Tuesday, November 13, 2012

50 Years of James Bond: The Movie

Alpha Blondy / Jérusalem [1986]

yes the hebrew here is delivered with a slight...err... accent ...

but listen to THE BAND. this is recorded with Bob Marley's wailers as the backing band and the sound is incredibly close to the sound on "Uprising" and "Confrontation". the whole album (also called Jerusalem) is pretty awesome.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

1980 in music part 4: Iron Maiden - Iron Maiden

1980, in addition to being a high point for punk (The Clash's "Sandinista!") and new wave, also spawned another New Wave, the New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM). The new wave was a bit more punky and certainly far less bluesy than the previous wave (represented by Black Sabbath, UFO, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Cream, Rainbow and others ...) and was embraced by an entirely new generation of leather clad air guitar playing youth.

Of all these bands, Iron Maiden has by far lasted the longest, stayed relevant for (arguably) decades, and was perhaps the most influential. Other great bands from this wave included Diamond Head (perhaps even more influential than Maiden since they provided 90% of the blueprint for Metallica's first 2 records), Judas Priest, Def Leppard, and Motorhead (who broke through a bit earlier with their "Bomber" album).

Maiden's first album, in fact, owes much to a great band from the previous wave: Wishbone Ash. The model of songs being led by treble toned fender bass and colored with twin guitar leads was perfected by their 1972 "Argus" album, produced by Martin Birch who would later produce the 2nd - 9th Maiden albums. Even the song titles... "Running Free" being a sort of answer to "Blowin' Free". Maiden bassist and primary songwriter Steve Harris has acknowledged that Wishbone Ash were a big influence in several interviews about the band.

Of course, Iron Maiden were not a simple knock off, the twin lead guitar sound was a sound, and a sort of paint to go out and paint their own dark vision of life in East London and planet earth in 1980, a vision which was light years from the rolling fields and medieval battles of Wishbone Ash's "Argus".

The other stylistic component which made Iron Maiden's first album such a departure from everything else happening in music and metal was singer Paul Di'anno, a sort of street punk hoodlum figure, and the exact opposite of what typical heavy metal frontmen were supposed to sound and look like (Robert Plant, David Coverdale, Ian Gillan, Rob Halford, etc). The Di'anno lyrics on Prowler, Running Free and a few other songs on the first two Maiden albums (before he and the band parted ways due to problems on tour and heavy alcohol abuse) were neither anything like the Tolkien inspired fantasy Led Zeppelin and Rainbow would make famous, nor the pub crawling raunch of Motorhead. The pseudo-criminal influence in the band's writing ended up stuck in between the more classic science fiction type writing Steve Harris brought to songs like Remember Tomorrow and Phantom of The Opera --- all four songs remain fan favorites today and with the exception of Prowler, still get constant play at live shows.

Sometimes a first album sounds a bit scattered [throat clearing noise], as if the band is unsure where their strength lies, and are hedging their bets. The first Iron Maiden album, while featuring a heavy slab of the bands all time greatest work (Phantom, Remember Tomorrow, the title track, Running Free, Sanctuary (on the US release at least), features a few oddities. "Strange World" for one, is a bit unlike anything else in the band's catalog (a distant, distant relation to "Prodigal Son" ?), which thankfully, would be the last time a Maiden song would be so listless, directionless and meatless. "Charlotte the Harlot" has stayed famous for its subject material but musically its a bit punky and rather unlike any of their later work. 

Compared to the sound of their classic albums (1981's "Killers" through 1988's "Seventh Son") the sound IS a bit trebly, thin and the playing a tad sloppy. But this is only because the standards set by their 2nd to 7th albums is so ridiculous perfect both in performance and sound. But there is a frantic, live, energy in the first Iron Maiden album, which made it such a huge, huge hit in England and not long after, the world, and helped them launch a career, and "Eddie the Head" merchandising franchise, which has seen them sell 100 million albums worldwide.

standout tracks: Phantom of the Opera, Remember Tomorrow, Transylvania, Running Free