Week from Monday 3rd November 2003

While in London, I'd heard news of the CARAVAN 35th Anniversary gig at the UCL's Bloomsbury Theatre, at the end of this month. So, on Monday morning, I visited the appropriate website(s) to glean a ticket... but it was not to be, no can do, alas no more, left it too late, etc etc. How sad that this once GREAT BRITISH INSTITUTION celebrates its 35th Anniversary at a piddling little 500-seater?! ...Hold the front page/horses/press! They're ALSO playing at The Brook in Southampton (an even piddlingier venue!)... and there are tickets available - Whoopee!

Self adhesive numbers for dustbins... Get 'em while they're hot!

The latest R.A.B.A.B.T.A.L. (Rough As a Bear's Arse But Twice As Lively) release from the KING CRIMSON "Club Des Enthusiastes" arrived on my doorstep - seemingly unaffected in its delivery by any Post Office strikeage - a great gallumphoid warts'n'all set from the Jamie Muir/1972 lineup at Guildford Civic Hall.

I've decided (for the moment) to remove any references to the imminent SKUNK FUNK webbo from the Haht Gassup page, as no further information has been forthcoming. Could it have been merely wishful thinking on the part of MERVYN PURVISS that it would be up and running any minute now? Or what?

I got an e-missive from SNILTWEASEL (DIRECTOR) - I had, of course, mailed to tell him all about the Hackett gig - and his eleven year old son is starting to ask questions along the lines of "What did YOU do in the Gridling wars, Daddy?" and taking an interest in all things BANOONOO. Taken by the Winkies... and so young! This of a child who forced his father to remove him from a Springsteen gig well before the end, because he was bored. He'll go far, this lad.

Week from Monday 10th November 2003

On Saturday, I "flew a reccy" around Southampton, to locate The Brook (deep in the heart of Portswood) and timed how long it takes to walk there from St Denys station, making notes on "landmarks" along the way (so that I will be able to find it in the dark). Having achieved that, I went for my customary Saturday "moochabout" (as it is known to the aborigines). I witnessed a colourful Sikh ceremony going on in the Newtown district, with lots of fantastic dhol(ak) drumming and chanting (Was it a funeral? I'm not too sure about these things, but there WERE rolls of saffron coloured cloth being unfurled at the time... ?). I crossed another couple of items off my seedydisk "wants" list: THE ROUGH GUIDE TO BRAZILIAN ELECTRONICA - thoroughly and enjoyably listenable from start to finish, which is unusual for a compilation album - and the FESTIVAL IN THE DESERT album - oodles of atmosphere, but contains a couple of duff tracks to spoil the "total listening experience" a bit! I also acquired everyone's favourite BRIAN ENO album (Taking Tiger Mountain) from the bargain seedydisk racks, and a CMP jazzy compilation for under £4!

This Time Last Year:

HASSAN ERRAJI  - ASHCROFT CENTRE, FAREHAM - November'02

MEANWHILE BACK AT THE ASHCROFT... Having witnessed HASSAN ERRAJI a number of times over the years, both solo and with various bands, I found this to be not the greatest version of his Pan-Belgian-Global band ARABESQUE I have encountered, but they still rocked the kasbah (well, film theatre, anyway... Ed) in cracking style. Marrakech lad, Hassan "Blind Boy" Erraji is, of course, astonishing on whichever instrument he chooses to pick up. I rate especially his lovely raspy fiddle playing. And no matter how many times I witness The Playing Of The Oud at close quarters, I shall never fathom it out! Somewhat surprisingly, he didn't do his juggling routine with the frame drum tonight. The bass player, who appeared to be of Further Eastern extraction, more than adequately filled the hand-stitched sandals of his predecessors, with lots of those thwooping flamencoid runs we admire so much. I shall give the percussionist the benefit of the doubt and guess that he was new to this combo and thus under-rehearsed. However, as Uncle Shelf will explain at length (and tonight, I could finally see his point), the INAPPROPRIATE use of drum kits in general and round bronze metal things in particular is, of course, a crime against good taste the world over. He should have stuck to the darabuka. Caroline The Inevitable Belly Dancer wobbled the flesh vigorously to stunning effect. She wouldn't really need to be a leading exponent in the grand "raqs sharki" scheme of things, to throw into sharp relief the embarrassing efforts displayed by the middle- class, middle-aged folky element gathered herein (and I speak as a middle-class, middle-aged ex-folky myself!). Snigger snigger... never mind guys, Steve Knightley will be here in January. No doubt the "souk" (Arabic for "Jumble Sale") in the Ashcroft foyer did a roaring trade.

Reviewed by Topper Rootsname

Shelfy e-mailed me with spendid piece of comedy about the (Sikh) ceremony that I 'd encountered. Needless to say, all of it was apocryphal and none of it repeatable for fear of offence... I might have to have a go at doing a BHANGRA version of "Fog On The Tyne" sometime, 'nuff said!

