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Most of the following articles have been published over the years. One or two points may now be dated although I have refreshed the “Bee Gees” article.

REVIEW OF THE EAGLES ALBUM  “LONG ROAD OUT OF EDEN.” (Non Fiction)

For the fans that have grown up with the music of the Eagles, it must have felt as though all your birthdays had come at once. The launch of a new album. Yes, it’s been twenty-eight years since the last studio offering was on the shelves and the trepidation of wondering whether the lads had come up with the goods was frightening.

Let’s get one thing out of the way straight away. Double albums. How many can you honestly name that have done the business? It’s probably because of the sheer amount of songs hitting you all at once that tends to suffocate. Even the Beatles couldn’t do it. Remember the “White Album” as it became known? One disc would have given us a classic whereas the limp and experimental excess weighed it down heavily.

Understandably, the two-disc set “Long road out of Eden,” made me wary. Could Henley, Frey and Walsh sound as fresh as their seventies and eighties output, especially when there was now a new generation to aim at? And lets not forget the hugely talented Tim Schmit.

This album contains twenty songs and to be fair I was overawed with so much new material, so much so that I actually only played one CD for a while and then allowed myself to drift into the other.

The title track can be summed up in one word. Masterpiece. Crank up your volume controls and let the music reverberate around your ears. The opening bars take you into some mystic land of the Middle East, although romance could not be further away. The lyrics jolt you into President Bush territory, namely Iraq. The heavy, plodding beat holds you in a trance whilst drummer Henley stirs the imagination with his woeful words. It is going to be inevitable that there will be a comparison to Hotel California, but for me it stands on its own. Worth the money for this track alone.

“No more walks in the Woods,” will also draw comparisons to the likes of Crosby, Nash and Young, though I think  there can be no tighter harmonies than the Eagles.

“Waiting in the Weeds,” is most definitely Don Henley’s strongest composition to date. Play this over and over again to let the lush chords and vocal patterns enrich your inner self. Sheer beauty.

 

“It’s your world now,” with its powerful Mexican ambience will  be cast as Tequila Sunrise part two; whilst “What do I do with my heart,” will surely tug you back to snatches of “Best of my Love.” Is that a bad thing?

“Busy being Fabulous,” “I love to watch a woman dance,” and “Centre of the Universe,” are outstanding whilst the others come very close, and remember, there are twenty tracks. Now that takes some doing.

With old and new listeners coming along, this album was always going to put itself in the firing line of critics. Twenty-eight years is a long time, and apparently this rendering was six years in the making. . .

Double albums? This is the best.

Rossi

Non Fiction.

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1.  REVIEW OF FILM:      THE WRESTLER.(Non Fiction)

 

Probably the first thing in your mind when you see the star name of Mickey Rourke is the vision of a gung –ho wayward actor intent on self destruction. A person who has decided to self implode, thrown two fingers up to the establishment and chosen a road to meander which heads for the twilight zone. Maybe Sin City was his peak.

Then along comes a lifeline. On the belt is written the name of a director, Darren Aronofsky, a man who believes in talent and is willing to risk another throw of the dice.

So it happens with The Wrestler. Rourke is commissioned, (even though the budget is set at some 16 million dollars). He is told to add numerous pounds to his body in return for receiving many more in his bank account and then directed to give credence to a very hackneyed script.

Does it happen? Well, if the much-vaunted snippet that is doing the rounds is anything to go by, the answer is probably yes. Although by Shakespearian terms, the dialogue,” I’m an old broken down piece of meat and I deserve to be alone, I just don’t want you to hate me,” tends to rub the other way.

Another bleep in the film is the camera technique of following our hero down numerous corridors, showing his back and darkened walls, probably in an effort to show the dinginess of some of the venues. Hasn’t this angle been seen many times before in Rocky films? The only time it works is when Rourke takes a job in a delicatessen store, and the contrast is probably where the direction was heading originally.

The back up of Marisa Tomei as a sympathetic shoulder to cry on character is extremely predictable. You know that she is going to turn up for his last big fight. As for the daughter, (Evan Rachel Wood) do we really need to take the plot on by finding out if she is a lesbian or not? If these additives are given to the viewers, we probably think that it is going to become relevant to the story. It doesn’t happen. To me it is a poor way of padding out towards another fight scene. She must have been bemused about her contribution. The minutes she is actually on screen only allows her to deliver an extremely shallow performance.

Loose ends abound, especially the lack of information about his wife. Why did he leave his daughter? Surely we could have had a little more sustenance here?

So, does it work or not? The critics say so, the nominations are there and the publicity welcomes him back with open arms. Without giving the ending away, the film sums it up correctly when he performs his flying leap from the ropes of the wrestling ring. The screen goes blank.

