METALLICA – Master Of Puppets – Album Review

METALLICA - Master Of Puppets - Album Review

For me "Master Of Puppets" is one of the most important metal albums of all time, from one of ‘the’ most important metal bands in history.

I’m fortunate to have been partner in a professional recording studio for 20 years where we used certain bands as reference points for production and final mix-down purposes. These guys popped up regularly when discussing the dynamics of the recording process with up & coming bands who were striving to get that huge wall of sound effect.

38 years from this album landed and Metallica continue to set the benchmark that young bands aspire to reach.

My first introduction to these titans of metal was the incredible album "Ride The Lightning", which my little 13 years old ears were completely blown away by. I listened to this early example of thrash on repeat until I knew the album chord for chord and word for word. I’ve been known to still offer a full-blown drunken rendition of "Fade To Black" at gatherings, much to the horror of the other members of the church congregation.

2 years later "Master Of Puppets" landed and along with my broken voice and newly acquired acne, things in my world changed dramatically.

This album kicked the bollocks out of everything else in my world that year and brought with it a new found attitude, which was starting to realise the importance of confidence and assertiveness when pursuing your passions, regardless of how loud they were.

I was heavily influenced by Tommy Vance’s weekly radio show on Radio 1 and would have taped it religiously every week and listened back on repeat all through the following week. To have an entire weekly show like that on the biggest station in the UK dedicated to rock & metal was testament to how important this scene was in the 80's.

21 year old Lars Ulrich’s drumming on this album, where sometimes completely attention seeking and at times bordering on the OTT, is nonetheless astounding. The twists, utterly filthy hooks, and sharp direction changes in the songs never give you a proper chance to get too relaxed into a song, which is a lot of what Metallica are all about. There’s just a different level of intensity and dirt about this album that I still can’t get enough of to this day.

The title track takes you on a journey through dynamic shifts and intricate guitar work, while songs like "Battery" and "Disposable Heroes" deliver intense energy and aggression. The album's lyrical themes explore darker subjects such as control, addiction, and war, adding incredible depth to its full on sonic assault.

I was in complete awe of the band when I finally got to see them at Belfast’s Odyssey Arena in 2010 and still find myself in awe of them every time I listen to pretty much all of their albums.

Every track on this album is a 100% monster!



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GARY NUMAN – The Pleasure Principle – Album Review

GARY NUMAN - The Pleasure Principle - Album Review

I love Gary Numan, as an artist and as a human.

He’s an honest, down to earth, straight talking family man who has stuck by his music beliefs for 45 years and not turned into a touring classics jukebox. The ultimate of respect is due for those few facts alone.

Gary speaks very openly about his health and the fact that he has Asperger’s. He personally sees it as a gift. All these factors that i've mentioned so far, make him a cool person in my eyes, before I even begin to chat about his music.

As an 8 year old who up until then had been brought up on a diet of the vocal greats such as Abba, Kenny Rogers and Charley Pride, i remember watching Kid Jensen introduce Numan on Top Of The Pops and being transfixed by his persona and hypnotised by this eerie synth music that I didn’t understand, but for some reason absolutely loved. I was too young to appreciate the term ‘surreal’, but I now appreciate that’s what I felt inside back then.

There was a futuristic kind of cool about the whole group, they were from a different beautiful dimension that I wanted to be a part of. Who else would have put the drummer in front of the band back then?

"The Pleasure Principle" was Numan’s first solo album after he transitioned from his previous band Tubeway Army.

I now appreciate this masterpiece as being one of the pivotal moments of electronic synth music, on a par of importance with other great albums from the likes of Kraftwerk & Visage, then Human League, Soft Cell, Depeche Mode etc.

Songs like "Metal" with it's simplistic 4 chord lead hook and "Films" with those eerie space age keyboard melodies have now become the trademark Numan sounds over his 45 year career, both are shining examples of a forward thinking genius at work.

"M.E" (which famously went on to be a massive sampled hit for Basement Jaxx) Lyrically, reflects Numan's introspective journey as an artist and individual, grappling with questions of identity and purpose.

The album's lead single, "Cars," became an instant classic and remains one of Numan's most recognisable songs. Its infectious, iconic synth riff and catchy chorus propelled it to the top of the charts, solidifying Numan's status as a figurehead of the electronic music scene.

Beyond its commercial success, "The Pleasure Principle" is also celebrated for its depth and abstract thinking. The album explores themes of alienation, isolation, and technology's impact on society, reflecting Numan's fascination with science fiction and imagery.

This music has 100% stood the test of time and when you listen through this album in its entirety for the first time in a while, it just brings his level of genius home again. There’s a level of subtle, barely noticeable flange work and reverb on the Minimoog and Polymoog keyboards throughout this album which just adds a whole new dimension to the spaciness of the music for its time.

