WITHIN HEARING

A selection of what has been spinning at Vinyl Connection headquarters recently

“Audio Diary 2014-2018” is a 5-CD set of live King Crimson, and a ripper! Full of brilliantly realised versions of KC music both vintage and newer, it is at times glorious and at others pummelling. Just the way we like it. Released in 2019, it showcases several versions of the formidable touring band, one that fluctuated between 7 and 9 members. Exciting stuff.

Curiously, the odd and slightly disturbing cover art is not credited to a particular artist, but instead to Bearhand Design Studio. Self-portraits by the employees, perhaps?

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The 33 ⅓ Book Club that zooms across the Pacific every Thursday lunchtime (or Wednesday evening, depending on your time zone) recently featured volume #51 in the series, Nick Drake’s Pink Moon. It was an enjoyable slice of talking enthusiastically about music while noting the intriguing differences in responses to Drake’s small body of work. Pink Moon is so spare as to be anorexic, perhaps reflecting the unsated hunger of the singer-songwriter for connection, any connection. Personally, I think I prefer the earlier two albums, but there is no doubt that Nick Drake’s final work is haunting and often hauntingly beautiful. The book, by Amanda Petrusich, managed that tricky balancing act of including the author’s own experience while never obscuring the story. I was amongst those who found the long final section on advertising—the album’s title track was used in a beautifully constructed VW television ad, thus propelling Drake into the US consciousness much more memorably than his records managed at the time of release—rather too extended and detailed, but that might be more a reflection on cultural/social mores or even the profession of the reader than any misstep on the part of the writer.

Since then, I’ve been reading the Céline Dion book by Carl Wilson (not the Beach Boy) and finding it absolutely engrossing. Not only is it one of the best music books I’ve read, it has expanded and enriched my understanding of music, art and culture. Big claim, but big ideas are digestibly presented by Wilson in “Let’s Talk About Love”. The chapter titles will clue you in:

  1. Let’s talk about hate
  2. Let’s talk about pop (and its critics)
  3. Let’s talk in French
  4. Let’s talk about world conquest
  5. Let’s talk about schmaltz
  6. Let’s sing really loud
  7. Let’s talk about taste
  8. Let’s talk about who’s got bad taste…

At the time of writing, I am yet to actually listen to a song by Ms Dion.

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Although this re-issue of Patto’s 1970 debut is a recent purchase, I cannot for the life of me recall what prompted searching it out. Perhaps Nick Saloman mentioned the band? Anyway, this is a nice Esoteric release of a very rare record, one that combines elements of rock, blues-rock and even a kind of proggy free jazz in a way that is peculiarly British (circa turn of that decade). Mike Patto’s voice is not especially my cup of Bovril, but Ollie Halsall’s guitar work (and vibes, too) is outstanding. Creative, exciting, unpredictable. The album does, however, contain one lyric that is so repellent to contemporary sensibilities that I’m afraid it cast a shadow over my enjoyment of this vintage slice of UK underground.

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Finally, a record I wrote about for Discrepancy, and keep coming back to. It’s the fifth album from P.J. Harvey (released in 2000) and certainly a move towards the mainstream, but I found it so engaging it became a kind of instant favourite.

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Any of these artists ring your bells? And what have others been listening to?

24 comments

  1. pinklightsabre · · Reply

    Yeah the last song on that PJ Harvey record is a winner. “We’ll float” if my memory serves correct. Just sublime.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’d have to own up to enjoying this more than the one we talked about. Think I’m a wimp for jagged loud/soft 90s rock!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. pinklightsabre · · Reply

        The first record has a certain charm for me but it’s not one I ever go back to. I’m not as familiar with her other records like the one in your post but they’re a lot more interesting and evolved to me. Heck she’s come a long way! She put out an ambient one most recently too! Mostly ambient that is, one or two vocal tracks I think.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve always wanted to read that Carl Wilson book. I have swung round massively to pop music in the last few years, and the critical consensus has too. My sister had a Celine Dion album growing up, and there were some legit good tracks that I liked even as a teenage boy – ‘It’s All Coming Back To Me’ now is basically a big Jim Steinman number with Roy Bittan on piano and Todd Rundgren on backing vocals.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think she worked with Steinman several times (though that is off the agenda now, sadly).
      The book, as you may have picked up from my comments, is a corker. I’d go as far as ‘Brilliant’.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. There are just no dropouts on this PJ Harvey album. “A Place Called Home” is a great song that has lost none of its fascination for me. The duet “This Mess We’re In” with Thom Yorke sounds also very nice when you are in a melancholy mood.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Absolutely. I confess I found this album much easier to get into than the first couple.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. PJ Harvey was my favorite indie woman of the 90s. I can also recommend “Dry”, “Rid Of Me” and “To Bring You My Love”. Highly complex and sick of postmodernism.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Loads here to comment on, Bruce. Nick Drake’s stuff is quite brilliant, though I too gravitate more to the first two albums – particularly Bryter Layter.

