Monday, December 31, 2007

Best Album Tracks Ever

Round this time of year, you do often find yourself in the mood for lists. Earlier today, I was listening to one of my favourite albums, Dog Man Star and mused over how many great tracks there were on the album that never made the light of day as singles. And naturally that leads on to "So what are the best album tracks ever?". The definition being any tracks that have never been released as singles and only 1 per artist. In addition, choices that will annoy Stuart have been specially selected. I imagine there are countless versions of my list, but today, this is the list I came up with. As they say on the X-Factor, in no particular order:

Suede - Dog Man Star - Asphalt World
Well, listening to this gave me the idea, so best place to start. I can never quite put my finger on why I love this song so much, but I just do. Listen to it in the dark, its sublime. There are other notable album tracks on Dog Man Star but this is my fave.

The Beatles - Rubber Soul - In My Life
I've never really taken part in the Lennon Vs McCartney debate but this song shows that when John was on top form he could produce songs that Paul could never get near. In My Life is one of these, 2 mins 24 seconds of genius.

The Smiths - Meat Is Murder - What She Said
Like The Beatles, Bowie and a few others, you could spend a long time just listing great Smiths' songs that were never singles. Therefore, its quite hard to choose one but What She Said is where Marr's guitar meets Morrissey's words come together at their very best. There is only one rule. Play it loud.

New Order - Low Life - Sunrise
Probably not a popular choice, but these lists will invariably get infected by personal nostalgia. Sunrise was one of those songs that got played endlessly when I was 15/16. And, like so many other New Order songs, is generally better when Barney isn't singing. Check out the vid, a classic New Order live performance. If you've seen them live you'll know what I mean. Also, look out for some top quality moshing. Its a shame I never did make it to the Hacienda.

Arctic Monkeys - Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not - View From The Afternoon
Another thing that often blights lists like these is their somewhat contemporary nature. Check out any Q Top 100 to see what I mean. So, this makes it on the list as I've been listening to it a lot recently. It was a close run thing between this and Fake Tales of San Francisco, but as that doesn't really get good until 2 minutes in, this had to win. But if you haven't heard Fake Tales, check out the end, wig-out-tastic.

PJ Harvey - Bring You My Love - Long Snake Moan
Any great artist who is not a prolific singles releaser will always cause a problem with this list. Polly is one of these. Again, its not easy to pick one. Obviously, I could have gone for Kamikaze to keep Stuart happy, but I've always loved Long Snake Moan, its just cries out to be played at full bung, maybe even 12. I VERY nearly went for Rid of Me, watch the vid, you'll see why. Actually, I've just watched the live performance again, can I change my mind?

Portishead - Dummy - Roads
The live version of this could have been one of the best moments in music ever if it hadn't been for some dumb Americans not knowing where the end of the song was (watch the video, you'll see what I mean). Still unbelievably good nonetheless. Another one for a dark room.

Joy Division - Unknown Pleasures - New Dawn Fades
This should be a joint thing with "Day of the Lords" but New Dawn Fades swings it because of the lyrics. Cut to me standing in a bedroom with an unamplified electric giutar playing along with some quiet gusto.

Oasis - Definitely Maybe - Slide Away
Obviously, I was close to choosing Rock 'N' Roll Star but I've always a had soft spot for Slide Away. I think it was once claimed to be Paul McCartney's favourite Oasis song.

Radiohead - OK Computer - Exit Music (for a film)
Radiohead (and similarly Muse) are quite a tricky proposition when it comes to a list like this. They seem to have had a knack of releasing the best songs as singles. You can kind of understand why this wasn't a single but the loss to the charts is this list's gain. The bass kicking in still gives me goose bumps.

Thomas Dolby - The Flat Earth - Screen Kiss
So obscure its not on YouTube, so great it should be. Fab lyrics.

David Bowie - Aladdin Sane - Cracked Actor
Its very difficult to deal with Bowie in this list. There is a lot to choose from and a lot of things that have been released as a single in one way or another. I could probably list 10 without pausing but you have to choose one and before you go thinking that I'm all a bit melancholy and naval gazing, this will bump it up a notch. I love this song (with apologies to all the great tracks on Hunky Dory).

The Fall - Live At The Witch Trials - Frightened
No explanation required. Can't find a video, so instead here's Mark in fine form at the Von Sudenfed gig I was at.

