Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Overdue CD reviews

It has been a while since I posted any reviews on here... so a catch up on the latest purchases, actually probably better this way as they have been in the car a few days now so this is a considered review rather than one after the initial listen.

Elbow - Build a Rocket Boys

I absolutely loved their last album and was turned on to them only after that had been out a while and I saw them on a TV show with an orchestra. This one I'd not heard much off, only a couple of tracks on a Jools Holland show but thought I'd give it a shot. Brilliant. It took a while to grow - at the end of the first listening I was taking it out the player thinking, "Hmm - didn't really listen to that closely" and I worried it wasn't up there. After listening a few more times it is right up there now in contention for CD of the year. Beautifully crafted songs, great vocals with lyrics that are way beyond the average. Some are wistful little ballads others huge athemic tunes crying out for a festival... if you caught any of the bands performance at Glastonbury on the TV you'll agree with me I think that they are a band that do fill a festival space and draw in a crowd. One off thing I don't get though is that the big hits off the last one were all over Radio 1 a couple of years back, this time no coverage that I've heard... have they become Radio 2 so quickly? Highlights are Lippy Kids and the "everyone sing" Open Arms.


James Vincent McMorrow - Early In The Morning

From a 20 year old established act to a debut album. But one that frankly is great stuff - James is I think from Ireland. Again heard a bit from my daughters room as she'd found him on Spotify etc. and then saw him on Jools. I was very impressed with the live sound and my daughter got me the CD for Father's Day... probably so she could rip it to her iPod!!! James is in the realm of the post Mumford folk arena - which is no doubt unfair but I think that the Mumford's really did open up prime air play to people like him. He has a great voice, unique, restrained and different. Kick off track is It I Had a Boat which is really good and the highlight is Breaking Hearts which is probably the track you're most likely to have heard elsewhere.

City and Colour - Living Hell.

Dallas Green is the guitarist with Alexisonfire, City and Colour is his side project - a very folky influenced array of material, although Living Hell has more of a band than solo singer/guitarist feel to it than previous releases. Another find of my daughters which has now found me purchasing the CDs for her to rip!! This is the most complete output from Dallas so far... btw do you get it with the name... Dallas Green... City and Colour... very good isn't it ;-) Still leaning to folky and at time to me reminisent of Counting Crows at times this is a far cry from his output with Alexisonfire. Again if you like David Gray, Counting Crows, Mumford & Sons it'll be at least worth a listen. Natural Disaster and Little Hell are the stand out tracks for me.

Black Country Communion - 2

All three above are fairly wistful, folky, layered, textured productions. BCC 2 is not! This is a raw rocker. BCC's first album was a big hit of mine last year but I have to say given the hype that especially Glen Hughes gave the band before that album came out I have to admit it possibly wasn't as good as I'd hoped. 2 is better - way better and what Glen was saying makes more sense now. Loads of rock references, loads of Led Zep sounds - notably on The Battle for Hadrian's Wall which is one of the Joe Bonamassa penned tracks which JB takes lead vocals on - the other is An Ordinary Son which is another stand out. But then there is the overdrive starter of The Outsider that kicks it all off with a great riff and then Hughes vocal crashing in telling exactly what to expect for the next hour. Bonham is a great drummer - as good as his Dad? Hmm - unfair comparison his Dad was a one off but really Jason is a massively good rock drummer and he really helps make this album great. JB is just Mr Bonamassa simply sublime... heavy rock/blues throughout slipping from Led Zep like riffs and licks through AC/DC in your face rockers, Free/Bad Company pomp onto a spooky Gary Moore impression and Jeff Beck noddles. Sherinian is unstated but hints of Yes, Genesis etc. lean the band towards prog rock at times but without the pretentiousness that can go with that. And then under it all the thundering bass of Mr Hughes counterpointed with his own voice. Now - there is a lad who can sing!! Obviously shades of Deep Purple are unavoidable when you hear him but there are plenty of other references to. Best rock album of the year? Hard to see it beaten in my eyes and clearly an overall contender for album of the year overall.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

The good news...

