Scream for me Dublin!

Iron Maiden, 3Arena, Dublin, 06 May 2017

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Way back in September 1990 I attended my first Iron Maiden concert.  I was a fifteen year old Heavy Metal Fanatic and this was a big deal for me.  I remember vividly the sense of excitement and the feeling of camaraderie as we walked in our thousands—clad in denim and leather and the obligatory white sneakers—along the quays towards the old Point Depot.

Twenty seven years later, I’m partaking in the same pilgrimage and the air is charged with that same sense of anticipation.  It’s a beautiful day in May and Dublin is swarming with metal fans.  Loud rock music is blaring from Lanigans and other pubs along the quays as we make our way to the venue.  The mood is high and the atmosphere is that of a carnival.

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Eddie overseeing proceedings

Maiden are known for their elaborate stage shows and The Book of Souls Tour does not disappoint.  The stage is beautifully decked out in Mayan themed imagery that matches the artwork of the latest album to the finest of details.  The video intro which leads into If Eternity Should Fail, the opening track from The Book of Souls, is enough to drive the capacity crowd into near frenzy and by the time the band hit the stage, the 3Arena is a cauldron of noise.

The set list is one of the best in recent years and classics like The Trooper and Wrathchild sit nicely alongside new tracks like The Book of Souls and The Red and the Black without interrupting the flow of the show one iota.  Children of the Damned was one of the highlights of the night, in my opinion and the version of Powerslave was absolutely masterful.  Death or Glory from the new record is fast becoming a fan favourite, evidenced in Dublin by the thousands of voices singing along with Bruce Dickinson, who takes the opportunity to show that he doesn’t take it all too seriously, singing the whole track while wearing a monkey mask.  Those who know the song will know why!

All the necessary elements needed to make up a great Iron Maiden show were there:  Steve Harris machine-gunning the front row with his bass, Bruce Dickinson ping-ponging about the whole stage like a man half his age, the scrap between Eddie and Janick Gers, and a huge, brooding Baphomet overshadowing the band during The Number of the Beast.

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Is this metal enough for you?…

The fact that Iron Maiden, after so many years of recording albums and touring around the world, can still fill huge venues and present a set list containing nearly fifty percent brand new material is incredibly impressive.  It demonstrates how relevant the band still is to the world of rock music and how committed and hard working they are as musicians.  Their fans of course realise this and that’s why Maiden are still at the apex of the metal pyramid.  Here’s hoping that there will be another album and another tour.

Up the Irons!

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Ian O’Sullivan

Young Man Blues

Uncut magazine has called it “a year with a hex on it, a year gone rogue”.

As 2016 draws to a close there is no escaping the portents of mortality, especially for those of us who grew up in the late 1960s and early 1970s:

Fidel of course, although he may not have graced as many bedroom walls in those days as his compañero Che; the irreplaceable Muhammad Ali;

Carlos Alberto, captain of Brasil 1970, the greatest ever football team, and Johann Cruijff, one of the four or five greatest players ever;

The music world has been the big loser:  BB King, Ben E. King, Ornette Coleman, Allen Toussaint, Bowie, Leonard Cohen, Mose Allison, Merle Haggard, and far too many others.  Not all of them were really old either: Prince, Glen Frey (of The Eagles), Chris Squires (of Yes) for example.  Closer to home the artist called Black, AKA Colin Vearncombe, died from injuries he had suffered in a car crash near Cork Airport.

 

Back in the mid ‘60s, The Who famously sang

“Hope I die before I get old”.

50 years on they still play that song, with two of the original line-up.

 

In those days they also regularly covered Mose Allison’s ‘Young Man Blues’:

“well the young man ain’t got nothing in the world these days

You know in the old days, the young man had all the money”.

 

Times have changed, that’s for sure.  Sad and all as these deaths are, the longevity of those music icons who died in 2016 – and those still making music – makes one wonder whatever happened to the notion that rock’n’roll is a young man’s game.  Most of those who died this year lived a half century longer than say Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and yet their loss is being deeply felt.

~

Leonard Cohen’s You want it darker came out to rave reviews in the autumn.  For example

‘this exquisite 14th album from the Montreal poet’  (The Observer)

‘like a magician Cohen makes images reappear in different songs and guises’ (Sylvie Simmons in Mojo)

‘this wonderful new album . . . wise and honest and full of life’  (Alexis Petradis in The Guardian).

