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.

Speedealer – Blue Days Black Nights Album Review

Here’s another review I wrote for Ever Metal, which I can share with you now.  This album was also one of my Top 10 of 2019…

Speedealer – Blue Days Black Nights

Rise Up and Fall Records

Release date: ?

Running time: 30 mins

Review by: Alun Jones

9/10

Curse you, Speedealer!  I had pretty much decided on my Top 10 albums for 2019, and then these guys turn up with this rocket fuelled bruiser of a record.  The year had started off slowly, to be honest – but great new music has been arriving at a rapid pace recently.  And just when I was about to bed down for a long winter nap, Speedealer turned everything up to 11 and ruined my plans.

The album is called “Blue Days, Black Nights”.  It’s fast, crazy, adrenaline pumped rock’n’roll and it never stops pounding home the righteous sounds till it’s brief-but-beautiful 30 minute lifespan is over.  At which point, I tend to just start again from the beginning.

The first song is called “Never New” and it smashes in, steals your whiskey and is gone in under a minute and a half.  That’s reckless by anyone’s standards.

It ain’t all super-fast punk’n’roll though, there’s many a change of pace to be heard.  “Rheumatism” and “War Nicht Genug” both feature riffs that are heavy and brutal.  Elsewhere, in “Sold Out”, the band unleash a tortured performance of a song that would be a blues rocker, but is far too dense and violent for that phrase to fit snugly.

Never mess with Texas, goes the old saying.  And these Texan boys do not fanny about AT ALL on this fine collection of tunes.  Instead, “Blue Days Black Nights” will drag you along like an out of control stag party: full of booze-filled fun, ridiculous antics and dangerous detours.  I’m deducting half a point for the terrible cover art, otherwise this one’s a killer.

FUN FACT: Speedealer used to be called REO Speedealer – which let’s face it, is a much better name – until REO Speedwagon got wind of it and issued a cease and desist.  Anyone with a sense of humour would surely take that name as an homage, right?   You’d think the miserable old bastards would’ve enjoyed being put back on the map.

What’s that?  Ever Metal’s lawyers are on the phone?  Court order from who?  Oops…

Speedealer can be found online at: speedealerband.com

You can also find Speedealer on Facebook here, Twitter here and Instagram here.

And don’t forget to check out Ever Metal here.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

I can’t remember when I was first aware of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but as a big comic book reader in the 1980s it was kind of inevitable that we’d cross paths.  Cleverly playing with some popular comic tropes, Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird created a pop culture phenomenon almost by accident.

I do remember the Ninja Turtles and their creators getting a shout out in the “thank you” list of the “Among the Living” album by thrash metal kings Anthrax.  The book seemed quirky and original, it’s popularity boosted with a reputation for genuinely great writing and art.

Next came the cartoon, a couple of years later.  This was the turtles tidied up for a younger audience and it became a massive hit.  I was about 17 at the time (!), but enjoyed watching the cartoon occasionally as a bit of tongue in cheek fun.  I was being ironic, honest.

The toys that were made at the time were very cool; for the era they seemed very well designed and super detailed.  I was far too old for the action figures, but secretly coveted them from afar.

Eventually I picked up the figure of my favourite turtle, Michaelangelo.  He must have been on sale somewhere post turtles craze,’cos this would’ve been in my student days and thus, extremely poor.  He was a perfect ironic, “look how wacky I am” student possession.

Sadly, Mikey disappeared – I know not where – and once again, I was completely turtle-less.

Until a couple of years ago, when taking my daughter on one of her last trips to Toys R Us, before it closed for good.  They had on sale re-issued turtles, exactly like the old versions I loved, and they were cheap (ish).

I replaced Michaelangelo there and then, and over the next few days was so eager to complete a collection of all four turtles that I returned to buy others.  With a little bit of toy spotting help from my old pal Adam, I was soon in business with a full team of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

At the moment, I only have the full group of Leonardo, Donatello, Michaelangelo and Raphael.  It would be great to have Splinter, Shredder and more one day, but I doubt they’ll turn up cheap.

The four turtles are great figures, nicely stylised and featuring great detail.  And awesome weapons.

All four are still Mint in Box.  How long can I resist the urge to release the guys from their blister pack prisons?  Surely one night I’ll have had a little bit too much to drink, and decide to tear that plastic from the backing card…

What do you think readers?  Should the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles stay in their boxes, or should I open them up?

Firebreather – Under a Blood Moon Album Review

Firebreather – Under a Blood Moon

RidingEasy Records

Release date: 27/09/2019

Running time: 49 mins

Review by: Alun Jones

8.5/10

 

You’ve got to hand it to the Swedes.  They’re pretty damn good at whatever they turn their hands to.  Cheese with holes in, chocolate, clocks… No wait, that’s the Swiss.  The Swedes are the ones who are awesome at flatpack furniture and – most importantly for us – music.

Firebreather are a trio of doom-mongers from Gothenburg in Sweden.  Comprising Mattias Noojd on vocals and guitar, Kyle Pitcher on bass and drummer Axel Wittbeck, these riff-lords are adept at creating massive, epic songs that are both brutal and beautiful.

