Saturday Deluxe / 28 March 2015
It’s the weekend! Our new feature continues, as SDE sips on an expresso, sinks its teeth into a pain au raison, and kicks back with some stories and updates from the past week, along with gossip and news from the weeks to come…
The big news this week is that a-ha are getting back together! Hooray! Well actually, they’re not getting back together, they’re just becoming a-ha once more while they make a new album and go touring, then after that they are reverting to not being a-ha again. Or something like… Clear? No? Okay, basically, they are ONLY going to be a-ha while they are either making an a-ha album or playing a concert as a-ha. When they are not doing that, they are definitely not a-ha. What’s not to understand?
Anyway, we know all this because a press conference was organised on Wednesday in Berlin specifically to tell us that they are not permanently reforming, and that we shouldn’t get any ideas. There was a big silver backdrop at the press conference with the a-ha logo (circa 1985) on it along with the words ‘Cast in Steel’. For a moment it felt a little like an Eon productions Bond launch, you know ‘James Bond will return in Cast in Steel…’. But it wasn’t. The giveaway was that the press conference appeared to have been organised by Messrs Laurel and Hardy.
A woman came on, who I think was the Norwegian ambassador in Berlin and said some words not in English. Then three men in suits came on ‘stage’ (not the band) and stood there looking awkward. One of them spoke German for a while. Then the band came out for a photo opportunity. Morten removed his sunglasses for the pictures but no one really said anything.
Eventually, after lots of flashing of cameras, someone shoved a few chairs on stage and a bloke called Tom interviewed the band. Now bearing in mind at this point the English speakers amongst us had ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA WHAT WAS GOING ON, Tom’s opening gambit of “I wanted to start with a quote from one of the new songs Open Face…” was rather irritating. He forgot to ask them why they are getting back together, and why they’ve recorded a new album and why they are un-getting back together after the tour. There was also no mention of the forthcoming reissues, but that is probably because this was a Universal Music sponsored event and they aren’t going to give any free promotion to Warners. How not to run a press conference.
You can watch the full shenanigans here.
Pure Audio Blu-ray Audio
Three years on from the launch of the ‘Pure Audio’ blu-ray audio brand and we are starting to see some great releases on the format. For the first couple of years, there was a bit too much ‘respecting of the album’ as founder Olivier Robert-Murphy described it at the end of 2013. Lionel Richie’s Can’t Slow Don’t – all eight tracks of it – for £15 to £20, was a bit of a hard sell (ironically that disc sounds amazing). Same with Tears For Fears’ 10-track The Hurting. There was also some questionable vagueness when it came to mastering sources. But in recent months things have started to change.
We’ve enjoyed the second Tears For Fears album, Songs From The Big Chair on a blu-ray disc that boasted three different versions of the album – 5.1, 2014 Stereo Mix and the original version. That is more like it. Bryan Adams’ Reckless also boasted a 5.1 mix, as did Simple Minds’ Sparkle in the Rain. Now the forthcoming Grace Jones set, Disco, is available on blu-ray in its entirety – all 43 tracks of it. Great news.
For a while there the format was so under-utilised it felt like we were driving around in a Ferrari carefully respecting the 30mph speed limit, but now finally we have found some open road, can hit the gas and really make the most of the performance of the format. It’s great to see the talented Steven Wilson working on some of these rock/pop projects and the bar had undoubtedly been raised with packages from XTC, Yes and Jethro Tull all of which Wilson was involved in.
Who Hits 50
I’m not normally one for going to loads of gigs (limiting factor: time, money, energy…), but the last seven days has seen me in North London doing a bit of ‘Disco Stu’ at the Roundhouse in the company of Nile Rodgers and Chic and on Thursday night I had the pleasure of seeing The Who at the Royal Albert Hall.
Obviously two very different acts, but putting aside the merits of the artists (both were excellent) it was interesting to compare how the venue adds or detracts from the experience. Not to put too fine a point on it, Camden is a bit of a dump and The Roundhouse simply doesn’t offer a great viewing experience, if – like most of its capacity – you are standing. It’s very flat and inevitably you have some 6’ 5” bloke standing in front of you. Worse, with the Chic gig this person wasn’t ‘standing’ doing some concentrated head-nodding but rather ‘getting on down’ in full boogie mode. And, if you don’t make it reasonably far forward you also have the problem of a circle of supporting pillars and it seems like wherever you stand you can’t see *something*.
By comparison the Royal Albert Hall just enriches the whole evening and feel so much more civilised. We were seated, had a great view, with easy access to the bar and toilets, and only ‘appropriate’ standing up i.e. at the *really* exciting bits (My Generation, Won’t Get Fooled Again etc.). Grumpy old man? Probably guilty as charged. But hey, Kate Bush had the right idea last year; all seated, interval and ice-cream at half time. Once you’re in your forties the word mosh pit disappears from your vocabulary!
If you’re a regular reader of SDE you may well be ‘dealed-out’ for this week given the Amazon Easter Deals, so if that’s the case feel free to ignore a few highlighted bargains below. The frenzy of email alerts is now over and normal service will be resumed. Use Google Chrome to automatically translate foreign language sites.
Cream: 1966-1972 vinyl 7LP box set – £45 on Amazon Italy
Mark Knopfler: Get Lucky 2CD+2DVD+LP – £37 on Amazon UK
Queen: Forever 5LP Vinyl Box – $70 on Amazon US