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Hi, you're in the Archives, August 2005 - Part 2
       
   
August 2005 - part 1 <--- August 2005 - part 2 ---> September 2005 - part 1
 

August 31, 2005


CONCERT REVIEW - THE HAMSTERS
Half Moon, Putney, London, 27th August 2005 
by Nick Morgan
We decided to give the Hamsters another try. You may remember they are “The Uk’s best rock and Blues band (probably)” but failed to impress greatly in the rain at Cropredy. They also claim to have been “Voted the UK's best blues-rock band, and the leading interpreters of the music of Jimi Hendrix and ZZ Top!”. Well tonight they are in ZZ Top and Hendrix mode at the delightful Half Moon in Putney.
It’s a friendly, crowded, sweaty, small room at the back of a traditional pub that serves traditional warm beer – if you’re ever in London I seriously recommend a visit. My son’s in town, and as he’s recently gone through a charming and very pleasing transition from something called ‘Nu Metal’ (yes – no Rammstein in the car on the way to our B&B hell in Wales later today) to a diverse range of the new (the Magic Numbers seem to be a current favourite) and the old (“Hey dad, did you ever hear of a band called Deep Purple?”). So in the spirit of furthering his education we’re here for the Hamsters part two.
Perhaps not surprisingly what didn’t work in a huge field goes down much better in a confined space. And I learn that the Hamsters take their role as ‘interpreters’ quite seriously – so this isn’t a tribute band pastiche or parody, it’s respectful, soulful and from the heart. And I’m reminded of the phrase that went something like ‘those who can do, those who can’t, teach’ – because the Hamster’s own material really is pretty weak – and as far as I can tell we’re spared most of it tonight. But maybe it’s a good thing that someone’s around to occasionally remind us what this great stuff ‘might have’ (that lazy historian’s stand-by when facts are short) sounded like in the flesh.
We get loads of ZZ Top – a band about whom I know almost nothing, apart from the beards and the girl in the impossibly tight hotpants. But some of their tunes seem decent enough, and I learn that they wrote ‘TV dinners’, performed nicely by the late Robert Palmer on his last very good album Drive.
I’m in much safer territory on Hendrix, ‘Fire’, ‘Hey Joe’, ‘Purple haze’, ‘Isabella’, ‘The wind cries for Mary’, ‘Foxy lady’, ‘Voodoo child’ (or is it ‘chile’?) et. al. My son is transfixed, and I’m slightly worried that he’s trying to do that Northern European ‘remembering the riffs’ thing – but then he’s not the only bloke in the audience with that look on his face. The Hamsters give it all they’ve got, and bewilderingly all leave the stage during the last (ZZ Top) number and return from the audience playing each other’s instruments. Apparently this is called ‘Entertainment’ – the audience love it.
So everyone leaves feeling pretty good about themselves, and in a week when there’s been a typical amount of nonsense talked in the Press about the state of education in the country today etc. (well, it’s August and there isn’t much else going on, apart from the cricket that is) I’m left pondering a crucial gap in today’s curriculum. Shouldn’t there be a compulsory course in pub-back-room rhythm and blues?
A note on photography: The Photographer had to pull out of the gig at the last minute, ‘though enjoyed the Hendrix highlights via the Nokia. So I was left with the camera, standing behind a German photographer (apparently the Hamsters are big in Germany) who I was trying to copy. That’s my excuse, and I’m sticking to it. - Nick Morgan (photos by Nick)
Thanks so much, Nick. Whether willingly or not, it seems that you're adding some new pages to The History of Modern Photography, and after your 'blue period' (Nick Cave), I must say that your red one is very promising as well. And we love that (probably deaf) hamster on the amplifier on your first picture! ZZ Top? Maybe it's music for Joe Six-Pack but I remember when 'Tres Hombres' and 'Rio Grande Mud' came out in France, we quite liked these records (I seem to recall it was labeled as 'hard boogie'). As for these good Hamsters, yes, I have to go and listen to them with Arthur one day (as you know, it's not Rammstein but Coldplay - even worse?) but good news, he's already a Jimi Hendrix convert. Speaking of whom, here's The Hamsters doing All along the watchtower.mp3 (live). Btw, loved also the Hamsters' albums: 'Pet Sound', 'Route 666', 'Electric Hamsterland'... Lol!

TASTING - TWO MISSION CLYNELISHES

Clynelish 30 yo 1972/2002 (46%, Murray McDavid Mission I) Similar to most 1972 Clynelishes, which means extremely good. The nose is very waxy, with bunches of tropical fruits and also fresh ‘Northern’ white fruits. Very clean. Mouth: the attack is a bit tannic but not too much, with lots of icing sugar, fructose, and then, again, lots of various fruits (mango, guava, melon, pineapple, quince jelly etc.). An excellent one indeed, that offers much pleasure. 90 points.

Clynelish 28 yo 1976/2004 (46%, Murray McDavid Mission IV) Nose: some nice sherry notes right at the start, that do not mask Clynelish’s character, though: wax, tropical fruits again, oranges… It's just slightly sulphury but nothing excessive. Mouth: again, bunches of tropical fruits mixed with a nice sherry. Notes of Xmas cake, raisins… A very nice balance and quite some oomph in this one. A very nice one again, getting perhaps just a tad too dry, but the usual cleanliness, fruitiness and waxiness are well here. Much quaffable. 89 points.
 

August 30, 2005


CONCERT REVIEW - JOSEPHINE FOSTER/ESPERS/DEVENDRA BANHART
Concorde 2, Brighton UK, 9th August 2005 
by Dave Broom
Where’s that sound coming from? That high keening sound? The one that’s making me shiver. Her? Are her lips moving? God it’s hot. Not perhaps the best night to be at a sold-out gig inside a club whose idea of air conditioning is to open a side door to let more humid air in. But hey, it’s folk music, right? This’ll be back to the days of the floor-sitting, head-nodding, funny cigarette smoking days of the 70s. Not like we’ll be dancing! As I said this is folk. I’ve even grown my beard a little longer to generate extra stroking potential ... and I’ve got sandals on. The Hawaiian shirt is, in retrospect a sartorial error.
The top billing is Devendra Banhart, the new leader of this loosely- affiliated movement that’s seen folk raising its profile -- as it does every few years. The music is lo-fi, quiet, floorboard-creakingly intimate. He’s brought along two support acts and that’s the sound is coming from the first of them, Josephine Foster.
It’s a wail, a melancholy cry .. and then the words come, in an mannered accent which seems like ancient English. You know these songs but have never heard them before. It is music so ancient that it seems part of you. If she was alive living in the 17th century she’d have been tied to a stake the moment she started to sing.
The guitar playing is rudimentary. She plays as if she’s just learned the first chords. Her strange narratives float and settle over the crowd. Conversation stops. This is folk, but not folk. This is new folk, underground folk, acid folk, call it what you want. It’s the sound of bands recording in the woods, tapping into the old stories because they’ve realised that they are the bloodiest, strangest songs of all.
She sings so quietly yet has silenced this boisterous, hot, crowd. No-one is sitting down. Instead at the end of every song people look at one another and shudder as if they’re coming out of a dream. It’s opium folk.
She slips off. We refresh the inner being with beer. The stage crowds up with guitars, keyboards, a drum kit and .. a cello? Now there’s an instrument you don’t often see wielded in anger these days. Right enough, Joanna Newsom plays the harp and she’s even odder than Josephine Foster, singing in some demented child’s voice. But she's not playing, this is Espers. I’ve heard them before. Their music is .. you guessed .. quiet. It’s layered and textured, tight harmonies. Someone says Pentangle, someone else offers Jefferson Airplane. Neither are a good frame of reference for me. They start. The talking continues. The number ends. A smatter of applause. They start another song. It’s even quieter. The talking gets louder. The spell has gone.
Joanna Newsom
What I can hear is every bit as good as the records (which are nothing like Pentangle or the bloody Airplane) but they’ve lost the crowd. The cello is good the loudest thing on stage. They leave. I suspect they’ve cut it short. We have more beer.
By now I’m fearing for Devendra. I mean, his albums consist of him and a guitar with occasional, minimal backing. You can hear the dust in the room settling. His odd, funny, sad, surreal songs seem to appear out of thin air, improvised on the spot. On his last tour he sat cross legged on a platform on the stage. I look around. No-one is sitting down, beards have remained unstroked, there are precious few sandals. Only the perfume of exotic cigarettes gives some hint of this being the type of gig I’m expecting, but to be honest you get that smell at every gig in Brighton, even string quartets in the pavilion. He’ll be murdered by this lot.
The stage fills again. There’s a man wearing towels on his head. "I’m a gnome!” he shouts. A boiled gnome. Another (bearded) wearing a kaftan. Another (bearded) stage right and a tall skinny (also bearded) one in the middle. There’s lot of beards. Right enough, he’s got a song about a beard. There’s also lot of hair. There also appears to be blusher and mascara. There are also, if my sweat-filled eyes do not deceive me, electric guitars.
“These are the Hairy Fairies,” says the one with the biggest blackest beard and makeup. That makes him Devendra. They kick off by sitting on stools and singing in Spanish and then plug in. His shirt comes off. It’s rock n roll! The whole gig teeters on the edge of disaster as he gets an audience member to come up and sing a song, then follows it with a cod reggae one. Never a good idea the cod reggae. Then just as the vaudeville threatens to kill everything he rescues it: by the musicianship, good humour, talent ... and the songs.

Ah yes, the songs: he mashes together a number by Lauren Hill with one penned by Charles Manson, there’s songs about bestiality (a pig, if you’re interested), a psychedelic squid (that goes down very well here) there’s hermaphrodites and bald men wanting their children to be hairy so they can be warm in winter. This is folk? It might be, but it’s also glam rock cut with disco. He’s always had the voice of Bolan but now it’s plugged-in Bolan. Then it hits me.. the Hairy fairies are the new Spirit, he’s Randy California, the kid who could do anything. He can switch from disco to glam to acoustic, English to Spanish, subject to subject because ... hell.. because he can. At this moment in his life, songs are flowing from him as naturally as speaking. The audience is pogoing, shouting. I wonder who will be the first to cry “Judas!” but we’re all grown up now. The lights come on, the band play on. Witches, beards and hairy fairies. Welcome to the new weird. - Dave Broom (Devendra Banhart photo Steve Gullick, others X)

Thank you very much Dave, and welcome to Captain Nick's Mighty Squad of Reviewers. Let me just remind you that we have no budget left for beers (since Cropredy, it appears to me that a gig with no beer isn't a gig in the UK) but maybe Nick can lend the Whiskyfun jet to you from time to time (last time I checked, there was some Brora left in the bar - if you can't find it just ask Natacha, the hostess). As for these artists, I knew Banahrt and I like his music (I did post something in September 2004, the mp3s are still working it appears) but the others were unknown to me. It's true that these weird new voices are something, well, weird (CocoRosie and the likes). Anyway, here are a few tracks I could find: Leader Soldier.mp3 (Josephine Foster w/ David Pajo on drums, demo track) - Sadie.mp3 (Joanna Newsom) - This beard is for Sibohan.mp3 (Devendra Banhart - beards indeed). Next review: The Hamsters by Nick (right tomorrow).

TASTING – TWO INDIE BLADNOCHS

Bladnoch 14 yo 1990/2004 (51.7%, Signatory Straight from the Cask, cask #962, 248 bottles) Colour: white wine. Nose: very yeasty at first nosing. Something of baby vomit – a nice baby, that is. Mashed potatoes, hot milk, ‘natural’ yoghurt, porridge… It then gets rather citrusy, with some notes of lemon skin and also a little pineapple juice. But the yeasty notes rule. Mouth: this is better. Nice attack, on liquorice and herbs, with something winey (but it’s a bourbon cask). A little sugary, with some orange liqueur, lemon pie. Very compact and ‘coherent’ but rather simple. Some bold notes of grapefruit at the finish. In short, no serious flaws but nothing too special either. 80 points for its ‘compactness’.

