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Friday, 21 May 2010

My Favourite Album(s) Part 2

Continuing a list of some of my favourite albums

Magazine - Real Life
When Howard Devoto left The Buzzcocks we wondered what would become of him and exactly what type of music his new band Magazine would be gracing us with. Enter the first single, 'Shot by Both Sides' and you knew right from the off that they were going to be something special.

'Real Life' I believe is their best work ( the other albums that followed were pretty good also, but I'm always charmed by debut albums). Tracks like 'Motorcade' and especially 'The Light Pours Out Of Me' are utterly brilliant.

Hanoi Rocks - 'All Those Wasted Years'
Live albums are rarely brilliant, and most of them are put out by bands to fulfill contractual duties, so it is a rare thing when a Live project is totally brilliant. Hanoi Rocks' 'All Those Wasted Years' (live at The Marquee Club in December 1983 and released in 1984 just as the Finnish boys were about to unleash their CBS debut 'Two Steps From The Move')is in my mind one of the best live albums ever!

It contains all the classic Hanoi Rocks tunes from their previous four releases and whilst they went on to record other great material this record of a fantastic show it is at the top of the highlights of their career.

The Runaways - 'The Runaways'
I was 13 years old when this album was released. Lead vocalist Cherie Currie was only three years older than me!
Girls in rock was such a rare thing, I mean Suzi Quatro had been doing her thing down at 'Devil Gate Drive' but there were not many others. Whatever people might say about The Runaways one thing we have to remember is that they knew how to play rock and roll. Some people disliked that Kim Fowley "exploited" them but decades on from this Cherie Currie, Lita Ford and John Jett are still making music and it doesn't seem to have harmed them too much.
Their debut was not really a punk rock album. Not sure how they got lumped in with that (two tracks of theirs would appear on the 'New Wave' album that was released in 1977 that also included The Dead Boys, Skyhooks, Talking Heads and Flamin' Groovies) but the did have that attitude and swagger. Albums that followed were probably a lot better than the debut but like The Damned, The Clash, The Ramones albums it was a life changing moment hearing it for the first time.

Monday, 17 May 2010

My Favourite Album(s)

From time to time I get asked what is my favourite album. I have to confess that I always find it difficult to name just one, so for the purposes of this blog I will name a few albums that I treasure but by no means is it conclusive and is not in any particular order (if I get some time I'll post about a few more).

The Alarm are one of my favourite bands ever. Even today they are still going strong (albeit with a different line-up to what is on 'Declaration') and are still writing great anthemic rock and roll. I am hard pressed to find a bad track on this album and trying to think of one standout track is nigh impossible.

The release of this album set in motion a renewed love for music after falling out with Punk music when it became consumed with Speed Metal and Oi. It also has opened the door to some of my most lasting friendships with folks from all over the world.

Reggae has always been something I have loved going way back to the old Prince Buster tunes and the 1970's Trojan releases. Trying to pick out my favourite of all Reggae albums though was not easy. I had a short list of three: 'Two Sevens Clash' by Culture, 'M.P.L.A.' by Tappa Zukie and 'The Best Dressed Chicken in Town' by Doctor Alimantado. The good Doctor won out. Whilst most people were fussing over Bob Marley, it was guys like Dr. Alimantado that I thought were doing some of the finest Reggae around. This particular album is loaded with great tunes like 'I Shot the Barber', 'Poison Flour' and 'Johnny Was A Baker'. Also worth checking out is his album 'Born for a Purpose'.

'Damned, Damned, Damned' was of course the first UK Punk album and although bands like the Pistols and The Clash thought The Damned as just a comic act this album was the total opposite. If 'New Rose' was anything to go by then you knew that the album was going to be a scorcher. Twelve slices of fast and furious punk that was like a sonic assulat on your eardrums! The final track on the album is a classic look back to the founding fathers of punk, The Stooges and goes to show that The Damned were a band to be taken seriously. On their third album, 'Machine Gun Etiquette' they would cover MC5's 'Looking At You' and prove again that they were still a force to be reckoned with.

