17 December 2004

Níl aon tinteán mar do thinteán féin.

No Wave Christmas @ Just for a day. Fine trax by James White, Suicide, Christina, & more.

Beatles Christmas Records @ Sci-Fi Hi-Fi.

At work, we've just got a copy of a great new book called Irish Folk, Trad and Blues: A Secret History. It's by Colin Harper and Trevor Hodgett, a pair of Belfast journos who most definitely know their stuff. The Belfast connection is important, because they steer clear of bodhrán-toting Paddywhackery and have a clear perspective on the relationship between Irish and British folk music (these islands have a common Celtic heritage after all). What better excuse to print photos of fellow-traveller Brits like the Watersons, as well as the brilliant, beautiful Annie Briggs? And it's not just about folk music either, as is very clear from the prominent photo of Rory Gallagher on the cover. The writing is good, very knowledgable and witty, and there are plenty of excellent, rare photographs of the people who played their part. This book HAD to be written, and it's a bloody good job someone came along and did it properly. Leabhar an-mheasamh ar fad.

My brother Kev, not content with being able to play every instrument known to man, has lately become fond of the ukulele. I know, I know, but it's better than the accordion, believe me. He will be glad to know that there actually is a Uke Blog out there (I knew there had to be, somewhere): Ukulelia by name called. Damn good too. (Discovered via Pepper of the Earth.)

14 December 2004

My uncle, Patrick Collins, formerly of the Blue Bell Céilí Band
as well as the Berwyn Showband.

He passed away after a long illness last month.

There's a (slightly) longer appreciation of him here.

This is scanned from a newspaper, hardly a high-quality photo,
but I think it captures the essence of the man,
the way we'll always remember him.

08 December 2004

Oh Christ, I think he's even combed his hair...

A few select Chuck E. Weiss trax @ *sixeyes. Extremely Cool, indeed.

A couple of fine tunes from Declan Patrick Aloysius McManus @ Teaching The Indie Kids to Dance Again.

My dad is going to see Planxty tonight, and all I can manage (grumble, grumble) is this link to a feast of Dublin trad @ Radio Free Sauble.

Jim Fitzpatrick designed a lot of Thin Lizzy's early album covers, and also brought out a bunch of his own art books. The Book Of Conquests was always a favourite - kind of a graphic re-telling of Irish folklore, not quite a comic, not quite an illustrated book, more a sort of illuminated manuscript for the modern age... Fitzpatrick's style always hovered between the poise and elegance of old-school illustration and the hip kineticism of 60s comics artists like Kirby, Steranko and Barry Windsor-Smith. There's some fantastic art over at his site. You should go there, now.

Why waste your time here? I mean, here I am posting about Art, and this is supposed to be the Music blog, dammit.

Not A Lot Of People Know This: Fitzpatrick also designed the legendary Che Guevara poster. Guevara's dad was named Lynch btw, and that branch of the family originally came from Galway.

07 December 2004

Open the door, Homer.

Bob Dylan speaks - his first TV interview in almost 20 years for 60 minutes. Via cool hand bak. Not as cool as his Simpsons appearance, but what could be? (Yes, the link has screenshots.)

Some fine stuff from A Certain Ratio @ totally fuzzy. Hurry! (And no, they did not get their name from Mein Kampf; they got it from a Brian Eno song. Duh.)

More Sax Links.

Early days yet, but potential to become a fine resource for those who rattle the reed.

06 December 2004

A certain surprise.

John Martyn - Live At Leeds
Okay, it must be John Martyn month or something round here at musElectric. For which no apologies. After seeing him live last week, I went digging for old stuff. My old vinyl copies of Solid Air, Glorious Fool, One World and Grace & Danger seem to have gone the way of all flesh, but I managed to unearth this old CD reissue of a classic live LP...
Live At Leeds was, technically, a bootleg album, the only wrinkle being that the bootlegger was also the artist himself. John Martyn brought this album out under his own steam in 1976, frustrated by the music biz (and probably just plain out of money). You could only get it by mail order (unless of course you wanted to call by the house). His own record company either didn't want to bring it out or just plain didn't have the wherewithal. It was available in a limited edition of 10,000 at first, numbered and personally signed by the artist - this was in the mid-70s, mind, long before indie music reared its jangly head.

