What to listen to this autumn? Morgan Till recommends...
1. Sound & Vision – David Bowie
2. Fool’s Gold – The Stone Roses
3. Gloria – Patti Smith
4. Never Had No One Ever – The Smiths
5. Sunday Morning – The Velvet Underground & Nico
6. That’s Entertainment – The Jam
7. The Lark Ascending – Ralph Vaughn Williams
8. Place To Be – Nick Drake
9. Who Knows – Jimi Hendrix
10. Try A Little Tenderness – Otis Redding
This Month’s Album:
The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan
1963: the beginning of one of America’s most turbulent and influential decades – and that’s not just regarding music. The rise of the civil rights movement was becoming difficult to ignore and with the USA dramatically increasing its involvement in conflicts around the world, the disaffected youth felt a yearning for peace. At this time, Bob Dylan was just another young folk singer amongst the growing scene; the release of this term’s recommended album soon changed that.
The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan is a multifaceted masterpiece; it’s greatness lies on many different levels. The first, and perhaps most obvious, is its social commentary. Dylan’s lyrics boldly reflect on the youth’s anger at American society’s lust for warfare as his viciously bitter lines in songs such as ‘Masters of War’ highlight the hatred he and many others felt towards the looming threats of war. Other songs such as ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’ and ‘A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall’ generalise the longing for peace even further, commenting passively on the nature of warfare and the effect it has on nature, society and art. A commentary that is often mentioned less than that of peace is the desire for civil rights. Track 9, Oxford Town, is perhaps the best example. It rather simply highlights the cruel absurdity of America’s racial hatred without sounding too much like a preachy rant. To sum it up, the album is a bitter yet passive cry from the disaffected youth; a cry for equality and a cry for peace.
I feel the second, and most beautiful element of Freewheelin’ is its wondrous flow of poetry present in all of Dylan’s original songs contained within the album. Whether it be the unrivalled wit of songs such as ‘I Shall be Free’, which intelligently captures an absurd form of hilarity, or more melancholic and philosophic tracks like ‘Girl from the North County’ which is skilfully written to project deeper emotions. The finishing touches to the album come in the forms of Dylan’s infamous acoustic guitar and harmonica, which greatly accentuate the brilliance of his rhythmic poetry.
In conclusion, I chose Freewheelin’ as not only is it as skilfully written as it is beautiful, as funny as it is thought provoking and as influential as it is historically important, but it is a great anthem of freedom – something that everybody could do with listening to in such politically turbulent times. Top tracks: All of them!
If you liked this try: Graceland by Paul Simon; The Velvet Underground and Nico (eponymous); Abbey Road by The Beatles; Bayou County by Creedence Clearwater Revival; The Sound of Silence by Simon and Garfunkel; Horses by Patti Smith.
Fun Fact: Dylan’s girlfriend at the time of release was a member of the American Socialist League and was obviously big on civil rights. Dylan used to present his more political pieces to her and rewrite areas that she criticised.
Award winning urban poet Kate Tempest is back with her second studio album, Let Them Eat Chaos. The album revolves around seven intertwining stories of Tempest’s vibrant and gritty characters in yet another vivid image of British life and culture, captured within her poetry infused rap.
A Tribe Called Quest have released their first album in almost 20 years! It’s another brilliant mixture of clever lyricism, wit and social commentary; especially on recent political events such as the rise in hate crimes and the president elect, Donald Trump. Its also a wonderful homage to past Tribe member, Phife Dawg, who passed away in just March of this year.
What to watch...
The Shining cert. 15
(Directed/Written by Stanley Kubrick)
This month, I went with a Stanley Kubrick classic – which is concurrently a Christmas film! (well, it takes place around that sort of time; there’s snow on the ground). Out of the hundreds of films I love, The Shining is probably the one I could talk about longer than any other. It is a masterpiece.
Based loosely on Stephen King’s novel of the same name, the story follows Jack Torrance: a recovering alcoholic with an abusive nature who takes a job as a hotel caretaker during its winter period, staying alone with his wife and young son Danny. We travel along the unnerving path that descends into insanity as we witness his mental state slowly deteriorate and discover his son’s telepathic gift as they are all subject to the hotel’s horrific past coming back to both deceive and haunt them.
As with all Kubrick films, the Shining is exquisitely made. Kubrick pioneered the use of the Steadicam to create smooth and simultaneously eerie tracking shots of Danny cycling through the hotels infamous corridors, creating nail-biting suspense as the shot fails to cut. The symmetrical cinematography, which uses deceitful composition to make us feel like the hotel is tricking us, combines with various tracking shots and Kubrick’s beloved close up of Jack Nicholson’s incredibly creepy face concoct to create some haunting camerawork.
The set design not only helps solidify the vividness of the Overlook Hotel, but Kubrick’s obsessive choice on which type of object is placed where creates deep symbolism within the film, touching on matters such as Native American genocides and the faking of the moon landings. But that’s all a little complex – something to look out for on your second watch (trust me you’ll want to see it again).
The film’s soundtrack is also immensely scary. Kubrick uses the work of Krzysztof Penderecki – classical pieces that consist of an amalgamation of hair-raising, out of tune violins screeching - which blends perfectly as Nicholson runs crazily down the bright corridors.
One last thing to pick up on is Jack Nicholson’s performance – easily the biggest Oscar snub of all time. The small and subtle adjustments to his facial features really accentuate the development of his character’s insanity, and the sarcastic tone of his voice as he starts his crazed journey can be heard transforming into a hoarse cry from the shell of his former self, replaced by one of a psychotic. Shelley Duvall’s performance is also notable, a seemingly soppy damsel in distress who manages to stay bold without seeming un-expendable. She really manages to conjure emotion – so much so that she began losing her hair throughout filming.
In conclusion, I recommended The Shining as I felt it is a film that MUST be viewed by everyone. It is not outright terrifying, but the use of cinematography, score and set design introduce a deep psychological terror, unnerving the very hardest of horror fans. It’s a great example of horror done well; no cheap jump scares or sexist stereotypes: suspense is built intelligently and the characters are written in a way that real people would act in a terrifying situation. We are left with unanswered questions and the film is so rich with allegories and deeper themes. It is excellently made and deeply unnerving, but profoundly gripping, and in my opinion the best horror film ever made (yes, better than the exorcist)
Not one for horror?
Why not try It's A Wonderful Life - a 1940s classic about a gentle, compassionate man at the edge of breaking point, who’s inconsequential mistake makes him realise how much he’s really worth. Often considered the best Christmas film ever, it is heart-warming and tear-jerking, with an enthralling story which captures the true Christmas spirit. A must see – definitely one for Christmas Eve!