Sunday, 26 August 2018

NEW MUSIC PROFILE - ROCK BAND "FIREBUG"

FireBug are an exciting American Indie Rock band originally from Chicago.  Their sound is unique, a little Pat Benatar, a little Garbage, a little Psychedelic, with some Goth and Blues overtones as well!  This is the kind of band I love where you just can't categorise them into one genre.


I originally reviewed this band a few years ago just after I heard the 2009 single "Dreaming Of America", The song epitomises the FireBug sound.  You first think there is a Razorlight influence, then it begins to rock out 70s style and Juliette gives her best Pat Benatar before a Metal Rock ending! Since then the lineup has changed for live tours but the two mainstays are vocalist Juliette Tworsey (also on rhythm guitar and mandolin) and Jules Shapiro (lead and slide guitars and organ).


The band have played such venues as Howlin' Wolf, House Of Blues and One Eyed Jacks.  They have toured the UK a few times and played at Knebworth Sonisphere Festival in 2010 with other major Rock players such as Iron Maiden, The Cult and Iggy Pop And The Stooges.  They have won awards too such as Best International Act in 2009 and 2010 at the UK Exposure Music Awards.  Amassing a great following over the years they have singed up with Spectra Music Group and have just released their first album with them, named "Wandering Soul".


The latest single "Follower" has a great Blues twang like ZZ Top on top of the Psychedelic 70s Progressive Rock vibe.  The album is a great listen if you like real Rock and love the Classic Rock of the 70s and 80s, "Sinner" and "Wine, Water And Bread" are prime examples of the Firebug sound, check this band out, they're going to be huge.




NEW MUSIC PROFILE - ALTERNATIVE SINGER/SONGWRITER "STEVE MORAN"

Steve Moran is an Alternative singer/songwriter using the spoken word and is a man with a message.  Hailing from Manchester, this unassuming guy uses his songs to convey emotion, harsh truths and showing a way out of the darkness.  He has been out of the limelight a while working on his debut album.


Steve writes his songs based on his own experiences and the perils of everyday life that affect others.  Although only releasing two singles to date, he has received wide acclaim from many countries and had airplay on MTV and the second single was a minor American chart hit.


This guy is unique, the first single "Wasn't Meant To Be This Way" lyrically covers society problems of today while the video tells another story, it received emotive feedback by viewers and listeners alike.  "What A Waste" covers alcoholism and real life dilemmas.  Clearly the message he is sending is honest, provocative, positive and delivered with emotion.


Steve has been working hard to show people there is light at the end of a dark, dark tunnel.  Obviously, to hear the words, he has suffered a few turbulent times in his own life, and music is his salvation.  What better way to pass on a message of hope than through music, Steve just wants to push the boundaries and give everyone a voice! I believe a third single is coming soon entitled "Wish We Were Still Lovers".



Thursday, 23 August 2018

DEBATE ARTICLE - "80s VINYL VERSUS TODAY'S CD - WHICH DO YOU PREFER?"

It's been argued time and time again, vinyl versus CD.  There are pros and cons for both formats.  As a buyer of both I can conduct the debate from my own personal experiences.  You, as a reader, may disagree, different generations will say different things but these are my own conclusions.


VERSUS


VINYL
 
Be it the 7" single, the 12" multi-track versions, the 4 track E.P. or the album, the vinyl format was special.

For the most part of the 80s vinyl's only opposition was the tape, or cassette.  In reality, you could "record" your vinyl albums onto cassettes to be an ideal companion playing in your car or your portable tape recorder.  Another advantage of the cassette was recording the Top 40 on Radio 1 in the UK on a Sunday night, desperately trying to pause when the DJ talked over the song!

The fury today of people downloading music is a nonsense.  I taped the Top 40 to have all the songs I liked to listen to in one go and help me decide which singles I was going to buy when I had money.  As pocket money was at a premium I couldn't afford the whole Top 40 chart.  So, when the pocket money arrived I would set out on the weekend to my local music store and buy an album or several singles for my £5 or £10 if I saved up!

