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Kraftwerk at the Royal Albert Hall

November 5, 2016 3 comments

99c3f134-cf55-4980-acc4-da0d3acf7d23A couple of weeks ago my very good friend Danny heorically did the tedious cyclical internet thing that is sadly now standard for these big events, and managed to get tickets for the Kraftwerk gigs next June at the Royal Albert Hall.

Despite it being more than 8 months away, to say I’m excited would be an understatement, and the show will hopefully go someway to making up for the frustration of not getting tickets for the Tate gigs a few years ago.

It won’t be the first time I’ve seen Kraftwerk with Danny, although that didn’t quite work out as we’d hoped…

Back in 1996 (which I’ve just realised was 20 years ago…) we were at The Tribal Gathering Festival at Sutton Hoo, where along with a hugely impressive line up of artists including Orbital, Daft Punk, Gus Gus, Digweed, Sasha, Jeff Mills, Hardfloor, Marshal Jefferson, Masters at Work, John Peel, Fabio & Grooverider etc etc, the mysterious Dusseldorfers were down to play their first live set in the UK for five years…

2bolptgUnfortunately we got carried away with the quality and excellence of the day, misjudged the number of people that were there specifically to see Kraftwerk, and headed rather belatedly to the Trans Europe tent only to find it was super rammed. The closest we could get was behind about ten rows of people outside the entrance to the tent. Amazingly (and I honestly don’t think this would happen nowadays) the organisers took down half of one side of the tent, so that people outside could at least see the lights and hear a bit better…

I think we stayed for 4 or 5 tunes before giving it up as a bad job and heading off elsewhere. Orbital as I remember were absolutely outstanding that day…

So, fingers crossed that next years shows in the wonderours surroundings of the Royal Albert Hall will go some way to addressing the paucity of my live Kraftwerk experience…

The only slightly nagging doubt is the description of the concerts as 3-D. This could mean that we’re all wearing funny specs and in for a stunningly visual treat, but it might also mean that the single remaining original Werker, Ralph Hutter, might not actually be there in person, opting instead to send the bands robot avatars to enteratin us…

We shall see, but regardless, when that car door slams shut and the VW Beetle ignition turns over, I for one will be a very happy man….

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The Bizzare Captain EO….

October 31, 2016 Leave a comment

Michael-Jackson-Captain-EO-Back-3D-DisneylandI came across a 30 year old story recently involving three of the biggest names in music and film that I didn’t have the faintest idea about… So on the assumption that you might not have heard of it either and have a spare couple of minutes to read this and 16 minutes to watch the film, it goes something like this…

In August 1985 George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola announced that along with a certain Michael Jackson they were working on “the ultimate movie experience”.

Originally known as the “International Music Man” the production now known as Captain EO (from the Greek eos or dawn) was a Disney generated idea for a themed park ride. Disneyland was struggling around the mid 1980’s and saw the idea of a big production with even bigger names, as a way of reversing the fortunes of the theme park. Accompanying the ride would be a short film that would be exclusive to the park and would not go on general release, so (they hoped) ensuring people would drive to the park to see the new attraction…

Captain EO was the tale of an emissary of light, a messiah if you will, travelling the universe saving its denizens through the gifts of song and love. There would be spaceships, space battles, assorted alien creatures and unsurprisingly with MJ on board, unfeasible amounts of dancing…

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One of the first films made with the then nascent 3D technology, it was also described by Disney as the worlds first 4D production. As it was only shown in specially modified cinemas at Disneyland, the on screen effects were supplemented with lasers, smells, smoke and flying asteroids filling the cinema auditorium itself.

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Like so many things involving MJ at the height of his fame, budget was seemingly not a major consideration and as a consequence the film ended up being the most expensive production ever made up to that time, supposedly almost $1 million per minute and with more effects per minute than Star Wars.

Time however was a limiting factor with both Ford Coppolla and Lucas having other projects already lined up, so once the story had been finalised, principal photography was wrapped up in less than two weeks…

eop220092LARGEBy all accounts the first edited version seen without many of the state of the art effects, was lamentably poor, allegedly it was even hidden from senior Disney executives for a while, it was so underwhelming. Jackson was no lead actor and the Muppet’s in Space appearance didn’t give the production much in the way of credibility or gravitas…

Additional filming and further editing got the film to a more acceptable state (although you can make your own mind up about that) despite one of the principle muppet characters having been lost and replaced by a painted ballcock and Angelica Houston’s role as the principle baddie being significantly reduced (possibly at her own request…)

The end result is a very strange thing. Even allowing for the now 30 year old effects, it seems unbelievably ropey given the money, talent and staus of the key players involved. A hybrid of ideas stolen from Star Wars, Alien (Houston’s Spider Queen), MJ’s Thiller video, Frank Oz’s The Dark Crystal and all points in between. Even the songs seem halfhearted and unconvincingly delivered when compared to Thriller from 2 years earlier and Bad from two years later.

