My Favourite Live Albums

Until about 5 minutes before writing this I had no idea that it was #NationalAlbumDay however since I found out that metallica were doing a S & M 2 a few days ago, it got me thinking about what some of my favourite live albums were. So as I’ve done several posts along that sort of theme in the past. (as it turns out, yes I have, read 5 Favourite Albums here and the 20 albums that will grace my vinyl collection as soon as I get one here) So in order to put a new spin on an old classic (not a music related pun…I think) here is a list of my favourite live albums. 

 

Metallica: S & M

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What I love about this album is that it adds another layer of richness to songs that I already loved the addition of the San Francisco Orchestra opened my mind to a whole new concept of blending classical orchestral sounds with metal, and this proved to have a big influence on my musical taste in years to come.

Iron Maiden: Rock In Rio

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This was probably the first live album that I ever owned and I still own the DVD of this concert to date, and hearing the energy that Iron Maiden poured into the set list, it made even songs that I wasn’t that fond of kick ass.  

Rush: All the Worlds A Stage 

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This was my first introduction to Rush, someone mentioned them to me, and I found this live album tucked away amongst my parents CD collection, so I gave it a go. And was blown away. I especially love that the whole A Side from the 2112 album is included on the set list, as this would later go on to become my favourite Rush album.

Pink Floyd: Is There Anybody Out There

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Pink Floyd, to this day, remain one of my favourite bands, but I always find that listening to them in a darkened room really helps you visualise the music, and with this album you can really picture the elaborate sets that mark out twisted mindset behind Roger Waters The Wall.

The Rat Pack: Live and Dangerous 

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Frank, Deano and Sammy, on stage, having a laugh and a drink doing what they do best. listening to the album you would be excused from thinking that it was just a recording of a lads night out at a Karaoke bar, just from the sheer amount of banter and laughs going on between, and lets face it during, the songs.

Eric Clapton: Unpluuged

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I like a lot of songs by Clapton, whether that’s on his own, as Derek and The Domino’s, Cream…Whatever, but stripped back to the bone, you can really see the blues roots of Clapton and the influence that early blues must have had on the man.

Ozzy Osbourne: Tribute 

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 After the untimely death of guitarist Randy Rhodes, Ozzy Osbourne released these live recordings that really show Rhodes at his finest as a guitar player, the way he takes Osbourne’s songs and makes them heavier and faster really show that he was a live musician and was often rounded down on those early Ozzy Tracks. 

Nightwish: End of an Era 

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One of the main reasons I liked Nightwish was the soprano tones of Tarja Turunen it worked so well with that sort of metal and together they produced some great albums, and then Tarja was fired from the band, on stage, right after recording this album, as a huge fan I was gutted and the band have gotten pretty shit since she left, not that I’ve thought that much of her solo stuff either, but the concert was a great one, and it makes me sad that I’ll probably never get to see that combo live.

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Redecorating The Study, Rebranding The Man Cave

One of my big projects for this year has been the redecoration of the man cave which I’m looking to rebrand as the study. Why the rebrand you ask? Well I don’t know why but lately I’ve began to feel as though the term man cave is a little childish, it reeks of someone who hasn’t outgrown the frat house and is a bit reminiscent of a child’s play room, at least in connotation.

It was a much bigger task than I originally envisioned, to begin with I thought I would just put a lick of paint on the walls, get some new chairs and then maybe tart up the bookcases a bit. Whilst I did all of these things it all involved a lot more work than I ever imagined.

Firstly lets have a look at the before pictures:

As you can see some pretty basic billy bookcases from Ikea, pretty uninspired, just literally there to hold books, and a few nick knacks. But basically lacking in an real flair, and as for the rest of the room, there was hideous brown carpet, and an even more hideous and somehow more brown lamp shade, and four years and a few different sofa’s later I was sick of the sight of the room. So this was one of the goals that I had for the year was to redecorate it in a style that truly reflected my personality and the things I like.

It may not surprise anyone who knows me, but I drew a lot of inspiration for the new study from Downton Abbey, and the gentlemen’s clubs of the 1920’s  the red, gold and white colour scheme was taken from the Octagon Drawing Room and the library at Basildon Park.

 

I also took a fair pinch of inspiration from the National Library of the Czech Republic in Prague.

