ALBUM REVIEW: BABY ANIMALS – THIS IS THE END

Baby-Animals-album

 

It’s been 20 years between drinks (or the break between studio records) for our very own, Baby Animals. Yet, their third effort, This Is Not The End has moments that will make you think their nineties heyday was only yesterday. A come-back record of sorts, this one offers a consistent album of solid rock tunes.

The 11 tracks again see the band’s strong frontwoman, Suze DeMarchi pairing up with guitarist, Dave Leslie. They are joined by a new rhythm section- Dario Bortolin (bass) and Mick Skelton (drums and percussion). This new addition means the group sound enthusiastic and fresh without turning their backs entirely on their fruitful past.

Opening single, ‘Email’ is pure rock that chugs along and is the first of a few tracks to handle the subject of breaking up. DeMarchi’s marriage to Extreme guitarist, Nuno Bettencourt was a recent and noticeably raw event and topic. This song frames the lyrics through describing miscommunication in relationships and sees backing vocals layered to the nines, meaning the overall sound is akin to seventies rock.

‘Bonfires’ is an altogether easier listen. This one fuses hard and soft moments, creating something soulful while DeMarchi gets nostalgic about her past. ‘Warm Bodies’ on the other hand sees the group change tact with a ballad not unlike the cuts on their acoustic album from a few years ago. This number also grows exponentially in the warm and sultry stakes, meaning comparisons between this particular frontwoman and the late Chrissy Amphlett and Chrissie Hynde could be appropriate.

This Is Not The End tackles a few different styles- from dark and broody break-up ballads to the energetic rock songs for which they are known. At other moments the rough edges are smoothed over ever so slightly, allowing the band to explore the realm of power pop while ‘Invisible Dreamer’ is their slowest, most expansive creation-to-date.

For my money the band are at their best when DeMarchi channels her heartbreak and anger into some defiant rock. ‘Hot Air Balloon’ is perhaps the finest example of this. A raucous anthem with a blues-style; it shares a few things in common with White Stripes’ ‘I’m Slowly Turning Into You’. The record isn’t all about melancholy and staring forlorn at whisky bottles (although there is some of this); because things do finish on a positive note with ‘Winters Day’ being all hope and optimism about what events potentially lie ahead.

Baby Animals have been through their fair share of ups and downs for one life-time and now return rather triumphantly after a long hiatus. It’s written all over what is ultimately a confident, new rock record. The group are a little older and wiser and are happy for their raw emotions and wounds to be on full display. Rather than stay in a corner and lick these or fade into obscurity, they put on a pretty good rock show and that’s all that really matters.

 

Originally published on 30 July 2013 at the following website: http://sfmedia.com.au/baby-animals-this-is-not-the-end-cd-review/

Visit SF Media’s homepage at: http://sfmedia.com.au/

ALBUM REVIEW: JOSH PYKE – THE BEGINNING & THE END OF EVERYTHING

joshpyke

 

Josh Pyke has never been one to shy away from wearing his heart on his sleeve. It therefore comes as no surprise that his fourth studio album, The Beginning & The End Of Everything is his most self-proclaimed “personal” one to date. And although this is arguable given his previous EPs and albums, it seems as though Pyke still has plenty to write about.

The 11-track record has few surprises with Pyke sticking to his folk tinged singer-songwriter bread-and-butter. It’s a style where harmony and melodies collide with sophisticated lyrics, which this time around are influenced by Pyke’s two young sons and question about his desires, mortality and the sort of legacy he wants to leave behind.

It speaks volumes when the lyrics are the most engaging element of the album. This often forgotten aspect of a song is in fact the centrepiece, because all too familiar melodies are offered up and these are like a broken-in pair of shoes in that they’re often comfortable but occasionally rather tired. The brief opening track ‘Bug Eyed Beauty’ features multi-tracked harmonising and Pyke’s newly acquired 12-string guitar before the title track reprises the wolf themes from his break-through, Feeding The Wolves EP.

The single, ‘Leeward Side’ is a catchy little ditty where a buoyant blend of harmonica rings out over some Mumford & Son-style acoustic guitar fanfare. It’s where the album peaks and the overall finished product sits somewhere between Bob Evans and The Shins on the scales. This is followed by the raw, ‘Haunt You Love’ where Pyke turns his sights to a couple reduced to pale imitations of their former selves. It is sad and deeply cutting.

