Friday, 30 September 2011

Skeletons: Cover Story (Stories We Could Tell)

Scanning our back pages I've found some images that were never used; proposed covers that didn't make the cut etc. I only have images from 'Stories We Could Tell' onwards but I'll detail stuff as it's rediscovered. I''ll also include the press releases for each album.
'Stories' is probably my least favourite MM cover; a bit murky and unfocussed. Not the artist Nick Reddyhoff's fault, we forced an 11th hour change on him as we decided that the final design looked too much like a solo album. We also changed the title from 'Holding Patterns'. Things weren't helped by the fact that Marcus was in Japan when I sent him these covers that were so mememe that somehow Miracle Mile had been mis-spelt as 'Trevor Jones'. Marcus flipped and... I think he had a point.
As you can see (top right) it was all an innocent miscommunication...
Have a listen to 'Milk Moustache' from 'Stories We Could Tell'; I always loved the arrangement on this one.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Skeletons: Cover Story: Coffee and Stars

For 'Coffee and Stars' designer Nick Reddyhoff introduced us to the work of Norfolk photographer and artist, the late Katrina Anne Maclean (1956-2007). The design that we finally chose was developed from a photograph that Katrina had cherished from her childhood; of her shoeless mother on a beach, caught in a moment of grace. It tied in poignantly with the cover of 'Alaska', a boyhood shot of Marcus with his mother (who was soon to pass away), both similarly impervious of the lens.
'Coffee and Stars' is a collection of songs taken from the 7 MM albums. 
'Guggenheim' was selected from 'Slow Fade'. 
It was the first Miracle Mile song that Marcus produced...

The Bliss of Solitude: 'The Horses' by Ted Hughes

At the risk of sounding highfalutin, I find that poetry lies latent within me and reveals itself when I least expect it, invariably when I need it the most. For me it's a balm and acts as a pressure valve; quite often as I sit on the M40 raising my middle digit to the inescapable boy racer, a little verse will pop into view and rescue me from the rage of the road. Of course you need to feed to regurgitate, so every morning, around breakfast time, I try and take in a new poem; either that or reacquaint myself with something already seen.
I'm going to share some old and new favourites here (I hope that you'll reciprocate), typing them out will be good for me, might encourage the words to root deep and on occasion "flash upon that inward eye/which is the bliss of solitude" as Wordsworth so memorably put it.
I remember studying this poem by Ted Hughes for 'A' level at school and it must have struck me hard because those years remain as fog. I love horses; my favourite animal (although I quite like elephants and giraffes too). We have a field full of them (horses) behind our cottage; when I watch them from my bedroom window I can feel the world slowing down. This poem always reminds me of two other moments of 'culture'. The first is a pivotal scene in a much underrated George Clooney film 'Michael Clayton', where a chance encounter with horses in a field saves George's life. The other is the spoken outro to this fine song 'Working Alone/A Blessing' by the all too neglected Jackie Leven. He's good he is...

The Horses 

I climbed through woods in the hour-before-dawn dark.
Evil air, a frost-making stillness,

Not a leaf, not a bird -
A world cast in frost. I came out above the wood

Where my breath left tortuous statues in the iron light.
But the valleys were draining the darkness

Till the moorline - blackening dregs of the brightening grey -
Halved the sky ahead. And I saw the horses:

Huge in the dense grey - ten together -
Megalith-still. They breathed, making no move,

With draped manes and tilted hind-hooves,
Making no sound.

I passed: not one snorted or jerked its head.
Grey silent fragments

Of a grey silent world.

I listened in emptiness on the moor-ridge.
The curlew's tear turned its edge on the silence.

Slowly detail leafed from the darkness. Then the sun
Orange, red, red erupted

Silently, and splitting to its core tore and flung cloud,
Shook the gulf open, showed blue,

And the big planets hanging -
I turned

Stumbling in the fever of a dream, down towards
The dark woods, from the kindling tops,

And came to the horses.
There, still they stood,
But now steaming and glistening under the flow of light,

Their draped stone manes, their tilted hind-hooves
Stirring under a thaw while all around them

The frost showed its fires. But still they made no sound.
Not one snorted or stamped,

Their hung heads patient as the horizons,
High over valleys in the red levelling rays -

In din of crowded streets, going among the years, the faces,
May I still meet my memory in so lonely a place

Between the streams and the red clouds, hearing the curlews,
Hearing the horizons endure.

