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AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #97 : MORRISSEY (2)

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Oh you’ve come back today?  Pleasantly surprised given that I did warn what to expect.

Volume 2 is every bit as good as Volume 1.  The ten tracks selected yesterday were for a specific one-off record that I thought would flow very well and the concept for today is the same.

Side One

Suedehead from Viva Hate (1988)

The four minutes of music that calmed our fears. and proof that the end of The Smiths was not the last significant statement to be made in rock’n’roll.

You Have Killed Me from Ringleader of The Tormentors (2006)

Another of the more catchy tunes from his long career, it’s of a rockist type that none of us could have ever imagined him tackling back in the 80s.  But it is the sort of sound he has increasingly embraced as the years have gone on, partly as that’s the domain of his backing bands of recent times but also as it suits his more limited vocal delivery the older he gets.

My Life Is A Succession of People Saying Goodbye b-side to First Of The Gang To Die (2004)

As mentioned yesterday, some of the finest songs have inexplicably been relegated to the obscurity of b-sides.  This is a lovely slow/mid-tempo number in which our protagonist, not for the first time, bemoans his lack of luck in the love stakes.

The More You Ignore Me, The Closer I Get from Vauxhall and I (1994)

The single which preceded the release of the LP and took him back into the UK Top 10 for the first time in six years. It was a pleasant and welcome surprise that, after a run of singles and albums in which he was embracing genres like glam and rockabilly, he was returning to the more gentle almost indie-type of music with which he had first found fame.  Another one which still sounds great all these years later which is testament to the production skills of Steve Lillywhite.

All You Need Is Me from Years Of Refusal (2009)

Originally a new song on a 2008 ‘Greatest Hits’ compilation, it was added to the following year’s studio LP, his ninth in all but what turned out to be his last for five years.  Another rock rather than pop tune, its inclusion is as much to do with the self-deprecating lyric as anything else – something that Morrissey has done to great effect many times over the years.

Side Two

You’re Gonna Need Someone On Your Side from Your Arsenal (1992)

Another of the  glam rock efforts from the album that was produced by Mick Ronson, this is another lyric in which Moz doesn’t take himself too seriously.  Hard to imagine that it was co-written by the bloke resposnible for the ghastly Perfect by Fairground Attraction which went to #1 in the late 80s.

Everyday Is Like Sunday from Viva Hate (1988)

Probably his best known and best-loved song  here in the UK – certainly judging from the mass singalongs it entices when played at outdoor festivals.  Oddly enough, not one that I listen to all that often nowadays but included here as it was the perfect fit between what went before it and what comes next…..

First Of The Gang To Die from You Are The Quarry (2004)

The other song which also ensures a massive singalong when aired lived.  This opened his comeback/birthday gig in Manchester back in 2004 and it is the sole occasion when I have genuinely been worried for my health when watching music thanks to the massive crowd surge at the MEN Arena which lifted both myself and Mrs V clean off our feet; for a few seconds it felt like we were going to fall down and be crushed, accidentally, under hundreds of pairs of feet.  But we were determined to see this particular song through before retreating to somewhere a lot safer and so we held each other as tightly as we could and just went with the crazy flow. It proved to be strangely exhilarating.

Sister I’m A Poet b-side to Everyday Is Like A Sunday single (1988)

Another quality b-side that was superior to many of the songs that made the cut for Viva Hate.  It was exciting to buy the early solo singles with the knowledge that, as with his former band, some of the best stuff was only ever going to be available in such forms. Little did we know that all sorts of re-issuing and re-packaging would entail in the years ahead to make them more readily available.

Tomorrow from Your Arsenal (1992)

Get past the clumsy opening 20 seconds and you’ll come to the excellent ending to Your Arsenal and a song that was remixed for release as a single in the USA. Another of the pleading  lovelorn lyrics for which he is famed, this time over a tune that is reminiscent of The Smiths.

And with that, I’ll sign off and await the criticism for those tunes not included these past two days.

 

AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #96 : MORRISSEY

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Little bit of a spurt on the ICAs as Badger has sent in one with a request that it be #100 in the series.  Given how much he and his sidekick have contributed to this place over the years then I feel to not concur with his request would be very rude – but with no others in the pipeline it has meant me having to get my finger out.

