My Record Collection 34

BLUR – In the mid-nineties we had far more hype than substance; this was true of Politics as well as music.  The whole music scene was tired; the bands of the Sixties and Seventies were touring huge stadiums and the only new music was Dance Music, which to many of us slightly older people seemed impenetrable; it was simply a groove (which of course was the point – we still longed for melodies and meaningful lyrics).  Cool Brittania came along with a new generation of brash new bands – the two leading of which were Blur and Oasis.  And just as in the Sixties, we were expected to choose.  I disliked the Gallagher brothers attitude and arrogance, and so gravitated (with little enthusiasm) towards Blur.  I bought and taped their second album ‘Modern Life is Rubbish’ – I can’t really remember much about it.  The follow-up 1994’s Parklife was much bigger and better.  Almost a concept album (of which I have always been a sucker for) it is a celebration of lad culture, another sad phenomenon of the nineties.  Musically it is quite varied, slow ballad ‘To The End’ and rocky ‘Girls and Boys’ and of course ‘Parklife’ itself with Phil Daniels doing a cockney commentary over the chorus.  The album is almost worth it for that song….but it didn’t really last.  I wasn’t inspired to buy any other Blur albums, except one I picked up in a charity shop Thinktank (2003). Well, dull is not quite the word for this.  The band were in the doldrums; this was their last effort before they broke up (only to reform 10 years later and undertake a lucrative re-union World Tour).  This is the sound of a bunch of millionaires sitting around and fulfilling a recording contract.  They didn’t even seem that interested in coming up with any decent songs at all.  Not sure I won’t return it to same charity shop.

So….Blur?  They were simply a blur in the History of Popular Music.  A minor distraction which barely left a trace.  Pity, they could have been half-decent.

 

That Old Chestnut

Tuesday 24th July

I know that we are in the silly season for news; and to be honest almost any news that isn’t Brexit or another Trumpism should be welcome.  But we now have the Death penalty back in the news.  Strange, or maybe it isn’t, but America (along with many other so-called Religious countries) insists on retaining the Death penalty; not in all states, but for certain crimes.  And, as we got rid of this barbaric measure in the 60’s, we have had a long-standing policy of NOT sharing intelligence with foreign countries where that intelligence may result in the death penalty being used.  But….we are dealing with ISIL, or fighters who were members of that group.  And so the argument goes – that they deserve what is coming to them.  And on the surface who can argue.  ISIL were a particularly nasty group who killed indiscriminately and vowed death to the West and all our liberal values.

But, apart from the old arguments, that you can never be that certain of a person’s guilt; that mistakes cannot be rectified, or that State killing is still murder – there are three other important things to consider.

One, is that if these men are killed by the Americans, they will undoubtedly become martyrs and heroes for a new generation of fanatics.  It is surely better that we try to educate them by our better example.  By treating them in a more humane way we may begin to redress the balance.  Also, these two would far prefer to be killed and further their cause by their own martyrdom than be incarcerated.

Secondly, the ‘intelligence’ we may have on these two may of course be wrong.  We now know (some of us knew at the time) that intelligence on Iraq was faulty.  There is no doubt that the intelligence services are not immune from fabrication in order to pursue their agenda. So, ‘justice’ may be impossible in this case.

Thirdly, and by far most importantly – once you make an exception for one group of individuals, in this case ‘terrorists’, you open Pandora’s box.  What about mass murderers, what about paedophiles, killers of police…and so on.

These questions usually need a bit more thought than simply reading headlines…

 

My Record Collection 33

Colin Blunstone continued – Journey was Colin’s next record, and again a strong album; a bit rockier, more up beat numbers, a bit more varied sounds.  Fave songs; the wonderful single ‘Wonderful’, ‘This is Your Captain Calling’ and ‘Brother Lover’.  But in 1976 Colin switched labels and signed to Elton’s label Rocket Records.  I don’t know what happened but somehow the two records he recorded next seem to be lacking.  They feel a bit safe, a bit predictable and bland.  I still bought them of coursePlanes came out in 1976, the title track being a Bernie and Elton composition.  And of course when you re-listen after some time you have a different perception.  The album is really quite good, nice choice of songs too.  ‘Only With You’, ‘Loving and Free’ and ‘Dancing In The Dark’ are my favourites.   His second album for Rocket was ‘Never Even Thought’.  Not so bad really, but somehow lacking that vital spark.  I like ‘Do Magnolia, Do’ but not much else.  Colin had a live album which is impossible to find on CD out in the late 70’s….and then he sort of disappeared.  He became a session singer, appearing on various Alan Parsons Project releases, a short lived band called Keats (one album, I had the cassette but almost impossible to find on CD too) and I suppose somehow kept going.  A Live at the BBC record came out in the early 90’s; A sort of greatest hits live – and very good it is too.

