Thursday, 19 December 2013

Fiach Moriarty, New Single, 'Married to Music'

Fiach Moriarty

'Married to Music'

Info: Every now and again the lovely folks over at ask me to showcase one of the new acts they are representing and I'm always happy to oblige. Here we have singer-songwriter Fiach Moriarty who has toured with established musicians Mary Black, Ray Davies and Declan O'Rourke. He has a new single out, 'Married to Music', in advance of the release of his second album in early 2014. 'Married to Music' is upbeat and the video brings us on a spin through Grafton Street and it's side streets, reminding us of how pleasant the area can be as it fills us with dread over Christmas. If you enjoyed Fiach's new track, check out more music and info below.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Interview With King Fantastic

DJ Troublemaker & Killer Reese One aka King Fantastic

When I was a young lad I used to listen to a weird mix of rubbish and good music, but I always remember listening to a good bit of rap music back in the 90's, some of it a bit dodgy, like Cypress Hill and Coolio, and then, because I was Irish, it was mandatory to listen to House of Pain, but they had some great tunes and lyrics, and don't forget the Beastie Boys & Grandmaster Flash, still favourites. Admittedly it was a lot later on that I began to enjoy the late 80's and early 90's East Coast and West Coast hip-hop groups such as Public Enemy,the epic N.W.A. and a little bit of Warren G for da laydeez. As the 90's wore on though rap and hip-hop got shit, it became over-produced, there was no message, there was no intelligence to the rhyming or lyrics and all of a sudden every 'artist' and song melded into one and I lost interest, that's not to say there wasn't good groups out there, but it was pre-Internet and too hard to find something decent.

Lately though, there's a mini-revival going on, Kanye West has some talent I suppose, even if he's a total dick, (you might enjoy this French lady recently asking him who the fuck he is in Paris ha, get's me every time, in your face Kanye!), there are also other rappers getting back to tackling politics such as Killer Mike from Atlanta, Georgia (check out his great song and video 'Reagan' here and a handful of others, but for me personally, the best of the new wave is King Fantastic. I came across their LP, Finger Snaps & Gun Claps three years ago and haven't stop listening to it since, it's immense, there isn't a wasted second on the album and it has everything, great lyrics, great beats, bass, brilliant humour and a great frontman in Killer Reese One.

King Fantastic, 'Hollyrock Jam Session' 

Not only are King Fantastic, particularly DJ Troublemaker and Reese, a very talented bunch, they're also very decent to their fans, I've noticed this over a long while on Twitter where they constantly interact with fans and give them the time of day. Based on this, I decided I'd chance my arm and send them a set of ten questions in interview form, and lo and behold these two gentlemen responded within only a couple of days. So, below is the interview, and scattered around are some of my favourite tracks off Finger Snaps & Gun Claps. They also have a mixtape out at the moment, Call My Lawyer, which is equally great, you can listen to it here -

         Interview via email by Remy Connolly

Massive thanks to both Killer Reece One & DJ Troublemaker for taking the time to respond to my questions, I couldn't agree more with their insights on modern rap. Here's another favourite track of mine to finish off, essential before heading out at the weekend, 'All Black Ying Yang (The Party Song)'

King Fantastic, 'All Black Ying Yang (The Party Song)'

King Fantastic, 'Bonfire Sessions'

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

A Treatise on the Global Transportation of Music in The Digital Age

Hands up who thought, 'What a wanker' or 'What a bigger wanker'. You would have been right, it's only a blog. Having said that, there's something to the title, but it should read more like 'How the Internet Can Send Nice Music To You, Unexpectedly.'

My unexpected source was Instagram ('SEE, HE IS A WANKER, I KNEW IT, YES!'). Let he who is without sin look a gift horse in the mouth, as the old saying goes. Okay, so Instagram, like Twitter, and unlike Facebook, can be tailored to draw your interests to yourself, I follow people who share my like of amateur photography, red wine, craft beers and mostly music (vinyl *cough* wanker *cough*, okay, enough of the self-deprecation from me, specifically). As a result I get to find out about lots of great albums, mostly old ones which would be my main interest, but also some new music as well. 

Just today I was flicking through my feed and notice that one guy I follow from the U.S., because he has a relatively similar taste to me, is putting the finishing touches to his own album. On to Google and Soundcloud and I get to listen to a selection of 5 tracks, listened to the first one and thought, that's good, then let the other 4 play on and realise that this chap is not only a very talented guitar player, but also the music is really good. I like old folk music with a tinge of country like Bert Jansch, Tim Buckley, Dylan, for example, and in particular fast guitar-picking, so this young man was ticking all of these boxes for me, and I liked the way that a genre that is largely neglected by young people is his modus operandi.

So who is he? His name is Cody J. Martin (pictured), he hails from Ohio, and he's only 21, 'bloody hell' I thought, when I read that in his bio. He also comes across as a very humble person who is extremely grateful when he receives feedback on his music, indeed I sent him a little message saying I liked his music and he thanked me for spending time listening to his music, do you hear that Van Morrison??! Anyways, I'll throw up a few links to his music so you can make your own minds up. 

