Friday, December 17, 2010

Have you see her, have you heard? The way she plays there are no words. (Stone Roses)

Speaking of Grateful Dead (previous post): I have often wondered why they bothered with two drummers. The Dead's songs are not that wild that they need two drummers surely? I know Hart calls himself a percussionist but that seems disingenuous. It's not like the Allman Brothers Band where one plays drums and t'other plays percussion instruments. Both Hart and Kruetzmann are playing drums in the Dead.

This got me thinking about other bands with two drummers and why they have them. The school of thought on the two drummer thing comes down to: either they exist to gain certain effects (eight limbs playing like eight limbs) or produce meatier drum sounds (eight limbs playing like four).

You either use each player to generate something totally different that comes together in a way that one drummer couldn't possibly achieve, or, you have two or more drummers playing the same thing to get an organic meaty sound that delays/EQ can't replicate. Like in a marching band.

Personally I mostly fail to see the point. Bonzo only needed one set after all. But then I watched Zappa's Roxy band and remembered he had Chester Thompson and Ralph Humphrey on drums. And they were amazing. Trouble every day from the Roxy and Elsewhere album has a HUGE drum sound. Zappa was a percussionist at heart and if it's good enough for him etc.

Chester Thompson also features on the Genesis track Home by the sea. It ends with an extended orgy of drums that puts the case for two drummers most succinctly. But the Dead?

P.S. Just heard from my son that Captain Beefheart died recently. He (my son) and I remain big fans. A sad day - the planet needs more courageous musicians like Frank and Don. Where is the like in today's crop?? Sho nuff there's no one!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

It's a buck dancers choice my friend (Grateful Dead)

Two purchases from Kings' Recordings were live Grateful Dead albums: Europe '72 I have in a variety of formats; I first taped a version of it way, way back in the day. I also have a fairly scratched triple vinyl copy and now a double CD set with loads of bonus tracks (including a stupendous version of Truckin').

It was one of the first things I ever heard by the Dead and it made an impression. All those long druggy noodling versions of songs on Live Dead never did it for me - instead I loved the relatively shorter, more coherent, noodling versions of songs on Europe '72.

I love the space in these versions. I'm not sure how they achieved that but it is there - a lightness of touch that is absent from Live Dead.

The second set from Kings' was Nightfall of Diamonds and picks up a set from 1989.

I love this one even more and it may well be my favourite live Dead experience (Workingman's Dead and American Beauty are the best studio sets by some distance but I also love Terrapin Station). There must be well over 50 live sets of the band that have been released over the years, and I've certainly not heard them all (who has?) but this one stands out for me from what I've heard.

On Nightfall... the band is tight as a drum (haha, and what else would you expect - they can play these songs in their sleep) and they are battle scarred (Garcia's voice on Dark Star is about shot), yet it's a magnificent collection of songs. Gotta say I love their version of Dylan's Stuck inside of Mobile with those Memphis blues again too. I turn this one up really loud in the car on the way home from work!!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Wild Horses couldn't drag me away (Rolling Stones)

King's Recording is a CD/DVD shop in Abu Dhabi. On the second floor of the Hamdan Center to be exact. And so far it's the best CD store I've come across in the UAE/Qatar middle eastern region. If there's a better place - tell me!

It's got a great front display window (like the old Marbecks shops used to have) and it's got a great Fives style layout - a long centre aisle. Fantastic for browsing! I know I'll be back - it's a great reason for visiting Abu Dhabi.

They know their product too - as in they know what moves and I'm not talking about top 40 crap. This is a music shop, it's no Virgin Mega-store like in Doha or the Abu Dhabi mall. There they are keen to sell you t-shirts, kid's toys, phones, hi-fi equipment, books, computer games as well as DVDs and music. None of that at King's Recordings.

I stocked up!

Jacky got me a Christmas pressie there too - the newly boxed Beatles collection. I've considered getting it in NZ and Doha but the cheapest was King's. I also found some weirdos like Clapton's Reptiles. Reading a Haruki Murakami memoir put me in touch with this overlooked Clapton album. Haruki explains what a good album it is to exercise to and if it's good enough for him, I guess it's gonna be worth exploring.

Got lots of other weird things too that I've never seen before - some Jefferson Airplane/Starship DVDs, a Camel compilation, Embrace's If You've Never Been, Nena by Nena, and so on. I also snaffled the Who's BBC sessions, Ringo's latest, another Deep Purple live album (from an old Aussie tour) and others. Like I say - I stocked up while the going was good [and cheap - some albums were only 15aed (about $7)].

I'll be drip feeding my impressions of this stuff over the next few weeks so stay tuned.

Love and peace - Wozza

Friday, November 5, 2010

Here I go - playing star again (Bob Seger)

Nearly finished the trawl through my greatest hits collections - into the Ss and Bob Seger is delivering.

Time to celebrate a semi-forgotten hero.

The set was put out in 1994 and includes: 8 songs from the 70s; 4 songs from the 80s; and 2 specially done in 1994 for this set. If it was updated in 2010 it would include nothing from the last 16 years!!

What the hell happened to Bob? Maybe he retired into family life (I didn't think musicians did that)? Maybe he had nothing left to say? Maybe he put out more product with ever diminishing returns? Is he still alive?

Well yes - he is, and doing pretty well it seems. The reason for the disappearance from the music radar was a ten year absence to spend time with the family (well and truly beats Lennon's five years). He still releases albums but the market has changed. Classic hit radio formats (and this Greatest Hits collection) prolong the image of Seger as a performer anchored in a heyday.

The general vibe around Bob was that (like the J Geils Band) he'd been performing for years without any mass success - then in the seventies he could do no wrong and his brilliant live album Live Bullet displays his power with some killer songs. No live footage but here are the soundtracks to my two fav tracks. Must be played LOUD and you MUST dance and play air guitar!!!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

When the earth moves again my friend, let the lady right on through (Jefferson Airplane)

An update on the Greatest Hits tour of duty: into the J's now and Jefferson Airplane's Journey - The Best Of JA is blasting forth.

I have written before about the way I love the intertwining voices of Grace Slick, Paul Kantner and either Marty Balin or (especially) David Freiberg. Something magic happens when these voices start to soar, as they do on When The Earth Moves Again which happens to be on this collection.

It's a damned fine CD actually. JA have lots of CD compilations out there and some are rather limited in appeal. Journey is the equal of the best of the rest which I have on vinyl - The Worst Of JA, Early Flight and Flightlog.

My favourite era is when JA splintered into Jefferson Starship (via Kantner's first solo album). - hence my love of the Slick/Kantner/Freiberg lineup.

Sadly there are no great youtube videos of the band doing their thing so here's the album track complete with Papa John's great violin!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

I believe I'll dust my broom (Fleetwood Mac)

The Greatest Hits run through continues apace. I'm up to the F's in the rock/pop genre and R in Jazz (Sonny Rollins in case you were wondering).

