Month: September 2016

Listen to the Voice of Reason – Part 7

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ED HARCOURT

Well here I am again folks, its been four months since my last post due to my head not wanting to think creative thoughts, but I’m fired up and ready to go again, writing words I don’t suppose anyone wants to read.

I’m really off on one today and I make no apologies for the fact that I get very giddy thinking about and listening to the music of the talented Mr.Harcourt.

Now I know there aren’t many of you that have read my posts, but those who have will know that I can go a bit silly and I have a tendency to get over excited…..well that’s how music makes me feel and I just can’t help it. Music is in my blood, my head and my heart and it’s always been my anchor as I sail the good ship me through the choppy seas of life….(told you I was on one today!)

I simply couldn’t live without music, it’s such an integral part of me and I’m in absolute awe of certain people who don’t just make music, they invent new ways of playing, go against the current genre grain to be different, cleverly creating the most fantastic tapestries with words and sounds through their intelligence, passion and talent.

Ed is one of my musical heroes (Damon Albarn, Thom Yorke, King Creosote, James Yorkston are also in the mix). Ed isn’t just a musician, he’s a craftsman, wordsmith and alchemist, conjuring up the most the most amazing musical offerings. He’s a chameleon, he doesn’t sit still, he seems to be constantly changing, experimenting and producing something amazing. Problem with people like Ed in my view, is that you either get him or you don’t. With some artists it’s not enough just to listen, which of course you can do, but if you step back and scratch the surface, you’re left in no doubt that there’s something special underneath. I know that I go over the top and gush/flow/explode with excitement and ‘think’ too  much about records,bands, music and not everyone wants to do that. Which is why someone like Ed is a crowd pleaser, you can enjoy some bloody good music or you can analyse, interpret and get lost in the whole musicallyness of it all…..hey I just invented a word!

May I suggest dear reader that you prepare yourself as I explain to the unwise and preach to the converted about the majestically, magical, musical things this Harcourt fella can do, especially on his latest album, Furnaces. But let’s start at the beginning shall we.

 

HERE BE MONSTERS

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Back in 2001, Ed  launched his debut album, Here Be Monsters. It was nominated for the Mercury Music Prize and was produced by Tim Holmes, one-half of the British dance music Death in Vegas. The first thing I knew about it was hearing the single ‘Something in My Eye.’ It’s a long time ago and I’m getting on a bit but I can still remember the shivers I got from the opening of the track, as Ed’s vocal kicked in and it wasn’t like anything else that was around at the time. I loved the first lines of the lyrics

Spider has eight legs you know
Spins its web the patterns flow

Two sentences creating one great image, capturing me in the song like a fly in a web (see what I did  there?).

My favourite track of the album has to be ‘Those Crimson Tears’. This is Ed, playing the piano and once again singing some the best lyrics. He rhymes ‘dancing bear’ with ‘marble stairs’ for god’s sake!…..listen, if you haven’t heard it, it’s here courtesy of YouTube so treat yourself and have a little listen.

My absolute favourite is ‘She Fell into My Arms’. Again it’s the lyrics and the way the song is put together and the inclusion of the brass section.

 

This song contains a couple of lines that sum up how I’ve always felt and that I’d have as a motto on my own personal crest of arms!

 I don’t mind if I lose
‘Cause if I win I’ll be so confused

Every track on the album is worth a mention and listen to and is a showcase for Ed’s talent, wit and musical ability. For me it was the start of a journey with him but I didn’t catch the next Ed bus until much later.

BACK INTO THE WOODS

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I don’t know why I missed out on the albums in between, these. There were other more important and more serious things going on in my life and I somehow missed out but I picked up the Ed trail in a very special place.

The launch of Back into The Woods gave us Ed playing at St.Philip’s Church in Salford on 3rd June 2013. It was my first gig in a church and it seemed very strange to be sat in the pews drinking wine. My childhood experience of church didn’t prepare me for the sight of tables of alcohol for sale and the man himself dispensing his own brand of ale the willing….erm…congregation. For that’s what it turned out to be, a spiritual experience.

I sat in the third pew from the front near the Piano and we were all waiting for the main man to appear when suddenly,  the last of the evening sun was streaming in through the corner stained glass window. The church organ struck up and everyone turned to see Ed in the organ loft singing ‘Brothers and Sisters.‘ the first track of the night. The acoustics, the tone of his voice, the mood of the songs all blended together to make what was quite an emotional night for me. The whole set was genius, Ed moving from piano, to electric and acoustic guitar for the immensely moving ‘Last Will and Testament.’. He took his signature microphone, wandered up and down the aisle and….he put his hand on my shoulder, a very sweaty hand, but hey! It was a brilliant night and I bought the album soon after.

