100 Favourite Songs #99 ‘Mahalia’ The Bible

Ah, the late 80’s, when it was cool to where your raincoat in a music video – the Narcs, anyone?  As a Radio DJ on Radio Active we all use to play the ep of this at 33′ because it was mislabelled, but we al thought it was some new industrial re-interpretation, like Joy Division or test Dept.  Besides, being young and green, we dared not challenge the Station Manager’s greater knowledge on these matters.

In a pre-internet age, the Bible were flirting with misrepresentation from the beginning.  The English rock band released two critically acclaimed albums (Walking the Ghost Back Home and Eureka) in the mid-1980s,  and are best known for the independent chart hits “Graceland” and “Mahalia”.

They were formed in Cambridge UK in the mid eighties as a partnership between ex-Great Divide singer/guitarist Boo Hewerdine and keyboard player/drummer Tony Shepherd.

They released their self-written and financed debut album ‘Walking the Ghost Back Home’ in 1986 on the Norwich-based independent label Backs Records. The album was critically very well received and became a top-ten hit in the UK Independent chart, staying in the chart for over ten weeks.

The line-up expanded when guitarist Neill Maccoll (brother of Kirsty) and drummer Dave Larcombe (both former Roaring Boys) became permanent band members, later joined by Leroy Lendor on bass.

The album was spearheaded by the release of the single ‘Graceland’ which gained much publicity and became a minor UK hit, and author Nick Hornby would later devote a chapter of his book ‘31 Songs’ to the single’s B-side ‘Glorybound’. The follow-up single ‘Mahalia’ was similarly well received and reached number 15 on the UK Independent Chart.

‘Walking the Ghost Back Home’ brought the band to the attention of Chrysalis Records, and a major label deal ensued. In January 1988, the band’s second album ‘Eureka’ (produced by Steve Earle) was released to further acclaim, with the single “Honey Be Good” giving them a second minor hit.

Despite critical acclaim and a devoted following for both their recorded and live performances, the band never quite got the commercial breakthrough they deserved and dissolved in the early 1990s when individual members moved onto other music projects. Neill Maccoll went on to form ‘The Liberty Horses’ (with Leroy Lendor on bass) and later joined David Gray’s band, and Boo Hewerdine forged a successful solo career as a performer and songwriter as well as collaborating with other artists including Eddi Reader.

The Bible briefly reformed in late 1993 / early 94 for a series of hugely popular live performances, together with the release of the album ‘Dodo’.

25 years on from their first beginnings, new material is once again on the way and the 2011 line-up includes original band members Boo Hewerdine, Tony Shepherd and Neill MacColl.

And they continue on: http://www.thebibletheband.com/, although nothing will be as great as “Mahalia”.

 

 

100 Favourite Songs #100 ‘Moving Trucks’ Bob Mould

This song sits early in the set on The Last Dog and Pony Show,  the fourth solo album by former Hüsker Dü and Sugar axeman (guitarist) and singer Bob Mould.  It’s a simple observation.  The main character, I imagine is standing in the kitchen watching the trucks back up and his former partner’s stuff disappearing into the back and down the road, the physical reminders of a relationship travelling off into the distance of a new separate future.  To me this album was always a chronicle of a man breaking up and slowly piecing his together back together.  He tries to move on, through successes and disasters looking to replace what he’s lost, sometimes  disastrous consequences.  There are the break up and move out songs, like this one, the songs about dating (in a pre-internet world, it was “The Classifieds”) and dangerous flirtations with the porn and sex trade (“Skin Trade”).   There are even angry, wild moments of regret, like “Who was around“, about feeling emotionally used and discarded.  Moving Trucks sets the scene perfectly for what s to come.  It’s a very consoling song, especially for anyone who’s gone though a physical and emotional change, like a break up or divorce.   There was once a time I listened to it a lot.  It was unbelievably cathartic.   While the album is steeped in the driving rock he had become known for, songs like “Reflecting Pool,” the mechanical-sounding “First Drag Of The Day” and the sample-heavy, but just weirdly wrong,  “Megamanic” demonstrate the growing interest in electronica which he would spend the next few years exploring in more depth.