‘All The Very Best Of Us’, a with Holly Throsby, is a mid-album highlight with Throsby’s delicate vocals bringing a warmth to the proceedings. It’s followed by the darker ‘Feet Of Clay’ which sounds more like a lost therapy session.

The Beginning & The End Of Everything is a charming and confident record of heartfelt tales and tender love letters that will soothe Pyke’s long-time fans. However anyone expecting anything more than honest storytelling and a pleasant amble should look elsewhere.

 

Originally published on 15 July 2013 at the following website: http://www.fasterlouder.com.au/reviews/music/36296/Josh-Pyke–The-Beginning-The-End-Of-Everything

Visit Fasterlouder’s homepage at: http://www.fasterlouder.com.au/

LIVE REVIEW: ZIGGY: THE SONGS OF DAVID BOWIE @ SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE (18.07.2013)

ziggy

 

There are many reasons why an artist like David Bowie has had such a long and illustrious career. Music’s ultimate chameleon has written so many hits and songs that it leaves an enormous pair of space boots to fill if a musician is ever faced with covering or paying tribute to him. But the artists behind Ziggy: The Songs of David Bowie tribute at the Opera House were celebrating their own fine work, by doing another faithful tribute concert to the great man in a self-proclaimed “David Bowie fashion parade” of sorts.

The show was lead by an alternating cast of singers. Jeff Duff and Steve Balbi (Noiseworks, Rose Tattoo) are old hands at this, having fronted the band before, plus Duff is an old glam rocker from way back. It also helps that he is tall, slim and androgynous-looking. It meant that when the show started with “Starman” and he came out throwing glitter and wearing blue eye shadow, a silver jumpsuit, space wings and matching boots, for a minute there you would’ve thought it was the real David Bowie.

Balbi on the other hand was rocking a look that was more reminiscent of Johnny Depp, even though he was the strongest singer for the evening. The other front man for the night was Brydon Stace. All three singers would alternate costumes to suit the period of the song. They were joined by a six-piece band that boasted Kate Cebrano’s brother, Phil Cebrano (guitars), Victor Rounds (bass), Jak Housden (guitars), Scott Aplin (keys) and the very talented, multi instrumentalist, Ross Middleton (flute, keys, saxophone and percussion). The group would play fluid and mostly faithful renditions of the material.

They would perform for a little over two hours with hits like “Ziggy Stardust”, “Changes”, “Diamond Dogs” and “Life On Mars” offered. The only complaint that could possibly be made is that there were a few noteworthy omissions, including: “Fashion”, “Queen Bitch”, “China Girl” and the “Dancing In The Street” cover Bowie did with Mick Jagger in the eighties. But then, with such a large discography of material to choose from, you could play for hours and barely scratch the surface.

An early highlight of the night was “Ashes To Ashes” with its spine-tingly keys. Stace would also play up the camp moments in his delivery of this one, at times resembling Paul McDermott in sideshow-mode but this took nothing away from the original song. It was an utter joy, even if the lyrics are dark, because the fans got to sing along and be nostalgic. But that said, the crowd did take a little while to warm up and enjoyed Bowie’s bigger “hits” over some of the more obscure singles but once their spirits rose, they stayed pretty high.

In “Space Oddity”, Middleton’s flute was as light and as gorgeous as angel hair. It was almost like it was a gift from the heavens above, as a disco ball lit up and bathed the Studio in golden light. “Fame” on the other hand was a sexy and chaotic version lead by Balbi who took the time to get down and dirty with the great unwashed.

Some readers may think of the track, “The Man Who Sold The World” as one by Nirvana, thanks to their MTV Unplugged performance. But it’s a Bowie original and tonight’s version was closer to that then the acoustic cover. Stace did an especially sweet version of this song, his vocals remaining ever so shiny before the love letter that was “Wild Is The Wind”. Stace would also play Freddie Mercury to Balbi’s Bowie in the funky, “Under Pressure”. Other highlights included “Jean Genie” and “Let’s Dance”, the latter forcing the audience to do just as Bowie had instructed.