It’s Ed’s piano playing that captivates me on this album but to be fair, he can play just about any instrument. On the first album Here Be Monsters he was credited with vocals, piano, pump organ, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, Wurlitzer, vibes, saxophone, harmonica, bass, beatbox, backing vocals, sampling, synthesizer, drums, percussion, string arrangement

Seven albums later, I’m sure there are even more arrows in his quiver.

The pretty girls

A brilliant song with a piano refrain that fills my heart with gladness and lyrics that make me smile:

You’re the circus tamer to my beast
I’m a puzzle with a missing piece
When I’ve been hanging off your soul by the skin of my teeth
Can’t believe I’ve never been in jail
How you stuck with beyond the pale
Sometimes I feel like I’m the monster in this fairytale

And what you love most I could well destroy
Because pretty girls always fall for the baddest boys

All the songs on the album have a melancholy air about them, but that doesn’t make them sad songs, not really. How you find them depends on the mood you are in but I have to confess that I barely listen to ‘Last Will and Testament’. It makes me think of my own mortality and that’s never a good thing. Still its delightful, haunting and a thing of beauty.

And now it’s time to come up to date with a sneaky peak at Ed’s latest album for you.

FURNACES

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On 29th June 2016, I went to the Deaf Institute in Manchester to see Ed launch his new album Furnaces. I didn’t know what to expect but I knew it was going to be something special. I’d heard from Facebook that the new songs were fiery, with a heavier vibe and it sounded great.  The Deaf Institute is a splendid venue in Manchester, like an old music hall with a small balcony (where I was sat) and seating at the back. The stage is tiny and I had a great view of all the musicians but I didn’t take the photo’s I wanted out of respect and not wanting to look like a stalker, so I’ve not got any of my own photos to add, unlike the ones in my Slaves blog.

It was an uplifting, face slapping, mind-blowing set. If I needed proof that this man has is stupidly gifted in both voice and musicianship then this was it. It was soft/subtle, blew you away with its rock and metallic shapes/sounds and was just like being on a boat on a rough sea. You never knew which way the wind was going to blow so you held on for dear life. There were some funny moments, Ed obliging a request to play the Ghostbuster’s theme and a very strange marriage proposal, which I’m not convinced was actually accepted even though she said yes…..eventually.

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Ed at the Deaf Institute – Manchester

I bought the album this week, it’s been blowing through my ears and into my brain since. I’ve not had it off my Ipod and I keep singing snatches of tracks to myself…every one is an earworm in the making but in a good way.  My favourites?

The World is on Fire, Loup Garou, Furnaces, Occupational Hazard…hang on, I’m starting to list all of them all here!  Seriously, there isn’t a duff track to be found. I love them all. But if I really had to choose then these are the ones I absolutely love, in no particular order.

Loup Garou – clever lyrics, Ed’s vocals playing around, soft and endearing one second then turning threatening ‘don’t you know I’m a beast of a man and I’m coming to get what I came for.’ An absolute gem with sneaky piano, pounding drums and a bass line that drives through you.

Last of Your Kind – how can something with lyrics like ‘nothing more to do you’re the last of your kind/no one else like you you’re the last of your kind’ sound so upbeat. It’s a sort of anthem and if you didn’t listen to the lyrics you’d find it to be jolly and nice, but it’s really not.

Dionysus – starts off like a lullaby and ends up like a war cry. Stunning!

Furnaces

It’s not for me to give my interpretation of any of the tracks, but the mighty furnaces seems to be an apocalyptic warning of times to come.

 

If I were clever, I could blind you with my insight of the lyrics, compare Ed’s music to other bands and songwriters, but I’m not. If I could, I’d be a music journalist, but instead I just play at blogging, hoping I can spread my enthusiasm like poppy seeds and hope they grow in some barren patch of soil somewhere.

All I can do is to share my enthusiasm, my enjoyment and my appreciation of someone who’s music means a lot to me and who I admire for the work they do. Oh and on top of everything else, he’s a down to earth, genuinely warm, entertaining bloke……….bastard!!

One last thing………If you like this, please let me know. It get’s kind of lonely talking to yourself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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