Thank you to Dan Allen for this wonderful recommendation. They may have names like characters from an 80s cop show but boy can they make these Child Ballads sound sweet.

This album was recorded a number of years ago, so apologies for being late to the party! I have been listening to it over and over.

(Although tell me it’s not just me that hears the line “Saddle me a milk white steed / Bridle me a pony” and thinks of this, right?)

Current Favourite Track:

Jonathan Gold is the first food critic to win the Pulitzer Prize for journalism. He is the polar opposite of the food critic Anton Ego in the film Ratatouille. He’s a lovely guy.

But this documentary about him, City of Gold, is about much more than food. It is in part a love letter to Los Angeles.

If you’re in a hurry, just skip to 1m 31s in, where he says:

People who come in for a couple of weeks, stay at a hotel in Beverley Hills, take in what they can get to within 10 minutes in the rented car, and explain to you what Los Angeles is…

Current Favourite Thing:

The fact that, as well as being a Pulitzer Prize-winning food critic, a fan of opera and a talented cellist, Jonathan Gold happened to be hanging out in the studio when Dr Dre recorded his seminal album ‘The Chronic’.

The first of this month’s recommendations.

One day I will expound upon my theories of Music vs Fashion Music – although not today. Basically, when I was a kid the music you listened to defined who you were and how you wanted to be seen. If you listened to Sonic Youth you were cool, and you ‘got it’. If you listened to Queen, like I did, you were not, and you didn’t. I don’t know if music is quite so important to kids now, as there’s so much more to choose from so much less money to promote the artists. I imagine it still is, to some extent. Continue reading

Not everybody likes Ben Wheatley and Amy Jump’s adaptation of J. G. Ballard’s novel High Rise. Many critics considered it an ambitious failure. Laura Theis (of Badass Snow White fame) told me she absolutely hated it, and I can see why it can inspire that sort of emotion. It starts with our protagonist living feral in the ruins of a 1970s high rise that has descended into madness, and he is barbecuing his dog. It’s that sort of story.

But I love a hearty tale of a hero’s deterioration into insanity. And when you have a metaphor for the collapse of society thrown in, well… let’s just say you had me with Tom Hiddleston trying to beat someone to death in the building’s supermarket over a tin of blue paint.

Continue reading

My real name is not James Bell, but James Baldwin. Not a lot of people know that.

And I changed it for a number of reasons, but one reason was that there was someone who had already made that name famous, and I had no desire to try to compete for it. The other one, James Arthur Baldwin, was like my relatives Stanley Baldwin and Rudyard Kipling in the fact (and perhaps only alike in this fact) that when I was young I got the sense that grown-ups generally didn’t really approve of him, but I was never quite sure why. I feel I have a clearer picture on all of them now: Stanley Baldwin is still seen by many as being an appeaser to Hitler (don’t get my father started on this!), and Rudyard Kipling… well, read the poem White Man’s Burden if you want a jumping-off point for that debate. And my namesake? He just didn’t believe. He didn’t believe in the dream, that soon black children and white children would be joining hands together and singing in the spirituals of old: free at last, free at last, thank god almighty, we are free at last. Continue reading

Monthly recommendation #1. The documentary film Heaven Adores You about musician Elliott Smith.

If you’ve been here before you might well know that I am a bit of a fan of Elliott Smith. Just over 2 years ago I wrote a long and winding blog about… maybe more the enigma than the man. This documentary goes some way, I reckon, to dispersing the enigma. And for a fan it is utterly fascinating. Continue reading