Anyone interested in reviewing The Blue Years – upcoming box covering 1985 -87…….4 cds worth as a download. As always, first come…..
What’s the best thing you’ve read in 2018, fiction or non-fiction?
Bargepole will plump for the latter, with Ben Macintyre’s The Spy and The Traitor, a superb recounting of the career of KGB officer and MI6 agent Oleg Gordievesky, which reads like a John Le Carre novel played out for real. The excitement and tension really is gripping, and if that sort of subject matter interests you I’d highly recommend it. I got this for Christmas, but spotted it in Tesco this morning for a mere £7.50, an absolute snip for a very recently published hardback! On a side note, it seems barely credible that in the mid-80’s, the best way to communicate with his MI6 handlers in Moscow was to stand outside a shop holding a Safeway carrier bag, while the acknowledgement was someone walking past eating a Mars Bar!
Incidentally, I’d also recommend another of the author’s books from a few years back now, Operation Mincemeat, which dealt with the use of a dead body to spread disinformation to the Nazis about the planned Allied invasion of Sicily in 1943.
Not a book as you might expect about the Rolling Stones, this lengthy work is actually about Rolling Stone magazine – indeed it is subtitled The Life and Times of Jann Wenner and Rolling Stone Magazine, which about says it all really. I’m not sure there’s ever really been a UK equivalent to this magazine, which covers both music, politics and current affairs, and as such the magazine has accumulated much more cultural importance in the States than it has here, where it’s quite a niche read, concentrating as it does pretty much solely on matters American. The first edition appeared in 1967, and came with a free roach clip. Over the years though it gradually went from being at the forefront of the music and counterculture scene to becoming an established and respectable pillar of the society it once rebelled against. Of course, its prime time was in the late sixties and seventies, when it was the go-to place for big name rock interviews. Those halcyon days, when interviewees were often paid with an envelope of cocaine, are covered in depth, and there are mini-biographies included of its most famous contributors such as Hunter S Thompson, Joe » Continue Reading.
What does it sound like?:
This two cd set presents Jarrett’s concert in Venice from July 2006. It marks a return to the solo piano improvisational format, which for me is his forte. Indeed, one of the best examples of these was also recorded in Italy, at La Scala way back in 1995. However, each of these types of performance exists entirely in its own world, on this occasion taking the form of eight spontaneously created pieces which occupy the bulk of the two discs. These pieces run the whole range from atonality to blues to jazz to folk, with even a bit of opera thrown into the mix at one point, as he interjects part of The Sun Whose Rays, from The Mikado. There are three encores after the main event, the traditional Celtic tune My Wild Irish Rose, a jaunty interpretation of the jazz standard Stella By Starlight and a subdued but strangely satisfying take on his own tune Blossom, taken from his 1974 Belonging set. Is genius too strong a word for this man? Certainly, his brilliance burns as brightly as ever on here.
What does it all *mean*?
Yet again, Jarrett demonstrates his skill and » Continue Reading.
This book tells the story of Pink Floyd, not through the normal route of long narrative passages, but through a curated collection of items – instruments, posters, ticket stubs, inflatables, press cuttings, inflatables, records and lots more. It’s been put together by Glenn Povey, who’s previously written a number of very good books on the band.
The book runs in chronological order, from a 1964 ticket to a Those Without show (the band included Syd Barrett, who appears to have signed the ticket), right through to a Nick Mason’s Saucerful Of Secrets poster and set list. Each era, and each entry, is accompanied by a detailed text explaining the significance, and despite the visual nature of the book, it runs to some 50,000 words.
There are some interesting items chosen, such as the Syd’s mirror disc Telecaster, Gilmour’s famous black Strat, the bootleg Winter Tour ’74 album, a poster for the infamous Montreal concert in 1977, the film script for The Wall and the metal Division Bell heads, to pick out just a few at random.
The whole thing has been very well researched, as you’d expect from the author’s previous work, and is presented on top » Continue Reading.
What new releases are you looking forward to, be they music, film, books or even gigs you’ll be attending?