I thought by now someone out there would have had a go at pulling together an ICA by our favourite miserablist and least favourite political commentator. I’ve thought about a few times but shied away from the challenge involved.  But it’s time to man up.

Now please remember, these aren’t what I consider to be the best 10 Morrissey songs.  It’s simply a go at creating what I think would make a fabulous and consistent LP.

And while I’m here, I’d like to dedicate this post to Robert, Hugh, Carlo and everyone else who has made  Strangeways one of the best and friendliest club nights going and proving how much fun can be had from dancing the hours away to Moz and The Smiths in the basement of a very good bar in Glasgow.  This coming Friday marks the end of six years of the night in its current format and I want to wish all concerned the very best.

Side One

Now My Heart Is Full from Vauxhall and I (1994)

Nowadays, I get angry and embarrassed by much of what Morrissey says in public, particular when he muses on what he believes has gone wrong with society in the UK and that certain right-wing ideas seem to be the best fix, and in all honesty it is becoming increasingly difficult to enjoy the music in the way I used to. And then I play this. And just about everything is forgiven.

Glamorous Glue from Your Arsenal (1992)

The most perfect tribute, musically, to the era when Bowie, Bolan and The Sweet dominated the UK singles charts in the early-mid 70s. No surprise given that Mick Ronson was on production duties.

The Last Of The International Playboys single (1989)

Just about the nearest thing we ever got to a Smiths single post break-up with Andy Rourke, Mike Joyce and Craig Gannon all playing on this wonderful ode celebrating an 80s Billy Liar.

Ganglord b-side to The Youngest Was The Most Loved single (2006)

As with just about all other artistes whose career spans such an extended period, there will be exceptional songs which, for some inexplicable reason, were thrown away as b-sides. This one was even more bizarre in that it wasn’t the b-side to the 7″ vinyl nor was it on the more promoted CD1 of the second single lifted from Ringleaders of The Tormentors but was only on CD2 where it was accompanied by a more than passable cover of A Song From Under The Floorboards.

Worth mentioning in passing that co-writer Alan Whyte, who achieved more than 80 writing credits with Morrissey between 1992-2008, has enjoyed continued success at the pop-end of the market with hits for Madonna, Black Eyed Peas, Cheryl Cole and Chris Brown among others.

Late Night, Maudlin Street from Viva Hate (1988)

With its tale of adolescent humorous self-pity this is something of a precursor for the autobiography that would hit the shelves in 2013.  It is interesting to listen to how much Moz’s voice has changed over the years  – it’s gotten deeper and the range of his youth is no longer here – and there’s no doubt in my mind that he’d ever be capable delivering a vocal this fragile and haunting nowadays. One of the few songs from the solo canon that would not have been out-of-place on any record by his former band.

Side Two

Irish Blood, English Heart from You Are The Quarry (2004)

Seven years absence from the recording studio was always going to make the eventual comeback LP seem very special.  Much of You Are The Quarry hasn’t dated too well and its initial fawning reception is evidence that many fans, myself included, failed to cast a proper critical look at things.  Having said that, the comeback single remains a belter thanks to a hard-hitting tune and ridiculously catchy sing-a-long chorus.

Why Don’t You Find Out For Yourself from Vauxhall and I (1994)

Another, thanks to the tune, that could date from the very beginning of the career when Johnny Marr was riding side-saddle with him.  One of the many highlights from what, I think most fans consider, is the best album of his career.

November Spawned A Monster single (1990)

Few, if any, would have dared to write a lyric which challenged people to think about how they looked, and by that I mean literally look, at people with severe disabilities.  Not only that, but have it set to a disturbingly uneven but somehow catchy tune in the middle of which you invite a guest vocalist to come in and basically make the sounds she imagined would come from the delivery of a difficult and painful birth.

Quite simply, one of the most astonishing records ever made by anyone.

Girl Least Likely To b-side to November Spawned A Monster single (1990)

If the subject matter of the single was too much for you, then, if you had the 12″ vinyl or CD version you could always listen and dance instead to another of the lost gems from the solo career.  There’s some who argue that the lyric is completely autobiographical and has Moz hinting at his hidden sexuality although he himself has said it was written about a particular female friend whose ambition to succeed was insatiable.