Bladnoch 1987/2000 (59.3%, Scott’s Selection) Colour: white wine. Nose: I liked the SFTC’s better, I must say. The Scott’s has lots of ginger ale, vodka, lemon juice. Almost pungent but not really violent. A little simple, developing a bit on mash, beer, and some very heavy grainy notes. Not too bad but lacking depth. Mono-dimensional. Mouth: sweet and almost Sugarish, getting quite nicely bitter, on lemon seeds and grapefruit. Now it’s nicer! Gets more and more citrusy. Sugared lemon juice, grapefruit… Again it’s mono-dimensional but quite enjoyable. This one would stand a few ice cubes (come, come... ;-). The finish is long and, again, very lemony, with quite some tea during the retro-olfaction (tea with lemon of course). Simple but flawless. 81 points.
 

August 29, 2005


CONCERT REVIEW - NICK CAVE AND THE BAD SEEDS
Alexandra Palace, London, 25th August 2005 
by Nick Morgan
Having only recently bought myself a television I’ve been surprised that I’ve been watching it quite a lot over the past few weeks as we’re all gripped in the excitement of the Ashes Test Match Series (it’s cricket Serge, when England and Australia pit their greatest athletes against each other for the prize of, errr… a pile of ashes). I mention that for two reasons.
Firstly, as Raymond Chandler demonstrated, a great sporting event can provide both a backdrop for both narrative development and act as a metaphor for the spirit of the age. Secondly, and more to the point, it’s because tonight we’re at Alexandra Palace, the birthplace of television broadcasting in Britain. Built in 1873 ‘Ally Pally’ has gone through numerous fires and financial difficulties, but it now trying to reposition itself as a premier rock venue – with a capacity of 8,000 in it’s Victorian Great Hall a bridge between venues such as Brixton Academy (c. 5000 and fantastic, but also big enough in my view) and Wembley Arena (c. huge and soulless). Well my advice is think again. It’s difficult to get to unless you drive (expect to wait nearly an hour to get out of the car park after the gig). The ‘facilities’ are woefully inadequate. The sound is indifferent. And the Great Hall may have some particular ambience as a result of its restored high-Victorian decoration, but it’s really just a barn, and with no apparent banking on the floor (as you would get at old theatre or cinema venues such as Brixton, Shepherd’s Bush etc.) sight-lines are appalling for almost anyone except those wedged in front of the stage – and even then I suspect you get a crick in your neck as you strain to look up over the on-stage monitors. As you may have guessed I don’t think I’ll be going again.
And then there’s the audience. Well, as we’re here to see Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds it’s as eclectic a bunch as you might expect. Goths of all ages, sinewy and sinister black shirted hipsters (that’s me), black spectacled and shoulder-bagged Agency and creative types, a smattering of the chattering classes from Hampstead and Camden, and – thanks partly to the location of the venue (and the probability that this is Cave’s only UK gig this year) a huge number of ‘out-of-towners’, who to be frank just don’t seem to know how to behave at gigs.
I guess they’re all used to sitting down at some dreadful place like the Milton Keynes Bowl. Or maybe someone had chalked ‘Push past me again you ignorant prat’ on the back of my designer shirt. Or maybe it was just everyone’s frustration at not being able to see. Or maybe too much beer and too many North London ‘geezers’ who thought they were being ‘a larrf’ – like the two who seemed to spend the whole evening pushing through the crowd carrying the same six plastic glasses of obnoxious fizzy beer. Or maybe I was cross because (apparently) it was me who’d forgotten the camera (oops!). Or maybe it was because just as everyone at last seemed to have got settled into their sardine like position the provincial ones started to leave to catch their trains and buses home. Whatever. It wasn’t good.
And the band? Well, as regular Whiskyfun rocksters may recall, last year these bad-mouthed boys from the colonies got my coveted ‘Gig of the Year’ award for their show at Brixton which was simply sensational. Luckily I hadn’t expected a repeat of that – because we didn’t get it. Despite blasting into ‘Get ready for love’ it took them a good few songs before they really got up to full speed (tired perhaps after a long year on the road around the world), and before the sound-desk got the mix tolerably right.
Not to say that Mr Cave wasn’t giving one hundred per cent from the start. He shouted and spat his lyrics, Kung-fu kicked in Elvis style, cajoled both his band and the audience, gyrated like a dervish, danced like a Spanish waiter (I know – I used that one before, but it’s good) and thanks to the excellent lighting cast a manic shadow on the side walls (lucky for those then who didn’t catch a glimpse of him on stage all night) like Julian Bleach’s spine-chilling narrator in Shockheaded Peter.
And once the band hit full speed they were as impressive as before. By the third song – the awesome ‘Hiding all away’ from Abattoir Blues they had signalled their intentions, and from what followed ‘Supernaturally’, ‘The weeping song’, ‘The mercy seat’, ‘There she goes’ , ‘Lyre of Orpheus’ and ‘Abattoir blues’ all demonstrated their uncanny talent to mix the delicate and sensitive with power and aggression bar none.
But the set was shorter than Brixton, where they cracked through almost all of Abattoir Blues/The lyre of Orpheus before returning for an extensive encore from Cave’s back catalogue. Here there were fewer songs, greater gaps between them (partly as feedback problems were being addressed) and a shorter encore.
But for all of this by the time they finished with ‘Stagger Lee’ these mean motherfuckers from the Antipodes had again shown that, like Cave’s much vaunted lyrics, they can straddle the profound to the profane with the ease of giants. And for all my carping about the venue and the crowd we’d had a good time, and I shouldn’t forget that the tickets were a birthday present. Thanks Amy! However I was left wondering, particularly after I listened again to last year’s simply brilliant Cave and the Bad Seeds album, “what next?” It’s hard to see where they can go without simply recycling the same musical ideas. But then maybe that’s for them to surprise us all in the future. In the meantime here’s an idea that would grasp the imagination of gigsters across the world. An on-stage smoke-out between Cave and the Bad Seeds, and the Alabama 3. Who would win this nicotine drenched duel? Who is brave enough to take up the challenge? Another major sporting event that could act as a metaphor for an almost lost world … - Nick Morgan (concert photos by Nick's Nokia)
Thank you Nick, loved your new TV set! Just back from Provence - where we could hear other kinds of crickets, see this funny one seen yesterday morning next to our room. Okay, here's a nice tune by Nick Cave: The Ship Song.mp3 (live).
TASTING – TWO OLD SPRINGBANKS BY THE WHISKY FAIR

Springbank 36 yo 1969/2005 (45.6%, The Whiskyfair, 197 bottles) Colour : gold. Nose : curiously floral and very fruity right from the start. Lots of fresh pineapple, pear juice, fresh bananas. Incredibly fresh for such an old malt, it must have been a super-neutral cask. It gets then slightly yeasty, on mashed potatoes and yoghurt, with some hints of fresh herbs. Nice and lively, but it smells almost like a young Bladnoch!

Mouth: rather delicate right from the start, on rose jelly, Turkish delight and all sorts of fresh fruits (apples, pears, watermelon). Add to that a dash of white pepper. It then gets slightly herbal, with some notes of fresh parsley. The finish is, again, quite delicate and a little buttery, with some fructose, icing sugar. In short, this one is quite special, for it tastes so young. A perfect malt to play a good trick during a ‘blind’ session? Anyway, it’s really enjoyable and a nice curiosity. 87 points.
Springbank 37 yo 1968/2005 (47.5%, The Whiskyfair, 216 bottles) Colour: white wine/light straw. Nose: more delicate and subtle, and certainly less ‘roughly fruity’ and more maritime. Sea air. Develops on boiling milk, milk chocolate and coconut milk (here you go). Funny hints of dill, wild carrot. Some vanilla crème and light fudge… A very nice nose, subtle and very harmonious. Mouth: very, very nice again, with a great mix of fresh apple juice, fudge, lemon pie and white pepper. Most perfectly balanced! Lots of ripe bananas too, pineapple flambéed, milk chocolate. Nice vivacity at that. The finish is medium long, on fruits topped with caramel sauce. Very enjoyable: 90 points.
 

August 28, 2005


TASTING - Coleburn 30 yo 1970/2000 (57%, Signatory, cask #100, 300 bottles) From the ‘Rare Reserve’ series. Colour: light straw. Nose: nicely fresh attack, quite clean yet rather yeasty. Fruity and flowery at the same time, with also some very nice grassy notes. Lots of cider apples. Gets quite smoky after a moment (garden bonfire). It’s quite youthful at 30 years old, I like it very much! Mouth: extremely sweet start, with quite some white pepper, apple skin and apple pie. Really enjoyable, some old, pure malt from an almost inactive cask, it appears. Certainly a very slow ageing. It gets just a bit bitter after a while, but in a whole, that’s a kind of profile I like. 87 points.
MUSIC – Strongly recommended listening: famous South African pianist and composer Abdullah Ibrahim aka Dollar Brand plays and sings a delicate and intimate ode to his city, Cape Town.mp3 (from 'Kysna blue'). Sure he hasn't got the Voice of the Century, but it's full of soul. Please buy Abdullah Ibrahim's music.
 

August 27, 2005


CONCERT REVIEW - RICHARD THOMPSON 'SOLO'
Lyric Hammersmith, London, Tuesday 23nd August 2005  by Nick Morgan
I’ve got a nice book on my desk – it’s a sort of ‘Richard Thompson meets Bert Weedon’s Play in a Day’. I bought it a few years ago, and excitedly sat down, guitar in hand, to try and work my way through the first tune, ‘Banish misfortune’ a traditional Irish double jig (technical eh?). I reckoned after an hour or more that I’d made a pretty decent fist of it, not least as the neighbours hadn’t started banging on the wall. It was at that point that a CD fell from the book’s rear cover.

As I played it the blinkers of self deception fell from my eyes (and ears), for there was Richard Thompson himself, bashing out a version of the tune that sounded nothing like the unfortunate mess I’d just made of it. But that’s what happens when a mere mortal pits himself against a genius. And whilst I know Serge gets uncomfortable with this reverential stuff (“no Nick, my Whiskyfun readers aren’t interested in the music, they just like the jokes”) I put it on record now that Mr Thompson, in terms of both his writing and guitar playing is close to being Genius Number One. And he scores satisfyingly high on the Eccentric to Bonkers scale too.
That’s why we’re sitting in the delightfully restored late nineteenth century Lyric Theatre in Hammersmith (cf. ‘Frank Matcham's, famous ornate fin-de-siecle gilt and velvet auditorium’), - a suitable venue for one who clearly has a deep affinity with the British music-hall tradition, even if the theatre is artfully camouflaged by a hideous and soulless concrete shopping centre.

