Now That’s What I Call Music 15

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This article is part of a series, chronicling a foolish attempt to chronicle the history of modern pop, through the Now That’s What I Call Music series. All the previous articles, and some other fun stuff, can be found here.

Released-  14th August 1989

Music History

Bill Wyman is a dirty old man, Prince releases Batdance signalling for most people that his peak years have passed (not for me though), and small time Seattle Pixies tribute band Nirvana release their first album, Bleach. They’ll not get anywhere with that racket, mark my words.

Me History

My first Summer holiday from school. I believe I would have spent it somewhere in the South West, maybe Porthleven? I am now deep into Ghostbusters, but I think I start to become obsessed with Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles around this point. Apologies to anyone from overseas reading this, in the UK, the word Ninja was deemed too strong for children. I know. This is why the rest of the world laughs at England…

Also, my second ever single is on this edition (the first was Michael Jackson’s Smooth Criminal). Who doesn’t love and remember Jive Bunny and the Mastermixers? Especially when it’s played on repeat by an overenthusiastic five year old.

If I had to save one track from this album, and the remainder were to be used to trap the grease built up in your drains after Christmas feeding, that track would be… Say No Go by De La Soul. Beating off stern competition from both ex Housemartins, but both the Beautiful South and Norman cook will go on to release much better songs than their efforts here, whereas De La Soul have just recorded one of the defining records of the 20th Century.

Track by track breakdown

Queen : “I Want It All”

A throwaway, hard rock stomper, which due to being Queen, is miles better than it has any right to be.

Simple Minds : “Kick It In”

Ooh. Moody. Not awful. Lots of filters on the vocals, and interestingly wonky sounding at its best.

Fine Young Cannibals : “Good Thing”

Great. The piano and clapping snare recall the original version of Tainted Love, and the shoutbacks make this a brilliant upbeat track.

Continue reading Now That’s What I Call Music 15

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Post Christmas Turkey and Pasta soup

The turkey never ends! Done well it’s delicious and not at all dry, and appears to feed you for an eternity. Christmas was four days ago! Five by the time this is published!

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Anyway. No photos of the soup itself, but it’s a nice healthy alternative to post Christmas gluttony.

Ingredients

  • A turkey carcass, stripped of the usable meat
  • 2 carrots
  • 4 medium celery sticks
  • Onion
  • Bay leaf
  • 1 tbsp whole peppercorns
  • Parsley
  • Leftover turkey
  • Pasta shells (conchilgli. Anything will do.)

Method

Break up the turkey using a cleaver or meat hammer. I had neither and instead swung around a chefs knife like a fat samurai. This is why there are no pictures… Put the pieces in a large pot, along with a bit of leftover dripping. Add one carrot, the onion and two celery sticks, roughly chopped, and the bay leaf and peppercorns.

Continue reading Post Christmas Turkey and Pasta soup

Monday Music (Mini) Mixtape- Music I’ve been overeating to

Just a quick entry to prove, if only to myself, I haven’t died from a grand turkey overindulgence… Here are a few songs that I have been enjoying over the Christmas period.

The first is a classic Etta James track, which my sister is obsessed with. It’s the way she shouts rice apparently. May we never go out for Asian food together!

The second, I have loved since I was very small, due to my Dad playing it a lot, and due to Pee Wee Herman’s Big Adventure. I also played it with the jazz band at my school. Yeah, I was that cool…

Continue reading Monday Music (Mini) Mixtape- Music I’ve been overeating to

Music Monday Mixtape- Best in Show 2014

It’s going to be a quiet week round these parts, as I drink and eat myself into a stupor, and into 2015.

But anyway, before I do, here is a selection of tracks, that represent a rather subjective view of 2014 ‘s best music. A few notes on the selection;

1) Imma let you finish in my top tracks of the year Taylor Swift, but you’ll have to put your tracks back on Spotify.

2) I can’t decide whether Everything is Awesome or Close Your Eyes (And Count to Fuck) is my favourite of the year. Opposite ends of the spectrum there!

3) So happy to have Prince and Aphex Twin back. And good albums too! Pixies… less so.

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Now That’s What I Call Christmas

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This article is part of a series, chronicling a foolish attempt to chronicle the history of modern pop, through the Now That’s What I Call Music series. All the previous articles, and some other fun stuff, can be found here. This, however, is a break from the norm to review an annual offshoot of the series, compiling (in theory) the best Christmas songs of all time onto three fun packed discs.

Released- 3rd November 2014 (Though, let’s face it, there’s one every year)

Music History

2000 years ago, in a manger, Jesus was born. 1950 odd years later, pop music was born. The two work well together.

Me Holiday History

Originally a Roman festival called Saturnalia, and appropriated by Christianity under the Emperor Constantine as the celebration of Jesus Christ’s birthday. In fairness, Jesus is pretty cool about the whole thing, and doesn’t want presents himself, and is just like, ‘Guys, have a drink, treat each other to stuff, and maybe behave like less of a dick than you do the rest of the year round’. You go, son of God.

