Monday, June 11, 2012

Still Stuck in the B's - This Week in Anniversaries

Believe me I do appreciate the irony of this post. I know I only have myself to blame for the near constant touring of bands that now need their bus fitted with all manner of assisted living gear. For the constant re-issues of classic albums in different formats and packaging.

After all I'm the person that goes to some of those concerts and I'm certainly the one who buys all of those repackaged versions of songs from my long ago past. There are a few albums where I have at one time or another purchased two copies of the original vinyl (they were scratched, lost or sold to fund an overseas trip), The CD from when it was first released on CD. The CD from when the discs were remastered recently, the DVD 5.1 version and the Hi-Res 192/24 download. I'll even admit I'm now looking longingly at the Newly Remastered - Collectors Edition Box set of Paul McCartney's RAM:-

  • 5 disc (4 CD, 1 DVD) in deluxe packaging, plus two digital-only bonus tracks
  • The original 12-track album, remastered at Abbey Road Studios in London
  • 8 bonus audio tracks
  • Remastered 12-track mono album
  • Remastered Thrillington album
  • DVD featuring previously unreleased and exclusive content including the brand-new Ramming documentary as well as original music videos
  • Downloadable 24bit 96kHz high resolution audio versions of the remastered album and bonus audio tracks (via download card)
  • 112 page book with scrapbook insert, plus photo prints, handwritten lyrics and mini photo book
  • Box Set also includes digital-only premium membership access to
  • Digital download of 22 tracks and all video material
  • Download Access included to facilitate the download of large files
  • Add an exclusive RAM re-issue t-shirt plus an exclusive 20" x 16" RAM lithograph
But I digress.

This week I heard on the radio a fair bit about the 40th anniversary of Davis Bowie's "Ziggy Stardust and the stone spiders from Mars" album.  A few comments from different announcers and a few tracks (well one really, they all played "Starman") 

There was also talk of a Beach Boys 50th anniversary tour. (all except for Dennis and Carl Wilson on account of them being deceased) complete with new album. I've listed to some tracks from the album and I guess it says something that even I will not buy it. I would go to see Brian and the band do their old hits but not in a 10,000 seat venue.

I know I was going to say something else in this post originally but all I can think of now is :-

Where is my Anniversary - remastered - collection edition box set of Ziggy Stardust?

Friday, May 18, 2012

Back to the 60's - Lola and the Beatles

It will come as no surprise to those who know me that I am old.

I was born a mere 12 years after the end of WW2 and the world was a different place then.

My parents were youths of the of the 50's in England. Imitating American clothing styles while still riding their bicycles to work because a weekly bus ticket would consume half their wages. Both sexes teasing their hair and teasing each other but not yet protected by the pill, or the sense or cents to buy condoms. But enough about my parents, my conception and their teenage marriage.

My early youth was firmly in the 60's. A strange forward looking time when the world changed. Repeatedly.

I can recall the Beatles. Not as some semi-mythical figures from folklore but as an actual band who appeared on "top of the pops"

I won half a crown (or two and sixpence) at a local dance hall one Saturday morning singing to "Ticket to Ride" at the top of my voice when it was still in the charts. (c 1965) Much later I recall hearing "All You Need Is Love" and then seeing it on TV in one of the world first satellite broadcasts in a resolution that would embarrass most 6 year old filmmakers today.

In all of this history, somehow my parents (well by this time Mother and Step-Father, who would have thought?) were managers of a pub and by a further twist of fate I found myself for one year (Sept 1967 - July 1968) a border at the Licensed Victuallers' School

For those not familiar with the language or the school, this was at the time a school for the children of owners or managers of English pubs situated in Slough.

As such the school houses are named after breweries (I recall being in Whitbread House) and everybody who boarded (there were also some day students from local showbiz families) lived in a pub.

So when the English Public School tradition of "Half-Term" (one of the six times a year parents might see their children) rolled around I would find myself off with a friend from school staying at a pub for the 3 or 4 day holiday.

One Half-Term I ended up staying with a friend from London in a small pub run by his Mother. The Abbey Tavern. I'm pretty sure this is not the current pub of that name. In 1968 it was a small pub around the corner from the Abbey Road recording studios.