But not until 1995 did Colin dip his toe back into recording new material. Echo Bridge; a bit of a subdued record, his voice a bit deeper I think, and maybe it was just the choice of material – a bit less melodic.  Still, he was back in the game, or at least trying.  Best song is the Gallagher and Lyle classic ‘Breakaway’.  3 years later came The Light Inside; I only discovered this fairly recently and it is really quite good.  Colin still in great voice and a decent song selection. ‘Send Me Your Broken Dreams’ and ‘Losing You’ are particularly good.  Then, in 2001, came re-union with Rod Argent (of the Zombies) – not that they had ever really split; Rod contributed songs and played on a few of Colin’s records down the years.  They released an album under joint names ‘Out of The Shadows’.   And it is pretty good, songs all written by Rod and a couple by Colin.  ‘Sanctuary’ and ‘Living in the Real World’ are best tracks.  But compared to his first three or four records….well, no comparison.  Still – nice to see the old boys continuing.  There was a re-union of The Zombies after this, and things get a bit confusing because some records are credited to Colin and Rod and some to ‘The Zombies, featuring…”  Anyway, next up is ‘As Far As I Can See’.   More upbeat album; better melodies and a good production; fave tracks – ‘’In My Mind a Miracle’, ‘Memphis’ and ‘Southside of the Street.  The Ghost of Me and You followed, a nice record, mostly with string quartet again.  A delicate quiet album – best songs ‘Love Left A Long Time Ago’ and a revisited ‘Beginning/Keep The Curtain Closed Today’. 2011 saw ‘Breathe Out, Breathe In’ a Zombies featuring Colin record.  This is okay, but not my favourite by a long chalk.  Nothing really wrong with it, it jut doesn’t excite me.  And then came On The Air Tonight, which seems again a solo Colin album, and very nice it is too. Best songs – ‘The Best Is Yet To Come’, ‘Though You Are Far Away’ and ’17 Over You’.

That and a couple of collections is it (so far) for young Colin.  Actually he was a handsome bugger – very much frazzled and gnarled looking now.  ‘Ain’t we all.

 

The Latest In a Long Line…

Sunday 22nd July

….of lunatics.  Dominic Raab (now I wonder where that surname comes from – sounds suspiciously un-English) has joined the long list of idiots spouting Brexit nonsense for the hordes of rabid idiots in the Tory party.  His latest pronouncement is that no deal (on trade) means no divorce payment.  Well, for a while now the Government has been saying that nothing is finalised until everything is finalised – meaning that even the already agreed heads of agreement will not be a ‘deal’ until arrangements for future trade are agreed.  Although of course the EU has a different and legal interpretation of this.  They have always insisted that the two things – Divorce, if you will, and future trade are separate entities.  Mrs May in both her Lancaster House and her Venice speeches had insisted that Britain will honour it’s legal and financial obligations.  So, in effect the rantings of Dominic Raab are nonsense.  And of course he knows it. This is dog-whistle politics, designed to appeal to Brexit voters who do not understand the finer details – which may well be why they voted Brexit in the first place.

Mr. Raab is a particularly nasty Tory, having advocated getting rid of all workplace workers protections once Brexit was done; this before he became the (second) Brexit Secretary.  Actually he makes David Davis seem quite cuddly, no mean feat.

Where this is all heading is disaster.  Either we accept EU compromises, which will effectively mean we are still in the Customs Union and maybe the Single Market – which will result in a mass revolt of the Tory blinkered Little Englanders and the demise of Mother Theresa.  Or we walk out and we have no deal – no transition period, falling back on WTO rules, chaos and confusion – and a General Election where Mrs. May will appeal to the masses to back her.  Back her, in bringing the country into economic meltdown, to manufacturing and farming collapsing, etc, etc.