Live at Leeds got a CD reissue in 1998, and a bloody good job too. If you think about how moribund straight rock had got by the mid-70s, leaving the way clear for a bunch of pub rockers and young punks to try to break in, it's astounding that music of this quality was being given short shrift. Martyn's folk/blues/rock/jazz fusion was years ahead of its time, and the rippling, echoing patterns that he conjured up on both acoustic and electric guitar were so innovative for the time that I won't even bore you by listing the number of musicians who've been influenced by his style (but hello, The Edge, to name but one).

Danny Thompson, from folk-jazzers Pentangle, was an important part of this sound too, his woody, elastic-sounding double bass singing and thrumming like a mighty sea creature; Martyn's ideal musical foil. On the opening track, Outside In, the band reach into their (collective) sleeve and pull out an 18-minute long track that is completely impossible to categorise. If you want to call it folk, go ahead - but it has more in common with Miles Davis, Coltrane or even Pharoah Sanders. In other words, it was light years more 'progressive' than the rock bands of the day singing about elves or Yogananda. This track is particularly enlivened by the appearance, halfway through, of former Free guitarist Paul Kossoff, whose lyrical Les Paul phrases take the thing to a whole other place. A true classic of collective improvisation - a whole lot better than the bilge that Cream got away with on those overrated live albums of theirs. (Kossoff is only credited on the five bonus tracks, but if that's not him playing on Outside In, I'll digest my derby, make hashbrowns of my homburg even.)

Favourites like Solid Air, Man In The Station or (especially) Bless The Weather get a fine, sensitive treatment, but wherever possible the band breaks out into more of this type of improvisational magic. Bless The Weather, a gorgeous little tune in its own right, is completely transformed by having this sort of fairy dust sprinkled on it. Similarly, I'd Rather Be The Devil actually surpasses the original (on Solid Air) in my opinion - it original macho swagger replaced by something more puckish and playful, thanks to Thompson's nimble bass playing.

Sound quality, overall, is middling to good - nothing to write home about, but the quality of the performance transcends all that. The five bonus tracks on the CD reissue sound pretty lo-fi by comparison, but You Can Discover and My Baby Girl coast by nicely enough. So Much In Love With You is a mistake, though - Kossoff rejoins the band to play lead guitar and is obviously somewhat more, er, refreshed than he was previously. His playing is leaden and clumsy, and you can actually hear the band seem to back away from him like an unwanted drunk friend who's turned up at the wrong time. Martyn gets over this by turning up his own electric, and the band trundle through Clutches and Mailman like a barroom boogie band waiting for closing time.

Have no fear, though, they're only bonus tracks; I'm sure even the Mona Lisa has the occasional fly speck on it. And there are definitely better ways to remember a fine musician like the late great Paul Kossoff. Martyn fans will love this set; others may scratch their heads at first but if they're lucky, they'll be able to get into the unique, swirling sound that Martyn, Thompson and Stevens manage to create here. (Plus, their pisstake of Ravel's Bolero is a hoot.) A forgotten gem, and yes, JM appears to have stolen the title, and indeed the "fake bootleg cover" concept, from those London lads Thee 'Oo, who brought out theirs in 1970.

03 December 2004

Space age bachelor's marrowfat peas music.

Some sound clips of the legendary Esquivel.

Dead Boots dot com is a great place for, well, Dead boots.

(Via OpenDir Festival.)

I've put up a track called Elapsed, which is available via Yousendit for the next couple of days. Just trying to see if this is a viable way of posting sound clips, which would make this site a bit more interesting. It's about a 1.7 MB download; don't get too excited - it's just a minute or so of me mucking around on an acoustic, and the sound quality isn't exactly going to burn the house down. Done with ProTools Free, a JC acoustic with some nice mods, and mixed through a Yamaha four-track. Hopefully everything should work (fingers crossed).

