My Record Collection 114

Garbage – a nineties band from America with a Scottish girl singer, who seemed to sound a bit different.  A post punk sound but it was really the vocal drawl and the angry lyrics I liked.  I gor the debut self-titled album which had a couple of singles on it – and really it still sounds pretty good.  The singles ‘Stupid Girl’, ‘Only Happy When It Rains’ and ‘Queer’ are all good, as are most of the songs – but somehow I wasn’t really into groups at this time and only bought this and the follow up Version 2, which came out in 1998.  Well, not so bad on reflwction – it just doesn’t have the same oomph as their debut.  ‘Special’ and ‘When I grow Up’ are okay though. 

Art Garfunkel he was the singer of Paul Simon’s songs, though at the time hardly any of us knew that it was Paul Simon (see S) who wrote them.  After the slightly acrimonious split Art had some small success.  I bought this double album The Singer and The Song for my Mum one year, but copied it for myself. It is okay, not my sort of schmaltzy stuff really – but as a record (and you know what a completist I am) it stays in the collection.  But apart from the one or two hits, and a few half-decent covers it disappoints.  Also, a major mistake was to include Simon and Garfunkels Bridge Over Troubled Waters (and a couple of others) – as it shows up the rest of the songs for what they are – second rate.  At the time of their split we struggled to understand why Paul was dispensing with such a beautiful voice – but then it slowly dawned on us – he was THE Talent.

Bob Geldof – After the fame of organising Live Aid, the lead singer of the Boomtown Rats decided on pursuing a solo career.  Deep In The Heart Of Nowhere came out in 1986.  I remember at the time that I quite liked it; Bob was a folk hero and the album was produced by Dave Stewart (see E – Eurythmics) and featured a host of stars.  But listening now it seems a bit flat and ordinary; such is hindsight.  Best songs ‘In The Pouring Rain’, and ‘Beat of the Night’   Two years later and quite a change of style; gone was the bombastic production and in came a folky, Irish and gentler sound.  Not such a bad record at all.  Best songs ‘The Great Song of Indifference’, ‘Love or Something’ and ‘Walking Back To Happiness’. Bob has made the occasional album since but I am not buying any more. .

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Gallagher and Lyle – Ah, one of my very favourites.  They were a Scottish musical duo, comprising singer-songwriters Benny Gallagher and Graham Lyle; they signed for Apple in 1968 and joined up with a couple of other musicians and became part of McGuinness Flint (see M).  At Apple they had written songs for Mary Hopkins but were interested in making it on their own.  After 2 albums and a successful couple of singles they became a duo in 1972 (the best of years).  Their debut was a very quiet, almost folk-song affair.  A beautiful gem simply titled Gallagher and Lyle, it has been very hard to find on CD, but I eventually got a Japanese import.  What a delight this record is; gentle and lyrical, almost acoustic and soothing words and voices.  Takes me right back to the early Seventies when I was discovering new music every week, and this was one of those gems.  Best songs; opener ‘Mrs Canatelli’ and ‘closer ‘Desiderata’ – and everything in-between.  The record sold poorly but, as was the case in those days, they were allowed to continue slowly building a fan base.  They followed this a year later with, if anything, an even quieter album, Willie and The Lapdog. The songs are almost not there sometimes, barely scratching the surface and yet hauntingly beautiful; ‘Among the birks’ and ‘Hotel Constantine’ – there is a yearning in these sad songs that I particularly love.  The following year they moved up a gear and produced an album of much catchier and a bit rockier tunes; maybe a change of producer, or they were just writing more upbeat songs but Seeds was a joyful record.   The boys seemed to be getting into their stride, reluctant pop-stars that they were.   Best songs; I Believe In You’, ‘Layna’ and ‘Shine A Light’ – but really there isn’t a poor song on the record.  In fact, I can’t recall a song they might have recorded that I don’t like – a pretty rare achievement.   And they kept getting better; 1974’s The Last Cowboy was their best yet, it may even be my favourite of theirs.  It kicks off with ‘Keep the Candle Burning’ and doesn’t draw breath until the title track at the end.  The addition of brass and orchestra and a full-tilt band on the upbeat numbers brought them more into the soft-rock world.  My favourite song though is the lyrical and gentle ‘Mhairu’.  But real stardom was now just around the corner.  The following year they released their biggest seller Breakaway.  Well, it was full of great songs, a couple of hit singles and a warmer more rounded, slightly middle of the road sound.  Saying that it really is a triumph of an album.  Best songs ‘Heart On My Sleeve’, ‘Stay young’ and my favourite ‘Fifteen Summers’. Suddenly they were on Top of The Pops and famous, and yet somehow I preferred them as quiet folkies….oh well.  The following year they released another classic album Love On The Airwaves.   This has now become almost impossible to find on CD but I still have my vinyl copy, which might be worth a few bob.   Anyway, the album is another great batch of songs – best are ‘Every Little Teardrop’, ‘Never Give Up On Love’ and my favourite ‘The Runaway’.  The boys were now having quite regular top twenty hits, but for whatever reason they started to drift more to the middle of the road and lost some of their edge.  1978’s Showdown was noticeably a bit disco, a touch bland; maybe they were just getting tired.  But still not such a bad record really I suppose.   Best songs; ‘In Your Eyes’ and ‘Heartbreaker’.  One more album before they called it a day – 1979’s Lonesome No More.  Now I don’t own it on CD, because it is an absolute rarity.  Amazon lists it at £1253.00  – can you believe.  The tracks are not available on Youtube or Spotify or Amazon Music.  I did own it once on LP and have a cassette tape of it somewhere.   Anyway, the boys called it a day after that one and settled into early retirement.  Benny Gallagher (see just after this post) made a couple of albums and Graham Lyle wrote a few songs for, among others Tina Turner and one record with one of his earlier bandmates McGuiness.  (see L).  There is of course the obligatory Greatest Hits and a couple of lovely live albums as follows.  Heart On My Sleeve – Greatest Hits.  No surprises, just a lovely collection of their songs,  River Sessions was a few live songs for Cyde Radio, mostly early songs – very nice and mostly acoustic.   And I’ve just got Live at De Montfort Hall, a 1977 concert and excellect too.

