Noise-some Notes – A Week in Listening 6th August 2012

Iron Maiden – The Final Frontier There’s just no stopping Iron Maiden any more. I didn’t find this as immediately enjoyable as their previous album, A Matter of Life and Death, but I think it’s proven more enjoyable over time. Highlights of the En Vivo DVD were on telly recently which put me in the mood for hearing this again.

Anathema – We’re Here Because We’re Here This is a dreamy slice of summer bliss and one of the best albums of recent years. I’m still enjoying it so much I haven’t been able to completely give my full attention on to this year’s Weather Systems. I’ll get there…

Megadeth – Endgame Bought this on its release and I only really liked the track 44 Minutes and the rest went over my head. Admittedly, when it was released it was up against some other big competition for my attention like Porcupine Tree’s The Incident and Mastodon’s Crack the Skye. 44 Minutes had reappeared in my head lately so I had to give this another spin and , happily, it went down really well. I’ve been listening to this fairly regularly ever since so it’ll be popping up here for a while I should think. Their best since… hmm… Youthanasia.

W.A.S.P. – Live… in the Raw Not a lot of the LA bands bothered putting out live albums. Thankfully W.A.S.P. did cause theirs is a beast! I can think of one other “Hair” band that put one out and I’ll be covering that at some point. Any ideas? Theirs is a beast too.

Opeth – Damnation I tend to categories a lot music into seasons! This album is especially wintery! So bugger knows why I was listening to it in August. Never mind, it went down well as always. A very King Crimson-esque mellow album from Opeth (the drummer is definitely doing his best Michael Giles) but, influences aside, it’s a really gorgeous album. A good place to start for people that don’t like the shouty stuff although I personally think the skillful mix of extreme and mellow is Opeth’s strength.

Megadeth – Th1rt3en Not sure if I spelled that title right. Picked this up for a £5 after enjoying Endgame so much. It’s sounding promising so far although, on a first listen, some of the production choices sound a bit odd. Just me?

Richard Thompson – Walking on a Wire (1968 – 2009) Great 4CD box set of Richard’s finest moments. I had a run through of the 3rd and 4th discs. Just brimming with great stuff. Great Folk Rock, inspired guitar playing, rich warm vocals and some excellent songwriting with a dark seam running through it all. I was first exposed to Richard as he plays on some tracks from Robert Plant’s excellent Fate of Nations album and his guitar playing is just stunning. Highly recommended.

Live After Live After Death: W.A.S.P. – Live… in the Raw

I’ve been wondering what happened to the live album and if Iron Maiden’s Live After Death is the last truly classic one. I’m going to be looking into some post-1985 live releases to see if there are any overlooked belters out there.

Live… in the Raw 1997 Reissue

Many of the great live albums functioned as “end of an era” releases. They documented a period of a band’s career and placed a full-stop on it before evolving into something new.

Ever since the release of their debut single (Animal) Fuck Like a Beast, controversy had dogged W.A.S.P. and they soon became a prime target for the PMRC, while also experiencing death threats and even assassination attempts. The stress had tired the band, causing tensions in the ranks but also galvanising band leader Blackie Lawless who felt that the focus on the band’s image and antics had meant their musical merits were under-estimated.

Live… in the Raw was recorded over three dates on their successful world tour promoting their third album, Inside The Electric Circus. Opener Inside The Electric Circus is thrilling and has some great sawing guitar riffs. The band proceeds to tear through a taut, muscular set that mixes classics and new tracks alike. In fact there are three tracks on here that would have previously been unavailable: two excellent live tracks Harder Faster and The Manimal and one studio track Scream Until You Like It recorded to promote the Horror sequel Ghoulies II.

2011 reissue of Inside the Electric Circus relegates Live… in the Raw to mere bonus disc.

Like many of the best live albums, some of the songs here enjoy their definitive performances on this album. Inside The Electric Circus, L.O.V.E Machine, Wild Child and 9.5.-N.A.S.T.Y. are all superb. The only thing that stops Live… in the Raw being all the W.A.S.P. you’ll ever need is the notable omission of (Animal) Fuck Like a Beast (although they would atone for this with the release, in 1988, of the Live Animal EP).

