Tuesday, July 29, 2014

My All Time Favorite Rock Albums

I just watched a great documentary on the history of the rock band AC/DC. In it, the makers of the film were asserting - among other things - that Back In Black is one of the best rock albums ever made.

I cannot disagree. In fact, I whole heartily agree! I remember one day back in an ancient time called the 1980s, I was in high school talking music with an acquaintance of mine before class started and this guy - who was a very non-rock Goth type - said to me that Back In Black was a "must have" album for anyone, regardless of what type of music they liked. I'd heard Back in Black the song...along with Shook Me All Night Long. But, based on this dude's strong and seemingly against-type recommendation, I invested in the full Back In Black Album. Glad I did.

Not much longer, I had another friend who was deep into AC/DC and through him I heard all their albums as we cruised the suburban streets of Bellevue, WA...on the way to or escaping from any number of teenage escapades.

Anyway, I love me some AC/DC and by all means Back In Black is an all-time best album.

And that got me thinking, what other rock music do I own that I think is absolutely seminal, must have, go-to-my-grave great?

Well, below is my list. In no ranked order, these are albums that I personally find to be the very best from my years on Earth and appealing to my taste.

Call it my own personal "desert island disc" list if you want. Any way you slice it, these are are my very favorites full albums because - for me - they deliver the goods across an entire set. Sure, there are other singles or compilations that I love along with these, not to mention other albums that I like and listen to a lot, but in sticking with the inspiration of Back In Black, these are my favorite full albums:

  • Back In Black - AC/DC
  • London Calling - The Clash
  • The Holy Bible - Manic Street Preachers
  • Endless Summer - The Beach Boys (a compilation...but a huge, impressive and defining one)
  • Revolver - The Beatles
  • Rubber Soul - The Beatles
  • Howl - Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
  • Parklife - Blur
  • In Utero - Nirvana
  • Vitology - Pearl Jam
  • Euphoric Heartbreak - Glasvegas
  • Global A-Go-Go - Joe Strummer & the Mescaleros
  • Wolf's Law - The Joy Formidable
  • Mona - Mona
  • Nothing To Fear - Oingo Boingo
  • I Didn't See It Coming - The Professionals 
  • Never Mind the Bollocks - Sex Pistols
  • Album - Public Image Limited
  • Hot Rocks I and II - The Rolling Stones (again, a MAJOR compilation)
  • Sex, Drugs & Rock and Roll - Social Distortion
  • Badmotorfinger - Soundgarden
  • Built for Speed - Stray Cats
  • Snapshot - The Strypes
  • Zooropa - U2 (that's right people, Zooropa. Not all those others that everybody loves. I like those too, but I LOVE the U2 sound and approach to this one.)
  • Elgin Avenue Breakdown - The 101'ers
So there you go. See something you've never heard of? Check it out!

Monday, July 28, 2014

July 28 - 100 Years Since the Outbreak of WWI

July 28 marks the 100th anniversary of the start of World War One. This is the date when the first declaration of war happened - launching further declarations by others nations.

You can read more about it HERE, but suffice it to say that the assassination of an Austro-Hungarian prince by a Serb nationalist in June 1914 led to a declaration of war by Austria-Hugary against Serbia on July 28, 1914. This is the trigger that set off the other declarations - Russia backing Serbia by alliance, Germany backing Austria-Hungary by alliance and so forth and so on all across Europe.

By early August 1914 the fighting had started and would not stop until late 1918.

The United States didn't get into the conflict until 1917. More on why we waited and what our entry meant to the war HERE.

In 1994, I was in France and went to a battlefield were the US Marines fought the Germans in a famous battle toward the end of the war. The pace is called Belleau Wood. We won.

On this anniversary, I thought I'd post some pictures I took when there.

Immediately below is a historic drawing of the battle. Below that are pictures I took during my visit.

Remnants of a German Trench at Belleau Wood Battlefield, (C) Marc Osborn
WWI Artillery at the Belleau Wood Battlefield, (C) Marc Osborn
Memorial at Belleau Wood American Cemetery, (C) Marc Osborn

NOTE: Copyright for all photographs in this post is owned by Marc Osborn. No use of any of these pictures for any purpose is permitted without the prior written permission of Marc Osborn.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Backroads Uses One Of My Pictures

The Backroads travel company has used one of my pictures to illustrate their Big Sur bike tour.

(C) Marc Osborn
Last summer, my wife and I took the trip with another couple we are friends with. Starting in Monterey and biking day-by-day down the coast to Santa Barbara. I can tell you it was beautiful, challenging and very enjoyable.

Anyway, after making a significant climb up from a bridge, I pulled off to wait for our group and took a shot looking back from where we had come from. See picture below.

This is the shot Backroads is currently using on their Web site to help illustrate the Big Sur trip.

You can see that page HERE and below. My picture is one of several in a "carousel" of images that flip through as you read info about the trip.

Once on the site, you can use arrows on either side of the picture window to advance to the next image.

Anyway, this is the most recent photo of mine to be licensed. I'm happy to have it represent Backroads and while the "reimbursement" was minimal, it is cool to have one of my shots online at a significant travel company's site.

If interested, you can check out other travel shots I've taken on my Flickr photostream.

