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Friday, 30 March 2012

Bruce Springsteen - Wrecking Ball Tour - Philadelphia 29th March 2012

Intro/We Take Care of Our Own
Wrecking Ball
Death to My Hometown
My City of Ruins
Jack of All Trades
Easy Money
Prove It All Night
Waitin' on a Sunny Day
The Promised Land
Apollo Medley
The Rising
We Are Alive
Thunder Road
* * *
Rocky Ground (with Michelle Moore)
Born to Run
Dancing in the Dark
Tenth Avenue Freeze-out 

Next Date on the Tour is at the Verison Center, Washington DC Sunday 1st April

Bruce Springsteen - Wrecking Ball Tour - Philadelphia 28th March 2012

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Darren Murphy RIP - Wasted Youth

Was saddened to read the news of the passing of Darren Murphy, bassist of Wasted Youth. Classic Rock Magazine had a short paragraph about it stating that he had died on the 15th February 2012. Darren was 50 years old and died from Cancer.

Wasted Youth were on the scene between 1979-82

Debut Single 'Jealousy'

I'll Remember You

Rebecca's Room

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Small Faces Reissues

In the 1960's there were only three bands that really mattered (and I say that not to offend any fans of The Beatles or The Rolling Stones, but because it's my blog, and hence, my choices!) - The Who, The Kinks and the Small Faces.

When it came to singers the two who stood out for me were Eric Burdon of The Animals and Steve Marriott of the Small Faces.

Very excited by the news that four albums are getting the Deluxe treatment and all four will be released on May 7th 2012.

First up is the 1966 Debut 'Small Faces'
The debut album includes their first two hit singles 'Whatcha Gonna Do About It' (reached #14) and 'Sha-La-La-La-Lee' (reached #3 in the charts)

Then it's the 1967 album 'From the Beginning'
Decca released this album after the band had left to sign for Immediate and it is regarded as an Unofficial Retrospective of their time at the label. Decca actually released this when the band hit the charts with their first Immediate single 'Here Comes The Nice'. The album includes their only #1 Hit 'All or Nothing'.
Their first Immediate album release from 1967 also titled 'Small Faces'
'Small Faces' is the 2nd studio album of the band and was rush released a couple of weeks after Decca had put out 'From The Beginning'. 1967 turned out to be quite a good year for the Small Faces as they enjoyed hit singles with 'Itchycoo Park' and the magnificent 'Tin Soldier'.

and the brilliant 'Ogdens' Nut Gone Flake' from 1968
 Ogdens' contains the hit single 'Lazy Sunday' that was released prior to the album release and against the wishes of the band. The the second half of the album is a concept based on a fairy tale! The album has one of my favourite tunes of the Small Faces - 'Song of a Baker'. The whole album shows off the quality songwriting of Steve Marriott, Ian McLagan and Ronnie Lane, but particularly the partnership of Marriott and Lane.

The first three titles are all expanded to two disc sets and Ogdens' is expanded to a three disc set. Kenney Jones and Ian McLagen have been involved in the remastering of the four albums and of putting together the bonus discs which feature Alternate versions, mixes, rare outtakes, and both Stereo and Mono recordings of the albums. The liner notes are to be written by Mark Paytress and include interviews with both Jones and McLagen as well as rare photos of the band.

Prices on Amazon range from £11.99 to £13.99.

Gems from my Collection - Stanley Road by Paul Weller

'Stanley Road' I think is one of Weller's finest solo releases. A #1 album that contained four singles that reached the Top 20 (The Changingman highest placed at #7). Released in 1995 (I can hardly believe that it's been around that long!) and has guest spots by Noel Gallagher (Oasis) and the brilliant Steve Winwood.

