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.

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 #10

Playing music, having a few drinks – it’s fun.  In this case, what I do (as regular readers will know), is play through a stack of 45 rpm singles and see what Lady Luck decides to bestow on me.

Some of the singles are classic, some less so.  Some are cheesy, some have at least some small notion of integrity.  One thing’s for sure: one way or another, all of the following 7 inch singles are part of my vinyl collection – there’s no hiding from the shame.

Lets see what we got this time:

  1. Elvis Presley – “The Wonder of You” / “Mama Like the Roses”
  2. Chris Isaak – “Wicked Game” / Angelo Badalamenti – “Cool Cat Walk”
  3. Ned’s Atomic Dustbin – “Happy” / “Twenty Three” / “Hour Toothache”
  4. Duran Duran – “The Reflex” / “Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me) – Live”
  5. Inspiral Carpets – “This Is How It Feels (Radio Mix)” / “Tune For a Family”
  6. Transvision Vamp – “Sister Moon” / “Oh Yeah” / “Walk On By”
  7. WAR – “I’m the One Who Understands” / “Corns & Callouses (Hey Dr. Shoals)”
  8. Frank Sinatra – “My Way” / “Blue Lace”
  9. Rocky Sharpe & The Replays – “Rama Lama Ding Dong” / “When the Chips Are Down”
  10. Gene Vincent – “Say Mama” / “Be Bop Boogie Boy”
  11. Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass – “Without Her” / “Sandbox”
  12. Tracey Ullman – “Move Over Darling” / “You Broke My Heart in 17 Places”
  13. Billy Joel – “Uptown Girl” / “Careless Talk”
  14. Boney M. – “I’m Born Again” / “Bahama Mama”
  15. The KLF – “What Time Is Love? (Live At Trancentral)” / “What Time Is Love? (Techno Gate Mix)”
  16. Billy Fury – “Because of Love” / “Running Around”
  17. Nat King Cole – “Let’s Face the Music and Dance” / “Let There Be Love”
  18. The Crusaders – “Stomp and Buck Dance” / “A Ballad for Joe (Louis)”
  19. Bobby G – “Big Deal” / “It’s All for Jan”
  20. Duane Eddy – “Rebel-Rouser” / “Stalkin'”
  21. Ricky Nelson – “It’s Late” / “Never Be Anyone Else But You”
  22. Tears For Fears – “Shout” / “The Big Chair”
  23. Yannis Markopoulos – “Who Pays the Ferryman?” / “Fanfare for Charon”

 

a selection

There you go: and those selections (random as they are) weren’t all that cheesy after  all.  Boney M.?  Under rated.  And that b-side reminds me of summer.  So rather than a few pungent offerings, there’s quite a few great ol’ rock’n’rollers dominating that playlist.

A final word regarding Ned’s Automatic Dustbin and Inspiral Carpets.  Both indie bands, my least favourite genre of all.  I found those singles super cheap in a charity shop, tried ’em and they weren’t too bad, really.

Still hate indie music though.

Black Sabbath – The End

bs

Black Sabbath + Rival Sons

Saturday 4th February 2017

Genting Arena Birmingham

The mighty Black Sabbath.  They created down tuned, dirty, doom laden heavy metal aeons ago.  Wrote songs that defined an entire genre and inspired millions of people.  Lived the rock’n’roll lifestyle to legendary excess, managing to survive through some miraculous method or other.  Black Sabbath are musical titans.

And this was The End – their last ever gig.  At least as far as we know at this point in time, and taking into consideration the band members current situations.

This was The End – Black Sabbath’s last live performance, ever – in their home city of Birmingham.

Through a result of pure luck I was able to blag myself on a trip to witness the event.  Sabbath are one of those bands that I’ve long been obsessed with, going on nearly thirty years now.  They’ve created fantastic albums that I’ve listened to again and again, so it was great to be able to catch this gig, before it was all over.

