Monday, 7 February 2011

In Praise Of The Live Album

I like live albums.

There, it’s out in the open. Admittedly it is not on a par with a fondness for underage hamsters or supporting Heart of Midlothian Football Club, but it is a confession of sorts that some may find a little strange. After all, a studio album is crafted to the artists vision; like a meal, lovingly and painstakingly prepared by a chef using all the ingredients and know how he or she can muster. But a Live album; that’s usually a mishmash of leftovers and cheap ingredients cobbled together for bulk.

But occasionally you get a carbonara made from just fresh eggs, cream and ham. A stripped down delight of the senses which somehow makes the whole better than the parts.

A live album, along with the Greatest Hits, (or in the case of The Motors their Greatest Hit) was often the contractual filler released to cash in on any previous success. Most of the time it was a case of recording a couple of concerts, pulling out the best versions of the band’s most popular songs, adding a few overdubs to overpower the mistakes and voila, a dish that is usually a mess.

But, like a good sauce, there are some that just taste brilliant. This is my list of those albums.

Alive In America - Manfred Mann’s Earth Band. The 10 minute version of Mighty Quinn is a tour de force of Prog Rock and Father of Day and Father of Night is a quasi-religious spiritual highlight which was something lacking in the studio version of the same song. The album is let down by some weaker track choices but overall it does show that the band could put out a pounding live performance.

Unleashed In The East – Judas Priest. Studded leather, Harley Davidsons, screaming vocals and pounding guitar riffs. NWOBHM before NWOBHM had even been invented. Priest’s studio albums leave me cold but UitE is like eating a mouthful of fizzy cola bottles in one sitting. Stupid, wasteful and maybe even slightly dangerous.

If You Want Blood, You Got It – AC/DC. der der der der der der der, ANGUS! der der der der der der der, ANGUS!… - “Any virgins in Glasgow?…” Silence. What an album. Never off the turntable in Inverkeithing High School Common Room record player throughout most of ‘79. Bon Scott died young and this album closed off his contribution to rock music. What a legacy.

Yessongs – Yes. THE triple album. I don’t ever recall anyone buying this new from Menzies, everyone I knew who owned a copy had bought it second hand and used it like my granddad used his Sunday suit; selling it back to raise some cash, in our case for a Hawkwind Gig or such. How anyone can listen to the finale of Starship Trooper and not become more than slightly moist is dead to me.

Live In The Heart Of The City – Whitesnake. A real guilty pleasure this one. I saw Whitesnake live a few times and they were rarely less than brilliant. The live album captures them before they got too pomp-rock AOL nonsense. Coverdale could play the crowd beautifully.

Genesis Live, Seconds Out, 3 Sides Live, The Way We Walk, Live Over Europe – Genesis. Five live albums spanning 30 odd years of performing and every one is a masterpiece. If I had to choose it has to be Seconds Out. The live versions of Firth of Fifth and Cinema Show are, to me, the greatest two pieces of prog-rock instrumental pieces (yes I know there are lyrics, but it is solo’s I am referring to)that has ever been captured on vinyl. 3 Sides Live introduced the mash-up version of the old songs. Genesis masterfully mixed into one song their past favourites and only on live albums can you hear these.

Shepherds Bush – Joe Bonamassa (Only available via iTunes). A fantastic blues and rock guitarist who consistently blows me away with his music. Check out “Just Got Paid” from this album. He suddenly breaks into Zep’s Dazed and Confused. Magic.

That’s enough for a wee while. I’ll post some more later.

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Uri Geller and the Mysterious Isle


According to the Wall St Journal, Uri Geller (The world famous ex-mystic and entertainer) has purchased a mysterious Scottish Island and intends to use his magical abilities to discover the secret Egyptian treasure which was buried on the island by a Pharaoh’s daughter 3,500 years ago.

It does beg a question – if it is a secret treasure, how does Mr Geller know this? But we shall come back this later.

According to the article, Geller spent the night on the island and the reporter got a picture of Geller with camping gear posing manfully about to set off.

Strange thing though, this all happened in March according to other reports and even Geller’s own website. so I wonder why the WSJ is suddenly reporting this now?

Geller’s press release about why he bought the island is wonderful to read and for anyone with the slightest sense of normality I encourage them to read it. As a Scots history buff I can state that his ideas about Scottish history must be taken with a large mountain of salt.


For example:

"I am fascinated by the connection between the pyramids and these islands," said Geller, 62, who is currently filming in Holland and Germany his reality TV show for mentalists, The Next Uri Geller.
"The connection has been known for centuries — you can read about it in a fifteenth century manuscript called the Scotichronichon, by the Abbot of Inchcolm, Walter Bower.”

The Scotichronicon (Note correct spelling) was indeed a history of Scotland written by Incholm’s Abbot Walter Bower and although it gives a detailed account of the history of country it also runs off into flights of fantasy. It is well understood by historians that Bower must be understood in the context of his time (early 15th c) when Scotland was in a near perpetual state of war with its much larger and more powerful neighbour England.

Just 150 years before, Scotland had arisen from the Wars of Independence thanks to Wallace and Bruce and at that time there was a great need to show that Scotland had legitimate claim to nationhood as had England.

