Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Alone in the World of the Sighted

Do you know what it's like to be truly alone?  To know something that nobody else knows, that nobody else can ever know?  I don't mean a secret, I mean something that nobody will ever, or can ever, understand?

In the country of the blind, they say, the one-eyed man is king.  Well, imagine the one-eyed man lives on a planet where everyone is, and always has been, blind.  Nobody knows the concept of sight or vision.  Nobody understands him when he tries to describe what "seeing" actually is.  He can't talk to anyone about what a beautiful sunset it was last night, or how the moon sparkles on the ocean waves.

I'm listening to an an album by John Martyn called "Inside Out", and it's black and white.  To be more accurate it's black on white, and always has been.  Black on a white background.  But you will never see that, because I'm not talking about the album cover.  I mean the words "Inside Out".  Inside is white, and Out is black.  Because Inside is twice as white as Out is black, the white is more prominent, hence "black on white".  As I listen to the music, whenever I think of the album name I see those two colours, and for me the perfect album cover would be a plain white background (matt white, not shiny), with the words "Inside Out" in thin matt black writing.

You see? You don't understand what I mean, and you never will.  Although other synaesthetes may see this, their colours won't be the same as mine.  I am the only person in the world who gets this particular impression from John Martyn's album, and in this matter I am as alone as any sighted man in a world of the blind can ever be.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

My British Fantasy Society Competition Tweets

Julian lay back, swallowed the pill and closed his eyes. Bones cracked, muscles wrenched...seconds later Julia sat up and stretched.

He tapped the screen. “Evidence of two World Wars, 1914 to 1939!" She shrugged. "So we've crossed time-lines. I'm still going down."

"Welcome to the Infinite Library." smiled the Librarian. "The Shakespeare section? Ah yes...follow the signs for M...M For Monkeys."

As I kissed her, guiltily running my hand through her hair - so like my own - I realised that I now knew who my father was- would be.

Abe glanced through the window and blinked as a shadow covered the sun. Another Pteranodon! The time distortion field was spreading!

She crouched beside me in the ruins. "Thing's'll look better in the morning!" But morning came and the sun never rose again...ever.

“Engaging Probability Drive. Standby for Reality Shift.” After a second of disorientation the universe rearranged itself about me...

What looked like a tall potted palm regarded me with a pair of blinking eyes. "Hey you! Earth-person! You put laser down now, Okay?"

Drab Colonial ruins. Industrial purgatory. The last starship left seven years ago. I'd die here...if I could afford the funeral...

His ship a mass of twisted metal, the last of the alien invaders collapsed to the ground...and expired. “We’ve won!” she breathed.

The sun quivers reluctantly on the horizon. Bats flicker like moths. The lights in her eyes shimmer and die. The stars watch, amused.

The station rotated at a cool .9 gee as I ventured into the forest, pulse laser in hand. Somewhere in the darkness a lion screamed...

Religion as Parent substitute

I'm 50 now. I'm an adult with my own children and grandchildren.  But being a human and (allegedly) a higher animal, I am very much the sum of my experiences.  Everything that ever happened to me (that I haven't forgotten) has made me what I am today, and the majority of it is still with me. 

Past experiences can profoundly affect and inform who we are, and the strongest experiences are often the most lasting. Think about what you like eating, what music you like, what your favourite colours are, what you find attractive in the opposite sex, even what your definitions of morality say about you. Now think about when those tastes were formed.  OK some of them may have changed over the years, but in the main what you like and what you think were set down when you were quite young.

Now think about your parents.  If you're as old as me it's possible you may have lost one or both. So how did that affect you?  For the majority of people the loss of a parent, even when we are parents and grandparents ourselves, is still a devastating experience.  Why is this?  I'm 50, I don't need a Mum or Dad in the same way as I did when I was 5 years old.  But the thing is, that 5 year old is still there inside my mind.  The memories of being that young are still with me, as are the emotional attachments and feelings of being that age, and when I was 5 my Mum and Dad were the most important people in the world to me.  They did everything.  They fed me, comforted me, clothed me, soothed me, protected me, reassured me, and loved me.

