10 of my … favourite live albums
There’s an awful lot of live albums by my favourite bands out there. But for me to really like a live album it has to be special. What makes it special? Well, besides the obvious requirements of decent musicianship and good sound quality it has to be different from the studio albums. What makes it different? It could be extended versions, improvisations, acoustic arrangements, inclusion of covers, etc. As long as it does not sound like you are listening to a band that plays their well known hits note for note on stage. Here’s 10 of my favourite albums that meet these requirements.
Sting – Bring on the Night: On this album Sting plays nearly his full debut album live on stage. He also resurrects a lot of lesser known Police songs and gives them a completely new arrangement. This includes marvellous versions of Bring on the Night, When The World is Running Down, Tea in the Sahara, Demolition Man and best of all, an 11 minute intertwined combination of One World and Love is the Seventh Wave. Sting could have chosen the easy way by playing Police hits, but this is all the more interesting and the delivery of the energetic band is superb. This might well be the best live album I own.
Porcupine Tree – Coma Divine (2 CD version): Before the arrival of their Stupid Dream album Porcupine Tree played longer songs with extensive instrumental sections, inspired by bands like Pink Floyd. In a live setting these would often expand even further and the band would build and improve on the studio versions. Especially the very early material, which often was not recorded with a full studio band, improved substantially. The songs also gained a more dynamic and energetic sound. Songs like Signify, The Sky Moves Sideways, Radioactive Toy and Not Beautiful Anymore are very different from their originals. Click here for a full review.
Peter Gabriel – Secret World Live: a live album ‘based’ on a series of concerts in Italy. Surely there’s been a lot of patching up on this album, but the end result is remarkable. The album captures Peter’s biggest hits of the So / Us period plus an old classic and some rarities. To me, the Us songs sound a lot more open and dynamic than their studio counterparts so I actually prefer to play this CD over the studio version. Steam is combined with the rearrangement Quiet Steam and songs like Shaking The Tree, Secret World and In Your Eyes have been extended to epic proportions. The enthusiasm of the performing band, inspirations by world music and playfulness of the performance immediately rub off on the listener. This is a wonderful musical party. Even better than the CD: buy the DVD and you’ll get more songs and a stunning visual show to boot.
Marillion – Unplugged at the Walls: While Marillion is known to be a very good live band, they are not one that change the arrangements of their songs a lot. As such, although it’s good fun to attend their gigs, most of their live albums are nice but not all that special. Not this one. For this album the band played an acoustic concert in a restaurant in Owestry with fans from all over the world present. The result is remarkable. A reggae tainted version of Alone Again in the Lap of Luxury, a bluesy Hooks in You and wonderful covers of Blackbird (The Beatles), Fake Plastic Trees (Radiohead) and Abraham Martin and John (Marvin Gay a.o.). Some rendition are even better than their original studio versions, most notably Answering Machine and Cannibal Surf Babe. All in all a wonderful set. Click here for a full review by my friend BJ.
Mike Oldfield – Exposed: My most recent purchase among these 10 CDs. It was one of the gaps in my Oldfield collection and I bought it together with Incantations. The Incantations album was 72 minutes long and felt a bit too drawn out for my taste. I therefore prefer the more compact 47 minute rendition on this live album. Besides that we get a 30 minute rendition of Tubular Bells that’s substantially different from the original studio album. Not only is it more ‘rocky’ (check out the funky bass in the introduction!) but it also features a full backing orchestra. Part 2 skips the section of the composition I always found least interesting and goes straight into an orchestral rendition of the Caveman Section. A much more energetic climax follows before Sailor’s Hornpipe closes this version. And if you think that was it wait until you hear the Tubular Bells reprise at the end of Oldfield’s take on the disco age, Guilty. All in all this is one of those live albums that offer great alternatives to the original studio albums.
Ray Wilson – Live and Acoustic: Ray Wilson had the questionable honour to replace Phil Collins in Genesis on the Calling All Stations album. This singer-songwriter never got the recognition he deserved and his skills are clearly proven on this wonderful acoustic live album. Ray plays material from various bands he played with including Genesis, Stiltskin, Cut, Guaranteed Pure and throws in great covers of Gabriel, The Eagles, Dylan and Springsteen songs. Ray is accompanied by his brother Steve and Amanda Lyon, keeping the sound warm and intimate. Click here for a full review.
RPWL – Start the Fire: This 2 CD set finds the German band performing material from their first 3 studio albums on the first disc, including Roses and the Genesis cover Not About Us with Ray Wilson. The main surprised is however to be found on the second CD. It kicks of with a version of World Through My Eyes that’s substantially different (and in my opinion better) than the version on the album with the same name. Next are three covers: Opel (Syd Barrett), Welcome to the Machine (Pink Floyd) and last but certainly not least a fantastic version of Floyd’s Cymbaline that even incorporated Atom Heart Mother’s Funky Dung section. As if this wasn’t enough the live tracks end with a great combined version of the three parts of Hole in the Sky and as icing on the cake the full length version of the studio track New Stars Are Born, which blends perfectly with the other Floydian material on disc 2. Click here for a full review.
