Randy Holden – Population II Album Review

Randy Holden – Population II

Riding Easy Records

Release date: 28/02/2020

Running time: 32 mins

Review by: Alun Jones

8.5/10

 

First of all, an important note for all readers: Randy Holden is NOT the name of a winning hand in strip poker.  I used the phrase at a recent gathering at my Rock’n’Roll Naturist Society club, and nearly got a bunch of fives from Ozzy as a thank you.  Tommy Lee was up for it though, as you can probably imagine.

Anyway, Randy Holden is actually a guitar pioneer who served some time with proto-metal giants Blue Cheer, before splitting to take the helm of his own project.  Population II was the result – a far ahead of it’s time Big Bang of doom and sludge metal.

Originally receiving a limited release in 1969, this album has earned cult status with afficionados of early heavy rock.  And it’s no surprise why; “Population II” is a huge sounding, riff driven behemoth that sounds like it simply can’t have been created in that time period.

But it was.  The era that popular culture tells us was the age of peace and love also birthed this unholy slab of heavy noise.  Randy Holden, like his previous bandmates in Blue Cheer, was happily stomping all over flower power.

Of course, “Population II” is totally over the top.  “Guitar Song” is the first track, featuring the somewhat unimaginative opening line “I love the sound of a guitar playing” – so no marks for lyrical finesse.  If you’re after poetry, this probably ain’t for you.  Instead it’s six minutes of slow, heavy driving riff-based rock that sets the tone for the album.

 “Fruit Icebergs” is an outstanding name for any song; in fact, I might steal it for a band name.  Slow like cooling lava, with a doom-laden melancholic sound –  It’s dark in a Sabbath way.  Whereas the shorter “Between Time” picks up the pace a little and borrows a chorus from “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”.

“Blue My Mind” is less gloomy, but certainly taps into the blues with a hint of Hendrix.  The final song, “Keeper of my Flame” is over 10 minutes of pulsating, repetitive riff wrestling that doesn’t out stay it’s welcome.  Ol’ Randy stretches for the epic here and pretty much nails it, strangling that guitar and taking the listener on a heroic journey.

Yet another history lesson for which we can thank the scholars at Riding Easy Records, Randy Holden’s “Population II” is back in circulation and worth taking time to investigate.  You’ll wonder how this was lost for so long.

Visit Riding Easy records on the interweb here.

Or on Bandcamp, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or Instagram.

Don’t forget to visit Ever Metal – where this review first appeared  for all your rock and metal news.

Singles Night at the Virtual Hot Tub #16

Time to relax and enjoy more of the joys of vinyl!  Yes, it’s another Singles Night at the Virtual Hot Tub, where I spend an evening playing through my stack of 7 inch records.  No skipping, no choosing anything out of order – just A then B side and make the most of it.

With the aid of some alcoholic beverages, of course!

In this edition, there’s another eclectic mix of songs from artists of various genres – including some absolute bangers.  Let’s go!

  1. Madness – “One Step Beyond” / “Mistakes”
  2. Bad Company – “Rock’n’Roll Fantasy” / ” Crazy Circles”
  3. Rick James – “Dance Wit Me (Part 1)” / “Dance Wit Me (Part 2)”
  4. INXS – “Taste It” / “Light the Planet”
  5. ZZ Top – “Legs” / “Bad Girl”
  6. Landscape – “Einstein A Go-Go” / “New Religion”
  7. Billy Idol – “Mony Mony” / “Shakin’ All Over (Live)”
  8. Fine Young Cannibals – “Johnny Come Home” / “Good Times and Bad”
  9. James Brown – “Living in America” / Vince DiCola – “Farewell”
  10. The Sweet – “Teenage Rampage” / “Own Up, Take a Look at Yourself”
  11. Sham 69 – “Hersham Boys” / “I Don’t Wanna” / “Tell us the Truth”
  12. Judas Priest – “Take On the World” / “Starbreaker”
  13. Stray Cats – “Rock This Town” / “You Can’t Hurry Love”
  14. Madam X – “High in High School” / “Metal in my Veins”
  15. Wings – “Live and Let Die” / “I Lie Around”
  16. The Beach Boys – “Do It Again” / “Wake the World”
  17. The Joan Collins Fan Club – “Leader of the Pack” / “Jacques”
  18. Elton John – “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting” / “Jack Rabbit” / “Whenever You’re Ready (We’ll Go Steady Again”
  19. Lee Marvin – “Wand’rin’ Star” / Clint Eastwood – “I Talk to the Trees”
  20. Suzi Quatro – “Can the Can” / “Ain’t You Somethin’ Honey”
  21. Serge Gainsbourg & Jane Birkin – “Je T’Aime… Moi Non Plus” / “Jane B.”
  22. Bee Gees – “Tragedy” / “Until”

And there you have it!  A great collection of tunes and a fun night.  My favourite Bond theme, plus a load of class artists including The Beach Boys, Elton John, Billy Idol, Bad Company, Madness, James Brown and more.

