Friday, October 10, 2014

Nev's 40th Birthday - Friday

Helen and I headed for lovely Abernethy in the Hunter Valley this afternoon, on the invitation to celebrate Peter Netherclift's 40th birthday. Mum and Dad were taking the kids, so we had the weekend to ourselves.
The place Nev had found was a pearler. Formally built as a pub to service the nearby mine, it was a disaster, as the mine closed one week after the pub was opened in 1926. It was then used as a mental health respite for many years, until it was bought and restored to its former glory, and is now hired out for weekends to groups, such as ours. All the original verandahs are in place, as well as the dining room and kitchen. The bar has been converted to an entertainment room with TV, stereo, games and large comfy lounges. The beer garden is a perfect spot (as we discovered) for everyone to congregate and talk and drink. Upstairs are the showers and bathrooms, as well as 12 rooms, with magnificent verandahs (which we also discovered later).

Holzy and Nev discussing worldly matters
We arrived just before 5.00pm, and sat around and drank and talked and met and conversed with the other gathered guests. Everyone brought their own drinks, and as well as the Holz Assorted Nibblies Tray which stretched across about three tables, everyone was set for the late afternoon.
Once final guests had arrived, we piled into three maxi-taxis and headed into town to Peden's Hotel for some dinner and more drinks. Good thing we didn't delay our arrival any later, as the kitchen was closing as we walked in. Crisis averted, I had my steak, vegies and mash and could feel well satisfied.
We were kicked out at midnight (and really? Even Cessnock closes early...) but taxi's had already been ordered so it was a quick return to Abernethy. Helen and I moved straight to bed, but it was 4.30am before the final revellers left the beer garden, having created their own karaoke until that time. I slept through most of it anyway (you get used to sleeping through noisy parties where we've lived over the years), but one could only wonder how some of the own guest-mates would be faring on the following day.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

The Dream Becomes a Reality

It has taken about a decade for my original dream to come to reality, but finally the day has arrived. I have finally gotten around to converting my old desktop computer, adding an external hard drive, and hooking up my speakers, to form my own jukebox in the Metal Cavern.

It mightn't look like much, but now I have it set up, I can listen to any of my 2000 albums at any time, in any way I please.
The Metal Cavern moves closer to absolute completion.

Friday, October 3, 2014

TV Schedule for Matador Cup 2014

Games to be shown on Gem in October 2014

GAMMA RAY - Dethrone Tyranny / 9. 2011 [HD] *Berlin Live*

Gamma Ray - Live In Saint-Petersburg 2014 (Full Concert)

30 Years On - 1984 Killer Albums (Part 6)

Dio - The Last in Line

Trying to follow up an album such as Holy Diver, which in itself was attempting to follow up what Ronnie James Dio had produced with Black Sabbath, which was (somewhat) trying to follow up what Dio produced with Rainbow, is no meat feat. In hindsight, almost impossible. Holy Diver had sold and performed well, on the back of relentless touring from the new band, and many of the tracks on that album had already become classics. To then come out a year later, and release an album that would be as remotely well received as it was quite a task. A task that was met and matched.

There's not much you can say about the opening two tracks to the album that hasn't been said somewhere else a thousand times. "We Rock" became one of Dio's anthems, drawing the band and audience together through the lyrics and making you feel a part of the legacy. This is followed by the masterpiece that is "The Last in Line" - heavy, loud, melodic, booming. Ronnie's vocals power the song along, Vinnie Appice's heavy-handed drumming beats down hard along with Jimmy Bain's gutteral bass guitar, and topped off by Vivian Campbell's squealing guitar licks. Still an absolute classic thirty years later.
Just as awesome as these opening tracks are the follow ups. "Breathless" is dominated by Vivian's guitaring, and despite all of the brilliant songs on this album, this remains my absolute favourite. I love Ronnie's vocals here, and the rhythm ties it all together magnificently. This is followed by "I Speed at Night", which runs along at a speed that is worthy of the title. This is a brilliant example of the best that Dio can produce. While the band (and most of Dio's work in general) don't usually dabble in such fast-paced songs, this is a beauty, and one of my only regrets with Dio's volume of songs is that he, and the band, didn't do more fast songs like this. Completing side one is "One Night in the City", a more subdued song after the frantic opening, but still a great one that hung around set lists for some years.
Just like Holy Diver, the strength of this album is not just in the songs that everyone knows, it is in the heart of the album, the songs that mightn't have been heard by casual listeners of the band's work. Not every song on an album has to be an epic. It doesn't have to be that you try and fit nine songs as memorable as "We Rock" on an album. Not every song has to be absolutely unforgettable, or considered a timeless song in the anthology of the band. Not everyone would consider Iron Maiden's "Quest For Fire" or "Ganglands" as top shelf Maiden songs, but they contribute to the brilliance of the albums they are a part of. And so it is here on The Last in Line. Songs such as "Evil Eyes" and "Egypt (The Chains Are On)" may not be the first songs you think of when it comes to Dio's best, but they help to make this album as great as it is, because they meld into the fabric of the tracklist, and become enmeshed in the whole listening experience. What's more, if these songs happen to come up on a random mix at home or at a party, they immediately stand out to you, because although you may not think of them often especially in the framework of listening to the album from first track to last, when you hear them on their own out of that environment you absolutely appreciate them. I love them both.
"Mystery" was one of the singles from the album, and was often slated as one that was written directly for the commercial market. Whether or not this is true I don't know, but while it is the less heavy song on the album, I have always loved and still love it. I used to sing it to my daughter when she was little, and it still forms that bond with me when I hear it now. As a retaliator, listen to Ronnie's vocals on "Eat Your Heart Out". Heavy lyrics, which Ronnie spits out with emotion. He really dishes it out on this song especially, in a fashion like those of the two opening tracks.

