Week from Monday 2nd March 2015

I'm off to see the NURSE this morning. I'm doing one of those 24 hour BLOOD PRESSURE tests. The idea is to determine an average of my BP over a 'NORMAL' day. This is done by me walking around with a portable sphygmononomonometer device strapped on, which crushes my arm at tediously regular intervals, thus making 'NORMAL' activity (or clothing... or sleep...) virtually impossible under any circumstances.

There were a couple of good music documentaries on the telly over the weekend. First there was the slightly pretentious, but still entertaining "JOY DIVISION", about THAT band and the Manchester music scene in general. Then I watched "MR DYNAMITE: THE RISE OF JAMES BROWN", which was a VERY comprehensive account of the life of the 'godfather-asshole' himself. Whatever you think of the bloke, you certainly couldn't fault the musical content. The interviews with the people who knew him were surprisingly balanced for an 'official' biography. I'm also watching "CITIZENFOUR", the documentary film about EDWARD SNOWDEN and the NSA surveillance scandal. That's pretty ROCK'N'ROLL as well...

DREAM DIARY... "She started the craze for the larger head. They were all the rage for a while. Then fashions changed and they went back to having smaller heads, like the ones they had in the seventies..." The prison guard revealed why he was so rightfully famous... (I guess if you watch too many documentary films in one sitting, you're bound to start dreaming in the third person!)

Back to the 'health' centre this morning to have this wretched contraption removed... then a walk... then a bath...

Crikey! Is it really two whole years since I saw STEVEN WILSON at the Royal Festival Hall (4th March 2013)!?! It's almost as if it were yesterday! Those sensurround ("IT'S BEHIND YOU!") sound effects are STILL echoing around somewhere in the back of my brain! Certainly "The Raven..." has never been TOO far from the 'jukebox' ever since. AND NOW... as I mentioned earlier, I'm off to HMV at the earliest possible opportunity this week to buy his NEW album "HAND. CANNOT. ERASE."

Now I find myself trying to tap my foot to that fiendish riff on "Three Years Older" (an instant hit!)... On first hearing via the Soundcloud, I thought it to be that MOTIF PROGRESSIF CLASSIQUE, the 7:8 (think "Cinema Show" by the Genesis or "Xanadu" by the Rush, or indeed "La Llorona" by CC:PP)... but now that I listen closer, I realise that it's alternating bars of 7:8 and 9:8 (and maybe the odd bar of ten just to throw one off balance?) Smart asses!

On first hearing, there's a couple of tracks that I don't like QUITE so much... "Perfect Life", with its singalong chorus, spoken word section and drumbox riddims (stylistically) sticks out like a sore thumb amongst the stronger material that precedes and follows it. But as I say, this is "ON FIRST HEARING" - I might change my mind over time as I familiarise myself with it (which I hope to do as I sit here sticking labels on envelopes). The title track I didn't like at first either, but it IS a grower (Does it remind me of something by Nik Kershaw?).

DREAM DIARY... A promising new career in cake decorating, which leads to a commission for the popular beat combo U2... I get them to pose for photographs looking like a cheesy-grinning 'fifties vocal group...

Week from Monday 9th March 2015

Yesterday afternoon, I watched Fritz Lang's "METROPOLIS" in all its freshly-restored, full-length glory. But it being a silent film (and a pretty long one now!), I decided I'd watch it with MY OWN choice of soundtrack, mainly 1970s ELECTRIC VOODOO SPACE JAZZ from the likes of Miles Davis, Alice Coltrane, Weather Report and John McLaughlin. There was one particular piece from the latter's "DEVOTION" album that synced up spookily well with one of the 'Mad Professor In His Lab' sequences.

