Favourite Albums Of 2014

The Rentals – Lost In Alphaville

51m+xP+U5mL._SL1425_What can I saw about this album? It’s BY FAR my favourite of 2014, in fact I’d been waiting for a new album from The Rentals in what seemed like forever. Every year I’d hope a new album would be on the cards and this year my wish was answered. It is absolutely spectacular, as I mentioned several times in the review I wrote after it was released. Their debut album, Return Of The Rentals, is one of my favourite albums of all time however the follow up, Seven More Minutes, wasn’t nearly as good. But Lost In Alphaville was a real return to form for the band. Every single song from start to finish is perfect. Some albums I listen to a lot and then stop listening to but this one hasn’t been like that, I’ve listened to it consistently since it was released and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. If you don’t have this album (or don’t know who The Rentals are) then please get it now!

The Allman Brothers Band – The 1971 Fillmore East Recordings

abbfillmoreeastThe 1971 Fillmore East Recordings are an expanded set of songs from The Allman Brothers Band’s legendary shows at the Fillmore East in New York in March 1971. At Fillmore East was the original live album, released in 1971, and is considered one of the best live albums of all time. However this set contains every single set the band played during their time at the Fillmore East in March of that year, minus the first day where the sound was ruined due to the inclusion of a brass section. But what we have here is all of the other sets together for the first time, and boy it’s great to have them. What I love in particular is listening to the different versions of songs. The version of Statesboro Blues which featured on the original live album is iconic but listening to the other versions of that one song the band played in the other sets is fantastic. This release has probably given me the most pleasure this year, it’s superb,

She & Him – Classics

10633384_10153019538293900_3073224813206653102_oAs soon as this album was announced mid-way through 2014, I couldn’t wait to get it. She & Him have been one of my favourite bands since their debut album Volume One was released back in 2008. Since then they’ve released two other studio albums, a Christmas album and now an album devoted to classic songs. The production on this album is simply divine and drenched in reverb which just adds to the whole feel and vibe from the get go. The collection of songs are nothing but perfect and M. Ward, Zooey Deschanel and their band are in fine form. The highlight for me is I’ll Never Be Free which Zooey Deschanel sings to perfection. If you don’t fall in love with her upon listening to this song, then frankly, there’s something wrong with you! Great album.

Beck – Morning Phase

Beck_MP_Cvr_MINI_5x5_FNLSix whole years after Beck’s last studio album, Modern Guilt, I was unbelievably excited to hear his latest album and I wasn’t disappointed when I did. When it’s lead single Blue Moon was released prior to the album I knew it would be something special. Many other people who reviewed it consider Morning Phase a natural successor to Beck’s 2002 album Sea Change. I can see where they are coming from but for me, I think he takes his work in a completely new direction. Yes the songs can be compared to Sea Change in terms of feel but it’s a step forward and not a step back. It’s a very enjoyable album, I hope we don’t have to wait another six years for Beck’s next release.

You+Me – rose ave.

81n02TCMQEL._SL1500_This album was a real surprise for me. I’ve been a City and Colour fan for a number of years now and I wasn’t sure what I’d think about the album when I heard Pink was half of this duo. She’s known for big stage productions when singing live and roaring vocals but her input here is absolutely fantastic. I’d love more City and Colour albums in the future but I’d settle for more from these two as a duo as well. Their vocals really compliment each other beautifully and Dallas Green, as always, is fantastic on acoustic guitar.

Nina Persson – Animal Heart

LJX070_800This is an album I reviewed upon release and I loved it instantly. Having been a fan of The Cardigans since getting the Gran Turismo Playstation game as a child (My Favourite Game featured on the soundtrack) I couldn’t wait to hear her debut album. She’s without a doubt one of my favourite female singers and the album didn’t disappoint.

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Top 5: Favourite Guitar Performances

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4 years ago I posted a blog entry stating my top 5 favourite electric guitar tracks. I thought it was about time I updated my list. I still love the songs I mentioned in 2010 but there have been new tracks that have blessed my ears since then, or at least songs I’ve grown to appreciate even more.

1. Got To Get Better In A Little While (live) – Derek and the Dominos

This is a song that the Dominos never recorded in the studio, at least in this live format with this structure. The band would record the song during their aborted second album sessions but it contained none of the magic featured in the live version and a completely different form. Clapton is on fire on this particular version which was played and recorded live at Fillmore East on the 23rd October 1970. When a band open a gig with a 14 minute rendition of a single song you know it’s going to be a good night. Clapton’s tone here is sublime, played on his Brownie Strat with a wah peddle giving an extra bit of texture. Talk about a tone to die for.

2. Crossroads (live) – Cream

In 1968, Cream were in blistering form. This recording is arguably one of the best live performances of all time, and in fact it’s consistently been voted one of the best. Clapton is just on fire here and the band as a unit (Jack Bruce on bass and Ginger Baker on drums) sound absolutely incredible. Talk about in the zone. The solo is improvisation at it’s best which is staggering when you listen to it a few times over. Recorded at Winterland in San Francisco on the 8th March 1968, this is without a doubt the definitive version of Crossroads. It’s a song that was originally written by Robert Johnson and even though it’s been covered by so many artists and bands over the years, THIS version is the one everyone sees as the standard.