Live… in the Raw would prove pivotal to the band’s career. It boosted the profile and legitimacy of their catalogue and functioned as a historically important “end of an era” release. The album would provide a full-stop on the sex, parties and gore period of their career. From now on, W.A.S.P. were going to get serious!

Noise-some Notes – A Week in Listening 30th July 2012

In addition to the live album “research” I’ve been doing, here’s what’s been assaulting my ears lately.

UFO – No Place to Run Not one of their best but a grower and a refreshing listen when you’ve worn out the classics.

The Stranglers – La Folie Can’t think of much to say about this other than I enjoyed it! A set of tight, angular pop songs with an ongoing lyrical theme of love. Taking in nuns, the Mafia and heroin.

Toto – The Essential (Disc 1) Not usually a big fan of compilation albums but this is a fantastic set of essential Toto. I was enjoying this immensely until my girlfriend announced that she thought I was trying to seduce her back to the 1980s! Maybe I was… she’d love it there.

Paul Stanley – Live To Win KISS man-crush Paul Stanley entered dangerous X-Factor-friendly territory with his long awaited second solo album. Generally, as on Wake Up Screaming, Bulletproof and the title track, there is enough of the great man’s bombastic heroism to make this enjoyable but there are a few too many sub-Forever ballads on this. I like hearing him apply his talents outside of the heavier rock sphere though so this is a bit of a guilty treat. Hilariously, a run of UK magazine adverts stated that the album featured the track Bulletpoof. True story.

Queen – Jazz and The Game I think Jazz is a hugely underrated effort from Queen. The general wisdom is that their Heavy Rock credentials ended at their previous album News of the World but Jazz is full of mighty riffing and Fat Bottomed Girls is a euphoric pub-rock classic. Brian May has a guitar tone to die for on this. I’m less fond of The Game but really got into it this time. It was all I could do to not dance around my flat like a twat when this was on. As Alan Partridge would say… Classic Queen!

Testament – The Formation of Damnation Aha, some actual Heavy Metal to end off an admittedly rather odd week of listening. I always want to like Testament more than I actually do. As they have a new record out I thought I’d give their previous effort another spin. This has been raved about since its release but it never really did the job for me. It went down well this week though and seemed to catch me in a receptive mood. Good melding of old and new styles here and Chuck Billy’s voice is always a joy!

Live after “Live After Death”

Think about the 1970s. Just about every great band you can think of during that period brought out a career-defining live album. Sometimes the album might have been the star attraction of a recording career like, say, Frampton Comes Alive or Rockin’ The Filmore or maybe it was one of a band’s many successful releases. Sometimes the live album represented a full stop in a band’s career before they would change tack (hi, Rush!), but always these great albums captured a high-point of success or peak performance.

So what happened to the live album?

I was reading an excellent post that sings the praises of Iron Maiden’s superb Live After Death the other day. And I started to wonder if, maybe, Live After Death (released in the mid-80s) was the last truly classic live album of all-time. I mean classic as in essential! Classic as in one of the albums you think about or recommend when you’re talking about that band.

I wonder why this might have happened. Maybe one factor is the concert film – why just listen to the concert when you can watch the show too? I can certainly think of a good few great concert DVDs. Also, a few 70s bands struggled to capture their sound on studio albums, possibly due to the available recording technology. So perhaps bands are just happy with their studio albums now and don’t feel the need to impress us all with their live sound, being that it’s probably pretty close to their studio sound. And is there a fear that a live album would just come across like a Greatest Hits with crowd noise over the top? Have we just written the live album off as an artistic statement? Hmmmm…

Pre-Live After Death I’d struggle to think of any bands that hadn’t brought out a brilliant live album. After it, I’m struggling to think of many bands that have. I can think of some… but are they classic? No, but maybe they should be. I’m going to see if I can come up with some contenders! And, if you have any suggestions, please get in touch.

