Sunday, 23 April 2017

The Great Record store day Swindle

It started off as a great idea - Record Store Day started in 2007 in order to get people into physical record stores. Each year the day is celebrated with limited releases, only available on that day, and has been a resounding success. However there is a dark side and recent years have seen people who never visited a record store throughout the year standing outside stores all night, snapping up the limited edition, and then fleecing the fans on online auction sites such as eBay.

This year, yesterday in fact, April 4th, record store day saw a limited amount of 45 singles of penny lane and Strawberry Fields issued - these are already turning up on eBay for upwards of £50.

Way back in 2014 Paul Weller said he would never again be involved in record store day because of the touts and Beatles producer Giles Martin hinted on Twitter that he wants to try and get this year's  RSD release of Penny Lane/Strawberry Fields available for everyone.

It’s such a shame because as you know I am a big supporter of independent record stores but the greedy touts making a fast buck off genuine fans is disgusting and goes against the whole philosophy of RSD. It only takes a few to spoil a wonderful concept for everyone else. Shame on those touts.” Paul Weller

There have also been reports on Twitter of record stores holding back on these special items and then selling them on eBay for a fortune...Record Store day has indeed become a disgrace.

The incredible rebirth of Vinyl

More than 3.2 million records were sold in 2016, a rise of 53% on the previous year, according to the BPI, which represents the music industry. BBC News


More than 3.2m LPs were sold last year, a rise of 53% on last year and the highest number since 1991 when Simply Red’s Stars was the bestselling album. This was also the first year that spending on vinyl outstripped that spent on digital downloads.  The Independent


In comparison to recent years, vinyl has made a significant surge, clawing back from what seemed like extinction. With a 52 percent increase in vinyl purchase in 2014, hitting the highest number of sales since 1991, it seemed clear that vinyl was poised to make a comeback as a common means of music consumption. Huffington Post

I grew up with vinyl being the main format for music consumption - I think I was around ten years of age when I had a small Dansette type record player for Christmas. I can still remember the three albums I had with it - one was that perennial favourite Elvis Christmas Album, and the other two were tribute albums by artists whose names are long lost to me. One was some guy doing the best known songs of Elvis Presley and the other was some band covering Beatle hits. Back in those days records were expensive and my parents were never the hippest of cats - they would have no doubt figured these albums were super,fab,gear,groovy and like those cheap Hallmark Top of the Pops albums, music covered by non original artists was a thriving industry.

You know what I played each of those records to death, and no doubt that Beatle cover album likely had something to do with the beginnings of my life long obsession for the fabs. And don't even mention those cheap and tacky Top of the Pops albums, usually sold in Woolworths and John Menzies. These days those albums are hugely sought after by collectors.

I though kind of ignored those albums as I got more and more interested in music - during the mid Seventies I fell for the punk explosion in a big way, and all my pocket money was spent in Wendy's Record Shop in Tonyrefail - a shop now long gone. I wonder what  ever happened to Wendy? There's a song title that would fit wonderfully on one of those Top of the Pops albums.

Fast forward to the late 1980's - a time of rampant consumerism, industrial disputes and putting old records in the rubbish bin. Or, even more fun, using them as quite deadly frisbees.

Now during the late 80's/early 90's I, like everyone else, fell for the con that was compact disc - 'they sounded better than vinyl', we were told - 'they were indestructable', we were informed.  And CD quickly became the biggest selling format for music while vinyl was consigned largely to the history books, loved by only a small number of audiophiles who were mocked when they said, 'Wait, CD doesn't sound as good as vinyl'  However these cro-Magnon hipsters were right all along. Vinyl pisses all over digital music, whatever the format.

 It is not CD that has made a comeback in the age of digital downloads and streaming. Nope it's vinyl and in 2017 the format is looking healthier than ever.



A couple of years ago my kids bought me a copy of Sgt Peppers on 180g vinyl - now I already had that album but not on vinyl. And holding the record I felt the years falling away, so yeah nostalgia may be a part of the new found love for vinyl. I couldn't play it, mind. I didn't have a record player. And so I went out and bought a turntable and amp and gradually the vinyl collecting fever overtook me and now fast forward to early 2017 and my vinyl collection numbers a couple of hundred (with more being added weekly) and I've spent far more than I should have on good equipment to play my records. But you know what - I'm actually listening to music again, I mean really listening not just humming along to reconstructed bits and bytes.

