Monday 17 November 2008

News, Views and Music Issue 12 (Intro)

November 17:

Well here we are again, another week another newsletter. Latest offer by the way: if you’ve read all the main site (or as much as you want to read) and still want to hear about the latest news from these newsletters without actually hitting the website every week, drop us an email asking for a ‘newsletter subscription’ and we’ll add you to the mailing list until you tell us to push off (it’s for website queries by the way). In the meantime, there might be a few more of you joining the party soon as I’ve just submitted our site to various search engines (it might take a few weeks till that filters through, so if our site statistics start soaring in a few weeks you’ll know why!)

Beatles News: It’s been mentioned before on these pages, but this week sees the official release of Paul McCartney’s new album….sort of. Macca has already released two LPs as ‘The Fireman’ in collaboration with producer ‘Youth’, but thanks to their cut-and-paste sound collages and lack of any Macca vocals you wouldn’t have known it was him. On this third Fireman album, ‘Electronic Arguments’, things are a bit different – what started out as a Beatle fan rumour that these albums might have something to do with Sir Paul is now accepted as fact beyond doubt. Macca even sings on this album for the first time, giving the game away completely, and who else could the forthcoming album lyric ‘you may have my money but you’ll never have manners’ be referring to but Heather Mills?! Sadly, though, we won’t be getting the Super Furry Animals munching vegetables as they did on second ‘fireman’ record ‘Liverpool Collage’!

♫ In other Beatle news, get set for more Beatle cash-in DVDs this Xmas. There will be three unofficial ‘in performance’ sets featuring John, Paul and George in concert from various sources that are either deemed to be in the ‘public domain’ or leased from individual television networks (ie they aren’t owned by Apple, who own nearly every film clip of the Beatles these days). More news when the sets are released and we get to see a track listing.

♫ However, the Beatles news that seems to have sent the pulse of the national media racing this week is that Paul McCartney has apparently confirmed the existence of an unreleased avant garde Beatles track ‘Carnival Of Light’, a 14-minute distillation of tape loops and Beatle ad libs commissioned specially for a London art project. Which is, in the eyes of us Beatlenuts, a bit of a ‘drop the dead donkey’ story, given that Beatles historian extraordinaire Mark Lewisohn had already confirmed the song’s existence as long ago as 1987 while researching his landmark book ‘The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions’. Macca too has hardly been quiet about this song either, heard chuntering in a good half-a-dozen 1990s interviews that the other Beatles had vetoed his song from appearing on the Anthology project where it would have nestled nicely amongst the ‘Peppers’ era tracks (rumour is George Harrison got stroppy and replaced the song with the instrumental remix of his ‘Within You, Without You’ track which – ironically – is one of Anthology’s highlights). However, there’s still no news on when, if ever, ‘Light’ will ever see the light of day because Ringo, George Martin and Yoko are still reluctant to release it under the Beatles banner– Macca’s already tried to revive it as a Beatles spin-off single/ EP/ B-side without success.

Jefferson Airplane news: Yet another archive Airplane release is hitting the shelves this month, according to the latest catalogue from beloved mail order company Track Records. The new 3 CD set is called ‘Flight Box’ and will feature two concerts – a set recorded at Golden Gate Park on the 5th July 1969 (dating from around the time of the ‘Bless It’s Little Pointed Head’ album) and the last ever concert by the original Airplane from the Winterland Arena on September 22nd 1972 (is this the same set that came out as the last Jefferson record ’30 seconds over Winterland’ in 1973 then?!) More news when we can actually get hold of a copy!


♫ Paul Simon News: Another ‘Track Records’ release this time and another one I haven’t actually seen in the shops yet so I’m not sure when it’s out. Warner Brothers’ ‘sight and sound’ series will be releasing a live CD/ DVD set of a historic Paul Simon concert – but unfortunately that’s all we know – we don’t even know the year as yet! However, like most releases since Warners bought up the early Paul Simon/ Simon and Garfunkel catalogue to go with their collection of later Paul Simon CDs from 1980-date, this set will be released at budget price from the get-go (its £7 in the catalogue). Again, more news when and if we get it.

♫ Who News: Things have been strangely quiet on the ‘orrible ‘oo front for quite some time after an unprecedented bout of activity from 2002-2006 or so. This month, however, sees the release of an archive DVD featuring a performance from December 1977 at the Gaumont Theatre in Kilburn and is one of the last to feature Keith Moon before his death just 9 months after this show was filmed. Even more potentially interesting, however, is the ‘bonus disc’ containing unreleased performances from 1969 and the ‘Tommy’ period when the band were pretty much at their live peak. Again, however, I haven’t seen this set in the shops – just in the Track Records catalogue for this month (and no, sadly, they aren’t the ‘track records’ that used to be the Who’s record label in the 1960s!)