If we are the sum of our experiences then those feelings are the strongest we've ever had, and they don't just vanish when we get to middle-age and beyond.  They're still there.  Even if we don't need our parents to stop us crying when we bang our knees, or cook our meals for us and tuck us into bed, to some extent we still need them.  We need the reassurance that they are there if we really want them.  And that I believe is the most traumatic effect of losing a parent - losing the person who unconditionally loves us, and who will "make it all better".

To a certain extent we kind of lose them earlier on though - generally about the time we enter adulthood, when we realise that our parents are just ordinary people and they can't right all our ills and bend the world to suit us, even though deep down we do still want them to. So what do we need?  We need a parent who can still do all the things they did when we were little children.  We need someone who loves us unconditionally, someone who will reassure us that everything will be alright in the end, and someone who actually has to power to do what he promises.  We want our parents back in the same way as we had them when we were 5. And who fits the bill?


God's perfect.  He promises that he will make it alright for us. He promises that he loves us and he always will.  And he will always be there for us.  Forever.  He will never grow old and die.  He will never leave us.  But like any parent he does reserve the right to punish us if we transgress.  If we're naughty, we get a smack (how many times after some mishap have we heard people say "God must be punishing me"?).  God is the perfect parent, and this could be a good reason why adolescents sometimes turn to religion during the second decade of their lives - they are old enough to become disillusioned with their parents, but still young enough to want and crave parental comfort. 

But is this desire for a parent substitute unique to humans?  You know, I don't think so. I think we can see something similar happening in other higher animals.  Think of dogs and cats that we keep as pets.  What is their relationship to us? We feed them, give them security, comfort them...everything their own parents do to them when they are young.  In short we are our cats' and dogs' parent substitute.  We're their God.

Does this apply to all higher animals? Probably only to those who actually have the concept of a parent.  So where does that concept come from?  Well simply from the fact that you are brought up by your parent or parents. So any animals that aren't...won't have a need for a parent substitute.  Think turtles, crocodiles, fish, where the eggs are laid and the offspring left to fend for themselves. Those animals would probably not have a concept of a God, as they don't have a concept of a parent. 

Would it be possible for such an animal to evolve higher intelligence without understanding the concept of a parent, and therefore not needing the concept of a God?  Unlikely, since higher animals need parental contributions to pass on things like language and learned skills. Instinct can only take an animal so far. 

Depressingly this means that any intelligent life we find outside of the Earth is likely to at least be familiar with the concept of religion.  You can't have parents without eventually ending up with God.

Friday, 27 April 2012

Cause, Effect, and the Big Bang

A lot of people have a problem with the Big Bang. The commonest question I hear is "what came before it?" and often the answer to this is that the Big Bang created the universe, so there was nothing before it.

Now this is unsatisfying for the simple reason that we live in a universe of Cause & Effect, and our lives are ruled by this constant. For every thing that happens, there was something that caused it to happen. However the Big Bang seems to instantly violate this deeply-held belief. Well actually it's not even a belief, it's more of a Cosmic Law. Everything has to have a cause. Strangely people don't seem to have a problem with the idea of God having been around for ever and not being created by anyone, but they don't seem to be able to accept the same thing for a universe.

Anyway, leaving religious convictions aside, what is it about the Big Bang that people actually don't like? Well it's basically the idea that because the universe must have been created by something, therefore there must have been something before the universe to have created it. Aristotle did attempt to address this issue with the concept of the first mover or primum movens, but that ultimately ends up as God again, which is as unsatisfying as the idea of the universe being created from nothing.

Right. So the first thing to be aware of (and people don't like this either) is that what appears to have been created in the Big Bang is not just all the matter and energy in the universe, and not just the universe itself, but the space that the universe is contained in, and the time that passes within it. Ever since Einstein it's been pretty much a certainty that space and time aren't different things, but are actually separate components of Space-Time. And that's what was created in the Big Bang. Space-Time.

