Monday, 30 April 2012

Linn: Studio Master Downloads: Alaska


For many (well, a few) 'Alaska' and 'Limbo' are Miracle Mile's finest moments.
Both albums are being remastered for Linn's 'Studio Master Downloads Series'.
The downloads are pricey but Marcus (and remaster master Pete Beckmann) say that they sound 'fantastic'.
'Alaska' is ten years old and I got to hear its anniversary remaster this weekend.
I'm not one for banging drums but I'd forgotten how potent it is; there's a depth to the re-master that brings everything into startling focus.
It was an assault on the senses and, I've got to admit, all a bit overwhelming for Hilary, Di and I as we sat and listened.
If you are interested you can have a look here...

‘Alaska’, Miracle Mile’s 4th album was released in 2002 to overwhelming critical acclaim:


"Gentle enchantment. The loveliest melodies you've ever heard."  UNCUT ****

“Timeless, adult pop; Miracle Mile’s obscurity remains unfathomable.”  The Sunday Times ****

“Blessed with a gorgeous voice, Trevor Jones must rank as one of this nation’s most criminally overlooked songwriters.”  Mojo ****

“Quite irresistible; a first class album; smart, original music, ideally played and beautifully recorded.” Maverick ****

“Perfect pop; complicated like Prefab Sprout, direct like Deacon Blue.Q ****

“Lovely tunes with arrangements of quite astonishing beauty; Miracle Mile’s finest work yet” 
Hi-Fi News Rating: A1*

“Simply amazing. McAloon, Frame, Trevor Jones. That’s the way it should be. If you’ve not heard this there’s a gap in your life. Honest. 17 tracks and not a filler among them.” 
NetRhythms Top Ten albums of 2003

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Hopeland (Notes from Corsica) 23: Saudade

Every day I sit down with my guitar.
I take the time to reflect.
Time and a guitar; a comfort blanket and a dream catcher.
Songs are coming easily, but is the first thought necessarily the best, or is that lazy thinking?
I'd like to think of myself as an original thinker, but have come to know that I'm not, something that each new song confirms.
So I cut my cloth accordingly and work within myself, attempting to illuminate the mundane stuff that colours my everyday life, and hopefully present it in such a way that it connects and resonates with others, perhaps as a 'penny drop' moment.

Sometimes we don't notice the obvious.

The artist’s hope of presenting a singular vision has distorted many a creative talent, affectation parading as individuality. Sometimes individuality can get compromised in order to acquiesce to some third party’s sense of genre; others can too easily define our lives for us.
I do what I do because I’m inspired to write and am able to do so in my own sweet time; it makes me happy that I can produce something from nothing and on my own terms. This ‘gladness’ is a bi product of my labour and a rare pleasure.
It makes me mindful.

Genuine delight seems an uncommon commodity these days. Somewhere along the line ‘happiness’ has become seen as a human right rather than an unexpected serendipitous gift. It’s become an expectation, as materialistic a demand as soap or shoes. TV shows us life’s possibilities, easy credit offers untold opportunity, but there is no labour involved in the acquisition, no pride in achievement or respect for the achievement of others, no real aspiration and ambition, just envy and frustration. Somewhere along the line it seems that we have diminished the ‘delight’ of flighty folly and have forgotten the pleasures to be gained from passing things on, handing them down.
Possessions were once cherished, and then bequeathed.
These objects connected us to the past.
They told stories.
Their inheritance invested them with unspoken worth, a silent reminder of those who went before.
The potency of these objects cannot be underestimated; solid markers in an ephemeral landscape, they mapped out our journey and reminded us where we had come from.
We kept these treasures in a biscuit tin under our beds; the pleasure of treasure…
Now, fashions come and go. Labels change. Things break, we don't fix them, we replace them; it’s no surprise then that we’ve forgotten how to value things. As children, with uniforms and chants of prayer, we were educated to conform. Now as self-defined ‘free spirits’ we find that we have painted ourselves into a corner, isolated and yearning for a past where we once ‘belonged’. We look under our beds and find nothing but dust, so we compromise our past imperfections by conjuring substance from the shadows.

And so the rosy glow of nostalgia colours and becomes us; our personalities are redefined.
Without the currency of 'developed' character, true individuality is fabricated not fostered.
You can have too many options, too much choice. Choice begets change. Change begets loss, but change and development are vital for survival, moving forward. Maybe we lament the things that we miss because we did indeed miss them, or worse, we didn't notice them at all.
And so we become wistful about the past, and fearful of the future; we don't live in the moment, we wrestle with the possibilities of what's beyond the moment.
There is a Portuguese word 'saudade' which is defined as 'a terrible yearning for a past that never existed.' Nostalgia is really a yearning to reclaim lost lives or missed opportunity, hence our sentimental connection to the things that have shaped us; our parents, our childhood, lost friends, music, books, TV and films of a particular era.

There is nothing quite as sweet as the grey warbling of a bird near extinction. We push things towards extinction, and only when we're fearful of their loss, do we cherish them. Why do we need to make things rare, when we should celebrate the common place?
Meanwhile as we respond to ever increasing stimuli we don’t necessarily relate to it. We see the shape of things, but not their texture. We know everything, but is there a genuine understanding? With so much data in the files we seem to have difficulty apportioning genuine value to things.
We are in danger of becoming sensually deprived; we don't know nature, our own nature, ourselves.
The common ‘buzz’ of the 24/7 communications age has rendered us over-stimulated, our touchstones have become mobile phones and laptops; we have to keep checking for messages to see if we are valued.
It’s a bit like looking in a mirror to see if we are still there.
Maybe we’ve become too distracted to be happy as ‘happiness’ depends on us being present, in and of the moment. I think that we need to simply disconnect and learn to be alone again, to reconnect with our imaginations, to re-engage with our sense of wonder.

