Archive for ‘Music’

March 1, 2011

Random Photo of the Day 12: My Office!

In March 2010 I got some powerful friends together to help Save BBC 6Music. And they succeeded! 🙂

December 12, 2010

Gig Review: Faithless, N.I.A. Birmingham, Dec 10 2010

I’d forgotten how much I love live music.

On the train on the way in I was feeling a bit flat. I’d not had enough sleep  as usual, but I was sufficiently caffeined up: even enough to have a drink :-O I’d eaten a quick meal early, & had just managed to settle J before grabbing my stuff at the last minute. Rushing for the train, too cold outside, too hot inside. For once I was grateful that the train was a bit late. I was worried it would be a bit like The Charlatans at V98: just too tired to enjoy it.

However getting off at New Street, standing in the taxi queue, all the time with great Faithless tunes in my ears, I realised I was getting excited. ‘Proper’ excited! ‘Insomnia’ was playing just as my taxi pulled in, & climaxed just as I got in. You know, that bit.

For those who don’t know Faithless are a British band whose core members are vocalist Maxi Jazz, DJ & instrumentalist Sister Bliss & mixer / producer Rollo; vocalist  Jamie Catto being the other founding member. The album vocals complementing Maxi’s raps / chants are mostly provided by Pauline Taylor, but they also are notable for many vocal collaborations, including with Rollo’s sister Dido, Nina Simone, Boy George & Estelle, among others.  They are generally classified as a dance act – their best-known tracks being their huge House anthems – but their range is far greater, covering Trip-Hop, Chill-Out, Funk, Reggae,  & even Ballads.

Once I reached the NIA my first impressions were negative. My seat was much worse than I thought. Right at the top & a long way back. The stage looked distant & I felt removed, remote. The warm-up DJs were going for it & playing great tunes but it felt flat.

Then the opener, Example, came on. I’d only ever heard 1 track of his, & that very recently thru my twitter friend & fellow music-lover @onatrainagain.

Again, first impressions were negative. The bass seemed too boomy, clunky & was drowning out the vocals. I still felt detached.

However after the 2nd track the sound seemed to sort itself out & I then decided: I FUCKING LOVE EXAMPLE. One great track after another, high energy, great crowd interaction, great showmanship. I managed to record a couple of tracks & surprisingly, especially as I’d never done this before, the sound quality wasn’t bad: (format is .m4a, MPEG-4)

Example: Show Me Your Dirty Face

Example: new track You Can Take It Too Far

Note: Although live & vibrant, the sound quality of these & my other recordings is still pretty rough.  If you’re a fan, I thoroughly recommend buying the artists’ official releases. I will be! Faithless have already released a live album from this tour 🙂

A half-hour break, during which I wrote most the above. I’ve only editted it for typos & added the Faithless & audio bits; it was written ‘in the moment’ & I wanted to keep it that way. Which might explain some of the ‘flowery’ language.

Then: the Main Event:

Faithless 1, 11 minutes

(Sound is very choppy in all 3 of these Faithless audio clips, unfortunately; more so in some places than in others. This 1 is particularly bad.  The pick-up seemed to cut out on certain frequencies. I probably shouldn’t have put my mic in the laundry I guess… Despite that I would recommend having a listen: it does get better, particularly in the 3rd & last clip).

To start with my initial misgivings returned: feeling removed from the stage & the sound mix seeming unbalanced, also probably as I didn’t recognise the first few tracks. Having said that, after a couple of minutes the massive aircraft hangar that is the NIA felt like a tent: Faithless’ stage presence is Huge.

Then after 10  minutes or so: sayeth Maxi Jazz, the Grand Oral Disseminator, “This is my church, this is where I heal my hurts…”, kicking off Faithless’ great anthem ‘God is a DJ’. Everyone is on their feet, dancing, cheering, singing, going wild. Even us boring old farts sitting at the back were up & jigging.

Faithless 2, 30 minutes

(Sound is still very choppy, especially at the start, including for ‘God is a DJ’ at 2’20. It’s great for Harry at 6’40 & mostly good after that, including ‘Mass Destruction’ at 16′)

“Harry” – Collier I presume – provided most of the sung parts for this gig, particularly on the more laid-back numbers. He quite simply blew me away. He sang with tremendous power & passion, had a great range including an amazing falsetto, and yet still had a wonderfully sweet quality to his voice. A Star! For me, his vocals were 1 of the gig’s many highlights.

