Friday, 13 December 2013

A couple of great videos

Firstly the new Transatlanic single - this is just a beautiful song off the forthcoming Transatlantic album which I'm clearly going to have to pre-order now!

Secondly - the genius that is Jon Gomm and the fantastic song Wukan Motorcycle Kid - which has a great back story as to the influence that led to him writing it.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Book Review - Dominion by C J Sansom

Another brilliant book!

Never read any of C J Sansom's before, most I believe have been set back in medieval times and are detective novels with a twist - well that's what I've assumed they are.  Anyway I've not read them as they looked large and I was so far back in the series I didn't think I'd catch up, who knows they might make it onto my reading list some time.

Anyway - I saw Dominion whilst browsing in a book store and then again on the Kindle store (I read almost everything on my Kindle these days) and thought the premise for the book really clever.  So imagine that in May 1940 as Neville Chamberlain is forced to resign after the defeat of the UK forces in Norway that instead of Winston Churchill leading the coalition war cabinet into the Battle Of Britain and onwards but that Viscount Halifax had in fact won the upper hand and followed a policy of appeasement.  The start of the book is slightly off beat from what I believe is the actual facts of the crisis but essentially the outcome is the same - What if Halifax had been PM and Britain had sought a negotiated peace in the early summer of 1940 rather than continue to the war against Hitler's Germany?

Interesting premise.

The book is set actually 12 years later in 1952 in an England that exists in an uneasy peace with a dominant Germany still very much under the control of the Nazi party still led by Hitler despite his failing health.  England is very different from the England we remember post war - Police Auxiliaries patrol the streets stamping out dissent, Germany demands England follow much of its own policies regarding how Jews are treated etc.  The British Union Of Fascists still led by Oswald Mosley have a prominent role in government and Germany has a massive presence housed in it's embassy in The Senate House in Bloomsbury.

In all this background we're introduced to some people who are fighting back, spies in the civil service, Churchill forced underground with Atlee and Bevan to run the Resistance with a mandate of fighting against the puppet regime in parliament.  The spies and espionage parts of the story are really good but it is the "What if?" premise that really makes it a really good read.

Full double thumbs up on the FTUBRS.  If you are looking for a late stocking filler for someone I thoroughly recommend this one.

BTW - silly little thing... I've set a schedule for this post to go live at 09:10 on 11/12/13 - see 09,10,11,12,13 - it'll be nearly 90 years until I can do something similar...  stay tuned ;-)

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Blues America BBC4

I’ve just finished watching the two part series shown on the BBC; Blues America.

An interesting view of blues and how it moved from black sub-culture through to mainstream white/inter-racial acceptance.

Some points I found interesting – like probably many European white boys I always saw the Blues as this folk music of the Southern USA black culture.  However it was interesting to note that even in the early 20th century people like W C Handy were actually taking the raw plantation blues and turning it into a successful commercial genre just that was still for the black audiences in the southern USA states.  Some of what I’ve previously thought was authentic roots music was still produced with a commercial bias. Interesting.

The re-explosion of the blues into the mainstream following the cross over of Elvis singing blues inspired rock n roll whilst Chuck Berry was singing white country inspired rock n roll was interesting.  By then of course the blues had migrated from the South in the depression of the 30s with the migration from their to the north, Chicago especially where much of what people would now recognise as modern electric blues came from.

Of course by the time Muddy Waters took to the stage at the Newport Jazz festival in the early 60s blues was old hat for many young black people but the electric style is what of course many of the English musicians picked up on.  Here is my one criticism of the programme, they did talk about The Rolling Stones bringing the blues to mainstream American consciousness but there is a whole other programme’s worth of material missed here – in the early 60s the blues explosion in the UK was immense, with artists who could barely make a living in their home country being lauded as total genius’s in the UK.  That re-injection of the blues back to the USA white audience was I think not given the importance it should have been – but there again it was Blues America – maybe I’m overly critical here.  However Chris Barber should be mentioned here he arranged for tours by Muddy Waters, Big Bill Broonzy and others which led to the likes of The Stones, Clapton, Peter Green etc. in switching on to this music.

Still it was a very interesting view of the migration of blues from South to North, from black culture to mainstream and from roots acoustic to big band and electrification.  There was a funny aside which talks about Alan Lomax, one of the blues hunters of the post war era who ended up in a fist fight over the Paul Butterfield Blues Band performing at Newport since he felt any electrification was fundamentally a betrayal of the blues roots.