Thursday, 29 November 2012
Top 102 Albums. No. 90.
New Wave - The Auteurs.
This is the first, but will not be the last appearance of Luke Haines on this list. In a voice dripping cynicism and a talent for melodies Haines could claim to be a progenitor of Britpop and simultaneously nothing to do with it. In terms of his own progenitors I would proffer Ray Davies and Steve Harley. Like both Haines often sings in a voice dripping with cynicism but with a simultaneous talent for creating beautiful melodies.
There always seems to be a tension between his desire to 'make it' and his disdain for the circus of fame. Somewhat like that wielder of American Guitars Kurt Cobain. Haines had a subversive bent and was often to subvert the possibility of success.
Monday, 26 November 2012
Sonatas and Interludes for Prepared Piano - John Cage / Maro Ajemian
When it comes to selecting some albums I feel very much as if declaiming from a dark fount of ignorance. This is the only album by Cage that I own, and the only version that I have heard. (I have now briefly listened to two other versions which did not match this version.) However, using ears and instinct, I was drawn to this having heard snatches and have never regretted that attraction.
Saturday, 24 November 2012
Hawthorn and Child - Keith Ridgway
"The city rushed past them like words on a screen, and he would have read them but they went too fast."
Regular readers will possibly remember that I recently undertook a course in reading and writing fiction with Keith Ridgway. I have read his earlier novel The Parts and enjoyed it but it was really the synchronicity of seeing some glowing reviews for Hawthorn and Child and a friend sharing the course on Facebook that led me to take the course. And I'm very glad I did. It gave me push to complete a draft of a short story and some other short pieces of fiction. I hope to hammer the short story into something approaching a finished form by years end, completing one of my resolutions for the year. It's just finding time to write that is difficult, (or is that making time?), a form of alchemy I rarely master unless it is to no useful purpose.
Born Sandy Devotional - The Triffids
As some of you may be aware, I am listing 102 favourite albums, having joined in with similar listings at Cathedrals of Sound and Hissyfit. Tonight's listing at Cathedrals of Sound is The Black Swan by The Triffids, which was sketched to appear in my list.
For added value, I thought that I'd change my selection and having wavered with the thought of including a compilation of the early EP's which includes the extraordinary Bright Lights Big City, indeed the whole Field of Glass EP and their great version of St James Infirmary along with other great tracks and a violent, glassy edge which is subsumed largely by doomed romanticism as their career progressed. But few people do doomed romanticism as well as The Triffids.
Thursday, 22 November 2012
Harry Smith Anthology of American Folk Music - Various Artists
When I started this list of albums I laid out the two rules - no live albums and no compilations. I broke the rule on live albums early on and thought it was about time I broke the other. This various artists compliation is about as far from Now That's What I Call Music as you can go. Harry Smith was an eccentric, experimental filmmaker, artist and practitioner of magick who lived in the Chelsea Hotel where he was, late in his days, a friend of Robert Mapplethorpe and Patti Smith. This neatly connects him to Lenny Kaye who was responsible for the similarly influential compilation, Nuggets.
Hunger - Knut Hamsun
This is a book that I approached wary of its great reputation but neither my wariness nor its reputation spoiled my appreciation. It seems to look backwards to Dostoievsky and forwards to Samuel Beckett. I also found parallels with Robert Wasler's Jakob Von Gunten, which I finished not long before this.
Both books deal with renunciation, although in Jakob Von Gunten the renunciation is deliberate but not successful whereas in Hunger it is successful but not deliberate.
Tuesday, 20 November 2012
Saturday Captains - Saturday Captains
This is my list so, my rules. It might seem a bit previous to be including an album that I only discovered this evening but, hey, it's my list. Firstly, a declaration of interest. More years ago than I care to remember I met Barry O'Mahony. I was working with him and got on famously. Barry had the most encyclopaedic knowledge of music and a wonderfully sly sense of humour. When he asked me along to see his band play I was worried that they wouldn't be good and that I'd end up in awkward prevarication when he asked me what I thought.
Monday, 19 November 2012
Song of a Road - Ewan MacColl, Charles Parker and Peggy Seeger
Ewan MacColl is now probably best known as the writer of The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face and Dirty Old Town, either of which would guarantee the debased immortality available to us poor sons of Adam.
I could have selected one of Ewan's albums of the Child Ballads or of Sea Shanties but for me the most extraordinary albums he produced were the Radio Ballads, in collaboration with Charles Parker and Peggy Seeger. These records share Harry Partch's fascination with the voice and are made up of sound collages and songs, the songs often arising directly out of the interviews with which they are intercut.
Saturday, 17 November 2012
Dark Lies the Island - Kevin Barry
Before I begin this review first I have to thank Rob at robaroundbooks.com for I won my copy of Dark Lies the Island as a prize during the Edinburgh Book Festival. His thoughts on this, far more comprehensive than mine, are here. I was eager to acquaint myself with his work for there is a buzz attached to his name and I have had a few recommendations for his novel City of Bohane. Also, one of the stories was set as a reading exercise in the writing/reading course that I have been doing with novelist Keith Ridgway. (Hawthorn and Child)
This is a collection of thirteen short stories set among Irish emigrants in Britain and Berlin, real ale drinkers on a train to Llandudno, a hotel in the west of Ireland, a traveller settlement in rural Ireland and elsewhere. I approached it with high expectations, and a certain wariness of how high expectations can damage the experience of reading. And I have to admit that some stories did pass me by without leaving much of an impression. However, even these were easy to read and there are a few stories here that feel like they will repay multiple readings.
