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Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Neil Young : Psychedelic Pill review

You either love Neil Young or you loathe him. And, as he approaches his 67th birthday next month, he doesn’t give a toss.

No surprise, then, that his new album – the second he has recorded with Crazy Horse this year – is typically uncompromising.

Psychedelic Pill opens with Driftin’ Back, a by now typical 27-minute grunge guitar grumble, seemingly served up just to prove the point.

“The songs the Horse likes to consume are always heartfelt and do not need to have anything fancy associated with them,” he says in his new biography. “The Horse is very suspicious of tricks...”

With a couple of the other songs weighing in at over 16 minutes, Warners have had to release the nine-song set over two CDs. It’s Young’s longest album to date.

But, and here’s the rub, it’s also one of his best, both musically and lyrically, too. Because Neil Young is an angry man.

Driftin’ Back is an indictment of the failure of the 1960s, a topic revisited in Walk Like A Giant, the latter a rock classic in the waiting.

“Me and some of our friends, we were going to save the world,” he growls. “Breaks my heart to think about how close we came.”

At the opposite end of the spectrum, For The Love Of Man is a tender strum dedicated to Young’s quadriplegic son, Ben.

“Who could understand what goes on,” the doting dad asks, “when a child is born to live, but not like you or I?”

Musically, Twisted Road opens like CSNY hallmark Ohio before paying tribute to Bob Dylan, the Grateful Dead and others who influenced a younger Young.

The nostalgic Ramada Inn is all about later life love; two versions of the title track boast gloriously shambolic rock and roll. She’s Always Dancing has a deceptive grace, and only the rootsy, cornball Born In Ontario disappoints.

This Psychedelic Pill should be made available on the NHS.

Encore! Extra screenings of Led Zeppelin Celebration Day

You wanted ‘em, you got ‘em.

Such has been public demand for the Led Zeppelin Celebration Day cinema screenings that the band have just authorised another batch – warning that this time really will be the last chance to see it large.

There’ll be screenings across the UK on Thursday November 8. See the official website for details.

The movie of Zeppelin’s 2007 reunion at the Ahmet Ertegun memorial show staged in London’s 02 Arena had worldwide theatrical release by Omniverse Vision on 1,500 screens in over 40 territories on October 17.

It was supposed to be a one night only sensation, but was oversubscribed.

Hence a final ‘Encore’ screening at cinemas on November 8, plus a smattering of December dates in towns where screens were unavailable.

Celebration Day will then be available in multiple video and audio formats on November 19 from Swan Song/Atlantic Records.

Here's a checklist of all the Encore dates:

UKCity Screen Greenwich 08-Nov
UKShowcaseCDL Bristol08-Nov
UKShowcaseCDL Derby08-Nov
UKShowcaseCDL Leicester08-Nov
UKVueBristol Cribbs Causeway08-Nov
UKVueCheshire Oaks08-Nov
UKVueEdinburgh Omni Centre08-Nov
UKVueLeeds Kirkstall Road08-Nov
UKVueWestfield (White City)08-Nov
UKOdeon Bath 08-Nov
UKOdeon Birmingham Broadway Plaza 08-Nov
UKOdeon Blackpool  08-Nov
UKOdeon Bournemouth 08-Nov
UKOdeon Bracknell  08-Nov
UKOdeon Colchester08-Nov
UKOdeon Dundee  08-Nov
UKOdeon Glasgow Quay 08-Nov
UKOdeon Huddersfield 08-Nov
UKOdeon Kilmarnock 08-Nov
UKOdeon Lincoln  08-Nov
UKOdeon Maidstone 08-Nov
UKOdeon Manchester Printworks 08-Nov
UKOdeon Mansfield 08-Nov
UKOdeon Newcastle Silverlinks 08-Nov
UKOdeon Tamworth 08-Nov
UKOdeon Taunton 08-Nov
UKOdeon Telford 08-Nov
UKOdeon Wimbledon 08-Nov
UKOdeon Wrexham 08-Nov
UK Odeon Belfast 08-Nov
Ireland Odeon Blanchardstown 08-Nov
UKCity ScreenBrixton Ritzy09-Nov
UKCity Screen Picturehouse at FACT09-Nov
UKCity Screen Oxford 09-Nov
UKCity Screen Cambridge08-Dec
UKCity ScreenExeter11-Dec
UKCity Screen Southampton 11-Dec
UKCity Screen York19-Dec
UKCity Screen Leeds Hyde Park22-Dec


Saturday, 27 October 2012

Motorhead : Ace Of Spades on ukelele (courtesy of 71-year-old Joe Brown)

It is surely a marriage made in hell.