Jesus and Mary Chain - Psychocandy - Taste The Floor
It was a straight fight between this and "In a Hole" and this won because it was on "the tape" and it didn't kill my fingers on an acoustic guitar like "In a Hole" did. This one was easier too.

The Sundays - Reading, Writing and Arithmetic - My Finest Hour
Come back Harriet, come to my house for tea. Another cracking chorus from one of the great, forgotten voices. Why "Can't Be Sure" was picked before this as a single escapes me.

The The - Infected - The Mercy Beat
Matt Johnson before the Hank Williams fixation. Another great builder. Video ain't bad either, if you like that 80's kinda thing.

That Petrol Emotion - Manic Pop Thrill - Tightlipped
OK, so you were wondering when I would have a That Petrol Emotion song. Obviously, hugely tempted by Creeping to the Cross, but that's what you were expecting. So I've gone for Tightlipped, always loved the chorus. Ask me tomorrow, I will have changed my mind. Sadly, can't find a video for this, so have Genius Move instead and then listen to me killing it (if you dare).

Turin Brakes - The Optimist - State of Things
This is a little bit of a cheat as I think it was maybe an E.P. but what the hell, who's going to disqualify me? Can't find a video, so have Long Distance instead, candidate for the "Best Chorus Ever" award, but it was a single so can't be listed here.

Andy White - Rave On - Things Start To Unwind
So good I've got the title on a T-Shirt. Half nostalgia, half coz its great. I love songs that build up steadily (none better than this). Can't find a vid so here's Andy proving he's seen some Bob Dylan.

Blur - Blur - You're So Great
OK, so its really a Graham Coxon song but a hidden gem nonetheless, quite Bowie-esque. Tricky choice as there were a good few candidates but this won out over tracks like Best Days and This Is A Low.

Belle and Sebastian - Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like A Peasant - Don't Leave The Light On Baby
Not the greatest quality, but listen anyway, fantastic, should have been a single, best song by a Scottish band for many, many years.

Fun Boy Three - Waiting - The More I See The Less I Believe
So good I wrote an essay about it at school. Terry, if you're out there, you're a hero.

Travis - The Man Who - Slide Show
Bet you didn't see that one coming? Forget all the light and breezy singles, this is the best song on the album. And its dead easy to play on the guitar too, which helps.

B. 52's - Good Stuff - Deadbeat Club
Again, another nostalgia trip I'm afraid. It was 1990, it was sunny and I was a studying to this album. This track shows that they could be a very good, straightforward pop act. When Fred shut up. Probably doesn't deserve to be on the same list as some of these other tracks but hey, its my list.

Claude Debussy - Clair de Lune
OK, this is definitely a cheat but, strictly speaking, it wasn't released a single. Speaks for itself.

So, there you have it. I have to say, I've had immense fun putting this together, far more than you'll ever get from reading it. It has taken hours as I watched all the videos and many more besides. Hope you watch a few, they are all fab.

Happy New Year!



Sunday, December 30, 2007

This year I are mostly going to...

I'm not one for New Year resolutions. I have always contended that if you want to do something, just do it. Don't wait for an arbitrary point in time start. (Same goes for the "I'll start my diet next week" crowd).

So, instead of resolutions, I thought I list some things I would like to achieve in 2008 and see how I do against that list this time next year. Here goes:

1 Great Photograph
I'm giving myself a whole year to take 1 great photograph. That's all I want. Just one. Bearing in mind that, despite already having taken 1000's of photographs already, I still haven't managed one.

100 Sales
I'd like to sell 100 copies of The Beatle Man. I've no idea if this is a realistic target or not. I suspect it depends on whether or not I have 100 friends or family with more disposable income than sense. To help me along, I'm counting the 4 I've sold already. 96 to go.

1 Draft
I'd like 2008 to be the year I did the 1st draft of Terra Exitus. I don't think I can get anywhere near finishing it in a year, but hopefully I can get most of it down.

1 New Job
As with the last few years, I enter the New Year unsure of where I will be working in a year's time. I think its more likely this year that I'll be doing something different in 12 months time. Over-inflated offers on a postcard...

