Music life in lockdown week 23

This is a review of the albums that I have been listening to whilst working from home. Albums listened to for week 23 covers from 24-28 August.

Monday 24 August – Alice in Chains

New working week which is devoted to Seattle and the grunge revolution. August 21 past was the 30th anniversary of Alice in Chains debut album Facelift (1990) and what better way to start the week. If truth be told, I wouldn’t get into the band until the release of their second album Dirt (1992). The lead track from the album, Would? featured on the Singles movie soundtrack which was a great album that didn’t have any Nirvana on it. Nirvana opened the floodgates for me in discovering all these new American bands.

Between 1992 and 1994 they released two EPS – Sap and Jar of Flies which explored a more acoustic side of the band instead of turning the volume up to 11. Both EPs are brilliant and songs from these records also feature on the MTV Unplugged album from 1996 which featured a new song Killer is Me.

The MTV Unplugged was Alice in Chains’ first concert in two and a half years, and contains live, acoustic versions of the band’s biggest hits and lesser-known songs. This album is one of my favourites of the MTV Unplugged series a close second to Nirvana’s set with Pearl Jam in third place. I literally get goosebumps listening to this.

The last studio album by the band with Layne Staley was their self-titled third album (1996) which featured a very sad looking three-legged dog on the cover. Sometimes referred to as the Dog Album or Tripod. The album was not as successful as Dirt but contained some great songs like Grind, Heaven Beside You and Again.

Sadly Layne passed away on 5 April 2002, exactly 8 years since Kurt Cobain died.

The retrospective album Nothing Safe (1999) is a best of/greatest hits album which would be a sampler for the Music Bank boxset. Nothing Safe contains songs from previous albums FaceliftSapDirtJar of FliesAlice in Chains and Unplugged, as well as the previously unreleased track Get Born Again, recorded between September and October 1998. It is a great collection and good introduction to the band.

Tuesday 25 August – Pearl Jam

Pearl Jam have been no strangers to the lockdown tunes and I have really enjoyed revisiting their albums over the last couple of months. Rather than a repeat listening I have opted for some personal favourite from the band in the form of the official bootlegs that the band release.

Two bootlegs featured here are from my first two Pearl Jam concerts. It took me so long to actually get to see these guys. August 18 2009 I managed to get tickets from their fan club for a show in London where they played at the O2 Arena. Normally I am sceptical of big arenas but this show was amazing. It felt so intimate even if people were situated in the higher up seats were standing up. A great show and really worth the wait to finally see them.

With the release of Backspacer (2009), a European tour took place in June and July 2010, where the band performed in Northern Ireland for the first time at the Odyssey Arena in Belfast. Previous Irish visits over the years were at Dublin and Cork but it was impossible to get tickets back then. I may be biased to say that this is my favourite Pearl Jam gig. I have seen them loads of times since including some Eddie Vedder solo shows but playing in my home city kind of ticks all the boxes. So good was this show that a wedding party had come along to the gig and Eddie called them out and played Among the Waves for them as their first dance – class!

Lost Dogs (2003) is a compilation of a difference as it mainly features b-side material along with previous and unreleased material. One of the songs on the album includes the hidden track 4/20/02 at the end of disc two, a tribute to Alice in Chains frontman Layne Staley. Eddie had wrote that song whilst the band were recording Riot Act.

Pearl Jam Twenty (also known as PJ20) was a  documentary directed by Cameron Crowe about the band.  Crowe completed filming in April 2011, after using 12,000 hours of footage of the band for the documentary. A really great documentary on 20 years of Pearl Jam. I got to see the film at QFT in Belfast. The documentary charts the history of the band, from the demise of Mother Love Bone, their battle against Ticketmaster and the tragedy of the Roskilde Festival in 2000. You can feel the sadness there after Andy Wood dies and also how the band were feeling after the tragedy at Roskilde.

The soundtrack is a companion piece to the film with select live tracks over the years with demos and home recordings. A nice celebration of the band who are still going strong to this day.

Wednesday 26 August – Soundgarden

Like Pearl Jam, Soundgarden have featured quite a lot during lockdown as well a Chris Cornell’s solo stuff. Again instead of revisiting albums previously listened to here, I went for a live album and two best of albums.

