Cacophony No.A

Posted on 5th October 2021

Next poll was for 1997.

For those that might not know, I used to crew for Prolapse for a while, and helped to name one of songs on The Italian Flag, and a b-side. So while I might be biased, slightly, this was still my most played album of 1997. The band are great at throwing sounds around, seeing what works, and then letting Scottish Mick and Linda just layer words on top. Watching them rehearse some of these songs was an absolute delight. Cacophony No.A is by far my favourite Prolapse, but Tunguska, Flat Velocity Curve, Visa For Violet And Van, and Slash Stroke Oblique are not far behind. The singles were pretty damn awesome too ... as always.

I've been a long time fan of Gary Numan's, since he released Are Friends Electric? with Tubeway Army. As many have noted, he did seem to lose his direction during the late 80s/early 90s, and while I still bought the records, as there were the odd standout tracks, but the albums themselves didn't really grab his fan base. That was until he release the predecessor to this album, Sacrifice, with a return to a style that should perhaps have followed Warriors and Besererker. If there was any doubt this was a return to form, Exile was proof he'd recaptured his sound. Not a duff track among them, and if wasn't for those pesky kids Prolapse, this would easily been my number one choice for the year. Dominon Day and Absolution still favourites though.

I don't remember what song I heard first by KMFDM, but it was a club the band I was working with were playing that night, and the DJ was playing some records to get himself set for the evening. But it really caught my ears, and a member of the crew told me it was KMFDM. I've since become a big fan, but it was perhaps this album, usually refered to as Symbols due to the symbols on the cover, that convinced me they were worth investing in. While Stray Bullet and Megalomaniac might be my favourites, every track is a delight.

The band Live, despite having the worst name for Google, were on a roll with Secret Samadhi. Following Throwing Copper, I had eagerly awaited to hear what they did next, and I wasn't disappointed. From the opener of Rattlesnake, continuing through with the wonderful Turn My Head and heropsychodreamer, and ending with Gas Hed Goes West, it was another great album.

Another band I crewed for over the years is IQ, having been a fan since late '83 or early '84. While Subterranea might not be my favourite IQ album, it did mark a change for them, opening up musically and thematically more than I felt they had previously. The whole album is a concept, but unlike their previous attempts at this, the pieces seemed to fit much better, and overall the songs and the narrative flows ... even if I still haven't quite figured out the full story!

1Prolapse The Italian Flag
2Gary NumanExile
3KMFDMSymbols
4LiveSecret Samadhi
5IQSubterranea
6RammsteinSehnsucht
7MogwaiYoung Team
8MarillionThis Strange Engine
9Bardo PondLapsed
10Godspeed You! Black EmperorF♯ A♯ ∞
11Veruca SaltEight Arms to Hold You
12Echo & The BunnymenEvergreen
13EchobellyLustra
14Depeche ModeUltra
15that dogRetreat from the Sun
16The SundaysStatic And Silence
17Porcupine TreeComa Divine
18Karma To BurnKarma To Burn
19SevendustSevendust
20My Life With The Thrill Kill KultA Crime For All Seasons
21Die KruppsParadise Now
22ChumbawambaTubthumper
23:wumpscut:Embryodead
24Funker VogtWe Came to Kill
25Front Line Assembly(FLA)vour of the Weak
26YesKeys to Ascension 2
27Led ZeppelinBBC Sessions
28LevellersMouth To Mouth
29TarnationMirador
30JadisSomersault
31Flying Saucer AttackNew Lands
32Jean-Michel JarreOxygène 7–13
3310,000 ManiacsLove Among the Ruins
34JamesWhiplash
35Natalie ImbrugliaLeft of the Middle
36INXSElegantly Wasted
37Duran DuranMedazzaland
38Neil Young & Crazy HorseYear of the Horse
39Foo FightersThe Colour and the Shape
40MegadethCryptic Writings
41W.A.S.P.Kill Fuck Die
42Indigo GirlsShaming of the Sun
43PrinceThe Truth
44KissCarnival of Souls: The Final Sessions
45StyxReturn to Paradise
46The EnidWhite Goddess
47Madder RoseTragic Magic
48BjörkHomogenic
49KerbdogOn The Turn
50Green DayNimrod

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Karn Evil 9

Posted on 4th October 2021

So the next fortnightly poll was for 1973.

In 1973 I was listening mostly to the Pop and Glam Rock songs that featured on Radio One and Top Of The Pops at the time. However, a few years later, I discovered John Peel (Mon-Thu) and Tommy Vance's Friday Night Rock Show (Fri). I'd then head into record shops around Cheshire on the weekend to see what I could find. Some of those delights help shape my musical tastes.

