Posts Tagged Counter Culture

Cover Versions: Metallica – Whiskey In The Jar  

COVER VERSIONS.  Some you love & some you hate.  Many of us could probably name plenty of cover versions that have completely ruined a great, if not iconic, song.  But this isn’t about songs that have been ruined – although that might be the subject for one or two Counter Culture reviews sometime in the near future!  On the contrary, this is about a cover version that, in my honest and humble opinion, is better than the original.  

To my mind, one of the best cover versions ever has got to be Metallica’s reworking of the Thin Lizzy classic, Whiskey In The Jar.  And one of the best live performances of it is this from the House of Vans, in London from 18th November 2016.  

Metallica performing in 2017. Picture from: Kreepin Deth, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Before we start to look at Metallica’s masterful version of this classic, it’ll probably be useful to provide a little background information about the song itself.  As some folks may know, Whiskey In The Jar is a traditional Irish song, thought to have been written in the 17th century.  The song itself is set in the southern mountains of Ireland – there are specific mentions of the Cork & Kerry mountains – and tells the tale of a highwayman who is betrayed by his wife or lover.  

The Dubliners, an Irish folk band, were probably the first group to really make the song popular.  Indeed, they included it on at least two albums – More of the Hard Stuff & Live at the Albert Hall– during the 1960s.   

Whiskey In The Jar has been covered by everyone from The Seekers to Bryan Adams.  However, the first version I ever heard was by the Dublin-based rock band Thin Lizzy who really brought it to prominence to my generation when their record company – Decca– released it in November 1972  

I have a very eclectic taste in music – and art in general – but have been into heavy metal & rock since my early teens.  My memory’s not as sharp as it was, but I’ve a vague notion that I’d seen Lizzy performingWhiskey In The Jar on TV.  I presume that this would’ve been on Top Of The Popswhich in those days was essential viewing for anyone interested in music.

Like most people, I was instantly hooked on the song – especially by the crisp & intricate introduction played by Belfast-born lead guitarist, Eric Bell.  Hopefully, this clip from 1973 will illustrate his musical prowess.

(Bell was one-third of Lizzy.  The other two were Brian Downey on drums & probably the most famous of all, Phil Lynott, who was the main songwriter, lead vocalist, and bassist.)  

Years later Bell showed that he’d lost none of his skill when he appeared with Gary Moore– a songwriter & former guitarist with Thin Lizzy.  Billed as Gary Moore and Friends: One Night in Dublin – A Tribute to Phil Lynott one of the highlights included Bell playing on this version of Whiskey In The Jar. 

Now that we’ve got what amounts to the history of Whiskey In The Jar out of the way, it’s time to examine what makes Metallica’sversion just so perfect.  

Metallica was formed in 1981 by main songwriter, vocalist & rhythm guitarist James Hetfield& drummer Lars Ulrich.  Both featured on Whiskey In The Jar alongside along lead guitarist Kirk Hammett& bassist Jason Newsted.  (Newsted was replaced by Robert Trujillo in 2003 & other former members include Cliff Burton, Ron McGovney & Dave Mustaine of Megadeth fame.)  

Whiskey In The Jar was actually the 21st single released by Metallica and featured on their 1998 covers album Garage Inc. The idea behind the album was to feature songs by artists that have influenced the band.  In addition to Thin Lizzy, it features covers of tracks from the likes of Black Sabbath, Blue Oyster Cult & Lynyrd Skynyrd.  

So what makes Metallica’s version of Whiskey In The Jar just so perfect?  

For me it’s the way that they’ve taken a classic track, put their distinctive stamp on it, and made it even better than it was before.  For those into heavy music, there’s no getting away from the fact that Lizzy is most usually associated with Whiskey In The Jar – and rightly so.  However, there’s no mistaking that this version has Metallica written all over it.  

Earlier I mentioned that the introduction to Thin Lizzy’s Whiskey In The Jar had me & many others instantly hooked.  The same could be said of Metallica’sversion – although both versions are completely different!  Indeed, Metallica did away completely with Lizzy’s‘crisp & intricate’ intro & dive straight into the song itself.  

