Live in the Mojave Desert – Album Review

Various Artists – Live in the Mojave Desert

Heavy Psych Sounds Records

Release date: Various

Running time: Various

Review by: Alun Jones

Rating: see below

Hello there!  Remember me?  It’s me, that bloke who occasionally reviews albums for Ever Metal and spins ropey old yarns about rock’n’roll.  Yeah, him.  Sorry I’ve been absent for a while, had a few things on my all-you-can-eat buffet plate recently.  More about that another time (if the lawyers allow me).  For now, recline in your favourite easy chair, and let’s review.  With me?  Good.

Right then, bit of a mammoth task, this one.  “Live in the Mojave Desert” is actually a series of five albums, each recorded live (of course) amongst the sand and rocks of the Californian desert.  It’s probably like Star Trek, when Kirk and crew are roaming around the cliffs and valleys – but in the dark, and with guitars and lights and stuff – and no one dies (hopefully).

Up first in my sequence of albums is the legendary Earthless, a band who should need no introduction.  I listened to their offering whilst on a trip to North Wales; sadly the surf was flat, but the sonic musings of this three piece fitted perfectly the rolling roads between green valleys and big skies.  In the land of druids and standing stones, witches and warriors, this was a perfect soundtrack.  The songs are a journey in themselves, awash with psychedelic Hendrix style explorations.  Only three songs, but they’re plenty lengthy and offer huge scope.  It’s actually quite beautiful. (9/10)

Next on the list was Mountain Tamer, a band I’m not familiar with previously, but a cool name.  And a cool name goes a long way with me.   The Mountain Tamer sound is raw and in-your-face, with mighty, meaty riffs that clunk around in full-on doom style.  There’s also a mind expanding, trippy element to their music, leaving me with the impression of Black Flag in a collision with Hawkwind.  This unique approach is best exemplified by stand out tracks “Black Noise” and “Scorched Earth”, but it’s all damn fine. (8/10)

An offering in this series from my old buddies Nebula was very welcome, their brand of psych drenched sci-fi hard rock being something I’m somewhat partial to.  This is the album with the most obviously “live” feel – not that it’s sloppy at all, the very occasional tiny imperfections and wall of fuzz give a genuine and celebratory vibe.  Opening track “To the Centre” is a feedback drenched, blistering explosion.  “Giant” is another standout track with a bouncing, crazy gonzo riff. (8/10)

Spirit Mother are another band I’ve not heard before, and they were a real surprise.  Their first song, “Tonic (Exodus Inc)” is straight off the soundtrack of some forgotten Italian/Turkish 1970s horror movie.  The band take the standard desert/doom rock and add violin, and everything veers off in a totally unexpected direction.  From mournful 70s rock on “Ether” to creating their own genre of gothic Spaghetti Western (“Dead Cells”), it’s like Morricone on peyote orchestrating The Exorcist.  Strangely beguiling. (8.5/10)

The album I listened to last in the collection was the debut release of STÖNER, the very aptly named stoner rock “supergroup” which features Brant Bjork (Kyuss, Fu Manchu, solo etc) and Nick Oliveri (Kyuss, QOTSA, Mondo Generator etc etc).  With Brant’s drummer, Ryan Güt whacking the tubs.  As a fan of these rogues’ other bands, I was definitely curious about this release.  No fear here: this is exactly what I hoped it would be: desert rock royalty.  “Rad is Rad” features a relentless, rolling bassline that drags the listener along on a head-nodding journey whilst Brant croons in his laid-back manner.  The big, groovy bass continues in “The Older Kids”, and the tracks develop a trancelike vibe as it progresses.  And strap yourself in for the final song, “Tribe/Fly Girl” – over 13 minutes that will melt your eyeballs.  Definitive. (9/10)

That’s it: five albums, five bands, and a mind-blowing excursion into the remote desert valleys.  Whether showcasing how it should be done, or abducting the listener in a smoke-filled UFO to be probed in new realms, these live collections are a trip.

Here’s a ton of links! Click away for more info on this awesome music…

Start with Heavy Psych Sounds, they have a website, Bandcamp, Facebook and Instagram.

Earthless do the web thing here, with some Facebook and Twitter.

Mountain Tamer kick in the sky with Facebook and Bandcamp.

Go crazy with Nebula via Facebook.

Spirit Mother have you covered with some weberation, Facebook, Bandcamp and Insta.

Finally, have a look at Stoner’s web presence here and Facebook it too.

This review was brought to you by Platinum Al in association with Ever Metal.

Bring Your Own Vinyl Night #7

Bring Your Own Vinyl Night

Queen’s Head, Mold

Friday 26th February 2016

Welcome back to the Queen’s Head in Mold, North Wales!  Get yourself a pint and make yourself comfortable, ‘cos you know what time it is.  That’s right, it’s Bring Your Own Vinyl Night again!

