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From Elvis Presley Boulevard, Memphis, Tennessee (Live Recording) - Elvis Presley 10/08/2007

Elvis standing as a colossus

From Elvis Presley Boulevard, Memphis, Tennessee (Live Recording) - Elvis Presley I'm sure you are all aware of the state of Elvis by the mid 1970s. The fried peanut butter sandwiches, on the spot purchases of Cadillacs and thousand dollar jewellery, not to mention Priscilla leaving him.....all well documented, and especially in that extremely readable book by his aides Red West and Dave Hebler (Elvis; What Happened?) His recording output had fallen away in both quality and quantity since the blockbuster 1969 release of From Elvis In Memphis, although he could still "pack em in" for the live shows. By now The King could not even be bothered to turn up for recording sessions. Two new albums were needed for 1976 though, so therefore it was decided that the studio should be put into Gracelands itself, a somewhat unusual arrangement to say the least. Even then Elvis didn't always show up on time for the cuts. Red West wrote in the above book that he filled in on the mike for more than one of the tracks on this album, leaving Elvis to lay on the vocal at a later date!! Though his honey-sweet vocals were gone by now, on this album for the most part The King draws on sheer emotion to see him through. He sings with a world weariness; the sound of a man who knows, the hurt, the joy, yet ultimately the pain. This is as fine an album as the man ever recorded, ironically probably not as he intended. Does all this make you think this is a terrible album? By rights it should be, but even at this late stage and under the conditions Elvis still puts down a ...

High Wycombe in General 31/07/2007

Two hills and a main road

High Wycombe in General Having had the misfortune to work in Wycombe (no-one calls it HIGH Wycombe BTW) for the last few months I can give quite a good description of this large Buckinghamshire town situated 20 miles northwest of London. The traffic is horrendous; due to the way the town is built. Wycombe is pretty much no more than a main road (the A40) passing between two hills, meaning anyone wishing to pick up the M40 motorway must drive up one of them and it's a big hill too, conveniently situated with an industrial estate on the bottom (Sands), one on the top (Cressex) and a large hospital inbetween. Wycombe's topography is such that of neccesity houses are built on both of the hills, with a shopping centre and train station in the valley, so to speak. The train station, for such a large town population over 120,000 is quite honestly a disgrace, with the ticket office, toilets and shop being situated in Portakabins. The platforms, only three of them, mean you have to walk under the track to get to the other side for the London train. The line goes one way to London Marylebone, the other way at snails pace through the countryside to Aylesbury, Wycombe's smaller but just as crappy neighbour 17 miles to the north. The line coming from Marylebone stops at a platform seperated by a glamorous chain fence. Wycombe do have a football team, Wanderers, but this is no football town. During the recent run to the League Cup Semi Finals could you see any scarves or shirts being worn around the ...

Mad Frank: Memoirs of a Life of Crime - Frankie Fraser, James Morton 28/07/2007

Mad Frankie's coming to get ya

Mad Frank: Memoirs of a Life of Crime - Frankie Fraser, James Morton Francis Davidson Fraser, more popularly known as Frankie or Mad Frank, was firstly the "minder" for 1950's London gangland king Billy Hill and then, in the 1960's, quite literally the hatchet man for the South London brothers Eddie and Charlie Richardson. He wrote this book of reminisces with James Morton and it was first published in 1993. As autobiographies go it follows the standard route of parents, growing up, middle age etc, but of course with one exception: Frankie has spent over 30 of his then-70 years inside, and a major portion of this book is about his time spent "doing the 20". Fraser was there at the Battle of Mr Smith's on the night of 7/8 March 1966 where an attempted take-over of one club by another fim ended in a gunfight resulting in the murder Dickie Hart, an ally of the Kray twins. Fraser was tried for the murder but acquitted, although he got 5 years for affray. A year later, together with Eddie and Charlie Richardson and various associates, he was sentenced to a further 10 years in what became known as the Torture Trial, featuring the famous black box. Not only all this but then in 1970 he was further sentenced to another 10 years for prison riot in which he was said to be one of the ringleaders. Fraser did his bird the hard way without remittances or parole. (As a matter of interest, it was Hart's death that directly led to Ronnie Kray murdering George Cornell soon after, due to the gangland alliances). An underlying theme right through ...