Another of which came soon after Harry’s first appearance: ‘Mass Destruction’, another of their great anthems. The light show & visual displays I thought complemented the music perfectly throughout the gig. Low-key when they should be, & full-on  in-your-face trippy for the big, high-energy climactic moments. At 1 point (during ‘Insomnia’) I can be heard muttering “I wish I’d brought my camera!”. Here it was particularly effective: this is a song with a strong political message – the Protest Song didn’t stop with Dylan, it just got a faster beat* – & accompanying this on the stage was a Rolling News / Stock Market style display showing statistics such as casualties from the Iraq invasion, worldwide deaths from disease & starvation, etc. It was done in such a way so as not to detract from the joy of the occasion, but enough to get the message across. Brilliant.

I felt teased several times when I thought they were going into their big number, ‘Insomnia’, being surprised each time as I had assumed it would be kept for the encore. What I should have known is that they always end their gigs with a particular song, &  – as I discovered  – with good reason.

However, just past the half-way mark (8 minutes into the next & last recording), they did. What can I say? It was fantastic, amazing, wonderful, transcendental. I can maybe be heard muttering, in a possibly less-than-sober state, something like “It’s moments like this that make life worth living!”. The light display went ballistic, as did the band, as did the crowd. Wonderful.

Faithless 3, 1 hour & 18 minutes

(Sound quality is again variable, & good from about 58 minutes to the end. Highlights include ‘Insomnia’ at  8′, ‘What About Love?’ at 19′,  followed by ‘Drifting Away’ at 28′, then ‘Everything Will be Alright Tomorrow’ & ‘Bombs’ at 31′. ‘I Want More’ is choppy, then ‘Salva Mea’ at 44′. Avoiding when I ‘did a Bjork’ & left the mic on while I went to the loo (sorry) at 55′, the rest from 58′ is mostly the terrific encore).

After this 1 great song flowed into the next great song & continued right until the end, where Maxi was overflowingly effusive in his thanks to us, the crowd, for coming to see them & for getting into it the way we did. He seemed genuinely moved: it’s hard not to love the guy.

From what I saw Maxi Jazz is as good a frontman as I’d ever expect to see. His vocals were flawless in pitch & timing; he was passionate, eloquent, spontaneous. And he has to remember a lot of words! He let the music flow & speak for itself, but his interactions with us when they came were heartfelt, & perfectly in step with the show.  The reason I had to take ‘a break’ (see audio note above) was because I was expecting an interval. It never came, & the band was onstage making music for almost 2 hours, non-stop.  Maxi was able to rest while Harry took over the lead vocals, but even so! He was on most of the time, & was Mr. Perpetual Motion: dancing &  jumping nearly the whole time. He goes beyond a mere great frontman, in my opinion: he’s 1 of the few frontmen of any generation who can legitimately be described as iconic. His trademark crucifix-like pose where he stands still with arms outstretched & head bowed – which he employed at key moments to stunning effect –  almost defines an entire genre of music, 1 which Faithless themselves have pioneered.

The rest of the band & backing musicians were also terrific – in particular Sister Bliss with her thundering keyboards, the guitarist & the drummer – they all played with tremendous passion, skill & vigour.

Live music just doesn’t get much better than this – my position & the venue notwithstanding. Some of the best music  I’ve ever heard, performed with great passion, great energy, great skill & by great people, terrific light show & visuals, & with 1 of the all-time great frontmen. If I have 1, personal, criticism, it’s that 2 at least of my favourite Faithless tracks are the slower ones: the Dido-written & -performed ‘Last This Day’, & the hypnotic chant of ‘Killer’s Lullaby’. They & others like them didn’t feature so much & I’d love to have heard them. However they were clearly going for a full-on high-energy adrenaline rush. They succeeded  – with knobs on – and I can’t complain about that!

And the last song of the encore? ‘We Come 1’, another of their great anthems. Maxi uses it to infuse & enthuse with his vision of unity & peace, where we all shout the ‘1’ together after his “We Come…”. A fantastic ending to a fantastic gig.

