Music

RIP Jack Bruce, the power behind Cream

BRUCE CREAMI was sad to hear about Jack Bruce passing away at the age of only 71.

He was  a master of the bass guitar – not really surprising since he was classically trained on cello before switching genres to jazz/rock/pop – and his bass rhythms are quite distinctive on anything he recorded.

I remember well reading of his short time with pop group Manfred Mann where their repertoire was so unchallenging that he didn’t even need to rehearse, just turned up and played faultlessly on the night.

He featured in very many bands of different genres, but the one for which he will be remembered is of course Cream with the great Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker, both of whom are still going strong and performing at the time of writing. Cream only lasted a couple of years, and to my mind a lot of their stuff is simply self-indulgent and too self-absorbed to bear repeated listening. And with his solo work going on until very recently, I do wonder if he found it frustrating that all most people remember him for is those two years in the late sixties.

Here’s a Youtube video of Jack being interviewed about “Silver Rails”, his first studio album after ten years released in March 2014

 
Or even better is this hilarious video of Ginger Baker being interviewed by a chap from the Guardian.
Ginger Baker is notorious for being “difficult” in interviews, and this one is no exception.

 

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Bose Soundtrue phones in some great colours
Culture, Music

Just got some great Bose headphones

Yes you saw it here first!

I wanted some headphones for listening to music on my tablet and US TV series on my laptop, so thought it was about time I got myself a decent pair instead of those awful earbud things they expect you to use.

Well the first port of call was my local PC/entertainment shop, where the good news is that they had loads and loads of headphones – in fact all thirty metres on one wall was covered in different models. The bad news is that well over half of them are Beats by Dr Dre.

Now I’ve nothing against DrDre, whoever he is , and I’m sure that he’s very good at writing prescriptions, but the speed with which headphones bearing his name have taken over the world is amazing even though to my mind the value of his recommendation is limited to say the least. Actually, I do know who Dr Dre is (I looked it up on Bing) and what I found out makes me pretty sure that what he knows about headphones could be written on a beermat. Sure he makes a shedload of money out of them, but is that any reason for me to buy them? And if you need convincing, check out practically any review. They’re not all brilliant by any means.

Anyway, ignoring the Beats stuff made my checking out the shop’s stock a lot quicker. There were one or two by other well-known makers – Sennheiser for example, or Bose, along with some I hadn’t heard of. But I do like Bose gear.

If you’ve ever spent any time looking at audio reviews of anything, you’ll find that the so-called audiophiles just do not like Bose. They slam them at every opportunity, criticising arcane little points that they’ve found in their “audition” (yes, you don’t listen when trying them out, you audition them!). The main problem it seems is that Bose is good at marketing, and spends a lot on sales and marketing as well as technical quality and development, so self-styled audiophiles dismiss them as a PR company and don’t give their products a fair chance.

For myself I’ve always found the build quality and technical performance of their kit excellent. And let’s face it, they offer the chance to return your stuff for a full refund inside 30 days if you decide you don’t like it. Now does that show confidence or what? Try returning your Beats by Dr Dr after four weeks’ use because you don’t like them.

The Bose Soundtrue Around Ear headphones I picked are amazing.

Bose Soundtrue phones in some great colours

Bose Soundtrue phones come in some great colours

Light as a feather, comfy enough to wear all day, cover the ear and block out any outside noise without the eerie silence you get from Noise Cancelling phones (did you know that those give some people giddy turns??) and truly exceptional sound.

They come in a range of colours as well as the standard black.

The audio line feeds in just under the left phone and has a couple of control switches built in. These were designed to control the iPhone/iPad/iPod – all Apple devices – but there’s a clever app you can get for your Android tablet or phone that lets them work just as well there too. Which is as well, as I’m not a big Apple fan and wouldn’t touch an iPad with a long pole.

Headphones like these are not cheap, but if you reckon that they cost about the same as a top price ticket to a big name concert, then I know which I’d rather have. They’re guaranteed for two years and should carry on long long after that, if any of my other Bose kit is a guide. And I should add that I’m not on commission from Bose and get nothing at all if anyone else buys them. I just know great headphones when I hear them!