No idea who Madam X are, that was a 20p find and I bought it on the strength of the cover.  Turned out to be dodgy 80s metal, unsurprisingly.  It was quite good.

Bonus points to any reader who can tell me: who was the Joan Collins Fan Club?

Stay tuned for more Singles Nights soon – I’ve still got a heck of a lot of vinyl to play through…

NB: The Fine Young Cannibals track was inside an Alarm sleeve.  I thought I’d picked up “Spirit of ’76” for 20p in a charity shop, but no such luck: it was FYC instead.  Such are the perils I encounter.  On a happy note though, the FYC tune was a belter.

SK88: Old School Skateboard Playlist

Best years of my life? 15/16 years old, skateboarding all day and hanging around with my friends.  It was the late 1980s, and the days of the 180 Boneless, No Comply and learning to Ollie.  Back when kickflips were the raddest trick in the car park – except we called them “Ollie kickflips” back then.

This was also the time when I started to really veer off the obvious track as far as music was concerned.  Skate videos and Thrasher magazine began to open up a whole new world of music.  Sometimes these bands would enter the mainstream a couple of years later; sometimes they never did.

I remember hearing a great song on a Vision video.  I had no idea what the song was called, but worked out from the credits that it was most likely performed by the Descendents.  I recorded the song onto cassette off the TV as there was no other way to hear it.  A few months later, on a skate buying trip to Manchester, I stumbled across a record shop that stocked a few records by the band.  I had to buy one: taking a gamble on “All” as it featured a song called “Coolidge”, which fitted the lyrics of the track I loved.  I was so stoked when I got home, played the vinyl and heard the song I was hoping for!  Great album, all in all.

This practice of researching and hunting became a big feature of my relationship with music ever since.

Skating all day, then listening to music in the evening was a big part of my teenage years.  This playlist is designed to reflect those days: music I enjoyed back then and became the soundtrack to that time.

Some songs featured in skate videos (McRad, Odd Man Out).  Some were checked out after I saw them advertised or reviewed in Thrasher (The Cult, Misfits).  Others were just part of the current soundscape, and are forever linked with those halcyon days.

Here’s the playlist I made, split into a two CD format:

Part 1

  1. McRad – “Weakness”
  2. Odd Man Out – “Four Thirty One”
  3. Descendents – “Coolidge”
  4. Sex Pistols – “Holidays in the Sun”
  5. Devo – “That’s Good”
  6. Black Sabbath – “Paranoid”
  7. Motorhead – “Killed by Death”
  8. Faith No More – “We Care a Lot”
  9. Misfits – “Astro Zombies”
  10. Hard-Ons – “Don’t Wanna See You Cry”
  11. The Stupids – “Skid Row”
  12. Beastie Boys – “She’s On It”
  13. Circle Jerks – “Wild in the Streets”
  14. Spermbirds – “Something to Prove”
  15. Dead Kennedys – “California Uber Alles”
  16. Suicidal Tendencies – “Possessed to Skate”
  17. Generation X – “One Hundred Punks”

Part 2

  1. The Cult – “Wildflower”
  2. The Damned – “Love Song”
  3. Red Hot Chili Peppers – “Higher Ground”
  4. Fishbone – “Freddie’s Dead”
  5. Iggy Pop – “Cold Metal”
  6. GBH – “Too Much”
  7. Mudhoney – “Sweet Young Thing Ain’t Sweet No More”
  8. Ramones – “I Just Wanna Have Something To Do”
  9. The Stranglers – “Peaches”
  10. Bad Brains – “Soul Craft”
  11. Gang Green – “Church of Fun”
  12. Metallica – “The Thing That Should Not Be”
  13. Jimi Hendrix Experience – “Purple Haze”
  14. Rolling Stones – “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction
  15. Jesus Jones – “Never Enough”
  16. The Skids – “Into the Valley”
  17. Fugazi – “Blueprint”

Some of the above tracks I owned on vinyl or cassette back in the day; some I found in later years.  There are still plenty of other bands from skate videos that I either still haven’t tracked down, or as I didn’t own them at the time I’ve omitted for now.

