Friday, 29 November 2013

The Archivist - Jon Anderson - Olias Of Sunhillow

July 1976. It was the year before my O Levels. I was sitting in an examination hall with all the windows and doors open. It was the beginning of the Legendary Summer of 76 in the UK. It was absolutely boiling. I finished my exam early. I was quite good at exams then. I had a copy of the Melody Maker with me. In those days you weren't allowed out of the exam hall but if you handed in your papers you were allowed to read whatever you wished. Within its hallowed pages was the review of the forthcoming solo album by Jon Anderson called Olias of Sunhillow. I even remember the headline - 'Hail, Olias of Accrington' - a reference to Jon's hometown in the north of England. I poured over each line, time and time again, just imagining what the sounds would be like that were described in the review. Nothing could prepare you for the music that was actually released as Olias of Sunhillow.
Olias.. is a concept album. These were de rigueur in the mid 70s. But if anyone had an imagination to pull it off it would be Jon Anderson. The guys in YES had previously included short solo tracks in the 1971 YES album Fragile. So I THOUGHT I knew what to expect.
Jon's track was We Have Heaven.

Nothing could prepare you for Olias. It is like no other album out there. Jon plays all of the instruments himself and sings all of the vocals. It is a SOLO album in the true sense of the word.
The album opens with Ocean Song

I remember at the time even YES fans were astounded by the sounds and rhythms contained within the record. It sounded like no YES album that had been released so far. It was more tribal and was probably a precursor for the World Music phenomenon that exploded in the 80s.
Every time I listen to the album - and I still do, all these years later, I find something that I haven't heard before.
It ends with the glorious To The Runner.
Nothing YES did ever came close to the sounds of Olias. The closest they've come in feel is the mighty Awaken, which for me is their finest track.
But, all these years later, a sequel is in the pipeline and could become a reality. It's called The Songs of Zamran.
And the song Open that was released by Jon has been described as being very close to the sound of the new project. It'll be like being 15 all over again. Minus the hair down to my bum.

But why not hear John talk about it with the Legendary Bob Harris on The Old Grey Whistle Test.


Live in 2013: Oysterband at the Globe, Cardiff, November 28th 2013

This is the second Oysterband show that I have seen in 2013 - and they couldn't have been so different. I was present at the beginning of the year in Treorci. That was a VERY significant gig as it was the last gig that Bassist, Cellist & multi-instrumentalist Ray 'Chopper' Cooper played with the band. It was in The Parc & Dare Theatre. A lovely old seated theatre in the Welsh Valleys. It was the final date of the 2 year Ragged Kingdom Tour that the Oysters played with June Tabor.
It was a show charged with emotion as Chopper said goodbye to the band and the fans after many years of brilliant service. I even got to meet the man after and wish him well. He is now starting on a solo career and working on his second solo album.
The Oysterband at The Globe however was a totally different beast. With Ray now departed, we had Oysters supplemented by two new members, Producer Al Scott on bass and mandolin and Adrian Oxaal (ex James) on Cello.
It was a joyous occasion with the Oysters on sparkling form. They played older songs such as Deserters and Granite Years and also used the occasion to introduce some new songs including The Wilderness from the new album Diamonds On The Water due out in February.
I have to say that the quality of the new songs was excellent. Sometimes a change in the band dynamic can be a great energiser and John informed me that Adrian is also an excellent guitar player - so watch this space. John Jones is such a brilliant front man, full of passion and with such a tremendous voice. He even did his occasional, 'Singing with the audience', as he came into the crowd to lead us in a singalong.
They ended the show with an 'In The Audience' acoustic version of Put Out The Lights' which was just fantastic. The new album just can't come quick enough.

 Twitter - @oysterband1




Live in 2013: Hayseed Dixie at the Princess Royal Theatre, Port Talbot

I've been aware of Hayseed Dixie for a few years now but as they are stalwarts of the Festival Circuit I've never really had the opportunity of seeing them live. I didn't know how a largely Port Talbot crowd would take to them as we very rarely get any major band play live in Port Talbot. I shouldn't have been worried. They were very well received and the place was bouncing!
The band played an amazingly energetic set which included all the favourites such as Highway to Hell, Shook Me All Night Long, Ace of Spades.
They also sprinkled in a few self penned songs which also went down well.
Their version of this song brought the house down with the whole crowd singing along.
But the boys didn't play this one :(

The band played a great version of the Aerosmith smash - walk this way - & this is the Port Talbot performance.

And they ended the gig with a fantastic version of Pink Floyd's Comfortably Numb. This is the version they played in Manchester a few days later.