* And you can quote me on that 😉

September 27, 2009

Daily Twitterscopes (Scorpio): September 2009

Wednesday, September 30th

You are quite private about your past, especially juvenile, success & are often overly careful about your appearance: for instance taking a long time making sure your hair’s alright before you got out at night. It’s not that you are afraid that you’ll look a mess, but – when the mood takes you – you love dancing & you love bands when they’re playing hard. Don’t be bowed; don’t let anyone put you down or say you’re wrong, you still look divine.

Tuesday, September 29th

You’ve been in stress mode, feeling unknown and all alone. Part of the problem is that you take second best; you’ve got things on your chest. Today, maybe you need to confess, to reach out & touch faith. Is there a special someone, maybe by the telephone, someone who cares? Looking forward you may find that they will deliver the forgiveness you need.

Monday, September 28th

If one could read your mind what a strange tale your thoughts could tell:  fortunately you are not required to act this way. So, for now, let’s be real, & light of foot: you never thought you could feel this way, so just try to understand the feelings that others lack.

Sunday, September 27th

You seem to be able to keep this world from dragging you down today. Somehow you can know what’s right, in an often petty world that keeps on pushing you around. Don’t worry that there seems to be no easy way out; sometimes you just have to stand your ground. You’re strong: you won’t back down

May 18, 2009

The Twitter Drinking Song

OK so, Sunday night my twitter-mate @Bass_ decided it was all a bit quiet on the twitter front, & that things could be livened up if he conducted a Twitter Drinking Experiment (TDE). This basically involved everyone drinking a bottle of 2 of wine very quickly then tweeting about it straight away. It appears that the experiment  was a success: twitter definitely became more lively. So I did what every good twittererer should & wrote a song about it. It’s (very) loosely based on Monty Python’s Philosopher’s Song, so you might even like to sing along.

All together now:

Dirty dawg @Bass_ though completely wasted can drink you under the table.

@Richard_Gable when he’s able, quaffs vintage reds ’til his he’s not too stable

@ceggs the dregs has completely drained of 2 bottles of wine without restraint

@Janeybelle15 of the bottle is keen and @JustTooBusy: double she is seein’

There’s nothing @purelaura couldn’t show ya ’bout the ways of Chardonnay. Only 10 bottles & she’s rolling on the hay…

Oh, @Boogaloo1 loves to hit the Blue Nun, 10 bottles of that & she’s anyone’s

@Troublebrother @Troublebrother drinks like no other; for @GreekSarah the session’s just begun

@LucyKD knocks it back freely; 12 bottles of Port then it’s time for tea

And @Drolgerg smashed is annoying & crass, he writes silly songs that don’t even rhyme

Those in @Bass_‘s wine taster were particularly blissed: all lovely little tweeters but more lively when they’re pissed!

Disclaimer: all the people mentioned here are in fact in all probability completely sober & lovely individuals & not at all as they may or not be portrayed here. Some also may contain nuts.

If you’d like to be added just tell me your twitter name, your tipple of choice & how you  may (or may not!) behave when under it’s influence & I’ll see what I can do

March 8, 2009

Musactors Union

Inspired by @jupitusphillip on twitter

There’s been a warp in the space-time continuum, resulting a melding together of actors & musicians. Here’s some of what we’ve been left with:

George Michael Douglas: I Can’t Make You Love Mimi Rogers
Sigur Ross Kemp: Vidrar the River Quai
Tony ‘Smokey’ Robinson & The Miracles of Archeology: You’ve Really Got a
Hold on My Shovel
Seasick Steve Buscemi: My Donny Darko
Don Estelle: American Boy Werewolf in London (aka It Ain’t Half Hot on the
Jean-Claude Vangelis: Chariots of Cyborg
Bob Dylan Moran: Black on Black Books
Radio TonyHead: Straight to Videotape (sorry)
Thin Lizzy Taylor: The Boyo’s Back in Town
The Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf
Pop Will Wheaton Itself: Everything’s Cool (in the Vacuum of Space)
Elton John Wayne: Goodbye Yellow Ribbon Road
John Lee Marvin Hooker: Whiskey & the Dirty Dozen Wimmin (aka Boom Boom)

