Almost Album of the Year 2021

Almost Album of the Year 2021

The time has come yet again for AAOTY, where I explore the albums which have meant so much to me over the past 12 months but are not quite god enough to make AOTY. One year I did a post for AAOTM, highlighting 12 albums which did not make the list, but this was a comically massive task which I do not intend to repeat. See below a shorter selections of albums which have meant something to me this year.

Starter for 10/10, Live in Tokyo 2012 has to be one of the best albums I have ever heard, let alone heard this year. Opening with Commercial Breakup , the album gets off to a flying start. This is one of the greatest tracks Dolby recorded. The album continues with songs from The Golden Age of Wireless, Aliens Ate my Buick as well as his latest work A Map of the Floating City as well as his excellent The Flat Earth. It is only not AOTY because of a few, in my view, less good tracks in the middle. But overall this is a very special album.
Kate Bush – The Sensual World
Avid readers will know I have reviewed this masterwork before. I won’t go into more detail than my previous review, however, suffice to say This album has moved me in more ways than I can describe this year. Whenever I wanted to sit down and play an album in full, actually set aside some time for myself, this is the one I would go for. Kate Bush is my number 1 most listened artist this year. And I believe this is my favourite album of hers. It is totally arresting and astonishing. Please do listen with open ears and minds. This is a thing of beauty. The only reason this is not AOTY is because it has been AITM previously.
Kraftwerk – Technopop / Electric Cafe
Thanks to Spotify I know exactly how many times I have listened to this wonderful album this year (27 if you are interested). Again, I have reviewed this before so I won’t go over it again. This is my most listened to album of the year, it is the one I go to when I need to concentrate and deal with a lot of matters in a short amount of time. In fact I got through 25 matters in my work to do list two weeks ago listening to this album. I love this and think it is one of the best albums they have made.
Talking Heads – 77
Are you noticing a theme here? I have reviewed this recently and can confirm that I have listened to it about 7 times since writing the review. Talking Heads have pretty much defined the latter part of this year. They have changed my life. Please do listen to this incredible piece of musical art.
Fela Kuti and Ginger Baker – Live!
Finally, the final album which I have reviewed already, Live! To be honest this should have been AOTY. The only reason it is not is because I wrote about it in June. I was so eager to share it with my subscribers that I got ahead of myself. This has made its way to my top pantheon of amazing albums. My thanks to Jack for introducing me to Fela Kuti this year.
Overall, as predicted, 2021 has been the year of live music. I have enjoyed a panoply of exquisite albums, having heard 1380 different artists this year, many of whose content has been live. I look forward to sharing AOTY with you in the next post…
Bakkerswinkel Utrecht – Canal Side Bakery

Bakkerswinkel Utrecht – Canal Side Bakery

Bakkerswinkel sounds like a disease but in fact was quite a wonderful bakery in Utrecht. Celia and I were so cold that we did not spend much time outside. We rushed from lunch to Belgisch to this wonderful bakery. Unfortunately I was a bit pre-occupied because the UK return requirements had just changed and I needed to book the correct nose swab on my return. However, I really enjoyed the peace of this bakery and the unique settling, under street level, arched ceilings and almost eye level with the canal.

I ordered an almond tart which was delightful and soft. The almond flavour was present but not overwhelming, just how I like it. Celia went for a beautiful carrot cake. Regrettably I did not get a close up but you can see it in the below photograph of me relaxed after sorting out my impending travel nightmare.

Observe the moist even layers of sponge and beautifully thick and consistent cream. The filling was balanced, nutty and almost outrageously flavourful. For once, I did not order the best thing on the menu, however I was without doubt the best dressed and eye-browed.

Overall this was an excellent place to enjoy some mint tea, cappuccino and cake in fabulous Utrecht. I recommend it to you if you are in the area. There is also a delightful resident kitty which will be seated on a bench near you!

 

Gourmet Food Kitchen, Coventry – Dining As It Should Be

Gourmet Food Kitchen, Coventry – Dining As It Should Be

At times in my life I have believed in divine intervention more ardently than others. On Saturday last, for example, arguably one of the more difficult days of my time in Birmingham, I ended up in Coventry quite by chance. Further, once there, the cafe I would go to usually, Rising Cafe, the first place I reviewed on this blog, was closed permanently. Dutifully, as can be expected of me by readers of this blog, I whipped out my Trip Advisor and did a search of the local offerings. I did not fancy a Vietnamese restaurant with many fake reviews, at least not for lunch. The second choice was Gourmet Food Kitchen, in the Coventry Outpost of Fargo Village. Fargo, not the town in Minnesota, is a wonderful place, a sort of arty collective about 15 minutes walk from the centre. I have been visiting for some years but was quite surprised to find this gem of a restaurant there.

