vrijdag 30 november 2012

Nocturne. Wild Nothing

You can listen to 'Nocturne' here.

I really do not know what to make of Nocturne. One moment I think it's a great, laid back album, that I enjoy listening to a lot. At another moment I'm thinking to myself, get real, start making this interesting! So, whatever else Nocturne is an album that intrigues me.

If anything Nocturne is a relaxed album and yes, very good to listen to when it's dark. The songs develop themselves slowly, like the water of a brook on even terrain. Not that all songs are slow paced. Even if they are faster, like 'Only heather', the vocals and keyboards create this layer of rest that allows the guitars and the drums to be a bit wilder. The overall impression remains a mood of relaxation, of modest, perhaps even shy people making music. The background vocals, "o-oh and o-o-ooh" being an exception of boldness.

It is around this point that Nocturne usually starts drawing me in. 'This chain won't break' is were the best of Tears for Fears, from before mega hit 'Shout', shines out most. 'Change' and 'Pale shelter' are songs that are not unfamiliar to Wild Nothing, as is revealed on the album later on also. This makes the album an interesting mix of 80s pop with shoegaze elements. There is also a distinct new romantics element in here, without disturbing me too much. To add all up, there is a Johnny Marr like guitar playing going on, that constitutes Wild Nothing's wild side. As a last reference here's The Cure again in its more poppy period in the second half of the 80s.

Wild Nothing is a US indie group or indie dream pop band as Wikipedia lets us know, that only has one member: Jack Tatum. He started this project in 2009 and released the first album 'Gemini' in 2010. Nocturne is the second album by Jack Tatum under the name Wild Nothing. As such Tatum holds a promise for the future, as he knows how to write a song and infuse his songs with interesting moments, for which he draws mostly on familiar sounds. Don't expect overly new things or experiments on Nocturne. It's a feast of old friends that come by. This may be called the weakness of Wild Nothing. In moments like 'The blue dress', when the music develops in the direction of Howard Jones, I'm gone. It's a delicate line Nocturne balances on as far as I'm concerned.

All in all, in my opinion I am reviewing a talent here that holds promise, but also needs to find his own voice more. Nocturne is not the great, fantastic album some seem to hold it for. Let me suffice with a quote from Wikipedia on 'Gemini', which works for me for Nocturne: ""While I wasn't totally convinced with Gemini as a whole, I adored it in chunks", from Blogcritics.org. It's up to you to decide. I can't do this one for you.


You can order Nocturne here

or here

donderdag 29 november 2012

Oui oui si si ja ja da da. Madness

You can listen to 'Misery' here.

And again an "old" band that features on WoNoblog in a short period of time. Madness always curried favour with me, ever since its first hit single 'One step beyond' in 1979. The fast paced, ska-fueled, nearly instrumental song, opened my musical tastes to a new sort of fun. All the hits that followed only added to the fun. In 2008 the band released another come back album, 'The liberty of Norton Folgate', which I really liked. More serious but still great fun. And now an album with a title that spells "yes" in English 8x over. Already at first listen I knew, I like you. Despite the fact that Madness's playing with the break on, the songs stand out and range broadly enough to keep attention where it should be. Let's go into more detail.

Madness manages to come up with music that fits its "men of a certain age members'" age. Its all in the mid-fast range, but arranged in such a way that there's a lot of ear candy in the mix, that make the songs interesting to listen to. Madness as grown ups? They attempted that from album '7' onwards, haven't they? That wasn't a huge success, while Oui oui ... is. 'My girl 2' features twice on the album. His girl is still mad at him every once in a while, but he is totally happy with her nowadays and carries her around on both hands, it seems. I like the Clive Langer/Charlie Andrew mix slightly better than the original.

For the rest the music goes from reggae based songs to songs what in The Netherlands are called "levenslied", which translates in "songs of life". Madness does it with a tongue in cheek, so that makes it sort of alright. "Never knew your name" even has the same theme as André Hazes' "Een beetje verliefd". A funky guitar and the signature sax sound of Kix sort of make up for the very tacky strings. The Philly soul, but also of Silver Convention strings are very un-Madness though. 'Misery' also could have been such a song, but the upbeat tempo makes up for the schmalzyness. Putting some mariachi influences into 'La Luna' works very well. High trumpets, deep vocals and the smooth rhythm transports anyone to beaches in warmer climes, thinking of Cuba libres.

Madness manages to combine more serious songs with pleasant melodies. Just listen to 'How can I tell you? switches from this slow song to a deliciously up-tempo song, with a great melody, piano part and guitar bit. Suggs gets away singing all these different sounds and genres. Not because he's a great singer, but because he knows his limitations and sticks to them. His voice has aged a bit, but that does not hurt Madness's sound in any way. It fits the band in 2012 in a gracious way.

Then the great intro to 'Kitchen floor' sets in with this sixties sounding electric piano. A slow reggae tune, that could have had Ian Dury as a singer. Lovely, bluesy guitar solo as well (and sax). There's some Beethoven mixed into 'Misery', which is quite surprising in such a song. 'Leon' is Madness' take on a John Lennon, The Beatles era, song, mixed into a Madness context.

I could go on like this. Madness has sort of reinvented itself and thus made itself ready for a future into a somewhat older age. Oui oui is a graceful, fun album. The antics are gone, but at every Madness show there will be enough of that, while the new songs give the band members time for a breather and present quality at the same time. Oui oui is not the best album ever, but a great Madness album of a sort which I did not know they had in them. The newer influences work very much in the band's favour. Perhaps a bit less Madness and a bit more of a lot other things. As long as that generates fun songs like 'Circus freaks', let Madness incorporate any influence they want.


You can order Oui oui si si ja ja da da here

or here

dinsdag 27 november 2012

Born to sing: no plan B. Van Morrison

You can listen to 'Born to sing' here.

It can be argued that Van Morrison is making the same album for over 40 years. Some are a little more jazzy, others a little more Celtic and others more bluesy. In the end there are circa 12 songs that meander and drift calmly to the end of the album. The difference is basically that I like some better than others. Several albums are brilliant, others so-so and some assist perfectly putting me to sleep, should I need that that is, so I just switch them off. The title of his latest album just about sums it up, I guess. Van the Man was born to sing, compose and record records. Next to performing his music on stage. Born to sing again.

I know 'Gloria' for about as long as I can remember. "G L O R I A", I can't even remember hearing it for the first time. Sometime on the radio as golden oldie (then only a few years old and perhaps not even that), at a friend's house? Who knows. Van Morrison as a solo artist I discovered with the album 'Beautiful vision', which set my standard for his albums. As his albums started to look too much of the same I stopped buying them from 'Avalon sunset' in 1989 onwards, with a few exceptions since. And then someone wrote that Born to sing ... was certainly worthwhile listening to and he was correct. Not that there is so much happening on the album that is overly exiting, no. Morrison is doing his thing from a bluesy vantage point and a pleasant swing.

From a players point of view the album is jazz. Everyone gets his solo at turns, resulting in relaxing sax, trombone, muted trumpet and clarinet solos. There's even a bass solo on the record! Not your every day run of the mill any more. It gives the album its pace and mood swings. The tempo over all is the slow mid-tempo in which the songs find their way to my ear. At times so quiet that if I don't pay attention it's like a song is finished.

Most songs sound inspired to me. Perhaps that is the way that I recognise a good Van Morrison album from a lesser one. At this moment I put up Born to sing ... up with 'Beautiful vision', 'Inarticulate speech of the heart' and 'No method, no guru, no teacher'. Yes, reader, all 80s albums. I'm not into his 70s period so much. Too jazzy or something.

His voice is as good as ever. There always seems to be a sneer in there aimed at someone, us all, the world in general? It's distinct and immediately recognisable. Something like an old man, with just enough breath to stay alive, let alone song and still sound powerful. An odd combination for a voice. Still it belongs to one of the most distinguished singers who started his career in the first half of the 60s and is still going strong. It may only be one and a half year and Van Morrison is celebrating his 50 year recording career. He started of the celebration with a very nice and sweet album. Perhaps not the moniker that Van Morrison'd actually like to hear, grumpy as he's reputed to be, but that is just what Born to sing .. is, nice and sweet, with soft spots in all the right places.