Despite the lack of a distinctive – almost iconic – intro, as soon as I heard Metallica open the song with a thumping ‘dun, dun, dun’ I was captivated.  I’ve absolutely loved their version from the very first time I heard it.  Every time I hear it, I find myself both headbanging – although, due to old age, it’s more of a slightly vigorous nod these days – and wishing that I could play any sort of instrument.  (Singing would be an extra bonus, but I gave up on that one years ago.)  

One of the things I love about Metallica’s version is that it’s just so powerful.  I’m wondering if that’s simply because they’re a much heavier band than Lizzywere – or is there something else to it?  To me, the combined & unrelenting beat created by Robert Trujillo on bass & Lars Ulrich on drums gives it the edge.  I also think James Hetfield has an earthier – maybe even more passionate – voice than Phil Lynott had.  Hetfield’s voice is very distinctive & is well suited to the song.  

Another thing I really like about the Metallica version can be seen at the gig that was mentioned earlier –  Here, I absolutely love Hetfield’s guitar solo (starting at around 2.55) which is completely different from the Lizzy original & his later interaction with the crowd who are clapping and chanting along with him.  

For me, therefore, Metallica have made Whiskey In The Jar their own and their version is simply by far the better version.  

Reviewed by John Field   

O  CHECK OUT the lyrics to Whiskey In The Jar here. 

O  COUNTER CULTURE would really be interested to hear the views of our readers relating to the Thin Lizzy v. Metallica versions of Whiskey In The Jar.  We’d also be interested to know what you think about cover versions in general.  Are there any that improve on the original – and are there any that absolutely butcher the original?  

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Counter Culture Debate : Dolores O’Riordan

Dolores O’Riordan: was she right?

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Nine Below Zero – Live At The Marquee 

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Nine Below Zero in action.  From left to right: Peter ‘Pete’ Clark (Bass), Kenny Bradley (Drums), Dennis Greaves (lead vocals & guitar) and Mark Feltham (vocals & harmonica).

IN THE PAST I’ve provided a few random reviews for Counter Culture.  However, it’s always been my intention (and ambition) to review as many of my own books, CDs & DVDs as is possible.  Now that I’ve got a bit of time on my hands – and I’m still looking down at the daisies as opposed to looking up at them! – I thought that now’s a good as time as any to start.  So, in the words of the Ramones, Hey Ho, Let’s Go!

With the above in mind, I thought that I’d kick off with Nine Below Zero’s brilliant CD Live At The Marquee.   

I first heard about Nine Below Zero from a friend from East London many, many years ago, probably in the early to mid 80s.  He highly recommended both the band and their live CD.  I’ve listened to it lots of times over the years and have always thought that it was probably one of the best live albums I’ve ever heard; not only does it convey the music but also seems to capture the shear energy of a live gig.  

I must admit that (at the time) I’d never heard of the band.  However, my friend had been over to South London a couple of times to see them.  He’d described how frenetic they were – effectively a Blues band that performed with the speed & energy of a Punk band.  Therefore, I’d a rough idea of what to expect on the live album.  But having an idea of what to expect & listening to the real deal are two different things.  Suffice to say that I was blown away by the CD itself.

I’ll leave the actual review of Live At The Marquee until another time.  However, I thought that it might be helpful to provide a little background information about the band themselves.   

Nine Below Zero started off life as Stan’s Blues Band in 1977 and consisted of four South London lads who found inspiration in the Rhythm and Blues.  Led by Dennis Greaves (lead vocals & guitar) the band included his schoolmates Mark Feltham (vocals & harmonica), Peter ‘Pete’ Clark (Bass) and Kenny Bradley (Drums).

Graves was obsessed by the Blues.  But to form a R&B band in the late 70s was a bold, almost reckless, move.  This was the time when Punk was exploding, and had literally blown other music genres – like R&B and Progessive Rock – out of the water.  (I think I’m right in saying that Dr. Feelgood were probably the only well-known British R&B band at the time. They’d formed in 1971 and hailed from Canvey Island in Essex and were known for their driving R&B which had made them one of the most popular bands on the growing London pub rock circuit.)

