The Great Danes get greater

The other day I was sitting in a quaint little coffee place in Odense, drinking really good coffee and listening to someone ordering a vegetarian sandwich, when I realised suddenly how much Denmark has changed since I arrived back in 2001.

While it’s unavoidable that we notice the horrendous rise in xenophobia, racism, inequality and poverty, and the less obvious but equally odious tendency to prioritise the individual over the collective, and the disdain for paying taxes (of which the Danes were formerly so proud), we must acknowledge the good changes.

Like good coffee and vegetarian food.

I’d add to that supermarkets that are open til 10pm, better service in the service industries (more smiles and hellos), improved animal welfare (outside of conventional farming) and a huge increase in organic produce (despite the current government’s opposition to it).  And availability of real Cheddar cheese!

So well done Denmark for changing these things for the better.  Or am I just wallowing in my own culture’s infiltration?

Cornish pasties next please 😉

Tuesday’s Top Ten: One Hit Wonders

Top ten one hit wonders:

1. 4 non Blondes: What’s Up

2. They Might be Giants: Birdhouse in your soul

3. Fairground Attraction: Perfect

4. Men without Hats: Safety Dance

5. Men At Work: Down Under

6. Fool’s Garden: Lemon Tree

7. The Buggles: Video killed the radio star

8. Reef: Place your hands

9. Mungo Jerry: In the summertime

10. Razorlight: America

what have I missed?

Monday’s recomendation

Was introduced yesterday to an album by Jarlath Henderson – a former BBC young musician of the year and part a duo with fellow piper Ross Ainslie – called Hearts Broken, Heads Turned.  A tasty collection of traditional songs (mostly I think from the northern part of Ireland).  Not as much piping as you’d expect, but a great voice and a really well made album.

Other top tip (for something completely different) is Thao and The Get Down Stay Down.

Have a fabulous week!

George Martin

So yesterday the great George Martin died.  His work with the Beatles was quite incredible – covering the early days of rock n roll and rolling through the folky and psychedelic phases creating classic album after classic album – nearly all of which still stands up against anything made since.  When the Beatles back catalogue came out on Spotify I took the opportunity to play all the albums back to back in chronological order.  Hearing the way the band developed was fascinating.  Hearing how the production and arrangements grew ever more daring and advanced was equally beautiful.  With the exception of Let it Be, which lags behind all the others in quality…says it all really: it was the only one George Martin didn’t produce.  Sad to see him go – though he did have a fair innings.  Absolute legend – and from all accounts a top geezer too.

mashed mandolin

So – if you have a mandolin, and suddenly notice it has a crack developing, here’s what not to do:

1.  Ignore it and wait to see if it gets bigger

2.  When it does get bigger, keep ignoring it

3.  Make a note that some time you must get it sorted

4.  Use a different one while you wait to send it to the repair guy.

Yes, I’m talking from experience:  my Paris mandolin is now officially firewood.  The worst case of mashed mandolin since we smashed an Ovation mandolin up on stage in the Rumpus days.

Top 10 Genesis abums

top 10 albums by one of my top 10 bands ever – Genesis.

1. Foxtrot.  With the epic “Supper’s Ready” and the haunting “Watcher of the Skies” at each end it’s an incredible album.  For me the highlight is “Can Utility and the Coastliners”, but everything about this album (except the production) is amazing.

2. Selling England by the Pound.  The point in the band’s career when the creativity was flowing easiest.  Tony Banks had some new toys which developed the sound, and the songwriting was at its peak.Highlights are “Dancing out with the Moonlit Knight”, “Cinema Show” and “The Firth of Fifth”, but the whole album is terrific…except “More Fool Me” which is the one reason why this album can’t take first place.  Poor song poorly sung.  Who’d have thought based on this that Phil Collins would end up as the band’s lead singer?  Or that he would do such a good job of it?  Or be one of the biggest selling pop stars of history?

3. Nursery Cryme.  The album that presented the classic line-up of the band for the first time.  The way they bring Collins in on “The Musical Box” is genius:  yes, it’s the same band as before, but with better backing vocals.  Then, bang…oh yes, we’ve got a world class drummer.  The songs are great “Time Table”, Fountian of Selmasis” – and the playing is stunning.  Chuck in a bit of humour with “Harold the Barrel”.  It’s got a bit of everything.

4. The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway.  I think this was supposed to be their masterpiece.  A huge project and ambitious in too many ways.  And it is brilliant.  However, the story ended up confused and incoherent, and the “atmospheric” instrumentals more weird than wonderful.  Still, it’s a tremendous feat, and brings classics such as “The Cage”, Carpet Crawlers” and “Counting out Time” into the repertoire.

5. Trespass.  Despite Hackett and Collins not yet being on the scene, this album defines the next 5 years of Genesis.  With atmospheric soundscapes and stories in the songs, it’s captivating right from the a-capella start to “Looking for Someone” to the huge heavy rock extravaganza “The Knife” – maybe the best song they did?  And Anthony Philips on the guitar – we forget how good he was, don’t we?

6. Duke.  I played this again after many years of categorising it as part of the demise of the greatness of the band and the onslaught of commercialisation.  However, on reflection (and thanks to Ed Conway for making me give it another chance), I’d have to rate it as the best post-Gabriel album.  Unfortunately marred by “Misunderstanding”, it’s an otherwise magnificent album – despite the drum machines.

