Wednesday, December 01, 2021

Sequoiadendron Giganteum,


Wednesday afternoon: Brrr, it has been cold here recently. My computer tells me that it is 7c at the moment, but it has been -2 some days. I have been spending a lot of time in bed where it is nice and warm. Sorry I haven’t written anything for over a week, but I couldn’t think of anything interesting to write about as I have hardly left the house. Today I thought I ought to make the effort to say something just to get back into it, and it passes the time. I had my booster jab last Thursday. A friend drove me up to the surgery which saved a twenty-minute walk. Afterwards, because it was a nice sunny but cold afternoon, I suggested we go for a drive to Shearwater which is a lake quite near here on the edge of the Longleat estate. 

Longleat Tree.

I went for a brisk walk around the lake and enjoyed the fresh air and the exercise. It was good to get out. I took quite a few photos of the trees which are splendid at this time of the year. That evening I put a few photos on Facebook and a friend pointed out that one of the trees is a Redwood which is native to California. They also told me about a website called Redwood World where the redwood trees of Britain are registered. I had a look, and sure enough it turns out that Longleat Estate has the largest redwood plantation outside of America, planted in 1951, a sight to behold. I was also amazed to find that a tree that I have walked past hundreds of times in Westbury is a Sequoiadendron giganteum, a Giant Sequoia. It is just by the library, right in the middle of Westbury. I had admired that tree for years, but never knew what species it is. If you want to see if there are any redwood trees near you, then go here-

Westbury Wiltshire, Giant Sequoia.

I was glad I went out that day because the following day
Storm Arwen battered Britain. It wasn’t too bad here, but some poor souls up north are still without power five days later. I ventured out to the supermarket on Sunday because I had run out of everything, and on the way there I took some photos of my Sequoiadendron giganteum. I noticed that a few small branches had broken off during Storm Arwen, but that won’t bother such a magnificent tree. Apart from that I haven’t done much. I finished reading The Giro Playboy which was good and funny in places, but not great. It did give me an idea though, that I could write about incidents in my own life and crazy people I have met. I might do that in the future when I am stuck for ideas. In the meantime I have bought a couple of books and a CD online which I will tell you about in the next few days hopefully. See you later. 

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Bleecker & Macdougal.

It was
Bob Dylan who ignited my interest in the 1960s scene in Greenwich Village. Jack Kerouac added to it of course. Jack was once asked what it felt like to be famous and he said, “It feels like old newspapers blowing down Bleecker Street”. All this sort of thing added to my romantic view of the area. I think that is partly why I enjoyed the film Inside Llewyn Davis so much. In the past I have bought albums by and written about many artists associated with this time and place, such as Karen Dalton. Tim Hardin, Dave Van Ronk, Tim Buckley and Phil Ochs. I think it was after I wrote my review of Phil Ochs several months ago that a facebook friend suggested that I also check out Fred Neil. Finally, I did and looked on the internet to see what CDs were available. I opted for a CD on the Electra label which contained Fred’s first two albums Tear Down The Walls & Bleecker And Macdougal,

I must admit I was initially a bit disappointed with Tear Down The Walls. I didn’t think it was any great shakes. Released in 1964 it isn’t a solo album, but by a duo comprising of Fred and Vince Martin. I think Vince Martin was a much lesser talent. I was interested to see that John Sebastian plays mouth harp on the album. He later became world famous as a solo artist and member of Lovin’ Spoonful. Also, Felix Pappalardi plays bass and I remember him as a member of rock band Mountain in the 1970s. After two listens I did not think any of the tracks particularly grabbed my attention. Fred Neil wrote six of them. If I had to choose, I would say that the title track is possibly the best. It is the kind of protest song that Peter, Paul & Mary, Tom Paxton or Pete Seeger were singing at the time. There are some cover versions here, but I don’t think they are that great. Their version of Morning Dew isn’t a patch on Bonnie Dobson’s original, and I have heard better versions of Lonesome Road, most recently by Bill Callahan. To my ears the best thing about the album is Fred Neil’s distinctive voice and the excellent bluesy guitar and harmonica playing.