I’m not quite sure where to put this news so it’s going here: at long long last, after countless inferior rip-offs and imitations have come and gone on supermarket shelves, the world’s truest psychedelic musical is finally out on DVD. Yes ‘Godspell’ is here at last, the only true hippie musical that wasn’t either written by Andrew Lloyd Webber to cash in on the psychedelia market or was so unenduringly bad it made the whole hippie scene look laughable (that’s ‘Hair’ I’m talking about. And yes, I know I’m getting to get lots of rude letters about that comment but it’s true!) It may be adapted from the St Matthew gospel and it might come with plenty of religious lyrics that have put many a modern audience goer off, but Godspell is the closest musical I’ve found to the spirituality in general you get from collecting ‘flower power’ era music and the Stephen Schwartz melodies are all first class. The first half-hour of the film is a bit arduous, but stick with it and if you’re anything like me then by the end you will be greatly moved (it’s happened every time I’ve seen the film and I’ll be darned if I can tell you why). Plus, what other musical has the audacity to have a modern-day re-incarnation of Jesus singing a duet with Judas?! The best known (indeed the only well known song) is ‘Day By Day’, a gorgeous ballad which rather sets the peaceful tone of the whole thing, but the best song is the gorgeous harmony experiment ‘By My Side’ which, frustratingly, is the only song not written by Schwartz and written by the otherwise unheard-of –again couple Peggy Gordon and Jay Hamburger. The song was added to pad out the show at the last minute when preview audiences asked for the second-half to be a bit longer and it’s a crying shame the pair didn’t write more – only Brian Wilson and CSN have tackled harmony songs this complex, with five singers harmonising in counterpoint at one stage. 

Anniversaries This Week: Freddie Marsden, bother of Gerry and drummer in the Pacemakers, would have been 68 on November 23rd. Events this week: the death of Crazy Horse guitarist Danny Whitten 36 years ago, an event that inspired much of Neil Young’s ‘doom trilogy’ (see review no 66; November 18), Ray Davies flies halfway across the word to replace the offending lyric ‘coca-cola’ in his new song ‘Lola’ and avoid a BBC radio ban (November 20, 1970), Who fan and amateur drummer Scott Haldin gets the gig of his life when he fills in for Keith Moon, dangerously ill on animal tranquilisers, who had collapsed just one song into the Who’s set (November 20, 1973) and, finally, it’s the anniversary of three important Beatle releases this week: With The Beatles (1963), the White Album (1968) and John Lennon’s last LP ‘Double Fantasy’ (1980), all three of which came out on November 22.

It's A Beautiful Day "Marrying Maidens" (1969) (News, Views and Music 12)

An Old Favourite I’m Currently Grooving To: “This whole world has got to change, it just can’t stay the way it’s been, and all the ways of war won’t change it in the end…” “Marrying Maidens” (It’s A Beautiful Day, 1972). The second album from the now largely forgotten Californian band is one of the most varied sets of the 1970s and one of the group’s more focussed records, despite the destructive events going on behind the scenes. Keyboardist Linda DeFlamme, who co-wrote every single track on first LP ‘It’s A Beautiful Day’, is already missing by the time of this second album, although husband David DeFlamme is still very much around and about the only recogniseable voice you’ll hear on this one (second vocalist Patti Santos, whose soaring vocals did so much to make the first album a success, is still there as well but doesn’t get as much to do on this second record). Yet for all of its flaws and its lack of a single song as mesmerising as ‘White Bird’ (the band’s best known track and a strong candidate for Beautiful Day’s greatest moment as a band), I still prefer this second LP to the first. Every single track seems to take you somewhere different this time around and although that’s not always a good thing on records, It’s A Beautiful Day naturally have such a wide repertoire that the contrast works well. Here, in just 35 or so minutes, you get a mix of long electric eccentric workouts that last for hours, subtle acoustic ballads that last for mere seconds, fiery instrumentals, lyrical country-ballads, spoken tone poems and even a country hoe-down and a hint of big band-esque crooning.  

As with the first LP, though, it’s the quieter, more melodic songs that catch the ear more than the frenetic and often overly noisy epics. There’s lots of classic tight harmony on this record, unusual considering that most members of this second line-up have never worked together before and the band even do a fair impression of chanting Tibetan monks on the mood piece ‘Waiting For The Song’. David DeFlamme’s gravely but still velvety voice also seems to have come into its own on this LP with the occasional harshness of the first LP toned down – his range seems to have extended by at least half an octave too. Overall, ‘Maidens’ is an interesting work – it’s undoubtedly a sprawling album, one that doesn’t quite know what direction it wants to head in, but musical cul-de-sacs have rarely been as enjoyable as this one. Alas there’s just one more studio album to go before it’s a beautiful day call it a day (briefly anyway – they reformed in 1978 as ‘it was a beautiful day’!) but with the group knocking at so many different musical doors and being pulled in so many different directions it’s no surprise they couldn’t keep the band going for long. Most loved moments: it’s a split decision between the gorgeous laid-back Eagles-ish country rock of ‘Soapstone Mountain’ and ‘Good Loving’, the most uncharacteristic track on the album, where the band rock out and bounce off each other to great effect (most of the songs here have a Moody Blues/ Pink Floyd-esque studio sheen). Most reviled moment: most fans seem to hate the mostly spoken word-piece ‘Galileo’ the most, but actually it’s not that bad at all – certainly compared to Cat Stevens/ Yusuf Islam’s occasional mistakes in the same vein. No the worst thing is the instrumental ‘Country Hoe-down’ – wrong band, wrong style, wrong instruments, it’s all just wrong wrong wrong. Overall rating: ♫♫♫♫♫♫♫ (7/10).