The show would close with an incendiary, “Suffragette City” before the guys returned for the two-song encore, “1984” and “Heroes”. The former number was a poor choice at this point in the evening because the audience wanted to continue dancing and would’ve preferred something a little more upbeat and poppy. Thankfully, they perked up and sang-along to “Heroes”.

The night had been such an enjoyable hop, skip and jump through David Bowie’s catalogue. The Ziggy band had adequately captured the English chameleon’s full range of space oddity and more, allowing things to be free, weird and fun.

Ziggy: The Songs of David Bowie Sydney set list:
1. Starman
2. Ziggy Stardust
3. Ashes To Ashes
4. Changes
5. Space Oddity
6. Fame
7. Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide
8. Modern Love
9. The Man Who Sold The World
10. Wild Is The Wind
11. Moonage Daydream
12. Life On Mars
13. Oh You Pretty Things
14. Under Pressure (originally performed by David Bowie and Queen)
15. Sorrow (originally performed by The McCoys)
16. Jean Genie
17. Let’s Dance
18. Young Americans
19. Diamond Dogs
20. Rebel Rebel
21. Suffragette City
—————-
22. 1984
23. Heroes

 

Originally published on 21 July 2013 at the following website: http://www.theaureview.com/sydney/ziggy-the-songs-of-david-bowie-opera-house-18-07-13

Visit The Au Review’s homepage at: http://www.theaureview.com/

ALBUM REVIEW: ORCHESTRAL MANOEUVRES IN THE DARK – ENGLISH ELECTRIC

OMD-English Electric

Whoever said history never repeats itself clearly hasn’t listened to the album, English Electric by Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark (OMD). The record is their twelfth overall and their second since their reformation in 2010 and the release of History Of Modern. It is also a superior record to this latter mention (though that doesn’t say very much) because the Liverpudlian synth-pop group simply recycle and rehash the power and beats from their earlier works.

This 12-track album is a rather quirky one filled with obtuse lyrics where the underlying message is about looking to the future and realising that the envisioned utopia didn’t materialise. Things instead went awry, the authoritative robots have taken over, technology is a mess and people are still such silly, insatiable and fallible creatures. This story is mostly told through a series of interludes, which begin with “Please Remain Seated” where we’re told the future has been “cancelled” and to await further instruction.

“Metroland” was released as a single and is a more sunny and optimistic number that propels and pulses for some seven-and-a-half minutes. It’s a feeling that’s also shared in “Our System” where a choir sing in unison while the bass and percussion wobble away. The former track also shares things in common with New Order (and it’s the first of two commonalities as the cover is designed by Peter Saville, who is no stranger to working with both New Order and OMD).

The track, “Kissing The Machine” is actually an old song. It was included on the Esperanto album by Elektric Music which featured Karl Bartos, a former member of Kraftwerk. It’s not the first time this German band are influenced as there are other moments where their clipped, dance sounds and motorik beats are also seen and heard. At other moments however, OMD produce a sound that is closer to both their home turf and their contemporaries with comparisons to Depeche Mode and Soft Cell being apt.

In “Atomic Ranch” we get some clever social observations mixed in with dub-step elements. There is the average Joe asking for the house, car, perfect life and robot wife making it a paint-by-numbers request to fulfil the Australian dream. “Decimal” on the other hand takes a different route with a Phillip Glass influence and a modulated female voice counting away in a wistful manner. But all this does is lend some already beige proceedings a clinical feel.

English Electric is an album full of melancholy, loss and disappointments told alongside the kind of electro pop and beats that should make you want to get up and dance. But the fact is that these staccato beats are combined with overly simplistic synth melodies that are far too similar to the band’s previous works. So what could’ve been a rich and textured come-back album with a conceptual theme is instead machine-like, clean and tinny and sounds like a dozen other records from way out there in the galaxy.

Originally published on 17 July 2013 at the following website: http://thedwarf.com.au/album_review/orchestral-manoeuvres-in-the-dark-english-electric

Visit The Dwarf’s homepage at: http://www.thedwarf.com.au/

ALBUM REVIEW: BIG SCARY – NOT ART

Big Scary

 

Big Scary may not consider their second album “art” but it sounds like could be a film soundtrack. The duo from Melbourne proved inventive and versatile on their debut album, Vacation where they explored garage rock, dream pop and piano-driven ballads. A similar approach has been adopted here.

