For a long time I have tried to ignore Miles Davis. In my ignorance I found his musical stylings shrill and unpleasant on the ear. My friend Jack sent me one of his most cutting edge experimental live albums, which I appreciated but this was 10/10 Miles and I could not handle it for more than 45 minutes. However, I have acquired the 2021 Edition of the 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die and found myself compelled to listen to Miles’ early works. I heard three Miles albums in one morning and was quite astonished. Honestly, I do not feel worthy to review this album but I shall give it my utmost.
Long held as the jazz album that even non-jazz fans will own, Kind Of Blue not only changed the way people regarded Miles, it changed the very face of music itself. Consistently rated not just as one of the greatest jazz albums but as one of THE greatest musical statements of the 20th century, its 46 minutes of improvisation and sophistication remain peerless. BBC Music
Hitherto in the jazz world the focus was on fixed chord sequencing. Miles was ready to try the modal approach which sees playing within a certain scale. This was seen as freeing for Miles and indeed he pioneered the form to exquisite results. His first saxophonist, John Coltrane, pushed this improvisation even further. This was indeed a step up from the bebop of Miles’ previous recent work.
John Coltrane – Sax
Cannonball Adderley – Sax
Jimmy Cobb – Drums
Paul Chambers – Bass
Bill Evans – Piano (replacing regular Wynton Kelly on all but one track – “Freddy Freeloader”)
Aside from So What and All Blues, which had been played previously, Miles did not give any time for rehearsal to his musicians. He laid out the structure and then went straight to recording, which adds to the shocking result that is the album. This was recorded over 9 hours, in two sessions in Columbia’s 30th Street Studio in New York, and resulted in a mega hit, the best selling album of all time and a spearheading evolution of the jazz form.
So What is the mid tempo opener which goes through a variety of styles. Blues in Green was my favourite track on the album. This was haunting and Bill Evans’ piano, which I have been a fan of for some years, joined by the mournful trumpet from Davis combines to make quite an affecting combination. The Hispanic influences of Flamenco Sketches, the only track on the album which needed a second run through (all of the others were done in one take), would be continued in Miles 1960 album Sketches of Spain.
Overall this is a work of supreme beauty and genius. I cannot do it justice in a 500 word review but invite you to listen to it with the above in mind and recognise what a stellar achievement this album was in the world of jazz. I shall listen to it again today, along with Quincy Jones, who is said to play the album every single day.
The below is written by Sister Evelyn, a treasured friend and teacher from my youth in Harrogate.
Fela Kuti was born in 1938 under British colonial rule, but later moved to USA where he met Sandra Izadore, a singer, who became his lover and tried to teach him to educate through music! He was later christened the “Father of Afrobeat”. Tony Allen joined his band as a drummer and other musicians joined them.
When he returned to Njgeria and became famous because of his music people either loved or hated him because he was so dictatorial. He set up a communal refuge house (called Kalakuta Republic) for followers who needed refuge. He opened a night club called ” The Shrine” where young people from richer homes danced madly, wearing extraordinary clothes! He became addicted to marijuana. High born girls with money flocked to him and he took them to perform around the world. One was the daughter of Nigeria’s Chief Justice Minister! Fela was sentenced to prison, but. soon released. The Nigerian economy was booming!
Fela on Stage
Soldiers Invaded his home because the government thought he was a danger to the country! His song “Zombie”, which described soldiers as mindless emotionless machines responding to orders without thinking, enraged the government. However, General Yar’ Ardur did give permission for the release of the song. In spite of this, tanks surrounded Fela’s home, but he put up an electric fence to protect his family. Soldiers broke in, attacked the women, Fela’s skull was broken and his mother was thrown from the roof by soldiers. He was heartbroken.
[Cedric: I thought I would add here that Fela wrote a song about the ordeal called Coffin for Head of State, one of my favourite Fela tracks, in which he mourns the death of his mother and speaks about dropping off her coffin at the Nigerian Military HQ rather than at the cemetery, to rebuke their actions in killing her]
With regard to religion he criticised both Christianity and Islam as foreign religions and defended witchcraft and traditional rituals. He married 27 women on one day in a ritual, but the women were beaten and tormented. Remi, his first wife, was enraged but helpless. He set up a new band called “Egypt 80”.
In 1983 there was a coup and a new military dictatorship was established. Fela wanted to escape, but was arrested at the airport on his way to USA.
The AIDS epidemic broke out in Nigeria, but Fela was deep in the “spirit world”, convinced he was immortal, condemning condoms and he finally died of AIDS in 1997.
He lay in state in a glass coffin in Lagos with drugs in his hand. Thousands came to see his coffin and no crimes were recorded in Lagos for the next three days.
An extraordinary life!
