Friday 30 November 2007

Top 5 Record Labels

Raiding the vault of top 5's that was the focus group again. Despite thinking having done this once before it ought to be pretty easy, it turned out not to be so. So many classic labels I couldn't fit in, Chess, Stax, Mowtown, Trojan, Blue Note, but then that's the whole point of a top 5.

1. Domino - So much of my favourite "Indie" of the last few years have come from this label. They have a link with Drag City in the U.S. which obviously helps but seem to have retained a uniquely independent feel despite massive hits with Franz Ferdinand and the Arctic Monkeys. Recommended; The Kills, Smog, Bonnie Prince Billy, David Pajo, Pavement, Sebadoh and Sons & Daughters.

2. Sub Pop - I've always liked the name and they were in the right spot at the right time when grunge broke big. Recently made a return to the spotlight, as a Warner subsidiary, with a more indie feel. Recommend: Nirvana, Mudhoney, Tad, Soundgarden, The Shins.

3. Vertigo - ROCK! Mainly included for having a great name and an even better logo. The home of some classic British rock bands over the years though bizarrely also released the Lighthouse Family and Kraftwerk. Recommended: Status Quo, Black Sabbath, Metallica, The Noisettes.

4. Chemikal Underground - Set up by Scottish band The Delgados, made it's money thanks to the early success of Bis. Went on to release the early albums by Mogwai and Arab Strap alongside the entire Delgados catalogue. Recommended: Mogwai, The Delgados, Arab Strap.

5. Sun - My only slot for a genuinely classic label. Sam Philips little record company in Memphis made a massive impact on the world of music launching the careers of Elvis, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee, Carl Perkins amongst many others. Recommended: Anything.

Friday 23 November 2007

Worst 5 England Managers

In tribute to Steve McClaren's short but woeful reign in charge of our national team here are my five worst England managers.

1. Graham Taylor (1990-1993) When the man we would eventually all know by a selection of vegetable analogies first took over the job I thought it was going to be a good thing. How wrong I was. Not only led the team to a poor performance in the 1992 European Championships, in which he substituted Gary Linekar in his last International game, but also failed to qualify for the 1994 World Cup, a campaign that was captured in horrific detail by a Channel 4 documentary.

2. Sven-Göran Eriksson (2001-06) The man single-handedly responsible for wasting the so called "golden generation". Yes I know he's a great club manager and his results and qualification record were actually pretty good. However, when the important games came around he didn't have the guts to do the job required.

3. Steve McClaren (2006-07) Not content to seeing six good years wasted under Eriksson, the FA felt it was a good idea to use his right hand man as his replacement, thus ensuring that we'd not have to waste any time on one of those tricky little European competitions that come round every now and again.

4. Kevin Keegan (1999-2000) Clearly he should never have left Fulham. At least he was passionate and had the good honour to quit when he realised it was far too big a task for him.

5. Glenn Hoddle (1996-1999) Mad as a loon and arrogant with it. Actually did OK results wise but had a far greater opinion of his own abilities than anyone sensibly should.

Thursday 15 November 2007

Top 5 Dr Who's

There are very few TV series that can keep you watching beyond the first couple of series. Even less than can cope with changing their leading actor. As a kid I was too scared to watch Dr Who and would actually hide behind the sofa to catch a glimpse of the action. It's hard to believe when you watch those episodes now, and especially when I consider what my boys watch at a much younger age. Maybe I'm just a wuss.

1. Tom Baker (Fourth Doctor) 1974-1981

2. David Tennant (Tenth Doctor) 2005-present

3. Jon Pertwee (Third Doctor) 1970-1974

4. Patrick Troughton (Second Doctor) 1966-1969

5. Christopher Ecclestone (Ninth Doctor) 2005

Tom Baker WAS Dr Who. He stayed in the part longer than any other actor and really made the part his own. It wasn't hard to believe that he didn't come from this planet. The Baker years were the ones I first watched from behind the sofa. When I did eventually pluck up the courage to watch regularly I was never quite sure I really liked him. He was just a bit too odd for me to feel entirely comfortable. However, companion Sarah Jane was one of my first hearthrobs (now back on TV and still looking great in the Sarah Jane Adventures) and K9 helped make everything more humorous.