So now we have a situation where there was no "before" the Big Bang, because there was no Time. Even if we could somehow get round the idea of the "something" that created the Big Bang somehow existing "before" when there WAS no "before", we still have the problem of "where" that something existed, as there was no Space for it to exist in. 

If there wasn't a place to put the Cause of the Big Bang, and there wasn't a time for it to happen, then we now have the Big Bang as, by definition, the first thing that ever happened in the universe. So it couldn't have had a cause.

Still unsatisfying, isn't it?

At this point, let's take a slight diversion, and look at exactly what we mean by "Cause and Effect". Well, it's fairly simple isn't it? An "Effect" is "Caused" by something that happens before it. Let's examine that sentence. It implies that two events occur, separated by a length of time, and one causes the other.  However it is not actually implied that one of these events happens "before" the other. 

I know that seems a crazy thing to say, but it's actually an assumption based solely on the fact that in our normal every day world this is how we see things happen - the Cause always proceeds the Effect. But this assumes that there is always a definite absolute order of events, in that we see Cause and Effect always taking place in the correct order.  However this isn't always the case.

Special Relativity tells us that not only is the order that events occur dependent on how they are being observed, but that we cannot know which absolute order events occur in, as there is no absolute order. All events occur in relation to observers and other events. That's why it's called Special Relativity. Thus in a universe with a finite speed of light it is perfectly possible for an event to be perceived as occurring before the event that caused it

If we step momentarily into the realm of speculation we can even conceive of events which quite plainly and in-arguably take place in the "wrong" order. For example, I win the Lottery on Saturday. I then go back in time and give myself the winning numbers on Thursday. Which came first? Which caused which?

Admittedly we don't have the ability to travel in time (at least not yet), but this does show that although it may be important to our world view that all events have a cause, it's not quite as important which order they occur in, or even how long the time gap between them is, providing the events and the relationship between them are consistent.

So let's look at that old Big Bang again. We'll forgo the argument that there can't have been a cause to the universe because there was no "before", and let's assume that the Big Bang did have a cause. Does it matter "when" this cause occurred? Well we'd like it to be "before" the Big Bang, as that satisfies our expectations of Cause preceding Effect, but as we've already seen, this doesn't have to be the case. Is there any chance that the Cause of the Big Bang occurred After the Big Bang? Well if you follow my "Lottery" example, then it's possible, but then we run into the thorny problem of describing such a mechanism. 

However, by definition, the Big Bang was the 1st Event ever. So if that was the case, then the Cause of it couldn't have happened before, not only because there was no before, but because that would make the Cause of the Big Bang the 1st Event ever, and that would be impossible...since the Big Bang is already defined to be 1st. So we now have the situation that the Big Bang couldn't have been caused by either a prior event, or a later one.  Back to square one.

Not quite. What if the event that caused the Big Bang occurred at the same time, and in the same space as the Big Bang? We've already established that the order in which Cause and Effect occur is irrelevant, so long as the events themselves are logically consistent. So why can't they have occurred at the same time? Why can't the Cause and Effect of the Big Bang be the same thing?

If there's ever going to be any candidate for the process that instigated the largest single detonation in the history of the Universe, then a massive explosion of energy creating both the space the event occurred in and the time it took must be a pretty big one. The Big Bang created Time, which enabled the logic of Cause and Effect to work, and it created Space for Cause and Effect to exist in.  Not only that, but at the precise single instant that this happened, the cause of the Big Bang, and the effect of that cause (the Big Bang itself) must have both happened at the same time. 

So there we go. Our concept of Cause and Effect still works perfectly consistently, so long as we accept that the time interval between the thing that caused the Big Bang, and the Big Bang itself was so small as to be non-existent, and that's not a difficult concept to handle, is it?

