Welcome to Powderfingerspeaks. Here you will find my thoughts on the things which interest me. That will mainly be music, but will likely include beer, whisky, film and anything else that takes my fancy. Opinions are all my own. Your mileage may differ. If it does, then enjoy your own journey. This is mine, please join me for the ride.
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Top Ten Albums Of 2018 - Number 1
A note before I start. This is not the definite list of the best albums of 2018, but my personal top ten.I have only included albums that I own, and there will be notable and popular records not in this top ten simply because I have neither the time or inclination to listen to them all. It's okay to disagree! With that said here's my choice for number 1, and coincidentally the subject of my very first blog post back in Back Roads And Abandoned Motels by The Jayhawks
Arriving just over two years after 2016’s “Paging Mr Proust”, the new album from Minnesota’s finest is a departure, in that most but not all of the songs were co-written with other artists. Two Gary Louris originals round out the set. Whilst “Paging Mr Proust” was a return to form after the, in my mind, lacklustre and inconsistent “Mockingbird Time”, this is a step back up to the 1992-2003 heyday.
From the moment the drums and bass guitar strike up an instantly recognisable Jayhawks groove on “Come Cryin’ To Me”, until the final chord of “Leaving Detroit” fades out, this is a treat for fans of the band and anyone who enjoys good music. None of these tracks outstay their welcome, the melodies linger and at least 3 tracks, “Gonna Be A Darkness”, “El Dorado” and “Carry You To Safety” would go straight onto a “Best Of” compilation. “Gonna Be A Darkness” joins Mazzy Star’s “Look On Down From The Bridge” and Bruce Springsteen’s “Land Of Hope & Dreams” as songs that speak to me powerfully about death.
Hearing Karen take a couple of lead vocals is a pleasant surprise. Hopefully we’ll get to see them over in the UK next year and hear some of these tracks in the flesh.
Whilst only the passage of time will dictate the place this album eventually settles in the band’s canon, it certainly feels like it would sit comfortably just behind “Hollywood Town Hall” and “Rainy Day Music”; their 1997 masterpiece “Sound Of Lies” still standing out as their finest work.
In summary, if you like The Jayhawks, buy this album. If you like “alt-country, Americana, roots rock” or whatever label you’d apply, buy this album.
One of the glaring gaps in my live music experience was filled on Friday night, after catching Iron Maiden at the O2 in London. Before the main event though, support was provided by a band I'd happily pay to watch a headline set by, Killswitch Engage. The Massachusetts natives hit the stage at 1930, tearing into "Strength Of Mind" to a decent reception. Given that everyone was there for Maiden, the arena was far fuller than normal for an opening act, indicative of the quality of the metalcore pioneers.
The power of their performance and material really struck me at the end of the 2nd track "A Bid Farewell" and the beginning of the following song, "Hate By Design". The two guitars of Adam Dutkiewicz and Joel Stroetzel, along with the bass of Mike D'Antonio all locked in on the same riff, doubling and then tripling for a visceral audio punch. " My Last Serenade" from the seminal "Alive Or Just Breathing" was a mid set highlight, but…
As previously mentioned, there was a certain sadness attached to this run of gigs by Bellshill's finest. My fear was that the imminent departure of Gerry Love would change the atmosphere from one of celebration to regret. Fortunately this was not to be the case. Whilst the atmosphere WAS different from a normal Fannies gig, that had more to do with the set list and personnel on stage.
Billed as 'The Creation Years- Songs From 1994-1997', this was exactly as advertised. What we got was "Grand Prix" and "Songs From Northern Britain", (SFNB), top to tail and in order.
Given that those two albums are the finest work the band produced, there were no complaints from me. What it did highlight was the difference between a live show and an album in terms of sequencing. Whereas most gigs will build to a big finish, "Grand Prix" for example finishes with "Hardcore/Ballad", a mash up of the early raw sound cutting immediately into a heartfelt sol…
A new album from Tim Showalter which, barring a final misstep, hits all the Americana, (and more), marks. This album is heartfelt, sleazy, uplifting, classic and referential all at the same time whilst still pointing forwards.
