What we’ve been listening to this month
1 We Are The Champions (Alternative Version) Queen
When misappropriated from the football terraces and launched into 1977’s punk-infused zeitgeist, We Are The Champions appeared to be an utterly unreconstructed act of regal hubris and chest-beating pomposity. Now, it only exemplifies all that’s brilliant about Queen. On this longer, work-in-progress version Freddie Mercury is on stunning form and May astonishing.
2 Set Me Free James Warren
The voice of now sadly defunct prog rockers Stackridge and pop band The Korgis returns with a pleasing, melodious, disarmingly jaunty ditty that once heard will take residence inside the brain for days on end.
3 Master Of The Universe Nik Turner
Re-recorded to close Turner’s Life In Space album, this revitalised take on the Hawkwind classic (stately saxophonist Turner co-wrote it with Dave Brock for 1972’s In Search Of Space) retains its bludgeoning psychedelic sparkle while coruscating with freshly treated sax. Accentuated with Overkill-blueprint false endings, it still boasts irresistible head-banging appeal.
4 Don’t Feel Quite Right Palaye Royale
Full-throttle statement of intent from spiky, sparky Vegas-based noiseniks Palaye Royale. Don’t Feel Quite Right, confidently theatrical and fashion-forward, blending Iggy-esque attitude with fuzzy, strutting guitars and peaking with a joyfully catchy chorus, shows that they’re well worth watching out for.
5 “Heroes” (Live) King Crimson
Robert Fripp, who played the freaky guitar on the original version back in 1977, turns the wheel full circle by revisiting Bowie’s all-time great – to startling effect – on KC’s new double concert album Live In Chicago.
6 We Know Where You Fucking Live Marilyn Manson
Wisely adhering close to the instantly recognisable formula that originally catapulted him from sour-faced Spooky Kid to mainstream-baiting, stilt-walking, Columbine-pilloried, Bible-belting, graveyard glam-touting God of Fuck, Manson is enjoying something of a career renaissance. We Know lashes brooding electro menace to explosive metal aggression as Manson shouts ‘Fuck’ with rare aplomb.
7 Xanadu (Live) Jeff Lynne’s ELO
You’ll probably be surprised to learn that this theme tune to the flawed film musical, originally co-sung with Olivia Newton John, is Jeff Lynne’s favourite of all his songs. The surprise wears off pretty quickly when you remind yourself of its genius hook and uplifting ABBA-haunted chorus. Pure pop-rock genius.
8 Elements And Things Blues Pills
On stage this multinational mélenge are irresistible, as demonstrated by this track from their Lady In Gold: Live In Paris album. Elin Larsson’s vocals are bluesy, passionate and earthy, while the musicality is thunderous but also has intricacy and delicacy. The band’s studio cover of this Tony Joe White song was impressive, but this version adds another dimension.
10 Walk Away Heaven And Earth
Do you still yearn for the days when rock bands wrote songs with real hooks, that were sung by singers that could really deliver? Taken from this LA band ’s new album Hard To Kill, Walk Away is a prime slab of Hammond organ-drenched Rainbow-meets-Foreigner raunch.
9 End Of The World Flamin’ Groovies
While always adept regurgitators of primal rock’n’roll devices already well-bedded in to the collective consciousness of their core constituency, the Jordan/Wilson Groovies (no Roy Loney this time out, Teenage Head enthusiasts) have surpassed themselves on the spot-the-reference-point front with new album Fantastic Plastic.
And here? Shake Some Action meets The Reaper, basically.
11 American Girl Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers
Few emergent artists were able to hold their own against 1977’s tidal wave of hastily signed punk bands, but Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers were made of stern stuff, and with American Girl had a genuinely thrilling breakthrough single that warranted every last centimetre of its pioneering 12-inch release. Vinyl immortality.
12 Queen Of Sin Dungeon
Young Brit thrashers Dungeon have no pretence here; Queen Of Sin is full-on, backto-the-80s speed metal, with the emphasis on blazing away without any nod to subtlety. And it works brilliantly, because this band are so locked into the vibe of that era and have reimagined the philosophy for 2017. One of many fine bands on the recently released British Steel compilation.
13 Sound Of The Wind Psychedelic Witchcraft
Psychedelic Witchcraft are an Italian band who love Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin, and those influences certainly come through on Sound Of The Wind. You can also hear a nod towards Goblin (the horror movie lot, not the Orange mob) and Jefferson Airplane on this track, which thrums with moody magnificence. The title song of their debut album, it has the affectation of Airplane’s White Rabbit and the elegance of Zeppelin’s No Quarter.
14 Black Halo Buffalo Killers
Far-out psychedelic Americana from a group described by former Black Crowes frontman Chris Robinson as “one of the best fucking rock‘n’roll bands in the world”. Black Halo manages to be both off-kilter (almost jazzy in spirit) but highly melodious as well, with sweet-as-honey harmonies and lead guitar lines.
15 Son Of The Father Stray
Now a year past their 50th anniversary, West London band Stray are the subject of a new four-disc collection that homes in on their time with Transatlantic Records. Taken from their 1971 album Suicide, Son Of The Father shows them in their full hard-rock-meets-progressive-meets-psych glory.
16 If I Were King (Live) Vardis
These now reunited Wakefield metallers recently had their first three albums reissued, complete with bonus tracks. Pick of the bunch is 100 M.P.H., their debut from 1980, which was recorded live and overdub-free, from which If I Were King is taken. Thrash-a-boogie has rarely sounded more energetic.
Blues Pills: thunderous yet with intricacy and delicacy.