Album of 2013

In an effort to get back into writing about things after a hiatus, I said that I was going to write an Album of the Year post for the first time in five years or so. My first real blog post in 18 months and an excuse to finally utilise the WordPress pages that I have on my web space that currently sit as pieces of nostalgia for me to look through.

In previous years, I have often written a long first entry where I summarise my opinions on every album I deem worthy of listing, before posting a few days later my top 10 or so records. I know how long-winded this was (with the benefit of hindsight) so I have changed the format for this entry. I will countdown my top 10, but outside of my #1 pick this year, I don’t really have a set order, so I am going to post my nine favourites in alphabetical order, with my favourite album at the very bottom. In between, I’ll cover the albums that just missed the cut, the albums I wasn’t really fond of, and the records I am most looking forward to hearing in 2014. Advance warning: if you are expecting me to pick from one genre exclusively, you will be disappointed. A lot of fantastic stuff was released this year from artists across my musical palette and I will attempt to give as many of them credit as possible.

One thing does remain from previous years – my criteria. Must be released in the 2013 calendar year. No reissues. No remixes. No live albums. No compilations.

Continue reading Album of 2013

Farewell, Randy Savage

Macho Man and LizWrestling fans are sadly rather familiar with the feeling of losing a star. In the past 10 or so years, the list of those lost to drugs, alcohol abuse or horrific accidents is utterly horrendous. However, the loss of one superstar today has transcended them all.

I was on break from work when I checked my Twitter feed to see the WWE’s tweet that the Macho Man Randy Savage, had passed away. The pain of losing someone who I grew up watching is something I have become sadly very used to. To a generation of wrestling fans, Savage is one of its icons. He was a man beloved not only by fans, but by a majority of his peers. Savage represented the rock and wrestling era so brilliantly. When you first tune in and see this man enter to Pomp and Circumstance, the crowd rising to cheer as one before turning to the entranceway, you get the feeling “this guy is something special”. Always led by the beautiful First Lady of Professional Wrestling, the quiet Miss Elizabeth, Savage was flamboyant. His interviews and “Ohhhh yeah!” are much imitated (I have lost count of the several times, when after a few beers, I resort to a Macho Man impression. It is terribly sad) but it is a sign of appreciation to one of the greatest stars who competed in the squared circle. His association with Slim Jims and the commercials that aired mean his popularity and persona extended beyond the usual wrestling fandom. Wrestling fans are unique, but one thing that I think rings true, especially on days like today, is that more emotion that is honest comes from a fake sport than real ones. Savage’s passing to me and a certain generation, is no different to losing a leading star on the sports team of your youth, or an actor whose films you grew up enjoying. For so much of people’s lives, Savage’s antics were beamed across living rooms worldwide and despite having never met so many of his fans; he reached out to them in so many ways.

The breakdown in his relationship with Vince McMahon drove him from the WWF in 1993 (where he made his name) and he headed to WCW and no matter where or what he did, Savage was always a draw. In my opinion, it is terrible that Savage will not have lived to be inducted into the WWF/WWE’s Hall of Fame because of this, when some of the names inducted are in nowhere near Savage’s bracket in terms of fame and great wrestling ability. To name one particular moment as Savage’s greatest would be stretching as he had so many fantastic moments that have stayed with fans for years.

His long association with his one-time wife Elizabeth stands out to me personally. From her introduction as his manager, “outbidding” many of the top managers at the time for his service to their wedding at Madison Square Garden, the two were intertwined. Savage’s incredible match with Ricky the Dragon Steamboat at WrestleMania III is still considered among the very greatest of all-time. His ascent to winning the WWF Championship by defeating the diabolical Million Dollar Man at WrestleMania IVThe Mega Powers explode at WrestleMania V and his match with Hulk Hogan, a man with whom he had a long and storied rivalry. His fantastic feud with Ric Flair and eventual victory at WrestleMania VIII…my personal favourite moment is that of his reunion with Elizabeth at WrestleMania VII after losing his retirement match to the Ultimate Warrior (for non-fans, there’s a reason wrestling retirements are an in-joke). Even in WCW, he had tremendous moments. His victory at Spring Stampede 1998 to become WCW Champion. His feud with Diamond Dallas Page in WCW was terrific and took in so many great matches as well.

I have said nothing in the piece that has not already been said. However, to me, it just needed reinforcing. Hope Macho is snapping into a Slim Jim and dropping an elbow on some poor dummy wherever he is. My thoughts are with his close family and friends, especially his wife Lynn who survived the car crash, and his brother The Genius Larry Poffo.

R.I.P. Randy Savage

Farewell, Matt Laporte

Matt LaPorte
Matt LaPorte performing at the ProgPowerUKII festival in 2007

Only just read about the death of Matt LaPorte. Absolutely terrible news.

Matt was the guitar player in two of my favourite bands: Circle II Circle for their first record and he was on all of Jon Oliva’s Pain’s works.

This photo was taken when I saw JOP at ProgPowerUK II in 2007. One of my favourite gigs ever, as I have mentioned before. I actually got to meet Jon Oliva (holy shit moment of my life), Kevin Rothney and Matt LaPorte. Matt loved my “Musicians for Groupies” t-shirt and I asked “You guys got any surprises in the set tonight?” to which he replied “Yeah, we’re playing like 80% of Streets.” I think I struggled to pick my jaw up from the floor until they played the set.

As a guitarist, he has few equals. Along with Chris Caffery, they are the guys who can best emulate what Criss Oliva could do with his guitar. A superb musician, he also recorded with ex-Crimson Glory vocalist Midnight and he plays on a beautiful duet between Midnight and the aforementioned Mr. J. Oliva.

So incredibly sad. Thoughts go out to his family and friends. Poor Jon. He’s lost so many people close to him through the years.

“Now a star to light the night
And all you left behind
Has truly touched my life
My friend to you I say goodbye”

— “O to G”, Jon Oliva’s Pain

Album of 2008 – Results

Well my humanoids, not that all that many of you matter for my music taste, here it is. My top 10 albums of 2008. This was one hell of a lot harder to rank than others, and whilst my top decisions were almost givens, the in-betweens were very difficult to order. As usual, there were a number of albums I forgot to rank, having seen other polls, so apologies to Amon Amarth in particular who I looked over, but, I’m happy with my choices.

Getting this done means you ham and eggers can finally get a “proper” ranting/monologue blog coming up shortly. Continue reading Album of 2008 – Results

Album of 2008 – Preview

2008 will hence forth be known as Two Thousand And Great. What a year. Wales won a Grand Slam, the Red Wings got the Stanley Cup back, Man United made it three European Cups. Barack Obama won the US Presidential Election. All of these were truly earth shattering events. Oh, and the third greatest lie ever told actually became truth – Chinese Democracy finally arrived.

As usual, my first post is an overview of my feelings of loads of different albums in general before I post my top 10. This is a longer list than I first anticipated doing, because instead of just being pigeonholed as a metalhead, I thought I’d do some albums you might not have expected me to listen to. As per my usual rules, this list does not include live albums or greatest hits/essential collections released this year, the album simply had to be full of new original material and released in the 2008 calendar year. This also means that re-released and or re-mixed material doesn’t count (e.g. Exodus’s latest album).

I’m sure as you go through this, I sound like a hypocrite, saying some bands should experiment, and others should go back to a previous style or something. But that is, of course, a matter of opinion. Some bands conjure up certain sounds, images and thoughts to me and I think they should stick to them…it’s that kinda thing. So please don’t kill me =]

Continue reading Album of 2008 – Preview