Friday, June 30, 2017

Cricket Australia Stand-Off Reaches Doomsday

Congratulations to both Cricket Australia (CA) and the Australian Cricketers Association (ACA) on their inability to come to terms before today on a new Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in regards to the payment structure of players and cricket at all levels. As anyone with half an ear on the news would know, the five year previous MoU ran out today, meaning that both parties have had five years to ensure they came to a new agreement before today. And that couldn't be achieved.

People's views and perspectives on the whole issue will differ, but let's look at the surface. Back in the late 1990's Australia's cricketers decided they needed to stand up and form a union of sorts in order to negotiate better terms for themselves from the Australian Cricket Board. The 18 month impasse of bitching back and forth, with the ACB launching a very public campaign looking to make the players look greedy by publishing their earnings, also came with a threat that international matches could be forfeited by a strike by the players. It was all very nasty and should have been handled better, except that the ACB wanted to keep the status quo where they controlled all the finances and only handed out what they deemed the players were worthy, while the players union, headed by Tim May, was trying to ensure that players at all levels received worthy remuneration and could forge a living through cricket, and therefore allowing these players to dedicate themselves completely to the game, and therefore in theory become better players and improve Australian cricket in general. Once the smoke had cleared, the ACA had secured a landmark agreement with the ACB, allowing for 25% of the ACB's revenue streams to go to the players, meaning they had become active partners in the promotion and success of Australian cricket.

Following this, Australia became the greatest cricketing nation on the planet, for arguably ten years as their best players dominated the world, and their first class compatriots pushed them hard by scoring runs and taking wickets. Without the MoU that was secured, would players of the talent of Martin Love and Brad Hodge - as an example - have continued to play cricket? Their talents deserved recognition at the highest level, but they were unable to break into the national team due to the immense talent that was available. However, if they had been playing for peanuts at Shield level, as they would have been before the initial MoU was brokered, would they have continued to play and keep the pressure on those above them? More than likely, they would have moved out of cricket into a career that paid them more than just $1,000 match payments. The MoU kept them in the game, and as such kept Australia's cricket strong and the envy of the world.

The three further re-negotiations of the MoU, every five years, has retained the concept of the 25% income flow to the players, with very little angst from either side of the pond. So why now, with Australian cricket on the cusp of a resurgence in the men's game, with the Big Bash League drawing in hundreds of thousand to matches and therefore huge cash flow, and with the women's game coming to national prominence and increasing audiences, has CA decided they want to rock the boat and not only change the formula that has worked so well, but do so in what appears to be a belligerent way? What exactly has changed?
The answer is - CA has changed its structure, bringing in businessmen rather than State board representatives, and they want their money back.

CA until five years ago was built by nominations from the State Associations. They acted in what they believed was the best interests of Australia cricket. They weren't always considered to be right, but the period of resurgence through the 1990's and 2000's gave them great heart. Then came the restructure, and that system was thrown out with the Argus Report review, and now we have a board that has some cricket lovers retained, but now also has men and women who made their names in big business, such as David Peever, former Managing Director of Rio Tinto, Bob Every, former Chairman of Wesfarmers and Boral, and Michelle Tredenick, a Director of the Bank of Queensland. These people simply don't like dealing with unions - something Peever in particular has been quite happy to admit. They'd rather talk face to face with the individuals, hoping to divide opinion and in the long run get what they want rather than what the union may want. Bringing on board Kevin Roberts, former NSW batsman but also has been involved in reformations of companies such as Adidas, Colorado and Canterbury, as chief negotiator, CA has come to the party with a corporate mindset. They are gathering the profit streams, and they want to be able to dish them out as they see fit, and not just give a percentage to what they see as a union.
The ACA and the players of course want the current scenario to continue. They see it as having been a success, and cannot see why it should be changed given the success they see that it has brought.
So we have come to this point - as far back as November last year it was obviously this was going to end up being a problem, when CA tried to negotiate with the players at the top, including captains Steve Smith and Meg Lanning, while the players all rebuffed these approaches and insisted all negotiations should go through the ACA, Which CA continued to refuse to do. At different times James Sutherland and Pat Howard have also thrown in their opinion that the payers need to make the changes they were suggesting. It honestly came across as employer bullying at its worst.

It is all very nasty and should have been handled better, except that CA wants to go Back to the Future where they control all the finances and only hand out what they deem the players are worthy, while the players union, headed by Alistair Nicholson, is trying to ensure that players at all levels receive worthy remuneration and can forge a living through cricket, and therefore allowing these players to dedicate themselves completely to the game, and therefore in theory become better players and improve Australian cricket in general. Does this sound familiar at all?

As I said, opinions will vary. Despite CA suggesting they need the funds to better remunerate grassroots cricket, it comes across as a money grab. It's a big business attitude. It just feels like they think they can out-wait the ACA and get what they want, because the players will not want to kill off their own employment. They say the ACA has not entered negotiations, but given the ACA believes the current MoU terms are working, why would they negotiate that away? They have agreed in principle to lower the stream of revenue from 25% to 22.5% as well as taking out revenue from Milo cricket and club registrations. They have also shown they are putting $33 million back into grass roots cricket themselves. CA has simply refused to accept anything except the dissolvement of the current 25% of revenue going to the players. It's a rort.

So where to now? The whole debacle makes both sides look bad no matter which way you look at it. The possible forfeiture of the A tour to South Africa, or worse the now off again but on again tour to Bangladesh, is a very bad look for Australian cricket. And yet, no matter how many people come out and slag off the cricketers, suggesting they earn too much and they have it so much better than anyone else and that they should just accept the huge money CA is offering them, is not seeing the big picture. A corporate employee is trying to entice the elite employees with more money, so that they can end up having to pay less to the lower class employees and inevitably keep more money in their own pockets, without actually having to divulge how much money they think they will earn over the next five years. By doing this they claim to be doing it for the little guys, the grass roots, who they promise they will send more money to as a result of their ideas. It all smacks of absolute bullshit, and the players know it. As much as I want to see this resolved and our cricketers back doing what they should be doing, this looks like it has a very long way to go before that occurs, and the fate of the Ashes looks to be doomed as a result.

1002. Eagles / Desperado. 1973. 3/5

Following up their debut album, the eagles had originally come up with the idea of doing a more ‘serious’ album, a concept album, one where they would write songs about anti-heroes. While it never really eventuated the way they may have first envisioned, it does focus on the old west and the life as it was in those days. More importantly, they again put together an album of songs that showcased their amazing talents, both musically and vocally.

