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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Revision Examined

Tom started his mock exams yesterday. He reckon it went OK but found the going fast and rough. Was the revision any help? Well not in terms of the questions asked on the paper it wasn’t.


Tom however (and rather generously I thought) told me that the general act of revising had been a good mental discipline. I think I’m more nervous about these exams this week than he is.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Down With The Jazz Rock

Today I will be mostly playing jazz-rock…

Isotope – the poor man’s Mahavishnu was a cruel jibe at the time. Not entirely fair but listening through it, you kind of know what they mean as Gary Boyle takes several run and jumps at the McLaughlin staccato attack. My favourite track from their first self-titled album is Upward Curve and features some great niggardly soling from keyboard player Brian Miller.

Moonshadows – Alphonso Johnson. A solo album by Weather Report’s then bass man, circa 1976. Tight funk, noodling with pitch-bend galore to the fore, and dopey but beautifully sung lyrics about finding the essence of our being by Flora Purim; all are redeemed by the combined grooves of Johnson and an explosive rhythm section that includes Leon Chancellor (with whom Johnson was teamed with on Weather Report’s Tale Spinnin’) and Michael Walden.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Blind Faith

I’m unable to access the backend of DGMLive and access to Blogger remains frustratingly intermittent. I’m considering giving up on it if this continues.

Most of the weekend has been spent catching up with mail that arrived while I was away in Devon.

Mostly these are albums for review work but several are for “pleasure” as it were. In that pile sits the deluxe version of the Blind Faith album – the one with the infamous cover of the topless young girl. Now her modesty is restored with the addition of an opaque slipcase.

Inside the music strikes me as sprawling and tardy: definitely a case where less is very much more. That said, Steve Winwood is on good form for most of it.

Other albums in the pile include;

The Age Of Science And Enlightenment by Karda Estra

Recording a Tape the Colour of the Light by Belle Orchestre (sent to me by my niece Errin and excellent stuff it is too.)

Snow Borne Sorrow by Nine Horses;

The Libertine by Michael Nyman

Spellewauerynsherde by Arkira Rabelais

You & Me In The Jungle by Wild Turkey

I’ve been checking out some of the fan reaction to the release of the Fripp & Eno download on DGMLive. You can please some of the people some of the time which is a pretty good place to be as far as I’m concerned. Blind faith in anything is bad news to be sure.

A significant portion of the day is spent with Tom who has been revising for his GCSE mocks this last week. I’m surprised and pleased at his diligence though not half as surprised as he is with himself.

Elsewhere Debbie and I receive news that we’ve been expecting / dreading, resulting in lots of tears.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

The Bruised Romantic Glee Club Jakko Jakszyk
















It's only being so cheerful that keeps
him going...


The Bruised Romantic Glee Club
Jakko Jakszyk
IcenI

30th October 2006

Encompassing art-rock jokers 64 Spoons (“Stravinsky meets the Barron Knights”) the Stiff record label, dalliances with several Canterbury sound legends, a spell with Level 42, award-nominated Radio 3 documentary maker, and singer /guitarist in King Crimson alumni project, 21st Century Schizoid Band, Jakko’s musical career has been nothing if not eclectic.

Jakszyk (pronounced Jack-Chick by the way) cut his teeth listening and playing along to Crimson, Henry Cow and Soft Machine albums back in the early 70s, cultivating a prodigious technique that would see him working with many of his schoolboy heroes many years later.

His latest album is something of a 2 disc sentimental journey; one part autobiography, one part celebratory cover versions and adaptations of the music that inspired him to become a musician in the first place.

Joined by a brace of heavyweight musos including sax player Mel Collins, Hatfield keyboard maestro, Dave Stewart, Porcupine Tree’s Gavin Harrison, Danny Thompson, Soft Machine’s Hugh Hopper, and King Crimson’s Robert Fripp amongst others, the potentially sprawling firepower available to Jakko on this release is tempered by his disciplined ear for first class melodies.

The result is an unexpectedly accessible album with musical chops and commercial hooks in equal measure.

