I want to comfort you…

I used to get angry at those Van Morrison fans who sat so seriously listening to the Man intently searching for some special meaning form the artists every breath, phrasing or honking sax solo. Until I read this interview:

It’s just, it’s just … it’s just music, that’s all it is.”

It’s good to know that the man sees his art form as a job. It’s what he does and he is good at it, maybe even great at it. It is the very fabric of him, he listens to singers and sings songs, the band plays the songs they know, nothing special.

I have seen Van Morrison several times, twice he was transcendent, inspiring and on fire, three or four times he sucked, not that he was bad, it was just that he was putting in a shift at the coal face of performing.

The joy of most Van Morrison albums is that you can actually dance to them. Well if you could dance unlike me you could dance to them, what I can manage is a gentle sway, raucous stagger and a flailing ecstatic type movement depending on the song, album or era. Over time I have rocked three of my own children to sleep to Van Morrison and tonight my first Grandchild fell asleep to the rhythmic rocking to Veedon Fleece.

IMG_2648.JPGVeedon Fleece is one of those Morrison albums that has been elusive on vinyl, at least it was until Vinyl Me Please re-released it, now you can find many reasonably priced versions in all sorts of places. Of course they are not cool green vinyl and don’t come with a pointless “art print” and a cocktail recipe nobody would ever make. Any Van fan worth their slat knows you should just drink Guinness and Jameson’s when listening to the cantankerous one.

It’s a meandering album of slightly folky songs with that soul voice. It’s the Irish album I guess, although Van has seldom strayed far frondtrackm his Irish roots. Contrary to popular opinion I don’t think it’s really very much like Astral Weeks, it’s quite a conventional album, maybe a little more personal lyrically than others but it’s not ground breaking. What it does have is a uniformity of feel, if your feeling a little homesick, melancholic or lovelorn it’s a perfect soundtrack, or if you need something melodic to rock the baby to sleep.

 

she’s a girl from the good earth and the high tree forest…

IMG_2645.JPGHips swaying to the beat, long hair flowing , curls laying on curls along the small of her back, eyes closed head back and smiling. Opening her eyes bluer than blue, lips slightly parted as her hands make flowing motions in the air. It must be close to 2a.m and the end is near, just one more song, Mariachi bands and ladies in diamonds, bullfighters and danger. Eldorado by Neil Young. Then the discordant guitar hits and she collapses onto the cushions on the floor panting and laughing for a second rolling over to smile and reach out.

I can still see her on that night, baggy Levis rolled up above her ankles, Docs thrown into the corner, white tank top and a blue and red flannel. An American in England mixing and matching what made sense fashion wise between Brighton and Oregon, two worlds colliding 200 plus miles from Liverpool and 3000 from Portland. She arrived a sorority girl cheerleader and went back a little grungier, the laughter the gigs the pubs, standing stones and ancient monuments and mostly history some of it we made together.

Thanksgiving dinner was the full English at the Stage Door cafe. You could never eat it all, leaning against  each other, smiling touching and laughing. The knowledge that in a few days she would be leaving, going back to finish her degree. She said she was coming back, I had bought a ring in a small store, it was beautiful, an antique and it meant something.

I called my Dad before she left and talked of the risk, he told me that sometimes you have to let some people go so they can come back. I remember standing in the dark feeding coins into the phone box on the corner, my Dad sounding so far away and yet so certain as he always was.

The eighties were ending and the 90’s about to start it seemed like anything could happen.

IMG_2646The last album we played together the night before she left was Later That Same Year by Matthews Southern Comfort. A beautiful album full of California sun made by a young man from Barton on Humber, the wrong side of the river as my friends from Hull would say. I had bought it only for the Fairport Convention connection, I kept it because it is such a well crafted album, it also introduced me to so many American musicians in one fell swoop. It is maybe what Fairport Convention may have sounded like if Matthews had not left, the van had not crashed and Hutchings had not discovered Childe Ballads, who knows, there are so many uncertainties.

