Richard Thompson Live at Rockpalast

This has just been released in 2017 tho it was recorded in 1983 and 1984: RT Live at Rockpalast, as two DVDs and three CDs – of two performances, one in Hamburg and the other in Cannes. After the Hamburg gig, there’s an opportunity on DVD1 to watch a brief interview between RT and the German Rockpalast guy. This was after both performances, I now think, because Thompson is asked about his reception, and he mentions that whistling means different things in different countries. When I watched that, I wondered why he said that – because he was well received in the Hamburg Markthalle.  But now I’ve watched the Cannes gig, where a couple of slower numbers, particularly Night Comes In, seem to be badly received, with a great deal of whistling. If I’ve understood the audience behaviour correctly, I don’t know why the French weren’t expecting what they got.

The Hamburgers were insistent that they got more, bringing the band back to the stage twice for another six more songs than Cannes got – as either the French didn’t ask RT back, or he wouldn’t go. One result of that is that the first disk is a DVD9, but the second needs only to be a DVD5 🙂 Maybe he should have included Ça plane pour moi, which he does in perfect French, at great speed.

Redskin superhero?

There’s a bit of fuss atm about Black Panther (Ryan Coogler, 2018) the film which has given the American world its first Marvel Comic African-American superhero.

So that’s all good and fine, and as it should be. The descendants of former slaves are now proudly free and reclaiming their African-ness.

But what about the first people? Why is there no superhero arising out of the culture of the people who were there first?

Martin Simpson’s rubato

Martin Simpson seems to be widely regarded as being among the best instrumentalists in folk music. He is a very good musician indeed.

So why is he such a terrible singer? In the musician sense of singing.

It’s not just his voice, which is ordinary. It’s his … um … rubato. You know that thing that Frank Sinatra has always just got away with – singing behind the beat? Martin S delays so long on the last word in the phrase that he has to really rush to catch up in the next one.

And he does it again and again, and has done so through his whole career. Why has no-one ever been brave enough to tell him to just sing in time?

It means that his only good album is Cool and Unusual  – the only one in which he does not sing.

Swinging Safari

Stephan Elliott has directed more, but let’s consider six films. He wrote Frauds (1993), and it’s a most remarkable first feature. It already displays the main characteristic of most of Elliott’s films: it’s hard to classify. I have, somewhat reluctantly, to get out the rather broad term ‘surrealism’ – because I can’t think of another word that goes some way towards capturing the way Elliott’s imagination takes a detour, a diversion away from psychological realism. Which makes it difficult  to empathise with characters or story.

Then, immediately, we come to his masterpiece (in both senses of the word). Priscilla (1994) is implausible and outrageous, but it’s also something with which anyone who has been the least bit marginalised can relate to. And it was a great success.

Elliott didn’t write Welcome to Woop Woop (1997) but one feels he might have. This is one is less surreal and more fantasy/scifi/speculative, but it is outrageous, both in terms of spectacle (another Elliott characteristic) and sexual explicitness. Anyone who’s seen it will first recall: Rod Taylor dancing on the pub bar with with his boots wired to a car battery; second, Barry Humphries in a blindman cameo; and third: Rogerson Hammerstein [sic]. But I suspect not enough people did see it, and it made a loss (tbc).

So Elliott had to pull his head in and make some conventional films, like Eye of the Beholder (1999) a ‘mystery thriller’ of which I don’t think anyone is proud.

Then it was back to Australian comedy with A Few Best Men (2012), not written by Elliott. I did see this, but don’t feel qualified to say much about it (I think it’s a bromance), as I can hardly remember it – and anyway the memory has been obscured by the sequel A Few Less Men – which is not an Elliott film. One thing I’m sure about is that Lamprell’s effort is much worse.

And finally – for now at least – Swinging Safari (2018) – and the reason for which I wanted to write this little piece starting with Frauds – because we’re back into the ambiguous territory of the unempathetic. In any else’s hands this would have been a farce and a satire. It’s about wife-swapping in a past recent enough for many people to remember with amusement rather than nostalgia. Bringing Guy Pearce (now a superb, mature actor) back together with Kylie Minogue could have caused a great wave of fun – and affection – to wash over cinemas. But it didn’t happen. The characters are all kept at a distance in Elliott’s museum of Believe it or Not.

