Jethro Tull – Aqualung (40th Anniversary Special Edition)

aqualungAqualung  is an album that I have had on vinyl for donkey’s years, I’ve always liked it. It’s got  loads of great songs, nifty arrangements, lyrics which are in turn thought provoking, touching  and humourous. It’s had a lot of plays and given me a good deal of enjoyment down the years.

The sound of my vinyl copy wasnt great but it was certainly ok, so it was a great disappointment when I came home with a shiny new CD of Aqualung and discovered that it sounded thin and tinny. The upshot being that Aqualung has remained on the shelf and unplayed for some years.

It seems that Ian Anderson was also aware of the CD’s shortcomings. For this 40th Anniversary edition he has commissioned Steven Wilson (of Porcupine Tree) to remix the album from the original multitrack tapes. Steven Wilson has a growing reputation in this area having previously done similar work on some King Crimson albums.

The Anniversary edition comes with some nice packaging, and in the accompanying booklet Ian Anderson explains that when the band went to record Aqualung they were the first artists to use Island Records’ brand new studio (Led Zeppelin were already in the tried tested studio). Unfortunately the loudspeaker monitoring system hadn’t yet been properly calibrated, and there was hefty slice of good luck involved in making the original album sound as good as it did. So what was going to be on the multitracks? Steven Wilson says that he was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the recording, his brief then was to recreate the original as closely as possible but with some added fidelity and clarity while ensuring that the overall balance was improved.

As I mentioned earlier Steven Wilson has some pedigree in this kind of work and he has done an excellent job on Aqualung. Anyone familar with the original will love it, it has all the characteristics of the original while simply sounding so much better. The songs have not been edited or tampered with in any way, the new clarity in the mix has allowed some previously hidden details to be brought out. It’s a pleasure to sit down and listen to it once more.

A second CD is also included in the package which features various other takes of songs, early versions etc. I’m not a great lover of this kind of value add, but it does include a version of ‘Going Up The Pool’ a lovely song which will resonate with most Northeners (like me!).

O Lucky Man!

lucky-manThis British film stars Malcolm McDowell and was made in 1973 by director Lindsay Anderson. McDowell plays the chirpy Mick Travis, a young man who wants to get ahead. Starting off as a travelling salesman for a  coffee firm it’s not long before he gets caught up in strange and surreal goings on.

Along the way he is given a gold suit, arrested for being a spy, revived by being breast fed by a vicar’s wife and escapes from a mad doctor’s experimental hospital. He eventually gets the opening he’s been looking for when he meets Helen Mirren whose father is a rich industrialist, and he becomes his personal assistant. There are some dodgy dealings going on and unfortunately when the police arrive he has been set up to take the blame. He gets sent to prison, on his release his natural optimism very soon evaporates when he is robbed of the little he has and finds himself at a soup kitchen with the down and outs.

After being given a handbill he attends an audition for a film and is singled out by the director. Initially he is unresponsive to the director’s instructions but the director perserveres and this shakes him out of his depression. The film ends with his old optimism returning and much smiling and laughter.

Many of the actors in the film play multiple parts which adds to the general surrealism, McDowell occasionally giving them a double take as if to say ‘don’t I know you?’

Alan Price and his band provide the film’s music and unusally, appear in film too. The songs reflect on the pitfalls of capitalism as shown by the progression of the film and very good they are too. The film soundtrack has been available but is now out of print.

I found marvellous film to be thoroughly enthralling, you never know what is going to happen next and it does require the viewer to engage their brain while  watching.


tanguyTanguy is a light hearted look at what happens when your kids just don’t move out.

Tanguy is the only son of Paul and Edith Guetz, he’s 28, he still lives at home, he’s handsome, he’s got more education than you can shake a stick at, he’s still studying for a doctorate, he doesn’t have an income, he brings girls home, he crashes his parent’s parties, everyone thinks he’s lovely, he’s driving his parents nuts.

His Mum cracks first, Tanguy just doesn’t catch on that it’s time for him to strike out on his own. They hatch plans to get him out of the house, make things awkward for him. When he does finally go he rings them up in the middle of the night, it’s worse than having him at home. This film could have easily descended into farce but it stays the right side of the line, the acting is all good and the dialogue sharp and witty. Thoroughly enjoyable.


Funuke – Show Some Love, You Losers

funukeThis film starts with the death of a couple in a bizarre accident and then centres around their surviving offspring. The main character is Sumika, she lives in Tokyo as she is determined to become an actress. She is completely self obsessed,  parading around expecting deferential treatment from all as she is clearly so special, unfortunately she is totally talentless.

The younger sister is constantly belittled by Sumika however as the film progresses we learn that she is the talented one, with a plan and her feet planted firmly on the ground. Then there is the step brother, he runs the family charcoal making business, drinks lots of beer and treats his wife like a doormat.

