Reading - November 2017

The Guitar Magazine (Vol 29 No 03)
Terminally Single by Kate Jenkins (1991)
Sweet, but the heroine is a bit pathetic, despite being a career woman. This book is twenty-six years old, and starting to feel dated. The hero's behaviour would unquestionably be classified as harassment in the workplace, particularly in light of current news. Do recent events spell the end for office-based romances?
Blink by Malcolm Gladwell (2005)
Famous, and understandably so - it's easy to read and digest, but oddly bitty and fragmented. The idea is that all these chapters - essays, kind of - together present evidence of the power of the unconscious mind, whether it's a good or a bad thing. But it feels like a bunch of different ideas and observations loosely linked by a theme, rather than a narrative that goes somewhere.


Abbey Road

The Beatles

I came to Abbey Road relatively late - which is to say, for some reason I was at least ten before I listened to it properly. Given that at seven I was putting A Hard Day's NightRubber Soul and Sergeant Pepper on constant repeat, it's an odd oversight.

Perhaps this late-coming is why it's never been such a favourite as other Beatles albums. It hadn't embedded itself into my juvenile subconscious in the same way. Or maybe it's because ... well ... it's not really quite as good?

For a classic album, let alone a Beatles album, it really does have a lot of filler. Fully half of the first side is bordering on awful. I know they had to let Ringo sing on a track but really, "Octopus's Garden" is just rubbish. "Maxwell's Silver Hammer" is trite and unpleasant. "Oh Darling" just sounds like Paul's trying too hard. It's even more puzzling when you consider that the remainder of those six songs are fantastic, in particular the ground-breaking "I Want You", real heavy music to a ten-year-old.

Then there's the second side. After "Here Comes The Sun" (about as good as a song can actually ever be) and "Because" (disposable) comes the much-vaunted medley. A medley of songs that weren't quite finished or good enough to make it as whole pieces. It actually only starts to make sense with "Golden Slumbers", more than half way through. Then, I'll grant you, it's superb. The duelling guitars on "The End" are just fantastic - and then we get that perfect ending couplet: "And, in the end, the love you take / Is equal to the love you make". (Which they then spoil by having a joke song follow it.)

Still, I suppose the fourth or fifth best Beatles album is still good, eh?


C'est Chic / Risqué

1978 / 1979

If all you know of Chic is "Le Freak" and "Good Times" then you might assume that they were a pure disco party band. However, as Nile Rodgers - a man who seems to be everywhere these days - has stated, their ambition was to present a whole, sophisticated image (hence the name). So in fact, despite the globe-straddling dominance of their most famous tracks, they don't really represent what Chic were really about.

More representative of both albums' feel are the lesser-known singles such as "I Want Your Love" or "My Forbidden Lover": groove-laden but laid back and infused with an undercurrent of mournfulness. Album tracks like "Sometimes You Win" or "Can't Stand To Love You" are much more in this vein, while full-on ballads like "At Last I Am Free" and "A Warm Summer Night" fit the relaxed mood much better.

Overall, then, the feel of both albums is surprisingly a lot less immediate than I expected, given the band's reputation. Indeed, my initial impression was one of slight disappointment. But a number of repeated listens have brought out the appeal in tracks like "What About Me" - a nice groove - or "Savoir Faire" - a smooth instrumental with some very tasteful guitar soloing.

Talking of guitar, as the last surviving male member of Chic, Mr Rodgers has become the face of the band, and there's no doubt he's a superb and unique guitarist. However, the real engine behind the music is unquestionably Bernard Edwards, whose wonderful, funky bass winds, bubbles, growls and powers through the grooves, forming the backbone around which everything else hangs.

Released in consecutive years, during which Rodgers and Edwards seemed to be doing a million other projects too, these two albums are not identical in feel but do form a very consistent whole. And while they are not disco party albums, they are satisfying listening.