It’s Thanksgiving next week and sometimes it’s hard to know what to be thankful for, however sometimes the true treasures are staring us in the face.

honesty’s all out of fashion…

Two weeks until the next plane ride to the hometown, thats almost 36,000 miles this year on jets. I have no idea what the carbon footprint of that is, although I did discover that with KLM you can off-set the carbon cost which goes some way to making me feel better. Three airlines and one has gone out of business already, farewell Thomas Cook it was always interesting flying with you, Bachelorettes and drunken Mancunians heading home after the week in Vegas, the frustrated 20 year olds realizing they could not drink in the US and other assorted passengers. The searches and the delays, the bad food and the long waits for the next plane, the strange orange soda in Iceland and the lure of beer at 7a.m. Shuttle busses and car rental lines, all in a days travel.

I realized this week that planes are somewhat my future for awhile and bought a pair of noise cancelling bluetooth headphones. They will also double for use on the tractor though so the expense is justified. (This is just  a sad excuse to buy something I wanted, pretending that it has some other use that will excuse the expense.)

IMG_5190E9461AAD-1In a truly strange experience I am sat here in the living room listening on headphones to the streaming version of a record that I have just listened to on the record player. I have admit that to my poor ears it sounds as good as it did on the stereo, lets face it I do not have the greatest stereo in the world, my turntable may be a bit better than the Bose system it plays through. Music has not really ever been about the equipment for me, yes it is important not to have something that will damage the records and sounds good, it is not however not necessary to break the bank. I will fix it one day when the system I have needs replacing.

So here I am in my mid-price bluetooth noise cancelling headphones, enjoying Jon Boden and the Remnant Kings new album for the first time today streaming but the third time total. It is a fine folk record without the bellicose grandiosity of Bellowhead. The cover version of Hounds of Love is haunting and reverential in it’s own way and the songs off Songs from the Floodplain definitely add something to the mix, it’s intense with the requisite amount of rock to the folk making it something unusual a real folk rock record, their are electric guitars, squalling fiddles and a cacophony of squeezebox sounds along with real drums.

So a final picture of the record to prove that I really have not abandoned all sense or commitment to the world of records, LP’s or vinyl if you must.

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an archer split the tree…

Simplicity of song, one instrument one voice. 1970.

It’s really early on a Saturday morning, the roar of the news is all about impeachment and because of the silly adherence to old ways it is so dark outside as we have entered “standard time.”

Time for something more reflective and quiet maybe at this early hour. So here is a suitably crappy dark picture for the hour of the day.

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There is something refreshing about hearing After the Goldrush without the roar at the “I felt like getting high” line and Cinnamon Girl on piano on the archive release Live at the Cellar Door. The real standout for me though is Flying on the Ground is Wrong. This is Neil Young before the height of his fame that was to follow and the CSNY tours and the coke and the craziness.

It’s hard to explain what Neil Young as an artist has meant to me at times, it’s a little sad occasionally fandom. His music has helped me deal with the birth of my children, the aging process and death of friends and family. Yes frequently the songs are relatively meaningless when you start to dissect them but that in itself is meaningless if music is the intersection of emotion and memory.

When me and my friends really started to get serious about listening to music other than the music our parents, brothers, cousins made us listen to, around 1980 or so Neil Young had only been recording for about 14 years, his career was about as old as we were. That in itself is pretty mind boggling as he hit 50 years or so of career nowadays. My friends hated Neil Young, his voice was high and squeaky and his guitar playing was brutal and rudimentary and not filled with fast runs of notes and screaming dives of sound. They didn’t get it. They couldn’t get behind my obsession, preferring Whitesnake, UFO the Scorpions and Van Halen not the whiney Canadian, at least we knew his nationality.

Over the years we went back and forth and argued and I never won.

I did however have a sense of satisfaction watching my friend John’s band cover Eldorado from Freedom the other month. It only took thirty years or so but he gets it now too. One down three to go.

 

the warsaw concert…

I am never sure how to write about Tangerine Dream.

I have never been particularly good at describing music, the ebbs, the flows, the peaks and troughs, the dissonance etc.

My favorite instrumental music is often electronic, I am however awful at remembering names of bands and performers so it is hard to gather a suitable collection of music, I do however like Tangerine Dream, at least up to the mid to late eighties, after that it gets hard as there is so much to hear and try and they seemed to become a soundtrack band which seldom interests me especially when the film may have been bad.

IMG_2624.JPGPoland the Warsaw Concert was released in 1984, a strange Orwellian year. Also the year I went to college and this was the first album I remember buying as a liberated student no longer living with my parents. My dad had asked me to leave the family home despite me going to school less than 12 miles from my home. I think we had collectively had enough of each other by 1984, he was sick and I was an arrogant childish adult. Most of my 18th year I had been oblivious to the struggles of my parents, health wise and financially, they had protected me from a lot, but things had gotten to the point when my dad was done, and probably justifiably so.

