Thursday, 30 June 2011

Gillian Welch - The Harrow & the Harvest

Harrowing Harmony

My title overstates, but it allows me to more aptly refine my alliterative observation to the mesmerising melancholy of the songs and singing on this wonderful album, eight years after Welch's last recording. The Welch/Rawlings symbiosis continues to produce the most hauntingly perfect harmonising of voices.

I am not going to dissect each song because others can do that, and it would be difficult and misleading because for this album in particular it is the similarity to one another and then the aural discovery of nuances that delights. The guitar, harmonica, banjo and leg slapping provide the consistent instrumentation, and the melodies are almost all incredibly simple. Of course the Blues is simple, as is traditional Country and Folk: patterns are repeated and developed and we get caught up in the familiarity and instant comfort of recognition. What lifts that simple familiarity to Art is Welch's solo voice, the uncanny harmonising, and Rawlings' distinctive virtuoso - but never flash - guitar work.

Songs I will highlight are The Way It Will Be which is utterly beautiful, The Way It Goes where the refrain 'everbody's buying little baby clothes' takes on an inexplicable lyrical gravitas, Six White Horses where the banjo and hand/leg slapping take on an inexplicable brightening of spirit, and The Way The Whole Things Ends where the virtual monotone tune becomes both hypnotic and expectant when those nuances of varied tone and melody do appear: the cornbread crumbling in both its ordinary and extraordinary parallel symbiosis.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Top Fifty - Fill Your Head With Rock

Fill Your Head With Rock - CBS Two Lp Sampler

Choosing this as one of my top fifty albums is a cheat, but I'm Prospero over my musical world so I can do what I like.

I have mentioned this lp earlier in this blog when writing about the huge impact and influence of the sampler albums of the late 60s and early 70s, but this is, for me, the zenith of that promotional tradition. It introduced so many great bands - and their best ever tracks - at a time when I was the most influenced by such inspiration. It has been a quest to collect the albums from which these songs were taken as well as others from those various artists' careers. Here is the hall of fame:

Chicago - Listen
Santana - Savour
Spirit - Give A Life, Take A Life
Steamhammer - Passing Through
Blood, Sweat And Tears - Smiling Phases
The Flock - Tired Of Waiting
Black Widow - Come To The Sabbath
Argent - Dance In The Smoke
The Byrds - Gunga Din
Skin Alley - Living In Sin
Laura Nyro - Gibsom Street
Leonard Cohen - You Know Who I Am
Moondog - Stomping Ground
Amory Kane - The Inbetween Man
Trees - The Garden Of Jane Delawney
Al Stewart - A Small Fruit Song
Tom Rush - Driving Wheel
Janis Joplin - Try (Just A Little Bit Harder)
Al Kooper - One Room Country Shack
Taj Mahal - Six Days On The Road
Mike Bloomfield - Don't Think About It Baby
Pacific Gas & Electric - Bluesbuster
Johnny Winter - I Love Everybody

This will have been the precursor to obtaining most of the albums I will now recall. Chicago's Chicago Transit Authority will in fact be one of my 'Top Fifty' albums, and Listen is a great pop track from that album's brilliant mix of orchestrated balladry to heavy rock. I may have had Spirit's Spirit before this sampler [having been introduced to Fresh Garbage from another sampler The Rock Machine Turns You On], but I can't be sure: Give a Life Take a Life is such a gentle, calm song from their glorious offerings. Steamhammer's Passing Through is a stunner and the best thing they ever did, just trumping Junior's Wailing. The Flock's Tired of Waiting introduced rock violin to those of us who hadn't heard much jazz before, and Come to the Sabbath was simply weird and wonderful in the way that was often all you needed in those experimental days. Skin Alley's Living in Sin has that wonderful rolling drum and flute core that breaks into a memorable guitar solo.