Motorhead monster Lemmy and pop veteran Joe Brown.

Because 71-year-old Joe, who found fame in the late 1950s and early 1960s has just recorded a UKELELE version of Motorhead classic Ace Of Spades.

It appears on Brown’s new CD, The Ukelele Album, which does what it says on the tin.

With his son Pete Brown on guitar, Phil Capaldi on drums, Mike Nichols on double bass, and extra ukelele power courtesy of the International Ukelele Club of Sonning Common (no, not kidding!), he rips into the famous rock riff.

And the really, really scary thing about it (Halloween is only days away, of course)?

It’s not half bad.

Hear that sound? That’s the remaining shreds of my credibility leaping off the sixth floor balcony.
Out on November 5, the album also features Brown’s inimitable (good word, covers a multitude of sins) versions of The Who’s Pinball Wizard, ELO’s Mr Blue Sky, 10cc’s I’m Not In Love and McGuinness Flint hit When I’m Dead And Gone.

Oh, and yes, there’s, erm, When I’m Cleaning Windows ...

Take a listen. See what you think.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Stone Sour : House Of Gold & Bones Part 1 - best metal album since Metallica blacked up?

Never been sure about Stone Sour, the part-time plaything of Slipknot frontman Corey Taylor.

And when Taylor announced that the band’s new outing, House Of Gold And Bones, would be a concept piece spread across two consecutive albums, alarm bells began ringing.

When he added that the exercise would be something “like Pink Floyd’s The Wall meets Alice in Chains’s Dirt” it was time to start digging the escape tunnel.

All of which proves just how wrong you can be.

Because Part 1, released this week, may just be the best metal album since Metallica took a shine to the colour black.

Like James Hetfield & Co did on the ‘black’ album, fed up that their thrash metal wasn’t selling by the shedload, Taylor’s moshpit marauders have dipped a sizeable toe in the mainstream.

And the result is startling. Startingly, jaw-droppingly good.

Sure, the Slipknot purists will hate it. You can already hear the sound of knives being sharpened.

Because, although the requisite riffs are here, shouty, growly and gruesome this is not.

Some of it turns out to be so radio-friendly that it’ll leap off your iPod and give you a hug.

It’s a balancing act to rival Nik Wallenda’s walk earlier this year along that tightrope across Niagara Falls.

The album opens with the double whammy of Gone Sovereign and Absolute Zero – already familiar to the faithful as singles released this year – both of which are reminiscent of Metallica at their best.

They ride precision rock riffs tooled by Josh Rand and James Root, with David Bottrill’s production bringing out buttock-clenching bass and bombshell drums. Taylor’s vocal is surprisingly melodic, even when he offers token gruff grumble.

A Rumor Of Skin is brutally efficient, sparsely simple. Then The Travelers Pt 1 offers pause to get your breath back, its acoustic strum and sweeping strings suggesting that it may well turn out a solo spot in concert.

It leads into Tired, a track made for rock radio, and one which has already come in for criticism from metalhead diehards. Okay, so it’s a bit Nickelback in places, but you can’t have everything.

The following RU486 will do much to restore tunnel vision faith. It’s a ferocious sonic shockwave, with a machine gun riff, Rachel Bolan’s burly bass and some of the most brutal drumming you’ll hear this side of a steel foundry, courtesy of Roy Mayorga.

My Name Is Allen is more by the numbers, more effective filler than anything you’ll find at B&Q, then Taciturn is a huge rock ballad, opening solo and unplugged but building to a crescendo with satisfying guitar crunch.

Influence Of A Drowsy God flirts with prog-rock before The Travelers Pt 2 beefs up its earlier namesake, and the album ends with Last Of The Real – another steroidal stomp to please the purists.

