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Monday, June 30, 2008

Too Long In The Tooth

I spent a portion of this morning watching bits and pieces of the Glastonbury festival courtesy of the BBC’s iPlayer. Mostly I find myself feeling indifferent to most of the music presented on the show, which is how Noel Gallagher apparently felt about certain aspects of the concert programming. I have to confess I’d never heard of Jay-Z (I mean not even remotely heard of Jay-Z) prior to seeing the highlights.

His retort to Gallagher (playing karaoke to "Wonderwall" might have seemed like a good idea but did you actually hear the guy singing? Flat as a proverbial pancake - but then maybe it was deliberate; a clever jibe at what Jay-Z perceives to be the inadeqacies of the Gallagher oeuvre . Or maybe he just can't sing a decent tune for toffee?

And then, maybe I'm just too long in the tooth for what passes as both today's pop music and irony?

On This Day One Year Ago

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Reverie, Envy And Hostility

Following a lovely night out with Bernard and Lesley (who spoilt us rotten with fabbo food and wonderful wine), this morning was spent in something of a reverie, or as it should be properly termed, a daze.

The camera isn't working at the moment - an intermittent fault that has prevented me from snapping a night out earlier in the week with my chum Johnny, last night's meal and this morning's sunrise.

I've not had a good run with equipment and software at the moment. First there was the theft of the laptop and digital voice recorder. Then the software meltdown which was causing me mucho problemo in extremis when it came to reading Word files from a Mac which sucked up huge portions of time (and not a little expense) and now the camera goes on the blink. Again.

That said I find myself secretly pleased that the bugger has gone on the blink this week as in the last few days I've been harbouring a serious case of camera envy.

On my mind this morning: how should one respond to expressions of empathy and indeed, sympathy from someone who has previously shown only unrelenting personal and professional hostility?

Saturday, June 28, 2008

John Fahey Visits Washington DC

A magical reissue from music outsider...

John Fahey Visits Washington D.C

John Fahey


From his self-financed recording d├ębut in 1959 until his death in 2001, John Fahey remained an enigmatic and maverick figure on the margins of American guitar music. Via his Takoma label he documented old rural and once popular picking tunes which had been scattered to the wind like so much chaff, as well as his own often eccentric compositions.

A passionate if idiosyncratic musicologist (he championed the young Leo Kottke), the guiding principle with most Fahey releases is that although the landscape may look and sound familiar, nothing is quite what it seems. Certainly reading the self-penned sleeve notes accompanying the original record confirms his skewed take on the world to have more in keeping with William Burroughs than any orthodox Smithsonian view of the world.

With this 1979 album he continues to layer popular melodies such as "Goodnight Ladies" and "Camptown Races" with discursive preludes, meandering off into unexpected swirling abstraction that often has more in common with 20th Century serialists than any notional folk picking style.

Circuitous, complex lines are unfurled into rare, blooming chords in much the way a magician pulls flowers out of his pocket. However, it’s the gothic rumbles of "Guitar Lamento" (written by Brazilian guitarist Bola Sete) that remind us how Fahey’s use of space and haunting repetition created glorious epic moods tempered with a bleak intensity that resonates and shivers still.

The Wrong Object Stories From The Shed

Keeping it lean and mean…
Stories From The Shed
The Wrong Object
Moonjune Records
Led by a twin-pronged attack of sax and trumpet, Belgium’s jazz outfit The Wrong Object offer a full-on, take-no-prisoners gusto that twists between tight-cornered heads and discursive improvisation. Part of the record’s success is its brevity – the longest track is nearly six minutes - without any apparent compromise in terms of the quality of the content.

Jean-Paul Estievenart’s trumpet and flugelhorn shines bright and sweet (especially on The undulating "Sheepwrecked") and a special mention must be made of Michael Delville’s guitar playing; his textural accompaniment adds a drama-heightening shade and colouring (reminiscent of Pete Cosey or David Torn’s work at times) to an already engaging sound.

Sometimes recalling the less formulaic aspects of Ian Carr’s Nucleus, the group fashion their respective rock and jazz interests into a sound that is vigorous and animated throughout without giving way to any superfluous padding whatsoever.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Jade Warrior Now

Warrior's winning way...


Jade Warrior

Windweaver Music

Refugees from the 60s beat boom, multi-instrumentalists Jon Field and Tony Duhig adopted the Jade Warrior name in 1969 to experiment with folk and rock forms liberally laced with African, Oriental and Latin flavours. Yet it wasn’t until they were signed to Island Records (at the urging of Steve Winwood) that they really hit their stride, producing the quartet of albums between 1974 and 1978 upon which their cult reputation now rests.

Floating World (1974) established a template of thoughtful arrangements, ingenious instrumentation and richly harmonic, ceremonial chamber music, which they continued to explore (though less successfully) in Waves (1975). The intricately scripted mood music of Kites (1976) – the most accomplished of the four - pre-empts the ECM ethno-crossovers of Pat Metheny, Steve Tibbetts, etc, creating strikingly impressive sequences along the way.

New Age before the term had been invented (and subsequently devalued), their very diversity caused market confusion prompting Island to drop them after the Latin-infused meanderings of 1978’s Way Of The Sun. All four albums (especially Eclectic Discs’ handsomely packaged reissues of 2006) are an essential part of any self-respecting prog rock collection.

Now after a series of sporadic releases into the wilderness and Duhig’s death in 1990, Jade Warrior return with a top-flight album boasting cinematic dynamics, thoughtful instrumentation, and the strategically astute placement of a roster of guest artists that includes Theo Travis (sax) and Tim Stone (guitar). Aside from the occasional stylistic misfire (the cod-Latin “Everything Must Pass”), this collection of songs fronted by pre-74 JW vocalist Glyn Havard (sounding at times uncannily like Gordon Haskell) has warmth, clarity and the power of surprise on its side.

Whilst “Fool and his Bride” begins as a jazzy-inflected blues it seamlessly morphs into John Barry-esque soundtrack mode. Metal-edged ear-bleeding sonics are raucously deployed in the manic “3.a.m Meltdown” giving the album an unexpected shaking off of any dust that may have gathered in the intervening years. Bassist Dave Sturt adds a classy lustre throughout the record whilst Jon Field’s flute never sounded better. Though very different to their classic Island albums, and occasionally straying too close to MOR balladry, Now is nevertheless a worthy successor to their glory days.


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