Saturday, August 30, 2014

Song of the Week #313

Reissues aren't particularly unusual these days. Once in a while they are even worth buying. But too often it just seems to be a case of "pump up the bass and overall volume and the punters will buy anything".

MARRS - Pump Up The Volume - http://youtu.be/w9gOQgfPW4Y

Then there's the conundrum that faces me quite regularly. How many versions of an album do I really need? If it was good the first time around then is an "upgrade" really necessary. And is it really an upgrade?

Some re-issue packages are lovingly packaged with a million extra versions of songs including demos, live versions and alternate takes. For the true fan that can be a lot of fun and can justify some of the price hikes. But the same album, with no extras with a digital remaster isn't really that exciting I don't think. As DJ Guz pointed out via an article he sent me, 70's recording engineers DID know what they were doing and the bands generally had to approve the mix prior to release. So if you're listening on vinyl why bother? I can understand that early CD releases weren't great in terms of quality but even then, for most people listening in the car, on headphones or their home theatre system they will hear precious little difference.

I hear you asking yourself, "what got him started on re-issues again?" Well, it's Iron Maiden. They are a great band that I love but they are huge fans of a re-release. The latest offering (coming in October) are vinyl re-issues of their 80's catalogue. We're talking about 8 albums and 19 7" singles. That's a lot. All on heavyweight 180g black vinyl and re-cut from the original analogue master tapes.

I have these albums. All on CD, some on tape, some on vinyl too. And in the case of some I have alternate vinyl versions too. So am I excited about this release? Yes, and I am a SUCKER. I won't buy the singles, even though the artwork makes it almost worth it, but if they've done a good job of transferring from master to vinyl then there's a couple I'm keen on. But wait, there's an impressive box to put them all in...oh dear, there goes my money!

Iron Maiden - The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner - http://youtu.be/Z7aq8fz36Bs

J Mascis released a solo album four days ago. Whether it's in the shops here yet remains to be seen. He has a seriously credible resume from being in Dinosaur Jr and this solo album seems to have polarised reviewers and listeners alike. The few tracks I've heard are really very good I think. J has a particular vocal sound that you're going to like or not (it reminds me of Cobain in quiet moments). If you're thinking that you like the overdriven whoosh guitar sounds of Dinosaur Jr then this might not be for you as it's mainly acoustic stuff. But I thought it sounded really fresh, light and very listenable. I'll buy it.

J Mascis - Wide Awake - http://youtu.be/D4ea-11BUbA

Staying with the acoustic theme for a minute, this is a very recent release as well. I'll be seriously impressed if anyone out there can let me know who did this song originally (without using a search engine or phoning a friend!) - any takers? This version is just stellar. The real accent, the relaxed instrumentation and just the groove.

Robyn Hitchcock - The Ghost In You - http://youtu.be/52DUrv1gCUw

Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers have a new album, "Hypnotic Eye". My few spins of this LP indicate that, like all Tom's stuff, that you get quality, radio friendly rock full of hooks and a hint of glitter. "Forgotten Man" opens with a wonderfully shimmering electric guitar and whilst it doesn't sound particularly different to anything else he's put out the toe tapping and head nodding are almost impossible to avoid.

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers - Forgotten Man - http://youtu.be/du1afxe74VE

That's enough for another week. I've got a bike to ride. And a new one one order! Woo hoo!

DJ Rob

"...I'm on the hard grind..." - Rhinobucket (1994)


Saturday, August 23, 2014

Song of the Week #312

This week the World Wide Woozle is coming to you live and not so exclusive from Surfers Paradise.  It's a paradise if you like rain. Foolishly I thought I could get all this done on the iPad without trialling it at home. Bear with me.