Ronnie's vocals here are at their peak, soaring at velocity. Vivian's guitaring too is just brilliant, driving the songs and taking over during the solo breaks. Those that only know him through his work with Def Leppard would not believe he could be this good. He is just brilliant on this album, unbelievably excellent. And, though you may not necessarily notice them between these two legends, Vinny's drumming and Jimmy's bass are as solid as ever here, providing the foundations for the other two to work their magic.
On first glance, when balancing the worth of the tracks on the first two Dio albums, you would probably say that Holy Diver was the better album, hands down. On closer inspection and listening, there is really not that much between the two of them. The Last in Line is a creeper, because the balance of the less famous songs stands up pretty well against those of the debut album. When push comes to shove, I find it very difficult to separate the two when it comes to choosing a favourite. Suffice to say that I still think this is a brilliant and, perhaps in many instances, underrated album.

Rating: You've been hungry all of your life - so eat it out!  5/5

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Clear Essendon's Decks Before it's Too Late

So let me see if I have this straight.
  1. On Monday, Mark Thompson indicates that he is unlikely to stay at Essendon in 2015 in any role.
  2. In the same instance, he suggests that he would still like to coach, most likely as he has been reinvigorated after the season he has had.
  3. There are continuing whispers around about Guy McKenna being sacked by the Gold Coast Suns during their slightly awkward end of season review.
  4. Thompson suggests that if he were to coach again, that it would be at a team like the Gold Coast, who are "ready-made' for a premiership tilt.
  5. Gold Coast do indeed sack McKenna (most likely on the proviso that Thompson is a ready made replacement), and media all but anoint Thompson as his successor.
  6. Essendon meanwhile, have decided not to appeal their court case loss.
  7. James Hird, on the other hand, decides he is going to appeal, come hell or high water, which will continue to stretch this saga out interminably.
  8. Essendon suddenly realise their only stable coach alternative, should they finally cut Hird loose, is Thompson. However, Thompson appears all but gone to Gold Coast.
  9. Hird is asked not to attend Essendon's Best & Fairest Awards, and in his absence, Thompson extols "I don't want to leave! I want to stay!"
  10. Essendon and Hird meet on Thursday, with the coach all but sacked before it starts... however...
  11. The meeting ends, Hird is still coach, but Chairman Little suggests the board will meet again next week to consider all options.

For Christ's sake, will this merry-go-round EVER END?!

Hird is too proud to accept any blame, and will fight in courts forever to clear his name when it just can't be done. He will never quit, and yet he needs to go, for the sake of the Club and the players.

Essendon have come too far tied to the same horse with Hird, when they should have taken correct action 18 months ago and cut that rope. Now they are either afraid to sack him in case he is able to win his court case, or afraid of further backlash from fans and media, or just don't have the cash to pay him out. Whatever it is, the Essendon board have once again bungled this whole scenario. They appear incapable of making any decisions to end this story and get back to playing football. Surely they must all go, and the sooner the better.

