Another random review of radio, from a month where a lot of it’s been rather good.
Quite a varied selection as always, so let’s give it a go.
Back on Highway 61 – Whistledown for BBC Radio 2/Radio 4 (11th-12th October)
If asked to name a top 5 list of great music broadcasters on the radio, Andy Kershaw
would be on there without question.
Many to this day asking why he doesn’t have a regular timeslot on the radio
to deliver his no-holds-barred enthusiasm on a weekly basis.
This documentary manages to show off that passion for what for Kershaw
was a very defining LP, and on it’s 50th anniversary, the Rochdale broadcaster takes
the listener on a journey to the states to provide an illustrated history.
Allowing the listener to hear previously unheard session tracks, and revealing
how longstanding fans didn’t take too kindly to Dylan’s dalliance away from acoustic.
Key musicians are interviewed, including Al Kooper who in spite of his modesty
ended up recording the memorable organ track on “Like A Rolling Stone“, and also
tells us about the whistle sirens that helped distinguish the album’s title track.
It may be the only song to contain said instrument, apart from
“Use It Up And Wear It Out” by Odyssey…
The only downside is that we don’t hear from Robert Zimmerman himself,
who having done a series of themed radio shows for the BBC a decade ago,
couldn’t have been too hard to track down.
But as a whole, a personal, passionate, but not too indulgent insight.
Ralph Johnson’s Jazz Epicentre 6.7 – BBC Radio 2 (7th-28th October)
On first listen, it was a little confusing to hear the Earth Wind and Fire drummer’s
very laid back style, amongst the soothing jazz tunes spanning the 1960s and 1970s.
Referring to each show as an “hour” being one such mannerism.
Though it soon became clear that the whole idea of the Jazz Epicentre is a recreation
of jazz radio on the Westcoast from around the time period covered in the series
and Johnson’s wide knowledge and relaxed manner are a perfect fit,
for a late night listen.
In my case accompanying my journey on the train home from Canterbury every Sunday.
Rather than the presenter spending 5 minutes waxing lyrical on how much
they enjoy a Miles Davis’ trumpet solo, the music itself takes centre stage,
many of the tracks being jazzy arrangements of familiar tunes.
A couple of sublime Beatles covers are heard in “hour 1”, and “hour 2”
opens with a jazzy medley of songs from West Side Story as interpreted
by Buddy Rich and his band.
This series could be the jazz answer to the “Crusin” record compilations.
Jon Holmes Weekend Breakfast – Radio X (Saturdays and Sundays 6:30-10am)
Whilst Global’s new station has been dominated by the long-awaited return of
a much-loved broadcaster to weekday mornings, the guy who held the timeslot
previously hasn’t been left out of the running.
Even if managing to deliver Radio X’s first ever OFCOM complaint over his
“Dead Or Alive” competition, which didn’t do Simon Mayo any harm when running
an almost similar feature on Radio 1 many years ago.
References such as the above, justifying Holmes himself referring to me many times
in public as a “f****ng anorak”.
In his new weekend breakfast show, Holmes is one prong of a reliable and likeable
on-air team, the other two being “Ginger Producer” Dave Cribb (also a master of
witty song parodies) and “paid intern” Cornelius Mendez, who insists his first name
be shortened to “Con”.
Thus providing one of the many witty features of the show, “Con Descending”
where Mr Mendez decends down the lift of Global Radio’s big building `
in Leicester Square reading out negative comments sent in or tweeted by listeners.
Other items include “Alco Vox Pops”, asking the opinions of the week’s news
from drunken passers by in Central London on an early Saturday morning,
and “Box Office Balls” which has caused me to laugh rather loudly when listening
to the podcast on many a train journey.
A few other bits could be improved on such as the “Satanist’s Thought For The Day”
but that aside, it’s further proof that if given the right leeway, you can get
talented presenters showing off their craft on commercial radio, in ways that
it would take too many a compliance form to fill in, if done on the BBC.
And I can foresee Con getting his own show on X within a year…
Oh and a late entry, but a show that’s still going.
Gilles Peterson in for Lauren Laverne – BBC 6 Music 10am-1pm (19-23rd October)
Just give it a listen and let it transport you.