Posts Tagged ‘Review’

NOW WE CAN SEE

18 August 2010

[picture of Cover of Now We Can See by The Thermals 2009]I am getting back into raw rock’n’roll at the moment, and what better than last year’s “Now We Can See” from The Thermals?

Classifying them is just annoying — I see “garage-rock” and “punk-pop”! Quite why we have genres and subdivisions is beyond me; if you like rock’n’roll, from Tom Petty to The Pixies, you WILL like This Thermals record.

At The Bottom Of The Sea starts a bit like an old U2 track, When I Died starts like Feargal Sharkey! Now We Can See is just superb, completely catchy Johnny Thunderesque, early Attractions, maybe Frank Black, Dr Feelgood chops, love it; it’s addictive, mood-lightening, daddy-dancy classic stuff.

[Embedded Video clip from YouTube.com The Thermals’s Now We Can See]

[YouTube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QJu611UdfxA]

When We Were Alive is pretty punky, and nods at old Lux Interior or The Ramones. Liquid In, Liquid Out is sharp and clean, and a firmly modern song to rival the Arctic Monkys or Franz Ferdinand.

[Picture of the guys from The Thermals]“Now We Can See” is not offensive on first listening, being easy music to get into straight-away — yet it still grows with each play! Like a fine wine, it develops rather well.

The Thermals are: Westin Glass (drums), left-handed bass-playing chick Kathy Foster and Hutch Harris. Funnily enough, Foster owns a Tee-shirt company and she plays drums in the appropriately named “All Girl Summer Fun band”. Their website is www.thethermals.com, and they are on www.myspace.com/thethermals.

Check it out.

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KICK ASS

11 May 2010

I saw ‘Kick Ass’ tonight, and surprised myself for enjoying it; I didn’t expect to watch it right through, but I did, and I was engaged the whole time.

The lead role is played by the guy who played young John Lennon in ‘Nowhere Boy’ – an English chap called Aaron Johnson. He plays a New York dork, a High School comic-book geek called Dave Lizewski who buys a scuba suit and decides to become a crime-fighter — a superhero without powers.

Meanwhile Nicolas Cage and 11-year-old daughter are getting back at the police and a drug baron ‘Frank D’Amico’ (played brilliantly by Mark Strong) by dressing up as superheroes.  Dave’s YouTube hit hero (‘Kick-Ass’) gets confused with Cage’s ‘hero’ and war breaks out.

I’m trying not to spoil it here.  Go see this film; it’s worth it for an evening’s entertainment.  It’s got the quirky editing and perfect comedy timing of the modern era, it’s never dull, completely over the top, and somehow believable in that you willingly surrender your disbelief throughout. The script is crafted to allay all your fears and qualms, and turns the plot around to their benefit.  basically, you are putty in their hands.

This is a beautifully crafted film, wonderfully lit, great editing, superb camera work and great direction.  Cage clearly relishes his role, from interacting with his daughter to dressing as Batman.

The moral tales about judging a book by its cover, retribution, bullying, perseverance, doing the right thing, not standing-by, but standing up — and more are there, so are explosions, torture, various acts of violence, kung fu, love interest, teen angst, comic fantasy, drugs, and everything else inbetween.  It has a broad sweeping range of everything, from pretty criminals to master criminals, good policemen to bad policemen, contradictions and moral grey areas.

It is a boy’s film, mind you, not for adults or females. Go enjoy!

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JEFF BECK

28 June 2009

[Picture of Jeff Beck playing his guitar]What a brilliant gig tonight.  Last time I saw Jeff Beck it was at the Glasgow Apollo a zillion years ago.  That gig stayed with me; it was just astounding!

Back then I used to go to a lot of gigs, particularly at the Apollo.  I had got used to the whole thing, y’know, and then I was in my seat waiting for the Jeff Beck gig to start when I noticed that there was not all the usual massive columns of loudspeakers at each side of the stage.  It was very sparse looking.  I came away utterly amazed at the clarity of Beck’s sound that night; it was true High Fidelity.  Top notch quality, and that gig has always remained for me the benchmark ever since.  Quite simply the best sounding gig I have ever been too. It was even in stereo — the engineers would pan the guitar notes right round the place, especially on “The Final Peace”.

The Glasgow Royal Concert Hall is mince in comparison.  Beck still sounded really good, but it wasn’t quite as mind-blowing as the old Apollo that night back in the late 1970s or early 1980s.

