Monday, 23 May 2011

My Ultimate Bob Dylan Mix Tape. Not Playlist. MIX TAPE!

In honour of his Bobness' 70th birthday today (or yesterday, if you're on whichever side of the planet where it's now already tomorrow), and inspired by a quick Twitter exchange with an old buddy of mine, I decided to put together a mix tape. On an actual tape.

So I went over to my CD shelf and started selecting, a task made more difficult by my not having much space to keep all my CDs out. Luckily most of my Dylan albums are on the shelf. Some are in boxes in the big scary cupboard, along with my remaining unused supply of blank tape. But I persevered and picked out my choices for a definitive Bob Dylan mix tape.

I used to make tapes all the time, as my old car had a cassette player. But this will probably be my first in about 7 years. I'm mostly digital nowadays, with my iPod and whatnot. I've sadly fallen victim to my own need for convenience.

I miss the making and exchanging of mix tapes. It's so easy nowadays to casually drag a load of MP3 files into a list at the side of your library. I wish I had the time and energy to do my baby playlists as mix tapes. To actually have to think carefully about the musical goodness that had to inhabit two sides of 45 minutes was, despite the fact that you're effectively pirating music, an art in itself.

It was easy for me to select the songs. The tape kind of made itself in a way. These are the Dylan songs that speak to me the most, for one reason or another.

So, if anyone still gives a monkeys about this sort of thing, here it is:

Side One:

From A Buick 6
Shooting Star
Going Going Gone
Sugar Baby
Señor (Tales Of Yankee Power)
Most Of The Time
I And I
Love Sick

Side Two:

Simple Twist Of Fate
Dark Eyes
Heart Of Mine
Cat's In The Well
One Too Many Mornings
Diamond Joe
Ain't Talkin'
Series Of Dreams

Happy birthday Bob!

So that's my Ultimate Bob Dylan Mix Tape. Anyone out there wanna do a mix tape swap? Your fave Dylan for mine?

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Baby Playlist #4

'Goodnight, to every little hour that you sleep tite...'

Mrs L's tummy has been hosting a little party over the last couple of weeks. Little L has reached the point where he is exploring the use of his hands, and he's letting his mummy know about it! He's really reacting to sound now too. So much so that I think he's a Bob Dylan fan.

Last night I felt him move for the very first time! It was amazing, one of the best things I've ever experienced. It was just a ripple on her tummy, but enough to let us know he's there!

I'm also trying to imagine what he'll look like, whether he'll be more like me or his mum, and who he'll take after personality wise. Not long till we find out...

We've noticed that Smashing Pumpkins are getting played a lot at the moment. Their quieter moments are so richly textured and soothing, they just seem perfect for this exercise.

Here's his latest playlist. I'm also now thinking of full albums that would be suitable for him to listen to...

Marie Floating Over The Backyard - Eels

Falling Down - Oasis

Wonderwall - Ryan Adams

Every Grain Of Sand - Bob Dylan

Secret Garden - Bruce Springsteen

Feather In Your Cap - Beck

The Shock Of The Lightning - Oasis

The Way - Neil Young*

Blues Run the Game - Counting Crows

Mr. Jones - Counting Crows

Yalla, Yalla - Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros

Rhinoceros - Smashing Pumpkins

The X-Files Theme - Mark Snow

End Of Line - Daft Punk

Angel Dance - Robert Plant

69 Police - David Holmes

Farewell And Goodnight - Smashing Pumpkins


* This is the song that was playing when I felt him move!

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Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Blue Away In Blackburn

On Monday night I was in attendance at Ewood Park, with my 6 months' pregnant wife, my sister in law, her husband and the nephew for the City game. I went in to this week still on a high after City making the cup final - I don't have a very wide frame of reference, so let me enjoy my moment.

The only drawback was that we were sat with the Blackburn fans. So I had to keep my colours neutral, my head down and my mouth shut! I managed to just about keep it together, Mrs L was the one who nearly blew our cover!

