The CLUAS Archive: 1998 - 2011

Entries for 'Aidan Curran'

10

The big French music release of the moment is ‘Comme Si De Rien N’était’ (‘As If Nothing Happened’), the third record by Carla Bruni (below).

Carla BruniHer first release, 2003’s ‘Quelqu’un M’a Dit’ (‘Somebody Told Me’) was a surprise hit in France and beyond, selling two million copies worldwide. Bruni’s husky whisper and delicate ballads won many favourable reviews. For instance, we recall that CLUAS praised it as a “subtle, charming record”. (This is no difficult feat of memory; your present correspondent wrote that review.)

The 2006 follow-up, ‘No Promises’, fared less well. Musical versions of works by some of world literature’s most celebrated poets, including W.B. Yeats and Emily Dickinson, the songs were formulaic rehashes of Bruni’s successful style.

Since then, Bruni has kept a hermit-like low profile, avoiding all publicity and carefully keeping her private affairs out of the media spotlight. We can’t remember hearing her name at all in the last year.

Oh, apart from marrying the President of France.

Bruni (she’s using her own name for her album) insists that most of the tracks on her album were written before she had even met Nicolas Sarkozy. This hasn’t dissuaded the trawl for Sarko-references in her lyrics. For instance: The first single is called ‘L’Amoureuse’! And she’s married! To him! So it’s about him! And so forth.

In truth, there’s nothing on this record that wouldn’t appear on any other romantically-inclined MOR folk-pop album.The cover of the new Carla Bruni album

There’s been a huge media push behind Bruni in recent weeks. Same for every two-bit popstar these days, says you. But Bruni’s husband counts media magnates among his close friends. Mainstream current affairs weeklies like Paris Match, sympathetic to Sarkozy, have featured sympathetic front covers of the first lady and soft-focus photos of her with guitar in lap.

By contrast, left-leaning newspaper Libération called the record “bad” and “inaudible” (in the sense that you can’t listen to it, not that you can’t hear it). But Les Inrockuptibles, the politically-engaged culture magazine that regularly runs anti-Sarko covers, gave the album a qualified thumbs-up and noted its debt to the similar-sounding folk-pop of Françoise Hardy. And while the current President of France never got a mention, there was a reference to one of his predecessors, Georges Pompidou. Of course, that could be an ‘Inrocks’ ploy to whip up feeling among its readers. You see? This record was always going to be overwhelmed by its context.

So, when a convoy of motorcycle policemen pulled up to Chateau French Letter with our review copy in a diplomatic pouch and made us sign the Official Secrets Act, your blogger had to try hard to focus on the music. We made our scrunched-up concentrating face and listened. And… we gave a French shrug. It’s light, airy uncontroversial MOR acoustica à la française. There’s more instrumentation (strings, wind, synths) than on her debut, but other than that Bruni is sticking to her formula.

The album will get a worldwide release with the title ‘Simply’. Until then, you can listen to tracks from it on Carla Bruni’s MySpace page, which she no doubt updates every evening at the Elysées Palace. Here’s the video for ‘L’Amoureuse’:


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09

Slacking off as usual, your Paris correspondent didn’t go to day two of Solidays. Because we live near the festival site, we felt complacent. Two hours of queuing tend to dampen one’s enthusiasm for standing in a field. Speaking of damp, the weather forecast was bad. And the line-up wasn’t much better. The one exception was MC Solaar, who we hear put on a blistering show of his greatest hits.

We were saving ourselves for what, if Sky Sports held the rights to French music festivals, Richard Keys would no doubt have been calling Super Grand Slam Solidays Sunday. Getting up at the crack of noon, we dashed over to Longchamps in fear of another stretch in the queues. As it happened, we strolled through the gate in all of two seconds. And the weather was fantastic. (It was raining in Eire. But then again, isn’t it always?)

In terms of seeing favourite bands, Friday had been a bust. Sunday was different. First up, young Grenoble trio Rhesus. Our regular readers will recall how we have nothing but encouragement for them and any other French band ploughing the lonely furrow of ‘la pop anglaise’. They clearly love ‘Disintegration’ by The Cure for its lovelorn sincerity and charming melodies. While there’s some way to go yet before they hit such dizzy creative heights themselves, they have potential.

