And all the earth is singing with life’s sweet hum…

After the other days horror show of an album cover I thought I would share this:

blee

 

 

See that’s much better a classic example of early 70’s folk-rock album cover, and the first example I think of the lost art of the folk-concept album. It is a truly dour picture though to go with the story of the man they could not hang.

The inner gatefold is even better:

blee2

Complete with a copy of the John Lee story inserted to brighten the day.

steeleye

To round things off the quartet of Steeleye Span albums in preparation for the gig at the Triple Door in Seattle.

As you can see they all fade into the carpet in a lovely way, except for Rocket Cottage which may be one of those awful album covers that are best hidden away. Sepia was obviously the chosen tone of the 70’s folk-rock band as they folderol and hey nonny non their way through life.

Don’t get me wrong Babbacombe Lee and at least Hark the Village Wait are classics of the genre and Below The Salt and Now We Are Six deserve honorable mentions and Rocket Cottage has The Wombles connection in  Mike Batt.

Anyway there you have it my ramblings for the day and tomorrow we hike.

 

 

You don’t need the papers to tell you all the news…

Having progged out for awhile, although as I type A Trick of the Tail is playing. I thought I would hit the fok-rock extravaganza, especially as Rise Up Like the Sun by the Albion Band had just arrived. Then I spotted it, one of the most important folk-rock albums ever recorded and related to Rise Up Like the Sun in that many of the same players are on it.homeservicefolk-alrightjack-lprecord-543220

Alright Jack by the Home Service was one of the more intelligent albums I was listening to in the second half of the eighties and the depression of Thatcher’s Britain. It really as an album made me think and confront my very comfortable existence.

It was a polarizing album in many ways for me and my friends. Deeply political but not apart from in my memory fixed to a time. Their concerts were as much political rallies at the time as musical celebrations. It was however a time when it was almost impossible not to take sides especially as you watched friends arrested in the beanfield at Stonehenge. Tam’s lyric of “there’s a darkness on the land” really seemed true.

The album is a true folk-rock album, passionate fiery and beautiful all at that same time. My friends preferred the Pogues and their punk sensibility that caused at times lines to be drawn. My raucous friends balked at the brass arrangements of English dance tunes but sang along to John Tam’s scathing lyrics.

As I listened tonight to an album that so defined a time for me I was struck at how true the lyrics were still resonating with me. It is also one of the few albums recorded in the 80’s that managed to avoid some of the more intrusive production techniques. It is really difficult to fathom that it was recorded almost 30 years ago.

Come all you wild young men…

So here we have two records by a band I have loved almost since first hearing them. I have suffered at times it seems through many incarnations, some glorious and some far from satisfactory. I have never been disappointed by a live performance but often bemused by those records.

Fairport Convention have been a constant on my musical landscape. They are one of the very few bands I can say I have bought everything they have ever released and regretted a good amount of it at times but I keep doing it. This may be the definition of fan or stupid. To be honest there is always at least one or two moments I can revisit again and again.

My first foray into the heady world of folk rock, other than Jethro Tull was Fairport’s album Nine. It is distinguished by being an album by a band that has no actual original members performing on it. Of course I didn’t know that at the time. It is also a multi-national album with Jerry Donahue from the USA, Trevor Lucas from Australia and Swarb, Peggy and DM providing the English.

So excitement prevailed when I scored a pretty good copy of Nine along with Rosie. nineNo original members present on either but still two solid mid seventies efforts from the band. Swarb’s vocal on To Althea from Prison is a thing of joy, wah wah fiddle on Bring ‘Em Down is amazing and Donahue’s guitar playing is as spectacular as you may need. This makes Nine the stronger album, although Rosie being patchier does have The Plainsman and I have always enjoyed Furs and Feathers and Rosie, they get a little sentimental at times.

fairport_nineI remember the joy of Nine when I first heard it, I also remember me and my friends attempting to recreate the back cover at our first Cropredy festival. If I ever find my photograph I may post it here. Soon after these albums Sandy rejoined and things changed with her addition, not for the worse but just different.