The beginning is inauspicious. "Weird Ways" starts out like a standard Ryan Adams ballad, but takes off halfway through in a way that reveals the pedigree of the other musicians on the album. After hearing this track I thought it sounded like the aforementioned Mr Adams playing with My Morning Jacket(MMJ). The reverb drenched sound kept rearing its head and a little research revealed that, minus main man Jim James, they were the backing musicians on the album . No wonder I kept hearing them! As a band who has produced much that I like this was a good thing.
After "Weird Ways" heads for the stars we stay there with "Hyperspace Blues" which is one for fans of Jason Pierce's Spiritualized, and sounds just as a song with that title s…
Have you ever struggled to understand the appeal of an artist?
In the case of Bruce Springsteen I was in this camp until August 2002. I appreciated that he was a significant figure in music, and enjoyed some of his hits, "Born To Run" and "Thunder Road" in particular. "Born To Run" and "Greatest Hits" were the only albums of his I owned, and found the almost religious fervour of his most passionate devotees baffling.
All that changed in early August 2002 when on the basis of many positive reviews at the time I bought his just released, (9/11 addressing & E-Street Band reuniting), album "The Rising". I was walking the dog, listening on headphones, and had found the first 10 tracks, enjoyable, if not spectacular. Track 11,"Mary's Place", changed all that. The old time gospel hall feel with it's saxophone licks caught my attention. I wasn't prepared for what happened at 3:34 on "...drop the needle and pray...…
A short series of posts looking at the albums that either arrived too late, or I discovered through other peoples 'best of' lists, that I feel warrant discussion in the 'Best Of 2018'.
Springsteen On Broadway
This double CD came along in December as the complete soundtrack to the Netflix recording of the Broadway show.
I had managed to avoid any spoilers about the show, other than picking up the general vibe that it was good. It was therefore a surprise that it was unlike any other Springsteen album, indeed a show and not a concert. More monologue than songs it is nonetheless a fascinating document and a must listen/watch for any music fan.
Using some of the material from his autobiography to take us on a journey through his life in word and song with sincerity and good humour, this is an enjoyable ride. Are any of the versions of songs here the definitive versions? Not really, but that is not the point. The unique format is the selling point. If you want classic …
Whilst Shakey's new output has been patchy to say the least over the last few years, the Neil Young Archives keep dispensing the goodness. After "Hitchhiker" last year we've already had "Roxy: Tonight's The Night Live" in 2018. Now we get a 23 track, 22 song single disc of solo live Neil with a difference.
A mono soundboard mix recorded on cassette and then transferred to reel-to reel for posterity from a 1976 U.S. tour by photographer/guitar tech Joel Bernstein. In conjunction with his friend Cameron Crowe, (yes, that Cameron Crowe) they compiled the best versions that comprise this release.
It is a real treat. The track listing is superb with plenty of lesser known gems alongside the staples. "White Line", which didn't finally appear on record until 1990's superb "Ragged Glory".
"Human Highway" which Neil introduces with a comment about the abortive attempts to get it recorded.
Musical trends come and go, but when you've sold as many albums as Def Leppard you are to a certain extent immune from the shifting sands of the taste makers.
Never a band beloved by the music press, the rock legends have always relied on their craft to find them the fans, rather than the hype machine.
Having last seen them as one of 40'000 at their homecoming gig in Sheffield on 6th June 1993, I was looking forward to seeing if they still had 'it'.
The answer is a resounding yes. From the minute Phil Collen emerged into a red spotlight to play the opening riff to "Women" it was clear that this was going to be good. The band sounded fantastic, the guitars squealing, Joe Elliot's voice still husky and the layered harmonies hitting the spot.
This tour was billed as "Hysteria 2018" and was the first time other than their 2013 Las Vegas residency that they'd played the 25 million selling album in full. This was not false advertising.