H sent me a link to an article about whether or not albums are dead. The upshot of that quick read was that the jury is out. In my opinion singles and compilation albums are a quick fix, a sugar hit, something without any lasting effect. Albums are something to immerse yourself in and to give time to grow. Singles and compiles are the equivalent of 20/20 cricket. The crowd loves it, TV adores it and people have a good time. But, the players (musicians) tolerate it and it has no real credibility or lasting effect. Singles are for the jukebox and maybe your workout iPod playlist but albums have substance. Well that's my opinion.

What I'll do this week is play 5 tracks from albums that I think are worthy of your listening time...start to finish, over and over. By the way, these don't have to be thematic long players rather a solid group of cohesive tracks.

First is Queensrÿche's "Operation : Mindcrime". This one does have a story all the way but other than that it is musically and lyrically strong and frankly it sounds great. Metal's magnum opus?

Queensrÿche' - I don't believe in love - http://youtu.be/2c3g6tTYoxM

Staying with harder rock I really can't go past Ozzy's "Blizzard of Ozz". The full review I mentioned last week is still coming but the LP has fantastic guitar work and Ozzy singing up an energetic storm. No filler on this one.

Ozzy Osbourne - Steal Away The Night - http://youtu.be/4PdcW8jadCU

Jason Isbell is my new favourite songwriter. You may have noticed. His recent album "Southeastern" has catchy tunes with unexpectedly deep lyrical content and, my favourite, tasty guitars! The album works really well from front to back and I never want to skimpy track or to press stop! It's one I'll be getting on vinyl.

Jason Isbell - Flying Over Water - http://youtu.be/hsa_Fwn2xJA

This may shock you if you're new to my rumblings but I'm a Kylie fan. Her "Impossible Princess" album sealed it for me. Sure she has some very, very catchy tunes but this record with its rock and pop sensibilities is a real treat.

Kylie - Some Kind Of Bliss -  http://youtu.be/tuB9RRSja9o

Finally something a little older.  The artists originally known as Tom and Jerry had some great LPs but this one, which my parents had and I taped more than once, is brilliant. The voices, the clarity of sound and yeah, the songs. "Sounds of Silence" was their second LP.

Simon and Garfunkel  - I Am A Rock - http://youtu.be/My9I8q-iJCI

Sorry this is a bit brief. Next time I'll use a real keyboard. D'oh!

DJ Rob

"...another gig my ears bleed..."  - Motörhead - We Are The Road Crew - http://youtu.be/H71VEV1c_XE

Friday, August 15, 2014

Song of the Week #311

Well; as of a couple of hours ago I'm officially "between jobs"! I cycled down the hill away from work this afternoon looking forward to a new challenge but knowing that there are a lot of people I'll miss. I will admit that I won't regret not having to make the climb UP the hill to work each morning. No matter which way you go there's always a climb to Grammar!

Alice Cooper - School's Out (live 2014) - http://youtu.be/NzEpLErIDCw

I've got a few days before I start in my new job. I've been jokingly telling people that those days are for the "three c's"; cycling, coffee and corporate wardrobe. That's not far wrong. The weather looks like it might be against me in terms of getting a lot of kilometres in but we'll see...

The Kinks - Dedicated Follower Of Fashion - http://youtu.be/KXaO3zgaf5Q

Black Flag - Black Coffee - http://youtu.be/i4odD2Bg1_0

I should have time to make serious inroads into replacing my bike as well. All I can say is watch this space!

Pink Floyd - Money - http://youtu.be/-0kcet4aPpQ

Not much more to say this week as I must admit I'm a bit wiped out.

Here's three songs to listen to. They are all different and speak to me in different ways. Let me know sometime what you think.

Green Day - She's A Rebel - http://youtu.be/eOv5fF7maFY

Ike & Tina Turner - Baby Get It On - http://youtu.be/_skplba3wOg

The Pogues - Sally MacLennane - http://youtu.be/sh5gtGk9XZ8

Have a good weekend and cross your fingers that someone buys our house!

Oh, and look out on the blog during the week for a track by track commentary of one of my favourite albums of all time, "Blizzard of Ozz".

