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Monthly Archives: June 2013

Bacharach, Joplin and Hamlisch – the sounds of Redford and Newman

Pre-SSHHHHIIIIIIIIIIIITT!

Pre-SSHHHHIIIIIIIIIIIITT!

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is a superb film, my favourite in fact. Aside from the hilariously funny interplay between Paul Newman and Robert Redford, and the manner in which the film’s story unfolds in beautiful parts of the Americas, the film has a fantastic soundtrack. Written by Burt Bacharach, it most notably contains the classic Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head. However, it is the piece The Old Fun City that really stands out for me – a rip-roaring, ragtime period jazz piece that has a hugely catchy melody and textured instrumentation. Starting off at a relaxed pace with boppy piano, the tune quickly picks up and invites you to start dancing instantly. If you are in need of a pick me up, then look no further than this.

Another highlight is South American Getaway, set to the point in the film where robbing Bolivian banks has become second nature. With beautifully layered vocal harmonies and seamless changes in tempo, this track is equally uplifting as it is heavyhearted.

While not quite on the same level as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Sting is nevertheless a great film and has a soundtrack arranged and composed by Marvin Hamlisch, featuring pieces written by the master of ragtime piano Scott Joplin.

sting

I will sign off with Easy Winners, a breezy and typically Joplinesque number, and The Glove, a short piece composed by Hamlisch himself, which are both taken from the film’s soundtrack. I do hope you enjoy, and also feel the urge to don a pin striped suit and gamble the night away with a fat cigar hanging from the corner of your sneering mouth.

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Groove! numero uno

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This particular post does not need much explaining – only that it is a necessity in life, perhaps once a day, to have a rut carved into your cerebrum by a shuddering groove. These tunes might just do the job.

From the 2010 album The Colossus by RJD2, Tinflower is a dirty, barnstormer of a track.

Tricky, angular saxophone/trumpet intertwined with 70s American cop show style funk can’t be wrong…….the Brecker Brothers do it in style with Skunk Funk.

Dark, catchy and piano led, Up Above The Rock by Ray Bryant is a favourite ‘go-to’ song of mine. I would also suggest checking out the David Holmes’ version, which is mixed with a pleasingly loud reverb.

Dutch funkers Lefties Soul Connection, aside from their brilliant cover of Organ Donor, have a fair few heavy groovers up their sleeve. This track, Paul Newman, is taken from their 2007 album Skimming The Skum. While it is admirable that someone has put together a montage of the handsome devil that is Paul Newman, I can only apologise for the absurd idea to include talking over the drum outro.

Who else could you finish with? Jimi Hendrix is undoubtedly one of the greatest groove machines that ever lived, and this version of Power of Soul live at the Fillmore with the Band of Gypsys could well put you in a coma. From the beginning at 0.15 to the first solo at 1.05, each riff just gets better, heavier and more infectious. The drop at 1.46, the casual tuning at 2.04 and the settling into an easy going phrase at 3.07, this is soulful musicianship at work on all instruments.

The man who made The Apprentice

I really should have resisted from labelling this blog as I have done, because really, it is an insult to this fantastic composer to be linked to a bloody reality television show. Everyone knows the theme tune to The Apprentice, and the man behind it is one Sergei Prokofiev.

Geniuses are not always the most handsome of buggers

Geniuses are not always the most handsome of buggers

While Dance Of The Knights is the most famous piece from Prokofiev’s score for Romeo and Juliet, there are so many delicious sections within the entire movement that twist, soar and blare at one’s aural sense. Prokofiev’s sense of melody and feel perfectly matches the wretched love story that is Romeo and Juliet, and having recently witnessed the Royal Ballet of Canada perform it in London, the monstrous and thunderous nature of the music is truly spectacular and, quite frankly, somewhat terrifying.

Classical music is the beginning point for any form of music today, and to not acknowledge its influence and importance is wrong. To label it ‘boring’ is criminal, especially when there are so many melodies from the wildly simplistic to the most intricate and interesting of scores. Prokofiev is one composer who managed to do it all, with the distinct Russian feel that other composers such as Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov and Mily Balakirev had developed before him.

I have hauled out some of the musical passages that I particularly love from Romeo and Juliet, but to do the whole piece justice and really marvel at what Prokofiev has created, find a few hours on a miserable, rainy day with which to get comfortable on a snug sofa and listen through from start to finish via some big, closed cup headphones.

Firstly, the piece for Act I, Scene XII: Masks. An eerie and instantly memorable melody, the music elegantly bobs along with the violins playing in a lower register before gradually becoming louder and higher. A highly pleasurable and oddly relaxing listen!

Secondly, Act I, Scene VI: The Fight. If Grade 25 exists for the violin, then this is the section you probably have to play to pass it. A lightning fast flurry of violins normally, the orchestra in this video take it to a whole new level. Repeatedly rising to the crescendo and falling away dramatically, stunning just about describes it. The detail in the score for each instrument of the orchestra brings this piece together to create a behemoth. The Fight starts from 8.30 and ends on a stop start passage at about 11.10 in this video. Prepare to melt in your seat.

Finally, Act II, Scene XVV: Dance With Mandolins. Another example of a section that builds progressively with each instrument (mandolin, trumpet, clarinet, cello, violin) adding another musical idea, it peaks at 1.30 with a gracefully twisting clarinet line and plucked violins. For a supercharged version, start from 11.26 in the second video.

This is but a tiny portion of the work that Prokofiev has composed, it is quite overwhelming to think of the multitude of music that could be listened to. But, if you need something else to sink your teeth into pronto, then there is also the short and other mildly famous piece that Prokofiev created…….

Believe you me, the rest of that is definitely worth forty minutes of your time.

Hair + abundant talent + drums + jazz + suits = Seb Rochford

Without beating about the bush, Seb Rochford is pretty damn great. His musical skills are second to none, arguably the best British drummer at this moment in time, and the projects he has been involved with are all brilliant in their own right.

seb rochford

Rochford drummed for wild, saxophone driven, thrash jazz outfit Acoustic Ladyland. This track, You and I, is taken from their last album Living With A Tiger, which featured Chris Sharkey (trioVD) on guitar. Check out the break down from 1.25 and the fluid drum fills from 2.40 to 3.14, with back shuddering expertise at 2.58.

Led by Rochford himself, Polar Bear were nominated for a Mercury with their album Held On The Tips Of Fingers. A blend of modern jazz and electronica, Bear Town is taken from this album.

Happy For You is taken from their last release Peepers.

With Basquiat Strings, Rochford earned himself another Mercury nomination by providing drums on their debut album. Heady and string heavy, Basquiat Strings were complemented by Rochford’s ability to produce sparse passages and then bring complexity to the table when needed. Double Dares, with a fantastic drum solo from 2.28, is taken from the album Basquiat Strings With Seb Rochford.

Alas, I am unable to find a suitable video or stream, but Rochford also drummed on the album Hummus by Bojan Z Tetraband. As well as co-writing Empty Shell, a journey of a tune that starts out frantically before building itself back up again, Rochford was part of a virtuoso lineup that plays out of their skins on the album. I would highly, highly recommend it.

I will leave you with a video that never ceases to amaze me, Acoustic Ladyland performing Iggy live on Jools Holland. Just watch and learn from a phenomenal musician, the speed and accuracy is blinding!