Young Americans (Digitally Remastered) - David Bowie 21/07/2007


Young Americans (Digitally Remastered) - David Bowie After relocating to the USA after the dark glam of "Diamond Dogs" The Man ditched his rock and roll sound of the early 70's and moved to a slicker more mature sound, personified in this classy looking and sounding album, recorded for the most part in Philadelhia, the city where Gamble and Huff were producing classic soul music updated a little with better recording equipment. The catchline at the time was supposed to be Bowie making a "photograph of the folk music of the inner cities" but how much of this is just PR rubbish or his actual intention is open to question. It's still a classy album to listen to, though let down a little by a rather claustrophobic production. The cover is even lusher, showing a beautifully coiffered Bowie in moody 1950's film star mode. This album is perhaps the finest vocal performance of his career. The two singles, the title track and Fame, get most of the attention. DB's pop at the disgraced Richard Nixon in the former is one of my favourite lines on a record ever, "do you remember (voice drops two octaves) your President Nixon?" "ooh ooh ooh ooh" return the backing singers. I recall reading a review of this album that says Bowie was singing with the hurridness of a man trying to catch a bus, and it seems very appropriate. It's a summing up of the lost American dream I guess. Fame was the big hit single a US number one, with its wah-wah guitar and and jerky beat all about the subject of well, Fame "where your life is the limo". Win slows ...

Everything that starts with B ... 09/07/2007

The Trouble With Brit Flicks

Everything that starts with B ... I mean what is it with bloody British films, they seem to come in only three variations. The first one is having Hugh Grant doing his scatterbrained-but-charming romantic schtick alongside some American woman, set in a part of London where no-one gets mugged, raped, buggered or given a slap outside the pub. The other one sees posh boy and fake cockney Guy Ritchie directing some public schoolboys giving it their best Flanagan & Allen impersonations in yet another gangster film set in London. The third wave sees lots of posh people living in a huge country house with servants and plenty of scope for shagging and scandals. Time to demolish (with glee) all stereotypes: Notting Hill, set supposedly in same place: Notting Hill has been one of the most run-down parts of London for over 70 years and has been the setting for Reg Christie's necrophiliac murders as well as those 1950's race riots. The writer Colin MacInness based his book "Absolute Beginners" on the scene in the late 50's. The carnival has seen its fair share of tear-ups down the years too, I remember 1976 or 1977 where there was some serious punch-ups going on. Yet in this film it would appear that the 'Hill is a nice posh upper-middle class area. Loveactually: Here we can see that godawful actress Michelle McCutcheon playing the PM's tealady, and he falls in love with her…….yeah I'm sure. Since the Krays and the Richardsons went down nearly 40 years ago both TV and film producers seem obsessed with the ...

Hot Buttered Soul - Isaac Hayes 07/07/2007

Progressive soul from the original Mack Daddy

Hot Buttered Soul - Isaac Hayes Isaac Hayes, he of the booming yet sultry monotone, made famous again in the late 90's as the voice of Chef in South Park, brought out this album in 1968. It was a good time to be recording in Memphis; Stax records were revitalised with a new pounding soul sound and later that year Elvis would record probably the greatest album of his career "From Elvis In Memphis" across town at American Studios. With this one album Hayes, previously a staff writer and arranger at Stax, set himself up as a genuine mack daddy, going on to record the theme tune for the 1971 blaxplotation "Shaft" and the later modestly titled Black Moses LP of 1974. Hot Buttered Soul also showed that soul and R&B, normally the preserve of the black musician, could also stretch out a jam and explore new territory, much as the progressive rock bands were doing at the time. Hayes brings all his talents as a studio arranger to maximum effect here. There are only 4 tracks on this record and it lasts over 45 minutes, two of the songs are way over 10 minutes long and yet I don't get any feeling of an artist being pretentious or self-important at all - if anything the production is very restrained. At a time when many bands were covering each others songs, Hayes came out with this opus taking material like Burt Bacharach's loungey pop of Walk On By and putting in a harder edged sound on it, whilst throwing in his own arrangements to good effect. Ad-libbing like "you really put the hurt on me, momma" goes along with ...

