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Radiohead “In-Rainbows” Disk 2 Available For Digital Download June 13, 2009

Posted by Richard Foote in Music, Radiohead.

For all the Radiohead fans out there, some exciting news.

They’ve just announced that their “In Rainbows” Disk 2, which was previously only available with the limited edition “In Rainbows” Box-Set, is now available for digital download from their w.a.s.t.e site.

I wrote a piece on the Radiohead “In Rainbows” Box-Set a while ago when it was first released, where I briefly described each track. It’s a fantastic collection of songs, with “Last Flowers To The Hospital” which dates all the way back to “OK Computer” being worth the price of admission alone.

If you’re a Radiohead fan, or simply a lover of great rock music, I highly recommend you check it out.

Time For A Catch Up … July 23, 2008

Posted by Richard Foote in Music, Travel.

Well, it’s certainly been a hectic time these past few weeks so I thought it might be time to catch up on a few things.

I’ve just returned from attending and presenting at the Oracle Days 2008 Conference held by the Puget Sound Oracle User Group in Seattle, USA (well Bellevue actually). I had a great time, met some really nice people, caught up with a few old faces and generally had a ball. The conference had some great presentations and deserved a much better turn out although I suspect the beautiful weather made many people consider outdoor activities. My presentations were well attended and received great feedback so I was really pleased with my personal contributions. I would strongly recommend people check out this event when it’s held again next year. Thanks to Daniel Morgan and the gang for looking after me so incredibly well and to Tom Kyte for teaching me the difference between a torch and a flashlight !!

The results are in for the Oracle Mix nominated presentations for this year’s Oracle OpenWorld and my Indexing Secrets presentation has been selected, finally coming in at Number 7. I’m still not sure I can get to OpenWorld this year as finances are somewhat tight at the moment but fingers crossed, I can somehow get myself across the Pacific Ocean again this year and do this presentation for those of you attending. Still working on that one, here’s hoping …

Enrollments for my Index Internals Seminar “Australian Tour” in September are going well. Currently I’m featured on the Australian Oracle University home page so that dreadful photo can now be seen all over the place. There are still places available but don’t leave it too late …

David Bowie has released probably one of his finest concerts on CD this week, David Bowie Live Santa Monica ’72:

I remember when I first bought this concert featuring David Bowie as Ziggy Stardust during his first US tour in 1972 on a bootleg many many years ago. I loved it then and I love it now with some great packaging and a nice clean sound. David Bowie at his absolute best !! Been listening to it ever since I got back from the US.

Finally, a big thank you to all those who made comments and suggestions for the blog moving forward. Will definitely try and incorporate as many of them as I can in the coming weeks, months, years 🙂

OT: Radiohead Like You’ve Never Heard Them Before (15 Steps/Stumbles) May 23, 2008

Posted by Richard Foote in Music, Radiohead.

I recently came across this video on the Green Plastic Radiohead website, of a performance of 15 Steps by Radiohead on the excellent “Later With Jools Holland” show.

It’s totally hilarious and so very very clever.

The challenge is indeed to watch it all without laughing !!

Whoever put it together deserves much credit, although I do slightly prefer the original version 🙂

OT: My Top 10 Albums Of All Time (Rock ‘n’ Roll With Me) April 21, 2008

Posted by Richard Foote in Music.

Thought I might post something a little different from the usual technical stuff and share my favourite Top 10 albums of all time. My rules are basically an artist can only have the one album and it can’t include any compilations or greatest hits albums. Interestingly, 5 of the 10 can be considered “concept” albums of sorts, so I’m obviously a sucker for a good theme. So here goes …

10. A Rush Of Blood To The Head – Coldplay 2002

I love Coldplay and all three of their albums. They write really good songs which don’t need to be over produced to bring out their magic. They’re also a really good “band” with each member bringing a special ingredient to their music. This is one of those albums where once you’ve heard a track, you’re a little torn as you want to hear the track again but you also want to hear the next track as well. Always a sign of a good album. I prefer this album of the 3 as it just seems to have a bit more range. From the frantic pace of Politik to the mellowness of Green Eyes, it just has catchy songs one after the other. Britpop gets no better than In My Place, Clocks and The Scientist. The album as a whole has a dreamy, spacey quality that just sucks you in. Highlight: Clocks

9. 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 – Midnight Oil 1983

Australia has produced some really great, gutsy bands but none better than the Oils. Although both of their followup albums, “Red Sails In The Sunset” and “Diesel and Dust” are also truly great albums, this is their masterpiece. Much of the album is political in nature, but it’s performed with such passion and drive that you just want to jump up and down with them. Although more than 25 years old, many of the themes and issues are probably more relevant now than they were back then, a quality of several of the albums on my list. However, it’s the actual song writing that’s so impressive, with classics such as “Read About It”, “Power and the Passion” and “US Forces” sounding just as fresh and vital as always. The production is also amazing adding to the atmosphere and raw power of the whole recording. Highlight: Maralinga 