                                  Cody J. Martin - 'What's Already Gone'

But before I do, to go back to the beginning, I don't think I'll ever get used to how technology has changed how we listen to music, before the internet you'd only get to hear artists who had 'made it big', or you had the smug friend who came back from America or the UK claiming they were the first person in Ireland to have Michael Jackson's new album on cassette (I actually know someone who did this, I'm married to her). Now everything is at our fingertips and it's wonderful, we really are so lucky. Cody has 4 gigs listed on his homepage over December and January, all in his hometown, a similar musician 15 years ago and I would never have heard the music, for that I'm very grateful. Now, at the risk of Cody thinking I'm an internet stalker, I'll desist with the platitudes and leave you with his music, I know he'd appreciate you listening to it.

N.B. - My own personal favourites are 'Riverside', 'What's Already Gone' and 'All Roads Lead To War'. His new album, Somewhere You'd Rather Be, is released on the 25th of January, 2014. (with 2 free downloads)

Saturday, 30 November 2013

1981 Rush - Moving Pictures

Rush, 'Tom Sawyer'

Info: Canadian rock band Rush were formed in 1968 and consist of Geddy Lee on vocals and bass, Alex Lifeson on guitar and synthesizer, Neil Peart on drums (replacing John Rutsey in 1974, 2 weeks before their first US Tour) and frontman Jeff Jones on vocals and bass. Rush were at the peak of their powers from the mid-seventies and are best known for their 1976 album 2112, which was followed by a string of successful albums culminating in 1981’s Moving Pictures, essentially flying the flag for classic progressive rock at the dawn of the 80’s. 

After multiple line-up changes the band really took off after Peart replaced Rutsey, who had to quit for health reasons and an aversion to touring. Rush’s self-titled debut album was received indifferently with too many comparisons to early Led Zeppelin, and it wasn’t until Cleveland radio station WMMS started to regularly feature their debut single (a cover of Buddy Holly’s ‘Not Fade Away’) that they began to gain traction. Once their music entered the public sphere they started to gain a legion of blue collar rock fans who appreciated their hard rock sound, this led to them being signed up by American label Mercury Records in 1974.

After expanding their influences, including prog-rock bands Yes, Van Der Graaf Generator and King Crimson, Rush released 2112 which showcased their talents as masters of their individual instruments and gained them mainstream popularity and credibility. A move to the UK in the late seventies completed the metamorphosis and saw the release of critically acclaimed albums A Farewell to Kings (1977) and Hemispheres (1978).

As for the album itself, Moving Pictures, I have to say this is one of the most enjoyable rock albums I’ve come across in the last while, and it surprises me because I often think of the 80’s as the least rock decade. Of course you had the hair bands, such as Def Leppard, Poison, Kix and a load of others (the start of Guns N’ Roses), but what makes Rush’s album stand out is that it’s a mix of ‘traditional’ seventies prog-rock and 80’s synth, but it works, perfectly, no better exemplified than on the third track, the instrumental ‘YYZ’, which goes from solid guitar riffs to slowed down synthesizer and back again. Highlights for me are the opening two tracks, ‘Tom Sawyer’ and ‘Red Barchetta’, but in all honesty, all 7 tracks are very strong and thoroughly enjoyable, it makes me feel like I’m listening to The Eagles’ Hotel California album turned up to 11. Fan of rock music? Check it out.

Track Listing:

1. Tom Sawyer
2. Red Barchetta
3. YYZ
4. Limelight
5. The Camera Eye
6. Witch Hunt
7. Vital Signs

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Don Jon (2013)

Don Jon - Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Don Jon, Trailer

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Scarlett Johansson, Julianne Moore
Director: Joseph Gordon-Levitt  
IMDB Rating: 7.2/10
My Rating: 8.5/10
Runtime: 90mins

“There's only a few things I really care about in life. My body. My pad. My ride. My family. My church. My boys. My girls. My porn.”

Synopsis: A buff, church going barman from New Jersey sleeps with beautiful girls every other night but he has always found more satisfaction in online pornography. The nicknamed ‘Don Jon’ must make some serious changes in his life if intimacy is ever to enter his ‘pad’. 

Don Jon was written and directed by the star of the show, Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Looper, Inception). Gordon-Levitt continues to impress and has, by now, surpassed his image as the sensitive, quirky type. Ever since Looper (2012), Gordon-Levitt has embraced the bad boy appeal and has found himself in more and more versatile roles. 

With Don Jon, Gordon-Levitt takes from his years of acting experience in romantic comedies and subverts the genre completely, resulting in a confident and edgy directorial debut. Shame (2011) dealt with sex addiction in a visceral and sombre light but Don Jon manages to address the issue of porn addiction in a lighthearted way, while maintaining a level of sincerity. 

Stylistically the film is very well edited and derives comedy from repetition. The soundtrack is equally hilarious creating the perfect collection of sound cues to mark Don Jon’s manly routine. It’s a highly enjoyable film to watch and certainly holds it’s own style. Scarlett Johansson fans will be disappointed to learn that she looks more like a skank from The Sopranos than her usual jaw-dropping self. Check this one out in the cinema for a riskaay night out...

