Dave's Diary
This journal of the comings'n'goings and musings'n'enthusings of Dave Ling will be updated daily
(except after nights of excess)

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Tuesday 31st August
There’s no such thing as a Bank Holiday for a freelance writer, so most of yesterday was spent either preparing questions for interviews or actually asking them. Called Gunnar Nelson in advance of Nelson’s Sunday night headlining spot at the Firefest. Talkative guy, I liked him. Gunnar was insistent that Nelson’s new album, ‘Lightning Strikes Twice’, will be available in time for the Firefest, which I was sceptical about as the notoriously hands-on Frontiers Records have hardly been trumpeting news of its arrival. But it’s true: the album, which has been termed a “new, original sequel” to the duo’s multi-platinum debut ‘After The Rain’, is indeed expected on November 5. Meanwhile, samples of the newie from Unruly Child have been causing melodic rock disciples to tangle their knickers in a bit of a twist, though sadly my PC must have the wrong media player or something; couldn’t get them to work. No matter, my source at Frontiers (hi John!) confirms that reviewers/interviewers will be presented with ‘Worlds Collide’ from tomorrow (Wednesday) onwards… Yay!
I also had a very pleasant chat with former Mr Mister singer/bassist Richard Page, primarily about his excellent new solo album, ‘Peculiar Life’, though of course we also spent a while discussing the three-album run of Mr Mister – soon to become four with the posthumous excavation of their long-lost, shelved, swansong, ‘Pull’, from 1989. Page, who has been out touring as part of Ringo Starr’s band, playing songs like ‘Broken Wings’ and ‘Kyrie’ for the first time in 25 years, made little secret of the fact that a Mr Mister reunion isn’t beyond the bounds of possibility.
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Monday 30th August
Having enjoyed some leisure time on Saturday whilst watching the Rush DVD, yesterday afternoon was spent with feet up once more for a belated viewing of Saxon’s Heavy Metal Thunder – The Movie. Just like the Rush flick, it lives up to the hype. Allowing embittered ex-members Graham Oliver and Steve ‘Dobby’ Dawson to have their say, few punches are pulled. Indeed, the tale is recounted with unflinching, dry Yorkshire honesty, from touring in a tripe van at the start of the group’s career to the Spinal Tap connection, the many acrimonious line-up changes, the ill-advised business deals that blighted their career (“Our manager [Nigel Thomas] died, suddenly. Probably got suffocated counting money, I dunno”, pronounces Biff Byford of the career advisor that persuaded the band to woo the American market) and even embarrassing sex-on-the-road anecdotes to make your toes curl. Dawson’s recollection of being in a hotel room with five US groupies and demanding: “Okay, which of you wants it first?” was especially grim. But overall… just like Saxon themselves… it was hard to look away.
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Sunday 29th August
Yesterday afternoon’s humbling defeat by Scunthorpe United incensed me so badly that I terminated the match commentary, threw a moody and went to sit in my office supping pint glasses of vodka and cloudy lemonade (in Crystal Palace World, everything is cloudy). With Mrs L and the Linglets knowing to leave me alone for a while, I made the most of the silence by watching my copy of the Rush DVD, Beyond The Lighted Stage, that had arrived the same morning. I’m happy to concur with mountains of praise that poured in for the rockumentary on Canada’s greatest ever musical attraction. When one considers how close the trio came to splitting up before the ‘2112’ album saved their asses… well, let’s just say that is an amazing story, told in a way that emphasizes all the group’s endearing humanity. The scene in which Geddy Lee is pestered for an autograph by a waitress at a diner that fails to recognise Lifeson (“Oh my God… it’s Geddy, right?” quips the smiling guitarist) is absolutely priceless. As ‘talking heads’ Jack Black and Billy Corgan are surprisingly insightful, Sebastian Bach equally passionate but that **cannot** have been tea he was drinking… LOL. Equally amusing was a segment which turned the spotlight on Rush’s press reviews. Thankfully, I wasn’t the journo that called ‘2112’ “Unintentionally funny” or said that the same album was “overbearing and repetitious to the point of tears”. I hope that the hack that described the group’s songs as “a cancerous network of haphazard key and time signature changes” now enjoys flipping burgers at McDonalds.
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Saturday 28th August
On this fine late summer’s day my body will sadly be remaining in Catford, though my spirit is already en route to the North Lincolnshire town of Scunthorpe. Come on you Eagles!!! Three points from The Iron please.
Just in case I’m too pissed to remember, the Sky+ box has been set to record this evening’s programme on the Sky Arts Channel at 9pm – two and a half hours of highlights of the High Voltage Festival, including tracks by UFO, Asia, Foreigner, ELP, Bigelf and more. Looks great!
