Ever since I first saw and heard Elbow on an episode of Live from Abbey Road, I felt an immediate connection with the band. Not because we were from similar backgrounds or anything, because I recognized the beauty in what they were doing, and I’m pretty sure they recognized it too, although they were modest about it. They are a top ten band in the UK, filling stadiums and large halls, but tending to play small halls and large clubs in the U.S. Last week, I had the good fortune to see them first in a large club (The Observatory in Santa Ana) and then in a large hall (The Wiltern in Hollywood). Here’s a nice version of “The Bones of You” from their performance in Orange County Tuesday night.
And here’s a lovely version of “One Day Like This” from The Wiltern on Thursday:
Here’s the one Elbow slideshow I haven’t yet posted here, and its probably the least interesting in that it doesn’t really evolve or develop as much as it needs to. Still it’s a lovely song from the band, taken from a sensitive performance of it in 2015 on YouTube. I don’t think it’s terrible, but coming after “Scattered Black and Whites,” which I really think of as my best slideshow to date, it was a bit of a let down.
As you might have guessed, I’m a big fan of this band, although they aren’t especially well known in the U.S. I believe I first became aware of them when they appeared on an episode of Live from Abbey Road. I was impressed enough to buy their new album at the time, The Seldom Seen Kid, and was even more impressed by their i-tusnes concert. After Build a Rocket Boys, I was a fan, and after seeing them in oncert at The Wiltern on The Takeoff and Landing of Everything tour, I became a devoted follower of this Manchester band. Guy Garvey’s voice–rather like Rufus Wainwright’s although their voices aren’t that similar–just connects with me on some deep level. Their arrangements are intriguing, varied, and not really like anbody else, while their lyrics are deeply evocative of memories and emotions I had thought were private. I’ll be seeing them twice this week–once tonight in Santa Ana at The Observatory, and then on Thursday at The Wiltern. Their fans seem like genuinely nice and friendly people, an attitude the band seems to consciously foster by, for example, encouraging fans to post band-related material to their Facebook group.. This slideshow consciously recalls some of my other Elbow slideshows, including “Lost Worker Bee,” “Kindling (Fickle Flame),” “Scattered Black and Whites” (which frankly I consider my best slideshow to date), and “The Night Will Always Win.” The audio for Newborn is an extended version of the song from a Kendall Calling performance in 2015 (the song originally appeared on Asleep in the Back ).
“Poorman’s Sunshine” is a track from Donovan’s Beat Cafe album (2004). A very intriguing album that revisits Donovan’s early experiences with beat culture, this is a standout track, with some terrific upright bass playing and some simple yet fascinating lyrics, delivered with conviction by the Glaswegian bard. The slideshow was great fun to do, with the last section kind of deliberately recalling the Atlantis/1983 slideshow/video from a couple of months ago. Certainly part of the meaning of the song is that music can be a “poorman’s sunshine,” although I sort of expanded the meaning to suggest that sunshine–or happiness-exists wherever you find it, which is probably true for everyone, but it is probably more true for those living on the margins. Anyway, I hope you like it (I’m really quite proud of myself for this one), but even if you don’t, just close your eyes and groove on this fantastic, little-heard song.
This was a byproduct of my Phil Ochs’ play project. Sammy Walker is a Georgia born folksinger who knew Phil during his last year or so in New York. Phil helped the young singer with contacts, and produced his first album, Songs for Patty, singing background vocals on a couple of the tracks. With a voice poised somewhere between Bob Dylan and Woody Guthrie, Sammy probably suffered from sounding a bit too much like these near mythic figures. He is also an excellent songwriter in his own right, recording several albums in the late 1970s and 1980s, as well as one in 2008. While it has a number of excellent songs, his first album includes this standout track, which is I think vaguely based on Salinger’s book. I have to admit my own memories of A Catcher in the Rye are pretty sketchy; it was one of those youth classics that I didn’t get around to reading until I was really too old to appreciate it (as I remember, I found Holden a bit pretentious and annoying). This slideshow makes a major motif out of the sea, although I frankly don’t remember that in the book at all, and I think I probably make a bit too much out of the reference to the shoreline in the song’s chorus. That’s Sammy and Phil in the picture above, circa 1975. His music is worth checking out, by the way, if you’re interested in folk music with an occasionally topical edge.
