This journal of the comings'n'goings and musings'n'enthusings of Dave Ling
will be updated daily - except after nights of excess.
Friday 19th September
Well, last night I learned a couple of rather important lessons. Firstly, and most importantly, never visit Tufnell Park in North London unless absolutely necessary. I met up with my good friend Nick Shilton for some enjoyable chatter and a bite to eat before a gig by Spock's Beard at the Dome. Our meal was punctuated by sirens and all manner of disturbances outside of the restaurant, though it cannot be denied that the food was very tasty. Which leads me to my second point, never have a vindaloo curry and a mushroom pilau immediately before a lengthy progressive rock concert. Shilts and I were so carried away by the gossip that before we knew it there were just five minutes till show-time; upon entry we even had to pass the band lolling about on the venue's stairs before they headed stagewards.
I'm a huge and longstanding fan of this wonderful California-based group, having seen them on each visit to the UK with the exception of their tours in 1999 and 2001. In some way it's amazing that they continue to exist, given the departures of not one but two superb lead singers. Co-founder Neal Morse quit in 2002 after a well documented religious conversion, after which the band 'did a Genesis' by handing drummer Nick D'Virgilio the microphone, a place where he excelled until his own departure three years ago.
Amazingly, the band then found a third lead high quality singer in the shape of Enchant's Ted Leonard – someone 'up there' must definitely be smiling down on them. This was their second time in London to promote the well-received 'Brief Nocturnes and Dreamless Sleep'. Not only did the band play a longer set than at the Garage last May, they also trimmed down the amount of new tracks to four ('Hiding Out', 'Something Very Strange', 'Submerged' and 'Waiting For Me') and threw in a load of catalogue gems including a brilliant medley of selections from 2002's conceptual piece 'Snow', which saw drummer Jimmy Keegan 'do a D'Virgilio' of his own by heading to the front of the stage to deliver the beautiful ballad 'Carie'. Despite various unusual odours that had began to permeate the air during the gig's latter stages – Hmmm… the one who smelt it dealt it, surely? – the band seemed to be having a great time, and Leonard went so far as to throw in an additional song, the instrumental piece 'Skeletons At The Feast', simply because it had felt a little too early to say goodnight. Rounded off by the 22 technicolour minutes of 'Healing Colours Of Sound' this was a great, great show, and I'd go and see Spock's Beard on any given day of the week… just so long as it wasn't in Tufnell Park and providing the pre-gig scoff was a little less spicy. Here's the set-list: 'Day For Night', 'Beware Of Darkness', 'Hiding Out', 'Harm's Way', 'Something Very Strange', 'Mouth Of Madness', 'Snow' Medley, 'Submerged', 'Skeletons At The Feast', 'Waiting For Me' and 'Healing Colours Of Sound'.
Thursday 18th September
It's not often that I find myself nodding in agreement with Sharon Osbourne, but that's exactly what happened when I read her lambasting of U2 for spamming the iTunes playlists of 500 million people with a new album called 'Songs Of Innocence'. "U2 you are business moguls not musicians anymore. No wonder you have to give your mediocre music away for free cause no one wants to buy it," she blasts. "Jimmy Iovine, iTunes, U2, you're a bunch of megalomaniacs. FUCK YOU!" Go, Shazza! All the same, given the humungous profit margins involved – Apple are reported to have paid Bono and company a whopping $100m – I wonder how much of Osbourne's fury can be attributed to the fact that she didn't think of the idea first! Is it any wonder that one of the most Googled phrases this week is 'How to remove U2 album'?
In a broader sense I'm in total agreement with Buckcherry guitarist Keith Nelson, who says the U2 fiasco has served to "devalue music in the eyes of the consumer because they've sent a message to everyone that music is free, and that's disturbing." Speaking on behalf of "all the little fish in this enormous pond", Stryper's Michael Sweet is in agreement: "Why would anyone want to continue buying music when the trend is to receive it for free in their inbox?" Orange Goblin singer Ben Ward has also called the move "a violation of freedom", adding: "It just stinks of typical Bono pretentiousness – I don't like it." Neither do I…
*And breathe*… How cool to see on Facebook that Steven Wilson and his band have been London's AIR Studios working on a follow-up to 'The Raven That Refused To Sing (And Other Stories)'. Ahead of its release early next year Wilson (pictured) comments: "It's another project where the music, story and visuals all work together. We're trying to raise the bar again – pretentious, and proudly so!" 'The Raven…' was my album of 2013, so, believe me, I'm counting down the minutes until the unveiling of its successor.