“Doolin-Dalton” starts the album off strongly, led by Don’s easy vocal and a non-threatening musical background which was initially to be the set up for the whole concept of the album. This is followed by “Twenty-One” which is very much a Bernie Leadon track, solidly written around his favourite banjo and with Glenn’s slide guitar thrown in, it is an upbeat bouncy song that lifts the mood of the album immediately. This segues straight into “Out of Control”, and the harder guitar riff and vocal quality making it much closer to a rock song with Glenn’s guitar and vocals dominating. The album has built up, with each of the three opening songs acting like waking up from sleep, with the quieter slower opening track into the bouncing second track and the much louder and rockier third track. It works well.
That style changes up once again for the classic “Tequila Sunrise”, a song that has become a stand out in its own right. Its gentle tones and wonderful vocal line from Glenn just seem to flow along in an unhindered way, simple tones and range that make it sound so easy but is so difficult to reproduce if you don’t have the talent to do so. This, like all of their early classic songs, stands apart from everything else on the album. The other song of this category on the album is the title track. “Desperado” is the slow piano based ballad sung by Don. It has become one of the Eagles best known songs, but was never released as a single by the band. In fact, it wasn’t until Linda Ronstadt released her version of the song that it became so huge, and was then sought after by fans everywhere. I don’t mind the song, but I don’t list it as one of my favourites.
“Certain Kind of Fool” with Randy singing lead vocals flows along nicely with his unique vocal range dominating and giving this a completely different mood from the other tracks on the album. Following the “Doolin-Dalton” instrumental segue of Bernie Leadon’s banjo playing, the album flows into “Outlaw Man” which was the second song released from the album. It has a rockier feel that the overall genre of the album, a faster energy throughout that makes it pleasant enough to listen to.
“Saturday Night” returns to the gentler side of the band, with the four way harmonies of the vocals and the acoustic guitar underneath the main focus of the song. This again segues into “Bitter Creek” another gentle country and western based song revolving around those amazing voices and the guitar and piano. It’s the crooning background harmonies that get you every time, even if it seems to stretch out for the last two minutes of the song on repeat. The album is then completed by the reprise of “Doolin-Dalton” and “Desperado”, completing the loop of the songs that bookended the first side of the album.

While Desperado is still very listenable, especially if you are in a quiet mood and you are just looking for something inoffensive to be playing in the background, this is still the Eagles in their original form. It’s the country and western side of their career, before the guitars and drums began to take a more firm outlook on the band. I still like the album, and anyone who loves the sound of those harmony vocals will like it as well. Even so, when I go looking for an Eagles album to put on and sing along with, I will go to one of the later albums rather than this.

Rating:  "It's another tequila sunrise, staring slowly 'cross the sky, said goodbye".  3/5

Thought For the Day

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Thought For the Day

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S05E19: Night Call

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S05E19: Night Call

On the face of it, this episode has all the right ingredients to make it one of the better stories, though for some reason it doesn’t resonate as much as it should. I can’t really put my finger on why this is, but something just doesn’t elevate it into one of the highly thought of episodes.

It is well acted, and the story of the mysterious phone calls to the invalided old woman, which come with increasing regularity and slowly more recognisable words rather than silence, works well. The build up to the middle of the episode, where Elva has insisted her caller stop bothering her, and the phone company tracing the calls to the local graveyard, is good. Even the conclusion is done well, though having read Richard Matheson’s original short story “Long Distance Call” on which this is based, I like the ending of that better (where the caller says “I’ll be right over!”). And perhaps that is where my problem lies, in that I enjoyed the ending of the story more in its written form rather than the changes made for this episode. Still, this was an easy way to spend twenty-odd minutes.

Rating: Beware the midnight phone call. 4/5.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Thought For the Day

1001. Tears for Fears / Songs From the Big Chair. 1985. 3/5

Back in 1985 this was one of those albums that just about everyone either had their own copy of, or had had someone record a copy for them on cassette. On the strength of the singles that were released from the album, it became one of those that was sought after. It was about the time that I had started to forge ahead and find albums of bands whose songs I liked rather than settle for just the radio songs available. Often you would get the album and discover songs that you liked more than those singles, that you would never have heard if not for getting the album. Others you would realise that the best of the crop had been the singles and the rest was a barren wasteland. Songs From the Big Chair is a little of both for me.

The album leads off with “Shout”, which was one of the popular singles that crowded the airwaves through 1984, and of which everyone from my generation knows. I’m sure it was on the local radio stations morning program every day for six months. It still seems to be as popular today as it was in the day. “The Working Hour” for me has always come across as a bit drab, not really carrying on from the energy of the opening track. It’s not a bad song but it lacks something. Perhaps it is just the fact that it is sandwiched between two such huge songs that it tends to pale a little.
“Everybody Wants to Rule the World” is the gold nugget of not only Tears For Fears career, but almost for the entire decade of the 1980’s. It is still a great song today. My kids in their school choir sing it. It opens the movie “Peter’s Friends” in the perfect way, playing over a montage of the ‘big picture’ moments between 1984 to 1994. It’s upbeat, and the lyrics perfectly portray how we as teenagers of the time felt about life in general. It still touches all of the right places when I listen to it today.
“Mothers Talk” is a lot closer to the kind of sampling technique that was finding its fashion in this period of the 1980’s and that was becoming more commercial as the decade moved on. For me it was never a song I cottoned on to, though on this album, coming as it did as the closing track to side one, I enjoyed it enough. As a song on its own however it wasn’t one I rated.
“I Believe” is a true soft ballad track. I never really understood it as the opening to the second side of the album, as there is no energy driving it in a rock or pop sense, it really is just a gentle reflective song. I’ve always though albums needed a punch as the opening tracks, especially in the vinyl and cassette days when it was important to build on two sides. I think it probably works better in a CD or digital space where you don’t have to get up to change the record or cassette over. This is followed by “Broken” where the energy flow returns, driven by the keys and synth. “Broken” segues into “Head Over Heels” which shares a similar piano chord progression in places with the previous song. The similarities seem even more related when this then segues into a live reprise of Broken that was recorded previous to the album being completed. The album is signed off by “Listen”. And let’s just say that “Listen” is far too much like a poor man’s rendition of a progressive rock style free form instrumental journey with some lyrics thrown in to the mix for me. It’s a bit too psychedelically unformed for me to enjoy I’m afraid.

As a pop album of its time this was one of the best. It may not have been my chosen genre of music at the time – that was geared more towards bands such as Queen and The Police and Midnight Oil at the time, and was about to go full blown into the heavy metal phase – but it was still an album that gained my attention and that I played a lot. On reflection today I still think it holds up well for its style and age.

Rating:  “Welcome to your life, there’s no turning back”.   3/5

Monday, June 26, 2017

1000. Therapy? / Troublegum. 1994. 5/5

In 1995 at the rain-sodden mud-soaked festival that was Alternative Nation in Sydney’s western suburbs, one of the bands I had marked down to see that day was Therapy? I had heard none of their music and knew of them only from vague articles and posters in unusual places (such as in Steve Buscemi and Adam Sandler's flat in Airheads). Soaked to the skin with six beers in various pockets of my oversized jacket, I witnessed a set that impacted on me like few have, before or since. It was belligerent, raucous and quite awesome given the completely out of the way stage they had been placed on. I loved every song, and the following week I searched out the album that their guitarist and vocalist had said they were touring on. That was my introduction to Therapy? and the album Troublegum. The angst ridden anger-fest that has become one of the most important albums of my life.

When Therapy? came along, I was at probably the lowest point of my life. I only say this here so that you can understand why I have such strong feelings about the album that others may not share. It was a six month period that I muddled my way through not exclusively because of this album, but with the help of this album being a majority shareholder nonetheless. Every emotion I was feeling in my life at that time was mirrored in Andy Cairns music, lyrics and vocals on this album. However, Troublegum doesn’t remind me of that time at all, nor does it make me maudlin or upset because of it. Certainly it is still the best tonic to put on when I get down, or get angry. It does still draw out any anger I have in me when that is needed. What it does do is make me smile, because this is one of my magic talismans; an album I can put on at any time and draw from it the good feelings or power or inspiration or whatever it is I need, just from listening to it.