You can order Born to sing: No plan B here

or here

maandag 26 november 2012

Skyfall. Adele

You can listen to 'Skyfall' here.

Skyfall is on the radio for over a month and has become a number one hit in The Netherlands, showing Adele's stature as a singer. The fact that she was asked to sing and write the new James Bond theme song is prestigious if we look at the long list of singers who preceded her. What I wondered hearing Skyfall for the first time was, will this be the instant classic that will be associated with James Bond forever? Just like 'Goldfinger'  the 1965 hitsingle by Shirley Bassey? My best guess having seen Skyfall, is yes, it will.

The song is as majestic as the movie is. Skyfall, the movie is everything a James Bond movie should be and Skyfall the song is the perfect soundtrack to it. The song will prove to be timeless. There's is no time and age effect in there like 'A view to a kill' by Duran Duran or Aha's 'The living daylight' were or just another great Paul McCartney song and hit, like 'Live and let die' has become. Skyfall is also much better than Carly Simon's 'Nobody does it better', that aimed for the same effect. 'For your eyes only', Sheena Easton's attempt comes close, also a number 1 hit, but Skyfall is so much classier. It is all Bond is: extremely cool, calculating, cooled passion and full of class. To all appearances Adele and Paul Epworth seems to written the ultimate Bond Theme, with just a hint of the classic John Barry theme worked in there.

Hearing Skyfall in the movie theatre with the big sound system behind it, feeling the layers of basses in there right after the spectacular opening scene in the bazaar of Istanbul totally convinced me. The best theme ever to what certainly is one of the best Bond's ever.


You can order Skyfall here

or here

zondag 25 november 2012

See you on the ice. Carice van Houten

You can listen to 'Emily' here.

Toen actrice Carice van Houten enkele maanden geleden haar eerste cd aankondigde, stonden de critici en cynici direct met geslepen zwaarden klaar, want waarom moest een actrice zo nodig een plaat maken. Zelf was ik eigenlijk wel benieuwd naar de muzikale verrichtingen van één van de meest interessante actrices die ons land rijk is, al is het maar omdat de track record van zingende actrices helemaal niet zo slecht is (denk aan Juliette Lewis, Charlotte Gainsbourg en Scarlett Johansson). De track record van zangeressen die zo nodig moeten gaan acteren is overigens veel slechter, maar daar ga ik het niet over hebben. Toen See You On The Ice  van Carice van Houten op de mat viel, nam ik me voor om er onbevooroordeeld en onbevangen naar te luisteren en dat is precies wat ik gedaan heb. Een paar minuten later lag ik in katzwijm. Laat ik er niet omheen draaien: Carice van Houten heeft met See You On The Ice een verrassende, imponerende en vooral bloedstollend mooie plaat afgeleverd. Dat is deels te danken aan de grote namen die op de aftiteling voorbij komen. See You On The Ice is knap geproduceerd door J.B. Meijers (één van de beste producers die ons land rijk is) en kent fraaie vocale en instrumentale bijdragen van onder andere Antony Hegarty (zonder de The Johnsons), Howe Gelb (Giant Sand), Ken Stringfellow (The Posies) en vooral sessiegitarist Marc Ribot. De grootste letters op de aftiteling zijn echter voor Carice van Houten zelf, want het zijn haar vocalen en expressie die See You On The Ice zo mooi en opvallend maken. See You On The Ice opent met donkere en stemmige klanken en mooie heldere en zachte vocalen. Het doet heel even aan Portishead denken, tot de strijkers aanzwellen en Carice van Houten haar eigen muzikale universum creëert. Het is een universum waar niet binnen de lijntjes wordt gekleurd want net als je wegdroomt bij de sfeervolle klanken van strijkers word je ruw gewekt door beukende trommels. See You On The Ice zet je wel vaker op het verkeerde been. De instrumentatie op de plaat is sober en stemmig, maar valt op door fraaie accenten met zo af en toe een Oosters tintje. Het is een instrumentatie waarbinnen de zang alle aandacht kan opeisen en dat is riskant bij een beginnend zangeres. Carice van Houten houdt zich echter moeiteloos staande. Ze beschikt over een mooi helder en veelkleurig stemgeluid dat in meerdere genres tot zijn recht komt. Dat wordt op See You On The Ice fraai uitgebuit, want het debuut van Carice van Houten is een veelzijdige plaat. Aan de ene kant zijn er de donkere en stemmige tracks met hier en daar trip-hop achtige ritmes, aan de andere kant zwoele nachtclub jazz en een verdwaald popliedje, waarvoor Deborah Harry aan het eind van de jaren 70 en begin van de jaren 80 een moord zou hebben gedaan (Emily). See You On The Ice is een plaat die onmiddellijk een diepe indruk maakt, maar wordt alleen maar mooier wanneer je je verdiept in alle muzikale details en in de persoonlijke teksten van Carice van Houten. Iedereen die zich een paar maanden geleden afvroeg waarom een actrice zo nodig een plaat moest maken, moet zich diep schamen en vervolgens onbevooroordeeld luisteren naar de fascinerende luistertrip van Carice van Houten. See You On The Ice is zomaar één van de indrukwekkendste platen van eigen bodem dit jaar en kan ook ver daarbuiten tot grote hoogten gaan stijgen. Petje af voor Carice van Houten. Voor het getoonde lef, maar vooral voor dit staaltje grenzenloze muzikaliteit.

Erwin Zijleman

You can order See you in the ice here

or here


zaterdag 24 november 2012

Now for plan A. The Tragically Hip

You can listen to 'At transformation' here.

I lost sight of the Canadian band somewhere in 00's. Having discovered the band with their third album, 'Fully Completely', circa 1993, 'Road apples', their previous effort, became one of my favourite albums of the 90s. "New Orleans is sinking and I don't know how to swim", from the band's first album 'Up to here', is a line that still runs around my mind every once in a while, including that haunted, driving beat of this great song. The rocking sound slowly left the band and songs became more complex, softer and, in my humble opinion, less interesting. Make no mistake. It is the right of every artist to search for his or her own voice and pursue their careers in any way they can imagine. I may just not like what I hear (or see, read, etc.). In the 00s I saw them perform again in Utrecht. Live they still were fantastic. TTH rocks in a sweaty, swampy, slightly uncomfortable way and are great musicians. With Gordon Downie as front man; mysterious, singing hard to understand lyrics, poetic and arty stealing the show. A front man if you ever saw one. What Jim Morrison could have become, had he lived long enough.

And now a new album in 2012, Now for plan A. At first listening I thought, yes, TTH is back. This is the sound, the songs and the typical form of rock I'd liked so much in the 90s! If I'd looked at the first notes cynically, I could have written "A step back for TTH", "Repeating old ways", but I'm just not that kind of guy. The first notes of 'At transformation' made me prick up my ears hearing the two rhythm guitars left and right and the lead lines of the third guitar weaving in and out of the song. Downie's singing with a low voice, before he goes into semi-overdrive with that typical waver in his voice. The bass and drums pump the song forward with accents in all the right places. It only took TTH about one minute to make me feel a little better than before listening to 'At transformation' for the first time.

TTH is a band that is around since the mid 80s and come from Kingston in Ontario, Canada. For some reason they have missed out on a real breakthrough in the rest of the world. In Canada their reputation and status are at the highest levels. The band did not let the missed chances in the rest of the world hinder them. They are still around in the same line-up and working hard at making its 13th studio album the greatest success possible.