Something that impacts us as a children has a habit of sticking with us throughout our lives. This album and artist is the prime example of that theory in action for me. That’s how I feel about this guy’s music.

I will never stop appreciating this man’s songwriting, synth chord progressions and unique voice, he is still an absolutely ground-breaking recording artist at 65, there’s not many left who can hold a title like that.



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THE VERVE – Urban Hymns – Album Review

THE VERVE - Urban Hymns - Album Review

What can you possibly say about one of the finest collections of beautifully written and produced songs ever laid to record?

One quick review like this could not possibly do such a masterpiece justice.

As opening tracks go, "Bitter Sweet Symphony" ranks up there as one of the heaviest hitters in music history. At its very core this track is a masterpiece of orchestration and raw emotion. The beautiful, sweeping, high octave string arrangement in the background, which was sampled from an orchestral recording of The Rolling Stones "The Last Time" creates a stunning backdrop for Richard Ashcroft's introspective lyrics. This song is the definition of 'iconic'

Following on then immediately with the hauntingly beautiful ballad "Sonnet" for me, captures the very essence of The Verve's musical diversity and emotional depth.

Dropping 2 such heavyweight and emotional openers is always going to be a tough act to follow and track 3 of many albums can suffer as a result. "The Rolling People" takes up the challenge with gusto, by bursting into the room and throwing a bucket of cold water over your face. This track features some seriously edgy guitar hooks.

You get a sense that the running order was something which figured heavily in the latter planning stages prior to this album's release.

There are so many underrated and possibly overlooked songs on this record. Many people in our current low attention span / quick fix / TikTok generation will flick through to the popular mainstream hitters on an album and miss it's entire story. The flow and structure on Urban Hymns, for me, is its pièce de résistance.

It’s the entire story that this album tells around it's big, most popular songs that are equally as important as those anthems.

The spiritually uplifting masterpiece "Weeping Willow" has a wonderful, subtle depth that easily ranks it up there with every other track, while "Neon Wilderness" has the feel of a beautiful, psychedelic Morrisonesque dream.

"Space And Time" is a very high ranked track by many die hard fans and features the dreamy guitar work by Nick McCabe.

Yes there are big mainstream hits which have the potential to tear off your head, but I believe it's the subtle tracks in between that create the entire package. Not one track overpowers the rest on this album, which is in itself a rare quality.

The stunning Fender Rhodes led ‘One Day’ is such a beautiful and subtle interlude, and a breath catcher as you scrape yourself off the ceiling after being hit with ultimate in thought provoking masterpieces which i speak of next.

"Lucky Man" Is one of those songs which has the power to bring you to your knees, or lift your soul to new heights at the time when you most need some life affirmation. Lyrics like these resonate with so many listeners on a deeply personal level. This is why i believe that music has the capacity to evoke a broad range of different emotions, from joy and exhilaration to sadness and introspection, often stirring memories and experiences in ways that words alone cannot.

The sequence of the songs on this album took a lot of careful consideration. The parting shot of "Come On" features the gritty backing vocals of Liam Gallagher and could not have been better placed to leave you with the perfect summary of what these guys were all about.

The work of Chris Potter on the production of "Urban Hymns" is on a completely different scale to anything else of its genre and time, the layering and his acute ear during the mixdown of levels is just sublime. Subsequently Potter went on to win a Brit Award for his production on this masterpiece, there was nothing even remotely close in 1997’s nominations.

This album continues to grow on me more and more as I have grown myself as a person, and discovered more about the many levels it takes to create a true band, and indeed a proper album journey. All the ingredients required very rarely ever gel to create a band such as The Verve.

Records like this only come along a few times in a lifetime. I believe that the world of music owes Richard Ashcroft a huge debt of gratitude for his contributions over the years.

Without shadow of doubt, In the top 5 albums of the 90’s.



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JOHNNY CASH – At Folsom Prison – Album Review

JOHNNY CASH - At Folsom Prison - Album Review

I’ve been a fan of Johnny Cash, bless his soul, from I was old enough to process and arrange sounds in my little brain.

Growing up in our household we were blessed with an endless supply of folk music and country greats. Singers like Glen Campbell, Simon & Garfunkel, Charley Pride, Tammy Wynette and the main man Cash were always on rotation either on vinyl, cassette or the big 8 track tapes that were slotted into the dashboard of the family car.

My love of Cash will never fade as I associate his voice with so many good memories.

On Jan 13th 1968 Johnny Cash and his band walked through the gates of Folsom prison.

The record is so electrically charged, right from the off that I still find it almost impossible to skip through. The screams of excited inmates, completely blown away by the fact that they are being allowed this unheard of privilege is so energising and just creates such a feel good factor.