There is a tactile quality to vinyl records...They are large, you can hold them.In this day and age where everything has gone digital, people are kind of pushing back against that a little bit. A record seems much more real than a digital file.

Recent figures show that during the first quarter of 2017 vinyl sales have outstripped digital downloads. This is good news for us Vinyl fans.

There is definitely something appealing about holding the album in your hand. The sleeve art really comes into its own with the larger format. Often albums come with gate-fold sleeves containing all manner of information from lyrics to recording information. That in itself is so much nicer than a digital file which, when all is said and done, has no more substance than fresh air.But I firmly believe that the main benefit of vinyl is that the music just sound so much warmer, much more real. With a good system the separation between instruments is much more apparent, the vocals sweeter or rougher depending on the music itself.

Vinyl offers a richer sound than downloadable digital songs, which although hiss-free lack the 'warmth' of vinyl records. There is also the satisfaction of owning a beautifully packaged artifact. And there's a certain coolness in the rejection of the sprawling, multi-tentacled reach of the digital world.

Vinyl is more expensive than digital and takes effort to play - good art deserves a little effort.

Vinyl rocks baby, and don't you forget it.

Monday, 10 April 2017

Station to Station David Bowie Review

Starting off with the sound of a train moving from one channel to the other until the soundscape fills the surroundings, we're into the epic Station to Station, a 10 minute long track with a rhythm that sounds like a death march over which Bowie croons, 'The return of the thin white duke throwing darts in lovers eyes.'. It's a startling opening to a truly startling album.

Side 1
Station to Station
Golden Years
Word on a Wing

Side 2
TVC15
Stay
Wild is the Wind

The European canon is here -  the opening track mutates into a full on kruat-rocker at around the five minute mark. That this brilliant opening track doesn't overshadow the rest of the album is testamount to who good this platter is.

Golden Years follows and this is an immediately catchy track with a disco vibe and Bowie's vocals seem to twist and merge with the electronic soundscape of the vibe. The song was a big hit in both the UK and US and remains one of Bowie's best known tracks.

We're then into the first of two big ballads with Word on the Wing.

'In this age of grand illusion'

Side 2 kicks off with TVC15, a jet propelled rocker with insanely delivered backing vocals. Apparantly the  track was inspired by an episode in which Iggy Pop, during a drug-fuelled period at Bowie's LA home, hallucinated and believed the television set was swallowing his girlfriend.

Next track, Stay sees Bowie back into his funk persona so evident on previous album, Young Americans and then we're into the epic length ballad, Wild is the Wind - made famous by Nina Simone, Bowie evokes Sinatra for his truly remarkable vocal performance.

Bowie's backing band are electric throughout (no wonder he kept them for subsequent albums) and they never balk at the challenge of following the front man's lead, even getting ahead of him several times.


Bowie may have recorded far more popular albums but few are as enigmatic and fearless as this truly essential creation.




Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Report into the Vinyl comeback

The Kinks Face to Face: Album Review

1966 - a ground-breaking year for rock music: This was the year the Beatles shot to the top of the charts with Revolver, Bob Dylan went Blonde on Blonde, the Beach Boys were offering us Pet Sounds, the Stones were giving us the Aftermath of their early beat sound and Simon and Garfunkel were showing is the Sound of Silence. Truly a remarkable year with everyone seeming on the top of their game and into the mix came the fourth album from The Kinks.

That album was Face to Face - all in all 66 was a good year for the band. Sunny Afternoon topped the UK singles chart that summer. In was a good time to be kinky even if Ray Davies did suffer a breakdown that year which delayed the sessions for the album that would become Face to Face - these problems meant that much more time that was then usual was spent on the making of this album. This extra time, and maybe the mental problems, paid off and FACE TO FACE remains an absolute 60's masterpiece.

