Monday Music: Pink Floyd, Paul McCartney and Led Zeppelin

The Dark Side Of The MoonThe Dark Side Of The Moon by Pink Floyd

Do I really need to introduce this masterpiece, which just last week celebrated its 40th anniversary? Released in 1973, Pink Floyd’s 8th album is easily their most successful, remaining on the charts for nearly 15 years (no, that wasn’t a typo, it was about 740 weeks if my memory serves me correct), and selling around 50 million copies across the world. It explored a lot of universal themes, such as the passing of time, war, greed, and mental illness (influenced by the deteriorating mental state of Syd Barrett, who founded the band but left after two albums). Musically it is best enjoyed listening to the full suite from start to finish, although it did have singles including “Money” and “Time”, the latter of which also had “Us and Them”, my favourite track and a song which sneaks up on you and seeps under your skin, as the b-side, and it is this song which I’m including as the clip:

Chaos and Creation in the backyardChaos And Creation In The Backyard by Paul McCartney

Released in 2005, this album is considered by many to be one of McCartney’s finest solo works in a very long time, and I for one agree. Working with Nigel Godrich (Radiohead, Beck) as his producer, McCartney was challenged during the writing of this album, often being told bluntly if his songs were not good enough, and being forced to play most of the instruments himself (much like on his albums McCartney (1970) and McCartney II (1980)). What results is some of the best material he has written, songs which have been honed continuously through the long process of making this album, and music which is also quite reflective and intimate for McCartney – while the album has plenty of upbeat moments, it is generally a more quiet affair. The track I’m including is the first single, “Fine Line”:

Physical Graffiti LedZepPhysical Graffiti by Led Zeppelin

This is one of my two favourite albums by this band (the other is Led Zeppelin III, and I cannot for the life of me pick between them). Their 6th record was released in 1975 as a double album, featuring 15 songs that are among the most varied ever collected on the one work by these guys – from long drawn out rock songs like Kashmir and In My Time Of Dying, to funky moments like Trampled Underfoot, to upbeat, almost silly songs such as Boogie With Stu, and then the simple classic rock songs such as Houses Of The Holy, The Rover, and more. I have often said that Led Zeppelin are a deeply misunderstood band, judged on the songs that appear on their “best of” collections which, to me, do not show the full range of their musicality. One listen of this album from start to finish and you’ll know what I mean. The song I’m featuring is a live rendition in the 1970s of “Kashmir”:

Are you a fan of any of these bands/artists or albums? What are your favourite moments on these albums, all of which are classics in their own ways?

Sunday Sounds #2

It’s that time of the week again where I share some of the music I’ve been listening to lately. As usual I’ll briefly describe each album, and include a clip of one of my favourite tracks from each one for you to watch and enjoy.

The Double Life EPThe Double Life EP by Bob Evans

When Kevin Mitchell isn’t preoccupied with Australian indie band Jebediah, he’s busy with his solo project in which he calls himself Bob Evans. To date he has released three albums, all of which have become increasingly folky in style, so this four track EP is a bit of a jump in sound, playing with quite different instrumentation on some of the songs while still retaining that unique feel of his music. The single of the EP, “Don’t Wanna Grow Up Anymore”, is a fun song and video as well, but it is worth checking out the other three songs – definitely a cool little piece on the whole.

I Know What Love Isn'tI Know What Love Isn’t by Jens Lekman

I’ve found myself drawn to a number of Swedish musicians and songwriters lately, and this is one of them. Jens Lekman writes mostly guitar based pop music, and a lot of it is quite melancholy both in sound and lyrical theme. While I haven’t heard his earlier albums in full, this album has grown on me with each listen. I love his voice as well – it sounds so unusual but that’s no bad thing. The song I’ve included is the title track of the album, and is considerably more upbeat too when compared to the other songs. I intend on spending more time exploring the work of this talented artist.

Celebration DayCelebration Day by Led Zeppelin

Back in 2007, the three surviving members of Led Zeppelin reformed for a one off show (with the late drummer’s son replacing him), and over a million people around the world went into a lottery to get one of prized tickets to this once in a lifetime gig. Though the band of course no longer have their youth, they are still amazing and still know how to rock better than most musicians half their age. Luckily, the concert was recorded on film and audio, and now has been released on CD, DVD and who knows what else for all the world to see (it even was screened in cinemas). While not every track hits the mark, the majority of this 16 song set is pretty impressive, and a must-see and must-hear for Led Zeppelin fans. I’ve included the video of Kashmir, which was one of the my favourites from this show as they writhe with energy the whole song (especially Plant with his amazing vocals).