It tries (too?) hard to be comical, and repeatedly misses the mark. Whereas in Welcome to Woop Woop, the hyperbole just becomes weird, in this we should be in the realm of satire, but Elliott doesn’t have enough the ability to maintain the charitable malice required for that.

Pretty Polly

Some time in the Pre-Cambrian era I was sent to Vines Road.
At that time, Deakin University was only in Geelong, and had taken over a institute of technology and a former teachers college, to become a ‘university’. And the teachers college was in Vines Road.

This was in the 1980s, so I can remember very little about the campus.
But it had a music department, and so it had a record collection – meaning ‘long-playing record’ (LP) – disks that you stuck a stylus onto to access the analog recording – what a weird old idea! Lucky we’ve left that behind 🙂

And in this record collection was a boxset – it probably had two disks in it – called the Folk Box. This might not have been the first, and certainly wasn’t the last collection with this name, but I haven’t ever been able to recover just which ‘folk box’ this was.

What I *do* remember is the first song on the first side. A performance like hardly anything else I’ve ever heard. The song was called ‘Pretty Polly’ – and there’s no mystery about that: it’s been recorded scores of time. But it took me three decades to finally recover the performance that I found so astonishing.

The banjo-player and singer attacks the song like his life depended on it. It’s not easy to understand the words – and it doesn’t matter: it’s the ‘life force’ in the wild, energetic performance with which one is forced to engage.

There are more than one ‘old-timey’ singers who recorded this murder ballad, including John Hammond and Dock Boggs, but the guy who gets my attention is … Lee Sexton, b. 1928.

Australian Cinema

I used to talk about Australian films with people because I’m enthusiastic about the films. I have had a very large website about Australasian films on the internet for twenty years now.

But it’s usually only a couple of minutes into any conversation when my interlocutor is moved to say something (usually derogatory) about the Australian film industry. By which he (it’s alway a man) means to refer the cinema’s ability to make money, which he implicitly or not compares to Hollywood, and he finds (surprise!) that an Australian film makes less money than an American one (he’s thinking of a ‘blockbuster’, and comparing them with the modest film we had been talking about). He then proceeds to identify the one thing that’s ‘wrong with the Australian industry’ – based on the two or three Australian films he’s seen or can recall.

I now avoid talking with people about Australian films.

http://australiancinema.info/index.html

Recycling

A video about recycling says a couple of times, ‘Just throw it away’ (if it can’t be recycled).

I only have two bins. If it doesn’t go in the recycling bin, it goes into the landfill bin. Is that the message from this video?

In my ignorance of how to deal with this complexity, I put everything not biodegradable into the recycling bill (as the mayor told me to when he took up the job).

Is this wrong?

Sorry, that’s two questions. I should have kept it simple (which it’s not).

Tinnitus … sux

Tinnitus. Last time I was free from this was something like a year or two ago. I am currently again in this blissful (and very rare) state.

I have taken the opportunity to listen to my favourite singer in his best recording. Carpe diem.

It’s Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (1925-2012), and  the second of his three recordings of the Bach cantatas BWV 82 and 56.

The first was 1951 with Ristenpart, then 1968, with Richter, and finally 1983 with Rilling (aged 68).

Walyalup

There was discussion of city nomenclature in the Facebook page Freo Massive, yesterday, following from the proposal to use the first-peoples name for Hobart. The OP  asked what people thought about changing the names of Fremantle and Perth. As a result I have actually changed the title of my homepage to Walyalup Stuff. Freo had a perfectly good name in 1829. The invader didn’t bother to ask.

The primary candidate for urgent change in this country is New South Wales. What a ridiculous name (literally)! Followed by Sinny, as it’s hard to spell.

The original name proposed for this state was Hesperia. It won’t happen, of course, but I like it. Under the American Empire, WA gets confused with Washington state.

Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau

Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau recorded BWV 82 and 56 three times. I can now announce – having just bought it at last – that the second of the three is the best recording put down by any singer … ever.
Unfortunately, I can’t listen to it as one would wish, as I have tinnitus. With this condition, at least in my case, as you turn up the volume of sound, so does the presence of the tinnitus increase. However, at a low level, I can still be aware that DFD sings like the finest artist I can imagine.