Emerson, Lake & Palmer were a band I'd never heard the like of before, or since. Tommy Vance played Karn Evil 9 in full one night, and I was blown away. They set the scene for many advetures into what was sometimes termed Progressive Rock, at others Symphonic Rock. I bought the vinyl with the fold-out cut-away sleeve, that is probably worth a bit these days. The H.R.Giger artwork was fascinating, and I end up buying a poster of it to hang on my wall. Although Karn Evil 9 grabbed my attention, after listening to the full album, Still ... You Turn Me On became my favourite ELP song.

Argueably Genesis' finest hour, Selling England By The Pound was enthralling from start to finish. I always loved Cinema Show musically, but the imagary conjured up in the lyrics of The Battling Of Epping Forest told a whole movie in my head. And the word play in Aisle Of Plenty to round off the album, always made me smile, turn the record over, and play it all again. 

Early Black Sabbath were force to be reckoned with. Great lyrics, awesome riffs, and a powerhouse that laid a blueprint for so many rock and metal bands still to this day. Sabbath Bloody Sabbath was for me, the last release of the band at their peak in the 70s. The title track, Killing Yourself To Live and Spiral Architect still send shivers down my spine each time I hear them.

Thanks to Tommy Vance I had been listening to Yes for a while, but while in a second-hand record shop in Crewe, I picked out the live triple album Yessongs!, with a glorious fold-out cover. It was agonising waiting to get home to play it, but was absolutely worth the wait. I closed my eyes and imagined I was there. Sides five and six would frequently get repeat plays with Close To The Edge, Yours Is No Disgrace and Starship Trooper, but the whole album was an absolute delight.

For several years, House Of The Holy might get the odd play, but compared to Led Zeppelin's first four albums, it really took a long time before I really got into it. I have no idea why either, as The Song Remains The Same, The Crunge and No Quarter have become standout tracks from their repetoire for me, and I've since played it more than their first three albums.

1Emerson, Lake & PalmerBrain Salad Surgery
2GenesisSelling England By The Pound
3Black SabbathSabbath Bloody Sabbath
4YesYessongs!
5Led ZeppelinHouse Of The Holy
6BudgieNever Turn Your Back On A Friend
7The Sensational Alex Harvey BandNext
8Bruce SpringsteenGreetings From Asbury Park, N.J.
9Lynyrd Skynyrd(Pronounced 'Lěh-'nérd 'Skin-'nérd)
10Plnk FloydThe Dark Side Of The Moon
11Jethro TullA Passion Play
12GenesisGenesis Live
13Jefferson AirplaneThirty Seconds Over Winterland
14ABBARing Ring
15The WailersBurnin'
16The WailersCatch a Fire
17Alice CooperBillion Dollar Babies
18ZZ TopTres Hombres
19Little FeatDixie Chicken
20QueenQueen
21FreeHeartbreaker
22Status QuoHello!
23NazerethRazamanaz
24MontroseMontrose
25NazerethLoud 'n' Proud
26Thin LizzyVagabonds of the Western World
27David BowieAladdin Sane
28Bruce SpringsteenThe Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle
29Blue Öyster CultTyranny And Mutation
30Mike OldfieldTubular Bells
31FocusAt the Rainbow
32The StoogesRaw Power
33Paul McCartney & WingsBand on the Run
34Elton JohnGoodbye Yellow Brick Road
35Elton JohnDon't Shoot Me I'm Only the Piano Player
36AerosmithAerosmith
37Deep PurpleWho Do We Think We Are
38The WhoQuadrophenia
39Billy JoelPiano Man
40Grateful DeadWake of the Flood
41HorslipsThe Táin
42EaglesDesperado
43Neil YoungTime Fades Away
44Klaus SchulzeCyborg
45Steely DanCountdown to Ecstasy
46Roxy MusicFor Your Pleasure
47Roxy MusicStranded
4810cc10cc
49HawkwindSpace Ritual
50Creedence Clearwater RevivalLive in Europe

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The Pot

Posted on 3rd October 2021

I've been a bit behind on the poll posts, but I'm aiming to catch up over the next few days!

So the next poll year is 2006.

First off, topping my list was Tool with 10,000 Days. I came to this album late, as I think it had already been out for a at least a year before I picked up on it. Since then, it has grown on me, as on first listen I didn't appreciate it as much as I do now. It was a step ahead of their previous albums, although the next one was going to be a massive leap. How little did we know. 