- by Gavin Fitzgerald

Thursday, 14 November 2013

1980 Prince - Dirty Mind

Prince, 'Drity Mind'

Info: Prince Rogers Nelson was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1958 to parents John Nelson (himself a jazz musician) and Mattie Shaw. This cat is a singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, actor and um, specialist contortionist. He penned his first piece of work at the tender age of seven on his father's piano, prophetically entitled 'Funk Machine'. Following a turbulent childhood after his parents divorce, Prince began living with neighbours, the Anderson's, whose son Andre formed a band with Prince called Grand Central during their high school years.Prince's musical career was set in motion in earnest when Minneapolis businessman Owen Husney signed him, aged 17 and helped him record his first demo. The demo eventually caught the attention of the major record labels and Warner Brothers swept in to commit him to an initial three record contract. In 1979 Prince released his debut and eponymous album, featuring the hit single 'I Wanna Be Your Lover', which went platinum and catapulted the artist into the Billboard Charts. The following year Prince released his third record, Dirty Mind. (If all you could think of when reading that was, 'I wonder is that urban legend about Prince having his lower ribs removed to please himself true?' I'll attempt to clear it up later).

For me, on a personal level, Dirty Mind is Prince's best album and encapsulates him as an artist and person perfectly, from it's gloriously funky basslines to it's raw sexuality, particularly on songs such as 'Head' (the name speaks for itself) and unsurprisingly, title track 'Dirty Mind' with a good dose of controversial subject matter in 'Sister'. Another aspect of this album that appeals to me is the fact that I really think we see Prince at his most base in terms of character, in later years, particularly the 90's, Prince went a little bit weird, with strange name changes such as TAFKAP, and the symbol thingy, and was acting oh so mysteriously. Although short, only 8 tracks long, by the end of it you feel energised, helped along by closing track, 'Party Up', plenty of bass slapping and strong disco elements going on here, 'We don't give a damn, we just want to jam, party up party up....drink more, you're such a fucking bore' Prince proclaims, nudging us toward previously non-existent feelings of hedonism and binge-drinking.My own personal favourite track on the album is #5, 'Uptown', a monologue between a boy and a girl who asks him 'Are you gay?' which shocks him, but gets him thinking, again this has heavy layers of funk, synth and drumbeat, this is the only track on the album co-written with his old friend, Andre Anderson.

While Dirty Mind initially didn't make much of a dent on the US music charts, it was still critically acclaimed, and would eventually, in 1984, go gold. It's been described as post-disco meeting rock and I think in anyone's book, that's not something to be missed. And so, I turn to the burning question, like Richard Gere and the gerbil, did it really happen? I'm going to go with definitely not, for one main reason, having your lower ribs removed is a serious operation, and according to John E. Sherman of Weill Cornell Medical College 'while such a procedure was theoretically possible, there was no record of it in the medical literature.' <<< Science. One irate fan put it better though over on the unofficial message boards, 'Yes, he did. He also had his head removed during the Rave era, and shoved up his ass'.

Track Listing:

1. Dirty Mind
2. When You Were Mine
3. Do It All Night
4. Gotta Broken Heart Again
5. Uptown
6. Head
7. Sister
8. Party Up

Gravity (2013)

Gravity - George Clooney - Sandra Bullock

Genre: Drama, Sci-fi, Thriller
Starring: Sandra Bullock, George Clooney
Director: Alfonso Cuarón 
IMDB Rating: 8.5/10
My Rating: 7.5/10
Runtime: 91mins

Synopsis: A space disaster and subsequent flying debris leaves two astronauts mid-orbit, cut off from communication and a long way from home.

People who have been to space talk about the change of perception when they view earth from above. Aside from witnessing awesome thunder storms, aurorae borealis’ and vast mountain ranges, what strikes space cadets above all is the realisation that earth is just another planet floating in infinite space. It puts things in perspective when we worry about trivial things and makes you consider how precious life is and how we should be preserving our planet rather than allowing corporations to destroy it. After all we are all one - we all come from the same star.

Gravity gives you this sense of awe and appreciation for life. Indeed, this is what the story is based upon - Ryan (Sandra Bullock), a mother who has lost a child, and thus her will to live, must fight to survive in adverse circumstances. The central question the film puts to us is - do we value life? Matt, George Clooney’s character, certainly does and the way in which his positivity rubs off on Ryan is a message to the masses; attitude makes all the difference. 

Gravity is a film that you have to see in 3D. I don’t think you will get the same experience watching it on your laptop, so for that reason I’d encourage everybody to go and see it in the cinema. The imagery and special effects are magnificent and reminiscent of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001, A Space Oddity. The soundtrack is epic and deservedly so as the spectacular backdrop of earth is forever present. At times, I did find myself wondering where the story would go. I felt as though the supernatural might come into play but the film remained in the drama genre. This must have been an incredibly tricky story to write and full credit must be given to Alfonso Cuarón (Y Tu Mamá También, Children of Men) for pulling it off. 

