Sunday, October 29, 2017

World Wide Woozle episode #427

This time next week I will be almost packed and ready to return to Pentecost, Vanuatu with Zoe. We were last there in the middle of last year but it feels like longer. People often ask me what I'll do there when I explain that there is no power, running water, internet or TV. The answer is simple; I'll be with my family. We'll spend time in the gardens where they grow their food, we'll sit around and talk (a LOT) and we'll do a fair bit of playing games with all the kids. We might walk to the "bank" and that could take half a day all up. The pace of life there is different and that's one of the attractions. In the past I've taken some books that I have had trouble reading as I find that the fact that my brain is allowed to slow down means that I can lose myself in some quality writing. Reading is also a good break from having to do my best to keep up in another language for the majority of the time. That really tires you for the first couple of days out but it's worth it in so many ways. Most of my Ni-Van family members will speak four languages fluently (two local ones, the Vanuatu national language of Bislama and either French or English) so working on my second one seems only fair. I know that the education system has changed recently so that the youngest children are taught in their local language rather than in English. I'm hoping to learn a few words and phrases but if I am in their classroom it may cause too much distraction so I may sneak up and sit outside so that I can listen in and learn!

In other news, Angus has left home for seven months and is now in Canada about to start work as a lift operator and snowboard instructor at a ski resort. It's been an emotional week for Alison and I since he left. The good thing is that he has somewhere to live, doesn't seem to be starving and is in regular contact with us! I'm not sure that I'm that keen on a visit (especially in winter) but when Zoe left for Vanuatu in 2015 there was no way I wanted to go there....times change. Fingers crossed that there are no cyclones in Vancouver.

Some of you will be aware that I have started doing some recording. I'm hoping to release a six song EP on whomever is silly enough to want a copy before too long. It's a challenge as I don't have a very good singing voice but I'm determined to get it done. So far I have recorded three songs and two of them will be on the EP. One is OK but not up to the standard that I would subject you to. So far it is simply guitar and voice but I might get some keyboards on a song in the future. Choosing songs is the real challenge as, whilst I can play most things, I can't sing them! For the technically minded, my recording setup is simple. I use the Reaper recording software (because Garageband kept crashing), a couple of old microphones and an ageing Roland Edirol UA-25 which connects the mics into my Macbook Air. That's it. Other than that it's my guitars, amps and voice. I'm happy to share the early versions of some of the tracks; just let me know if you're interested.

Don't think that I haven't been listening to music; I've been doing that a lot! Other than trying to find songs that I can sing there has been quite a varied selection rolling around in my playlist for the last couple of weeks. Of course there's a fair bit of Tom Petty but none of you are surprised by that.

I guess that most people will be aware that George Young died recently. He's famous as an Easybeat and also as the producer of many great Australian bands such as AC/DC, Rose Tattoo and The Angels. George is arguably one of the pioneers of what we might refer to as the Aussie Pub Rock sound. Here's George with his partner in crime Harry Vanda...

Flash and the Pan - Waiting for a train - https://youtu.be/aUB1VPjLGvk

The Night Flight Orchestra are Swedish. They have released three albums and...and...that's all I know about that. I heard them for the first time this week and I've since been working my way through their recordings. Given that they are signed to Nuclear Blast Records I was expecting metal but they are more melodic hard rock. I certainly have liked what I've heard so far.

The Night Flight Orchestra - West Ruth Avenue - https://youtu.be/o5PDIAvDY_I

Do you have albums that you just keep coming back to? I have a couple that are never far from hand. One is the compilation, "Folkways: A Vision Shared" which is a tribute to Woody Guthrie and Leadbelly. The other is W.A.S.P.'s live album which is imaginatively titled, "Live...in the raw". I'm not sure that you could get two albums further apart in almost all ways but I'm happy playing them one after the other. The Folkways LP has some wonderful versions of old songs and the W.A.S.P. one is just a rock and roll band playing loud and proud whilst putting on a great show. Many of you won't like both and that's OK!