Speedway from Vauxhall and I (1994)

It’s a very fine finish to a very fine album.  Just seems appropriate to close this ICA in a similar vein. In my own strange way, I’ll always stay true to you dear readers.

So many songs that I wanted to include have been left off.

Only one thing for it – Volume 2 will be coming your way tomorrow.

Look on the bright side, that’s a day nearer you getting to read Badger’s latest tome.

 

TRIPLY DISAPPOINTED

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disap

Three different songs that share the same title:-

mp3 : Electronic – Disappointed
mp3 : Morrissey – Disappointed (live)
mp3 : P.I.L. – Disappointed

The first of these the biggest ever hit single for the supergroup, reaching #6 in 1992. The middle track was originally the b-side to Everyday Is Like Sunday but- the live version I’ve shoved up today is from the flip of the 12″ of Pregnant For The Last Time. The final track is the 12″ version of a 1989 single that barely scraped the Top 40.

The Three Johns (Lydon, Marr and McGeogh) along with Moz, Barney and Neil in one posting? Now THAT’S what I call music…..

Oh and the photo used to illustrate the posting was taken moments after my team, Raith Rovers, had won a cup final with a goal two minutes from the end of extra time back in 2014. The look of disappointment and indeed despair on the faces of the opposition players is quite plain to see…..

 

MOZ AND MEXICO

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A few months back, a work colleague brought my attention to an article on Page 38 of Volume 416 Number 8949 of The Economist (published since September 1843).  The subject matter isn’t all that new….various t’internet boards have mused on Moz and Mexicio for more than 15 years now…but I thought it was worth passing on to TVV readers.

“The lugubrious strains of Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now waft across a sunny beach in Acapulco. If that song in that setting surprises you, then you do not know about the strange affinity between Mexicans and Morrissey, the morbid, underdog-loving front-man of The Smiths, a British band of the 1980s, who then went solo.

In Mexico City a band called Mexrrissey is hard at work recording an album of his songs in styles ranging from trumpet-blaring mariachi to throbbing norteño.  Its creator, disc jockey Camilo Lara, calls it Girlfriend in a Conga, a play on one of The Smiths’ wickedest songs (which puts the girlfriend in a coma). It’s not a tribute album. Morrissey’s lyrics, dripping with black humour, are translated into the mischievous Spanish of Mexico City. Morrissey’s First of the Gang to Die, about a murdered gangster, fades out in its Mexican version with ay güey, pobre güey (“hey dude, poor dude”).

Mr Lara says the bitter melodrama of Morrissey’s poetry strikes a chord in Mexico, where even in soap operas the poor make it up the social ladder only through lies and deceit. In Mexican street music, the exuberant melodies overlie bleakly funny lyrics about loneliness, depression and self-pity. The jubilant trumpets, like Johnny Marr’s guitar in The Smiths’ heyday, can strike hammer blows to the heart. Among Chicanos in the United States, Morrissey fandom is even more intense.

He returns the affection with almost ludicrous tenderness. Famously, he once described Mexicans as “so terribly nice. They have such fantastic hair and fantastic skin and usually really good teeth. Great combination!” As the son of Catholic Irish immigrants to Britain, he appears to empathise with uprooted émigrés to the United States. In “Mexico”, Morrissey sings of breathing “the tranquil cool lover’s air/ but I could taste a trace/ of American chemical waste/ and the small voice said: ‘What can we do?’” Chicano concert-goers sport “Moz” tattoos.

In his autobiography Morrissey describes the Mexican gait with the bemusing eccentricity that is one of his trademarks: “There is a certain Mexican movement of the head, telling we from elsewhere that they know very well how they are thought not to matter. Because of this they have abnormal strength and love, with anchored hearts beyond the imaginations of royal dictatorships.” That makes Mexicans swoon. “There is this violent country. And then there is this Brit from Manchester who sees us with eyes of love,” Mr Lara says.

Morrissey has not endorsed his album. Nor did he comment on Mexrrissey’s sold-out concerts this year in London’s Barbican theatre and elsewhere, where fans sang along in English over the Latin rhythms.