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Friday 27th August
As intimated in yesterday’s entry, I hate sitting here with a calculator, cut and pasting purchase order numbers into invoices, logging receipts for cash spent and attempting to make sense of malicious paperless payment systems – words (and indeed useless trivia) are my thing(s), not numbers. Listening to Gov’t Mule’s new triple-live album, ‘Mulennium’, at least made this process semi-bearable. Recorded in Atlanta on the New Year’s Eve of 1999/’00, its climax arrives when the clock strikes midnight and the band bursts into King Crimson’s ‘21st Century Schizoid Man’, followed by ‘We’re Not Gonna Take It’ by The Who and then ‘Dazed And Confused’ by Led Zeppelin – talk about seeing in the new year with a bang!
I’ve also been sent an excellent new song by the revised line-up of the Heavy Metal Kids, with John Altman of ‘Nasty’ Nick Cotton from EastEnders fame on lead vocals. ‘Uncontrollable’ is quite splendid; wild, commercial and flamboyantly theatrical, just like the group’s old days, but for all the aggression implied in its title it’s also very slightly camp. I love the way Altman refers to his Ma in a spoken word ad-libbed conclusion. Dot Cotton would be proud.
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Thursday 26th August
[**Sighs deeply**]: It’s an accounts day. Among the worst aspects of being a freelance music writer (albeit on a contract with a magazine as renowned as Classic Rock) is a constant awareness of the bottom line. Planning how long each job will take; setting the alarm clock at silly o’clock in the morning or burning the midnight oil to complete on time, then moving onto the next; chasing payments; occasionally having to haggle to bring in what you consider a particular task is worth in terms of your time – it’s nowhere near as easy as one might assume.
Luckily, as you can probably tell, I get plenty of job satisfaction. For instance, Universal Records have just okayed my lengthy sleeve essay for a forthcoming Status Quo project called ‘Live At The BBC’. To be issued in various different formats, the exhaustive collection plunders the audio-visual archives at Broadcasting House, beginning with performances of the tracks ‘Gloria’ and ‘I (Who Have Nothing)’ as The Spectres on The Saturday Club in 1966, bringing their remarkable story into the present day via radio sessions, concert recordings and appearances on long-lost programmes like Top Of The Pops, The Little And Large Show, The Generation Game, Wogan, Pebble Mill, Saturday Superstore, Noel’s House Party, The Les Dawson Show and, best of all, Multi-Coloured Swap Shop – names as legendary in the world of entertainment as the band’s own. For me, though, the most exciting aspect of ‘Live At The BBC’ is the long-overdue official release of a legendary performance by the original line-up captured by the microphones of the Beeb’s long running In Concert series at the Paris Theatre on 1st March 1973. Believe me, Quo fans are going to salivate.

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Wednesday 25th August
Pressure of work prevented me from making the trip to Pompey for last night’s game in the Second Round of the League Cup. But although Palace lost on penalties after a 1-1 draw in regular time, the testimonies of the message-board regulars that made it to Fratton Park present very optimistic reading.
His performance described as “simply incredible”, Edgar Davids played for 80 minutes and sprayed the ball around from left back (hopefully he’ll be in midfield upon reaching full fitness), the home side scoring against the run of play (which tallies with the report on Sky Sports News).
With the ball being kept on the deck, the way the game **should** be played, one enthusiastic poster claimed that the first half was “the best football I’ve ever seen [from] Palace.” Both Ambrose and Danns are both set to return to the side; the future appears brighter than the result might suggest.
Wish I was going up to Scunny at the weekend.
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Tuesday 24th August
The brand new issue of Prog, dated September 2010, has just arrived. Although it says Issue 17 on its spine (a long story, to do with the way that Future Publishing numbers its one-off titles), it’s actually the tenth issue since the magazine first appeared on the newsstands in January 2009. Though certain individuals greeted its arrival with derision, the title is going from strength to strength. The new ish has Roger Waters on the cover, plus interviews with David Gilmour, Fish, Spock’s Beard, Enslaved, Roswell Six, Tarja Turunen and Frost*’s Dec Burke, also my own conversation with Nicolas Chapel of French band Demians and an extensive reviews section that includes appraisal of all the groups that appeared on Prog’s stage at the recent High Voltage Festival. Lots to read, then. With the format so resoundingly successful (Prog is now published bi-monthly), Future really should consider the feasibility of a standalone, Classic Rock-endorsed magazine devoted to melodic hard rock. Hmmm… watch this space.