In order to get the colour scheme I wanted I took a trip to B & Q and came out with 12 cans of Rustoleum Gold Spray Paint to take care of the book cases, the radiator and the panelling on the doors, I also got a can of white Dulex Gloss to do all the woodwork, skirting boards and to paint the coving on the ceiling. and last but not least I managed to paint the room with a single tin of B & Q’s own Fulham emulsion.  After getting all this painting done the bookcases still didn’t quite look the way that I had pictured so I used 12 rolls of D-C-Fix’s self adhesive vinyl to coat (both sides) of each individual shelf on 8 bookcases (thats 72 shelves top and bottom, coated with fiddly sticky vinyl). Once the painting and vinyl was done and my back had recovered from sitting on the floor applying all that vinyl, it was time to star with the soft furnishings.

I Went straight to Ebay to buy 2 oxblood wing back fire side chairs, in the style of a gentlemen’s club, and globe shaped drinks trolley of the kind that I’ve always wanted. This was complimented by not one but two rugs as I didn’t want the hassle of recarpeting completely and couldn’t decide which one to go for.

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This was all complimented by a few other little touches like mouldings and hanging one of my prize possessions.

And then topped off with a new light shade, this is actually one of the things I paid no heed to at all until my wife said to me, “are you going to replace that light shade”, at which point I think I looked at the light shade for the first time ever and couldn’t unsee this hideous brown thing. So given that the my ceiling is far too low for the chandelier that I’ve always wanted, and having been hit in the head with a chandelier before (during a production of the phantom of the opera no less), so this is why I settled for something red and vintage looking from B and M bargains.

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Its pretty much done now, I have a few other minor things to do to the place, like fitting some Venetian blinds, some new door handles and a light switch, maybe getting some drawers fitted on the bookcases and a frame for that picture of me and Marianna. The other slightly more ambitious thing that I may try at a later date is fixing a false front onto the shelf being used for glasses, made to look like a bookcase full of books.

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The Glasses and Bar Ware Shelf

Of course the other thing that the room is apparently missing is an ornate ceiling fresco, this was made apparent to me this afternoon, when finding pictures of Basildon Park and the National Museum in Prague, Marianna asked why doesn’t my man cave (she hasn’t gotten into the habit of calling the room a study), why doesn’t my man cave have a pretty picture on the ceiling, so apparently now I have to commission a renaissance painter to put something up there. Anyone have Michelangelo’s mobile number?

5 Holidays That Are Better Than Camping

As its summertime a lot of my friends are going to festivals and going camping. I cannot think of anything worse, the idea of huddling under a damp canvas, sleeping on the ground in the middle of some field or some other secluded forest or mountain top is actually physically hideous to me. The thought of being forced to go camping is something that makes me physically cringe. So here are some ideas for holidays that a better than camping.

 

1. A River Cruise Down The Styx.

Yes that’s right I actually feel that going to hell would be more fun than going camping, because It would actually take precipitations causing to conditions to be able to ice skate on The River Styx for me to go camping.

2. Having My Testes Repeatedly Jumped On By An Overweight Elephant 

A giant grey weight stamping up and down on my bollocks, one by one, over and over and over and over for a long weekend. This sounds preferable to sleeping on a tarpaulin.

3. A Weekend of Bum Stuff Vlad The Impaler Style: 

impale-ogI would rather be impaled by my bottom on a jagged spike than spend any time being cooped up in a muddy hell hole with nothing by a piece of material between me and the elements and the mosquito swarms.

4. Disneyland: 

What could be worse than a miles and miles of vomit inducing nightmare stuffed with screaming kids , that you’ve had to pay through the nose to endure, the endless queuing and the sweltering heat, the $40 drinks and so many fat people, fat people everywhere and a bevvy of massively annoying mascots all around? Camping, that’s whats worse.

5. Auschwitz: 

I’m not talking about the interesting historic day out, I’m talking about the Auschwitz in its hey day of the roaring 40’s… that’s how much I detest the idea of going camping.

Class Vs Race, As Examined Through Fantasy

This week I finished a trilogy of fantasy novels, and one of the things I was trying to work out, Was the writer English or American? Spelling wasn’t an issue, as the book had obviously been edited for the British Market, but what tipped the balance for me was that more than one of the main characters was elevated from peasantry to lordship instantly, but there wasn’t really any class struggle to go with this elevation. No plotting lord talking about commoners getting above their station etc.