And who knows….

The Opinion Polls are never that reliable, but apparently 43% of those asked think her plan is very bad and only 13 % think it is good.  Now whether those are Remainers who think any plan is bad or Leavers who want something Harder is impossible to tell.  And I think she will gamble….hold on to your seats and make sure you have your seat-belt on.  Mind you airbags won’t help much…

Just Discovered a Genius

Saturday 21st July

Spending a rare quiet evening in, trawling through the news channels – nothing.  The the terrestrials – nothing.  Tried BBC 4 – just in case.  And I discovered a genius; Jacob Collier.  I know – I had never heard of him either.  He is a multi-instrumentalist and singer, writer and interpreter of songs.  He plays piano, guitar, double bass, violin and double bass and drums, and maybe many others too.  He sings in a strange but hypnotic voice, gentle and strong, hovering over notes.  I am not sure if it is jazz or classical or modern dance music – but brilliant it certainly is.

He was playing with a full orchestra, but was never drowned out, the arrangements left plenty of room for his remarkable vocals.  He has one album out ‘In My Room’, which, on the strength of this I have just ordered.  This was self-recorded in his room as the title suggests.  But he has worked on the arrangements with this orchestra.  He has toured, playing with orchestras and smaller bands and has attracted the interest of Quincy Jones and Herbie Hancock and Dr. Dre, amongst others.  He sung some of his own songs and a couple by Stevie Wonder and The Police – remarkable versions, completely subverting and re-inventing them.  He even finished with  startling version of ‘Blackbird’ by The Beatles.

I was blown away by this 24 year-old’s talent.  Truly remarkable.  Can’t wait for the CD to arrive.

Jacob Collier -1180632.jpg

My Record Collection 32

Wednesday 18th July

Mary Black – a strange choice maybe, but for some reason her name stuck in my brain, and flicking through CDs in a charity shop this record took my eye.  Essentials is a compilation, and not at all bad.  Mary is Irish and sings, as a lot of her compatriots do, a sort of Irish/folk/country – lovely melodies and arrangement – and I am always a sucker for country ballads.   Not a bad listen but I wont rush to buy any others of hers.

The Blessing – Wow, just the one record – and it is brilliant.  Bought on the strength of brilliant single ‘Highway 5’ in 1992.   I was delighted by this, their debut record.  The voice of William Topley (see T) lead singer is incredible – a deep Southern (though he was English) drawl and a great bluesy band sound.  Best songs are the single and ‘Delta Rain’, ‘Back from Managua’ and the title track.  They had a follow up album which I am still hunting down, but it is incredibly expensive – a collector’s item around £150.00  !!!!  Still I am always on the look-out.’  And they broke up after just two records…a shame.

Colin Blunstone – I first saw Colin at the Roundhouse with my first wife Joy.  We used to go most Sundays and though I didn’t recognise the name I knew him as soon as he came on stage.  He used to be the lead singer in the Zombies (see Z).  I remember their very first single and huge hit ‘She’s Not There’; most of their other singles barely charted.  They broke up in 1969 and this was 1972.  And he was fabulous; he sang most of the songs with a string quartet and drum and guitar peeking through.  But, it was that voice which captured me; high and clear and very distinct, but more than that Colin is a great interpreter of songs – he seems to get all the emotion into his voice.  And in my experience it is emotion which we are buying when we love an Artist.  His first album was just out One Year; apparently written and recorded over the previous year.  It is simply sublime, and at 35 minutes you just want to hear the 10 songs again.  The songs are gentle and mostly a bit sad and have great arrangements.  Favourites – well, the single ‘Say you don’t mind’ of course, and ‘Misty Roses’ and ‘Caroline Goodbye’ – but not a bad song on it.  It is one of those rare records which appear almost frozen in amber, they so precisely conjure up that special year (maybe the best for music ever).  Well the album sold well, as did the single (got to 15).  I suppose the temptation was to repeat the formula, but for his next album ‘Ennismore’ Colin reverted back to a more conventional style..  But he was really on a roll and this is my very favourite of his albums. This record just takes my breath away; backed by most of Argent (with 3 former Zombies in the band) it is just perfect.  The band never get in the way of his voice but compliment it beautifully.  There are a couple of string quartet songs too.  Colin’s voice has never sounded better, gentle and whispery and unhurried.  They say it is harder to sing very slowly than faster, and Colin seems to have mastered this art.  Best songs are the single ‘I Don’t Believe In Miracles’, Andorra, Every Sound I heard’ and ‘How Could We Dare To Be Wrong’

Ennismore

Despair !!!!

