Monday, 31 August 2015

Bridge Music 2

Motörhead - Bad Magic, album review

The Same But Not The Same

Writing a review of Motörhead's latest and 22nd album doesn't require much thought or explaining - it is Motörhead playing what Motörhead always play, Lemmy leading the line with Rock's greatest growling rock and pounding rock.

But I did think about mentioning how rerto-rock and real rock are by their very nature the same and generally indistinguishable, though that immediately made me think how Motörhead as a band does have a distinctive sound, as does AC/DC, and especially The Rolling Stones which is interesting as the final track on this album is Sympathy for the Devil which is definitely not like The Rolling Stones but definitely Motörhead.

And thus my retro/real rock line is dismantled though what I was really trying to do was acknowledge the continuing presence of the former in continuing the sound of the latter.

So that is a little more said than the simplicity of saying that Bad Magic is vintage Motörhead, and Thunder & Lightning is my favourite classic Motörhead track on this album, though Shoot Out All of Your Lights amazes with its energy.

Sunday, 30 August 2015

Into the Distance Music 11

The Wake Woods - Get Outta My Way, album review

Not Lost in Translation

Retro-rock translated into German is retro-rock so linguistically the word does not change in exactly the same way that the music doesn't change, this band hailing out of Berlin and singing in English to make the translation even more exacting, with the nearest reference point in the narrow but slightly variable spectrum of what retro-rock can embrace being Aerosmith.

Friday, 28 August 2015

Lips Music 7

Beware of My Baker, film review

Light and Dark

I can't imagine Ginger Baker perusing the pages of Which? magazine and its comparison of hand-held vacuum cleaners and juicers whilst drinking his morning coffee, but as I did just this, all I could really think about was finally catching up with and watching the wonderful documentary Beware of Mr Baker last night.

The overwhelming impression one gets by the end of this film is of his genius as a musician. Eric Clapton was best at demonstrating absolute understanding of that fact, as well as a forgiving empathy for Baker as a cantankerous and disturbing character, and he articulated this was conviction and clarity. As Clapton perhaps suffered most from Baker's volatile moods - apart from his family - this genuinely enhanced that praise. Less expansive but equally poignant was the late Jack Bruce expressing his unconditional love for Baker as it was this pairing that had the most profound mutual hatred documented in the film, and it was the constant fighting between the two that drove Clapton to tears of upset when they were all together in Cream. Whilst comically ironic, it was also dramatic to hear of Clapton's shock when forming subsequent new band Blind Faith with Steve Winwood and finding out that Baker had unbeknownst to him managed to bag the drumming slot.

Animation still: Baker and Bruce fighting in Cream; Clapton in background

Baker's movement across the world in search of musical enlightenment as well as escape from disastrous financial and personal situations, most of his own making, was also a fascinating journey to discover, especially the African connections. So too his love of horses and polo. I won't elaborate on this here as the film does this intensively and with so much archive footage as well as the interviews with Baker himself.

Clearly, Baker's treatment of his family, especially his only son, is the most disturbing aspect of his life documented in the film, made more problematic by Baker's apparent indifference to most of what was revealed. The cliche would be to invoke the 'troubled genius' motif of this as some kind of emblematic excuse for such behaviour. It's a personal judgement about how much one places such reality against any over-riding admiration for Baker as a musician and person - the film certainly pulled no punches in, nor made any excuses for, exposing the darkness of this individual history.

When a clip is shown of Baker moved to tears in relating how the respect of other jazz drummers meant more to him than anything else in his life, that summed up the reality: a singular focus on the self which informed both his brilliance as a musician and his life as a mean man.

As well as the considerable archive footage used, the film is enhanced by playful and vivid animations to account for those aspects of Baker's life that didn't get recorded, a few stills used in this posting. It is an engrossing portrait of a monumental character and talent, and an account of an extraordinary survivor. I wish I had watched this before also seeing Baker play locally in 2013, reviewed here: it wouldn't have made my appreciation any greater for his playing but I would have been more enthralled by the presence of such a paradox of light and dark in a one person.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

One of the Coolest Songs: Van Morrison - Lonely Avenue


Legs Music 9

Serpent Power - Serpent Power [2014], album review


Not to be confused with David Meltzer’s Serpent Power actually from the late 60s, this is an album in two parts: first, the opening three tracks – Dr Lovecraft’s Asylum, The Man Who Shrunk the World and Lucifer’s Dreambox - second, the other nine on this 2014 album.

That opening trio is more expansively psychedelic in its reflection of a late 60s sound with Beatles-esque harmonies and Martin orchestrations, Lucifer’s Dreambox more in the Jefferson Airplane arena, and it is gloriously effective in re-creating that sound. The rest is more pop songish but from that same era in its reflecting.

Not surprising that the album holds up this mirror to the past, its two players being Ian Skelly of The Coral, a band steeped in the harmony-driven music of the late 60s/early 70s, and Paul Molloy of The Zutons, a band that indulged more in the rockier echoes of those times. It is an enjoyable reincarnation in all senses.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Rickie Lee Jones - The Other Side of Desire, album review

Roll Up, Roll Up for a Circus of Voices

As another named character Jimmy Choo has his story narrated through the girlish and playful vocalese of a wonderful Rickie Lee, it is as if the many years since Chuck E and his love became known to us, nothing has changed; the country waltz of next track Valtz de Mon Pere reminds us, however, that Jones has moved location and now resides in New Orleans – so past and present coalesce in the familiar and new but inimitable sound of Rickie Lee Jones.

The Orleans connection is picked up in the blues of next track J’ai Connais Pas, Jones singing with apt sass; when she begins singing next Blinded by the Hunt it is in a soulfully affected falsetto that is wrapped in affecting vernacular tones and phrasings. Amazing. This exciting vocal journey is time-warped back to the past in next Infinity, more akin to the soft and atmospheric beauty of a song like Night Train, the ticking in the background setting a frantic pace beneath the actual meditative rhythm of the melody and lightly struck piano keys; similarly sixth track I Wasn’t Here which projects such a childlike sound [within orchestral strings] without sounding childish – the sweetest harmonies swelling the prettiness.

Eighth Haunted picks up the musical stride a little, neat staccato instrumentation leading into echoing guitar and more angelic harmonies, until a bluesy mood takes over midway through and eerie guitar rhythms empathise to the song’s title and the warning of the lyrics:

You better be careful
Or all the bluebirds will stop flying
You better be careful
Or all the stars will stop flying
You better be careful
Or all your dreams just stop dying
You better be careful
Or all your heart will stop stinging

Closer Finale: [A Spider in the Circus of the Falling Star] is itself a circus of voices performing in the centre of its lyrical poem, a trumpet calling behind the circling voices, a banjo and laughter - elements of music hall in its performance:

Don't be afraid little one
We can't always walk in the sun
I've come to show you another way
Weaving a home
From patterns of sound

We catch marvellous moments
Put them down, put them down
Ah don't I recall
All of us flying
On parachutes in fall
Into the wind
To all stars again
The first of us is always

The last of us
Is not afraid
To leave
All life is circling
And all circles leading
The circus is gone
Our kind too...
Eat me and
Live, child