Sunday, 24 August 2008

New Site

Caught by the River can now by found here:

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

This, is Soul...

So I am sitting outside the Italia, minding my own one afternoon , checking the shoes, checking the shirts, when a text arrives on my phone from Signor Chuvalli.
I have known Signor Chuvalli since Jesus was breaking bread for the disciples and if there is one thing this boy knows about it is music. He has put me onto more good stuff than Maradona has scored goals. So when he writes that I have to hear the new Erykah Badu and Al Green albums, I’m down the shop, swift as a greyhound.
Now this girl Badu I remember from about a million years ago when that Nu Soul thing came up. In fact I heard that tune of hers On and On the other day and I got to say it was mighty groovy. But this album, Amerika, Jesus, this is something else. I mean I’m reading all these reviews lately about this guy being innovative and that band breaking new musical ground but believe me they ain’t close to what this girl is doing with this album.
All the time it is playing it’s like the ghosts of the past are drifting in front of my very eyes, like Sly and The Tower of Power and George Clinton and Eddie Kendricks and Bootsy and Stevie and solo Curtis, all that great heavy '70s soul gear, but the great thing is that Erykah is right in there herself at the centre of it all directing the musical traffic. This ain’t pastiche; this is the past put through the future. This music is captivating and hypnotic and honest (she even sings about getting old and her ass getting bigger, that’s how straight this lady is with you) and its hip and its hip hop and its r’n’b and its beautiful and funky as hell. Its sloppy and carefree, and its about Amerika but it ain’t, and there’s even tracks on there which came about in jam sessions and she hasn’t had time to finish the lyrics but what the hell put it on there anyway, and that there is the spirit of this great album rolled up in one.
Funny, ain’t it? Everyone is looking towards this one and or that one for the real deal and suddenly it shows up from a source you had forgotten all about. Tell you what. Buy a copy. If you don’t like it, I will give you your de niro back. I’m serious That’s how good this album is. The fact that I will be abroad and uncontactable all summer will in no way affect this agreement………

I now put on the Al Green album. My sincere apologies. I don’t put on the Al Green album, I put on the Reverend Al Green album because this man is reverent and to be revered because that stuff he did in the 70s, that cool amazing Memphis sound he and Willie Mitchell came up with, those songs which break your heart the second he opens his voice, well that sound is one of the all time great sounds in music - up there with anything you care to mention.
Then Al played around a lot, got burnt, literally, found God, went off and became a Minster, started making Gospel albums, and a lot of good stuff in there as well.
But that period 1970 – 1977, the man was faultless. Now he has gone back and found the same groove, the same sound. And it’s amazing. You could put at least five of the songs on this album on one of his ‘70s LP’s and you wouldn’t spot the join.
He’s got it all back, the coo-ing backing singers, (both male and female,) the restrained bass and drums which sound like God tapping his fingers on your window sill, the quick organ licks, the funky bass lines, but above all he is singing like he did when he started out, his voice is fresh and clean and finding all kinds of little peaks and troughs, it’s soothing, sexy and salacious, swift, sullen and superb, and that’s because the songs here are quality, demanding and receiving the best out of him. There’s even one song where he takes out that beautiful descending guitar figure he used to love so much and he dusts it off and he starts singing around it and the hairs on your neck stand and applaud. .
Okay, the middle of the album sags, got to say that. They don’t keep up the pace but round about eighth or ninth track they wake up and get the whole thing back on course. When the album ends my main thought on the matter is this - God bless Al Green, I mean it, God bless him. You too, when you hear this music.

Paolo Hewitt

Saturday, 5 July 2008

Back In The Briney You Go, My Beauty

Though it's July, the mayflies are still rising to the surface of the river in some places and the trout are rising for the mayflies. It's a lovely time of year to be strolling along the bank, with everything in flower and the swallows skimming the water. But the recent new moon meant that, down by the sea, the tides were big, bringing the bass in, and suddenly I couldn't think about the river any more.

I am sitting on a rock on the Dorset coast, scribbling this into my notebook while I wait for the tide to turn from the ebb. When it does, I shall pick up my rod and start casting. The sky is full of well-spaced white clouds, the sun is warm, the breeze is soft from the north-east and the sea calm. Not ideal conditions for bass, who prefer a bit of swirl and chop; but come high tide, an hour before sunset, I sense the potential for a bent rod.

I have always been enthusiastic about the sea. This year my urge to migrate to the coast began in early spring, though I didn't actually cast until the full moon in May, traditionally the time when the bass first move inshore in large numbers. I went in the evening to one of my favourite stretches of rocky coastline and walked under the cliffs for a mile or so, looking for any activity along the shoreline. Gulls swooping on a shoal of small fish, or mackerel on a splashy hunt often indicate the presence of bass, which will strike into the mackerel from below, or ambush the small fry from between sunken boulders.

I began fishing at the first likely looking place, close to a kelp-covered reef. But after a dozen unresponsive casts with my favourite bass lure, a flock of gulls began wheeling around a rocky outcrop, a few hundred yards to my left and I hurried towards the spot.

