Strings on Sunday

I’ve been slightly unkind about some of The Beuatiful South’s cover versions on these pages previously, but they are a band who I really like (up to a point), a fact which gains puzzled looks from many of my friends who are less receptive to their charms.

I say “up to a point”, because there was a definite moment in their career where I fell out of love with them, that moment being 1998’s Perfect 10 single (although I did still buy the album if was the lead single from, and quite like a couple of tracks on it).

Anyway, today’s choice is one of my favourites by them, lifted from their debut album, sort of. It is on there, but when released as a single, it was re-recorded with more strings, making it just a little bit more delicately mournful:

the-beautiful-south-ill-sail-this-ship-alone-go-discs-londonThe Beautiful South – I’ll Sail This Ship Alone

More soon.

Sunday Morning Coming Down

Regular readers may remember that last year, prompted by a visit to my local multiplex to see T2: Trainspotting I vowed to go to the cinema more often, and signed up for one of those membership cards, where you pay a set amount every month (£17.70, in my case), and you get unlimited visits along with discounts on the massively over-priced munchies they sell in the foyer.

In December, I got an email from the cinema in question. The subject of the email was well intended: to show me how much money I’d saved by subscribing to the Unlimited scheme. Unfortunately, the email revealed that I had “saved” -£135.00. Yes, minus.

Probably because I only went five times all year. I think I may have just stumbled across the reason why I’m not a millionaire yet.

So, New Year’s Resolution time: to go to the cinema more frequently, and with Oscars season upon us, there’s arguably no better time to go.

At the time of writing, I’ve been twice, once to see that latest Star Wars movie (which I figured would be best seen on the big screen), and also to see Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.

On arrival, I went to get myself some popcorn, but the tills were down, so there followed an awkward conversation with the girl serving behind the counter.

Her: What film are you going to see?

Me: The one with the odd name. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.

Her: (after staring at me for what seemed an eternity, like I’d just spoken in an impenetrable foreign language). Oh.

Me: Yeh. The reviews have been really good, and I really like the three main actors in it.

Her: Oh a lot of people have been coming out and saying how good that is.

Luckily, the tills pinged back into life before I had chance to challenge this. I don’t know about you, but when I’ve come out of the cinema having just seen a truly great film, I’ve never felt the urge to rush over to the popcorn stand and tell a disinterested teenager how wonderful the movie was.

Anyway, the three main actors in Three Billboards… are Frances McDormand, Sam Rockwell and Woody Harrelson.

You’ll know McDormand from a lot of Coen Brothers movies, but primarily, I’d think, Fargo, but she’s been nominated for Best Supporting Actress three times before, for Mississippi Burning, Almost Famous, and North Country. She is reliably brilliant in every role I’ve seen her play. Rockwell you will recognise from Frost/Nixon, Duncan “Son of Bowie” Jones’ Moon, and he was Zaphod Beeblebrox in the movie version of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Harrelson surely needs no introduction by now, but many of you will have first encountered him in 80s sitcom Cheers, and if not there then in Natural Born Killers, or maybe the Hunger Games franchise, or Zombieland (which if you haven’t seen, is just terrific), or more recently in War for the Planet of the Apes.

All three have received Oscar nominations, as has the movie, and I can tell you that all are fully justified (although I haven’t seen the other nominated movies…yet).

Here’s the basic premise: frustrated with the local police’s failure to bring her daughter’s murder to justice, Mildred Hayes (McDormand) takes matters into her own hands, by renting the titular Three Billboards and using them to bring the murder investigation back into the limelight. No spoilers, obviously, but needless to say doing so sets in motion a train of events which are at times shocking and at others blackly comic.

I can’t recommend this film enough, if I’m honest, it’s just great.

But why am I blethering on about movies on a Sunday morning when all you want to hear is some Country music? Well, because part way through the film, a song came on the soundtrack which I wasn’t familiar with, but the voice was unmistakable.

And here it is, the wonderful Townes Van Zandt from his 1987 At My Window album:

MI0001907378Townes Van Zandt – Buckskin Stallion Blues

More soon.

Late Night Stargazing

Something a little different tonight.

If you’re especially cool, and just happened to be at a loose end on New Year’s Eve, like all the cool kids did, then doubtless you will have found that there was a new option in the short list of things to do to greet the New Year in.

For as 2017 turned into 2018, as well as the usual choices of getting drunk, sleeping and watching Jools Holland’s Hootenanny,  this year there was the added possibility of listening to Erol Alkan on 6Music. He’s also been standing in for Gilles Peterson for the past few Saturday afternoons on the same channel.

Erol’s been a bit of a hero of mine for quite a few years now, ever since me and a little gang of my mates ventured up to a holiday camp in Southport for something called Global Gathering around 15 years ago, and I stumbled across him playing in one of the side rooms.

Alkan is renowned for playing DJ sets which refuse to conform to the standard idea of what a club DJ should be playing, and so it was on this occasion that amongst all of the beaty dance stuff, he dropped tunes like The Cure’s The Walk, The Cult’s She Sells Sanctuary, and Madonna’s Vogue.

I love him, but he’s an Arsenal fan, so I can never truly submit.

Shortly afterwards, back in Cardiff, I was browsing the racks in the now sadly defunct Fopp! when they started playing a mix CD, which piqued my interest. To save anyone’s embarrassment by having to ask the staff, or possibly to limit the amount of time staff spoke to nerdy shoppers, there was a “Now Playing” sign on the counter, with the CD case leaning against it. I knew I had to have it as soon as Soulwax’s E Talking (Nite Versions) featured, and moments later I was striding towards the counter, double CD set clutched in my hand.

The cute girl at the till gave me a knowing look. She knew that I had fallen into the trap, taken the bait she had laid.

“Good choice,” she said, scanning the barcode, a knowing smile playing across her lips.

“So it sounds,” I replied, thinking how clever I’d been to not say “So it seems” like normal people do, the losers, but to change it to “So it sounds” because I could hear the CD I was buying as we spoke.

The conversation went no further and like many other women I’ve met she didn’t sleep with me, but on the plus side I owned an absolutely wonderful  double mix CD.

The CD in question was Erol Alkan’s Bugged Out/Bugged In CD, and this is CD2, the 75 minute long Bugged In Mix. The Bugged Out Mix is full of party bangers, the Bugged In Mix is somewhat quieter.

Some of the songs, or different versions of them, may have featured here before, but I thought of posting them all by myself and without any help or inspiration, honest.

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Erol Alkan – A Bugged In Selection

Get it whilst my bandwidth can cope.

More soon.