We Can’t Dance celebrates 30th Anniversary

11 November 2021 is the 30th anniversary of the release of Genesis’ WE CAN’T DANCE – the last studio album recorded with Phil Collins. The record was released five years after their mega-seller INVISIBLE TOUCH and consolidated on the huge success of that album. The sound here is much earthier, the result of a change in production engineer and a desire to create a more natural sound. The album was released with the CD era in full swing and the band utilised the increased running time available (70+ mins as opposed to 45-50 mins) on disc to produce a collection of songs that had great variety.

The opener is ‘No Son of Mine’, an arresting and emotional tale of a broken father-son relationship. ‘Jesus He Knows Me’ shows the band delving into satire in an up-tempo and melodically catchy exploration of the motivations of TV evangelists. ‘Driving the Last Spike’ is the first long song on the album, which has strong passages but suffers from over-length, being framed in a traditional structure. Collins’ lyrics depicting the working conditions during the building of the railways are amongst his best. ‘I Can’t Dance’ is another satiric song, this time looking at TV advertising. Rutherford’s riff is memorable and Collins has fun delivering the vocals. ‘Never a Time’ is a nice ballad, one that feels like the band could write it in their sleep. The brooding ‘Dreaming While You Sleep’ is one of the album’s strongest songs. A dark tale of a hit-and-run accident and the guilt the driver must face. ‘Tell Me Why’ is an unfortunate mismarriage between music (upbeat and slightly psychedelic) and lyrics (concerning poverty and starvation). ‘Living Forever’ returns the band to satire, this time looking at contradictions in advice on healthy living. The song plays out with a pleasant, but undemanding, instrumental section. ‘Hold on My Heart’ is a strong ballad with Banks’ trademark chords and a great vocal from Collins. ‘Way of the World’ has a shuffling rhythm to drive its philosophical look at life and is musically strong with a neat short solo for Banks. ‘Since I Lost You’ laments the tragic death of Eric Clapton’s young son, with the jarring backdrop of a plodding piano and Phil Spector-like production sound. The album closer, ‘Fading Lights’, is a masterpiece of reflection with one of the band’s best instrumental sections filling the sandwich. Bank’s lyrics seem to announce the end of this line-up of the band deliberately closing with the word ‘remember’. Whilst the album is inconsistent, there are still a good number of high-quality songs. Of the two non-album tracks ‘On the Shoreline’ would have been worthy of inclusion.

GENESIS
WE CAN’T DANCE (Virgin, 11 November 1971) – Album Score – 72%
Tony Banks – Keyboards
Mike Rutherford – Guitar, Bass
Phil Collins – Vocals, Drums, Percussion, Drum Machines

Produced by Genesis and Nick Davis
Engineered by Nick Davis assisted by Mark Robinson
Recorded at The Farm, August 1971
2007 remix by Nick Davis assisted by Tom Mitchell and Geoff Callingham
Cover and Art Direction by David Scheinmann of Icon Photography
Cover Illustration by Felicity Roma Bowers

TRACK SCORES

  1. No Son of Mine (6:41) **** (A-side single 28/10/91)
  2. Jesus He Knows Me (4:23) **** (A-side single 20/7/92)
  3. Driving the Last Spike (10:10) ****
  4. I Can’t Dance (4:04) *** (A-side single 6/1/92)
  5. Never a Time (3:52) *** (A-side single (US) 19/10/92)
  6. Dreaming While You Sleep (7:21) ****
  7. Tell Me Why (5:00) ** (A-side single 8/2/93)
  8. Living Forever (5:42) ***
  9. Hold on My Heart (4:40) **** (A-side single 13/4/92)
  10. Way of the World (5:40) ***
  11. Since I Lost You (4:10) **
  12. Fading Lights (10:16) *****

Non-album tracks:

  1. On the Shoreline (4:45) *** (B-side to ‘I Can’t Dance’)
  2. Hearts on Fire (5:15) ** (B-side to ‘Jesus He Knows Me’)

All songs written by Banks/Collins/Rutherford

Film Review – NO TIME TO DIE (2021)

NO TIME TO DIE (2021, UK/USA) ***½
Action, Adventure
dist. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) (USA), Universal Pictures International (UPI) (UK); pr co. Eon Productions / Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) / Universal Pictures / Danjaq / B25 / Cinesite; d. Cary Joji Fukunaga; w. Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, Cary Joji Fukunaga, Phoebe Waller-Bridge (based on a story by Neal Purvis & Robert Wade and Cary Joji Fukunaga and characters created by Ian Fleming); pr. Barbara Broccoli, Michael G. Wilson; ph. Linus Sandgren (Colour. D-Cinema. Arri 765 (source format) (some shots), Digital Intermediate (4K) (master format), Dolby Vision, IMAX (source format) (some scenes), Panavision (anamorphic) (source format), Panavision Super 70 (source format) (some shots). 2.39:1); m. Hans Zimmer; ed. Tom Cross, Elliot Graham; pd. Mark Tildesley; ad. Mark Harris; rel. 28 September 2021 (UK), 8 October 2021 (USA); BBFC cert: 12; r/t. 163m.
cast: Daniel Craig (James Bond), Léa Seydoux (Madeleine), Rami Malek (Lyutsifer Safin), Lashana Lynch (Nomi), Ralph Fiennes (M), Ben Whishaw (Q), Naomie Harris (Moneypenny), Rory Kinnear (Tanner), Jeffrey Wright (Felix Leiter), Billy Magnussen (Logan Ash), Christoph Waltz (Blofeld), David Dencik (Valdo Obruchev), Ana de Armas (Paloma), Dali Benssalah (Primo (Cyclops)), Lisa-Dorah Sonnet (Mathilde), Coline Defaud (Young Madeleine), Mathilde Bourbin (Madeleine’s Mother), Hugh Dennis (Dr. Hardy), Priyanga Burford (Dr. Symes), Joe Grossi (Hotel Porter), Nicola Olivieri (Cemetery Caretaker), Pio Amato (Cemetery Attendant), Javone Prince (MI6 Security Guard), Davina Moon (Madeleine’s Receptionist), Mattia Lacovone (Young Shepherd), Giansalvatore Duca (Young Shepherd), Amy Morgan (Alison Smith), Lizzie Winkler (Sarah Jones), Andrei Nova (Bunker Guard), Ernest Gromov (Bunker Guard), Gediminas Adomaitis (Blofeld’s Right Hand Man), Andy Cheung (Chinese Businessman), Brigitte Millar (Vogel), Hayden Phillips (Sir Sebastian D’ath), Winston Ellis (Spectre Agent), Adnan Rashed (Spectre Agent), Rae Lim (Spectre Agent), Chi Chan (Spectre Agent), Denis Khoroshko (Spectre Agent), Lourdes Faberes (Spectre Agent), Philip Philmar (Spectre Agent), Raymond Waring (Spectre Agent), Eliot Sumner (Spectre Guard), Rod Hunt (Spectre Guard), Michael Mercer (El Nido Bartender), Gemmar Mcfarlane (Passersby), Leighton Laing (Passersby), Kimo Armstrong (Passersby).
Craig makes his fifth and final appearance as James Bond and completes several story arcs that have spread through his tenure. Here, Bond has left active service, but his peace is short-lived when Felix Leiter, an old friend from the CIA, turns up asking for help, leading Bond onto the trail of a mysterious villain armed with dangerous new technology. The story has personal impacts for Bond and more than once nods back at 1969’s George Lazenby starring ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE. The pre-credit opening sets up the story by re-introducing us to Bond and his relationship with Madeleine (Seydoux). The set-up creates conflict between the characters and introduces us to the main villain of the piece, portrayed by Malek. There are also links to SPECTRE and Blofeld (Waltz), which are resolved in a surprising fashion. It is not possible to explore the plot further without revealing key plot points. Needless to say, the plot is more complex than the usual villain who wants to take over the world – it is in fact that and much more. How successful the film is at dealing with these complexities is debatable. There are clever twists, but also an increased level of incredulity which requires the audience to suspend their disbelief and accept that whenever the villains shoot at Bond with their spraying machine guns, they never hit the mark, yet Bond dispatches them with such ease that the action feels overly choreographed on the level of a computer game rather than a real-life threat. This makes Bond feel like a comic book or gaming superhero and contrasts less favourably with the grittiness of the action sequences in Craig’s CASINO ROYALE debut. There are many positives, however. The cast is strong and the performances good, despite some occasionally clunky dialogue. The greater focus on character and inter-character relationships gives us something to care about. The locations and photography are excellent – as are all the technical attributes. The film’s excessive running time is not as cumbersome as it would seem, as the footage all feels relevant to advancing the story. I did feel, however, that I was being overly manipulated by the filmmakers and what I was watching sometimes felt superficial – particularly during the finale in Malek’s poisoned garden lair – a nice nod to Fleming’s novel You Only Live Twice. Overall, this is probably middle-ground Bond, both in Craig’s tenure and the series as a whole. It will be interesting to see where the producers take the series next.

