Curtain Call

Curtain Call

 

You do not beckon a Curtain,

with a simple call,

that’s one thing you know for certain,

if you know anything at all.

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CD Review – You Had it Coming by Jeff Beck

CD Review

You Had it Coming by Jeff Beck

7 out of 10– Epic Records – 5099750 101 827

Jeff Beck’s album from 2001 contained some new moods from the iconoclastic guitarist and composer.

Having put space-age guitar wizardry into the Yardbirds, invented proto-heavy metal with The Jeff Beck Group, and Beck, Boggart and Appice, and explored the outer reaches of Jazz Rock Fusion in the late 1970s, this album still finds him looking to extend the sonic capabilities of the electric guitar.

Along with Jimmy Page and Eric Clapton, he completed the triumvirate of guitar heroes who first cut their teeth playing with the Yardbirds, and of the three he has always seemed to be the most creatively restless, neither resting on his laurels or becoming a high paid gun for hire.

You Had it Coming explores some differing moods within its thirty-seven minute running time. Earthquake and Roy’s Toy are heavy guitar instrumentals, while Rollin’ and Tumblin’ takes Muddy Water’s blueprint and gives it a new century shine, with powerful vocals from singer Imogen Heap.

There are softer moments on the album, such as Beck’s version of Nitin Sawhney’s Nadia, which mixes screaming lead guitar with an eastern melody, and a lilting melody. Blackbird finds Beck dueting with a Blackbird, in one of his most eloquently experimental moments. Album closer Suspension is a minimalist guitar ballad that finds Beck speaking with as few notes as he can.

This is an album full of surprises, and although it may not contain as much guitar as those by Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, or even Jeff Beck’s earlier work, there is still plenty here to show an alternate route to an album of guitar pyrotechnics.

 

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A Spirit Level

A Spirit Level

A spirit level

is not for Ghosts,

for they are far too spectral,

keeping frightened in thrall,

but you can use it to measure shelves

when you screw them to the wall

 

 

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Book Review – Paul Simon – The Life by Robert Hilburn

Book Review – Paul Simon The Life by Robert Hilburn

Simon and Schuster – 4 Stars

When the subject of an auto-biography has had as much of an exciting life as Paul Simon has, the auto-biography tends to fall into one of two traps, either a hatchet job or a hagiography, thankfully Robert Hilburn has avoided both.

Paul Simon is rightly regarded as one of the finest and most influential songwriters of all time, seen in the same company as Bob Dylan, Lennon and McCartney, Leonard Cohen, and many others. His early folk work with Art Garfunkel is seen as a high-water mark for close male harmony singing and songcraft, whilst his controversial experiments with African music created one of the best selling albums of all time, in Graceland, and although he is now a music elder-statesman his many tours and concerts still attract sold-out audiences.

So we look at, in almost forensic detail the words and sounds found in Simon’s songs, such as Bridge over Troubled Waters, The Sound of Silence, Mrs Robinson, You Can Call Me Al, Diamonds on the Sole of Her Shoes, and so many others that have coloured the experiences of many generations around the world as they grew up. We examine his love of Baseball and Mickey Mantle, his close relationship to his family and his brother and manager, the fractured, but important relationship with Art Garfunkel, his marriages and relationships with his children.

As the story of Simon’s career unfolds, from the early stories of Tom and Jerry, and the success of Simon and Garfunkel in the 1960’s and 1970’s, the success of the soundtrack to The Graduate, we also see the disappointments, from the controversy that surrounded him working with African musicians on Graceland, the failure of his Capeman album and musical, and how he has managed both quality and diversity in his work, as he approaches his eighth decade, and slows down.

Simon didn’t start as a musical prodigy, his talent was delivered through hard work, determination, and an open-minded approach to his craft that saw him, magpie-like taking elements from many different genres. He was also a song-writer of his time, and yet many of his songs have become timeless, sung by choirs, bands, buskers and open mike players the world over.

The Paul Simon that emerges from this book is not a hero, but neither is he a villain. He is a man that is driven to write and produce songs and music of the highest quality, that by dint of their universal appeal have shaped the music of the world, bought new sounds and ideas to radios and listener ears. If you like the music of Paul Simon, or just have a general interest in pop music in its widest sense, then this book is a worthy read.

Ben Macnair

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CD Review – Wish Hill by All Jigged Out

Wish Hill the new CD from Celtic/Folk/Jazz Fusion band All Jigged Out is an album of high-quality musicianship, and imaginative arrangements, most of which are written by the group themselves.

