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Andy Long Bass Player

Four/Five/Six Strings & The Truth

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Progressive rock

Music bought in 2017

This year I kept a log of all the music that I bought during the year. Initially I was recording how much it cost too, but that got a bit worrying so I decided to ignore that bit.

In 2017 I bought over 200 albums, mostly on CD format (some downloads). If that seems a lot, (if…ha!), Many of them were charity shop or Ebay bargains (but some weren’t.

A few of my Twitter friends have put out lists of their top albums of 2017, trouble is most of my purchases are not new music, I have been diligently plugging gaps in the classic Prog Rock collection, which now looks a lot healthier (and nerdier).

I dod get a handful of new albums too, so here is a selection of some of my favourites from 2017, some new, some not so new.

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The Strawbs live in Cardiff

Two amazing sets from the Strawbs at the Globe in Cardiff last night (7th October 2017).  It’s been a few years since I last saw the Strawbs and that was the acoustic set back at Swindon Arts Centre.  Such a prolific band, so many great albums and a wonderful pedigree of musicianship.  The line up these days alongside Dave Cousins features Chas Cronk and Dave Lambert, the wonderful Tony Fernandez on the kit, who I have seen playing with Rick Wakeman on several occasions and a very pleasant surprise for me in the shape of Dave Bainbridge (Iona) on the keyboards.

The set opened with a track from the new album ‘The Ferryman’s Curse’, the track ‘The Nails In The Hands of Christ’ is a strikingly beautiful tale, I bought the album last night and it really is a cracking piece of work.  The set included a couple of other tracks from this album, plus lots of the classic material including ‘New World’, ‘Round And Round’ and ‘A Glimpse Of Heaven. The set closed with the classic ‘Lay Down.

Here’s a few pics

Hawkwind at The Neon, Newport, March 2017

The first band I ever saw live were Hawkwind. It was the Autumn of 1980 and the ‘Levitation’ tour came to the Colston Hall in Bristol. The line up that night was Dave Brock, Harvey Bainbridge, Huw Lloyd-Langton, Tim Blake and (honest guv) Ginger Baker on drums.  I often look back and think I was spoilt by that for a first gig and didn’t really realise how special a band it was, and especially what an icon Baker was.

I’ve been a fan ever since, although not a disciple (of which there are many), I’ve seen them half a dozen times over the years, sometimes great, sometimes not so.  Last night saw the latest line-up playing at the end of my street, so I had to go of course.

With lead vocals being taken now by Mr Dibs the band’s ever changing face sees long standing drummer Richard Chadwick and 74 year old Dave Brock joined by young bassist Haz Wheaton and a keyboard/guitars chap who might have been Niall Hone?

This was a great set that took in a lot of classic material, the band performed really well. Dave is looking well for an old git, and played well to all the other old gits in the crowd (of which I am one).  The light show was everything you would expect from Hawkwind (see pics below) and the band sounded like classic era Hawkwind, with extended jams and all those classic riffs. Mr Dibs was giving it what for on the ring modulators and other expected sound effects.

Haz Wheaton took centre stage and plays bass like a proper rock monster, he is as much a Lemmy style bassist as you could hope for, battering seven shades out of a Rickenbacker and strumming huge power chords for much of the set. Sometimes switching to a Fender for a spot of subtlety, his musicianship impressed me. Kudos to you Haz, you’re up there.

Two disappointments in this show.  Firstly the sound was not great, it’s a problem that this particular venue suffers from, I’ve never seen a show there where they got it right. In this case the vocals were suffering. Volume too low, with all the crispness and clarity of lettuce, it did spoil an otherwise good show. Secondly I had been led to believe (erroneously it seems) that Tim Blake was in this line up. Hone, or whoever it was, did a reasonably good job, but Tim Blake is Tim Blake innit?

They’re playing Bristol in May so I may well go again and see what happens.  I didn’t get the whole set list down but here’s most of what I remember:

Assault And Battery, On The Edge Of Time, Utopia, Time We Left This World Today, Into The Woods, Hassan I Sabbah, Robot, Shot Down In The Night. There were more and I think they may have done ‘You Know You’re Only Dreaming’, or I might have been only dreaming?

