Thursday, September 28, 2006

live is life

Our friend and occasional commenter Frankie Machine has started up his own mp3 blog, Frankosonic. Well worth checking out (this Frank Sinatra post is particularly good), I'm also enjoying his series of posts about the best gigs he's ever seen.

It made me think, why are there so few Live Rock albums that bear up to repeated listening? Case in point: Wilco are responsible for two of the very best gigs I've ever seen - so why do I NEVER listen to "Kicking Television"?

Looking at my collection there really aren't that many that I would listen to regularly. However, some have already featured on The Rally and here are some more favourites - see you at the back, all the better to watch the band with minimum disruption! (TRUE FACT: the closest I've ever got to being in a mosh was at a Galaxie 500 gig...)

Talking Heads - The Great Curve (live 1982)

Most people of taste have got "Stop Making Sense" in one form or other, but "The Name Of This Band Is..." is also worth getting hold of. It features live recordings from 1977 to 1981, following the band from whey-faced New York art-school aesthetes to the expanded, 10-piece minimalist-voodoo-funk band of the "Remain In Light" tour, where this cut is from. For a start, this band is super-super-tight, playing their intricately intertwining lines with real precision to make a great big rhythmic mesh. I find the bass playing on this track totally hypnotic. This is the kind of live-band I want Johnny Domino to be... with a little bit of...

Meat Puppets - Automatic Mojo (live 1988)

Meat Puppets - Cotton Candy Land (live 1988)

In an earlier post I said that the Meat Puppets stopped being of interest to me after "Up On The Sun" in 1985... well, this album is bloody great, so never mind.

I love the looseness but you can tell they're still fantastic musicians. There are some great examples of the turn-on-a-halfpence hardcore chops that they'd built-up on their first album (especially on "Automatic Mojo" - what a great guitar solo!). There are also some real head-scratching bits of banter... Love the fact that they can do gigs with songs like that as well as "Cotton Candy Land" - again, say I, what a great guitar solo! Marvellous stuff.

Well worth getting this album for the version of "Maiden's Milk" (which is taken at double-speed) and the truly disturbing sound of Cris Kirkwood telling you to "pull your panties down" so he can stick his "uh-uh-uh" in you (from "S.W.A.T. (Get Down)")... *shivers*

Bonnie "Prince" Billy - Master & Everyone (live)

Bonnie "Prince" Billy is one of those artists who I sometimes get the feeling is taking the piss out of his audience... I'm thinking in particular of the bloody awful "BPB sings Greatest Palace Music" album, which I took as a PERSONAL INSULT. Especially the dreadful version of "I Send My Love To You" and the hidden extra track... of silence. Cheers, Will.

But "Summer In the Southeast", which came out last year is fantastic - It sounds like he's actually having a laugh, as opposed to laughing at his followers. At it's best it sounds like Crazy Horse or Bob Dylan. With a bit of Krautrock thrown in for good measure. It's heavy and loose and psychedelic and good fun!

Buy - 'The Name of This Band is Talking Heads'
Buy - Meat Puppets - 'Live in Montana'
Buy - Bonnie "Prince" Billy - 'Summer In The Southeast'

Visit - Talking Heads
Visit - Meat Puppets
Visit - Royal Stable

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Band of Brothers

It must have seemed a good idea at the time, it was the seventies and theatricality was all the rage but did it put the punters off? I'm referring to Split Enz bizarre appearance, very original and a good laugh for all concerned but did it distract attention from two great songwriters, Neil and Tim Finn.

Split Enz- My Mistake

'My Mistake' really makes me smile, the twists and turns of the arrangement, the fairground ooompah of the rhythms and dissonances, you can tell somebody clever is at work here. At the same time it's recognisably pop music. Once Neil Finn had joined, Split Enz got more 'Noo Wave', 'I Got You' is a pop classic but to me their high point is 'Six Months In A Leaky Boat'

Split Enz- Six Months In A Leaky Boat

This caused great controversy as it was accused of being a sarcastic reference to the Falklands War, it was recorded in January '82, before the war but if the cap fits...To me this song finds Split Enz using the sounds from their homeland, New Zealand. It's a great singalong but it has a lovely widescreen sweep to it. The Finn Brothers have never been cool but their collective scrapbook of songs should impress even the most cynical and jaded.