"Angels and Anarchists" - The Story of The Haize (reprinted from Melody Maker, June 1980)

Originally formed in early 1970, The Haize were little more than a jobbing band on the London pub-rock circuit when the right-wing Conservative Government of the time passed the infamous "Danger To Morals" Act (1970), effectively outlawing music of a "...sedicious nature, liable to corrupt and deprave..."

Hot on the heels of the DM Act came the Festival purges of 1971, and after 15,000 audience members were either killed or injured at the Ipswich "Carnival of Rock", all rock and pop groups in the UK were faced with the choice of either becoming respectable or disbanding.  Rather than break up or change their musical style to comform to the strictures of the DM Act, The Haize (and a few other rock bands) took the third option, and continued to play their own music illegally on the London pub circuit. 

Initially Haize sets revolved around a mixture of old Rock 'n' Roll numbers, parodies of current commercial songs, and heavy jamming, but soon a more polished post-psychedelic style began to emerge, and by 1972 the band had enough of their own material for an album.  Unable to get any kind of legitimate record deal The Haize took to pressing limited runs of their own LP records (copies of which now fetch very high prices on the collectors market).  Their first album, "Living in the War Zone" was released in June 1972, and by the end of the year all copies had been sold.  Later that year The Haize undertook a small mini-tour of the Midlands, and in December released their first single - a one-sided, two-track flexi-disc "One Night Magic/Compendium".

By 1973 The Haize had been through at least 10 lineup changes (due in part to the uncertainties of their "outlaw" existence) but still managed to press and release a second album - "Don't Fight City Hall".  Rather than use a stock "live" photo or artwork for the album cover, The Haize decided to go for something more contentious, involving a staged attack on the Houses of Parliament using live ammunition.  However, the subsequent album cover (featuring photos of the band exchanging small arms fire with armed police outside the Palace of Westminster) resulted in a charge of High Treason being levied against The Haize.

Then later in the same year a group of Frenchmen were seen filming the various bands around London for a forthcoming movie - "Vive L'Anarchie" - documenting the UK "Rock Underground".  Although The Haize refused to allow themselves to be filmed, when the movie premiered in Paris that December it appeared they had been filmed by a concealed camera.  Using footage from the movie for identification, the London Metropolitan Police made several arrests, and the next 6 months saw many bands on the underground scene vanish - Straw Dogs, The Mutual, Meridian, to name but a few.  The Haize also appeared to disappear from the South London scene, with at least two members of the band confirmed killed (drummer Shep Sheppard) or deported (keyboard player Pete Kolarczyk).

However The Haize had survived, and resurfaced in November 1974 with a new lineup and a new album ("In Case of Fire...Piss Faster!"). This was quickly followed by a second flexi-disc single ("Mix Me A Molotov/Traffic Jamming"), as The Haize realised that as they had no real existence outside of the Underground scene there was very little chance of them ever being arrested.

In June 1975, after the threat of sanctions by the United Nations, the UK Government was pressured into holding a General Election.  Intervention by UN observers ensured that balloting was free from rigging, and two days later the Labour Party won in a landslide victory.  Several MPs on the far Right lost their seats, and ex-Prime Minister (and by now universally reviled) Sir Hamilton Wallace was shot and killed by an unknown assassin three weeks later.

The Haize Treason charge was officially dropped in July 1975, and The Haize celebrated by releasing their 4th album "Future Daze".  Then in November the Danger-to-Morals Act was repealed, and The Haize marked this occasion by performing their first ever open-air gig at Mansion Park, Surrey.

In January 1976 The Haize were granted their first License to Perform, and formed their own limited company "Private Plastic" to continue pressing their own records - their first legal release being the single "Hellandback/The Muse".  The live album of the July '75 Mansion Park concert was released in April ("End Of An Era - Live at Mansion Park"), and in June '76 The Haize embarked on their first national UK tour (supported by Sigma-Z).  This was followed by the release of their 5th (and 1st legal) album - "Omegalpha".  The Haize rounded off the year with a 5-hour Christmas extravaganza at the Hammersmith Palais, supported by Marauders, Sigma-Z, Nouveux Riche, and Starship Earth.

