A song that cures all ills and is made by bees – the artist has to begin with B
Battery life seems to be the main problem. Why don’t they make the car roof out of a solar panel? You would need to charge less often.
I imagine the playlist will be more sedate. I don’t picture the wind in my hair driving an electric car. I’m bald for a start. Gary Numan regarded machines as friends. Are ‘Friends’ Electric? is about the right pace.
What does it sound like?:
Absolute Beginners is a film that can’t make up its mind if it’s a musical or a series of pop videos. It fits into Julien Temple’s directing style quite logically. He likes to string together a series of short segments featuring cameos by celebrities, distracting from any lack of narrative or character development by deploying showbiz panache and lots of energy. The Great Rock And Roll Swindle and It’s All True made him a popular turn-to director for eye-catching music videos, a reputation confirmed by Jazzin’ For Blue Jean for David Bowie, a light-hearted twenty minute short you might have seen supporting Company Of Wolves. Goldcrest, a British film company, riding high on the critical and commercial successes of Chariots Of Fire, Ghandi, Local Hero, The Killing Fields and A Room With A View, enlisted Temple for a big budget film of Colin MacInnes’s excellent novel on Afro-Caribbean and hipster culture in 1950’s Swinging London with a view to exploiting the best of British talent in Pop music, acting, writing and film-making.
In the mid 1980s, England was enjoying a revival of smooth jazz with a kindred spirit to the music described in the » Continue Reading.
I’ve built some shelves and am now busy filling them with my CDs. I’ve got a few filing dilemmas.
1. Where do you put the ‘Mc’s and the ‘Mac’s? At the beginning of M or not?
2. Some artists have ‘de’ with a low case ‘d’ before the surname proper, like ‘de Montford’. Do you ignore it and file under M or keep it under D?
3. Similarly, ‘van’ as in ‘Van Etton’? Is that under V or E? Obviously doesn’t apply to Morrison whose first name is Van.
4. Then there is St. as in St. Etienne. The convention is that St. Goes before Sa, no?
5. Some names have a couple of surnames, such as Jerry Lee Lewis. Is he under Lee or Lew?
6. Do you break up the band? I’m thinking of The Wailers with or without Bob as a prime example.
7. How about when an artist goes under different names? Do you file Wings and The Fireman under McCartney?
8. Once you get an artist’s oeuvre altogether, is it chronological or alphabetical order?
What does it sound like?:
After the recent sad loss of Kraftwerk founder, Florian Schneider, it’s an opportune time to re-evaluate their catalogue. It’s helpful that Kraftwerk, still led by Ralf Hütter, have released most of it digitally, for streaming or download, in stereo and Dolby Atmos/HD Surroundsound best appreciated via Amazon HD or Tidal. You can now enjoy the eight core studio albums from Autobahn to Tour de France Soundtracks in their 2009 remaster and the 2017 3-D Catalogue in both English and German. Autobahn, Radioactivity and Tour de France have only one set of vocals but Trans Europe Express, The Man Machine, Computer World, Techno Pop and The Mix were issued in German for the German, Austrian and Swiss markets, and English for the rest of the world. For Kraftwerk purists, the German versions are the definitive ones.
Kraftwerk began as experimental Krautrock group, flirting with atonality and repetitive motorik rhythms. By the time of Autobahn in 1974, they had found their niche. Impressed by an exhibition by Gilbert and George, two similarly suited men with narrow ties, influenced by the Bauhaus aesthetic in wanting to make their lives into a work of art, Kraftwerk decided to » Continue Reading.
It was my aunt’s funeral this week. She was 89 and her body simply gave out. There are paintings in her house, painted by her mother and father and her husband’s mother and father in the 1920s. They are excellent landscapes or portraits of animals. Some are oil on canvas and properly framed. Some are painted onto tiles. The detail is stunning.
My father inherited this artistic bent. He went to art school and became a photo-lithographic retoucher, a job now carried out by computers. He sketched and did some painting every week at home. I recall, as a child, him spending hours at an easel, not to be disturbed. However, he was never happy with the results and destroyed most. After his death, there were only a handful of pieces left. My son and my brother’s daughter are obviously talented. However, one doesn’t think of himself as being arty at all and the other hates painting and drawing, despite being really good.
This feeling of inadequacy seems particularly prevalent in artists. It may be the solitary nature of it or the fact that it’s only really the showmen who get their work exhibited, like Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin or » Continue Reading.
It’s no surprise he doesn’t believe rules and laws apply to privileged gits like him. The truly awful news is that he’s fond of ABBA. Surely, that must spell the end of their ‘revival’.
I notice that some of the most commented have more than enough views to appear in the Most Viewed list but don’t. Elton John Is Vic Reeves, for example.
Sorry, mods, I love you, but now I’ve completed my Top Ten Albums Of All Time, I don’t have much else to think about.