The support band were Rival Sons, a younger band that’s regarded very positively by fans and press alike.  I’m only familiar with one album or so worth of songs, but can safely say that they put on a very impressive performance.  Their music is rooted in the classic rock of yore, so it was an apt choice to support.  I didn’t recognise any of the material, but then Rival Sons are a band that definitely require some homework on my part.

A confident and popular support act, Rival Sons coped with the huge arena well.  They merit further investigation – I’m sure that classic song to get me hooked is tucked away on an album somewhere.

And so to the headliners, the incredible but sadly not immortal, Black Sabbath.  Of course they opened with the legendary “Black Sabbath” – what else? – the eerie three note, devil’s tritone that heralded the birth of metal years since.  A perfect start to the evening, Black Sabbath then proceeded to entertain with two hours of solid classics.

From my vantage point, standing in the massive arena hall near the sound desk, I couldn’t see great deal.  In fact, I could see more of Kelly and Sharon Osbourne, in the nearby VIP area,  than I could of Ozzy.  The sound however was superb and the set loaded with classics.  Plus I don’t think Ozzy (or Tony or Geezer) did much running around the stage anyway. bs1

Most of the songs were from the first four albums, which was cool by me.  Highlights were “Into the Void”, “Snowblind”, “Children of the Grave” and an unexpected showing of “Hand of Doom”.  Brilliant bass from Geezer Butler on “N.I.B.” too.

My absolute favourite Sabbath track, “Supernaut”, was unfortunately relegated to being sandwiched in as part of a medley (along with “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath”, another fave) – and therefore sadly under exposed.  A shame that, I went mental when the opening riff started.  No “Sweet Leaf” either.

“Supernaut” should have been in the set, certainly it was preferable to “Dirty Women” which was hauled out of the cellar and into the light one more time.  Although not their best material, this song did give Tony Iommi a chance to shine, the final guitar solo was absolutely explosive.

There were sadly no extra special moments, such as famous guests getting up to join in – maybe that would’ve diluted the spotlight on Sabbath.  It was nice to let them have their final moment of glory.  I think we were all hoping Bill Ward would make an appearance behind the drum kit for one last time though.

And finally, it was all over – with one last rendition of the genius song that is “Paranoid”.

Their final  gig was set to be emotional, set in their hometown for one last time.  In fact it was a hugely uplifting experience, rather than sombre – hundreds of the faithful showing their respect for all the music we love.  Not just Sabbath, but every metal band that’s followed in their sepulchral wake.

Black Sabbath – their legacy lives on.  They are the ultimate metal band and they leave us with a back catalogue beyond compare.  It’s never really The End.

The full setlist is here.

Songs of the Week 09.10.2016

Biding time till I write up the next Halloween Horror Fest movie review, here’s five songs that stood out last week:

  1. Siouxsie and the Banshees – Arabian Knights
  2. The Stupids – Skid Row
  3. David Bowie – Life on Mars
  4. Sisters of Mercy – This Corrosion
  5. Anthrax – Antisocial

Bring Your Own Vinyl Night #6

Bring Your Own Vinyl Night

Queen’s Head, Mold

Friday 22nd January 2016

The first Bring Your Own Vinyl Night of 2016 brought out fantastic tunes old and new. Regardless of genre, all were welcome to spin their records for the enjoyment of the gathered vinyl enthusiasts.

Held in the Queen’s Head pub in Mold, North Wales, the idea is simple.  Each participant gets a fifteen minute slot to play whatever they like, so long as it’s on vinyl.  No other format permitted.

Again my selection for this evening had a theme, though a sad one.  Inspired by the loss of many musical heroes recently, my songs were selected as a tribute to some of those musicians who had passed away.

My old mucker Adam was first up from our gang.  He’d got to the pub early and had some food, which I’m told was very good.  Here’s his set:

  • Aerosmith – Rocking Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu
  • The Backbeat Band – Money
  • David Bowie – Moonage Daydream
  • Neil – Hole in My Shoe
  • Grandmaster Flash & Melle Mel – White Lines

Five great songs, awesome set.  Some of the other punters had a go, then it was my turn on the wheels of steel.