Not Art is a lush and mature record with pastoral, piano-led pop tunes and intricate ballads that are fused with staccato percussion and hip-hop samples. This was sparked by guitarist, Tom Iansek discovering hip-hop – and its production in particular – and he has applied this to the duo’s broader, pop palate with solid results.

‘Hello, My Name Is’ is a sprawling affair where Jo Symes’ drums crash to the post-rock melodies of Joy Division and some stream-of-conscious lyrics. Skitter-scatter drums also feature on ‘Luck Now’, perhaps the most obvious and interesting fusion of hip-hop and dub-step on this record save for Iansek’s rapping on ‘Invest’.

There is the fragile and vulnerable hymn, ‘Lay Me Down’ where Iansek’s falsetto vocals sound an awful lot like Jeff Buckley’s. It’s a solemn approach that screams “break-up” record and it is also utilised on the piano driven ‘Twin Rivers’. This tickling of the ivories provides an ornate styling that is reprised in ‘Final Thoughts With Tom & Jo’. It’s an obvious departure for the duo away from the guitar-based pop from previously, and when the mood is set to broody it does share a thing or two in common with the likes of The Cure and Radiohead.

Not Art doesn’t contain a single like ‘Gladiator’ nor are there any immediate party tunes like most of our other indie bands. Instead, the pair put in the hard yards with a layered affair and one where the listener must prepare for a slow-burning journey. They also lob in a number of different curveballs, meaning repeat listens are not only rewarding but should be mandatory. The feel is also rather cohesive even though the mood rises and falls with each fluid and melodic moment.

Big Scary’s latest album is a refreshing addition to their discography which sees the pair branch out, referencing everyone from Grizzly Bear and The Cure to Mumford & Sons and Kanye West. Not Art is an emotive and soft record where the group’s yearning and soul-searching sparks one long and productive journey through strange and eclectic new territory.

 

Originally published on 15 July 2013 at the following website: http://www.fasterlouder.com.au/reviews/music/36295/Big-Scary–Not-Art

Visit Fasterlouder’s homepage at: http://www.fasterlouder.com.au/

LIVE REVIEW: BEN OTTEWELL @ THE BASEMENT, SYDNEY (11.07.2013)

benottewell copy

 

Ben Ottewell’s vocals are the defining characteristic of Gomez. So imagine our surprise when he told us that his bandmates treat him like the “new” boy because he was the last one to join. Never mind the last sixteen years, they had all grown up together. At Ottewell’s show at the Basement he wore the folk troubadour badge and entertained us with Gomez covers plus cuts from his solid, debut solo record and other tracks.

Over the course of the evening Ottewell would keep things simple and devoted his time between one of two acoustic guitars. This really allowed his vocals to shine. Even Wikipedia makes note of his “deep, raspy voice” and “gravely baritone”.

The fact is that Ottewell is naturally blessed with vocal chords that parallel musical greats like Eric Burdon, Robert Plant and John Fogerty, to name a few. Ottewell may be 43 years old but his voice sounds like a far older, tortured bluesmen – one drenched in experience and peppered by a life of whiskey, women and wanting (and only some of that may be applicable!)

The set commenced with a cover of Nick Drake’s “Black Eyed Dog”. This one sounded like the equivalent of a home-ward bound walk into the sunset. The Gomez track, “Free To Run” followed and was a good, albeit stripped-back version before Ottewell upped the romance with some “Shapes & Shadows”. The title track from his solo album could have been by Josh Pyke and one male punter summed it up best when he declared it, “Beautiful”.

In Gomez’s “Get Miles” Ottewell turned the song’s catchy riff into the foundations of a pure pop ditty. He also road-tested the new song, “Patience & Rosaries”, which had a dark undercurrent that made it not too far removed – at least sonically – from most of the tracks on his debut effort.

“Blackbird” was like a light and golden apology before Ottewell was joined by Shane Reilly on the pedal steel guitar. Ottewell joked that the instrument could also have been a knitting machine or a maths problem. The additional player added a country, prairie flavour to “All Brand New”. But it was pure blues on “Hamoa Beach” and this one boasted what we assume contains both Ottewell and his Gomez colleagues’ diverse array of influences.