I have access to Tescobank again!!!

Now given my first denied access (due in fairness then to their planned upgrade) was Friday 17th June (I thought the upgrade black out was for the 18th and 19th only) and it took until the evening of 27th June that is by my Maths 10 days!!!

Anyway - I shall stop whinging on about it now. One of those irritating issues that really get in my head. Often I hear people who are recovering alcoholics like me saying things like "I can manage the big things in life, deaths, divorce, redundancy, serious illness. However a broken shoelace or a dropped plate will send me back to the drink". I really really appreciate that concept after the last week or so. Little things but little things that get in my head - the Tescobank thing, the PC dying - of course just when I knew a backup was outstanding. So now I'm just so worried about getting the data back. Again that isn't an issue actually - I need to buy a disc caddy thing for about £15 and plug the disc out the PC into that and read the data off again - oh and for a professional IT person my backup strategy has sucked to date - need to fix that once and for all!!

It is all stupid - the Tesco thing took an age to get through and then supposedly a first class letter posted on Wed taking until Monday to get to me... hmm, by the way on that there was no date stamp on the envelope as it was via DHL in the first instance. Is this the future service we'll get as the Royal Mail is inevitably privatised? But I really knew deep down it had to get sorted out. The PC - I fixed the initial thing easily as we've talked about getting a laptop in the past - I could have done with one when I was not working a couple of times. I'm lucky as well as I have the money to buy one - I'm very lucky. I tell myself this stuff on a daily basis but it is still always work in progress.

So my hope for this week is not to be so "moany" (ignore the bit about the Royal Mail above :-)).

Good things - I have my gratitude list on the right of this blog. I shall endeavour for some meaningful updates this week. Because I have a huge amount to be grateful for - my life it flipping great even if I fail to realise it too often.

Ever onwards ... Furtheron

Friday, 24 June 2011

I'm only famous when I'm moaning

The bank rant post has made me almost famous for a few seconds. I got quoted in the MSN money column!!

Given I was once featured in a well known British consumer affairs magazine as well... also ranting on about poor service! It appears the only time I approach celebrity status is when I'm moaning!!

Not been a good week on that and sadly continues - tonight a meeting about the issue with my daughter last weekend and then a moan at another financial institution about selling an inappropriate product to my mother-in-law and their crap service over a recent issue as well.

I hope next week will be more serene and less grumbly!

I really don't like to consider myself a miserable old git... old git yes but I'd rather be considered a likeable, considerate old git!

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Bank rant!!

So I've been ranting on Facebook, Twitter and anywhere else I can the last two days about... Tescobank. Frankly - give up on the view of being a rival to established firms and go back to selling baked beans. WHAT A JOKE!!!

So - they were "converting the system" over the weekend - so no access. Ok now most online banking systems don't seem to need to be offline for 48 hours but it was well advertised beforehand.

So Monday morning - I attempt to log in on the new site. New signon screen says I need a new ID set up - as the little pamphlet they had sent me had said it would. I select new ID and then... and then... next section stayed "greyed" out and I couldn't progress. I tried a few things, refresh the page, go back etc. In the end I was dumped out the site. So fire up new browser and try again. Now old ID is not recognized and the new one says I have a "general error". So find a bit to check the id is associated with my account - yes it is. Try again - same problem.

Ok I'll leave it a bit. Tried later - same problem. Tried to phone customer services. After about 30 mins of music and being told that I was "moving forward in the queue" and that "our customer representatives really want to talk to you" I gave up.

Tuesday morning - on the phone... over 30 mins. Had to go off to do something else. Lunchtime - nearly 50mins! By now getting angry! Later that afternoon another 45mins wasted time. Search the internet - BBC has a news story saying

"For a brief period some customers were unfortunately unable to access their accounts," a Tesco spokesman said.

