Archive for November, 2009

Top 10 great singers who can’t sing

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 28, 2009 by Robin Gosnall

They are celebrated as great vocalists, but can the likes of Bob Dylan and Tom Waits really sing? Neil McCormick writes in the Daily Telegraph:

Bob Dylan: “A voice like sand and glue” in Bowie’s memorable phrase. Contrary to what many of his critics would assert, Dylan actually sings in tune but his harsh, barbed-wire timbre & attacking delivery has been inspiration for every tone deaf poet with a guitar. But with songs like these, who cares whether he can really sing or not?

Lou Reed: His half talking, half singing drawl with the Velvet Underground created a new rock template.

Tom Waits: Started out gruff and soulful but deliberately ravaged his vocal chords with whiskey and cigarettes to sound older and more lived in. In the history of vocals, I am not sure anyone has ever done more with less.

Johnny Cash: Even as a youngster, his voice was shaky and low, but he sang in time and in tune and like he had lived every word.

John Lydon (Johnny Rotten): His ranting style, high and tuneless, led the attack of the Sex Pistols then took us on dub metal journeys with Public Image Limited.

Ian Dury: Unrepentantly cockney speak-singing, frequently completely flat but utterly alive in the playful lyrics.

Leonard Cohen: A low, shaky monotone that has, somehow, grown in authority even as it reduces in range.

Nick Cave: A stiff baritone beset by tuning problems, Cave invests his apocalyptic blues with spine chilling conviction.

Siouxsie Sioux: A lone female entrant on our chart of errant singing stars, Siouxsie’s limited range and gravelly tone only added to her lustre as la grande dame of punk and goth.

Jarvis Cocker: OK when he keeps it to a whisper but as soon as he sings out he turns into some tuneless geek in a karaoke bar, which perfectly suits his vignettes of ordinary life.

Classical Blogs - Blog Catalog Blog Directory

Smoked haddock baked potato

Posted in Food with tags , , , , , , , on November 28, 2009 by Robin Gosnall

Half Hour Meals

I suppose this is a kind of variation on the famous omelette Arnold Bennett, which was made with smoked finnan haddock.

2 large baking potatoes
200g smoked haddock
enough milk to poach the haddock
100g butter
30g flour
1 tsp English mustard
3-4 tbsp double cream
1 tbsp chopped parsley
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Place the potatoes on a tray and bake for about an hour or so until soft. Leave to cool a little then halve them, scoop the potato into a bowl and mash with 60g of the butter.

Meanwhile place the haddock into a saucepan and cover with the milk, season lightly, bring to the boil, simmer for a couple of minutes and remove from the heat. Take out the haddock and put to one side. Melt the butter in a small saucepan, add the flour, and stir on a low heat for 20 seconds. Return the haddock milk to a low heat and whisk in the flour mixture and mustard. Simmer on a very low heat for about 10 minutes, then add the double cream and continue simmering for 5 minutes or so or until the sauce is the consistency of thick double cream.

Meanwhile, remove the skin and any bones from the fish and flake into chunks. Mix the fish with the sauce and fold half into the baked potato mixture and spoon back into the skins. Put potatoes back in the oven for about 10 minutes, heat up the remaining fish and sauce with the parsley; then, to serve, just spoon the fish and sauce on to the potatoes.

Tracey Emin: Lady Liberty

Posted in Culture with tags , , , , , on November 27, 2009 by Robin Gosnall

Tracey Emin in Manhattan

She’s not about to leave Britain as a tax exile – but she is spreading her wings abroad. Tracey Emin gets personal in a New York hotel bed with David Usborne of the Independent

“I’m not going to tell anyone how much I earn, though. It’s my business,” she says. “I am not really super-rich. But I invested my money in property, not in drugs (of which she has never been a fan, she says, never mind the stories of her old drinking days), not in cars, not in fancy clothes.

She goes on: “I work hard, I really do. It’s a fluke, the amount of money I earn. It’s amazing and phenomenal that people buy my art, it’s an amazing thing.”

I’d certainly agree with that, Tracey.

Classical Blogs - Blog Catalog Blog Directory

Goldberg Variations 1-7 by J.S. Bach

Posted in Music with tags , , , on November 24, 2009 by Robin Gosnall

Glenn Gould is rather like Marmite. You either love him or you hate him.

Classical Blogs - Blog Catalog Blog Directory

Brown Bread: Edward Woodward

Posted in Culture, Obituaries with tags , , , , , , , , , on November 17, 2009 by Robin Gosnall

Another of my heroes has gone. I suppose when one gets to my age, one must get used to this happening.

Strangely enough, I watched The Wicker Man yesterday.

Now I’ll have to watch Breaker Morant as well.

R.I.P. Edward Albert Arthur Woodward 1930-2009

Here are a few screen grabs from Robin Hardy’s 1973 film The Wicker Man, starring the late Edward Woodward.

Sergeant Howie - West Highland Police.

Are you the landlord here?

The Landlord's Daughter.

Broad beans in their natural state aren't usually turquoise are they?

You are despicable little liars.

Where does your minister live?

Have I made myself quite clear?

I suspect murder.

He brought you up to be a pagan!

I found that in Rowan Morrison's grave.

You're obstructing a police officer.

In the name of God, woman, what kind of mother are you?

Game? What game?

It is I who will live again, not your damned apples.

O God! O Jesus Christ!

