Thursday, 31 March 2011

Mix Tape #1

Hi again, Inspired by the Friday Mixtape section of the awesome Hidden Track blog over at the Glide Magazine site, I thought I'd finally post this first mix tape that I had prepared ages ago.

I had prepared to upload this as long ago as September last year, but, as Ashley Naylor presciently once sang: "Life gets in the way", and it never happened. So here you go, better late than never.

Here is a bunch of awesome tunes that I was listening to at the time, but they are all great that I still think they should be shared amongst the music fans out there!

Here's the list, all sequenced to be two sides of a tape, roughly even in length with the same flow a good mix tape should have:

Side 1:
1. Sick as a dog - Brad Sucks - 3:14
2. Blue - The Jayhawks - 3:10
3. Couldn't I Just Tell You - Todd Rundgren - 3:22
4. Behind The Wall Of Sleep - The Smithereens - 3:24
5. Into Your Arms - Lemonheads - 2:45
6. Jessica Something - The Tearaways - 3:57
7. Star Sign - Teenage Fanclub - 3:54

total time 23:46

Side 2:

8. Back Against The Wall - Cage The Elephant - 3:48
9. Der Kommissar - After The Fire - 5:42
10. Fill My Eyes - Cat Stevens - 3:00
11. Junior's Farm - Wings - 4:20
12. Death Plunge - Glorious Mono - 1:36
13. Sign O' The Times - Prince - 4:57

total time 23:23

Track 1 is a great little tune from slacker pop (I really hate that term) artist Brad Sucks from his first record "I Don't Know What I Am Doing". It's available free at his website, along with a heap of remixes.

Track 2 is a great song from the Jayhawks. The parent album of this song "Tomorrow The Green Grass" is a classic and deserves a more than a few listens.

At the time this mixtape was created I was listening to a lot of Power Pop, so tracks 3-7 are classic power pop tunes that can all be found on the Poptopia! series of albums released by Rhino Records in 1997. Some are more well known than others, but each of them is a killer tune.

Track 8 is from another group, and a recent one, who have been lumped into a category called "slacker pop" like the aforementioned Brad Sucks. Cage the Elephant has an odd (on paper at least) hybrid of folk music, psychadelic, rock and hip-hop that is actually quite appealing. They have just released a new record, but this one is from their first, self titled LP released in 2008.

Track 9 is the 12-inch mix (remember those?) of a one-hit wonder from the 80s that gets quite a few spins in my house. My kids love it. It's a rocked-up cover of a dodgy pop song by Falco, called "Der Kommissar" or "The Commissioner" in English (Falco was obviously German). It's a great cover.

Track 10 is a deep cut from Yusuf Islam, aka Cat Stevens from his 1970 LP "Mona Bone Jakon". Where the hell does he get those obscure album titles from?

Track 11 is a single only release from Macca and Wings. I much prefer his rockers to his mushy love songs!!! (Note: The artist in the Grooveshark screen is labelled "Apollo C. Vermouth" which is one of Paul's many pseudonyms)

Track 12 comes to us from the vast archives of Songfight.org who have developed a highly competitive and fun weekly competition over the last 10 years. Their music archive is free to download and contains LOADS of great songs. Glorious Mono's "Death Plunge" is just one of many.

Track 13 is from one of Prince's many masterpieces. A good way to round off a nicely balanced set, in my opinion. Get into it!


thesoundandthefurypodcast's Widget 1 by David Kowalski on Grooveshark

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

The Cry Baby Wah Wah Pedal

The Cry Baby wah wah pedal is a device that is designed to provide a tone-shifting effect to an electric guitar signal. The device turns 45 this year, so in honour of this awesome device's birthday, there is a film that has just been released about the Cry Baby's history, which you can watch below.

Cry Baby: The Pedal That Rocks The World from Dunlop Manufacturing on Vimeo.




Also too, here you can check out the 45-song soundtrack of classic wah-wah recordings. Everything from Chicago blues, heavy metal, funk, soul, pop, folk ballads, you name it, have benefited from the use of the Cry Baby.