My feelings went the same way, but as I listened to the Bruce Springsteen music over the end credits, I would say there is a very good chance of us seeing Sin City Two.

 

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THE  HIDDEN  VILLAGE

secluded walkway

On  the  sun-baked  islands  of  the  Canaries,  legends  abound.  The  Garden  of  Hesperides  as  well  as  the  Ghost  island  of  Borondon  vie  equally  with  the  better  known  folklore  tale  of  the  lost  city  of  Atlantis.

It  therefore  comes  as  no  surprise  that  the  largest  island  of  the  archipelago, Tenerife,  boasts  to  have  a  hidden  village. Mind  you,  that was  quite  a  number  of  years  ago, years  before  tourism  entered  the  vocabulary  of  the  inhabitants  language. I  was  fortunate  to  be  told  about  this  secret  place  by two  friends that  run  a  restaurant  high  up  on  the  slopes  of  glorious  cascading  hills.  Robert  and  Gina  Thorne  are  the  hosts  of  the  restaurant  La  Pimentera  and  know  all  about  the  hidden  charms  below  them.  It  was  from  this  vantage  point  whilst  sampling  their  wonderful  array of  specially cooked  foods  that  I  learned a  little  more  about  the  treasure  trove  that  engulfed  me.

Masca  is  the  name  of  the  village  and the  valley  people  have  managed  to  live  in  tranquillity  for  hundreds  of  years  due  to  the  fact  that  they  have  been  shielded  from  the  outside  world  by  steep  sided  gorges  which  rise  high  into  the  deep  blue  skies,  the  only  real  access  being  by  a  rugged  two  mile  upward  trek  from  the  shores  of  the  Atlantic  ocean.  Their  only  visitors  were  lone  adventurers  who  stumbled  across  the  Mascan  people  by  chance  or  eagle-eyed  birds  of  prey  that  would  swoop  down  on  basking  lizards  and  mice.

That  was  until  some  enterprising  engineers  managed  to  somehow  defy  gravity  and  lay  a  twisting  turning  trail  of  tarmac  to  the  top  of  the  crags.  They  then  managed  to  complete  the  roller  coaster  road  down  towards  the  small  village,  thus  forever  changing  the  arcadian  lives  of  the  Mascan  populous.

Thankfully,  the  road  just  touches  the  outskirts  of  the  village  and  then  scurries  away  to   the  north  western  side  of  the  island  as  if  somehow  embarrassed  by  its  intrusion.  Yet  you  cannot  fail  to  notice  the  changes  that  have  overtaken  the  once  independent  dwellers.  The  inevitable  souvenir  shops  have  sprung  up  as  well as  the  ubiquitous  restaurants  although  it  would  be  fair  to  say  that  the  beauty  of  the  village  has  not  altogether  lost  its  original  enchantment.

The  little  church  which  would  have  been  the  centre  of  the  community,  I  am  sure,  is  still  that.  Its  great  wooden  doors  are  still  open  inviting  not  just  her  own  people  to  prayer  but  maybe  some  of  the  new  faces  that  trundle  past  with  cameras  and  guide  books  of  a  different  calling.

old school conversion to restuarant

Sadly  the  old  sprawling  school-house  tucked  in  amongst  aged  palm  trees  and  honeysuckle  vines  has  lost  its  youthful  occupants.  Nowadays  it  caters  for  hungry  tourists  who  care  to  taste  the  traditional  foods  of  Masca  although  the  odd  history  lesson  can  be  gleaned  from  the  many  folios  left  on  the  walls. I  can  testify  to  one  thing  here.  The  public  convenience  with  side  window  has  the  best  view  I  have  ever  come  across  on  my  travels.  You  actually  look  down  the  gorge  towards  the Atlantic  Ocean  and  take  in  the  view  of  neighbouring  island  La  Gomera!

With  the  inroads  that  have  been  made  to  the  tiny  village  it  is  fortunate  that  little  has  changed  structurally.  The  steep  cobbled  walkways  between  hamlets  are  still  there,  maybe  a  little  more  worn  down,  but  still  overgrown  with  flowers  of  every  colour.  The  older  ladies  of  the  community  still  sit  on  stools  outside  their  cottages,  possibly  contemplating  life  when  it  was  a  little  quieter,  whilst  the  children  of  the  village  wait  for  the  school  bus  to  take  them  to  a  region  that  was  unknown  not  too  long  ago.

Masca  is  now  on  all  the  tour  itineraries  so  its  title  of  the  hidden  village  may  be  a  little  ambiguous,  but  fortunately  its  charm  and  beauty  has  repelled  any  further  tarnish  from  developers, just  like  its  mantle  of  mountains  did  all  those  years  previous.

valley

END

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“I  SHOULD  HAVE  BEEN  THE  ENGLAND  MANAGER”

(An  interview  with  the  legendary  Jack  Charlton.)