I have two Fleetwood Mac Compilations - The Essential Blues Collection compiles the Peter Green/ Jeremy Spencer/ Danny Kirwin era and Greatest Hits is exclusively the cocaine years with Christine McVie/ Lindsay Buckingham/ Stevie Nicks.

They are two distinctly different bands. One was mega commercially successful and the other played the best blues licks in the UK. I much prefer the comparatively raw latter version.

I'm pretty sure I've blogged about this before but I usually prefer the initial formats of bands that have two distinct eras with different personnel. Bon Scott AC/DC, Peter Green Fleetwood Mac, Ozzy Osbourne Black Sabbath are three, but there are obvious exceptions too - David Gilmour Pink Floyd, Steve Hogarth Marillion are two that spring to mind.

One listen to Fleetwood Mac's Oh Well (part 1) will be enough to convince you. T'other FM is nice in an airbrushed way but if you want the real deal you need to Shake Your Money Maker with the original band.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Have you never heard a way to find the sun (Nick Drake)

Regular readers will know I am steadily moving through the Greatest Hits compilations in my collection. I am up to the D's in the Rock/Pop genre and K in jazz (Stan Kenton has just left the room).

My first contact with Nick Drake was via an article in Mojo (the Feb 1997 edition). I loved the photos of Nick in that Mojo edition (an example is on the left) and had always been intrigued by the cover of his Pink Moon album which I'd noticed in the album cover books I have. Some months later I bought Way To Blue (an introduction to Nick Drake) to sample what Mojo was raving about, just in case it was rubbish. I had no time to listen to it before we had a family holiday in Taupo and so this album formed the soundtrack of that holiday. I think I played it every day. It was perfect!

The opener is Cello Song and I never tire of hearing it. His guitar style is refreshingly original. His easy vocal style suits the material perfectly and there is an abiding feeling, when you hear it, that no one else on the planet sounds like him. He was an extraordinary talent and although his suicide left behind a relatively small body of work it is of such startling depth and clarity of expression and execution that it glows ever more brightly as the years pass on by.

Friday, September 24, 2010

A change would do you good (Sheryl Crow)

The trek through the greatest hits continues apace. Into the C's and Sheryl Crow's Hits and Rarities. Again bought in Doha when I was keen to track down Run Baby Run on CD (I only had it on a sample cassette back in Nu Zild).

Run Baby Run is an awesome track. I remember watching the video which I loved and then Roger gave me a mix tape with it on. Love the organ sound here and her vocal is lived it!

What a real shame that she has never hit those heights again. Peaked very early. The CD has the usual big suspects (All I Wanna Do, If It Makes You Happy) that are okayish. The only other good moment is her version of Sweet Child O'Mine (organ makes a welcome return) which I prefer to the original.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

I'm the greatest and you better believe it baby (Ringo Starr)

It's been raining a lot in Stratford lately. That means only one thing - time to re-sort the collection.

I've thought about splitting off all the Greatest Hit compilations from the rest for some time now. The Best Of compilation has always seemed a superfluous part of a band's history in many ways. Until recently, they contained no new material that would add to the legend. Instead they are, too often, a cynical way of generating revenue for the man. For music fans though, they are also a short cut to the hits. I wanted an album of just the hit songs of The Beach Boys so that I didn't have to keep changing albums or make a tape. But really - how many times can you compile The Beach Boys? Seems to be (an) endless (summer). It seemed to me my collection would be streamlined by the relocation of these compilations.

So I did the re-sort and was a tad shocked by how many I had (199 of them on CD and I haven't started on the vinyl yet). Also shocked by how many variations of title there are. Here's a selection of what the marketers have used over the years.

Essential... The Best Of...The Very Best Of...Greatest Hits...The Collection...The Ultimate Collection...A Short Cut to...Anthology...Hit Single Anthology...The Hits Collection...A Stack Of...Remember...Classic...The Classic Years...The Essential...Golden Greats...Hits and History...The Definitive...

My favourite titles are the bespoke ones like Meaty Beaty Big & Bouncy (The Who), Last Chance For A Thousand Years (Dwight Yokam), Strictly Commercial (Zappa), Everything and Nothing (David Sylvian), The Beast of Alice Cooper, and Echoes (Pink Floyd)
I've decided to play my way through them too. Just listened to Jack Bruce's collection called Willpower (a twenty year retrospective). It's an excellent collection with unreleased songs, a brace of Cream songs, and a judicious selection from Jack's excellent solo career up to 1987. I also like how it's set out chronologically for the most part. You get to trace a career. One of my fav's is Jack's original version of Theme From An Imaginary Western that Mountain performed in a different but also brilliant way.

Currently up to Retrospective - The Best Of Buffalo Springfield. 12 tracks of gold! All killer, no filler. Generally I like these early compilations much more than the later exhaustive collections.

I must say the less is more philosophy definitely applies to Best Of.. compilations. Usually, I just want the hits. The Very Best Of Cher is a case in point. I just wanted Gypsies Tramps and Thieves, Half Breed and a couple of the Sonny & Cher hits like The Beat Goes On. Instead I get a double CD of 42 tracks!!!!! NOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!! Massive delusions of grandeur here girl. 42 tracks !! Yeech. This should have been cut down to a single album size - 12 tracks like the Springfield. Instead we get swathes of trendy dance music in the wake of Believe that I have to skip dross to get to the good bits. I remember playing it in the car in Doha and Jacky couldn't believe I'd bought it coz I only listened to a fraction of it.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Through the garden of your smile I saw the back door or your life (The Rumour)

I recently picked up a compilation of The Rumour - a NZ band of the seventies (not to be confused with The Rumour, Graham Parker's band from the UK).

Some thoughts - they started as The Surfires (two of their songs are on the compilation) who were (near as dammit) very similar sounding as the hit making Rumour.

Shade Smith was the key ingredient - his songs carry the band forward. When he was hot - so were the band. Unfortunately he wasn't hot that often. Of the 24 tracks (value!!) only five can be described as 'hits': L'Amour est L'enfant de la Liberte; Garden of Your Smile; Holy Morning; No Money On Our Trees; and Queen of Paradise. Pity the CD doesn't include the other big hit Sunshine Through a Prism that was covered by Suzanne.

The dominant style is seventies soft rock a la Bread or Air Supply. Sometimes it's successful, but other times not. For instance What Have You Done (with that day God gave you) is pretty icky.

The harmony work is superb though and these five songs still resonate. The sound isn't always great though - sounds like it was mastered off old vinyl in places.

It's a nice overall package with some great photos and details of the band's rise and fall. One slight pedantic point - why is Graham Nash's song Teach Your Children credited to someone called John J Francis?

Finally - the CD thanks Roger Marbeck. Wahoo!! Good stuff Roger. Great to see your name in print on a CD.

Friday, August 27, 2010

I never look away, that's no lie (Phoenix Foundation)

I'm a big fan of songs that refer to the mythic nature of a landscape. Great Southern Land by Icehouse (Australia), In A Big Country - Big Country (Scotland), Haunts of Ancient Peace - Van Morrison (England), and Chuck Berry's The Promised Land are some that do the job.

