Monday, 28 November 2016

Album Review - Wild Joanne Shaw Taylor. Fear - Marillion

Time for some album reviews.

Fear - Marillion

I've been putting off writing this review since I have to say.... for me this isn't a classic brilliant album.  It is very good but for me this isn't Marillion at their best.  Odd isn't it first time in thirty years they get back into the top 5 with a release and get rave reviews and I'm left a bit like... hmmm... it's really good but... but what?

It is an epic work, there in lies some of it's problem, also reading how it was put together with the band working with long time collaborator Mike Hunter in the producers chair.  From my reading of the interviews it goes something like this.... the band jam on stuff for hours - Hunter captures is all then starts to construct the pieces with the band from that and then they add in the details etc.   For me it then means that these long pieces constructed in this way don't always for me as an entire "song" hang together.  Now Marillion have always had long tracks and compositions - Forgotten Sons in their first album through to Gaza (which is quiet simply one of the greatest bit of music ever!) on their last effort Sounds that Can't be Made.  However then you get a set of 5 - 6 mins songs that are of the more traditional intro, verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, solo, verse, chorus, outro.... This album is all of the long songs with several bits - indeed the track listing on the CD actually runs to 17 "tracks" but three of the compositions are split into 4 or 5 tracks.  I just missed a Beautiful, Easter or Map of the World and too often the joins are simply holding some suspended chord making you think - where's the bridge to the next bit.  The next bit is invariably good but for me, I'm too demanding maybe, where's the clever link?  Seems writing that I'm being churlish in that I'm hitting an album that is terrific for the sake of the odd few seconds of a rundown or drum flourish.

So despite being a manic Marillion fan and again stumping up my cash straight away on the now familiar crowd funder for the album and having my name on the deluxe edition and despite several of the parts being brilliant - Living In Fear (one of the two shorter songs) is my highlight - it's anti gun / violence topic being so prevalent to today's world.  "We've decided to risk melting our guns".  Throughout Hogarth's lyrics are the best he has written, if you feel it is right for bands to be making statements like they started in Gaza the album before.  Of the longer tracks The New Kings is terrific, part 2 (Russia's Locked Doors) featuring one of Steve Rothery's legendary tasteful Gilmore like solos. The final part (Why is nothing ever true) is I can see a crowd pleasing barn stormer of future live sets.

Anyway - enough of my blathering - it is a great album, my fire for Marillion is never diminished, compared with most bands who've been banging out stuff for over 30 years they still are doing new stuff, relevant stuff, edgy stuff, political stuff... ignoring what the world is doing but reflecting totally what the world has become - hmmm... remember Forgotten Sons and it's highly charged political statements being so shockingly portrayed on The Old Gray Whistle Test...  meet the new Marillion... still the same, only different.

You can listen on Spotify - go be converted it you aren't yet.

Wild - Joanne Shaw Taylor

To another trailblazer.  It is a shame that I keep seeing statements like "the best female British Blues Rock guitar/vocalist".   She is simply one of the best Blues/Rock players period - ignore her gender!  This album moves her on a fair bit being recorded in Nashbville with Kevin Shirley in the producer chair.  Yes him, the guy that has produced loads of Joe Bonamassa's stuff.  Some of the backing band - notably Lee Thornbury's horn section - are from Joe's various efforts.   This is by far her best and most accomplished effort to date.  She is a stunning guitarist from the off with Dyin' to Know having a chunky Tele riff that has you into a smoky bar somewhere in a flash.  I love her throaty voice too which is so suited to her style.  I'm in Chains is another belter if you want to get a flavour from your favourite streaming service.   Two covers also show how brilliant she is.  Wild is the Wind the old song that Bowie covered on Station to Station is turned into an epic blues rocker.  Just as you think it is finished after a great solo there is a reprise with one of the best blues solos on record ever in my humble opinion.  Summertime is also given the Taylor treatment and it is a super reworking of the old jazz classic with her own style - something too many fail to do these days in covers she reworks these two into being her very own.  That shows her brilliance in my mind.

