Saturday, 26 November 2022

Cos It's Good For My Voice

 It is a by-word for luxury motoring.  Ask someone, anyone to name the luxurious car, and their response will be Skoda Favorit Rolls-Royce.

Established in 1904 when Charles Rolls and Henry Royce joined forces with the express intention of making the worlds most luxurious car.  And with Royce's Model 10, selling through Roll's car dealership the quest began.
The company re-located to larger premises in Derby and began work on a flagship new model.  This is also marked a notable change in stance, as all previous models were discontinued and all efforts focussed on a single model - making it the best it possibly could be.
They also found the time and capability to diversify into the aero-engine market, and it was Rolls-Royce engines that powered the first transatlantic flight in 1919.
A slight slump in sales after Word War I led to the introduction of a smaller, cheaper (but no less luxurious) model, before Rolls-Royce were able to expand by acquiring Bentley.
With support from the British Government, Rolls-Royce went deeper into aero engine production, building the Merlin and Griffon engines that were strapped to, most notably, the Spitfire in World War II.
After the War, Rolls-Royce sought to bring all production in-house buying panel pressing companies and coachbuilders , and by 1950 launched the ultra-luxurious Phantom IV.  In 6 years, only 18 were built and the policy of "Royalty and Heads Of State only" applied.
The Phantom V though, launched in 1959 did not apply this policy, and with money sloshing around the music industry, owners of this vehicle (apart from Queen Elizabeth II) included Elvis Presley, John Lennon (famously with a psychedelic paint job), Liberace, and some time later Elton John.
(Nicolae Ceausescu also had a Phantom V, but when you only make just over 80 cars a year you can't always be too choosy about who buys them).
But despite being a by-word for luxury, famous owners, and a rock solid reputation, Rolls-Royce seemingly over-stretched themselves and by 1971 were facing receivership, and were nationalised (primarily due to the importance of the aero-engine production).
By 1973, a new Rolls-Royce Car company was launched and the range expanded to include Convertible and Coupe version of the iconic Silver Shadow.
But with cash running low again, Rolls-Royce was sold on to Defence, Shipbuilding and Engineering company Vickers .
New models arrived in the 1980s - they had the opulence, but lacked something of the "magic" of earlier models, and Rolls-Royce was sold on again to Volkswagen in 1999, and then again 5 years later to BMW.

Marc Bolan was born Mark Feld in London's Eat End in 1947.  As a teenager he had a deep interest in 2 things - clothes and music.
It was the clothes that first brought attention to Mark Feld - first as a model in clothing catalogues, and then featured in a magazine article about burgeoning Mods about Town.
He then turned his attention to the music and found a manager who put him into a demo studio.  Nothing came of those first recordings, but in short order he changed management and name - to Toby Tyler - donned a corduroy cap and returned to the studio with (if we're being honest) sub-Donovan folk whimsy.
After another change of name and a new record label brought no success, Marc Bolan (as he was now monikered) knocked on the door of Simon Napier-Bell and announced he was going to be a star.
Napier-Bell initially pushed the solo route, but another single with no success led to the thought that Bolan could be placed in one of the two bands he also managed.
Briefly considered for Ther Yardbirds, Bolan joined up with John's Children, just in time for a riotous tour of Germany with The Who (where they out Who'd The Who).
His time with John's Children was brief and he departed to form his own band.  He advertised for musicians in Melody Maker, assembled a band, and played their first gig as a full-on rock band.  Problem was, the formation and the gig happened in about 3 days flat, so the band disbanded as quickly as it formed.
Retaining the drummer, Marc Bolan stripped back the sound, upped the mystical sub-Tolkienisms, sat cross-legged on the stage and Tyrannosaurus Rex was born.
And fairly quickly picked up 2 influential supporters - John Peel gave them air-time and exposure, Tony Visconti worked closely with Marc Bolan to hone and define the soundscape.
By 1970, it was becoming clear that the mysticism and poetry was not finding a mass market - there had been some success with a couple of singles, but the albums found only a niche / culty audience.
The sound was beefed-up, and the name abbreviated and by late in the year "Ride A White Swan" was a hit, and Marc Bolan was keeping his promise to Simon Napier-Bell of being a star.
2 number one singles, a number 2, and a number one album in 1971 assured the position.
1972 was really the peak of popularity for Marc Bolan and T.Rex - his own record label (supported by EMI), 2 more number one singles, another number one album (plus a resurgence of interest in early Tyrannosaurus Rex material, and a cash-in compilation album from his previous record label) his own film (directed by Ringo Starr), and spending a total of 58 weeks on the singles chart.
The last single of 1972 - "Children Of The Revolution" - was held off the Christmas Number One spot by Little Jimmy Osmond's "Long Haired Lover From Liverpool".  This continued the sequence of losing out on the top spot to novelty records.  In 1970 "Ride A White Swan" lost out to Clive Dunn's "Grandad", and in 1971 "Jeepster" played second-fiddle behind Benny Hills "Ernie (The Fastest Milkman In The West)"

Despite car references peppering his song titles and lyrics:

  • "Mustang Ford"
  • "Buick McKane"
  • "Hot Rod Mama"
  • "You're built like a car, You've got a hubcap diamond star halo" - from "Get It On"
  • "Just like a car, You're pleasing to behold, I'll call you Jaguar if I may be so bold" - from "Jeepster"
  • "Take me down to the country honey, in a Jeep that's neat" - from "Country Honey"
Marc Bolan never had a driving licence, so when in 1972 "Children Of The Revolution" he stated "I drive a Rolls-Royce, cos it's good for my voice", what he should've said was: "I get chauffered in a Rolls-Royce, saves me losing my voice shouting at other road users"

Children Of The Revolution

Wednesday, 16 November 2022

It Just Happens To Be That Year

In 1947 the Austin Motor Company tasked it's subsiduary, coach-builders Vanden Plas, to design and build a high end luxury vehicle.  The original competitors were perceived as Bentley and Rolls-Royce, but available at less than half the cost.
In the early 1950s, Austin was subsumed/combined in the British Motor Corporation, and both the Princess and Vanden Plas badges were used to signal luxury versions of existing BMC vehicles.

BMC brought together the marques Austin, Morris, MG, Riley and Wolseley.  Jaguar joined the party in 1966, and then later merged with the Leyland Corporation which owned Triumph.
The main problem for BMC was a reliance on basically the same vehicles but bearing different badges.
After the merger, British Leyland was formed with the express intention to stop the badge-engineered duplication of vehicles.
The first fruits of this strategy were the Austin Allegro and Morris Marina - not exactly awe-inspiring looking cars (or reliable cars for that matter) but it did show that British Leyland was putting a stop to the duplicity in the range.

In 1975, British Leyland looked to fill a gap in the market (that didn't really exist) with a luxury family car, and the Princess name was resurrected.
The car was a relatively radical design - a wedge shape - which suggested aerodynamic sleekness (even though it has the aerodynamics of a breeze block.
The original intent was to have a hatchback hence the sloping back, but British Leyland decided that the existing Maxi was to be the hatchback in it's range, so the Princess was given a solid back end with a boot of a compromised size.
The Mark 1 version was a return to BMC's previous problems, by creating Austin, Morris and Wolseley variants of the same vehicle.  The basic design was the same, and the differences subtle - mainly bonnet lines, front grilles, and headlight configurations.
In terms of luxury, it was only the Wolseley variant which provided this with uprated trim levels and larger, smoother engines.
The Mark 2 was badged as British Leyland, ending the different badge names, but was also being built through times of Industrial strife for British Leyland.
Build quality, realiability, and reputation all affected sales.  As did it's pricing position - it was basically more expensive than each of it's competitors, and was also loading out to increasing imports of more realiable (and better looking) Japanese cars.
In the early 80s, the Austin-Rover Group (as British Leyland consolidated, streamlined, and renamed itself) gave it one more shot with the launch of the Austin Ambassador.
The design was similar, if more rounded, and it was eventually given a hatchback.  But the same issues prevailed - reputation, reliability, pricing - and production ceased within 2 years.

Graham Fellowes was a drama student at Manchester University when he asked in a local record shop if they knew of any independent labels that might release a couple of songs he'd written.
He was directed to Rabid Records, who picked up on the demos and with Martin Hannett at the controls, released the record - albeit in limited numbers.
One of these found it's way to John Peel who suggested on air that if the record were picked up by a record company with larger means then they might have a success on their hands.
EMI International did just that, and shipped nigh on of 500,000 copies of "Jilted John" / "Going Steady".
They even provided the funds to allow Graham / John to create a concept album titled 'True Love Stories'.
But John retired at the end of 1978, with Graham Fellowes going on to appear in several episodes of Coronation Street.  Soap star fame did not happen, and by the mid-80s a new character was in development.

John Shuttleworth's first tilt at fame was trying to get his song "Pigeon's In Flight" accepted as the British entry for Eurovison.
But fame and notoriety probably doesn't sit comfortably with John, preferring the mundane, normal, and very probably dull.
John's "unique style" of songs celebrate(?) the horror of finding 2 open margarine tubs in the fridge, the greatness of the A1111, balancing the notty problem of having 1 or 2 cups of tea, the inability to return to savoury course once you've started on your pudding.

John drives an Austin Ambassador.  A 1982 Y Registration version.

Friday, 11 November 2022

A Celebration

Not content with being one of the biggest manufactureres in the US, a strong presence in Europe, a successful motor sport programme, and continually securing the top seller spot in the UK, Ford decided that they wanted to enter the small car market in 1972.
The prime competition was seen as the Mini and the Fiat 127.  Development began just as the 1973 Oil crisis took hold and the world was clamouring for smaller, more efficient vehicles.