8. The Velvet Underground and Nico – Velvet Underground 1967

This album is really important to me. I first heard to it back at the time when Abba and disco were the “in thing”. However, this really opened up my eyes (and ears) to the fact dark themes are also worth writing and singing about and that there was this whole other world of music that you couldn’t readily find on the radio or on Top of the Pops. I remember thinking just how different and amazing this was and how much more real and rebellious it was than much of the punk stuff that was making its mark. It’s a unique album and incredibly influential and remarkably recorded in 1967 during the so-called Summer of Love. With a backdrop of some of Andy Warhol’s favourite themes; drugs, sex and death, John Cale’s soundscapes, Maureen Tucker’s drumming, Lou Reed’s manic guitar, Sterling Morrison’s throbbing bass and the unique flat tones of Lou Reed and Nico’s vocals simply sound amazing. A stunning musical statement that in many ways has never quite been matched. Highlight: Heroin.

7.  The War of the Worlds – Jeff Wayne 1978

When I was about 12 or 13, I was really sick with a bad infection and had to spend 10 long days in bed. My Dad popped down to the local library and got me a few books and this new Sci-Fi musical tape to cheer me up a bit. So started my love for this album. This album has everything, a great story, fantastic music, brilliant performances from a great cast and the incredible voice of Richard Burton holding it all together. The key though is the music and the huge production which sounds so BIG. Jeff Wayne combines hard rock with a musical theatre sound which transports the listener on this incredible, thrilling journey. I still love it. Uuuuuullllaaaaaaa !!  Highlight: The Eve Of The War.

6. Lust For Life – Iggy Pop 1977

There is no one quite like Iggy Pop and there’s nothing quite like an Iggy Pop concert. The guy has so much energy, it’s simply impossible to replicate it on a record (although Raw Power comes close). I love The Stooges and I love everything he’s done since but for me, Lust For Life, recorded during his Berlin period with Bowie, is where he recorded the perfect Iggy Pop album. From the driving, addictive rhythm of the opening title track made famous on the Trainspotting soundtrack, it includes such gems as Sweet Sixteen, Some Weird Sin, The Passenger and Success. Although some of the themes are a little dark (Tonight for example is world’s apart from the version re-recording by Bowie years later), there is a general sense of optimism which makes this a personal favourite. The photo of Iggy on the cover is a classic. Highlight: The Passenger.

5. The Beatles (White Album) – The Beatles 1968

The Beatles are without doubt the most influential band there’s ever been and their music is just as catchy, interesting, moving and relevant today as it was 40 years ago. Picking just one of their albums is no easy task but perhaps only because I get two albums worth of material, the so-called White Album is my selection. Full of truly classic material, this for me is The Beatles at their best although sadly it also represents the beginning of the end in so many ways as well.  They’re still experimenting and pushing the boundaries but manage to include songs such as Back In The USSR, Dear Prudence, While My Guitar Gently Weeps, Happiness Is A Warm Gun,  Birthday, Helter Skelter, the list just goes on and on. The only downside was having to get up all the time to change the records over after each side, thank goodness for MP3 players these days. Tempted to place this at No. 9 on the list … Highlight: While My Guitar Gently Weeps

4. Amused To Death – Roger Waters 1992

I feel like I’m cheating a little as Roger Waters features heavily on another of my Top 10, but this is a solo effort and so passes. Inspired by the book “Amusing Ourselves To Death” by Neil Postman, the album is a contempt filled analysis of how TV has made society numb to the horrors the TV pictures so often portray. As a “monkey” randomly switches between different TV channels, wars become nothing more than another form of entertainment to be “enjoyed” with a bunch of friends over a few beers and popcorn. However, it’s not only just the lyrics that are so powerful here, the music is just as important and captivating. Featuring the superb Jeff Beck on many of the tracks, Perfect Sense, The Bravery Of Being Out Of Range, It’s A Miracle and the title track are just some examples of where the music shines just as bright. They sound incredible live in concert too BTW. Sadly, the whole concept behind the album is probably more relevant today than its ever been. I’ve no doubt if David Gilmour featured on this album, Amused To Death would be considered by many as a Pink Floyd masterpiece. Pink Floyd however are coming up soon enough. Highlight: Perfect Sense.