Film Review – THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING (1975)

THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING (1975, UK/USA) ****
Action, Adventure
dist. Allied Artists Pictures; pr co. Columbia Pictures Corporation / Devon / Persky-Bright; d. John Huston; w. John Huston, Gladys Hill (based on the story by Rudyard Kipling); pr. John Foreman; ph. Oswald Morris (Technicolor. 35mm. Panavision (anamorphic). 2.39:1); m. Maurice Jarre; ed. Russell Lloyd; pd. Alexandre Trauner; ad. Tony Inglis; rel. 27 November 1975 (Iran), 16 December 1975 (USA), 18 December 1975 (UK); BBFC cert: PG; r/t. 129m.
cast: Sean Connery (Daniel Dravot), Michael Caine (Peachy Carnehan), Christopher Plummer (Rudyard Kipling), Saeed Jaffrey (Billy Fish), Larbi Doghmi (Ootah), Jack May (District Commissioner), Karroom Ben Bouih (Kafu Selim), Mohammad Shamsi (Babu), Albert Moses (Ghulam), Paul Antrim (Mulvaney), Graham Acres (Officer), The Blue Dancers of Goulamine (Dancers), Shakira Caine (Roxanne).
Two British soldiers in India decide to resign from the Army and set themselves up as deities in Kafiristan–a land where no white man has set foot since Alexander. This critically acclaimed morality piece was a commercial failure at the box office despite the star power and strong chemistry between Connery and Caine. It is only in the passing years that its stature has grown. The two leads are excellent, as is Plummer as the author, then a journalist, Rudyard Kipling. The film’s technical attributes are top-notch from production and costume design to its photography and location. The moral tale is laced with humour and adventure before its downbeat finale issues its warning message. The tone may shift jarringly from time to time, but this remains an impressive production expertly directed by a past master.
AAN: Best Writing, Screenplay Adapted from Other Material (John Huston, Gladys Hill); Best Art Direction-Set Decoration (Alexandre Trauner, Tony Inglis, Peter James); Best Costume Design (Edith Head); Best Film Editing (Russell Lloyd).