Split Enz Fansite

The Finn Brothers

Buy The Best of Split Enz


marc-o, you're mental - thanks for these, never heard 'em before.

'my mistake' = the "chorlton and the wheelies" theme tune
'six months...' = "johnny and mary" as played by Grandaddy

you know i have a soft spot for the Finn's on the QT... yes, they're clever (and, let's be honest, a bit "Driving With Dad") but they're overriding pop-nous stops their best songs from being strictly academic ventures, or the results of a Paul McCartney fan-club songwriting workshop...

i'll get mi coat... 

Spot on with the Grandaddy bit...arpeggiators set to stun.

Nothing wrong with Split Enz. "I got you. That's all I want.''

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

rip svc

So late last week, Spoilt Victorian Child closed it's doors. It's safe to say that if it hadn't been for that site, we wouldn't be doing this (is that a good thing or not...). It was the first 'proper' mp3 blog I'd come across and I remember feeling right at home when I saw the list of recommended albums in the right hand column, which included Faust and Billy Joel. Hey! it was even named after a Fall song!

The blog was started by Simon, who I've never met, but who has always been really encouraging and supportive of us and everything we've done - I know that a lot of blogs that started up in the wake of SVC feel the same way. Simon even included a Johnny Domino track way back in the heady days of 2004.

I heard and re-heard a lot of great stuff because of SVC and this is one of my favourite tracks that the site introduced me to. Good luck to Simon and all the Spoilt Victorian Children in whatever they do in the future.

Young People - Night of the Hunter

I ordered the Young People album 'War Prayers' from Dim Mak following a post on SVC and very nice it is too. However, nothing quite beats the demented party atmosphere of this track (which perfectly captures the completely bizarre nature of the film) - great smoky vocals, funky brass and music-therapy accompaniment. Plus it's got a talky bit (more songs need talky bits...). Other Young People stuff I've heard since has been a bit grumpy and arty - this is nice and loose and stoopid.

Imagine my surprise when, about a week or so after receiving my copy through the post, I got ANOTHER copy. And here it is, still in it's cellophane wrapping.

Who want's it? Drop me a line! Seriously, I've been trying to think of a good way to shift it for ages.

Call it a competition, if you will. First person to email me their address (don't leave it in the comments, m'dears) get's it FREE.


Read the original SVC post about this track here.

(PS - I got the great photo above from this site.)

Visit - Young People
Visit - Dim Mak records
Visit Dim Mak store and get 'War Prayers by Young People
Pay your respects - at SVC

Friday, September 15, 2006

miles ahead - part three

This is the third in a series of posts about the late great Miles Davis. Part one is here, part two is here.

These recordings are very hard to write about and exceptionally hard to blog about. This is a track from the legendary live recordings Miles Davis's second great quintet made at The Plugged Nickel in December 1965 - Miles, Herbie Hancock [piano], Ron Carter [bass], Tony Williams {drums] and Wayne Shorter [tenor sax].

As far as modern jazz is concerned, the Plugged Nickel sets are The Bible, Ulysses and Wagner's Ring Cycle all rolled into one.

Over the space of two nights, Miles and chums blast through 7 sets of mostly 'standards', stuff that had been in the Miles Davis live repertoire for years. But the way they treat tunes like "My Funny Valentine", "When I Fall In Love", as well as Davis' own material, the source material is pretty much irrelevant. Over the course of two nights they rip the tunes apart, taking serious liberties with structure, harmony and time - it's amazing music which demands you listen intently to the frightening level of intuition that is going on between the players - scary stuff.

The reason it's hard to write about is because, by ripping a single track (albeit one that's just shy of 14 minutes long) and compressing it down, you lose so much of what makes these recordings great.

Miles Davis - So What (live at The Plugged Nickel, 23 December 1965)

Take "So What" for example. This track comes at the end of the second set on 23 December - after this incredible performance, they still had another TWO SETS to play, following on from the three they played the previous night.

What's amazing about hearing it in context is how the tension between the different players is built up throughout the set, finally being released in the railing crescendo behind Shorter's solo (3.45-8.35) and carried through Tony Williams amazing extended solo (8.58-11.27). Counted in at almost twice the speed, it's about as far removed from the studio version of "So What" (on 'Kind Of Blue') as you could imagine. "Cool Jazz" this is not - by the way, you really need to play this loud!