[Previously posted–in slightly different form–on my Unofficial: Barenaked Ladies Facebook fan page.] I am a little hesitant about putting this up, partly because I am very aware that I have consciously skewed the more or less straightforward meaning of this absolutely breathtaking song. The vast majority of the time, I try to be true to what seems to be the songwriter’s intent, and I realize I am opening myself up to very justifiable criticism by creating a visual context that actually alters this meaning (I certainly have sometimes criticized movies for not being faithful to their source, although much less so these days than in the past). I have done this in other slideshows a few times (Warren Zevon’s “They Moved the Moon” and Loudon Wainwright III’s “Unhappy Anniversary” come to mind), but it’s really the exception rather than the rule. The other reason for my hesitancy really has to do with how I altered the meaning, essentially taking a love song (albeit one with some darkly evocative undercurrents) and making it into a song about mental illness, specifically bipolar disorder. Although I do not have this particular mental problem myself (yeah, I have others), I have known people who do, with the illness often manifesting in the late teens or early twenties. I hope the slideshow expresses empathy, if not always tact, and an understanding of the kind of pain and suffering that often seems to be beyond the victim’s control. I am certain I decided to take this approach in part because of last week’s “A Different Sort of Solitude” slideshow, which meant doing a little research about Steven and why he left BNL. He has said, apparently, he suffers from this condition, although I don’t know if that is a self-diagnosis or one made by a medical professional. Given my past experience with people who were bipolar, I suddenly began to see his leaving the group, this song, and especially the relationship between Steven and Ed, in a new light, and this slideshow is the first of the results of that.
This is a pretty direct followup to “What a Good Boy.” In fact, it makes explicit the idea I only implied in the earlier one, which is that you could interpret the song as being about Ed and Steven’s relationship. Ed has apparently said that he wrote the song below at least in part with Steven’s departure in mind, so I don’t think I am really bringing any thing to the song that isn’t there. Frankly, back when I first heard the song, which I immediately liked, I actually thought it was written from a parent to a child–it’s only very recently that I came to realize that it could be construed to be about relationships within the group. In some ways, if “What a Good Boy” gives you an inside perspective on being bipolar, “You Run Away” gives you an outside perspective, the perspective of those having to deal with the bipolar person. Having heard BNL’s new song, “Canada Dry” (its been officially released on YouTube now) which will be on their next album, I realize that it is a subject that continues to be on Ed’s mind (it’s also a fantastic song). I realize this is a sensitive subject for some BNL fans, with some people blaming one or the other of the parties involved, but I actually mean what I say at the slideshow’s end. All the best to all.
I always loved Lewis Carroll’s books, and my family had a couple of beautiful illustrated versions of Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass back when I was growing up. By the time I got through with them, I’m afraid, they looked considerably worse for wear. “Jabberwocky” has also become somewhat famous as an example of Victorian nonsense verse, which is actually a whole minor genre. The poem remains a wonderful example of the form, with a coherent story of coming of boy’s coming of age by means of the slaying of a mysterious yet horrible monster. Every boy needs to be called a “beamish boy” at least once in their lives. This is from Donovan’s HMS Donovan album, which is largely nursery rhymes and children’s poems set to music. The simple guitar pattern and swirling organ arrangement establish an air of mystery, while Donovan’s rather solemn delivery suggests what an earnest business this is for our unnamed hero. Hope you like it (to some extent, this slideshow was an excuse for me to explore Victorian book illustration).
This is the second of two slideshows inspired and accompanied by Donovan’s versions of nursery rhymes and children’s poems from his 1971 HMS Donovan album. I always rather liked this bedtime poem, in part because it was about getting to one of my favorite places: sleep. Donovan does set it to a a lovely melody, and it actually achieves a surprising narrative drivel. You’ll notice a number of illustrations by Maxfield Parrish (very noted in the 1920s), as well as more recent illustrations from children’s books, which I have intercut with photographs of fishing and fish, trying to suggest both the world of art and the art of the world. Hope you like it.
Only the first of these is my slideshow, but I thought I would include the second as another wonderful example of a rather simple, low-cost but remarkably effective video, the kind this Manchester band often produces. (Cross posted at the Guy Garvey’s Finest Hour and Elbow FB group). Since this version of “Kindling” first appeared in my Facebook feed a couple of months ago (it originally appeared, without John Grant’s vocals) on their Little Fictions album last Spring), I’ve been entranced with it. The way it folds together memory, strong emotion, and its sudden, stunning rebirth are very affecting, while the restrained melody complements the way John and Guy’s voice interweave to absolutely stunning effect. Anyway, this is my fourth Elbow slideshow, my way of preparing myself for their shows next month at The Observatory and The Wiltern. The video clips are from Shutterstock, and–yes–I paid for them. Hope you like it.
