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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  Sunday 31st May
Be a love and pass the Ambre Solaire… thanks. Here in the garden at Ling Towers the weather is scorching. While Mrs L grilles our nosebag on the BBQ I’ve been leafing through the new issue of Fireworks magazine. As a fellow footie fanatic I laughed aloud to read that Geezer Butler of Heaven And Hell confessed to having one eye glued to the TV screen for an important Sunday fixture whilst he spoke to the title’s correspondent. And talking of footie, I just received a hilarious text from a CPFC-supporting buddy. It reads: “You will be so proud of me. I’ve been in Br***ton [home of Palace’s deadly rivals, the Seaweeds] all week for work. Last night I got bevvied up and took a piss through the letterbox of their club shop. Eagles forever!” Now **that’s** what call devotion to the cause!
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Saturday 30th May
The Airrace reunion is finally underway. Last night, along with my good friend Steve ‘No Relation To Pete’ Way, I journeyed to the unlikely surrounding of The Twist in Colchester to witness the first public performance from the UK melodic rockers since they supported Krokus at the Dominion some 24 years ago. Frankly, with its ropey sound system and rudimentary facilities, The Twist was a bit of a khazi, though the group’s original members – singer Keith Murrell, guitarist Laurie Mansworth, keysman Toby Sadler and drummer Jason Bonham – gelled well with new bassist Dave Boyce (ex-Samson) and Dean Howard of T’Pau/Ian Gillan/Toby Jepson on rhythm guitar to deliver a powerhouse display. Murrell is a first-rate frontman and Sadler’s dynamic keys give them a delicious pomp-rock edge, while Bonham in particular delighted in trouncing the band’s powder-puff studio sound. From time to time Toby also chips in with humorous additions to Keith’s stage banter. When Murrell reminded us that this show was occurring to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the band’s solo album ‘Shaft Of Light’, Sadler brought down the house by quipping: “We’re also celebrating 25 copies sold [of the same album].”
The only overlooked ‘Shaft Of Light’ selection was ‘Do You Want My Love Again’. Four songs originally demoed for its eventually terminated follow-up have been exhumed from the vault and now feature in the live set, also seeming likely to grace an EP before too long. In the meantime, various summer festivals beckon and Airrace will also be popping up from time to time on Thunder’s farewell tour. Here’s the set-list: ‘Caught In The Game’, ‘Not Really Me’, ‘Wrong Way Out’, ‘First One Over The Line’, ‘Promise To Call’, ‘Keep On Going’, ‘Brief Encounter’, ‘One Step Ahead’, ‘Didn’t Wanna Lose Ya’, ‘So Long’, ‘All I’m Asking’, ‘I Don’t Care’ and ‘Open Your Eyes’.
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Friday 29th May
It’s a beautifully sunny day – possibly a bit silly to be stuck inside but I’ve finally found the time to watch the bonus DVD that accompanies the special edition of Heaven & Hell’s ‘The Devil You Know’ album. It contains the off-camera interviews I conducted with all four group members in the control room at Rockfield Studios in Wales before Christmas during the countdown to the record’s completion. I recall some of the conversation as being a little vague and wafflesome, especially as the fellas had been supping extra-strong local cider the night before (at one point, Ronnie James Dio announces: “We started chucking around some ideas [for the title], one of which was ‘Haemorrhoids’!”), but I’m absolutely thrilled to bits by the way it’s been tightened up during the editing process. There are some revealing quotes, also some insight into the band’s behind-the-scenes tomfoolery (largely instigated, it seems, by Tony Iommi), and what a rare joy not to have to go through the whole transcription process – stop, rewind, play… ad infinitum – afterwards.
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Thursday 28th May
My promo CDrs of those two Def Leppard re-issues are finally here (see yesterday’s diary). I’ve already given ‘Pyromania’ a darned good throttling, but the bonus disc… wow. Just wow. 15 songs from a rip-snortin’ display at the Los Angeles Forum in 1983. It’s genius – sheer genius. Takes me back to seeing Leppard that same year at the Marquee Club (where they were joined onstage by a ‘refreshed’ Brian Robertson), then from a half-full Hammersmith Odeon balcony a month afterwards. Oh, how times change. Almost a decade later, drummer Rick Allen had lost an arm, guitarist Steve Clark was dead from alcohol poisoning and über-producer Robert John ‘Mutt’ Lange had left the group (and engineer Mike Shipley) to their own devices, but I always liked ‘Adrenalize’, the second disc of which adds a mixture of tasty-looking concert cuts, demo outtakes and B-sides.
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Wednesday 27th May
As Metal Hammer have kindly asked me to review the expanded re-issues of Def Leppard’s ‘Pyromania’ and ‘Adrenalize’ albums, I sat by the front door to pounce on the postman. Alas, though neither CD appeared in today’s bundle of goodies, as a consequence of having recently conducted a phoner with their ever-interesting creator, I gratefully received a finished copy of Yngwie Malmsteen’s ‘Perpetual Flame’ and ‘Angels Of Love’ albums – the latter being an instrumental acoustic disc. Best of all, however, was ‘Nazareth – The Anthology’, a 38-song, double-disc distillation of the veteran Dunfermline group’s most essential moments. Complete with re-mastered sound and some pretty good sleeve notes, though I say so myself, it’s an excellent taster for a full catalogue revamp. If you’ve been meaning to get into Naz, you won’t find a better place to start.