A day of counting things, labelling them and stuffing them into envelopes to take to the post office... The title track of the CHART-TOPPING pop sensation "HAND CANNOT ERASE" (with or without the dots) is now firmly lodged in my brain in EARWORM format. Didn't I say it was a 'grower'? But I still find myself skipping over "PERFECT LIFE" whenever I give the disc a spin (i.e. daily!). It's not actually BAD (in fact on any OTHER record, it would be bloody marvellous!), but moodwise it doesn't sit comfortably with the rest of the album. In my humble opinion.
ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY... We went to see the freshly-crowned reggae kings ASWAD at the Portsmouth Guildhall (10th March 1988). We'd encountered them on a number of occasions previously (at various festivals), so we KNEW they'd be ruddy good... but now, suddenly, they were PROPER POP STARS with a proper hit single and a proper tour of town halls and everything, and they were fabulous! In fact, they would never be as good as this ever again. I'd still list this among my ALL-TIME TOP SHOWS!
It's GOZZY TUESDAY... bills to pay; phones to top up; parcels to deliver; new jobs to get under way; print out the sleeve notes for the latest volume of "HOT TICKLES", that sort of thing... but the will also be a GOZZY THURSDAY this week as well!
AND ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY... well, exactly a year ago (12th March 2014. See, we've caught up now?!), I went to see THE CRIMSON PROJEkcT at the Shepherd's Bush Empire. I guess, in hindsight, that I was right all along with my blogspot-borne statement of "I see this tour as drawing a line under 'KING CRIMSON: THE ADRIAN BELEW YEARS'..."
But going much further back, it was also on the 12th March (1981) that ROBERT FRIPP performed an "Evening of Barbertronics" at the Virgin Megastore in Oxford Street ('Don't look for it...'). We stood around - or rather squatted on the floor like children at a school assembly - and enjoyed some live Frippertronics (abruptly aborted due to one of the Revoxes not behaving itself).
This was followed by a 'Q & A' session (during which I asked something banal about his working with David Byrne), while Robert had his hair cut ('media' style) by celebrity New York coiffeuse MARY-LOU GREEN. I can just about recognise myself in the crowd, just behind Soo Catwoman's foot, in the picture that appeared in that week's edition of the NME.
Polite 'demands' for more music led to another attempt at live Frippertronics... again, frustratingly, cut short... Oh, what to do? From technical adversity came sublime music, as we instead witnessed one of those Blue Peter-like "HERE'S ONE I MADE EARLIER" occasions, whereby Robert soloed over a pre-existing 'loop' (from a more successful US show of a couple of weeks earlier).
Chitchat and music over, we formed an orderly queue at the checkout (it's an English thing, you wouldn't understand!) to get our choices of vinyl signed and to shake the hand of Robert Fripp. Just ponder on that for a moment. To this day, I have a treasured copy of the pink "THE LEAGUE OF GENTLEMEN" elpee autographed by Robert Fripp... Crusty cheeses...
On Saturday, the man from TalkTalk came to test the sorry state of my "BROAD"BAND connection. When it works, it's fine... unfortunately, these days, there are quite a few daylight hours when it doesn't! I'm simply not getting the service I pay for. As I'd surmised all along, the fault lies with YE OLDE BRYTYSH TELECOMME's ancient copper wiring. So next week, I shall be expecting a man from BT OpenReach (all these different splinter-group companies!) to visit as well...

CC recommended the reading of Dr. NEIL POSTMAN's book "AMUSING OURSELVES TO DEATH", about how society is being affected by our dependency (and addiction) to electronic media. It seems even more relevant now than it did when it was written in the 1980s. And yes! I am WELL AWARE of how IRONIC it might be that I'm reading it as a PDF file on an ANDROID device instead of as a 'REAL' book made of paper!

DREAM DIARY... I visualised an entire 'missing reel' of "ET: THE EXTRA TERRESTRIAL" in which, after ET's friends turn up to collect him and there is a torchlit chase through the fields, the family are left in a bloody, gibbering mess in the living room, their inviscerated bodies gestating ("ALIEN"-style) the next generation of ETs... Beat that, Spielberg!?!

Week from Monday 16th March 2015

I enjoyed a stable internet connection long enough to post my latest rant on the DGM LIVE gussetbook, in response to David Singleton's quest for 'real' vocalists who have the "V FACTOR":-
X=Why? - RE: "...'Is The X Factor killing music?' and the way that it appears to have coloured a whole generation's understanding of what 'good singing' is (and our own reaction to it)..."

