A Brick, Black Sabbath Vol. 4, ZZ Top Rio Grande Mud, Yes Close to the Edge and Hawkwind Doremi Fasol Latido.

Albums to try; Rory Gallagher Live in Europe, Wishbone Ash Argus, Roxy Music Roxy Music, Aphrodite's Child 666, Tim Buckley Greetings From LA, Faust So Far, Neil Young Harvest, Yes Close To The Edge, Curtis Mayfield Superfly, Big Star #1 Record, Sandy Denny Sandy, Aretha Franklin Young, Gifted and Black, Slade Slayed?.

Friday, 21 March 2014

Top 5 Albums of 1971

1971 was a really good year and there are several albums that didn't make this top 5 but still got into my top 50. It was also the year when, for me at least, things started to go really Prog.

I was 3 in 1971. It was the year the UK went decimal, I know this as I had a big tin of old coins that I used to play with. Just to be clear, in the early 70s a tin of old coins was considered an exciting new toy! Though I think Mum & Dad really kept it for card games, I had an early fascination with putting things in order. In other news the Aswan Dam was opened, Jim Morrison died and Evel Knievel set a world record by jumping 19 cars in Ontario, California.

1. Jethro Tull "Aqualung" - Tull are one of my all time favourite bands. I've seen them live ... a lot. Aqualung is undoubtedly their best known album and for good reason. It's their first really Proggy effort but has a lot of variety from riff heavy tunes like Aqualung & Locomotive Breath to acoustic gems like Wond'ring Aloud & Cheap Day Return. Ian Anderson would argue it's not a concept album, and I'd agree, but it hangs together well and provides some recurring themes that help the songs work well as a complete piece of music.

2. Genesis "Nursery Cryme" - I'm a big fan of early Genesis (when Gabriel was still with them) and Nursery Cryme is really the first album where everything fell into place for them. This was the band's third LP but their first with Collins on drums and Hackett on guitar. The side one triplet of The Musical Box, For Absent Friends and The Return of the Giant Hogweed is a magnificent run of tunes that side two cannot quite match, though album closer The Fountain of Salmacis comes close.

3. Yes "The Yes Album" - I still have some significant gaps in my Yes collection but I've had The Yes Album for a long time and don't think they ever bettered it. It's got all my favourite Yes songs on, including Yours Is No Disgrace and Starship Trooper, and sees the band find a nice balance between catchy pop tunes and virtuoso musical ability.

4. David Bowie "Hunky Dory" - I have to confess I'm only just getting to grips with the Bowie back catalogue, having resolutely ignored him since my METAL years. I've been gradually dipping into his classic albums but it was Boy George, of all people, who really convinced me to give this album a spin having eloquently sung it's praises in a Danny Baker LP discussion on the telly last year.

5. Caravan "In the Land of Grey and Pink" - Prime movers in the Canterbury scene which is a little like Prog but with a Jazz inflection, this was the first Caravan album I heard and is still my favourite. Opening with the wonderfully English whimsey of Golf Girl and ending with the epic Nine Feet Underground, it's magnificently unhinged.

Outside the top 5; Sly & The Family Stone "There's A Riot Going On", Black Sabbath "Master of Reality", Led Zeppelin "Led Zeppelin IV", Pink Floyd "Meddle", Status Quo "Dog of Two Head", The Rolling Stones "Sticky Fingers" and The Who "Who's Next".

Albums I need to try; Roy Harper "Stormcock", Can "Tago Mago", Leonard Cohen "Songs of Love and Hate", Joni Mitchell "Blue", John Martyn "Bless The Weather", Mountain "Nantucket Sleighride", Van Der Graaf Generator "Pawn Hearts", The Beach Boys "Surf's Up" and Karen Dalton "In My Own Time".


Friday, 14 March 2014

Top 5 Albums of 1970

Join me, if you will, on a journey back in time. Earlier in the year I compiled and published my Top 50 albums of the Seventies for Twitter (along with a lot of other Twitter users). I've been meaning to do a blog post to capture that ever since. A while back I did this for Nineties albums but the Seventies took even longer. I listened to a lot of albums and then spent another few weeks trying to work out what order to put them in. I like doing this sort of thing but even so this was quite a struggle. Rather than hit you with the top 50 in one go I figured I'd go year by year first (if you're not a fan of seventies music you might want to give this blog a miss for a few weeks and come back when I'm finished) and build up to the spectacular conclusion (drag this out as long as I can in other words).

