MEDiA: Pioneer DVD Player… & SACD?

So… I have the Pioneer DV-565 A-S.

Years ago I bought two TEAC Hi-Fi separates. I think they were both pretty pricey n’all. Although I forget now exactly what I paid. One component was an amplifier. Which I still have. The other was a DVD-player. But it was a DVD-player that – I was told/sold – would play back audio CDs very well.

But, alas, the DVD player never worked. And I took it back under warranty to have it fixed. They say on it for over a year. And when I eventually said ‘it’s the working omachine back now, or a full refund; I’ve paid for a device I’ve not had for aeons…’ etc, they fobbed me off, as I saw it, with this unit.

Wanting this prompted this whole shebang.

I’m only just learning – maybe 15-20 years later? – that whilst it doesn’t look remotely like the replacement of like for like that I wanted, it might actually be an ok machine. And here’s why…

So gloovy… you get a poster n’ everything!

In seeking out various 50th Anniversary reissues of numerous ol’ musical favourites, I’ve learned that Sony Japan are reissuing lots of early Santana, including such wonders as Caravanserai and his Sri Chimnoy themed Mahavishnu collab’ Love Devotion & Surrender, in super-deluxe SACD versions.

I’ve never listened to this… I didn’t know I could.

I had a better than religious epiphany to The Life Divine, off this album, in my late teens. So this record has a very special place in my heart! But I was lamenting the fact that – out of around 1,000+ albums I own on CD, only one or two are SACD (eg Steely Dan’s Everything Must Go) – meaning I thought I’d have to fork out for an SACD player for the sake of a paltry two or three discs in my entire collection. Obviously not worth it!

But in researching ‘affordable SACD players’, I learned that I’ve already got a machine that’ll play SACD, and indeed have had one for donkeys years. I just didn’t know it! The people at Cambridge Hi-Fi, where I bought the two TEAC units originally, prob’ sold it to me with this as part of their patter. But I either didn’t hear; didn’t comprehend; and/or did, I forgot!

Just ordered this, for £9.99

So, having discovered I have an SACD playing DVD-player, I’ve finally ordered a new remote for it. The old one ceased working several years ago. This might also mean I can finally watch Police Squad without g’damn English subtitles!?

MUSiC: Dharmaland, Eden Ahbez/ÌXTAHUELE

What a groovy cover. And it’s… green!

This looks very intriguing. I’m listening to it now, via a stream on the Mr Bongo website. I love the name, and the cover design. And so far the music is rather lovely as well.

I haven’t delved into it much yet. But a quick look at the info on the aforementioned website (find that here) suggests it’s an ‘after the events/facts’ reconstruction, from Ahbez’s written scores, brought to life by a Swedish group, Ìxtahuele.

Eden Ahbez is famed for being a proto-hippy, and the composer of the jazz standard Nature Boy, as covered by everyone from Nat ‘King’ Cole to George Benson.

The vinyl is a bit steep (£35!). And vinyl’s not really my preferred format any more. I’ll see if it’s available on CD…

MUSiC: Arthur Verocai Blows My Gaskets

I need this 50th Anniversary Edition!

Listening to music in my car today. Itself an unusual thing these days. As I mostly prefer silence. After some Gal Costa, I went back to my recently acquired Mr Bongo Arthur Verocai reissue.

It’s not so much the fancy vinyl I’m after…

I’ve know that I liked the album for some time. And since I got it on CD, fairly recently, that’s turned from like to love. Today it all just went to 11 and beyond. I completely adore this recording. And listening to it today? It was an epiphany.

… as it is these other goodies!

I was in such a blissed out emotional overload, that I had to pull over and just stop and listen for a spell. Isn’t it odd how sometimes music suddenly just hits the mainline? Connecting with the cortex, and electrifying everything.

Verocai at work in the studio.

Everything about this recording is just, frankly, more or less perfect. In that amazing musical Goldilocks Zone. Neither too little nor too much, just the right amount

And I love the chords, the melodies, the harmonies. The timbre of the various instruments. The horn and string arrangements. The qualities of the vocals. And the magic of the instrumentals.

Arthur directs the strings.

There are so many things in the mix: it’s unmistakably Brazilian, yet it’s full of jazz, blues, pop, rock, funk and soul. Even fusion! And there are numerous moments where I’m left thinking things like: but that’s a Purdie shuffle vibe; or that’s the rambunctious 6/8 feel of The Life Divine… But this is Brazil, in ‘72!? It’s before those other things…

An alternate shot akin to the album cover.

