Category Archives: Music Reviews

Metallica – Garage Days Revisited CD Review – Remastered, 2018

As you watch the video above, in which James Hetfield speaks about a guitar made from the wood of a garage, you get the feeling Metallica have left the outer orbits of this planet a long time ago.  For Hetfield to speak about taking some wooden planks and hiring an artist to then sculpt and mold him a new guitar it’s something of a Spinal Tap moment; the truly sad thing is that I’m not sure anybody in the Metallica camp actually see it this way.

Rewind to 1987, and Metallica had lost their bassist Cliff Burton, who died the previous September whilst the band were in the midst of a European Tour. Eager to use their music as a way to funnel, and possibly even challenge, their grief; the band decided to record an extended play of 70’s Punk and Hardcore covers. They rehearsed in Lars Ulrich’s converted garage in El Cerrito, California (which was soundproofed by new bassist, Jason Newsted, who used this experience to record his first material with the group)

Another reason for this EP was due to the lack of new material being produced, mostly as songwriting sessions with the new bassist had only produced a demo of the song ‘Blackened’ and vocalist James Hetfield would also break his arm during a skateboarding accident; quite possibly the last time Hetfield would ever go skateboarding. Remastered and (somewhat) produced, the EP sees its re-release in 1987, on a number of different formats including Vinyl, CD, Longbox Format and even Cassette.

The packaging for the album still proudly displays that it is the $5.98 EP and with inflation in the proceeding 31 years I’m almost positive that the change rate with GBP means I paid a little higher. That said, I bought the special longbox edition, with lenticular photo,  which looks incredible. Inside you’ve got the actual CD with mini Vinyl type layout. Another nice touch. Having seen the cassette too I’m really impressed with how the band opted to recreate the original colors and design and mimicked the authentic article as much as possible.

The tracks present have all been polished and refined and sound fantastic, with ‘Last Caress’ being my own favorite.  I’m also quite partial to ‘Crash Course in Brain Surgery’ which would go on to inspire a number of themed shirts and designs from Pushead across the next few decades, even though the song was originally recorded by British NWOBHM band Budgie in 1974. Axl Rose once referred to Guns N’ Roses ‘Spaghetti Incident’ as the ‘Pension Incident’ because of the amount of songwriters they were helping pay alimony, leading you to wonder whether Metallica have helped a few people out with these covers across the years.

While rehearsing “White Lightning” by New wave of British heavy metal band Paralex, Kirk Hammett instead started playing “The Wait” by post-punk group Killing Joke, making Metallica choose that song. Other tracks considered but dropped included “Signal Fire” by Japanese band Bow Wow, and another NWOBHM song, Gaskin’s “I’m No Fool”.

This EP is short and sweet, even if both ‘Helpless’ and ‘The Small Hours’ are bordering on six and a half minutes apiece. I’d recommend, especially with Spotify prevalent in all our lives, that this one might just be for collectors.  And if you want my advice; you’d be best positioned to go for the longbox or cassette to get a truly unique piece of Metallica history (albeit reproduced) that might just become as sought after as the original.

Record Store Day 2017

They say old habits die hard. Vinyl, once considered an antiquated format for music consumption, has made an astonishing revival in the past decade to dominate shop shelves and storefront windows; everywhere from Urban Outfitter’s to Sainsbury’s is selling copious amounts of plastic.

But there’s one special day on the calendar no Vinyl enthusiast could have afforded to miss, with the regions premier Independent stores celebrating the tenth anniversary of ‘Record Store Day’ on April 22nd. Shop’s like Hot Rats and Pop Recs are home away from home for many loyal music fans throughout the year, with this special day being their chance to come together and celebrate shared passions.

The event, first begun in the US, is hailed by many as the force behind the Vinyl revival and sees independent record stores selling local fans exclusive releases created especially for the day.

For many years Hot Rats was Wearside’s only independent record shop and still keeps patrons awash with an eclectic mix. Proprietor Marty Yule is no stranger to the realities of Vinyl, being a former member of Punk band The Toy Dolls and beginning the store almost 25 years ago as initially something to do in-between tours.