If you like Jeff Healy, aforementioned Mr Bonamassa, Gary Moore et al try this out I don't believe you'll be disappointed at all.

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Bach to Beatles - concert review

Mrs F had bought us tickets to see Milos Karadaglic performing the opening night of his Back to Beatles concert with the English Chamber Orchestra a the Canterbury Festival last Friday.

Sadly at the last minute - well with a week to go - Milos pulled out of the concert since he has suffered a recurring hand injury and the advice of all the medical professionals was to stop playing and get it sorted out finally.

So in steps Craig Ogden. Remarkably he altered only two pieces from the original programme, one being that he inserted Asturias which as a core repertoire piece was simply replacing something with something he knew backwards. He dropped Whilst My Guitar Gently Weeps from the second half where most of the pieces were from Milos' latest album Blackbird. However this still meant him learning in a week 9 pieces and their unique arrangements and given three were with jazz bass accompaniment and others with the ECO as well. To say I was impressed is an understatement. I'd obviously have loved to see Milos but he was there to introduce both halves and talk with Craig about the "nightmare" arrangements. Craig though as I say was a revelation as a stand in - he captured the feel of the pieces as well as executing them to my ears flawlessly. My favourite was the rendition of Come Together where he really clicked with the jazz bass accompaniment.

Really enjoyable concert in the very posh surroundings of the Shirley Hall which is part of the King's School in Canterbury. You feel very small and insignificant though when sitting in an institution that claims to have been founded in 597. That isn't a typo - yes 597 - i.e. 1,419 years ago!

Saturday, 8 October 2016

Recording some covers

I got a new Boss BR-600 (Digital recorder) to replace my one that's stopped working.  I got it second hand on eBay.  Under £80 which was a bargain.

To try it out I recorded a couple of covers.

Firstly this is my interpretation of Show of Hands song I Will Haunt You.

This next one is one of the tunes that inspired me to be the guitarist I am now.  My first one to one guitar teacher was teaching me classically but knew my interests lay more broadly so introduced me to steel string fingestyle via this song.  This is my version of the Davy Graham classic Anji

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Birthday Booty

Another year has passed and yesterday was my birthday.

So what booty did I receive?

Both my kids bought me a couple of Blu-Ray films.  Spotlight, Jurassic World, Our Kind of Traitor and Eye In the Sky.  All films I never went to see at the cinema, frankly it is so expensive these days to go I partly would rather wait for the Blu-Ray to come out.

Mrs F got me a Miloš Karadaglić CD - Aranjuez which has the Rodrigo Concierto de Aranjuez on it - my (and many others I suspect) favourite guitar concerto.  Also a ticket to see him live this month at the Canterbury festival in an intimate venue with an orchestra.  Really looking forward to that!

Oh and the most guitar related gift?  Big Bends Nut sauce.  Yes you read that right.  It is a lubricant for your nuts sir.  Guitar nuts.  Often considered for only vibrato guitars I suspect I'll actually like it more for some acoustic guitars where dropping in and out of altered tunings and then bends often lead to strings sticking in the nut.  I've tried pencil lead, chapstick, vasoline etc. over the years but many rave about this product which isn't cheap frankly but I'm hoping will help my nuts glide freely.

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Fan Fret Acoustics - Reach the masses!

Last year I commented on Fan Fret acoustic guitars approaching the masses with some in the £1,200 range available in the UK.

Well Ibanez have gone and smashed that with a new model retailing at under £500!

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

New track - Good Man

It has been ages since I posted anything new.  I've just not been avidly writing and not recording much.  My tinnitus/Ménière’s disease hasn't been helping, for long periods even contemplating playing the guitar isn't on my mind as it is likely to be too painful.  But in the last week my ear has been a lot better.

