Monday, 30 July 2012
The other number is a very typical one to my recent output on The Man Inside (second gratuitous plus :-)) and started as a little chord pattern that sounded good, I slightly reworked and then again a lyrical idea fell into place and after a little more refining and finding some additional "bits" for a bridge/breakdown section again I'm really pleased with that.
So maybe this is telling me to carry on with where I am and what I'm doing and not look too far ahead for anything else. I once was at a workshop hosted by Gordon Giltrap where he said more than once that you need to focus on one stream to push for success - that has recently been ringing true in my head.
Friday, 27 July 2012
Today - day off!!! We're off out somewhere to celebrate. No doubt our thoughts will be distracted from that as Daughter-of-Furtheron has been on a swimming teachers course all week and has her exam today so part of us will be mentally with her hoping she does well.
Tuesday, 24 July 2012
Now some guru is letting the secret out of the bag :-) good to see the rest of the world beginning to catch AA up. :-)
Monday, 23 July 2012
I had actually taken the day off and Daughter-of-Furtheron, Son-of-Furtheron and I went to London for the day with the play as the climax. However after about 40 mins there was an odd noise and a light at the back of the set went off followed quickly by all stage lights and then we could hear a fire extinguisher going off!
The play was stopped and after a few more mins we were asked to wait in the foyer. After about an hour it was clear they couldn't restart sadly. However some people were now quite angry and rude. Why? They were going to be at the play all evening so this wasn't upsetting their plans, the staff were clearly busy trying to fix it or get an answer. The best bit was when another announcement to wait was made one angry American lady shouted "you can't go on the ambiance is ruined!" what!
In the end the ticket agent has booked us for a another performance but the best thing was the people watching really :-)
Saturday, 21 July 2012
Super script, great acting and brilliantly researched on the alcoholic point of view - so AA was not mentioned, not surprising based on AA's official position of attraction not promotion but so much was the AA programme, the talking to another alcoholic whilst staring at a glass of scotch, the moment of clarity, the phrase repeated a few times of "your secrets will kill you". Highly rated, if you are in the UK and didn't see it you have a few days left to see the whole series (3 hours in total) on iPlayer and I would thoroughly recommend it.
Wednesday, 18 July 2012
This morning I am typing this post on my new Sony Android phone. Yes folks I am joining the mobile revolution! So I am so far struggling with the keyboard but it does seem to be learning how useless I am and providing suggestions to help me.
I hope to be able to use this to stay in touch more on blogs etc.
Tuesday, 17 July 2012
It is good every now and then to have a moment of reflection a look back. The last few months have been a little bit turbulent for me. The job I'm now in has been an interesting journey - I'm just over 9 months into it and now through my "probationary" period, which is in itself interesting since when I joined the department was in the middle of the third phase of a major departmental restructuring, my hiring was into a new position created as part of this restructure itself as part of the management team. However it took longer than originally anticipated for the next phases to complete to I've continued to be in limbo longer than was originally hoped. This was good from some points of view, I've had plenty of time to get to know various people and gain some understanding of the institution, my department and my responsibilities. I've been getting used to the commuting, it isn't a bad commute compared with some about an hour and a half door to desk with about 50mins on the train, the rest walking to station etc. Mrs F has been fantastic picking me up pretty much every evening on my journey home about half way back from the station. However I do find it tiring the traveling everyday to be honest. The organisation is very large, hugely complicated in structure and with many diverse missions and goals, people who have been in it for many years find it like that, you have to carve your niche and work within that you cannot try to encompass the breadth of it all. Again I need to accept that of the organisation and myself and do what I can within those limits.
I've been a bit focused on the album musically, I made the decision probably around Christmas to get a second album out but I needed a few more tracks etc. That meant making time for writing, practicing, recording etc. which has all had to be fitted in around other stuff. I did have a start at a band project but I just had to let that slide a bit whilst getting the album done. There was the tax scare that I'll not bore you with again...
