Free House: Salisbury

Free House: Salisbury

Pubs come in a variety of states and sizes. In a working class community, which I was brought up in they became one of the focus points of the local neighbourhood. Less so now with the advent of cheap take away booze from supermarkets, which seems to have pushed people increasingly to drink vast amounts of alcohol in the home and in many cases alone.

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Morning Glory – Salisbury

I must admit I had a little giggle to myself when I wrote the title of this little blog and photo collage. Salisbury is such a conservative, but beautiful city. I do just like wandering around and taking random shots. I’m sure it has all the problems that blight most communities, excessive drink and drug use, employment, crime, etc. Salisbury just has a good way of  hiding it.

You’ll Never Get To Heaven – Adorn

The snap of the letter box and a cassette lands on the doormat following my latest purchase from Bandcamp, which is the first cassette I’ve bought in many years. There is something subversive about cassette music, which can either label you a pretentious anorak or the member of a cool club. Whatever your preference I feel like a member of the cool club today.  I find myself  in Canada on the next stop of my adventure and I have arrived at the delicate ambient haze of Chuck Blazevic and Alice Hansen better known as You’ll Never Get to Heaven. They have recently issued the EP Adorn on a limited cassette format release, as well as download.

You'll Never Get to Heaven - prevuing walls from falling down

You’ll Never Get to Heaven prevent another wall from crashing down

You’ll Never Get to Heaven are from London, Ontario and like the name sake on this side of the pond London is a melting pot of creative energy and influences. To the east we find New York, to the west Detroit to the north Toronto. London, Ontario is no stranger to musical innovation being home to the rather brilliant and eccentric Nihilist Spasm Band. A band with the ability to make the listener excited, laugh, cover their ears and appreciate all at the same time. Think of Captain Beefheart’s classic album Trout Face Replica in warped condition, playing backwards, at the wrong speed and you start to get the picture. I mention this purely to draw attention to the rich tapestry and creative environment You’ll Never Get to Heaven inhabit, which must surely provide immense influence.

You’ll Never Get to Heaven are the type of electronic band I enjoy greatly, but I must start with my prejudices. Having lived through the 1980s and the onslaught of synth drums infused in over produced medico music. At best this was  highly regrettable, but thankfully quickly forgettable. For every Joy Division sat a myriad of New Romantic lost souls who sought self indulged enjoyment from wearing  stupid customs, donning silly haircuts, trained like monkeys to press a few buttons rather than create music that would be savoured beyond its immediate sell by date. It is true the likes of Gary Numan, Orchestra Manoeuvres in the Dark and the Human League provided some initial interest, but you can only pretend to be a droid for so long until people start treating you like an elaborate teas-maid.

Not a good luck

New Romantic bad

My key contention is aimed at the producers of the time who simply sought to replicate traditional instruments and song structures rather then use new technology to innovate. The effects of this bastardisation left scars in my psyche resulting in me instantly rejecting electronic music as a serious force other than Kraftwerk, Eno, Rodion G.A, Harold Budd, etc. Rightly, or wrongly my record collection would occasionally submit to the odd electronic based track, but nothing substantial. There was little change in my mindset until Aphex Twin’s sublime 1994  Selected Ambient Works Vol 2, which went on to unlock  my ears to groups like Autechre.

How it should be done

Joy Division good

More recently the increased accessibility to make electronic music with little effort through most computers has delivered a variety of outcomes from the sublime to the largely predictable. In this democratisation of music production it is refreshing to stumble across bands like You’ll Never Get to Heaven whose influences can be seen and heard, but importantly do not simply seek to replicate what has gone before.

The gentle distorted soundscapes, twisted samples and warped beats create a dream like platform for Alice Hansen’s fragile vocal to drift aimlessly like a child exploring a lost magical world. Firstly the influences I hear in their music.  My record collection includes a variety of early Brian Eno albums and given the Adorn release makes reference to Eno this would be a rather lazy reference to make. Vocally I hear hints of early Elizabeth Fraser (The Cocteau Twins) or Tracey Thorn (Everything But The Girl), especially the tracks Thorn recorded with Massive Attack for the Protection album. The overall production I find interesting because whilst the aforementioned bands utilised more traditional beat and melody structures to create catchy pop songs You’ll Never Get to Heaven have ventured down a different lane. The result is creative tensions, which provide the freedom for the duo to roam, explore and experiment endlessly.

Lurking under the soundscape structures I find fragmental influences from the Boards of Canada (Geogaddi album) and early Sigur Ros (Lek album), which leans more to the structures of classical music than pop. Beats are deployed with intelligence, sometimes sparingly leaving silence to contribute effortlessly to the overall effect (especially when listening through headphones). Via my trusted laptop and the powers of email I managed to hook up with Chuck Blazevic and presented him with the Old Man Adventure questions.

JK:     What was the main influences behind the album?