The first best of Telephantasm (2010)  followed with the band’s reunion earlier that year. The career-spanning retrospective album includes an unreleased track, Black Rain, taken from the Badmotorfinger recording sessions. The album includes select cuts from their albums including Birth Ritual from the Singles soundtrack. This album is a good introduction to the band.

If you want to take it further, Echo of Miles: Scattered Tracks Across the Path is a 3-CD compilation album from 2014. The album is a collection of rarities, live tracks, and unreleased material spanning the group’s history. It includes previously released songs, such as Live to Rise, Black Rain, and others, as well as a newly recorded rendition of a song from the band’s pre-Matt Cameron 1985 demo, The Storm, now simply titled Storm. The 3- CD set is split as originals, covers and oddities and is a nice collection.

Live From the Artists Den was recorded at the final show of the King Animal tour in 2013 at The Wiltern in Los Angeles. A posthumous release since lead vocalist and guitarist Chris Cornell’s tragic and untimely passing in 2017. I got to see the band when they came to Dublin for this tour and it will be a record I will definitely keep returning to as it was a brilliant live album.

Thursday 27 August – Mudhoney

The original’s from the Seattle scene. Again it was thanks to the Singles soundtrack that was my introduction to them with the track Overblown. I picked out their early works here and hope to have a listen to their most recent output later.

Mudhoney (1989) was their first LP after several singles and an EP Superfuzz Bigmuff. I was listening to the 2008 deluxe edition which expands on the original. Piece of Cake (1992), My Brother The Cow (1995) and Tomorrow Hit Today (1998) were their all released when the band were on a major label.

Mudhoney’s sound is pure grunge which kind of sets them apart from their peers.  They are overlooked by many who would probably know Nirvana more than Mudhoney but the band are a major influence on the early Seattle scene.

Here Comes Sickness (2000) is a collection of recordings that the band have done for BBC including session tracks recorded for John Peel (1989), the Evening Session (1995) and the rest of the album was recorded live for the John Peel show from the 1995 Reading festival.   Also quite fitting to listen to this today on what would have been the Reading Festival weekend which I expand more about on the next day featuring Nirvana.  I got to see Mudhoney earlier that year supporting Soundgarden in Dublin.

Friday 28 August – Nirvana

Closing the week of all things Seattle with Nirvana, the band who started it all for me.  This was a gamechanger and was really just a case of right album at the right time. I look back fondly of that era and feel lucky enough to have seen them live.

Nirvana have been here before on lockdown tunes so without repeating myself again I went for the last two collections of the band – With the Lights Out (2004) contains three CDs and one DVD of previously rare or unreleased material, including B-sides, demos, and rehearsal and live recordings.

This collection was due to have been released in 2001 to mark the band’s 10th anniversary but it never happed due to the legal battle between Cobain’s widow Courtney Love and Dave Grohl and Kris Novoselic.  But it finally seen light of day three years later.

It included a 60-page booklet which contains liner notes by Thurston Moore from Sonic Youth and journalist Neil Strauss, as well as photographs and a chronological catalogue of the band’s recording history, including studio sessions, television and radio appearances, live performances and home demo recordings sessions.

 A very nice collection and definitely one for completists.  If you want the shorter version then you go for the 2002’s best of album Nirvana which included the previously unreleased You Know Your Right.  The demo of the song was included in the boxset.

Quite fitting that I picked Nirvana to end the week on the Reading Festival weekend which of course was cancelled this year due to the pandemic. Nirvana played here first in 1991 when they were lower down the bill headlined by Iggy Pop. A year later, the success of Nevermind brings the band to a headline slot.

Live at Reading (2009) features the band’s headlining performance at the Reading Festival on August 30, 1992. It had been bootlegged for years and I have a copy of the performance that I taped off the radio.  A 25 song strong set just sounds brilliant and you wish you had been over there for that.  Thankfully I got to see them in Belfast a few months beforehand.







Music life in lockdown week 3

So on to week 3 of working from home (WFH) and I had just recently went through my CDs and reorganised the collection.  Looking at them now in order and a bit neater makes it a bit easy for browsing the shelves.  I am old-fashioned I know.

Monday starts with a tribute to both Kurt Cobain and Layne Staley who both died on 5 April.  Kurt died in 1994 and Layne in 2002.  Both were in grunge bands that I loved, Nirvana and Alice in Chains.  Two different bands and two very different styles but I loved both of them.Soundtrack April 6

Looking through my collection I picked two Alice in Chains albums (Dirt and Unlplugged), two Nirvana albums (Bleach and Unplugged) plus Mad Season which was a side project of other members of the Seattle scene – Alice in Chains, Screaming Trees and Pearl Jam.

