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  1. A topic of conversation that often rears it's head at White Rabbit Towers is "what (in your opinion) is the best live album ?".

    Ahh the dangers of sticking your head above the parapet to make the case for a particular selection. Many people make a case for "The Allman Brothers Band At Fillmore East" other for The 'orrible 'Oo and "Live AT Leeds". Some claim the pinnacle of live recordings is "James Brown Live AT The Apollo" while I have at least one friend who I'm sure would mount an impassioned defence of Neil Diamond's "Hot August Night".

    As always when talking of your favourite music it's a personal thing. Even so, at the risk of ridicule, I present the White Rabbit Records list of our favourite Live albums.

    1. Slade Alive!

    I've written here on this blog before about "Slade Alive!" and how it is quite simply the greatest live album ever recorded. Have a look here to see what I think of it. My mind hasn't changed and I will hear no argument. Have another track and then go out and buy your own copy.



    2. Ramones - It's Alive

    "Hey! We're the Ramaones and this one's called Rockawaaay Beach...take it Dee Dee"

    "One - Two - T'ree - Four" Rama-lama-lama...

    Recorded in front of a rabid crowd at the Rainbow in London on New Years Eve 1977 "It's Alive" has the greatest opening to any live album (see above) and in the following 28 songs thrashed out over 54 minutes and 38 seconds it barely stops to draw breath. One song finishes, Dee Dee hollers "One - Two - T'ree - Four" and we're in to the next one, it's relentless. The longest song on the album is 2 minutes and 54 seconds, a lesson in brevity that many live albums could learn a thing or two from.

    And don't tell me the Punks, and particularly the Ramones, couldn't play. Most bands just couldn't keep up with Da Brudders punishing pace. Johnny Ramone only ever played downstrokes, his hand must have been ready to fall off after this. Not one of them misses a beat in almost an hour.

    Last but not least the Ramones had the songs. Yes they were simple, stripped back rock 'n' roll (I didn't see anyone complaining when Elvis, Little Richard, Jerry Lee et al did much the same thing) but great songs. "Rockaway Beach", "Sheena Is A Punk Rocker", "Blitzkreig Bop", "Cretin Hop"...you wanna lose your shit, bounce around and go nuts ? Here's your soundtrack...


    3. Hanoi Rocks - All Those Wasted Years

    A friend invited me to go see Hanoi Rocks at the Tower Ballroom in Birmingham. The Tower was and old fashioned dancehall, it had plastic palm trees around the dance floor...classy !

    I had nothing better to do that night so I went. Now Hanoi Rocks should have been just the sort of band who would not appeal to me at all. All I knew was they looked like the bastard offspring of Aerosmith and Motley Crue and they played "Rock" music. Oh how wrong was I...

    They hit the stage clad in a bizarre combination of (various coloured) leather, studs, chiffon and hats. The singer couldn't really (he was very pretty tho'), the two guitar players looked like they were in a competition to see who looked the coolest while smoking a fag, the bass player looked like he would rather be somewhere else and I swear they had Animal from the Muppets on drums. They started to play and it suddenly dawned on me that they were far more Iggy & The Stooges/MC5 than my previously feared "Rock" (for "Rock" read Metal) band...they were as Punk Rock as hell.

    "All Those Wasted Years" was recorded around the time I first saw them and captures them perfectly. Have a little taste in the video below, listen to it, it's FUN...


    4. David Bowie - Stage

    Not one that many people would put up there but I have my reasons. Firstly the copy I own is on yellow vinyl, some of you might know I'm a sucker for coloured vinyl.

    But mostly for this reason...the early Bowie songs on here aren't great, too many synthesizers trying to play Ronno's riffs for my liking, BUT, and it's a big BUT, the performances of the "Station To Station" and Berlin material on here are stunning. I'd had many people tell me what a great album "Station To Station" was and how great the song in particular was but I never got it, until I heard the version on here.

    It's taken at a slightly quicker pace than the record and it sounds mysterious and broody and slightly dangerous as the band take up that plodding opening riff and then Bowie arrives...and he is totally on it, in control and leads us through what is a slightly mystical lyric, repeats the "return of the Thin White Duke" part and then the band takes off and I can't get enough of this version...and for helping me understand "Station To Station" "Stage" deserves it's place here...it's never "too late" Dave 


    5. The Jam - Dig the New Breed/Live Jam

    Two for the price of one. The Jam cheated when it came to live albums. Both of these official live albums are compilations of performances from various gigs, neither are just one show. If you want to hear a whole show it's worth seeking out the "Live At The Rainbow" CD that was part of the BBC's "The Jam at The BBC" release a few years back.