TED HUGHES (1930-1998)

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Lovesong: Ella and Dinah

I know that there are a lot of great singers about who hit all the right notes, in the right order; but there don't seem that many with breath control and timing who can relax and just lean into a song; I guess that's what they used to call 'crooning'.
Have a look at this blues medley from 1959 by Ella Fitzgerald and Dinah Shore. It's just stunning; no autotuner or backing tapes here, just unfettered talent, restrained application, raw energy and the love of a song. You kind of know it was a first take...

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

I Sleep On Books: Raymond Carver

"It is possible to write a line of seemingly innocuous dialogue and have it send a chill along the reader's spine - the source of artistic delight, as Nabokov would have it. That's the kind of writing that most interests me."

"You've got to work with your mistakes until they look intended. Understand?"

“That morning she pours Teacher's over my belly and licks it off. That afternoon she tries to jump out the window."

"I could hear my heart beating. I could hear everyone's heart. I could hear the human noise we sat there making, not one of us moving, not even when the room went dark."

I love Raymond Carver and his spare, intense style. He writes about the life in between the action, illuminating the small dramas that inform our days; the glue that fixes us and ultimately keeps us together. In a life dedicated to short stories and poetry he often described himself as "inclined toward brevity and intensity" which is kind of understating it; but then understatement was his thing; "Get in, get out. Don't linger. Go on." was his mantra. Another stated reason for his brevity was "that the story (or poem) can be written and read in one sitting" which is why I always have Carver in the crapper and by the bath. "Minimalism' and 'dirty reality' doesn't do him justice. I find his working methods helpful to my approach when writing songs; "no tricks" he would say, shunning affectation:

“I hate tricks. At the first sign of a trick or gimmick in a piece of fiction, a cheap trick or even an elaborate trick, I tend to look for cover. Tricks are ultimately boring, and I get bored easily, which may go along with my not having much of an attention span. But extremely clever chi-chi writing, or just plain tomfoolery writing, puts me to sleep. Writers don't need tricks or gimmicks or even necessarily need to be the smartest fellows on the block. At the risk of appearing foolish, a writer sometimes needs to be able to just stand and gape at this or that thing- a sunset or an old shoe- in absolute and simple amazement.”

I think that he would have been a great writing teacher. How clear and simple this insight is:

“V.S. Pritchett's definition of a short story is 'something glimpsed from the corner of the eye, in passing.' Notice the 'glimpse' part of this. First the glimpse. Then the glimpse gives life, turned into something that illuminates the moment and may, if we're lucky -- that word again -- have even further ranging consequences and meaning. The short story writer's task is to invest the glimpse with all that is in his power. He'll bring his intelligence and literary skill to bear (his talent), his sense of proportion and sense of the fitness of things: of how things out there really are and how he sees those things -- like no one else sees them. And this is done through the use of clear and specific language, language used so as to bring to life the details that will light up the story for the reader. For the details to be concrete and convey meaning, the language must be accurate and precisely given. The words can be so precise they may even sound flat, but they can still carry; if used right they can hit all the notes.” 

Carver's stories were famously chronicled in Robert Altman's brilliant 'Short Cuts', a film that featured fine acting performances (amongst many) from Tom Waits and Lyle Lovett in a troupe of dislocated players who stumble in and out of each other's (mainly) dysfunctional lives. One of the tales 'So Much Water, So Close to Home' was also the sole focus of an Australian production, 'Jindabyne' starring Gabriel Byrne and directed by Ray Lawrence who also oversaw the excellent 'Lantana'.
Many see Carver's late collection 'Cathedral' as his best, most focussed work, but I say get this fabulously presented collection, 'Collected Stories' by the 'Library of America' for reference (and just the sheer pleasure of smelling the quality paper and binding), plus 'All of Us', a collection of his poetry. But for me, the best knockabout collection is 'Where I'm Calling From' which is a brilliant selection of his best stories. No WC should be without a copy.
Have a listen to this fractured man reading his own poems here.
You sense that he had a difficult relationship with his dad, also Raymond, which he details in this heartbreaking piece and poem, written after his father's death:

Among the pictures my mother kept of my dad and herself during those early days in Washington was a photograph of him standing in front of a car, holding a beer and a stringer of fish. In the photograph he is wearing his hat back on his forehead and has this awkward grin on his face. I asked her for it and she gave it to me, along with some others. I put it up on my wall, and each time we moved, I took the picture along and put it up on another wall. I looked at it carefully from time to time, trying to figure out some things about my dad, and maybe myself in the process. But I couldn't. My dad just kept moving further and further away from me and back into time. Finally, in the course of another move, I lost the photograph. It was then that I tried to recall it, and at the same time make an attempt to say something about my dad, and how I thought that in some important ways we might be alike. I wrote the poem when I was living in an apartment house in an urban area south of San Francisco, at a time when I found myself, like my dad, having trouble with alcohol. The poem was a way of trying to connect up with him.

Photograph of my Father in His Twenty-Second Year

October.  Here in this dank, unfamiliar kitchen
I study my father's embarrassed young man's face.
Sheepish grin, he holds in one hand a string
of spiny yellow perch, in the other
a bottle of Carlsbad Beer.

In jeans and denim shirt, he leans
against the front fender of a 1934 Ford.
He would like to pose bluff and hearty for his posterity,
Wear his old hat cocked over his ear.
All his life my father wanted to be bold.

But the eyes give him away, and the hands
that limply offer the string of dead perch
and the bottle of beer.  Father, I love you,
yet how can I say thank you, I who can't hold my liquor either,
and don't even know the places to fish?

Carver wrote this about the wake after his father's funeral:

I listened to people say consoling things to my mother, and I was glad that my dad's family had turned up, had come to where he was. I thought I'd remember everything that was said and done that day and maybe find a way to tell it sometime. But I didn't. I forgot it all, or nearly. What I do remember is that I heard our name used a lot that afternoon, my dad's name and mine. But I knew they were talking about my dad. Raymond, these people kept saying in their beautiful voices out of my childhood. Raymond.

Carver recognised that he was his father's son ("Booze takes a lot of time and effort if you are going to do a good job with it") and was a recovering alcoholic for most of his adult life; his writing was duly informed by the damage done.  Understanding and agreeing with Hemingway's sanguine observation that "all stories end in death" Carver flourished in recovery, working with a new found energy garnered from the love and support of the poet Tess Gallagher.
"Ray was coming back from a death, really" she recalled. "He was a Lazarus. He was so bright, and so looking forward to the day every day. And I fell in love with that, too, I think – that here is somebody who loved life, and didn't want to live back in the rubble of past lives that had failed. "Listen" I told him, "I love you. But I did not come 4,000 miles across this country to get bad luck. My luck is good and I want it to stay that way. You'd better change your luck."
And Carver did change his luck. 
He learned to believe in hard work, good luck and the importance of leaving something behind: 
"That's all we have finally, the words, and they had better be the right ones."
He chose the right words here in the last thing he wrote before cancer took him in 1988 at the age of 50.

Late Fragment 

And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
I did.
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth. 

Skeletons: Miracle Mile's Bloated Biography

I suppose that this should feature in the 'Skeletons' section as it shows how unsavy MM have been when it comes to courting the press.
As you can see we didn't read 'Biog' rules number one and two:
1. Sure, pat yourself on the back but keep it snappy.
2. No bullshit; on no account should you talk about 'your feelings'.
It does give shape to MM's story and there is much kindness here in the reviews; I particularly like Johnny Black's lovely liner notes for Coffee and Stars towards the end (see you in half an hour) but boy, should someone have thrown a blanket over my cage ("the profundity of the mundane" for christ's sake.)
Brace yourselves...


In the mid 90's, singer-songwriter Trevor Jones began working with producer Steve Davis on material that was to become Miracle Mile’s debut album 'Bicycle Thieves'.