NZ is so small and so young - we don't have a great tradition of this kind of thing. The Night Train Back to Waiuku (by the wonderful Murray Grindley) is a great song but it doesn't do a mythic job - more the ironic. A singer songwriter I loved in the 70s has a couple of songs that head in the right direction. John Hanlon is his name (where is he now? In Aus apparently - running an advertising agency) and he was a big deal there for a while in the mid seventies with his combination of John Denver style concerns for the environment (I Care and Damn The Dam) and Leo Sayer/Cat Stevens style rock.

His two best albums were Higher Trails (1975) and Garden Fresh (1974). The songs I'm thinking of are on the latter - I'd Rather Be A Bird and On A Hillside In The Rain.

How refreshing for an Auckland, NZ kid like me to hear a song that starts - 'Heading out of Auckland/ in the morning rain'. We'd heard songs for years about the rest of the world out there somewhere (I was a teenager growing up in middle class suburbia and had no clue about the world even though I gorged myself on American comics, music and films). The line hooked me and the mention of rain was specific (unlike the Beatles' Rain) and something I knew about.

Same with On A Hillside... I've always associated the song with growing up on the slopes of One Tree Hill in Auckland and the sound effects of the rain are judicious!

Here is his music, the setting is NZ, the adventurers are American.

Friday, August 20, 2010

You gotta go slow below the surface and gaze into the well (Dan Fogelberg)

Been reading Mojo magazine's latest edition. It contains a rhapsodic piece on Van the man's Astral Weeks album by Greil Marcus.

Will write about that in a sec. But first - time for another guilty pleasure. Dan Fogelberg. Yes I know he was sometimes a bit of an egotistical plonker but he made one album that I regard as a stone cold classic - Captured Angel.

No one really rates this album, except me. You can find it an any remainder bin you care to look in. Or you could. Silly me - I forget - no one actually goes to a CD shop anymore do they. No one cares about Dan anymore either (apart from Keegan who asked me for a place to start).

I suggested Captured Angel. It starts with glorious strings (Aspen - clear as a frosty morning)and then glorious acoustic guitars (These Days) and then gorgeous harmonies. All by Dan! He plays and sings most of it. The songs make me smile, strum my air guitar, sing along, feel good, and each song ends when it needs to. The rest of the album slides along effortlessly. Clearly a huge amount of creative effort goes into music but this album is so damned easy to love because it sounds so free and easy. Emancipator's music has the same effect on me.

Of course the associations of happy family travels as the album played over and over in the car certainly help elevate its place in my affections. I'd turn it up as loud as Jacky could bare and sing along on trips to Taupo with Keegan, Adam, Samantha, and Jade, at various times, on board. I'm sure it traumatised them all.

I've just played the album again and I've had a relaxed grin on my face the whole time.

I thought about Dan and my love for Captured Angel as I read the Marcus piece on Astral Weeks. In the piece he makes a lovely point about the synchronicity of all the elements coming together at one point to create a work of genius. He uses Bob Beamon's huge 1968 Olympic leap to illustrate his point (it was an act for which there are no parallels and no metaphors). Unfortunately for Greil, you can make the same point about anything can't you? The bowl of cereal I ate for breakfast this morning frinstance.

Astral Weeks is an album I've never been able to love. I dig it out once and a while and try hard(like right now as I type this) and, every time, it fails to move me the way Moondance and especially St Dominic's Preview move me. I find his voice too harsh on Astral (still in Them mode) and not the softer meditative soul voice he would gain later; the songs are too long and, for me, the music doesn't always suit the song. For me, there is no emotional core as there is on his other major albums like St Dominic's.

Hey it's all subjective. As Paul Simon says - one man's ceiling is another man's floor. At the end of the Marcus article he says as much himself - Astral Weeks became part of his life years ago and 'remains inseparable from it'. Astral Weeks was an album I came to while going back through Van's back catalogue. It's not an album I'm fond of in the way I'm fond of Captured Angel. I remain separate from Astral but Angel is in my soul.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Beneath the ever watchful eye the angels of the temple fly (Dream Theater)

Okay been back a while now and it hasn't taken me long to gnash my teeth at the paucity of CD/DVD outlets in my little corner of the world.

Before I left Taranaki had three places to go to find a CD - The Warehouse's music section (top 40 oriented, okay sales bins, reasonable prices, sometimes an unusual CD), Marbeck's (a pale pale shadow of what it once was - now top 40, poor sales bins, steep prices, sometimes an unusual CD), and Raw Records (niche stuff, no sales bins, steep prices, often an interesting CD).

In my absence Raw Records has closed down leaving only two places. For someone like me who likes to hold a product in his hands (records and CDs) this is a lousy situation.

Now I have to travel vast distances to get to JB HiFi (closest is a two hour drive to Palmerston North) or Real Groovy (closest is a five hour drive to Wellington or Auckland) OR shop online (my least preferred option).

Looks like the age of specialist music stores is over (Marbeck's being the only one within a three hour drive). I'm sad about that. I like to browse and look over the contents before I buy and love the chance of a bargain - a CD I've been hunting elusively. That's now gone.

Sad. Really sad!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Over the mountain watching the watcher, breaking the darkness (Pink Floyd)

It's been a Pink Floyd-a-thon of late thanks to the Rough Guide book I bought at Eye Spy Bookshop in the City Center Mall. Yes - Qatar employs American spellings!

That means an obsessive trawl through the Pink's back catalogue on my p-pod (P for Purdy, not pink yunnerstan).

Ummagumma is a weird one. Fellow non-stoner friend from Nelson is correct when he points out that sixties' university students (he's older than me) opined that it was better heard under a narcotic haze. Having never been in such a state I wouldn't know (I was a square seventies' university student - the closest I got to being stoned was waiting for a rock concert to start at the Old Maid Theatre and drowning in a sea of dope smells).

So when I listen to Careful with that axe, Eugene (what a wonderful title part 1) and Set the controls for the heart of the sun (what a wonderful title part 2) I respond to what is conjured via my full faculties and they are amazingly evocative songs. I have a good imagination.

The cover to Ummagumma has always intrigued me (front and back).

Here's wikipedia on the cover -

The cover shows the members of the band, with a picture hanging on the wall showing the same scene, except the band members have switched positions. The
picture on the wall also includes the picture on the wall, creating a recursion effect, with each recursion showing band members exchanging positions. After 4
variations of the scene, the final picture within picture is the cover of the previous Pink Floyd album, A Saucerful of Secrets. The latter,however, is absent from the CD release; instead, the recursion effect is seemingly ad infinitum.

The back cover has a picture of the band's roadies with the band's equipment laid out on an airport runway.

It's this recursive aspect to the cover that I fell in love with. Here are some others for your enjoyment:

Friday, May 28, 2010

Rip this joint, gonna save your soul (The Rolling Stones)

Every music magazine at present is running a commemorative story on the iconoclastic Rolling Stones (or more hipply - The Stones) album Exile On Main Street.