I always looked forward to buying vinyl, the glossy or paper covers expertly designed.  I would often just sit down with all my singles and albums and marvel at the covers for hours reading the inner sleeves or just choosing my favourite.  They were treasured items.  The sound may have crackled at the start but just having the song or album for your very own listening pleasure was brilliant after only hearing a snippet on the radio.  The crackles were no problem, it was the whole exciting package for me.




The joy in seeing the stunning Debbie Harry in close up on the cover of Blondie's single "Sunday Girl".  The secret embarrassment but quiet amusement at the quite naughty gatefold sleeve picture of Frankie Goes To Hollywood's album "Welcome To The Pleasuredome"!  The amazing warrior image cover of Adam on Adam And The Ants' "Kings Of The Wild Frontier" and a free booklet inside!  This was an art form in itself, and the whole package of having your favourite music inside photographed or specially designed sleeves brought you closer to the artist somehow.  It is hard to explain.

I remember my first vinyl single as has previously been mentioned in a blog, it was Cliff Richard's "Dreamin'", my first album was more befitting of my current tastes, it was Blondie's "Eat To The Beat".

I always remember my brother doing his disco, he had a stack of 12" singles, full of extended versions, club mixes and remixes.  These and the horde of 80s singles and his rock albums filled his room.  I would sneak in and tape them all while he was out so I could have them too!  I also bought some cassette abums because I had been given a "boom box" for Christmas one year and needed them to impress (or annoy) my friends outside!


Tapes were cheaper but the covers just weren't the same as my amazing vinyl sleeves.  When I started writing song lyrics I used to design and create my own single and album record sleeves to match my songs.  This of course was in readiness for my impending fame as a top pop star! (no giggling at the back please!).

The vinyl sleeves were as important as the music contained on those black circular things, it was definitely the whole package that was the appeal for me.  They were like books you could just pull out at any time and just look at the covers or sing along with the lyrics and imagine you are your favourite star.

Although they did take up a lot of storage space it was worth it!

Oh and by the way, they also made picture discs on vinyl, which of mine, never got played, they looked brilliant.  Bootleg buying was the highlight of my Record Fair visiting days as well.


CD

When CDs came, it was considered a young upstart to the proven format of vinyl.  I admit, it took me a while to consider these new small round things.  On trying to remember my first ever bought CD I simply cannot recall what it was.

Although the sound quality is pure and crisp and the disc more durable, the packaging is incomparable to the vinyl version.  You can still get CD singles, more mixes on an extra CD and more tracks when you record your own CDs.  However, in the 80s the only way to own music was to record it from the radio complete with sudden stops when the DJ talks or actually buy the vinyl records or cassettes.

In the CD age, the Internet is effectively making the CD defunct.  Now you can stream perfect songs, buy and download MP3s, make your own CDs, your own playlists etc.  Music is openly available everywhere, PCs, laptops, tablets, iPods, Spotify, iTunes and the like.  Whereas the vinyl was THE format to have, the CD is just one of a variety of ways to obtain music, so thus making it less special.

You can even make your own covers, you could never make a vinyl cover for your promo vinyl!

 
The booklets are all very nice but some of the new digipak albums don't even have that, or lyrics or even info about the artist.  CD makers will say "it's all about the music", maybe it is, but if that is so, why are there certain talent shows ignoring good music for personality and good looks?   I personally think the music buyers of today are being cheated.

If I buy a CD I'll take the front cover, the booklet and the CD, trim the back cover and put it in a clear sleeve, the box goes in the rubbish.  So it's now it takes even less storage space.  Unless of course it is a digipak or limited edition special etc.

I have the music, the CD or the MP3s, there's no experience with it, unless you see the artist live.  Today's gig prices are ridiculous so unless you have a pot of money you don't get closer to the artists.  Without seeing the artists live, in the 80s you saw the video on TV, you were excited to what original song would be the B-side, what will be on the 12" and if there's a free poster or booklet with the album and the lyrics to sing along.


