Posts Tagged ‘Rolling Stones’

Australia’s greatest export, AC/DC, have for almost half a century kept the beating heart of rock and roll alive. Despite their sound becoming more buffed and polished as time has gone by, despite the rooms going from humid pubs to the world’s enormo-domes, they have kept true to the basic template laid down on their first album, High Voltage.

And the beating heart within the band has always been Malcolm Young, his rhythm riffs the rock upon which the AC/DC sound is built. So many of their iconic rock and roll songs begin with Malcolm’s throaty Gretsch guitar – not vocal or lead guitar –­ because it is his sound and fury that lets you know it is AC/DC within four bars.


Pic by LilyLondon9

Fashions and fads have tried to co-opt AC/DC – heavy metal, cartoon rock á la Guns’n’Roses, retro ‘classic’ rock, corporate rock etc – but the band who always refer to themselves simply as a rock’n’roll band have never faltered. They have remained true believers and picked up generation after generation of new fans along the way.

Most know his brother Angus’s schoolboy antics or Bon Scott’s loutish leer (and later, Brian Johnson’s flat-cap swagger) but Malcolm’s tone and attack, like Keith Richards in the Rolling Stones, defines the band and makes it unique in the world of Rock.

In fact, Angus Young was often quoted as saying that Malcolm was the better guitarist, in a technical sense. And you can hear it in the focused energy of his playing – like a White Pointer shark, a perfectly evolved machine – relentless, rock-solid and dynamic.

As a guitarist myself I have always admired Malcolm Young’s playing. People would speak of rhythm guitar as being down a rung from the showy, spot-lit lead guitar. But those with ears and the knowledge of how a band is built always knew Malcolm had a gift for playing just what was needed. The spaces between his slashed chord-riffs, the holes he allowed for the snare to leap out or for the bass to breathe added a funkiness and a swing to AC/DC’s sound that aligned it more with their heroes of 50s rock – like Chuck Berry – than many of the stodgy, leaden hard-rock bands they were usually lumped in with.

As time moves forward, the legacy of Malcolm will be appreciated even more, because it is gone, and it can never be replicated. You can read about the history of AC/DC, their amazing story and Malcolm’s sad decline elsewhere. I can only say what he meant to me, safe in the knowledge that he meant the same to millions the world over.

His rock and roll heart had a huge, thunderous beat for such a little guy and now that it has stopped the world is a little quieter and a lot greyer. Goodbye, Malcolm and thank you.


Published November 2017 on megaphoneoz



“Big Blind” Ray Lechminka is one of the towering characters of the Sydney blues and roots scene. His larger-than-life presence – both physically and musically – is reminiscent of a time when giants such as Howlin’ Wolf and Sonny Boy Williamson roamed the earth, blowing down tall trees and even taller women with a mighty blast from a Marine Band blues-harp.

Big Blind Ray may not quite yet be of that immortal stature, but I for one would not want to be in his path when he blows his harmonica, son. His Trio’s self-titled debut – Big Blind Ray Trio –  has captured that raw power and just plain workin’-mojo across eight chooglin’ tracks.

Together with guitarist Karl “P. Hound” Mardon and livewire drummer Rebecca Clarke, Lechminka has cooked up a feast for fans of the Blues, ancient and modern. From opener ‘Hipshake’ – the Slim Harpo raver made famous by the Rolling Stones on Exile on Main Street – through essentials such as Wolf’s ‘Smokestack Lightning’ and Willie Dixon‘s totemic ‘Hoochie Coochie Man’, the Big Blind Ray Trio cooks with all pots on. Originals ‘Keep Myself Close’ and ‘Mereki’ – written with guest guitarist Cam Kinsey – fit seamlessly with the classics; the band obviously eat and breathe this music.

big blind ray2

Recorded at Katoomba’s Soundheaven and Sydney’s Nut’n’Butter, and mixed by simpatico mixer Michael Wheatley, the resulting album catches a nice balance between live vibe (with this music moreso than almost any other, if the vibe ain’t there, don’t bother) and sharp playing. big blind ray3