It is a great double album. Like The White Album, Electric Ladyland, and The River - it's a sprawling document from a time of creative overflowing. Unlike those three other examples, though, it is a lot more inconsistent. There are more clear peaks (Happy, All Down The Line) and troughs (Turd on the Run and Ventilator Blues) than on the Beatles, Hendrix and Springsteen efforts.

My Rolling Stones/Stones collection is, admittedly, quite patchy - I don't have all the early albums (a few collections suffice) but all the ones from Beggars Banquet onwards - through the decadent years into the long slow dissolve towards retirement. I even own a vinyl copy of Dirty Work fer goodness sake!

What with all those magazine covers and all I've been thinking of the Rolling Stones a bit lately. Last week I saw an interview on the BBC with Mick while I was in an electronics store in Doha. No sound - just an image of Mick looking more and more like a Spitting Image puppet. I also bought their last studio album A Bigger Bang on CD.

It's very similar to all of their post Steel Wheels stuff - about three really good tracks and the rest is Stones by numbers (often still better than a lot but compared to say U2 -it's dated/ not relevant/ old and in the way/ the worst type of 'dad' rock). A pity.

The self parody that has long been in evidence is now morphing into irrelevance. Time to call it a day guys - the gang has stuck in there way longer than predicted but John Lennon was right to figure, in his 1970 incarnation, that groups formed in the teenage years had a limited use-by date.

I can easily live without A Bigger Bang but not without Exile.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Dance of spring (Jesse Cook)

I came across Jesse Cook a week or so ago in Virgin Mega Store, Doha, Qatar. Not actually him yunnerstand - his music. But it felt like him. Weird.

I'm not sure how this happens and it's reasonably rare (given how many millions of people play music). A musician's personality comes through the sound so distinctly that you feel like they are in the room with you.

Hendrix, Janis, Mick and Keef, Dylan, Lennon - absolutely have this ability.

Macca? Yes. Lowell George, Anouar Brahem, Frank Zappa - sure. You get the idea.

Okay - maybe it's not that rare. I'm not sure.

With Jesse it was an immediate feeling regarding his presence - his guitar style is not only distinctive but he includes layers of subtlety that make me want to compare him to Miles and Trane. He has a peculiar ability and I'm hooked - just as Brahem conjures up sand and shimmering desert heat so Cook manages an exotic sound all of his own. No mean trick that!

He's exciting to listen to.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Getting crazy on the waltzers but it's the life that I choose (Dire Straits)

Confession is good for the soul I'm told. So here goes. I am a rock snob. I'm not proud of it but there we are.

If you read these posts this will be old news - I've managed other true confessions about my dark side - Peter Frampton, Carpenters, and John Denver, but I've never admitted to rock snobbery before.

My friend Greg is not, nor has he ever been a rock snob which is something I've always liked about him. He happily listens to, collects and has lent me non cool items along with the cool. He never seems to discriminate between - say - Dylan and Denver or Mark Knopfler for instance.

Me - I've had a problem with Mark and his band Dire Straits for years.

I loved the single Sultans of Swing when it came out but I could not really move beyond that (an exception was the Making Movies album which I love and, back in the day, used with students in English classes). I'm not really sure why. The only thing I can point to is rock snobbery. When they became mega with Brothers in Arms I turned away. Too slick, too embarrassing, too commercial, too broad in it's appeal.

That's something we rock snobs hate - when a little known band (or low level one) makes it huge. Don't wanna know anymore. Daft innit?

I bought a live Dire Straits at the BBC CD recently and I'm proud to say it has not left the car stereo system yet.

Speaking of little known bands - I can't see Black Sheep Boy pulling off a Brothers in Arms but you never know do you. My cuz sent me a copy and it's been the soundtrack for a few days now. And is further proof that Tom Waits and the Velvet Underground have forged an alternative career path for musicians. This is fractured deconstructionist-put-together-with-glue-and-scissors -a-la-Swordfishtrombones type of music.

Dr Dog is another of my favourite exponents of this genre where The Beatles sensibility is put through a blender, roughed up and held in front of circus mirrors.

I can tell why Black Sheep Boy appeal so much - there is a Killers vibe at work here but rather than chiming rock anthems we have vignettes and the guitars are replaced by pump organs. Interesting and it definitely burrows under the skin.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The hungry and the hunted explode into rock'n'roll bands (Bruce Springsteen)

This is again about Clarence Clemons - I've now finished his book and I have a few more fairly random things to say.

It's a great rock book. One I will keep and put alongside my other rock books that are worth keeping (ie dipping into from time to time) like The Real Frank Zappa Book and Dylan's Writings and Drawings. Yep - bits of it are that good.

The mythic aspect present in Bruce's music and the Scooter/Big Man history is well represented. Tough to pull that off but they do.

The genuine love between Scooter and The Big Man personas and between Bruce and Clarence is etched into every sentence. Don Reo captures it well.

I love the Frank Sinatra story - it reminds me of Rock Dreams (another rock book that's a keeper). Actually that book is name-checked at the end of Big Man so they were obviously conscious of the similarities/connections.

I was forced back to the music. Bruce (as reported in the book) says that Jungleland is C's signature song (I'm not arguing with the Boss). I love the moment in the 2001 New York concert after C has had his moment in the spotlight and before Bruce ends the song. Bruce says something to Clarence as he walks out (7.35 minutes in after an outrageously passionate Big Man solo). I don't really want to know what he says...okay - I do! It's gotta be more that "great stuff C".

Here it is - a great version of a great song.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Scooter's searching for his group... and the Big Man joined the band (Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band)

Walked in the Virgin Megastore at Villaggio (Doha) and the first thing I see in a huge cacophony of products (T shirts, magazines, CDs, DVDs, stereo gear, TVs, phones, books etc) is a book. Seriously - the first thing!

It's BIG MAN by Clarence Clemons and Don Reo (yes it upper case glory). The cover picture is sublime - Clarence smiling backstage in his BIG MAN persona (black hat, black shades, dreads, big shoes...and his sax).

I walked up to it (or maybe it walked up to me). I reached for it (or maybe it reached out to me). I picked it up (it seemed to glow and grow BIGGER in size). I opened the cover to the promised foreward by Bruce Springsteen. The words read like they were ripped from the gospel of the ministry of music.

I'm 222 pages in (read over two days in a rush) and if you have ever been touched by the magic of The Boss (aka Scooter) or just music in general then you must read it. It's worth it for the hilarious bullshit story of Frank Sinatra wanting to record Born to Run alone.

I love the story of how Bruce named the band too. Who knew?

If you want more of the Big Man - try his website.

And to leave you - here's the awesome E Streeters doing some self-mythologising!Two from '75 (my first year in thrall). Big Man joined the band indeed!! Rosie is my favourite Springsteen song!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

This old guitar gave me my life, my living (John Denver)

DEEP BREATH...I bought a John Denver CD!!