The opening salvo still never fails to deliver. Part of its charm is that there is no pause between songs. Each keeps coming straight after the previous song has finishing, or segues into it. It’s like one big long live set, with no pause for talking, just get into the next song. From the very beginning you are left in little doubt as to the direction that the album is taking. “Knives” comes at you wielding those glittering blades with anger and those crazy eyes. The vocals scream, the drums hammer and the guitars are guttural. There’s plenty of crazy in this song, and it is all the better for it. The alternative punk version of the angst-ballad comes next with “Screamager”, jauntily bopping away while Andy explains his taunts and echoes throughout. The catchy and simple chorus and fast paced punk guitar adds to the flavour. The segue into the hard core guitar riff of “Hellbelly” is then accompanied by the heavy hitting drums and ripping bass riff that crushes throughout the song. I love this song (but then again I love them all). The slightest of pauses leads into “Stop It You’re Killing Me” which continues in the same vein of what has come before. It’s hard hitting musically and lyrically, another great song to sing along with, especially when you are feeling aggressive. From here the wangling guitar riff opens into “Nowhere”, once again at a great pace that gives you everything whether you are at the gig or at home in the lounge room. This period of five songs to open the album is the equal of any other album I know. It’s non-stop, it gives you no time to rest, and it is adrenaline-inducing fun.

The middle of the album changes things up a little in places. “Die Laughing” has a different groove and different mood, rolling smoothly through the song rather than belting you bluntly over the head. “Unbeliever” is similar in a different way, where there is not so much aggression in the song. This is more the sad reflection on what is happening in life rather than being angry about that same life, almost like the slide on the other side of drunkenness as against the rise of the anger as the drunkenness is taking effect. Do I know this from experience? Perhaps. “Trigger Inside” perhaps has more of that anger involved, but is followed by “Lunacy Booth” that has a similar musical feel to the previous two songs.
There is a great cover version of Joy Division’s “Isolation”, which takes the angst of that song and revs it up a notch, giving the song the power it lacks in the original version. It’s fast paced and driven by the drum beat. Terrific. “Turn” and “Femtex” lead into the frantic and lost screaming of “Unrequited”, an amazing mixture of emotions as explained in the title of the song. The music and vocals mix together brilliantly in this song to accurately portray the subject matter, before exploding into the awesome guitar and drum fuelled riff opening of “Brainsaw”, a song that I have always loved… but have also always thought should have been better and heavier and louder given the opening thirty seconds of the track. That moment when it moves from the end of “Unrequited” into the start of “Brainsaw” for me is still just as brilliant as the first day I heard it. And let’s not forget the closing out of the album, with the quiet fade out of “You Are My Sunshine” that sounds like it is being played at an old fairground. An interesting touch.

Perhaps this album’s biggest problem is that it killed any chance for any other Therapy? release to get a fair hearing. With so much tied up in this album, any subsequent album had to be able to do these same things to me and FOR me to be considered close to its equal, and the band hasn’t been able to reproduce that. There are good albums yes, but nothing that can match what is on Troublegum. For the same reason I can understand (to a certain degree) when people say they don’t think this album is anywhere near as good as I think it is. That’s completely understandable considering what I have tied up in this album emotionally. Each song means something to me, and is tied to emotions I have felt in many different moments in my life. It still speaks to me today in the same way even though I don’t feel those same things anymore, because I remember what I felt at the times these songs remind me of.

Considering the journey music has taken me on in my life, it is fitting that an album that acted like a life preserver for me is the one that clocks up my 1000th album review since I began THIS particular journey some 12 years ago.

Rating: “The world is fucked, and so am I. Maybe it's the other way round, I can't seem to decide”. 5/5

Thought For the Day

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Thought For the Day

Albion Park JSC Under 10 White vs Russell Vale White

All those looking for today's match report from the Albion Park JSC Under 10 Whites clash against Russell Vale White... well, the short answer is... I'm sure all the kids had a good time.

Russell Vale looked the better side, and they played with more enthusiasm. The Albion Park team seemed half asleep, and didn't chase, tackle or run with any of the enthusiasm they have shown in recent weeks.
The score was 0-0 at half-time. In the second half a couple of good attacking opportunities went begging, an d a shot from Jack Tate just dribbled wide of the left post. In the best short period of the day for the park team, Belle Kadwell fought hard in the forward line to wrest the ball from her opponent, before making a great cross to the goal square where all three of Claire Kadwell, Zoe Middleton and Noah Black were free, with Noah eventually getting the goal to take the lead 1-0.
Unfortunately that really was the best of the play. There was not a lot of control with the ball, with too many big kicks attempted and miscued. The ball was also poorly cleared all match from the defensive quarter, and this led directly to two goals by Russell Vale when the ball was not cleared and then passed straight to the opposition who took their chance. Indy Middleton did make one terrific save from a strong strike that stopped the score blowing out further. At full time the score was Russell Vale 2, Albion Park 1.

Friday, June 23, 2017

999. Iced Earth / Night of the Stormrider. 1991. 3/5

While Iced Earth’s debut album Iced Earth whetted the appetite without creating too many waves, there was great hopes that the follow up would be able to eradicate the lesser parts of that album and replace it with more of the good. In essence that meant replacing lead vocalist Gene Adam and bringing in John Greely in his stead, and more of that galloping guitar and drum beat flying through the songs to get it on the right track.

In short, in my opinion, it probably needed to be backed up with better vocals. I’m not exactly sure if vocalist John Greely based his vocal technique on any one singer, as he seems to jump around in style between King Diamond, Rob Halford and Cronos. The energy is there, but averages out all the good that comes from the music in the long run. I’m really couldn’t split Greely and original vocalist Gene Adam as to who annoys more as to downgrading awesome songs. And singling out the vocalist for being the difference is completely unfair I know, but whenever I listen to this album or its predecessor I can’t help but wonder how good it would sound with any of the future vocalists in charge. You only have to hear Matt Barlow’s live versions on Alive in Athens to know I’m right. And as it turned out, I gained a greater respect and understanding of this album from listening to Barlow singing these songs live on that album. Because they all sound better live, and the vocals have so much more power and tone there than they do here.
The opening three songs are great – “Angels’ Holocaust”, “Stormrider” and “The Path I Choose”. I don’t understand “Before the Vision” at all. Okay yes, I know it’s a part of the concept story but it doesn’t fit musically at all. Just another example of the sometimes muddled thinking about where to place songs on an Iced Earth album and how that may affect the run and mood of said album. “Mystical End” I think is only average, but this is followed by “Desert Rain” which lifts the bar again. “Pure Evil” is a song that changes inflection throughout, dependant on the style of guitar and vocals that come with it. I still think this is half genius and half ‘WTF?!’ But seriously, when the gallop comes in this song really goes hard. After more distraction from the acoustic bridge of “Reaching the End” we are treated to the excellent closing track “Travel in Stygian” which, despite its changes in tempo and mood throughout which does annoy me no end, finishes off the album in style.

While I may have overplayed the problems with the vocals that doesn’t eradicate any fault in the song writing. For me (and I may be on my lonesome here) I just don’t like the constant switching between moods in the same song. To me it halts the momentum of the song, and then the album. There is a lot to like here if you are a fan, and it does auger well for future releases, which of course is the good news that eventually came our way.

Rating:  "We paint the sky with blood tonight, setting free the damned to fight".  3/5

Thought For the Day

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Thought For the Day

998. Primal Fear / Angels of Mercy - Live in Germany [Live]. 2017. 3.5/5

The expectation when you go to a live album is that you will get (hopefully) an authentic live experience from the band. One that hits you with a set list that is worthy of the band touring with, and then worthy of recording for the rest of us to listen to. In many ways then the live album is at the mercy of the album the band is touring on, and the selection of songs that has made up the rest of that tour. If the album is a good one then you expect the live album to be as well. If it is only average… well… you may have a problem.