The Ting Tings at Solidays 2008The hipper Solidays-goers squeezed into the small circus tent for the day’s hottest/coolest act, The Ting Tings (right). Entering to the first verse of ‘Once In A Lifetime’ by Talking Heads, one feared they had set the bar too high. But no, Katie White and Jules de Martino put on a ferocious show of punk-stained art-pop. Catchy and exciting tunes like "That's Not My Name" are vastly superior to the laboured rawk-isms of fellow boy-girl duo The Kills.

That said, their guitar technician was having a bad day. On a few occasions White wound herself up for an explosive intro only to find herself flogging a dead axe. Apply within.

Indie cred topped up for the day, your blogger dashed over to another tent for some trashy pop thrills. We have a soft spot for the dayglo disco-pop of Yelle. It’s pure kitsch, but so what? It’s great fun. Yelle herself, only recently discovered on the Internet, performs with the wide-eyed wonder of a normal young girl whose dreams of stardom have just come true. Her energy, colour and cheekiness are hard to resist; her current hit ‘Je Veux Te Voir’ goes “I want to see you/In a pornographic film/to know everything about your anatomy”. How do you follow that?

Well, with Foals, as it happened. We were impressed by their debut album, ‘Antidotes’, and found they shared Vampire Weekend’s cosmopolitan vibes. Alas, their live show feels like a rather tedious jam session. The band members were facing each other instead of the crowd, and what sounded like grooves on record felt like ruts on stage. A pity.

For the indie kids at Solidays, the weekend’s climax was Sunday night’s show by The Gossip. And it was as good as a fireworks display.

Beth Ditto of The Gossip at Solidays 2008 in ParisHerself (left) was in top form. Dressed in her underwear and wrapped in what looked like a lace curtain from your granny’s bedroom window, Beth Ditto padded barefoot around the stage like a lioness. But all was not well; there were tears in paradise. “I shaved my eyebrows without any water,” she explained, “and now they burn!” She bravely surmounted her suffering and inspired her troops to an intoxicating performance, mixing funk and rock the way teenagers mix cider and lager.

Granny took her drapes back; for the encore Ditto came out in underwear and with a towel wrapped around her head. She sung “Standing In The Way Of Control” from down the front of stage, pressing the flesh with the first row of punters. Set finished, she scaled a speaker stack to soak up the adulation.

Then she realized that she couldn’t get down. Roadies rushed around and Ditto started to panic slightly. Finally, after an age, she clambered down the rigging into the arms of a security hulk, as a phalanx of photographers crowded round to capture this international incident. What a star.

Here's Beth Ditto onstage with The Gossip at Solidays in Paris last Sunday night:


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07
Originally conceived as an AIDS awareness fundraiser, Solidays has evolved into one of the premier music festivals in France. Over 130,000 people poured into the famous Longchamps racecourse at the western edge of Paris during the three-day festival, say the organisers.
 
SolidaysFor those who arrived at the site entrance on Friday afternoon, it will come as a surprise to learn that the festival had organisers. No matter what time one landed in Longchamps that day, most people spent TWO HOURS in the queue to get in. A few people fainted in the warm sunshine and had to be treated by medics.
 
Still, those waiting were good-natured about the whole thing. How come there weren’t any quintessentially French protests and riots? Well, queuers were distracted by promotion staff lobbing brownies over the fence and into the crowd. Just like during Roman times, the mob were placated by bread and circuses. Voilà la France de Sarkozy.

Because of all the hold-ups, your blogger didn’t get to see one of our favourite new French bands, The Dodoz (not to be confused with their American near-namesakes The Dodos).

Worse still, another of our beloved Gallic bands, Cocoon, were drawn to play at the same time as Vampire Weekend. (Such scheduling dilemmas only happened to us, of course. Everyone else got to see all their favourite bands.)

Ezra Koenig of Vampire Weekend onstage at Solidays 2008 in ParisOn the logic that we could probably see the French band soon enough again, we went for the visiting group.