The stately blend of power pop on “Highgate Hill” honours the punctilious OCD production values of Jellyfish and Tears For Fears. It’s a jubilant, swagger of a song endowed with a heavy-rotation chorus of dizzy strings, rumbling tympani and ecstatic vocals.

Fans of the furrowed brow school of playing need have no fear. Mel Collins blows a career-best storm of a solo on the title track, recalling his work on Crimson’s Lizard. Similarly, the hairpin bends of “Catley’s Ashes” pushed headlong by Mark King’s constantly shifting bass and Gavin Harrison’s volatile brand of meticulous drumming allows both Collins and Jakszyk enough room to do their turn-on-a-sixpence groove thang.

At the other end of the emotional scale disc one’s closing track “When We Go Home”, prompted by his mother’s last words to him before she died (“Who’s the boy with the lovely hair?”), deals with her descent into Alzheimer’s.

With a sublimely poignant, ghostly trace of a solo by Robert Fripp, it’s arguably the heart of the album and a profoundly moving one at that.

If the first disc is about coming to terms with key events in his life, the second pays homage to the soundtrack that constituted his misspent youth.

Soft Machine’s “As Long As He Lies Perfectly Still” benefits from a affectionate arrangement by Dave Stewart who demonstrates what a sympathetic accompanist he can be on Jakko’s stirring rendition of “Islands.”

Past and present are neatly tied up when Henry Cow’s “Citizen King” morphs into the original recording of a school music project undertaken when Jakszyk was 15.

Some journeys are intensely personal yet possess a common core with which we can identify with. Though his descriptions and settings of loss, bewilderment, betrayal, hope and resolution are uniquely his, they chime with the rest of us.

As Jakko smirks only half jokingly in the extensive sleeve notes accompanying the album “I’ve suffered for my art. Now it’s your turn.”

Available from Burning Shed

Friday, October 27, 2006

Those That We Love

The Manor House,

Shaldon

How do we face loss? What has given me some comfort in the months following my mother’s death is that she knew that we loved her and were with her at the end. The thought of anyone facing that irrevocable stepping off on their own is almost too much to bear.

We can get the mundane and everyday affairs in order before we go. That’s the easy bit. Getting our emotional life together and the all the things that stem from this is so much more important. And sometimes harder.

We best face up to the challenge of loss when we let those that we love know that we love them.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

After The Rain

The Manor House,

Shaldon

A sunny day in this beautiful place.

We sit about chatting and soaking up the sun.

Neil and I left Halina and Debbie for the fleshpots of Totnes - grooving around second-hand bookshops and a trip to Roly's Fudge Pantry is my idea of bliss.

The main street in Totnes

And just off the main street

And just above the main street


Then back to Shaldon to pick up the troops and head off to Dartmoor for the afternoon.



We stopped off at a place called Postbridge where they have a perfect example of a Clapper bridge. Never mind iron in the soul - here's some iron in the water

What's a Clapper bridge?This is...

Meanwhile Deb, Tom and Roz take it to the other bridge


As ever Debra leads the way to a little shop selling some fab ice creams produced by Langage Farm.


All for one and one for all - Debbie particularly recommends their Thunder & Lightning variety. Then it's back in the wagon and home to Shaldon and the Manor House.


Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The Great Indoors

The Manor House,

Shaldon

A case of friends reunited; nothing too strenuous other than making toast, reading newspapers, talking and listening.

I finished the Roger Lewis biography of Anthony Burgess and feel a) exhausted and b) slightly sullied – the way one does after dealing with a particularly difficult child. The main thing I get from reading this book is a sense of how competitive Lewis is with his subject, and I’m not sure I want that in a biography.

A rainy day which emphasises the coziness of the great indoors.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

A World Of Revision

Tom has entered the world of pain known as GCSE revision. Although he needs reminding from time to time, Tom is far more diligent at this kind of thing than I ever was in my youth, leaving school as I did with zero qualifications.

I read somewhere that the attention span of an average teenager is measured by taking their age, converting that into minutes and adding an extra minute for good luck. If this is so then Tom has 16 minutes of brain time per subject.