DJ Rob

"...when you really need it the most,
rock 'n' roll dreams come true..." - Jim Steinman

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Song of the Week #310

Tingha was cold but Canberra outdid itself this week with our coldest week in years. Being the stubborn cyclist that I am, I rode my bike to work all week. The coldest apparent temperature was -11 degrees. Brrrrrrrrrr! Fortunately I'll be spending a few days at the Gold Coast for work in a couple of weeks so I may thaw out at some point.

Simon & Garfunkel - A Hazy Shade of Winter - http://youtu.be/bnZdlhUDEJo

On Thursday night DJ Al-knee-Sun and I ventured out to the wilds of the location referred to by DJ AB as "Wodor". We braved sub-zero temperatures and every Canberran with a dodgy knee, hip or sporting a walking stick to go and see Russell Morris play. Russell has been around for a very long time. I've been spinning his latest album "Van Diemen's Land" for quite a while and really I think it's worth 5 stars out of 5. That's high praise but it is truly a great listen. All of the songs have stories behind them and the musicians are tip top. But on to the gig review....

The room was large and sterile. The room was cold. The support act was, well, how can I put it? He needed work. It is possible these days to tune your guitar without the audience hearing it. I've no doubt that he could play and he could sing but doing both at once was a struggle for some reason. The sound guy also did him no favours with a harsh, tinny guitar sound.  Fortunately Russell (who looks amazingly fit and healthy for a  man well into his 60's) and his band were absolutely fantastic. They played plenty of songs from his latest two albums as well as delving back into his stuff from the 60's onwards. Russell himself played one of the small body Maton acoustic guitars which I've had my eye on for a while. The only downside was the horrendous buzzing, hum and interference from his guitar player. Seriously, if I was a professional musician I think I'd get that sorted out. If you get a chance to see Russell then grab it with both hands and take a friend. It was $37 very, very well spent.

Russell Morris & Melinda Schneider - Hush - http://youtu.be/6DoEXzAOEWc 

Russell Morris - Dexter's Big Tin Can - http://youtu.be/2SYCe1POTmA

Righto, this is a bit of an interesting song. I've heard it playing twice on the radio in the car. Fortunately with digital radio the artist and song name come up on the screen. This is important as Double J seem to never have any announcers. That's not a problem in itself unless you want to know who's singing. The lack of inane radio banter is a joy to behold. But I digress. This song reminded me of another which I'll play in a minute. Regardless, I thought it was worth a second or third listen.

Jessica Lea Mayfield - I Wanna Love You - http://youtu.be/meHGilIpCbE

The swirly guitars and the melody in that tune soon had me singing this in my head...

Blue Oyster Cult - Don't Fear The Reaper - http://youtu.be/1ycOp67eLoM

I forgot to add this earlier but it still fits here. Russell Morris ended his show with what he said would be the song to break him overseas...we waited in suspense and then laughed long and loud as his band ripped through this one...

The Beatles - Please Please Me - http://youtu.be/yhn-WzLIS6E

Yeah, yeah, yeah, so everyone's heard it a million times. But what I found whilst looking for a good mono version to share with you all was tons of slightly obsessive conversations about different versions, mixes and recording sessions. And then an argument about why Lennon didn't play the harmonica live. It was a hoot.

Some songs (and bands) manage to sit in a groove which has me nodding my head and sitting hear with the headphones on sporting a huge cheesy grin. ZZ Top are one of those bands. This version of one of their classics is even better here as it is slightly slower than normal and has more guitars (and no synth). Pretty cool indeed.

Billy Gibbons and Daryl Hall - Sharp Dressed Man (live) - http://youtu.be/L3WdXLSiP9w

That's from a show called "Daryl's House". Of course it's not on TV here but I'm sure I can locate bits and pieces via the internets.