The set highlight was a cover of Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine”. This was sheer bliss and so good it sent shivers up my spine. It was also a very similar rendition to the angelic cover performed by a young Michael Jackson on The Stripped Mixes album. Ottewell then brought the show home with a bunch of Gomez favourites including: “How We Operate” and perhaps the best band track to translate into the acoustic environment, “78 Stone Wobble”, before an encore of “Tijuana Lady” a “Song about a lady from Mexico”.

Ben Ottewell’s show had been a quiet and pleasant flip through the songbooks by this raspy man and a few of his influences and loves. The Englishmen played some fine guitar and was a real sweet troubadour. He kept us entertained with some stellar song choices but it was his unique and frankly powerful voice that left us all leaning in and wanting more.

Ben Ottewell’s Sydney set list:

1. Black Eyed Dog (originally performed by Nick Drake)
2. Free To Run (originally performed by Gomez)
3. Shapes & Shadows
4. Love Is Better Than A Warm Trombone
5. Get Miles (originally performed by Gomez)
6. Patience & Rosaries
7. Blackbird
8. All Brand New
9. Hamoa Beach (originally performed by Gomez)
10. Little Pieces (originally performed by Gomez)
11. Step Right Back
12. Ain’t No Sunshine (originally performed by Bill Withers)
13. How We Operate (originally performed by Gomez)
14. 78 Stone Wobble (originally performed by Gomez)
15. Not Fade Away (originally performed by The Crickets)

——————–

16. Tijuana Lady (originally performed by Gomez)

 

Originally published on 13 July 2013 at the following website: http://www.theaureview.com/sydney/ben-ottewell-the-basement-sydney-11-07-13

Visit The Au Review’s homepage at: http://www.theaureview.com/

BOOK REVIEW: MARK TEDESCHI QC – EUGENIA

eugenia

 

Sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction. And never has this been more apparent than in the case of Eugenia Falleni. Her story is a true one, about a woman that lived as a man at the turn of the twentieth century in Australia. Gender Identity Disorder was not widely acknowledged, even though the tale does share a few things in common with a film set in a similar time, Albert Nobbs. Falleni was charged with the murder of her first wife, Annie Birkett (one of two spouses that Falleni would trick into believing she was a man).

Eugenia is written by Mark Tedeschi, an eminent senior crown prosecutor and barrister who has also acted as a defence lawyer during his 35 years in practice. This is his debut, true crime novel, with his previous written works including a book about international business law and articles on various kinds of law plus history and genealogy. This depth of experience and passion for this extraordinarily bizarre case translate into a very accessible and intriguing read.

The book is in part a creative non-fiction because the author has had to speculate about some of the events that transpired (because only Falleni as Harry Crawford and her wife Annie will ever know what truly happened). Tedeschi gives a detailed account of Falleni’s life. She was born in Livorno, Italy in 1875 and her formative years were spent in New Zealand after her parents decided to immigrate. It was here that she first harboured tomboy tendencies and these culminated in her working as a stable-hand, bricklayer and other hard, labouring jobs. Falleni was also illiterate but she was strong and relished this intense, manual work.

Falleni would be married off by her parents to a cruel Italian man when she was 19 and when this didn’t work out, she would seek employment on a ship. She worked undetected as a man for some time but would make a fatal error one day and inadvertently reveal her gender. Once the captain confirmed her true sex she was brutally raped and fell pregnant. She would subsequently be abandoned in Sydney and give birth to a daughter.

In time she would rebuild her life and become Harry Crawford and marry Annie Birkett. They had a relatively happy marriage for a few years but in 1817 a series of unfortunate and mysterious events occurred. This resulted in Birkett’s burnt body being discovered in Sydney’s Lane Cove River Park. Tedeschi follows the police investigation, arrest and the contentious Supreme Court trial in 1920 in detail.

Tedeschi has been able to draw upon contemporary public records, court transcripts, press reports, other written accounts and the recollections of people who had a degree of contact with the main characters. These all assist in constructing a detailed portrait of the complex woman who thought she was a man. Tedeschi’s strength is that he is able to detail the case in great depth and in a way that is easy for the common reader to understand. There are a number of legal, political and social issues highlighted by this case, which ultimately resulted in a miscarriage of justice.

