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Monday, December 31, 2007

Music Reviews In 2007

Here's your cut-out-and-keep guide to the albums covered in this year's postcards.

Steve Hillage - Fish Rising
Brian Groder - Torque

David Toop - Sound Body
Keith Tippett - Live At Ruvo
Ghost - In Stormy Nights

Jesu - Conqueror
King Crimson - The Collectable King Crimson Volume II
Bobbie Gentry - The Best of the Capitol Years
Jakob - Solace
Maria Kalaniemi - Bellow Poetry
Pixies - Surfer Rosa

The Fucking Champs - IV
PG Six - Slightly Sorry
Cream - Fresh Cream
Jimi Hendrix - Are You Experienced
The Who - The Who Sell Out
Richard Hell & The Voidoids - Blank Generation
Black Sabbath - Paranoid
Black Sabbath - Volume Four
The Moody Blues - Live at the BBC
Nirvana - Unplugged
Deep Purple - Deep Purple In Rock
Bob Dylan - Highway 61 Revisited
Deep Purple - Machine Head
Bob Dylan - Blonde On Blonde

Various Artists - A Breath of Fresh Air: Harvest Records Anthology
Porcupine Tree - Fear of a Blank Planet
REM - Murmur
REM - Green
Mudhoney - March To Fuzz
Van Der Graaf Generator - Real Time
Motorhead - Ace of Spades
U2 - War
Motorhead- No Sleep 'til Hammersmith
Fairport Convention - Live at the BBC
Tuner - Pole

The Groundhogs - Thank Christ For The Bomb
Lou Reed - Berlin
Nick Lowe - At My Age
Kamelot - Ghost Opera
Battles - Mirrored
Anne Briggs - The Time Has Come
Robert Fripp - At The End Of Time

Alog - Amateur
Nick Drake - Family Affair
Trees - On The Shore
The Rolling Stones - Singles Collection
Peter Green - Supernatural
Asia - Fantasia Live In Tokyo

Various Artists - Insane Times: 25 Psychedelic Artyfacts from the EMI Vaults
Jefferson Airplane - Sweeping up the Spotlight
Soft Machine Legacy - Steam
Stephen Stills - Just Roll Tape
Keith Tippett - Ovary Lodge
Chris Squire - Fish Out Of Water
Jethro Tull - Live In Montreux 2003
Peter Hammill - Reissues
Weather Report - Mysterious Traveller

Siouxsie - Mantaray
David Sylvian - When Loud Weather Buffeted Noashima
Eric Clapton - Clapton Is God
Yes - Live At Montrueux 2003
Elvis Costello - My Aim Is True
Scott Walker - And Who Shall Go To The Ball?
Manfred Mann - Down The Road Apiece
McDonald & Giles - McDonald & Giles
Wooden Shjips - Wooden Shjips

Lou Reed / Zeitkratzer - Metal Machine Music
Michael Hurley - Ancestral Swamp
King Crimson - The Great Deceiver
Sandy Denny - Live at the BBC
Herbie Hancock - River:The Joni Letters
Jim White - Transnormal Skiperoo
Gavin Harrison & 05Ric - Drop
Various Artists - Migrating Bird - The Songs of Lal Waterson
Van Der Graaf Generator - Pawn Hearts
Fripp & Eno - Beyond Even
Centrozoon - Lovefield
Pink Floyd - Ummagumma
Hugh Hopper - Numero D'Vol

Cary Brothers - Who You Are
Quiet Sun - Mainstream
Various Artists - Greasy Truckers Party
Jonty Semper - Kenotaphion
Six Organs Of Admittance - Shelter From The Ash
Morrissey - Your Arsenal
John Stevens & Evan Parker - The Longest Night/Corner To Corner
Joe Zawinul - Brown Street
Theo Travis - Double Talk
Andrew Keeling - Blue Dawn

Quatermass - Quatermass
Egg - The Metronomical Society
Jenny Owen Youngs - Batten The Hatches
Robert Wyatt - Comicopera
Samuli Karjalainen & Eeron Grundstrom - Crosscountry 50 KM
Great Lake Swimmers - Ongiara
Spring - Spring

Testing For Buzz XXVIII:1968 And All That IV

My parents watched a lot of television and I saw lots of programmes which I probably shouldn’t have. Strictly speaking, Public Eye starring Alfred Burke, as the down-at-heel private detective, Frank Marker, held little in the way of incentives for a kid. Character-driven stories with almost no action sequences at all. And although I probably understood about 10% of what was happening on the screen, I have such strong memories of enjoying this show.

