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Venus & Mars by Wings

Every now and then we are typing away on the computer or watering the garden and we hear a flashback tune from the seventies and often its linked to The Beatles  or the solo outings of Lennon, McCartney or Harrison.  There have already been a volumes of words written about this icon’s of rock and pop, however as the decades pass there’s still time to  discover or rediscover a bit more about the quartet from which so much has been spawned.

Venus and Mars  – are alright tonight the mid seventies pop/rock album from Wings, the album and touring vehicle for Paul McCartney is a gem.

Not only was the album a collection songs written by the master of chord placement and knowing when to change key, hark back to Penny Lane and that step up in the chorus, it could have gone anywhere but the step up is sublime and a generation thing.  This was the following album from the commercial success of Band On The Run with two new members to work alongside core trio Paul,  Linda  and Denny Laine in Joe English from a band called Sea Level, and Jimmy McCullough who had time with Thunderclap Newman famous for “Something in the Air”.  Jimmy wasn’t long for this planet and died in 1979, he contributed a song on the album and had one written about his habits in Medicine Jar.

The album is always good to listen to as McCartney goes to town with a variety of styles, from the ballads of Love in song and Lonely Old People. There some arena rock and pop here in Rock Show, some sweet  sing along melodies; Listen To What The Man Said, and some homage to 50’s and cartoon pop with Magneto and Titanium Man. Out in the psychedelic range, if in verse and not song structure is Spirits of Ancient Egypt and the ethereal Venus and Mars. Some time since the original album which was packed already there a new edition comes out with extra songs, Lunch Box/Odd Sox, My Carnival, Zoo Gang and Crossroads.  Sometimes you can overdo a good thing, and its great to have more McCartney songs, but with most of these reboots and extended new masters, the can detract from the original album itself and its easy to remember the last song and then not pay too much attend to the bonus as they are often album fillers that didn’t meet the time standards in vinyl production back in the day.  My Carnival is another pop song that he does so well and is a good listen on its own.

In spite of the packers and fillers, if you take the original album on its own, it sets the precedent for a performer who loves being in front of an audience and putting on a great show.  Something he continues right up to the modern day arena masterpieces he’s been putting out to the world recently.  Venus and Mars is written and performed to be taken on the road as a touring album and the colossal response of Wings Over America has shown.

Rounding off the songs, there’s the rollicking of You Gave Me the Answer, toe tapping and all, the punchy rocker  Letting Go, and Call Me back Again. Every now and then you sit, look at the sky, the subliminal programming kicks in and you think.. Paul McCartney – Venus and Mars…. they are alright tonight – aren’t they!


Funhouse by The Stooges

If you’re a listener to modern alternative and indie rock and in tune with the sub-genres of psychedelia, grunge, and garage rock, then you’ll have heard the overtones of The Stooges third album Funhouse.


This album was created in a drug field burn in the late sixties and released in 1970. The key components are the Asheton brothers Ron and Scott in the rhythm section banging out loud grinds chords and Iggy Pop growling and screeching the lyrics.  The songs all start suddenly and stop as if that was enough.  This is not a big album in the number of ‘packer and filler’ songs, its straight to the bone rock.  Reading other source material and at the time this was a poor seller commercially and critically panned, and yet it has something unique and long lasting about it.  Its not fools rock, its a band who have been indulging and getting strung out, seeking to make amends because they need to play rock   music.  The trappings of the life seek to rend them asunder and it was the lack of success and the overloading of excess that pulled them apart until the great fan Bowie kick started a reemergence.

The swirling guitar chords and vocals stand out on all tracks, with some amazing guitar work on each track. It really grows on you quickly and it is a masterpiece of  genre-hopping rock music, born out of crashing British blues and grimy psychedelic rock.  If you wanted to pick one track to get the overall feel for the style and content, ‘1970’ would cover that with the introduction of saxophones and Iggy’s far off aching vocals. The opening track ‘Down on the Street’ does introduce you to the album and is a portent of whats to come, but one dares not look away for fear of missing out. The title track seems to be a rolling over of the sax from ‘1970’ and some of the vocals, but it eventually gets into its own space and time as Iggy works into a new vocal.

