Thursday, 31 October 2013

The Archivist - The Byrds - Greatest Hits

There are some sounds that you hear when you are a nipper that stay with you for the rest of your life. The school bell, the fire engine, the theme to Watch with Mother. But in my case you can add the sound of a chiming Rickenbacker  360 12 string. Of course, I had no idea what it was back then. But right from the time I heard the opening phrase of Mr Tambourine Man on my little transistor radio, I have always associated THAT sound with my youth.  It was released back in 1965 – so I would have been 4. And already brainwashed  by the Beach Boys & Beatles due to my brother’s non-stop playing.

But as I was only a nipper, these songs coming from the radio every few months just blended into the 60s soundtrack. But I always remember loving THAT Rickenbacker sound. When I started buying albums back in the early 70s, The Byrds Greatest Hits was one of the first few I purchased.

My brother played bass in a local band, who were offered a record deal but chose not to follow their dreams. I used to hear him practising along to the records. From then I always wanted to play bass. But my mother wouldn’t buy me an electric guitar. Too much noise.  But I ended up receiving an EKO 12 string acoustic. Still it packed a punch and I was able to recreate those chiming tunes from my youth. I still covert a Rickenbacker 12 string. My brother beat me to it with a 360 12 Sunburst. Bastard!

The Byrds have influenced many a band since their short career shone bright. They also invented Country Rock with the great and gone Gram Parsons with the album Sweetheart of the Rodeo.

Here are just some of the bands the Byrds have influenced.

Back in the early 90s Roger came back and released an album Back From Rio. I managed to catch him twice live on his comeback. He once replied to an email I wrote him and I even managed to say hello and thank him for a great gig in Ebbw Vale of all places. Wish they had cameraphones back then so I could have captured the event. Oh well. At least I still have that chiming Rickie.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

The Archivist: Alice Cooper - From The Inside

Now we all have those moments where we have seen something and thought WOW!!! In my musical life, I have had a few of these. The first Top of The Pops appearances by The Smiths, Boy George, Marc Almond and the very first Alice Copper, way back in 1972 with School’s Out. What an anthem for every school kid all over the world. After this explosive debut in the UK, Alice went on to have a string of hits, Elected, No More Mr Nice Guy & Hello Hurray.

With hit albums, Schools Out, Billion Dollar Babies, Killer, Welcome To My Nightmare, Alice was on a roll. He was a big global star with sell out tours and hit albums. But Alice was harbouring a dark secret. His alcohol abuse. The amount he drank during these years is now the stuff of legend and with mates like Keith Moon, it was easy to see how he fell into this way of life. God, he even went disco in 1977 with the album Lace& Whisky.

However, it came to a point where Alice had to go into rehab. So he signed himself into a sanatorium in New York. He came out sober and used his experiences in the sanatorium to create one of the best albums of his career. Now everybody knows of the rocking Alice but this album showed a different side to his music. He enlisted the help of Elton John’s lyricist Bernie Taupin and bandmates Dee Murray & Davey Johnston to create the album. Alice used the people he met and the situations he experienced in rehab to tell the story. Now Alice has always been able to write a killer ballad,
(See Only Women Bleed as an example)

 and the lead-off single for From The Inside was also another killer ballad. How You Gonna See Me Now

The album opens with From The Inside

But Alice could still rock it out when required and the album includes one of his best rockers in years.

The success of From The Inside reenergised Alice, although a wait of three years for his next album, Flush The Fashion, didn’t help, although he did have the monster single and album with Trash in 1989 which spawned the monster worldwide smash Poison, with the help of hit songwriter & producer Desmond Child.

But I always go back to From The Inside as the album where we got to glimpse the Real Alice Cooper. If only for a second.

INDISPENSABLE: Clubhouse Records

I remember back in the 1970’s that record labels were often havens for music loving listeners. You could identify yourself with a label. Labels such as Asylum, Elektra, Charisma, ECM & Mute. Labels that you could trust to give you brilliant, classic, quality & innovative music.  I haven’t come across a label in which every artist had been hand-picked to give that sort of quality and attention to detail since Windham Hill. Well, not until now.