Book Review – ‘TIL DEATH (1959) by Ed McBain

‘TIL DEATH (1959) ***
by Ed McBain
This paperback edition published by Penguin, 1986, 160pp (157pp)
First published in 1959 (USA)
© Ed McBain, 1959
ISBN: 978-0-140-02164-6
Blurb: The wedding day of Detective Steve Carella’s sister Angela should be the most romantic, special day of her life. But it might turn out to be the worst if her brother can’t figure out which man on the guest list has come to murder the groom. Carella and the men from the 87th Precinct find themselves on the clock as they desperately hunt amongst the name cards and catered dinners for the would-be assailant. Trouble is, the crowd has numerous people with viable motives: the best man who stands to inherit everything the groom owns, the ex-boyfriend with a homicidal crush, and even an ex-GI with a score to settle. But time is ticking, and if they don’t act fast, Angela will become a bride—and a widow—on the same day.
Comment: The ninth in the 87th Precinct series written by Ed McBain is this offbeat story set at the wedding of Carella’s sister. As such the story acts as a diversion from the grittier storylines that precede and follow it. The result is a minor entry in the series that coasts on McBain’s command of his characters and dialogue. The plot itself often lacks plausibility and as such fails to engage in the way his earlier titles did. Even at a brief page count of just under 160 pages, there are elements of padding where the author and his characters philosophise. That said McBain’s skill as a writer gets him through to a tense, if somewhat familiar, finale. Not top-draw McBain, but an often fun and diverting and easy read despite this.

Book Review – LADY KILLER (1958) by Ed McBain

LADY KILLER (1958) ***
by Ed McBain
This paperback edition published by Penguin, 1986, 176pp (172pp)
First published in 1958 (USA)
© Ed McBain, 1958
ISBN: 978-0-140-02019-9
Blurb: “I will kill the Lady tonight at 8. What can you do about it?” The boys of the 87th have just twelve hours to find out who the crank letter writer is–and who he means by “the Lady “–for whom there will be no second chance.
Comment: This is often listed as the eighth of Ed McBain’s 87th Precinct novels, but as I read through it I realised it was written and set before Killer’s Wedge, so is the seventh. Having read the whole series before, this can now be seen as a warm-up for some of the Deaf Man cases that infrequently occupied the squad’s time. Here a would-be killer taunts the squad that he will kill “The Lady” at 8 pm and it is up to the detectives to track down who wrote the note and who the intended target is. The investigation leads the squad down some blind alleys before they close in on their target. The book is one of the lesser of the early entries which, whilst endowed with McBain’s usual excellent prose and dialogue, feels a little bit manufactured and the conclusion leaves the reader questioning the motives of the detectives’ quarry. It is still a quick and entertaining read and a formula that McBain would develop better in the Deaf Man books.

Book Review – KILLER’S WEDGE (1959) by Ed McBain

KILLER’S WEDGE (1959) ****
by Ed McBain
This paperback edition published by Allison & Busby, 2007, 242pp (233pp)
First published in 1958 (USA)
© The Estate of Ed McBain, 1958
ISBN: 978-0-749-08023-5
Book CoverBlurb: Her game was death – and her name was Virginia Dodge. She was out to put a bullet through Steve Carella’s brain, and she didn’t care if she has to kill all the boys in the 87th Precinct to do it. So Virginia, armed with gun and bottle of nitro-glycerine, spent a quiet afternoon in the precinct house, terrorizing Lieutenant Byrnes and his detectives with her clever little homemade bomb. They all sat there waiting for Steve Carella. Could all the men of the 87th, prisoners of one crazy broad, be powerless to save Carella from his rendezvous with death…?
Comment: This is the seventh of Ed McBain’s 87th Precinct novels and here he takes a different approach by making the main plot a tense thriller and the sub-plot a mystery. The revenge plot in which Virginia Dodge holds the 87th squad captive at gunpoint with a jar of nitro is extremely well written by McBain as the tension escalates. He uses third person and first person perspectives to heighten the tension and frame the varying viewpoints of the characters. Meanwhile, Virginia’s intended target, Steve Carella, is investigating the death of a wealthy socialite found hanged in a locked room. The latter sub-plot follows a very traditional mystery path and is merely a supporting function to the main story. Suspense is heightened when Carella’s wife, Teddy, arrives at the squad room only to be confronted by the siege. A successful diversion for the series continuing McBain’s impressive run.