The music here is both heir to its forebears, very much of its time, and yet also ahead of the curve. It’s an incredibly rich and heady blend. It’s kind of astonishing to think that it sank without trace, more or less, at the time.

Set the controls for the heart of the soul.

But it’s heartening to see that in time it’s come to be appreciated for the masterpiece that it is. And that other folk find it as enchanting as I do really makes me very deeply happy. Maybe there’s some hope for humanity after all?

What!? There’s also a green vinyl version!?

It’s kind of freaky, and bizarre, how so much aligns for me, around and within this release. It’s not just the music; it’s the time, the place, the spirit of it all. It’s how he looks. How the record looks. And even more so how it sounds. And then that Mr Bongo’s re-release aesthetics should also chime so perfectly!? How? Why? Maybe zeitgeist, I suppose?

MUSiC: Gal Costa’s India…

I’ve been listening to Gal Costa’s 1973 album India. It’s fabulous. It’s taking me out of my normal bossa and samba-jazz zones, into what I guess is a mix of traditional Brazilian music and MPB.

And this track, Relance, is a great example of that. Written by famed artist/composer Caetano Veloso, it’s based around a very funky and folksy cyclic accordion pattern. Both very trad’, and weirdly modernist. Something a lot of MPB I’ve encountered does.

The nearest I’ve come to this previously is in Marcos Valle’s later – by which I mean post ‘pure bossa’ stuff – from the late’60s a d into the ‘70s. That is also all over the map. And I love it. I se se B-road new vistas opening before me.

It can be b-b-bewildering. There’s so much to explore! B-b-butt… returning to Gal Costa, it doesn’t half help, as a way into her music, that she’s an absolutely b-b-bewitching siren!

HiSTORY/POLiTRiCKS: Hitler & Kids/Animals

‘Herr Hitler’ displays his cuddlier side.

I don’t recall now how it came up, but we had our pal Patrick over at the weekend, and at one point he mentioned the ‘jarring’ propaganda imagery of a famous ‘Hitler with Bambi’ type photo shoot.

From the same photo shoot.

I had my typical near allergic reaction to this contemporary pietist platitude, and went off on a rant about how I can’t abide the demonisation of Der Führer. And whilst this might initially seem foolish or shocking, there is – I feel – a very serious point that needs to be made, on this, erm… axis.

Also famously fond of pooches.

That point is, in a nuthatch (as Count Arthur Strong has it), that to demonise Adolf – who was ultimately just another human being – is to be guilty of his greatest sin against humanity. And that is to demonise anyone at all, by trying to deny or erase their humanity.

And children.

This strikes me as always good to remember. But maybe particularly so right now, what with the post-WWII legacy of the creation of the modern state of Israel, and how the latter is, right now, getting very heavily and dangerously into its own seemingly genocidal program, as certain powerful/ruling sections of Jewish society seek to obliterate all that is or once was Palestine, or the Palestinians.

The more the merrier.
Double whammy: kids and fluffy bunnies.

I might also add that the mere mention of Hitler and The Nazis can have a rather sad but simultaneously comical effect on people’s abilities to think, or to even countenance or contemplate thought – often outright dismissing the need for it, as a shorthand response to the invocation of these present day Demons – a subject rather wonderfully lampooned, in ways, by a Viz Comic Ken Livingstone strip:

Always makes me chuckle.

FOOTNOTE

As per usual, whilst writing this post, other stuff comes to my notice. Two of my favourite historical subjects – Napoleon and Hitler – are, between them, responsible for, or rather the subject of, seemingly inexhaustible fascination, leading in turn to whole industries in print.

Hitler’s only lasting empire; his historical legacy, grows continuously.
Sandner mit his Quotidian Opus.

The latest enormous written work on Adolf to come to my attention is Hitler’s Itinerary, by Harald Sandner. I believe the book/research has also spawned an online documentary series (view a trailer for that here). I’ll have to check that out. I haven’t checked this link yet, but it might either be the book, or at least some portion of it…

Hitler hugs Rosa Bernile Nienau, a girl of known Jewish ancestry.*

Anyway, for the moment this is just a place-marker, to remind myself of these books/programmes, etc. And not a deep dive into the subject of good and evil, or the demonisation of either individuals or whole groups of people.

* Apparently this photo recently sold, at auction somewhere in America, for around $11,000. Taken by Hitler’s personal photographer, Heinrich Hoffman, it commemorates and celebrates his friendship with a girl named Rosa, who Hitler knew full well had Jewish ancestry. Rosa didn’t die in a gas chamber, succumbing instead to spinal polio, in 1943.

