Things on the box

One of the consequences of recent wrestles with the black dog and its sidekicks is the increase in my consumption of television series versus the usual devouring of books (I’ve finished just one so far this year). It’s worth caveating this statement with the additional statement that usually my hits from the box come in the one-off shape of films or documentaries* so given that such consumption usually minimal, an additional series factors in an increase of 100%. I haven’t become welded to the couch in a terminal ‘are you still watching?’ binge either.

While this blog hasn’t typically ventured into the realms of visual entertainment I thought it worth throwing these up on here as a) at least two are related to the usual programming, b) it might shake loose that blogging mojo and f) it’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to.

Lupin – Series 2

Of the two television series I watched in full last year, both were French and one was the first series of Lupin. Apparently this is the first of Netflix’ French series to hit the top ten in the US. It’s a ridiculously addictive mystery thriller with a great plot and style – with cuts between past, present and ‘how we got to this moment’ reveals – that’s made glorious by Omar Sy (who’s been worth tuning in for since the film Intouchables) as Assane Diop, a crafty conman-with-a-reason inspired by Arsène Lupin. Well worth getting into and its rapid-fire episodes make for addictive viewing. Just watch the French version with sub-titles though, the dubbed version is a pile of fecal matter as per.

Reacher

I hope Tom Cruise has seen Amazon’s new series and wept a little – though I imagine there was probably some kind of buy-out required so he probably doesn’t give much of a scientologist’s damn – because this is exactly how readers wanted Jack Reacher portrayed. The question of casting the man-mountain that is Jack Reacher has long been a question and the Cruisester was never really the answer – aside from being on tip-toes in a school playground he was too inanely chatty. Alan Ritchson is not only a physical match but the first six/seven minutes pass before he says anything, after all: Reacher said nothing. Finding someone capable of both portraying Reacher’s imposing restraint and detailed break-downs can’t have been easy but Amazon seem to have got it spot-on here.

This first series is a near perfectly-faithful eight episode take on the first Reacher novel The Killing Floor and there’s not a fault to be found with it. They’ve created a series that’s huge fun, packed with more punch-ups than a Clint Eastwood with an orang utan movie while always feeling like a top-quality bit of tv in terms of production values and a great blues-heavy soundtrack. In fact, I watched it twice! Very keen to find out which novel they’re tackling next.

Get Back

468 minutes. 7.8 hours of footage of The Beatles restored and trimmed (!) into a three-part series that’s been the talking point of many a blog and article since it dropped. It took me a while to get to and get through as the chances of my having opportunity to enjoy one episode uninterrupted are on the same level as getting that call from Pearl Jam to offer guitar support on their next tour. Let alone all three episodes.

So it took a while but I will say every little bit of that while it took was glorious. I know I’m merely adding to the last echoes of the conversation here but it was revelatory in so many ways…. John’s heroin addiction clearly riding heavy, almost has heavy as the ever presence of Yoko….. bloody hell, Ringo is a boring arse….. George took way more flack then I could…. Paul has always been self-important and patronising, then…. holy crap, he’s just fallen on the riff for ‘Get Back’…. ok, how many times to we need to hear about Jo Jo… but all of that building to the final performance which was wonderfully edited as Jim at Music Enthusiast has spoken about better than I could. Though I particularly loved the scenes with the increasingly despondent police officers as their attempts to bring events to a close are hampered in a way that both bordered on the farcical while highlighting just how far out of touch the stiffled establishment was with the counter-culture driven youth by the end of the 60’s.

*The presence of National Geographic on Disney+ means these are kept in healthy supply

Tracks: Beware of Darkness

Quick fact: George was the best Beatle.

Just look at the list of Beatles songs that are his… If I Needed Someone, Taxman, I Want To Tell You, Within You Without You,  Something, Piggies, that perennial herald of warmer weather Here Comes The Sun and While My Guitar Gently Weeps(!) to name but a few…

Granted, he happened to be in band with two other blokes who were quite handy with a tune so songs that would otherwise have been guaranteed single selections weren’t considered worthy enough. So instead of a scathing swipe at HMRC and a catchy-as-the-flu hook or a beauty of a tune about the dangers of overloading your brain with too many ideas at one time they released the one where the drummer intoned about living in a questionably-coloured underwater boat.

