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The words of June's ballad about the man who pretends to be dead so that his lover, who won't answer his letters, will have to come to his funeral gets slightly lost in the arrangement we were, admittedly, towards the back of the auditorium.
There's some cheeky non folky stuff, not all of which I get. June loves the Tradition, but she also loves Songs. It stands as a song, not as a pastiche. I wasn't sure if the show finishing White Rabbit by a Mr Aeroplane merrited its inclusion, except as a joke which everyone apart from me got. But the songs. I can be at a gig, admiring the technique and enjoying the noise it makes, and then a song comes and punches me in the solar plexus. The first half ends on a barnstorming rendition of the practically obscene Bonny Suzie Cleland.
The last time I heard this song, Alisdair Roberts whispered it to his guitar and left the audience genuinely horrified.
But angry. None of the horror is lost. And the tune. Her father dragged her to the stake. Oh my love, oh my love. Oh my love so early oh. Her brothers the fire did make.
And Bonny Suzie Cleland was burn-ed in Dundee. But here, the lyric, done pretty straight, competes with a raucus, twangy reggae-ish drum-led background racket. Here it seems to stall or freeze on the first repeat. Who killed the miners. And the last pre-encore number was Seven Curses; morphed from a whining lament into a rhythmical country hoe-down; with the final curses given multiple repeats.
A lot like Phil Beer's fiddle cover of the same song now I come to think about it - is there, I wonder, an intermdiate version I don't know? No comments: Email This BlogThis! Martin Simpson. Chris said that he was Martin's house guest a few weeks ago, and that he appears to do nothing all day but play his guitar. It shows. I don't know anything about guitar technique, but I can see the way his fingers run up and down the fret, and that he's doing obviously tricksy things involving small re-tunes mid song.
Trying to describe his guitar sound makes one grope for words like "ethereal" and "subliminal"; on the record you could mistake him for a harpist; and as everyone says, it sounds as if there are at least two guitars playing. There are wonderfully observed vignettes about a pissed English actor he met in a boarding house in New Orleans; and the Tom Waits-y account of a series of a chance encounters over coffee:.
Love never dies, lust loses its shine for sure Friendship can fade or be forced to a close Frost follows clear skies in the flat lands I come from, but At that Arkansas truck-stop, love never dies. Anyone who can write a lyric that perfect has clearly studied long and hard at the feet of almighty Bob.
It's a person he saw in truck stop; an eccentric Englishman he met in the Deep South; the incredibly unlikely story of the shepherd who toured the world playing the mouth organ at the very end of his life.
This is even true of the monumental Never Any Good, a song which loses little of its power even on the tenth or twentieth listening. He says that it's so personal and specific that he didn't expect it to resonate with other people. Well, it depends what you mean by "resonate". It isn't universal; it hasn't told us anything about Fathers and Sons or War that we didn't already know. But it has told us, in six or seven simple verses, a very great deal about Martin Simpsons' father, and a very great deal about Martin Simpson himself.
You showed me eye-bright in the hedgerows. Speedwell and travellers joy. You taught me how to use my eyes when I was just a boy It's unhealthy, of course, to imagine that you've got to know someone because you follow their Twitter feed, but I smile every time Martin tweets something like "Beautiful day for dog walking.
There was a pair of Great Spotted Woodpeckers in the pine tree this morning. Makes me feel good. Some time ago, someone tweeted a review to the effect that Martin is the best finger-style guitarist in the world. What a lovely man. Tuesday, November 08, Songs of Innocence and Experience. Chris Wood. Colston Hall, Bristol. Oct I'm sure Chris Wood would hate it if I described him as a prophet. He hates absolute truth and is deprecating about his own talent.
Perhaps he's telling us that tonight won't be an evening of high seriousness? Or perhaps he just likes the tune? He fills the line about tidings of great joy with a rich, smiling warmth. But he's an English folksinger, so the great big important subjects keep cropping up. And England; above all England.
There is no getting away from England. His songs start from the heartbreakingly specific; not "childhood", but his children:. Workers Playtime saw them through. But he has an astonishing knack of turning a song in the final line, so he's suddenly talking about something bigger and more universal. There's an unbearable intensity when the whimsical anecdotes about his daughter give way to.
And I really do mean "unbearable": there's a reflective depth in the way he sings the word "hard" which I found genuinely difficult to listen to. Didn't he call Handmade Life "church music with drums"? The Colston Hall's blurb calls him the best English song writer since Richard Thompson, and one can see the comparison: very personal, strong narratives, songs that you could almost, but not quite, mistake for traditional.
Chris has an endearingly naive habit of using traditional "tags" in the first lines of songs, almost as if he needs a jingle to get him going "all the kings horses and all the kings men, I'm sorry but they haven't a clue" but he keeps bringing you up short by lapsing into an unaffected vernacular. Not many lines separate "Awaken arise you drowsy sleeper; awake arise, it's almost day" from. The more obvious comparison, the one which he himself makes, is with Martin Carthy.
Carthy was the first person he looked up to, he says. But most of the traditional songs he makes his own. In the hands of the Imagined Village, Cold, Haily, Windy Night is a sing-a-long rabble rouser where you thump your real-ale glasses in time with the chorus.
