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Monday, November 27, 2006

Bill Phones

Back at the desk.

Bill Bruford rang several times over the weekend but of course I wasn’t around to take the call. He laughs when I tell him I was in Italy lecturing on prog rock. Then he laughs even harder when I realises I’m being serious. We catch up on several issues and make plans to meet up in a couple of weeks. It’s good talking with Bill – lots of energy and fizz.

My sister is due up to visit this week. We are about to conclude the business with my mother's estate. It was was weird not being able to ring Doreen and tell her all my news.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Last Night In Mestre

Last night in Mestre I did a lecture entitled In Search of the Myths and Legends of Progressive Rock.

I couldn’t get the dry ice through customs but I did manage this little outfit.

As you can see, promoter Alessandro looks totally convinced about the wisdom of going out on stage in gear that somehow pokes fun at Peter Hammill and Rick Wakeman... in Italy!

Backstage, I practice that Hammillesque In Camera moment for all I'm worth.

Then it was time for the real thing...

Part of the lecture centred on that old question of which record was the first prog-rock album proper. Only one of the covers in the slideshow below is in contention for that honour.

For my money this night went a lot better in terms of content and flow. Paulo did a fantastic job in terms of preparing me beforehand, so that the presentation wasn’t so stilted.

Afterwards the lecture was over, I signed a few more KC books and chatted and chilled out with a couple of people. I got talking to Riccardo Scivales, who teaches music at the local university in Venice. He had with him two students who were teenagers.

Long story short, these guys loved their prog and played it till their fingers bled. I can’t imagine young people of a similar age in the UK being even interested in the subject. Riccardo asked if I’d be interested in coming back to Venice to talk to some of his students next year. Hmmm, now let me see.

I also got to meet Giorggio Salvadego who plays bass in the same band as Riccardo and is president of a Venetian Yes appreciation society. We spent a long time in the bar talking about Venice, prog, Yes, King Crimson, but mostly Venice. Giorgio lives and works in Venice and had lots a scoops on where and when to be around.

It must have been around two or three in the morning by the time I got to bed. Happy but knackered.

Kimber and I were driven out to the airport by Alessandro and his partner, Paula. Along the way we saw a one-man Forza Italia demonstration. It’s breath-taking hearing about all the things that Berlusconi got away with. And even more breath-taking when you consider how close the current UK prime minister got to this crook.

And now back to Whitley Bay!

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Friday, November 24, 2006

Back In Italy

Hotel Bologna, Mestre, near Venice

This morning Kimber and I headed out for a spot of rest and relaxation before the main event tonight. Primarily this involved strolling through Venice.

Even though it was cold, it was a real treat to revisit some of the places Debra and I spent time in earlier this year. Kimber did very well to pretend to be interested in my teary-eyed reminiscences as we left the tourist trap of St. Mark’s Square and hit upon Via Garibaldi.

Back in the hotel room I sat back at the computer and worked on my notes for the talk on King Crimson.

It’s difficult telling people stuff they already know and have read about elsewhere but (with a bit of editing and focusing from the Kimberman) I proceeded to deliver an hour and bit on the subject “Ten Things You Didn’t Know About King Crimson.”

Though the interpreter, Paulo did exceptionally well keeping up with my presentation, it felt a little stilted having to break off every couple of minutes. Fairly early on into the thing, I was joined by Aldo Tagliapietra vocalist and guitarist with Le Orme who wanted to give his own account of his opinions about Crimson.

I played the remastered version of King Crimson's 1974 one-off only rendition of "Guts On My Side" to demonstrate how the cleaning up process works (which in this case it doesn't). Afterwards, two different people who were at the concert in Udine in 1974 come and tell me that they have better quality copies than the one that was sent into DGMLive. We exchange addresses and I hope that they do manage to send their copies in.

