Music life in lockdown week 36

This is a review of the albums that I have been listening to whilst working from home. Albums listened to for week 36 covers from 23-27 November.

Monday 23 November

Today was totally devoted to all things REM.  This boxset is one of my favourites in my collection. 

R.E.M. at the BBC (2018) is a massive eight-disc compilation features sessions recorded between 1984 and 2008.  Over the discs we get sessions from 1991 which mainly showcase three songs from Out of TimeHalf A World Away, Radio Song and Losing My Religion with World Leader Pretend from Green and Fretless from Until The End of the World soundtrack.  The session finishes with a cover of Love Is All Around.

The next three sessions include four tracks from 1998’s Up for John Peel with a few shorter sessions for Radio 1 – Bad Day and Orange Crush for Mark and Lard 2003.  Also, from 2003 the band are played on Radio 2 for Drivetime – Man on the Moon and Imitation of Life feature here.  The last session on the disc is the BBC1 Live Lounge from 2008 where the band play a track from their new album, Accelerate and a cover version of their choice which was Munich by Editors.  It was quite different to the original and not that I expected.

The second disc is a much longer Peel Session from 1998 featuring 12 live tracks which were recorded on 25/10/98.  The oldest recordings are on disc 3 which features a live performance from Rock City, Nottingham on 21/11/84 and features most of the earliest material including Radio Free Europe, So. Central Rain (I’m Sorry) and (Don’t Go Back To) Rockville.

Discs 4 and 5 feature the bands headline slot at Milton Keynes on 30/11/95 from the Monster tour.  This was the year I got to see the band live at Slane Castle which is one of my favourite gigs.  Interestingly it sees the band return to Milton Keynes nearly 10 years after supporting U2 at the same venue.

My favourite of the collection is from discs 6 and from the bands headline slot at Glastonbury on 25/06/99.  This was my first and only visit to Glastonbury and I loved that headline slot.  It was nice to get it on CD now as I had an audio copy that I set to tape while I was away. 

Final live broadcast is from St James Church in London for Radio 2 on 15/09/04 featuring 11 tracks recorded at this intimate venue.

Tuesday 24 November

I love the concept of the supergroup where it brings different bands together to do new things.

The first supergroup I listened to was Temple of the Dog who formed in 1990 as a tribute to the late Andy Wood (Mother Love Bone).  The group was conceived by Chris Cornell on vocals, Matt Cameron from Soundgarden on drums, with Stone Gossard, Jeff Ament and Mike McCready from Pearl Jam.  Eddie Vedder appeared as guest on the album doing the duet with Chris Cornell on Hunger Strike.  The album was released in 1991 but it would be until 1992 that it became more widely recognised as the record company’s would discover as soon as grunge broke there was interest in the scene.

In 2016 they got together and toured the album for its 25th anniversary.  Would love to have seen that tour but it was mostly across North America.  It remains one of my favourite albums from the 1990s.

The second supergroup that I liked; Mad Season formed two years later in 1994.  Mainly a side project of members of other bands in the Seattle grunge scene – Alice in Chains, Screaming Trees and Pearl Jam.  Members included Mike McCready (Pearl Jam), Layne Staley (Alice in Chains). Barrett Martin (Screaming Trees) and John Baker Saunders (The Walkabouts).  They only released one album, Above (1995) which also included guest vocals from Mark Lanegan (Screaming Trees).

Tragedy would strike the band as both Layne and John died of drug overdoses.  Above is a great record and it sits well in my collection along with Temple of the Dog, as two of my favourite albums.

Dave Grohl tends to be a very busy man when he is not concentrating on his day job with Foo Fighters.  Grohl has been involved in a few side projects including Probot, Sound City and Them Crooked Vultures. 

Probot (2004) was his love letter to his passion for heavy metal and the songs he wrote which he performed by a variety of metal legends like Lemmy, Cronos, Max Cavalera and King Diamond. 

It is a great record, and it plays like if you were doing a mixtape of your favourite metal bands.

Another side project that Grohl was involved in was Them Crooked Vultures featuring Josh Homme (Queens of the Stone Age) and John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin).  The album sounds more like a Queen of the Stone Age record as the style was just like theirs.  The album didn’t grab my attention the same way that Temple of the Dog and Mad Season did.  Maybe another listen is required to appreciate it.

In 2013 he done a documentary on the music studio Sound City (Probot was also recorded there).  He formed the Sound City Players with a variety of different artists including some members of Foo Fighters, Queens of the Stone Age, Stevie Nicks, Rick Springfield, Corey Taylor from Slipknot, Trent Razor and Paul McCartney who would form which many seen as a Nirvana “reunion” on the track Cut Me Some Slack featuring surviving Nirvana members Dave Grohl, Krist Novoselic and Pat Smear.  Paul McCartney is no Kurt Cobain, and I enjoyed the record I would never view this as Nirvana coming back together.  Just a bit of fun for those guys to get together and jam.

