Archive for the ‘General’ Category

Weller Country

Tuesday, September 18th, 2018

Late 1967 and 1968 saw many artists move in a simpler, more pastoral direction (think Friends, John Wesley Harding, Sweetheart of the Rodeo). 50 years later, Paul Weller has also moved in this direction with True Meanings. Weller, who has just turned 60, has been prolific , with six albums in the last 10 years, including last year’s A Kind Revolution. All of these recent records have been well-received, with Weller’s willingness to experiment and innovate earning favor with the critics and the public.

True Meanings may be something of a musical retreat to an acoustic, lightly orchestrated sound, but in the mayhem in 2018, this is no bad thing, especially when there are such gorgeous melodies among the fourteen tracks. All of the songs are well-crafted, but standouts include Aspects, Books and What Would He Say?

Soccer’s Gone…But Brian’s Back

Monday, July 16th, 2018

So the World Cup is over…and the side I backed, Croatia, fell at the last hurdle but still had their best tournament ever. The soccer tournament may be best remembered as a rare glimpse of global unity in a dis-unified age. However, another type of harmony is back..Brian and his band resumed their tour in Canada yesterday.

A Sad Start

Friday, January 5th, 2018

 

While we still go into the new year with optimism ,  there have been some sad stories at the start of the year. A terrible rail crash has happened in my country, while in Beach Boys-related news, we have seen the sad demise of Betty Jane Willis. If that name doesn’t sound familiar, she was the lead singer of Rachel and the Revolvers, who put out a Brian Wilson penned and produced single.  Her murder in a homeless camp is a particularly sad ending to a life that no doubt began with so much optimism that she could become a musical success.

Remembering The Magic Gardens Of 1967/2017

Sunday, December 31st, 2017

The 5th Dimension - The Magic Garden.jpg In remembering 2017, there is a natural inclination to also remember the original Summer of Love in 1967, 50 years ago. Being the year that I also turned 50, there an even greater inclination to reflect back to that pivotal year that I have no real memory of, but have many musical mementos to call upon.

1967 was the year of Sgt. Pepper and it’s less known but equally interesting Magical Mystery Tour.  The Beach Boys failed to release SMiLE but Brian and the boys were actually quite productive, both in releasing albums, performing live and recording songs. There were a lot of other great albums, not least of all Forever Changes. Another great record, released late in December 1967 and previously reviewed on this blog, was The Magic Garden, Jimmy Webb’s masterpiece, performed by the Fifth Dimension and reflecting the ups and downs of the era, and life in general.

50 years later the music overall isn’t as great, but there are pockets of brilliance, in hearing more unheard gems from the Beach Boys from the many Sunshine Tomorrow releases, but also in some great new music, not least from the likes of Lucky Soul and Saint Etienne. Brian Wilson also reminded us that he has been a lot more than just a Beach Boy, but also a very viable solo artist for more than half his musical career.

2017 was a year of a lot of pain for the world, as the bad decisions of 2016 became more real. However, with Mugabe out and Zuma down, for the first time in many years, my part of the world begins 2018 with some real hope. It was also the year that I got married. So we begin 2018 with cautious optimism – I wish all the readers a wonderful year, both musically and otherwise.

A Somewhat Surrealistic Time

Monday, November 20th, 2017

Flag of Zimbabwe

As Zimbabwe dares to dream of change, one of the most evil men ever has passed away -sadly Charles Manson has a Beach Boys connection in terms of his relationship with Dennis Wilson. We also say goodbye to Della Reese and Jana Novotna, while David Cassidy (for whom Brian Wilson wrote Cruise To Harlem) is critically ill.

The Duality Of The Elements

Saturday, June 10th, 2017

Image result for what are the 4 elements In my part of the world, the Western Cape, we have seen the duality of the elements. The wind and water have brought healing rain during our worst drought, but also floods and damage in Cape Town. Fire keeps us warm in winter, but has just devastated the beautiful coastal towns of Plettenberg Bayand Knysna.

SMiLE is an album of duality…the heroes and the villains…and indeed there are some things that are black and white, pure evil or pure good.  But much is in between, and as we celebrate the rain, we mourn the loss of life of property and the devastation in Knysna. All four of the elements that are part of the album have their power to build and to destroy. But whether we save the world, or destroy, will depend on that fifth element …love, good vibrations, the forces that bring people together rather than divide them.

Exit 2016 Stage Left

Thursday, January 5th, 2017

2016 became more than just a year….by the end of December, it was a malevolent living entity, killing heroes and dividing people in a way that seemed planned by some dark demonic forces. While some people undoubtedly had good years and there was a lot more good than people may give the year credit for, the buzz on social media was certainly around more hope in 2017 than fondness for the year for the year past.