The Byrd's Gunga Din has those sublime harmonies, and Laura Nyro's Gibsom Street wrenched me to her soaring vocals. Trees' The Garden of Jane Delawney is so beautiful it is painful, whilst Al Stewart's A Small Fruit Song is so short it is subliminal: a lightning flash of acoustic excellence sparking off the aphorism of its ridiculous lyric. It was this album's mix of 'heavy' and 'folk' that appealed too, eclecticism tapping into the idealism of sharing and exploring everything.

Pacific Gas & Electric like so many bands of that time simply had a cool name to compliment their take on the blues, as did Taj Mahal. But the blues got ripped to electric shreds of tension in Johnny Winter's I Love Everybody where his opening laugh launches one of the great guitar pumped songs of all time, his voice growling out the lyrics along the guitar lines with the stereo oscillations slamming around inside your head, filling it fully.

I haven't mentioned all of the tracks but they are all superb. I have every album from which these tracks were taken, though not all of them are vinyl. Not yet.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Walking along ClarencE Street

Clarence Clemons - January 11, 1942 – June 18, 2011

The picture says it all: Bruce looking to The Big Man with affection and respect. As Springsteen commented on the death of Clarence -

“His loss is immeasurable and we are honored and thankful to have known him and had the opportunity to stand beside him for nearly 40 years. He was my great friend, my partner and with Clarence at my side, my band and I were able to tell a story far deeper than those simply contained in our music. His life, his memory, and his love will live on in that story and in our band.”

My personal tribute today has been to listen to Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band - Hammersmith Odeon London 75. When listening you hear throughout how Clarence Clemons is integral to the E Street and Springsteen sound. His sax blares at you with its hooks and highlights.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Adam Ant's Phoenix plateau, but Krakatoa rising

Adam Ant Seaside Tour - Exeter Phoenix, 17th June, 2011

Going to this gig reminded me of just how necessary live music is. Whilst variable for this attendee/listener, there was enough excellence to occasionally shake me out of my man-cold and having-to-stand fragility, especially Krakatoa's blistering set.

First support Dressing for Pleasure - female twins with stand-up drummer - provided earnest punk simplicity with raw but heartfelt playing. A folk/punk ditty written in honour of and sent as a demo to Adam Ant displayed the sister's songwriting and vocal harmonising skills to good effect, as well as earning them their tour spot. I also enjoyed their playfully slow to start but eventually rousing cover of The Clash's Should I Stay or Should I Go.

Highlight of the night for me was second support and South East London Krakatoa's energetic and pulsating set. These guys rocked and rolled with punk punching and echoes of The Who [their website sites The Kinks], including covering Jefferson Airplane so I was bound to find a connection [and 'connecting' will be the conceptual hypothesis of this review, though developing thoughts previously expressed in this blog, especially regarding the recent Kaiser Chiefs gig at Falmouth]. Songs like Fat Cats delivered the political anger with which we should all relate unless working in a bank or other criminal financial institution, and Psychedelic City continued the rock rush with its appealing referencing of influence. I could mention more songs but that doesn't really matter - it's the live delivery that impressed. I also liked the positioning on stage, a result of necessity rather than design I suspect, though it might be time to reconsider that stage set-up: all five guys were placed in a line across the front of the stage - with two drum kits set up for Adam Ant's band, there wasn't room for any other configuration. With, from left to right, guitar, guitar, vocal, bass and drum it was a mini regiment of advancing primal sound. And having drummer Josh Boulton at the front right rather than the conventional centre back was, along with bassist Andrew Monin, influential because the tight and pounding playing of both added to the overall roaring race of a set. The drumming was absolutely vital.

The guys seemed to be having genuine fun and there was a freshness to their performance - despite clear precursors - that also appealed and had me moving non-stop away from the wall on which I leaned for much of the rest of the night. At the sales table at the end of the whole gig, a delightfully inebriated Monin made sure I bought the bargain bundle of Krakatoa goodies which included a tee-shirt, both cds on offer and a badge all for £10, and I just hope he and the band continue to have so much fun as well as increasing recognition as they surely inspire others with these great live sets. The recorded sound struggles to capture that live energy, if I'm honest, so you have to get out there and see them in the sweat.