I have few songs in development - this one was actually started a long while ago.  It was inspired when I got my mandolin.  After some noodling learning chords etc. this pattern emerged which I liked.  As ever it sat about without lyrics for a while then some inspiration struck.  Largely since this is dedicated from me to a dear friend who passed away last year.  One of the last times I remember being with him out somewhere we were watching a band play with a great mandolin player and he joking asked how my mandolin playing was coming along.  So it was fitting my first song inspired by mandolin playing should have lyrics inspired by him.

Sadly however having recorded this something fatal appears to have befallen my Boss BR-600 and it won't work now.  It is stuck in a loop at start up.  Grrr!  Frustrating I just get back into recording and then the gremlins appear.  So anyway, I've bid on eBay for a cheap replacement.  I won't bid too high but if I can get a working model cheap at least no new learning curve or big outlay.  If that fails I'll see if I can save up for new BR-800 which replaced the 600 some while back.  It has some nicer features, in that if can easily take a balanced phantom powered mic, which will solve some of my cabling nightmares when trying to use my condenser mic now.  (Briefly - cable into a preamp to power it, cable from there to mic input of BR-600 but that has to go via a bulky adapter to get into the 1/4" jack input - messy!  One xlr to xlr would be so much easier!).

Monday, 26 September 2016

Book Review - Death of Robin Hood Angus Donald

With this instalment we reach the end of Angus Donald's clever retelling of the Robin Hood story.  I've really enjoyed this series over the years I've been reading them.  It all started out with Alan Dale a young lad in Nottingham just to learn how to survive.  He was taken under the wing of a bunch of notorious outlaws around the Sherwood Forest and he has forever been one of Robin Hood's men.  We long ago learnt that Robin Hood is in fact a noble man and a Lord himself but he roguish nature always looking to profit for himself make him the outlaw we know.  The books have always been written from Alan's point of view as an old man recounting his youthful, and now not so youthful, adventures with his Lord.

Obviously the main plot feature is given away in the title but the suspense of exactly how Robin dies if left to the very end of the book and is an emotionally engaging story in itself.  We join the action soon after the signing of the Magna Carta.  I was personally instantly engaged in the action as it starts with the start of the siege of Rochester Castle in 1215 when the rebel barons of England are at war with King John.  I live close to Rochester and have frankly am often in the shadow of the castle without remember this darkest of its days.  You can still see on the south east corner where the tower of the outer walls were replaced and the tower of the keep also after the siege ended with mining of the walls and tower and bombardment.  After finishing the book last week

The rebels want the king to honour the now infamous document and stop bleeding them dry with taxes and not listening to their counsel.  King John continues to be portrayed as a cruel coward but to be fair that is how most of history views him.  Robin and Alan make alliances of convenience as Prince Louis of France uses the rebellion to assert his claim on the throne of England.  You do wonder what would have happened if they had won?  What would British history now look like I wonder?  I'm glad that Angus points out the often incorrectly attested view that England has never been invaded since 1066.  A stones throw from Rochester Castle is Upnor Castle - It is on the opposite bank of the Medway a mile or so further downstream.  That castle played an important part in repelling Dutch invasion forces some 452 years later after they had already set foot ashore on the Isle Of Sheppey.

Anyway back to the story.  This book is an excellent ending to the series book 8 of the merry men's adventures and with only Alan and Robin left from the original band Robin bowing out soon after King John has gone and the famous William the Marshal (Possibly Britain's greatest ever soldier) finally quells the rebellion and ousts the French upstart from England leave the boy king Henry III to rule in peace - well for a while.  

Cracking good read as have all the series been with much historical accuracy and research and where Angus has bent truth for the purposes of story telling he is generous to tell us post the Epilogue.  If you like good historical fiction this is some of the very best.  I look forward to where Angus will next take us.

Two thumbs up on the FITUBRS*

* Furtheron International Thumbs Up Book Review Scale -
lowest is both thumbs down with a frown
two thumbs down,
one thumb horizontal,
two thumbs horizontal,
one thumb up,
two thumbs up
two thumbs up with a grin - very rarely awarded