Originally named Bravo, Henry Ford II instructed a rename to his preferred choice of Fiesta - the Spanish word for a celebration.  And furthering the Spanish connection, Ford invested in factory space in Spain, and expanded it's Dagenham plant to provide the components which were bolted together in Valencia.
The Fiesta was launched in 1976 (arriving in Britain in 1977), and very quickly beat off the competition to join stablemates the Cortina and Escort at the top of the sales lists.

The Fiesta was briefly entered into rallying and proved relatively successful, but the force of Ford Motorsport remained with the Escort - the pre-eminate rally vehicle before the Audi Quattro re-wrote the rulebook with 4 wheel drive.
The dalliance with Motorsoprt led to the introduction of the 1.3 Supersport version, partly to expand the range but mostly as Ford's competitors were developing their own "hot hatch" variants.
This was soon followed by the XR2 which pretty much became the benchmark affordable hot hatch (OK, it wasn't truly "hot" having less power than it's main rivals.  But it was cheap to buy, cheap to run, relatively reliable, and looked the part).

Since it's launch there have been 7 Marks of the Fiesta, always popular and selling well.  It's estimated that over it's lifetime, the Fiestas has sold over 22 million units.  So when it was announced that June 2023 would see the last Fiesta roll of the production it was difficult to understand why.  There is seemingly no direct small car/supermini replacement on the way.  Maybe Ford is just looking to refine the range and focus on multiple use Electric Vehicles - it's prime candidate being the Focus.

So, after 47 years I guess it's time to say adiĆ³s

Around the time that the Fiesta was transitioning from the Mark 1 to the Mark 2, squatmates and ex-members of The Nips and The Millwall Chainsaws joined forces to form Pogue Mahone with the intention of combining Punk with traditional Irish Music.

Led by the prolific writer and drinker Shane MacGowan, the band expanded and became as solid as Shane was unstable.
They quickly established a live reputation around the London circuit, andtheir first recordings - "Dark Streets of London" / "And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda" was released on their own Pogue Mahone label, gaining national airplay on Radio 1 and invitations from John  Peel for Radio sessions.
The band named was altered to The Pogues when they were subsequently banned by the BBC when it was pointed out that the Gaelic translation of their name was Kiss My Arse.

Supporting The Clash on their 1984 Tour brought more attention, and most importantly a record contract from Stiff Records.
They entered the studio and within a month their debut album 'Red Roses For Me' was recorded and readied for release.
Critically hailed, but not translating to commercial success did nothing to knock the spirit out of the band.  Their live shows continued to be the cornerstone of their reputation.
The problem was getting that re-created in the studio and down on record.

And that was just the job taken on, and pretty much delivered, by Elvis Costello with 1985s 'Rum, Sodomy And The Lash'.
He manged to capture (or closely capture at least) the bands live show.  However he was also getting romantically involved with Pogues bassist Cait O'Riordan, which soured the relationship, and Elvis stepped aside (subsequently marrying Cait, resulting in her leaving the band)

Re-configured with a new bassist, The Pogues were invited by Irish Folk royalty The Dubliners to perform "The Irish Rover" on Irish TV.
Released as a single, The Pogues & The Dubliners secured a top 10 single, but ...
This success also coincided with Stiff Records tanking, meaning any profile they'd gained was (possibly) being slowly eroded as they were unable to record or release any new material.
By early 1987, the Stiff situation was resolved and the bands own label Pogue Mahone was re-lifed under the support of Warner Music.

They linked up with producer Steve Lillywhite and entered the studio with a mix of old demos and new music.  Lillywhite assisted with arranging the new material, and dusted down the old demos recorded with Elvis Costello.
Amongst the tapes he found an raw duet between Shane and Cait, reciting a tale of a down and out couple in New York.  The backing track was re-recorded, and Lillywhite was working on them further in hos home studio when he asked his wife - Kirsty MacColl - to add a guide vocal with Shane's part to be recorded later.
Shane recorded his parts, and Kirsty's guide vocal remained untouched - indeed the two never met in the studio for the recording of this song.  One of the first times they did come together to perform it, was a mimed version on Top Of The Pops.

Released in late November 1987, "Fairytale Of New York" quickly started selling a rising the charts - ultimately denied the coverted Christmas Number 1 slot by Pet Shop Boys version of "Always On My Mind".
"Fairytale ..." has latterly received more official re-releases and is now recognised as a Christams "classic" of modern times (ie one of the seven that will be played on a loop in every Shopping Centre throughout December)

The success of "Fairytale .." boosted sales of it's parent album 'If I should Fall From Grace With God' when it arrived in early 1988.  It is a very good album - maybe a little smoother with less rough edges than previous, but shows The Pogues pushing on and proving themselves to be a very capable, inventive band, and the songs encapsualte many of Shane's most poetic storytelling lyrics.
Personally, I think 'Rum, Sodomy And The Lash' is a stronger album (just my opinion).  The presence of "Fairytale .." I am sure pushes focus (and sales) towards 'If I Should Fall From Grace With God', but it should be remembered that there are 14 other tracks on there too.

This being one of them:


Thursday, 3 November 2022

Foxton & Hastings - The Butterfly Effect

 From The Jam bandmates branch out under their own names.  This being their third joint offering - 2012’s Back in the Room, 2016’s Smash the Clock - and is another consumate collection of tracks that nag like you've heard them before and ultimately reward as a stand-alone work.
The Tribute Band might be the day job (and a very popular one at that), but after nearly 15 years working together Bruce and Russell have forged a strong writing partnership with a nod to their influences, their past, and their on stage presence.
I can't be the only one hoping they sneak in a few tracks into their From The Jam shows - they have done it before, much to my enjoyment (but not always that of the crowd as they fall a bit silent patiently waiting for another Jam shout-a-long).

'The Butterfly Effect' is comforting in that it's like a run through a fine record collection mixing Motown, psychedelia, Beatles, Small Faces, and a bit of blue-eyed soul.
Influence worn on the sleeve certainly, but no this is no copy-cat collection.  This is an album stuffed full of great tunes delivered with confidence, recognition of the past, and one eye on the future.

The vocals are strong, the bass is strong, the drums are solid (courtesy of Mark Brzezicki) - in fact that is a basic fundamental throughout the whole album.

"Electronic Lover" re-imagines the bassline from The Beatles "Come Together" adds a bit of Yardbirds and (to these ears at least) a smidgeon of Sam & Dave.  "Feet Of the Ground" has a chilled summery feel, almost Jazzy and a nod perhaps to the soulful stylings of where Bruce's ex-bandmate went next.  "Wanted" performs a similar trick (and dare I say this) is not far from a Paul Weller track (Russell Hastings is no mimic, he's just blessed with a voice that sounds like Mr W)

Lead single "Lula" storms along (I hope that is one they decide to put in their live shows.  And the next track - "She Said" - power pop par excellence (with added mandolin).

"Circles" is a storming rocker lifting the tone and is  followed by the horn-drenched "Time On Your Side" (very probably one of the best tracks here).
"Two Of Us" maintains the intereest with echoes of the past again with Small Faces-like "sha-la-las" (sounds a bit rubbish when written down, but believe me, it has earworm written all through it)

The mood slows with the contemplative "Rain" bridging into the string washing of "Too Old To Cry, Too Young To Die".  The jazzy feel of "Walking With Me" continues the downbeat tone.  The grouping of these 3 songs together is I think the right thing - separated and peppered elsewhere on the album, I think they would lose impact.

How do you close an album?  Well you need something upbeat and epic.  And "Anything You Want" does just that.  A horn driven intro opening into a verse, middle eight chorus as good as anything on this album.  And then a swirling Hammond kicks in completing the picture.  There are echoes of "Got To Get You Into My Life" in the horns and chorus melody, and an almost Revolver-esque pschy coda.
But I repeat coincidence and influence - as Foxton and Hastings say: "It's not about "oh this one must sound like The Who, let's stick a bit of Beatles in here and some Jam there", it's about is it a good tune or not?"
And they are all fine tunes constituting a very very fine album - best consumed in one sitting to take in all the various influences and rises and fall in mood.

It's a fine album and one I hope finds a bigger audience and outlet than the Merch table at a From The Jam gig.  It deserves it.

She Said

Time On Your Side

Anything You Want

Monday, 31 October 2022

Paul Heaton & Jacqui Abbott - NK Pop

When Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott re-group to release a new album, one can pretty much guess the order of play.
Songs bouncing around musical styles, some perfect blending of vocals, wit and acerbic lyrics, maybe some political comment, some choice rhyming couplets explaining a phrase or feeling to a tee.
And 'NK Pop' delivers what one expects.

From songs about Pubs and clientele that have perhaps seen better days ("Good Times"), more examinations of the human condition and relationships ("Too Much For One (Not Enough For Two)", "I Drove Her Away With All My Tears"), some upbeat feelgood rails against the world ("When The World Would Actually Listen", "Sunny Side Up"), and a touch of the finest balladry ("Who Built The Pyramids").  All tacked to varying Rockabilly, Ska, Music Hall, a dash of disco funk, and unadulterated radio-friendly Pop backing.
It has the ability to raise a smile, a knowing nod of recognition, and also a sharp intake of breath ("Still") as our narrators take on the stark reality of an uncommon subject for song, infant mortality.

The album rises and falls in mood, but never relents and continues the run of a very fine catalogue of songs.
It is arguably a bit too smooth and could maybe benefit with a little more fire or barb in the lyrics, but 'NK Pop' will deliver a comfortable listen with no skipping necessary.

