A couple of things about today’s Spotify playlist. Firstly, I’m starting to lose track of what I’ve posted before, so if some tracks come up more than once, forgive me. I’m assuming no-one’s listening to *all* of these, anyway, just the ones that sound interesting to them.
The other thing is the notable lack of female artists. This is partly because my record collection is male-dominated, but also a lot of my favourite female performers (Carolyn Edwards and Joanna Newsom to name two) aren’t on Spotify yet. Anyone know of any really good female singers/songwriters I’d like?
Anyway, today’s playlist
Cossacks Are by Scott Walker is the opening song from his most recent (and to my mind best) album, The Drift. I have absolutely no idea what it’s about, but it sounds astonishing. Remember, this is someone who started his career in a boy band doing Four Seasons covers…
The Knife by Genesis is included after reading Gavin B’s post about it – it’s almost good enough to forgive them for Phil Collins.
Pale And Precious by The Dukes Of Stratosphear is XTC in their guise as a fake 60s psych band doing a perfect Beach Boys pastiche, while still managing to be a truly great song in its own right. Gorgeous stuff. Just listen to the “Don’t care what the others might say” section – it’s got *exactly* the same unexpected chord progression – and indeed the same distrust of other people in general and wish they’d disappear attached to an absolute adoration of one person in particular – that would happen in a Brian Wilson song at that point.
At this point, the playlist is a little proggy, so there’s a couple of simpler songs.
I’m Leaving It All Up To You by Don & Dewey is a song I found on a wonderful compilation called Frank Zappa’s Jukebox, which consists of stuff that Zappa listened to as a teenager, and so is a mixture of ‘difficult’ modern classical, skronking jazz and greasy blues and doo-wop. It’s an absolute treasure of a compilation.
Shakin’ All Over by Johnny Kidd & The Pirates is one of those records that was an absolutely massive hit in Britain in the early ’60s but almost no-one outside the UK knows. It’s a shame as it’s one of the great records of that period between Elvis getting drafted and the first Beatles record, which is generally regarded as a dead period in music but in fact produced people like Roy Orbison, Del Shannon and others who were far more influential than people now realise.
Movie Magg by Carl Perkins is a great record in its own right, but also a window into a time that seems a million years ago – this is a song about taking a girl to the cinema, but on the back of a horse. And recorded in the 1950s. The weird juxtaposition of the modern (the electrical kinematograph still seems modern to me, I am afraid) and what feels like the ancient, a song about a lost way of life that is still in the memory of many living, in a song that was a modern pop song at the time my Dad was born, seems very strange to me…
You Don’t Have To Walk In The Rain by The Turtles is from one of the very great overlooked albums of the 60s, Turtle Soup. This was the Turtles’ attempt to make their own Village Green Preservation Society and was produced by Ray Davies, and is a halfway house between the Kinks’ English pastoral and the Turtles’ California pop whose closest comparison is probably Odessey & Oracle. This was the single from the album, and the most conventional track on it, but I love the line “I look at your face/I love you anyway”.
Did You See Jackie Robinson Hit That Ball? by Buddy Johnson is for my wife, who’s spent most of the last few weeks watching rounders over the internet rather than talking to her long-suffering husband ;)
Opening Titles by Don Preston is another of Preston’s orchestral pieces. I’m becoming more and more convinced, the more I hear of Preston’s work, that he had the potential to be a true great had he not spent the last forty years in the shadow of his old boss. Shame.
The Prelude to the first Lute Suite in E Minor by Bach is just here because I like Bach’s lute pieces. So should you.
Lady Came From Baltimore by Scott Walker is as different from the opening track as you could get – a cover of a folk-pop song by Tim Hardin – but is still a lovely little track, overlooked in comparison to the darker stuff on Walker’s first few solo albums.
Arnaldo Said by the Wondermints is the only Wondermints track on Spotify at the moment, unfortunately. Weirdly, this is on an Os Mutantes tribute album, even though it’s a Wondermints original. But speaking of Mutantes…
Bat Macumba by Os Mutantes is my favourite track by Brazil’s greatest psychedelic band – not much of a song, but just listen to it as a *sound*, the way the totally different sonic environments are laid on each other…
Everyone Says I Love You by Janet Klein is a lovely little acoustic performance of the Marx Brothers song from Horse Feathers (and if I lent any of you my box set of Animal Crackers, Duck Soup, Horse Feathers and Monkey Business, could I have it back, please? I’ve completely forgotten who I lent it to…)
Wonderful/Song For Children by Rufus Wainwright is a stunning performance of the first half of the second movement of Smile, and shows that Smile wasn’t just a great record, but the songs were great songs. Wonderful, especially, deserves to be regarded as part of ‘the great American songbook’.
Send Me To The ‘Lectric Chair by Bessie Smith is another track by one of the all-time great blues singers, but to be honest I’ve included it for the horn playing.
And Over The Reef by Duncan Browne is a song I’m not even sure I like, but there’s something to it… it’s a very twee, folky thing which could smack of James Taylor, but there’s a sort of Incredible String Bandness about it that makes it work… I think… what do you think?
Anyway, I’m off til a week on Tuesday. Don’t turn this place into a tip while I’m gone…
I’ve got a lot of ideas for future posts (I *always* have far more ideas for posts than I have time to post them), and I’m going to write some but not all when I’m in Greece. I’m interested in which ones people would like to read about, so here’s a list of what I might do. No promises that I’ll actually write the ones most people want, but I’m just interested:
A long post on the Cerebus graphic novel Guys.