Wednesday 17th September
What a great cover story interview with King Crimson in the brand new ish of Prog magazine. Anything that can make a doctor's waiting room seem tolerable must be bloody fantastic! Band leader Robert Fripp is notoriously media-shy but along with the rest of the current seven-man line-up he spoke to the mag's representative Sid Smith. The quote of: "It's the first Crimson I've been in where there isn't at least one person in the band who actively resents me – I'm not used to that" is just brilliant!
On a much more downbeat note, it's deadline week once again and writing Classic Rock's obituaries section is an extremely depressing task, especially as this month we are saying goodbye to so many great musical talents (Jimi Jamison, Glenn Cornick, John Gustafson and a whopping nine others). Time to cheer myself by playing some Steely Dan, I think. Let's try 'Aja' for starters…
Tuesday 16th September
My delayed phoner with Tony Mills took place last night. We were set to talk about TNT's new audio-visual package '30th Anniversary 1982-2012 Live In Concert', but during our conversation I learned that the singer – who left the group not too long after the above show took place – has a new solo record on the way, complete with some interesting guests. Cool!
Oh look, just saw this wondrous photography on Facebook. It's safe to say that the lovely and extremely talented Kate Bush has just climbed several more levels in my humble estimation (if that were possible!).
Monday 15th September
Never underestimate the sheer hell of attending a gig in the capital on a Sunday night: Just one train every half an hour, the Northern line f**ked, and I had to speed-walk from King's Cross to Camden… I feared I would miss the start of a solo unplugged show of Mike Tramp. Luckily, I arrived at the Black Heart mere minutes before Tramp's arrival.
The former White Lion and Freak Of Nature singer was back in London for the last of 16 regional dates of varying shapes and sizes, having scaled down his operation somewhat. His backing band The Rock 'N' Roll Circuz were long absent, and post-show he hopped over to the merch stand to exchange copies of his latest CD and vinyl, 'Museum', for cash amid myriad photo opportunities (one of which is pasted here!).
I first met Tramp back in 1989 when snapper Peter Cronin and I flew to Toronto for a cover feature for RAW Magazine. Because I'd lambasted their critically panned new album 'Big Game', guitarist Vito Bratta would only be interviewed during his warm-up for the show, head down as his fingers flew up and down the frets, but the gregarious, ludicrous and ever-entertaining Tramp was an altogether different beast. We've stayed friends on and off ever since.
Fast forward 25 years and a one-man show at a London pub on a Sunday night is a long way from such glory days but the 53-year-old betrayed no hint of bitterness whilst recalling how White Lion had once opened their set with the ballad 'When The Children Cry' before 25,000 fans in support of AC/DC back in the days when, according to Tramp, his group were outselling the headliners "by ten to one". Little by little, piece by piece, Tramp is rebuilding his career. Just like its 2013 predecessor 'Cobblestone Streets', 'Museum' is a defiantly mature slice of singer-songwriter quality, new songs such as 'And You Were Gone', 'Mother', and the excellent 'Trust In Yourself' providing the breeze blocks with which the Dane has been painstakingly rebuilding his career. "This is how you and I are going to grow older together," he predicted, "this is a house that will stand for a long, long time."
The decades may have affected his voice a little but it's nothing a little tweak of the arrangements and tunings to a few White Lion gems can't fix, and Tramp spent more than two hours onstage, revisiting tunes from each era of the singer's career (except, of course, the Mabel years!) and of course telling some cool stories for good measure. With all hope extinguished of a reunion with Bratta, Tramp seems perfectly reconciled with where he is at this point in his life. Midway through the 'Pride' album's 'Wait' he smiled: "Right now I'm just gonna stand here and think about the great, great solo that Vito played on this song, but I'm not gonna ask why or when [White Lion might reconvene] because that was that and this is now."