The story concerns Sumika’s attempts to get acting work, these are unsuccessful and she takes out her failure on her little sister,  who in turn draws a manga story of Sumika’s talentless exploits which wins a competition and gets published. Sumika is furious. Meanwhile the step brother is slipping into a suicidal depression.

This is a very black comedy with some interesting characters and funny moments, the little sister having the last laugh.

Love Exposure


This Japanese film turned out to be real epic clocking in at three and a half hours. The story covers a lot of ground in that time, so to describe it I’m going to nick LoveFilm’s synopsis:

Japanese director Sion Sono writes and directs this irreverently zany, three-and-a half hour, black-comedy drama which captures a year in the life of 17-year-old Yu (Takahiro Nishijima). Yu falls into sinful ways after the death of his saintly mother and his father’s subsequent ordainment to the Catholic priesthood. Yu’s speciality as a petty criminal is taking sneaky camera shots up girls’ skirts while he ostensibly performs elaborate martial arts moves. He falls in love with rough diamond Yoko (Hikari Mitsushima), but their future together comes under threat when the creepy Koike (Sakura Ando) goes all out to lure Yu into his religious cult.

This covers maybe two thirds of the film tops, no mention here of Yu being disowned by his father or him winding up in a mental hospital. Although the film is ostensibly about a young lad wanting a girlfriend it’s not quite the light hearted romp the synopsis might have you believe.

The underlying theme to the film is religion. Yu’s mother is deeply religious, she falls ill and dies when Yu is still very young. His father then determines to become a priest,  he starts well but becomes obsessed and rejects Yu as he perceives him to be somehow unworthy. While Yu is coming to terms with his father’s behaviour he comes to the attention of the Zero Church, a mysterious cult who try to convert families to their beliefs and having the family of a priest would be a massive coup. The Zeros begin a campaign to lure Yu into their group, Yu doesn’t have any time for them but the girl he has fallen for has become infatuated with the Zeros. Yu eventually manages to bring about the downfall of the Zero church and free the girl but is commited to an asylum for his actions but….  the girl rescues him!

This isn’t a bad film by any means, I quite enjoyed it but it is very l…o…n…g. Some ruthless editing could have shaved off at least 30 minutes and made it into a much snappier piece.

Kickback City – Rory Gallagher

kickbackKickback City is a new compilation of Rory tunes, the twist here is that Rory had a liking for detective noir stories and the songs here are chosen to reflect that liking. Some of the choices are more appropriate than others it has to be said, but what really sets Kickback City apart is the packaging.

What you get is a cd of studio recordings and a cd of live recordings, these come packaged as a book which includes a story – ‘Kickback City’  by  ‘Rebus’ author Ian Rankin written in the style of Dashiel Hammet and incorporating references to the songs. A further cd is included of  the story being read by actor Aidan Quinn. The book is also illustrated by Timothy Truman in the appropriate style.

This is just a lovely thing to have, lots of great music, a good story and the presentation is really well done. It does have one major flaw – it’s practically impossible to get the fucking cds out!

I own up to prefering Rory when he was in Taste and the rythym section were much more than just supporting players, nevertheless he was a fantastic guitarist. The live cd demonstrates how he was constantly developing the songs rather than doing the easy thing and playing them like the recording. The version of Tattoo’d Lady included here is miles away from the version on Irish Tour 74, and they’re both belters. All the songs here are pretty much what you would expect, fairly straight ahead blues rock, quite a few neat little twists in the arrangements and lots of great guitar playing. Barley & Grape Rag has some lovely finger picking on the acoustic too.

Considering that this is a very complete package there is a strange omission, the only details about the music are the song titles. There are no details of the other musicians, which albums the songs are taken from or where and when the live recordings took place.

I was lucky enough to see Rory a few times, he always worked his socks off and put on a great show. One day I’ll go to Ballyshannon, his hometown, where they’ve had the good sense to put up a statue of him.



Plein Soleil

pleinsoleilMade in 1960 Plein Soleil is an adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s book ‘The Talented Mr. Ripley’, Alain Delon stars as Tom Ripley hired by the Greenleaf family to bring their errant son Philip home to San Francisco. Philip is having a fine old time living on the coast in southern Italy,  sailing his yacht with his girlfriend and has no intention of going anywhere.

In this adaptation Tom Ripley makes no secret of his purpose or the fact that he is deeply envious of Greenleaf’s wealth, for his part Philip finds this all very amusing. Ripley is scheming from the start and when Philip plainly states that he won’t be going to San Francisco, thereby voiding Ripley’s contract with the Greenleaf family, things take a darker turn.

