Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Home Mix-taping is Reinvigorating Music?

Originally uploaded by singletrackroads

Mibbes aye...

I ranted (hey, there's a shocker) about home-taping articles at the start of the month there and then last night I found this great old flyer in my bag...

We need more of this sort of thing in the world, particularly if people move increasingly towards downloads and thereby by-pass cover art and the creativity inherent therein.

I've no idea - yet - what I'll put on the tape that I know I'll send, heck I don't even know if I have a tape to record onto but I know, in High Fidelity stylee, it will be done with love.

Monday, 25 January 2010

No Bonus For RBS

Self explantory really.

Legendary politcal activist and protest singer Billy Bragg....blah,blah,blah...any fan of Bill's will tell you that he's always been more of a real-life chronicler and love-song balladeer than a fist waving, ranting political polemic kinda guy. Though, understandably, ranting tends to attract more attention than singing sweetly...

Anyway, Bill is - rightly - outraged at the potential payment of bonuses to high-flying RBS types in light of the fact that we, the UK taxpayers, own 84% of the bank and, as such, have a right to veto. The web is, at the moment, full of Bill's Campaign (he's even got himself a website all about it) and he's omnipresent in radio and tv interviews.

Fair Play Bill I reckon. I've long thought that the country would be a better place with BB for PM.

Facebook campaign anyone?

Thursday, 21 January 2010

And a big shout out!

First time lucky and all that...with my sister visiting for youngest daughter's birthday, we decided to request a shout out from Stuart on the Radcliffe and Maconie show in celebration of the lovely pink sponge being constructed (do you construct cakes?) for said birthday celebrations...

Having started earlier in the day with a selection of glittery-starry-pink-iced cupcakes:

...I felt it only appropriate to mark the creating of the fairy-princess masterpiece with a request on national radio

Radcliffe and Maconie giving a big shout out to Maisie mouse.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Toe curling...

The sentiment contained herein is an admirable, albeit obvious, one. I shudder, however, to think how many teachers' CPD courses will be including this clip over the next few months and cringe further to think how clever and innovative so many dark-ages professionals will think it...I can almost see the self-satisfied-aren't-I-clever? look on the face of the person delivering the session.

Ach well. The firewall gag's a good 'un...

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Friday, 15 January 2010

Cold snap

How exciting. Following on from this post from a few weeks back, the BBC have decided to use the photo that I sent to them as part of their "wow, don't the Highlands look spectacular in the snow?" featurette on the Highlands & Islands microsite. Which is nice.

Rather weirdly, of all the possible shots of the Highlands and Islands, two of these ten are from Strontian!

Anyway, fame at last...

Back to black...ice

The recent spell of wintry (wintery?) weather, tracked obsessively and extensively via Twitter using the #uksnow tag has led to some interesting mobility experiences for me.

Still not 100% sure of the stability of my knee following the reconstructive surgery, I've been treading rather gingerly on the ice. Isn't doing something 'gingerly' a great idea? Certainly worth investigating...

Anyway, long story short and all that, at the start of the week I was walking back over from the other side of the island and I had my mp3 player blasting away in my ears to keep out the cold. Using the shuffle function, well, you have to do something to add excitement to your day, I was treated to a bit of Northern Soul courtesy of Tammi Lynn. Clearly even I wasn't about to attempt a backflip or fling down some talcum powder and pull a headspin. And throwing shapes on grit is just so undignified. I did, however, have an image of club nights in Edinburgh, attempting (though more often watching others) to look as if I could pull my weight in the foot-stomping dance stakes.

No sooner had the thought entered my head than I found myself involuntarily auditioning to be one of Ms. Winehouse's backing dancers as my bad leg went from under me and I struggled to regain my footing with a rather natty shuffle-slide in the style of another who often did things Gingerly...

Monday, 11 January 2010

Stop! Woah, yeah, wait a minute Mister Postman...

Okay, okay, I admit it. I used to collect stamps. Albeit in a very half-hearted send away for a hundred non rare but fairly obscure impressions from the pages of comics like the Beano.

For a certain generation, the name Stanley Gibbons carries a particular resonance. Countless hours were frittered away trying tp make those dashed "stamp hinges" work without sticking them onto themselves or, worse still onto your fingers and clothes. Heaven forbid you'd crinkle a Djibouti Olympic Squad first day cover through the careless application of a gossamer layer of sticky hinge!

In a (surely doomed to failure) bid to make philately the new rock n roll, the Royal Mail have issued a set of stamps featuring classic album covers - actually, that was ill-informed. I was about to go off one one about who decided these were classics, etc, etc but I've just followed that there link above and the Royal Mail assure us that:

This stamp issue salutes this unique art form and celebrates
some of the greatest examples, used by UK artists.

