31 August 2006

Top 5

Ford Prefect's top 5 Chanteuses list got me thinking, and so in a spirit of friendly disagreement and general "my 5 are better than his 5"-ness (although not nearly as contemporary), I give you my Favourite Five Female Singers...

5 - Audrey Hepburn. Not known for her singing, clearly, her inclusion here is due entirely to her rendition of Moon River in Breakfast at Tiffany's, which warms not just the cockles of my heart, but many other hard to reach parts as well.

4 - Roberta Flack. A relatively recent discovery for me, I found the above album in a thrift store in Brooklyn ($3!!) and bought it as much for the cover as for the fact that she's the "Killing Me Softly" lady. Full of gospel-tinged tunes and subtle arrangements, it totally blew me away.

3 - Joni Mitchell. Where would I be without Joni? Possibly the finest songwriter and certainly the best lyricist of her generation (and who's been better since?), she has the kind of voice to either scare you or excite you. Sometimes low and smokey, other times up in the stratosphere, she's always on target and never boring. Her style is often conversational and she does make you think she's telling you all this down the pub a lot of the time. I can't really believe she's only at 3, but...

2 - Ella Fitzgerald. This lady could sing the phone book and it would sound good. As musically perfect as anyone can be, her scats and improvised lines have to be heard repeatedly to be believed. She recorded pretty much everything in her long life, but you can't go wrong with her interpretations of either Duke Ellington or George Gershwin. The one above probably ain't bad, either.

1 - Aretha Franklin. The Queen of Soul, the best there is. I saw a clip a few years ago of one of those terrible VH-1 Diva events, with Mariah Carey and Alicia Keys and other wailing eejits giving it large, and on walked Aretha, in her 50s and the size of a small house, and in about 10 seconds had floored them all. Not with power, not with pitch, but with phrasing, craft, and the fact that she doesn't need to have big hair (and the rest) or appear nude on the front of Rolling Stone to sell records. I love her gospel albums even though I hate religion, and her version of Bridge Over Troubled Water is the best yet, but I'd recommend Aretha Sings the Blues - the first track, Drinking Again, will have you reaching for the spirits before she's finished the first verse. Which is a good thing.

And as Ford says, an honourable mention to Liz Fraser. Although she could have tried just a bit harder to make sense, if you ask me. Really. (tuts).

Mod out.

29 August 2006

Butterscotch clouds

More youtube goodness, this time Prince on the Muppet Show being Very Silly Indeed. Ah, bless.

Purple Mod out.

21 August 2006

It was a little bit frightening

Monks brawl during Peace rally

"A scuffle broke out... between saffron-robed monks and anti-war demonstrators at a peace rally in the Sri Lankan capital. About six or seven monks from a right-wing Buddhist faction had stormed the stage during a peace rally attended by about 1,000 people in the capital, Colombo, shouting pro-war slogans, an AP reporter at the scene said.
A member of Sri Lanka's parliament was addressing the crowd when the monks climbed on stage.
The monks unfurled banners reading "Take your protest to Kilinochchi," referring to the de facto rebel capital in northern Sri Lanka where hundreds have been killed in the last week..."

All together now - "Everybody was kung-fu fighting..."

18 August 2006

Get on the Trane

The year is 1963. Over in Liverpool the Beatles are just getting started on learning their fourth and fifth chords. Much of the western world still thinks Elvis is about as far out as you can get, and the rest would probably mumble something about Shostakovich. But the more you look at the 20th century, the more that New York jazz in the 1960s seems about as good as it got. Before the excesses (and electricity) of the 70s when the politics and the fashion entirely obscured the tunes, it was a time when the gods were walking the earth, inventing new forms and movements sometimes weekly. No other music was this intense and creative, all the time, for years and decades. Let's not forget it was almost entirely improvised, and the charts and arrangements that started the ball rolling would've have scared the pants off any symphony orchestra.

Some people like Miles, others swear by Monk. I like them both. Sonny Rollins shook it up and you really can't ignore Charles Mingus (or he'll come and get you). However the John Coltrane Quartet made me a true believer about a decade ago and I've never looked back. His horn sounds like answers to questions I didn't know I'd asked, and I really can't put it clearer than that.

