In October and November most years, in the run-up to Christmas, there are always a few new releases that I want to get. Most of the music I get now is downloaded, but occasionally I’ll buy a physical set for one reason or another.
So here’s the music I’ve bought over the past couple of months – by Madness, Status Quo, Led Zeppelin, Queen, Howard Goodall, Derek & The Dominos, The Who, The Rolling Stones, and a little known band called Cherry Suede. Yes, I’ve been treating myself a little bit – but then I haven’t bought this much music for a while. It’s all come along at once!
Madness – Can’t Touch Us Now
I’m a big Madness fan, so I already own all of their other albums, and this latest release shows that the Nutty Boys are still on fine form. The instrumentation and structure of every song is nicely done, often with strong catchy beats and enjoyably descriptive lyrics, and they all have that typical Madness sound that we all know and love. Sure, there aren’t any absolute classics that are up there with some of the biggest hits of their earlier days, but I still like it. My top 5 tracks are Can’t Stop Me Now, Mr. Apples, Blackbird, You Are My Everything and Mumbo Jumbo.
Status Quo – Aquostic II: That’s A Fact
This is another new release, the second album by the Quo where they cover some of their hits in an acoustic style, with acoustic guitars and string backings, which works better than you might think. The first Aquostic album was very good in my view, and this is a very enjoyable follow-up to it. There are some very interesting twists and new interpretations of their classic songs here – Roll Over Lay Down has a particularly interesting re-arrangement, for instance, and the acoustic versions of songs like In The Army Now and Hold You Back are very catchy. It’s a good album, all in all. Their proper electric rock albums are better, of course, but these alternative versions are enjoyable.
And best wishes to Rick Parfitt of course. It is a shame that he’s had to stop performing due to ill health, as I would love to have seen them live one day. But, in fairness, the guys are getting on a bit now, so something like this was always going to happen at some point. They’ve been going for so long and have made so much great music, that nobody can begrudge them taking a step back or stopping altogether as and when they feel necessary.
I’ve also had a downloads of a couple of live shows from their current Last Night Of The Electrics tour, through a website called Pledge Music. All I did was purchase a bundle of a few live shows in advance that they were going to record, and now they’re sending me the relevant download links within a few days of each concert. It’s a good way to get live recordings that won’t be released anywhere else, and that site does exclusive packages for various other bands as well, not just live shows but all sorts of other special treats. Most of the artists I’ve never heard of, granted, but when one comes up that I do know, there can be some interesting things on offer.
Led Zeppelin – Complete BBC Sessions
For those who don’t know, BBC sessions albums have been released by many music artists over the yaers, and basically consist of live performances that they’ve performed on BBC radio and television shows. Sometimes these are similar to the album tracks, but a lot of the time the performances are very unique, as the bands or singers try different things and jam a bit, so that the experience is special for them and the listeners.
Led Zeppelin have released a compilation of their sessions before, but this year they’ve released a remastered and expanded edition, including a complete ‘BBC In Concert’ show in front of a live audience and lots of other tracks. So some of it I’d heard before, and some of it I hadn’t. And it’s all brilliant. They’re an amazing band, and they were only too happy to jam and experiment on these sessions. So much so that 5 of the tracks are over 10 minutes long, the longest topping 18 minutes – which you think might get boring, but with the sound they generate, it really doesn’t. So the tracks here offer a cool alternative and a wonderful companion to their already awesome studio albums.
Queen – On Air: Complete BBC Sessions
Queen, my favourite all-time band, have also re-released their BBC sessions, again very much expanded. All 24 tracks from their 6 sessions are included across 2 discs, along with a third disc containing highlights of a few live concerts that the BBC recorded, then 3 more discs containing interviews. There is a smaller 2-disc version with just the initial 24 tracks – but I wanted the live concert tracks and the interviews as well, so opted to buy the full set. It comes in a nice compact box with a booklet as well (which I scanned in, so it’s easier for me to read on my computer screen). And it’s a very good collection. The songs often sound different, sometimes very much so, from the original album versions. So it’s worth getting, as you won’t hear these interpretations anywhere else. And the interviews are entertaining as well – not essential to have compared to the music, but still interesting to have included.
Howard Goodall – Red Dwarf Soundtracks
All of the above albums had been advertised very clearly in advance. But on November 11, Red Dwarf announced, seemingly out of nowhere (at least to me) that their composer, Howard Goodall, had released FOUR new soundtrack albums from the hit sci-fi comedy show, of which I’m a big fan. Howard Goodall’s been a wonderful composer for many programmes and other projects, and his music on Red Dwarf is a masterpiece. So the fact that so much material was coming out at once was quite a treat!