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Monday 23rd August
A record 11.1 million idiots tuned in to watch the new series of The X Factor last weekend. There’s been a hullaballoo over allegations that the programme uses Auto-tune software to affect the alleged ‘vocals’ of certain contestants, helping the moderately talented ones to punch above their weight and the bad ’uns to sound worse than ever. Though I’m guilty of watching a little reality TV, Bruce Dickinson’s recent slating of American Idol was absolutely correct. “You couldn't pay me enough to go on that show,” he said. “I find it a bit sad that people enjoy it. There's another show called Britain’s Got Talent which is clearly just an exercise in laughing at people’s inability. I’ve never watched [any of those shows] for longer than 30 seconds, which is sufficient to go, ‘I can’t believe people sit and watch this shit’.”
All the more intriguing, then, that my current melodic rock faves H.E.A.T. have recruited Erik Grönwall, the winner of last year’s Swedish Idol, as replacement for Kenny Leckremo. It’ll be interesting to see how that works out.
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Sunday 22nd August
So incensed by Palace’s home defeat to Ipswich, I went home to change my shirt before making my way to Camden for a gig by reunited UK pagan-thrashers Sabbat. Having had a skinful of cider it wasn’t worth the risk of getting wound up and either decking someone or, probably far more likely, getting laid out myself. This proved fortuitous as the Underworld no longer allows admission to those in football colours. Besides cheering loudly as new signing Edgar Davids was welcomed on the pitch at half time (oh, how I enjoyed writing that!), the trip to SE25 was memorable for another good reason – a new centrespread of the fanzine Five Year Plan is devoted to a lovely colour shot of the recent demonstrations at Selhurst in which yours truly is clearly visible.
Save for a short and unsatisfying support slot at the Astoria in December ’06 for which Martin Walkyier had lost his voice, my previous sighting of Sabbat was way back in the 1990s – possibly supporting Manowar on their own final visit to Britain. In fact, Walkyier announced from the stage that it had been 20 years since Sabbat last headlined a British tour. “It’s like an old age pensioners’ outing in the back of our bus,” he grinned devilishly. “Except we don’t get tea and biscuits – we have beer and metal!!” Despite the impairment of a haze of booze (that bottle of white wine on train was a big mistake!), it was excellent to experience them again. With Gizz Butt, once of the Prodigy, an unlikely choice to double up Andy Sneap’s meaty riffing, the material from both of their albums (1991’s Walkyier-less ‘Mourning Has Broken’ now being all but disowned) has stood the test of time way better than it had a right to. They even threw in ‘Blood For The Blood God’, a song that had only ever appeared on a flexidisc. Here’s the set-list: ‘A Cautionary Tale’, ‘Behind The Crooked Cross’, ‘Hosanna In Excelsis’, ‘The Clerical Conspiracy’, ‘I For An Eye’, ‘Do Dark Horses Dream Of Nightmares?’, ‘Blood For The Blood God’, ‘The Best Of Enemies (Wulf’s Tale)’ and ‘The Church Bizarre’, plus encores of ‘Wildfire’ and ‘For Those Who Died’.
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Saturday 21st August
Yesterday was just another humdrum day in SE25. Crystal Palace exited administration. We signed Edgar Davids on a pay-as-you-play deal, the former Holland international smiling as he held up the fabled red and blue striped shirt at the club’s official website. Oh, and two strikers arrived on loan; Jonathan Obika from Spurs and Ipswich’s Pablo Counago. Am I dreaming? We’ve got Edgar fucking Davids. Plus… two other guys that know how to insert the ball into the onion bag, Onika being highly rated and capped at England Youth level. Davids is set to be introduced on the pitch at today’s game against Ipswich. I repeat: AM I DREAMING??!!
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Friday 20th August
Nearly a month since my last indoor gig, I was champing at the bit for last night's UK solo debut from former Emperor guitarist/vocalist Ihsahn. Was a bit disappointed by the size of the turnout with the Electric Ballroom's upstairs balcony closed off and plenty of room to move about elsewhere, but the show was fantastic. Since the seemingly final implosion of Emperor, Ihsahn has gone down a more progressively inclined path, releasing three quite superb solo records. The Norwegian musicians from his backing band provided the night's support entertainment with their own groups. Caught the end of Leprous, who sounded really good. However, I was really impressed by Shining – not to be confused with the self-mutilating Swedes of the same name – whose mixture of experimental jazz and black metal was plain bonkers.
