Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Minor Earth, Major Sky: My top 15 a-Ha tracks

I've always liked a-Ha from an early age, from when I first heard Take On Me which shot the Norwegian group to the big time. And, after 25 years, they might be calling it a day, but they left behind a load of awesome songs for everyone to tap their toes to. Here's my top 15 which has been hard to compile from the tracks.

15: Shapes The Go Together (1994, non album single)
Half rock, half pop, this is instantly likeable. Everything fits perfectly, just like shapes that go together (terrible pun, but I couldn't resist)

14: Summer Moved On (2000, Minor Earth, Major Sky)
It's unmistakeable a-Ha all the way through, and one that took me a couple of listens to to actually like, but when you do, it draws you in.

13: Angel in the Snow (1993, Memorial Beach)
A song written for Pal Waaktaar-Savoy's wife for their wedding, it is a really likeable song and is really catchy. Plus, I think it sounds quite different to their other stuff. Which is no bad thing.

12: Move To Memphis (1991, Headlines & Deadlines: The Best of a-Ha)
Another song that wasn't on a proper album, but is just so damned good, you can't help but like it. Plus the video has Morton Harket with shoulder length hair, and a couple of cracking birds (no smashing blouses, though).

11: Velvet (2000, Minor Earth, Major Sky)
A cracking song, but whats the deal with the video? More fucked up than all the SAW movies put together, it has a woman go around killing the boys in various ways (Morton in a bath of water and an electric heater, Magne Furuholmen shot in the head, Pal Waaktaar-Savoy being suffocated and bunged in the freezer. i kid you not). A great song. A WTF video.

10:Hunting High & Low (1985, Hunting High & Low)
From the same album as Take On Me. 'nuff said, really, as the whole album is great, and this is a powerful song all round.

9: Analogue (All I Want) (2005, Analogue)
Along with Cosy Prisons, this is another great track, and one you should check out, as it shows their Rock side more than their Pop side.

8: Touchy! (1988, Stay On These Roads)
An upbeat song that you can't help but sing along to if you're pissed off. Again, the video's a bit weird (sailors, anyone?), but the song definitely makes up for it.

7: Stay On These Roads (1988, Stay On These Roads)
The title track hits hard and is a surefire classic that you can't help but sing along to, even if Morton can hit the really, really high notes in it (voice braking time, methinks)

6: The Sun Always Shines on TV (1985, Hunting High & Low)
The single was released in 1986, and the first time I heard it was on a flexidisc my sister got from Smash HIts. I promptly 'borrowed' it, and never gave it back. Did I say how much I like this song?

5: Crying In The Rain (1990, East Of The Sun, West Of The Moon)
A cover that I think is better than the Everly Brothers original (even though I do like it), which is more heartfelt with added impact. A classic made better.

4: The Blood That Moves the Body (1988, Stay On These Roads)
There's two versions of this, but that doesn't mean that ones better than the other, as they both have their own strengths and weaknesses. One has a bit more guitar and less orchestra, and the other is, basically the opposite. 

3: Foot Of The Mountain (2009, Foot Of The Mountain)
For their swansong album, the title track is the strongest track of the whole album. Doesn't mean the album is rubbish. Its good, but not as good as the earlier stuff. This song, and the following song save it.

2: Nothing Is KeepIng You Here (2009, Foot Of The Mountain)
Read above.

1: Butterfly, Butterfly (The Last Hurrah) (2010, 25)
Their last single is also one of their best. I'll admit, I didn't like it when I first heard it, but after another listen to, I took it to my heart, as I believe The Last Hurrah is actually their Last Hurrah. And what a way to go out.

I could have gone for Take On Me for the number one, but everyone puts it as their #1, and I wanted to include others that are just as great and should be heard at least once.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

And the list goes on... - 10 from the playlist

After chucking a load of music on my iPod and phone, I made up quite a lot of playlists. If I did a definitive playlist, here's 10 I would definitely include:

10: Kashmir - Led Zepplin
With it's awesome guitar riffs, Robert Plant's unique voice and sumptuious violin segments, Led Zepplin's Kashmir has a certain something you can just bung on, whack on some earphones, and just go with the flow.