…provide I, erm, Stay Safe. No, that’s not right… Stay Alert, something, something, Save Lives. Wait. I know this. Stay Alert, Stay Safe, Save Lives. That’s right, isn’t it?
I’m presuming the banner at the bottom of the page will now change.
What does it sound like?:
The Revolutionary Army Of The Infant Jesus first formed in Liverpool in the mid eighties and released two albums and two EPs over a decade. They were silent until 2013 when French label Infrastition offered to repackage their back catalogue and have been enjoying a flurry of creativity since. They start from a Christian outlook, but are more influenced by Eastern European Orthodoxy where Church art is sacramental rather than illustrative and beauty is discovered in the pursuit of divine truth, not created by mankind. They mix Folk with Gregorian chants and Drone Music, but are willing to roam far and wide, even into Electronica and field recordings, to express their musical ideas. They know their scriptures and they know their poetry and philosophy, from West to East. They understand that Christianity is a broad church and that faith encompasses doubt and long, dark nights of the soul. After all, their name is a reference to the terrorist group in Luis Buñuel’s 1977 film, That Obscure Object Of Desire, ‘a quixotic treatise on lust and love’, that they probably saw in the original French.
They are a record company nightmare, shunning the limelight, » Continue Reading.
Tiggerlion on Aladdin Sane by David Bowie
On the 13th of April 1973, Ziggy Stardust, battered and bruised in the middle of a long tour, morphed into Aladdin Sane.
Watch That Man isn’t a portent of doom like Five Years. It’s a kind of hell in the present, a typical rock & roll party. Earth may no longer be dying but the drugs are bad, the tables are scattered with cocaine and champagne bottles, the men are creepy, a reverend is dancing on his knees, reminiscent of the cop kneeling to kiss the feet of a priest, and the music is so loud it’s difficult to hear any conversation. Mick Ronson’s guitars assail the ears from both sides, Woody Woodmansey’s drums clatter noisily and the new Spider, Mike Garson, on piano, is constantly trying to get a word in. The mix is dark and murky because everyone is smoking and the light bulbs are dim. At least the girls are beautiful. Linda Lewis and Juanita ‘Honey’ Franklin sound so fabulous they must be wearing short skirts and thigh length boots, still fashionable in 1973. It’s a strain to make out Bowie’s vocal because, for once, he isn’t the centre » Continue Reading.
What does it sound like?:
Stefano Bollani is a dazzling Italian jazz pianist whose lengthy CV includes work with Chick Chorea, Bill Frisell, Pat Methany, a fifteen year collaboration with trumpeter Enrico Rava and multiple performances with several classical orchestras. He is adventurous in any setting: solo, duo, trio, small band, big band or full orchestra. And a chameleon able to adapt to any musical style: stride, be-bop, fusion, free, classical. He seems to be capable of almost anything and to possess an unlimited range.
He fell in love with Jesus Christ Superstar at the impressionable age of fourteen. The music we obsess over in our teens stays with us. I can understand how Bollani was drawn to the musical. As an Italian, he would have been indoctrinated with Catholicism. At fourteen, he was at a stage in life when many start to pose some questions. The notion of Jesus as a rock star appeals to rebellious youth. Plus, the sympathetic depiction of Judas and Mary Magdalene may well have piqued his curiosity, let alone the wonderful melodies and powerful guitar riffs.
This album is an adaptation of the score for solo piano. The only vocal is on » Continue Reading.
What does it sound like?:
Modest Mussorgsky’s Pictures At An Exhibition is well known to many Afterworders because of Emerson, Lake & Palmer’s version, released at a budget price. In 1874, Mussorgsky composed the piece for piano as a tribute to his friend, architect and artist, Viktor Hartman, who had died suddenly from a brain haemorrhage. He was inspired by an exhibition of 400 of Hartman’s paintings, two of which were owned by Mussorgsky himself. Ravel was commissioned to orchestrate it in the early 1920s for the huge orchestras that were in vogue at the time. He adds colour and drama to Pictures At An Exhibition, confirming his reputation as a virtuoso orchestrator.
François-Xavier Roth’s Les Siècles philharmonic orchestra use period instruments to recreate famous performances as faithfully as possible. He often revisits the original transcripts to tease out essential details. For a large orchestra, Les Siècles is surprisingly nimble and uncluttered, deploying its power sparingly and with precision. As a result, Pictures At An Exhibition is vigorous and theatrical. The horns and woodwinds are particularly impressive and the strings rich and luxurious. It’s just how it should be.
Ravel’s La Valse is a distorted waltz. Written in 1920, » Continue Reading.
Paul Simon – Paul Simon. Sounds like it was made by a man stuck in his apartment ruminating on his life. Beautiful and engrossing.
Burial – Burial. Dark and dystopian. Without words, the night streets are strangely empty.
