Michael Brook

You may not know the name Michael Brook, composer, producer, musician, but it’s very possible you have heard his music or seen a film where he has contributed to the soundtrack. Films like “An Inconvenient Truth”, “Brooklyn” or “The Perks Of Being A Wallflower”.

We first heard Mr B when he opened a concert for Fripp and Sylvian at the Royal Albert Hall. He also played with the band, using his “infinite guitar“. His solo set is not available, but the Fripp/Sylvian concert is on CD.

He has done a lot of film and production work, and many collaborations, but we want to commend his solo albums.

Cobalt Blue/Live At The Aquarium are both great albums and are available together (1992).

We love the album RockPaperScissors (2006) or Bellcurve (2007), a mixture of orchestral, guitar, songs, poetry. Bellcurve is technically a remix of the other but both are great to listen to, full of invention and a great overall sound.

The only problem with Mr Brook is that his music is hard to find on physical media, but it can be found. Even finding clips is hard:

But not impossible:

Red and Blue

THE BEATLES is an album by The Beatles which many people find hard to name, so they call it “The White Album”.

After the group ground to halt, manager Allen Klein decided to milk their back catalogue by producing two double albums of reasonably random tracks named 1962-1966 and 1967-1970. Beatles’ fans cannot manage this either, so they call them Red and Blue.

The songs were good, of course. They were presented in roughly chronological order. The sound quality was, um, OK and the packaging was minimal, but they both did well.

Jump forward to today and these have been re-mixed and expanded and are now out, either singly (as two 3 vinyl disc sets) or in a box. Also two double cds and streaming.

Just to be clear, the originals were two vinyl discs each, these are three. The early songs have been re-mixed and both sets have an extra disc of, er, extras. The box is selling for £150 upwards.

So many commentators have spoken or written about it, so here are some of their thoughts:

  • the price – there are no new tracks here, indeed the second set is simply tracks that have already been re-released and recently, just repackaged. At least the first discs have new re-mixes that people seem to be 50-50 about. That’s an awful lot of money for nothing really new. The cds are more ‘normal’.
  • the track order – the cd versions add new tracks in the correct chronological order. The vinyl adds a complete extra disc. You can understand why this was done – to have two vinyl discs in each faithful to the original releases
  • the second set (blue) – 1967 to 1970, yet it includes Now And Then. 2023, surely? The title is misleading. And where is Free As A Bird, or Real Love?
  • extras – none to speak of, same covers, same pictures, not glossy.
  • more of George – well, that’s good.
  • improved ‘proper’ stereo – again good.
  • variable mixes – lack of consistency (maybe that’s a personal choice)
  • altered songs – the end of I Am The Walrus, for example.
  • too loud percussion
  • tracks left off – well, we can all say ‘why wasn’t XXX included’. If we carry on like that, we have the full Beatles’ catalogue. Releasing these does not prevent us buying anything else.
  • gullible Beatles’ fans…

Now And Then again

A couple of weeks ago, we wrote about the ‘new’ Beatles’ single Now And Then. Since those who want to must have heard it, several times perhaps, here are some comments. Yes, sorry, so many have chipped in with stuff, so just ignore this. And if anything is factually wrong, please let me know.

Remember that it started as a sketch for a song recorded by Lennon is his flat (apartment). Some people have said that Lennon would have loved this record. Well, they don’t know that, he has been dead for so long, anymore than I do. His recording has noise and flaws, and perhaps if Lennon really had thought something about it he would have re-recorded it. Perhaps.

There are parts of the original song that are not used in the new version too, which some people are upset about.

Many people have judged it on its technical achievement. Fine, but in a couple of years time it will seem poor work and more sophisticated tools will be available. People will want to revisit it, just as they are wanting to re-do Real Love and Free As A Bird now. And it should still be judged as a song, a Beatles’ song.

Since people are talking about the technology, let us say a bit. McCartney has said John’s voice has not been altered, but it plainly has. Listening to it, I find it hard to recognise Lennon’s voice. McCartney’s sounds strange. His is not good these days, hey, he’s old, and his voice sounds manilpulated too.

The very nature of how Lennon’s voice was extracted means it must have been manipulated. The way I understand it, correct me if I’m wrong, is that the computer system ‘learns’ the voice, then reconstitutes it from the original track. It’s like a Star Trek transporter – a person’s constituent parts are analysed, the data is sent to, well, somewhere and the person is recreated.

Paul has said it’s The Beatles playing together again, one last time. Plainly this is not true. Ringo Starr recorded his part in the USA and sent it in as a file. Two of them are dead. The demo comes from 1977 (maybe) so it is not a new song in that sense. Maybe ‘new’ is stretching it a bit…

George Harrison’s contribution is not clear. It is said he recorded some guitar part for the original attempts and these were extracted and used, but they are just part of the mix, but that’s fine. Also, there’s a guitar solo, but it is not Harrison, rather Paul playing in the Harrison style. So if you see a review that says “Harrison’s great guitar solo”, it isn’t.

And the harmonies are lifted from elsewhere.

McCartney does the rest. He said he just missed playing with his bandmates, and maybe he did, or is it just a vanity project for him. He certainly doesn’t need the money.

The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band

We used to live near Muswell Hill. One day, my parents from up north came to visit and we went for lunch at the legendary Clissold Arms. On the way home, we passed a tall gentleman ambling along Fortis Green Road. It was Vivian Stanshall. We said good day to him and he replied “My dear old chap”. I explained who he was to my parents. ‘Oh, we recognised him straight away’ they said.

Mr Stanshall was the face of the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, or the Bonzo Dog Band, or just The Bonzos. He was an instantly recognisable character, and the world is a worse place now he is gone.

The Bonzos were founded in south east London in the mid-1960s. They were quite inclined to more traditional comedy style jazz tunes. In those early days, the line up was flexible, and there’s a whole history relating to other bands like The Pasedena Roof Orchestra and Bob Kerr’s Whooppee Band, but we will skip that here.

Rodney Slater, one of the original founders and player of all things brass, woodwind and, well anything, kept the band going as people came and went and there was a slow move towards rock comedy rather than jazz comedy.

Neil Innes joined on guitars and keyboards. The line up was always fluid, but the best known line up is Stanshall, Slater, Innes, Roger Ruskin Spear, Larry Smith and Dennis Cowan.

Before they reached this line up, albums had been produced. The first is Gorilla (1967).

This has some classic tracks, including Death Cab For Cutie, The Intro And The Outro and I’m Bored. While a little basic, it’s a hugely enjoyable LP.

Next was an appearance in The Beatles’ film Magical Mystery Tour (1967), singing Death Cab For Cutie.