Monday, November 06, 2006


My son has started keyboard lessons (not piano, but electric keyboard), and we promised him that if he makes a go of it, we will buy him an instrument. So on Friday, we found ourselves heading towards Tel Aviv, where the major musical instrument shops are to be found. After a bit of humming and hawwing, we chose the Yamaha PSR-E 303, which I discover afterwards is considered to have very good value for money. One thing which I was looking for was touch response; to quote, "On an acoustic piano, striking a key harder will produce a louder sound, striking it softer will produce a softer sound. With Yamaha's "Touch Response" the PSR-E303 keyboard responds like an acoustic piano."

All the time, my wife was saying that if the boy doesn't continue playing, then I can always use it (no doubt trying to play [no pun intended] on one's natural tendency to buy for oneself something better). Indeed, when we got home and set the keyboard up, it was mainly me playing selections from Van der Graaf Generator (a nice bossa version of 'Man Erg'), rather than my son playing the few simple tunes that he's learnt so far.

After this purchase, we had lunch and then split up for an hour, each person doing his/her own shopping or just wandering around. I was "just wandering around" until I found a shop selling cds - a selection which one could kill for. There aren't very many cds on my wish list anymore, and the few which I do buy normally come from esoteric outlets on the Internet; I find it frustrating to walk into a cd shop and come out empty handed. Not this time: the first thing which I noted were VdGG albums (although not the remasters); following this promising start, I then looked for Peter Hammill and found several of his discs, including the series of remasters, which have been available only for a week or so. I decided to buy 'Over', which is simultaneously one of his most extreme but listenable albums. The price was seventy shekels, which works out as slightly less than nine pounds and thus much cheaper than buying from Hammill directly.

Emboldened by this success, I then found "Walking wounded" by Everything But The Girl; Robin has mentioned them several times, but I've never heard anything by them. For forty shekels (less than five pounds), I didn't think that I was taking much of a risk. To round things out, I bought an old album by an Israeli singer, one which I bought on vinyl when it came out but haven't heard in twenty years. I'm more interested in the musician who wrote most of the songs, arranged and produced the album; this record is like a missing link between his earlier, more straightforward material and his later, more jazzy style.

Once home, I listened to all the discs in rotation. "Over" was definitely louder and clearer than the original; the bonus tracks don't do much for me, but I understand why they are there. I have on order from Amazon the remastered version of "Godbluff"; I feel that the original cd release was sorely lacking the power and clarity of the vinyl version, and judging from what's been done to "Over", the result should be good. "Walking wounded" was ok; I find the percussion too loud and distracting - but then, I'm listening to it in the comfort of my home and not on the dance floor. Maybe their earlier material would be more to my liking. The Israeli disc was a pleasure to listen to, although some of it sounds very dated (early 80s synth technology).

So: even if that day did cost us a lot of money, I think that it was very well spent. My left hand hurts from playing extended chords on the piano and my head is full of Peter Hammill songs.

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