Of course I exaggerated a little. 'World container' is an album I listed to, just like 'Music @work', but not as intensely as I'd listened to 'Up here', 'Road apples' and 'Fully completely'. From 'Day for night' it became harder for me to enjoy the band. Now for plan A gives me the idea that I will listen to the album more often. There's pace, rock, inventive guitar playing and rests. 'Streets ahead' has this drive that is so typical for The Hip. It's like the song is just straight up and down rock and at the same time it has all these little things going, with not in the least great bass playing by Gord Sinclair. As a whole the song reminds me most of Midnight Oil at its best, as on 'Earth and sun and moon'. The same goes for 'Goodnight Attawapiskat'. There's also a little U2 in the guitar sounds here and there.

TTH is also able to come up with a great ballad. Title song 'Now for plan A' has this great cascading guitar notes at times. Deep in the mix there are all sort of things going on, while in the front there's all this space between the two voices, the lead guitars and an odd cymbal. As if they are standing in a room with other sounds creeping through the walls and recede again. A beautiful song and great musical effects.

Now for plan A captures The Tragically Hip at the top of its game. The rocks, plays slow, but there is no holding back on what the band is good at. Something which I thought they did to often from 1994 onward. And as the songs are of high quality this 13th studio effort is one to cherish. Where Van Morrison at almost 70 professed that he has no plan b, The Hip just presents its plan a: to rock and play!


You can order Now for plan A here

or here

vrijdag 23 november 2012

Heart thief. Stephanie Fagan

You can listen to all songs of Heart thief here.

That's what I did after reading Erwin Zijleman's blog 'De krenten uit de pop' this week and decided to pull out the old credit card straight away. It's a rare thing when I'm truly touched by a voice, usually it's the music that is responsible for that. Stephanie Fagan's slightly raspy voice made rather an impression and as I also liked the songs I was hearing, the combination was a winning one.

Stephanie Fagan comes from the U.S.'s south. South Carolina to be precise. After playing a lot while travelling around she released her first album in 2009, 'Ideas for your ear bone'. In 2011 this album, her second, was released through an independent label. She now lives in Germany. So who gets her to the Q-Bus in Leiden?

Country and singer-songwriter are musical forms that do not have a lot of mysteries to Ms Fagan. Even when she goes deeper into country territory she manages to keep me on board, where others would have forced me to call it quits. The main difference is that she stays true to herself and is not looking for emotional effects of the dubious kind. She lets her voice sort of fade, instead of putting emotional power behind it. The effect is just right. This also goes for the way a lazy piano, mandolin or banjo drives several songs. It's a treat to listen to. No antics, just slow rhythms, with 'Beautiful man' shining out brightest. Everything is spiced up every once in a while by a clean sounding electric or a slide guitar. The accusing 'You are the devil' has both guitar and banjo. These changes between the lead instruments give songs a distinct individual flavour, that make Heart thief very attractive as a whole album.

The album goes wide with an almost jazzy 'Blow', a delightful slow song, with spacious piano notes, a muted trumpet and Stephanie's voice, all the way to the slide blues 'Prodigal', where she gets the right effect. 'Paris, Texas' with a female voice. Next to the already mentioned country song 'The diner song ', there's several easy listening songs, that are just plain good. And a roots rocker to boot, 'Boy who doesn't exist'. She gets away with all styles and songs, with not so much a confident voice, but a modestly exposed knowledge that gives each style exactly the voice it needs.

As I only have the digital version of the album, I can't say anything about who plays what, just that the production of Missy Davis Jones serves Stephanie Fagan in all the right places. Subtle accompaniments, a soft male voice behind her own. A rocking guitar to lively things up or spaces to let the music breathe and Stephanie Fagan shine. The sound is clean and bright, just like her voice in most songs. The long range of influences go all the way from Joni Mitchell and Carol King to Ry Cooder and James Taylor and there are even songs that could have been sung, in three voiced harmony, by Girlyman.

Looking at the pictures on her website there is a lot of Stephanie Fagan, but she also offers a lot on Heart thief. This album deserves to be heard by a lot of people. If you're interested in music that walks that thin line between, folk, country, singer songwriter, roots rock and blues and like a good female voice with a tough edge at times, Heart thief by Stephanie Fagan is an album you want to check out. For $10,- or €8,66 it's all yours if you go to her Bandcamp site. It's a bargain!


You can order Heart thief here.

donderdag 22 november 2012

10. Case Mayfield

You can listen to 'Orgasms' here and 'Stolen from the sun' here.

Case Mayfield's second album has been given the somewhat misleading name 10, but not if we look at the number of songs on the album, yes, ten. 10 could not have been more surprising to me. His first outing, 'The many coloured beast', was a singer-songwriter album of a man with his guitar, with some embellishments here and there. I listened to it a few times, but it was not special enough to my taste. 10 is his second album in 2012 and completely different. The sound is that of a rock band. Sometimes of the seventies, in other songs more modern, like in 'Builder'. In part this effect is created by the warm sound of an organ and an old-fashioned electric piano. As the songs are extremely pleasant to listen to, the combination is just right for me.

The album kicks off sweetly with 'Stolen from the sun'. The listener is set on the wrong foot as the soft singer-songwriter like song, it could have been the intro to 'Scarborough fair', explodes into an organ extravaganza with a The Doors' 'Touch me' guitar rhythm. Orgelvreten with Case! By the time I was starting to totally rock out, the song's was already over. 1.30 minutes of pure fun and surprise, including a reference to the title of his first album in the lyrics. Stylistically the album may not be a unit, but who wants to hear 10 versions of the same song? A ballad like 'Friend of mine' sits quite nicely next to a stark rocker like 'Pie and strippers'.

Case Mayfield is Kees Veerman of Volendam, the former fishing town on the borders of the IJsselmeer that brought us a long list of artist. Seldom have I heard one of these artist rock like Mayfield does on 10. In some of the tracks that is. 'Orgasms' on the other hand is an almost empty track, with some madrigal like influences where Case duets with Mevrouw Tamara. The stillness at times is total. No fillings of any kind. 'The green mean' is another of the quiet songs, but fleshed out some more and another of my favourites. The winner is 'Builder' though. Rocking in an almost funky way, the song that captured me most.

Case Mayfield seems to be the difficult kind, authentic is an other description. Still an artist wants to be heard and perhaps wants to be friends with certain people in order to be heard and remain heard in the future. On the other hand, shouldn't an artist be judged by his output, in this case 10? Yes, of course he should. I can be fairly short about my judgement: Over the past weeks I've been listening regularly to 10 and for 75% totally liking what I'm hearing, without being put off by the remaining 25%. For an album this is a great score. For all of you out there who do not mind hearing a singer-songwriter rock out every once in a while, this is your album, as both sides of Case Mayfield come out tops. From here on he can go in any musical direction, as he's laid out all his options for us to listen to. It looks like we have another original, real Dutch talent on our hands and a talent needs space and time. Allow him just that.


You can order 10 here

woensdag 21 november 2012

Jake Bugg. Jake Bugg

You can listen to 'Two fingers' here.

It took me a few listens to 'Lighting bolt' to get used to the song, but from that moment on I never looked back for one moment. What a great, delightful song, presented with spunk and wit, but above all self-confidence. Jake Bugg is only 18 years old, but seems to have delivered his first classic song already. The ease with which the song flows is remarkable, as few songs seem so fluent. Above all, 'Lighting bolt' seems to have cost no blood, sweat and tears to create what soever. Just like as if it has always been there. The song made me very curious to the album on which Jake Bugg presents himself to the world at large.

Born Jacob Edwin Kennedy (Nottingham, 1994) Jake Bugg must have listened a lot to the likes of Bob Dylan when he was, well, younger. His way of singing has something of the early Dylan, when he softens his voice its Donovan, who started out as a Dylan adept in 1965. Bugg didn't stop there, as there are definite pop elements in his music. 'Two fingers' is the sort of song Noel Gallagher must have wished in his dreams to have written and killed in layers of guitar. If something becomes clear, it is that Jake Bugg likes an open sound. A rhythm guitar, lead guitar, bass and drums. Rimshots are fine for parts of the songs.