Instead, this is a basic playlist to represent my late 80s skateboarding days, boiled down to the bare essentials.  I hope you enjoy and these bring back some memories.

And this sin’t an exhaustive list: how Anthrax and Run DMC didn’t get included is baffling.  Maybe I can expand with some more for a Part 2…

Brown Acid: the Ninth Trip – Album Review

Various Artists – Brown Acid: The Ninth Trip

Riding Easy Records

Release date: 31/10/2019

Running time: 36 mins

Review by: Alun Jones

7.5/10 

Archaeologists of rock from Riding Easy Records have once again delved into the depths of the forgotten to present this, the ninth instalment of their “Brown Acid” series.  They have unearthed yet more obscure gems from the past, in order to entertain and enlighten those obsessives who love to investigate the DNA of rock.

Call it heavy rock, proto metal, garage rock – whatever, these Brown Acid compilations offer a wealth of hard to find material.

The songs may be long lost relics, but they sure ain’t amateur.  In fact, it’s surprising how well they’ve cleaned up – and how well produced some of them were in the first place.  Take the first track, White Lightning’s “Prelude to Opus IV”, which is surprisingly grand and opulent.

I won’t play favourites, but Peacepipe’s “The Sun Won’t Shine Forever” has an almost Stooges like sound, filtered through Californian psychedelia.  Magi’s “Win or Lose” sounds like Grand Funk playing an MC5 song, while Stonewall’s “Outer Spaced” holds the most outrageous riff of the set, with perhaps a touch of Hendrix.

Elsewhere, the fantastically named Fibreglass Vegetables offer up a more laid back, groovy but still heavy song with “Pain”.  “Rebel Woman” by Erik (a simpler name, but that’s cool) is another superb rocker that demonstrates some real song writing and arranging talent.

Not as bluesy as Zeppelin or as heavy as Sabbath, the songs on offer are a fine example of rock’n’roll of the time.  It doesn’t take much to imagine the guys from Fu Manchu listening to these pre-stoner rock goodies, sat in their van waiting for the cry of “surf’s up”.

This 9th edition of the Brown Acid compilation offers retro quality, never kitsch or silly, with tons of infectious music.  It’s easy to wonder why some of these bands never became more famous.  At least Riding Easy have done the hard work for us, dusting off the artefacts and preserving them for all to enjoy.

Track list:

  1. White Lightning – “Prelude to Opus IV”
  2. Peacepipe – “The Sun Won’t Shine Forever”
  3. Magi – “Win or Lose”
  4. Fibreglass Vegetables – “Pain”
  5. Erik – “Rebel Woman”
  6. Stonewall – “Outer Spaced”
  7. Ice – “Running High”
  8. Spacerock – “Going Down the Road”
  9. Buckshot – “Barstar”
  10. 9 – “Paradiddle Blues”

Visit Riding Easy records on the interweb here, they also have a Bandcamp page.

You can also find them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

And don’t forget to check out Ever Metal, which is where this review originally appeared.

Singles Night at the Virtual Hot Tub #15

Hey folks!  How’s isolation going?  These are strange times indeed.  I hope all of you are safe and well.

I don’t know about you, but spinning wax is a great way to spend a long evening whilst in lockdown.  As regular readers will know, I often play through my stack of recently acquired 7 inch vinyl as a way to unwind.  With a few wee drinkie-poohs, of course.

What happens with Singles Night is this: I have a pile of records, all 7″ singles, that I haven’t played yet.  I play them all in order, A side then B side.  Then I list them here, in case anyone out there is as sad as me and thinks that lists like this are fascinating.