Here's the list:

1. Wah Wah Blues - Earl Hooker
2. Up On Cripple Creek - The Band
3. Tell me Something Good - Rufus (with Chaka Khan)
4. Tales of Brave Ulysses - Cream
5. Bulls On Parade - Rage Against The Machine
6. Man In The Box - Alice In Chains
7. Theme From "Shaft" - Isaac Hayes
8. Cloud Nine - The Temptations
9. Up From The Skies - Jimi Hendrix
10. Those Damned Blue Collar Tweekers - Primus
11. Dazed and Confused - Led Zeppelin
12. I'm The Slime - Frank Zappa
13. If - Bread
14. Enter Sandman - Metallica
15. Great King Rat - Queen
16. Crimson And Clover - Tommy James and the Shondells
17. Magic - Pilot
18. Funky Dollar Bill - Funkadelic
19. Alive - Pearl Jam
20. Stir It Up - Bob Marley & The Wailers
21. I Ain't Superstitious - Jeff Beck Group (featuring Rod Stewart)
22. Peace Frog - The Doors
23. Goodbye Stranger - Supertramp
24. Say What? - Stevie Ray Vaughn
25. 1969 - The Stooges
26. Unbelieveable - EMF
27. Seagull - Ride
28. Long Tall Sally - Cactus
29. Look At Yourself - Uriah Heep
30. We Used To Know - Jethro Tull
31. Too Rolling Stoned - Robin Trower
32. Stay - Pink Floyd
33. The Soapmakers - Clutch
34. Let's Get It On - Marvin Gaye
35. Love's Theme - Barry White and the Love Unlimited Orchestra
36. Pictures of Matchstick Men - Status Quo
37. The Audience Is Listening - Steve Vai
38. Higher Ground - Stevie Wonder
39. Monster Skank - Infectious Grooves
40. 25 or 6 to 4 - Chicago
41. A New Way - Toe Fat
42. Paranoid - Grand Funk Railroad
43. What I Am - Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians
44. Electric Funeral - Black Sabbath
45. Yankee Rose - David Lee Roth

Unfortunately, these are all international artists and there's not much (at all) in the way of Australian artists. Can anyone suggest any local notable wah wah performances?

Cheers

Monday, 21 March 2011

100 LPs Shortlist #6: "The Best Of..." - Blondie



There's always some debate about whether a comprehensive list of the "greatest" albums of all time should include Compilation albums. After all, we are looking at a studio album as a creative endeavour; one that is created in a time and space relative to it's environment. Compilation albums really only summarise the supposed high points of recent works, right?

But what about those artists who were brilliant on 7-inch vinyl, but struggled to create a consistently satisfying LP catalogue? This is usually the justification for including compilation albums by Johnny O'Keefe and The Easybeats in lists of the greatest Australian albums (I'd argue against this for the Easybeats, but that's for another posting). True, Johnny O'Keefe, Elvis Presley and even James Brown were always wildly inconsistent on LPs, churning out albums seemingly only to have a new product in the marketplace to maintain career momentum.

To this writer's ears, Blondie never really achieved the "great" album ("Parallel Lines" comes close). Albums like "Eat To The Beat" and "Autoamerican" were so wildly inconsistent that they just don't hang well together as a listening experience.

On the other hand, their catalogue of 7-inch singles is totally brilliant. Most of which were collected together on "The Best Of Blondie" in 1981.

I discovered Blondie, on a 7-inch single at my next door neighbours house, around age 6. I was over there one day with my mum and while she was chatting to them I noticed a small collection of singles. I was allowed to borrow them to listen to and to make a mix tape of, if I wanted to. One of the singles was "Union City Blue", and I fell in love. It's still a great song now, and it's b-side "Living In The Real World" eclipses the a-side in it's intensity and firepower.

Discovering "The Best Of Blondie" a few years later was an amazing experience. It's a great listen from top to tail, and the songs that that the radio always play are probably the least inspiring from the album. I mean, "Heart of Glass" and "The Tide Is High" are great songs, but they are nothing compared to "Atomic", "Hanging On The Telephone", "Picture This", "Dreaming" and of course "Union City Blue". All the songs are great, but the album as listening experience really adds up to more than the sum of its parts.