However now looking back - I've worked on the issues around work. Some I can change some I can't, of course I have this incredible ability to set myself a very high goal and feel I'm not perfect and doing as well as I could. The imposter syndrome - I've done some looking into that recently - you know it isn't just me, lots of people suffer that! Also recently a couple of people have given unsolicited feedback on my performance and commented that I've had a good start to the role I've got. Again a new role, underlying department reorganisation, new governance structures as well and one of the people who was to hand some of his work over to me going on long term sickness (at least a year) almost within a couple of weeks of me starting. And I still think I should have all the problems fixed for everyone in a few minutes! I know I need to go easy on myself but I don't a lot of the time.
The tax thing was interesting how I dealt with that. Ok when I opened the letter and saw an amount I thought was the helpline phone number then realised that they wanted that to be paid in a week I had a meltdown. For a few minutes I was distraught. But after an hour I'd spoken to the helpline told them there was a problem, with help from them figured out where the error was and put in place my complaint about the error. I followed that up with letters and more calls, not getting angry and mad just working the issue. One really bad sleepness night, a couple of minor ones then - "Let it go" I thought "I've done what I can now and when they reply I can take the following next steps". And I just got on with it. Now that is progress in sobriety - "We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us" (AA big book Chapter 6).
The album I've written, rehearsed and recorded is out - I've sold internationally again! (Thanks to those who know who they are, my gratitude is great). I've got the download available which is very cheap £2 - blimey you can barely buy a coffee in the High Street for that these days! Whatever I feel it is a success in terms of the growth in my song writing, my singing (still rubbish but there you go) and my playing and recording skills. Next stop? I would love to get more gigs but I don't think I'm pushy enough, I need a plan of action to address that.
So I find myself actually quite happy with things. I'd love the commute to be shorter, London to be less hectic and crowded, where I work to be simpler to understand and work in - it is big and complicated with more than its fair share of clever people! I wish I could sing better, would love the CD to be selling like hot cakes and gigs to be flooding in so I could chuck in the day job and be a professional singer songwriter but let us face facts - that isn't going to happen. So I continue to be happy on the journey feeling really that it is all generally in the right direction and that has to be a good thing.
Sunday, 15 July 2012
Friday, 13 July 2012
Asia - XXX
Firstly a tip - when you hear that one of your favourite prog super groups from the 80s is planning a 30th anniversary album entitled XXX (see 30 in Roman numerals - these UK prog types are so funny!) think carefully about what you bung into the old google search box, especially when the group in question is Asia. Something like "Asia band 30th anniversary album release date" - would be good just typing "Asia XXX" was a bad idea! It was like several chapters of 50 Shades of Grey had been blatted all over the screen.
Anyway enough of my search issues - what is the album like? Very good. Asia hit the scene in 1982 with their stunning eponymous debut album. I remember buying that totally on spec and bunging on the old music centre and from the first power chord and then the first line of John Wetton's vocals on Heat of The Moment I was thinking "This is great, but different from what I'd expected". Having learnt from the punk and NWOBHM in the late 70s this was prog with a difference, hooks, catchy riffs, songs not epics etc. The band wanted to catch that essence on this 30th anniversary album and I think that they have got close but repeating exactly that 30 year old feel would of course be impossible - they are all for a start 30 years older! But this is probably the best they've turned out since the original line up reformed for the 25th anniversary. There are some really top Asia tunes on this No Religion, Faithful, and Face on the Bridge for example - actually I'd have had that later one as the kick off track so that the album started on a more uptempo feel but that is a minor and purely personal point and of course these days I can adjust the track order in a jiffy on the old MP3 player, tricky on my old vinyl player! If you've ever liked Asia of old then do check this out. Steve Howe is as ever simply brilliant, compare his work on this with the recent Yes outing (first in a decade) on Fly From Here and marvel how a guy can sound so unique and like himself but have also two completely different sounds within a band context. Mr Howe - we bow to you as we are simply not worthy. Also John Wetton's lyrics on a few of the numbers are for me highly emotive, he has had his demons to deal with over the years and some of that shows in his lyrical content these days. All in all top stuff. Been a prog blast this year, best Rush album for years, Squackett arriving on the scene, Asia on top form and not so long ago Yes coming back again with in my opinion best thing they've done in a mighty long time.
