Apr 242014

To-day, the lovely Shirley MacLaine is 80, last week I watched Gambit… today I’m watching clips from Sweet Charity on YouTube. A few years ago Hazel and I bought tickets to see the film on the big screen and forgot to put it in the calendar, it was about a week after it had screened that we wondered… “when are we going to see Sweet Charity” – so if someone could put it on a big screen in London sometime soon I’d very much appreciate it.

YouTube clearly really can’t do it justice – but it still looks great, which gives you a clue as to just how awesome it is!

Apr 232014

I’ve long had a soft spot for English folk music, although it was generally more the rock side of English folk, so it was Steeleye Span (initially) and then Fairport Convention and Pentangle. More recently it has been slightly less rock (rather than more trad) The Unthanks (although capable of rock), June Tabor and Jackie Oates.

Now, I believe the significant thing about all the acts I’ve mentioned are that they either exclusively or predominantly (or predominantly when they were good in the case of Fairport) make use of a female voice. So when I say I love English folk music, I think I really mean that I love English folk music when it’s sung by a woman. When men sing folk it tends towards the folk-cliche, which ultimately ends up at the unbearable Bellowhead. Of course there are plenty of English folk singers I love who aren’t women but they don’t get played nearly as often.

I bought Jackie Oates’ Saturnine when it came out in 2011, and it’s a beautiful album. FOr some reason, however I never went back to her previous album Hyperboreans until right now. And that was clearly a mistake, because on first listen it may even be more beautiful.

The album came out on One Little Indian, home of The Sugarcubes and features a beautiful cover of their hit Birthday. Here she is with her band singing in a shed:

The album versions better, but lovely as it is, it doesn’t really come close to this

or this

Apr 232014

Mel Brooks’ remake of Ernst Lubitsch’s flawless 1942 comedy suffers in two major respects in comparison to the original:

1/ It is 40 years too late.
2/ It has Mel Brooks in it.

The first can’t really be helped (although you could perhaps question why you’d want to remake the film at all), and the second could be disputed as there are one or two of Mel Brooks’ films that work perfectly well with him in it (High Anxiety for instance), but lets face it, his best films keep his appearances to a minimum (Young Frankenstein, The Producers)

One benefit to it being such a straight remake of the 1942 film is that it keeps Brooks on a bit of a rein.

But frankly if you have the time to kill…

Apr 212014

Hazel and I, on a whim, took a bus to Willesden. The intention was to look around the Jewish Cemetery there, but for some reason we couldn’t get in without buzzing and having a legitimate purpose. And not being the sort of people who would be able to talk our way into things (my mum would have got us in there!) we had to make do with the two other cemeteries adjacent to it. The Willesden New Cemetery (which despite its name was not that new – 1891), and the Liberal Jewish Cemetery.

The Willesden New Cemetery was most notable for the amount of bodies that they were cramming in – one road through the cemetery had been rather unsubtly dug up and replaced along its entire length with graves, three abreast. And in one corner the cemetery had clearly acquired some additional land and had a strange rectangular plot poking out of the side.

The Liberal Jewish Cemetery was a rather nice little cemetery, Hazel saw the grave of media impressario Lew Grade, and found the unusual grave of mezzo-soprano Conchita Supervía that had been designed by Edwin Lutyens.

Conchita Supervía – Habanera

Here are a few pictures:

Conchita Supervía

The grave of Conchita Supervía designed by Edwin Lutyens



Liberal Jewish Cemetery, Willesden

The Liberal Jewish Cemetery

Willesden New Cemetery

The Willesden New Cemetery

Road repurposed #2

Cemetery road replaced with graves

Spirit of Youth by Freda Skinner

Spirit of Youth by Freda Skinner

Apr 212014

I adore Shirley MacLaine, that adoration is mostly founded on just two films, Billy Wilder’s The Apartment and Bob Fosse’s Sweet Charity. Although I’m sure I could pretty much watch her in anything, although maybe I’d draw the line at her new age spouting.

Gambit is missing a few things, a decent story for one, and what story there is is told so poorly that when Michael Caine’s Harry makes his big gesture of love at the end, you don’t really understand it. But… I’m rather fond of a heist movie and it looks lovely, particularly when Shirley is on the screen, so I didn’t mind sitting through it at all.

Apr 202014

A last minute decision was taken yesterday morning to go on a Footprints of London walk around the cinemas of London’s West End. Very interesting walk and nicely presented, although the crowds and the noise in London on a holiday Saturday made it hard work!