Sunday 15th July

Occasionally I have been at the point of despair; once or twice in my private life I have seen no way out – although clearly there was indeed a way out.

But  – at the moment I almost despair of the Political situation we find ourselves in.  We have a Government which is almost at the point of paralysis, falling apart before our very eyes.  Brexit, which was the worst decision (to even grant the referendum, let alone to lose it) this country has made, probably since the War.  Almost every Prime Minister since 1945 has favoured European Co-operation.  Churchill (who even Boris admires), Macmillan, Harold Wilson and Callaghan, Heath, even Thatcher for most of her reign (she was one of the architects of the Single market) Major, Blair, Brown and Cameron all supported being a member of the EU.  And….even Theresa May was a Remainer.  And yet, we are in the deepest of dark holes, and all we seem to be doing is digging ourselves deeper.

And, this saddens me too, my own party – Labour, are just as hopeless.  I understand their problem, and incidentally that of every single M.P.  Many Labour Constituencies voted for Brexit, as did many Tory ones.  But a lot voted Remain.

And this is at the heart of the problem.  Whatever happens now – Mrs. May’s compromise, a hard Brexit a la Boris, a slightly softer one posited by Keir Starmer, a continuation of the Customs union, or even the Single Market.  Or, worst scenario of all – a No Deal (which incidentally means no transition either and harsh reality on 30th March next year), the arguments will continue.

We will never resolve this satisfactorily.  The Anti-Immigration Rabbit has jumped out of the top hat, and no conjurer can possibly induce it back in.  I can see nobody being happy with any result.  Both Remainers and Leavers will feel cheated, and any bad economic news in the future will be blamed by both sides on a Bad Brexit.

If only there were some real leadership; both Theresa and Jeremy are trying desperately to come up with a compromise which holds most of their party together.  No-one is really leading.  No-one is trying to come up with the best deal for the whole country.  No-one is even certain of the next few days, let alone the next few years.

And, even another referendum will really sort anything either.

But we must not despair – maybe the EU itself will actually save us from ourselves.  Maybe they will give us more time, time to come up with a better deal, time to even have an election, time to change our minds…

I doubt it, but in the end, ironically, the EU may be our only hope.

My Record Collection 31

Beck-Ola – an album by the Jeff Beck group, released in 1969 but mostly recorded a year earlier.  Jeff beck had been in The Yardbirds (see Y) but left in the mid-sixties (to be replaced by Eric Clapton).  Now, to tell the truth I only bought this because the lead singer was not Jeff (he was the guitarists) but one Rod Stewart.  It was here that Rod learnt his trade and also where he met Ronnie Wood…the rest they say is History.  The album is okay, but a bit rough – quite bluesy; it was apparently much admired by the newly formed Led Zeppelin.  Hey Ho. Anyway Rod’s singing is brilliant as usual.

The Bee-Gees – well, I loved the early singles, and even many of the later ones.  I have a Greatest Hits collection.  Nice to hear occasionally, and part of the Sixties (and beyond0 legacy..

Bjork – burst on the scene in the late 80’s, as the singer with Icelandic band The Sugar Cubes.  Her solo debut simply called Debut came out in 1993.  I did not buy it.  I quite liked the single ‘Human Behaviour’ and the Christmas single ‘It’s Oh So Quiet’, but I didn’t realise what a star she would become.  Other songs on this record are okay, I like ‘Venus As A Boy’ too.  I did buy Post, her second album; this seems a much more assured record, as if she now knows exactly what she wants to sound like.  But I am still not sure if, great as she is, that I really like her that muh, which may seem strange – but you almost have to be in the mood for Bjork as she tends to assault your senses rather.  Best songs are ‘Army of Me’ and ‘Possibly Maybe’ and the final track ‘Headphones’.