To kick the concert off with ‘Folsom Prison Blues’ and hear the crowd immediately erupt sends goosebumps all over me, every single time I hear it. There’s just so many beautiful songs on this album that never fail to bring a tear to my eye.

The final song on the recording is written by one of Folsom’s inmates Glen Sherley. You can just imagine the extra excitement that this must have added to the concert to have their own friend’s song performed by the great Cash.

You can listen to this album in two ways. First you can marvel at the genius of Cash’s songwriting and his accurate, working class life observations.

Secondly, try detaching yourself from just listening to the music within and putting yourself inside the heads of the inmates in the crowd. Just like Andy Dufresne's co-workers enjoyed icey cold beers as they tarred the roof of the fictional Shawshank State Prison, the inmates of the real Folsom prison received a release from their confinement for an hour to enjoy Johnny Cash singing about crime, cocaine, booze, prison life and their lives on the outside that they all dreamt of during their lifetimes behind bars.

For the audio recording of this to be captured in such a way and to be released, virtually uncensored is completely mind blowing to me. To be allowed that privilege in a maximum security prison was completely unheard of.

So this album says a lot to me, but the thing that resonates most is the temporary compassion shown to a room full of convicts, who lets face it were human beings like everyone else.

Totally spellbinding album that I love dearly.



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PRIMAL SCREAM – Screamadelica – Album Review

PRIMAL SCREAM - Screamadelica - Album Review

1991 ranks up there as one of the maddest years in my 90's campaign of debauchery.

This album sums up so much about the friendship, unity and after-party culture of a period in time that remains my most precious. The rave scene was starting to properly explode, rival football terraces were, for some unknown reason, liking each other, dance-floor bigotry was taking a sabbatical…and everything in the world was just beautifully coloured and perfectly euphoric…until Tuesdays.

Screamadelica was the benchmark wind down and take the edge off album for me and my mates. Someone who has never rode the back of a 3 day post rave gathering may overlook the journey that this collection of music takes you on, and see it purely on it’s face value of song after song - not moi.

There are hidden depths in these songs that only dogs and ravers can hear.

Our dearly departed hero of electronica, Andrew Weatherall was the key figure in the production of this album and it just (pardon the pun) ‘screams’ The Guv’Nor and his beautifully low slung, analogue Balearic mastery. The tracks seamlessly blend through genres, creating a sound that totally encapsulates a unique time in music history.

At a whopping 10 minutes and 19 seconds, ‘Come Together’ goes on, and on, and on, and on, and builds to a level of locked in, hypnotic euphoria that goes beyond anything i’ve ever heard since. To then follow a track like that with ‘Loaded’ has the power to completely peel open the top of your head if heard under the right circumstances.

This album has everything i could ever require in a body of music, highs, lows, twists & turns, funk, depth and utter charm.

Every now and again i believe that anyone who was a Primal Scream fan back in the 90’s and is still in reasonable control of their main faculties, should take a little refresher course in this me, it will do wonders for your heart and soul.

This album is as close to out and out perfection as you will ever get. I actually found myself getting quite emotional wording this particular review and listening (again) whilst writing.

I would urge you to take some time at your earliest opportunity and reacquaint yourself with this beautiful indie masterpiece.



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air moon safari album cover

AIR – Moon Safari – Album Review

AIR - Moon Safari - Album Review

25 years on from this album arrived and I’m still shocked when i speak to people who aren't unaware of French band Air.

Their popularity over the past two and a half decades still continues to grow, year on year and this ultimate in debut albums, Moon Safari continues to be a consistent worldwide seller for the duo, and rightly so.

If you asked me to compare Air to another act for descriptive purposes, I would struggle as their sound is very unique. Some of the music they create has an air of, dare I say it - cheesy cool, if such a thing exists.

I remember receiving a few first edition vinyl copies of this album into stock back in my old shop Mixmaster Records when it came out in 1998. My colleagues at the time Roddy, Gavin and myself were very taken by the freshness of this new music and how it sounded like absolutely nothing else out there at the time. I recall the record being on shop rotation for weeks and it being discussed on a daily basis when a fresh set of ears would come into the shop.

For us guys in the shop, who were used to the harder sides of dance music in the shop, this was like a breath of fresh air from the gods themselves.

Moon Safari is a stone cold, genre creating classic, an album that crafted its own unique sound unlike anything that had come before. Call it retro futurism, electro pop-ambient, coffee table lounge music, whatever your choice this masterpiece has stood the test of time now for over 25 years. Combine their blend of futuristic synths, funky Fender Rhodes hooks with the stunning vocals of Beth Hirsch on two of the songs, "All I Need" and "You Make It Easy" and its just an all out winner in my eyes.

I was blessed to see them when they made their only Belfast appearance a few years ago and was just awestruck the entire show.

