Blog on the Tracks

Writer/reviewer Simon Sweetman covers music for The Dominion Post and North And South. He cares far too much about music, and the list of bands he loves is far longer than the list of groups he has shown no love.

The last 30 years of Eric Clapton’s career: Turgid

10:59am 30 Jun 2015


In a word. Well, lifeless. Or lazy. Uninspired. Dull. Meaningless. Take your pick I guess.

I was an Eric Clapton fan. Was.

On a good day I'm still happy with most of that first decade of work he did - I have a soft spot for his first solo album, I'm a fan of Cream, Derek & The Dominos, Blind Faith, Delaney & Bonnie, his guitar solo on While My Guitar Gently Weeps, his playing on the Doris Troy record and his time with John Mayall's Bluesbreakers. I don't think anyone could argue that there was something special about his sound. I'm not saying he was the best. But he was one of the best. One of the most influential players.

By the time of the mid-70s all he wanted to do was be J.J. Cale so he covered a heap of Cale's tunes.

In 1990 I saw Eric Clapton live and it was one of the best shows ever, for what it symbolised, the start of my gig-going, and a chance, then, to see a hero - at the time when he was still a hero. I saw him again just under a decade ago, as work this time, a job, an assignment, and it was still pretty good. Because he favoured the Cream/Dominos material; it was Clapton looking back. You go to see his live show to hear the old hits. Forever-and-ever-Man

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Who is your favourite local bass player?

10:28am 29 Jun 2015


Many years ago we looked at favourite bass players - a fair enough topic to roll out one day on a music blog, and one we could revisited before now. We've certainly talked favourite drummers more than once, favourite guitarists too. And we got a good conversation going, back in the day, around favourite local drummers. It might be that I look for the drummer - do my best to listen in carefully there - but I certainly think New Zealand is blessed with some pretty incredible drumming talent (Wellington in particular, I feel).

But is it the same with bass players? I'm sure it is - I'm sure many of you think so and can name some of your favourites.

I thought about this because in his latest, guest post Jon McLeary of the Spines ran through the various bass players that have been in that band.Bass

That got me to thinking - so many good players right there, must be plenty of others you can think of.

I'm no huge TrinityRoots fan but I've always appreciated Rio Hemopo's sound - within the band and outside it too, he's created solo work, collaborated with plenty of other musicians. In fact I first heard him laying down a load of great funk covers...that and the earliest TrinityRoots material is what I remember. A great player.

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Film Festival time again: some great music films

11:54pm 25 Jun 2015


Another year, another crop of great music docs - the Film Festival program was launched last night and one of the exciting categories, always, is the music documentaries. This year sees another decent load.

Recently the Documentary Edge Festival showed a range of great films and on the music tip In My Father's House (not strictly about music but featuring a musician) and Heaven Adores You (about Elliott Smith) were highlights.

NZIFFThis year's New Zealand International Film Festival features plenty of great titles, and in the music-doco area there's one about the Roland TR-808; pioneering drum machine and a documentary about Amy Winehouse.  There are in fact plenty of highlights, a near embarrassment of riches.

The much talked-about, oft-stalled Wrecking Crew film will surely be one of the best-attended music films on offer this year. Then there's Lambert & Stamp which chronicles the rise of The Who via a pair or rock'n'roll footnotes. Mavis Staples gets the bio treatment and locally there's a look at the very clever Phil Dadson, the latest in a long line of music documentaries from the talented filmmaker Simon Ogston.

And a spotlight on Les Blank (who passed away in 2013) sees a handful of his music/travel documentaries. Blank's films take a look at music as something within a culture, they focus on musicians and music within the surrounds. And in particular his A Poem Is A Naked Person (completed over 40 years ago, withheld from exhibition until this year) seems like the must-see. Well, I say that, but I also want to check out Hot Pepper, his early-70s account of the work of the wonderful Clifton Chenier - the King of Zydeco.Deathgasm

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Sam Hunt and David Kilgour Live and on Record

10:02am 25 Jun 2015


I'd been pretty excited at the - long-teased - idea that Sam Hunt and David Kilgour would make an album together.

I interviewed Sam for this blog back when Falling Debris was released. That was a great album, Sam's words, David turned them into "Kilgour" songs. And in the tour that accompanied Sam Hunt did his thing opening, then joined the band to run through some of his poems with musical backing.Sam Hunt, David Kilgour and The Heavy 8s

This is nothing new or unusual in Sam Hunt's world. I've seen him backed by The Warratahs, and before that there was Sam Hunt and Mammal. I've seen him do shows with Paul Ubana Jones and Bill Lake and there's always been that connection to music with Sam - in his words and deliver, in the fact that he has surrounded himself with musicians, and the musical world, opened for the likes of Leonard Cohen more recently. Or performed readings where musicians open for him.

But, finally, Sam Hunt and David Kilgour (with The Heavy 8s) recorded an album of Sam's words.

It's called The 9th and I have grown to love it over the last few weeks. It's a reminder, to me, of two hugely important cultural icons in this country, and the work that they make, meandering around the country, summing up the geography of this strange, isolated country in their words and sounds, their worlds.

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A tale of two Kurt Cobain documentaries

09:50am 24 Jun 2015


You wait nearly 20 years for a decent Kurt Cobain documentary, then, like buses - two come along at once. Though neither of them is really necessary, neither could be called decent.

I loathed Montage of Heck, the much talked-about recent Nirvana/Kurt doco - the one that leaves out Dave Grohl. Now, he might have been somehow busy, on tour, or with a portion of his fan-base to grin at inanely, but it's hard to believe he couldn't shift things to be there. Instead, Courtney Love, who had Montage of Heck created in her own image of the memory of Kurt's meteoric rise and her relationship with him, didn't want Grohl involved. That has to be it. There's no other reason. Montage of Heck

Nirvana's bass player, Krist Novoselic, is thoughtful and interesting - and it seems a missed opportunity not to have him and Grohl playing off one another again, restoring memories through talking together.

The film is a strange puff piece - but it's also a mess. And the final section - the broadcasting of home-video footage, intended as private, never to be broadcast, is intrusive, voyeuristic and unnecessary. We get one thing from this film - and it's something we know already - Coban's death, at 27, was a waste. His heroin use, as a father, was unforgiveable. His talent - whether you choose to believe he ever had any or not - was silenced. And he clearly could not cope. It's not fun in any sense to look back on. Nor do you learn anything for doing so.

The flipside to Montage is Soaked in Bleach - a film that can't quite ever tell you that Courtney had Kurt murdered, but really wants to push you along into that series of thoughts. The conspiracy theorists have, over the years, convinced themselves that it's obvious. Sadly, Soaked in Bleach is a poorly put together set of badly acted reconstructions that labours a point without ever quite making one. Then, at the end, when it - almost - gathers some steam it's too late. And it's gone the way of most things conspiracy theory, it's been made as so crackpot that even any semblance of a truth is something a sane person wouldn't really want to associate with.

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