Friday, October 20, 2006

Pers: music that surprised me 2

I've always had a strong affinity for music, so it's odd that I haven't posted more often on the subject. It's a very direct route to the inner being for me. One song (or track) is an instant feeling, one album (or work) is a mood, and over time, you get a feeling for the voice of a particular composer/artist/band. That time-stretched voice is an insight into a distinct individual or collective mind.

I listen to quite a mixture. I always seem to return to Ravel for classical music; popular music presents a greater variety of instant mood, so my preferences move, back and forth.

I'm listening to a recent (!) release from Echo and the Bunnymen: What Are You Going To Do With Your Life?. The voice is the same as ever, although the youthful vigour and anguish is gone. Competent, often pleasant, but not the same as Heaven Up Here or Crocodiles. Some people improve as they age; for some people their peak was in their raw youth. Not to denigrate this work too much - it's worth a listen.

... travelling back to Led Zeppelin, I was listening to Nobody's Fault But Mine (from Presence) when I realised, yes, I really do like Zep. They have their lesser and greater moments [favourites include Immigrant Song, Battle of Evermore, and Over the Hills and Far Away), but overall they are very listenable.

... which would sound surprising to anyone not used to that genre. But a) I'm always mining quite a variety of genres (libraries are strongly recommended for this); b) I've always had a strong affinity for good rock music. Jethro Tull is certainly that. Given one of their predominant images is that tramp on the cover of the wonderful Aqualung, it's surprising to find Ian Anderson comes across as rather a cultured person. Revisiting Thick As A Brick. Within the limitations of a 2 x 20m vinyl LP, it's one continuous song, which they ended up doing as something of a joke (according to hindsight) when people took Aqualung (the predecessor) to be a concept album. I say here and now, Thick As A Brick does work, and it's a very intricate piece of music - but it rewards listening with an open mind.

Hearing Wings Over America for the first time reminds me of Paul McCartney's earlier album Venus and Mars - the only one I owned at the time. A bit patchy, but it had some good stuff. I was only later to discover the full album Band On The Run must stand out as his absolute best. Wings Over America is quite pleasant for McCartney's pop ear - and occasional rock - and is a great companion to those seeking slight variations on themes that are otherwise worn (ie live versions of songs you've heard too much).

Not too thrilled by U2's War. Past their glorious debut Boy, you really have to wait until they're more mature - starting with Unforgettable Fire. From then on, an illustrious career.

Running out of time, so also recommended are:
  • Bette Midler's second (eponymous) album
  • More recent Robert Plant - surprisingly good
  • Allman Brothers - always great blues/rock
  • Fleetwood Mac's Then Play On (the one with the legendary Oh Well)
  • Early Boz Scaggs (recommended for the blues tinge)
  • Hard Fi
...and back to Ravel, as always.

This is only what I'm listening to now. Major recommendations some other time.

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