Someone once wrote "Wear your life loosely, it fits better that way."
The past is the authentic fabric from which we are made; we define ourselves by how we cut that cloth. The filtering of memories enables us to come to terms with what we have become, how we have tailored ourselves.
I feel an increasing sense of emotional isolation. I internalize and only really release through song.
I sense that we’re all increasingly looking inwards, taking pride in ourselves but lacking any sense of ‘place’, essentially denying ourselves the benefits of community.
The currency that keeps us vital is life itself, and our vital perception not just of life as it happens, but of our processing of that experience. Our value is not just what we could be, but what we are, what we have become. The further we grow away from our histories, the more obvious their influence becomes, and the more we idealise and cherish that influence.
Reviewed and rewritten, our past becomes us.
With this benefit of hindsight, how can we be disappointed?
These fleeting cherry blossom moments in Corsica have taught me to cherish the past, accept and recognise its vitality, but not to live there.
When it comes to ranting about the transient joys of all things bright and beautiful, Keats got there long before me, but I believe that William Blake nailed it best when he wrote:


He who binds himself to joy
Doth the Winged life destroy
But he who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in eternity’s sunrise

Corsica has gifted me a perfect day in the sun, now I need to live beyond that day without corrupting or resenting the memory of it.

Friday, 27 April 2012

TORONTO TIM SAYS: THROUGH THE CRACKS: HONEYCHURCH: CHANCERY LANE

Here I hand the page over to Tim Patrick whose enthusiasm is contagious:

TT says: HONEYCHURCH... through the cracks, but 'caught' by a lucky few...

Spring cleaning... that time of the year again. 
Last year, I unloaded all of my VHS tapes, cassettes, most of my vinyl, a bunch of CD's and loads of books. 
This year I'm thinning out my stack of old music magazines. 
I happened to be um, let's just say I was on the "throne" thumbing through an August '04 issue of "Paste" magazine. 
I spotted a tiny ad from an indie mail-order company, describing a band going by the moniker 'Honeychurch' with an album 'Makes Me Feel Better'
The little blurb used a seductive pitch... 
"A rapturous effort, melding undulating pop with indie-folk dreaminess. Ferried by a variety of guitars, strings and organ, these are romantic, blissfully transcendent songs." 
Hmmm... totally obscure, but worthy of inquiry!

'HONEYCHURCH'... I began by "fishing" at Youtube, and a couple of audio clips came up. The first tune I punched was the elegantly British-sounding 'CHANCERY LANE'... I was hooked! All I could do was listen to it over and over. The blurb was right on the money. This track is lushly arranged chamber pop. Sweet harmonies, incandescent strings, a wisp of oboe after the lovely bridge, and the clincher... a yearning pedal steel guitar accenting the entire piece... 5:06 minutes of sheer beauty!

Eventually, I listened to the other clips... 'Fields On Fire', 'Welcome Home Spacegirl', 'Miko II' are all splendid. More of an 'americana' vibe, not as immediate as 'Chancery' but definite growers. I hate pigeon-holing, since there is an amalgam of styles here; but the closest comparison that comes to mind is Hem and Mojave 3, and with that combo of superb songs and ubiquitous pedal steel maybe a little Miracle Mile!

As far as a bio of the band, there isn't a lot of info. Based out of Bucks County, Pennsylvania the core consists of husband and wife Shilough and Larissa Hopwood, with guitar whiz Tim Kratz and Doncaster, England native Greg Millward on drums. Honeychurch's albums were released with the help of a local independent record store, Siren Records in Doylestown, PA. Mostly regionally appreciated, this is a band playing "for the love of it." 
When I received my CD, Larissa sent along a hand-written card of greeting and thanks which was special. 

If you like what you hear, Honeychurch have three official albums 'Calling Me Home' (2001), 'Makes Me Feel Better' (2004), both deleted and almost impossible to find. I managed to pick up a used copy of the 2nd album from Amazon.com for a fair price, but most copies are about $40. The band have recently issued a compilation "Early Times 2001-2004" which misses a couple of great tracks, but works fine. Also, this March 2012 they released their 3rd album 'Will You Be There With Me' which may not have a knock-out tune, but is consistently gorgeous; I'm falling more in love with each listen. This one will surely make my Top 10 of 2012!

You can LISTEN to or purchase both of the latter CD's at: http://honeychurch.bandcamp.com 

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Lovesong: Thomas Dolby: 'Oceanea'

I never thought I'd love the sound of an auto tuner so much. This from Dolby's excellent new album 'A Map of the Floating City'. See also '17 Hills', 'Simone' and 'To the Lifeboats'.









Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Ghost of Song: Review & Interview: Get Ready to Rock


'Ghost of Song' is the solo album of Trevor Jones of the duo Miracle Mile. He has already garnered rave reviews for his previous work and going by the ten songs on here he is going to do it again.
The overall feel is one of quiet reflection – nothing too fast paced – with a strong, often moving lyric.
A song like 'Homeward' deserves to be a hit single and if it doesn't make BBC Radio 2's airplay list (or for that matter any song on here) then something is wrong with the world. It is one of those tunes that reaches out to anyone, as does 'Hopeland'. In fact the whole album is well worth indulging in and Trevor Jones has a wonderfully smooth voice that suits the musical mood perfectly. It is not so quiet as to merge into the background as the lyrics and voice keep you listening.

