Monday, May 23, 2005

With friends like this...

I spent last weekend in the beautiful surroundings of Abbey Farm in rural Cambridgshire with the most wonderful (and beautiful) bunch of people I have ever come across.


From left to right, those smiling faces are:

the wise man Guann-Yeu Chin, the very lovely Heather Jones, our host Simon Duke, the delightful Heather Penfold, myself and the very excitable Mark Thomas.

There was eating and merryment, shooting and singing, laughing and crying. May it not be long before we meet again.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Lion Mutilates 42 Midgets in Cambodian Ring-Fight

Perhaps this would be better suited to Monty Python, but unfortunately it's true. I found this story on the BBC News website.

Spectators cheered as entire Cambodian Midget Fighting League squared off against African Lion. Tickets had been sold-out three weeks before the much anticipated fight, which took place in the city of Kâmpóng Chhnãng.

The fight was slated when an angry fan contested Yang Sihamoni, President of the CMFL, claiming that one lion could defeat his entire league of 42 fighters.

Sihamoni takes great pride in the league he helped create, as was conveyed in his recent advertising campaign for the CMFL that stated his midgets will "... take on anything; man, beast, or machine." This campaign is believed to be what sparked the undisclosed fan to challenge the entire league to fight a lion; a challenge that Sihamoni readily accepted.

An African Lion (Panthera Leo) was shipped to centrally located Kâmpóng Chhnãng especially for the event, which took place last Saturday, April 30, 2005 in the city’s coliseum. The Cambodian Government allowed the fight to take place, under the condition that they receive a 50% commission on each ticket sold, and that no cameras would be allowed in the arena. The fight was called in only 12 minutes, after which 28 fighters were declared dead, while the other 14 suffered severe injuries including broken bones and lost limbs, rendering them unable to fight back.

Sihamoni was quoted before the fight stating that he felt since his fighters out-numbered the lion 42 to 1, that they “… could out-wit and out-muscle [it].”

Unfortunately, he was wrong.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Creamy Goodness

My good friend Eggs, was at his first, and probably last, Cream gig at the Royal Albert Hall recently. He went with his aging rocker father to learn how things used to be done…

I must say it was a surreal seeing a trio of OAP's playing the most extravagant solos I have ever seen or heard. I have a confession; that the only Cream I had ever heard previously was with my dad. This is not necessarily a bad thing. I think you appreciate ‘new’ music more when introduced by someone with a passion for it, they tell you why they find the particular tracks, or aspects of them, exciting.

Cream said nothing all night. No commentary, no pauses for breath, simply two hours of none stop Cream, pretty much the whole back catalogue. Strolling on stage as calm as you like and beginning crisply with 'I'm so glad' they never really looked back from there.

We were expecting to be in the stalls, and found ourselves two down from the Royal box, straight in front of the stage, with a commanding view of the hall. As for the atmosphere, it initially appeared as though I had come to a beetle drive or an accounting conference, but even the middle aged know how to let go. My dad was out of his seat straight away, strutting around the back of the box playing air guitar/drums and singing along. We had to ask him to pipe down about halfway through as he was getting louder than the group. I guess my only real disappointment with the evening was the volume. For a group who set the trend for setting their amps at 11 (despite me thinking that was spinal tap) they were a little mute for me. That was all forgotten when they built to a crescendo-ing end; 'Toad' Ginger Baker, arthritic knee and all, produced an 8 minute drum solo reciting a whole text book of off-beat rythms utilising the entire drum kit in every conceivable way, even a token rim-shot or two made an appearance.

I suppose the encore was the best, with electricity in the air out came 'Sunshine of your Love'. Simply Wow. Nothing more to be said. I didn't leave for twenty minutes, bathing in the fact it was possible the last time the original supergroup would play together, but that my first time seeing them was a true priviledge.


Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Ryan Adams & The Cardinals

Here's my review for the long-awaited Cold Roses. Many thanks to Ross for his literary guidance.


It was hard to predict what form Cold Roses would take. Since the collapse of Ryan Adams' pioneering Americana band Whiskeytown, he's made the forlorn Heartbreaker, the classic rock Gold, the abrasive Rock 'n' Roll and the disturbing Love is Hell EPs. During this period he found the time to play in The Finger, a punk rock side project with Jesse Malin, the metal band Warewolf, and record three as yet unreleased albums.

Cold Roses opens with 'Magnolia Mountain', a track that immediately places the listener back in familiar territory. Unlike the brattish stylings of Rock 'n' Roll, or the amphetamine fuelled Love is Hell sessions, it is awash with acoustic guitar and pedal steel. Soon, the whole band is jamming and playing loose, lending the songs a live barroom feel. Count-ins are included and before one number Ryan shouts, "You better believe me L-U-V! Give me a beer!" On this evidence, it sounds as if he is back in the alt country saddle where he belongs.

'Sweet Illusions' and 'Let It Ride' are as catchy as anything that Ryan has recorded before. 'Meadowlake Street' is sublime, starting with just his vocals and finger picked guitar, but building to a towering colossus that U2 would be proud of. 'Beautiful Sorta' is old school rock and blues straight out of the 70s, and 'Now That You're Gone' is a melancholy lament that would be at home on Heartbreaker. It has the same dustbowl sound of Gram Parsons, Neil Young and The Band.

On Cold Roses, Ryan has stopped pretending that he's a cool NYC kid, gone back to his Whiskeytown roots, harmonica, honky tonk-keys and all. It might have been a stronger album with fewer tracks, but small doses are not Ryan's style. As it stands, Cold Roses is a welcome return to form.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Nine Fine Wines

Myself and my good friend Dave attended a tutored wine tasting evening recently. Equipped with a discerning palette and professional tasting glasses we gupled, swirled, smelt and spat our way through nine, rather fine wines. Over the next few weeks I will profile some of them here.

To start with I'll recommend an excellent white, the Sanctuary Sauvignon Blanc. As their wine buyer, Sainsbury's have a pretty rare master of wine. This New Zealand wine is made exclusively for Sainsbury's by the Marlborough winery Grove Mill. It's very fruity with gooseberry aromas and flavours of asparagus and fresh limes. Crusoes, our hosts for the evening provided grilled goats' cheese as a perfect accompaniment. You could also try roasted tomatoes on warm ciabatta bread, Also fish, seafood and fresh asparagus. Best of all, there was a glut of NZ grapes last year so this is available for under a fiver!