7. Trick of the Tail.  Some great songwriting – “Ripples”, Trick of the Tail” are diminished by the substandard “Squonk” and “Robbery Assault and Battery” .  A great sounding album which shows Collins as an acceptable Gabriel sub and starts and ends with archetypal Genesis grandeur.

8. Wind and Wuthering.  Well, you understand Hackett leaving after this.  Poorly put together album with stuff that shouldn’t have got the green light (Mouses Night”, Wot Gorilla”) that rather detracts from the fabulous “11th Earl of Mar”.

9. And then there were 3.  Not by any means a great album.  However, when you don’t play it for a decade and then come back to it, it surprises in a positive way.  Shouldn’t have made the top ten, but everything post 1980 is too dreadful to come near it.

10. From Genesis to Revelations.  A really awful album due to Jonathan King’s intervention.  The strings are so out of place it’s painful.  But the songs – if you can bear to hear them through the strings – are beautiful.  Awful album but still very creative and intellectually stimulating.  Unlike all the albums that didn’t make this list.

My theory is that any band who were great in the ´70’s wereterrible in the ´80’s is most perfectly illustrated by Genesis.  My favourite band of the early 1970’s and entirely unplayable in the 1980’s.  But, hey, that’s just my opinion man . lots of people love the 80’s stuff.  Strange but true.

What I’ve been listening to

Acts I didn’t know last week that I’m glad I know of now:

Jim Causley: Ok I knew of him, but hadn’t knowingly heard any of his solo stuff before.  Hugely talented bloke and from the West Country!

And the absolute highlight of the week: Jamie Smith’s Mabon.  This is the band I most want to be in in the world.  Folky dance stuff performed brilliantly on accordian, fiddle and bouzouki with a mega hot rhythm section.  Love it.

I play vinyl every now and then, and occasionally CD’s but most of what I hear these days I hear on Spotify.  Even when I have the album in my collection.  This is because I listen to a lot of new music and Spotify is a great way of finding new stuff, and accessing almost everything else – without me even having to get my arse up off the sofa.  I usually buy the CD’s of artists I really like that I find on Spotify – I recommend that others do to…artists get very little from streaming plays and need album sales to survive and make new music.  But follow me on Spotify if you want to find out what I’m listening to.  You can find my music there too of course!

Weekend roundup

As the weekend comes around again – with a trip to the Old Irish Pub in Vejle for the first time (though the 6th venue I’ve played in Vejle!) tonight and a welcome return to Fru Mathies in Ribe on Saturday – here’s a little look back at last weekend.

Friday daytime was rehearsal day for Neil Brophy Band in Copenhagen where we arranged and rehearsed 2 new songs, which will be in the set for the summer’s festivals.  Then Brian and I headed up to Helsingør, and after a fab pizza at Casa Tua (best pizza in town), we set up for the evening’s gig at The Old Irish Pub in Søstræde.  Brian played solo from 9pm, then we played as a duo (Strong Ale) from 11pm, and I played solo from 1am til 3…and then had a few pints while the party died down.

Saturday, after watching Wolves beat Derby on the pub’s telly (happy days) and having coffee with friends, I returned to the stage to do the same procedure in reverse – me starting, so that I could take the 2 1/2 hour drive home at 1am after the Strong Ale sets.  The audiences were, as ever, fantastic – particularly on the Saturday, which was a pretty wild experience.  Great to be gigging with Brian again, and getting into the flow… we’re booked to do the same next week (11th and 12th March in Helsingør) and then will be doing St. Patrick’s Day at The Irish Rover in Copenhagen.  That was a riot (in a good way!) last year, so expectations are high.

Talking of patron saints and their feast days, tomorrow is St. Piran’s Day (patron saint of Cornwall).  I couldn’t get swede, so won’t be making pasties, and can’t get clotted cream, so that screws the Cream Tea, but I’ll get hold of some cider and raise a glass to Kernow!

The Great Malarkey in Odense

Last gig I went to (that wasn’t my own) was The Great Malarkey at Dexters in Odense.  If you know the Great Malarkey, you’ll know that they put on an energetic, fun show.  They started the show by getting everyone to stand up and move forward.  Great for those at the front – unfortunately, Dexters being a sit down jazz venue, half the audience were left out of the experience from the start.  The sound at the back was awful, and visibility zero.  However, those of us young enough (haha) and keen enough, sneaked up to the front where the sound was great and a full-blooded gypsy punk party was in full flow.  The singer is a terrific front figure, the drummer looks mad (in a good way), the band look like they enjoy themselves, the trumpet player is (a very young) virtuoso, and they have a french horn.  What more could you want?  Great band – go see them if they play near you.  Just hope it isn’t a jazz venue.

The kids of today!

Fascinating how many young people in Denmark – I’m talking 18-25 year olds – know surprising amounts of Irish folk and derivatives (particularly Flogging Molly and Dropkick Murphys but also the Pogues).  I get requests for Seven drunken nights, Paddy works the railroad, Rocky road to Dublin, Finegan’s Wake, Carrickfergus and all sorts while playing pub gigs here.  I have no idea why they know this stuff, but who cares…if it means I play folk music instead of Wonderwall, then I’m all smiles.  Next we need to teach them some English folk songs!