The Changingman (Later with Jools Holland)

Porcelin Gods (Later with Jools Holland)

I Walk On Gilded Splinters (Electric Proms)

You Do Something To Me (Later with Jools Holland)

Woodcutters Son (Hyde Park ft Kelly Jones)

Time Passes (Audio live in Hamburg)

Stanley Road (Later with Jools Holland)

Broken Stones (Promo)

Out of the Sinking (Live Acoustic)

Pink On White Walls (Audio Track)

Whirlpools End (Later with Jools Holland)

Wings of Speed (Later with Jools Holland)

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Wrecking Ball Tour 2012 Opening Night, Atlanta

The 'Wrecking Ball' kicked off in style three days ago in Atlanta after two energy packed warm up shows (at The Apollo in NY 9th March 2012 and SXSW 15th March 2012) and featured nine of the tracks from the latest album.

Monday, 19 March 2012

Dion - Tank Full of Blues 2012

Dion DiMucci has been making music since the 1950's, releasing his first single ('I Wonder Why') with the Belmonts in 1957 and they enjoyed a few hit singles (the biggest being 'A Teenager in Love' that reached #5) before Dion launced out on his own and amassed a number of hit singles ('Runaround Sue', 'The Wanderer', 'The Majestic', 'Lovers Who Wander', 'Ruby Baby', 'Donna the Prima Donna', 'Drip Drop', and 'Abraham, Martin and John').

Albumwise, Dion's output has been a bit of a mixed bag with very few hits but the quality of the music has always been very high, even on albums that he released in the Christian market (he even managed to win a Dove award for the 1983 album 'I Put Away My Idols' and was nominated for a Grammy for the same album).

1989 Dion was inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with Lou Reed giving the induction speech and that same year one of his best albums was released (though it hardly got the recognition it deserved reaching only #130 on the Billboard Charts) in 'Yo Frankie'.

Some of Dion's finest work for years was to appear on the album that featured Lou Reed, Paul Simon, Dave Edmunds, and k.d. Lang among its guests. 'King of the New York Streets' was like a modern rendition of 'The Wanderer':

"People call me the scandalizer
 The world was my appetizer
 I turned gangs into fertilizer
 The king of the New York streets...
I didn't need no bodyguard
 I just ruled from my backyard
 Livin's fast livin' hard
 King of the New York streets"

 In 2000 he released 'Déjà Nu' which included covers of Springsteen's 'Book of Dreams' and 'If I Should Fall Behind'.

2006 and 2007 Dion released two superb Blues albums ('Bronx in Blue' - Listen to 'Who Do You Love' Here and 'Son of Skip' - Listen to the Title Track Here) and followed them up in 2008 with a wonderful collection called 'Heroes: Giants of Early Guitar Rock' that included superb covers of everyone from Elvis, Eddie Cochran, Buddy Holly (Listen to Dion's version of 'Rave On' Here), Roy Orbison, Bill Haley and Johnny Cash to name a few.

Four years on from that we have this new collection by Dion called 'Tank Full of Blues' (Listen to the Title Track Here), and there is little to disappoint on it. I've already added it to the list of my favourite albums of 2012.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Classic Album 1979 - Damn the Torpedoes - Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

Third albums have always been make or break for a band and none more so than Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers 1979 classic 'Damn the Torpedoes'. The album almost never made it out due to a dispute with their record label Shelter that had been purchased by MCA. Petty stood his ground, went bankrupt and MCA backed down allowing the band to sign to Backstreet Records (that would have their distribution via MCA).

Denny Cordell, who had produced the first two albums was dispensed with as the band thought they had got as far as they could soundwise with him and on board jumped Jimmy Iovine who co-produced the album with Tom Petty.

Released in October 1979 the album speed up the charts peaking at #2 in the USA (their debut in 1976 barely reached #55 and the follow up 'You're Gonna Get It' crept into the Top 30 stumbling at #23). It would be their highest place album until 2010's 'Mojo' also got stuck at #2.

All songs were written by Tom Petty, except where noted.