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Gifts and experiences

My wonderful experience of Yo! Sushi – a review

I love sushi. Have I mentioned that before?

So I was excited to go along to the new branch of Yo Sushi in Leeds, in the equally new Trinity shopping centre.

On entering the restaurant, there’s the familiar styling that’s made Yo! the huge brand that it is – from the little dishes tootling around the conveyor belt to the soy sauce and wasabi waiting patiently to be dipped.

yosushiIt was a Sunday, and the ‘Sumo Sundays’ promotion was running. If you’re a sushi fan you’ll know that this means all you can eat for £19.50. Quite a lot for one meal, but what a meal I had! It was busy when we arrived, so we joined the queue and it went down surprisingly fast. Within 15 minutes we were seated by the conveyor belt, waiting to start shovelling the plates onto our table.

With a little help from the menu, I’ve managed to track down some of the delicious morsels that I had. Here’s a list of the plates that I can remember, but I’m sure there are a few that have slipped my mind:

  • Tuna Tataki & Ponzu
  • Salmon & Yuzu Salsa Sashimi
  • Tuna sashimi
  • Coriander Seared Tuna
  • Avocado Maki
  • Inari & Chive Futomaki
  • Salmon Maki
  • Tuna Maki
  • Spicy Chicken ISO
  • YO! Roll – woohoo
  • Salmon Dragon Roll
  • Inari Pocket
  • Salmon Nigri
  • Kaiso
  • And loads of random handrolls

You could be forgiven for thinking that an all you can eat sushi meal would be more about quantity than quality, but this was both. As well as gorging on fish and rice and chicken and veggies and soy sauce and everything else, it was the same high quality that you get day in and day out at Yo!

I suppose that’s the benefit of it being such a big chain, but every experience I’ve had of Yo! has been amazing.

The staff were really friendly, the food was lovely and we had a great time.

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Music

Poison by Alice Cooper

My song of the day is Poison, released in September 1989. My word that makes me feel old.

The song was the biggest hit on on Alice Cooper’s 18th studio album Trash. I’m amazed he’d had that many albums, and he must be in his mid twenties by now. Not that he’s recorded anything recently that gets the same amount of airplay as Poison, and his earlier hits ‘School’s out’ and ‘No more, Mr nice guy’. Anyway, back to the brilliant song that is Poison.

The song was written by Desmond Child and John McCurr. John also played guitar on the song, but Desmond Child is really interesting and I could devote a whole category on this blog to him. He is a famus songwriter who specialises in pop rock anthems, and he was absolutely on fire in the late 1980s and early 1990s. ‘Livin’ on a Prayer’ by Bon Jovi – he co-wrote that, ‘How can we be lovers’ by Michael Bolton. Yeah, not as cool but still a massive worldwide hit.

He also wrote ‘Just like Jesse James’ for Cher and loads of songs for Kiss and Aerosmith. anyway, enough about Desmond Child for now, and more about ‘Poison’.

How high did ‘Poison’ rise?

Number seven in the USA singles chart. That’s not bad for a band who hadn’t had any sizeable hits for 15 years. But in the UK, the song rose to number two. What was number one I hear you ask?

Erm, it was this:


“Swing the Mood” by Jive Bunny & The Mastermixers.

So what’s the song about?

A dangerous woman?  drugs or even AIDS? Alice Cooper said in a recent interview that this song is about his alcohol and drug addictions. He has a history with addiction, and it seems likely that this was the first album he released after rehab. He probably misses the drugs but knows the damage they do.

Personally I prefer it to be a tortured love song to a dangerous woman, but never mind!

 

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Culture

Tigers

tiger in a forestAs many of you may know, tigers are one of my favourite animals. Tigers are the largest cat, tipping the scales at an astonishing 300kg and reaching over three metres long. The beautifully camouflaged fur makes them stand out in zoos, however they will blend into the background in the shrubs and forests of their homelands.

 

How long to tigers live?

Tigers don’t usually last longer than 20 years, and less in the wild where fights and lack of food can cut the average lifespan in half. Until recently, the oldest tiger in the world was a handsome cat called Flavio, but sadly he passed away in early 2014 aged 26 years. You can read more about himhere.

