Archives for December 2009

He's Making A List (Slight Return)

Stuart Bailie | 11:19 UK time, Friday, 18 December 2009

Yes I'm reading all the music polls about the year and the decade and I've already been introduced to some lovely tunes that have hitherto missed my radar detection. I'm also so pleased for And So I Watch You From Afar, who has powered through this year with their self-titled album and a mass of gigs and touring adventures.

They've also been awarded Irish album of the decade by AU magazine, well ahead of name records from the likes of Ash, Snow Patrol, even David Holmes and Damien Rice. That list has brought back so many memories, with flickering responses from The Thrills, JJ72, Desert Hearts and the soon-to-be-late Oppenheimer.

Oppenheimer play their farewell show this Saturday at the Spring & Airbrake, Belfast. Tonight there's a chance to see And So I Watch You From Afar at the Ulster Hall. How ambitious and inspiring is that?

My upcoming radio shows:

Dec 21. Tracks and albums of the year
Dec 28. Tracks and albums of the decades

Coming in January - 'This Is Radio Ash', fronted by Tim Wheeler. You gotta love it.

Anyone Who Had A Harp

Stuart Bailie | 11:19 UK time, Wednesday, 16 December 2009

They're smoking at the Harp Bar like it's 1978. Terri Hooley is inhaling plenty and also weeping a few tears. This, after all, is the first shoot for 'Good Vibrations: The Film', which will tell the story of Ulster punk rock though the delirious prism of Terri's life.

rudi1.jpgAnd so, in a great moment of homage, the makers of the film have recreated Belfast's most infamous punk den , downstairs in the Menagerie on University Street. The walls are that familiar shade of dead blue. The stage is as brutal as I remember, and there's even a band called Rudi on stage. I'm shaking with the powerful sense of recall.

Rudi ruled the Harp Bar. And when Terri first saw the band live, he had a defining vision that resulted in a home-grown record label and the ascension of so many amazing bands. In an inspired piece of casting, Brian Young from the Rudi is being played by Danny Todd from Cashier No 9. He's lashing out the anthem 'Big Time' and throwing shapes that are pure Brian.

Next moment a young Terri Hooley (Richard Dormer) walks onto the set, with the big coat, the crew net sweater and that belligerent strut. I'm sitting beside the actual Terri and it's all getting perfectly intense. The punk kids start jumping to the music and I notice that one of the Harp kids is Cara Cowan, whose dad and uncle played with those roaring bad boys, The Outcasts.

The barman throws me a conspiratorial wink. He looks like Tony, the scowling attendant from the Harp, but he's really Joe Lindsay, my BBC colleague, with a luxurious wig and a real moustache. Nearby, the film's directors Glenn Leyburn and Lisa Barros D'Sa are also enjoying the feedback of fun, art and social history.

"Does nobody understand that I'm a fake and a fraud?" Terri splutters. But we're not taking him at his word. This is no time to be literal, or even critical. It's our version of '24 Hour Party People' and it has to be an exceptionally tall tale.

You can't put your arms around a memory, but sometimes, you just have to try.

Playlist 14.12.09

Stuart Bailie | 12:29 UK time, Tuesday, 15 December 2009

BBC Radio Ulster, 92-95 FM
Mondays, ten - midnight

Playlist 14.12.09

Solomon Burke - Ain't Got You (Shout Factory)
Rufus Wainwright - Spotlight On Christmas (Dreamworks)
Badly Drawn Boy - Just Look At Us Now (Big Life)
The Beat Poets - The Making (white)
Raconteurs - Consolers Of The Lonely (XL)
The Faces - Three Button Hand Me Down (Warner)
Fionn Regan - Protection Racket (coop)
The Rich Kids - Ghosts Of Princes In Towers (EMI)
Musee Mechanique - Like Home (ST)
Sparks - Reinforcements (Island)
Badly Drawn Boy - Is There Nothing We could Do (Big Life)

Raphael Saadiq - Love That Girl (Sony)
The Waterboys - December (Ensign)
Dave Rawlings Machine - Monkey and the Engineer (Acony)
Badly Drawn Boy - Wider Than A Smile (Big Life)
Jimmy Webb And The Webb Brothers - Bad Things Happen To Good People (Proper)
Beach House - Norway (Bella Union)
Joni Mitchell - Carrey / Mr Tambourine Man (live) (Greenpeace)
Erland And The Carnival - Trouble In Mind (Full Time Hobby)
Vampire Weekend - Cousins (XL)
Cameo - She's Strange (Polygram)
Phoenix - 1901 (V2)
Le Tone - Joli Dragon (Creation)

Queen Cole

Stuart Bailie | 12:02 UK time, Monday, 14 December 2009

So what tune will define 2009 - with all its anxiety, surprise and dismay? How will the reviewers of 2019 soundtrack our times of war and meltdown? These are the kind of things that concern me as the year stumbles to a close and the character of the era starts to emerge.