Man that feels better - now that guilty pleasure is out in the open.

At the risk of completely alienating my regular visitors let me explain my long standing... (I hesitate to use the word 'relationship' but it has to be labelled that)...with Mr Far Out himself.

It goes way back - deep into the mists of a foggy male teenage hood (in my case from about 1971 to 1978 = age 13 to 19). John Denver was huge and his songs and TV show were everywhere in that time frame. But I listened to Black Sabbath (Masters of Reality and Paranoid), Deep Purple (In Rock and Machine Head), Uriah Heep (Wizards and Demons) and Frank Zappa (Live at The Fillmore and Just Another Band From LA) among other things. Not John Denver!

John Denver was wildly uncool - the glasses (I wore glasses), the terrible fringe hairstyle ( I had a terrible fringe hairstyle), the nerdish demeanor (you're no doubt getting the point). I loved the songs and watched the TV show but the overall package was enough that I NEVER bought a JD album EVER (the Far Outs and other attempts to be hip were and still are embarrassing).

The closest I got was when my good friend Greg lent me a double live concert called, cozily enough, An Evening With John Denver (I bet his sister or mum had bought it) and I taped about 5 songs off it onto a cassette.

Fast forward 30 years and I have finally succumbed - a double CD The Essential John Denver. I have looked and almost bought compilations over the years but each one has had the dire Grandma's Feather Duvet thing on it and I just couldn't. This one however, is free of that horror and instead compiles some unbelievably great pop songs.
Top 3 - Take Me Home (Country Roads), the obligatory Rocky Mountain High, and the orgasmically great Farewell Andromeda (Welcome to my morning).
My only quibble is they couldn't find a place for This Old Guitar - a great song that ends the live album on my old cassette tape and sums up his genius.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Beyond the palace hemi-powered drones scream down the boulevard (Bruce Springsteen)

I now have a car to drive around Doha's streets (of fire). This is cool because I can now play some of the CDs I've been buying while living here in Qatar. Yesterday I bought The Best Of Lobo. Yes, I did! Who? Lobo!

You will probably know him via the seventies big hit - Me and you and a dog named Boo. I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the collection - mostly laid back countryish west coast pop, He knew his strengths and rocking out wasn't one of them. A perfect CD for the cool interior of a Nissan Tiida on a 35 degree day in Doha while waiting for the lights to change.

The liner notes are almost as entertaining and refreshing as the music. A great quote from Lobo (Roland LaVoie to his mum) connects to my last posting on high/low culture:
"I was merely good as a pop writer, only acceptable as a singer. Whatever makes a commercial singer, I had it. And it was never that I sounded so good. As far as I can figure, it had something to do with believability and was simple stuff: no hidden meanings, no fancy workups, no musical advancements."

Here he is in his bad hair, bad shirt, bad miming, simple but believable prime with another of his huge hits.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Words are flowing out like endless rain into a paper cup (The Beatles)

Good friend Greg sent me an interesting email recently that got me thinking. He was venting about the lack of appreciation of modern culture by high culture (his description used the term arty-farty people). This is something that I remember discussing at university (probably with Greg!). The something is the low art vs high art debate which is a close cousin of the populist vs niche art debate.

Greg's contention is that 'there are musicians today who may write pop or rock music but they are every bit the genius the art-snobs claim Mozart to be. And there are lyric writers who are, as poets, every bit as good as Byron and Shelley were'.

This is a classic low art vs high art situation. I can love and appreciate poets like Walt Whitman and William Wordsworth (high art) as well as modern poets in all but name like E (from The Eels) and John Lennon. But Greg's saying that art-snobs won't allow me to bracket Whitman and E together. A spurious argument, I think (and so does Greg) because that judgment's based on something that has not been correctly understood. Someone who only listens to classical arias and ignores Jackson Browne doesn't know their elbow from their arsenal (literally). It is therefore a false argument. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

On the other hand - there are plenty of sub standard musicians who give the art snobs ammunition for their argument. For every Beatles or Miles Davis there is a James Last or Hollywood Strings. I love the Big Band jazz sound of Glenn Miller et al but they didn't shift as many units as Hooked On Swing.

On the whole, though, I agree with Greg. An example? While I was typing this a Patti Smith song (Easter) emerged from the p-pod shuffle.

Patti Smith is someone who blurs all sorts of boundaries. She's a visionary poet, a performance artist, a writer, a critic, a singer, a mother, a guitarist, and, amongst other things, a force to be reckoned with.

Here she is doing Easter - a song that has a great lyric and contains a poem (you can tell where the poem is). It's also a beautiful piece of music. Is it great? Not sure, but I certainly like it and reflect on it. It's original. It's haunting. It contains a personal set of resonances. It contains an interesting theme and viewpoint, and it does so with a memorable set of images. She named the album after it so it must be important to her.

Easter Sunday, we were walking.
Easter Sunday, we were talking.
Isabel, my little one, take my hand. Time has come.

Isabella, all is glowing.
Isabella, all is knowing.
And my heart, Isabella.
And my head, Isabella.

Frederick and Vitalie, savior dwells inside of thee.
Oh, the path leads to the sun. Brother, sister, time has come.

Isabella, all is glowing.
Isabella, all is knowing.
Isabella, we are dying.
Isabella, we are rising.

I am the spring, the holy ground,
the endless seed of mystery,
the thorn, the veil, the face of grace,
the brazen image, the thief of sleep,
the ambassador of dreams, the prince of peace.
I am the sword, the wound, the stain.
Scorned transfigured child of Cain.
I rend, I end, I return.
Again I am the salt, the bitter laugh.
I am the gas in a womb of light, the evening star,
the ball of sight that leads that sheds the tears of Christ
dying and drying as I rise tonight.

Isabella, we are rising.
Isabella, we are rising . .

In the spirit of celebrating some more low art here is one of my favourite poems. It's called Across The Universe...
Words are flowing out
like endless rain into a paper cup,
They slither
wildly as they slip away
across the universe
Pools of sorrow, waves of
are drifting through my open mind,
Possessing and caressing me.

Images of broken light
which dance before me like a million eyes,
They call me on and on across the universe,
Thoughts meander like a
restless wind inside a letter box
They tumble blindly as they make their way
Across the universe

Sounds of laughter, shades of life are ringing
Through my opened ears, inciting and inviting me,
Limitless undying Love
which shines around me like a million suns,
and calls me on and on
Across the universe John Lennon.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Everyone get our of your bodies (P M Dawn)

I love my purdy-pod (p-pod) shuffle.

It's like having my own eccentric radio station, filled with all the music that I love.

I know that's a no brainer I chose all the music from my collection, and I know it contradicts one of my pet peeves of the moment - that creating a coherent album of songs is a lost art. Why is it no one is making coherent albums anymore? Two reasons - 1) records gave way to CDs and 2) CDs gave way to downloads of single songs.

Yes I love the record format - two sides (or four or six) that were sequenced with care and diligence. Alas - no longer. CDs became bloated and indistinct in form - one (sometimes really long) side.