[Cedric: you may wish to visit Kalakuta museum, where Fela held his commune / cult, in Nigeria]
My goodness did we order a lot of food at this place. It will take me some time to get through them all so hold onto your hats. I shall try to be as brief as is likely in the following. Suffice to say this meal cost us about £21 each, including a bottle of Retsina vine wine, which was most welcome considering that I had just cycled 250 miles, the last 30 miles of which my seat post was shrinking mile by mile, which rather hurt my knees for weeks afterwards.
The dolmades were one of our first order, stuffed with rice, mint & seasoning and coupled with fresh yoghurt. This was delightful, refreshing and not too heavy so was perfect as one of our many starters.
See above a photograph of the home baked greek bread with olives, on which we nibbled throughout the meal. It is always my advice to save room on bread, avoiding bread can often conserve your appetite and leave room for a variety of dishes. If you do not want a huge meal, on the other hand, do stock up on bread as this will limit your appetite.
The Saganaki was a beautiful hard cheese pan-seared at high temperature, until bubbling, forming a nice golden crust. This was so flavoursome, and resembled halloumi in its texture but was a tad more acidic, which I enjoyed immensely.
While the stuffed red pepper is perhaps not the most attractive, this sweet pepper, stuffed with wonderfully seasoned feta was one of the overall winners of the meal. The tangy and salty flavour of the feta, which was a tad on the more grainy side as opposed to smooth (a good thing in this instance) paired very well with the nicely roasted pepper.
The bougiourdi was by far the least appealing visually. However, this feta cheese baked in the oven with tomatoes, fresh chilli peppers, garlic, sprinkled with extra virgin olive oil was the most flavoursome. An explosion of flavour which I could not stop nibbling at.
Finally we enjoyed the above beautiful lamb kefte, consisting of grilled lamb with chips, tzatziki & pitta. Tzatziki is made with made with strained yogurt, cucumbers and olive oil, and can be flavoured with lemon, vinegar and dill (or sometimes mint). On this occasion it was dill, if I am not mistaken. The lamb was well grilled and balanced in its spicing, and was a good portion in view of the mammoth meal we enjoyed up to this point.
Overall, this was an excellent meal with astonishing good value. I would absolutely eat here again on my upcoming trip to Hull.
Picture the scene, we are en route to Bishop Wilton, and have decided to stop halfway. We have cycled alongside the river on the way into work and are met with a spectacular picture of York Minster. The restaurant we want to go to is closed so we do a quick search on Trip Advisor and alight on the #7 restaurant in York. Lo and behold, it is a pizzeria in the centre of York, facing the central market. Dough Eyed is an unassuming restaurant, specialising in Neapolitan-style savoury & sweet pizzas, plus cocktails & craft beer. Neapolitan-style pizza typically consists of a thin and soft crust—if it is cooked correctly, the crust will bubble up and be charred in spots.
As I have written before, when going to a new pizzeria, I will undertake the Margherita test. This does not mean getting trashed, it means trying the original ‘Marge’ pizza to determine the quality of all of the pizzas in the restaurant. Suffice to say, I was astonished by this. It was exactly correct. I like the dough to be on the softer side and this was perfect to me. The tomato sauce has the correct amount of acidity which cut through the flavour of the mozarella, which mild and creamy, the taste is salty with a slight tang. I would have preferred for the basil to have been added at the end of cooking rather than at the beginning, which tends to leave the leaf dry and shrivelled, but I am nit picking. A phenomenal pizza.
Nick and his red shirt ordered the Napoletana, consisting of anchovies, tomatoes, fior di latte mozzarella, fresh basil and extra virgin olive oil. As you’ll know I am not fond of fish. However, I can say with confidence that Nick enjoyed this pizza immensely. He got through the whole thing in record time. Anchovies have a number of flavours, including sweet, sour, bitter, and salty, along with a fifth flavour known as Umami. Together with the creamy, soft, fior di latte and the aforementioned acidity of the tomato sauce, this was most likely a winning pizza.
Finally, I should like to close with a picture of my cycle, Excelsior, before York Minster. I would like to think my cycle is more impressive but perhaps I am in the minority.
On our travels we decided to visit Ripon Cathedral before breakfast. This was one of the highlights of our trip, for me. I do love Yorkshire and would go to Ripon frequently when I lived in Knaresborough. The cathedral was always a place I would want to go to but seldom had the time. On this occasion we decided to set off a little later and took in this gorgeous landmark. Its full name is the Cathedral Church of St Peter and St Wilfrid and was founded in the 660s as a monestary. The church we see today is the fourth iteration of the original.