Al Stewart – Live Acoustic: Another acoustic live album. Al Stewart and Peter White perform with just two guitars and this works out marvelously. If you think that you can’t recreate the same energy with just two guitars go listen to the version of On The Border on this CD. There’s more stunning renditions of material from the Year of the Cat album, and a wonderful version of the Nostradamus epic. I’ve seen Al Stewart perform solo once but this duo gig offers so much more power.
Ozric Tentacles – Live at the Pongmaster’s Ball: Not only does this album contain most of the best tracks the Ozrics wrote in their long existence, the versions are mostly also surprisingly different and better! The versions on this album are often more guitar driven than their originals, but there’s also room for some of the band’s reggae-dub oriented improvisations, nicely sandwiching Pyramidion. Ozric studio albums often have a weak track or two, but this live album is just two hours of the band at their best. Click here for a full review.
Spock’s Beard – The Official Live Bootleg: This might seem to be a bit of a strange choice. This live album captures the band playing their full debut album plus one song from the forthcoming second album. The versions are not all that different from the originals. Then what’s it doing in this list? Well, I actually prefer to play this album instead of the debut studio album because it sounds a lot more dynamic, open and enthusiastic. Compared to this live version the studio album sounds rather dull. This earns is a spot in this list of 10.
10 of my … favourite movies
The Fisher King: Still my absolute favourite. As he does in ‘Twelve Monkeys’ Terry Gilliam proves to have more up his sleeve than just Monthy Python silliness. I have often wondered what makes this movie so special for me. Dunno, it’s just the perfect mix of comedy, drama and action and for some reason I can really relate to all of the four main characters. This is one of the few movies that can actually make me cry … a lot. I like New York in June, how about you?
Donnie Darko: Another absolute favourite. This is one of those movies that will have you wondering ‘what the hell just happened?!’. I’ve seen it so many times, and I still haven’t figured everything out yet. The creepy ‘Frank the Bunny’ freaks me out every time, the destiny of the love story is heart-wrenching and the mystery of the tangent universe extremely puzzling. The film score and songs of the soundtrack are outstanding as well.
Requiem for a Dream: Everything is right about this movie. The story of a mother and her son falling victim to their own drug addictions, the haunting music by Clint Mansell and the Kronos Quartet, the remarkable way of filming and editing that creates such a paranoid atmosphere … Should the thought of hard drugs ever cross your mind, this movie will cure you of any such urge.
Chasing Amy: I’m a big fan of Kevin Smith’s work, especially his movies that feature Jay and Silent Bob. Chasing Amy is perhaps my favourite, unlike some of the other movies this actually has a realistic story about the difficulties of man – woman friendships. Funny and moving at the same time, and quite recognizable at times I have to say.
Lord of the Rings Trilogy: Having read the Lord of the Rings trilogy when I was about 12 years old, I never thought they could make it into a movie. Therefore I was extremely sceptic when I heard about Peter Jackson’s project. He did however succeed in capturing the story perfectly, and in places even improved on the book. For the real deal, watch the extended DVD versions with a beamer on a big screen.
Kundun: Martin Scorsese’s impressive film about the life of the 14th Dalai Lama captures Tibetan culture before the Chinese invasion marvelously and Philip Glass’ soundtrack creates exactly the right atmosphere.
Memento: Ever wondered what it would be like to have amnesia? Just watch this movie. The protagonist has had an accident causing him to suffer from short term memory loss. He can remember everything that happened before the accident, but only the last five minutes of his current life. Since the scenes are played in backward order the viewer never knows more than the main character himself, creating his same sense of paranoia. Smart and creative!
The Prestige: Another brain-cruncher with some very smart plot twists. A movie you will want to see several times. I don’t really like magicians and costume dramas but this movie set at the end of the 19th century works splendidly, even incorporating the mysterious Tesla (played by David Bowie) in the story.
The Blues Brothers: Something completely different. I used to watch this movie over and over again with my friends when I was a teenager, until we knew whole stretches of dialogue. Great music, wonderful performances by Belushi and Aykroyd, brilliant cameo’s by many R&B artists, hilarious over the top action … what more does one want? Shake your tailfeather baby!