Benny Gallagher – only 2 albums as a somewhat tentative and reluctant solo performer; On Stage 2006, is a very quiet performance; the songs, many by the duo sound more like demo’s than real songs.  Best are ‘How Come’ written for Ronnie Lane (see L) of The Faces (see F), and ‘The Salt Of Her Tears’ which infuriatingly sounds very familiar, though I cannot remember from where.  A year later hus one and only solo studio album was At The Edge Of The Wave. – a quiet and subdued record really, gone is that magic spark of creating memorable songs.  A sad sort of a coda…still we have the early albums to enjoy.

My Record Collection 112

Peter Gabriel – was a founder member of early 70’s prog-rock band Genesis (see G). After ‘The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway’, Peter left the bnad (quite amicably for a change) and decided to record solo.  He is also famous for titling his forst 4 records simply as Peter Gabriel.  The first is  known now as Peter Gabriel 1 Car as the cover is him sitting in a car.  Well, what an album; from the first notes of ‘Moribund the Burgermeister’ to the epic closer ‘Here Comes The Flood’ it simply sweeps you away.  A multitude of styles; the almost vaudeville of ‘Excuse me’ and the great single ‘Solsbury Hill’.  This must rate as one of the most accomplished debut records of all time.  The following year he released what is now known as Peter Gabriel 2 scratch.  Well, not quite as good as PG1 I think.  Some excellent songs but maybe it was rushed out a bit too soon; in those days artists were expected to churn out a new album every year.  It was album tour, short rest for writing then album and tour.  There doesn’t seem as much invention either in the sounds or the lyrics.  Some good songs though; ‘On The Air’, ‘Exposure’ and closer ‘Home Sweet Home’ are memorable.  As usual though listening again a couple of times after so long and it all comes back and I really enjoy the record.  Peter Gabriel 3 Melt came out in 1980 and what an album; probably the most sinister and psycho record I have ever heard.  Most of the songs are to do with mental illness ‘No Self Control’ or assassination ‘Family Snapshot’, about the John Kennedy killing) and ‘Intruder’ – about a real pervert.  Saying this, it is a superb sounding record.  Peter along with producer Steve Lillywhite wanted a starker drum sound and with Phil Collins developed the ‘gated’ drum sound where there is no reverberation and no cymbals in the drumming just a stark sharp sound.  This became almost a hallmark of the ‘Eighties sound’ but this was the first time it was used.  The songs seem to blend with each other too, as if it were a concept album (which Gabriel denies) but this album really broke Peter through into a wider audience, and the last song ‘Biko’ about Steve Biko who was killed in South Africa is a tour de force.  Not forgetting the hit single ‘Games Without Frontiers’ All in all this must be my favourite Peter Gabriel album.

2 years late his last self-titled album came out – known as Peter Gabriel 4 – Security.  This is almost as good as PG3 but the sound is fuller and the production heavier.  Only 8 songs but most are longer than 6 minutes, and quite varied too.  A continuation of the sound on PG3, sharp gated drums, although many ended up being sampled.  First track is probably the best ‘Rhythm Of The Heat’ based on African drumming; Peter was becoming very involved with World Music and spent years promoting it on his own record label,  Other great songs include the hit single ‘Shock The Monkey’, ‘San Jacinto’ and ‘Lay Your Hands On Me’.  Next up is Peter Gabriel Plays Live,  I used to have this double album on vinyl but now just have the highlights on CD.  I did see him play live, twice actually – first time was just as PG3 was released and it was the best.  Then a few years ago when he played for just an hour at a festival somewhere.  The album is superb, brilliant renditions of songs from his first 4 albums and one song ‘I Go Swimming’ recorded for PG3 but not on that album.  In 1986 Peter released his biggest selling album.  He was persuaded to give it a title and chose a simple word So.  Well, despite this being by far his most popular record it was never my favourite.   It had the huge hit ‘Sledgehammer’ with its award winning video and the duet with Kate Bush ‘Don’t Give Up’.  Despite those two standout tracks I find the album a bit boring; gone are the innovative ideas, the weird lyrics, the sinister songs and instead we have pretty commercial sounding songs.  Oh well.  I was actually so disappointed that for a few years I stopped buying his records – not that there were so many, apart from soundtracks, only two more solo albums in 20 years.  I did buy his greatest hits ‘Shaking The Tree’ (1990) and I enjoyed it; a pretty good selection of songs, quite a few re-recorded or different versions and a couple of soundtrack songs, heavily relying on tracks form So and Security but still a nice record.     And then a rather strange little treasure.  In 2007 Peter agreed to release a sort of Greatest Hits on a free giveaway CD with The Daily Mail.  I cannot imagine that many of the Mail readers enjoyed it, but I certainly did.  A rather strange compilation – some tracks from the records I missed (Us and Up) and a few live numbers and a couple of remixes.  Best new tracks ‘Father and Son’ and ‘In Your Eyes’ but I really liked the live versions of ‘Solsbury Hill’ and ‘Don’t Give Up’ too.  I actually saw him again in Hyde Park (he wasn’t the headline act) around this time and he was good but not fantastic. 