Copyright of the photo in this post is owned by Marc Osborn. No use of this image is permitted without prior written permission from Marc Osborn.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Album Review: Futurology

Last year, one of my favorite bands, Manic Street Preachers, recorded a large number of songs  - more than would be needed for a "normal" album. In the wake of this, one plan I read they had was to release it as a massive single album with a title like 70 Songs of Hate and Failure...or something like that.

I am glad they didn't. Not because the music is bad. To the contrary, those songs turned out great.

No, singer/guitarist James Dean Bradfield, bassist/lyricist Nicky Wire and drummer Sean Moore smartly realized they had two distinct albums on their hands - musically and thematically. One is a muted, toned down reflection on becoming older put to mostly acoustic arrangements. The other is more like adventurous rock themed around the future and feelings the band experienced in many of their European travels.

Futurology-era MSP left to right: Moore, Wire, Bradfield
The former came out as Rewind the Film in late 2013. The later just came out as Futurology.

I wrote a review of Rewind the Film that you can read HERE. I loved it, for the music itself, but also for the Manics for trying something new and succeeding wonderfully.

As for Futurology, a lot has been written about it already - almost universally good. Instead of me repeating what other have said so well in analyzing the album, I'll point you to an enlightening review by the site The Quietus. They run down the album song-by-song with some excellent observations.

I will, however, give a quick thought on each tune and a rating:
The Cover of Futurology
  • Futurology ****A big, bright tune that'll have you tapping your toe and rocking along.
  • Walk Me to the Bridge *****An intense rocker about change with a big riff and lyrics.
  • Lets Go To War ****A minor key song against the damage done by the upper class with a chanty vocal and PiL-like bass line.
  • The Next Jet To Leave Moscow****Back to up tempo, melody and a propulsive beat, this one reflects on how the band's left-leaning approach has been co-opted and their own hypocrisy.
  • Europa Geht Durch Mich ***It means Europe Passes Through Me. An odd one for the Manics, but I like it! Guest vocal by a German actress.
  • Divine Youth.*** This one could have been on Rewind the Film. Slower, guest female co-vocal, more basic instrumentation in a song about youth losing its way in the modern world.
  • Sex, Power, Love and Money****A little reminiscent of the band's song Repeat from their very first album, this one chants and rocks out a message about "four small words that won't be denied."
  • Dreaming A City**An instrumental. Sounds like it could be a theme song for a cop show or something. OK, but probably not one I'll listen to much.
  • Black Square****Disembodied German voice repeats key lines from Europa Geht Durch Mich at the start, then the tune begins. The title refers to an opera and work of futurist art from the early 20th Century symbolizing the end of objects and time. The mid-paced song references the eternal "newness" of any art. 
  • Between the Clock and the Bed***The title references a piece by Edvard Munch. Guest vocal by former Scritti Politti lead singer. The song seems to be about self doubt. 
  • Misguided Missile**A meditation of the perils of self-obsession and the distractions that causes. 
  • The View From Stow Hill***A slower tune, this one appears to be talking about the relatively unknown, un-talked about violent history of a Welsh city...Newport. 
  • Mayakovsky**Another instrumental. A bit more upbeat and rocking that the other one on Futurology. Echoey, quiet voice at the very end speaks in English the key phrases of Europa Geht Durch Mich.
Must Have
These are the best songs on the album to me and show off the interesting, diverse sounds on the record:
  • Walk Me To The Bridge
  • Europa Geht Durch Mich
  • Lets Go To War
  • Black Square
  • Sex, Power, Love and Money

If You Want More
  • Futurology
  • The Next Jet To Leave Moscow
  • Divine Youth
  • Between The Clock And The Bed
Could Skip
  • A View From Stow Hill 
  • Misguided Missile 
  • Dreaming A City
  • Mayakovsky

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Thoughts On World Cup Exit By Team USA

Well, the USA lost to Belgium yesterday in the World Cup. Through most of the game, the US side endured a continual onslaught by the wicked good Belgians with goal keeper Tim Howard trading in his jersey for a Superman outfit.

In what seemed inevitable, Belgium scored a goal in overtime...then another. Our team came back to at long last get one too, but it was too little too late. 2-1 Belgium. See you in four years.

Below are a few thoughts I had following the game. Generally, I'm upbeat about the squad's performance...

A few thoughts on the USA vs. Belgium game:

  • First, to this fan at least, over the full minutes of this match, Belgium look to be the better squad. Flat out. So, while I'm sad our boys lost, losing to THAT GOOD of a team is acceptable. Belgium waffles for breakfast Wednesday?
  • Second, what would have happened against Germany, Portugal and Belgium if Altador was at full strength? Wow. I know, that's sports. But at the same time, I wonder.
  • Third, TIM HOWARD is God!
  • Fourth, DeAndre Yedlin everybody!!!!
  • Fifth, I am now fully stoked up for the rest of the MLS season
  • Last, it stinks to go out now in the World Cup, but we did really well considering and four years from now could be special.

To sooth any USA soccer fans stinging over the loss in overtime to Belgium...

Here are countries that went out of the World Cup before the USA: Italy, England, Spain and Portugal.

Hey everybody, we made if further in the tourney than these world powers. Meanwhile, sharing our pain in the ouster in the round of 16 were no less than: Chile, Uruguay, Mexico and Nigeria...all good squads.

So, guess what? We're currently somewhere between the 8th and 16th best soccer team in the world. I'd say we're closer to eight. Lets build on that and give it a push next time!!!!!