Bomber Thompson hasn't helped any party with his comments this week - he's screwed Essendon by saying he won't be there in 2015, he's screwed Gold Coast by saying he wouldn't mind coaching a team like theirs, and so they sack their current coach to try and employ him, and then he stabs Hird in the front when he isn't there to say anything at the Club awards by basically saying he wants to stay as coach of Essendon, which also screws Gold Coast and Hird all over again!

I feel for the players and the Essendon supporters, because the way this is going, it could seep into a third straight season before it is resolved. They deserve their day to either challenge ASADA's evidence, or accept that they were injected with banned substances (knowingly or unknowingly, it really doesn't matter anymore) and accept the penalty that is offered. Either way, get this over and done with. The Cronulla saga might have been just as poorly handled by all sides, and with just as unsatisfying results for all, but at least it has been concluded, and next season will not be affected by it.

Get rid of Paul Little and the board. Get rid of James Hird. Issue the infraction notices and let players either fight them or take their punishment. Then let the club plan for next season knowing who they have and how they can go about it. All before this great and long-serving Club implodes.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Nan's 100th Birthday

Today we celebrated Nan's 100th birthday - a day after the actual event, but still a party nonetheless.

We started the day with breakfast at a cafe in East Maitland called Anoushkas. Nice setting, and the breakfast was good too.


Then it was back to our motel room to get ready for the day.


We all headed for the Beresfield Bowling Club, where the Gilholme and Clifford families have such a grand history, and lost family and friends all gathered together to celebrate.

Mum and her mother. Some pretty fair genes there.
The current President of the Beresfield Bowling Club makes his congratulations

Nan cuts her cake. And eats it too.

Nan's 25 Great-Grandchildren
Nan and her nine grandchildren

Jan, Nan, John and Wendy. Nan and her three children

Jack Gilholme, Nan's father and my Great-Grandfather. Life Member of Beresfield Bowling Club

Bob Clifford. Nan's husband and my Grandfather. Also a Life Member.
From here we all went back around the corner to Nan's house, and carried on the celebrations. The kids were able to play across the road at Beresfield Public School, where Nan had gone to school, as had Mum and her siblings, after Mum had called them and told them of the occasion.

Nan had her wall and table full of congratulatory cards and letters and telegrams.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

30 Years On - 1984 Killer Albums (Part 5)

Midnight Oil - Red Sails in the Sunset
When this was released it went gangbusters both on the music charts, and also amongst the school fraternity of Kiama High School. At the time I didn't understand the great outpouring of love for this album, and thirty years later my opinion hasn't changed. That's not to say that Red Sails in the Sunset is a bad album, but I just don't think it is as exceptional as it was portrayed at the time. It followed on from 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 which I just loved, and had worn out listening to it, and I just didn't think this was able to follow it. With the hindsight of thirty years on, it feels diminished even further given that Blue Sky Mining and Diesel and Dust were to follow.

Two tracks stand out as the best on the album, the single release "Best of Both Worlds", and the timeless "Kosciusko". These two songs announce themselves immediately that they come on, shining the best possible focus on themselves. Great vocals, great guitar licks and hard rocking drumming. These are the two songs that showcase Midnight Oil's strengths, with all parts of the band - the vocals, the guitars, the drums - coming out loud and proud, front and centre, hitting you square in the face. For the most part, the rest of the album doesn't quite match that.
There are other reasonable songs on the album. In fact, it would be unfair to say that they are not all reasonable. It's just that for me, they don't grab me like other albums. "When the Generals Talk" and "Sleep" are the other songs on this album I feel good about.
At the time of its release, I did wonder if my attitude regarding Red Sails in the Sunset was just me being set in my ways, that I couldn't possibly like this album if everyone else around me LOVED it. Having been through the act of listening to the album again on several occasions over the past few days, I am willing to say that it still just doesn't have the hooks to make me think differently. What came before and after more than makes up for this being a slightly boring album.

Rating: No end to the hostility, now they wanna be somewhere else. 3/5

Van Halen - 1984
It is strange to recollect now that at a time that Van Halen reached the peak of their popularity in the commercial market, they also reached the end of their first chapter. Through all of the battles and visions of grandeur and so forth, 1984 was headed for a road works sign ahead. The album is dominated by the three singles lifted from it, the real fusion of synth that inflicts itself upon most of the tracks as a constant reminder that it was released in the mid-1980's, and the spandex on the music videos that propelled the album's success,

