Mezzoforte Live in Reykjavik

I have always had a soft spot for that most impossible of outfits, a fusion/jazz-funk quartet from Reykjavik called Mezzoforte. Since their first (and pretty much only) hit ‘Garden Party’ back in 1980 they have been hovering in this strange twilight zone between obscurity and the ‘oh, I think I have heard of them’ remarks. This of course proves my friend C’s point that I have a penchant for what he calls ‘elevator music’. Mezzoforte made some cracking albums in the eighties, full of impressive bass slapping, ‘oooo deee aaahing’ background vocals by barely post pubescent men from Iceland and some great melodies. Then there was a lull and they returned with some more albums that still had some bass slapping but less catchy melodies and more ‘adult’ jazzy bits (with other words, it wasn’t as good anymore). Because they’ve been around for a good thirty years now, they produced a 2 – cd live album (Live In Reykjavik) with the ‘deluxe’ version sporting an extra DVD, catching it all on video.

So far so dandy. Of course I had to have it, so when triple pack of digital goodness arrived I whacked the first CD into the player and was waiting for some good old sweaty musicianship with plenty of crowd noises and ‘Good evening Luton, er, Reykjavik’ shouts. Instead I heard what I thought was the studio versions. Checked the CD: nope, says ‘live’.  Popped the DVD in: yes, there they were, a bunch of middle aged men, nodding their heads, swaying gently, but not much else, surrounded by a couple of dozen appreciative listeners. But it still sounded like the studio versions of their songs, with the slight minute aberration from the original. Just not quite as good.

Bottomline: If you fancy Mezzoforte, buy the remastered versions of ‘Surprise Surprise’ and ‘Observations’. Stay clear of this rather luke warm collection that’s neither offering a live atmosphere nor the energy of the originals.

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.