The CD music quality is second to none, so I can't say they are a throwaway format.  I have only bought CD singles in the past for my two favourite artists Madonna and Prince, but that's only because I have a massive collection of both.  Even that has stopped now, it's just the albums.

If I like an artist I may download a song or buy an MP3.  I'm a music lover, if music is available I am going to take it for my own listening pleasure.  I am against people downloading songs and selling albums for their own profit, that is wrong.  In my point of view, if I download a few songs to listen to, I may buy the album and/or tell other people how good this artist is, thus making more fans open to their music.  It is a different age, music is everywhere you go and the artists have to realise that stopping people from listening, with the money they make already, is defeating the object of gaining fans.   Even though I am a massive fan of Prince, he has, at the time of writing taken off his music from YouTube, Spotify and other music streaming platforms.  He is not the only one, I find it strange, surely, as an artist, you would want as many people to hear your music as is humanly possible!

I digress, the CD has one major plus value, the CD Box sets are really nice, and I have a few, so it's not all doom and gloom against CDs!
So, all in all, the vinyl wins every time, it's the whole product you are purchasing.  It's the look and the feel, and also because it had no real competition.  You either bought vinyl, or settled for the lower quality cassette, or DJ commentated song endings on radio!

A resounding win for the 80s vinyl, you may disagree, it's inevitable some of you music listeners out there will, that's what music brings, debate, tastes, genres, favourites and lesser favourites.  Thanks for reading!





DEBATE ARTICLE - "FOOTBALLERS AND MUSIC - USUALLY A RED CARD OFFENCE?"

As the new football season kicks off again I was wondering about both my passions, music and football.  This prompted me to think of footballers who actually felt the need to combine both with their "talents".  We all thought fondly of John Barnes' rap on New Order's "World In Motion" in 1990 and also "Anfield Rap (Red Machine In Full Effect)" by the Liverpool FC Cup Final team in 1988.  Both were a success reaching number 1 and number 3 respectively on the UK charts.

These songs however were rarities in their pop respectability as we will find out.  Other soccer stars' fared less well.

Some may remember Liverpool and England's Kevin Keegan in 1979 singing a typically 70s ballad "Head Over Heels In Love" as his debut which reached number 31.  Probably the best known footballer's song apart from Spurs' Paul Gascoigne's "Fog On The Tyne" which amazingly reached number 2 despite being a major hit for his "backing" band Lindisfarne.


More England players decided they had a singing talent which was debatable at best.  Arsenal's Ian Wright released "Do The Right Thing" which it clearly wasn't.  Man U's Andy Cole sung "Outstanding" which again, it clearly wasn't!  Wimbledon's hard nut now actor Vinnie Jones released a single entitled "Bad Boy Leroy Brown" which nobody said was bad and neither will I for fear of repercussions!

The cheesiest song has to be 1987's "Diamond Lights" by Spurs' Glen Hoddle and Chris Waddle, or Glenn and Chris as they wanted to be known, maybe Hoddle and Waddle sounded too silly? This song reached number 12 and they even managed a follow-up called "It's Goodbye".  It clearly was as it never got promoted as Hoddle moved to AS Monaco in France.  Chris decided to record another song with his new Marseille teammate Basile Boli a few years later entitled ""We've Got A Feeling".

Singing wasn't restricted to just England's footballers who thought they had a hidden talent.  Even the world's greats had a go.  French maestro Marius Tresor released "Sacre Marius" in 1978 while "der Kaiser" Franz Beckenbauer , arguably Germany's best ever player decided to release "Gute Freunde Kann Niemand Trennen" in 1966.  It didn't stop there, Holland's master Johann Cruyff sung the very long title of "Oei, Oei, Oei, Dat Was Me Weer Een Loei" in 1969.  Another Dutchman, AC Milan's star Ruud Gullit released "Not The Dancing Kind" in 1984 and was clearly not the singing kind either!  You can also find the Brazilian legend Pele on YouTube singing with fellow compatriot Elis Regina singing Brazilian songs, not for the faint hearted!

