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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Whitley Bay Daily Photo LIX

Cullercoats Abbey Road Cover Re-enactment Society.

A morning spent tearing out what little hair I possess on a problem with the Toxic Tome 2 (that's the revised and expanded King Crimson biography in case you just joined us). This was unexpectedly resolved after I'd walked away from the desk, made a pot of tea, got involved in doing something that had nothing to do with anything, and then returned to the issue. At that point things clicked into place. They were always in place really, only I was now able to see the wood for the trees.

Meanwhile, there's life outside...

Mr.OhBlimey has arrived...

All systems go apparently...

We were off to an out-of-town retail outlet (not pictured). Tim bought some storage for his Logic files and I was on the look out for a scanner. Or a toaster. In the end I came back with red and yellow peppers only.

On our way back to Whitley Bay, we realised that it was time for the annual Cullercoats Abbey Road cover Re-enactment Society. They like to start them young in Cullercoats and always begin with a bit of free-styling Abbey Road crossing before limbering them up for an actual Zebra crossing.

They like to start them young in Cullercoats and always begin with a bit of free-styling Abbey Road crossing before limbering them up for an actual Zebra crossing.

After a rigorous selection process four youngsters will eventually be chosen to represent the area in the regional heats which take place every leap year. 

Or at least I'm sure Tim said something like that.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Geography Of Memory

Lesley called round this morning. She had just returned from dropping off Debbie and her mother at Central station in Newcastle. Deb was taking Doris to see her younger brother who is seriously ill in hospital in Liverpool. The other day I had organised assistance at all points in the journey for Doris - being met at the station and the use of a wheelchair - who at 80 would find the navigation between platforms far too arduous.

A somewhat austere day but brightened by the offer a trip out to Warkworth with my sister.

After a cup of tea and a bite to eat we drove out of Warkworth up to Bank House Cottages where we both spent time as children.

A cruel, biting wind blasted over the fields as we left the car and walked back down Berry Bank with its view of Warkworth castle...

As a young girl, my mother used to freewheel on her bike down Berry Bank. We scattered her ashes here in 2006. 

As we walked we talked - landscape and memory, memories intertwined with places, of the past, of the heart...

Bank House cottages nestle in the land and in our memories...

Along the road past East House Farm there are unexpected bursts of colour...

Along the public footpath walking towards what used to be Fairbairn's farm and Bank House itself...

Along the way we see the air sea rescue helicopter out of RAF Boulmer heading somewhere. I often see it as it sweeps over Whitley Bay...

The bitterly cold wind rakes through the sky...

and whips up lots of memories along the way...

Here's a map detailing part of our walk today...

Maps tell you a lot about a place but they can't reveal the strange geography that the heart and the head documents. It's good to touch base with places that have a significance in our lives. We count ourselves lucky that we can do this.

Back to the car, frozen by chilling winds...

One of the memories we both have is the sound of the train hurtling off to some unknown destination. Although the trains we recall we steam driven, the same line carries trains to and from Edinburgh today...

Back in Warkworth the sun had come out...

Whitley Bay Daily Photo LVI

Friday, February 24, 2012

Chick Corea Eddie Gomez Paul Motion Further Explorations

Corea, Gomez Motian
Further Explorations

Corea’s 1968 Now He Sings Now He Sobs was very much about a new generation of players reinvigorating a trio format that had become overly formulaic and conservative. 44 years on, the vanguard have become the old guard but Corea can still pull a few new tricks out of the bag in a sprightly and lively double set recorded at the Blue Note in New York.

Ostensibly a tribute to the work of Bill Evans, it’s also a celebration of the striking and enduring chemistry which happily exists between piano, bass and drums which Evans did so much to popularise.

With tracks appearing to be chosen on the fly, the demarcation lines between composition and improvisation are rapidly redrawn on pieces like Rhapsody. Here the pianist generates quick-fire constellations of soft-pedal clusters scattered in spectral patterns against Motian’s ever-shifting atmospheric cymbal work.

While the yearning, almost pushy melodicism in Corea’s soloing might seem a touch aggressive at times, it instills a useful bracing energy that contrasts well with the suave diffidence of Evans originals such as Peri’s Scope or the rich ascending harmonies of Very Early.

As great a bass player as Gomez undoubtedly is, the recording gives his guttural sprechgesang that accompanies most of his solo spots an unsettling prominence at times. Having someone sing along with a tune isn’t always what you want when you go to a gig. Happily, he drops the vocals when he’s providing his ravishing bow work, deployed to lyrical effect on the Motian-composed Mode IV - a beguilling dreamscape that maps out the acute sense of space the trio evidently savours.

Their seemingly preternatural ability to swirl in oblique orbits from one another one minute and then swoop into tightly drawn and thrilling executed melodic and rhythmic detail ensures the element of surprise and delight is never far away with this set-list. 

