Saturday 8 November 2008

Astral Weeks!

So there I was, earlier this morning, squinting blearily at an old tape, trying to make out the name I'd scrawled on it. Finally I got it - Astral Weeks. Ah yes, I thought, Astral Weeks, great album, one of the greatest, got it on CD now of course, must throw the tape away... Half an hour later, I check in at the Big House, and what do I find? This, of course. It seems Brit and I have achieved psychic communion...
Actually it's not Van so much as Randy Newman (above) who's on my mind this morning, as I watched him performing a BBC4 session last night. This is one great songwriter, and in an intimate setting like St Luke's (where the session was recorded) with just him and the piano and occasional discreet strings, you realise just how great. And how many stunningly good songs he has in his repertoire, despite his appearance of inveterate laziness and reluctance to release albums. What caps it all though is his between-songs banter, which is simply the best in the business. The session was sheer joy. Anyone in need of a refresher, just buy this.
(He looks alarmingly like Bryan - pre-weight loss Bryan - in that picture, doesn't he? On screen he looked more like a younger David Hockney.)


  1. Yes Nige, but why in those 40 odd years of writing wonderful mordant prose to quirky yet memorable tunes, has Randall remained an artist of the penumbra? He is admired and loved by fans and musicians, and his credits and awards far outnumber any of his living contemporaries.
    I can hardly bring myself to voice any criticism of him, but is it that his very facility with words and music make him a tad 'slick'? He can compress into 3 minutes, what might take Zevon/Waits/Wainwright III a little longer. Is it a bit like fast food?

  2. Talk about great minds clunking alike, we were just listening yesterday to Randy and Bonny Rait singing Feels like Home, nice and she interprets his songs beautifully, that lady certainly refuels my rocket.

  3. And it's her birthday today Malty (59th)- this is fast becoming the synchronicity blog...
    I know what you mean about RN, Mahlerman - his craftsmanship is quite extraordinary. I think the same applies to Paul Simon when he was good - he was so good it was almost repellent.

  4. Do you mean to say that distinguished-looking gent is Randy Newman of "Short People," etc.? I caint hardly believe it.

    But I still like thelate Warren Zevon better: "You're my witness, I'm your mutineer...."

  5. Nige, in the nineeteen sixties an awfull lot of airtime was taken up with the Beatles, the Stones, the Dave Clark Five etc, for me the definitive album is still Bridge over Troubled Water (and Hair of course, which even today has a dynamic equal to Bernstein's West side Story and Rhapsody in Blue (which, incidentally was written for the piano roll) Simon and Garfunkel at their best were amongst the finest, The Boxer has songwriting to equal Dylan, they didn't age gracefully, who has.
    At the time most of us thought the Beach Boys were pants and the Beatles just happened to be in the in the right place at the right time. Some of the stones early work are classics, I still have the LPs.

  6. Got round to watching the Randy Newman session last night - as you say, a joy. My favourite was 'The World Isn't Fair' - both the song and the introductory ramble.

    I went to see Seasick Steve a few weeks ago in Bristol - another fine inter-song talker.