Monday 19th February
A – Adele She burst onto the scene in 2008 with her debut album 19 (her age when the songs were recorded). The record sold in the millions; it seemed to strike a chord with young people, and many older ones too, especially women. Her songs are almost all about love, lost or unrequited or desired. Most of her songs she has written,, but the best song on 19 was undoubtedly her superb interpretation of Dylan’s ‘Make You Feel My Love’ – but maybe I am biased. She has a wonderful voice, but maybe it is just me – I find it slightly grating at record’s end. I quite like her, and yet, she doesn’t really do it for me. Ah well, maybe I am just getting old.
Her second album 21 was an even bigger hit, and is surprisingly, the fourth biggest selling record ever in the UK. Some achievement, or maybe it is just that the competition (whatever else was available for the listening public) was not that fantastic. Also the vast majority of these sales would have been digital. I almost never download music, and maybe people nowadays download on other’s recommendations and then don’t really play the record that much. In some ways this is a better record, a few very good songs – but again, to my ears her voice tends to grate a bit.
Her third record 25 was just as massive – I haven’t felt inspired to buy it yet.
A – Air French duo from France consisting of Nicolas Godin and Jean-Benoit Duckel. I know, French artists barely get a look-in over here, but in the field of electronica they are at the forefront. And I have always been interested in this genre, ever since seeing Tangerine Dream back in the late Sixties. Talking about the Sixties, most of you will, I am sure, think that I only love that old stuff. Actually most of my music is from the Seventies and the Eighties. Note, the first few entries in this record are all from well after the Sixties.
Anyway, the band Air. They make dreamy floaty music, almost filmic and mostly quite moody and instrumental – and when voices do come in they are mooted and subtle. Their first release was an EP, but at 33 minutes long it is almost an album. Gentle and smooth, almost late night dance music the tracks blend into one another beautifully. At this point I have to thank my daughter Laura who has introduced me to lots of ‘Modern Music’, especially trip hop and electronica, which would have passed me by otherwise.
The duo’s first album proper was 1998’s ‘Moon Safari’, which became quite a minor hit for them. Single ‘Sexy Boy’ was played a lot on the radio; my favourite song is ‘All I Need’ with the vocals sung by Beth Hirsch. Talking of which, I can remember when The Beatles first started using ‘guest artists’ like Eric Clapton, there was quite some controversy. But then it became quite okay to use other musicians. I am not sure who the first were to use completely different vocalists on their records, but I remember buying Steve Hackett’s second record ‘Please Don’t Touch’ (see H) and discovering at least three different singers on the record (because Steve, a wonderful guitarist, thought his own voice was too weak). But then in the Nineties there were lots of records “featuring” some other artist. And now it is quite common to have ‘guest vocalists’ on your records. Anyway, ‘Moon Safari’ is a lovely record; again smooth and melodic and almost segueing from one track to another. Next up is ‘50,000 Hertz Legend’, a strange title but a great record, maybe their best. More varied, better songs and great vocals – they really got into their stride with this one. Best songs are ‘How does it make you feel’ and ‘Don’t be light’. But not a poor tune on the record.
Air were also quite prolific, writing a few soundtracks for movies and different mixes. Their next record was ‘Everybody hertz’ – a mash-up of 50,000 Hertz. I am not sure I really like these mix-albums. They can be more than a bit repetitive, and anyway – isn’t it a bit cheap to keep remixing old stuff? Anyway, one or two of the versions maybe add something to the original, but it doesn’t really hang together as an album. (Although on a second listen, it is actually quite good – so what do I know). Next up is 2004’s ‘Talkie Walkie’; again quite a pleasant record, but I was beginning to think they really had nothing new to offer. I suppose I am still hankering after the progression in music we had in the Sixties and Seventies, when each new record was different and exciting. But then again, if you have found a niche, a style which is successful, and people keep buying your music – what incentive is there to explore new ideas? The last Air album I have is 2007’s ‘Pocket Symphony’ – this is a bit more upbeat, a bit more varied and a few more vocals. Quite a nice little record. And that is almost it from this surprisingly good French duo. I have ordered their next record ‘Love 2’ but I haven’t heard it yet – it was cheap on ebay – on the strength of this re-listen.