'No,' he said, 'look, it's very, very simple ... all I want ... is a cup of tea. You are going to make one for me. Keep quiet and listen.' And he sat. He told the Nutri-Matic about India, he told it about China, he told it about Ceylon. He told it about broad leaves drying in the sun. He told it about silver teapots. He told it about summer afternoons on the lawn. He told it about putting in the milk before the tea so it wouldn't get scalded. He even told it (briefly) about the history of the East India Company. 'So that's it, is it?' said the Nutri-Matic when he had finished. 'Yes,' said Arthur, 'that is what I want.' 'You want the taste of dried leaves in boiled water?' 'Er, yes. With milk.' 'Squirted out of a cow?' 'Well, in a manner of speaking I suppose ...' from Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

20th of February, 2005

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Jack Merry at your service. This narrative isn't about tea, but rather about desserts. I just like that quote so I used it as I 'membered that the film version of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is out within a few months. Now I suppose one could indeed make the argument that a proper High Tea served in the excruciatingly correct manner is a form of dessert if one has the right baker involved in the affair, but that isn't what I'm talking about either (it's me tale, not yours, so either listen or go away.) No, this is about what Green Man staffers think is a proper dessert. We were in the Pub when I asked some of the staffers what they craved. Here's some of their answers...

Maria Nutick likes it simple: 'Key lime pie presented in a pool of raspberry sauce. Chocolate trifle. Gingerbread with hot lemon sauce' -- but Denise Dutton has a somewhat more literary bent to her dessert cravings: 'Summer blackberries, raspberries or strawberries. Bing cherries, which I eat in The Witches of Eastwick proportions. And pomegranates. All eaten straight up. When fruit is really, really good, you don't need anything extra getting in the way of a good time. I often get a jones for frozen yogurt, especially of the soft-serve, twisty-cone variety. I'm also a fan of the banana dipped in dark chocolate. But for me, the banana has got to be frozen, and after the chocolate, dipped in nuts. Mmmm. I could go on for hours, but those are my very favorites.' I'll concur on the bananas dipped in dark chocolate -- as long as the bananas are very ripe. Otherwise they don't taste sweet enough.

Huw Collingbourne piped up from the Snug where he was working on his review of the Firefly series DVDs with his preferences: 'Freshly baked Bakewell tart, a rich and fruity Christmas Pudding or a plain simple rhubarb crumble (all home made, naturally).' Ymmm!!

Elizabeth Vail likes her mother's desserts: 'My mother's homemade chocolate fudge pudding, all moist and soft with its own chocolate sauce, served piping hot with vanilla ice cream.' Ok, now I'm getting very hungry! Tim Hoke commented with a nod to Maria's choices that 'True. I'm partial to fresh peaches, myself...' and went on to add 'Other desserts: red velvet cake, my mother's persimmon pudding... ...and, as that time of year is upon us, Girl Scout Cookies. Thin Mints, especially. I'm anticipating their arrival. I've spent the last couple weeks pimping cookies for my daughter, a Brownie. So now my taste buds are good and prepped.' Now I must confess one of me favourite desserts is a hot chocolate brownie -- freshly baked of course -- with home-made vanilla ice cream which has flecks -- lots -- of real vanilla in it.

Our staffers have as diverse opinions on what they like for music as what they consider a proper dessert. Some like it sweet, some like a bit tart, and some are very traditional in what they'll listen to. And all are willing to tell you exactly what they think! So get a bottle of your favourite beverage and we'll look at what they liked this week.

I remember giving Josh Lederman y los Diablos's This Town's Old Fair recording a listen when it came in. I was very impressed as was Mike Stiles which is why this review is our Featured Review this outing. Just savour Mike's beginning riff to his review: 'This is one of those CDs that simply cannot be reviewed with any sort of objective poise. After scores of notes written on the backs of cocktail napkins and Chinese restaurant menus, not to mention entire tables filled with empty beer bottles, I decided fuck it, here's my best shot.' Read his Excellence in Writing Award commentary for the rest of the juicy details!

