Archive for December, 2012|Monthly archive page

4 tracks really worth a listen

Here are 4 tracks really worth a listen which I’ve dug out from the back of the cupboard over the holidays – they’re arriving here one by one, one a day…

(1, Christmas Eve) TIDES by Nitin Sawhney from Beyond Skin LISTEN


I don’t know too much about this album, I never liked it that much when I got it in around 1999 after it was nominated for the Mercury Prize. After I saw Talvin Singh play a couple of weeks ago at Kings Place, Kings Cross at a Not So Silent Movies session with Evelyn Glennie, and really enjoying his drumming (as well as hers – it was a brilliant improvised percussion-focused session), I had a vague memory of having one of his records – but it turned out to be this one. Wrong talented British Indian. But nevermind, it turned out to be a great find – loads of fabulous tracks such as Nadia and Broken Skin. But Tides was the stand out. It picks up on a big theme of the record, nuclear weapons, in particular in India and Pakistan but weaving a thread all the way back to Oppenheimer and Los Alamos. It melds the Drum & Bass spine of Beyond Skin with jazz piano and the gentle breath of the waves. The piano theme is very reminiscent of Stan Tracey on Starless and Bible Black. And like that precedent, it’s simply beautiful.

Disturbed ocean after French underwater nuclear test, Mururoa Sept 1995

Disturbed ocean after French underwater nuclear test, Mururoa Sept 1995

(2, Christmas Day) DON’T YOU GO by John Martyn from Glorious Fool LISTEN

john martyn glorious fool

A lot of John Martyn’s work from later in his career is written off in the wake of his classic 70s albums like Solid Air, but he never made a record that didn’t have something of genius on it. Glorious Fool came out in the bad taste decade that was the 80s, in 1981, produced by not-to-everyone’s-taste Phil Collins. From memory both of them were in the aftermath of messy divorces. This track has an immense sadness in it, a keening quality you get in Irish sean nos singing. It has a background drone reminiscent of the bagpipes (he went to school in Glasgow, real surname McGeachy) or uillean pipes (he died in Ireland), complemented by a simple piano. It’s an anti-war song though which war he had in mind I’ve no idea, the Falklands conflict didn’t break out til the following year, but there’s never really any shortage to chose from. Listen to it at the right moment and there never was anything more melancholy.


by Alfred Eisenstaedt

(3, St Stephen’s Day) PARADISE CIRCUS by Massive Attack from Heligoland LISTEN

Massive Attack Heligoland

One of those cases where an album has a track that just stands out a mile. The combination of Hope Sandoval’s Mazzy Star-style laid-back vocals and a phat old bass line are a totally winning one, perfect for back to mine in the wee small hours.

Hope Sandoval

Hope Sandoval

(4 plain old Thursday) TIGHINN AIR A’mhuir Am Fear A Phosas Mi by Capercaillie from Nadurra LISTEN

nadurra capercaillie

From memory I came across Capercaillie on a compilation of Celtic music, most of which was Irish, but they were holding up the Scots end. I don’t know much about the band and have no idea what the song’s about, although I think I heard the word Gra in there a few times which is Love in Irish so I presume the same in Scots Gaelic. It’s a sweet sound any way and very reminiscent of Irish singers like Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh of Altan (who I met in Carlingford a couple of years ago and had a drink with at the sailing club bar) and the Brennan sisters of Clannad (one of whom is a friend and whose painting The Ghost of Our Trees sits in my hall below). Bottom line, I just like listening to the soft spoken Celtic words.

