Six years ago, I wrote “I do like Adele’s version of Make You Feel My Love, and of all the Dylan songs I know it’s the one I am least unlikely to do myself. Probably not coincidentally, it’s one of his more harmonically richest songs.”
A couple of weeks ago, this prediction came true, in the first set I’ve done since before the start of the pandemic. As The Taylor Family (shades of the Von Trapps), we played in Mitcheldean Festival’s showcase concert on Saturday 16th July — my wife Fiona on flute, our youngest son Jonno on cello, me on guitar, and all of us on vocals.
I listen much more to whole albums than to individual tracks, so each year I pick the ten albums that I listened to the most (not counting compilations), as recorded on the laptop and the desktop box where I listen to most of my music. (So these counts don’t include listening in the car or the kitchen, or on my phone.) I limit the selection to no more than one album per artist, and skip albums that have featured in previous years. Then from each of those ten objectively selected albums, I subjectively pick one song that I feel is representative.
#10=. Dire Straits — 1985 — Brothers in Arms (3 listens)
The year is around 1989. My friend Andy Charles and I are big fans of Dire Straits’ Love Over Gold. I ask to borrow his CD of Brothers in Arms, but he is reluctant. “It’s always the same”, he says: “You lend something to someone, and you never get it back”. But I persuade him I will return it, and he lends me the CD.
As we approach the end of 2021, I have a pretty good idea of what my top ten albums of the year will be, for my now traditional What I’ve Been Listening To post. And one of them is an album I want to write much more about than will reasonably fit into one of the brief entries in that post. Hence today’s post:
The eagle-eyed among you will spot that this album is by my wife Fiona. That has everything to do with why I know about it at all, but absolutely nothing to do with why I love it so deeply.
The climactic track of Rainbow’s swords-and-sorcery metal masterpiece Rising (1976), Stargazer tells the tale of a sorcerer whose slaves build a tower so they can watch him fly from it — only to see him not so much fly as plummet.
In the free-form coda that ends the song, Ronnie James Dio cries out:
I see a rainbow rising Look up, on the horizon
Now here is the problem. Even if we accept the dubious proposition that rainbows rise (I suppose they might do so as the sun sinks) and even accepting the notion of a rainbow on the horizon (something you only see when the sun is unusually high in the sky), even then you would not look up to see a rainbow rising on the horizon. You would look horizontally.
So the song should say:
I see a rainbow rising Look horizontally, to the horizon
I listen much more to whole albums than to individual tracks, so each year I pick the ten albums that I listened to the most (not counting compilations), as recorded on the laptop where I listen to most of my music. (So these counts don’t include listening in the car or the kitchen, or on my phone.) I limit the selection to no more than one album per artist, and skip albums that have featured in previous years. Then from each of those ten objectively selected albums, I subjectively pick one song that I feel is representative.
So Tony Hadley likes to do a bit of gardening these days — he’s getting on a bit, the touring has taken its toll, and he enyoys growing fruit trees. He has a young apple tree that didn’t really take when he planted it last year and it needs some attention, so he goes to the garden centre to get some mulch.
When he gets there he picks up a couple of sacks at a decent price, but when he gets home and opens them up he finds that he’s been sold manure instead. Not what he needed at all.
So back to the garden centre he goes, and complains to the manager. The manager takes a look, crumbles it between his fingers, and says “Nah, I don’t think so mate, it seems right to me”.
And Tony Hadley says, “No, it’s manure, smell it!”
And the manager says “Mate, trust me: this is perfectly good mulch”.
And Tony Hadley says “Ah haha, ha ha. I know this, mulch is, poo.”
I recorded this song for a Christmas event at my church. It was written by Graham Kendrick, who is best known for congegational worship songs of 1980s that have not necessarily aged very well; but he was also rather a good singer-songwriter. This is his meditation on what Mary must have felt on the first Christmas, and whether even then she saw in Christmas the seeds of Easter.
Yes, it could do with a lot of tidying up; yes, I’m flat on the first high note on the chorus (“did she see there“); yes, there’s a fluff on on the guitar chord just after “here it comes again”. But at least there is a scientifically rigorous Brachiosaurus model on the mantelpiece behind me.
For what it’s worth, I find this song genuinely moving.
I recently learned that Pink Floyd played a gig in my home town, a little under a year before I was born (on 12th March 1968):
It’s a strange thought. I am 52 years old. Pink Floyd are even older. For the princely sum of nine shillings and sixpence, I could have seen them play less than a mile from the house where I grew up, if only I’d had the foresight to be born twenty years earlier.