Promised Land - Elvis Presley 07/07/2007

Elvis not exactly back in the Promised Land

Promised Land - Elvis Presley By the mid 1970's The King had matured into a stellar MOR performer and recorded some of his greatest songs, though consistency was still a problem and this album is no different from a few others he made at the time, having some overall excellent vocal work (by 1973 in my opinion he was sounding as good as he was in 1956) let down more than once by some weaker filler material on his LP's, a situation not helped by the two-album-a-year deal he was in at the time. Any artist, whoever they are, would struggle to produce two geniunely listenable albums in a 12 month span. So it was to Stax Studios in Memphis that the Elvis entourage headed in December 1973; the original plan was to record with some of the house musicians there but sadly things didn't work out and the Presley live band were drafted in to back him up. Therefore this release can best be described as patchy, and anyone who hates Elvis would probably have this kind of LP in mind when they describe why. Not that it isn't immaculately produced; not that the songs are beautifully crafted and played, not that The King couldn't still stand up as one of the finest singers around at the time, because it's all that and more; it's just that too many of the 10 cuts veer dangerously towards safe crowd-pleasing C&W when with a little imagination Elvis could have had a real balls-out rougher sound on this record. Keeping it in the can, label RCA didn't release it until January 1975. The good songs; the title track, a top 10 ...

Axis: Bold As Love [Remastered] - Jimi Hendrix Experience (The) 10/06/2007

Just ask the Axis, he knows everything

Axis: Bold As Love [Remastered] - Jimi Hendrix Experience (The) Axis: Bold As Love with its fantastic spaced-out cover art, showing the band as kind of like Hindu deities (cobras, elephants, kings, girls, firebreathers, the lot) was The Jimi Hendrix Experience's second release after "Are You Experienced?" in 1966. The passage of time has seen this album somewhat overshadowed by their debut and the later "Electric Ladyland" complete with their no 1 smash single, the famous and totally brilliant Voodoo Chile. But that's getting a bit ahead of ourselves so let's get back to this interesting record which has 13 songs in all and clocks in at a respectable 46 minutes. The late 1960's was the era of the power trio, with such bands as Cream, Gun, and the US outfit Mountain playing hard rock with fuzzy guitars and heavy bass rythyms. Indeed the Experience's bassist, Noel Redding, was originally a guitarist and this undoubtedly aided the band in the sense that having an excellent mastery of that instrument he could move along with Hendrix' s sometimes bizarre-yet-effective lead lines. Mitch Mitchell with his solid tight drumming made for a very complimentary rythym section to allow the great Jimi Hendrix free rein to do what he did best, which was to take guitar playing onto another level. The record starts off really funnily with EXP a spoof radio interview where Mitch Mitchell - speaking in a speeded up voice - introduces a Paul Carouso (actually Jimi) who stops the interview to say "I must get in my spaceship" and then there's a lot of ...

Led Zeppelin II - Led Zeppelin 21/04/2007

Way down inside..............

Led Zeppelin II - Led Zeppelin Led Zeppelin II sees the greatest band of all time expanding on the crushing heavy blues of their debut. This was the album that turned Jimmy Page's 1968 one-album studio supergroup (Page, Robert Plant, John Bonham & John Paul Jones) into a bone fide stadium act, topping the US album charts and setting them on course to become the most revered, and yes sometimes the most reviled, hard rock act in music history. Whilst of course still relying heavily on the blues that made up much of their debut, a spacier sound on many of these tracks increases their appeal greatly. Mind you before the sound gets too spacey Page lets rip another power chord to bring things back into line. Whilst overall this is one of the very best albums in the genre, it does have a slightly strange running order. The crush of Whole Lotta Love nestles uneasily next to the meandering bass of What Is And What Should Never Be; John Bonham's worship at the altar of skin Moby Dick sits with the heavy pop of Ramble On; the insipid Thank You leads into the hoary thud of of Heartbreaker. The band were touring all over at the time with the result that tracks were recorded in studios on both sides of the Atlantic. Hence the different sound and atmosphere herewith. Whole Lotta Love, the best known song here, a straight, albeit powered up, rip of Willie Dixon's "You Need Love" showcases this band in their classic posture of taking one riff and expanding out on it. The famous Middle Section with its cymbal keeping ...