And, thank God and Muddy, Lechminka doesn’t seem to have a purist bone in his big body – mixed in are Tony Joe White‘s wry ‘Polk Salad Annie’ (nuzzled along by Serge Coniglione‘s Fender bass) and The Stones’ ‘Ventilator Blues’ – along with ‘Hipshake’, a nod to their 70s golden-period (not to mention the ‘secret track’ at the end of closer ‘Goin’ Down South’, a moody take on Sticky Fingers‘ ‘You Got To Move’, Sydney via London via Mississippi Fred McDowell).

It’s all good, big-hearted stuff. If you like the Blues, if you like the more current take on the form, or the ancient tales retold loud and proud, you will love Big Blind Ray Trio.


Prior to posting this review I asked Ray Lechminka a handful of questions. Here are his responses.

The Orange Press: The Trio sounds very raw and lean – was it a conscious decision to travel light without a bass player?

Big Blind Ray: Very much so. Apart from the obvious aspect of having one less mouth to feed – musically I felt the need to work on a project that omitted the bass as a way of developing a sonic framework that was sympathetic to this. I think we have managed to successfully pull this off and in turn further develop our individual style. I was also very much inspired by the sounds of the North Mississippi Hill Country Blues style and the modern interpretations that spawned from this movement.

TOP: Your material draws from the best – Howlin’ Wolf, Willie Dixon and even second generation white bluesmen such as The Rolling Stones and Tony Joe White – do you think the past was a golden period for The Blues?

BBR: I think so yes. The songs that we picked to record on the album were the acid test as to whether we could take our simple line up and make it work in a modern context without losing the sensibility of the old style.

TOP: What do you think it is about Blues-based music that seems to still get people jumping for joy?

BBR: For me, discovering the Blues was like returning back to a source – THE source if you will of Western Pop and Rock based music. When I listen to the Blues it feels like I’ve come home musically and that brings me joy. There has certainly been a resurgence in the sound over the past few years and perhaps the new blood out there spearheading and embracing this old sound are experiencing something similar to what I did and still continue to feel.

TOP: Will we be seeing more originals creeping into The Big Blind Ray Trio’s set over time?

BBR:  For sure! We are writing new material and hope to record again round this time next year with all original content. But it’s no race. As much as we want to be regarded for originality as well as keeping the old sound alive, writing good songs is paramount and particularly writing original music that incorporates the sound of my instrument (Harmonica) within a context that isn’t just straight out 12 bar blues matters to me.

TOP: What are your thoughts on the state of The Blues today?

BBR:  I think the Blues is alive and well. If anything there has been a resurgence of the genre locally over the past few years and it doesn’t show any signs of slowing down and that excites me.

TOP: What are your thoughts on mainstream music in general today?

BBR:  There is a lot of great popular music out there. I won’t delve into my guilty Pop pleasures but hey – I’m sure we can all agree on this: What makes music so beautiful is that there is something for everybody and if you find you connect with a song and it brings you joy then who am I to cast judgement as to whether that is in good or bad taste and who are you to do the same?


Published October 2013 on

Is the alien boy with the lightning bolt makeup on the cover of this 1973 David Bowie album actually Ziggy Stardust? Many think of this iconic image when they think of Ziggy. Such is the fuzzy-edged mish-mash of pop-culture that many inaccuracies, misreadings and plain mistakes become icons for the ages, true or not – and this is one of them. Or is it?