3. OK Computer – Radiohead 1997

Both “The Bends” and “Kid A” would both be worthy members of my top 10 list, but OK Computer is the Radiohead masterpiece. A collection of gems loosely based on how computers, transportation and technology generally have all contributed to make humans just that little bit less human, this album is simply one great track after another. The overall production is also so good and lush that each individual track genuinely sounds like a mini epic in it’s own right (except perhaps Paranoid Android which sounds like a huge epic). Thom Yorke’s singing is brilliant throughout with Exit For a Film for example sending shivers upon every listen, but the overall soundscapes produced by the other band members make this an excellent “sounding” album. Paranoid Android is undoubtedly a musical Ben-Hur but Airbag, Exit Music, Let Down, Karma Police, Climbing Up The Walls and Lucky are all grand in their own ways as well. As for the other tracks, well No Surprises there, they’re bloody good as well. Even the much maligned Fitter Happier fits in perfectly within the overall mood and ambiance of the whole piece. Highlight: Paranoid Android.

2. The Wall – Pink Floyd 1979

Boy, I could have picked any number of Pink Floyd albums but in the end, The Wall just pips some of the others. Written primarily by Roger Waters and somewhat autobiographical, the album tells the “story” of the slow decline and disintegration of poor Pink, a rock star with too many mental scars to cope with stardom. Building “Walls” between himself and his past ultimately only makes matters worse and is perhaps the albums key message. However, as ever, it’s the music that really counts and here Pink Floyd manage to (just) work together to produce a collection of classic tracks. Although Roger Waters clearly dominates, David Glimour’s general contributions are vital in the context of making the whole album the musical masterpiece that it is. Another Brick In The Wall, Young Lust, Hey You, Comfortably Numb and Run Like Hell for example are all about as good as it gets. It’s an album best enjoyed from start to finish with a pair of headphones, a comfortable lounge, a cold beer and 80 or so free minutes to reminisce where you were when you first heard Another Brick In The Wall. Highlight: Comfortably Numb.

1.  The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars – David Bowie 1972

Of course, it had to be a David Bowie album, but picking the one was not easy. Hunky Dory almost got there but in the end, if I had to get rid of all my music and keep just the one album, this would be it. This remarkably was the very first album I ever bought and the fact it’s my favourite is pretty amazing really, if only for it passing the test of time so well. Although this was the album that finally brought Bowie fame, it was as much his amazing stage act and remarkable appearance that brought him so much attention. Which in some ways distracts slightly from what is ultimately a fantastic, straight up rock ‘n’ roll album. Based in some future time when the Earth only has 5 years before some catastrophe destroys all life, it loosely tells the story of an alien, “Messiah” rock star who manages to give people something worth living for before the pressure of stardom and human weaknesses brings it all crashing down. Five Years is probably the best opening and Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide the best ending to any album, but the collection of songs in between are just as amazing. Moonage Daydream highlights just what a great guitarist and right-hand man Mick Ronson was, Starman is a song that probably generated the best Top Of The Pops performance by any artist, whereas songs such as Hang On To Yourself, Star, Ziggy Startdust and Suffragette City are probably some of the best rock songs ever written. Surprisingly for such futurist themes, it doesn’t feature any synthesisers, only standard rock instrumentation and yet it sounds so fresh as if it’s still based on music that will come sometime in the future. May Ziggy play guitar for many more years to come !! Highlight: Moonage Daydream.

If you haven’t listened to any of these albums before, do yourself a favour and give them a go 🙂

Radiohead “In Rainbows” Box-Set January 26, 2008

Posted by Richard Foote in Music, Radiohead.

Radiohead “In Rainbows” Box-set

“In Rainbows” is the latest offering by one of my favourite bands, Radiohead. For Christmas, I was lucky enough to get the “In Rainbows” Box-set, which is a real treat for any Radiohead fan.  

The box-set is wonderfully packaged. In a LP sized slip case, the hard outside-case has black and white artwork at odds to the bright “rainbow” colours of the album proper.

Inside, is a LP sized, foldout case that holds the 2 vinyl 12″ 45 RPM records that feature the 10 songs in the album proper, one stored in each side of the foldout sleave.

In the inside left-hand side of the foldout sits a removable LP sized 16 page booklet, featuring different colourful digital images and artwork by of course Stanley Donwood, in a similar style to the album cover proper.

In the right-hand side, taking up half the space is another non-removable booklet that features the album lyrics and credits. Unfortunately, it doesn’t include the lyrics to the bonus disc. The other half is taken up by the 2 CDs of the album, the 10 song album proper and an 8 song bonus disc, which of course is the real feature of the box-set, consisting of:

MK1 is a one minute piece based on the middle section of Videotape that ends the album proper. It has a very quiet, eerie sort of feel to it that nicely links the main “In Rainbows” album to the bonus disc.