Bargepole awaits the new album by Steve Hackett next month a new Lambchop in March, and Fish’s final album later in the year, plus hopefully deluxe reissues of Stormwatch by the mighty Tull and the next Marillion ones.
Bookwise, sadly the final Bernie Gunther novel by the late Phillip Kerr will be on the shelves in April.
So a performance that made old Bargepole smile….any others that come to mind?
Author:Professor Steve Peters
Professor Steve Peters is probably best known for his previous work, the mind management guide The Chimp Paradox, as well as his work with various high profile sporting figures. This book is a sequel to The Chimp Paradox, and is also accompanied by the publication of a companion volume, My Hidden Chimp, which is targeted specifically at children. In a nutshell, the two interconnected books attempt to explain how we can manage our minds from childhood through to adulthood, along the way simplifying quite complex neurological science into simple, understandable language. The Silent Guides of the title are the coping mechanisms and unconscious beliefs that influence our daily lives, and the book aims to help the reader identify them, remove unhelpful ones and nurture beneficial ones. For those such as myself who have struggled with depression, anxiety, inability to switch off, etc the book attempts to guide you into a better understanding of your behaviour and offers ways to help you navigate through life. If you have children, then a good portion of the book is devoted to managing and helping them, in the process learning about a child’s emotion based logic, all very useful if you » Continue Reading.
What does it sound like?:
Resplendent in its Roger Dean artwork, this was Greenslade’s second album and indeed their second release of that proggiest of years 1973. It’s now reissued in remastered form as a cd plus dvd set. The original album is well known to prog lovers of course, the band’s innovative groundbreaking sound being dominated by the double keyboard sound of Dave Greenslade and Dave Lawson, and also being notable for the total absence of a lead guitarist. However, the music here is actually more of a hybrid combination of prog and jazz-fusion. Many would argue that its sequel, Spyglass Guest, is the band’s highpoint, but I always preferred this one, albeit by a short head. The album’s original half dozen pieces are already well known, so the main interest in this release is with the extras. The cd contains a previously unreleased Radio One ‘Sounds Of The Seventies’ session recorded in October 1973 and broadcast later that year, comprising excellent takes on three songs from the album, the title track being the highlight. The dvd meanwhile has a recently unearthed Warners promo film featuring Drowning Man, Temple Song and Melange, while the second section features two » Continue Reading.
Collections of lyrics are often somewhat strange affairs. Reading the lyrics as poetry or verse, without the familiar musical accompaniment can be an odd experience. Still, Kate Bush has never been afraid to do something a little left field, so here we have a collection of lyrics in this rather nice cloth bound book. Now this isn’t a comprehensive volume by any means – it comprises selected lyrics from her large catalogue, mainly taken from her albums of course, but also including a smattering of non album tracks which haven’t appeared in printed form before. The lyrics aren’t in chronological order, being arranged instead in a number of themed sections, and there’s no indication as to what the basis for inclusion was, other than presumably the author’s personal preference. I thought the words might perhaps be augmented on occasion with illustrations pertinent to each song, but in fact this is presented purely as a book of verse. As such, some pieces work better than others, with the lyrics from her later albums being the strongest for me, but as the songs jump from one era to another it’s hard to trace a definite line of development in her » Continue Reading.
What does it sound like?:
Funny things, moods – some days I’m convinced Misplaced Childhood is Marillion’s finest hour, others I’m equally certain it’s this one, the final album of the Fish era, originally released in 1987. It’s an album that contains some of the band’s best work, Warm Wet Circles, Sugar Mice, Slainte Mhath, and also ironically one of my least favourite songs, Incommunicado, which always struck me as sounding rather like a Who cast off. It’s certainly an album that is best consumed in one sitting though, as one continuous piece of music. This grandiose box comprises four cds plus a bluray disc, although there’s not a huge amount of unreleased material on offer. What do you get? The original album remixed, a cd of demos and a two cd live set recorded in Edinburgh in December 1987 on the band’s final tour with Fish, some of which was used on 1988’s The Thieving Magpie live album. It’s a good gig for sure, spanning the band’s entire career and showcasing good chunks of both Misplaced Childhood and Clutching At Straws, and the band are on top form, as you’d expect playing in front of their ecstatic home » Continue Reading.
