What is this "tape" of which you speak?

It took me three days to figure out that there was another side to the tape. That was not the only naive mistake that I made; I mistook the metal/normal switch on the Walkman for a genre-specific equaliser, but later I discovered that it was in fact used to switch between two different types of cassette.

Another notable feature that the iPod has and the Walkman doesn’t is “shuffle”, where the player selects random tracks to play. Its a function that, on the face of it, the Walkman lacks. But I managed to create an impromptu shuffle feature simply by holding down “rewind” and releasing it randomly – effective, if a little laboured.

I told my dad about my clever idea. His words of warning brought home the difference between the portable music players of today, which don’t have moving parts, and the mechanical playback of old. In his words, “Walkmans eat tapes”. So my clumsy clicking could have ended up ruining my favourite tape, leaving me music-less for the rest of the day 

Yes, the Beeb gave a 13yr old a gen1 walkman to have instead of his mp3 player for a week. You can read more here. Quite sweet, really. 

Anyone had any similar old tech/new tech experiences lately? 

Breathing Space, The Intake Club, Mansfield

Olivia Sparnenn at The Intake Club, Mansfield
Olivia Sparnenn

In CaroleBristol’s review of Mostly Autumn at Gloucester, she remarked that it would have been good for backing singer Olivia Sparnenn to have a bigger role.

In addition to being Mostly Autumn’s backing singer, Olivia also fronts Breathing Space, a band she put together with Mostly Autumn keyboard player Iain Jennings in 2005. What was originally a side project took on a life of it’s own when Iain left Mostly Autumn at the beginning of 2006, but they have continued recording and touring even after Iain rejoined his old band at the beginning of last year.

Over the past couple of years Olivia Sparnenn has got better and better as a vocalist and frontwoman. Indeed, she auditioned and made the shortlist for the gig with Finnish symphonic metallers Nightwish, and I still think she’s better than the singer who finally did get the job.

Many fans of the band were saddened at the unexpected departure of Breathing Space’s guitarist Mark Rowen at the beginning of the year due to good old ‘musical differences’ (I’ll say no more). His replacement was none other than Mostly Autumn’s second guitarist, Liam Davidson.

Liam Davidson at the Intake Club, Mansfield
Liam Davidson

Changing just one band member has transformed the band’s sound far more that I’d expected. Mark Rowen’s economical jazz-tinged playing was a major element of Breathing Space’s sound, and Liam has a very different style. With Mostly Autumn he’s always very much in the background, but I’ve always thought he’s a far better guitarist than many people realise. Given the chance in the spotlight shows just how good he can playing lead. He doesn’t try to copy Mark’s solos note-for-note, instead using the basic structure as a template for solos of his own.

The result is a far rawer and rockier band, which actually suits Olivia Sparnenn’s powerful vocal style very well. Many of the big soaring ballads and jazz-rock jams that epitomised the album “Coming Up for Air” have been retired from the set in favour of guitar-driven hard rock numbers, turning the overall energy level of the set up several notches. A surprise was the Mostly Autumn standard “Never the Rainbow”, which I’d not heard Breathing Space play live before.

The set included several new songs from the forthcoming album “Below the Radar”. The title track has been in the setlist for a while, but the standout of the new numbers has to be the encore, “Questioning Eyes”, a huge soaring and emotionally moving epic in the same league as Iain’s Mostly Autumn classics “The Gap Is Too Wide” or “Carpe Diem”.

It’s a pity a band this good isn’t better known; they deserve far better than playing to less than a hundred people in a small club in Mansfield.

Autobiographical??!

I had a (n enforced!) afternoon off work today. Ah…I’ll do some tidying up, maybe read a little, then pop to the shops and get dinner ready for when Mrs Japanther comes back from work, I thought.

Halfway through the afternoon I thought, I know, I’ll just re-organise my entire record collection quickly, i’ve been meaning to do that for ages…..cue, two hours later with me splayed out on the floor with stacks of unsorted vinyl around me. It’s now more of a mess than when I started as I’ve just shoved it all back hastily in order to get dinner ready in time (still not done it yet!).

As we can’t ask these kind of things in the EOTWQ, I’ll ask here. How does it go in your place? Alphabetical? Genre? Chronological?Most played?Shove the embarrassing ones in the corner?