Paul Heaton's recording career goes back 35+ years, and Jacqui Abbott's approaching 30 years.  Between them they continue to produce strong songs with glorious melody and harmony.
Is there a duffer in the back catalogue of The Housemartins, The Beautiful South, and Paul and Jacqui's combined work?  I'm not sure there is to be honest

And the videos they produce are none too shabby either.
Exhibit A: Too Much For One (Not Enough For Two) featuring Trev and Simon, and Phil Daniels

Sunday, 23 October 2022

Where My Studebaker Takes Me

The Studebaker Company was formed in 1852 manufacturing horse drawn carriages and wagons.
It can lay claim to a number of firsts in the automobile industry, namely:

  • first electric car (1910)
  • first labour strike in the industry (1913)
  • first manufacturer to build it's own development track (1925)
  • first to go into receivership (1933 - it did survive for another 33 years though)
After World War 2 though, Studebaker - like many Independent manufacturers - was just unable to compete with the Big Three (Ford, General Motors and Chrysler).  In 1963, it began winding down operations, and was later sold/merged with Packard (another independent car maker).  The last independent Studebaker rolled off the production line in 1967.

The Studebaker is not mentioned much in popular culture though - The Muppets had a 1951 Studebaker Commander in 1979s Muppet Movie, but no other major film outing that I know of.
And song wise?  The vehicle is mentioned in some songs, and obvious one being Billy Joels's "We Didn't Start The Fire".  Steve Miller went down to Mexico in one, but the Studebaker references are few and far between.  And certainly not in the UK.  Or is that true ...

It is possibly one of the greatest debut singles, and the songs itself is one of those that doesn't mention the title until the very last words.

The greatness of Roxy Music can be divined as to when you first heard them.  If you caught them at their debut album, or the couple after then they were probably the most exciting bands out there, and not simple to pigeon-hole (are they Glam? are they Prog? are they Art Rock?  Is that a bit of Jazz in there somewhere?).

If however it was later on when Bryan Ferry was in full lounge lizard mode (circa "Jealous Guy" / "Avalon") then there's a chance that Roxy Music would be re-defined as Poxy Music and generally laughed off.

1980s Roxy Music (Ferry, Manzenera, and Mackay) can also lay claim to be possibly the oddest inclusion in the Smash Hits Sticker Book .  The 3 stickers of them showing them standing (almost accountant-like) on a South Of France beach, just seemed out of place alongside Culture Club, Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet (mind you, The Fall, Cliff Richard, and David Essex were also in there)

Hearing "Street Life" rectified my stupidity, and I scurried backwards and found myself feeling a proper fool

Formed in 1970 by Bryan Ferry, Andy Mackay and Brian Eno (a self-confessed non-musicain, but he owned a synthesizer and joined a a Technical Consultant).  The line-up was completed by Phil Manzanera and Paul Thompson.
Ferry had previously auditioned for the vacant vocalist slot in King Crimson - he was not successfful, but King Crimson were impressed enough to get EG Management to handle him.  And it was EG that funded the recording of the debut album, and then placed Roxy Music with Island Records for release in 1972.
With Island's backing "Virginia Plain" was recorded as a stand-alone single to promote the album.
It's fair to say that their appearance on Top Of The Pops was one of those iconic "stop the world" moments, and pretty much assured Roxy's legend and legacy.

'For Your Pleasure' picks up where the eponymous debut leaves off, and in no way suffers from Second Album Syndrome.  If I'm pushed, I prefer 'For Your Pleasure' (probably more due to the presence of "In Every Dream Home A Heartache", than any specific artistic or technical merit)
However it was to be the last album with Brian Eno, who left to pursue a solo career citing artisitic and personality differences with Bryan Ferry.  Others in the band were also experiencing similar, but decided to stick with it.

The loss of Eno may have left a hole in the experimental tendencies, but in no way affected their commercial appeal.  The next 2 albums  'Stranded' and 'Country Life' may well be their peak outings.  Maybe not as experimental or eclectic as previous 2, but no less essential.  Roxy at full pomp.

'Siren' rounds off Phase 1 in no little style - some critics cite 'Siren' as the best of the bunch.  It is a very very good album, but I can't find enough to place it above the first 4.

They split in 1976 (at the end of the tour) and pursued their own Projects and diversions, before re-uniting again.

Roxy returned in 1979 with 'Manifesto' - the bombast of old has been smoothed, and the feel is more an extension of Bryan Ferry's solo world.  There is no doubt Ferry is calling the shots - 'Manifesto' just doesn't feel as complete.  This state of affairs continues with 'Flesh + Blood' (although I think this album is slightly better)
'Avalon' though is stronger again, but listening in retrospect one can't help note that this is a band running to a standstill - they can't just replicate past glories, but attempts to move into new sounds find them softening and almost trying too hard.

Virginia Plain

Like any truly iconic moment, it's one that is ripe for comparison, tribute, and even gentle ribbing

Vic Reeves & Bob Mortimer (both big Roxy Music fans themselves) perform Virginia Plain

Thursday, 6 October 2022

I really wish I had a Cortina

I firmly believe that anyone who grew up in Britain in the 1970s had at least 3 degrees removal experience of either a Ford Escort of Ford Cortina.

When I sold my Chevette (with only a minor cash loss - surprising considering it was basically knackered), there were 2 cars I considered - a Vauxhall Cavalier or a Ford Cortina.  Stalwarts of the burgeoning Sales Rep / Company Car market.  I went for the Vauxhall, but many of my friends chose the Dagenham Dustbin.
Having driven many I can get why - it was a comfortable ride, well appointed, and with rear wheel drive you could get the back out on corners if you really wanted to do (boy racer dreams of the past).
They were also cheap as chips and readily available (which means they were also many dogs out there).  The Cavalier just felt a little more refined and slightly better equiped - although with front wheel drive going round corners sideways wasn't easily doable.

The Cortina started life in 1962 when Ford wanted to produce a volume family sized car to compete with the Austin Cambridge, Morris Oxford and Vauxhall Victor.  Not only did they want to compete, they wanted to make it better and sell more units.
When the Mark 1 was released (under the name Consul Cortina) sales were swift, and further boosted by a starring role in Carry On Cabby, where a fleet of Mark 1s were used by Hattie Jacques all-female rival (Glamcabs) to Sid James's Speedee Cabs.
A minor facelift in 1964 dropped the Consul name, and added a Lotus co-design to the range - a car that competed successfully in Rallying and was later to prove victorious in Saloon Car Racing.
The Mark 2 arrived in 1966, and by 1967 was the best selling car in the UK.  Always near the top of the sales list, from 1972 to 1981, it was the best selling car in the UK through all future variants (Mark 3, Mark 4 and Mark 5) until the end of it's life (in 1982) and subsequent replacement by the Ford Sierra.

In the Summer of 79, Lewes residents Jez Bird and Doug Sanders were wearing sharp suits and playing high energy R'n'B locally.  They may not have been unaware of the burgeoning Mod Revival, but what they were doing was not a reaction to, or an attempt to join it.  They were aware of something, but only in their hometown.
However, their first gig came when they talked themselves onto the bill at Hastings Pier supporting The Chords, The Purple Hearts, The Teenbeats, The Fixations, and The Scooters.  Not solely due to the fact they had a The in their name, they were now part of the Revival.
Gigs followed in London, and an approach came from Rocket Records (one of many record companies looking to cash in on the next big thing).

Under the charge of Pete Waterman (and I don't care what anyone thinks of the bloke, he is a music fan fist and foremost, and knows when something is good), they went into the studio with Waterman's producer and business partner Peter Collins.  Their first single - "Go Steady" - didn't break the charts, but their growing reputation saw to it that follow-up single - a cover of "Poison Ivy" - broke the Top 10.
The B-Side to "Go Steady" was a track called "Cortinas" - this was re-recorded for the album 'Beat Boys In The Jet Age' as "Cortina Mk 2"

Like all things Mod, it's the attention to detail in the lyrics which is noted.

"Column change is neat neat neat,
Gives you room for manoeuvre on the front bench seat,
And the disc brakes hold you if you're inclined,
The rear light clusters are a modern design"

"It's a guarantee of sexual conquest,
But be sure to choose a model with retractable arm-rest,
And if she wants to make up,
You can really suprise her,
There's a vanity mirror on the nearside visor"

Not sure about the guarantee of sexual conquest, but the rest could come straight out of the sales brochure

The Lambrettas - Cortina Mark 2

On his first album, Tom Robinson sung about a "Grey Cortina" with a whiplash aeriel, racing trim, a rusty bumper, and a twin exhaust.  He also said he had it fitted with and eight-track machine blaring Brucie Springsteen.  All fine so far, but then he lets himself down with the line "Speed police too slow to nick it".  The Ford Cortina had the aerodynamics of a brick, so it was unlikely the a trained police driver (usually driving a Rover V8, tuned Ford Granada, or possibly a Jaguar XJ6) would be left trailing in the wake of a knackered Cortina.

Tom Robinson Band - Grey Cortina

And just to prove that the ubiquity of the Cortina was not con fined to the UK, it also enjoyed high sales in the Republic of Ireland.  When The Saw Doctors are wanting to evoke memories of childhood and first crushes at school, a red Cortina is the chosen vehicle fior her father to drop her off at the school gates.
(Not a song about a Cortina per se, buit a great song that just happens to mention one)

The Saw Doctors - Red Cortina

Friday, 30 September 2022

My Baby Drove Off In A Brand New Cadillac

Madness once said: "Think of seven letters, begin and end in C, like a big American car, but it's spelt with a D".
They were trying to invoke a thought of "Cardiac" which admittedly has 7 letters, and begins and ends in C.  But spelt with a D?  But Cadillac has 8 letters ...
(I'll stop now because I'm over-thinking it again)

Cadillac the company came to life in 1902 (making it the ninth oldest in the world and fourth oldest in the US).  By 1909 it was acquired by General Motors - which already owned 2 the other 3 (Buick and Oldsmobile).
And when they did get under GM's wing, they taught the Industry about inter-changeable parts and mass production techniques - first done by Henry Ford with the Model T, but Cadillac were doing across their entire vehicle range.
Luxury Cars was their stock trade - for "Luxury" read "Massive Boats", and the development of their V8 engine ensured that the cars got bigger and bigger.  And they stayed that way.
In an old Top Trumps pack, the 1974 Cadillac Elderado Fleetwood was a key card - it had the biggest engine (8.2 litres) and the largest dimensions.  Granted it could still be trounced on top speed or number of cylinders, but if played properly it was a general winner.