But there’s more to Taylor’s latest brainchild than that. The album comes complete with a short story, in which the plot thickens, and a four-part comicbook series with Dark Horse is planned.

Then there’s the album sleeve itself, which opens out as if it wants to be a 3D cardboard sculpture but with tabs that don’t connect. Odds are that when Part 2 arrives in 2013 it’ll all, quite literally, come together.

Catch Stone Sour live in the UK soon as 02 Brixton Academy (December 10 and 11), Manchester Apollo (December 13), Wolverhampton Civic Hall (December 14) and Bournemouth 02 Academy (December 15)

Diana Krall : sexy photoshoot, sexy album

DIANA KRALL : Glad Rag Doll

PHEW! What a scorcher. Demure Diana Krall has turned Roaring 20s torch singer, complete with basque, suspenders and stockings.

And it’s not just the controversial cover shot that will send temperatures soaring. Because this is the fabulous 47-year-old jazz chanteuse as you’ve never heard her before.

Forget the usual lush orchestrations, the shimmering strings, the minimalist piano ballads. Diana has stripped down for some retro rock and roll rooted in songs caught out of time.

“As a little girl, I fell in love with the songs of the 1920s,” she reveals. “Two years ago I recorded some of them in the studio by myself. But then I wasn’t sure I wanted to spend the next couple of years doing solo shows.

“I decided I’d like to try something different, sing those songs without making a nostalgia record, or a traditional jazz record. I wanted to treat them as if they were new.

“So I called T-Bone.”

That’s as in T-Bone Burnett, the maverick guitarist, songwriter and producer whose retro roster most recently included the heavenly union of unlikely bedfellows Robert Plant and Alison Krauss.

In turn, he brought guitar genius Marc Ribot to the table, pulled together a stellar band and sent Diana in directions she’d never dreamed of.

“I knew T-Bone would bring something unique to it with the artists that he chose,” says Diana.

“I’m not saying the original recordings weren’t good, but there was definitely more creative imagining involved in this than with the songs from the Great American Songbook that I’ve done.”

So There Ain’t No Sweet Man That’s Worth The Salt Of My Tears acquires sputtering electric guitar, I’m A Little Mixed Up steps to rock and stroll and the title track is informed by Ribot’s razor-sharp stainless steel licks.

Ev’ry Thing’s Made For Love is playful pastiche straight off Boardwalk Empire – you expect Nucky Thompson to join in – and We Just Couldn’t Say Goodbye will delight everyone who bought Hugh Laurie’s Let Them Talk blues roots album.

Best is Lonely Avenue on which Krall’s croon, as silky as those stockings, soothes underlying fractured feedback guitar grumble.

Diana never looked, or sounded, better. This will blow your socks off.

She's just recorded a Christmas duet with Paul McCartney, too. For more info click here.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Led Zeppelin : More UK screenings for Celebration Day

If you missed the big event on Wednesday, fear not.

There are going to be bonus UK screenings of Led Zeppelin: Celebration Day tomorrow, Sunday October 21.

But before you go, ring the cinema first.

The official Led Zeppelin Facebook feed has been full of complaints about cinemas showing the movie at low volume, and with no surround sound.

That was the case when I saw it at Cineworld Solihull on Wednesday, and I see similar complaints about screenings all over the UK.

So pick up the phone, and tell them you want it loud and proud – or you’ll go somewhere else.

For details of the screenings, and to see the guilty ‘hush hush’ cinemas named and shamed, click here.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Led Zeppelin : will there be a reunion tour?

It’s the $64 million question; the elephant in the room.

Will they do it again?

They certainly still have what it takes – or, at least, they did five years ago when they reunited at London’s 02 Arena.

After watching Led Zeppelin: Celebration Day at a packed cinema on Wednesday, the proof is there for all to see.

If you were gutted that you couldn’t get tickets for the 2007 supershow – 20 million people entered the ballot for the chance to buy 18,000 tickets – then you’ll be doubly disappointed now.

Because Celebration Day lives up to its title. It’s a celebration not just of Led Zeppelin but of the sheer bloody joy of rock and roll.