It's Thursday and I'm off to the quackery this afternoon. I'm having one of my ear infections and it's very much a case of "Do you want to see the puppets?" (the origins of this obscure IN-JOKE may be found somewhere on the WOMAD Diary Archive Page.) ...years of virulent telephonic receivers and dirty headphone usage, I shouldn't wonder, and NOTHING to do with listening to too much Brazilian drum'n'bass or Tuareg trance music...

Week from Monday 17th November 2003

If, like me, you're a fan of UNDER MILK WOOD (and "USING LANGUAGE" in general), then the fact that it is fifty years to the month since DYLAN THOMAS drank himself to death, means that there have been lots of treats beaming at us through the ether. No less than three different versions of UNDER MILK WOOD have been broadcast of late - a new radio production, with the digitally resurrected Richard Burton as "First Voice", the 1970's film version in glorious black and white, as well as STAN TRACEY's jazz suite based on this fine work (None of them were COMPLETE renditions though, strictly speaking ... Nitpicking Ed With A Copy Of The Script.) A warts'n'all documentary is promised for next weekend.
I'm treating my FUNNY EARS to a judicious application of eardrops to stop the itching, nasal spray to relieve the sinus pressure and lots of antibiotic happypills! I've also got to have a blood test this week (the one where you have to fast for at least twelve hours) ...Whacko! On top of all that, I've had to expend time and money finding an solicitor to witness my signing some bullshit deed of occupancy, a legal "nicety" not of my choosing or to my benefit, but which will merely keep some tosser lawyer in smugness points for another month. B*st**ds! I hate them!

On the bright side, the Beeb is in the midst of its coverage of the LONDON JAZZ FESTIVAL, with the WESTBROOK TRIO, the IAIN BALLAMY QUARTET and the ESBJ÷RN SVENSSON TRIO providing some "Hmmmm... Nice!" moments...

Week from Monday 24th November 2003

...meanwhile across town, the magnificent OJOS DE BRUJO had packed out the Union Chapel with their special brand of BARCELONA BUG-OUT MUSIC. As is usual with "World Routes" programmes, there was far too little of the actual concert and far too much of that wretched DurŠn woman wittering on! Also on Radio 3, Charles Shaar Murray presented the first of three documentaries exploring the jazz credentials of FRANK ZAPPA, called, naturally, "JAZZ IS NOT DEAD... IT JUST SMELLS FUNNY". ...very little that we haven't heard before, apart from Don Preston's anecdote about the (musically-challenged) MOTORHEAD SHERWOOD being nominated for a DownBeat critics award sometime in the late 'sixties! On the subject of all matters ZAPPOID, I learnt this week that G&S MUSIC, those nice people in Hemel Hempstead who, for fifteen years, have been DEDICATED PURVEYORS OF ZAPPA STUFF, are to close down next year. They have always shown admirable zeal for alerting us to all manner of Zappa-related product (without all that tedious mucking about in cyberspace). I hope that whoever buys the company is as keen and thorough - although whether anyone REALLY NEEDS any more half-assed interpretations of "Dupree's Paradise" by the Milton Keynes Junior Wind Ensemble, dense broken-English versions of "Bobby Brown" by some Italian so-called "tribute" group, or z-grade Captain Beefheart live recordings, is questionable.

I think the antibiotics have kicked in... I vegetated for a couple of days and finished reading "The Hound Of The Baskervilles"... I had to go to the dentist for my six-monthly checkup (GET 'EM WHILE THEY'RE STILL ON THE N.H.S.!) and I took the liberty of having an x-ray done to see if my FUNNY EARS might have anything to do with my wisdom teeth... No?... just a thought... Anyway, I think I've finally been cured of FUNNY EARS, just in time for this week's CARAVAN concert!

(NB: The reason I keep typing "FUNNY EARS" is because I know it will amuse our Shelfy no end!)

...£1.10 for a tiddly little bottle of water? It'd be cheaper to be an alcoholic!?! ...And so it was that, on Friday 28th November 2003, after a wait of nearly twenty five years, I finally got to see CARAVAN live! Of course, THE BROOK in beautiful(!) downtown Portswood was not my first choice of venue (nor would it EVER be) and, considering there were four-fifths of the "Blind Dog At St Dunstan's" line-up a-present on that stage, strangely they omitted to play any material from that period at all (Funnily enough, "In The Land Of Grey & Pink" took the lions share, along with, needless to say, stuff from the new album, "THE UNAUTHORISED BREAKFAST ITEM - on ECLECTIC Records!! Yes!). But these are minor quibbles. At those magical moments when Geoffrey Richardson's electric viola fills the room with scudding minims, you will forgive them almost anything! I also learned a new word - "CONCATENATION" (look it up!). The new CARAVAN album was purchased, in its "SPECIAL LIMITED NUMBERED & SIGNED EDITION" form, with a bonus disc of live versions, including yet another "FOR RICHARD (THE ONE THEY DO ON ALL THEIR ALBUMS)" ...Not totally a "Five-Star" gig then - for that you'd have to first invent the time machine - but certainly "Four-Star-With-Occasional-Five-Star-Moments",like when Geoffrey Richardson's electric viola fills the room with scudding minims...