Other programmes such as The Rat Catchers, Gideon’s Way, No Hiding Place had their thrills and spills but Public Eye and Alfred Burke’s subtle performance and these quirky stories in the hero didn’t always manage to save the day, stole a march on them all.

I think what I was enjoying was the frisson that this was proper television for grown-ups. I was gingerly setting one step outside the playground.

The Best Of The Rest In 2007

Here’s a list of some of the other albums that got a hammering over the course of 2007 here in the yellow room. In no particular order…

Keith Tippett - Ovary Lodge

An exciting, dramatic rollercoaster ride in the company of some of the 70s UK jazz scene’s brightest players.

The Rolling Stones - Singles Collection

Too diffuse to be an effective greatest hits package, it’s a perfect celebration of their mastery of the singles format

Weather Report - Mysterious Traveller

Brimming with dazzling invention, every piece catapults them into new dynamic territories.

Various Artists - A Breath Of Fresh Air

A great label and some great tracks

Hugh Hopper - Numero D'Vol

The smouldering title track opening the album sets the bar about as high as it could go.

Quatermass - Quatermass

They could've given ELP a run for their money.

Elvis Costello - My Aim Is True

His aim is still true after all these years. Brilliant stuff.

Brian Groder - Torque

Just named as Downbeat's "Best of 2007", it's good to Torque.

Jesu - Conqueror

There’s a surprisingly striking richness contained within Jesu's abrasive, brooding textures.

Maria Kalaniemi - Bellow Poetry

If fellow Finn, Kimmo Pohjonen is said to be the Hendrix of the instrument, then Maria can be credibly claimed to be its Erik Satie.

Lou Reed - Berlin

It remains unsettling, uncompromising and just as real now as it was all those years ago.

Samuli Karjalainen & Eero Grundström - Crosscountry 50KM

Evocative themes with a wistful edge into spacious improvisations.

Pixies - Surfer Rosa
Indispensable warts-and-all stuff that set the benchmark.

Van Der Graaf Generator - Real Time

A most glorious, hair-raising racket

Soft Machine Legacy - Steam

An album that can stand next to its illustrious forebears.

Cary Brothers - Who You Are

An impressive debut from a singer songwriter who has been drawing comparisons to David Crosby

Steve Hillage - Fish Rising

The jewel in the crown of the Hillage reissues this year
Read more

Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Return Of The Toxic Tome

Debbie and I spent a portion of the morning figuring out the year ahead and even touched upon some New Year resolutions.

Elsewhere, a fighting fund for the Sid Smith tour of America 2008 was established and, not entirely unrelated to that, the terms of reference for the revision expansion and rewriting of the King Crimson biography book were formally identified today.

Areas to revise – the many mistakes, errors and omissions
Areas to expand – the social context of the music’s various eras
Areas to re-write – the whole kit and caboodle

I’ve been listening to lots of Can today. I saw them live a few times (including the time when Damo was in the band) and subconsciously connected them to Crimson at the time. Certainly in terms of the whole spontaneous composition issue, Crimso have more in common with Can than any of their regular contemporaries.

Elsewhere on the virtual whiteboard: to what extent is the story of King Crimson also the story of the rise and fall of the record industry?

Friday, December 28, 2007

These Are A Few Of My Favourite Things

Debra and I headed out to Newcastle's Central Station. We had in mind to have a day out in either York or Edinburgh (they're both one hour away on the train).

The train for York came in first, so we hopped on board, flying past Durham Cathedral on the way.

An hour later we got off in York and headed out to rendezvous with Betty's tearooms and several of York's second-hand bookshops.

Nominations For God XXI

Peter Blake

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Light and Dark

After the frenzy and fun of yesterday, Debbie and I found ourselves alone: Tom and Joe off to see their mother, Sam and Alys both at work, and Bernard, Lesley and gang back to Bernardstrasse.