I mentioned before that Peter after an initial burst of recording slowed down almost to a halt later on.  After only 2 albums in the eighties and nineties, it was 2010 before he released a new studio album, and then it was a covers record; Scratch my Back.  This was a concept where he would record a song by artists and they would record one of his.  It didn’t quite work out though.  Still, the album – opens with 2 familiar songs ‘Heroes’ by Bowie (see B) and ‘Boy in the Bubble’ by Paul Simon (see S).  Most of the other songs were lesser known so appeared fresher to my ears.  The record is orchestral and voice, which is nice but somehow it lacks something too.  In fact one wonders just why he bothered.  He obviously was not composing any new songs himself; perhaps he thought he could bring something new and innovative to songs he had always admired.  But I think he failed; the record is ponderous and very low key, his voice often no more than a whisper when it used to soar, and the record leaves me cold.  A pity, as it could have been really something.  The last album (so far) that he has released is New Blood, released in 2011, just a year after the last one.  This is a radical re-working of many of his earlier songs, again using just orchestra and piano and voice,  mostly quieter versions but a better album than its predecessor. Nice to hear the old songs again with different if mostly quieter arrangements, but really I still prefer the earlier dramatic production.  A strange one, Peter Gabriel; so much talent and he left Genesis to do his own stuff which for 4 or 5 albums was brilliant, then he sort of stalled and has seemed uninterested in his remarkable talent ever since.  Oh well.

My Record Collection 111

Florence and The Machine – just the one album, Lungs.  Not really mon tasse du the I am afraid.  Nothing wrong with it, it just didn’t move me.   Only song I liked was ‘Girl with one eye’.  Oh Well.

Flying Burritto Brothers – A strange one; a band which formed and reformed every few monthe.  But the only CD I have is a double of the first 2 albums which featured Chris Hillman (see B The Byrds) and Gram Parsons (see P) who had also been in The Byrds for a single album, the country-tinged Sweetheart of the Rodeo, where he wrote several of the songs.  Parsons was a son of wealthy parents and was in love with country music.  Blessed with a heavenly voice and a penchant for writing hauntingly beautiful melodies he was also a very troubled soul.  He drifted from band to band and recorded 2 solo albums before dying of a drugs overdose.  So, only 5 albums of his exist and this CD has 2 of them.  The FBB debut was The Gilded Palace of Sin 1969.  This is a more or less straight-forward country album with mostly Parsons penned classic ballads, the best of which are ‘Sin City’ and ‘Dark End Of The Street’ – but it really is a lovely, if at times a touch mawkish record.  The band went through one of it’s regular personnel changes and basically Hillman and Parsons were left alone but recrutited Bernie Leadon, who would soon also decamp and help form The Eagles (see E).  At this time in the West Coast, groups were very fluid – and in fact the FBB continued under various names and personnel after Hillman and parsons left after recording their second classic Buritto Deluxe (1970).  This seemed a bit rockier, probably due to Leadon’s influence. Again a rich seam of songs, including ‘Wild Horses’ which Parsons had written with Keith Richards.  Rumour has it that Keith actually wanted Gram to join the Stones and move them towards a more country style – who knows, I think the connection was more hard drugs than music, but hey.  Other classics are ‘High Fashion Queen’ and ‘Lazy Days’.  After this Gram drifted into heavier drug use and after his 2 solo records died of an overdose.  He is now a cult figure, revered by so mnay later American bands; a great songwriter and effortless singer.

Roddy Frame – was essentially Aztec Camera, one of my favourite 80’s bands.  Just one album I have of his, the slightly disappointing North Star.  I was expecting so much more, or at least a new Aztec Camera album, under a different name.  Anyway – the album itself; well not so bad, first three songs very like Aztec Camera but then a couple of slower numbers which never seem to really catch alight.  A bit subdued in places.  And although Roddy has continued to release a handful of sporadic records I haven’t been tempted to buy them.

The Future Sound Of London.  Only one album from early 90’s and it is quite interesting; electronica and drum beats and a variety of moods – but no real singing.  No words anyway, and so it just all seems to wash over me really.  Melodies come and go but nothing stays in the brain. Nice wallpaper music I suppose