Here's the take by Scott Gianelli on this recording: 'Every so often an artistic creation, be it a book, movie, recording, or painting, is born out of such profound artistic genius that entire genres are created or re-invented, and anybody who experiences this work never looks at the world in the same way again. The Brobdingnagian Bards are not nearly capable of such a work, but they did take one -- namely, J. R. R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings -- as the source of inspiration for their CD Memories of Middle Earth. Andrew McKee (recorder and mandolin) and Marc Gunn (autoharp) perform their own compositions at filk sessions and Renaissance Faires, and don't give the impression of appealing to audiences beyond these outlets. This is fortunate, although in fairness, I can see filkers and some less austere Tolkien fanatics enjoying a few of the pieces on this disc. My initial impression, when looking at the track listing and seeing titles like 'Psychopathic, Chronic, Schizophrenic Gollum Blues' and 'Like a Hobbit in a Mushroom Field,' was that the Bards were going strictly for kitschy humor. As it turns out, most of the tracks are instrumentals titled after particular scenes from the story, and a few of the songs are sung with a serious demeanor. This approach was ill-advised for a few reasons. The tunes, even when pleasant, do not always evoke an image that matches their titles, and the songs work best when the levity is intended, not accidental. Still, if the Bards simply wanted to crack a smile on a few listeners, and perhaps sell enough CDs to break even, then Memories of Middle Earth might be fairly perceived of as a success.'

David Kidney garners an Excellence in Writing Award for his concise review of Mike Stevens & Raymond McLain's Old Time Mojo: 'I have a friend who plays the harmonica. Every time I get a CD to review with harmonica in it, I test it on him. Every single time I have thought 'He's GOTTA like this one,' he comes back and says, 'Yeah, it's okay.' What is he looking for? Well...he's not a fan of showy stuff. He respects melody. He loves technique, but he's not much on overblowing. He loves Sonny Terry, and I don't...so there you have it. How can I be expected to know what he's looking for. Well ... I passed Old Time Mojo on to him, and he kept it for a week!'

Peter Case's newest release found favour with David: 'Who's gonna go your crooked mile? is sub-titled Selected Tracks 1994-2004, so it has the same sense of memory that the 'Road Journal' has...just a bit more recent. But the music contained here has that timeless sound, acoustic guitars, harmonica, ragged harmonies, and words that say something.'

Jez Lowe and The Bad Pennies have seen many a recording reviewed favourably here and their latest, Doolally, is no exception! Peter Massey concludes his well-crafted review by saying: 'I must say in conclusion that this is an excellent album and I can recommend you buy it. Jez appears to have turned a corner on this album. The lyrics and tunes are a little bit more sophisticated. He has moved on from the simpler and more usable songs from previous albums that many have made covers of. Whether this is a good thing or not remains to be seen. The front cover shows Jez painting out the stripes on his Tee shirt (The horizontal striped Matelot Tee shirt is one of his trade marks, as he always wears one when performing) but I must say Jez and the Pennies are definitely not Doolally putting this fine album out!'

David also looks at Eric Andersen's The Street Was Always There: Great American Song Series, Volume 1: 'As Rod Stewart, and many others, record album after album of 'the Great American Songbook,' paying tribute to the Gershwins, Cole Porter, Hoagy Carmichael, Johnny Mercer and the rest...old folkie Eric Andersen has launched a new series of recordings on the Appleseed label. With the first volume of The Great American Song Series, Andersen is not going back as many decades as Rod the ex-Mod...he simply looks back to the folk years on Bleecker Street, where Bob Dylan, Phil Ochs, David Blue, Tim Hardin and the other songwriters represented here got their start. He is returning to his own roots, to celebrate the solid craftsmanship of his own generation, and a wise choice it is.'

Déirin D'sé's recording, Wound Up caused reviewer Lars Nilsson to say 'This is a CD-release that stir up a lot of questions in my head, the main being: 'What's the point?'' Do read his review to see is he answered his own question. And we here at Green Man know Lars has the jones for English traditional music, so it's no surprise to me that Mick Ryan & Pete Harris' Something to Show recording from Wildgoose Studios found favour with him: 'This offering has all I look for in an album. It has 14 good songs, good arrangements that lift the songs and good performances from every one involved. Whether you like or not is very much a matter of taste. If you like traditional English music, in the style of Shirley Collins and John Kirkpatrick you will grow to love it, if you do not, stay clear of it. And if you are a singer you will find plenty of songs to add to your repertoire. I wonder how long it will be before you see Ryan's songs popping up on other people's albums. There are surely worth a wider recognition.' A round of Ryhope Wood Hard Cider on the house in honour of this well-written review!

Lars had the considerable pleasure of reviewing two recording from the good folks at the Welsh label called Sain, The Music of Wales, The Folk Collection and The Music of Wales, The Classic Collection: 'Together these albums present a nations musical heritage. They provide a fine starting point for anyone wishing to get musically acquainted with Wales. They also serve well as a souvenir from the country, which according to its people will become bigger than England if you flatten out all the mountains and hills.'

