portrait of this blog's author - by Stephen Blackman 2008

Friday, February 25, 2011

Two brilliant articles this morning from the wonderful Big O Ezine.....I am rarely moved to paste whole articles but these two caught my eye this morning so I link to them here. One is about folk legend and 'protest Singer' Phil Ochs and the other regarding the ubiquitous information gathering generation that solves all scientific (sic) thinking by tick box research.

Now I was never a GREAT fan of Ochs but appreciate his standing in the folk singer canon and admire his political stance. Not surprising but sadly true that his beliefs saw him on the way to the realisation that the only course of action was for him to commit suicide at 37. Through the Regan era little badges began appearing stating "Where's Phil Ochs Now That We Really Need Him?" and this is sadly more true now than it was then........ so looking forward to this bio-pic

Phil Ochs article

The second article states clearly and loudly all the fears about modern social research that I have held as true for many a year. A Kierkegaardian associate professor at Drexel, M.G. Piety (great name) expounds the theory of the 'Age of Idiocy' that we can't really THINK anymore merely count! Ahh, the number crunchers have it! Kierkegaard is one of my favourite philosophers so maybe that is why this rang so true
Who is it who said 'There are Lies and there are Damn Lies and then there are Statistics? (* Ah, Mark Twain used it repeatedly....great man....attributed to Disraeli there is no record of it....it may be someone else but I give it to Mark Twain........)

Idiot Wind indeed........Ship of Fools even

Age of Idiocy

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Long a fan of finding new voices and the younger voices from genre I care for ( New Country, Folk etc)_and since discovering Dwight Yoakam, Lyle Lovett and John Prine and Gillian Welch and Alison Krauss in new country so called, I find Eliza Carthy, Teddy Thompson, Martha Wainright, Thea Gilmore......and more.... I realise the Circle Will Be Unbroken, time passes and there are newer voices. This I find deeply reassuring as there have been times in music when one has believed the guitar based singer songwriter was dying away, Not so! These two are nothing less than a wonderment in their chosen musics.........notable here for them sitting in on a festival for World Musics showing the new attitude of all accepting diverse and varied sounds from around God's Golfball!

For a Sunday morning this is a beauty! If you haven't heard of them download it now. Enjoy!

  Tim O'Brien and Kelly Joe Phelps 
-  World Music Festival, Chico, CA 1998

Tim & Kelly - Chico 1998 Disc One

Kelly Joe Phelps

 Steve Earle: "Kelly Joe Phelps plays, sings, and writes the blues. HOLD UP before you lock that in - forget about songs in a twelve bar three chord progression with a two line repeat and answer rhyme structure - though he can certainly do that when he wants to. I'm talking about a feeling, a smoky, lonesome, painful - yet somehow comforting groove that lets you know that you are not alone - even when you're blue. Play on brother."

Bill Frisell: "I first became aware of Kelly Joe Phelps when my daughter (who was 9 or 10 at the time) brought home a cd ('Lead Me On') from the Vancouver Folk Festival. "You might like this, Dad" she said. Boy was she right. I've heard Kelly Joe mention that he's been inspired by people like Roscoe Holcomb, Robert Pete Williams, Dock Boggs, Mississippi Fred McDowell, and others. He seems to have absorbed all this (and all kinds of other stuff as well) and come back with something all his own. Sounds like he's coming from the inside out. The bottom up. He's not just playing 'AT' the music or trying to recreate or imitate something that's happened in the past. He seems to have tapped into the artery somehow. There's a lot going on in between and behind the notes. Mystery. He's been an inspiration to me."

Tim O'Brien: "When I heard Kelly Joe the first time, I was amazed how it all made so much sense. His music is a wide world with three hundred and sixty degrees of influence.... Kelly Joe is a musical slight of hand master. He pulls world wide sounds out of his guitar."

Tim O'Brien
"I wanted to do the whole spectrum of folk music from one guy singing and playing guitar or fiddle to a full band with electric guitar," O'Brien said. And that's how the pair (of albums) came out, like folk music bookends. Fiddler's Green tends toward the intimate and traditional, while Cornbread Nation is a bit funkier and tempo-driven. On both, however, old-time tunes sit comfortably next to originals and a few classic country songs by the likes of Jimmie Rodgers and Harlan Howard. "I could have taken all traditional songs, but I love stuff like 'California Blues' and 'Busted,' which are like folk songs to me, and they fit with the others, and it shows that what is called country music is just another footstep down the same path. Rock and roll, a lot of that is the same too."

Kelly Joe
Tim O'Brien

Saturday, February 19, 2011

I am really enjoying sharing these boots with folk and in the past coupla days 'til this morning have loaded some of my favourites from Ry Cooder and started my Dylan page...................both artists seminal influences and remain as important as when I first heard them........

That's it! Over n out........