Here we go with the latest batch:

  1. Jane’s Addiction – “Been Caught Stealing” / “Had a Dad (Demo)”
  2. Boney M – “Ma Baker” / “Still I’m Sad”
  3. Madness – “The Return of the Las Palmas 7” / “That’s the Way to do it”
  4. Bon Jovi – “Livin’ on a Prayer” / “Wild in the Streets”
  5. Rainbow – “Since You Been Gone” / “Bad Girl”
  6. The Zombies – “She’s Not There” / “You Make Me Feel Good”
  7. Ace Frehley – “New York Groove” / “Snow Blind”
  8. Slade – “Mama Weer All Crazee Now” / “Man Who Speaks Evil”
  9. Pink Floyd – “Another Brick in the Wall Part II” / “One of My Turns”
  10. AC/DC – “Whole Lotta Rosie” / “Hell Ain’t a Bad Place to be”
  11. Toyah – “Be Proud Be Loud (Be Heard)” / “Laughing with the Fools”
  12. Thin Lizzy – “China Town (Live)” / “Got to Give it up (Live)”
  13. The Stranglers – “Thrown Away” / “Top Secret”
  14. U2 – “All I Want is You” / “Unchained Melody”
  15. Creedence Clearwater Revival – “Commotion” / “Green River”
  16. The Sweet – “Wig-Wam Bam” / “New York Connection”
  17. The Flying Lizards – “Money” / “Money B”
  18. The Beatles – “We Can Work it Out” / “Day Tripper”
  19. Generation X – “Your Generation” / “Day by Day”
  20. Ash – “Angel Interceptor” / “Eternal” / “Give Me Some Truth”
  21. Marc Bolan & T-Rex – “Teenage Dream” / “Satisfaction Pony”

Well that was one of the best – and rockingest – Singles Nights ever.  I doubt we’ll see that amount of awesome rock again in a hurry.  Don’t forget, readers – I don’t choose the songs to play, it’s just whatever’s next in the pile.

Jane’s Addiction are one of my favourite bands ever.  Plus there were classic tracks from Rainbow, AC/DC, Pink Floyd and Thin Lizzy.  My favourite U2 song and one of my favourite Beatles songs.  Some punk, some new wave, and a more recent tune from Ash.

A special mention to Slade’s “Mama Weer All Crazee Now”, which was UK Number 1 when I was born.

A great selection.  I’ll see you soon for another Singles Night!

Death Star Playset

On a recent Saturday afternoon, I spent some fantastic quality time with my nine year old daughter.  Together we enjoyed playing with Star Wars figures, in this case some of those from my vintage collection.

I also dug out my Death Star playset, and we set about playing scenes from the film.

Or at least I did, she was more interested in making her own stories up.  Why won’t anyone sensibly recreate the movie with me?  Ever?!  Ah well, at least she had fun.

Now, your Highness, we will discuss the location of hidden Rebel Base…

Perhaps she would respond to an alternative form of persuasion?

All of my Star Wars toy collection means a lot to me, but there are a few items I have that I’m really proud of – and stoked to own.  This Death Star Playset is one of the outstanding pieces in the collection.

It’s made from cardboard sections that slot together, creating a number of rooms in which to recreate scenes from the film.  Rescue Princess Leia and escape via the garbage chute?  No problem.  Have Han Solo chase a squad of stormtroopers into a dead end?  Easily accomplished.

It was bought second hand – along with a few other playsets – back in the early 80s, when I was about 10.  Someone advertised them for sale in the local paper, and my Dad bought them for me.  I was very happy as I’d wanted this playset (and the others) for a long time.  I think the lot cost about £20 at the time, which is a pretty good price.

The Death Star on it’s own is probably worth a lot more than that now.  Although it’s not in mint condition – the box is pretty beaten up (always was) and there are a few tears here and there, as you can see in the photos.  In the USA, they had a plastic Death Star, and this Palitoy UK cardboard version is quite sought after over there.

It was fantastic fun, bringing back a lot of great memories.  I enjoyed setting the figures up and recreating little scenes from the film. The cell block fight and the trash compactor were great, in particular.

Recreating mini versions of the film with my figures was always a major goal for me – still is!  With this playset that aim became much more attainable.  When I was a kid, I only had two stormtroopers and one Death Squad Commander, so my Death Star looked a little empty.  Over the years I’ve added a few troops to the collection (very cheaply) and now the whole set up looks much more impressive.

The main reason I’d dug the Death Star out was to place my new “retro style” Grand Moff Tarkin figure in there.  I got him for Christmas along with the Escape the Death Star board game.  Tarkin was never made for the action figure line originally, and he was a glaring absence when trying to recreate the movie.

However, I didn’t realise that my new Tarkin was sealed on a card inside the board game box.  I didn’t dare open him.  So the Death Star is still not quite finished.

Should I have just opened Tarkin anyway?!

Pentre Fest 2020

Pentre Fest 2020

McLean’s Pub, Pentre Deeside

21st & 22nd February 2020

I’m sure everyone who was there will agree that this year’s Pentre Fest was the best yet.  The bands were fantastic; the were more people; the vibe was magnificent.