    Are we talking about the same Celine Dion here? I’ll admit to knowing very little other than that Titanic number and whatever I could hear through the wall of my sisters room shortly after. It made my teeth itch.

    PJ Harvey… yes. I’m a big fan and while not my favourite, I love that album a whole lot. Strangely enough, the album has been high up on my want list when I got into vinyl. I’ve had the CD for the longest time, but I needed the LP. Cause, well, y’know. That’s what we do, isn’t it? Anyhoo, you could say I long considered it a white whale (along with Is This Desire? – my favourite), but I have not bought it despite the reissues of the catalogue. Go figure. Part of that is likely Pandemic related. But part of it is likely me thinking “I’ll get it at some point” now it’s more readily available.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Good stuff, J. Isn’t it funny how scarcity can make something desirable?
      Yep, THAT Celine Dion. The book is subtitled “A Journey to the End of Taste”, which hint at the cultural studies element. It s thoughtful, erudite, and entertaining… and made me challenge some of my filters and prejudices (though I still don’t enjoy Ms Dion’s music). Highly recommended.

      Like

  5. What a crazy album cover for the King Crimson release. I remember that tour with the three drummers prominently in front (one whom I recall past away last year, though I can’t remember if it was from covid or not). Wow, a five cd set huh? That’s a pretty major investment, though I suspect well worth it.

    Ever since I saw Celine Dion once perform a song with Joe Walsh on guitar, I figured her public image might be very different from the private one. Thanks for the book recommendation here. It looks worth reading. – Marty

    Liked by 1 person

    1. As I just wrote to J., Marty, Wilson’s book is top notch.
      The KC is a fine addition to a bulging shelf; great playing and some unexpected back-cat toons. But that artwork!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Did KC need three drummers to replace Bill?
    I dont know if I could pull the trigger on the book Bruce but you have a way of making things like the ” forbidden fruit” and you know CB and things like that. Just the thought of Crimson in the same take as my French Canadian sister has me curious. Patto is on the listen to list because you do that to me. Cool take fella.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ta, CB. The book is everything I promise. Of the nine people on our zoom group this week, ALL 9 rated it in their top 3 of the series.

      Like

      1. Its cool when something like that surprises you. Not knowing her work and finding the story that interesting. Good writing.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. I haven’t really listened to PJ Harvey since her debut LP. She sort of just drifted out of my vision. As I recall, there were some fantastic songs on that album. Maybe I should ask Alexa to play it for me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “I’m sorry, Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that”

      Like

  8. Looks to me like you are living correctly. Carry on.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Your wish is my command.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. It was all going so well until you hit PJ Harvey – I hate her, she has literally taken £100’s off my Discogs value with her recent reissue campaign!! It’s a conspiracy! Music shouldn’t be easily accessible, it should only be available to elitists who bought vinyl in the 90’s!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ooh, dem’s fightin’ words Misster! Down with those who undermine elitists!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I think Pink Moon is my favourite of Nick Drake’s – the sparseness being its main appeal.
    And I remember watching an Alice Cooper interview where he raved about Celine (they were, I suppose still are, friends). He said she was a tremendous singer, he just disagreed with many of her song choices.
    THat book sounds quite intriguing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are in excellent company favouring ‘Pink Moon’, Geoff. And I can certainly see that some of the arrangements on the first two LPs are a little baroque for some tastes!
      The Celine book is a must for serious music fans and even though it has way too few graphs and charts, it is full of thought-provoking ideas. And there is a great story about Elliot Smith (a kind of sad successor to Mr Drake?) meeting Celine at the Grammys. He was utterly lost at the event and she was warm and kind.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m a big fan of those stories of unexpected friendships / kindness – well done, Céline!

        And Elliott Smith’s song ‘Rose Parade’ is among my all-time favourites, the line “You say it’s a sight that’s quite worth seeing, It’s just that everyone’s interest is stronger than mine” really hits home.

        Liked by 1 person

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