Thursday, June 29, 2006


Two whole days without football – this must be a window of opportunity for a blog post.

Last weekend (a long one – hooray) was spent in deepest Somerset on a very relaxing fishing trip with some friends. Although the Somerset Levels are almost on my doorstep - certainly from a Google Earth perspective - I had never ventured into (onto?) them before. Being flat, I suppose my perception was that the Levels would be featureless and the landscape therefore uninteresting. I couldn’t have been more wrong. As Wikipedia describes, the Levels should more accurately be described as the Levels and Moors, and it was the Moors area in which we were fishing, and which I had been previously unaware of. I guess due to it’s susceptibility to flooding the whole area is sparsely populated and not intensively farmed. Looking at the countryside surrounding the lake we were fishing it was easy to imagine that it hasn’t changed in hundreds of years. The broads and lanes seem to be on the verge of falling apart in some places, and there is a rash of 30 and 40 mph speed limits on the more major roads. So you are left with an overall feeling of a slow and dreamy pace of life. It felt like we had stepped back in time. Add to that some great weather (and some great beer in the evenings) and the whole weekend took on a vaguely magical air. I will be going back soon.

I have been struggling to pick a track of music that reflects the trip. I was hung up on the thought that it should at least in some way feel quintessentially English and have a watery reference, if not actually a reference to the noble art of angling. In the end the track I have chosen scores on none of these points. However, I think it does fit perfectly with the trip’s overall dynamic.

“Sparkling In The Sand” appeared on Tower Of Power’s first album “East Bay Grease” in 1970. It was also, I believe, their first single (although it must have been in edited form). Something of an opus, it clocks in at just over nine minutes. Listening you are transported to a place where all there is to do is dream away the hours shimmering in the heat haze. The overall feel is languid, although it does build to a few quiet crescendos (now there’s a contradiction in terms, but I could easily relate these to the few times a fish took hold of my hook during last weekend). Much of Tower Of Power’s output is difficult to categorise – you get a mix of funk and soul (the soul was especially present with Lenny Williams on vocals), a wicked horn section, and often a liberal helping of Hollywood Hills sheen, which in later years sometimes veered dangerously close to MOR.
Their overall sound is unique. And I would be so bold as to say that “Sparkling In The Sand” takes one step further and is unique within their output. It has a dreamy and magical quality. I almost feel like I’m listening to the sun going down on the flower power era, and timewise that just about fits.
Download and enjoy (and make sure the sun is shining for the perfect effect).

Tower Of Power – Sparkling In The Sand 1970

Forthcoming menu (a la Darcy):
On our trip a friend commented that the ambience of the Somerset Levels reminded him of the American Deep South – for example there were some distinctly tumble down looking collections of shacks and sheds nestling in the trees, something you don’t normally see in the UK nowadays. We are no experts on the Deep South but I can imagine he’s right. And that’s a good cue as any for a dash of southern soul coming up in a post next week.
ALSO sometime soon I intend to post some more Tower Of Power.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Boogie Friday sub

Life continues apace. Let’s see: the decorating isn’t done yet, due in some part to the little matter of the World Cup - there is plenty of the beautiful game to watch on TV (that’s beautiful providing you’re not watching England!). I also made a short notice business trip to Germany this week - no live football on the itinerary though :( . And the next few weekends are blocked out in the diary and will take me away from the computer. All this is a roundabout way of saying that the posts maybe a little less frequent for the next few weeks. Over at #1 Songs In Heaven London Lee is busy too it seems. It’s possible he won’t make his usual Boogie Friday post in which case you could treat this post as an able and willing sub.

Oh no! did somebody say disco? Don’t be put off by the title, this one’s a banger. You are propelled along with an almost frantic disco beat and, granted, there are some fairly derivative girly vocals to begin with, but stick with it. Two and a half minutes in Sil Austin’s sax throws of the shackles, a haunting synth underpins the whole thing, and the rest is pure jazz-funk magic. As far as I know this never came out on 12” and if it had I am sure it would have found a wider audience and would now be regularly hailed as a classic.

Sil Austin - Disco Music 1976

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Reggae and decorating

Busy busy this week. The lounge makeover has been going well. I set the pasting table up on the patio so managing to do two things at once – decorating and sun bathing. It’s been a great week weather wise - wall to wall sunshine. Inevitably the sunshine led me to put some reggae on the CD player. So with a pasting brush in one hand and a bottle of Stella in the other it’s been all good.

My other obsession this past couple of weeks has been trying to complete a set of Panini World Cup football stickers (I know, I’m a grown man and I should know better). Well, as I write this I’m down to needing just three more to finish the collection after some, at times, frenzied swapping on ebay (I need numbers 319, 324, 388 if anybody would like to make a donation). An interesting use of ebay and one I’m not sure they would particularly condone, although I suppose they do get the seller’s advertising fee.

So, short on the words this week but here’s a splash of reggae. I used to play Errol Dunkley’s “A Little Way Different” to death at a club I used to DJ at back in the day. It was blasting out of the speakers again this week as another piece of paper went up (just about straight). You can find it on OK Fred: The Best Of Errol Dunkley although I’m not sure if it’s the full 12” version as featured in this post. The full version is on Reggae Classics – Serious Selections Vol. 2 – RewindSelecta but I think this CD is now out of print.

Errol Dunkley – A Little Way Different 1978

Sunday, June 04, 2006

What goes round...

About 15 years ago we had a cabinet made to house our already ageing hi-fi seperates (as they were called back in the day). But as the 90s wore on the cabinet sat in the corner and its contents seemed to get less and less use. Then I decided to keep tropical fish and it seemed the best place to put the tank was on top of the hi-fi cabinet. Now the cabinet had an opening top for easy access to the turntable (quaint, I know). With the fish tank on top of the cabinet there was no way to open the lid so the only way to put a record on the turntable was to feed it through a narrow gap (almost like feeding a CD player), and cueing was a nightmare. Consequently for a few years the vinyl collection was badly neglected. Then I realised you could hook up the hi-fi to a computer so the turntable and amp went upstairs to the spare room with the computer. That left the CD player and speakers in the lounge completely redundant with no amp, and that’s the way it has been for the last few years, with the hi-fi cabinet performing as nothing more than a fish tank stand and video storage.

Well finally it’s makeover time for the lounge (my project for the next few weeks). The fish tank has been moved and said cabinet has a new lease of life. It’s been moved into another room, reunited with the hi-fi equipment and hooked up with another computer. I’m working on re-introducing my original KEF speakers to the mix (they’re a bit too big for my wife’s liking), but with that done the entire hi-fi ensemble will have been reunited. Back from the dead!

(By the way I’m not a complete dinosaur – I do also have an ipod shuffle!).

You can find today’s track on the CD “James Brown – Funky Men” available at and Virgin UK

Bobby Byrd – Back From The Dead 1975