Film Review – ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN (1948)

ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN (1948, USA) ***
Comedy, Horror, Sci-Fi
dist. Universal Pictures (USA), General Film Distributors (GFD) (UK); pr co. Universal International Pictures (UI); d. Charles Barton; w. Robert Lees, Frederic I. Rinaldo, John Grant; pr. Robert Arthur; ph. Charles Van Enger (B&W. 35mm. Spherical. 1.37:1); m. Frank Skinner; ed. Frank Gross; ad. Hilyard M. Brown, Bernard Herzbrun; rel. 15 June 1948 (USA), August 1949 (UK); BBFC cert: PG; r/t. 83m.
cast: Bud Abbott (Chick), Lou Costello (Wilbur), Lon Chaney Jr. (Lawrence Talbot / The Wolfman), Bela Lugosi (Dracula), Glenn Strange (Monster), Lenore Aubert (Sandra Mornay), Jane Randolph (Joan Raymond), Frank Ferguson (Mr. McDougal), Charles Bradstreet (Dr. Stevens).
Abbott and Costello play two hapless freight handlers who find themselves encountering Dracula, the Frankenstein Monster and the Wolf Man. Enjoyment of this horror comedy will depend on your tolerance of the antics of the comedy duo who lack the sophistication, inventiveness and dignity of Laurel & Hardy, but became immensely popular nonetheless. One or two amusing moments do surface, and it is great to see Lugosi, Chaney and co. in action again. Lugosi is particularly effective returning to his signature role of Count Dracula. Watch out for the final gag, which is the best of the production. In 2001, the Library of Congress selected this film for preservation in the National Film Registry. On screen title: BUD ABBOTT AND LOU COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN. UK Title: ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET THE GHOSTS.

Film Review – HOG WILD (1930)

HOG WILD (1930, USA) ****
Comedy
dist. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) (USA), Jury Metro-Goldwyn (UK); pr co. Hal Roach Studios; d. James Parrott; w. H.M. Walker (dialogue) (based on a story by Stan Laurel and Leo McCarey (uncredited)); pr. Hal Roach (uncredited); ph. George Stevens (B&W. 35mm. Spherical. 1.37:1); m. md. Marvin Hatley; ed. Richard C. Currier; rel. 31 May 1930 (USA), 25 August 1930 (UK); BBFC cert: U; r/t. 19m.
cast: Stan Laurel (Stan), Oliver Hardy (Ollie), Dorothy Granger (Tillie – The Hardys’ Maid / Girl Lifting Her Skirt by Puddle (uncredited)), Fay Holderness (Mrs. Hardy (uncredited)), Charles McMurphy (Streetcar Conductor (uncredited)).
Vintage Laurel & Hardy short in which Mrs. Hardy insists that Oliver mount the radio aerial on the roof before he goes off gallivanting with his friend Stanley. Inventive slapstick sight gags abound, not least the hilarious closing gag involving L&H’s car becoming sandwiched between trams. Original UK title: AERIAL ANTICS.

TV Review – VIGIL (2021)

VIGIL (2021, UK) ***½
Crime, Drama

pr co. World Productions; net. BBC One; exec pr. Tom Edge, Jake Lushington, James Strong, Leslie Finlay, Simon Heath, Gaynor Holmes, Roderick Seligman; pr. Angie Daniell; d. Isabelle Sieb, James Strong; w. Tom Edge, Chandni Lakhani, Ed Macdonald (based on an original idea by George Aza-Selinger); ph. Matt Gray, Ruairí O’Brien; m. Glenn Gregory, Berenice Scott; ed. Chris Buckland, Nikki McChristie, Steven Worsley; pd. Tom Sayer; b/cast. 29 August-26 September 2021; r/t. 6 x 60m.