Slash - Apocalyptic Love
So Slash - I never really got it with GnR - they produced some stunning songs on the first album but frankly for me I thought there was a good deal of fluff on that as well and after that I'm sorry but for me they hit the downward slide rapidly and I lost interest - the only real point of intrigue being how long after the official start of any show they'd actually bother to show up on stage! In the end Slash tired on the madness as well and walked away and then got himself cleaned up (His autobiography is a brilliant read by the way on all of this). Velvet Revolver was an attempt to sort of finish off the GnR to me, again great first album with some stunners (Fall to Pieces is an amazing song) but then the second album didn't have much energy or passion and it wasn't a surprise to hear that band had fallen apart acrimoniously as well. Although a recent one off reunion does seem to show they are on speaking terms now. Anyway enough history - Slash then produced a solo album with a bunch of singers RnFR which was a brilliant album showing his undoubted talents in a good variety of song settings - using the different singers lent the whole thing huge range and depth. But you can't tour with 10 singers all of whom have major commitments elsewhere - enter Miles Kennedy who was on two tracks and is one of the best singers in the world of rock (Led Zep considered him when Robert Plant refused to continue on from the one off London reunion gigs for example). He picked up the touring gig with Slash and clearly got on well together (Live in Stoke is a great live performance DVD btw).
With Alter Bridge flipping between Creed in the USA and Alter Bridge commitments in Europe largely (side note - three members of Alter Bridge are three quarters of Creed as well) Miles had some down time and recorded a follow up album with Slash that we have here and... WHAT A BELTER! Yes folks finally I feel a total album from Slash that has his stunning tone all over it, great songs with more of a hint towards his punk influences there are a couple on here that you can tell have more than a nod to the Sex Pistols with a singer who has the vocal range and ability to match him and who doesn't appear to have a major ego issue with sharing the space/stage/billing with the top hatted boy from Stoke. This sounds like a band album not a solo effort by someone between other things. This is one of the best straight ahead rock albums for years. It is more GnR than Chinese Democracy would ever be (that is however still a very good album and possibly my second favourite GnR record now!). So if you wish to be taken down to the Paradise City all these years on buy this album!
Thursday, 12 July 2012
Newton Faulkner - Write it on you Skin
Mr Faulkner's third effort and a very good one. He of the huge grin, long dreadlocks and acoustic singer/songwriter skills. He has got his own sound/sound down pat now, more than once I thought as an intro hit me for the first time "I would know that is Newton anywhere". This maybe isn't as strong as his debut album but more of a whole than his second. Definitely will please his existing fanbase and may gain him a few more.
Squackett - A Life Within A Day
How prog is this! Steve Hackett (ex. Genesis) and Chris Squire (Yes) collaborate on a full album together. From the opening synth motif you know that you are dealing with top quality UK prog rock from a couple of people who's back catalogue would satisfy any fan of the genre. They are simply 2 giants having fun together out of their normal environments. Steve Hackett's stunning guitar playing litters these album, really up there with his efforts in Genesis and my favourite period of his solo material around the time of Spectral Mornings. The only negative point is some of the lyrics are a bit naff - sounding like the sort of nonsense I wrote in my 6th form days. But there are some stunning highlights Sea of Smiles being one in particular. The overall feel reminds me of the later Trevor Rabin period Yes. If you like that try this out.