So one weekend, probably early in 1968, I ended up in the pool room of a small English Public House playing 8 ball with a friend from school and a super group of the time. My memory is now fading and I can't tell you for sure if it was the Hollies or the Kinks that I played pool with that day. More recently I have tended to go with the Kinks as they have retained their cachet but I would still be happy with the Hollies.

So from 1968 (or thereabouts) here are the two groups:-

Just as an aside, (without going into the whole "Tom Brown's School Days" culture shock of English Public Schools)

If you check out the Wikipedia Entry for the Licenced Victullaers School you may end up at the entry for "(Famous) People educated at Licensed Victuallers' School" which lists four people. I have never heard of two of them. (I thought I had heard of Paula Hamilton but it turned out she was a Model, Not exactly my circle)

So that leaves Tracy Ullman who has long been a favourite of mine (except for her last series) Most famous recently for attempting to prise some of the ill-gotten gains from "the Simpsons" from Rupert Murdoch's not quite dead but still cold hands.

And lastly Simon Cowell (who would have thunk!) who also attended the School for only one year. (as did I) If I would have stayed at the school till Upper Sixth I may have had the opportunity to bully the world famous bully.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Cinco de Mayo

To celebrate Cinco do Mayo (A celebration of Mexican Culture held in the U.S.) I bring you a Mexican duo who met playing in a thrash metal band and later gained fame playing in the pubs of Dublin.

Rodrigo y Gabriela - Amazing musicians who don't like to limit their music to a single genre. They have an energy an intensity that translates into the musical experience. They also do a great version of "Stairway to Heaven"


  Before I had seen any of this I was watching something on SBS last week when they flashed up a promo of four world music albums. "Time for some new music I thought" so yesterday I went into JB-Hi-Fi to look for the albums. mentioned. I could only see one of them and it was also listed as a staff recommendation with the comment "Rodrigo Y Gabriela as you have never heard them before"
As I hadn't heard any of their music before I was pretty sure they would be right so "Area 52" joined my collection.

The sticker on my copy of the album goes on to describe how they are backed by a 13 piece Cuban Orchestra and special guests. From track 1, it's a masterpiece! I have yet to listen to the whole album but it is my currently my favourite album and my neighbors will be hearing it most of the day. The musicianship and artistry of the duo is now backed by all the power they need from a Latin brass section. The full orchestration adds so much to the songs while still allowing the two guitars to shine through. So I'm off to fill the esky with Mexican beer and have a blast for Cinco de Mayo.

If things do need to slow down later in the afternoon I can always listen to one of Linda Ronstadt's Spanish albums...I'm sure the neighbours will approve.

Friday, April 6, 2012

A Little Bit of K-Pop and the LSO

Recently on a business trip to the Philippines and back via Singapore Airlines I had the opportunity (and around 20 hours in the air) to see a few films that I has been meaning to catch. "My Week with Marlyn" was one that I was glad to be able to see.  Then I saw a number of films that were not quite so good and finally I saw 10 minutes or so of a some films that were a waste of 10 minutes even aboard a crowded Boeing.

I then turned my attention to the foreign language films and managed to traverse several thousand kilometers watching Bollywood blockbusters. Most of which stared the same actor and for some reason were at least half set in London. Anyway I quite like Indian films so managed to enjoy a a few hours with the colour and movement and subtitles.

On the last half of the return leg to Sydney I had enough of the tiny video screen and turned my attention to the audio selections. I skipped the English language playlists figuring there would be not much new there for me. It was then that I did the hard work that this blog is all about. I sampled all of the artists in the Korean and Japanese selections looking for new and interesting artists just so you don't have to.

There was a mixture as you would expect. Some greatest hits collections by superstars from years gone by and a host of boy-bands and girl-bands from the current Asian Pop scene. I found some of the greatest hits collections interesting. In the big production numbers from the 70's and 80's to my ear they that strange quality where you suspect they are big hits in their own country for the elements of the song that are western but to me the appealing parts are the bits that sound different. The best example of this effect is the track Sukiyaki by Kyu Sakamoto.A worldwide smash in 1963.

Anyway I digress. While I would have like to follow up on some of the super stars featured this brings me to one of the first problems. With some artist names and albums only shown in Korean or Japanese and my firm resolve to only mangle one language (english) I have had a hard time tracking them down. No matter where I searched for an album titled "Super Greats" I could not find the Japanese artist I was looking for.