Taking advantage of this I spent a good portion of the day reading this...

and listening to this...

Light and Dark indeed.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

A Very Merry Christmas

A lovely day spent with Sam, Alys, Tom, Joe, Verity, Errin, Isaac, Bernard, Lesley and Debbie.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Testing For Buzz XXVII:1968 And All That III

Moral instruction can come from the most unlikely of sources. Georgie Fame’s “The Ballad of Bonnie and Clyde” from the previous year, with its cautionary tale complete with spiffing gun effects, got me fixated on the exotically named American gangsters such as Al Capone, Dutch Schultz, Bugsy Segal, Lucky Luciano, Legs Diamond, and their psychopathic ilk.

My learning curve hit a very steep incline indeed with the arrival of Crime Does Not Pay. It’s racy mixture of sex (descriptions of the scarcely attired gangster’s molls) and especially graphic close-ups of bad guys meeting a very bad end, had me enthralled and my mother horrified: I quickly learned to sneak them into the house under her radar.

I first saw this garish magazine hanging from little brass bulldog clips above the counter in Storm’s Bookshop in Wallsend. This was the place I visited as often as I could in order to get my hands on American import Marvel magazines (all second-hand and all totally out of sequence but better than the black and white UK reprints Terrific and Fantastic), Mad and Famous Monsters of Filmland.

Random Penguin I

Cover design by Robert Hollingsworth

Sunday, December 23, 2007

A Book Is For Life Not Just For Christmas

Here’s how one element of shopping for Christmas presents works. Tom tells me what he wants for Christmas: Money. Well that’s easy. However, I always think Christmas and birthday presents should be marked with a book just as they were when I was a kid.

Mind you, when I was about 8 years old, I recall peeling off the paper from a particularly weighty tome that my Gran Smith had proudly given me and discovering it to be the bible. When I’d asked for a book I had hoped for a ripping yarn of some kind. My Gran thought it would be more uplifting and useful in life than Treasure Island or From the Earth to the Moon However, the good book was anything but in my fug of disappointment and I still feel to sting of embarrassment as to how resentful I felt about getting this clunker.

A book is, as Anthony Burgess had it, a Box Of Organised Knowledge, and although Tom will readily read what is required for his school work but when it comes to leisure and pleasure, a book is the very last thing on his list of must-haves.

Yet despite knowing all of this, here I am stupidly traipsing around book shops looking for something to the Christmas cash in the vain hope it may catch him with his guard down.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Sid Smith's Top 25 Albums 2007

Terminally unhip and with more omissions than Conrad Black’s testimony to a jury, it’s a reckoning of the albums that have really connected with me, and me to them. Bonding with music is something that seems to get lost in the rush from one new album to the next. Sometimes it takes a while and sometimes it just doesn’t take at all, but here are the 25 that really made it into my increasingly spongy brain.

Some sit above others because it was great music to cook along to, or socialise with, or put a smile on my face, or make me think, or make me cry or fill my soul with hope, and in the case of Jim White’s Transnormal Skiperoo, all of the above. This is how the list sits today. Ask me tomorrow and most likely it would be different in terms of the running order but probably not content.

No.1 Jim White - Transnormal Skiperoo
Though the waters charted here will be familiar to veteran White watchers, newcomers can expect to be plunged headlong into a turbulent though ultimately uplifting baptism of discovery and wonder on his best album to date.

No.2 Six Organs Of Admittance - Shelter From The Ash
Never needlessly showy, Chasny makes everything count, fashioning a beguiling order from a sometimes snarling chaos of free-jazz storm-front drumming, clouds of squalling distortion, and some of the most plaintive ballads you'll hear this year.

No.3 Egg - The Metronomical Society
If proof were ever needed of the incredibly fertile times that existed in the music scene back in late 60s and early 70s, this exemplary archive release would make an expert witness.

No.4 Trees - On The Shore
If the sleeve is emblematic of the times then so too is the music it houses, hailing from a time when the gap between rock and folk was being closed, when the distance between traditional material and new writing was also being narrowed.

No. 5 Robert Fripp - At The End Of Time
Upon vast canvases composed from solemn strings, Fripp adds shining lines of aching harmony and small strokes of melody filled with the kind depth that can only comes from nearly 50 years of dedicated service to an instrument.

