28 July 2011

Ian Hunter - Strings Attached

I bought this Concert DVD on its release in 2004 but have only recently acquired a surround sound set up to fully appreciate it.

Most people have heard of seventies glam rock act Mott the Hoople, if only for the single “All the Young Dudes” and long term fans from the 1960s and 1970s have followed lead singer Ian Hunter’s solo career with a mixture of frustration and admiration. This very English (and criminally under-rated) singer songwriter has released more than a dozen studio albums in a somewhat spotty solo career but the highlights are high indeed. Until now there has been scarcely any worthwhile footage of Ian Hunter performing live so the long-awaited DVD, "Strings Attached" was always going to be required viewing.

Universal released the set with only basic monochrome artwork and no liner notes, clearly aiming it at existing fans. Video and sound though are top quality, as of course they should be these days. Seventeen songs that lend themselves to arrangement with strings have made the set list but this is not just a typical Ian Hunter set with accompanying strings. No, all the songs have been rearranged (some fairly heavily) for a seventeen-piece string ensemble called the Trondheim Soloists. This is IH’s show and he rightly takes centre stage, playing acoustic guitar or singing with hand-held mic. Long time guitarist Andy York plays acoustic and occasionally electric, while there are Scandinavian guitar, keys and drums lurking well into the shadows backstage. Songs like Boy, Waterlow, Irene Wilde and Michael Picasso sound stunning and Ships will surely bring a lump even to the hardest throat.

I am uneasy about 23A Swan Hill and Once Bitten Twice Shy though, which have lost their power and bite and Memphis is barely recognisable. However by the time we reach the rousing finale of Saturday Gigs, it has become quite apparent that IH is taking this opportunity to present the songs to us afresh. His voice is simply superb and I really believe I have never heard him singing better. The violinists and cellists look full of respect for him and are clearly enjoying themselves.

The star of the Bonus Features is a fascinating thirty minute interview. A Norwegian interviewer asks the obvious questions but allows IH the opportunity to say as much or as little as he fancies. It doesn't come across as over-rehearsed and offers a rare first-hand insight into the man's thoughts. There is also a six minute film of behind-the-scenes clips where we hear from Joe Elliott, Campbell Devine, son Jesse Hunter and daughter Tracie Hunter (so very like her old man!) Additionally there are complete Mott the Hoople and IH discographies and a short biography from Campbell Devine.

I enjoyed the DVD for several reasons but on a purely personal level I prefer the hard-rocking electric sets he plays live. Who knows perhaps one day we may be treated to a DVD of one of the Astoria gigs I attended.

19 July 2011

dog days

It’s hot and humid. I don’t want to run but if I am to enter the Prince Edward Island Marathon in October I need to increase the mileage. My current ten or twelve miles a week is a decent enough base to build from and thankfully my injuries are lighter than last year.

I still suffer with sore ankles despite stretching, icing and resting after longer runs but not as badly as last year. I have a tendency to blisters on the little toe of my left foot but I am keeping them at bay with something I discovered at the Atlantic Superstore, a tubular piece of sticking plaster (that’s Band Aid in North American) lined with a firm clear gel. I slip it over the whole toe and it seems to do the trick. I know it affectionately as my “willy warmer.”

My longer runs take me out past the airport and there’s a house on the route which has four or five boxer dogs always untethered in the front yard. They bark ferociously and stand at the very edge of their territory. As yet they haven’t chased me up the road but as a precaution I slow to a walk as I pass their house. Dog days indeed.

Sunday was very hot but I set off on a ten kilometre run which takes in North River Road and Victoria Park. About halfway I was wilting but I pushed on. My pace slumped on the slightest inclines and I finished in sixty-two minutes, a good couple of minutes outside my norm. I was exhausted and sank into a cool bath.

Today I ran a short two and a half miles at a brisk pace in twenty-seven degrees Celsius. I sweated profusely for forty-five minutes when I got home, leaving puddles wherever I stood.

I had three teeth extracted last week and another three yesterday. More accurately I should call them “retained roots” as they were small remnants of once fine molars, filled and root filled over the years until there was nothing left to repair. I’m taking antibiotics for a gum infection in the wounds. Nonetheless I wanted to run and release some endorphins to ease the pain.

This afternoon I used the Rug Doctor on all our carpets, cleaning a year’s worth of toddler spillages. While some drying took place I folded the laundry and made copies of the BBC natural history documentary "Life" we got from the library on DVD. We’ve been immersed in Ewan McGregor’s “Long Way Round” and still have the extras to watch and we'll watch "Life" next.

I’m listening to Rosemary’s Baby read by Mia Farrow on Audio Book at night. A great story and beautifully written in a simple style.

I should be saving money as we have a few months of belt tightening ahead however I am keen to get into Blu-Ray and have earmarked a player which will play every type of disc and media I own. That is to say Regions 1 & 2 DVDs (both NTSC & PAL pictures), Regions A, B & C Blu-Rays, Super Audio CDs, DVD Audio, mp3 direct from external hard drive for starters. Watch this space.