Skipping (not literally) pas the boy-bands and girl-bands I did find some interesting albums. There is no question that besides the over-produced manufactured fare there are some artists who are worth a listen. The one that I found most interesting was an album called Soul-Ri by a Korean artist Ali. Again searching was an issue. Searching anywhere for Ali is more likely to produce an image of a famous heavyweight champion of the world that a Korean pop star and even soul-ri produced nothing on any western music site.

Amazon - Nothing either in the US or the UK  (i'll admit to not venturing onto the Japanese site.

iTunes - again nothing.

U-Tube did provide a few links including this one of track one. Just vocal and Piano. The track that hooked me into listening to the rest of the album

So problem three. Where to but the album. As mentioned Amazon and iTunes drew a complete blank. I could find sites to download a copy but I'm opposed to that if it is at all possible to buy a copy. I then ventured onto Korean pop sites and placed an order at using paypal rather than my actual credit card. Just over a week later, my order still shows on the site as in-stock and not shipped which probably explains why I don't have it yet. I'll keep you posted, I'm really looking forward to playing the album again.

Meanwhile if you do want to but something from Amazon Check out this re-release of a version of Tommy by the London Symphony Orchestra and guests. Issued after the original by the Who and before the movie (and movie soundtrack) it was a double album with the amazing booklet and packaging that made some LP's of the time truly multi-media

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Angelique Kidjo - Now Touring Australia

Angelique Kidjo - With a voice even more impressive than her full name, which according to Wikipedia is Angélique Kpasseloko Hinto Hounsinou Kandjo Manta Zogbin Kidjo This singer from Benin has been at the forefront of African Music for a long time.

The first CD I picked up of hers was a greatest hits collection titled "Keep On Moving" Some of the track names looked familiar and once I listened to them the tracks were definitely ones I had heard before but I couldn't tell you where. Voodoo Child (Slight Return) is more familiar by Jimi Hendricks. "Agolo", "Batonga" and "Wombo Lombo" turned out to be tracks I was also familiar with. The standout however was "Sumertime" the Gershwin penned song from 1935's Porgy and Bess. This version is certainly the best I have ever heard. Backed only by what sounds like a sparse bass line and a A Capella choir Angelique stuns with her vocals.  The A Capella treatment features on most of the tracks on the album to great effect with the African rhythms

A search of the web will turn up many collaborations with famous western musicians and it is no surprise that she is held in great regard by Musicians everywhere.

Currently touring Australia I unfortunately missed out on tickets to see her at the Sydney Opera House which would be a fitting setting.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

HAPA - gateway drug to Hawaiian Music

My first purchase of a "Hapa" CD falls into the category of albums purchased because of the cover art. Browsing through the world music section at Borders many years ago (When the Borders at North Ryde was new and different) I came across this album and was immediately struck by the contrast between the two figures. The figure on the left looks pretty unremarkable for an album of Hawaiian music but what is with the guy on the right? From the sunglasses to the kilt and the black boots everything was different from the expected. And the guitar, not just the violin style head and tuning keys but the strange angle it was being held at. A quick check of the track list on the back confirmed my suspicions. Besides tracks with Hawaiian titles there were some old surf classics (sleepwalk and europa) plus a cover of the U2 anthem Pride(in the name of love). So expecting some fusion/melding of Hawaiian Music with other influences I purchased the CD.

I'll admit that some albums I have purchased based on the covers have not been great successes musically. This is certainly not one of those. This album remains a favourite (and no surprise to regular readers) I have since purchased every available album by this duo.

It turns out that the groups name "HAPA" in Hawaiian means "of mixed blood, person of mixed blood" which fits perfectly with the album cover, the set list and the groups overall approach. Which is not to say everything is a mixture or dilution of Hawaiian culture and music. It is more a case of Hawaiian Music being approached with the reverence and respect that it deserves and some Hawaiian influences being applied to other music and vice-verse. 

This album is perhaps the least traditional of the Hapa albums and the unusual U2 is pretty much the only track on any of the CD's that does not have some Hawaiian connection. Each of their other albums has a unique character, they even did an album of Surf Music but the combined Guitar and Vocals on the Hawaiian tracks are the standouts.