Chris recasts it as an understated, sinister murmur. I don't know what was done to Hall 2 during the refurbishment, but acts keep commenting on how good it is. The acoustics seems to give Chris the confidence to do a more than usually subtle, understated performance. He goes straight into his only instrumental of the night, a traditional tune and one by his friend and squeeze box expert Andy Cutting. I was about to say "as if he's making love to the audience" but that would be impolite to one who sings so much about marriage.
He's a big fan of marriage -- not Marriage in the politician's sense, but the love between husbands and wives. He quotes his friend Hugh Lupton on the subject: "I am not your partner. I am your husband. We are not a firm of solicitors. I ower this point to my Folk Buddy. Indeed, "England" sometimes seems to be a privileged, incantatory word in his singing. I note that the MP's expenses scandal has gone from being "such a quiet revolution" on the CD to "such an English revolution" here.
No thank you And when he chooses to lay into England, he doesn't spare any punches. The always devastating Hollow Point tonight became a quiet, understated, chilling exercise in forensic rage, a dissection of an appalling injustice by a man who is almost too fatigued to be angry any more, coming to life to delivery the devastating final lines. The words "hollow point" are delivered with a maniacal glee, like the punch line of a joke, and he almost seems to jig during the final guitar riff, like some musical folk-devil.
The song really is almost too intense to listen to. It's hard to think that he, or anyone, has ever performed this song, or any song, better than he did tonight. Ever since I first encountered Chris singing the song about the man who loved his own little bit of England too much to sell it, back when we were still allowed to have folk music on the wireless I have felt that the closest comparison is really with William Blake.
And not only because he occasionally calls England "Albion". The combination of sentimental romanticism and sometimes brutal social realism; the depiction of children and hearkening back to his own childhood; the sense that we are in the presence of a specifically English revolutionary prophet. A few songs into the set, Chris told us he had been working on some new songs, but "they hadn't quite come" yet He's been reading about English history, he says, and it's mostly horrible.
Wonderful moments like the invention of the National Health Service were blips in a long history of violence and robber barons, and we are now reverting to type. And then he started to play a strange, almost melodyless elegy, another aching tune of homesickness for a country you never quite knew, sung into the middle-distance almost as if he was improvising it on the spot. And the words? What else could they possibly have been?
Monday, November 07, Dear Andrew, Have you in fact stopped going to folk music altogether? Actually, I have merely become Remiss in writing up my notes. A swift catch-up of the ones which I should have reviewed would include:. Carthy always leaves me breathless. There aren't too many performers who would play a few bars, and then say "I can't remember how that one goes, I'll play you this instead" — and then, when he gets to the encore, say "I've remembered it now" and embark on all 22 verses of Sir Patrick Spens Scottish fella whose ship went down.
He also did a full length Famous Flower of Serving Men, which runs to about 30 verses. He thinks is about May festivals and not cross dressing and burning people at the stake after all.
The following night I heard the aforementioned Alisdair Roberts at the same venue. His vision has remained pure since day one. How many musical artists can say that? From Here is another flawless slice of sonic bliss from a band that has never, ever had an off day. I find it heartening that IQ along with their early peers Marillion, Solstice and Pendragon can still create new music that takes me by surprise, decades after I was first amazed Anywhere The Heart Goes / Scarborough Fair - Steve Hall (20) - Heartfelt (CD their sounds.
Better, even, than their second LP The Wakewhich is held up often as one of the definitive prog albums. The cumulative effect is a vast, immersive experience. To borrow a Faith No More-ism, this one came from out of nowhere. Then more of the irritating screechy ping.
Then a cello-ish echo-chamber tone that improved things, but still with that horrible screechy ping at regular intervals. A relief. With a screechy ping? Not on my watch. No one else seems to have commented on this, but there it is. Tool sticks to its tried-and-tested musical formula throughout the rest of the album: emotionally detached, robotic vocals; mathematically precise tribal percussion; glorious clean-toned guitar work; heavy, expansive bass; spacey keyboards.
Fenriz has always been all about the music. When he formed Darkthrone this was the case. When fellow Norwegian black-metallists Mayhem were burying their trousers, sniffing dead birds and concentrating too hard on contriving a ridiculous image for themselves instead of rehearsing, composing and bettering their abilitiesFenriz was crafting and recording music. As those same inner-circle members were killing themselves and each other and the occasional innocent park-walkerDarkthrone just kept making music.
I admire Fenriz and his Darkthrone compadre Nocturno Culto for that: no matter what kind of chaos is going on around them, they shut it out and focus on crafting music.
Another way they managed to achieve such a prolific output was by refusing to play live. While other bands were touring the world, Fenriz and Nocturno Culto remained hidden away in their Norwegian Bombshelter headquarters, always moving forwards with new music.
A fanatical work ethic. Old Star features seven new studio tracks, all of which are excellent. One even has a Scottish theme! I love that Fenriz decided to write a Scottish-themed track. The song contains no mention of whisky, sheep, kilts, shortbread, Robert Burns or The Skids, though, so one has to question its credibility. All things considered, Old Star is a gorgeously guttural growlfest underpinned by dirgelike slow riffs, off-kilter percussion, and some wild lead-guitar breaks.
It even sounds produced! Not produced crystal clear like a Rush album or a Marillion album. It also marked the point at which prog sensibilities and really heavy extreme metal first blended in a seamless way.