Still, after a couple of non-traditional solo releases while the band were still active, when the Beatles officially called it a day in 1970 (Lennon had called it quits the previous year) the foot had been taken off the hose pipe for George and he released the triple album All Things Must Pass – itself a gorgeous song that the rest of the Beatles had passed on (the berks) –  in October.

All Things Must Pass is full to the brim with great songs, some of George’s very best are here: I’d Have You Anytime, My Sweet Lord, Isn’t It A Pity, What Is Life, All Things Must Pass, Ballad of Sir Frankie Crisp (Let It Roll) and, of course, Beware of Darkness.

Beware of Darkness has some pretty dense and dark imagery in the lyrics, wonderfully offset by some beautiful yet complex instrumentation (with a shift from G major to G sharp minor that really shouldn’t work but does so brilliantly) and George’s genuinely affirming words. Harrison was himself on a perpetual quest for peace and, religion aside, his spirituality and the solace he seeks to find within it are at the forefront in this one and whether you get on that wave yourself or not there’s no denying the sincerity of his vocal.

I can’t express how much I love this song, to be honest. It’s one of my go-to tunes when I hear that black dog barking in a far off field and is one of my own coping techniques when I worry it might get closer. I’ll drop this on and then, if it’s one of those days, follow it up with another Harrison related tune from the Python boys.

Self-compiled; The Beatles

Compilations are a funny thing. You’re never going to please everyone but, in theory, you need to give a good reason for existing fans to buy (and a hastily recorded or re-recorded track not considered good enough for the previous album doesn’t count) and enough solid quality to give a career-overview for new / cursory fans to get hooked.

Some people go as far as to turn their nose up at them. Yet I’ve used a ‘Best of’ to get into a fair few bands over the years (Asides from Buffalo Tom remains one of my most-played discs).

When it comes to grabbing compilations from bands I already hold the back catalogue of, I don’t tend to go the Best Of or Introduction To route. Especially on those groups or individuals that are no longer active. Yet I’ll still want a compilation – especially for car use – for those times I don’t particularly want to listen to just one specific album. The problem is, though, that my choice of what I’d consider essential listening very rarely coincides completely with the ‘official’ compiler’s (usually because they’re doing so with a specific aim rather than just cherry picking). So that’s when the old adage “if you want a job done right do it yourself” comes into play and I’ve a fair few of these home-made comps so far.

With the use of Spotify I can even share these here.

So here we go with the first.

Oddly enough the need for a self-compiled disc of The Beatles doesn’t quite fit the ramble above. I don’t own anything from their back catalogue (with the exception of The Magical Mystery Tour). Yet their output is so large that there’s a number of different compilations out there, again each with a different purpose – 1 obviously the chart-toppers, The Past Masters and Anthology seemed too wide-ranging for a good, succinct compilation. 1962-1966 and 1967-1970 came closest but again contained a lot of stuff that I didn’t really care for and when you consider the pricing of all releases Fab Four themed… no thanks. It’s worth noting that this compilation was created before they deigned to allow their songs available via iTunes and streaming so the borrowing of CDs to create this was necessitated (and no piracy was involved) – to be honest though I’d still do so as the idea of paying the required for the whole still makes me flinch.

I’m not a huge Beatles fan. I like a lot of their songs a lot, though, and enjoy them more as I get older, yet I could quite happily never hear some of their earlier stuff again.

So, my choice of Beatles tracks, and the compilation that I’ve kept in my car for some years now also serves as a “my favourite Beatles songs” list – all wrapped around the centrepiece of the amazing While My Guitar Gently Weeps… *

*Yes; George was the best Beatle. You might argue but you’d be wrong.