Remember the rules: there’s a fifteen minute slot for each person; play whatever you like, so long as it’s vinyl.

Only Greeny and myself made it this time – Adam and Ben the Swede were both unavailable.  No theme for my set this time, just a few songs I really had a yearning to play…

Ennio Morricone – The Ecstasy of Gold

This song is of course from the soundtrack for the classic Sergio Leone Spaghetti Western, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.  My version came from an album called “This is Ennio Morricone”.  You don’t need me to tell you how great that film is.  And Morricone’s soundtrack is stylish and ground breaking.  In particular, this track (which plays while Eli Wallach’s character runs frenziedly through a Civil War graveyard) is sheer class.  It builds magnificently and captivates the listener.  A bit over the top, I admit, as the first song in my set – but never let it be said that Platinum Al doesn’t do drama.

Ramones – Surfin’ Bird

If I was going to recommend a Ramones album for a novice to start their education of NYC’s finest, I’d go for “Rocket to Russia”.  I thought that this frenetic cover of the Trashmen’s surf rock gem would be a suitable place to go, after the majesty of the last track.  I love the Ramones and this song was a ton of fun to play.

Soundgarden – Fresh Tendrils

This song, from the simply fantastic “Superunknown” album, is probably my favourite Soundgarden song ever.  And I’m a bit of a Soundgarden nerd – I’ve collected tons of their stuff.  Rather than play a more obvious, well known song, I decided to go with my top tune.  “Fresh Tendrils” has an epic, classic rock sound that I love.  No idea what Chris is singing about, however.  The version I played was from the “Spoonman” 12″ single (on clear vinyl!).

Johnny Cash – Folsom Prison Blues

Originally I was going to play a Stooges song, but then I remembered that 26th February was Johnny Cash’s birthday.  So I decided to play a song by the Man in Black.  “Folsom Prison Blues” is a legendary track, one of Cash’s best.  And I’ve already stated how big a hero this guy was to me.  The album this came from – “Original Golden Hits Volume 1” – was my Gran’s.  After she passed away, it was given to me.  I’d heard a lot from bands I was into how Cash was an inspiration, so I checked the record out.  I loved it, and my Johnny Cash fandom was born.  The first Cash record I heard, but not the last!

That’s my list for the night.  There were may great songs played through out the evening, though.  Budgie!  Hawkwind!  Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy!  Anthrax!  Check the link below for the complete list.

Wax is back – get spinning those tracks!  Thanks for a great night!

I’d also like to thank my old mate Graham, who turned up with a couple of Suicidal Tendencies records for me.  You see, I’d sold these two exact albums to Graham some twenty years ago, when I was a broke student.  Although I could’ve tracked the records down on eBay, I decided to message Graham and see if he’d sell them back to me (if he still had them).  The reason being that one album, the awesome “Join the Army”, had been given to me when I was 15 by my friend Kelvin Bedford, who I used to skateboard with every day.  Sadly, Kel passed away a couple of years ago.  So it was cool to get that actual copy back in my record collection, as a nice memory.  It even had the same plastic protective sheet over the album – and the selotape strip I patched up the inner sleeve with many, many years ago!  Graham gave me both records for free – so I bought him a pint or two.  Thank you!

The Halcyon Dreams blogspot is here.

The Halcyon Dreams mixcloud page is here.

The Halcyon Dreams Facebook page is here.

Food Quest: The Palomino

The Palomino, Connah’s Quay

Welcome to the frontier, the Wild West of Connah’s Quay.  No, the Quay isn’t that wild – but there’s a taste of the Big Country at The Palomino.

Once it was the Wepre Inn, now it’s reborn as The Palomino.  A Western themed bar and restaurant that’s decked out in all manner of cowboy paraphernalia.  There are life size statues of cowboys and Indians (including a full size John Wayne on a horse); dreamcatchers and pictures on the wall; plus numerous models of Native Americans and what not all over the place.

I think it’s very cool.  The very first time I went there, they even had Clint Eastwood classic Hang ‘Em High showing on several television screens around the room.

There’s an extensive menu that covers a wide range of steaks, burgers and hearty meals to fill up any gunslinger.  There are of course salads and vegetarian options for the weirdos.  Plenty of drink choices too, though sadly no Sam Adams or Brooklyn lager – they would’ve been more suitable.  I tried Kozel, a Czech beer, which was very nice (though sadly not cold enough!).

On our most recent visit, Mrs Platinum Al opted for the Chicken Espetada.  Never heard of this before; it’s pretty impressive.  Two large chicken and veg kebabs hang vertically down from a metal support over the plate.  Served with chips and salad, It looked great and the smell was enticing.  Luckily I got to try some.  I loved it, one to try next time.