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Tuesday 26th May
So Jason Bonham leans across the table, smiles and asks: "Do you realise that this is largely your fault?" Half an hour or so earlier, as we waited for Bonham and Laurie Mansworth to arrive, Keith Murrell had said pretty much the same thing. Ulp! It seems that my enthusiasm for Airrace's 1984 album, 'Shaft Of Light', not to mention my friendship with Laurie Mansworth - a man who requires little or no encouragement in any regard - might have played a role in the band's imminent reunion tour [for dates go to: www.myspace.com/airraceband]. How flattering!
I had met up with drummer Bonham, singer Murrell and guitarist/founder Mansworth ahead of the band's first rehearsal session in 25 years (the debut with Bonham, at least). The guys hadn't seen each other
in quite a while, and there was some horseplay as we congregated around the tape recorder, but I got a great interview which traced the group's formation in September 1982 to their reservations regarding working with producer Beau Hill, being managed (briefly) by Peter Grant and shows with Queen, AC/DC, Meat Loaf, Ted Nugent and Krokus, before an eventual demise during the build-up to a second album that now seems likely to be belatedly realised in 2009. When it came to Led Zeppelin, Bonham spoke fondly and in great detail about having performed with Page, Plant and Jones at the fabled O2 Arena show and, yes, also expressed great disappointment that the band didn't take things further in the guise of Zeppelin, or otherwise.
Leaving the Airrace fellas to their drinks and misty-eyed recollections, I headed over to the Embassy Club to check out another perhaps unlikely (though, in my book, long overdue) reunion. Until last night's show, Stampede hadn't played together for 26 years! Considering it was a bank holiday, a large(-ish) crowd had gathered to welcome back original vocalist Reuben Archer, his stepson and guitarist Laurence (of Grand Slam/UFO fame) and bassist/keysman Colin Bond, with the much-travelled
Clive Edwards replacing untraceable original sticksman Eddie Parsons. Well, the night was a big success. The band debuted three riff-heavy yet typically hummable new songs - 'Send Me Down An Angel', 'Humble Pie' and 'Who's Having Fun?' - and Reuben, who always reminded me of Phil Mogg, almost caused a double-take during 'Back Door Man' from 'High Stakes And Dangerous Men', the album Laurence and Edwards cut with UFO in 1992. Having jotted down the set-list I was annoyed and puzzled that Stampede overlooked 'Dedication', the Grand Slam demo composition posthumously re-constructed after Phil Lynott's death as a Thin Lizzy tune, in favour of reprising 'Send Me Down An
Angel', though they ain't getting' any younger - maybe the poor ol' dears got confused?! Hahaha. Here's what Stampede did actually play: 'Hurricane Town', 'Moving On', 'Shadows Of The Night, 'Send Me Down An Angel', 'Missing You', 'Humble Pie', 'Days Of Wine And Roses', 'Photographs', 'Who's Having
Fun?', 'Back Door Man', 'The Runner', 'Baby Driver' and the repeated 'Send Me Down An Angel'.
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Monday 25th May
Jeeeezus, what a humdinger of a hangover. Yesterday saw London basking in sunshine: perfect weather for the afternoon BBQ to which Clan Ling had been invited. Gulping down ice cold cider and eating food cooked beautifully by my friend Steve O’Connell, I cheered heartily as Scumwall’s sea of Palace cast-offs lost out to Scunthorpe in a dramatic League 1 Play-Off Final, before watching the Premier League’s relegation showdown. Middlesboro looked dead and buried before kick-off, it was just a matter of which other club would join them. I was happy that it turned out to be Newcastle, not merely for having engaged a certain Mr I Dowie on their management payroll, but for a variety of reasons. Firstly, I always support the underdog (Hull, in this instance). Secondly, St James’ Park is an appealing awayday destination. Thirdly, I'd seen Palace relegated there in 1995 with barely a sniff of sympathy from the supposedly loveable Geordies, who have always believed themselves ‘too big and important to go down’. Bollocks to that. On another visit to St James’ maybe a decade earlier, killing time before a gig at the City Hall, I’d paid on the day, stood on a terrace and watched the game amid eight or nine other thousand others. So who are all the plastic Geordies that now fill the ground? Strategy-wise, Newcastle’s relegation was also pretty comical (they did, after all, elect to hire Penis Wise as Director of Football). And as the Guardian put it this morning: “Middlesbrough went down making comparatively small errors. West Brom sank playing good football. Newcastle, on the other hand, went under with their underpants on their head." Not too long ago, Newcastle chairman Freddie Shepherd boasted of having "52,000 fans at each home game” and with unparalleled selfishness added: “The last thing we [ie the Prem’s fat cats] are worried about is clubs in the third division.” Despite having sold his interests in the Toon, I wonder how Mr Shepherd will feel when next season’s fixture list spits out Newcastle United vs Scunthorpe?
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Friday 22nd May
Having enjoyed a piledriving debut album, ‘Rhymes For The Hated’, and heard positive reports of the band’s recent spot at Hammerfest, last night I dropped by central London venue The Fly to check out Hexagram. Though the three-piece band from Portsmouth hadn’t pulled much of a crowd, they didn’t let it bother them. Guitarist Aaron Miller (who sported a classic Pantera shirt) and bassist Mart O’Hara (who flew the flag for the Phil Anselmo-fronted Down) don’t try too hard to conceal their influences. With Miller cranking out those riffs on a seven-string Dime model guitar, to have done so would’ve been pretty dumb. But the band’s punchy, sometimes sludge-laden brand of thrash is right on the money. Hexagram still have some corners to be knocked off – six of them, to be geometrically precise – but they’re headed in the right direction.