In fact the title refers to Mould’s intentions stop touring with a full electric band.  He was, at the time, at least, intending to move in an electronic direction, away from his hard core grunge and axe routine and try sampling and DJing.  He was also heavily into commentating professional wrestling at the time and commitments were starting to split is time.  Given he’d been plating hard-core for over 20 years with the Huskers, Sugar and solo, fans weren’t surprised though it was only a blip in the end, hitting the road to support his 2005 release, Body Of Song. “I’m 37 years old now,” he said at the time. “I’ve been doing it for almost 20 years. As I get older, I don’t enjoy four months on the road of full-throttle volume all the time. Though I still like that kind of music, I’d rather get away from it while I still enjoy it, as opposed to doing it because it’s my calling card and it’s worked.”

“Every other record I do is a bright or a dark record,” he observed. “It’s not intentional. Maybe it’s just me struggling to find some kind of balance. I think this one’s fairly outgoing compared to my last, especially, which was real dark and claustrophobic because that was the way I was feeling at the time. This one is a little more easy going. The stories are a little simpler and more universal. I tend to go through phases when I’m writing, and this one went through three or four pretty distinct stylistic phases before arriving at the bulk of the record, which is the upbeat electric stuff.”

Having used programmed drums on his previous, self-titled album, (affectionately known as the ‘hubcap record’) and on which he was the sole performer, Mould brought back drummer, Matt Hammon and cellist Alison Chesley.  At the time it was presumed that this effort was farewell to his full-on assault of grinding, whining grunge and angst , and it is indeed an excellent consolidation of all of his musical quirks and signatures.  It’s definitely the work of a craftsman, with full seriousness as  a constant signature, but there is a sense of humor that hasn’t been heard since Sugar, and he, overall, sounds more relaxed than he has in years.  He’s so relaxed, in fact, that he lets down his guard on the cheerfully ridiculous pseudo-rap “Megamanic,” the only track on the album that offers a musical departure from the usual template.  The rest of the record is clearly a Mould album, all over, from the rushing rockers to the impassioned acoustic ballads and the production guarantees that the music never sounds like a retread, it’s sounding familiar.  Uncomfortably familiar.

Review: Summer Twins – Limbo

Published in Ripitup.co.nz – http://ripitup.co.nz/music/review-summer-twins-limbo/

Twenty something sisters Chelsea and Justine Brown have served up a cinematic retro mixtape of 50’s sock hop ‘Juju’, ‘Blinds’; Bassey era Bond music ‘Demons’ and mid 90’s alt pop.

‘Stop and Go’ and ‘So Funny’ remind me, particularly, of the Milkman or Julianna Hadfield – ethereal, playful, dreaminess layered with harmonies and tinges of 60’s psychedelica.  Avoiding the mediocre, the arrangements are inspired, like the mirror-ball Prom dance tempo from a well-placed lap steel on “Our World” or the jogging chords on fire which instantly remind of Bow Wow Wow’s “I want Candy”.

Production-wise Chris Woodhouse (Thee of Sees, Ty Segal) has kept it low key and clean. The bass and guitars clank around on the edges of the tweeters, like it was all recorded on cheap equipment but I love the energy and zest.

Ultimately, this is a great record for your summer drives, and that’s gotta be good.

Interview: John Psathas – No Man’s Land

Published in http://www.ripitup.co.nz / http://ripitup.co.nz/culture/no-mans-land/