Despite the seemingly unstoppable rise of Punk, the sharply dressed Stan’s Blues Band played in local South London pubs like the Apples and Pears, the Clockhouse, the Green Man and the Thomas ‘A’ Becket.  Playing six to seven nights a week they built up a loyal following.  Like Dr. Feelgood they went hell for leather and played at a frenetic pace.  Mixing original songs with covers at their gigs, they were soon playing all over London.

Stan’s Blues Band changed their name to Nine Below Zero (they were named after a song by Sonny Boy Williamson II) on the advice of former musician Mickey Modern.  He’d seen them play at the Thomas ‘A’ Becket (in the Old Kent Road, Southwark, South London) in 1979 and was so impressed that he offered to manage them.

In a bold – but completely justifiable – move, Modern decided that Nine Below Zero’s first album would be a live one.  And so with just one change of personal (Micky Burkey for Kenny Bradley on Drums) Live At The Marquee was released in 1980.  

The album was recorded at the well-known music venue, the Marquee Club (in Wardour Street, West London) on Wednesday 16th & Thursday 17th July and was billed as a live recording.  The admission fee was £2 with a reduced rate available for students & Marquee Club members.

Apparently, it’d been an ambition of Dennis Greaves and the rest of the band to play at the Marquee – even in the capacity of a support band  Therefore, to appear as the headline act & record your first (live) album must have been out of this world.  Prior to this gig, Nine Below Zero were well known as an brilliant high energy act.  However, I’m wondering if their desire to play at the Marquee spurred them on to go the extra mile and produce such an electric album?

I feel that the CDs sleeve notes excellently conveys something of gig itself:

‘Fourteen high octane R&B monsters – including three Greaves originals Straighten Her Out, Stop Your Nagging and Watch Yourself – merged Chicago chops and cockney charm in a ferocious homebrew of adrenalin which never once seemed out of step alongside the ten regular live favourites: the aforementioned Freddie King’s Tore Down, Otis Rush’s Home Work and J Geil’s version of Pack Fair and Square line up with the John Mayall and Paul Butterfield collaboration, Ridin’ On The L&N, Lloyd Price’s Hootchie Cootchie Coo, Sam the Sham’s Wooly Bully, Muddy Waters’ Mojo Working, and Rush’s I Can’t Quit You Baby, plus Motown stalwart’s The Four Tops’, Can’t Help Myself and Marvin Gaye’s Can I Get A Witness, are all nailed down before the band signs off with their instrumental wig-out, Swing Job.’

(With the sleeve notes in mind, they were printed on thick glossy card which served as part CD sleeve cover, part poster & part information sheet about the band.)

To celebrate their 40th anniversary, Nine Below Zero released a new album in October 2019.  Unlike a lot of anniversary releases which tend to be ‘The Best Of’ albums, Avalanche refreshingly featured 12 brand new original songs.

In addition to their anniversary CD, they’d kicked off a new tour in Belfast, with many further dates set.  However, as we all now know, the world effectively stopped spinning when Covid-19 reared its ugly head.  Therefore, they had to cancel all of their gigs from mid-March onwards.  According to the band’s web-site – https://www.ninebelowzero.com – their next scheduled gig is early September in Fleet, Hampshire. Here’s hoping!

Hopefully this brief potted history of Nine Below Zero has provided readers with some insight into the band.  Now the only thing to do is to review the album itself. However, as mentioned earlier (and to absolutely cement my Counter Culture reputation as the slowest reviewer in the world!) this’ll appear in the next thrilling instalment.

Reviewed by John Field 

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Costa Blanca News

costa-blanca-news-1

Costa Blanca News. Serving the English speaking community in Spain for over 40 years.

Costa Blanca News

Costa Blanca News
TOWARDS the end of last year some of my extended family and I spent a fortnight near Allicante on the Costa Blanca. The Costa Blanca – the ‘White Coast’ – itself covers around 120 miles of beautiful Mediterranean coastline in South East Spain. It runs from from Dénia in the north to Pilar de la Horadada in the South. It’s known as Spain’s most popular year-round holiday area.

