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.

Platinum Al’s Top 10 Rock/Metal Albums of 2019

2019 has been an exceptional year for new music.  It started off slowly, but by the end of the year I was struggling to keep up.

As per last year, Ever Metal asked me to produce a Top Ten of my favourite rock and metal albums of the year.  So here we go:

  1. Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard – Yn Ol I Annwn
  2. Speedealer – Blue Days Black Nights
  3. Obey – Swallow The Sun
  4. Acid Reign – The Age of Entitlement
  5. Sunn O))) – Life Metal
  6. Earth – Full Upon Her Burning Lips
  7. Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovel – Very Uncertain Times
  8. Giant Dwarf – Giant Dwarf
  9. Monolord – No Comfort
  10. Crobot – Motherbrain

All fantastic records.  Honorable mentions this time to Kadavar, Firebreather, L7, Wizard Rifle and Duel.

For more rock reviews, interviews and top tens, head over to Ever Metal.

Happy New Year everybody – wishing you a very healthy and prosperous 2020!

And thanks for vising Platinum Al’s Virtual Hot Tub!  Make sure you come back next year, and if you’ve got any requests or suggestions, please get in touch.

Bring Your Own Vinyl Night #17

Bring Your Own Vinyl Night

The Queen’s Head, Mold

Friday 29th November 2019

Finally, months later, I made it to another Bring Your Own Vinyl Night.  It’s been far too long, but it was great to be back.  A few beers, some great food, and awesome music always makes for an entertaining evening.

Hosted by Halcyon Dreams in the Queen’s Head pub in Mold, North Wales, Bring Your Own Vinyl Night is an opportunity to be a DJ for a night.  Each person has a 15 minute slot to play whatever they like, vinyl only.

It’s never an easy task, narrowing down my collection to just a handful of songs to play.  I didn’t go for a theme this time, just a few tracks that I thought worthy of sharing.

Here’s what I unleashed:

Betty Davis – If I’m in Luck I Might Get Picked Up

I decided to start the set with this funk-rock hybrid from cult soul singer and one time Mrs Miles Davis: the amazing Betty Davis.  I’d heard about Betty’s work on the grapevine; after checking this album out online I knew I had to track a vinyl copy down.  “If I’m in Luck…” is a raunchy number powered by hard rock guitar riffs and a phenomenally funky beat.  Highly recommended!

Iggy and the Stooges – Gimme Danger

My favourite track on the third Stooges record, “Gimme Danger” is a timeless classic.  The “Raw Power” album that housed it apparently fared badly on initial release, but blossomed with a cult following in later years.  Every home should have a copy of this fantastic record.  “Gimme Danger” lures the listener into a false sense of security with an unusually melodic guitar part, yet still weaves a web of debauchery and chaos.

The Cult – Lucifer

The Cult have been one of my favourite bands over the years, going right back to my teens with the “Love” and “Electric” albums.  They’re still delivering quality music, with the album “Choice of Weapon” (from which “Lucifer” is taken) being a highlight.  There’s a huge, epic riff driving this song – one of those tracks that I usually have to have on repeat, ‘cos just one play ain’t enough.

The Donnas – Who Invited You

In 2002, The Donnas released one of the best rock’n’nroll albums in years with “Spend the Night”, an energetic blend of AC/DC style hard rock and Ramones punk.  Sadly it was released in the CD age, so I don’t own a vinyl copy.  But I did hunt down the 7″ single of “Who Invited You” so that I can enjoy at least one magnificent song from the album on vinyl.  Re-issue, somebody, please!

And that, ladies and gentlemen, was that – for me at least.  There were plenty of other great songs played throughout the evening which you can check out via the Halcyon Dreams links below.

In all, a thoroughly enjoyable evening – sharing the wonder of music and vinyl in a great pub.  I mustn’t leave it so long till my next Vinyl Night visit.

With thanks to Halcyon Dreams and VOD Music – well done guys!