Back in 2012, I came across a band called The Dreaming Spires after listening to a Bob Harris Show. I did a little bit of investigation and found they were on the Clubhouse Records label. I did not know such a label existed anywhere in the UK. They had a website, so I took a look. Upon further investigation, I started listening to all the other artists associated with the label. Lo and behold, I enjoyed every one.

Formed back in 2010 by a group of musicians, they reside in rural Buckinghamshire and support a small but quality stable of artists. The label is run by Tristan & Danny Tipping with help from family & friends. It is a label run by people who love music FOR people who love music.

Last year alone they have released 4 albums by the artists Leeroy Stagger, Troubadour Rose, The Cedars & Case Hardin. Every one is worthy of a place in my top albums of 2013. Music of Quality & Distinction.

The quality of the music released has continued into 2014 with the releases so far of the new album by Paul McClure - Smiling From The Floor Up and the new Redlands Palomino Company album - Broken Carelessly.

Clubhouse Records also produced a great tribute to the Bruce Springsteen Nebraska album where the artists used a 4 track tape recorder, exactly as Bruce had used in his recording.

New signings for 2015 include Don Gallardo & Cale Tyson - direct from Nashville.

So, if you’re in the market for some quality Americana, Alt-Country, and Roots & if you’ve never heard of Clubhouse Records or its artists, it’s time to seek them out. They're lovely people who care about music and their followers. Oh,and tell them Macwood sent you.
On Twitter - @ClubhouseUK

Monday, 28 October 2013

Thank You For The Music: Noel Harrison

Noel Harrison     29th January 1934 - 19th October 2013
This might have slipped under the radar but we lost Noel last week. Noel released 13 albums, 7 in the 1960s. He was the son of the actor Rex Harrison and released one bona fide classic.

Thank You For The Music: Lou Reed

Lou Reed     March 2nd 1942 - October 27 2013
Being a child in the 60s, my first memory of Lou Reed was Walk On The Wild Side. Back in 1973, I had no idea what he was singing about but like everyone else of my age I loved the groove of the song. Especially the bass line.
When I was more aware of music in the mid 70s, I knew the power of Transformer  & Coney Island Baby and the influence of Bowie on his career.
It was only much later - probably in the 80's, that I started to look into the Velvet Underground. I enjoyed this era much more than his solo work. The urgency, the experimentation. I could now see the influences on bands such as Talking Heads.
we will have tons of plays of early Velvets & Transformer era Lou but I'm going to leave you with my favourite solo Lou Reed record, one which I have found myself humming consistently since first hearing it back in the mid 80s. Lou gets happy :) So unfashionable but I like it. RIP Lou XXX


The Archivist - Todd Rundgren - Hermit of Mink Hollow

There are some musicians who although they have supreme talent, will never really get the recognition they deserve. One of these musicians has been Todd Rundgren. A songwriter, producer, artist and generally bit of a genius, should be up there with the very elite. He produced Bat Out Of Hell, for God's sake!
However, he has plied his trade on the peripheries of the musical world, only occasionally coming in from the cold with a brilliant track.  He started his solo career way back in 1970 with his debut album Runt. By the time Hermit was released, he had already produced two career defining albums that any musician would have been grateful for - Something/Anything & A Wizard, A True Star.
Something/Anything from 1972 gave him his biggest hit single in I Saw The Light.

These two albums alone proved that he could write a killer tune right up there with the Motown Greats, whom he loves.

Songs such as Love of the Common Man only go to show what a great unheralded songwriter Todd actually was.

Hermit is his 8th solo album. Although very much a lone wolf who preferred the recording process as being his own domain, Todd had worked with other musicians on his previous albums. On Hermit however, he played, recorded and produced everything himself.
He split the album into two sides - remember sides? - The Easy Side & The Difficult Side - and the songs reflected this approach with side A being the more poppy Todd and side B being the more experimental and rockier Todd.
The album opens up with this one.

The album is a REAL solo album and showcases just how brilliant an artist Todd really is by Playing, Producing & Writing.

Side A concludes with Todd in more rockier mode and is more of an indication of where side 2 leads.