And now…I’m off to Devon.

Debra lounging about at Newcastle Airport...

...me too!

Monday, October 23, 2006

Torchwood

Torchwood, BBC3

Full marks to the Cardiff Tourist Board and the owners of the Jones the Rotor helicopter hire company for coming up with the wizard scheme of disguising a promotional film for the city and the firm as a piece of drama and enlisting Midas-touch TV exec, Russell T Davies to put it together for them.

Having resurrected the moribund Doctor Who series a couple of years ago, producer Davies has given the french kiss of life to another Dr. Who related institution – in this case the covert alien-fighting military-based U.N.I.T. first seen in 1968 – dispensing with the army surplus gear in favour of Special Ops chic, translating UNIT’s basic raison d’etre into Torchwood.

This top secret team, led by Dan Dare style man-from-the-future, Captain Jack Harkness, played to sunshine-smile perfection by John Barrowman, hang around in Cardiff because apparently it’s the centre of a rift in space and time.

Quicker than you can say “billowing trenchcoat”, Captain Jack and his band of merry computer whiz-kids and alien tech-savvy cynics, are infiltrated by a curious beat cop Gwen (Eve Myle) who gains entry to the hi-tech camp by pretending to deliver pizza.

Myle makes a decent job of being the “not butter” character – so-called because she has to spend a lot of time saying “I can’t believe it!”, and drawing upon a range of expressions that sway anywhere between puzzled and pissed off.

Touted as Dr. Who for grown ups on account of its post-watershed swearing and a spattering (if that’s the word I’m looking for) of raunchy sex, this element came into its own in the second episode when an alien parasite feeding off orgasmic energy has its host body “knob her way around Cardiff.” Things get sticky for the luckless males she encounters who quite literally explode with delight upon climax.

Aside from a set-up in which her misogynist ex gets his just come-uppance, the body count rises without any kind of thought as to the consequences and falls into the usual “Well, all’s well that ends well” cop out we would expect from a pre-watershed show.

Aspiring to character-based drama (“It’s about relationships” says an enthusiastic Davies in an online interview at the show’s website), Torchwood, despite its glossy production values, is really just the usual big action tosh with a few rubber masks and CGI thrown in for good sci-fi measure.

Perhaps we’ll see more development in the weeks to come but at the end of the first two episodes of Torchwood I was persuaded that a) Cardiff was totally deserving of the lottery millions and other government grants and private sector partnership it has received during its extensive regeneration (this is a Doctor Who spin-off after all), and b) that it looks bloody marvellous from the air – or to put it another way, from a distance.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Peter Hammill Reissues II


















The comfort of strangeness

Over/The Future Now/
PH7/A Black Box


Peter Hammill
EMI
Out 30th October

It’s a given that all writers are self-obsessed creatures who see themselves as the centre of the universe, with everyone else revolving in orbit around them.

Though no stranger to touching upon the joys and sorrows of the heart, Hammill’s 1976 album, Over, was the first one given over in its entirety to a broody meditation about the breakdown of a long-term relationship, and as such it was never going to be a barrel of laughs.

Over makes for uncomfortable listening not because of the emotional sensitivity of its subject matter but because self-pity is one of the least attractive facets of human nature. Hearing Hammill’s lachrymose musing on the affair one can’t help but empathise with the woman who walked out.

It’s not without its moments. “Crying Wolf” opens strongly continuing the rockist momentum adopted on Nadir's Last Chance, and the bass chord slashing through “(On Tuesday’s She Used To Do) Yoga” articulates the crashing finality of a thing gone bad exceptionally well. Mostly though, it’s as if someone has recorded a parody of what they think a Hammill doom and gloom-fest might sound like.

“Lost And Found” wobbles unconvincingly into VdG territory, and though “This Side Of The Looking Glass” aspires to a stoic grandeur, it’s an empty gesture of a song, albeit an expensively orchestrated one. For an album rooted in personal trauma, there’s something oddly detached; emotional punches pulled rather than a cathartic letting go. At its heart Over is the sound of a control freak desperate to maintain his position.