Angels of Mercy - Live in Germany is a live album that I have listened to now for the two weeks since its release, and I can’t help thinking that there is something missing. I have not seen the DVD and am not judging it on that. It just isn’t working perfectly for me, and I can’t help but wonder whether this is as live as it is suggested. Is it overdubbed? I can’t be certain. But there are a few things that aren’t quite at the top of the game nonetheless. The relative sameness of Primal Fear’s recent material (as related in other reviews) mean that if you only concentrate on that double kick keeping time throughout it can get somewhat monotonous. That’s not what you are looking for on any album let alone a live release. There are also periods where Ralf Scheepers vocal range is beginning to require a bit of a tinker, and that can be slightly distracting when listen to songs for the first time in a live setting. It’s only in a couple of places where it is noticeable, and the use of delay tries to mask that, but most fans will pick it up. And yes there are places where I’m sure a little bit of doctoring has gone on in post-production. Perhaps I’m mistaken.
The songs you love sound great hear, and the ones you don’t at least sound good. “Final Embrace” and “In Metal We Trust” open the album in style. “The Sky is Burning” is just as annoying here as it is on the studio album.

Fans will get this album no matter what and will digest it as they always do. I know that we have been spoiled by the great live albums from other bands, and that not all live albums need to be judged against them. But it comes down to needing the live sound to be transferred faithfully to your preferred format, and for the songlist to be worthy of that live environment. This is a good live album of this band. It just isn’t completely brilliant.

Rating: “In metal we trust”. 3.5/5

Monday, June 19, 2017

Songs of My Life #68 - Iced Earth - Ten Thousand Strong - 2007

Songs of My Life #68 - Iced Earth - Ten Thousand Strong - 2007

Iced Earth is a band that I like a lot of songs, and then have trouble with a lot of songs. Most of their albums I like half the songs on them and then there are a few I can't get into at all. But the best songs are just awesome.

Let's take this one for example. For a short time Tim "Ripper" Owens joined then band after the departure of Matt Barlow, and to be honest I think Jon Schaeffer had trouble writing songs for his vocal range. But by goodness they got it right on this song. The best Iced Earth songs all have the galloping guitar and drums backed up by great vocals, and this has it all. The whole song is fabulous, but just take a listen to the way Ripper starts and finishes the song - my goodness, to have a voice like that. These are the kind of songs Ripper should be singing all the time, great fast tracks that make the most of his brilliant range. There is not enough of it.
The video to go with the song is barely average, but the song makes up for it. Turn it up and let it rip! \m/

Thought For the Day

Champions Trophy Match 15: Final: India vs Pakistan

Champions Trophy Match 15: Final: India vs Pakistan: Scorecard

In a tournament of predictable unpredictability, perhaps it is only fitting that the team that was the lowest ranked in the series was the one who came good at the right time, and did most of the little things right in order to come through and claim the Champions Trophy for 2017. Putting aside their recent ODI form and a lacklustre belting against the same opponent two weeks ago, Pakistan has barely put a foot wrong since, and took advantage of India’s shoddy effort throughout the day to decisively put their opponent to the sword.

I don’t know why captain’s continue to win the toss and put their opponents in to bat. Certainly as I have said in recent matches, the tactic of batting second has paid off, but surely ESPECIALLY in a final you want to put runs on the board and pressure the team chasing those runs. Still Kohli persisted with his thoughts, and it must be said that his bowlers failed to back up that decision. After three excellent overs to open the match it all went pear shaped, with wides and no balls coming in flocks. Fakhar was caught behind off Bumrah, but it was a no ball and he was reprieved. On 3 off 8 deliveries at the time, the overstep cost India another 111 runs off 98 deliveries and forever changed the course of the match. Even when Fakhar did what the Indians could not, by stranding his partner Azhar Ali on 59 with a ridiculous run out, the Indians already appeared shellshocked out of the contest. Unlike the last six matches, where this point of the first innings coincided with a downturn in the batting team’s fortunes, here Pakistan just continued on, helped by the untidy bowling and the inability to halt the run rate. Ashwin and Jadeja, jewels in the crown on home tracks, were impotent here and both went for more than seven runs an over without being about to make vital breakthroughs. Pakistan’s middle order grew in the strength and vigour built from their top order, and by the end of their fifty overs they had scored 4/338.

The pressure of chasing a big total in a final can never be underestimated, and the ability to combat that is enormous. Mohammed Amir, seeking redemption in the country where his most shameful acts on a cricket field had occurred, produced the kind of spell that all cricket watchers expected that he could since first seeing him as an 18 year old. Bowling at pace and bending his left arm deliveries back into the right hand batsmen, he trapped Sharma plumb in front third ball, had Kohli dropped at first slip in his next over, before having him caught at point the very next delivery. Then in the last delivery of his fifth over he had Dhawan caught behind, and the top order had been decimated. He finished with 3/16 from his five overs, and amazingly wasn’t required again in the match. Yuvraj and Jadhav were both outthought by the leg spinner Shadab, while Dhoni was set up beautifully by Hasan and he dutifully hooked straight down square leg’s throat, and at 6/72 the match was surely gone. Pandya decided to have a crack though, and his 76 had come from 43 balls before he was sold up the river by Jadeja, who not only should have done everything to get his partner on strike, but then turned his back on him when the mix up occurred and allowed him to be run out by 15 metres when the very least he could have done was sacrifice his own useless wicket. It was thoughtless and selfish cricket, and Pandya’s frustration was obvious to all, no doubt more so when Jadeja threw his own wicket away six balls later. With India perishing for 158 in just the 31st over, a defeat by 180 runs is something that will not be very palatable for the supporters back home.

So where to now for the Champions Trophy? Does it retain its format? Does it get bigger? Does it exist at all? The jury is still out, but you can be sure that the Pakistan supporters and players will all be celebrating for some time over their amazing climb to the victors circle.

997. Danzig / Black Laden Crown. 2017. 3/5

Is there any use trying to compare Danzig albums against each other? The man himself has been around now for decades, and he has been a torch bearer and an influential player as much as he has been a crazy loon and a faller upon bad times musically. The revolving door of members of the band has been used more often as the years go by such that the name Danzig now almost literally mean the one and only Glenn Danzig. Whether that has been a problem with the albums the band has released is an individual assessment, as will the enjoyment of the songs brought forth. Perhaps sadly, other factors must also be considered.

The title track “Black Laden Crown” opens up the album and is an enjoyable start. Following this I must ask a question. Don’t you just love the rhythm of “Eyes Ripping Fire”? I do. This is what brings out the best in Danzig’s music. You’re head bounces along with the drum beat and riff, Glenn’s vocals do their best work in this environment, and you also get to insert a guitar solo to impress the mob as well. This is the format of song that I think brings out the best in the band’s work. “Devil on Hwy 9” goes in the same direction with the same qualities. “Last Ride” infuses the much slower maudlin pace that Danzig often sit on, but because of the energy of Glenn’s vocals it makes it a classic Danzig tune rather than a dull and bonded track that would be the case if anyone else attempted it. The problem with latter tracks such as “The Witching Hour” and so forth is that there isn’t that same energy in the vocal track, and this the songs begin to fall flat because of it. “But a Nightmare” seems to have guitar level problems but more importantly a guitar and drums riff that doesn’t change for the whole second half of the song makes it feel as though it drags on forever. “Skulls & Daisies” could have been improved greatly with the same enthusiasm in Glenn’s vocals as he gave in “Last Ride”. “Blackness Falls” sounds like the same song, with the same lack of drive. And “Pull the Sun” has that reasonable Danzig croon within but it somehow feels a bit like too little too late.
So now we can address some simple issues. Why spend three years over recording nine songs, with five different drummers? And the production is a mess, if not non-existent. You can hear the difference between tracks, where some come across as a normal sounding environment, and others sound like they are demos being recorded on an old four track in the lounge room or garage. Is this a thing? A rebellion against the fact everyone can sound like a pro now with a laptop and a microphone, so we must make this sound like it’s B grade as a two fingered salute to the amateurs of the world? I don’t know, but there’s a difference between ‘stripped back’ and ‘poor production’. This is generally the latter, and it doesn’t improve the album as a result. It also suffers from not having a band as such together to record the album. Along with the five drummers, of which Glenn himself was one, the rest of the guitars are recorded by Glenn along with Tommy Victor. As such, there’s not a lot of individuality there to help influence the tracks in a positive way. It cried out for players of the stature of former band members Johnny Christ and Eerie Von to make their instrumental pieces their own and add their own flavour to the tracks. Because this is basically the same two musicians on all the instruments, that flavour doesn’t tend to seep through.