I dunno if I'm reading too much into this but this track sounds like the end of something - a way of working, a way of thinking about music. A couple of years later Miles was going electric and turning his back on the small band format.

Whatever - The Plugged Nickel sets are well worth investing in. They're great recordings, really capturing the atmosphere of the night - at various points you hear a phone ring, the cash register, people chatting.

"So What" is available on a single CD of highlights but I was lucky enough to pick up the complete set for next to nothing. Sad but true, one year I fully intend to have a two-night Plugged Nickel party - play the sets in their entirety, soup to nuts.

Who wants a Martini?

Buy - The Complete Live at The Plugged Nickel
Buy - Highlights from the Plugged Nickel
Visit - Miles Davis (wikipedia)

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

'E's got the hump

It is not false modesty when I admit I'm no great musician, I'm a bit of musical Utility Player, a bit of guitar here, a bit of bass there, even a maraca or two. Inevitably it is the instrument I have least theoretical knowledge of that I play in Johnny Domino, the keyboard. I take solace that I share non-musician status with Brian Eno. I have always loved synths, the older and more gnarly the better. They don't gnarlier than Eno's VCS 3 on the first two Roxy Music album. All the musicians in Roxy were quirky and individualistic but only Eno could unleash the mayhem on 'Editions of You'

Roxy Music- Editions of You

I don't know an awful lot about his later career but any man involved with Devo and Talking Heads can be forgiven U2.

Brian Eno- The Paw-Paw Negro Blowtorch

Buy Roxy Music- For Your Pleasure

Buy Brian Eno- Here Come The Warm Jets

Visit EnoWeb

Thursday, September 07, 2006

on the flip side

Way back in the early days of The Rally, I did a post about one of my Dad's old 45s. In that earlier post (here) I talk about how I played the B-Side of one of the singles without flipping it over for about 15 years (shades of Father Dougal McGuire, methinks). So here are some other great B-Sides!

Los Bravos - I Want A Name (B-Side of 'Black is Black')

Completely mental song, featuring a deranged vocal performance from a man with so few mates that he doesn't even have a name. If he keeps making the "Waaa-ooow!!" noise (first appearance at 0:37), then frankly I'm not surprised.

Love the music-therapy feel of the glockenspiel in the background but let's be honest, they've thrown the lot at this and fair play to them for that. Seemingly-pissed guitar makes first appearance at 0:46.

In the second verse he dreams of a dog without a collar that he can befriend. Could singer Mike Kogel have given any more in this performance? I think not - I especially love the impassioned "help me!" bits.

"Black Is Black" was Number 2 in the UK, Number 4 in the US. And this piece of genius-lunacy was on the other side. Los Bravos - I salute you!

Little Eva - He Is The Boy (B-Side of 'The Locomotion')

One of those great tracks where it sounds like they've left themselves with 15 minutes at the end of the session to write and record the B-Side. It's a lazy shuffle with Eva intoning her love for a (in short order) thick, lazy, ugly so-and-so who happens to be good at kissing. The piano solo from 1:48 is a work of genius, especially the bit where they obviously didn't finish writing it - there's also a great stumble right at the end, which they obviously couldn't be arsed to correct. Plus the backing vocals sound like they've been phoned in!

It sounds like I hate it, but the ramshackle nature and the matter-of-fact coolness sell it to me every time. I would happily trade in much of my more "fashionable" music collection for more songs like this.

But the thought that this feckless swine might be the guy who inspired "He Hit Me (And It Felt Like A Kiss)" is pretty troubling, don'tcha think?

Curtis Lee - Gee, How I Wish You Were Here (B-Side of 'Pretty Little Angel Eyes')


The GREAT thing about this track is the fantastic vocal support from The Halos - they're not quite there all the way through... hell, let's face it there are some proper CLAMS - that opening chord is a bit shonky for a start. And what's going on in that final section?

But this has such a great feel and a great matinee idol lead vocal from Curtis Lee. Great lyrics, fantastic instrumental backing.... God I love this song! Great memories of singing along with this one on the way back from the pub in the back of our mate's Land Rover!

Buy - Los Bravos
Buy - Little Eva
Buy - Curtis Lee
Read - Los Bravos on
Read - Little Eva on Wikipedia
Read - Curtis Lee on Wikipedia