"Meticulously orchestrated, careful and complex, this is canny songwriting leavened by bona fide humanity."
Q ****

TJ: “Steve and I developed the recording band into a live unit, adding Les Nemes (bass) and Phil Smith (sax/keyboards) plus Trevor Smith on drums. After the release of 'Bicycle Thieves' in 1997, Mark Hornby joined the fold for gigs and the recording of the follow up 'Candids'.”

"A little gem, loaded with nagging guitar hooks and dynamic vocal interplay. Intellectually as well as emotionally engaging."

TJ: “After ‘Candids’ was released in 1998 I took the decision to stop doing live shows, as I wasn’t sure that the direction of my writing was in line with the gusto and spirit of that live band.”

The songs kept coming and in 1999 Steve and Trevor started work on new material for the third album, 'Slow Fade'. These recordings were more intimate, less orchestrated with the accent on the songs and the singer. Marcus Cliffe was brought in on Upright Bass, Trevor Smith remained on the drum stool, and the
 legend that is BJ Cole was draughted in to add some pedal steel magic.

TJ:Steve and I parted company mid-stream. Not the usual "musical differences", just an honest admission from Steve that, with family and a day job to attend to, he simply didn't have the time. I was blessed with Marcus. Having already struck up a friendship we decided to complete the album together as co-producers and musical partners.”
Cliffe had played with many fine folk (Steve Earle, Emmylou Harris, Daniel Lanois, Mark Knopfler) a pedigree apparent in the musical backdrops with which he furnished the songs. Slow Fade received ecstatic reviews and saw the further development of a more intimate direction.
"Gorgeous! A lovely, low key collection of sensitive, enchanting songs." THE TIMES ****

In the summer of 2001 MM started work on 'Alaska' at Marcus’s ‘Norbury Brook’ studio. At the time Jones was asked about the lyrical content of ‘Alaska’:
TJ: “These are hardly original ideas. The grass is always greener. The human condition is invariably in a state of disappointment. Is ‘different’ better? When habit and convention demoralizes and casts us adrift, how do we reset our course? Change? The thought of real change is intimidating; it could save us, yet we fear it, and remain content with cold compromise. Dissatisfied, we crave happiness and, when denied, we look elsewhere for a quick fix. As consumers, we’re so used to instant gratification, that we can only be disappointed. We want to be ‘of substance’’, yet we deny the process that makes the fabric hardy - life. We focus on the horizon, rather than on the small dramas in front of us. We desire to be “anywhere but here”, the possibilities of the ‘other life’ making us resent our real lives even more. Traditionally these ‘other lives’ were just vague unobtainable pipedreams, seen in fuzzy black and white. Now, digital clarity presents a focused and immediate reality that we demand, without investment or preparation. Thus, even if we make the dream reality, we’re unable to appreciate or recognise the gravity of it’s arrival; we just use it and move on to something else; easy come, easy go, there goes Mexico, or Alaska, or Sidcup, or Oz… or God. A lot of these songs focus on the tricks that we use, the games that we play, and the skills we develop, to stop ourselves from becoming unglued.”
MC: “The recording of ‘Alaska’ was a difficult time for us both. I was having problems with my family life, Trev had just lost his sister to suicide. I wouldn’t say that it made for a darker album, but there was an emotional edge that gave it a certain grain.”
‘Alaska’ was released in 2002 to overwhelming acclaim:

 "Gentle enchantment. The loveliest melodies you've ever heard."
In 2003 Cliffe was due to tour with Mark Knopfler for the bulk of that year. Unfortunately Knopfler was knocked from his motorcycle on the morning of the first rehearsal, badly breaking his shoulder. The tour was cancelled, and Marcus had time on his hands:
MC: “I didn’t want to twiddle my thumbs, so I spoke with Trev. After clearing the emotional decks with ‘Alaska’ he had songs coming out of his ears! We started in on the recordings that would become ‘Stories We Could Tell’.”