With a six-piece band onstage – seven including the occasional blasts of saxophone from Shining’s Jørgen Munkeby – it must’ve been hell behind the mixing console for Ihsahn’s headline set. Sure enough, the sound at the beginning was pants but as Ihsahn’s lead vocals – a mixture of growls and clean singing – became more audible and the guitars were allowed to breathe, things took shape. With all but two exceptions the 80-minute show was culled from Ihsahn’s solo catalogue, the Opeth-like ‘Invocation’ among its many highlights. Surprisingly, he also included two songs by “the boy band I was with back in the 90s”, namely ‘The Tongue Of Fire’ (from 2001’s ‘Prometheus: The Discipline of Fire & Demise’) and ‘Thus Spake The Nightspirit’ (a selection from ‘Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk’ in ’97). Here’s the full set-list: ‘The Barren Lands’, ‘A Grave Inversed’, ‘Misanthrope’, ‘Invocation’, ‘Called By The Fire’, ‘Scarab’, ‘Emancipation’, ‘Unhealer’, ‘Frozen Lakes On Mars’, ‘Citizen’, ‘The Tongue Of Fire’, ‘On The Shores’ and ‘Thus Spake The Nightspirit’.
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Thursday 19th August
What a great pleasure it was to speak with Andrew Latimer… a true English gentleman and guiding force of one of this nation’s finest bands, Camel. Latimer has been through the wars this past decade, a doctor having advised him that he had 20 months to live after being diagnosed with myelofibrosis, but after chemo and a bone marrow transplant the 61-year-old is firmly on the mend, experiencing good days and bad (as do we all - only more emphatically so in his case) whilst beginning the process of making new music again with Camel. “Now that I’m getting progressively better, I’m starting to think about getting out there and doing some gigs again,” he told me during yesterday’s interview. Latimer’s tale is a triumph over adversity. My only trouble is that I must deliver the story by tomorrow morning… ouch.
I had no idea that Classic Rock’s label, Powerage Records, was planning to re-release Bigelf’s pre-‘Cheat The Gallows’ catalogue until a parcel flopped onto my desk. The 1996 mini-album, ‘Closer To Doom’ now comes with enough extras to be considered a full-length record in its own right, 2000’s ‘Money Machine’ also has an array of bolt-ons, with ‘Hex’ from ’03 available domestically for the first time in its original form. The only negative? The sleeve booklets for ‘Money…’ and ‘Hex’ are bit too flimsy, a large band pic attempting to compensate for lyrics. Nevertheless, these CDs are exceedingly welcome additions to the collection.
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Wednesday 18th May
My copy of the new Iron Maiden album, ‘The Final Frontier’, has arrived. It’s the tin box-housed ‘mission edition’… thanks a lot, EMI! Although I had found ‘El Dorado’ a bit wishy-washy – worrying, given that the previous three albums since the return of Bruce Dickinson and Adrian Smith were all previewed by quality tunes (viz ‘The Wicker Man’, ‘Wildest Dreams’ and ‘The Reincarnation Of Benjamin Breeg’) – I’m happy to say that the reviews do not lie; ‘The Final Frontier’ is blowing me away. Its final track, the almost 11-minute ‘When The Wild Wind Blows’… sheeeeesh, that’s bloody amazing stuff.
Meanwhile, the craziest football story of 2010 – Crystal Palace’s potential signing of Edgar Davids – refuses to go away. One last pay-day is the last thing on Davids’ mind, it seems (and thankfully so – the Eagles don’t have a pot in which to urinate). He just wants to come to London, where he has a second home, and play football again. Boss George Burley is advising caution: “There is nothing definite about [the deal]. This is to do with a friend of a mate who knows Edgar and it was mentioned that he might like to start playing again.” But the Daily Mail reports that the 37-year-old has agreed in principle to a pay-as-you-play contract and is expected at the training ground tomorrow. Holy f**k! If true, that’ll sell a few replica shirts!
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Tuesday 17th August
Sweet Jeeeezus, a very sexy rumour suggests that the Palace have approached Edgar Davids, one of the biggest stars of the football world, to sign a short term deal for this season. Now 37, the dreadlocked former Ajax, Juventus, Milan and Barcelona midfielder has reportedly discussed the audacious move with Eagles boss George Burley. The bad news is that the former Dutch international hasn’t played a competitive game for two years. However, far more positive is that he loves London having represented Spurs between 2005–2007 and is said to be seriously considering the deal. This could only happen in the crazy world of Crystal Palace FC; it’s right up there with Puff Daddy’s now legendary attempt to buy the club. I may have to go and have a lie down.
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Monday 16th August
I’d love to have spent this evening down at the Peel in Kingston–Upon-Thames where Fish is set to perform what is, by his standards, a somewhat low-key solo gig. Alas, although the Peel isn’t too far from where I live, certainly as the fly crows – um… that should probably be ‘crow flies’? – getting there involves a lot of complex travel connections going to plan, and work-wise my plate is far too stacked up with albums reviews, interviews and tape transcriptions to consider such a perilous journey. Most annoying, but that’s what happens when the three magazines that employ me all go to press in the exact same week that various sleeve notes are due for delivery.