Below the trailer is a link to a short documentary that I’d recommend watching before going to see Gravity. Sometimes you just have sit back and enjoy the wonderful technology of film, and, this doc may help you appreciate how far mankind has come.

- by Gavin Fitzgerald

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Captain Phillips (2013)

Captain Phillips - Tom Hanks

Captain Phillips Trailer

Genre: Adventure, Biography, Action
Starring: Tom Hanks, Barkhad Abdi, Barkhad Abdirahman
Director:  Paul Greengrass
IMDB Rating: 8.1/10
My Rating: 7/10
Runtime: 134mins

Synopsis: Captain Phillips is a story about an American cargo ship that gets hijacked by Somalian pirates off the coast of Somalia. The long and gruelling tale is a version of true events. 

Director Paul Greengrass (The Bourne Supremacy, United 93) knows how to make nail-biting blockbusters and Captain Phillips is no exception. The film has a beautiful pace to it, quickly cutting between the payday hungry pirates and the ill-prepared American crew. We assume that the pirates will eventually board the huge vessel but it's how they will manage it that keeps us interested. The camera-work is largely handheld adding a sense of urgency to the film, however, mixed in are some amazing aerial shots of the shipping fleet which illuminate any sense of claustrophobia. For a film with a relatively simple plot, the story does drag a little, but I'd imagine Captain Phillips felt the same way when he was being held hostage!

An interesting case study would be to compare Captain Phillips to the similarly themed Danish film, A Hijacking (2012). Directed by Tobias Lindholm (The Hunt) and starring Pilou Asbaek and Soren Malling (Borgen), the film is a much more realistic account of how a hijacking would normally play out. A Hijacking focuses on the prolonged negotiations that take place between the pirates and the shipping company whereas Captain Phillips centres around the individual. Both films are high in tension and use local actors to play the Somalian pirates, but the drama contrasts significantly. I can think of no two better films to explain the difference between Hollywood and European cinema. 

For this reason I'd urge you to watch both of them; each film has their strengths and their weaknesses but personally, being against American populism, I much prefer the way the Danes tell the tale.

Irrespective of what actually went down on Captain Phillips' ship, the film is entertaining throughout and looks great on the big screen. I'd recommend it for a fun night out. 

- by Gavin FitzGerald

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Rush (2013)

Rush - Ron Howard - Chris Hemsworth - Film Review

Rush, 2013, Trailer

Genre: Drama, Biography, Action
Starring: Daniel Brühl , Chris Hemsworth , Olivia Wilde
Director:  Ron Howard
IMDB Rating: 8.3/10
My Rating: 7.0/10
Runtime: 2hrs 3mins

Synopsis: Rush tells the story of the great Formula 1 rivalry between English man James Hunt and Austrian Niki Lauda. Hunt is everything Lauda is not - brash, unpredictable, a party animal and a ladies man. Lauda on the other hand is methodical, calculated, hard working and socially inept. They are, however, both fantastic race car drivers and battle it out during one of the most dangerous periods for the sport - the 1970's. The story is a biographical account of the events which took place in the epic 1976 Formula 1 racing season.

It's hard not to compare this film to the wonderful 2010 documentary Senna. Although the characters and setting have changed, Rush feels like the Hollywood version of the film. This is not a criticism, just an observation. Rush has a certain documentary aesthetic, most notably in the cinematography, where D.O.P. Anthony Dod Mantle mimics camera angles you might see on the television. The film looks fantastic, in particular the shots of the Formula 1 cars during heavy rainfall.

This is a film about a sporting rivalry. Director Ron Howard shares equal time with Hunt and Lauda such that, at times, I found it hard to decide who I was rooting for. Both characters have their strengths and their flaws. Perhaps this was intentional? Sports fans are prone to sunshine supporting and Formula 1 is no exception. It's amazing how quickly a crowd can turn on you. If I had to chose which character I preferred, I would have to say Lauda. Daniel Bruhl (Goodbye Lenin) is the stand out performer for me and I'd be surprised not to see him take home an Oscar this year.

The film tries it's best to remain truthful to the events that took place. As a result, there's a section in the middle of the timeline that we could have done without. It's the fourth quarter of the film that really starts to get juicy. Personally, I would have had this turning point come sooner. It must be a very difficult decision to make when writing a biographical film - do I neglect the truth for a better story or do I stay true to events? In some ways, I think Ron Howard tried to do both and, as a result, some parts are better than others. I wonder if a more 'loosely based' true story would have had a better outcome? Either way, Rush is a thoroughly engaging film and you need not have a clue about Formula 1 racing to enjoy it.

- by Gavin Fitzgerald

Friday, 4 October 2013

1979 Gary Numan & Tubeway Army - Replicas

Gary Numan & Tubeway Army, 'Are Friends Electric'

Info: The 1970’s drew to a close with a flood of great albums from household names such as Joy Divison’s Unknown Pleasures, Pink Floyd’s The Wall, London Calling by The Clash, Michael Jackson’s Off The Wall, two Neil Young & Crazy Horse albums, not to mention AC/DC’s classic, Highway to Hell, spoiling music fans in what I deem to be the best decade for music in terms of innovation and sheer volume of what would become timeless albums. So while my final album wouldn’t necessarily be obscure by any means, and the artist certainly isn’t, I’m going to finish up the seventies with Gary Numan & Tubeway Army’s 1979 album, Replicas, as one that is far from the mind in comparison to what else was released that year. 

