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>20 – 16: Southern Boogie and Northern Croonin’

5 March, 2010 2 comments

>20:  Sweet Home Alabama – Lynyrd Skynyrd

Basically an ‘answer’ song, written in response to Neil Young’s ‘Southern Man’.  In a nutshell – we’re Southern and we’re proud of it.  So don’t be slaggin’ us off with your trendy Yankee ways because we’re just fine and dandy down here!  And so they are.  But it’s not really the sentiment in the song that does it for me – it’s the groove and the feel – the opening guitar riff is one of the slinkiest there is – not a note too many, not a note out of place.  Lynyrd Skynyrd could do overblown when they wanted to – Freebird being a case in point – but Sweet Home Alabama is tight as a gnat’s chuff.  As, no doubt, they say in Montgomery.

19:  Kashmir – Led Zeppelin

Again, it’s all in the riff.  The spiralling, three-note stab that invokes so well the Eastern ‘vibe’ implicit in the song’s title.  A word of warning though – don’t listen to the lyrics.  Really.  They make Spinal Tap’s ‘Stonehenge’ sound profound.  But none of that matters.  This was a band at the height of its powers, pushing the boundaries in any number of directions, and exploring Eastern rhythms and time signatures that they would return to later in their careers.

Of course, there are many Zeppelin songs I could have chosen.  But for me, Kashmir is pure essence of Zep.

18:  Coles Corner – Richard Hawley

I love this song.  Often – erroneously – described as South Yorkshire’s answer to Roy Orbison but more accurately referred to (by himself) as ‘that specky twat from Sheffield’, Hawley is an absolute superstar.  In the ideal world, he would sell more records than U2.  With his slicked back hair, his twangy guitar style and his rich, baritone crooning, Hawley evokes an earlier age.  And never better than on this song, a slice of pure romance about one of Sheffield’s old department stores and a historic meeting spot for the city’s youth.

17:  Voodoo Chile (Slight Return) – The Jimi Hendrix Experience

My, it’s a rockin’ selection this time round, for some reason.  Jimi needed to be in the top twenty somewhere, and this is the track for me – a track that doesn’t outstay its welcome, that rocks like a mother and that demonstrates just what a fine guitar player Hendrix was.  Of course, describing Jimi’s guitar playing as ‘fine’ is like describing Zinedine Zidane as a ‘capable’ footballer.  He was the best.  Voodoo Chile was one of the final songs recorded with the original Experience, before Jimi moved on to looser, jazzier and funkier work – but this, for me, is the peak.

16:  Angel – Aretha Franklin

And changing the mood completely, it’s the Queen of Soul at her most soulful.  By some considerable distance, Aretha is the best female singer the world has ever seen – in any form of music.  This is an uncontestable fact.  Whenever any X-Factor wannabe starts warbling in a Mariahesque way, in the mistaken belief that the amount of soul in a performance is directly proportional to the number of notes you can squeeze into a single line, she should be slapped firmly across the face with a copy of Aretha’s Greatest Hits and locked in a darkened room with the CD until she learns the error of her ways.  Angel is just a beautiful song, written by her sister, with a (no doubt contrived) spoken intro that sets the scene perfectly.  In fact why am I writing this?  Rather than get into a long, drawn-out thing, I think the melody on the box will help me explain.  It’s there for you. below – just listen.

http://www.divshare.com/flash/playlist?myId=10633775-5bc&new_design=true

>Day 134: The Hunter!

28 July, 2009 Leave a comment

>Today’s soundtrack: The Kane Gang – The Miracle of The Kane Gang

Dragged early from my bed this morning to deal with The Hunter, (otherwise known as Pedro, Pedders or Pedderoni Pepperoni) who had decided to bring in a little vole (or was it a shrew?) to play with. Luckily, Mrs W had managed to cover the vole with the Tupperware box that doubles as a critter rescuer. This seemed to excite Pedro still further – he probably thought we’d helped him trap his new playmate for his entertainment…a notion that was summarily put to rest when he was thrown and locked in the living room while I took Mr Vole into the garden to be released into the wild, where he could take his chances. Unfortunately I was dressed only in a dressing gown to perform this delicate operation – a dressing gown that was not particularly securely fastened at the front, and which threatened to fly open at the slightest provocation. This was a touch difficult to deal with, both hands being engaged in keeping the vole under wraps until I got to the edge of the garden. Luckily I managed to preserve both my dignity and the vole’s existence (in the short term at least) without further incident.