Finally! At last! Thank you, David! So I’m not the only one who feels that way about the melismathon that passes for "good" singing these days?
It probably is a generational thing.
My own reaction to any modern singers (especially of the Post-Mariah Carey/Whitney Houston/Celine Dion School of Grandstanding) is akin to that of fingernails on a squeaky blackboard. It's not just that I don't like it - I physically can't listen to it!
It is almost certainly for this reason that I will always plump for instrumental music first and foremost. If a 'song' (and I use the term in its broadest definition!) has to have vocals, I'd like to:-
a) Care about what they are singing (and, let's face it, how many pop or rock songs have anything [new] to actually say? Often the vocals' sole purpose is to justify having a vocalist on the session in the first place! "Let 'em sing any old rubbish! Who cares? You can't hear the words anyway!")
b) Be able to endure the timbre of the voice without gritting my teeth.
Here's an idea guys. You want to sing a melody? Sing the flipping notes in the tune, not every other passing note in every related scale and inversion before (accidentally?) hitting the right ones. Don't think we haven't noticed that your melismatic vocal gymnastics are merely a way of covering up your having a tin ear for music, for those that wouldn't know any better.
Just for the record, it's not JUST 'modern' singers I don't like. I react in the same 'fingernails-on-blackboard' manner when I hear JANIS JOPLIN, BILLY HOLLIDAY and nearly all so-called 'JAZZ' singers (vocals don't belong in jazz anyway!). And I know a certain someone who runs screaming from the room whenever JONI MITCHELL goes into one of her 'yodelling' routines...

So with Tuesday set aside for waiting for the TELEPHONE MAN to come, I'm doing my usual 'TUESDAY' stuff on MONDAY instead. The internet connection hasn't been TOO bad so far this morning, but you just wait... it's still really early. Things usually start to fall apart after about 9.30 (BUSINESS HOURS?). As I'm an 'early bird' anyway, I haven't minded TOO much getting up pre-dawn, to do all the online things I have to do before the red lights and the "DNS SERVER IS NOT RESPONDING" messages come back. But it's really not on, is it?

"What's the special cajun?"
"Why, Thomas the tan cajun, of course!"

TUESDAY... 12:52... the internet has been largely unusable for most of the 'working' day... Red lights and yellow triangles all the way... Hey! I'm enjoying a brief moment of lucidity! Quick! before it goes off again! ...the BT engineer was expected at 11:00, but still hasn't arrived yet... I can't do much today except read an electronic book (OFFline, natch!)... phoned TalkTalk again... now I learn that the BT man isn't coming till TOMORROW...

WEDNESDAY... The BT engineer has put in new sockets and climbed the pole to examine various boxes of wires (closely watched by next door's cat)... Hoorah! We appear to have a working, stable connection. T.W.I.W.I. - There When I Want It. Now I can get some sleep and work sensible hours again! Ah! 'andyfromozz' has commented on my rant about 'modern' singers...
"...'Good singing' can be defined as connecting with an audience, might be only a few people, might be a million. It’s in the ear of the beholder…."
I absolutely agree, Andyfromozz. I did say that it was a personal thing. It's a mysterious, magical process lost to the ancients - Why does one person consider a particular piece of music to be sublime, yet another will be be sent screaming from the room at the very first bunch of notes? Theodor Adorno and Oliver Sacks have written weighty treatises on the subject.
As I said, for me it's all about the timbre. I personally react badly to the Careys and the Dions. But just for the record, I also can't stand Janis Joplin, Billy Holliday and most so called 'jazz' singers (love Cassandra Wilson and Nina Simone though), the vast majority of 'folk' singers (but I do like some)… can't listen to gospel, but adore qaawali… I could go on (and, something tells me, I probably will!)
"...I think it's one thing to not care for vocal gymnastics personally, but quite another to impune the vocalist and their audience for having 'tin ears'..."
I admit I was being a little facetious when I wrote that. I'd had a bad day.
"...I like to think I grew out of my musical snobbery when I hit my 20's, when I opened my mind and ears and discovered a world of musical variety and inspiration..."
I don’t necessarily think that it's 'musical snobbery'. I do admit I am a bit 'old and set in my ways' and maybe less open to what might be considered 'new' things. If someone draws my attention to a particular artist or work, suggesting that it might be the kind of thing I'd like, I will always seek it out. But let's face it, there a lot of music out there and you can't listen to it all! By the time I was in my twenties, I had already established a pretty good idea of what kinds of music would push my buttons. I instinctively knew that, for me, it wasn't to be found in the top twenty charts, so I kind of tuned out of that whole musical world. Perhaps, as a consequence, I missed out on a few things that I might have liked over the years. We shall never know. I like to think I have extremely broad musical tastes, without having a need to make them all-inclusive. There are only so many hours in a day.
"...Vision Of Love is a fantastic song, sung brilliantly. A Lou Reed styled monotone delivery of that song might not have had quite the same impact don’t you think? (not knocking Lou at all mind you)..."
Wait… What? "Lou Reed Sings Mariah Carey"? Yikes! that's an opportunity someone missed :-D
Having established that (stubbornly set in my ways as I am) I wouldn't have sought it out - sorry, I'm not familiar with the song you mention. 'Sung brilliantly'? Okay. I'll take your word for it. I draw your attention to the comments I made earlier, m'lud. I wholeheartedly agree that Lou Reed wouldn't have added much to anyone's enjoyment of the song. I'm no big fan of Mr Reed either. Now if you'd have suggested "Nico Sings Mariah Carey", for that I'd pay good money!
"...Funny how singers get slammed for noodling, yet go tell Robert he's playing too many notes why don't you?..."
For me, it's all about timbre and context, not the number of notes. And taste. I like the sound of Robert's guitar. I don't like the sound of Mariah's voice. If Robert played 'too many notes' and they weren't the right ones for the music, I'd notice and I'd probably say so. But he has taste. He is not usually prone to grandstanding.
THURSDAY... down to Gosport to deliver all the stuff that I SHOULD have done on Tuesday. Maybe later, as a treat, I'll enjoy some TONSORIAL TLC at the hairdressers...