March 1977 saw The Haize playing Wembley Arena, supported by the Rolling Stones (returning from Canadian exile), and in June they headlined the first of the Knebworth Park Festivals.  In August of that year the first 3 Haize albums were re-released by Private Plastic, and a month later the single  "Smack/Nightwinger".  November and December were taken up with The Haize's first 20-date American tour, supported by American Heavy Rock combo The Gene Hawkins band. 

In April 1978 the last single produced by the "classic" Haize lineup was released - "Five Years On/Taste My Mind" - and in May Gene Hawkins joined The Haize as full-time vocalist at the Rosemere Park open-air gig in North London (together with ex-Gene Hawkins Band guitarist Geoff Stringer).  Two months later saw the first performance of The Haize's magnum opus "The Techronomicon Road Show" at Earls Court, followed by the 12 date "Techronomicon UK Tour" in September. 

The live album "Techronomiconalive" and single "Technorock/Hyperwave" was released in November of 1978, followed by a Christmas gig at London's newly-reopened Rainbow Theatre.  1979 saw the release of the studio album "In The City", followed by The Haize's appearance at the 1st Stonehenge Free Festival in June, and the band's first World Tour (30 dates covering Europe, America and Australia).

By 1980 the band's popularity ensured that they were ripe for exploitation, and the first of two non-Haize sanctioned albums was released. The soundtrack to the 1973 film "Vive L'Anarchie" surfaced in January, with three live tracks from the band, while in February The Haize took out an injunction against RCA to prevent the release of a live album recorded prior to 1976.  The injunction failed as the band were technically illegal prior to this, and so copyright on the recording was owned solely by whoever released it - in this case, RCA. The live album "The Haize Tapes" was released in March.  And that brings us up to date.  The Haize are currently completing their 7th studio album, tentatively for an August release, to be followed by an Autumn UK Tour.

Stay high, stay free!

- Sue Markham (Melody Maker)


The Illegal Pressings

"Living In The War Zone "(1972)

"One Night Magic\Compendium" (1972)

"Don’t Fight City Hall" (1973)

"In Case Of Fire...Piss Faster" (1974)

"Mix Me a Molotov\Traffic Jamming" (1974)

"Future Daze" (1975)

The Legal Pressings

"Hellandback\The Muse "(1976)

"End Of An Era - Live At Mansion Park" (1976)

"Omegalpha" (1976)

"Living In The War Zone" (re-release 1977)

"Don’t Fight City Hall "(re-release 1977)

"Music For The People" (re-release of "In Case of Fire..Piss Faster" 1977)

"Smack\Nightwinger(Live)" (1977)

"Five Years On|Taste My Mind (Live) "(1978)

"Techronomiconalive" (1978)

"Technorock\Hyperwave" (1978)

"In The City" (1979)

"In The City\Pizzaland Shuffle" (1979)

"The Haize Tapes" (1980)

"Vive L’Anarchie - Original Soundtrack" (Polydor-France 1980)
Includes three live tracks by The Haize: Riding the Storm/Motorway Madness/War Zone

Notable Bootlegs

"Live - On The Streets" (DJT Label 1972)
(Stereo - Recorded at the Albion Club, Brixton, Spring 1972)

"Psychodeon" (SUBZERO Label 1973)
(Stereo - Recorded at the Dog & Duck, Peckham, December 1972)

"Live Mothers" (ANARCHRIST Label 1975)
(Mono - Recorded at the Goose & Firkin, Bermondsey, July 1974)

Thursday, 26 April 2012

"Long Bus Ride" - The Derbyshire Constabulary Story

One of the more popular bands on the London "psychedelic" scene during the mid-60s, The Derbyshire Constabulary first came to prominence with the sharp poppy merseybeat album "Get On The Bus", an unexpected summer hit in 1967. This was quickly followed by the Byrds-inspired "Big Bus Songs" (1968) which reached Gold album status and resulted in The Derbyshire Constabulary's first US tour, supporting The Jimi Hendrix Experience.