I've planted enough hints that Adam Ant didn't thrill me as much as Krakatoa, but that is genuinely because I don't have that link to his prime period that so many of the adoring and enthusiastic audience at the Phoenix clearly did. Krakatoa inspired partly because of echoes to my past, but it was mainly the direct energy of their moment of performance. Adam Ant's band, and Adam's actual performance, were professional and solid, but I didn't get that adrenaline rush of seeing a 'past' hero resurrected on a 2011 stage.

What I mean is what I have expressed before. On the one hand, the 80s passed me by musically. Whilst I liked Adam Ant's pop new romanticism enough at the time, I didn't go out and buy it. I watched on Top of the Pops and enjoyed the spectacle and the catchy, original tunes. But those tunes didn't tap into either adolescent awakenings or any other nuances of experience: I was starting a career and raising a family and marking thousands of essays! I was probably still in mourning for the punk rousting of prog and clawing the latter back in my private, covert listening at the expense of most 80s new music.

On the other hand, it is about that identification with a sound of its time for whatever reason. Inasmuch as I found I related to Kaiser Chiefs 'hits' from Employment at their recent Falmouth gig, it's clearly not about age or time entirely. For whatever reason, I missed out on the buzz of Adam Ant at the time of his first appearance and thus I wasn't going to be retrieving it at this gig. But most at the Phoenix did and that was wonderful to watch. Indeed, I often did rather than watch the band on stage. I did enjoy Adam's performance of Wonderful [for which I was ridiculed, but I've always liked 'pretty' songs and I thought he sang it beautifully] and I did seriosuly enjoy Antmusic. What a brilliant anthem.

Of course they played all the hits and these were hugely enjoyable. Adam professed disdain for his 'no 1s' before performing them and I wasn't totally convinced by this, especially after later in the set and a short tirade against, I believe, the BBC and other musical institutions/establishment, when he arrogantly and proudly announced his next performance of a previous 'no 1'. This paradox is certainly forgivable because it isn't serious, but I would like to have seen more comfort with the hits that made him famous and the fans who turn up to hear them, honouring that reality.

One performance element I must mention and celebrate: Adam can yodel. He can yodelyodelyodelyodel [that's how it sounds, if you weren't paying attention]. His yodelling wouldn't go amiss at the Grand Ol' Oprey. Brilliant.

As I was reminded, this is all only opinion, and this of course has been an adamant [!] mantra I have stated time and time again in this blog. I enjoyed the whole gig - the music and the company I was with. As I said, it reminded me of just how therapeutic live music is for the heart and soul - and the fragile body of someone stoically listening with his man-cold! But if they could only bottle up the medicinal mania of Krakatoa......

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Pain Management

2. Faith

Chandler might say god is like a
bourbon you nurse bravely through the
night, but in the morning it's Job's
submission that toasts the day,
and so it is with this pain that the whiskey
wraps it up in indifference and oblivion
until waking and I am reminded of its
teachings and expectations. There are
sufferings that matter which have made me
pray, but when it comes to my own pain
I would rather see how waiting and the
blind devotion to mutability takes its
chances and leads to something better than
someone else's idea of diminution.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Pain Management

1. Agnostic

If there is a god then god invented
pain because that's where the real power is,
but invented it with a sense of humour
tyrants have to have or else they'd just end it all:
for god created the moan and the
groan, the expulsion of sudden and sharp
pain through sound that if held long enough
goes both to heaven and hell before finding
catharsis. That's a journey any sceptic can take
with an outcome so obviously fine, if
transient, and I make the sound drag out for as
long as the lungs can bear and hold off the
pain that comes down to that
one sweet moment of this.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

The Fraternal Order of the All - Greetings From Planet Love

Golden Pastiche

As a piss-take, this is exquisite. More politely cited as 'pastiche', there is a strong element of satire but also homage in this recreation of a late 60s psychepop concept album. The Fraternal Order of the All, aka Andrew Gold, delivers a majestic mirror of what The Beatles, Beach Boys and others of that time harmonised in their commercially cosmic searches for musical nirvana.