I have been a fan of Ministry for a very long time now. Since their early days, their sound has changed dramatically, and their lyrics much most politicised. The album Rio Grande Blood, part of a trilogy regarding GWB, sees their aggressive industrial metal fit neatly into the verbal attack on the the American political system at the time. As can be heard on later abums, the ammunition Uncle Al had to fight with became much needed with subsequent Rebuplican complacency.

Like many of my generation, and musical interests, my first exposure to Gary Numan was Replicas and Are Friends Electric? Having been a big fan initially, towards the end of the 80s and through the 90s, although I still enjoyed his music, it wasn't as ground breaking as it had been. Jagged was a massive return to form (thanks in no small measure to his wife Gemma). It firmly put Gary back on a course that was more of a continuation from Beserker, than intervening albums had ever been. His musical output has only gone from strength to strength.

Porcupine Tree are sadly a band I didn't get initially, which is surprising considering how much I enjoy the Prog Rock scene of the 80s/90s. I don't remember what song or album I first heard, but for whatever reason it didn't grab me. Then, somewhere around 2011, someone played me some songs and I had to ask who they were. I was gutted to discover that they'd recently disbanded and I'd missed the opportunity to see them live several times. This live album, Arriving Somewhere... is a pure delight from start to finish, and features a selection of gems from the previous few albums.

Bruce Springsteen is a phenonmenal songwriter and performer. His ability to write such a strong volume of output is probably only matched by Neil Young, Prince, and Bob Dylan. However, for this album, he neatly side-stepped his own canon of work, and looked back at the songs of Pete Seeger. Several have since become very well known through the years, but Bruce's take on them, gave a complete new lease of life to them all. Dropping the E Street Band, and assembling a new group of musicians to perform with, 

 

 

1 Tool 10,000 Days
2 Ministry Rio Grande Blood
3 Gary Numan Jagged
4 Porcupine Tree Arriving Somewhere...
5 Bruce Springsteen We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions
6 Bruce Springsteen Hammersmith Odeon London '75
7 Front Line Assembly Artificial Soldier
8 NFD Dead Pool Rising
9 Russian Circles Enter
10 Oomph! GlaubeLiebeTod
11 Mogwai Mr Beast
12 Muse Black Holes And Revelaions
13 Jadis Photoplay
14 Motörhead Kiss Of Death
15 Killing Joke Hosannas from the Basements of Hell
16 Lacuna Coil Karmacode
17 Katatonia The Great Cold Distance
18 Dio Holy Diver – Live
19 Iron Maiden A Matter of Life and Death
20 Prince 3121
21 Therapy? One Cure Fits All
22 Seether One Cold Night
23 Fightstar Grand Unification
24 Blackmore's Night The Village Lanterne
25 Live Songs from Black Mountain
26 Clan Of Xymox Breaking Point
27 Evanesence The Open Door
28 Styx One with Everything: Styx and the Contemporary Youth Orchestra
29 Killswitch Engage As Daylight Dies
30 Breaking Benjamin Phobia
31 Billy Joel 12 Gardens Live
32 Neil Young Living With War
33 Indigo Girls Despite Our Differences
34 Matthew Sweet & Susannah Hoffs Under the Covers, Vol. 1
35 Dream Theater Score
36 Foo Fighters Skin And Bones
37 Three Days Grace One-X
38 Apoptygma Berzerk You And Me Against The World
39 Kiss Alive! The Millennium Concert
40 David Gilmour On an Island
41 Frost* Milliontown
42 The Wonder Stuff Suspended By Stars
43 Snow Patrol Eyes Open
44 Audioslave Revelations
45 Pearl Jam Pearl Jam
46 UFO The Monkey Puzzle
47 Mogwai Zidane
48 Veruca Salt IV
49 Tanya Donnelly This Hungry Life
50 Paul Weller Catch-Flame!

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All Cats Are Grey

Posted on 3rd April 2021

This week's poll year was 1981. Quite a influencial year for me, as it was the year I first started going to gigs. It was also the year I discovered we would be moving from Cheshire down to Leicestershire. I was going to miss the record shops in Crewe, and that amazing second-hand shop near school, where I spent a substantial amount of time and money on vinyl from around 1978 onwards, thanks to recommendations from various Radio One DJs, and friends.

My picks from this year, all had made an impression on me from previous years, so it wasn't too surprising they featured highly in my list. However, there was so much I was buying and listening to, I feel I need to put in a top 100 for 1981 (and I will likely have similar for the other years 1978-1984, when we finally get to them!).

