Monday 26 June 2017

Weather Diaries by Ride

Weather Diaries is the sound of 4 friends reconvening after a couple of decades of life experience and rediscovering the chemistry that once propelled them to the forefront of the UK indie scene. The fire has been relit and on the stand outs Ride sound fresh, vital, forceful and like they are having fun.

Erol Alkan produces and what a splendid job he does; there are the fantastic guitar sounds you would hope for (and expect) on a new Ride album, Andy and Mark's voices combine gloriously, but there is also a little pop edge that Alkan is perhaps responsible for.

The album opens with Lannoy Point, a groovy instrumental jam for over a minute before Mark Gardner returns on vocals singing about being wiser for time and a better sense can start again. It's a promising start - dreamy vocals, good groove and chiming guitars at all the right moments.

Erol Alkan's production comes to the fore on All I Want with a distorted sampled vocal at the start, the music is suddenly more psychedelic, the drums sound fantastic.  Ride still like to sing about feelings (see Lannoy Point) and some of their lyrics are still touched with the teenage innocence that won them so many fans back in the late 1980's early 1990's.

I can feel how you want me to feel
I can know what you want me to know

The backing vocals are pure early Ride and when Mark Gardner and Andy Bell combine in harmony then magical things can happen. I think back to their Glastonbury 1994 performance for their Carnival Of Light album when they just looked and sounded like the kind of band I wanted to be in.

Ride at Glastonbury in 1994

The title track is a beauty, especially when it hits the chorus and everything is lifted in that glorious psychedelic way that Ride can hit when on form, all swirling guitars and harmonies.

I'm unsettled by the weather, it's getting stranger, 
Should it be this good right now? Are we in some kind of danger?
Is this atmosphere just me, or is the sky too blue?
It's too perfect, something's got to give
I'm going inder, where are you?

Rocket Silver Symphony has a slow pulsing synth instrumental intro suddenly bursts into life after 2-minutes as Ride find their guitars and pedals. The synth then has a groove and the vocals are more poppy than normal for Ride, but then they return to classic Ride harmonies for the chorus.

Lateral Alice zips along at under 3-minutes and sounds more American than any previous Ride recording, even mentioning surfing!

Cali takes things further and is extended to over 6-minutes. Gardener and Bell sound brilliant, a standout on first listen and also a few listens down the line.

The album closes with White Sands, a song clearly about the bands break up and make up. It's only after a few minutes that it turns into a song that sounds remotely like Ride - the Ride we know.

The breath between twenty years
That same breath tonight
We'll always betray ourselves
Always hold back time

Weather Diaries has enough to satisfy old fans and win new fans and turn them on to their back catalogue. More importantly, Weather Diaries sounds like a band not only rediscovering themselves, but strengthening friendships.

Sunday 25 June 2017

Stone Roses split?

Don't be sad it's over, be happy that it happened - Ian Brown, Hampden Park, 24th June 2017

With that statement and a snatch of Beautiful Thing - hear me it's a beautiful thing and I say bye bye fans of the Stone Rose have been left wondering if the bands celebrated reunion is over. Since the summer of 2012 the band have played around the world and made hundreds of thousands of people happy, people who never thought they would ever see the band live, never hear them play their joyous songs. In the process the band have made their deserved millions, they had been shafted first time round - caught in legal wrangling over record and management contracts.

Roll back to late 2011 and I was beside myself, Stone Roses were reforming. I tried desperately for tickets for the first two Heaton Park shows, my mate secured me one for the Sunday.

Later on they announced a string of shows across Europe to warm up and get arena ready and I went over to Amsterdam - they were magical, the Sunday at Heaton Park was my dreams come true.

Meeting Mani in Amsterdam

Glasgow Green the following year was a disappointment - at least for me. Fights, bottles flying and a dangerous vibe in the air was a far cry from the atmosphere at Heaton Park the previous summer, they then made up for that at T in the Park last year, playing a blinder. Made of Stone, the Shane Meadows documentary captured the magic, what they meant to the fans and the incredible shows they played - but the Roses kept schtum.

