Aug 132014

Today on A Head Full of Wishes I posted Damon & Naomi’s cover of The Beatles’ (well George’s) While My Guitar Gently Weeps… it’s a lovely cover but not in my top 6…
actually these aren’t really my top 6 either… just the first six that popped into my head right now! #1 is probably #1 though!

We’d like to start off with some Rock ‘n’ Roll, we’ll throw it out, you throw it back

#1 – The Pink Fairies – Tomorrow Never Knows from Finland Freakout 1971

#2 – The Unthanks – Sexy Sadie

#3 – Bobbie Gentry – Here, There and Everywhere

#4 – The Breeders – Happiness is a Warm Gun

#4 – The Feelies – Everybody’s Got Something To Hide (Except Me and My Monkey)

#6 – Galaxie 500 – Rain – Ha! as if I could leave this out…

I’ve no idea why I found that picture funny… but I’m still smiling.

Aug 112014

4 - Walker, Scott - Scott 4 - UK - 1969
Scott 4 is one of those albums it’s assumed that people who love music will love. To the point where, I suspect, that there are more people who “love it” than have actually listened to it. That’s not to say that it’s a difficult album to like, it’s not. It’s actually a very easy album to like. It has simple but lush arrangements, it has Scott’s rich baritone, it has some nicely obtuse lyrics. It is almost the very epitome of easy listening.

I guess I first heard the album in the early/mid 90s but probably found it a little too easy, also my natural contrariness meant that I was never really likely to love an album I was expected to love. But I do keep going back to it, I’ve never loved it but I have learnt to understand why I’m expected to love it. I expect one day in the not too distant future I will love it.

Also, 32 minutes… that’s pretty much the perfect length for an album. I know the CD came along and messed things up by being capable of taking 74 minutes and suddenly we all expected to get our moneys worth. But 32 minutes is perfect.

Another reason to hate CDs

I have, however, decided not to buy into the mythologising of Scott Walker.

I like Scott 4 more than some of those other albums I’m supposed to love (I’m looking at you Pet Sounds).

Here’s a lovely cover of Duchess by Trembling Bells with Bonnie Prince Billy

Aug 102014

Against the Wind (1948) – poster

At work on Thursday a couple of colleagues and myself were discussing this splendid blog post discussing the training and “prop design” of the Special Operations Executive (“Britain’s secret warfare organisation during the Second World War”).

Coincidentally on Friday Hazel and I watched the 1948 Ealing film “Against The Wind” and the amount of cross-over between the film and the blog post was quite a surprise.

Here are some observations…

In the blog:

Camouflage wasn’t just for people – it was also for ‘props’. Walter ‘Wally’ Bull [...] helped SOE develop explosive fake coal for sabotage [...] other camouflaged curiosities made by the section included fake animal droppings, for placing on roads and bursting the tyres of enemy vehicles, and explosive stuffed rats for damaging enemy facilities.

In Against the Wind: Scotty, a sabotage expert shows off, explosive coal, explosive animal droppings and explosive rats!

Scotty: Everything here blows up, this is explosive coal it’s filled with plastic and is set off by a detonator

Scotty shows Michelle a table full of exploding rats

Scotty: These rats, they’re filled with explosive and thrown into the boiler room in a German explosive works, a chap sees one lying about, picks it up, throws it in the furnace and…
Michelle: Bang!
Scotty: Aye, aye just like that. Of course Jerry’s got wise to the dodge now, but he spends an amount of time studying dead rats. Real ones as well as ours

… and some exploding horse poo

Scotty: Lumps of… mud.
Michelle: Looks to me like horse manure.
Scotty: Well, yes, it is actually. Put down in the road to wreck cars.

In the blog:

Camouflaged items [...] were displayed in the Demonstration Room at the Natural History Museum, for the benefit of SOE personnel

In the Against the Wind: Father Elliot goes to the Natural History Museum for his initial recruitment into the SOE.

In the blog:

There was also a make-up team, which could make delicate (or radical) changes to a person’s face, allowing agents who were known to the enemy to re-enter occupied territory and continue their work in disguise.

In Against the Wind: Emile Meyer has his face altered in preparation for an assignment, to the point where his wife doesn’t recognise him

I was quite surprised that a film made so soon after the conflict was so open in discussing the methods used, I’d guess that the film-makers had a copy of the Descriptive Catalogue of Special Devices and Supplies.

Funnily enough a contemporary review of “Against the Wind” from the NY Times suggests that it…

has the aspect of contrived melodrama and a minimum of the truth behind the sabotage of World War II

… and describes it as “unconvincing fare”. The National Archives’ blog post clearly suggests otherwise!

Here’s a blog post that includes exploding rats along with nine other exploding animals!

Aug 102014

Crich Fruit Square
One of the highlights of the Indietracks weekend for the last two years has been the opportunity to visit the lovely The Loaf bakery/cafe in Crich and eat their lovely Crich Fruit Squares. And for two years I’ve come home and tried to replicate them… and never really got close, generally ending up with something much more akin to a teacake or a hot cross bun.

A cheeky speculative tweet after yesterdays failure solicited some clues, now if only I could make it up there more than once a year for more tasting sessions!!

Jul 202014

Papageorge, Henderson, Teletype
Computer Chess evoked the time it was set in rather well, the black and white videography, the set dressing, the computers and the clothes all seemed to help set this film in a strange past, where our present was beginning. Unfortunately Computer Chess didn’t engender any real empathy towards its characters, didn’t have any real humour, and the plot existed purely for the sake of itself rather than for the satisfaction of the viewer.