9: Scenes from an Italian Restaurant - Billy Joel
Often overlooked for Uptown Girl, It's Still Rock & Roll to Me and Piano Man, this is also an excellent song, with a few tales intertwined into one , 7 minute long journey, with its various characters and great lyrics.

8: Advertising Space - Robbie Williams
From his last good album (Rudebox was just shit, and Reality Killed the Video Star was ok at best), the song about Elvis is easily one of his best, and even has a mention about his daughter.

7: Rock & Roll Dreams Come Through - Meat Loaf
Any song sung by Meat Loaf is guaranteed to have powerful harmonies, a rousing rock guitar, and a choir. This has it in spades, and will definitely stir something.

6: Good Times, Bad Times - Led Zepplin
It might be another Led Zep track, but this song from Led Zepplin I is the first track, and gets the album off with a bang.

5: Falling In Love (Is So Hard on the Knees) - Aerosmith
Nine Lives showed that not every band can change with the times unsuccessfully. Being released in 1997, the whole album is pure magic, and this is one you can listing to again and again

4: Forget Him - Billy Fury
His swan song of sorts, this was released just after his death in 1983, and is sung with such conviction and tenderness, it goes to show he would have been a hit in the 80's as well, if Polio hadn't taken his life.

3: If I Can Dream - Elvis Presley
Sung at the end of the '68 Comeback Special, this is a rousing song that really makes you want to sing along to it, only without the white suit and a large ELVIS behind you.

2: Watching The Wildlife - Frankie Goes to Hollywood
Taken from the album Liverpool, this is your traditional pop song, but done in a style only FGTH can pull off, and is bloody catchy to boot.

1: Blame It On The Love of Rock & Roll - Bon Jovi
If These Days was the dark album, Keep The Faith was the light album, and produced this awesome song. I Believe was a close contender, but this just pipped it, as its so sodding good.

Monday, 7 February 2011

Dun-dun-derrrrrr! - Cannonball Run II (Warner Bros/Golden Harvest, 1984)

Boasting a huge cast, some of the fastest cars on Earth, and a sense of not taking itself to seriously, Cannonball Run II is set a year after the first (which was actually made in 1981. Confused? Just a tad.), in which Prince Shiek Abdul Falafel (Jamie Farr - M*A*S*H) is sent by his father (Ricardo Montalban) back to America, to 'buy' a Cannonball Run, in which to compete and win. Assembling the other runners, this motley band of racers consists of, among others, J.J McClure (Burt Reynolds) and his friend and business partner Victor Prinzim/alter ego Captain Chaos (Dom DeLuise), Fenderbaum (Sammy Davis, Jr) and Blake (Dean Martin) and Hi-Tec (Jackie Chan) and his driver Arnold (Richard Kiel).

Starting from Redondo Beach, and driving to Conectticut, the winner gets $1 million in cold hard cash as a prize for being the fastest. But, there's trouble afoot, in the form of some gangsters who want to rip off Falafel, and hold him for ransom to pay off Don Don's $9 million debt to Heimy Kaplan (Telly Savalas). The rest of the film plays out like a live-action Looney Tunes movie (much like Needham's earlier movie Cactus Jack a.k.a The Villain), with the gang of bumbling gangsters trying every trick in the book to capture the sheik, with plans ranging from a huge magnet on the bottom of a helicopter, to grabbers on the front of their car.

Being a follow up, the two hot chicks from Cannonball Run (Adrienne Barbareu and Tara Buckman) have been replaced with Catherine Bach (Daisy Duke from Dukes of Hazzard) and Susan Anton (although both play the same characters from the first movie), and use their sex appeal, which normally boils down to unzipping their tops to show copious amounts of cleavage, to hitch rides after their cars either run out of gas or break down. Even though they are different actresses', they are still a bit on the phwoor side of things. The film is just as funny as the first, even more so, with Doug MacClure as the sheik's servant (he's an actor. Hasn't had a series in 7 years. Actually, 9 years!) putting in a really funny turn, and Jack Elam returns as the doctor who really doesn't know what he's doing (even going so far as to eat shaving foam off a brush, believing it to be desert!).

If you liked the first Cannonball Run, you'll know what to expect with the second, as I feel it's just as funny. If you didn't like the first, then don't bother as it'll never change your mind. If you do, just be prepared for gas-fuelled shenanigans aplenty.