"We apologise for this, but can reassure them that the process is now complete and all customers can access their accounts online as normal."

This morning - tried again - same error. 30 mins on the phone. Nothing!!! Search about the internet. Find this and this. From these it would appear I'm not the only one with the problem so a long way therefore from "all customers can access their accounts online as normal".

I start tweeting about how poor this is. I retweet others saying how poor this is. I send several messages to @tescobank on Twitter (which has never tweeted by the way - shame you could have said something on there that would have possibly helped) saying "Answer the flipping phone!!!". They don't even have an email address you can email and obviously no branches. Am I regretting ever opening this account - oh yes!!!

Ok - 46mins into another call - now completely numb to the music and the recorded platitudes a voice says "Hello Tescobank can I help you?". I quickly said what the problem was. The lady was helpful - my account is still not accessible but we are making some progress so I have to try to be optimistic here don't I? She sounded tired, nervous and stressed so I didn't give her a hard time - she's trying to help me and it isn't her problem.

So I await the final stage in the getting my account back on line - this involves Royal Mail so still much to hope doesn't fail yet - but I'll reckon it'll be over a week I'll have been without access! I have had to find funds from somewhere else to pay a bill.... GRRR GRRRR!!! (That is me really angry btw).

So get access sorted and finished. Get my money out of there to somewhere else and then write a stinking letter of complaint to them. Oh I have already contacted BBC Watchdog programme (not that I like the style of that show but it is a vehicle to expose the lie perpetrated by the statement on Monday vs the reality of today) and also to Which - which I do like the style of and hopefully them making it clear how rubbish their service is might cost them business. In the end you have to vote with your feet and take your custom elsewhere don't you - it is the only thing that might make them get it better in future - however it'll be a future without me as a customer.

Monday, 20 June 2011

The good, the bad and the ugly

That is the story of the weekend.

Quickly to deal with the bad and the ugly - something really horrible happened involving my daughter on Friday night. It really angered me, I haven't been that angry in a long, long time. Now this shows the progress on my recovery and how I have learnt to be better and dealing with such stuff. Instead of some aggressive response or the equally negative passive response I figured out a course of action and calmly took the first step in initiating that. Sadly it'll mean that the problem will have to come back again as we've put it in someone else's hands now and the process will have to follow through. The great thing though is that because I "Let Go and Let God" (I don't like that trite little AA phrase btw but it seems appropriate here) within a few hours the anger has reduced and the issue is not dominating my brain.

That is also good as this weekend has some super highlights... the first being that when I got home Friday evening there was much giggling between the girls - I thought it was the usual something a dumb father/husband is supposed to spot but knew I wouldn't. In the end as my daughter started cooking the Chilli for dinner my wife said she had to pop out to pick something up. That "something" was my son back for Father's Day weekend from Wales. Which was a brilliant surprise. This apparently had been cooked up by the kids themselves.

So Saturday we had to pop and see my mother-in-law, do the shopping and chores etc. and I had to go to an AA meeting where I'd been asked to speak. I was grateful for that, gave me a chance to remind myself about where I came from and what I have to do to stay where I am. Brilliant meeting and lovely to meet a guy who I saw in a treatment centre a few months ago. Now out in the big world, still sober and making an ace cup of coffee to boot! Good luck to him I hope his recovery continues as well as it appears to have started.

Sunday was my Father's Day treat - whilst Mrs F was off on a charity ramble through the Kent countryside the kids and I went to Brands Hatch to see F3 and GT racing. Great day - my daughter even getting involved in some of it supporting people because "he has a great name" or "it's a beetle that looks like Herbie". A few rain showers spiced up some of the racing and did nothing to dampen the day which finished in glorious June sunshine actually.

So an up and down weekend... well down then up and more up than down. (who is feeling seasick at the end of that sentence!).

