Monday, December 12, 2011

My top albums of 2011

Ok, here we go. There's been plenty of good stuff out this year, so what makes it to my favourites list? In time honoured fashion, here's the top three in reverse order.

3. Megadeth "Thirte3n"

A magnificent return to form for Dave Mustaine's baby. The usual heavy riffing combined with pointed lyrics which have moved on from the days of death and destruction. Maybe Mustaine's (relatively) newly found Christianity gives him a wider outlook on life with social issues and comments on abuse of democracy now getting good prominance.

At a time when Metallica's standing in rock circles is falling, this stunning set of tracks should have got some tongues wagging when they reunited with their old band mate recently at their 30th Anniversary shows.

All we need now is a UK return for Megadeth. Hard Rock Hell 6?

2. Black Country Communion "2"

No surprise here. I could ditto everything I said about 2010's debut album and add some, as this is no doubt up at another level.

With every classic rock influence in the book (and, yes, cliche), this album can be played time and again. Four outstanding musicians gelling with a great producer, backed up with some high voltage live appearances all makes for a potent cocktail of energetic, classy and thoughtful hard rock.

1. Coldplay "Mylo Xyloto"

Yes, that's right, you haven't misread it - Coldplay get my vote for album of the year (and I get banned from The Steelhouse!

The band that nobody admits to liking superbly span the often wide gap between pop and rock. This is an absolute gem and the band's best work since 2004's "A Rush Of Blood To The Head", which quite frankly it needed to be after the disappointments of albums three and four.

Where to start? Well, in a music world where the indie art rock form longs for a Pink Floyd or a 1990s Radiohead, this more than nicely does the job.

What I like most is, well, everything, from the fact that it's forty minutes long like albums used to be, and so it's not padded out with filler, to the sheer quality of the tracks. "Paradise" plays as background to many a sports montage on TV at present, "Charlie Brown" is excellent and so is "Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall".

Vocals, guitar, rhythm, in all elements, it is truly the outstanding record of the year.

Also on the shortlist:

Deep Purple with Orchestra "Live in Montreux 2011", old songs performed magnificently. Girlschool "Hit and Run - Revisited", a NWOBHM classic with modern production. Whitesnake "Forevermore", a real feel of old school buried beneath the surface. The Answer "Revival", a solid third output. Chickenfoot 3, it's their second album, but hey...Michael Schenker "Temple Of Rock", breaking free from the MSG shackle.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Whitesnake, Newport, 07/12/11

And so we come to the final part of a trilogy of Deep Purple family gigs taking place this autumn/winter in the UK with the fourth appearance at the Newport Centre of David Coverdale and his ever changing support cast of Whitesnake (I make it version 16 - keep up at the back). In fact, this was the penultimate show of the 90 date Forevermore 2011 World Tour.

Mr David Coverdale

A sizeable crowd (including many familiar faces) turned up on a cold South Wales night to pay homage to one of the great frontmen of rock over the last 38 years, right from those early days of being plucked from obscurity to front Purple mark 3 which was, back in 1973, the biggest selling (and loudest) band in the world.

Once the excellent Red, White and Blues has fulfilled the support slot, it was time to get down and sing along to some of the signature tunes of 1980s rock: Bad Boys, Give Me All Your Love (youtube), Love Ain't No Stranger, The Deeper The Love (youtube), Is This Love?, Fool For Your Loving (youtube), Here I Go Again, Still Of The Night and a collection of old Purple stuff in Burn/Stormbringer and Soldier Of Fortune.

Here's a song for ya

So what was it like?

First, the positives. Whitesnake have an impressive back catalogue with many tunes which will last for a very long time and, in David Coverdale, there is the very model of a heavy rock frontman: even at 60, in fine shape, eloquent and with hair the envy of men half his age.

His interaction with the crowd is well known, and this made for a real Christmas party atmosphere. His supporting musicians are well crafted, and shine most on the newer material like the new album's title track "Forevermore" and, from the last album, "Can You Hear The Wind Blow?"

So it cannot be said that it was not an enjoyable evening.But...

...even as an ardent Whitesnake fan...

...I have to point out that this incarnation of live Whitesnake is a mere shadow of days gone by.

It just has to be said that DC's voice is a long way from the force it was and, to be brutally honest, varies between a husky growl and screams, with little in between on the 'heavy metal' numbers. The backing group help out enormously on vocals with as many as four of them singing out at some stages. Coverdale ducks out of many sections, leading crowd sing alongs of both a collective and, increasingly, individual nature by passing the mike to audience members.

DC with Doug Aldrich...

My biggest criticism has to be reserved for what I consider to be the amount of time wasted. After an impressive start to the show for around half an hour, the momentum of the gig was completely ruined by an interminable instrumental section: around 10 minutes of twin guitar solos, followed by a mindnumbing drum solo (I lost count after 11 minutes - amazingly some people were still filming it) and an excruciating band introduction section complete with cringeworthy cover versions of Cream , Aerosmith etc.