The band signed with Polydor records in 1969 and retired to the studio to begin work on their third album. However prolonged legal battles with their previous record company resulted in a year long delay, after which "Open the Bus" was released in 1970 to critical derision and poor record sales. The band was unceremoniously dropped by Polydor and spent the next 6 months on hiatus, before undertaking a mini-tour of London and the Home Counties in the Spring of 1971. This resulted in a quick signing to Island records for a one record deal - the live double album "Here Come De Bus", recorded at the legendary Railway Hotel in Brixton. The album fared well, remaining in the Top 30 for 10 weeks between July and August 1971.

After a brief flirtation with Glam Rock in 1972 ("The Five Tales of Doctor Bus"), followed by the 1974 Heavy Rock collaboration with the Portsmouth Philharmonic Orchestra ("Bus Conducting") the Derbys (as their fans affectionately called them) widened their musical scope to include US Soul and World Music. The 1975 Stevie Wonder-produced double concept album "Bus Baby (The Africa Suite)" alienated some fans but gained more, especially in Russia where The Derbyshire Constabulary became one of the few bands to play behind the Iron Curtain during the Cold War.

Jumping on the Disco bandwagon, the Derbys shot up the US Billboard charts in 1977 with "Bus Wars", which (unusually for the band) spawned three top 40 singles - "Buswalker", "Beggar's Canyon Blues" and "Do The Wookie". However by the end of the decade the Derbys appeared to have run out of ideas, and the belated attempt at a "punk" album ("Bus Clinic", 1979) became the last recorded output by The Derbyshire Constabulary. The album failed to chart and the band split up in January 1980.

The band reformed (with all original members) as "Derby" in 1983. Primarily based around the South London area, and modelling themselves somewhat on the Police, their post-ska sound was particularly well-received on the student circuit. Three albums followed, on three different labels - "Whoops, Vicar, There Goes My Bus" (1983), "Bus of The Antarctic" (1984) and "Oi! You Looking at my Bus?" (1987) before the band split once more, citing "musical differences".

Reforming once more as "The Derbys" in 1993, and despite the advancing age of their members, the band successfully slotted into the burgeoning "indie" movement, producing two albums of accessible Britpop - "Bus" (1993) and "Un-Bus" (1995) before splitting up again in 1996, this time allegedly for good.

Although by no means an innovative band, the Derbys nevertheless had the unerring knack of capturing the zeitgeist of whichever time they found themselves in, perfectly absorbing (and in turn being absorbed by) the current musical scene. Unfortunately due to the wide diversity of the band's musical styles (and almost complete lack of singles) a Greatest Hits compilation has never materialised. The last addition to the Derbys' discography was the 2009-released album of recently discovered demos and outtakes from the 1970 hiatus "The Bus Stop Sessions".

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Forgotten Guitar Solos No. 3 - Madonna "Dress You Up"

It's 1985,and Madonna's star is on the ascendant. "Dress You Up" is the 5th single from the pop princess's 2nd solo album, and it peaks at No. 5 in the US Billboard chart, and No. 3 in the US Dance Chart. Because it's nothing more nor less than a smooth, seductive dance track, drum machine, funky guitar licks and all.

But what's this? 2:01 minutes in, producer Nile Rodgers steps up and delivers a 27 second long tight little tremolo-driven rock guitar solo. Unexpected, shorter than it should be, but very welcome.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Forgotten Guitar Solos No. 19 - Christopher Cross "Ride Like the Wind"

From Christopher Cross's eponymous 1979 debut album "Ride Like the Wind" was the first of 4 singles from the album, and reached no. 2 in the US billboard charts. It's got a wonderfully "Manhattan" sound to it, echoed on his later hit single "Arthur's Theme".

However there's a very understated guitar solo that fades in from about 3:25 until the end of the song, and once you've noticed it, you never forget it on subsequent plays.