So that's fine then.

I heard a piece on Radio Scotland just before Christmas where one of the artists, the brilliantly named Storm Thorgerson who was, as we say on the West coast, 'doing his duster' on the issue (aha, wee stamp gag there) of artistic integrity being compromised. I can completely understand his point - I stopped agreeing with him for a minute when he went on about consultation, my thinking being that surely if you've designed the artwork and signed it over to the record company then it becomes public work and you lose control over it, after all, where's the artisitc integrity in a badly done screen print on a cheap gig t-shirt?

However, I have to agree with old Stormin' Thormin's point on the suitability of artwork being used. He said that as a designer he had come up with a concept which would work on a lovely 12inch by 12inch record sleeve - clearly the man has plenty of soul - but would perhaps be compromised on a CD cover and, by extension, compromised further still on a 2inch square stamp. You cannot, after all, beat the thrill of vinyl.

Having looked at the artwork it's clear to me that, for example, Primal Scream's Screamadelica still manages to work on a small scale - the simplicity and the primary colours stand out like a piece of child's artwork, similarly the clean lines and lack of clutter of Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells cover art and the iconography of the Clash's London Calling - itself Ray Lowry's homage to the King -but, as Storm says, the pieces of finer detail, whilst still incredibly well reproduced, just don't have the visual impact that they were designed for in the first place. The Stones' Let It Bleed, complete with its Delia Smith cake, just doesn't grab the eye in the same way as the original LP sleeve.

All of this got me thinking...can we not just have billboard sized stamps?

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Ice with your Rum?

Well, a light dusting of snow at any rate.

Rum and the Cuillins from Muck.

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Keep the home fires burning...

This is what's needed this morning, blogging by the woodburner whilst listening to Danny Baker...

...though your nose is a chillin'...

A Flickr set from the last few weeks...I'll tag them properly later.

Firefly Winter Wonderland

A selection of things from the set

Firefly Fort aug Fort aug0 Fort aug1 Fort aug1

(By the way, if the set link doesn't work, try copying and pasting it from this email into your browser's address bar.)

Flickr is almost certainly the best photo management and sharing application in the world. If you'd like to see what I use it for you can check out my profile page or browse my photostream.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

That's for to take my sister to the picture show...

The BBC's Outnumbered is consistently brilliant, perhaps never more so than in the recent Christmas special.

The whole thing was magnificent but, right near the end, they completely randomly had a family singalong to the excellent Felice Brothers "Frankie's Gun" - it's priceless and you can see it at 8mins 12s on this clip.

Then, when you've established that it's clearly one of the best songs you've ever heard (because your ears are saying "hey, is that someone mashing up an accordion version of Bat Out Of Hell with Knockin' On Heaven's Door?") you can go here and download it for free.

And after that, you can see Bono rather touchingly forget the words to the aforementioned Dylan classic in aid of Dublin's Simon Community.

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Monday, 4 January 2010

Pining for the fjords...

Strontian going for the full on tourist brochure look in the snow today...

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Clearly the man's an idiot...

Exile on Main St.Image via Wikipedia

Okay, okay, so - clearly - my "Top Ten" list from the other day should have included The Stones' brilliant Exile On Main Street but it seemed a trifle obvious (that'll be beacuse it's a brilliant album then, eh?). It must be included. So, too, must its direct descendant - The Black Crowes, "Shake Your Money Maker" - sure, it's pretty easy to spot the influences, Exile-era Stones, Sticky Fingers-era stones - I'm being unfair, there's plenty of Faces in the mix too! It really is a superb record.

I did make it clear the other day that, as with Tom Morton's list and those in High Fidelity, it (the list) will change depending on day, mood and company and it's certainly a topic which can make you - well, make me at any rate, wake up in the middle of the night and think, "How did I manage to leave out Billy Bragg's 'Victim Of Geography?" I'll tell you how, it's because it's a compilation of two of his albums and I didn't think that would count. Yes, I'm aware there's nobody arbitrating this and that if I really wanted I could just include a load of 'Now That's What I Call Music' albums but you have to draw the line otherwise anarchy ensues - the revolution is, after all, just a t-shirt away.

But Billy goes in there now. In in place of what you may ask? Nobody. I'm not bumping King Creosote or Son Volt out of my list - this is, to labour a point, today's top ten. Canada's Barenaked Ladies also need to climb aboard with their fabulous debut, "Gordon" - it should probably be on the list for the title alone so when you add their clever, innovative 'acoustic hip-hop(!)' to the mix the case becomes a strong one. "Enid", "Brian Wilson" and "New Kid On The Block" call to mind The Housemartins and The Smiths jamming with a flamenco band over a few too many beers. Which can only be a good thing.