All great albums, in fact both Unplugged albums are great.  I am a fan of Pearl Jam too but these two are easily no.1 and 2 in the Unplugged series.

As I was listening away I was browsing through Twitter and I seen a tweet from one of the DJs on Radio Ulster, Steven Rainey who hosts the early morning show on the programme asking for requests.  So I fired off a tweet requesting Nirvana and Alice in Chains dedicated to both Kurt and Layne.  I stopped listening to the CD player and tuned into the radio.  I got the shout out for both of them and Steven played About A Girl by Nirvana.  I was blown away by this as I hadn’t requested a particular song, just hoping he’d play anything by the band.  He did mention me in a reply that he would play Alice in Chains next time.  Sweet.

Quite pleased with that I looked to the next day to see what the theme would be.  Again the beauty of looking at your collection is a bit like browsing through records in a shop is that you look through the racks to see if something stands out.  Since I reorganised the CDs, two stuck out straight way – Kyuss and Probot.  Theme here is front men.  Josh Homme from Queens of the Stone Age was in Kyuss and Dave Grohl’s Probot was a collection of songs written by him by performed by metal legends like Lemmy, King Diamond, Max Cavalera, to name a few. Soundtrack April 7

The albums selected for playing on Tuesday was Kyuss’s Welcome To Sky Valley, two from Queens of the Stone Age (Rated R and Songs for the Deaf which also features Dave Grohl on drums) and of course Probot which was self titled.  Quite a heavy rotation for a Tuesday morning.

Both Queens of the Stone Age albums are big favourites of mine.  The Probot side project was great to and was a bit different from Foo Fighters.  I don’t think I appreciated Kyuss as much so might need to go back to that one.  Bought the CD because Josh Homme was in the band.

It is now middle of the week and Easter holidays are fast approaching even in lockdown.  Wednesday I decided to dedicate it to Ash, renaming it Ash Wednesday.  Actually I’ve nicked that idea of them as they posted something like that back when Lent was starting.Soundtrack April 8

Hard to believe I have been following this band for 25 years.  For Wednesday I picked the best of the bunch, the Trailer mini LP, the debut 1977, it’s follow up Nu-Clear Sounds and their third album Free All Angels.  Chucked in the new 25 year retrospective CD Teenage Wildlife which was signed by Tim Wheeler who I met back in February at an instore performance and signing at HMV.

Getting the grips of picking themes for this week, so Thursday’s selected is all dedicated to REM for no apparent reason other than I wanted to listen to them.Soundtrack April 9

My introduction to REM was quite late.  I had by passed their early releases especially their big releases from the 90s Out of Time and Automatic for the People.  I think looking back it was Shiny Happy People that put me off them and for some reason Automatic for the People didn’t quite grab me at the time.  Although I liked the lead track Drive, it wasn’t enough to convince me.

However, that all changed then they released Monster in 1994 and then I started to pay attention.  I really liked the album and then started to have an appreciation of their back catalogue.  Included are the albums I didn’t like first time round, Out of Time and Automatic for the People along with their major label debut, Green.

But stand out album of them all is New Adventures in Hi-Fi.  That is my favourite REM album and it is just brilliant.  By that stage I got my first taste of them live, seeing them at Slane Castle in 1995.  All of the songs on New Adventures were written on the road during the Monster tour.

Week 3 is coming to a close as it is now Good Friday and a long weekend of no work for the Easter break.  I didn’t really plan this one very well so it was a bit random but when I picked out these CDs a small pattern was emerging.Soundtrack April 10

I decided to mix it up a bit with some punk.  I had a few compilation albums that I picked up free on music magazines, two of them from Kerrang magazine which featured a good bunch of metal and punk bands.  Both CDs would open the doors for other bands to get into which is good.

My interest in the Ramones began with another band Husker Du who used to do a live version of Sheena is a Punk Rocker.  That lead me to the only Ramones CD that I own, Anthology which features a career spanning retrospective from their early days right up to the last album.  A total of 57 tracks which in my book was pretty good valve for money.  The other CD came from Mojo magazine which looked back at the roots of the band.  It was a good one to listen to.