Individualistic artists like Joan Jett followed, influenced by the Stooges, who were influenced by The Doors. Their contemporaries like MC5 still have offerings out there, and Black Flag is another band that has roots in their 1967-1970 period. It is a classic album of music you wouldn’t normally listen too, but I’m glad I did.

Rock on!

Is Christmas Swing really a music genre?

This is an American band that always wanted to be different. In this modern era of samples, techno, trance, gangsta rap, they decided to bring back the sounds of 1920’s and 1930’s club land jazz, and tweak it up to give it a modern tempo and contemporary feel.

Christmas Caravan followed on promptly from their previous good sellers and in particular “Hot”. It features a lot of christmas flavoured numbers with their busy jazz/swing feel. The vocals are shared by Jim Mathus and Katherine Whalen. They do provide a fun, hot jazz collection of songs and although not mainstream has got a lot of popular support and do a terrific live gig and tour extensively in the US. The big band, swing sound complementing their penchant for those Harlem jazz type tunes.

Easy to listen to and harder to pick one favourite. In the end the Johhny Ace song got the nod. Hot is an album of theirs you could start off your Squirrel Nut Zipper experience with. The name of the band incidently comes from an old chocolate bar in case you were wondering that as well.

New Year, New Week, The First Album Selection for 2012

The honour is all mine to kick off the year with revisiting the Sixties and early Seventies, a veritable gold mine for undiscovered music, or albums that have slipped by in the new age of doof doof and oonc oonce.

The week commencing 1/1/2012 is benchmarked with the third album from Status Quo – Ma Kelly’s Greasy Spoon. Great title, great cover, and we’ll discover which is the best song shortly.
HNY2012 Folks!

Tuff Enuff is fun Texan boogie rock

The Fabulous Thunderbirds have been around in several incarnations, probably their most successful period has featured Kim Wilson and for a couple of albums Jimmy Vaughan, the brother of guitar maestro Stevie Ray.

This is easy to listen to music, not soft, and not heavy, but a little rambunctious and a little bit of piss taking as Texans do. Probably the Tex Mex genre has had several artists like Los Lobos, the boogie rock genre spills out of that and The Fabulous Thunderbirds have a great name and a consistent album of songs. They keep punching them out and every now and then they get some radio play here in Australia, but mainly they are masters of their Texan turf.

The music has a hint of blues, a hint of latin rythym but sits on a fence. Not in the cerebral, brain food category, but easy to listen and enjoy at any time of the day.

So erudite it hurts!

Lost in the Stars: The Music of Kurt Weil is an eclectic mixture of his music from film and album guested by a variety of artists, some known, some we’ll never know. The only name that stands out is Lou Reed who also wins the prize for the most accessible song on the album, just pipping the classic “Mac the Knife”. (Yes…that’s one of Kurt Weil’s!!) (I know, I know, what a surprise right?)

This was for me like The Pooh Sticks could have been for someone else. The only difference maybe in that there were some pleasing aspects in Multiple Orgasm, least of all the title of the album. Kurt for mine, will be relegated to ‘esoteric collecters corner’ of my list of albums.

It didn’t do it, before and still doesn’t however the challenge is all about trying something new or reintroducing something from the past and freshening it up. Even after three listens it could just scrape into the “acquired taste” list, however even then, its probably on a par with eating European Carp!

Week Commencing 4th December 2011: An album that serves as a reminder.

It serves a timely reminder as to why we have albums we use to listen too and need reminding of how much fun they can be! What the challenge is about, not only the new, but the old. Getting into some Tex Mex, Rock-Blues with The Fabulous Thunderbirds and one of their earlier sets, Tuff Enuff!