Saturday, 30 November 2013

'You Old Rascal...' - Bob Dylan Live at the Royal Albert Hall

There's Bob, clear focused all around, moving between centre stage and the shadows of his keyboard retreat. After a strong opening, I'm mentally prepping for the 'Tempest' fest to come, first though, 'Beyond Here Lies Nothin''. Dylan, concentrating on one of those repeated piano phrases that he likes to lose himself in, suddenly stops playing and gazes out into the audience, all pursed lips and hand on hip (a favoured pose these days) as if to say '...did you hear that...?' I laugh out loud. Tension and release.

'Duquesne Whistle' and 'Pay in Blood' knock their recorded counterparts into a cocked hat, but it's 'Love Sick' that stops me in my tracks. A towering performance. The audience seems caught off guard by this one and there's a micro-silence between the end of the song and the explosion of applause, no-one wishing to break the spell we're under. 'Forgetful Heart', if anything, is even more intense. This is masterful stuff. I guess I must have breathed at some point during the song, but I don't remember doing so.


All too soon we're in 'Scarlet Town', knowing the end is near, but first, 'Long And Wasted Years', undoubtedly the song of the tour. Dylan as grizzled narrator and his band at their best. No 'Roll On John' for us tonight. Not a song I'm overly fond of, though I nevertheless welled-up on hearing the Blackpool rendition. 'Watchtower' and 'Blowin'' allow us all to kick back and let our hair down - we're in familiar territory. Bob high-fives some lucky front rowers, takes a last long look around and is gone.


(Stockholm, October 13th)

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Version City #21 - Bruce Springsteen sings Suicide

I'm delighted to note the inclusion of 'Dream Baby Dream' in the tracklisting of Bruce Springsteen's new studio LP, 'High Hopes', which is slated for release in January. Springsteen performed his interpretation of the 1979 Suicide single on over 60 occasions in 2005, releasing one of those live versions as a limited edition 10" single in 2008.



A few years ago there were a large number of audience recordings of the song floating about on YouTube, all taped throughout 2005, though many have disappeared in the interim. A few still cling on, however, and I'd recommend checking out the whole lot. From the early tentative run-throughs, to the glorious, epic performances towards the tour's conclusion, Springsteen's take on 'Dream Baby Dream' rarely fails to floor me and I'm pleased that it'll now gain the wider recognition it deserves.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Low - In Concert


There was a point, during Low's performance at the Norwich Arts Centre a couple of nights ago, when I became aware of having no idea how long I'd been watching the band, or indeed how long they had been playing for. It could have been ten minutes or ten hours. I was lost in music. It was as if the passage of time had been rendered immaterial.

Standing a couple of feet away from me, a man struggled to control his emotions as the evening progressed. He wasn't alone. At the conclusion of 'Just Make it Stop' he snapped, yelping an involuntary, 'Perfect!', ahead of the cascade of applause that filled the hall, dismantling the audience's breath-held rapture. Nicely put Sir.

Monday, 18 November 2013

The Furrow Collective


'Hirta Songs', the fine new collaborative album by Alasdair Roberts and poet Robin Robertson, has barely had time to seep into my consciousness since the CD dropped onto my doormat late last week and yet already comes news of Alasdair's next project, The Furrow Collective. The Collective, who tackle 'the obscure world of balladry at its darkest and quirkiest', consists of folk luminaries Lucy Farrell, Emily Portman, Rachel Newton as well as Alasdair himself and their debut LP, 'At Our Next Meeting' is scheduled for a February 2014 release. A couple of teasers from the record have already been unleashed, one of which is 'Hind Horn'.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Mammane Sani et son Orgue

Mammane Sani was a keyboard player and composer, creating short continuity pieces for TV and Radio, before he obtained an Italian Orla organ and recorded 'La Musique Electronique Du Niger', his only release, in 1978. The album was distributed on cassette only, in hen's teeth like quantities and, 35 years later, has been rescued from oblivion by the good people at Sahel Sounds. The music is hypnotic, minimal and, quite frankly, not the kind of stuff you'd initially expect to have come out of late 70's West Africa. Think 'Dignity of Labour' period Human League transposed from Sheffield to Niamey. Remarkable.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Cate Le Bon

Cate Le Bon's terrific new LP, 'Mug Museum', featuring contributions from Sweet Baboo and H.Hawkline, is her third full length release and first since relocating from Cardiff to Los Angeles. After just a couple of plays it's looking odds on to feature in my top ten albums of the year. Here's Cate, demonstrating another string to her bow, with 'Are You With Me Now?'.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Version City #20 - Christmas Number One

I note that a Facebook campaign has recently been launched, with the admirable aim of getting AC/DC's 'Highway to Hell' to the Christmas No.1 spot. All well and good and no doubt infinitely preferable to any of the likely alternatives on offer, but give me Ed Kuepper's interpretation any day. Ed Kuepper for Christmas No.1? Where do I sign up?

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Version City #19 - Hamadth Kah sings The Police

For the past couple of days I've been immersed in the varied musics of West Africa, courtesy of Sahel Sounds. The label's output is diverse, ranging from raw, atmospheric field recordings to pitch-bending, auto-tuned experimentation and beyond. The best stuff is very good indeed and I'll be featuring more in the future, that's for sure.


For now, here's a familiar tune by Hamadth Kah, taken from the 'Laila Je T'Aime' compilation of field recordings.



As a bonus, my favourite cut from the same LP, the mesmerising 'Kaounare' by Alkibar Gignor.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Own Up Time

Old Pa, over at Tune Doctor, recently regaled us with the story of Steve, a man convinced of his own irresistibility to the opposite sex. The tale reminded me of Mark, a guy I knew when we were both about 18. Much like Steve, Mark thought he was God's gift to all women. He drove a souped up Ford Escort complete with the inevitable furry dice and whenever he spied a young lady he wanted to try and impress, he would sit at traffic lights in 1st gear revving and revving to get their attention, then let the clutch up as the lights changed and screech off, wheels spinning, down the street. He must've spent a fortune on tyres.


One day I was sitting in the passenger seat of his car, as Mark pulled up to red traffic lights and commenced his party piece for the millionth time. I just couldn't take it anymore. My right arm was leaning on the central armrest, so as he held the clutch down and revved the engine to attract the eye of a lady he'd spotted, I was able to pull the gear-stick back from 1st to neutral with a quick flick of my fingers. Unaware, he continued to rev, winking and smiling at the young lady in question as she crossed the road in front of us, until the lights changed, at which point he let the clutch up and floored the throttle. Except, of course, we didn't move an inch. It did, however, make a hell of a racket and everyone in the vicinity turned to see what was going on. The engine roar echoed around the narrow streets as Mark, red-faced, frantically tried to find a gear in which to slink away from the traffic lights. It was a glorious moment. Amusingly, after recovering from his embarrassment, he assumed that he'd missed the gear himself and never suspected me! 35 years later - I confess!

Monday, 4 November 2013

Portrait Gallery


A splendid figure of a man don't you agree? I'm assuming he's a butcher and that it might be a leg or thigh wrapped up and tucked away under his arm. Whatever his trade, I wouldn't like to mess with him - he doesn't look the sort to suffer fools gladly. He's a recent car-boot sale acquisition.

The majority of my small collection of old photos are tucked away in boxes and albums, but a select few grace the wall I face as I type these words - including my friend the pipe smoking butcher. My very own private portrait gallery. If you think that's a cue for a song, you're bang on. Here's Luke Howard with a beautiful piece from his recent album 'Sun, Cloud'.

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