What have you been listening to this week? What are your thoughts on these albums I’ve discussed, if you’ve heard them?

 

30 Day Music Challenge Day 29: Favourite song of all time

Originally the final day of this challenge was going to be my favourite song, and the second last day was going to be my favourite album. But it’s occurred to me recently that I value albums as a whole a lot more than I do single songs, so I thought I’d swap them around as I feel my favourite album is a much more significant question (to me at least) than my favourite song.

My favourite song is of course hard to decide. I have a number of favourites, such as Under The Bridge by RHCP, and Distant Sun by Crowded House (actually, about half of their songs). It’s not a song by The Beatles because they have too many songs I love to ever possibly decide.

But if I had to nail it down to just one song, I think it would be “Since I’ve Been Loving You” by Led Zeppelin. Why this song? Because, more than any other song by them, I feel this one balances out all the members of the band perfectly – Plant, Page, Jones and Bonham all come together to create one of the sexiest, bluesiest (it’s totally a word), most awesome rock songs of all time. All four often spoke of how feeling music is just as important as thinking it, and I think when you listen to this song in it’s entirety you can see why.

What’s your favourite song of all time?

30 Day Music Challenge Day 28: Favourite band/artist of all time

Those of you who read my post on my favourite ten bands will probably find this post somewhat pointless, but I guess this music challenge wouldn’t be complete without this question.

Really, two bands battle it out for the top spot in my collection. The pop music side of me ultimately goes back to my love of The Beatles, but the rocker in me owes its passion to having grown up listening to Led Zeppelin. Both bands I own everything by, including a number of other things such as clothes, posters, even pencil cases and writing pads, and of course DVDs.

I think the reason these two bands take the top place comes down to a mixture of things. Partly it’s because their music is timeless – it’s been 50 years since the first single by The Beatles, and the first Led Zeppelin album was released on an unsuspecting public 43 years ago, yet the music sounds just as amazing and fresh today as it did then. I also think for me both bands have deeper resonances and attachments – while I have childhood memories of listening to Led Zeppelin, and I later ventured out to explore their music more thoroughly as a teenager, my attachment to The Beatles comes from a period in my late teens when I was becoming obsessively curious about music in general, and so it was never a matter of ‘if’ they were going to get my attention, but simply ‘when’. And if I didn’t like these two bands, I doubt I’d like most of the music in my collection.

For The Beatles clip, I thought I’d include one of the songs by Harrison, “Something”, as I have always had a soft spot for the songs he wrote for the band (and quite a few of his solo works too). For the LedZep clip, I’m going to post one of my favourite songs of theirs, the acoustic song “That’s The Way” off their third album, being performed live in 1975.

Who’s your favourite band/artist of all time?

30 Day Music Challenge Day 19: Favourite Album Artwork

This may come as no surprise, but I have a number of favourite album covers, and I am sure I will forget many of my favourites as well. But here are a few that have sprung to mind:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What are your favourite album covers?

30 Day Music Challenge Day 7: Favourite band/artist from each decade since the Sixties

This topic kind of explains itself, so here goes (I will try and be brief, as we have a lot of decades to get through):

The 1960s – The Beatles

No surprises here, especially for those readers who read my favourite bands post I wrote recently. I love The Beatles and always have, and I not only have all their albums, but most of the albums the members have released post-Beatles, too. This year in fact marks 50 years since The Beatles’ first single, ‘Love Me Do’, was released (and I have a calendar celebrating this). I also have a lot of Beatles memorabilia, including posters, pencil cases, clothes, and much more.

The 1970s – Led Zeppelin

Again, no surprises – the only real competition here, for me, is Pink Floyd, who come a very close second for this decade (to be fair, PF released albums in 4 separate decades). Led Zeppelin are one of a small number of bands who helped give rock music a certain energy and power which it lacked in the previous decade, and which continues in the genre to this very day. LedZep were also very diverse, dabbling in a range of other genres from blues and folk to funk and reggae.

