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Nothing compares, indeed

Prince wrote “Nothing Compares 2 U” but never released it. Now, The Prince Estate has put it together with video of him and The Revolution practising (if you can call what he does in high heels that).

Waste of time my saying anything about it. Just watch and enjoy.

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Stagger(ing) Nick Cave concert film

This is one of those “I wasn’t expecting that” moments. A distant appreciation of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds has just become a fixation.

Audiences in selected cinemas worldwide were served up a treat on April 12 with the broadcast of “Distant Sky”,  the concert film of Cave’s October 2017 concert at the Royal Arena in Copenhagen. What a ride it was.

Longtime Cave fans would a) not have been surprised and b) might have wanted a bit more of the early post-punk stuff. But for me — a relative newbie — it was a treasure, a rocky, progy, punky delight dominated by the charismatic Cave teetering in front of his ecstatic Danish audience. Behind him, music maestro Warren Ellis and the rest of  the Seeds hammered out a magnificent orchestral set, one moment soothing the soul, the next setting the heart racing to near attack levels.

I realise that this will be controversial, but one surprise for me was the near prog rock element of some of the performance starting with the opener “Anthrocene” and moving through “Tupelo”, “Jubilee Street” and even the older “The Weeping Song”. Starting slow and building up into soaring crescendos, I kept thinking of Sigur Ros, but only in terms of format.

Cave’s rapport with the audience was special, even dragging dozens up on stage for a final “Stagger Lee”. He was truly mesmerising. Count me now as a real fan – better late than never.

SET LIST:

  1. (feat. Else Torp on vocals)
  2. Encore:

 

Fine looking guitars

Ok, I would not normally post an ad. Indeed, there is a part of me that is hesitant to do so. But these guitars are just so lovely, I had to.  The music is not bad either. I got no money for this, nor a guitar. Just posted something that I liked. Forgive me and enjoy.

On The Road: American Music

DSC02005 2One of the great things about travelling is being reminded of music wherever you go. During a recent trip to the United States, for example, I stayed on Seventh Avenue in New York and kept thinking of Paul Simon’s riff on the street’s whores in “The Boxer”. It was cold, so Bruce Springsteen’s three-blocks-away “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out” also seemed a-propos.

And it is nearly impossible to drive through West Virginia (as I did in a blizzard) without thinking of John Denver’s “Country Roads” (or Toots and the Maytals’ Jamaican take on it). Ditto, in passing, with driving on the New Jersey Turnpike without humming Simon’s “America”.

Driving through Ohio was a bit more sombre as Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young’s “Four Dead In Ohio” kept running thought my head. More obscurely, I found myself recalling Harvey Andrews’ “Hey Sandy”, the paen to Sandra Scheuer, one the four dead shot at Kent State University in 1970 by the Ohio National Guard.

The real surprise for me, however, was finding myself in a used vinyl shop in Champaign, Illinois, and being told it was part of the old railway station that served the Illinois Central Railroad.

Cue Arlo Guthrie’s “City of New Orleans” (actually written by Steve Goodman):

Riding on the City of New Orleans

Illinois Central, Monday morning rail

Fifteen cars and fifteen restless riders

Three conductors and twenty-five sacks of mail.

A long time resident of the city told me that trains used to bring some great and famous musicians up to Chicago from Memphis and vice versa. They had a habit of stopping off for the night in Champaign, long home to the University of Illinois, and providing gigs a-plenty.

 

 

The Fish Police – genre benders

Members of my family occasionally look at me askance when I am tending to my music collection because I can get very frustrated and upset. This is when I am trying to put a genre to a particular album or artist and can’t work out where they go. Yes, I know, this is very nerdy. But when it comes to music, I can be.

So imagine my delight/horror when a band came across my transom described as “neurodiverse electronic music pioneers”. Aieee! A whole new genre!