A late bid for the title comes with Mumford & Sons and 'Winter Winds'. It's a song that captures the feeling of things closing down and chances being lost. The heart is talking the head and they can't seem to agree. Meanwhile, the passage of time is threatening to obliterate everything. By the end of the song, there's some kind of resolve - a belief that the chill weather will eventually give way to a spring bloom. The trumpets sound, the voices chorus and we feel healed.

You hope that this song's influence will sustain, but there are bigger tunes out there. Notably Cheryl Cole and 'Fight For This Love'. Again, the mood is embattled and torn. But rather than hoping for a seasonal renewal, this tune is all about facing down the dread. The verses set out the difficulties and the refrain carries the day. The lyric admits that the ever-revving velocity of life is making it hard to make the right choices, that we should try to kill the engine and "just roll". But equally, to keep the guard up and the intentions strong.

The songs has been delivered by a team of professionals, but that shouldn't be a problem if the singer and the public can invest enough in the record to make it transcend the pop market. I would naturally be disposed to mistrust anything connected to Simon Cowell, but Cheryl has found a deal of autonomy, an alliance with rhythm and blues and the perfect song for a diva under duress.

It's Life, Jim

Stuart Bailie | 17:33 UK time, Sunday, 13 December 2009

Seventies record sleeves were the perfect showcases for artists like Roger Dean, Guy Peellaert and Jim Fitzpatrick. Many of us were partial to Jim because he was an Irish guy who loved his mythology and was a vital element of the Thin Lizzy deal. I believe he came on board with 'Vagabonds Of The Western World' and 'The Rocker'. Later he framed the band with the likes of Jailbreak', 'Johnny the Fox' and 'Black Rose', underlining the glamour, the posturing and the rhapsodic air.

Vagabonds.jpgJim rocked the Book Of Kells by way of American comic books and the swirling bravura of Aubrey Beardsley. He also made an iconic screenprint of Che Guevara, turning an Alberto Korda photograph into the essential rebel poster. In recent years he's also supplied bespoke sleeves for Sinead O' Connor and Ash.

So I was delighted to see the Jim Fitzpatrick exhibition at the Wicker Man shop in Belfast. It's a modest little collection but enough to reveal the verve and the detail. My inner 15 year old is elated.

Snow Surrender

Stuart Bailie | 10:57 UK time, Thursday, 10 December 2009

snowpatrol09.jpgPlenty to remark about the Snow Patrol 'Reworked' show at the Waterfront, Belfast. Such as the appearance of Duke Special, who sang a swooning version of 'An Olive Grove Facing The Sea'. It was a throwback to the Jeepster days and their hand-knitted era, when things were ill-fitting but very dear to the believers.

Likewise with the use of some very cool Reindeer Section songs, including the eternally beezer 'You Are My Joy'. And then Foy Vance steps up to float 'Indiscriminate Act Of Kindness' into the Xmas atmosphere.

Iain Archer was there to play lap steel and banjo while Gary swore like a sailor on shore leave. My personal fave was 'Shut Your Eyes', which traded in the old Krautrock rhythm for a Northern Soul stomp. Good call, eh?

Photo by Lily Bailie

Playlist 07.12.09

Stuart Bailie | 14:09 UK time, Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Geoff Gatt was playing live on the radio show last night. Maybe you know the fella. He plays the ukulele and writes these songs that are poignant or giddy, sometimes both at the same time. His doesn't have a classically trained voice but the fragility lends itself well to the tender themes and he has a very animated presence that suggests he may have been a silent movie star in a previous life. Maybe Harold Lloyd or the urchin pal of Charlie Chaplin.

