Sunday 31 May 2015

Going Forward - Digging The Past

It's the last day of may and the last blog post I did was the 888th on this this blog , I don't know if that's significant but there's probably someone who knows and old saying that means something but it was a precursor to a pretty amazing week for me personally, and that week it still continuing to throw up thing that are good , make to think , and make you enjoy life.

A friend had mentioned to me about a project to record  some unrecorded Bob Dylan lyrics from 1967 around the time of the original Basement Tapes when Dylan and the Band were jamming in a basement and the tapes were bootlegged and eventually released. I read a blog review and that inspired me to get the album and to write this post.The copy from Amazon says all about it:

Going Back
"Lost On The River: The New Basement Tapes is a music event 47 years in the making. It's an historic album project from five of music's finest artists -- Elvis Costello, Rhiannon Giddens (Carolina Chocolate Drops), Taylor Goldsmith (Dawes), Jim James (My Morning Jacket) and Marcus Mumford (Mumford & Sons) -- in unique collaboration with a 26-year-old Bob Dylan. Produced by project creator T Bone Burnett, the album was recorded in March, 2014 at Capitol Studios in Hollywood, where the artists and Burnett convened for two weeks to write and create music for a treasure trove of long-lost lyrics handwritten by Bob Dylan in 1967 during the period that generated the recording of the legendary Basement Tapes.

 The collective completed and recorded dozens of songs, 20 of which appear on this deluxe edition."

T-Bone Burnett has lots of experience delving into the history of Americana , and his work on the soundtrack of the Coen Brothers' "Oh Brother Where Art Thou" (Itself based on Homer's Odyssey)  , is testament to that.

It got me thinking of other times people had effectively scramble under artists' beds to dig out and create  a contemporary vision of their music . When Jimi Hendrix died , unfinished tapes were taken to produce the albums Crash Landing and Midnight Lightning with varying amounts of success. You couldnt help wondering what would have really happened had Jimi lived.

War .... What Is It Good For?
Country Joe McDonald set the poems of Robert Service to music for his "War War War" album which is similar to what Burnett and Costello have done with Dylan's lyrics. I first heard "The Twins" in the seventies and it's still with me today as we see governments send men to war and abandon them when they return.

Again this is a great example of a contemporary artist, taking worthy material from the past and spreading the word to a brand new audience.

Billy Bragg and Wilco completed recordings of Woody Guthrie's unrecorded lyrics on their Mermaid Avenue triumvirate of albums. Again there is an excellent synopsis this time from the BBC that tells you all about the history of this:

"Thirty years after his death, Woody Guthrie was a distant memory when Mermaid Avenue came out in 1998. But he’s never been far away. You can hear the original Depression troubadour in the dustbowl romanticism and blue-collar unrest of every alt-country band that’s picked up a guitar – and the recession of a new century seems a good time to be remembering that.

Bob Dylan has come almost full-circle, back to the folk and blues with which he first channelled Guthrie as a teenager, and Springsteen has turned out This Land is Your Land at SXSW. But nobody has picked up on Woody as effectively – or unexpectedly – as this transatlantic get-together. Back in 98, the idea was simple: winnow out the best of the thousands of lyrics Guthrie had written without music, and turn them into songs.

The first album’s success spurred Mermaid Avenue Vol. II in 2000. And this package adds in the unreleased, more-ragged final 17 tracks from the sessions (including some non-Guthrie folk standards), without dimming the charm of the original. Wilco’s languid, dogged strumming and Jeff Tweedy’s now yearning, now rabble-rousing vocal perfectly capture the Guthrie that has seeped into every crack and crevice of Americana.

But it is Billy Bragg – the one who is an anachronism, really, a banner-waving socialist in a 21st century world of indie brats and pop divas – who guards the soul of this resurrection. The Englishman can spit the word “fascists” with rare contempt, even if few listeners will feel the political charge the word once carried.

But he brings a British folk lyricism, too, that deepens and sweetens the brew. The words show Woody’s range, from inspired poetry to rhyme-free rambling. But like a time-machine Basement Tapes, the free-flowing musical clamjamfry buoys up the folk icon in a way that makes a virtue out of inconsistency. There are memorable contributions from Natalie Merchant, Eliza Carthy and Corey Harris. And at root, really, it isn’t about musical taste any more than it’s about politics. Bawdy, smart, big-hearted and mischievous, Mermaid Avenue is simply all about a personality that is rich with life.