Other most recent pretty dreadful performances include Arsenal's German star Lukas Podolski singing "Halleluje" while US star Clint Dempsey's Rap "Don't Tread" isn't that bad if you like Rap of course, sounds just like any normal Rap record to me but half decent.  The one star that actually sounds like he knew his stuff was American star of the 1994 World Cup, Alexi Lalas (yes the mad bearded one), at least he could actually sing and play guitar.

 

Another United States star Jay De Merit, once of Watford also released a single called "Soccer Rocks" while some soccer stars decided to be part of an actual band, supposedly to give them a little more credibility surrounded by musicians.  Former Croatian defender Igor Stimac (who also played for Derby County and West Ham United in England) sings with his band Bohem, check out their song "Mare I Kate".  Crazy Argentine goalkeeper German Burgos who found fame with River Plate is lead singer with Rock band The Garb.  Ex-Blackburn Rovers star Morten Gamst-Pedersen joined 4 fellow Norwegian players to from a boy band called The Players.  They released one single "This Is For Real" which became a hit in Scandinavia to raise money for Soccer Against Crime, a Red Cross charity.

Argentine band Piola Vago hail from Buenos Aires and have a certain Carlos Tevez (Juventus) and his brother Diego in their ranks.  Mario Melchiot (ex-Chelsea) decided to form a trio called BMD with fellow Ajax players in 1998.  South African striker Benni McCarthy and Surinam's Dean Gorre joined him to release a "Rock and Bass" track entitled "Midas Touch".


  




Tuesday, 21 August 2018

NEW MUSIC PROFILE - ALTERNATIVE ROCK BAND "CARDBOARD HIT"

Cardboard Hit are a three piece band consisting of Ross Towner, Lee Hayes and Matt Rouse.  The band play an Alternative Rock but I also think there is an element of Punk in there as well.  There are great unusual vocal harmonies coinciding with a pounding drums and powerful guitar riffs.


The debut E.P. entitled "Subject To Status" was released last year.  The songs "All The Voices" and "Say Yes" are brilliant rockers.  The band have been compared to Muse or Queens Of The Stone Age, but to me they bring to mind a hybrid of Progressive Rock such as Led Zeppelin with a little Midnight Oil and Wall Of Voodoo thrown in for good measure!


Formed in East Sussex, only Matt is from that area with Ross from North London and Lee from Cheshire.  The three different backgrounds make three different characters, but also three friends who certainly rock together and are set for stardom, I will certainly be keeping my eye on this band.


Cardboard Hit are a unique band, checking out some of the performances on YouTube and they are also a tight, exciting group on stage as well.  The trio are currently taking a bit of a sabbatical while each does other things but they have a host of songs ready to be recorded when they re-emerge together in the studio.  So more to come from this great band.



Wednesday, 15 August 2018

NEW MUSIC PROFILE - ROCK BAND "MOHAWK RADIO"

Mohawk Radio are a 4 piece Rock band from Manchester.  The line-up comprises of Mia Page, James Gregory, Conor Marsh and David Quinn and they play in an Alternative/Rock/Pop style.  The powerful vocals of Mia are backed by dynamic guitars and drums.


Already with tours in the USA under their belt and some famous fans including Ace from Skink Anansie the band are trailblazing their way on the Rock circuit.  More Pat Benatar/Heart than Paramore, it is melodic, authentic anthemic Rock.  The band won "Rock The House", beating thousands of bands across the UK.  They also won PureFM's 2014 Stockport's Finest.


Each member of the band has lived and breathed Rock music since an early age.   Their unique sound brings back the real rock n' roll live band and have earned rave reviews and a blossoming fan base, as well as international radio and TV airplay.  They released their third E.P. in 2917 entitled "Shoot From The Hip".  


This follows on from their previous two E.P.'s "Halfway To Heaven" and "#1" and I, for one, can't wait for an album release.  With the gorgeous Mia's killer voice and the guys' exciting power play this band are sure for global stardom. A real rockin' force to be reckoned with!