To this day, I find that album awe-inspiring. Like most Opeth recordings since then, In Cauda Venenum veers more into prog-metal territory, rarely bringing forth moments of extreme heaviness. The musicianship is as adept as ever. Production values and song compositions are still spellbinding. I prefer the Swedish version. Fornaldarsagor contains the odd hint of Finntroll in the music, but never to the point of rip-off or parody. This is a serious band delivering serious music.
I find it incredibly refreshing — an album to blow away the cobwebs of the mind. Those are my top 25 of the year. Check it out. Trust me. The cover image below is a link to the definitive hardback edition of Metallic Dreams.
Paperback and Kindle e-book editions are available from Amazon, but the hardback is available exclusively from lulu the booksellers, not the diminutive songstress from Glasgow. To even sum them up as albums seems woefully inadequate. These are soundscapes of infinity, eternity, love, loss, longing, agony. Play Echoes from Eta Carinae on a quality hi-fi, crank up the volume, lie back, close your eyes and see where it takes you. This is more than music.
Utterly beautiful. Thankfully, the latter proved true. Burning Cities is vibrant, alive, bouncy and bristling with feral energy. The opening track comes bursting out of the speakers, a bold declaration of intent: This Is Our World.
Jobson sounds like he means every word. Life-affirming stuff. I saw The Skids live four times intwice in their home town of Dunfermline, where these tracks were even more visceral, with Jobson punching the air and dancing around like the maddest of lunatics, yet never hitting a wrong note. As always, the lyrics are politically and socially aware. The rhythm section is stronger than ever, the seasoned professionals Mike and Bill making it sound easy.
Several of its sections would fit on Rendez-Vous without sounding out of place. Unlike certain other electronica artists most notably EnigmaJarre has the knack of being influenced by his previous work without ripping it off or copying chunks wholesale Enigma has repeated the opening section of its astonishing debut album as a leitmotif in almost every successive release.
The production quality has to be heard on a serious system to be fully appreciated. When it comes to electronica, JMJ is as good as it gets. Spearheading the vanguard of Finnish metal along with Insomnium, Amorphis, Wintersun, Wolfheart, and Swallow the SunOmnium Gatherum continues to show the rest of the world how melodic death metal should be done.
The most amazing aspect of this band is its ability to craft tunes that are dripping with melody yet heavy enough to crumble castle walls. This is the first OG album not to feature any epic-length tracks. By their standards these are short snappy tunes, all coming in at under 6 minutes. The musical formula is a familiar one to their fans — ferocious riffage, guttural vocals, blast-beat drums and some sublime lighter guitar moments. Another ace from Finland.
Subsequent listens happened on my trusty old Celestion Ditton 44 speakers which can handle any music at any volume. The Album) to eternal winter. He has a superhuman ability on guitar. Not just an awe-inspiring heavy riffer, he is also a master of the tasteful refrain. The songwriting is of the highest calibre, with lyrics and attitude to match.
On Vol. His backing band is excellent. An amazing debut album. The next step in the evolution of Ghost. Cardinal Copia is now fronting the band.
I find it strange that so many folk categorise Ghost as black metal. Some of the music is extremely delicate but the lyrics are always hard-hitting.
Choral backing vocals are present in force, adding melodrama and menace to proceedings. This debut album tapped into my psyche and felt familiar even on the first listen, as though the songs had been unearthed rather than created anew. Jaw actually dropped…way down low.
Body hair pricked up in awe. Anthem of the Peaceful Army has that kind of timeless quality and mastery of melody. I love it. UDO — Steelfactory. His voice is as recognisable as ever, and as strong. My only disappointment with Steelfactory is a lyrical one. Perfect logic. TNFO delivers silky-smooth retro poppy proggy rock with electro layers and massive hooks. Catchy and beautifully produced. Job done. Vreid — Lifehunger. This one took me by surprise. Vreid continues that legacy, creating soundscapes that take the mind on mythic trips.
Also like Windir, Vreid includes folk elements and sweeping instrumental interludes in their music. The result is glorious. Lifehunger was five years coming.
Worth the wait. Amorphis — Queen of Time. Queen of Time follows the same formula Amorphis has been using since Tomi Joutsen joined the band in Same style of songwriting, production, vocals, guitar tone, drum sound. The musicianship is amazing, as always. Case in point: the use of brass instruments on sections of this album. Brass instruments have no place in metal. Never in the history of metal has some guy parping on a trumpet enhanced a song. Many times it has ruined an otherwise excellent track.
Minus the parpy nonsense, it would have been a true classic. A Perfect Circle — Eat the Elephant. A Perfect Circle seemed like a long-abandoned project, so Eat the Elephant was a welcome surprise. The production quality is something special, so the album benefits from being listened to on a serious hi-fi system at a decent loud volume. Hypnotic rhythms that touch the soul.
Sigh — Heir to Despair. Heir to Despair is, I reckon, their greatest studio album to date. Folket Bortafor Nordavinden — Sagnamadr. Although this outfit has been playing live for over two decades, this is the first recorded release. Judas Priest — Firepower. Is this a classic Priest album? Does it contain some quintessential Priest moments? Never the Heroesfor example, features a barnstorming riff, an impeccable groove and an impassioned vocal from Halford.