Falleni was subject to a trial by media and was portrayed as a fiendish human monster, a sexual pervert, liar, hypocrite, murderess and a filthy-tongued man-woman. The defence lawyer supplied by legal aid was no match for the experienced crown prosecutor, with the former making a number of very crucial errors in his work with the case. Evidence that shouldn’t have been admissible was allowed, the testimony of witnesses who had already seen her photograph in the newspaper was included plus the defence failed to adequately cross-examine, provide evidence from expert witnesses and ultimately draw attention to the fact that the prosecution had failed to prove certain things beyond a reasonable doubt.

Tedeschi also does a good job in describing the environment at the time including the history and social mores. Falleni’s case is described in comparison to another alleged female murderer and there is a stark difference in their treatment. Dorothy Mort was a society woman with Anglo-Saxon heritage and her well-to-do family managed to buy her a non-guilty charge on the grounds of insanity, while Falleni was charged to the full extent of the law. The latter woman’s case was no doubt peppered by her “social misfit” status, her heritage and illiteracy.

Eugenia has been meticulously researched and is a grim tragedy about a poor woman who was at odds with the social expectations of her time. Tedeschi does an excellent job of humanising and sympathising with her, treating the matter with the respect, dignity and sensitivity that was obviously missing from the period’s sensational reportage. This means the story is ultimately recounted for what it was and proves an insightful tale about crime, courage and rising above adversity. It is also a revealing portrait of the inner workings of our court system and ultimately, one complex mind. By applying a deft hand, Tedeschi reveals both sides of the coin and makes this true crime book seem like a successful biography, history and law textbook all rolled into one.

 

Originally published on 11 July 2013 at the following website: http://www.theaureview.com/sydney/reading-with-the-au-mark-tedeschi-eugenia-2013

Visit The Au Review’s homepage at: http://www.theaureview.com/

FOOD REVIEW: The Inaugural FEVOO (Fresh Extra Virgin Olive Oil) Festival – The Mint, Sydney (10.07.2013)

Olive Oil Bottle

 

Oils ain’t oils. Sure, this was a tagline from an old Castrol ad but it seems the same thing can be applied to cooking oils and the murky territory that is olive oil. FEVOO – the inaugural festival celebrating Fresh Extra Virgin Olive Oil – saw an assembly of oil aficionados (growers, producers, academics, chefs, nutritionists and consumers) come together for the love of oil. We also were able to dispel some myths with an event that was broken down into five interesting parts.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil is the only oil that has not been chemically or physically refined. The brands labelled “pure”, “100% pure”, “lite/light” and “extra light” are merely marketing terms. These are not the unadulterated, natural juice of the olive and are not recognised by local and international standards.

In a 2010 test by Choice, they sampled 28 brands of extra virgin olive oil sold in Australian supermarkets. Of these, half of the samples failed to meet the widely accepted international standards as they were adulterated, refined or blended with seed oils or left in plastic containers or out in the sun to go bad. There is now a voluntary code of practice and its signatories are identifiable by a special symbol.

FEVOO’s first session was an olive oil master class run by Dr. Richard Gawel, who has worked for 15 years as a judge at many major olive oil shows. A sensory expert who provides taste and blending consultancy services for numerous Australian olive oil companies, he has also published scientific papers on olive oil assessment and regularly conducts seminars and workshops on tasting, blending and judging. The man was a wealth of knowledge and he was very obliging in sharing his experience with the audience.

Gawel opened his session by dispelling the myth that olive oil is produced by pressing olives. This process had not been used since the early 1970s. Instead, centrifuge is undertaken where the applied pressure allows the release of oil from the vegetable matter. This ultimately produces a better product, one containing less oxygen and one that will retain its freshness and health benefits for longer.

Each participant was given five different oils to sample (including a bad one). We learnt that these are usually consumed at a rate a little higher than room temperature. Gawel also directed us to the olive oil tasting wheel (www.aromadictionary.com). In this, the oils are broken down into tastes like muddy, green, fruity, fragrant, spicy, etc. The ones we tried included a variety that according to Gawel had a grass aroma and a floral note; a fresh, fruity one with a strong, peppery flavour; a Spanish variety that had more depth; and a bitter and pungent one that was full of antioxidants.