A tenuous proposition at the best of times, the reformed VdGG had begun with a bang (Godbluff) ended with a whimper (World Record), going on to become the ultimately uneven string-driven Van Der Graff.

When Hammill made The Future Now (1978), they were hanging onto a recording contract by the skin of their teeth. Despite such uncertainties (or possibly because of them), Hammill cut an unexpectedly strong album.

Given the context it’s no surprise that several tracks deal with the music industry and the trails of being a public performer. Having drunk long and deep at the poisoned well of the business, Hammill is eminently qualified to pronounce judgement upon it. The incisive expose of the rich and stupid (“Trappings”), and the garbled, dysfunctional chaos of “Energy Vampires” both sound like dispatches from the frontline written in the heat of battle.

Released after the demise of VdG, the album marks the appearance of rudimentary drum machines which impact significantly on Hammill’s work and not always for the better.

Robbed of Guy Evans’ unpredictable presence, the emaciated riffing of “Pushy Thirty” sounds insipid and tinny. “If I Could” is one of his surer, more traditional ballads, something of a quiet highpoint that is easily lost in the abrasive clamour of “A Motor-Bike In Afrika”, and the overblown “Mediaeval” – proof indeed that Hammill likes the sound of his own voice a bit more than is good for him.

When ranting about the corrupting influence of “The Old School Tie” on pH7 (perversely his eighth album), Britain was gearing up for the scorched earth monetarist policies of Thatcherism.

The institutionalised madness of the Cold War and its too-logical conclusions scream out from “Porton Down” in a way that is reminiscent of 1974’s “Modern.” Though the lyrics of Imperial Walls may date back to the times of the Saxons, they resonate with apprehension at direction the world was heading; the age of empires old and new was about to be up.

“Not For Keith” was prompted by the death of original VdGG member, Keith Ellis. A stark and not at all sentimental remembrance for a friend, it reminds us that in unsettled times we often look to the past for comfort.

This might explain why this album is so backwards looking compared to its predecessor or its follow up. The pretty pop of “My Favourite” could sit unobtrusively on his very first solo album, Fools Mate, whilst “Time For Change”, written by old band mate, Chris Judge-Smith, is the kind of ballad that Al Stewart might have had a minor hit with, which is to say it’s not all that good.

Overall pH7 is a patchy collection sapped in part by creaky technology with which the writer is not quite up to speed with, and writing that goes in too many directions at the same time, consequently spreading itself too thin.

Released on his own label in 1980, A Black Box is his most consistent and artistically successful records of this later period.

The cussed angularity of VdGG at their recursive, headbanging best is evoked in “Losing Faith In Words” and passages of “Flight”, the epic suite, Flight which originally occupied a whole side when first aired.

However, such is the quality of the writing elsewhere, it has to compete hard against a clutch of show stealers. “Golden Promises” whose dark, oppressive piano chords haunt a relentless beat reminiscent of “Intruder” from Peter Gabriel III (coincidently released the same year) shows an imperious Hammill at his scathing best.

Fortunately he has enough bile in reserve for spin doctors and their ilk on “The Jargon King.” Here, Hammill’s credentials as a truly experimental song writer are put beyond doubt as insanely accelerated drum machines collide at hyper-speed into howls of industrial guitar.

Consolidating the investigational approach he began exploring on 1974’s In Camera, the genuinely creepy “Fogwalking” is a disorientating essay in unease; a perfect blend of FX, fable and clammy fear.

It’s this inspired matching of atypical subject matter to equally unorthodox musical settings that sets Hammill apart from other songwriters of his generation.

Gloriously uneven when taken as a whole, these reissues are nevertheless welcome coming as they do with illuminating sleevenotes and bonus features such as radio appearances, audience recordings, etc. Occasionally prone to being too shrill and overbearing, Hammill never shies from taking risks making his company provocative and rarely dull.

Also of interest: Peter Hammill Reissues I

Thursday, October 19, 2006

John Mayall Remasters


















Not Only Did He Wake Up This Morning But Dash It All If He Hasn't Got The Blues As Well...