Andrew Gold sadly died on June 3rd, 2011, aged 59. I have always been a fan of his personal harmony pop, especially hits like How Can This Be Love, Lonely Boy, Thank You For Being a Friend, and Never Let Her Slip Away, and I was only recently listening to a greatest hits compilation of these and other wonderful songs. As homage to Gold's own music I am writing about his album Greetings From Planet Love, released in 1998 under the guise of having been recorded 'between August 2 1967 and August 2 1968'. One year in the life of a blissful fabrication, and in the real world a tribute to Gold's invention and musical expertise.

The music on this album isn't fake and Andrew Gold has turned playful pastiche into a tour de force of superbly nostalgic substance. The album begins with the title track and immediately in Beatles mode. This is then followed by the two tracks Rainbow People and Love Tonight shifting to a perfect emulation of the Beach Boys before returning as The Beatles for 4th track Chasing My Tail. Indeed, this chasing of influences, though only these two at this point, might seem awkward, but the perfection and therefore beauty of the echoing is what you aurally absorb so completely.

5th track Swirl merges Beach Boys with The Moody Blues, and by 7th track King of Showbiz, it is 10cc being aped to a tee, no doubt underpinned by Graham Gouldman's actual involvement. 9th track Freelove Baby - where the title takes its more explicit tilt at the windmills - merges early Beatles with The Hollies and The Monkees and a smattering of lyrically naff psychedelia.

Track 11 It's Beautiful flirts with Simon and Garfunkel, and number 14 Twirl spins some beautiful Eleanor Rigby replica strings. Gold isn't content to keep his influences too constrained and so track 15 Space and Time introduces a sublime Byrds impression, and track 17 Ride the Snake - and you should guess the influence from that suggestive title - presents Ray Manzarek keyboards and the bombastic vocals of Jim Morrison as The Doors slither into the mocking but magical mix.

The album's final three tracks return to its Beatles and Beach Boys core replication. Punctuated within the 20 tracks are snippets of recorded voices, again a la Beatles albums, but also The Who and Small Faces and other groups' concept albums of the day, and as a whole it is a delightful return to a time when such techniques were new and exciting. It is also a delightful tribute to Andrew Gold's innovative spirit as well as huge skill as instrumentalist, singer and songwriter.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Buffalo Death Beam - Salvation for Ordinary People

Harmony Hill

There is a battle being fought to occupy the top of Harmony Hill. After a punk and 80s synth war-hiatus, recent holders Fleet Foxes - having ousted previous combatants Simon and Garfunkel, Beach Boys, Crosby Stills Nash and Young, and The Eagles - now face an onslaught from the relatively unsung but harmonising singing strength of Washington band of seven Buffalo Death Beam.

This advancing army of mandolin, violin, fiddle, banjo and reverb guitar - transported on a Grace Slick-like vocal lead of Tiffiny Harms and the key harmonising and other lead vocal of Curt Krause - is a powerful opponent. Instrumentally adept, the vocal harmonising fires missiles of serious intent, and its secret weaponry is in the mirroring tuneage of the violin on so many of the projectile songs.

Battle opener Staff of the Shepherd carries the band's banner with its advancing route expertly reconnoitred and mapped out, and its Fleet Foxes echo is the secret infiltration. But that twinkling mandolin gives the band's nuance away, and it's a bold manoeuvre. Motel Queen displays a rockier march, whilst Lonely Mouth crawls under the wire with the deceiving lure of its plaintive violin lulling the opposition to tenderness. There are so many clever and effective details in this distinctive move. Closing song Madmen Choir packs mandolin, banjo, fiddle and detonating harmonies into its shell for a final flailing fling. What a wonderful explosion.

