Friday, 28 November 2008

Top 5 Bad Album Covers I Own

Well I couldn't move on from this topic without taking a peak through my record collection for the worst howlers I own. Having done so I reckon a couple of these could have been contenders for last weeks list.

1. The Beach Boys "Pet Sounds" - This might be a classic album but it's a truly awful cover. Looks like something the art department knocked out at ten to five on a Friday afternoon. This'll do fine, a picture of the band with some animals, perfectly sums up the content and quality of the music contained ... no, wait ... those are farm animals! Ah - it'll do, probably won't sell many anyway.

2. Black Sabbath "Born Again" - Not a great period in Sabbath's history. Ian Gillan had been drafted in on vocals and never really fitted the band's style. The Born Again tour was also a major inspiration for the Spinal Tap film. Sabbath's Stonehenge was much bigger than expected after the company that built it mistook feet for metres. Over the years I've developed a sort of grudging respect for the cover despite the appearance of having been designed by someone who was drunk and high on speed. Thanks to the wonder of Wikipedia I've now discovered that designer Steve Joule WAS drunk and high on speed.

3. Manowar "Into Glory Ride" - You could lay out every Manowar album on the floor, stick a pin in one whilst blindfolded and find a contender for this. Manowar became a bit of a guilty pleasure during my METAL years. Muscle bound jocks who seemed preoccupied with sword and sorcery, and were probably better served by the later artistic interpretations of their looks than this, all too real, attempt at "looking buff".

4. Rush "Presto" - A major band on a major label (they'd just signed to Atlantic) and they produce a cover as shoddy as this. I wouldn't be at all surprised to find that the person responsible for "Pet Sounds" was involved with this design too. Presto? Rabbits out of a hat. Looks a bit naff though. Make it black and white then, everyone will think we're being arty.

5. The Scorpions "Lovedrive" - No top five bad covers list would be complete without an entry from The Scorpions, though I have to admit the cover was a major factor in me buying this album in the first place.

Friday, 21 November 2008

Top 5 Bad Album Covers

There's something special about poorly designed album covers. Some great websites if you want to see more, the original Museum of Bad Album Covers is a treasure trove of tat but also check out Cover Browser's Worst Album Cover section. These are my current favourite five though disappointingly I don't own any of them ... yet.

1. Freddie Gage "All My Friends Are Dead" - I would love to have been at the meeting when they decided this was going to be a good cover to go with. Though any artist who is happy to release an album with that sort of title must have serious issues. It's not even a good shade of blue.

2. John Bult "Julie's Sixteenth Birthday" - Wrong on so many levels.

3. Ken "By Request Only" - I seriously doubt it Ken.

4. Millie Jackson "Back to the S--t" - This would have been a good discussion too.

5. The Scorpions "Animal Magnetism" - Kings of the bad cover, check out "Virgin Killer" to see something in really poor taste. This one manages to be poorly executed and offensive at the same time.

Friday, 14 November 2008

Top 5 Little Songs

Time to move on from Mr Bond. A few of you will be aware that I'm currently trying to listen to all the songs on my iPod in alphabetical order. It's kind of a super shuffle in which I get to hear every single song once. Seemed like a good idea at the time, though I've been doing it since early August and have only just scrapped over the half way mark. Anyway, it's popped up some interesting combinations including a run of songs beginning with the word Little. You can see where I'm heading, yes?

1. Little Johnny Jewell (Television) - Television's debut single (split into parts 1 and 2 on the original 7") didn't even make it on to their seminal debut album. It is on the remastered CD release though, both parts united in a glorious 7 minute re-incarnation.

2. Little Doll (The Stooges) - Primal rock'n'roll from The Stooges at their best. Menacing riff at the start leads into Iggy's laid back but ice cool vocal before breaking down into a raw guitar solo.

3. Little Red Rooster (Howlin' Wolf) - This song ain't about no chicken that's for sure. Written by Willie Dixon and featuring Hubert Sumlin on Guitar this is a Blues classic.

4. Little Animal (The Raveonettes) - Brilliant tune from the Raveonettes first full length album, begins with a fantastic rhyming couplet that always makes me chuckle.
"My girl is a little animal, she always wants to fuck,
I can't find a reason why, I guess it's just my luck"

5. Little Bitch (The Specials) - Hard for me to dislike anything from The Specials debut album and this is no exception. Not their greatest song but a cool slice of two tone ska never the less.

A special mention for The White Stripes who have recorded a "Little" song for every album they've released. That's six songs so far; "Little People", "Little Bird", "Little Room", "Little Acorns", "Little Ghost" & "Little Cream Soda". It's things like this that endear a band to me, though not enough for any of them to make my final top 5.

Friday, 7 November 2008

Top 5 Bond Pre-Title Sequences

As requested then, these are my top 5 pre-title sequences - the opening scenes of most Bond movies that usually fit between the gun barrel sequence and the opening titles. My memory for this sort of stuff is pretty shocking, so I've spent a couple of hours trawling through YouTube to remind myself what sequence goes with what film. For a change I've managed to pick a few films that didn't feature Connery as Bond and were made after 1977.