As they serve up a setlist of iconic songs, Robert Plant, Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones have the world once more in the palms of their hands.

There should, of course, be a king-sized hole where John Bonham used to be.

But Jason Bonham, son of the late Led Zeppelin legend, drums up a storm. He is simply sensational.

Somewhere up there, his dad will be proud as punch.

It’s not note-perfect – God forbid! – and at times it’s downright messy.

Jimmy Page is the first to admit that he hit quite a few bum notes, but adds that there were no ‘major fixes’ needed for the movie.

So what you get is a warts and all performance that surpasses every expectation.

Highlights are a majestic Kashmir, passionate In My Time Of Dying, powerhouse Rock And Roll and – yes, I know it’s unfashionable to like the damn thing these days – Stairway To Heaven. You’ll find the full setlist at the end of this blog.

I’d last seen Zeppelin at the Manchester Hardrock – long since defunct – way back in December 1972. I feared that the reunion would spoil my memories of a magical night, one of the best gigs I’d ever been to.

In the event I need not have worried. Led Zeppelin can still cut it.

They should do it more often.

But will they?

It’s long been held that Page wants to get Zeppelin flying again, but that Plant isn’t keen, preferring to tread new musical paths with first Alison Krauss and latterly with his Band Of Joy.

Jones, we believed, had fallen out with the others. Besides, he’s been playing with Them Flying Vultures, the band he formed with Queens Of The Stone Age frontman Josh Homme and Foo Fighter Dave Grohl.

But since the hype surrounding the movie began, there have been mixed messages.

Page says he is just waiting for promoter Harvey Goldsmith to ask the band to do it again.

Goldsmith famously got the band to do the Ahmet Ertegun gig back in 2007 by hand-writing letters to the Zeppelin stars,

Would Page be happy to receive another letter asking the band to reform again, he was asked last week?

“What’s he been doing for the past five years?” replied the guitarist. “Why hasn’t he written a letter already?”

Plant, meanwhile, branded a journalist “a schmuck” for daring to ask the unmentionable question.

But then he added: “We’re pretty good at what we do but the tail should never wag the dog, really. If we’re capable of doing something, in our own time, that will be what will happen.”

Asked about how it had felt to relaunch Zeppelin, if only for one night, he added: “There was a real feeling of camaraderie, and actually, successful adventure.

“It was peculiar and strange at times but at the same time it was very rewarding for all of us and it really did work as a performance.”

Jones, meanwhile, admits that his abiding memory of the gig was just “getting through it all”.

“It was pretty good,” he said. “I think it worked out really well – but it was a relief come the end of it, I have to say.”

Jason Bonham would be available if rumours are true that his band Black Country Communion’s new album Afterglow is to be their last.

So that’s the ‘would they?’

‘Should they?’ is another question altogether.

On the strength of the performance, and by public demand, then yes.

But if they really want Celebration Day to be remembered as such a special ‘one-off’ then no.

* Celebration Day will be available on CD, DVD, Blu-ray and vinyl from November 19. Do not miss it.  Here’s the setlist, as promised:

1. “Good Times Bad Times” (John Bonham, John Paul Jones, and Jimmy Page)
2. “Ramble On” (Page and Robert Plant)
3. “Black Dog” (Jones, Page, and Plant)
4. “In My Time of Dying”/”Honey Bee” (Bonham, Jones, Page, and Plant/Muddy Waters)
5. “For Your Life” (Page and Plant)
6. “Trampled Under Foot” (Jones, Page, and Plant)
7. “Nobody’s Fault but Mine” (Page and Plant)
8. “No Quarter” (Jones, Page, and Plant)
9. “Since I’ve Been Loving You” (Jones, Page, and Plant)
10. “Dazed and Confused” (Page)
11. “Stairway to Heaven” (Page and Plant)
12. “The Song Remains the Same” (Page and Plant)
13. “Misty Mountain Hop” (Jones, Page, and Plant)
14. “Kashmir” (Bonham, Page, and Plant)
15. “Whole Lotta Love” (Bonham, Willie Dixon, Jones, Page and Plant)
16. “Rock and Roll” (Bonham, Jones, Page, and Plant)

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Andy Flannagan : Drowning In The Shallow Review

Visit the Houses of Parliament and odds are you’ll spot Andy Flannagan.