In fact FACE TO FACE may be the first truly great Kinks album - the earlier albums all had their moments but there was a lot of filler packing out the grooves - not so with FACE TO FACE - there's not a bad song on the album. And Ray's song writing had never been better - Sunny Afternoon, Dandy and Rosie won't you please come home, are genuine Kink classics.

Side 1
Party Line
Rosy won't you please come home
Dandy
Too much on my Mind
Session Man
Rainy Day in June
House in the Country

Side 2
Holiday in Wakiki
Most Exclusive Residence for Sale
Fancy
Little Miss Queen of Darkness
You're Looking Fine
Sunny Afternoon
I'll Remember
Lyrically the album is a milestone. Ray Davies here showed  a rare talent to portray socially realistic  themes,  which he continued to work with over the next decades. While the group developed artistically, they were still able to continually hold a grip of the charts with songs like Sunny Afternoon, and Dead End Street. It is often said that Village Green Preservation Society is the best Kinks album, but to my mind this is a stronger contender for that honour. Ray Davies wasn't so much writing songs as creating three minute soap operas and situation comedies. There's great humour in Sunny Afternoon.The tax man's taken all my dough
And left me in my stately home
Lazing on a sunny afternoon
And I can't sail my yacht
He's taken everything I got
All I've got's this sunny afternoon
 
And Dandy is a whimsical slice if genius, perfecly summing up the decade of sexual excessKnockin' on the back door,
Climbing through the window,
Hubby's gone away,
And while the cat's away,
The mice are gonna play.
Oh, you low down Dandy, Dandy.
Dandy 
Each of the songs on this album is a snapshot of the times - musically complex, lyrically meaningful - a stunning piece of work.

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

It was 50 years ago today....Sgt Peppers 50th Anniversary edition: The beans are spilled

Thanks to Amazon US the details of the forthcoming Sgt Peppers 50th anniversary edition have been revealed while the Beatles.Com are still teasing us with their Beatle Colour bars

There will be a standard two disc edition - one disc featuring the album in stereo and the other in mono.

There is also going to be a money fleecing six disc edition which will include discs of out-takes and a DVD. The rich fan's edition will also include posters and a rather spiffing little book. While us Beatle fans who have families to feed will have to stick with the original album which, when all is said and done, is the real deal in any case.

The remastering of the Pepper's mix has been done by Giles Martin, son of original producer George Martin.

For months now rumours have been circulating that the songs Strawberry Fields Forever and Penny Lane, which were originally recorded for the album but left off, would be restored to the running order but this doesn't seem to be the case.

The picture above was posted on Amazon.com with pre-order details for the original album while the official Beatles website was still teasing with the image below....whoops!!!

The Album will also be available on vinyl as well as the inevitable digital download.
Details have started to emerge as the Beatles prepare a 50th anniversary reissue of 1967’s Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – including a release date and information regarding various formats.
An expanded six-disc Super Deluxe Edition is being offered, as are two-CD, two-LP and single-disc configurations. There’s no word yet on what extras these sets will include, though rumors have abounded that the Beatles might restore both “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Penny Lane,” two standalone singles recorded during the same sessions.
George Martin, the Beatles’ longtime producer, was once quoted as saying that releasing that those two tracks four months before the arrival of Sgt. Pepper, rather than including them in the original running order, was “a truly terrible mistake.” However it shakes out, the set already has a fan in Ringo Starr, who was apparently very pleased with the sound of these polished-up four-track recordings.
George’s son Giles Martin is expected to oversee this much-anticipated reissue. He comes with his own Beatles-related credentials, having remastered 2016’s Live at the Hollywood Bowl. He also collaborated on the Cirque du Soleil production Love, the George Harrison documentary Living in the Material World and on Paul McCartney‘s most recent studio album, New.
The Sgt. Pepper Super Deluxe Edition is listed for $149.98, while the others range from $18.98-$38.98. They all share the same release date of May 26, 2017.