So, Vampire Weekend it was. And they were great. Remembering the dull muso-ness of The Shins live last year compared to their carefree record, we were wary of being disappointed. Fortunately, Vampire Weekend sound just as joyous on stage as on record.

Their world music rhythms were set off by the orange twilight streaming into the marquee. The dumb-fun refrains of ‘A-Punk’ and ‘One (Blake’s Got A New Face)’ added to the summer feeling of chill-out and kick-back. (Meanwhile, the 8 pm arrivals were still queuing up outside.)

And the band looked like they were having just as good a time. Without his guitar, with his wide-eyed enthusiasm and mop of tousled brown hair, singer Ezra Koenig (above left) looked like a young Bono. But with fun, like.
 
Post-midnight, Solidays would go all dancy. Friday night’s floor/field-filler was, of course, a French superstar DJ – Vitalic. Chassis-shaking bass-bin beats were the order of the night, and everything was going swell for the smooth-headed Dijon DJ.
 
VitalicThen something happened. Vitalic (right) decided to ease off the big beats, and he dropped a funky little bassline. The thousands gathered there suddenly turned on him. Boos, whistles, cat-calls, thumbs-down: we’ve seen and done it at football matches but it was our first experience of seeing a live performer seriously getting the bird. Perhaps festival audiences, wandering like window-shoppers from field to tent to back-of-lorry, are a more fickle bunch.
 
For a few moments Vitalic stared them down. The beat stayed funky, the bassline soulful. Then, without taking eye contact from the crowd, he reached for a fader and pulled down the funk. Back came the big beats for the rest of the night and everyone, DJ included, seemed to have a great time.

Your blogger, indie kid, enjoyed it greatly too. Not often at discos or places of dance, we remembered something that had struck us before: it’s so simple to lose yourself in beats and basslines. Rock is self-conscious: you listen to the words and make the world a better place. Pop has you look in the mirror to tart yourself up, and you’ll always catch a glimpse of something you don’t like.

But dance is simply the pleasure of rhythm, of primal jumping-around. With their African and West Indian beats, Vampire Weekend have hit upon the same idea. Sometimes life’s too good to go spoil it all by thinking.

Live at Solidays 2008 in Paris, here's Vampire Weekend rocking the marquee with 'A-Punk'. They even manage a few words en français too. Is there nothing this band can't do?


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30

No doubt you queued in the rain from the crack of dawn to buy the new Coldplay album, 'Viva La Vida or Death And All His Friends'. Or maybe you just ignored it.

Viva La Vida by ColdplayEither way, perhaps you noticed the album's cover (right), which reproduces a very famous French painting. As you've no doubt shouted at the computer, it's Delacroix's 'Liberty Leading the People', otherwise known as 'Liberty Getting 'Em Out for the Lads'.

The painting, from 1830, commemorates that year's overthrowing of Charles X, king of France under the Bourbon restoration. It depicts an idealised barricade scene from the French Revolution of 1789. (The dapper-looking rebel with top hat and bayonet is believed to be Delacroix himself.)

You can see this painting at the Louvre in Paris. It hangs in a grand hall of oversized French classics just around the corner from the Mona Lisa, probably the most famous painting in the world.

Rum, Sodomy And The Lash by The PoguesOn the same wall as Delacroix's famous barricade scene is another iconic French masterpiece that has been used on an album cover. We're talking about Géricault's 'Raft of the Medusa', which was used by The Pogues for the sleeve of "Rum, Sodomy and the Lash". We hasten to add that the original painting doesn't feature the heads of the band.

While Delacroix's painting is a bit naff to modern viewers (much like Coldplay), Géricault's great work is still immensely powerful in its depiction of human forms twisted in agony.

There's a connection between 'Raft of the Medusa' and our other featured painting. Delacroix was the model for the young man slumped on his legs in the left foreground. (On the album cover, he's just over the word "The" of "The Pogues".)

Both Géricault and Delacroix are buried in the Cimetière du Père-Lachaise, famous as the resting place of Jim Morrison, Edith Piaf and Oscar Wilde.

Have you been to the Louvre? If you've visited Paris as a tourist, perhaps you've dashed through in one afternoon to see the greatest hits: the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo. It takes a full afternoon's brisk walk just to see all the paintings; the sculptures, Egyptology and other artefacts are each another day's work.

