Friday, March 4, 2022



There is a Turkish saying about the month of March that goes like this: it'll make you look (longingly) out the door and cause you to burn your (wooden) shovel and pick handles.

March 1st here was a balmy 50 degrees F; March 3rd it snowed. 

Myself, I feel the weather all day long since my workplace is required to leave all the doors and windows open to mitigate the virus. But it will soon pass. The cold weather, that is.

The weather? ... we have no control over it. Or do we? You want to get into climate change, do you? After COVID mitigation, you say you want to take on weather patterns? Well,  OK ...

I'm not a climate data scientist but I do believe that we don't have (and likely never will have) the long-term data to prove human-caused climate change - there are just too many factors). But I still believe I carry some responsibility for my use of the resources I consume. Guilty until proven innocent.

But without fruitless worrying, we *can* start by making a (limited) list of weather issues:


too much rain


too cold


too hot (kind of off the mark - except that it is Hot Tuna and Jorma is hot)

 Do note that the Weather report intro solo at the top is played on a bass guitar


Thursday, March 3, 2022


Well, I had to, really, a no-brainer and no choice, having displayed one side of the coin so recently.... If Edinburgh is the yin to Glasgow's yang, Leith has the gritty reputation, historically at least, to be the yangiest part of Edinburgh, all dockyards, razor cuts and the worst toilet in the Scotland. And the home to Craig and Charlie Reid, aka the Proclaimers.

I guess most people associate the duo with their most widely known song, the anthemic 500 Miles, or, to give its full title, I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles), which, when included in the 1993 film, Benny and Joon, propelled the twins to worldwide acclaim, a full 5 years after it was initially released, hitting the Billboard number 3. (To be fair, it had been a hit in the UK at the first time around, and in other countries with a sizeable ex-pat Scottish population: number 1 in Australia and in New Zealand!) Where's the link? Sorry, but I cannot stand the song, seeing it little more than a lazy rewrite of Mammy, and enough to ban the brothers from my house for a number of years thereafter. I have since mellowed, but I still ain't playing it!

I much preferred their debut record, the single, Letter From America, an anguished thrash through the effects of post industrialism on the Scottish central belt, and the subsequent deprivation, comparing the effects to the Highland Clearances of the centuries before. So harsh and unaffected was their singing, with no concessions to an easier listening English on the ear, it was a breath of righteous indignation that sat proudly in my heritage. I was delighted to learn that one of those responsible for the boys getting a contract was one Kevin Rowland, of Dexy's Midnight Runners, who helped record their demo songs. 

Their second album, which gives its name to the title of this piece, was called Sunshine on Leith, pairing the acoustic sounds with a full band. As well as that song I don't like, this also included I'm On My Way, and they were. And if that had a hint of Roger Miller, why then, little surprise what came next, as and on an EP:

Third album, Hit the Highway, had them hit a speed bump in the road, near stalling their career, although, again, a movie, Dumb and Dumber, came to the rescue, featuring their inspired cover of the Temptations' Get Ready.

A seven year gap ensued before they were ready again to rock, with Persevere being their first album to be recorded in the US. Bolstered then by a Greatest Hits collection, they seemed back on their feet. With Edwyn Collins, of Orange Juice fame, then brought in for production duties on their next album, whilst lauded as a return to their roots, it failed to set the charts alight. This time, it was the UK charity show, Comic Relief, that came to their rescue, with a reprise of that song, with "humorous" guest vocals. It's even worse than the original, but spawned another hit, this time to the top of the UK charts. OK then, if I must.......

(I'm sorry.)

The Proclaimers have never actually stopped. They continue making new music and tour regularly, being especially popular on the UK summer festival circuit, at least ahead the pandemic. Albums have followed every couple of years, trying to add more than the lazy trope of the heritage oldies circuit. 2012's Like Comedy was a particularly good effort, if largely unlauded, furthering their excursion into a caledonian blue-eyed soul direction. Their last release came out in 2018.

But, back to our featured song, in another quirk, in 2007 Dundee Playhouse put on a musical of the same name, using the songs of the Reid brothers as the narrative link. Winning top prize in the UK Theatre Awards for that year it has continued to be a popular staple of repertory theatre, with several tours. Such was the acclaim that, in 2013, a film version was made, featuring an against type Peter Mullan and Jane Horrocks. Having read this far, I think you would be surprised to have me either rating musical theatre or musical film of any sort, each being anathema to me. And you'd be right, it is garbage, but nonetheless did well enough to please the easily pleased. I'm not going to sour that pretty decent song, offering, instead, a further bite of the bad apple, 500 Miles.

Honestly, I actually quite like the band.........


If you must.

Monday, February 28, 2022

Weather: Which Way The Wind Blows

Anthony Phillips: Which Way the Wind Blows

I’ve been having trouble with this theme (and, based on the lack of posts, I’m not the only one)—not that there is a lack of appropriate songs, because there are tons, but for me, there has to be some reason to write about the song—like a personal story, a political connection, or just because I want to write about the artist or song. So, when this song came up in a search, and I listened to it again (after many years), I realized that this song could actually have worked for our “What If” theme that I enjoyed. Plus it has been nearly two months since I’ve delved into the world of prog-rock obscurity, so why not? 

This song sort of answers the burning question, “What if Anthony Phillips had never left Genesis?” 