Lovers of Mexican music hope the album will build an international audience for it, as the Buena Vista Social Club did for Cuban pop. Mexrrissey might be happy with viral Gangnam-style success. Either way, the bond between Mexico and the melancholy Mancunian can only get stronger.”

And with that….here’s some tunes:-

mp3 : Morrissey – First Of The Gang To Die
mp3 : Morrissey – Mexico

Incidentally, I still haven’t gotten round to buying Moz’s debut novel far less reading it.  The various reviews indicate that I’m not missing much.

PS

Quick reminder that I’m looking for readers to e-mail me lists of their Top 10 LPs for 2015 so that I can submit a collective entry for the BAMS 2015.  Click on this post for more background.

A LAZY STROLL DOWN MEMORY LANE : 45 45s at 45

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You can blame The Swede for this. The Belle & Sebastian posting a while back led him to leave this comment:-

“Your 45 45s at 45 sounds like fun, but was a bit before my time. Any chance of reposting the list one day?”

So I thought I’d delve into that archives for the entire series which more or less tells the story of the first 45 years of my life between 1963 and 2008. One per week for the forseeable future and with it being a cut’n’paste job it also in some ways gives me a bit of free time. Here’s the preamble to how it all began:-

“On June 18th 2008, I will turn 45 years of age. That’s in just under three months time.

One of my all time heroes, Bill Drummond, marked his 45th Birthday with the writing of a book that was partly biographical, partly philosophical but completely genius.

I’d love to have the talent to do something similar, but instead I’ve decided that I’ll make do by saying a few words on 45 of my all-time favourite 45rpm records.

Actually, that previous sentence is totally misleading. In fact it could even be regarded in the same light as Heather Mills’ evidence in her divorce case – ‘inconsistent, inaccurate and less than candid.’

Here’s why…..

(1) Not all of the songs on the list were released on bits of plastic that spun around your turntable at 45 revolutions per minute.

(2) The list is not my 45 all time favourite singles as I’ve decided to restrict each act/performer to one entry. Otherwise it would have been a chart dominated by a handful of bands such as The Jam, New Order, Orange Juice and The Smiths.

(3) What consists of a list at this particular moment in time could fluctuate on a daily basis. I reckon I’m firm on my all time Top 10…..but what one day might, for example, be sitting at #24, could the very next jump up to #13 or drop down to #33. And at the lower end of the list, some songs which bubbled under may find themselves sneaking in at the expense of something sitting proudly in the 40s or 30s.

(4) The 45 in question had to have been bought by me (or on the parent album as I was sometimes skint) at the time of release – this means that stuff that I grew to love years after it first came out are controversially disqualified.

So, over the coming weeks, I’m going to have a regular series counting down some great singles – and I’m going to also post the b-side as well (or Tracks, 2, 3 and 4 in the case of it being a CD single).

I’m in no doubt that what will gradually be revealed will irritate almost all of you as something you think should appear high up the chart suddenly makes an appearance in the high 30s. Or you’ll be hacked off when I choose a song that you’ll consider can never be regarded as the best 45 he/she/they ever released. Or worst of all, when a band or performer who you would have in your Top 5 doesn’t appear in the list at all…..

To give you an idea of how long this particular exercise took, I started off with a list of almost 300 names. For most of them, it was relatively simple enough to find my one favourite single that they had recorded. For others it was a really tough task. Over the course of a couple of weeks, I whittled it down. Once I was below 100 songs, it became almost impossible.

I hope that this will prove to be a series you find enjoyable enough, and please feel free to come on board with your comments, views and observations and savage attacks on my taste at any point in time. For now, in artistic alphabetical order, here are the songs which came in at Nos. 46-50…

mp3 : Billy Bragg – Levi Stubbs’ Tears
mp3 : Morrissey – November Spawned A Monster
mp3 : REM – Electrolite
mp3 : Stereolab – Ping Pong
mp3 : Violent Femmes – Blister In The Sun

See….I told you it wasn’t an easy task.”

THIS WAS STUCK TO THE FRONT PAGE OF A MAGAZINE (6)

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Thus far any NME efforts in this series have harked back to the cassette era. This one however, is much more recent.