T in the Park 2016 for the Roses

But All For One was awful, I turned on the radio and thought it was Kasabian or someone like that. It was more like The Seahorses than the Roses. Beautiful Thing was much better.

Although I longed to see the Roses and for new material, I also longed to hear them speak, to read their interviews, to see what they made of the world, politics, the changing times....we've had nothing since the press conference in 2011.

When they announced their latest string of UK summer shows I barely batted an eyelid, I didn't try for tickets - the fact that Hampden is a terrible venue was only a small part of the reason.

Even when the rumours broke that Hampden was to be the last Roses show, I wasn't too bothered. It showed - this year there had been no secret shows, small European shows or rumours of new material or photos of their gear being loaded into studios.

The fact is; I had done it. I had seen the magical, mystical Roses; I've sang my heart out, I have cried, I have been hoisted up on friends shoulders, I've punched the air in delight and I've done my fair share of dad dancing.

Back in 1990 Ian Brown was asked about the Roses turning down a support slot with The Stones and he replied something like 'It's 1990, The Rolling Who? They should have friends who care about them enough to tell them to pack it in.'

If you've read previous Roses blogs I have written, if you know me, you'll know how much I love them. But I kind of feel like that about the Roses now. This year it felt like they were milking it and going through the motions. I didn't want to go and see that.

So how do I feel this morning..... mixed emotions....

Kind of gutted; the Stone Roses being together made the world a better place, it put smiles on faces, it allowed people to forget their worries, cares and the state of the world for a day. They allowed people to relive their youth, to celebrate it with their kids, to come together to celebrate a remarkable band.

I hope the kids that went to see the Roses pick up guitars and form bands - that is what the Roses always wanted.

4 people who will always be defined by their music and friendship got back together and made people happy. Whether the 4 are still friends or not is another matter - reports from Hampden say that there were 2 separate embraces on stage last night, with Ian and Reni notably not together. My friend was down the front and he said Mani was crying - there isn't a bigger fan of the Roses than Mani himself.

Going back to Ian's quote from last night - I am truly happy it happened.

And on the flip side it feels like it is the right time to call it quits if there is no new music. Rumours are also abound that Ian Brown will be releasing a solo album in 2018.

We'll find out soon.

Friday 16 June 2017

Fools Gold 9.53

Fools Gold was the sound of Stone Roses at their peak, almost 10-minutes of funk groove via bass, beats, wah-wah guitar, samples and the coolest person in the world at the time on whispered vocals about friends searching for gold and ready to steal it off each other.... oh and the Marquis de Sade.

This inspirational tune came beautifully presented in artwork by guitarist John Squire entitled Double Dorsal Doppleganger - everything about this release was perfect.

Although it nearly wasn't; What The World Is Waiting For, a supreme slice of Roses guitar pop was originally intended to be the single, it was then changed to a double-a-side before then to all intents and purposes (and on rerelease) being relegated to the b-side.

The Roses released their legendary eponymous debut album in the spring of 1989, perfect timing for the second summer of love. Prior to this, there was a string of incredible guitar pop singles; Sally Cinnamon, Elephant Stone, Made Of Stone, She Bangs The Drums and Adored with all the glorious b-sides that came with them like Mersey Paradise, Standing Here, Where Angels Play and Going Down - but nothing, not even the album closer I Am The Resurrection, hinted where the Roses were going to go next.

They went off on one, sampling the beat from Bobby Byrd's - Hot Pants (bonus beats) with the bass line from Young MC's Know How, which itself was loosely based around guitar from Isaace Hayes Theme From Shaft.

The bass line is inspired by Young M.C's Know How 
which was a tune we were really vibing off at the time 

Fools Gold was recorded over the summer of 1989 and released in November of that year. If the Roses album had been the soundtrack to pre and post club parties, Fools Gold became the sound of the party - the real indie dance crossover - if there really is such a thing, the Roses would pour scorn on such statements, they simply made the best music they could.