In his words, “Neil moved out at 18 and never came back and seemed to get farther away geographically as we got closer.” eventually I ended up 6,000 miles away, I don’t think either of us expected that. My mum may have never forgiven either of us.

I bought Poland about 8 weeks or so after moving into the dorm/halls of residence, pick your name, and about 4 weeks before I was asked to leave. I was living alone for the first time, with an income of some sort, was answerable I thought to nobody and free to be me. The problem was the me I was chasing to be was not particularly easy to live with according to my neighbors, and then I had to move out to share a small room in a house near Sefton Park in Liverpool. I am sure one of the contributing factors to being so difficult to live with as Poland.

Today I would say I may have been depressed. I used to sit on the floor in the dark and play the album loudly, loud enough to rattle glasses and cups. I would play all four sides repeatedly eventually ending up laying on the ground being overwhelmed by the music, only rising every 20 minutes or so to flip the album.

Being thrown out may have been the best thing for me. I started to communicate with others, shared meals and cleaned up after myself, learned to get the rent in on time and even went to classes eventually. I also learned that when you live on one floor of a large terrace house you had to turnt hat shit down, unless it was mutually agreed to turn that shit up.

I put Poland away and never played it again, until this week when I bought a copy and slipped it on. I sat on the floor in the dark, the dog put his head in my lap and I thought of all those miles between me and my dad and how close we were. I was also aware I live in a home with four generations and exercised some control on the volume. Seems that I have come full circle in some ways.

As to the music, it is four tracks of pulsating, rhythmic synth excellence and thankfully it doesn’t take me back to that strange time of liberation and loneliness.

call me crazy, call me sad call me lazy, call me bad…

I woke up confused, a little achey, head in a fog and wondering what was going on, it was 5.a.m. and the choice was there to roll over. Of course I had to go the toilet which put ruin to that. Stumbled into the kitchen, let the dog out, make the coffee, sit down with the remote and get ready to stare at the heady mix of the 24 hour news cycle or football. Impeachment and VAR, controversial, inevitable and in some way unsatisfactory and damn its Veterans Day approaching and all the conflicting thoughts and emotions that brings.

Head in hands as I waited for the coffee, I am not going to do it, start the day with all that clutter pushing its way into my head.

Sunday used to be these lazy slow days, they had a feel to them, you moved slowly read the papers got the coffee, made breakfast, take a walk, listen to music, go to church, work in the garden, visit family, loll around until you were ready to sleep again. The structure was defined by the meals, the Sunday Roast, breakfast, dinner. It was a day that time stretched and warped so everything somehow fitted, a slower longer less defined day.

So I stood up and stretched and looked around and decided that I was alone part from the dog and therefore should do something for us, it’s too dark to walk but we can listen to something. Of course it should not be loud rollicking and rolling at this awful hour, so John Martyn’s Sunday’s Child was decided on, it’s quiet and reflective and well has Sunday in the title.

Then I ruined it all by sitting here and writing it all down.

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it hurts me too…

Clapton really has been in some great bands and played with some great musicians and then he has had some great musicians in his solo bands and yet still it is hard to get through a whole album consistently. Then there is the Crossroads box-set.

It’s a magical thing, all Clapton’s greatest moments collected, distilled and put in one place so you don’t have to buy the records and get that sense of disappointment when w you hit a bad song. Of course that is only up to 1988, after that you are on your own.

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The only really questionable moments on the entire set is some of the reggae attempts on Peter Tosh’s Watcha Gonna Do. Clapton doesn’t sound convincing or even convinced, everything else passes muster. Even the overly sentimental songs manage when placed on the box sound better than on their original albums.

So here we have it Clapton’s best selling compilation and apparently the fastest selling compilation of all time. All those copies make it relatively easy to find and more importantly reasonable to buy, and it is worth it, all the high points from the Yardbirds to solo with none of the cringing that can go along with a Clapton album. Now yes there could have been more Cream but let’s face it they never made that many records so go buy them all.

As you leaf through the book and the credits it does make you realize what a great interpreter of other peoples songs Clapton is, and yes his playing is truly something special when he is together enough.

I just realized I have the CD version of this somewhere as well so I must really like it.