If I had to save one track from this album, and the remainder put on the naughty list, that track would be… Slade’s Merry Xmas Everybody. Even use of the hideous non-word Xmas in the title can’t poison this perfect Christmas song!

Track by track breakdown

John & Yoko And The Plastic Ono Band With The Harlem Community Choir- Happy Xmas (War Is Over)

A lovely opener, full of Christmas spirit. Sadly, doesn’t look like Santa’s bringing what you want again this year, John and Yoko, but don’t give up!

Mariah CareyAll I Want For Christmas Is You

And so my inner Scrooge comes out. I hate the screeching, melismatic vocals, the forced jollity, and how damned overplayed it is. Bah humbug.

The Pogues feat. Kirsty MacCollFairytale Of New York

Overplayed too, but I can never get enough of this delightful, brutally honest Christmas song. Who hasn’t had a Christmas with a blazing row at some point in their lives?

Wham!Last Christmas

Sweet, good natured, perfect pop. If you haven’t heard James Dean Bradfield of the Manic Street Preachers gorgeous, simple cover of this, watch the video below and bask in the loveliness.

Continue reading Now That’s What I Call Christmas

Five Spice Chicken Bun

A go to snack for me. About 10 minutes work for a delicious result. The original recipe is from Real Fast Food by Nigel Slater, a book which has that high honour of being covered in cookery stains in my kitchen.

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I’m not sure this gets across quite how much turmeric, soy and oil has been spilt on this book.

 

The original recipe is for pork, which is at least as nice, but I’ve changed it slightly to work for chicken.

I’d also run out of 5 spice, so in blind panic made my own. However, I had no Sichuan pepper (I know right? First world problems) so I was forced to improvise my own lemony pepper using pepper and lemon rind. Which actually makes mine six spice. Which as anyone who has seen Spinal Tap knows, is one louder.

Ingredients

Serves 2

300g diced chicken
4 crusty rolls
2 tbsp runny honey
2 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp pepper
3 cloves crushed garlic
2 tsp five spice or;

3 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
10 cloves
2 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp peppercorns
Rind of half a lemon

Method

If you’re making five spice, you’ll need a spice or coffee grinder. I use a cheap electric one, about £15 online. You could use a pestle and mortar, if you like. In a dry frying pan, gently toast the cloves, cinnamon stick, star anise, peppercorns, cloves and fennel seeds until the kitchen smells of loveliness.

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Transfer to the grinder, and add the lemon zest. Blitz this until it makes a fine powder. You may need to break up the star anise and cinnamon stick by hand to expedite this.

In a medium bowl, add the diced chicken, then pour over the honey, soy sauce, lemon juice, pepper, garlic and five spice and mix it all up. For added flavour, you can sit this in the fridge for half an hour.

Heat a grill pan to a medium high heat, and lay a piece of tin foil on this. When hot, add the chicken mix, and cook for about 6 minutes, or till cooked through. Take the pan off the heat.

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Split the rolls, and lay some chicken mix on the bottom half of each. Take the top halves and rub them in the mixture left on the tin foil, so they soak up the flavour.

Add a bit of crisp lettuce, if you are worried about the lack of shrubbery, and enjoy.

Now That’s What I Call Music 14

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This article is part of a series, chronicling a foolish attempt to chronicle the history of modern pop, through the Now That’s What I Call Music series. All the previous articles, and some other fun stuff, can be found here.

Released- 20th March 1989

Music History

The decade is drawing to a close, hopefully leaving saxophones and ‘glossy’ production with it. Musically, it seems like all is in a sense of stasis, waiting for something new to push things forward. Madonna manages to offend the Catholic church, 2 Live Crew offend all of mankind, and De La Soul release one of the greatest albums of all time, in 3 Feet High and Rising.

Me History

Damn I’m 5 years old! I am at primary school. I have a Thomas the Tank Engine bag. I think I’m just starting to get an obsession with Egon Spengler of the Ghostbusters. RIP Harold Ramis, you made me proud to be geeky.

If I had to save one track from this album, and the remainder thrown in the lake, along with my shoes, that track would be… The Last of the Famous International Playboys by Morrissey. Thus making him the first artist to have won two ‘best in show’ awards thus far. Not that it would cheer him up any. Never change Stephen. Never change. Honourable mentions for Fine Young Cannibals and Poison, bot of whom would have deserved this prestigious title too.

Track by track breakdown

Marc Almond featuring Gene Pitney : “Something’s Gotten Hold of My Heart”

A lovely start to the album. Two parts vintage pop to one part high camp drama. Nothing not to like here.

Phil Collins : “Two Hearts”

Bouncing, sentimental, and a bit of a joy. Like Motown, but with a much weaker, reedier singer. Luckily, the song is strong enough to paper over any weaknesses.

Erasure : “Stop!”

Not their quirky best, but it has its merits, bolstered by a terrible but watchable video.