The Concert Hall has no atmosphere at all.  Honestly, anywhere else and everyone would have been up boogying and dancing in the aisles, and surrounding the front of the stage. But, not tonight; everyone sat nice and clapped at the right bits. Gawd!

There were a few surprises in the set list — although he did “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat”, it was just a wee bit — it merged into “Brush with the Blues”. He also did a version of Billy Cobham’s “Stratus” (a bass riff which I heard knicked sampled a few years back for some Ibiza dance trance crap). They also did a version of The Beatles’ “A Day in the Life”, which was a crowd pleaser.

Ever since I bought Beck’sBlow by Blow” LP back in the late 1970s, I have loved Stevie Wonder’s “Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers” — that was a massive influence on my playing style at the time (I was playing a Les Paul back then).  It was simply gorgeous tonight, what a virtuoso!

I am a fan of Nitin Sawney, and have all his albums, so I know “Nadia” intimately — and, I recently happened to be searching YouTube for Sawney’s stuff when we came across Beck’s astonishing version.  Played live was fantastic.  A real worth-it moment.

Teenie-tiny-wee Tal Wilkenfeld got herself going on the cheeky bass line start to “You Never Know”.  She’s a real find — reminds me of my Ruthie when she plays — same daft facial expressions and surprising licks. She was really solid on “Stratus” and “The Pump” and “Big Block” — those tracks are murder for a rhythm section, and far from being showy, just robotic power riffs… and bespectacled Vinnie Colaiuta was pretty amazing on these tracks in particular too — a big fat full drum sound. The rhythm section was tight and very solid (much needed for Beck’s style), and that included the supporting figure in the shadows, Jason Rebello.

Tal and Vinnie did solo spots, and they were “nice”.

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I was disappointed to be honest, because I wanted Tal to blow my socks off, but then it was Glasgow Concert Hall, and everyone was just sitting there like plums.

The night was about Jeff Beck.  He’s the man. At one point he joined Tal, and together they played her bass at the same time, he played at the nut and she played up the neck!  A 4-hander, that was the fun (and show-offy) bit.

They also did “Blue Wind” and the reggae-ish “Behind The Veil”, and I was again reminded that in the old days and places, there would have been dancing!

They did a couple of encores, and I queued at the toilet, exchanging banter with loads burstin’ middle-aged rockers before heading home to check out Tal’s website and listen to all the stuff he didn’t do.

Now, Beck played a Les Paul on “Blow by Blow” in 1975 and switched to a Stratocaster for the next album, “Wired“.  It’s the tremolo that makes the difference.  He’s played a Strat ever since — a nice white one. He gargles the tremolo, plays without a plectrum (he uses his thumbnail), fades using the pot (rather than a pedal), and really, really, takes risks.

For example, on “Blow by Blow”, years ago, he played a note, then pitched it up, bending the string — but in stages, precise intervals up and down on one pluck, note clear and pitch perfect.

Tonight, he did that, and a tremolo version of it, whereby he would strike the note, and play a melody using the lever of the whammy bar alone — again, precise intervals, small movements of the trem arm down and up – genius and virtuosity, and huge balls to take the chance.

He also did weird things with the glass slide — playing right up at the bridge (where a couple of millimetres is a big margin of error).  Honestly, from slides, pull-offs, tapping, fake harmonics, fake-harmonic-tremolo-pitched and heaven-knows what-else, Beck showed that the guitar is a part of him, that it grows out of him, that he communicates with it — it’s his voice. Angel (Footsteps) was mind-blowing, seriously:

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There’s no shredding or lead solos, but there’s no chord work, riffs or seriously fancy effects.  And he isn’t playing like a Spanish, classical or Jazz guitarist, either.  It’s just odd — he’s just Jeff Beck — a genre of his own, I guess.

Apparently he was ranked the 14th on Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of the “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time”. That doesn’t show what a massive influence on guitarists over the years, Jimmy Page was his bass player at one time, and when he left the Yardbirds, Eric Clapton took over — and when Eric left, that’s when Page took up the guitar!  They all had to learn Beck’s parts.

“Blow by Blow” and “Wired” created a new genre for the electric guitar, a sort of blues-jazz thing that was sort of rock — a genre for Lee Ritenour, Larry Carlton, Steve Khan and loads more to develop.  I really do think Beck is underrated and that he deserves Hall of Fame, knighthoods and everything else.

Oh, and a big happy birthday to ya, Mr. Beck — 65 a few days ago!