Afterwards Jakko and Mel took to the stage. I’d not spoken to Jakko in the days running up to the event so had no idea what the pair were going to play. Therefore the set was full of surprises. The highlight of the Crimson material was The Letters which Jakko and Mel played to perfection.

Beset by one or two equipment grumbles, Jakko was using a laptop to supply rhythms and some backing tracking. It sounded very organic and not at all artificial, filling out the core sound of the duo. Jakko’s material sounded excellent alongside the early Crim stuff, and it was all over far too quickly for my liking.

Whilst Jakko and Mel were doing the whole meet and greet thing...

...I was busy signing copies of the Italian translation of my KC biog, shaking hands with people and answering more questions from folks who’d not shouted out anything earlier in the Q&A section of my presentation.

Kimber even helped out a bit on the merch…

In the restaurant afterwards Kimber, Mel Jakko and myself reflected upon the day and the fact that, if they want to, Mel and Jakko have themselves a viable project to take out on the road. I very much hope they do.

It’d been a great night but a very, very long day.

And so to bed...

Thursday, November 23, 2006

NewcastleTo London To Mestre

A day of travelling for Debbie and myself. I’m off to Mestre in Italy to do a couple of lectures and Debbie is heading down to Birmingham to spend time with Neil and Halina. Originally Debbie was going to accompany me to Italy but circumstances beyond our control means its more important for her to get down to Brum.

The Easyjet flight from Newcastle to Stansted was, well, easy and passed by so quickly I didn’t even have time to grab a snap of the dawn above the clouds.

Then it was all about a rendezvous with the Kenty Kimberman. He and I have history with Italy having travelled out there together in 2003 to see King Crimson.

Our Ryanair flight from Stansted to Treviso was great. We sat at the rear and were not joined by anyone thus giving two gentlemen of generous girth plenty of room to stretch out. On the way out we nattered about the world of prog rock. I asked Kimber what he thought was the greatest crime of progressive rock? “Vulgarity” he said – this from an ELP fan, mind you.

At Treviso we were met by a driver who spoke no English or if he did, he didn't want to expend it on the likes of us. No matter. In double quick time he whisked us to Mestre...

...and our hotel

wherein we came across these posters...

The evening is taken up with me preparing for the talk on Crimson and then having a lovely meal with our host Alessandro and his partner Paula. Needless to say Alessandro’s English is perfect and he calms my fears about talking via an interpreter tomorrow night.

Alessandro regales us with stories about some of the folks who had previously appeared under the Musica Continua banner, including Annette Peacock and the Hatfield’s. This weekend has been dedicated to the memory of Pip Pyle – appropriate since Jakko used to work with Pip.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Happy Birthday

Today DGMLive is one year old.

Today is my mother's birthday. I miss her.

It's been a happy /sad kind of day as I said bye bye to Debra. She is off to Birmingham to see Neil and Halina for a few days.

I'm preparing for my trip to Mestre and Musica Continua for this and this. I'm looking forward to meeting up with some old friends and hopefully meet some new ones whilst I'm out there.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Looking Up

Debra waves goodbye to our houseguests circa 7.00 a.m.

Two hours later, a curious sky moves in...

Beside the New Coliseum the little centre shivers and huddles.

Meanwhile, inside the mall of lonely hearts...

...there are poems to be written and songs to be sung.

Back outside in the local economy,

I try some Leonard Cohen on for size,

"There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in."

and it fits.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Peter Primamore Grancia

This Charming Man

Peter Primamore

Blue Apples Music

1st September 2006

There’s a tendency to underestimate this album with its oddly quaint, folksy allure.

On first listen it sounds like the soundtrack to a well-produced television drama series, unobtrusively setting the out the shades and moods we can expect to encounter for the duration; sombre, uplifting, questioning, serious, playful, etc.

Yet it’s obvious from the first few cascading bars of “Silver Stones”, with its sparkling piano and glossy violins we’re listening to a classy, well-scripted vehicle for an ensemble cast rather than a showcase for a swaggering star.