The set-list ran as follows: 'Little Fighter', 'Revolution', 'Tell Me', 'Trust In Yourself', Medley: 'The Gathering'/'Turn The Other Way', 'Rescue Me', 'Hungry', 'Cry For Freedom', 'And You Were Gone', 'Hymn For Ronnie', 'What Am I?', 'Wait', 'Candle', 'Need', 'Mother', 'War Song', 'Broken Heart', 'Radar Love' and 'When The Children Cry', followed by a great version of Thin Lizzy's Southbound'.
Sunday 14th September
The extremely disappointing result of yesterday's game at Selhurst Park: Crystal Palace 0 Burnley 0… and it could've been far, far worse but for a stunning 84th-minute penalty save from Julian Speroni. The Eagles had much the better of the early exchanges but failed to take those chances, allowing their newly promoted back into the game. Last season's success was due to the accumulation of points taken from our relegation rivals and this was a match that we'd have won under Pulis.
Anyway… no time for self-pity. Today is a working day. I've got albums to review and had lined up three phone/Skype interviews: Tony Marshall of the new melodic hard rock band In Faith, TNT's US based singer Tony Harnell and another with Harnell's replacement in TNT, Tony Mills (possibly best known to those of us in the UK as frontman of Shy) that had to be postponed. It wasn't till later that I realised it would've been a bit like Monty Python's Bruces sketch, only replaced by people called Anthony… haha!
Saturday 13th September
Following an enjoyable phone interview a few weeks earlier I accepted an invitation to attend last night's gig at the Borderline by Danny Bryant, the UK-based guitarist who has just spent six weeks over in the States fronting the band of the ailing Walter Trout. Bryant revealed from the stage that Trout is "on the mend" following complications suffered after liver transplant and dedicated Dylan's 'Girl From The North Country' to the man that served as a mentor to him for the last two decades, taking things down to a whisper despite the selfish chattering twats at the bar to deliver a great, emotive solo. There's no doubt that Bryant's new album 'Temperature Rising' contains some quality hard rock-infused blues, and performed live tracks such as 'Take Me Higher', 'Best Of Me' and 'Razor Sharp' benefit from an additional vigour, with the slower, deeper 'Guntown' offering valuable light and shade. And as we all know, you can't really go wrong with a good cover of 'Hoochie Coochie Man'. The downside? Well… as you'll have gathered, I was impressed by his prowess as a guitarist though rather less so as a lead vocalist. Luckily he's also a very funny guy, taking the piss out of himself with a reference to the availability of a fitness video at the merch stand, "available on all formats including Betamax… but hurry while stocks last!" Earlier on in the show, for reasons best known to himself, Danny also interrupted a solo to lean forwards and kiss the hand of Classic Rock lensman Kevin Nixon with the declaration: "This guy down here is my favourite photographer in the whole world". Fellas… please… get a room! Yuk!
Friday 12th September
Well, it's official: Survivor's first ever UK tour, due to have taken place next month, has been cancelled due the tragic recent death of co-frontman Jimi Jamison. Fans had been hoping that the band would still make the trip with Dave Bickler alone handling the vocals. It seems that this remains a possibility for the future, as the announcement states that Survivor's US live commitments resume in Maryland on November 13, and: "Tour organizers are working with host venues to re-schedule the cancelled [British] dates."
Last night I interviewed a guy called Nevada Romo from the American band Anti-Mortem, who are taking part in the second, Classic Rock/Metal Hammer-sponsored Lords Of The Riff tour, which takes place in November, along with the equally highly rated Lionize and Kyng. Nevada's brother Larado, who has been called "a younger, more virile version" of Dave Mustaine, recently made the claim that "hard rock is stagnating", so it was interesting to hear Romo's views on that subject if, slightly predictably, he was unwilling to name and shame any guilty parties. All the same, Lords Of The Riff represents a great chance to catch three young bands for less
than a tenner. I shall deffo be at the London show on November 16.
Thursday 11th September
Here's my literary fodder for the next week or so… Though The Eye Of The Tiger, the autobiography of ex-Survivor man Jim Peterik. I've heard some positive reports regarding its contents and am really looking forward to settling down for a darned good read.