The recent revamp of the show was an unexpected success and is improving all the time. Ecclestone represented a huge change in persona and made the part much grittier. I felt he was a little let down by the story lines and it was a shame he didn't make one more series. Tennant has been a revelation. He's brought the humour back in without making the show look stupid. An actor born to play Dr. Who.

Having only seen Jon Pertwee after the Tom Baker years, I struggled with watching Worzel Gummidge as the Doctor. Subsequent viewings have made me realise how good he was and I suspect had I been born a few years earlier he'd be my number one. The Patrick Troughton era was one I discovered as the show spiralled into it's worst period (I'm talking Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy here) and has remained a favourite ever since. An honoury mention for Peter Davidson who, history reveals wasn't as bad as first thought. He probably had the toughest gig of any Doctor having to follow Tom B but grew into the part and until the recent revamp would have claimed his place in the Top 5.

Thursday 8 November 2007

Top 5 Female Musicians

Is it really a week since my last one of these? To make it quick and a bit easier for me this is an old Focus Group topic (see Introduction). In fact I think it was the topic before I joined and therefore one I didn't get a chance to vote in.

1. Emma Anderson (Guitar)

2. Kim Deal (Bass)

3. P.J. Harvey (Guitar)

4. Joanna Newsome (Harp)

5. Meg White (Drums)

One of the difficult things about picking your favourite musicians of the opposite sex is avoiding the ones you just fancy. Emma Anderson played Guitar and sang in
Lush a band I had a big thing for in the 90's. I had a big thing for Emma too, but she can really play guitar! Kim Deal is a contender for "coolest chick in rock" and just manages to keep out her nearest rival for that title, Kim Gordon, out of my list. P.J. Harvey adds a second guitar and seeing as they can all sing so far I can afford the luxury of having Joanna Newsome on Harp (and screeching). Just need a drummer then and whilst Mo Tucker would be the popular choice I'm not a big fan of the Velvet's so Meg White's "less is less" approach steals in for the final slot. Probably would have given that final place to Kate Bush on Piano if I didn't need a sticks person to complete an all-girl supergroup. Hell, no room for Nina Simone, Patti Smith or Karen Carpenter, maybe I should make it Top 10's ...

Thursday 1 November 2007

Top 5 Power Rangers Series

No, wait, stick with me! It being my youngest boys 4th birthday today I thought it only fair I pay tribute to his favourite program. I realise that the Power Rangers are probably very few people's idea of good television but as a father of two boys I have earned a grudging respect for the super powered, martial arts, monster bashing series now in its fifteenth season. Maybe it's some sort of defence mechanism but having initially been forced to watch it with son #1 I now find I actually quite enjoy watching it with them, even if it does inevitably lead to son #2 diving from sofa to armchair in an attempt to recreate the latest episode.

Power Rangers SPD. (2005)

Power Rangers Dino Thunder (2004)

Power Rangers In Space (1998)

Power Rangers Wild Force (2002)

Power Rangers Ninja Storm (2003)

Barring the first three seasons Power Rangers have had a new team for each new series. This means each series brings in a new premise and new characters and whilst generally everything else remains the same it keeps the program fresh. Each show is a frenetic mix of martial arts, giant robots, evil monsters and teenage drama that manages a certain form of kitsch charm. It's like a blend of Monkey and Captain Scarlet but set in an average American high school/cop show/comedy. Some of the greatest episodes involve team ups between Power Rangers from different seasons enabling huge numbers of primary coloured heroes to do battle with ever more bizarre looking enemies.

Probably the favourite episode of both my boys was aired during PR Wild Force, a 20 minute special called
"Forever Red", in which ten Red Ranger's team up to do battle with the surviving members of the evil King Mondo's empire to prevent them resurrecting Lord Zedd's personal war Zord Serpentera. Oh yes. An episode which also sees an exceptional use of a piece of Power Ranger's recurring dialogue "we've only got one chance!" this is then followed by some inexplicable piece of action which wins the day for the Power Ranger's but is rarely something I would have expected their "one chance" to be.

Go on check out those links.