The album opens with the eponymous "1984", an instrumental that seems to be a strange way to start things off despite it being a popular method. Once this has passed the album goes straight to it's strength, the mega-hit "Jump" and its partner "Panama". "Jump" has of course stood the test of time, still riding high in rock playlists almost thirty years on. For a band that made its name as a hard rock band, led by the arguably the greatest guitarist of his era, it is still mystifying to this day how little the guitar gets a look in during this hit song. Apart from the solo, it is the synthesizer that is the instrument high in the mix. Amazing. The lyrics are pure DLR, whose exuberance drives the song along. "Panama" is a great follow up, and in many respects I still enjoy more, perhaps solely because Eddie's guitar returns to a more prominent position in this song.
"Top Jimmy" and "Drop Dead Legs" are typical Van Halen songs, both jauntily pushed along by Alex's drumbeat and Michael Anthony's bass. Ed's guitaring here is also closer to his classic stuff. "Hot For Teacher" got plenty of repeat business on MTV and the like for it's video clip, which probably raises the profile of the song higher than its quality deserves. It's a fun song, but just not a great one. "I'll Wait" bring a return of the synth, a real power ballad that probably tickle's a lot of people's fancy, but just rate super high in mine. "Girl Gone Bad" is the equal of those songs in the middle of the album, while the closer "House of Pain" has its moments without being overly memorable.

David Lee Roth's departure from the group after this album brought a small amount of success for both himself and his solo career, and the remainder of the group with new front man Sammy Hagar. It was a changing of eras, and this album signified it as such. From the hard rock guitar band of the late 70's and early 80's, this album with its synth oriented rock paved the way for bands like Bon Jovi and Europe to make their own mark on the industry.

Rating:  I can barely see the road from the heat comin' off of it. 3.5/5

Y&T - In Rock We Trust
I guess this album was always at a disadvantage, given that it immediately follows the awesome Mean Streak which always was and remains my favourite Y&T album. In Rock We Trust was therefore always on a hiding to nothing.
None of that forgives what feels like a very unimaginative writing process for the album. Leave the "Rock & Roll's Gonna Save The World"-type songs to KISS for goodness sake! Such a bland and flawed opening. Unfortunately, it sets up the whole tone for the album, from which it never really recovers. Formulaic rock should really be beneath a band with so much talent in its ranks. Instead, at different times I feel like I'm listening to Hall & Oates ("Break Out Tonight"), KISS (the afore-mentioned "Rock & Roll's Gonna Save The World") and even Huey Lewis & The News ("(Your Love Is) Drivin' Me Crazy"). Scary times...
Some face is saved by the time you reach Side 2 (for those that remember vinyl...). "Lipstick and Leather" is followed by the much better Y&T feel of "Don't Stop Runnin'". Overall however, it isn't enough to shake the feeling of gloom and doom. The only way to wipe this taste from my mouth is to go back and throw on Mean Streak again I think...

Rating:  Keep on runnin' 'cause you can't catch me.  2.5/5

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

30 Years On - 1984 Killer Albums (Part 4)

INXS - The Swing

Much like Queen's The Works, this was one of the first albums I ever bought, and for similar reasons. While I had heard the odd single on the radio that INXS had released to that time, it was when "Original Sin" and "Burn For You" hit the airwaves that my ears really pricked up, and I was encouraged to spend my hard earned pocket money on this album.

Four singles were released from this album, and throughout 1984 they were on heavy rotation on Australian radio. They have been generally regarded as the shining lights of the album, and while for the most part I agree, there are some gems here that, if you have never heard The Swing, you are missing out on. "Melting in the Sun" is a great song, as is the title track "The Swing". "Burn For You", as the penultimate song on the album, brings it altogether nicely. However, the star attraction for me has always been "Johnson's Aeroplane", a nondescript song that has slipped through the cracks when the very best INXS songs are spoken of. It has always been a favourite for me.
For some reason The Swing seems to be a forgotten masterpiece in the INXS catalogue, with surrounding albums such as Shabooh Shoobah, Listen Like Thieves and Kick rated more highly by fans. For me, with the possible exception of Kick, The Swing is INXS's finest album, with a mix of popular singles and classic tracks that showcases the exceptional variety that the band had in its prime.

