Today is the birthday of Dirk Campbell and Dave Stewart who were both born on Dec. 30th, 1950, which means they are both 61 today.
Not only do they share birthdays. Anyone with rudimentary knowledge of the Canterbury scene will likely be aware that the two played together back in the days (when Dirk was known as Mont), creating the rock band Uriel together with Steve Hillage sometime after the three met in the City of London School, 1966. Uriel later turned into the formidable Egg which released 3 albums. Dirk and Dave also collaborated in early National Health. Since those days, they seem to have had continuing friendship and respect for eachother. I’ve read more than once Dave call Dirk a genius at composition and I’m sure I’ve also read an interview with Dirk where he claimed that Dave’s playing was the best thing about Egg.
Those days are more distant past now than ever (literally speaking), but the two are still musically active, if not collaborating at the moment. Dirk’s latest is an ambitious album called Music from a Walled Garden, released in 2009, a follow up to his Music from a Round Tower from 1996. Dave Stewart is still making sweet music with Barbara Gaskin with their latest release being the album Green and Blue, also from 2009. Both have also made music for television.
Today is the day to celebrate them both, so please share your favorite music/stories/whatever you like!
Although I have a feeling Mont has distanced himself more and more from his days in Egg, I hope he wouldn’t mind so much me celebrating his and Dave’s birthday with Egg’s “A Visit to Newport Hospital”, the opener track to the album The Polite Force. I thought it fitting as it’s quite brilliant and composition is credited to them both.
Yesterday (Dec. 19th) would have been the 68th birthday of keyboardist/pianist Steve Miller (1943 – 1998). In 1966 he formed the band Delivery in which his younger brother Phil played guitar along with Pip Pyle on drums and Jack Monk on bass. Lol Coxhill would later join the line-up and the group became the backing band for Carol Grimes. Since then, he had a brief stint in Caravan as well as musical collaborations with musicians like Lol Coxhill and Mark Hewins. His last album was Miller’s Tale by the Steve Miller trio and Lol Coxhill.
Sadly, in early 1998, Steve was diagnosed with cancer. A benefit gig was held later in summer at the London Vortex Jazz bar which featured reformations of Delivery and Miller’s jazz quartet as well as improvisations by Mark Hewins and Elton Dean.
Mark has been so kind as to share with us a video recording from that evening. The video shows a moment on stage, I assume between songs, when Steve improvises a little tune on the piano. The quality of the picture is not good, but the music is beautiful.
Some time ago, I asked designer Kjetil Waren Johnsen if he could make a logo for the website. I also peppered him with a gracious amount of possible inspirations, from wild flowers (The Wilde Flowers) to caravans (Caravan), humans (aka “soft machines”), flying teapots (Gong) and more. This is what he came up with :
The logo is a police badge with the typical crown or eagle exchanged for a snow goose. Inside the inner circle of the logo sits a (matching) mole enjoying a cup of tea. In other words, a bit of a mish mash of ideas which have all come together beautifully.
The Polite Force was always meant to be a site with many contributors, a bit like an online version of FaceLift Magazine, but the site (which was created only earlier this year) is still teething and the number of contributors is still low. In order to promote more activity, I’m holding a writers competition on the site where contributors will have the chance to win a prize.
In order to qualify as contestants, participants have to write a piece on the front page / blog part of the site (the one you see when you visit www.politeforce.com). It could be an album review, musings about a certain song, an interview with someone from the scene, a tribute to an artist .. pretty much whatever you like as long as it’s somehow related to the Canterbury scene! The “best” contribution wins and contributions have to be submitted before tuesday 13th of December, so before tuesday next week!
The winner gets a CD, The Best of Daevid Allen released in 2006, which includes songs featuring Daevid Allen, either solo stuff or with bands like The Soft Machine or one of the many incarnations of Gong. The cover of it looks like this :
Until I write up a fact sheet here, more information about the album can be found at musicadvisor.biz.
Entering the contest
In order to write on the blog part of the site, you first have to register (unless you already have) and then I have to set your account up with the right privileges. After registering to the site, visit this thread and make a post and I’ll set you up as a writer!
Although that will be the preferred method, it will also be possible to email me submissions and I can publish them here in your name.
Panzerpappa is a band from from Oslo, Norway. In their own words, the band plays “progressive rock with a friendly face” but is more accurately described as RIO/Avant-Prog with influences stretching back to 70s bands like Henry Cow, King Crimson and Samla Mammas Manna with a dash of Canterbury like Hatfield and the North. The band has so far released four albums with the fifth, called Astromalist, currently in the final stages of production. The band’s fourth effort, Koralrevens Klagesang, mixes rock in opposition, prog and jazz together to great effect. In addition to the band (Trond Gjellum, Jarle G. Storløkken, Anders Krabberød, Steinar Børve), the album also features contributions from a range of musicians which, I imagine readers of this website will be pleased to hear, includes a guest vocal performance by Richard Sinclair.
Listening to the album again, I notice how refreshingly diverse it is. Each song clearly has its own identity and attempts its own thing. The album features a recurring title theme called Koralrevens Klagesang parts I, II and III and even though they share a same musical theme, they all sound very different. The two first parts open the album with the intro track being a mournful tune dominated by a brass section while the second descends into barely structured chaos featuring sinister sounds which, to me, are reminiscent of Univers Zero. The album’s third track is as close as you get to a prog epic on the album which features, along with great sax and guitar, great use of vibraphone in its first half. Some of the hooks here have a way of getting stuck in the ears.
Apraxia is a beautifully slow and layered piece that I thought reminiscent of Return to Forever’s Crystal silence when I first heard it. Bass at the bottom and then beautiful vibraphone, balaphone and guitar forms the basis while a mournful saxophone solos on top. A moment towards the end when the sax finishes its solo and an acoustic guitar enters to finish the piece is one of the most hair raising moments of delight found on the record. Vintervake, featuring vocals by Richard Sinclair, will likely be a favourite with anyone listening to the album for the first time. Richard’s singing gives it an instantly Canterburyan feel, but the composition (by Steinar Børve) is still very Panzerpappa. Etyde and Frenetisk Frenologi (For Nybegynnere) are both instrumental pieces that, to me, seem to tell some sort of narrative. Both songs feature changing themes exploring musical landscapes from the upbeat and beautiful at one extreme to aplocalyptic gloom at the other.
The album’s finale is a beautiful acoustic version of the Koralrevens Klagesang theme featuring clarinet and two acoustic guitars. As an added trivia, the track features no overdubs and so a few takes were done. Just after the final take (the one featured on the album), one of the strings on Jarle’s guitar breaks and so the last sound we hear on the album is the sound of the string tearing and unwinding a bit before it suddenly snaps. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect!
I’d be the first to admit that I’ve yet to get something resembling a firm grip on modern RIO/prog. I am still by far mostly listening to records from the 70s. Although I probably would’ve picked up the album eventually due to its guest performance by Richard, I got around to it quicker as Anders Krabberød (bass) is a personal friend, something which helps make this album extra special. Still, my praise is not simply a plug for a friend. According to Gnosis, Koralrevens Klagesang is currently the second best album from Norway in their database. Although it’s been a while since I first heard it, I still find it a highly interesting album which covers a lot of musical ground and contains many enjoyable highlights. Those not familiar with avantgarde music may find it a challenging listen, but probably not to the point of being exclusive as songs like Apraxia and Koralrevens Klagesang III should be enjoyable to just about anyone, at least those visiting this website!
Koralrevens Klagesang is still my favourite Norwegian album and, I suspect, will be until the upcoming release of Astromalist which I very much look forward to.