Homogenic came out in 1997.  I like this much better, from opening track ‘Hunter’ to closer ‘All Is Full Of Love’ the album seems to hold your attention.  Full of modern dance beats, industrial sounds and strange rhythms, it is Bjorks voice which captivates, hovering above everything with a strange haunting beauty – and sounding like nothing else at all.   Hard to pick favourite songs as it all seems of one piece really.

She followed this with Vespertine.  Incidentally it is almost worth buying Bjork albums for the incredible costumes she wears on the covers – this time she becomes a swan).  Another very good record, but again I am never sure if I really like her.  And although the voice is incredible I struggle to hear the words; there is also the question of inflection – lots of people criticised Dylan because ‘he couldn’t sing’, but it is the inflection, the emphasis, the meaning, the emotion he puts into the words that is the reason we love him.  And with Bjork, as I struggle to understand (or even hear) a lot of the words =, something is missing.  Medulla came out in 2004;  I was only buying Bjork in Second-hand shops by now and got this one quite recently.  It is actually very good, the arrangements are excellent, a lot of stacked vocals and a few slower songs.  I also have a freebie Sunday paper greatest hits which is okay too.  And still I am unsure of Bjork, an undoubted genius but sometimes I find the music, let us say – challenging

Medúlla

A Week Is A Long Time In Politics

Tuesday 9th July

And a day is even longer – it would seem.  Within the space of 24 hours we had two Cabinet Ministers, and not just any old ministers either, resigning, along with a handful of Junior advisors.  Yesterday I posted about Brexit being a roller-coaster ride, but even I was gobsmacked by the days unfolding events.

We went from relative calm, as it appeared that Theresa may had kept her fractious Cabinet together on the ‘awayday’ at Chequers on Friday.  Then David Davis resigned very late on Sunday evening (too late for most of the papers morning editions).  By lunchtime No. 10 had announced that Dominic Raab, a pretty nasty piece of work, had got the job of Brexit Secretary.  Mrs. May was preparing to speak to Parliament at three.  Then Downing Street announced that Boris had resigned as Foreign Secretary.  Apparently, he hadn’t even officially resigned as yet; so this was more a sacking than anything.

But, in the way of these things, the Tories sort-of rallied round, and May escaped a direct challenge.  By this morning it was all sunny uplands again.

But of course, this is not the end of things at all.  The biggest question for me is why on earth did Mrs may appoint Boris and Davis (and Liam Fox and snake Gove) in the first place.  They have been trouble all along, and have delayed a ‘sensible’ Brexit (mind you that sentence is nonsense – sensible and Brexit in the same sentence….durghhh)

And now they wont just go away and sulk.  They will jibe from the sidelines, especially as when the Eu begin to unravel May’s new Customs Arrangement compromises will have to be made.  I still think a ‘planned’ walk-out is a strong possibility.  And then Boris will strike….

 

The Beginning Of The End?

Monday 8th July

Well.  The roller-coaster of Brexit continues in its tortuous and vertiginous ride.   Just where it will end up we still do not know.  Will it crash off the tracks or grind to a slow halt through sheer exhaustion?  But, as predicted bits of the car are falling off daily.  What we did not realise was, that when David Cameron pressed the start button and reminded us to close the safety bar; this was not for our safety – but to ensure that we would not be able to stop the thing, or get off in any fit state until we were well and truly shaken to bits.

And now David Davis, the ever-smiling buffoon has finally resigned.  No great loss – did I hear you mutter.  But really – how on earth can we carry on when our chief negotiator, and two of his senior team, are walking away.  No doubt Gove will replace him.  And the good ship May will sail on for a few more months.  But what a shambles.  The final policy was unbelievably only agreed on Friday, 18 months into the process.

I almost despair – which is everyone’s response.  All Theresa May is interested in is keeping the Conservative Party together – united only their hatred of Labour – they almost hate each other with as much bitterness.

And yet, Brexit is all about the country’s future….

One thing is for certain, there are many more twists and turns before the ride is over.  hang on tight folks – this is only the beginning of the end,