The Cadillac is mentioned in numerous songs

  • Bruce Springsteen (and later Natalie Cole) has a 'Pink Cadillac'
  • Hot Chocolate found Heaven on the Back Seat of a Cadillac
  • Johnny Cash built one One Piece At A Time
  • Marc Bolan promised to buy his latest beau one
  • The Stray Cats told us all to look at one
  • Arianne Grande (singer or font?) sung about riding round in one remembering when her and a special friend first met
  • Jimmy Liggins (as far back as 1948) Boogie Woogied with one and kept rolling along
  • Camper Van Beethoven found Joe Stalin's Cadillac.  And ones also owned by Lyndon B Johnson, General Pinochet, and Samoza
  • Imelda May just wanted hers back - her boyfriend left but all she wanted was the car back
  • Lightnin Hopkins had the big black Cadillac Blues
  • Dwight Yoakam has a Long White one

But there is one song that was once called a "key part of the development of British Rock n Roll", and then largely forgotten about until The Clash covered it on 'London Calling' 

Vince Taylor started out hanging around the 2i's Coffee Bar.  There he met Tony Meehan and formed a band called The Playboys to back the newly monikered singer - he chose the name Vince from some Latin written on a Pall Mall cigarette packet.  Taylor?  Maybe he just liked the sound of it (I can find no evidence as to why it was chosen).
Still - bearing in mind that Larry Parnes was recruiting in the 2i's he could've ended up being called Brian Angry or something.

With his re-configured Playboys (without Tony Meehan, who'd joined The Shadows instead) he signed to Parlephone and released two singles - "I Like Love" and "Right Behind You Baby".  Although not successful, Parlephone persevered and released "Pledgin' My Love" with "Brand New Cadillac" on the B Side.  But still success eluded him, and Parlephone ended the contract.
Undetterred, he signed with a minor label and released another single.  And you've guessed it - nothing doing.
Even appearing on Oh Boy alongside Cliff Richard, or a new ABC Television show with Dickie Pride, Billy Fury, Joe Brown, Jess Conrad, Little Tony, and Johnny Kidd & The Pirates did nothing for his profile or sales.

'Brand New Cadillac' though had found favour on the continent, and specifically in Scandinavia where it was given the cover version treatment to some notable success.

At odds with his charismatic stage persona, off-stage he was sullen and suffered erratic mood swings, and drinking and drugging didn't help matters.
The Playboys went through various line-up changes, and due to continental success re-located to France where Vince Taylor was rewarded with a 6 year contract with the Barclay label.

Success (albeit not in his homeland) though did nothing to alter his mood, and The Playboys were disbanded and re-formed a couple more times before the drink and drugs took hold.  Eddie Barclay though never truly lost faith and offered Vince Taylor the chance to continue recording and performing in the 70s and early 80s.  Over time though, performances became more and more sporadic  It's not that he stopped performing, more that he just didn't bother anymore (or not enough to keep him in the public eye).

Vince Taylor's rise has often been cited (not least by the author himself) as the inspiration (or one of them anyway) for Ziggy Stardust.
David Bowie had met Vince Taylor after one of his breakdowns at a time when he believed himself to be the new messiah and/or some form of alien.
(Gene Vincent, Iggy Pop and Lou Reed are also cited - for a relative unknown rocker, that's quite some company)

Tuesday, 27 September 2022

Suede - Autofiction

And there's me thinking Michael Head has got this years Album Of The Year sewn up, and then this one comes along to make me go "Hmm?"

This is Suede's ninth album, and their fourth since 2010s reformation.  And is probably the best of those 4 (although 2018s dystopian-epic 'The Blue Hour' runs it close)

They have successfully pulled off a re-invention of sorts with each release, and there is a slight feeling of going full-circle with this album.  The songs are tight, the band tighter, and Brett's histrionic vocals on top form.

Some write-ups have referred to this release as "their Punk album" - well, maybe Punk in attitude and exuberance, but not in songcraft and presentation.

Opener "She Still Leads Me On" - Brett Anderson's song to his departed Mother - opens the album, sets out the stall, conjures reminders of the debut, and all-in-all is a copper bottom Suede classic (a trick repeated with "15 Again", and very probably a couple of others here too).

In old money, Side 1 is a superb listen, and closes with "Drive Myself Home" which has the melancholic feeling of an album closer proper - akin to "The Next Life" from the debut.  However, where that one closed the album on a quiet note (I always wanted more out of that album after it ended), this one peaks in a euphoric string section before returning to the plaintive (with a bit of Grimethorpe Colliery Band brass).

But this is no closer, as 'Autofiction' serves up another 5 top notch tracks, the picks being "Black Ice" and "What Am I Without You".  The sweeping epic "Turn Off Your Brain And Yell" rounds off the most complete album since 1996s 'Coming Up'
(and in my confused mind, and where I stand alone, it's still a better album than 'Dog Man Star')

She Still Leads Me On

15 Again

Black Ice

Wednesday, 21 September 2022

It Says Morris On The Door

The Morris Minor was launched in 1948.  It was originally conceived as a low cost Family Vehicle by BMC before World War II, but it's design and development was put on hold.  When the War finished, the plans were pulled from the shelf, re-configured and production began on the new model.  It's price point saw it called "the Vehicle to get Britain back on the roads", and it did that and more.  In it's 23 year life, it became the first UK production car to sell 1,000,000 units, and sold in excess of 1,600,000 when UK production ceased in 1971.
It's birth was not the easiest - as with most British inventions.  The original design for the car was much thinner.  This gave the car a slightly harsh look, and the designer - Alec Issignois - decided to experiment a bit.  He moved the wheels, cut the prototype in two and made the car 4 inches wider to give that now slightly gormless smily look.
However, the tooling had already been manufactured, so a 4 inch plate was inserted giving a rib down the bonnet line.  In retrospect, this bodge actually enhanced the overall design.

Chris Foreman worked for Camden Town Council Parks Department with Lee Thompson.  They joined up with Lee's mate Mike Barson to form The North London Invaders in 1976.
By 1978, after just about everyone in the band had been sacked and re-instated, the line-up finalised and the band re-named themselves Morris And The Minors - a name inspired by the Camden Council van and their band transport.  The name lasted for one gig, before a new name chosen from the set-list and Madness was born.

Their transport was celebrated 4 years later with the release of "Driving In My Car"

"I've been driving in my car, It's not quite a Jaguar"
True when it was launched the Morris Minor cost just under £250.  An E-Type Jaguar of the same age was a shade under £2.500.  So by that comparison, a Morris Minor was tenth of a Jaguar.  But in a mirror of Price vs Sales, the E-Type production and sales were a tenth less than the Minor's

"I bought it in Primrose Hill, from a bloke from Brazil"
Primrose Hill is in the Borough of Camden, so they may well have bought it there.  But as the van was borrowed from the Parks Department, it may just have been liberated from the depot in Primrose Hill.
The Brazil line is interesting, as Brazil was one of the last countries to continue manufacturing Minor's after production ceased in the UK.  I'm guessing Mike Barson knew this, and was just adding in a bit of hidden history in the lyrics.

"It was made in fifty-nine, In a factory by the Tyne"
No it wasn't - all Minors in the UK were built at the BMC Cowley plant in Oxford

"It says Morris on the door, The GPO owned it before"
The name Morris was not on the door, it was on the front wings.  But that just mucks up the rhyme in the next line.
The GPO did indeed own a fleet of Morris Minor panel vans similar to the Madness vehicle

"I drive in it for my job, the governor calls me a slob.
But I don't really care, give me some gas and the open air.
It's a bit old but it's mine, I mend it in my spare time.
Just last week I changed the oil, the rocker valves and the coil"
This is possibly the only song I can think of that mentions Rocker Valves - Bruce Springsteen (in "Racing In The Street") tells us he has "69 Chevy with a 396, Fuelie heads and a Hurst on the floor" but never once mentioned the cam shaft balance settings or his ignition system.

"Last week it went 'round the clock, I also heard a little knock.
I dented somebody's fender, He learned not to park on a bender
I've been driving in my car, it don't look much but I've been far.
I drive up to Muswell Hill, I've even been to Selsey Bill
I drove along the A45"

and in the video for the song he didn't stop to give the Fun Boy Three a lift back to Coventry - again  it's the little details.  The A45 does indeed go to Coventry, so Terry, Lynval and Neville were hitching on the correct road (even if their one-time label mates ignored them)

"I had her up to fifty-eight"
This is good going for a nigh-on 20 year old British car whose top speed (in later Series II guise) was 61 mph

"This copper stopped me the other day, "You're mistaken, " what could I say?
The tyres were a little worn, they were OK, I could have sworn.
I like driving in my car, I'm satisfied I've got this far.
I like driving in my car, it don't look much but I've been far.
I like driving in my car, even with a flat tyre.
I like driving in my car, it's not quite a Jaguar.
I like driving in my car, I'm satisfied I've got this far"

"I'm satisfied I've got this far"
At the risk of over-thinking this line, could this be a philosophical review of the last 4 years - 12 singles (10 in the Top 10) including a Number 1, 3 Top 10 albums, and one of those unimpeachable compilation albums in the shape of 'Complete Madness'.
Yep, I'd be quite satisfied too.