Sadly, the album also acts as testament to Motian’s talents of drummer Paul Motian who died in November 2011. His work throughout Further Explorations has the balance between bold strokes and masterly understatement exactly right, and does much to make this album such a compelling experience.  

Whitley Bay Daily Photo LV

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Whitley Bay Daily Photo LIII

Marvin Ayres Harmogram Suite

Marvin Ayres
Harmogram Suite
Burning Shed

Though some will know him through his recent association with Curved Air and collaborations with Sonja Kristina (who also makes a cameo choir appearance on this album), Ayers usual habitat is that of a composer and performer working in gallery spaces and site-specific installations.

Featuring both composed and improvised elements, this two-disc set, containing both high-end stereo and surround-sound options, is built from layers of multi-tracked cello, and filled with reflective cadences that occasionally recall the melancholic waves of Gavin Bryars’ The Sinking Of The Titanic, or the eerie arco tracings of Philip Sheppard’s The Glass Cathedral

An elegy to Ayers’ deceased father, it’s best heard in the resplendent, enveloping church-like ambience of the 5.1 version, where rich melodic themes emerge with a lean, starkly poetic precision. With surround-sound mixes becoming increasingly popular, those looking to extend the immersive listening experience beyond their prog rock reissues and the like could do worse than embrace this elegant and meditative work of contemporary classical minimalism.

The DVD also includes bonus videos but it’s their audio content that really engages, especially the cartwheeling dizziness of multiple processed piano motifs and delicately etched cello lines combined to brilliant effect on Soured Alchemy

Monday, February 20, 2012

Strange Tales

How one man’s memory and the internet collided in a truly amazing cosmic comic coincidence! Now read on...

Every now and then I have a telephone conversation with a pal who is also something of a hardcore comics collector. We generally just jabber on about the quality of this or that artist, or the likeable daftness that hits you in a given story. Being grown men of a certain age, inevitably this discussion threads back to our exposure to the art work and stories at a tender age.

One image that I came across as a young kid (I was about seven years old) was of a man hiding in alleyway gripped with fear as the leg of a robot of some kind came into view. For years that image has remained crisp in my head although I’d not seen it since the early 1960s.

Every now and then, I’ve asked anyone who seemed knowledgeable about comics if they knew where the image was from. I’ve even left messages and questions about this striking image on the comments and guestbooks of comics industry folks but to no avail.

Here for example...

I suppose it’s a bit like wandering into a record shop, humming a tune from a particularly obscure moment from an album, released sometime in the last 50 or so years, to a long-suffering assistant in the unlikely hope that they might know the tune in question.

Needless to say I’ve quizzed my telephonic chum several times about the image but to no avail.

So today the conversation was about Doctor Strange and the change over from Steve Ditko to an artist whose name I could not recall. I recalled not being too keen on the results of the handover and pretty much stopped reading Doc Strange as a result.

“It was Strange Tales 147 and the artist was Bill Everett” my telephonic compendium of comic book knowledge informed me. “Bill Everett invented Sub-Mariner & was Marvel's first artist along with Carl Burgos (Human Torch). I love his 50s stuff..”

Here’s the front page of that Strange story...

Looking at it now, I’m not too sure what it was that put me off. Encouraged by my pal's recommendation, I searched on some of Bill Everett’s work and blow me over if I didn’t come across this image...

I instantly recognised the cover that had haunted me since the early 60s.

This had to be it. It was too close not to be anything other - although the colours were a little different to what I remembered.

In the space of a few minutes I'd had a conversation about an artist I knew nothing of, and then discovered him to be the originator of an image that I'd held in my head for over 50 years.

Amazing! Astounding! Astonishing! Uncanny!

I phoned my chum to tell him the momentous news. He informed me that given that this was an American imprint dating from 1957, it was more likely that I had encountered an UK based reprint by Alan Class.

Sure enough, by searching Alan Class, a couple of clicks later I was staring at the exact cover I had last seen circa 1964 or 1965.

I was astonished at the way my memory had preserved the Class reprint although thinking about it now, the reasons for this are perhaps rather obvious. Anyone who can remember experiencing the mounting tension of a game of hide and seek as a child  might relate to the man in Everett's picture.

As a kid I would have easily been able to relate / imagine the terror of seeing that thing coming into view and the prospect of what might happen next: would it walk on past, or would it turn into the alley and thus discover the hiding man.

Perhaps that explains why my memory overlayed some erroneous details such as the look of "abject terrror" on the man's face and his eyes "bugging out", as mentioned in my comment on Lew Stringer's blog.

So, there we go: a tale of memory, a chance remark, and how the internet threads it all together. Strange Tales indeed!


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