Friday, October 01, 2010

Folk on Friday

Sween Men

Although I love folk music I’ve never been one for the ‘finger in your ear’ warble that some folk musicians produce and gives the genre a bad press amongst disbelievers. Time to establish some favourite pieces on a Friday evening.

Sweeney’s Men (for those who don’t know) were only around from 1966-1969. They were a part of the 60’s folk revival that was occurring all over the UK and Ireland and really struck a chord (ahem) with their musicianship and reinterpretation of traditional Irish songs. What I really like though, is the way they introduce new instruments borrowed from other folk traditions and use this as a starting point for writing their own pieces.

‘Dreams For Me’ is typical of these influences and is a beautiful song. Written by Terry Woods it has a lovely arrangement that almost outdoes Nick Drake in its soft pathos. One for a roaring fire on a cold rainy day with a glass of single malt. Hang on a minute ….

Sweeney’s Men – Dreams For Me

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Sarah Brightman & Hot Gossip

Started singing this for no apparent reason today:

"Im in love with a Starship Trooper; hand in hand in hyper-space"

but then was told by Adam that my lyrics were, in fact, wrong. Pah!

I can't even get that right. Hey at least it's another post after nearly a year and a half.

Sarah Brightman and Hot Gossip - Starship Troopers

Saturday, May 23, 2009


Ranulph Fiennes is one of my heroes albeit a bit of an odd one. Yesterday, as most people would know by now, he completed the ascent of Everest at the ripe oldish age of 65. In fact he is the oldest British person to complete the feat. We live in an age where such an achievement seems commonplace now. The successful completion of an Everest expedition is now a possibilty for anybody who is relatively fit and healthy and who has the necessary cash to spend on one of the corporate climbing companies who lead (literally by the hand) 'customers' up the mountain. But a trip like this is still fraught by risk. You only have to read a copy of Jon Krakauer's 'Into Thin Air' - an excellent recollection of the ill-fated 1996 Everest challenge - to realise that very real dangers still exist. Fiennes ascent was after all, even for an undisputed action-man, his third attempt.

By most reckoning Ranulph Fiennes is a representative of the ruling class. Eton educated, a distant cousin of the Queen, a Baronet for goodness sake. Hardly a talisman for my socialist leanings. But a talisman he remains. The never say die attitude and a burning desire to see just how far the human spirit and body can go in the face of adversity I see as admirable. Some might way he is a bit tapped, a bit doo-lally. Anybody who can cut off their own frost bitten fingers with a hacksaw, or complete seven marathons in seven continents in seven days just a few months after extensive heart surgery is surely a bit weird. But I would gladly forego a little 'sanity' for a little of that drive.  So a hero he is and a hero he shall remain. I hope I keep hearing about more achievements for years to come.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Film Review - Star Trek

I went to see Star Trek at the weekend and like most other people I have spoken to, enjoyed it immensely. After having grown up with Shatner, Nimoy et al in the late 60's and early 70's, I had always been disappointed with the run of Star Trek films from 1979. The early ones always seemed lost in the translation to the big screen and, lets face it, they were all too old to be in charge of star ships running around playing action heroes. Once 'Alien' had been released all these humanoid aliens seemed babyish and cheap. The later 'Next Generation' films I mostly missed and by all accounts have not lost out in any way.

But having enjoyed Batman Begins and The Incredible Hulk reloads, I figured that Star Trek was worth a go. It does not disappoint. From beginning to end the pace is just right. Talk, action, talk, action all the way in the typical J.J. Abrams way. The narrative is also pitched just right with a script to satisfy all ages. Perhaps best of all are the quality of the performances. I thought that I would not be able to look at Zachary Quinto without thinking of 'Sylar' but very soon that was forgotten. He plays Spock as confused, logical and strong all at once - just as Nimoy had done in his heyday. Chris Pine goes against expectation and produces a performance that is convincing and witty without ever trying to outdo Shatner at his own game. Kirk and Spock are adversaries who learn respect for each other through collaboration. This could easily be a horrible cliche but is well handled by all. Perhaps the real revelation though is Karl Urban as 'Bones' McCoy who drops his 'tough-guy' image and is pitch perfect all the way through.

The art of the summer release is to produce a film with the right blend of up-to-date effects and well paced narrative. Think Jaws, The Empire Strikes Back, Indiana Jones, E.T., or The Dark Knight. All too often these basic rules are forgotten. Refreshingly, Star Trek does not do this. So if you want to see a perfect 'popcorn' movie that doesn't try to be anything other than a sci-fi blockbuster romp, than go and see Star Trek on the big screen. Excellent fun all the way.

Muse - Starlight (mp3)

Monday, May 18, 2009

Greatest Albums of the 80's Part 3

Unlike The Stones or The Beatles in their later years, Squeeze were never really an album band. To talk about them in the same breath would for some cause mutterings I'm sure. However, for all their short writing career together Difford and Tilbrook were in many ways the equal of Lennon/McCartney or Jagger/Richards. Their output of singles during the late 70's and early 80's was constant in consistency and quality. Such was the plethora of choice I was really tempted to pick '45's and under' as one of my greatest albums. However my purist side meant I was forced to choose one of their studio albums and the third album ArgyBargy I consider to be the best - even more than East Side Story, the Elvis Costello produced effort a year later. This was Squeeze with their classic complement of musicians before Jools Holland left to pursue a solo career. The song writing was quirky and tuneful and full of poetic lyrics about love and loss and romance and youth. I have stayed away from the later joint collaborations - perhaps because I don't want the bubble of respect to burst and I want the best tastes left in my mind. You might well disagree but for me this was singles perfection.


Yesterday I was in a running race. It was a cross-country race of about 7 miles. And it rained. In fact it rained so hard at the beginning that within 5 minutes I was absolutely drenched. After about 15 minutes the rain stopped but by then the fun and games had began. The rest of the race was extremely muddy with massive puddles blocking our way. The only solution was to charge head-long through them and just accept you were going to get very dirty. It was great fun. After a shower afterwards I felt invigorated. I reckon everybody should try it.

Comsat Angels - After the Rain (mp3)

Sunday, May 17, 2009


It's chaos at The Vicarage (ahem) at the moment. A new fireplace, skimming ceilings with new plaster and new flooring throughout the bottom of the house means dust and debris everywhere. I am now living my life on builder time, which is rather like BST but rather more random. Conversations about timings are met with a vacant stare and vague responses - 'well it depends see. The carpenter says he will get here this afternoon ........ maybe.' You know, this kind of thing. I'm sure it will all work out okay in the end, but for now uncertainty is the order of the day.

Badly Drawn Boy - 'Life Turned Upside Down' (mp3)

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Greatest Albums of the 80's Part 2

By contrast to 'The Luxury Gap' the release of 'The Hounds of Love' in 1985 was greeted with almost universal acclaim. And rightly so. After the relative failures of 'The Dreaming' (at least in a commercial sense) Kate Bush seemed at the pinnacle of her powers. The album was commercial enough to satisfy the pop lovers yet musically diverse to keep the legions of hard core fans on board. The big hits all come with the first few songs (Top 10 side 1's of all time is a future posting methinks), but then we have the experimentation of side 2 which provides the extraordinary longevity of the album. Both 'Waking the Witch' and 'Jig of Life' are fantastic. Miami Vice even chose to feature part of 'Hello Earth' in one of their episodes which provoked a storm of interest in the US.

It is always hard for me to choose my favourite Kate production but I guess this would be the album (gatefold of course) I would take to my desert island. Both visual and aural pleasure - yum.

Kate Bush - Cloudbusting (mp3)