From EmmaRhoyds

Dave, Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Trisha Goddard
Neil Diamonds are Forever
Last Tango in Paris Hilton

Musactors suggested by kenarmstrong1

The Sex Piss Tilda Swintons – Anarchy in Narnia
The George Lazen Bee Gees – On Her Majesty’s Saturday Night Fever
Deep Perp Phill Jupitus – Smoking Room on the Water
Bonzo Dog the Bounty Hunter Doo-Dah Band – I’m the Urban Spaceman (2001
Odyssey remix)
Sean Conner-Ry Cooder – From Paris, Russia With Love
Credence Clearwater ReviVal Kilmer – Bad MIG Rising
R.E.M. Night Shyamalan – Signy Happy People

Soylent Al Green
Muddy Julie Walters – Educating My Mojo
Dick Van Halen – The Grapes of David Lee Roth
The Pegg Shop Boys – Go West, Fat Boy, Go West
Kathleen Turner Overdrive – You Ain’t Seen Naked in New York Yet
And You Will Know Us by the Trail of ourTed Danson – Save Private Ryan
& the Rest Will Follow
Fiennes Young Cannibals – The Red Dragon Drives Me Crazy
Nicholas Parsons Project – I Wouldn’t Want to be Like You in Just a Minute

Thanks to twitterers RandHobart, LucasBlack, snedwan, vatimatt, MrLEdge, NickPeters, davidpwatts, Call123 for the musactors.

Feel free to add your own here.

March 3, 2009

Strictly Come Dancing? Mamma Mia!

This is something I wrote in a hurry on a BBC Strictly Come Dancing message board, back during the John Sargeant controversy. With the benefit of time I’ve tarted it up a bit; it may even now make sense

The Dancer

“I have a dream” she said, “to be a dancing queen!”

“But Chiqitita” (for that was her nick-name) “does your mother know?” cautioned her brother Fernando

“No – but to follow my dream I must be as brave as a super trouper!”

“You mustn’t do this! You’re always rushing around: another town, another train! And when did you learn to dance?”

“When I kissed the teacher!”

Shocked, Fernando ran off to tell their mother

Rushing in she cried ”Honey, honey – he is your brother! You should listen to him!”

“This family never does anything; at least one of us is trying!”

This struck a chord. “You really want to do this?” mother said, relenting

“I do, I do, I do, I do, I do!”

So, an SOS to the BBC then the ring, ring of the ‘phone & she took the train to Waterloo & waited for her day.

Her day came: she left & she danced for the four.

“Mamma mia – you stink!” said one

“You can’t dance, but you can lay all your love on me!” said another with an unpleasant glint in his eye, at which she was embarrassed.

“Gimme gimme gimme a man after midnight!” said another, & nobody was sure why

“You’d be better off knowing me; knowing you – you were rubbish” said the last.

“Aah!” she cried in despair. “Please take a chance on me!”

“Sorry love, the winner takes it all – that’s the name of the game” they told her, cruelly.

So she left, gracious in defeat, turning as she did so to say “Thank you for the music”, & vowing in her heart to dance while the music still goes on.

For when all is said & done, it wasn’t about her dancing; it was all about money, money, money!

In case you haven’t worked it out the story is based around the titles of ABBA songs. There are 25 of them – did you see them all?

February 17, 2008

Things I Do That Maybe No-one Else Has Anytime Ever

These are things that, while probably won’t make the Guinness Book of World Records or anything similar, may be unique to my existence. If any of them are not – I want to know!

1) As I at present work from home, for my sins I get to do the housework – which can mean, for instance, listening to Radiohead on the wireless ‘phones while Wielding My Mighty Duster. This in itself may be unique, at least for a (theoretically) ‘mature’ married male, but I would love to know if at any other time in human history the following 2 sentences have ever been uttered (yes I do talk to myself) together: “‘How To Disappear Completely’!” & “Where’s my duster?”. Answers on the back of an elephant please to the usual address (that would be here).

Funnily enough ‘Everything In Its Right Place’ fits in quite nicely – maybe ‘Kid A’ is actually a concept album about housework – Discuss. BTW ‘Paranoid Android’ sounds amazing if you get the vacuum cleaner to kick in at just the right moment – Rock & Roll!