For this album, the duo continued with their ambient use of pedal steel, profiling the differing styles of BJ Cole and Melvin Duffy, but they also coloured the sound with woodwind, brass and other instruments not usually associated with their style of music. Lyrically the album attempted to highlight what Jones called “...the profundity of the mundane. It’s interesting how common our ‘unique’ experiences are. However we choose to present ourselves to the world, we’re all made of the same stuff. I’m intrigued by how distance converts experience into memory, and ultimately, into the stories we tell.”
“Miracle Mile’s obscurity remains unfathomable. Perfect adult pop.” THE SUNDAY TIMES ****

Again, a Miracle Mile release that inspired the critics and a small but dedicated following, but met with commercial indifference. Was this due to a stubborn indifference to what makes music ‘commercial’, or a difficulty to place them in the market?
TJ: “Ah, pigeonholes! As the songs became more and more personal, the focus shifted to me and I became more increasingly referred to as a 'singer songwriter'. If that lends more substance to what we do then it's OK, but labels can be a misleading, and I don’t think that label does justice to Marcus’s input. We are a musical partnership. Beyond recognizing that my words are personal, I think that defining our roles is pointless; the focus should be on the end product; the song. I guess that we are bloody minded in the pursuit of that perfect song!”
MC: “We always said that we would make the records we wanted to make, and refuse to manicure our sound for a marketplace; we please ourselves. With our music, self-control is everything. Owning my own studio has allowed us to develop our sound without interference or financial constraint. The danger is that you can over indulge, be too particular. The joy is, that while we’re both emotional and instinctive, I think we remain disciplined and focused on the crux of the music; the song stays centre stage.”
Recording for the next album ‘Glow’ started in November of 2004.

TJ: “The first day of recording is always a happy time for me. There’s
nothing more exciting than a blank piece of paper, the possibilities are endless.  I get to articulate all the stu that I’ve been storing up.”

Recordings were completed by May of 2005 and on release Trevor offered:

"Whether half remembered or best forgotten, memories are filtered, the haze of a childhood that can never be reclaimed is where we all start and end."

This gives a fair impression of the lyrical scope and compelling, emotive power of the songwriting. Added to that were Marcus Cliffe's excellent playing and multi-instrumental skills, plus his ear for sublime arrangements; ‘Glow’ was an album to cherish.

MC: 'Sonically it blends traditional elements; acoustic guitar, piano, double bass, with the ambient pedal steel of BJ Cole and Melvin Duffy. These, mixed with some unlikely woodwind and brass arrangements, make for (we hope) a quietly beguiling concoction'.

It's almost impossible to explain how such simple, natural song craft can weave such a complex web of feelings, lingering images and possibilities, but weave it does. Once you're caught up there is no getting away either. This is a record to last the rest of your life.

Praise for ‘Glow’:

“Gorgeous melodies, hooks galore, intelligent lyrics that demand and repay careful listening, beautifully produced instrumentation, and an overall effect that combines poignancy and joy in equal measure. The result is as close to a pop masterpiece as you’re likely to hear this or indeed any other year. ‘Glow’ is one of those rare albums where music and words come together in a state as close to perfection as makes no difference, and leaves you with a delicious ache that makes you hug yourself with the sheer overwhelming joy of hearing such wonderful music. An indispensable album.”
Americana UK 9/10

“”MM are pop’s most consistently excellent cottage industry”
The Sunday Times ****

“A little oasis illuminated by musical creativity, glimpsed like a lovely mirage. Intelligent tunefulness that doesn’t kowtow to passing trends has always been as rare as fish fingernails, but it’s here.” Mojo ****

“Little miracles of pop perfection” Rockstar ****

 “This British duo’s hazy, cerebral sixth release is an acoustic pop gem. Records like ‘Glow’ will never grow old, which is a good thing indeed.” Minor 7th

“How to write ‘Perfect Pop’ and still remain unknown. They are magic, charming, almost naïve in their perception of beauty”
La Repubblica (Italy) ****

“The intimate songs on this album are like a necklace hung with precious jewels. With deceptively fine melodic structures, this is music to exercise your temporal lobes and promote thought upon the minutiae of life. Discover their back catalogue for even more treasures”
69 Magazine *****

“A treat from start to finish. One day large numbers will look back and call this a lost classic.”
Back on the Tracks ****

In January of 2006 Trevor and Marcus began the recordings for what would become ‘Limbo’.

