Thursday, December 27, 2007

Keep Hope Alive

Happy New Year
Top Trax of 2007 - Playlist

I've been listening again to my favorite tracks of 2007. Overall it was a damn fine year for music. I enjoyed plenty of rousing and transcendent pop (Arcade Fire, Clientele, Shins, Radiohead, The National), marvellous edgy rock (Liars, Yeasayer), creative explorations of folk and blues (Iron and Wine, Plant and Krauss), and the fabulous ambient emotiveness of electronica outfits like The Field, Stars of the Lid and Burial (album of the year).

My worst fears came true for hip-hop, but Saul Williams, Madlib, Pharoah Monche, Underground Kingz and Jay Z delivered the goods in small doses.

In the jazz area, I heard nothing as far ahead as Ornette Coleman's Sound Grammar from 2006, though Charles Lloyd, Paul Motian, Charlie Haden and Michael Brecker released excellent sets. The expanded version of On the Corner had me scurrying back to my Miles Davis collection, which is no bad thing. New Year's Resolution: Gotta hear more jazz in '08.

All of these artists reflect the difficulties of modern life in profound and beautiful ways. While their solitary epiphanies evoke the receding certainties of the past, they tentatively suggest new paths into the future. These are difficult times, and these cries from the collective unconscious demand that we articulate a humane alternative to the madness which divides us.

So here's to a brave new year. Let's rock on. And keep hope alive.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Main Man

Film: The Passing Show:
The Life and Music of
Ronnie Lane (2006)
Directed by: James Mackie & Rupert Williams

As a Small Faces fan I was charmed by this endearing documentary tribute to bassist Ronnie Lane. The movie follows Ronnie’s career from his mod glory days to his stint with the Faces and close call with solo stardom. The film also documents his rural 'drop out' phase, the ramshackle musical circus The Passing Show, and his final days in Texas and Colorado.

The movie is packed with fantastic footage, including early Small Faces live performances. It naturally includes the epiphanous Itchycoo Park, one of the greatest British singles of all time co-written by Lane. This man was a greatly underrated songwriter.

A number of British rock legends pay tribute to Ronnie, including Pete Townshend, Kenny Jones, Glyn Johns and Eric Clapton. Sadly conspicuous by his absence is Ronnie’s long time main man Rod Stewart. Hmm.

Reminding his friends that life was "only a short movie," for Ronnie Lane it was the music that counted. Like many a musician he was naïve about finances and was mercilessly exploited by unscrupulous management. At one point Lane, writer of the some of the greatest singles of the sixties, finds himself homeless and camping out in Pete Townshend's back garden!

The movie ends with a cautionary note: the royalties that should have come Ronnie's way would have greatly eased his suffering and eventual death from multiple sclerosis. A sobering thought in these days of illegal downloads and pop pilfering.

Watch Ronnie, Steve Marriot and The Small Faces, then Marriot with Humble Pie.