Monthly Archives: June 2019

Record Of The Week # 69

June 26, 2019

Jesse Dayton – Mixtape Volume 1

Dayton started his career playing covers and absorbing his sister’s record collection. It can come as no surprise that he’s garnered considerable affection for some of the icons and great tunes of that time. His own 11 studio albums are always beautifully played and burst with personality thanks to his expressive baritone.

This collection includes some exceptional cuts from Dr Feelgood to Bruce Springsteen. Thankfully there are no dreary B sides by long dead singer songwriters you’ve never heard of. The era spanned on these 10 tracks is the 1970s and 80s. His guitar skills come to the fore and so do his catchy country rock interpretations. They never interfere with the pace or arrangements of the originals yet they are unmistakably Dayton’s, often drenched in pedal steel with his touches of honky tonk and rockabilly.

I can see the attraction of bowling up to the studio and trawling through your record collection to find your faves and then recording them. As he’s said “I’d done almost five years on tour doing two original records back-to-back. I played on a lotta other people’s records. I just needed to take the pressure off, just have some fun.”

I enjoyed the whole album. They all work but maybe his ZZ Top cover of “She’s a Heartbreaker” is the only disappointing orange cream in this box of chocolates. He’s included a revisit to a personally much loved “Just What I Needed”. He put The Cars’ cover on his 2004 Country Soul Brother. Gordon Lightfoot’s “If You Could Read My Mind” is faithfully rendered; given the melody and fabulous words then why tamper with genius? The Elton John/Bernie Taupin 1970 “Country Comfort” feels very easy in the hands of a proper country artist. Yet he can switch to a very different genre such as The Clash’s “Bankrobber”. Dayton’s rockabilly adds to rather than sucks the life out of it thanks to a tincture of punk being added by the drums.

This is a delightful easy listen (and sometimes you need just that).

Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese (Netflix)

June 25, 2019

What an absolute treat! Netflix commissioned Martin Scorsese to direct a movie/documentary of Bob Dylan’s 1975 Rolling Thunder RevueFilm footage and sound recordings were available and Scorsese gathered it all up, added talking heads and released a movie of this odyssey. It is fabulous.

It’s exceptional due to the quality of the music. It catches Dylan just after recording Desire and not long after Blood On The Tracks. Here we hear tracks from both albums along with Dylan dipping into his seminal catalogue from the beginning of his recording career. The passion and voice are magnificent to behold. This was Dylan at his most majestic.

The whole 2 hours and 22 minutes are engrossing. It starts with Dylan collecting and rehearsing a band (mostly the musicians from the Desire sessions); listening to his entourage discuss the concept of this tour of a 4 hour show which included other performers including poet, Alan Ginsberg and watching the mercurial coming and goings of the man.

However, I must break here and add that Scorsese has added fiction. This adds rather than distracts from the proposition. The 78 year old Dylan tries to fill in some of the gaps on events or fellow musicians – he does quip “it happened so long ago I wasn’t even born”. Characters such as Sharon Stone are added to the plot by way of an interview. Here she tells us that she met Bob as a teenager whilst he was on this tour and was invited to join the entourage. Apparently her Kiss sweat shirt and good looks were the attraction. This is hokum.

As is the creation of a Svengali like figure, Stefan Van Dorp, who films the music and back stage action with the intent of eventually releasing his own movie. He never existed, except as Bette Midler’s husband (!) yet his commentary does amplify the tensions and camaraderieof players we see before us. These ‘players’ are musicians, managers, poets, hand bill distributors or record company employees. Continually emphasised are Dylan’s mystic qualities. Those around him seem to offer up little less than awe; they are following the pied piper. It seems the direction and composition of the whole performance each night is fluid and bordering on unstructured. None of this seems to matter as Bob steers his camper van to the next town.

These children of the 60s are performing during interesting times. Scorsese inserts clips of significant events such as Nixon’s resignation and Ford’s installation. The future President Carter is shown in the company of Dylan as well quoting his lyrics. The film also has clips from the immediate the period before the Bicentennial: a time of celebration yet also taking stock of some of the inequalities of 20th Century America. One such is the racially charged incarceration of the boxer, Rubin ‘The Hurricane’ Carter, for the murder that he didn’t commit.