Venom — Storm the Gates. Venom coined the term Black Metal on their album of the same name in In doing so they gave birth to a movement. They had already forged a sound of their own — a mixture of punk anger, metal heaviness, insane speed, lo-fi production and an anti-Christian ethic that would strike a chord in Norway over a decade later, bringing about the Second Wave of Black Metal, which spawned havoc in the form of church-burnings, infighting and murder. Venom still features original frontman Cronos, but his previous partners-in-crime Mantas and Abaddon have left the fold they now have a band called Venom Inc.
His vocals are more intelligible than in days of yore, the production is immeasurably better and the songs have more melody. Saxon — Thunderbolt. A workmanlike album by Saxon standards but with enough high points to merit repeated listens. With musical execution, vocal delivery and production values of this calibre, however, the album is enjoyable if uninspired.
I hear that they might be allowed out of Canada next year to play some gigs in the UK. I better get back to that. Albums of the YearMusic. So, not before time, here it is. Better late than never. My top 20 of will follow soon. The Invisible Lake is in the same vein as previous releases: instrumental metal with complex song structures, gorgeous guitar tone, superbly crafted melodies and emotion in spades.
The production quality is astonishing, with each instrument distinguishable in perfect clarity. As with past Nimbatus material, the entire project is the work of one man.
Heavy-metal genius. Its successor, S tarmourneris even better. What gives this such emotional impact is the counterpoint between tuneful melodies and feral vocals. Starmourner is a work of supreme confidence musically, lyrically and thematically.
Epic soundscapes from the frozen north. A dark, heavy and hauntingly beautiful slice of ice-cold melodeath. Mille Petrozza and his cohorts are always on form. Accomplished songwriters, they deliver their unique brand of sound with stunning intensity. Gods of Violence is another slab of molten metal from the German masters. GoV is more straight-ahead, uncompromising thrash than Phantom Antichristwhich was experimental in tempo, melody and song structure.
This is a return to pure thrash roots, and a powerful one at that. This connection has never been more evident than on Who Mourns for the Morning Star? It sounds a lot like Judas Priest circa Painkiller.
This is their finest release yet. Atmospheric black metal that owes a debt to the legendary Bathory. He was right. Ulfven is as Viking as shield maidens and dragon-headed longboats.
Few bands have undergone such radical musical transformations as Anathema. Back then they were playing doom metal in the British vein of the time My Dying Bride, Paradise Lostbut as the musicians in Anathema grew up their music grew up too.
It matured and widened its horizons, leaving behind all notions of genre or scene. There are prog elements but the overall sound is too big, too expansive and too rich for the prog term to do it justice. That album was a milestone in their musical evolution. On this album female vocals have largely taken over from male ones. Piano is there in force too. And like all Anathema albums, The Optimist is dripping with emotion. Icelandic metal that sounds like a heavied-up version of Danish legends D.
This works beautifully. I liked their earlier albums but I love this one. The tone of the guitars is sublime — at times Chris Isaakesque — while the bottom-heavy bass gives the soundscapes serious depth. I always worry when a sequel to such an album is planned.
Some legacies should be left alone. A barnstormer of an album nonetheless. Favourite track: Lavin which translates as avalanche — a masterclass in atmospherics. Its delicate intro lulls listeners into relaxation before pummelling them with relentless riffage. The effect is like being hit in the face by a mountain…and enjoying it. Who said romance was dead? Anyway, to the music. The music has an otherworldly dreamlike quality and more than a hint of the minimalism that makes Ludovico Einaudi such a genius.
This music touches the soul. Haunting, beautiful, captivating, immersive. Having competed in bodybuilding and won many titles, he just added instruments to his posing routine, wandered onstage in his skimpy posing pouch sporting a comic-book-hero physique, then proceeded to dish out well-crafted metal with big hooks and catchy choruses.
Instead of a drum solo at his gigs, he would blow into a hot-water bottle until it expanded like a balloon and exploded. That takes serious lung power.
But what of Thor in the present day? He was advised by his doctor to cancel a world tour. As I sat in my living room watching that film, which was both heartbreaking and life-affirming, I was surprised to hear a voice I know well. Sure enough there was my Greek friend Dimitrios who translated my novel Metallic Dreams into Greek — a version that will soon be released backstage with Thor in some remote part of eastern Europe, plastered drunk and shouting like a lunatic.
You were blazing drunk. I was really drunk for a couple of weeks around that time. Anyway, back to this latest Thor release. Archetypal stuff. The band is usually categorised as melodic death metal, but Shade Empire is also heavily influenced by the Gothenburg sound popularised by In Flames, Soilwork, and At the Gates. The artwork is a welcome bonus in an era when most bands put little effort into covers a trend that began when CDs emerged.
I miss the days when vinyl reigned supreme, because back then most heavy bands, especially those in the metal and prog-rock genres, deemed cover art as important as the music it accompanied. The art was an integral part of the image. This third Bell Witch release is a natural evolution of their epic and eerie doom-metal sound. Mirror Reaper is a double album, yet it contains only one track split into two parts.
Crushingly heavy passages co-exist side by side with delicate, mournful guitar refrains, huge drum sounds and occasional vocals — sometimes choral-style laments, other times low doomy growls. No detail sounds out of place. Not an easy thing to do, yet they make it sound easy. Medusa is the heaviest album the band has released in over a decade.