TJ: “I really believed that the 'Glow' sessions would be the last time we recorded at Norbury Brook, so this comes as a happy bonus; amazing what you can come to take for granted; people and places. Same cracked mugs, same mad cat, one new guitar (a battered but lovely old Gibson) and Marcus (also battered but lovely) burning incense rather than spraying that inner nose stripping air freshener! He'll be wearing a kaftan next...look our for a sitar solo!
We always look for a working title. I'm struck by the word 'Limbo' for 3 reasons: firstly it kind of sums up the Miracle Mile's position in the music world, secondly it relates to Marcus's emotional and domestic circumstance, and thirdly because I’ve just driven past some orange boxes with ‘Limbo' written on the side! Friday the 13th seems a fateful date to start our recordings; maybe it'll bring us there's a title; 'Lucky Limbo'?

When recording was completed in the autumn of 2006 Trevor was asked to introduce the album:

“We all rest where compromise leaves us. We could try to be elsewhere, but that wouldn’t have produced this album. It’s the best we could do, for where we were. ‘Limbo’? It's sorrow's way; like the unravelling of a lost kite, a gentle rise or fall towards oblivion. We say, “don't be afraid to forget.” You will not. It will become the palest thought, and one day, when your gaze has drifted, the sadness will buck and buckle and be gone.
Meanwhile, abandoned and liberated, silence stands as failure and threatens everything. So we fill it with music and search for the perfect song. How do you live the perfect life? How do you write the perfect joke? Start with the punch line and work backwards.
We’re all connected by our unravellings. We don’t always feel the tug, but as the line tightens, leaves a mark, then relaxes, you realise that things can never come to rest and you learn to trust the rhythm of chance.
And the perfect joke? A man falling from a great height whispering “so far, so good.”

Limbo was released to critical acclaim with The Sunday Times nominating it their ‘CD of the Week’
“Classic pop songwriting, gorgeously realised”

Indeed, ‘Lights of Home’ went on to be named a Sunday Times ‘Song of the Year’ 2007:
“Trevor Jones finds the poetry in real life; Marcus Cliffe anchors it in the sweetest pop. Gorgeous as ever. You may cry”

During a lull in new recording, in 2008 MM released ‘Coffee and Stars’ a compilation of songs taken from their 7 albums.

TJ: “‘Coffee and Stars’ seems an appropriate title, as caffeine and wonderment have been our prime stimulants for the past decade, during which these songs were written and recorded. Choosing the tracks for this collection was challenging. Marcus and I had different favorites and, like children I guess, we seemed to favour the slightly wonky, cross-eyed ones. We’ve included a couple of those here (can you see them?) alongside the more obvious favourites that aunty always kisses first.
So, this is like a family photo, with most of the family still locked in the attic. Let’s hope that ‘Coffee and Stars’ compels you to visit those neglected children in situ, on their original albums. We hope, like us, that you’ll come to love them all.”

The liner notes to ‘Coffee and Stars’ were written by a much respected music journalist, Johnny Black. Maybe they are the perfect words to conclude this particular part of the Miracle Mile story:

