Thursday Apr 17, 2008

Unseasonal musical spookiness

Many years ago, I posted this guitar tab. Today, I came across this MP3 on this guy's website.

Saturday Apr 29, 2006

Road to Hell and Back

Went along to the last night of Chris Rea's farewell tour at the Olympia in Dublin last night... the tickets were one of last year's Christmas presents, so I'd been looking forward to it for a while!

I hadn't bought any of his albums for a few years, so I was a little surprised at just how rootsy/bluesy a lot of his recent stuff was... although with post-near-death projects like Blue Guitars under his belt, I don't suppose I should have been. Not that I was at all bothered by that; I enjoy a good bit of blues guitar as much as the next man (although I can take or leave the lyrics, but that's true of most of the stuff I like). Julie much preferred the songs from his more chart-bothering days though-- "Road to Hell", "Fool (If You Think It's Over)", "Let's Dance" et al. Even on those, she thought there was a bit too much guitar noodling, and normally I would have agreed, but I didn't mind it last night... mostly I because I can't remember the last time I saw a slide guitarist play live, so I was too busy trying to watch and pick up some tips :)

Was a wee bit disappointed that he didn't have anything to say for himself during or afterwards, given the "end of an era" nature of the evening, but maybe he's just one of those guys who prefers to let his music do the talking. And nobody could begrudge him that.

Monday Aug 15, 2005

A Bench in Soho Square

I happened to mention the knackered state of one of my Kirsty MacColl CDs in the pub last night, and whilst trawling the web later for possible replacements, I was inspired to have a bit of a poke around to find out a bit more about her. Like many people, I guess, all I really knew was that she was the legendary Ewan MacColl's daughter, was married to renowned producer Steve Lillywhite for a while, worked with Billy Bragg and The Pogues amongst others, and was killed in a diving accident off the coast of Mexico in December 2000.

I was surprised to find out she'd collaborated with a lot more people in my CD collection than I'd imagined... Simple Minds, Eddi Reader, Brian Kennedy (okay, he's not in my CD collection, but Julie likes him!) and Roddy Frame amongst others. The reports of her memorial concert read like a who's who of intelligent pop from the 80's... and no, I don't believe that's an oxymoron :)

Sadly, it seems there's no imminent sign of justice for Kirsty, despite an eponymous campaign led by her 81-year-old mother Jean. The owner of the boat that caused her death, Guillermo Gonzalez Nova (a wealthy Mexican businessman, who has business interests in the UK in the form of CostCo), was on board at the time, and some eyewitness accounts place him at the helm as it powered through waters from which such craft were banned. Instead, however, an illiterate boathand was charged with negligent homicide and fined all of £61, and attempts to have Gonzalez Nova himself charged as the senior crewmember on board have failed because authorities "couldn't find him". Er, right.

In the past year or so, the case has at least been re-opened. Watch this space.

Tuesday Aug 02, 2005

Cover your ears, Herbert

Bleah. Sacrilege.

Sunday Jul 03, 2005

The Gig that was too Big?

Like much of the world, I was glued to the Live 8 proceedings over the weekend, mostly the London concert. FWIW, I think the Murrayfield gig on Wednesday will probably be much better, partly because it's in a stadium (sprawling park gigs never really sustain much of an atmosphere), and partly because the line-up looks a bit more to my taste-- there are certainly a lot fewer people on the bill that I'd just like to slap.

Politics really isn't my thing, so I'll stick to my impressions of the music that was on offer at Hyde Park.

Acts who were better than I expected: Stereophonics (surprisingly good vocals), Madonna (nice choir-- shame about the face), Mariah Carey (actually sounded like she could sing, even if she's as mad as a box of frogs), Keane (generally a pale imitation of Travis, but performed better than Fran and Co on the day), and The Who (could all still have been 21 if you'd shut your eyes).

Acts who disappointed: Paul McCartney & U2 (for the opening song-- Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Dirge hardly got the crowd going á la Rocking All Over the World), Elton John (didn't play any of his good ones from his pre-American-accent days), and Pink Floyd (more of a kiss-and-make-up stunt than the anticipated psych rock treat).

Acts who were even worse than I feared: R.E.M. (plumbed yet more depths of stripey blue pretentiousness), UB40 (the reggae equivalent of the Black and White Minstrel Show), Snoop Dogg (reading out some sweary words to a backing track still ain't music, whatever anyone says) and U2 again (as skin-crawlingly self-important as ever, sound about as authentically northside Dublin as I do, and even David Copperfield would have turned down that dove stunt for being too cheesy).

Everyone else performed much as expected, really. It certainly didn't have the momentous feel of Live Aid about it (which I have to confess never really caught my attention as a 14-year old at the time anyway-- I seem to be one of the few who can't remember what he was doing that day, other than watching the last hour or two). But it goes without saying that I'd love it to have the desired effect.

Sunday May 22, 2005

Money for Nothing

As I mentioned last week, we were off to The Point again this weekend, this time to see noted guitar picker and former Dire Straits frontman Mark Knopfler.