“Originally the day was to encourage people to pop down to your local independent record shop and perhaps spend a couple of quid at a time when shops were closing at the rate of one a week. Now it’s pretty good business for both the shops AND the suppliers / distributors.” says Marty, “It’s become pretty important, it’s certainly the busiest day of the year. More importantly it seems to get more people into vinyl every year and there’s plenty of press, thanks to ERA, the body that looks after the day.”

Planning and preparation for Record Store Day takes place long before the morning of the event itself. Beatdown Records in Newcastle, themselves a regional favorite amongst music fans, are hard at work in the days approaching.

Store Manager, Nick Wrightson, said: “A lot of blood sweat and tears goes into preparing for the day actually, it’s a logistical nightmare trying to make sure you’ve got the space to get it all in, the knowledge to know what will sell and what won’t. It’s a bit of a juggling act but it’s also a lot of fun.

One of the major contributors for the continued and increased interest in Vinyl is due to the ambitions of younger collectors, who are eager to make up for lost time and add as many pieces as possible, especially those students from across the UK who spend their Education in Sunderland. Grace Tonkinson, of Heaton Manor Sixth Form, and Lilly Thompson, of St Anthony’s Girl’s School in Sunderland found themselves perusing Vinyl on the day but for slightly different reasons. “We’re walking around taking photo’s for Grace’s art” Lilly explained, as best friend Grace clarified that “it’s to do with my A Level Art project, I’m doing a theme on human form and in different environments. I thought this was a good environment to use because it showcases peoples personalities so well, enjoying music.” And there’s certainly plenty of that.

Michael McKnight, Manager of Pop Recs in Sunderland, looks forward to the day and the live music in store, saying: “It’s always great to remind people that we’re here, so I guess it’s a nice excuse for a bit of a party. We have the Cornshed Sisters, This Little Bird and Chelsea Lynch playing on the evening. I’m really looking forward to that.”

And speaking of performers, there was at least one on hand to pick up Vinyl in Sunderland from the moment the store opened its doors early that morning. The euphonious Frankie of Frankie & The Heartstrings took a moment out of his busy schedule to speak with me about Record Store Day, saying that “I think it’s good, I came in today, no idea what the guys were selling and picked up this ‘Bollywood The Psychedelic Years’; which you probably wouldn’t find on a usual day in a record store, so I think it’s a good cause. I think that it’s great that it highlights the plight of the record store…it’s great that it’s celebrated in mass media.”

Although still considered ‘the new guy in the band’, Pop Recs has made a lasting impression across all generations in Sunderland, first opening their store in June 2013 and then launching an incredible Kickstarter campaign in 2015 when the store was forced to close temporarily and relocate. That project saw 642 backers pledge £14,292 and reaffirmed both Pop Recs importance to the region as well as their continued influence among the positivity of inspiring people through enjoyable music.

This year’s Record Store Day provided many treats for fans. One particular favorite was a limited reissue of The Beatles 1967 7” ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ backed with ‘Penny Lane’. The single was originally released to gap the bridge between the bands albums Revolver and it’s follow up, Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, which celebrates its 50th anniversary on June 1st. “You’re never going to be left with a Beatles album or a Bowie album” Nick tells me, proving classic artists are still as popular with punters today as they’ve always been.

Customer Maxine Wilson was queuing early, her shopping bag to hand and a list filled with relatives and friends choices, those who were unprepared to brave the Sunderland morning themselves. “I queued with a friend two years ago in London” she explains, “it was a bit hectic cause we were out overnight but I got everything I wanted and I was hooked.”

Mistaken for thinking Maxine is a seasoned spin master, she tells me that actually “I take them to my Dad’s because I haven’t got a vinyl player yet, I’m saving up to get a decent one…but I’m going to Vegas this year to get married so I might have to put it back.” Maxine confesses further she’s spent at least £100 on vinyl this month, with no player in sight, proving the records themselves might be more tempting than the ability to hear them.

There has been criticism, given such high profile re-releases, that many exploit the nature of the day, collecting limited items to resell them at profit at online auction sites. This in turn prevents more genuine collectors getting these items at Record Store Day prices.