Firstly - this is in a sequence and I've not read the others so that possibly didn't help my opinion of it but I wasn't impressed and won't look to go either forward or backwards in the series. Too many people double crossing here and there, the plot is complicated possibly overly so but also there is little or no exposure or analysis of the characters, you're left with very 1 dimensional visualisations of them, the baddy is bad - very bad - the good guys can do no wrong and have endless tenacity etc. There's a bit where one of the good guys says "This is where people go to the cops and there is no story if this was a film"... yes you know what was said back...
Poor. A thumbs down on the FITUBRS
Wednesday, 11 July 2012
Saturday, 7 July 2012
My second album The Man Inside is now available as a CD. You will have heard many of the tracks via my Reverbnation and Soundcloud pages, but there are two previously unreleased tracks and a couple have had re-mixes etc. again not released anywhere previously.
If you want to buy a copy, and why wouldn't you?!, then it is easy if you have a Paypal account. Just send £6 to firstname.lastname@example.org if you live in the UK and I'll pop one in the post to the address Paypal hold for the account. If you are in the USA and want a copy to cover the international postage costs can you pay $16 again via Paypal as above.
Anyway - Mrs F arrived home early as she'd been on a first aid course - I'll postscript on that in a moment... She opened the letter (she knows I hate her doing that but in this case I'll let it go!). She phoned me. I saw it was home, knew full well she'd have opened it and ... dropped the phone ... picked it up and answered.
The good news is they accept totally the mistake. Have corrected it and now I don't owe them half a banker's Christmas bonus. In fact they now say they owe me a bit back! Result!!
So all's well that ends well and all that.
Postscript - Thurs night Mrs F wanted to practice her first aid ahead of her assessment at the end of the course on Friday. D-o-F (was) volunteered as patient. So I get called in to help hold her arm up to stop her bleeding whilst Mrs F goes through the other checks. Mrs F says "I need to check she's not going into shock". "How do you do that?" I ask. "See if her face looks pale". At this point D-o-F was in more risk of dying from laughing too much and was as red as a beetroot in the face - "Doesn't look like it" I said.
Friday, 6 July 2012
I was on the train yesterday and thought I'd set myself the challenge of naming my personal top 10 guitarists, why I feel that and what I consider to be their best work. Now limiting it to the top 10 wasn't easy, but here goes in no particular order...
No mystery that I'm a Marillion fan, have been for decades ever since Script for a Jester's Tear came out in the early 80s. Now whilst many will only recall those heady Fish fronted Top of the Pops days for the band with Kayliegh and other big hits actually I grew to more like them with Steve Hogarth (H) on vocals from the late 80s onwards. Steve has to be in my top 10 simply due to his incredible ear for melody. His solos are stunning, Easter is again in my little opinion the best guitar solo ever! Huge statement but simply that song builds from this little 12 string acoustic intro to the immense soaring solo where every note is just so apt for the song, the feel, everything. Some of his work on Marbles as well is other worldy - there is a gap in Neverland just before he hits the first note of the solo where you hinge on the edge of emotion and as he nails that bend you just are lifted up. Best work - wow! Now to limit to a track or album is hard - I'd have to still say Season's End the first with H.
Again any one who knows me know that Rush have been a constant in my life since er... the 70s! Around Hemispheres I really latched into them, went backwards in the catalogue but also forwards with Moving Pictures and Signals hugely influential on me at the time. I was writing for a prog rock band in my 6th form years called Unforgotten King and there was more than a hint of Rush and Alex in those Em 5/4 blasts! With Alex it is his rhythm playing that sets him right up there for me, he manages to fill the space in a three piece prog band incredibly - I know Rush have at times been derided for going down the keyboard route but listen to Moving Pictures, Permanent Waves or Signals - watch any of the live DVDs, R30 probably the best in my view and just see how largely it is Alex with his suspended chords, huge 6 string voicings etc. that are the an essential essence of the Rush sound. Then throw in his off the wall, at times, but memorable and suitable solos and he is unbeatable. Best work - Signals... or Moving Pictures (hell that's the hard bit of this challenge)
I couldn't not have at least one acoustic genius in this list and the obvious answer is Gordon. Again anyone who's been here a while will know of my love of the bearded, long haired, affable genius. I liked him so much I bought his guitar! Gordon has to be here just through his technical brilliance, couple that with his being totally self taught and not able to read any music or even really understand scales etc! He just has the ear - he composes some of the best solo acoustic music for the guitar in the last 50 years. Melody, technical brilliance, spot on tone, use of electronics within an acoustic setting etc. the boy has it all and more coupled with a totally unique and instantly recognisable sound. Best work - Troubadour, there is a great version with two CDs, the first as originally recorded with a band, and the second just Gordon solo.