Track Listing

Side one

  1. "Refugee" (Petty, Mike Campbell) – 3:22
  2. "Here Comes My Girl" (Petty, Campbell) – 4:27
  3. "Even the Losers" – 4:01
  4. "Shadow of a Doubt (A Complex Kid)" – 4:25
  5. "Century City" – 3:45

 Side two

  1. "Don't Do Me Like That" – 2:44
  2. "You Tell Me" – 4:35
  3. "What Are You Doin' in My Life?" – 3:27
  4. "Louisiana Rain" – 5:54
Three singles were culled from the album, the first being 'Don't Do Me Like That' (November 1979). What's amazing about this track is that it began life as a Mudcrutch track (the band that Petty/Campbell/Tench had been a part of prior to launching out as Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers) and their version finally appreared on the 1995 'Playback' collection. They had considered it for the first two albums as well but passed over it, so it is a wonder that it ever turned up on this album (and nearly didn't but thanks to someone at the studio who thought it was good and fitted in well with the rest of the album it became the side two opener and the first single). That little stroke of "luck" saw Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers gain their first Top Ten hit! Second single release was 'Refugee' (January 1980) and again they achieved some success with the song peaking at #15. 'Here Comes My Girl' was the third and final single from the album (released April 1980). The song didn't do as good as the first two singles reaching only #59 in the USA.

Side One
1. Refugee

2. Here Comes My Girl

3. Even The Losers

4. Shadow of a Doubt (A Complex Kid)

5. Century City

Side Two
1. Don't Do Me Like That

2. You Tell Me

3. What Are You Doin' In My Life
No Video

4. Louisiana Rain

Listen to the whole album here!

Bruce Springsteen Cover Me!

Over the years Springsteen has had a number of his songs performed by others, his most famous one of course is probably 'Because the Night' (co-written with Patti Smith), and then of course there was 'Fire' by The Pointer Sisters.

Have been listening to a bunch of cover albums of Springsteen's songs and thought it would be good to bring a few of them together under one banner.

The Knack - 'Don't Look Back'

Johnny Cash - 'I'm On Fire'

Billy Bragg and the Blokes - 'Mansion on the Hill'

Frank Turner - 'Thunder Road'

Dion - 'If I Should Fall Behind'

Brian Fallon - 'Backstreets'

Juliana Hatfield - 'Cover Me'

Melissa Etheridge - 'Born to Run'

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Let Me Introduce you to the One and Only Phil Gabriel

  • Graeme Watt is a good friend of mine and the man behind a new project called Phil Gabriel. So without further ado let me introduce you to my friend and the story behind his new album 'Intense Sense of Permance
    S4L: So who is Phil Gabriel? Where are you from and where are you going?

    GW: Originally Phil Gabriel was thought up after my friend Jed brought round a VHS copy of Peter Gabriel’s Secret World Concert. I watched it and was inspired by the music and massive production value of the live performance. Before long I had written and recorded demos of some songs that were intended as kind of a respectful imitation of that style of music. I liked the songs so I decided to share them but I have always cringed when letting people hear my music so, just like with Rodent Emporium I decided to shield myself behind the veil of comedy. I created a Myspace with a fake persona and an equally fake and ridiculous back story. Phil Gabriel was born. For a while there it was going to be Peter Collins but I thought better of it. 

    I put the songs on the myspace (Click to go to Phil's Myspace Page), a hastily produced music video of myself, singing a ballad in a dark room with sunglasses on and of a fake discography, complete with ten previous album covers that I created on photoshop just to add to the myth. Titles like “Running on Fumes”,” Magician” and “Abomination” and of course a “Greatest Hits” .

    At the time I was one of many people who were members of the now defunct Livingston Music Scene website, a forum for a collective of music lovers and musicians from West Lothian and Edinburgh. It was quiet vibrant at one time (until everybody migrated to Facebook). I announced the launch of the myspace on that same forum and it generated quite a bit of interest. Some people suggested that in spite of it being a parody the songs were really good and original and I should actually think about playing them live so knowing quite a few musicians who were playing in established bands I was able to assemble a group of willing and very talented players with surprising ease, these musician friends of mine where, in fact, quite eager to get involved because of the uniqueness of what I was doing.