The former NHS hospital doctor is a political protest campaigner with a knack of getting himself heard.

No surprise, then, that he’s also a storyteller and a songwriter.

But who would have thought he’d record an album that may just be the best you’re likely to hear all year?

Drowning In The Shallow is a gorgeous set of songs drawn both from personal loss and the ills of society.

But where the likes of Billy Bragg tend to be strident, Flannagan’s musical mood is mellow, the bite hidden in the lyrics to catch you unawares.

 “There are themes of broken places, things and people, including me,” he says. “The thread that runs through the songs is inspiring people doing inspiring things in difficult places.

“You’ll hear about folks who have given of their lives in the toughest parts of this planet, from Chennai in India to an orphanage in Uganda.

“One person who truly inspired me is Mick Duncan. He gave up a life in New Zealand to go and live amongst slum dwellers in the Philippines.

“I remember something his daughter said when they came back.

“‘What’s it like being in the middle of all that poverty?’ she was asked. ‘I never saw any poverty. I just saw my friends,’ she replied.

“Could we be the generation that doesn’t have to start lots of projects to connect with and help the poor, needy and marginalised among us, but we help them simply because they’re our neighbours?”

Flannagan’s use of acoustic guitar and cello has prompted Damien Rice comparisons, but they’re wide of the mark. His gentle vocal sets him alongside
the likes of Martyn Joseph.

The title track is drop dead gorgeous, while Addictions is a wry look at a dysfunctional society where we’d rather watch TV than talk.

But it’s two tales of tragedy that inspire the highlights here.

Fragile, remembering friends killed in the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami, is deeply moving. And I Will Not Be Leaving, about Joseph, a baby boy left alone for days at birth, has a desperate beauty to it.

Flannagan is setting out on his ‘Invisible Tour’, playing hospices, prisons and homeless shelters for free, bringing hope where it’s in short supply.

It’s typical of the man. Like the album, just what the doctor ordered.

Muse : The 2nd Law review

Now that’s what I call classic rock, a clichéd compilation boasting big hits from Queen, U2, ELO, Led Zeppelin and even a cameo by Queens Of The Stone Age.

But wait. What’s that you say? It’s not another of those interminable ‘Now’ sets? Are you sure?

Ah, I see. Sorry.

This is the new Muse album, the band’s first in three years and, according to frontman guitarist Matt Bellamy, the chance for the sci-fi post-prog rockers to stretch some serious musical muscle.

Except they don’t. Not really.

When quizzed about Muse’s new direction last year, Bellamy promised “a Christian gangsta-rap jazz odyssey, with some ambient rebellious dubstep and face-melting metal flamenco cowboy psychedelia.”

It was doubtless tongue in cheek, but with Muse you can never quite be sure. They have a habit of taking themselves seriously, even if nobody else returns the favour.

So what we have is same old, same old but with more classic rock cues than usual. It’s as if Bellamy has brought his record collection to an all-night sozzled student party.

Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing. In fact, there’s plenty to enjoy on The 2nd Law, even if it is so derivative. Just don’t expect anything jaw-droppingly new.

Supremacy opens the album with a satisfying metal crunch before adding strings, pinching Zeppelin’s Kashmir riff and turning it upside down, and somehow ending up like a James Bond theme.

Big Freeze is a U2 clone complete with Coca-Cola guitar; Liquid State, on which bassist Christ Wolstenholme hollers, borrows from QOTSA; Prelude could be an ELO out-take.

But it’s Freddie Mercury who Bellamy has been listening to. Madness, Follow Me, Panic Station and Explorers all have Queen credentials, the latter two like Another One Bites The Dust and Don’t Stop Me Now.

Olympic anthem Survival remains a car crash of a song, best avoided, and the two-part 2nd Law finalé is a box of fireworks – spectacular but leaving no lasting impression.

Most interesting is Animals, which starts as politely tricksy jazz-lite and ends in what sounds like a full-blown riot.

File under ‘guilty pleasure’ as they like to say on X Factor.

Green Day : Uno! Review

One moment Billie Joe Armstrong was excited about a return to simplicity, embracing the joy of rock and roll.