That first Cropredy we staggered to was 1982. A feature of it was the reformation of the Nine line up. This was a dream for me as I rocked out to Bring ‘Em Down and Polly On The Shore in a befuddled haze. Watching the videos on youtube proves the band were similarly befuddled but having a great time. It was however a 16 yr old’s epiphany of what makes live music so special.

A week later we were all at the Monsters of Rock festival lurching around to Saxon, Uriah Heep, Status Quo, Hawkwind; Gillan and Anvil. It was a heady summer obviously.

These two are part of a more extensive Fairport score I made at garage sales today. They were the first two I played in a sentimental haze. In with them was Angel Delight, Rising for the Moon and In Real Time. I then got a little carried away and ordered Full House and Unhalfbricking. There is something about that countdown to Cropredy time that causes sentimentality to take control.

Let me learn to despise…

Some things are so special you have to take your time to find. Old records are like encapsulated memories, little time capsules of your life. Some are so special they can immediately take you back to a time a place.

I have a list as do most people who collect anything, right at the top of that list is the desire for a really good copy of What We Did On Our Holiday’s by Fairport Convention. Everything about the album is perfect, the artwork, the song selection but most importantly the lineup of that most changeable of bands Fairport Convention.holidays

Nicol, Thompson, Hutchings, Denny and Lamble the folk-rock super-group. It is a perfect band, folkie enough but with definite West Coast psychedelic leanings. It is how the Airplane should sound, the perfect Dylan and Mitchell covers band and yet so English. The covers are perfect, the original songs are sublime, an album that demands to be listened to again and again.

In various incarnations Fairport Convention would go on to make more important albums. Some are at the top of some peoples list of greatest folk rock albums of all time, most explosive live band. They are that most confusing band with more members than a football team. However in 1969 they made this album that is precisely balanced between rock and folk, but has not launched a movement. It is innocent enough to have the title of every English school child’s return to school essay, but world weary enough to cover I’ll Keep It With Mine.

I have been looking for an original but they are all too pricey unless you get the odd A&M album entitled Fairport Convention. without the charming artwork.220px-FairportConventionUSReleaseThe Simply Vinyl and 4 Men With Beards pressings had mixed reviews. Then I found a reference to a Tapestry pressing from Germany. Only 500 made apparently. I found one ordered it and it arrived with a nice big scratch across the second band on side 2 which is Nottamun Town which has something suspiciously like a sitar solo but is probably Richard Thompson on guitar. I despaired but emailed the seller with little hope, they promptly dispatched another that is perfect and my belief in humanity was restored. It is a wonderful pressing, everything is clear and the sound awesome, Martin Lamble’s drumming shines throughout the album.

So here it is my second perfect album along with After the Gold Rush. It immediately transports me back to a field in Oxfordshire, every house it has ever been played in and every cuddle on the couch to explain how important this album is to me. The beginning of a love affair with a band that are simultaneously annoying in their caprices and amazing in their ability to perform live so many styles and varieties of music.

It is a beautiful simple album without the future violin pyrotechnics, drinking songs and raucous laughter of future lineups and the tragedy to follow.  It is a moment in time before the seventies when possibilities outnumbered the chance of being held back. A time when the other band from Muswell Hill managed with the right producer to make a classic.

All that is left is to find the perfect copy of Unhalfbricking, Liege and Lief and Full House, of course it is unlikely to end there as the completest in me will take over.

Take a look below to see how wonderful a Fairport performance at Cropredy can be given the right circumstances and the English summer sun.

 

Here’s to the lone and wayward son

Here is one from my favorite local Portland(Oregon that is) bands, Blitzen Trapper. Destroyer of the Void was a surprise when it came voidout, following on the folky leanings of Furr, the opening track starts out as if Queen played folk-rock with the Beatles and then runs the gamut of classic rock, folk with space rock synth moments swooping through the mix.

I have always found Blitzen Trapper to be a little more honest and in your face and less reverential than their near contemporaries The Decembrist’s. They manage to reference folk-rock without paying homage, or placing a finger in the ear. They are definitely more rock than folk delving into seventies guitar god moments that can cause you to imagine the seams splitting in the striped pants as the foot goes on the monitor. At times they can be a little throw everything at the song but it always comes out sounding so fun. Quirky time signatures and lyrics that at times remind me of Dylan or the Kinks, a heady mix of influences that can confuse at times as much as delight.