It complements the song perfectly, riding in and out of the melody, and like the song it fades out at 4:35. Sadly the album version and the single version are identical, so you don't get a longer version by buying the album. Although there are quite a few guitarists credited on the album, this solo is from Chris himself, as you can tell from youtube videos of him doing it live.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Dave's 500 Bus Albums No 29 - Steve Hacket "Spectral Mornings" (1979)

I was in the second year of 6th Form when this album came out, and (unusually for a child of the 70s) I had only just discovered Genesis thanks to the 1978 Knebworth concert broadcast on Radio 1. Consequently I wasn't immediately aware that the band playing at Knebworth had something missing.

A bit like Voldemort's Horcruxes, Steve Hackett contained a little piece of the soul of Genesis, and in 1977 that piece broke off and went its own way. "Spectral Mornings" is Hackett's third solo album, and his second since leaving Genesis, and I remember at the time thinking that it sounded just like a Genesis album anyway. In particular the track "Clocks-The Angel of Mons", which alongside Hackett's haunting guitar, has what sounds like Phil Collins seriously going for it on the drums.

Of course it isn't, it's John Shearer, but it just goes to show how much of the Genesis "sound" was down to Steve's guitar. Although this was post-punk, Genesis however were still somewhat ponderous (the slimmed-down 80s pop version was still a few years away yet), but this album was anything but.

If you really need to label it, then it's definitely a "prog" album, but there are several different styles of music on show here, from Acoustic ("Lost Time in Cordoba") to Ragtime ("The Ballad of the Decomposing Man"). But if you simply want your Prog fix, Hackett's trademark guitar is all over tracks like "Tigermoth", "Spectral Mornings", "Every Day" and the aforementioned "Clocks". In fact the guitar solo on the track "Every Day" takes up the whole second half of this 6 minute song!


Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Forgotten Guitar Solos No. 47 - Andrew Gold "Lonely Boy"

2 minutes into the song and guitarist Waddy Wachtel gives us a delicious solo that honestly sounds like it could go on forever. Unfortunately it only lasts about a half minute, but those 30 seconds raise the hairs on the back of your neck.

Gold sadly died in his sleep in June 2011 just months shy of his 60th birthday.

Forgotten Guitar Solos No. 104 - Underground Zero - "Canes Venatici"

Bit of a cheat this one because it isn't a single, and because you've probably never even heard of them. Underground Zero are an "alternative" rock band from Norwich, very much in the mould of Hawkwind. This is their most famous track, a nice cheerful ditty about the Earth's ozone layer disappearing.

However, if you skip forward to about 3:30 you're ten seconds away from one of the best Space Rock guitar solos I've heard in years. Guitarist Karl Dawson is the man, and 30 years later he's still with the band.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Dave's 500 Bus Albums No 28 - Chicken Shack - "Unlucky Boy" (1973)

I don't know why this album is called "Unlucky Boy", any more than the previous one was called "Imagination Lady". They do sound a bit like names of race-horses though, so maybe that's the reason.

OK, so I've moved from Chicken Shack's 5th to their 6th album now, and is it any better or any worse? WEll, it's slightly different, and this may be down to a change in personnel. Although Stan Webb still handles guitar and vocals, bass-player John Glascock has gone, and since the previous band was a three-piece, that leaves only Paul Hancox on drums. Chicken Shack is now a five-piece with the afforementioned Bob Daisley on bass, Tony Ashton on piano, and Chris Mercer on saxophone.

This has expanded Chicken Shack's sound somewhat, at the risk of losing some of the tightness of the previous power trio of Webb, Glascock and Hancox. But the band is still very much Webb's vehicle, and the music still dominated by his alternately soloing and riffing guitar. This was their last studio album for some years, as Chicken Shack finally disbanded after a live album in 1974, when Stan Webb left to join up with his old mates in Savoy Brown.

