Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Top 102 Albums⁺ Minus 4 The Memphis Album

Top 102 Albums⁺ Minus 4 
The Memphis Album - Elvis Presley

"My home town won't accept me
I just don't feel welcome here no more"

Elvis is such a colossus that he can lie hidden in his own shadow. We all know 'Elvis', but sometimes it feels like the music is consumed by the jumpsuits, the musicals, the resurrections (I read somewhere that the resurrected Elvis has been seen more times than that other resurrected messiah), the manager, the hips, the sneer, the burgers, the movies, the city in the sand, the sweaty towels, the grubby flood of money and on and on.....

In the crunching darkness of that shadow are his many achievements. Even those known to all like The Sun Sessions or Heartbreak Hotel are often discounted somehow as if they existed like some natural occurrence. It's as if Elvis was inevitable, his importance more the intersection of socio-cultural events than an artistic creation. He is buried under the mountains of tat like my Elvis clock, the pendulum of which is a cutout of those forbidden legs.

Friday, 21 June 2013

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd - Agatha Christie

I've been finding it difficult to gather the time and attention to read for the past few weeks and I thought I'd try something a bit lighter to try and get those pages turning for me again. It has been anything up to thirty years since I read any Agatha Christie but I did read a large number of her books in my early adolescence. I may or may not have read this one, at times it seemed familiar but familiarity is one of the reasons to read Christie.

Indeed I found myself reminded of other books from my childhood that I've recently been reading for my ten year old and that I probably read at around the time I was reading books by Christie - Enid Blyton, The Hardy Boys etc. Christie is far more sophisticated than these but there are many structural similarities. It moves swiftly from set up to denouement with the minimum of excess writing. At its heart is an England of leafy lanes and villages, upstairs and downstairs, gardeners and parlour-maids, with the addition of intrigue and murder most foul.

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Top 102 Albums⁺ Minus 3 Sketches of Spain

Top 102 Albums⁺ Minus 3 
Sketches of Spain - Miles Davis

Life seems just a little more dramatic and exotic when this album is on in the background. It brings   colours to the dullest day. It is an album that gets played regularly even if there was never a time when it was on constant rotation, seeming to have slowly insinuated itself into my consciousness.

I could have picked a number of other Davis albums. He was both consistent and ever changing and is one of the few artists that remained essential over decades. I could have picked Kind of Blue or Bitches Brew, Porgy and Bess or The Birth of the Cool. It could even be that this album will be replaced in the future by one of the albums I haven't listened to.





Here's something from the days of dubbing from vinyl to cassette and then decorating the cassette case with the aid of a photocopier and some Pritt stick.

I found this one amoung a pile of old cassettes in the attic. A favourite 'uptempo' mix in which I avoided the darker corners of my record collection. Each song is burnt into my auditory retinae from its time as a long term resident of my walkman. Memories.

I think I made this for going abroad in summer 1988. So this is the twenty fifth anniversary digital remaster!

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Top 102 Albums Minus 2. The Queen is Hollow

Top 102 Albums Minus 2. 
The Queen is Dead / Hatful of Hollow - The Smiths

May 18th, 1984. Walking up the North Circular Road. All the gardens have been stripped of their blossoms. Flowers haven't been so in vogue since 1967.

Monday, 10 June 2013

Bend Sinister

Bend Sinister - Vladimir Nabokov

Well, Nabokov has thrown this whole blog enterprise into question. All I am, apparently, is increasing the tedium of the world
"There exist few things more tedious than a discussion of general ideas inflicted by author or reader upon a work of fiction. The purpose of this foreword is not to show that Bend Sinister belongs or does not belong to 'serious literature' (which is a euphemism for the hollow profundity and the ever-welcome commonplace). I have never been interested in what is called the literature of social comment (in journalistic and commercial parlance: 'great books'). I am not 'sincere', I am not 'provocative', I am not 'satirical'. I am neither a didacticist nor an allegorizer. Politics and economics, atomic bombs, primitive and abstract art forms, the entire Orient, symptoms of 'thaw' in Soviet Russia, the Future of Mankind, and so on, leave me supremely indifferent. As is the case of my Invitation to a Beheading - with which this book has obvious affinities - automatic comparisons between Bend Sinister and Kafka's creations or Orwell's cliches would merely go to prove that the automaton could not have read either the great German writer or the mediocre English one."

He's not afraid of opinions, whatever about 'general ideas".

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Top 102 Albums⁺ Minus 1. Unknown Pleasures

Top 102 Albums⁺ Minus 1. 
Unknown Pleasures - Joy Division

"I've been waiting for a guide to come and take me by the hand,
Could these sensations make me feel the pleasures of a normal man?
These sensations barely interest me for another day,
I've got the spirit, lose the feeling, take the shock away."

Irony. A definition. One of the very first vinyl albums I bought was Unknown Pleasures. The copy I bought was never listened to. Before I even got to take it out of its sleeve it was broken. Someone sat on it. (It may have been me.) It was a few weeks before I managed to replace it and I considered framing the broken disc as it seemed like such a perfect accident.

Monday, 3 June 2013

Let the Great World Spin

Let the Great World Spin - Colum McCann

It is hard to avoid cliches when talking about this. It invites the automatic blurb generator to cough and splutter into action:
"a dizzying achievement"
"a high wire act"
"poise and balance"

The book circles Philippe Petit's astonishing high wire walk between the two towers of the World Trade Centre in 1974, a feat that induces vertigo even thinking about it. It was also the subject of the hugely successful documentary Man on Wire, which I have yet to see.