Tag Archive: Neil Young

new_skin_for_the_old_ceremony As a gift to a friend of mine who is retiring soon, a group of friends and colleagues have been asked to write articles about a poem or song.

These texts will be connected by the themes of one, or more, of the four elements – fire, earth, water and air.

I have chosen to write a piece on Leonard Cohen’s Who By Fire which, as you may know or recall, goes like this:

And who by fire, who by water,
 who in the sunshine, who in the night time,
 who by high ordeal, who by common trial,
 who in your merry merry month of may,
 who by very slow decay,
 and who shall I say is calling? Continue reading 

MERCURY REV live at The Bronson Club, Ravenna, Italy 14th November 2015

mercury revWhen the music’s over, life loses meaning.

In the immediate aftermath of the bloodshed in Paris, it was a relief that Mercury Rev decided to go ahead with this show in Ravenna, their only date in Italy.

“The music doesn’t stop. Maybe it’s the only thing we have now” says Jonathan Donahue at the beginning of a luminous concert which briefly makes the horrific events at Le Batacian seem like a fleeting nightmare.

It is a timely reminder that music has the power to excite, inspire and unite. When the news is dominated by death it gives us strength and hope. Continue reading

Exif_JPEG_PICTUREThe 7″ single Carnival/Canter on the DIY imprint ITLAN based in Edinburgh, Scotland marks the welcome, and long overdue, return of Tissø Lake, the recording project of Ian Humberstone.

I blogged about his album Song Of The Black Dog in 2008 but since early 2010 he has gone off the radar.

Now he’s back and the good news is that the single will be closely followed (on April 14th) by a re-release of ‘The Hollow Wood And Wondrous Cold’ which was recorded in 2005. Unless you live in America and snapped up a copy of this on the now defunct Banazan Records label, the ten tracks on this mini album will also be new to you.

Both records are highly recommended for lovers of quiet, introspective folk music. I love ghostly yet intimate quality of his songs which, to borrow a line from the song I Am A Lake, leaves you with the feeling of being “breathless and alive”.

Ian very kindly agreed to answer a few questions about his song writing and the background to these releases:

How come The Hollow Wood And Wondrous Cold was only released in the U.S and why has it taken 8 years to reach Europe?

Ian Humberstone

The Hollow Wood and Wondrous Cold was recorded when I was still in my teens, making music with whichever instruments fell to my hands, borrowed microphones and a reel-to-reel recorder salvaged from a local sixth-form college (it was headed for the skip, though with some care it’s served me well since). There were few people interested in releasing the album at the time and the best offer came from a U.S. label who wanted exclusive rights to the album. Those rights only recently expired, freeing up the record for re-release. Continue reading

ponoNeil Young says he’s not an audiophile but his Pono music device is surely destined to get most of the early adoration from discerning hi-fi enthusiasts.

Young’s pledge is that with he is saving a dying art form but lossy music and streaming sites are what most consumers have grown up with and persuading the masses that they need another format and dedicated player is a hard sell.

On top of that, the failure of the Super Audio CD (SACD) does suggest that there is at best only a relatively small market straining at the leash for high-resolution digital audio. Having said that, the huge success of the Kickstarter campaign means that Shakey’s brainchild should not be dismissed out of hand.

If all you want to listen to are ‘classic’ albums by established artists then Pono might be more appealing. But even though I love stuff like Highway 61 Revisited or Dark Side Of The Moon, these are not records I go back to that often. I’d much rather hear something new than go on some nostalgia trip. It remains to be seen how much of Pono’s music store will cater for marginal tastes.

Nevertheless, the video promo for the device does make me curious to hear what all the fuss is about. A series of star names are full of superlatives after having taken a ride in one of  Young’s vintage automobiles which is presumably fitted with a state of the art sound system. Though you ought to take what Mumford & Sons say with a pinch of salt, you begin to think there may be something in the Pono to when the likes of Beck, Rick Rubin and Gillian Welch sing its praises.

I don’t for a minute doubt Neil Young’s sincerity but my gut failing tells me that it is a product that has arrived too late in the day. I regard myself as more than a casual listener but even so my musical addiction is already well catered for by web services such as Spotify, Bandcamp or Soundcloud.  When on the move I’m happy with my iPod or smart phone and am prepared to accept a poorer sound for the convenience.

The proof of the Pono pudding will be in the hearing but I seriously doubt it will the game changer some are claiming.


WAGING HEAVY PEACE by Neil Young (Penguin Books, 2012)

Be honest, you didn’t really expect this to be a straightforward autobiography, did you?

Neil Young has always done things his own way and having just turned 68, you’d hardly expect him to change a habit of a lifetime now.

I don’t think you could call him truly avant-garde but his singular quality definitely sets him apart from his peers. His style is that of a loner and a hard task master, but this is what makes him such a unique artist.

He writes as he sings, with a disarming simplicity and openness. He continually admits his own limitations and recognises his idiosyncratic approach: “There is a lot to cover and I have never done this before. Also, I am not interested in form for form’s sake”.

By rights, there should be a footnote to say that no editor has interfered with any aspect of this book. The publishers appear to have accepted the finished work on trust, warts and all. “Today, my past is a huge thing”, Young states with a vagueness you quickly become accustomed to. Some chapters have titles while, for no obvious reason, others don’t and you will look in vain for any coherent narrative thread. Continue reading

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