Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Ken's 2006 Review

Ken’s Best of 2006


Bob Dylan – Modern Times
The Beatles – Love
Tom Waits – Orphans
Bruce Springsteen – We Shall Overcome, The Seeger Sessions
Neil Young – live at the Fillmore 1970
Johnny Cash – American V
Arctic Monkeys – Whatever People say..

The Dylan album easily tops this poll, prob in my top 15 or 20 Dylan albums already – amazing band performance, much better vocals than we’ve heard recently and every song sounds like a genre piece from the 30s or 40s but not in so subconscious a way as Love & Theft. I’ve listened to it more than any new Dylan album I can remember (even Time out of Mind). Strongest songs – Nettie Moore, Workingmans Blues & Thunder on the Mountain. I just can’t warm to Ain’t Talkin though.
The Beatles Love album mostly works great. Obviously controversial to even attempt to remix what one music writer called ‘the greatest cultural achievement of the 20th century’ (ie the Beatles body of recorded work). Highlights are the Word/What You’re Doing/Drive my Car mash up and the new string arrangement over George’s demo of While My Guitar. I think the album will stand up to repeated listening, but at the end of the day we’ll still go back to the 13 original albums.
The Waits set is extraordinary – who knew he had so many gems tucked away, and the new songs are very good too.
The Neil release is a bit of a tame beginning to the much vaunted archive project – and only 5 out of the measly 6 songs are new to boot. But that said, it is a great document of an early Crazy Horse peak, especially the two loooonnnnggg songs!
The Springsteen album was surprisingly good – even if he did try to fleece us by re-releasing it 6 months later with bonus tracks. I never thought songs associated with the worthy but interminably dull Pete Seeger would be so swingin..
Ok so the Johnny album was obviously recorded over 3 years ago (one presumes, as he died in ’03) so it’s not really a new album. Well the vocals were at least. And then they added the music. Or something like that. Anyway, it’s all good. Esp the last song he ever wrote –Like the 309, but also the great covers of Further on up the Road, Legend in my Time and 4 Strong Winds.

Other albums I liked a lot this year were the Arctic Monkeys and Raconteurs. Esp the A.Monkeys – whatever their 2nd album is like this debut is gonna stand the test of time. Great lyrics, melodies, singing etc. You can’t go wrong with this one..
Albums I heard bits of and quite liked include – Joanna Newsome, Zutons, Sufjan Stevens and many others I’ve forgotten..

Dylan – 2nd night Boston
Springsteen – 3rd night Point (Autumn leg)
Ray Davies – Shepherds Bush
Jeff Tweedy – Vicar St
Waterboys – Olympia
Rolling Stones – Twickenham
Camille O’Sullivan – Olympia
Metallica – RDS
Mahlers 2nd Symphony – Nat Concert Hall

Those particular Dylan and Springsteen concerts have seriously got to be in my top 10 gigs ever. I only saw 2 of the recent Dylan tour – and the first of these was somewhat mediocre – but the 2nd was extraordinary. Most people there agreed – with many saying the performance of Nettie Moore the best thing they’d ever seen. By anyone! Ever!
Springsteen’s 2nd Euro leg of the year was incredibly, even better than the 1st. If you think the album swings, wait til you see it live. And he’s even managed to mix up the setlists and add in all sorts of gems from his own catelogue – no small achievement with a band this size (18 musicians!).
It was great to see Ray Davies at last – he can apparently be a bit cantankerous but I thought it was a generous gracious performance – lots of classic Kinks, not just the obvious famous singles, but also stuff from the great studio albums, plus some tracks from his fairly decent new album.
Tweedy was fantastic – the performances seemed even better than on his recent dvd.
The Waterboys were a revelation – never seen ‘em before. Very passionate stuff.
And I suppose the most hyped gig I saw was the Stones at Twickenham. Hugely entertaining, although I’d have my quibbles over a few things – Charlies drum sound, Jagger a bit low in the mix, occasionally looked like going through the motions.
Camille – one or two new songs, but basically the same show she’s had for a couple of years now. Very good stuff – but be nice to see here tackle some different songs – maybe deeper into the Tom Waits category and some more European language songs would be good?
Metallica was unbelievably nostalgic for me – they were really very good, so tight, incredibly well mixed sound – got a few bruises in the mosh pit and was left feeling my age but what the hell..


The Departed
The Wind that Shakes the Barley
The Prestige
Casino Royale

The Departed was one of the most entertaining and gripping films I can remember. It seemed each cast member was better than the rest. Surely Oscar time for Marty now..
Volver was quirky and funny and sad all at once
The Wind that Shakes the Barley was very good. Who’d have thought an English director would make a film like this.. Ken Loach? And didn’t he make the Queen this year as well? That was pretty good too..
The Bond movie was the best one in a while. Decent plot anyway, as it’s based on the best Fleming book, and cast, action and settings all lived up to the hype.