If you get a chance to see them, GO. You'll have a fabulous singalong (& dancing) night out.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Album Artwork of 2013 - Stornoway - Tales of Terra Firma/You Don't Know Anything

Being an Ex-graphic designer and current painter, I do like a bit of good album artwork. I miss the days when you could get a whole album cover of design and gatefold sleeves etc. We now have to deal with CD covers and even MP3s with now artwork whatsoever.

Album art was the breeding ground of many a great designer and illustrator. Three being the amazing Roger Dean who designed most of the YES covers, Storm Thorgeson who was the founder of Hipgnosis who designed many of Pink Floyd's albums and Peter Saville who was the designer for the early Joy Division /New Order releases.

I miss the demise of the album cover art and I'm especially pleased when something catches my artistic eye. I could not let 2013 go without a special mention for the artwork for the two Stornoway releases this year. Also one/two of my Albums of 2013.

They have been designed by a lady called Kirini Kopcke. They really are gorgeous and illustrate the stories of the songs within the albums.

Kirini is also a painter and her artwork can be seen on her website below.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Albums of 2013: Jonathan Wilson - Fanfare

Gentle Spirit by Jonathan Wilson was one of my favourite albums of 2011. Indeed, it was Mojo Magazine's Album of the Year. Gentle Spirit is a sprawling album steeped in the sounds of 1970s Laurel Canyon loveliness. Jonathan has built his own recording studio (he's also a producer of some renown) and has filled it with vintage recording equipment to help him 'summon the spirit' of the recorded works of the 70s west Coast heyday.

Since 2011 we (the fans of JW) have been waiting in anticipation of the next opus. At the beginning of the year, news began to circulate of a new album coming together. And even more exciting was that one of the major influences was Dennis Wilson's masterpiece Pacific Ocean Blue.

When Fanfare actually arrived it was SO much more than an homage to Pacific Ocean Blue. JW has again used his vintage studio to create an album of breadth and creativity. There are so many influences on the album but POB is definitely one as shown in the opening title track.

Vinyl is the preferred option for listening to Fanfare as JW has stated it was produced and mastered especially with vinyl in mind. Having copies of both vinyl and CD myself, I can attest to that.
Being a bit of a guitar virtuoso, JW uses his guitar to good effect throughout the album, as shown in the first single, Dear Friend.

JW's vocals have been pushed much further up in the mix for this album and the harmonies on many of the songs are just sublime. But with the addition of David Crosby, Graham Nash and Jackson Browne, we would expect nothing less.

You will find references to Dennis Wilson, Jackson Browne, CSNY, Pink Floyd and many others on Fanfare. JW hired a Steinway Grand piano for the album and he's certainly got his money's worth from it's use.

There is such a scope to this album that it feels wrong just to pick out tracks but it does give you a flavour of what to expect.
In fact, you can hear the whole album & Gentle Spirit by clicking the link below.

My favourite track is Moses Pain.

I don't want to say to much as I want you to find the music for yourself. but my advice is, Just Buy It - on vinyl if you have a turntable :)
Twitter - @songsofjw

Songs in the key of MY life: The Wonder Stuff - Hot Love Now

When I first heard this song I knew I just had to have it & it remains one of my favourite songs. Was it the exuberance? Was it the Strings? Was it the horn section? Was it the obvious 70s references. Was it the 'trying on your sister's clothes' line. Actually, it was all of those and the fact that it's just a bloody good song :)

Twitter - @thewonder_stuff

Monday, 25 November 2013

The Archivist - The Moody Blues - Octave


There are some songs that reach 'Classic' status. Songs such as YMCA (Camp classic), Sweet Child of Mine (Rock classic) & There She Goes (Indie classic). There are also songs which reach a point where they are Real Classics Bohemian Rhapsody, Yesterday, A Whiter Shade Of Pale and a song by the Moody Blues called  Nights In White Satin.
Now it can be a curse that a band get such a hit so early in their career. Actually on their first album with new songwriter Justin Hayward called Days of Future Passed. From Days.. in 1967 to Seventh Soujorn in 1972, The Moodies produced some of the best symphonic rock to ever grace an LP. They were HUGE in the USA and continue to tour successfully to this day with sell out shows all over the world. But in 1972, the Moodies decided to take a break. This saw the band recording solo albums and Justin Hayward and bassist John Lodge formed a very successful duo as Blue Jays.
But in 1977, the Moodies had reformed to produce the album that became OCTAVE. It was quite an event in Rock circles at the time. Bear in mind that in the UK, Punk had just exploded and Disco was at it's height. But the album performed really well in the UK and perhaps more importantly for the Band, in the USA.
It contained some of Hayward's most enduring songs such as Driftwood and Had To Fall In Love. John Lodge even had a hit song on the album, Steppin In A Slide Zone. It turned out to be one of the strongest albums the band ever produced and considering it was made with a lot of tension within the band at the time, it was a triumph.
The band continued to make albums and as before, they ended up selling far more albums in the USA than the UK. Now consisting of just Justin Hayward, John Lodge & Greame Edge, with session musicians as required, the band continue to tour and perform all over the world. But for me, Octave will always be their best album.
The band has a fascinating history and if you would like to hear and learn more about the Moody Blues, there are some excellent documentaries out there which are worth a view.
In 1986, The Moodies came back with a song, In Your Wildest Dreams which won video awards and was loosely based on their early days and is well worth a view.
And in 1988, they completed the story with I Know You're Out There Somewhere.
Twitter - @MoodyBluesToday