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Julia Fordham – Now, you may think I am stuck in the Sixties or more likely the Seventies, but I have loved quite a few from the Eighties too.  And maybe my very favourite is Julia Fordham.  She was a backing singer for a few years but became herself in 1988 with a self-titled album, and incidentally a beautiful cover photo.  The album Julia Fordham is a really well produced and mature record for an unknown.  Her voice is incredible, she has a massive range, sometimes she is singing sultry and low and then the voice just rises up and up and soars away.  The songs are pretty good too, the big single ‘Happy Ever After’ but also ‘The Comfort of Stranger’, ‘Where Does the Time Go’ and ‘Woman of the Eighties’ are all classics.  There is a hint of sadness in there to, which of course I love.  A great start, and followed by an equally accomplished second album Porcelain the following year.   Another batch of fine songs though no big hit single though the album did get to 13 in the charts.  More sad songs here than happy ones I think ‘Lock and Key;, ‘Manhattan Skyline’ and ;Your Lovely Face’ sre the best.  Towards the end she lost it a bit with a couple of slow unmelodic songs but not bad at all really.  Album number 3 Swept came out in 91 and was her best so far.  I Thought It Was You’ was a minor hit and ‘Rainbow Heart’ and ‘Talk, Walk, Drive; are pretty good too.  Her voice, if at all possible, seems even better, caressing the words and aching with d=feeling.  Her next was ‘Falling Forward’ and she just kept getting better – the songs a bit more varied and the production smooth as silk.  Best songs – the title song of course, ‘I Can’t Help Myself’ and ‘Different Time, Different Place’ are among her best songs but the whole album is lovely, it just rolls along.   East West came out in 1997, her fifth album and again a lovely collection of songs; best are ‘Killing me Softly’, ‘East West’ and ‘More Than I Can Bear’.  A greatest hits came out next called The Julia Fordham Collection, mostly old favourites but a handful of re-mixes and two new tracks ‘Kid’ and ‘It Was nothing I Said’   Her best album (so far) Concrete Love (2002) seems to have a magic of it’s own; every song is brilliant and great arrangements too, even a couple of medium paced rolling along songs – which she is not renowned for.  A classic album – best songs? Hard to choose – but I particularly love ‘Wake Up With You’ and ‘Missing Man’; lots of moody organ and subtle orchestration.  2 years later and That’s Life came out.  She didn’t quite manage to pull it off a second time, though it is still a creditably good record    Best songs ‘Sugar’ and ‘Jump’.  There is a maturity and added richness to her voice now, and the songs seem more rounded too.  2005 saw an excellent live album That’s Live which leaned towards the last two albums rather than her earlier ones.    I really like these versions; they seem a bit more emotional – the album also includes a great version of the old Millie Ripperton song ‘Lovin’ You’ which first appeared as s B side on one of singles.  Julia’s range is such that she seems to stretch even the original to lower depths while still hitting those exhilarating high notes.   2008 saw the release of China Blue.  This was a departure for Julia, as she turned to a new slow lounge-jazz production.  I have only just for this CD so have only played it a couple of times – but so far I quite like it; her voice now not lingering so much on the notes as usual but flitting around, especially on ‘I want to stay home with you’.  A nice album I am looking forward to listening more closely.  Likewise with her next release Unusual Suspects (2010) this is a collaboration with an American musician Paul Reiser, who wrote the songs and arrangements and played piano on the record.  A different feel again to this album, a bit more conventional production, and the shape of the songs is different again.  Only listened a couple of time as yet but it sounds promising already, one song – ‘Shadow’ stands out already.  So, Ms. Fordham seemed to be experimenting with different aspects, she has a small army of fans who buy her records and watch her live and has eased into a position where she doesn’t need hits anymore.  Her next effort Under The Rainbow came out in 2013.  This is a re-recording of many of her earlier songs, especially from the first two albums – plus one new song ‘Skipping Under The Rainbow;. This is a piano and voice only record, and I find the songs too slow and repetitive, they add nothing to the vibrant originals.  She was obviously in love with the piano at this point – but I have to ask, what exactly was the point.  Much better was a covers album – The Language Of Love, jazzyand mostly upbeat interpretations of mostly 80’s tracks.  Why, she almost sounds happy.  Great to hear her take on songs like Stevie’s ‘Sir Duke’ and Eurythmics ‘The Language Of Love’.  A nice return to a more rounded sound.  A remix album called Mixed, Shaken and Stirred came out in 2017 – and I love it, Julia with beats, mostly old tracks but a nice feel with her incredible voice high in the dancey mixes.  A collaboration with Judie Tzuke and Beverley craven Woman To Woman followed in 2018, and another solo album Magic in 2019.  I have just downloaded both (The actual CDs are about £30 each now and hard to get) and haven’t really listened to them yet.  But I will continue to follow the beautiful voice of Julia Fordham for a while yet.

My Record Collection 109

Flo and Eddie – continuing the theme of artists you have never heard of.  It all started with a band called The Crossfires in the early 60’s.  No hits and they broke up, but out of them came singers and songwriters; Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan who formed a band called The Turtles (see T) who had a string of big hits both in America and here in the late 60’s.  Record company pressure for more and more hits meant the band broke up and never got paid for most of their music.  Volman and Kaylan were the heart of The Turtles, who managed to combine comedy with sublime vocals and great tunes.  Their next move would prove almost suicidal – they joined Frank Zappa in the second incarnation of The Mothers (see Z).  A few tours and the film 200 Motels saw Flo and Eddie, as they called themselves, probably to stop their former record company suing them, now the centrepiece of Zappa’s act.  They appeared on a few albums, and even now though Frank died a few years ago new live concerts keep appearing.  But, as these things do, Frank moved on without them.  They then released a handful of brilliant albums under the moniker Flo and Eddie.  Are you asleep yet?  No?  Okay first one was The Phlourescent Leech and Eddie (1972).  Well, what a great little album.  Not surprising when they had been making quite a few records with The Turtles, but this was self-produced and sounds sparkling.  Every song has something special – from the opening ‘Flo and Eddie Theme’, to the closer ’There you Sit lonely’ it is hard to pick a favourite but the almost lethargic ‘Burn the House Today’ has an edge, although the cod-Hawaian ‘Nicki Nicki Hoi’ is great too.  They sing so exquisitely and the lyrics nearly all have a twist in the tail – a very accomplished debut.   But then what happened…they sort of drifted into being backing singers for among others T. Rex and Alice Cooper.  Before joining Cooper on a world tour they recordsd their second album, which featured more covers and only a few original songs.  Flo and Eddie came out in 1974, and is a more conventional rock album than their debut.  Saying that it is still a pretty wonderful album.  They do a remarkable take on The Small Face (see S) ‘Afterglow’ and The Kinks ‘Days’ but they really excel on their very own ‘Another Pop-Star’s Life’ and my favourite; the autobiographical ‘Marmendy Mill’.  At his point their career could really have gone anywhere…..but, they were still locked into a live comedy routine which they had drifted into with Frank and The Mothers.  In 1975 they released Illegal, Immoroal and Fattening – mostly a live album from their infamous shows, which is pretty amusing as they parody many of the rock stars of the day.  Best though are a couple of new songs ‘Let Me Make Love To You’ and a cover of an Albert Hammond song ‘Rebecca’ – it is almost worth the price of the album for this one track – it is a tour de force.  They returned to a more conventional format with 1976’s Moving Targets.  This is not really successful in my mind, the duo find themselves shouting more often than harmonising; the songs themselves seem to lack that originality of the previous albums; a couple of tracks are good – the title song and ‘Keep It Warm’ but apart from that the album falls flat.  And I think they knew it.  They didn’t make another album for 3 years and then it was almost a cop-out – Rock Steady With Flo and Eddie (1979) still puzzles me; is it a parody or do they really love this laid-back style of Reggae music, or did someone simply suggest it and they didn’t say no.  Who knows?  But it is a nothing sort of album, exactly the same backing and pace all through, the songs barely noticeable.  Oh well.   I do know they were still having great difficulty with legal issues going back to The Turtles days and were fighting to use the name.  They seem to have drifted into session work and composing music for kiddies programmes.  Later they did regain the use of The Turtles name and have toured as Flo and Eddies Turtles, but no new music has transpired.  Howard Kaylan (see K) released one solo album and a few years later their Greatest Hits came out.  Of course I have it  two new tracks which are okay but not brilliant..  Then in 2009 came a new double album of live shows at New York’s Bottom Line.  Poorly produced really and a confusing mix of silly comedy numbers and old hits.  Of course, I bought it.  New York Times – well, on re-listening it is not so bad….though you would have to be a real fan to love it.  Good to re-listen just once in a while.