My top choice, The Cure I was lucky enough to hear their first single played on late night Radio One (I think John Peel played it) in 1978, so I already knew and had records by the band. However, Faith was the first album that felt like a complete experience from beginning to end. From the opening of The Holy Hour, you knew this wasn't going to be a light-hearted listening session. Other Voices, back then and still now, is the stand out track on the album for me. I can't explain why, it can just stop me in my tracks when I listen to it. There really isn't a dud track on this album though, and I frequently still play it now.

My second choice, Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark, I first heard (as I recall, although I may have heard the previous singles on a Peel/Jensen show) via the single Messages. This their third album was a mix of their pop leanings and the experimental sounds that has frequented many of their albums. I was fortunate enough to see them on this tour at The Apollo in Manchester, and still remains one of the best shows I've seen them perform. She's Leaving and Georgia are still my favourites songs from the album.

New Order, although this being their debut, obviously were well known and anticipated in the months after Ian Curtis' death the previous year. Although they didn't exactly sound like Joy Division, you could still hear that musical progression from the previous few years. With the band members all trying out the vocals, before they finally settled on Bernard being the vocalist, each song has it's own subtle sound differences, even though musically it's all the same band. I remember playing it the first time with eager anticipation on my Dansette record player, and having the feeling that whatever came next, this band were not going to disapppoint. As we now know, they didn't ;) My favourite track changes, but for the moment Dreams Never End is the one I'm drawn to.

My next choice, Rainbow, had been a personal favourite for many years after becoming a Deep Purple fan, when I was recommended to buy a copy of Made In Japan from that second-hand record shop in Crewe. When Ritchie Blackmore left Deep Purple and formed Rainbow, for me it felt like a natural progression. Although Down To Earth was a striking change in direction, Difficult To Cure with new singer Joe-Lynn Turner gave the band a fresh lease of life. I got to see them on this tour (my second gig!) at Bingley Hall in Stafford, where upon arrival discovered the venue was not much more than a massive barn, where they auctioned farm live stock! As it turned out, it appears to have been one of Ritchie favourite venues, as the two shows I saw them play there (I saw them again in 1984 on the Bent Out Of Shape Tour) they were the longest sets on the tour, clocking over 2 hours for both shows, whereas tapes from other shows I have, usually just hit the 90 minute mark. Favourite song from the album was Can't Happen Here

My final top 5 choice is Stiff Little Fingers. My school friend Alan played me Alternative Ulster back in late 78, and I was hooked. A new form of punk was emerging, and SLF were the front runners. By 1981's third album, they had honed their craft, and were turning out cracking songs with ease. Gate 49 is easily my favourite from the album, and is the Gate at Heathrow when flying to Belfast, which explains the lyrics. Although, I didn't get to see them on the tour for the album, I did see them on the short tour in January 1982, when new boy Dolphin Taylor was introduced to the fans. It had been snowing heavily, so even though the show was sold out, several people never made it. As such, seating wasn't really being checked, so as a couple of my mates were slightly smaller than me, we opted to head up to the balcony. We had an hilarious time pogo-ing on the walkway between the front and back tiers of seats. Years later, I got to do a lighting gig for SLF at the Institute in Birmingham. I felt like that teenager again :)

And so to my top 100...

1 The Cure Faith
2 Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark Architecture & Morality
3 New Order Movement
4 Rainbow Difficult To Cure
5 Stiff Little Fingers Go For It
6 Duran Duran Duran Duran
7 Toyah Anthem
8 Ultravox Rage In Eden
9 The Go-Go's Beauty And The Beat
10 Rush Moving Pictures
11 Rush Exit...Stage Left
12 Black Sabbath Mob Rules
13 The Beat Wha'ppen?
14 Classix Nouveaux Night People
15 Budgie Nightflight
16 ABBA The Visitors
17 Debbie Harry KooKoo
18 UB40 Present Arms
19 Gary Numan Living Ornaments '80
20 Motörhead No Sleep Til Hammersmith
21 Pat Benatar Precious Time
22 Iron Maiden Killers
23 U2 October
24 Kraftwerk Computer World
25 AC/DC For Those About to Rock We Salute You
26 Gary Numan Living Ornaments '79
27 The Police Ghost in the Machine
28 Depeche Mode Speak & Spell
29 Spandau Ballet Journeys To Glory
30 Stevie Nicks Bella Donna
31 Blue Oyster Cult Fire Of Unknown Origin
32 Foreigner 4
33 Journey Escape
34 Ozzy Osbourne Diary of a Madman
35 Simple Minds Sons And Fascination / Sister Feelings Call
36 Bauhaus Mask
37 Gary Numan Dance
38 Madness 7
39 Killing Joke What's THIS For....?
40 Jean Michel Jarre Les Chants Magnétiques
41 INXS Underneath the Colours
42 John Foxx The Garden
43 Prince Controversy
44 The Moody Blues Long Distance Voyager
45 Twelfth Night Live at the Target
46 Echo & The Bunnymen Heaven Up Here
47 Nazereth It's Naz
48 Thin Lizzy Renegade
49 Whitesnake Come an' Get It

