Thursday, February 17, 2011

Album Review: Robert Plant - Band of Joy (2010)


What is there left to say about the genius of Robert Plant?

From his time as frontman with the legendary Led Zeppelin, through various solo incarnations during the Eighties and Nineties, to wonderful post-Millennium albums alongside the Strange Sensation (Mighty Rearranger from 2005 is a genuine pearl) and Alison Krauss, Plant’s range and versatility continues to astound and inspire.

And now the grizzled old rocker’s “Indian summer” continues with the sublime Band of Joy (apparently the name of Plant’s pre-Zep band – who knew there was life before Zep? Hell, who can even remember that far back?), which combines almost equal portions of Rock, Gospel, Blues, Folk, and Country elements to produce one of 2010’s best albums.

I’ve never really been sure what Americana is, because its definition tends to change every time I see the word being used, but I reckon I’d not be too far off the mark to describe Band of Joy as Plant’s tip of the hat to that genre (see above combination of styles).

For a boy from the dirty grey facades of England’s “black country” region, Plant certainly has an inordinate and almost unfathomable amount of the American “southern man” present in his music. But then, he always did, and if the previous collaboration with Alison Krauss helped emphasise and remind us of that, then Band of Joy hammers the point home so strongly we’ll be a long time forgetting it.

But every style must have some substance and the key to Plant’s longevity is that amazing voice – yes it’s getting older and rather more frayed around the edges, but that merely adds to its character; Plant has become a master at getting the absolute most from it, and the songs on Band of Joy – quite a few of them being carefully selected covers – are perfect for him.

I could probably rave on about this album indefinitely but I’ll spare you, and it might just be a helluva lot easier and less painless if you just pick up a copy for yourself. You won’t regret it.

Highlights include ‘Angel Dance’, ‘Cindy, I’ll Marry You One Day’ and ‘Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down’, but both ‘Monkey’ and ‘Silver Rider’ are the real hidden gems here, and each demands repeated listening.

Album Review: Broken Bells - Broken Bells (2010)


Broken Bells is the latest project of renowned producer Brian Burton (aka Danger Mouse) and James Mercer, lead vocalist and guitarist of American Indie rockers The Shins.

Broken Bells is also the name of the duo’s debut album, and it rates (in my house, at least) as one of the nicest surprises of 2010 … containing as it does a pleasant mix of tuneful Indie pop and faux-Sixties guitar rock, actually not too far removed from a late period Beatles-type template, with some mild psychedelia thrown in.

While the music itself is an easy enough listen, and supremely enjoyable in parts, it isn’t especially experimental or challenging, and there is a certain amount of validity in claims that this is a very “safe” album. Much of the lyrical content/subject matter can also come across as being a little vague at times. The predominant theme appears to revolve around a sense of loss, or a yearning for something, without it ever becoming overly explicit or obvious as to what exactly might have been lost, or what specifically is being missed or coveted. Working out the meaning behind the words is a task in itself, but probably not one worth getting too hung up on.

Overall though, this is a pretty solid album, and well worth checking out. I wonder if we’ll get more from this unlikely pairing?  

Highlights: the lead-off single ‘The High Road’, ‘The Ghost Inside’, and ‘Mongrel Heart’.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Just One More Year And Then You’ll Be Happy ...

I was saddened recently to read of the death of Gerry Rafferty, the Scottish singer/songwriter who enjoyed massive chart success in the late Seventies with hits such as ‘Baker Street’, ‘Right Down The Line’, and ‘Night Owl’.
While I wasn’t a great fan of his music at the time, it would be churlish of me not to recognise that he was one of the very best of his generation when it came to making radio-friendly soft rock, and I can’t deny that Rafferty’s music – whether it be with Stealers Wheel or as a solo artist – did help soundtrack my high school years by dint of being one of commercial radio’s most reliable “go to” guys.
I read somewhere recently that ‘Baker Street’ royalties earned Rafferty around £80,000 annually (though I’m not sure how accurate that is) but try as he might, he never again found the formula to repeat the global chart success that ‘Baker Street’ gave him in 1978. Sure he had a few more hits and a couple of very good albums but ‘Baker Street’ raised the bar to such an extent that every subsequent release would only ever be measured against it.
Paisley-born Rafferty initially made his name as a folk singer of some repute alongside (future comic/superstar) Billy Connolly in a group called The Humblebums, before Connolly decided to concentrate on making people laugh, and Rafferty went on to form Stealers Wheel with an old school friend, Joe Egan.
Stealers Wheel struck gold in 1972 with ‘Stuck In The Middle With You’ but ultimately Rafferty was destined to follow the path of several of his Scottish contemporaries – see Rod Stewart, Al Stewart, Frankie Miller – by going it alone as a singer/songwriter ... and the rest, as they say, is history ...
What was especially sad about Rafferty’s death was that, like so many in the field of popular music, it came way too early, at just 63, due to liver failure ... which, of course, is another way of saying “alcoholism”.
Relationship problems, followed by divorce, depression, public notoriety, paranoia, and ultimately a futile search to recreate the heights of his brief – but very real and intense – brush with stardom proved to be a lethal cocktail when Rafferty added his own poison of choice to the mix.
It’s an all too familiar story, yet no less poignant, ironic, or sad because of that.
Gerry Rafferty:
"There have been periods in my life where I have experienced depression ... it has been through some of my darkest moments that I have written some of my best songs. For me, singing and writing is very therapeutic ... my main ambition is to continue to write music, which helps me to evolve in a spiritual sense and hopefully to inspire others."
(Daily Express – ‘Gerry Rafferty Is Back On A New Platform’, 22 November 2009)
RIP Gerry.

Saturday, February 5, 2011


Welcome to my blog. I'm Michael and I'm an opinionated 40-something daydreamer living at the bottom of the planet. EverythingsGoneGreen is a place for me to share whatever random thing is bugging me on any given day. I'm not sure how often I'll get to post but I hope these pages will be updated fairly regularly. I'll ramble about music, put albums reviews up for ridicule, and I'll no doubt feel the urge to post on a whole range of subjects and issues of the day. I hope you enjoy reading.