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When he sang ‘I’m leaving the table / I’m outta the game’ most critics either misread what he was saying or preferred not to grasp it.

Mind you, reading between the lines there was an element of ‘imagine he’s still alive and still bringing out records, at 82!!!’

‘eighty-two years old and still at the top of his game while mining the depths’ (Mojo again).

Not for the first time he knew more than the music critics.  We now know that his album was a farewell; it was a struggle for him to record the songs as he was dying of cancer.

~

Some of the old masters are thankfully still around.

Van Morrison, still hale and hearty at 71, has received a lot less press for his Keep me singing, released at the same time, although this is a fine piece of music-making.  It features some gorgeous melodies ― ‘Memory lane’, ‘Every time I see a river’, and ‘In Tiburon’ ― and a blues ― ‘Going down to Bangor’ ― that links County Down with the south side of Chicago.  There is great singing by Van, and beautiful playing by Fiachra Trench on keys and Paul Moran on Hammond, and Van himself on blues harp on a couple of numbers.

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And of course, to cap it all, Bob Dylan (75 last May) was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.  Dylan is the first artist since George Bernard Shaw to win both an Oscar and the Nobel Prize.  If anyone from the popular music world was to win a Nobel it was going to be either him or Cohen.  While he is still touring and his latest album of new songs (Tempest) was issued only in 2012  ― the 5th set of new songs since 1997 ― the citation for the Nobel stressed his work from the 60s and 70s.

Plenty critics were unimpressed that he was given that award, hardly surprisingly.  Maybe we should give the last word to Leonard Cohen on this.  Giving Bob Dylan the Nobel Prize, he said, was like pinning a medal on Mount Everest for being the highest mountain.

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Chuck Berry is 90, Little Richard 84, Jerry Lee Lewis 81; let’s hope 2017 will be kinder . . .

Liam Ronayne
Liam Ronayne Cork City Librarian

Up Close with Leonard Cohen

As 2016 draws to a close, we say goodbye to yet another iconic figure in the world of popular music. Leonard Cohen joins a star-studded list of fallen legends, including Leon Russell, George Martin, Glen Frey and Prince.

Leonard Cohen was widely known to be an elusive interview candidate but there are some great conversations with him to be found online.

Here’s an interview we came across which was originally broadcast on Sounds Like Canada in February 2006. The interviewer, Shelagh Rogers, had been trying to secure a meeting with Cohen for twenty five-years and was well aware of the rare opportunity that was being afforded her:

The interview took place in cavernous Studio 42 in the Canadian Broadcasting Centre in Toronto, on a Saturday morning in February 2006, the day before five of Cohen’s songs were inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame. There were two chairs in a corner of the studio, one for me and one for Leonard Cohen. It was stark, dark, and intimate. Leonard Cohen rarely gives interviews. I got lucky.

The piece makes for a very interesting read and it can be found in the November 2016 issue of Brick magazine.  Click the link below and enjoy!

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Leonard Cohen RIP

Jacques’ Tribute to Rory

We’ve got a special treat for you on the first of October at 3.30 pm as we play host to Belgian guitar virtuoso, Jacques Stotzem, as he stops off at the RGML for an intimate show as part of his European tour. The gig is, as always, free of charge, so if you’re in the neighbourhood why not drop in and be part of a very special acoustic tribute to the late Rory Gallagher. Stotzem’s latest album, ‘To Rory,’ is a tribute to the great man himself and features acoustic versions of some of Rory’s best known tracks.

The following is from Jacques Stotzem’s press release and if you’d like to learn more, see the link to his homepage at the end. For a full list of events in the RGML please click here.

“To Rory” is Belgian guitar virtuoso Jacques Stotzem’s tribute to the late Irish rock guitarist and singer-songwriter Rory Gallagher. Honouring the 20th anniversary of Gallagher’s premature passing, Stotzem recalls his guitar hero’s dynamic playing and, as he says, “unmatched musicality,” by presenting the music on solo acoustic guitar. Fusing the powerful nature of Gallagher’s music with his own expressive playing, Stotzem pulls off this considerable feat with aplomb. Employing the dynamic, playful style that has become his trademark, Stotzem impresses with fast runs, groovy basslines, and percussive elements, all paired with a musical sensibility that allows him to interpret Gallagher’s powerful repertoire without sacrificing his own identity.

