Mojo Review Challenge#003 – Pentangle – Basket Of Light

MOJO3_JohnLeeHookerWhere I dig into something I’ve not heard before, from the reviews section of old Mojo Magazines, on an irregular basis.

#003 – Pentangle – Basket Of Light

My love affair with folk music lasted only a couple of years and leaned very American. The stars of the English folk scene I know but don’t really know. I smidgen of John Martyn. Nick Drake of course. The music of Pentangle and Bert Jansch has always alluded me.

I have friends (hello Tom) who love Jansch. Every so often you meet a devotee. Many of my musical favourites loved him too – especially the American folkies and guitar heroes. For me, he seems to have made 80 albums and one of those people whose catalogues were impenetrable.

Pentangle was his band and this record, Basket Of Light, is their most famous and commercially successful. It’s a record that makes a lot of lists. I liked the album cover (it reminded me of The Beach Boys‘ album Holland). This record was reviewed as part of some big catalogue move. Mojo saw it fit to give a whole double page to a bunch of Jansch related releases.

I don’t know if I’m ever going to be a big English folk guy. This apparent classic of the genre is helping any. There’s something so twee and distancing about it. I also find the subject matter on this album so distancing. It’s so impressionist it fails to really make an impression. Again this might be me unfairly comparing it to its American brother, who seemed to say everything music could say in the 60s (and that’s just Bob Dylan).

You can definitely hear some cool guitar stuff, but the baroque-y, almost choral music just puts me off. Light Flight and Springtime Promises are lovely. Jansch in particular has a lovely vocal. Lyke-Wake Dirge – utterly horrible. I’d also like to note here that I’ve never bought into that very Tolkien-esque lyric bands.

I’ll keep this on the iPod a while longer, and let it perculate. I feel like there is something I’m not hearing in that pastoral English Folk music.

Basket-of-light

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Mojo Reviews Challenge #002 – World Gone Wrong – Bob Dylan

MOJO2_KDLangWhere I dig into something I’ve not heard before, from the reviews section of old Mojo Magazines, on an irregular basis.

#002 – World Gone Wrong – Bob Dylan

In the often rattled out argument between the Beatles and the Stones, my go-to 60s legend is usually Bob Dylan. He released 400 albums in the 60s, the least of which means more to me than the entire Stones and Beatles catalogue combined.

Which is odd that I have never ever heard World Gone Wrong.

Truth be told, I’ve probably known about this album almost as long as any other. It was the first Dylan album to be released in a time when I was aware he was still going. I remember one especially hip girl listening to it in school (I thought she was talking about The Screaming Jets album World Gone Crazy).

I followed Dylan happily into the late 70s but I lose track after Slow Train Coming. I have various compilations that cover off the 80s and onwards. I have a couple of the records, and since the groundbreaking Time Out Of Mind I have bought every Dylan since. I also have hundreds of bootleg recordings and other things.

It’s odd that I’ve avoided this one. First, it’s old timey songs and I love old timey songs. Second, it’s reputation is still pretty good. But I was always tracking down another love bootleg from 67 and ignoring all his late 80s and early 90s.

MOJO deemed it worthy enough to give it the lead, double page album review in their second issue. Dylan, even before Time Out Of Mind, was a big deal in their world. And the album before this one – Good As I Been To You – is the same as this album – old folk songs of just Dylan and guitar. It got pretty good acclaim.

This album is good – very good. If you hate the voice then there is little for you here. But it’s just Bob and a guitar and it’s such a lovely sound. The song choice is full of gentle, dark songs. Lots of murder and crime afoot. Lots of broken hearts. It feels like those strange puzzle songs he would write (and cover) in the 60s and 70s.

The title track which opens the record deserves to be placed on those Very Best Of Bob Dylan Volume 4 or something. It’s as good and as direct as anything he’s ever done. He’s still rocking out the blues guitar on things like ‘Broke Down Engine’, but it’s the sweetness of ‘Love Henry’ or ‘Delia’ that really hit home..

It’s also a nice short 10 track record. Every Dylan album since this one is 20 minutes (and sometimes 40) too long. It’s my one big complaint about recent Dylan. Just make 40 minute records, dude. This is like another version of Nashville Skyline. A lovely collection of traditional tunes from a man who knows his traditional tunes.

It’s odd to think of Dylan if Time Out Of Mind had not happened. Would he be just making albums like this every few years? Filed under folk and sitting with Loudon Wainwright III albums or something? I don’t know if that would be such a bad thing.

Now, to get Good As I Been To You.

Bob_Dylan_-_World_Gone_Wrong

Continuous Hit Music: Donovan – Greatest Hits

Continuous Hit Music – a weekly exploration of vinyl finds in 2012. Read ’em all here.

Artist: Donovan
Title: Greatest Hits
Original Release: 1969
Label: Columbia
Store: Rick Rack Retro, Summer Hill, 136 Smith St, Summer Hill
Price: $10
(Original US printing)

Rick Rack Retro seems to be one of a thousand cool second hand knicknack places. King St in Newtown is full of them. The growingly trendy suburb of Summer Hill has a couple too. And amongst the retro clothes and vintage kitsch cutlery, most of them have a box of records somewhere. Who knows how this stuff got there, but most of the time they have something worth buying.

The choice this time around was between a copy of Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits Volume 1, or this Donovan collection. Poor Donovan. Even in a box under some clothes in the suburbs of Australia, he’s up against Dylan. You’re lucky the Dylan sleeve was slightly more worn.

I should like Donovan more than I do. I very much enjoy all the songs of his I’ve come across. But even on CD, I only own this Greatest Hits title. If I could, I would like to blame the people at Sony Legacy for this. With no box set or deluxe reissues, my money went elsewhere, to newer reissues that seemed to be more important. Fuck, I’ve bought My Aim Is True like 5 times. God I’m a sucker.