Jason Ritchie

1. What are you currently up to?
As well promoting the release of ‘Ghost of Song’, I’m working on the new Miracle Mile album (my main musical venture). We recorded the bare bones of the songs in the summer before Marcus Cliffe (my musical partner) decided to dismantle the studio and rebuild it in his garden. He’s just put in the carpet and chandeliers so we’ll be reconvening the recording soon. I’m hoping that the album (tentatively titled ‘In Cassidy’s Care’) will be out in the summer. There may well be gigs to support that release.

2. Could you take us through the new album ‘Ghost Of Song’?
The songs from 'Ghost of Song' were inspired by time taken out in Corsica where we have a small house. I retreated there after a fairly frazzled period in London; the island inspired a real purity of thought for me; the simple life led to uncluttered thinking and inspired a real creative outpouring which informed the songs that you hear on the album.

3. The new album contains songs from two previous album 'Hopeland' and 'Keepers'. Have the songs been re-recorded/remixed at all?
Both ‘Hopeland’ and ‘Keepers’ were a combination of song and spoken word; ‘Ghost of Song’ is a distillation; a way of re-presenting a selection of the songs in a different light: Marcus is getting into vinyl and was raving about the fact that he's actually listening to music again; the process of placing needle to record makes him commit to the moment and see it through. We addressed the idea of releasing the selection as vinyl. I chose 10 tracks (5 aside) for 'Ghost of Song' in an attempt to create an old fashioned 'bedsit kind of album' that folk might learn to love to live with. It turned out too expensive unfortunately but I kept the old style vinyl concept for the collection and applied it to the songs; I hoped that it would affect folk and linger in the same way some of my old favourites have stuck with me (Blue/After the Goldrush/Hunky Dory/Steve McQueen etc) and picked songs that had a certain homely yet woozy feel to them. I also want it to take people back to the original albums and shed light on the new Miracle Mile album 'In Cassidy's Care' due out in the summer...

4. You are a keen blogger - does this make a good way to connect with listeners of your music? What for you makes an entertaining blog and any you'd recommend?
I’m not sure what makes effective blogging; it’s not really a mindful process for me, just a healthy forum for my daily outpourings. I guess that it’s a direct way of connecting with friends of my music and a positive outlet should we need to pass news on via the grapevine. It’s nice to get immediate feedback from folk also; a bit like chatting over the garden fence.

5. How does your solo work fit in with Miracle Mile? E.g. do your solo songs represent something you couldn't record with Miracle Mile?
I wrote the songs for ‘Hopeland’ (and later ‘Keepers’) after my retreat to Corsica. Because the experience was so singular, it seemed only natural to step aside from the ‘Miracle Mile’ banner and present it as a personal project. I knew that I still wanted to work with long-term musical partner Marcus Cliffe, but needed to change the working template in order to mark the recording as a departure. I decided to limit the time spent; we wouldn’t luxuriate as we might have previously done. The focus would be on ‘performance’; first takes were often ‘keepers’. We would also limit the number of instruments used. We agreed on a natural approach: acoustic guitar, double bass, and a battered old upright piano. There would be the odd intrusion of brushed drums. Cathy Thompson glided in to offer violin and viola, and Melvin Duffy drove through snow to colour with pedal steel and Weissenborn. Marcus’s partner Lucinda sang along from the kitchen, occasionally when the tape was running. Twenty days later, ‘Hopeland’ was recorded and mixed. It was a similar story with ‘Keepers’.

6. Has the internet helped you get your music out there or has it in some ways hindered it by websites offering free downloads? Do you still rely heavily on CD sales as opposed to downloads?
I’m fairly traditional when it comes to music; I love to cherish the hard copy (CD/Vinyl etc) and have the cover and artwork in my hands; that’s the way I’d like folk to receive my stuff. I accept that downloads are the way forward and can see that they offer an immediate experience, but am not totally convinced by the format; there is an inevitable compression of sound. We are however currently speaking with a couple of labels about re-releasing our back catalogue as 24 bit re-mastered downloads, that’s all in the offing but at least we’re trying to do the dance…

7. What have been the live highlights so far and why?
We haven’t gigged for an age. The first two Miracle Mile albums were written around a gigging band. It was a cracking little band that featured two ex members of Haircut 100; Les Nemes (bass) and Phil Smith (sax) as well as drummer Trevor Smith and Tasmin Archer's old guitarist Mark Hornby. We did the usual London rounds, but, as the music has got quieter, we retreated to the calm of the studio and the live unit eventually disintegrated. It’s not always easy to control live sound when you are trying to do things subtly… maybe we’ve become a little anal, could be time to dust off the leather pants again…

8. For someone new to your music what would you recommend they start with and why?
I reckon that ‘Ghost of Song’ is the perfect entry point for my solo stuff. As Miracle Mile have released 8 albums I’d recommend ‘Coffee and Stars’ 2009’s collection of selected songs.

9. Any good rock ‘n’ roll tales to tell…

I’ve led a sheltered life… I once spat at Sting at an early Police gig…

10.What do you enjoy doing in your time away from music?

I enjoy travel, spend a lot of time in Corsica; plenty of walking, I love to read, cook and play lots of squash. And, of course, there’s always music…

Anything else to add and a message for your fans?