Given the nature of the year, it’s not surprising the biggest story in Beach Boys land was not the autobiographies of Mike Love and Brian Wilson, or the successful Pet Sounds 50 tour, but the possibility of Mike Love’s Beach Boys playing at Trump’s inauguration. There isn’t any doubt Brian Wilson wouldn’t consider it for a second after signing up for the Not Afraid initiative, where he has a prominent place at the end.

So what does 2017 hold? Brian’s rock and roll album? The Bedroom Tapes? The only thing for certain is that Brian’s Pet Sounds 50 tour will extend beyond the 51st anniversary of the album, and while it isn’t exactly a never-ending tour, Brian’s later day role as a road warrior continues. The one thing we have learned is that nothing is certain, and I can only wish readers of the blog health and happiness, as well as love and mercy.

Spread Some Love And Mercy

Wednesday, December 14th, 2016

If you would like to spread a bit of love and mercy this Christmas, supported by Brian Wilson, here is an opportunity. Visual artist Tim Wakefield has created a limited edition artwork of “Love and Mercy,” available now as part of Soundwaves Art: Icons of Music 2016 Fundraiser. Wakefield made the piece by digitally manipulating, shaping and coloring the sound waves from the studio recording of the song. Brian Wilson signed each print at London’s Silver Clef Awards ceremony, where he received a lifetime achievement award. The proceeds will benefit some very good causes. it is printed on fine art paper and numbered with a certificate of authenticity, costing $600.

You can see more details here , and see other pieces supported by artists such as ABBA and Roger Waters.

The Space Pioneers

Saturday, December 10th, 2016

All-American John Glenn: Astronaut, fighter pilot, senator December is always a month of reflection as we look ahead to the new year. At a personal level, having both my parents and my own birthday during this month, and having lost my father during December, the month feels even more personal. Naturally, there is a lot to reflect on during this year, but one recent death has made me reflect on my childhood and fascination with space travel. John Glenn was last survivor of the Mercury 7, the pioneering American space group immortalized in the book and movie, The Right Stuff. He certainly lived a full life, including being a Senator and return to space aged 77. But now the last living link to a pioneering space group has gone.

It is certainly easy to look at this year as one of loss, division and frustration – I can’t seem to blog faster than every famous musician or cultural icon who passes away. It is also seems facile to give false hope and positives -it’s been a tough year for many. But there are those who had successes -promotions, weddings, great new jobs- and there is much to be thankful for, including the continued renaissance of Brian Wilson. There have been so many setbacks too, including a world  that seems to be turn on itself. But as we remember a group of men who expanded our frontiers, and a world that technology is bringing together, we have to believe that we are still moving forward.

Still Love And Mercy

Sunday, November 13th, 2016

Leonard Cohen in 2008Donald Trump August 19, 2015 (cropped).jpgLeon Russell-1980.jpg

They say that Quentin  Tarantino is directing 2016, but even he surely couldn’t script the absurdity of a year which makes you believe anything is possible, and then kills off so many more realistic dreams. When 1 in 5000 outsiders Leicester won the English Premier League, we believed even the most impossible dreams could become realities -when the Chicago Cubs broke a down 108 year drought, we believed that anything could change -when Bob Dylan won the Nobel Literature Prize, we saw one of the 60s greatest voices move from popular culture to highbrow acceptance.

And yet, as our heroes pass away in quantities that may be actuarially plausible but feel like the worst of Tarantino’s gorefests, the baby boomer generation that defined the 60s counter-culture may still be anti-establishment, but now seem to be voting for walls and division, rather than peace and love. Every major vote this year seems to be for pulling the world further apart, even when conventional wisdom and the reality of the internet age suggest  a world that has to be evermore connected.

This week we mourn the passing of Leonard Cohen and Leon Russell, but that wasn’t anywhere close to the biggest news. A man who seemed to stand for division, for disconnecting America with the world, for inflaming old and new hatreds got the most powerful job in the world. A woman who seemed qualified for the job, and breaking a hoodoo that seemed far easier than the Cubs, just missed out on the job.  Division seems to beat togetherness, irrational emotion trumped rational thinking -and the world, and at least half of America felt more uncertain.

It doesn’t feel like a time for easy answers or false hope. The generation that was supposed to change the world seems to want to change it back to around 1850. A new millennial generation, exposed from their youth to international contact and the notion that people are fundamentally the same are likely to eventually reverse the drift we seem to have from each other. I also understand that those who love Brian Wilson are a broad church and many Brian fans may well have voted Trump and see him as a saviour. So I end by going back to the message that is core of Brian’s shows, the same message that is core of the Gospels of Christ, the message of love and mercy. If we all practice that, surely we can get through these crazy times and move forward.