“For the truly creative artist, perfection can never be achieved for more than a fleeting moment. Painting the ultimate landscape or writing the definitive song inevitably redefines perfection, pushes the standard of what might be possible next time a little higher, a little closer to what was once considered impossible.
Every Miracle Mile album since their debut offering, ‘Bicycle Thieves’ in 1997, has included songs, which, at the time, redefined the limits of what the perfect song might be. This compilation includes eighteen of them.
The cuts were selected not so much to provide a simple ‘Best Of’, as to create a sustained listening experience in which each track flows naturally into the next. It would be easy to quibble with the ommisions, but only a fool would deny that the tracks chosen fit together like pieces of a much-loved jigsaw, depicting an aspect of Miracle Mile that none of the seven individual albums could hope to deliver.
On most Miracle Mile songs, the primary elements – melody and lyrics - are provided by songwriter and singer Trevor Jones. For the past seven years, however, Jones has worked so closely with multi-instrumentalist and co-composer Marcus Cliffe that his contributions have become integral to the sound and shape of the music they make. Whether it’s the yearning regret of ‘Yuri’s Dream’, or the playful lyricism of ‘Sunburst Finish’, the Jones-Cliffe partnership transforms each song into much more than the sum of its parts. When Jones captures the bottled lightning of everyday existence with a beautiful turn of phrase like, “Paper planes and pony tails lead me back to you”, Cliffe colours in the word pictures with unfailingly apposite textures and melodic filigrees.
Best of all though, Miracle Mile will never sink a fang into the jugular when they can plant a whisper of a kiss on that sensitive spot at the nape of the neck and set off a tiny ripple that will, in the fullness of time, explode in the heart.”

Johnny Black 
Spring, 2008

Trevor Jones has since gone on to produce two critically acclaimed solo albums ‘Hopeland’ and ‘Keepers’.

Praise for ‘Hopeland’:

“Moves you to tears and refreshes the soul. Scintillating.”
*****  Maverick

“The beauty on offer here is enough to make you weep. It did me.”
9/10  Americana UK

The title track must simply be the most beautiful ballad anyone has written this year.” **** SUNDAY TIMES

Praise for ‘Keepers’:

“A tender sadness. Songs that have universal resonance.”

“A lush swoon of gorgeous pop. Genuinely life enhancing and life changing” 9/10  Americana Uk

“A melancholic ocean of poetry and sublime song-craft. Life is indeed worth living and all the richer for hearing this.”  Properganda ‘Album of the Week’

‘Trevor Jones has produced a gorgeous pop album that few will hear — unless there’s justice in the world.’  The Wall Street Journal
“Jones has compiled possibly the finest catalogue of adult pop. Gently beautiful and genuinely moving”  The Sunday Times ****

Sunday, 25 September 2011

'Hopeland' discussed on Britsound Radio

There's going to be a scattershot element to this that I hope you won't mind. 
I guess that I should try and bring some attention to my solo albums as well.
The first was 'Hopeland'. 
If you'd like to hear about it you can find the horse's mouth here. (I hope that you get the right end...)
BritSound is a radio station based in New York. Along with the very best in new British music and CLASSIC British music, Britsound is the show to listen to for Anglophiles in America.
The show is presented by award-winning radio veteran Rob Quicke, a prince...

Skeletons: Breaking Down the Barriers

Miracle Mile have been going long enough for there to be a skeleton or two lurking in the closet. Better out than in so, in a series of sensational revelations (it is sunday) I'll be exposing them bones afore they reveal themselves. The initial incarnation of Miracle Mile featured Steve Smith on bass and vocals, Phil Sands on drums and myself as an 'umble guitar player. There was a single 'Bless this Ship' which I believe was Mike Reid's 'Play of the Day' on radio one. I'll try and track that one down, but the B side was an earlier recording, 'Breaking Down the Barriers' which you can hear here (taken from scratchy vinyl), complete with dancing sleeve. It's not often that you'll find McArthur's Park, Joseph Clark (as God), Holy Joe and Captain Scarlet in the same song... Although its worryingly categorized alongside A Flock of Seagulls, it sounds pretty good to me; Steve always was the better singer, warbling like Steven 'Tin Tin' Duffy before The Lilac Time existed. Steve now lives in Hollywood and still writes as The Delta Boy.
You'll also hear the MM debut of saxophonist Phil Smith from Haircut 100 who became a fixture in the live band (on keyboards and sax) for a couple of years. Although the cover/beermat above looks a little tired after strutting its stuff so energetically in that You Tube video, it's notable as the first sleeve design done for us by my great mate Nick Reddyhoff (right) who went on to do the artwork on all of the Miracle Mile album covers. He still hasn't been paid a penny and now lives pennyless and destitute in a flimsy tent on the Norfolk coast with his wife Lucinda and my two god children Tats and Zac (he couldn't afford full names for them) and a dog whose name they've had to change by deed poll from 'Porridge' to 'Gruel'.
God bless that man...