For the opening 20 minutes we battered them, looking very confident and doing some lovely passing football. Then once Blackburn got back into it, the game became very even, they just couldn't get an opening up front. David Silva was very impressive throughout, after a slow start to the season he's settled in very nicely now. If I wasn't allowed to choose Carlos Tevez, I would probably pick Silva for player of the season.

The only let down, for me and probably most other City fans, continues to be Mario Balotelli. Sure De Jong continues to maraud around the midfield like a pitbull, but he's just passionate, he's not an idiot. Generally we are a relatively clean team. Balotelli just needs to grow up and get on with his football.

When Edin Dzeko scored on 75 minutes, from where I was sat the Poznan looked incredible. Even a helium-voiced Blackburn fan behind me remarked on how impressive it looked. Sadly the atmosphere of the home side completely sank after that and they couldn't get back into it.

So an away win. Very happy with that.

So, typical City, we've still got a nail-biting finish to the season, but with a cup final to look forward to - the first one since I was in my mummy's tummy! Hopefully we'll be able to keep Spurs at bay in the league and pinch 4th place. And that would make the best season in my lifetime.

On our way out there was a gathering of Blackburn fans by the Jack Walker statue, chanting 'Kean out' and when we were passing by in the car the police were breaking up a bit of trouble. It's a shame to see that kind of thing happen.

As a City fan though, I sympathise with the plight of Blackburn. It wasn't too long ago that we were caught in relegation scraps at the bottom end of the table. But now it seems like a lot longer.

Monday, 11 April 2011

He's 'So' 'Rock & Roll'...

I figured out quite early on in my adult life that drugs and alcohol weren't really my thing. At parties, you would be more likely to see me in a corner somewhere with a bag of sweets and a bottle of Dr Pepper than passed out in the bathroom with a rusty syringe sticking out of my arm with my face caked in a mixture of vomit and brick dust. Same with gigs. As a musician, I think it's disrespectful to the people who've paid money to see you for you to stumble on stage fucked off your tits. Even going to gigs as a punter, I'd like to be able to savour and actually remember the experience of seeing a band play some tunes.

There are some personal reasons for my decision not to partake that I won't be going into, but the main thing is that I always considered the music to be enough for me. If people feel like they can't have a good time till they're three sheets to the wind and/or gangsta tripping, then that worries me, quite frankly.

'Well, you're really fucking rock & roll aren't you?' - I can tell exactly what's on your mind grapes after reading the above. But I think that's my point - when exactly did it become 'rock & roll' to get busted for drug possession, or for fighting, or for being Pete Doherty, or to be forcibly escorted from a licensed premises because you've urinated somewhere you shouldn't have, or because you're Pete Doherty?

The face of Rock & Roll: looking good, Pete!

Surely the only behaviour that can really be considered 'rock & roll' is to play a kick ass show, and live long enough to play the next one? And I can do that, and have plenty of fun along the way just fine, without any chemical assistance thank you.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Baby Playlist #3

'Hold her, and keep him strong, while I'm away from here...'

So it's week 21. Our little bundle of awesome is coming along nicely.

We've decided on his name too. I'd say we're about 98% certain. Hopefully, when he arrives, he'll suit it!

Here are the songs we've been playing to him recently:

Landslide - Fleetwood Mac

Little Ghost - The White Stripes

Heart Songs - Weezer

Learning To Fly - Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers

Untitled - R.E.M.

The Beat Goes On - Beady Eye

Take Care - Beach House

Shooting Star - Bob Dylan

My Hero - Foo Fighters

Proof - I Am Kloot

From The Morning - Nick Drake

Oh My Heart - R.E.M.

Forever - The Charlatans

We Have All The Time In The World - Louis Armstrong

Forever Young - Bob Dylan

Didn't Leave Nobody But The Baby - Emmylou Harris, Alison Krauss & Gillian Welch

White Winter Hymnal - Fleet Foxes

Race For The Prize - Flaming Lips

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Another Review: R.E.M. - 'Collapse Into Now'

There seems to be a common template when reviewing an R.E.M. album these days - 'something something Bill Berry something 'Green' something something it's not 'Document' something.'

In this month's Q magazine, this album gets a bit of a trashing. It got 2 stars, which is a total, total nonsense. I'll bet you a shiny penny that the reviewer has a beard.