JC Football Legend

It  was  high  noon  as  I  took  up  my  position  against  one  of  the  most  successful  centre-halves  that  English  football  has  ever  known.  The  sun  was  directly  in  my  eyes  but  there  was  no  mistaking  the  huge  figure  as  he  headed  towards  me.  Should  I  feint  to  the  right  or  should  I  turn  and  back-peddle,  or  maybe  seek  the  sanctuary  of  my  own  penalty  area?   What  a fearsome  sight  this  must  have  been  as  you  can  imagine  him  doing  the  same  in  the  old  days  as  he  drifted  forward  for  a  corner  kick.

Luckily  for  me,  Jack  Charlton  has  since  retired  from  football,  and  today  he  was  making  his  way  towards  my  pool-side  table  here  in  Tenerife  for  a  chat  and  a  few  beers.  His  charming  wife  Pat  joined  us,  and,  as  I  would  later  find  out,  would  supply  some  back  up  answers  to  Jacks  distinguished  career.

For  a  man  who  has  won  just  about  every  honour  in  football,  including  the  World  Cup  in  1966,  and  numerous  domestic  trophies  with  Leeds  United,  he  remains  a  typical  Northern  chap.  Indeed,  first  things  first,  he  had  to  check  some  football  results  from  his  Daily  Mirror  before  embarking  on  a  question  and  answer  session.

In  todays  modern  game  it  is  indeed  rare  to  find  a  player  serving  out  his  career  with  one  club,  but  this  was  exactly  what  Jack  did  with  Leeds.  He  joined  them  in  1952  and  played  throughout  until  1973.

“Being from the North East, I  actually  wanted  to  play  for  Newcastle,  obviously,  but  my  mother  was  never  happy  with  the  type  of  contract  on  offer,  and  so  I  had  a  trial  with  Leeds  and  never  looked  back”.

He  reminisced  about  some  of  the  famous  managers  that  were  in  charge  in  his  early  years.  People  like  Frank  Buckley,  Raich  Carter  and  Jack  Taylor,  and  then  the  impressive  Don  Revie.  I  wondered  why   the  clubs  fortunes  were  turned  around  when  they  chose  Revie.

“Up  until  then  we  were  limited  to  playing  only  five  a  side  matches  in  training,  but  Don  brought  along  coaches  such  as  Sid  Owen  and  Les  Cocker.  Their  knowledge  of  the  game  and  the  use  of  many  set-pieces  transformed  a  bread  and  butter  team  into  a  high  class  outfit.”  Having  looked  at  the  history  of  Leeds  United  under  Revie  it  is  hard  to  argue  against  it.

I  mentioned  the  thirty  or  so  caps  he  had  gained  with  England  as  centre  half (thirty  five,  whispered  Pat)  and  reminded  him  of  the  goals  he  used  to  score  when  he  moved  forward.  Was  there  never  a  time  when  he  would  have  enjoyed  playing  up  front?  With  this  he  started  to  move  some  of  the  glasses  on  the  table  as  if  they  were  players.  He  then  proceeded  to  enlighten  me  on  the  differences  of  the  two  positions  and  the  relative  rolls  that  both  required.  Here  was  a  man  who  loved  his  football  whether  in  attack  or  defence!

In  between  tactics we were  often  interrupted  by  people  who  had  recognised  “Big  Jack”. Each  request  for  an  autograph  was  met  with  a  chat  and  a  hand  shake,  and  indeed,  a  photograph  if  required.

I  steered  him  gently  away  from  the  “playing  field”  and  asked  him  if  he  had  expected  to  change  the  fortunes  of  the  Republic  of  Ireland  when  he  took  over  the  management  reins.

“Yes”  came  the  forthright  reply.  “They  had  never  qualified  before,  even  though  they  had  players  of  the  calibre  of  Johny  Giles  and  David  O’Leary,  but  I  knew  that  we  could  adopt  a  pressure  system  where  you  do  not  allow  the  opposition  to  settle.”

Once  more  the  table  became  a  football  pitch  as  this  great  man  moved  the  condiments  into  strategic  positions and  then   brought  John  Aldridge  into  play  as  the  salt  cellar  cum  centre  forward!

It  was  no  wonder  the  teams  he  managed  played  with  such  feeling.

After  the  success  with  the  Republic,  he  had  become  an  almost  legendary figure  over  there,  and  in  1994  they  made  him  a  Freeman  of  Dublin.  What  exactly  did  that  entail?

“Well,  I’m  now  allowed  to  take  my  sheep  across  any  bridge  in  Dublin  on  a  Sunday!”