A review of the About Time series of books on Doctor Who
A post on the Beatles
A post about my own songwriting, and why I’ve not produced much new music recently, and why I still want to
“Evidence-Based” Medicine – why it isn’t
Why Liberals Should Use GNU/Linux
A post on Bryan Talbot’s Alice In Sunderland
A post on Rick Veitch’s Maximortal and Rare Bit Fiends
A post on the Curt Boettcher/Gary Usher axis of soft-pop music in the late 1960s
A guide to my blogroll (my readership crosses a few boundaries – there are ‘politics people’, ‘doctor who people’, ‘comics people’ and ‘music people’ all reading this – and ‘comics people’ may not be aware of politics bloggers they’d be interested in and vice versa).
Apologies for the continued lack of posts – unfortunately I’ve had to work a lot of long days this week, as we’re preparing for a release. I’m going to try to get a few posts up this weekend, and while I’m away next week (on holiday with my family, with no net access) I’ll try to write a *lot* of stuff, so when I get back I’ll have a backlog to post.
The biggest problem with Paul Sutton’s Thicker Than Water is also its greatest strength, which is that it is explicitly part of a larger continuity, and the end of a ‘story arc’. As (in story terms) the last story to feature Dr Evelyn Smythe, it ties up details of her relationship with the Doctor. It’s a sequel to the earlier story Arrangements For War, where Evelyn’s reactions were based on the events of Project: Lazarus, which was in turn a sequel to Project: Twilight. Meanwhile, the emotional turning point of the last episode (which I won’t spoil for those who haven’t yet heard it) is a revelation about the events in a completely different set of stories – the Cyberman trilogy The Reaping, The Gathering and The Harvest, which were in themselves a series of stories involving three different Doctors in reverse-chronological order and…
You see what I mean?
Rather miraculously, the story still works as a decent adventure story without having heard these stories, and for the most part you can pick up what you need to know, but there are a few scenes in the last episode that pack a real punch when you’ve heard them but would just be confusing without it.
Overall, however, the story is extremely effective. Doing the ‘new companion meets an old one’ story a good few months before it happened in the nuWho episode School Reunion, and in a significantly more adult manner, one of the two main plots of this story involves the Doctor taking Melanie Knownasmel off to meet Evelyn, who he credits with having mellowed him and made him a more decent person, but who (it is revealed) he left in a somewhat petulant manner when she decided to marry.
The scenes between the Doctor and Evelyn are some of the best acting you’ll hear – especially at the end when Evelyn tells the Doctor (for the only time) “I love you”. It’s clear in context that she means it in a fatherly way – it’s also clear that he may have loved her in a somewhat different way. But the performances here are a world away from the mopey teenage angsting of the new show – these are very *grown-up* performances, Colin Baker’s Doctor clearly embarrassed by any kind of display of real emotion, his bumptiousness and bluster all shown as cover for a very restrained, repressed person who cares more than he ever dare let show. At their best (and they are at their best here) Colin Baker and Maggie Stables have a rapport completely unlike anything in TV Who – a genuinely adult, *real* relationship between characters who are real people. It’s very unfortunate that it was decided after this to reduce the number of stories featuring Evelyn (and the scripts for those with her in have been noticeably worse since this than the ones before it), as they’re really the only ones in which the Doctor has a truly adult relationship with his companion, and they’re all the better for it.
The main ‘adventure’ plot, on the other hand, is fairly easy to follow for even someone who knows little or nothing of Doctor Who. Doctor Who (the original show and spin-offs, but not the new series) was always about … well, ‘always’ is a big word… one of the most enduring themes of Doctor Who, from the very second story up until the last series, was the fight between small-l liberalism and fascism, specifically Nazism. Almost all the memorable stories in Doctor Who have been about this in some way , from the what-if-the-Nazis-won of The Dalek Invasion Of Earth, through the whole of Tom Baker’s first series, through Curse Of Fenric, with villains like the Sontarans being caricature German officers, only missing a monocle.
The audios have returned to this theme a few times – sometimes rather clumsily just having the Doctor fight some Nazis, as in Colditz, but often looking more at the moral issues involved. Davros, for example, is ‘about’ Holocaust denial. This story, in so far as it is ‘about’ anything (and for the most part it’s actually about the human relationships involved, rather than about the subject of the plot) is about the morality of using data from Nazi ‘experiments’ to save lives (see this link if you’re unaware of the debate about this, but be warned – some of the stuff described there would turn anyone’s stomach). Actually, the debate is twisted a couple of times in this for plot purposes – it’s not a straightforward morality tale – but it at least nods to the issues, which is more than many supposedly more thoughtful stories do.
So while by no means the best of the Baker Big Finish stories, this is a good, solid story, raised above what it should have been by the performances of the two leads (and despite Bonnie Langford’s equal billing here, it really is a Sixth Doctor and Evelyn story). The only real annoyance (at least if you’re familiar with the rest of the stories referenced) is that the science at the end is so poor – I for one would like to see a ban on the use of the term ‘DNA’ from all SF/fantasy/superhero stories. DNA DOES NOT DO WHAT YOU THINK IT DOES, SF WRITERS! Today alone, I have ingested chicken DNA, potato DNA, corn DNA, wheat DNA, cow DNA and probably the DNA of a few other species as well. I have not yet turned into a horrible chickpocowheacow , and nor would I have had I injected same directly into my veins. See also black holes (I’m looking at *you*, new Star Trek film).
In general, it’s far better to just use made-up nonsense terms if you’re doing made-up nonsense science – using the real terms won’t make any difference to anyone who doesn’t understand them, and will only remove any suspension of disbelief from those who do.
But that apart, this is definitely worth a listen for Baker and Stables’ performances, and I only hope Big Finish will soon start giving this pairing some more solid stories together.