Had I such a thing as a 2010 diary, one date would already be flagged up. On Saturday February 6th, the Hammersmith Apollo is the place to be. Todd Rundgren is set to perform his classic 1973 album, ‘A Wizard, A True Star’ in its entirety for the first time ever in Britain. Cool!
The approaching bank holiday weekend offers a banquet of sporting activity, including the Play-Offs finals at Wembley Stadium, the last day of the Premier League and the second one-day international between England and the West Indies. I haven’t said much about cricket at this page of late, but that doesn’t mean I’ve not been following England’s gradual improvement with the bat ‘n’ ball. There are now only 47 days (and counting) till the next Ashes series… BRING IT ON!
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Thursday 21st May
For the past few days I’ve been lost in the beauty of ‘Octahedron’, the latest album from The Mars Volta (due out via Mercury Records on June 22nd). Last night I had the great pleasure of an interesting chat with the US band’s guitarist Omar Rodríguez-López, who made me laugh aloud whilst recounting his disbelieving memories of the night that The Mars Volta won a Grammy for the Best Hard Rock Performance category. Afterwards, I sat down to sift through the second issue of Classic Rock Presents Prog. With Muse as its cover stars it’s on sale now and, believe me, there’s plenty to read…
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Wednesday 20th May
The contents of today’s mailbag included a package from Eagle Vision. Much of the coming weekend will be spent absorbing two double-DVD packages, ‘Kissology: The Ultimate Kiss Collection, Vol 1 1974-1977’ and Deep Purple’s ‘History, Hits & Highlights, ’68-’76’. I’ve a sneaky feeling they’ll be a lot more fun than mowing the lawn (which I’ll probably have to do as well should Mrs L get her way).
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Tuesday 19th May
Though it received a cautious thumbs up from yours truly, the jury seems to be out on Stratovarius’ new album, ‘Polaris’. Surfing around ahead of last night’s gig at the Islington Academy, I was surprised to see the band’s former guitarist, songwriter and producer – who else but Timo Tolkki? – joining the queue to put the boot in. “It sounded like there was no soul in the songs, although technically it is very good,” reckoned Tolkki. Stratovarius are pretty famous for shooting themselves in the foot, and whoever thought it would be a good idea for the band to go out on tour before the release of ‘Polaris’, which dropped yesterday, must shoulder some of the blame for a venue that was somewhere between half and two-thirds full.
I’d been dying to see the opening act, Eden’s Curse, but their six-song, 30-minute set was plagued by abysmal sound and equipment problems. Make no mistake, the likes of ‘Masquerade Ball’, ‘Just Like Judas’ and ‘Angels And Demons’ (the studio version of which features a guest appearance from Pamela Moore, AKA Queensrÿche’s Sister Mary) are fantastic tunes, but robbed of their subtleties we must wait till another day to fully appreciate them in a live format. Special guests Firewind were hindered by the same PA issues, the flamboyant guitar work of former Arch Enemy/Dream Evil musician Gus almost completely inaudible for the first three songs. But gradually they pulled through, even daring to preview a recent composition called ‘Losing Faith’ that’s due to appear on a new studio album early in 2010. The crowd, who somewhat surreally punched the air and went wild through a metalized cover of Michael Sembello’s disco hit ‘Maniac’, loved them.
Thankfully, the sound improved for the headliners, who were introducing new guitarist Matias Kupiainen as Tolkki’s replacement. Interacting marvelously with Jen Johansson’s classically-trained keyboard flurries, Kupiainen performed well and I felt Stratovarius did justice to the older songs. The annoyingly short 80-minute set featured only three tunes from ‘Polaris’, namely ‘Higher We Go’, ‘Winter Skies’ and an encore of ‘Deep Unknown’, all of which were greeted by patience and enthusiasm from the audience, who only really lost their rag when Strato refused to play the classic ‘Destiny’. Here’s what they **did** include: ‘Hunting High And Low’, ‘Speed Of Light’, ‘The Kiss Of Judas’, ‘Higher We Go’, ‘A Million Light Years Away’, ‘Will The Sun Rise?’, ‘Winter Skies’, ‘Phoenix’, ‘Forever’, ‘Visions’ and ‘Eagleheart’, plus ‘Deep Unknown’ and ‘Black Diamond’.
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Sunday 17th May
Last night’s Wishbone Ash anniversary show at Shepherd’s Bush Empire was hugely enjoyable. Any band that lasts for 40 uninterrupted years deserves credit, and guitarist Andy Powell – the sole remaining original member – has negotiated many ups and downs along the way. It made me feel old to calculate that I have attended their shows for 28 of those years, first sighting them at 1981’s Reading Festival. Another of my favourite acts, It Bites, opened the show. Annoyingly, John Mitchell’s guitar lacked, er, bite for the first few numbers, but after a slightly standoffish start the Wishbone crowd gradually warmed to the group, who all wore fetching white outfits. Their hour-long set included three numbers (‘Ghosts’, ‘Oh My God’ and ‘The Wind That Shakes The Barley’) from latest disc ‘The Tall Ships’, accompanied by ‘Yellow Christian’, ‘All In Red’, ‘Ice Melts Into Water’, the full version of ‘Old Man And The Angel’, ‘Midnight’ and ‘Kiss Like Judas’.