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Sunday 15th August
Yesterday’s game between Barnsley and Crystal Palace at Oakwell was a big disappointment. Neither team performed especially well and the points were settled by an own goal from CPFC’s Paddy McCarthy. Despite having been lubricated by an inordinate amount of alcohol, it felt like a long trip back to London.
Skin guitarist Myke Gray was here at Ling Towers this afternoon, filming yours truly and my eldest lad Eddie, both of us sporting Skin T-shirts, rocking out to his group’s new single, ‘Born To Rock ‘N’ Roll’. The band have been inviting friends, fans and those that supported their cause to co-star with them in the song’s video. Myke has really got his act together these days and grown into an extremely pleasant bloke, having been something of a prima donna in his days as a boy prodigy (I’m sure he’d admit that – most of us have matured into far nicer people as the years roll by). Gray dropped off a copy of Skin’s self-financed farewell album, ‘Breaking The Silence’, which is only available from the group’s website, www.skinfreak.co.uk. Their final ever gig takes place at Nottingham Rock City on December 18th, with Palace due to play Nottingham Florist at the City Ground the same afternoon, so there’s every chance I will nip up and kill two birds with one stone.
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Saturday 14th August
Much of yesterday was spent travelling back and forth to rain-whipped Grimsby in the north of England, where I was offered a sneak preview of ‘Perfect World’, the new album from reunited melodic hard rockers Strangeways. “You know the band’s story,” said Ian J Stewart as he reached across to punch the ‘Play’ button. “You’re going to hear some stuff that sounds like [classic-era] Strangeways and some that doesn’t.” The guitarist did not lie. Of the record’s dozen songs, I counted four (‘Time’, ‘Crackin’ Up Baby’, ‘Too Far Gone’ and the record’s excellent closing cut, ‘Say What You Want’) that were clearly comparable to the template laid down by the group’s seminal ‘Native Sons’/‘Walk In The Fire’, plus a couple more borderline examples with question marks against their names in my notebook’s margin. The album is very good, of that there is no doubt, and Terry Brock still boasts one of the classiest voices in the genre, though the sheer number of heavier tunes – particularly a monster entitled ‘Bushfire’, the band’s answer to ‘Kashmir’ which Stewart says is certain to be blooded at the Firefest – is bound to set the cat among the pigeons with the purists when it drops in October.
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Thursday 12th August
Though my workload kept me chained to the PC, Mrs L and the Linglets have gone away for a short camping break. Because of this, dog-sitting duties scuppered hope of attending last night’s London gig from Voivod and Nashville Pussy. Most annoying. Despite vowing not to, I ended up watching the friendly between England and Hungary. Was enjoying the game till the second half introduction of alleged ‘striker’ Bo**y Za***a, a player with Shiteon & Homo Albion roots. When I found myself yelling vitriolic abuse at the television set in an otherwise empty house I figured it might be time to change channels before the neighbours summoned the men in the white coats (the game finished 2-1 to England, apparently).
Just finished the sleeve notes for the re-issue of the two albums by York-metalheads Maineeaxe (1984’s ‘Shout It Out’ and the following year’s ‘Going For Gold’). Whilst interviewing singer Mick Adamson, I was intrigued to find out that the band’s second line-up is considering a reunion. Good on ’em, that’s what I say.
Today’s postal haul was terrific; just what I needed with two long trips ahead. The Rock Candy re-issues of the debut from The Godz – no bonus cuts but Martin Popoff’s sleeve essay is superb! – and the second album from 1994 (‘Please Stand By…’), plus the first five Robin Trower albums edited down onto three CDs (‘A Tale Untold: The Chrysalis Years: 1973-1976’). ‘Croweology’, a double album of acoustic re-workings of the best Black Crowes songs is also here, plus Eagle Vision’s latest ‘Classic Albums’ DVD, which turns the spotlight on Rush’s ‘2112’ and Moving Pictures’… seriously, does it get any better than that?!
Well… maybe it does, and here’s the icing on the cake: ‘Sir’ Steve Coppell, a true Palace legend has stunned football by walking out on his new employers, Brizzle Shitty, after two games (both defeats, ’natch). Fantastic news! Steve was far too good for a horrible, pikey little club with such ill-founded delusions of grandeur.