Saw: The Saw series is the perfect example of how milking an idea can kill of a movie. Still, regardless of the sometimes dodgy skills of some of the actors the first Saw movie is one of the most thrilling and surprising movies I’ve ever seen. Let the game begin …
Other good to great movies I rated with an 8 or higher: Se7en, Twelve Monkeys, Zero Dark Thirty, Side Effects, The Hunger Games, Life of Pi, Cloud Atlas, Django Unchained, Flight, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Skyfall, Looper, The Dark Knight Rises, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Farewell My Concubine, Raise the Red Lantern, Mary and Max, 127 Hours, Toy Story 3, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Despicable Me, Moon, Inception, Unthinkable, Fantastic Mr. Fox, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, City of God, The Lost Room, Triangle, The Lovely Bones, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, The Hurt Locker, State of Play, The Cove, District 9, Inglourious Basterds, Up, The Orphanage, Dogville, Pirate Radio, Eden Lake, V for Vendetta, Changeling, Slumdog Millionaire, Bolt, Red, There Will Be Blood, WALL-E, Wanted, Cashback, Cloverfield, Alien, Aliens, Mystic River, Gandhi, Sunshine, Live Free or Die Hard, Munich, Trainspotting, Pan’s Labyrinth, Sin City, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, The Experiment, The Incredibles, Mulholland Dr., Leak, The Terminal, Love Actually, The Others, The Butterfly Effect,
Shrek 2, Gangs of New York, K-19: The Widowmaker, Frequency, Spy Game, Saving Private Ryan, Chasing Amy, Ocean’s Eleven, Minority Report, The Shawshank Redemption, Léon: The Professional, Magnolia, Training Day, Braveheart, Fight Club, The Mothman Prophecies,
Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi, Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes, Back, Bound, Stop Making Sense, Brave, Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs, The Game, Bridget Jones’s Diary … to name a few.
10 books that changed my life
Looking back through your past you can probably identify a couple of books that were pivotal to your life. They either changed your personal taste, being an introduction to a certain style, or they gave you a brand new view on things, either personal on in business. Well, here’s my 10 books, in no particular order.
Lonely Planet – Not any specific edition, but having developed a love for travelling since 2004, the Lonely Planet travel guides have become an indespendable help and source of information. True, they are not the universal truth and some of these guides are based on rather questionable expertise, but they still are some of the best around. When you come across me on one of my journeys, chances are that I will be absorbed in one of these …
The Good Life – Gerald Roscoe – When I was in Thailand I got interested in Buddhism. It was this little book that made me realise that without ever knowing it, my own personal view on life was actually amazingly close to the Buddhist philosophy. This tiny booklet made me delve deeper and eventually discover … or should I say ‘reinforce’ … my conviction of the true way of living.
Buddhism for Dummies – Landaw & Bodian – After reading The Good Life this was one of the best books I read that further introduced me to the various aspects of Buddhism. It sparked my fascination with Buddhism from a historical, philosophical and practical point of view.
Tuesdays with Morrie – Mitch Albom – I got this booklet from a like-minded colleague at one of my jobs. The personal gift in itself already meant a lot to me but reading it was an experience in itself. It reinforced some of my Buddhist principles, while it also was a source of inspiration when my former father-in-law was dying of cancer. I gave him a copy of the book … I never got to ask him if he really finished it, but I do sincerely hope that it gave him some strength at the end of his days. I gave this book to various friends in times of need or just as a source of inspitation or food-for-thought. One day I might give you one … if I do you’re obviously special to me.
Strategic Database Marketing – Arthur M. Hughes – I did two courses in database marketing, but most of my knowledge and love for the discipline of database marketing came from Arthur M. Hughes’ work. Unlike other authors Hughes doesn’t loose himself in vague models (which I so fiercely dislike) or long descriptions of ‘what to do’ without ever explaining the ‘how to do it’. Arthur’s work enthused me and I’ll gladly admit that some of my most successfull campaigns have been inspired by his work.
Handboek Interactive Marketing – Paul Postma – A quite complete and very readable guide into concepts like database marketing, customer value and more. Together with Strategic Database Marketing one of the main books that shaped my perspective on marketing.
Event Driven Marketing – van Bel, Sander & Verduin – A book I co-wrote and edited. It won the PIM Marketing Literature prize and although I have never been 100% satisfied with any Dutch edition that has been released so far, I’m proud to have been part of this.
The international edition was released in 2010 under the name Follow That Customer! was another step forwards. Co-writing this book also changed my life since it got me several jobs as lecturer at seminars and post-graduate courses. I’m also pretty sure that it helped when applying for a job opening or two …
Strategisch Testen in Direct Marketing – Frans Reichard – I first met Frans when he was working on this book and was looking for case material. I offered him several case studies, two of which were used in this book. I was already quite interested in testing marketing campaigns, but after reading Frans’ book I developed a fierce passion of implementing as many tests in my projects as possible.
Lord of the Rings – J.R.R. Tolkien – I read Lord of the Rings in my early teenage years. I must have been 10 to 12 years old at most. Tolkien’s trilogy sparked a deep interest in the fantasy genre, which expressed itself in reading a lot of fantasy as well as playing a Dutch variation on Dungeons and Dragons as a teen. In my early twenties I lost interest in fantasy, although I was pleasantly surprised by the Lord of the Rings movies. Still, you won’t find me reading about dwarfs and elves anymore these days.
Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos – H.P. Lovecraft a.o. – It must have been in my late teens or early twenties that I exchanged my interest in fantasy novels for a love for all things Lovecraftian. I was (and still am) fascinated by the concept of the Cthulhu Mythos, a pantheon of dieties pre-dating humanity invented by H.P. Lovecraft. Many of his friends and followers borrowed from the Cthulhu Mythos and expanded it, resulting in thousands of tales, books and poems around the subject. Collecting these and playing the Call of Cthulhu RPG has been an important part of my twenties. Currently I’m still reading books from the vast collection I’ve build.