The whirl of excited seabirds spiralled up and away as I hopped suddenly onto a rock next to them, yet, though the water was clear and comparatively calm, the clouded evening light wasn't strong enough for me to see what had attracted them. There were a few little splashes between the incoming waves that I took to be panicking tiddlers, perhaps sand eels or whitebait, and I cast over them immediately. My lure was designed to look and behave like an edgy prey fish, skipping across the surface to attract any predator in the vicinity. I felt it was the most obvious method for that situation, but despite 20 minutes of long searching casts, nothing even swirled at me. I switched lures, snipping off the floating plug and retying with a heavy silver spoon that would flicker alluringly through the depths.

I cast five times straight out from the rocks, then once alongside them, letting the spoon sink almost to the bottom before beginning the retrieve. But I reeled in only a yard of line before I felt a resistance so solid that I was convinced I'd snagged a boulder. I gradually increased pressure and the rod jerked back a bit, then lurched forward as something realised it had been nabbed. The reel made a lovely screech as the fish dashed out to sea, but it turned after a short distance and rather disconcertingly headed straight back towards the rocks, getting between two half-submerged boulders and making me wince as I felt the line chaffing against them. I lowered the rod and worked the fish gently but steadily towards me.

I wondered initially whether it was a pollack, but the longer it tussled with me the more I recognised the tail-swipes of a bass. Then I saw the big spiky dorsal cutting through a wave and in a few moments I had piloted the fish along a channel in the rocks and brought it safely ashore - a lovely silver five-pounder, my first bass of the year.

Being the first, it went back into the briny after a photograph. Catch and release is, anyway, a common practice nowadays among responsible bass anglers. Bass, incredibly, are not yet a protected species. If we don't conserve them they'll go the way of the cod - and the dodo.

Chris Yates

from todays Telegraph

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Pleasures Of June

A Saturday afternoon on the river Cam with Robert Macfarlane and friends
Terry Reid 'Mayfly'
Al Green 'Lay It Down'
Richard Price 'Lush Life'
Jay Z's intro tape at Glastonbury
Neil Diamond at the O2 (perfect mix of quality and utter cheese)
Dennis Wilson 'Pacific Ocean Blue'
Robert Macfarlane 'The Wild Places'
Roger Deakin 'Waterlog'
Fullers Organic Honey Dew
Youngs Kew Brew
Mountain Of One "Brown Piano" Remake by Studio (off Studio Yearbook 2 on Information - proper balearic revival!)
Five Dials
Six Bottles
Iain Sinclair on the Olympics and the supposed regeneration of the East End
M83 "Saturday = Youth"
the new Beck single
the trailer for Hellboy 2

Caught By The Reaper

Nick Sanderson April 22, 1961 - June 8, 2008

We lost a mate recently. Below is a remembrance from John Williams, an old school friend of Nicks, followed by the trailer for a film on the FA Cup that Nick was making with Paul Kelly. It's Nick talking and it'll make you smile;

One Sunday during the long hot summer of 1977, when we were sixteen years old, Nick and I went to find Peter Gabriel’s house. We were in school together at the time, a boys’ boarding school in Bristol. We’d known each other for a couple of years then, since Nick arrived in the summer term of 1975. I’d already been there two terms and met no one who seemed to have any interest in the one thing that was keeping me sane: rock’n’roll. This new kid with the blonde hair in a weird fringe, though, he was well into it.

Actually calling what Nick was into back then ‘rock’n’roll’ might be a bit of a stretch. He loved Genesis, he told me. His curious haircut was the remnant of an experiment in which he’d aped Peter Gabriel’s reverse Mohican, cutting a vertical segment out of the centre of his fringe. I’d just recently started listening to Genesis, I said, I had a tape of their new double album The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway. Nick was utterly stoked, as we didn’t say back then. And much of the next few months was spent sat in my so-called study – a room I shared with three other kids - listening to this mysterious recording over and over. Nick told me about the other stuff he liked, Van Der Graaf Generator and Gentle Giant. I lobbied for Mott The Hoople and John Cale. He told me he played the drums, and he had an older brother who’d been at our school but had run away and been expelled. Some time later Nick ran way too, I can’t remember the details now, did he last a couple of days or just till dinner? I’m pretty sure he ended up at his parents’ place, near Amersham

In general, though, Nick coped pretty well with school. He soon had a gang around him He had that quality then, that he continued to have through the time I knew him, which meant people always wanted to be around him. It was only partly that he was funny, which he certainly was, but it was more that he was himself in a way that few of us are. He didn’t care what people thought of him, and as a result people loved him. Nick was just a completely original person and that originality fed whoever was in his circle.

Strangely, considering that Nick was probably most sociable person I ever met, his ambition back then was to become a lighthouse keeper, inspired by a Van Der Graaf Generator track called a Plague of Lighthouse Keepers, or something like that. At fourteen he went to see the school careers master and asked him to find out how one went about entering such an occupation. The careers master was delighted by the challenge, surrounded as he was by the sons of chartered accountants who didn’t need anyone to tell them that they were going to be chartered accountants too, and soon got Nick an application form. Nick filled it in, sent it off, and was mortified to receive a reply telling him he had to be twenty-one before he could be considered. Which really only left one option, career wise.