 

 



Tuesday, 7 August 2018

CLASSIC ALBUM REVIEW - MICHAEL JACKSON - "OFF THE WALL"

THESE ALBUM REVIEWS ARE FAVOURITES FROM MY OWN VAST AND VARIED ECLECTIC COLLECTION! I AM A FAN OF THESE ARTISTS SO MY OPINIONS MAY NOT BE ON A PAR WITH YOUR OWN BUT PLEASE ENJOY AND MAYBE THERE ARE SOME ALBUMS YOU MAY LIKE TO SAMPLE FOR YOURSELF OUT OF CURIOSITY :)

MICHAEL JACKSON


"OFF THE WALL"


Love him or hate him, Michael Jackson was a top performer, singer and dancer and he made memorable songs that the world will remember for a lifetime.  I never really got into the Jackson Five or the solo stuff he used to make but "Off The Wall" took him to a new level.  Before the tabloids got hold of him, the weird eccentricities that took hold, before the appearance changes and the sometimes annoying "ugh" vocal inflection before every line, (I know for a fact it grated on some people who couldn't see past this) and before the megastadom began with "Thriller" this was the album that put Michael on the map.   

"Off The Wall" reached a peak of number 3 on the UK chart and still remains in the best selling albums of all time lists.  Released in 1979 it spawned 5 singles with all but one reaching Top Ten.  The lead track "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough" ironically also reached number 3 and was a pure Disco and Funk hybrid similar to the tracks by Earth, Wind and Fire and those 70s Disco powerhouse groups of the time.  You can't help dancing or singing along to this one! The second single, reaching number 7 was "Rock With You".  A much slower tempo, a Disco/Soul ballad with a little Funk.  One of my favourite tracks from MJ.   It was apparently offered to Karen Carpenter but she turned it down, it proved to be one of the defining hits of the Disco era.  "Off The Wall", the title track also reached number 7 in the UK and was said to be part of a Disco medley sung live in later concert tours.  With similar parts to both the previous singles it was the perfect single to release, keeping up the Disco stance.  "She's Out Of My Life", the third single matched "Don't Stop.." by reaching number 3 on the chart.  A much slower tempo, minimal backing and Michael's soulful vocal made this a suprising hit after the dance orientated trilogy prior to it.  Pure Motown soul.  The final single (by which time I assume everybody had a copy of the album) was "Girlfriend", written by Michael's friend Paul McCartney who took the song from the Wings' album "London Town" in 1978.  A Pop and R 'n B track that reached only number 41.  A quirky little song that has a nice rhythm and chorus.  The relationship was the starting block for more collaborations between the two in later years.


"Working Day And Night" is another Disco Funk track similar to "Don't Stop.." in composition.  The non stop rhythm, repetitive catchy singalong lines and chorus and funky basslines.  Not a single but one of MJ's most popular songs.

"Get On The Floor" is a real funky track, not much lyrically but a throbbing funky bass drives this track and it is a fun fast paced workout.

"I Can't Help It" is possibly the weakest song on the album but that's becuase it has hugh standards.  This is a mediocre soft Pop ballad that meanders along 'til the end.  The chorus is more annoying than catchy.

"It's The Falling In Love" is a typically Motown soft Disco Soul ballad.  Nice chorus and soulful vocals.

"Burn This Disco Out" ends the album on a high note.  Similar to "Rock With You" with little snippets of the major tracks on this album, a summary of the album if you like.  Catchy and funky and danceable which what this album is all about.



CHECK NEW MUSIC EAR FOR MORE COLLECTION FAVOURITES!



 

Thursday, 2 August 2018

THEME ARTICLE -"HOW MUSIC HELPS US FEAR WAR, GET THROUGH WAR AND REMEMBER WHY WAR IS POINTLESS"

War is a sensitive subject but war songs evoke feelings of inspiration, pride, fear, remembrance, confusion and hope.