The Lost Soul Band's magnificent "The Land Of Do As You Please" is one of those definite desert island "If I only had this I'd be quite happy" albums. Very few people have heard of the band, fewer still own the record but it's a tremendous example of lyrical craft, beautiful singing and a country-soul-blues-rock magimix holding it all together. Definitely a keeper as they say. They said that about Alan Rough too.

Keeping it nicely parochial, Phil Campbell's hard to track down debut "Fresh New Life" **I've just broken off from writing this nonsense to track down and read a blog by someone genuinely talented, Phil himself - if you don't know his work...actually I'll come back to that in a minute** - is one of the greatest records you'll ever (probably not) hear. My writing abilities don't stretch to doing it justice. The music speaks for itself as does Mr. Campbell. His life-story type blog at his Myspace is a genuinely affecting piece of writing, made all the more vivid because, for some of it, as they say, I was there man. Phil's never had the recognition his music and talent clearly deserve though I've yet to find anyone I've lent his stuff to who's not said "that guy's a genius." Go, find it, listen. Hey, turns out it's no longer hard to find.

Where are we at now? Six today. Hmm.

Okay. You want more obscure Scottish artists? Nae bother. The Radio Sweethearts - Lonesome Blue - proper honky tonk Hank Williams-esque country...from Lanarkshire. Like it says on the sticker on the album "It's hard to tell if you're listening to a country classic or a Sweethearts original" - praise indeed.

The Swiss Family Orbison - eponymous album from ex-Danny Wilson man Kit Clark with ex-Deacon Blue and current BBC Sportscene (!) man Dougie Vipond on drums. It's somehow very obviously Scottish pop-rock. I'm not even sure what I mean by that but no doubt you'll kind of understand.

Right, last two onto my Desert Island - Mojave 3's "Excuses For Travellers" A brilliant album which, if you were lazy you might describe as lo-fi acoustic chill out, but that would be a dreadful thing to do.

Last but not least and by jings this is tricky, I need to dance about a bit on my island so I'm taking a compilation album and there's nothing you can do about it. It's even a double CD so there! Put down the talcum powder and bring out the cheesecloth shirts. A bit of Northern Soul - The Best Northern Soul All-Nighter...Ever! Amazing sounds, Al Wilson's "The Snake", Frank Wilson's "Do I Love You?" and Sliced Tomatoes by The Just Brothers - songs to get a corpse dancing.

Right. I'm away to listen to Johnny Cash. He's not on the list? Ach, there's always tomorrow's list...
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Lazy Articles About Home Taping Is Killing Music Journalism*

20080425-EImage by Heinrock via Flickr

I'm going to sound like a complete curmudgeon here because I actually quite like this article from the Times about mix-tapes and a cassette revival. I mean, in many ways it's a wee bit like a post I churned out myself some months back. And that's the thing. Not only have "C90s are back!" type articles been doing the rounds for a good while now, but Nick Hornby's "High Fidelity" has whole sections - nay, damn near the whole book - devoted to the subject of the mix tape and, as much as I love that book, I don't want to sit and read poor imitations of it in a national newspaper.

Bah. Humbug.

* Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know that should be "are" but pay attention at the back there!

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Saturday, 2 January 2010

I wanna jump right in and see what that big ocean's got...

I feel I may have to revise yesterday's lists as it's patently obvious that The Swell Season are probably the best band in the world at the moment. This is stunningly beautiful.

Fife get over excited

Lovely wee documentary on the Fence Collective here from the BBC...

And here's a brilliant website featuring head Fence-ster King Creosote, Bandstand Busking...

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Friday, 1 January 2010

And be a model pupil tonight babe, I wanna get ten out of ten...

King CreosoteImage via Wikipedia

I've written before about the joys of discussing music and musical tastes and it's a topic that never fails to arouse my interest. It can, at times, give vent to one's inner totalitarian as you question how someone could possibly have all the Coldplay albums yet have no time for The Reindeer Section or how anyone, anyone could find anything positive to say about James Blunt (other than the fact that he seems to have been quiet for a fair old while now).

The oft-mentioned (on this blog at any rate) Tom Morton has, in traditional end-of-year-reflective-stylee produced a couple of "best of" lists over the last few days on his Beatcroft blog, Top Ten Live Albums and an End Of The Decade inventory. Both contain albums I think I'd enjoy, both contain artists I've never listened to before (Elvis Perkins - great name! - and Leo Kottke, though I have always meant to follow up old Leo having had him recommended to me by a colleague around 13 years ago now!) and both have got me thinking.