Son-of-Furtheron is back off to Wales today to get ready to move flat before I pick him and various guitars, cameras, lenses, computers, X-boxes etc. up in a couple of weeks.

Daughter-of-Furtheron (who is a tough little fighter frankly) is back to school in the knowledge she has no more GCSE exams until November.

Mrs F is back to work knowing that she has a position from September, basically if you are in the education field now every May/June comes the inevitable "Am I going to have a job from Sept" question.

I'm back at work with agreement for me to continue in this assignment for a while longer...

So all is rosy and the people who think they can abuse my family and think we will break can think again. Queue strains of Rule Britannia... We Will Never, Never, Never Be Slaves!

Thursday, 16 June 2011

I need more time

I'm not saying I need an extension to a deadline in order to get something finished... I mean I need more hours in a day, days in a week and weeks in a month!

It is very nearly the middle of the year - summer solstice is only a handful of days away. (Looks outside at the pouring rain... must be summer in England then :-)) Where's the year going?

Also our family seems to be in a bit of constant spin at the moment - life has been a bit disrupted since my Mother-in-Law had her accidents. Note the plural, after dislocating her shoulder she managed to fall and hurt her knee as well. So she is unable to drive at the moment and finds doing other things a bit difficult. We already have a busy schedule which now has to find time for taking her shopping, helping with some stuff around her house etc.

It just seems to be that we are constantly chasing our tails at the moment.

Still there again if I had the extra time I'd probably squander it - I often feel I don't make best use of the time I have available. I've not sat and tried to write any music for a while - plans to clear the garage and set up "Dad's guitar workshop" are simply that... plans... and what's more just plans in my head they've not even made it to paper yet.

Enough moaning - I'm dumping this here in the hope it makes me

a) a touch more grateful that I am busy and have good reasons to be busy
b) actually do something about the things I'm talking about.... i.e. when I have time then using it more profitably than at present.

Ever onward...

Sunday, 12 June 2011

OUCH!

Some people will pay thousands - this one is over £3000 to buy a guitar that looks like it has been beaten up through years of misuse. I on the other hand have a 30 year old Strat that I've looked after as well as I can and then in a fit of stupidity dropped the flipping thing on Tuesday and did this.... However it is a real ding - not one created in an artificial custom shop. I've decided not to get it fixed - it'll never cover up properly and a total respray will cost 100s and devalue it really.

(For the nutties out there, it is a 1983, Squier JV Series 62 Strat - but with replaced electrics and tuners...)

Before




After

Friday, 10 June 2011

Over my dead body...

I got an email this morning from Wembley Arena...

It said....

THE WAIT IS OVER…

Now in its eighth year, the new hopefuls are getting ready for the immense competition! Upon the journey they will pick up advice and tips from their mentors preparing them for their next challenge…

Wembley Arena!

As a previous booker we are offering you the exclusive opportunity to buy your tickets now, before they are released on sale to the general public! Last year thousands were disappointed so be one of the first and get your tickets today!


Yes - X-Factor Live!!! Given my previous purchase of tickets at Wembley Arena will have been things like... Rush, Dream Theatre, Queen with Paul Rodgers, Judas Priest and Megadeth on what possible basis do they think that I might want X-Factor tickets! I wonder if this is due to me having the rant about live music on here yesterday and of course mentioned it and if you mention it anywhere - shit I've just done so again in this post!!! - Simon C's marketing engine is empowered to hunt you down and bombard you with the opportunity to allow Mr C to add to his already somewhat expansive coffers...

I had a quick think about it and... "Over my dead body!" seems an appropriate reply

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Where were you?

Last night I played at the Nags Head Songwriter Stage night. These have been running about 7 months expertly arranged by Glen Barnes - who gets up to perform his own stuff from time to time and handles the sound very capable. Knowing that you are going to jump up on stage with a trusted pair of ears out front is critical for these kind of things to me.