The album is called Aladdin Sane but the character seems to be an extension of the ever-morphing Bowie phantasy persona of the 70s. Bowie himself referred to Aladdin Sane musically as “Ziggy goes to America”, so the Ziggy character logically got the U-S-of-A buff, shine and chrome-plating as well.David-Bowie-Aladdin-Sane

And that same buff, shine and chrome-plating was mirrored in the sound and subject of this new album. Whereas its predecessor, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars, told a dystopian tale of rock’n’roll stardom, totalitarianism and suicide, Aladdin Sane seemed to be a celebration of America, freedom and the excesses of the flesh. Where Ziggy seemed very Old World, wrapped in the rain of a bleak future England, Aladdin was all New World, New York, Marilyn Monroe and doo-wop – its vibe distilled into the lyric from ‘Jean Genie’: “New York’s a go-go, where everything tastes nice”.

Which doesn’t mean to imply the music was in any way shallower than Ziggy. Bowie produced these two albums (and arguably, their predecessor, the sci-fi-Gothic Hunky Dory) on a blindingly creative roll. His art was, like the Beatles before him, outstripping all around him in great leaps forward. In many ways Aladdin Sane is a deeper and more creative album than even Ziggy.

One reason was that Bowie seemed utterly unfettered by any limits in his songwriting and lyrics. His established starpower allowed him to now bring in all of his influences from the avant-garde that only were on the periphery of the songs on Hunky Dory and Ziggy. Unlike today where many stars eschew any growth in creativity to consolidate their career positions, Bowie (once more, as the Beatles had done) used his star power to propel his music into some dangerous areas.

Remembering that this was a UK Number One album, check out piano-player Mike Garson’s solo on the title track ‘Aladdin Sane (1913-1938-197?)’ – Garson rakes and smashes the piano like the uncontrollable bastard child of Jerry Lee Lewis and Cecil TaylorElton John it ain’t.

david-bowie-ziggy-stardust-costumeThen there’s Mick Ronson’s volcanic Les Paul intro to ‘Cracked Actor’ and the cartoon Berlin cabaret of ‘Time’ – ‘Time/He flexes like a whore/Falls wanking to the floor…’, the fuck-off arrogant cover of the Stones ‘Let’s Spend the Night Together’ and the nightmare doo-wop of ‘Drive In Saturday’. Bowie tested his fans with some wild creative lunges, and yet, batting at the top of his game, rarely misfired.

Lyrically, Bowie also pushed it. Always a challenging and incisively-intelligent lyricist, on Aladdin he gave us some surreal treasures. ‘Aladdin Sane (1913-1938-197?)’s ‘Motor sensational/Paris or maybe hell/I’m waiting/Clutches of sad remains/Waits for Aladdin Sane/You’ll make it…’ or lines that owed more to pulp science fiction than to T.S. Eliot such as ‘Cursing at the Astronette/Who stands in steel by his cabinet/He’s crashing out with Sylvian/Bureau Supply for ageing men’ from ‘Drive In Saturday’.

Produced by Bowie and Ken Scott, the soundscapes are perfect – they ride the line between Velvet Underground menace and 50’s rock on the rockers (almost burying the vocals under the spitting phalanx of guitars on opener ‘Watch That Man’), and sci-fi soundtracks and art music on the moodier pieces such as closer ‘Lady Grinning Soul’ (‘Cologne she’ll wear/Silver and AmeriCard’ – Bowie’s lovesong to the seduction of moneyed America).

This reissue is timely as Bowie has just released his finest work in decades – the album The Next Day. Even though Aladdin Sane is of another time and another planet, the cord of Bowie’s art ties the two together unmistakeably, linking the wild alien boy with the lightning-bolt makeup to the current pensive wizard with the faintly sad eyes.

(Parlophone will be releasing the 40th Anniversary Edition of Aladdin Sane on April 12. This 40th anniversary edition has been remastered by Ray Staff at London’s AIR Studios. Ray cut the original LP during his time at Trident Studios and has received plaudits for his remastering of the Ziggy Stardust 40th anniversary edition last year.)

Published April 2013 on

Two new releases by modern masters of the acoustic guitar were transmitted to my magic listening box this week. Two very different releases by two very different artists – Australian maestro Bruce Mathiske and edgy NYC star Kaki King – both bound in approach by the warm wood of the acoustic guitar.