It slowly dawns on me that Jake Bugg, the album, is starting to have the same impact on me as 'Whatever people say I am, that's what I'm not'. Not that all songs on Arctic Monkeys' first album were fantastic, but as a whole the album rocked my musical world, like only few other albums have through the years. The urgency in Jake Bugg's songs is the same as on 'Whatever ...'. The colouring is different, as Jake is more rock and roll and folk oriented that Alex Turner c.s. 'Simple as this' emulates early Dylan with an Everly Brothers melody and harmonies. Again it seems as simple as this, while also this song aspires for perfection if it is not just that.

The album has gone to the number one spot in the UK which is totally surprising, as the album has nothing to do with 2012. Who buy records these days? Right 40+ year olds, so that is satisfactorily explained. as far as I am concerned the position is well deserved. Jake Bugg will go into history as one of the great début albums ever. The singer even gets away with 'Broken' which could have been sung by Nana Mouskouri in her days. It leaves me listening silently all the way to the climax. The bit raucous 'Trouble town' does a 1966 Dylan and 'Sunshine Superman' in one and in great form too. 'Note to self' seems to prove that someone like Tim Hardin is no stranger to this young singer also.

The variation on the album is magnificent and Jake Bugg gets away with everything. He has something to say and drives it up right to our door step. There are some issues to deal with listening to some of the lyrics. If anything, Jake Bugg seems to deal with them in quite a grown-up way. Contemplative beyond his years. Looking at the video, a shaving kit is not a tool used often, but he knows how to write lyrics (and songs).

'Ballad of Mr. Jones' is a psychedelic outing, like Traffic were masters at, e.g. 40.000 Headmen', next to the obvious tip of the hat to the master himself. The sound of the album is crystal clear, putting Jake Bugg's voice right in front. No choir would ever admit him, like most rock singers aren't, but his voice is very authentic.

As a last comment. The photo's I've seen so far all show a young man trying to look like Keith Richards in 1964, stands in a street like Bob Dylan in 1963 and smoking, smoking, smoking. Something so uncool in 2012 that it becomes cool again. The setting is clear and we "oldies" have someone new to listen to. Let's hope for Jack's sake that 50 something's and older are not the only faces he has to stare at when playing live. He can expect me anytime soon, though.

If this is what Jake Bugg can come up with at 18, what can he do at 25, at 35, 40? There will be one major difference with most of his heroes. They were able to grow musically fast and make one or two albums each year during the first 10 years of their careers. Jake may have to wait for three years before there's a follow up to Jake Bugg. Killing for the career of young artists, I say. So, Jake, do we get to see your next effort in 2013? I honestly hope so.


You can order Jake Bugg here

or here

dinsdag 20 november 2012

One day (Reckoning song) (Wankelmut remix). Asaf Avidan

You can listen to One day (Reckoning song) here.

One of the most unlikely hits of 2012 and a number 1 hit in The Netherlands to that, is One day (Reckoning song). Although the hit version is a remix, the unsure sounding harsh voice of singer Asaf Avidal is so at odds with everything associated with hitsingles that I'm totally amazed. What can the attraction to the general public be?

Scoring hits is no longer about sold items as there hardly are cd singles left in record stores. Individual purchases in online music stores like iTunes attribute to counting popularity, as charts do. My best guess is that the power of radio diskjockeys or the format that orders them to play certain songs, may thus have a little more influence than in the old days. If airplay constitutes part of the ranking in the charts, then this definitely is the case. Still someone decided that it was a good idea to start playing One day. I can't help thinking how unlikely this choice was, as the harsh, strange voice, the changing rhythms within the song, the terrible desperation calling out, all spell this is not a radio hit in capitols if not in "chocolate letters" used in news papers for very special occurrences. A question is here did the song rise to popularity first or did the radio cause it? So what can the attraction be?

A hit single from Israel is also uncommon in The Netherlands. We had a few, but mostly related to the Eurovision Songcontest. The song being remixed by a German DJ, Wankelmut, is a nice touch as it shows how far we've come in the past 70 years. Wankelmut, Jacob Dilssner, took the song from 2008 named 'Reckoning song' and gave it a new leash on life as One day. From Germany where the song took the number one position first other countries around Germany were taken by storm resulting in number 1 hits in several countries.

What speaks for the song is its authenticity. There are primal emotions shared here that go beyond an average love song. Heart and mind seem broken, listening to the layers of emotions laid into the voice of Asaf Avidan. However except for one verse, clearly hinting at a recent break up, the song consists of two lines lines only "One day baby we'll be old, think of all the stories that we could have told", if we had still been together that is. By singing these lines in different forms of emotions, Avidan's voice is pushed beyond the breaking point. Two lines make the song easy to sing along with at parties or in discos. The driving beat of the acoustic guitar subtly backed by the soft beats and treated hand claps of Wankelmut appear to do the rest.

There remains one mystery though. Asaf Avidan is a man, as you can clearly see in this video where he performs the song in an acoustic version. Yes, the strange voice is clearly there, but on the Wankelmut version I could have sworn there's a woman singing the song. Even the clip, in a night and a day version, suggests a woman as the blond girl is the centre in both videos. Did Walkelmut tweak the speed of Avidan's voice as well? Whatever the answer, it seems like Asaf Avidan sings here with a trans gender voice if I ever heard one.

Is all this enough to explain the popularity of the song with young and old? I just don't know. All I do know is that the song is engrained into my brain forever as all real hits are, whether I like them or not. One day is a very special song and by all appearances it is clear that this goes for a lot of people around Europe in 2012. So, yes, a hit is explained or so it seems.


You can order One day here

or here

maandag 19 november 2012

En Toen Kwamen De Tranen

Een oude Friese staande klok tikt, en slaat om het half uur. In het verzorgingstehuis heeft zij een eigen kamer. Een vrouw. 96 jaar. Dit jaar ligt zij door ouderdomszwakheid, alleen maar in bed te wachten. Haar kat is omgerekend bijna net zo oud als zij. En ligt steevast op een apart kussen naast haar hoofd, zachtjes te spinnen. Beiden hebben zij een heel leven achter de rug, met nog een korte toekomst te gaan. De vrouw, een oud lerares klassieke talen. Door haar algehele gesteldheid praat ze moeizaam in de vreemde taal die ze ooit zo machtig was. In het Latijn. Haar lapjeskat Bricius. De gevlekte. 28 jaar geleden vond zij deze kat, nadat zij haar laatste college had gegeven.

Op die gedenkwaardige kerstavond. De sneeuw veranderde de versierde stad in een kerstkaart. Ze stapte het universiteitsgebouw uit, na een overweldigend afscheid, liep zij langs een van de grachten naar huis en hoorde vanachter een stapel dozen, vuilniszakken en ander afval een zacht gejammer. Een pasgeboren katje van vier weken jong, die haar moeder kwijt was geraakt. Een bestelbusje van de lokale ophaaldienst voor zwerfkatten, die de kleine toen niet had opgemerkt. Ze pakte het kleine donsje op. Keek in de ogen van zeldzame kraaltjes, die pas twee dagen het licht hadden gezien en zei. “Kom Bricius, wij gaan samen oud worden.” Al die jaren was zij in haar leven eindelijk moeder over deze pasgeborene. Kinderen heeft zij nooit kunnen krijgen. Voor haar een droevige mededeling die door de specialist al vroeg in haar leven werd vastgesteld.

Hierdoor had deze vrouw nooit een relatie aan willen gaan met de wetenschap, die haar kinderloosheid nooit zou kunnen wegnemen. De drukke werkzaamheden bleek een uitvlucht. Door de komst van dit poezenkind, gunde zij zichzelf de tijd om eindelijk eens aan een zeldzame liefde toe te geven. Waar zij ook heenging ze nam Bricius altijd mee. Eerst aan een lijn, later toen de kat aan artrose leed, in een halstasje. Altijd al was zij een sterke vrouw die emotieloos door het leven leek te gaan. Hierdoor vonden niet alleen de leerlingen maar ook haar collega’s het een afstandelijke vrouw. Hard en soms meedogenloos.