The music pounds and pummels, but as in opening track “Dancing Flames”, the churning riff becomes hypnotically entrancing.  “Our Souls They Burn” is unleashed with a super-heavy grind that’s underpinned by a powerful groove.

It’s hard to pick a stand-out or favourite track, though the relentless structure of the songs creates a vast tapestry of music that blends together.  This is savage and also seductive, like the wilderness of their native Scandinavia.  Hence, we get the thunderous beat of title track “Firebreather” and the contrast of the slow rhythmic build and almost melancholic vibe of “The Siren”.

Repeated listens are definitely recommended: familiarity with “Under a Blood Moon” coaxes the songs to open up and reveal more treasures each time.  The listeners’ mind can imagine patterns and shapes cascading, like watching flames burn and dance.  It’s a solid album from Firebreather that only promises to grow and endure.

All this talk about fire-breathing brings back memories of my old mate Ronnie James Dio’s fascination with the Dungeons and Dragons board game.  Back in the early 80’s, when he was fronting Black Sabbath, Ronnie was obsessed with it.  He’d constantly badger the band to play it with him, which they did – begrudgingly.

Tony and Geezer amiably played along to humour their titan-voiced tiny singer.  I recall one time though, when Bill Ward had really had enough of elves and dragons – he threw a huge pitcher of ale over the game.  Ronnie was livid, Tony and Geezer were trying to stifle laughter.  Especially when Bill kicked the table, banged his big toe and fell about screaming in agony, ripping a hole in his wife’s tights.  Bill was always wearing his wife’s tights.  I think they kept him warm.

You can find Firebreather on Facebook and Twitter: @FIREBREATHERGBG.

Check them out on Bandcamp here.

This review originally appeared on the Ever Metal site, which you can visit here.

Singles Night at the Virtual Hot Tub #14

And lo, it was time for another Singles Night at Platinum Al’s Virtual Hot Tub.  Join me yet again, as I play through my stack of freshly acquired 7″ vinyl singles – A side then B side – on a musical odyssey that will thrill and amaze.

You may want a few drinks as well.

Here’s the playlist this time:

  1. Elvis Presley – “Love Me Tender” / “Anyway You Want Me (That’s How I Will Be)”
  2. Small Faces – “Lazy Sunday” / “Rollin’ Over”
  3. Boney M – “Painter Man” / “He Was a Steppenwolf”
  4. Beastie Boys – “She’s On It” / “Slow and Low”
  5. Zodiac Mindwarp & The Love Reaction – “Backseat Education” / “Whore of Babylon”
  6. Madness – “Baggy Trousers” / “The Business”
  7. The Osmonds – “Crazy Horses” / “That’s My Girl”
  8. Ian Dury & The Blockheads – “Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick” / “There Ain’t Half Been Some Clever Bastards”
  9. The Jam – “When You’re Young” / “Smithers-Jones”
  10. Kim Carnes – “Bette Davis Eyes” / “Miss You Tonite”
  11. Toyah – “Brave New World” / “Warrior Rock”
  12. The Who – “You Better You Bet” / “The Quiet One”
  13. Suzi Quatro – “The Wild One” / “Shake My Sugar”
  14. Madness – “Night Boat to Cairo” / “Deceives the Eye” / “The Young and the Old” / “Don’t Quote Me On That”
  15. Bon Jovi – “You Give Love a Bad Name” / “Let It Rock”
  16. Freddie Mercury – “Love Kills” / Giorgio Moroder – “Rotwang’s Party (Robot Dance)”
  17. Siouxsie & The Banshees – “Dear Prudence” / “Tattoo”
  18. The Kinks – “Good Day” / “Too Hot”
  19. Bob Marley & The Wailers – “No Woman, No Cry” / “Kinky Reggae”
  20. Dexy’s Midnight Runners – “Geno” / “Breakin’ Down the Walls of Heartache”
  21. Toy Dolls – “Nellie the Elephant” / “Fisticuffs in Frederick Street”
  22. Rainbow – “All Night Long” / “Weiss Heim”
  23. The Motors – “Forget About You” / “Picturama”
  24. Angelic Upstarts – “Never ‘Ad Nothin'” / “Nowhere Left to Hide”

Wow.  That was a spectacular evening’s music.  Just look at the quality tunes in that list!  I think the Zodiac Mindwarp track was my favourite, but there are loads of legendary artists and great songs there.

Don’t laugh at the Osmonds track – that song is amazing.  I’m more embarrassed about the Bon Jovi number – but what the hell, it was fun.

And Nellie the Elephant by Toy Dolls was just superb – took me right back to my childhood, the day after hearing that song on Top of the Pops.  A school playground classic, along with “Baggy Trousers”.

All of the records are in a random order, so there’s no guessing what might appear next in the queue.  But that turned out to be one of the best nights of music listening in a long while, with a wide variety of genres represented.

Back soon with more…