Held at McLean’s in Pentre, Deeside, North Wales, this festival features underground, unsigned rock and metal from near and far.

I attended the full two days this year, and saw most of the acts performing.  I only wrote up a few though, so if you want to read the full review, visit the Ever Metal website here.

There were many highlights.  Witchtripper had been on my “must see” list for a while – they didn’t disappoint.  Old favourites Impavidus and Lullaby for a Unicorn were superb as always.  Cry for Mercy, Stormrider and Womenowar were some of the newly viewed bands that I was very impressed by.

The whole weekend was unmissable and I was genuinely sad when it was all over.  A brilliant, positive experience – well done to Fozzy, Beany, Frank and all the McLean’s staff.

You have to be there next year!

Ryuko

Ryuko presented a couple of surprises on Friday night’s acoustic stage.  First off, they were fully plugged in and electric.  Second, they play more of an alternative rock sound, which was something of a contrast to the majority of other Pentre Fest bands.  Readers may not be aware, though, that I am in fact King of Grunge, with my 90’s credentials well proven.  Ryuko’s set included some melody and even jangly pop along with heavier riffs, which was an enjoyable diversion in a Dinosaur Jr/Nirvana style.  Well performed, Ryuko just need to test their audience further and throw in additional surprises in either a “Negative Creep” or “About a Girl” vein.

Rhiannon and Rachel

Sadly Pentre Fest suffered a few casualties this year.  One such example was on the acoustic stage, where half of duo Rhiannon and Rachel was hospitalised and (obviously) unable to perform.  But the show must go on: and Rhiannon performed a short but enjoyable set on the acoustic stage.  Admittedly out of her comfort zone, playing guitar as well as singing, she soldiered on and won plaudits for her effort.  Only a few minor mistakes were noticed – and easily forgiven.  A beautiful singing voice that even managed to add a ghostly, ethereal sheen to a cover of Michael Jackson’s “Bad” – making it sound good for the first time ever.

Mike West

If the connection between metal and outlaw country isn’t obvious to any readers, I can only pity you.  I’ve never witnessed Mike West before, but his amalgamation of southern rock, dusty country and swampy blues was a delight to my old whiskey-soaked soul.  Mike delivers his songs with a hard rockin’ swagger, as if he’s just busted out of Tombstone jail and is riding across the plains, lamenting women and fortunes lost.  A great voice and an outstanding presence, Mike is one to catch when you can.  Has anyone done a “Wild West” gag yet?  If not, there’s a headline for us there!

OMV

On the main stage, OMV entered dressed like a bunch of West Coast gangsters in masks and bandanas.  Introduced as “hardcore street metal”, these guys definitely showed some great musical skills and energy.  Somewhere between Bodycount, Suicidal Tendencies and Biohazard is where I’d stack them.  Either way, OMV delivered some brutal songs and bounced around with massive crossover riffs.  OMV were very entertaining, although hugely confrontational onstage – I wasn’t sure if they actually were going to pistol whip the audience into submission.  The music has enough intensity and power to speak for itself.

Luke Appleton

A really fantastic set was delivered by Mr Luke Appleton on the acoustic stage.  In truth, this was a duo performance with Rishi Mehta (of Babylon Fire) playing too, and it was a genuine highlight of Pentre Fest 2020.  Dubbed “acoustic metal”, the songs were both suitably laidback, yet delivered with a metal edge.  Expertly performed, we had tunes from Luke’s solo “Snake Eyes” project, plus of course some Iced Earth and Absolva numbers.  Not to mention a bit of Dio and Tenacious D for good measure!  A real class act in every sense of the word, and both very talented and down-to-earth gentlemen.

Son of Boar

They have a cool name, and they looked pretty cool on stage in matching denim battle-vests.  And from the very first notes of the bass rumbling on the very first song, I had a feeling that Son of Boar would be something special.  I wasn’t wrong.  These Bradford bruisers have everything in spades: they’re unfeasibly heavy; they have slow, doomy riffs with a Sabbath-like infectiousness; they have a sludgy, swampy groove that can pack an aggressive punk punch.  The best band of Pentre Fest 2020 as far as I was concerned, Son of Boar were superb.  I even bought a t-shirt.

Pentre Fest on Facebook.

N.E.W Metal Productions on Facebook.

Goodfor Audio Entertainment on Facebook

Mcleans Pub Live on Facebook.