I started off by asking should we compare Danzig albums from different eras. Mainly I guess that this questions comes across because the early music this band released was and is so impressively awesome that it becomes a difficult thing to equal. While I don’t think this is a bad album, I think the arguments as set out above do not allow it to break free and be as enjoyable as I feel it could be given the basics of the music. While not wanting to hark back on the band’s past, I think a dose of the inspiration of those albums would have spruced this up nicely.

Rating:  “Deep down the sound of a bloody song never ends”.  3/5

Saturday, June 17, 2017

APJSC Under 10 White vs Oak Flats Purple

On a roll after two successive victories, the Albion Park Under 10 White soccer team headed for the green pastures of Panorama Oval to take on the Oak Flats Purple team in today's match.

The Albion Park team was on the attack from the outset, and it is obvious the confidence they now have in their ability and in their teammates. The hard work put in by Matt, Shane and Dan at training is showing, and it is great to see all of the kids looking up and passing to their teammates. Their skills in avoiding opponents and then trying to get the ball to the feet of their nearest player have been improving every week, and it is no surprise that they are starting to win games because of it.
Most of the first half was spent in the Albion Park attacking zone, and a couple of early chances went begging with the ball hitting the posts and some swarming close in defense from the Oak Flats team. It wasn't until Josh Peters took a long range shot (with his left foot no less) that he slotted the ball through the defense and the goalkeeper to bring up the first goal of the game. With the deadlock broken the team found their confidence, and Jack Tate soon wound his way through the Oak Flats backline before lining up a huge kick from short range to make the score 2-0.
Belle Kadwell and Brock Young were working very hard in the midfield, consistently cutting off any breaks from the opponents and getting the ball back to their own forward line, Belle in particular had no qualms about going in and forcing the ball off her direct opponent. Jack and Claire Kadwell were both finding space, with Claire making great passes to her fellow forwards. One of these found Josh alone again and he cracked it through for his second goal of the half. Up the back in defense Ky Van Helden hadn't seen much of the ball, but one of his booming clearing kicks set the team up again, and Josh's strike was fumbled by the keeper over the line for Josh to complete his hat-trick. At half time Albion Park White led 4-0.

Any over confidence should have been scrubbed from their conscious immediately after the break, when Oak Flats managed to get a ball through new keeper Ky within 30 seconds of the restart, and the score was now 4-1 and certainly not over.
The forward line had been revamped with Zoe Middleton coming out of goal and joining Brock and Claire up front, supported by Noah Black and Jack-Ryan Eberwein in the halves. The game was spread over more of the field in the second half, but Claire, Zoe and Noah all had plenty of chances to attack the goals, with a number of near misses. Finally it was Noah who was able to break the shackles and send the ball pass the keeper to make the score 5-1.
What best describes the way this team is improving is the final two goals of the game. Indy Middleton fighting off an ankle injury made a great pass down the left wing which was taken by Noah, who then made a perfect pass to the goalmouth to his unmarked teammates. Zoe just fell short of getting her foot to the ball, but was backed up by Jack-Ryan who crushed home the ball for a wonderful team goal. The final goal came from a corner, and while in recent weeks there have been a number of near misses from corners, today they team got it right. Jack-Ryan's corner was perfectly placed, and it weaved its way through to the back of the box where Claire was waiting and she nailed home the ball into the back of the net with style. The final score was 7-1 to the Albion Park side, their third successive victory.

Player of the match today was a very deserved Claire Kadwell, whose consistency in recent weeks has been fantastic, which was rewarded today with that final goal. Also great work today from the peanut gallery, who seemed to watch about 50% of the match, and most could probably say with honesty for a change that they had seen their child do something great on the field, rather than gas-bagging their way though events on the field. Well done all.

Thought For the Day

Friday, June 16, 2017

Blackadder - The Whole Rotten Saga

Interesting for fans of the show.

Dodgeball is Back and Ben Stiller Wants YOU to Join Him // Omaze

Songs of My Life #67 - Alice Cooper - Spark in the Dark - 1989

Songs of My Life #67 - Alice Cooper - Spark in the Dark - 1989

Alice Cooper had had some lean years in the 1980's - according to the 'experts' anyway, personally I loved "Constrictor" and "Raise Your Fist and Yell" - but when the album Poison was released the world went crazy for him once again, with hit singles left, right and centre.

This was the second song off that album, immediately after the title track. It's one of my favourites, because it's upbeat and fun with a great guitar riff and it sums up the entire mood of the album.

I saw them on this tour, Alice Cooper Trashes the World, and it remains one of my favourite concerts. Whenever I need a lift in my mood, this is one of the songs I can go to.

996. Jorn / Life on Death Road. 2017. 3.5/5

There’s little doubt that Jorn Lande is a marvellous singer. He has a voice that can croon just about anything, and he works it hard too, with barely a year passing without him having released an album on one of his projects, whether it be his own band as it is here or any of the many others he has participated in. It’s an interesting move for this album, as Jorn has teamed up with Mat Sinner, who apart from many other bands he is involved in is the founder and bass guitarist of Primal Fear, Alex Beyrodt, who is also the guitarist for Primal Fear, and drummer Francesco Jovino, who also played on Jorn’s last album and is now currently drumming for… you guessed it… Primal Fear! Given their track record (certainly in my opinion) you would have to think even before going in that it had the makings of a good album.

What we want from Jorn is songs like the opening title track “Life on Death Road”. This flows along beautifully, set up not only by Jorn’s amazing vocals but the twin guitar and double kick drumming. This is a brilliant heavy metal song, the kind I could settle for every single day from Jorn. It is followed by two other excellent tracks in “Hammered to the Cross (The Business)” and “Love is the Remedy” which both also showcase the excellent partnering these musicians have made.
“Dreamwalker” dials the tempo back to a dangerous moment. Jorn and the band still sounds great, don’t get me wrong, but it’s the style of the song that holds me back. No, it isn’t that horrid power ballad kind of style. Not exactly anyway. It is a change in mood from the opening tracks though, and while Jorn does love to sing in this style in his many different projects I often wish he did less of it. Fortunately we immediately forge out of that valley with “Fire to the Sun” which settles into an atypical hard rock template with guitar solo spots put in at no extra cost.
Not to put too fine a point to it, but the middle of the album does tend to go in the same direction as most of Jorn’s catalogue. That isn’t to say it is terrible, but to be honest it just gets a little boring and/or repetitive. You’ve heard it all before, and I guess that is the danger if you are putting albums on a very regular basis, for your own band or any other projects you may be a part of. Jorn’s vocals are wonderful, he has an amazing voice, but it does have that tendency to become a little bit the same if it isn’t regulated. This is why when he has done stuff for Avantasia or for Allen/Lande it doesn’t always come across that way because someone else is writing the sings and looking for a certain vocal. In “Insoluable Maze (Dreams in the Blindness)” he seems to be channelling Ronnie James Dio while in “I Walked Away” he is reaching for his inner David Coverdale. “The Slippery Slope (Hangman’s Rope)” picks up the pace in a much more pleasing fashion, with Beyrodt’s guitaring once again a pleasing facet. “Devil You Can Drive”, “The Optimist”, “Man of the 80’s” all settle in the middle ground. “Blackbirds” completes the album, and is dominated by the firing guitar of Beyrodt which keeps the song going with interest with his fast paced and single shot solo pieces punctuating the song throughout.