Een zuster stapt haar kamer binnen en heeft voor de vrouw en de kat een kerstmaaltje meegenomen op een dienblad. Het is kerstavond. Alle medebewoners zitten beneden in de feestelijke eetzaal aan een kerstdiner voorafgegaan door een gebed van de pastoor. Als de zuster de kamer verlaat, klinkt muziek en gezang. Met een laatste trillende streling over het kopje van Bricius, ziet zij ook de levensmoeheid in zijn ogen.

Ze duwt Bricius tegen haar aan en alle opgeslagen emoties van het leven rollen met dikke tranen langs haar bejaarden gezicht. Als zij betraand kijkt in de ogen van Bricius moet ze denken aan die eerste ontmoeting.

“Mijn lieve kind”, klinkt haar gebroken stem. Vanuit de gang hoort de zuster de kat een laatste klaagzang spreken. Ze snelt de kamer in en ziet de twee, met gesloten ogen tegen elkaar aan liggen. Ze pakt de stethoscoop en luistert eerst de vrouw en daarna de kat. Kijkt even opzij door het besneeuwde raam. Na een diepe zucht, staat ze op, pakt een kaars van de vensterbank en zet het op het tafeltje naast het bed. Steekt het aan en verlaat de kamer. 

Marcel R. van der Kwaak

zondag 18 november 2012

Good man down. Ewert and the Two Dragons

You can listen to 'Good man down' here.

A première for WoNo Magazine blog and for me personally as well. I honestly can't remember ever having heard a pop band from Estonia. Not even when I was on holiday in the country some years back. Having heard the neo-classical work by Arvo Pärt with the revolving bell is as far as I go musically on Estonia. So here I am reviewing Good man down by Ewert and the Two Dragons.

The band stems from the Estonian capitol Tallinn and consists not of three, but four members joined live by a three piece brass band. Ewert Sundja sings, accompanied by guitarist Erki Pärnoja, drummer Kristjan Kallas, and bassist Ivo Etti. Since the release of this album in 2011 the band has been gathering up awards in Estonia and beyond ever since, resulting in a world wide deal on a major label.

Ewert and band follow on the path that Mumford and Sons have paved, but are apart enough to be interesting to people not liking the new folkrock scene. I'm reminded of Elliot Smith quite often also during my sojourn into Good man down. A reminiscence I like more than Mumford c.s. Not all is acoustic on Good man down, but to say that it's the basis of the album, is close enough to the truth. Hand claps are in there a lot too making the rhythm of the album more playful. Estonian hit single and the song giving the album its name is a good example of this as the verses are driven by a muted guitar and hand claps the whole way, till the exuberant, but only by comparison, chorus comes along. The mood of the album is just as stated here. It's restrained, a bit down, with shiny bits, but, as said, only by comparison. The overall feel is one of a distant light in the darkness. The clip to the song, worthwhile watching, is all light. Of course filmed at a järv (lake) as every Estonian seems to have his or her own järv. There so many of them!

It's the subtlety of Good man down which wins me over. The little guitar melodies, concert bells, hand claps and sparse keyboards that are interwoven into the rhythm produced by the acoustic and bass guitar with the drums. The up-tempo of 'Jolene' comes just in time, making the album more various in sound. Ewert and the Two Dragons seem to know how to work dynamics in its favour, making the album more interesting and thus better. The songs are more crafted well then spectacularly good, but that is quite all right. They are all worth while listening to and listening to again, as they invite me to put the record on again and get acquainted better with them. In 'Panda', and here it is again, there is a clear influence of The Moody Blues at its soberest. 'Panda' is a plain, but beautiful song, that shines out on Good man down, holding a definitive promise for the future of this band.

There may be a good man down, Ewert and friends are on the up. This album deserves to be heard and liked, even treasured as it may well be one of the better releases of ... 2011. It's never to late to find out about good music.


You can order Good man down here

or here

zaterdag 17 november 2012

De doos van Doe Maar. Doe Maar

You can listen to '32 jaar' here.

I am not going to write about the recently released box containing all of Doe Maar's recordings here at all, as this box does not add anything to my experience with the band over the past 30 something years. For those not familiar with Doe Maar. This band is The Netherlands' most popular band singing in Dutch ever. Although its heyday was between 1982 and 1984 only and in that period during the last year already waning, the craze of (pre)teenage girls for the then already 30something band members let to the band's demise as well as its eternal fame. Once people were able to look beyond the teenage tears and screams a collection of great songs became apparent. In 2012 Doe Maar is into its third reunion cycle and still attracting so many people it fills whole stadiums with them. I'm just thinking that the band, now well into its sixties, is really enjoying itself and may just start recording a new album in 2013, to follow up on 2000's 'Klaar'.

My personal experience started with a single around 1979. The almost ballad 'Ik zou het willen doen' was sort of o.k. but not the sort of music I fancied at the time. This became somewhat different with '32 jaar (sinds een dag of twee)' and 'Smoorverliefd' in 1981. The music was reggae infused with clear pop and a little rock flavour. Not unlike many other bands of the period. The Police, early Joe Jackson, The Specials and Madness. The two songs became radio staples at the time (and to this day) and '32 jaar' a small hit. Through the cover of 'Skunk', the second LP, pink and green later became Doe Maar colours.

It was in the summer of 1981 I got to see them play live as a bonus as they supported Dexys Midnight Runners (read on Dexys here) at a live show in Brouwershaven organised by Dutch national radio station VARA. Doe Maar stood out as they played good, with loads of enthusiasm and added different songs to what I usually listened to. Enough for me to buy 'Skunk', the second album, straight away. 'Nix voor jou' is still playing in my head regularly and was a major favourite in my college days, finding our way home in the middle of the night, waking up people singing "Early morning and I'm looking for my socks' as loud as we could. (I apologise here and now for having loads of fun.) The addition of Joost Belinfante at the concert playing trombone and what not obviously added to the quality and diversity of the show. Doe Maar moved and made us move. And no little girls in sight anywhere.

1982 brought 'Doris Day en andere stukken'. Again a great album which I play to this day. Next to the two hitsingles 'Doris Day' and 'Is dit alles', songs like 'Belle Hélène', 'Radeloos', 'Okee' and 'Liever dan lief' are just great songs. No doubt about it. For the band that year somewhere things took a wrong turn as they never aimed at such a young audience and fans. Perhaps at first it was fun, but things went wrong publicly and privately.

1983 came with the first number 1 hitsingle 'De bom'. Fantastically insync with the time of anti bomb and anti-nuclear mass protest. '4us' was an album I did not particularly like, although it contained Doe Maar's second #1 'Pa'. A song like 'Je loopt je lul achterna' was not exactly what 13 year olds could relate to, nor what their parents wanted their kids to hear. Cynical and harsh was where Singer/Bassist Henny Vrienten was at at the time. The same goes for the anti-heroin song 'Heroin' and '1 nacht alleen'. 1984 single 'Macho' was a fairly weak song and I was not surprised that the band called it quits soon after. Doe Maar was over and finished, only two years into real fame. Burned up and spent, the way all teenage idols end after a few years. Put aside ashamed by then 15 year old girls and no one else wants to be associated with them. Still, I noticed that they had real fans during my college years, in the second half of the 80ties, as we were reminded time and again that a lot of Doe Maar's songs had a quality that would stand time.

And then it happened from late 1999 onwards, when Doe Maar announced the come back tour. One show in Ahoy became 16 shows and a great album, that almost nonchalantly made clear to us all what we had missed in the 16 years in between, had the band just taken a rest. 18 fantastic songs at a high level of quality were offered on 'Klaar'. In 2008 and 2012 Doe Maar filled stadiums and now they appear to go on an extended club tour in 2013.

Everything is now available in one box. Pop, reggae, ballads, a little rock and new wave and great, great songs. Doe Maar is one of Holland's best bands ever. There's no denying this fact in 2012.


You can order 'De doos van Doe Maar' here

or here

vrijdag 16 november 2012

Death of a decade. Ha Ha Tonka

You can listen to 'Usual suspects' here.