Perhaps its not surprising then that even after all these years and despite a huge demand for it to be made available after Michael’s death in 2009, it can still only be seen in very poor quality versions like the one below..

There’s a detailed account of the films history here if  you’re interested..

Star Wars Record Sleeves

October 16, 2016 Leave a comment

This has probably been a thing for some time now, but surprisingly its only just caught my eye…

Doesn’t need much explanation. Instantly recognisable classic album sleeves re-imagined with instantly recognisable characters from Star Wars….

What a genius idea…..

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A Freestyle No. 1: Kungs vs Cookin’ on 3 Burners

June 17, 2016 Leave a comment

My very good friend Dan told me last night that a reworked version of a tune by a band called Cookin’ on 3 Burners from his Freestyle Records label had reached the midweek number 1 slot in the UK.. the first time in his more than 25 years of trading that he’s achieved such a thing..

With a wry smile on his face, he pointed me towards Spotify where the tune, This Girl by Kungs vs Cookin’ on 3 Burners (which has already hit the top spot in Germany, Belgium and somewhere else in Euroland) has racked up nearly 39 million hits.. There’s a similar story on YouTube where the current total is in excess of 23 million views….

So here it is.. Apparently Kungs is a protege of David Guetta who has obviously taught him a thing or two about boiling a tune down to 2 or 3 key elements, upping the tempo and adding in a drop and/ or synth stab to get the kids going…

And here’s the original version as found on Freestyle Records, as laid back and soulful as you’d expect…

So huge congrats to Danny. I know the revenue payments from these streaming giants can be pretty derisory, but by my reckoning, any share of more than 60 million of anything, no matter how small, is likely to keep the smile on his face for many weeks to come.

Two likes in one…

January 19, 2016 Leave a comment

Mr Bowie in the Scottish new town of Cumbernauld in 1976… Not sure why he was there… doesn’t really matter now I suppose.. probably just doing his usual thing of looking effortlessly cool without even trying…

RIP to both the man and the megastructure…

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Facebook Challenge: 7 tracks, 7 days, 7 nominations: A snapshot of my friends’ musical histories

December 13, 2015 Leave a comment

You may have heard about it, you may very well have participated, but over the last week/ 10 days or so, my friends and I have have been trawling through our memories in a quest to choose a track a day for seven days explaining why it is important and then nominating someone else to carry on the challenge…

I think it’s fair to say that we were all initially rather skeptical. None of us are really Facebook challenge type people, but we were each nominated by someone we knew and respected, and more to the point, it was all about music, and if there’s one thing boys can’t resist, it’s making lists of tunes to share and compare.. On reflection it’s all been really very enjoyable, and I for one am a little bit saddened now it’s done. I think Danny even called it cathartic in one of his posts…

As for the lists, Darren did his chronologically, Danny thought of a track that would appeal to or remind him of, his next nominee, Ralph is sticking to 135bpm+ Electro, Dermot chose some live performances from TV shows, Matt chose guitar based tracks (obvs), Ewa & Kieth seem to be just sticking to Pearl Jam (obvs again) and Sarah F has only just started, so her approach is not clear yet, but The Fall is a strong opener…

The link above is to my list on Spotify. I tried to capture a taste of each of the sounds and styles that have meant the most to me over the years: new wave, techno, electronica, drum and bass and yes, inevitably there’s a prog rock track in there… But it was difficult, and looking at the list now, I can’t believe whose not there, Underworld, Kraftwerk, Fila Brazillia, Soundgarden, Peace Division, Yello, LCD Soundsystem, The The… etc. etc. ad infinitum…

I’ve also made a playlist of my friends tracks. This is not exhaustive as not all the tunes chosen are available on Spotify. It’s also a work in progress and will need updating as the challenge progresses. But as a snapshot of what makes my closest friends tick, I think it’s wonderful. I didn’t know some of the tracks, I was this close to choosing one or two of them for my own list, and there are a couple that I wouldn’t have chosen in a million years…

But that’s not important. These records all mean something to the person that searched Youtube for the video, and as thankfully no one chose Coldplay, I’m very happy to share them all on my blog. As a random selection, they make for very eclectic and interesting listening.. (although if you’re of a nervous disposition, approach the Converge track with caution, cheers Matt…)

Musicless Videos….

November 25, 2015 Leave a comment

Short and sweet this one.