NO MAN’S LAND John Psathas/Jasmine Millet/Mathew Knight Featuring 150 musicians from over 20 countries, composer John Psathas’s (ONZM) new-grand scale project, No Man’s Land, which debuts at Wellington’s New Zealand Festival, next month, unites descendants of opposing forces in WWI, on film, performing on the very sites where their kin  fought a century ago, with live musicians to create an epic global orchestra. Psathas is one of New Zealand’s most frequently performed composers, having worked with people varied as musicians Evelyn Glennie, Warren Maxwell and Manos Achalinotopoulos, writer Salman Rushdie, director Dana Rotberg, and jazz luminaries Michael Brecker and Joshua Redman.  In 2004 his music was performed at the opening and closing ceremonies of the Athens Olympics.  But this new work, No Man’s Land, which moves between musical genres and cultures references like flicking through a history book is quite possibly his most ambitious to date.  Tim Gruar listened in amazement, as the composer explained. “80% of the world’s population was involved in WWI. There are so many everyday stories from other ethnicities: Turkish, Polish, Armenian, Russian, Belgian, Greek, Indian.  So we decided to move away from ‘Euro-centric’ stories…chose places that aren’t as well covered, like Poland, for example – so ravaged by the war.  We filmed on the Ukraine border; on the Somme, Passchendaele, Belgium.” Part of the Scope was to find stories of everyday people, affected by the Great War. Women’s stories, for example, are represented by series of singers – Ariana Tikau (NZ); Oum (Morroco/France); Meeta Pandit (India); Hungarian Márta Sebestyén (“The English Patient”) and Jolanta Kossakowska (Poland).  “All from very different cultures but singing this continuous song, handing it over to each other as we move across a No Man’s Land…singing to their beloved across the distance…from all the sweethearts, mothers, sisters who were left behind across the world – sometimes forever.” “I came away from this project,” he says, “realising there are three versions of history.  The official ‘war office’ version; The oral history, told by those who lived through it or their descendants; and a third – what’s preserved in art, music. Like a folk song created straight after battle, women mourning lost sons – that’s the emotional history.”

The show, he explains, features a 7 piece group, performing “in response” to musicians on large screens filmed on location on the battlefields of Europe.  “There’s six distinct parts to the score – the last, an exchange between a Turkish player, an Armenian singer and a Kiwi saxophonist.  Turkey and Armenia are still dealing with issues from the last 100 years. Turkey and NZ were at war 100 years ago.  So this was remarkable, powerful metaphor for what we can imagine is possible.”

The concept for the project came from working with (percussion group) Strike and with Serj Tankin (System of a Down) on a commemorative event marking the 1915 Armenian Genocide. “A window opened for me to understand how powerful it can be to bring together video, music and live performance…and when you marry that with an historical landmark you maximise the potential, the audience is moved very deeply and left very reflective as a result.”

He praises Director Jasmine Millet, who was also the producer on the project, coordinating everything from council permissions to the logistics of moving around over 100 musicians and a camera crew around umpteen locations.  Developing scenes to match the music was also a huge creative challenge. “Normally, a composer sits down and creates the music for the scenes.  Instead, I created this 80 minute epic journey, then we filmed.  Completely back to front.  We did it this way to bring musicians together. Like taking two German and two Scottish percussionists to Polygon Wood (Ypres) to perform on the very soil where their ancestors were fighting 100 years earlier.  Jasmine came up with all these ideas to create narratives around this music, capturing the journeys of the musicians travelling to these battlefields to play, interspersed with archive footage of people 100 years earlier, also leaving home, for the same locations.”

Another level was to film the addition of recitations on death and the afterlife by prominent religious leaders: the Grand Mufti in the Grand Mosque, Paris; a Rabbi in Kraków; a Hindu Priest across Europe.  “We were exploring the spirituality of these soldiers who were constantly living one second away from death every day.”

When it came to performance Psathas collaborated in various ways from improvisation with drummers in European forests to Skype sessions with an Indian singer to working with the Strasbourg orchestra and a Polish choir. “This work represents a huge range of musical styles, cultures, the many kinds of traditions that were there.  My role is a sort of musical curator.  The bringing together of the actual spirits of all these musicians – that’s what makes the project special”

No Man’s Land

2 March

Michael Fowler Centre

http://www.festival.co.nz/2016/events/no-mans-land/

Book review: The Little Yellow Digger Treasury – Betty & Alan Gilderdale

Written for Booksellers.co.nz / https://booksellersnz.wordpress.com/2016/01/27/book-review-the-little-yellow-digger-treasury-by-betty-alan-gilderdale/