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Wednesday 11th August
Unable to make the trip to the West Country, last nite was spent glued to Sky Sports News’ coverage of Crystal Palace’s Carling Cup tie with Yeovil Town. With the score locked at 0-0 extra time seemed inevitable until the 90th minute when Alan Lee somehow slammed the ball home through a crowded penalty box. Cue jubilant celebrations here in Catford.
P.S. I’m praying that there’s no truth to the rumour that last night was the final occasion that CPFC custodian Julian Speroni will wear the shirt. :-(
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Tuesday 10th August
With the Heavy Metal Kids having gone public regarding their line-up changes it’s safe for me to reveal the identity of the band’s new frontman. Joining them, in keeping with the theatrical nature of original singer Gary Holton, is none other than John Altman… AKA ‘Nasty’ Nick Cotton from EastEnders! Bet you didn’t see that one coming, eh? 58-year-old Altman, apparently an old friend of Holton’s, says: “People don’t know I sing but I’ve been in bands for years.” No longer featuring keys-toting vocalist Danny Peyronel, this revised grouping of the Kids also sees the return of Cosmo, the guitarist who first joined in 1975, exiting a couple of years later. There’s a new album to be titled ‘Uncontrollable’ on its way, I’m told.
Having missed them at the High Voltage Festival due to an annoying schedule conflict, I’m happy to say that the reunited Argent have lined up a UK tour [see link]. With support coming from Martin Turner’s Wishbone Ash and Curved Air, I’ll be at the Forum gig on December 11.
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Monday 9th August
With a footie-inspired hangover gradually subsiding yesterday afternoon was spent in the company of my friend Steve Way and Kathy, his rock chick ‘other half’, at the Cambridge Rock Festival. It was my second year at this fine event. As we arrived, Keith Airey’s band Aireya 51 were bringing their set to a close with a guest appearance from Deep Purple’s Don Airey – Keith’s brother – on keys. Despite the awful pun of the group’s name, I liked what I heard and will make a point of picking up the debut album, ‘Crimson Tear’. Keith Airey has played guitar for Colin Blunstone, The Zombies and Nik Kershaw among others and, fittingly, his ensemble plays a rich and sturdy brand of hard rock that administers a modern spin to the trail previously blazed by Pink Floyd, Peter Green and Robin Trower.
An annoyingly soupy sound and a premature ending that deprived us of the definitive ‘Captured City’ and ‘Lovers To The Grave’ ruined my usual appreciation of Praying Mantis, though I spoke to several folks that were encountering the band for the first and had no problems in savouring what they’d seen and heard. You can call me Mr Picky, I guess. For reasons that only the organisers will comprehend, 80s new waver Hazel O’Connor was up next. Nothing to say but what a feeble load of old bollocks. If only I’d had a shotgun.
After a wait of way too many years I’d been dying to see The Enid, and by golly the orchestral-proggers didn’t disappoint. Their 85-minute set comprised just three selections; a chunk of ‘Aerie Faerie Nonsense,’ the main central theme of the new album ‘Journey’s End’ and most of ‘In The Region Of The Summer Stars’. Although some of their members doubled up on multiple instruments, their sometime bassist also utilising huge Tympani drums and wind-chimes – I’m sure that, just like Neal Peart in the olden days his percussive armoury must have included ‘crotales’, whatever those might be – how on earth a five-piece band could conjure up such an intoxicating wall of sound was truly mystifying (and no, I’m not trying to imply that they cheat by using tapes). That Robert John Godfrey and company departed without an encore after such a colossus of a performance was a major, major injustice.
The crowd was thinning out a little by the time the headliners brought the weekend to a close. Although I’m the first to acknowledge a hugely differing viewpoint, for me the promotion of former backing singer Olivia Sparnen to the role of lead vocalist has dealt Mostly Autumn a huge kick up the ass. The delightful Sparnen has both an excellent voice and a pleasing stage presence – in her skin-tight Lycra mini-skirt and knee-high leather boots she’s also pretty easy on the eye! – and both times I’ve encountered them since the transition, the group’s energy has both surprised and delighted me. I await the group’s new album ‘Go Well Diamond Heart’ with an unprecedented set of expectations.
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Sunday 8th August
Yesterday’s commencement of the new season was a near-perfect demonstration of the good and bad of Crystal Palace. In a dazzling first half display, against a side that made last year’s play-offs, the Eagles raced into a 3-0 lead thanks to goals from 17-year-old Wilfred Zaha, Darren Ambrose and Alan Lee. During the break, I joined other supporters on the Holmesdale stand in bellowing out: “We are top of the league!” Afterwards, though, sticking to a tried ‘n’ trusted script, the team did its darndest to throw away the points. As the full-time whistle blew, the home side was clinging onto a 3-2 lead by its metaphorical toenails. An exciting game, and three points on the board, but sheesh… I’d almost forgotten the toll that supporting Palace exacts upon the ol’ ticker.
