Tuesday 20 June 2023

And Pray That There's Intelligent Life Somewhere Up In Space, Cos There's B*gger All Down Here On Earth

 If I ever needed proof that someone is reading this guff, then a question posed in the comments on an earlier post from Rol at My Top Ten asking "Have you done the Ford Galaxie yet?" proves that at least one soul is taking notice.
And the answer is: No, the Ford Galaxie has not been tributed in these pages.

So ... The Ford Galaxie is a full-sized car that was built in the United States by Ford for model years 1959 through to 1974. The name was used for the top models in Ford's full-size range from 1958 until 1961, in a marketing attempt to appeal to the excitement surrounding the Space Race. In 1958, a concept car was introduced called "la Galaxie" which incorporated the headlights into pods inline with the grille and a reduced front profile.

(I nicked that straight from wikipedia)

One musical point of note is it was the vehicle of choice (in Police livery) for the KLF.
Thing is, the Ford Galaxie was never actually used by the US Police, and Ford Timelord was actually an imported Ford Galaxie that the previous owner (before Jimmy Cauty) had painted up in a tribute to The Blues Brothers Bluesmobile.

Anyway, when I read the question my mind went straight to an alternative spelling ... The Ford Galaxy

Domestic tribulations and responsibilities call for a "sensible" car, maybe an estate.  Equally likely is an MPV.
The first MPV I came across was sometime in the early 80s when a friends family had added a bench seat into the back of an Escort Van.  Not a People Carrier by design, but a Multi Person Vehicle in intent.
I went through the "sensible option" period with a Vauxhall Zafira sat on the driveway.  The Zafire was based on the Astra, and was not without issues, but did ferry myself, Mrs D and 4 kids around the country for a good few years.
It was only the basic 1.6 model - I couldn't convince she who must be obeyed of the slightly mnore exciting choice of the VXR version.  Vauxhall did actually consider entering it in the Touring Car Championship - an unlikely choice, like the Volvo 850 Estate a few years before - but I think they may have dropped the idea when they realised how ustable it could be on fast heavy turning corners
(mine never fell over, although it di feel like it would a couple of times)

The MPV is predominantly a European invention, with just about every major manufacturer using the running gear and frame of a tried and trusted model and placing a spacious body with 6 or 7 seats on top of it.
Arguably it was the Japenese who led the way with the Toyota Previa, Nissan Prairie and the Mitsubishi RVR.  Renault were probably the first European to the market with the Scenic in 1999.
A couple of years later, a joint venture between Ford, Volkswagen and Seat saw the launch of the Galaxy, Sharran and Alhambra (basically the same vehicle with a different badge).
The 3 vehicles shared body parts, mechanicals, and were built in the same factory - it was just the badges fixed on at the end of the production line that were different.
The engines were basically VW plants badged up for the relevant vehicle - the most notable (unlikely?) choice was the deployment of the 2.8 engine from the Golf VR6.
A powerful engine in the Golf, but when shifting something 175% heavier, and did the job well but was not what you would call a "Hot MPV".

When launched, it was the Ford that topped the sales charts, and it was Ford that pushed for updates and developments.
By 2006, the joint-venture parted ways, and the Galaxy became built of the Ford Mondeo running gear.  With just about every manufacturere having an MPV in the range, Ford went down the route of developing the S-Max (which was a compact Compact MPV)  and enlarging the Galaxy.  In terms of size and internal space, the Galaxy became a 21st Century version of the Transit (but with windows)