Apart from the Little Yellow Digger series Betty Gilderdale is probably best known as being a scholar of New Zealand children’s literature, including her ground-breaking study A Sea Change: 145 Years of New Zealand Junior Fiction (1982), which won the PEN Award for best first book of prose. She’s also written numerous research papers, reviews of children’s books, as well as entries in reference publications and a biography, The Seven Lives of Lady Barker. A winner of the Margaret Mahy Medal of the and Lecture Award and past president/Life Member of the Children’s Literature Association of New Zealand There’s even a Betty Gilderdale Award for writing. But to my four year, she’s just that ‘nice lady who wrote about diggers’. And, that’s how it should be. Kids don’t care about a writer’s pedigree. They only care about the story and the characters. What really gels with this story, and the other four subsequent tales, is the ordinariness of them. They are all the kind of events that could really be going on in the paddock next door. Or the neighbour’s section. In fact, “one dismal, wet August afternoon,” writes Gilderdale in her introduction, “we were babysitting our two grandsons…a digger was working in the garden but it got stuck in the mud and another digger had to be set for.” So begins a tale, which was simply a poem concocted by Gilderdale. The reason it works is that it mirrors rhymes like the house that Jack built and I know and old lady, which layer absurdity upon absurdity but never stray from the plausible. Of Course, Gilderdale would have known that, being a pupil of great children’s literature. Still, one could argue that knowing too much could have made the whole thing contrived and stunted. Yet it works so well on so many levels. The original came out in 1993 and almost instantly became a classic, along with Hairy MaClary, because it was simple, narrative and only a little bit clever. It also appealed to boys and girls. Plenty of books appeal to girls but to boys, well – instant appeal. Mud. Diggers. Dilemma. Problems. Solutions. More mud. Hey. What’s not to like?

13 years on from the original release Gilderdale’s language doesn’t feel dated, like other books. “Winnie The Pooh”, for example or Enid Blyton books, all have a particular decade in their setting and script that can’t be shaken, even with updates. But The Little Yellow Digger Series belongs to no era. Best yet, they almost intentionally avoid any references to trends or styles. Illustrator Alan Gilderdale, Betty’s Husband and an accomplished scholar himself, has created pictures that are not interested in any artistic movements. The pictures in this first story also go on to create the stylistic atmosphere of all five books. Yes, the figures are all a bit stunted, faces slightly cliché’ and a bid crude in places but that’s the charm. For their audiences – 2-6 year olds, they are perfect.

They might be classic and timeless but don’t rule out any of these stories being out of touch. My favourite is ‘The Little Yellow Digger Saves The Whale’. This could be a tale stolen straight out of the headlines, told sensitively. Kids like things told straight, so this one doesn’t beat around the bush, telling it straight. Interestingly, the Orca saved by the digger creating a cannel to reload it is named ‘Joe’ by the assisting beach-goers but the Digger and driver are never named. Yet both have very strong personalities, entirely recognised through their actions, which are well intentioned, although sometimes a little reckless.

This collection represents a real ‘gold treasury’ of brilliant, simple and entertaining stories for pre-schoolers and first readers.   Each of the Gilderdale’s books, compiled here, have a slight lean towards the educational – one has an archaeological theme (“The Little Yellow Digger and The Bones”); one is about animals and conservation (“The Little Yellow Digger At The Zoo”, which is about creating a swimming hole for an elephant); and another about the misadventures of digging up unknown plumbing without proper checks (“The Little Yellow Digger Goes To School”); and of course, the aforementioned whale saving. They all stand alone as individually brilliant in their own way but together even more of a create package.   I still have my anthology of ‘Curious George” stories, which is also bound in a yellow hard back by the way. They have always stood the test the time because they are fun, imaginative and vibrant, with simple, clean art. The Little Yellow Digger series is the same. With a slight Kiwi touch, not obvious but still there in the ordinary and familiar like whales and school pools, zoos and sheep and Mayoral visits to schools. All things that might actually happen. Believable and true. And that’s why these will all become classics. World famous right here, in Aotearoa.

