Saturday, 4 February 2012

Foolish pride and a tale of two wine bars

Dreamtime - A review of Daryl Hall's '3 Hearts in the Happy Ending Machine' (1986)

Fresh from a string of highly successful albums and tours with his musical partner John Oates, Daryl Hall decided to record his second solo album nine years after his debut. Burnt by the mismanagement of the excellent Sacred Songs (1977 (1980)) which he had recorded with Robert Fripp, 3 Hearts in the Happy Ending Machine is something of an introspective effort, in marked contrast to the pomp and bombast of the previous Hall & Oates album Big Bam Boom (1984). With David Stewart (of The Eurhythmics) at the production desk, this album uses every production technique in the book, which might not be to everyone's taste, to augment Hall's incredible vocals. 

There are a number of strong tracks on the album but for me the one that really stands out is the sublime 'Foolish Pride' which really should have made more of a dent on the charts than it did back in the mid-1980s, this classic ballad with a strong and catchy chorus is a real treat and a must for any fans of 1980s pop. Other tracks such as 'Dreamtime' and the quirky 'For You' show Hall pushing beyond the boundaries of his Hall & Oates material and exploring such diverse formats as psychedelia and dance music rather than the Rock 'n Soul that his previous works had been identified with. 

The result is a rather bizarre, synthesiser/drum machine drenched effort but an enjoyable one at that. For many there will be a bit too much going on, it is a heavily layered album but Hall's voice is on top form and the production (like most of Dave Stewarts efforts in this area) is first rate. I would personally give this album which to mind is the unsung hero of music in 1986 a whopping 9/10, whilst it is not Sacred Songs (which gets a rare 10/10) it is a storming effort from one of the most consummate and talented artists over the last 50 years. 

You can purchase on Amazon for only £7.49 and discover the magic of the music of Daryl Hall: 

A Tale of Two Wine bars

Villiers Street, which stretches from Embankment tube station all the way up to Charing Cross is a hotbed of mediocre eateries, the Mecca for any uninspired and hungry office worker in the immediate neighbourhood. There is also a smattering of bars and pubs which seem to attract a mixture of besuited business men and some rather seedy types. Then there is Gordon's Wine Bar, to my mind the most overrated, overpriced and overcrowded establishment in the capital. Proudly boasting some nonsensensical heritage as the oldest wine bar in London it is the haven of a number of self-involved students from the nearby Kings College and noisy tourists - and this is just outside. Inside is even worse, with people jostling for space at an overcrowded wine bar where you can enjoy glasses of cheap, battery acid like wine for premium prices or tumblers of dark sherry which have been sitting in the bottle for far too long. Then there is the food, which sits all day under a heat lamp sweating grease before it is lapped up by someone desperate to drown out the taste of the filthy wine. An acquaintance once told me that the place had a charm which made up for the poor quality of everything else…I politely disagreed. 

On the other side of the road, just down a brick tunnel know as Craven Passage sits an establishment with an altogether different story. Whilst lacking the heritage of its counterpart (It is part of the Davy's group) Champagne Charlie's makes up for with a strong and well priced selection of wines and reliable food which doesn't try to be anything more that it is. Unlike Gordon's if you want a beer you can have it and even a G&T should you so fancy. If you thought that wasn't enough you can even buy a cigar from a selection of Habanas at the bar or a pack or Marlborough lights from behind the bar (sadly non of which you can smoke in this underground bar where they much should be!). The Atmosphere is convivial and it never gets overcrowded - there is always space to place your drink be it at a table or a stretch of bar. My one criticism is that in a recent change to their menu, they decided to scrap the very popular plate of cocktail sausages they used to serve with mustard mayonnaise of which many plates could be devoured at pre-supper drinks! In short it is an unpretentious and convivial place which I have had the great pleasure to introduce many friends to. The jug of their own port is something great to share with your port swilling friends and is a nice inoffensive drop to quaff after a busy day in the Westminster bubble or the hustle and bustle of the financial markets. 

So if you do find yourself in the Embankment area and at a loose end or stuck for where to meet friends, then I urge you to look beyond the tired gimmicks of Gordon's and take a chance on Champagne Charlies. More details of which can be found on the following web address: 

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