September 15, 2014
September 12, 2014
September 5, 2014
In the New Statesman, Tracey Thorn laments that she’s lost an excuse for not doing live performances herself and loses herself in the performance at the Hammersmith Apollo in London:
Six straight songs and then, just as we are relaxing, the stage transforms, and the drama begins: a multi-sensory performance of “The Ninth Wave”, the suite of songs that forms side two of The Hounds of Love (1985). There’s Kate on screen in a life jacket, apparently slipping away from us, singing “And Dream of Sheep”, one of her most beautiful songs.
I should probably write this somewhere more formal – my will, perhaps – but in case I forget, let me say here that I would be happy for you to play this song at my funeral. I weep as she sings it, partly because I’m imagining my own funeral, but also because we are witnessing a struggle between life and death, where a drowning woman yearns to be saved, to return to her beloved family. “Let me live!” she cries a few songs later. Overwhelming and exhilarating as they are, all the special effects – Kate in a tank, a helicopter search beam strafing the audience – are in the service of the songs and the story.
Why is it so moving? Well, because when finally she is brought back it is not just the fictional heroine, but Kate herself who has survived the years, and those cold seas, and returned to us. The two strands, family love and audience love, intertwine as she shows us how both mean so much to her. “D’you know what?/I love you better now,” she sings, as the first half ends and we wipe our tears.
Part two is calmer, more reflective, consisting of one side of the recent album Aerial (2005). Reprieved from death, she now revels in the simple, sensuous pleasures of life. Birdsong on a summer afternoon. The setting of the sun and the rising of the moon. In more conventional hands this could be merely decorous and pastoral, even a little twee, but somehow she has found a way to transform contentment into euphoria. The mood is hypnotic, rhythmic and trancey, and the stage dazzles with images of light and flight; less genteel garden party, more full-on midsummer rave, it could be the ultimate blissed-out headliner of a blistering, sunny Glastonbury.
And her singing voice, which I so worried about? It is a thing of wonder, any youthful shrillness replaced by a richer, occasionally gravelly tone, and with a full-throated power unbelievable in someone who has so rarely sung live. All I can think is that she must have been practising, on her own in a barn somewhere, for the past 35 years. Practising, planning, waiting for all the stars to align – her own desire, the cast of collaborators, the right time and place – in order for this to happen. And it is an ecstatic triumph, a truly extraordinary achievement.
September 1, 2014
I always love it when some record from the “Sixties folk music boom” comes on the radio, and one can wallow for three minutes in comically twee clean-cut earnestness: the Kingston Trio, Peter, Paul and Mary, the Brothers Four and all the other college boys pretending to be field-hands. As for the songs, I quoted in my Seeger send-off this trenchant analysis of his lyric style by James Lileks:
‘If I Had A Hammer’? Well, what’s stopping you? Go to the hardware store; they’re about a buck-ninety, tops.
Just so. Anyone can have a hammer, and hammer in the morning, hammer in the evening, hammer out danger, hammer out a warning, hammer out love between one’s brothers and one’s sisters all over the land.
But, upon reflection, the fact that the thought is idiotic is, I think, the point. If it made sense, it would sound too polished, too written, too Tin Pan Alley. It can’t be easy sitting in your study and writing brand-new “folk” songs when you’re a long way from the cotton fields. So somehow these guys got it into their heads that, if you sounded like a simpleton, it would come over as raw and authentic. I once spoke to a Vegas pal of Bobby Darin’s, who gave an hilarious account of Darin, coming out of his finger-snappy tuxedo phase, and agonizingly re-writing and re-re-writing his “folk anthem” “A Simple Song Of Freedom” because he was worried it was insufficiently simple.
The legacy of this period is less musical than political: half-a-century back, the self-consciously childlike “folk song” met the civil rights movement and helped permanently infantilize the left. I caught an “anti-war” protest in Vermont a few years ago and the entire repertoire was from the Sixties, starting with “Where Have All The Flowers Gone?”, which as a poignant comment on soldiering was relevant in the Great War but has no useful contribution to make in a discussion on Iraq. And, as I observed of Pete Seeger’s visit to the “mass” protest movement of our own time, the more pertinent question with the Occupy Wall Street crowd is “Where have all the showers gone?”
Mark Steyn, “A Mighty Wind”, Steyn Online, 2014-02-01
August 27, 2014
BBC News reports on the first live performance by Kate Bush since 1979:
Kate Bush has made her stage comeback to an ecstatic response from fans at her first live concert for 35 years.
Bush received a standing ovation as she closed the show with Cloudbusting, from her 1985 hit album The Hounds of Love.
The 56-year-old British star was appearing at London’s Hammersmith Apollo — the scene of her last live show in 1979.