    I managed to pull off a coup because I recruited Douglas Clarke who I reckon is one of the finest guitarists in Scotland right now and Bruce Wallace (Guitar) and Neil Warrack (keys). Both Bruce and Neil play in Super Adventure Club, a band who once played a live session on Radio 1, Nicol Hay of Bo Deadly on Bass and Ricki Thomson of Jackie Treehorn. Although we played a couple of shows together only Doug, Ricki and Myself appear on the album, Allan Forsyth of Rodent Emporium has been asked to join on bass but is yet to make his live debut. 

    One of the guys from the scene (Martyn Robertson) surprised me one night when he emailed me a rather in depth blurb he had written based on the album covers he had seen on my website, it contained his musings on the what these fake albums must have sounded like, it read like a magazine article and I was stunned that the guy had taken time out to do this, on the album “Abomination” he wrote ”this album was written at a time when Phil Gabriel was losing it a wee bit with fame and pressure and during this time he was apparently spotted in Greggs the bakers wearing a dressing gown and pink furry slippers shouting “don’t you know who I am?!” after being served a cold steak bake”. I laughed so much I put it on the myspace and I asked him to write the official band bio for Phil for the myspace as well. He also wrote our current bio.

    Short answer is (According to Martyn) Phil Gabriel is an eccentric and enigmatic singer songwriter, recording artist and performer from the fictional town of Crumley . He has had a string of top ten albums since his multi-platinum selling debut “Squander Everything” in 1982 and has been touring the world, selling out Stadia all through a career littered with awards and accolades. 

    The current and real world version is that Phil Gabriel are a Pop/Rock band from Glasgow who are going to be playing live in a town near you soon with a show packed with big choruses and a bigger performance. The songs and the performance will speak for them-selves I hope. It also means I don’t need to play to a character, too much pressure. People will make up their own mind based on what they see.

    S4L: What inspires you to write?

    GW: Current events, feelings, hopes and dreams. I don’t set out to write personal stuff but whenever you express yourself artistically you un-wittingly reveal yourself on one or more levels. You can tell a lot about the writer from the song even if there are few or no lyrics sometimes just by the vibe.

    I listen to a lot of music and I find myself getting inspired constantly, music is very powerful in the way that it evokes an emotional response. Sometimes when the music I listen to impacts me I try to replicate it when I write and record a song. I often find that when I hear a song and I think “I want a song like that” I sit down to write it and end up with something totally different and original. That’s what it’s been like throughout my time with Rodent Emporium.

    I also like themes. I’m a big fan of 70’s and 80’s British rock and the backdrop against which it’s set. I like the pictures that Pink Floyd paint with their songs: madness, quiet desperation, economic hardship, all set against this British industrial greyish landscape.
    I get nostalgic about my youth as well and to me Pink Floyd and all those old British bands remind me of grey buildings, grey school trousers, long hair, mix-tapes, corporation buses, British Rail, listening to my older brother and sister playing their L.P’s in their rooms. It’s all like it’s out of a Nick Hornby book. For me my album captures this nostalgia.

    S4L:Tell us a little bit about the album, track by track, and how someone can get hold of a copy.

    GW: The album was the last of the “fake albums” on the old discography which of course is no more but I liked the name so much that I kept it. I have released on free on Bandcamp which is website designed for artists to sell and share their work. You can listen to or download in MP3 or FLAC and other formats completely free at

    The first track on the album is “Come sing that Song to me” which is very similar in style to Come Talk to me which is the song Peter Gabriel opened his Secret World Concert with. In the video he emerges from under the stage inside a big red phone box, singing down the telephone. That song seemed like as good a place to start so I wrote “Come sing” in that vein.
    If I Walk Backwards: was inspired by a friend who wrote the phrase” if I walk backwards away from you I will never lose sight of you” when I asked him about song ideas. Although at first the concept seemed ridiculous it now makes perfect sense to me that the guy in the song can’t take his eyes off of her even although he has to leave her.

    : came out of thin air, I can’t even remember what I was thinking when I wrote it. And I wasn’t too convinced with the song at first. It took me a while to finish it but I’m glad I did because the rollicking strut and pomposity of that track sets it apart. It’s been compared to Easy Lover but I will swear hand on heart that I wasn’t even thinking about the Phil Collins (and Phil Bailey) song at the time. It’s a cautionary tale about a dangerous woman. If anything I’d compare it to Cliff Richard’s Devil woman!