"Afro-Blue" is my favourite tune, the first track on Live at Birdland. I'm still pissed off I wasn't around to be there, frankly. McCoy Tyner playing the darkest chords yet heard, Elvin swinging it along with faint rumours of violence, Jimmy Garrison holding it together, and Trane riding the whirlwind and making it beautiful. This is from the Ralph Gleason show (he's the chap sitting by the piano looking fantastically out of place) and is one of the reasons for living...

Mod out.

13 August 2006

Ees seelly, Senor

I went to see the new Jack Black film Nacho Libre yesterday. Ridiculous. Based on the admittedly far-fetched but true story of a Mexican priest who dons the cape and mask of a Mexican luchador to fight for money to feed the kids in his orphanage, there's probably a heart-warming tale with many examples of bravery and the best of the human spirit to be made of it all. But of course Black doesn't give a monkeys for all that and ditches all but the basic plot to make a film full of mugging, piss-poor accents and outrageous set-pieces that would have been rejected by the Chuckle Brothers as too flimsy.

If you liked School of Rock (and if you didn't, then don't come round Mod Towers expecting a warm welcome) or the mighty Tenacious D you'll love this. We all laughed like drains, and the sillier the pratfall or cheesy grin the more we laughed. Other highlights included a Penelope Cruz-a-like as a rather foxy nun and one of the best improvised soft rock ballads I've ever heard. Maybe you had to be there. Go see...

El Paranoico Mod out.

09 August 2006

My Heroes

Protestors boarded a US Military plane at Prestwick Airport to perform a "citizen's inspection" for bombs. Story. Wonderful. The shame of how we let the US refuel their death filled cargo planes has been eating me up since the whole thing kicked off. Apparently it's not happening any more, but Bliar should be put in the stocks for a week for allowing it in the first place.

(Brought to my attention at The Scottish Patient).

Mod out.

08 August 2006


The best first lines of any novel ever...

"Coventry are fuck all. They've got a shit team and shit support. Hitler had the right idea when he flattened the place. The only good thing to come out of Coventry was the Specials and that was years ago. Now there's sweet FA and we've never had a decent row with Coventry. The best time was two years ago in Hammersmith with a bunch of Midland prototypes looking for a drink down the high street. About fifteen of them. Short cunts with noddy haircuts and tashes. Stumpy little legs and beer guts. Looked like they should be on Emmerdale Farm shafting goats for a living. They clocked us coming the other way and took off. You could smell shit over the petrol fumes, which is saying something in Hammersmith..."

And so it goes. From John King's The Football Factory, about a firm of Chelski hooligans. Don't bother with the film, but the book's got more energy than Irvine Welsh on a week-long speed bender.

Coventry City Football Club is 123.

Mod out.

06 August 2006

Salvation and shrimp

I found the above sign at the Mountain Cycle Diaries. Apart from the fact that the quote is about as banal as you can get (or was Fear playing a game of Knock Down Ginger?) the food on offer is enough to make you want to get your salvation elsewhere. I've heard those hindus do a mean chicken dhansak with their karmic teachings. Never mind the Italians and their chianti-fueled masses. Still, when in Montana...

Mr. Mountain Cycle Diary is quite a chap, he's cycled all the way from Chile and is closing in on Alaska all the time. Someone should give him a medal, or at least buy him a pint.

Mod out (on his training wheels).

02 August 2006


Since the halcyon days of Calvin and Hobbes, I've only really cared about Doonesbury, and only then because it's in the newspaper I read right next to the crossword. It's good, but. Randomly I've just discovered a new cartoon strip that's got me hooked. Sinfest isn't some dodgy porn site or new consumer campaign, but it does have something to say about both.

The cast features God (often doing puppet shows in the sky), the Devil, various bit part players such as the true believer above but mostly a couple of slacker friends, Slick and Monique, who don't have a lot of faith in anything except porn (Slick) and retail therapy (Monique). They argue, laugh, sit under trees and occasionally perform at open-mic nights, and generally carry on like, well, real people do. Or maybe that should be real people do in their heads.

Anyway. It's been making me laugh as I've worked my way from the very first strip back in 2000 (currently up to the middle of 2001) and the strip's creator Tatsuya Ishida has a nice line in everything I hold dear, from cynicism and manga to amusing stoners and gothic script. And every now and then a Chinese dragon turns up and has a scrap with God. What's not to like?

Mod out.