Playing any acoustic instrument – guitar, horn, drums – sets up a resonance in the body of the player that creates a feedback loop between emotion and technique – often missing in amplified electric instruments. This loop comes closest to realising that old cliché of ‘becoming one’ with your guitar, allowing a greater range of dynamics and feeling. It just seems more ‘real’.

The trade-off is that, since every sound you make on the guitar is there to be heard, there is nowhere to hide – your technique has to be seamless and perfect. And the trade-off there is that, too often, perfect technique leads to glassy, boring performances.

In both Mathiske and King, we hear players that have come out the other side of perfection into that spiritual area usually reserved for the great jazz or classical virtuosi. Nothing is impossible for their heads, hearts and fingers, so their artistry is about cutting to the heart of the music – exploring the emotional side, the blue-black depths, the sunflower highs.

mathiskeBruce Mathiske’s new release My Life is as coolly measured and mature as Kaki King’s Glow is wild and bursting with anarchic juice. It is his seventeenth album and her sixth (not counting EPs). Mathiske’s songs are called ‘River Stories’ and ‘The Bridge’; King’s titles are as esoteric and literary as her music – ‘No True Masterpiece Will Ever Be Complete’ or ‘Skimming The Fractured Surface To A Place Of Endless Light’. Mathiske plays a masterful blend of flamenco and country fingerstyle on beautiful handmade guitars; King appears to attack anything with strings in any way her hands can get at it.

Enough of the differences, now to the similarities which I find the most interesting in such diverse artists. The first is, quite obviously, the love of the acoustic guitar: in Mathiske’s hands a rounded, pearlescent gut-string flow, as strong and as translucently lovely as a river, whereas King goes at the thing, throwing off metallic spangles of sound. There is also a similar love of rhythm – Spanish, folk jigs and reels, some gypsy-jazz, Celtic. There is My Life’s Djangoesque ‘In Rhythm’ and Glow’s Celtic shred-fest ‘King Pizel’. Both artists really get those strings dancing.

And of course there is the über-virtuosity – yes, even though these artists are beyond that as a means-in-itself, they just can’t help themselves. (Why put all those millions of hours of practice in if you can’t shred a little now and again?). A mesmerising flourish such as Mathiske’s on his gypsified Stones cover ‘Paint It, Black’ or King’s skipping guitar harmonics on ‘Holding The Severed Self’ make one really sit up and take notice. They are dazzling but also serve to stamp Mathiske and King’s authority on their respective albums.

One big difference between both works is the production: but only different, not good, not bad, and in both cases entirely apt (almost) and vernacular to the sound-world each inhabits. Bruce Mathiske’s self-production is lean and focused on the natural sounds of the guitar. Apart from some vocal and midi-strings (and one ill-advised slab of heavy cod-Floyd rock complete with howling Stratocaster on ‘The Close Call’), he has stuck to gut string guitars, some sinewy double bass from Phil Stack and Ben Edwards and percussion and conga from Calvin Welch and Paul Kirtley. And it all works beautifully.


Glow is a whole different trip. Producer D James Goodwin has wrapped King’s “guitars and things” in almost cinematic clothes on every track. The focus here is less on the guitar and more on atmosphere and mood. And, again, it all works beautifully. Opener ‘Great Round Burn’ chugs with strings from orchestral ensemble ETHEL. ‘Bowen Island’ shimmers over an ocean of violet-turquise drone. ‘Holding The Severed Self’ skips along, whistling through the graveyard of reverbed ghosts in the background.

It is gratifying to hear in Bruce Mathiske’s My Life and Kaki King’s Glow the past, present and future of virtuosic acoustic guitar music. Both have taken the instrument to areas previously unimagined and shown us all the excitement that can still be wrung from a what is pretty much a wooden box stretched with steel.

Bruce Mathiske’s webiste is

Kaki King’s website is

Published March 2013 on