It’s quite a blokish audience, many of them with the trademark West London linen jacket, jeans and open necked casual shirt look, that yells ‘Chelsea and Fulham 4X4 Brigade’. But I can put up with them for one night, especially when it’s Richard Thompson promoting his new album Front Parlour Ballads with a solo concert. Well that’s what it said on the ticket. But it turns out (to our delight) that ‘solo’ includes the very singular Danny Thompson, best known I suppose for his time with Pentangle, John Martyn, and more recently playing bass on the Blind Boys of Alabama’s outstanding Spirit of the Century album.
Thompson and Thompson have been touring and recording together for over ten years – on stage they nag and argue like an old married couple, but as far as the music is concerned they have a deep and silent understanding – each knows what the other will play and when – they are, to be frank, more like Siamese twins, joined at the hip, than Mr and Mrs.
Did I mention that they are both converts to Islam? Oh yes, and as for that new album stuff, well it does get an apologetic mention once or twice (“You’re wasting your time Richard”, yells one wag in the stalls, “we’ve all already bought it”) but we actually only get a handful of songs from it, ‘For whose sake’, ‘Let it blow’, ‘Old Thames side’ (which I think must have been written in the hope that Dick Gaughan would cover it) , and the deeply sinister ‘When we were boys at school’.
Which takes me onto another subject. Thompson (Richard) seems like a really nice bloke – he gives us an improvised weather report when asked by an obvious Cropredy veteran “will it rain Richard?”, beginning “well not in here”; tells a few football jokes, larks around with his missus Danny, and totally plays the fool singing ‘Hots for the smarts’ (“Here’s one for all you clever girls out there – you know who you are”) – but the bleak and stark bitterness that informs so many of his narrative songs suggests he might have the sort of dark side that most of us would do well to avoid, better off taking a vicarious tour through the songs instead. But then I thought, maybe he just sees the dark side in all of us, as he knowingly explores the sordid dreams (‘I feel so good’) and secrets (Johnny’s far away’) of suburbia’s bedroom drawers. Because if you don’t know by now, Thompson writes and sings obsessively about the English suburban landscape in which he was brought up, and from which he obviously never quite escaped, despite the fact that he lives in California (where it never rains). Think front parlours and mock Tudor architecture. “I just want to be middle class …I just want to be free’ proclaims the aspiring social climber of ‘Crawl back’.
Hang on – enough of the purple prose. It’s a fantastic night. He plays an amplified acoustic in a bewildering array of tunings, and goes easy on the pedals. And I’m reminded that he’s not afraid to hit the occasional bum note when he improvises around his often discordant melodies (on that bloody tuition CD – which is now an ashtray by the way – I seem to remember that he says about half way through, “well, at this point you just make it up really” – helpful or what?). And that of course is one of the ideas behind Front Parlour Ballads, recorded in his garage, warts and all. He only forgets the words to a couple of songs, and of course performs That motorbike song solo, and this time gets it right.
In addition to the new songs we go back to his collaboration with ex wife Linda for songs such as ‘Hokey Pokey’ and ‘A heart needs a home’, for which he is joined on vocals by (a somewhat nervous) daughter Kamila, who also sings on ‘Persuasion’ and ‘Keep your distance’.
From his more recent work ‘King of Bohemia’, a very forceful ‘Outside of the inside’ (“this is a fundamentalist’s theme song which I wrote after 9/11. I don’t like fundamentalists”), ‘Mingus eyes’ ‘Al Bowley’ (no Jon, not a music hall bish-bash, but a fierce anti-war song) and then finally ‘Wall of death’, a great finish, and it seemed to me at the time, a wonderful epitaph for us all – “Let me ride on the wall of death one more time …this is the nearest thing to being alive”.
Complaints? Well it would have been nice to hear Thompson work his way through the new album as we missed out a lot of great material. But apart from that it’s hard to fault. Danny Thompson’s bass playing was quite exquisite, and Thompson delivered top bananas on both guitar and vocals. Sorry Serge, this one was a 97 point five star hit. - Nick Morgan (concert photos by Kate)
Thank you Nick, many readers are interested in Music indeed - and do like some (good) suburbian English jokes as well. Okay, I have to be quick (we're in Provence just now), so here's what we have: I feel so good.mp3. Plenty of nice tracks here as well, and there's also that npr link. Sorry I do not have it here but will add it on Monday.
TASTING - Glengoyne 8 yo (43%, OB, black label, bottled 1973) Nose: ah, this is interesting, as there’s quite some herbal liquors such as Chartreuse and genepy. Gets then quite grainy, with also some light honey and caramel. Simple but enjoyable. Mouth: extremely herbal, with again some Chartreuse, Bénédictine, Izzara… Interesting indeed, if not totally thrilling. Long and bold finish, mostly on… herbs, you guessed it. 84 points (but Olivier rated it much higher: 89)  
 

August 26, 2005


CRAZY SUMMER ADS - PART IX (and last)
Left - Ancre Pils 1950's: an old Alsatian brand (thanks, J.).
Right - Cutty Sark 2001.
Lazy admen!
 
TASTING – TWO EXCELLENT GLENFIDDICHS FROM CADENHEAD’S
Glenfiddich 31 yo 1973/2004 (48.9%, Cadenhead, 186 bottles) Colour: dark straw. Nose: wow, extremely fruity and flowery at the same time! Lots of ripe apple and kiwi juice. Also some dill and fresh parsley. Really lively. Develops on nectar, flowers from the fields… Fresh pineapple juice. What a superb freshness! Hints of peat, garden bonfire. Also some sandalwood. Really complex and most enjoyable.
Mouth: very sweet and nervous at the same time, on all sorts of fruits and white pepper. Notes of old wood like in many old Glenfiddichs. Quite some apricot juice and hints of burnt tea, toasted bread. A long, powerful and fresh finish, getting just a little bitter. In short, not much complexity in this one but lots of pleasure. 88 points.
Glenfiddich-Glenlivet 30 yo 1963/1993 (51.7%, Cadenhead, bottled October)
Colour: gold. Nose: still very punchy after all these years! Bold notes of nectar, dandelion, buttercup, developing on a beautiful caramel, fudge and honey. Some nice hints of peat. Very close to the more recent version but more complex. Lots of milk chocolate, caramel candies (Werther’s) and cooked apples. Goes on on some notes of wine cellar, fresh mushrooms, wet moss, forest after the rain… Really magnificent. Mouth: plain incredible: it’s almost a peaty as, say Talisker. Superb! Some great notes of herbal tea (all sorts), Lapsang Souchong, green apples. Gets also quite waxy, with some paraffin, burnt bread and always these strong peaty notes and a very nice bitterness/woodiness. Also some traces of olive oil (which I love), infused tealeaves… And a very long finish at that. Wow! 92 points.
MUSIC – Jazz - Recommended listening: the Julien Lourau Groove Gang plays Erotic.mp3. Go see them on stage, they're much groooovier than Austin Powers. Oh, and please buy their music!
 

August 25, 2005


TASTING – THREE CAOL ILAS

Caol Ila 18 yo (57%, G&M for Sestante, Italy, sherry wood, 70’s) This one is from the old Caol Ila distillery. Colour: dark gold. Nose: what a superb attack, very medicinal, on bandages, embrocations, camphor… A very delicate, yet very bold peat, mixed with quite some cocoa and oak. The sherry is very discreet but it’s well there. Also quite some grain, mash, porridge… cider apples… Very pure! And what a great balance in this oldie! Mouth: a perfect mouth feel, bold and punchy at that. A beautiful sweetness, with ‘of course’ lots of peat, which make the malt perfectly ‘compact’ (and not narrow at all). Develops on liquorice, roots, pepper, apple pie… And always this superb peatiness. I love how it stays very clean and, again, so compact. Extremely satisfying… Ah, and now there’s some fresh oysters… The finish is very long, on ‘oyster juice’ and apple juice. Okay, maybe it’s just a tad ‘simple’, otherwise it would have deserved even more than 92 points.

Caol Ila 11 yo 1993/2005 (58.3%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society 53.90) Colour: straw. Nose: strong and powerful but not pungent. Lots of simple, straightforward peat plus litres of apple juice. Some white wood smoke, sea water, grain, mashed potatoes… Typical flawless Caol Ila but lacking a little complexity – although there are some hints of clove coming through. Mouth; very powerful, almost burning. Lots of earthy notes, roots, liquorice sticks. Very sweet, partly from the strong alcohol, and again, lacking a little extra-complexity. I feel this would have been a top-grade constituent for an high-end blend. With a few drops of water, it becomes a tad more medicinal, but also a little Sugarish. Anyway, an uncomplicated, flawless Caol Ila with little cask influence. Enjoyable. 83 points.
Caol Ila 10 yo 1994/2004 (61.3%, Signatory Straight from the Cask, cask #04/488, 402 bottles) Colour: white wine. Nose: extremely powerful, almost like a new make. Lots of body and much less peat than expected, but maybe the heavy alcohol sort of masks it. Yet, it’s rather clean and fresh, with hints of burnt rubber and a bit of smoke. Also some freshly cut apple, but water is needed here! Alas, a few drops of water make it very cardboardy, even after a few minutes (no more saponification). Notes of wet stone and rubber.
Mouth: again, it’s close to a new make, very hot and, curiously, very salty. Quite some pear eau de vie, and some smoke but there could (should?) be more of it. Water makes it very sweetish and, frankly, a little dull. The finish is rather long but spirity and sweetish again. I guess a few more years in wood would have made it more enjoyable. Ha, youth! 76 points.
MUSIC – Recommended listening: it's fresh, it's joyful, it's nicely poppish and folky, Wayward Wind plays Postcards From The Wind.mp3. Please buy this 'unknown supergroup''s very nice music! (via song:illinois)
 

August 24, 2005


TASTING - FOUR GLEN MHORS by G&M

Glen Mhor 8 yo (70 proof, G&M licensed bottling, 70’s) Colour: light amber. Nose: very nice attack on mocha, bitter chocolate and burnt cake, with quite some peat smoke coming through. Dark toffee, cappuccino, oriental pastry (orange water). Hints of perfume, musk, candy sugar… A great one, with lots of punch. Mouth: creamy attack, on Grand-Marnier, caramel sauce, Mandarine Imperiale, cappuccino… An excellent surprise. So satisfying! Not overly complex but highly enjoyable! 87 points.

Glen Mhor 8 yo (100 proof, G&M licensed bottling, 70’s)
Colour: light amber. Nose: very similar to the 70 proof, just more powerful, and with the coffeeish notes being bolder, probably due to the highest level of alcohol. Lots of bitter chocolate too. Mouth: very powerful and rather spirity. Notes of distillation, ‘silver fork,’ and again lots of bitter chocolate. I think the 70 proof version was subtler, this time. Lower levels aren’t always pure nonsense! 86 points.
Glen Mhor 8 yo (40%, G&M licensed bottling, 90’s) Nose: grainy and dusty, sour, cardboardy. ‘Fish at the end of the day at the market’. Sulphury… What happened? Mouth: plain weird, sugary and soapy. Very difficult to enjoy this one, with its notes of dead crab ;-). An accident? 45 points
Glen Mhor 15 yo (40%, G&M licensed bottling, 90’s) Nose: awful, I’m afraid. Lots of chemicals… Mouth: very soapy and dusty. Plain undrinkable. An accident again, most probably... 25 points.
MUSIC – Heavily recommended listening: Rachael Yamagata sings one of her most beautiful songs, called Be be my love.mp3 (be patient, server a bit slow but it's worth it). Her new 'CD' has been recorded live at KCRW's 'Morning Becomes Eclectic' (the greatest radio show ever in my opinion) and it's fantastic. You can get it exclusively at iTunes - don't miss it.
 