What is for me the most interesting part of this album is the fact that my favourite parts are actually the fantastic musicianship of the band. When Alex Beyrodt lets fly on that guitar, as he does in competition with himself in the opening track and at other moments throughout, and combined with the great rhythm of the bass and drums, this album really cooks. And that none of that has anything to do with Jorn’s vocals is as positive a moment as I can garner from this album. It’s not all peaches and ice cream, but most people will find enough here to like, be it vocally or musically or a combination of the two.

Rating:  “And I remember the day that Elvis passed away”.  3.5/5

Champions Trophy Match 14: 2nd Semi Final: India vs Bangladesh

Champions Trophy Match 14: 2nd Semi Final: India vs Bangladesh: Scorecard

Of all of the 13 matches that had preceded this one for the shortened tournament, this result was perhaps the most predictable and predicted of all. Not for any outward difference in the quality or experience of the two teams, though that obviously existed, but because of the surprising outcome of recent matches played in the tournament there had to come a time when the favourite would come to the fore and exude their presence. For India, that day was today.

There has been an interesting symmetry in the recent matches of the team that has been asked to bat first. Each has been in a strong if not dominant position halfway through the innings, only to collapse and leave themselves short of a winning total. England was 2/128 off 28 overs. Sri Lanka was 3/161 off 31 overs. South Africa was 1/116 off 24 overs. Australia was 1/130 off 22 overs. And today Bangladesh had cruised up to 2/154 in the 28th over with very few problems, and as long as they managed their middle order better than those other teams mentioned they were looking at 300 being a possible total, something to bowl at with the pressure of chasing in a semi-final. And then Tamim played at a wild slog at a slower straight ball from the off spinner Jadhav and was bowled, and the whole innings fell into a mess just like those other teams. Mushfiqur and Shakib tried to rebuild but both fell within two runs of each other, and despite the best efforts of the tail, Bangladesh could only get to 7/264 off their fifty overs. It never looked to be enough.

India made sure of it, following on from the tactics of those teams batting second in those same recent matches that have been mentioned. They flew at the target, with Dhawan the only casualty after his 46 runs came off 34 balls. Sharma finally got going for a big score, finishing 123 not out of 129 balls while captain Kohli settled for 96 not out off 78 deliveries. India passed the required target with nine wickets in hand and ten overs still to bat. It was a crushing and convincing victory.

Bangladesh will return home happy for their continued improvement on the world stage, despite only one win in the tournament. India will now meet Pakistan once again, and after their big win in their first meeting two weeks ago will believe that they destined to retain the trophy they won four years ago.

Thought For the Day

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Thought For the Day

So. Is there any chance of Sam leaping in to Donald Trump and trying to right the wrongs caused?

Champions Trophy Match 13: 1st Semi Final: England vs Pakistan

Champions Trophy Match 13: 1st Semi Final: England vs Pakistan: Scorecard

After all of the hullabaloo after their victory over Australia on Saturday, after all of the former captains that crowd the commentary boxes and airwaves had lauded their team and hailed the coming of the New England in ODI cricket; with the home advantage and the luck running firmly in their favour, the England team still found a way to cock it up and fall convincingly and embarrassingly to the unpredictable Pakistan team in their semi-final overnight. And there are few more enjoyable sights in world cricket than the England team imploding.

It didn’t auger well for Pakistan early. Jonny Bairstow had replaced Jason Roy at the top of the order, and second ball was plumb LBW to Junaid but was given not out by umpire Erasmus. The review was called for, and only an umpire’s call on the ball hitting the stumps saved Bairstow, and also cost Pakistan their only review, with 48.4 overs to go. Then Hales was palpably LBW to the debutant Raees, only for the decision to be overturned on review. Bairstow was then dropped to a hot chance at mid-wicket, and another hot chance to slip that almost rebounded to gully. His 43 off 57 when he finally holed out to deep mid-wicket needed to be a lot more beneficial to his side. At 2/128 in the 28th over it became a familiar tale in recent times. Root cut a long hop from the leg spinner Shadap into the keepers gloves, Morgan threw his wicket away charging down the wicket ala David Warner, and the rest of the batting crumbled under the sustained pressure of a bowling attack without Mohammed Amir through injury. The lauded Ben Stokes could only manage 34 from 64 as England was bowled out for 211. Highlighting the effort from Pakistan was some excellent fielding in a complete reversal from their opening match against India.

The game never appeared in doubt once Fakhar Zaman started his usual blaze at the top of the order, and when he was dismissed for 57 off 58 balls Pakistan was already 1/118 off 21 overs. The throttle was never released, even when Azhar Ali finally fell for 76. Babar Azam and Mohammed Hafeez finished the job in style, and Pakistan won by 8 wickets with almost 13 overs to spare in a crushing victory.

Pakistan move to Sunday’s final, ranked 8th in the ODI rankings before this tournament and only scraping into the tournament in front of the West Indies. The relative short sprint of the tournament does allow for such anomalies to occur. However, just like South Africa’s continued obliteration in ICC tournaments, England’s fall once again means that, at least for part of the cricketing landscape, nothing much has changed.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

995. Edguy / Vain Glory Opera. 1998. 3.5/5

After the official/unofficial debut of Savage Poetry and the starting promise of Kingdom of Madness, there is a lot to like about Edguy’s follow up, Vain Glory Opera. The songs are tighter and better recorded, especially the drums which kick along stylishly with session drummer Frank Lindenthal putting in a terrific performance, the production is leaps and bounds ahead of their previous album, and it feels as though the band has found its purpose and drive. For the most part anyway, because as with all power metal releases there will often be the odd quirk which holds it back from being perfect.