John Mayall Plays John Mayall / Blues Breakers John Mayall with Eric Clapton / A Hard Road/ The Blues Alone

John Mayall
Universal
23rd October 2006

The clipped Received Pronunciation tones of John Mayall as he introduces the songs on his 1965 debut album sound as though they might be spoken a stuffy museum curator rather than one of the all-time great blues legends.

Actually, as descriptions go it’s not too wide of the mark when you consider that Mayall’s Bluesbreakers would become the premier destination for hotshot blues players in the UK looking to improve their musical education or their visibility. From a stint backing John Lee Hooker on his UK tour in 1964, Mayall and company washed up at the delta of deepest West Hampstead and the legendary R&B Klook’s Kleek club (conveniently located next door to Decca’s studios), to record a lively set that captures the scene as it was then; a bunch of polite young men singing a quaintly sanitised version of what they think might be the blues.

The earnest soloing indicates the boys in the band wanted to stretch out a bit but they don’t quite manage to stamp their own authority on material that wobbles somewhere between the finger-snapping pop sensibilities of the day and something more expressive and personal. As vigorous as it is it lacks the snarl and bite so evident in the subsequent Blues Breakers album.

With ex-Yardbird Clapton on the bandstand the difference couldn’t more dramatic. Presented here in deluxe form that includes the stereo and original mono mixes, and a whole extra CD of radio and live recordings it’s easy to see why this album and line-up overshadows the rest of Mayall’s output.

The tale of how Decca white-coated studio engineers were sent into a flap by the VU-crushing volume of Clapton’s gear may be well-known (not to say well-worn) but the impact of this music remains just as vibrant as it was back then. Anyone looking for the point where pop-tinged R&B becomes rock needs to start here.

With so many classics its difficult to single any of them out for special attention although “All Your Love” and “Key To Love”, augmented by some hit-the-mark horns, are impressive in their sureness of touch and plugged in power. The clutch of live tracks from the Flamingo Club in 1966 may reveal Mayall’s public school tones were still intact but demonstrate just far they’d had travelled in the space of a year or so. Despite the dodgy bootleg quality the thrill of what Clapton is doing is palpable.

Though Peter Green’s talents are no less legendary his comparatively laid-back approach led some to believe he wasn’t up to filling Clapton’s boots. Certainly A Hard Road sounds oddly lacklustre though why this might be isn’t entirely clear.

The rhythm section under the eagle-eye of Aynsley Dunbar is no less expert and Peter Green, as the new kid with something to prove, (including a finger-numbing 14 second sustain on his show piece, “The Super-Natural” and a convincing interpretation of Freddie King’s “The Stumble”) pulls out the stops.

It’s possible to hear A Hard Road as a something of a dry run for the ideas he would explore in greater detail in Fleetwood Mac. Yet overall it seems missing the volatile chemistry that makes the preceding record so incendiary.

As the title cunningly implies the last of the reissues, The Blues Alone, saw Mayall take advantage of studio technology in 1967 to lay down a bunch of backing tracks with the help of drummer Keef Hartley, for him to showcase his talents as writer and performer. Having had his vision of the blues mediated by numerous players, this is Mayall telling it like it is with minimal fuss or outside interference. Putting himself in the spotlight like this is something of a hit and miss strategy.

The melancholic ache contained in his voice on slower numbers such as “Broken Wings” and “Down The Line” (described in the original liner notes by John Peel as a “searing, incredibly lonely sound.”) shows him at his best.

Elsewhere, things aren’t so classy as tracks veer from hesitant to downright ropey as on the barely competent “Please Don’t Tell.” Similarly his duet between harmonica and the recording of a steam train on “Catch That Train” demonstrates that not only could he not keep up with the train, it’s doubtful he ever knew where the station was in the first place.

Recorded in just one day it might be seen as being overly picky criticising a blues recording where feel and spontaneity are often prized over mere technique.

