Five Things, Wednesday 1st October

Steve Punt on Celebrity Antiques Road Trip
A programme where people drive around, tip up at various Antique Dealers, and drive down their prices by haggling – only to find that, when they auction what they’ve bought, they are worth just about what the Antique Dealer was selling them for. Why am I even mentioning this? Only because they were in Coventry and went to the recently opened Coventry Music Museum which has a recreation of Jerry Dammers’ bedroom! I’m a sucker for that kind of thing after the Abba Museum, so if I find myself in the Midlands, I’m there.

Aretha does Rolling In The Deep
I dreaded this, but it’s actually terrific to have Aretha singing again, over a pared-down arrangement, keeping the clever ‘offset’ chord changes, as she and her sisters take it back to church, finding a different way through the melody. Just check the way she sings “We could have had it all…”, or how she drags out h-a-a-yy-a-n-d, or the strangled second verse, just before the backing vox hit “Ain’t No Mountain”. The vocal sound is great, too, recorded hot and on the edge of distortion (unless it’s just lousy audio encoding, in which case I retract that comment).

Bruce Wagner, author of Maps to the Stars, The Guardian
“The kids who worked in showbiz would come late to middle school – just after lunch – straight from the set, still in makeup and wardrobe. Dean Paul Martin Jr revved his Ferrari past the playground on his way to Rexford, a private bastion of learning for the incorrigible offspring of the famous. I graduated to Beverly Hills High. Beverly’s swimming pool, beneath a retractable basketball court, had made its screen debut in It’s a Wonderful Life. Special lunchtime assemblies featured the Doors and Linda Ronstadt. (! – ed) I used to give rich out-of-towners fake tours of stars’ homes in Holmby Hills. I’d point to this house or that and say, “Sinatra. Lucille Ball. Jimmy Stewart.” The addresses were available from curbside vendors but most of us were too bored or lazy to bother with veracity. One day, on a fake tour of Bel‑Air, I saw a dishevelled man in a bathrobe in the middle of the street. I slowed and took a closer look and couldn’t believe my eyes: Brian Wilson. He asked if we had a light for his cigarette. The Texans were so thrilled they tipped me $100. I finally understood the cryptic, dadaist bumper stickers popular at the time: I BRAKE FOR BRIAN WILSON.”

The Tardis Church
All Saint’s Church in Margaret Street is astonishing. On a small London street, just north of Oxford Circus, it seems ridiculous that there’s a  cathedral-sized space inside. But there is, beautifully restored, and featuring a four-manual Harrison and Harrison organ with 65 speaking stops, built in 1910. We were there to hear a challenging recital (it featured three Messiaen pieces) by Carl Bahoshy, in aid of Iraqi Christians in Need. Three was perhaps one too many Messiaen, but they showed off the bass notes of the organ impressively, and the depth of the registers used in  Apparition de l’eglise eternelle actually caused your stomach to churn. My favourite piece was much calmer, Bach’s sublime Liebster Jesu, Wir Sind Hier.

Sam Amidon, Lily-O
Sam’s new album features his great live collaborators, Shahzad Ismaily and Chris Vatalaro, with the added gorgeousness of Bill Frisell’s electric guitar. In his note on the songs, Sam says, “At one point in Iceland we were at the end of a full day of recording. We had just finished listening through some of the takes just to see where everything was at. It was about 8pm, nighttime in Reykjavik, and we were all sitting there on the couch at the back of the main control room in Greenhouse studios. I put some music from my computer onto the big speakers. Music sounds so strong and clear through those big speakers! I put on “We’ll Be Together Again” by Pat Martino, recorded in 1976. Bill said it was the first time he was hearing it in ages. We listened. Then I put on “Jesus Maria” from Jimmy Giuffre Trio 1961 with Paul Bley and Steve Swallow. That is beautiful music. It lifts you up, doesn’t it. We just listened for a good while, before heading downstairs to dinner.”

