Category Archives: Rock

RORY GALLAGHER: ‘Check Shirt Wizard.’

It’s sad to say that very often, when our musical heroes pass on, their legacy is somewhat tarnished by the release of substandard recordings.

This is perhaps understandable where more ‘commercial’ artists are involved, their estates and labels seeking to capitalize on the fans’ grief, and milk every last penny from their ‘investment.’

But commercialism was never the aim of the game for Rory Gallagher, and with brother Donal curating the recordings, you just know that whatever is / has been released posthumously will remain true to the ethos of Rory.

Last year saw the release of double (vinyl) album / triple (cd) ‘Blues,‘ and we fans thought it could never get better – all that time (I have been too lazy to add the track lengths up) devoted to Rory’s specialist genre? Pigs in you know what, we were. (Said Yoda. )

But it just has! Gotten better, that is.

Check Shirt Wizard,‘ reverses the format of the previous release and gives us a triple vinyl / double compact disc, which to my immature mind is a lot more sexy.
That said, I still bought both!

I’m conscious that many of Rory’s ever expanding fanbase were not fortunate enough to have seen him play ‘live.’ But this release is a perfect illustration of what it was like to have been at a show, some forty-three years ago. (Forty-three???!!)

Rory was in his prime. He was backed magnificently by Gerry, Rod and Lou – what I’d consider the strongest line-up he ever played with. A concert those days would last the best part of two hours, in often very basic and sweaty surroundings. No frills; no glitz; no glamour; no posing; no pouting. Just blues infused rock ‘n’ roll as God intended.

This 1977 UK tour, promoting the latest album ‘Calling Card,‘ took in twelve shows in sixteen days, an eleven day break, then another six shows in eight days, with a final date at the Royal Albert Hall no less, a further couple of weeks down the line. Touring certainly was a bit of a slog in those days, but if you wanted your music to heard, this is what you had to do.

But Rory loved it – and this was reflected in his shows: full of energy, but with humility and good humour. These three vinyl records (recorded variously at the Hammersmith Odeon, the Brighton Dome, Sheffield City Hall and Newcastle City Hall) totally encompass this.

Everything about ‘Check Shirt Wizard‘ is spot on. The sound quality is top end – a studio quality recording that fuses the electric atmosphere of a live show. The fold-out sleeve and the photographs are beautiful, as is the eight page, colour insert that takes the form of an outsize concert programme. (Remember them?)

Obviously this particular version is not on ‘Check Shirt Wizard,’ but it is from the same year,

The majority of the twenty tracks are upbeat, boogie and riff-laden, and although recorded over the four different venues, they have been compiled in such a manner as to give the feel of one show. This means that in keeping with his live shows, Rory slips in a few more acoustic blues numbers just after the mid point.

In addition to eight of the nine tracks originally on the ‘Calling Card‘ studio album (only ‘I’ll admit You’re Gone‘ is missing) ‘Check Shirt Wizard’ gives us blinding versions of what became ‘standards’ such as ‘Tattoo’d Lady,’ ‘Going To My Hometown,’ and of course, ‘Bullfrog Blues.’ The latter of these three really did make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, especially towards the end when over the top of a heavy boogie riff, Rory thanks the crowd for attending and acknowledges the band members in his own inimitable style: “Lou Martin on keyboards! Lou Martin! Yeah!”

Up till now, I have always held ‘Live in Europe‘ as my favourite album – not just of Rory Gallagher, but ‘favourite album’ full stop. This though, could well replace it. It’s an awesome collection that if time permits, should be listened through track by track to get that full on concert experience.

‘Check Shirt Wizard‘: they don’t make them like you anymore.

*****
I always wished to have been at a gig that was recorded for release as an album at a later date. I wasn’t at any of the four shows that are included here, but I was at the Glasgow show that predated the tour, and was sat (until the bouncers turned away) just two rows back from the ticket stub pictured on the inside back cover of the album insert!
*****

THE MEMBRANES: ‘Nocturnal’ (Kitty Lectro Remix.

See – here’s the thing with remixes: I almost feel kinda guilty if I like one better than the original.

I always think a band wouldn’t have released the version they did if they felt it could be improved upon.

But I obviously tend to overthink things.

Until about ten minute before writing this post, I thought that the track ‘Nocturnal,’ from the Membranes‘ latest album (June 2019) ‘What Nature Gives … Nature Takes Away) was as good as it gets.