I recommend this album in particular but all of the "Hapa" albums are well worth a listen. Just beware, after listening to these albums you may find yourself going in search of more Hawaiian Music and end up in a ukelele band wearing a grass skirt, (worse things could happen)

If you want to catch some of their other work the track olinda road is featured in episode 20 - series one of the new Hawaii-5-O

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Heat Wave and more tropical music

With the second straight day of Summer here in Sydney I'm thinking about tropical songs.

I'll be posting about some authentic Hawaiian music later in the week but for now I'm thinking about the not so authentic kind. (and I don't mean Elvis in A Hawaiian shirt doing "Rock-A-Hula")

Big production numbers, where full orchestras and scores of dancers appear from behind palm trees. Songs where the heat mentioned is not the kind they have when the sun is out.

Exhibit A to clarify the genre is this clip of Marilyn Monroe doing "Heat Wave" from the movie "There's No Business Like Show Business". Complete with Ethel Merman and Donald O'Connor, this clip is from the time when Marilyn's navel could not be shown on screen, but I think the message is still pretty clear. The Song starts around the 2:40 mark.

Continuing with this theme I'm reminded of some albums under the name of Don Tiki which are all coconut drinks, grass skirts and full orchestration. The first CD I purchased was "The Forbidden Sounds of Don Tiki" which was apparently "recorded in PULSATING POLYNESIAN POLYPHONICS" on the TABOO records label. I don't think I need to tell you there is little surfing or fishing going on in the tracks on this album. On the back cover a bartender is preparing some exotic drinks while no fewer than 23 pineapples can be seen stacked on the bar ready for the evening rush. Tracks such as "Barbi in Bali" and "Hot Like Lava" are just some of the delights.

  The next album is "Skinny Dip with Don Tiki". This time I've shown the back cover where the full glory of the Tiki theme can be seen. Don Tiki himself is nowhere to be seen on any of the albums and is just part of the well maintained illusion of a south pacific fantasy. Including tracks such as "The Natives Are Restless" followed by "Primitiva" and "Heat" this album contains more of the fully orchestrated music which reminds one of the islands of Hollywood movies. More of this type of music can be found by searching for "Martin Denny"

More can be found on the Don Tiki Website:-

Find yourself...loose yourself

Anyway, certainly worth a listen late one (warm) night with some frozen umbrella drinks.

And for anybody who is still wanting some he is:-

Album Links at

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Summer is last.

January 1st 2012 and summer has finally arrived in Sydney Australia. (well at least for a couple of days) After what seems like an eternity of below average temperatures and rain we have warm weather and blue skies predicted for the next few days. I'm sure that by February we will have weeks of warm weather and will all be complaining about that instead but for teh moment the arrival of Summer is to be celebrated.

Summer Music, what to play ?  Summer and driving were always the domain of mix-tapes and now the playlists have taken over its time to create new playlists for this summer.

Old Favorites will always be a large part of any summer playlist for all except the youngest teens and in many ways nothing says summer more that The Beach Boys. I have never mastered either the surf or hotrods (but then again neither has Brian Wilson) Yet the songs have been played so many times in Summer tehy are now linked forever in my brain.

The "Sounds of Summer" album contains 30 Beach Boys tracks most of them remastered in 1999 or 2001. From the original classics such as  "California Girls", "I Get Around", "Surfin' USA", "Help Me Rhonda" and "Surfer Girl" To later tracks such as "Kokomo" from the soundtrack for the movie "Cocktail" this collection has them all (some in glorious mono)

After dusting off last summers playlists and discarding most of the new tracks added last year it would be time to add whatever this years Summer hit will be. A little difficult at this stage because summer has only started today and the big hits of Summer 2012 are yet to emerge. However that is one of the advantages of playlists over mix tapes. As the summer progresses you can add in and shuffle your playlists to keep them fresh.

The best summer songs often have summer in the title as with this track from 2007 by Kid Rock:-


As this song pays homage in a big way to the 1974 track "Sweet Home Albama" by Lynyrd Skynyrd we may as well revisit that, add both tracks to one of our playlists and marvel at the outfits and debate the significance or otherwise of the Confederate Battle Flag in the background:-

One more favourite of mine goes back even further back to 1972 and a track by The Raspberries before they broke up and launched Eric Carmen onto his solo career. The video here is not of the band themselves but a slideshow put together by another fan:-

These tracks and more beside seem to make it to my summer playlists most years.

What are your favourite Summer Tracks?