MUSIC WRITER IN JAPAN
Sony Music International Japan
It’s been five years since Riverside put a new studio album out and is their first with Maciej Meller who has taken over lead guitar duties after the tragic death of founding member Piotr Grudziński. Five years is a long time in someone’s life and this album has been eagerly awaited by fans with baited breath…
Breathe out. Relax. It’s superb. Yes, it’s a slightly different tack to 2018’s Wasteland but it is a very positive step forward with a few moments that reflect to their early work. It kicks off with a bouncy synth and then everything else just smoothly flows into the song. It’s 1980s and it’s gorgeous but it’s also 2020s when the guitars come in. It ends and then Landmine Blast starts with one of those lovely off-kilter rhythms and time signatures they are so adept at. Two songs in and they have already shown it is business as usual and for the next hour, you are drawn into the potpourri of music that is Riverside.
Eclectic would be a good word to describe this album as there are so many different aspects of the music that it’s impossible to define. They are given the label of Progressive but I would go so far as to say this is Progressive music that really has progressed albeit by digging back into the past. Does that make sense? Doesn’t matter. All you need to know is that it’s well written, excellently recorded, very cleverly mixed and sonically over the top – I hope your neighbours like Riverside because you will keep turning the volume up a notch every time you listen to it.
Of course, you can’t have a Prog Rock album without an epic and Riverside have delivered their finest yet with The Place Where I Belong. It’s a centrepiece, not an endpiece, and deservedly so. A gentle, warm, soothing song that due to its various parts, seems nowhere near its thirteen minute run time. The album ends on a good old-fashioned Pop-rocker but there are two bonus tracks totalling eighteen minutes. The Japanese edition comes in a jewel case with a the European 16-page colour booklet and a 12-page Japanese B/W one. It is, of course, mastered in BSCD2 to really upset the neighbours. 😊
Replacing a member under any circumstances always shifts the sound and dynamics of a band so finding the right person, particularly with a band with a very establish career and stable line-up, is critical to their music, their fans and most importantly, themselves. On the strength of this album, Riverside have chosen well and it shows they still at the top of the league.
Friend Or Foe?
Big Tech Brother
The Place Where I Belong
I’m Done With You
Age Of Anger (Bonus track)
Together Again (Bonus Track)
THE TEA CHEST TAPES
Cherry Red Records
Vol 1 The Telstar Story
Vol 2 The Heinz Sessions (Vol 1)
In the 1960s, Britain ruled the world of Pop with producers, George Martin, famed for his work with The Beatles of course, Mickie Most, who recorded The Animals and Herman’s Hermits and American born but famed for his UK work, Shel Tamy, who produced The Who, The Kinks. There were others but there were none as important or independent as Joe Meek. Joe had the first US No. 1 by a British band, Telstar by The Tornadoes which he wrote, recorded and mixed. He used session musicians Ritchie Blackmore and Jimmy Page to name but two who went onto worldwide fame, pioneered recording techniques with limiters and echo, created all his own sound effects and did everything from his own home studio at 304 Holloway Rd, London. His life was tragic in many ways, his death especially but there is no doubt he was a recording genius. When he died, he left behind 1,865 reels of unreleased recordings in 74 tea chests, many containing such future stars as Marc Bolan, David Bowie and Tom Jones. These became known as The Tea Chest Tapes, 99% of which have remained unheard since the 1960s. Joe Meek fans like myself have dreamed of the day they would be released and so when Cherry Red announced that they had secured a deal to release them, we shed a lonely tear and just hoped Cherry Red, who have an excellent reputation for vintage releases, would do a decent job on them. In fact, they have excelled.
First, the format. The releases are pressed on 10” high quality vinyl, with a background story by Rob Bradford, the editor of the Joe Meek Society magazine Thunderbolt. These are printed on a stiff gatefold sleeve which houses the record, the artwork refers to the artist, tape reels and boxes and there are individual track notes adding further to Rob’s encyclopaedic knowledge of Mr Meek. As for the music, the reproduction is nothing short of magical. Magnetic tapes fade, stretch and deteriorate over time so a massive credit must go to Alan Wilson and Martin Nicholls who have been tasked with the job of restoring them; the clarity is astonishing.
Given the amount of material available, it would be naïve to think that Cherry Red would release all of it so they have opted to put tracks together to tell a story so to speak of a song or an artist. Vol 1 is about that first US No. 1 mentioned above and through eight tracks, we get to hear various elements that morphed and evolved the final release which, incidentally, is not included. Quite right too, it’s not needed and can be heard on a hundred different compilations and is all over the internet. Also included are a couple of alternate releases and rarities which give us a glimpse into the way Joe operated. Vol 2 is about Heinz who was one of Joe’s favourite musician’s although it must be said, not for his musical ability. Heinz had a UK Top 5 hit with Just Like Eddie but then struggled to make the Top 30. Again, there are no official releases but a series of demos and takes that show how Joe worked. For all you Deep Purple fans, there is some very obvious Blackmore guitar work on some of the tracks which alone makes essential listening for this record.
Music and his studio were pretty much the only thing in Joe’s life. He recorded at will, was addicted to amphetamine pills, suffered from paranoia and was gay in a time when being gay was illegal. Some said he had a split personality, what we now call Dissociative Identity Disorder. Towards the end of his life, he became obsessed with the occult and spiritualism. Joe committed suicide on February 3rd 1967 after accidentally shooting his landlady. It was the 8th anniversary of his hero, Buddy Holly’s death. No one knows for sure if it was planned or coincidence but what we do know is that he left behind an incredible amount of unreleased great music of which, these two releases are just the start. Keep ‘em coming Cherry Red.