Betrayal – Gate
Lady Windemere’s Fan – Gate
The Faith Healer - Gate
A Month in the Country – Abbey
Krapp’s Last Tape – Gate

Betrayal was my highlight of the year. First time I’ve seen a Pinter play and it was a really good production. The Faith Healer was good, if slightly over rated. The old fella who played Teddy was better than Ralph Fiennes I thought. A Month in the Country was good, but for me, paled slightly by being on around the same time as Lady Windemere’s Fan which was hilarious, and the best ‘looking’ play I saw all year. Krapps Last Tape was alright – John Hurt very good admittedly.
I’m going to Anna Karenina and School for Scandal in the next few weeks anyway, so maybe I’ll change my mind about this part of the list..


Kazuo Ishiguro – Never Let me Go
Jimmy McDonagh – Shakey (Neil biography)
John McGahern – Memoir
Stephen King – Cell
Bob Rotella – The Golfers Mind

Another bad year for reading – just too busy. Just like the cinema – to which think I only went about 5 times.
Mostly I was reading old stuff anyway. Or music stuff. Or newspapers.
Anyway, in terms of new novels – I liked Never Let me Go. Not sure if this one was 05 or 06 but I really enjoyed it. A strange little book.
I only put the Stephen King book in there because it was such a good idea for a book. And the 1st half was amazing. Pity then, that it turned out to have such a bad 2nd half. Disappointing really.
The Neil biog is pretty good – and I haven’t read it cover to cover admittedly.
I re-read Dylan’s Chronicles – and it really holds up. As do John McGahern’s memorirs.
Bob Rotella golf psychology seems to work for me (up to a point). This book is pretty clear..


Ryder Cup

Obvious really. It was great to be there. But it would have been nice to see Harrington or Monty finish the job at the US Open. Although to be fair, winning the European order of Merit was a good achievement for Harrington.

Irelands Triple Crown and Munster’s Heineken Cup in rugby were enjoyable too..


Bleak House
Housewife, 49
Jane Eyre
The Sopranos

Haven’t caught much TV comedy, not mad about much of it these days, but Peep Show is fairly good. Catherine Tate is alright, but her new series is just more of the same..

Re music on TV, there’ve been a few decent one-offs and documentaries, but Jools Holland’s show is still the best ongoing music show.

Channel 4 seems to be leading the way in history documentaries these days, but there was nothing startling this year that I saw.. 2005 was better.

Bleak House may have been 05 also (?) but either way, nothing came close. Best thing the BBC have done in years. Best period drama ever?, best Dickens adaptation ever? Who knows..
Housewife 49, was a quiet little gem too though (a true story set in WW2) – just about beating Jane Eyre back into 3nd place for me..
The Sopranos was back with a short(ish) series. Good stuff as ever – much more low key than previous series’. I think there’s only 6 episodes to go – it’ll be interesting to see how they wrap things up. I’ve also been watching Lost (why did I ever start!) and ER. Neither is getting better.


Missed most of the major London exhibitions this year unfortunately. Saw one in the Tate which I can’t remember (!) and just missed the Constable one by a day or two.. Saw the ‘2 centuries of Irish Social Life’ at our Nat. Gallery tho which was alright. Also the newly re-opened Hugh Lane gallery is very impressive.
Simon Schama’s Power of Art TV programme was very good and the highlight of my art year (such as it was!) was probably seeing the amazing Boston Museum of Fine Arts – which coincidentally houses Turner’s Slave Ship as featured in the Schama programme. Well worth a visit if you’re in Boston, and I’d scarcely heard of it – it has a lot of old masters, Impressionists and loads of interesting American art I’d never heard of!


Obviously Dylan’s Theme Time Radio Hour – this has gone from strength to strength and is one of my all time highlights of the year! 35 or so shows in, it’s great that it’s now gonna be on the BBC. Obviously his presentation is a bit eccentric, but it turns out the big message he wants to impart these days is the enormous treasure trove of amazing music that he loves – most of it American and pre 1960s, and much of it obscure. Very funny show too.
Also, I’ve enjoyed John Kelly’s new show on Lyric FM and good to see Phantom FM go legal.
I’ve been trying to listen to more radio on the internet – BBC 3 (that Composer of the Week slot is very good) and 4 etc, but hope to catch a wider variety next year..

WELL – that’s it, no doubt I’ll change my mind about all this stuff in about 20 minutes! Feel free to disagree/rant/argue/ do your own damm list, or whatever..


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