>Desert Island Discs

>A discussion which has brought an uncharacteristically interesting debate in middle class households throughout Britain has been – ‘What would be your Desert Island Discs?’ Well having finally heeded the call the good people at Radio 4 have given me the chance to make my choices official. Before you rise up in outrage that a nobody such as myself has been given such an honour you best realise that anybody can! Go here to post your own. For those unfamiliar with the format this is the BBC explanation:

” The format is simple – a guest is invited to choose eight discs, a book and a luxury to take with them as they’re castaway on a mythical desert island.  They’re given the complete works of Shakespeare and the Bible.  During the interview they explain their choices and discuss key moments in their lives, people and events that have influenced and inspired them and brought them to where they are today.”

>How have I never seen this performance before?!

>Incredible. (more…)

Published in: on 30/03/2011 at 7:04 pm  Leave a Comment  

>What were you thinking?

>This week’s blog might not excite and delight you as much as my usual dazzling array of tantalising tunes. My pre-Mancunian derby nerves has brought out the negative in me so I’m choosing five tracks I loathe by artists I love. I could of course make this easy and choose middling bands who I can take or leave, or dip into the catalogue or once great bands on the slide (yes I mean you Rivers Cuomo). Each track is by an artist released at the peak of their powers which contrasts sharply with the rest of their brilliance. (more…)

Published in: on 12/02/2011 at 11:55 am  Comments (2)  

>and it’s LIVE!

>Tomorrow I am going to see the brilliant band The National at Brixton Academy. What is especially exciting about the gig is at the time of being offered the ticket I liked rather than loved The National, yet as I’ve listened to them loads since I have fallen head over heels for them. It promises to be a terrific gig and I might even grace the blog with a review. I have been lucky enough over the years to see countless gigs – the prime time being whilst studying at University in Leeds. I thought it might be apt if I add to the Five series with five artists who are fantastic live. These were certainly not my favourite artists at the time of viewing – in most cases far from it – yet they each massively impressed me and fast became essential parts of my collection.

Picture the scene. Leeds Festival 2006. If I’m honest I wasn’t that fussed about many of the bands on show and was kicking my heels waiting for The Raconteurs. By mid afternoon I was feeling the effects of the previous night/morning as the brief adrenalin rush of laughing at the lead singer of The Hair’s ridiculous expressions had worn off. So for reasons of not being arsed to move more than anything I hung around to watch Feeder. Now I used to really like Feeder – Comfort in Sound being a hugely underrated album – but had moved on and upon seeing them a few years ago in a support role I had been far from impressed. Enter the band, who reeled off hit after fantastic hit, playing with supreme enthusiasm that infected the whole crowd and awoke everyone from their slumber. By the finale of Just a Day as you looked around the crowd previously weary and tired faces were a sea of beaming smiles and bouncing. A notoriously difficult slot became a triumph.

A grainy video of that very song…

The Dears
No Cities Left was for me the finest album of 2003. So it was with great anticipation and excitement that the Canadian band came to my Uni city of Leeds to play the humble Cockpit. By the time I saw The Dears in February 2005 I had already seen many, many gigs at The Cockpit of varying quality. Quite frankly though I have a great deal of affection for it, as a venue it is pretty rubbish. The acoustics have never been good and clarity of sound is often lost. You can appreciate therefore that although excited I was not expecting much of a show – how wrong I was. The Dears made most of the previous bands I had seen at the venue appear unimaginative and lazy as they transformed a mediocre venue into an atmospheric wall of sound and vision. The light show, smoke and compelling stage presence of all members of the band brought a new quality to the music and it stands alone as the most impressive gig I saw in Leeds during my time there.

The Killers
One of the great melancholic experiences of life is connecting with an artist only for the rest of the population to steal them away from you. It leads to the nauseating ‘I liked them before they went commercial’ attitude of which I confess to having lapsed into at times in my younger days. Massive success of a band can at times mean you lose that emotional bond you once shared – Arctic Monkeys and Kings of Leon are recent examples. Like a reluctant mother they fly the nest and never seem the same. On the flip side, it can be tremendously thrilling to see a band you first saw show raw potential climb the ladder to gain huge success without compromising their style. Pleasingly the latter scenario describes my experience of The Killers. I dragged my best mate along to see this band who I had heard a single track from late night on Radio 1 and we witnessed an exhilarating performance in a small venue. We both suspected this band were going places and so it turned out when just a year later we saw them steal the audience away from home favourites Franz Ferdinand at T in the Park in 2004. The coup de grace though was to see them just two years after seeing them in a small venue in Leeds play second on the bill with a triumphant set at Glastonbury. It was spectacular to see such a rise yet still feel that same electricity that I felt when I saw them for the first time. On a side note, this was also the last song at my wedding so it ranks pretty highly on the nostalgia scale. Enjoy!