Rating: Four long lines one darker than the rest. 3.5/5

Dokken - Tooth and Nail

I still find it difficult to understand why it took me so long to get around to listening to Dokken. It wasn't until 15 years after this album was released that I really heard much of the band, and I still regret not having had this album while I was in high school.
This was the real start for Dokken after a couple of releases that made a ripple without starting the wave. The fabulous foursome of Don Dokken, George Lynch, Mick Brown and Jeff Pilson come together here and put together an impressive slate of high energy hard rock. Mixing Don's smooth vocals with George's at times electrifying guitar licks, and the effervescent rhythm of Jeff's bass and Mick's drumming, the basis for Dokken's rise through the 1980's is in place here.
The start of the album is just terrific. The instrumental opening "Without Warning" rides straight into the title track, a fast track emphasised by Lynch's solo work and a punchy chorus. From here the album slides straight into "Just Got Lucky" which relies heavily on Don's great vocal work, and never fails to remind me of George's solo, which in the video for the song he was playing on the side of a volcano, and his boots were apparently melting from the heat while he played. I still love this song.
The second half of the album gets itself into a good groove, though it can appear to be a bit repetitive on the surface, with songs like "Heartless Heart", and "Don't Close Your Eyes" and "Into the Fire" and "Bullets to Spare" all of a similar ilk when it comes to rhythm and pace of the song. Each has their own differences of course, but they all sound very similar in structure. Not necessarily a bad thing, and it is only a small criticism, as I enjoy each of those songs mentioned.
The power ballad "Alone Again" was the song that got some attention in the radio market, and to me is the weak link on this album. I know bands "have" to write and perform this kind of song, but they can be album killers. Probably the fact that this is the penultimate song on the album means that it doesn't detract as heavily as it may have. Also, it is followed by the impressively fast and aggressive "Turn on the Action", which makes up for the flaws of the previous song and ends the album on an upward trend.
I really enjoy this album, though I think the potential of the opening tracks is not fulfilled. It's an easy listening album, and given it has been playing at work almost non-stop for two days on this rotation, it still remains so.

Rating: You were just using someone, and I was the one!  3.5/5

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

30 Years On - 1984 Killer Albums (Part 3)

Lita Ford - Dancin' on the Edge
Lita Ford's follow up to her first solo album Out For Blood has moved away from the 70's sound that it based itself in, while still retaining the hard rock edge that she was looking for after the demise of The Runaways. The album has not been over-produced to throw in anything that is not necessary in the mix, like synths or overblown guitars. It is a straight forward hard rock album that sounds that way. The rock tracks are great, nothing extravagant, just simple hard rock lines with catchy choruses and a bit of attitude. "Gotta Let Go", "Dancing on the Edge", "Dressed to Kill", "Fire in my Heart" and "Run With the $" are my favourites
While it may have an 80's feel to it, it doesn't have the more pop/hair metal edge that her big hit album Lita, and still stays true to her roots. Lita proves here that she can sing, and she can play guitar. Whether she can write lyrics is probably open to question, because some of them here are either really silly or trying to aim directly at a young teenage audience. C'mon Lita, there are older people who like your music too! Still well worth a listen.
Rating: Don't you want to be the main attraction.  3/5.

Queen - The Works
Following on from the experimental haze and daze that was Hot Space, Queen continued to push ahead with their trailblazing feats with The Works, an album that mixed radio hits that reclaimed their identity as one of the world's biggest bands, but mixed style and substance with a variety of music genres that continued to allow them to market themselves to the widest possible audience.
Hot Space had divided Queen's fan base, with many unable to dissect what they were trying to achieve with the vast change in style the album contained. The Works probably did not win back all of those disgruntled fans, the ones that had been with the band since their inception. However, a new crowd of teenagers climbed on board with their radio hits, and then could absorb the different approach of the songs that make up the whole album.
Kicking off with the unapologetic pop anthem "Radio Ga Ga", this is very synth based in the style of the previous album, but comes through tougher in the chorus with a crowd-like chant which gives it a rock feel that defies it's musical background. This kicked goals for Queen on the radio as it was given huge airplay. "Tear it Up" follows, and is Brian May's attempt to revive the hard rock edge of Queen, hailing back to a style more reminiscent of their earlier albums. This is replaced by Freddie Mercury's "It's a Hard Life", which is dominated by his soaring vocals and melodies, only broken up by May's wonderful guitar solo in the middle of the song.
"Man on the Prowl" is reminiscent of another of Freddie's rockabilly songs, "Crazy Little Thing Called Love". However, on an album where I find every other song has an impact and a place, this has always been the one song which makes me a little less enthused. Even on a album that has this much variety in its song structure, I still find this is out of place. This is recovered by the unique and brilliant "Machines (Back to Humans)", a song that again has a heavy use of synths to create the robotic performance the song was looking for.
John Deacon steals the show again with his hit single "I Want to Break Free", which got mega air time on music channels with the video for the song. Like his best songs, "I Want to Break Free" juts along with his terrific bass line, while the others fall into line around it. "Keep Passing the Open Windows" is another Freddie special, where he again writes spectacularly for his own vocals, which convey all the right emotions of the song. It has always been my second favourite song on this album. My favourite, perhaps obviously, is the thundering "Hammer to Fall", which, while always sounding great in this studio version, has always been a live song, and one that grows in stature in that environment. The album concludes with the thought piece "Is This the World We Created?", which was written about the poverty in Africa, and was subsequently played at Live Aid as an encore.