My Record Collection 108

The Finn Brothers 

Well, it all started a long time ago, in the mid Seventies when older brother Tim invited younger brother Neil to join his proto-punk band Split Enz (see S). Pretty soon Neil was writing and taking over some singing duties, their biggest hit being Neil’s ‘I Got You’.  But Tim left the band in 1984 to pursue a solo career…see later

But in 1995 he recorded an album of freshly written songs with brother Neil; Finn was a pretty low-production affair, almost a demo – but I really loved it.  It was like an acoustic Split Enz record with Tim and Neil swapping vocals and songwriting – they also played all the instruments on it. Best songs are ‘Bullets in my Hairdo’, ‘Where is my Soul’ and best of all ‘Angels Heap’.  The album did very little in the way of sales.  Tim carried on his solo career with mixed success and Neil formed Crowded House (see C) which was massive.  Tim joined Neil for one album Woodface, but the two got together nine years later with Everyone is Here, credited to The Finn Brothers; which leads me to believe they maybe intended to make a go of it together.  However, whether it was sibling rivalry or just that they both preferred working on their own – who knows.  But after a successful tour, where I saw them at the Royal Albert Hall, so far they have resisted the attempt to record together again.  The album is quite smoothly produced, but for me, somehow there is something lacking in most of the songs.  The oomph which Crowded House had is missing, and the vocals though pleasant don’t quite hit the spot, except on one brilliant song ‘Edible Flowers’ which bears a passing resemblance to ‘Don’t Dream it’s Over’ by Crowded House.  But as usual on a second re-listen, the darned thing is growing on me.  Anyway…

I have followed them pretty closely and am still trying to re-buy early Tim songs which I once had on vinyl…but my first CD by Tim is his self-titled (but third) album Tim Finn.  I did have Big Canoe on vinyl and have just re-orderd it on CD…and listening to it, it is great.  Almost a continuation of Split Enz without the Enz, some good social concern songs ‘No thunder, No Fire, No Rain’ but best were ‘Carve You in Marble’ and ‘Hyacinth’.   The album Tim Finn was also excellent, with another batch of interesting songs; ‘Parahaka’, and ‘Suicide on Downing Street’ stand out from a strong field.  I feel that with this album though Tim was moving more into a classic rock vibe, rather than the quirky indie sound of Split Enz.   Before and After (1993) was a bit of a non-starter for me, I never really got into it.  One good song; ‘Persuasion’ and the rest I can barely recall even after just hearing it.  Say It Is So (1999) is again a bit of a poor record.  I keep hoping that he will surprise me, and he only continues to disappoint,  All that exuberance of Split Enz, that inventiveness of Woodface and Finn is missing, all we have are either slow nothing songs or fast nothing songs, only the first track ‘Underwater Mountains’ shows any promise.  I have sort-of given up on him since – only picking him up in charity shops and only one other record 2006’s Imaginary Kingdom. The songs are shorter and a bit snappier at least, so not such a bad record…best songs are ‘Dead Flowers’ and ‘Couldn’t Be Done’. 

And that left Neil..who had phenomenal success with Crowded House (seeC) but after just 4 studio albums he called it a day and went solo with Try Whistling This 1998.  Truly this is almost a CH album just without the band and a tad quieter.  An excellent record with catchy tunes and rousing choruses – best in my book are ‘She will have Her Way’ and ‘Sinner’ but there isn’t a bad track on it.  The follow-up One Nil (2002) was a different matter – a failure in my book; too much like he was trying desperately to sound different and ‘Modern’.  I think he failed on both counts.  In fact I don’t like the album at all.   But the year before this in 2001 Neil did a few concerts with ‘friends’ and released an album culled from those called Seven Worlds Collide; mostly it is Neil singing some from his solo work and a handful from Crowded House and Split Enz, but Johnny Marr sings a couple of numbers and a girl singer Lisa Germano, there are even a couple by brither Tim.  A really nice laid-back album, simple arrangements and good singing – great to hear simpler versions of well-known favourites..a relative success.  Neil then resurrected Crowded house for a few tours and 2 new albums (see C) but in 2009 another album came out under the monicker 7 Worlds Collide called The Sun Came Out.  Ostensibly a charity album, all proceeds to Oxfam it had more or less the same band but in a studio setting and with the addition of K. T. Tunstall (see T ) and Wilco (see W).  This time it was all original songs, no old ones; not bad at all but I haven’t enjoyed this as much, probably because I didn’t know the songs beforehand.   But it is pretty good really; at this stage of his career Neil was not looking for hits anymore, or even to be the lead singer or songwriter.  This is really a collective effort.  Not sure if I can really single out any songs but a nice album.  My final (so far) album by the Finns brothers is Neil’s Out Of Silence (2018) and a very different sort of Neil Finn album, no fast songs, no guitars hardly but mostly quiet piano-led songs.  And even the singing is different, somehow subdued and reaching higher but softer notes.  I am not sure if I really like it, but it is okay.  Best songs ‘Love Is Emotional’, ‘Independence Day’ and a lovely version of ‘Angels Heap’.   And that is that, so far, for the remarkable Finn brothers; no doubt there will be more and I shall probably buy it too.