    Intense Sense of Permanence: started out life as a ballad but I revisited it and added a very wordy verse to it, put a 4/4 beat on it and that kind of made it new wave. It’s the song that I struggle to explain the most because it’s littered with phrases that don’t seem to make any sense when put together but if I was pressed into explaining it I’d say it’s about the chaos and unfocused nature of life versus the eventual clarity of a man on his death bed wondering if all the hustle-bustle was worth it.

    No Turning Back
    : This song exists for one reason. Phil Gabriel needed a ballad. So I fell back on the deeply personal songs that used to make me cringe. Except this time because it was Phil Gabriel singing so I didn’t care. I think every songwriter has had a few “you help me up when I fall down” songs and this was the one that worked for me. The line: “I will not surrender, I will not retreat, I will stand by you, till the both of us are free” is one of the best things I’ve ever written in ink.

    Computer Age
    : We were the last family in the street to get a video player, I was the last of all my friends to get a mobile phone and one of the last people I knew to eventually get a PC. The world of computers is very daunting one. I’ve always wondered what my life would have been like if I had never had a computer or a mobile phone and I’m pretty sure it would radically different. They have found their way into every facet of our life. One thing’s for sure, if things go the way they are going Computers will need us way less than we need them and when that happens we are all in big trouble. I view The Terminator as a wake-up call rather than a movie. 

    Computer Age - Phil Gabriel

    You Know Me, I Know You
    : This was the most serious song I had ever written. It was about being angry and not wanting anybody to ask what was wrong. It turned out to be quite a long song after we rehearsed it as we added a big jam section before the last chorus. When we played it live I would introduce each member of the band and they would each take a solo on their respective instruments. The jam section on the studio version contains a virtuoso guitar solo from Douglas Clarke the lead guitarist.

    Enigma Girl
    : This almost doesn’t sound like it belongs on the album because of the synths. I love the chorus about her being “so hard to define” and I also get to use the word obfuscation which I’m quite proud of. This is about every really cool girl that I have ever sought after, so funny, cool and smart but for some reason or other completely unattainable, either because they are spoken for or just not into you.

    Modern Life: “Modern life is hard sometimes” is my anthem for the people of today.

    Import Export
    : It’s about unfair trade. It costs less to make stuff abroad and these people get paid lower wages to make it and yet people in this country are losing their jobs as well when stuff gets outsourced overseas. It’s hopelessly unfair and the only benefactors are the companies and the consumers who get things cheaper but the workers always get a raw deal...or something like that.

    End of the Line
    : This is our show stopping, show closer. It’s about closure and moving on and it’s an anthem. I love singing this song.

    S4L: Any plans to do any live promotion for the album?

    GW: Yes, as much as we can. The band has played live before and it was well received. The performance side of things will be key, not many people know about the band and the only way for people to get us will be on the basis of seeing us live. It’s anybody’s guess as to how strangers will take us.

    S4L: Are there any artists that you like that you have drawn inspiration from?

    GW: I’m a huge fan of Springsteen, Genesis, Zeppelin, Floyd to name but a few but I can’t really put my finger on where the direct influence comes from. Bob Dylan and the Beatles made me want to play the guitar and write songs, so in those terms they are my biggest influences.

    S4L:What is your favourite album, song, live show?

    GW: Holy crap! Those are difficult questions. Probably Rumours by Fleetwood Mac or Yield by Pearl Jam.
    Song is Born to Run by the Boss because you no-one will ever write a better song.
    I haven’t been to many shows but Rush on the Time Machine Tour last year was a stand out.

    S4L: Have you been able to play any of your music on your recent trip to the USA?

    GW: Only opportunity was when Stuart (Rodent Emporium) told a couple of guys who were interviewing Rodent Emporium about it and they asked me to play a Phil Gabriel tune on their guitar. Aside from that and also the fact that Allan Forsyth who plays Bass for Rodent Emporium and also Phil Gabriel, I like to keep the two bands completely separate from one another.