On first listen the album sounds tremendous, strong songs and vivid performances. And I have to add that the Guiffre piece is just beautiful… For a taste of what Frisell brings to Amidon, here’s a video of “Saro” shot live at the Poisson Rouge. Sam essays the song’s chords on an old dustbowl-dull Martin, a professorial Frisell to his left as they take this beautiful ballad for a stroll down by a clear flowing stream. Frisell is such an inspirational guitarist, and, playing off Sam’s elegant and affecting plainsong, wraps his fearless, chiming lines around the vocal. It’s a wonderfully openhearted performance, and Bill’s smile at the end is treasurable.

 

Extra!
Italian Paparazzi Elio Sorci – who was named “Highest paid photographer in the world in 1963” – featured in the Sunday Telegraph magazine. I loved this pic of Raquel Welch and Marcello Mastroianni in ’66. Remind anyone else of Amy Winehouse?

Sorci

 

 

 

Extra! Five Things I Loved This Year…

The Best Use Of An Unlikely Venue
Sam Amidon, Westminster Central Library. Turned into, variously, a New York avant-jazz Loft Space, a poetry workshop, a folk festival and a church.

Sam

 

This Table In Spain
Mark Ritter: Alter Muddy Water. Written by Lee Hazlewood. Heard once, thanks to YouTube, never forgotten (or, for that matter, ever want to hear again.)
Table

 

This Guitar At The Christie’s Sale
Elvis’ Fender Jaguar, apparently.
Elvis Guitar

 

Favourite Acrobatic Moment From My Favourite Concert
The Webb Sisters’ astonishing backflip in the “Charlie Manson” verse of The Future, Leonard Cohen concert, Paris Olympia, where he played his greatest works [songs you’ve loved so long they’re almost part of your DNA] with his greatest ever band.

LenOl

 

 

And At The End Of The Year, A Present
A Hollie Cole album is always a welcome addition to our household, and this December, an early Christmas present, Night. Standout tracks are stunning versions of If You Could Read My Mind and Good Time Charlie’s Got The Blues, with glorious support from her original Trio, David Piltch on bass and Aaron Davis on piano.There’s a sadness in her voice that can’t be denied, but music this great always uplifts.

Oh, And Something To Look Forward To For Next Year…
The outrageous trailer for Baz Luhrmann’s version of Gatsby, featuring, as its soundtrack, No Church in the Wild by Jay-Z and Kanye West, Florence and The Machine’s Bedroom Hymns and—for its final, most hysterical third—Filter’s industrial version of The Turtles’ Happy Together. Sensational.

Five Things I Saw & Heard This Week: Wednesday 8th August

Killing Me Softly With Their Song
Now the second season of The Killing has come to an end I’ll hear no more the striking and enigmatic theme, my favourite piece of tv music. Some Great Detectiveness (© Bob Burden’s genius Flaming Carrot) leads me to find that it was written by a couple of London-based musicians (see Alabama 3/The Sopranos for similar US tv/London-based musician interface). Richard File and Wendy Rae Fowler perform as We Fell To Earth—name and logo influenced by the Nic Roeg/David Bowie film The Man Who Fell To Earth. I resolve to find out more…

Readers/Writers
Aditya Chakrabortty in The Guardian: This week Aditya read David Remnick’s profile of Bruce Springsteen. “Is it a sign of age when you read a music piece not because you like the singer, but the journalist?” I don’t think it is. My guide to the quality of writing in a magazine has always been the same—how many pieces have I read here that are about subjects that are of no, or little, interest to me. The higher the number, the better the writing.

Desert Island Discs 1; Saro by Sam Amidon.
In the performance with Bill Frisell live at the Poisson Rouge on Vimeo. Sam essays the song’s chords on an old dustbowl-dull Martin, a professorial Frisell to his left as they take this beautiful ballad for a stroll down by a clear flowing stream. Frisell is such an inspirational player, and, playing off Sam’s elegant and affecting plainsong, wraps his fearless, serpentine lines around the vocal. It’s a wonderfully openhearted performance, and Bill’s smile at the end treasurable.