Fortunately for those of us who live in Paris, the Louvre is open for free on the first Sunday of every month. So, we can just stroll in and take the great museum one section at a time. The other major galleries of Paris, such as the Musée d'Orsay and the Centre Pompidou, are also free on the first Sunday. We've said it before; life here is good.

From the Louvre-referencing 'Rum, Sodomy And The Lash', here's a very '80s-London video for one of The Pogues' own masterpieces, 'A Pair Of Brown Eyes': 


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29
Writing about France’s superstar DJs last summer, your correspondent had harsh words about Martin Solveig (or, to give him his real name, Martin Picandet).
 
Martin SolveigIf we found Solveig (right) less awful than Bob Sinclar or David Guetta, that was us damning him with faint praise. We hated the insufferable smugness of his videos – ‘Jealousy’, for instance, with Solveig’s chipmunk smirk and irritating false-modest persona. Playing fundraisers for Nicolas Sarkozy’s political party didn’t endear him to us either.

However, this (you’ll be nauseated to learn) is a story of redemption and conversion. Solveig’s new album, ‘C’est La Vie’, has just been released. The title track and first single is getting plenty of airplay here – which is a good thing, because it’s smashing. ‘C’est La Vie’ the single mixes classic dancefloor pop – Chic, early Michael Jackson, first-album Justin Timberlake – with Paris nightclub attitude.

Even the video is okay. Solveig is quite tolerable, with no ‘funny’ antics or wacky gurning. He also appears less than in his other videos. Coincidence?  

Well, your blogger is not quite ready to declare himself a Martin Solveig fan. Still, there's no denying that this is a fine cut of pop that shoots right to the top of the Songs Called 'C'est La Vie' league table (B*Witched, Robbie Nevil, Emmylou Harris, Ace of Base, loads others).

Anyway, here's the video, with Martin bashing away on a giant polkadot egg. Fair play to him: 


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23

Your blogger took one of his rare trips out of Paris last weekend. We were at Saint Lô in Normandy for a family occasion – the younger brother’s wedding to a charming young lady from that area. This means that your Paris correspondent, free-spirited bachelor, now has French in-laws; this may seem apt to you but it’s bizarre to us. (They’re tremendously nice people, we must say.)

A postcard of Saint LôAnyway, Saint Lô is a lovely old fortified town. The wedding itself was in the tiny old church of the bride’s village nearby, after a civil ceremony by the mayor in a town hall that was more like a rural GAA clubhouse.

The wedding party then took their coach to nearby Utah Beach for a photoshoot in the blazing sunshine, before heading back to Saint Lô for the reception. As you’d expect in France, the food was fab and the wine impeccable.

A CLUAS Foreign Correspondent is never off duty, though. After the meal, dancing broke out and we kept a keen ear on what was being played. It being a French romance, first song was the theme from ‘Amélie’. We then remember ‘Double Je’ by Christophe Willem, which still sounds marvellous.

But our main ethno-musico-sociological discovery of the evening? French people will disco-dance to ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’.

Over the weekend we had time to stroll around Saint Lô. For your blogger, this simply meant his usual weekend routine: breakfast croissant and pain au chocolat at a café while reading the paper en français. Sunday morning, we watched our regular football programme, ‘Téléfoot’, at another café. (We hadn’t realised how exotic this would all seem to some Irishpeople.)

 

Most of the Irish guests found Saint Lô’s only Irish bar. However, they were shocked to discover that it only opens two days a week: Tuesday and Friday. (They drowned their sorrows in the town’s Scottish bar, open every day except Sunday.)

Again, your Paris correspondent kept his mind on the job. As usual when in a new town, we searched for a record shop. In Saint Lô this means Planet R, a book and music store on Rue Maréchal Léclerc. We can recommend it highly; not only were they playing the latest dEUS album when we went in but their biggest section is the alternative music one. And most of their stock was under ten euros. We fear they may be closed if we ever go back to Saint Lô.