Medusa is heavier still, yet it retains the melodic sensibilities of their lighter albums such as Symbol of Life. I feared that the departure of Angela Gossow as Arch Enemy vocalist might spell downfall for the band. This, the second post-Gossow Arch Enemy studio album, sees the band on fine form, although following a more generic, less brutal path than on their previous recording, War Eternal.
His riffage drives things along, veering off into jaw-dropping fretboard flourishes at regular points along the way. Favourite track: My Shadow and I — strongest track on the album by a country mile…melodeath done right. They are pioneers, not followers. For starters, there are symphonic elements — not overblown theatrical symphonics, but tasteful accompaniment that enhances the songs. Secondly, the sound is anything but lo-fi.
The sonic quality is spectacular. His familiar deep guttural growl has influenced so many fellow Swiss bands — Swamp Terrorists and Eluveitie, most obviously — as well as others across the globe. As I said, pioneers. Like all Hackett releases, this is a quality slice of music loaded with tasteful guitar work and distinctive vocals.
Of all the ex-Genesis members, Hackett has been the most exploratory in terms of musical styles. He is also a relentless workaholic, recording and touring year upon year, decade after decade. As a result, he is always match fit.
The Night Siren is evidence of this. Beautiful tone, beautiful execution…just beautiful. Accept has always been close to my heart, ever since I heard Princess of the Dawn as a year-old and stood in open-mouthed awe as shivers ran down my spine. The combination of skilled songwriting, excellent execution and a touch of exoticism made for an utterly addictive whole.
Wolf and Peter are still present, which allows the band to retain its archetypal sound. Mark Tornillo has been doing a pristine job on vocals for a few years. Music gained much inbut there was also monumental loss. A world without Lem and Phil is a strange place. Lemmy was more than just the godfather of heavy metal.
He was integrity personified. An original. A one-off. Whether singing or speaking, his gruff voice was instantly recognisable as the sound of gravel-throated truth. I was lucky enough to meet Lem and experience his wisdom, humour and warmth. Some people walk into a room without making a noticeable change to its energy. Not Lemmy. He had presence. It could be felt when he was near. I know. I felt it. Rewind eleven years. It speaks of a time in the USat the height of the Cold War, when espionage was very much a part of life on both sides of the Iron Curtain.
But these are carefree kids having a fun ride. But somehow, the protagonist is suddenly beset by a sense of alienation. All have gone off to find meaning in being American at a time when East-West nuclear conflict could have spelt destruction at any time.
Another masterpiece. After that tour de force, the mood softens for the gentle Overs, which starts with the sound of a match being lit. This is a marriage or relationship on the skids. And it ends, it seems, not with a bang, but a whimper. The song also offers up the second reference to the New York Times, which must have been chuffed at the exposure.
Before they know it, both parties will be in old age homes, their lives all but over. I have read critiques of this album slating the inclusion of this track, but my feeling is that it is pivotal to the entire Bookends concept. This was taken from one lyric website. I give honesty without regret. One hundred dollars for that picture. I remember taking a picture with Let me show you. Let me show you our picture.
This was me and my husband when we were first married. I still do it. I still lay on the half of the bed. A mother … they are mumbles. I have to be an old man. Are you happy living with us? Are you happy living with us here? What is it? Like, just a room. Your own room, in your own home. It is at this point that those lovely strummed guitar chords introduce Old Friends.
But back then, of course, he was a young man, his whole life ahead of him, and this is how he viewed a pair of old men. Then the young Simon thinks ahead … to how things will be now, when he too is an old man going on seventy.
Again, a single plucked acoustic guitar emerges. Side 2 has an altogether different feel. While there is no similar theme, the five songs are connected to those on Side 1 by virtue of the fact that each song has the stamp of Simon and Garfunkel at their best. And of course the side offers the first full version of Mrs Robinson. And of course the vocal harmonies are right up there with those of Lennon and McCartney.
But do you remember what it was about? Breakfast cereals, among other things, certainly. Again, understated acoustic guitar forms the rockbed. Notable here, apart from the obvious beautiful vocals, is the rich, full bass guitar. This lovely composition ends with the tune being whistled.
Great strings and acoustic lead guitar see the duo start with that famous chorus. But then a touch of McCarthyism. What sounds like a bongo drum takes the place of conventional drums as that guitar, Bert Jansch-like, keeps the song tumbling along.
Whoever you vote for, you lose, because around the world, especially where a party is as dominant as the ruling party is in South Africapoliticians have increasingly dangerous powers to destroy our lives.
But this was the USback then, and the people were hankering for heroes. It opens with that iconic acoustic guitar riff, this time backed by drums, bass and strings.
Here the roles are reversed, with the seasons changing with the scenery, not vice versa. And then the seasons weave time in a tapestry, which is a lovely image. And that guitarwork marks the start of the final track, the delightful At The Zoo. It is another of those Simon and Garfunkel songs which will live on forever.
Anyway, this is a New York zoo, not a Dublin one, and here the animals seem to have major issues. First, though, how to get there. I even detected the rattling of teacups. Small wonder that the album went to No 1 in in the US.