Anyway Destroyer of the Void arrived in a pretty gatefold sleeve and looks and sounds wonderful. My son already stole it and disappeared into his room with the volume set to 11, all because I had to stop playing it for Spanish homework.

The obligatory Record Store Day connection is that Blitzen Trapper will be releasing their live version of Harvest for this years day. I probably won’t go but maybe Chris will pick me one up.

Anyway here are 10 from the Trapper.

I Hate The ****** Eagles

Well I don’t really hate them but I was thinking how much great music there was being made at the time the Eagles were formed, some of it even being made by members of The Eagles. I also fall on the Dudes side of preferring Creedence to The Eagles every time.

It was a rich time in music and I am by no means an expert but here you have it my Spotify playlist of tracks other than The Eagles that embody that laid back California feel from the period of the late 60’s to the early 70’s. It just seems that The Eagles collectively took everything that was great about the cross-pollination of rock and country music and made it insipid and safe. while simultaneously convincing the world that they were the greatest band from California.

So judge for yourself and investigate those other bands it really is a rich vein, especially Manassas.

It’s not that The Eagles were bad, it’s just they seemed to have no passion, they even took one of the most inventive, crazy fun guitarists in Joe Walsh and toned him down, I have no idea how that happens, maybe the drugs

Usually after almost a year of absence I would begin with some reason but I lost interest and that is pretty much it. Maybe this is a new wind who knows, probably helps I have been sick for a week.

Send an instant karma to me, initial it with loving care

Living in a house with 3 teenage boys can be different, well two are teens and one is almost. There is a constant cacophony of musical styles throughout the house. The Wu Tang Clan clash with Rush, Dizzy Gillespie, Mumford and Sons and Marcey’s Playground. There is no defined musical identity in the house, car or yard. It’s really very refreshing and surprising. The boys have taken Spotify to heart and are eager to experiment with whatever they can hear following suggested lists to the next album or artist ever curious on a musical journey.  And that’s the music they are listening to not the music they are playing.

Of course all this is off-set by Michelle insisting on listening to Jimmy Buffett who may quite likely be the anti-christ when it comes to music, his margarita’s and hush puppies can stop any intimation of dancing. “None of you understand” insists Michelle, “We don’t need to. ” Is the reply. Of course it takes all sorts as evidenced by my affection for Neil Diamond, Shirley Bassey and the Monkees.

It’s a loud happy house most of the time, music, laughter and every night around eight Chris will shout “Are we going to watch something?”

It’s also at times a really messy house, socks at the foot of the stairs, shirts on the back of chairs and feet on the furniture and the dog racing around. My wife is a saint, there is no disputing this.

This week I’ve been mining the darker side of my musical leanings, by that I mean prog rock, post punk and the oddness that is art rock. Actually on reflection it was a pretty eclectic week after all. It’s been different sitting down to listen and appreciate and be still with the music.

So it’s time to get pretentious:

The music this week has been a little on the art rock side, or pretentious shall we say.

Dr John, the Night Tripper with Gris Gris. Louisiana mysticism meets jazz, blues and rock. Not only is Dr John one of the great arrangers of rock but he has a voice that drips with experiences the listener can only guess at, and at times be afraid of. This is the voice of a man wrestling with his demons.

Brian Eno, Here Come The Warm Jets, post-punk before punk, weird shambolic pop sculpture, violent beautiful and just plain out there. Brian Eno is one of the geniuses of pop music and Here Come The Warm Jets announced that to the world, no longer was he the strange man in the corner with Roxy Music but a songwriter using keyboards in ways that others could not even imagine. Of course Ennosification became a description of the sound on albums by Genesis and Bowie and all those post-punk bands thought they had created that strange alien sound. Baby’s On Fire has Fripp’s greatest solo, in fact it seems to be a song based on that solo.

Pavement’s Slanted and Enchanted was next. Real post-punk with a big dose of the Fall in place. A piece of it’s time, fun but ultimately a period piece. I think I missed this in the 80’s and while I can appreciate it it does not hold me as something to go back to.

