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Thursday, August 30, 2007

Gone Fishing

Another gorgeous morning here in Shaldon. It's around 6.30 a.m. and as I'm looking out over the bay towards Teignmouth, there’s another beautiful sunrise to marvel at and enjoy. The act of taking notice of this daily occurrence can be quite powerful: something that is on the face of it quite mundane and fixed becomes profound and unique.

Finding “eternity in hour” allows one to prepare for a day that you know will be filled with the noise, demands and frustrations of our daily lives. And maybe it also paves the way for a few triumphs in the day as well. Stunning.


Yesterday, we went over to Dawlish to do a spot of fishing. Matt G and his brother Tom and family friend, Graham and myself went in search of mackerel in proper hunter-gatherer mode.

Tom and I were first timers but Matt and Graham were old pros when it came to doing battle with the mighty deep. The pair of them had done this very trip out last year and were full of tales of plenty. Graham was the first in our party to get a bite and indeed provided the bulk of the day's catch.

Everyone on the boat gave a roar of approval when Tom landed his very first fish, though none more than Tom himself.

As the fish flapped about in the bottom of the bucket gasping for life, Tom leaned over and cooed “just relax little fishy, just relax.” A minute or so later, the ominous silence from the container confirmed it had taken his well-meant advice.

We were half a mile out and I lost track of time. More often than not I forgot to move my line, just happy enough taking in the views and the gentle sound of waves lapping against the boat.

I can see why fishing is popular. Which is just as well because this is the only thing I managed to hook during the entire trip:

When, after our allotted hour and a half it was time to go back, I was sad to be leaving. Not because of the paucity of my catch (though that was more than reason enough), but because it was so calming and peaceful out there.

An hour or so later back in Shaldon. The barbie assemblage began.

Reunited with friends and family, we sat down to enjoy the catch of the day. Halina made a short speech and with that we tucked in to the food and drink, enjoying a lovely sunset and a breat breath-taking (but sadly unphotographable) moonrise.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Put The Flags Out

Another lovely morning in Shaldon which started for me a little after 6.00 a.m. Lots of birdsong filled the air as I looked out toward the sea.

After breakfast we headed out around the village picking up some groceries, stopping off at the bowling green and acquiring some bargains from the tiny arts and crafts stalls.

The bunting was still out from the regatta and caught my attention this fine morning.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Back In Shaldon

It's the final day of Shaldon's regatta - which is why this normally empty beach is heaving.

However, not so far from the maddening crowd is an island of calm and civilisation.

We sat and toasted friends and family under an evening sky.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Mysterious Traveller Weather Report

The sky’s the limit...

Mysterious Traveller Weather Report

Whilst the previous, Sweetnighter, contained many highlights, it was in essence a straight forward transfer of Weather Report’s stage show onto vinyl. For their next album, with the band edging towards an overtly funkier, electronic agenda, it was apparent to ex-Miles Davis alumni, Joe Zawinul (keyboards) and sax ace, Wayne Shorter, that things needed to change.

Early in the sessions, out went bassist and co-founder, Miroslav Vitous (only present on “American Tango”), replaced by Alphonso Johnson, offering a harder, more consistent approach. Change wasn’t confined to personnel but extended to how the studio became an integral part of the compositional process. No longer just somewhere to lay down a tune, it was a workshop wherein moods and nuances previously beyond their grasp were fashioned.

As eclectic as it is electric, Zawinul’s racing “Nubian Sundance” is baited with numerous and memorable synth-lines, each one better than the last, and dangled between riotous squalls of percussion. Shorter’s penetrating breaks, a quintet of chanting singers, sampled cheering crowds whose frenzied applause is detonated at strategic points mark this a high point in their career.

At the other end of the scale, the layered themes, complex rhythms and enigmatic atmospheres evoked on the mesmerizing title track may be more laid back but are no less intriguing or enticing. Brimming with dazzling invention, every piece catapults them into new dynamic territories.

Moving seamlessly between the funk-fest grooves of “Cucumber Slumber, the quicksilver piano and sax improv “Blackthorn Rose” and the menacing bite of “Scarlet Woman,” this is the sound of the slate being wiped clean.

Less oblique and cerebral than previous works the album is charged with emotion. Along with the bobbing acoustic piano for “Jungle Book”, are the sounds of Zawinul’s children. Recorded on cassette at home, his children, also in the room, can clearly heard alongside the piano: their yelps of laughter or cries of protest (they wanted dad to read them a story!) merge with the tender melody, tugging at the heart strings!

Breaking with their past and producing something that left just about everyone in the field trying to figure out how it was done, though it’s probably a crass comparison, Mysterious Traveller is in effect Weather Report’s Sgt. Pepper’s.

Testing For Buzz VII: Steve Ditko

Key words and phrases associated with this item include:
No interviews please, Johnstown - Pennsylvania, fluidity, 43rd Street and Eighth Avenue, Spiderman, musculature, other worlds, "study the basics," visions of angels and demons, Amazing Fantasy, little boy lost, 1966, mastery, intuition, deadlines, inspiration, tingle of excitement, delivery, outsiders drawn in.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Peter Hammill Reissues III

Up Close And Personal

Sitting Targets / The Love Songs/ Skin/And Close As This
Peter Hammill

Though lacking the starkly gothic malevolence of his early 70s solo work, Van der Graaf Generator’s frenzied front-man continued to produce some experimental and provocative albums throughout the 80s.