The beat and bass groove are in from the start, it's fresh, it's funky, it sounds like nothing 4 white boys from Manchester should be creating. But then things were changing dramatically in 1989, particularly in Manchester, a city embracing ecstasy and all kinds of music from Detroit to Ibiza - people wanted to dance and expand their horizons - international, continental.

Brown doesn't take long to come in the gold roads sure a long road, winds on through the hill for fifteen days

Things move up a notch for the I'm standing alone ... section and all the time the beat and bass keep grooving while Squire coaxes majestic sounds from his guitar.

By the time Brown whispers his last Foo-oo-oo-ools Gold we still have over 4-minutes left of this incredible tune and we are treated to the magical delight of Reni, Mani and Squire vibing and riffing off each other. They sound in their element. The sounds Squire generates from his guitar sound other worldly, the best and most original guitar sounds from someone in Manchester since Johnny Marr created How Soon Is Now?

The Roses were a band of their time, but so good that they have stood the test of time. Good songs always do, but it was their look, their hair, clothes, style, appearance and attitude that combined with the songs, artwork and dance culture to elevate them way beyond other bands.

Their Top of the Pops appearance where they mime to Fools Gold was a landmark, with fellow Mancunians Happy Mondays playing Hallelujah on the same show - the times they were a changing.

Brown looks immaculate, his hair is super cool, swagger and confidence apparent and he looks like the coolest person in the world. Mani looks like he is partying on stage, swinging his Jackson Pollock-ed bass, flares on and lost in the music, Squire looks like a guitar god with a Beatles mop top and Reni acts all cool and semi interested in miming.

I can't help but think what if? What if they could have recorded an album of groove based trippy material? Something's Burning was another beauty and although Ian Brown has admitted he was never happy with One Love, you think of the album that they could have been working towards. Instead they became embroiled in legal disputes over management and label contracts, moved to different parts of the country and all started taking different drugs.

Decades down the line, if anyone is researching music in 1989 and wants to see the coolest band in the world at that time, I hope they find this film.

Fast forward to Heaton Park in 2012, the Roses huge homecoming shows. I'm there on the Sunday evening, lost in the music and an atmosphere so off the scale that some Manc scallies attempted to bottle it and sell on eBay!

Fools Gold is stretched to nearly 13-minutes; kicking off with a funky jam that I first heard when I saw them in Amsterdam and wondered it if was a new tune, but then the bass riff and beats kick in and Squire matches Mani. The incredible musical trio of Squire, Mani and Reni completely own this extended live version - from 6-minutes on they take the crowd on a psychedelic funk trip like no other, Brown comes back in with one final vocal, before they go off on one.

There is a breakdown to bass and drums before Squire starts to shred his guitar Hendrix style, his rhythm section is so tight that he has time to fiddle with effects, then tease and show off by dropping in riffs like Daytripper by The Beatles, a dash of Zeppelin and even add in Driving South from the Second Coming. It's outrageous, it is the Stone Roses, it is the sound of a band at their peak.....even now.

Tuesday 13 June 2017

Mr Tambourine Man

Cover version of the month #26

Hi we're called Teenage Fanclub and this is a song by The Byrds

This is how I was introduced to the legendary Bob Dylan song. I recorded Teenage Fanclub live from Reading off the radio back in 1992. I was immediately hooked on the chiming guitars and flowing lyrics and the imagery of the song, the title too!

The Fanclub version was pretty true to the 2-minutes of pure guitar pop genius that The Byrds produced in homage to Dylan back in April 1965, only a month after Dylan had released his classic Bringing It All Back Home LP. The jingle-jangle mentioned in Dylan's chorus is replicated by beautiful 12-string Rickenbacker in the Byrd's version.