I should mention that most of the albums 1-50 I own. However, for those in the list 51-100, I mostly have listened to initially from friends albums, but have discovered others in more recent times. Having said that, there are more than a few that I hope to add to my collection at some point.

50 Saxon Denim and Leather
51 Styx Paradise Theatre
52 Genesis Abacab
53 Gillan Future Shock
54 Journey Captured
55 Eurythmics In the Garden
56 Tangerine Dream Thief
57 Sheena Easton Take My Time
58 New Musik Anywhere
59 Bow Wow Wow See Jungle! See Jungle! Go Join Your Gang Yeah, City All Over! Go Ape Crazy!
60 Nazereth The Fool Circle
61 ZZ Top El Loco
62 Blackfoot Marauder
63 Judas Priest Point of Entry
64 Van Halen Fair Warning
65 Secret Affair Business as Usual
66 Siouxsie & The Banshees Juju
67 The Pretenders Pretenders II
68 The Buggles Adventures in Modern Recording
69 Landscape From The Tea-rooms of Mars...
70 Au-Pairs Playing With A Different Sex
71 The Stranglers The Gospel According to the Meninblack
72 Brian Eno & David Byrne My Life in the Bush of Ghosts
73 Split Enz Waiata
74 Heaven 17 Penthouse and Pavement
75 Billy Joel Songs in the Attic
76 Midnight Oil Place Without A Postcard
77 Neil Young Re-ac-tor
78 Kiss Music From 'The Elder'
79 UFO The Wild, the Willing and the Innocent
80 Def Leppard High 'n' Dry
81 Tangerine Dream Exit
82 The Stranglers La folie
83 Men At Work Business as Usual
84 The Human League Dare
85 Vice Squad No Cause for Concern
86 Stray Cats Stray Cats
87 The Psychedelic Furs Talk Talk Talk
88 Girlschool Hit and Run
89 The Undertones Positive Touch
90 Altered Images Happy Birthday
91 Wall Of Voodoo Dark Continent
92 The Sound From The Lion's Mouth
93 Tom Tom Club Tom Tom Club
94 Phil Collins Face Value
95 Afraid Of Mice Afraid Of Mice
96 Bob Dylan Shot of Love
97 Wah! Nah=Poo – The Art of Bluff
98 Deutsch Amerikanische Freundschaft Gold und Liebe
99 Nick Mason Nick Mason's Fictitious Sports
100 King Crimson Discipline

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Gimme Chocolate!!

Posted on 27th March 2021

So this week's poll year 2014. A lot of rock/metal and progressive rock albums this year, and a few folk entries too. 

To date, BABYMETAL are now the last band I've seen live, back in February 2020, at my old haunt the Manchester Apollo. I discovered them around this time when I caught a feature of them on a music channel, possibly Kerrang!. I was both impressed with the songs, but also the ability for the Kawaii J-Pop sounds to mix seamlessly with the power metal of the Kami Band, forming the unique Kawaii Metal scene.

I've been a long time fan of KMFDM, and this album was instantly among my favourites on first listen. From the introduction by Miss Annabella, Lucia and Sasha's daughter, through to Make Your Stand, an electronic beat tour-de-force all the way. Respeckt!

I discovered 3TEETH a few years ago, and now wished I discovered them even earlier. This, their debut album, set the scene for what was to come, and from such an awesome beginning, it's been great to see them only grow. 

With NMA I have been very fortunate, as I've known them since their very first record. A friend of mine was the boyfriend of Rob Heaton's younger sister, and when I went to visit him back in Holmes Chapel once, he persuaded me to buy the single Bittersweet from him (he was doing a good sales job with all his friends), but he knew it was my kind of music. He wasn't wrong, and I've been a fan ever since. This album was a solid companion to 2013's Between Dog And Wolf, offering both studio and live tracks.