Gary Anthony James Webb was born in 1958 in Hammersmith, west London and had a fairly uneventful childhood, the well-educated son of a British Airways bus driver he orignally joined the Air Training Corps as a teen and then had various jobs including as a fork-lift driver and office clerk before he became recognised as a serious contender in the late 1970’s on the music scene, only a few short years after his father had bought him a Les Paul Gibson guitar at the age of 15. According to The Little Black Book of Music he was a loner as a child and a bit of a recluse, fascinated by cars, aeroplanes and money, and this personality seemed to divide the UK music press when he was at the height of his popularity, they would regularly ridicule him and categorised him as being uncool. This didn’t dissuade his growing legion of fans who were taken by his detached stage presence. Numan himself states that he changed his name when he saw an advertisement in the Yellow Pages for a plumber named A.Neumann, though I personally don’t think the difference between Webb and Numan would have altered his course drastically. 

It’s safe to say that Numan’s creative powers never surpassed the point they were at in 1979 and the very early 80’s, and this is reflected in the fact that he released his two greatest works, The Pleasure Principle (featuring best known song ‘Cars’) and Replicas, within months of each other that year. With his mythical band Tubeway Army the king of synth creates an amazing sonic landscape where organ-style piano, Moog synthesizers and drum machines come together to give a feel of a dreary, futuristic, industrial world. A definite theme, which is obvious from lyrics and song titles, is the relationship between robots and humans, Numan impersonates a replicant (for want of a better word), similar to the bio-engineered androids of 1982’s Blade Runner, observing the world through his eyes and the cagey, untrusting relationship between him and humans. The album seems to develop into a reversal of humans being in charge of the relpicants, on Track 5, ‘Down In The Park’, the sinister android invites us to ‘Come to zom-zoms, a place to eat, like it was built in one day, you can watch the humans, try to run’. 

We also come across Numan’s paranoia and awareness that he could be terminated by humans at the flick of a switch, on the superb opening track ‘Me! I Disconnect From You’ he pleads; ‘Please don't turn me off, I don't know what I’m doing outside, me and the telephone that never rings, if you were me, what would you do? Me, I disconnect from you.’ Being a sci-fi afficionado I love this type of album, in the same why I love the Alan Parsons Project album I reviewed recently, I Robot, but what’s really great about the album is you don’t have to get hung up on the theme or the message, because the music itself is super. Just listen to the amazing, spacey instrumental that is closing track, ‘I Nearly Married A Human’ or the albums catchiest song in the above video, ‘Are ‘Friends’ Electric?’. Replicas my ‘friends’ is a masterpiece, both enjoyable and haunting but ultimately unforgettable, there is not one bad song from start to finish. 

Track Listing:
1) Me! I Disconnect From You
2 )Are ‘Friends’ Electric?
3) The Machman
4) Praying to the Aliens
5) Down in the Park
6) You Are In My Vision
7) Replicas
8) It Must Have Been Years
9) When The Machines Rock
10) I Nearly Married A Human

Side note: If you enjoyed the above video, you could do worse than joining me at Gary Numan’s live show in Dublin in November, The Button Factory, tickets are only €25 and reviews of his UK tour have been extremely positive

Monday, 23 September 2013

1978 Albert Collins – Ice Pickin’

Albert Collins, 'Cold, Cold Feeling' 1981

Info: Born on the 1st of October, 1932 in Leona, Texas, at the age of seven Collins’ family moved to Houston, and it was from this base that his career would begin to take off. His earlier exposure to music came via the piano, but as he reached his late teens the guitar would become his focal point, and at this young age he was lucky enough to regualrly see his heroes, John Lee Hooker, T-Bone Walker and Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown perform in the same clubs where he would cut his cloth in the fifties. Much of his early success came from the release of several 45’s, including the million-selling hit single ‘Frosty’ in 1962, however, Collins’ earnings were not enough to keep him from having to work a regular job supplemented by touring at weekends. He would eventually have the opportunity to focus solely on his music in the late-60’s, a time during which a revival of interest in blues guitar was underway, when he was brought to California by Canned Heat’s Bob Hite, who arranged for Collins to open for The Allman Brothers at The Filmore West in San Francisco.
Strangely, for a career that began in the late 1950’s, it wasn’t until 1977 that Collins finally made it big when he signed to Chicago label Alligator Records, Ice Pickin’ being his first release. This was also a time when Collins began to embark on European tours, particularly to Holland and Sweden and his reputation was reaching stellar status. His best years were still ahead of him and he released another 6 albums on the Alligator label, sadly, at the peak of his powers, a long battle with liver cancer got the better of him and he passed away in November, 1993, at only 61 years of age.