The NME and Morrissey have had an on-off relationship over the years. Simon Goddard sums up succinctly:-

His history with the NME is a tragicomedy unto itself. In the 1970s, they shunned his attempts to join their exclusive club as a freelance writer, barring him at the threshold of their letter page and the classified columns. Exacting the ultimate revenge, in the 1980s they lauded him as their pop saviour, the would-be critic having transformed himself into the object of their stupified desire. In the 1990s, as if suddenly humiliated by their sycophancy, they would try to destroy him. And in the 2000s they would beg him back on bended knee only to end their affair once and for all with an act of monumental dull-wittedness.

The bended-knee approach incorporated a Morrissey-curated free CD given away with the 19 June 2004 edition of the NME. The editor at the time, Conor McNicholas, penned these words:-

Morrissey hopes this compilation will say everything to you about your life, and maybe a little about his. Over the course of this CD Morrissey leads you by the hand from spiky punk to sun-kissed country grooves via bands he’s influenced and new acts he’s now consciously endorsing as the legacy of his talent and work. It’s a fascinating compilation and we’re very proud to present it. Now it’s all yours.

A wee bit over the top perhaps, but to be fair the 17 tracks are extremely diverse and as a free CD it is better than most. It was certainly unbeatable in terms of value.  As with these sorts of compilations, there really should be something for everyone who reads TVV but at the same time, I’m prepared to accept there will inevitably be stuff that gets on your tits…..

mp3 : Morrissey – The Never Played Symphonies
mp3 : The Killers – Jenny Was A Friend Of Mine
mp3 : Gene – Fighting Fit
mp3 : Sparks – Barbecutie
mp3 : The Slits – Love Und Romance
mp3 : The Ordinary Boys – (Little) Bubble
mp3 : New York Dolls – Vietnamese Baby
mp3 : Franz Ferdinand – Jacqueline (live)
mp3 : Raymonde – No One Can Hold A Candle To You
mp3 : Ludus – Let Me Go Where My Pictures Go
mp3 : Sack – Colorado Springs
mp3 : Remma – Worry Young (Demo Version)
mp3 : Pony Club – Single
mp3 : Jobriath – Morning Star Ship
mp3 : Damien Dempsey – Factories
mp3 : The Libertines – Time For Heroes
mp3 : Sir John Betjeman – A Child Ill

Morrissey would himself record and release a copy of the Raymonde track later that year as a b-side:-

mp3 : Morrissey – No One Can Hold A Candle To You

I should also mention at this point that last Saturday saw Morrissey play the Hydro in Glasgow as part of his latest UK tour.  For the first time ever, I made a conscious decision not to go along, choosing instead to spend my day at an alternative music shindig featuring, among others, Randolph’s Leap.

I do have the very slightest of regrets at missing Moz just in case it does turn out to be the final time he tours this part of the world and judging by the press reviews it was a belter of a gig….but against that, a couple of folk who were there and have been fans for years think that his best shows are long behind him and I didn’t miss out too much.

What I will say is that Randolph’s Leap were magnificent and provided further evidence as to why this, in my opinion, was the best album of 2014.

THE MOZ ALBUMS…IN PREFERENCE ORDER

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One of the oldest acquaintences of the blog – Friend of Rachel Worth – mentioned the other week that he’d be interested in hearing how I would rank the order of each of the ten studio albums released by Morrissey over the course of his now 27 year solo career. I’m never one to resist a challenge, and so here in, descending order:-

10. Southpaw Grammar (1995)

I have tried really hard but there is very little that I can bring myself to love on this album. I never imagined Morrissey recording and releasing songs that were in excess of ten minutes in length nor did I ever imagine that large parts of the songs would comprise instrumental solos from his band members. Oh and the two singles lifted from the album were really poor efforts.

There is no doubt that the release of this album challenged Morrissey fans to broaden their horizons and there were some critics who thought it a brave, bold and ambitious move. Not me.