Mogwai, I saw in the late 90s, but mistook them for another band, who I wasn't impressed with, and ever since had not really paid attention to them. Until 2019, when I happen to listen to one of the albums and realised my mistake. I have since gone back and listened to all their albums, and hang my head in shame that I missed out on this band for so many years. Their more recent albums, include Rave Tapes, are a pure delight.

And on to 2014's top 50...

1 Babymetal Babymetal
2 KMFDM Our Time Will Come
3 3TEETH 3TEETH
4 New Model Army Between Blood And Wine
5 Mogwai Rave Tapes
6 Die So Fluid The Opposites of Light
7 Among The Echoes Fracture
8 Servers Leave With Us
9 The Birthday Massacre Superstition
10 Savlonic Red
11 IQ The Road Of Bones
12 Vice Squad Cardboard Country
13 Arch Enemy War Eternal
14 Within Temptation Hydra
17 Amy Lee Aftermath
16 Linkin Park The Hunting Party
15 Live The Turn
18 Seether Isolate and Medicate
19 Pallas itiswhatitis
20 Kate Rusby Ghost
21 Suzanne Vega Tales from the Realm of the Queen of Pentacles
22 Lacuna Coil Broken Crown Halo
23 Epica The Quantum Enigma
25 Prince & 3rdeyegirl Plectrumelectrum
24 Steve Hackett Genesis Revisited:Live at the Royal Albert Hall
26 Train Bulletproof Picasso
27 Judas Priest Redeemer of Souls
31 AC/DC Rock or Bust
32 The Foo Fighters Sonic Highways
28 Pallas wearewhoweare
29 Steve Rothery The Ghosts Of Pripyat
30 Melissa Etheridge This Is M.E.
33 Gandalf's Fist A Forest Of Fey
34 My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult Spooky Tricks
35 Semblant Lunar Manifesto
36 Bruce Springsteen High Hopes
38 Prince Art Offical Age
37 Yes Heaven & Earth
39 Simple Minds Big Music
40 Blondie Ghosts Of Download
41 Natalie Merchant Natalie Merchant
42 Pixies Indie Cindy
43 The Twilight Sad Nobody Wants to Be Here and Nobody Wants to Leave
44 Transatlantic Kaleidoscope
45 Stevie Nicks 24 Karat Gold: Songs from the Vault
46 Transatlantic KaLIVEoscope
48 Johnny Marr Playland
49 Mike Oldfield Man On The Rocks
47 Buzzcocks The Way
50 The Pretty Reckless Going To Hell

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Where the Bands Are

Posted on 20th March 2021

So my good intentions with writing up a diary entry once a month with some of the bands and artists I'd been listening didn't get very far. Sadly events of last year proved too overwhelming to write more. I still have several draft entries for some of those I had planned to feature, so I hope to finish them off over the coming months.

Although writing proved tough last year, I did get involved with a Twitter sensation of ranking albums released from 1965 to 2005, and the associated decades, thanks to the idea of Richard Shaw (@RichardS7370). Together with Mark (@marksmusic1977), Iain (@icrawford17), Si (@SimonFarrier1@jhoburgh, and several others, music polls have been the thing that has helped me to keep lockdown fatigue at bay.

Rediscovering albums, bands, and songs, as well as listening to several I'd never heard before, has been a delight. 

This year Richard has decided to turn things around slightly, and while we once again revisiting several of the years featured last year, he is extending it to feature the years 1963-2021. As such, I will also be revisiting my top 50s that I was posting, reviewing, and reposting an up to date version here. 

Let the listening begin....

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You Are the World

Posted on 20th March 2021

So the first poll year is 1991. In my original list Tribe's Abort came top, and while I still love the album, having listened to several other albums I bought at the time, my preferences all got scrambled again!

+Live+ were a band I discovered thanks to their song Pain Lies On The Riverside, from my new top choice, Mental Jewelry. I went to see them on their Throwing Copper tour in 1994 (well I actually crewed the gig they did at Edwards No.8 in Brum ... supported by Catatonia), and have been a fan ever since.

So my top 50 for 1991 ....