The 1980s – Crowded House

Although Crowded House continued well into the 90s, and reformed after a ten year break in the 00s, they formed in the mid 1980s and were met with almost immediate success in Australia and New Zealand, with some great songs that had catchy pop hooks but retained a certain intelligence and elegance to the songwriting process. I remember hearing these songs as a very young boy, and they will always have a special place in my music collection. (In the following clip, the actual song starts at about 1:40)

The 1990s – Red Hot Chili Peppers

This one may come as a surprise to some, as I didn’t mention them in my top ten bands list. This is because while I loved this band in the 1990s, as I was growing up, their albums in the 1980s were, at best, average and silly, and since the 90s they have become progressively more predictable and lacklustre. But in the 90s RHCP had three fantastic albums, Blood Sugar Sex Magik, One Hot Minute, and Californication, and all three of these albums sit among my absolute favourites, and “Under The Bridge” as one of my favourite ever songs (and also the song I’ve sung the most at Karaoke).

The 2000s – Ben Folds

As Ben Folds Five broke up at the end of the 90s, Ben Folds continued to make his piano-based music, and actually shot to a much more widespread fame very quickly at the start of the next decade. Throughout the 00s, he released several albums which all differed in sound yet retained that trademark wit and energy for which he has come to be loved. Seeing him perform live with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra at the Sydney Opera House in 2006 really opened my eyes to just how amazingly talented this guy is, and if you haven’t listened to him before you really are missing out.

The 2010s – ???

I am not going to answer this decade, as we are only in the third year and so have a long way to go. But there are many new and exciting bands appearing on the scene, with a strong return to good music becoming the trend, and so I am excited to see what is yet to come.

What are your favourite bands of the past few decades?

What predictions do you have for who might be the best bands of the coming decade?

30 Day Music Challenge Day 4: A band/artist you’d recommend to someone new to your favourite genre

As we established in yesterday’s post, my favourite genre of music is, overall, rock music. Now, if you’re somebody who is new to the rock genre, I have one key question to ask you:

WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN FOR THE PAST FIFTY YEARS? LIVING UNDER A ROCK? Oh hey I didn’t even mean that pun.

Anyway, I guess there are some kids out there who are under the illusion dubstep is actually a type of music and not just an arrangement of screechy sounds (uh oh, I’m starting to sound old aren’t I?), so I guess there may be some people unfamiliar with rock.

Firstly, there are some bands you definitely want to avoid if you’re new to the genre of rock music. Don’t listen to Nickelback, as rock music is not this repetitive and soulless, I assure you. Also, any band fronted by the Paddle Pop Lion should be distrusted immediately. Actually I just wanted to take a cheap swipe at Nickelback in this paragraph, so I’ll move on now (this has to be the least serious blog post I’ve ever written).

Okay, so when it comes to rock music, it has evolved a lot over the ages. It had its beginnings in the fifties and particularly the sixties, with many bands and artists famously “going electric” or turning to rock music during their careers, most notably The Beatles and Bob Dylan, who had lasting influences on the genre. Through the seventies, eighties, nineties and beyond spun such sub-genres as metal, punk,  and grunge music, all with fans who remain hardcore metalheads, punks, or fans of grunge to this day.

My best advice if you’re new to the genre? Go back to some of the great rockers from the sixties and seventies, and use this to find your way to more recent rock. Listen to The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who, The Doors, Deep Purple, Pink Floyd, Queen, Led Zeppelin and more. For me, you can’t go past Led Zeppelin for that classic rock sound, particularly songs like this live rendition of Immigrant Song:

Who are your favourite rockers from the days of classic rock and from more recent decades?

Who would you recommend to somebody new to the genre (if such a thing exists)?

My Top Ten Bands (Music Monday #3)

This week I haven’t bought any new albums, so I thought I’d do something a little differently – list my favourite bands/artists (a list that changes regularly, although these top ten are becoming fairly permanent).

10. David Gray

It’s amazing to think that the folk/pop musician and singer David Gray had, at one point, planned to quit music. Back in 1998 he released his fourth album, White Ladder, which ended with the song “Say Hello, Wave Goodbye”, a song he intended to be his farewell to the music industry. This album also contained the songs “This Year’s Love”, “Sail Away”, “Please Forgive Me” and “Babylon”, all of which helped him break the music market on the international stage, and kept him in the business after all (thank goodness). My favourite album of his? Life In Slow Motion, without a doubt – one of the most powerful albums I have ever heard.

