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).
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.