The DVDs for the first 8 series had, amongst their many extras, a huge selection of music cues from the show that you could listen to – and I managed to rip them to MP3 format on my computer some years back, though I could redo them in slightly better quality really. But there’s never been a proper soundtrack album – until now, when we get 4 of them:
The albums contain collections of music from across all the series (and there will be a 5th album soon as well, for the latest episodes). Each album contains just one or two long tracks, which are effectively a medley of different pieces, each presented in its entirety. It’s a very nice collection too, with a lot of interesting and cool material. It’s mainly instrumentals, but there are a couple of songs too, including the Rimmer Munchkin song. It’s far from everything though – it’s more what Howard Goodall considers to be his best bits from across the series. The music cues presented on the series 1-8 DVDs are much more numerous – and yet there are things on the albums that aren’t in those DVD extras either. So if you want as much music from the show as possible, you need both the DVDs and the albums. Worth the money, I assure you.
In addition to all that, the news article about the new albums also alerted me to the fact that Howard had previously released a Piano Fantasies mini-album relating to the show, featuring the Red Dwarf and Tongue Tied themes in piano form. So I downloaded that first, and it’s absolutely beautiful. Very well-performed, pleasing, romantic versions of those two themes.
Derek & The Dominos – Layla & Other Assorted Love Songs (Super Deluxe Edition)
I’ve had the original version of this album for quite a few years, and the super deluxe version has been out for a little while already, but I only happened to spot it recently. The main album itself is a classic, and I recommend you get it if you know and enjoy the title track (Layla). Especially if you’ve never heard the full 7-minute version of that song before, because it’s amazing, but also because all the other tracks are beautifully done well. And this deluxe edition expands it with another 3-discs worth of material, consisting of lots of previously unreleased songs and live tracks. There’s an entire live concert on the last disk, and some of those tracks are epic jams, one being nearly 18 minutes long (and no track is below 5 minutes). The only disappointment, perhaps, is that among all the alternate and live versions, there aren’t any other copies of Layla – no demos, no live versions, nothing. Considering it’s the most famous track on the album, that’s a shame, unless such alternatives have already been released elsewhere and I don’t know about them. But it’s a minor quibble really – the entire package is superb.
The Who – My Generation (Super Deluxe Edition)
This is a classic album by an absolutely classic band, and it’s been given some very generous treatment this time around, with a massive 5-disc set. Disc 1 is the original mono version, disc 2 is a remixed stereo version (which also sounds good), discs 3-4 are alternate versions and demos, and disc 5 is a set of early Pete Townshend demos. It’s a very comprehensive and enjoyable box set, and was bigger than I was expecting it to be! The discs are safely pocketed inside the front and back covers of a rather big, glossy book, which looks really nice. So it’s a solid, well made collection, with awesome music at its heart.
The Rolling Stones – Blue & Lonesome
This is a brand new album that the Stones have just released, performing covers of some of their favourite blues numbers. And it’s excellent. They’ve still got that classic sound and energy, it’s still the band we know and love. And hearing them perform the blues like this is very interesting and enjoyable. So if you’re a Rolling Stones fan, it’s well worth the money.
Cherry Suede Albums
This is a rare case where an advert on Facebook actually turns out to be interesting and entertaining! A friend of mine shared a post by this Canadian band, who were offering to give away signed copies of their best-selling album for free via their website. And at the same time, you could pick up another album and a live DVD, again signed, for a really low price. They’re able to do this because they’re an independent band, who engage with their fans and promote themselves directly via social media and the internet, a massive benefit of technology these days. And at the time of writing (December 2016), the offer still appears to be available.
So I checked out the website, where you can listen to a few of the songs on the promotional offer page, and that drew me in. So I ended up ordering the free album (Between Here And There), the other cheaper album (Long Live Rock) and the DVD (Up Close And Personal). They will take a little while to arrive, but that’s fine, as you also get downloadable MP3 copies as part of the bundle. So I’ve downloaded them and listened to them.
And they’re pretty good to be fair, I rather like them. My favourite songs are At The End Of The Day and Worth The Wait, which are are really good love songs. If you read their story, you’ll see they get compared to Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi and Bryan Adams, and that’s a very accurate assessment. It’s exactly that kind of sound. The theme of love, either finding the person of your dreams or losing them, is common throughout, and you can tell they’re a very accomplished band from listening to them. As well as their website, you can also hear quite a few of their songs on their Youtube channel, including some beautiful cover versions of other people’s songs that aren’t on any of their albums, so that’s also very cool.
So they deserve to be more well known, and I wish them all the best for their continued success. Check them out if you can, see what you think.