Read More: Release Date and Formats Revealed for Beatles Expanded ‘Sgt. Pepper’ Reissue | http://ultimateclassicrock.com/beatles-sgt-pepper-reissue-release-date/?trackback=tsmclip
Details have started to emerge as the Beatles prepare a 50th anniversary reissue of 1967’s Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – including a release date and information regarding various formats.
An expanded six-disc Super Deluxe Edition is being offered, as are two-CD, two-LP and single-disc configurations. There’s no word yet on what extras these sets will include, though rumors have abounded that the Beatles might restore both “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Penny Lane,” two standalone singles recorded during the same sessions.
George Martin, the Beatles’ longtime producer, was once quoted as saying that releasing that those two tracks four months before the arrival of Sgt. Pepper, rather than including them in the original running order, was “a truly terrible mistake.” However it shakes out, the set already has a fan in Ringo Starr, who was apparently very pleased with the sound of these polished-up four-track recordings.
George’s son Giles Martin is expected to oversee this much-anticipated reissue. He comes with his own Beatles-related credentials, having remastered 2016’s Live at the Hollywood Bowl. He also collaborated on the Cirque du Soleil production Love, the George Harrison documentary Living in the Material World and on Paul McCartney‘s most recent studio album, New.
The Sgt. Pepper Super Deluxe Edition is listed for $149.98, while the others range from $18.98-$38.98. They all share the same release date of May 26, 2017.


Read More: Release Date and Formats Revealed for Beatles Expanded ‘Sgt. Pepper’ Reissue | http://ultimateclassicrock.com/beatles-sgt-pepper-reissue-release-date/?trackback=tsmclip
Details have started to emerge as the Beatles prepare a 50th anniversary reissue of 1967’s Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – including a release date and information regarding various formats.
An expanded six-disc Super Deluxe Edition is being offered, as are two-CD, two-LP and single-disc configurations. There’s no word yet on what extras these sets will include, though rumors have abounded that the Beatles might restore both “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Penny Lane,” two standalone singles recorded during the same sessions.
George Martin, the Beatles’ longtime producer, was once quoted as saying that releasing that those two tracks four months before the arrival of Sgt. Pepper, rather than including them in the original running order, was “a truly terrible mistake.” However it shakes out, the set already has a fan in Ringo Starr, who was apparently very pleased with the sound of these polished-up four-track recordings.
George’s son Giles Martin is expected to oversee this much-anticipated reissue. He comes with his own Beatles-related credentials, having remastered 2016’s Live at the Hollywood Bowl. He also collaborated on the Cirque du Soleil production Love, the George Harrison documentary Living in the Material World and on Paul McCartney‘s most recent studio album, New.
The Sgt. Pepper Super Deluxe Edition is listed for $149.98, while the others range from $18.98-$38.98. They all share the same release date of May 26, 2017.


Read More: Release Date and Formats Revealed for Beatles Expanded ‘Sgt. Pepper’ Reissue | http://ultimateclassicrock.com/beatles-sgt-pepper-reissue-release-date/?trackback=tsmclip

Saturday, 1 April 2017

Press to Play: Paul McCartney album review

1986 and sythpop is the big thing - the year had started with the Pet Shop Boys at number one in the British single charts and would end with Jackie Wilson's Reet Petit sitting in pole position. In between we had No 1's from The Housmartins, Diana Ross, Wham and Berlin to name but a few. The album charts that year were dominated with compilation albums and platters from the likes of Queen, Genesis, The Police and Dire Straits. It was also the year that Paul McCartney released an album that was as experimental as anything he did with either the Beatles of Wings, and marked a huge return to form after the bland Pipes of Peace and the wrong-headed, Give My Regards to Broad Street. That album was Press to Play and yet for all its wonders, and there are many, it remains McCartney's weakest selling album and is mostly hated by fans. Even McCartney himself has very little to say about the album...go figure!

'What the hell gives you the right to tell me what to do with my life.'


Side 1
Stranglehold
Good Times Coming/Feel the Sun
Talk more Talk
Footprints
Only Love Remains

Side 2
Press
Pretty Little Head
Move over Busker
Angry
However Absurd

The album has a then contemporary full sound and whilst this may have dated the album somewhat we can't hold that against it. This was the age of synth overkill and in fairness Macca doesn't let the electronic sounds interfere with those melodies of what he is so skilled. The first side opens with Stranglehold, a full on rocker with an insanely catchy middle eight, and then we are into Good Times Coming/Feel the Sun which is really two songs snipped together. This is something Macca has done to varying degrees of success several times through the years but these songs work really well and the join is seamless.