Next to 'High Land, Hard Rain' it is quite possible that 'Stray' is one of the finest releases that Roddy Frame, under the banner of Aztec Camera has ever released. It had been three years in the making after the highly successful 'Love' album and whilst that album had been full on dance/pop, 'Stray' never stuck to one particular formula. Of all the Aztec albums 'Stray' embraced everything from full on Rock and Roll to sensitive Jazz. This would normally be regarded as a recipie for disaster but Roddy Frame pulled it off. Tracks like 'Good Morning Britain' (a collaboration with Mick Jones), the wonderful single 'The Crying Scene', 'Get Outa London' and 'That's How It Is' form the hard rockin spine of the album and whilst they are good tracks it is actually the quieter ones that make this album stand out. 'Stray', 'Over My Head', 'Gentle Kind', Notting Hill Blues' and the beautiful album closer 'Song for a Friend' show off Frame's talent for writing beautiful songs (something he has continued to do as a solo artist).

A quick word in passing about the 1984 release 'Knife' produced by Mark Knopler. This album was totally slated by critics and is still regarded as one of the worst albums that Aztec Camera ever released. I think that is a bit too harsh because apart from the over indulgent title track it it includes some of Roddy's best moments.

This album was the make or break for Springsteen after his first two albums didn't do so well (but a listen to both 'Greetings from Asbury Park' and 'The Wild, The Innocent and the E Street Shuffle' will show you that they are both quality albums.) And what a cracker of an album it is! So much has been written about it over the years that I scarcely need to heap any more praise upon it. It has only eight songs on it but the stories those songs tell laid the foundation for my longing for life, travel, love and a host of other things. 'Thunder Road' sets off the journey and it's a wild roller coaster ride the rest of the way.

Springsteen of course has recorded many great albums but none come close to topping 'Born to Run' - though saying that, 'Nebraska' comes a very close second!

I was never a Mod but there were a number of Mod bands that I had the pleasure of working with and loved their music (Long Tall Shorty, Secret Affair, Purple Hearts & The Teenbeats to name but a few). The Chords were one of those bands. They put out a number of cracking singles ('Maybe Tomorrow' quite possibly their best) and one of the great debut albums of all time (well according to me anyway!) in 'So Far Away'. The Jam were always considered the front runners when it came to Mod music in the '80's and whilst I liked a lot of material that Weller & Co released, it would be wrong to not to place The Chords in second place. Live they were stunning to see and the twelve tracks that made up their debut showed that they meant business.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Release The Pressure Tour Part 17: Liverpool - O2 Academy - 2nd May 2010

Last night of the tour.

The full set was as follows:

Direct Action, Absolute Reality, Alarm Calling, Marching On, Loaded, Rain In The Summertime, Change 111, Where Were You Hiding When The Storm Broke, Drunk & Disorderly, Blaze of Glory, Release The Pressure, Strength, Rescue Me, 45 RPM, 68 Guns.

The encores were:

Mike solo - Deeside Town, Declare Yourself An Unsafe Building. Walk Forever By My Side (with Mark Taylor). The Alarm - Spirit of 76, One Guitar (with Willie Nile), Love Hope & Strength – Blaze of Glory (reprise) – Love Hope & Strength.

Knocking On Heaven’s Door (with Killing for Company & Willie Nile).

The Videos and lots of them.

Killing for Company - Born Yesterday

Willie Nile
House of a Thousand Guitars

Hard Times in America (UK)

I Wanna Be Sedated

The Alarm
Direct Action

Absolute Reality


Rain in the Summertime

Blaze of Glory

Rescue Me

68 Guns

Spirit of 76

One Guitar (with Willie Nile)

Love Hope & Strength (with Willie Nile)

Knocking on Heaven's Door

All pictures by MPO. Many thanks.
Also big thanks to all who shot the various videos that are posted here. There's too many name to name. Your dedication to The Alarm on this tour has given those who were unable to attend a small snapshot of the energy, passion and down right fun that was had. I salute you.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Release The Pressure Tour Part 16: Edinburgh - Citrus Club - 1st May 2010

The full set was as follows:

Marching On, Where Were You Hiding When The Storm Broke, Direct Action, Absolute Reality, Alarm Calling, Superchannel, Rescue Me, Drunk & Disorderly, Release The Pressure, 45 RPM, Blaze of Glory, Strength, Walk Forever By My Side, Spirit of 76, 68 Guns.

The encores were:

In A Big Country, One Guitar, Love Hope & Strength – Blaze of Glory (reprise) – Love Hope & Strength.

