Wednesday, 24 September 2003

Gallery of magic posters

Here's a wonderful gallery of vintage magician posters.


Monday, 22 September 2003

Album Review: Our Turn To Cry

Our Turn To Cry offers up an array of ballads – from the big city numbers to the deepest of Southern soul, not a single track on this collection is anything less than mesmerising. Fans of soul will be absolutely enchanted by the lost classics on offer here.

The compilation begins with the breathtaking What Can You Do When You Ain’t Got Nobody? by the Soul Brothers Six - one of the most heartbreaking songs ever written. Hailing from Philadelphia, The Soul Brothers Six had a very stripped-down sound, only two guitars, a bass and drums which allowed their gospel-drenched vocals to soar to the heavens. On this track, Willie John Ellison’s lead vocal is absolutely explosive and compares favourably with many of soul’s greatest performers. It’s unbelievable and almost criminal that more people have not heard this track.

The late James Carr may just have been the finest singer to ever grace the Earth and his track Hold On is one of the stand out tracks on this compilation. While later in his career, Carr’s voice would fade and although he was still releasing records in the 1990s, his vocals clearly weren’t what they once were. Here though, Carr is at his best, offering a majestic baritone rendition of Tommy Tate’s little-known classic. Hold On is probably the finest track in Carr’s metier.

I’ve Got Enough Heartaches by Florida native, Mighty Sam is just an awesome prospect. Sam’s powerful, fiery vocals are backed by a mass choir and a glorious rhythm section, which make this track sound unlike any other on this collection. As the track builds to its grandiose crescendo, I defy even the coldest heart not to be deeply moved.

My three favourite tracks on the collection are just the tip of the iceberg though. While not necessarily as immediately brilliant as some of the other tracks, Mike Williams’ Vietnam-era tale of woe Lonely Soldier, Johnny Adams’ bravura performance of The Temptations I Wish It Would Rain and What Can I Do by Bobby Marchan are all wonderful. Elsewhere, Burt Bacharach’s delightfully penned Please Stay (which was originally a hit for The Drifters) receives a touching overhaul from Lou Johnson, the almost unknown How Can You Baby-Sit A Man? by Ned Towns offers a lo-key sermon on love and Ed Robinson opens his lungs on The Knight Brothers classic Temptation’s ‘Bout To Get Me.

Twenty-six tracks and every single one of them is a bona-fide five-star classic. How many compilations can you say that about?

Saturday, 20 September 2003

Album Review: Want One

Rufus Wainwright’s previous albums have flitted between almost every genre of music from pop to cabaret to folk to opera. This, coupled with his unique voice, means that you will either love or hate his work. While impressed with his two previous albums, I've unashamedly fallen in love with his latest effort.

Want One is a staggeringly ambitious album with an emotional complexity rarely seen in music; a timeless masterpiece which deserves a place in the history books as one of the greatest albums ever made.

The album’s opening track, Oh What A World is a reinterpretation of Ravel’s Bolero. Wainwright’s sense of humour is highlighted in amongst the soaring strings and pounding drums as he quips, “Men reading fashion magazines / Oh what a world it seems we live in / Straight men.” The humour, decadence and flamboyance combine to make this perhaps the definitive Wainwright track.

I Don’t Know What It Is is the most unashamed pop song on the album. The theme of the track is being lost and not knowing it, something that probably emerges from the demons that Wainwright has had to battle since 2001’s Poses. The melody is simple yet powerful and the arrangement is left relatively uncluttered, save for some refined strings and horns which emerge in the second chorus. It is frankly, stunning.

Where I Don’t Know What It Is is the most poppy song on the album so Movies Of Myself is the most immediately appealing. It marks the album’s energetic peak. The track is propelled by a driving drumbeat, an acoustic guitar and the standard Wainwright four-part harmony. Here Wainwright admonishes a lover for fleeing from commitment (“Start giving me something, a love that is longer than a day / Start making my heart sing something that it doesn’t want to say”). Elsewhere Beautiful Child is an infectious Afro-Latin rave about redemption and the glories of growing old. For those concerned that Wainwright’s passion for theatre has waned, fear not; both album closer Dinner At Eight (an open letter to his father Loudon Wainwright III) and the riotous honky tonk session that is 14th Street would befit the most memorable musicals.

Vibrate provides a brief moment of levity as Wainwright jokes about his mobile phone never ringing, electroclash karaoke and Britney Spears. It’s inclusion on the album is a little at odds with much of the material here and on the one hand it may considered to be the one track which prevents Want One being truly timeless; on the other, it is a lavish description of the embellishments of modern living. Meanwhile,11:11 has Wainwright offer a fitting tribute to the 9/11 disaster.

While the album is of incredibly high quality throughout, its zenith is reached on track six with the utterly majestic Go Or Go Ahead. It's a moment of sheer song writing genius and one of the greatest pop songs written in the last decade. It is a hushed acoustic number that doesn’t play its hand until the two and a half minute mark, when it erupts into a grand epic of charged guitars and a near literal Greek chorus. Wainwright’s towering vocal charges the track with yet more power as he spouts tales of mythology (“But Medusa kiss me and crucify / This unholy notion of the mythic power of love.”).