FRIDAY... This morning we are witnessing a near-total SOLAR ECLIPSE. I have my little piece of smoked glass at the ready. But it is unlikely that we will see anything from here, as we are covered in fog! All of the big glowing space objects are hidden from view. At best, it will just get even darker than it already is...

Week from Monday 23rd March 2015

Now that I finally have a connection to the internet that STAYS that way (touch silicone!), I spent a Sunday afternoon catching up with some of the previous week's RADIO highlights, via the Beeb's BORN AGAIN - sorry! LISTEN AGAIN facilities... particularly various 'episodes' of 6 MUSIC's "LIVE MUSIC HOUR" (a programme that usually goes out in the wee small of the morning) and this Friday's "CLASSIC CONCERT", a 1984 performance by JETHRO TULL...

Tuesday, and I'm off to Gozzy to fulfil my obligations as a TOP HAIR MODEL ("Curses! 'Foiled' Again!")... On Wednesday I have a visit to the DENTISTS on the cards... On Friday, I will be PUSHING A TROLLEY up and down the High Street, to deliver several big boxes of leaflets to their rightful owner...

DGM gaffer DAVID SINGLETON mentioned me in HIS diary this week! In the ongoing discourse about "good" singing, he cites Andy Yorke (singing "San Manuel"), Sting (seen on the telly singing a children's competition-winning song about the rain forest) and David Sylvian (singing just about anything!) as examples of vocal performances that have moved him...
Good Singing Already
:: Posted by PPmINTY on March 25, 2015

"...As is the discussion about 'good singing' on the guestbook. I would suggest that PPmINTY, who tends to forgo vocal music, listens to Andy Yorke singing 'San Manuel' from 'The Vicar Songbook' (it can previewed for free on Soundcloud or Spotify, so this is not a monetary sales pitch). He quite simply lives the song..."
Dear David, I don't think that I said that I 'tend to forego vocal music', I simply meant that I prefer instrumental music because it speaks clearly to me (perhaps without the words 'getting in the way' of my musical experience!?).
And yet... I find that in my own musical life, I'm always finding myself in situations where I have to provide a backdrop to accompany spoken word and I have to try not to 'get in the way' of the words!
In any music where there are vocals featured, these almost by default become the focus of our attention, however hard we try to tune into other aspects of the musical picture. It's probably the way our brains are hardwired for purposes of communication. This is equally true of pop and rock, 'world' music, jazz or classical. We tend to think in terms of 'voice-with-accompaniment' (possible 'exceptions that prove the rule' here might be Julie Tippetts or Phil Minton?)
I've adored "The Vicar Songbook #1" from the word go - you don't need a 'monetary sales pitch' to sell it to me! - and yes! I like Andy Yorke's performances particularly.
Have to agree to disagree about Sting though... but David Sylvian could sing the telephone directory and I'd listen!
MUSIC doesn't have to be ABOUT anything. MUSIC just IS. It speaks for itself.