    So why do I include these two live compilations ? Well purely because it reminds me how great they were live, the wonder you felt at how 3 guys could make this huuuuge noise. It reminds me how lucky I was to see what I regard as the greatest live band I've ever seen 6 times and it also reminds me that I will be lucky to see anyone as good as this ever again.

    It was a golden time to be going to see live music...

  2. A handy set of answers to the top questions we encounter in the shop from day to day:


    1. Yes we buy records (dependant on what they are and their condition). Sadly, not many people want to give them to us.
    2. Yes we accept (debit/credit) cards. There is a £10 minimum spend. That’s what the sign says that you walked past when you came in…and the one halfway down the shop…and the one just to the left of the person you are speaking to now…
    3. Yes you can look at the records but keep your fingers off the vinyl surface. If you can’t do that then ask us for assistance.
    4. We are an almost exclusively 2nd hand record shop so no, we don’t have <insert whatever Record Store Day release here>.
    5. No we don’t sell Classical records. I just don’t have time to swot up on circa 500 years of output !
    6. Records are filed by artist surname and band name…that does NOT mean The Beatles, The Jam, The Wonder Stuff etc. etc are filed under T…
    7. When you’re trying to sell us records and we ask you “what sort of stuff do you have”, “oh, all-sorts” is not a remotely helpful answer.
    8. The toilets are over there…next to the lifts…right between the two bright red signs that say “TOILETS” 
    9. No we don’t sell DVD’s/CD-R’s/VHS Tapes/Mini Discs/Blank Cassettes…IT’S A RECORD SHOP !
  3. Barbra Streisand & Kris Kristofferson - A Star Is Born: OST 

    We’d had the summer of ’76 when it felt like the sun would never stop shining and the pavements were melting. Some of our friends could sense something was going on in London but for most of us that would have to wait until 1977. Meanwhile as my birthday and Xmas approached in December 1976 a film was released that was so up our parents street it could very well have been made for them alone.

     We grew up in a house where the soundtrack swung from Classical music to Reggae but mostly it was Jazz, the great Swing bands and singers (Sinatra, Crosby) and songs from the great musicals which is probably the first time I would have heard the incredible voice of Barbra Streisand. 

    When “A Star Is Born” was released I’m sure we all trooped off as a family to see it at the cinema and I gotta admit I was quite taken with it, but most of all I was captivated by Barbra Streisand’s voice. The whole film is worth watching and the soundtrack has some great songs in it. Kris Kristofferson’s “Watch Closely Now” & “Crippled Crow” are great examples of 70’s US FM rock. 

    As it’s just been re-made starring Lady Ga Ga it’s in the news again. But if Lady GaGa even gets close to Streisand’s imperious vocal on the closing medley of “With One More Look At You/Watch Closely Now” on any of the new films soundtrack then she’ll have worked miracles. This one performance can bring a lump to my throat just by thinking about it. Give it a go, it might just surprise you…


    Jeff Wayne’s War Of The World’s

    I am absolutely sure the first thing I heard from this album would have been Justin Heywards “Forever Autumn”…and it’s fecking awful. The sort of drippy hippy ballad that I take an instant dislike to. 

    I’ve no idea when or why I heard the whole thing as the very premise of it would have put me off in those Punk Rock days of 1978 when it was released. It’s an opera, It’s basically Prog Rock, it features David bloody Essex for sanity’s sake ! I suspect my schoolfriend Andy Barnett would have had something to do with me hearing it in full, it was definitely him that was responsible for my love of Queen’s album “News Of The World”, and honsestly, I thank him for that cos I love it. 

    I don’t think I’ve ever played it when anyone else is around, it’s something I don’t think I would suffer on anyone else, it’s just for me. But Richard Burton’s voice is quite soothing, I love the repeating themes and whichever genius decided to cast Phil Lynott as a crazed priest deserves much kudos, Julie Covington as his desperate wife trying to calm him down knowing he is disappearing into some psychosis deserves much praise.