Mr Bonamassa - what can I currently say about Mr Prolific! That is the first thing, solo albums almost annually it seems and each one distinct in voice and character and better than the last, unbelievable Blues/Rock like you thought people stopped being able to create at the time Punk stole the headlines and hair metal pushed shredding and image beyond what was frankly decent in many cases, collaborations galore, and the guy seems to be endlessly on tour! That is why he is here in my list that amazing level of output across that diversity of genres all with a tone to kill for and a touch that is sublime. Best work - probably his latest! Driving Towards The Daylight.
Redefined what was possible with the guitar from 1989's Guitar Shop as he threw away his plectrums, never hefted a Les Paul or Tele again and figured out that the vibrato arm on a guitar wasn't for divebombing or a little warble but could be an intrinsic element in ever note and melody. See him live if you want the total experience, like the old blues/rock masters like Trower he still plays at an insane stage volume to get his tone but what a tone and what a master of that he is. Since his style changed he has knocked out several albums of note some with electronica overtones others almost classical in scope and texture, check out Live at Ronnie Scotts as the best complete intro to him, esp if you only remember him as once in the Yardbirds! Best work... hmm album I'd say Emotion and Commotion - but for one track to change your life (honestly I mean that) listen to Nadia (originally a Nitin Sawhney track) off You Had It Coming.
(5 down... 5 to go...)
Hello Chicago! If you know what that is a reference to I probably don't have to explain why Herr Schenker is on this list but he is here due to being just one of the best rock guitarists ever in his period with UFO. First, tone - again like many on here just a great great individual tone, his famous Flying V into a 50w Marshall head driven hard (before master volume and attenuation and all that ear saving nonsense you know) through a Vox Wah pedal. With many guitarists they are either brilliant soloists with individualist style or great rhythm players but not always both. Mr Schenker clearly wins on both counts - also within the context of rock he is a man to define the use of melody. His solos aren't widdly widdly shred or old Chuck Berry double stop bends they are thoughtful melodies that emphasize the songs mood. Best work - no contest, Strangers In The Night the seminal UFO live album from 1978.
Yes he of Red Hot Chili Peppers. For me I'm afraid the answer is RHCP are John Frusciante, their latest album, the first since John's latest departure is just RHCP by numbers, there isn't the fire, the flare or the power he has brought to them in the past. Like Mr Schenker a man who complete across rhythm playing and stunning lead playing - and what a range of styles he covers, funk, rock, punk etc. A Strat and a Marshall - Hendrix, Trower, Blackmore, Malmsteen you think then Frusicante ... but what a different tone, largely razor clean with a hint of breakup before stomping on one of his many pedals to fuzz up a soaring lead where needed. To me his best work was on his return to RCHP on Californication.
Another acoustic master - but much more than that. Now Johnny boy may not have been the most technically dexterous player etc. but it is his uniqueness that has him here and just his playing backing some of the greatest songs that'll ever be written - May You Never? Exactly need I say more. But also his ground breaking work with using an Echoplex couple to a DeArmond pickup gaffa taped onto his old Martin dreadnought, I saw that at some point in the 70s and just went "What the ****!" He was no slouch on the electric later on either using swells and fantastic voicings to add the ultimate in atmospheric guitar playing under his most emotional of tunes. In his voice was often such raw emotion it could break you and somehow he coupled that with his guitar playing too. For me it is this electric period with his emotion not just on his sleeve but totally exposed that is the definition of John Martyn - listen to Grace and Danger, esp Hurt In Your Heart. Sadly missed. A legend forever!
