>Desert Island Discs

>A discussion which has brought an uncharacteristically interesting debate in middle class households throughout Britain has been – ‘What would be your Desert Island Discs?’ Well having finally heeded the call the good people at Radio 4 have given me the chance to make my choices official. Before you rise up in outrage that a nobody such as myself has been given such an honour you best realise that anybody can! Go here to post your own. For those unfamiliar with the format this is the BBC explanation:

” The format is simple – a guest is invited to choose eight discs, a book and a luxury to take with them as they’re castaway on a mythical desert island.  They’re given the complete works of Shakespeare and the Bible.  During the interview they explain their choices and discuss key moments in their lives, people and events that have influenced and inspired them and brought them to where they are today.”
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>The sound of conflict

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The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.”

John Stuart Mill, 19th century English economist and philosopher.

 

What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty or democracy?

Mahatma Gandhi

War has been a hot topic in the news with events in Libya bringing arguments for and against military action centre stage. I’m certainly not going to dwell on these arguments on a music blog – for fear of losing what’s left of my readership after 21 days of inaction which is tantamount to blogger suicide (in my defence I was busy sorting the aftermath of being burgled!). To return to the point, war has been a subject addressed by many artists over the years and the whole gamut of views have been covered. Edwyn Starr’s ‘War! (what is it good for?)’ stands apart as one of the greatest protest songs in history yet there have also been many gems supporting war. I strongly recommend this site  which has proved invaluable to me as a history teacher. Josh White’s ‘Berlin Blues’ from 1943 is a superb example of the quality of writing engaged in the propaganda of war. In this blog I will choose five songs linked to the theme of war and offer my views on each.

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>Melancholy Extra

>Good news, you can put your prayer mats away, I am officially now feeling better. To celebrate here are some videos of great melancholic tracks in the spirit of yesterday’s blog:

Brick by Ben Folds (live with orchestra)

>Come worship at the Church of Dylan.

>I could blog about the great Robert Zimmerman all day but I don’t have all day so instead have a few choice versions of his songs. Enjoy.

Marianne Faithfull covers Visions of Johanna

>Sounds like a Tim Burton movie…

>A slightly unsettling love of Laura Marling led to me deciding to have listen to these chaps – mainly due to the excellent name. The only other thing of interest I have discovered about them is the lead singer and writer is good friends with Robert Pattinson.

Been Listening by Johnny Flynn & The Sussex Wit 



So it seems folk is cool now. Well bloody good stuff as despite having plenty of cringe worthy moments as a genre it has give us some glorious, magical music whether it be Nick Drake, Joan Baez or more recent gems like Rachel Unthank and The Winterset. That’s without mentioning the obvious (initials: BD, answers to Zimmerman). So I was intrigued to listen to this album and see if Flynn is next in line to follow the success of Marling and Mumford & Sons. In all honesty, I don’t think they will. The opening track Kentucky Pill sets things off to a flyer and had this quality been maintained I would be absolutely raving about ‘Been Listening’ but unfortunately such heights are only briefly rivalled on a couple of other occasions on this album. A little too much brass and some frankly irritating percussion too often overshadows the talents of a sparkling lyricist. Flynn is capable of composing charming phrases which unmask a predilection for Shakespearean prose – I’m thinking in particular of ‘prickled interest seizing pride’ from the charming, wistful ‘Been Listening’. This flair for language is also effectively employed on the album stand-out ‘Barnacled Warship’ telling the story of an eager recruits transition to disaffected military campaigner. This track in particular made me think of the wonderful Decemberists album ‘Picaresque’ which is high praise indeed. Perhaps an unexpected negative is the duet with Laura Marling on ‘The Water.’ Perhaps my love of Marling is impeding my ability to fairly judge Flynn but I couldn’t help but feel this track would be better without him. His voice simply doesn’t compliment hers and there is no sense of harmonic synergy. The bluesy ‘Howl’ which follows is far better and transports the listener to a smoky bar.Flynn closes the album with two  ballads;  the beautiful Amazon Love, which features Lillie Flynn (presumably a relative) from Noah and the Whale, is a far more successful duet as the vocals are much more in harmony to create a track of pure velvet. Album closer ‘The prizefighter and the heiress’ has ambitions to be an epic but despite being a pleasant listens falls short of the grand statement it hoped to be.

I feel like Flynn is capable of great things and would perhaps be better served following a separate musical path from his band who consistently seem at odds with the talented writer. This is an enjoyable album but feels overall like an opportunity missed.

Definitely one to watch but far from the finished article yet. As a caveat I suspect this could be a grower and I could well scold my middling initial rating. I’ll keep you posted (if you excuse the pun).

Six out of Ten.