“If the company’s release interesting stuff fans and collectors will come and buy it. You of course get a percentage of eBay ‘flippers’, but thankfully they seem to be getting less” says Marty, with Michael adding that “I’d guess you’d have to be a mad collector as the records are so expensive. I only ever buy vinyl that I want to listen too”

But the morning’s queue was headed by the purist of the pure, with local man Philip Carrington having the distinction of taking first at the door of Hot Rats. “I was here at five…” Phillip tells me with bloodshot eyes, his tired complexion aside, he’s proud of the achievement, “I’m after the dead or alive…last year was my first one, it’s on the build, the more people and record companies get involved the better it gets”. Gary Weeks, second in the queue, is tight lipped about what he’s looking for but does tell me about a friend of his queuing in Brighton. Apparently he turned up at 2am and was only fourth.

Bronze Medal in the Hot Rats queue goes to Anthony E, his coat pulled against the rain, the heavens opening for a shower as we speak. He’s queued a few years now and it doesn’t seem the weather’s improved, but he sports an optimistic smile and tells me that “I’ve supported the football team all these years so I might as well support my local record store” and then gives Marty a wave as he arrives to open up.

At its heart, Record Store Day is a celebration of everything positive about the impact of good music and comradeship in collecting. It’s brought money to Sunderland this morning and it’s brought a crowd, soon gathering attention from onlookers, to part with their hard earned for records. Whether we celebrate its twentieth or thirtieth anniversary is unclear, but regardless, there’s no denying the positive influence it has had on the landscape of music across the region.

As we ended the celebrations on the day itself, we were given some parting words of wisdom about safely storing and caring for those treasured purchases, so that we might be able to enjoy them for many years to come.

“It’s always worth putting your LP’s in poly lined anti-static inners. Store them upright and away from any heat sources. NEVER touch the vinyl surface with your fingers, hold by the edge and label.” Marty says: “If at all possible don’t play them on them horrible ‘dancette’ things. You need to spend a few hundred pounds on an amp, speakers and deck.” Nick agrees with this, saying that “store it vertically, keep it clean, don’t buy one of those cheap record grinders if you can help it but most of all play them and enjoy them, they do no good sitting on a shelf not being touched”.

A note upon which we are all perhaps agreed then, with Michael adding simply that “As long as people are listening to them, I’m happy”

Interview with Trevor Sewell

Last week I was delighted to get the chance to speak with a musician named Trevor Sewell. Trevor is a North East England based artist who released ‘Calling Nashville’ (his latest album) at an event in The Cluny.

Support on the night came from Rod Clements and Ian Thomson of Lindisfarne and this interview was actually conducted in the same room which I helped BBC3 organise a speed dating event for the show Geordie Finishing School for Girls back in 2011 as a member of the Production Team.

This interview was recorded in 4K by the lovely folks at Eze As Pi Productions (who ARE available for hire and should be contacted) and I’ve included a clip from the Geordie Finishing School show (the Speed Dating clip) below. Which is also fascinating and brings back some good memories.

Kyle Hughes, Freelance Drummer

I first met Kyle when he was drumming for Ron ‘Bumblefoot’ Thal in Newcastle’s 02 Academy in 2015. He was also performing there as the drummer with Twister – who were both the support act AND Ron’s backing band for his headline show.

Ron spoke with me that night and told me that Kyle was one of the most talented drummers he had ever met. And Kyle was later invited to tour with Ron on several occasions. Last December I got to sit down with Kyle and talk about some of the things he had going on. Truth be told, the man hasn’t stopped since this video was made but I couldn’t be happier for this guy.

His own words can describe it better than I can. But I’m in the video too. Enjoy.

Micky Crystal (Tygers of Pan Tang) Interview

Last December I got the chance to interview Micky Crystal from Tygers of Pan Tang. He’s a lovely guy and they’re a great band originally founded out of Whitley Bay, near to where I’ve been based myself the last few years. The band are currently on tour in Europe and they’ll be back on UK soil in November.

The video was recorded shortly after Micky performed live with Ron ‘Bumblefoot’ Thal in Newcastle Upon Tyne as part of Ron’s mini UK Tour.

We filmed this back in December 2016 with the @Ezeaspi guys and I featured it on my radio show, but finally we can release the video too.

More interviews coming soon! Keep watching guys and keep tuning in to my website for all of the comings and goings of what I’m working on and who I’m talking to!

Filmed in 4K. All video rights: