Blog on the Tracks

Writer/reviewer Simon Sweetman covers music for The Dominion Post and North And South. He cares far too much about music, and the list of bands he loves is far longer than the list of groups he has shown no love.

Reissue magic

07:01am 20 Jan 2015

SIMON SWEETMAN

Those double-disc and multi-set reissues where a "classic" or "forgotten" album is re-released, under the tag-line of improved sound, a whole new "re-mastered" experience...with a slew of extras, the demos of songs in their earliest shape, a handful of moments not good enough for the finished album, live versions of the same songs from the album - and alternate takes or remixes (and sometimes you can't at all spot the difference)...yes, they're designed to milk money, to get people to buy albums they already have, or buy into hype around something long forgotten. Most obviously anniversary editions...

But every now and then a reissue of an old album comes along and does the job - not merely because the bells and whistles and shiny things attached make it seem nice/r - sometimes it's about the timing, all of a sudden the chance (presented right in front of you) to hear an album again and maybe - somehow - hear it properly means you're sold when previously you weren't.Venus and Mars

That's a long, awkward intro when all I wanted to say was the Wings album Venus and Mars never meant much to me but now I love it! There's an extensive Paul McCartney/Wings reissue project underway and in most cases I've been collecting up the reissues because I loved the original albums but am left with scratchy old vinyl from my parents. The first time the post-Beatles work of Paul McCartney was put on CD it was, in most cases, totally botched. Weak-sounding, thin, those lazy transfers - and in the case of Venus and Mars I could never really get on board with the original album because it didn't sound great to me. Sonically, I mean - not so much song-wise. But I just never gave it a chance at any rate.

Venus and Mars was recently reissued in tandem with Wings At The Speed of Sound - that was a Wings record I always liked; the reissue is good too, fine, happy to have it but it was no revelation to hear it (although there's a track with John Bonham on, so that's of interest). But all of a sudden Venus and Mars feels like a brand new album, like a record I never gave anywhere enough time.

Wings At The Speed of SoundThere are the sweet, twee, nearly hokey songs that Macca does, there are soulful tunes and some flat-out rockers, it's a great survey of almost all of the songwriting styles he had to offer post-Beatles.

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Finding hate mail

09:57am 19 Jan 2015

SIMON SWEETMAN

Hate mail is fan mail in this game - a thought that's probably kept me blogging for seven years...

Over the weekend we moved our big three-year-old son into his new big-boy room. That meant listening to a lot of Beastie Boys (fantastic moving/packing/unpacking music) and it meant swapping the home-office and the kid's bedroom. This meant finding all sorts of rubbish. Including ... hate mail.

I have angry letters dating back to, well, the time when people wrote letters.Amici "Defined"

Sticks and stones may break my bones but blog comments will never hurt me. The real fire is when someone writes you a letter. When someone is so wound up by a single review of a single show that they put clacking keyboard to word file and hit print, or - in one case - old fashioned pen to paper in an increasingly angry scrawl.

The most hate mail I ever received for a single piece of work was The Donny Osmond concert. I used to have a file of the letters, only because the editor of the newspaper printed them out and sent them to me, commenting that it was the most hate mail they had received for any one piece of writing in some time. An inordinate amount - or something like that. The volume of letters had made the editor question my position on the show. His action was to send me a letter asking if I had really been fair. And to prove how unfair he could be he included a whole lot of nonsensical "arguments" from Joe and Jane Newspaper-Reader. I don't have any of those letters anymore but the whole story - and review - is documented in that link up above there. (Or here).Tracey from Rotorua

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Reading the worst

06:47am 16 Jan 2015

SIMON SWEETMAN

Today is the 1900th post in the life of Blog On The Tracks. That seems a lot. But at the same time it doesn't really mean anything. The train keeps on rolling...

I'm pretty excited about seeing Nas this weekend, I hope it's good. First gig of the year for me...

I've never been as disappointed by a music bio/auto-bio as I was reading the recent Bernard Purdie one; it's hard to know what the book was even trying to be - it's written in third person but claims to be an autobiography, there's no attempt to even 'get' Purdie's voice, there's no real attempt to hide the fact that this isn't even an as-told-to tale but a hackneyed bio hiding behind an autobiography-credit. But worse, there's no real energy there - it reads a bit like a long Wikipedia entry with far too much stuff about his early childhood and his parents and nowhere near enough about his time making music with Aretha Franklin and Steely Dan and King Curtis and the thousands of other recordings he's made as solo artist and hired "hit-maker" for a range of soul, jazz and pop-rock acts.

A damn shame. Bernard Purdie

We've talked before about favourite music books - but what's the worst music book you've read? I've ploughed through so many stinkers, occupational hazard. But it's always upsetting when the book is about someone you like, are hoping to learn more about.

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Just because because Bill Cosby

06:24am 15 Jan 2015

SIMON SWEETMAN

It was uncanny - I was heading home from the cinema, listening to the latest episode of the twice-weekly Marc Maron podcast, WTF. The main guest on the episode was Jeff Garlin, but before they got to him Maron had a wee ramble about Bill Cosby - discussed his feelings for the first time about Cosby in the wake of so many allegations. He also had a chat with film director Judd Apatow. I've linked above to the full episode - the Maron podcast is appointment listening for me - but the 20-minute chat with Apatow, focussing entirely on Cosby, is available to hear on its own right here.

You should listen.

I was listening to it as I made it home and into the house where I plucked, at random, a record from the collection. (I've just moved all of the LPs into new shelves, they're there in no order. I reached for the middle and what should I pick, this is the uncanny part, The Best of Bill Cosby).The Best of Bill Cosby

There was a time when I owned - and listened to - a few Bill Cosby albums. Now I only own them.

I put the record right back.

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A slow start to the year in music ...

06:58am 14 Jan 2015

SIMON SWEETMAN

It's always a slow start to the year, music-wise/review-wise - but particularly when you take a couple of weeks off.

The daily grind of finding something to say has its occasional upsides, one of which is that when you're in the zone, so used to hammering out words, it's no real stretch to file something.Terry Riley's In C Mali

But three weeks off means there's little in the tank. It drains quickly. You lose your rhythm.

I thought about writing something - anything - every day of my holiday. A diary or something. Some journal entries. Just something to keep me at it. In the end I decided to keep the computer turned off. I didn't write a thing. No reviews. No blog posts. It was great.

But now I'm back - and I have...well, nothing.

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