My Record Collection – 107

Faithless – this is another of these dance music bands which my daughter Laura has introduced me too.  I quite like most of what she has bought me (Christmases and Birthdays), it is stuff I would never have bought myself but, like almost all music I suspect, if you give it a chance it pays dividends.  All music is good, there is just some I am not so familiar with.  The band is just 3 people and a lot of computer wizardry…the only one I had heard of was Maxi Jazz (not his real name I suspect) – but with these bands or DJs or whatever the players are not really so important.  Anyway, the records.  First up is 1996’s debut Reverence, which according to fans has never been bettered.  Some great tunes and a couple of nice ballads too, especially ‘Don’t Leave’ and ‘If Loving You Is Wrong’ but I suspect it was the faster dance numbers the fans loved: ‘Salva Mea’ and ‘Insomnia’ but really the whole album just slips from ear to ear and nothing much sticks, which is maybe the whole point of dance music – you feel it but it is of the moment not to be pondered over. High volume is of course recommended.  In some ways similar to Heavy Metal, it moves your body not your soul.  Next is the follow-up Sunday 8pm.  This is an overlong (the songs go on forever) and somewhat slower at times record, although a few more of the songs seem to be in a hip-hop style (although I am probably using completely the wrong terms) I can’t really say which I liked best, probably ‘Hour Of Need’ and ‘God Is A DJ’….but more and more this music, though technically excellent just refuses to stay in my brain…oh well, must be my age.  Outrospective (2001) was a number one album, apparently.  Made little impression on me really, pleasant enough but overlong.  No Roots is next…and a great title track in two versions, but I cannot say I recall much else.  Then finally The Dance, their last record on 2006.  It also is okay. You may wonder just why I have five albums of a band I am not that enamoured of….charity shops and a certain sense of persistence hoping against hope that I will find a great album.  And they are all okay, it is just me – I DON’T REALLY LIKE THIS STUFF THAT MUCH.

Fat Boy Slim – well, again charity shops to blame.  Of course I had heard a couple of singles and thought, only a quid, I’ll give it a go,  And really it is okay, but just so repetitive….which of course, is the point.  With dance music there is no beginning middle or end, just a groove, which may last 5 or 8 or 10 minutes, the decision when to close the track seems quite arbitrary.  The album You’ve Come A Long Way Baby…well, if the fact that it seems to be in every charity shop around says anything then I don’t need to.

Bryan Ferry…well, I liked Roxy Music, I mean who didn’t, though I only bought a couple of their LPs at the time.  Ferry always appeared to be up his own arse – but with a great voice, so my forays have been very few in CD land. Dylanesque  (2005) is his take on Dylan’s catalogue.  And it is quite nice anyway to hear Bob’s songs again, though I don’t think that Ferry adds anything unique or different.  A nice listen but quite passable.   Olympia (2010) is one of Ferry’s latest albums, mostly his own songs – and having re-listened to it twice not much stays with me.  A good cover of the Traffic song ‘No Face, No Name, No Number’, and ‘Heartache by Numbers’ is quite good, but really I am wondering why I ever bought the album.  Last up is a compilation Street Life of both Ferry solo work and Roxy stuff.  Quite good to hear the old Roxy stuff, but apart from hIs famous cover of Dylan’s ‘Hard Rains A Gonna Fall’ nothing remarkable here.  I did once see him live, in the pouring rain and he came on an hour late….oh well.

Short Story – 15 – THE TREE

This is a bit more gentle…

The old man is wheeled slowly out by the nurse.  She positions him beneath the old oak tree, tucks in his blanket, and makes sure the alert button is on his lap; safely within reach.  She gives him a friendly pat of the arm and walks back to the house; she is dying for a break and a cup of tea. 

The old man looks across the garden. His garden.  At least he had been allowed to return to his own house; the house he was born into, the house he grew up in.  The house he had his own children in too – though now they are scattered, like dry leaves after a storm, all over the World – James in America, Amelia in France and Jennifer in Hong Kong.  ‘What on earth is she doing in Hong Kong’, he wonders.  It was all a bit much to take in.  He had travelled, Europe mostly, of course, and one memorable trip to see James and his new family in Arizona – far too hot for him, and he could barely remember James’ children, all grown up now and two with young ones of their own.  He would never get to meet them now, that much was certain.  He did talk occasionally on the telephone, but to tell the truth, they weren’t close.  None of his children were ‘close’.  But then he had not been close to his own parents; packed away to boarding school at six – how he had hated that.  And hated his father for sending him too. 

Now – Laura, his grand-daughter by Amelia, was different; she had come back at eighteen from France and lodged with her grandfather while she went to University.  And she had stayed, bless her – she was now his companion.  ‘My, she must be thirty by now’, he supposed.  ‘She’ll be marrying herself one day and leaving me too.  Or rather, I will be leaving her before then.  I’ve left the house to her in my will.  Plenty of money for the others’, he smiled to himself.

He can hear a blackbird singing somewhere above his head.  He looks up but the heavy canopy of leaves hides the bird from view.  ‘Ah, this tree’, he thinks.  ‘This tree has seen it all’.  He can remember when Laura and her brother Robert (what happened to him – he couldn’t recall) had spent their Summer holidays here with Grannie and Grandpa.  His wife Eleanor was still alive then, of course.  What lovely days they had spent.  And here, under this tree was where they had their picnics.  Ginger beer and egg and cress sandwiches and Victoria sponge cake.  Oh dear, he was dribbling, now where was that hankie – ah here it is.  Yes, how he loved playing with little Laura and Robert, it had been a second childhood for him, running around the garden, playing cricket, hide and seek through the bedrooms of the old house, giggling like a child himself.

A child?  Had he ever been a child?  Certainly not the carefree happy one his grandchildren had been.  He was an only child too, he remembered longing for a brother.  He had always been terrified of his father, with his moustaches and his ‘discipline’.  ‘Ah, bad memories – think of something else.  His mother?  She was always a shadowy figure’, he could barely recognise her from the few photographs he had.  Always escaping, slipping silently out of the room, that was his memory. 

