Archive for Culture Vulture

California Sun – Morrissey

CALIFORNIA SON, Morrissey’s twelfth studio album, is a collection of covers including a few familiar old classics and some maybe lesser known American protest and social

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justice songs from the 60s and 70s.  Morrissey and his band never shy away from imaginative musical arrangements, often seeking out unusual instruments, and there are influences here from New Orleans, the old time crooners and a touch of Broadway.  No doubt this is a nod 

 

to his recent sell out residency at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre in New York City (NYC).  

The album opens with Morning Starship, the 1973 song by Jobriath.  Morrissey has talked about covering this song for many years, and his version does not disappoint.  He strips back the glam rock just enough to emphasise his wide range of vocals.  It is an uplifting track and was well received when he sang it live on Broadway.

Next up is his version of Joni Mitchell’s Don’t interrupt the Sorrow, a song about Women standing up to male dominance from her 1975 The Hissing of Summer Lawns album.  Originally a folky song with lots of hand drums it is given the full Morrissey crooner treatment. Now in his 60th yeapeats on several tracks throughout this album, not least on the very good Wedding Bell Blues on which Green Day’s Billy Joe Armstrong adds backing vocals.

Morrissey is never one to shy away from a song with a powerful message, and chose to include the 1964 Bob Dylan song Only A Pawn in their Game, written following the assassination of civil rights activist Medgar Evers.  The message in this song is that the killer was as much a victim or “pawn” of the elites in power as was his victim.  The song was sung at the rally where Martin Luther King gave his“I have a dream” speech.  It’s an interesting choice, as is his excellent cover of Days of Decision.  This is taken from the 1965 Phil Ochs album Ain’t Marching Anymore, with its lyrics: “you can do what’s right or you can do what you are told.”  Maybe in these choices Morrissey is encouraging the listener to look at the lessons of history and to question things a little more?

Buffy Sainte Marie’s Suffer the Little Children is given the full Broadway treatment with big instrumentals and hand clapping.  Buffy, in an interview, said she loved it.

There are very good versions of Carly Simon’s When you close your eyes and Dione Warwick’s Loneliness Remembers what Happiness Forgets.  Gary Puckett’s Lady Willpower is also very well done.  Tim Hardin’s eulogy to his friend Lenny Bruce, Lenny’sTune is perfect for the melancholic signature sound of Morrissey, and whilst this version is not as haunting as the Nico cover it does justice to the original.

Roy Orbison’s It’s Over stays true to the original and is one of the best tracks on the album.  He closes with Melanie Safka’s 1971 Some Say (I got Devil).  The vocals here are excellent and the addition of instrumentals on what was originally an acoustic guitar ballad gives the song new depth.

There really is not a bad track here but the real gift of this album is that it brings to a new generation a selection of protest songs about freedom, social justice and liberty that have a message relevant to today.  It encourages you to seek out the original recordings and the stories behind them.  Morrissey is not afraid to try new genres, or of working with material that others might now find too controversial.  It is why his music endures despite the controversy, the bad press, the lack of radio coverage and the constant personal attacks.  He has already recorded an album of new material for release later in the year.  Retirement does not appear to be on the horizon just yet.

Reviewed by Jacqui Cosgree

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Culture Vulture: Warhol Goes to Holyrood

‘Andy Warhol:  Pop, Power and Politics’ opened yesterday  (Saturday 5 October) at the Scottish Parliament.  It is the first exhibition of the artist’s work to take place in a Parliamentary building and includes a number of iconic works never shown before in Scotland.

The result of a collaboration between the Scottish Parliament, Carnegie UK Trust and the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, the exhibition has beenscottishparliament timed to coincide with ‘Andrew Carnegie’s International Legacy: Shaping the Future’, a week of events celebrating Andrew Carnegie’s legacy.

The Presiding Officer, the Rt Hon Tricia Marwick MSP said:

“It gives me real pleasure to open this exhibition of iconic images, depicting politicians and political events from across the globe. It is important to me that the Scottish Parliament hosts exhibitions that encourage people to discuss and explore political issues, and few artists can get people talking like Warhol does.”

The exhibition contains significant pieces of Andy Warhol’s work including iconic portraits such as Lenin, Mao, Queen Elizabeth II and Andrew Carnegie.  In association with the exhibition, two portraits of Andy Warhol taken by internationally acclaimed Scottish photographer Harry Benson CBE, will be on loan to the Parliament Art Collection and displayed in the UK for the first time.  A number of works made by Warhol for political and environmental campaigns are also being loaned from Artist Rooms, jointly owned and managed by Tate and National Galleries of Scotland.

Angus Hogg, Chair of Carnegie UK Trust continued:

“Andy Warhol holds a special place in our hearts at Carnegie, not only because the Trust has a long history of promoting access to arts and culture, but also because Warhol received his first formal training in art through free classes offered by the Carnegie Institute in Pittsburgh.

“As many will already know, Andrew Carnegie envisioned a world of peace, well-being and opportunity, and this sentiment still rings true over 100 years on. This collaborative exhibition, which kicks off a celebration of Andrew Carnegie’s legacy, provides a once-in-a-lifetime chance for the public to get an up-close look to some of society’s most impactful pieces of art.
“This month also provides people the chance to learn more about one of the world’s most well-known Scots through the ‘Andrew Carnegie’s International Legacy: Shaping the Future’ festival, which culminates in the gifting of the prestigious Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy to today’s leading modern philanthropists. We encourage people in the city and beyond to get involved.”

Matt Wrbican, Chief Archivist at the Andy Warhol Museum, from Pittsburgh concluded:

“The Warhol is thrilled to share many truly exceptional works from our collection with the Scottish Parliament and the Carnegie UK Trust.  The items represent the full scope of Andy Warhol’s life and art.  This exhibition features Warhol paintings, sculptures, and prints from our permanent collection and allows visitors to the stunning Parliament building to have the opportunity to see many top rate original Warhols.  In addition, we’re pleased to once again unite Pittsburgh and Scotland through the very rare display of Warhol’s Andrew Carnegie portrait.”

Ticket information
Tickets are still available for the exhibition, although there is limited availability at the weekends.  The free e-tickets are available from 10.00am and 5.00pm daily for the run of the exhibition (late nights on Thursdays to 8.00pm).

Booking is recommended as tickets will be administered by a specific start time to the viewing (unrestricted end time) and can be done via:
• the online form via the Parliament website http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/warhol
• a dedicated telephone line on 0131 348 5454 – the telephone number references the famous New York nightclub, Studio 54, which Warhol frequented regularly during the 70s and 80s
• emailing  warhol@scottish.parliament.uk

For further information:   http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/warhol

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Middle Eastern Film Festival at the Filmhouse, Edinburgh

The Filmhouse are running a Middle Eastern Film Festival between Thursday, 7 February and Thursday, 21 February, 291. This year the Festival looks at Palestine through the lenses of Palestinian and Israeli filmmakers and also celebrates modern Iranian film-making. There are six Iranian films featured.

One of the opening films is A Cube of Sugar an Iranian film which is based around a gathering of an Iranian family for the wedding of their youngest daughter.

There are so many films of interest here that it is difficult to pick-out what you want to see! I  will be making a point of seeing Salma and the Apple and the classic film about the Palestinian/Israeli conflict Wedding in Galille.

From Sunday 3 February to Sunday24 February, 2013 there is also photography exhibition: Building a Legacy of Hope: Children of the Gaza Strip which consists of 17 photographs and accompanying artwork by the children of Gaza. It’s at the Filmhouse cafe (88 Lothian Road, Edinburgh, EH3 9BZ) and admission is free.

From Patrick Harrington

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