I’d just like to thank the folk that have journeyed with us. Once people give our music a chance, they seem to stick with us. For me this whole thing is all about connection; it’s great when folk listen hard and get what we are trying to do and give us positive feedback; nothing beats that affirmation.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Vulture: 'Weird Things Customers Say in a Bookshop' by Jen Campbell

I was reading about this book over in Scott Pack's meandmybigmouth blog. The subject matter is pretty self evident; many of the exchanges are hilarious. I particularly liked this one:
Customer: Do you have a book with a list of careers? I want to give my daughter some inspiration.
Me: Ah, is she applying for university?
Customer: Oh no, not yet. She's just over there. Sweetheart?
(a four year old girl comes over)
Customer: There you are. Now, you talk to the nice lady, and I'm going to find you a book on how to become a doctor or a scientist. What do you think about that?
(the girl says nothing)
Customer (to bookseller): Won't be a sec'.  
(Customer wanders off into non-fiction)
Me: So, what's your name?
Child: Sarah.
Me: Sarah? That's a beautiful name.
Child: Thank you.
Me: So, Sarah, what do you want to be when you grow up?
Child: …A bumblebee.
Me: Excellent.




Sunday, 22 April 2012

Ghost of Song: Reviews: Properganda

Properganda: Issue 22
March/April 2012


Jones (aka Trevor Jones of Miracle Mile) released two albums that dared to mix spoken verse and songs, a surprisingly successful ploy that made both Hopeland and Keepers richly rewarding.
Both seemed to tell a story, or at least lay out an emotional landscape, the former’s optimism and the latter’s loss, that held a looking glass to our hopes and fears.
As always, Trevor crafted beautiful songs, delicate, tender, literate and bathed in melodies that make the hairs on the back of the neck stand proud and can bring a lump to the throat. Realising that not everyone could make the stylistic leap, 10 of them are presented on Ghost Of Song, an economical 40 minutes of perfectly judged, sweet melancholy.
In a just world a revisit wouldn’t be necessary, but then I Deny, Something Resembling Love, To Tell You The Truth and My Last And Latest Chance need to be heard, as does every song offered here. With musical foil Marcus Cliffe providing thoughtful arrangement from the intimate to the orchestral, these are pearls born of grit but with opalescent shimmer and deep lustre. If this is what it takes for these songs to be heard then make it so.

Simon Holland

Hopeland (Notes from Corsica) 22: Excavations

Rolling up his sleeves, he approached us with the fixed stare and intent of one about to join a pub fight. As he brushed past, kicking sand onto our towels, I noticed that his belt was already undone. A woman in a red coat, with the countenance of a long-suffering wife, followed closely behind. Fingering his flies the man stopped with purpose fifty feet beyond us and completed his dishevelment. Naked but for briefs and a St Christopher, he clawed at the sand and within minutes had created an elaborate maze of sunken tunnels and ditches which fast became irrigated by the sea. So intent on this toil was he that he disregarded a chuckling child, armed with water wings and a bright yellow bucket and spade, joining the game with relish, until he caught the man’s eye. The sad red lady had stationed herself at a dispassionate distance and sat smoking, in mute acceptance of her lot. Maybe she was a sister or even a care worker. Cursing unseen demons her charge shivered and threw his arms to the heavens, perhaps demanding divine guidance, then continued his ecstatic excavation, like an aguish archeologist digging into the past, tunneling himself back towards happier times. He was joined in his work again, this time by a young Alsatian that fuelled the feverish frenzy, the two working in unwitting unison until the pup backed up, covering the sandscape and its architect, who kicked out at the dog in a rabid rage before returning to his work. After a good hour of unbroken endevour the digger suddenly stopped, as if to the sound of a factory siren, his shift complete. Picking up his clothes in a rough bundle he set off at a pace, retracing his steps, again covering us with sand, his wild eyes indifferent to our sympathetic glances. We had however caught his companion’s attention. As she passed us she rolled her eyes and, in perfect broken English muttered, “Lost forever. And it was a fucking Rolex!”

Saturday, 21 April 2012

My Top Five: Trev

Ok, with the threat of a 'Texas Wedgie' from Toronto Tim a ringing in my ears I'll give it a go.
I've said before that my/our songs are a bit like babies; it's really hard to be objective; your affections are oft with the slightly cross-eyed ones.
Blimey, I'm even going to have to break this into sections:

Pre Marcus:
Much credit should be given to the live band that played on the first two albums. We were a tight bunch back then; there was never any money to show for all of their hard graft. Top men, all of them:
Steve Davis: Guitar and keyboards (and co-producer for the first two and a half albums)
Les Nemes: Bass
Mark Hornby: Electric and acoustic guitar
Trevor Smith: Drums and percussion
Phil Smith: Sax and keyboards


Walking John Wayne: This came together effortlessly and has aged with a certain dignity.


Whiskey Kisses: There aren't many of my songs that I imagine other folk covering but for some reason I always hear Willy Nelson crooning this with Emmylou Harris. They'd better get on with it...


Wheels of the World: Maybe not the greatest song ever written but it captured the live band in all its glory; this is what Miracle Mile sounded like at gigs. I remember guitarist Mark Hornby turning up at North London's 'Protocol Studios', tardy and a little worse for wear from celebrating at his son's birthday party. On arrival he reversed into a wall in the car park, stumbled in, realised that he'd brought the wrong guitar; Les Paul instead of Telecaster; and then launched into the solo that still gives goosebumps.
A capable and enthusiastic drinking partner and hands down the best guitarist I've ever played with...


