Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Peer influences

I was pondering the influence of others on what we do the other day while recovering from a periodic condition that flared up.
For instance there was a time when I'd allow what other people thought about my tastes in clothes dictate what I would choose by either colour or type - I loved knitted tank tops but my friends would say 'Nah' - and back it would to either the store or a used clothes selection.
Or someone would say "If you go there with him, I won't speak to you" and I thought this was okay at the time.
I noticed recently two little reminders of this type of thinking when reviewing my cd collection where a group of people sought to influence which copy of an album to have though peer pressure at a place where briefly I joined.
The first was the soundtrack to Saturday Night Fever where I have a very nice lp copy but when in 1995 the cd was reissued onto a single disc compared to two i finally brought a copy which I thought was pretty good. This was a downfall as a lot of people there kept on saying how the older one was better with the vocals more upfront, having issues with process called UV22 used to master it to cd and I allowed them to influence me into getting this one and removing my more recent edition.
As well, I allowed them to talk me into replacing the remastered edition of Kiss's Love Gun to an West German original again because the view seemed to be the older the better.
Now as I think I wrote maybe three or four years ago because of the 'make everything darn loud' thing going on indeed some older cds are better but on these two this isn't the case.
Take Love Gun first, it has the same lack of upper high notes like on the percussion as the 1982 UK lp that I replaced in a matter of months with the US original even though I love that 'starburst' Casablanca label design so I ended rebuying the remastered copy which may be a just a tad louder but has a much fuller sound.
Saturday Night Fever was similar because although I like the emphasize on the mids, there's something quite wishy washy going on on the high notes sounding like a tape going up and down the tape heads on a tape recorder and being somewhat recessed too so I've just re-bought the 1995 edition.
I think the moral here is we own our own preferences, which isn't to say others can't offer their advice when asked, not being put off by peer pressure or the thought someone might think you're a bit funny for having your likes.
They may even be wrong.
Also we need to be on our guard for those that invade our head space making everything into it's me or him for no good reason. Boundaries exist for a good reason and they ought to be respected.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

The Kinks are Well Respected Men!

Well it's almost an annual ritual here that every year as we approach the Christmas season, a expensive box set arrives for me to buy, starve the cat for a few weeks or something a bit like that and this year is no exception.
The Kinks are quite simply one of the most important British groups of the 60's who took R&B, created the heavy metal riff with You Really Got Me and pioneered social comment in popular music with albums like Face To Face as well as The Village Green Preservation Society exploring the British way of life and inspiring countless acts ever since.

Entitled the Kinks In Mono, this set comprises of the seven UK albums of the period plus two discs of mono collectible versions plus a disc with four of their EP recordings on it, housed in a mini lp style sleeve, gatefolded with credits and fresh photographs on the inner folds.
The first three albums -Kinks, Kinda Kinks and The Kinks Kontroversy - are R&B albums with a high number of originals such as Stop Your Sobbing,Tired Of Waiting and Till The End Of The Day leading to the band being adopted by the 'Mods'.
From 1966's Face To Face onward Ray Davis's introspective song writing comes to the for with such classics as Dandy (a massive hit for Herman's Hermits in the States), Sunny Afternoon, David Watts as covered by The Jam, Death of a Clown, the impossibly perfect Waterloo Sunset, Starstruck (from Village Green Preservation Society) and Victoria from 'Arthur'.
The EP disc takes in four UK EP's (Kinksize session, Kinksize Hits, Kwyet Kinks and Dedicated Kinks) with Louie Louie, All Day and All Of The Night, A Well Respected Man, Dedicated Follower of Fashion and Set Me Free while the Mono Kollectables has singles mixes, b sides and the mono Lola and Apeman singles.
The mastering for is very good, a little louder than the early Kinks discs from mid 1980's but with plenty of contrast between the loudest and softest volumes and much improved on the 1998 re-issues with Village Green having a brand new mastering exclusive to this set.
For the money I think it's worth it, lacking a set of Kinks albums on cd.
At the bottom there are some picture one of the discs in the box and another of the book which is like the Pop Annuals Radio Luxembourg and Thank Your Lucky stars had out back then telling the Kinks story.
It's no weighty tomb of knowledge never mind a set of lyrics so you'll go whistle if that's what you want but as a slightly goofy period like introduction to the band it serves well being a fun read.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Winter Fashion 2011