Steve Howe him of the Gibson ES175 using it in an environment not really expected, i.e. a noisy complicated Prog Rock band. Oh yes and should a guitar normally more favoured by jazzers (Metheny, Joe Pass etc.) really sound like that? Well when pushed through a Fender Twin Reverb with a bunch of effects it does. Again he could be here just on unique tone and quality of his playing and solos which again from note one are always distinctively Mr Howe. But then can 1981 and Yes split up (before a variety of reformations) and Steve joined Asia. Almost the archetypical super group their first album was a stunner - Heat of the Moment being just a superb track. But hand on this is Steve Howe, not sounding like Yes at all - still brilliant but in a new band context he completely changed his sound, his structure of playing etc. Brilliant - Yes... (pun intended). Today he slips between the current Yes - Fly from Here is a great album and still there is Steve with his unique Yes tone - and Asia. Their latest release (XXX - side note don't search for Asia XXX in google that was a bad idea and didn't give me exactly what I was looking for first of all!) is very good (not like their first seminal album sadly) but again there is Steve being what Steve is in Asia. For all of that, two huge bands, two completely different styles and sounds he has to be in my top 10. Best work - 1st Asia album and given the contrast I'll throw a curved ball here - Relayer by Yes.
So to the last entry... how I've struggled here. Hendrix? Van Halen? Holdsworth? Metheny? Even Francesco Tarrega - who I think was the most influential guitarist of all time - he kept the guitar as a respected solo performance instrument when it was not considered that way at all by many. Without him and Torres on the constructional side at that time we may never have had all the 9 mentioned above. However I have to go with my personal top 10 those I listen to. For that the last entry is (just by the merest thin cigarette paper)
Mr Metal. Simply that. When Earth decided that they should play "scary music" to get an audience in like they saw going to the Boris Karloff movie they named themselves after they had the only man for the job already in the band - Tony Iommi. Subsequent bands have come and gone, metal continues to be a hugely popular genre but let us be honest nobody does it like Mr Iommi! Doom laden heavy riffs that bludgen you into submission often before the chorus. His solos are very bluesy like but also contrast with actually being very trebly in nature cutting through the sonic onslaught. Some may have gone much quicker as has been a trend but never heavier than Mr Iommi. Add to that he could have been guitarist in Jethro Tull (what a loss that would have been) and that he had to overcome an injury that would have stopped many in their tracks (he lost the tips off two fingers on his fretting hand in an industrial accident before the band broke through) you have just put him up as an icon. Personally I prefer the Dio years of Sabbath and the subsequent and sadly too short lived reunion of that band as Heaven and Hell. Best work - for me the last live recording with sadly departed Ronnie James Dio - Neon Nights - 30 Years of Heaven and Hell.
Thursday, 5 July 2012
Tuesday, 3 July 2012
Anyway - 20mins later I shut up. There was a newcomer in the meeting - I spoke with him afterwards. Poor man. "How do you just stop?" There is the dilemma of all alcoholics at this first step of the journey. Big tough lad he was, looked like he could handle himself if you get my drift. I asked him had he tried stopping, he had on his own via another programme all failed. Why was he here then? His kids, his daughters both late teens I think had said they'd disown him. One found where the meeting was and brought him to it. Unbelievable love. As he told me this, the tears welled then rolled down his cheeks. A tough, rough man beaten to and beyond surrender by drink. I hope he goes to more meetings, I hope he can put the drink down and I hope he can build a relationship back with his kids - who clearly love him dearly.
Whatever his outcome - today I am a totally grateful recovering alcoholic. I have all that he wants but seems so far from his reach. We were either side of a very thin dividing line. He's taken his first brave step - I hope his path continues.