It's been ten years since I last saw him live, and in some respects the set wasn't a lot different, bar a wider repertoire of solo material-- fortunately he does at least now seem to be over his pedal steel guitar phase, which started with the last couple of Straits albums, and bled into his first solo outings. Otherwise the staging and arrangements haven't changed much in a decade, which isn't a bad thing, just a little surprising. I was a tad disappointed that Private Investigations didn't feature this time around, but we did get a satisfyingly-rousing version of the epic Telegraph Road instead (although the pianist did sound a bit like he was playing it out the Alchemy song book-- the tinkly bits on the Money for Nothing version remain the definitive ones for me...)

Modern-day critics often look back sneeringly on Dire Straits, but as somebody who was learning to play guitar finger-style at the time while most kids were happy to go the plectrum-and-power-chords route, their omnipresence (and of course, Mark Knopfler's in particular) proved to be a big influence for me. He might never really look like he's trying, and he still sings about as well as Bob Dylan on a bad day, but I could have listened to him all night.

Monday May 16, 2005

The Queen is Dead, Long Live... Paul Rodgers?

In the penultimate stage of our current retro-bands "tour", Julie and I went to see Queen with Paul Rodgers in Dublin on Saturday. Of course, Queen are really just Brian May and Roger Taylor these days, with Danny Miranda (of Blue Oyster Cult and Pyramid fame) taking the disassociated John Deacon's place on bass, and Spike Edney (SAS Band, and a million-and-one big-name session, production and musical director credits) on keyboards. The unenviable task of trying not to impersonate Freddie Mercury fell to Paul Rodgers (Free, Bad Company) on this tour, one which he pulled off with varying degrees of success... he was certainly more comfortable performing the songs that originated in his own back catalogue, though.

While I've never been a great Brian May fan-- he's certainly not in the league of guitar gods who should be trying to pull off ten-minute guitar solos in the middle of a show, but try he did-- his guitar-playing is certainly the most defining feature of the Queen sound in the absence of Freddie's voice, and if you shut your eyes, you did occasionally get a flash of what it must have been like to see them live in their heyday. Queen it probably wasn't, but a good old-fashioned rock gig it certainly was.

Next week: Mark Knopfler...

Monday May 09, 2005


I wasn't long out of university when Ocean Colour Scene made it big in the mid-90s, with grungey guitar hits like The Day We Caught the Train and The Riverboat Song. Can't say I was really into them then, but we went to see them in Dublin at the weekend and they totally rocked... it's rare enough for one Britpop singer to hit every note all night, let alone the whole band! (Well, okay, apart from Oscar on drums and piano, who belted one out during the encore and was pretty dire...)

Wednesday Apr 27, 2005

Mad world

Continuing our recent theme of going to see reformed 80's groups, Tears for Fears were on our schedule at the weekend. Not a band whose albums I would have rushed out and bought first time around, but it's always good to hear a few songs from your youth belted out by the original artistes, even if Roland does look more like Lawrence Llewlyn-Bowen these days. And the original Mad World is still a lot better than that effort that was No.1 at Christmas (which, spookily enough, was playing in the taxi on the way home).

The support was Irish Eurovision reject Fran King, who was kind of a less-polished cross between David Gray and the Finn Brothers... pleasant enough, but you get the feeling he might get a bit samey after a while. Will probably check out his new album ("Beautifcation") at some point anyway, though... you can listen to his new single here.

Monday Feb 28, 2005

Now playing: Midnight Rain (Rock Salt and Nails)

This latest CD from the Shetland outfit was actually released in 2003, but Julie only bought it for me this weekend :)  Hard to believe it's nine years since I first heard heard them playing at the Cambridge Folk Festival-- I'd never heard of them then, and my mate Paul whose tent I was sharing had been reluctant to go and see their session, expecting them from the programme description to be playing 'rumpty tumpty music'.  As it turned out, we liked them so much that we went to see their second session next day (and got them to sign a copy of their CD for Paul's future wife).

Back to Midnight Rain, and I wasn't surprised to see their usual per-album change of personnel and record company-- they now seem to be rather uneasy bedfellows with hardcore sixties Aran sweatsters Steeleye Span, Pentangle and Lindisfarne-- but I was pleased to see Calum Malcolm back at the mixing desk.  This offering is a bit more soulful and less manic than their previous outings, but still manages to mix new songs, cover versions and traditional instrumentals to produce a take on celtic fusion that's recognisably their own.  I'd have liked to hear more of Paul Johnston's guitar though; he's a great acoustic soloist, but there are only a couple of short flashes to be heard in this selection.

For a (not overly representative) flavour of the band and their music, check out this short video.

Tuesday Dec 21, 2004


Went to see ageing Clydeside crooners Wet Wet Wet on Friday night. Rattled out all the old favourites expertly enough (even though Marti needed a crib sheet for some of them), but I think it was probably the first gig where I've had to sit down, and it's just not the same really. This was more than adequately compensated by also being the first gig I've been to where you've been able to buy a CD of that night's performance right after the show, though... bye bye bootleggers!


I am a Principal UX Engineer in the Systems Experience Design team, working at Oracle (via Sun Microsystems) since the turn of the century. I currently work on sysadmin user experience projects for Solaris. Formerly I worked on open source Solaris desktop projects such as GNOME, NWAM and IPS.


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