There are no qualms about the opening stanza of the album. “Overture” jumps into “Until We Rise Again” which immediately gives you the sense of the updated Edguy product. Along with the following song “How Many Miles”, the pace of the songs are more upbeat that the general tempo of the previous album, Tobi’s vocals are not only of a better quality but are better focused along with the doubling to give them a choir effect. The drumming is miles more impressive, and the fact that the guitars are now turned up in the mix and are also more effective and involved in the songs makes this a whole new chapter and an immediately more enjoyable one.
It’s not all sunshine and roses though. Edguy will forever be a slave to the genre that they are a part of, and as such they do have a tendency towards producing those terrible stains upon the power metal genre, the power ballad. There are two here on Vain Glory Opera, and both are as unbearable as the other. Certainly they are better constructed and produced than “When a Hero Cries” from the previous album, but it will rarely ever be seen by me as a way to enhance an album. “Scarlet Rose” pops into the mix after the opening three tracks, all of which have done an excellent job to getting the album to this point, and I’m afraid all of the momentum is halted at this point because of it. Once again, it isn’t a terrible song, and the band sounds great, but it is a disappointment. “Tomorrow” however does exactly the same thing, killing off the mood of the album in the second half. It sounds like it wants to be like Whitesnake’s “Here I Go Again” without every getting out of that first gear. My abhorrence of power ballads is well known to those that read my reviews, and the number of albums they have killed is innumerable. This is all keyboard and no guitar and basically no drums. If you want to do these kinds of songs, for goodness sakes do them as B-sides to singles. This is just awful.
The saving grace for “Scarlet Rose” is that it is followed up by the wonderful “Out of Control”. I do think I would enjoy this song without its special guest, as Tobi and the backing vocals sound great and the band really nail down their contribution, with hard hitting double kick drums and great guitar solos by both Jens Ludwig and Dirk Sauer. But what makes this song even better are the guest vocals within from Blind Guardian’s Hansi Kürsch. His energetic and magnificent contribution lifts this song from very good to great. I think this is the first ‘great’ Edguy song. It is lifted again when what is probably the second ‘great’ Edguy song follows it, the title track “Vain Glory Opera”. I guess it sounds a bit “The Final Countdown”-ish in the middle where the pomping keyboards take centre stage and the choiring vocals through the middle of the song, but again the guitar solo section is terrific, along with a contributing guitar solo from Stratovarius’ Timo Tolkki and the contributing vocals again from Hansi Kürsch. This is then followed by the fastest song on the album “Fairytale” which is a welcome addition to these three songs that are the star attraction of the middle of the album. This is the section where you can hear that Edguy have got themselves together and have found their mojo. Great harmony guitars, Tobi’s vocals are beginning to find that air that they needed and the rhythm of the bass and double kick drums that are driving the songs, and not just keeping everyone in time.
After this enjoyable interlude, the mood is dialled back a tad with “Walk on Fighting” which is only an average song in most aspects, before it segues into the aforementioned ballad tripe of “Tomorrow”. This again segues into the infinitely better “No More Foolin’” which returns the album to the fast paced drum and guitar driven antics where Edguy are at their best. This mirrors the best aspects of a band like Accept or Motorhead, with lyrics built to chant along to either at home or in concert. Seriously – why isn’t the album full of songs like this? Is it just me, or would Edguy’s reputation be immensely better regarded if they stuck this frame of the metal industry and withdrew from the power ballad side? Just to emphasise this, to finish the album the band does a rousing cover rendition of Ultravox’s “Hymn” which closes out this opus in style.

This is a 66% album for me. “Scarlet Rose”, “Tomorrow” and even “Walk on Fighting” are in a different league compared to the rest of the album. If you take those songs out it makes it a 38 minute album instead of a 51 minute album. Short, yes, but for me this would be a 4/5 or 4.5/5 album in that instance. Keeping them in does drop the overall rating of the album, and while it is in my opinion still above average it is disappointing that I cannot give it a better rank overall because of the misnomer of three songs.

Rating:  "Help me to gain the crown, here is my fate”.  3.5/5

Thought For the Day

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Thought For the Day

Champions Trophy Match 12: Pakistan vs Sri Lanka

Champions Trophy Match 12: Pakistan vs Sri Lanka: Scorecard

The virtual knock out format of this Champions Trophy, which also had the rain having a major bearing on the direction of the results, means that you will always have at least a couple of underwhelming matches within the framework of the tournament. The fact that one of them resulted directly in the winning team qualifying for the semi-finals despite their unconvincing play is the unfortunate downside of this, and though Pakistan may well show they are worthy semi-finalists in a few days’ time, it didn’t resolve the feeling that it could all have been done better.

Sri Lanka’s batting had overhauled India’s massive total the other day, but they never looked likely to cause the same ructions again today. Apart from Dickwalla’s 73 at the top of the order the rest of the batting line up struggled to get the Pakistan pace attack away. Still, at 3/161 off 31 overs with Dickwalla and Mathews at the crease they looked as though they could push towards 300 if they didn’t lose wickets. Sarfraz intelligently brought back Amir and Junaid, and the result was four wickets for six runs in 23 deliveries that changed the course of the innings. Lakmal and Gunaratne managed to cobble enough together to conclude the innings at 236, but it had been a struggle all the way through, and one could only imagine Pakistan could cruise to victory. Perhaps thy thought that themselves.

Pakistan raced to 0/74 off 11 overs, obviously in a hurry to cut down their deficit. From here though, Pakistan rode their luck, and through losing wickets on a regular basis kept finding themselves with new batsmen at the crease. There was little care shown through this though, and when Fahim Ashraf was run out (poorly) Pakistan was 7/162, still needing 75 runs to win. Skipper Sarfarz was joined by the cussed Mohammed Amir, and together they propelled themselves onwards. Sri Lanka, though in the ascendancy, then dropped two sitter off Sarfraz that would in all likelihood have sealed the match for them. Those reprieves were costly though. Amir nicked and nudged, Sarfraz blocked and swung by numbers, and somehow with the rabble that Sri Lanka had become in the field, the Pakistanis managed to get to the finishing line with more than five overs in hand and without losing a further wicket.

Was it inexperience? Was it nerves? Was it the mercurial nature of Pakistan cricket rising as it does on occasion? Certainly Sri Lanka has only itself to blame. The loss of those four middle order wickets for 6 runs, and the four dropped catches throughout the Pakistan innings, meant that they handed enough opportunity to their opponents for them to sneak away with victory. They will be crushed, while Pakistan will go into a semi-final as the lowest ranked ODI team in the tournament knowing they will have to do everything right if they are to defeat England on Wednesday.

Monday, June 12, 2017

994. Edguy / Kingdom of Madness. 1997. 3/5

I came into Edguy on the Mandrake album about 15 years ago, and it was that album and Hellfire Club that made me a fan of the band. So when it came to going backwards to discover the earlier albums there is always that doubt in the back of your mind, wondering if anything could be as good as the albums are where you actually discovered the band. Such is the case here for me with Kingdom of Madness, which depending on your view of the situation is either the official debut of the band or ranks second behind the original release of Savage Poetry. In any case, it is an undeveloped sound compared to the two albums I knew so well.

More than anything else, it is the song structure here that still has unsanded edges on them. The basics all sound good, but there is a definite difference in the maturity of the song writing and the structure of the songs as they are played. Perhaps what it is mostly is that the band itself seems unassured of its own place in the music world. The drums, while technically proficient throughout with that typical power metal double kick, are nonetheless for the most part just a timekeeping device rather than coming into their own. They are also very forward in the mix, much more so than the guitars, which is a little disconcerting. The fact that the guitars of Jens Ludwig and Dirk Sauer are not as prominent as they could be isn’t a huge factor but it does seem unusual given the history of power metal bands and what drives them to fans. It mightn’t have been such an issue for me if the drums had been more technical, but they aren’t. Even Tobi’s keyboards often seem higher in the mix that the two guitarists.
I get the feeling that these issues help to make the songs sound more simplistic and stagnant than they really are. The opening salvo of “Paradise”, “Wings of a Dream” and “Heart of Twilight” all have their moments, without any particular part of them jumping out at you and grabbing your undivided love of the track. Perhaps it was that there were other bands out there doing these kinds of songs better, with more emotive impact both musically and vocally that Edguy do here. You can decipher the bones of the songs and see and hear what they perhaps could have been, but they just don’t reach those lofty heights. They are good solid power metal songs that don’t get beyond that. The instrumental “Dark Symphony” seems a strange implement here to move into “Deadmaker”, which then changes tempo between the vocals and solo section in a combination that startles until you can get used to it. This is followed by “Angel Rebellion” which after a slow start picks up by the end to a satisfying conclusion.
“When a Hero Cries” is what makes power metal so difficult to completely embrace as a genre. The power ballad is a great stink on the face of metal, and this truly is one of the worst examples of such a song. Just keyboard with silent mournful vocals over the top. For goodness sakes, there is a place for this kind of garbage, and it isn’t on an album from a band that is purporting to make its way in the metal industry. It completely bombs out the momentum of the album, and truly makes you question why you decided to pick up and listen to this album in the first place. It is an abomination, a terrible piece of music that does not befit this or any release.
The closing track is the perhaps the first instalment of Tobi’s grandiose vision for the future, with “The Kingdom” stretching out beyond eighteen minutes in length. It does however have an unusual structure, with the laughing statement that breaks up the middle of the song. It then fades in and out of style, with the quiet reflection session coming out of a faster paced double kick pattern. Tobi is looking for the epic finale, the one that the punters will love and remember, similar to Helloween’s “Keeper of the Seven Keys” or Iron Maiden’s “Rime of the Ancient Mariner”. It doesn’t approach either of those songs, but you can sense it is the direction he wished to head for.