Sorry, made a bit of a booboo in the title there. Of course I meant Space age bachelor pad music, which was popularised by Esquivel. Non-Irish readers may not have had the chance to partake of that Prince of Foods that is Batchelor's Marrowfat Peas. Too bad.

(And no, I don't know what an Irish product is doing at a site called the English Tea Store, but I'm sure they're all fine people, and we forgive them for Cromwell, and all that.)

02 December 2004

Knockin' me out with those Appalachian thighs

Some live trax by Hayseed Dixie, who played round this way not too long ago. First-rate bluegrass treatments of well-known metal tunes. I can see yer larfing, but fink abaht it... (From the Live Music Archive, via Kingblind.)

Band website: The Hayseed Dixie World Service.

Delia Derbyshire - pioneer of electronic music and (reverent hush) composer of the Dr. Who theme music. (Via the Grauniad wobleg.)
Vinnie Cooper and the Dead Snout Session
Eric Banzai and the Lost Accountants
Cobalt Peace
The Fulcrum Symphony
Sylvester Manlove and the Space Poodle Shrine
Multitude of Jugglers
The Mighty Martini Conflagration
Hours of fun with this random Band Name Generator.

Some scratchings from September

(taken from the other place...)

Weddings, Parties, Anything... some thoughts on the legacy London Calling reissue, and a tribute to its producer, Guy Stevens.

Does your iPod lose its flavour on the bedpost overnight? - yes, that cute looking little box with the white headphones can conceal a multitude of sins, crimes against the Taste Police even.

Brian Wilson's SMiLE - not exactly a unique subject to post about, but wtf?

Spirit of Eden by Talk Talk - bit of bumpf about this fine album, and a farewell to the late great Brian Clough.

There are tins, there was pork... - how Third Uncle by Brian Eno ruined my early life.

01 December 2004

More Martyn-al Musings

One is something of a happy camper. I got to see John Martyn not once, but twice, thanks to a couple of very kind friends who decided to return a favour and surprise me with another ticket for last night. I would have been quite happy with Monday night's performance, but last night was the icing on the cake. The band seemed a little more at ease, and the playing was slinkier. Martyn was in fine fettle as well.

Two great memories: John Martyn gooning around with a towel, fashioning an Arab headdress for himself and, hilariously, making himself look like Santa with hat and beard and addressing a female audience member in that trademark wicked Caledonian burr: "Hello little girrrl; would you like to come sit on Santa's knee? Because he's only got one left..."

At the end of the night two friends and I went out the back of the venue for a cigarette - we live in the West of Ireland, and as of last April you can't smoke in pubs here anymore. The Róisín Dubh backs on to a canal, and it's about a hundred yards walk to the street. John Martyn came out the back with his partner (a lady from Kilkenny) and bade us good night. He was determined to walk all the way back to the van, and his dog was equally determined to stay by his side until he got there.

If only I'd had a camera to capture the moment: John Martyn making his way along the bank of the Eglinton Canal, supporting himself on the railing with one hand and trailing his pooch with the other. What a fantastic memory.

The John Martyn revival starts here @ 50 quid bloke.

Sound engineer Sean McCormack has some photos of John Martyn, Mark Geary and Tom McCrae at his blog, In A Week's Work.

Thou shalt not bonk thy neighbour's wife...

xtc4u - Some stonking media clips of Swindon's finest, discovered via misericordia!, who also have some good stuff by Stump. Lyrics of Stump's classic Charlton Heston, courtesy of phespirit, here.

Mental As Anything @ Good Rockin' Tonight.

Eric Dolphy @ the naugahyde life.

On the first day of Christmas: Johnny Cash's Little Drummer Boy @ Spoilt Victorian Child.

Our first random referral!

39 plus VAT, a blog from Leeds.