This is a companion to last year’s Mythos, in which Stephen Fry recounted and explained in modern language the myths and fables of Ancient Greece. Where Mythos dealt mainly with the Greek Gods, here, he delves into the world of mere mortals, that of the legendary Greek heroes, Jason, Atalanta, Oedipus and so on. These tales are again recounted in today’s language, rather like Neil Gaiman did in his excellent book on Norse mythology not too long ago. I do feel the stories benefit from this entertaining treatment, potentially introducing them to a whole new generation of readers. Some of the footnotes are a bit dry, but Fry is obviously not only very knowledgeable about these stories, but also very fond of them too. His rich style manages to convey a real sense of excitement, as adventures are had, perils overcome and vengeful Gods outwitted. These tales have obviously withstood the test of time and remain in turn funny, dramatic and tragic. If you want battles, white knuckle chases, acts of bravery (and of cowardice), murder, self sacrifice, solving of riddles and seemingly impossible puzzles, then look no further because they are all on offer here!
Length of » Continue Reading.
What does it sound like?:
Jean-Michel Jarre – yet another artist who I lost touch with as the years went by. I had Oxygene, Magnetic Fields, Equinoxe and even Concert in China, but my interest in subsequent releases gradually dwindled. Jarre turned seventy this year, and is still selling out huge venues across the world with his spectacular shows, headlining Coachella earlier this year. This new album ties in with the fortieth anniversary of the release of the original Equinoxe album, one of his most successful records, although the connections are actually fairly tenuous. Although you can pick up the odd musical phrase or theme that echoes the original, this is by and large a completely separate stand alone piece of work. The overriding themes are those of artificial intelligence and its potential impact on society and on humanity. Of course it’s not easy to convey that in the form of instrumental electronic music, so a big leap of imagination is required. The better pieces, and there are a surprisingly good number of them actually, sound like Blade Runner era Vangelis, which is no bad thing at all, moody, evocative and futuristic, and there are some very catchy sections » Continue Reading.
What does it sound like?:
It’s the turn of Tull’s 1968 debut album to get a 50th anniversary makeover, again performed in exemplary fashion by Steven Wilson. I have to say this isn’t one of my favourite Tull works, indeed it’s one that only gets a very occasional play. There’s none of the prog influences that would surface in their classic seventies albums, this being a more conventional sixties bluesy sound with jazz influences thrown in. It is of course the only album to feature Mick Abrahams on guitar before his departure to form Blodwyn Pig, and features his vocals on Move On Alone, the only Tull song not to have Ian Anderson taking the lead. A Song For Jeffrey is perhaps the most enduring piece, one that featured in their live shows for many years. The three cd plus dvd set also rounds up various associated recordings and B sides from that era, some of which are previously unreleased, plus two Top Gear Sessions from 1968. For completists, the third cd also has both the original 1968 stereo and mono mixes of the album. The DVD features all of the above mixed, due to limitations with the original » Continue Reading.
I suspect many of us were at one time or another devotees of Q. Launched in 1986, for a good time it was the best music monthly around, and I was certainly one of the regulars. Over the years, its appeal for me dwindled markedly – or maybe I just got older and moved out of its demographic. Whatever, it’s a long time since I last looked at a copy other than a casual flick through in the supermarket. This shortish book, aimed squarely at the Christmas market, basically comprises a series of quotes on various random topics and aspects of life from sundry rock stars, some of which were published in the magazine along with others that fell by the wayside. I have to say that among the usual well known suspects, Bono, Noel Gallagher, John Lydon etc there are quite a few I’ve not actually heard of – showing my age perhaps – Big Narstie, Ezra Koenig and Charli XCX to pluck out a few at random. The book is reasonably interesting, and at times amusing, to dip in and out of when you have a spare few minutes. There are no great revelations or indeed insights » Continue Reading.
