Friday, January 31, 2014

Bored with the same old shite you keep listening to? Well, introducing Jeff Lang, the final proof (if final proof is needed) that Australians aren’t just sheep shearers and better cricketers than the English. Oh, and for those interested there’s also Sevara Nazarkhan (from Uzbekistan) and Anouar Brahem (from Tunisia). And what are all these rumours about Cliff Richard?

The big news today here in Old Blighty this morning is not that most of the country is now under water, not that we now have - or should have had - swarthy Romanian and Bulgarian bandits on every street corner and not how the Labour Party is going to make a last-minute offer for France’s President Hollande before the transfer market deadline of 11pm. It is this: forget Spotify, the really cool site to visit if Forgotify (which as it happens takes you straight to Spotify) which lets you play all or any of the four million gongs on Spotify no one plays. Well! Can life get any more exciting!

Actually, it’s not such a bad idea. Until recently I have long bemoaned the fact that although I like the music I have always liked, I wasn’t getting to hear any new stuff. When you are young, you’d go round to someone’s house and hear something new. But as you get older, you would be stuck with what you liked (‘I know what I like’), but however much you like it, it is great to hear new stuff.

More recently I have come across new artists somehow or other. There was Dave Fiuczynski, for example, who I came across when I bought a cheap MP3 player which came with a voucher for 30 free jazz tracks (although the irony is that the Fiuczynski track I heard that way is bugger all like the music he usually plays). I would occasionally listen to Radio 3’s Late Junction and hear music which interested me and subsequently bought a CD or two.

That, for example, is how I came across Sevara Nazarkhan, and Uzbek singer and musician, and Anouar Brahem, a Tunisian musician (he plays something called the ‘oud’, a guitar without strings or something, it’s all very complicated for us silver surfers). There are two songs, one from each, below.

Now with Forgotify I can listen to stuff at random and maybe come across new stuff. It’s not as though there isn’t a great deal of stuff out there. But still there’s word of mouth and that’s how I came across Jeff Lang. What with now having reached that grand old age of 94 and being unable to walk more than a few steps without having to sit down to catch my breath, I have, these past few years, taken to breaking my journey home from London (known to some as The Smoke, known to me as The Bitch) to Cornwall at a small place just off the A303 — it’s a puzzle really whether it is a big village or a very small town, not that it matters either way — called South Petherton in Somerset, more specifically calling in at a pub there called The Brewer’s Arms which has Sky TV and allows me to watch the second half of any Champions League or Premier League match which might be playing on the Wednesday night. And, as one does, you make acquaintances, and one such acquaintance is a newly retired social worker who likes folk music.

As it happens I don’t like folk music, or very, very little of it, although having said that it is the brand of re-constituted folk which passes for folk here in Britain to which I am particularly not partial and some of which can even make my skin crawl. But recently Paul, for that is his name, told me about Jeff Lang, and to cut a long story short (and thus to break with a longstanding tradition of this blog), I caught a live performance of Jeff Lang a few nights ago. It was at the Half Moon, in Putney, West London, and Mr Lang, and Australian, was something else. He has two and a half things going for him: he is an extraordinarily good guitarist, he has a superb voice and — the half — an attractively unassuming manner and a very dry sense of humour. Oh, and as far as I am concerned he is as far from folk as one can be although he plays, in his very own manner, a number of what I’m told are folk standards. But it was his guitar playing which is so extraordinary.

I have bought two of his CDs but they simply do not convey just how good he is. He uses guitars, usually electrified acoustic guitars, which have been customised to have two leads. That allows him to manipulate the sound in an extraordinary fashion (and, yes, I have used the word ‘extraordinary’ several times, but it is, unusually, perfectly apt here because I have seen and heard nothing like it). His technique allows him to build up a track and using I don’t know what trickery — delay being perhaps one of them — he can then play against himself. I say ‘trickery’, please don’t get the idea that it is all in some way tricksy or flash. Mr Lang is, as I say, wholly unassuming (on the night he was dressed in a grey three-piece suit and a grey flat cap. But the suit wasn’t a gimmick, and the flat cap was merely the means many men resort to when, after many years of sporting a full head of hair, they begin to lose it. Think Paul Simon). Add to his guitar mastery a great voice and ability to sing and you do have, in my view, a quite extraordinary performer.

Here is a link to a You Tube video of him performing which might give you a better idea of what I am talking about.

Here is Sevara Nazarkhan

and Anouar Brahem

. . .

This is just an experiment and I won’t say what, but: Ron Harrison, Wallington County Grammar School for Boys. There are allegations elsewhere on the web that he knew of the involvement of several well-known public figures, especially in entertainment, in paedophile activities. And just to extend the experiment, after the Sun on Sunday reported that a well-known pop star was slowly being drawn into the web of the Jimmy Savile investigation, many people are naming Cliff Richard as that pop start.

It’s long been accepted that Richard is gay, but alleging he is a paedophile is something else entirely. There are also claims that he was one of Lord Boothby’s lovers and might even have had an affair with the gay Kray (can’t remember which one was the gay one). Looking around the net, I also came across the claim that the Krays were involved in organising paedophile rings and were responsible for the murder and dismemberment of Bernard Oliver, whose body parts were found in two suitcases in a field near Tattingstone, Suffolk. You can find out more about that here

There is even a claim that Richard had sex with the gay Kray. But a word of warning: the blog on which I read some of this is obviously anti-semitic with its derogatory references to Israel and repeated insistence that the Krays had Jewish blood, and such references should always ring alarm bells. I’ll give that piece of advice for free.

A further caveat: doing the rounds of different websites - and not following links from one site to another, but simply following links supplied by an initial Google inquiry - time and again I’ve come across text in unconnected websites which was obviously simply copied and pasted from elsewhere.

That’s all fine and dandy if the simple statement ‘two and two make four’ is copied and pasted. But it gets a lot more dangerous when utterly unverifiable statements are copied and pasted and subsequently accepted as ‘fact’. So be very careful.

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