He compares producer-engineer Roy Halee HerH. But what singles! His analysis of the opening track is superb. But for me, growing up under the spell of Bookends, it was simply like living at a time when truly magical things were happening.
This was a massive, massive album in the history of rock, and I think we seemed to appreciate that at the time, if the number of times we played the album is any criterion. Bridge Over Troubled Water. We were visiting the home of the Kunhardts, where eldest brother Douglas lived at the time. He and his younger Album), whose name escapes me, were sublime surfers, and as such much revered.
It was what people did in those days. There was always a musical backdrop to life. Today, it seems, music has become an insular, personal, almost anti-social, pastime, as people plug in earphones and listen to stuff on iPods and the like. I find the whole thing rather distatesteful. Music, to my mind, is meant to travel through air and then into your ears. A vinyl-obsessed friend down the road assures me that there is, from a sound quality perspective, no comparison between a good vinyl recording and the stuff we are being palmed off with through various digital platforms.
Classified as folk rock, the album was produced by the duo and Roy Halee. It was, of course, a massive success, reaching No 1 in the USwhile its title track won a Grammy for record and song of the year in The album has, says Wikipedia, sold over 25 million copies worldwide. And that, I assume, is albums, not amorphous downloads. The album was particularly strong because the opening tracks on both sides were extraordinary.
Side 1 opened with the title track, and side two with The Boxer. But Humphries says this interpretation belittles the song. He quotes Simon as saying a few years later that the song was about himself, and the criticism the duo were attracting at the time.
Instead, it referred to how his wife started panicking when she spotted two or three grey hairs one morning. I have the album on a cassette, bought in the UK circabut one side is sticky, so will have to rely, I think, on an old vinyl picked up at that second hand shop. Before I get into discussing this extraordinary album, a quick word about the cover, which features a grainy photograph of the duo dressed in fairly sombre shades. The back cover is equally bizarre.
While the bulk of the space is taken up with the lyrics, walking out of the frame bottom right are a curious couple of lads. Garfunkel, in front, seems to lean back, as if trying to delay his inevitable departure from what had been an incredibly lucrative partnership with the creative genius that was Paul Simon.
It gave them instant immortality, and for good reason. It is a stunner. So I hauled out this old vinyl album. So I turned up the volume, and as I did so I appreciated again, despite the age and state of the album, why vinyl played even through a modest music centre like my old Sony, packed such a punch.
I know at their Concert in Central ParkGarfunkel handles the vocals ace out, at least as I recall, for the opening salvoes. But on the album, I sense that both guys are singing. Anyway, as the melody flows out of that piano like a thick, undulating wave, the lyrics are planted in our brain. Remember the song has a gospel genesis — two young Jewish guys inspired by black Christian music. With the strings of Jimmy Haskell and Ernie Freeman joining in, this thing is set to build up to a cracking crescendo.
One is left knowing, your body aquiver, that you have experienced a remarkable musical experience. The lyrics, for me, have always been somewhat incidental.
It is good, finally, to see the entire picture and to appreciate the supportive sentiments enshrined in the song. How to follow up one of the greatest songs of all time? It is the diversity of sounds on this album which make it so interesting. So after the minute powerhouse that is Bridge Over Troubled Water, one is soothed into a different frame of mind by what? Anyway, the twinkling acoustic notes sound something like a mandolin, and they provide a totally fresh, and exotic, flavour for El Condor Pasa.
I see in the sleeve notes that Simon wrote the English lyrics to this arrangement of an 18 th century Peruvian folk melody by Jorge Milchberg. Wind instruments, possibly recorders, seem to evoke the call of small birds, and so it is no surprise that a sparrow features favourably in the lyrics.
And I think Simon is the man who sings the main melody, although when the duo sound this angelic it is hard to tell. When I thought about the next track, Cecilia, I kind of mentally dismissed it as a bit brash and noisy. This fresh listen changed all that. Certainly it has a spirited beginning, with up-tempo percussion and clapping spurring the vocalists along. But not everyone enjoys a happy ending. The song fades with a da-da-da, and anyone of the millions familiar with this album will know that emerging out of that are the opening words of the next track, Keep The Customer Satisfied.
I detected some nice organ at about this point, while the addition of brass instruments adds interesting new textures as the chorus gets under way. Drugs perhaps? Fittingly, the next track and the last on Side 1 is a quiet, contemplative piece which also happens to be very beautiful.
Few people have played the acoustic guitar as well. So we were taught at a young age to appreciate individuality and creativity, which seems to be what Simon celebrates here. Here, again, gentle strings and what sounds like bongo drums pep up the action. Is it a bass harmonica? Certainly the defining sound on The Boxer, the opening track on Side 2 is a deep, throaty sound which provides an incredibly interesting texture.
But that comes later. The song, just over 5 minutes long, opens with typically bright opening acoustic guitarwork from Simon. There are few frills at this stage on what seems like a classic folk song. The strings kick in after the first verse, along with electric bass and, of course, that bass harmonica, which gives the song a steam-train-like impetus.
But things settle again as the narrative resumes. In the midst of all this, Simon or is it Fred Carter Jr, find space for an interesting acoustic guitar lead solo. Meanwhile, our protagonist is stuck in cold, old NY. But was it a bass harmonica? What a masterstroke by Simon, though, to think of incorporating this sound into the mix — that is if it was indeed his idea. Critics of the album would argue that after The Boxer, not much else could possibly pass muster.