Watch this space!

Noise-some Notes – A Week in Listening 24th July 2012

Another wee update of what I’ve been listening to before moving on to more pressing thoughts…

Sammy Hagar – Essential Red Collection Pretty cool compilation of the Red Rocker’s solo career. Accompanied my reading of his Autobiography which was… ok. Some quality bitching about Eddie Van Halen and Ronnie Montrose! The always raging Van Halen vs. Van Hagar debate is one thing but who’s the better author? Sammy or Dave? It’s Dave. Sorry Sammy.

The Darkness – Permission to Land A great debut. If you’ve never heard this on vinyl though, remedy that immediately! I love that they keep their albums short too, quality not quantity. And, if you’ve heard any of the B-Sides of the period, you’ll know they had great songs to spare. Check out Planning Permission, How Dare You Call This Love and the excellently named Curse of the Tollund Man if you’ve never heard them. It’s exciting to see them back and their upcoming Hot Cakes is one of my most anticipated releases of the year.

Cheap Trick – Cheap Trick (1997) This is a brilliant Cheap Trick record and marks a new beginning for the band. Unfortunately, their label went bust so it probably hasn’t been given the shake of the stick that it deserves. The album has a great live sound and the band tap into the more eclectic, alternative feel that the 80s beat out of them. It would take a long time for them to follow this up but the rebirth continued and new Cheap Trick albums have stayed exciting ever since.

The Smashing Pumpkins – Siamese Dream Not a huge fan of this band but this is a good album and the Cheap Trick CD put me in the mood for this (Cheap Trick being a big influence on Billy Corgan). There are some brilliant tracks like Cherub Rock and Disarm is a stunning song. Think they could learn a thing or two about running lengths from CT and The Darkness though!

Paradise Lost – Tragic Idol A real favourite band of mine and I’m still not sure whether this is just average or if I’m just not in the mood. I’m going to reserve judgement because I love them so much. A bit of a let-down because their previous album was stellar.

The Moody Blues – Days of Future Passed I have so much love for this album. Proto-Progressive Rock with a charmingly naive concept, pioneering mellotron and breathtaking orchestral accompaniment. It’s so lovely and innocent it makes you glad to be alive. The Classic Albums series should get in on this because it has a great back-story too and the multi-tracks are bound to be a revelation!

Aerosmith – Permanent Vacation Another band on the verge of a studio album comeback (although I can’t say their new song is doing much for me). Managed to pick this up on vinyl and it sounds great. I always though this album was a bit patchy but I enjoyed it hugely the whole way through. A surprisingly enjoyable re-discovery!

Burzum – Filosofem A Black Metal classic and a great place to start if your interested in the genre and can separate the musician from the music. Say what you like about him, Varg Vikernes is a talented guy and this is a very innovative album. Atmospheric, lo-fi and ambient but still extreme and ominous. A game of two-halves, though, as the last two tracks are lengthy electronic affairs. One of the few BM albums I can put on without annoying my girlfriend.

Mantas – Death By Metal Reviewed this here.

Urchin – High Roller Adrian Smith before he was poached for stardom by Iron Maiden. I always thought he was their secret-weapon, an extremely talented songwriter and exquisitely melodic guitar player. Great to hear him early in his career and this is more in a UFO, Thin Lizzy classy Rock vein. Adrian has a great soulful voice and there is an interesting track here (Life In The City) that would go on to become the jokey Sheriff of Huddersfield in the hands of Maiden. Got this through the excellent German label High Roller who bring out some spectacular NWOBHM vinyl resissues. Although, if you fancy this and are near Glasgow, there’s a great shop there called Monorail Music that has these in stock!

Manowar – Triumph of Steel One of my picks of the 90s and it should be pretty clear how much I love this band by now so I’ll leave it at that! So, until my next post – Hail and Kill!

Admit it. You want this!