As this was such an important listen to me growing up (despite the fact I first heard this album in full long after they had split up), I think I might include it on the grounds of historical importance. But the 100 LPs surely can't contain all compilations, as that would be cheating, right?

Anyway, here's a Grooveshark link to the original 14 track LP, plus "Living In The Real World" as a bonus. CRANK IT UP!!!

Blondie - The Best of by David Kowalski on Grooveshark

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

100 LPs Shortlist #5: "Meet Glen Campbell" - Glen Campbell

Glen Campbell - Meet Glen Campbell

When I first heard that Glen Campbell was releasing a new LP in 2008, with covers of Foo Fighters and Green Day songs on it, I was horrified. I was totally prepared for this album to completely suck.

The pairing of an old contemporary country singer, with music originally by a punk rock band seemed incongruous. Was this going to end up as tragically bad as John Farnham's attempt to reclaim commercial success (a la Rod Stewart of late) with his atrocious LP "I Remember When I Was Young: Songs from the Great Australian Songbook"? Possibly...

...but then, it could be as cool as Johnny Cash became in the last few years of his life, with the release of his "American Recordings" series, when he took on the works of Tom Petty and Soundgarden with stunning results.

The old adage that "you can't judge a record by reading about it in Rolling Stone" certainly applies here. The proof is in the grooves (or the arrangement of the 1s and 0s in your mp3 files). Upon listening to it, it is apparent that this album is a triumph.

Granted, some tracks are not that far removed from their original arrangements. It's certainly the case on his versions of "Sing" by Scottish band Travis, and Green Day's "Time Of Your Life". However, that is not a criticism: Glen's warm and tender tenor suits these arrangements. These tracks, especially "Time Of Your Life", contain a certain type of emotional urgency in their performance that makes them exciting and appealing.

Not being a huge U2 fan, there are only a small handful of songs in their catalogue that I consider to be essential listening. I was nervous when approaching the version of "All I Want Is You" here, as this is one of my very favourites. The arrangement is very close to the original, with enough subtle changes in it to make it uniquely "Glen". He succeeds with his version, I'm glad to say.

His take on "Times Like These", a highlight of the Foo Fighters otherwise mediocre LP "One by One", is quite curious, as it seems to ape the sound and style of some of his classic works, most notably "Galveston". On paper, that sounds awful, but some reason the song is strangely endearing in this form. It forms a perfect soundtrack for driving in the desert on a hot summer day.

The version of the Jackson Browne-penned "These Days" (originally performed by Nico on "Chelsea Girl" in 1967) is not as cold as Nico's version, but actually suits the pleasant acoustic guitar treatment offered here.

Within a couple of listens, this album inspired fervent loyalty from me and I consider it to be a highlight in my music collection. I managed to score a limited edition vinyl copy of the album which features pristine sound and a bonus track - a remix of "Galveston", which is very out of place here. It somehow manages to detract from the greatness of the rest of the record. Not because it isn't a good song, because it is, but it's placement on this record is out of context and unnecessary.

Featured below is the album on Spotify, minus the Galveston remix.

Enjoy.



Here are the original artists of the tracks on this album:

1. Sing - Travis
2. Walls - Tom Petty
3. Angel Dream - Tom Petty
4. Times Like These - Foo Fighters
5. These Days - Nico (written by Jackson Browne)
6. Sadly Beautiful - The Replacements
7. All I Want Is You - U2
8. Jesus - Velvet Underground (written by Lou Reed)
9. Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life) - Green Day
10. Grow Old With Me - John Lennon

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Vale Joe Morello

Joe Morello, drummer with the classic Jazz ensemble The Dave Brubeck Quartet passed away on Staurday, aged 82.

He was much underrated as a drummer. He was able to hold a steady groove (and solo as well) in some of the most obscure time signatures ever, and make it look so easy.

The Dave Brubeck quartet made a name for themselves playing "Cool" jazz in the 1950s, a style that was the direct opposite to the hard bop style prevalent at the time. It emphasised space between the notes of solos, as well as smaller sized ensembles too.

Brubeck also made weird time signatures accessible to even the most die-hard, jazz-hating music fan. The classic "Take Five", written in a time signature of 5 beats to the bar (as opposed to the most common one - 4 beats to the bar) is now iconic, identifiable to people who have never even heard much in the way of Jazz.