My initial introduction to Albert Collins was the 1965 compilation The Cool Sound of Albert Collins which is great, but when I dug deeper I came across Ice Pickin’ and it has become the one album that survives every cull when I’m updating the tracks on my iPod, I was even lucky enough to get a first press on vinyl about 6 months ago for a very reasonable price. Constantly referenced by Jimi Hendrix as a major influence and quoted as being Albert King’s favourite guitarist of all time, it’s easy to see why he was nicknamed The Master of the Telecaster on this album and why he was so respected by peers. The best examples of his electric blues playing can be found on track 4, ‘Cold, Cold Feeling’ and the following track, ‘Too Tired’ but especially his tale of poverty and desperation on ‘When The Welfare Turns Its Back On You’. One of Collins’ greatest attributes is his story-telling and humour, while he may be singing the blues, it’s always with a smile on his face and a large dollop of wit, perhaps never better shown than on ‘Master Charge’ where Collins bemoans that his wife is spending his money wreckelessly on clothes and the high life, leaving him constantly broke.

Finally, I love the ‘ice’ theme with this album, especially on the cover where Collins’ Telecaster is plugged into a massive block of ice, incidently, on his live shows he would have a 100 foot long guitar cable and would regularly walk through the crowd and even onto the street outside the venue and continue playing to the bemusement of both his audience and passers-by. When I first started reviewing albums from the 1950’s onwards, it was really to highlight albums that may be a little bit less well-known but are really great pieces of music. Out of the 29 albums I’ve reviewed in the series, Ice Pickin’ is easily the most over-looked, with almost no reference to it or the man himself in any of the major music books I would normally consult, this is despite Collins being voted in at #56 in Rolling Stone Magazine’s ‘100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time’, ahead of the likes of Fleetwood Mac’s Peter Green, Slash, and Carl Perkins. So I echo what Hendrix said of Collins in 1968; “There’s one cat I’m still trying to get across to people. He is really good, one of the best guitarists in the world.” Amen Jimi.

Track Listing:

1.  Honey, Hush
    2. When The Welfare Turns Its Back On You 
            3. Ice Pick
    4. Cold, Cold Feeling
    5. Too Tired
    6. Master Charge
    7. Conversation With Collins
    8. Avalanche

Monday, 16 September 2013

Brian Walton - New Single 'Love Makes You Crazy'

Brian Walton

Info: Who is Brian Walton? Well, first of all, he's not a younger, more handsome version of Tommy Tiernan with a guitar. Brian Walton and his band are the butterfly to former nom du plume Fusion Family's caterpillar and has already worked with some big names in the music industry, particularly Stateside. Chief among them is producer Danny Saber, former member of Black Grape who has worked on records with The Rolling Stones, David Bowie, U2 and Public Enemy among others, and included one of Brian and Fusion Family's songs 'Hate' on his recent album, Saber Bytes Vol.2.

The Brian Walton Trio, which I will briefly refer to them as for the purpose of this piece, consist of the man himself, drummer Reo Odirile and lead guitarist Alex Skinner, are currently putting the finishing touches to their new album, Dreams Like These which they recorded in L.A. over the course of the summer. Brian & co. currently have 4 tracks available to listen to on SoundCloud here First up is the above track, 'Love Makes You Crazy' which brings forth feelings of summer and more than a hint of Van Morrison and is the new single for the band (see more details below). After a good few listens I've decided my own personal favourite is 'When I Grow Up', starts of with a 60's psych feel á la King Crimson's 'I Talk To The Wind' and then it turns into a Phil Lynott / Republic of Loose mashup, very catchy and feel good, you can certainly hear the funk sound that was a trademark of Fusion Family. Hear for yourself here;

If you enjoyed the above and you're looking for a good night out, Brian, Reo and Alex will be launching the new single / throwing a party at The Tramyard on Castle Street in Dalkey, Co.Dublin next Saturday, 28th of September, and thanks to the lovely people at music PR company we have two free tickets to give away, it's first come first served so don't dilly dally and contact me on either the blog's Twitter account or Facebook Page to get your hands on the tickets.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

New Irish Talent

 Myles Manley, Whelan's, 23rd Aug. 2013

The Vincent(s), Whelan's, 23rd Aug. 2013

Liza Flume

In my college days I would have frequented Dublin's smaller music venues regularly such as The Temple Bar Music Centre (now The Button Factory), The Mean Fiddler (now The Village), Whelan's on Wexford Street and a handful of pubs as well. While this wasn't a long time ago (about 15 years), it was still at a time when venues were filled with cigarette smoke, half of your friends didn't have a mobile phone and we thought dial-up internet was propelling us headlong into the high-tech age. I saw many good bands back then, The Frames in arguably their heyday, Mic Christopher's amazing band The Mary Janes, Kells band Turn. At some stage the music scene seemed to really dry up in Dublin and Ireland, around 2001-2002, and it became saturated with singer-songwriters and crooners. While some were undoubtedly talented, it was as though the scene had gone stale, there were no groups with cult followings, no must see small acts and so, reluctantly, I stopped keeping an eye out for who was playing at these small venues and instead concentrated on going to see established acts, but I think that might be about to change, and I find it quite exciting.