Star Watching: A great pop arrangement, beautifully realised by co-producer Steve Davis.


Blue Sea White Dog: This always feels like the song where I first found my true voice as a singer. 
I love the arrangement and well remember the live line up recording it at Jacob's residential studios. 
I hate to take credit, but I asked drummer Trevor Smith to play with brushes rather than sticks (he wasn't happy) and the song suddenly moved from pop/rock towards something more intimate. A high point in recording for the band and also, in a way, the beginning of its end, with my inclination towards a quieter, more controlled sound. 

'Scientist Specials':
There are some songs that came out exactly as intended; I guess that endorses a certain craftsmanship.
Then there are the ones which morph into something totally unexpected; a slug into butterfly, or vice-versa. These are invariably the productions that Marcus has left his fingerprints most indelibly upon; the ones where I've presented him with a vocal and a scratchy guitar only to be summonsed back to the studio weeks later to be sat in 'the comfy chair' in front of those fabled 'Big Speakers' and be totally bewildered, then blown away. I'm a bit of a control freak so it does take a real leap of faith for me to take my hands off the wheel; the relief and wonderment at The Scientist's mad alchemy has reduced me to a quivering pulp on several occasions and I still live for those moments; love it when Marcus beams at his own sound sculptures.
My favourite of these 'Scientist Specials' are:


Glow: Vocal done, I described the boozy subject matter; and said that I'd like a 'woozy' feel. The rolling tom toms and swelling cymbals perfectly suggest the highs and lows of an alcohol fueled existence.
I remember the piano bass notes on the 'hold your horses' section parting my hair; a real thrill.



Lights of Home: I'd expected the end section's key change to build into a dramatic cacophonous climax; instead Marcus drops the arse out of the song; the effect is doubly potent: genius!


Yuri's Dream: I love the grungy slide guitar in the intro, that's offset by the clarity of the glockenspiel and BJ Cole's heavenly slide. There's a lot going on but the whole production is balanced and complete.


Papillon: I gave Marcus the acoustic version (essentially the mix that you hear on 'Hopeland') and he tweaked it into something quite beautiful, initially with twitchy drums on. They worked fine but seemed to take the eye and ear from the sentiment, so 'we' binned them. I'm not sure that Marcus has ever forgiven me... Still, an inspired production, he definitely had his Lanois leathers on that day.


Jim: This isn't actually a Marcus production; this was me and Steve Davis, who worked with me on 'Bicycle Thieves', 'Candids' and the first half of 'Slow Fade'. It was the first session that BJ Cole ever did for us. We also wanted double bass and our then guitarist Mark Hornby suggested getting in a guy that he'd been working with for Tasmin Archer. We booked the faceless bassist and in walked Marcus. The solo section, where the upright bass echoes the guitar line, still activates the hair on the back of my neck. I thank that this song and 'Blue Sea White Dog' were the first real inclinations of how I really wanted my post live band recordings to sound... 

I should also mention 'Guggenheim' as this was the first ever Cliffe/Jones production; I won't bore you with the technicalities but it started life in a top end residential studio ('Jacobs', where the Smiths recorded 'The Queen is Dead'). We were forced to steal the parts as digital scraps and it ended up being reassembled with scissors and glue in Marcus's kitchen...
'All the Way to London' and 'Under My Tongue' should get special mention also; Marcus brought a pop sensibility to what might otherwise have been mordant melodies.

Happy Pappy:
The MM songs that I'm proudest of:


Alaska: The lyric engages and the production is epic without being pompous.


Five Points of Light: I'm not sure that the recorded version is definitive but, for me, there's not a false note in the writing.


Milk Moustache: I love the quirky arrangement; the sentiment just the right side of saccharine...


Love Letters and Long Goodbyes: Written for an injured, much loved friend. We nailed this one...


Sister Song: I hope that it still works; I can't really listen to it anymore; as genuine an outpouring as I'll ever muster; never again I hope...

The Scientist's Seed:
Finally, special mention to those songs that started as musical pieces from Marcus that we then melded into song; I'd call these our truest collaborations:
The Dust Will Shape Your Sins
Weatherwise
My Bourbon Sky
Step by Step
The Secret Fold
My Beautiful Mirage

OK, that's a few more than 5 and I haven't even touched on the 'Jones' songs yet.
Today it's:
Hopeland
Homeward
Something Resembling Love
Bluer Skies Than This
I Deny


Thanks again to Toronto Tim for suggesting this; it's been interesting to see what's connected; to read how and why the songs reverberate.
It's heartening to know that they live and breathe out there in the big wide world...

Friday, 20 April 2012

My Top 5: Toronto Tim: In Conclusion

Toronto Tim says: "THANKS TO ALL" for your Top 5 lists!

"When I first pitched the whimsical idea I was concerned that it would be selfish on my part to have only My Top 5 posted, and requested Trev's aid in making it a community effort. I expected him to seduce a couple of others to chip in, but he really went the extra mile with it. I was pleasantly surprised when so many tiptoed out of the shadows to go public, and put as much time and scrutiny into their eloquent and personal entries. Thanks to all, and delighted to make your acquaintance!


