Sunday, September 26, 2010

Lisa Gerrard

I have a love/hate relationship with blogging. There are days when I can think of many things to write about, others where I just draw a blank. I let it go for a month or so, then get back into it when I do discover a topic that I want to share. I always look for new music and artists, ones that flew under my musical radar and were just waiting for me to find it. I found one last night.

I was looking around YouTube viewing videos of ambient (or new age) artists. We had The Band's" The Last Waltz" on the TV, so I had one ear on that and the other on YouTube.  YouTube is my main source for this, since stopped offering songs to preview. I was watching videos of a favorite band of mine, Bel Canto, featuring Anelli Drecker on vocals. I noticed that people were comparing them to Dead Can Dance. I had never heard of them so I looked them up and started watching to videos. The lead singer is Lisa Gerrard, who is famous for singing Now We Are Free, from the movie Gladiator. I have heard her name before but never really got around to listening to her.

She is just not of this earth. Her vocal style is beyond words.
Her vocals have been described as rich, jaw-dropping, deep, dark, mournful, and unique. She sings many of her songs, such as Now We Are Free and Sanvean in an idioglossia (an idiosyncratic language) that she has developed since the age of twelve.

Lisa was born in 1961 in Melbourne, growing up in a Greek-Turkish with Irish parents who loved Mediterranean music. This influenced her music, particularly on later Dead Can Dance albums and in her solo and collaborative works.

She was with Dead Can Dance until 1998, when she embarked on a solo career. She has worked on many films, with Gladiator being one of the most well-known.

She received a Golden Globe Award for the music score to the film Gladiator, on which she collaborated with Hans Zimmer and Klaus Badelt.

She has just released DEPARTUM, the new joint collaboration with Marcello De Francisci.

Here are few samples of her singing.

My favorite, The Sea Whisperer. I am not sure she actually sings on the soundtrack of this movie, City of Angels. It could be just what the maker of the video used.Regardless, I love this song.

From the movie, Henry Poole is Here, called "On An Ocean." This is a video made by a fan, which has nothing to do with the movie.

A collboration with Orbital, called One Perfect Sunrise

I could put a lot more up, but I will leave it up to you to explore. 

Lisa is an incredible singer and artist, and I look forward to discovering her music. I hope many of you agree. This is not  your traditional style of music. Listen to it with an open mind, and with headphones on! Close your eyes and just let the music take you to another place.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Hank Marvin - Influential Guitarist

When I was just little kid, maybe about 6 or 7 a record came into my possession. The year would have been 1968 or so. It was a 45 rpm, on the Atlantic label. I am fairly certain it came to me by my uncle who was a DJ in the early 60s.

The record was by the Shadows, a band from England formed in the late 50s. They were one of the first bands to use the four-member rock-group format - lead guitar, rhythm guitar, bass guitar and drums.

The songs on the 45 were “The Frightened City” and “FBI”. The song “FBI” caught my young ears, many years before I ever learned to play guitar. To this day, when I take out this record and play it, it brings back memories of me sitting in my room, with my old 45 rpm record player by my side, discovering the joy of rock guitar.

Hank Marvin was the lead guitarist and main soloist in the Shadows. He quickly became one of, if not the best, guitarists in England.

He played and owned the first Fender Stratocaster in the UK, serial number 34346, finished in Fiesta Red, with gold hardware. This guitar, with its vibrato arm, contributed to the Shadows' sound. The guitar was imported from America by Cliff Richard.

His tome was achieved using this Stratocaster, a Vox amplifier (AC15 and AC30 models) and a tape echo machine.

The story on the Stratocaster goes like this:
In 1959, Marvin and Richard searched through a Fender catalogue to find the model of guitar played by James Burton, Ricky Nelson's lead guitarist. They assumed that Burton's guitar was a Stratocaster, because the most expensive guitar in the brochure was a gold-plated example with a red body and a one-piece Maple neck. Burton, however, played the telecaster, and the Stratocaster was a relatively new model, available only to special order.

Richard made the arrangements and the chosen guitar was imported specially for Marvin, who used it between 1959 and 1961. It remained Richard's property and was returned to him when Jennings Musical Instruments outfitted the whole group with matching Fiesta Red Fender guitars, which featured necks with rosewood fingerboards.

Hank Marvin was VERY important to the world of rock guitar. He influenced countless young guitarists all over the world, including George Harrison, David Gilmour, Mark Knopfler, Gary Moore, Ritchie Blackmore, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page and many more. He was not a star in America, as the Shadows never really made it big here. But in the U.K. and much of Europe, his impact was great.

His use of the Stratocaster was also important, as not many well known guitarists were using them, other than Buddy Holly. The Stratocast was not the top of the line guitar in the Fender catalog at that time, with the Jazzmaster and Jaguar being ahead of it.

Hank is still actively playing guitar, recording and performing all over the world.
Here are but a few of the many videos that are on YouTube.

FBI - Not sure how they managed to dance like that and play at the same time!

Apache - the first big hit

Sleepwalk - one the best instrumentals ever. Rockin' with tuxes on!

With another guitar great, Dick Dale

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

What the Future Sounded Like

If you like electronic music (and I do!) here is a short film about the early days of synthisizers, going back to the advent of the EMS VCS-3, which dominated "Dark Side of the Moon" by Pink Floyd. Very interesting film that shows how the British music scene started using these back in the late 60's and into the 70's. This was all new to people back then.