Fans reactions to this album has always been a mixed bag, with many fans of the band who had followed them from the start of their career being less enthused about it than those who were only just discovering the band at this time, or had been drawn to the band by the success of the radio singles. The Works was one of the first albums I ever bought, and though I had heard earlier singles from the band on the radio in my pre-teens, it was this album that made me a fan of the group, and subsequently went looking for their earlier albums from this point. While I don't consider this to be their masterpiece (that is probably still A Night At the Opera or perhaps even The Miracle), I still have very fond feelings and memories of this album. It is still prominent in all of my memories of 1984 and 1985, and is part of the soundtrack of that time of my life.

Rating: We just wanna scream it louder and louder.  4/5

Monday, September 22, 2014

30 Years On - 1984 Killer Albums (Part 2)

I'm sure that the irony of the title will not fool everyone, because of today's selection of albums from 1984, only one could (in my opinion) be called a 'killer album'. Still, when looking at all the albums that I own from 1984, I thought that rather than just pick the best, I'll listen to them all again, and see if my opinion has changed through the years for those that I don't give much listening to any more.

Whitesnake - Slide It In

I have both versions of this album, the original UK version, and the remixed and some parts re-recorded US version. Personally I prefer the UK version, which seems to give Jon Lord a fuller presence, but the reality is there isn't much changed.
Dave loads up on the sexual innuendo here (even more than previously), laying it on like a really thick spread of butter on toast (nope, no innuendo there). There's not a lot of imagination required when it comes to songs like "Slide It In", "Slow & Easy" and "Spit it Out" in order to decipher the double entendre that seep through the title and lyrics. Slide It In acts as a real bridge between Saints & Sinners and 1987 in terms of style and possibly substance. The production is not as polished as future albums were, but that doesn't detract at all from the songs. What can detract slightly is the repetitive nature of the lyrics on some of the songs. "Standing in the Shadow" and "Hungry For Love" really let you know what the title of the song is, and while that is fine in a chorus perspective, sometimes it drags things down. Then there is a song such as "Guilty of Love" (in the first degree), where the lyrical content is slightly gag-worthy. But hey, it was the '80's, and it was a different world. Someone out there probably though this was beautiful and thought-provoking, most likely Coverdale himself.
My attitude to this album really has always depended on the mood I'm in. This can be an album I really enjoy listening to, or it can be a test of the nerves.
My favourites still rank as "Love Ain't No Stranger", "Give Me More Time" and "Slide It In".
Rating: I'm guilty of love, it's a crime of passion.  3/5

Quiet Riot - Condition Critical

Do you remember that fun album by that band? The one where they seemed to have this mascot? He was in a couple of their music videos for songs off this album too. Those singles highlighted the album, but also drove it in along and made it an album worth listening to. Well, this is the album that immediately followed it. Now, I know that the band would have had a lot to live up to after the phenomenal success of that previous album, but surely, given the good vibes that followed it, you could expect some good stuff from the follow-up?
Well, the answer is a pretty emphatic 'no they couldn't'. That's not to say that Condition Critical is a complete loss, but it sure suffers from a lack of originality and a heavy dose of boring and uninteresting songs and lyrics that fail to ignite any great joy or optimism in the result.
"Sign of the Times" is the lead-off track, and perhaps more indicative of Quiet Riot's presence than it was meant to be, and "It's the same old story" an indicative line. As an anthem it doesn't make the grade. But that's okay, because this is followed up by a whole bunch of other songs that would like to be labelled as anthems that also don't cut it - "Party All Night", "Stomp Your Hands, Clap Your Feet", "Winner Take All", "Scream and Shout", "Bad Boy" and "(We Were) Born to Rock" are shallow, simplified rock beats with lyrics attached that are designed to suggest they are songs of the people, but fall flat in almost every regard. Even the follow-up Slade cover "Mama Weer All Crazy Now" feels like a forced "hey, this worked the first time, let's just do it again!" grab fest for glory.
Quiet Riot aren't the first band to fail to live up to an album that has done spectacularly well, and won't be the last. Look at the talent in the four main members of the band however and you would have expected better, if not with the follow-up to Metal Health, then surely the album after that? Unfortunately for QR, their competitors were coming thick and fast in the form of Motley Crue, Dokken, Ratt, L.A Guns and the like, and they were unable to go with the pace.
Rating: Having fun ain't no crime.  2/5