'I was talking about that summer, so long ago
pack up your bags and yell, 'Geronimo'
That was a golden summer, wasn't it hot?'


 Next up is Talk More Talk, which is a surreal slice of futuristic rock that may have seemed too far out there for lovers of safer albums like Tug of War and Pipes of Peace, but the song pays dividends with repeated listening.

A master can highlight the phrases, sleazy instruments, half baked ideas....
Dad you didn't say OK
The window was open, outside was a spaceship
It took off into the sky
Leaving a trail of smoke behind it.

Talk more talk, chat more chat
Words of a father are worn in a hat.'

The lyrics are basically nonsensical, hanging on rhyme rather than clarity but the song is an undiscovered powerhouse that is criminally ignored in Macca's catalogue. Brilliant. Sheer brilliant.

The next track is Footprints which is a beautiful ballad, co-written by Eric Stewert, that evokes the beauty of a winter landscape McCartney had been responsible for some wonderful ballads in his time, and this is up there with the best of them. Maybe it is a bit overproduced and it would be wonderful to hear an acoustic version of this track, but nevertheless the 80's production can't smother the hypnotic melody.

'Music is ideas'

Side one end with Only Love Remains - one of those big production numbers that McCartney is so fond of and whilst it is a more run of the mill song than any of the others on side one, it does serve as a wonderful side closer.

Intermission: On release, Press to Play received a mixed critical reception and it was McCartney's poorest selling studio album up to that point. Although it failed to make the top 20 in America, the album peaked at number 8 on the UK Albums Chart and achieved gold status from the BPI in September 1986. Four singles were issued from Press to Play: "Press", "Pretty Little Head", "Stranglehold" and "Only Love Remains". "Press" was a minor success, peaking at number 21 in the US. The music video for the song featured McCartney walking around Piccadilly Circus tube station in London, catching a tube train and speaking with members of the general public.

Side 2 opens with Press - a terrific slice of catchy pop with fatherweight lyrics that perfectly fit the mood of the piece - it's not really substantial but it's fun.

Next comes Pretty Little Head - again co-written with Eric Stewert this is an experimental piece that is fucking amazing, and the nonsensical lyrics sum up a feeling of unease. This is futuristic music and I for one think it rocks.

Move Over Busker comes next, a far more conventional rocker in the style of tracks such as Junior's Farm and Hi, Hi, Hi and although the lyrics are insane it is a damn fine song.

'Well the rest of my life lay in front of me, I was struggling with a rhyme, when I saw Nell Gwynne with her Oranges and I said I'll have one of those.'

Angry follows - a bitter screaming track that sees Macca giving two fingers to the critics who constantly criticise his songs. You can hear him spitting into the microphone and the song really is angry

The album ends with a slice of Orchestral rock that is the perfect album closer - the lyrics are abusrdist but then that's in fitting with the title of the song - However Absurd.

'Custom made dinosuars
too late now for a change
everything is under the sun
but nothing is for keeps.'

To sum up then - McCartney couldn't win at this point. When he played it safe with albums like Tug of War he was praised and yet when he dared to experiment, to push the envelope as with Press to Play he was mocked and criticised. And yet the Macca of Press to Play holds much in common with Beatle Paul. Both men are unafraid to experiment, to search for new sounds and glue them together with his incredible gift for melody. Press to Play is not the turkey that many fans claim but a classic that is still waiting to be discovered.

'His friends have flown away, he's left out in the cold
He won't sit by my fire, he says he likes it in the snow.'

Why then is the album considered a failure? - this is not without precedent in the Maccaverse - These days an album like Ram (1971) is hailed as a Macca classic, some say the best thing he ever did outside of the Beatles and yet upon its original release it flopped and it  took decades for it to be appreciated for the work of melodic genius it truly is. The same thing with McCartney (1971), the charming homespun debut solo album which was hated for the first few years of its life. I have no doubt that as subsequent generations explore the solo catalogue of the ex-fabs that Press to Play will one day be recognised for the momentous work it truly is - the good times are coming, mark my words.


10/10 from me...a bloody wonderful album.