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Amongst the Grammy Awards for 2011 The Doors - DVD When You're Strange from Rhino Records (we love RHINO!)
Bob Dylan and Mick Jagger 

seem to have put the youngsters to shame this evening by blowing everyone away with their performances available from Big O
Also available here if your passing! (But nobody reads it Ed?)  

*Note includes Paul singing Birthday for Ringo! (sic?!)

That's wins for Jeff Beck, Alex Chilton's 'Big Star'  for liner notes (sic!) and THE DOORS for a great DVD music video for When You're Strange! Get 'em here!

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Things we have learned this weekend........

It’s a funny ole world isn’t it? What IS it like to find one a citizen of this planet at the start of February 2011? 

What have we learned this weekend…..?

In the news this weekend we have learned that today is International Day Against Female Genital Mutilation, that we live in a world where this being a necessary requirement is amongst the most depressing information any human being can receive but perhaps that’s just me. 

That one of my favourite comedians Steve ‘Alan Partridge’ Coogan has been given a whole page to chastise 3 small minded idiots who star on some TV show about cars after coming out with foul idiotic racist comments about Mexicans. 

That a 14 year old girl has been whipped to death in Bangladesh, that we the Brits known world wide as a nation of animal lovers, are concerned that there is an increase in race horses are being sold off for meat products after their useful (sic) racing life is over. 

That the Mubarek family appears to be worth some £70 billion….that’s £70 BILLION!

We have also learnt that there is yet another awarding architect celebrating some diabolical “carbuncle” on the face of Margate as it’s Turner Museum has its opening. Now I cannot do much about Mubarek and the plight of the Egyptian people, I can only sympathise with Sister Fa as yet again she has to bring to our attention the plight of millions of women who have suffered the torture of female circumcision but that by keeping the message 'on song' that men may be influenced to gradually begin to accept that this form of mutilation is unacceptable and that with these strenuous efforts the rate in many African countries is falling for example in Ethiopia, the prevalence rate has fallen “from 80% to 74%, in Kenya from 32% to 27% and in Mubarek’s Egypt the rate has dropped from 97% to 91%”.  Heartening words indeed…….

Most if these issues fill me with a deepest despair that makes one feel as impotent to do anything as it’s possible to feel. But I can have a rant about the buildings that surround us as there is no good reason these panjandrums of the world of architecture foist yet another hideous inappropriate aircraft hanger of a gerbosity on the unsuspecting public.

It is rare I find myself in tune with HRH Prince Charles but we seem to close kindred spirits over architecture.*

The problem is that architects think they are artists. Those I have met are wealthy objectionable and display all the signs of the most immense egos known to man.

They are not artists and yet behave like them whenever the climate dictates they can get away with these monstrous articles littering our country. Indeed I believe that they should be accountable to those of us who have to live with the fruits of their labours (sic - most designs could be forgiven for appearing like they were either designed on a fag packet or actually based upon the fag packet itself.)

Thus showing a complete lack of artistic integrity design, sensibility or the unpopular view that whilst people have to inhabit these spaces they should not be consulted about the design process as they only have to live and work and experience these vast concrete bunker like buildings. Most architects seem to be of the 'Nuremberg Rally School' function over form brigade who might be better off designing gas chambers. A bit strong perhaps but they are able with consummate ease and milllions in their pockets as a result to foist this utter desecration on us innocents like so many proletarian rabble as we cannot understand the ‘art’ that is architectural design and the 9 years training it has to achieve such cheery levels of fascist nonsense.
Take for example the monstrosity that is the new Turner Mausoleum on the Margate seafront "a very secure and wholesome building" according to the ‘master of permanence” David Chipperfield (I was given pause for thought at this name and wondered if he was any relation to the Circus family….)
Just look how it blends in naturally with its surroundings and how the architect has so cleverly taken into account the skyline and the existing local architecture so that it appears to blend in with it’s surroundings almost seamlessly……

From this vantage point what might you assume this building was? A new warehouse storing vital shipbuilding technology? A New TK Maxx superstore? A storage plant for the local sewage service? An Art Museum - I doubt it?

I am given to question architecture and especially that which impinges on my soul and sensitive sensibilities, I spent several years across for the multi-award winning Said Business School in Oxford and was truly incensed to discover this is cited as example’s of fine architectural achievement passed off as centre of excellence in education.
The University school looks like this

This monstrosity has always truck me as being designed over lunch by someone looking at a fag packet rather actually designing something using imagination, artistic sensibilities or moments of inspiration. The tower is referred to frequently as adding a contemporary feel to Oxford’s 'Dreaming Spires' skyline. Not a dream I would have but there you go!
It replaced the ‘listed building’ that was once the old Oxford Rewley Road Station long in disuse but eventually bought and sent to a Railway Museum. It looked like this:

To be concerned about the way people live; about the environment they inhabit and the kind of community that is created by that environment should surely be one of the prime requirements of a really good architect. It has been most encouraging to see the development of Community Architecture as a natural reaction to the policy of decamping people to new towns and overspill estates where the extended family patterns of support were destroyed and the community life was lost. Now, moreover, we are seeing the gradual expansion of housing cooperatives, particularly in the inner city areas of Liverpool, where the tenants are able to work with an architect of their own who listens to their comments and their ideas and tries to design the kind of environment they want, rather than the kind which tends to be imposed upon them without any degree of choice.
This sort of development, spear-headed as it is by such individuals as a Vice-president of the RIBA, Rod Hackney and Ted Cullinan - a man after my own heart, as he believes strongly that the architect must produce something that is visually beautiful as well as socially useful - offers something very promising in terms of inner city renewal and urban housing, not to mention community garden design.” HRH Prince Charles - 150th Anniversary speech to RIBA

 I hear you ask 'Well Andy, it's all very well moaning but what do you like?'

Less a fan of Cullinan than I am of Rod Hackney and yet here’s a Cullinan project that seem to fit the bill. Yup it IS a modern design……….

These Cullinan projects will do for a start and yes, I do agree with Rod Hackney and his involving the people who actually live in the areas having a say in what their home and buildings should look like
This’ll do………

It is about the effects on people who inhabit these buildings and I truly believe that much of contemporary malaise and depression is caused by the awful building we have to, or are forced to, inhabit
 Neither am I afraid of the 'modern', a stickler for the old traditions, the Georgian and the old fashioned
 This is modern is it not? But it seems to have far more sensitivity to it's surroundings. It has wit and charm and modernism writ all over it seems to me yet does not impinge or shout at us or threaten our well-being and sense of what is......"Beautiful" there I've said it. Beauty!

I grew up believing that the entire planet should be able to live in a Frank Lloyd Wright building and still hold to that. I appreciated Corbusier but he, almost by default, has caused some of the most unworthy architectural disasters known to man. 

The modular system that gave us high rise frighteners and yet if everyone could have lived in a Corbusier maybe we have been OK. Certainly the interest in vernacular architecture is a strong feeling for me and that this is looked down upon by architects comes as no surprise. Scribbling on napkins and designing such hideous “carbuncles” they should be re-trained and have to be given client consultations with, not the commissioner of such hell holes, but the people who inhabit them, seems like democracy and the alternative is fascism.

For this is modular too isn't it?

I am given to like American architecture and especially the vernacular of San Francisco where I worked for art publisher, Pomegranate Inc in Mill Valley I found architecture that I loved and not all of it the homes of the rich in the smaller towns and villages what of urban design I hear you ask well look at this too!
Easy on the eye and on the soul and spirit too! It can be done………

Modernism...this from just up the road in the Cotswolds
......combined with awareness of its surroundings........
....leads to harmony of design in nature.......
...not lacking in ambition but still at one with those who dwell therein...
art & beauty at peace with its surroundings
achievable whether in Mill Valley, Cumbria or The Cotswolds
that can be subsumed by its surroundings as much as a it can satisfy the dweller therein
 Not impact itself upon the viewer, the human occupant or unwitting drone who has to suffer it's effects

When perhaps these are drawn up

by folks better at symbolising the prisons that most of us urban dwellers find ourselves stuck with 


Wednesday, February 02, 2011

.....And people wonder why we're in trouble!

I am thinking of starting a Charity (long story) and went round all my local Banks in the village yesterday. Not ONE of them was interested in my setting up a new account for such purposes. Given that the Banks are what got us into the mess, what is going on when you can't give them several thousand pounds to open a small business account?

One said they hadn't got the forms, one said could I set it up by phone (sic!) another said I could do it in town and another said could I go to another branch and ask for 'clubs and societies account forms', the other, Lloyds TSB said, after keeping me waiting for ten minutes while she went to get a "phone number", came back to say that they weren't taking on new customers for "that sort" of account! It's money! Cash! And you are turning it away! EXTRAORDINARY!

I particularly wanted to go in to a local branch and set it up with, you know, A Human but apparently this is not to be....so I was in the position of trying to set up an account which in order to be registered with the Charities Commision has to have some £5,000 in it and whilst some delightful lady was in to transfer £15 to her son's account and people were taking out £25 here and paying in £30 there and some guy came in with a bag full of £1 coins to change whilst I was stood with a £200 deposit and the offer of £5,000 and I was told effectively we don't want "That Sort' at the moment!
Well you know what?
I Don't want THAT SORT of Bank and you just lost several thousand pounds!

Think I'll go on line and do it with the Co-op!

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Here's a treat for a cold grey February morning..........Kassav, a favourite 'Zouk' band of mine
Zouk is all the medicine you need and you will never fall ill!

Turn it up .....and if it doesn't have your toes tapping and/or whirling around your living room ......why, I'll give you your money back!

Kassav - Zouk La Se Sel Medikaman Nou Nis


Jacob Desv who wrote it