One thing I didn't know what that he was actually the drum teacher to Max Weinberg, who played drums with Springsteen in the E Stree Band.

We here at TSATF are glad to have heard and enjoyed the work of Mr Morello. Pretty much anything the Brubeck Quartet ever recorded for Columbia/CBS records is highly recommended, so go and hunt down some of it.

Check out some of Joe Morello below as part of his work with the Brubeck Quartet.

Cheers

Take Five - live on Belgian TV 1964



Three To Get Ready - live on Belgian TV 1964



Drum solo from 1964

Friday, 11 March 2011

Ol' George, the Cheeky Chappie

Just this week I have discovered on the BBC Radio 2 website that they are running a documentary on George Formby, a Northern England comedian who was EMI's biggest star in the 1930s and 1940s.

I discovered his music in my grandmother's record collection when I was a kid. I don't know what it was but it was the strangest and funniest music I'd heard. It wasn't until I hit my teenage years that I finally worked out what he was singing about, and also worked out all the cheeky double entendre that his songs were laced with!!!

It's probably no surprise that a lot of his work was banned by the BBC back in the day as being "utter filth". Indeed, the songs are still pretty racey by today's standards. Their content just isn't as blatant as other artists around these days.

The BBC's documentary is of an excellent standard and is full of insight, even if you're a young person, there's plenty of contemporary references throughout which make it very interesting. It really demonstrates how George and his manager-wife Beryl were trailblazers in the entertainment industry back then.

Below is a song by George called "Granddad's Flannelette Nightshirt", with an amended verse not featured on the recording.

100 LPs Shortlist #4: "Diamond Dogs" - Bowie

David Bowie - Diamond Dogs

"...And in the death,
As the last few corpses lay rotting in the slimy thoroughfare,
The Shutters lifted in inches in Temperance Building,
High on Poacher's Hill,
and red mutant eyes gaze down on Hunger city..."


What's a word that means "more epic than epic"? If ever there is one, it is certainly required here.

By 1974, David Bowie was well into a phase of unbridled creativity; turning out wide-screen epic albums that are now regarded as classics. "Ziggy Stardust" (1972) was literally a cinematic concept-story piece full of camp, tension, drama and just plain ol' good times. The songs were great too. "Alladin Sane" (1973) pushed the audience's boundaries by talking about mental illness and introducing elements of avant-garde and Broadway show tunes, but it lacked a unifying focus, despite having a collection of excellent songs. "Pin-ups" (also 1973) was a covers album, and it's mostly a write off.

And then comes this. As soon as the first psychotic howl screeches from the speakers, the listener knows instantly that this record is going to be miles away from the technicolour supernova that "Ziggy" was. "Diamond Dogs" is no less an inspired piece, but it is very bleak in its approach. It's a wild record, but it portrays a very ugly environment.

Rumour has it that this record was supposed to be a musical version of George Orwell's novel "1984". When the Orwell estate denied Bowie permission to model the album around the story line, he took a left turn and created a album depicting some sort of post-decadent, post-apocalyptic, urban dystopian nightmare. Orwell's novel paints a bleak picture of life under the control of Big Brother, but not one as gruesome as this.

Musically, this record is a tour de force, with layer upon shimmering layer of aural detail. The craft that went into this album is very impressive, with most songs linked together without the usual 2-5 seconds of space between them. The only time the "1984" concept comes into play is in the middle of side two when the songs "1984" and "Big Brother" appear. These songs were written for the intended play/concept album before the Orwell Estate denied permission. The rest display a turgid miasma of a story that never really progresses or says anything important. It even doesn't have a lot to do with the original idea as it was intended to be, but really, with music this detailed and well written, who cares? Flaws in the plot could be forgiven in that event.

Chronologically this record ends Bowie's hard rock/glam period. His next LP was a double live LP "David Live" which plunged him headlong towards the plastic neo-soul that would be fully realised on the 1975 LP "Young Americans". In retrospect, songs like "1984" contain a soul feel that would have hinted towards his next direction. But overall, this is Bowie's wild (albeit drug-addled) imagination running amok over 2 sides of a 40 minute LP, and he was rarely this richly diverse and wild ever again.