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ELISA

4 December 2008

Elisa is nice music.  It makes a complete change from the kora playing Toumani Diabaté and guitar wizardry of Viuex Farka Touré and his dad, Ali, that I have listening to recently LOL. talk about contrast!

The album I’m listening to just now is her Greatest Hits (1996 to 2006), which is good for showing the range and variety of Ms. Toffoli over a whole decade. I had read that she was set to relaunch in the USA this year, but had problems with her visa.  So I checked out her website (www.elisatoffoli.com/), and its full of North American dates.

I would like to hear her famous version of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’; I have always admired Jeff Buckley’s version (who doesn’t?), and my wife recently showed me a YouTube video of some Norwegians (Espen Lind, Askil Holm, Alejandro Fuentes, and Big Kurt Nilsen — the blond chap with the spaced out teeth that won “World Idol”) after we heard KD Lang’s and John Cale’s versions.

Elisa duets on the recording with the much more famous Luciano Ligabue on ‘Gli Ostacoli Del Cuore’, and I have actually managed to track down a live video of this song — where Ligabue appears in person!

Superb stuff —

… but the promotional video is fascinating because she doesn’t seem to care that she’s filmed in a bad light, with a bad haircut and no make-up.  She’s obviously not vain.  She’s dressed like a boy, but acts very much like a girl with a broken heart.

Courageous anyway (especially taking a shower fully dressed)…

It’s a lovely chorus:

Quante cose che non sai di me;
Quante cose che non puoi sapere;
Quante cose da portare nel viaggio insieme.

How very true that is. Obstacles of the heart indeed; some people tend to be too complicated at times, sometimes things seem too complex.

‘Stay’ is a superb start to the album, and betrays her Californian education at Berkeley. ‘Broken’ and ‘Swan’ continue the country rock feel.  Her famous head-voice is well represented on this album. She ought to do well in the USA.

For me, I prefer her Italian stuff as it adds something fresh to a mode that is getting a bit tired for me — ‘Luce (tramonti a nord est)’ was her first song in Italian — it was initially written in English (and was a bit of a hit on MTV Europe). It was actually translated in collaboration with her mother and also with Ruth’s fave, Zucchero.

‘Eppure Sentire (Un Senso Di Te)’ is a lovely ballad, and last year’s bit hit, ‘Qualcosa Che Non C’è ‘is a simply beautiful song, very reflective/ introspective/ autobiographical. She holds a very long note at the end of ‘Una Poesia Anche Per Te (Life Goes On)’ very much along the lines of KD Lang. Worth a listen anyday!

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KEANE “PERFECT SYMMETRY”

4 December 2008

Another “pop” album (what’s becoming of me?)! LOL.  Seriously, though, Keane have managed to produce a fine pop album with “Perfect Symmetry”. It is a Keane-fan-pleaser, but there are TWO track at least worthy of note — “Better Than This” and “You Haven’t Told Me Anything”, which are different, quirky and inventive!

The first track is “Spiralling”, which is a Bb minor , and gives a great fright if you don’t check your headphone volume level beforehand!  It’s a pretty standard Keane style track.  One for their fans to open the album, and this vein is continued with “Lovers Are Losing” which jumps to Db major.

Then came the surprise: “Better Than This” in Bb major is a David Bowie style track (ala Major Tom).  It features some strange hand clap timings, beats and a banjo for heaven’s sake!  Yes, it’s addictive Pop, a wee gem.

This sets you up for another gem — the “You Haven’t Told Me Anything” in their native Eb major key to bring out the best of Tim Rice-Oxley’s vocals.

At this point you notice that there their “no-guitar”, distorted piano signature is gone — much in the same way that Queen and Elton John used to declare that they didn’t use synthesisers until they suddenly did!

As if realising what they had done, the  title track reverts to Keane Piano and the synthesised wall of strings.  They add an Rice-Oxley “choir”, so the key remains in Eb.

“You Don’t See Me” is an Eb major B-side Keane. Filler, nice, but wadding just the same.

The seventh track needs to pull this album’s socks up, so “Again & Again” comes out on a surprising D minor key, with an upbeat, clean tempo.  More synth than piano in into, it drops for dynamics, and soon the bridge is heading for “Keane Anthem” again!

“Playing Along” is a slow swing tune in Bb major.  It tries to be radical in short spurts, and has guitar all over it, in a very un-Keane manner — from jangly, and thrashy to jazzy slide lead runs!

