Category Archives: reviews

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Review: The Who – Greatest Hits Live

The Who at its best is the equal of any live band ever, so the new double CD Greatest Hits Live has plenty of potential. On the other hand, cherry-picking from concerts over a 42-year period (1965 to 2007) is unlikely to offer the coherence or adrenalin rush of a single concert – get the sublime Live At Leeds in the unlikely event you have not heard it yet – and much of this material has appeared before, especially if you snagged the fanclub-only release View from a Backstage Pass.

The first CD here covers the original band including the late, great Keith Moon. Not a bad track here, though personally even by 1976 there was some decline in the band’s live performance in my opinion.

The CD does not present the songs chronological order which seems odd to me. I’ve sorted them for the list below. Great to have the songs from Hull, the day after the famous Leeds gig. In detail:

BBC Session 1965
My Generation

Leeds 14 Feb 1970
Magic Bus

Hull 15 Feb 1970
Happy Jack
I’m a Boy

San Francisco 12 Dec 1971
I Can’t Explain
Substitute
Behind Blue Eyes

Largo 6 Dec 1973
5.15
Won’t Get Fooled Again

Charlton Athletic FC, 18 May 1974
Naked Eye/Let’s See Action/My Generation

Swansea, 12 June 1976
Pinball Wizard
I’m Free
Squeezebox

CD2 on the other hand starts 15 years later. The first part is a good chunk of a 1989 concert from a tour which honestly was not one of The Who’s best. But it is still The Who and worth hearing. Then we get a scattering of tracks from more recent concerts, including a fine Real Me from Watford in 2002 and Eminence Front from Brisbane last year. Overall though, it’s not a particularly good representation of the best latter-day Who. In fact, I’d rather have had the entire Watford concert. In detail:

Los Angeles, 24 August 1989
I can see for miles
Join Together
Love Reign O’er Me
Baba O’Riley
Who Are You

Watford 31 Jan 2002
The Real Me

Royal Albert Hall, London, 7 Feb 2002
The Kids are Alright

New York, 11 March 2007
A man in a purple dress

Brisbane, 24 March 2009
Eminence Front

Overall, enjoyable but not a very satisfactory release. I’d recommend the At Kilburn 1977 [DVD] [2008, which also includes a concert at Coliseum 1969, ahead of this – the Coliseum concert on that is just fantastic. Greatest Hits Live on the other hand is mainly for Who enthusiasts.

Review: Broken bells

I’ve listened to this CD by James Mercer (ex The Shins) and Brian Burton (half of Gnarls Barkley) numerous times and can’t shake off the feeling that this could have been much better. That said, it’s good in lots of ways. The sounds are inventive, the melodies are strong, the talent is obvious.

The sound is a little dated, though I’m guessing that’s deliberate; there are echoes of eighties-style new romantic crooning plus electronica.

What’s missing then? Well, one of the songs is called "Sailing to nowhere" which sums it up nicely. The CD is lacking in passion or any real sense of direction.

If you like what James Mercer and Danger Mouse have done before, then you’ll likely enjoy this, though I doubt you will find it their best work. For others, there’s little compelling reason to grab this CD, though it passes pleasantly enough

A few observations on King Crimson: The Court of the Crimson King

DGM has released a magnificent CD/DVD box set reissue of King Crimson’s classic debut, The Court of the Crimson King.

Maybe I will write more about this when I have listened to it properly, but in the meantime a few observations.

This is completist heaven. There is always argument about whether reissues should feature the original mix (for authenticity) or a new mix (to benefit from modern noise-free mixing techniques). The makers of the recent Genesis boxes contentiously chose the latter. DGM by contrast offers both.

Not only that, you get several versions of both. You get a new 2009 mix in CD and several DVD versions – several DVD versions because only DVD audio players can cope with the highest resolution, and most people only have DVD video players – so we end up with a 2009 surround mix in two audio versions; a 2009 stereo mix in two audio versions; and the original mix as mastered in 2004 in two audio versions.

It doesn’t stop there. We also get a needledrop from the first pressing of the UK vinyl release on Island Records; and an alternate take version of the album with different performances, such as an instrumental-only 21st Century Schizoid Man.

Then there are the other extras: the full version of Moonchild; a live concert from 1969 (Hyde Park, July 5th combined with Filmore East, New York in November); a mono album mix issued for US radio.