One thing to be concluded: MM & Jones 'song appeal' for each individual is all over the map. 
Very special that an entire musical body connects with the folks in such a potent way...
Of course, lists of this sort are arbitrary, whether you chose 5,6,7 or 13.
However, at the end of the day, I think there will be a few picks that have left a scar; music and accompanying memories that we will carry, and that we will keep...


Now I will give the Hissyfit's captain a "Texas wedgie" (Google it!) to reveal his 5 proudest babies..."

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Levon Helm

Sad news that Levon Helm is in the terminal stages of throat cancer.
You can read more here.
The drummer with 'The Band', and latterly a solo performer and successful character actor, has been struggling with the condition for some time.
Talk about 'spunky'; here's a recent performance on Elvis Costello's 'Spectacles' show (with a pretty impressive supergroup); he couldn't be interviewed because he had "a sore throat", but let his drums do the talking.
He seems to be having the time of his life...

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Lovesong: Paul Buchanan and The Maccabees on 'Later': Mid Air & Pelican

I'm sure that most of you have seen this, but it's worth a second look.
The event should be doubly celebrated as PB's austere take even manages to stop Jools from 'boogywoogying'...
The 'for everything that life was worth' line gets me in the same place as the 'Jesus, please make us happy sometimes' line from 'Family Life'.
I really liked The Maccabees also; a proper 'band'...

A Hundred Homing Pigeons: Les Nemes: Bass Master Class Part 2

Les's 'Bass Master Class' is under way and prospering. It's amazing what you can do with four strings...
Maybe 'prospering' is the wrong word as our Leslie only seems able to afford the one 'V' neck...
He's seen here (right) in his favourite jumper (and shirt) blissfully unaware of the three snooker balls that Nick Heyward had just launched at him for disrespecting 'the serious bit' in 'Favourite Shirt'.
Here he is, convalescing in a Spanish sanitarium where he talks about his love of The Faces.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

PB on 'Later With Jools' Tonight

We're all getting a bit giddy aren't we?
I just received this email from Paul Buchanan's site:

Paul will be performing on Later With Jools Holland this week. Tune in both today (17th) and Friday (20th) to hear Paul perform Mid Air. Visit http://www.bbc.co.uk/later/ for further details.
Paul will also be popping in for a chat with Bob Harris on Bob's Radio 2 show next Sunday morning (22nd) at Midnight. Further information on that is available here -http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01gc0z2 
Last week Paul appeared on Jools Holland's Radio 2 show performing Norwegian Wood and playing My True Country, Two Children and Mid Air from the album. Listen back to both this and an interview with Stuart Maconie on Paul's Soundcloud page - http://soundcloud.com/paul-buchanan-music
Finally, the title track from Paul's new album, 'Mid Air', is available to purchase from iTunes worldwide here - http://bit.ly/midairitunes

Monday, 16 April 2012

Lovesong: Mainstreaming: Kaada

I seem to be discovering a lot of my new musical finds through the excellent meandmybigmouth, a literary blog run by a music lover.
Taken from Kaada's 2006 album 'Music for Moviebikers', this is beautifully bonkers...

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Solotastic: Ry Cooder & Prince

So, Bazza Cross is advocating the 'return of the solo' in pop songs.
I'll need some convincing so, bring 'em on.
If we're honest I think that we would all have to confess to a few childhood hours 'wasted' in front of the bedroom mirror, tennis racket in hand, head thrown back in cross eyed ecstasy, throwing shapes to 'Stairway to Heaven' or 'Freebird'; gurning like Joe Walsh as we bent the high notes...
Suggestions don't need to be refined to guitar; I think that my favourite rock and roll solo ever is Clarence Clemon's mighty, emotive sax break on 'Jungleland'.
I'll get things going with two solos that tick the boxes at both ends of the barometer. The first is concise and beautifully phrased, the tone exquisite; Ry Cooder's sublime playing on John Hiatt's fabulous 'Lipstick Sunset', from the brilliant album 'Bring the Family' that you can buy here for next to nowt.
Click here to listen to LIPSTICK SUNSET.



The second is bombastic and bonkers but quite brilliant; Prince strutting with some supergroup (is it the Travelling Willbury's?) playing 'While My Guitar Gently Weeps'. Gentle it ain't... indeed when I was polishing my tennis racket way back when, I think that this was what I had in mind...


Saturday, 14 April 2012

Hopeland (Notes from Corsica) 21. So Far, So Good

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 me, yet I fear it and remain content with cold compromise. Dissatisfied, I crave happiness and, when it fails to materialise, look elsewhere for a quick fix.
As ‘consumers’, maybe we have become so used to instant gratification that we can only be disappointed.
I want to be ‘of substance’, yet deny the process that makes the fabric hardy: life. I focus on the horizon, rather than on the small dramas in front of me. I desire to be “anywhere but here” with the vague possibilities of that ‘other life’ making me resent my real life even more. Traditionally these ‘other lives’ were just vague unobtainable pipedreams, seen in fuzzy black and white. Now, digital clarity promises a focused and immediate reality in ‘High Definition’ that is demanded without investment or preparation. Thus, even if I do make the dream reality, I’m unable to appreciate or recognise the gravity of its arrival; I just use it and move on to something else.