According to one popular English language web-site (1) the Costa Blanca runs “along the province of Alicante, it can be divided into two clearly distinct areas of scenery: to the North, a curtain of mountains running closely parallel to the sea, dropping away to form sheer cliffs and secluded pebble coves: to the South, a vast plain of sands, dunes, palm groves and saltpans make up a backdrop for the beaches.”

One day, and out of the blue, we decided to visit Benidorm – sometimes called the ‘Manhattan of Spain’ because of its skyline – which was about 20 odd miles away from where we were staying. As noted in an earlier review (2) of the well-known holiday resort, “I’d heard a lot about this popular holiday resort – good, bad and indifferent – and I wanted to see what it was like first hand.” However, I was disappointed with Benidorm. For me, it had “just about enough to remind us that we were in Spain.”

However, one bright spot was the number of English language papers available. I get myself into a bit of a routine when it comes to picking up local papers. As I noted sometime ago, it doesn’t matter “where the paper is from – anywhere in the English speaking world does me just fine.” (2)

Allicante, Anti-PC, Battles, Benidorm, British, Buildings, Capitalism, Castles, CB Live, Celebrations, Charities, Clubs, Costa Blanca, Costa Blanca News, Counter Culture, Cultures, Customs, Danish, Darkness, Dénia, Albert Einstein, English, Enlightenment, Exploitation, Finestrat, Governments, Gig Guide, Globalism, Harmonious, Heritage, History, Indigenous, It's All In Your Mind, Jihadis, L'Alfàs del Pi, Leftist, Liberal, Lies, Loose Women, Los Alcázares, Losing You, Rosa Luxemburg, Manhattan, Manipulation, Market Days, Karl Marx, Med TV Guide, Mediterranean, Mod/Punk, Moors and Christians Festivals, Multicultural, Oppression, Parades, Pilar de la Horadada, Politically Correct, Posers, Racism, Rotherham, Sex Abuse Gangs, Spain, Spanish, Sport, Joe Strummer, Theatre, The Brit Scene, The Clash, The Jam, The Movement, The Who, Third Millennium Fascists, Traditional, Truth, Vox Pop, War, Paul Weller, What’s On, White Coast, World, Barry Wright, You Tube

A Spanish travel guide’s map of the Costa Blanca. Because of its climate it is one of Spain’s main holiday destinations.

Probably the best paper that I came across on my visit to Benidorm was the Costa Blanca News. Produced on a weekly basis it has going for over 40 years and serves “the English speaking community in Spain.” My issue covered the period 5 – 11 September 2014. At €2 for 110 pages plus a free 32 page Med TV Guide I thought that it was fantastic value.

Like all local papers, the Costa Blanca News covers a little bit of everything – and more! I was really surprised at the number of features it carried. These included The Brit Scene, Vox Pop and Loose Women. I was also particularly impressed by the dozen or so pages devoted to both Spanish and British sporting events. And although the paper seems to be predominately centred around what’s happening in Benidorm, I was pleased to note that small towns – such as L’Alfàs del Pi, Finestrat and Los Alcázares – were also featured in a news round up.

Of great interest was the What’s On guide. It consisted of nearly 30 pages and was sub-divided into several sections including an alphabetically arranged town listing section, market days, gig guide, theatre, clubs and charities.

Two features in the Costa Blanca News stood out for me – The Brit Scene by an unnamed author and CB Live by Barry Wright. The former included an anti-PC polemic whilst the second was a look at the oh-so ‘right on’ Danish mod/punk band, The Movement. Ironically, both took what appeared to be diametrically opposing views, but I enjoyed them none-the-less!

The Brit Scene’s first two paragraphs set the scene of its anti-PC article:

“The World is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.

This – or something very similar – was said by Albert Einstein and it is very significant in today’s climate of sex abuse gangs, jihadis, weak governments and the liberal pursuit of a harmonious multicultural society.”

The article expanded on these themes and in particular how the fear of being called a ‘racist’ effectively paralysed all state agencies thus allowing the Rotherham sex scandal to continue unchecked. I found much of this article very interesting – although it didn’t say anything that I didn’t know – but sadly it didn’t prescribe any cure to any of Britain’s ills.