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Skillfully using various fingerpicking techniques and even bottle-neck slide, Stotzem is equally adept at interpreting the driving beats found in Moonchild as he is at capturing the ballad feel of Wheels Within Wheels. “To Rory” is not only a homage to a legendary musician, it also affirms Stotzem’s own place as one of the leading European acoustic guitarists.

www.stotzem.com

 

It’s that Van again!

.. It’s Too Late to Stop Now .. in all its glory

Vol I: the original 2-CD set
Vol II, III, IV & DVD; previously unreleased material (4 disk set)

The early 1970s was an incredible time for Van Morrison; not a period of transition but one of great fulfilment.

Following his breakthrough with Moondance (1970) – Astral Weeks was a whole other thing – he produced a series of albums that together amount to the highpoint of his creative life: His band and the street choir (also 1970), Tupelo Honey (1971), Saint Dominic’s preview (1972), Hard nose the highway (1973), culminating in the live double album .. It’s too late to stop now .. (released January 1974).

In the summer of 1973 he set off on a three-month long tour of North America and Europe with the Caledonia Soul Orchestra. Warner Brothers recorded eight sets on that tour – at The Troubadour (23 May) in Los Angeles, the Santa Monica Civic (29 June), and The Rainbow in London (23 & 24 July).  The eleven-strong Caledonia Soul Orchestra was perhaps his greatest band; it included a five person string section, sax and trumpet, guitar, bass and drums, all led by Jeff Labes on piano and organ.  Many of these musicians had been with him since Moondance, and stayed with him through the first half of the 70s.

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That live recording – long-regarded as one of the greatest live albums ever – has now been revisited. The original has been re-mastered and re-issued as .. It’s too late to stop now .. Vol I; this is accompanied by .. It’s too late to stop now .. Vol II, III, and IV & DVD: previously unreleased selections from the gigs in The Troubadour, the Santa Monica Civic, and The Rainbow respectively.  The Rainbow gig on 24 July was filmed by the BBC for a TV special, but never broadcast.  Part of this concert is issued for the first time on the DVD.

So what have we got?

Each night on that tour he paid due tribute to his R’n’B mentors: Ray Charles (‘I believe to my soul’), Bobby Bland (‘Ain’t nothing you can do’), Sam Cooke (‘Bring it on home to me’), Sonny Boy Williamson (‘Help me’ and ‘Take your hand out of my pocket’) and Muddy Waters (‘I just want to make love to you’).  He included the Them-era classics ‘Gloria’ and ‘Here comes the night’ and his first solo hit ‘Brown eyed girl’.   At the heart of these recordings, however, are selections from his early 70s albums; we get a total of 18 of these songs from his six solo studio albums (including 6 of the 8 tracks on Hard nose the highway recorded that spring but not released until later in 1973).  We get two or even three versions of some songs, such as ‘Caravan’, ‘Into the mystic’ and ‘Cyprus Avenue’.

There are surprising covers as well: ‘Being green’ was written for Kermit the Frog on Sesame Street!, he does a version of ‘Purple heather’ that Francis McPeake – his fellow Belfast man who gave us the best-known rendering of that song – would struggle to recognize; both of them had been recorded for Hard nose the highway. As well as that he does Hank Williams’ ‘Hey good looking’ and a punk cha-cha version of that old chestnut ‘Buona sera’.

Five disks to listen to, one DVD 50 minutes long: is it worth it?

The tour was reaching its end when the Caledonia Soul Orchestra pitched up at The Rainbow in North London on 23 and 24 July 1973. Whether it was because Van and his band had got as tight as could be after a great tour, or they were looking forward to the finish, this is the set (volume IV) with the most verve and excitement.  Morrison has returned to ‘Listen to the Lion’ – first recorded for St. Dominic’s Preview – many times, but he and his band nailed a version here that would be hard to better.  Similarly with the versions on this CD of ‘Domino’, ‘Caravan’, ‘Into the mystic’ and ‘Cyprus Avenue’, ‘I believe to my soul’ . . .

The Santa Monica set is more restrained, somehow feels a little flat in comparison. The Troubadour gig, while still good, is maybe not as essential as the Rainbow CD.  The entire package, though, is a must for anyone with more than a passing interest in Van Morrison.

Everything his fans have loved for four decades can be found here: the unique way Van blends gutbucket blues and breath-taking soul with his romantic mystical longings, his unmistakeable voice, all backed by a fantastic collection of musicians, every one of them fully bought into Van’s way of making music.