When Bruce had wrested his crown from Edward II after Bannockburn in 1314, he still had the problem of legitimacy. He could not forge a nation and begin to trade without the support of the wider community in Europe, so he turned to the UN equivalent: The Pope.

Bruce had a Treaty drawn up by his lawyers  - the Bishops – and it became known as the Declaration of Arbroath. The document proclaimed that Scotland had always been an independent nation and one of the ways to show that was to have an origins myth.

The Scots had theirs:

[Dear Pope] we know and from the chronicles and books of the ancients we find that among other famous nations our own, the Scots, has been graced with widespread renown. They journeyed from Greater Scythia by way of the Tyrrhenian Sea and the Pillars of Hercules, and dwelt for a long course of time in Spain among the most savage tribes, but nowhere could they be subdued by any race, however barbarous. Thence they came, twelve hundred years after the people of Israel crossed the Red Sea, to their home in the west where they still live today. The Britons they first drove out, the Picts they utterly destroyed, and, even though very often assailed by the Norwegians, the Danes and the English, they took possession of that home with many victories and untold efforts; and, as the historians of old time bear witness, they have held it free of all bondage ever since. In their kingdom there have reigned one hundred and thirteen kings of their own royal stock, the line unbroken a single foreigner. 

There were other additions to this myth. That Scotus, a Princess descendent of Noah, stole the Pillow of Jacob and brought it to Scotland where it was used as a coronation stone by Scots kings. The Stone was to become known as the Stone of Destiny and was taken by Edward I to London in 1290. It was placed in the Coronation Chair in Westminster Abbey and now resides in Edinburgh Castle.

Bower would have had no reason to either doubt this myth and even if he had, politically he would not have dared refute it. 

Geller’s website also contains this gem:

According to research published by a historical investigator named Jeff Nisbet, in the magazine Atlantis Rising, in September 2002, there are three crucial Templar sites in the UK: the village of Temple, Rosslyn Chapel and the Isle of May. This last is believed by some Arthurian scholars to be the real location of Avalon, the island where King Arthur was laid to rest and await his return as the Once and Future King.
Lines drawn between the three points cut through a pair of islands in the Firth of Forth, called Craigleith and Fidra. And lying between these is a third outcrop: Lamb Island.
What Nisbet realised is that the three islands are arranged in precisely the same crooked line that marks the layout of the Pyramids at Giza, built by the Pharoahs 4,500 years ago.
That layout famously matches the three stars known as Orion's Belt, and Nisbet discovered that anyone standing on the battlefield of Bannockburn, where Robert the Bruce defeated the English army in 1314, on the anniversary of the battle on June 24, would see the three stars (Alnitak, Alnilam and Mintaka) rise exactly over the three islands of Craigleith, Lamb and Fidra.

Isle of May the last resting home of King Arthur? Maybe, but so is a million other places in the UK and Ireland.


As you can see, Craigleith and Fidra are not on a line drawn between Temple, Roslin and the isle of May.

As for Bruce seeing Orion’s belt over these island from Bannockburn, I can only say Bollocks. The site of the battle was below Stirling Castle, 35 miles away and completely invisible from the battle site.


Scottish history is fascinating and full of wonderful stories and mysteries. We do not need this so-called ex-psychic making crap up about it.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

New iPhone4

Finally managed to get an iPhone4.

The attempt to get one through Apple was getting frustrating, it seems that they have daily deliveries but these are often gone by lunchtime and with no weekend deliveries it effectively ruled out any chance of getting one for me.

Because I work for a certain well known mobile communication company, I was able to contact our shops directly (the website only gives a generic Cust Services No.) and after about 10 calls, finally located one. It meant going to Glasgow - a round trip of 80 miles or so - but I can say it was well worth it.

The phone itself - actually to call it a phone is to do it a supreme injustice - is a remarkable piece of engineering. As Arthur C Clarke said (Clarke's third law) "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic".

Apple's back-up service through iTunes worked a treat and after about 30 mins loading all my apps, music, photos and ebooks, the thing was good to go.

The issue with the signal has not proived problematic at all and it seems better than the old 3Gs. The battery life is slightly improved over the last one too.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Testing Windows

Just installed Windows 7 on my PC. It comes with various add-ons you can get from Microsoft, one of them is “Windows Live Writer”.

It allows blog-posts directly from the program which can be formatted in many ways. This is the initial test of this service.


This is a picture of the mighty Forth Bridge, with the Road Bridge behind it. I am currently reading a fascinating book on the making of the original bridge. It was opened in 1890 and is still going strong.

The Road Bridge was built in 1964 and is already approaching its end of life.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Oh The Irony.

Oh the Irony...

Taken directly from the Daily Mail this picture was part of a tirade by Melanie Philips whose persecution complex knows few bounds; but what struck me was the caption below the picture which really says it all:

Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams has attacked the Government for treating religious believers as 'oddities'

That's the ticket Rowan, with those glad-rags you could mingle unobtrusively into any town centre in the UK on an average Saturday night.

The next pictures really need no caption.