Sunday, 28 October 2007

See Me, Hear Me

There are some musicians that I listen to and some that I watch. Equally, there are some that I can’t bear to watch even though I like their music and some that I can’t bear to listen to at all, but that’s another subject.

In category 1(a) are those people whose music I like but I just can’t stand watching them perform usually due to facial gurning (yes you, Robin Trower) and various other irritating personal mannerisms. I think I’ve inherited this gene from my father who had a whole list of people that he couldn’t stand to watch. Top of his list was Dusty Springfield – something to do with arm waving, I think. My very picky list is also quite long so I won’t dwell on it here – let’s move on.

In category 1(b) is first and foremost, Jimi Hendrix. Whilst I can listen to a CD of his music reasonably happily, I would always prefer to watch him play for the simple reason that the music takes on a higher significance when you can see the manner in which it is being produced. Hendrix was always a relaxed and playful performer, safe in the knowledge that he could do virtually anything he chose without any discernible effort. It was almost without exception, mesmerizing. The sheer audacity is still awe inspiring even today when years of technical achievement have jaded our palettes. Those old snatches of film can be watched and re-watched and he still seems to catch you out with his dazzling innovation.

Also in category 1(b) is Cyndi Lauper whose live performances are something else again – an almost life or death intensity that holds you spellbound and which doesn’t really translate to the listen-only medium of CD. I’m sure, dear reader, you can reel off a dozen more performers who fall into the ‘better live than in the studio’ club. These are the natural performers who need an audience to produce their best.

A recent addition to list 1(b) for me is Allison Crowe of whom I have already
spoken. I have recently been presented with a DVD of her ‘Tidings’ album (thanks, Adrian!), which has shown me that to appreciate her at her best you really have to watch her perform. Each song segment is little more than a fixed camera shot framing her singing and playing her grand piano but the emotion and intensity of the performance is captured perfectly. I would recommend all her albums, available from her website, but if you ever get the chance to see her live, even though here in the UK that might be a rarity, please do.


Adrian said...

Having just read your book, I realize that in order to post proper comments here I should be obsessively detailed ( :

The creation of the Tidings video of which you speak was crazy - and something of a miracle in that it ended up being made in “real time”.

We’d booked a day for the taping, however, the large van carrying ALL the film gear and crew broke down en route, and we spent half our day stuck on a highway median transferring lights, cameras and action into a friends’ Volvo and another small car so as to carry on with the show. By the time we reached our destination, Turtle Studios, an oceanfront studio about one hour’s drive from Vancouver, B.C., near the Canada/US border, the booked window had almost closed.

Studio-owner, audio engineer/producer Larry Anschell, who well knows how Allison performs from previous sessions - the 6 Songs EP and Tidings LP/CD - said had it been anyone other than her, it’d be necessary to pull the plug, as nothing good could be done in so little time.

As it happened, Allison performed a song, took a sip of water or tea, and rolled on…

FYI, Allison included her original song, “Whether I’m Wrong”, in the session which made it a 13 song recording. Her last performance that night was of The Rolling Stones’ “Shine a Light” - which failed to be captured as the cameras had run out of tape! This was not something I’d even considered could happen, but, it did, and, thus the difference in song selection between the Tidings CD and the Tidings fan club DVD.

(In a way, this points us in a future direction - and saves us dealing with Allen Klein’s re video usage of the Stone’s song. Obtaining rights to the songs under his control, for use in video, can be prohibitively expensive.)

Glad you’re so enjoying the vid!

As a life-long music-lover, and a concert-goer for the past 30 years+, I concur with your observation that Allison is one of those musicians who can be seen as well as heard ( :

We’re planning two UK concert visits in ’08 for Alley. Here’s hoping we can peg a show in your region.

Happy New Year!!

musicobsessive said...

Thanks for your expansive comment! It's always fascinating to know how these things come about and to learn that not all best intentions run smoothly - just watching the vid gives you no clue whatsoever to the turmoil you have described.
Great to hear that there may be some UK dates in 2008 - I'll keep a lookout!
Happy new year!

Adrian said...

Had the cameras been on me, you'd have seen a more manic presence! It's testament to Allison that she performs with passion and honesty and is focussed on the art under any and all circumstances. It's all rock and roll ( :