Sunday, 24 November 2013

The Archivist - Glen Campbell - Ghost On The Canvas

Many moons ago I heard a song on the airwaves which I loved immediately. It was a LONG time ago. It was Witchita Lineman.
Ever since then I have loved Glen Campbell's voice. I started buying some Glen albums and discovered his association with Jimmy Webb. Jimmy obviously wrote Witchita and many other excellent songs which Glen has covered over the years.
Ghost On The Canvas was released back in 2010. In fact, it was my album of the year and still gets played regularly on Vinyl, cd and mp3 formats. Ghost is Glen's 61st album. That's some career. And followed his renaissance album Meet Glen Campbell, which contained Glen's interpretation of some of the more recent songs of the time by artist such as Green Day & Foo Fighters.


This new interest in Glen's music however became bittersweet as it was announced that he was suffering from Alzheimer's Disease which affected his ability to play guitar and remember the words to his songs. During this time it was expected that Ghost On The Canvas would be his last released album of new material. See You There has since appeared this year with a portion of new material and some reinterpreted classics from Glen's career. But I like to think of this as his swansong for so many reasons. When you listen to it, you'll understand why.
The album opens with the heartbreaking, A Better Place.

Throughout the album, which runs as one uninterrupted piece of music, there are links and echoes of phrases from throughout Glen's career, such as the Morse code opening to Ghost on the canvas, which recall Witchita Lineman and the Beach Boys harmonies that link several tracks.

 Although there is understandably a very reflective feel running throughout the album, it is never morose. Indeed, the album rings out with Glen's signature Gretsch and Rickenbacker guitars.

I cannot think of a better final album by any artist out there. Yes, you can dip into it and pick out songs but try and listen to it as a complete body of work. Here's the final track. Just make sure you listen to all the previous tracks too.

This is from the Ghost Sessions but appeared on See You There - still a great song though.


My Album of 2013 - Miracle Mile - In Cassidy's Care

If there is one band (duo actually) that consistently produce quality albums time after time it is Miracle Mile.
Since the band first appeared back in the mid 90s and released their first album, Bicycle Thieves in 1997, they have produced some of the finest music by any band in the UK. Albums such as Glow, Alaska & Limbo have been havens of quality music and beautiful words over the past 16 years.

I don't write many reviews for Amazon but I did write one for In Cassidy's Care. It pretty much sums up the album.
''I will not go into the history of MM or the reason why they continue to remain undiscovered by the great British music buying public. There have been several changes since the last Miracle Mile album was released. Not that anything has changed within the Miracle Mile set up. We still have Trevor Jones, lyricist, guitarist and vocalist of such clarity it makes it a joy to be able to hear every word the man writes. And with him we have Marcus Cliffe, `The Scientist' or perhaps Alchemist, is the better word. The multi-instrumentalist, who wraps up the songs in their veils of contrasting colour and texture. Together they are a considerable force.

No, the changes come from within themselves and the outside world. Coming off the back of two well received solo albums, Trevor has set about building an album around a short story he has published. Yes, this album is a concept piece, music which follows a story. But not the type as you might find in it's 70s heyday, such as The Snow Goose or Olias of Sunhillow.

If Jake Bugg can be seen as a spokesman of his generation, then Trevor Jones could rightly claim the title for HIS generation. Here are songs of someone who has experienced life. Children, relationships, hope & regret all come under the insightful eye of Trevor Jones. This is an album FOR adults, written BY adults.

But although the album is about the relationship of a couple called Cassidy & Amelia, it could be about you and I and our respective relationships. Adults will recognise the range of emotions and experiences described by Trevor and hopefully, be moved.

But the album is a genuinely uplifting experience. You may shed a few tears of recognition along the way but Trevor always gives you hope.
To me, the album resonates with the sounds and references of the Beatles & Pet Sounds. In fact, Jog could be a Pet Sounds track for the 20teens.
Recorded at his own home studio, Norbury Brook, Marcus has kept with the traditional Miracle Mile sound to paint the pictures of the songs and sonically the album outshines any of its previous siblings.