However, the problem in him stripping bare like this is that he’s exposed to be a merely enthusiastic dilettante rather than being overly endowed in the instrumental mojo department.

In this respect it confirms that his greatest talent and contribution to the British blues movement was having the nouse for pulling in ace sidemen to deliver the goods under his brand.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Small Faces 40th Anniversary Edition

















When Mod Was God

Small Faces
Small Faces 40th Anniversary Edition
Universal

30th October

The raging hormones and spot cream had already achieved critical mass in 1966 when the Small Faces (then all around 18 years old) recorded their debut album.

Optional rather than indispensable, its nevertheless a potent and authentic soundtrack to the boy meets girl movie-world in which most kids of day imagined themselves to be in. They groom, they go out, they get tanked up, pop pills, dance themselves to a standstill, grab a knee-trembler in the shelter and miss the last bus home.

All life is there, and even if the reality fell a bit short the Small Faces’ infectious swagger made up for such occasional lapses in the plan.

Steve Marriot’s vocals effortlessly dominate the entire album, his impassioned presence perfectly capturing the heaven and hell of teenage mood swings in an amiable but rough-edged R&B inspired settings.

On “What’s A Matter Baby”, he’s spitting venom after being ditched, whilst “Whatcha Gonna Do About It” retains that smirking air of cocky provocation, and whose middle eight section is a still startling weld of near-atonal threat and promise. “You Need Love” is charged with a pent-up sexual energy and vocal posturing which Robert Plant would lift wholesale when Led Zep remodelled and remade this Willie Dixon classic into Whole Lotta Love some three years later.

This 40th anniversary special edition has extra tracks taken from a French ep and some alternate mixes, and though lacking the relative sophistication of the happy baccy-induced cosmic geezer glory daze of 1968s Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake, if you're after a snapshot of sixties club life as seen through the eyes of some cheeky chappies on the make, then look no further.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Decline And Fall Of Western Civilisation

A grey inhospitable day in the coastal town that somehow forgot to close down – Whitley Bay.

When the sea fret turns to rain and the mist closes in, there’s nothing as melancholy as the site of once busy amusement arcades looking sadly anything but amused.

I passed them on my way up to the post office where I had a series of parcels to send off. One to Maryland in the USA, one to Salisbury, one to Kent and one to my sister in Milton Keynes.

Then it was off around the shops to pick up the ingredients for tonight’s meal, croque monsieur.

I listened to Blair on the BBC news today. If ever a man was overtaken by events then he is it. Whatever legacy he might have constructed for himself has been blown apart by the mess made in Iraq, and latterly his own ineptitude announcing his intention to stand down sometime in the next year.

In between times I spent a portion of the morning listening to a series of (as yet) unreleased concerts by King Crimson and Slow Music.

The rest of the day was spent doing routine tasks; washing, baking bread, cleaning out the wheelie bin with a power hose (what fun and excitement!) and working with my oldest son about his history project on the 1960s. Talking about 1963 and the times felt weird – so close and yet so far away.

To have lived during an era which is now taught as a dry subject is an oddly discomforting feeling; was it really so glum, or so cut and dried? For all its ills (and there were many) it was a glorious time of change and transformation but it's hard to convey much of this to Tom.

Tonight such matters were forgotten in favour of a meeting with an officer from the council. He was speaking to a group of other residents in our street unhappy at a house left unoccupied for well over a year by its owner.

Needless to say it’s a magnet from troublesome kids who like to hang out on the corner drinking “alcopops”. Though we aren't affected directly by this ourselves, experience has shown that if you let things go bad, they have a habit of going very bad very quickly. Experience also shows that collective action over a problem is often the best way of finding a solution.

When the history of this era comes to be written up I suspect that the point of decline will be traced back to the day we allowed Drink Companies to target children by lacing fruit juice with alcohol.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Anthony Burgess by Roger Lewis

I’m currently reading Roger Lewis’ account of the life of writer Anthony Burgess. Actually, I’m reading Roger Lewis’ account of Roger Lewis’ dislike of Anthony Burgess.