Yngwie J. Malmsteen's Rising Force - Rising Force

When I first heard this album in 1986, I was blown away. It was unlike anything I had ever heard before in a guitar-oriented album. Probably because I'd never heard of Yngwie Malmsteen before at that time of my life. Everything about it was new, and those feelings of love for this album still exist for me today.
The start of "Black Star" is still just a brilliant experience, Yngwie just comes at you through the speakers with his wiggling fingers on the fret board. "Icarus Dream Suite" is just superb, just a wonderful arrangement. "Evil Eye" is the same, showcasing his amazing talent.
Let's face it though, Yngwie has arranged this album and its music specifically for his guitar. I mean, everything else on the album - the drums, the keyboards, the bass - are all just set up to allow Yngwie to do his thing, in his own way, and without being shown up in any way. It's all about him and his guitar, and that is fine, fantastic even. It's funny that even the keyboard solos are set up almost just so that when Yngwie's guitar fights back in during the duels, it is obvious which is the master, and even which is more obvious in the mix. You can't miss it.
With most guitar-based instrumental albums, it can be an effort to put on and listen to them more than the occasional time. Moods can dictate, but although they are broken up into 'songs', without lyrics to escort you along and without a dynamic structure rather than just a basis for guitar-widdling output, there is a tendency for such albums to become... well... boring. I can understand people feeling that way about this album, but for the most part I tend to disagree, such is the vitality and vibrancy of Yngwie's guitar playing.
Only two songs are deemed vocals-worthy. "Now You're Ships Are Burned" is good without being great, but "As Above So Below" has always been a favourite of mine, and I love Jeff Scott Soto's vocals here.
Rating: I will never die, cos I will fly, to the other side  4.5/5

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Josh's AFL Presentation

There was a great turn out today at the Albion Park Bowling Club for the Presentation day for the Albion Park Crows JAFL Club.

Thanks to Jay not showing up (killing me Jay!) it was left to yours truly to present the Auskickers with their trophies and say a few words. Great to see these kids here, hopefully they'll all show up again next season.

Josh got his trophy (good work Dad) and also a certificate to thank him for playing up a Grade when needed. I think he's ready for Under 9's next season, he wanted to know why there was no Best & Fairest and Most Improved and Coaches Award for Auskickers. He probably thought he'd have won them all. He might have been right.

The winner of the first AP Crows JAFL Club Tipping Competition was awarded their trophy. A nice bobblehead. Now, let's see if I can hold onto it next season.

Chooks and New Chooks

About three weeks ago, Emerald the chook (seen below, not Junior the chook, who is above) was gifted some fertilised eggs from the Hoswells, because she had been brooding for about two weeks. These eggs had actually been fertilised by Lucy (renamed Lukey when it was discovered he was a rooster), so it was still a family thing. Anyway, after sitting on them for three weeks...

... they hatched this morning - all five of them. So now we have five baby chooks as well. Oh dear....

Having let Mum know that the chooks she bought the kids as their Xmas present for last year now had baby chooks, she and Dad came over to check them out. Chris and Chris also showed up, so Helen could show them how to look after them when we are away next weekend.

Dad also sat with both Jess and Maddi to hear them play piano. Jess has her Grade 1 exam tomorrow, so she ran through her songs for Gramps while he was there.

Having stayed for morning tea, all four then also stayed for lunch, just to round out proceedings for the morning.

