The Best Of Lee Speaks About Music
It’s been quite a year since I decided to make my new blog site back on the 17th April this year. Since then I have amassed many more albums, DVD’s & Blu Rays to add to my music collection and have had an exciting year listening and writing about them all.
In total I have amassed 49 more bits of media that have come in the shape of Digital Downloads. CD’s. DVD’s. Blu Rays and Box Sets from both mainstream and unsigned artists. No matter what media format they come in, you can be sure they all have something to say, and I very much like to speak back at them.
Many of the mainstream artists media I have purchased is very much the case of buying them again, to update my collection with the new 5.1 mixes more than anything. And for me personally that is very much a must of a thing to do, and I do not mind forking out that bit more for the quality you get on these new releases either.
But has with all media I personally would not be throwing too much money at them, and I basically like to see value for money, and certainly would not be spending ridiculous money like over £100 or more on a box set that comes with an array of extra discs, just to obtain one album with a 5.1 mix.
Those artists who do such things and do not even make the album available as an individual release with a 5.1 mix on, can kiss my arse as far I am concerned, and they are nothing but greedy money grabbers.
For example most of the new 5.1 releases I have purchased and reviewed come either with a CD and a DVD or Blu Ray and some even with 2 CD’s a DVD or Blu Ray and cost around the £12 to £20 mark. Which is great value for money. Some have also come with more discs for around the same price or slightly higher.
Just lately I noticed the Eagles had put out their 40th Anniversary release of their 1976 album Hotel California which comes with 2 CD’s and a DVD. Yet they are charging £85 for it. How on earth can anybody see that as value for money. It’s nothing but pure greed and no way would I buy it. I am sorry to say but at that price it’s way over the odds and is simply a case of “Welcome to the hotel cant’ afford ya” :)))))))))).
I thought I would use this last blog of the year to give some credit to the best purchases I made in 2017 and put them into a few categories to show why they merited an award so to speak. I am going to start it off with the best package and box set of the year. So here goes…
The Best Box Set Package Of The Year…
The 40th Anniversary Box Set of Jethro Tull’s classic 1977 album Songs From The Wood wins this award with ease. I pre-ordered this on Amazon and to even think you could get an hardbound 96 page book that contains 3 CD’s and 2 DVD’s for the sum of £19.19 it’s got to be the bargain of the century.
You would be dead lucky to get it at this price now and right now on Amazon it’s priced up at £58.32 here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Songs-Wood-Country-40th-Anniversary/dp/B06XZWT72V/ref=sr_1_1_twi_aud_1?s=music&ie=UTF8&qid=1513005721&sr=1-1&keywords=jethro+tull+songs+from+the+wood+40th+anniversary+edition+box+set
But I dare say prices will fluctuate up and down on Amazon. But if you shop around a bit, I would expect that you could still obtain it cheaper. But perhaps not as cheap as I got it.
It always pays to pre-order new releases before they are released if you want the best price. If I remember rightly when I first ordered this box set it was priced at £35. But with most pre-orders the price does drop down a lot by the time it gets released as in this case.
Speaking of such a thing I have on the 11th of this month just pre-ordered the 40th Anniversary of Jethro Tull’s Heavy Horses which once again comes in an hardbound book, 3 CD’s and 2 DVD’s. On Amazon it’s currently priced up at £32.08 but like all pre-orders that price will come down by the time it does get released which will be on the 9th February 2018 in this case.
The other good thing about Amazon is the fact that when you pre-order anything from them. They do not take your money from your bank until they have dispatched the item. In general they take your money during the week it’s about to be released or even a day or two before the release date when they dispatch it.
So it does allow you time to save up for the item and you can always cancel the item before it’s dispatched should you not be able to afford it that week.
The 40th Anniversary Edition of Songs From The Wood is a superb quality made package. It’s a lot better quality than how any hardbound book has been made with its construction.
Personally I think all artists should follow suit when presenting their Anniversary Editions instead of using cheap cardboard wallets to house the discs in like you get with many box sets that cost well over £100.
Quite frankly this box set puts the Eagles 40th Anniversary Edition of Hotel California to shame, and it was sold at a quarter of the price of that thing. They really are ripping you off I am afraid.
You can find my full detailed review of the 40th Anniversary Box Set of Jethro Tull’s Songs From The Wood here: https://leespeaksoutaboutmusic.wordpress.com/2017/06/05/lee-speaks-about-music-6/
The Best Mainstream Artist Album Of The Year…
To be honest I have not brought that many new studio albums that was released in 2017 by mainstream artists at all. I tend to spend my money on newer releases of the albums I already have for the 5.1 mixes or on a lot more older albums from the 70’s I never had back then, and have now got into sort of thing.
Out of all my reviews here, I am pretty sure that only 3 of the mainstream artist’s studio albums I brought were released this year. They were The Source by Ayreon. We Are Legend by Magenta and Is This The Life We Really Want by Roger Waters.