August 23, 2005


TASTING - TWO VERY YOUNG INDIE ARDBEGS and a new, experimental way of scoring - suggested by whisky friend Soup - that should please both the supporters of 'numerical scorings' and the ones who prefer simple stars (thanks, Soup!)
Ardbeg 10 yo 1994/2004 (59.1%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, 33.54) Colour: white wine. Nose: powerful, on full apple juice and white pepper mode. Very smoky and somewhat briny. Lots of grapefruit too. Quite simple in fact, but rather enjoyable. Mouth: full bodied but extremely sweet and spirity, with some apple juice and some smoke but not much else. Again, a simple one, quite good but I'm sorry, it's too sweetish for my tastes.
Ardbeg 1996/2004 (51.7%, Spirit of Scotland, cask #898) Nose: very young of course but smoother than the Very Young OB. Lots of apple juice, smoke, peat… But again, not much else. Yet, it's clean and rather fresh, which make it quite enjoybale you aren't seeking complexity. Mouth: very sweet again but nicely balanced this time. Quite some liquorice and lots of peat… Gets a bit sour and quite peppery after a moment - but it's a nice sourness. Rather maritime this one (seaweed), with also some paraffin notes. In short, a nice youngster that aged quite quickly. It's more mature than the SMWS.
Good. Look, Soup, I'm sorry but I'm not sure it's been an improvement ;-). Okay, that was and 78 points for the SMWS, and and 85 points for the Spirit of Scotland.
MUSIC – Jazz - Recommended listening: adventurous French sax and clarinet player Michel Portal does Histoires de vent.mp3 ('Wind stories') from 'Musiques de CinemaS'. Wow, what a sound! Please buy Michel Portal's music! (photo Cees van de Ven)
 
NEWS - We just got this press release. It's no crazy rumour and no hoax, honest! (only picture by ourselves)

 

"For Immediate Release

Islamic Whisky

Islam's greatest legacy, in addition to The Koran and the Arabic language, is the unholy art of distilling alcohol as implied directly by “Trestarig” - a long forgotten Hebridean whisky - re-created by a small, independent whisky distiller.
Trestarig, pronounced “trace-arak”, according to a 300 year old manuscript refers to a triple distilled spirit that may have it’s origins in ‘Arak’, the original Middle Eastern spirit distilled from wine.
Distilling was discovered in 9th Century Syria for making ladies’ eye shadow called ‘al-kohl’.

The art of making “burnt wine” and it’s aniseed-flavoured descendants (Raki, Pastis etc.) spread with Islam around the Mediterranean. Christianity took it on to Ireland and the pagan Gaels of the Scottish Hebrides where barely replaced the vine.
In 1703 ‘A Description of the Western Islands of Scotland’ by Martin Martin observes: “the air is temperately cold and moist, and for the corrective, the natives use a dose of Trestarig” described as “aquavitae three times distilled” - not the usual two.
Bruichladdich distillery, on the Hebridean isle of Islay, has distilled Trestarig once again. The first triple-distilled spirit in the Western Isles for many centuries was created by Master Distiller Jim McEwan:
“This is without doubt the very best new spirit I have ever tasted, coming into spirit at 88% alcohol after a 7 hour spirit run - the longest I have ever witnessed. The elusive ‘middle cut’ was made between 86% to 81.5%. This is a rock show of a malt.”
CEO Mark Reynier: “We like to do things differently at Bruichladdich - and if it means going back in time for inspiration – so be it.
“The word “Trestarig” may be Gaelic or Viking in origin. Unusually, both share the Arabic word “Arak” inferring “distilled spirit”. ‘Treas’ is the Gaelic for ‘triple’, while the Norse ‘trost’, meaning ‘protection’. To the pagan Viking invaders "protection spirit" may have been needed against the cold, illness, pain, or just missionaries.”
“The Eastern Vikings are known to have voyaged to Turkey and the Black Sea via the large rivers of central Europe. Intriguingly, they could have brought the knowledge of triple- distilled Arak to the Hebrides before the Christians.”
“12,000 litres of Bruichladdich Trestarig, the world’s first triple-distilled Islay single malt- were laid down at 84.5 %. alcohol.. At this strength it will protect you from anything.”
Notes to Editors: Alcohol may have been discovered earlier than the 9th century, but unable to separate poisonous methanol from drinkable ethanol (the elusive ‘middle cut’) the secret died with the tasters."
 

August 22, 2005


MUSIC – Heavily recommended listening: yeah, I know, she probably doesn't need any 'wider recognition' but as it's one of my favourite songs from the recent years, why not have another listen to Michelle Shocked doing her interstellar hit Anchorage.mp3? Please buy Michelle Shocked's excellent music.
CRAZY SUMMER ADS - PART VIII
 
Walker's DeLuxe 1962: 'It's great to take chances but not on your bourbon.' I'm sure his wife won't agree... a matter of a tenth of second. Better try other bourbons.   Paul Jones 1970: 'Don't go near the water without P.J. (...) P.J. is Paul Jones. And smooth.' Nothing too funny here but I love the artwork, so typically late 60's - early 70's.
     

TASTING - TWO BENRIACHS

Benriach 12 yo (43%, OB, 2004) A fresh, fruity and fragrant nose, with some rather interesting farmy notes. Notes of wet straw. Uncomplicated and flawless. Mouth: sweet and creamy, with lots of light caramel and vanilla crème. Again, simple but good, even if somehow in blend territory. 78 points.

Benriach NAS 'Heart of Speyside’ (43%, OB, 2004) Quite similar, perhaps even more ‘farmy’ and with a little more oomph despite – or thanks to – its younger age. Some notes of cow stable and quite some spices. Nice hints of bitter oranges. Did they add a few casks of their peated batches to the vatting? Anyway, I'd say it’s a rather good one: 79 points.
 

August 21, 2005


CONCERT REVIEW - SCOTTY MOORE
Jazz Café, London, 15th August, 2005
by Nick Morgan

If you’d have asked me about Scotty Moore two or three years ago then I would probably have told you that he was dead, and as you can read in a painful amount of detail on his website, I wouldn’t have been too far from the truth. Then a chum handed me a CD with the instruction, “listen to it, tell me who it is …”. About a week later, having thoroughly enjoyed the music but floundered in my guesswork, I was told it was All the King’s Men, a 1997 tribute album to Scotty Moore and his sidekick D J Fontana, featuring notables such as Keith Richards, Levon Helm, Garth Hudson, Jeff Beck and Ronnie Wood.

And shortly after that I became aware of a frenzy of Scotty activity – a concert in London last year that we missed, and four albums on which he plays: Scotty Moore and Friends, Alvin Lee’s In Tennessee (recorded when Scotty was unwell and only able to appear on a couple of tracks), Liam Grundy and Pete Pritchard’s Western Union and Paul Ansell’s No9 Live at Sun. So much for being dead. But when the chance came to see him this year we leapt at it…just in case.
Now for those of you who don’t remember Winfield Scott Moore was the hillbilly guitarist brought in (with bass player Bill Black) by Sam Philips on the fateful day in 1954 to back a young singer, Elvis Aaron Presley – who Philips believed might be able to realise his dream of a crossover artiste – a white boy who sounded black. The session went badly until the threesome started ‘fooling around’ with an Arthur ‘Big Boy’ Crudup song – ‘That’s all right’. The rest, as they say, is history. Well almost. Joined by D J Fontana on drums, Scotty played with Elvis through the early Sun days (when he briefly became his manager), the RCA years and the lost times in Hollywood. In 1968 he was there playing the old tunes live with Elvis for the famous TV Special (get the DVD if you don’t have it) and was then, at least as it seems to me, unceremoniously dumped – without, it should be noted, a word of complaint – as Elvis moved to the bigger and undoubtedly more sophisticated setup of the American Sound Studios in Memphis.

Scotty Moore autobiography, 1997
Not to say that Scotty didn’t continue working – as you can read elsewhere. But in that little crudely soundproofed room on a street corner in Memphis Scotty created a sound that would last forever, and in the course inspired generations of musicians. “Everyone else wanted to be Elvis” said Keith Richards, “I wanted to be Scotty”.
And if you get the chance you should go to the reconstructed and now working again Sun Studios (after it first closed down it was used as a garage store and a barber’s shop) and do the tour. It’s one of those “and this is probably where…”, “I like to believe that what happened next was ..”, “and I’m sure if he was here today he’d say that…” experiences, but nothing can take away from the atmosphere in the studio itself – and if you’re a ‘being there’ sort of person, then this is one you should tick off the list – a bit like going to see Scotty if you get the chance.
So we’re sitting upstairs at the Jazz Café, sharing a table with a couple of Elvis nuts (average age 32) who are on the Atkins diet (no burger jokes please). Around the balcony is a United Nations of young and old, downstairs is heaving and similarly mixed (including the German guy who stand transfixed in front of the stage taking notes of every Scotty lick), and somewhere there’s the drunk woman from Colchester (intelligence gained at the start of the evening by the Photographer in the cloakroom) who staggers alarmingly onto the stage half way through the set with a rucksack on her back. Phew! But our shared apprehension is not about her, it’s whether Scotty can hack it. We shouldn’t have worried.
And then there’s the quite excellent band. Pianist, composer, vocalist, session man Liam Grundy; bass player to the stars (including the Photographer’s favourite, Alvin Lee) Pete Pritchard; drummer Jimmy Russell (ex Curved Air, Elmer Gantry etc. etc. etc.); ‘guitar legend’ Dave Briggs (ex pioneer R&B band from the 70’s Red Beans ‘n Rice) who among other things teams up with Barcodes Glenn and Coccia in the Incredible Blues Puppies; guest guitarist and former Roy Orbison sidekick Bucky Barrett; and on vocals and guitar Paul Ansell, with a superb rockabilly voice (and I should stress not an Elvis impersonator) and a great way of dealing with drunken ladies with rucksacks. From what I gather these good old boys are at the forefront of what is called a ‘roots music’ revival – in fact my in-the-know daughter tells me that roots rockabilly is going to be the next big thing, but bad news chaps, you’ll only get a big signing if you’re “young and beautiful”.
Scotty stands to the left, at the back of a crowded stage. He grins, chats a little with the band, but says not a word to us all night – his speaking is done by his “very good friend and companion” the gracious and delightful Gail from Nashville, who tells us all how pleased Scotty is to be here. And he looks happy enough. And after a shaky start he really warms up, picking (with a big thumb pick) at his gorgeous personalised Gibson (and it’s not often I say that) ES-295, as the band move through (among others) ‘Mystery train’, ‘That’s alright’, ‘Blue moon’, ‘Heartbreak hotel’, ‘Milk cow’, ‘My baby left me’ (my notes say a particularly impressive Scotty solo here) ‘Kid Creole’, ‘Blue suede shoes’ and finally ‘Mystery train’ again. Now I should say that Scotty never was the best guitarist in the world – that’s rarely the point – and technically he would be blown away by today’s School of Rock hot shot Stratocaster merchants. But it’s that picking sliding riff style (think ‘Heartbreak hotel’) and the sound he achieves from guitar and amplifier (I’m told he still uses his original Ray Butt’s amp that dates back to 1955, ‘though I can’t swear he had it with him on Monday) that is just electric.

The hand that touched Scotty Moore
And you could see everyone slowly lighting up with smiles as Scotty got into his stride and hit those notes. Quite how a quiet, unassuming, and rather frail old man in his mid-seventies managed it I don’t know, but even the 14 year old boy at the next table put down his Gameboy and started to watch (much to the delight of Mum and Dad, and everyone else in the place). Oh yes – and as he had to walk along the balcony to get back to his dressing room at the end of the gig, I did that thing, gently held his arm and said “Thank you Scotty”, on behalf of Serge, Mike, and all you Whiskyfun rock and rollers out there. - Nick Morgan (photos by Kate and Nick except Gibson Scotty Moore signature ES 295).
Thanks a bunch, Nick - I'm glad I already touched the hand that touched Scotty Moore. I guess you haven't washed it yet, but maybe some colleagues (and Photographer) of yours will insist you do it one day... Too bad. Anyway, guess what we have now... Yes, Elvis Presley (and Scotty Moore) doing That's alright.mp3 in 1954 (I believe it's the original recording but I'm not sure).
PS - to our distinguished readers: we're glad to announce that Nick, Whiskyfun's most revered Head of the Concert Reviews Department, has now a new 'secret' assistant. Well, not secret for long, as we should be able to publish his first review shortly. Stay tuned!
 
TASTING - Glencraig 1968 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseur’s Choice, Old map label)
Nose: rather fresh attack, fruity and floral (the lomond stills?) Develops mainly on orange juice, marmalade… Not complex at all but rather enjoyable. Mouth: the attack is rather sugarish, on caramel and fruit jellies. Lots of bubblegum, there’s kind of an ‘Irishness’ in there. Too bad it gets then a bit too woody and slightly bitter (woody bitterness), with a rather drying finish. 76 points.
 