My Mum is on holiday in Europe and the UK. She recently send me a pic of a newsletter from a small church in the Cotswolds where Robert Plant had shown up to play a charity gig. Here's some press coverage. This coincided interestingly enough with me spending some time listening to a fair bit of Led Zep. Their remasters got me interested and although I haven't purchased any (yet) I've been giving their earlier 4 disc set some regular air time.

Led Zeppelin - Nobody's Fault But Mine - http://youtu.be/hJeGrLJ6dOI

I'll wrap up now as the sun is out and as usual, I've probably said too much one week. It's always difficult to choose a tune to sign off with so I'll choose two instead. One I play a lot and I hope someone has listened to the whole thing (including thr 6m30s intro) and will understand why I choose it on such a regular basis. The other is just an energetic blast of rock.

Steve Earle - Jerusalem - http://youtu.be/xTO_XZuiblw

Dave Grohl and Paul McCartney's band - Band On The Run (live) - http://youtu.be/PYetH6DeMcY

Anyone want to buy our house?

DJ Rob

"Won't need no shadow man
Runnin' the government
Won't need no stinkin' WAR" - Neil Young, After The Garden

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Song of the Week #309

It's Sunday morning as I'm typing this. Yesterday was a whirlwind of inspiration and music. But at the moment I'm tired and worn out. 

Johnny Cash and Kris Kristofferson - Sunday Morning Coming Down - http://youtu.be/YcPW6R9yRzE

Saturday saw the band playing the closing set at the Dirrum Dirrum conference here in Canberra. Earlier in the day George, Matt and I had been fortunate enough to share with the attendees a little about what our tour in particular as well as the work H does in Northern NSW means to us. The whole band played probably our most energetic set ever later that night and it was loads of fun. We had a very supportive and enthusiastic crowd made up of people of all ages. Many thanks to Rich and the Dirrum Dirrum team for having us along. And a special shout out to our sound and keyboards guru, DJ Guz, who worked hard all night helping the students with their sound requirements.

Simon & Garfunkel - The Sound of Silence - http://youtu.be/4zLfCnGVeL4

That song was chosen carefully for Tim. He understands what the spaces between sounds are for and that's unusual in a sound guy.

Loads of people spoke at the conference about "being the change". There were global entrepreneurs, artists, thinkers, students, educators and of course musicians. What I took away from listening and participating was that I would much rather listen to people talking about the people they are helping than themselves. The speakers I admired the most were those standing for those who have no voice otherwise. Matt Pye from Crossing The Divide in Bundarra and Michael Weir from Queanbeyan really resonated with me as they are working in their own backyards. There is so much need in our own country even if it isn't as "glamorous" as volunteering in far flung locations all over the world. I agree that charity should begin at home but I think that we need to remember that for many people overseas that they don't have anyone locally to help them. The balance between addressing poverty and injustice and our country and helping overseas is a delicate one. Cutting the overseas aid budget and drowning Aussies in red tape to secure funding is not the answer.

Steve Earle - The Revolution Starts Now - http://youtu.be/XR80U_DQwFE

For a while now I've been enjoying the "gloom-pop" of English artist Laura Kidd. She goes by the name of She Makes War. It's moody, melodic, layered and fantastic. At the moment Laura is looking for support to fund her third full length album. I'll be kicking in a few dollars and if you like her music you should too. So many artists are using this method to get their music heard. Just because a record company isn't interested or because the artist wants to maintain creative control doesn't mean they are no good. Check out her Pledge Music page here and get involved: http://www.pledgemusic.com/artists/shemakeswar

She Makes War - Slow Puncture - http://youtu.be/Q5hzO-s2LA4

Once in a while I still hear something good on the radio. Sadly this doesn't happen nearly as often as I'd like. I don't think I'm more discerning than in the past, I blame the playlist managers. Even Double J is fairly average. But I digress! I heard this track from a band I know nothing about and it pressed all my buttons at the time. They seem to be referred to as "doom-metal" and I can hear why from the minor feel of the music. But whatever, I just liked it and I'll seek out more of their stuff.