--Ninian Dunnett "

The Costello / Burnett project is unusual because Dylan is still with us , but it's great that Dylan can hear the results of this. There are many more examples of this sort of thing , but it's good to get your hands on something of this quality. Enjoy your Sunday

Sunday 24 May 2015

Football Makes Me Nervous At Time

Preston play Swindon at Wembley today. This is Preston's tenth attempt to win promotion by the playoffs. The media make a great deal  of this but Sheffield United have tried 8 times and fell at the first hurdle despite putting five past Swindon.

However this time we have a manger who has done it several times before , plus a team that included the best strike force in league one and a midfield that can do the job and the best defence in the division, but Swindon have come as far as us with a young team that includes the Australian David Beckham (Luongo)  and in Williams and Obika they have players who can find the net.

Shoot and Win
Prior to that Newcastle are hoping to stay in the Premiership, it's probable that they will because Hull have to beat Manchester United , although that is by no means an impossibility. I'm just wondering with Sam Allardyce's impending departure from West Ham ,  he could put Newcastle down and end up managing them next season ... now that would be quite amusing.

I bought myself a Sky Sports Day Pass  from NOWTV which means I could watch the Newcastle match , but I have and episode of The Walking Dead to watch.

Today will finish at the Riverside watching Pop Will Eat Itself , so basically that's my day planned out already. Enjoy your Sunday my friends.

Chose the song because my friend Patrick Murphy is a Swindon supporter , so appropriate for today.

Sunday 17 May 2015

Coincindence and Connections

Yesterday I went to have my annual opticians eye text , and , with contact lenses it's still 20/20, despite being advised around 2003 that I would probably need to switch to wearing glasses. My opticians are excellent ( C4 Sightcare in Newcastle), I was mentioning the extremely excellent aftercare service from GPORetro and it turns out my optician is a jazz enthusiast and a frequenter of Reflex in Newcastle , we both agreed that John Coltrane's Giant Steps is tedious in the extreme but I told him that Miles Davis' Bitches Brew was worth revisiting as it sounds amazing , he wasn't two sure but said he will try it again. You don't tend to think of people who look after you in one way or another have lives outside what they do for you , and my optician is a vinyl enthusiast and a jazz musician. It's amazing what talking to people can reveal, and can make over the most mundane of things (like eye tests) go very quickly.

Think Outside
This weekend saw me mow the lawn this year for only the second time , and it's nearly June. The weather is nice and we have the Newcastle Unity Festival next weekend , followed by Preston North End's play off final against Swindon , then a Pop Will Eat Itself gig at the Riverside.

Thing about talking with people is they can put you onto good things it one way or another, like Meg Mac , and amazing singer who I had never heard of and now have to find more of her stuff. Enjoy
the excellent song above , just ordered the EP from Amazon.

 If you isolate yourself from people you never see or hear things like this. There is so much we miss out on , and let's face it we can't experience everything , but nothing beats the feeling of finding something amazing that you were unaware of. Anyway still have lots of chores to do but good music to listen to while I'm doing it and thankful for every friend I have.

Thursday 14 May 2015

I Will Walk

A View From Work
Or will I? I've found the new job is in walking distance assuming the weather is reasonable, it's 2.2 miles and mostly downhill and takes half an hour. I don't if it's going to improve my health because the problem is that it takes time and sometimes when you have the option of a five minute bus ride in suddenly becomes easier to take the bus, but we will see how it pans out.

Also it's funny how much more you can suddenly see from the next floor up , suddenly the Tyne Bridge and the Sage become visible , although the views over the Tyne Valley are still amazing on most days , even when it's a bit grey.

This week I've been listening to a lot of new music and well impressed with Hozier , the brilliantly named Faerground Accidents with some brilliant spiky guitars and The Sherlocks , but I still keep returning to the Fresh Blood album by Matthew E White the song above having a gorgeous coda and chorus , part of my Rough Trade recommendation subscription which has yielded some pretty good albums m though last one resulted in my first duplication with the new Django Django album. I kept the Rough Trade one because of the extra mix album and sent the other back to Amazon.