At first the knowledge that Nick played the drums was a bit imaginary: he didn’t turn up at school with a kit. It was only when I went to stay with him in Amersham, during the holidays, that I realised how completely a part of Nick the drums were. Right away it was obvious, even at fourteen, that this wasn’t a passing teenage craze: this was what Nick did.

After the first year or so I didn’t see as much of Nick. We were still good friends but he had gathered a posse around him, people who took life a little less seriously than I did, people he could have a laugh with, develop in-jokes and routines and a satiric, surreal private world, all the things you’d see in Earl Brutus twenty years later. And then his brother Sim moved to Bristol with some friends and Nick started to hang out at their flat, playing music and getting into teenage stuff. Our musical tastes too started to drift apart. Punk came along and I embraced it wholeheartedly, tried to convert Nick, who was reluctant, seduced as he was for a while by the muso charms of jazz rock. It was only when I played him Marquee Moon that he started to weaken.

So that Sunday afternoon in the long hot punk rock summer of 77 was not exactly typical. Why did we go in search of PG, the former Genesis figurehead who’d just released his first solo album? Well I’ve never known boredom quite as intense as that we experienced on Sunday afternoons in a 1970s boarding school. So Nick came up with the plan. His enthusiasm for Genesis was still bordering on the obsessional and he’d discovered that Peter Gabriel was living outside Bath, somewhere near a place called Solsbury Hill (it’s possible, of course, that he simply listened to the song Solsbury Hill and took it from there). So why didn’t we go and find his house, he suggested? Well, why not indeed?

We took a train to Bath. Found a bus that took us out to the nearby village of Batheaston and walked towards Solsbury Hill. After a little while we saw a house on our left that looked promising. On the front door that was a note that said ‘Ant - Gone to play tennis back around 3 - Peter.’ Ah. We rang on the door just to make sure. No reply. Nick led the way round the side of the house to the garden. There was a lawn and there was a patio door that led into the living room of the house, and it was open. We walked in. And so for the first and last time in my life I found myself an uninvited guest in a stranger’s house.

The living room was full of records and tapes and music stuff. That was as far as I got. I surveyed his tape collection and was chuffed to see that he had Marquee Moon in his collection, but chickened out of going any further into the house. Nick was more adventurous, went off to explore. I suspect he took some small souvenir. I know he wrote down Gabriel’s phone number because the following week he phoned up and spoke to an unsurprisingly perturbed Mr. Gabriel. I’m not sure what Nick was hoping for - an invitation to join Gabriel’s new band maybe? But looking back I think the significance of the trip for both of us was to prove to ourselves that these people we admired really existed, lived in the same world as us, so that maybe one day we too could live in that world of people who made music and wrote books, and not in the world of the children of chartered accountants.

We both left school in the summer of 78, and for the next few years we saw each other intermittently. We shared a flat in London during the winter of 1981/2 .Then Nick joined Clock DVA and moved to Sheffield, his career as a professional musician properly under way. It took me a few more years to make any kind of mark as a writer but I got there in the end.

Our meetings became more and more sporadic. We saw a bit of each other round the turn of the nineties in when I lived in Kensal Rise: our lives had gone in different directions, if sometimes parallel ones. But while I didn’t see that much of Nick it was always a comfort and an inspiration to know that he was out there being himself, following his path. The last time I saw him he told me about his new band Earl Brutus, in which he was to come out from behind the drums. I regret very much that I never saw them play. On one level this was because I moved back to my hometown of Cardiff soon after, but really I was happy just to know they existed. Likewise I doubt very much that Nick read any of my books but I remember him coming to my first book launch and I could see how happy he was that I too was on this path of - I can’t think of a way of putting this that isn’t clich├ęd or sentimental, so here goes – following our dreams. What I’m trying to say is that knowing Nick was out there made me feel better, feel stronger.

And now I have a son who’s sixteen, the age Nick and I were on our housebreaking adventure, and he plays the guitar like Nick used to play the drums, like it’s an extension of him. And I wonder if he’s going to follow the same path, the path of most resistance. And I both hope and fear that he will. And I wish very much that he could have met Nick. Now he never will, but I do believe that Nick’s spirit will still be out there, and may it guide his footsteps, and may we all of us strive to take some part of the joy Nick so naturally took in this precious life of ours.

John Williams

Mojo obituary

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Normal Service Will Be Resumed

Apologies for the irregularity of the posts over the last ten days or so. We have been working away on going over to a website 'proper' - the plan was to have been up on the 16th - but it's proving to be a bigger job than we thought. Now Glastonbury is upon us and not much is gonna happen before mid next week. So, for those of you who appreciate these things, here's a picture of Jakub and his cracking start to the new season. A beautiful female Tench weighing in at 8.8, caught many hours in to a very long session at Osterley Park;

(Wendy took the photo)