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Sunday, July 31, 2011

Weather Report Live In Berlin 1975

Weather Report
Live In Berlin 1975
Art of Groove

There are several reasons why Weather Report’s Heavy Weather/Mr.Gone/ 8.30-era tends to outshine other periods in the band’s history. The beginning of a commercial high water mark, they produced a rash of infectiously catchy tunes, and, thanks to Jaco Pastorius’s game-changing bass work, their influence radiated deep into the mainstream.

However, slowly but surely, other line-ups in the band’s fascinating history are now enjoying some exposure, going some way to redressing what has often been a rather partial account of their impact. In 2010 we had Weather Report Live In Germany 1971 highlighting the frontline axis of Zawinul, Shorter and Miroslav Vitous, and now with Live In Berlin 1975, we get to celebrate the considerable feast of talent and flair which Alphonso Johnson (bass), Chester Thompson (drums) and Alex Acuna (percussion), bought to Zawinul and Shorter’s table.

Shorter’s Freezing Fire is typically brilliant example of what Weather Report do best. A remarkable launch-pad into a turbulent rhythmic space against which melodies and solos pitch and roll in an spectacular manner. Zawinul’s Fat synth sine-wave and Johnson’s roaring fuzz bass are ear-catching enough but it’s Shorter’s animated soprano that swooshes in, constantly jabbing at the percussive and electronic atmospherics, and repeatedly stealing the show.

Johnson may not have the profile of Pastorius but his supple work is superbly judged throughout, adding just the right amount of energy and pull when required. When the entire ensemble lock horns on Badia/Boogie Woogie Waltz - full of trilling doubling from piano and bass with criss-crossing percussive fusilades - you know you’re in the presence of something magnificent.

As the DVD footage demonstrates, there’s none of the choreographed light shows and dry-ice rocket take-offs which characterises 8.30 (and documented more fully in the recently released Live In Offenbach 1978). In that sense, Berlin 1975 feels like the real thing, a true no-nonsense band playing it straight up and down, pleasing the crowd without recourse to stunts and showboating.

Recorded just one month before work began on Black Market, over the course of 40 minutes they simply dazzle the listener with a constant stream of invention and vivacity. Though four tracks featuring this line-up appeared on 2002’s Live And Unreleased compilation, on the evidence of this new DVD/audio set, this configuration is surely worthy of another full-length in-depth reappraisal.

Phenomenal stuff from start to finish!

The View From The Office This Morning XIV

It's 6.00 a.m.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Waving Goodbye

At this time of year, Debbie, Sam and Alys always go off to see Bill and Kath down in Wales.

Next-door neighbour, the Deeksman, stops to give the departing party his own unique farewell wave...

After the gang had left I was in the house on my own. I was going to have a party. Supplies had been laid in just waiting for this very moment...

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Hour

I've been watching The Hour these last couple of weeks. I'm trying desperately hard to like it but after two episodes I find myself completely uninvolved in any part of it. Congratulations on the set dressing but in getting that kind of meticulous detail correct, they simply forgot to bother working up a script that brought the characters to life.

As a fan of The Wire I'm genetically pre-disposed to Dominic West but so far there's little for his undoubted acting skills to get to grips with. Romola Garai, who was terrific earlier this year in The Crimson Petal and The White, isn't convincing as the up-and-coming female producer bumping her head off the glass ceiling in 1950s TVland. This isn't due to any deficiencies in her work but rather the plodding lines she has to work with.

The murder mystery plot that's been shoe-horned into the production looks as though it's come about after one of the creative team couldn't quite remember a conversation they'd had with their mum or dad about something on tele back in the 80s called The Singing Detective or something.

Of course it all may pick up terrifically with episode three next week but something tells me this particular hour is going to drag along like an eternity.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Cat Of Course Said...Lots Actually!

This is Lord Beige Peter on a recent visit to the provinces...

Debbie is always telling me to put pictures of the cats onto the blog as his Lordship likes to admire their pussytastic goodness. So without further ado...

This was the scene in the yellow room this morning at around 7.15. Ginger Bob is in a disconsolate mood because although a human had been up since around 6.00 a.m. they had not proceeded immediately to the vicinity of a food bowl. Here's he's just flat out unhappy...

Then he starts getting a bit tetchy and scratchy as Baby Wilson walks past. She too isn't happy about the lack of service but whereas His Bobness is the strong and silent type, Baby Wilson will come up, tap you on the leg, get your attention and meow loudly at you...

Min, who is guided by voices most of the time, couldn't give a toss either way. You'll notice the Bobmeister is now giving it the old cute roll treatment...