Is it any good? Yeah, I think so. In one sense it's very much of it's time, being almost indistinguishable from the British Heavy Rock bands that were themselves laying the foundations for the Heavy Metal of the late 70s. But in another sense it's also timeless, because it's the Blues, and the Blues always dates very well. A good solid album.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Dave's 500 Bus Albums No 27 - Chicken Shack - "Imagination Lady" (1972)

Some blues on the bus this morning. We're not talking Blind Lemon Jefferson or B.B. King here. This is British Blues (think Yardbirds, Led Zeppelin, Cream, Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac) which means it's heavily riff-laden, and nobody is talking about how they've been down since their lady left them. In many ways British Blues was the forerunner of what later became "Heavy Rock" (Deep Purple et al) and you can certainly hear it in this album. Dominated by Stan Webb's solid guitar-work, every track is absolutely dripping with solos. If you like your blues powerful and rockin', or if you like your rock loud and bluesy, you'll like this album. I suspect I will be playing it on the way home as well today.

This is actually Chicken Shack's 5th album (they formed in 1968), and is probably not representative of the rest of their discography, so I'll be wary of listening to any of their other albums. In a Spinal Tap-esque way they've been through several lineup changes over the years and a list of past & future members reads like a roll-call of the British blues and rock elite. Both Bob Daisley (bass player with Ozzy Osbourne) and Tony Ashton (keyboardist with Paice, Ashton, Lord) have played with Chicken Shack, as did drummers Keef Hartley and Alan Powell (later of Hawkwind) In fact prior to this very album the bass player, keyboardist and drummer all left to join another Blues outfit, Savoy Brown (the keyboardist in question being Paul Raymond, later of UFO).

Friday, 20 January 2012

Dave's 500 Bus Albums No 26 - Commander Cody & His Lost Planet Airmen "Lost in the Ozone" (1971)

Well after the pleasant surprise of their live album, I thought I'd give Commander Cody & his crew another chance. This is their debut album from 1971 and...yes it's just as good as the '76 live one. Which goes to show what a consistent band they were. I now feel confident that if I pick up any Commander Cody album from the 70s I'm probably going to like it.

This isn't whiny and slow Country & Western, this is fast and furious good-time Texas boogie-woogie Rock 'n Roll, done perfectly. If you dropped into a Texas Truck Stop bar you'd probably hear this music coming from the juke box or (if you were real lucky) being played live on stage.

While the Psychedelic party of the '60s was metamorphosing into the pompous Heavy Rock of the '70s, Commander Cody and his band were carving out their own little niche in the genre. In fact I'd go so far as to say they probably invented the genre.

A far better album than you expect it to be, and if you've never heard this style of music before, a refreshing change from what you're used to.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Dave's 500 Bus Albums No 25 - Iommi & Hughes "Fused" (2005)

In my opinion this has far more right to be called a Black Sabbath album than "Seventh Star". 19 years has made a helluva lot of difference. Rock and metal has moved on, and Tony Iommi and Glenn Hughes have just got better. I thought "The DEP Sessions" was good, but this is simply awesome.

Don't be fooled by the opening track "Dopamine". It's a perfectly serviceable Metal song, tight and radio-friendly, but it doesn't prepare you for the onslaught to follow. Every subsequent track on this album shows just what a band can do when everything goes right - the production is crystal clear, Hughes' vocals are 100%, complementing Iommi's razor-sharp guitar, and the energy emanating from this album is astounding.

Best Song? Last track - "I Go Insane". This 9 minute magnum opus encapsulates everything you need to know about British Heavy Metal for the last 40 years.

And when you've finished the album, go back and play it again!

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Forgotten Guitar Solos No. 114 - Al Stewart "Year of the Cat" (album version)

The title track from Al Stewart's 1976 album of the same name. The song is simply dripping with instrumental breaks, including piano, strings, and sax. The solo starts at 3:21...acoustic, then kicks into electric at 3:54.

You can play this track again and again and it never gets boring.​watch?v=cqZc7ZQURMs

Incidentally did you know according to the Chinese horoscope 2011 was the Year of the Rabbit? Also known as the Year of the Cat...