But the kids aren't buying CDs. Their attention span is such that they can't comprehend the length of imagination required to strap on headphones and listen to Dark Side of the Moon anymore. and therefore I suffer because the redundant record companies

But I'm loving the contrasts that the shuffle draws out. From one musical genre to another in an instant. One second it can be a Paul Desmond cool jazz track then it can swing into the Norwegian metal of Opeth and then maybe Dwight Yokam's country vibe. It's so cool!

I'll show you what I mean - I'm going to type out this entry to the next 10 songs to give you a snapshot of Radio Wozza.

The first up is The Mars Volta with L'Via L'Viaquez. A crazy spiky lope of a song that acts like it's fixing to end at any second. In fact it sounds like about four different songs mashed together and left to marinate in the sun. It is quite brilliant.

It's followed by The Casuals Jesamine - all summery gloss and glimmer. A pretty perfect pop song that makes me (butterfly) smile. When the horns and strings swoop in it builds and then falls away and then I realise it's like candy floss. There is no substance to the lyric. A butterfly child? What the hey? It ends...

Now it's Ozric Tentacles' Afroclonk - quasi African drums/percussion and pipes conjure up images of the high veld. That mixes with synth squirts of hippy colour, until some rock guitar fades in with the drums and rhythm comes back. Great groove going on in this one.

Track four is The Cult with Edie (Caio Baby) - a straightforward rawk song in ballad form. I love the Cult's retro cool. Here they latch onto one of Andy Warhols acolytes and pay her some kind of homage (I think).

Five - Herbie Hancock Live and Awake - cool jazz sax piano and drums combo. I'm a late comer to the Herbie canon. But I'm catching up fast.

Six - Catarock song #5 (it has a Thai title that the p-pod can't read). This is a band from Thailand. I bought their CD in Bangkok and I love all the barking mad songs on it. Each track is very different in style - heavy metal, melodic pop, hard rock or smooth ballad are the four prevalent styles. This one is of the last variety. It has a gorgeous melody and the lyrics are of course in Thai so lord knows what he is on about but I love it. A 30 sec clip contains bits of the album.

Seven - The Datsuns Freeze Sucker = some good old fashion high pitched vocals on a seventies style hard rock base. Perfecto from the New Zealand band who have not yet bettered that first album.

Eight - in Belfast now for Van Morrison's Real Gone. Effortless swing. A brilliant combination of his relaxed van the man vocal with bushed stabs on the drums, horns and a solid organ bedrock. Mmmm - one of my favs! Great for bopping around the room (which I'm going to do,,,now).

Nine - Bob Dylan Things Have Changed. A cheerful beat and dark lyrics about a man with his head in the noose. Dylan sings in his Travelin Wilbury mode - which I like. After a while you notice that the beat doesn't deviate and it takes on a persistent heart beat. If it was on a Dylan album it wouldn't stand out in the same way. Some beautiful guitar gives a hint of pathos that suits the song's underlying mood.

Finally, track ten is back to weirdsville -Jack Bruce Mickey the Fiddler. I'm a big fan of Jack's post Cream songs. They play around with structure and his voice is glorious. He can convey so much with just a slight vocal nuance.

So there you go - Radio Wozza!! Unique and all mine!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Make a jazz noise here (Frank Zappa)

More and more these days I am drawn to jazz noises. I love the main Starbucks store at Doha's City Center mall. Each time we're at the mall I make a visit to this Starbucks - partly for the ritual cup of tea and muffin, but also for the great jazz music they play. Sets up a great ambiance. Last night there was a Ferrari promo happening in the mall with loud garish techno music. We moved through the mall to Starbucks and there was some great Coleman Hawkins' style track playing. It was such a relief! Given the contrast to the loud techno, I could feel myself relax immediately.

I recently picked up a number of jazz CDs in Belgium and England. Verve have an excellent sampler series available that I have collected for a while. Called Jazz club they have grouped music into sub genres like swinging jazz piano, driving jazz, thriller jazz (TV themes reworked by various jazz hipsters), saxophone ballads - that sort of thing. The one I got in Belgium was called Jazz For Meditation. It does what it says on the tin. It collects together jazzers like Randy Weston and song titles like 'Bamboo Flute Blues' and instruments like tabla, flute and sax to create an eastern sounding groove. Perfect for Sunday mornings.

Here's a sample of what this style of music has to offer from Alice Coltrane. Chuck this on and meditate away!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

I journey through the desert of the mind (Queens of the Stone Age)

I was keen to find out the name of this Queens Of The Stone Age riffage extravaganza after hearing it a few times on Radio Hauraki but it kept eluding me. It took ages but I managed to eventually catch it. Then came the finding of the parent album - Songs For The Deaf. No luck in Doha so it was on the list for tracking down in Europe. Duly found a copy in Brugges and subsequently saw it in Fopp for 3 pound!

Here's the awesome No One Knows by QFTSA.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Jason's Theme (John Powell)

One of the smallest categories in my collection is labelled ' Original Soundtracks'. That is - not compilations of existing songs - 'original' means that they are soundtracks specifically written for a specific film. It's tiny. Off the top of my head I can think of only the following in my collection:

The Monkees - Head
Badly Drawn Boy - About A Boy
Prince - Batman

The Beatles - Hard Day's Night and Help (and these are a stretch aren't they)

And you'll have noticed that these are obviously all essentially soundtracks of pop songs and not soundtracks of proper film music. The list of those is even smaller - Apocalypse Now. The soundtrack is largely instrumental music and dialogue with the Doors and Suzie Q thrown in.

Samantha beats me easily on this cos she loves Hans Zimmer's stuff. Keegan will eat me cos he loves film and he loves music. For me though I've seldom seen a film and thought - I must get that soundtrack. If it's a great film I usually don't notice the music and if it's a crap film I don't want to be reminded of the experience by buying the soundtrack. So - 0ne - it has to be a great movie, with a (two) great soundtrack, thirdly, I have to notice the soundtrack. But not only those three things - I also have to absolutely love the soundtrack! Only four films have ever done all four for me - the aforementioned Apocalypse Now and The Bourne Trilogy. Star Wars has come close but I don't love John Williams music sufficiently to listen to again and again.

So I've been looking for them for years in NZ and never had any luck.

Until my visit to London and Brugges. The list from the last post had the Bourne soundtracks on it. I've been searching for them for years and finally I found them. First in Brugges I bought Ultimatum and cheaply - 10 euro; then at HMV in Oxford St I got the first two - Identity and Supremacy (not so cheap - 16 pound each). Wahoo!!

Best moment was when I put on in the apartment and Jacky said - 'That's's from the Bourne films isn't it?' This qualifies as extremely high praise!

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Can you feel it? Rockin' the city (Hard-Fi)

Wow - had a great trip to London and Brugges over the last two weeks - hence the gap in posts. Have come back with a lot of new CDs to put onto the p-pod from visits to FOPP and HMV. I'll write about these over the next few posts.