A great album that really does deserve much more attention when it occupies the peak.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Kaiser Chiefs - The Future is Medieval

Kaiser Chiefs' Oscillating Rule
It's phenomenal, though hardly apocalyptic, that a band as popular and successful as the Kaiser Chiefs should experience such a varied - if consistently enthusiastic - reaction from an audience as they did last night when performing a mix of familiar hits and new material at the beginning of their tour to launch just released and self-selection download album The Future is Medieval at the quaint Princess Pavilion in Falmouth.

And the Kaiser Chiefs are a popular and successful band, especially here in England where they are a quintessentially English group in the same way as [but not the same as] The Kinks with their lyrical witticisms and jaunty pop anthems. That variable response to the performance is analogous to being tidal: when those glorious hits were being played, the collective roar of applause, shouts and singing was like the tide surging in to break explosively on the shore [just a stone's throw from the Pavilion, in fact]; but when the new material was being played, the shaking floor and colossal choric noise ebbed to a polite if still enthusiastic appreciation. And the playing was shit-hot: these guys had clearly rehearsed hard to produce this immaculate set, and the band's live credentials have not themselves ebbed in that two-year break from the limelight: Ricky Wilson's strutting, confident vocal control, Nick Hodgson's sharp drumming and parallel vocals, Andrew White's calm anchoring guitar that gets the occasional strong solo in live performance, Simon Rix's short-haired, thumping bass, and Peanut's sound effects and keyboard embellishments - so often signalling one of those familiar tidal-wave hits.

The phenomenon of this ebb-flow response is of course partly due to the scant acquaintance we have had with the new material, and in the self-selection process of devising your own download album [clever, but I'm not wholly convinced it will prove successful], you will likely only know - to whatever degree - the 10 tracks you chose for your album from the 20 made available, leaving that other 50% even more of a brief, if any, encounter.

But the palpable phenomena for the band is that oscillating response to hits and new songs. How do they accommodate and absorb such a variable? Assuming the integrity of the new songwriting, it must be difficult to receive an uncertain to even lukewarm response, especially when juxtaposed with the performed hits' furoric reaction. As professional journeymen now, we can assume they do possess a receptive realism to this factor. But it must still chip away at the assumed integrity mentioned and, we would hope, passion to continue maturing as songwriters and performers.

What they, and bands like them, can never regain is the context from which those initial hits were born. Songs that generated the most obvious revelry last night were from Employment. When these were played, diehard to even moderate but genuine fans [and I am a 'fan' but not really of the band's generation nor the musical social and cultural context they helped to shape] will have tapped unconsciously into their own palpable memories of what happened, for example, on the very day they first heard a Kaiser Chiefs' song, saw them live at a gig and/or festival, got pissed with friends whilst their album played in the background, met or broke up up with a loved one, were sitting in that lonely bedroom dreaming out the stroylines, and so on in so many other powerful permutations of that precise time.

Like I said, it's hardly apocalyptic because this is just how it is, but uniquely so, for music and musicians, yet last night I felt I witnessed it with a joyous, empathetic but nonetheless nostalgic and pathos-tinged awareness.

Perhaps people were just having a brilliant, exhausted time and needed a rest every now and then to recharge poggoing batteries for that next familiar catalyst to a subconscious past.

It's still hard to comment on the new material. After everything I have said above, I haven't got into this yet but I know it is to do with songwriting and I haven't yet heard those consistent hooks that will hook me. Early favourites are Child of the Jago with its Pink Floydesque [a la Relics] aura - and the pre-performance recorded music included clear influences on the band like Pink Floyd, David Bowie and The Kinks-; Coming Up For Air which, perhaps obtusely, reminded me a little of The Hollies; the genuinely moving If You Will Have Me, written by Nick Hodgson about his father and his battle with Altzheimers; Man on Mars with its increasingly hypnotic 'trust you' hook, and Start With Nothing that is deceptively simple but catchy and which came across strongly in its live performance [and is an odd amalgam of Sting, Floyd and The Beatles...].

Kaiser Chiefs play Princess Pavilion again tonight and whoever is going is in for a memorable treat. I trust the tumultuous tide keeps coming in on the rest of this tour, surfed on an increasing range of songboards.