It would seem that Hitler’s friendship with Rosa was the subject not just of this one photo, but of many. Indeed, a number of such images were made into a series of postcards, and used in the popular small photo-book collections of images of Hitler that his Third Reich propaganda ministry flogged to an eager public.

A colour postcard version of Rosa mit ‘Uncle Hitler’.
‘Birthday feast’ and ‘Farewell’, from what looks like a photo-book.
‘Thanks for the birthday invitation‘.

Eventually, and predictably, by 1938, Hitler’s cronies secured a ban on Rosa and her mother visiting Hitler. Because, of course, of her insufficiently ‘pure’ Aryan bloodline. Nazism in dolorous – if not most evil – action. I’ve read online that their friendship went back to 1933, or even earlier. And that in all that time Adolf had been aware of her having a Jewish grandparent.

Do these images, and their ‘hidden history’, tell us anything? Are they proof of anything, either Hitler’s occasionally more amiable humanity, or the inconsistencies of his less reasonable inhumanity? Those are questions this post touches on, but doesn’t address.

MEDiA/FiLM: Pafnucio Santo, 1977

Wow! What a bonkers thing this is…

A rather cool still from the title sequence.

I like strange films. Well, I quite like some strange films. And I think this is one of those I, um… dig.

Goggles, long before ‘steamp**k’.

It’s Mexican, and it’s from way back, in ‘77.

There are several recurring characters in this quite bizarre and possibly rather surrealist film. The guy above, with his black outfit, goggles, and vintage bicycle. A youngster in an American style football outfit (I think… a girl?).

One of several alluring sirens.

And there are also numerous characters from history, some specific (Cortes and Frida Kahlo, for example), and some more generalised (Klu Klux Klansmen, Jewish children, soldiers, footballers, etc).

Say what… Auschwitz in a Mexican desert!?

Then there’s the visual and sonic aesthetics. Visually I’d say this is stunning. In places an outright pictorial masterpiece. And sonically it’s very interesting as well. There are strongly emphasised (over-emphasised?) sound effects, such as the tinkling bells in the naked belly dancer sequence, and amazing use of music, mostly ‘classical’, some folk.

What a great image/scene.

I skimmed through the entire movie this evening, watching certain segments more fully than others, and gathering images for this post. I’d really love to watch this, either online, on DVD, or however, at a properly high or cinematic resolution.

Green and wet…

I was able to watch what looks like a transfer from video, here…

Quite a lot of the film is shot in a very arid bleak desert like setting. But other parts are very contrasted, such as the verdant and watery place – pictured both above and below – or the several intriguing buildings.

Just… wow! Wonder where this was filmed?

Mexico is, it would appear, ripe with settings that make for very rich visual imagery.

Cortes and some pigs.
Very Edenic. She’s also singing, by the way.
Hard to discern in this still; but there’s a boat or barge, made of greenery, floating along.

There are times when visually I’m reminded of certain artists, from a very spare minimalist take on Breughel or Bosch, to Impressionism, or Surrealism.

Ladies in a mangrove clump.
So striking.

I wonder if there’s any info online about the locations the films uses?

More powerfully iconic scenes.

A number of themes run like threads throughout, and range from good and evil, to religion, militarism, power and conquest, and Hispanic or Mexican culture and traditions.

And, without making a big deal about it, the human body – very notably in the opening sequence (referencing nakedness and shame) – is used in a very bold, loose and fascinating manner.

A striking degree of gender plasticity – particularly with females in male roles – partakes more of long-standing older folksier traditions, albeit reversing the usual trad’ sex-swap roles (where men or young boys played female parts), than it does of modern transgender politics. It’s not quite pantomime, but it’s on that axis

A naked but moustachioed lady.

What it’s all about, I have as yet no real idea. As well as the Auschwitz/Holocaust reference, earlier in the film, there’s a segment nearer the tail end of the movie, that suddenly and inexplicably changes from Spanish, which one might expect in a Mexican movie, to German.

The End.

Some weirdo art-house stuff is, frankly, unwatchable. This, however, I found both compelling and fascinating, if also rather discombobulating. It’s certainly odd. And in large parts it’s also mesmerically beautiful.

It’s also a refreshing reminder of how film can stray a long way from the pulpy mainstream stuff we’re continually bombarded with. Fascinating!

Corkidi at work.

FOOTNOTE

This film was directed by Rafael Corkidi, who did the cinematography for a few of Alejandro Jodorowsky’s movies. I’ll have to revisit my Jodorowsky box, and check them out… (again?).