But this record is full of surprises. Baby Driver, the next song, opens with fast, bluesy acoustic guitar, soon joined by a tapped tambourine. And the lyrics seem to be partially autobiographical. The scene is set for a rollicking ride, which is spurred along by some loping bass, which along with the harmonies gives the song a Beach Boys feel, especially in the chorus.
After the chorus, the narrative continues. Or can we? Then from the somewhat ridiculous to the absolutely sublime. Small wonder he seems alone in the metropolis. Anyway, the song continues. Some might argue, correctly, that the live recording of Bye Bye Love from a concert at AmesIowais somewhat incongruous on this album. But the fact remains that it has always been an integral part of the mix — and without it it would not be the same.
A Felice and Boudleaux Bryant song, it starts with strongly strummed acoustic guitar, which is welcomed with wild applause.
There is even a bit of a lead guitar solo near the end. Song For The Asking has a poetic quality which places it in a slot far above your common or garden successful pop song. Who could have hoped for a more sublime ending to a marvelous album, and to over a decade of brilliance from the duo called Simon and Garfunkel? Paul Simon. The s, with the Beatles and Hendrix, Joplin and Jim Morrison, now all history, was to be an altogether different decade. But Paul Simon was to prove his longevity as a performer with several great solo albums, which we latched onto with alacrity.
The solo album, Paul Simonfeaturing the artist in a thick coat with a suspiciously real-looking fur hood hanging almost over his eyes, was a great hit with us, especially since the Jamaican-inspired first track, Mother And Child Reunion had become so popular.
Well, surprisingly little really. But what is instantly noticeable is the horde of musicians who joined Simon in making his debut post Simon and Garfunkel solo album.
Released on January 14,the album was produced by old hand Roy Halee and Simon and is again classified as folk rock. As I said, we listened to this album avidly, so it is not surprising others our age did so around the globe. I am stuck for superlatives to do justice to this album. It is fitting that it is simply titled Paul Simon, because finally we have the mature Simon, the complete item, putting together an album of his own work without Garfunkel, and he comes across as confident and self-assured.
And, significantly, his virtuoso guitarwork — or that of the great musicians with which he surrounded himself — is often deeply rooted in the blues, which gives the album a depth possibly somewhat lacking on the earlier albums. The weakest link, to my mind, is the opening track, which was also the most commercial.
But that is on an album of works that are all superb, so is barely a criticism. It certainly kicks off with reggae-sounding drums and a sprightly electric rhythm guitar which continues throughout the song. This song, however, is somewhat repetitious, a fault not to be found on any of the other tracks. In all relationships, I guess, it is difficult to say who causes a breakdown.
Indeed, often it is simply a case of mutual incompatibility. But this theme of collapsing relationships is taken up regularly as the album progresses. I had a songbook with the chords for all the songs on this album, and tried playing them on guitar. There are some mean chord constructions here. But it is folly to expect to replicate these apparent folk songs on just a guitar, because much of the charm of the album arises from the wonderfully, wonderfully understated backing instrumentation.
What this does is accentuate the Simon vocals, whilst at the same time giving each song the sort of wholesome body that was lacking on Song Book. Duncan starts with this splendid acoustic guitarwork, but bass and other instruments soon join the mix.
I notice on the album cover that Los Incas provide flute, charango and percussion on the track. No bass? Whatever the instruments, this is Simon at the peak of his powers, vocally, as a writer and as an arranger. What I do know is that for randy teenagers, it spoke of some lewd goings on in the bedroom which was Album) on a pop record. Then he drops in a bit of ambiguity. What, indeed, were his fingers busy with? But the earlier inference was that it was through his sense of touch that he experienced that garden of earthly delights.
Altogether, a great song. But now we get to the truly interesting part of the album, where complex acoustic guitarwork is the order of the day, marking Simon and his accompanists as masters. Everything Put Together Falls Apart is just under two minutes of genius. The song also seems to allude to the entropy concept in physics, whereby order tends to disorder. But really the lyrics have, for me, been pretty much incidental.
It is the sort of sound Simon would no doubt have loved to have achieved on Song Book, but things had changed markedly with the advent of folk rock enabling songwriters like Simon to have the best of both worlds. A truly delightful song. Are they just wearing themselves out?
The song opens as a slow, looping folk-rock number, with bass, drums and acoustic guitar playing another inventive chord sequence, which culminates every so often in a da-da da-da da-da. The opening track on Side 2 surges off from the outset at a fast and furious pace. Do we ever discover? What I do know is that that acoustic guitar sound is again superb, and along with the percussion gives the song a lovely rich, chunky texture. Anyway, where is this thing heading? Millions of songs have been written by pop musicians, but it is only a couple of hundred, maybe a few thousand, that are sublimely new and original.
These are the sorts of songs which made this era such a goldmine of creativity. Could Simon keep up the quality on this album? Of course he could. Those chord arrangements are typically complex and compelling, propelling the song on with a relentless energy.
Misinformation flowed, and you were only ever told what they wanted you to know. It got to the point where at times combat troops did not know whether they were heading off on an actual mission or a training operation.
