A couple of weeks back, I listed five albums that stood out for me in 2012, five that I would certainly take with me into the next year. All five—Sigur Ros’s Valtari, Patti Smith’s Banga, Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange, Japandroids’ Celebration Rock, and Dr. John’s Locked Down—are doing heavy-duty shifts on my playlists and, I’m quite sure, shall continue to do so for a bit. But if I look back again at 2012, there are a few albums that I wish I’d spent more time with. Some of them are gems that are sitting there to be discovered. Read more

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Every time this column makes even the tiniest mention of the Grateful Dead or offers on its web version, a download link for one of their concerts, there is one guy, a friend, actually, but also a virulent critic of that band, who makes it a point of making a snide remark. There are many people who consider the Dead’s fans as drug-addled hippies who get lulled into a happy, semi-comatose state by the band’s improv-heavy meanderings. That certainly amounts to gratuitous stereotyping. Read more

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You don’t realise how talented a guitarist and bluesman the young Texan, Gary Clark Jr., is till you are into the second song on his first major label album, Blak and Blue. That’s when you see the way he can wield the axe. That’s also when you begin realising why many people compare him to Jimi Hendrix. Clark can make his guitar scream and shriek and do things that take you back to the golden era of blues based guitar rock. He’s also the one of the few contemporary African American blues guitarists to have created a ripple. Most of those in the new wave of great blues guitarists have been white—at least my favourites are (Joe Bonamassa, Derek Trucks, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Jack White, Dan Auerbach and so on). Read more

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Every other day, I have to lie on my back with a hot compress under my neck in a darkened physiotherapist’s room, a place I am forced to visit three or four times a week because of a combination of factors: 1) rapidly advancing age; 2) a vain attempt to compensate for 1) by loading more plates on the bars at the gym; and, 3) an old niggling problem with the neck, which has something to do with decades of sitting in front of a computer. The lying down period is followed by pulls and pressures, not always gentle, applied to my neck, back and arms by a well-trained therapist. Read more

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It’s a 38-second clip showing four old geezers announcing and extolling the goodness of a new smartphone app and it’s so funny that I actually went over and downloaded The Rolling Stones’ 50th anniversary app. The four old geezers are, of course, Mick Jagger (69), Keith Richard (68), Charlie Watts (71) and Ronnie Wood (65). On the promotional clip, which you can watch on YouTube, the funniness is not of the comical type but one that reeks of uneasiness. Each of the Stones’ veterans gets a shot to speak and is ill at ease talking about something such as a smartphone application. Jagger kicks off the promo mentioning how the Stones app is unlike any other because it isn’t just another version of their website dumped into the app; Richard wheezes about how it is a “fifty year thing” and that it will have some “surprises”; Watts confesses that he’s never turned a computer on although Mick bought him a couple; and Wood mentions the virtues of having the “Brushes” app (which I think is a painting application and Wood, as we know, is a trained painter) on his iPhone. But all four geezers sound so unconvincing and tentative, that you can’t help but check out the Rolling Stones Official 50th Anniversary App, launched a fortnight ago. Read more

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