Pedro’s getting a touch too good at this hunting lark – this is two voles, one mouse and a bird that have found their way into the house in the last week or two. Admittedly one of the two voles had been dead for some time when it found its way into the downstairs loo, but all the other critters were alive and kicking on their introduction to Waring Towers (and hopefully remained so for sometime after their release).

I think a bell is in order if things don’t improve! At least he is finding all the entertainment he needs at the back of the house and has not been tempted further afield…yet!

Took a call from a headhunter this morning – something I though had gone away back in March appears to be back on the agenda again, and another opportunity with a national firm of accountants also appears to be imminent. So my CV is back out there and – hopefully – will get the attention it needs for one or both of these vacancies.

Oh, the postman knocked on the door as well today. Remember the poncho and shemagh I ordered a while ago, in plenty of time for Glastonbury and Latitude? Well they arrived today. A week after the end of Paul’s festival season. They will do the job though. Next year.

After lunch, which comprised yesterday’s leftover tacos (very nice too!) it was up to Preston, to drop Son No 2 off at his girlfriend’s house. No need for the satnav, he insisted, I know the way!

Which he did. Kind of.

Back home then, to a quiet house to catch up on some blogging and some reading. I’m now reading ‘Crosstown Traffic’ by the great rock journalist Charles Shaar Murray. Ostensibly a biography of Jimi Hendrix, it gets the ‘life story’ over very quickly, before moving on to the far more interesting discussion of Hendrix’s place in ’60s culture, as a black man working in an essentially ‘white’ oeuvre, as an ex-paratrooper during the Vietnam war, and of course as the greatest guitarist who ever lived.

The Kane Gang were, briefly, on the verge of success and recognition in the mid ’80s – success and recognition that ultimately passed them by despite a couple of cracking singles and a strong (if patchy) first album. They were on the Kitchenware label, home of a number of similarly melodic and intelligent bands, including Prefab Sprout, The Daintees and Hurrah! amongst others. Essentially a white soul band, the lack of a charismatic front man (or, you could argue, any charisma at all) ultimately stood against them at a time when image was all.

Despite the quality of their material.

‘The Miracle of’ is a two-cd collection released recently on CD, that brings together their first album (called, simply, ‘Miracle’, and which I have lurking on vinyl somewhere) with various singles and b-sides.

Their biggest non-hit was ‘Closest Thing To Heaven’ which was released to general indifference on more than a couple of occasions – but it is still a great example of mid-’80s blue-eyed soul.

>Day 130: What’s wrong with Thursday?

24 July, 2009 2 comments

>Today’s soundtrack: The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Electric Ladyland

So I’m dicking around on the internet, when a message pops up from Son No.2, asking me to come up with – no cheating, now – song titles for each day of the week. Piece of piss, I thought.

Manic Monday;
Ruby Tuesday;
Wednesday Week,
Thursday…..err…let’s come back to that one;
Friday On My Mind;
Saturday’s Kids;
Gloomy Sunday.

Eventually I had to cheat. The only two songs I’ve got in my collection with ‘Thursday’ in the title are amongst the most obscure – ‘Thursday’ by The Fatima Mansions, and ‘Thursday Night Drinking Song’ by Alun Parry. All the other days of the week – no problem, although to be fair, Tuesday and Wednesday aren’t particularly well served.

It’s all to do with the weekly cycle, I suppose. Friday and Saturday – all about anticipation, or enjoyment, of the weekend. Sunday – weekend’s over, back to work. Monday – bugger, I’m back at work (or school) and I don’t like it. In that context, what is there to write about regarding the midweek period? Precious little, I suppose. Unless you’re Craig David, of course, who had a more interesting weekly pattern than most of us.

So….any good Thursday songs out there? Answers on a postcard, please. Or put them in the ‘comments’ section below. Less faffing about.

Given that my current weekly cycle doesn’t follow the norm at the moment, what did I get up to on this (not so) fine Thursday then? Well, reader, I did handyman stuff! One of those jobs I’ve been putting off for ages, but which had to be done as we have a house guest this evening. One of the pieces of coving in the spare bedroom had fallen down a while ago and has been sitting, accusingly, on top of the curtains (well, that boxy thing that sits over the top of the curtains, anyway – what are they called? Answers on a postcard etc) waiting for me to do something about it. Like stick the thing back up.

What’s the point of coving anyway? Why do we need curvy bits of…wood? plaster? MDF? snaking round the wall/ceiling interface? It’s fine if it just sits there, minding its own business, but when it falls off, it gives me work to do that I wouldn’t otherwise have!