"...This ain't rock and roll!
This is ... Genocide!!!"


Indeed.

The version of the album presented below includes a bonus track called "Dodo", which was recorded in 1973 but was previously unissued.

Enjoy.

Bowie - Diamond Dogs by David Kowalski on Grooveshark

Friday, 4 March 2011

100 LPs Shortlist #3: "Alive" - Kainos

Kainos - Alive

Kainos is a Greek word meaning "fresh" or "new", and their first (and only, to date) LP "Alive" certainly contains an apposite title.

Released in the wake of Evanescence's debut album, "Fallen", Kainos certainly share a good deal of aural simularities. While the lead singer doesn't have a voice as pure as Amy Lee from Evanescence, she certainly compliments the grunt of the music with a forceful, yet soulful wail. Hannah's vocals are somewhat reminiscent of Katy Steel from Little Birdy singing in a lower register, or Nikka Costa during her "Butterfly Rocket" phase.

The band certainly back a sonic wallop, but also are able to temper that with lots of subtlety and dynamics. It adds a bit of welcome relief from the constant overexposure that Evanescence received in the media a few years back (something this writer is still recovering from). Kainos avoid the over-the-top melodrama inherent in Evanescence's work and instead inject pure, raw emotion into their work.

Check it out:

Kainos - Alive by David Kowalski on Grooveshark

100 LPs Shortlist #2: "Messin'" - Manfred Mann's Earth Band

Manfred Mann's Earth Band - Messin'

Here we have a genuine obscurity.

The tale of Manfred Mann's career is a long and convoluted one, so I'll abbreviate it.

He starts playing Jazz in small clubs in England in the early 1960s, gradually moves towards a pop direction and gets signed to a record deal in the wake of the Beatles. has 3 years of hits for EMI then switches to Fontana records for more hits from 1967. He gets sick of playing pop and goes back to a tough, dissonant jazz-rock direction under the name of Manfred Mann Chapter Three for two LPs, then forms Manfred Mann's Earth Band in 1971 and goes global again with a Prog-Rock sound. Phew!

Manfred never really gets his due from the critics. His 60s pop stuff was lightweight fluff; the Chapter Three period was not as technically proficient as King Crimson or Miles Davis; and Earth Band was seen as too "pop". Personally I think more to the point was that he didn't write his own material, or at least not much of it. He's more remembered as an interpreter of other peoples' songs, more than a writer. His cover choices are usually well considered and usually (but not always) expertly arranged, even if he did choose a few dodgy settings on his Moog and get the occasional awful sound from it.

Messin' probably got lost in a flurry of activity in the early 1970s for the band, churning out their first 4 LPs within 6-9 months of each other. It's extremely hard to find a first pressing in good condition these days, and if you do you'll pay over $100 for it.

I found my copy at my school fete when I was in 5th grade. I paid 50 cents for it. I bought it because I recognised the name "Manfred Mann" even though I had no idea what the music would be like. One of the labels had this weird swirl on it, and the opening track was 10 minutes long. I'd never heard of such a thing! A 10 minute song? This has to be heard to be believed!



At the time, the biggest thing to hit my little musical universe was "Brothers In Arms" by Dire Straits. Sure it had long, jamming songs and top notch guitar work, but the "Messin'" LP blew Knopffler and his crew out of the water.

The 10 minute title track, slow burning to begin with, ends with a massive climax. Track 2, "Buddah", again slow to take off, has some beautiful guitar work all through it, climaxing with a wicked drum solo.

"Cloudy Eyes" and "Sadjoy" are beautiful instrumentals with soaring lead guitar lines. "Get Your Rocks Off", a Dylan cover from "The Basement Tapes" is a nice chugging rocker.

Track 6 is where the wheels start getting wobbly. How Manfred thought he could record a version of Chain's "Black and Blue" and think he could improve on it is beyond me. It's an ok attempt, but I'd recommend saving 7 minutes of your life and tracking down the original. This track (due to publishing problems, I guess) didn't appear on the US Copy of the LP (which was retitled "Get Your Rocks Off") - it was replaced with a John Prine cover entitled "Pretty Good". It basically lives up to its title, nothing more.