Wednesday 10th September
A chunk of last night was spent in the Crobar where a launch party for 'Elevation', the rather splendid new album by the band Skyscraper, took place. Two band members – my good mate Dave Boyce (ex-Quireboys/Airrace) and lead vocalist Lee Small (Shy) – were on hand to lead the festivities. It was a fun night and the album, which I reviewed for Classic Rock a couple of issues back, is great. Check out the video for its lead-off single, 'Monday Morning', here.
For fuck's sake… doesn't this bloke ever shut up??!! On the eve of the latest 9/11 anniversary, Ted Nugent has posted his most vile, racist rant to date, warning Americans and Europeans to arm themselves and, where necessary, give the "allahpukes" "two to the head". His statement can be read here … I have no words.
Tuesday 9th September
Well, f**k me… last night England won a game of association football. No really, it's true! Two goals from Danny Welbeck installed England in the driving seat of their qualification group, but let's not forget the crucial goal-line clearance from Gary Cahill or Hart managing to get a leg to Haris Seferovic's net-bound strike. Talk about heart-in-mouth! But it was a great result nonetheless…
It's been a day of pink 'n' fluffy melodic hard rock here at Chateau Ling, sifting through the best of October's releases for my next Classic Rock column. There's a bumper crop this time around: Vega's 'Stereo Messiah', 'Let It Ride' by DarkHorse (featuring ex-Danger Danger frontman Paul Laine), In Faith's 'There's A Storm Coming', Angels Or Kings (also known as AOK) and 'Kings Of Nowhere' and last but by no means least, Dennis DeYoung's double album/DVD, Blu-ray 'The Music Of Styx: Live In Los Angeles'. The latter is especially great, check out the promo clip here.
And still in the realms of AOR, I've got a bone to pick with Paul Elliott, whose Buyer's Guide on Europe in the new ish of Classic Rock dares to place the über-wonderful 'Prisoners In Paradise' in the third tier of overall greatness. Gooner… a pack of cotton buds is on its way to you in Bath!
Monday 8th September
Having seen them in superb form at last year's Giants Of Rock Festival in Minehead, I was looking forward to experiencing the Martin Barre Band as a headline act. Though a two-hour set included many tunes recorded by his former group, Barre has moved away from the prog of Tull to reposition himself in earthier, more fulsome and guitar-friendly territory. When I interviewed him recently he called it "thinking man's blues". Opening with Bobby Parker's 'Watch Your Step' and 'Steal Your Heart Away' by the Moody Blues, that description made complete sense. Co-guitarist Dan Crisp offered an approximation of Ian Anderson's delivery but didn't resort to mimicking those same idiosyncrasies, and with Richard Beesley's sax filling out the sound the band added bite and oomph to the likes of 'Minstrel In The Gallery', 'To Cry You A Song', 'Thick As A Brick Pt 1', 'Fat Man', 'Teacher, 'New Day Yesterday' and 'Locomotive Breath'.
Martin also demonstrated a good nose for a cover via the inclusion of Gov't Mule's hypnotic 'Thorazine Shuffle', 'Blackest Eyes' by Porcupine Tree, an almost Wishbone Ash-like version of 'Eleanor Rigby', Howlin' Wolf's 'Smokestack Lightnin'', the classic 'Rock Me Baby' and a take on Robert Johnson's 'Crossroads' reworked for mandolin and electric guitar. His between-song banter was cheerful and sometimes witty, and dedicating 'Song For Jeffrey' to Glenn Cornick, the ex-Tull bassist who'd died a few days earlier, was a lovely gesture. Yep… I would go and see the MBB again in a heartbeat. They're on tour till the year's end… go check them out.
Sunday 7th September
With no gigs or footie this weekend there's very little to report. Worked on some accounts, did a large pile of laundry, cleaned the shower (which was revolting), took youngest son Arnie shopping for clothes in Lewisham - *how much* for a Converse hoodie??!! – and still managed to find the time for a park run. Yawn…
Saturday 6th September
Awesome… the brand new Threshold album, 'For The Journey', has just arrived on double gatefold vinyl (complete with two bonus tracks). The UK band has been on a real creative roll for the past few years and this little beaut is bound to be one of my fave releases of 2014.