Ripley engineers an arguement between Philip and his girlfriend and she leaves for Paris. Ripley murders Philip, moves to Rome and assumes his identity. This proves harder than he imagined, Philip was quite well known and family friends keep popping up. Eventually one them discovers Ripley’s ruse and he has to go too. By now the Police are sniffing around Ripley and he’s having a hard job keeping all the plates spinning.

He manages to keep ahead of the pursuing pack and in the final sequence gets together with Philip’s girlfriend who is now the recipient of Philip’s will, a will forged by Ripley. Everything has turned out well for Ripley, or has it?

This version of ‘The Talented Mr. Ripley’ is much darker than the later Matt Damon/Jude Law version, itself no bad film but Alain Delon goes about his work cynically and with no remorse in a way that Hollywood rarely manages.

Mona Lisa

monalisaBob Hoskins stars in this Neil Jordan film as George, a low level career criminal. The film begins with him getting out of gaol having done a stretch rather than grassing his boss up (Michael Caine),and  he expects to be looked after in return. It’s pretty clear that George isn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer so he’s given the job of chauffeuring Simone, a high class prostitute, around.

George and Simone get off to a prickly start but quickly become friends. Simone is looking for a friend, another prostitute called Cathy, who she fears is being turned into a heroin addict by a pimp. Simone asks George to help her find Cathy as he can look for her inconspicuously in places Simone can’t go to. George takes up the task with relish, he’s getting fairly keen on Simone and wants to help her. The trail leads to some interesting incidents but George has no idea what he’s dealing with. He eventually tracks Cathy down and re-unites her with Simone only to discover they are lovers and that his boss is behind everything.

This may be Bob Hoskins finest role, he plays the streetwise but naive George with just the right amount of innocence and has Robbie Coltrane as his faithful sidekick. The story is very much about the manipulation and sordidness of the sex industry and doesn’t try to dress it up into a fairytale like Pretty Woman, a lot of fine performances and an engrossing story of a side of human nature we really could do without.

Electric Music For The Mind And Body – Country Joe And The Fish (2013 Re-master)

fishCountry Joe And The Fish tend to get lumped in with San Francisco bands but they hailed from across the bay in Berkeley, which apparently is completely different. Nevertheless this is a fine album in the psychedelic style and if you want a good example of what pyschedelia was all about, look no further.

This band had quite a changes in line up but the one featured here on their first album may be the best, they comprised Country Joe – vocals, guitar, bells and tambourine, Barry Melton – vocals and guitar, David Cohen – guitar and organ, Bruce Barthol – bass and harmonica and the splendidly named Chicken Hirsh on drums. Most of the songs are kept fairly short and tight, those freak out sections which don’t tend to age too well are avoided. There is lots of Farfisa and the strong melodies, you’ll be singing along to ‘Not So Sweet Martha Lorraine’ in no time at all.

So what do we get on the 2013 re-master? It’s a double cd package, the first cd is the 1967 mono mix and the second cd is the stereo mix, there are none of those tedious ‘bonus’ tracks just the good stuff. There’s also a nice booklet which includes interviews and comments from the band. What is really outstanding though is the sound quality, if you’ve got the old Vanguard cd throw it away immediately! This is in a different league, the energy of the band and the clarity of the sound make these cds a pleasure to listen to. The mono and stereo mixes are slightly different but not in any major way, it’s nice to have them both though.

Mmm…. this one is so good I may have to investigate their follow up ‘I Feel Like I’m Fixin’ To Die’ now.

Cold Fish

cold_fishMr. Shamoto is a pretty quiet guy, he runs a tropical fish shop. His daughter gets into some trouble in the supermarket and a friendly stranger helps to sort it out. This is Mr Murata, he has a much larger tropical fish shop, staffed by a small army of attractive young ladies, Mr Murata drives a Ferrari.

Mr Murata is very enthusiastic about pretty much everything and Mr Shamoto’s wife thinks it would be a good thing for Mr Shamoto to get friendly with him. Mr Murata is not what he appears to be and soon Mr Shamoto is involved in criminal activity that he cannot escape from. Worse is yet to come, Mr Murata and his wife are both psychopaths who specialise in making people disappear in a most gory fashion. Mr Shamoto is deeply upset by all this but he is powerless to stop it or extricate himself from this situation, Mr Murata takes pleasure goading Mr Shamoto calling him weak.

The story progresses, the police are following him, gangs of hoodlums want to know where their money has gone, Mr Murata has bedded Mr Shamoto’s wife. Eventually Mr Shamoto cracks and transforms himself into angel of death. We are now in full slasher film territory,  blood and entrails abound. Mr Shamoto takes vengeance on all those who have disappointed him including himself. Mr Murata wasn’t so smart after all.