And once again the Q-Bus in Leiden managed to present a band that I had never heard of and came home a fan and very curious what the band would sound like on record. Where the show was surprising and with loads of variations in songs, the album just totally does justice to the live performance of the Ha Ha Tonka. Death of a decade holds all the elements, excluding the exceptional four piece a-capella singing the band is just plain sensationally good at.

Listening to Death of a decade my first impression is REM. The band starts off from 'Losing my religion'. The way the mandolin comes to the prominent position in several songs, there's no mistaking this influence. The second influence I hear is Mumford & Sons, although the question could be who came first?, but I'm not familiar with Ha Ha Tonka's previous efforts, 2007's 'Buckle in the bible belt' and 'Novel sounds of the nouveau south (2009), so can't judge on this question. Beyond that a whole bucket of influences come by perhaps starting with the early Jefferson Airplane and The Byrds, e.g. in 'Jesusita' and all that learned from them after.

Having said that, there is more than enough Ha Ha Tonka to justify the comment that the band has its own signature sound. The rough-edged voice of Brain Roberts is the first indicator. The voice is warm and harsh at the same time, with loads of expression which stands out compared to many other bands. The harmonies from high to very low fills several gaps making songs decidedly more interesting than they otherwise would have been.

Another thing that catches the eye immediately is the band name. Not exactly your everyday one. It has nothing to do with Roald Dahl's Willy Wonka, but everything with a statepark in Missouri and is supposed to mean "laughing waters". Do not get fooled by the name, as the band is into some serious music and into finding ways to express itself beyond the obvious. This quest leads to at least 50% of the album being outstanding and the rest certainly above average.

The switching between mandolin and electric guitar as lead instrument gives Ha Ha Tonka also a distinct sound. Although not unique, Brett Anderson's playing is different from most guitarists in a folkrock band. Something which is live more apparent than on Death of a decade as the band rocks out live a bit more in several songs.

And what struck me most is how much the sparkling opening track 'Usual suspects' brought my favourite Rod Stewart track 'Maggie May' to mind. Not that they are so much alike, but in feel and that is meant as a great compliment. Death of a decade deserves more interest than it has received in The Netherlands so far and as far as I'm concerned far beyond. Ha Ha Tonka may be a band to watch as they convince on stage as well as on record. And as this decade is far from over, take your chance, says,


You can order Death of a decade here

or here

woensdag 14 november 2012

Coexist. The XX (2)

You can listen to 'Angels' here.

Na de recensie van Wo. (klik hier) volgt nu de recensie van Erwin Zijleman.

xx, het debuut van de Schotse band The xx, verscheen precies drie jaar geleden en wordt inmiddels gerekend tot de meest sprankelende, avontuurlijke en belangrijke debuten van de laatste jaren. Het debuut van The xx werd vooral vergeleken met een ander debuut dat al vele jaren in de boeken staat als bijzonder memorabel; het uit 1980 stammende Colossal Youth van Young Marble Giants. Young Marble Giants wist haar droomdebuut helaas nooit een vervolg te geven en ook The xx bezweek de afgelopen jaren bijna onder de druk. De band is gelukkig uit de diepe dalen geklommen en levert nu haar tweede plaat af. Ik zal er niet omheen draaien: Coexist is als je het mij vraagt net zo indrukwekkend als het debuut. Dat is een mening die zeker niet door iedereen gedeeld zal worden, want een band die na een sensationeel debuut gewoon verder gaat op de ingeslagen weg hoeft niet op de sympathie van de critici te rekenen. Coexist is zeker geen kopie van het zo bejubelde debuut, maar ligt absoluut in het verlengde van zijn voorganger. Net als op xx domineren op Coexist de bijna minimalistische songs vol toverkracht. Hier en daar klinkt Coexist net wat elektronischer dan het debuut van The xx, maar de meeste songs op de plaat hadden net zo makkelijk op het debuut kunnen staan. Is dat erg? Nee, wat mij betreft niet. The xx maakt immers nog altijd unieke muziek en bovendien muziek van een bijna surrealistische schoonheid. Het merendeel van de songs sleept zich in een uiterst traag tempo voort en valt op door de bijzonder sobere maar bijzonder trefzekere instrumentatie. The xx denkt na over iedere noot en Coexist bevat hierdoor geen noot teveel. De minimalistische en vaak spitsvondige instrumentatie wordt ook op Coexist weer gecombineerd met de lome, soms bijna verveelde, maar ook emotievolle vocalen van Romey Madley Croft en Oliver Sim. Hier en daar experimenteert The xx voorzichtig met beats, maar de band maakt nog altijd muziek die het vooral van de sfeer moet hebben. Iedereen die op Coexist nieuwe wegen zoekt komt bedrogen uit, maar een ieder die zo langzamerhand wel toe was aan meer muziek van The xx, krijgt met Coexist een hele mooie en betoverende plaat in handen. Natuurlijk ontbreekt de pure verbazing waarmee het debuut drie jaar geleden werd onthaald, maar zet je hier over heen en je hoort dat The xx de afgelopen jaren alleen maar is gegroeid, waardoor het geluid van de band is vervolmaakt. Coexist borduurt misschien voort op het debuut van de band, maar is ook subtieler en verfijnder. Ondanks het feit dat de zon nog altijd lekker schijnt omringt Coexist me met ondoordringbare wolken nevel en klanken die me steeds dierbaarder worden. Coexist is net als zijn voorganger een groeiplaat die steeds nieuwe dingen laat horen en is volgens mij in staat om te groeien tot ongekende hoogten. Ik lees nogal wat teleurgestelde reacties op de plaat en daar begrijp ik helemaal niets van. Wat drie jaar geleden uniek en betoverend was kan niet opeens gewoontjes en slaapverwekkend zijn. The xx heeft de receptuur van haar muziek niet veranderd, maar waarom zouden ze? Coexist is echt een prachtplaat die een onbevooroordeeld oordeel verdient. Grote kans dat je hierna net zo in de wolken bent als ik.

Erwin Zijleman

dinsdag 13 november 2012

Collider. Moke

You can listen to 'Burning the ground' here.

If something stands out before I've even played Collider, then it's the cover design. It seems to have become quite popular to have a design like this in 2012. My hopes weren't very high when I heard about a new Moke album to be released. In the interviews around the band's previous album 'The long and dangerous sea' were mostly on how stylish the band is, the suits they pressed themselves, blah, blah, blah. Quite rightly so, because the music totally bored me and after giving the album a second chance, I put it away for ever. Hearing the single 'Burning the ground' at Giel Beelen on 3FM one morning, I pricked up my ears. Yes, this is a great Polderbritpop song, like Moke should be making. With all these little extras. Even an 80s Howard Jones like keyboard sound, which just works beautifully in 'Burning the ground'. It has a great chorus, breaths in the verses and has this tension just begging to explode. In other words: I wanted to hear more!

The first time I heard Felix Maginn sing was somewhere in the 90ties in the LVC in Leiden, where his band Supersub, with JB Meyers on guitar, played as least as good as Dodgy, the band Supersub supported. Maginn got a second chance, with Phil Tilly, ex-guitarist of Tröckener Kecks at his side. Moke released its first album in 2007, Shorland, which I liked for about 50%. Collider fares better with me. Moke seems to have let a slightly more poppier influence into its music, that gives it just a little extra. Songs flow more easily, have more melody and are easier to sing along to. Take the intro to 'I've got silence you've got sound'. It makes me smile instantly. It's the sort of sound that makes me feel happy and most of the rest of the song does the same.

'Didn't want my love' is a hard working rock song. Guitarist Phil Tilly puts his stamp all over the song, with fast played storms, subtle as well as double tracked furious lead lines. There are several sounds to discover here. 'Straight' to you' reminds me of the best Robbie Williams has to offer, without the bombastics he likes to put into most songs. By the time 'Lessons to learn' comes by it's clear to me that Collider is more than just the new Moke album. Without being absolute top material, the band has come up with a Britpop album that can compete with most releases of the genre of the past years.