“Nerves”.  His father dismissed her disappearance with that single word, “Nerves” – and then his Nanny would take him back to the nursery. 

As a boy he understood nothing; now he wondered what an awful life he must have led her.  She died when he was thirrteen – a stranger to the end.  

“Your Mother has died.  No need to return until half-term.  Do not let this disturb your studies.”  That was what his father had written. But then, he cannot remember being that upset at the time.

All too soon he was grown up – at least he was away from school.  But straight into the Army and very soon the War.  ‘Better not to remember the War’, he thought.  Not that he had seen that much action.  Boredom mostly, like so much of his life.  ‘Ah, no good regretting that now.   He’d had a good life.  That was what they said, wasn’t it?  But how do you know?  How do you compare to others?’  We, each of us, are actually as oblivious to what goes on, what thoughts, hopes and dreams, and disappointments of others – as this tree is as unknowing of him sitting there, like so many times before, under its leafy boughs.  ‘Morbid thoughts.  Must blow them away.  Little time left now, must remember the happy times.

Ah his dear Eleanor.  Returning after the War and meeting her.  Here of all places, in this very house.  His father had just got engaged to his second wife.  A party for friends and neighbours.  Not that it was such a jolly occasion as he remembers.  His father barely acknowledging his presence.  No change there then.  The only two good things were that he met Eleanor here.  Actually, he had met her once before, but he had been a sulky boy of ten and she barely eight; he only just recalled her.  But my, how she had changed.  ‘Bloomed’ – that was the word everyone said about her.  “Oh Eleanor, how you have bloomed” people remarked. She was now a real English Rose, and she fell, she tumbled gently, her petals still fresh with the mist of morning, into his lap.  He had cherished and watched her flower every year – until she became ill, oh it must be ten years ago now.  She died quite quickly in the end; not too much pain. 

The other good thing was his father’s death a few weeks later.  Driving his Bentley too fast and drunk as well.  Died instantly.  And before he had re-married, so the house came to him, his only son.  A real stroke of luck.  But Eleanor was his real prize.  To love and have been loved; what a prize that was.

He sighs and looks up again searching for that blackbird.  Still singing, still hidden.  This tree.  Yes, it was here that he first kissed her.  His father was out, but fearful of his return they had gone out to the garden and laid down under this very tree.  That was their first real kiss, the gentle pressure of her lips on his, stroking the nape of her neck, and those tiny whorls of hair he wound round his fingers. The back of his hand, gliding down her cheek and onto her neck, her splendid long neck, grazing over the twin humps of her collar bones.  He had watched the rise and fall of her breasts and felt such immense contentment.   Earlier that day they had declared their love for each other.  And those kisses were enough, everything else could wait a while.  That was the beauty of those innocent days.  He had no more idea of female anatomy than how a jet engine worked.  These poor youngsters of today with the internet and all ‘knowledge’ at their fingertips and yet….understanding nothing – and caring even less, he suspected.  Denying themselves the wonder of discovery, the ecstasy of simply kissing. 

But everything has changed now.  Almost beyond recognition.  Air travel, television, mobile phones and computers.  Where would it all end?  At least he wouldn’t be here to see it.  Three to four weeks at the most the Doctor said.  And he’d had nearly two already.  Laura knew – but had been sworn to secrecy.  The last thing he wanted was his far-flung children flying home in a panic, declaring their love for him and all that nonsense.  Better to just go quietly with no fuss. 

There’s that blackbird again.  He never seems to tire of singing his song.  And all to attract a mate.  Ha, nothing changes.  Where is he?  He peers up, trying to discover the bird from the sound alone.  He tries to wheel the chair out a bit but it catches in a tree root, he pushes the wheel but the chair stubbornly refuses to move and he feels himself losing balance, the chair is tipping over.  Falling oh so slowly, a delicious feeling in a strange way, an abandonment – and no-one to catch him, no-one to put him back in his chair, no nurse to tuck him in and give him morphine.  No, none of that, just a delightful toppling over.  Here he goes now, gently falling, comfortably wedged into his wheelchair.  The house rises up and stands on its end, he sees the tree turn almost a full circle, the panic button flies out in a beautiful arc.  Safely out of reach.  He lands with the gentlest of bumps and there just there, on that branch he finally sees him, the blackbird, still singing his endless song…ah, bliss.

Short Story – 14 – THE COUPLE NEXT DOOR

This was written a couple of years ago, so not quite so relevant now….

The couple next door?  Oh, don’t go asking me about them.  Well, of course, everyone does, don’t they?  I mean people are always nosy, aren’t they?  You know how it is, they see them on the telly and can’t help but wonder what they are really like.  But you know me; I don’t like to talk about it.  Besides I had to sign so many pieces of paper when I started here – oh, it must be twenty years ago now, soon after Bert died.  I never really read them, but the man told me, in no uncertain terms, that I should not divulge (yes, that was the word he used – why didn’t he simply say ‘talk about’?) any details of either my work or the clients I cleaned for.  Well, you know me – I never gossip – and can keep a secret as well as anyone.  Bert, used to say I was the soul of discretion, God rest his soul. 

