Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Forgotten Albums: The Juliet Letters

Elvis Costello and the Brodsky Quartet - The Juliet Letters
I'm going to start a new series of articles about "albums that no-one bought and very few people like but I think are good", in short, "forgotten albums". To start us off, I've selected "The Juliet Letters" by Elvis Costello and the Brodsky Quartet which was released in 1993. It is a concept album with each song being about or containing the content of a letter e.g. a suicide note or a "dear John" letter.

The album is recorded in single takes in the studio with no post-production or effects being added. Only Costello's voice and the stringed instruments of the Brodsky quartet are used. The songs are complicated and contain intricate melodies that require many listens to get used to. The album lasts a staggering 62 minutes and extends to 20 tracks.

Not every track is a winner but many of them are and it is this album's ability to be listened to repeatedly that makes it stand out. I have had this album for 14 years and it still sounds fresh and brings a smile to my face. I only know one person who has admitted to independently liking this album and when I found this out, I nearly fell off my stool.

A local footnote: Jaqueline Thomas, the cellist, was born in Middlesbrough and the song "Jackson Monk and Rowe" is named after a firm of Middlesbrough solicitors.

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Windows Vista launches

Bill Gates has been doing the publicity trail this week to promote the latest version of Windows; Windows Vista. Vista gives you a search facility, some funky 3D graphics things, some transparency effects and "additional security". The product was originally chalked for release in late 2003 but the development of the software was effectively restarted at this point.

It will cost you £100 to upgrade your home machine, or £290 for a business edition, which is quite a price tag. The hardware requirements of Vista are pretty hefty so you may wish to upgrade your PC while you're at it, in which case they'll throw in a copy of Vista with it.

Whichever way you look at it, it's going to cost you.


Thursday, January 25, 2007

Ray Parlour Leaves

Ray Parlour
Today saw the sad sight of Ray Parlour, the Romford Pele, parting company with Middlesbrough Football Club. Ray, at the fag end of his career, could not get in the first team anymore and was moved on. Ray Parlour has legendary status in my office because of his character's extraordinary abilities in Pro Evolution Soccer on the Playstation. This game is the recreation of choice during breaks and lunchtime and Ray can always be relied upon to turn matches around with his mazy wing play and ferocious shot.

When Glenn Hoddle asked mystic Eileen Drewrey to give Ray a reading while on England duty, Drewrey put her hands on Parlour's head and he asked for a "short back and sides'.

Another Ray anecdote from a Ray Parlour fan site:

Comedian Alan Davies, a lifelong Gooner, gave a nice speech at the Football Writers' tribute dinner to Tony Adams. He repeated a tale from Ray Parlour about how Arsene Wenger was dubbed 'Clouseau' by the Arsenal players. Before one game the Frenchman ushered his players out into the tunnel before excusing himself to go to the toilet. Unfortunately, there was a security alert and the players were told to return to the dressing room. When Wenger re-emerged to find his squad milling around, he asked them what was going on. Up piped Ray Parlour, in his finest Peter Sellers impersonation: "There is a burm." To which Wenger replied, classically: "A burm?" As everyone dissolved in laughter, Parlour continued: "Yes, a burm." When the laughter had stopped, Wenger said: "Raymond . . . I do believe you are having a joke with me.''


Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Brits 2007 are out

Here are my predictions for the winners.

British male solo artist

James Morrison, Jarvis Cocker, Lemar, Paolo Nutini, Thom Yorke.

Slim pickings here. I think may be James Morrison may get it because of his devilish wing-play for Middlesbrough this season.

British female solo artist

Amy Winehouse, Corinne Bailey Rae, Jamelia, Lily Allen, Nerina Pallot.

In the absence of Toyah and Annie Lennox this year, Lily Allen will win this one.

British album

Amy Winehouse - Back to Black, Arctic Monkeys - Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not, Lily Allen - Alright Still, Muse - Black Holes & Revelations, Snow Patrol - Eyes Open.

The Brits have to acknowledge the PR success that is The Artic Monkeys

British group

Arctic Monkeys, Kasabian, Muse, Razorlight, Snow Patrol.

Muse will get this because Razorlight are shit.

British breakthrough act

Corinne Bailey Rae, The Fratellis, James Morrison, The Kooks, Lily Allen

Lily Allen again.....

International breakthrough act

Gnarls Barkley, Orson, The Raconteurs, Ray Lamontagne, Wolfmother.

No question.

British live act

George Michael, Guillemots, Kasabian, Muse, Robbie Williams

Kasabian may pip this one, but don't underestimate the popularity of Bob Williams

British single

Corinne Bailey Rae - Put Your Records On, The Feeling - Fill My Little World, James Morrison - You Give Me Something, The Kooks - She Moves In Her Own Way, Leona Lewis - A Moment Like This, Lily Allen - Smile, Razorlight - America, Sandi Thom - I Wish I Was a Punk Rocker, Snow Patrol - Chasing Cars, Take That - Patience, Will Young - All Time Love

It's chosen by public votes so housewives choice will prevail.