Pallbearer - The Ghost I Used To Be - http://youtu.be/LTTt-ikVJSk

If you're in a poppy, grungy, head nodding mood then you should be listening to The Pixies. This is their latest track and I think it's rather tasty. Ripping guitars, a good beat and energetic vocals. 

The Pixies - Blue Eyed Hexe - http://youtu.be/bEBpvpomwG4

I had a very sad moment on Friday morning. After having my rear bike wheel trued (it was a little bent out of shape after an altercation with a pothole) I went to put it back on my trusty Cervelo. And the rear derailleur just came off in my hand. After swear words and yes, I'll admit it, tears of frustration, I rode my mountain bike to work instead. Happily the best bike shop in the universe (Monkey Wrench at Hackett) have done repairs to get me back on the road. But the thing is that I probably need to admit that the bike is almost at the end. So much of it is worn out including bits of the frame. You have to understand that it's the only expensive bike I've ever had and I think it's a thing of speed and beauty. I've had it since the start of 2008 so it really owes me nothing but it's like an extension of my body these days. Maybe it would make a nice art installation in my studio one day in the future! I guess I'll need to start looking for a new ride.

Queen - You're My Best Friend - http://youtu.be/HaZpZQG2z10

Back to the band for a minute. When I was thinking about what to say at the conference yesterday I reflected on my Australian musical influences. Midnight Oil weren't the quintessential Aussie band for me growing up. I wasn't of the age to be interested in their political views until "Blue Sky Mining" was released really. Redgum were the sound of my Australia. Their lyrics were closer to my experience of growing up in the country and of the people there.

Redgum - The Long Run (live) - http://youtu.be/FLrJa-fKIvw

Redgum - Friday Night - http://youtu.be/66ST6du7GnA

Redgum - Where Ya Gonna Run To? - http://youtu.be/MS-q-x9G5S8

Keep the faith Australia....

DJ Rob

"On the road again -
Just can't wait to get on the road again.
The life I love is making music with my friends" - Willie Nelson - http://youtu.be/Gdlyi5mckg0

Friday, July 25, 2014

Song of the Week #308

A week and a day since we played a gig. Much of life seems so mundane in comparison! Fear not though, we're making some noise on August 2nd. You can see all the details at the band's Facebook page: www.facebook.com/junksculpture. If you're in Canberra come along and see us (it's free).

July has been my easy month for the year on the bike. Back when I was training for triathlon our coach insisted on 4-6 weeks off in the middle of the year. It's good for your mind and body and I still ease off at least these days. This month with being sick and then on tour it was easy to have time away from cycling. To give you an idea of how easy I've taken it I usually ride about 40 hours in a month. For July do far I've ridden for 6. It feels weird. There's still a few days left though!

I spent some time in the record shop over the weekend. The kids were elsewhere and DJ Al-ee-sunshine was in Hawaii so I had time on my hands. The new album from Australian Blues guitarist and singer Mia Dyson is fantastic. It's a bit more varied than her previous outings but the guitars sound fantastic and the songs are strong. I'm also listening to a Wilco album from 1996 called "Being There". Wilco is a band I've always found a bit challenging in that they are good but just not quite engaging me. This album is different. The songs, the instrumentation and the groove just feels right.

Mia Dyson - When We're Older - http://youtu.be/HfAVOX-bxUc

Wilco - Monday - http://youtu.be/uwDzIwiTIbM

The album (or albums) I didn't buy were the latest Led Zeppelin re-issues. I spent a lot of money on a 4 CD remasters set in 1990. I'm sure that the latest ones are interesting but how many times should I pay for the same thing? As DJ Guz pointed out, the recording engineers in the 60s and 70s knew what they were doing. If bands really wanted to provide something cool then multitrack versions that you could mix yourself would be fun.