Melting PopMindful of our Pamplona experience, when not buying a Jonathan Richman album changed our life, we shopped for a Saint Lô musical souvenir. So, what did we buy? Well, the idea was to get an album that we hadn’t seen in the Paris shops. We eventually went for ‘Melting Pop’, a sampler from French indie label Ra & Bo. This is the French dealer of The Frank and Walters, and the sampler features ‘Miles and Miles’ from their 2006 album 'A Renewed Interest In Happiness'.

Now, back in Paris, we’re listening to ‘Melting Pop’ and hoping to find a hidden French gem or two. Well, there are a couple of pleasant Coral-esque songs by the likes of Da Brasilians, Fireball and The Fleets.

 

As it happens, Da Brasilians are from Saint Lô. Here they are live, with the easy-on-the-ear summertime harmonies of ‘Ocean’. Congratulations to Declan and Véronique:


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15

June 21 is Fête de la Musique, France's annual national music day. Towns and villages around the country organise free open-air concerts, while many music venues also drop their cover charge for the night. On a less positive note, there are buskers nearly everywhere.

Let's French festivalThanks to the Dublin branch of Alliance Française, French ex-pats and Irish music fans can join the festivities.  Let's French is a concert series that features an interesting line-up of quality artists from various genres. We feel the organisers should have called it Let's France (slogan: put on your red shoes and dance les bleus), but maybe that's just the Bowie fan in us.

The festival, now in its third year, opens at The Village on the night of Fête de la Musique, with the Paris jazz of Les Grandes Bouches and an afrobeat DJ set from Babalonia Club. (Aside from Let's French, at Crawdaddy the same night you can see the brilliant Keren Ann, honorary Frenchwoman.)

The party doesn't stop when 21 June passes; Let's French continues until the start of July. You can swing, go-go and twist to the retro sounds of Amsterdam Boat Club, who'll be DJ-ing at The Palace on 26 June. Admission is free.

We've already told you about the Plastiscines/Lauren Guillery show at the Andrew's Lane Theatre on 27 June. Those hard rocking French girls will be joined by The Urges for what promises to be an excellent triple-bill.

The following night at A.L.T. it's the turn of French DJ foursome Birdy Nam Nam. They've got four turntables and two microphones; expect serious mixing and soundclashing and stuff.

The festival ends in chic fashion on 1 July at the National Concert Hall. Jeanne Cherhal performs in the chanson française style that's loved by Paris bobos: poetic lyrics + skiffly backing music. It's not really our thing, but maybe you'll like it.

If you're going along to any of the concerts, come back and give us your impressions. Here are les mademoiselles des Plastiscines with their single 'Loser'. Irish guys, start practising your French chat-up lines: they're sure to be ultra-impressed by your "Alors, tu viens ici souvent?", "Tu sais, tu te ressemble à ma mère!" and especially "Voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir?" Then let us know if you figured out what "Mais dégage, espèce de salaud! Au secours!" means.


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14

What’s the penalty for treason? For your Paris correspondent, supporting the Netherlands in Euro 2008 rather than his host country, the sentence was an evening of sublime football and explosive joy. By contrast, it was the French team and followers who were condemned to hard labour.

(Should our Irish readers judge us harshly, we need only mention that Ireland turned its back on the whole of Europe yesterday. Are you even watching European football any more?)

French striker Thierry Henry is disconsolate but Dutch fans behind him celebrate wildlyLast night Holland beat France 4-1 and played with a hyper-intelligent swagger, to borrow the words of David Winner, whose fantastic book ‘Brilliant Orange’ explains how Total Football expresses the Dutch psyche. Quite simply, this tournament is now Holland’s to lose.

Of course, they may yet lose it, seeing as how they’ve blown their share of World Cups and European Championships in the past. Bearing in mind that the reigning champions are dour Greece, football can be a game where rock beats scissors.

Your blogger watched the match in Le Port d’Amsterdam, a Dutch bar in the 2nd arrondissement (postal district) of Paris. At kick-off the tiny bar was packed, half French and half Dutch (with one Irishman in the latter camp). By the end, when Wesley Sneijder decided to run down the clock by scoring a sensational fourth Dutch goal, the place was nearly all orange. Needless to say, the atmosphere there was incredible. A Dutch news crew was on hand to film this cell of orange subversives; our readers in the Netherlands may have seen us up the front of the bar, deliriously happy.