Manfred Mann's Earth Band - Get Your Rocks Off

The final track "Mardi Gras Day" is more throwaway than anything, making the album a bit uneven overall.

Sure, "Glorified Magnified", "Nightingales and Bombers" and "The Good Earth" are better LPs, but I'll never forget hearing side 1 of this album for the first time and having little 10 year old mind blown. Music at the time (this was 1986 after all) just didn't sound anything like this! It sure as hell didn't sound like the "Do Wah Diddy Diddy"-Manfred Mann stuff that my Dad had in his collection. And it was miles removed from the Neil Diamond records he used to play! "Messin'" had such a major impact on me then. To this day I still love playing the lead guitar part of "Cloudy Eyes" on guitar.

Included below is the full album plus "Pretty Good" from the US version as a bonus track. Sit back and enjoy the ride...

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

100 LPs Shortlist #1 - "'Cos Life Hurts" - Uncanny X-Men

Uncanny X-men - 'Cos Life Hurts

In 1985, singer Brian Mannix and his band of mulletted musicians The Uncanny X-Men were inescapable. They were huge on the pub circuit, popular on Countdown, hit singles left right and centre. It seemed like they could do no wrong.

"'Cos Life Hurts" was mainly a standard rock album for its time - front-loaded with hits ("Still Waiting", "Work"), the ballads to make the girls cry tucked away towards the end ("50 Years"), fair-to-middling pop tunes in the middle, and a solid rocker at the end to close up shop ("Best Looking Guy").

Like most things from the 1980s, this has dated quite a lot. The production, while tasteful, is very much of its time - processed drums, heavily reverbed yobbo-group-backing vocals and benign party-fest lyrics. These days it sounds quite thin - I'm sure this sounded much heavier and thumping back in when I played this up loud in 1985/6...but I guess that's how perspective changes things in 25 years.

Their two biggest singles "Still Waiting" and "50 Years" were, for my money, some of the greatest Aussie songs released in the decadent 80s. The scary thing was that in 1985 you could get away with recording and releasing a song like "Best Looking Guy" and not have the politically-correct-police hunting you down. Even so, it's still a bit embarrassing to hear it now, with its blatant racism and misogyny, even if it does raise a sly smile once it's finished.

So it appeared they could do no wrong, but soon after they did. Their follow up album "What You Give Is What You Get" in 1986 was a trainwreck of a record, drowning in bad synth sounds and fake keyboard brass, and just generally crappy songs. They wisely pulled up stumps after the relative failure of the album and were never heard from again.

Check out their finest 40 minutes or so for yourself below. Cheers.

100 albums?

Recently a friend of mine told me about a personal project he was working on. A list of his favourite 100 albums of all time. I'm sure he knew that lists like this amuse the hell out of me, and we had plenty to talk about for the next few hours as a result.

His premise was not to chronicle the "greatest" 100 albums of all time, but rather, his personal favourites of all time. As this is entirely subjective, it would appear to be quite egotistical to create a list like this. And maybe so. At least it would give the opportunity to examine the music that informs our tastes and choices now; the "soundtrack of our lives", as it were.

I think it would be interesting to compare lists when they are complete. I imagine that the final lists will be a long way away at this stage. I mean, whittling down a short list of nearly 300 LPs is no walk in the park.

I've started thinking about this quite heavily and I'm wondering exactly how to rank and weight each album. Obviously you don't want the latest "flash in the pan" album that has been on high rotation for 3 weeks to be the top of the list, because of its relatively short period of influence. But then, you don't want something daggy being number one, despite the fact you may have totally been into it when you were 8 years old, but would gladly run over the record with the car if you still owned it.

So how do you do it? I guess all those factors need to be taken into account. The key is what is actually in the grooves of the record: does it still sound good today? How much did I listen to it in my lifetime? Was there a period when it hardly left the turntable? These i think are some of the key things that should be factored in when ranking these albums.

Over the next little while, I'll post Grooveshark links to some of the albums from the 300-or-so long shortlist, with a short review and you can rate them yourself.

Cheers...