I decided to give the award to Roger Waters in the end. Basically because it was great to see a new rock album from him since he last done one 25 years ago, and he still managed to make a very good album that is certainly consistent and familiar with his previous works.
I felt that the new Magenta album was good, but I also felt it was a bit to close to some other bands influences on that score. I was not fond of some of the more modern samples you hear in today’s pop music either.
As for Ayreon’s double album. That would of won the award, had it have not been let down by the material that was written for the 2nd Disc of the album.
I certainly would say that the opening track on the 1st Disc entitled “The Day That the World Breaks Down” was the best Progressive Rock track of the year by far. I would also say that the packaging the album came in was of the highest quality as well. It really was a splendid well made package.
But for me it was a pleasant surprise to see a new album by Roger Waters. The fact that he can still churn out great albums in his particular style and his so consistent at doing so. Is why he merits this ward.
You can find my full detailed review of Is This The Life We Really Want by Roger Waters here: https://leespeaksoutaboutmusic.wordpress.com/2017/06/08/lee-speaks-about-music-7/
The Best Unsigned Artist Album Of The Year…
I have to confess that all the unsigned artists I have brought and reviewed this year have done an extremely talented job on all the albums and EP’s they have released and produced. In total I purchased 19 albums done by 12 different bands and individual artists.
It also left me with a very difficult choice to pick the album I have merited with the award here, especially has the album Dans Dwaas by Bas Kooman is very much a pop album and not that of my fave of genres of progressive rock.
But for me personally music no matter what shape or form it comes in, if done well in the first place will speak to me, and every album I brought here must of spoke to me to buy them in the first place.
Dans Dwaas by Bas Kooman is a very well produced album and one where Bas has called upon some excellent musicians to lend an hand in making it all happen. His style of music is very much like that of Sting’s and just like him he can skilfully craft out great pop songs that have other elements of jazz and blues thrown in for good measure.
Considering this is an album that Bas sings in his own native language of Dutch and many will not even understand what on earth he’s singing about. It takes nothing away from the pleasure of listening to it, and it’s also an highly addictive album that will have you simply coming back for more spins. This is why it merits this award.
You can find my full detailed review of Dans Dwaas by Bas Kooman here: https://leespeaksoutaboutmusic.wordpress.com/2017/04/26/lee-speaks-about-music-2/
The Best Unsigned Artist Concept Album Of The Year…
Well I do like a good concept album every now and then, and surprisingly there is 4 of the unsigned artists albums I brought and reviewed this year that I had to choose from, that had some kind of a concept to them.
But 2 of them were real concept albums in the way that they was written that way in the first place and had a complete story to tell. Those 2 were The Fall Of The House Of Usher by Gordon Midgley which was based around one of Edgar Alan Poe’s short stories. The other was a children’s story with a bit of humour thrown in, and was Tope’s Sphere by Orange Clocks.
The other 2 concept albums were the Tales of Auld Reekie by Dancing With Ghosts which contained a selection of fine haunting folk songs based around the history of Edinburgh in Scotland. And the other was a loosely based musical concept album entitled Marathon by Dunlooser. Which was musically based around the war between the Persians and Greeks and ancient Greek Mythology.
To be honest all 4 albums are extremely well crafted and immensely enjoyable to listen too. But what the 7 piece band from Northamptonshire came up with who go by the name of Orange Clocks did, was quite an amazing concept in the way that it was just as exciting as what Jeff Wayne’s War Of The Worlds was to some extent. Even if it was based on a spoof about a kiddies glove puppet destined for a television series that was to be released in Germany in 1973.
Tope’s Sphere by Orange Clocks is quite an amazing piece of work and is an highly addictive album. To even think that the band (to which they very much are) performing the album live in it’s entirety is something else. It took Jeff Wayne decades to bring War Of The Worlds to the stage and here are these guys performing it straight after they made it early this year. This is why it merits the best concept album of the year award.
You can find my full detailed review of Tope’s Sphere by Orange Clocks here: https://leespeaksoutaboutmusic.wordpress.com/2017/12/01/lee-speaks-about-music-45/
The Best New Unsigned Artist/Band Of The Year…
Over this year I stumbled across 4 newcomers in the way of them being unsigned artists who very much impressed me a lot. 3 of them are actual bands and the other being a guy who sits at home making music in his spare time, when he gets some. They are the German band Sproingg. The Northampton band Orange Clocks. The band from Los Angeles Mammoth and a Liverpudlian who lives in New Zealand who goes under the name of The Bob Lazar Story.
I can tell you now that all 4 of them made highly addictive albums that rock my boat 100%. Two of the bands have only made their debut albums this year. Whereas Mammoth have made several just like the Liverpudlian who lives in New Zealand has made 3 albums and 3 EP’s. The fact that he has been so consistent with every release more or less is why The Bob Lazer Story merits this award.
