Thursday, March 29, 2007

Singing And Dancing In Perfect Time

At around about the same time that Kate Bush first appeared on the scene, a lovely little single called 'Mirrors' came out. It was by Mike Oldfield's sister Sally, and I bought it - although I was, by then, primarily an album buyer, every so often I'd buy a single because it just struck me as great. More often than not these were one-offs (for example, Romeo by Mr Big, or King Of Siam by Voyager) and I was fully expecting Mirrors to be another, but when I flipped the platter over I found I was mightily impressed with the B-side; 'Night Of The Hunter's Moon'. So the next time I was in Harum Records (the Muswell Hill branch this time) I asked the delumptious Ruth if she'd heard the Sally Oldfield album (Water Bearer). She said yes, she liked it, in her opinion it was more interesting, less affected, and better, than The Kick Inside.

Ruth's opinion was good enough for me - I bought it there and then. I still agree with her.

I bought, and enjoyed, the next 3 Sally Oldfield albums (Easy, Celebration, Playing In The Flame), though I worried that she was losing some of her originality and veering dangerously close to the mainstream.

It was a while before I saw another album, and when I did I bought it anyway. Big mistake. I should have been warned off by the cover. Bland pap, barely a single track that I wanted to hear again after the initial play. Bye bye Sally, hello Chameleons.

Years later and we're into the age of the Web. When MP3 was young there was a phenomenal little app called Audiogalaxy Satellite that could find, and download, *anything*. Forget Napster, forget iTunes, forget AllOfMP3, Audiogalaxy was da fukin *biz*.

In general, my principle has always been that I won't download anything that I would otherwise have bought, and that I will happily download anything that I've already paid for on vinyl. So I decided to get digital versions of the Sally Oldfield albums, and when I searched I found dozens of tracks I'd never heard of. So I grabbed a few, and within a few days was trawling Amazon, Ebay, Netsounds and GEMM looking for Sally Oldfiels CDs to buy. I bought as many as I could find, and before long had the complete set.

I discovered that, grim though Femme was, there was an even *worse* album, the execrable Instincts. BUT, having failed to become the next Jennifer Rush, she turned her back on trying to be rich and famous and went back to making bloody great records. Strange Day In Berlin, Natasha, The Flame, Three Rings, Secret Songs, Flaming Star, all of them at least 80% marvellous - and now that I'd gone digital it was easy to rip and reburn my CDs while skipping the duff tracks. And when Sally goes duff, she really goes duff. No matter because 4 out of 5 tracks are wonderful.

But then something went wrong. I don't know what. Her Web site went down, she released a 'new' album that comprised mainly truncated versions of old tracks (not re-recordings - Sally has always had a penchant for revisiting old songs and themes - but sections of the original recordings). Check out the archives of the Sally Oldfield mailing list if you're interested - though recently it has become hijacked by one 'Nuala Alexander' advertising penis extensions and fake doctorates.

Anyway, the point of all this is to - hopefully - interest some of you in the music of Sally Oldfield. I've decided to post Natasha, though not her best by a long way, for two reasons - firstly because it gives a fairly good overview of the kind of music she makes and secondly because some eejits are charging £60 or more on Amazon. Balls to them.

Following this album she changed her name to Natasha and released 'The Flame', a great album that she subsequently disowned for some reason after she'd changed her name back to Sally.

I may post more of her albums, but ideally I'd get you all to buy them - if you can.

One more thing - I don't for a nanosecond buy any of the New Age/Healing/Tolkein/Arthurian claptrap but I reckon she can believe what she likes if it inspires her to make great music.

Sally Oldfield - Natasha (1990)

01. Break Through The Rock
02. Natasha
03. Keep The Fire Burning
04. Clear Light
05. My Drumbeat Heart
06. Song Of The Mountain
07. Break Like A Wave
08. Maya
09. In The Presence Of The Spring
10. Guiding Star

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Like A Tube Train Up Your Spine

Three weeks ago I posted a Pink Floyd bootleg from 1972, and a few days later a guy called Mick posted one of the best comments I've read (see He inspired me to go back and revisit some other Pink Floyd bootlegs - things I have (or had) on vinyl but haven't heard in thirty years or more.

Thank you, thank you, Mick.

In those days, of course, there was no WWW and we had to hunt for our boots, but now they'e easily available for free dowload. Another comment to the same post sent me off to, where I found a whole bunch of links to Pink Floyd bootlegs. I grabbed a few, and followed a few links until I found a download link for my fave Floyd bootleg of all - a 1971 gig at the Grosser Saal Musikhalle, Hamburg, West Germany which I still have on vinyl.

Listening to these tracks set me off on a bit of a journey into the past and reminded me what a phenomenal band the Floyd were in their heyday - which for me is the period 1970-1972, when I saw them maybe half a dozen times live. That was *my* Floyd period - I was too young to see them with Syd and lost interest almost entirely the day that DSOTM was released.