The church became collegiate in the tenth century, and acted as a mother church within the large Diocese of York for the remainder of the Middle Ages. The present church is the fourth, and was built between the 13th and 16th centuries. In 1836 the church became the cathedral for the Diocese of Ripon. In 2014 the Diocese was incorporated into the new Diocese of Leeds, and the church became one of three co-equal cathedrals of the Bishop of Leeds. Wikipedia
This was a highlight of the trip for me by Harrold Gosney of York. It is titled Mother and Child and was commissioned in thanksgiving for the life of Simon Staveley (1949-1998). Some might choose to observe this as St Mary with the child Jesus but I shall leave this to the viewer. I was touched by this. The haunting glare, the delicate affection of the physical contact as well as the joy from the child at seeing his mother was particularly moving. A joyful piece on permanent display.
The Great East Window was also a highlight of the visit. You will forgive the long inset quote below but each part of it is pertinent. We were not able to get very close to it as there was an event occurring at the time, I believe it was the rosary.
The wonderful medieval “Geometric” East window, “almost the length of a cricket pitch”, celebrates in stone the living and eternal God as the Trinity. The vibrant 19th century stained-glass portrays the risen Christ and his apostles. Below, the high altar is surrounded by the glittering, golden screen created by Sir Ninian Comper and were given in tribute to those to who lost their lives in World War 1. The many gold figures recall the story of the Christian faith and hope coming to the North of England from both Celtic and Roman Christian traditions. The figures above celebrate the triumph of life over death and of good over evil, with the youthful, beardless, risen Christ perhaps being a reference to the young men who lost their lives in World War 1. Ripon Cathedral
And finally a bit about the bells at the Minster for any campanologists and/or bell ringers who might be reading.
A ring of 12 bells with an additional ‘flat sixth’ bell is hung in the south-west tower. A diatonic ring of ten bells was cast in 1932, and three additional bells were installed in 2008 with two new trebles being added to give a diatonic ring of twelve, and an additional ‘flat sixth’ bell to give a light ring of eight. Wikipedia
Moving into August with my five favourite album covers, we have some cracking ones for you below. Let’s lunge right in, as Lady C often says.
Fela Kuti and the Afrika 70 – Gentleman – 1973
I mean come on. This is superb. I advise you to listen to the track ahead of appreciating the cover. Fela had come back from a trip to the West radicalised against the powers who had oppressed Nigeria and Africa as a whole. Fela was particularly aggrieved by Africans going to the West and coming back with airs of grandeur, dressing in the Western way despite the heat of Nigeria and being generally superior. In this record, he eviscerates those he considers ‘been tos’ in a most excellent way. The cover is a continuation of this, with Fela dressing a monkey in a suit to highlight the idiocy he perceived.
Deee-Lite – World Clique – 1990
I have purchased the 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die book. This was one of the first in the 1990s chapter. This used to be one of my favourite albums. I had not realised until recently how excellent the cover art is. One reflects while listening that this is one of the albums which defined the sound of the 90s. The album itself is excellent but the cover is next level. Look at the damn shoes! Look at the colours in the trousers. Look at the facial hair. This is so deliciously whacky.
Julian Cope – Fear – 1984
He’s taken enough LSD to kill lesser mortals, was once photographed naked under a turtle shell on a slag heap for an LP cover… PRS For Music
Julian Cope, wearing a turtle shell, looking at a toy truck, on a slag heap in Alvecote Warwickshire. No further comment needed. The album itself is triumphant but the cover is almost as great. He was nude under the shell, by the way.
Prince – Lovesexy – 1988
Speaking of nudity, this cover by Prince is immense to me. The pride Prince must have had in himself and the body confidence to pose nude on a bed of superimposed flowers, quite blazé, is astonishing to me. Fun fact: I was once in a band. A few of us in high school were in a band called Tokyo Train. One of my bandmates asked me “if the combination of a movie and music is a musical, what would be the combination of a musical and a game?”, “why, a gaysical, I responded”. Thus was born the concept of a gaysical. My bandmate Daniel, who was and remains a man of profound genius, made a game from scratch and added our music to it. I got to choose my character and I asked for a character in the style of the above cover, wearing only white gloves and socks. Daniel pulled through, though my character could only walk backwards. I wish I could find a photograph for you, it was magnificent.
Grace Jones – Warm Leatherette – 1980
Finally staying with tradition, feast your eyes on Grace Jones’ 1980 cover of Warm Leatherette. The stern stance, the piercing stare, the exaggerated arms and the double letters all lend themselves to almost a violent cover. It seems meant to destabilise you. Her skin is resplendent and her hair is precision cut – the holistic visual result of this is very powerful to me. It reminds me of some of the lyrics in Private Life, one of her first breakout hits:
Your sentimental gestures only bore me to death
You’ve made a desperate appeal now save your breath
Attachment to obligation through guilt and regret
Shit that’s so wet
And your sex life complications are not my fascinations
Well that is about it from the August Edition of Five Favourites. I trust you enjoyed!