For the headliners, who were filming a DVD, the sound sharpened up considerably. On such a historic occasion they dropped in a few unexpected choices such as ‘Engine Overheat’ (from 1982’s underrated ‘Twin Barrels Burning’) and even ‘Cell Of Fame’ (which appeared on ‘Raw To The Bone’ three years later). The latter was aired to accommodate a guest spot from ex-bassist/frontman Merv ‘Spam’ Spence, who can still belt out a song like a good ’un. Mark Birch, the band’s singer/guitarist from 1998-2001, joined proceedings for an acoustic-based rendition of ‘Everybody Needs A Friend’ which concluded with a scorching electric solo from Powell, and Ben Granfelt (guitarist 2001-2003) joined Powell in trading licks with Granfelt’s former Gringos Locos partner and current Ash six-stringer Muddy Manninen on ‘Almighty Blues’ and the excellent ‘Faith, Hope & Love’. But in welcoming additional musos onto the stage I felt that Powell was opening a serious can of worms. Given original bassist Martin Turner’s recent astonishing outburst in Classic Rock (“Fuck you, Andy Powell, we won’t be your support band”), there was little likelihood of Martin, guitarist Ted Turner or drummer Steve Upton turning up to celebrate the anniversary as the fans **really** craved. Given the levels of bitterness and rancour that are involved, not to mention the determination to control the band’s name, it’s looking as though the original line-up will never be seen together again. Anyway, here’s the set-list: ‘Blind Eye’, ‘Runaway’, ‘Right Or Wrong’, ‘Growing Up’, ‘Sometime World’, ‘Rainstorm’, ‘The Way Of The World’, ‘Everybody Needs A Friend’, ‘The King Will Come’, ‘Throw Down The Sword’, ‘Cell Of Fame’, ‘Almighty Blues’, ‘Faith, Hope And Love’, ‘Engine Overheat’ and ‘Phoenix’, with encores of ‘Jailbait’ and ‘Blowing Free’.
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Saturday 16th May
I’m liking the look of the bill for the third annual Hard Rock Hell festival, which takes place at Prestatyn in December. With the reunited Rock Goddess having confirmed they are to appear, alongside Girlschool, Hydrogyn and Lauren Harris, there will once again be a strong female presence on the stage. Elsewhere it will be cool to see Queensrÿche, W.A.S.P., the New York Dolls (whose Todd Rundgren-produced newie ‘Cause I Said So’ is extremely popular here at Ling Towers), the Quireboys and Sonata Artica among others.
Well, that didn’t take long. Crystal Palace’s first pre-season friendly of 2009/2010 has been announced – away to Brentford on the evening of Tuesday July 21st. There’s a pub on each corner of Griffin Park, as I recall from my last visit (another friendly, under the management of Alan Smith). Think I’ll get up there nice ‘n’ early and see how many laps I can do.
Today’s postbag is bursting, I’m happy to say. The first thing I’m about to bung onto the stereo is ‘Cheat The Gallows’ by Bigelf, a band that will be appearing on the European leg of Dream Theater’s Progressive Nation tour later this year (indeed ’twas none other than Mr Portnoy who recommended I check them out). I’m also dying to play two classic re-mastered, re-issued Procol Harum CDs; ‘A Salty Dog’ (1969) and ‘Home’ (1970).
P.S. Grrr… I’ve just been up in the loft seeking my ‘Twin Barrels Burning’ T-shirt ahead of tonight’s Wishbone Ash 40th anniversary gig. Couldn’t find it anywhere, so instead I will don an ‘Eat Me In St Louis’ jobbie in honour of the support band, It Bites. However, the trawl though various trunks did unearth some rarely worn garments including one that celebrated Warlock’s ‘Hellbound’ tour (1985), another from ‘Lock Up The Wolves’ by Dio (1990) and Rough Cutt’s self-titled debut album from 1985… even a white Skagarack shirt that I must’ve bought when the Danish melodic rockers played the Marquee in ’86.

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Friday 15th May
Yesterday’s postbag contained a pressie from guitarist Stuart Smith – ‘Live In America’, a concert CD from the US incarnation of The Sweet, led by bassist Steve Priest. It’s really, really good. Priest has assembled a first-class unit, completed by Smith (obviously…), vocalist Joe Retta, keyboard player Stevie Stewart and drummer Richie Onori. Together they offer a full-blooded, stadium-flavoured take on the original band’s bubblegum hits (including ‘Blockbuster’, ‘Action’, ‘The Six Teens’, ‘The Ballroom Blitz’, ‘Fox On The Run’, ‘Love Is Like Oxygen’, ‘Teenage Rampage’ and ‘Teenage Rampage’), tempering them with such harder-edged all-time classic album cuts as ‘Sweet FA’, ‘Turn It Down’, ‘Set Me Free’, ‘AC/DC’ and, best of all, the gargantuan-riffed ‘Windy City’. I admit, a month or two ago I interviewed Steve Priest and didn’t exactly hit it off with him. Neither was I too impressed by the confrontational things Steve had to say about Andy Scott, the guitarist who maintained the group’s legacy for much of the last quarter-century during Priest’s ‘retirement’. So expectations regarding this new line-up of the band were, to be frank, minimal. Well… I’m happy consume a big slice of humble pie.