August 20, 2005


MUSIC – Heavily recommended listening: a punchier and funkier than usual Keb' Mo' does Stand up (and be strong).mp3. Hard not to tap your feet, you'll see. Please buy the great Keb' Mo's music if you like it!
TASTING - Dallas Dhu 1969 (40%, G&M CC Old Brown Label, 80’s) Colour: gold. Nose: interestingly quite smoky and toasted, with some notes of burnt bread and Provence herbs. Develops on strong tea, and cocoa powder, and also some mocha. Interesting! Mouth: starts more classically, on orange marmalade and chocolate. Develops on cake, getting rather spicy (cinnamon), strong coffee… The finish is a little bitter but in a nice way. A very good Dallas Dhu indeed, really in the 'best style of the Gordon & MaacPhail house' and not tired in any way. 86 points (well earned!).
CRAZY RUMOUR: A NEW FINISHING SOON ON THE MARKET?
To be honest, we have no clues as for what it's going to be, but our secret photographer just emailed this picture from the courtyard of a famous Highlands distillery. What's sure is that we can see that the casks are 'prepared' with much care, and that they're made out of new, shiny oak, as it appears.. Ah, we can't wait, can we?
 

August 19, 2005


TASTING - THREE OLD HIGHLAND PARKS
Highland Park 12 yo (40%, OB, silk label, normal H, late 70’s) Colour: light amber. Nose: greta start, very flowery and very waxy. Lots of notes of paraffin and the usual heavy heathery notes that made Highland Park's legend. Perhaps not as complex as expected, though. Mouth: a very spicy attack, with also lots of caramel, fudge, burnt cake and strong honey (chestnut). It then gets slightly dusty and even cardboardy, which could the effect of bottle ageing. A very interesting old Highland Park but the finish is a little too dry. 86 points.
Highland Park 12 yo (70 proof, OB, silk label, ornamental H, mid-70’s)
This one is an earlier version, according to Mr Highland Park (I mean, Olivier). Colour: light amber. Nose: again, lots of caramel, fudge, cake, heather and honey. Very compact and a little less waxy than its older brother. Mouth: wow, it starts with a bold attack, on some superb notes of fruit jam. Develops on light honey and goes on with lots of dried fruits such as figs and bananas. This one is really bold and powerful, I like it a little better than the other one. 87 points.
Highland Park NAS (70 proof, G&M licensed bottling, Saint-Patrick label, 50’s or 60’s) Golden amber. Nose: very, very heathery - here we are - with lots of light honey, whiffs of eucalyptus and camphor, and also some great notes of tropical fruits. Lots of biscuit too, cake, crystallised oranges, a bit of rubber, peat… Really splendid. Mouth: rather bold (astonoshing), on camomile, burnt sugar, dark chocolate and lots of cinnamon. Develops on balsam, mastic candies, argan oil. The finish is a little dry again but the whole is highly enjoyable… A very good old HP. 90 points. (thanks, Olivier)
MUSIC – Nick just drew my attention to a rather funny radio show on BBC Radio 4 (click on 'Listen to Wednesday' in the beige column on the left). It's about a very recent new biography of Jimi Hendrix (Room full of mirrors, by Charles R. Cross) and I must say I learnt lots of amazing facts, like that the French newspapers said Hendrix's first show in Paris was "A bad mixture of James Brown and Chuck Berry" (buggers). Or that "Anyone who'd look like Bob Dylan was okay with Jimi.", or that Clapton's first comments after having heard Jimi were "My god, it's like Buddy Guy on acid!", or that 'The wind cries Mary.mp3'  was, again, a story about English food! In short, please listen to the radio show if it's still on-line (15min), please buy the book, and please buy Jimi's music.
 

August 18, 2005


CONCERT REVIEW - Festival Special: FAIRPORT'S CROPREDY CONVENTION
Cropredy, Oxfordshire, 11th-13th August, 2005 by Nick Morgan
PART TWO - THE MIDDLE BIT, AND THE END
Now there are probably two things that I haven’t made quite clear about this Cropredy thing. The first is that it is, possibly due to the average age of the average Festival goer (average=old), a bring your own chair event – now far more so than it was when I last visited.
So after a hearty yeoman’s breakfast at the Whiskyfun tent we made our way into that once pretty market town of Banbury, now a desultory and rather depressing testament to the paucity of town planning expertise in the UK, to buy our chairs. Luckily as canny local shopkeepers were well clued up to the event, we were still able to find a final few in stock – fishing chairs, I should add, handily equipped with a tankard/glass/can rest on the right hand arm. The second thing is rain – Richard Thompson or no, the rain does inevitably fall, and with the BBC’s forecast firmly imprinted in our minds we also picked up a few handy bits of downpour survival kit.
Thirdly (where was I?) there are the people, to a man, woman, child, baby and dog, universally and delightfully bonkers, a tribute to the thickly spread layer of eccentricity that remains, like Marmite on a piece of toast, undiminished by either the long arm of political correctness or the creeping trend towards a complacent and cramping conformity that seems to surround us more and more each day.
Take the crew who surrounded us on Saturday in our very well chosen spot in line with the sound tent. To our left was Tankard Man and his family (14 year old son’s been coming since he was a baby). The dog. In front of us at least three generations of a Drinking Academy, and by them the Pork Pie Club, been every year since 1983, and so named because …well, they like pork pies. To our right the man who for reasons of anonymity shall simply be called Demented Dave, artfully recording the whole event onto an i-Pod through a very sophisticated microphone, proudly flying his national flag, still wearing wristbands from the past thirteen Festivals, and feasting on a complex cocktail of beers that included Marstons, Tetley’s, Spitfire and Theakston’s Old Trouser Press.
Behind us there was the man in the plastic bag (we all checked his pulse every thirty minutes to make sure he was still alive), and the mutton chopped Bearded Ladies from Bolton. I should add that – if you haven’t noticed, that it was raining cats and dogs by the time we arrived. In fact to be honest we’d spent an hour or more snoozing in the Whiskyfun van outside the Festival site listening to the football before we dared step out into the deluge. As a result we missed, but did catch occasional echoes of, the reggae funk folk artistes T & Latouche, and Uiscedwr, a world folk fusion outfit who sounded like fun.
And we were still eating a rather nice lunch when Richard Digance performed – apparently voted one of the Magnificent Seven of British Entertainment by some panel or other, but to be frank a decent and witty folk singer ruined by the demands (and I guess the regular pay checks) of what can at best be called British light entertainment programmes.
So by the time we were seated it was the Hamsters, not the sort I’d be trying to photograph in the pet shop in Banbury (good joke I thought, but did you know Serge, that the little buggers seem to spend all their time asleep, wrapped up in cotton wool?), but the ones who are described as, or who describe themselves as, ‘the UK’s best blues rock band’. Actually, to do them justice they do add a witty ‘probably’ on their website, which is maybe just as well. I’d heard so much about these boys – well, they’re really very grumpy old rock and rollers – but was frankly very disappointed. They made a lot of noise for a three piece band, and were very tight (as befits a band that tours endlessly, and has done for 18 years or so) but beyond the Jimi Hendrix tribute stuff (and I should add that guitarist Slim plays a mean Jimi riff or two) didn’t seem to have a lot going for them. Maybe it was the wrong place, maybe it was the rain.
Anyway the rain stopped (more or less) for next up Beth Nielsen Chapman, playing the last of a short series of gigs in the UK. And I wrote in my notebook – “her unassuming presence grasped the attention of a very damp audience as the storm clouds passed and the evening sun struggled to break through”. Maybe it should have stopped there. The set was, to sum up, something of a curate’s egg, ranging from some really original pieces (the intensely personal ‘Sand and water’ is a real cracker, and her Latin hymn arrangements extremely unusual) but in between there was a bit too much MOR stuff for my liking. So in short I suppose some of the material lacked depth.
I loved her voice when she let it rip, but not when she giggled (I think that was when she was confessing what was a visible liking for ‘Ozzies’). She sang a nice song with Simon Nichol, ‘Dancer to the drum’, with a great line which fixed in my head ‘fast asleep in the dawn of ages’; and another ‘Will and Liz’ which reminded me in both sound and subject of Aimee Mann. And despite their occasionally uncertain harmonies she was brilliantly supported by multi-instrumentalist and ex Fairport Convention and Jethro Tull member Martin Allcock, and multi-instrumentalist Pete Zorn. And it only rained when she mentioned the sunshine.
So finally there was only one thing left. Well, actually two. First our dinner, another celebration of the best that the cuisine of the West Midlands can offer, a delicately flavoured chicken chilli masala, and the very same, or so I’m told by a knowledgable local sage, that a young Will Shakespeare gulped down before typing the script for Coriolanus. And then, and what better dessert can there be, three and a half hours of Fairport Convention.
I’ll start by saying this. It was great fun, particularly when a very rocking Richard Thompson joined them half way through. And I was reminded what a powerhouse rhythm section Gerry Conway on drums and Dave Pegg on bass could be. And that ex Soft machinist Ric Sanders’ remarkable fiddle playing has kept the band moving (well, maybe slowly nudging) forward when they could have remained stagnant. And what a good singer Simon Nichol can be. And they were also assisted at various points by the admirable Tiny Tin Ladies (try and find out more about these husky voiced girls Serge, you’ll love them), Jacqui McShee, guitarist Vo Fletcher, some youthful but dire ‘Highland’ style dancers, Maartin Allcock, P J Wright, a young cornet player who’s name I missed, Ashley Hutchings, Beth N C, Uncle Tom Cobbly and all. And we’re going to see them play an acoustic gig in November so they’ll get a more considered review then. And mandolin and fiddle player Chris Leslie is a friend of The Photographer – so I need to be careful what I say. But – even with that degree of variety three hours or more is maybe just a tad too much – and even with such an array of material the paucity of some of it (particularly some from the new album Over the Next Hill) does become evident over such a lengthy set. Oh yes – and why do they have to play so many songs by fucking Ralph McTell?
Sorry Ralph – no offence meant, but while I like the (albeit grotesquely sentimental) ‘Hiring fair’ –a good Fairport standard, the other two songs they played, though performed well, were dire in content. ‘Red and gold’ is an ill-judged and poorly researched slushy dirge about the Battle of Cropredy Bridge in June 1644 during the English Revolution (yes Serge, we had one too …and a lot sooner than yours). Less of a battle than an indecisive skirmish and stand-off, McTell even has the cheek to represent the whole conflict as being over religion, rather than class and capital. For what it’s worth Fairport recorded an album of the same title. And then a dreadful heap of tosh, ‘Wat Tyler’ (co-written by McTell and Nichol), about the Peasants Revolt, with lots of ‘Ye good Kinge Richarde he did say, I’ll come downe to speake with ye goode men of Kenyt toadye’. Primary school history nonsense. And while we’re at it Ralph, let’s put in on record now that I’ve simply never forgiven you for ‘Streets of London’. Ok ?
On the upside – from the new album Chris Leslie sang his own tune ‘I’m already there’, old tunes like ‘Sir Patrick Spens’, Dave Swarbrick’s ‘Rosie’, and ‘Walk awhile’, the sharply ironic ‘We are a proud land’, ‘Let it blow; from Thompson’s new album, and his ‘Tearstained letter’, rocking Richard singing the Beatle’s ‘I’m down’, Ashley and Jacqui joining in for ‘Rolling Minstrels’ and of course, to end the main set the song that has become Fairport’s anthem, ‘Matty Groves’. And in all honesty, what better way to end the whole thing off than with everyone on stage, and the whole audience singing ‘Meet on the ledge’ – remarkably written by a teenage Thompson in 1969. It’s a great and timeless song that should touch everyone, because we know we’ll all meet there some day.
Nice one boys! - Nick Morgan (all photos by Kate and Nick)
Thank you, Nick, but may I just make two remarks? First, thanks for having made me google Uncle Tom Cobley/Cobbly for hours (okay, minutes) to find a website for this unknown musician. British English is a strange language indeed... Second, may I draw your attention to the fact that your much envied status as Whiskyfun's Head of the Reviews Department does not mean you're obliged to go anywhere, anytime - especially not in England's midlands when it's raining cats and dogs in August. Not that I'm suggesting that's unusual, but there are also some nice festivals and concerts in Italy, Spain, Morocco, Portugal, France, Greece, Turkey, Southern California (where it never rains), Mexico, Taiwan... And even, maybe, on Jersey. And they also have nice food (I didn't put your breakfast picture, that's way too violent for our distinguished readers). But then again, after the jet and the new Leica, the 2005 budget is exhausted, sorry. But good news, we have a recording of Fairport Convention 'Meeting on the Ledge' here. I don't know which year, sorry - and sorry about the slow server.
 