The second album Bleecker & Macdougal is a different kettle of fish altogether, a vast improvement. It is Fred’s first solo album released in 1965. As well as Sebastian & Pappalardi, there is also electric guitar on this album which was sacrilege to many of the folk purists of the time, so this album could be considered as one of the forerunners of Folk-Rock. The title song opens the album in fine lively rock influenced style. A lot of the songs are steeped in blues, such as Blues On The Ceiling, Sweet Mama, Yonder Comes The Blues and Gone Again. I think Candy Man became a minor hit for Roy Orbison. Mississippi Train is very rock influenced with electric guitar to the fore. The harmonica intro reminded me of The Beatles, I Should Have Known Better.

The outstanding tracks for me are A Little Bit Of Rain with very emotional singing accompanied by subtle guitar strumming, The Other Side Of This Life which is very melodic with superb vocal delivery. The Water Is Wide which is a traditional song with the same roots as Carrickfergus which all Van Morrison fans will know. I think Handful Of Gimme could show Fred Neil’s growing dislike for the music business. Maybe Fred shared Jack Kerouac’s windblown view of the fame game. Although I am pleased that I bought this CD, I have a nagging underlying feeling that I haven’t heard the best of Fred Neil. Maybe I should have bought his 1967 album which contains The Dolphins which I know from Beth Orton’s and Tim Buckley's cover versions. (I just found a video of The Dolphins on youtube which I have shared below. It is the only know footage of Fred performing on stage) That album also has his version of Shake Sugaree by Elizabeth Cotten which I wrote so glowingly about recently. It also contains Fred’s own song Everybody’s Talkin’ which Nilsson covered and was chosen for the soundtrack of the film Midnight Cowboy ahead of Dylan’s Lay Lady Lay. 

I bet Fred was pleased about the success of that song, because it must have been the royalties from that hit which allowed him to step back from the music industry, live in Florida permanently and pursue his real love which was dolphin conservation. He co-founded the Dolphin Research Project in 1970, an organization dedicated to stopping the capture, trafficking and exploitation of dolphins worldwide. He progressively disappeared from the recording studio and live performance and sadly died in 2001. He had been suffering from skin cancer. He has left a small but great legacy and influenced many people, so I am pleased that I discovered the work of Fred Neil.

Bob Dylan, Karen Dalton, Fred Neil. Cafe Wha? Greenwich Village, 1960s.

Monday, November 22, 2021

The Dolphins- Fred Neil, Vince Martin & John Sebastian | August 2, 1976


Monday morning: It is colder today, only 2 degrees C, but on the + side there isn’t a cloud in the cobalt blue sky. I haven’t written anything for a few days, so I’ll write whatever comes into my head, just to say something. I have only been awake for ten minutes. The clock in my bedroom isn’t working because I’m too lazy to put a new battery in it, but these days I always seem to come downstairs at 9.30, regardless of when I went to bed. I'm thinking about
Bridget Riley. The simple explanation is because the last thing I did last night was watch a documentary about her on BBC 4. I watched it twice actually. It was on BBC2 on Friday evening as well. I found it by accident when I reached for the remote to get away from that Children In Need annual thing. I think I watched it twice because I wanted to understand what Bridget was all about. She is an incredible lady, 90 now, but still full of energy and keen to find out where her art will take her next. 

I’ll tell you the little I know about Bridget Riley in case you haven’t heard of her. I won’t look on Wikipedia or google though. In the documentary she was interviewed by Kirsty Wark. There were others who talked about her work such as Tracey Emin who was full of praise for Bridget. I think Bridget first came to be noticed in the 1950s, but it took her a while to develop her own vision and style. She was influenced by a French artist called Georges Suerat who had a technique called pointillism. Bridget became associated in the 60s with an art movement called Op-Art. The Op is short for optical I would presume. Some of her paintings cause optical illusions in the eyes of the viewer. She paints squares, triangles, circles, curves and stripes, beginning mainly with black and white but developing later with bright vivid colours. Some of her ideas were stolen in the swinging sixties by the fashion world of Carnaby Street and places like that. 