CB:    We’re often inspired, either directly or indirectly, by the music we listen to on regular basis. We highly enjoyed listening            to the following artists at various points during the making of Adorn: Jeunesse D’ivoire, Anna Domino, Antena, Brenda Ray, Ennio Morricone, Belong, X-Ray Pop, Durutti Column, Chromatics, & Cleaners From Venus.

JK:     Which is favourite track and why?

CB:    ‘Caught in Time, So Far Away’ is the most recent track on the EP, so, in this respect, it feels a bit more exciting to us than some of the older tracks on this release.

JK:     If you could have a guest artist to appear on your next venture who would it be (dead or alive) and why?

CB:    We’d love to work with Brenda Ray (of Naffi/Brenda and the Beachballs) if given the opportunity. She has the best vocals and her productions often strike that delicate balance between raw immediacy and ornate elegance.

You’ll Never Get To Heaven – Adorn

"If you're happy and you know it claps your hands"

“If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands”

The Adorn EP opens with Caught in Time, So Far Away with its carefully crafted synth drum beat, textured layers and pitch perfect vocals make this a mighty and clever pop laden introduction. Whilst the track is highly enjoyable it also misleads the listener into a false sense of ease as we enter the deeper material contained on the EP.

By This River is a slower and more thoughtful piece all together. Simple and devastatingly in delivery.  Unravel  takes us deeper down like a gramophone record playing effortlessly in a cabin on the sinking Titanic. Adorn is a magnificent, dense textured 4.25 minutes of shoe gazing brilliance. The beat plays perfectly with the vocals to leave the listener slightly disorientated. Enfantillages Pittoresques: Berceuse is an intoxicating music box with slightly out of synchronised keys. Derived from the Erik Satie’s piece, which can also be found on the David Bowie ‘The Man Who Fell To Earth’ film. The result is truly haunting and  beautiful.

The EP comes to an end with Closer, which is a further 2.44 minutes of soundscapes, but on this  occasion the Titanic sits broken on the seabed until its discovery some 73 years later. Together this  is one of the most beautiful set of tracks I have heard in this genre for a long time. Almost impeccable in making the listener warm, distant and slightly disorientated. It comes highly recommended from this adventurer.Buy it now.

Hey, hey, mama, said the way you move, gonna make you sweat, gonna make you groove.

I was 7 years old when Led Zeppelin were formed in London 1968. Consisting of guitarist Jimmy Page, singer Robert Plant, bassist and keyboardist John Paul Jones, and drummer John Bonham they were the quintessential English rock band who went on to personify the ultimate rock band worldwide. Many have sought to emulate, many have copied, but none have equalled.

A quick listen of the first two Queen albums released in 1973 and 1974 respectively exposes Freddie and the boys original blueprint. Brian May, whilst a highly gifted guitarist could never match the swagger and presence of Jimmy Page strutting his stuff across the stage. Queen went on to become in effect the worlds biggest cabaret act whilst  Led Zeppelin managed to remain solid as a rock even if later albums experimented with funk, disco, or African infused rhythms. They also retained a sense of humour. The final track on the Houses of the Holy album The Crunge with its tongue in cheek nod to James Brown for example.

Rock bands had become so ostentatious during the 1970s that a bedroom poster was the nearest I would came to seeing Led Zeppelin live. There remains the faintest of hopes that they may reform as they did for the one off concert in 2007, but I will not be holding my breath. Yet perversely it was  un-obtainability that seems to have drawn me (and 1000s of others) closer to their enigma. This was in total contrast to my affinity with Pink Floyd, which was shattered by the punk explosion in the UK (1977-78). I did not listen to a full Pink Floyd album for many years afterwards, although I did regain my senses in time for their Pulse Tour resulting in a quite amazing evening on 20th October 1994 at  Earls Court Exhibition Centre, London.

Led Zeppelin where also at the top of their game as both a recording and live band when the UK pop charts were dominated with the likes of the Bay City Rollers singing Bye, Bye, Baby, Pete Shelley, Love Me Love My Dog and even Laurel and Hardy charted with The Trail of the Lonesome Pine. It is clear to see now given the quality of pop music on one hand and the rock dinosaurs on the other that pop and rock music where driving into a car crash that would fuel the brief, but necessary punk period. Punk fizzled out like a damp torturous fart from a septic stomach with its ultimately boring and predictable uniform of wall to wall mohican haircuts, tartan trousers and biker jackets.

Whilst monster bands like Emerson, Lake and Palmer  were never to rediscover their self indulgent status after the punk period Led Zeppelin remained unscathed, which is pretty surprising given their 1979 weak album offering In Through the Out Door. Led Zeppelin had not performed live for two years since the death of Robert Plant’s son during the band’s 1977 North American tour, and they had not performed in the United Kingdom for four years.  It was the bands manager Peter Grant who decided that the band should perform at what is now renowned as the classic Knebworth concerts instead of embarking on a lengthy tour. A estimated 400,000 people attended the two Knebworth events on 4th and 11th August 1979.