Still in the realms of Sweet-dom, a re-issue of The Elastic Band’s 1970 album ‘Expansions On Life’ (Grapefruit Records) also just dropped onto my desk. The Elastic Band were a very much overlooked psychedelic-based launching pad for the aforementioned Andy Scott. This lavish re-packaging adds bonus tracks and extensive sleeve notes… cool!
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Wednesday 13th May
This morning finds my CD collection all the richer, though my hearing and brain cells have taken yet another pounding. Though I was torn between checking out Million Dollar Reload, who were playing up the road at the Underworld, and a latest encounter with Heaven’s Basement, the latter’s show at the 100 Club finally won (admit it… which numbskull thought it would be clever to have two similar groups vying for an audience on the same night in London??!!).
As the 100 Club was HB’s biggest headline date in London to date, it was encouraging to see them pulling a sizeable and enthusiastic crowd than included Thunder’s Luke Morley. Though based around a six-song EP that was issued a few months ago, their set seems to be in a constant change of flux. Impressive new songs such as ‘Life Of Me’ are being added as the more disposable ones are quietly disposed of (a fate that surely that awaits the unremarkable ‘No Pity’). Heaven’s Basement seem willing to play just about anywhere equipped with a stage, some electricity and bar, and as well as becoming super-tight they are learning to vary the dynamic of the show via such numbers as ‘Deadman’, ‘Mirrors’ and ‘Such Is Life’. The only real downer on a great night was the fact that the vocals of Richie Hevanz – whose new-look spiky haircut and eye make-up were pretty shocking – kept dropping in and out of the mix. Anyway, here’s the set-list: ‘Tear Your Heart Out’, ‘Can’t Let Go’, ‘Misunderstood’, ‘No Pity’, ‘Deadman’, ‘Reign On My Parade’, ‘Mirrors’, ‘Life Of Me’, ‘Executioner’s Day’ and encores of ‘10 Minutes and ‘Such Is Life’.
My thanks go to Derek Oliver, who was also at the HB gig, for handing over a package of the latest Rock Candy Records re-issues, including three releases from The Babys (‘Head First’, ‘Union Jacks’ and ‘On The Edge’), Sammy Hagar’s ‘Street Machine’, the cult classic Billy Satellite album and – nurse, the screens… – ‘Citadel’ by pomp-rock messiahs Starcastle.
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  Tuesday 12th May
Last night was my first opportunity to check out Krusher’s rock club, a Classic Rock-sponsored bash which takes place at London’s Embassy Club each Monday, from 9pm till 2am. Though the facilities at the Embassy are first class, Krusher is an amiable host and the music seemed to tick all the right boxes, I felt a bit like a fish out of water, very quickly realising that my once prodigious days of nightclubbing are long gone. So it was lucky that my old boozing buddies Chariot were due to hit the stage at 10.15 – leaving plenty of time to catch the last train home.
Just like they always do, the Londoners offered enough raw, meaty British metal to feed a squadron of starved Commandos, blasting out a mixture of old favourites from the 80s and material from 2006’s comeback disc ‘Behind The Wire’. I’m rapidly growing to love ‘To The Extreme’, a tune destined for a new studio album that’s still bring completed and I stand my by oft-stated belief that people would enjoy Chariot if they were given a reasonable chance. But as excellent as last night’s performance might have been, and with bubbly guitarist/frontman Pete Franklin donating every last drop of sweat to the cause, an air of professional resignation permeated proceedings. Attendances have gradually dropped away since the band reunited in 2004 and before the show, in a bout of gallows humour, we joked that forming a Chariot tribute band – quite possibly named Ben Hur – might be a last-ditch way of salvaging the situation. I wasn’t the only one to leave the Embassy doubting the likelihood of seeing the band again, in its present incarnation, at least
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Monday 11th May
So much reading matter, so little time. Over the weekend I finally finished Heavy Metal Music In Britain, a sociological study of hard rock that I’ve been reading on and off for two months (see original entry, March 6). The book did tell me a thing or two I didn’t know, notably its claim that a youthful Robert Plant made a pilgrimage to Clarksdale, Mississippi, where he knocked randomly on doors in the hope of tracing descendents of his hero Robert Johnson. If true, that’s fascinating. And possibly a bit sad!! But precious brownie points are deducted for lumping Canadian band Anvil in with the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal, also for the chapter that correctly points out the literary origins Iron Maiden’s ‘The Flight Of Icarus’, ‘Ghost Of The Navigator’ and ‘Alexander The Great’ but which overlooks the fact that ‘The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner’, debatably their best ever composition, was based upon a poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Truthfully, the book seems to serve little genuine purpose and is probably too pretentious for its own good. It’s great to see someone – anyone – attempting to examine the genre with a clear, academic mind. But knowing Tony Clarkin as I do, the guitarist would hoot with laughter at the claim that Magnum were “diluting the HM aesthetic” by recording the Russ Ballard song ‘Rockin’ Chair’. Neither do I think Clarkin would appreciate the band’s hit ‘Start Talkin’ Love’ being likened to Rick Astley’s ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’.