Tuesday’s three-hour set kicked off a run of 22 shows, titled Before the Dawn, which sold out in minutes.
Afterwards, she thanked fans for their “warm and positive response”.
Backed by seven musicians, Bush opened the show with Lily, from the 1993 album Red Shoes.
There was a huge roar from the crowd as Bush appeared on stage — barefoot and dressed in black — leading her five backing singers.
“It’s so good to be here — thank you so much,” she told the cheering crowd.
She later introduced one of the backing chorus as her teenage son Bertie who, the star said, had given her the “courage” to return to the stage.
The first half of the show included the 1985 single Running Up That Hill and, from the same Hounds of Love album, the song suite The Ninth Wave — which combined video, theatre and dance to tell the story of a woman lost at sea.
After an interval, the second act was dominated by songs from Bush’s 2005 album Aerial.
August 17, 2014
It’s been a while since I last saw Jeff performing live, but this little video taken last weekend at the Coldwater Steampunk Festival gives you a taste of what he can do:
We’d driven through Coldwater earlier in the week, on our way to visit friends in Waubaushene on Georgian Bay, but couldn’t get back there on the weekend for the festival, unfortunately.
H/T to Boing Boing‘s Rob Beschizza for the link.
August 15, 2014
August 13, 2014
I first fell under Bush’s spell in the autumn of 1985, the year she released her fifth studio album, Hounds of Love. The record had already gone straight to number one when on an October Saturday, mum took me on one of our cinema trips. The film I think we went to see was Brewster’s Millions but I can recall nothing about it. All that has stayed with me is the vivid memory of the trailer that showed first, a premiere of Kate Bush’s new video for the second single from the album, “Cloudbusting”.
For nearly seven minutes I was mesmerised. There was Bush, dressed like a boy from the Fifties, with a short red Dennis the Menace wig, Fair Isle cardigan and dungarees struggling up a vertiginous hill, behind a giant machine pulled on ropes by her father, played by the Hollywood actor Donald Sutherland. There weren’t many hills that steep in Birmingham and I had never seen such a vast horizon as the Vale of the White Horse in Oxfordshire where the action was set.
Into that seemingly endless blue sky, Bush and Sutherland pivot around the giant silver pipes of their machine. When nothing happens, Bush clutches Sutherland and she looks almost comically tiny, barely reaching his waist. The scene cuts to Sutherland in a laboratory and then back to sinister men in black hats and coats who appear and bundle Sutherland into the back of a car, chased by Bush. From the back window, he gestures her back to the hill where in the finale, she manages to wrestle the machine into producing a giant rain cloud, heavy drops falling down onto the car as it disappears over the horizon.
Belated H/T to Elizabeth for the link.
August 9, 2014
“Then at 18, along comes Bob Dylan; he pretty much saved my life because he couldn’t sing or play either”
Vicki L. Kroll talked to Al Stewart for the Toledo Free Press:
“I often say I only have two talents in life: I can rhyme just about anything, and I can read a wine list. And as it happens, these are the two things that you need to do my job,” he said and laughed.
Most know the artist for the jazzy, piano-driven “Year of the Cat” with its memorable sax and guitar solos and clever lyrics. The cool song was a surprise hit in 1977 during the disco era.
“We really didn’t see that coming,” Stewart said. “I purposely tucked ["Year of the Cat"] away at the end [of the album of the same name] because I thought it was the least commercial track. I had no idea. I tend to put the long songs at the end.”
Born in Glasgow, Scotland, Stewart grew up in Bournemouth, England, telling everyone he was going to be a rock musician.
“I discovered to my horror when I bought an electric guitar that I really didn’t have a talent for it,” he recalled. “I was really hovering in total anguish at 17. Then at 18, along comes Bob Dylan; he pretty much saved my life because he couldn’t sing or play either, but, of course, he was able to unspool these vast amounts of words by, as one of my songs says, ‘throwing them like fireworks in the air.’
“And I thought: I can do that. I can’t do it exactly the same as Bob Dylan, but I get the principle: You buy an acoustic guitar and then you write hundreds of words in songs and turn them into stories. So I sold my electric guitar and became a folk singer.”
July 28, 2014
Uploaded on 28 May 2008
Mark Knopfler from his promo tour for Kill to Get Crimson, live in Berlin 2007.
July 27, 2014
A long time ago, in an English town most of you have never heard of…
He has achieved huge success as a singer-songwriter and has – by his own reckoning – made and lost a million dollars three times.
But although he long ago moved to California, Al Stewart remembers in vivid detail his life as a pop-obsessed teenager in Wimborne.
He will be back in the town on Friday, August 1, for a sold-out concert at the Tivoli – and to visit his old home at Canford Bottom.
“I got a very nice message from the person who now lives in the house I grew up in,” he told the Daily Echo from California.