Many of my songs focus on the tricks that we use, the games that we play and the skills we develop, to stop ourselves from becoming unglued. For me, silence stands as failure and threatens everything, so I fill it with music and search for the perfect song. I’m surely doomed to be disappointed, but the ambition keeps me moving forward.
I believe that we all rest where compromise leaves us, in a kind of limbo.
Limbo? 
It's sorrow's way; like the unravelling of a lost kite, a gentle rise or fall towards oblivion. We’re all connected by our unravellings, we don’t always feel the tug, but as the line tightens, leaves a mark, then relaxes, we realise that things can never come to rest and learn to trust the rhythm of chance. 
I say, don't be afraid to forget. You will not. What is vital will remain. Regrets will become your palest thoughts, and one day, when your gaze has drifted, the sadness will buck and buckle and be gone.
How do you live the perfect life? 
How do you write the perfect joke? 
Start with the punch line and work backwards. 
And the perfect joke? 
A man falling from a great height whispering “so far, so good.”

Friday, 13 April 2012

PB Alert: BBC 6 Stuart Maconie Interview Link: PB on 'Later' with Jools (Tuesday 17th April)

OK, a 2nd daily post is timely as these comments from Toronto Tim and Phil Duncan might be missed.


TT says: "Ah, David you're a fount of knowledge! Actually, I imagine it's me making Trev grumpy... I've been dithering vainly to him for days.
You mentioned the BBC interview, and I googled it but it's not available overseas. But I kept digging and found it on "Soundcloud" here... 

http://soundcloud.com/paul-buchanan-music/paul-buchanan-interview-with
As I listened to the chat, my crustiness melted away; impressed and moved by Paul's charm, wit and humility. His explanation of the motives behind the "sketchy" nature of the album is getting me to reaccess my rush to judgement. I don't think I'm disciplined or patient enough anymore to follow Dave's "puritan" lead, but this may be an album that requires that approach. I was surprised when Maconie brought up a bunch of things that I'd yammered on about... Carver-school of minimalism, brevity as opposed to BN's more extended meditations, etc. Given BN's penchant for avoiding the press, I was surprised to see Paul out pitching, but he's a wonderful interview. Much better than the inferior yack with Jools, also posted on "soundcloud"..."




Phil says: "My brother has just phoned from Sydney to say he’s received an e-mail from PB letting him know that he’s appearing on 'Later with Jools' next week (Tuesday 17th).

 Apparently he’s bought 2 new pairs of jeans…"

My Top 5: Marcus Cliffe: The Scientist Speaks (but briefly)

I’ve been beavering away in the studio, working on 
'Cassidy’s Care'. 
All is going well... I think.
It’s been interesting, locking myself away and thrashing ideas around.
If I didn’t have a girlfriend I might become a reclusive artist, if I let it take hold...
And so, to my favourite 5 MM songs:


Weatherwise
All the Way to London
Lost and Found
Wilful
The Dust Will Shape Your Sins

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Lovesong: Paul Buchanan/The Blue Nile: Two Children/Can't Get Over/The Wires Are Down/Seasons of Light/Silent Night

I'm starting to feel a bit like a 'virtual' stalker with all of these Buchanan/Blue Nile posts but, like many, I'm still buzzing with anticipation of PBs new album 'Mid Air'.
He's just posted this:

My sincere thanks to everyone who has ordered Mid Air on the website, and to everyone who has kindly contributed to the British Heart Foundation through the available link. I chose this charity because of the circumstances in which I lost a close friend, and every donation will hopefully help save other individuals and families from going through a similar experience. I am deeply touched, consoled and humbled by the generosity shown.
Thank you so much.
Paul

First up is another track from 'Mid Air': 'Two Children'.


Then there's a link that will play you a snippet of another rare (at least to me) song from The Blue Nile, click here: 'Can't Get Over'.
The second video, 'The Wires are Down' is also new to me.
It was a 'B' side from 'The Downtown Lights' apparently...
What with the tasters gifted us recently from 'Mid Air' it feels like Christmas has come early; with that in mind the third YouTube offering is 'Seasons of Light' which I'm told is from a Christmas album of the same name.
I cannot find trace of it anywhere...
To add to that frustration the final song is from the same album; a lovely take on 'Silent Night'.
It's enough to make me want to drink egg nog and hang my balls from a tree...


Wednesday, 11 April 2012

The Glow Diaries: 3

Part 3 of the Glow Diaries. Click on the page (left) to enlarge.


Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Lovesong: Piers Faccini: One of These Things First/Two Grains of Sand

I greatly admire the singer/songwriter Piers Faccini and was trawling YouTube when I found this fragile Nick Drake cover; Piers duetting with French singer, Camille on 'One of These Things First'.
I love the way that it just holds together; the visuals are pretty stunning in their simplicity.
Then watch Piers singing the title track from his last album 'Two Grains of Sand'.
Finally (if you've time) there's an interview with him that might have you chasing his back catalogue...


Monday, 9 April 2012

Keepers: Onda Rock: Italian Interview by Gianfranco Marmoro

Fifteen years have not brought out of limbo the production of Miracle Mile. Despite critical acclaim, the stylish pop of Trevor Jones and Marcus Cliffe has not achieved the acclaim deserved.
On the occasion of the second solo album, Trevor Jones tells the secrets and passions that lie behind a long string of memorable songs and talks about his universe of friends, and looks towards 
a world of real people:


More than twenty years of musical association with Marcus Cliffe does not seem to have appeased the desire to find new solutions sound to your music, what is the secret?