The four encores were:

Spirit Of The Age, Brainbox Pollution, (something else here), Silver Machine

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Anderson, Rabin, Wakeman at Cardiff

ARW at Cardiff

I’ve been a Yes fan for longer than I care to remember, (although there are plenty who’ve been at it longer than me). I bought my first two Yes albums second hand off a boy in school who didn’t like them. They were ‘Time And A Word’ and ‘Tomato’. An interesting pair to start with.

I first saw them live in Birmingham NEC on the 90125 tour in the early ’80’s. Lasers, tilting stage. Bugs Bunny Cartoons.  I’ve seen them a lot of times since then in a lot of forms. Last night saw the latest incarnation of Yes/Not Yes playing their debut show in Cardiff, so unsurprisingly I was there.

With Jon, Rick and Trevor were go-to prog bassist Lee Pomeroy and American drummer and Rabin cohort Louis Molino III.  This was a much anticipated set amongst progrock diehards and did not disappoint.  It was great to see and hear Jon singing Yes material again. I’ve enjoyed the recent tours of the current Yes line-up but Jon’s voice is a unique enigma.

Rabin and Wakeman play really well together, despite not having been in Yes together (with the exception of Union). Trevor is an almighty rock guitarist, wailing solos and lightning fast runs are peppered liberally throughout his playing. He’s very different to Steve Howe and if anything I missed Steve’s classical, virtuosic sensibility, Trevor gave the material a very different sound, but it worked well.

Rick Wakeman, resplendently caped, was stunning as always, effortlessly (or so it seemed) flowing through the material, flitting around amongst numerous keyboards and even going for a stroll in the audience with a keytar, whilst Trevor went up the adjoining isle and met him at the back for a barrage of selfies.

Moulino and Pomeroy were a fantastic rhythm section together, I’ve seen Lee play with Rick previously and last night the band paid tribute to Chris Squire and Lee played a beautiful arrangement of ‘The Fish’, recreating that familiar Rickenbacker klank perfectly.

If you’re the kind of person who gets off on set lists I think I’ve got this right:

Cinema, Perpetual Change, Hold On, All Good People, Lift Me Up, And You And I, Rhythm Of Love, Heart Of The Sunrise, Changes, Long Distance Runaround, The Fish, Awaken, Owner Of A Lonely Heart, (enc) Roundabout

Excellent show, hope I get to see the next one, whoever is in it.

Three Prog Rock Tracks For Hallowe’en

Here’s a few of my favourite creepy songs for your weekend playlist. Enjoy!

  1. Van Der Graaf Generator ‘Darkness (11/11)

Lyrics

How could you make a list, even such a small list as this, without including Van Der Graaf Generator?  Hard to choose which song to include but this is a pretty scary moment, even for them.

Wicked little Scorpio, doomed to die a thousand times before he lives!

2. Atomic Rooster ‘Death Walks Behind You’

Lyrics

One of my favourite bands for years, probably their best album, with William Blake’s ‘Nebuchadnezzar adorning it’s front cover. A moment of genius from Vincent Crane.

3. Genesis ‘The Musical Box

 

Lyrics

Peter Gabriel in one of his more disturbing moments tells the story in which Cynthia knocks off Henry’s head with a croquet mallet, from there on it it gets more twisted and bizarre until both are killed by the nanny.

Feel free to add your own recommendations to the list

 

Roye Albrighton and Nektar

I was very sad to hear that Roye Albrighton, lead guitarist and vocalist of the classic band Nektar has passed away at the age of 67.  Nektar are a band that have been a big part of my musical journey ever since my mate Chris introduced me to them over thirty years ago.  They made some fantastically pompous prog-rock albums and were often labelled as Krautrock despite being an English/Welsh band.  They were always much more popular in Germany and mainland Europe than they were over here.