Though I’m not a fan of the Rolling Stones (not **at all**…), my passion for the music of The Faces recently prompted me to buy Ron Wood’s autobiography. Titled Ronnie, it’s an easy-to-read page-turner, with all the name-dropping and anecdotes you’d have wished for. And yet my enthusiasm quickly drained away when, 68 pages in, Wood makes the outlandish claim that Peter Grant offered him the chance to join Plant, Jones and Bonham in a band called the New Yardbirds. It states: “I considered it for two seconds and told Peter, ‘No, I’m happy where I am [with The Faces], thanks’. [So] the New Yardbirds hired Jimmy Page instead and changed their name to Led Zeppelin.” Hmmm… so Zeppelin wasn’t Page’s band all along, huh? He didn’t hire the other members of the group? Wow, I’m so glad you told us that, Ron. Hold on a moment while I make quick calls to the author’s of every single rock encyclopaedia that’s ever been published.
Talking of all things Zep, Dave Lewis has kindly sent me the latest issue of his excellent, three-times-yearly magazine Tight But Loose, which focuses upon the 40th anniversary of band’s immortal self-titled debut. As ever it’s essential reading, assembled with the eye of a super-fan.
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Sunday 10th May
With Mrs Ling away from for the weekend, yours truly is in charge of entertaining our two young sons. Asked what they would most like to do on a Saturday night, a visit to the cinema was proposed. At a push, I wouldn’t have minded seeing Coraline, which seemed to offer a modern animated take on The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe. I was dismayed to learn that, of all things, the boys had their hearts set on Hannah Montana – The Movie. Okay, but… well, look… there were principles to be observed. So I took them for a nice restaurant meal, purchased their tickets, walked them into the foyer (having carefully donned a disguise) and left ‘em to it, sitting in the pub next door till collection time. Hannah bloody Montana, my ass. When it comes to either of the boys following in my footsteps… well, I ain’t exactly holdin’ my breath.
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Saturday 9th May
Last night was spent in the company of Little Feat at a venue that is fast becoming my favourite in the whole of London. The acoustics at the IndigO2 are absolutely superb and having been given a ticket in the very front of the King’s Row balcony area, my glorious view matched the music’s sonic perfection. Though there are differing opinions regarding the continued existence of Little Feat, whose legendary frontman Lowell George passed away exactly 30 years ago (how odd that the band didn’t make any direct mention of this fact from the stage), my view is that unlike Thin Lizzy, for example, they still have enough members from their classic era – including guitarists Paul Barrère and Fred Tackett, keyboard player Bill Payne, percussionist Sam Clayton and drummer Richie Hayward – to justify soldiering on. Equally relevant is the sheer quality of their songs, which offer an droolsome organic distillation of rock, folk, funk, country, jazz and Cajun R&B. Despite a few notable omissions from the almost two-hour performance, including ‘Oh Atlanta’, ‘Feats Don’t Fail Me Now’ and ‘Sailin’ Shoes’, nobody went home without sporting the broadest and warmest of smiles.
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Friday 8th May
Managed to squeeze a lot – the final stages of a Classic Rock news deadline, two interviews and a great gig – into yesterday’s busy schedule. During the afternoon I met JD Souther, the country-rock legend who co-wrote so many of The Eagles’ hits (including ‘Best Of My Love’, ‘New Kid In Town’, ‘Heartache Tonight’ and ‘Victim Of Love’). Souther has a reputation as a tough guy to interview and there were indeed a couple of cagey moments, but mostly it was harmonious. I got what I wanted, and JD was able to plug the rather good new solo disc, ‘If The World Was You’.
Interview #2 was a quickie with Dan Reed, ahead of his gig at Shepherd’s Bush Hall. Chattered for a while with the evening’s special guests, Jeff Scott Soto and Tommy Denander, who were loitering in the bar while Reed conducted his soundcheck. Soto winced visibly each time his mobile phone buzzed, explaining with customary cheer that he is tired of being asked whether is about to join Queen following the apparent resignation of Paul Rodgers (who a few days ago was quoted as saying his is “pretty much done” with being in the band). It was great to catch up with Dan. One of the most polite and self-effacing people I’ve met in this business, he offered thanks for my observations regarding his comeback performance at the Borderline (see 8th November ’08) and revealed that his long awaited debut solo album will be released on November 1, at which time there will be a tour with an electric band that is set to include Denander.
It’s tough to compare that Borderline show, which featured Reed alone on vocals and acoustic guitar, with events at Bush Hall. The second gig was longer and the addition of keyboards and those guests offered far more musical depth. Conversely, with the Bush hall crowd being slightly reserved, the riotous Borderline scenes offered more emotional impact. The set suffered from some omissions (um, where was ‘Tiger In A Dress’?!) but I loved the way Reed torpedoed his slightly stuff reputation with a version of… ulp… ‘The Wombling Song’ (“Those guys were recycling even before Al Gore”). Used sparingly, guitar virtuoso Denander and ex-Journey singer Soto contributed greatly as those marvellous tunes held our rapt attention. Dan spoke candidly of the journey that returned him to the music scene via mountains of cocaine, rivers of booze, the running of a nightclub and, finally, a monastery. Intriguingly, he also shed a little light upon the whereabouts of the other members of The Network. Guitarist Brion James, for example, owns a scuba diving shop in Honduras; bassist Melvin Brannon II tours with Edgar Winter and Steve Salas; keyboard player Blake Sakamoto runs a music production company in Portland and drummer Dan Pred produces videos and commercials. “I’m often asked whether we will work together again” continued Reed, “and I would love to play with those guys, but you can’t resurrect the past. It would be about money.”