...and with Reb Beach

Not complete with that we had the appearance of a gift bearing Father Christmas during the classic Fool For Your Loving which, coupled with Coverdale's increasingly scripted innuendos and gestures (he's more like Frankie Howerd every tour), did make me wonder if the long awaited sequel to Spinal Tap was being filmed.

Goodnight from mark 16 Whitesnake

So for all the goodies that a Whitesnake show can bring, this one brought it's fair share of car crash viewing. Far better for those instrumental sections to be removed (it's £40 a ticket y'know), get the bar stools out, and sing some blues / acapello. 1987 it isn't. And I speak for many I think when I say that I want to see a performance not a pantomime.

Will it happen? Dunno, but DC could take a leaf out his old bandmate Glenn Hughes's book and go back to basics, drop the heavy metal frontman image and act like the seasoned and talented pro he is.

If he doesn't, he runs the risk of ridicule and unravelling a great reputation.

Will I go again? Dunno, depends on ticket price, locality and whether the show changes.

We can all hear the sound of the windmill going round. Perhaps it's time the tune was changed before it stops turning altogether.

Whitesnake 2011

Friday, December 9, 2011

Hard Rock Hell 5, Pontins Prestatyn, 01-03/12/11

Oh well, off we went to the 5th annual Hard Rock Hell and, to be honest, I thought it was the most disappointing to date.

With most of the budget blown on the no-show headliner Ace Frehley, who pulled out in the week leading up to the festival, the rest of the bill suffered and so it proved over the weekend with few memorable moments.

Highlights included discovering the excellent Gentlemen of Distorted Sound on Friday afternoon, a fine Wolfsbane set Friday evening, listening in to Dan Baird at midday on the Saturday, an entertaining Saturday afternoon set from Reckless Love (Poison/Motley Crue wannabees), and two fine performances from the Quireboys and Michael Monroe on the Saturday evening.

Let's hope for a better line up next year.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Deep Purple with Orchestra, The Songs That Built Rock, LG Arena, Birmingham, 27/11/11

Quite simply, magnificent! The best band to walk the earth 1968 - 2011.

Whilst many still have their doubts about the continuing viability of Deep Purple, there probably weren't many of those present at the Birmingham NEC on this evening.

Backed up by a 28 piece orchestra, the band were simply on fire.

Yes, there were no surprises in the set list, indeed it was identical to that of the current DVD/CD, but that does not detract the supreme musicianship of the old masters: Ian Paice on drums - the best in the business, Roger Glover on bass - quite sublime, frontman Ian Gillan on great form, Steve Morse on guitar - now been in Deep Purple longer than the man in black, and Don Airey on keyboards - now well established and paying homage to the sadly unwell Jon Lord.

Ian Paice has said that they'll know when it's time to finish, but on this evidence that'll be a couple of years yet - let's just hope there's a (long overdue) album in the pipeline.

As I said on the DPAS site:

"The kind of magical sound produced by these musicians could only be performed by the greatest band ever to walk the planet. I wasn’t around to see Purple in their 1970s pomp, but I’ve seen them many times since the reunion and this was the best. In fact, it gives me hope for another few good years!"



Roger Glover


Steve Morse

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Ebbw Vale 50 Glamorgan Wanderers 11, 19/11/11

Ebbw Vale recorded another comfortable win against limited opposition to secure their place at the top of Division One East, a victory made all the sweeter by being against a side who have often been the club's nemesis.

That said the Wanderers provided a little more with ball in hand than some recent opposition which belied their lowly position in the table, and, with the evergreen Gareth Cull still kicking well, I'd expect them to record a few more wins in the 2nd half of the season.

As for Ebbw, it was the usual case of being fitter, faster and just better in every aspect of the game.

From the Ebbw website:

The second half of the league season began with a double for Ebbw, as they continued their winning streak to defeat Glamorgan Wanderers by 50 points to 11 at Eugene Cross Park on Saturday, scoring 7 tries in the process and bagging yet another bonus point.

The game started well for Wanderers as they put pressure on the home defence, winning a penalty that Gareth Cull converted. Cull missed a second shot before Tom Macpherson grabbed Ebbw's first, beautifully converted by Dorian Jones. Ten minutes later, Charlie Simpson scored a second and this was followed before half time by tries for Dan Haymond, on in place of Tristan Davies who was stretchered off, and another for the pacy Macpherson, to send the Steelmen in 26-6 up with the bonus point secured.

Wanderers scored a well worked try early on, Mike Stephens crossing wide out but after that it was one-way traffic as Ebbw's forwards won a plentiful supply of ball and the backs put together some excellent running rugby. A Jones penalty made it 29-11, and tries followed for Dan Dearden, Dan Haymond and Dai Jones. Dorian Jones contributed 15 points through 6 conversions and a penalty.

