Thursday, January 29, 2009

John Martyn (1948 – 2009)

The passing today of John Martyn will strike a chord with many who have come into contact with the man’s songs. His best music hits deep into the subconscious and leaves its mark there forever.

His best work was done when signed to Island Records in the 70’s where he joined a formidable roster of acts that included Fairport Convention and his friend Nick Drake. He made a slew of albums that are deemed classics now. For me the run of albums from 1971’s “Bless The Weather” up to 1977’s “One World” are faultless in their quality, Martyn experimenting with form and style.

My one memory of him which will linger forever is seeing him on TV (not sure which programme), where he was sat on a stool simply playing a song just accompanied by his guitar. All of a sudden he switches in his echoplex delay unit and his guitar suddenly takes off into weird flights of musical delight. This is not what singer/ songwriters do. But Martyn was a restless spirit, always wanting to push the boundaries and not just musical ones!

John Martyn was one of a kind and his position as one of our greatest musical artists is safely secured by the legacy he leaves us. He is gone, but his music lives with us forever.

Playlist - January 29th 2009

Hawkwind ~ Astounding Sounds, Amazing Music
This album always seems to pale when comparisons are made with the follow up “Quark, Strangeness and Charm” and the previous “Warriors on the Edge of Time”. I think the fans found the change from the sprawling space rock epics of yore to a more sharper song based style disconcerting. But I think the Charisma years where Robert Calvert was at his most prominent within the band were the bands most rewarding.

Manning ~ Number 10
Still listening to this and it gets better and better with repeated listens. This is really a triumph!

Secret Machines ~ Secret Machines
The follow up to the very excellent “Ten Silver Drops”. Since then the band has gone through some upheavals, losing guitarist Benjamin Curtis and changing record label. Now with new guitarist Phil Karnats on board the results can be heard on this self titled third album. Much heavier than the more poppier “Ten Silver Drops”, though there are still plenty of great hooks and layers of treated guitars.

Umphrey’s McGee ~ Mantis
Considered a US jam band?! Whatever, anyone familiar with their web site knows this eclectic band are at the forefront of internet available music. That is you can just about download all their live concerts. As a live act they play about with their music, re-arranging standards and adding improvised pieces. This new studio album is more progressive and song based than previous albums and is beautifully arranged and produced.

Henry Cow ~ 40th Anniversary Box Set
At last I have this monumental release in my grubby little paws. A long time coming but worth the wait. More on this later, but suffice to say this is an important release!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Henry Cow Box Set - Arrived

The whole thing arrived this morning. Wow!!!!!!!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Henry Cow Box Set - Last Update

Above is the latest picture of the box set just published on the rermegacorp web site. It looks like three boxes as two are the live stuff being released with a third which will house the existing studio CD's This makes for a complete Henry Cow set. Not sure if there will be room for the "Concerts" CD. Shame if that has to sit on its own!

Looks like it will be a 9CD set, but there is to be a 10th CD which only subscribers to the box set will receive. There is a fantastic review of the set by John Kelman over at All About Jazz.

The feeling is these are shipping this week. I will let you know when I get it!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Manning ~ Number 10

Unbelievably, this is Guy Manning’s tenth studio album in as many years, hence the title. Producing an album a year would be a task for most artists, but the consistency of the quality of his songwriting throughout each album is nothing short of staggering. Strangely, with this latest offering Guy just missed the album a year mark by just a few weeks.

“Number 10” is the second release on the UK Festival Music Label, following on from the exceptional “Songs from the Bilston House”. This is also the second to be co-produced by Andy Tillison of The Tangent, which Guy is also a member of. Both have worked together for many years and having Andy on board has added an extra musical punch to both albums.

This latest collection starts off in fine fashion with the storming rocker “Ships” about a relationship that is all at sea! The opening has some scorching Hammond playing, very ELP! Great guitar work by David Million on this too. Next up is “The Final Chapter” which is another great uptempo number with a very nice synth solo in the middle. “An Ordinary Day”, one of Guy’s most observational songs and also one of his most beautiful. There is a delicacy and airiness about this song that is quite breathtaking. There is nothing delicate about “Bloody Holiday! ”, a wry observational piece and with a catchy chorus that will be ringing in your ears for days! Possibly this is the finest prog song about holidays since Gentle Giants “Two Weeks In Spain”. It may actually be the only one! “A Valentines Night” is an excellent duet between Guy and Mrs Manning, Julie King who did a wonderful vocal on The Tangents “Four Egos, One War” from their last album. “A Road Less Travelled” is the first of two extended pieces, which allow the musicians to stretch out. Quite a Celtic feel to this, with some fantastic fiddle playing by Ian Fairbairn. Guy has really surrounded himself with a host of fantastic musicians on this album, all who work in complete empathy with Guys music. “Another Lazy Sunday” is another accurately observed song with Laura Fowles sax very much to the fore on this.

The whole album ends in spectacular fashion with the 15 minute “A House on the Hill”. This for me is one of Guys best compositions ever. Lyrically this seems to be a tale of love across time and reminds me of the 1980 film “Somewhere In Time” which starred Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour. There is an excellent musical build up from the simple piano led opening (which to my ears has echo’s of Peter Hammill at his most reflective) and which peaks with the muscualr instrumental mid-section penned by Guy and Andy Tillison. The songs finale offers a pleasing emotional climax to the story and clearly shows what a great lyricist Guy is.

There are very few artists today who apply the craft of the classic singer/songwriter within the prog genre. The only other that comes to mind is Steve Thorne. Guy over the course of ten years has refined his style, built up a group of excellent supporting musicians and has consistently produced work of such a high standard. “Number 10” is up there with his best, which is most of his output and is a very fitting celebration of ten years worth of superb music. Here’s to another ten.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Playlist – January 19th 2009

Hawkwind – 25 Years on (Hawklords), Astounding Sounds Amazing Music, Live Chronicles, Electric Tepee (2009 Remasters)
First batch of re-releases of Hawkwinds back catalogue, dating from 1976. The Esoteric team have done a remarkable job on all fronts; sound, packaging and bonus tracks.

SBB – Anthology 1974 – 2004
SBB – The Rock
Mammoth 22CD box set of all studio/live releases from Poland’s premier prog band. New studio album due very soon, the follow up to “The Rock”. Metal Mind really support this band as they have also released 2 box sets of archival material, each containing 9 CD’s!!

Manning – Number 10
Another fantastic album from the ever productive Guy Manning. Celebrating ten albums in ten years, this latest collection is as strong as ever.

Atomic Rooster – Death Walks Behind You
On the back of seeing the band playing “Tomorrow Night” from the recently aired “Prog at the BBC” BBC4 show, I sought the album out. This is an excellent slice of heavy proto-prog. Great playing by Vincent Crane.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Henry Cow Box Set Update

Looks like the upcoming box set of live Henry Cow recordings is released around 16th January and is now a 10 CD plus DVD affair. Seems some new recordings came to light at the last minute.
Bob Drake who remastered the whole thing has a web site dedicated to his reminiscences about the project. Nothing on there yet but keep your eye on
Free Hit Counter
Free Counter