    S4L: You've been involved in music for quite a while now with bands etc, is Phil Gabriel something you hope to keep going for some time and how does it differ from working with a band for you?

    GW: Phil Gabriel is the first opportunity I’ve had to showcase the more contemporary music that I write. Being in a band like Rodent Emporium is great because of the energy and the rush I get from playing that high octane stuff to a bunch of people who are going nuts for it I love playing with those guys. Being in a band for me is like playing in a football team, especially on tour. Everyone working together toward a common goal, we ride the same wave we win together and we lose together, equal partners all the way, it feels good standing on the same stage together side by side with them. In Phil Gabriel I steer the ship and it’s my vision and especially at this early stage I wonder if I can pull it off because Stuart of the Rodents is such an enigmatic front-man, he really commands the stage. It is really hard to be in that position. It puts a lot of strain on someone when you are on show every night like that. At least in Rodent Emporium I can blend into the background.

    S4L: Best piece of advice you have been given?

    GW: To whom much is given, much is required.

    S4L: Future plans for Phil Gabriel?

    GW: The name of the band may confuse some because it’s not a name of a guy anymore it’s the name of the band. I don’t mind if people call me Phil Gabriel coz that’s part of the fun but I won’t be talking with a public school educated Englishman’s accent anymore like I did in the early shows. Dave Grohl once said that if he’d known the Foo Fighters would get so big he wouldn’t have called them the Foo Fighters. We don’t care because we don’t know any different, that’s just what we’ve always known them as. 

    There will be a few people annoyed that the old persona or myth doesn’t exist anymore but it’s about looking forward, not back, I have a full album of new material already written to follow up this album with. I just hope people like what I’ve got to say and like the music. I’m open to whatever happens, I’m all for just putting it out there, opening every door that’s in front of me and seeing what happens. You have to be in it to win it.

    Remember to checkout Phil Gabriel's Bandcamp Page to Listen and Download 'Intense Sense of Permanence' 

    Check Out Phil Gabriel on Facebook

Thursday, 8 March 2012

The Members - InGrrLand (2012)

One of the things I always remember about The Members is that they wrote some pretty amazing tunes. Everyone knows 'Sound of the Suburbs' and other classics like 'Offshore Banking Business', 'Killing Time' and 'Working Girl' and some of those brilliant album tracks like 'Soho-A-Go-Go', 'Love in a Lift', 'Brian Was' and 'Gang War', so it's no surprise that JC Carroll (who has continued The Members great legacy) and friends have put together a mighty rocking album that sits quite well in 2012.

A few of the tunes have been around for a wee while - New English Blues Part 2 (which was my joint favourite single of 2011 along with The Godfathers brilliant track 'Back into the Future'), NW10, and M1DL1FECRi5i5
but they do sit nicely among the other 9 tracks. Musically it's not like The Members of old, but lyrically it is. Chris Payne and Nigel Bennet were of course part of the original band and it's great to hear them with the band again. On the drums there are two Punk Legends - Nick Cash (Not Lead Vocalist of 999) and Rat Scabies of The Damned (currently the live drummer for The Members and working with former guitarist of The Damned, Brian James).

Actually when it comes to the music at times there is almost a 1960's Psychedelic thing happening, especially on 'Ain' Goin' Be Yo' Bitch No Mo' and the brilliant cover of The Move's 'Fire Brigade', so mix that sound with Blues, Reggae and the Punky rock groove and it serves up a nice variation.

I could waffle on about it more. But I'll let the music do the talking:

New English Blues Part 2


Album Preview

A Post-Punk Masterpiece indeed!

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Ian McNabb - Little Episodes

It's been a couple of years since Ian McNabb put out a Solo Album and so in November 2011 he poured out his heart and soul onto paper (or a notebook...or whatever singers write their songs on these days) and in December off he wandered to the studio to record the said set of songs. In the liner notes for the album 'Little Episodes' he says, "I don't think I've written that many songs so quickly in one sitting ever before, and certainly not used them all on one album in virtually the same order as I wrote them. The muse was with me."