Roye Albrighton
Roye Albrighton

They broke up around 1980 and I never got to see them, so when they reformed in 2002 I was thrilled to get to see them in London, with a full nostalgic light show, I caught them again live a couple of years later, although the line up had changed a bit by then.

I’ve got most of the stuff they released on CD over the years, below are a few of my all-time favourites. The album art always contained something circular for some reason.

 

Chris Squire: Legend and Inspiration

yes-chris-squireI heard the devastating news today that Chris Squire had passed away, just a short time after announcing that he had been suffering from leukemia.

I’ve been listening to Chris’s incredible, punchy bass lines since I bought my first two Yes albums around 1977. I was thirteen at the time and one of the boys in school wanted to sell these two LPs. They were ‘Time And A Word’ and ‘Tormato’. Two very different albums, neither of which would be thought of as classic Yes, but they started me on a journey which has continued ever since.

SCAN0068I first saw Yes live on 14th July 1984 at the NEC, Birmingham on the 9012live tour. A fantastic show that was opened by half an hour of Bugs Bunny cartoons on a big screen. I’ve seen them many times since then, in many forms, most recently on the three-album tour in Bristol.

Throughout all the line up changes Chris has always been there. I wonder what the future will bring. I hope they find a way forward and I’m sure that’s what Chris would want.

I started to play bass at the age of nineteen after being a failed guitarist and Chris has always been one of my favourite and most inspirational bassists. His clanky Rickenbacker stomping all over the mix is one of the key elements to the classic Yes sound. I love to play around with Chris’s lines, although I don’t do them justice.SCAN0067

My favourite Yes album has always been ‘Close To The Edge’ but my favourite Yes bass album is definitely ‘Fragile’, both for the epic solo piece ‘The Fish’ and for Chris’s outstanding part on ‘Heart Of The Sunrise’ which became a live highlight for the band throughout their career.

I never got Chris’s autograph on my copies, just Bill, Rock and Steve.

So long Chris, and thanks for ‘The Fish’

 

An appeal for the album as a work of art

Those of you who are of a similar age to myself, i.e. you remember when there was no Internet and you had to talk to actual people, will likely have fond memories of saving up your pennies to go to the record shop and buy an album.

Led_Zeppelin_-_Led_Zeppelin_IIIyessongs_us_uchiIn those days albums came on vinyl or cassette, or even 8-track cartridge. We relished the album as a piece of art, the gatefold sleeve of vinyl was often taken beyond it’s standard form and became something to explore whilst listening to the music. Take “Led Zeppelin III” for example, with it’s revolving insert or “Yessongs’ which stretched to a full four feet.

Most importantly thought the album was something that you listened to in it’s entirety. You put the needle in the groove at the beginning of side 1 and listened to all of it, then you flipped it and did the same with side 2 (and 3 and 4 quite often). You made the time to listen to the music and let it sink in, you stopped what you were doing and gave your time to the music and because of that you appreciated it all the more.

dark sideYou could not, for instance, just dip into ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’, play one track and then randomly skip to something else, it has to be all or nothing.

Downloads, shuffles, random plays, streaming, YouTube, Spotify. All these guys have done their best to destroy the album as a work of art, but for many of us it’s importance is still right up there. Now that vinyl is making a strong comeback (for some inexplicable reason) I want to make an appeal to readers to revisit the album and appreciate its value as an entire work.

This evening, stop what you are doing, switch the telly off, put your computer, tablet and phone to one side, get a nice cuppa or a bottle of beer, sit in front of the fire with your slippers on and your feet up, dig out one of your favourite albums and just listen to the whole thing, let it soak in, let it envelop you in it’s beauty and creativity.

amfI try to listen to at least one whole album each day, a bit later on this evening I’ve got a real beauty lined up, “A Major Fancy” by John Lees of Barclay James Harvest. BJH have always been one of my passions so I’m looking forward to spending some time with this album.

I hope you find time to spend with some of your favourite albums too, let me know what you choose and how you get on.

Enjoy!

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