1 Live Mental Jewelry
2 REM Out Of Time
3 Crowded House Woodface
4 Pearl Jam Ten
5 New Model Army Raw Melody Men
6 Tribe Abort
7 Levellers Levelling The Land
8 Marillion Holidays In Eden
9 The Wonder Stuff Never Loved Elvis
10 U2 Achtung Baby
11 Therapy? Babyteeth
12 Jethro Tull Catfish Rising
13 The KLF The White Room
14 Prince & NPG Diamonds And Pearls
15 PIG Praise The Lard
16 Front 242 Tyranny (For You)
17 Cranes Wings Of Joy
18 INXS Live Baby Live
19 Genesis We Can't Dance
20 Nirvana Nevermind
21 Rush Roll The Bones
22 Metallica Metallica
23 Into Paradise Churchtown
24 Chapterhouse Whirlpool
25 Type O Negative Slow, Deep And Hard
26 Queen Innuendo
27 Mariah Carey Emotions
28 Guns N' Roses Use Your Illusion II
29 Pat Benatar True Love
30 Indigo Girls Back On The Bus, Y'all
31 Ozzy Osbourne No More Tears
32 Neil Young Weld
33 Temple Of The Dog Temple Of The Dog
34 Pixies Trompe le Monde
35 Guns N' Roses Use Your Illusion I
36 Belinda Carlisle Live Your Life Be Free
37 The Orb Adventures Beyond The Ultraworld
38 Massive Attack Blue Lines
39 Motörhead 1916
40 Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers Into The Great Wide Open
41 Yes Union
42 Lynyrd Skynyrd Lynyrd Skynyrd 1991
43 Billy Bragg Don't Try This At Home
44 Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark Sugar Tax
45 Electronic Electronic
46 Slowdive Just For A Day
47 Siouxsie and the Banshees Superstition
48 Kirsty MacColl Electric Landlady
49 Simple Minds Real Life
50 Soundgarden Badmotorfinger

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Where The Pieces Lie

Posted on 26th April 2020

April's Artist of the Month is Wheel.

I accidentally came across Wheel while listening to a few other bands, and a suggestion came up for a song off their latest album, Moving Backwards. Trying to find more information about the band initially proved awkward, as the band's website was inactive (it's back now). Thankfully, after a bit of searching across various website, provided me with their Twitter and Instagram handles. From there I discovered a few more bits of info.

The band hail from Finland, although vocalist James Lascelles is from the UK. Moving Backwards (2019) is their debut album, and was preceded with two EPs; The Path EP (2017) and The Divide EP (2018). They have since also released a combined CD with both EPs. They've been touring for some time, but mostly across Europe so far. With the state of the world and gigs at the moment, it might be a while before they head out for a more extensive tour, but hopefully they fit a few UK shows into their itinery.

The band have a sound that is very reminscent of Tool in places, but at the same time I can also hear influences of Porcupine Tree. However, those comparisons might mislead you, as the band have their own style, which builds on these influences, but gives something else in return. I've heard a few bands recently, some well known, that seem to have similar influences, but for me Wheel have something that is just that extra special, and given the right exposure, will forge their own identity.

The songs are a blend of rock, metal, progressive, hardcore, and maybe even a bit of grunge. They have the complexity of what you might expect of a modern progressive rock band, but it's underpinned by some solid bass and drums, allowing the guitars and vocals to weave their way into and around your mind. The song Wheel being a good example, as the bass and drums lay the foundations and settle you into a groove, when the guitar riffs start infiltrating the flow, and almost without you noticing, the bass and drums have been getting harder and more infectious. The vocals then appear seductively drawing you in, until they have you and then drag you raging through the chorus. 

Several of their songs clock in over 8 minutes, but while listening to them, you become so engrossed it's easy to think they finish far too soon. It's become acceptable now for the progressive rock/metal bands to clock in long songs, but I do remember the days when anything breaking a 5 minute barrier was frowned upon by the metal press. Wheel strike a good balance between the song lengths, with each song sounding as long as it should. It wouldn't surprise me if at some point they come out with a 20+ minute epic, along the lines of Dream Theatre.

If you only see Wheel as another band influenced by Tool, then I think you'd be doing both bands and yourself a disservice. Most bands start with their influences, but those with talent and substance, quickly evolve their own personality. Judging from the early EPs to the debut album, Wheel are doing exactly that. Personally I can't wait to hear what comes next. I'm also hoping I get to see them live at some point.

Favourite songs: Wheel, Farewell, The Path

Check them out at wheel.band

File Under: music
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If I Knew What I Know Now

Posted on 30th March 2020

March Spotlight is Vice Squad.