Taj Mahal - The Bourgeois Blues - https://youtu.be/-VvfAfwS9k8

W.A.S.P. - Inside The Electric Circus (live) - https://youtu.be/NddMWTWoQ2Q

For those unfamiliar with Taj Mahal, a good place to start is his album from 1968, "The Natch'l Blues".

Rock and roll legend Fats Domino left us this week at the age of 89. He was the man that Elvis Presely referred to as the King and that says it all.

Fats Domino - I Hear You Knocking (live) - https://youtu.be/iU9f_MUBCSs

Finally this week, I've been listening to an old cassette that one of my Auntie's sent me years and years ago. It's by a German band called Helloween and really, I reckon I listened to it once or twice in the early 90s and never again until recently. That's a shame because, apart from the dodgy album title and even worse cover photo, it's a great power metal style record. Listening to it has mad me go back and check out more by the band and they are still around. If you like your metal with melody and a bit of cheese too then this is for you.

Helloween - Kid of the Century - https://youtu.be/GTjcQQFZVSU

See you next time,
Rob


Friday, October 6, 2017

World Wide Woozle episode #426

Anyone whose read this blog for a while would hardly be surprised that I'm going to write about Tom Petty. His death this week has hit me hard but maybe not for reasons that are immediately obvious.

There is no doubting Tom's place as a legendary rock 'n' roll artist. Album sales and public profile point clearly to these facts. From hit records with his band The Heartbreakers, a stint with them as Bob Dylan's live backing band, solo success, some amazing collaborations and an extensive discography you could pretty much say that he did it all.

I got interested in Tom Petty initially as a result of the Travelling Wilburys so I guess I was a bit late to the party. In 1988 I was in my final year at High School and the Wilburys were huge everywhere but especially in Australia. Their first album went to 11 in the UK and 14 in the USA but was number 1 on the charts here. It was an album that had something for everyone. Tom for the rock fans, Dylan for the folkies, Roy Orbison for those stuck in the 60s, Jeff Lynne for lovers of amazing melody and sunglasses and of course George Harrison. 

The Travelling Wilburys - Last Night - https://youtu.be/lX4JXUNbXZs

Tom followed this up with the sublime Full Moon Fever LP which my Dad bought for me on the strength of the Wilburys. There's a bit of solo rhythm guitar in Free Fallin' that may just be the best guitar tone ever This has always been a record that makes me feel good.

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (live 1991) - Love Is A Long Road - https://youtu.be/qOpuB5aSVF4

I guess I was pretty happy with these two albums for a few years and then, in 1997, I met my mate Garry Douglas. Garry was a huge Tom Petty fan and over the period of a few years got me right into his earlier stuff as well as more recent solo releases. We talked about Tom's music via email for years. If you've been reading my blog for a few years you'll know that Garry sadly died a while ago. One of the last things he did was to see Tom Petty live in London, email me a few pictures and send me a tour t-shirt. Not long later he was dead. I had a gig with George and Chris very soon after this and we played this song as my tribute to Garry. It's cliched but I love it and it became a staple in our live set. Who's that on drums in the video even though he didn't actually play on the record? And surely you can spot a couple of Wilburys as well.

Tom Petty - I Won't Back Down - https://youtu.be/nvlTJrNJ5lA

Garry didn't get me into that song though, Johnny Cash did. It's on his album from 2000 called "American III : Solitary Man". Tom's on the track singing backing vox. Petty and The Heartbreakers were the backing band for Cash's previous release, "Unchained" in 1996. It's my opinion that this next song is quite possibly the best cover version of all time. It also started an obsession for me with the music of Johnny Cash.

Johnny Cash - I Won't Back Down - https://youtu.be/N8i5NLyXZdc

In 2005 I had a rough time and music helped me through in many ways. I spent a lot of time watching live concert DVDs and Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers live at the Fillmore was right at the top of my list (along with Steve Earle, The Dixie Chicks and Iron Maiden). The first song on the DVD is so punchy, so energetic and played with such vigour that it draws you in for the whole show. If you could wear out a DVD then this one would be long gone. I'm just sorry that I can't find the video footage online to share with you. Come and visit sometime and we can watch it over and over!

Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers (live 1997) - Jammin' Me - https://youtu.be/juY2DAL-UGE

Whether it's old or new stuff, solo or with the Heartbreakers or the Wilburys there's no doubt to me that Tom was amazing. He had a knack of wearing his influences on his sleeve without simply copying them (unless he wanted to). Watch some live footage and you'll see a guy who genuinely loved playing his music right up until the end. 

There is a veritable goldmine in the Tom Petty discography so get out there and discover it for yourself.

Tom Petty - Saving Grace (2006) - https://youtu.be/YtJ8PFMEQjo

Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers - Red River (2014)  - https://youtu.be/Qv3oaDX9ikY

I'm going to finish with the last two songs that Tom played live. It was on September 25th this year and he finished his show at the Hollywood Bowl with a to song encore. You can find footage of the actual show online if you like but I'm really not sure I'm ready for it.

Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers - You Wreck Me (live) - https://youtu.be/e25p0Y3Vd38

Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers - American Girl (live 1978) - https://youtu.be/YS3xOmI1Plk

Thanks Tom, your music meant a lot to me and it always will.

Rob

Sunday, September 24, 2017

World Wide Woozle episode #425

Long weekend - woo hoo!

Here's a little piece of advice. If and when you change jobs, do your level best to include a little break between your exit and start dates. For reasons unclear to me, this was not possible for me in May and I've suffered a bit as a result. A couple of days simply wasn't enough.

I was listening to Motley Crue this week and got to thinking about their change of vocalist and the effect it had on the band. Vince Neil sang with them from 1980-92 and again from 1997 until the band called it a day at the end of 2015. For reasons that are unimportant here, Vince was replaced by John Corabi and sang on one album; 1994's self-titled record. It's a very, very good heavy rock/metal album without necessarily sounding like too much like any of the Crue's previous five outings. Corabi had (and still has) a tougher, deeper voice and the band worked well to come up with songs that suited him. Perhaps the change of frontman as well as the sound was a bit too much and the album didn't do all that well. Corabi in fact suggested that the band go back to Vince Neil and eventually they did. My opinion is that Vince has rarely been able to sing well in a live situation. However, his studio work is really good and is undoubtedly a huge part of the band. Corabi performs these days with The Dead Daisies (I've played them before). Were the Crue good before Corabi? Absolutely. Any of the first five albums (Too Fast For Love, Shout At The Devil, Theater of Pain, Girls Girls Girls, Dr Feelgood) are essential listening for metalheads. Were they any good when Vince returned? Maybe. Patchy might be a fair description. Their final LP, Saints of Los Angeles, is a ripper. Don't listen to any later live recordings though - Vince's voice was well and truly shot.

Here's Motley Crue with John Corabi wearing their Beatles and Zeppelin influences on their collective sleeves:

Motley Crue - Misunderstood - https://youtu.be/gASy4hRFJkA

And again with Corabi; showing the muscular, heavy rock that Motley Crue rarely achieved with Vince Neil. A different beast.

Motley Crue - Power to the Music - https://youtu.be/ZMQJIJXEq5k

WIth the end of the band I used to play in, I've moved on to learning a few songs that I love but have never got around to playing properly. Whilst I've been struggling with the tone of my new amp - we're still breaking in the speaker - one of my mates loaned me a USA made amplifier by a company called Krank. I remember Diamond Darrell from Pantera endorsing them a while ago now and I always assumed that they were just aimed at heavy metal players. Wrong, wrong, wrong! This particular model is called a Chadwick and it's a 50 watt rock and roll machine - wow! We plugged it in, turned it up and it's pure rock and roll from AC/DC all the way to Metallica with a massive bottom end. It's inspired me to start working on this track...