TASTING - TWO SPRINGBANKS

Springbank 25 yo 1975 ‘Frank McHardy’ (46%, OB, cask #1377, 157 bottles) Colour: amber. Nose: quite fragrant, on crystallized oranges, dried fruits, old papers. Rather maritime. Some interesting notes of high-end tea and smoked ham. Mouth: beautiful mixture of liquorice and oak. Lots of bitter orange and dried coconut. Some salted liquorice. The finish is long and very, very salty, getting very dry, tannic and woody but still enjoyable. Wow, lots of punch! With water, it gets even woodier with quite some cinnamon. I love it but I should mention that some other maniacs quite disliked it. 91 points.

Springbank 35 yo 1969/2004 (58.5%, Adelphi, cask #149)
Colour: bronze amber. Nose: lots of dried fruits (pear, apricot, pineapple). It then gets curiously meaty like a Mortlach or a Glenlossie. Some heather, tea, leather, tobacco… Rather complex! A great old one that doesn’t smell old at all. Mouth: punchy attack, on dried cake and candy sugar. Develops on some peaty and farmy notes, crystallised oranges, hot chocolate… Some notes of coconut. Very long finish, perhaps a bit drying and getting austere but very good. 89 points.
And also: Springbank 12 yo (46%, OB, tall bottle, black label, very light vatting, 70's) Different from the some slightly darker 'light vattings' we had before. Good but a bit burning and austere. 81 points.
Springbank 15 yo (46%, OB, 2004 bottling) Lots of caramel, fudge and vanilla crème but not much else, I’m afraid. Slightly perfumy. 82 points.
 

August 17, 2005


CONCERT REVIEW - Festival Special: FAIRPORT'S CROPREDY CONVENTION
Cropredy, Oxfordshire, 11th-13th August, 2005 by Nick Morgan
PART ONE - THE BEGINNING …
For those of you who don’t know, the ‘first’ Cropredy Festival was held in 1979, marking the farewell gig of pioneer British folk-rock band Fairport Convention, who had for some years made this little bit of North Oxfordshire (and its many pubs) their operating base. Twenty-six years later and the Festival, despite some recent ups and downs (largely the work of Fairport bassist Dave Pegg) seems to be still going strong. As are the Fairporters. In that time the Festival has taken on a unique character all of its own.
Loved by generations of fans, many of whom have attended for decades, it’s a sort of sacred safe haven for unreconstructed grumpy old folk rock fans and their children (and I suspect in some cases, their children’s children too). It’s a place where 55 year old men can wear their psychedelic spandex trousers without fear of rebuke, and where all Englishmen born and true (and their ladies fair) can spend three days quaffing the best of handmade warm beer (Wadsworth’s XXXXXX – the event’s main sponsor) from their cherished tankards ‘till they reach the edge of oblivion (or in some cases beyond).
The Festival has also become a sort of perverse celebration of the Midlands, England’s forgotten heart of oak – overshadowed now in terms of economic importance, politics, music, football – in fact the whole bloody lot - by the Metropolis on one hand, and the great conurbations of Scotland and the North of England on the other.
But no-one here will forget that this is the region that brought the world the Moody Blues, the Move, Roy Wood’s Wizard, ELO, Noddy Holder and Slade, Jasper Carrot’s ‘Funky Moped’ … err, well, maybe some decline and falls are easily explained after all.
But no matter – here local music, drink and food are commemorated – nowhere more so than in the ‘Ozzie’, a sophisticated indigenous dish (chausson fourré de viande et pommes de terre) of some renown, allegedly much favoured by the region’s most famous rock and roller, that combines elements of all three in an alluring combination that would even make Serge’s mouth water.
Enough of degustation. We were here to savour the music. But a day and a half late (that reminds me Serge, never charter the Whiskyfun gig-jet from British Airways again) we had already missed Thursday’s line up – including Jah Wobble and the English Roots Band and the Country Joe Band (in effect Country Joe and the Fish minus one cold-blooded aquatic vertebrate) – and Friday afternoon’s, including North-east folk scene veteran Bob Fox and the Muffin Men with ex Mothers of Invention singer Jimmy Carl Black (your elder brothers perhaps Serge?), doing their Zappa and Beefheart stuff.
But we did manage to arrive in time for the somber-faced and evening-suited Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain, often described to those unfamiliar with their oeuvre as The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain. Ok – they’re a one-joke band, but with wit and imagination you can make one joke and seven ukuleles last a long time (as I should know). En route for the Edinburgh Festival these boys and girls have been playing for over twenty years, but have been a middle-aged equivalent of a ‘buzz-band’ for the past 18 months or so. They managed to squeeze into their set unlikely ukulele renditions of Morricone’s ‘The good the bad and the ugly’, Prince’s ‘Kiss’, Neil Diamond’s ‘Sweet Caroline’, Chic’s ‘Le Freak’, Kiss’s ‘God gave rock and roll to you’, and Talking Head’s ‘Psycho killer’. Oh yes – and a Stockhausen meets Johnny Cash tune too. Get the joke? But the tour de force was their ‘Yorkshire folk song’, a blistering version of Kate Bush’s ‘Wuthering Heights’ – the sort of preposterous arrangement that Ms Bush’s preposterous songs deserve. Indeed so impressed was I by the UOGB’s playing that I began to ponder – could Ukulele be an anagram for Coldplay?
For Cropredy regulars Richard Thompson is famous for two things. Firstly, of course, his place as a Fairport founder, and as the guitarist who gave them the edge that set them apart from all the other folk-rockers of the time. Secondly, his outrageous talents and gifts as both songwriter, but also guitar player (“How does he do that?” Beth Neilson Chapman commented on Saturday, “I spent all of Richard’s set backstage looking for the other three guitarists who I knew had to be hidden away playing somewhere”). And thirdly - where was I - as the rain-bringer. When I last saw him here a few years ago I got as wet as a pickled egg (as they like to say in these parts), so everyone turned their head to the skies as he came on stage with long time collaborator, bass player extraordinaire Danny Thompson (no relation).
Richard Thompson
A Vincent Black Lightning. Aaaaaaaaah!....
As it happened the night stayed dry, and we were treated to almost two hour of Richard Thompson heaven, with songs from his new album Front Parlour Ballads carefully mixed with a journey through his extensive back catalogue. High spots had to be a solo version of ‘1952 Vincent Black Lightning’ that greatest of all motorbike songs (though surprisingly Thompson still can’t remember the words), and with Christine Collister supporting on vocals ‘A heart needs a home’ and ‘Wall of death’. And also the vigorous debate that broke out around Thompson’s debt to the music hall tradition – seen in songs such as ‘Al Bowley’, ‘Don’t sit on my Jimmy Shands’ and ‘Hokey pokey’. Fired by an excess of Ozzies and red wine one of our party shouted ‘We don’t want this shite, we want pain, we want alienation’, much to the consternation of some. Appropriately enough we got it all in the final song ‘Razor Dance’. Anyway – Thompson’s in London next week and we’ll be there too, so more later.
Finally the evening dwindled away with a set from the Dylan Project, a combination of Fairporters Pegg, Nichol and Conway, pedal steel guitarist P J Wright, and front man, alleged Birmingham rock god Steve Gibbons (a man for whom the word ‘legendary’ is used with mystifying liberality).
I saw Gibbons years ago at The Rainbow supporting a faux Who put together by Pete Townsend for a charity gig and was less than impressed – all I can remember is some ‘Not fade away’ style dirge about spitting on buses. Birmingham rock indeed. Ah yes – and he also had an album called Rollin’ On where he looked alarmingly like a Bee Gee on the cover. Unforgivable. Anyway Mr Gibbons lacks nothing in the self-belief department, or in the dissolute rock and roll appearance department, or the ability to work very hard department. But with the Dylan Project – in reality no more than a Dylan tribute band (and do I need this when I’m off to see the Bobster himself in November?) it adds up to nothing.
So to be frank the lure of our Whiskyfun tent got the better of us (did I say tent? Sorry I meant our feather eiderdowns at the ‘unspoilt’ and excellent Bell in Shenington) and along with most of the audience we wandered away after about thirty minutes to gird our loins with a dram or two before our Saturday adventures.
More to come … - Nick Morgan (all photos by Kate and Nick except motorcycle)
Thank you very, very much, Nick. After the Stooges and Marilyn Manson, I'm more than happy to swim in less troubled waters again. And thanks for having subliminally suggested I should add a picture of the fantastic Vincent Black Lightning - one of my secret dreams! And Fairport Convention, another excellent, genuinely English 'product'! We probably all miss Sandy Denny very much - peace to her beautiful soul - so let's listen to Northstar Grassman.mp3 now (recorded around 1971 - from her rare BBC sessions). Ah, yes, Richard Thompson... Here's what we have: a pretty excellent live cover of Joni Mitchell's Black Crow.mp3. Triple wow indeed!
 
TASTING - TWO RARE OLD GLENFARCLAS

Glenfarclas 1971/1999 ‘Vintage Cask Strength’ (57.70, OB, cask #3515, 253 bottles) Colour: mahogany/greenish. Nose: powerful but not pungent and very, very sherried, but still rather balanced. Extremely classical, with lots of sultanas, Smyrna raisins, pecan pie, roasted peanuts and chocolate. Highly enjoyable, even for non sherry heads. Develops on cooked strawberries, getting then very minty and nicely herbal (spearmint, lemongrass). Some very nice notes of dried tropical fruits (pineapple, guava). Notes of old rum. Much more complex that many heavily sherried malts. Even some whiffs of mushrooms, forest, moss… And then it gets quite smoky, and even sort of tary. Wine sauce. Wow, what a development! Mouth: very rich, very creamy attack. Something lightly bitter and sour, like in an overcooked wine sauce but nothing too offending at the start. Develops on roasted raisins, burnt cake, orange marmalade. Then it gets a bit too drying and bitter for my tastes, to be honest. Something very rubbery, quite disturbing. Bitter chocolate (with 90% cocoa). Some icing sugar, very old fortified wine (too old, I’d say).