No.6 Keith Tippett - Live At Ruvo
In what amounts to a brisk survey of some of the best writing to emerge from the British jazz scene in the 70s and beyond,this is a full-blooded fiesta brimming with grand tunes and cutting-edge performances.

No.7 Stephen Stills - Just Roll Tape
With personal problems and indifferent releases marring his later career, this first-rate release reminds us just how absurdly talented Stephen Stills really is.

No.8 Nick Lowe - At My Age

Guaranteed to bring a smile to lips and your toe a-tapping, with its accessible brace of soul, country, rockabilly and pop, At My Age is Lowe’s effusive celebration of the finer points of his craft. Masterful stuff.

No. 9 John Stevens & Evan Parker - The Longest Night/Corner To Corner
Crisp, brittle notes and strokes are rapidly gathered like so much kindling and then set ablaze by the telepathic interplay that comes from a couple of careers spent listening carefully not so much what was going on around them but what could be happening instead.

No.10 TUNER - Pole
Rock textures, acid-folk nuances, astringent experimentation and post-rock ephemera all add up to something that is both sensual and cerebral at the same time.

No.11 Joe Zawinul - Brown Street
Brown Street is a reminder of just how accomplished an artist Joe Zawinul was. He couldn't want for a better memorial to his thrilling abilities than this 2 CD set.

No.12 Great Lake Swimmers – Ongiara

Hovering at the centre of it all, Tony Dekker’s woebegone voice with its combination of yearning fragility and breathless wonder, conjures an image of Neil Young and Paddy MacAloon’s paths crossing on an otherwise deserted, windswept prairie. Quietly impressive.

No.13 PG Six - Slightly Sorry

Don't underestimate this clutch of unassuming songs. With each play they grow in stature gradually taking on the mantle of slow-burning classics.

No.14 Theo Travis - Double Talk
Adventures in Prog-Jazz! It’s a difficult tightrope for any jazz player to walk, but the sure-footed progress displayed throughout Double Talk, Theo Travis makes it look and sound effortless.

No.15 Michael Hurley - Ancestral Swamp

Despite the stripped-back sound (or perhaps because of it), Ancestral Swamp is a rich affair, filled with the considerable presence of a man who’s been around some and has a bag full of tales he wants to tell you.

No.16 Herbie Hancock - River: The Joni Letters
Hearing him trace the patterns of Mitchell’s melodic threads and explore the enthralling spaces in between is to catch a real glimpse of heaven.

No.17 Jenny Owen Youngs - Batten The Hatches
It’s an assured and sophisticated piece of writing performed with intensity, positively aglow with passion and an almost scary precision.Bearing in mind that this is her debut record, that she’s finding this kind of form so early in her career is simply astonishing.

No.18 Andrew Keeling - Blue Dawn
With a luminous clarity, Keeling probes for that startling, fresh beauty residing within the mundane, and which leaves us breathless when we find it. Magnificent.

No.19 Sandy Denny - Live at the BBC
Filled with loving care it houses the radio (and tv) output of a woman who has become the stuff of legends and fevered reveries.

No.20 Siouxsie - Mantaray
To borrow a well-known expression, all voices are unique but some are more unique than others. Velvet-smooth and scalpel-sharp, Siouxsie’s back in town.

No.21 Wooden Shjips - Wooden Shjips
With a technique that owes as much to sculpture as it does playing guitar, Erik “Ripley” Johnson layers long stellar notes with an almost autistic enthralment, relishing each fold and crease of the shrieking assemblage emanating from his amp.

No. 22 Chris Squire - Fish Out Of Water
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.

No. 23 Anne Briggs - The Time Has Come
The stunning purity of her voice cuts to the heart of the matter with the precision of a scalpel. This is one case where the hype doesn’t really do her body of work justice.

No.24 Fairport Convention Live at the BBC
The most comprehensive anthology yet boasting everything that is known to exist from the official archive and off-air recordings, brought together in one easy-to-use set spread over 4CDs.

Bobbie Gentry - The Best of the Capitol Years
The woman who walked out of the star-making machinery. If you only know Gentry through “Billie Joe” then this set is great place to get to know her a little better.


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