Before I do though - here's a list I made before I left. It contains bands/artists that I could not find in Doha (yes I've looked) and contains interesting things either I've been keen to listen to or buy if I could. Here's the list for what it's worth. Sorry - it's in alphabetical order too - for when I search bins. I'm old school - I know I could order these on line but there is a thrill in finally tracking them down in real record stores (okay CD) that I still feel. The o = CDs I knew were good and definitely wanted, the ? = ones I was not sure about (ie I hadn't heard them - just read about them in Mojo)

0 The Bourne soundtracks (Identity, Supremacy, Ultimatum)
o Bright Eyes - Wide awake
? Bo Ningen
? Beach House - Teen dream
? Bill Calahan - Sometimes I wish...
? Neko Case
o Kathleen Edwards
o The Ed Palermo Big Band - Ed Loves Frank
? Elbow - Seldom seen kid
? Florence and the Machine - Lungs
? Grizzly Bear
? Grand Avenue - Place to fall
? Lawrence Arabia - Chant Darling
? Megafaun
? Midlake
? Om
o Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band - Between my head and the sky
o Queens of the Stoneage - Songs for the deaf/ Rated R
? Radiohead - Kid A
o Seasick Steve - Started out with nothing
? Eliot Smith - Figure 8
? Strokes - Is this it?
? The Soundtrack of our lives - Behind the music
o Turbo Fruits
o The Unthanks
o Vetiver
? World Party - Dumbing up
? The XX

And the ECM jazz list:

o Jan Garbarek/Bobo Stenson - Wichita Tai to
o Jarrett - Koln concert (to replace a cassette tape that's worn out)
o Anouar Brahem - Le Pas du chat noir
? Barre Philips - Mountainscapes
? John Surman - Brewsters Rooster
? Charles Lloyd - Rado de niebe
? David Holland Quartet - Conference of the birds

My intention was never to buy all of these. Just search and if they were cheap then I'd snap them up. FOPP of course is the best place to start, but FIVES in Leigh-on-sea was my haunt as well so that was worth a visit and failing these there was always Oxford St.'s HMV.

Over the next few posts I'll tell you all how I went.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Come timelessly dancing (Jackson Browne)

My eldest son (Keegan) has had Jackson Browne's Late For The Sky album on high rotate (he's a vinyl man like me so I can picture him flipping it over each time). I wrote about JB last year where I listed my top 5 albums (June 30 post if you want a recap) and Late For The Sky was certainly in there.

I checked my 49 song series of posts and was surprised that I hadn't thought to add my favourite JB song - the haunting For Everyman. So I'll correct that now. First of all here it is to refresh your memories.

I can still remember where I was (and who I was) when I fell in love with this song. The time that is immediately evoked is my stint as a varsity student at Auckland University and working at Marbecks Records during my holiday breaks. I'd store up records to take as my pay and worked through the JB back catalogue during this time. I remember playing this song (and the albums) in the basement of Ramelton Road in Mt Roskill (Auckland) where we lived. 'We' being my mum and dad and brother Ross. I'd taken over part of the basement room to use as a silk screening area where I produced screened shirts for myself and Noel Forth, an Australian friend. Ross had carved out an area for constructing his models. During this time I'd play this song a lot.

For Everyman (for me) actually always begins at the start of the previous song on the album - Sing My Songs to Me. The segue into For Everyman is seemless, like Slipstream into Locomotive breath (Jethro Tull on the Aqualung album)) or Taunta (Sammy's song) into Nantucket Sleighride (To Owen Coffin) (Mountain on the Nantucket Sleighride album). Each has a symbiotic relationship in that they feed off each other. Much like those other two examples and The Beatles Sgt Pepper album - it is now impossible not to immediately feel the next song coming.

Here are the lyrics to both songs (see if you can pick where one ends and the other begins):

Sing my songs to me
Sing them to me softly
Sing me sunlight and shadows
Orange groves and meadows
Let your voice ring back my memories
Sing my songs to me

Bring my dreams to me
Bring them from the darkness
Let the minutes and hours
Show my mind strange new flowers
But I'd like to know where they go when the morning comes
Bring my dreams to me

Because it seems to me that there may never be
A better chance to see who I am
Come timelessly dancing
Through my dreams to me

Everybody I talk to is ready to leave
With the light of the morning
They've seen the end coming down long enough to believe
That they've heard their last warning
Standing alone
Each has his own ticket in his hand
And as the evening descends
I sit thinking 'bout Everyman

Seems like I've always been looking for some other place
To get it together
Where with a few of my friends I could give up the race
And maybe find something better
But all my fine dreams
Well thought out schemes to gain the motherland
Have all eventually come down to waiting for

Waiting here for Everyman--
Make it on your own if you think you can
If you see somewhere to go I understand
Waiting here for
Don't ask me if he'll show -- baby I don't know

Make it on your own if you think you can
Somewhere later on you'll have to take a stand
Then you're going to need a hand

Everybody's just waiting to hear from the one
Who can give them the answers
And lead them back to that place in the warmth of the sun
Where sweet childhood still dances
Who'll come along
And hold out that strong and gentle father's hand?
Long ago I heard someone say something 'bout Everyman

Waiting here for Everyman--
Make it on your own if you think you can
If you see somewhere to go I understand

I'm not trying to tell you that I've seen the plan
Turn and walk away if you think I am--
But don't think too badly of one who's left holding sand
He's just another dreamer, dreaming 'bout Everyman

There are many resonances in these lyrics but I'll focus on one that has haunted me recently. Clearly the line - Seems like I've always been looking for some other place/ to get it together - is in my mind of late. I had a dream a few nights ago - I was in a taxi in Auckland (being driven by Dennis Hopper of all people) and I had no idea where I lived. I couldn't give him the right location so I went from areas in Auckland I'd lived (Royal Oak, Glenfield, Mt Albert, Three Kings etc) hoping that it would come back to me and it didn't. We just kept driving and I become more and more flustered.

Now I'm in Doha, driving around in Taxis and thinking about my place in the world and why I still can't seem to get it together. I'm guessing I never will - I'll be waiting here for everyman.

Love and peace - Wozza

Thursday, January 28, 2010

All those born with wings

Time to report on the great ECM experiment of 2010. The initial feeling that I have come away with is that for every CD in the ECM collection that I love I will also buy one that will be recycled.

For instance - I love Jan Garbarek's Madar CD. It does have my latest hero, Anouar Braheim on it, but Garbarek's playing is very lyrical and entirely suits the combined mood of oud and tabla. On the basis of this I bought his 1987 CD All those born with wings. Unfortunately this one turned into a squonking atonal mess. Yeeech - didn't see that coming.

Another example? The Dave Holland Trio's Triplicate CD is a constant delight vs John Abercrombie's Selected Recordings, which is a dilly of a pickle - a few 'challenging' tracks left me in the dust (of which there is a fair amount in Qatar).