He's playing the Black Box this Wednesday in Belfast, where he will unveil his debut album, Ten Year Road. It's been a decade in the travelling, as the title suggests, and I already have strong feelings about many of the songs. Geoff was kind enough to play three tunes live, accompanied by his fiancé, who also performs under the name of Sweetcorn. It was charming company for a Monday night.

BBC Radio Ulster, 92-95 FM
Mondays, ten - midnight

Playlist 07.12.09

Talking Heads- Once In A Lifetime (Sire)
Mumford And Sons - Winter Winds (Island)
Geoff Gatt - Kicked Off The Planet (live session)
Slow Club - Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) (Moshi Moshi)
Horslips - The Piper In The Meadow Straying (Moo)
Geoff Gatt - Love To See You Again (Live session)
Echo And The Bunnymen - Life Of A Thousand Crimes (Ocean Rain)
Carolina Chocolate Drops - Your Baby Aint Sweet Like Mine (Nonesuch)
Geoff Gatt - One More Kiss (live session)
Judee Sill - The Archetypal Man (Water)
Staff Benda Bili - Mwana (Crammed Discs)

O Jays - Christmas Ain't Christmas (Philadelphia International)
Aaron Shanley - Come Down (White Mountain)
Isaac Hayes - So Glad You Were Born (Point Blank)
Rams Pocket Radio - Boats (white)
Madness - Forever Young (Lucky Seven)
Carolina Chocolate Drops - Trouble In Your Mind (Nonesuch)
Spiritualized - Broken Heart (Sony)
The Mummers - Nobody Home (Big Bass Drum)
Phil Ochs - Changes (live) (Greenpeace)
Horslips - Furniture (Moo)
Fools Gold - Nadine (iamsound)
Ella Fitzgerald - There's A Small Hotel (Verve)
The XX - VCR (Young Turk)

Liam Clancy, 1935-2009

Stuart Bailie | 19:52 UK time, Sunday, 6 December 2009

I spent a most excellent afternoon in Dublin with Liam Clancy, back in the day. He bought me Guinness and oysters at the Gresham Hotel and he told me all the stories I wanted to hear. This was around the time of the RTE programme 'Bringing It All Back Home' and it was one of those periodic moments when you get to re-evaluate Irish music and its fascinating journey.

liam.jpgLiam obliged by telling me about the early Sixties in New York City, when he and his brothers, plus Tommy Makem, were doing theatre productions with music. Suddenly they were in the middle of the folk revival. Liam and Bob Dylan were dating two sisters and it was all going nuclear. Brendan Behan was passing through and when Liam wasn't party to one of the great culture changes of the century, he was back in Ireland, collecting songs from the old folk.

Liam had his theories about Dylan. Most artists learn how to become professional - to turn in a reasonable performance, no matter how bad the situation is. But Liam believed that Bob had fought hard to stay amateur - to respond honestly to his emotions and his art. That was wisdom enough, but Liam also expounded on the theme of tradition. It's like the rear sight of a rifle, he explained. When you line it up with the front sight (creativity, innovation), then you're in with a chance of hitting the spot.

I saw the Clancys on stage a couple of times. They played the Dylan tribute at Madison Square Garden in 1992 and held their own with Bob, Neil Young, George Harrison, Johnny Cash, Stevie Wonder and Lou Reed. Previously, I'd seen them at Mother Redcap's in Dublin, and they recreated an older era for us. The ballads were a bit overwrought on occasions and the influence of the theatre was never far from the act. But when they regaled us with those sentimental tunes and gave us an appreciation of time's relentless passage, there was no option but to shed a quiet tear.

Loose 'Lips

Stuart Bailie | 14:05 UK time, Friday, 4 December 2009

I was never much of a musician, but that doesn't mean that I don't have weird dreams of being on stage with one of my old bands. The dream tends to turn anxious when I can't remember the nimble basslines that used to be second nature. Sometimes the tuning is off as well and the other band members are more flakey than before. I tend to wake in a terrible sweat.

So imagine what it must be like for a musician that's actually achieved something during their time. I remember Joe Strummer telling me how he'd return in his nightmares to messy shows in Croydon and Glasgow, Wardour Street and Broadway. "These are the things that keep me awake at night," he confessed.

horslips250.jpgMy feeling is that the guys from Horslips have been there also. It's been 30 years since they bowed out in Belfast, when Charles threw his fiddle out into the audience and a hand reached out to rescue this most previous souvenir. Now the old firm have gathered again in town, and they are quietly elated at the noise of the Odyssey audience. "Some of us have had work done," Jim laughs. "A couple of band members have had breast implants".