Two weeks ago a friend asked me would I be interested in going to see part of The Jack of Diamonds Festival in Whelan's, it was free in and there were 9 acts playing over three floors of the venue, admittedly he said he knew none of the bands but thought it would be worth checking out. So off I went on a Friday night and met him and his wife and we sat down upstairs by the bar before moving in to the Upper Room. The first act we saw was a very shy young girl with an acoustic guitar and I thought to myself, wow, nothing has changed since 2001-2002, my prejudice was woefully ill-founded. By the end of her opening song the hairs were standing on the back of my neck and my friend turned to me and simply said; 'That was fucking brilliant', I couldn't have agreed more. This was Liza Flume, an Australian Dublin-based songwriter whose painful shyness and almost apologetic presence on the stage belies an incredibly strong voice. What I found most interesting was her use of a loop pedal, a device where the singer records live her singing and then plays it back while singing harmonies to the recording, literally, with herself. Liza played a short 6 song set leaving me wanting more, I will be attending future gigs of hers based on this performance.

One week later and I find myself inadvertently in Whelan's again, after meeting a very dear friend who I'm not talking to today after he threw a pint of beer over me for his own entertainment. Looking for adventure after a few pints in a local pub we headed into town and made our way upstairs where yet again, unexpectedly there were more live shows on. The first act was a young guy from Sligo called Myles Manley (normally plays with his band The Little People) whose upbeat songs remind me very much of Bombay Bicycle Club (when I mentioned this to him after the show he had never heard of them) but it was his melancholic songs that really caught me. I arrived in Whelan's in a very good mood but after two of Manley's songs I felt terribly sad, and I suppose that's what good music is all about, ability to grab you inside and affect you instantly. He also comes across as a very interesting character, and struck me as quite the libertine if he wouldn't mind me saying so, and he was an amiable chap to talk to, he even kindly allowed me buy one of his albums off him and a book of poetry that I don't remember enquiring about.

After Manley came glum Cork rockers The Vincent(s), the bastard child of The Pixies and Sonic Youth. Heavy bass, crashing drums, rip-roaring lead guitar and....a saxophone player all combined to give a great live drone sound, but it was clean, it wasn't unintelligible distortion and noise for the sake of it. I found them very different to what you'd expect from a young Irish group and as they say themselves on their page; 'We, as a band, want to bring something completely new to the Irish music scene, something a bit darker than we are used to.' I have to say I enjoyed their live set, but Manley stole the night for me. 

Three very different acts, all very talented and a far cry from my memories of the small venue music scene from 10 years ago when it seemed like someone had poured water on Damien Rice after midnight and given birth to hundred's of singer-songwriter gremlins that swamped every stage available. It has changed my attitude to up and coming musicians and I now intend to go to a lot more gigs, why wouldn't I considering they're free, but I think I'll stick to the orange juice from now on. Below is a track from each of the aforementioned acts for your aural pleasure.

Liza Flume, 'What We Called Love'

Myles Manley & The Little People, 'Easter Morning'

The Vincent(s), 'Asked Her To Dance'

Friday, 23 August 2013

1977 The Alan Parsons Project - I Robot

The Alan Parsons Project, 'I Wouldn't Want To Be Like You', 1977

Info: The Alan Parsons Project consisted mainly of the man himself and keyboardist Eric Woolfsoon, but usually had a number of musicians in tow such as David Paton on bass, and John Miles with Colin Blunstone on background vocals. The group performed between 1975 and 1990 and were a prog-rock band, made distinctive by their plentiful use of vocoders and synthesisers. Parsons and Woolfson's music relationship was formed at the famous Abbey Road studios after a chance meeting in the canteen there in 1974, where Parson's talent as an engineer had seen him work on The Beatles' albums, Abbey Road and Let It Be as well as Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon. Woolfson himself had a very imaginative streak and had a strong desire to work on concept albums, and with both having a background in production, he was determined to do in music, what contemporaries Alfred Hitchcock and Stanley Kubrick were doing in film, that is, highlight the leading role of the producers rather than the musicians.Coming from the greater London area, The Alan Parsons Project seemed to enjoy more success in North America than in the U.K., but this still helped propel them into the popular sphere from the mid-seventies to the eighties. 

1977's I, Robot was the follow up to the wonderful debut record in 1975, Tales of Mystery and Imagination (highly recommended) and is arguably the Project's best album, heavily influenced by Isaac Asimov's sci-fi series of books of the same title, indeed, Woolfson consulted Asimov in advance and the Russian-born author was very excited at the proposed piece of work. Stephen Thomas Erlewine from, describes it as an album which 'explores many of the philosophies regarding artificial intelligence - will it overtake man, what does it mean to be man, what responsibilities do mechanical beings have to their creators....'. This brings to mind Spielberg's A.I. in a modern sense, a robot boy who longs for the affection of his human mother, or at the time of the album, Bowie's turn as an android in The Man Who Fell To Earth. 