Rainbow - Man On The Silver Mountain - https://youtu.be/p9nfVrusSMg

The Foo Fighters have a new album out called Concrete and Gold. I am not a fan of the band by any means. Other than writing one of the best rock songs ever, Monkey Wrench, the rest of their stuff just fails to hold my interest. However, as it took me so long to "get" Sgt Pepper's I will let the Foo Fighters be a slow burn. I've checked out a few of the tracks from Concrete and Gold and I haven't fallen asleep yet so maybe there is hope. Who knows. I liked this one quite a lot....

Foo Fighters - The Sky Is A Neigborhood - https://youtu.be/TRqiFPpw2fY

Sadly, American soul singer, Charles Bradley has passed away. He came to prominence later in his life with a powerful voice and energetic stage show. I missed seeing him here in Canberra as a result of foul weather and dreadful administration by the gig organisers and I'm still sad about it.

Charles Bradley - Ain't It A Sin - https://youtu.be/UD1eaRDY-q4

Thanks to DJ DJ for alerting me to the fact that the first three Proclaimers LPs are to be re-released on vinyl. For those who came in late, there are 10 studio albums to be had and all are worthy of your attention. The ones to be re-released are, This Is The Story, Sunshine On Leith and Hit The Highway. I've got two of these on vinyl already so I'll wait for a review of the new versions to decide if they are worth it or not.  Here's one from their first album all about being yourself regardless of what others think.

The Proclaimers - Throw the R away - https://youtu.be/5Tffp64Lu10

DJ ZedBoots and I are in the process of planning a return visit to see our families in Pentecost, Vanuatu. It's not all that easy to keep in contact with them but I do my best. I'm very much looking forward to simply spending time with people who are amazingly kind and accepting of me. People in Vanuatu have very much adopted this song and it fits rather well.

Warumpi Band - My Island Home - https://youtu.be/yZEodxUx2ME

I guess the biggest news here is that DJ Bogus is off to Canada to live for about 6 months. He's secured a job as a lift operator and snowboard instructor. Pretty neat huh? Let's just hope that there are no cyclones to contend with in his time there.

That'll do folks. For those in Canberra, enjoy your long weekend. For the rest of you...ha ha!

Rob

Friday, September 1, 2017

World Wide Woozle episode #424

Last week, the band I used to play in (now defunct), released its one and only recorded song. I'm not going to review it because that'd be rather odd I think. Putting out a song and getting positive feedback that includes things such as, "will there be more?", has proved difficult for me to cope with and I felt for a while that I was going backwards in terms of my well-being. The band was far from perfect and plenty of aspects of it were frustrating without a doubt but I felt part of something and I don't anymore. George may or may not finish recording some of the other tracks that we'd started.

Please listen to the song. George has poured his heart and soul into the lyrics and music. It's a tune that we performed at our last show and, even though it may be slow and laid back in feel, my opinion is that it is much more powerful played live. Junk Sculpture was a very, very energetic band so to hear us like this might shock a few but let me assure you, the power and the passion are there if you take the time for more than a casual listen.

Interestingly enough, I don't visualise Myall Creek when I play this song or listen to it. The song transports me back to a cool evening at the playground across the road from the cafe in Tingha. We were pushing some local kids on the swings whilst we waited around until it was gig time. I often reflect about what their lives are like, the opportunities denied them and a country that will soon spend $122m on a non-binding postal vote at the same time that kids like these aren't getting proper food, healthcare or much of a chance to break the cycle that they were born into.

George Huitker & Junk Sculpture - Near Myall Creek (2017) - https://vimeo.com/231041657

For those who are interested, the song was recorded over quite a few sessions in George's lounge room. It was engineered, by Tim, one instrument at a time (with a guide track) so we all got to come in and take our turn at playing it over and over until we got it right! There's not a lot of guitar in this one but if you listen carefully you can hear me attempting to add some ambience in places!

