Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Billy Whizzdom

Gloria Glidesome gladdens the seat she warms for the day, returning to fray from chocolate-haunted climes. Taking stock, talking shop and turning to good purpose, Gloria guides whoever whatever whenever turns up to towering effect.

She wears the smile that gilds the vision. Reporting dutifully, she regales of Billyance beyond wonder, radiant rising occasion of 5th April. The new singular, singular indeed, tight as ducks below waterline. Also useful chunk of de-cobwebberation.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Altered Books

Heads up for this year’s poetry festival; the fruits of our labour in the Altered Books project, which was organised by Valerie McClean in 2010 to 2011, will probably be on display at the Apothecary shop in Homend, Ledbury. I understand the proposal is that it will be possible to hold and examine the books, which contain some beautiful artwork. They were previously displayed in Hereford Museum – a bit further up the road from The Green Dragon - during h.Art week 2011, but it was not possible to look through them as they were housed in a sealed cabinet. This time you can enjoy a much more tactile relationship with living art. It is assumed that those of sufficient bent to do so will exercise due decorum whilst indulging such arcane pleasures.

The local artists who took part were Valerie McClean, Angie Hughes, Wendy Ruddick, Ann Davies, Molly Rozier, Julia Webb, Pam Frith, and Veronique Avon, and I added poetical input.

The reason I say ‘probably’ is that I am not absolutely certain that the final decision has been taken. Let’s take it that the decision, when it comes, will be affirmative.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

The Annual Turnover Review of CD Releases

Well, this is now something of a misnomer as the last instalment of my annual 5 per year choices was just after 2009 had ground to a halt. But in the interests of completeness, let’s see if we can bring things up to date.

In our age of itunes and digital downloads, when songs are sold individually, I like to think there is still artistic merit in an album as a whole, sequenced with due purpose, and to be listened to in order and at one sitting. My choices are made with that approach in mind.

So, for 2010, the following set off the ding-dongs for me:

7 Walkers – Grateful Dead drummer Bill Kreutzmann teams up with Papa Mali and George Porter Jr for some great N’Awleans funky swamp-soaked originals, largely collaborations between Papa Mali and Robert Hunter. This has grown on me steadily, a truly pulsating album. When George’s bass erupts about a minute into Chingo you’d better be holding on to something solid.

Exile On Main Street – The Rolling Stones – This is how remastering should be done. It leaps out of the speakers in staggering, swaggering detail. And there’s a whole new album worth of extras that, incredibly, are almost up to the quality of the rest of it. Unexpectedly brilliant.

Wake Up The Nation – Paul Weller – Fantastic blast from someone at the peak of his powers. 22 Dreams started it for me, then this.

Tin Can Trust – Los Lobos – A truly sublime delight, Los Lobos have maintained a thread of quality through all they do, and this is a great set of songs. They have grown together for many years and it shows. If you ever get the chance to see them live, sell your first-born and rat on your assignations to be there.

Patchwork River – Jim Lauderdale – After nearly ten years a second album of collaborations between Robert Hunter (all lyrics) and Jim Lauderdale with top-notch session players (Al Perkins, James Burton). The first track is a glorious celebration of the grittiness of being.

And for 2011, these ones tickled my pork chop:

An Appointment with Mr Yeats – The Waterboys – Why hadn’t I previously listened to The Waterboys? No reason; I just hadn’t. I saw this CD at a reasonable price so decided to give it a go. I think that poetry set to music is usually just plain wrong – lyrics are a different animal. Yes, there are areas of overlap, but generally it’s all a bit twee. Not this time! This is amazing. Obviously a labour of love, and stunningly realised. I haven’t been this captivated by a new album since 1842. Every note is vital, and even well-known poems morph into something even greater.

Pull Up Some Dust And Sit Down – Ry Cooder – Ry has been the byword for quality for so long, you’d think he’d be getting sterile by now. Not a bit of it; a left-wing confrontation with the rampant greed now destroying American society and spreading its tentacles around the globe. An engaging, wry, humanistic approach that is as good an antidote as any. And superbly played, as you’d expect.

Europe ’72 vol. 2 – The Grateful Dead – A 2 disc set culled from their greatest tour as a companion to the original album, no repeats from previous official releases, including Dark Star and The Other One? I wondered whether this was designed just for me. Crystal clear sound throughout, capturing every nuance of that liquid interplay by the whole band, shows them at their best, young and vigourous, exploratory, utterly unique.

Pablo Alto – I should immediately qualify this review by letting on that John Rose, who records under the Pablo Alto moniker, is a fellow member of Echo Road and that I have co-written two of the songs on this set. That said, this works brilliantly. This is John on his own, recorded at home, and he emits all the sounds heard here. This is the first time I have included a CD by a friend and I do so on the basis that I consider it on a par with so-called official releases. The songs are all originals and feature wonderful washes of guitar-laden ‘indie’ testifying. (Should that be ‘testification’, or maybe ‘testiculation’?).