The second is the band’s offical video for “My Sad Captains,” from their Take Off and Landing of Everything album. It’s a lovely, poignant song, and the video really manages to encompass the song’s beautiful innocence, sadness, and acceptance, all in about four minutes. Other than the multiple cameras, it almost looks like a home movie, which actually contributes to its success, I think.
Here’s one I finished at the beginning of the month. I’ve always liked the Transverse City album, in part because of its distinctly experimental vibe. Warren was trying lots of new things, and they worked a lot of the time. Where the title track and “They Moved the Moon” seemed to push musical boundaries, “Nobody’s in Love This Year” pushes lyrical ones in the way it uses financial metaphors to describe love relationships or–more accurately–their collapse. It certainly captures one of the darker and more prevalent aspects of the Reagan years–one that is still with us–but it does so with Warren’s characteristic wit, lyrical grace, and melodic beauty. Hope you like it.
A reader of my “Unofficial: Warren Zevon” fan page suggested I do this song about Warren and the RR Hall of Fame. It seemed like a good idea, and I think the slideshow turned out OK. The web address at the end is to 2017 petition on change.otg to induct Warren. This petition has apparently just been closed, as the nominating ballots for 2017 have just come out, and again Warren isn’t on it. Another indifferent year in heaven, I guess. So it goes.
Here’s a slideshow I just did to “Lost Worker Bee.” I quite like the official video, which this in no way replaces, but I like how it turned out. It’s a bit more Elbow-focused, as well as a bit more bee-focused than the video, although I think it does a good job of suggesting the yearning and possible fulfillment that is at the song’s heart. While this could be seen as a followup to my “Build a Rocket Boys” and “Open Arms” slideshows of last summer. This is actually my way of my beginning to get ready for the band’s North American tour (I’ll see them twice next month!).
I thought I would post this, simply because it is a wonderful example of how you can do a lot with a little in a music video. It isn’t my video, but has gotten over five-and-a-half million views on YouTube. It helps to have a terrific song, of course, one that does a remarkable job of capturing that evanescent feeling of everything just falling into place.
I sort of came back from Cuba with an embarressment of riches, but they are mostly performance clips of Rufus Wainwright (I got a good deal of practice filming, which I sorely needed), but they really belong on my Unofficial: Rufus Wainwright page rather than here, so I thought I would post these two Donovan slideshows from early September.
Looking at it now from the perspective of a few weeks, I think this slideshow sort achieves what it set out to do. “The River Song” is a rather haunting, gentle, meditative song from the Hurdy Gurdy Man album, that showcases Donovan’s intriguing finger picking style (possibly learned Maybelle Carter of the Carter family). This audio recording, which I downloaded from YouTube, sounds as if it was recorded from a vinyl album in that you can hear the pops and hisses that indicate a much played vinyl record (for those of you who remember vinyl albums). Although I have a digital download (yes, I paid for it, and it’s really quite good), nevertheless I kind of like this version–it has a lived in feel (sort of like nature). I was going for a kind of Thoreauvian idyl, immersed in a sharply observed nature while at the same time suggesting an interior journey, sort of like Marvell’s “green thought in a green shade” from his poem “The Garden.” I actually did two edits of this: the one here and another one with a video excerpt from Ryan Larkin’s “Syrinx.” It’s actually still up on my YouTube page if you are curious (it says “Larkin edit” in the title), but ultimately I found the shift to Larkin’s animation a little jarring, which is just what you don’t want in a project like this. “The River Song” video/slideshow was made with Final Cut Pro, by the way, which I’ve just started using (I think this was my second project with it). I’m still learning it, but that’s where all the fancy overlays come from.
This second slideshow is another evocation of place, this time urban, of Goodge Street in London. I’m pretty sure I’ve been there (and I’ve certainly been in the Tube station), but I don’t have any particularily sharp memories of it (there’s a lot to see in London). Oddly enough, in spite of the daytime focus of the title when I listen to the song I also hear foreshadowings of evening (e.g. the smearing of colors), and again it seems to be describing in it such a way that I wonder whether the light or darkness he describes is exterior to the poet/singer, or interior. Quite a number of the pictures are from Goodge street (I didn’t really try to achieve any unity of time, but a few people will notice Marianne Faithfull), although some evoke, I think, a more generalized London nighttime. Hope you enjoy it as much as people seem to have liked “The River Song.”