The Halcyon Dreams blogspot is here.

The Halcyon Dreams mixcloud page is here.

The Halcyon Dreams Facebook page is here.

The VOD music website is here.

Bring Your Own Vinyl Night #14

Bring Your Own Vinyl Night

The Queen’s Head, Mold

Friday 13th April 2018

It’s been a while since I last attended Bring Your Own Vinyl Night, and boy did I miss it.  It was great to be back in the Queen’s Head pub in Mold with the chaps from Halcyon Dreams and VOD Music to spin some records.

If you’ve missed previous episodes (where HAVE you been?), it works like this:  Each person gets a fifteen minute set to play whatever songs they like, but only on vinyl.  Simple as that.  Throw in some beer and some music based chat and you’re in for a great time.

As it was getting close to Record Store Day, Tom from Halcyon Dreams pitched a challenge for us would-be DJs: our set had to be comprised of artists who would be releasing music on the day.

No problem, I thought.  Here’s how my set went:

Killing Joke – The Wait

To begin, a thunderously loud track from the first Killing Joke album.  A riff so mighty that Metallica covered it for their $5.98 EP, this tune also has an incessant tribal beat under the choppy punk guitar.  A great song from an essential album, in my opinion.  I’ve been a fan of KJ for a long time and they’re still turning out screaming punk/metal/industrial noise to this day.

Johnny Cash – Folsom Prison Blues

Well you can’t go wrong with a bit of Johnny Cash, although I was surprised that this track really seemed to go down well with the pub crowd.  Regular readers will know how big a fan of Johnny Cash I am, he’s just unbeatable.  This classic song was taken from an old compilation I picked up at a record fair, crammed full of great tunes.  I’m glad to say this song seemed very popular!

L7 – Everglade

Another crushing riff, this time from the “Bricks Are Heavy” album from all-girl punk rock grungers L7.  My favourite song from that album, and one of my favourite bands from that era.  I saw the band live a couple of years ago at Download fest, they were amazing.  Don’t ever let anyone tell you that girls can’t rock – L7 were the best band of the day.

The Members – Sound of the Suburbs

And finally, an old punk rock classic on 45rpm courtesy of the Members.  This track also seemed popular!  I only have the 7 inch single of this song, so I could do with tracking down some more records by them.  Great fun.

So that wraps up another Bring Your Own Vinyl Night, and what a great night it was! My mixing skills need some sharpening up, but I really enjoyed myself.  Well done Tom and Colin, looking forward to another bash soon.  I know those guys are very busy, but the Vinyl Nights are always a treat.  See you soon!

The Halcyon Dreams blogspot is here.

The Halcyon Dreams mixcloud page is here.

The Halcyon Dreams Facebook page is here.

The VOD music website is here.

PS – Great food in the Queen’s Head too.  £6 for a massive mixed grill!

Classic Albums #3

It’s been a long time since I wrote a Classic Albums post.  Nearly four years, sadly.  But now it’s time to get back to the heart of what this blog was supposed to be all about in the first place.

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to my Classic Albums.

3. Metallica – Master of Puppets

Metallica’s third album, released in 1986, has long been regarded as the probably the best recording the band ever made.  Not only that, but one of the greatest metal albums of all time.  “Master of Puppets” is a monolithic album with an immense scope; hugely varied and still surprisingly experimental.

At the time I first heard this record, around 1987, I was listening to bands like Van Halen, Queen and Def Leppard.  A friend lent me a cassette of “Master of Puppets”; I was keen to try it out as there was such a buzz about this band.

Every time I hear the opening guitars of “Battery”, I’m transported back to that first listen.  And I remember how extreme it sounded to me at the time – I’d never heard anything this brutal before.

Following that was the title track, which was the most complex heavy composition I’d experienced.  A melodic instrumental section lulled me into a false sense of security before the relentless riff attack recommenced.