The man behind The Bob Lazar Story, Matt Deacon comes armed with a Mouse to construct the music on his computer. Mainly the keyboard parts, and then plays his guitars along to it and brings in other great musicians to play the bass and drums.
To be perfectly honest it’s perhaps not the way I like to see music being made, and I do myself prefer real musicians and instruments across the board just like the other 3 bands I mentioned here have done. But this is highly sophisticated music Matt is creating here and he is without a doubt a great guitarist with a great mind too.
The music of The Bob Lazar Story is that addictive. I simply had to buy it all. I chose to feature his 3rd EP Self Loathing Joe here simply because I rather think it makes an excellent starting point to get into the great music he creates.
You can find my full detailed review of Self Loathing Joe by The Bob Lazar Story here: https://leespeaksoutaboutmusic.wordpress.com/2017/10/10/lee-speaks-about-music-34/
The Best 5.1 Mix Of The Year…
Well it was not released this year and I only decided to buy this album again this year. But never the less this Definitive Edition release that comes with a CD & Blu Ray of one of the best progressive rock albums of all time Close To The Edge by Yes is purely a stunning new mix. I could honestly throw my vinyl album from the 70’s in the bin and be happy with this release that’s for sure.
I think Steve Wilson done a grand job with the mixes of all 5 of the Yes albums that got released in the Definitive Series. But how he mixed this particular album in 5.1 was breathtaking, especially the middle section of the albums self titled song, which quite frankly blew my mind.
To be honest Steve Wilson is not my ultimate favourite 5.1 mixing engineer and over the many albums he has done 5.1 mixes for, he has without a doubt improved a lot on that score. I would even go as far as to say that Close To The Edge is the best 5.1 mix Steve Wilson has ever done on any album.
You can find my full detailed review of Close To The Edge by Yes here: https://leespeaksoutaboutmusic.wordpress.com/2017/07/01/lee-speaks-about-music-13/
Well that about wraps up this year’s awards apart from one special award I feel deserves to be here for its sheer beauty. And this award goes to an album I did finally buy this year and it was released some 5 years ago in 2012. For me it is without doubt a very special album and up there with the very best.
The Special Album Of The Year…
Chris Fry is very much a very talented versatile guitar player and more known for his guitar work with the neo prog rock band Magenta. I have been into Magenta for a good few years now and have all their albums. It was at the beginning of this year I finally stumbled upon his solo album Composed on Magenta’s website where I buy all my albums from the band, because they are always cheaper to buy from there.
For example the physical CD of Composed cost me £8 and that price even included the postage & packaging here in the UK. It’s peanuts compared to the beauty this album actually beholds. It’s an album that gives me tremendous pleasure listening to every now and then and will last me a lifetime.
It was down to the fact that at the time I started my new blog site of Lee Speaks About Music. I knew there was a new Magenta album coming out and I had pre-ordered it. So has I knew I would be reviewing that album, I very much decided to drag this one out and do a review of it just before.
The album Composed by Chris Fry is a solid body of work. It’s an album I would personally rate a lot better than some of Magenta’s albums. It’s pure Gold and that’s is why it merits this special award.
You can find my full detailed review of Composed by Chris Fry here: https://leespeaksoutaboutmusic.wordpress.com/2017/05/03/lee-speaks-about-music-4/
Now that really is it for the end of the year and I am looking forward to see what goodies will be coming out in 2018. I already have a couple of goodies on pre-order on Amazon which will be coming out towards the end of January and into February. and will be looking forward to reviewing those in the new year with plenty of others.
In many ways I would love to dig out some of the older albums to review I brought before starting this blog, but the fact is that I am forever buying music media every month, and the time it takes up to write a review, makes it practically impossible to do so.
For all those who never merited an end of year award or never got mentioned here. I can assure you that you all done a superb job and provided me with countless hours of listening pleasure.
I am not the sort of person who will buy an album just to review it. I buy albums because I genuinely like them, and in no way would I buy an album for sympathy or something that does not appeal to my personal taste.
Music to me is something I love a lot and love to listen too, and I can assure you, I am not the kind of person who will buy an album just to let it gather dust by not wanting to play it every now and then. The music has to speak to me to buy it in the first place.
I have already turned down a couple of unsigned artists this year who had seen my blog site and emailed me asking if I would review their albums. Having given them a quick listen, it was a case of having to I am afraid.
I do not have anything personal against anybody. But if I was to review those albums I honestly think they would not of been pleased with my review. Because basically when it comes to speaking about music I am honest and will speak my mind.
The music I buy and choose to review has to come from myself and be something that appeals to my taste has I have already stated. And all my reviews are based on my own personal opinion and nobody else’s on that score. Every one of us has different tastes and will see different things in other peoples music.
Finally I would like to thank everybody who has taken an interest in my blog site and wish you all a happy and creative new year.
Music was my first love and it will be my last. Music of the future and music of the past…
The immortal words of John Miles….