And what an absolutely smashing set of songs they are. It does seem to be a bit fashionable these days to get all rootsy and go back to playing acoustic guitars on albums, but I dare not for a moment suggest that Mr McNabb (notice the respect there..nudge nudge, wink wink!) is trying to be fashionable, because that's not and has never been his forte.

What makes this album so good is the wonderful simplicity of it all. The music is fairly basic, by that I mean there is not an awful lot of instrumentation on it, and the driving force of the album is actually the voice of Ian McNabb. I knew the lad could sing but on this one his vocals are so front and centre and they leap at you and draw you into the tales the songs are telling. Add to that the mesmerizing backing vocals by Danielle Laura Perkins on eight of the twelve tracks - she does such wonderful harmonies with Ian McNabb that it kind of reminded me of some of those great bands in the 60's that always had perfect harmony (like The Mama's and The Papa's for example).

I don't want to be one of those guys who always compares one artist with another, because that is not actually fair particularly to the artist you are trying to focus your attention on and so when I say that songs like 'Only Children' sound to my ears like CSNY I hope that he doesn't take it the wrong way, because it is meant to be complimentary, and throughout the album I couldn't help thinking about Neil Young in particular (though Ian's voice is much richer sounding to me rather than whiney like Mr Young often sounds...if you really like Neil Young please don't beat me up, I do actually like his music!).

My favourites so far from the album are 'Only Children', 'High on a Hill', 'Abigail Rain', and I think 'A Heart That You Can Borrow' is going to go on my list of brilliant songs for 2012.

Enough of my waffling though, here's Ian McNabb performing a few of the songs from 'Little Episodes'. If I can say one last thing...Go and Buy It Now!

He Wrote Himself A Letter (Live in Stockport 16th Feb 2012)

Abigail Rain (Live in Stockport 16th Feb 2012)

To Love and To Let Go (Live in Stockport 16th Feb 2012)

King of Hearts (Live in Stockport 16th Feb 2012)

Monday, 5 March 2012

Wrecking Ball - Released Today - a Track by Track Assessment

So, Mr Springsteen has graced us with his 17th Studio Recording and it is clearly one of his angriest and bitterest yet!

The reviews from the music press have been pretty upbeat about the album and Springsteen himself has been having a blast in preparation for release day (today in the UK and tomorrow in the USA). Last week on The Late Night with Jimmy Fallon Show he appeared at the start of the week and performed the single (and opening track) 'We Take Care of Our Own' and ended the week with two songs from the album ('Death to My Hometown' and 'Jack of All Trades') along with a storming version of 'The E Street Shuffle' with the E Street Band and Fallon's house band The Roots.

To see Fallon performances go to this link and you can follow the other links to see what went on at 'Bruce Springsteen Week' on  Click Here for The Late Night with Jimmy Fallon videos

Track by Track

01. We Take Care of Our Own
This could quite easily be one of Bruce's most misunderstood songs since 'Born in the USA'. Andy Gill from Uncut Magazine put it in words better than I ever could: it "sounds like a typical Springsteen anthem of uplift, a celebration of fellowship and community that one can see being hijacked by politicians the next time Navy Seals pluck an American citizen from the clutches of Somalian pirates, or take out some high-level jihadist. 'Wherever this flag flies,' he sings, 'we take care of our own.' But then you start hearing what he's actually saying, and it's another 'Born in the USA' moment, as he pours out condemnatory question after question: 'Where's the promise from sea to shining sea?/Where's the work that will set my hands and my soul free?' And the song's most potent image, 'from the shotgun shack to the Superdome', transforms from a superficially bullish expression of inter-class community to something with a sting in its tail, the mention of the Superdome inevitably drawing one's mind back to Hurricane Katrina, when America signally failed to take care of its own. That disregard, he suggests, has spread across the entire country."