The album is dripping with melody and songs from the heart and the mind.  Some of it is so simple and so effective the music will lodge itself in your mind and stay there. Take the title track for example.

So, let the story unfold around you and prepare to be dazzled by sublime songwriting and immaculate musicianship. It's like finally going out with that person you've fancied for ages and discovering that they were indeed as lovely as you thought they would be''

But don't just take my word for it. Check out the reviews.

Miracle Mile: 'In Cassidy's Care'

Twitter - @hissytrev  @norburybrook 

Saturday, 23 November 2013

The Archivist - Air - Moon Safari

When I'm not listening to music, I can normally be found in a darkened cinema hall. It's probably the artistic bent. I came across Air when I went to see the Virgin Suicides, a movie by Sofia Coppola and starring Kirstin Dunst.
Although it was quite an unusual movie but what grabbed me most was the soundtrack, which I later discovered was but the French duo Nicolas Godin & Jean Benoit Dunckel aka Air. I went out and purchased the soundtrack to the movie.
I have always liked electronic music. From the initial sounds of 60s bands such as Tonto's Expanding Headband through to the Teutonic sounds of Kraftwerk & Tangerine Dream right through to the 80s revival with the likes of Ultravox & OMD.
Air have carried on this tradition of what is now termed Electronica. Following the score from Virgin, I then discovered their album Moon Safari. I was expecting pretty much the same but was delighted to discover that the boys had used guest vocalists to accompany their soundscapes and create some interesting and sometimes moving songs to balance their atmospheric instrumentals. They even had a couple of hit singles from the album.

It's not often that you get an album on which EVERY track is worthy of merit but Moon Safari is one such album. With it's 70s keyboards it's often referred to as retro but I think it's pretty much timeless and has aged beautifully since it's release back in 1998.

Although the hit singes are obviously the touch stone for the album, it's the instrumental tracks that hold the key to the beauty of the music. In fact, next to Sigur Ros, Moon Safari has probably been raided more than any other by advertising bods who have used the album as a gold mine for soundtracks to advertisements all over the world.

So, slip on the cans and just float away.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Albums of 2013 - The Temperance Movement - The Temperance Movement

Great albums by Rock bands are pretty thin on the ground at the moment but the debut release this year by The Temperance Movement is one great album.
Formed in 2011, the band have a blues rock sound which reminds me of a British Black Crowes. The album took a little while to grow on me as I haven't listened to much Rock, especially British, over the past few years as nothing has really excited me since The Answer's Rise back in 2006ish.
But these guys are The Real Deal. They have certainly caught the imagination of current rock fans who have been starved of a really good British Rock Band and have been awarded Classic Rock Magazine's New Band of the Year 2013. Their recent tour has been a complete sell out with the band needing to move into larger venues almost immediately.
They first released an EP, Pride, was followed by their debut album released in September of this year. It's a classic mixture of Rock & Blues with varying tempos and shades. So if you're in the market for a bit of good old fashioned British Rock then look these guys up. I don't think you'll find a better rock band around at the moment. And if you get a chance to see them, do yourself a favour and go.

Twitter - @TM_Tweets

Live in 2013: The Temperance Movement

One of the great discoveries of this year has been The Globe in Cardiff. It's a tiny little venue that holds about 300 people (at a push) and is upstairs. According to my mate Robert Hurley, it used to be an old cinema. I have been to several gigs there this year before I started the blog but none so rowdy or raw as the gig by The Temperance Movement last week.

Now the rock scene has been crying out for a really great band who can reenergise the genre and with The Temperance Movement, I think they've found one.

But I must admit that I was especially looking forward to the support set by one Joshua James.

I was blown away by his set. Just Joshua, guitarist, bassist & drummer. He played a really passionate set and the crowd's reaction was nice to hear. He has released several albums and played tracks that covered most of the bases.

twitter - @buffalojames

Now the rock scene has been crying out for a really great band. . With The Temperance Movement, Rock has found a band who can re-energise the genre and will definitely pull in fans from right across the musical spectrum.

Live, the band have a swagger that few rock bands have at the moment but it can't be just be down  to attitude. They also have a great stage presence and some brilliant songs to go with it.

The band were really much too big for this tiny venue, they are going to go stellar very soon. In fact, Classic Rock Magazine voted them the best new band this year and I think the word is now out so the chances that they will ever play a gig of this size in the future is almost zero. So I feel privileged to have seen them in such an intimate venue. Next stop in Cardiff will surely be the Motorpoint Arena.

So if you get the chance to catch them live any time next year, then go, because the next time you'll see them in a couple of years time, they'll be pretty far away!!!

Twitter - @TTM_Tweets