The song seems to have a strong political message. And it is sung in a wonderful high pitch, showing just what sort of vocal range Simon was capable off. The ensuing acoustic guitar solo is superb, before the mood changes. Yet as I write, with the economic slump, it seems the very heart of the city is being torn out as the major automakers, as they call them, are fighting to survive.
As that bass harmonica hums, the song continues. Need I say it: another superb song. Then, simplicity itself — or rather complexity so smoothly executed it sounds seductively simple. But that reverie ends with a bump as Paranoia Blues muddies the water, thanks to the whirring, stirring bottleneck guitar of one Stefan Grossman. Interestingly, Simon plays percussion on this track, and of course he sings, giving the song a strong, bluesy edge. We used to smoke the stuff regularly on the sand dunes of Bonza Bay beach, and with uncanny regularity would come across this older guy with short-cropped hair walking his dog.
Of course we were convinced he was a plain-clothed cop — but nothing he ever did could substantiate this. But back to this song. The tempo rises as he bemoans his own predicament. Congratulations is the concluding song on the album, and as noted earlier it is a sad song about a marriage on the verge of breakdown. Big open chords and lumbering bass launch a song characterized by bluesy acoustic guitar and even some piano and organ from Larry Knechtel.
Then Simon lays it on the line, as the song becomes more emphatic. A family friend, Mark Caldwell, who spent many a weekend at our place in Bonza Baynicknamed me Nikon for a while, after a line from Kodachrome, the opening song on the album.
Simon proved adept at taking the music of different nationalities and making it his own. We loved the album, but what did the critics think at the time? It received two Grammy nominations infor best male pop vocal performance and album of the year, and was ranked at No in that Rolling Stone magazine list of the greatest albums of all time.
And, says Wikipedia, it was a bigger hit that its predecessor, reaching No 2 on the Billboard chart. In the UKthe album reached No 4. The lead single, Kodachrome, reached No 2 in the US. The year-old vinyl should hopefully still be playable. It was more than playable. It was beautiful.
And, like its predecessor, you in fact have to get past the opening, more commercial, track, in order to find the real brilliance of a Paul Simon probably really at the height of his creative powers.
At the outset, mention must be made of the inventive cover design. Open out the gatefold cover and you have all nine songs cleverly encapsulated with appropriate images, the most striking being a colourful comet which takes the eye from the front right-hand side to the back, and lands at a photograph of Simon, shirtless, with his child on his lap.
Inside, he has repeated what he did on the first solo album by including the lyrics often a few words are omitted, I noted and most of the artists peforming on each song, as well as the engineers and where the song was recorded. Here too, there are six photographs, either of Simon himself, or of others who perform on the album, including the Dixie Hummingbirds. And yes, this opening track is unashamedly rock music, fast-paced, bright and upbeat, despite the sentiments in the opening line.
The album is characterized by the use of both piano and organ which flesh out the area so often neglected between the guitars and the rhythm section. So this song gets straight into the melody, and the lines we obviously enjoyed as our own school careers reached their end.
And so to the chorus, which seems to celebrate colour photography, or at least the illusions fostered by it. But Anywhere The Heart Goes / Scarborough Fair - Steve Hall (20) - Heartfelt (CD the album becomes a whole lot more interesting. Tenderness is a slow, low, gospel-inspired masterpiece, with brilliant jazzy piano, bass and drums, and of course the substantial impact of the Dixie Hummingbirds on backing vocals — although at times they take the lead.
Again, I notice, Simon is not the guitarist, with those duties left to Cornell Dupree. But his vocals are top-notch. I certainly think so. It is incumbent on a spouse to protect his or her partner from their shortcomings. In fact, is that not what love is all about — helping shepherd your partner through life.
Anyway, at this point, Simon seems to get down to the point of his message. Again, another unique Simon song, completely unorthodox and therefore memorable. And then he takes us to the Mardi Gras for a bit of fun, with the help of the Onward Brass Band, one of whose members, playing not a brass instrument but in fact a clarinet, is featured on the inside cover. Simon is back on acoustic guitar and the opening introduction is suitably superb.
But back then it was alive and well. Anyway, at this point, one Rev Claude Jeter injects his falsetto voice into the mix. And he keeps in the mix as a backing vocalist as Simon sings the final verse. And then it is time for some more sublime acoustic guitarwork, with Simon joined by David Spinozza and Alexander Gafa on the instrument. It is impossible to say who is responsible, therefore, for the opening bars, but one has to imagine Simon lays down the basic melody and the others embellish.
This is Something So Right, and it is another little gem. It starts slow and subtle, with full-bodied bass and the other guitars soon fleshing out the sound.
After that long chorus is repeated, he makes another observation which is so very true. Strings, arranged by Quincy Jones, soar alongside a flurry of flutes as the song reaches its conclusion. Sadly, words will never do justice to the song I have just heard, so please do yourself a favour and find this song and listen to it. A green chair stands on a floor, while a red one hands suspended from the roof. The lesson is, if you live cheek by jowl, be considerate!
Pete Carr is on electric lead guitar, and he provides a fine solo as the song rocks along, with that piano always in close attendance. Another fine, fine work. As I said, this is one of the great rock albums of all time, and how better to start Side 2 than with the remarkable American Tune.
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