His plight became the main track, “Hurricane”, off 1975’s Desire and here Dylan’s delivery (in his white face paint and hat) is spellbinding as he narrates the story of his abuse. Similarly “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Caroll” from his 1964 The Times They Are A-Changin’ tells a story of the then landed gentry getting away nearly free after the killing of a black maid and mother.This is delivered with vigour, contempt and resignation. Dylan with energy, voice and focus is a sight to behold as he brings my record collection to life. I could list the songs he played but be assured it is all weapon grade.

Guests abound and duets with Joan Baez are notable for their chemistry and intimacy. Roger McGuinn is happy and honoured to be included and abandons other engagements. Joni Mitchell also changes her all plans and signs up to join the tour. According to McGuinn in his Rolling Stone podcast interview she’d decided to only play new songs and the crowd reaction was muted. She wouldn’t relent. Listening to her practise “Coyote” with Dylan and McGuinn (also on acoustic guitars) is a highlight (although, for me, never as electric as her Scorsese captured appearance at The Band’s 1976 Last Waltz concert).

The violinist Scarlet Rivera is at best a Gothic figure of enormous talent, darkness and poise. Her violin infuses all here with such colour and sentiment that is truly memorable and vital. Surprising to see in the line up is the Yorkshireman Mick Ronson. He plays electric lead guitar in the background. Remarkably two years earlier he was embedded in David Bowie’s Spiders From Mars band clad from head to toe in glitter and make up. His then piercing rock guitar licks bear no relationship to this tasteful and complementary accompaniment.

The footage floats around to various locations including hand bills being distributed about the gigs prior to the revue rolling into towns. Unsurprisingly $8.50 per ticket was no problem. However due to the size of the entourage and the small size of the venues the tour makes a loss despite CBS having their arms twisted to find $100,000 as working capital.

If you’re a Dylanologist then you’ve seen this. If your knowledge of Dylan is that of a much revered  elderly icon shuffling around with the voice like a crosscut saw then you must see this is. This vibrant, mysterious, supra creative and unique genius is fully on display in his pomp. I’m nearly tempted to buy the 14 disc boxset: Bob Dylan – The Rolling Thunder Revue: The 1975 Live Recordings.

Tissues, Hoses & Maps – Week 27 : 2019

June 25, 2019

Apparently it’s Summer. I usually take a foreign holiday in June and so suffering our chilly and rainy weather has been depressing. Clearly the Summer of 2018 may have been down to global warming but it was a memorable few months. A trip to London saw a visit to Stanfords in Covent Garden. Here I perused their vast selection of maps. Specifically I investigated the Australia section. I was looking for fairly detailed maps of the East coast. I was successful. With this I take a further cycling step toward ‘Australia 2020: The Grey Nomad Goes Forth”.

 All news now seems to come with such a presentation that you’re obligated to agree or disagree with it. One development where I was at odds to the popular sentiment over the BBC’s decision to abandon the concession of free TV licences for viewers over 75 years of age. In line with the world today D-Day war veterans were hauled out, replete with medals, to emphasise it was a heartless decision. Gary Lineker’s salary was identified as one way the BBC could save money and populist Tweeters like Piers Morgan waded in. uncomfortably, I thought the decision was right.

Continue reading Tissues, Hoses & Maps – Week 27 : 2019

Record Of The Week # 68

June 17, 2019

Lukas Nelson & Promise Of The Real – Turn Off The Radio (Build A Garden)

I remember thinking, when writing about his 2017 blistering release, that I hoped he could shake off being a Country legend’s son and get the recognition he deserved. Two years on I think we can safely say he’s emerged from that shadow: he’s co-written or produced much of the Number 1 soundtrack album A Star Is Born, continued to tour, often headlining, and then moving into 2019 he’s appeared at the UK’s major annual country music event C2C and later this month he treads the boards at the world’s largest music festival – Glastonbury. 