Friday 5th September
I sat around a little later than usual in my office, waiting to conduct a phone interview with Paul Rodgers – only to be informed that it wouldn't be happening as scheduled. Paul now wants to talk at the same time – midday PST, 8pm London – on Monday… a quarter of an hour into the Euro Championships qualifying game between Switzerland and England. Bollocks!
I was sorry to hear of the passing of the acid-tongued comedienne Joan Rivers. This is how I shall remember her, conducting interviews with the mighty GWAR and David Lee Roth on her chat show. BTW, Diamond Dave... can I have my living room curtains back please?!
Thursday 4th September
Phew! The Linglets are off to college and school respectively… silence is golden!!! Getting on with some interview tape transcript… Theory Of A Deadman singer Tyler Connolly, who endured some fairly insulting questions with good grace, and Rosalie Cunningham, frontwoman of the excellent, 1970s-obsessed Purson, who revealed how much she would have to be paid to sit through an episode of The X Factor ("What? An entire episode?!" she laughed nervously).
Wednesday 3rd September
Thanks for all of the great comments about the new look of this website, I'll do my best to update this Diary a little more regularly in future. Speaking of which, the monthly amendments to the Playlist and YouTube pages have been made.
As I type I'm watching the friendly between England and Norway. My bottle of sour apple Cactus Jack schnapps is the only thing that's making this steaming pile o'shit bearable. Oh look, Cap'n Tubby has just dispatched a penalty to win the game 1-0. So let's just forget about the fact that England could only muster two shots on target during the entire miserable game (including the one from the penalty spot). Shameful.
Still in the footie zone, They say 'never go back'… at 33 years old there may be a point in that but I'm looking forward to seeing Andrew Johnson in a Palace shirt once again after the free agent rejoined the club somewhat unexpectedly. Though the move has its critics, and I understand why, AJ was one of the best Palace players I ever saw and I'm elated that he is going to finish his career at Selhurst, combined with a coaching role.
Tuesday 2nd September
Oh good God, no. I awoke to the terrible, terrible news that Jimi Jamison had suffered a fatal heart attack, aged 63. Besides witnessing his show-stealing display at Firefest in 2010, I'd interviewed Jimi several times before, once for the liner notes to the Rock Candy Records re-issue of 'Vital Signs', and last spring to promote his Erik Mårtensson-produced solo album, 'Never Too Late'. My piece for Classic Rock Presents AOR began with the words: "Jimi Jamison likes to laugh – a lot." He had seemed like a lovely, modest, fun-loving guy that didn't take himself too seriously. This picture only grew as the online tributes started to appear. Kieran Dargan wrote of being nervous when approaching the former Survivor frontman to appear at Firefest, only to be told with a typical grin: "I thought you'd never ask".
For a personal viewpoint, the sadness was tempered by great shock. I was in the process of writing a story for Classic Rock to promote Survivor's first ever UK tour and this evening had been set to call guitarist Frankie Sullivan and co-vocalist Dave Bickler, with Jimi to follow in a day or two. It goes to show, doesn't it… enjoy life while you can. It's fragile.
I've just cheered myself up, just a little, by spinning Survivor's 'Vital Signs', 'When Seconds Count' and 'Too Hot To Sleep', and by booking my accommodation – finally! – for the upcoming Firefest weekend.
Monday 1st September
Back to work again; some album reviews for Metal Hammer – 'Souls In Permafrost', the newie by Virginia-based veterans While Heaven Wept, is just bloody amazing… what an underrated band! – and I conducted a couple of phoners with artists that I'd never interviewed before: Living Colour bassist Doug Wimbish, and Charlie Starr, frontman of the Georgia-based Southern rock quintet Blackberry Smoke. Charlie turned out to be another vinyl junkie and was thrilled that his band's recent concert package, 'Leave A Scar, Live in North Carolina', was issued in a double gatefold sleeve. I was amused to learn that his wife doesn't share such enthusiasm for an apparently vast collection of LPs… Haha. Been there, done that, got the T-shirt. Still got the albums… unlike the spouse!
AOR-loving YouTubers, ahead of their gig at the Firefest in October, check out this great footage of last night's reunion gig by the original line-up of Danger Danger. The first 30 mins of a gig in Amityville, New York. Superb stuff!
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