 

 

Interview: Tim Hart – Boy & Bear

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Aussie folk-popsters Boy and Bear (Dave Hosking (vocals /guitars); Killian Gavin (guitars/vocals), Tim Hart (drums/vocals), Jon Hart (keys/vocals) and Dave Symes (bass/vocals)) kicked off their Australasian tour on Friday 22 January in Tasmania, in support of their third album Limit of Love.  Tim Gruar caught up with their drummer, Tim Hart on the line from Hobart, a couple of hours before the first show of the tour.  Boy & Bear started 2009, as singer David Hosking’s solo project but with success on Triple J’s ‘Unearthed’ quickly became a five piece. After doing what Hart calls “about 100 small gigs with only our relatives turning up” the band gained enough clout to sign with Island Records Australia, releasing the albums Moonfire (2011) and Harlequin Dream (2013).  Both enjoyed top ten successes in Aussie, powered by hook laden folky tones with clever, comforting structures reminiscent of Grizzly Bear or a rockier Band of Horses. Their third effort, released in October last year, is a departure from the safe, digital recording environment they’d been used to.  This one threw them in the deep end.  Exploring the parameters of a concept is always challenging.  “The Limit of Love”, explains Tim Hart, “is a sort of construct.  We’re exploring idea of day- to-day love, not that mushy good feeling stuff.  What people do things for each other, each day.  We not interested in superficial love.  For Dave (Hosking – the band’s main lyricist) it’s a reflection of what he sees around him.”  Hosking’s on record as saying “I’ve seen lots of friends lose themselves while searching for love.  Everyone needs to be loved.  When people don’t get their fix, it can drive them to do strange things.”  Hart agrees, “Like a drug.  We’re all looking for our next hit but we often miss all those little things, like what family and friends do for us.” And of course there’s the more sinister behaviours, like stalking someone, or even murder.  “Yeah, people can go crazy out of love.  It’s a great inspiration for a song writer.”

Speaking of songs, Hart, who also has his own solo folk project, grew up with 70’s West Coast folk-pop like the Eagles and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.  He was really keen, this time for the band to try out a recording process that returned to the ‘sound’ of that era.  “I love that warm, live sound.  Not everybody played perfectly, but the takes were honest.  No Pro tools back then.”  In April last year the band teamed up producer Ethan Johns (Ryan Adams, Kings of Leon, Kaiser Chiefs) at Peter Gabriel’s Real World Studios, a 200 year old water mill in Box, Wilshire, to record their third album. “It’s got this great history.  It’s where the ‘So’ record was made” (and is the home of WOMAD and Real World Records).  Hart loves the idea that some of the discarded instruments could be part of those sessions.  “It’s a bit of a ‘journey’.  You go through the gates and you’re on this big sprawling rural property.  Peter lives up on the hill.  Sometimes his paddles down the stream to check out what’s going on.”  “We recorded the whole album ‘live’, and straight to tape, no overdubs.  Because we were working with Ethan, we pretty much just let him do it his way.”  John’s style of production, Hart says, is very subtle.  “He knows what he likes but he didn’t have a specific agenda.  It’s how he works – subtle suggestions, ideas.  We’d only have one take to get it, so we’d spend more time rehearsing.  The idea was to get it right, but not perfect.  There’s a few tiny imperfections that just we know about.”  Hart particularly enjoyed it when Johns picked up his guitar and joined in.  “He does some ‘fleshing’ out on a few songs.  So polite, he’d ask and we’d be like ‘yeah, please.  Share your wisdom.  This was the man that recorded Laura Marling and Emmylou Harris!”