In addition to sampling the oils straight, the participants would also be treated to music and canapés at the end of the session. The menu was created by food, wine and lifestyle personality Lyndey Milan, in collaboration with Trippas White. The guests were treated to golden brown zucchini fritters that had been cooked in a light olive oil, so that they were crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. There was a confit of ocean trout finished with golden beetroot puree and microcress in a light olive oil. The puree added a soft, almost buttery touch, which meant the fish was delicate and not too overpowering.

The goat’s curd tart with roast tomatoes had a hard, coin-shaped exterior to match the robust olive oil. The tomatoes almost looked like they were sun-dried and were capped off with some crumbly, white goat’s cheese. The pick of the canapés, however was the divine walnut, orange and olive oil cake. This had a hint of cinnamon and a little bite with the inclusion of the walnuts. It was also one of the most light and moist cakes I’ve ever eaten, it practically melted in my mouth, it was so good!

The session also included a panel discussion about the benefits of extra virgin olive oil. This was chaired by ABC 702’s Simon Marnie, who is also a judge for the Royal Agricultural Society. The participants included: Dr Gawel;former principal research scientist and adjunct professor at Charles Sturt University, Professor Rod Mailer; dietitian and nutritionist, Dr Joanna McMillan; agricultural engineer and head of Modern Olives’ technical team, Dr Leandro Ravetti; and Stephanie Alexander OAM, the renown celebrity chef, author and restaurateur.

In this discussion, we learnt that other varieties of cooking oils are refined, bleached and deodorised. There was also talk about how the Mediterranean diet (one high in olive oil consumption) will reduce heart disease and that we should perhaps draw our focus into creating delicious foods with healthy ingredients because then people will pick the right options. We also learnt that olive oil is versatile and can be used for different cooking applications, even making mayonnaise (the trick is to use a lighter variety compared to the one you’d drizzle over your salads).

A panel with some of the growers’ followed and their wares were also available to be sampled at the tasting bar. The exhibitors included: Cobram Estate, Cradle Coast Olives, Alto Olives, Gwydir Olives, Camilo Olives, Pukara Estate, Nullamunjie Olives, Rosto Grove, Chapman River Olives, Wollundry Grove, Woodlands Olive Grove, Longridge Olives and Rylstone Olive Press. Following the tastings, there was an auction for the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Foundation where $8000 was raised.

FEVOO had proved to be one enlightening and enjoyable festival. With Australians consuming 45 million litres of olive oil per year and with these rates rising, we are now the highest consumers per capita outside of the Mediterranean. So it is certainly one area of food that is on the up and up. We learnt that fresh, extra virgin olive oil should be fruity, robust and delicate but also smooth on the palate. It’s also really crucial to check your oil to ensure it is what it claims it is. It is vital, because in reality, oil is the cornerstone of our diet and the wrong choices can have implications on your health.

Originally published on 11 July 2013 at the following website: http://www.theaureview.com/sydney/eating-with-the-au-the-inaugural-fevoo-fresh-extra-virgin-olive-oil-festival-the-mint-sydney-10-07-2013

Visit The Au Review’s homepage at: http://www.theaureview.com/

ALBUM REVIEW: VARIOUS – SING ME THE SONGS – CELEBRATING THE WORKS OF KATE MCGARRIGLE

katemc

 

Kate McGarrigle’s passing at age 63 from sarcoma left behind a huge void. This prompted her children, Martha & Rufus Wainwright and her former musical partner and sister, Anna McGarrigle along with curator, Joe Boyd to put on a series of tribute concerts in 2010. The aim was to keep her legacy alive and Sing Me The Songs: Celebrating The Works of Kate McGarrigle looks poised to continue this effort.

The record is a live album that combines 34 tracks, which were recorded during the three concerts held in London, Toronto and New York. It boasts a star-studded line-up of guests from the Wainwright and McGarrigle families plus: Emmylou Harris, Norah Jones, Teddy Thompson and Jimmy Fallon. The concert was also turned into the documentary film; Sing Me the Songs That Say I Love You: A Concert for Kate McGarrigle. This was produced by Lian Lunson (Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man) and made its debut at Sydney Film Festival last year.