John Cale-Paris 1919, it’s Cale it’s accessible, this makes it different.

New band of the week: Galley Beggar with the album Reformation House, this sounds like it could have been performed by Fairport Convention in one of their many Hey Day’s. It’s a wonderful album hearkening back to the 70’s folk-rock so many including myself love, their website is her:

http://www.galleybeggar.com/wordpress/

The week has ended listening to Van the Man’s Inarticulate Speech of the Heart, this is a bit of a disappointment but everyone is allowed a bad one.

We also rocked out in an early 70’s manner to the wonderful Yes Album by Yes. This is their greatest moment when they still had not reached the cape wearing pretensions Rick Wakeman would bring with him. Released the same year as Fragile it is head and shoulders above that album for greatness, of course there is vague science fiction lyrics and the necessary weirdness of Anderson’s strange personal mythology but it just rocks.

I’m writing this listening to Play by Field Music. Their version of Syd Barrett’s Terrapin makes this worth the cost, although Field Music are one of the great new bands out there to be heard.

The Hills Have Ears

A week or so of listening and enjoying the music of Katriona Gilmore and Jamie Roberts. Two songwriters that transcend there young age with the maturity of their songs. It takes a brave person to write a song about a bookseller in this day and age, it caught my attention because of the lines about the only constant in the characters life being his love of books and reading. Jamie has a deft touch on guitar and Katriona must be one of the finest young fiddle players around at the moment.

Also there has been an obvious rash of listening to the music of Ray Davies as we bought tickets to go see him last week, too much fun in too may ways.

Reading has been busy. I finished several books over the last few weeks and none of them were duds although one Brian Aldiss book was of dubious worth in so may ways but so much fun to read. The Year Before Yesterday was entirely too tempting on the bookshelf. A swastika wearing spaceman with a laser gun is too confusing, especially when he is stood on the moon without his helmet. Thankfully the insanity continued throughout the book, it was a strange fix up of two stories of alternate histories tied together loosely with an excuse of a mystery. Well I am going to hope it was a fix up although it really does not matter considering the amount of pleasure from reading it.

Also in no particular order was Robopocalypse by Daniel Wilson which apparently is going to become a Stephen Spielberg movie. It is an intelligent and thought provoking book, although comparison to Terminator are obvious, it also has quite possibly the creepiest cover art in a long time.

Also this month was my second ever Joe Haldeman book with Camouflage. Haldeman’s Forever War is a classic, Camouflage is not a classic but it is a fun read. It concerns two chameleon type creatures on earth and their travels through history. One seems to be learning about humanity the other is more interested in violence and aggression although in the beginning they are hard to distinguish. I found the ending to be disappointing and too easy. Now Camouflage would make a great movie if someone chose to make it, it’s intelligent thought provoking and most importantly for Hollywood full of action.

Also listened to was Ellen and the Escapades. A great English band in that new tradition of folk bluesy English bands made so popular after Mumford and Sons. The truly refreshing thing is the confidence allowing singers to sing in their own accent not trying to adopt a transatlantic middle of the road accent like so many have had to do to be successful. The album has enough feel good songs on it to make it essential for the summer. Here is a suitably atmospheric picture of the band, probably in Yorkshire. Go out and buy the new album it’s called All The Crooked Scenes, you will not regret it.

Back to books, the last one finished was to To Say Nothing of the Dog, which I really enjoyed. It’s a well researched time travel book which is actually funny from start to finish, and considering the length that is no mean feat. Part homage to Victorian fiction and part romantic  comedy it really was a lot of fun. The amount of enjoyment I got from this book will make sure I investigate Connie Willis more.

Of course after such a sweet treat it was essential to jump right back to the conclusion of David Moody’s Hater trilogy with Then Or Us. This has been a thrill ride of a series, following Danny McCoyne and his fellow Haters as they systematically dismantle society. In this episode Danny and Rufus decide that the monster the Haters most resemble in fiction is the zombie, although they are still capable of rational thought but are consumed with hate and attack any of they Unchanged they see. I am about two thirds of the way through this book and still cannot guess how the series will end, every time I think I have a handle on it Moody changes the plot. This is really more horror than science fiction but as I began this blog with a vampire story what the heck.