9. Kill Uncle (1991)

This suffers from being released on the back of an outstanding debut album and a whole range of mostly tremendous non-LP singles which very few of the Kill Uncle songs come close to matching. Quirky is a great word to describe the record but sadly, the dull parts far far outweigh the really good parts. And the best songs were the two singles…

8. Years Of Refusal (2009)

There are some really good moments on this record with some cracking lyrics but overall I find this just a bit too bombastic for my tastes. It’s a record that provided Moz with some of the most positive reviews of his entire career but I can’t help feeling that such critics, younger than myself for the most part, will have taken satisfaction from a record which sounded like something they had grown up with in the 90s as opposed to us sad old gits who yearned for lighter sounding material

7. Maladjusted (1997)

This could have been one of the greatest albums of his career as there are a number of outstanding songs on it, but it is very badly letdown by some of the worst things he has ever recorded – those of you who have followed the singles rundown will know where I’m coming from. The title track remains a live tour de force.

There was of course a very interesting re-release in 2009 with two of the weakest tracks being taken off and six additional songs (many of them very good b-sides plus the held-back scathing attack on Mike Joyce) – if this had been the original release of the LP then it would certainly have been in the Top 5.

6. World Peace Is None Of Your Business (2014)

In a few years time this might rise up the chart as it is growing on me a fair bit. There’s a lot of great music on this album which is let down by some of the most cringe-worthy lyrics that Moz has penned as he seeks to ram many of his personal views and beliefs down the throats of listeners. I find some of it quite distressing.

Like Malajusted, this could have been a tremendous LP if some of the songs on the bonus disc/record had been included within the main release at the expense of what I feel are some of the weaker and most cringe-worthy songs. It would have been fascinating to hear the songs played live as I’d be very interested to see if his band, with all their rock-edges and constant abilities to butcher some of the great Smiths singles, can capture the lovely moments that this record provides – there is a chance to do so in Glasgow on 21 March but I have decided to give the gig a bodyswerve.  Tickets ranged between £50-£72 plus booking fee and handling charges and I can’t bring myself to pay that for an arena that holds 12,000 fans – especially when just a mile or so up the road there’s this even more attractive gig.

5. Viva Hate (1988)

The solo debut which suffered at the time from being a record without the talents of Johnny Marr. It was tough getting over the break-up of The Smiths but the release of the single Suedehead provided great hope for all fans. Sadly, very few of the tracks on Viva Hate matched its brilliance but on the other hand a couple of songs surpassed even the majesty of the debut single. For that alone, it holds a high place on my rundown although there are some songs I just don;t listen to all that often nowadays.

4. You Are The Quarry (2004)

The comeback album after a seven-year absence which proved he hadn’t lost it. For a while I thought this was my favourite solo album, largely on the basis of the cracking singles that were lifted from it but also because it was so exciting to hear new material after such a long time. However, as time has marched on there’s a few songs which I feel haven’t aged all that well – even in such a short period of time – and so it has slowly slipped down the list.

3. Ringleader of the Tormentors (2006)

The proof that the comeback was going to be sustainable. Soundwise, this was every bit as unexpected and surprising as Southpaw Grammar had been but this time in a good way. There were all sorts of weird and wonderful sounds spread across the album from all-out rock numbers to material that lended itself to being recorded and performed by a full orchestra. An unexpected joy at the time made all the better by the fact that it was toured initially through gigs at some very small and intimate venues normally off the beaten track which made the songs all the more memorable. I don’t expect to hear him record anything like this again.

2. Your Arsenal (1992)

Kill Uncle had seen many folk write off Morrissey – I was one of them if truth be told. I didn’t see how he could possibly make me feel excited about music again when there was so much great stuff to listen to out there and when my musical tastes were broadening considerably to take in, for instance, grunge and rap along with a new-found appreciation for country. But I hadn’t counted on the biff bang pow factor of this record albeit I was uncomfortable trying make sense of some of the lyrics which initially made me feel Moz was sympathetic to right-wing Nazis and football hooligans. A record that still sound fresh all these years on.

1. Vauxhall And I (1994)

Opening with what I feel is the finest solo song of his career (and I still will never fathom why it wasn’t a single….I can imagine it still today being lauded by millions and given the awful cover-version treatment on ‘talent’ shows) and closing with a track that many fans rate as one of the best things he and his band ever do on the live setting. This is as flawless a studio LP that he has ever released and one of my favourite albums, by anyone, of all time.

So there you have it folks.

mp3 : Morrissey – I Will See You In Far Off Places
mp3 : Morrissey – Seasick, Yet Still Docked
mp3 : Morrissey – Speedway

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