Onwards!!! Taylor Swift has a new song. You'd have to have been living under a rock not to have noticed as its been all over the news and the 'net breaking streaming and download records left, right and centre. Let's put it out there that I'm a fan. I like what she does musically in that she plays instruments, writes songs and is involved in everything to do with her career. Sure, she's got more than enough money to do whatever she likes but she's still come up with something new. For all the talk of her "dissing" people like Kanye and Kimmy, it remains to me a decent attempt at a new sound for Taylor that isn't going to alienate too many of her fans. Try it a couple of times...

Taylor Swift - Look What You Made Me Do (2017) - https://youtu.be/3tmd-ClpJxA

Up next in the new release category is one of New Zealand's favourite sons. Neil Finn's solo work has been patchy in my opinion. To be fair, he's written a heap of great songs as a member of Split Enz and Crowded House and so is probably allowed a little latitude! This song is a cracker though. Initially I thought it was going to be something new by Fleetwood Mac with a bit of electronica thrown in but then Neil's voice, which is very recognisable, came through. If this track is an indication of what we can expect from the forthcoming album then we may just be in for a real treat.

Neil Finn - Second Nature (2017) - https://youtu.be/WW3pb77HL0Q

Before the band Ghost, we had groups like Mercyful Fate doing the whole painted face, shock lyrics, metal type of thing. If KISS were the Saturday morning cartoon version and Alice Cooper the rock pantomime then Mercyful Fate were the R rated horrors... Many people became aware of the band when Metallica did a medley of some of their tunes on their "Garage Inc." album. James Hetfield growling, "I was born in the cemetery, under the sign of the moon..." was particularly sublime. The original stuff takes a bit of getting used to, especially lead vocalist King Diamond's falsetto moments. For metal fans this is essential listening. For the rest of you maybe it's for interest only. I like the band in small doses and just wish that there was some decent live footage of them from back in the day as, lyrics and screaming notwithstanding, there is some fantastic guitar work to enjoy.

Mercyful Fate - Curse of the Pharaohs (1983) - https://youtu.be/ld3PWrd8sbE

Metallica - Mercyful Fate (1998)  - https://youtu.be/QpUlRbCDLvA

I'm throwing this one up here as a teaser really. I've heard the song only a few times and had two listens to the associated album. I need to do some reading about the artist and his famous Dad as well. For this week though, have a listen to this and tell me what you think. It's growing on me.

AJ Croce - Name Of The Game (2017) - https://youtu.be/6IOwFZK3ycc

We'll finish this week with one of the masters. I chose this song after seeing a photo of a statue of SRV surrounded by floodwaters in Texas. It just makes sense.

Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble - Texas Flood (live 1991) - https://youtu.be/KC5H9P4F5Uk

I've made the effort to publish this earlier in the hope it doesn't get lost in the haze of excitement that is the weekend.

Happy Birthday to my "little" brother. Get well DJ FoghornLeghorn! And welcome back to Australia DJ HB.

Rock on brothers and sisters.

Rob

This space intentionally blank.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

World Wide Woozle episode #423

There's so much I could write about this week; statues, marriage equality, citizenship, idiots without bike lights...the list goes on. But, like me, I imagine that most of you are completely bored with the majority of those topics so I will be brief and then get to the music.

Statues - oh good grief. When does it end? What's the limit? How bad do you have to be to have your statue ripped down? I did enjoy hearing the question posed about what was to happen to a statue dedicated to African American soldiers who had, among other things, been involved in slaughtering Native Americans. 

Marriage equality - I'm sure that no-one's view was changed by adding a rainbow to your Facebook profile picture or by whatever the opposite is. Do your thing and vote. If it's a big majority either way then all we can do is hope that our dysfunctional parliament actually takes notice. I could do a lot better with $122m than a non-binding postal vote. However, please vote and remember that there is a lot of emotion about this issue on both sides. Let's do better than belittling the point of view that we don't agree with.