As someone who devoured Burgess’s novels from the late 70s until the late 80s, I can empathise with Lewis’ distain for the wordiness, bombast and conceited ostentation worn too brightly on his sleeve.

I totally understand why Lewis wants to keep from getting too cosy with his subject but increasingly I’m beginning to wonder why I seem to be reading more about Lewis than I am Burgess?

Increasingly Lewis comes across as someone spurned and let down by the object of his attentions. Feeling cheated after discovering his idol has feet of clay, he seems compelled to relentlessly stick the boot in.

As a serial embroiderer of his own life and eventful times, Burgess isn’t the first author to put a bit of biographical spin and obfuscation on things. Lewis is right to pick holes in the author’s assertion that his music (Burgess wrote many scores including a couple of symphonies) was more important to him than his writing.

But he does this with such vitriol that it begins to corrode the trust that the reader needs to have with the biographer. An example of this can be found in dazzling footnotes which are used not so much for illumination but sneery point-scoring.

Pouncing on the fact that Burgess got a few technical details wrong in his vast and ambitious novel, Earthly Powers, Lewis’s footnote is bigger than the text, taking in a few other points not directly relevant to the book in question, declaring triumphantly that Burgess made a “complete fucking fool” of himself over his reaction to some bad press concerning his libretto of ENO’s production of Carmen.

In little ways like this Lewis is undermining his own credibility, coming across not so much as a critical guide as a man with a score to settle, a bit like the clever dick loudmouth who runs away from the scene of the conflict only to shout out from the safety of the sidelines.

I’m well aware of Anthony Burgess’ many shortcomings and don’t mind Lewis seizing upon them. What I find I’m objecting to is the tone in which these details are discussed and pursued.

So far the author is getting in the way of the subject and when the subject is one as potentially entertaining as Burgess, this book is quickly becoming a case of defeat snatched from the jaws of victory.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Silent Suffering

Read this article by Bill Drummond this morning about the importance of silence and his bid to make November 21st a kind of national no music day.


Stuart Eglin wrote about some of these themes on his blog back in September. I left a comment on his blog at the time and reading the Drummond article reminded me of it.

Silence is good. As someone who listens to a lot of music in the course of seven days, I've come to value the hour or two each day in which the only sound is that of the street outside. It's obvious I know but in order to keep on top of all the music that comes our way, silence cleanses the palate, acting as a limbering up exercise almost.

Stuart goes on to make a point about being overwhelmed by the choice. There are many dusty slots on my shelves, CDs that haven't been listened to in years. I try and introduce some random methods into picking albums to listen to. That sometimes helps you rediscover things you'd forgotten you'd had. However, it's a fact of life that folks like us do have too much choice and too many albums. It's a sickness and we sufferers are legion.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Indoor Fireworks

A delightful night in the company of our neighbours, Julie, Dave, John and Jude. I’d thrown together something that approximated to a meal but was really just a collection of easy-to-do stand-alone dishes;

Baked Aubergine with shallots and fennel

Grilled field mushrooms and mozzarella

3 tomato zing (made with sun-dried, baby plum and cherry tomatoes and sweet paprika)

Chilli-coated roast potatoes

Roast chicken

Garlic Bread.

All of which took a couple of hours to prepare and less than an hour to demolish. The mood music included John Mayall’s Bluesbrakers, John Martyn’s BBC sessions and the absolute hit of the evening, John Peel’s Festive Fify – a truly stunning compilation album due out later this month.

The upbeat atmosphere was made even more celebratory with the appearance of indoor fireworks. Aaron and Georgina were positively quivering with excitement as Dave lit the sparklers.





Friday, October 13, 2006

Outside & Inside

Yesterday Kimber took me out and about to enjoy some of the local countryside...


We stopped in a place called Isle of Oxney, so called because before the land was drained it was indeed surrounded by water. The floodplains of Romney marshes are still clearly visible.


Behind us lay a tiny chuch, an ancient little place of peace.








Back outside we leave the country lane...


and come across a pub called The Ferryman.



After a pleasant pint we follow the sign and a westering sun homewards...



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