And from Side B 
The album following this was also a brilliant album. One of the best live albums I have ever heard called Back to the Bars.

Todd is now at the forefront of electronic music.
Do yourself a favour and check out Todd :)


Saturday, 26 October 2013

The Archivist - Talk Talk - Spirit Of Eden

I was a big fan of the late 70s early 80s electronic movement. I loved Talk Talk from the first album onwards. If ever a band grew in brilliance over just 5 albums, then this was THE Band. From simple formulaic beginnings they became a seminal band who influenced many a musician thereafter.
The debut album, The Party's Over - included the hits Talk Talk & Today and was very much in keeping with what was popular back in 1982. Most saw another pop band. I saw something a bit deeper. A good grasp of melody and a willingness to explore.


As was proved with the next album, It's My Life in '84. It spawned 3 hit singles, It's my Life, It's a Shame & Dumb Dumb Girl. The band, made up of vocalist & multi instrumentalist Mark Hollis, Lee Harris on Drums & Paul Webb on bass were increasingly supplemented by Tim Friese-Greene's keyboards. And became a further step away from their synthpop beginnings. The songs were more intricate and the sound was expanding.
But nobody expected what was coming next.
Now two years later and with Tim Freise-Greene becoming an uncredited member of the band,  Talk Talk made a giant leap forward with The Colour Of Spring.
The band now bringing in more acoustic instruments and relying less on electronic keyboards, this was a huge leap forward. The album proved to be THE turning point for the band, with ALL the songs now being written by Mark Hollis & Tim Friese-Greene, it resulted in a more organic and 'human' sound and approach, it also resulted in 3 hit singles with Life's What You Make It, Living In Another World & Give It Up. I loved this album and played it to death but even I didn't expect the Masterpiece which was going to be their next album. Released in 1988, it was Spirit Of Eden.

Now it's not many albums that can bring a tear to my eye but Spirit Of Eden WAS one of those very special albums. I remember the first time I played it. It left me speechless. It WAS like a spiritual experience.
It was almost jazz in places. Free form music that Hollis & Friese-Greene had accumulated through many days of improvised playing. But it had a stately, elegiac presence that was SO far from their beginnings that you wondered how the hell they were going to follow it. Where else was left for them to go? There was only one single released from the album, the beautiful, 'I Believe In You' but was edited down for single release. Taking much of it's impact away. Here's the full version.
Again, with all the songs written by Hollis & Friese-Greene, the album contained only 6 songs with all but one being over 6 minutes in length. It is very dynamic. Ranging from very quiet, almost hushed vocals to loud soundscapes. Although the overall feel is of intense delicacy. With a multitude of instruments including a choir.
Talk Talk would release one more album, Laughing Stock. This was much in keeping with Spirit Of Eden. And signalled the final glorious sounds of a band that had reached its nadir and had nowhere else to develop into.
Frontman Mark Hollis did release a solo album called Mark Hollis in 1998 and then 'Did A Rimbaud'.
What music would have been produced by Talk Talk or Mark Hollis, God only knows but one thing's for sure, it would have been unexpected.
By the way.

Friday, 25 October 2013

The Archivist - Fleetwood Mac - Fleetwood Mac (White Album)

You've probably guessed that I have a particular soft spot for The Mac. I could probably write quite a decent book about the history of the British Blues band with it's genius guitar player who morphed into  the Anglo American Supergroup who went on to conquer the world with one of the biggest albums of all time. And have it's own brilliantly maverick guitarist.

As you know if you've read previous parts of this blog, back in the 70s I was a avid radio listener. Everybody was aware of the hit single Albatross. That instrumental classic that came from nowhere and hung around the neck of FMac until their 1970s rebirth. But between Albatross and the (let's call it) The White Album, FMac went through many musicians and changes in style. I remember listening to Alan Freeman back in the early 70s and hearing the FMac song Future Games. I enjoyed it and went out to purchase the album. My first Fmac album.

Following the departure of Peter Green, FMac had turned to several guitarists, including the American Bob Welch, who stayed with them until the 1974. Under Bob Welch, they created some really good albums which have got lost in the depths of time. The last Bob Welch album actually pointed the way for what was to be The White Album. The Christine McVie composition Come A Little Bit Closer is especially good and could fit onto any FMac album from 1975 onwards and hold it's own.