But I was wrong. THIS is as good as it gets!

The Kitty Lectro remix is brilliantly dark, broody and moody. It has a retro ‘goth’ feel to it and is almost like a new track entirely.

Both versions merit a play – you decide.

(Featured, header, photo by @rshashamane )

THEATRE ROYAL: ‘Incidental Friend.’

It’s not very often that a band appears on the music scene, one hundred per cent ‘ready.’

Rochester band Theatre Royal are one .

I have been banging about them from virtually day one, and now, ahead of their fifth album release, due early next year, they have confirmed my faith with their excellent new ‘Incidental Friend‘ EP.

The four tracks will be drip-released over the next three weeks, with the title track available from today (1st November.)

Theatre Royal have never really strayed from what they do best – clear, melodic harmonies with hooky choruses and thoughtful lyrics. Their songs have the knack of immediacy, without being in your face, as such. And ‘Incidental Friend’ is no different in that regard.

Although I have said they arrived ‘one hundred percent ready,’ there has always been a natural progression, and this track shows a further maturity. It somehow feel just a little bit more polished; a little bit more relaxed in the delivery – like this is a band who appreciate their strengths and know where they want to sit in whole scheme of things. A band confident in their skin.

Look – it’s not just me. If blokes like Steve Lamaq dig them, then I need say no more.

Go check ’em out.



THE OCULAR AUDIO EXPERIMENT: ‘No Fooling.’

Just like the buses around here in Glasgow, you wait for ages and then two come at once!

Hot on the heels of his forthcoming new album’s lead track, Alex Pollock has also made available the following, ‘No Fooling.

The album was self-produced, written, performed, recorded, mixed and mastered by Pollock from his home apartment in Somerville, Massachusetts. During the creation of Rain, Pollock’s mother unexpectedly fell ill and passed away. While Rain is in some ways an expression of that change, it is also aspires to belong to everyone, beyond a singular, defining experience. 

Rain‘ is a new, ambitious and exciting stage in the evolution of The Ocular Audio Experiment, colored lovingly with influences like, The Brian Jonestown Massacre, True Widow, Mercury Rev, Spacemen 3, BRMC, Black Angels, Psychic Ills and others.

I’ve been a fan of The Ocular Audio Experiment from, well, the start, I suppose, but much as I enjoyed the earlier work, from what I’ve hear of ‘Rain’ so far, it shows a maturity and richness of sound. It sounds to me that Alex and his ‘live’ band have truly found their feet and there is a greater sense of professionalism in both the music and accompanying video production.

THE OCULAR AUDIO EXPERIMENT.

It’s been three years, but he’s back!
And if you were a reader of Loud Horizon back in the day, you’ll know how happy this makes me.

Alex Pollock, if I recall correctly, is from Boston area, USA, and under the pseudonym, The Ocular Audio Experiment, produces some glorious, shimmering yet dark and melodically doom-laden psyche music.

In his own words:
” Well, here we are, a whole year after I thought this project was done. Wow. This has taken me a lot longer than I had ever hoped or expected it to, for a variety of reasons, none of which are exciting or interesting. I am, however, ready to finally start putting it out into the world for good. ……….

” …. My goal with The Ocular Audio Experiment, going way back to the beginning, was to show that if some idiot like me, with no training, no label, no studio, no band, no know-how, could put together something maybe kind of close to cool, than really anybody could. That’s still the point and I still believe that.”

Rain,‘ is the lead and title track from the forthcoming album. It’s hard to quantify exactly, but I sense a distinctly more confident and professional approach from Alex on this one. The production and sound seem less cluttered and the accompanying video is quite striking in its ambiance and basic starkness.

I look forward to hearing the whole album, and sincerely hope Alex manages to get this in front of labels who specialize in this genre.

It’s a winner, I tellz ya!


SLEAVE: ‘Homebound.’

That album, ‘Don’t Expect Anything’ is now completed and primed for release in autumn, this year.

By this time, I was thinking more along the lines of Blink 182 type pop punk bands. And then the mood changed yet again with the chorus which had me convinced their was a wee bit Foo Fighters inspiration creeping in.

So, there’s definitely a lot going on here for just one track! And, I’m pleased to say my UK related were somewhat confirmed when I read that the band have recently signed a deal with UK label Engineer Records.

(It’s tenuous and most probably a simple coincidence, I know, but I’m claiming it anyway!)