That was a mistake, though. Not because the post-DSOTM albums are better than I gave them credit for - they're not, IMO - but because the flaccid overproduced mess that was DSOTM killed my interest in the band completely.

A few days later I was chatting to a couple of people and mentioned 'old Pink Floyd' and they said "you mean Dark Side Of The Moon?" I said no, earlier. "Wish You Were Here?" "Animals?" No, I said, *early* Floyd - like Atom Heart Mother.


Saucerful Of Secrets.

Blank looks. I felt *old* then... but not for long. Walking home with my ipod on full volume and shuffle, I heard One Of These Days from Boblingen, Atom Heart Mother from Montreaux, and that incredible version of Eugene from Hamburg - Jesus I'd forgotten that...

So here are four tracks that illustrate what Pink Floyd were about before they made it huge. They're all bootlegs, some mono, some poor quality, and I haven't really spent much time choosing them, but they're all *great*. As another person put it, there are no synthesisers or samples here, just four blokes - guitar, organ, bass and drums - making one hell of a racket.

And if you think "Oh yeah, Pink Floyd live - Ummagumma, right?" WRONG. This version of 'Axe' pisses on Ummagumma - and as for the other live tracks on Ummagumma, all I can say is SMOKING BLUES. Go get it.

For a brooch and a spice.

Pink Floyd - Live in the early 1970s

01 - One of These Days, Boeblingen, 15th November 1972
02 - Careful With That Axe, Eugene, Hamburg, 25th February 1971
03 - Cymbaline, 26th August 1970
04 - Atom Heart Mother, Montreaux, 21st November 1970

Friday, March 23, 2007

Say Hello To The Freedom Fighters

Alan Gill and David Balfe were two members of the Liverpool scene (not 'The Liverpool Scene', that was a different band altogether – anyone got any of their albums to share?) that spawned The Teardrop Explodes and Echo And The Bunnymen (and Lori And The Chameleons – remember 'Touch'?), and in 1977 they got together under the name dalek I love you (no caps). According to Wikipedia, "the name came about as a result of a compromise between the two members: Balfe wanted to call the band Dalek (after the Doctor Who villains) and Gill wanted to call the band Darling, I Love You".

Over the next couple of years the band lineup expanded and decreased (and the name shortened to 'dalek i') until by 1980 it consisted of Alan Gill and Dave Hughes. These two made a single called – yep – dalek i love you, and then a quirky little album called compass kum'pas, which I bought in – yep – Midnight Music aka English Weather in Crouch End. Although the kum'pas bit is actually kum'p*s where the * is a sort of upside down e.

There was another album released under the name Dalek I Love You (with caps), but it was a lot more polished and a lot less fun. I didn't bother following their career after that.

So here's the first album and single. Sorta like a naïve OMD…? Oh – and on the original vinyl the sides were labelled 'Topsy' and 'Turvy' instead of A and B.

dalek i - compass kum'pas

01 - 01 - The World

01 - 02 - 8 Track

01 - 03 - Destiny (Dalek I Love You)

01 - 04 - A Suicide

01 - 05 - The Kiss

01 - 06 - Trapped

01 - 07 - Two Chameleons

01 - 08 - Freedom Fighters

01 - 09 - You Really Got Me

01 - 10 - Mad

01 - 11 - Good Times

01 - 12 - We're All Actors

01 - 13 - Heat

01 - 14 - Missing 15 Minutes

dalek I love you - Dalek I Love You (Destiny)

00 - 01 - Dalek I Love You (Destiny) (single mix)

00 - 02 - Happy

00 - 03 - This Is My Uniform

Oh alright then, here you are

I said I wouldn't re-up anything but I've had so many requests for this that I've relented - just the once. I haven't got much more to add to my previous comments about Way Of The West (see except that they seem to have made a big impression on the few who heard them, if you believe the comments and emails I've had about them. So here, again, are the collected singles of Way Of The West.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Don't Put Those Houses There

I know that Howe Gelb has a huge fanbase and has made countless albums under countless pseudonyms, but I haven't heard any of them apart from the very early ones. Don't know why - maybe it just seems like such a daunting task to plough through them all, or maybe I'm just no longer interested in hearing anything new. Hell, I doubt that I'll live long enough to hear all the albums I've already got again, without trying to get into new stuff.

Anyway, I first heard Giant Sand on the John Peel show some time around 1985 - he played 'October Anywhere' and it made enough of an impression on me to remember the artist name. A few nights later he played 'Artists' and that made me go out and buy the first album (Valley Of Rain). I liked it a lot, and then a few months later bought the second album (Ballad Of A Thin Line Man) and the Blacky Ranchette album that came out at the same time.

Listening to them again now, after gawd nose how many years, I still really like the GS albums and I don't know why I didn't stick with Howe after that - but presumably something else came up instead.

The Blacky Ranchette album (Heartland) is still available, but these two aren't.