Led Zeppelin - Bron-y-aur Stomp - http://youtu.be/eXVlcIiCOuo

Of course the quality of the equipment that you listen on is important to consider. Tinny earbuds and an MP3 are almost the antithesis of full range sound. They have their place and I use them a lot but a decent stereo amplifier and speakers are essential if you're going to lay down money for vinyl or CD remasters. Or at least a lossless player and decent headphones.

I read years ago that Van Halen previewed one of their albums with rock journalists whilst driving and therefore on a car stereo. That's funny.

Van Halen - And The Cradle Will Rock - http://youtu.be/FFez84xaR6Q

During the work I headed out to see a performance of The Beatles "White Album" at the Canberra Theatre. It was pretty good. There's a full review from me here.

Zoe is 18 tomorrow. Time flies. She was an angry baby but beautiful to go along with it! She's not angry any more but she's still gorgeous.

Stevie Wonder - You Are The Sunshine Of My Life - http://youtu.be/3wZ_b_uUAdQ

Alice Cooper - I'm Eighteen - http://youtu.be/z_Ia3TOXl9k

Sheesh, when I turned 18 I'd been in the Army for 3 months! I think Zoe has the better deal.

I'm going to finish with a song that I jammed on with Alex from Tingha. We were waiting around for the rest of the band to come back and we played a few songs once we worked out the chords on the fly. Later on a couple of local kids got a laugh as I was singing it to myself whilst walking down the road! 

Joe Cocker - Unchain My Heart - http://youtu.be/Tpz1Rsiw0AU

Thanks for reading!

DJ Rob

"ran out of town and now she's come back
got Van Halen wailin' on the stereo eight track" - Georgia Satellites, Red Light.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

White Album Concert 22/7/2014

Last night I headed out to see a performance of The Beatles "White Album" at the Canberra Theatre. The show has been on all around Australia and got pretty good reviews.

Hand on heart I can tell you that I am not a Beatles tragic. I don't know all the words to every song on that double LP or even the song order. I am, however, a fan of live music and the idea of an album tribute show sits well with me.

Musically, the members of the band were top notch. Led by guitar legend Rex Goh (Air Supply, Eurogliders and about a million session credits), they were faithful to the Beatles originals. Their sound team weren't though at times burying many of the minor instruments in favour of the guitars. And why it took until "Bungalow Bill" to get a decent snare drum sound we'll never know.

The vocals were handled by four Australian rock singers. Tim Rogers (You Am I), Chris Cheney (The Living End), Phil Jamieson (Grinspoon) and Josh Pyke. I've seen You Am I play live a few times and they've always been sloppy and annoying. Their albums though are excellent. As a result I was really, really blown away with how good Tim Rogers was. As the self confessed least able singer, he made up for any perceived shortcomings with his energy and attitude. In short, he rocked. Chris Cheney played his beautiful Gretsch guitars as well as putting in a memorable vocal performance. He was certainly annoyed that his guitar was almost silent in "Back in the USSR". So was I. Josh Pyke was great. I find a lot of his solo stuff a bit quiet for my liking but his performances were excellent - especially "Blackbird" which he did solo. Phil Jamieson...hmmm...look, he can sing and the songs he did suited him but I'm not sure what was with all the poncing about on stage. It was weird and distracting.

My favourite Beatles song, "Glass Onion", was done really well. Other highlights were a really earthy version of "Why Don't We Do It In The Road" and a top rendition of "Rocky Raccoon". I think the show stealer might just've been Cheney doing a rip-roaring version of "Happy Birthday".

All in all it was a fun night. The first half of the show was a little reserved but Tim Rogers amped things up and the others warmed up. The mix got too loud in the second half for my liking. There's a fine line between a great loud band and volume that begins to hurt and it was crossed on a few occasions. Backup singers should stay in the background; that was another small distraction.

There's footage of bits and pieces but here's an official one: http://youtu.be/MMUMfhnaObg

But now I'm off to listen to the original.

DJ Rob