Anyway. A while ago, my dad had given me a bag of grey powder which, when mixed with water, turns into a sloppy paste designed especially for the sticking of coving to the wall/ceiling. So we mixed it up, allowed it to ‘settle’, slapped globs onto the edge of the coving and held the (heavier than it looks) coving into place. And, wonder of wonders, it stayed there! (and is still there, at the time of writing).

Some of the other pieces look to be on the verge of making a bid for freedom, however.

I can’t recall whether Jimi has appeared on the soundtrack before, but I’m glad he has. Genius is a much abused word when it comes to ‘rock’ musicians, but Jimi deserved the title more than most. Dying at the ridiculously young age of 27, he could do things with an electric guitar that defied belief, using distortion, feedback and effects to extend the capabilities of the instrument to a level that has not been attained by anyone since. Electric Ladyland may well be his masterpiece, a sprawling double album that incorporates blues, rock, psychedelia and soul. I really liked the original cover (ahem) when I was a young impressionable lad as well, although that seems to have been replaced by a more innocuous design in the re-release programme!

Here’s Jimi in Atlanta, playing Voodoo Chile from Electric Ladyland. Bear in mind there’s only one guitarist on show here – no backing tracks, no studio effects – one man and his guitar. Jaw-dropping stuff!

Categories: coving, Jimi Hendrix, Matt

>Day 56: Sports Day

11 May, 2009 Leave a comment

>Today’s soundtrack: Jimi Hendrix – The Jimi Hendrix Experience (Box Set)

A surfeit of sporting entertainment today – the Catalan Grand Prix, overlapping with the Manchester derby, followed by Arsenal-Chelsea. Where was a boy to put his priorities? And would he have any say in what those priorities were, given the amount of footy already watched in the last week?

Happily, Mrs W is more than understanding when it comes to things like this, and this season has taken more than a passing interest in the Grands Prix.

And so we settled down, having just wolfed down a lovely lunch of scrambled egg and smoked salmon on toast made with yesterday’s ‘milk’ loaf. Using organic, free-range eggs, and Alaskan smoked salmon from Asda (worth the trip for this alone – it’s fab) with just a squeeze of lemon, it is fantastic, believe me.

This Grand Prix season is remaining as interesting as it started – although the other teams are doing their level best to catch up, Brawn continue to defy logic by maintaining, if not increasing, their technical advantage over the chasing pack. First corner mayhem, with firstly Barrichello stealing a march on Button to take the lead, then a coming together towards the rear of the chasing pack leading to a confetti of carbon fibre and the introduction – yet again – of the safety car.

And it was essentially within this period that the race was won and lost, with Button’s engineers deciding to switch to a two-stop strategy in contrast with Barrichello’s three-stopper. Despite Barrichello’s early lead, he could not push hard enough to make up the time lost by the additional pitstop, and Button was able to take advantage. Coupled with his better use of the harder tyre compound, and the newly competitive Ferrari holding up Vettel in the Red Bull, it became really quite straightforward for the Englishman, who has now won four out of five and is beginning to look like a serious contender. At least for as long as the Brawn car can retain its technological advantage anyway!

And so over to Sky, for the conclusion of the Manchester derby. By the time I switched over, it was all over bar the shouting so let the game wash over me somewhat. Did enjoy Ronnie’s hissy fit though – bless! Just about sews it all up for ManYoo now, and will leave Big Red potless for yet another season. Shame!

Mrs W had vacated the lounge by this stage, so I decided to cut my losses and pass on the third event of the day. Which turned out to be a shame, as it sounded like a fun game. Hopefully now Chelsea have secured third place, they’ll switch off mentally now for the season – until just after the FA Cup final, anyway!

Leftovers for tea tonight – pasta bake made by combining the remains of the bolognese sauce from last week with some fusilli, topped with cheese sauce and breadcrumbs. Plenty left for tomorrow too!

Jimi on the soundtrack – this is the third disc of a four-disc box set (tastily held in a purple velvet case) comprising a number of alternate takes and live tracks from his brief but majestic career. Not a ‘greatest hits’ as such, but definitely not the scrapings of the barrel either.

You can’t really go wrong with Jimi – the man was such a master of his instrument that there is beauty in virtually everything he recorded and while some of the live jams can get a bit self-indulgent, there are enough jaw-dropping moments to make up for this. Taken from us far too soon.

Often referred to erroneously as a ‘wild man’ of rock, this gentle man was capable of great beauty and sensitivity in his playing. Little Wing, performed here at the Winterland in San Francisco in 1968, is a classic example. No histrionics, not a note out of place.