Citizenship - what a debacle. Seriously, let's do two things. Put the Government in caretaker mode until the High Court can get off their rear ends and determine who should still be our elected representatives. And, then sort out the Constitution so that this is no longer a problem. (I am a dual citizen just to be completely transparent about it. Paying the UK government to renounce my citizenship there will not change my allegiance to Australia, which should be without question given that I once signed the blank cheque to defend it with my life if required.)

Idiots without bike lights - moronic? And people refer to motorcyclists as "temporary citizens"!

Righto; time for some tunes.

I'm playing this one for the simple reason that I heard it on the radio this week and I liked it. It's not a track that I remember having ever heard but it's really good.

Nancy Sinatra - Bang, Bang - https://youtu.be/qgDrpWWxuto

Weezer's latest album, self-titled with the white cover (I say that as they have other self-titled albums with differently coloured covers!) has been getting lots of listening time. It's really very, very good in my opinion. The best way that I can think of to describe it is a glorious combination of indie-rock and the Beach Boys. I haven't been enthused by Weezer since the blue album in 1994 but this one has definitely made me sit up and take notice.

Weezer - California Kids - https://youtu.be/GMeu0ZubufU

Weezer also have a new single from the forthcoming "Pacific Dream" album. Check it here if you like...great title!

John Lee Hooker is a classic. If blues music interests you at all then you need to listen to him for a while. I found his take on the genre a little challenging at first as the chord changes are almost at random intervals. Here's one of the best with a classic lyric to boot, "I heard Poppa say to Momma, let that child boogie-woogie!"

John Lee Hooker - Boogie Chillun - https://youtu.be/G4pp02_GN9A

Record Store Day releases are often very limited and hard to come by. This one was. Six songs by Jason Isbell and his band recorded live to vinyl was going for upwards of $100 on evilBay. Patience and a trip to the Discogs website saved the day though and I snagged a copy (all the way from Germany) for much less. The fact that this is recorded live, with no chance of overdubs or any studio trickery just shows the level of musical talent that Jason and his band have. Their version of The Stones', "Can't You Hear Me Knocking" is splendid. However, the only track on YouTube is one I've already played so you'll have to make do with this...

Jason Isbell - Codeine (live) - https://youtu.be/2m961waDa_8

Ghost have a new single and it's pretty good. The video is a fairly obvious commentary on certain facets of organised religion and worth a look. Some of the "magic" of the band has now been destroyed with musicians, once masked and unknown, taking legal action against the singer/band leader. Let's hope that the band carries on as, musically they are fantastic and we need people willing to make comment about the state of the world. It's just another type of protest music. This vide was released only a couple of days ago.


I read too much this week about good quality surround sound recordings and I didn't expect this next band to feature I will admit. I think that Bon Jovi's "New Jersey" is a great album but I'd not considered that it would merit the 5.1 treatment.  However, $40 is a lot to pay for an album I already have in at least two other formats so I'll stick to the stereo mix. If "Slippery When Wet" is their breakthrough album, then "New Jersey" is the product of that success and very much tailored to big venues, sound systems and crowds...and fun! Rock on.

Bon Jovi - Born To Be My Baby - https://youtu.be/Ahf2B_eZUc4

Have a great weekend folks!

Rob

One more...this is simply amazing and comes with the World Wide Woozle guarantee of quality!

Friday, August 11, 2017

World Wide Woozle episode #422

I've finally completed my longish review of the 5.1 surround version of The Beatles' , Sgt Pepper's album. You can read it here if you like.

Glen Campbell died this week. This is the last song he ever recorded and I think it says it all.

Glen Campbell - I'm Not Gonna Miss You - https://youtu.be/U8TsAh-zYFI

The passing of Glen made me rather pensive for a while. This next song always comes to mind if I'm feeling down or melancholy. My sadness wasn't infinite thankfully. There's beauty in solitude and serenity at times and that's what this track reminds me of.

