Somewhere there’s music, how faint the tune?
Australian balladeer GRAHAM RODGER was on the radio the other day using the quaint expression, “…going down to the local Record Bar…” and it got me thinking about records. First up, I’m unashamedly nostalgic for the days of vinyl when getting a new LP record was a far more significant event than opening a new CD seems to be now. RICHARD THOMPSON, or at least the character in his song Don’t Sit On My Jimmy Shands, feels the same about 78s (“…You just can’t get the shellac since the war…they don’t make them like that anymore”), although I’m yet to meet anyone personally who laments the demise of the wax cylinder!
So once upon a time, a record was exactly that…a record of a moment, a performance captured forever in time. Before multi-tracking, it had to be done in one take, with everyone playing and/or singing at once and a mistake meant starting from the beginning again (or leaving it in). For a brilliant documentary that details the invention of overdubbing, seek out the DVD entitled Les Paul: Chasing Sound which details the great man’s career and also shows him playing up a storm in his nineties!
Thanks to Les Paul’s ingenuity, technology allows someone like me, for better or for worse, to play practically all the instruments on my own CD albums. My youngest fan Amy is convinced I can do this for real, despite her mother’s explanations, because after all she can actually hear me doing it on the CD! I suppose one might argue that a modern record is often a group of tiny recordings; disparate moments stacked together to become a new recollection of an event that might have been?
Pictured above: Les Paul in Baltimore 2004 -(photo by Bob Howe)
Perhaps then, a film or recording of a live concert is closer to a “record” in the truest sense of the word. No matter how many camera angles are used or creative effects, they hopefully just enhance essence of the event. PAUL KELLY – LIVE APPLES is one such example, newly released on DVD and filmed last September at the delightful Empire Theatre in Toowoomba, Queensland. Paul Kelly took the confronting approach of playing the entire Stolen Apples album live before continuing on with another 16 songs that included many of his hits and classics. The camera work is subtle; capturing each musical change and the intriguing images projected behind the band and the sound is crystal clear, perfectly capturing the live ambience. Stylistically the music is as eclectic as always; take The Foggy Fields of France where one guitarist (Ashley Naylor) sets up a Sun Records-style riff while the other (Dan Kelly) adds steel guitar-like sweeps that eventually erupt in a solo that conjures up the sound of a pod of demented whales…magic! The band excels throughout, but in particular watch their controlled crescendo during the frantic pleading of How to Make Gravy, surely one of the poignant ‘prison’ songs of all time. New Buffalo AKA Sally Seltmann joins them for the ‘final’ song, a cover of the Triffids’ Raining Pleasure, the only song of the concert not written or co-written by Paul Kelly. They Thought I Was Asleep from the bluegrass album Foggy Highway appears here as a solo performance during the five-song encore which ends with a romp through another classic, Dumb Things. The bonus feature is the stunning video for God Told Me To which captures the religious fanaticism of the subject in one chilling camera take that zooms slowly outwards. No edits, no overdubs!
(122 minutes) EMI 50999 2 06729 9 7
Bob talked to Barbara Morison on 2SER 107.3 FM about this month’s column and more…
Until next time, happy surfing!