Kingdom of Madness is still a good listen, with enough of the familiar sounds to make it worth your while. I tried to work out if I would enjoy this album more if I had come into Edguy at the beginning, and moved through their discography from the start rather than coming in at album number five and discovering them in reverse. My feeling is that yes, that would be the case. Despite that, for those that are power metal fans of this era, this is an album worth enjoying.

Rating:  “In the silence there’s a fear”.  3/5

Champions Trophy Match 11: India vs South Africa

Champions Trophy Match 11: India vs South Africa: Scorecard

You can only imagine that there will come a day when South Africa will defy everything from the past 25 years, and escape the hoodoo that hangs over them in major world cricket tournaments. Yes, they own the first Champions Trophy in Bangladesh in 1998 which was a straight knock out, but even they won’t accept that as a major trophy victory. And their ability to fade magnificently when tournaments are on the line has become legend. Well, write up this year’s edition as another spectacular fade out.

Having been sent in to bat, South Africa had made steady progress to be 1/116 off 24 overs. Surely with the two at the crease, and with de Villers, Miller, Duminy and Morris to come, 280 looked to be a minimum score to come, and of course if they got going 320 wasn’t beyond possible. But the wheels fell off again, and in a big way. Two massive and ridiculous run outs taking out both de Villiers and Miller were exacerbated by poor shots from de Kock and du Plessis to both be bowled meant that they had lost 4/41 in nine overs, and transformed the innings from attack into survival. And survival seemed impossible, such that while Duminy batted out the innings for 20 runs from 41 deliveries, he saw the rest of his team bundled out at the other end for a paltry 191 with almost six overs remaining to be faced. Losing 9/75 it was a collapse of unprecedented proportions for a batting line up that was suggested to be the best in the world.

India’s reply was clinical. The run rate was rampant, moving at a rate that you would expect them to go at if they had been chasing that mythological 320. Losing only two wickets in the chasing, knocking off the required runs with 12 overs remaining, it really was a clinic in how to chase down a mid-sized total. Dhawan and Kohli again played methodically, and South Africa’s vaunted bowling line up had no answers. It was as massive a defeat as two similarly rated teams could manage.

Unless India is to suffer another brain fade as they did against Sri Lanka then you would think defeating Bangladesh in their semi-final this week is a formality, leaving them in the box seat to defend their title.

Thought For the Day

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Champions Trophy Match 10: England vs Australia

Champions Trophy Match 10: England vs Australia: Scorecard

Whether excuses are looked for or not, or are used or not, England’s defeat of Australia in their one-off ODI as a part of the Champions Trophy has already been overdramatised by the English as a prelude to the coming Ashes battle in Australia this southern summer. The fact that England won handsomely on the back of the fast bowling of Wood and the leg spin of Rashid, and the power and timing of Morgan and Stokes is testament to their changing fortunes in the shorter form of the game and very little to do with what may happen in six months’ time. For now though, the English are ecstatic and adamant they are in the driver’s seat.

Australia had their chances to improve their standing in the match, and failed to do so whether it was from a lack of match activity or just poor shot selection. At 1/130 off 22 overs there seemed little to stop Australia from posting 300 as a total to chase. What followed was three shots of poor selection from Finch, Henriques and Smith, all when set and appearing in little trouble. Forced to rebuild rather than accelerate, the middle order was static, with Maxwell (20 off 31) and then Wade failing to live up to their so-called reputations as ‘finishers’ and instead falling meekly. Left with the tail, Travis Head finished on 71 not out off 64 balls, but probably left another dozen runs out there when declining long singles and possible twos at the finish. 9/277 off 50 overs didn’t look enough in the conditions, and was a disappointment after the start.

Starc and Hazlewood did what they do best, crashing through the English top order to have them 3/36 after 6 overs, when the rain came and halted their momentum. It proved to be crucial, as Morgan and Stokes combined for a partnership of 159 in 26 overs that broke the back of the run chase. When the rain returned to wash out the remainder of the game, England found themselves 40 runs in front on the Duckworth Lewis method and winners by a large margin.

For all of the excitement that the English have taken from this victory, they had everything in their favour. They have played ODI cricket in the lead up to the tournament on their home soil and are well prepared heading into the semi-finals. A loss for them would have been heartbreaking. While Australia will be disappointed with their finish and how they played, the rain cruelled their chances – had both matches that were washed out been played to their conclusion, Australia would have made the semi-finals on run rate. Such is the way of shortened tournaments.

Thought For the Day

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Champions Trophy Match 9: Bangladesh vs New Zealand

Champions Trophy Match 9: Bangladesh vs New Zealand: Scorecard

It's the kind of position that you would think "only Michael Bevan could win this match from here". 4/33, chasing 266 to win. Really, the match is over. But once again, the flat decks on which these matches are being played have come to the rescue, and once again the side batting second has chased down what should have been an insurmountable total through good cricket yes, but also through the lack of help for the bowlers with ball or pitch conditions.

New Zealand made much the same mistakes of the teams batting first in the past two matches. They were unable to accelerate in the middle overs when they had the opportunity to do so. Excellent bowling in the middle overs from Shakib and Taskin and Mashrafe tied up the pair of Williamson and Taylor, and led directly to the run out of the former simply because they were unable to break free from the web they were weaving. His loss, and consistent wickets in the later overs thanks to a spell of 3/13 from Mosaddek meant that the Black Caps were completely shut down, and their final total of 8/265 was a great deal less than they would have expected to achieve, and in the modern game no matter who you are playing it is a tough total to defend.

Tim Southee came to the rescue, taking three wickets with his first 16 deliveries, and when Milne bowled Mushfiqur with the total at 4/33 in the 12th over, it should really have been no drama to complete an easy victory and put themselves in the A1 position for a semi-final place. But the ball stopped moving, the pitch gave no help at all to fast or spin bowlers, and once Southee, Boult and Milne were away from the bowling crease Shakib and Mahmudullah simply did as they pleased. Neesham and Anderson were passengers, and the Bangladeshi batsmen kept within a winnable run rate throughout. Towards the end of the innings they took their chances, especially Shakib, who brought up his century with a six to the joy of the strong Bangladesh crowd. His dismissal only left Mahmudullah to try and bring up his own century and the victory in one shot, by which he failed by only a metre to do. With 16 balls and five wickets in hand, Bangladesh had brought up perhaps their most famous victory.

New Zealand leave the tournament wondering where they are headed, having had the better of Australia and then been well schooled by both England and Bangladesh. The winners could now be unexpected semi finalists if England defeat Australia in tomorrow's match, despite having been well beaten in their first match and saved from oblivion against Australia by rain. Such is the fate of short tournaments where outside influences come in to play.