What you need to know is that those reviews, and indeed this one, are, ultimately, worthless. The only thing that matters is the music. At least I'll try to review it without looking at Big Bird's Big Book of Big Words.

I'm a massive R.E.M. fan, have been for most of my life, but I'm not blind to their failings. Of which this ISN'T one of them.

In my OPINION, I think it's the best thing they've done for years. It's easily the best of their post-Berry releases, after a run of disappointing (but not completely void of merit) recent albums.

One of the things I like about this album is Mike Mills' backing vocals, which are featured prominently. I've always liked the way his and Michael Stipe's voices play off each other. There's an impressive list of guests too, including Eddie Vedder, Peaches, Patti Smith and Lenny Kaye.

Personal highlights for me include 'Mine Smell Like Honey', 'Oh My Heart', 'Me, Marlon Brando, Marlon Brando And I' and 'Discoverer'. There's a nice variety, which has been lacking recently. They've struck the balance quite nicely between big breathtaking rockers and slower acoustic numbers.

What's great to hear now though is that it sounds like a band that have rediscovered their purpose, that they're no longer just doing it because they don't know what else to do. There's still beauty and greatness in 'Reveal' and 'Around The Sun' and 'Accelerate' if you look for it, but here you don't have to. It's apparent from the moment you push play. In my opinion.

Actual, correct star rating: 4.5/5

Monday, 28 March 2011

A Review: Beady Eye - 'Different Gear, Still Speeding'

Yeah, I know, shut up. It's been out for a month. But I like an album to sit with me for a little bit before I pass judgement. That's how I roll.

I've never got the whole 'Oasis sound like the Beatles' rhetoric. Usually the person saying that, in my experience, is a massive bell end. Of course they fucking don't sound like the Beatles. Borrowed a sneaky couplet, chord change or guitar sound, yes, but no more than you or I. I always found such remarks to be patronising, both to the band and the listener/reader.

Having said that, I groaned, quite audibly, when I first heard Beady Eye's 'The Roller'. I was worried. The 'Instant Karma'-ness of the song could not be ignored. But when the album came out, I gave it a chance...

It's good, actually. Not life changingly great, but it's good. It's a lot better than I was expecting it to be. There's some really interesting sounds going on here. I like the retro rock & roll piano on 'Bring The Light', the driving rhythm on the ironically Dylanesque 'Beatles and Stones', and the Eastern sounding 'Millionaire'. 'The Roller' has even grown on me.

As an Oasis fan, I can say that it's the album they needed to make. Sure it wears a lot of the usual influences on its sleeve, but so what. It's four fifths of a band that ended rather abruptly. It's just as enjoyable to listen to as latter day Oasis, if slightly less memorable.

A lot of people are now eagerly awaiting brother Noel's next move. As am I.


Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Baby Playlist #2

'You're my son and you're gonna shine...'

So we're another week on. The place is getting gradually taken over by baby products. I think we now have enough Huggies wipes to last Baby L till he's 17!

Here's some selected highlights from the list of tunes we've been playing to our little baby bump over the last few nights:

Feeling A Moment - Feeder

Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness - Smashing Pumpkins

On My Way Back Home - Band Of Horses

Obscured - Smashing Pumpkins

Why Walk When You Can Run - Paul Weller

Heartbeats - José González

Let There Be Love - Oasis

Every Grain Of Sand - Bob Dylan

Born On A Different Cloud - Oasis

Persephone - Kula Shaker

Weather To Fly - Elbow

Little Wing - Jimi Hendrix

Here At The Right Time - Josh Ritter

Perfect Circle - R.E.M.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Baby Playlist #1

'Operating, generating, new life, new life...'

Exciting times. My wife Lisa and I are expecting our first child in August. We had our 2nd scan on Tuesday and everything is fine with baby. We also now know that it's a boy!

We're reaching the stage now where baby is able to hear, so I've begun to select some tunes for baby to listen to. I've tried to go for songs that not only mean something to either me or Mrs L, but make for interesting pieces of music with sounds that baby can hopefully engage with.