The headline echoes Edwin Starr’s 1970 anti-Vietnam hit War and most people’s feelings towards conflict.  Culture Club released The War Song in 1984, although not their greatest song it stated, “War is stupid and people are stupid”.  Maybe childish but a true statement?



People are definitely not stupid and music is a very emotive media.
A war song relates to war or a people’s thoughts of conflict, they could be anti-war, pro-war or just statements of warring life.  There are many songs we know and remember today passed through generations of loved ones lost in battle or proud patriotic moments in history.
Historically, there has always been a “war” song.  As early as the 16th century, ballad writers wrote songs encouraging bravery and honour in war.  The earliest British war song was The Ballad of Chevy Chase which was written about the Scottish victory at the Battle of Otterburn in 1388 so may have been written in the 14thCentury.


Later there were “cavalier” ballads about the Spanish Armada, English Civil War and American Civil War. Songs were commonplace during both World War I and II.

Throughout the First World War there were patriotic songs and songs like "Pack Up Your Troubles" which reminded the soldiers of home.  Humorous songs lifted spirits including "Oh It’s A Lovely War", comically singing of mud and soldier’s food rations. This inspired the film “Oh What A Lovely War”
"(There’ll Be Bluebirds Over) The White Cliffs of Dover" sung by Vera Lynn was also popular.  It was written before America had joined the war, and Germany had conquered most of Europe and were bombing Britain.  Both countries’ aircraft fought over the hills of Dover and the song looked forward to hopeful and peaceful times.


Other songs included Vera Lynn’s "We’ll Meet Again" and the theme to TV’s “Dad’s Army”, "Run Rabbit Run" by Flanagan and Allen.
Today, we know "19" by Paul Hardcastle was about the Vietnam War, the soldiers drafting age.  We remember Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s controversial video to "Two Tribes" showing a hand to hand fight between Reagan and Chernenko.  Both were anti-war.
Did you know that some war songs were loved for very different reasons?  Here’s a couple to make you re-think.
"1999" by Prince - Classic dance song? During the Reagan administration when nuclear war was a huge reality, everybody assumed the world would end in 2000.  It states everybody has a bomb so we can dance until the end comes.
"Born In The USA" by Bruce Springsteen - Patriotic anthem? Ronald Reagan misunderstood the negative lyrics about the Vietnam War effects as national pride.  It actually laments loss of national pride and ignorance of the public voice.
Music gives happiness, sadness, love and pain.  It inspires movements, generations and sometimes hope for a better future.
Are there war songs that you have taken to your heart for any reason, inspiring, protesting, hopeful or reflective?

So war is good for nothing, but songs about war are essential to our minds, hearts and souls in this climate of destructive leaders.

NEW MUSIC PROFILE - FOLK, COUNTRY AND BLUES ARTST "ELEANOR NELLY"

Eleanor Nelly is a young singer songwriter from Liverpool who has created a quiet little following around the town gigging regularly.  Her influences are far and wide and include My Chemical Romance, The Hummingbirds, Slash, Billy Joel and Johnny Cash! Her sound is a mix of Folk, Country and Blues and is surely heading for big success.


I first reviewed Eleanor in a mini review a few years ago after seeing her performing Acoustic tracks on BAY TV, a Liverpool based channel.  Just her and her guitar oozing with confidence and such an accomplished performer.  I did say at the time she reminded me of an Eva Cssidy/Alanis Morissette hybrid telling her songs in a unique way.


Gigging regularly and being managed by her mum she has appeared in many festivals picking up fans and follwers and awards such as Knowsley Rising Star in 2014 and the Liverpool International Music Festival Academy awarded her as "the one to watch" in 2015 and "most ready artist" in 2016.  She is certainly a very talented lady.


Now signed to Decca Records, Eleanor has just released her debut single with more music to follow on an E.P. later in the year.  "Polaroid" is a sweet, beautiful song and reminds me a little of Kate Bush and Tori Amos.  The vocals are pure but strong, and the minimal guitar is a lovely accompaniment to this lilting ballad.  I look forward to new music from this lady.