Certainly in terms of live albums I've never been a fan - I used to buy bootleg tapes at the Barras of gigs in and around Glasgow that I'd been to. The sound quality was generally awful but because I'd actually been to and enjoyed the gigs I was buying recordings of, I could forgive that and relive the event. In terms of live stuff now, it's fairly easy to find mp3s online and you can often acquire great live cover versions - King Creosote and The Bluebells doing "Cath" together, Ray La Montagne and Damien Rice with the Bee Gees "To Love Somebody" spring to mind as great examples but otherwise I tend to avoid live stuff unless I'm hunting down something I've actually heard (KC as mentioned above having seen him do the song at Oran Mor as part of the Homecoming after show party being the most recent example).

As for just general "best of" lists, well Nick Hornby has long recorded the male obsession with lists, best ofs, top tens and so on and, as he so often does, has hit the nail right on the head. It's not done for competition - though the Barry character brilliantly played by Jack Black in the movie version of 'High Fidelity' certainly uses his lists as a "look how much I know" musical obscurist snob exercise - which can sometimes be no bad thing; I particularly love the exchange in High Fidelity between the outrageously opinionated Barry and the mild mannered Dick around "Little Latin Lupe Lu". If you've neither read nor seen High Fidelity, Barry namechecks the song and Dick says "Mitch Ryder and The Detroit Wheels?" to which Barry snaps "No, the Righteous Brothers!" "Oh" says Dick with a look you can even picture in the book which just seems to say "oh, you poor soul, you've never even heard what I regard as the definitive version and your life is undoubtedly the poorer for it" - I get that feeling a lot...

Anyway, onwards to the lists! Now, I reckon that if you're going to be going for the whole "of all time" thing, then, very much like Desert Island Discs, it needs to be something you'll not tire of; the kind of thing where if you only had those records and nothing else to listen to, you'd still be happy. My (and as Tom says "It'll change tomorrow"!) top ten albums of all time just right at this very minute and in no particular order...

King Creosote - KC Rules OK - Faultless genius
Roddy Woomble - My Secret Is My Silence - Haunting, beautiful, very Highland without being twee
The Kevin McDermott Orchestra - Mother Nature's Kitchen - lyrically wonderful, in live format the songs are incredible, Kevin's a lovely guy, what else need I say?
The Arctic Monkeys - Whatever People Say I Am That's What I'm Not - has there ever been a better debut album? I came to this late but by jings it's a belter
David Kitt - The Big Romance - under-rated Irish genius
Foo Fighters - Foo Fighters - brilliant first album and the perfect snowboarding accompaniment
Frank Black - Teenager Of The Year - ex-Pixie with an eclectic 20 track masterpiece
Son Volt - Straightaways - Alt country cracker from ex-Uncle Tupelo man
Elvis Costello - My Aim Is True - This would probably get in just for Alison to be honest
The Lemonheads - It's A Shame About Ray - With or without 'Mrs. Robinson' on the reissue, it's just brilliant. 'Frank Mills' and 'Alison's Starting To Happen' would grace any album

Elvis CostelloElvis Costello via last.fm

Close but no cigar (today at any rate): Stone Roses - Stone Roses - It may be sacrilege to say this but though I love the Roses (once trekked round the country to see them four times in twelve days) the whole album's not perfect, I can't be doing with 'Elizabeth My Dear' or 'Don't Stop'; Guns N Roses - Appetite For Destruction - One of the first albums I played to death (I've owned 3 copies now!) but I don't think it's a Desert Island job; Kate Nash - Made Of Bricks - Not my usual bag but I've played this to death too and it's great, 'Foundations' and 'Mouthwash' are already pop classics and 'Mariella' is magnificently eccentric; Kris Drever - Blackwater - I never tire of listening to this but if I'm taking Roddy to my island this is a wee bit similar; Idlewild - anything by them, impossible to choose between their albums, not a duff track amongst them.

Top ten for 09? That's tricky too and I can only think of five...but off the top of my head (and, again, just for today) Airborne Toxic Event - a majestic, soaring record calling to mind early U2, The Smiths and The Jam. Enough said. Ian Brown - My Way - A great album, thumping basslines and that legendary swaggering delivery; Idlewild - Post Electric Blues - superb fan-financed rock monster; Paolo Nutini - Sunny Side Up - A great feelgood album, standout tracks all the way and 'Comin' Up Easy' could easily be vintage Al Green; Vetiver - Tight Knit - Lo-fi acoustic chill out is a dreadfully lazy way to describe an album, the sort of thing The Observer Music Monthly might do but there you go: Vetiver, Tight Knit, Lo-fi acoustic chill out.