Anyway - sadly the "crowd" wasn't as big as previous events. Shame - why? Nice summers night maybe people wanted to be somewhere with an out doors, maybe something else, heaven forbid that people put watching jumped up a'holes on The Apprentice talking shite ahead of seeing live music.

What did these people miss? Frankly a stonking nights entertainment that knocked spots of any Britain's Got and XFactor Idol. Real music, real people, great emotion, some bum notes a little bit of feedback but one of those evenings where I left thinking. How the hell could I help make these people recognised. Answer is I can't I'm no promoter or manager and have sweet FA in the way of contacts. Sadly also the fact that the music might be from the heart and played by people with real passion and a not an autotuner in sight won't cut it in an environment where what you wear and the make is more important than the music.

So a shame that only a few die-hard supporters were there to witness it. For those of us that were again walking away with a restoration of your faith in music and just people in general it was more than worth it.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

How did you come to be an alcoholic?

I read a blog post on Liz's blog - http://liz-and-harvey.blogspot.com/2011/06/amazing-people.html She is a regular source of inspiration to me for some reason. It contained the following statement... "how he came to be an alcoholic, but there'll be reasons; there always are."

I felt I needed to comment on it - so I rambled on and clogged up her comments with an abridged version of the following... but felt I should share it here too.

"how he came to be an alcoholic, but there'll be reasons; there always are."

Are there? Well yes there are but for me it was simple, I am an alcoholic. I had a great upbringing by lovely parents who cared for me and did their very best for me, my schooling was on the whole good, I went to college and into a good job within a growing industry - within 3 or 4 years of leaving college I was married, buying a house earning twice what I'd been straight after college and looking forward to a very successful life. However already by then I was an alcoholic out of control. Why? Simple - didn't matter my life was going well (in fact that was a contributing factor) simply I couldn't cope with life. Really I couldn't cope with emotions - I never learnt that grief is different to sadness, that happiness can be tinged with regret, that love and lust are different but not entirely mutually exclusive on either side either and all those other nuances. I was trying to live in a digital world where there was an on-off relationship in my head of my emotions.

Now it is nobody's fault but mine (Led Zep memory...) since I never asked anyone. I don't doubt my mother would have tried to help explain but I didn't get it. I knew you all had a manual or part of the manual of life I didn't but I simply didn't know how to ask the question. So happy or sad I drank to suppress those feelings.

Somewhere in here I could tell you all that the reason I drank was that it was convenient and legal and I wouldn't touch illegal drugs... rubbish, if breaking the law was an issue how come I drove drunk for numerous years pretty much day in day out. I was more than a few times qualified for arrest under various laws around public order but somehow luckily never was. The reason I stuck with alcohol and didn't go the drugs route is simple - alcohol did what I needed it to do for many many years... but then it stopped working. In the end it got so bad I couldn't function with or without a drink.

Today I function well without a drink - I stumble through still learning about feelings and emotions since I'm not wired up to do them. I have to stop pause and get myself adjust to them regularly - I have to remind myself regularly (more than once a day) that the universe is neither there solely to p*** me off neither is it there solely for me to be the be all and end all of all things. See the digital flip flop in my head - ENORMOUS EGO and the crashingly the next fraction of a second the massive disbelief in any shred of feeling of self-worth... I live on a knife edge as a recovering alcoholic, I know that one word, a thought, a smell, one of those flipping feelings and bang I'll be reaching for the drink again as that is the default and easiest coping mechanism for me rather than walk through life and take all it's slings and arrows head-on.

One thing I can do now is tell my story as maybe someone will read it and take an action themselves or for someone else and get them out of the living hell I was in at the end of my addiction.

Incensed

I am incensed. Really I am. I'm livid. I'm so angry it is making me feel ill.