Sitting Targets from 1981 is an honourable follow on from the heady turbulence of “A Black Box” with its mixture of ethereal settings (“Ophelia” and “Glue”) and dogmatic rigour such as “Empress’s Clothes” and “Sign.”

The Love Songs from 1984 suffers from being a record company attempt to persuade the mass market of Hammill’s not so obvious charms. “Just Good Friends” was an attempt to take a PH song (it had previously appeared on the K group record Patience) and make it into a tub-thumping lighter-held-aloft, sway along stadium set-piece. Elsewhere Hammill revisits his back catalogue with equally uneven and ill-fitting results.

Tainted with lumpy midi-technology many of the tracks from 1986’s pop-rock hybrid Skin have dated badly, especially “Painting By Numbers.”Even Hammill admits he wishes it wasn’t so clunky.

Interestingly by the time of 1986’s And Close As This, he seems to have ironed out the midi-crinkles, resorting to a near-acoustic persona. If the notion of Hammill and a piano sounds as though it might be something of a demure proposition, then be warned; it’s an explosive combination detonating shockwaves of emotive power in a way that the other albums from this era don’t quite manage.

Occasionally histrionic and shrill, the drama of his meticulous wordplay and edgy melodies is demanding but can deliver exquisite rewards. Capable of intense jubilation or graceful melancholy, his articulate sketches about the flaws and feats of the world about him rarely fall prey to sentimentality, the usual curse of the earnest troubadour.

See Also

PH reissues I & PH reissues II

Being Merry

It's been like Grand Central Station here recently. On the guestlist of late, we've had my sister and her entire family and then briefly, Debbie's sister Dude at the same time.

Then Lesley got her move and they departed to the nice end of Whitley Bay.

Given that nature abhors a vacuum, Dude's daughter, Amy and her partner, Yogi, arrived closely followed by Dude's partner, Bob.

In such situations, there's only one thing to do - eat, drink and be merry!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Jethro Tull Live In Montreux 2003

Too old to rock...
Jethro Tull Live At Montreux 2003
Eagle Vision

In their heyday Tull raised the roof with their raucous firepower and biting delivery. Tragically, this performance lacks any of that legendary drive, energy or focus. Not quite unplugged neither are they plugged-in enough, merely going through the motions: a rock noise here, a jazz noise there, a hey-nonny-no now and then.

This lightweight trawl through the back catalogue is interspersed with gruesomely vacuous titles from their (then) forthcoming Christmas Album. Ian Anderson himself perfectly describes this music when he says in his introduction to "Bouree", "sleazy cocktail jazz played at the worst Holiday Inn you can imagine."

Whatever fighting spirit remains in Anderson and Martin Barre is only fleetingly glimpsed before retreating to supper club-style stupor. Given Tull's acoustic capabilities it seems odd that they should head so resolutely into blandland. In his sleeve notes, Anderson admits this show is not their best nor yet their worst, inadvertently confirming what it is: MOR hell.

No extra features but in this case that’s probably a blessing in disguise.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Street Life LXXX

Fish Out Of Water Chris Squire

The Catch Of The Day...

Fish Out Of Water
Chris Squire
Castle Music

Recorded at a time when entire continents were cheering every move Yes made, money was no object. In what appeared to be an act of immense hubris, everyone in the band began releasing solo albums, though none would be as distinguished or as articulate as this.

After selling half a million copies worldwide back in 1975, this remastered and enhanced version comes with a bonus DVD including a sofa-side interview and the novelty of Squire providing a blow-by-blow commentary on every song direct to camera.

Initially looking self-conscious, he soon starts nodding along, counting the beats, anticipating the cues, becoming lost in the music and not without good reason.

Squire’s snaking basslines were an essential part of Yes’ DNA. Often acerbic yet also capable of immense subtlety, his intricate style transformed many a song from the mundane to the magical. That sound is naturally well to the fore but this is such a generous mix with meticulous attention given to the often stirring contributions of guest musicians Bill Bruford, Patrick Moraz, Caravan’s Jimmy Hastings, and Mel Collins, whose work on ”Silently Falling” and ”Lucky Seven” is dazzling.

Squire rightly pays tribute to the late Andrew Pryce Jackman, keyboard player in Squire’s pre-Yes band, The Syn, responsible for playing keyboards and the album’s orchestral arrangements adorning the monumental “Hold Out Your Hand” and the epic “Safe (Canon Song).”

As reissue projects go, this is everything you wish for: decently packaged and priced with tons of extra features though the real juice is just where it always was, with the music itself.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Family Gatherings

The Quinn’s having only just moved out of our house were back in force last night for a slap-up meal to celebrate their move from Milton Keynes to Whitley Bay: lots of food, lots of wine, lots of laughs and lots of singing.

This morning I chilled out with Tom and Joe, going to the cinema to see (at their request), The Bourne Ultimatum. I’ve never been a big fan of action movies but the Bourne series have proved the exception to the rule. Why this should be isn’t easily understood.

After all, each movie in the franchise is essentially the same plot: amnesiac CIA killer searching for his lost identity goes after the corrupt bosses working inside the company who will stop at nothing to have Bourne eliminated. The result is lots of chases, fight scenes, explosions and casualties galore.

Yet somehow this obvious and well-worn mix provides an exhilarating ride of a film. Not a dull minute in it.


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