There are two intended outcomes:

1) When baby comes out and is having a rough time of it ie. wailing in the middle of the night, some familiar sounds might help to soothe him

2) He will hit the ground running in terms of good music taste!

Lisa has begun to experience the 'flutters' that will soon become kicks! She says it feels 'like a bouncy ball' bouncing around her tummy! She experienced a couple of these sensations while we were playing these songs to him.

So here are the songs that we played to baby in our inaugural music session last night:

Good Vibrations - The Beach Boys

I Get Around - The Beach Boys

Live Forever - Oasis

Series Of Dreams - Bob Dylan

Detlef Schrempf - Band Of Horses*

When You Dream - Barenaked Ladies

Birdhouse In Your Soul - They Might Be Giants

New Life - Depeche Mode*

Station Approach - Elbow

* - Indicates movement felt in Mrs L's tummy!

Sunday, 13 March 2011

A Spooky Discovery

I had a little bit of a surprise last Saturday morning, as Mrs L and I were walking to the bus stop, around the corner from our flat. I happened to glance to my left as we were walking past a gate, having never been curious about it before, and happened to see a few stone steps leading up to a couple of gravestones sticking up from the ground. For the first time in the five years we've been living in Eccles, I saw this graveyard that neither of us had ever noticed before!

I must have walked and driven past it literally a thousand times and never noticed it before. I can only guess that it must have been the yard of a now long gone church, possibly on the site the old folk's flats now occupy immediately next to the yard. A google search doesn't seem to turn up any info.

I've always been fascinated with graveyards, for as long as I can remember. Sadly the gate was padlocked and we couldn't have a nosy around.

So the moral of this little tale is, when you have time, and when it's safe to do so, take some time to have a REALLY good look round your neighbourhood. And chat to your neighbours too. Even if you've lived in the same area for even longer than we have lived in ours, you may be surprised (or shocked) at what you may discover!

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Better Late Than Never: My Albums of 2010

Yeah, I know, it's a bit late. But I feel like I can now reveal my top 10 list with a bit more clarity and less prejudice than if I had done it in the middle of December.

I'm not trying to earn any cool points here - I don't need approval from any chin-stroking hipster wankers.

Simply put, it's a list of the ten albums that I have enjoyed the most, and continue to enjoy, from last year:

1. Band Of Horses - Infinite Arms
The band I try to get all my friends to like. Luxurious and panoramic.
Fave track: On My Way Back Home

2. Josh Ritter - So Runs The World Away
If I were ever to use the word 'genius' in a non-ironic sense, I would use it to describe the music of Josh Ritter.
Fave track: Folk Bloodbath

3.Paul Weller - Wake Up The Nation
The man's got more guts, passion and originality than most people half his age. Astonishing.
Fave track: Find The Torch / Burn The Plans

4. The Gaslight Anthem - American Slang
Urgent, anthemic, thrilling.
Fave track: The Diamond Church Street Choir

5. Best Coast - Crazy For You
Takes me to a place that's warmer than Manchester. There are so many shitty sleeves out there, but this one is a work of art.
Fave track: Each And Every Day

6. Scissor Sisters - Night Work
I LOVE Scissor Sisters. Fuck all you indie cunts.
Fave track: Invisible Light

7. Eels - Tomorrow Morning
Less direct, more synthesised, but as always, still honest and beautiful.
Fave track: Oh So Lovely

8. I Am Kloot - Sky At Night
In a word, gorgeous.
Fave track: Proof

9. Teenage Fanclub - Shadows
If you don't know this band, I feel sorry for you.
Fave track: Baby Lee

10. Edwyn Collins - Losing Sleep
An inspirational story, and an inspirational man. Welcome back Edwyn Collins.
Fave track: I Still Believe In You

Honourable mentions must also go to:

Neil Young - Le Noise
Weezer - Hurley
Manic Street Preachers - Postcards From A Young Man
Robert Plant - Band of Joy
Daft Punk - Tron: Legacy Original Soundtrack
Cee Lo Green - The Ladykiller

PS. If anyone's wondering, I like to pretend Arcade Fire stopped making music after Funeral.