BOOTLEG SERIES #6: The Allman Brothers Band – Live at Central City Park, Macon, GA 4/5/69

One of only a few existing bootlegs from 1969, this show was the bands 4th live outing (according to official records on the bands website) after debuting as a band in Jacksonville, Florida two months earlier. The Jacksonville show will no doubt be a future BOOTLEG SERIES entry, but this set differs drastically from that show as far as the setlist is concerned.

The band open with a roaring rendition of Black Hearted Woman, a song from their self-titled debut album and a Gregg Allman original. It’s followed by one of the first known performances of I’m Gonna Move To The Outskirts Of Town, a Casey Bill Weldon song made famous by Ray Charles in 1961. This version has the same kind of arrangement that Stormy Monday would go on to have later in the bands ‘Duane-era’ career. It’s a wonderful rendition in it’s own right though and probably the highlight of the show.

Mountain Jam is a song the band made famous due to it’s length and impressive improvised sections. This is the first known live recording of this song and the band hadn’t yet begun to take it to the levels that Allman Brothers fans everywhere know. This version clocks in at just over 12 minutes whereas in 1971 the band would often play Mountain Jam for 45 minutes. It’s actually based on Donavon’s song There Is A Mountain from 1967 but the Allman Brothers take it to an entirely different level, even in this relatively tame early version which is still a bench mark for improvised playing.

  1. Black Hearted Woman
  2. I’m Gonna Move To The Outskirts Of Town
  3. Mountain Jam
  4. Dreams
  5. Dimples
  6. Don’t Want You No More/It’s Not My Cross To Bear

Dreams and Dimples are the two next songs, the first being a Gregg Allman original from the bands debut album and the second being a incredible version of John Lee Hooker’s song originally released in 1956. Duane takes vocal duties on Dimples, as he would continue to do on this song through his brief yet fantastic career with the band.

What comes next are the first two songs from their debut album, Don’t Want You No More and It’s Not My Cross To Bear. What’s interesting here is that the band play both songs as they would appear on the album, linked together with no gap in between. This is the band in the early stages of playing these two songs because the album wouldn’t be released until the 4th November of that year and recording sessions wouldn’t begin for another three months after this show. So what you’re actually hearing on this recording is the band feeling out these songs in a live setting before even thinking about laying them down in the studio. That’s history right there as these two songs together are without a doubt one of the studio album highlights of their entire career, including the Duane era.

As far as bootleg quality goes, it’s not the best. But you are able to hear great things. As I mentioned, this bootleg is one of the first ever recordings of the band (their fourth ever gig!) and really does highlight the journey the band took from their first show in Jacksonville to their stand out performances in 1971. It’s a must hear recording.

BOOTLEG SERIES #5: The Allman Brothers Band – Live at Syria Mosque, Pittsburgh, PA 15/10/71

This show marks Duane Allman’s third last with the band. They would go on to perform at Marietta College Gym, Marietta, Ohio the next day and Painters Mill Music Fair, Owings Mills, Maryland the day after. This bootleg contains the recordings of the band in the final stages of life before being ripped apart by the death of Duane Allman on the 29th October, 14 days later. The band would continue without him up until the present day but their sound would completely change.

As per usual in 1971, the band open with a fearsome rendition of the Blind Willie McTell song, Statesboro Blues. It’s interesting to note that Duane’s solo intro over the bands rhythm playing is almost note for note the same as the famous Fillmore performance earlier in the year. Both Duane Allman and Dickey Betts are on top form here with both trading solos while the rest of the band powers on. Berry Oakley’s bass playing is such a driving force as well, almost like a lead instrument with the two guitars.

Don’t Keep Me Wonderin’ and Done Somebody Wrong continue the hard hitting pace the band laid down in the first song, the latter being particularly explosive. One Way Out, one of my personal favourite songs the band performed live, sounds great. Betts begins the extended guitar intro with help from the audience before the rest of the band come in to start the 12 bar format which continues until the end. Such a great song, such a great rendition. Nearly every performance of this song ends before the 5 minute mark (until 1972 anyway) which is a shame.

During In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed, the band play their first “laid back” song of the set compared to the pace and fire of the four previous songs. At 10 minutes in length this is probably one of the shorter versions of the song but boy do the Brothers pack a lot in. A Dickey Betts songs, it’s purely instrumental. Recorded on their second album Idlewild South, the band took this song to another level every time it was played live. Here is no exception. Hot ‘Lanta, another instrumental, follows. It contains the first drum solos of the night.

  1. Statesboro Blues
  2. Don’t Keep Me Wonderin’
  3. Done Somebody Wrong
  4. One Way Out
  5. In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed
  6. Hot ‘Lanta
  7. Stormy Monday
  8. You Don’t Love Me
  9. Revival
  10. Trouble No More

This is followed by one of the best songs they ever performed live in Stormy Monday. Gregg Allman sounds fantastic on vocals and his brother Duane explodes just like he did on every version of the song. Dickey Betts sounds great as well, absolutely untouchable. Just over midway through the song, the pace picks up and you know something fantastic is coming. At the 4:50 mark you’re rewarded with a wonderful solo that rivals any other solo every played.