Rarely does an album as magical as this appear on the shelves of music stores. Wainwright’s previous albums (as well as his superior lineage) suggested that he had the capability of making one such album and with Want One he does just that. Want One is an absolute masterpiece. Its sister album Want Two is due next year and if it is anything like its elder sibling it will be entirely spellbinding.

The references in Paul's Boutique

This site has pulled apart Paul's Boutique by The Beastie Boys and listed all the references and samples.

""Like Sam the butcher, bringing Alice the meat" - two characters from The Brady Bunch, Sam was Alice's boyfriend.

"Ben Franklin with the kite gettin' over with the key" - a reference to his famous experiment which established the first link between lightning and electricity.

"My mind is kinda flowing like an oil projector" - an oil projector is a lighting effect, producing fluid colored blobs, used mainly in the '60s for psychedelic rock shows and movies."


Saturday, 13 September 2003

Disney truefans

Well here are a bunch of people who put me to shame: Disneyland truefans.

These guys visit Disneyland almost every day. And, yeah, they're a bit obsessive but this LA Weekly article is a little mean to them. I mean, Disneyland is awesome, after all.

"Benji is 20, a student at UCLA. He has messy brown hair and a serious mien. He wears a Mickey Mouse T-shirt and a jacket bearing the Disneyland logo; a kind of Donald Duck–bill mask hangs around his neck. His clothes are rumpled and askew; he looks like a distracted physics major with an unusual attachment to cartoon animals. At first, he's not particularly friendly. He offers me a limp handshake when we meet at the entrance and then walks quickly ahead, never slowing down if I want to look at something in detail. He doesn't look at me when he talks, and most of the time he doesn't talk. We just walk together, and I keep asking what he sees that I don't see. He asks no questions about the notes I'm taking or what I think of Disney, but I get the strong sense that he doesn't trust me. He doesn't want anything bad written about Disneyland."


Friday, 12 September 2003

Johnny Cash RIP

Johnny Cash has died at the age of 71.

A collosal talent and one of the few true outlaws, The Man In Black will always be one of my heroes.

I don't know what else to say.


Optical illusions

I've just spent hours fucking my eyes up staring at this stuff, so now you're gonna have to too.


Monday, 8 September 2003

Warren Zevon dies age 56

Warren Zevon finally lost his battle with mesothelioma yesterday, passing away aged 56 at this Los Angeles home.

Zevon was diagnosed with cancer a year ago. Far from retreating away from the spotlight, Zevon chose to mark the diagnosis by entering the studio and recording the deeply personal, critically applauded album, The Wind.

It's his pair of mid-70s albums that stand out to me, though. His self-titled second album features Carmelita, one of the most heartbreaking songs I can think of, and the follow-up, 1978's Excitable Boy features, amongst other bundles of genius, the rollicking Werewolves Of London.

Link to New York Times obituary 

Sunday, 7 September 2003

Album Review: Youth And Young Manhood

Not since Is This It was released in 2001 has a debut album arrived to such a fanfare. By the time you read this, you’ll already know that the Kings Of Leon consist of three brothers (who are the sons of a preacher man) and a cousin. You’ll also know that they are incredibly young (the oldest member being just twenty-three) and they exhibit a nice line in beards. Underneath this needless info and the lashings of praise heaped upon it lays an aggressive, horny, energetic and dirty album from a band who appear to have the potential to be absolutely huge.

From the incredibly exciting opener Red Morning Light with its “Hey hey, another dirty bird giving out a taste” chorus to the tale of depravity and debauchery that is Trani, this is a sleazy and largely unpleasant album, which makes it all the better. Should the listener be in any doubt as to this, they need only to listen to Joe’s Head; where the protagonist murders the guy who is sleeping with his wife. Then murders his wife. Then lights up a cigarette to honour the moment. All is clearly not well in the mind of Caleb Followill. In fact only Johnny Cash and Nick Cave have written about murder in such a celebratory way.

While it has drawn criticism from some quarters, lead singer Caleb’s voice is a revelation. It has the scowl of Liam Gallagher at his peak and the shriek of Bon Scott. When he opens his throat and yells as he does most notable on Red Morning Light and Genius, it seems as though the gates of Hell have opened. Then when the pace slows, he captures the listener like no one has done since Willie Nelson; listen to Trani or Dusty if you need proof.

Most of the criticism levelled at Youth and Young Manhood has suggested that it fails because it doesn’t sound modern. Far from being a failure, this is the album’s biggest triumph. The Kings of Leon take us back to simpler times; the bearded 60s (Lynyrd Skynrd and The Band spring to mind) and the drug crazed 70s and meld this history with an incredible sense of youth and, you guessed it, young manhood.

It’s not hard to see why the Kings of Leon have excited the world as they have. There are few bands who are able to write and live such hard-drinking, hard-rocking songs and sound exciting and boisterous rather than drunk and boastful. Youth and Young Manhood leapfrogs Make Up The Breakdown, Keep On Your Mean Side and Fever To Tell to become the debut of the year so far and nestles just in behind Elephant to become the second best album of the year overall, which can be hardly considered a failure.

Friday, 5 September 2003

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad derails, 11 injured

The Big Thunder Mountain Railroad ride at Disneyland has derailed, injuring 11 people, one critically.