He gets bored with that and wonders if there's anything outside he could kill instead...


Then he goes all aloof on me. "What's that you say? Food? Later, perhaps." 

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Naked Truth Shizaru

Naked Truth
Rare Noise Records

Bassist Lorenzo Feliciati has gathered an interestingly diverse mix of musicians. Cuong Vu exquisite trumpet playing has graced the likes of Pat Metheny and David Bowie, whilst UK-born but Swedish-based keyboard player Roy Powell spatters vintage-sounding Fender Rhodes and synth colours across an expansive aural canvas. Fans of King Crimson’s Pat Mastelotto will instantly recognise his eclectic-sourced percussives and alsorts in addition to his signature propulsive beats.

together they fashion a wonderfully engaging hybrid space, accommodating jazz, spacey electronic-freakouts, and even the occasional caustic spray of metal-edged guitar. Sitting somewhere near to Crimson-related ProjeKcts, and Decoy-era Miles Davis rather than the PR-advertised Bitches Brew, any impression that this is likely to be a sprawling free-for-all is quickly dispelled.

Tight knots of punchy arrangements add a smart focus, prevents some oblique jam-like numbers from drifting off into a woozy altered states. Cavernous rumbles and diaphanous, misty soundscapes are interrupted by unexpectedly powerful bursts of ascending stings, often woven with yearning, lyrical themes. There’s a surprisingly melodic dimension present that is unafraid to push into over rock territories. Immediate and attention-grabbing, Shizaru effortlessly bounds beyond the obvious and predictable.

You can hear / buy this record here

Friday, July 22, 2011

My Mind Takes A Holiday

A change of scene is needed again and so I head off to the Lit & Phil. On my way to the Metro I enter Station Road.  As the town centre has gradually drifted away, this once thriving thoroughfare has seen better days, as more and more shops here close their doors.

This one is the latest to go...

previously a clothes repair shop, in recent times it purported to be a book shop. Whenever I passed by it's doors was closed and the blinds only fractionally open. Once, when peering through to see what kind of stock it held, the proprietor opened the door and bid me inside.

A quick glance around the walls told me this wasn't the shop for me, but I cheerfully wished him well and went on my way.

A couple of weeks later, he's posted this sign in the window...

It's not a good sign is it? On any level you care to imagine. 

Meanwhile, at the Lit & Phil...

A chance remark on Twitter the other day has my mind leaping from the daily concerns of work and how to earn a living, into a fictional fantasy world.

Despite trying to stay focussed on the task in hand - research for some sleeve notes - I keep getting little scenarios present themselves regardless of my very best efforts to keep them at bay.

When it happens I stop what I'm doing and make a note (in a screenplay format) and then attempt to wrestle my attention back to what I should be doing.

Like anyone who writes, I'm always plagued by that inner whisperer who scans the first few lines and splutters disdain and scorn all over the piece. I find this is especially the case when I try to write something that is notionally outside my usual area of expertise.

However, as the freelance cycle starts to slow down (as it always seems to at this time of the month), my mind is rather enjoying going on these little holidays into fantasy-land.

Maybe I'll send you a postcard, 'arf 'arf!

The View From The Office This Morning XI

The view at around 6.00 a.m. 

and then the view inside the office 21 minutes later. The sunlight on the walls in the room at this time of day creates my favourite shade of yellow...

I count myself lucky indeed to get this kind of interior decoration free of charge a couple of times a week.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Unacceptable Faces Of Capitalism

Following the revelations about phone hacking at the News Of The World there’s been a lot of talk about the relationship between the three Ps - the press, the police and the politicians - and the extent to which Murdoch threads through them all like some insidious connective tissue.

What today’s select committee hearings today graphically highlight is another couple of P’s - privilege and power.

The obvious unease on the faces of all those giving evidence today stemmed not from any regret at having sanctioned criminal activity, but from being totally unaccustomed at having to account for their actions in public - especially to a class of people they’ve come to see as lickspittle pawns in their wider game.

Following their hurried crash-course application of humility and oh-so-careful replies, one sensed they were asking themselves “how did it come to this?”, not in any penitent sense but more along the lines of “how did we loose control of this story?”

Though everyone knows that the power and privilege which these people enjoy and expect have always been cosy bedfellows, it’s not that often we get to see it so clearly exposed as it was today.

I Do Love To Be Beside The Seaside...

I've been so busy lately but I can finally see some light at the end of the tunnel. I'm planning to take the whole day off although I know I'm going to be watching the select committees interviewing the police and later on, Murdoch & Son and Rebekah Brooks. 

First though, a swift walk out with Lesley...


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