Friday, September 19, 2014

30 Years On - 1984 Killer Albums (Part 1)

As we head towards the end of 2014, I was hit the other day when I realised that it was 30 years since Iron Maiden's mighty Powerslave was released. I thought to myself that I hadn't listened to it for awhile, and so I pulled it out of its cover, put it on, and enjoyed it thoroughly. Immensely even. As it turned out, I thought about all of the other albums that were released in 1984, and had been a major part of my life during the 1980's growing up. So I went through them all, and discovered some absolute beauties. So, I have decided at work each day to work through three or four albums a day from 1984, giving them all a rotation of two or three times each, to relive past glories and memories. Today was my first day, and the albums I chose for the occasion were the following:

Anthrax - Fistful of Metal

Listening to this album 30 years after its recording and initial release, you have to be subjective when it comes to rating it. It was different era in recording, it was a new era of metal that was beginning to seep through, and it was the first release of a band that became huge and released some of the all-time classic metal albums.
Taking all of that into consideration, and the archaic production values, this is a solid debut with some good songs mixed with some average songs. The core of the band was to survive for many years, but listening to the album I guess it was always a forgone conclusion that vocalist Neil Turbin was expendable. His is a very uneven performance given the material written here. There doesn’t appear to be any consistency in his wailings, it goes up and then even further up. Perhaps that’s his style, but it does drag the material down a little in places.
The good songs are very good. “Deathrider” and “Metal Thrashing Mad” are classic Anthrax songs, and along with “Panic” and “Anthrax” are the best on the album for me. Later updates of these songs with Joey Belladonna and John Bush handling vocals prove the core value of the original songs. The cover of Alice Cooper’s “I’m Eighteen” isn’t bad either, but seems a strange choice to go with on your debut album. I’m sure there was a reason behind it somewhere.
It was a good start. Better was to come, but all of the qualities that you love about Anthrax are found here in their earliest form.
Rating: Got my foot pinned to the floor, you can feel the engines roar! 3/5.

Judas Priest - Defenders of the Faith

Priest continued their dominance of the 80's with another blazing album here.
Opening with the sensational "Freewheel Burning", the album gets the mood and tempo out front from the very beginning. The music video for this song was one of my earliest introductions to Judas Priest, and it was played for years on ABC's "Rage" as their token Priest song. The band had been on a roll for some years before this, but Defenders kept them moving in the right direction. It is easy to see how Judas Priest became one of the major role models for the burgeoning European metal sound, which burst into prominence in the 90's as power metal. The double time beat on the drums, the blazing dual guitars of Downing and Tipton and the screaming vocals of Rob Halford are without doubt the benchmark for which hundreds of bands followed, and they are in full display here.
Some of Priest's most classic songs are here. The aforementioned "Freewheel Burning". "Jawbreaker". "Rock Hard Ride Free". "Love Bites". "Eat Me Alive". "Some Heads Are Gonna Roll". And the brilliant "The Sentinel". Just an absolutely classic line-up. The last couple of songs are probably a little bit of a let down after all of this, and to be honest I can happily turn this off early. Whenever I hear "Heavy Duty" I just think of Spinal Tap. Which version is the send-up?
Rating: Born to lead, at breakneck speed!  4.5/5.

Armored Saint - March of the Saint

Another 1984 debutant, and in much the same fashion as Fistful of Metal there is some great stuff mixed with some average stuff, and some stuff that with a bit of polish later on could have been better. Some of the songs do get to sound a bit samey, mainly because of John's somewhat monotonal voice, but that can't cover the fact that some of the song arrangements tend to repeat themselves as well.
The good songs are really good. "March of the Saint" is a beauty, a great opening track. I also really enjoy "Can U Deliver", "Mutiny on the World", "Envy" and "Mad House". For the most part the rest of the album is just average fare, but much like Fistful of Metal this is really just the 'setting-up' stage for the band, as further releases really opened up a heavy and faster style that isn't always apparent here. For a debut, though, it is still enjoyable.
Rating: Shout the truth, metal's here to claim the day! 3/5

Deep Purple - Perfect Strangers

The return of the Mark II line-up, and at the time this album was lauded as brilliant, then as time passed it was criticised as boring. Perhaps you had to be there. When I first heard this album I thought it was terrific. Sure, it was no Machine Head or In Rock (or even Burn from Mark III) but it had everything that made Deep Purple great.
The two major singles, "Knocking at Your Back Door" and "Perfect Strangers" are still just as brilliant as they ever were, terrific songs. The rest of the album falls into a nice groove with songs like "Under the Gun", "Nobody's Home", "Mean Streak" and "A Gypsy's Kiss". They may never be regarded as Purple classics, but they are Purple songs that are intricate and integral parts of the album, and help to make it what it is.
The five members are all in great form. I love Ian Paice's drumming on this album and Jon Lord's Hammond is in great touch. Ian Gillan's vocals touch the sky, while Roger Glove and Ritchie Blackmore continue their partnership from the "on-hold" Rainbow with style. Joyous.
Rating: Feel it coming, it's knocking at the door!  4/5