If 5 CDs and a DVD aren’t enough for you, you can also enjoy the LP-size box, which enables the original artwork to be printed at its proper size, and inserts including a well-written 24 page booklet, two photographs from the era, and rattling aimlessly about inside, two little badges.

But I promised some observations, not just a description. I love the album; never be deceived by the opening clamour of 21st Century Schizoid Man, this is thoughtful music, not a mindless thrash. It was extraordinary hearing it for the first time; I’m not sure when that was for me – not 1969, but a couple of years later. It might have been on that wonderful Island Records sampler, Nice Enough to Eat, which I listened to in 1972 or thereabouts. If any album deserves this kind of treatment, this one does.

It was particularly thoughtful of the compilers to include the vinyl needledrop and the full-size artwork. Still … as it happens I have the record, not the first pressing, but an early ILPS, 4U matrix if you really want to know.

I played the record and then the CD needledrop. You know what? My record sounds better to my ears. Oddly, on the “declicked” needledrop you can easily hear pre-echo of the opening salvo of Schizoid, where it goes from very quiet to very loud. This is a vinyl flaw, where a quiet groove picks up a faint echo of the louder groove which follows it. My cut doesn’t have that, at least not audibly. It also sounds richer, more open, more dynamic.

Another thing I noticed: the artwork. Honestly, you have to see an early pressing of the original LP to appreciate this very striking image. The definition is much better, the colours more vibrant, those eyes – they stare manically out of the original, in the new print they are muted.

I’m guessing that they didn’t manage to get hold of the original artwork, and that what we have here is a print of a print.

Never mind. If you love this album, get the box; it is fantastic. You can get it from burning shed.

Review: Animal Kingdom – signs and wonders

I reviewed this on Amazon and called it “Quirky, mystical and tuneful”. It’s the debut album from a promising London band, though this was recorded in Seattle. Animal Kingdom has been quietly building a fan base, playing support to the likes of Snow Patrol as well as their own club gigs.

The band has already released two singles, both excellent: the affecting, ethereal Chalk Stars, and the pulsating Tin Man, a love song for the electronic age. Both songs feature here, along with the new single Signs and Wonders which is not quite the equal of the first two, but still a catchy number.

What you get is Richard Sauberlich’s delicate, keening vocals; lyrics which are quirky and mystical, and music that is pacey and tuneful. The band cite a broad range of influences from Arcade Fire, to Dylan, to the Cure, to Massive Attack, all of which can be heard in snatches here and there.

As you might expect from an album called Signs and Wonders, there’s plenty of biblical imagery: Two by Two (think Noah’s Ark), Walls of Jericho, Mephistopheles, and more.

It all passes pleasantly enough, and that in a way is the problem. Could there be a tension between the band’s darker instincts and its pursuit of that elusive mass market? At times this CD is just a bit too pretty and poppy. By contrast, my favourite track is the swirling Mephistopheles, declaimed rather than sung, and featuring disturbing, evocative imagery against a pounding but delicate keyboard background.

Not perfect then; but Signs and Wonders is well worth it for its best moments, which are superb. Catch Animal Kingdom live if you can, and watch this space.

Animal Kingdom is Richard Sauberlich (vocals, guitar, piano), Wayne Yardley (guitar), Hamish Crombie (bass) and Geoff Lea (drums).

Review: Here comes the Future by the Honeydrips

The Honeydrips is Mikael Carlsson, formerly in the Swedish band Dorotea. This is a beautiful album – the band’s sole release, as far as I know – combining Carlsson’s haunting, graceful vocals with electro-funk backing that echoes (more than echoes, in places) bands such as New Order and its predecessor Joy Division, though it is generally lighter in mood.

The album opens with some twanging guitar and the words “Last night I had the strangest dream”, setting a surreal atmosphere that persists throughout.

Favourite track: It was a sunny Summer day, a bland title disguising a cascade of melody, a touch of Carribean percussion, and bittersweet lyrics "it was a sunny summer day, when all my hope drifted away…"

"I know a place where you and I could go, if you’re up for trying something new" (from the second track) – give it a go. You don’t even need to buy it; try it on Spotify, which is where I discovered it, though I went on to buy the CD from the record label’s site:

http://www.sincerelyyours.se/boutique.php

proving that online music services really can result in a purchase.