Sunday 10 May 2015

Sometimes Bad Things Result In Good Things

A very short post, but it struck me that sometimes bad things can ultimately lead to good things. I was made redundant and ended up with a totally ideal jo. Last Sunday Preston didnt play well and lost out on automatic promotion. Today they played Chesterfield and three minutes from the end Jermaine Beckford scored a wonder goal. If we had won automatic promotion , that goal would never have been scored. This means that Preston are going to Wembley and I am going to have a very crowded Bank Holiday Weekend

That's all I'm going to say , but it's something to bear in mind if things don't seem to be going your way at the moment.

MY Little GPO - An Example of Great Customer Service

My Little GPO
No it's not about the Post Office , it's about my vinyl record player , a GPO Attache Case model. It's a small player in an attache case type housing and I bought it a few months ago from JG Windows in Newcastle. The player is great and actually easily accommodates a full 12" vinyl record. It is perfect for what it does.

A Tiny GPO Manual
I hooked it up to my Bush Soundbar and the sound is excellent. But my only bugbear was the enclosed manual, it had been reduced so much that you cant even photograph it and enlarge it to see what all the buttons mean. Try it with the picture to to the right.. This meant that when I tried to record to MP3 it was very much guesswork. And of course I only have to convert stuff once in a blue moon so I forget which button (they are silver and small) is the record button.

So I went to the GPORetro website (who do all sorts of brilliant looking retro gear) and sent an email asking if they had the manual is PDF Format. This was a bout six o' clock on Saturday night. Within half an hour I had the document in my inbox , amazing service , so often you email suppliers and they'll take a week to get back/ I don't expect people to be on call for me 24/7 for things like this but it shows their commitment to excellent customer service.

So now I have a readable manual and would recommend that you visit the site . My niece bought the same turntable for her mum so obviously the appreciation of good things runs in our family. It's first thing Sunday Morning so time to get the papers, and get ready for Preston North End's second playoff game against Chesterfield.

The music is the nearest I could get to Little GPO , Ronnie and the Daytona's Little GTO (also a Beach Boys standard)

Saturday 9 May 2015

There IS Always Good

After the disappointment of the Election result all my friends seemed to be under a cloud , with good reason , and yesterday I finished the day with a bone density scan because I have cirrhosis of the liver. When I was diagnosed with that , even my consultant as well as a lot of my friends expected me to take it badly. This guy is a total top NHS consultant who is one of the most brilliant and nicest and most supportive people I have ever met , I wont name him here but his first name begins with Q and if you know me and the Freeman you may work it out. My reply was that because I'd been on a trial that he had asked me to be on (testing a new drug which I'd volunteered for because if people didn't do things like that I wouldn't be here today)  we had caught this very early and therefore knew about it , and though it's irreversible (at the moment) it means I just have to take extra care. If I hadn't been on the trial , I probably wouldn't have known until something bad happened, so in my opinion it was a good outcome.  Oh and he spotted muscle wastage in my left hand which he reckoned was a trapped nerve (this is when I lost the horizontal use of my left hand and it was decided it may have been a TIA) . He got me a referral and sever nerve damage in my elbows was diagnosed and surgery has restored my hand to be 95% back to normal , though I only needed to use of two fingers to play bass guitar !

Anyway after that lot I came back into town and got off the bus on Northumberland Street and was about to cross the road to pick up some money from Ladbrokes when I saw the Globe Gallery. They had an exhibition on of George Chakravarthi’s ‘Thirteen’ thirteen photographic light boxed pictures of characters from Shakespeare who committed suicide. Here's some information lifted from the Globe Gallery Site:

‘Thirteen’ is a photographic installation by London - based artist George Chakravarthi. Commissioned by the Royal Shakespeare Company, to mark the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth the work portrays thirteen of Shakespeare’s tragic characters, all of whom meet their ends through suicide. Embedded in light boxes, Chakravarthi has created a series of powerful self-portraits, where he assumes the roles of some of Shakespeare’s most celebrated yet doomed characters: Brutus, Cassius, Eros, Goneril, Mark Antony, Othello, Timon of Athens, Lady Macbeth, Portia, Ophelia, Cleopatra, Juliet and Romeo.

 Chakravarthi says of the project:

 ‘The portraits are multilayered and imbued with colour and texture, created to present my vision of each image and character, revealing the beauty, anguish and complexities found across Shakespeare’s tragedies.’

