Friday, 28 September 2012

Mike Oldfield - Ommadawn

One of the most heart-warming moments for me of late, occurred during the London Olympic Opening Ceremony and that was the inclusion of Mike Oldfield and his live renditions of parts of ‘Tubular Bells’.  Despite his global profile, his name is not one that automatically springs to mind when a list of GB musical greats is mooted amongst the likes of The Who, Beatles and Kinks.  Yet he probably represents the essence of British individuality (some may say eccentricity) more than most – who else do you know who would lock himself away with a reel-to-reel recorder, endlessly overdubbing for months on end?

I freely admit that those opening bars to Tubular Bells sent shivers down my spine and consequently, I dug out my CD copy and have been playing it ever since.  However, I am also hideously guilty of ignoring him as an artist as despite a career of 40 years and 25-odd albums, I only own the ubiquitous ‘Tubular Bells’…and one other; ‘Ommadawn’ from 1975.

Quite why I decided to buy ‘Ommadawn’ and nothing else is quite beyond me.  I have no memory whatsoever of actually buying the thing, yet I remember playing it a lot during my student days.  Looking at the comments on Amazon, it seems that it is a well-liked album so perhaps I made the correct decision but is does beg the question; why?

This only-buying-one-album thing seems to happen to me quite a lot but usually there is a perfectly rational explanation.  The obvious one is that the album has been prefaced by a killer single.  On many occasions this has led to an album purchase from someone I would generally avoid, hence the one purchase only from a long career.  Alternatively a friend lends me an album on a you’ll-like-this basis and it turns out that I do.  But in the strange case of ‘Ommadawn’, none of this happened.  I didn’t borrow it and I can’t believe I heard anything from it on the radio, so what was it that propelled me into a record store to buy it?

I’m not sure I’ll ever know, but I do know why I have just purchased the 2010 remix on CD.  It is because;
a)      I have been inspired by the Olympic Ceremony performance
b)      I wanted to replace my vinyl copy of a well loved album, and
c)      I was interested to see what Oldfield’s new mix sounded like

See, it’s easy when you have a reason or two and just for the record, the 2010 remix is fabulous – including the strangely na├»ve yet charmingly beautiful, ‘On Horseback’.  Now about all these other one-off albums I seem to have…

Friday, 14 September 2012

Wire Daisies

As Norman Stanley Fletcher once claimed, it is the small victories in life that stop you going insane.  Like when you get one over on iTunes.  There I was, putting a few playlists together in iTunes ready to synch them up to my iPod when that damned automated Genius thingy pushes an album cover in my face saying, ‘You’ll like this…’

Don’t you just hate it when companies use mindless technology to burrow deep inside your brain and then purport to tell you what you will or will not like?  The cheek!  And all so that they can shift a few more ‘units’.  The problem was that having played a few extracts, it did sound quite attractive and all for £6.99.

So I did what I always do – nip over to YouTube and see if there’s any live footage to check out.  There was and I was weakening so I checked Amazon and there it was available to download for circa £5, so I downloaded it and saved myself a couple of quid. Hahahahahahahaha!  Oh dear, I must get out more.

So I am now the proud owner of Wire Daisies’ second eponymous album, a band that up until iTunes intervened, I’d not heard of, and rather splendid it is too.  Of course, the Genius tool need not be that bright – all it needs to do in my case is present a list of female fronted rock bands and I’d be bound to find at least one to my taste and in this instance Wire Daisies fits the bill.  Fronted by singer, Treana Morris, they comprise Alden Evans (guitar), Ol Beach (keyboards) and Steve Jackson (drums) and hail from Cornwall in the balmy English Southwest.  They probably live next door to PJ Harvey.

I suppose I would call them a traditional band in that they barely use any modern electronic trickery and meld proper, almost folky songs with edgy rock arrangements in the manner of say, Jethro Tull, but without all the proggy time signature changes and classical interludes.  This album has also been beautifully engineered by John Cornfield (Supergrass, Muse, Stone Roses etc) giving it a punchy, immediate sound with loads of space around the instruments so that you can hear exactly what’s going on.  Which means that you get to hear little bits of wah-wah guitar and the like – blimey, 1960s or what?

So, all in all, a nice little purchase and all the better for allowing iTunes to propose it and then not paying them to own it.  Made my day.