The death of drummer John Bonham in 1980 all but brought the curtains down on the band. The reunion (with Phil Collins on drums) at Live Aid 1985 was such a disaster that they refused to allow it to be included on the Live Aid DVD release. Collins still remains sore about his Live Aid jam with Led Zeppelin 25 years after the gig and recently revealed that he almost walked off stage in mid-set. Collins and Chic drummer Tony Thompson had both apparently been drafted in as replacements for the late John Bonham.

Jimmy Page blamed the replacement drummers for not learning their parts, but Collins claims it was Page, Plant and Jones who ruined the experience.  “They weren’t very good and I was made to feel a little uncomfortable by the dribbling Jimmy Page.” Collins concluded recently.

O2 Arena, 2007.

It was an ignominious farewell and one that would dog any potential reunion for years to come. Fans were kept at bay by Jimmy Page’s remastering and repackaging releases of the bands historical material. That was until the Ahmet Ertegun Tribute Concert held in memory of the music executive at The O2 Arena, London on 10th December 2007. The band performed their first full-length concert since the death of Bonham in 1980 and in a fitting touch for this one-off reunion Bonham’s son Jason played drums during the set.

The 02 concert seems to have provided the band with an exorcism of the Live Aid debacle and unlike the Live Aid concert the 02 concert was formally released as both a CD and DVD under the title of Celebration Day, but for the fan it added nothing to what had gone before.

Led Zeppelin IV

The first Zeppelin album I recall buying was 1971s Led Zeppelin IV, although I would have purchased it later circa 1974-75. Over the course of a year I went on to purchase all their available albums, which was no mean feat in those days. Initially attracted to the album through the seminal track ‘Stairway to Heaven.’ which seemed to filter into my brain at night as I lay beneath my bed sheets, transistor radio pressed against ear hoping my parents would not detect the sound of the tuning radio. Inevitably they did and the said radio would be confiscated and so the cycle between generations would turn and grind around.

It was about this time I obtained my first cassette recorder, so with transistor radio perched safety I would hold the small cassette recorder microphone close to the transistor and tape the music. Building up c60 or c90 cassette tape to be traded at school with my fellow spotty, greasy haired and adolescent boys we were like desperate junkies.

What in eck do you do with this?

What in eck do you do with this?

This is how I  was  introduced to the likes of The Beatles, Hendrix, Dylan, The Doors and all those bands that did not penetrate the mainstream pop shows on TV. The cassette case, which housed the tape had self-made inserts normally constructed from a magazine photo that would somehow relate to the music contained on the tape. I still have a few cassettes from those days.

Oh my goodness so much goodness

Oh my goodness so much goodness

Whilst Stairway to Heaven holds a special place. It is a track, which has been slaughtered to many times by warbling tight trousered rock crooners who simply have had too much hair and hairspray at their disposal. Each counterfeiter dreadfully seeks to represent their own interpretation, which makes listening to the original feel like a Vietnam veterans flash back of carnage, panics and cold sweats. Led Zeppelin 4 also has possibly the two finest opening tracks of any rock album in history.  I defy anybody to dispute this.  ‘Black Dog’ and ‘Rock n Roll’ set a standard that has simply not been matched.

It started with the Beatles Anthology where literally anything picked up by the microphone in the recording studio, including instrument tuning, conversations. mistakes, practice warm ups and lack lustre mixes were to be given a formal release. The classic Doors and Hendrix albums were given the same treatment. Pink Floyd’s followed with their immersion box set releases. Now we are to be subjected to yet another repackaged and remastered release of Led Zeppelin’s first three albums with the “super deluxe box set” coming in at a whopping £91.00 ($150.00) each.

When it comes to making money from fans with Led Zeppelin the song definitely remains the same with each “super deluxe box set” the buyer will receive:

  • CD1: Original album newly remastered in vinyl replica gatefold sleeve
  • CD2: Companion audio in a new sleeve, featuring previously unreleased studio outtakes
  • Vinyl 1: Original album newly remastered in gatefold sleeve replicating the original album on 180 gram vinyl
  • Vinyl 2: Companion audio on 180 gram vinyl in a new sleeve featuring negative artwork based on the original album artwork, and featuring previously unreleased studio outtakes
  • HD Download Card with original album and companion audio in 96 kHz/24 bit
  • LP sized, individually numbered, high quality print of the original album cover
  • Album-size hardback book (80 pages)

Led Zeppelin are one of the most successful, innovative and influential rock groups in history. If the 1960s belong to the Beatles then the 1970s belong to Led Zeppelin.  I’ve taken a look at these “super deluxe box set” you know what? I’m going to stick with my old vinyl.

Roseberry Topping – Teesside

My home town is Stockton on Tees. On a recent visit home I went for a walk and climbed the beautiful Roseberry Topping. It was also a beautiful sunny day. Possible the first day in 2013 where I experienced rays of sun on the back of my neck after the dark and wet winter.

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