Great collaborations have been in the band’s stars lately.  After being nominated for a ‘J’ award for their last video, “Walk The Wire” (off Harlequin Dream), the band went back to Aussie production house Oh Yeah Wow (Goyte, The Paper Kites, Hermitude) to make the video for their title track which features a patient dancing in a hospital corridor.  As it progresses the scene repeats over and over, each time changing.  Deckchairs, sand, beach balls and other items start to appear until we finally finish at the beach itself.  “When we first saw this, we were really puzzled. But it became clear that this was about a kind of optimism of the human spirit that seems to persist even in the gloomiest places, even hospitals.”  I guess we’re all optimists, even in the face of adversity. Joining Bear & Bear for their New Zealand shows will be Kiwi star Eden Mulholland and Luke Thompson.

Fri, 5 Feb Powerstation, Auckland

Sat, 6 Feb Electric Avenue Music Festival

Sun, 7 Feb The Opera House, Wellington

Review: Boy and Bear – Eden Mulholland – Luke Thompson / Wellington Opera House Sunday 7 February 2016

On a hot and sticky night the Capital’s fashionably late are still preening and showering after their day at the beach. So the Opera House remains a cavernous echo chamber when the first act Eden Mulholland and Adam Topeck open the show with a solid set from Eden’s latest release.  Highlights  include a souring “Utopia”, a glistening “The New Old Fashioned” and a splendid, stripped back rendition of “Wild Animal”.  With only keys, a drum kit and guitar the duo manage to make a superb racket with experimental crescendos, cyclic drones backed by aching falsettos and all manner of pedal mayhem.  Topeck’s presence behind the kit is impressive.  It’s clear he’s more than just a time keeper breaking into free jazz motifs and orchestrated chaos in response Mullholland’s quirky keyboard playing and geeky guitar antics.

Next up tall, lanky Wellingtonian Luke Thompson lumbers on with a mix of a loose, dry humour and delicate neu-folk numbers from his ‘accidental’ album, recently recorded with Boy and Bear’s drummer/mate Tim Hart in between shifts as a barrister. Switching between acoustic guitar and a dodgy school knock-off electric he gives us simple tunes about stars and boxes, reminiscent of James Taylor or Ben Harper in his quiet phase.

For their second Wellington appearance (they were here two year’s ago) Aussie folk/popsters Boy and Bear have pretty much recycled their old stage set up, with Hart’s bright red kit up front, stage left, vocalist Dave Hosking dead centre, guitarist Killian Gavin to his right and the remaining band on low risers at the back. And it’s where they stay nailed to the stage for the night.

They open with a sparkling version of “Limit of Love”, the title track from the new album, followed by two more from the disc. By the fourth track it’s clear this venue is hopelessly inadequate for rock gigs, as the stage is gently swarmed by revellers.  The ‘party’ faithful are here to kick it up and that’s exactly what they did.  Perfectly clean-cut in a designer quiff, black shirt, skinny jeans and beat boots Hosking could of doubled for a young Brandon Flowers, albeit fronting One Republic.  Still, the punters got a brilliant slice of just what Aussie mainstream is all about.  “Three Headed Woman” got a big cheer.  “Southern Sun” reminded me what a great hook is all about and “Feeding Lines” was encouraging, as more groovers politely bum rushed the stage until the front row finally had to get up and boogie along too.

 

A nice interlude was their grunty rendition of Amy’s “Back to Black”, originally performed for an Aussie Radio show “Like a version”. Sadly, the Neil Finn cover never surfaced.

 

The lighting team seemed to be having a rare off day, randomly dropping band mates into darkness and fading odd colour mixes like mauve, green or puce into the tall striped towers of light on the back of the stage. Perhaps the lighting designer had got his notes for tonight swapped with the show they’d done for the Cure back in ’88.

 

Towards the end Hosking casually says, more as a public announcement that anything else, that the band don’t do encores and at the end of the next three they’ll be popping off – so don’t feel too awkward about it. Then they rip into radio hugger “Harlequin dream”, pump out an extended “Part Time Believer” with Gavin finally giving his Gibson a decent workout before dropping a satisfying “Walk The Wire” to lead up to their departure.

 

For me, this B&B are a family friendly pop crew at the height of their powers. Slick, accurate, and sticking pretty closely to what it says on the box.  Leave the fancy stuff to others – just give the people what they want.  And no folks, no auditorium seats were harmed by dancing during this show.