Maybe my problem was that I was more interested in the tournament and the technology than the misfits involved. I think I wanted a real documentary made in the early 80s rather than a fiction set there.

Jul 192014

I haven’t seen this for ages, probably 30 years, or more. Les Bicyclettes de Belsize is a short musical film, with a slight, but charming, plot, some lovely north London photography (sadly a part of London I’m not too familiar with so didn’t get the “been there” buzz I got with, for instance, A Hard Day’s Night), and some sweetly drippy songs. I have this as the second film on a DVD of the also rather wonderful The London Nobody Knows.

It also has the rather awesome Raleigh RSW 16 – now I’m fairly certain I’d look a prize pillock riding one but I generally don’t worry too much about what I look like, and besides, in my head I would look brilliant. I’ve set up a saved search on eBay!
...Raleigh RSW 16

I also was pointed in the direction of a different… Les Bicyclettes de Belsize

Who are related to Paisley & Charlie… who can join the long list (over here) of lovely folk who have done lovely covers of the lovely White Horses

Jul 192014

Picture lifted from this blog where there are plenty more like it.

Despite the best efforts on my part, and a ten week online course, jazz is still not something I find myself returning to often. The albums that I do go back to tend to be piano led, and often piano trios (e.g. Sunday at The Village Vanguard by Bill Evans) or even solo (e.g. Alone on San Francisco by Thelonious Monk). It seems to be that while I’m learning that jazz is a wide and varied form, and that a frontline of horns are often the focus… that actually those horns might be getting in the way of my enjoyment somewhat.

I’m not sure how I happened upon The Esbjörn Svensson Trio’s (aka e.s.t.) work a few weeks back but have to admit that I’m rather taken with it. Given the timeless sound, and the space-race theme I was rather surprised to find this was an album from 1999 and not 1959, although occasionally it seemed a little wrong for then most notably on Dodge The Dodo. Is that cello, or the bass being bowed? And what the heck is making some of those noises? A live video on YouTube suggests it was the bass through some effects.

Often I’ll listen to a jazz album, express some sort of appreciation for it, and file it away for further consideration… but never actually get a desire to listen to it again. I’ve listened to From Gagarin’s Point of View half a dozen times in the last couple of weeks, I keep hearing more and enjoying it more because of that… and I haven’t even considered the rest of e.s.t.’s output.

Here’s a rather great live version of Dodge The Dodo with the trio augmented with Pat Metheny on guitar and about a huge string section.

Esbjörn Svensson was born a month before I was in April 1964, he died scuba-diving at the age of 44.

Jul 012014

@thevacantlots on stage at the social this evening @soniccathedral #thevacantlots #live
Last night I headed out to The Social in Little Portland Street for the album launch of the splendid new LP Departure by The Vacant Lots. I don’t get off my arse for too many folk who aren’t ex-members of Galaxie 500 these days but TVL are an exception.

Arrived in time to catch support act Tess Parks making an enjoyable noise of her reverb-y growling through the drench of her reverb-y guitar.
Tess Parks

The Vacant Lots are a two piece with an unashamed love of Suicide, they played a breathtaking set of numbers from the new LP and finished with a barnstorming 6AM. When the song finished the audience was silent for a few seconds… there was no instant roar of applause or cheers. We knew that had to be the end and some time was needed to appreciate what we had just experienced. Then the cheering started.
The Vacant Lots
The Vacant Lots

I think they’re back over later in the year. I’ll get off my arse then too.

Jun 292014

Stevie Wonder - Songs in the Key of Life
I have the double LP of Stevie Wonder’s Songs in the Key of Life bought way back when, possibly not in 1976, but probably not too long afterwards. One of the records is broken, I have no idea why. I have a ‘Premium’ subscription to Spotify where I can listen to the album at my leisure. Yesterday while flicking around on my phone Google told me that I could buy the album (that I already have both physically and virtually) for just 99p. That’s less than a quid for an album, I couldn’t help myself, even if the album is not really all that great.

It has its moments, and is sometimes brilliant but, like so many double albums, suffers it from its length. And lets face it, no album with Isn’t She Lovely or Ebony Eyes on it is ever going to be considered a classic!

Wikipedia has just told me that my fave song on the album, Another Star, is being used by the BBC in their World Cup coverage. That must be because they couldn’t find any Brazilian music to use. I posted about why I’m not watching the World Cup in this previous post by Brazilian artist Nara Leão – I’ve also managed to post one other Brazilian artist in this series (and thought I also did this one but for some reason didn’t) – and I wasn’t even trying. I even managed to post a Barazilian artist on A Head Full of Wishes!

BBC Sport, you are just lazy.

Jun 262014

Billy Preston 1901720021
At lunchtime yesterday I listened to a BBC Radio documentary on Billy Preston, presented by Rick Wakeman, that made me realise that I never really went beyond the fifth Beatle thing (although it turns out I’d probably heard more of Billy with The Stones than The Beatles). It was an interesting and ultimately tragic story, and by the end I sort of wished I could listen to this music without knowing it.

I decided to pick an album that was after the Apple/Beatles connection and so 1973′s Everybody Likes Some Kind of Music seemed appropriate. It’s from 1973 and saw Billy playing the field… which by it’s very nature exposes Billy’s weaknesses as well as his strengths. An album designed to genre-hop the way this one does is inevitably a patchy affair. But has some gold, and some lovely synthy experimentation.

Can’t find any live footage from this album… so this’ll do