The idea behind the project was to record an album without the usual click tracks, samples, synthesisers and masses of overdubs in order to create music that felt in the composer’s words, “organic…and in someway alive.”

Primamore’s experience as a composer for film and TV, a medium where the clock is king, gives his writing an emotionally directness with little room for waste or superfluous decoration. It’s also intensely intimate, a direct result of the company of 13 musicians, including piano, strings, harp, woodwind, vibes as well as guitar, bass and drums.

Concise solos (guitarist Chieli Minucci is especially good in this department), sensitive arrangements, luxuriant orchestration and an oddly old-world patina all adds to something that feels like “real” music, human and warm. Listening to this disc in either 5.1 (it’s a SACD hybrid) or headphones, it's as though one is literally in the room with the performers.

“Crossing Over” is a graceful melody whose nuances are beautifully carried by oboe and harp, each recorded either side of a stereo mike. Sometimes the simplest things can be the hardest to achieve and in this Primamore achieves a stunning success. Dispensing with the aural window-dressing and letting the music talk for itself is especially true of “Lullaby / Elegy”, a striking and touching duet between the composer on piano and Tony Levin.

Elsewhere, classical, rock and jazzy moods are all brought into service and though there are times when it gets near the wrong side of cute, it nearly always manages to pull back.

Charming may not sound like a ringing endorsement but it happens to be an entirely appropriate handle for this album. Just in case you’re thinking that this amounts to something of a backhanded compliment, let me tell you that my dictionary defines charm as “the power of delighting, attracting or fascinating” and Grancia manages to do all three.

You can listen to samples from this album and buy it here.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Street Life L

It’s cold but bright in Whitley Bay today, which makes it an excellent day for Joe’s rugby match and doing some washing. These two facts are not unrelated.

Meanwhile, surfs up…

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Guest Appearances

Houseguests Bill, Kath and Dude are with us for a few days.

I'm writing up notes for this and this at the end of this month.

Listening to ProjeKct 6 - I realise how inclined I am toward music with tension, the possibility of failure, the thought that it can all go wrong at any moment.

Thinking a lot about my mother today. Yesterday we completed all the business concerning her flat and her will. All done and dusted.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Trepanation Markus Reuter

It's a killer driller of an album...

Markus Reuter

August 2006

For several years now, touch guitarist Markus Reuter has been quietly making a name for himself as a talented and sensitive improviser.

Without recourse to showy grandstanding, his playing possesses a remarkable sense of accuracy when it comes to finding the emotional heart of the music.

Unlike many of his generation who appear to relish using 100 notes where often just one would do, Reuter knows enough about the hare and tortoise fable to not want to play that particular game.

Each track builds from carefully orchestrated layers, accruing over time depth and expression. Avoiding anything as obvious as a guitar solo, he uses repeating patterns and recurring loops of sound to build something substantial.

Whilst the dominant textures consist largely of pulsing threads of lo-fi organ-like notes, the external world of people and places (such as water and children playing “No Part Of Me Could Summon A Voice”) occasionally pull into sharp focus and demand attention.

Yet there’s a sense of menace in the air. The normally celebratory sounds of a firework display (“Oneness To Deceive”) are offset by dark drifting themes, suggesting the soundtrack to an outsider gazing upon a world of normality which he neither understands or cares for.

Perhaps the scariest moment on the album is “Preparation”. Dripping with apprehension it peers into a Lynchian-like flicker-lit hell-hole, crammed with foreboding and unease.

It's a dream-like album but the kind of dreams you wake up from in a sweat. If Reuter ever wanted to pursue a career scoring horror flicks then this might be his showreel.

Though lacking the rapturous uplifting feel of his 2001 album, The Longest In Terms Of Being Reuter’s instincts can be trusted to provide an engaging, thoughtful music that can get under the skin and inside the head. Trepanation is the hole in the head you do need.

You can get this album from



Burning Shed


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