The Byrd's manager had acquired an acetate of Dylan's original recording of the song, ear-marked for Another Side Of Bob Dylan, but the author decided the song was special and he hadn't captured it correctly, so he held it back for his next LP, re-recording it in January 1965. Ironically the month The Byrds recorded their version!

One of Dylan's many masterpieces, Mr Tambourine Man is a flowing psychedelic poem that lasts 5-minutes and 27 seconds, during which time Dylan barely pauses for breath (either singing or playing harmonica) and a guitarist called Bruce Langhorne plays some exquisite lead guitar.

The Byrds cut out most of the verses and in 2 and a half minutes they produce something utterly compelling and vital. The harmonies are glorious, the guitar riff is one that must surely have made kids pick up a guitar. Roger McGuinn's lead vocals are sublime, suiting the dreamy and surreal lyrics penned by Dylan.

 Dylan played around with Mr Tambourine Man a lot, producing a remarkable version on his Live At The Budokan album which was one of the first Dylan albums I bought. Listen to the flute and the incredible organ solo - what a band! You can listen to this version below along with the original, the glorious Byrds cover and also one by Stevie Wonder.

Previous covers of the month

Thursday 8 June 2017

Never Ending Mixtape Part 9

18 songs are added to the Never Ending Mixtape this month. It all started back in October 2016 when I finally signed up to Spotify after years of saying I never would.

I still buy physical copies of records and cd's, but have to say that I am loving Spotify and the way I can discover music - new and old. And I've always loved making mixtapes, compilations CD's, playlists.....and now I have the never ending playlist with new tunes added monthly.

It's all oldies and goldies this month; indie, pop, motown, electro.....loads to check........ the link to the Spotify playlist is below and the latest tracks are listed below that.

Star - Primal Scream
Blissful from Primal Scream

How Does It Feel To Belong? - Primal Scream
Dreamy psychedelia - stunning b-side that a friend reminded me about.

Juxtaposed With You - Super Furry Animals
One of my favourites from the Welsh wizards of melody and psychedelia

Dry The Rain - The Beta Band
A gem, a true gem. I caught them at their last ever show at the Liquid Room and the crowd just kept singing the refrain after they had finished.

Silent Sigh - Badly Drawn Boy
This guy could pluck a gorgeous melody from a rubber band - beautiful

I Love You - The Bees
I love the feeling and production on this song.

Baby I Need Your Loving - The Four Tops
What a tune! Pleading, emotional and uplifting - soul.

I Second That Emotion - Smokey Robinson and the Miracles
Listen to Smokey's voice - incredible

Jimmy Mack - Martha Reeves and the Vandellas
A current fave with the kids in my house, so simple and so clever.

(I'm A) Road Runner - JR Walker and the All Stars
Got to keep on keeping' on!

Just A Little Misunderstanding - The Contours
A fave - love the feel and flow of this.

Stop Her On Sight (S.O.S) - Edwin Starr
Just full of hooks, this will have you singing on first listen

Belfast - Orbital
This once soundtracked the end of many a night out - blissful bubbling and soothing synths.

Pacific State - 808 State

You Wish - Nightmares On Wax
What a groove!

Same As It Ever Was - The Herbaliser
Another brilliant groove

Music Takes Me Up - Mr Scruff and Alice Russell
Mr Scruff is one of the best DJ's I have ever seen, I love his eclectic style and taste and monster sets.

Salvation - Rae and Christian
Was lucky enough to catch a rare show by this Manchester band at King Tuts many years ago. How beautiful this?!

Monday 5 June 2017

Different Days by The Charlatans

The Charlatans have swiftly followed up their excellent and well received Modern Nature album, which contained some career highlights, with Different Days - the bands 13th studio album. And I am delighted to report it's a cracker! There is a great feel across the whole album, a sense of freedom, of confidence, of fun....the production is fresh and flowing. Co-produced by the band and Jim Spencer at the bands studio in Cheshire.