Then again, maybe it's just a decent line that rhymes with "Driving in my car"

Wednesday, 14 September 2022

Car Trouble

Owning a car is the final step towards self-mobility, freedom and adulthood (note: I didn't say anything about growing up).
But to achieve this, one first needs to pass the driving test.  I managed it eventually (after 6 failed attempts), and soon threw £700 at a 1980 white (and rust coloured) Vauxhall Chevette GL
(the GL meaning I got a cigarette lighter, a clock, a heated rear window, and cloth and fake leather seats).
In fact, by the time I'd finished with it, the rear of the vehicle read "Vauxhall Chevette 2.8i Ghia Turbo"

And I was free to get my motor running and head out on the highway ... briefly

I think it spent as much time up on ramps as it did on the road - if something could go wrong, it did go wrong.  Eventually, just about every component under the bonnet was replaced.

Car Trouble ... oh yeah!

Adam Ant played bass for London Pub Rock band Bazooka Joe (which also included John Ellis - later of The Vibrators, Arrabella Weir - later of The Fast Show, and Dave Barson - brother of Madness keyboard basher Mike).

Vibrators Trivia Note: The original bassist for Bazooka Joe was Pat Collier, who would join up with John Ellis to form The Vibrators.  Collier's replacement in The Vibrators was Gary Tibbs, who in 1981 would join Adam & The Ants - it's a strange circular world ...

Their place in history was secured when they headlined a show in 1975 at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design.  The support band that night (playing their first ever show) was the Sex Pistols.
Adam Ant left Bazooka Joe soon after to form his own band - The Ants - with encouragement from Jordan (who he appeared with in the film Jubilee) and later support for Malcolm McLaren.

Touring, radio sessions, and positive reviews led to a one-off single - "Young Parisians" - with Decca Records.  However, commercial failure led to Decca dropping the band, and they signed to independent Do It Records.
Do It released a re-recorded version of the planned second Decca single - "Zerox" - followed by the recording an release of first album 'Dirk Wears White Sox'.  The album was a mix of punk, glam, arty affectations - sort of Roxy Music meets Siouxsie & The Banshees.

However, by the end of 1980 manager Malcolm McLaren had nicked the band (to set up Bow Wow Wow) leaving Adam in search of a new band.

And he found one with Marco Pirroni (providing both bass and guitar), Jon Moss filling in on drums, and Chris Hughes (later to become Merrick) producing.  They de-camped to Rockfield Studios and re-recorded "Cartrouble" (or "Cartrouble Part 2" as it was on the album) with a cleaner more commercial sound in an attempt to beat McLaren's Bow Wow Wow to the charts.
Unfortunately it didn't bother the charts, but with the addition of Kevin Mooney (bass), Chris Hughes (Merrick) and Terry Le Miall on twin drums, and a CBS contract, they were soon unplugging the jukebox and doing us all a favour.

Why did the Chevette GL have a heated rear window?
To keep my hands warm when I was pushing it.


Friday, 2 September 2022

Let's Go Round Again

In 1990, Adrian Smith left Iron Maiden.  Bruce Dickinson followed him out in 1993.
In January 1999, both re-joined and the legacy of Iron Maiden was secured, and I think with the albums since then enhanced.

For short periods in 1968 and 1969, both Ringo and George left The Beatles.  Both soon re-joined, and The Beatles future record making was not harmed (even if the life of the band was limited)

Rick Wakeman has left and re-joined Yes no fewer than 4 times (5 if you include the collective of Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman and Howe.  6 if you add Aderson Rabin Wakeman).

Ian Rush left Liverpool for Juventus, and returned after a year - apparently it was like living in a foreign country - and his return did not dent his goalscoring prowess.

Nigel Tufnell left Spinal Tap after his wireless guitar started picking up radio signals on an air-base.  He re-joined soon after when David St Hubbins invited him back on stage a couple of months later.

In 1984, REM advised us Don't Go Back To Rockville (I've never been there in the first place, but I follow the sentiment)

In 2014, Stiff Little Fingers stated they were not going back to their dark places, and the parent album told us, in no uncertain terms, there is No Going Back

Hang on ... what are you banging on about?

My point is for every Frank Lampard returning to Chelsea, there are probably about 20 instances where returning to the scene of glory and comfort is the right thing to do.

About a year ago, I changed jobs - moving from nigh on 30+ years old world of Projects to the new exciting opportunity of IT systems administration.  And I think it has been pretty successful, if not a truly great fit for me personally.  Frankly, I've grown a bit bored of it - there's a lot of repetition, and the peaks and troughs of activity are not easy for my brain to deal with - I much prefer a constant engagements thing, rather than stop-start-stop.
So when the opportunity to return to more comfortable surroundings arose, well there was a little umming and ahhing (and a slight feeling of "have I failed?"), but the move was made, albeit on a "phased transition" over the next couple of months (ie 1 to 2 days in the new role, 3 days in the current one).
It might only be half a week, but I'm enjoying the return to the old world (Brave New World - spot the Iron Maiden reference ...)
And as a brief justification (mainly to myself) - it's not an exact return to my old job, this one is Resource Management (a sort of Project Management / Human Resources hybrid type role).  All about making sure we have the right people, with the right skills, in the right place, at the right time.

So despite conventional wisdom suggesting one should never return to the scene of the crime (or duff firework), that is pretty much what I'm doing - and looking forward to it too.

What better way to celebrate than a slab of 1970s Funk-Soul-R&B

Average White Band - Let's Go Round Again

Sunday, 28 August 2022

The Yardbirds

Recently reading Mick Wall's Led Zeppelin book - When Giants Walked the Earth - I realised I had a fairly intimate knowledge of Zeppelin's music, but had heard very little (and knew probably less) about the band that spawned Led Zeppelin - The Yardbirds
(coincidentally, a new Yardbirds compilation has just been released).
So what have I missed ...

The Yardbirds have cemented their place in history for 2 prime reasons:

  1. For having 3 of the finest British guitarists in their ranks - Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Jimmy Page
  2. When they fell apart, Peter Grant and Jimmy Page needed a band to fulfill contracts for a Scandanavian tour.  That band became arguably the biggest band in the world over it's 12 year existence.
Just a quick note on Mick Wall's book - it's authorised in the fact none of the band have spoken out against it.  Reading it one though can tell the un-authorised nature as, primarily, there are no direct interviews with the protaganists, relying on past conversations or press interviews, and there is much Mick Wall imagined story line explaining how he thinks the protagonist felt on their "journey".
His pre-occupation with Jimmy Page's Aleister Crowley obsession gets a bit wearing too.
On the plus side, it does go some way to de-bunking much of the lascivious tales that made up Hammer Of The Gods.

Anyway, The Yardbirds ...

Formed in 1963 - vocalist and harmonica player Keith Relf (vocals),Chris Dreja (rhythm guitar), Top Topham (lead guitar), Paul Samwell-Smith (bass) and Jim McCarty (drums).
With a set matching the burgeoning UK Rhythm and Blues scene, The Yardbirds eventually soon over Rolling Stones residency at The Crawdaddy Club in Richmond.  By late 1963 Top Topham left to concentrate on his Art School studies, and was replaced by another Art School student, Eric Clapton, in late 1963.  It was this line-up in March 1964 that recorded 'Five Live Yardbirds' at the Marquee Club.

Prime exponents of R&B - time to look for pop success.
They had already scored a minor hit with "Good Morning Little Schoolgirl", and in early 1965 the Graham Gouldman penned "For Your Love" propelled the band into the Top 10, but also led to the departure of Eric Clapton to John Mayall's Bluesbreakers.

Upon departure, Eric Clapton recommended his friend Jimmy Page for the job - Jimmy was making a decent wedge doing session work so turned down the offer and suggested another friend called Jeff Beck.

Jeff Beck was every bit of a blues player as Eric Clapton, but he didn't have the same issue with the more pop focus the band were perusing.  If anything, he was a more experimental than straight Blues Eric - and soon drone notes, fuzztones, reverb, feedback, and all manner of histrionics entered the fray.

The first single of the Jeff Beck era was another Gouldman song "Heart Full Of Soul", perhaps notable for being the first UK single to feature a sitar (beating both The Beatles "Norwegian Wood" and the Stones "Paint It Black" to the honour), and they can also claim to release of on the first psychedelic rock sounds with early 1966 release "Shapes Of Things".

During the recording of the album 'Roger The Engineer', Jeff Beck booked studio time with some friends and created "Beck's Bolero".
These friends were Jimmy Page, Nicky Hopkins, Keith Moon, and John Entwhistle (replaced by John Paul Jones when Entwhistle didn't show up at the studio).  When they heard the results of the session there was a suggestion that they could form a working super-group.  Keith Moon responded: "that will go down like a lead balloon, or worse, a lead zeppelin"
Jimmy Page must've scribbled a note in his notebook for later reference ...

The early sessions for the album 'Roger The Engineer' spawned the single "Over Under Sideways Down" - another step on The Yardbirds blues-y psychedelia odyssey.
The album itself stands alongside (certainly in sound, maybe not in sales or acclaim) other cornestone albums of 1966, and is probably The Yardbirds definitive statement album-wise.

Soon after the release of the album, bassist Paul Samwell-Smith quit and was replaced by Jimmy Page, initially on bass.  Chris Dreja and Jimmy Page eventually swapped instruments giving The Yardbirds a twin-guitar front line.

As best exemplifed by the garage rock meets psychedelia single "Happening Ten Years Time Ago", the band could now balance the bluse-y based soloing (Beck) with a tougher rock edge (Page) - and you could barely see the join.
The Beck/Page line-up was short-lived though, and by the end of 1966 (according to whose story you believe) Jeff Beck was fired / Jeff Beck left The Yardbirds.