Now where was I?  Oh, yes – the couple next door.  Well, all I will say is that they are nothing like you see on the telly. It is a strange arrangement here.  I live and work mostly at number 11.  I have a tiny flat round the back.  The houses are much larger than they look from the front and number 11 is almost twice as big as number 10.  But since the cuts Dave brought in, I now clean in both houses.  Hmmm…only thirty quid a week extra too, and I am supposed to do it all in eight hours, twice a week too.  Not quite the minimum wage, is it, but I don’t complain.  I go in and clean Madam’s private kitchenette, bathroom and their bedrooms.  Bedrooms in the plural, mind you.  They don’t sleep in the same room – not like Dave and Samantha did.  But they used to actually live here, in number 11. It’s a much bigger flat than next door and what with the kiddies number 10 would have been too small.  There is a connecting corridor between the top floor flats so the public is none the wiser. Tony and Cherie (stuck up cow if you ask me) lived here too, while Gordon slept over in number 10 while he was Chancellor, and when he took over as the boss.  Lovely wife he had mind you, too good for him by far, if you ask me. And do you know she was the only one who ever had time for me.  She always asked how I was and if I needed anything.  None of the others ever spoke to me; not the bitch Cherie, or Samantha (another one ‘too important for their own good’ if you want to know) or George’s wife or of course Mrs. Phillip either.  No, none of them ever spoke to me.  Too high and mighty to talk to a mere cleaner.

And as for her, Madam, why she doesn’t even smile.  She just brushes past me if she is in the flat – it’s as if I don’t even exist.  And messy.  My Goodness is she messy.  Clothes all over the place, slung on the bed, or the chair.  Knickers on the floor sometimes too.  And shoes?  Now Samantha liked shoes, there is no denying that, but she always had them lined up on those rails in her wardrobe, all in neat rows like.  But this one – just kicked off anywhere on the floor.  Sometimes I even have to crawl under the bed to reach one.  And me with my bad back too.  No consideration for others I say.  Now her husband – what’s his name.  oh yes, he’s a Phillip too – just like my Phillip here in 11, nice man he is, polite too – always says Good Morning to me he does.  No, her Philip, Madam’s Philip, he sleeps in his own room.  Smaller than hers of course.  But he is very tidy, his suits always put back on the hanger, and his shirts all neat in the drawers.  And this will make you laugh, his socks are folded in pairs in one drawer and his underpants all lined up in another, he even has them in two piles; white ones and black ones. 

I don’t think they ever sleep together.  Not that that is any of my business, but you can’t help noticing the state of the beds, can you.  Both doubles of course, but his is barely disturbed.  He sleeps on the left side; the right pillow is never creased.  Now Madam’s bed is quite different.  She must kick the duvet off in the night, it is usually on the floor along with half of her clothes.

Did you know, they have a laundry service?  Both houses.  They have a large wicker basket in the hallway, and everything dirty, or what they consider dirty – not the same thing at all – is dumped in there along with sheets and towels and they are dry-cleaned or laundered twice a week.  All wrapped in cellophane too.

They each have their own bathroom as well.  En-suite they call it.  I have a tiny shower cubicle and toilet in my flat, but it’s nothing like what they have.  All marble sinks and gold taps – and the baths.  You could almost swim in them baths.  And they have all these water jets too.  Mind you, makes it easier for me to clean.  Now he, her husband – that Philip.  He never uses the bath, he is a shower man.  Well, he is in business you know.  He leaves the house early in the morning.  Madam uses the bath, and she uses this expensive bath oil.  Leaves a nasty scum mark round the edge I can tell you.  She’s one of those people too who always leaves the top off the toothpaste.  I mean, how hard is it to put it back on.  Cherie was the same, never put the lid back on and a dribble of dried goo there for me to clean on the sink.   They slept in the same bed, Cherie and Tony, no problems there I can assure you. 

But I meant to tell you.  She.  Madam. She keeps a diary.  It’s in her bedside cabinet. It’s one of those posh ones in white leather with a little strap and a lock.  I had one like it as a child once.  I never wrote in mine.  But she does.  Now, this is really naughty.  There is a lock on her diary, but it isn’t locked.  And once or twice I have had a peek.

Now, even though I am, you could say, at the heart of Government, I am not really that interested in Politics at all.  They are all the same underneath, and in my job I get to see them as they really are.  Not that they are so different from us at all, even if they love to act as if they are, so high and mighty.  ‘Everyone gets to sit on the throne at least once a day’, as my Bert used to say.  And I am the one who gets to clean their thrones.  Not that I mind that really, what with me Marigolds and a bottle of bleach it don’t bother me none.  They are all a bit stuck up if you ask me.  Not like normal people at all.  Oh, except her – Gordon’s wife.  She was nice, the only one who ever really talked to me in twenty years. 

But, back to Madam’s diary.  She didn’t write very much most days, lots of initials which I never understood.  But I do remember a couple of entries.  Just after Dave announced that ‘referender’ thing she wrote that this was her big chance, she’d been waiting patiently for years but now she saw her way clearly.  And after that big vote she wrote “Hooray – now for it.”  Then when she became the big boss, she said it was the best day of her life.  What about her wedding day, I thought?  But she added she had better watch out for Boris, better tie him down. Now what was the phrase she used.  Very unladylike I thought, but then you should have heard the words that Cherie used.  F…ing this and F…ing that all day long.

She, Madam, said it was better to have Boris pissing out of the tent than in.  Not sure what she meant by that, maybe she meant the marquee they sometimes have in the Rose Garden, but surely where he goes weewee is none of her business at all.  But the worst was after the last election.  She was furious alright.  You could see where the pen had gone right through the page in a few places.  She said it was all the TV’s fault, that she hadn’t had the chance to explain how wonderful she was going to do that Brexit stuff.  UNFAIR she wrote in big letters, and underlined it again and again.  She even called Mr. Corbyn a ‘you know what’ but the writing was so bad and it looks like she had spilt a few drops of tea or something on the page, made the words hard to read. It might have been a card, or a cad – but I think I know what it really was.  Very un-lady-like.  But then a day or two later she was back to her usual self. “Determined to hang on” she wrote, “they won’t get rid of me that easy.”

Anyway, look at the time I must be going soon and as you know I don’t like to gossip.  That man asked me not to divulge any details and I have been as good as my word.  No, it doesn’t matter how many times you ask me, I won’t tell you any details.  Except to say, they aren’t at all like you see them on the telly, the couple next door that is.  In fact, hardly anyone even knows what I do for a living.  The soul of discretion, my Bert used to call me.