PS

As a further wee footnote, whilst trying to learn more about this film, I discovered that Emperor Tomato Ketchup isn’t just the name of a 1996 Stereolab album. It was a Japanese experimental film, long before that, way back in ‘71. Apparently it shares some thematic elements with Pafnucio Santo, but takes everything to more controversial extremes.

A poster for the Emperor Tomato Ketchup film.

MUSiC: Gordon Lightfoot

1970 LP, Sit Down, Young Stranger.*

* A rare original pressing, of the album as initially intended, sans front-cover text.

Having Canadian ancestry, and relatives that still live there, it’s perhaps not too surprising that I should, at some point, become aware of Gordon Lightfoot. What is surprising is how long this has taken.

Sit Down, Young Stranger (1970) became a big success for the already veteran performer, on account of containing his greatest hit to date. The album title has subsequently been changed to If you Could Read My Mind, on account of the massive popularity of this track.

The hit single. I do so love green!

Up until now, I was only dimly aware of ‘Gord’’. And vague un-tested assumptions had me bracketing him as dull mainstream country-tinged MOR. Will a closer listen change this view, I wonder?

Perhaps motivated by his fairly recent passing, in 2023, aged 84, and the comments on this by Canadian family (a cousin saying Lightfoot was ‘the soundtrack to my life’, for example), I’ve decided I ought to check him out.

More groovy green!

And to that end I ordered a CD of his 1970 album, which is, as already mentioned, now retitled If You Could Read My Mind.

MUSiC: Richie Havens

My first taste…

Like most – or at least many – folk, I’d guess, I discovered Richie Havens thanks to his Woodstock performance. Slated to appear fifth on the bill, he wound up opening the festival, due to other performers arriving late.

I’ve read that the whole show started three hours late. And I’ve also read, in several quotes from from Richie himself (now deceased), that he played a massively long set – he says three hours!? – due to the no-show of the aforementioned acts.

He alludes to the fact that the movie only features him performing two songs – which research suggests were Handsome Johnny and Freedom/Motherless Child – whilst he actually played many more. I can’t find a list suggestive of his three hour claim, but I did find one place listing these titles:

From The Prison
High Flyin’ Bird
I Can’t Make It Anymore
With A Little Help From My Friends
Handsome Johnny
Freedom/Motherless Child

Richie’s Woodstock gear, at the Bethel Woods Museum.

Whatever the true contents and duration of his set were, his position on the bill, and inclusion in the movie, catapulted the coffee-house folkie-scenester to stardom. Just as it did for some other acts, notably Santana.

I recall my dad having misty-eyed reveries in respect of Havens in particular, back when I was a kid living at home, and I first saw the Woodstock movie. It had a pretty profound influence on me, back then.

Over the years I’ve occasionally dipped into Havens’ bag. But only ever very lightly and superficially. I feel the time has come to check him out a bit more thoroughly. Whether I actually will or not, remains to be seen. But the interest/desire is there.

Ironically it was kickstarted by the very recent discovery of Kathy Smith, and esp’ her second album, artfully titled 2, which was released on Havens’ own small independent record label, Stormy Forest.

Havens had his own record label.

Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, the label appears to still exist. At any rate, there’s a website of that name. Check it out here.

LOCAL HiSTORY: Aerial Photos of March/Creek Road

RAF aerial photo of March, poss’ 16/1/‘56?

I’m a member of a FB local history group. Someone posted a link to a national database of aerial photos. I checked out a few of March, to see if I could find our home.

Sadly I can’t work out how to download the full scale photo. So both images in this post are screenshots off my iPhone. Hardly ideal! At the top is the full photograph. And below is a zoom in on Creek Rd.

Creek Road, with the river at top left.

Rather confusingly these photos are upside down, in terms of North/South! I’m going to cross reference these images with Google Earth views, and see if I can pinpoint our place.

Here we are on Google Earth.

In the above pic, from Google Earth, north-south alignment is nearer to correct. I was able to find ours, thanks to it being end of terrace, and next door to a house with a different roof structure/pattern.

So here we are, on the ol‘ photo, c. 1956.

The tennis courts and some other recreational green spaces (middle right, on the above image), behind The Conservative Club – which abut our back garden – are in better condition in these old photographs than they are now.

The third, or lower section (actually the northernmost!), is quite a neat area in the black and white image, above. Now, however, it’s an overgrown scrubby wilderness. I wonder if it might be returned to a nicer state, for the benefit of those, like us, living around it?