Classical Blogs - Blog Catalog Blog Directory

Duck Hash

Posted in Food with tags , , , , , , , , , , on November 12, 2009 by Robin Gosnall


Half Hour Meals

You can find duck legs quite easily these days in butchers and supermarkets; if not, you could just use a whole duck instead chopped into four, or buy two ducks and remove the legs and save the breasts for another meal. I get mine from Bury market.

Any dish can be improved by placing a fried egg on top of it.

2 large or 4 small duck legs
250-300g goose or duck fat
6 cloves of garlic, halved
1 bay leaf
a few sprigs of thyme
10 black peppercorns
2 medium onions, peeled and roughly diced
350g new potatoes, peeled, cooked and cut into rough 1cm chunks
salt and pepper
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp breadcrumbs
4 free-range duck eggs

Pre-heat the oven to 175°C. Put the duck legs in a tight fitting pan with the duck fat, garlic, bay leaf, thyme and peppercorns. Add a teaspoon of sea salt, cover with a lid or foil and cook in the oven for about an hour and a half or until the meat is soft and coming away from the bone. Leave the fat to cool a little and strain into a container or preserving jar and store in the fridge to use for roasting potatoes.

Take a spoonful or so of the duck fat and fry the onions in a covered, thick-bottomed pan for 5-6 minutes until they are soft, stirring occasionally. Then remove the lid and turn up the heat to give them a little colour. Put them into a mixing bowl.

Heat some more duck fat in a frying pan (cast-iron, preferably) until it is very hot and cook the potatoes a few at a time on a high heat until they are lightly coloured, then add them to the onions. Remove the meat from the duck legs and cut into chunks with the skin about the same size as the potatoes. Mix well and season; add Worcestershire sauce to taste.

Divide the mixture and mould into four flat, roughly 8cm cakes with the help of a stainless steel mould or just by hand with a palette knife, then refrigerate for a couple of hours or overnight.

Press the breadcrumbs into the cakes then heat some oil in preferably a non-stick frying pan and cook for about 3-4 minutes on each side until they are golden and crisp. Keep them warm in the oven once they are cooked.

When all the hashes are cooked, fry four duck eggs, transfer the hashes to warm plates and slide a fried egg on to each hash.

Urlicht by Gustav Mahler

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , on November 10, 2009 by Robin Gosnall

This was Sir Simon Rattle’s farewell concert with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, which he led for 18 years. Mahler’s Symphony No. 2, of course. I wish I’d been there.

Classical Blogs - Blog Catalog Blog Directory

Brown Bread: Professor Hubert Rees

Posted in Obituaries with tags , , , , on November 10, 2009 by Robin Gosnall


Professor Hubert Rees: scientist and bomber pilot | Times Online Obituary

I only recently learned, with deep sadness, of the death of Professor Hubert Rees DFC FRS, the highly respected scientist and Second World War pilot who was reported missing in action in 1944.

The Times obituary is a fine tribute to a remarkable man who led a remarkable life.

I got to meet Professor Rees, his wife Mavis and their family through their daughter Jude (with whom I lived nearly twenty years ago) and enjoyed their excellent hospitality and generosity many times in Aberystwyth and Swansea.

Those were my drinking days, so my memories of that period are incomplete, but one thing I remember clearly is the “Doctor’s Nightmare”, an enormous fried breakfast served up in the staff bar and dining room of Aberystwyth University, a highly effective hangover cure when washed down with a couple of pints of bitter.

R.I.P. Professor Hubert Rees 1923 – 2009

Classical Blogs - Blog Catalog Blog Directory

Falling Down

Posted in Culture with tags , , , , , , , , on November 9, 2009 by Robin Gosnall

The “I want breakfast” scene from Joel Schumacher’s excellent 1993 film is probably the one most people remember, although there are funnier and more powerful scenes (I’m thinking of Michael Douglas’s first encounter with the Hispanic gang members, or his visit to the army surplus store).

I’m sure the reason this particular scene is so famous is that every person in the world who has ever eaten at a restaurant where there are pictures of the food on the menu can identify with it.

What makes it memorable for me is the outrageous scene-stealing performance of Dedee Pfeiffer (Michelle’s younger sister) as Sheila the Whammyburger waitress. I wonder whether she was asked to play the part this way. Anyway, just watch her.

Classical Blogs - Blog Catalog Blog Directory

Richard Wagner: Idle Thoughts

Posted in Music with tags , , , , on November 4, 2009 by Robin Gosnall

The only pig in Afghanistan

Wagner’s music has long been easiest to take in “bleeding chunks”, and indeed in chunks which are purely orchestral, from which that is to say the singers are excluded. The reason for the popularity of such chunks is not as might at first be thought their comparative brevity, but simply the absence of singers.

Therefore the solution to the Wagner problem suddenly becomes obvious: get rid of all the singing! It is in fact the singers who, with their groping for the note, their wide vibrato, their frequent lack of correct rhythm, and their inability to sing quietly, spoil the music and are putting potential audiences off.

Just three changes, then, will suffice to render Wagner good for the 21st century:

replace all the voice parts with suitable instruments – either singly or in combination – as is already often done in the case of Isolde’s Liebestod;

display the words of the libretto (no longer sung) on a rolling screen over the stage of the opera house, or (at home) as sub-titles superimposed on the screen of one’s audio or video player – one language at a time should suffice;

introduce ballet dancers instead of the singers – dancers, freed from the obligation to warble, will be able to portray the action of Wagner’s operas in a much more effective, energetic and striking way.

Classical Blogs - Blog Catalog Blog Directory

%d bloggers like this: