Monday, 25 April 2016

Miles Ahead

As a fan of the music of Miles Davis and being interested enough in the man to have read his autobiography and the brilliant biography by Ian Carr, I was very keen to see 'Miles Ahead' which marks the directional debut of Don Cheadle who also stars in the role of Davis.

Having attended a lunchtime showing in a local cinema, I found myself on my homeward journey trying to make some kind of sense out of what I had just witnessed. As anticipated, the music was superb though the great clips were usually far too brief, but I have the records at home so I can listen to those whenever I please. So, what of the film?

The basic story centres on the so called "silent years" between 1976 and 1980, when Davis became a virtual recluse, rarely if ever straying from his New York home. He had turned 50 in 1976 and was recovering from a hip replacement operation but was also suffering from inflammation of the joints making it almost impossible for him to pick up and play the trumpet. The prodigious amounts of drugs, alcohol and cigarettes that he took, certainly did not aid his recovery. In the film, he is visited by a writer (Ewan McGregor) who claims to represent 'Rolling Stone' magazine and who is seeking a story but also has hopes of provoking Davis back into playing again.

All well and good, except that the story then flips back and forth as Davis recollects the tumultuous relationship he had with the dancer Frances Taylor, who in 1958, became his first wife. We get glimpses of how he controlled and abused her and there is a recreation of the famous incident when Davis was assaulted and arrested by police officers outside Birdland after having escorted a white female customer to a taxi cab. 

Meanwhile back in the 1970's, the bogus journalist appears to win the confidence of Davis but a recently completed tape of a Davis session is stolen and the film recounts the efforts made to recover this precious recording. It is during these scenes that the film gets a bit surreal and for me, loses it's direction. The tape though was not a piece of fiction but actually dated from a session on 2 March 1978. It was a session that produced only one six or seven minute recording with Larry Coryell on guitar, and Davis, not on trumpet, but on organ and synthesiser. After this short attempt to return to the business of making music, Davis retreated back to his home, where he remained for a further two years, only emerging in 1980 to begin recording what would become The Man With The Horn'.

My overall impression of the film is very mixed. It was generally well directed and for me, captured the periods (the late 1950's and 1970's) very well but I just felt that the storyline was rather contrived and all became too surreal during a boxing match late in the film. Credit must be given to Cheadle however, for his portrayal of Davis. So convincing was he, that there were long periods when I totally forgot that I wasn't watching Davis himself.

I don't really see this movie winning any major awards but if, like me, you are a fan of Miles Davis, then I suggest you get yourself along to a cinema to see it. Just don't expect to see the Miles Davis life story or to learn anything new.

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Farewell Prince and Lonnie Mack

After a wonderful day with family celebrating the first birthday of my grandson, Hendrix, I drove home last night to the news of the deaths of Prince (at 57) and Lonnie Mack.

I admit that I was never much of a fan of Prince, however I could recognise that the guy had an immense talent and as a multi-instrumentalist, singer, songwriter and with the amazing ability to combine musical genres, he deserved all of the accolades and commercial success he received. If you happen to need any convincing of what a great guitarist he was, then I suggest you take a look at this clip from the George Harrison tribute concert in 2004.
'While My Guitar Gently Weeps'

His death at such a young age was a huge shock to me.

Lonnie Mack on the other hand I could identify with more easily being one of the major driving forces behind the role of the electric guitar as a lead instrument in blues, country and rock music. Am I stretching a point by suggesting that without Mack, we may have had no Duane Allman, Jeff Beck, Mike Bloomfield or many others? I don't think so. 

One lesser known fact about Mack is that he played bass guitar on the recording of 'Roadhouse Blues' by the Doors in November 1969. However he will be best remembered for his lead work such as on his 1963 hit 'Memphis'

Here is 'Memphis' by Lonnie Mack.

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

RIP Victoria Wood

I can't recollect ever doing three posts in one day since I started this blog, but I've just been stunned at the news that Victoria Wood has passed away at the age of 62.

So that's 2-0 to cancer today. When the hell are we going to totally eradicate that bastard?

RIP Victoria and thanks for all those laughs over the years.

Lost in Translation

Way back in the early days of this blog, I posted pictures of some signs I saw in China which made me chuckle because of the translation into English.

Recently I came across the following translation which has been taken directly from the brochure of a Beijing Hotel which shall remain nameless.

"Our representative will make you wait at the airport. The bus to the hotel runs along the lake shore. Soon you will feel pleasure in passing water. You will know that you are getting near the hotel because you will go round the bend. The manager will await you in the entrance hall. He always tries to have intercourse with all new guests".

"This is a family hotel so children are very welcome. We of course are always pleased to accept adultery. Highly skilled nurses are available in the evenings to put down your children. Guests are invited to conjugate in the bar and expose themselves to others. But please note that ladies are not allowed to have babies in the bar. We organise social games so no guest is left alone to play with themself".

"Our menus have been specially chosen to be ordinary and unexciting. At dinner our quartet will circulate from table to table and fiddle with you. Every room has excellent facilities for your private parts. In winter, every room is on heat. Each room has a balcony offering views of outstanding obscenity. You will not be disturbed by traffic noise since the road between the hotel and the lake is used only by pederasts".

"Your bed has been made in accordance with local tradition. If you have any other ideas please ring for the chambermaid. Please take advantage of her. She will be very pleased to squash your shirts, blouses and underwear. If asked she will also squeeze your trousers".

I suspect that there may be many people now clamouring to stay at this particular hotel particularly among those seeking views of outstanding obscenity or those who would like their trousers squeezed.

RIP Pete Zorn

Sad news that multi-instrumentalist Pete Zorn has passed away at the age of 65 after a battle with cancer.

I saw him several times as part of Richard Thompson's band and I constantly thought, is there any instrument this guy CAN'T play?

He will be sadly missed.

Monday, 18 April 2016

Record Store Day 2016

Well another Record Store Day has come and gone here in the UK and once again I have managed to avoid it. Not that I have anything against the event you understand, in fact as a collector of records myself, I believe that anything that promotes this fine hobby of ours has some merit. However, I have the distinct feeling that the whole event has, in the 9 years of it's existence, become something of a rip-off with too little by way of quality and too many vastly inflated prices.

The event was conceived as a way of giving a sales boost to independent record stores, and for a while it appeared to work. However, talking recently to the owner of such a store, he told me that the whole thing had become something of a blessing and a curse. Yes, on the day itself, he anticipated doing good business but his experience of the last few years is that sales declined dramatically in the weeks preceding the event. His theory was that perhaps people were saving up to splash out on the big day.

Nevertheless the event this year has again generated a lot of excitement and from what I read online, there are a whole load of people who are very happy with their purchases. Personally I might have found myself tempted by the deluxe version of 'Wrecking Ball' by Emmylou Harris and almost certainly by the self titled second album by Traffic which was limited to only 500 copies. For some inexplicable reason it is an album I do not own and one which I feel I really must get on vinyl - the way that I first heard it back in 1968.

Perhaps one of these days, when all the fuss has died down.

Thursday, 14 April 2016

An Unlikely Seeming Boost For Vinyl Sales

This morning I read an interesting piece in the online BBC Entertainment & Arts section. It dealt with the current resurgence in the sale of vinyl records and the research produced some surprising findings.

As expected many of the people questioned confessed that despite the ease of obtaining and listening to music through live streaming websites such as Spotify or YouTube, they now enjoyed the physical aspect of actually owning and handling a record. In my view, there were no surprises there, as it was those very same feelings which drove me back to collecting vinyl myself. What I did find surprising is that there is evidence to suggest that people are using the streaming services to listen to music that they might not otherwise hear, and then actually going out and purchasing the recordings they like. If true, then this flies in the face of the arguments that have been used in the past that such streaming sites are killing music sales.

What I found most surprising of all though, was the finding that of those surveyed, 48% of people who bought vinyl last month, have yet to play it. And 7% don't even own a turntable!

Which begs the question - why?

I suppose that one positive thing to come out of such revelations is the fact that vinyl collectors in the future should have no problem finding mint copies of their sought after records.