A  twinkle  set  in  his  eye  as  he  raised  his  glass  and  for  the  second  time  Pat  lifted  her  eyes  from  her  crossword  as  if  to  rebuke  him.  Another  round  of  drinks  was  ordered  as  we  paused  for  more  autograph  hunters.  The  waiter  took  away  the  empty  glasses  and  I  noticed  a  disparaging  look  from  the  team  manager  as  if  two  or  three  of  his  players  had  been  sent  off!

I  casually  asked  if  there  was  anything  he  had  missed  out  on  throughout  his  long  time  in  football.

“I  should  have  been  the  England  manager”  he  stormed.  It  was  never  a  question  I  had  thought  of  asking  but  you  could  tell  from  the  passion  in  his  voice  that  he  deeply  believed  it.  What  had  prevented  it?

“I  wanted  it  after  Don  Revie  and  I  was  asked  to  apply,  but  I  was  told  in  certain  circles  that  it  was  not  to  be.  I  think  it  was  because  I  was  regarded  as  a  “Revie  Boy”.

I  asked  him  if  he  would  have  done  a  better  job  than  any  of  the  other  managers.  A  scowl  came  to  his  face  as  he  summoned  the  waiter  again.

“Two  more  beers… oh, and  leave  the  empties!”

Pat  smiled  and  turned  to  her  second  crossword.  I  suspected  in  the  next  half  hour  that  we  were   about  to  win  the  World  Cup  again!

Jack Charlton

 

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THE WORLD OF THE BEE GEES

Most pop groups can be said to have led a life of debauchury, addiction to drugs of some form and childish tantrums. None more so than the Anglo/Australian trio of the Bee Gees. Over the years they seemed to have re-invented themselves many times over, often resurfacing when all hope was gone.
Initially born in Douglas, Isle of Man, (not Manchester, as lots of people think), they did eventually move to the Lancashire city where, as children, they fell foul of the law so much that their exasperated father decided on the rather momentous move of taking them to Australia.
They soon established themselves as a very talented group going under the name of the Rattlesnakes before becoming the Bee Gees. The name was not short for the brothers Gibb, but attributed to two men who helped in their initial success; speedway owner Bill Good and disc jockey Bill Gates.
Barry Gibb managed to write a song which would put them into the Australian top ten, “Spicks and Specks”. This did not satisfy their appetite for more acclaim so they headed for England where Brian Epstein and his new impresario Robert Stigwood took them along a more triumphant road.
Their new recording contract with Polydor produced a swift shot at the charts with “New York Mining Disaster” followed by their first number one in Britain, “Massachusetts”.
With all this new found fame the prosperity went to their heads. Maurice became a heavy drinker, whilst Robin became addicted to amphetamines. The extra number ones as well as numerous top ten hits sent them into disarray whilst they squabbled over who should get most credit for their highly proclaimed image.
At the same time they were having equal success in America, even writing songs for other people such as the Marbles UK top ten hit “Only one woman”.
Unfortunately, by 1969 they were in deep trouble with tax and divorce problems, (top rates of income tax at that time were something like over 80%). It was also a time when the hits dried up. They were then forced to play the soul destroying Northern club circuit, singing their old hits in places like Batley Variety club in Yorkshire.
They decided to hot foot it to the States where they stayed low in Miami for a couple of years.
The rest must have done them good because they emerged into a new era with the massive top seller of “Jive Talkin” as well as making new albums. Their prolific output of songs were even taken on by other artists such as Yvonne Elliman (“If I can’t have you”) and Tavares (“More than a woman”). The Bee Gees were back.
They then produced one of the biggest selling albums of the decade with “Saturday night fever”, followed by massive hits such as “Stayin Alive”, “How deep is your love” and “Tragedy”.
By now they were giving songs to people like Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton (“Islands in the stream”) and Dionne Warwick (“Heartbreaker) as well as Diana Ross (“Chain Reaction”). Once again it was time for them to leave the spotlight and stay in the background whilst lifting other peoples career.
It was during this period that they lost younger brother Andy who died from a drug overdose. In deference to their brothers death they declined to attend an Ivor Novello Awards ceremony in which they were honoured for their Outstanding Contribution to British Music.
Like that other great family group the Beach Boys, they have survived family feuds, harsh criticism and tragic death, although loosing Robin on the 20th May 2012, effectively and sadly ended the group.
Throughout the musical changes over the decades they survived because of their vocal dexterity and ability to arrange some wonderful pop melodies.
No greater tribute can be made than to see some of todays young pop groups record Bee Gees numbers. The likes of Steppes, Westlife, Take That and Destinys Child could not have had a better lift up the pop ladder.