The finish is very long but again, a little too bitter. That’s really too bad because the nose was stunning, while the palate is simply too marked by the sherry for my tastes. The nose was worth a good 93 points for me, but the ‘excessive’ palate brings it down to 87 points.
Glenfarclas 50 yo 1955/2005 (OB, cask #1612, to be released this year) Colour: amber with reddish hues. Nose: much ‘calmer’ than the 1971 at first nosing, although this one is very sherried as well. But the cavalry arrives after two or three minutes: a great mix of pine resin and toffee – as expected – but also lots of spearmint and camphor. Develops on beeswax and furniture polish, Grand-Marnier, tiger balm… Not extremely bold, rather delicate but still highly satisfying on the nose. Lots of dried fruits – pineapple and guava again. Hints of seawater, caramel crème, fudge. A massive complexity indeed. Some notes of orange flowers, whiffs of natural rubber.
Absolutely beautiful, even a bit nervous. No sign of tiredness at all. Stunning! Ah and there’s also quite some apricot jam. Keeps developing after fifteen minutes, getting more and more like a very old sweet wine – but a great one (Yquem or some Gewurztraminer Rangen VT from Olivier’s). I can’t remember having had a malt that was that close to a (great) wine on the nose. Mouth: ah! I must admit I was a bit scared, after the little oops we just had with the 1971, but this is beautiful. Again a little ‘simpler’ than on the nose, but still very, very enjoyable. Pine syrup, caramel crème, chocolate sauce, old Port, but also lots of dried fruits (sultanas, guavas). Salted butter caramel. Now, it’s true that the tannins do arrive after a moment, and bold ones at that. It gets oakier and oakier in fact, and quite drying but it’s easily bearable. Nothing excessive in a 50 yo malt, that’s for sure. The finish is rather long, somewhat drying and a little bitter again but this one has good excuses, doesn’t it? And we all know that very old malts are rarely really excellent, don't we? Anyway, a totally stunning nose and a very, very good palate make a high rating: 93 points, this time! (thanks, Luc)
 

August 16, 2005


CONCERT REVIEWS - HEAD TO HEAD:
IGGY POP AND THE STOOGES Colmar, France, 13 August 2005
MARILYN MANSON Colmar, France, 14 August 2005
by Serge (for once)

Breaking news: the great American counter culture has just sent us two of its most cherished sons. One is said to have godfathered punk rock, garage rock and heavy metal (ah? I had thought it was the MC5) and to have been David Bowie / Mick Jagger / Lou Reed / Brian Eno / Mott The Hoople / the Osmonds’ lover (your call), whereas some say the other one has copied Alice Cooper and Ozzy Osbourne, usually throws a couple puppies / golden retrievers / kittens / ducks / geese / Broras (your call again) into the crowd and tells the audience he won’t play until they are dead (I hope it will be the Broras tonight). It’s also rumoured that last time, he threw a puppy into the crowd and that several people were injured fighting to get body parts as souvenirs. What’s sure, is that both have used more or less the same USP’s quite successfully: getting half-naked on stage (okay, naked), androgyny, provocation, exhibitionism, skulls and bones, playing loud and rough and all that jazz. Enough reasons for me not to even think of attending the shows, even if they were to take place at the Wine Fair of Colmar. Yet, I bought some tickets.
Well, I should rather say “my children made me buy some tickets”, as I didn’t want to let them go there alone in the first place. Now, I already saw Iggy on stage in the seventies, and I must say the fact that he’s said not to have changed one iota is a balm to a middle aged man like me. As for Manson, well, I was really curious about him and just between us, the fact that most of my friends and relatives couldn’t believe I’d go there just made me decide to go there. Yes, I’m the antichrist of the district ;-).
Good, but I still had a problem: how to dress. Nick, who’s very experienced, told me I should wear a hood, at least for Manson. Yep, good for anonymity! I have also considered a maltmaniacs.com T-shirt, the ‘maniacs’ part being quite rock and roll, I think. And I also had my old, dusty Mexican boots and perfecto jacket in my basement, waiting for a new life … But my daughter said I’d be the laughing stock of the place and she was probably right. So, all things considered, I decided to adopt an 'oops-I-had-though-it-was-a-jazz-concert' outfit that, I had hoped, would have also made most people think I was a journalist or a sociologist...
It didn’t work too well, I’m afraid. Some ‘foreigners’ were looking at me like if I was the mayor of Colmar and that didn’t please me too much, as the actual mayor is a total jerk. Anyway, time to tell you what happened during these two nights now.
 
- The protagonists -
 
Mr Pop, aka James Osterberg. Born 1947 in Muskegon, Michigan, USA. One of David Bowie’s friends.
 
Mr Manson, aka Brian Warner. Born 1969 in Canton, Ohio, USA. One of David Bowie’s friends.
 
Okay, I know what you think: Bowie's dentist is good. But that's not the point tonight, let's rather focus on the shows, minute by minute. And first, the audiences (just like Nick, my Master-in-Reviewing does):
 
Mr Pop’s audience: ranges from 15 to 60 years old guys and girls. No fanatics, although I spot a few ‘The Stooges’ T-shirts. A few Lacoste polo shirts and ponytails. Could be the audience of a jazz concert (good for me). The guy in front of me is Frank Zappa’s double.   Mr Manson’s audience: mostly teenagers. Very young girls made up like stolen cars (probably future hairdressers or cashiers at the supermarket). Bunches of ‘gothics’. The guy in front of me wears an ‘everything louder than everything else’ T-shirt.
 
- The shows -
 
Ron Asheton
Guitars
 
Tim Skold, bass
Guess who plays harder?

Time - Mr Pop arrives on stage at 21:30 sharp, exactly as planned, gesticulating, and intones ‘Loose’. The 8,000 people in the hall stand up immediately. Mr Pop is wearing just a blue jean. His voice (probably his main asset) is in perfect shape. Ron Asheton, from the original Stooges, is on Guitar. Born 1948, joined the Stooges in 1967. Looks like any grandpa you could meet at the garden center on a Saturday morning. Wears kind of a fishing jacket. Brother Scott ‘Rockation’ Asheton is on drums. Wears a baseball cap and Ray-Bans. Mike Watt, born 1957, is on bass. Was too young to be a member of the original Stooges, obviously. Wears a ‘mind the gap’ T-shirt, which might prove he transited through Heathrow before landing at Colmar Airport (which the dumb mayor of Colmar wants to close down, officially because of terrorist threats, unofficially because he wants to convert the place into a commercial zone). The sound is very bold, very rough, very loud. After just two minutes, Mr Pop jumps into the crowd for the first time. His security crew will need a good two minutes to get him back on stage.

Time + 5 min – They play ‘1969’. Mr Pop climbs up the huge Marshall amplifiers and simulates sex (or was it front crawl?) The crowd cheers. Mr Pop shouts: “I want you, Colmar!” Does he want to become the new mayor? Come, come, Iggy!

Time + 9 min – It’s ‘I wanna be your dog’. Blasted, I’d have preferred ‘I wanna be your mayor”. Anyway, the sound is huge. Mr Pop jumps into the crowd again. You can guess what the security thinks: “Tsss-tsss”. He’s back on the stage after a good two minutes again, and starts to simulate sex again, right on the floor. Old techniques but probably quite efficient.

Time + 13 min – The band plays ‘TV eye’ with its famous guitar riff. Mr Pop sings “She got a TV eye on me, she got a TV eye, she got a TV eye on me, oh see that cat down on her back, see that cat down on her back, she got a TV eye on me, she got a TV eye, she got a TV eye on me, oh see that cat, yeah I love her so, see that cat yeah I love her so, she got a TV eye on me, she got a TV eye, she got a TV eye on me, oh right on, right on, right on, see that cat, yeah I love her, so see that cat, yeah I love her, so she got a TV eye on me, she got a TV eye, she got a TV eye on me…” He’s kneeling on the floor.

Time + 16 min – Mr Pop wants the light on, because he wants to see everybody. Yeah, I’m sure he can see me now, even if I’m far from the stage. Hello, Iggy, I’m here! And to prove he saw me, he starts to do my favourite Stooges song, ‘Dirt’ and then falls on the floor. Very Morrisonian but ouch! Is he injured? Ah, no, he’s okay. What a relief! Mr Pop says “I love you!” I love you too, Iggy!

Time + 25 min – Mr Pop sings ‘Not right’ and says he wants some people on stage. So two or three dozens people climb on stage and start to dance / gesticulate / wave at their friends. The security goes crazy. A girl gives Iggy a French kiss, whilst her boyfriend watches the scene. He doesn’t look very happy and shouts something to her. She kisses Iggy again. Some other people start to cuddle him. He asks for more people on stage, so more people go up there.

Time + 31 min – Mr Pop does ‘No fun’ and gives the mike to anybody who wants to shout a few words. He makes short duets with some guys. The crowd cheers more and more. All people on stage start to kiss and paw the iguana. The latter asks for more people. There are now 50 people, more or less and it’s like in ‘Hair’ (remember?) Mr Pop seems to think it’s fun! He shouts “We love you, motherfucking Colmar!

Time + 37 min – They do ‘1970’. “Feed my love all night till I blow away, all night till I blow away, I feel alright, I feel alright baby oh baby, burn my heart, baby oh baby, burn my heart, fall apart baby, fall apart baby oh baby, burn my heart all night till I blow away, all night till I blow away, I feel alright, I feel alright.” It’s only now that Steve McKay comes on the stage. He plays the tenor sax. Was already with the Stooges on their second alum, ‘Funhouse’ (1970). He starts to blow his sax like a madman, and the band now sounds like the Sun Ra Arkestra: it’s a sonic maelstrom, a jubilatory chaos. Free rock and roll, anybody? Mr Pop goes up and down the octaves, sounding almost like a girl from time to time. And then he eructs; he belches, he moans, he roars… It’s not a concert anymore; it’s kind of a giant happening.

Time + 42 min – They do a song I never heard before. It’s funkier than all the old Stooges songs – well, less funky that James Brown, that is. Mr Pop dances in his typical anti-rhythmic way. The crowd screams. He shouts “Fucking thank ya! And now we’re gonna die!

Time + 47 min – They start a new song again. Mr Pop tells us it’s in “the dead rat style”. It’s a nice song, Iggy vocalizes the melody – his voice is intact. He says “I’m coming up”, jumps into the crowd again and starts walking toward the end of the hall. It’s Ali in Kinshasa. It seems that the security crew is fed up!

Time + 53 min – Mr Pop is back on stage again and they do ‘Funhouse’. His fly is now open but he isn’t showing his medals. Some girls seem to be disappointed, but they can still see that Mr Pop doesn’t wear any underpants (never mess with a legend!)

Time + 58 min – They do ‘Little doll’. “Little doll I can't forget, smoking on a cigarette. In my life a real queen, prettiest thing I ever seen. Uh-huh.” Mr Pop is a bloody good showman but he won’t get the Nobel Prize for literature, that’s for sure. The show is now a global delirium.

Time + 63 min – They do ‘I wanna be your dog’ again, but a shorter version. Probably the last song. The crowd is hysterical but the lights are switched off. Yes it’s over. The crowd asks for an encore.

Time + 71 min – The spotlights are on again, they are back and they do a short song I don’t know (something about f*cking, apparently). The music stops, it’s the end. The band leaves the stage but Mr Pop’s still there, waving at the audience. And then he jumps for the last time into the crowd. He’s back after one minute or two, makes a few clownish moves, puts on airs and leaves the stage.

Time + 76 min - The audience is stunned and extatic and we all need a good five minutes to recover before we leave the hall.

 

Time - 21:30 - The lights are switched off. The band is a bit late (they should have started at 21:00). The crowd - 10,000 people - shouts ‘Manson! Manson! Manson! Manson!’ Many do a special hand sign, raising the first finger and the pinkie. Yawn; is ‘somebody’ a cuckold? There’s a huge black curtain masking the stage and a strange music with violins and cellos starts to pulsate. Quite nice, I must say. The music gets then discordant, almost Kurtweill-esque. The curtain goes up, there’s a lot of smoke (yep, almost like in a kiln) and here he is. Mr Manson is coming to the front of the stage, carrying a lantern. He screams something I didn’t get – something about ghosts (I’ve been told the song is ‘Family trip’). His voice is very Bowie-esque, and seems to be in very good shape. He’s wearing a black redingote, translucent black tulle pants and black jack-boots: he’s looking like Gary Oldman in The Fifth Element. The bassist and the guitarist look like crossbreeds of Duran Duran and the Winters (Johnny and Edgar). The drummer hides behind his cymbals, while the organ player (he plays kind of a $19.99 Bontempi, hanged on a gibbet – the organ, not the guy) looks like Sting in ‘Dune’.