Bridget has been commissioned to paint huge murals, for places such as museums and entire corridors of hospital wards. Although the work is quite mathematical in design, you can see how it is based in nature. For instance, many artists have painted a view of the sea, but in Bridget’s work you can actually experience the movement of the sea. Other works have the shimmering effect of heat. I’d love to go to a Bridget Riley exhibition to experience the paintings for myself. I also think that understanding Bridget’s work could be a lot easier than people think. The bright colours could simply be a celebration of the joy of being alive. I bet a lot of people leave a Bridget Riley exhibition feeling happier and more optimistic without knowing why. If an artist can achieve just that one thing, then their work has been worthwhile.

ps, I stole the illustrations from Google Images. I hope nobody minds.

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

The Days Of The Leaves.

I hadn’t been out for a walk since our visit to Stourhead about five weeks ago, so yesterday afternoon I made the supreme effort to get out in the fresh air and go for a walk up to the White Horse. It was quite a cold day, but because it was uphill all the way by the time I got to the top of Newtown I was nicely warmed up. In a field near Beggars Knoll I came across a dark horse silhouetted against the autumn sky and the trees. This was a good photo opportunity. I tried calling him over for a close up, but he didn’t want to know. I took a couple of pics anyway and carried on along the lane. The trees looked magnificent in all their golden autumn colours. 

I didn’t appreciate autumn at one time because I thought it was a harbinger of winter, short dark days and months of cold. It used to give me an underlying feeling of melancholy, but ever since I have read books like The Power Of Now by Eckhart Tolle my attitude seems to have changed. I am learning to live in the present moment and not think about what the future has in store. With this state of presence you can enjoy the beauty of nature in all its glory because now is the only time that exists. When winter does arrive I am sure it will have charms of its own if you have the right attitude. I took a few photos of the trees as I walked along. Even the ground beneath the trees looked wonderful, carpeted in various shades of red and yellow leaves. Eventually I left the lane and walked across the fields towards the famous White Horse. It is more like an old grey mare these days. It always looks better from a distance than too close up, so I took a photo when it appeared through two bare trees. 

As I got closer there was one solitary blackbird sitting on top of a tree which looked wonderful, but sadly when I reached for my camera, it flew off. I sat on a bench and observed the panorama down below with Westbury away to the left. It was very peaceful with just the occasional distant rat a tat tat of gunfire from the army firing range on Salisbury Plain to disturb the tranquility. Eventually, my reverie was interrupted when I noticed the sky turning darker and a rainy mist spreading along the fields below until I could feel it on my face. I thought I better be heading home and set off back down the hill. I did feel quite pleased with myself for shaking off the slough of inaction, getting some exercise and being at one with nature. 

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly.

Tuesday morning: It seems like quite a nice day today. I might make the supreme effort and go for a walk this afternoon. I’ll just tell you what I did yesterday, which isn’t really a lot. I went to Morrison’s to get some provisions. On the way there I had a quick look in the charity shops. I saw a CD for only 50 pence called
Chronicles Of A Bohemian Teenager by Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly. It was the name that attracted me to it. It is the sort of name that makes you curious to find out more. Also, the title seemed to compliment the book I am reading at the moment, The Giro Playboy. I had heard the name before; I think he played on one of the stages at Glastonbury a few years ago. I played it yesterday afternoon, and I’m listening again this morning. It is very nice eclectic music and I like the left-wing sentiments of the album. Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly is a name adopted by singer-songwriter Sam Duckworth born in 1986. This is his first album released in 2006. According to Sam his stage name came from Retro Gamer magazine, from an article about superhero games such as Batman containing the heading "Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly. He is only 35 now, so he must have only been about 20 years old when the album was released, quite a precocious talent. Sam was once the victim of a racist attack which has led him to be an active supporter of the Love Music, Hate Racism campaign. He has released six albums since this one. If he returns to Glastonbury next summer I will certainly go and see him. I highly recommend this album. It is the best 50p I have spent in ages. I have shared a video below if you want to hear more.

I went to the pub yesterday evening. I still sit outside even though it is cold. I don’t like going in the bar because of the fear of Covid even though I have had two jabs. I’m getting my booster jab on the 25th. I had two gin & slimline tonics. I have decided to stop drinking cider because I think that is why I have got a fat belly. After that I went home and watched University Challenge, but I only got ten answers right. I can’t remember what I watched after that, so it couldn’t have been very interesting.  
ps, I just remembered, I watched England beat San Marino in the World Cup qualifier 10-0. Poor old San Marino.

Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly - War Of The Worlds

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