Ronson scores

Looking through my itunes collection sorted by purchase date, it is moderately obvious that I don’t buy a lot of music by contemporary ’new’ artists. There is Metronomy, Daft Punk, Bluey, Wickford’s own ‘The Milk’, The Submotion Orchestra and a few other stragglers, but the vast majority of new music is by old favourites such as Donald Fagen, Matt Bianco, Swing Out Sister, Prefab Sprout or Incognito. All gracefully ageing survivors of the seventies or eighties, they fill my ipod with comfort music – the equivalent of Friday’s SpagBol. So it comes with moderate surprise that for the last few days I have been listening constantly to Mark Ronson’s ‘Uptown Special’. Actually, this is no surprise, as it pretty much sounds like a pastiche of some of the most successful seventies and eighties styles. I have no idea how he came up with up the idea of making a seventies/eighties homage album, but it’s all there: James Brown’s rare grooves mixed with old school rap, Alan Parson’s soft rock, Steely Dan chords, Moogish bass lines with synth licks that sound like they come straight out a Juno and there’s even the real Steve Wonder making an appearance. This oevre was bought on the reputation of ‘Uptown Funk’ which must have been the first single that excited me since – wait a minute, I’ll get there in a minute – sorry can’t remember. This bastard child (the single, not Mark Ronson) of Cool and the Gang, Prince and Bootsy Collins is such a joy to listen to that even on the way to work one does a bit whistling (or even throwing in the odd dance step on arrival, severely upsetting the staff). Apparently Ronson is the stepson of Foreigner’s Mick Jones – a man with a knack for the odd million seller – who made Ronson listen to his newest records in the middle of the night, so maybe this is some sort of psychological workup of his involuntary exposure to eighties pop in the middle of the night, but It’s a long time since I had so much fun listen to new music, so I couldn’t care less: I am happy to have paid my dues to support Ronson’s apparently fabulous lifestyle a bit longer, and long may he exploit the previous decades a bit further.

The Pursuit Of Making Your Favourite Music Sound Better

So I recently bought a SACD player.

A what?

A Super Audio CD player.


Good Question. There are a few albums that I like so much, I would really, really like to listen to them as close to the original as possible. While I do have my trusty turntable, some albums are just not available (or very expensive) on vinyl. There are also some albums that were recorded so perfectly, that a crap transfer to CD with loads of compression on the way can just ruin your listening experience. That’s where the SACD player comes in. The main difference between your normal CD and the SACD format is bandwidth: A CD packs ca 400MB of digitized music, while a SACD contains 3.7 GB. There is also a difference in encoding (PCM vs SDS) but that would be too technical. Anyway, the ultimate selling point is that the listening experience is much closer to the original recording (especially for old material that was recorded analogue) as the format is almost lossless. So yesterday my poor postman brought another package to chez fordie, containing this:


It looks very nice on the mantlepiece, next to the royal family  next to the other gear and so far was has been given the nod by the best girlfriend ever. The first SACD I bought was of course my all time favourite, the original Bossa Nova album by Getz/Gilberto. The experience is indeed impressive, with Astrud and Stan even more present in the room and now I am on the hunt to find my top ten albums ever on this format. My current charts on Last.FM suggest that I am going to struggle to find the majority of the albums I have listened to most over the last 5 years, as the chart looks like this (and yes, I know, my taste in music is atrocious):

  1. Matt Bianco
  2. Incognito
  3. ABC
  4. Steely Dan
  5. Pet Shop Boys
  6. Crowded House
  7. Mezzoforte
  8. The Style Council
  9. Was (Not Was)
  10. Level 42

There doesn’t seem to be any SACD releases out there by ABC, Incognito, Pet Shop Boys, Was (not Was) and Level 42, but there are plenty of great jazz and classic recordings out there, and as the Steely Dan records are really the most important (as most meticulously produced) I am sure I’ll be able to gather a nice little collection. There is quite an active community around SACDs and I’m sure that I will be able to source everything I need to be an even happier listener.

Now all I have to do is find the 40 quid for the Japanese SACD of Aja.


A well known member of the London blogosphere last night admitted to having no clue what ‘Jazz-Funk’ is. Even though he is almost as old as me.

Well, here are some examples:

I hope this was instructive.

Incognito live in London


…and so it came to pass that Scottish bloke and I arranged to meet in London to see Bluey. Staying in a moderately comfy hotel in Bloomsbury, it was only a ten minute stroll to Camden Centre where that little bundle of joy was going to play with his current choice of musicians. Camden Centre has the feeling of a high school gymnasium but was soon filled with a pleasant and peaceful crowd, complaining about some terrible pear cider that cost a cool 4 pounds per can. The alternative was that highlight of the lager world, the moderately intolerable Sagres. Only 3 pounds per can. Pfft. At 9pm the band arrived, and by now I could honestly say that I did not recognise any of the current members of Incognito (apart from Bluey of course). Fortunately Imani made a small guest appearance, so I knew two of the people on stage (and of course Alex van den Bosch, Matt Bianco’s perennial happy percussionist). The concert was excellent: great choice of songs, a happy crowd, musicians obviously in a good mood. Big letdown was the sound though. Distorted vocals, lacking bass (the poor bassplayer obviously worked very hard, but unfortunately nothing of his efforts came through the mix). Maybe next time they should try to use some other speakers then those two living room units. 

Nevertheless, two blissful, pulsating hours. Scottish bloke was seen tapping his foot, which is pretty much the highest accolade among his kin.


Update 26.4.09 18:36 : Bluey apologised for the crap sound on Incognito’s website. 

The Soundtracks accompanying our lives


Mark R and Mark F of Matt Bianco inspecting a handsome ruin.

A long time ago, in my teen and twens, I used to look down on the sort of adult who would go to see sixties and seventees revival concerts. Why would you want to see artists whose prime was obviously over and their live appearances only motivated by the need to make a couple of quick bucks, I asked myself. Why would you go and see these codgers when contemporary music offers you so many thrills?

Ah, the arrogance of youth.

By the time I turned thirty I had already been to my first eighties revival concert (ABC/Human League/Culture Club {brr}). So much for contemporary music. The next month I will be buying my 12th Matt Bianco album (no wanker jokes, please!) and tonight I will be seeing Incognito for the, er, eighth (?) time live on stage. I have caught myself listening to Radio 2 and even cheerfully chuckle to Terry Wogan’s jokes (sometimes) and have been seen violently raging against the humourless, misogynistic shite that is modern R&B. My Ipod is full of Steely Dan, Miles Davis, Mezzoforte, The James Taylor Quartet, The Style Council, Jazzanova and other acts that are way past their prime (or have just vanished into the ether).  If I ever would have to pick a song that has accompanied as long as I can remember it would be MB’s ‘Summer Song’. Sad? I don’t know.

There must be an explanation the humans get more set in their ways musically and prefer the comforts of the music that shaped them when they whippersnappers. I try to keep us as mucyh as I can with contemporary music, but apart from Hot Chip and the Klaxons I haven’t really discovered anything that suits my elevator music taste.  Is there are neurobiological explanation, or is this purely behavioural. It’s not that we can’t enjoy new things once we have hit thirty: books, movies, theatre, people, all these can be interesting and new and be added to the list of things we like and follow, but somehow music seems to be except from that list.

If anybody is aware of any qualitative or quantitative work on this, the sclerotic attitude of men > 30 on contemporary music, please pass them on to me.

I might just find out what is wrong with me.