Monday, 23 October 2017

No Dress Rehearsal, This Is Our Life - Farewell Gord Downie


Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wept openly last Tuesday, while commenting the death of Gord Downie at the age of 53. With the possible exception of Barack Obama, can you imagine any other political leader, past or present, for whom the passing of a rock singer would invoke such a vivid, naked show genuine grief? 'Our buddy Gord' he said, '.....loved this country with everything he had and not just loved it in a nebulous, 'Oh, I love Canada' way. He loved every hidden corner, every story, every aspect of this country that he celebrated his whole life.'

In addition to fronting The Tragically Hip for over 30 years, Gord released 5 solo albums and had long been heavily involved in environmental movements and indigenous affairs. He was diagnosed with a particularly aggressive brain tumour at the end of 2015, made his diagnoses public in in May 2016 and performed an emotional farewell tour of Canada with The Hip through the Summer of that year. In spite of his poor health Downie stayed busy, making a film, co-authoring a graphic novel and recording a final solo LP, 'Introduce Yerself', produced by Broken Social Scene's Kevin Drew, which is scheduled for release next week.

I was very fortunate to see The Tragically Hip several times during the 1990s, in a series of much smaller venues than they would have been used to playing back at home. If you weren't paying attention, you might be forgiven for thinking that they were just another, very good, rock band, but take a closer listen to Downie's lyrics, which often tackle subjects not typically associated with rock music. 'Courage', for example, draws inspiration from Hugh MacLennan's 1959 novel 'The Watch That Ends the Night', 'Three Pistols' looks at the life and mysterious death of the early 20th century artist Tom Thompson and 'Fifty Mission Cap' concerns the 1951 disappearance of Toronto Maple Leafs hockey player Bill Barilko, whose mortal remains lay undiscovered in dense woods for 11 years.

'Ahead by a Century', on the other hand, is a somewhat more straightforward tale of youthful romance and innocence lost.

R.I.P. Gord.


Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Illumine


Back in April, I shared 'Sleepwalking', an early first taster from the debut Low Chimes LP (here). The tune seemed to go down rather well, so I thought I'd give all and sundry a heads up that the album has at last hit the streets and is available to order here. I'm chuffed to report that 'Illumine' is well worth the long wait, strong in composition, performance and production.

Judging by some of the band's recent social media postings, new material is apparently already in the works. Low Chimes (then still trading as Hot Feet) were outstanding when I saw them perform in a tiny Norwich basement back in 2013 and I really do hope they head out to my neck of the woods again before they retreat into the studio to prepare LP number two.

Here's 'Sulphur Silk', my current favourite cut on 'Illumine', plus, as a bonus, a very nice live performance of 'Electric Bloom'.



Monday, 16 October 2017

Anne Briggs


Our mutual chum Charity Chic is without equal when it comes to sniffing out quality CDs from the piles of dross usually found in the darkest corners of the nation's charity shops. We've got no fewer than 9 such establishments in the nearby small market town and I can't remember finding a decent CD in any of them in the 6 years since we moved here. Car-boot sales though...they're quite a different matter. In the wee small hours of every Sunday morning, Mrs S and I step out into the pre-dawn twilight and drive off to the two largest car-boot sales in the local area, just over 20 miles away. Once there, we poke about in, pore over and rummage through all manner of old tosh and usually come home with a heap of dusty bits and bobs that, in all truth, we probably don't need. Over the past couple of Sunday's I've had an particularly high strike rate on the quality CD front. Take the 2007 remastered reissue of Anne Briggs' 1971 LP 'The Time Has Come' for example, picked up for a quid the week before last - a real gem. Here are two cuts from the album. Note how similar Anne's phrasing is at times, to that of her one time partner in music and life Bert Jansch - it's quite uncanny.

Anne Briggs - Sandman's Song 

Anne Briggs - Tangled Man

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Be-Bop Deluxe


Across their five studio albums, Be-Bop Deluxe existed at the meeting point of a veritable Venn Diagram of musical styles and influences. From the glam infused art-rock of 1974's 'Axe Victim' and the following year's 'Futurama', through the prog-lite of their two 1976 LP's 'Sunburst Finish' and 'Modern Music' to the final, new wave inspired swansong that was 'Drastic Plastic' in 1978. For all this apparent stylistic chopping and changing, Bill Nelson's songs were consistently accessible and often downright catchy. Take 'Maid in Heaven' from 'Futurama' for instance - 2½ minutes of pop perfection.

Be-Bop Deluxe - Maid in Heaven

Monday, 9 October 2017

Brigid Mae Power


Thanks to a recent post from Brian, I spent the best part of the back end of last week immersed in re-purchased fIREHOSE albums - and how marvellous they sound. A new tune from Brigid Mae Power managed to grab my attention though. Brigid has released a steady stream of fine music over the past 5 or 6 years via Bandcamp and latterly through the venerable Tompkins Square imprint, often sparse and eerily atmospheric in nature. 'Don't Shut Me Up (Politely)' is an unsettling piece, though with more musical flesh on the bones than we've heard previously. The folk-noir setting of the song brings to mind the work of Big Blood, a band I truly love and one I've championed on these pages many times. I can honestly pay Brigid no higher compliment than that.

'Don't Shut Me Up (Politely)' is the first taste of a new LP, 'The Two Worlds', due for release in early 2018. Count me in.

(To check out some of Brigid's earlier recordings, go here).

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Drift


'Drift', the second LP by The Apartments, originally released in 1992, has recently been re-issued on vinyl by the French label Talitres. As always on occasions such as this, I do a double-take at the date - 1992? Have I really had 'Drift' in my collection for 25 years? Following a flurry of activity in the mid-90s, The Apartments all but disappeared following 1997's 'Apart', fully re-emerging in 2015 with their frankly magnificent 7th LP, 'No Song, No Spell, No Madrigal'.

The band's one constant member, Peter Milton Walsh, has previously served time in both The Laughing Clowns and The Go-Betweens and if you have even a passing interest in either of those fine combos, I would heartily commend 'Drift' (and indeed all of the other six Apartments albums) to your ears.


Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Tom Petty


'Some things are over
 Some things go on
 Part of me you carry
 And part of me is gone'

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