Saturday, September 15, 2018

WIne: Cream-Sweet Wine

purchase [  album ]

purchase [  album ]

For me, Fresh Cream was seminal and gound-breaking music, but mostly in hind sight. I came across Disraeli Gears before I heard Fresh Cream. By that time, Cream had already made its name, so my purchase was essentially filling in the blanks of the Cream repertoire.

Fresh Cream was Eric Clapton moving on from his roots in the Yardbirds and John Mayall. But the album established  Cream as a band to be reckoned with. We're talking mid-to-late 60s and their style of music was pushing the limits of what most people listened to (Soon to come: Jimi Hendrix, who blew it all open, way beyond run of the mill Top of the Pops, which generally would not include Hendrix and Cream until a few years later, under popular pressure)  I was there, listening, and I can attest that it was nothing like you had ever heard, Fresh Cream included. Cream (and Hendrix)  took rock to a new level.

Cream (see my last post) was one of the bands that moved popular music from its "more or less acceptable if dubious" status position to money-making and hence acceptable endeavors. Fresh Cream - in retrospect- had what it takes too move the rock genre forward, but it was both a bit early and not as well marketed as it might have been.

This video is from nigh on 50 years after the real Cream, but it includes the essence of the original - with modernization of Clapton's evolution.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Wine: Champagne Supernova


Another Champagne song, but what the hell is a “Champagne Supernova?” They are words that make no sense together, and even Noel Gallagher, who wrote the damn thing, has no idea what the song means. (Strangely, I’ve recently written elsewhere about an album titled Kilonova, which is not as bright as a supernova, but is still kind of a big deal, despite not being wine related).

Nevertheless, the Oasis song is a great singalong, as the best Oasis songs are, but I’m not posting that version. Instead, the video above is a cover by Scala & Kolacny Brothers. Scala is a Belgian girls choir conducted by Stijn Kolacny, and arranged and accompanied on piano by his brother Steven Kolacny. Starting in the early 2000s, they decided to move away from the classical repertory and into rock covers, garnering way more fame than would be expected from a Belgian girls’ choir singing rock covers.

Their cover of Radiohead’s “Creep” was used in the trailer for the movie The Social Network, and other songs were used in trailers for Downtown Abbey, and for other movies and in TV shows. They have released a bunch of albums, mostly of covers of songs from pretty much every genre, in English, French and German, and, of course, a Christmas album (which includes a cover of one of my favorite holiday songs), so, if this kind of thing interests you, I’m sure you can find something that turns you on.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018


I suspect the Bonzo's didn't really translate that well across the pond to the USA, that second of two nations divided by a single language. Indeed, apart from a cult of ageing sex- and septuagenarians, I've never been sure whether they actually meant so much over here, their one slab of chart action being produced by one Paul McCartney, often mistakenly thought to be also written by him. But this glorious parody never fails to make me smile, even as I repeatedly play it to my bemused, and unamused, wife. Nonetheless, it seems, in a fortnight of songs about wine, perhaps to give a thought about the downside. And this is probably best appreciated within the context that Vivian Stanshall, the singer and frontman of this anarchic ensemble, died arguably not indirectly from his giving booze one hell of a chance, in a fire on his houseboat, in no small part contributed to his prodigious alcohol consumption. Details vary.

The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band had no right being a success, but, in a small way, a success they were. Formed in about 1962, the aim was to provide a dada-ist counterpoint to the then trad-jazz revival of its day, which involved the deadpan recreation of the often absurd and very english approach to dixieland. Take "Hunting Tigers out in Indiah", which might be considered one such example, their recreation of an original song dating from the '30s. By this stage they were in transition from an all brass and banjo line-up, beginning to introduce more conventional, for the '60s, instrumentation. Helped in no small part by a resident spot on children's TV programme, "Please Do Not Adjust Your Set", they gradually morphed into a slightly broader parodic approach to all styles of popular music. Should you pursue the clip, it shows also the nascent beginnings of "Monty Python's Flying Circus", with all but John Cleese present. I was a child of that time, and took to this nonsense with ease, able to effortlessly assimilate the Bonzo's into my developing musical palette. (And no surprise that, as I grew older, so could become the peak audience for Python.)

Come 1967 and they had formally ditched most of the jazz, and many of the members who had played that style. A further boost was when Paul McCartney secured them a place in the Beatles' "Magical Mystery Tour". Here's some outtakes of their included song "Death Cab For Cutie", should you wonder where Ben Gibbard came up with the name. It was still hardly rock and roll in any conventional sense, they somehow still finding favour on the gig circuit and, especially, at festivals. They did manage one tour to the US, as support to the Kinks, themselves perhaps on a revers journey from rock to vaudeville. It was a disaster. They lurched on for a few more tours and a few more albums, shedding members, yet retaining a hard core of Stanshall, later Rutles mastermind Neil Innes and tap-dancing drummer, "Legs" Larry Smith, alongside saxophonists Rodney Slater and Roger Ruskin Spear, inventor of ever more Heath Robertson wind instruments. Acclaim did not, however, translate into sales.

After dissolution in 1970 they had a couple of short-lived reunions. Stanshall descended into ever more eccentric behaviours, ricocheting between drunken japes with Keith Moon and writing a body of works around fictitious upper class gentleman explorer, Sir Henry Rawlinson: "Sir Henry at Rawlinson End", initially as spoken word projects, later a series of books and a radio piece, even a film, with Trevor Howard, no less!. He died in 1995. Innes, ahead of the Rutles, went on to be the resident musical go-to for the Monty Python team, often appearing in their live concerts. Between 2006-8 a final official reunion took place, with Stanshall replaced by comedians/actors Phill Jupitus and Ade Edmondson, playing to nostalgia hungry audiences of (very) ageing schoolboys.

I confess I always found the band to be a better idea than a reality. You probably had to be there, recorded material having dated dreadfully. But for that idea I am grateful. And, for a short time, back in the dim and distant, glad also that I was there. Surely that is worth raising a glass to.

Give booze a chance.