Now it's the stuff of legend as to how the duo of Buckingham/Nicks joined the Mac. Mick Fleetwood was looking for studios and went to Sound City where he heard the Buckingham/Nicks album being played through the studio speakers, which eventually led to the duo replacing the recently departed Bob Welch.

With the duo now in the band, they went on to record the White Album. This has always been my favourite FMac album, followed by Tusk. Included on the album are Crystal & Landslide, which were previously on the Buckingham/Nicks album. The new album proved to be a smash, especially in the USA. Lead off single, the gentle Christine McVie composition Over My Head led the way for three great singles together with Say You Love Me and the smash hit Rhiannon.

The album made no dent whatsoever in the UK but I played it to death. In fact I had to get a second copy. I first heard the album as I used to listen to the Paul Gambaccini American Chart Show and loved the sound of Lindsey Buckingham's guitar work and Stevie Nick's beautiful voice. I immediately ordered the album AND the Buckingham/Nicks release, which is now a sought after collectors item. Every song is great and showcases Buckingham's brilliant pick style guitar playing. One of the best was the Stevie Nicks composition, Landslide.

It was followed by the record breaking Rumours, two years later in 1977. But it is the White Album that gets more time on the turntable and cd player than any other FMac album. Here's a live version of the opener Monday Morning. FMac were always a livelier proposition in concert than on record.

Last year, we lost two FMac alumni - Bob Weston & Bob Welch. In tribute, here's a Bob Welch song that first appeared on the FMAc album 1972 album Bare Trees and gave him a hit single when he put it on his first solo album from 1977, French Kiss, the lovely Sentimental Lady, featuring Lindsey Buckingham & Christine McVie.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

The Archivist - A Ha - East of the Sun, West of the Moon

Take On Me. The Norwegian Band's first hit took 3 releases before it was a hit back in 1985. I enjoyed it's jaunty pop and ground-breaking video. Morten Harket had that exotic Scandinavian lilt to his voice and the chiselled good looks didn't do them any harm. So I invested in the album, Hunting High & Low. What I found within that album was behind the gloss of the singles was a good dose of Scandinavian Melancholia. It must be the lack of sunlight but a lot of the Scandinavian bands from the Sugarcubes to Sigur Ros have that melancholia. The title track summed this up perfectly.

Written by main songwriter, Pal Waaktar-Savoy, it uses sweeping strings and Morten's soaring vocal range to great effect drawing the listener into the cold enveloping air. It's easy to see why the Bond producers gave them a chance at a Bond Song with The Living Daylights later on in their career.
The hits continued through the following two albums, Scoundrel Days and Stay On These Roads but both also saw the band develop the deeper songs of their repertoire - songs such as Scoundrel Days, Manhattan Skyline & Stay On These Roads indicating an increasingly developed sound and songwriting skill.
But it was the next album that really grabbed me. I'd already seen them live and would go on to see them several times more - but this was the tour and album that was the real game changer.
The songs were deeper, darker, more introverted than ever. But the sound was widescreen, expansive and even joyous in places. The lead off single was their Everley Brothers cover, Crying In The Rain, which gave a good indication of where the album was going. A deep, dark, painful version with Morten reaching low on his vocal register before that soaring vocal kicks in. The production has such a dynamic register, I used to use it to sell Hi Fi systems.
The songwriting, mainly by Pal, shows a growing maturity and is light years from the pop of Take On Me. With second single, I Call Your Name & string arrangements by David Bedford, it's an album of deep dark emotion but is SO tuneful. Songs like Rolling Thunder, which is just spine tingling, especially live. But you had to be there, doesn't sound the same on video.

It's not all darkness though. The sweeping, woozy string arrangements of Bedford work their magic in the engaging Waiting For Her.

But like all good albums of depth and scope, it ends on a simple and lovely song, (Seemingly) Non Stop July.