Stevie Wonder

Guns N Roses
My final choice is a classic example of how anticipation and atmosphere can actually contribute to a performance. It would be ridiculous to claim that Guns N Roses of 2002 were anything close to the heady days of Slash in the late eighties. However for a group of lads from Kendal to actually see Axel Rose performing Guns N Roses songs live was something we never, ever expected. Even on the day itself the expectation was that they wouldn’t show and as we waited over an hour after The Prodigy it seemed that we would be disappointed. Even when the shady intro video came up still a further twenty minutes passed with nothing happening and spirits fell. The moment captured below when the intro to Welcome to the Jungle comes on and Axel emerges is the single most exciting moment I have ever experienced at a gig. The release of pure, unbridled joy as the realisation dawned that we were actually seeing Axel Rose singing Appetite for Destruction was almost too much to believe. On reflection they were most likely nowhere near their peak musically but it certainly didn’t matter that wet night in a field in Leeds.

That’s your lot. I’d love to know your own memories of great live moments.

Published in: on 28/11/2010 at 12:46 pm  Comments (4)  

>Birthday Blog!

>It was twenty seven years ago today that I entered the world. So much has changed in that time, in this blog I am going to describe the top 100 key events during my lifetime.

Or perhaps not as frankly that would be far too much like work (I’m a history teacher) so instead I am going to share with you three albums that in my humble opinion you really, REALLY should own.

Weezer – by Weezer (also known as the Blue album)

It saddens me to say it but I wish Rivers Cuomo had never decided to bring Weezer back together after Pinkerton. Much like the return of Family Guy after a hiatus their output since has become a more and more desperate to recapture the glorious early days with increasingly embarassing efforts to appear relevant. The new song is garbage and sticking the fat bloke from Lost as the album cover is like, so edgy, and like, hilarious! I sound far too grumpy for a man enjoying his birthday so I’ll quickly return to focus on Weezer’s debut. If you do not own this album I envy you, I would love to experience listening to it for the first time. The good news is everytime you listen it’s like a hit of sunshine; the opening bars of My Name is Jonas never fail to give me a surge of excitement. I’m not going to do an in-depth track by track analysis as I have a limited knowledge of synonyms for brilliant. Just bloody buy it.

Three great tracks: No One Else, Say It Aint So, Surf Wax America
Like this? You may also like: The Replacements; Lemonheads; Death Cab for Cutie;
Rating: 9 1/2 out of 10

Innervisions – by Stevie Wonder

Growing up mum and dad always had Stevie Wonder and Jimi Hendrix on so I knew of them without really considering them anything special as they were my parents’ music. I can’t remember exactly when or why but have a strong memory of being about 17 and for the first time really listening to Songs in the Key of Life. From that moment I was hooked, and I consider Stevie’s Golden Period (’72-’80) to be just about the finest music ever created. The pick of the bunch is Innervisions. Music as social commentary is often overtly worthy and tedious, yet on this album it is nothing of the sort. Wonder has an ability like no other to create joy; if you dispute that try and listen to the opening of Sir Duke without smiling. This album is absolutely packed full of songs guaranteed to have you at the very least tapping your feet but more likely dancing around the house like an idiot (perhaps that’s just me). It is in fact easy to listen to this album purely as a dance record and in this form it undoubtedly succeeds but when you actually listen to what Stevie is singing about you realise that this is nothing short of poetry. James Brown may be more closely associated with black rights yet I find his blunt approach and bellious delivery to be off-putting and even patronising. Wonder manages to weave in relevant social commentary about 1970s America into his songs with a subtletly that enriches rather than detracts from the musical joy. His music speaks to people in a way few others manage; only Dylan, Young and Springsteen have had a comparable impact.

Three great tracks: Visions, Living for the City, He’s Misstra know it all
Like this? You may also like: Gil Scott-Heron; The Fugees; Mos Def;

Rating: 9 1/2 out of 10

Buena Vista Social Club – by Buena Vista Social Club

First of all I know my ignorance is staggering. Recommending this to anyone with a knowledge of Cuban music is a bit like saying ‘hey have you heard Definitely Maybe by this Oasis band?’ My knowledge of Cuban music is regrettably minimal so for me this album was a fantastic introduction. I took an extremely roundabout way of getting into it. The roots can probably traced to my Peru trip where I loved the music even if the panpipes were a bit overkill by the end. Shortly after having arrived back and like any self-respecting middle class Guardian reader I decided I was now ‘into World Music.’ A documentary came on TV about the making of this album and experiencing music for the first time visually was an unusual method but the songs really shone out for me. Ever since this album has regularly brightened up a rainy afternoon in my classroom slogging through marking. It showcases a wide variety of styles and performers but what is always consistent is the sky high standard of musicianship and infectious rhythms. If you have never listened to latin music I urge you to give it a go.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8c6u4PFKg_o (El Carretero)
Three great tracks: Chan Chan, Y Tú Qué Has Hecho?, ElCarretero
Like this? You may also like: Ibrahim Ferrer; Omara Portuondo; Rubén Gonzaléz
Rating:  81/2 out of 10

Published in: on 12/08/2010 at 11:38 am  Comments (2)