The four piece band play a range of styles from the lively opening instrumental title track, Wish Hill, to the lively arrangement of the traditional piece Blow the Wind Southerly, to their version of Catriona Mackay’s The Swan.

The 13 track CD, released on Hobgoblin Music’s own record label packs quite a punch, with the Flute/Alto Flute of main composer Phillippe Barnes and the acoustic and electric violin of Benjamin Lee being to the forefront of all of the tracks. They are more than ably supported by the dexterous pianist Tom Phelan, Ollie Boorman on Drums and Percussion and some other guests playing bass, and guitar.

The group has roots in Celtic music, but at times sound similar to Sky, or in their more Jazz/Celtic fusion moments to bands like Shooglenifty, Capercaillie, and with the Slap Bass moments on such numbers as Broken Mirror Part 1, sound not unlike Weather Report at a folk session. The debt that they owe to some of the mentioned bands is particularly noticeable in track 12, Noogleshifty a Whiskey Kiss, where musicians from both All Jigged Out and Shooglenifty take writing credits.

A hidden bonus track of Mitton’s Set shows that the band can cut it both in the studio, and live on stage. For fans of folk music, and also of Jazz Fusion, this is a band to look out for. For further details and updates for the band, and to order the CD visit www.alljiggedout.com. Audio samples for the CD are available at www.alljiggedout.com/audio.

 

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CD Review – Holler and Howl by Rusty Jacks

CD Review

 

 Holler and Howl is one of those albums that ticks all of the right buttons. Passionate vocals, fluent guitar and harmonica breaks, a rocking rhythm section, fine songs that stand comparison with the two covers, and an inventive spirit that covers blues, rock, funk and jazz styles. The Irish quintet describe themselves as a Southern Rock Band, and indeed all of the touchstones are there, the sounds of the Allman Brothers, Lynyrd Skynyrd, JJ Cale, share space with a much more Irish rock sensibility. The lyrical slide guitar on songs such as Bad Seeds shares as much with Rory Gallagher as it does with Duane Allman, while there is a certain Irish lilt to the ragtime acoustic of Paid My Dues, and the folk blues sound is carried over in the closing The Sun is Shining with a fine Harmonica solo. There is much to like on this album, and the covers of The Hunter and the overplayed Good Morning Little Schoolgirl by Sonny Boy Williamson show some imagination in adding something new to these workhouses. Rockers such as ‘Saturday Night Again’ (Help me/Green Onions with a faster beat and different lyrics) and long blues numbers such as Down In The Gutter show that Rusty jacks would be a good live band, and this album is a fine introduction to a band that has already delivered much. For further information,  visit http://rustyjacksbluesband.com/

 

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Book Review – The Girl Before by JP Delaney

Book Review

The Girl Before by JP Delaney

Quercus – 7 out of 10

The psychological thriller genre is a pretty crowded field, with examples of the form ranging from best sellers like Paula Hawkin’s The Girl on The Train, to esteemed classics by the likes of Daphne Du Maurier, so The Girl Before has its work cut out.

Jane has found 1 Folgate Street, or maybe it has found her. There are several rules she must stick to, stories and rumours about a tragic past to the house, but the tenancy seems to be too good to miss out on. The book is split into two different sections. The first is told by protagonist Jane and the girl before Emma. As we read on, we learn of the parallels between the lives of the two women, how crime and a police investigation that is not as thorough as it should have been having clouded the waters, as Emma’s death, ruled as misadventure, to begin with, looks more like murder, the deeper Jane digs.

Add in a housing company with ways of keeping an eye on Jane, controlling everything about her life, and the invasion of privacy that this entails shows that although her life is secure, she is also losing any semblance of privacy and autonomy that she might have had.

The plot is both twisted and linear, with Emma’s story running alongside Jane, and although it is not the most complex of plots, there were a few times when too many co-incidences made the story seem implausible.

It is a solid read, with believable characterisation, but some of them are merely cyphers, such as Emma’s too trusting boyfriend Simon, or Edward who forms a less than gallant attachment too both of his tenants. Although elements of the modern world, from technology and modern culture, creep into the book, this is at its most elemental level a story about love, about possession, and about fatal flaws leading to tragedy. Although the ending, at least for Jane seems relatively upbeat, the fact that it ends with a third tenant taking ownership of the perfection of 1 Folgate Street it shows that sometimes when something is too good to be true, it should not really be trusted.

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