Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Advent 6

There's a pattern emerging here and I promise you it's not deliberate. When I started assembling this year's calendar I simply and gradually wrote down the names of the albums that occur to me as influential on me, until I had far too many. Then I winnowed down. That pattern? We are stuck in the 1970's. The odd thing is that I came to much of this music much later than that - I suspect that I had a latent interest in what other people had been listening to back in the 70's and only later did I satisfy my musical curiosity.

Today's choice definitely falls into that category. I had seen Wishbone Ash live as a student but went only out amity - a bloke called Tim from Evesham was a fan. As I remember they were good. But their most esteemed album, Argus (1972), came into my ownership only in the iTunes days. I'm ashamed to say I don't even have it on CD. However this combination of prog rock and folk influences is now on my most-listened list.

This one is for Big TW who would never read this blog but who is a staunch Ash fan and an altogether decent bloke.

Monday, 5 December 2016

Twelve Films At Christmas: 1

The Groupie has reminded me that we have a habit of postponing the watching of festive films until too late and thereby miss out on them. Well not this year.

This Christmas has Idris Elba heading an ensemble cast, wearing a leather cap at a jaunty angle and sporting an American accent. It's a Christmas family reunion movie and not without its cliches despite its attempts at grittiness. (In what other festive film does the lead break a brandy bottle over another character's head in the opening scene?)

A quibble - either the version on Sky is dodgy or this is one of the worst sound engineering jobs in cinema history - the soundtrack is oppresively loud whilst the characters mumble/whisper. Or is that me showing my age?

Not without merit. Not without faults. Like all of us really. 6/10.

Advent 5

My admiration for Clive James is immense and the lyrics he wrote for the songs of Pete Atkin are quite fabulous. Lyrically better than Dylan, and Atkin's settings of those lyrics are rather beautiful. Of Atkin's 1970's albums (superior to the more recent additions) I choose The Road of Silk (1974). Lines from The Man Who Walked Towards the Music sum up my own relationship with music:
He couldn't tell a wah-wah from Akira Kurosawa / But he liked the way they played the way Natasha liked the ball.

Sunday, 4 December 2016

Advent 4

The Nobel Committee may have beaten me to it but there does have to be a Dylan album in this list. I go for Blood on the Tracks (1975).

Mind you, Nobel Prize for Literature or not, I will tomorrow give you an album that is lyrically greater even than Dylan. Can you guess?

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Lucky Generals

I'm having fun today, in fact yesterday evening as well. That evening was spent at Sunnybank Avenue watching a riotous (almost literally) game of floodlit rugby and then catching up with a lot of old friends.

Today starts with driving the Precious Jag to Anglesey (a solitary inspection visit), no traffic hold-ups and snow gleaming in distant Snowdonia. I find all well here at the country estate and then settle to watch another game of rather more elite rugby - England v Australia. Which brings me to lucky generals. Bonaparte wanted such generals and Eddie Jones seems to have found a similar quality in his players. The Sky pundits were purring over England's victory but it would be wrong to overloook the good fortune that underpinned a deceptive (37 - 21) scoreline. England got the rub of the refereeing green (does Jaco Peyper ever have a good game?) and were gifted two of their tries. All that aside, one has to say chapeau to the sheer bloody-mindedness and professionalism of Jones' team. It's all rather un-English. And most welcome.

A word also for Stephen Moore the Australian captain whose after-match interview was a model of bloodied and magnanimous modesty. Chapeau also.

We Are

And now I am bingeing on American College Football on ESPN. One of my teams (I favour quite a few because there's a lot to choose from and it's nice to have an interest in each conference) is Temple and they are presently demolishing Navy in the conference championship. Go Owls. These multiple preferences should not however disguise my prime loyalty: We Are Penn State. 

Advent 3

Punk was a rebellion against the self-consciousness of prog rock but I certainly never was a punk - I mean I was School Vice Captain for goodness sake! Neither, in its full flush, was I really a prog rocker. I was stuck with my outdated preference for the Moody Blues, not that it did me any harm.

Today's album is though definitely prog rock. Supertramp's 1974 breakthrough album Crime of the Century did not initially grab my attention. We have to wait for 1979 when I am living in a student flat in South Kensington (yes that used to be possible) and this was one of the albums we listened to communally (there were eight in the flat) as the conclusion to a night at the Zetland (the pub's still there) on the export cider. The music would be served with boiled egg and Tabasco sandwiches, the batch of which was prepared before we went out. If only we had been so organised in our studies. Different times. Great times. Great album.


Friday, 2 December 2016

Advent 2

I mentioned the other day that the peerless Robin Valk played a request for me on his BRMB rock show back in the day. That song was Haymaking Time from City Boy's eponymous first album. There is not a weak track on that album and it therefore finds its way onto the calendar. Released in 1976, this sort of melodic rock got immolated in the punk explosion and the band never really made it beyond their local fame (they used to drink in the Garden Gate) - certainly they should not be remembered for their one hit single, 5705, which is not a patch on anything on City Boy.