For those who remember the days of Punk during the 70s, may well remember the band coming to prominence from 1979, when they formed, through the early 80s. They were a frequent addition to John Peel's playlists during those years, and it's how I first became aware of them. The early singles Last Rockers, Resurrection and Stand Strong were firm favourites. Then in 1983 singer Beki Bondage, left the band (to form Ligotage and later Beki And The Bombshells), and while a new singer, Lia, was signed up, the band only continued for a couple more years.

During the mid/late 80s and 90s, Beki continue to gain a small amount of success with her bands, and featured in several of the music magazines (mostly rock) that were also gaining success, such as Kerrang! and Metal Hammer. I even met Beki at a few Marquee gigs around this time, and it was always a pleasure to see her as she always seemed really positive about the music she was making.

Then in 1997 Beki relauched Vice Squad with members of The Bombshells, performing with a more "old school" punk than they had been as Beki and The Bombshells. Since the relaunch, they have now released 9 albums, and their latest planned for a 1st May 2020 launch date. Singles and EPs have been forthcoming from the band at a frequent rate, and it's also great to hear some of these older songs re-recorded for B-sides, with a fresh fire. 

While they're still a punk band at their core, their sound has a more edgy rock feel to it. The band provide a tight and solid backing to Beki blistering vocals. I have yet to see them play live, and I sadly missed out seeing them in 2019 due to other commitments, but hopefully I will in the not too distant future. I can imagine their live shows are an intense frenzy from start to finish, with everyone dripping with sweat on the way out.  

I used to love the raw angst of the band in the early 80s, and I'm pleased to hear a lot of that frustration and defiance still continuing today. Recent album Cardboard Country, tackles subjects such as tabloids, reality TV, and the wealth and class injustices we still see today. The Angry Youth (pun intended) of 40 years ago, is still angry and rightly so. 

The new album, Battle Of Britain is due out soon, and if the recent single releases are anything to go by, it's going to be another classic. I for one am looking forward to hearing it.

80s era favourites; Stand Strong Stand Proud, Out Of Reach, Gutterchild
latest favourites; When You Were 17, You Can't Buy Back The Dead, Ignored To Death, If I Knew What I Know Now

Check out Vice Squad if you're still a punk at heart.

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Under the Oak Tree...

Posted on 29th February 2020

So for the February spotlight, I'm going to look at a band called Cellar Darling.

The band are from Switzerland, and grew out of a band called Eluveitie, which has been around since 2002, mixing folk, symphonic metal, rock and death metal. Think All About Eve combined with Killswitch Engage, singing in a language you've never heard before, and you'll be close. All three members of Cellar Darling were in Eluveitie. but left in 2016 to form Cellar Darling.

There are some elements of Cellar Darling that will be familiar to fans of Eluveitie, but Cellar Darling have a much more accessible style, taking just the folk rock and symphonic rock elements with them. Anna, vocalist, flautist, synths and Hurdy-Gurdy player, brings the folk style, while guitarist/bassist Ivo and drummer Merlin bring the symphonic style to the band. For me Cellar Darling bring a cleaner style to the genre than some other bands, and without meaning to be detrimental, they have a refreshingly simpler sound. As a consequence, they breath life into songs and stories, where other bands often sound like they're trying too hard.

Their first album, This Is the Sound, was released in 2017. It manages to conjure an almost medievel landscape though the words and music, and maybe because I know where the come from, they evoke visions of Alpine escapades through forests and over mountain trails, somewhere around Switzerland, Austria and Southern Germany. It's a wonderful mix of ethereal folk, driving rock rythmns, together with some atomspheric synth sounds. As a debut album, it certainly packs a punch and sets the table for a successor.

That follow-up came in 2019 in the form of The Spell, a concept album, which portrays some very Grimms Fairy Tale style storying telling, with contemporary themes, and poignant lyrics. Once again that driving rock soundscape underpins a very classical influenced vocal. The folk elements are deliciously woven throughout the album, with flute, hurdy-gurdy and acoustic guitar all making appearances. In the song Death, there features a middle section apart from the rest of the song, and I can't help be reminded of the song Black Sabbath by (obviously) Black Sabbath. Both pieces are haunting, atmospheric and sinister, and although the two bands are quite different, they both capture that dramatic feeling, drawing you into the story and taking you to another world. Burn also has that undercurrent of early 70s Sabbath influence too, but again woven intricately with many other influences too.

All in all, they are a fine addition to the Symphonic Rock genre, which they seem most often attributed, but they are so much more than that too. I look forward to them touring the UK, as I can imagine they are quite something to see live. Favourite songs currently are Black Moon and Death. If you want to find out more, head over to
https://www.cellardarling.com/ and check them out.

File Under: music
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