Crowded House - Private Universe (live) - https://youtu.be/aGwGi49Lvh0

And now for something completely different. Years ago, a student gave me a CD to listen to. I dug it, played it a few times and then forgot about it....until last week. Thinking about musicians that use recording and soundscapes as an instrument must've lit up some weird neural pathway because it led me to this...and to a guy who I had no idea had been the singer for the Steve Vai band years ago! If you like bands such as Pink Floyd, Dream Theater or Queensryche then you should enjoy this.

Devin Townsend Project - Stormbending - https://youtu.be/YhcoLO8vZZU

DJ ZedBoots recommended this next one to me. I was a bit unsure as I really quite dislike very obviously auto-tuned vocals which the female singer in this song has. Not to judge a band by one song, I sought out some live tracks and an acoustic performance. Lo and behold, she can sing. Ditch the auto-tune ma'am, your voice is just fine. I'll play the acoustic version as I quite like it but if you want to rock out then it's here.

Skillet - Feel Invincible (live/acoustic) - https://youtu.be/C_lgkYynZcE

Choosing a band name is always a challenge and can lead to many fallings out and some disasters! When the members of Death Cab For Cutie chose their moniker from a song by the Bonzo Do Doo-dah Band I wonder if they thought that it sounded like something that a really, really heavy metal band might select? For years I've not listened to this band as I thought that they were in the screamo metal genre. Wrong, wrong, wrong. But the story gets more amusing. I heard a band called Panic At The Disco covering a song and I thought to myself, that guy can really sing. Later in the week I transposed band names and ended up listening to Death Cab For Cutie and here I am loving their work! They are not at all metal or anything like that. I'd imagine that they are influenced by artists such as Daniel Johnston, Wilco, Weezer, The Decemberists, Neil Young and maybe even one of my faves, Winterpills. Today I was at home recovering from a stubborn cold and sinus infection so I listened to three or four of their albums. You should too. 

Death Cab For Cutie - Marching Bands of Manhattan - https://youtu.be/be2LvYXOcSI

DJ Guz has been working at getting me interested in some electronic music as well as some more esoteric stuff. His recommendation of the band Snarky Puppy was excellent. I'm returning the favour this week with a brand new release that I heard on Double J radio and quite enjoyed. This has that thick, fuzzy synth and bass combination that really works with a sub-woofer.

Goldfrapp - Systemagic - https://youtu.be/YGdMxxpeljU 

Righto, so it looks like we Australians might soon have the option to vote yes or no in a non-binding postal vote that our elected representatives may choose to simply ignore. Surely $122m can be better spent somewhere else? However, if we must vote then let's embrace democracy and send the politicians our views. I genuinely hope that the opinion of the majority populace, which is apparently quite clear, is then acted upon appropriately. Peace, love, understanding and all that really does matter. And it goes both ways (thank you Nerida!). 

Rollins Band - Do It - https://youtu.be/AJvFM0NVZnE?t=4m22s

So, we played our last gig and it was loud, energetic and very sweaty. That seemed like a fitting finale. There's a few photos on the band Farcebook page if you fancy a look. It's been a real trip being in a band that played with such passion. I really thought that our penultimate show at Vivaldi's was hard to top but last Saturday night, although only one set, was definitely a high point. Look out for more music from me before too long.

Bryan Adams - Kids Wanna Rock - https://youtu.be/oYi2lqG2u9I?t=29s

Hoo roo,
Rob 

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Sgt Pepper's in 5.1 surround...any good?

The short version:
  • It's great,
  • There's a ton of stuff you've probably never noticed before,
  • I enjoyed it a LOT, and
  • If you like the Beatles at all it's worth it, even if you have to go to someone else's house to listen.
The long version (and it's definitely long):

5.1 surround sound has never interested me in terms of listening to music. Movies are a completely different kettle of fish in my opinion. For me, a band has always been about what you can see and hear coming from in front of you and many live gigs are mixed in mono anyway. Upfront I'll say that this experience hasn't changed my thoughts about surround music. Clarity is one thing and an immersive surround audio experience is something else.