Oh - and if anyone thinks I *should* investigate more of the Gelbster, and can point me to a good starting point for the rest of his career, I'll go there.

Cheers m'dears


Giant Sand - Valley Of Rain

01 - Down On Town & Love's No Answer
02 - Black Venetian Blind
03 - Curse Of A Thousand Flames
04 - Artists
05 - Man Of Want
06 - Valley Of Rain
07 - Tumble And Tear
08 - October Anywhere
09 - Barrio
10 - Death, Dying And Channel Five
11 - Torture Of Love

Giant Sand - Ballad Of A Thin Line Man

01 - Thin Line Man
02 - All Along The Watchtower
03 - Graveyard
04 - Body Of Water
05 - Last Legs
06 - You Can't Put Your Arms Round A Memory
07 - A Hard Man To Get To Know
08 - Who Am I
09 - The Chill Outside
10 - Desperate Man

The Sun Is Eclipsed By The Moon...

...and the album is eclipsed by the live early version.

The first proper 'gig' I ever went to was Country Joe And The Fish at the Albert Hall on 22 September 1969. A live album from that tour, released 30 years later, revealed a band long past its peak – but for an impressionable 12 year old it was pretty amazing at the time - and is it any coincidence that I later took up playing bass when the first band I ever saw had Jack Casady on bass?

Anyway, the reason I got to see The Fish was because I'd recently discovered that the father of a friend of mine could get free tickets to a box at the Albert Hall. Whoo hoo! So during 1969/1970 I managed to get tickets to see Ten Years After, John Mayall, Pentangle, Stone The Crows, Blodwyn Pig, Jethro Tull, Family, Steppenwolf, Albert King, Keef Hartley, Deep Purple (Supporting Canned Heat - also Renaissance were on the same bill), Fleetwood Mac, and…

At around about the same time a local school put on a production of 'Dark Of The Moon' and a set piece in the middle featured a bunch of teenagers in weird costumes cavorting about to the most incredible music I'd ever heard. I got a friend to find out what the music was and they told me it was Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun by Pink Floyd. So the next time the Floyd were at the Albert Hall I tried to get tickets - but they were sold out.

The next Floyd album was Ummagumma of course – and what a waste of vinyl *that* was. The second disk is a load of self indulgent noodling – the only decent bit is Waters' section and that pales pretty quickly – and the first disk is insipid versions of tracks that had already appeared elsewhere and that were soon available in far more poky versions (if lower quality) on bootlegs.

By the way – The Dead suffered from the same problem – although Live/Dead and Europe 72 are pretty damn good live albums it's clear that Warners didn't think that Joe Public could cope with the bum notes, fluffed lyrics and incredible tangents of the *real* live Dead as shown on 100 Year Hall and the Dicks Picks from the late 60s and early 70s.

Anyway, back to Pink Floyd. I don't remember for certain the first time I saw them live, but by early '72 I'd seen them a few times at the Empire Pool or Earls Court and so on. I used to hang around the Rainbow Theatre in London's Finsbury Park - some of the bouncers had got to know me a bit and would let me in free sometimes - so one night in 1972 I happened to be in the area and went along to see Pink Floyd on spec. They had a primitive quadrophonic PA system - a couple of bass bins & horns lashed to columns at the back of the old cinema hall - and a gantry of lights either side of the stage with flashing red light on top but the MUSIC... was incredible. The London premiere of Eclipse (later to be renamed Dark Side Of The Moon).

Next day I rang all my mates and said you've got to come and see Pink Floyd at the Rainbow (they were doing 4 nights and I'd turned up at the third, so this was the last night). I think Jon Seckl and Jon Blend came with me, I'm not sure who else. Anyway it was equally amazing.

Some weeks - or months - later I was in Kensington Market and saw an anonymous album called 'Best Of Tour 72' - I asked what it was and the guy selling it told me it was a bootleg of the next Pink Floyd album. So I bought it – it was excellent and I played it non-stop for weeks. Months even. And then the next legit Floyd album came out – but that was Obscured By Clouds and so didn’t really count.

And then – finally – a couple of years later, Dark Side Of The Moon came out and I bought it and… I thought it was crap. Sure, it’s incredibly well produced, but it’s sterile as f*ck in my opinion. I’ve never liked it, and that was the end of my Pink Floyd period. I haven’t liked anything they’ve done since.

I lent my original copy of the bootleg to my then-current girlfriend, split up with her a few weeks later, and haven’t seen it since. Didn't hear the album for 15 years or so until the Web let me track down a copy. This doesn't seem to be as good quality as the original vinyl I had, and is also missing a few bits that I edited in from a different bootleg, but as far as I'm concerned it's the last great Pink Floyd album. It's one long piece, not split into tracks (and neither was the original when they played it).

BTW I'm not sure about whether I should be posting bootlegs here - though it's probably the only one I will.

Apart from the QMS one that I posted a few months ago.

Pink Floyd - Best Of Tour 72