I still own this personally on vinyl and CD and still play both. This album is truly a fun, uplifting masterpiece. For anyone who may not have checked out these guys, i urge you to grab a nice glass of Rioja (or a Stella will do) and sit back and binge a few of their amazing albums.



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AC/DC – Highway To Hell – Album Review

AC/DC - Highway To Hell - Album Review

I spoke in a recent review about my beliefs of there being two Black Sabbath’s.

Without a shadow of a doubt, 100%, without question, in the same breath...there are two AC/DCs

With this powerhouse of bands, who reigns supreme though between both frontmen, Bon Scott? or Brian Johnson?

This album dropped at a time when it was still acceptable to whip children in schools, and topless women calendars were displayed on the walls of car mechanic garages across the nation. I remember both of those things vividly, with somewhat different emotions.

This album was one of my first entries into the debaucherous world of proper rock music. No band, to me anyway, has ever written hooks and chord progressions like these guys.

My brother was heavily into rock & metal back then, and every young boy looks up to their big bro. My love of the harder sides of music was something that he introduced me to and it has stuck with me throughout my entire life.

I could say Angus Young is a genius but that would be a disservice to the other band members, each of whom pull together in such perfect harmony on this album. One different member could have made a colossal difference to how these guys click.

AC/DC are still a band that I listen to when I need to psych myself up, get a little bit of instant attitude, or just put some shit into perspective, which Is a hell of lot.

I have many many favourite tracks spread over many of their LPs but album wise Highway To Hell is in the top two for its sheer level of massive lead line hookery throughout. This album is TIGHT! on every level and I say that with immense confidence.

You will struggle to find a collection of power chords on a par with this album, anywhere! The songs, vocals, musicianship and production on here have enough energy to power a small country. "Girls Got Rhythm" is the ultimate in late night motorway driving music. "Touch To Much" is a foot stomping classic that tells the tale of a steamy night of passion, as do many of DC's songs.

People still sing along to many AC/DC songs, not actually grasping the heavyweight innuendo involved in nearly every song. Never will you hear the sexual act explained in such a subtle, artistic, and non crass way.

This record is just perfection to me.

RIP Bon Scott

RIP Malcolm Young



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MR FINGERS – Ammnesia – Album Review

MR FINGERS - Ammnesia - Album Review

Chicago’s Larry Heard is widely considered as being one of the original pioneering godfathers of house music, in its most true and organic form. 

Heard, also known as Mr Fingers, armed with nothing other than analogue gear, basic drum machines and early Roland keyboards was able to create an entirely new genre of music with these most sparse (but groundbreaking for their time) instruments. 

If you sit back and consider for a few moments when listening, that this album was released 35 years ago, you get an idea of the foresight that this guy had.   

This debut album of which I speak of “Ammnesia” was released in 1989 on legendary label Jack Trax, and then re-released in 2022 on Heard’s own label Alleviated Records  

To this day, this record is a marvel of electronic music that I keep coming back to when I need a reference point, or to offer an example to some of the younger generation of DJ’s of where it all originated from. 

One could confidently surmise that Heard probably wasn’t aware at the time, just how much of an impact the opening track on this album “Can You Feel It” would have on the lifetime of DJs and producers who would follow. This track is just utter perfection and the perfect example of what house music should be. Hypnotic groove, Juno 2 bassline, warm atmospherics and percussion that compliments each subtle chord structure perfectly. 

There was no need for thousands of fancy software plugins here, no multitude of effects units to polish any rough edges. Just raw, unblemished use of the limited resources that were available to a producer like Heard in the late 80’s. 

Following up then with the analogue bleep mastery of “Washing Machine” and its heavily delayed sequencing, packed another huge punch on the early stages of this album. It almost feels on this track like Heard was finding his feet with some of the gear he was using. The tracks would have been recorded live with the basic effects and delays being recorded onto tape, without the aid of the production software that now makes our lives so much easier. 

“Stars” is a sublime track with a gentle, futuristic arpeggiated keyboard hook throughout its entirity and a kick ass disco bassline that perfectly compliments the warm and uplifting stabs. This track would be one of my own personal favourite moments in the album.

The title track on the LP “Ammnesia” uses a similar Juno bassline to the one used in “Can You Feel It” and relies heavily on the use of pounding snare sounds, constant ride cymbal throughout and a proper locked in groove. 

This album has been the benchmark for so many producers down the decades, from the ideas within, to the countless samples that have been robbed from it by modern producers to facilitate new tracks, to just the subtle level of genius within. 

All in all, this album means so much to me. A snapshot of the era when it was conceived, the sparse use of limited equipment, and most importantly, the musical LP debut of a visionary human in an industry that I cherish very dearly. 



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