Well after all that serious stuff a few weeks back and a musical interlude, I was considering what this post was going to be but as I'm a little cold that's kind of made it's mind up for me.
Winter you see is starting to make an appearance so for those of us brought up in cold climates thoughts turn to keeping warm and this by designer Louise Gray who lives in Hackney, London caught my eye.
She specializes in knitwear of the more traditional sort made in a textile mill in the Scottish Boarders but with a contemporary young feel.
The first item is a Beanie -very popular in the UK presently but using traditional patterns and then there's loose fitting jumper although I think the arms are a bit too long for the model.
The range also includes thick knee length socks and wrist warmers a kind of sleeve going from your wrist to your upper arms.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011


Well after all the gloom of the last few weeks which is still rumbling around us, I felt like talking about something that would make some of us SMILE, Namely the fact this Beach Boys album or perhaps more accurately "The SMiLE Sessions" have after 44 years finally come out in an authorized form.
There's that much and sometimes one-sided stuff written about smile that I don't feel like going into it but in essence it was a projected follow up to the Pet Sounds album of 1966 involving collaboration between Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks dashing off fragments of music and lyric and stitching them together as a kind of audio collage a process that would involve many fragments per song.
The year 1966 it has to be remembered was one of the most important in popular music with many lyrical, musical and technological innovations all coming together revolutionizing what was thought of as low class transitory music for kids and making it into high art with such albums as Blonde on Blonde, Revolver, Paisley Sage Rosemary & Thyme and singles like Good Vibrations.
Good Vibrations really was the stating point for this album - listen closely and you'll here all the edits and overdubs - with Brian Wilson in the studio conducting session musicians making all the backing fragments ready for the beach Boys to return from touring to add their voices.
At the same time there was much interest in what was going on with even a news team filming Brian at work at Leonard Bernstein's bequest and yet these sessions never officially saw the light of day until now.
The first thing to say about the sessions and what has been issued is it's as far away from fun in the sun car and beach songs as you could ever get very few number lend themselves to the concerts you had back then with instrumentals like Holidays and even Wind Chimes as beautiful as they are to hear anew in their original form being too challenging for the concert audience of the day.
This lead to some friction between the touring band and Brian and was a bigger issue for Capitol Records who required a record to sell with potential big hits on it and Brian launched a royalties dispute with Capitol to upping the stakes.
Brian also had his demons - it's testimony to how he is today he's happy to even talk about this period - and the competition between him and the Beatles, the disagreements in the band over the session material, the fractiousness relationship with Capitol took a heavy toll on his nerviness and increasingly erratic state of mind and so the the project got put on the high shelf 90% completed with dozens of snippets left.
Parts were re-used, songs featured in other albums Surfs Up from the 1971 album of the same name, Cabin-Essense on 20/20 and re-recordings on that half hearted replacement Smily Smile like Vege-Tables and Wind Chimes and Heroes and Villains (a favourite).
I bought the two lp version with bonus tracks on side 4 because for me at least I don't have a use nay a need to be able to re-assemble any number of fragments to make my own version as Brian's version based on approximation of 2004 he did as a solo project is good enough for me.
It's also true I appreciate greatly the physical product so something as tactile as an lp sleeve with a beautiful colour art book and easy to read lyrics is appreciated and what's more this 180 gram lp pressed here in Europe sounds superb with no one click or pop.
I also find the small gap when you change discs over helps giving you time to take in the compositional delights.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

A Greek Tragedy?

Did I mention the great Euro Zone bail; out last week in passing?
Well I thought there were creaks in what had been agreed because it seemed short on firm detail such as where the much trumpeted One Trillion Euros to but aside for any contingencies not just this business with Greece going to come from as Germany had specifically refused to give a direct contribution from it's treasury for it?
Well it seems to little more than a target figure to go pay visits to countries with rich foreign reserves such as China and ask them -nay beg - for a loan.
China it seems feels the Euro Zone has to put its house in financial order and is in any event not really interested.
Yesterday though the Greek Premier announced that the people of Greece will have a referendum around January on conditions they agreed only the week before on the bail out.
Trouble is he never said this to the other European leaders present which looks very close to bad faith because it opens up the possibility that the voters may reject the deal. If he says "No I'll go with what we decided back in October" then the Greek electorate may well be very angry with him which would lead at the least to political instability.
The markets are scared, China by all accounts doesn't want to know about the bail out feeling it no longer counts for anything.
No where does leave the rest of us?