Friday, 16 November 2012
Liege and Lief - Fairport Convention
Once again I would like to repeat that these albums are appearing in no particular order. And sometimes a day late - yesterday I didn't have a chance to post. I'll try to catch up tonight.
If they were this wouldn't be appearing for quite a while. It was a difficult choice between this and Unhalfbricking as the Fairport album to include.
Unhalfbricking, amoung others has the magnificent Who Knows Where the Time Goes but this has its equals, and doesn't have a weak track. The highlight for me is Matty Groves. I just love the existential howl of Richard Thompson's guitar at the end. I don't think it fanciful to hear some of the grief and pain which he was going through at the time expressed in his playing. The band had been involved in a car accident and drummer Martin Lambe and Thompson's girlfriend were killed. These lines must have been difficult to hear.
Wednesday, 14 November 2012
This Is Hip - John Lee Hooker
Time to break another rule. Live albums and compilations were to be left out of these lists but I couldn't resist this compilation because:
A. It was a formative record for me. This was the first blues record I bought and remains one of the best. The snaking, hypnotic rhythms fascinated me and hook(er)ed me for life.
B. It showcases songs from a period when John Lee released no albums, to my knowledge. In fact he released singles on multiple labels, under many names, including, the sleeve notes tell me, John Lee Cooker!
Monday, 12 November 2012
A Grand Don't Come for Free. The Streets.
This is as much to convince myself that I have been listening to the odd record released after the year 2000. The Streets were one of the only bands I discovered at the same time as my daughter but despite this I was able to take this to heart and felt it was an instant classic. I was not alone. Youth and age recognised this one.
It seems to me that Mike Skinner is the poet laureate of the blindingly mundane. He talks about trying to find his phone in his pocket and the battery running out, what was on TV the other night, betting on footie, broken tv's, "watching Eastenders or the Bill". He manages to undercut the whole world of 'gangster rap' by being really 'street'. In one of my favourite moments he pastiches drive bys: "Then of course a mandatory car, drives by and splashes me."
Saturday, 10 November 2012
Top 102 Albums. No 99
Link Wray - Link Wray
For many years Link Wray was defined for me by his early instrumentals, particularly the mighty Rumble, an instrumental so suggestive of its subject matter that it was banned form some radio stations (I'm too lazy to look this up, if you want to know you know what to do).
That was until I found a double cd called Wray's Three Track Shack which included this album and two others recorded in Link's titular shack in 1970/71. This compilation is probably the easiest way to get these albums today and all are worth having but the Link Wray album is my favourite.
Friday, 9 November 2012
Jakob Von Gunten - Robert Wasler
Wasler is one of those writers I have become steadily more aware of over the past couple of years as his name cropped up in blog after blog. He was published in his lifetime and is often cited as an influence, both during his lifetime and afterwards. Kafka and Hesse, it is often mentioned, were fans. He is also cited as an outsider artist, spending much of the latter part of his life in asylums, and producing work written in pencil in a miniscule script which wasn't published until long after his death.
I have just finished reading Knut Hamsun's Hunger and it seems to me that the two books share a lot. They both deal largely with the tension between renunciation, pride and desire. They are both narrated by people who are on a knife edge, physically or mentally.
Thursday, 8 November 2012
Resurrection of Bayou Maharajah - James Booker
I'm not doing this in any sort of order, just picking whatever album jumps form the list when I sit down to blog. And few albums jump like this!
I first came across James Booker through a combination of The Clash and, I think, Jools Holland. Anyway, I remember hearing him perform Junco Partner and I recognised the song from The Clash's pick 'n' mix masterpiece Sandinista. The name stuck and I would always listen when I heard his name, and when you listen, you're hooked.
Tuesday, 6 November 2012
Album No. 101 - Harry Partch - The Wayward
Monday, 5 November 2012
Two of my favourite bloggers are currently going through their top albums on a daily basis.
Friend of Rachel Worth at Cathedrals of Sound is blogging their Top 125 Albums and Trevor Jones at Hissyfit joined in to blog his Top 110.
I thought I'd try to join in today, at 102, although keeping it to 102 is quite difficult. At this stage I have a still growing list of 140 plus albums. I'm going to start blogging an album a day and edit this list as I go along. It's sure to lead to some fraught choices when it gets to the what do I leave out stage.
There are some rules - no compilations, no live albums and I'll try to stick to these but will probably break them a few times. That is what rules are for.
Saturday, 3 November 2012
The Infinities - John Banville
John Banville is one of the most artful of prose writers. His sentences are often delightfully cadenced and structured and are a pleasure to tease out. However, I was reminded at times while reading The Infinities of Beckett's decision to write in French because he was afraid of English “because you couldn’t help writing poetry in it.” I take this to mean that Beckett felt his writing in French achieved greater directness.
One of the narrators of this book is Hermes, holder of "the grave title Psychopompos, usher of the freed souls of men to Pluto's netherworld." Hermes is waiting in the house of Adam Godley (the other narrator), an eminent mathematician who is in a coma and apparently dying. His wife Ursula has placed his body in a bed in the "sky room' where he did most of his work. This work has concerned the infinite, and infinities. It has led to the discovery of nuclear fusion. Despite being called the "sky room" the room is dark as the curtains are kept closed. Both narrators are quite detached from the concerns of the world around them, separated by immortality and immanent mortality.