But one of the differences between the US and the UK is that class discrimination isn’t really an issue in the US, that a lot of social barriers stem from race, and the roots that discrimination had coming from slavery.  And that theme was present in the books I read this week, the brutality of slavery and persecution because of race (in this case from a prisoner of war aspect) was gone into in detail, while any issue of class struggle was, whilst not ignored, was certainly not as much of an issue as it should have been.

I think in terms of issue, racism is less of a problem in the UK (not to say it doesn’t exist) but, but we tend to look more at class, working class, middle class, aristocracy and so forth. Black and Minority Ethnic groups have become parts of most classes, and are generally accepted, but trying to cross that class gap is a different matter entirely.  I say this as a lower class, heterosexual, white, relatively able bodied, male, but it remind me of a joke by a Black comedian whose name eludes me at the moment, but he said “In England, they don’t have racism, no, they’ve got a class system, so that way they can be racist to white people too.” and I honestly think that sums up the class system almost perfectly, and this aspect is something I find is missing from a lot of American fantasy, whether its the Riftwar saga that I read this week, or A song of Ice and Fire, where the liberation of slavery is a key element across the series, tackling the idea’s behind racism, but aside from a few phrases like up jumped sell sword the idea of class is left behind (although I notice it has been made more prominent in the TV series).

But going the other way if you look at some of the British and Australian works of fiction, but race won’t be a big deal, looking at the works of Trudi Canavan like the Black Magician series, on of the key themes throughout is class struggle, but the issues of race hardly come up at all, to the point where even slavery is shrugged off. (Although one unique fantasy theme in the Black Magician Series is the theme of homophobia, which is something I’ve never really seen addressed in a fantasy series).

Of Course British Authors do attempt to look at the race aspect, but in the case of JK Rowling and the Harry Potter books, what you see here is a sort of blending of both class and race, establishing Wizards and Witches as the upper classes, and then other races as being below them, and quickly establishes this as a negative, the series could be seen as a study in the combating of oppression and discrimination, in the series, you see the elitist attitude of the older established wizarding families, like the blacks and the Malfoy’s representing the class aspect (probably a little bit influenced by Ms Rowling’s time on benefits), but then you see the brutish violent aspect of the Death Eaters (forming posses to attack those who’re different while wearing pointy hoods, come on JK that’s a little on the nose don’t you think?)

And who is to say which is the more important to focus on,  as both are real issues for those that have faced them, but I just find it interesting how the issues that surround the author in their real lives has an influence on how they write.

Happy Martini Day: A Guide To Martini Variants

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Today just so happens to be Martini Day, And I was going to write a piece about how to make the perfect Martini but it turns out that I’ve already done  that…. Twice (see the previous posts here and here )

Judging from the previous posts you now know that I know how to make the perfect Martini, So here is a look at some of the variants that can put a spin on your classic cocktail.

Vodka Martini

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What annoys me most about the vodka Martini is that most people think that this is a proper Martini, yes it is probably the most iconic version of the drink owing to a certain fussy spy making it his trademark. So what you need for this abomination is:

3 25ml shots of a decent Vodka

1 25ml shot of dry vermouth

1 lemon slice

And to make said abomination, all you do is slosh your vodka and vermouth into a cocktail shaker full of ice, shake if you’re a pussy who wants watered down booze, or stir gently if you’re a real man, then strain it into a cocktail glass and add your lemon slice, and then wonder why you ever thought James Bond a man of taste.

Coffee Martini 

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I was asked to make this at a cocktail  function a few weeks ago and have since perfected it, or some I’m told, hating the taste of coffee, I wouldn’t actually know if this was good or bad, so you’ll have to try it and see. You’ll need:

1 mug of black coffee (allow it to go cold)

2 shots of any old vodka

1 shot of Tia Maria (or any other coffee liqueur)

Its pretty simple to make really, shake it all over ice and strain into a cocktail glass its simply a cold Russian Coffee but it does the job, people seem to think its nice, to turn this into an espresso Martini, all you need to do is switch out the coffee for an espresso pod and shake well.