Whether true or not, I'm under the impression that Moke worked one step harder to perfect the material or were challenged more to make it more special. And then all comes together. Producer Gordon Groothedde worked with Nick & Simon, for which the other half of Holland fell for like a brick. (The other half, because I personally do not know anybody claiming to be a fan.) He injected an element of pop into Moke that makes Collider an outstanding album in its own right. Seems like a right choice to me.


You can order Collider here

or here

maandag 12 november 2012




La futura. ZZ Top

You can listen to 'Chartreuse' here.

A new album from the band in which the only man with the name Beard does not have one. Being around for some forty odd years and having released 14 studio albums, ZZ Top decided to grind it down and come up with some real, real dirty bluesrock on their 15th and first in nine years. If I'm honest they totally surpassed everything I ever expected. The only ZZ Top song I really, really like, is 'Tush' and to some lesser extent the three hits everybody knows from 1983's 'Eliminator' album. And now all of a sudden an album that I've listened through as a whole without any trouble and liking it. I'm really enjoying myself with La futura.

This album is a band on a mission. Coming up with the fattest groove, the dirtiest riff, deep down and in the gut. ZZ Top aims for where it came from: blues rock in its purest form and nothing aimed at the charts or pleasing anyone beyond the people who totally dig the music in this niche of the recording industry. And those are serviced beyond expectation. Bands like Dirty Sweet and The Imperial Crowns can only hope to ever aspire to these hights. Of course, the 29 years between 'Gimme all your loving' and La futura wore Billy Gibbons' voice totally out. Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, we're into that territory. Sand paper of the roughest kind, perhaps even a steel brush, seems to have worked over Gibbons' vocal chords. The roughness of the sound and voice blend. It's this simple.

The tight and in the right places extremely groovy rhythm section, Frank Beard on drums and Dusty Hill on bass, is fantastic on La futura. 'Chartreuse', which comes close to 'Tush', has this rhythm that if played right resembles horse riding to my mind. Galloping must be like this. Chartreuse is a horrible drink, but the song has a groove in all the right places and a great ascending progression that keeps continuing where all others stop. And than a slide solo kicks in. I just love it.

As such everything sounds very familiar. The fun is in the small details that ZZ Top found to fill the songs with to make them stand out and shine. It could be an unexpected break, a one note lick, an added sound or an extra guitar. La futura is full of these little pieces of ear candy. The diversity in places, like the ballads 'Over you' and 'It's too easy, mañana', give the album that little extra, also by adding piano, organ and keyboards. The mouth harp in 'Heartache in blue' is another example. Perhaps my favourite song of the album.

It seems like that producer Rick Rubin did it again. Take an icon and make it totally focussed on what they're good at. This effort led to an album which may just be ZZ Top's best to date. For me it definitely is. Being around for 43 years there may not be to much futura for ZZ Top, but Beard, Gibbons and Hill came up with something deep down and dirty, baby!


You can order La futura here

or here

zaterdag 10 november 2012

Roxy Music - The Complete Studio Recordings (box-set)

You can listen to 'Love is the drug' here.

In the past months we have looked at each individual by Roxy Music. Erwin Zijleman took us through all nine albums one at a time. Yours truly did live album 'Viva!' To end all the fun, here's Erwin's introduction to the box set, where he started off with on his own blog. WoNo Magazine's blog post stops the series with this interesting overview.

Het is dit jaar precies 40 jaar geleden dat het legendarische debuut van Roxy Music verscheen. Het is de aanleiding voor de release van de in stemmig zwart uitgevoerde box-set The Complete Studio Recordings. De acht studioplaten die de band gedurende haar bestaan uitbracht heb ik allemaal op LP in de kast staan, maar met uitzondering van Avalon, de zwanenzang van de band uit 1982, had ik ze al heel lang niet meer gehoord. Ik had eerlijk gezegd niet verwacht dat The Complete Studio Recordings razendsnel uit zou groeien tot een ware schatkist, maar de platen in de box (allemaal uitgevoerd als fraai digi-pack), blijven me maar verbazen met muziek die zijn tijd heel ver vooruit was en enorm veel invloed heeft gehad op de popmuziek van de afgelopen 30 jaar. De komende week wil ik daarom uitgebreid stil staan bij deze fraaie release, die overigens voor een bijzonder gunstige prijs in de winkel ligt. Vandaag besteed ik aandacht aan de geschiedenis van Roxy Music en beschrijf ik kort de inhoud van de box. Later deze week ga ik uitvoeriger in op de eerste vijf studioplaten van de band, waarna in een tweede artikel de laatste drie platen plus het bonusmateriaal aan bod komen.
Laat ik beginnen met de geschiedenis van de band. Roxy Music werd in 1971 opgericht door zanger Bryan Ferry en bassist Graham Simpson. In het eerste jaar zag Bryan Ferry de nodige muzikanten komen en gaan (onder wie medeoprichter Simpson, die nog wel op het debuut te horen zou zijn), maar in 1972 kreeg de band een min of meer vaste samenstelling bestaande uit zanger Bryan Ferry, gitarist Phil Manzanera, saxofonist Andy MacKay,  drummer Paul Thompson en toetsenist Brian Eno. Het leverde in 1972 een titelloos debuut op dat inmiddels in de boeken staat als een van de meest legendarische debuten uit de geschiedenis van de popmuziek. Op haar debuut maakt Roxy Music muziek die tot dat moment nog niet gemaakt was. Roxy Music (1972) laat een opvallende mix van pop, art-rock, glamrock en avant garde horen, waarin de glamoureuze Bryan Ferry continu de strijd aan gaat met de excentrieke Brian Eno, die de naar popmuziek refererende songs van Bryan Ferry voorziet van eigenzinnige elektronische accenten. Het bijzondere gitaarspel van Phil Manzanera en de warme saxofoon klanken van Andy Mackay completeren het unieke geluid van de band. Het is een geluid dat een onuitwisbare invloed zou hebben op talloze bands die in de jaren 70, 80 en 90 doorbraken naar een groot publiek. Het debuut van de band werd binnen een jaar gevolgd door het nog veel indrukwekkendere For Your Pleasure. De plaat met wederom een fotomodel op de hoes zou de laatste plaat zijn met Brian Eno, maar op For Your Pleasure tillen Eno en Ferry elkaar nog naar grote hoogten. For Your Pleasure ligt in het verlengde van het debuut, maar laat op alle terreinen groei horen. Het is volgens velen de beste plaat van de band en daar valt wel wat voor te zeggen. Op het eveneens in 1973 verschenen Stranded is Brian Eno vervangen door toetsenist en violist Eddie Jobson (die later vorm zou geven aan de band U.K.) en is vergeleken met de eerste twee platen een veel toegankelijker geluid te horen. Toch is Stranded, waarop Roxy Music hoorbaar zoekende is, een sterke plaat die niet al teveel onder doet voor de eerste twee platen van de band. Op het in 1974 verschenen Country Life steekt Roxy Music weer in een blakende vorm. De plaat, die ook flink wat stof deed opwaaien vanwege de hoes, ligt in het verlengde van Stranded en laat het inmiddels uit duizenden herkenbare Roxy Music geluid horen. De band schrijft ten tijde van Country Life haar beste songs, waardoor ook de vierde plaat van Roxy Music moet worden gerekend tot het beste dat de band gemaakt heeft. Dat geldt op zich ook voor het in 1975 verschenen Siren; een plaat waarop Bryan Ferry een succesvolle greep naar de macht doet, wat resulteert in een wat meer pop georiënteerde plaat met geweldige songs. Siren wordt in 1976 gevolgd door de fascinerende live-plaat Viva!, de enige live-plaat van de band die niet had misstaan in dit boxje, maar vervolgens raakt de klad er wat in.  De volgende studioplaat van Roxy Music verschijnt pas in 1979 en wordt neergesabeld door de critici. Manifesto klinkt als een studioplaat van Bryan Ferry en flirt opzichtig met invloeden uit de disco. Ik was zelf nooit onder de indruk van Manifesto, maar vind de plaat bij de nieuwe kennismaking helemaal niet zo slecht, al is de plaat een stuk minder dan zijn vijf voorgangers. Het in 1980 verschenen Flesh & Blood wordt gezien als de zwakste Roxy Music plaat, maar zelf heb ik altijd een zwak gehad voor de plaat met soulvolle en radiovriendelijke popmuziek. Het in 1982 verschenen Avalon wordt juist weer gerekend tot de sterkste platen van de band en dat is niet onterecht. Avalon is een prachtige sfeervolle plaat met stemmige muziek en ijzersterke songs. Het is een plaat die zeer deed uitzien naar een opvolger, maar die zou helaas nooit verschijnen, waarmee na slechts tien jaar een eind kwam aan het studio oeuvre van Roxy Music. The Complete Studio Recordings bevat als bonus nog twee cd’s met fraaie extra’s waaronder singles, B kantjes en alternatieve mixen. The Complete Studio Recordings van Roxy Music is een mooi compact boxje vol grootse muziek. Het studio oeuvre van Roxy Music bevat minimaal 5 meesterwerken, waardoor het werk van de band eigenlijk in geen enkele platenkast mag ontbreken. De afgelopen decennia was het werk van de band niet heel ruim voorradig op cd, maar met The Complete Studio Recordings haal je de schade in een keer in en doe je dit ook nog eens voor een hele gunstige prijs. Ik kan het iedere muziekliefhebber van harte aanbevelen. Nog even wachten op de uitgebreide recensies van de platen in de box kan natuurlijk ook. Deze staan later deze week online.