Buying Round-Up – July 2012

So far I’ve been reviewing my purchases in full but, to be honest, there have been a few sneaky purchases here and there that I haven’t mentioned so, in the interests of full disclosure, they are:

Pink Floyd – Animals (HMV – £10) I’ve been picking up a few of recent Pink Floyd remasters and enjoying them a lot. Was never much of a fan of them growing up but, after a good 10 years of getting into a lot of Progressive Rock stuff, thought I ought to give them another chance. There was a good Classic Rock magazine piece on this album recently too and it’s great to have that cover in the collection too!

Volbeat – Above Heaven/Below Hell CD/DVD (Fopp – £3) Good find in the bargain bin of Fopp. Heard  a few mentions of them and thought they might be worth checking out. Not that fussed with it to be honest. Win some lose some.

Ian Hunter – You’re Never Alone With A Schizophrenic 2CD (HMV – £15) More like it. Already had this album but thought my old copy needed updated. I always thought this was one of his more overrated efforts but after revisiting it I couldn’t be more wrong. This is fantastic stuff. I even enjoyed Ships! Must be getting sentimental in my old age.

Heart – With Love From Heart 3LP Box Set (Discogs – £15) I wanted to get Bad Animals and their S/T from the 80s on vinyl. Found this 2nd hand box set online which included both, two letters from Ann and Nancy and a fantastic time-warp 80s calendar which I hope to be able to use at some point in the future. Bonus – the seller threw in Brigade on LP too! RESULT!

The Stranglers – La Folie (HMV – £8) Somehow Strange Little Girl found its way into my head and needed exorcising. I’m not a fan of compilations but this track was only released as a single. Luckily the album of the period has it on as a bonus track. Didn’t expect to like this that much but gave it a spin this morning and was pretty impressed! I expect this to be a bit of a grower. Might even pick up some more of their stuff too.

Ginger – 555% (Pledge Music – £10 for download) 3 CDs worth of new Ginger material. Haven’t heard much of the Wildhearts’ main-man’s solo stuff but I’m really enjoying the 1st disc of this. Enjoying it so much, in fact, I haven’t moved on to the other 2 discs yet. So, at this rate, I could probably review this in 2014.

Amount spent on purchase: £61

Amount spent in total so far: £160

Mantas – Death By Metal

Mantas – Death By Metal 1CD (purchased in Monorail Music on 25th June)

Amount spent on purchase: £11

Amount spent in total so far: £99

Imagine your next door neighbour’s kids were really into NWOBHM, Venom and Slayer and decided to start their own band. You can hear the racket seeping through the walls. They are punishingly loud, thrashing and enthusiastic. The kid singing is barking guttural noises so you can’t make out the words. If your reaction to this clamour would be “Hey, those guys are pretty good” then this is the album for you.

Chuck Schuldiner (along with Rick Rozz and Kam Lee) formed Mantas in school. Their early recordings, collected here, would be hugely influential and important in the genesis of Death Metal. However, their own influences are a bit too apparent here for this to qualify as the genre’s starting point and Schuldiner would have a stronger claim to the invention of Death Metal with his next venture, Death.

There are snatches of Venom (whose guitarist, Mantas, provided the band with their moniker), Metallica, Diamond Head (opener Legion of Doom has a riff mightily reminiscent of Am I Evil) and Slayer. But there is also enough of the guttural brutality that would define Death Metal for this to be historically interesting and original.

The tracks were mostly recorded live onto a Ghetto Blaster so the recordings are pretty “necro”. That said the effect of the rough recording is pretty exciting. It sounds like speakers being overdriven or like an overloud concert sound. All pretty conducive to an exciting Metal experience surely? Also, when I was a kid, I was in bands that would record this way and we never sounded this good.

There is a 2CD version of this available from Relapse in the US but it was a bit too pricey for me to buy as an import so I picked up the single disc version from my excellent local store, Monorail Music in Glasgow. The 2CD version is available as an iTunes download too so I can always treat myself to that later if need be.

… and classic rock too!