I’m pretty sure that I’ve discussed the origins of one of my favorite bands somewhere—original members Peter Gabriel, Tony Banks, Mike Rutherford, Anthony Phillips and Chris Stewart all met in the 1960s at the Charterhouse School in England. Eventually connecting with older Charterhouse alum, the singer, songwriter, producer and convicted child abuser Jonathan King, who named the band and got them signed. Stewart left and was replaced by another Charterhouse alum, John Silver, who was later replaced by John Mayhew. After recording their second album Trespass, Phillips, the guitarist, quit, due to bad health and stage fright, and was eventually replaced by Steve Hackett; Mayhew was sacked and replaced as drummer by Phil Collins. 

So, let’s say that Phillips never left, so Hackett never joined. In the short term, there probably wouldn’t have been much difference because both guitarists, who became good friends, acknowledge that their sound and sensibilities were very similar, but our featured song gives you a sense of what the band might have sounded like after Gabriel left, and Collins stepped up as lead singer. 

After Phillips left Genesis, he wanted to continue a project he had been working on with Rutherford but first decided to expand and improve his musical knowledge and ability, studying classical music, orchestration and harmony, and taking lessons in guitar and piano. Eventually, Phillips and Rutherford returned to their project, which was slowed by the fact that Rutherford’s commitments to the increasingly popular Genesis were taking up more and more time. A push to finish the album came in fall 1974, when Steve Hackett injured his hand, delaying a Genesis tour, and allowing Phillips and Rutherford time to complete the bulk of the recording. In addition to bringing Collins in to sing on two tracks, Hackett’s younger brother John contributed flute on some of the songs. 

The album, The Geese and the Ghost, was finally finished in 1976, but Genesis’ label Charisma refused to release it, so it sat in the vaults until March 1977, just as punk was on the rise, and the sort of lyrical classical/folk influenced prog rock of the album was falling out of favor, and it was a commercial failure. Compare that to Hackett’s first solo album, Voyage of the Acolyte, which was mostly recorded around the same time, and also included contributions from Collins on vocals (and drums), Rutherford and John Hackett, but was released in 1975, and charted in the UK and (just barely) in the US. 

Our featured song, “Which Way The Wind Blows,” is a quiet ballad featuring Phillips, Rutherford and Collins, and would not have sounded at all out of place on Trick of the Tail, the first Genesis album on which Collins served as lead vocalist, released in 1976. Compare it, for example, to “Ripples,” from that album. 

Phillips tried to move toward a more pop direction, but that also was unsuccessful (although I found this track fun), and while he has released other solo albums, Phillips’ focus was more on soundtracks and “library music,” and occasionally guesting on projects with Rutherford, Camel, and Hackett.

Sunday, February 27, 2022


 If you can take the weather with you, why can't you take it away again? I guess it depends who you are, but the idea has no traction with me, as whichsoever bugger delivered three storms on the trot to UK this last week can do one. Thankfully, the weather has now abated and the sun is shining, a wispy sun on an early spring day. Give or take the maelstrom and mayhem of Ukraine, all might seem to be well with world, even if, as a result, it isn't.

Raining In Glasgow

Doesn't it always rain in Glasgow, you might, and not unreasonably, say? It can feel that way, the streets and building deigned, if not designed, to always look that way. I love the city, preferring it's gritty humanity over the sometime surcoat and no knickers of the capital, Edinburgh. Our featured artist this week, Dean Owens, straddles the two cities, his father a son of Leith, where he was also raised, and Glasgow his current home. (Leith, should you need reminding, is the setting for Trainspotting, giving a false semblance as to the safety of this dockside suburb of Edinburgh. Sure, dodgy and dicey as hell in the day, but fast a'gentrifying to the disgust and dismay of the longterm locals, finding Michelin starred seafood bars an affront to their hauf 'n' haufs.) Owens, who has been playing his brand of "Weegiana", that Scottish infused take on country and americana, for a touch over 25 years. Or Celtabilly, as he calls it himself.

Shine Like the Road After the Rain/The Felsons

Sticking with weather, or, more accurately, rain, the above song comes from his one of his first recordings, in 1996. As the frontman, singer, guitarist and songwriter for the Felsons, they made more of a critical impact than in sales, producing a couple of well-received albums, and a tour support slot with the Mavericks, then at the peak of their European acclaim. (Before that he had found short lived local fame, with the group Smile, and a Scottish top 20 hit, at number 20, in 1992. But I can't find the song anywhere, and don't think I have ever heard it. Over to you!) Two and a half records later the Felsons folded, Owens now striking out on his own.

Miss You, Ca (Scottish Summer Song)

Since 2001 he has made a number of albums, usually in the US, his music affiliating there with more traction than at home. Making ripples, if not waves, he has more recently hooked up with Calexico, the collective tex-mex desert noir band helmed by Joey Burns and John Convertino. This led to a number of collaborative EPs trickling out over the years of the pandemic, three in total, four songs apiece: The Desert Trilogy. This is where I first learnt of him and came aboard, enthused and enthralled from the start. I was then lucky enough to catch him playing live, at a niche americana festival, held in the wilds of England's East Anglia. He was my highlight of that weekend.) Then, at the beginning of this year came a more formal record of the project, with Sinner's Shrine, a set of some of the same songs, alongside others made during the same sojourn. (Here's a review of that I wrote elsewhere.) And, of course, there is a(another) song about the rain.......

After the Rain

I hope you can catch quite the blast of my drift, appreciating the blend of his honeyed whisky vocal and plaintively sad songs make for a stunning combination. 

Here's an excellent primer to get you started. Ahead of an acoustic version of the featured song.

Raining in Glasgow