1. Aretha Franklin "Spirit In The Dark" - This is probably the best album she made in the seventies, one of my favourite Aretha albums ever and possibly the last great album she made.

2. The Stooges "Funhouse" - A ferocious LP that predates punk by several years, it grabs you by the throat and doesn't let go. I saw them play this live in full (at a 2005 reunion show with Mike Watt on Bass) and was stunned by how tight they sounded.

3. Black Sabbath "Paranoid" - The first 4 or 5 (or maybe 6) Sabbath albums are all outstanding but Paranoid edges it for me. It's got War Pigs on for a start, and that's a corker of a tune. Like the Stooges I saw Sabbath live at the Birmingham NEC during their '97 reunion shows. We were at the back of a pretty huge arena but I was blown away by how great they were. I knew Iommi was a great Guitarist but I had no appreciation of how good the rest of the band were. Bill Ward was a mighty fine drummer and Geezer Butler one the best bassists I've ever seen. Ozzy was incredible too, he might spent most of the gig pacing side to side and screaming (occasionally dunking his head in a bucket of water) but he was a thrilling front man.

4. Jethro Tull "Benefit" - Benefit is currently my 3rd favourite Tull album though there have been times when it's been my number one. It still hints at the progressive blues sound Tull made their name with but begins the move into the more classic prog sound on the seventies. I first discovered Tull supporting Marillion at Milton Keynes in '86. They were fantastically different from anyone I'd seen at that point and probably since. They're more than Living In The Past and a funny looking man playing flute and standing on one leg.

5. Led Zeppelin "Led Zeppelin III" - As a teen metal head I was really into Led Zepplin but I have to admit I struggle with them now. It's all a bit loud and overbearing at times. Led Zep III is described on Wikipedia as Folk Rock, Hard Rock, Blues and Heavy Metal which might be pushing things a little but gives a hint as to why I still like it. There's a bit of everything in here which gives it more light and shade than some of their other LPs. It's also got that awesome "interactive" cover, which is almost enough to give it a place on its own. Gallows Pole & Immigrant Song are two of my favourite Zep tracks though I also love the quieter moments like Tangerine and Hats Off to (Roy) Harper.

There were a few near misses worth mentioning. Deep Purple In Rock, Nick Drake Bryter Layter & Genesis Trespass were all in the running. Black Sabbath were so good back then they managed two incredible albums in 1970, debut LP Black Sabbath was probably the closest to knocking Led Zep out of contention.

Reading other peoples' top fifties also gave me a huge list of new albums to try and listen to. These include; Neil Young After The Goldrush (I've never really clicked with Neil but must give him another shot), Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young Deja Vu, Creedence Clearwater Revival Cosmo's Factory and The Groundhogs Thank Christ For The Bomb. I'm going to be time travelling musically for quite a while I think.

Friday, 7 March 2014

Chop's Film Fiesta - group 1

One of my New Year's resolutions was to watch more films. Partly to catch up with a lot of amazing cinema I've not had time to see over the last few years but also to try and get the used capacity on my TiVo down to a manageable level. I thought I could encourage this by getting people to vote for which film I watch.

Group one consisted of Argo, Django Unchained, Killing Them Softly & Senna and I asked for votes via Twitter & Facebook with the following results;

1st - Senna (6 votes)
2nd - Django Unchained (4 votes)
3rd - Argo (3 votes)
4th - Killing Them Softly (1 vote)

So, last Friday I sat down to watch Senna. A documentary depicting the life and death of legendary Brazilian motor-racing Champion, Ayrton Senna. Focused on Senna's Formula One career, from his debut in the 1984 Brazilian Grand Prix to his death at San Marino in 1994. The film uses archive footage and home video clips to show events as they happened. There is no formal narration as the story is told through original commentary & interviews interspersed with a few contemporary interviews. It's a spellbinding film if ultimately tragic. I was probably at the peak of my interest in F1 back then and remembered seeing a lot of these events first time around. It was thrilling to re-watch Ayrton's dramatic rise up the rankings; his remarkable 2nd place finish at Monaco in 1984, his first GP wins in the John Player Special sponsored Lotus team, and first World Championship having moved to McLaren in 1988.