The walk started in Piccadilly Circus and ended in Charing Cross Road and took in about 20 current and former cinemas in that short stroll. It should have finished outside the Odeon Covent Garden which was only a short walk from where the tour ended and would have been well worth the extra five minutes it would have taken. We did it ourselves.

Here are some pictures.

Leicester Square Theatre

The soon to be demolished Leicester Square Theatre

Odeon Panton Street

“The worst cinema in London” according to tour guide Stephen

Ceiling of the Carlton Cinema, Haymarket

Ceiling of the Carlton Cinema, Haymarket

Plaza Lower Regent Street

The Plaza, Lower Regent Street – formerly the “Home of Paramount Pictures

Odeon Shaftesbury Avenue

Odeon, Covent Garden

A few more pictures can be found in this set on Flickr.

Apr 202014

Esperanza Spalding by Fran Kaufman
Back in Feb/Mar I took an online course (a MOOC) in “Jazz Appreciation” and one of the methods of teaching was a set of multiple choice “Jazz Facts” that were relentlessly and repeatedly served to you in an effort to get them into your long0term memory. One of these questions was “Who won a Grammy for Best New Artist in 2011?” – the answer to which was Esperanza Spaulding. This bit of the teaching gave us no insight into anything about Esperanza except that she won that Grammy (and in another question that she was a bassist/vocalist), so it seemed only fair that I give Esperanza a listen and picked her second album Esperanza from 2008 as a decent starting point.

Of course, having taken a “Jazz Appreciation” course means that I should be able to go beyond “I liked this” or “I didn’t like this” and start discussing the style, the instrumentation, the form, and other aspects of the music. I, of course, don’t have the confidence (and am not sure the course gave me the skill) to assess music in that way, so…

I hear drums, bass and piano. Esperanza’s voice is clear and soulful. The music is generally smooth with a Latin feel. A couple of numbers have a saxophone, and one these She Got to You I like quite a lot (all the live clips on YouTube has her performing it with an electric guitar instead of a sax, and I’m not sure I like that so much!)

Mela, has the addition of a trumpet, and it might be my favourite song on the album, maybe because of that. Here’s a live clip… with no trumpet – oh jazzers constantly messing about with your formula!

I quite like the album, not sure that it’s something I’d go back to often.

Apr 132014

No Shouts, No Calls was the last (so far) Electrelane album, it was their fourth album and I’d been listening to and loving them since “The Power Out”, their second. Somehow I never saw them live despite probably having a billion opportunities. Not long after this album was released the band went “on hiatus” and it looked like I’d never get the chance.

I’ve not really stopped listening to this album, or any of the previous two, so this wasn’t revisiting a lost album, but just confirmation at just how much I love it.

In August 2011 the band reunited for a few shows and I finally got to see them live, at an overcrowded Scala. It was good, but I think it would have been better if I’d seen them four or five years earlier.

Apr 122014

… and so season 3, thankfully comes to an end. I didn’t enjoy this season nearly as much as I thought I had. It had some great moments, but as a whole it really started to grate. Now I’m beginning to wonder if this is me changing. I decided a couple of years back that I couldn’t be bothered with modern cinema’s blockbusters, I didn’t want CGI, I didn’t want to see the budget, I wanted something that was able to get to me emotionally, rather than be battered into me, and I found I was not getting that from modern Hollywood.

I find that a lot of telly I’ve watched recently has had a similar effect, so, for instance one episode of Peaky Blinders and not much more of Marvel: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. or Nashville made it clear that this is not the sort of telly I want to watch (any more). I found rewatching Twin Peaks much more difficult than I thought it would be, I didn’t make it to the end (although I started watching the first series of West Wing and that was still able to suck me in).

Obviously we’re going to plough on with Buffy, and maybe I can get back into it (maybe Maggie Walsh and Tara will help), but at the moment it feels like I love Buffy less than I like, and like less than I just don’t care about.

Graduation Day was an OK end, it had a cool/weird dream sequence, and the Faith/Buffy fight was OK. But I was relieved when it was over.

Maybe I’ve finally become… old, telly was much better in the olden days.

But you know it really was!

Apr 112014

Teenager in Second Ward Neighborhood, 06/1972
You know, it never crossed my mind for years that there’s a danger that Thirteen could be interpreted as creepy – to me it always was, and still is, just the sweetest song about growing up.

Big Star – Thirteen

Big Star – Thirteen (alternate mix)

Magnapop – 13

Kathryn Williams – Thirteen

Garbage – Thirteen

Rose Melberg – Thirteen