Musical appreciation, a blog piece in three parts at least, in which I digress…
I know, I know, I’ve said it before but I’m jolly well going to say it again. Musical appreciation is hugely subjective. One person’s Rib Eye Steak is another person’s Tofu Burger.
Speaking of which, which I don’t believe I was but we’re here now; back in the day, Burger King used to sell a Spicy Beanburger, now I’m a committed omnivore and I won’t pooh-pooh vegetarian food because, you know, I eat vegetables, I just happen to like bits of animals too.
But back to the Spicy Beanburger, after a sesh in the Friar & Firkin along the Euston Road I used to enjoy a Spicy Beanburger in the Burger King on the corner of Argyle Street, opposite St. Pancras and King’s Cross before catching the train, usually the last but one Met Line train of the night, home to Chesham from King’s Cross St. Pancras.
Kicking around in Sainsbugs a few days before Christmas, I suddenly thought; “Sainsbury’s used to sell a spicy beanburger, of sorts.” It wasn’t as good as the Burger King offering (and before you say anything yes, I had tried them stone cold sober as well), but it was still quite good, so I went looking for some.
Beanburgers were there none, not in the old sense but there were lots of “plant based” offerings and things made up to look like steaks and steak burgers and the like. Now, as I said, I’m not adverse to veggie food, not at all, but given that you are producing food made from plants, why would you want it to mimic meat?
Yes, I know, to wean the masses away from meat because eating meat is destroying the planet, or so some would have us believe. The BK Spicy Beanburger was delicious, the supermarket variety a close second. I looked at the packets of “plant based” and turned away. But hey, I’ve not sat down today to write about burgers, let’s get to the meat of the thing.
Musical appreciation: sometimes an album is blighted by the weight of the (subjectively) unremarkable music on it. Take Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s 1978 album “Love Beach” for example – The songs aren’t awful, but for the most part they don’t come close to earlier releases, the classic case of progressive music progressing and not being loved for it I suppose. Admittedly they had a lot to live up to, having given us such seminal Progressive Rock pieces as:
The Endless Enigma
Take A Pebble
The Three Fates
Karn Evil 9 (parts 1 to 3)
Love Beach then, unexceptional, ah, but, there are two exceptions here and they are the last song on Side 1 and the 20-minute suite which takes up all of Side 2, more of which perhaps another day. Some favour Side A and Side B but that’s also something for another time.
That last track on Side 1 is Canario, a Keith Emerson arrangement of the last movement of Joaquín Rodrigo’s concerto, Fantasía para un gentilhombre, which Rodrigo based on pieces for solo guitar by the 17th-century Spanish composer Gaspar Sanz.
Upon hearing ELP’s version of the piece back in 1978, I bought the orchestral version and I still have them both, on vinyl.
Yes, on the album that I have, Fantasía para un gentilhombre comes bundled with Concierto de Aranjuez, a piece I already knew, the second movement anyway, from my school days. In 1973, to mark the end of two heady years at Middle School, a select group of artistic types (me included) was tasked to put on a performance of song, dance, spoken word, audio-visual and no doubt other things. One of the “movements” in this happening was set to the second movement (in B minor) of Concierto de Aranjuez and consisted of us, the players, slowly dying of radiation poisoning in the aftermath of some thermonuclear conflagration.
Such happy days. (A little post-sarcasm there for you.)
To help us in our dramatic endeavour, we had the school’s drama teacher, Vivienne Lafferty who we affectionately called Mis Laff, under whose guiding hands we put the show together. I looked her up recently, she had risen to the dizzy heights of being the Publicity and Marketing Officer for National Drama, the UK’s leading professional association for drama teachers and theatre educators. Well done Miss Laff.
The school was the The Augustus Smith School in Berkhamsted, the very first of the then new Middle Schools opened two years before in 1971 by the Secretary of State for Education and Science, Margaret Thatcher.
If only we’d known…
Did I digress there? Did I? I suppose I did, a bit, anyway, back to Canario: The tune writing credits go squarely to Sanz and Rodrigo then, but the version as played by ELP is a delightful musical romp, but sad to say, I haven’t listened to Love Beach for many a long year so when Canario was recently played on the wireless, I sat there, thinking:
“I know this, I know this… what is it?”
I had to go and look at the display, thank goodness for these gadgets with little displays that tell you what is being played. Emerson, Lake and Palmer, of course, from that album (Love Beach) with the (frankly) scary cover with Keith, Greg and Carl looking for all the world like The Bee Gees and OMG, is that Keith Emerson’s willy?
Love Beach was ELP’s contractual obligation album, apparently, they owed the record label one more album and Love Beach was what they came up with.
But Canario is wonderful, I’m not ashamed to say that I sat there listening with a smile on my face.
ELP’s version and one of the many orchestral renderings appended below, for comparison.