Its a simple idea and there are a fair few of them around, but these three amused me greatly this evening, especially the Jamiroquai one, I just love the squeaky shoes…

Chris Squire – RIP

June 29, 2015 Leave a comment

I’m very saddened to learn of the death yesterday (27th June) from leukaemia, of Chris Squire, the bass player and only member of the prog band Yes to play on every single studio record they made, from their formation way back in 1968 until last years… erm, whatever it was called (to be honest, I gave up listening to the new records many moons ago…)

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But back in my teenage days, I was a huge Yes fan. I got my mum to embroider their wondrous Roger Dean designed logo on the back of my denim jacket, bought American imports of records I already had just because they had different covers and paid ridiculous sums of money for 12″ singles on blue vinyl…

The trio of records they released during 1971 and 72, namely The Yes Album, Fragile and Close to the Edge meant more to me musically than virtually anything else, and until my discovery of Kraftwerk and Tangerine Dream in the mid 80’s when I went to Uni and headed inexorably towards the electronica that makes my ears happy today, I would eagerly espouse their merits to anyone within earshot…. I still rate Close to Edge very highly, so much so it inspired one of my tattoos

A truly phenomenal bass player, the complex patterns, lines and rhythms Chris created using his trademark Rickenbacker 4001 are certainly not to everyone’s taste, but his technical ability was beyond doubt. The sad irony is that I saw an advert only 2 days ago in Saturday’s Guardian Guide for a Yes gig next year at the Albert Hall, where they planned to play two albums, Fragile and Drama all the way through… And said I should go, for old times sake, and I admit I was thinking about it…

Now I guess it won’t happen… Yes are famous for having replaced every single member of the band at one time or the other over their 46 odd year career, but somehow a Yes without Chris Squire, surely that’s a step too far. The journey had to end sometime…

Steve Cobby : Everliving

May 25, 2015 Leave a comment

After what seems like an age of not having written anything, I’m back with renewed vigor and enthusiasm after a week in the sun, suggesting things you didn’t know you wanted to know about, but that I find fascinating…

EverlivingFirst up is one of dance music’s truly unsung geniuses whose newly released album Everliving is very, very good indeed…

I first met Mr Steve Cobby in the mid 90’s when he was one half of a band called Fila Brazillia with Dave McSherry. My good friend Danny Kudos was in the enviable position of manufacturing and distributing all the excellent music put out by Fila and the other electronica bands on Hull’s finest label, Pork Recordings, a label jointly started by Steve and the semi-legendary Dave (Porky) Brennand.

Me & Dan saw Steve and the other Pork boys whenever they came down to London to play (which was often) in excellent venues that no longer exist: upstairs at Turnmills, The 333, The Vibe Bar and The Blue Note to name but 4. As an aside, they were the very first DJ’s I knew about that used CDJ’s, lugging their own machines all the way down from Hull…

Anyway, with the release of this new album, it’s reassuring to learn that Steve is creatively still firing on all cylinders. Everliving is a wonderful thing: down tempo, up tempo, reminiscent, contemporary, familiar and challenging all at the same time. Everything you would expect and more…. The cover painting by Derklox-Cloxboy is pretty excellent as well…

Fila Brazillia’s LP’s “Maim That Tune” and “Old Codes, New Chaos” and Steve’s previous solo work as Solid Doctor (especially “Beats Means Highs”) have never left my all time favorite records lists, but other than odd snippets from Danny, I’d lost touch a bit with Steve’s more recent career if I’m honest. I’d listened to (and enjoyed) last years Saudade LP, but it didn’t grab me in the same that Everliving has over the last week or so…

But after a quick search through the web, it turns out that Mr. Cobby has been anything but slack, writing under a string of aliases, including J.J. Fuchs, J*S*T*A*R*S and The Cutler (with Porky) and has fingers in many other projects, including producing the music that accompanied Hull’s successful City of Culture bid for 2017; forming Hey, Rube! with Stephen Malinder, ex Cabaret Voltaire. Needless to say I was a massive Cabs fan back in the day (a link to their band camp page is here, and it’s sounding pretty good to my ears).

And finally it seems that Steve has been working alongside Darren Emerson, yet another person I rate very highly, on his (hopefully) soon to be released solo album.

Honestly you turn you back for a minute….

Secret 7″. Still not good enough…

March 29, 2015 6 comments

Sadly my three submissions for this years competition have been rejected once again, which apart from being disappointing, is a bit of a shame as I’d tried to assess why last years efforts didn’t make it and do something more in keeping with those that got chosen, i.e. less photos, more colours, less realism, more graphics…

Maybe I shouldn’t feel too bad. There were over 4500 entries for the 700 sleeves available, which if you’re new to the excellent Secret 7″ project, equates to 100 separate, individual designs for each of their seven chosen songs. I also imagine that another 100 or so sleeves will be allocated to guests and invited artists submissions (which is totally fair enough btw) so the actual sleeves available for the rest of us is probably nearer 600.

Still as with last years, I really enjoyed making them, so I’ll probably give it another whirl next year… It’ll be interesting to see the exhibition at Somerset House in a couple of weeks time, see what I can learn this time around.. (which is probably that I will always be a year behind in terms of style…)

My submissions were a suitably psychedelic sleeve for Let Forever Be, by The Chemical Brothers: JA_Chemical Brothers_smlThe imprints of hammer blows for Peter Gabriel’s Sledgehammer:

JA_Peter Gabriel_smlAnd the silhouette of a greyhound for Underworld’s Born Slippy…

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