9. Dave Matthews Band

DMB is an American rock band with a core group consisting of the usual vocals, guitars, bass and drums, but also the use of saxophones and violins which allows for more flexibility with the sound between genres. Though they’re not as huge here in Australia, in America they have five albums which have debuted at number one, and their worldwide album sales exceed 30 million. They are particularly known for their amazing live performances, which usually feature improvised renditions of their songs. My favourite album of theirs will always be their 1996 effort, Crash, which was my introduction to the band as a young teenager.

Listen to a live version of “So Much To Say” off my favourite album here:

8. Jack Johnson

This once pro surfer and now chilled out singer/songwriter has been contributing to the world of music for over a decade, and the world is a better place for it. Although many will argue his albums sound the same (which they do, though they change incrementally each time around), as far as I’m concerned this is no bad thing – I know what I’m getting with Jack Johnson, and I know I’ll like what I hear. Whether my future family like it or not, this will be my “beach” and probably my “holiday” music for the rest of my life, in much the same way that The Beach Boys would accompany family holidays when I was a child.

“You and Your Heart” is off his latest album:

7. Porcupine Tree

This band is considered to be one of the most important bands in the recent prog-rock scene. The band’s frontman, Steven Wilson, is also responsible for several other bands, including Blackfield, No-Man, one half of Storm Corrosion, and also as a solo artist. Porcupine Tree grew slowly, from bizarre, trippy psychedelia in the early 90s, to the heavier sounds in the early 00s for which they started to become well known. My favourite album by this incredibly talented and intelligent band is a tie between In Absentia and Fear of a Blank Planet.

Listen to one of my favourite PT songs, “Time Flies” (though a shortened version, but still great – it has an awesome clip):

6. Rufus Wainwright

Rufus is one of those artists who is impossible to define. His music is a complex mix of classical and pop music, and his voice is just simply huge in every way imaginable. One of the most talented songwriters around, and one who is looked up to by many other musicians, he has a habit of changing directions between albums quite dramatically – his recent upbeat pop album was preceded by a dark, brooding album which featured only his vocals and piano. My favourites albums include this piano album, All Days Are Nights: Songs for Lulu and also Want One and Poses.

Check out the first single off his latest album, “Out Of The Game”:

5. Crowded House

Crowded House were started back in the mid 80s by Neil Finn, one of New Zealand’s most beloved songwriters, when his older brother Tim’s band Split Enz broke up. Due to their upbeat, catchy songwriting style, they became hugely successful in New Zealand, Australia, and other parts of the world too, including the UK. They released four amazing albums between 1986 and 1993, and in 1996 performed their “Farewell To The World” concert on the steps of the Sydney Opera House. In recent years they reformed and released more albums, but for me my favourite will always be 1991’s Woodface, the only CH album to also feature older brother Tim, who co-wrote many of the songs with Neil.

Listen to their classic 1986 hit “Don’t Dream It’s Over”, and just try and tell me it’s not a beautiful song:

4. Ben Folds

Back in the early to mid 90s, Ben Folds and two friends wanted to form a band that rocked, but used piano instead of a guitar. Ben Folds Five was soon formed and built up a cult status, before going on to score a major radio hit with the rather depressing song Brick. After BFF broke up at the turn of the century, Ben Folds went on to release several solo albums, and has built up an enormous fan base over all these years, and now, excitingly, he has reformed BFF with the original two other members, and no doubt the new album will be blistering, to say the least. My favourite albums of his? Whatever and Ever Amen by BFF, and Songs For Silverman as a solo artist.

Listen to the new BFF song off the upcoming album (and get up and dance if necessary…I did a bit):

3. Pink Floyd

Do I really need to introduce this band? Probably not. Pink Floyd are one of the best selling and most influential rock bands of all time, perhaps most famous for their classic albums Dark Side Of The Moon and The Wall. They also had number one hits in four separate decades, and survived a change of their frontman twice, from Syd Barrett to Roger Waters in the 60s, and then to David Gilmour in the 80s. For me my favourite album will always be Wish You Were Here, with the song of the same name and also the epic 9-part Shine On You Crazy Diamond.