The ninth and tenth tracks are in D major to give Rice-Oxley’s throat a rest.  “Pretend That You’re Alone” is streets ahead of “Black Burning Heart” simply for having a syncopated piano riff intro! but  “Black Burning Heart” has more substance, and could be acquired given time, although he does “speak French” in the vein of Eddie Izzard for no apparent reason. “Love Is the End” in the peculiar key of A major and a slow, jazzy tempo that could well have been a Norah Jones discard!  At times, Tim even manages to sound like Thom York in Radiohead!

In summary, this is a nice wee album with a couple of gems, but if you hate Keane, steer well clear!

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ALI FARKA TOURÉ “SAVANE”

1 October 2008

I am presently listening to Ali Farka Touré’s last album, “Savane“. It’s from 2006 and has 13 tracks of what Mr Farka Touré himself called his best work. I was intrigued by this album for two reasons, (1) Ali Farka Touré knew he was dying as he was making it, and (2) this album is raved about in “world music” circles.

It was also time to become acquainted with Ali Farka Touré after all these years. His name has floated about the periphery of my awareness for long enough! As a guitarist, I was interested in why he was ranked number 76 on Rolling Stone Magazines list of “The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time” — I knew he played with Ry Cooder (but then who hasn’t) and that his stuff had won Grammys– and I was aware that his stuff (from Mali) is supposed to be the real origins of what-we-know-as “Blues”.

Somehow, despite knowing all this, “Savane” is surprisingly both “African” and “Blues”, very guitary (but not showy-guitary if you know what I mean). There is a lot of guitar on the record, but it’s mainly rhythmic.

Blues-wise, it’s got the acoustic guitar, the rhythms, the repetitions (loops, riffs), the mumbling, even the mouth organ or harmonica!

It is not English, but it is still comprehensible.  The “Africanness” makes itself known from time to time — not because of the language, but in terms of music — particularly with choir and “twirlyness” of the guitar playing.

There is a sax, and electric guitar, such as on “Beto” — but the track is neither blues nor “what we come to expect of African music”.  I guess I take “African” music to be a bit happier or something.  This is the effect of the Paul Simon factor probably LOL!

To be honest, one would not really suspect that Ali Farka Touré was dying, or indeed that he himself was aware of his impending demise (he fought bone cancer for years) from merely listening to this album.  I am not sure this information adds much, and “Savane” doesn’t need anything to add anything as it stands perfectly well on its own. But then again, the blues is the blues — and what is more blues than facing death?

The title track has a great electric guitar intro that sounds almost Spanish-Moorish at times, and then a Reggae rhythm is set up against a very American Blues melody, then very Africanish singing with sort-of Kurdish sounding trills. It’s just weird — but only in the thinking or explanation, not in the listening; it is mad, it is eclectic, but it comes together very well.

The starts of “Penda Yoro” and “Ledi Coumbe” really do sound like Muddy waters tracks, but the “Machengoid” and “Banda” sound North Indian, and “Soya” sound very African!

Because it is sung in a foreign language, it tends to be considered like instrumental works, and either listened to or used as background.  I wonder if something so foreign can find a natural place in MY lifestyle, if you know what I mean.

For example, some pop music can be associated with holidays or other events, some more serious music can bring back amazing memories or create a mood — driving music, dance music, sing-a-long music, and so on.  At this stage, I cannot say what I might associate with this music other than to relate it to the early blues that I LOVED when I was a lad learning to play guitar and bass.

Time will tell, I guess.
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SUITCASE

18 July 2007

I have been really enjoying Keb’ Mo’s 2006 Album “Suitcase” — what a cracking album it is! He’s managed to pull together a dozen killer tunes.  Extremely listenable from start through to the finish is an accomplishment in this day-and-age.  The album opens with “Your Love”, which has a skippy beat and a cheeky hum intro to catch attention.  You start smiling straight off — and Keb’s bottleneck work is a joy.

I have also got Keb’s 2000 Album “The Door” (on the Sony Jazz label), and of the two, I think “Suitcase” is the better.  He’s definitely growing as an artist, and seems to be moving away from his blues roots into new — perhaps more “mainstream” territory.

This is a just beautifully crafted record in all respects — superbly recorded and mixed, and the songs are allowed to speak for themselves.  It’s full of character and quirkiness.

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REVIEWS 2003

31 December 2003

Zuba Live: 2003/11/29/cottier-cold/

Nitin Sawney Live: 2003/07/04/nitin-at-the-arches/

The Gotan project Live: 2003/04/23/the-gotan-project/