All About Me 20/03/2007

Come and meet Mr Pink

All About Me OK, it's probably about time I did one of these…so here goes. Hope it's interesting to you. Born: Clapham, South London, 1st December 1966, one of twins (twin brother and sister, pretty unusual eh?), Dad moved the family out to Aylesbury, a town 40 miles N of the smoke, in 1968, and we've been here ever since. He had to lodge in Aylesbury during the week when he was working at the smelting plant, then come down to Tooting, where me, my mum and two sisters shared a basement flat, at weekends. After six months the council in Aylesbury gave him a council house, once they'd done that they couldn't take it away from you either, so he jacked his job in straight away and we all moved up that same day!! He then got a job as a painter and decorator and has been doing that for nearly 40 years. Mum was an auxilary nurse for many years but is now working at a day nursery. Twin sister is married with two girls, elder sister unmarried with two boys and two girls. We had a good childhood, never went hungry or anything, didn't have much money for things but who does I suppose? I left college in 1984, and apart from six weeks in 1991 I've been lucky enough to be employed ever since, usually in an office environment and usually with numbers involved. Which is quite funny cos I was useless at maths when I was at school. Now I have a spreadsheet that adds everything up for me and I get paid for it. Ha Ha. Not only that but as I am now part-qualified accountant (since Jan 2005) I get ...

Long Cold Winter - Cinderella 03/03/2007

Cinderella = Rocker Fellas

Long Cold Winter - Cinderella Cinderella come from the Pennsylvania heartland of the US Midwest, a place where it is forever 1974 and when the locals aren't eating pork scratchings they live for the next time Led Zeppelin are in town. All of the band have beautiful long hair. All of the band look like the kind of people who are either going to be in a band and become rock gods or failing that, spend the next 45 years stacking shelves at the Wal-Mart. The album came out in 1988 at the height of the hairspray boom, Bon Jovi, Poision, Warrant et all. Hair metal? Well yes and no, as I'll try to explain. Tom Keifer has almost the exact same vocal style of AC/DC's Brian Johnson, a sandpaperish growl. The AC/DC comparisons don't end there either, as much of this album is rooted in the same 12-bar blues style of the Australian/English band, with a small but noticeable difference that this is produced with the US market in mind - as a result several other tracks have a huge Gun & Roses sound to them, not surprising as Axl Rose's outfit were just about the biggest band in the world at the time, and everyone wanted a piece of the action - Jeff Labar has a bent-note style very reminiscent of much of the playing Slash used on "Appetite For Destruction". Whilst much of the prevelant style in hard rock at the time was all about the looks as much as the music, and EVERY song had to have a singalong chorus and EVERY album had to have a ballad that the record company could put out as a single, Cinderella, whilst ...

Battle Of The River Plate (DVD) 03/02/2007

"Ha! What price snowballs now?"

Battle Of The River Plate (DVD) Released in 1956, this film tells the true story of the battle which was the Royal Navy's first victory of World War II. In December 1939 three cruisers, Exeter, Ajax and Achilles, under the command of Commodore Henry Harwood, were sent to intercept the German pocket battleship Graf Spee which had been sinking Allied merchant shipping in the South Atlantic. After a fierce gunfight off the coast of Uruguay, the Graf Spee retired to the nearby port of Montevideo for repairs. As Uruguay was officially a neutral country much diplomatic manouvering took place, first to hold the Graf Spee in harbour, then Allied propaganda broadcast that a powerful force was waiting for her should she come out to fight (in fact there were no other Royal Navy ships avaliable). Fooled by the British messages, Graf Spee sailed out along the River Plate on the Uruguay / Argentina border and was scuttled by her captain, giving the Navy a morale-boosting victory. The great Peter Finch plays the proud yet anxious Kapitan Langsdorff and is probably the star of the film overall. Graf Spee has British merchant seamen aboard rescued after she sank their ship, and between their captain, Dove (played by Bernard Lee) and himself, Langsdorff begins to realise though while they will never be friends, both are seamen doing their duty, seperated only by their flags. The story between these two makes up one of the central planks of the film, the other being the diplomatic chicanery taking place in the British ...