They continued to release albums of further depth and resonance right up to their final album - Foot Of The Mountain but in 2010 they finally called it a day (again). All the subsequent solo albums have variants of the A Ha sound but none has matched up to what they achieved as a group. The final accolade was a Knighthood for all 3.
Their final song was Butterfly released as part of the final Greatest Hits package but let's leave it with another slice of Scandinavian beauty, Velvet,  from their 2000 album, Minor Earth, Major Sky. Glacial Gorgeousness.




Wednesday, 23 October 2013

LIVE: Danny & The Champions @ The Chattery Swansea

I've been lucky enough to be at a lot of great gigs this year - but a special mention must go to Danny & The Champions of the World. They came all the way down to sunny Swansea to play a very intimate gig in The Chattery. A small but 'in the know' crowd were treated to a blistering performance from the boys. They split the set into two halves.

We were treated to several songs from the new album, Stay True and lots of songs from the previous incarnations of The Champs. The new sings took on a new dimension live with more rocky & rootsy versions of the songs from the albums. They extended many of the songs too with great effect. The songs from Stay True were especially suitable to this treatment. They ended with a fantastic version of These days. I hope they release a live album of this tour - if only for the fans who attended the shows on this tour, as the guys are on great form and the treatments of the songs deserve to be heard by a wider audience. Can't wait to see them again.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

The Archivist: Horslips - The Book of Invasions: A Celtic Symphony

During the 1970s, my main source of musical inspiration was the Alan Freeman Saturday Show. This used to be broadcast on a Saturday afternoon and was my essential listening of the week. I very rarely listened to the show with friends as I wanted to drink in the music alone. I heard many an exotic sound that has stayed with me since and they may well turn up in future Archivist features. But I remember vividly hearing a piece of music that would highlight a band who I had never heard of before and would stay with me to this day.

The nearest I had got to folk music was a compilation of the best of British folk of the time. Included were bands like Fairport Convention & Pentangle and solo artists like Bert Jansch. So, very little knowledge. However, Fluff played a track which was folk based, (I had definitely heard the tune before) but was a rock song. The tune I had heard was this. This is Kate Bush's version of My Lagan Love.

Kate Bush - My Lagan Love

I didn't manage to catch who the band was on this first hearing but I did catch the title of the album. The Book of Invasions: A Celtic Symphony. Now this caught my imagination straight away. Celtic Symphony. Wow! I was seduced immediately. The track that Fluff played was this.
Horslips - The Warm Sweet Breath Of Love

It may be the Irish ancestry coming out but it just entranced me from the first few notes. Now Alan Freeman, like John Peel, was a bit of a rebel music wise and sometimes he just played what he wanted. So, I wrote to Alan at the BBC address asking him to please play another track from the album. So, to my surprise, the following week he read my letter and played this next track. In those days, we would get the cassette recorder and put a microphone in it, put his next to the radio speaker and record the songs from the shows. Oh, how I wish I had recorded him mentioning my letter. He read another about a year later but I wouldn't make my one and only radio appearance until 1983! But in 1976, he played this second track from the album, this totally killed me and I went out and bought it on the first day of it's release.
Horslips - Sideways To The Sun

The title of the album comes from the fact that the songs are based on famous Irish Traditional songs intertwined with the original rock songs by the band.
T H E   B O O K   O F   I N V A S I O N S(Leabhar Gabhala Eireann)
The Book of Invasions is a twelfth century chronicle of the various pre-Christian  colonisations of Ireland.
The race who occupied the country before our Gaelic ancestors were the Tuatha De Danann
-the Peoples of the Goddess Danann.
While their origins are unclear we do know that the Tuatha were a mystical race,
handsome and learned, elegantly dressed, expert in every art and science and supreme masters of wizardry.
All the songs were linked to this theme. It is regarded as Horslips best album. The band are often called the best band ever to come out of Ireland. A great accolade seeing as they've also produced Thin Lizzy & U2. They never matched it's success and scope. They did have a crack at America with the album, The Man Who Made America, which saw them turn into a standard rock band with celtic instrumentation but to me they lost their Beauty. You decide.
Horslips - The Man Who Built America
Here is the album in full, if you want to hear it. But I recommend the CD, with headphones on, of course.