In 1967 The Yardbirds dropped manager Simon Napier-Bell and entered into a deal with Mickie Most hoping to boost their flagging commercial fortunes.  Whilst Mickie Most took care of the record production, management of the band was passed to his office-mate Peter Grant.  This arrangement effectively created 2 versions of the band - the smoothed commerciality of the Mickie Most produced singles, and the on-stage experimentation and rock led by Jimmy Page (including an early outing of the violin bow solo on "Dazed and Confused").

The Mickie Most deal did not restore commercial fortunes, but the Peter Grant management opened up a wider audience in the US as they visited regularly to a receptive (and growing) audience and started to play venues that would be unthinkable to most failing UK bands.

In early 1968, hit singles still weren't happening, but another 3 month tour of the US was planned.

Relf and McCarty wanted to go down a more folk-inspired route, whilst Page wanted to continue the heavy blues-rock so loved by the US audiences.
(Chris Dreja wanted to give it all up and become a photographer).
This stand-off resulted in Relf and McCarty deciding to quit the band, but after some persuasion from Page, Dreja (and doubtless Peter Grant) agreed to stay on for the final US Tour.
When the Tour finished, Relf and McCarty left giving Page and Dreja the rights to the name and the proviso that they fulfill a short tour of Scandanavia.
Chris Dreja also decided to leave at this time, leaving Page and Grant with the name, a contractual obligation, and no band.

The band name was altered to The New Yardbirds, and calls and offers made to assemble a band.
First choice vocalist Terry Reid declined the offer, but recommended a singer he'd seen in a Midlands club.
Robert Plant accepted the offer, but only if he could bring fellow Band Of Joy member, drummer John Bonham, with him.  And John Paul Jones - who Jimmy Page knew from his session days - offered his services to complete the line-up
This was July 1968, and the Tour was scheduled for September.  A rehearsal studio was booked and when all members came together for the first time, "something" happened.
The dates were completed, and less than a month after completing the Tour, they were in the studio recording their debut album backed with the biggest record company advance (from Atlantic) that had been granted.

Led Zeppelin - they're only the band The Yardbirds could've been

For Your Love

Heart Full Of Soul

Happening Ten Years Time Ago

New Yardbirds (Page & Grant) => Led Zeppelin

Sunday, 14 August 2022

Hayseed Dixie

So the story goes:
From the fertile valley of Deer Lick Holler, deep in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains of East Tennessee USA. In this area which was completely isolated from outside cultural and musical influence, the boys grew up playing the traditional music of their forefathers on banjo, fiddle, mandolin, acoustic guitar and acoustic bass.
All of this changed abruptly one afternoon when a stranger crashed his car into a stately old oak tree on a particularly dangerous curve, which the locals refer to as the Devils Elbow. Sadly, the stranger expired, but his legacy lives on.
As the boys searched through the wreckage looking for identification, they discovered several vinyl records.  The name of the band on these records was AC/DC, and all they had to listen to them on was an old Edison Victrola that only played at 78rpm - everyone agreed that the songs were rather fine country music.  A bit different but still mighty fine, and that the Lost Highway of Brother Hank Williams and this Highway To Hell of AC/DC were indeed the exact same road.
And thus, from these unlikely beginnings and entirely new musical and cultural synthesis was cast.  As if the Creator Himself had uttered "Let There Be Rockgrass"

And after 16 albums and 1500 live shows - and no doubt appearing at a Festival near you this summer - the Rockgrass goes on.
And those 16 albums will generally be Hillbilly-ed versions of rocks greatest hits.
The first couple of albums were tributes to AC/DC and Kiss, and then Motorhead, Queen, Black Sabbath, Aerosmith, Journey, and others provided source material.  There was even a place for Spinal Tap, Cliff Richard, Scissor Sisters, and Outkast.

Now I like a good cover version, and am partial to a re-working.  And yes Hayseed Dixie fulfill this need and enjoyment.  There are also a couple of originals interspersed which do not break the spell.

But 16 albums?  I'm not sure it's something I'd play with any regularity, or indeed set aside some time for a Hayseed Dixie Marathon Listening session, but in small doses it does the job of lifting the gloom.
I own 4 of the albums, but somehow think that the "Best Of" route may be all the Hayseed one needs
(an then there's always YouTube and Spotify to fill any gaps of course)

Whole Lotta Rosie

Fat Bottom Girls

Thursday, 28 July 2022

Guns n Roses - Appetite For Destruction

is 35 years old.

It's also an album I actively avoided for the first 15 years of it's life, telling anyone who would listen it was derivative, ramshackle, with painful squawky vocals, playing to the lowest common denominator rawk etc
I also saw them live at Monsters Of Rock Donnington 1988 - they were good, but not impressive (or maybe my own prejudices and a hangover clouded objective judgement)

But ... I admit I was wrong, and biased, and basically a bit daft
(still got a slight issue with Axl Rose's vocal though)

The rise of the band is also quite impressive - forming in 1984, settling on the "classic" line-up (ie the one that recorded 'Appetite For Destruction') by mid-85, signing a $75,000 deal with Geffen in early 1986, releasing their first single in late 1986, and then unleashing the monster in mid-1987, which would go on to sell in excess of 30,000,000.

So what was all the fuss about?

When I first heard the debut EP - 'Live ?!*@ Like a Suicide' - I struggled to understand the Kerrang-driven fuss about the band.  2 cover versions plus 2 so-so originals.
It honestly felt like a triumph of substance over style - Aerosmith riffs layed over Hanoi Rocks meets Motley Crue, with Hair Metal aspirations
(yes, I was that reductive about it).

So did my opinions sway when the album was released?  Nah, even the release of "Welcome To The Jungle" - which, be honest, is one heck of an opening track - altered the stance.
The next single - "Sweet Child O' Mine" - caught the public and airwave attention (and no doubt drove further album sales), but still I remained steadfast.
Then came "Paradise City" - in retrospect, an object lesson in how to do stadium rock - and I admit to a little wavering ....

However, I have made my grumpy stand and I must stick to it.

Right the way through 'GnR Lies' in 1988 (basically 'Live ?!*@ Like a Suicide' plus 4 new acoustic recordings), through 1991 when I did actually buy 'Use Your Illusion I' and 'Use Your Illusion II' in one massive Our Price trip
(also purchased: Metallica 'Metallica', Spin Doctors 'Pocket Full of Kryptonite', Pearl Jam 'Ten', Pixies 'Trompe le Monde', Nirvana 'Nevermind' and Primal Scream 'Screamadelica' - I think I was feeling very flush that day)

And still 'Appetite For Destruction' was not on my shelf.
Until one day in the early 2000s when idly browsing HMV and the 4 for £20 section - I'd got 3 in my sweaty mitts and needed a makeweight.  Why did I choose an album I'd ignored for so long - no idea, but I'm glad my prejudices subsided.

Not everything is a winner, but it all hangs together, and it's the sheer energy that wins out.

Opening with a slight guitar riff that builds and you may think "I've heard all these tropes before" - and then wallop - the whole thing kicks in.  Here's your introduction to what follows over the next 40 minutes.

The next few tracks though suffer in comparison to "Jungle" - they're good, they're full of attitude and energy, but just don't have the sheer power promised.

"Paradise City" which follows lifts the album from the doldrums, and could very well be the centerpiece of the whole album.  In fact from this track (which originally closed side 1) what follows - "My Michelle", "Think About You", "Sweet Child o' Mine", "You're Crazy" - is certainly one of the best "5 tracks in the middle of an album" runs out there.

By the end, the band is spent - surely there is no more energy to give (and see below - there wasn't much more career to give either).  And no doubt the listener is in a similar frame of mind.

The sheer power of this debut though made it somewhat difficult to maintain that level - and the band never did.  Amidst drug and drink problems, personal relationships, media attention, shifting line-ups, self-indulgence, they never managed to hit these heights again.

After the double (released as 2 single albums) "Use Your Illusion" came "The Spaghetti Incident?" - an album of covers which sort of bookends (with  'Live ?!*@ Like a Suicide'), and the long promised, talked up, re-recorded, delayed, re-hashed, 15 years late 'Chinese Democracy' - which when it did arrive was frankly not worth the wait.

I'll say it again - I was wrong.  'Appetite For Destruction' is a superb piece of work, and rightly deserving of the plaudits.

Welcome To The Jungle

Sweet Child o' Mine

Paradise City

Monday, 11 July 2022

Michael Head & The Red Elastic Band - Dear Scott

We're now over halfway through 2022, so I think I'm relatively safe in making this prediction: I've just been listening to the Album Of The Year.

Michael Head has been doing the rounds since the early 80s - first as a member of The Pale Fountains, then in Shack.  When Shack folded ("went on hiatus" is the usual phrase), he struck out on his own with Michael Head Introducing The Strands for a single album until Shack re-formed, folded again and he convened the Red Elastic Band.
His past ventures have often been critically acclaimed, but rarely passing over into commercial success.  This may explain why I was unaware of his work until introduced to this album - and now I really believe I need to do some archive digging (The Pale Fountains were pretty good weren't they - how did I miss them?  Not reading the NME in 1985 I suppose)

And so to this one - his tenth under various guises - and the opening two tracks "Kismet" and "Broken Beauty" could well be enough to secure the annual crown on their own, but what follows just reinforces the contention.

The whole album is fully formed, brimming with light and warmth, but also has passing weariness, and a brittle human condition feeling about it.  And Bill Ryder-Jones production just lifts and shines everything - not a trace of mud herein.
Right from the start, the influences are worn on the sleeve - Love very much in evidence, but at times sounding like a bastard son of Love, The Byrds, The Coral, Richard Hawley and Scott Walker.
At this point I should qualify that the Dear Scott of the title is not Walker, but F Scott Fitzgerald. 