[For an excellent review/interview, go to:]

Monday, 6 June 2011

Electric Skies - Youth is Everything

Electric Youth

I'm not one to challenge a heartfelt premise, but this band's album title could appear a tad adversarial for more mature musical reviewers like myself. Obviously, there wouldn't be any sour grapes in this slight baulking at such a declaration just because these guys are actually living the dream and I've only just bought a new acoustic guitar to try an improve on the blues stalemate - as good as I think it is - I've been repeatedly playing for the last 40+ years. Well, not necessarily.....

The four young guys who comprise Electric Skies - Will Alford, Nathan Boult, Joe Napper, Sam Piper - live up to their band's name with a polished set of very listenable bright and breezy Indie Rock/Pop [labels are so suspect, but there you go], and as I've stated elsewhere on this blog, more than once, I think pop sensibilities are no bad thing. I had the pleasure of working at the same school from which this quartet hail, a while back now, and though I variously taught them over the years [in terms of contact, not quality - come on!] I can vouch for them as fine young men, though as soon as I wrote that I wondered about how uncool it is to have a former teacher's approbation! Actually they were raucous rogues and reprobates.

Listening to the album today I immediately imagined they have quite a vibe playing live and I expect a free invite to the next gig. The album itself presents a tight band clearly at ease with one another's expertise. There seems to be a professional focus on songcraft here and each track is distinctive enough but with echos of established precursors, and I'll invoke Oasis for one or two, yet I have no idea if this will please or rile: this album isn't pastiche at all but you can't help but hear others and I place it out there as a compliment. I'm probably not au-fait enough with 'Indie' bands to make more informed, if appropriate, comparisons. Perhaps like that label.

To the music and the album gets off to a strong start with Shakin Hands giving the album its punchy launch with some machine-gun drumming and taut rhythms. Harmonies here, and elsewhere, are also taut and never overstated. As an ol' guitar-band codger in terms of aural proclivities I particularly liked tracks 2 and 3, Stay There and Flying, because of the acoustic guitar intro and interludes - and whilst in the former I'd like to hear more of those guitar nuances, there is a cool lead mirroring the vocal, and in the latter the plaintive lyric 'although we are getting older' did make me laugh! A strong song for me is Stars with again some sweet harmonies and balladesque surround driving to an anthmic core. The end and title track even has a cameo slide from local and distinguised axeman Julian Piper who ironically contributes some dad-dancing guitar that compliments perfectly the 'youth' of its title. Listening again to the whole album as I type this I am hearing the depths and variations that any decent album deserves in revisits.

I'd like to hear them rip it up a bit more in future work and I suspect they do live. I was fortunate enough to receive four demo tracks done this year and these really did appeal. I have to stress again, as I have done time and time again in this blog, all of this is just opinion and taste and preference and that is neither here nor there, but I liked the driving second demo track that got me rocking, and track three of the demo is a real stand-out: some bluesy solo guitar work - lovely playing with echo/reverb effect, again not overstated, and the track grows into a more funky groove. I ratcheted up the volume on this and played it immediately a second time. I hope the neighbours heard it all! There is so much yet to come for this band and it's been a pleasure to get this early taster.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

The Metaphor Programme [*]

A spook-eye is watching the world wearing
its cloak and dagger. It is a ghost
haunting whoever hides behind their masks
then scans for the frightened flight from those
dark faces. If silence falls the spook-ear hears
it all, listening out for the eventual howl of scared
subterfuge and scheming. There's no escape
down fast river runs and mountain sides as
words reveal their literal anchorage in the
whispers wafting out of woodwork, those
skeletons terrorising the insides of cupboards.
It is all a web of lies and deceit uncovered -
language that now twists crannies and nooks,
unravelling through metaphoric spooks.

[*] According to today's The Observer, a branch of the US intelligence service called the Intelligence Advanced Research Project Activity is devising software through 'The Metaphor Programme' that will listen into global digital chatter to identify and interpret cultural metaphoric references that might indicate potential terrorist thinking and, presumably, plotting.

