Music life in lockdown week 29

This is a review of the albums that I have been listening to whilst working from home. Albums listened to for week 29 covers from 5-9 October.

Monday 5 October

I first covered the big four of US trash metal way back at the start of lockdown.  Week 2 they were shaking the foundations of the house with four albums – Anthrax’s Got the Time, Slayer’s Seasons in the Abyss and Megadeth’s Rust in PeaceMetallica’s And Justice for All.

Today I though it be great to revisit these bands again with a slight change in the playlist.  Apart from sticking Slayer’s Seasons in the Abyss on again which is my favourite Slayer album, I also gave South of Heaven (1988) a spin.  At that point in time I would never have considered listening to Slayer.  There is something about Seasons in the Abyss that makes the album stand out well.

Another album from 1988 – Anthrax’s State of Euphoria broke new mould for the trash era.  They didn’t dress in the traditional metal sense with Bermuda shorts and baseball caps, but they had a love for the genre of horror and comic books which made them look a bit different compared to their peers.  I finally bought this album (the deluxe edition) and I liked it.  Took a long time to get into Anthrax.  They had a love of comics especially 2000AD and Judge Dredd so what was there not to like? 

I have too many Megadeth albums.  I could have just gone for the classics, but Rust in Peace was already touched on.  Also had a Megadeth themed day with the Warchest box set.  This album, Warheads for Foreheads came out last year was a celebration of the bands 35th anniversary and all 35 songs were complied and choose by Dave Mustaine.  This album is more of an anthology instead of being a greatest hits collection.  Songs from both Rust in Peace and Peace Sells feature heavy here with four songs from each album.

Metallica are considered one of the pioneers of the trash genre.  But they have evolved over the years since the Black album (1991).  And Justice of All (1988) was my introduction to the band proper after hearing the single One.  Most Metallica purists don’t rate this album mostly due to not being able to hear the bass.  To be honest when you have a hearing impairment like myself that was kind of lost on me as I just enjoyed the album as it was.

Hardwired…To Self- Destruct was the bands tenth studio album, eight years following Death Magnetic from 2008.  Another attempt to revisit the early days of their career, I think this album is more enjoyable than Death Magnetic and St. Anger (both albums that tried to capture their old sound).  I think it is their best since the Black Album

Prior to the release of Hardwired, Metallica were Record Store Day ambassadors in 2016.  For that year they released a CD Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité, Metallica! – Live at Le Bataclan, Paris, France – June 11th, 2003.  This benefit album in aid of Give for France was in honour of the victims of the Paris attacks, in which 130 people were killed and another 398 injured across the French capital in November 2015.  It only has 9 tracks on it, but it is a good collection of live songs that they played in the venue.

Tuesday 6 October

Today was all about two amazing vocalists who are no longer with us – Jeff Buckley and Chris Cornell and both are connected in many ways.

Grace (1994) was Jeff Buckley’s only album and it is an amazing album.  His vocals are so haunting especially his cover for Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah which only got released in 2008 on iTunes after it was performed by Jason Castro on American Idol.  It would again reappear later in the year for the Christmas no.1 when Alexandra Burke won The X Factor using the same song.  Fans launching a campaign, but it only got to no2.

The connection with Chris Cornell is that after his Jeff’s death a collection of demo recordings and a full-length album he has been reworking was overseen by Chris and his mother.  Chris wrote Wave Goodbye on his first solo album, Euphoria Morning for Jeff.

Jeff did make a visit to Belfast to the Limelight in 1994 and one of the biggest regrets of mine is not having the conviction to go to gigs on my own back then compared to now.  I am sure that was a great show.

When Chris Cornell died on 18/05/2017 it was a real shock.  His suicide hit me harder than Kurt Cobain’s in 1994.  I had just been following the progress of Soundgarden’s latest US tour at the time and was hoping that he would bring the band to Belfast after this first and only solo at the Ulster Hall the previous year.  But it wasn’t to be.

Prior to seeing Chris live for the first time at Dublin’s Olympia Theatre in 2012, Songbook (2011) was released as a live album which was his first solo acoustic tour across the USA and Canada earlier that year. The songs recorded during various shows on the tour, and included songs from Cornell’s whole career: solo, SoundgardenAudioslaveTemple of the Dog, as well as covers of Led Zeppelin’s Thank You and John Lennon’s Imagine. This was a fantastic album and he didn’t disappoint the two times I saw him that year in Dublin and the following week in Birmingham before going on to see Pearl Jam in Manchester the next day. Was hoping he would turn up there but he had his own gig that night in Newcastle.

Higher Truth (2015) would be his fourth solo album and also final album. I have a boxset of his that will get played at some point. It is a really beautiful album and it is sad that was his last. He had so much to give to the world of music. Thankfully I got to see Chris live two more times with his only visit to Belfast and also in Glasgow.

Rest in Peace Jeff and Chris.

Wednesday 7 October

It was all about The Specials today.  I first heard them in 1980 when Ghost Town got no.1.  I was still in primary school and what I was listening to then was the likes of Madness, Bad Manners and The Specials.  Although I had more Madness records than The Specials, it is only recently that I have managed to get some of their back catalogue.

Two albums that got the re-release treatment in 2015– Specials (1979) and More Specials (1980). 

Specials features two discs, the original album with a second disc with the Too Much Too Young EP and a BBC In Concert from a performance in 1979.    More Specials is similar with the original album and a second disc called Extra More Specials.  It featured singles, B-sides and rarities.