Dear Scott refers to novelist, F. Scott Fitzgerald, whose debt-ridden, down-and-out years captured the imagination of Head, specifically a postcard Fitzgerald addressed to himself upon checking in at Hollywood’s infamous Golden Age retreat, The Garden Of Allah Hotel. Head explains: “A decade after being the king of the jazz age, Fitzgerald arrived unfashionable and sober, ready to conquer Hollywood. His agent with a sense of humour booked him into The Garden Of Allah, where writers, movie stars and even Stravinsky sometimes lived. He famously picked up a postcard on checking in and addressed it to himself.”

Right from the start, the influences are worn on the sleeve, but this aint no nostalgia-fest, or repeating the tricks of others.  This is a singular effort, mixing psych, folk, jangle, and singer-songwriter oeuvre.
Much like an obvious touchstone - Love's 'Forever Changes' * - the songs themselves may not be vying for the title of greatest song ever written when standing alone, but in the context of the album become greater than the sum of their parts, and prove Michael Head to be a songwriter of some renown.

* I know, it's the second reference to Love in this text - apologies for the apparent dis-service.  There is so much more going on here


Broken Beauty

Wednesday, 29 June 2022

"I'm Bored. Might As Well Be Listening To Genesis"

I did, and can report that I was not bored - just let down at the end with 'Calling All Stations' which I never actually managed all the way through in one sitting.

15 albums over 28 years, and I've been through them all (well, someone had to)

Charterhouse School pupils Peter Gabriel (Vocals), Tony Banks (Keyboards), Mike Rutherford (Bass), Ant Phillips (Guitar) and Chris Stewart (Drums) formed a band and recorded some initial home moade demos.  These demos found their way to former Charterhouse pupil Jonathan King who signed the band to a management deal, arranged a recording contract, gave the band a name (Genesis) and put them in the studio
(The initial deal on offer was a  10 year management contract and a 5 year recording contract.  This offer was subsequently reduced - primarily due to parental intervention of the 15 to 17 year old band members - to a one year management and recording deal.
Initial recordings took place and the band were looking to expand their songs - Jonathan King (acting as producer) advised against this and to "stick to the 3 minute pop song".
Now named Genesis, and acting on the brief, "The Silent Sun" was delivered as the first single.  A second single "A Winters Tale" met with the same dis-interest as the first, so Jonathan King decided an album was the route to go.
(By this stage though, drummer Chris Stewart had returned to his studies a Charterhouse being replaced by another school friend John Silver)

1969s 'From Genesis to Revelation', at the producers behest, eschewed the elongation, changing time signatures and self-indulgence the band wanted to go into in favour of the 3 minute song.
The album attracted as much success as the preceding singles (ie none) as did their final single before the Decca and King deal ended.  At this point, the band was effectively on hold as the members returned to their studies.  By the end of the year the band reconvened (minus John Silver who was replaced by new drummer John Mayhew), decided to turn professional, starting writing in earnest and actually started playing gigs.and they threw in their lot with Tony Stratton-Smith and Charisma Records - already home to The Nice, Van der Graaf Generator, Rare Bird and Atomic Rooster, so a little more Prog on the roster wasn't going to hurt.

And the first fruits of this relationship was 'Trespass' in 1970.  An album which follows the path of expansion, elongation and experimentation denied previously.  And it's got more than a touch of Genesis's future signature all over it.  "The Knife" is the key track here - one of those long songs (9 minutes) which is full of ideas, interludes, and diversions which doesn't feel 9 minutes long (if anything it could happily be longer).  This is the de facto debut - and very assured it is too.  The band might be getting somewhere, maybe a cultish achievement, but somewhere nonetheless.
What's that?  Oh the drummer and guitarist want to leave.  So after the promise of 'Trespass', it's goodbye to Ant Phillips and John Mayhew, and hello to Steve Hackett and Phil Collins.

The now accepted "classic" line-up kicks of proceedings with 1971s 'Nursery Cryme'.
If I'm being honest, I did start to get a bit bored with this album - there's lots of ideas, lots of parts to the songs, but it just doesn't seem to hang together for me.  "The Musical Box" and "Return Of The Giant Hogweed" are the pick of the tracks, with "Harold The Barrel" showing a humourous side to the band oft forgotten, or indeed never noticed.
There is a true-ism which says a bands 3rd album is often the point that marks the beginning of the end or the end of the beginning.  If we consider 'Nursery Cryme' to be the bands 2nd album (again ignoring 'From Genesis To Revelation') then that truism is upheld with the release of 'Foxtrot' in 1972.

With Steve Hackett and Phil Collins now ensconced in the band, the creativity and performance has gone up a notch.  There now feels more "shape" and cohesion to the band and it's music, and opener "Watcher Of The Skies" exemplifies that.  There's not a duff, or skippable, track here, and the album is crowned by the 23 minute "Supper's Ready" - a 7 movement epic that repeats motifs and bounces from the pastoral to the bombastic, and then resolves itself with the final "As Sure As Eggs Is Eggs".  Epic in it's conception, and epic in it's delivery.  A true masterpiece of the Peter Gabriel era.

'Selling England By The Pound' has a lot to live up to after "Supper's Ready".  It tries - not least with opening track "Dancing with the Moonlit Knight" and "Firth of Fifth".  And let's not forget the inclusion of a surprising hit single (Number 21 counts as a hit doesn't it?) "I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)".
However, despite a brave attempt to equal or top 'Foxtrot' it falls just short (very very nearly, but not quite)

1974s concept album 'The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway' is generally cited as the masterpiece of the Gabriel-era.  But is it?  Well, it's tough going, the story is a tad impenetrable - the songs don't do the intended narrative justice (and even less if split out of context), so Gabriel included the full story in the sleeve notes - but it is delivered with huge confidence and competence.
If you want to try and understand the fancifulness and possible madness of the story, then wikipedia attempts to explain it:
Plot Summary link 
The tour in support of The Lamb opened before the album was released - the intent of the show was a full performance of an unheard work to a bemused audience.

As the tour drew to a close, Peter Gabriel announced his intention to leave.  This decision was a combination of a desire to spend more time with his family and a belief that he'd gone as far as he could with Genesis.
Despite the loss, the remaining members did not want it to end the band - after a short break they reconvened to work on new material.  Phil Collins suggested that they could just be an instrumental band, but the others felt that a new vocalist was definitely needed.  The problem was finding one - many auditions were held, with Phil Collins teaching the auditionee the vocal parts, but no-one was found to be up to the job.  In the end, a reluctant Phil Collins took on the job (supposedly on a temporary basis).

And the first fruits of this reduced line-up with a reluctant singer was 1976s 'Trick Of The Tail' - and for a band who has lost their singer and frontman, you really wouldn't know it.  The songwriting and construction is at the same level as it ever was, the only thing changed is the tone of the voice and, by association, there's a less whimsy going on in the performance.
"Dance On A Volcano" is a statement of intent opener - showing they can pick up from where they left off, and if anything are continuing to push forward.  "Squonk" quickly establishes itself as a classic of the catalogue and closer "Los Endos" is both a jog through styles of the past and establishment of a looser rhythmic style.  Against expectations perhaps, Genesis managed to prove that losing a frontman isn't always the end.

And the four continued the trick, if a bit more laboured/fractious, with 'Wind & Wuthering'.  Still very much proggy Genesis, but mixing a more romantic/yearning styling.  What is noticeable on this album is when Phil Collin's sings in a higher register, there is a passing resemblance to Peter Gabriel - maybe that's why the transition seemed all the more seamless.
Steve Hackett expressed frustration with this one as much of his songwriting and musical idea were sidelined - but conversely his playing on this album is perhaps better than it ever was.
By the end of the tour, feeling constricted by the band and wanting to pursue a solo career, he left the band. 

Now reduced to a three-piece, but with confidence in their abilities - Rutherford, Banks and Collins had effectively constructed the basis of 'Trick Of The Tail' themselves whilst Hackett was recording his first solo album - it was decided that no replacement would be sought.

'...And Then There Were Three...' is the factually correct title of the next album, and another move away from the arty-prog epics that was their stock-in-trade of old.  The extended pieces continued, if lesser than before, and the songs were trimmed and focussed.  It also achieve that rare thing with Genesis producing a song that became a radio hit - "Follow You Follow Me", indeed their first top 10 single.
The adjustment here was not perhaps as smooth as Perter Gabriel's departure, and previously Hackett-filled gaps are noticeable, but a brave attempt to move forward in the face of adversity.

'Duke' and 'Abacab' are cut from similar cloth - now very much operating in the shorter songs smoother, softer, radio friendly world (with some old tricks included for good measure - prime example is the 10 minute "Duke's Travels"/"Duke's End" suite).  Phil Collins solo career, was gathering pace but did not seem to be affecting his commitment to Genesis.  Indeed another big hit for Genesis was "Misunderstanding" the Collins wrote for his first album but felt Genesis would give it more strength.There is some cross-over (why wouldn't there be, it's the same vocalist and drummer).  If anything, the lessons of his solo career had moved Genesis to a more pop-rock direction.  My summary: 'Duke' is a strong consistent package featuring great songs, playing and delivery.  'Abacab' feels a little more insubstantial - it's good, but one feels it could've been better.

So with a couple of hit singles behind them, smooth US stadium-appealing albums in the can, burgeoning solo careers (with varying degrees of success) and a steady drip of back catalogue sales, where next?
Well, turn back towards the prog obviously - and where there was once whimsy, now add a shaft of darkness.  Best exemplified by the maniacal laugh that opens into lead single "Mama" from the simply titled 'Genesis'.  And "Home By The Sea" / "Second Home By The Sea" shows the long songs are still as great as ever.
But having been bitten by the Pop Star bug, and the chance to get on MTV, the lightweight "Illegal Alien" also appears.  Whilst the song does have a point and a comment to make, the lyrical construct and delivering it in a cod-Mexican accent may not have been the smartest idea - at least judged by today's standards anyway.