The feature on The Movement also caught my eye. A highly political band, the trio’s musical influences include The Jam, The Who and The Clash. Politically their influences “range from Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Marx to Joe Strummer and Paul Weller.”

I enjoyed their polemic on Globalism: “There’s a new and constantly growing generation of young kids interested in political questions, expressing deep fundamental criticism and rejection of the global effects of capitalism and its mechanisms of exploitation, war and oppression – young people searching for truth and enlightenment in times of total manipulation, lies and darkness.”

Despite this The Movement offered no answer to the menace of Globalism! Are they just anti-Capitalist posers, full of ‘leftist’ empty rhetoric? (Personally, some of the most strident critiques of capitalism that I’ve read recently have come from people who’d describe themselves as ‘Third Millennium Fascists.’) Maybe they should just stick to music – check them out on YouTube, and look out for excellent tracks like Losing You and It’s All In Your Mind

When I was in Benidorm I looked out for any signs of history, heritage and culture but couldn’t find much on offer. Therefore I was intrigued to read in the Costa Blanca News about the Moors and Christians Festivals. (4) The pictures and reports looked amazing – this is something that I’ll have to see in person!

I love the various indigenous cultures of the world. Indeed, I think that articles looking at famous battles, castles, buildings, traditional parades and celebrations around the world would make an excellent mini-series for Counter Culture. Maybe we should kick off with a report of the forthcoming Moors and Christians Festival in September? Indeed, I think that I’ll use that as an excuse for visiting the Costa Blanca again! Until next time then …

O YOU can check out the web-site of Costa Blanca News here http://www.costa-news.com/ its Facebook page of here https://www.facebook.com/pages/Costa-Blanca-News/152894188104472 and follow its Twitter feed here: https://twitter.com/costablancanews
(1) http://www.in-costablanca.com/
(2) https://countercultureuk.com/2014/10/20/two-weeks-in-spain/
(3) https://countercultureuk.com/2013/10/26/majorca-daily-bulletin/
(4) http://www.travelinginspain.com/spain_festivals/moors_christian.htm

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“Revamped Too” – Tim Bragg (2012)

Revamped Too is largely a compilation of various tracks from Tim Bragg’s back catalogue but also features some brand new recordings plus previously unreleased material. Tim Bragg is a talented and engaging multi-instrumentalist who has composed an impressive body of work comprising several albums that range from protest folk to jazz-rock to pop ballads with an obvious Phil Lynott and Thin Lizzy influence. He is also a novelist who has covered such genres as science fiction and political social commentary in works such as “The White Rooms”, “The English Dragon” and “Oak” – themes that have also inspired an earlier album “Fields of England”. Three tracks from this album (which is due for a revamped release in 2013) are featured on Revamped Too: “Rock the Boat” concerns political-correctness; the gutsy “My Family” and my favourite track: “England’s Seal”, a brilliant Marleyish piece of reggae “agitist” reflection.

The album is impressively produced and mixed with a highly attractive cover and features a wonderful assortment of various well-crafted contributions by various musicians – although Bragg at times performs most of the instruments. There is also a rockier cover version of Phil Lynott’s “Kings Call” and a country-rock version of Little Feat’s “Willin’”. Other tracks to look out for are “Sometimes” (which opens and closes the album with different versions) and “These People” (a reference to those folk who wreck other people’s lives!).

An instrumental album “Crossing Over” concerning spiritual themes and exploring the human predicament of death has been recorded and awaits release sometime in 2013, plus the aforementioned revamped version of “Fields Of England” (a work that demands more recognition). Bragg’s move to France has certainly given him a warm objectivity, Buddhist-like detachment and inspiring artistic perspective in the composition of his music – informed as it is by his writing and philosophical insights particularly concerning his former native land. He delivers these songs with heartfelt conviction and integrity. They come from a real place but as someone once said “a prophet is without honour in his own country” (how sadly true of Bragg). Nevertheless this compilation expresses a freshness and positivity rich in soul and genuine creativity, a work that is topical, relevant and delivered with a gritty rustic realism but shot through with warmth and compassion.

Wayne Sturgeon

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