It suddenly jumps into “Down Is The New Up” which is such a perfect title for a Radiohead song. It has a somewhat mellow piano based sound in keeping with the general “In Rainbows” feel, with a catchy little backbeat. However, the atmospherics in the background suggest not all is well. About being given the flick, “Your services are not required. Your future’s bleak. You’re so last week.”, the message is being dampened (unsuccessfully) by the fact that hey “down is the new up”. How putting spin and modern catch phrases on bad news doesn’t change the fact it’s bad news nonetheless. Perhaps a better alternative to that suggested in “No surprises” however. 

The next song “Go slowly” is an acoustic guitar based number, which indeed has a slow, melodically soothing rhythm. It’s the least “wordy” of the songs, a simple sort of love song that pleads given time and patients, things will work out if we just go slowly. It’s has a wonderful, optimistic feel with typically beautiful Radiohead arrangements. Thom in his choirboy sounding best. 

The next piece MK2 is another 1 minute “filler” (if there’s such a thing with Radiohead), a weird electronic piece that reminds me of the last scene in some old fashioned, science fiction movie. Perhaps the Tardis referred to in “Up On The Ladder” ?

The next song “Last Flowers To The Hospital” is my favourite in this collection. A quiet, piano and acoustic guitar based arrangement that dates all the way back to “OK Computer” where it would have fitted in perfectly (“Appliances have gone berserk”), it’s vintage Radiohead. It just sounds so beautiful with Thom’s vocals perfectly matching the “mood” evoked by the music. The title comes from a sign outside a hospital in Oxford, it’s basically about someone who can no longer cope and just needs someone to listen to them. Radiohead are one of the few bands that have a song of this quality sitting on an extras CD.

Next comes “Up On The Ladder”, which has a guitar riff and a throbbing beat that just gets stuck in your head. Dropped from the “Hail To The Thief” and dating as far back as “Kid A”, its basic theme is alienation both literally and figuratively. Sounds great live.

As does the next song “Bangers & Mash”, the most energetic piece in the collection. About corruption and the poison of power and position, it’s has a typically biting edge, especially with Thom’s sarcastic vocal delivery, it serves as a warning of what can happen when people turn on you. You can easily dance to this, especially if you’ve just ripped somebody off !!

The last song “4 Minute Warning” reminds me of the end to Pink Floyd’s “The Final Cut” both in its mood and theme. It’s bleak, dark and about someone desperately wishing what’s about to happen to them was only a dream. But it’s not a dream and in 4 minutes something really bad is going to happen and trying to ignore it and wish things were different isn’t going to change things. Perhaps down is the new down after all. A quiet, sombre ending, which of course lasts exactly 4 minutes. 

Overall, the bonus disc is a great collection of songs, most of which could easily have made the album proper.

You can’t buy this in shops although it’s still available from here. Highly recommended !!

Radiohead: In Rainbows December 15, 2007

Posted by Richard Foote in Music, Radiohead.

One of my favourite bands is Radiohead, from Oxford in the UK.

It’s been a full 10 years since they released what is probably my favourite album of all time, the classic “OK Computer”. Since then, they’ve become one of the most influential and innovative bands around, with Thom Yorke’s distinctive vocals and Jonny Greenwood’s guitar work creating their uniquely beautiful “sound”.

A new Radiohead album is always in big event in my life and it’s been a long wait since their last album was released in 2003, “Hail To The Thief”. For the past few months I’ve been enjoying their new release “In Rainbows”.

It created quite a bit of press and controversy when Radiohead decided to release the new album as a download only release with no record label affiliation, with the buyer choosing how much to pay for it. You could pay as little (0.45p was the minimum I think) or as much as you liked. As a marketing move, it was a very very clever initiative.

It did however distract attention away somewhat from the music itself and what is quite simply a stunning collection of songs. From the bouncy opening “15 Steps”, to haunting beauty and tragedy of the closing “Videotape”, it’s arguably their best album since “OK Computer”. A wonderful surprise is the release finally of the 1997 era “Nude”, a live favourite for years which Thom has finally got right in the studio. I just love “Jigsaw Falling Into Place”, it just has so many twists and turns but the highlight for me is Weird Fishes/Arpeggi which just sends shivers down my spine every time I hear it. It’s incredibly emotional and has a profound sense of sadness but at the same time an incredible energy that perfectly encapsulates what music is all about.

As my Christmas treat (as I’ve been a really really good boy this year), I’ve got on order the “In Rainbows” box-set which includes a second CD of unreleased tracks. I can’t wait.

However, the album is released commercially in CD and vinyl formats via the usual channels on the 31st December.  Do yourself a favour, buy “In Rainbows” and enjoy what I’m sure will be considered a truly classic album in the years ahead.

Remember where you heard it first.