Reason ‘n’ Rhyme – Jim Lauderdale – Another album of Robert Hunter’s lyrics, this time given the full-bore bluegrass treatment by Jim Lauderdale and a virtuoso band. This is the third album of their collaborations, and works beautifully. It’s a long time since I’ve heard such a heady blast of bluegrass, music of unashamed joy.

I’m sure most of my choices are predictable, but they are nonetheless great ear-juice for all that.

Monday, 2 April 2012

Crank It On Up

Well, how could I walk away from the blog after Sue’s request? It’ll have to be occasional, and will probably continue to divert from reality down the path not taken, along the road less travelled and into those backwaters where the larvae wriggle.

Extraordinarily, change remains afoot at Turn Up Towers. Since the collapse of the little-used east wing last year, huge amounts of rubble have been re-assembled in bewilderingly abstract configurations. We soldier on.

I should make contact with some of the old characters, and introduce you to some new ones; first up, there’s Jack O’Lantern. He’s nearly finished a book has Jack, but he’s decided to re-work it again. He’s a bit obsessive like that, but one day his peculiar light will shine, maybe through your uncurtained window late on a storm-wracked night.

Meanwhile, in the spirit of renewal, here’s the first verse lyric of Rusty Ol’ Blues, a song currently in Echo Road’s repertoire.

I’m going down
To shufflin’ street
Where the backbeat’s sharp
And the rhythm’s neat;
I done it before
I’ll do it again,
I don’t know what
And I don’t know when;
Crank it on up
And turn it loose,
See where we get
With the Rusty Ol’ Blues.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

For Marcus

No-one feels like April Fools this year;
it’s turned suddenly colder.
Who? whatwhywhenhow? Who?
Jumbled disbelief,
shards of memory, bits and bytes;
from your secret laboratory
whatever emerged had an edge
of delight.
You dived deep,
in resonance remain.

No-one feels like April Fools this year,
but when we return to unplayed pranks
in future years
they will bear the magic of your name;
“For Marcus!”

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Frankly Amazed part 2

A lively discussion has ensued round here from the considerations touched on in the previous entry. In the drafty outhouse that passes for an office, Shuffling Sid our roving sales clerk was ‘in’, resting between vigorous bouts of recondite sales technique, which, as far as I can tell, seems to involve rather a lot of phlegm-streaked coughing. He assures me that this approach produces quite startling results. Who am I to comment? I just pay the man’s wages.

Sid approached the issue as one of Democracy, which he insisted came with a capital D. He regarded the issue as of one of elitism and the creation of an underclass. He posed his most trenchant observation thus; “Should a sufferer from advanced Knucklum Shufflerosa not also be treated with compassion, be able to find inclusion within the big tent of society? Surely, it’s not asking too much to be included cheek by jowl with those other outcasts of our culture; the uniformed bus conductress, the photographic model, or the pouting topless tractor driver of the month?” He dissolved into a coughing fit induced by the heightened intensity of his engagement with the subject. I think I got his drift, but lost interest in it and sent him on his way with a flea in his ear, which rapidly became lost amongst the teeming multitudes already inhabiting his wretched tweed mackintosh.

Gloria, ever attentive at her desk, tush-tushed, and reminded me that I had failed properly to consider Sid’s line of reasoning. “I didn’t want to”, I said. “Get out of that if you can.” She couldn’t.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Frankly Amazed part 1

At Turn Up, if the investment stream were larger than the trickle necessary to keep us thirsty, we would probably be at the cutting edge of emergent technology. We would have a gadget for this, a gadget for that, and undoubtedly a gleaming swivel-armed gadget for the other.

I am frankly amazed (part 1), however, at the deep conundra produced for some by the digital age and the reluctance to engage with anything that has not been systematically proven by at least forty years of use. Others leap aboard new ways of doing things without a backward glance, a flick of the scarf and a merry song at their lips. I’m referring to the reaction of some to our new digital products and a refusal to contemplate reading anything that is not in printed form.

I am certainly not anti the printed version of books, but there are certain realities and practicalities that have to be faced (do they?) Shut up, no-one asked you. The truth is that we could not afford to have any books printed as matters now stand. By going down the Kindle route we are able to produce our volumes and keep producing them. They would not exist otherwise. You may consider that not to be any great loss. You would not then be troubling us for a place in our customer base and can unceremoniously be told to bugger off in the most forthright terms.

However, you, if I can distinguish you with such particularity, are to be cosseted upon the sofa of smarm-swathed inducement and complimented for your debonair devotion to cultural exemplars, never mind the method of their delivery.

Also, like it or not, none of us are in a position to divert the march of evolving technology. It will go wherever it finds its niche. I would suggest that if it was unusable or no good, people wouldn’t go for it. The fact is that among the people I know, the ones who have gone for Kindle are those who are the most voracious readers of books. I had thought that they might be the very ones to be leading the resistance, but they have quickly realised that they have more room for more books, usually for less.

I am concerned for the effect these changes may have on printers, bookshops and libraries, but I think there are other larger pressures on them.