Here’s the set-list: ‘The Wombling Song’, ‘Cruise Together’, ‘She’s Not You’, ‘Coming Up For Air’, ‘Halfway Around The World’, ‘Rainbow Child’, ‘On Your Side’, ‘Sacred Ground’, ‘Promised Land’, ‘Stronger than Steel’, ‘Candlelight’, ‘Lover’, ‘Long Way To Go’, ‘Ritual’, ‘Brave New World’ and ‘Losing My Fear’ with encores of ‘The Rush’, ‘All My Lovin’’ and ‘Get To You’.
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Thursday 7th May
There’s bad news for fans of Emerson Lake & Palmer. Keith Emerson has pulled the plug on his upcoming solo tours of Europe and America, citing the long-running “nerve damage and dystonic factor” that have plagued his right hand for some time. “I am also going to have to cancel the proposed Emerson Lake & Palmer tour which we were going to do at the end of this year,” comments the keyboard player, adding forlornly: “I will, of course, continue with my physical, chiropractic and acupuncture therapy in the hope that this will eventually get me back on form.” I hope he gets well soon.
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Wednesday 6th May
Wow, that didn’t take long. There’s already some YouTube footage of Joe Bonamassa’s jam with Eric Clapton at the Royal Albert Hall. It’s filmed on someone’s phone from the other side of the venue, and there’s no mistaking the coiffure of yours truly, nodding away to the music in the front row of the balcony directly above the drummer’s head. I had no idea that the ol’ barnet was still so distinctive after it ceased to be such a fiery shade red/strawberry blonde. The sound quality of the clip’s not too bad, either…
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Tuesday 5th May
That Joe Bonamassa has gone from London’s Borderline, attracting 60-odd punters for his first appearance, to selling out the 4,500-capacity Royal Albert Hall within two years says all you need to know. Having seen and written about one of those Borderline dates – I wrote: “Wherever Joe Bonamassa chooses to go from here, the world is at his feet” – last night I felt proud of the 31-year-old New Yorker. When you arrive to find that esteemed broadcaster Paul Gambaccini is in the next seat along, you’re not about to watch something run of the mill, and Bonamassa pulled out all the stops at the Albert Hall, using two drummers (one of whom was Anthon Fig, of Ace Frehley fame) and a horn section. Occupying the space that would sometimes be filled by an orchestra, behind and slightly above the stage and with a view so good you almost felt like you were a part of the show, my friend Steve Way and I sat back and enjoyed a thoroughly absorbing performance that will soon be available on DVD.
To the crowd’s amazed joy, Eric Clapton jammed on ‘Further On Up The Road’, Paul Jones of the Blues Band dropping by a little later to play some astonishing harmonica on ‘Your Funeral My Trial’. But the show was all about Bonamassa whose ripe playing and the occasional burst of showmanship held the attention from start to finish. Exiting the stage for the last time Joe’s relieved parting comment – “Thank you London, for making this the greatest night of my life” – seemed an apt summation of the previous two and a half hours. There was an after-show reception, at which I spotted Mike Rutherford from Genesis, Iron Maiden guitarist Adrian Smith and ex-Whitesnake man Bernie Marsden, but still recovering from the previous night’s excesses and with a week of Classic Rock production deadline hell ahead I didn’t hang around for long. Here’s the set-list: ‘Dejango’, ‘The Ballad Of John Henry’, ‘So It’s Like That’, ‘Last Kiss’, ‘So Many Roads’, ‘Stop!’, ‘Further On Up The Road’, ‘Woke Up Dreaming’, ‘High Water Everywhere’, ‘Slo Gin’, ‘Lonesome Road Blues’, ‘Happier Times’, ‘Your Funeral My Trial’, ‘Blues Deluxe’, ‘Story Of A Quarryman’, ‘The Great Flood’, ‘Just Got Paid’ and encores of ‘Mountain Time’ and ‘Asking Around For You’.
P.S. This month’s Playlist and YouTube are now up.
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Monday 4th May
I’m happy to say that Crystal Palace gave a good account of themselves on their last day of the season, a 0-0 draw helping to destroy the automatic promotion ambitions of the visitors, Sheffield United. Quite rightly, a fiscally-driven decision had been made to relocate CPFC’s own fans from the Arthur Wait Stand to accommodate a rumoured 7,500 away supporters. Being surrounded by a few choice members of the Arthur Wait Massiv, the club’s loudest fans who sing from start to finish, was great. My friend Kev and I joined in heartily, though it was disappointing that certain terrace anthems (The Famous Alan Mullery Went To Rome To See The Pope and My Old Man Said Be A Brighton Fan, for instance) are almost unknown to today’s generation of supporters, who really only lent their voices to chants of, “Let’s all laugh at Charlton”. Nevertheless, I was amused by the Massiv’s tribute to Shefki Kuqi: “He used to be shite/But now he’s alright/Walking in a Kuqi wonderland” – talk about being damned with faint praise.