Passover - Black Angels (The) 14/01/2007

You certainly should pass this over

Passover - Black Angels (The) Here's a band I've never heard of before, and I got this CD by swapping an unwanted Xmas pressie, Oasis' Greatest Hits, in our friendly uptown HMV. In for a penny in for a pound, as they say, and it didn't cost me anything so I can't lose really. Hailing from Austin, Texas, the Black Angels are Christian Bland (gtr / bass / vocs), Nate Ryan (gtr / bass), Alex Maas (vocs / bass), Stephanie Bailey (drms / perc) and Jennifer Raines (drone). Yes, drone. Three bassists and a drone player? Uh oh, sounds like some sonic overload heading my way. They had an EP out early 2006 and this is their first album, it was released in October 2006 - a few months after the US version. Well the first impression I got hearing this was that The Doors and Velvet Underground had got together to make an album. Many of the selections on here bear more than a passing resemblance to the Velvet's "Venus In Furs" and there are also lots of nods in the general direction of Jim Morrison and Ray Maznarek's famous West Coast outfit and their "atmospheric pauses". You know that saying about empty vessels making the most noise? A 21st century afflictation of guitar-based music seems to be cover up your band's inadequacies by drenching everything in a bottom end production, whilst whacking out a chord to drown out the fact the singer isn't really very good. Whilst it would be harsh to slam this whole record on that basis, there is also no getting away from the fact that noise aside, not a lot is ...

Fisher Price Laugh and Learn Cookie Shape Surprise 30/12/2006

Singalong cookie suprise

Fisher Price Laugh and Learn Cookie Shape Surprise I found this little toy whilst out looking for our son's 1st birthday present. I wanted to get him something that would both entertain and get the old, or perhaps rather young, grey matter working and this looked ideal. I gave him the choice of this or another and he went crazy to get hold of this one. It comes in three very bright colours, which are a purple lid, orange surround and a vivid yellow body, and then purple again for the bottom bit. Cut out all around the jar are the holes for the shapes for your nipper to fit them into. Inside the cookie jar are the shapes! A triangle, heart, star, circle and square, also in highly visible colours namely green, red, purple, yellow and blue. When the little dude takes off the lid and puts his hand into the cookie jar, a sensor located just under the lid sets the jar off singing. Ah, the singing. It's in a cheery female voice and the songs go like: "What shapes are in my cookie jar? Triangle, heart and star, There's a circle over there, Here's a square!" and also: "Would you like some cookies? Here they are! Five different shapes, in my cookie jar, If you take them out, you can put them back. Five little cookies make a yummy snack." The songs come with a little electronic musical accompaniment. There is a little green switch that you can set depending on whether you want to hear the songs over and over again, or the other setting that just makes the toy make little remarks like. "I loooooove cookies" or ...

Climbing! - Mountain 09/12/2006

Sludge rock

Climbing! - Mountain Formed in New York in 1969, Mountain were signed to Columbia (CBS in the UK) and this, their first album was put down that year and released early in 1970. Leslie West (guitar, vox) Felix Pappalardi (bass, vox) Corky Laing (drums) and Steve Knight (keyboards) recorded a riff-heavy LP complete with fuzzy bass that when played loud, as it should be as stated on the back cover, should explode your speakers and sound like a small nuclear explosion in your front room!! This is a heavy, heavy rock album from a band who, whilst kicking up quite a storm Stateside, are relatively unheard of over here. Mountain actually sound very similar to a lot of British hard rock acts that were around at the time. For what it's worth they sound comparable to Cream, which is not really surprising when their bassist Felix Pappalardi was the producer of that short-lived but incredible British act. Though a four piece, whilst of course Cream were a trio, Mountain's fourth member Steve Knight adds keyboards which insert a bit of colour into their otherwise sludgy, bass-distorted sound. Leslie West will never win any Best Vocalist awards but his belting singing fits in well with the pounding beats. Whilst not as noise-orientated as the world's officially loudest band, contemporaries Blue Cheer, there is a lot of crushing guitar going on here. Opening number Mississippi Queen ("do you know what I mean") shows the way for the record overall with its pounding four chord riff over some rather corny ...
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