Miles Davis – In A Silent Way. A calm before the storm.
Sister Sledge – We Are Family. The kitchen disco needs the finest disco album ever made.
Fleetwood Mac – Rumours. Some nostalgia for the entire household to enjoy.
Sigur Rós – Agætis Byrjun. A soundtrack for when the Earth splits asunder.
Grace Jones – Hurricane Dub. We all need some of Grace’s ferocity, but maybe not a full-throated vocal album. Plus, we all need some Dub.
David Bowie – Blackstar. If you haven’t listened to it for a while, I dare you to go back and contemplate mortality with possibly the greatest Pop star that ever lived.
Ali Farka Touré & Toumani Diabaté – In The Heart Of The Moon. At times like this, something flawlessly exquisite, makes us feel better about mankind.
John Coltrane – A Love Supreme. No better spiritual accompaniment for our journey to the far side.
The Exciting Wilson Picket. Pure, unadulterated, sweat-inducing dance music.
Shabaka » Continue Reading.
What does it sound like?:
Conceived as a dire warning for mankind in the face of a climate change catastrophe, We Are Sent Here By History resonates even more powerfully as nature fights back and inflicts a mutant virus on us all. Listening to it just as the whole world is embroiled in the kind of existential threat the album describes is both a sobering and exhilarating experience.
Shabaka Hutchings is a restless soul, born in Barbados but raised in London, he is a wandering minstrel, who leads no fewer than three bands, the electronic dance influenced The Comet Is Coming, the polyrhythmic Caribbean-style Sons Of Kemet and these, The Ancesters. It’s no wonder he is drawn to the African tradition of griot, in which a dazzling showman, instrumentalist, and storyteller, travels from village to village to spread the news, connecting one community with another and the past with the present and the future.
Siyabonga Mthembu’s vocals, as the griot, are pivotal to the album. He chants in Zulu and Xhosa, he recites the visionary poetry of Lindokuhle Nkosi, he raps and he sings, he screams, he implores, he cajoles. He rails against God on You’ve Been Called, » Continue Reading.
What does it sound like?:
All of Agnes Obel’s albums are tender, elegant and graceful. Her first, Philharmonics, evokes the delicate, pristine beauty of a snowflake. Aventine, warmed by a deep blanket of strings, is auburn and gold. Citizens Of Glass expands her horizons with a sonic palate of unusual instruments and percussion. Her latest, Myopia, seems a step back to a long, introspective, moonlit night.
All her signature sounds are here: delicate, flowing piano lines, pizzicato cellos, a bassline that is felt rather than heard, and pure ethereal vocals. She pitches her own voice up and down to create backing by a sepulchral Obel choir. At the heart of it all is her and her piano and this time she adds as few instruments as possible to enlarge the sound. Although, the title track features an actual drum, overall, there is an austere feeling, a sparsity in the production, especially in the strings and the lead vocal, that stings. She doesn’t sing the words clearly, as though reluctant to reveal their secrets. The song titles are enough to be concerning: Camera’s Rolling, Broken Sleep, Island Of Doom, Myopia, Can’t Be, Promise Keeper and Won’t You Call Me. Three » Continue Reading.
What does it sound like?:
How can you sum up a gargantuan career like Miles Davis’s in a single documentary or compilation of recordings? There are so many phases, all rich with depth and complexity, over a period of well over four decades. It starts in his teens with Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie (Be-Bop), then moves through his work with the nonet (Cool), the first quintent with Coltrane (Hard Bop), the Kind Of Blue era (Modal), concerto-style pieces with Gil Evans (Orchestral), the second great quintet with Herbie Hancock (Post-Bop), the conversion to electric instruments (Fusion), prolonged unstructured pieces (Free), the commercially successful return in the eighties (Pop) and touching on Flamenco, Soundtracks, Funk, Rock and Hip Hop in between, not forgetting The Blues, which is arguably at the heart of all his music. His constant, restless quest for inspiration and reinvention, plus his defiance of expectation and convention, drive most observers to give up and tackle the enormous elephant that is Miles Davis by focussing on one phase at a time.
Stanley Nelson’s documentary film features a large number of talking heads: musicians who worked with Miles ranging from Jimmy Heath through to Marcus Miller, including » Continue Reading.
A young woman has tragically taken her own life. There are so many aspects to all this, it is quite bewildering. Trolls, the media, the CPS and ITV are getting a kicking.
As far as I can tell, Caroline Flack was a successful, well liked TV presenter. I did watch her in Strictly and she was amazing. There was an expression in her dancing that the other contestants could not compete with, as though she had a bottomless well of emotion she could tap into at will. She was, quite rightly, lavished with praise.