The Musical Life, New Yorker, July 23
Watts said the difference between playing jazz in clubs and playing rock and roll with the Stones was the volume. “Also in jazz you’re closer,” he said. “In a football stadium, you can’t say you’re closely knit together. It’s difficult to know what Mick’s up to when you can’t even see him. He’s gone around the corner and he’s half a mile away.”—Alec Wilkinson

Olympic Music
The BBC have pulled out their Battles and xx mp3s with a vengeance for the Olympics, tracking short films about the rowers or cyclists with choice selections, but the overwhelming memory of music at the Games will be Vangelis’ bloody Chariots Of Fire. At first I thought the IOC and LOGOC had just done away with the National Anthems altogether in the Medal Ceremonies and gone with the uplifting, glorious and triumphant™ Britfilm classic, but it turns out that it just soundtracks most of it, before ending with the winners anthem. Ol’ Vangelis’ royalty cheque should make interesting reading…

Five Things I Saw & Heard This Week: Wednesday 18th April

Newsnight v Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All
Oh dear. Old media fails again to report properly on new phenomena… From Stephen Smith’s bizarre “Is this the future of Rock ’n’ Roll?” opening line it was The Day Today all the way. After Brick Stowell explained that he made 300 t-shirts for the pop-up shop (OF are paying their way by selling stuff rather than music at this point), Smith’s supposedly snark aside was: “Are there any washing instructions in here?” How lame is that? A pointlessly combatative interview with OF followed by their manager having to insist they paid taxes, before Smith’s coup de grâce—“Some say the band are a case of new wine in old bottles, or is that a case of old dope in new bongs?” If that’s the level of discourse, if that’s how you’re going to attempt to impart information in the six minute time slot that Newsnight will allow—then why bother? As the kids would say: Jam Yo Hype, Newsnight!

Mystic Malvina
“There were some good things at the Monterey Folk Festival—you must have missed them, or they didn’t appeal to you anyway… A girl named Janis Joplin, square built, impassive, singing blues in a high, skin-prickling voice like a flamenco woman; Bob Dylan, and some others. When thousands of kids are doing something with diligence and devotion, there are going to be some geniuses amongst them—it figures mathematically. And something is coming of this. Bob Dylan is a sign.”

An excerpt from a wonderful letter that folksinger Malvina Reynolds (composer of Little Boxes) wrote to Ralph J Gleason, published by Jeff Gold on his Recordmecca blog. As Jeff says, “Boy, did she ever get that right.” Big Brother & The Holding Company three years in the future and Dylan’s first appearance on the West Coast. “He too was almost completely unknown, and for Reynolds to invoke the genius-word was pretty prescient—and daring, indeed.” Jeff follows this with a letter from a woman called Donna, about Dylan’s 1965 San Francisco Press Conference which is just as good. More and more, these primary sources ring with resonance—the resonance of a time and place, not with hindsight or a critical straightjacket to tie them up in.

Welcome To The Library, Friday evening, 13th April

As far from the jungle as could be—you’d think—the Westminster Reference Library, just off Leicester Square. I used to do my homework there. Tonight it’s the venue for the Sam Amidon Experience.

A power trio unlike any you’ve ever heard. Sam makes the melodies of these old, old folk songs a kind of plainsong—flattened out and dessicated, almost. By repeating and intensifying phrases, voice totally in sync with his unique guitar style, the tunes move forward and shift gears. Behind him, like mad scientists tiptoeing through the cables, his genius accompanyists moved from Slingerland drumkit to computer, from bass to prepared guitar. Take a bow Shahzad Ismaily and Chris Vatalaro. With these two beyond-talented collaborators the show swayed from free jazz to beat poetry to Appalachian ballads (one of which, Prodigal Son, Amidon dedicated to Rick Santorum: “When I left my father’s house, I was well supplied, I made a mistake and I did run, I’m dissatisfied… I believe I’ll go back home, I believe I’ll go back home, I believe I’ll go back home, Acknowledge I done wrong.”)

I took my mum. She found it equal parts beguiling and baffling. She loved the final medley of Climbing High Mountains with R. Kelly’s Relief, where the audience sang the refrain like a hymn. She’d liked to have heard more Beth Orton. Mothers, eh?

Post-Rock Careers: Nine Inch Nails

Literate Rockers Alert!
As Alex Kapranos is to food, so Charlie Fink may be to film, if an enterprising publisher snaps up the Noah & The Whale Film Companion. A really entertaining diary entry in ES Magazine made me warm to a frontman whose band had hardly set my pulses racing at a couple of festival appearances last year. I’ll have to listen anew.


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