International male solo artist

Beck, Bob Dylan, Damien Rice, Jack Johnson, Justin Timberlake.

Depends which international star is going to turn up.

International female solo artist

Beyoncé, Cat Power, Christina Aguilera, Nelly Furtado, Pink.

With Furtado as an outside chance if Aguilera can't make it

International group

The Flaming Lips, Gnarls Barkley, The Killers, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Scissor Sisters.

I think the Killers will win this if they are scheduled to turn up and play live.

International album

Bob Dylan - Modern Times, Gnarls Barkley - St Elsewhere, Justin Timberlake - FutureSex/LoveSounds, The Killers - Sam's Town, Scissor Sisters - Ta-Dah.

Could be

Outstanding contribution to music


oh joy.....


Sunday, January 14, 2007

Wet Wet What?

It would seem that the comeback of former popstars continues. This time it's Wet Wet Wet who are on the "greatest hits", comeback tour, bandwaggon. What makes this reunion a Sweet Little Mystery is that in 2002, Marti Pellow re-recorded the most memorable WWW hits under the title "Marti Pellow Sings The Hits Of Wet Wet Wet", thus cutting out his former band members from the royalties.

The disgruntled backing band, including cheeky Tommy on drums, have obviously forgiven Pellow and decided to fleece the public one last time together. Pellow, a former heroin addict, recently won one of those Karaoke TV shows, looking like a former heroin addict.

Post-it Note Art #9: Marti Pellow

Post-it note art #9 - Marti Pellow

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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Apple iPhone vs Apple Newton

Ten years ago, Apple was selling a personal digital assistant called the Newton (or MessagePad) which was soon to be discontinued. Yesterday, Apple announced the forthcoming iPhone which is a portable computing device, ipod and telephone.
Apple Newton vs Apple iPhone
Here are the two devices compared side by side:

FeatureNewton MessagePad 2100iPhone 8Gb
Screen480 x 320 greyscale480x320 Colour
Input MethodStylus with handwriting recognitionTouch sensitve screen - on-screen icons, gestures and keys
Size211x111x28 mm115× 60×11.5 mm
Power4xAA Cells - 24 hours typicalFixed rechargeable battery - 10 hours typical
ConnectivityInfrared, Locatalk, DockBluetooth, quad-band GSM, Wi-Fi (802.11b/g), EDGE,Dock
ExpansionPCMCIA cardNone

Source: Wikipedia Apple

The iPhone wins hands-down in almost all departments except battery life and, suprisingly, screen resolution, although the iPhone's pixels are packed into a smaller area. The iPhone is $600 in June. The Newton is around £50 on eBay.

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Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Eurovision Morrissey

The Sun is reporting that Morrissey is to write a song for the Eurovision song contest. It's not a done deal yet, but like Bucks Fizz, he's still "Making his mind up".


Monday, January 08, 2007

Sealand for sale

Fans of Danny Wallace's "How to Start your own Country" will be pleased to see that the principality of Sealand is up for sale. The owners of the off-shore platform in the North sea declared it an indepdendent nation and gave it its own currency, flag etc.
Now Prince Michael of Sealand has decided it's time to sell up, even though its legal status is in some dispute, for £65m.

The nation of Sealand has been officially represented at the 2006 World Crazy Golf Championships.


Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Lead Balloon

I watched some TV over Christmas. The Ruby in the Smoke was good, as was After Thomas. But the best comedy was on BBC Four with a Christmas special of The Thick of It and the repeat of Jack Dee's series Lead Balloon. Lead Balloon is well worth watching. The first episode is a comedy masterpiece.


Monday, January 01, 2007

Things 2 remember 4 2007

I received a text message.

I'm not a fan of the SMS, especially this one. It was a piece of cod, sentimental, round-robin poetry in text-speak. It goes something like this:

Things 2 remember in 2007. Love ur friends. Express yourself extravagantly. Celebr8. B n-ice. Send this piece of shit to all your friends. If they reply, they like you.

I'm pretty sure this was written by one of the big telecoms companies and designed to meet their revenue target for 2006 by causing a wave of pointless text messages. I only got one, my wife got it eight times from eight different sources - that's without forwarding the wretched thing on.

The first rule of email/sms is: if someone says "forward this to everyone you know", don't. Microsoft aren't tracking the number of emails you forward and are not giving a free PC to every recipient, the UN isn't going to be swayed by your forwarded email petition for a poor orphan and a barely literate SMS poem won't win you friendship.

Now forward a link to this blog post to everyone you know and tell them to forward it to ten of their friends. If they get at least five replies, then you can retire tomorrow.