The gear
For those that care, we listened on H's rather amazing 5.1 system which was professionally installed by the good folks at Duratone in Phillip. They know their stuff and spent ages at H's house making sure that it was all setup to perfection. It's an Advanced AL24 Processing Denon amp with two Dynaudio speakers at the front, two PSB speakers at the back, a Jamie speaker at the front centre and an REL subwoofer too. 

Mix choices
The media is the 5.1 surround mix supplied on BluRay in the Sgt Pepper's Super-Deluxe Box Set. It comes in high resolution 96 kHz, 24-bit DTS-HD Master Audio and Dolby TrueHD. There's a stereo mix too which we didn't listen to as it wasn't really the point. We tried both 5.1 options and the fact is that there are subtle differences. At times one was more crisp than the other which had a smooth warmth. At other times there was better clarity that I noticed especially with some guitar parts. The truth is that both DTS and Dolby sound different and it's going to be very much a personal preference.

Track by track
I'm not commenting (much) on the merits of the songwriting or musicianship. What these notes contain is what I heard and felt.

Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band: this sounded like a live rock band to me. The stereo separation, as is evident in the whole album, meant that there were snippets of instrumentation, especially guitar lines that I'd never heard before. I guess that being a guitar player that stood out for me. I wanted to hear this track over and over it was that good. 

With A Little Help From My Friends: clarity aside, the big thing for me in this track was that the backing vocals sounded completely different to what I had remembered. There was simply more of them, more depth and whilst it didn't surround you, it felt as if it was all over me in an almost liquid effect.

Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds - There is guitar doubling that made me stand up and take notice and the vocals in the chorus seem much stronger. In the past when the lyric went to, "taxis appear on the shore", I always felt as if something was ever so slightly out of sync. This was no longer an issue.

Getting Better - in this track, which I've always enjoyed, the vocals were spacious and perhaps that's a function of some very subtle use of the entire 5.1 spectrum. The stand out was that the guitars were so clear that I felt that I'd have a good chance of identifying the type of instrument being played - it was that clear.

Fixing A Hole - this is the first song in which I really noticed the prominence of the bass and drums in the mix. Other than that it felt like almost like being at a soundcheck at the opera.

She's Leaving Home - I really enjoyed the orchestral bits and where each instrument was located in the mix as they were absolutely everywhere.

Being For The Benefit Of Mr Kite - I think that this was the biggest revelation for me on the album. Who knew that it was propelled so hard by drum and bass? There's a wonderful madness to this track that I'd never heard before; not even a hint. 

Within You Without You - like almost everything this sounds superb and the way that you want music to feel as well - like you're in the room with the band. I just don't like the song.

When I'm 64 - would this even get a spot on a rock album today? It's a moot point really as it did back in the day. What is revealed in this release is that it is pushed so hard by Paul and Ringo. Add to that the sublime clarinets and it's a hit! There's also a previously unnoticed guitar track panned hard left which is a real treat.

Lovely Rita - oh wow, this one was like the best garage band you've ever heard with a top shelf backing vocal group added.

Good Morning Good Morning - the low point for me if there has to be one. It lacked the dynamic range of previous tracks. Maybe it was all pushed a little too hard? It is, however, truly chaotic and as a low point it really isn't all that low.

Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (reprise) - my favourite song on the album previously and nothing has changed. There's a piano hard left which sounds just brilliant and the drumming is just so much more in your face.

Overall, this was like being at a live gig where the sound gets fuller and louder as the show goes on. I found the 5.1 surround effect to be subtle in most places, very subtle. Once in a while something would pop up behind you in the listening vantage point but it didn't make a huge difference. What's good about this version of a classic album is that the clarity, across the whole frequency range, is just fabulous. If you've only ever been a casual Beatles listener then I'd recommend this thoroughly. For fans and tragics it is a must.

Going forwards I'm very keen to hear the mono mix. Why? Well because depending on who you believe, that's how the Beatles wanted it. Couple that with the fact that most people were listening on mono radios or portable, one speaker, turntables and it may just be a more authentic experience. When I know, I'll report back.

Rob