Erwin Zijleman

You can order The complete studio recordings here


Als jongetje van een jaar of drie, vier zat ik op regenachtige dagen al vaak urenlang voor de radio. Ik wist al heel jong hoe ik het apparaat moest bedienen en hoe ik op die enorme afstemschaal mijn favoriete muziek kon vinden. Dankzij FM, middengolf, lange golf èn korte golf kon ik muziek horen van over de hele wereld. Popmuziek was nog maar in opkomst en Hilversum 3 bestond nog niet. Muziek was muziek. Ik vond het allemaal mooi, vooral oosterse muziek en romantiek (zeg maar klassiek van de eind 19e en begin 20e eeuw. Met mijn vingers op de afstemknop 'surfte' ik de wereld over. Ik vond het fantastisch om radio te luisteren en 'later, als ik groot ben' zou ik bij de radio gaan werken. Maar het kon ook zijn dat ik timmerman zou worden.

Timmerman ben ik nooit geworden. Radiomaker wel. Sinds ruim drie jaar verzorg ik maandelijks een uur radio voor de Concertzender. In het programma Kairos breng ik mijn liefde voor muziek, mijn liefde voor taal en de kracht van stilte en meditatie bij elkaar. Omdat ik bij de redactie 'nieuwe muziek' zit, gebruik ik voornamelijk twintigste- en eenentwintigste-eeuwse muziek, maar ik smokkel er van alles tussen.

Kairos is een oud-Grieks woord dat zoiets betekent als 'de stilstaande tijd'. Dit in tegenstelling tot 'kronos', de voortrazende tijd, de tijd die tussen je vingers doorglipt. Kairos ontstaat volgens de oude Grieken in het korte moment, vlak voordat er gehandeld moet worden. Een fractie van een seconde, waarin je alles nog een rustig kunt bekijken, alvorens tot actie over te gaan. Oosterse vechtsporters werken hier veel mee. Ze brengen zichzelf in een speciale staat van concentratie, waardoor ze hun tijdsbeleving kunnen vertragen en hun tegenstander als het ware in slow motion zien bewegen. Alle tijd om de situatie rustig te overzien en dan weloverwogen tot handelen over te gaan. Dit gevoel van de stilstaande tijd kan ook worden opgeroepen door meditatie. Ik vind het een heerlijk gevoel. Ik ervaar het zelf als het gevoel dat ik als kind had midden in de grote schoolvakantie: al drie weken vakantie achter de rug en nog drie weken te gaan. niets hoeft nu. Niets hoeft. Volkomen vrij. Los van de tijd. Dit gevoel proberen we met Kairos op te roepen bij de luisteraars. Een moment aan het eind van de dag om stil te staan bij wat je bezighoudt. Niet nadenken, niet proberen te begrijpen, maar stil staan bij wat er is. Om daarna weer verder te kunnen of lekker in slaap te vallen.

'We', dat zijn Erna Speek, die de gedichten en gedichtjes schrijft, Marcel R. van der Kwaak, welbekend van WoNo, die de verhalen schrijft en ik, die de muziek en de techniek voor mijn rekening neem. En niet te vergeten de presentatoren van de afdeling Presentatie van de Concertzender, die het helemaal af maken.

Luister eens een keer en laat weten wat je ervan vindt. www.concertzender.nl. Kairos wordt 'live' uitgezonden op de eerste donderdag van de maand om 23.00 u. Daarna is het onbeperkt terug te luisteren.

Wino Penris

donderdag 8 november 2012

Avalon (and some goodies). Roxy Music

In 1972 Roxy Music released its first album. In a box set all Roxy Music's studio albums are re-released with some extra goodies. Today Erwin Zijleman talks us through the last studio album the band released, which turned out to be commercially one of its most successful albums, Avalon.

You can listen to 'Avalon' here.

De band deed dit in 1982 met het destijds uitstekend ontvangen Avalon. Avalon wordt inmiddels geschaard onder de beste platen van Roxy Music en daar is wel iets voor te zeggen. In muzikaal opzicht staat Avalon veel dichter bij Manifesto en Flesh & Blood dan bij de eerste vijf platen van de band, maar de plaat is wel een stuk interessanter dan zijn voorgangers. Het toegankelijkere geluid dat Roxy Music aan het eind van de jaren 70 ontwikkelde, is op Avalon getransformeerd in een stemmig en avontuurlijker geluid, waarin er weer meer ruimte is voor de andere leden van de band (het gitaarwerk van Phil Manzanera is schitterend en ook de sax-bijdragen van Andy Mackay mogen er zijn). De singles More Than This, Avalon en Take A Chance With Me zijn de songs die ten tijde van de release de meeste aandacht trokken en zijn ook de tracks die achteraf bezien het meest memorabel zijn, maar het zijn de andere tracks van Avalon die in creatief opzicht het meest interessant zijn. Avalon is met zijn volle en wat galmende geluid een typische jaren 80 plaat, maar het is een jaren 80 plaat die nog maar heel weinig van zijn glans heeft verloren, wat dertig jaar na dato een prestatie van formaat is. Wat tenslotte opvalt is de bijzonder fraaie productie van Rhett Davies; een inspiratiebron voor vele platen die zouden volgen.

Avalon bleek uiteindelijk de zwanenzang van Roxy Music. De band kwam nog vele malen bij elkaar en maakte veel indruk op het podium (het beste optreden dat ik van de band heb gezien stamt uit haar nadagen), maar dit leverde slechts live-platen op. Avalon is gelukkig niet het slotakkoord van The Complete Studio Recordings. In een gouden hoesje vinden we nog twee bonus discs met singles (waaronder een aantal die niet op de reguliere platen stonden), b-kantjes en alternatieve mixen. Het is niet allemaal even interessant, maar alleen de single versies van Virginia Plain, Pyjamarama en Jealous Guy (John Lennon cover) maken de twee extra schijfjes al de moeite waard. Een ieder die de moeite neemt voor de B-kantjes hoort dat Roxy Music hierin nog een stuk avontuurlijker klinkt en dat met name Phil Manzanera en Andy Mackay op deze B-kantjes meer ruimte krijgen. Op de twee bonus-discs blijft het wat zoeken naar de echte parels, maar alles bij elkaar genomen is het de kers op een bijzonder smakelijke taart, die goed laat proeven hoe belangrijk Roxy Music de afgelopen decennia is geweest. 

Erwin Zijleman

You can order Avalon here

or here