Liam Ronayne

Liam Ronayne

 

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Header photo: Art Siegel, Wikipedia Commons

Bittersweet Aftertaste

 

On Friday, 28 August 1970, Rory Gallagher and his Taste band mates stood before what was quite literally an immeasurable crowd and delivered a set that was simply stunning. What’s Going On? Live at the Isle of Wight captures the essence of that performance beautifully. From the dazzling guitar intro to ‘What’s Going On?’ right through to the last notes of ‘Blister On The Moon,’ the band, by now a well oiled machine, exude a raw, primeval energy and a mastery of their craft that few bands then or now could match.

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Isle of Wight Festival 1970, Photo by Roland Godefroy

The fact that Rory — only twenty-two years old, but already a seasoned veteran of the stage — could stand in front of such a huge audience with nothing but his white Fender Telecaster and a slide for company, and perform ‘Gambling Blues,’ the way he did is mind-blowing. But Rory could do that, couldn’t he? Letting the band take a timeout, he could pick up an acoustic or a mandolin or whatever he felt like and still remain the focus of attention. It’s a rare gift. I caught Joe Bonamassa live a couple of years back and, although the show was great, the only low point was when he played acoustically without the band for a short set. We were treated to a cornucopia of fret-board acrobatics but no soul. It was all very contrived. The difference with Rory was that it always sounded so natural and it never interrupted the flow of his performance. His agenda was never to show off but to express his music as fully as possible and to do this he used whatever tools were necessary.

 

Taste was a musical phenomenon. Listening to them play, one could hear echoes of everything that went before and hints of what was yet to come. They had the tight, disciplined professionalism of a Jazz trio, the heart and soul of a blues band and the kind of fire that later ignited the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. In August 2005 I met two of the guitarists from Iron Maiden — Dave Murray and Janick Gers — in Bruxelles Pub in Dublin after a show they played in the RDS, and during a chat about musicians they admired, both axe men cited Rory Gallagher as a major influence. I wasn’t surprised, as I’ve always thought that Iron Maiden’s self-titled 1980 debut had echoes of Rory all over it. Indeed, Rory Gallagher’s influence on the sound of modern rock in general cannot be underestimated. Brian May of Queen readily admits that he got his sound from him. Rory kindly talked him through his live rig after a gig in London’s Marquee that Brian, then a very young Taste fan, attended. Since then the Vox AC 30 and treble booster pedal became permanent fixtures in Brian May’s setup.

Though showing no sign of it on the day, by the time Taste took the stage on the Isle of Wight in 1970, cracks had already appeared behind the scenes and soon afterwards they split. They were even reluctant to let photographer John Minihan take a band portrait backstage. It was only when bassist McCracken grabbed his band mates and jibed, ‘Come on guys, even if it’s the last one!’ that the photo was taken. As you can see in the picture heading this article, they look far from comfortable.

On the one hand, it’s a shame that the band didn’t get the opportunity to realise their full potential, but, on the other, it opened the door for Rory to go his own way and to become an artist in his own right. With the albums Rory Gallagher, Deuce, Blueprint and Tattoo released in the years succeeding the Taste break up, it became clear that Rory had drawn a line under the past and moved on. Out were those frivolous, jam-style interludes between guitarist and rhythm section and in came more focused songwriting with Rory centre stage and bass and drums providing a rock solid backdrop. The dynamic had changed and by the time Irish Tour ’74 hit the shelves, Rory Gallagher and his band were a blues–rock tour de force, and Taste a distant memory.

But what a memory it was. Taste was active during a period of intense cultural and musical transformation and the line-up at the Isle of Wight Festival, the largest musical event of its time, read like a roll call for anyone who mattered in popular music in 1970. What a thrill it must have been for the three young Taste members to play at such a monumental event alongside names like Jimi Hendrix and The Who. Though it was to be the band’s swansong, their performance sent waves across the music world and earned them their place in Rock history.

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With the recent release of I’ll Remember, the Taste boxed set detailing the band’s history, and the film What’s Going On? Live at the Isle of Wight on DVD, it’s important to note that, although Taste represented a relatively short span in Rory Gallagher’s musical career, to his fans and fans of good music in general it was not without value, and sounds as good today, twenty-one years after Rory Gallagher’s passing, as it did all those years ago.

Great music never ages.