 

Unlike lions, tigers are usually solitary animals, who like to live and hunt alone. They  need large areas to live in and hunt, but as with all wild animals, mankind is rapidly destroying their habitat, leaving them to either starve, or wander into villages where they are killed.

 

Where do tigers live?

Tigers haven’t always been limited to jungles and inaccessible areas. In the past, thousands of tigers populated Asia, even in countries such as Russia and Turkey. Nowadays, however, tigers have been completely eradicated from many of these places. The only areas where tigers live in any abundance are Asia, however even there are now estimated to be less than 3000 wild tigers remaining in the world.

 

How to save the tigers.

With so few tigers left in the wild, it’s really a race against time to protect them from becoming one of the most tragic extinctions of the 21st century. Many international relief organisations have been set up to save the tiger including Save Tigers Now, by the WWF.

Also, in zoos around the world, research is taking place into tigers and other big cats, to ensure that they live on into the future for other generations to be fascinated and intrigued by these beautiful big cats. In the UK, you can also enjoy ‘feed the big cats’ experience days.

 

Famous tigers through history

Tony the tiger

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Culture

Monster truck information

truck1Everyone loves Monster trucks, especially in the USA. They’re the vehicles styled on pickup trucks, but with the addition of oversized wheels.

They are famous for popular entertainment performances, often at sporting venues such as sports stadia, and are often on the same bill as motocross races and tank driving.

Five facts about monster trucks

  • The most famous truck is Bigfoot, but Grave Digger also has a large following.
  • You can steer a monster truck with its front and rear wheels simultaneously, so it’s cornering is above that of a normal saloon .
  • They’re so dangerous that drivers wear fire suits, with other safety precautions including helmets and safety harnesses to hold the driver in their seat.
  • The force of landing after a large jump is greater than a punch from Mike Tyson
  • There is a monster truck built on the body of a Smart Car.

Monster truck entertainment

Shows involving these vehicles usually culminate in the trucks flattening cars and jumping over ramps. Because the wheels are so large, the trucks have a very high centre of gravity. This means that the trucks can easily drive over obstacles up to two metres high, which makes it a very unusual experience.

Most shows contain races, with two trucks competing against each other, with the slowest being replaced after every race. Later shows involve other stunts such as wheel spinning and donuts, alongside racing. Of course they’re a very American vehicle. In the UK there’s only one US spec Monster truck, and it’s so rare, and so much fun, that you can actually rent time in it. There’s a review of driving it on Alasdair Gray’s experience days site: here.

The anatomy of a monster truck

The trucks can reach up to 140kph, with roaring engines pushing the heavy wheels. This power enables the trucks to jump up to 40 metres, after a long run up. The body of the truck is usually solid plastic, to keep the weight down and the strength up, and they rarely have doors, as this would add to the weight. This means you’ll have to climb into the cabin through the window – a bit scary if you are already 2 metres off the ground. You don’t need a special licence to drive a monster truck, but they are rarely road legal.

You may also be surprised to hear that the steering wheel is in the middle of the cabin, to give the driver better all round vision. The first ever truck was Bigfoot. Back in 1981, Truck-a-Rama promoter Bob George had the idea of driving a promotional truck with hude wheels, over some old bangers, He coined the term ‘monster truck’ and a new adrenaline sport was born.

Safety

Much the same as speedboats, these trucks come complete with a kill switch, which can turn off the engine if the driver falls from the vehicle or loses control. As we’ve said above, the drivers are also fastened tightly into the seat, and equipped with a fire retardant suit, to protect them in the event of a crash and subsequent fire.

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Music

Experience a recording studio

Why a recording studio, when you’ve got voice recording on an iphone?

Every day, there are some wonderful recordings created on mobile phones, digital recording devices iPods and the like. Go back 10 or 20 years and the humble tape player. Just press play and record at the same time to save your singing voice to tape.

We’ve come a long way from there, and yesterday’s professional equipment is now available as a free app to download onto your iphone. But as well as the barriers to entry falling away, the professional quality recording equipment is also racing ahead.

Some things will never change.

You need perfect acoustics, perfect microphones and a perfect recording. There’s no room for background fuzz, and there’s no excuse for singing into a tinny box that picks up sound like a baked bean can..

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