My favourite Pink Floyd song, however, is “Us And Them” – listen to it in its entirety here and you’ll see why:

2. Led Zeppelin

Really these last two bands are tied for first spot – I struggle to pick between them. Again, LedZep need no introduction. Throughout the late 60s and early 70s they sold out stadiums around the world, sold millions upon millions of albums, wrote immortal songs such as “Stairway To Heaven”, “The Immigrant Song” and “Whole Lotta Love”, and even secured the record for the loudest ever concert (laws were passed after this regarding concert volumes). Yet for me, I have always loved the lesser-known music by this band, too, such as the folkier second half of Led Zeppelin III, the bluesier moments of their first two albums, the odd ventures into reggae and funk music on later albums. I think only when you listen to the band’s full catalogue can you truly appreciate what an awesome band they were.

The song to link to here is obvious – a fantastic live performance of “Stairway To Heaven”:

1. The Beatles

It might not be the most original answer, but for me it still holds true. I love The Beatles, and I think there’s a good reason why 50 years after they first started releasing music, we are still listening to them. They permanently changed the music landscape, influencing songwriters to this very day, and in their relatively short lifespan of 8 years they released 13 albums which changed dramatically from the pop songs of their early days to the increasingly experimental rock of their final years. Although I love many of their albums, my favourite album by them is (and always will be) Abbey Road. If you haven’t listened to this album before, go listen to it right this moment. Seriously.

For the final song, I’ve chosen “Come Together”:

What are some of your favourite bands? Do they change much as time passes?

Mugshots (dedicated to coffee)

When I say “close friends”, I am not referring to actual people, but am in fact talking about mugs. Why? Because let’s face it, if you’re going to be a writer, you probably need to take up coffee drinking at some point (or at the very least, tea drinking), and even if you don’t write but enjoy reading, you’ll probably know nothing beats the feeling of sitting down with a good book and a cuppa.

However, the purpose of this post isn’t to discuss any deep and profound philosophies of drinking coffee, but rather to show you some photos of some of my favourite mugs from which I drink this life-saving liquid. It has occurred to me recently that I collect mugs (it takes me a while to realise I’ve started collecting something else, as I tend to collect collections of things), and this revelation was mostly caused due to a distinct lack of space in my kitchen cupboards. At any rate, I won’t show you all of them, but just a few of my favourites (and I’ll explain along the way why I like them so much).

Enjoy! And maybe make a cuppa for yourself while you’re at it…

A mug of George Orwell’s classic Nineteen Eighty-Four. Readers who have followed my blog since the early days (i.e. January, February), will remember I also have a similar one of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby.

On the left, a mug of The Beatles, with the pattern from the album A Hard Day’s Night. On the right, a mug of Led Zeppelin, featuring the cover of their first, self-titled album (the back of the album cover is on the other side of the mug), along with the four symbols along the bottom that featured on later albums. Both of these bands share the prestigious position of being my favourite band.

On the left: “Keep Calm And Have A Cuppa”. On the right: “No coffee, no workee!” Two good philosophies to live by, I think. Yes I have used the mug on the right at work before, just for a bit of fun.

On the left: “D’oh for it” with a picture on the back of Homer running. On the right: “I couldn’t agree more with whatever you said!” also with a picture of Homer. What can I say – I like The Simpsons. Always have, too.

Yes, this is a mug shaped to have bits of liquorice allsorts decorating the outside and sticking out. This photo doesn’t show it, but this mug is actually enormous, so I tend to use it for hot chocolate mostly.

To finish off this post, some coffee quotes I like:

“The morning cup of coffee has an exhilaration about it which the cheering influence of the afternoon or evening cup of tea cannot be expected to reproduce.” – Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

“As soon as coffee is in your stomach, there is a general commotion. Ideas begin to move…similes arise, the paper is covered. Coffee is your ally and writing ceases to be a struggle.” – Honore de Balzac (1799-1859)

“Coffee makes us severe, and grave, and philosophical.” – Jonathan Swift

“Sleep is a symptom of caffeine deprivation.” – Author Unknown

“Deja Brew: The feeling that you’ve had this coffee before.” – Author Unknown

“Only Irish coffee provides in a single glass all four essential food groups: alcohol, caffeine, sugar, and fat.” – Alex Levine

Are you a coffee or a tea drinker? Do you depend on it for reading/writing, or is it just a nice way to relax?