Much of the film examines the rivalry between Ayrton Senna & Alain Prost. Two very different drivers, Senna seemingly prepared to push the car to its absolute limits, Prost a more calculated but conservative driver. I was a bit of a Prost fan, having first got into F1 when he was driving for Renault. Renault had become my team partly because I liked their bright yellow livery and partly because my Dad had driven a series of Renault 16's. Hardly the most graceful of cars, the Renault 16 sliced through the air exactly the same way that bricks don't, but I had a soft spot for them having grown up travelling round the country in Dad's succession of purchases. I think the way Senna was deprived of the 1989 WDC was the point I finally switched allegiances. He was a truly remarkable driver and made the sport more exciting than it had ever been before.

The conclusion is a chilling piece of cinema. Knowing what's about to happen makes it all the more powerful. A shocking and tragic loss that changed the sport dramatically. Despite the sad ending Senna is a wonderful film, celebrating the life of a man who transcended his sport and who left behind a lasting legacy that includes The Ayrton Senna Institute, a charity helping to create opportunities for children in Brazil.

I'm not entirely sure when my next film session will be but blog readers are welcome to vote on my next block of movies (either comment below or see me in the pub).

A: Tyrannosaur
B: Brassed Off
C: The Inbetweeners Movie
D: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy


Friday, 21 February 2014

Top 5 Songs of 2013

Time to bring my review of 2013 to a somewhat belated close. I had intended this topic to be a quick win having done regular mini-top fives throughout 2013, but somehow that didn't really help at all. The various end of year reviews introduced me to a whole bunch of new tracks that I loved and almost derailed my efforts to compile this list. In the end most of these tunes did feature in my songs of 2013 top fives so perhaps I should just trust my instincts in future.

1. "Plastic Cup" Low - This might be a little predictable with Low also claiming my number one album of the year but The Invisible Way was full of songs that could have staked a claim to my favourite of the year. This was the lead single and the first track I heard way back in January 2013. I've undoubtedly over played it but still love it enormously.

2. "Tell Em All To Go To Hell" Ezra Furman - Have a listen to this and tell me you didn't have a little dance. Seriously! I reckon you've a heart of stone if you don't love this song. Ezra's album was another entry in my top 5 and, like Low, is full of corkering tunes, though unlike Low also full of Saxophone (perhaps it's no coincidence that the Sax player was also the producer). There's something of a 50s & 60s rock'n'roll vibe going on but that's no bad thing in my book especially when it's played with hearts firmly on sleeves.

3. "Willie's Lady" Anaïs Mitchell & Jefferson Hamer - This is proper folk. From an album of traditional ballads collected by Francis James Child in the late nineteenth century. Mitchell & Hamer's versions really bring those old songs to life and this tune features some spellbinding guitar picking as well as telling a fantastic tale that always brings a smile to my lips by its end.

4. "When I Knew" Eleanor Friedberger - Former (and possibly present) Fiery Furnaces member, Eleanor Friedberger, has won my heart with her latest collection of songs. In a recurring theme, her 2013 album, Personal Record, was also full of fabulous songs but it's this tune that edges it for me. I normally fall in love with the tune first but all one of my picks for this list are here because I love the words.

5. "WWPRD?" Jeffery Lewis & The Rain - Otherwise known as What Would Pussy Riot Do? and a good old fashioned call to action. I first heard this in session with Marc Riley, and still think that might be the best version I've heard. It makes me laugh a bit but has a serious message at it's heart. In the aftermath of the events in Kiev this song seems even more relevant.


Friday, 14 February 2014

Chop's Gig Reports - January 2014

No time this week to sort out a top five so here's a couple of links to my first gigs of 2014.

Laura J. Martin at The Sebright Arms - Thursday 16th January 2014 - The start of another gig year and yet another Laura J. Martin gig. Pleasingly The Sebright Arms was sold out and packed out for this SoundsXP promoted show. Less pleasingly, I am abstaining from alcohol for the whole of January which meant I had to eschew the fine selection of beers.

Mogwai at the Royal Festival Hall - Friday 24th January 2014 - Very few things match the buzz of getting a ticket for a sold out show on the day of the gig. I'd kept my eye open for people selling spares but in the end it was the RFH who came to my rescue. Releasing a few extra restricted view tickets the week of the show, and still having some when I finally gave up on finding that last minute front stalls spot. Worked out brilliantly as I had a fantastic spot to see a spectacular gig from.