The Vinyl Revival

Since the heady days of the 90’s rave phenominon and the emergence of entierly electronic music in the 80’s, spearheaded by the likes of Kraftwerk and the Shamen, live music has been making something of a comeback in recent years. Even elctronic artists who predominantly use synth’s and samples, tend to have live musicians when they play a gig these days, just take a look at some of the big live acts such as Lady Ga Ga for prime examples of this.

I suspect the recent growth of festivals has also increased the number of people going to live gigs, until around ten years ago we has glastonbury and reading, then a few more emerged like the download and readings partner festival at leeds, then all of a suddn the festival scene exploded and they were popping up like mushrooms all over the UK.

Likewise vinyl records seem to be making a huge comeback of late, the BBC reported that more vinyl has beeen sold this year than since 1996! That may not sound very impressive but when you consider that numbers have steadily declined over almost 20 years, the sudden increase to figures of almost 20 years ago is quite significant. I wrote about how record sales ad been decreasing just a couple of years ago.

The value of new Vinyl music sales dropped to an all time low of £3m in recent years, however tthis year it’s topped £20m, so the growth is significant.

There are said to be two distinct groups who buy vinyl these days, the older people who grew up with it and like to see their collection steadily grow from year to year, this can be demonstrated by the fact that the fastest selling album over this period has been Pink Floyd’s new album, The Endless River, these people no doubt live in bigger houses too to accomodate the collections. The other being the younger people who like them in a retro’ kind of way.

Personally I think the look of a vinyl sleeve is much better than a CD or image on the computer screen, I always considered an album cover to be an art form, look at old Iron Maiden sleves as a good example, or Joy Division for the more arty, although less artistic examples. There is nothing like rifling through records in a shop too, something the younger generation have probably missed completely as I expect the majority of them have only ever downloaded music.

So although I very much doubt that Vinyl record sales will ever increase to the point where they beat downloads, let’s hope this trend towards it continues.

Black Sabbath to Tour Again

Those ageing rockers Black Sabbath, are once again getting ready to hit the road for a 2012 tour. This is the second time the band has reformed for a tour, however this time they are writing some new material and releasing an album to go along with the tour.

The complete original line-up will be playing along with Ozzy Ozbourne singing, although quite how he will manage that remains to be seen, after all I’ve watched him on TV and he can barely even string a coherent sentence together these days, so it should be interesting!
Anyway, it’s rumoured that the concert tickets will go on sale early in 2012, so if you would like to see the old rockers belting out their new album, and I’m sure a good number of their old hits too, get yourself a ticket and get that head banging again.

The Top 5 Greatest Guitarists of All Time

“Top however-many greatest” lists are never really conclusive, and generally we only put them together to spark a debate of some sort.  This is never more apparent than when you see somebody looking through a list of the top 5, 10, 50, or even 100 greatest guitar players of all time, indignant that their own top choice was omitted in favour of someone they really don’t care for.  What makes a guitarist a legend is so much more than technical virtuosity and style, and so one man’s hero is another man’s overrated show off.

To keep the fires of one of the greatest arguments in rock fanned, here is our top five list of the world’s greatest guitar heroes:

1. Jimi Hendrix

Jimi Hendrix is the guitar hero’s guitar hero.  There is no living person on this list who doesn’t speak in awe and admiration of Hendrix, so if Clapton is a “God”, then this guy was something even more amazing.  Unmatched in his technical skills, and with a stage presence that those who were lucky enough to see him can never forget, Hendrix also had incredible vision and soul.  Hendrix tragically died young, becoming one of the original members of the now infamous “Forever 27 Club” (the list of musical legends who died at the age of 27, recently added to by the death of Amy Winehouse), but not without achieving the accolade of being number one in just about everybody’s list.

2. Slash

Not to everybody’s mind the very greatest technical player, but one of the most popular and influential guitarists the rock world has ever known.  Slash reinvented the guitar hero image with his attitude and style, and despite his heavy sound, his collaborations with people like Michael Jackson introduced a whole new type of music fan to the sense of awe experienced when hearing a truly brilliant guitar solo.

3. Eric Clapton

Likened to a “God” at the age of 20 with only five years of guitar playing under his belt, Clapton is the essence of natural talent.  Putting a relevant spin onto the deep blues sounds he so loves has always come far more naturally to Clapton that all the others who have tried it, and despite the speed and excellence of his solos, Clapton doesn’t feel like he’s playing for his ego.  One of the true greats, and one of the most credible men to pick up a guitar.

4. Carlos Santana

With a style that manages to be both traditional and unique at the same time, Santana’s Latin infused sounds gave heavy rock guitar a new and beautiful twist.  Collaborating with incredibly diverse people without ever looking like he was selling out, Santana is a truly influential and innovative guitar legend.

5. Jimmy Page

Led Zeppelin’s guitar superstar ticks every box on the “guitar hero” checklist.  Classic solo every kid wants to play?  Check.  Credibility among his peers?  Check.  Electric stage presence?  Check.  Uncommonly memorable hair?  You bet.  Some say his own genius often gets under appreciated in lists like these purely because Led Zeppelin as a unit were so incredibly tight that their sound never entirely relied just on Page’s incredible guitar skills, but watch or listen to any of his solos and you’ll be hard pressed not to agree that he deserves his place among the all time greatest.

Think you are the next big guitar player? In a fantastic live band? Then leave a comment and perhaps you will be listed when this list is done again in a few years time.

Record Sales and Gigs for Bands

So in these times of recession, the whole music industry still seems to be thriving, despite all the bands such as U2 complaining about people downloading their songs on the internet for free, they still seem to have a few quid in the bank. Then you only have to take a look at the outdoor pop festivals this year which appear to all be selling out to see that people are certainly more than happy to pay money for their favorite groups, just perhaps not in the traditional way from years gone by. It used to be that if you liked a band they would release 2 or 3 singles, then an album with a whole bunch of new tracks on it, if they were smart they would make the b sides different from the album tracks, so all the diehard fans would buy both singles and albums, then you might buy a t-shirt off the market with their name on and dream about the day when you might get a chance to see them live.

It seems that these days it’s all the other way around, the band brings out a single, some people buy it, some download it, but it still makes it into the charts, then the album (or LP if you are as old as me) follows and again a lot of people download it, but some are still paying. However the bands, at least, appear to play more frequent and longer tours these days, incorporating many countries which would have been overlooked in the past. In addition these gigs are likely to have impressive sound systems, lighting rigs and stage sets incorporating risers and pyrotechnics, this draws the crowds and the groups (or their management) can charge much more for the tickets and push the merchandise too.

This approach to a gig is a far cry from the gigs of the 60’s when the screaming from the girls in the crowd would drown out the under-powered PA, whilst the band stood under a couple of PAR cans, which may have flickered very slightly if they were really going for it.

Catch 22 wedding and party band
Image courtesy of Catch 22

In my belief, yes bands may have to work harder these days, but the fans get a lot more for the money they pay, and the big bands still make plenty of money from their gigs.

Party bands have to work even harder, those smaller bands who make a living out of playing mostly covers, to be in a party band you still need to practice and play the gigs, but also move your own kit and set up the PA and Lights and then take it all down again at the end of the concert.

Support your local party band, they really do work hard and can be as enjoyable to watch as the big bands at a fraction of the cost.