Thursday, October 4, 2007

Midnight Voices

A little while ago, I mentioned on here a remarkable concert I'd been to at Bristol's St. George's Centre, featuring Pete Atkin backed by a superb jazz trio.  For those who don't know (which is most of the world), Atkin is one of the great misplaced musical talents.  He's been writing songs with Clive James - and one is always obliged to add, yes, that Clive James - for more than 30 years.  He made half a dozen albums back in the 1970s, was swept away by the emergence of punk, and went off to make a very successful career for himself as a radio producer. 

Then, about ten years ago, thanks to the efforts of uber-fan Steve Birkill (who runs Atkin's superb website), he re-emerged, performing, writing and recording.  Since then he's recorded a collection of songs that he never got around to recording the first time round, a CD of entirely new Atkin/James material, and a live CD taken from a superb two-man show that he and James performed across the UK and Australia.  But his 1970s CDs, after a brief re-issue a few years ago, are now sadly unavailable.  So Pete's now taken the very wise step of re-recording a selection of the best of that material with the excellent band who performed with him in Bristol (and a few other people).  

If you can forgive Mr James for his controversial comments on crime fiction (well, nobody's perfect), you might find it worth giving a listen to songs and performances which really are like no-one else's.  The new CD, Midnight Voices, is officially released in the new year, but it will very shortly be available to those in the know though Pete's own Hillside Music shop, as are all the other recent CDs mentioned above.  

And just to give this a vaguely crime fiction twist, possibly my favourite of Atkin/James's songs, 'The Faded Mansion on the Hill'  (which is on the new CD), although apparently written about Sydney, could easily be about Chandler's LA.


1. Peter said...

I've held forth before on the shallowness of Clive James' opinions about crime fiction, which are all the more infuriating because he wears his shallowness on the subject so proudly. But the link you posted has led me to browse some of his other columns. The man can be eminently and even movingly sensible.
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

2. Michael Walters said...

Clive James is something of an enigma, I think. At his best, he can write better than almost anyone - wise, funny, moving, you name it. But he does sometimes slip into a glibness that doesn't do justice to his talent. Mind you, given his level of productivity, perhaps one can forgive the occasional slip in quality control.

3. Peter said...

That's an interesting comment. Since the crime-fiction piece appeared in the New Yorker, I tended to blame its flaws in that publication. Perhaps the touch of glibness is his fault rather than the magazine's.

He does offer some acute comments on the subject. It's just that he offers some dopey ones, too.
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

4. Michael+Walters said...

It may be a bit of both, I suppose. James has an odd reputation in the UK (I'm not sure about how he's perceived in the US or indeed his native Australia) because his activities have been so extraordinarily diverse. The general public probably knows him best for his relatively trivial 'Clive James on TV' series which reviewed bizarre television from around the world and introduced us to the dubious delights of the Japanese gameshow. And he's done a lot of other, less trivial but not exactly ground-breaking television. Others know him for his genuinely funny series of autobiographical books, or remember him as a blisteringly hilarious TV critic. But most people probably aren't even aware that he's also a highly intelligent and thoughtful literary and cultural critic (his new book 'Cultural Amnesia' is a tour de force), or a fine poet, a decent novelist and a distinctive lyricist. Oddly, he seems to display, simultaneously, a fear both of being taken too seriously and of not being taken seriously enough. But I can't think of anyone else who's straddled the tightrope between 'high' and 'low' culture quite so determinedly or so well.

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