In another outstanding team performance, Josh Powell was awarded the Man of the Match accolade - but, again, it could have gone to any number of players, including Ronnie Keynes, Ashley Sweet and Dan Haymond.

All at Ebbw Vale RFC were pleased to see Tristan Davies return to the club this evening following the Wanderers game. Tristan suffered a nasty knock while challenging for the ball during the early stages of the game and was taken to Nevill Hall Hospital for assessment, where he was given the 'all clear'.


Friday, November 18, 2011

Glenn Hughes, The Glee Club, Cardiff, 16/11/11

Former Deep Purple man Glenn Hughes took in Cardiff as part of his book promotion tour and entertained us with an evening of spoken word and acoustic music.

Whilst taking pics was a little difficult, I did manage a few video clips (below) and got the autobiography signed.

Set list (I think)
It's Only A Dream
Coast To Coast
Will Our Love End
What Is a Woman's Role
Holy Man (video)
From Now On
This House
Too Late to Save the World
Little Secret
Faithless (video)
I Don't Want to Live That Way Again (video)

plus Cold as an encore.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Black Sabbath - Reunited in 2012

Forget the gloomy economic news. Forget any other news. There is only 1 story in town.

They're back. Click here.

Monday, November 7, 2011

UFO, UK Tour, 2012

They're back and, so far, age has not wearied them.

Formed back in 1969, and survivors of multiple line up changes, the beating heart of UFO remains strong and they're back again next year, O2 Academy, Bristol, Sunday 25th March, just after the clocks go forward, and if that doesn't start spring with a bang, nothing will.

Full tour details here on the UFO website.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Ebbw Vale 34 Rumney 5, 05/11/11

Ebbw Vale recored another bonus point victory and, with Newbridge losing at Gilfach Goch, went to the top of the table, where we hope they'll stay.

Opponents Rumney were dogged and not a little cynical. In fact, their only try came from a bizarre moment when play continued with 2 balls on the field, and our defence unsurprisingly a little stretched.

In fact that probably summed up a pedantic and slightly shambolic display from another WRU joker with a whistle who seemed intent on maximising the number of scrums.

From the Ebbw website:

Ebbw Vale returned to the top of the D1E table for the first time since the win at Bedlinog in April which saw them capture the championship on the season's final day. It was pretty much business as usual for the Steelmen as they dominated every aspect of the game and scored 5 excellent tries against a struggling but dogged Rumney team who looked every inch a bottom three outfit. The visitors have developed a well-earned reputation as one of the division's strongest scrummaging sides and must have fancied their chances, given the absence of four of Ebbw's most experienced front rowers in Ross Jones, Mathew Williams, Robert Sevenoaks and Jonathan Williams. However, the young trio of Josh Powell, Ben Parry and Dan Goode confronted the challenge and emerged covered in glory, having given their opposite numbers a torrid time and laid the foundation of their team's 34-5 victory.

Man of the match was again Ashley Sweet, but, to be honest, I could have written that before the game.


An early scrum

and another...

ooo look, a scrum

Thank goodness for class like Ashley Sweet...

... time...

...and again

Early 2nd half pressure

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Ebbw Vale 57 Blackwood 3, 22/10/11

The Steelmen put in their best display of the season as they overcame the 15 men of Blackwood (and one WRU referee) to romp home with a bonus point and a sackful of tries.

From the Ebbw Vale website:

When the teams in 3rd and 4th place meet, you can expect a nervous, tight affair with the game turning on a missed tackle here, a spark of brilliance there, a penalty kick sailing over - or wide. Not so at Eugene Cross Park on Saturday, when 3rd placed Ebbw Vale handed out a real drubbing to a very disappointing Blackwood side, scoring 9 tries in the process. Producing some of their best rugby of the season, and with the pack dominating every aspect of the forward battle, Ebbw's backs clicked, playing with a precision and pace that the visitors could not counter.

Everyone of Ebbw's players was superb, so I really won't single out any individuals for attention - well apart from one.

It may seem churlish to criticise the refereeing after such a comprehensive victory, but if it weren't for the bizarre decisions of the official, it could easily have been another 20 points or more for the Vale. Some unbelievable stuff was witnessed.


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Y&T, Coal Exchange, Cardiff, 15/10/11

Is there such a thing as a bad night with Y&T? On last Saturday's evidence, once again the answer is no, as Dave and the boys turned yet another great night of classic tracks and material from the latest record 'Facemelter'.

This was Y&T's fourth October visit to Cardiff in four years playing at four different venues:

2008 The Point, 2009 The Globe, 2010 Millenium Music Hall, 2011 Coal Exchange.

Worryingly they all seem to close after Y&T have played.

The set list was as expected these days: Black Tiger, Mean Streak, Summertime Girls, Rescue Me, Lipstick and Leather, I Believe In You etc etc.


John Nymann

Dave Meniketti

Mike Vanderhule on drums

Brad Lang on bass these days following Phil Kennermore's death earlier this year

After the gig


...and Dave

You tube clips to follow