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Thursday, September 21, 2006

The Captain and The Queen Of Melancholy

It's been a good week for musical releases this week, well, if you like your singer-songwriters that is. One of my musical hero's, grammy winning Shawn Colvin has released a new album These Four Walls, her first for five years. Shawn is one of those artists who despite regularly playing gigs around the states, likes to take her time between writing and recording. She also keeps herself busy with her triathalon competitions (swimming, bicycling and running) and I dare say looking after her daughter Caledonia takes some time as well.

She confesses that after her last CD Whole New You she didn't write a song for three years, which is a long time for any self respecting songwriter, even I, as some kind of bedroom piano doodling songwriter manage to churn something out every few months or so, though I think I could probably stretch that period even longer. I suppose it all depends how badly you need to get things off your chest. Aaron Yorke, a songwriting friend of mine pumps out ditties at a fearsome rate, an album a week. Shawn has again teamed up with her long time musical partner John Leventhal on the new CD, they've been working together for nigh on twenty five years, his masterful signature guitar work is present not only on Shawn's work but on Marc Cohn's too, with whom he also collaborates. Both Shawn and John have the process of coming up with melancholic storytelling folk/pop songs down to a fine art. Their songs have the weird ability to feel downbeat even when the tempo is upbeat. And as for Shawn's vocal style, well, it's kind of massively understated, she has a beautifully clear voice that delivers a sound which feels that no effort was needed on her part what-so-ever. In other words completely natural. These Four Walls contains some truly stunning songs that I'm sure over the coming months will find their way into some of my all time favorites.

Also this week the maverick partnership of Elton John and Bernie Taupin entered a new chapter with The Captain And The Kid, and anyone who watched the recent BBC session Elton and band recorded recently will be in no doubt that this new work continues the duo's return to those classic recording that us fans really loved. In fact this album is a sequel to the critically acclaimed album Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy, which was kind of an autobiographical history of how the duo started off together and ended up in the States. I bought that album again today on CD, having only had a tape copy of it from years ago when I went through most of Elton's catalog, I hadn't listened to it for many years and enjoyed the experience of hearing it again, especially songs like Someone Saved My Life Tonight and Better Off Dead. On the sequel Elton and Bernie have carried on documenting their career together up till present day, which is some mean feat for 11 songs. Not only that but the CD was recorded in the true spirit of those classic albums, virtually in twenty days in a theatre with the whole band. There is some truly fine playing on the songs, and it's nice to hear Elton's piano taking centre stage in the mix. Also obvious pop songs are welcomingly left off the record. This is a an album from a songwriter and piano player who have managed to regain that vital spark which catapulted them to stardom. And Elton John purists will love the results.

Monday, September 18, 2006

I'm Not A Performing Monkey

I'm someone who likes to choose his moment, admittedly, that moment is around 10 years too late, but, I do get there in the end. I like to decide the when and where, the who and what and the how and why pretty much in everything I possibly can. I think it reasonable that most people do. It's called freedom. Freedom to do the right thing, freedom to make mistakes, freedom to talk, freedom not too. Freedom to say no.

I do not like artificially made situations. I mean situations that are designed specifically to get a response from you. A response which will somehow magically reveal your failings or strengths. Its almost a natural response in me when put in such positions to either fade into the decor or find any way to escape. Either way, I have a strong sense to do exactly the opposite of that which is expected.

I think it may have something to do with the fact that I have never been a "go getter". In fact anyone who is makes me extremely nervous. My worst nightmare is to be shut in a room full of pumped up over achievers who want nothing more than to win win win. And who will go to any lengths to get what they want, including punching the air and crying woo woo wooaahh. It's not that I begrudge them their woos, I certainly don't. It's that I find it very difficult to get that worked up about anything, except that which reaches deep down into my gut and makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. A state which is mostly reserved for me through music and films. But I just can't muster even a millionth percent of that engery to a situation that is so insignificantly detached from who and what I am, it's like comparing Van Gogh to Rolf Harris.

I certainly take my hat of to those who have that gift, that natural ability, and it seems to be most of the populous. I suppose for me it's a case of how bad do I want it. In most cases not half as bad. I don't know, I just can't turn myself on and off like a performing monkey. If I ain't in the mood, If I don't think something is genuine, If I think I am being scrutinized, cheated or compromised I get a little apprehensive.

So of late I have become increasingly frustrated and disheartend by the methods that are being used to lure good people under false pretences. A false sense of hope, the outcome being that people are used in order to fill a necessary temporary gap. I know this kind of thing has been going on for centuries, but it doesn't excuse the fact that it is pure manipulation on the part of the perpetrators.

I just can't and won't be played with, so I want no part in it.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Half Man Half Biscuit

Just come back from seeing HMHB in sunny Bilston, Wolverhampton tonight, as a buscuit gig virgin I had plenty of pre-conceived ideas about what the night may hold. I'm glad to say my blood lust was satisfied, the band were every bit as good as I thought they might be. My only one disappointment is that there wasn't any Joy Division Oven Gloves for sale! They did however perform JDs Transmission.

Faves of the night included Running Order Squabble Fest, the excellent Footprints and Twenty Four Hour Garage People with an illustrated whats on the till assistants ipod interlude. Not forgeting Joy Division Oven Gloves and We Built This City On A Trad Arr Tune.

Can't wait to see em again.