Classic music buff Robert M. Tilendis reviews Anonymous 4's The Origin of Fire - Music and Visions of Hildegard von Bingen which he notes 'combines four of Hildegard's works with excerpts from her visionary texts set to what Susan Hellauer, in her notes on the program, calls 'recitation tones' - invitatory tones from the service of Matins and festive lection tones, settings from the Mass and Divine Office, the program begun and ended with two Pentecost hymns, Veni creator spiritus and Beata nobis gaudia. Fire, to Hildegard, was emblematic of the Holy Spirit. Fire and light, for that matter, were major images in her visions (which have led some to believe that she may have suffered from migraine, the 'heavenly light' of her visions being interpreted as pre-migraine aura.) Whatever their origin (and the visions don't really require an explanation), the total effect is one of a deeply transcendent experience, with an undeniable reality that somehow defies adequate description.'

The Dufay Collective's Music for Alfonso the Wise, a recording of Muslim Moorish music, found favour in Robert as did the group itself: 'The Dufay Collective fully lives up to their advance billing. This is a marvelous recording, displaying genuine sensitivity to the material and the highest caliber of musicianship. It is familiar, exotic, absorbing, and sometimes tremendously affecting.'

Rosco Gordon's No Dark in America is a recording, according to Gary Whitehouse which has a story worth knowing: 'This album has quite a story behind it. Rosco Gordon goes way back to the early days of rhythm 'n' blues and the birth of rock 'n' roll. From the early 1950s to the 1960s, the Memphis native wrote and played on numerous hits for the Sun, Chess, RPM and Vee-Jay labels. His influential piano style was a key element in the birth of ska.'

M. Ward's Transistor Radio recording was to Gary's considerable liking: 'With Transistor Radio, M. Ward continues an unbroken string of excellent albums, filled with original songs that reflect his idiosyncratic take on Americana, rock and the blues.'

Ahhh, I see Gary's looking at American Roots music in his review of two recordings, The Moaners' Dark Snack and Wayne Robbins & The Hellsayers' The Lonesome Sea: 'Southern Rock used to be defined by the Allman Brothers, Lynyrd Skynyrd and their ilk: blues-rockin' guitar-attackin' jam bands. Their legacy is being carried on by bands like Govt Mule, Derek Trucks and the Drive-By Truckers, but there's a lot more going on in Southern Rock these days. Here are two acts from quite different places on the musical spectrum, both from the South.' Read his review to see just how Southern Rock has evolved in recent years.' Now where is that Georgia Satellites recording I remember liking?

Gary finishes off his reviewing this outing with a look at the Sweetheart: Love Songs anthology: 'The last time I bought an album titled Love Songs it was a Capitol Records re-packaging of some of The Beatles' love songs in a two-disc LP set. Now all of a sudden around the time of Valentine's Day of 2005, I'm deluged with them. First came the three by Roy Orbison, Marty Robbins and Merle Haggard, part of the Sony/Legacy series by that name. Now there's Sweetheart: Love Songs, the second in a series of 'Sweetheart' discs by Hear Music, otherwise known as Starbucks Coffee Company. Cupid hit his target with this one.'

Next week will be, in addition to reviews from other sections of GMR, an all-music omni issue with Welsh, Celtic, American Trad, and even a single band write-up, The Kinks, on tap. Speaking of on tap, has anyone seen where that keg of Young's Double Chocolate Stout got off to? Now there's a libation that one could consider dessert! It should go good with some fresh baked bread and a slice of Dorset Drum English Farmhouse Cheddar...

Now I'm off to see if the Kitchen followed through on their promise to Bela to cook Choucroute garnie, a hearty pork and cabbage dish... Actually it's even better than that as it's garnished with homemade kraut. Bela, on the advice of the French hurdy gurdy player who gave him the recipe recommended to the cooks that they 'should cook the sauerkraut and then add as many sausages and as much pork butt as they could to the pan.' Though it's traditionally served as a traditional French New Year's feast, it sounded, he thought, perfect as an Eventide meal when the weather is as bad as been 'round this city of late. If you're hungry, join us in the Dining Room in a few hours! We'll be washing it down with Bière de Garde from Brasserie Duyck in Jenlain, France.


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Updated 20 February 2005, 18:00 GMT (JM)