There was a 5 year gap between the second and third Monty Python films - The Life Of Brian and The Meaning Of Life.
Much had splintered in the Monty Python world in those 5 years.  Their first 2 films had been given direction and purpose by one or two of the Team wrestling the Project through, and on The Life Of Brian all were pulling together in the face of adversity (and George Harrison's mortgage).
Off the back of the last hurrah of Live At The Hollywood Bowl, the team assembled to make their next film.
Whilst ideas weren't short, a narrative or story-arc was absent.  What was decided was to take several of the ideas and weave them together against a backdrop of The Meaning Of Life.  And what was produced was a similar filmic event to 1971s compilation film And Now For Something Completely Different.  Initial reviews were disappointing as was public reception (maybe there was too much expectation of Life Of Brian 2?)
There is much in the film that is quotable, memorable, and has made it into the British language possibly without the user realising it's source ("it's only wa-ffer thin" for example).
Among the sketches were some songs supporting the narrative of the moment.  Eric Idle had obviously taken courage from the acclaim received for Brian's closing song "Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life" and penned  a clutch more including a song about the penis in the style of Noel Coward, celebrating the adventure of a career in Accountancy, and this one - a musing on the universe (not 100% scientifically correct, but close enough)

Tuesday 13 June 2023

Sparks - The Girl Is Crying In Her Latte

 When the first single landed, I admit to being a tad concerned about the album.  There was something typically Sparks-ian about the video featuring Cate Blanchett dancing in headphones with Ron and Russell in the background.  But I wasn't enamoured of the song - nice enough, but didn't seem to have a lot of depth or invention.

But, when the album arrived, all fears were quickly dispelled and I found myself thinking "well, they done it again haven't they.  Another superb addition to their 50+ years and 26 album catalogue.

However, as I listen from Track 1, each listen suggests my misgivings for the title track are slowly be displaced.  From there on, what would a Sparks album be without trying to cover as many genre bases as possible?  Which is exactly what the do.  Name a style, and they've probably got it covered - and within each song Ron seems to find a new, undiscovered demo sequence in his synth banks.

The album has 14 tracks, so rather than give a detailed run through of each I'm cherry picking the higher-highlights.
Much of the reviews I've read so far make a point of stating that this album marks a return to Island records, their first label, and the release of their breakthrough album 'Kimono My House' in 1974 (49 years ago).  And the track "Nothing Is As Good As They Say It Is" has the sound and feel of those times.  It may be the most straightforward constructed song here (verse, chorus, solid drums, nifty 70s-esque classic rock guitar solo), but how many other bands would write a song from the perspective of a 22 hour old baby wanting to return to it's mothers belly.

"The Mona Lisa's Packing Leaving Late Tonight" is a big Sparks baroque production with African drums.  And only Sparks can construct a song about the Mona Lisa's enigmatic smile hiding more emotions.  Comes complete with one of Ron's best plinky-plonk (not a great description, but I hope you get what I mean) synth inserts.

"We Go Dancing" is a virtual straight dance track (think "Number One Song In  Heaven" sans Giorgio Moroder) and gives Russell the chance to weave a few long words into the narrative.

"When You Leave" has Russell dueting with himself observing that members of the party are just waiting for him to leave so they can break out the good music and heavy Belgian beers.  As he says, he's staying just to annoy them.

"Take Me For A Ride" sounds like a future entry for my Car series mentioning the Chevy Powerglide.  For this one they go a bit Krautrock backing Russell's near falsetto vocal.

And that's only half the album spoken of - there is so much more to enjoy, as it races towards the closer "Gee That Was Fun", which for all expected Sparks tongue-in-cheek, turning the narrative on it's head sounds like a straight ballad looking back at a life together.
Of course it's possible to read it (mis-read it?)  as a sign-off to the audience.

And yes 49 years of albums from 2 men with a combined age (now) of 151, if this is the last then Gee, that was fun.
I sincerely hope I have mis-read that song, and plenty more madcap melodies, twisted lyrical passages, and entertainment will be forthcoming

And as the publicity run has mentioned it, if you've not seen Edgar Wright's film The Sparks Brothers, then do yourself a favour and search it out on your steaming platform of choice.

"Nothing Is As Good As They Say It Is"

"When You Leave"

"The Mona Lisa's Packing Leaving Late Tonight"