Well, not really, The band concerned are The Fish Police. They have been around a while and  they are basically Afro Punk. That is, a bit rappy with basic chords and a smattering of Nigeria or the like. The Guardian newspaper nicely noted they give a nod to “everything from MF Doom, Kraftwerk, De La Soul, the Ramones to Grace Jones” (with whom some of the band play). I might add Keziah Jones and Trombone Shorty.

I like the band very much. Check out the video of “Japanese Girl” below.

The “neurodiverse” is interesting, though. It  comes because two of the band — singer, rapper and songwriter Dean Rodney Jr. and guitarist  Matthew Howe — are both autistic/on the autistic spectrum*.  The other two members — Charles Stuart (bass, co-songwriter, background vocals) and Andrew Mclean (live drums) — are not.

The ironic thing, of course, is that the neurodiverse bit means the band stands out in an industry when standing out is about the only way you can get attention unless you are really, really special. It is important in these circumstances, I believe, not to succumb to the “gee whiz” factor.

Luckily, there is not much need in this case. If I hadn’t been told about the autism, I would not have even guessed from listing to the music. The band has enough to offer without it. Indeed, they are off to play at SXSW in the middle of March (where they are billed as electronic Afro Punk, by the way).

Check them out:

 

*There is a large debate these days about how you express this. For reference I used this article  from the National Autistic Society.

New (360 degree) Steve Martin

As many of you know, there is more to Steve Martin than just a funny man — although he is that. He is also a banjo wizzard.

Here is his latest video. Really interesting that he is using 360, but unfortunately I cannot do justice with it technically.

Gregg Allman: Last blast from the Southern man

IMG_7964 2So close to death was blues rocker Gregg Allman when he was making his final album, the cover photographer did not get to his Savannah, Georgia, house in time.

Instead, “Southern Blood”, Allman’s posthumous paean to his life and music to be released in September, is adorned with a sepia shot of the grounds, a wooden boardwalk heading away under the shade of Spanish Moss.

There probably could not be a more appropriate symbol for Allman, who died from cancer in May, aged 69. From the early days with his late brother Duane onwards, Tennessee-born Allman was the epitome of Southern rock and blues.

“Southern Blood” is not about the South per se for that, skip back an album to the 2011 Grammy-nominated “Low Country Blues”. This one is about Allman.

“(Gregg) was acutely aware that his time was limited,” Allman’s manager and friend Michael Lehman told me when asked about the recording session.

“These compositions, they are all poignant and meaningful and talk about his life’s journey. Everyone of them had meaning (for him).”

For his last hurrah, Allman chose a number of songs written by friends and favorite artists including Jackson Browne, Willie Dixon, Jerry Garcia and Lowell George.

Each song, including those written by Allman himself, touch on something of the man — who led a difficult life with the early death of his brother, six divorces including from his celebrity marriage to Cher, drug addiction, hepatitis C, a liver transplant and, ultimately, cancer.

George’s “Willin'”, for example, is the tale of a hard-times Southwestern truck driver who keeps on the road against all the odds, a hint at Allman’s near continual touring.

Another song — written by Mississippi bluesman Wilie Dixon — needs no explanation:

I Love The Life I Live/ I Live The Life I Love

In a similar vein a lot of the songs are basically goodbyes. One such is Allman’s sweet rendition of Bob Dylan’s “Going, Going, Gone” with it’s starting lyrics:

I’ve just reached a place/Where the willow don’t bend/There’s not much more to be said/It’s the top of the end

Perhaps most poignant of all is the opening track, Allman’s own “My Only True Friend” in which he calls on the people who have followed his music since before 1969, the year the Allman Brothers hit the road, to remember him.

You and I both know this river must surely flow to an end/Keep me in your heart, keep your soul on the mend/I hope you’re haunted by the music of my soul, when I’m gone/Please don’t fly away to find a new love

(This is an edited version of a story I wrote for my main employer, Reuters. The photo is mine from when I met him in 2011)