After several more drinks in the Norwood area, Kev and I put my lad Eddie onto a bus home and headed up to town for more alcohol, descending upon a release party for the new Praying Mantis album, ‘Sanctuary’ (released on June 8), at Bush Hall in Shepherd’s Bush. Having already reviewed ‘Sanctuary’ for the May 27 issue of Classic Rock I can vouch for its quality, so my heart went out to Mantis when bassist Chris Troy informed me that singer Mike Freeland was recovering from a heavy cold – of all the days, etc. Freeland held things together during the eventually abbreviated performance (which included four songs from ‘Sanctuary’, plus assorted oldies), but the circumstances were less than ideal. And I was starting to have a few problems of my own, including remaining vertical after 12 hours of solid swigging… hahaha. Anyway, here’s what Mantis played: ‘Cry For The New World’, ‘Children Of The Earth’, ‘Restless Heart’, ‘Cry In The Rain’, ‘Lovers To The Grave’, ‘In Time’, ‘Highway’, ‘Turn The Tables’ and an encore of the timeless ‘Captured City’.
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Sunday 3rd May
So… the last day of the football season is here… for Crystal Palace, at least. Very soon my eldest boy Eddie and I will be off to Selhurst for an afternoon of topsy-turvy emotions; excitement, frustration, jealousy…
It’s extremely unusual for the Eagles, having failed to make the play-offs and accumulated enough points for safety, to be uninvolved (directly speaking, at least) at the top or the bottom of the table. And yet I find myself eternally grateful for an unbeaten run at the start of the year, without which we’d undoubtedly have been scrapping for survival with the Clowns, the Saints and Norwich. Given the runaway success of Neil Warnock’s first season and the purchase of Nick Carle – who seemed to be the missing piece of the jigsaw – I was optimistic that Palace would have pushed on, but here were on the final day of ’08/’09 playing host to what looks like being someone else’s promotion party – the irrelevant bridesmaids of Sky TV’s advance coverage of Birmingham, Reading and Sheff Utd.
In the recent extending of his contract till 2011 Warnock has, at least, pledged another year to CPFC. That’s a good thing… I think. The reason for fending off his retirement for another 12 months is “stability”, apparently. Neil has settled unexpectedly well in the south and has a good relationship with the Palace faithful (“They have been incredible, I wish I’d have come down [here] earlier”, he volunteers), but he’s over-egging the pudding with the claim: “I don’t think I’ve enjoyed myself so much in years”. I’m glad that **someone** in the vicinity of SE25 has been having fun… Apart from getting to pass quality time with my lad and having spent way more time and money boozing with my long-suffering mates than I probably ought, it feels like a wasted campaign.
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Saturday 2nd May
After a sun-drenched day in England’s capital city, I savoured a bottle of ice-cold cider during the train journey to Hampton Court Palace for Rick Wakeman’s live performance of the 1973 album, ‘Six Wives Of Henry The Eighth’. What a great night it turned out to be. Steeped in history, Hampton Court is an imposing location for a rock venue. On the green before Henry’s Gate vendors had even entered the historical spirit of the occasion to offer roast hog sandwiches and delicious vintage cider (though, thankfully, instead of holes in the ground there were real toilets). Taking my seat I bumped into Dave Lights, the legendary former Iron Maiden (now UFO) lighting engineer, who had been hired to illuminate the Palace’s myriad turrets, chimneys and spires, enhancing their already picturesque qualities behind a stage packed with bodies and instruments. Let me say, it worked!
Backed by a full rock band that included his son Adam on additional keys, plus The English Chamber Choir and The Orchestra Europa (conducted by Guy Protheroe), Wakeman did a sensational job, donning a luxuriant, flowing glitter cape to play ‘Jane Seymour’ on an elevated platform and tittering, like everyone else, at the antics of narrator Brian Blessed – a truly inspired choice. “Can you hear me?” boomed Blessed to commence proceedings, adding, “Oh, you must be deaf”. Blessed must have been swigging some sort of extra song mead, as his commentaries grew wilder and more deranged as the night went on. In a monologue to introduce ‘Catherine Of Aragon’ he declared: “Henry didn’t even attend her funeral… miserable sod.” And as the audience erupted he apologized: “Ah, that bit wasn’t in the script”. Genius!
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Friday 1st May
For one of the biggest and most famous cities on the planet, London’s public transport system leaves plenty to be desired. Take yesterday, for instance. Knowing that I was supposed to be at Roadrunner Records’ Ealing office at 11.15, I left my abode on the other side of the capital two hours earlier… should’ve been plenty of time for a simple overground train ride and one change on the Tube. But I found myself stuck on a train outside Ealing Broadway as a points problem was rectified. Hardly a great feeling when you are keeping one of the greatest timekeepers in the world – Dream Theater’s Mike Portnoy – waiting. The interview was excellent, however.
In the evening, following a beautiful warm day, my friend Andy Beare and I downed a few cold ones at Angel Witch’s Camden Underworld show. I’d been warned to check out special guests The Gates Of Slumber, a doom-metal band from Indiana that has just been signed to Rise Above Records. I’ll be honest, the venue – which, happily, was packed! – went mad for them, but either the soundman did a totally inadequate job of mixing guitarist Karl Simon’s vocals, or… or… well, the fella is just not cut out to front a band. I hope it’s the former option as there were some fine bludgeoning tunes in the band’s 50-minute set.
The front of house mix for Angel Witch was a good deal less stellar than their last appearance at the Underworld (see diary, 21.12.08). They played pretty much the same set-list, though as headliners enjoyed the luxury of adding a few songs – namely ‘Extermination Day’, ‘Flight 19’ and, unexpectedly, ‘The Night Is Calling’ (from the oddities album ‘Sinister History’). The audience’s reaction, which will be seen in the not too distant future on a DVD, was ecstatic. A fantastic night.