I'll leave you on a positive note - with another superb discovery - Bobo Stenson. His piano playing has it all for me and is challenging in a good way. This clip has the bonus of some stunning photography as well. Ka kite ano.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The toppermost of the poppermost

The top albums of the year and the decade of the 2000s have been the focus of the magazines I've read recently. I've been back to Jarir bookshop twice now to get the new Mojo - each time it was - 'next week sir'. So in the meantime I had to buy Q and Rolling Stone. Blimin eck. I felt a little shoddy doing it but without the new Mojo - what was I to do?

I really don't like Q. Too smarmy, too try hardy, too cliquey, too ironic, too needy. I bet their list reflects all of those things. I generally only buy it if the Beatles feature in it somewhere.

Rolling Stone - I used to buy it a lot in the pre Mojo days but only because there was no real magazine for me (until Mojo came along). It's too American, too smug, too broad, too glossy, and too obsessed with celebrity. I bet their list reflects all of those things too.

It's an interesting exercise comparing the various lists. My thesis before I go in is that Mojo will have more albums on it that I either own and love or will own and love soon!

Q - The cover folds out three times and features a bunch of talented people with some overhyped people and no one (I've checked carefully) is smiling - not even close! The mirthless cover points to a fairly unfunny list of the decades top 100 albums. To be fair in the comparison I've only checked the top 50 for my purchases. With that I've bought 12 of them. The top ten was as follows:
10 Johnny Cash - American IV: Man Comes Around
9 Radiohead - Kid A
8 Jay-Z - The Blueprint
7 Green Day - American Idiot
6 Arcade Fire - Funeral
5 Coldplay - Viva La Vida
4 The White Stripes - Elephant
3 Arctic Monkeys - Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not
2 The Strokes - Is This It

As well as a top 10 of 2009 (see below), Rolling Stone also had a top 50 of the decade thing going and I did about the same - 11 of their classics are in the lock up in Stratford. Their top 10:
10Kanye West - The College Dropout
9 M.I.A. - Kala
8 Bob Dylan - Modern Times
7 Eminem - The Marshall Mathers LP
6 Arcade Fire - Funeral
5 The White Stripes - Elephant
4 Jay-Z - The Blueprint
3 Wilco - Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
2 The Strokes - Is This It
1 Radiohead - Kid A (like I said - too American - this is the only Brit).

This edition of Mojo listed the top 50 albums of 2009. Of them I actually bought a measly 5. The top 10 are (with the RS top 10 next to them):
10 Yeah Yeah Yeahs - It's Blitz (RS Sonic Youth = The Eternal)
9 Madness - The Liberty of Norton Folgate (RS The XX - The XX)
8 F**** Buttons - Tarot Sport (RS The-Dream - Love vs Money)
7 Florence and the Machine - Lungs (RS Neko Case - Middle Cyclone)
6 Bob Dylan - Together Through Life (RS Dirty Projectors - Bitte Orca)
5 Tinariwen -Imidiwan: Companions (RS Green Day - 21st Century Breakdown)
4 The Horrors - Primary Colours (RS Jay-Z - The Blueprint 3)
3 Richard Hawley - Truelove's Gutter (RS Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix)
2 Bill Calahan - Sometimes I Wish we Were an Eagle (RS Bruce Springsteen - Working of a Dream)
1 Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion (RS U2 - No Line on the Horizon)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Un sentier d"alliance

Anouar Brahem ( أنور ابراهم ) plays the oud. And he plays it superbly. I don't know much about him or about ouds actually, so I did some research.

Turns out he was born a few weeks after me in 1957. He was born in the town of Halfouine in the Medina of Tunis, Tunisia and, according to wikipedia, he 'fuses Arab classical music, folk music and jazz'.

He began playing in 1967, age 10, and at age 18 he decided to devote himself to music. He produced his first album in 1991 (Malcolm Gladwell would smile here - another example of the 10,000 hours to become an expert idea).

And the oud? Well this pear-shaped, stringed instrument commonly used in Middle Eastern music that is often seen as the predecessor of the western lute, has been around for the last 5,000 years!!!

The nearby souq has a shop displaying various ouds and has an area for repairs. I love the look of the oud and listening to a master player like Anouar Brahem is a joy.

His albums (all on ECM) =
1991 - Barzakh
1992 - Conte de l'Incroyable Amour
1994 - Madar
1995 - Khomsa
1998 - Thimar
2000 - Astrakan Café
2002 - Charmediterranéen
2002 - Le Pas du Chat Noir
2006 - Voyage de Sahar
2009 - The Astounding Eyes of Rita

Here are a few clips to whet your appetite.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Tributaries (Keith Jarrett)

Okay, I admit it. I'm terrified of the ECM jazz catalogue. I know I'm unworthy. It's such a beast (over a thousand albums in the archive). The (usually fantastic) arty sleeves give you no clue, the names of the artists are usually exotic (Arvo Part? Anouar Braheim?), and the names that are accessible (Keith Jarrett, Pat Methany) have released tons of albums and I have no idea which are the good ones without a guide (for instance - Roger gave me a copy of The Koln Concert and it's brilliant).

So when I came across a pile of ECM CDs in the local souq (market) I freaked out somewhat. For a starter it was so bizarre to find amongst the exotic spices, watches, fabrics and eateries a pile of jazz CDs from Germany!! I am managing to sift through them slowly but it's such uncharted water for me. I enlisted the internet and here's a list of someone's recommendations on

1. Dave Holland Big Band - What Goes Around (2002)
2. Nik Bärtsch’s Ronin - Stoa (2006)
3. Paul Motian - Garden of Eden (2006)
4. Nik Bärtsch’s Ronin - Holon (2008)
5. John Abercrombie - Cat 'n' Mouse (2002)
6. Louis Sclavis - Napoli's Walls (2003)
7. Dave Holland Quintet - Extended Play / Live at Birdland (2003)
8. Jacob Young - Sideways (2007)
9. Tomasz Stanko Quartet - Lontano (2006)
10. Cyminology - As Ney (2009)
11. Trio Beyond (DeJohnette, Goldings, Scofield) - Saudades (2006)
12. Wolfert Brederode - Currents (2008)
13. Terje Rypdal - Vossabrygg (2006)
14. John Abercrombie - The Third Quartet (2007)
15. Arve Henriksen - Cartography (2008)
16. Arild Andersen - Live at Belleville (2008)
17. Charles Lloyd - Hyperion With Higgins (2001)
18. Tord Gustavsen- Being There (2007)
19. Vladimír Godár - Mater (2006)
20. John Surman - Brewster's Rooster (2009)
21. Charles Lloyd - Rabo de Nube (2008)
22. Louis Sclavis - L'Imparfait des Langues (2007)
23. David Torn – Prezens (2007)
24. Arild Andersen Group - Electra (2005)
25. Tomasz Stanko - Suspended Night (2004)

Mojo recently did a Top 10 in their 'How to buy...' series - and that helped too. But I still feel overwhelmed by the ECM catalogue.

Here are a few clips of worthiness I found, using these sources as a guide.

Great guitar clip - check this bloke out!