Karen Matheson

Karen Matheson

4 reasons to see Silver Linings Playbook

silver linings playbook

I’m just back from a screening in the plush, cosy screening room under the Covent Garden Hotel in Monmouth Street (which has the best Christmas lights in London). I’ve been chatting with the very charming, unpretentious, part-Irish Bradley Cooper who I mainly knew beforehand from great silly films like The Hangover and Wedding Crashers. Silver Linings Playbook is a very different kind of comedy, subtler, more authentic and more romantic. I laid my newly hatched theory on him that Jennifer Lawrence in this movie is very like Meg Tilly in The Big Chill, that vibrant young sexuality allied with a strong individuality, they even share that slightly oriental look – and she does a load of stretching and dancing stuff in that movie, Bradley kindly added to the theory. I think he was convinced – or just very polite. Especially for someone who’s just arrived this evening from LA (where he half lives, the rest of the time residing in his native Philadelphia). We talked a bit about acting with De Niro (he said how generous De Niro was on set to support his performance) and how strong De Niro’s performance is in this film, standing out from almost all of his recent roles. And then a bit about NFL, the older Enfant Terrible being the proud owner of an Eagles shirt from before his defection to the Patriots – which got us into teens and how this film has much of use to say about resilience and taking control in adversity. It’s a pretty much flawless script from David O. Russell, complemented by perfect, judicious improvisation. I asked him about the latter and he highlighted scenes where they went most to town, though within well defined parameters, De Niro’s method, like the parlay betting scene and the comparing meds scene. So the 4 reasons are…

1 The powerful chemistry between Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, not least in the dancing scenes

2 The exquisite direction by David O. Russell, which has the confidence of a man with a real vision (and a script he’s spent five years honing)

3 A fantastically diverse soundtrack which makes great use of Led Zep (What Is and What Should Never Be), the recently departed Dave Brubeck (Unsquare Dance and Maria) and the classic duet of Bob Dylan & Johnny Cash from Nashville Skyline (Girl from the North Country)

4 The uplifting treatment of a difficult mental health issue, highlighting the ubiquity of craziness and how positive and energising it can be.

Jennifer Lawrence

Jennifer Lawrence

Meg Tilly

Meg Tilly

Jennifer in 2010s dancing gear

Jennifer in 2010s dancing gear

Meg in 1980s dancing gear

Meg in 1980s dancing gear

Let’s Zep


Just back from watching Celebration Day at The Phoenix, the concert film of Led Zeppelin’s tribute gig at the Millennium Dome in memory of Atlantic Records founder Ahmet Ertegun (on 10th December, 2007). Stunning performance from them all, with Jason Bonham standing in for his dad on drums. John Paul Jones is striking with his elegant, intense cool, those long fast fingers, that laser concentration. Stand out songs are In My Time of Dying (the blues roots), Dazed & Confused (virtuoso psychedelia from Jimmy Page) and Kashmir (exoticism from John Paul Jones’ keyboards and Robert Plant’s wails).  As a souvenir, with the music still ringing in my ears, here are the heroes…

john paul jones

john paul jones – elegant intensity

jimmy page - mind bending notes

jimmy page – mind bending notes

robert plant - elder statesman of the wail

robert plant – elder statesman of the wail

john bonham - wild and heavy

john bonham – wild and heavy

heavy blues

heavy blues

Musical Blind Spots

Good acting, shame about the 'singing'

Am I blind or have I just closed my eyes?

This is a spin-off music game/chat from Magical Music Moments picking up on Doug Miller’s idea (did I mention his new book is available  from Amazon and all good bookshops which pay UK Corporation Tax now? – and I make an appearance in it alongside grander folk like Olympic gold medal rower Greg Searle). So here’s the game as set up by Doug:

Musicians for which you have a complete blind spot. My nominations – Bruce Springsteen, Otis Redding, Joni Mitchell and Laura Nyro.

Of course the other half of the game is to persuade us we’re idiots for having these musical blind spots and why.

I’ll start with Tom Waits – great in Martin McDonagh‘s new movie Seven Psychopaths, wonderful in Rumblefish, but goddarn his ‘singing’ voice bugs the shit out of me. It always feels so artificial and inauthentic. I was listening to an old Inheritance Tracks podcast (BBC Radio 4) on my jog this morning, on which Ralph McTell played a Robert Johnson record he was given in lieu of pay at a gig in the 60s – that voice is everything Tom Waits would like to be – but ain’t.

Over to y’all…

Not an ounce of soul in her voice and often out of tune

Not an ounce of soul in her voice and often out of tune

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