One really special moment of the show was when Mike asked on behalf of Carole Johnston if her boyfriend David Wallace would marry her. Carole had contacted Jules Peters to ask if this would be something Mike could do. Of course Mr Peters agreed and prior to singing 'Walk Forever By My Side' did the deed. The good news is that David said yes. Just another reminder of how music brings people together.

The Video(s)

Marching On

Direct Action

Where Were You Hiding When the Storm Broke

Absolute Reality


Marriage Proposal & Walk Forever By My Side

Carole & David pictured at the front of the stage just after the proposal (picture care of Duds)

Love Hope & Strength

Release The Pressure Tour: Mike Peters Interview

wohomusic did an inteview with Mike Peters a few days back in Nottingham at the Rescue Rooms. Click on the link and you can hear it for yourself.

Release The Pressure Tour Part 15: Glasgow - ABC2 30th April 2010

It was nice to see a few faces that we know at the Glasgow show, but due to being hampered by my inability to move so freely I didn't get hardly anytime to really chat with the likes of Shirley, Jo & Caroline, Jamie, James and Steven. This little disappointment though was softened by the fact that I met a lad called Graeme Aitken, a major Alarm fan and a huge fan of many of the bands that I grew up listening to. He told me to look out for him as he had an Alarm CD for me (A Live in London EP and a 1983 show at Nightmoves in Glasgow). It was funny because the place where we found a seat was sitting right next to him and his wife!

There was meant to be another support band on the bill but for some reason they had not appeared. Not to worry though because at 8pm on stage stepped Willie Nile and he blew us all away with a nice short & sharp set that had us longing for more (I spoke to him afterwards and he said he is hoping to be back in the UK in October with a band). Willie Nile is a really great song writer. I purchased a couple of his albums last week on Amazon and was totally blown away by just how good he is. He has to be New York's biggest secret. I cannot for the life of me remember a support act that I have enjoyed as much as I did his set.

Willie Nile - one of the best NYC artists I've ever seen.

9PM The Alarm enter the stage. One thing is apparent from the place where we are seated is that I would be unable to get many decent photos. Taking pictures at shows is part of my enjoyment of music and often I feel the more I am into the sounds the more pictures I take. So feeling rather frustrated at my inability to take any decent shots I decided to try and just enter into the spirit of the event and enjoy the music.

The Alarm Set List:
Direct Action, Absolute Reality, Alarm Calling, Marching On My Town, Rain in the Summertime, Change III, Where were You Hiding, Drunk & Disorderly, Blaze of Glory, Release the Pressure, Strength, Rescue Me, 45RPM, 68 Guns. Encore: (Mike Solo) The Deceiver, The Stand, Majority. (With the Band) Walk Forever By My Side, Spirit of 76, One Guitar (with Willie Nile) and Love Hope & Strength.

After seeing all the videos from previous shows on the tour I knew what to expect from The Alarm. Their performance was tight and Smiley certainly is a great drummer (though I'm not convinced by a few folks I've heard that he should have the drum stool full time!). The addition of Mark Taylor on the keyboards brought some nice tone on songs like 'Strength' and 'The Drunk and Disorderly'. James and Craig as usual were coolness personified. As for Mike, well he is just a ball of energy. Loads of us always say we wonder where he gets it from and tonight he was no different. He flew around the stage like a man possessed. Jumping into the crowd, doing Townsend like whirling and attacking familiar songs as if they were urgent messages he needed to convey.

If there is any criticism of the performance it is that I would have loved to hear more of the songs from the new project. Only four songs from 'Direct Action' have been present the whole tour and it would be great to see them adding great tunes like 'Higher Call', 'Plastic Carrier Bags' 'Loaded' and 'Milk and Opportunity' into the mix.

Due to the non appearance of the other support band The Alarm had a little bit more time on their hands before what has become the customary kick out at 10.30pm. So after a rousing '68 Guns' Mike came on stage on his own and played through 'The Deceiver', 'The Stand' and 'Majority' before Mark Taylor joined him on a beautiful 'Walk Forever By My Side' - which the Glasgow crowd sung with great gusto. The band returned and 'Spirit of 76' followed. Willie Nile came back on stage and joined the band for a full on version of 'One Guitar' with both Mike and Willie sharing lead vocal duties. 'Love, Hope & Strength' ended the show.

All in all it was a great performance but as I said it would have been nicer to hear a bit more of the newer album.

The Video(s)

Marching On

Release the Pressure

One Guitar

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