Well that has been the last few weeks of reading and listening, along the way there was also Bruce Springsteen’s new album and I tried to read Embassytown and gave up. I will go back but I think my mind was not really into it.

Albion Sunrise

A fun filled couple of weeks, new counters leading to now we need a back splash, which is a whole new shopping experience still happening. Off to shopping again today who knew tile would be so difficult to buy, then there is the doubt about the installation, off to youtube videos for that.

Reading wise it has been great, I stated off with Charles Yu’s How To Live Safely In A Science Fictional Universe, which a unique funny, engaging time travel story, if you enjoy science fiction the constant reference will amuse, ultimately though it is the story of one mans search for his father.

I then moved on to Alistair Reynolds Pushing Ice, which at times had overtones of Alien with it’s working space ship setting, Clarke’s Rendezvous With Rama with the mysterious large object in space needing investigation and soap opera with the relationship difficulties an isolated group  of humans hurtling through space at the mercy of the unknown  would face. The ending is a breathtaking achievement and was difficult to put down for a moment. A hugely entertaining piece of hard science fiction.

The final book I finished was A Princess of Mars. Previously I think I have read one book by Burroughs and that may have been Tarzan or The Land That Time Forgot after watching the movie. This time the same thing happened, we went to see the John Carter movie. Realistically we expected very little not least of all because it is a Disney movie. This means for me the movie comes with baggage as Disney really hasn’t made a great live action movie for a long time. With John Carter it seems they have remembered their roots with adventure movies such as 10,000 Leagues and those great genre movies they made in the dim and distant past. It had to help having an author like Michael Chabon help with the script. Anyway the movie is a fun filled action-adventure romp, no it probably will not win any Oscars but it will reward viewing again I believe. After watching the movie my first question was is the book as good, so I looked online and downloaded the first three in the Martian series by Burroughs and found the answer to be yes. Like the movie it is not high art but it is fun and action filled. I was also struck at the richness of Burroughs language. He is writing a popular pulp story but he does not hold back on the language or talk down to his audience, it just makes me think that our vocabulary as a society has diminished, we are also discouraged from taking the time to fully describe settings and experiences for the reader, so much is in short hand nowadays.

It is amazing to think of the number of authors Burroughs has influenced with his novels, from Michael Moorcock to Michael Chabon, Philip Jose Farmer, Ray Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles was a re-imagining of Mars because of Burroughs, and so many others. Tarzan and his infamous yodel are now part of  our collective consciousness. He also helped define a genre as it was in it’s adolescence.

Listening has been based on my hope of going to Cropredy this year, which is now not going to happen. I have discovered three wonderful new bands in Ellen and the Escapades. Larkin Poe and Brother and Bone all three write great songs with Brother and Bone being a definite rock band anyone going to Cropredy this year will enjoy all three I’m sure but the big discovery for me was the new Albion Band album that arrived this week. A rebirth of the Albion Band without Ashley Hutchings just seems wrong. The band has always been a collective and the bands best album Rise Up Like The Sun was the one with the least Hutchings input apparently but the vision has always been his. So now we have a new band with young performers trading under the Albion Band name. Many find this idea difficult to accept although a cursory listen Vice of the People  will I am sure win over the naysayers. It is a loud album definitely on the rock end of the folk-rock spectrum but with enough sense of the tradition of the music as well as the name of the band to make it a worthy addition to the Albion Band catalog. None of the performers on the album need to spend any more time to defend the work, it stand on it’s own, in fact it is in my mind preferable to more of the twee and at times overly precious attempts the Albion Band has made over the years, of course I always did like them best when they rocked. The versions of Roll Over Vaughn Williams and One More Day are performed with confidence and a contemporary feel. Coalville and Thieves Song as original songs sit nicely with the more traditional tunes and the Albion favorites already mentioned. I am excited by the band and the hope for more albums to come as they may be the most exciting folk-rock band out there which I believe is something that has been said of the Albion Band before.