What does it sound like?:
The date: 25 November 1994. The venue: Joe Robbie Stadium, Miami. The occasion: The Stones are in town, dropping by on their latest mammoth globe straddling trek, promoting their Voodoo Lounge album. Parts of this show have been released before, but this two cd plus dvd set captures the whole shebang for the first time. That means a further ten songs have been added, and the correct running order restored. As if that wasn’t enough, there’s also a bonus of another five songs not performed at this show, taken from an earlier gig at Giants Stadium. Of course, a good deal of their set list has been fairly constant for decades now, for better or for worse, but it’s always great to hear the likes of Tumbling Dice, Honky Tonk Women and Sympathy For The Devil, and you simply can’t argue with the closing quintet of Street Fighting Man, Start Me Up, It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll, Brown Sugar and Jumping Jack Flash. It’s great also to hear some excellent songs that don’t get as much limelight as they deserve – Shattered, Beast of Burden, Doo Doo Doo Heartbreaker, All Down The Line and » Continue Reading.
What does it sound like?:
Back in the early seventies, a collaboration between a rock band and an orchestra was still a pretty groundbreaking thing to do. This effort, recorded in November 1971 with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, is one of the best representations of that genre. The original release featured just five pieces, about half the record being taken up by the lengthy In Held ‘Twas In I, which really gave both band and orchestra room to stretch their legs. This is the band’s most epic and ambitious track – I’ve still no idea what it’s all about, and at almost twenty minutes long it’s hard work at times, but it still manages to hold your attention. However, I think the shorter pieces actually work better overall – there are excellent interpretations of their more theatrical compositions such as Conquistador and A Salty Dog, where the classical and rock elements really gel. The album is supplemented by five extra tracks, one being the B side of the Conquistador single, Luskus Delph, while the others are rehearsals for the concert itself, two of which are previously unreleased. However, for me the original album still stands alone without these extras » Continue Reading.
What does it sound like?:
In my long ago teenage years, two of the first ‘proper’ rock albums I acquired were Razamanaz and Loud & Proud by Nazareth, inspired I think by seeing them perform Bad Bad Boy or maybe Broken Down Angel on Top of The Pops. Of course they followed those with their epic rendition of Joni Mitchell’s This Flight Tonight, surely one of those rare occasions where a cover version transcends the original. I rather lost track of the band for a while, but picked them up again later in the decade with the excellent Hair of The Dog album (which included a hit cover of Love Hurts), and the non – album single My White Bicycle. After that, we parted ways and it’s many years since I listened to any of their stuff.This three cd set is a distillation of the recent massive box set containing all their recorded output, which is surely only for the hard core fan. Listening to this set brought back plenty of memories for sure, but really the first cd is vastly superior to the other two, as it concentrates on their prime early seventies work. The second and third » Continue Reading.
It’s November so it’s time for Day of the Dead again – an unreleased track every day – here’s the first….
Leonard Cohen’s death in November 2016 brought the curtain down ob a career spanning five decades. This posthumously published collection, compiled in the last few months of the author’s life, brings together his poems, writings and sketches, mainly from his later years. The first section of the book comprises sixty three poems that Cohen considered finished stand-alone pieces, This is followed by the lyrics section, containing the words to his last three albums, together with those he wrote for the Anjani Thomas album Blue Alert The final part has selections from his notebooks, running from his teenage years up to his death. In general, I feel the longer poems work the best with some of the shorter ones seeming a little inconsequential, but the lyrics make for profound and at times moving reading, and show exactly why his songs have enjoyed such longevity. Perhaps the most revealing part of the book though are his notebooks, some of which are reproduced in handwritten format, which give an intriguing window into his creative process. There’s also a poignant foreword by his son, Adam, who helped compile these writings. There’s an underlying sense throughout of the author wrapping up his life » Continue Reading.
What does it sound like?:
Igor Stravinsky composed the music for this tale of a soldier returning from war who meets and subsequently makes a deal with the devil, in 1917. To commemorate the upcoming centenary of the end of World War One, and of course Remembrance Day, Roger Waters has resurrected this piece, adapting the text and taking on the roles of the three principal characters, The Narrator, The Soldier and The Devil. The music is played by a small classical ensemble from the Bridgehampton Chamber Music Festival, who first performed this piece with Waters ten years ago. It wasn’t until 2014 though that their music was recorded, while Waters’ narration it seems, looking at the recording locations, was recorded in down time on his European tour earlier this year. I was expecting this to be primarily a musical piece with spoken interludes, but actually it’s more like a radio play or audio book, with relatively brief musical passages interspersed throughout the narrative. There’s no new Waters music here or even any singing of course, and I suppose you could say this sits alongside his previous classical excursion, Ca Ira, in his canon. It is, however, much more » Continue Reading.