Nelson’s talents include being a consummate tunesmith, often across several genres, and guitar playing that can switch between incendiary riffs to complicated improvisations. Also having the complement of a band that hangs together with agility and polish adds to his sound. (Whether it matters nowadays in our genre fluid world) I have to say Turn Off The News (Build A Garden) is not Country but it’s just about Americana-lite.

 “Bad Case” is pure hook laden pop rock with an infectious chorus; a seductive start to affairs. “Mystery” is my album highlight as slide guitar gives a distinct flavour along with reverb bass. The words tells his intended of his enigmatic behaviour. I defy Abba fans at the start of “Something Real” not to sing “My, my. At Waterloo Napoleon did surrender”. When the intro is over we get some routine yet energetic rock n’ roll. “Where Does Love Go” is redolent of the Traveling Wilburys. After the Jeff Lynne intro we have Nelson trying to be Roy Orbison. In fact this type of pop rock presented by heavyweight and credible musicians seems to be a benchmark for comparison.

There are several guest appearances that seem to add little. One such is Sheryl Crow on the title track’s background vocals. This is probably the strongest tune here and its message is clear. In fairness it’s not too preachy other than telling you “I believe that every heart is kind”. I can imagine a lot of folk loving the sentiment (as I did). Elsewhere with the predictability that it will be 12 O’Clock at least twice a day Willie turns up on a couple of tracks and apparently so does Margo Price, Kesha, Neil Young and Shooter Jennings: I suggest you’ll not detect them without the liner notes.

We sign off with “Stars Made Of You”. An upbeat romantic love song but this time with 60s pop strings and a drum beat that slopes along with flat hollow slaps. An organ plays in the background before some deft guitar licks compete with this sensational drum rhythm.

If he planned to be positive then the album oozes a laid back unhurried and stress free vibe. It truly is a windows down Summer record as Kacey Musgraves’ Golden Hour was. One of the unique things about his previous release was his mastery of several genres and styles such that each track was simply exceptional. Additionally the lyrics seemed to have more to say. This is a less diverse collection of sounds with some less memorable tracks. With that some of my wonderment has been lost. However this is still an accomplished album that you’ll have on repeat. I for one won’t complain when it clutters up the end of year lists. The boy is unstoppable now.

Wendy Looker

All my writing has been in some ways a journey. I always had the story but I lacked the grammar and structure. In 2014 I attended an evening course at York University to improve this. We were set weekly writing projects that had to be submitted to the course tutor, or even worse you had to read them out.

Separately, learning of Wendy’s illness I had contacted her to go around to see her in Sherburn-in-Elmet. Wendy had been one of my managers back in the day when I worked at Moores and was a director. It was a profound experience and I was truly amazed and inspired. Now in 2019 Wendy has just passed away after an eleven year struggle with breast cancer. This started as Stage 3 and ultimately became Stage 4 with secondary cancers.

Continue reading Wendy Looker

Camping Vans, D-Day and Rats – Week 23 : 2019

June 5, 2019

Surely you’ve seen the episode of Fawlty Towers when Basil (John Cleese) is trying to catch a rat? The rodent belongs to his waiter, Manuel. A long term resident, the ‘Major’, sees said beast and takes Basil to task about his sighting. Basil denies everything…. 

So I’m sat outside my father-in-law’s quite plush and modern Care Home when in amazement he chirps up that he’s seen a scurrying rat! (Eric is 87 years old and we’re sat outside waiting for someone to appear from inside with a wheel chair to take him inside).

His observation is preposterous. However as we continue to sit outside biding our time I see the rats – eek! Yes two of them playing happily near the front door. More frustrating for Eric is that they appear to nest in a large bush outside his room near a door. We mention this to the staff and get a proverbial shrug of the shoulder. Seems the rodents are a feature of the accommodation and entertainment programme for the inmates.

Talking of senior people of a different generation I loved the media coverage of the Queen inspecting a mocked up supermarket check out. It was one of those check outs where you scan the items yourself. See the image:

Continue reading Camping Vans, D-Day and Rats – Week 23 : 2019