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Saturday 7th August
The new football season starts today, with my beloved Crystal Palace playing host to Leicester City. It cannot come soon enough, especially for my eldest lad Eddie who has spent most of the past few days on Sky Sports News awaiting last minute signings and team news… aw, bless his little (red and blue) cotton socks. A victory on the opening day would be most welcome, but after the terrifying uncertainty of the past few months – I know how you feel, Portsmouth fans… – a beach ball-sized lump will be clogging my throat when Paddy McCarthy leads the players onto the fabled Selhurst turf at 2.55pm (Eddie informs me McCarthy is “expected to shake off an Achilles problem”… LOL!). Right now, existence is just enough. Come on you Eagles!!
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Friday 6th August
Saraya are no longer a part of this year’s Firefest, the diva-like behaviour of their lead singer, Sandi Saraya, having scuppered a planned reunion. It’s no great loss if you ask me; even when they were here in the UK as FM’s support act all those years ago I thought they were overrated. The story can be viewed here. Sandi’s ludicrous demands have infuriated even her band-mates. She obviously had no concept of what the Firefest stands for, nor apparently any passion for the purity of those self-same principles. People like Sandi Saraya make my blood boil…
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Thursday 5th August
Well, that’s more like it. A so-called Director’s Cut video for Iron Maiden’s new single, ‘The Final Frontier’, has been posted online… click here. Lasting just five minutes and eight seconds it’s an edited version of the record’s opening track, which glories in the full title of ‘Satellite 15.....The Final Frontier’ and lasts for more than three minutes longer still, but the video is great and the song knocks the iffy ‘El Dorado’ into the proverbial cocked hat. The album is out on August 16.
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Wednesday 4th August
Last nite I hopped onto a 185 bus for Crystal Palace’s final pre-season game, against Isthmian League side Dulwich Hamlet at Champion Hill. The Eagles fielded a very young team with just Pinney, N’Diaye and Djilali boasting first team experience, but had no problems registering a comfortable 2-0 win, even missing a 90th minute penalty. A respectable workout, all said and done.
P.S. Yay! My new Crystal Palace season ticket has arrived, and the club has actually **bought** a new player – an undisclosed fee bringing Ipswich’s Irish midfielder Owen Garvan to Selhurst – for the first time in two years. Things are looking up.
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Tuesday 3rd August
Having just closed an issue of Classic Rock there’s no time to waste, it’s straight on with some sleeve notes work. I’ve been playing a newly arrived finished copy of ‘The Philadelphia Experiment’, an excellent triple-disc live release from UK proggers Frost*. But the album that has really taken me by surprise (in a good way) is the solo debut from Christopher Amott. A mellow and rootsy though deceptively hook-laden collection of tunes, ‘Follow Your Heart’ represents a huge departure from the guitarist’s incendiary work with Arch Enemy, its sometimes Robin Trower-esque strains exposing an appreciation of the classic rock of the 1970s. I love it! Speaking of which, check out this month’s Playlist here. The newest YouTube is also up.
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Monday 2nd August
Andy Beare’s car shot up the motorway towards the final day of the Sonisphere festival like a bat out of hell, due possibly to the fact that we’d both had extremely hot curries 12 hours before (mine was a chicken tikka vindaloo – lovely). I had to be on site to review my first band at 1.35pm, but with the prevailing wind behind us – quite literally – we arrived at Knebworth in good time to check out Madina Lake on the Main Stage. The Chicagoans were playing as a three-piece, their bassist Matthew Leone hospitalised after attempting to save a woman from being beaten up. A lovely sentiment in principle, though the gesture only reminded us of the importance of a good bit of ‘bottom end’ to a group’s sound. I was intrigued to see a number or two from Rise To Remain, who besides having won Best New Band at the recent Metal Hammer awards also feature Bruce Dickinson’s son Austin on vocals, so we wandered over to a packed Bohemia tent. The Londoners were playing a brand new Colin Richardson-produced song called ‘The Serpent’, which really impressed me, but before too long it was time to fulfil my editorial remit with a dose of Skindred’s self-styled Ragga-metal. Though on this occasion he sported a shiny silver suit that made him look like a middle-aged, Rastafarian bingo caller, it was hard not to be sucked in by Benjii Webbe’s rough-shod charisma, and before too long the fans were bouncing all the way back to the sound tower to the sound of ‘Pressure’.