Love Island is one of those shows that fascinates a young demographic who are nimble with their thumbs, like my millennial offspring and their partners. Caroline Flack had 2 million followers on Instagram. Feeding that beast must be quite a burden. I notice Davina McCall said yesterday that she was going to have a quiet evening on social media and it struck me that her followers must expect daily or even hourly updates. Clearly, maintaining your celebrity status involves a lot more than just looking pretty.
Then, there’s the incident. Flack’s boyfriend called the police claiming she had tried to kill him by » Continue Reading.
Davos depressed me. Too little, too late. But, on reflection, I’ve managed to find a glimmer of hope.
Most millenials I know are environmentally savvy. As consumers, they seem to be moving away from high carbon products to low. If more consumers follow suit, businesses will have to follow. In addition, as employees they are looking to avoid companies who contribute more to climate change. In America, Microsoft have announced itself as a green company that will pay back all the carbon it has generated since coming into being. Investors are also beginning to make a stand. BlackRock, also a U.S. firm, manages $7.4 trillion of funds and it is saying it will move away from ‘high sustainability risk’. Some businesses are at risk of future regulation or the introduction of a carbon tax, others because of extremes in the weather. BlackRock is divesting companies whose revenues are more than 25% dependent on coal. Trump’s Treasury Secretary, Steve Munchin, might have called on Greta Thunberg to take lessons in economics, but it looks increasingly as though he’s the one behind the curve. If I was a businessman, I’d be looking Green. Things might be beginning to move in the » Continue Reading.
I’ve been enjoying a Christmas present, Travellin’ Thru. It’s clear that Dylan thrives on the pressure of the genuine take or live performance. Suddenly, he comes alive. But what is going on with his voice?
Dylan was always pretending to be someone else other than Robert Zimmerman. In interviews he’d make up outlandish stories about his past. Here, we hear him pretending to pretend in at least three different ways. I understand he’d taken a sabbatical following his gruelling ‘Judas’ tour and motorbike accident. Maybe, he no longer wanted to be the pre-1967 Dylan. John Wesley Harding is austere, almost Old Testament medieval, and his voice sounds like a withered old seer who lives as a hermit and doesn’t know how to conduct a conversation. For Nashville Skyline, he reinvents himself as a masculine hunk, irresistible to women, all deep round baritone notes, as seductive as molten toffee. It strikes me as his freakiest album, even stranger than the one with The Grateful Dead. The duets with Johnny Cash are also weird, as though he realised he couldn’t compete with Cash’s sonorous voice and ended up pitching betwixt and between. On these outtakes, he defers a lot to Cash, who » Continue Reading.
Tiggerlion on the official studio recordings The Beatles made of other writers’ songs.
Apart from a forty second blast of Maggie Mae released in 1970, The Beatles recorded twenty-four covers of other people’s songs during their official studio career, mostly during the first couple of years when they made their first four albums. They were all derived from their live act, some dating back to their earliest gigs, and they give an insight to where The Beatles came from and why they became such a success. Ten were late fifties Rock and Roll classics written by Carl Perkins, Larry Williams, Chuck Berry and Little Richard, appealing to the leather clad rockers within. Ten were originally sung by girl groups or were ballads from musical theatre or by Soul artists, appealing to the teenage girls who were the hotbed of their early audience. Seven were captured in the first take.
Prior to winning a recording contract with EMI, The Beatles had some experience working in a studio. In Hamburg, they befriended Tony Sheridan and acted as his backing band both live and, on 22-24th June 1961, for studio recordings. On the final day they were given the opportunity to record two » Continue Reading.
Stormont has reopened.
Well done, Colin!
Terrible events in London today with two people dead, besides the attacker, and three others hospitalised. But, weren’t those civilians who intervened extraordinary, tackling a man with knives duck-taped to his hands and wearing an apparent suicide bomb?
We won’t know which way we’d go until the time comes.
What does it sound like?:
1999 was Prince’s breakthrough album. Released in 1982, it was his fifth and yielded his first top ten singles, bringing him to the attention of a wider audience and giving him the platform for the mega-Michael Jackson stardom Purple Rain would bring. It marks the start of his imperial phase.
It’s a double LP. Although Prince had plenty of songs available, he fills it by extending the length of the eleven tracks, allowing his vivid, depraved imagination to roam free. He simplified the sound of its predecessors, Dirty Mind and Controversy, using mainly synthesisers and a Linn drum machine, plus some bass and electric guitars. He keeps the instrumentation tight, creating a stark, robotic, electro-funk that helped define the Detroit Sound. Afrika Bambaata’s Kraftwerk influenced Planet Rock clearly had an impact but it was the feel and tone of Blade Runner and its Vangelis soundtrack that impressed Prince most. Somewhat improbably, The Stray Cats inspired some experimentation with Rockabilly. The vocals are key. Across the album, he deploys five backing vocalists, mainly female, and shares lead vocals with two of them on the title track. However, Prince’s own singing is stunning. The textures and » Continue Reading.