Les bleus, meanwhile, must now defeat Italy on Tuesday night and hope that Romania don’t beat the Dutch. But at least their fans have character. 3-1 down, the French supporters in the bar started passionately singing La Marseillaise to encourage their team. Most of them blame coach Raymond Domenech’s conservative tactics and team selection; veterans like Thuram and Makelele looked past it, while young stars like Benzema and Nasri sat out the game on the bench.

 

Le Port d’Amsterdam is named after a song in French by Jacques Brel, a Belgian. Apart from showing joyous football, the bar’s DJs play kitsch, good-time soul and disco every Saturday night. If you’re in the French capital and up for a party, with none of the self-consciousness of most Paris clubs, we heartily recommend it.

Here’s Brel singing ‘Le Port d’Amsterdam’. Allez les oranges! Hup Holland!


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08

Rouen-born singer Barth makes alt-pop that's as melodic as his full name, Barthélémy Corbelet.

Cuchillo by BarthHis love of The Beatles is clear; not only does he write strong pop songs, but his voice is Lennon-esque. (The similarity is apparent on a marvellous 2006 single called 'The Last Wig'.)

Barth's third album, 'Cuchillo', blends la pop anglaise with pure Americana. First single 'Magic Wondermeal' is a languid country shuffle that fans of Beck's folkier moments should enjoy.

There's also a strong Ennio Morricone vibe throughout. Indeed, the album is named after a spaghetti western character, and Barth dresses up appropriately on the cover (right).

Just to mix things up even more, Barth even throws in a bit of ska on songs like 'Saliva On My Apple' and 'Dogs Slip Away'.

You can listen to Barth songs old and new on his MySpace page. No news of any live shows in Ireland, or in Paris for that matter.  

Here's his roadtrip video for the twang-tastic 'La Machoire Americaine':


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07

It's summer in an even-numbered year, which means there's a month-long football tournament to ease the wait until next season. The 2008 European Championship starts today: yahoo! With a higher concentration of evenly-matched teams, the Euro finals are usually more entertaining than the World Cup.

French captai Michel Platini lifts the European Championship trophy in 1984France are one of the favourites to win Euro 2008, provided they escape from the group of death (every competition has one) that sees them up against decent-enough Romania, old enemies Italy and the Netherlands, of whom more later. Most French fans we know have mixed feelings about their team's chances; on top of the tough draw les bleus no longer have their beloved talisman, Zinedine Zidane. Franck Ribèry, his successor as French playmaker, carries the pressure and expectation of a nation.

Ireland didn't make it to the finals, of course. However, to the incomprehension of our French friends, your Paris correspondent won't be switching his allegiance to France. What's more, for a combination of sentimental reasons your blogger has a soft spot for Dutch football. So, we hope to watch most of the tournament (up to the final, even) at the Port d'Amsterdam, a small but wonderful Dutch bar near the Bourse. Is that treasonous of us?

Aside from football, the European Championship has given us the greatest football song ever. 'Three Lions' by Baddiel, Skinner and the Lightning Seeds, the unofficial English anthem of 1996, is blessed with that spine-tingling chant of "football's coming home". Triumphant Kerry fans sang it at that summer's Munster Final, inciting 'Liveline'-esque traditionalist controversy on the county's airwaves the following day.

By contrast, here's one of the worst football-related songs you'll ever hear, "We've Got A Feeling" by Chris Waddle and Basile Boli. Waddle, who had previously duetted with Glenn Hoddle, was playing for Marseille and had become a cult hero to the OM fans. (Astoundingly, a couple of years later these same ultras worshipped Tony Cascarino.) Boli, never a subtle footballer, now co-presents a bizarre pools-type programme on French television where he picks the best bets for the weekend footie.

The video is just as bad as the song. Your blogger cringed so hard he almost broke his spine, so we advise our English readers to listen to 'Three Lions' instead:


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Nuggets from our archive

2008 - A comprehensive guide to recording an album, written by Andy Knightly (the guide is spread over 4 parts).