Review 2015

RPM Review 2015.

RPM has made it through another year……hooray!

Thanks so much for your continued support and musical contributions each month. Themes I particular enjoyed this year were January’s First Band I Ever Saw, April’s Best Opening Album Track and July’s Local Heroes….and of course our “holiday” in June aboard The Albatros at Wells-next-the-sea. I’m sure you had your favourites as well. If you missed a meeting or two, why not check out the playlists and Mystery Albums on the Meetings pages elsewhere on the website………….songs and albums you don’t have in your collection can, of course, be found on Youtube…….along with endless videos of cats, for some strange reason…….but I would hope if you come across something you really like, you’ll track down the physical recording from a proper record shop, if possible.

Two events this year have left me feeling a bit lost. The first was our local music store, Sounds Music, closing it’s doors for the last time in February. John retired after 21 years and 6 months (he reminded me) selling us CDs, LPs and instruments and his shop, I’m sure you’ll agree, will be greatly missed. In fact, you’ll remember February’s Swan Songs meeting was a tribute and farewell to Sounds. It’s great to see John and Sal each month at RPM……….although, having missed the October and November meetings, they have now relinquished their 100% attendance record!! Shame ;-)

The second event was the passing on 28th December of one, Ian ‘Lemmy’ Kilmister……a true original if ever there was one. Lemmy was a big influence on me as a musician. The first instrument I learnt was bass guitar and I spent many evenings at my friend’s house as a 17 year old, trying to work out, on the bottom four strings of his acoustic guitar, Lemmy’s bass lines on Hawkwind’s Space Ritual live opus. The world will be a quieter place without him and Motorhead!

This past year, I’ve decided that the best format to buy music on is vinyl (of course, it always was)……but with a download code. Brilliant. The full glory of a 12” sleeve resplendent with art work, sleeve notes and lyrics the size they should be, i.e. readable, plus the convenience of music on one’s laptop or burnt to a CD; it’s a winner! The one slightly annoying thing is that record companies are often releasing what should be an album on two sides, as if it were a double album (i.e. across 4 sides) on “better quality” 180g vinyl. I would assume the thinking is that they can charge more money for an item that appears to be more lavish and of superior sound reproduction……or is that me being cynical ?!.....yeah, I know, unheard of. So, does 180g vinyl really sound better than standard vinyl? According to an article I read recently, apparently not. Sure the LP might ride more smoothly on your record deck thanks to its’ weight, but that’s the only benefit. The quality of the sound derives from the vinyl compound as opposed to the weight of the disc. So there you have it. And I suppose getting up 3 times to change sides is better for your health than just the once with a normal 2 sided disc. Rather tasty vinyl acquisitions this year which came with a free download code were (in no particular order) London folkers Stick In The Wheel with their debut album From Here, David Gilmour’s latest solo effort Rattle That Lock, local rockers The Darkness with Last Of Our Kind, the long awaited , for me, new (proper double) album Technicians Of The Sacred from the cosmically amazing Ozric Tentacles, Seasick Steve’s new (not really a proper) double album Sonic Soul Surfer and the last ever Motorhead album Bad Magic which included a CD as well rather than a download code. The cockles of my vinyl loving heart were also somewhat warmed over the Christmas holiday period, not just by the Hatherwood’s Winter Warmer I was drinking but when Ewan, my son, on arriving back home from a trip to Norwich, showed me his new purchase; a second hand copy of the classic Motorhead LP Ace Of Spades and announced he didn’t listen to music on his laptop any more but instead preferred to play albums, vinyl LPs, on his record player. YES!!!!

During the latter part of 2015, I must confess I have also discovered an increasing enjoyment of a musical format I used to dismiss as “just a compilation of stuff”; namely box sets. There are two ways these successfully hit the enjoyment mark for me. 1) Hard to find, unusual collections of songs, thoughtfully juxtaposed to create an interesting running order; 2) Completest sets of either all an artists’ output or their output from a certain period of their recording career. The 3 CD set Dust On The Nettles; a journey through the British underground folk scene 1967-72 certainly satisfies the criteria of number 1 as does the 4 CD set the Complete History Of The Blues 1920-1962 which contains loads of “songs that influenced the musical landscape forever”… says in the notes. And it’s true. It also introduced me to the music of Blind Willie Johnson, up until then, only a name from the distant, murky early 20th Century Blues scene. The song Nobody’s Fault But Mine has been one of my favourite Led Zeppelin songs ever since I first heard it…………but to hear the force of nature that is Johnson’s 1927 version is a revelation. I immediately tracked down The Complete Blind Willie Johnson, a 2 CD set and therefore a double album rather than a box set, I suppose, and was staggered to discover that his complete recorded output only spans about 2 and a half years, December 1927 to April 1930. Ignoring some crackles which the remastering couldn’t totally remove, it still sounds as fresh as the day it was recorded. Superb.

So, here’s to continued new discoveries during the forthcoming year………whether it be music from 80 years ago and seemingly from another time or the newest kids on the block just starting to make a name for themselves in our high tech obsessed world………..and also, to perhaps rediscovering some old but loved gems on vinyl. Go on, get up into the attic. Bring down those cardboard boxes or 1970s style plastic record cases containing the collection the record companies told us were obsolete. Give them a spin, (yes, buy a record player)………….don’t they sound great?* And the exercise is good for you.


*Apparently, that vinyl disc on your turntable contains more musical information than the corresponding digital copy on your laptop, simply because traditional vinyl mastering doesn’t feature any digital compression and therefore subsequent loss of sound.