    It’s got some bloody good songs in it too, “Thunder Child” and “Brave New World” in particular. Ridicule away, I’m over it…


    The Carpenters - The Singles 1969-73 (Another one I should probably blame my parents for…)

    There are certain records that, when you are buying collections of records, turn up all the time. These are records that obviously sold in vast numbers and were incredibly popular at the time. But honestly, I don’t care if I never again see a copy of anything by Rod Stewart after 1973 (particularly “Atlantic Crossing”), Anything by Elton John after 1976, Roxy Music “Flesh + Blood”, Sting’s “The Dream Of Blue Turtles”, Mike Oldfield’s “Tubular Bells” or anything by Sky…AT ALL ! Copy after copy of these things turn up, even in collections where the rest of it is generally cool stuff. Usually they go straight in the £2 bin to give us any chance of getting rid of them. But one doesn’t…

    The Carpenters Singles 1969-1973 is worth 3 of anyone’s finest English pounds…We’ve Only Just Begun, Yesterday Once More, Hurting Each Other, Close To You, the quite wonderful Goodbye to Love and the sometimes overlooked Superstar.

    They had a way when it came to interpreting a song, Richard was no slouch as a songwriter and Karen’s voice was as smooth as silk. Stop sniggering at the back…


    Dire Straits - Romeo And Juliet

    My interest in Dire Straits really should have ended at “Sultans Of Swing”, once we found out they weren’t some New Wave band from London but a bunch of guitar-noodlers of the “old school” reaching out from somewhere betwixt Eric Claptout and the other late 60’s “Blues Rock” types.

    But a few years after, I heard a gently twanging guitar introduce the opening line:

    A lovestruck Romeo sings a street-suss seranade…”

    If Springsteen had opened a song with a line like that you wouldn’t be surprised and you’d be looking forward to a classic. But it was Dire Straits so the lyrical content didn’t quite adhere to that stellar opening line. But it’s a helluva tune and over the years I’ve come to commit to memory every lyric.

    There’s a great “bit” where Mr Knopfler sings the line “All I do is keep the beat…and bad company” and he clicks his fingers after it, very much off the beat! I remember being very impressed with myself when I managed to get the finger click in the right place finally. 

    Oh, and the single is 6 minutes long ! (they’ll never play it on the radio…)

    I wouldn’t give you tuppence for anything else Dire Straits have done, it always strikes me as the kind of music created to show off how proficient you are with your instrument rather than for the purpose of writing great songs, but if we apply the adage that “everyone has got one in ‘em” (two if you factor in “Sultans Of Swing”), here’s theirs.


    All Saints - Pure Shores 

    I couldn’t tell you anything else All Saints have done. Apart from somehow knowing one of them was once involved with a Gallagher brother (may still be for all I know) I couldn’t tell you anything about them. I am no fan of the film in which this song most famously features either so that’s not an influencing factor, in fact I don’t think I’ve ever seen said film, and I’m actually surprised to find out that one of the band members was a co-writer along with producer William Orbit.  

    It just so happens that every time I hear this record I have to stop whatever I’m doing and listen. The vocal arrangement on the chorus is incredible. It’s a perfect piece of pop music. I also have a very stripped back cover version of it by a combo called the Cock ’n’ Bull Kid which stands up well. 

    Pack up yer prejudices and give it a try…it might just surprise you…



    Merle Haggard - Down Every Road

    This is a bit of a cheat as “Down Every Road” is not really an album but a 4-CD career spanning box set. And I’m using Merle as a bit of a place marker for my long held appreciation of Country music. You may notice I say Country music and not Country & Western, the two things are quite different to my ears, Country being a natural extension of a myriad of American Folk music styles whereas Country & Western is some kind of garish “pop” music churned out by the Nashville production line. 

    Merle is one of what is known as the Outlaw Country singers, alongside Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson, and a leading light of what is known as the Bakersfield Sound, Country music from California made as a reaction against the sickly productions coming out of Nashville in the ’50’s. Merle is also a songwriter of great prowess and, to me at times, great confusion.

    His best known songs would be things like “Okie from Muskogee”, “I Take a Lot of Pride In What I Am” and “The Fightin' Side of Me” which if you read the lyrics of the latter song could pretty much be Donald Trump’s manifesto ! I’d like to think Merle was being ironic but I’m not so sure.

    But then he’s capable of writing songs like “Irma Jackson” (the tale of a white man in love with a black woman and the prejudice they encounter as a result), “I’ll Be A Hero When I Strike” and the quite beautiful “Today I Started Loving You Again” which has been covered by many a Soul singer (check out Bettye Swann’s wonderful version).

    So there’s the confusion…as there is with a lot of Country music but if you dig around you’ll find music by Merle and Johnny Cash and Emmylou Harris and Gram Parsons that might just change your whole view of what Country music is…