Speaking of the CD, and blaming Sony Legacy, what the hell is wrong with the tracklisting? Looks as though the CD has mixed up sides 1 & 2 completely! Compared the the vinyl, the CD runs tracks 7-12, then 1-6 (then some extra tracks). I assume because the album cover lists the songs in another order again, that someone at Sony got confused and went with it. Poor Donovan.

The vinyl of this album, as I have also now discovered, features the superior ‘band’ version of ‘Catch the Wind’ and ‘Colours’, that were recorded for this album. Sony went and replaced them with the earlier versions on CD. The version of ‘Catch the Wind‘ when the big drums come in is THE version. The original clearly marks him out to be the sub-par Dylan he was to begin with. Poor Donovan.

Whatever the order, these tracks are still fantastic. There were so many cheap folkies in the 60s, but Donovan transcended that. He was trippier and a bit weirder. Which I guess mistakens his music for being softer, as it doesn’t sound very trippy today. Austraian fans have also had ‘Mellow Yellow’ ruined by that TV ad for Caramello chocolates. Poor Donovan.

Mismanagement and history aside, the songs are still fantastic. In addition to ‘Catch the Wind’, there is ‘Sunshine Superman’, ‘Wear Your Love Like Heaven’ and more. For a distilled, punchy, 12 track collection, it’s hard to go past it.

I see that Sony released a deluxe version of Sunshine Superman last year. Maybe it’s time I found out more about his catalogue. I have many friends who love him. Noel Gallagher named his kid after him. And there doesn’t seem to be a Bob Dylan reissue on the horizon.

Bringing back the radio star: Weezer, Eagles and Aguilera radio.

Irving Azoff - who listens to the radio

Irving Azoff - who listens to the radio

What do Weezer, the Eagles and Christina Aguilera have in common? Well, starting next month, they will be one of a number of artists launching their own radio programs. Under the banner of A.P.E., (artist personal experience – a corporate term if we ever heard one), July will see these artists choose songs, take to the mic and become DJs.

It’s run by Clear Channel, the massive super company, and the press release only describes the distribution as digital (but that can include digital radio) – and through applications on the iPhone and Blackberry. It’s clear how this came about – old industry stalwart Irving Azoff manages the Eagles and Aguilera, and is Chairman of A.P.E.

If Azoff is a meaningless name to you, his long a sordid career is work a look-see. He’s been at it since the 60s and was one of the biggest movers in music from then til the 80s. Tales of record company backstabbing, drug taking, outrageous spending and general debauchery usually involves Azoff (and his rivals like David Gerffen). His reputation is of a no nonsense tough guy (although he is short in stature – a Napoleon figure), and a ruthless business man.

This whole project has a huge whiff of big business. Congrats to a.p.e. for touching on 3 huge demographics – yuppies, fratboys and teenaged girls – on launch. There is nothing cool or indie about this. Unless the programming blows our socks off.

The best we can hope for is the Bob Dylan Theme Time Radio Hour – which may now be sadly over. But that show was not done for fame, and kept a quirky charm. Do we expect that of Don Henley? Or will it end up like yesterday’s sports heros, mumbling through boring anecdotes?

Or even better – what if this is the new band zine? Band podcasts are pretty much dead, but perhaps this can turn into a great vehicle for bands to communicate their individuality directly to fans.

We hold our cynical tongues a bit because we love Weezer. And if some more of our favourites are on the list to be announced, hey, we will be right there (unless we’re paying for it). We adore hearing (or reading and watching) artists talk about the music they love. But we think it’ll be a diversion for the fans rather than anything ground breaking.

Billboard has the story – http://www.billboard.com/bbcom/news/eagles-weezer-aguilera-to-launch-24-hour-1003983953.story

If you want to find out more about the fascinating Irving Azoff and music business in the 80s, check out Frederic Dannen’s Hit Men – one of the greatest music books ever.

We took our photo from Azoff’s recent appearance at D7.

Wednesday Web: Metacritic

MetaCritic.com

MetaCritic.com

For those unfamiliar, Metcritic brings together reviews from around the web of the same records, movies, games and more. Unlike elbo.ws or wearerhunted.com, Metacritic focuses in on respected publications, not fan opinions.

Amongst the reviews collected by Metacritic are Rolling Stone, Q, Mojo, NME, Paste, many internationally renown newspapers and even websites like Pitchfork and Allmusic. Those reviews are given a score out of 100, and the collected scores are given an overall score out of 100.

The point? It’s fantastic place to see what the critics are saying. You don’t have to surf around a dozen websites. And lets face it, the overall opinion of the world’s biggest music press still matters.

We love checking this site. Not only does it reminds us what is out this week, it helps us choose what we listen to every week. The fantastic reviews the Yeah Yeah Yeahs have gotten for their new record made us give that record more of a chance. It’s now one of our faves so far this year. Every time someone like Dylan puts out a new record, you think you might skip it. With a score of ’82’ (universal acclaim), maybe now is not the time.

On the other hand, any nostalgic loyalty to Chris Cornell has been shattered. It has the worse reviews on the site of any album this year. However, when a record is as bad as Cornell’s, the reviews are hilarious. Having one site that collects hilariously damning review after damning review can definitely take a up a few hours of schedenfraude.

There’s also a score for reader reviews, giving you an insight into what regular folks think. Amazing, the user score is even higher for Dylan, who is known for being a critic’s darling! And there is more than just music. Games, movies, DVDs and TV are all covered by the same system.

So next time you’re wondering if something is any good, Metacritic should be your first stop. It takes away the single biased review and gives you a sense of people are saying, without having to ever talk about it. You can just quietly delete that Chris Cornell album off your shopping list.

Check it out here – http://www.metacritic.com/