McGarrigle was famous for writing the Linda Ronstadt hit, “Heart Like A Wheel” and she would produce a fine discography of albums over the years along with her sister, Anna. The songs were mostly parlour songs, waltzes and folk-like hymns that took their influences from Canadian folk music, Edith Piaf and Gershwin. In many ways this set does a similar thing by leafing through McGarrigle’s sophisticated songbooks and provides something as comfortable as an old pair of shoes, where the beautiful voices of the contributors mean repeat listens are also rewarded.

“Kiss & Say Goodbye” is a fun pop song that really gets at the heart of the collection and shows how bittersweet the whole affair is. The mood is upbeat and it is rousing at times, especially when it feels like a gospel choir is chiming in at the end. But it also plays out like an epitaph as McGarrigle is ultimately singing her farewells.

This sentiment is also shared on “I Just Want To Make It Last”. This cut is actually a home demo performed by Kate. It is also a funny, spoken word song where she grapples with her own mortality with equal amounts of tenderness and wit. The introduction is also rather reminiscent of Rodriguez as McGarrigle fires off a set of rhyming couplets so well.

Elsewhere, Martha Wainwright does an emotional and stirring version of “Tell My Sister”. It’s a piano ballad that evokes another place and time and seems to be soaked in tears, formal sentimentality and sepia tones. The mood does lighten somewhat in “I Am A Diamond” where she joins her brother. In this, their two strong voices combine to tell the story of a tough woman at the turn of the century.

Sing Me The Songs: Celebrating The Works of Kate McGarrigle is a collection of live cuts that are joyful, wistful and bittersweet. The 34 touching folk tracks do the fine lady justice by showing her to be a tough-as-nails personality with a soft femininity, glad to wear her heart on her sleeve and all while she retains an air of erudition, grace and pure heart.

The proceeds of the record are being donated to the Kate McGarrigle Foundation, a non-profit organisation designed to help in the fight against sarcoma and to preserve her legacy. It seems like this set does an excellent job of doing just that, keeping her flame burning bright and introducing her wonderful work to a new generation of listeners through some emotional performances that combine to become one respectful, loving homage.

 

Originally published on 10 July 2013 at the following website: http://www.the59thsound.com/sing-me-the-songs—celebrating-the-works-of-kate-mcgarrigle-10072013.html

Visit The 59th Sound’s homepage at: http://www.the59thsound.com/

ALBUM REVIEW: GLASS TOWERS – HALCYON DAYS

glasstowers

WARNING: this is not an album for adults, unless they’re exceptionally young at heart. The debut from Sydney-via-Byron Bay youngsters, Glass Towers, does just as prescribed; Halcyon Days captures the adventures and mystery of youth.

The band started as a one-man show in 2008 in Ben Hannam’s bedroom. Now he feels like a young man on the precipice of adulthood. The songs tend to deal with this and Hannam nostalgically relives his fondest memories like feeling lust,  and longing for escape.

Tracks, “Jumanji”, Tonight” and “Gloom” have already been released on previous EPs. The first song was like the Last Dinosaurs with lots of jaunty goodness while “Tonight” was perhaps the foundation for this record.

Halcyon Days can get rather repetitive. The group have a long and varied list of musical influences but it seems like these are largely ignored. Instead, the band has got the pedal constantly floored to destination- energy and this enthusiasm can get rather tiresome.

The group also suffer from sounding like a rehash of numerous bands. “Castles” is like Kaiser Chief’s “Love’s Not A Competition (But I’m Winning)” with more vigorous drumming. The others sound like a marriage between The Cure and The Killers or a summery, Vampire Weekend cover; already heavily mined territory.

Halcyon Days does a good job of showing off the musical chops of the group’s members especially drummer, Daniel Muszynski and frontman, Hannam. But they perhaps need some more time to hone their writing craft.

Originally published on 6 July 2013 at the following website: http://www.tonedeaf.com.au/reviews/new-music/322260/halycon-days.htm

Visit Tone Deaf’s homepage at: http://www.tonedeaf.com.au/

Previous Older Entries