No Alarms
1997 was a very tough year for me. When I entered 1998 I used the line "No Alarms and no surprises please" as a motto. 10 years on, I see no need to change that. The main thing from this year is that we are all fine and dandy and ready to laugh at my failures on the preceeding points. Hopefully they'll sing it live in June.



Golden Years Indeed

It is said that time adds a rosy hue to most things. And the urge to be and feel young again drives a seemingly unquenchable thirst for nostalgia and unending mutterings of how "things were better then".

There is one area of such nostalgia for people* of my vintage that seems to have me in a very tight grip. The sights, sound and memories associated with our first computers. I have touched on the wonder of this in a previous post and I revisited it briefly here after a magical find.

Stuart and I have a yearly quest to find Christmas presents for each other that only 30-odd years of history can find. This year I discovered a great book, The ZX Spectrum Book - 1982 to 199x. This ticks all the necessary 3 R's:

  • rare (only 1000 copies produced, so hurry! )
  • retro
  • reminiscing

The days of the Spectrum were when it all really started to look good. Sure, the ZX81 was special, but I think even we knew then that it was maybe a wee bit pants. The Spectrum was altogether different, colour, sound and the birth of the game that had some sense of size and expanse.

You can easily find many sources online to fuel your nostalgia for this, but this book is a must for all such starry-eyed gazers into the past as it is not simply a trotting out of the available resources in print form, you can tell it has been produced with genuine affection. Great design, layout and attention to detail. If you loved the ZX Spectrum, you really need to get this book, it even looks like a Spectrum so you can hand it to your kids and say "never mind the Wii, this is a games machine, just imagine it with rubber buttons".
So, with this one simple book I appear to have won this year's Xmas present battle, although, with one much-trailed present from Stuart still to come, he could still snatch it, but he is already admitting defeat.

The best news of all is that the equivalent book about the Commodore 64 is about to come out and Stuart is going to buy me one for my birthday. If the ZX Spectrum was great, then the C64 was, well...if you know, you know...

* I say people, I really mean boys.



Monday, December 17, 2007

Meanwhile on another flower...

Oh look shiny toys! I briefly wandered off the "getting the book publishing done" to spend a few fun days finally getting something together for, the long since abandoned photography only site.

I got up early one Sunday morning and just built a very basic layout with much of the CSS I had already. It worked OK, I much prefer it to the fishy design I had been trying out. The photo gallery sofware makes it quite easy and hopefully fairly minimal maintenance.

Thanks to MorgueFile and FlashRelief it is already getting towards 100 hits a day, which isn't too bad.

In other photo news, didn't have as much success with this year's Everyman competition. It's easy to see why, some stunning entries this year, well worth a look.

And finally Esther, managed to shoot some shots for an attempt at HDR Tone Mapping. The results are below. Tone mapping was done with Dynamic Photo HDR, which seems to work pretty well. I don't blame it for the average results, a combination of my ability and the fickel Scottish weather are more culpable. This is a combination of 3 shots at f8, shot at -2.0eV, 0, +2.0eV. Black and white conversion was done using the Gorman-Holbert method.

While I'm here, just like to say a howdy and get well soon to my very good and much loved friend MorFF. Look forward to you getting well very soon.



Introducing The Band

After almost interminable provarication, I finally decided on my publishing name, so, gentle reader, I give you "Closed Loop Publishing" (Yes, I have got a degree in Electronics, very rarely referenced and almost entirely forgotten.)

Now I have to prepare the book for publication. Good news is that review is flooded in. A creditable "enjoyable romp" from McGenius. I'll settle for that. I was never trying to redefine the world/genre/anything else. That was the plan way back when when I started, getting away from the navel gazing of Orion's Belt and have a bit of fun.

Thanks to Bri, I also have the spectre of sorting more typos and, as my reader will understand, that's not my favourite past time so, as a result, further progress has been, well...

Still, I have the Xmas hols to give me some time, so maybe then. I can tell you are all getting terribly frustrated with the wait .



Wednesday, December 05, 2007

I Have In My Hand...

No, not that. I finally got the proof copy of my book and, I have to say, I am pleasantly surprised. I pretty much got the formatting right, a few small things to tweak, which I will do in the revision before it goes to distribution.

Not got the distribution underway yet. Hopefully get the form in tonight. I've been a busy butterfly on something else. Of which, more later.