Friday, 23 September 2011

Lovesong: Patience is a Virtue

I know that a lot of folk out there revere The Blue Nile.
I've crumbled at gigs alongside many a crumpled misty eyed middle ager; it seems that we are of a breed.
The last show I saw was Paul Buchanan solo (backed it seemed by, erm... The Blue Nile minus one) at Hammersmith Odeon. This interview alludes to the reasoning behind the tour. It was an excellent night, very moving and involving (we were on the 3rd row). Yes, Paul sang 'Strangers in the Night' like an angel but it inevitably got me longing for some new stuff.
I won't be holding my breath; I've heard that the Blue Nile are no more (is this news?) but in trawling the megahertz (thanks Paddy) I found this site that enabled me to download (free) 'Patience is a Virtue', a double CD of oddments, out takes etc. It's a mixed bag but some of the stuff is fine. Have a listen to this beauty:
Wish me Well
I was hoping that the compilation would include 'Meanwhile', a song that was often played at gigs, but it seems that it's never been recorded. Here's the best version that I can find. Live, rough, ready and quite beautiful...
Meanwhile by The Blue Nile

Lovesong: Michael Kiwanuka

This lovely track was recommended in the Sunday Times this week.
I'd never heard of Michael Kiwanuka but this is on his current 'I'm Getting Ready' EP.
I'm Getting Ready

Lights of Home

Lights of Home

OK, the pilot's dead and I have to land the plane.
I've got David (Cathedrals of Sound) on the phone. He wishes he hadn't been awoken but is talking me through the process.
I can see the lights of home but...
"It's easy" sighs David "just... breathe deeply and do exactly as I say. You need to put your hands on the wheel."
My hands are shaking...
Will I endure or am I to be embedded in the side of the mountain?
If I do get home safely more music will be posted soon.
Thanks Dave.
Roger and out...

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Work in Progress

'Work in Progress' seems to sum up my life at the moment; no bad thing; at least I feel like I'm moving towards something... The new album has had an interesting life so far. Regardless of the creative genesis (more of that later) Marcus and I decided on a different approach for this album: once the songs were written, I would take them into the studio and perform them to the blandest pad or musical accompaniment possible (not my usual guitar) so that the musical direction was not predetermined. I would then leave the room and Marcus would colour the sketches in his own sweet time. That's still the plan; I've done my bit; the 11 songs are writ and sung. The sessions will reconvene when Marcus has put a roof on the new studio. Norbury Brook Studio is being relocated; from 'Chez Cliffe' and into his garden. Maybe this will make our new recordings less urbane and more... pastoral. Watch this space...

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Chez Diane

I often get asked about the house in Corsica; I think a lot of folk see a villa and a pool; couldn't be further from the truth. If you'd like an insight into the place that inspired 'Hopeland' and 'Keepers' you can look at a walk through video here:
Christ, you can even rent the place. I hope Di's changed the sheets...

Yesterday's Bread

Something of substance the man says. 
Where's the beef? How about bread?
OK, how about this work in progress, 
written last week in Corsica. 
I know, I know, it doesn't rhyme...

Yesterday's Bread

'Everyday but sunday' she says
Glancing over my shoulder
As she counts out change
I am not yet 'of the village'
So have worked my way 
From the back of the queue

Every day but sunday
In the shadow of St Augustin
Crusts offered reluctantly
From the back of a white van
'Voila, you were lucky'
She draws a dark brown oddment
From within, then
Steps to her left
Blocking my view

I bound home with flour on my chest
To find you in the kitchen
Tea cups brimful
Over your shoulder I see
The remnants of yesterday's bread
"Always leave a crust 
To show you're not in need"
Terry's chant
"Waste not, want for nothing"

I am my father's son
So every dawn we test our teeth 
On yesterday's crust
Leaving the soft and fresh 
For tomorrow
You hold me hopefully
As I picture pater
Tight lipped and wanting
Pressing broken teeth
Into the back of his smile

Tuesday, 20 September 2011