The theme of the album is very appealing to me, I really enjoy the thick spread of vocoder throughout the album and always find the, maybe slightly naive, futuristic album art fun to examine. The electronic and I suppose, robotic, feel starts straight away with the intro to opening title track 'I Robot' lasting two minutes before we get some nice bass lines and drum beats followed by electric rhythm guitar, this instrumental track sets the tone for the album and is really chilled out. Following on from that is the amazing (and most successful single) 'I Wouldn't Want To Be Like You', a disco joy, it could easily be the intro to a 1970's San Francisco based cop show. Here we may be hearing the robot's perspective as the lyrics read; 'If I had a mind to, I wouldn't want to think like you, and if I had the time to, I wouldn't want to talk to you', with the robot saying, 'Yes, you may be smarter, but from what I've observed, I would not want to be human like you'. 

The next track, 'Some Other Time' really reminds me of a weird Pink Floyd / Thin Lizzy mash-up but it's very enjoyable. 'Breakdown' has a really good heavy bass-line and then seems to turn into something very Fleetwood Mac Rumours era. The sixth track, 'The Voice' is a wonderful white funk celebration, really mellow disco sound. The final track which I find really interesting on this album is 'Nucleus', it's really far ahead of it's time and sounds very like something you would expect from Groove Armada at their peak. I really can't fault any of the songs on this album, it has everything in my view, disco, electronica, funk, rock and lashings of weirdness, I, Robot can get endless listens without getting bored of it, it's surprisingly accessible and is definitely in my top 10 seventies albums.

Track Listing:

1. I Robot
2. I Wouldn't Want To Be Like You
3. Some Other Time
4. Breakdown
5. Don't Let It Show
6. The Voice
7. Nucleus
8. Day After Day (The Show Must Go On)
9. Total Eclipse
10. Genesis Ch.1 Vs.32

Monday, 12 August 2013

2013 Irish Blog Awards

After just over a year of the blog I was delighted to find out today I've made the Long List for the Music category in the Irish Blog Awards, 2013, this category is sponsored by Orchestrate Marketing & PR  a communications company who specialise in music, arts and entertainment. Orchestrate count artists such as Primal Scream, The Stereophonics, and Irish acts Julie Feeney, Mundy and Duke Special among their clients. Visit their web page here, So fingers and toes crossed for the short-listing on the 8th of September, but in the meantime, more music reviews are on the way, I'll be continuing my album reviews from artists for 1950-2013, next year up is 1977, the year of Star Wars, watch this space, and thanks for your nominations!

Thursday, 25 July 2013

1976 Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers - The Modern Lovers

The Modern Lovers, 'Roadrunner'

Info: There's not a lot to say about Jonathan Richman's early life that would differ much from many other burgeoning musicians of the 1970's. Born in Massachusetts in 1951, began playing the guitar at the age of 15 and he was a massive Velvet Underground fan. After making a handful of appearances in Boston in his teens he decided to move to New York in 1969 to pursue his career as a musician, working odd-jobs to support himself while he looked for venues to perform in, however, his unique vocal style and music were not received well and he returned to his hometown for one last crack of the whip. It was at this stage that he formed The Modern Lovers, after a few line-up changes, along with future Talking Heads keyboard player, Jerry Harrison and future Cars drummer, David Robinson. 

The Modern Lovers one and only album had a fraught beginning, recorded in 1973 on the Warner label, Richman told them that he was so sick of the songs on the album that he was unwilling to perform them live. As a result, Warner Bros. refused to release the album, and it wasn't until 1976 that the small Beserkly label purchased the master tapes for $2,300 and put the recordings out. The album was a critical success despite the time lapse, and it was also unusual insofar as The Modern Lovers were considered the original punk pioneers, and by 1976, the punk era was in full swing. To give an example or two, The Sex Pistols almost immediately added 'Roadrunner' (above video) to their setlist as a cover and track 4 on the album, 'Pablo Picasso' would later be covered by David Bowie and John Cale himself, one of Richman's Velvet Underground idols. 

I first came across 'Roadrunner' back in April, 2003, when Mojo magazine issued a booklet with their monthly issue titled 'Ultimate Jukebox', featuring the 100 best 45's singles, with The Modern Lovers hit coming in at number 11 on the list, squeezed between The Beatles' 'Paperback Writer' and The Byrds' 'Eight Miles High'. Back then I attempted to collate all 100 singles, which I managed bar one or two songs, but it wasn't for a long while after that I actually heard the full Modern Lovers album. You can certainly hear The Velvet Underground influence throughout, it's quite pared down production-wise and Richman's vocals would not be out of place on a VU album, but there is also a feeling at times, such as 'Astral Plain', of early 1950's rock n' roll and even The Doors in other parts. Track 8 is one of my favourites, 'Girl Friend', a much faster pace than the previous tracks and very much having that punk sound that would be developed into a manic wall of sound by later bands. Ultimately though I can't get it out of my head when I listen to this album that vocally and at times musically it really reminds me of Joe Strummer on 'London Calling'. This once off album is certainly a piece of rock history, and while it's not a perfect album by any means, Richman's child-like persona is enjoyable and he doesn't take himself too seriously, unlike his music.

Track Listing:

1. Roadrunner
2. Astral Plain
3. Old World
4. Pablo Picasso
5. She Cracked
6. Hospital
7. Someone I Care About
8. Girl Friend
9. Modern World