Time + 7 min – They do another song: ‘The love song’, according to my neighbour. Lots of ‘F*ck you’ in there. Well…

Time + 11 min – Mr Manson shows his legs, like a B-movie actress. He starts to sing the Beatles’ ‘Revolution’ a capella. Nice voice, I must say. Very Bowie-esque again. Then he says he wants to f*ck us again and does ‘Irresponsible hate anthem’ (I’ve been told): “I am so all-American, I'll sell you suicide. I am totalitarian, I've got abortions in my eyes. I hate the hater, I'd rape the raper. I am the animal who will not be himself, fuck it…” Ah, litterature!

Time + 15 min – They do ‘Disposable teens’ (I’ve been told).

Time + 18 min – Mr Manson now wears a SS officer cap and tells us we’re “god dam motherfucking motherfuckers”. Ah… They do ‘mOBSCENE’ (I got it because it was written in giant letters on a screen). I must say this one isn’t too bad, it’s kind of a classic rock anthem. The crowd starts to feel there’s not much passion on stage, though… (and no animals whatsoever!) Mr Manson takes his redingote off, and he’s now wearing just a black leather undervest. No, no, not a corset.

Time + 21 min – Mr Manson is now on stilts, with long crutches in his hands. He looks like a four-legged spider and does ‘Tourniquet’ (I’ve been told). Again, he sounds quite Bowie-esque but all that lacks quite some oomph ;-). The guitarist and bassist behave like if they were the Spinal Tap. They are quite ridiculous, I’m afraid, and frankly, they don’t play too good. They really lack power and the audience seems to feel it…

Time + 25 min – They do 'Personal Jesus'. Better than Depeche Mode but much, much worse than Johnny Cash. Mr Manson tries to move like Rita Hayworth in Gilda and I start to feel sorry for him. There are some hisses at the end of the song.

Time + 28 min – Mr Manson sends some kisses to the crowd and starts to sing an awful song, which sounds like some two-cents downtempoed punk rock. I didn’t bother to try to get the name of the song, sorry. More hisses from the audience.

Time + 32 min – Another boring song. Mr Manson wears a new fluttering black jacket but he’s soon to take it off. Mix of polite applause and hisses. No animals on stage.

Time + 35 min – They do a lifeless ‘Tainted love’ (Soft Cells’ hit). Hisses.

Time + 38 min – ‘The fight song’. Crappy drumming, flabby guitars.

Time + 42 min – Mr Manson wears kind of a cocked hat, he looks like a Spanish policeman or like Napoleon. They do a song. The crowd seems to like this one better, good for the band (but do they really care?)

Time + 45 min – Another song (‘The dope show’). Mr Manson wears a new striped jacket but takes it off after 30 seconds.

Time + 48 min – Ah, this is better (honest). Something of Jean Genie. It’s called ‘The golden age of grotesque’. “We sing la la, la la, la la lah. We sing la la, la la, lah. La la, la la, la la, lah. We sing la la, la la, la la lah”. Don’t get me wrong, Marilyn Manson’s lyrics are smarter than Iggy Pop’s. I mean, sort of ‘deeper’, whatever that means.

Time + 52 min – The bass player now uses a white double bass. Mr Manson wears an Al Capone hat. (after Rita Hayworth, now it’s Marlene Dietrich) and is carrying a soprano sax. Hey-hey, that’s interesting! But he doesn’t blow it until the end of the new song: two meagre notes (he sounds like a seagull). Polite applause, a few hisses.

Time + 56 min - It’s ‘Sweet Dreams’ time. The crowd warms up a bit again, and sings with Mr Manson. “Sweet dreams are made of this. Who am I to disagree? Travel the world and the seven seas. Everybody's looking for something…” He asks us to clap our hands, just like any average rock and roll singer. Some accede to his request and it’s really getting a little warmer, but still no chicken / rat / cow / chick / Brora on stage. Bah…

Time + 60 min – It’s the last song – I guess it’s called ‘Beautiful people’. On the giant screen, portraits of a few world leaders follow one another (I could spot Ghandi, Nixon, Stalin, the Che, Hitler, Mao, GW Bush and maybe Charles Manson – not that the latter was a world leader, thank god). Mr Manson wears his SS cap again but he’s soon to throw it away. It’s a short song (all songs were short, that is) and as soon as it’s over, the band leaves the stage. It seams that the gig has come to and end. Some people ask for an encore – politely, I’d say.

Time + 72 min - They come back for the encore. Just one song, sung from kind of a dais with a strange sign on it (half swastika, half road sign). Mr Manson eructs, gesticulates like a disarticulated jumping jack, sends some kisses to the audience… The spotlights are switched off. It’s over for good.

Time + 75 min - Quick, quick, let's get out of here and avoid the gothics!

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Incredible picture of Iggy Pop and Marilyn Manson meeting after a show - not the Colmar ones. Doesn't it say it all? (found on I-94 bar)

 

 
- In short... -
Although both shows featured two superstars and some heavy rock and roll, they just couldn't have been more different. Iggy and his band played almost only old Stooges songs from the 1969-1973 era, while Marilyn Manson did sort of a best-of (I've been told). Iggy didn't do any of his more recent hits (The passenger, Lust for Life, Bored, Nightclubbing, Louie Louie, China Girl and tutti quanti). Both shows were certainly highly prepared and carefully apportioned but the Stooges managed to communicate with their audience (to say the least) while Manson was just doing his show: not a single word, not even a 'thank you (for your business)'. Iggy flabbergasted even the youngsters who had never heard about the Stooges before, while Manson sounded tired and bored, imitating himself. Granted, nobody really wanted him to sacrifice any dog / goldfish / elephant / mouse / Brora (except for the latter) and I've been there just out of curiosity anyway. But still!...
And sure I had even no expectations whatsoever but I still managed to get sort of disappointed - which beats all! (and yes, I know I'm boldly 'out of the target', and I don't like this kind of music at all.) Yet, I found Brian Warner sort of moving. I'm not far from thinking he doesn't like what he's doing anymore, and I'd bet he'll do something else in the coming years. Another kind of music - again, he's got a great voice and he's not bad at writing lyrics, and probably not only outrageous ones - or any other kind of art, like for instance painting (see the picture, titled 'When I get old' - he's good, isn't he?). As for Iggy Pop, he rules and he's in top shape. I can't see why or when he'd stop doing what he does: just some good, generous and soulful (and loud) rock and roll. Iggy, anytime again!
Only for a short time: Dirt.mp3 (The Stooges, 1970) and mOBSCENE.mp3 (Marilyn Manson, 2003)
PS: a message from my daughter Diane: "Dad talks about politics too much. Besides, when Marilyn Manson mimicked a jumping jack at the end, it was on purpose. And daddy didn't tell you about the nice cotillions and paper streamers, nor about the great light show. Tainted Love wasn't bad, and the crowd hasn't been that indifferent to the show." Good, now you have two POV's.
TASTING - Benrinnes 14 yo 1968 (40%, G&M Connoisseur’s Choice old brown label) Colour: straw. Nose: quite perfumy at first nosing, and even a bit soapy. Shampoo notes, dried orange. Some sherry after a moment, with some notes of old books, ham, quite some mustiness. Parma violets. Really interesting, despite the rather heavy soapy notes. Mouth: rather spicy and peppery attack. A bit dusty but quite bold, almost powerful. Some notes of lavender cream, dried herbs, earl grey tea. Quite complex again and interesting. Medium long finish, on white pepper and with some nice smoky notes. A good one, no doubt, that stresses Benrinnes’ rather particular style. 85 points.
 

August 15, 2005


MUSIC – Jazz - Recommended listening: wow, this is powerful! Star drummer Victor Lewis does Eeeyyess!.mp3 with the help of the great Alex Acuna on percussions and a stunning Terell Stafford on trumpet (he was so good last time I saw him in concert!) Look, it's simple: if you don't like modern jazz, have a try at Eeeyyes!, plays it loud, and I'm sure you'll change your mind. And of course, please buy Victor Lewis' music!
TASTING - FOUR 1975 ARDBEGS
Ardbeg 24 yo 1975/2000 (46.7%, OB, Manager’s Choice for Japan, cask 4700, 248 bottles) Colour: amber. Nose: wow, magnificent and delicate at the same time. Starts unusually, on praline, light toffee and, of course, smoke. Whiffs of old turpentine and game, ashes and old books. Really subtle and complex. Beautiful indeed, even if it lacks a little oomph. There is some sherry but a delicate one. Mouth: oh, what a beautiful one! Starts on tea, getting a bit tannic immediately. Gets oakier and oakier, very dry and smoky at the same time. Develops on dark chocolate, espresso coffee, very old rum… Perhaps a bit austere (strong tea) but really excellent for its ‘Jansenist’ profile. 91 points.
Ardbeg 19 yo 1975/1994 (58.1%, Cadenhead’s Authentic Collection, Sherrywood) Colour: pure gold. Nose: much yeastier, on beer and cider. Quite smoky. Apple skin, toasted bread, burnt cake… Less immediately ‘sexy’ than the other one and a little more spirity but still quite enjoyable, even if rather simple. Mouth: pungent, spirity, burning… Ugh, what a beast! Peat, rubber, tar, burnt vegetables… Gets really acrid and bitter. Difficult to enjoy on the palate, this one. 80 points will do.

Ardbeg 21 yo 1975/1996 (47%, Cadenhead Authentic Collection) Colour: light gold. Nose: completely different, on barn and cow stable, quickly transforming into gentian spirit, then freshly malted barley, and finally light caramel (Werther’s Originals). A multi-faceted Ardbeg… Now we’re on pear spirit, celery… And then fresh oysters and fresh hazelnuts… Wow, all hat for the same price! ;-) Mouth: oh, too bad, the palate is much simpler. Some pear spirit, tea, caramel and not much else. How come can the nose be so magnificent and the mouth so… ‘simple’? Strange… 85 points.

Ardbeg 21 yo 1975/1996 (48.9%, Cadenhead Authentic Collection, Sherrywood) Colour: light amber. Nose: a beautiful mixture of sea air, light caramel and fresh vanilla. Hazelnuts, oysters, cider apples… A bonfire on the beach (now I’m talking like the Scotch Malt Whisky Society!) Very subtle, very delicate… Subtler than the usual Ardbegs. A thrill! Again some notes of Werther’s Originals.


Mouth: rather nervous, on pine syrup, tar liquor, burnt herbs… Some rubbery notes. Grilled Provence herbs, strong liquorice candies… Again it’s not overly complex on the palate, but very compact and satisfying (but not for newcomers, even if that sounds a bit selfish). 92 points.

August 2005 - part 1 <--- August 2005 - part 2 ---> September 2005 - part 1
     


C
heck the index of all entries:
Whisky
Music
Nick's Concert Reviews
 

Best malts I had these weeks - 90+ points only - alphabetical:

Ardbeg 21 yo 1975/1996 (48.9%, Cadenhead Authentic Collection, Sherrywood)

Ardbeg 24 yo 1975/2000 (46.7%, OB, Manager’s Choice for Japan, cask 4700, 248 bottles)

Caol Ila 18 yo (57%, G&M for Sestante, Italy, sherry wood, 70’s)

Glenfarclas 50 yo 1955/2005 (OB, cask #1612)

Glenfiddich-Glenlivet 30 yo 1963/1993 (51.7%, Cadenhead, bottled October)

Highland Park NAS (70 proof, G&M licensed bottling, Saint-Patrick label, 50’s or 60’s)

Springbank 25 yo 1975 ‘Frank McHardy’ (46%, OB, cask #1377, 157 bottles)

Springbank 37 yo 1968/2005 (47.5%, The Whiskyfair, 216 bottles)