cast. Suranne Jones (Detective Chief Inspector Amy Silva), Rose Leslie (Detective Sergeant Kirsten Longacre), Shaun Evans (Warrant Officer Elliot Glover), Martin Compston (Chief Petty Officer Craig Burke), Paterson Joseph (Commander Neil Newsome), Adam James (Lieutenant Commander Mark Prentice), Gary Lewis (Detective Superintendent Colin Robertson), Lauren Lyle (Jade Antoniak), Lolita Chakrabarti (Lieutenant Commander Erin Branning), Dan Li (Lieutenant Commander Hennessy), Lorne MacFadyen (Petty Officer Matthew Doward), Connor Swindells (Lieutenant Simon Hadlow), Lois Chimimba (Chief Petty Officer Tara Kierly), Daniel Portman (Chief Petty Officer Gary Walsh), Anjli Mohindra (Surgeon Lieutenant Tiffany Docherty), Anita Vettesse (Petty Officer Jackie Hamilton), Stephen Dillane (Rear Admiral Shaw).

This expansive and ambitious mix of crime mystery, conspiracy and international politics sees Detective Chief Inspector Amy Silva (Jones) of the Scottish Police Service sent to HMS Vigil, a Vanguard class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine, to investigate a death on board, which takes place shortly after the mysterious disappearance of a Scottish fishing trawler. Her investigations, and those of her colleagues ashore, bring the police into conflict with the Royal Navy and MI5, the British Security Service. The plot is mixed with a tragic back story for Jones leading to her tentative relationship with Leslie. It is these domestic scenes that tend to slow an otherwise fats-paced and enjoyable thriller that plays on its audiences phobias and paranoia. The direction is strong and the script, though exceedingly complicated, has sufficient intrigue and character conflict to retain interest. The production design is excellent, although the submarine interiors seem larger than you might expect, likely to accommodate camera movement and shot framing. The denouement is a little protracted, but overall this is an often tense and enjoyable production.

Genesis – Manchester Arena, 24 September 2021

Well they may well all be over 70 now and Phil Collins not in the best of health, but Genesis still turned on the magic last night at the Manchester Arena. A delay of over an hour due to a generator failure only helped to add to the anticipation (maybe the puncture they had on the way up from Birmingham should have been a warning). The Mexican Wave even played its part in keeping the audience happy whilst the technical issue was addressed. There is a sense of finality about this tour and there was a distinct ambience of warmth, nostalgia and huge affection around the arena – this was at its height with the stirring performances of Afterglow and I Know What I Like which genuinely touched the emotions. The staging was quite simply stunning and the band were in great form musically. Yes, Phil’s vocals are not what they were in his heyday, but he found new ways to compensate and the addition of backing singers Patrick Smyth and Daniel Pearce helped considerably. A special word for Nic Collins, Phil’s son, on drums. You could see Phil’s pride as he watched Nic tackle the drum parts Phil himself had written, whilst adding his own muscular character. Phil was in excellent humour and there was good banter with the audience and Mike, Tony and Daryl along with Nic provided some really powerful musical moments. If, as I strongly suspect, this is the last time I see my favourite band then they are certainly going out on a high.
Tony Banks – Keyboards
Phil Collins – Lead Vocals, Tambourine
Mike Rutherford – Guitar, Bass
with:
Daryl Stuermer – Guitar, Bass
Nic Collins – Drums
Daniel Pearce – Backing Vocals, Percussion
Patrick Smyth – Backing Vocals
setlist:
Duke’s Intro
Turn It On Again
Mama
Land of Confusion
Home by the Sea/Second Home by the Sea
Fading Lights/The Cinema Show/Afterglow
That’s All (acoustic)
The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway (new arrangement)
Follow You Follow Me (acoustic)
Duchess
No Son of Mine
Firth of Fifth (instrumental)
I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)
Domino
Throwing It All Away
Tonight, Tonight, Tonight
Invisible Touch
Encore:
I Can’t Dance
Dancing With the Moonlit Knight/The Carpet Crawlers