The third in the current run of books by David Hepworth is not really a sequel as such to the previous two. Rather than focussing on a specific year, as in 1971, or on particular characters, as in Uncommon People, this is a wide-ranging collection of essays, which look back over the last fifty years of music. I suppose Hepworth is something of a Marmite writer, but I as a rule like his work, although he has tended I think to become more stuck in his ways as the years have progressed, and he seems to have no intention or interest in changing his fixed opinions on his particular hobby horse topics. The first section of the book, for example, deals exclusively with The Beatles, while the second concentrates on the sixties, both topics on which he brooks no argument. Perhaps the most interesting section is a collection of talks he did for Radio 3’s ‘The Essay’ programme last year, which pose some interesting questions about the nature and significance of rock music and artists. The latter sections of the book skate further around the topics of music and life in general, and a few of the pieces » Continue Reading.
What does it sound like?:
Another ridiculously good release in this ongoing series of live sets. This time we visit Mexico City in July of last year, the results of which are captured on this 3cd plus bluray set, which, need I add, is accompanied by a super booklet, which incorporates extracts from Robert Fripp’s diaries.. Now an eight piece, the band power through a fascinating and fantastic set, incorporating pretty much all you’d hope to hear in a Crimson show. It never fails to amaze me how these familiar pieces differ in each performance, the music constantly evolving. The cds are compiled from five nights of shows to give a perfect theoretical set list, and the third cd is further augmented by six pieces taken from soundboard recordings from gigs in early 2018, including material new to the set lists. All this is reproduced in surround sound on the bluray, together with over two hours of concert footage, which is expertly filmed and really worth watching. There’s only one previously unheard piece, the brief percussion led Catalytikc No 9, but it’s always a pleasure to hear staples such as Starless alongside eighties material such as Neurotica and Indiscipline. » Continue Reading.
I’m always happy to read a new one by Stephen King, although this, in comparison to some of his huge doorstop type tomes, is a slim volume, a novella, rather like last year’s ‘Gwendy’s Button Box’, an extract from which is actually included as a bonus at the end of this book.
Pleasingly, and again like GBB, King sets the tale in good old Castle Rock, one of his favourite locations, and you have to say no-one captures and evokes the spirit and atmosphere of life in small town America better than he does. Superficially the story is a little similar to a previous novella, ‘Thinner’, written some years ago now under his Richard Bachman pseudonym – a man is inexplicably losing weight daily no matter how much he eats, but without any change in his outward physical appearance, and he weighs the same both with and without clothes. Throw in to the mix a gay female couple being shunned by the conservative local community, and you have the makings of an intriguing, if all too brief, tale. Overall, I found this quite a touching, sad story – there seems to be an overriding sense of melancholy » Continue Reading.
What does it sound like?:
There were some fine rock/metal live albums in the late seventies and early eighties. Live After Death, Live and Dangerous and Strangers In The Night spring to mind, but of course they were all doubles. The Eagle Has Landed was also intended to be a two record set, until the record company nixed the idea, leaving us with a good but slightly unsatisfying single album, a real missed opportunity you feel. Of course, in the cd era it was subsequently expanded with an extra half dozen songs from earlier in the tour, but annoyingly not from the same show. It’s this version that has been re-released as the final instalment in the current round of hardback book type reissues. It’s still a damn fine listen, capturing the band riding the crest of the NWOBHM wave and full of youthful punkish energy. All the classics you’d expect are here, 747, Wheels of Steel, Strong Arm Of The Law, Princess of The Night, Never Surrender, etc on the ‘original’ part of the cd, while the subsequent additions feature Dallas 1PM, which they really ought to have included on the original set, And The Band Played On, » Continue Reading.