The next the Green Day frontman was recovering in rehab for substance abuse after a meltdown onstage, hitting the headlines for all the wrong reasons.

So we’re left with Uno! – first of a trilogy released over four months, the others being Dos! and Tré! – but an entirely new context in which to listen to it. Because, you know sometimes words have two meanings.

“After the concept albums, we wanted something punchier, more power pop, somewhere between early Beatles and AC/DC,” Billie explained before his breakdown.

“My son had asked me: ‘Dad, would you ever go back to playing songs like from Kerplunk?’ Well, I love those records. I love the punk stuff I grew up on. But so many bands make the mistake of going back, old school.

“We changed the guitar sound, and the songs just kept coming. We came up with the idea of three albums, each with the face of a different member of the band on the cover. We wanted to make things more fun.”

And at a glance, more fun it is. These are short, sharp songs packaged in razor riffs, singalong hooks and bursting with Green Day gusto. You just know that each and every one carries a live gig guarantee. If you want the soundtrack to a post-punk party, you’re in the right place.

But listen more carefully and lyrics such as “it won’t be long until I detonate” now seem less a war cry, more a cry for help. Songs such as Loss Of Control, in which Billie documents all manner of depravity, seem somehow different second time around. Both Fell For You, in which he admits “I’m a mess”, and the swaggering Troublemaker take on a darker shade.

Bassist Mike Dirnt says the three albums chart a progression: “You’re getting ready and charging to the party on the first record, then getting to the party on the second record, overstaying your welcome and doing a lot of damage. On the third album you’re looking for your car keys and doing some self-reflecting.”

It’s been suggested that the trilogy secretly charts Billie’s downfall – but only he can say for sure, and he’s otherwise occupied just now.

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Muse: the alternative 007 Skyfall Bond theme

Muse frontman Matt Bellamy says that the band’s Supremacy should have been used for new Bond movie Skyfall.

Movie moguls instead signed up Adele to sing the official theme, which you can hear here.

But for what might have been, take a look at the trailer above, which uses the mighty Muse track.

Friday, 5 October 2012

Adele - Skyfall, the new Bond theme in full

So here it is, Adele’s Bond theme.

It’s a classic 007 tune harking back to Shirley Bassey’s Diamond Are Forever days.

What do you think?

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

007: Skyfall Bond film theme debuts on Adele website

Set your alarm clock. Adele’s new Bond film theme is to debut on the singer’s website at seven minutes past midnight – or 0.07 in digital parlance.

At the aptly appointed time on Friday October 5, the world will get to hear what is already being tipped as the year’s most anticipated single, and a global chart-topper.

As soon as the Skyfall song ends, it will be available to buy as a download at the site. You can also pre-order via itunes anytime from today.

The website to go to is if you want to get in on the Bond bonanza.

October 5 also marks the 50th anniversary of the release of Dr. No, and accordingly the James Bond film franchise, and will be celebrated as Global James Bond Day.

After reading the script for the film, Adele enlisted Paul Epworth to co-write and produce the theme song.

“I was a little hesitant at first to be involved with the theme song for Skyfall,” she admits. “There’s a lot of instant spotlight and pressure when it comes to a Bond song.

“But I fell in love with the script and Paul had some great ideas for the track. It ended up being a bit of a no brainer to do it in the end.

“It was also a lot of fun writing to a brief – something I’ve never done, which made it exciting. When we recorded the strings it was one of the proudest moments of my life.

“I’ll be back combing my hair when I’m 60, telling people I was a Bond girl back in the day I’m sure!”

Recorded at Abbey Road Studios in London, Skyfall features the lush accompaniment of a 77-piece orchestra.

It’s the first recording by Adele since releasing her massively successful album 21 in early 2011.

To date 21 has sold more than  24 million albums worldwide and garnered Adele six Grammy Awards, two BRIT Awards and two Ivor Novello Awards.

The Skyfall movie will be released on October 26, 2012 in the UK and on November 9, 2012 in the US.

The 0.07am time slot for the Skyfall theme, by the way, is BST/London time. If you’re listening elsewhere in the world make sure you get your time difference right!