I call us ‘The Hunchback and The Scientist’. I’ll leave you to guess which is which. I suppose that you could say that, broadly, I am the songwriter and Marcus is the arranger and musician. At the heart of it Marcus and I are good friends. We enjoy each other’s company and, musically speaking, compliment each other well by not encroaching on the others’ area of expertise. We have never predetermined our roles and therefore I’m reluctant to articulate the relationship; sometimes by giving something a name you can threaten the breath that sustains it. Some artistic combinations thrive on dissonance to stimulate creativity; in our musical world, I think that ‘calm’ is the essence of what we do, therefore our easy friendship is reflected in that musical balm. Before any new album, we’ll meet, open a bottle of red wine (or two) and gently slide into things, by discussing our lives and loves; what we’re listening to, reading, watching. This creates the appropriate environment and ambience for that which follows.

The orchestra seems to have a more important role in this new album, while giving up some more modern atmosphere has increased the emotional range of music, how you arrived at this new sound  structure?

Sonically I wanted ‘Keepers’ to be a natural development from ‘Hopeland’. The subject matter was rooted in the same environment, so we kept similar restrictions on the acoustic instruments that we used, but with ‘Keepers’, discord and sadness had entered the room. I wanted to suggest this by introducing a new element, the orchestra. Using a refined template we could be both ‘grand’ and ‘intimate’; by using strings we could suggest the river and the sea, the pebble and the mountain. I wanted to capture the grandeur of the island, particularly in the finale, the last 30 seconds of the album. Only an orchestra would have that kind of presence. I think that Marcus did a brilliant job with his arrangements and translated my mutterings into something beautifully articulate.

Your voice seems to grow in intensity and expression over the years, due to studies or artistic maturità?

I’m afraid that my voice is what it is. No lessons could tame the untamable. There is a crude Yorkshire saying that goes “you cannot polish a turd” (a ‘turd’ is ‘shit’) and I think that applies here. I just speak and sing as honestly as possible. The listener can sense pretention and, as our music is about ‘connection’, it is vital that people believe me and trust my voice.

The first two albums ('Blue Skies Than This, 'God's Own Swimming Pool') no longer appear in the discography of the Miracle Mile, an artistic or market choice ?

Those two albums were made solely as demos with the intention of getting gigs and maybe a recording deal. A lot of those songs were then remixed and went on to form the bulk of our debut ‘Bicycle Thieves’. I think that both ‘Bicycle Thieves’ and the follow up ‘Candids’ are due to be re-mastered. Maybe then we’ll include some of the unreleased stuff from those demos.

I was surprised by vehemence of  'Folding Sheets' a typical folk song but at the same time prepared with a charming arrangement, you're particularly attached to this song or do you prefer some other tacks from 'Keepers'?

It’s too early for me too make an objective judgement about the songs on ‘Keepers’. They are all my babies; sometimes you love the cross-eyed ones more than the beautiful ones. ‘Folding Sheets’ seems to be one of the handsome ones; it’s a favourite of many.

How much influence will the new direction of the Miracle Mile take from this test record? Marcus is planning some solo album ?

I keep prompting Marcus towards a solo album; he’s sitting on so much creative juice. We have discussed another Miracle Mile album but at the moment nothing is planned. Maybe once the muse kicks in again Marcus won’t be able to hide from me!
* Since this interview MM have commenced work on a new album, 'In Cassidy's Care', due out later in 2012.

Do you use 'Jones' as artistic name to avoid being confused with the famous composer of soundtracks?

I have been confused with that famous film composer ‘Trevor Jones’ before. He is South African and I once ate and drank very well in various restaurants in and around Cape Town by introducing myself as ‘the musician Trevor Jones’. They normally discovered my deception as we ordered desert!
So, of course it was a consideration; also ‘Jones’ seemed easier to remember…

The lack of success and the little attention the press is a result of your choice or bad luck?

I wouldn’t choose for my music to be ignored. I suppose that there’s cold comfort in knowing that a lot of great music goes unnoticed. You just have to make the most of your circumstances. The benefit of independence is that you can honour yourself. You don’t have to manicure your work to suit some corporate template. You can develop naturally
As my music is ultimately an attempt to observe, communicate and connect with the world, I recognise that it’s a humbling moment when we recognise that we’re all made of the same stuff, therefore it’s heartening to hear if a song has resonated in the way it was intended to, and that a listener has appreciated the finer details of the writing. The people who take the time to listen to the music as intended: as a piece; in sequence and in one sitting, are invariably the friends who stick with us.

Who would like to collaborate in the future?

Marcus, always Marcus.
I have had discussions about a project with David Bridie (an Australian film composer and musician who produces a lot of ‘World Music’) but we’re currently oceans apart.

Except the 'CANDIDS' cover, all seem to follow a precise graphic design, who has the final choice between you and Marcus?

As with all final product, Marcus and I both need to agree on the covers for Miracle Mile; we have always used the same graphic artist, Nick Reddyhoff, in order to develop a consistent style. I chose a different artist (Barry Cross) for the solo albums to help draw a line between the two different projects.

Are you going to write a book?

It’s already done and lays dormant under my bed.


Your ten albums for a desert island? 
1. Joni Mitchell - Blue

2. Prefab Sprout - Steve McQueen (the remastered version which includes the acoustic versions) 

3. The Go Betweens - 16 Lovers Lane 

4. Blue Nile - Hats 

5. Tom Waits - Asylum Years 

6. Ennio Morricone - Once Upon a Time in America

7. Bob Dylan - Blonde on Blonde 

8. Frank Sinatra - The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning 

9. Neil Young - After the Goldrush

10. Elvis Costello - King Of America


Gianfranco Marmoro