A friend of my wife's husband has not been well - last year his daugther and son had a double wedding. A lovely day etc. He was sadly taken ill during the day and it transpired he'd had a heart attack. He has had more in the intervening time. In the end they had to fit an internal defibrillator. However he has continued to be unwell - as you'd expect. He has been frankly a martyr trying to get to work when he could. Hs is a "driver" but obviously at times he can't drive with this illness. Anyway - he had another bad day Monday and had to leave work. He saw his GP yesterday and was signed off for a month. He called to tell his boss and... was sacked on the spot!!! Their rationale being that his contract says he is a driver and can't do that therefore he is no longer capable to work. Goodbye!

I was sure this was illegal. However some searching through the web indicates possibly not. WTF!!! Excuse my French and the trendy "facebook generation" way of stating that but frankly... WTF!!!

I still think he has a case - surely they should look for other work he can do and cover his position until he is fit - or get an independent medical opinion that he cannot anymore carry out his job. He is over the age when he could "retire" but really could do with the money. However I wonder if this is just a way they avoid paying out a larger pension or something to him.

GRRRR!!!! Honestly I thought this was the 21st century in a forward progressive economy - I was wrong I think Scrooge would still feel at home in some employers these days.

I've advised him to talk to the CAB etc. Surely someone needs to check his contract and whether they have followed their procedures - if not then it is surely "unfair". It certainly to me look bloody "unfair" already whatever the legal definition some prat might want to argue the toss about.


I just noticed that this is my 501st blog post on this blog.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Middle Age

Ok I can't deny it any longer I'm middle aged. I'm closer to my 49th birthday than my 48th and as a friend said the other day... "Knocking on the door to your fifties". Indeed.

Firstly - where the hell did the time go - days feel like seconds used to, years like weeks and decades like years. This year will be the 10th anniversary of 9/11 - I find that difficult to believe, that was 20% of my life ago but if seems like only a year or two ago I was there in NYC that fateful day.

Secondly - back pain. I have pulled a muscle somewhere in my back somehow - I honestly don't really know when but it really became a pain (excuse the pun) over the weekend. Saturday I was struggling with it, getting in and out of chairs was difficult and leaning forward sometimes caused a shooting spasm up my back and arm - which led to me spilling more than one cup of coffee. Sunday was a bit better - Mrs F coming to the rescue as ever and sorting out some pain relieving gel, of course being a real man I was in the "I'll just grin and bear it" mode! Monday was better still and hopefully so far so is today. I'd love to know how I caused it - if only to avoid doing the same again!

Thirdly - disconnection from pop culture. I tune in sometimes to my daughters conversations on Facebook - some programmes on TV she is discussing I have no idea what they are about or why on earth you'd want to watch them! Something about people living in Chelsea - if you don't know what I'm on about count yourself lucky in my opinion.

Anyway that is where I am - trying as ever to accept that I am where I am for better or worse (it is actually very good) and not regret missed opportunities or start dreaming that I'm still just a moment away from some record exec discovering me and being catapulted into stardom... well it happened to Seasick Steve when he was older than me :-) See can't stop a dreamer.

Friday, 3 June 2011

CD Reviews - Logan The Great Unknown and Whitesnake - Forevermore

Logan - The Great Divide

Brilliant. Right if this band was American and had been spotted some while back they'd be huge now as they'd have had the backing to get there. Sadly they come from Scotland and I think that is playing against them now. This album has some new stuff and some reworks from previous releases - oh yes these boys have sold 20,000 "home made" CDs!!! And toured supporting Alter Bridge!

This is a great rock album if you like Alter Bridge, Pearl Jam, Creed etc. I Get Down is the stand out with Save Me up there too. Go seek out and listen / buy this is really good.

Whitesnake - Forevermore

Sadly this starts well... but then there are too many tracks where Coverdale is trying to sound like Plant and you think, what Led Zep track is that like? However the title track does redeem the whole thing - it's worth the money for that 7 mins alone! So not bad but certainly not the best Whitesnake album, not as good as the last one overall despite Steal You Heart Away, Love will Set You Free and Forevermore stand outs.