You Don’t Love Me, another personal favourite of mine, is performed incredibly by the band with Duane in particular firing on all cylinders. This very rendition contains some of the best solos he ever played with the band. You can’t help but wonder how much better he would have become if he hadn’t have been killed in a motorcycle accident only two weeks later. The things he did with a guitar are enough to give you goosebumps. Towards the end of this song, Duane and Dickey fire solos at each other while the band again sit back and power through. Berry Oakley’s bass playing is exquisite here.

Two songs remain, the first being a Dickey Betts song called Revival which featured on their second album Idlewild South. The band didn’t play this very often but they sound great here. And finally, Trouble No More, a Muddy Waters song the band always played live, especially in 1971. It also featured on their debut album, The Allman Brothers Band, in 1969. Betts takes the first solo here and Duane the second. It’s weird thinking that this is the last solo Duane played, at least in public.

What a show. And pretty good quality too. The setlist differed somewhat to previous shows they played in 1971, with Whipping Post and Mountain Jam being the most noticeable songs they didn’t play. You can only wonder what new heights the band would have reached in 1972 if Duane had lived. They powered on with just one guitar in 1972 before Berry Oakley was tragically killed at the end of the year, nearly a year to the day that Duane was killed the year before. A member overhaul would occur after that with the band never sounding the same again.

BOOTLEG SERIES #4: The Allman Brothers Band – Live at A&R Studios, New York, 26/8/71

The fourth instalment of my Bootleg Series is from one of my favourite bands, The Allman Brothers Band. And wow, what a performance! Broadcast on Wplj-Fm to promote the release of their At Fillmore East live album, the band were in top form during this performance. In fact when weren’t they in top form at this time of their career?

Recorded two weeks after the death of King Curtis, the band pay homage to him in a thrilling two song extended jam towards the end of the set. This is by far the highlight of the entire set and that’s saying something because every song is incredible. The band begin with a roaring rendition of Willie Cobb’s song You Don’t Love Me before Duane calls an end to it before beginning to play some beautiful slide licks by himself. You sense something big is coming next and the band do too. All of a sudden they roar into the most incredible version of Curtis’ song Soul Serenade. Never before has Duane ever sounded so good. What you hear is pure music and something (I doubt) the band planned on playing before starting the set. Just amazing. Not only is this the highlight of this one performance but it’s up there with the best Allman Brothers live performances ever.

Before this fantastic performance though came a number of songs the band pretty much lifted from the At Fillmore East track listing. But in no way do the songs sound the same as they did when performed at the Fillmore, every solo is different and each song lasts for a different amount of time. That’s one of the great things about bands like The Allman Brothers Band, no one performance of any song sounds the same. The band open with Statesboro Blues which is followed by the Trouble No More where Duane blows everyone away with his slide playing. Talk about opening with a bang! Next up is the first originals number of the set, Don’t Keep My Wonderin’ by Gregg Allman. You’d think the energy level in the band would drop slightly after the two opening numbers but you’d be wrong. In fact the energy level doesn’t drop off until after the fifth song where the band take a minutes break to re-tune their instruments, but this is only after they plough through the Elmore James song Done Somebody Wrong and One Way Out by Sonny Boy Williamson.

  1. (Intro)
  2. Statesboro Blues
  3. Trouble No More
  4. Don’t Keep Me Wonderin’
  5. Done Somebody Wrong
  6. One Way Out
  7. (Tuning)
  8. In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed
  9. Stormy Monday
  10. You Don’t Love Me/Soul Serenade/You Don’t Love me
  11. Hot ‘Lanta

Even though the band have played a number of blues covers in this set, they make each and every one of them their own. After tuning their instruments, the band launch into In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed which is a more laid back number to everything else they’ve played so far. Not that they take it easy during this song as the performance clocks in at 11 minutes and 45 seconds and contains lengthy solo sections from each member (minus Oakley, Johanson and Trucks). Stormy Monday was one of the highlights from the Fillmore shows and the band reward the radio listeners with a fantastic rendition. Both Duane and Dickey Betts sound great on this track and it’s actually difficult to tell the pair apart in some places.

Up next is the You Don’t Love Me/Soul Serenade medley and oh boy is it good. I don’t think any words can actually describe how good it is, you just need to hear it! To end the broadcast the band play their instrumental original Hot ‘Lanta which is a song that only featured at live shows and never on a studio album.

What a performance from the band. Originally only available as a bootleg, this performance is actually now available to buy legitimately for the first time. However it is still a bootleg in my book and one of the best bootlegs I’ve ever heard. In terms of sound and quality, I don’t think they get any better than this. This is a performance from a band on top of their game however it’s sad to think that Duane Allman would be dead just over 2 months after this performance. He wouldn’t be the only ‘Brother’ to die with Berry Oakley himself being killed almost a year after Duane. These two deaths would change the fate of The Allman Brothers Band forever. They didn’t disband but sound wise they wouldn’t be the same again. This was their prime and they were fantastic.