It was third track, “The Thing That Should Not Be”, that opened my eyes though.  A massive, monstrous riff that hooked me straight away.  That song was heavy and eerie all at once; it became a favourite that I still love and slowly, yet with growing confidence, I began to explore this album.

“Welcome Home (Sanitarium)” begins with a mellower introduction and as such it’s one of the easier songs to appreciate on first listen.  Repeated plays over the years has dulled the impact of this track, for me personally – though it surprises me how good it actually is when revisited. 

Side Two of the album Kicks off with “Disposable Heroes”, is an anti war song that is intense and powerful.  One of my favourite tracks.  Then there’s “Leper Messiah”, a monster riff that incorporates faster sections as it proceeds.

The absolute highlight of the album is “Orion”, a fantastic prog-metal instrumental spanning over eight minutes.  This epic track proves beyond all others just why Metallica were – and still are – light years ahead of other thrash bands.

Finally, the last track – “Damage, Inc.” – is a violent berzerker of a song that might just take your face off.

With “Master of Puppets”, Metallica challenged themselves and their fans, as they expanded their sound and manifesto further than ever before.  If you want fast thrash, you’ve got it here.  Want heavy, down-tuned Sabbath riffs?  You’ve got that too.  There are even melodic sections that are actually enjoyable – and still uncompromising.

Metallica were utterly fearless in writing and recording this album, unafraid to try new ideas and never rest on past glories.  It’s not as heavy to my ears as it was on first listen thirty years ago, but every new spin of this record still has the power to thrill.

“Master of Puppets” is a timeless metal masterpiece.  It’s one of the essential records in my collection; it’s status a massively influential rock album – metal or otherwise – is assured for all time.

Metallica – Master of Puppets (1986)

  1. Battery
  2. Master of Puppets
  3. The Thing That Should Not Be
  4. Welcome Home (Sanitarium)
  5. Disposable Heroes
  6. Leper Messiah
  7. Orion
  8. Damage, Inc.

Best tracks: The Thing That Should Not Be, Orion, Battery, Master of Puppets, Disposable Heroes.

Other cool points: seriously great cover – you also need the t-shirt.

R.I.P. Malcolm Young

Malcolm Young

06.01.1953 – 18.1.2017

Rock’n’roll lost another legend recently – the one and only Malcolm Young of AC/DC.

I’ve been a fan of AC/DC for a very long time – they were one of the very first hard rock bands that I listened to.  “Who Made Who” was the first song of theirs I heard and was absorbed by.  Later on the “Blow Up Your Video” album came along and I was hooked.

A couple of years later, in a rip-off Hard Rock Cafe in Berlin, I heard the “Highway to Hell” album and was re-introduced to the earlier AC/DC recordings.  I was that enraptured by the title track that I went out and bought a copy the next day – I couldn’t wait to return home to buy it.

I’ve still got that vinyl album now, along with many others.

I could write all day about my favourite AC/DC albums and songs; write list after list and enthuse forever about how great this band are.

Malcolm Young was the anchor of AC/DC – the perfect bridge between the super-tight rhythm section of Cliff Williams and Phil Rudd and the upfront lunacy of Angus.  Angus, the younger brother – along with unforgettable Bon Scott and good old Brian Johnson – were the focus, but Malcolm was the heart.

Malcolm held it all together, and not just playing live – he was essential to writing of all the band’s material and developing their entire simple-but-effective ethos.  He’s been called the greatest rhythm guitarist of all time, and I agree.

Thank you for the riffs, Malcolm Young.  High Voltage Rock’n’Roll forever.

Songs of the Week 04.09.2016

How’ve you been?  Well I hope.  Here are five more songs heard in the last seven days that I particularly enjoyed.

  1. The Stooges – 1970
  2. The Who – The Seeker
  3. Mudhoney – Sweet Young Thing Ain’t Sweet No More
  4. ABBA – Money, Money, Money
  5. Metallica – Orion

I love ABBA, but that song earned it’s place in this weeks top 5 after my daughter sang it all week.  Good choice!