Tom Araya may still be regaining momentum after back surgery, but Slayer remain an exercise in raw savagery. Like the extreme metal world’s answer to Motörhead, their conquering of a mid-afternoon festival is like feeding rabbit to a snake. Allotted just 45 minutes at Sonisphere, ‘South Of Heaven’, ‘Dead Skin Mask’, ‘War Ensemble’ and ‘Angel Of Death’ were jumbled in with more recent offerings such as ‘World Painted Blood’ and ‘Jihad’, but the effect was just the same. With the search for nosebag becoming a priority, there was time to at least sample a tune or two from Sheffield’s own Bring Me The Horizon, whose incendiary display made me determined to check them out at the earliest opportunity.
Exactly how good were Alice In Chains? Well, let put it this way: they managed to fulfil William DuVall’s promise to “rattle the motherfucking sky.” Serving up all the old Layne Staley-voiced classics, their frontline of DuVall, guitarist Jerry Cantrell and bassist Mike Inez conjured up a vocal sound that was nothing less than spellbinding. With its jarring, monster riff, ‘Check My Brain’ was one of a smattering of tracks from ‘Black Gives Way To Blue’ – one of this writer’s albums of 2009. Departing with ‘Rooster’ was an electrifying, goosebumps moment.
After a frantic dart across the field – Sonisphere has proper running times that allow you to see just about anyone you wish, which after High Voltage was a blessed relief… – The Cult offered one of the surprises of the day, pelting through 45 thunderous minutes of their best-known songs, plus a new track called ‘Every Man And Woman Is A Star’, with completely unforeseen fire and wit. Annoying, we didn’t spot that Sweet Savage were over on the Jägermiester Stage till the Irish metalheads were very nearly done, though the offer of a few gratis Jäger Bombs from Turbowolf’s ever-friendly publicist Nik Moore was too good to turn down (even though we didn’t actually see his band on the Jäger stage).
A short while later Iggy Pop had his shirt off halfway through ‘Raw Power’, the opening song of a riveting display from The Stooges. Having followed it with ‘Search And Destroy’, the 63-year-old Pop proposed a stage invasion, resulting in a ludicrous tug of war between band and stage crew and security staff. This is how a rock ‘n’ roll show should be, though sadly the time to find a decent spot for the headliners had arrived by ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’.
With the event sold out for the third consecutive day, 55,000 fans awaited the arrival of Iron Maiden. Although a set-list had been tweaked slightly for the band’s arrival in their homeland, by and large it remained culled from the last ten years, crammed with thoroughly excellent material recorded since Dickinson and guitarist Adrian Smith returned for ‘Brave New World’. Just one song, ‘El Dorado’, was aired from the forthcoming album ‘The Final Frontier, Bruce pointing out that its uncharacteristically forgettable strains are “in no way indicative of the rest of the album”. Um… dare I say it: “Phew”?!
Kudos to the crowd, though, whose enthusiasm was far from derailed by the band’s refusal to play ‘The Trooper’,‘Run To The Hills’ et al. Though you’d never have guessed it, ‘The Ghost Of The Navigator’, ‘The Reincarnation Of Benjamin Breeg’ and ‘Blood Brothers’ are lengthy, demanding pieces, delivered by a group that was intent on stretching out and retaining its own interest first and foremost. All those that say musicians of Maiden’s age should retire, do me a fucking favour. Go and watch them live before spouting such drivel. Here’s the set-list: ‘The Wicker Man’, ‘The Ghost Of The Navigator’, ‘Wrathchild’, ‘El Dorado’, ‘Dance Of Death’, ‘The Reincarnation Of Benjamin Breeg’, ‘These Colours Don’t Run’, ‘Blood Brothers’, ‘Wildest Dreams’, ‘No More Lies’, ‘Brave New World’, ‘Fear Of The Dark’ and ‘Iron Maiden’, plus ‘The Number Of The Beast’, ‘Hallowed Be Thy Name’ and ‘Running Free’.
And in conclusion? Sonisphere… yes, it gets the thumbs up from me.
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Sunday 1st August
Having spent a big chunk of last nite trying to pay my tax bill online – Grrrrr! – there’s just time for a slice of toast, a check of the emails and it’s off to the Sonisphere Festival at Knebworth Park, a chunk of land I’ve not revisited since Deep Purple’s legendary comeback gig in June ’85. What an incredible bill we saw that day; the Scorps, UFO, Mountain, the much-missed Mama’s Boys, Blackfoot and Alaska, plus special guest Fat Oaf. Primarily I am there to see headliners Iron Maiden, of course, but I shall check out most of the bands on the Main Stage for Metal Hammer. What a shame the rumours of Manowar being the final’s day’s special guests turned out bogus. But there ya go… so long as the mud of ’85 doesn’t return, I‘ll have fun.