Continue reading Now That’s What I Call Music 14

Tender Roast Beef 2- Italian Beef with a Courgette and Wild Mushroom Risotto

I wanted to call it Roast Beef 2- Electric Boogaloo, but I am unsure as to the crossover between amateur cooking and early hip hop cinema. I hope it’s a huge cross section, but suspect it may just be me…

I do enjoy a roast joint. This is a more Mediterranean inspired mix than my last, but as ever with roasts, I’ve tried to keep it hearty, as that’s 90% of the point of a nice roast, to my mind.

I can’t remember the provenance of the beef marinade. It’s pretty clever and not my idea, but the soy and balsamic breaks down the sinews of the meat and makes it very tender.

The risotto is an adaptation of a Gordon Ramsay recipe, but I like to use dried wild mushrooms, as they are actually obtainable from most supermarkets (not all of us are blessed with nearby Organic Superstores), and the liquid from rehydrating these adds an extra kick to the flavour.

Ingredients

Serves 2 or 3

Beef

500g beef joint
1tbsp balsamic vinegar
1tbsp olive oil
1tbsp soy sauce
A few sprigs of thyme
Black pepper

Risotto

2 courgettes
100g arborio risotto rice
30g dried wild mushrooms
300 ml chicken stock
Fresh basil
75ml nice white wine
1tbsp lemon juice

Method

Mix the balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, olive oil, thyme and pepper in a small bowl. Place the beef joint in the roasting tin, on top of a large freezer bag turned inside out. Slather the balsamic mix all over. If you don’t have much time to let it marinate, go a bit Norman Bates and stab the joint a few times. Turn the bag inside out, seal it up and stick it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. Ideally overnight.

Continue reading Tender Roast Beef 2- Italian Beef with a Courgette and Wild Mushroom Risotto

Monday Mixtape- IT’S CHRISTMAS!

Possibly with a lot more ‘i’s and ‘a’s. As in IT’S CHRIIIIISTMAAAAAS!

Anyway. Here is my pitiful attempt to narrow the list down to less than 30 Christmas songs. Half of them are from films that I will endlessly rewatch in the coming weeks, as I gorge on industrial amounts of poultry, mincemeat, and mulled wine. Of which this is the best film. Possibly ever.

I also have to watch this at least once. The song is beautiful. The comedy dialogue at the beginning is one of the single greatest examples of so bad it’s good in human history.

As an Englishman, I should be offended by the stereotype that we all live down the road from someone called Sir Percival. But it’s mostly true.

Anyway, here’s the Christmas mixtape- Merry Christmas, and remember- every time a bell rings, an angel gets it’s wings.

Continue reading Monday Mixtape- IT’S CHRISTMAS!

Port Melbourne, Australia – 11th December 2013 to 2nd January 2014

And away from South East Asia we go. A brief stopover in Kuala Lumpur, which takes the honour of least charming airport on the planet, and a spot of lunch in a particularly unsanitary airport café, and we are off Down Under!

The first thing we do on landing is enjoy a nice cup of coffee in Melbourne airport. It’s the first good cup of coffee we’ve drunk in 4 months, and it is beautiful. We’ll later discover that Melbourne is a city built on amazing, single origin, hipster coffee places. It’s almost like discussing the weather in England, everybody has a favourite place, tucked in a little laneway, impossible to find, that serves the greatest coffee on earth. It says a lot that Starbucks and their ilk have failed miserably in their attempts to break into Australia, and the sheer quantity and quality of coffee places is the reason their few franchises sit empty. For me, this alone would have made me love Australia.

We hop into a cab, and away to the AirBNB booking we made a few weeks before, a very nice modern flat, seconds from the beaches of Port Melbourne, 2 miles south of the city. Our hosts are a very nice couple from New Zealand, though prone to single syllable answers, and have a lovely, hyperactive dog, Bonnie. Regrettably, thanks to the aforementioned grubby café at Kuala Lumpur, we spend the first night in their bathroom, taking it in turns to suffer the indignity of one last bout of the South East Asian Squits, which is not quite the introduction to our roomies we had hoped for!

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View of the city from outside our place.

 

Thanks to overspending in Asia, we were particularly poor over our time in this end of Australia, so we were living on quite a small budget- about 50 bucks a week! Luckily, Ben got a job for a few days running up to Christmas, packing Game of Thrones and Doctor Who merchandise for a supplier of geek ephemera, which got us a couple of Christmas presents, and helped us lay down the rent on our next place!

We also got to wander around a lot, and Port Melbourne is (the name is a giveaway) right next to the sea, so we had a few runs along there, and enjoyed the beautiful scenery.

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Port Melbourne beach

 

We also liked to wander down to Albert Park. The joy of the sheer amount of land Australia has, is that they can really push the boat out with the size of their parks, it’s huge. They have the F1 Grand Prix there in January, which might give you an idea of quite how long it takes to walk around. It also has black swans, a lake big enough that they were having a sailing competition on it, and just a whole lot of lovely scenery.

Continue reading Port Melbourne, Australia – 11th December 2013 to 2nd January 2014