That sense of confidence and freedom is enhanced by the guests The Charlatans invited to participate - Johnny Marr, Paul Weller, Ian Rankin, Stephen Morris, Pete Salisbury, Anton Newcombe, Sharon Logan, Kurt Wagner and Nik Void.

The Charlatans are the band that keep giving; restless, relentless, innovative and constantly developing. In addition to the 13 studio albums, there have been live albums, remixes, EP's, compilations.... not to mention Tim Burgess' solo efforts. Are they the most prolific British band over the last (near) 30-years?

Tim is singing better than ever and as this blog has mentioned before, he has embraced social media (and the change in the record industry) with an energy and understanding that other artists should look to for inspiration.

The Charlatans launched Different Days with a ..... different day. Taking over Oldham Street in Manchester's super cool Northern Quarter. There was Tim Peaks Coffee, their own beer, items donated to Oxfam, a signing in Piccadilly Records and much, much more. Check this short documentary film.

Fear not, the band return to the traditional promo model with a UK tour at the end of the year, including a date at the O2 Academy on Monday 4th December. Shame it's not the Barrowland, next time!

On to the album;

Bathe in the sunlight
Is everything alright?

Hey Sunrise ushers us into Different Days in a beautiful warm manner; acoustic guitar, piano and a hushed Tim vocal and then it all lifts gloriously in that special Charlatans punch the air, euphoric, feel good style. Written at 5am, hence the hook;

It's beginning to look like it's light
It's beginning to look like it's quite bright

The Charlatans are a band who always look for solutions to challenges, they are glass half full, so Solutions is a great song title for them.  Described by Tim on Twitter as 'Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young meets Neu!'

Always running out of time
Building a dream out of reality

You would expect the title track to be good.....and it is. A Japanese introduction leads to a beautiful melody (vocally and piano).

Future Tense is a clever bridge from Different Days into Plastic Machinery, continuing the melody and with a spoken word by Ian Rankin that leads into a burst of pure Charlatans pop.

Plastic Machinery was the lead single for the album and it was the right choice. The band sound fresh, vital, urgent.... Johnny Marr on guitar.

I too feel part of the machinery
I know it's hard to be accepted
Our life is just like a dream to me
At times it's good to be rejected

So let's just run, even if only in our heads

Not Forgotten sounds like it could have been lifted from The Charlatans eponymous album released over 20-years ago. It has a real groove to it

I know where the past begins
And the future ends
Time is my friend

There Will Be Chances is sunshine romance, with a cracking melody and groove - pure summer. Set to be a Charlatans favourite. Described during the Twitter listening party by Tim as 'super optimistic, giddy euphoria, spacey.'

If you stare into space
You might not find answers
But if you look to find a trace
There will be chances

Over Again is brilliant, Burgess is on fire with his vocal melodies and delivery across the whole album, speeding things up, slowing things down....just sounding like he is having fun. The electronic pulse and percussion driving this tune is great. It's quite New Order - a compliment I'm sure Tim will love. Apparently written for Neneh Cherry to sing, hopefully that will happen sometime.

Write a message in the sky
Anything to get your eye

The sense of fun and freedom that Burgess has across his wide portfolio of artistic endeavours these days really comes across on The Same House - it is pure Talking Heads! Ace! Very different, very cool and just wait for the extra beat and groove to come in - superb.

We can live in the same house
We can all wear matching shoes

Let's Go Together is another beauty, it sounds and feels remarkably fresh, the playing and production across the album are sublime.

The Setting Sun is a brilliant short instrumental (possible entrance music) leading into the stunning finale of Spinning Out, a co-write with long term hero and friend Paul Weller who plays piano and sings backing vocals. This will melt your heart. Tim sounds amazing and there is such a nice feel to this - an emotional one - a good one. Described by Tim as 'Memories of childhood and the ones you make today for your children.'

Different Days is out now - get a physical copy from your local record shop or by visiting or head to Spotify or iTunes.