Let's try another meaningless analogy... I personally derive FAR more pleasure from gazing at an abstract expressionist painting than I do from a meticulously-crafted renaissance portrait. On the other hand, most 'normal' folks would say exactly the opposite.

They might also come up with that classic chestnut "It took real SKILL to paint that portrait. That stuff you like? Anyone could have done that!". By the same token, in music, it might be rightly argued that it does take a lot more SKILL to craft a perfect SONG (I wish I had it!) than it does to create the kind of nebulous, abstract, semi-spontaneous 'action' music that I personally favour, music which might leave the average audient baffled. Again we return to that ancient mystery of WHY a particular kind of 'art' might push all the right buttons in one person and not in another.

Ah! but the vocals... As I said in my previous rant, when there ARE vocals featured in a piece of music, these inevitably become the focus of my attention. You can't help it. So either I prefer not to understand what is being SAID (The Voice Heard As An Additional Tone Colour Within The Music), or the vocalist must have something to say that I DO want to hear (The Song). BAD SINGING (vocal grandstanding) or BAD WORDS (lyrical triteness) hinder my enjoyment of THE MUSIC.
Wagnerian opera or Bollywood 'filmi' music = SUBLIME
The same thing, but translated into 'English' = RIDICULOUS
The early recordings of Super Etoile de Dakar = SUBLIME
Youssou N'Dour, once he got 'big' in the west and started doing 'English' songs = MEH! NOT SO MUCH
I know I will sound like an old fogie when I say this... but to these ears, most western pop music DOES consist of BAD lyrics sung BADLY. That's why it doesn't 'speak' to me. I don't think it was meant for the likes of me anyway.

THE POWER OF SUGGESTION... now I've made myself want to listen to old SUPER ETOILE DE DAKAR cassettes...

DREAM DIARY... watching the autogyro races... then I find myself in a branch of Marks & Spencers, teeming with wasps (pronounced "warrsps")... "Only moles can save the future"...

Following my Friday bout of trolleypushin' spody-ody, I finished off the week with a bus ride into SOUTHAMPTON. I was delighted to find a copy of MILES DAVIS' "Bootleg Series #2: Live In Europe 1969" sitting there in an HMV rack, begging for me to buy it (I thus cross another item off my ever-evolving "WANTED" list). Meanwhile in Oxfam, a nactual eye-talian seedydisk of PREMIATA FORNERIA MARCONI's legendary "Live In USA" (aka "PFM COOK") for under four pounds! Some tunes by A CERTAIN RATIO were playing on the turntable, leading to reminiscences about early eighties Factory twelve-inchers and cassettes that came in green plastic wallets.

Week from Monday 30th March 2015

Meanwhile SHELFY announces that he's having a craze for the teutonic funsters AMON DUUL (2, presumably?), which leads, via the usual disagreement about jazz drummers, into a discussion about whether various deities approve of CYMBALS or not...

Off to the DOCTOR's again this morning, to fight the continuing fight against HYPERTENSION. He puts me on some new tablets. One is not supposed to take these particular doobries if one has had any sort of kidney trouble or is lactose-intolerent. I don't think I'm either of those things, but I have to do YET MORE blood tests just to make sure. And so it goes...

A quiet sort of week (everyone's sort of winding down for 'the holidays' already!) I did manage to spot a couple of APRIL FOOLS in the cybermedia - apparently Microsoft are launching their own version of Linux and King Crimson will be playing an acoustic set at this year's Green Man Festival. I did some 'ROUGHS' for a new Uncle Willy project... I added the final touches to one last CC:PP track (just need to do a TEST PRESSING of the 'finished' album for listening through on a proper hi-fi)... and then spent Good Friday watching back-to-back episodes of "ROBOT CHICKEN" and "RED DWARF"!

This morning's update for FIREFOX DEVELOPER EDITION broke it, at least it did on my machine. It's slowed to the point of unusable, requiring that I seek out alternative browsing arrangements! I tried GOOGLE CHROME for a bit, but then, after some deinstalling and reinstalling, decided to go back to the 'normal' edition of FIREFOX where I feel most comfortable.