Sunday, 17 January 2010

Three From Voiceprint

I’m in full-on catch-up mode at the moment, after the Christmas and New Year festivities and a totally manic couple of weeks in the nine to five (that doesn’t show any signs of quietening done any time soon), with some press sheets to write and mail-out, a book proposal that just needs a little bit of tidying up, another that really needs working on, and the festivals book which needs a bit of editing and a couple or three interviews completing but which will appear in the next few months. I had a bundle of stuff through from Rob and his team at Voiceprint over the last two or three months, some of which has appeared either as reviews in Record Collector or on this blog, but there’s others that I’ve not placed print magazine reviews for that need mentioning because they’re of interest for one reason or another to blog readers so I thought it would be a good thing to cover a few in a more ‘bullet point’ manner than normal...

Gong Global Family – Live in Brazil 20 November 2007

I wrote this up for Record Collector when it appeared on DVD via Voiceprint a few months ago – and gave it four stars in the same issue that I was a little bit underwhelmed by the new Gong album which I’d rated as a three star album, though from the other reviews and commentary I’ve seen in print and around the internet I’m in a bit of a minority in being a tad disappointed with that release. But the Global Family release I thought of as a “crisply modern space-jazz manner”, and enthused about the “indefatigable energy and creativity’ of Daevid Allen himself. Nice to have this as a soundtrack CD though; much as the quality of the DVD was of a high standard, I find it difficult to slot in the time to sit through a DVD more than a few times (at this point I hear my wife niggling about watching a Doctor Who for the umpteenth time, but I mean music DVDs here), whereas this rather cool psychedelia of Allen with collaborator Josh Pollock, combining with musicians of the Invisible Opera Company of Brazil, is just excellent listening on CD. I don’t know how Mr. Allen does it, but more power to his elbow for achieving a career of generally consistent quality across its longevity.

Matt Malley - The Goddess Within

This one I’ve had for several months and intended to post a full review of but as time has marched by, I’m including it here – even though it’s not our normal musical fodder (and again I sort of curse my original intention of making this blog space rock related) simply because it’s such a great record. Malley was, of course, a founder member of Counting Crows and apparently has been working on this album since leaving them in 2004. Can I sum up this thoughtful and intimate album by quoting Malley’s opening liner notes? “The lady on the cover of this record is Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi. The photograph... emits vibrations which you Kundalini will respond to. Kundalini is the feminine energy of God.”The idea seems to be to use the photograph as a part of a meditation process to achieve self-realisation through God’s feminine aspect, and the album itself is an emotionally inward looking collection of songs that to me seem to come from a specific point in time where the artist has reached a new point in his life that has embraced a more balanced sense of identity that has been achieved. I’ve often thought that one of the privileges of writing about music is that the way in which it opens you up to work that you’d not otherwise have come into contact or which would have been already on your radar to be aware of. I’ve found many great records this way (particularly by Dengue Fever, Paul Roland, and the much-missed Nikki Sudden, but there’s plenty of other examples I could quote). The Goddess Within absolutely falls into that category, a record that I’m going to love and cherish in the years to come. It has a gentle resonance, not least in Matt Malley’s easy going version of Nick Drake’s ‘Hanging On A Star’ and the tender character of his own ‘If & When’. Predominately acoustic, this is just a beautiful and sincere achievement that’s not a passing whim but a deeply moving and sensitive résumé.

Jefferson Starship – Performing Jefferson Airplane @ Woodstock

On the other hand, Jefferson Airplane is a band that I know I should like more than I have done over the years and I can never really put my finger on why that is. I don’t particularly understand the history and the internal dynamics, which makes approaching their work at any particular point in their timeline rather difficult. I never really encountered their music until The Damned did their famous cover of ‘White Rabbit’ and at that point I seem to remember buying a ‘best of’ cassette in the now long forgotten branch of Woolworths in Redruth, which beat the total collapse of Woolworth’s in 2008 by at about thirty years, and actually playing that one to death without trying to get further into what they were all about. And the less said about their Jefferson Starship AOR-period, I guess, the better, though it might be a case of having been artificially put-off by a music inkie piece on Grace Slick which described her complaining about how subsequent generations had stolen from the Airplane whilst she herself had adopted the trappings of punk rock, complete with safety-pin through nose. I’ve got a built in prejudice, it seems. So, 60s Airplane, good stuff if a little remote from my own music experiences, Starship and recent stuff, not doing anything too much for me, but I try. Anyway, this release is of Jefferson Starship, with Paul Kantner, resurrecting and celebrating the Airplane’s appearance at Woodstock with this set at Del Mar Fairgrounds on 12th June 2009. There’s ‘Somebody To Love’, ‘White Rabbit’, ‘Volunteers’ and ‘The Other Side Of Life’, all performed at Woodstock, and a guest appearance from the Grateful Dead’s Tom Constanten and an interlude to do two Grateful Dead numbers with him. Vocalist Cathy Richardson sounds a bit like Grace Slick to my ear, perhaps that’s the point, and it’s a run-through of Woodstock, a celebration. That’s what it is. Didn’t do too much for me, I’m afraid.

More Voiceprint to follow to follow over the next couple of weeks in the same format, plus a big overview of Quarkspace releases that I’m really embarrassed haven’t appeared earlier, and some summary reviews of new releases by bands that have previously appeared on this blog, some press on the latest Paul Roland reissue and more...

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