“This lady invited me to look at my old bedroom.
After leaving school, Stewart went to work at Beales in Bournemouth – not in the record department, but in the linen department.
He also played guitar with The Tappers, who later backed a young Tony Blackburn as he attempted to become a pop star.
When Stewart joined Dave La Kaz and the G-Men, Jon presented the band to the Echo, claiming hyperbolically that the guitarist had written 40-50 songs.
Bournemouth’s music scene was thriving at the time.
Manfred Mann were a weekly attraction throughout 1963.
Stewart knew Andy Summers, later of the Police, and remembers sitting in Fortes coffee shop off Bournemouth Square with star-to-be Greg Lake and Lee Kerslake, who would later become drummer with Uriah Heep.
He took 10 guitar lessons from Robert Fripp.
But the biggest star of the local scene, he recalls, was Zoot Money, whose walk he would mimic behind the singer’s back.
In August 1963, The Beatles played six nights at the Gaumont cinema in Westover Road.
Not only were Al Stewart and Jon Kremer there on the first night, but afterwards, they contrived a ruse to meet the band. Stewart tells the story on stage, while Jon Kremer set it down in his memoir Bournemouth A Go! Go!
Wearing suits, the pair managed to get backstage by telling the manager that they were from the Rickenbacker guitar company.
Before long, they found themselves outside the band’s dressing room.
Having dropped the Rickenbacker pretence, they spent a few minutes chatting with John Lennon and trying his guitar.
“People tend to forget that we weren’t living in an age of mega-security,” Stewart recalled.
“You can’t just walk backstage and talk to Justin Timberlake. In those days it was very lax.”
Not directly related to the story, but one of my favourite arrangements of “Year of the Cat”, in a live performance from 1979:
July 19, 2014
It must be disheartening work learning a musical instrument. You would think that Society, for its own sake, would do all it could to assist a man to acquire the art of playing a musical instrument. But it doesn’t!
I knew a young fellow once, who was studying to play the bagpipes, and you would be surprised at the amount of opposition he had to contend with. Why, not even from the members of his own family did he receive what you could call active encouragement. His father was dead against the business from the beginning, and spoke quite unfeelingly on the subject.
My friend used to get up early in the morning to practise, but he had to give that plan up, because of his sister. She was somewhat religiously inclined, and she said it seemed such an awful thing to begin the day like that.
So he sat up at night instead, and played after the family had gone to bed, but that did not do, as it got the house such a bad name. People, going home late, would stop outside to listen, and then put it about all over the town, the next morning, that a fearful murder had been committed at Mr. Jefferson’s the night before; and would describe how they had heard the victim’s shrieks and the brutal oaths and curses of the murderer, followed by the prayer for mercy, and the last dying gurgle of the corpse.
Jerome K. Jerome, Three Men in a Boat (to say nothing of the dog), 1889.
June 30, 2014
Published on 30 Jun 2014
Guild Wars 2 composer Maclaine Diemer gives a sneak peak of the soundtrack for Season Two, which was performed and recorded by a live orchestra in Germany.
To know more about the Living World of Guild Wars 2, make sure to regularly check the Releases page of the website: https://www.guildwars2.com/en/the-game/releases/
June 7, 2014
I first heard about Liquid Tension Experiment through ESR, who also posted this link, saying:
Skip the cheesy Wagner quote and the purple lava lamps at the beginning and prepare to be awed.
Most of the bad music of my lifetime is redeemed somewhere in this two hours; every grunt of crappy three-chord rock, sigh of excessively involuted jazz, and squeal of self-indulgent “progressive” bloat was worth living through because they fused and in the hands of genius gave rise to… this.
Liquid Tension Experiment, Live in LA, 2008.
May 13, 2014
CBC News reports that Nash the Slash has died:
He started the independent record label Cut-Throat Records, which he used to release his own music. Among his albums was Decomposing, which he claimed could be listened to at any speed, and Bedside Companion, which he said was the first record out of Toronto to use a drum machine.
His biggest hit was Dead Man’s Curve, a cover of a Jan and Dean song.
More recently, he played at Toronto’s Pride Festival and toured up until 2012. In 1997 Cut-Throat released a CD compilation of Nash the Slash’s first two recordings entitled Blind Windows. In 1999 he released Thrash. In April 2001, Nash released his score to the silent film classic Nosferatu.
Plewman retired in 2012, bemoaning file-sharing online and encouraging artists to be more independent. “It’s time to roll up the bandages,” he wrote.
In the last few years, Plewman also became a vocal supporter of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford.
He will be remembered for his experimental ethos as well as his unusual stage presence.
“I refused to be slick and artificial,” Plewman wrote of his own career.
There has not been word on how the musician died.
H/T to Victor for the link.
Update: Kathy Shaidle has more.