It's definitely a sentimental passage, a throwback to a time when the Irish entertainment industry was primitive and Horslips challenged the conservative order by bringing electric folk music and platform boots to parochial ballrooms. Some of the songs haven't dated so well, and after a lengthy guitar solo, a friend comments, "this is why punk rock had to happen".

But when you hear 'Furniture' or 'Trouble', all is forgiven. There's a deal of predictable mania for 'Dearg Doom'. The Celtic muse is roaring and Barry Devlin is a picture of delight. In an ideal world, Eamonn Carr would have joined them on drums, but he seemed content to watch from the mixing desk. And when they finish with 'Shaking All Over' - their finale from the last Belfast show - the cycle is happily complete.

Horslips were always about the mythology and tonight they added a new chapter to the legend.

Does Belfast Rock?

Stuart Bailie | 09:36 UK time, Thursday, 3 December 2009

I had an interesting discussion on Radio Ulster.s Evening Extra Last night. The feature was prompted by the news that Tourism Ireland aims to celebrate the musical connections of Belfast in its strategy for the new year. And the scepticism has started already. Do we really deserve to talk ourselves up thus?

Of course we can. We have delivered so much great music to the world's stages. Our live music circuit is improving all the time and most weeks, it's impossible to see all the good stuff as the listings are so loaded. The festivals are on the increase, standards are impressive and we're learning how to present ourselves for tourists. In return, they seem to enjoy their time here. Apart from when they meet the mithering defeatists, who refuse to understand that the city is on the rise. Down with the cultural cringe, I say. It's time to steer for the bright side of the road.

(You can hear the feature here for the next 6 days... 45 minutes into the programme)

Playlist 30.11.09

Stuart Bailie | 12:14 UK time, Wednesday, 2 December 2009

I was never big into the Cocteau Twins. The music had its merits, but the hair was silly and the fans were tiresome. A little higher up the food chain than Cure fans, but they still had that talent for self-absorption. Those precious releases on 4Ad records, with the matt covers and the oblique artwork, accessorized with song titles like Pearly Dewdrops Drop and Itchy Glowbo were the lullabies of choice for the underachieving indie saddo.

But Elizabeth Fraser was still cool. She was peerless with This Mortal Coil, and her recording of Song To The Siren sent loads of people off in search of Tim Buckley records. And it also led to a creative liaison with Jeff Buckley, still officially unreleased. To her credit, shes turned down lucrative offers to reform the Twins while her stay with Massive Attack was modestly great.

Now theres a track called Moses, released as a tribute to her late friend Jake Drake-Brockman. Its a kind of a tango, and not a little similar to the Gotan Project. Her voice still rules.

BBC Radio Ulster, 92-95 FM
Mondays, ten midnight

Playlist 30.11.09

The Reindeer Section - You Are My Joy (Bright Star)
Jesse Dee - Alright (Munich)
Tom Waits Singapore (Anti)
Elizabeth Frazer - Moses (Rough Trade)
Welcome Wagon - But For You Who Fear My Name (Righteous)
Severe - Stop The Cavalry (Damaged Goods)
David Rawlings Its Too Easy (Acony)

Mumford And Sons Timshel (Island)
Bettye Lavette - High Road (Anti)
Fanfarlo Drowning Men (Fanfarlo)
The Notwist - Come In (City Slang)

World Party - Put The Message In The Box (Ensign)
Phoenix- Countdown (Glassnote)
David Rawlings Hows About You (Acony)

BJ Cole - Pavanne Pour Une Enfante Defunte (Hannibal)
Joe Henry - The Man I Keen Hid (Anti)
Dawn Kinnard - My Lord (Righteous)
Joan Baez The night They Drove Old Dixie Down (American Masters)
Martha Wainwright L Accordeoniste (co op)
Edie Brickell Circle (Geffen)
Shirley Bassey After The Rain (Geffen)
Cold Cave - Death Comes Close (Matador)
Acoustic Ladyland The Mighty Q (Strong and Wrong)

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