Chef Tony stands proudly behind his grill, catering to the 12 covers before him, and regales us with the method behind his madness. He tells us everything we are about to consume is made freshly. Tony cures his own bacon and cuts and cooks it from frozen (as it keeps its form better that way). He tells us he stuffs his own sausages, and smokes his own salmon with cherrywood, rather than oak. Chef Tony also makes his own terrine, and sold me a bit of game terrine which I will enjoy at Christmas when my parents ascend from the South. See my Full English below.

Me: Chef, where is that music coming from?

Chef: I have an Alexa behind that sausage stuffer.

My Full English included bubble & squeak, home stuffed sausage, sweet homemade black pudding, a delightful tomato, freshly made beans (better than Heinz by a country mile) and a fibrous combination of mushrooms and spinach, as well as two slices of excellent soft home cured bacon and two perfectly poached eggs. Some like their bacon cremated, I enjoy it soft and flavourful. This was achieved by Chef by cooking it in an oven rather than frying it. I seldom say this but everything was exquisite. The black pudding was perhaps a bit sweet for me, but this should not detract form this five star feast. The quality and freshness of this food cannot be described. To have chef in front of us telling us about his food with passion was a wonderful experience. Chef Tony has little patience for nonsense and the results of his culinary ethos speaks for itself.

Charlotte enjoyed a beautiful eggs Hemingway with home smoked salmon. Why Hemingway? The ham on the eggs Benedict has been replaced by salmon. So the dish consists of an English muffin (or similar), smoked salmon, a poached egg and on this occasion a whiskey infused Hollandaise which tantalised absolutely. Now, I do not like fish, but this salmon was the absolute bomb. I could not believe the depth of flavour, the richness of the cherrywood being so different to ordinary oak. This was a triumphant dish.

Divine intervention? I surely think so. Were it not for an unfortunate series of regrettable events, I would not have sampled this heavenly feast. I am grateful for my guardian angel guiding me to these excellent places and allowing me to enjoy some sparse positive experiences at this trying time. Please do go to see Chef Tony. He is only open a few days a week so it might be an idea to book beforehand.

 

Belgisch Biercafé Olivier Utrecht – Religious Experience

Belgisch Biercafé Olivier Utrecht – Religious Experience

Housed in a former Catholic clandestine church (the outside facade is indistinguishable from the elegant townhouses of the street), this Belgian bar came as quite a surprise to me. We had a hard time finding it but we managed in the end. Once inside I was quite impressed by the beautiful ceiling, many original features and a stunning organ.

Belgian beer café Olivier Utrecht is located in the former schuilkerk Maria Minor, to Achter Clarenburg. Many elements of the ‘schuilkerk’ from 1860 have been preserved, such as: the altar, the vaults and the organ, making it a special place in Utrecht with fantastic specialty beers from Belgium. Like A Local Guide 

We ordered two alcoholic beverages. Mine was the Boon Framboise which was quite stunning. According to the promotional material, “Boon Framboise is an easy drinking and subtle, raspberry-sweet, oaky, raspberry lambiek fruit beer” I can see Nick (formerly Saint) reading the above and quite falling from his chair. Yes I did consume a beer but it was as close to cider as possible!

The above is the view we were treated to this glorious bronze statue of a Pope and two Bishops! While we did not stay long or consume much, envious stolen glances at the food of other diners made for tantalising viewing. I should hope to come here again with Nick next time so he can sample the delectable Belgian beer. I wonder if they used it to de-consecrate the altar.

 

Five Favourites – December Edition

Five Favourites – December Edition

Welcome to the final Five Favourites of 2021. It has been an absolute blast. See below my closing selections for the year:

Diana Ross – Eaten Alive (1985)

In addition to being an excellent album, Eaten Alive sports a rather unbelievable cover. Diana, afro sprawling, clutching her perls which are also in the mouth of stuffed tiger! At least I hope the tiger is stuffed or this might rank as one of the world’s most dangerous photo shoots. There’s something quite bizarre and wonderful about this cover.