1. The Spy Who Loved Me (Location: Austrian Alps)
This was, I believe, the first Bond film I saw in the cinema. Roger Moore leaves a "lady friend" behind in a alpine cabin to answer a call to return to HQ. Skies off, with a spectacular mountain backdrop, only to be attacked by a group of Russian agents. Despite some ropey effects (Moore clearly in a studio in front of a blue screen) and a worryingly camp yellow ski suit, it's a spectacular start to the film. Ends with Bond skiing over the edge of a massive cliff, heading into free fall before unfurling a parachute emblazoned with the Union Jack.

2. Goldeneye (Location: Chemical Weapons Facility, USSR)
Brosnan's first movie, and the first Bond film for some six years, gets off to a stunning start with this fantastic sequence. An incredible bungee jump off the top of a dam, Bond uses a grapling hook to reach the bottom, then hooks up with 006 to infiltrate and plant explosives inside a Russian weapons factory. They get caught, 006 is shot and 007 is left to attempt an escape on his own. Despite being heavily outnumbered he manages to get out of the facility, rides a motorbike off a cliff before free falling after a light aircraft. Bond manages to board the plane, overpower the pilot and pull the aircraft out of a seemingly terminal nosedive, before flying to freedom as the factory explodes. Somehow I found all this perfectly acceptable despite my dislike of the Moore era. I'm so fickle.

3. Goldfinger (Location: unknown Latin American country)
A more subtle opening but one that displayed many of the devices that would become traditional in later films. Bond swims up to his target, with what looks like a fake duck stuck to his head. Plants explosives in an enemy base, departs, stepping out of his wetsuit to reveal an immaculate white tuxedo. Plenty of close up opportunities on his Rolex Submariner. He arrives at a local bar for a quick drink, during which the bomb goes boom, Bond nips up stairs to see a "lady friend" who is waiting in the bath. Mid kiss he is attacked from behind, but manages to place the girl in the way. Eventually overpowers his attacker, before electrocuting him in the bath with an electric heater. Departs with a witty one liner "Shocking! Truly Shocking!".

4. The World Is Not Enough (Location: Bilbao & London)
Possibly a little on the long side, this is almost a mini-film in it's own right. It's the London scenes that do it for me. Bond talks with Q (Desmond Llewellyn's last performance as Q before his death) in Thames Bank house before smashing out the back in the Q-boat in pursuit of the same assassin he saw in Spain. The chase ends at the Millennium dome with the assassin attempting an escape in a hot-air balloon before taking her own life when it is clear escape is impossible.

5. On Her Majesty's Secret Service (Location: Lisbon)
Lazenby in a new Aston Martin DBS is overtaken by a mystery female in a Mercury Cougar. He spies her walking down a beach towards the sea about to take her own life. Bond races down to pull her out of the ocean only to be pounced on by a couple of armed thugs. Eventually overcomes them only to see the girl, Teresa Di Vincenzo, driving off in his DBS.

Top 5 Bond Theme Music

I'd originally planned to do five Bond top fives as a build up to the new film release but, as is so often the case when compiling them, I had one more subject I didn't want to leave out. How to fit six into five? I couldn't leave Bond without an opportunity to sing John Barry's praises. So, just one more I thought, but no, Rich from my work football team suggested another topic as well. I couldn't duck away from the challenge so, if my typing fingers are up to it, there should be a second top 5 up later today.

1. The James Bond Theme (Monty Norman, arr. John Barry)
The opening theme for "Dr No" has also become the ubiquitous theme for Bond in every film and I almost thought about removing it from contention. A fantastic instrumental that caused much debate over exactly who wrote it but remains as perfect a theme tune as your likely to hear.

2. Goldfinger (John Barry/Leslie Bricusse/Antony Newley, vocal-Shirley Bassey)Another tune that I nearly considered too obvious to include. I gave it a spin early in the week and realised it's just too good to ignore. Great vocal performance from Bassey.

3. Thunderball (John Barry/Don Black, vocal-Tom Jones)
Despite a bit of a struggle to fit the title of the film into the lyrics this is a fantastic song. Fabulous horns throughout (a sure sign of great production in my book), Tom Jones cranking out the words and a dramatically held last note that supposedly resulted in Jones collapsing to the floor when he'd finished. Superb stuff.

4. We Have All The Time In The World (John Barry/Hal David, vocal-Louis Armstrong) One of my all time favourite songs, the soppy romantic that I am. Not the official theme of the film ("On Her Majesty's Secret Service" was another corking Barry instrumental) but used as the love theme for Bond and Di Vincenzo as well as the closing theme following her death.

5. From Russia With Love (John Barry/Lionel Bart, vocal-Matt Munro)
A nice bit of lounge to lull you into a false sense of security and another wonderful vocal, this time from Matt Munro.

Disclaimer: Other composers have worked on Bond scores. They're just not as good as John Barry!