For my own choice, I went for the full rack of ribs.  A massive plate was served to me, with chips, salad, coleslaw and corn on the cob.  The ribs were extremely tender and fell apart nicely, delicious sauce too.  Despite the vast amount of food, I made a valiant attempt and finished nearly everything – leaving just the corn half eaten…

Speaking for myself, I really enjoy going to the Palomino.  The food has always been good, with large portions and a good choice on offer.

Of course, what makes The Palomino unique is the decor.  You can see from the photos here what the place is like.  Unfortunately, I hear that the place is having a make over soon – so there’ll be no more Western memorabilia.  This makes me very sad.  Like a cowboy who’s had to shoot his lame horse.

I’m sure the food will continue to be great.  It’s just a shame that such a fun, different venue won’t be the same.  If you want to experience The Palomino as it is, better saddle up soon.

Food Quest Test

  • Food: a wide range of American style food, plus trad favourites, and large portions.  How about a Man vs Food style burger challenge?!
  • Drink: good range of beers, American beer like Samuel Adams and Brooklyn Lager would be great though.
  • Service: good, not perfect, but cheerful.
  • Cost: good value for large portions.

The Palomino Bar & Restaurant, Wepre Lane, Connah’s Quay CH5 4JR

01244 811122

The Palomino website is here.

The Palomino Facebook page is here.

Classic Albums

The first in an ongoing series, where I will be discussing some of the best records ever made.  These are the “classics” of my record collection, that no-one should be without.

1. The Cult – “Love”

Released in 1985, The Cult’s album Love still sounds fantastic to this day.  It’s a potent cocktail of resurrected blues-rock riffs, screaming psychedelia and murky atmosphere that transcended music of the time.  Listening to it now, it seems unbelievable that the record was created in the mid eighties.  And yet it has enough power – and melodic charm – to still sound great.

In late 1988 I had become obsessed with Electric, the full-on rock monster that the Cult had released a year earlier.  A friend lent me a copy of Love, promising that the songs contained therein were the best the band had recorded.  cult-love

At this point I had explored some rock, metal and punk.  Love was to be a bridge between these genres in many ways.  Happily it was (what would become) “alternative” rock – though it worshipped at the altar of Hendrix, The Doors and Led Zeppelin, it was birthed from the fire of punk rock.

Opening track “Nirvana” kicks things off in blazing style.  It has a fast pace and contains a euphoric instrumental section.  Both “Big Neon Glitter” and the title track “Love” offer up the Big Zep riffs and allow guitarist Billy Duffy to add a psychedelic shimmer.  Then “Brother Wolf, Sister Moon” provides a quieter moment.  If the earlier tracks were ideal for blasting out the windows of a 1970 Dodge Challenger, this track is more singer Ian Astbury sitting on a pony surveying the prairie.  As the song ends, rumbling clouds herald the next track: “Rain”.  One of the best songs the Cult have ever recorded, “Rain” has a truly classic riff that is instantly recognisable and never forgotten.

Side Two (!) opens with “Phoenix”.  This track, unashamedly adorned with Hendrix inspired acid rock guitar, hints at the heavier sounds to come in later chapters of the bands story.  “Hollow Man” provides more driving bass (Jamie Stewart) and a simpler, melodic lead guitar.  Astbury has the chance to really shine on ballad “Revolution”, with a calmer moment that harks back to the bands Goth post-punk phase.

Next we have the mother of all Cult songs – “She Sells Sanctuary”.  A vaguely Eastern sounding intro leads into a stomping rhythm as the song grabs the listener and drags them along for the sheer hell of it.  This song became an instant favourite and still has an impact all these years later.  Final track, “Black Angel”, is a sombre Velvet Underground do Spaghetti Western affair that again adds some darkness to the proceedings.

The band received a lot of criticism for having a somewhat “hippie-ish” element to their sound, and look, on this album.  There are a few moments where the “peace and love” vibe wear a bit thin (see “Revolution”), however the overall sound of the record retains a dark edge to it – more decadent than naive.

The Cult would go on to fully embrace their heavy rock interests with Electric.  But for a kid who had never heard Zeppelin or Hendrix, Love was a monumental discovery.  Put it on and listen to it now, this record has a magic that is of it’s time and yet speaks of the past and future.

The Cult – Love

  1. Nirvana
  2. Big Neon Glitter
  3. Love
  4. Brother Wolf, Sister Moon
  5. Rain
  6. Phoenix
  7. Hollow Man
  8. Revolution
  9. She Sells Sanctuary
  10. Black Angel

Best tracks: Rain, She Sells Sanctuary, Nirvana, Brother Wolf, Sister Moon

Other cool points: great cover!

Buy this Classic Album here.