Splash FM Website of the Day, 1st August 2005. Be Impressed.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

Harry Potter has become such an institution is hard to believe that the first of the books was only released July 1997. Time drags when normally sane adults are discussing a kids’ book.

Harry Potter owes his existence to the staggering ineptitude of British Rail. The idea came to JK Rowling on a train journey in 1990 from Manchester to London (181 miles apart for you yanks) that ended up lasting 4 hours. Four years of writing and three years of whoring it around agents and publishers later and Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was finally released by Bloomsbury. The book was later released in the USA under the title Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (don’t you Americans ever get sick of being treated like morons?).

Much more interesting than the books themselves was the foaming mouth reaction from Christian fundamentalists. Numerous websites sprung up (this is my favourite) declaring Harry Potter to be satanic, spreading witchcraft or sending a godless pagan message (those pagan bastards with their reverence for the life force and its ever-renewing cycles of life and death). But it wasn’t just the raving nut-jobs on the fringes that got their cassocks in a twist; it was also the raving nut-jobs at the centre. The current Pope, back when he was plain old Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and Dean of the College of Cardinals, expressed his distaste for the half blood prince along with the Vatican’s official exorcist Father Gabriele Amorth (yes, really).

At the last count the Harry Potter series has clocked up sales of over 300 million worldwide and Rowling is richer than the Queen.

Buy Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

Read twelve reasons not to watch the Harry Potter movies. Not one of which is ‘Because it’s for twelve year olds; grow up and watch something proper’.

Join New Satanic Order Of The Black Circle

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

June Tabor – April Morning

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If you don’t like listening to June Tabor, you should stop listening to music.”
Elvis Costello.

June Tabor is the sort of woman whose house the nine year old me would walk past in nervous silence before turning to a friend and whispering, “A witch lives there.” Luckily, Tabor was willing to take time between spell casting and games of quidditch to become one of the most distinctive and highly regarded voices in English folk music.

Similarly to Martin Simpson, June Tabor began singing after hearing the singers of the 60’s folk boom (especially Anne Briggs). A stint in the group Mistral and an appearance on University Challenge later Tabor got her big break when she teamed up with fellow folkie Maddy Prior (a founding member of folk-rock pioneers Steeleye Span) to form the Silly Sisters in 1976 and made an album that is still regarded as one of the greatest of the genre. She followed this up with a number of solo albums before, inevitably, moving to the Lake District to open a restaurant. She spent most of the 80’s serving up food and made only occasional forays into live singing.

After shutting up shop and releasing a fairly terrible album of jazz standards Tabor returned to folk singing in the 90’s and has released a string of highly acclaimed albums including Aleyn (the Yiddish word for ‘alone’) in 1997.

April Morning is a traditional English song about how all men are cheating scumbags (how times change - folk songs just aren’t relevant to the modern world). The track twins Tabor’s voice with accordion playing of Andy Cutting to great effect.

Enjoy the song but watch out; a witch lives there.

June Tabor – April Morning

Buy Aleyn and download her version of Richard Thompson’s The Great Valerio from the same album.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Martin Simpson – Rose of Allandale.

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With all the fraught excess of the festive period over I thought I’d go easy on your ears with this gentle instrumental by English folk guitar legend Martin Simpson.

Simpson was part of the second wave of the English folk revival. Growing up he had been heavily influenced by the guitarists of the 60’s folk boom such as Davey Graham and Martin Carthy.

Simpson’s big break came when Barbara ‘I Know Him So Well’ Dickson dragged folk impresario Bill Leader (who had a hand in the careers of Bert Jansch, Davey Graham and Dick Gaughan among many others) to one of his gigs. Leader rapidly snapped him up for his record label, produced Simpson’s debut album and set him up as the accompanist of folk grande dame June Tabor. Since then he has gone on to collaborate with a number of musicians as far flung as Madagascar’s Tarika Sammy and Chinese Pipa player of the famous Pudong School Wu Man (how dare you accuse me of making it up). He also, unadvisedly in my opinion, decided to start singing himself. However, for his 1997 album Cool and Unusual he decided to go all instrumental and roped in more high quality collaborators (including the aforementioned Kelly Joe Phelps).

Today’s song, Rose of Allandale, is a sweet love song (read one version of the lyrics here) geographically located in Scotland but often sung throughout all the British Isles.

Rose of Allandale also formed part of the set for the Four Martins tour; a collection of four fingerpicking guitarists all called Martin (Simpson, Carthy, Taylor and Flamencist Juan Martin). If they decided to get together again you HAVE TO go and see it. It features all the dazzling fret-board wizardry and shameless showboating you could ever need.

Martin Simpson – Rose of Allandale

Buy Cool and Unusual

In Other News

WL97 has made the press page of The Sherwood Consort's site despite describing them as, "a Medieval Baebes for those who don’t mind ugly people."

And can someone keep a copy of this entry so the OED can trace the origins of the entirely unnecessary word ‘flamencist’ (flä-meng’kist one who plays flamenco).