There was a 3 year gap until 1986s 'Invisible Touch', but in that period they completed a 5 month tour in support of 'Genesis', Phil Collins continued his pop supremacy with a new album and multiple appearances for anyone who asked (including 2 performances at Live Aid either side of the Atlantic), Mike Rutherford convened Mike & The Mechanics, and Tony Banks released some unhailed solo work (including a very nearly hit single (number 75 for 2 weeks) with Fish from Marillion).

'Invisible Touch' is more pop market focussed than previously with 5 hit singles from 10 tracks, but the album also includes perhaps the lat great Genesis long song in the shape of "Domino".
Producer Hugh Padgham had got his feet under the table with the last Genesis album, and his work here is maybe as important to the final product - in terms of shape and presentation to the market - as the band themselves.  Genesis vs Phil Collins solo is oft debated - did he keep his best songs for himself?  was Genesis now Phil's side Project?  and many more questions.  In truth, there is always a division between the 2 worlds (see also Mike & The Mechanics versus Genesis), but this album comes confirms the 2 worlds co-existed, but there are moments when Hugh Padgham's production comes very close to muddying the water.

After a year on tour and respective solo careers (except Tony Banks) occupying more time and energy, you would be forgiven for thinking that was the end.  Indeed, a career spanning documentary was filmed and aired on the BBC.  But the Genesis Bat Signal went back up in early 1991, and they re-convened for another round.
'We Can't Dance' was written in the studio from the ground up.  It was this recording method that kept Phil Collins in the saddle, despite increasing demands and success on his own.
In fact so much material was produced, a double album was issued (well, it was nominally a double but more the fact that in the CD era they could now fill up 70 odd minutes if they really wanted to).
They culled even more singles form this one (6 from 12), but the album also contains 2 long songs in the shape of "Driving The Last Spike" and "Fading Lights" - welcome additions to the catalogue, but falling just short of previous 8 minute + efforts).

And then following the tour, Phil Collins did leave - the pressure of the solo career, solo touring, and personal issues just meant he was unable to focus on Genesis.
And arguably at that point, the band should've probably drawn a line.  But Rutherford and Banks are made of sterner stuff - a new singer (Ray Wilson from Stiltskin) was installed and 'Calling All Stations' written, recorded and released.
The title track isn't that bad a song, but stretching the good will over an entire album just (I think) sullied) the legacy - more an exercise of "keeping the name out there" rather than producing a worthy album
(although, in fairness, it does underline the importance of Tony Banks to the whole sound and focus of Genesis).

From slight, producer misguided, beginnings, to rising Prog Monster, to losing your vocalist and then losing a guitarist (to lose one player is careless, but to lose 2 in short order could be fateful), to reduced numbers, and then a change of sound and fanbase, there is much to like across these 15 albums (OK, apart from the last one perhaps).
So where to start for the novice?
(Novice?  that was me 3 months ago.  Hark at me and "the voice of experience")

  • From the Peter Gabriel years, 'The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway' may have the reputation, but is probably not the best starting point.  A double session of 'Foxtrot' quickly followed by 'Selling England By The Pound' is recommended
  • I'm going to call out 'A Trick Of The Tail' from the transitional years as muchly worthy of investigation
  • For the 3 piece era, the starting point would/should be 1983s 'Genesis', and 'Invisible Touch' is also worth a spin

Supper's Ready

Dancing With The Moonlit Knight

A Trick Of The Tail


Land Of Confusion

Monday, 20 June 2022

Humdrum Express - Forward Defensive

The last Humdrum Express album dropped (as the cool kids say) just before lockdown - this meant that a highly competent collection of songs did not get the live airings and potentially reaching a wider audience it deserved.
Undeterred, the new album arrives some 27 months later, and I can report that normal service has been resumed.  More of the same gentle skewering of modern life, wry observations, exasperation, absurdity, and lyrical one-liners.
But this time, there's a little bit of politics and a cello.

Why 27 months?  Well, there's been a couple of lockdowns you know - and as a result, Ian states:

“Lockdown hit us all in different ways. I didn’t notice it at first but mixing with fewer idiots than usual was hampering my main source of writing inspiration. I eventually took the unusual step of posting a song idea on Twitter.

“The positive response gave me the encouragement needed and 24-hours later, "Denim In The Dugout" was finished. Finally back in the groove, 12 more songs came tumbling out to complete the project.”

The songs herein cover varying subjects including spending Christmas on Bondi Beach with the frontman of The Lemonheads. Peter Shilton on social media, the life of third choice goalkeepers, peculiar collectibles, people who’ve built pubs in their gardens, manscaping, and those who talk loudly at gigs (and are blissfully unaware that there is anything wrong with that).
It's not too much of a leap - and a very possibly simplistic stance - to say Humdrum Express are not far from Half Man Half Biscuit with a Midlands accent.

That little bit of politics mentioned on track 1 -"Brave Boy" - reciting the upset at getting a vaccine sticker rather than an enamel badge.  There can't be too many songs that mix trypanophobia with a political outburst.

"I'm aware the cost of a badge might be seen as a drain on resources, but this jab was an achievement for me.  It wasn't me who spent 37 billion on a failed Track & Trace system and millions more more on deficient PPE"

Mate ... I didn't even get a flipping sticker, but I agree with your assertion.

Now before you think Ian Passey's gone all Billy Bragg militant, this is the only time that the real world enters proceedings.
(Actually, not true - "What A Time To Be Alive" identifies the fact that we may all have to work until we're 85, but doesn't go down the "overthrow the Government" route.  It does off a sarcastic air punch at the end though)

Humdrum normality is restored with "Christmas With Evan Dando" - the unlikely tale of finding yourself in Australia with The Lemonheads frontman, followed by another 11 folk-indie-ska-infused, sometimes spoken word observations of the possibly un-important but actually in need of investigation (maybe even rectification).  At one point he even goes a bit Morrissey on "Manscaping" (or that's what my cloth ears heard anyway)

"The Gig Chatterer" recounts the scourge of musicians and gig goers that - like rats in London - you're never more than 6 feet away from a knobhead talking over the performance.

"One Man's Tat (Is Another Man's Treasure)" is an investigation of the stuff that people collect - to be honest, I collect some odd stuff (examples: books about the London Underground, Viz Comics) but that list there is primarily tat (in my humble opinion).  Although I do enjoy the line about having a collection of yellow, green and brown snooker balls - bought as a baulk buy (well, it made me laugh).

And another thing ... Football Managers are wearing Jeans!
Now whilst some of the names may change (such is the fickle world of Football Management) the exasperation at those who used to wear a suit or training gear have now gone all casual is evident.

Neil Warnock's flares flap in the breeze,

Steve Bruce cuts a dash in dungarees

No foul committed the ref says play on

Garry Monk's transferred to spray on

All aboard the Humdrum Express ... and a ruddy good time is guaranteed.

The Gig Chatterer

Denim In The Dugout

More here if your interest has been piqued

And if you want the whole album (and any others):

Tuesday, 31 May 2022

Liam Gallagher - C'mon You Know

His third solo album, and with enough traction to further bury/forget the mis-step underwhelm of Beady Eye, which could've consigned Liam to post-Oasis tryer.  But 2 previous solo albums, and now this one restores the reputation, and continues to push Gallagher The Younger in front of his elder brother.
'C'Mon You Know' may not be breaking new experimental ground, but is just different enough from previous offerings to stand on it's own.

The listening diet here must've included to The Beatles 'Revolver' with a side order of 'Let It Bleed' era Stones-y - there are echoes of both throughout (although I must state not exclusively).  

Sometimes it might be a bit "Liam by numbers" like he's toeing the record company line or career advisor to break the US (and anywhere else).  And a Dave Grohl co-write can't do any harm pulling in new fans from the Foo Fighters fanbase (or indeed the US where very British acts often fall - Slade, Elvis Costello & The Attractions, The Jam, Blur, Oasis)

Album opener "More Power" has a choir intro that is just a bit too close to 'You Can't Always Get What You Want", whilst "Everything's Electric" (co-written with Dave Grohl) has more than a passing nod to "Gimme Shelter".  "Better Days" is the most Revolver-esque with phased drums and backwards guitar, and "Don't Go Halfway" repeats the tricks.

And in the shape of "Too Good For Giving Up" he's found another of those big ballads - in a similar mould to "Champagne Supernova", "Stop Crying Your Heart Out" or "For What It's Worth" that he will no doubt deliver bolt upright, parka clad, straining towards the microphone, and again showcasing "The Voice of Britpop".

Of the 12 tracks here, only the closer "Oh Sweet Children" misses the spot for me - maybe if it was earlier in the album it wouldn't claw so much, but as a closer it just signs the album off with a bit of an anti-climax.

As with previous efforts, it may be "lyrically challenged" ie finding a rhyme for the next line that will fit the last line, but he's got the chops to carry it off, remains musically assured, and no little attitude and commitment in the delivery.

But despite the above comparisons and possible shortcomings (unfairly?), this is the product of Liam Gallagher, his co-writers and performers, and no little attitude and belief in ones self.
Some years ago he declared "Tonight, I'm a Rock n Roll Star", and with this album he's continuing to fulfill that prophecy, even if he's heading a bit more mainstream than perhaps he intended

At times, it can sound a bit too clean and contrived but the overall result is a Good album (I may even venture a Very Good album), , but not perhaps a Great one.
I think the "rules of engagement" for this one are fairly simple: play loud, enjoy, don't go looking for hidden meaning in the lyrics.

Better Days

Everything's Electric

Too Good For Giving Up