The Gallery are also promoting Suicide Awareness which obviously ties in with the exhibition. The two ladies who I spoke to were extremely helpful , pleasant and easy and interesting to talk to , I thing I was talking for about twenty minutes while we talked of other projects and events.

We still have a lot to look forward to and we have friends who can see us through and support us when we come up against difficult situations , and remember be there to help anyone who needs it.

The music for this is Medicine Head's Pictures in the Sky , though the Afro haired guy don't really contribute that much :)

Monday 4 May 2015

What Could You Possibly Mean?

My friend Pandora , who hails from the United States of America posted this on Facebook:

'I think it is really  funny when people refer to pants as "trousers".'

... and asked me what phrases brought a smile to my face. This is all about the richness of the English language , the speed and evolution of dialect and word growth and the fact that we all have minds that can interpret almost any word in any way.

For instance the word "wind" can be pronounced "winned" or "wined" and there you have for different words two of which are spelt (or spelled) exactly the same way. This post will probably be full of grammatical, spelling and logic errors so my  apologies far in advance.

Australia is another English speaking country that has it's own take on words and phrases that can be culturally funny implying innuendo or just something completely different. There's some Australian here but most a different words but things like num-num , dunny and jumbuck I think are particularly good.

There's som American / English here but  very often you'll find that that American word usage is closer to the original than British usage . I'm not sure what that says about us. But things like suspenders , braces and chips change their meaning across the ocean.

One thing that always irks me and makes me smile is that in both the USA and Britain is the refusal to use a functional name for a toilet . In Australia they'll use loo or dunny , I think the French have it nailed with pissoire but I remember a teacher being horrified when I said I needed to go to the toilet, and she rebuked me and told me it was a lavatory (ie somewhere where you wash), ok you wash your hands afterwards but it's somewhere
where essentially you have a wee or a poo.

 Even worse is the American euphemism of restroom or bathroom, I went in a restaurant than pointed to the bathrooms and there wasn't a bath to be seen and let's face it you don't go in for a rest do you, and where does John come from?

The thing is there are lots and lots of opportunities for extreme misunderstanding in the rich tapestry that or different cultures provide on the uneven playing field that is the English Language. I included the Judge Dread song because in theory it's perfectly innocent , after all it's just words.

Doing More or Taking Longer To Do It?

Recently , maybe over the last six months or longer , it seems I have less time to do things, or that's how I sometimes perceive it. I'll often look at the clock and think bloody hell I need to do this that and the other. Sometimes it seems that time is running away with me . There's lots I want to do , and I have to drop things because I'm doing other things. Recently a friend was over from Australia for three weeks for his sons wedding , but because of us being in different places when each of us had some free time we missed seeing each other.

I have close friends I haven't seen or spoken to since before Christmas, which is one of the positives about Facebook , because you can be aware of what is happening to others even if you don't see them.

In January I was made redundant, which I thought would mean have a lot of free time. The reality was that because of voluteering (Oxfam) , helping out (Geektalent) plus looking for a job, and doctors appointments , I did not wake up once wondering what  I was going to do that day.

I have two song snippets prepared, but need to knuckle down and make time to get things done there.

Catch up TV is growing by the day , and I don't have Netflix or Amazon Prime and cannot see even contemplating that in the future.

I almost missed the Journey To Justice Exhibition at the Discovery Museum , but forced myself to take time to see it as a good friend was heavily involved.

Then I have been to three gigs this week seeing seven bands and written blog posts on all of them here

So thinking about the situation , I would say I am doing quite a lot , keeping active and that's why sometimes I feel as if I don't have time to do what I want. Yes it is nice to relax at times , but it's even nicer to do something that you want. Really I'm in the position of having a choice of a number of gorgeous sweets at the end of a meal , knowing the reality is that, for today anyway, I can only choose one.

So the choice of song is Time Captives by Kingdom Come although the song lyrics say Time Captains, if you plan your Time you're fine if not well you know ......

You always have options and the ideal idea is to always have a choice you can take that you want. This comes off for me most of the time so at the moment life is very good.

I think I've said this before , sometimes you just need to step back ,  get a different perspective and then things look so much better.

Have a brilliant day , and there's another Bank Holiday at the end of the month