Funkadelic – Maggot Brain (1971)

… the front cover depicting a black woman buried up to her neck screaming in agony and back cover showing the same woman’s head, now become a skull. Vinyl District

Model Barbara Cheeseborough (real name) is pictured on the cover of this celebrated album, buried up to her neck in dirt and screaming. What more could you want from a cover? I am not sure whether this constitutes good cover art but it is quite striking in a way. The skull adds a delicious layer of existential distaste into the mix.

Rick James – Come Get It! (1978)

There is something about Rick James covers which is surreal to me. Frequently in knee high faux leather booties, Rick seems to tread the line of camp and glam rock/funk. He seems to use this to dispel any suggestion of homosexuality by pointing directly at a young lady who seems very uncomfortable on the floor, possibly in as much agony as Ms Cheeseborough. I hope she wasn’t too cold.

Prince – Prince (1979)

The simplicity of this cover is quite striking to me. Prince, young and moustashed, presumably nude as he was in the cover of Lovesexy, with a smattering of the colour purple, looking smouldering. What more does one need in an album cover? This is so simple but so effective – here is the artist before you, no embellishments, just Prince. There is an honesty here which indeed flows through the album, in which Prince plays every instrument (around 26 from memory) with virtuosity.

Grace Jones – Warm Leatherette (1980)

Grace Jones highly underrated by me

Cannon, formerly Saint, Nicholas Jenkins

Finally, Grace Jones’ excellent cover for Warm Leatherette. My vinyl has the blue cover. This was an excellent cover designed by Jean Paul Goude. This was the first of the ‘new Grace’ phase after three disco albums produced by disco legend Tom Moulton. This was the new look and the new sound, recorded at Compass Point studios with Sly and Robbie from Black Uhuru. A piece of history here, folks.

Warm Leatherette was the first Jones album with cover art designed by her then-boyfriend, Jean-Paul Goude, which presented the singer’s androgynous look for the first time. It featured a black and white photograph of Jones pregnant, with her signature flattop haircut, sitting with her arms crossed. Chris Blackwell praised it as “a very powerful image”. Wikipedia

See you next month!

Dogma Hotdogbar – Ecumenical Nosh, Utrecht

Dogma Hotdogbar – Ecumenical Nosh, Utrecht

After a lovely Mass at St Nicholas in Amsterdam a few weeks ago, Celia and I headed to Utrecht for lunch. I searched the internet webs and found that Dogma Hotdogbar was a place of interest which I felt compelled to investigate. After a confusing journey from the beautiful Utrecht Central train station to Voorstraat, we sat down for lunch. The below artwork on the wall was most amusing.

DONDERSE DOGMA – Pork sausage − Homemade ketchup Dutch mustard sauce − Mesclun Sauerkraut − Pickles − Crispy onions

Celia ordered the below which was the ‘standard’ hotdog. I often think the original thing on the menu is the best and I was not wrong. I had only a small amount of this dish and it was quite excellent. The mesclun, a mixture of tender young gourmet salad greens contains combinations of salad leaves and herbs. This was quite sweet tasting which contrasted with the acidity of the pickle and smokiness of the excellent pork sausage. The crispy onions on the top were just marvellous.

BRUTE BEPROEVING – Beef sausage − Texas BBQ sauce Old cheese − Crispy onions − Dogma coleslaw Pulled pork − Pickled jalapeño

As you can see from the below, I was quite excited to dig into my lovely BBQ beef hot dog. It was quite hard to eat on account of being so large. Also it was almost impossible to cut into pieces because these modern hot dogs tend to focus more on aesthetics then practicality (thanks, social media). In fact the owner jokes with me after I took the below that now I had my instagram picture, I could leave! I had a hearty chortle. The hot dog itself, once I managed to consume it, was sublime. the pulled pork coleslaw was unbelievable and the BBQ sauce was smoky enough and with sweetness to boot. Excellent.

Side Salad – Mesclun − Fresh avocado − Sun-dried tomato − Carrot strips – Pork sausage

This was the final beautiful part of our lunch. I thought it was beautiful, a medley of flavour which was highly fibrous and relatively healthy.

Overall this was a quality restaurant in the centre of a beautiful city. I hope you find time to visit Utrecht safely in the near future.