The Bunny Run

Inspired by this week’s theme, but otherwise entirely irrelevant, is the story of the Bunny Run. The drama group I was in in Milton Keynes was famous for its local documentaries, and we did one about life in Stony Stratford in the 1920s and 30s. This is what some Stony residents remembered:

“Sundays, we used to walk the High Street. Everybody did. It was the highlight of the week…

Up Stratford High Street, on Sunday nights, they used to call it “The Bunny Run”. You’d walk up and down, talk to girls, Sometimes, in the summer, you walked across the fields to Cosgrove…

They used to go and stand about in the shop doorways and they used to reckon that, if you walked up the “Bunny Run”, eventually you’d get a young man. This is going back about 1936 or ’37. It was like a promenade at the seaside. If you’d got a new coat or anything new, you had to appear…

I think there were some people in them days, met their partners on the “Bunny Run”…

Sergeant Rollings would come by. “Come along. Out of those doorways.”…

If any of the shopkeepers didn’t want it, they used to put a little gate across the front of the shop, so you didn’t go in the doorway. I remember Grafton Cycles put in a little gate, so no one could go in their doorway. Oh dear. When you think about it!…

The young fellows from Deanshanger, Stony Stratford and Wolverton would all walk the “Bunny Run” as we used to call it. We all used to walk and smile and nod and maybe have a word with someone and nothing ever went beyond that. I suppose, through talking to boys like that, you sort of got to know them. You might have a date with a boy and go out for a walk with him. That would be the start and then it led to courtship. Or you just had a date, where nothing came of it, and you sort of looked around somewhere else. That was a great pleasure; because that was one of the ways we really met boys unless we went to dances…”

Any courtship rituals in your neck of the woods?

The Bunny Run – the Living Archive Band

AOTW – 24 Years of Hunger

The last two weeks of AOTW have been spent discussing the pros and cons of two very well known albums (namely Pet Sounds – how prophetic was that? – and Dark Side of the Moon – Songs About Large Objects Orbiting The Earth next week?) so I thought it would be wise to choose an album that most of you probably won’t be familiar with.

Eg & Alice were perhaps an unlikely duo – Francis ‘Eg’ White was, along with his brother David, a founder member of Brother Beyond (you’ll be relieved to know that he left the band before the collective terrors of Stock, Aitken and Waterman descended upon them) and then teamed up with former BMX champion Alice Temple to record a truly remarkable album, called 24 Years of Hunger. It’s a major Toffee favourite, dating from 1991 but still sounding as fresh today as it did then.

The basic style and content won’t come as too much of a surprise to those of you who are familiar with the sort of music I like. If you only listen to one track, let it be Indian but of course, I encourage you to give it all a whirl. Let me know what you think.

Rockets
In A Cold Way
Mystery Man
And I Have Seen Myself
So High, So Low
New Year’s Eve
Indian
Doesn’t Mean That Much To Me
Crosstown
IOU
I Wish

Let’s just hope the links work …

hi ho hi ho, it’s off to the mine we go

Data mining seems such a naughty thing, but most tech is neither good nor bad; its all in how it is used.

Take Marconius’ wonderful index of all things RR, which in a sense mines data from several sources into one great resource for us RR folk. That’s pretty much a mechanical labor of love; no one’s going to write a program to automate for such a small group.

But the folks at LyricMiner have apparently been thinking along the same lines as Marconius, and think they have a way to tap into the growing mixtape/playlist trend.

Their almost-out utility will be free at least at first, and runs on Mac, Linux or Windows. What it does is scan your music collection, checks it against 3 large on-line lyric databases, and creates a searchable keyword file. Because it is cataloguing only words, it is a realtively small text fie. It takes about an hour to catalogue 30,000 song files, and after that its miscroseconds. (There is a ‘watch folder’ option to automatically add new songs to the catalogue.

I’ll use this week’s RR topic to illustrate. Use ‘pets’ for instance, and it’ll give you a list of songs in your collecion that mention pets. It also uses a synonym and alternate spellings database to suggest other likely choices, PLUS – and I think this is sheer brilliance – it has some algorithm thingee which lets its servers monitor reputable sites dedicated to song meaning discussions, and from that adds other songs from your collection likely to be about the keyword.

And the list is ranked by likely matches. Eerie? Just a bit? But it’s pretty amazing. You can have a sneak preview here.