Stone Temple Pilots – Plush

Taken from the first Stone Temple Pilots record, “Core”, this song is my favourite track on the album.  “Plush” is a big, epic song that always reminded me of Led Zeppelin.  A great track to start the set off, though as it’s over five minutes long it meant that my set would be three songs rather than the usual four.  No problem.  Played in memory of STP singer Scott Weiland who died in December 2015.

Motorhead – Killed by Death

At the last Bring Your Own Vinyl Night, I played “Ace of Spades” by Motorhead as drummer Phil Taylor had passed away.  Sadly Lemmy, Motorhead main man and all round rock legend, was to follow on 28th December 2015.  After “Ace of Spades”, the next best Motorhead tune is “Killed By Death”, so I gave this classic a spin.  Taken from the best of compilation “No Remorse”, which I bought when I was 16 as it had both of the aforementioned tracks on it.  Every home should have one!

David Bowie – Heroes

And finally a Bowie song, to remember this great artist.  I chose “Heroes” as it’s my favourite Bowie song, grand and optimistic with a tinge of melancholy.  Truly magnificent.  The track I played was the single edit, taken from the “Best of Bowie” album, which I picked up a couple of years ago in a charity shop.  There were several songs I could have picked from several albums I own, all brilliant tunes. Bowie best of

After three songs I was running out of time for my fifteen minute slot and decided to call it quits.  I had the Eagles “Take It Easy” in reserve, to commemorate the passing of Glen Frey, but I was running out of time.  Plus Bowie’s “Heroes” was a perfect track to end on.

So Ben the Swede took to the stage after me, armed with just three records.  He’s moving house, you see ( a real house, not a cardboard box) – and most of his stuff is in storage at the moment.  Despite limited resources, Ben dropped a set of bangers.

  • Megadeth – Tornado of Souls
  • Elton John – Grey Seal
  • Deep Purple – Never Before

A nice mix there, from Megadeth to Elton John!

There you have it – another night of great tunes and good company at the Queen’s Head.  I even had a few requests for songs from the audience, though couldn’t oblige as that’s not what vinyl night is all about!  Thanks to everyone concerned.

Hope to see you there next time!

The Halcyon Dreams blogspot is here.

The Halcyon Dreams mixcloud page is here.

The Halcyon Dreams Facebook page is here.

R.I.P. David Bowie

Bowie

David Bowie

08.01.1947 – 10.01.2016

Unbelievable that my second blog post of 2016 is another in tribute to a musical hero who is no longer with us.

The recent passing of David Bowie caught us all off guard; I for one thought it was some cruel internet prank at first.  Not so – a quick trawl of the internet confirmed the sad news.

Back around 1990, my uncle let me borrow a bunch of records from his collection – an absolute buzz for a music obsessive like me.  There were records by Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Pink Floyd, The Stranglers, Devo and more.  I saw a copy of “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars”, and asked if I could borrow that too.  He kindly agreed and I made off with my temporary haul.

Right from the start, listening to the “Ziggy Stardust” album was something revolutionary.  I knew I was hearing something special.

The reason I’d wanted to become more acquainted with Bowie’s work was the high regard some of my other favourite bands held him in, mostly due to his friendship and support of Iggy Pop.  I was already a massive Stooges fan.

From “Ziggy Stardust” I continued exploring David Bowie’s considerable catalogue.  Some songs were instants classics, some challenged me.  All of it was worthwhile taking the time to investigate: classics from “Hunky Dory” and “Low” being favourites.  All of those songs inspired me, and gave insight into how many artists of different genres had been inspired by his work.

In fact, the greatest legacy that Bowie’s work has left, for me at least, was that constant pioneering exploration.  I was encouraged to expand my musical horizons and accompany Bowie on journeys into different sonic territories.  It’s thanks to that spirit that I have the wide ranging taste in music that I have today.

Thank you, David Bowie, for taking us on your adventures in sound.  I will continue to admire and study your legacy for years to come.