I probably could have done with not having The Best of the Specials (2008) which I think coincided with their reunion tour.  I had purchased this CD around the time of their visit to Belfast in 2009 when they played St George’s Market.  I was totally blown away by their performance and despite not having heard them in years I recognised the songs.  It was a pretty good gig for a reunion, and I have seen them several times since.

Most bands could happily ride the reunion circuit and not do any more albums but in 2019 the band released Encore, their first album since 1998 and their first with Terry Hall since 1981’s Ghost Town single.  The relevance of what the band had to say in the eighties also applies to the present day taking in issues such as mental health, poverty, racism and austerity.  The album featured a track called Ten Commandments which had guest vocals from Saffiyah Khan who was photographed cheerfully facing down an angry EDL protester in Birmingham wearing a Specials t-shirt.  A record for the times that we live in.

Thursday 8 October

No CDs today mainly because I was listening to music on Spotify which I don’t normal use but for the sake of research and taking part in Richard Shaw’s #3lbums68.  I thought it be fun and try listening to some music from the 1960s.  Only need to pick three albums from 1968 that I think would be my favourite, so I came across six albums by Van Morrison, Rolling Stones, The Kinks, The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix and The Doors.

I gave local boy; Van Morrison first listen with his Astral Weeks album.  Quite a few people would say that is his best album.  I just wasn’t getting it but maybe I not doing the album justice as I am trying to listen to six albums that I never have had or listened to full before. Spotify probably not the best platform for this.

The same applied to The Beatles.  The White Album is another critics favourite and I will be the first to admit that I never gave the band a chance.  Maybe I need to listen to a best of Beatles album to see if I could like them.  The White Album though is a game changer for the band as they moved further and further away from being a pop band for teenage girls.

The Rolling Stones another band for the sixties that I hadn’t paid too much attention too.   I guess by the time I had heard of them whilst growing up, but didn’t buy any of their albums even during the 1980s.  Anyway, Beggars Banquet was the choice for today.  Quite a lot of songs on this I knew that I like such as Brown Sugar and Paint It Back.  Possibly a contender.

Next up was Jimi HendrixElectric Ladyland was his third and final album before his death in 1970.  The year before I was born.  This a great album and I loved it.  Was definitely going to be a contender for me. Maybe I like this more than the other three albums as it was a more rock album that I like.  He does a great cover of Bob Dylan’s All Along the Watchtower.  This album is not in my collection.  If I ever need to fill a gap on the shelf, I will be buying this. 

An album that shared the same release day as The White Album, The Kinks released The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society.  They were on the scene around the time of Merseybeat which was an earlier version of the modern-day Britpop scene.  I liked their style and this album was gaining momentum to be in my top 3.

Last of the 1968 albums was The Doors Waiting for The Sun.  I first remember hearing about them at the time of the 1991 film by Oliver Stone and staring Val Kilmer as Jim Morrison.  A friend of mine got the soundtrack to the movie for Christmas and that’s when I first heard them but to be honest I never got back into listening to them again as my own music tastes were evolving around that time of the grunge revolution but The Doors are definitely a band that I would appreciate.

Prior to listening to Waiting for the Sun, I was familiar with most of their songs, but I really liked this album and it was going to be a contender.  I only have two Doors albums in my collection.  I should really expand on this.

My final #3albums68 are: Jimi Hendrix Electric Ladyland, The Doors Waiting for the Sun and The KinksThe Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society.

Friday 9 October

Ending the working week with some albums by one of my favourite bands, Feeder.  They are a band that I have been following since 1997 with their debut album, Polythene.  This was the band’s earlier effort and it had a grunge feel to it.  It is a solid debut album. They are the type of band that came onto the scene at the height of Britpop but weren’t in the same leagues as say Oasis or Blur.

Yesterday Went to Soon (1999) enjoyed a decent amount of success including slots on Top of the Pops which helped them with their breakthrough album Echo Park (2001) which lead single Buck Rogers which had a bit of a Pixies influence to it.  Around this time, I had been getting the change to see the band live.  One of the more memorable gigs was their support slot for Stereophonics at Belfast’s Odyssey Arena (now SSE Arena) and they blew them off the stage.  After that gig I had gone of Stereophonics completely.  They were quite dull live compared to the energy that Feeder had. Not very often the support coming out on tops.

Fourth album, Comfort in Sound (2002) came out after the suicide of drummer Jon Lee earlier in the year.  The album was a major commercial success giving the band their first top 10 single Just the Way I’m Feeling.   The follow up Pushing the Senses (2005) got mixed reviews despite commercial success.  Some felt it was going down the Coldplay and Keane route, but I don’t think it was.

In many ways it’s a follow up to the previous album as the band come to terms with the loss of their friend and it feels very uplifting.   The follow up album Silent Cry (2008) became their sixth album and considered their lowest selling album.  But despite the poor sales, they still proved a big draw on the live scene.  The band were moving up the table to bigger venues and then on festival slots too.

I have always enjoyed seeing them live and they put on a great show.  Even managed to see Grant Nicholas do a solo show which was great.  I met the band last year as they were promoting their new album, Tallulah at Belfast HMV with a signing.  I went along to get my copy signed and asked the band if they would like to give me a shout out for my blog.  It was on the spot and probably cheeky on my part, but I wouldn’t have been offended if they said no but they were great sports and read out my hastily put together script for them to read out.  It was a nice plug.

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