Orwell didn't quite see Big Brother being so concerned with Poetics.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Afternoon Walk

The insouciance of young steers
staring, their heads sideways cocked
clocking my amble by, and the absolute
beauty of the Charolais' upturned
face towards my passing observation:
how I see burgers on the barbecue;
sizzling steak at Gaucho. Further
around the corner, black and whites
loll in the sun and grass, churning
milk for strong coffee and my lifelong
full cold glass at mealtimes.
There is no blood-rush for the hunt.
What I see in this afternoon's strolled foray
is the supermarket's meat on cold display.

Friday, 3 June 2011

Top Fifty - The Byrds

The Byrds - Ballad of Easy Rider

Like many, I first knew of The Byrds in the mid 60s through the singles Mr. Tambourine Man and Turn! Turn! Turn!. I don't believe I followed their music until hearing the beautiful Dolphins Smile [sic] on the CBS The Rock Machine Turns You On album, and then Gunga Din from the later CBS Fill Your Head With Rock album, influential compilations I have written about before.

Equally unsurprising is how it was the film Easy Rider that introduced me to the song and album of the same name Ballad of Easy Rider, not 'unsurprising' because of the obvious echoing, but because that film too was so influential on my teenage years and that revolutionary sense of yearning for some idealistic freedom and believing this was repressed by a brutal establishment. The film exploited that youthful obsession with a stunning soundtrack, a road-movie narrative that took in the explosive contrast between the communal joys and perils of such a search, iconoclastic acting from a spaced-out Hopper and satirical Nicholson, and the redneck ending of the fireballed chopper flying through the air to ignite a generation's angst and anger against the hillbilly hicks who represented that repressive establishment in its dumbest, most ruthless form.

The story goes that Dylan wrote the following napkin lines 'The river flows, it flows to the sea/Wherever that river goes, that's where I want to be/Flow, river, flow' and this was given to Roger McGuinn to turn into a song. Whilst received, its a repeated enough tale to be taken as true and I don't know anymore than what I have read so won't pursue. That McGuinn turned this into a beautiful if simple hippie anthem is enough for me, and it is a songalongsong I love to sing as I did today in the car when reminding myself that this album has to be in my top fifty, partly because it's The Byrds and a prime example of their 'west coast' sound, but also because three songs from the album have always featured on any favourites' tapes of harmonious music I compiled before moving on to cds, where they still appeared.

The three songs are Ballad of Easy Rider, Jesus Is Just Alright and Gunga Din, the latter a Gene Parsons' composition with his lead vocal. And what is surprising is how these three songs are probably the only ones I really know and yet they represent the whole album for me and it's special place in my notional top fifty. Listening today I was reminded how superb the whole album is, with the Dylan cover It's All Over Now, Baby Blue, for example, and the Guthrie cover Deporte [Plane Wreck at Los Gatos] as well.

And now I'm going to have to go and watch the fucking film. It still gets to me, after all these years, whatever its simplicities and manipulations. But the title track endures and it's amazing how that naivity in the lyrics doesn't date like the film nor other nostalgic dreams. Strength of a good song, and music in general.

Sleeveless Vest

Lo and behold, here I am at the alter
of drinking and existential writing and
already I am lost for words having
paused and lost the next fantastic line.
It was something to do with the metaphor
of a sleeveless vest - perhaps composing
in the sartorial comfort-zone where
habit and familiarity are a substitute muse -
yet the idea escaped me like a song forgotten
but with insinuating pangs of
recall ultimately just a sound.
If I could finger-pick the language from
expertise and reading a score, then I'd
continue, but this is just improvisation.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Jakszyk, Fripp and Collins - A Scarcity of Miracles

Rounded to pleasantness

No angular instrumental bludgeoning here, just pleasant and harmonious songs led for this project by vocalist and guitarist Jakko Jakszyk, technically the outsider. That's really all that needs to be said: if you're looking for spasmodic schizoid sounds you've sought the wrong austere hospital as this is a recuperation spa of gentle rest and relaxation.