Last supergroup of the day is BNQT who were an indie super group featuring Fran Healy (Travis), Alex Kapranos (Franz Ferdinand), Eric Puildo (Midlake), Ben Bridwell (Band of Horses) and Jason Lyttle (Grandaddy).

The album came out in 2017 and it was recommended to me when I went into Head Records to get some music.  It is a decent enough album and would be interesting to see if they all get together again for volume 2.

Wednesday 25 November

Frank Turner began his career as vocalist of post-hardcore band Million Dead whose album features here.   The band took their name from the Refused song The Apollo Programme Was a Hoax.  Their debut album A Song to Ruin (2003) was very heavy punk with a political message.  The band released one more album and then called it a day in 2005.

From there Frank Turner went solo with his accompanied band The Sleeping Souls.  The first solo album I bought was England Keep My Bones (2011) and then following that bought Love Ire & Song (2008) and Poetry of the Deed (2009). 

Tape Deck Heart followed in 2013 and the last album I bought was Positive Songs for Negative People (2015).

Frank Turner makes some really good music here as his style after being in a post-hardcore band is very much folk influenced with a bit of punk.

Thursday 26 November

Before I got into grunge, the first Seattle band I liked was Queensryche who formed in 1980 and were considered part of the big 3 in the progressive metal scene. 

1988’s Operation: Mindcrime was their third album being a concept album and rock opera.  I love this album and it grabs your attention from the opening bars of I Remember Now to Anarchy-X which is instrumental.  By the end of the album, you have just been on an incredible journey.

The follow up, Empire (1990) was a favourite of mine too and funny enough for this tour, this was where the band started to play Mindcrime in its entirety even though Empire was the current release.  One of my biggest regrets was not going to see them when they came to Belfast. 

By the time they released Promised Land (1994) I was starting to go off the band but got interested again when I saw that they done a follow up to MindcrimeOperation: Mindcrime II picks off where the original left off.  I went for the double live set where they played both albums in their entirety at the Moore Theatre in Seattle.

Geoff Tate left the band in 2012 resulting in him losing the brand name of Queensryche so he has the right to use the name, Operation: Mindcrime which he uses for his solo tour.  I went to see Geoff play a show at the Empire in Belfast and he is an incredible vocalist using a touring band to play Queensryche songs.  Probably the closest I was going to get to hearing the songs live.  He was due to come back to Belfast this year to do Empire which is now 30 years old.  How time flies.  But looking back, it’s really Operation: Mindcime and Empire that are my favourite albums.

Friday 27 November

Rounding off the listening week to the songs of Mark Lanegan.  Having first encountered his work with Screaming Trees, this post-Trees solo stuff is amazing.  He seems to be a frequent collaborator with Queens of the Stone Age but has also worked with Kurt Cobain doing Lead Belly covers that were never released.  Other collaborations include working with Mad Season, The Gutter Twins with Greg Dulli, The Twilight Singers, Soulsavers and Isobel Campbell to name by a few.

The first solo album I bought was Whiskey for the Holy Ghost (1994) which was his second solo album, and it was great.  Different delivery to Screaming Trees but still a great album.

I finally got 1990s The Winding Sheet which was his debut solo album.  Highlights from this album include Mockingbirds, Wildflowers and Ugly Sunday. 

Kurt Cobain provides guitar and vocals on Down in the Dark along with Krist Novosleic on bass.  Where Did You Sleep Last Night on this album inspired Nirvana to do a cover of it on 1993’s MTV Unplugged.  Both versions are classics.

Fast forward to 2001 and fifth album Field Songs which includes contributions from Mike Johnson, Ben Shepherd (Soundgarden) and Duff McKagan (Velvet Revolver/Guns n’Roses).  Many drew comparisons with Tom Waits on his album.

Bubblegum (2004) would be the first-time releasing albums under the name Mark Lanegan Band.  Again, a wide variety of guest musicians are involved on this album including PJ Harvey, Josh Homme and Nick Oliveri (Queens of the Stone Age), Greg Dulli (Afghan Whigs) and Duff McKagan and Izzy Stradilin (Guns n’Roses).

Hit the City would be his first charted single in the British singles charts.  With this vast array of talent on the record it is just brilliant.  One of my favourites from that year.

Blues Funeral (2012) was album number seven and his first new material in eights years.  He had been doing extensive collaborations with Isobel Campbell.  I really liked this album and when he came to Belfast on the tour that year, I purchased the album on vinyl which he signed after the gig.

The last album here is the 3-disc compilation Has God Seen My Shadow which features songs from his released between 1989 and 2011. A good starting point if you want to listen to him for the first time.  The first two discs are all material from his solo albums while the third disc is previously unreleased songs.  None of his many collaborations are included in this album.

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