02. Easy Money. 03 Shackled and Drawn. 04. Jack of All Trades
This lack of care that seems to have pervaded society appears to be a running theme through the next number of songs. Springsteen has his sights set on the culprits, "them fat cats" and "bankers" . He doesn't go easy on them. In 'Easy Money' he says that they'll "just think it's funny" as they observe those out to make a buck just to survive, making the easy money by a life of crime!. In 'Shackled and Drawn' he goes a little further with a stinging indictment of the current situation facing the working classes: "Gambling man rolls the dice, workingman pays the bill/It's still fat and easy up on banker's hill/Up on banker's hill, the party's going strong/Down here below we're shackled and drawn." On 'Jack of all Trades' he lays the picture out perfectly in all it's grizzly reality: "The banker man grows fat/working man grows thin/it's all happened before and it'll happen again", how to deal with it? Springsteen's view of the down-trodden man sees only one option: "If I had me a gun/I'd find the bastards and shoot 'em on sight!"

05. Death To My Hometown
Big business, Government and Bankers seem to be the ones again who are responsible for this little truth. They seem to happily leave the poorest to the "vultures" who "picked our bones", and the death of the hometown has come not as a result of a war, a riot but as the character in the songs says, " I awoke on a quiet night/I never heard a sound/The Marauders raided in the dark," and it seems they are not done as "they'll be returning/sure as the rising sun". So we need to be on watch because it might be our hometown next!

06. This Depression
With the world so bleak it's no wonder that 'depression', not only economic depression but emotional depression,  is a result! Love is the only way to get over it: "I need your heart". How many of us can testify along with Bruce that, "Baby, I've been down, but never this down...Baby, I've been low, but never this low/I've had my faith shaken but never hopeless"? And in a way the hope that seemed apparant on 'Working on a Dream', inspired no doubt with the rise of Obama, is quite absent on this album apart from a few glimpses now and again.

07. Wrecking Ball
Even the title track is a like a picture of a failing society. The song of course was written for Giants Stadium during the Working on a Dream Tour and was a 'celebration' of it's coming down, but lyrically the song could easily be about the collapse of the world around us with the economic decline and the bankers plunging folks lives into chaos. Springsteen somehow wants us to keep ourselves in check: "Yeah, we know that come tomorrow none of this will be here/So hold on tight to your anger, hold tight to your anger, hold tight to your anger/and don't fall to your fears", which is easier said than done! The over-riding theme of the song as I see it is that no matter what is happening, I shall be defient and live the life I have: "C'mon and take your best shot/Let me see what you got/Bring on your wrecking ball."

08. You've Got It
Springsteen manages to capture in one of the most simplest of songs something we call "IT" and it seems this "It" is something so special that "No one can break it/Ain't no one can steal it/Ain't no one can fake it" - he stated many years ago in a song, "I wanna know if love is real!" and here finally he has the answer!

09. Rocky Ground
So all this travelling through a bleak world on "Rocky Ground", with a loss of faith and hope can so easily take it's toll but hold on, there's "A new day coming!" A spark of light as we near the end of the album.

10. Land of Hope and Dreams
It seems like an old standard now but given it's first studio outing and contains Clarence's Sax solo (a reminder of brighter days in the E Street camp), and more than any other track on the album the light of hope seems to shine just a little brighter. It's a song for all of us "saints and sinners...losers and winners...whores and gamblers." It's a song that urges us to get on board "this train" and to know that we are not alone: "Well, I will provide for you/And I'll stand by your side/You'll need a good companion now/For this part of the ride/Leave behind your sorrows/Let this day be the last/Tomorrow there'll be sunshine/And all this darkness past".

11. We Are Alive
As if we needed reminding that no matter what the state of the world is, no matter how bleak the economic crisis or the loss of faith and hope, we are still alive! We are in this together: "To fight shoulder to shoulder and heart to heart/To stand shoulder to shoulder and heart to heart/We are alive".

It sounds like it's bleak themes might be off putting to listen to but Springsteen as ever has the ability to add pretty upbeat music to even the most distressing of songs.

For me, 'Wrecking Ball' is a much better album than 'Working on a Dream'. My confession is that past an initial period of listening to the album for a few days that was it. With 'Wrecking Ball' there seems a bit more to chew on and savour and therefore I've not stopped playing it for the past few weeks.

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