Appletini

Appletini

If you are completely secure in your masculinity and feel the need to make an Appletini for yourself, or have cause to make one for some one else, all you need are: 

4 25ml shots of vodka

2 25ml shots of Apple Schnapps

1 Apple slice

If you can avoid making fun of the recipient of this drink for long enough to make it, again all you need to take this to a cocktail shaker filled with ice and shake, you could stir, but no one ordering one of these things can handle alcohol that hasn’t been watered down, so shake away and strain it into a martini glass, then garnish with the apple slice, and then shake your head in sadness at the knowledge that someone actually asked for this drink.

Passion Fruit/Porn star Martini 

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I don’t know why these have become so popular of late, but every cocktail bar I go to they seem to be on the menu, so if you’re going to attempt to make one here’s what you’ll need

2 ripe passion fruits halved

4 25 ml shots of vanilla vodka

3 25ml shots of Passoa

1 tablespoon of lime juice and

1 tablespoon of brownsugar

1 teaspoon edible glitter

250 ml of sparkling wine (use Prosecco or Cava or Asti Spumante, don’t go wasting good champagne on something like this)

 

Making it is a bit of a buggerance however so listen carefully what you need to do first is scoop the seeds from one of the passion fruits into the glass of a cocktail shaker, then add the vodka, passoa, lime juice, glitter and sugar. Add a load of ice and shake well, strain into martini glasses, and then top up the bugger with some prosecco or whatever sparkling wine you have to hand and then finish it off by adding half a passion fruit to each.

Conservative Party Leadership Contest: Some Thoughts

With the tearful resignation of Theresa May earlier this week I find myself thinking, who is going to be the next Leader of the Conservative Party? There are the obvious front runners. Boris Johnson of the floppy haired flip flop. Dominic Raab, Michael Gove, Andrea Leadsom, and maybe even Jeremy Hunt. All these names are being thrown around as favourites to take the helm. And whenever I hear any of their names being touted as a potential leader of our nation, I can’t help but cringe. In my humble opinion though, every person who has had a cabinet position since 2015 has been tainted, Brexit has divided the nation, but it has also tarred the top tier of government with a stench of infighting, immaturity and incompetence.

 

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So if the Conservative party is to move forward what they need is a complete fresh face, someone who doesn’t have ties to May or Cameron and hasn’t be contaminated by their cabinet colleagues. In essence what I’m saying is that the Conservative party need to find their very own Tory Jeremy Corbyn. Someone who party members can rally around as a breath of fresh air for the party.

A few names that spring to mind are Rehman Chishti, Lucy Allan, Jo Churchill, Richard Drax or possibly Matt Warman, all of whom would pose problems for the opposition parties in Westminster. But at the same time these potential candidates that I’ve mentioned could potentially be seen as compromise candidates, a place holder until someone better comes forth to take centre stage.

However if the Conservative Party do just go along with one of the front runners, its very likely that we’d see a Labour Government by 2022.

Why Is The World Such A Horrible Place At The Moment?

Humanity seems to have given in to its worst instincts over the last few years. We seem to be taking what is easy over what is good for us and giving in to our most narrow minded, selfish and xenophobic views.

Ignorance and stupidity seem to be given pride of place and intolerance and lack of knowledge and basic civility are worn like a badge of honour. Apparently a lack of credible facts are can still provide the basis of an opinion and to be quite frank I am sick of it. I can’t believe that its 2019 and I have to say this but:

  • Bigotry and Xenophobia are bad.
  • Skin colour and religion are not acceptable reasons to dislike someone
  • Climate change, whether man made or a natural phenomenon of nature will still have dire consequences for humanity. Don’t believe me ask all the creatures that died during the last ice age.
  • vaccinations are a good thing. They don’t autism, and even if they did autism is better than dying from diseases that were cured decades ago.

I seriously can’t believe that this shit needs to be said.

But what I really can’t fathom is how we’ve got to this level of hatred and stupidity, who do we blame? Politicians? The TV? Newspapers? The Internet? Ourselves? Or maybe all of the above?

The internet is a wonderful thing, it allows me to shop in my underwear for many wondrous things that I never knew existed, without getting arrested. But it also gives a worldwide platform for any nut with an axe to grind or conspiracy theorist with and ill formed and ill typed idea that hasn’t quite made it to science fiction yet. And it really highlights the collective IQ of the world that people are actually buying this crap. It makes me weep for mankind that the very worst of us seem to be pushed to the forefront of society, just by the exploitation of the very worst aspects of our being.