Friday, March 16, 2018

New album: Ministry, AmeriKKKant

Al Jourgensen, vocals, Ministry
Al Jourgensen, Ministry
Ministry's AmeriKKKant was released like the mother-of-all-bombs onto an unsuspecting world just a week ago. I had to battle with corporate America to obtain my digital copy--turntable isn't installed in new home yet--and I had to take this on a beach-walk too, on this cloudy, rainy, bitterly-grey-windy day on England's east coast, totally in-synch with this album, heavy waves thumping the shore.

AmeriKKKant is an album for listening to very, very loud. A genius mix of sound-bites, deep bass and insistent drums, industrial orchestration: repetitive like the drums of war, this is AmeriKKKa.

If the name of the album doesn't give it away, the artwork on the vinyl will; the back is Lady Liberty, middle finger raised, striding away from her pedestal, not a backward glance; a grey land of smoky destruction and searchlights behind her.

Al Jourgensen, vocals, Ministry
Al Jourgensen, Ministry
Don't expect to come away from a listening feeling all goody-goody, self-righteous and justified in belief. It's like being thrown into a huge washing machine full of dirty water and pebbles, being accosted by presidential stupidity, racist mantras, war-proud sentiment, white-supremecist hatred; filthy mud that needs to sink to the bottom and stay there. Instead, we have to ask, how did we let it come to this, AmeriKKKa? (Or anywhere else, for that matter, anywhere else.)

I came to the church of Ministry very late: a full convert, I am very happy to have been able to photograph and experience them at both Houston Open Air and Chicago Open Air in recent years (click there to see more photos).  Those of you in Sacramento, don't forget: Ministry will be at the Ace of Spades on Monday, 26th March and as of now, there are a few tickets left.  (I won't be there, because I've done my own version of that Lady Liberty thing for exactly the reasons embodied in this album, and am now on the other side of the Atlantic, middle finger raised.)

More info on how to obtain your own copy of AmeriKKKant, tour dates and more, here on Ministry\s website. Sheer genius.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

New album: Myles Kennedy, Year of the Tiger

Myles Kennedy, vocals and guitar, Alter Bridge
Myles Kennedy, Houston Open Air, Alter Bridge
I took Miles Kennedy for a walk along the beach, from Cromer to Sheringham, earlier today. No not literally, though I'm sure he would have been good company; rather, I took myself for a walk, with Myles Kennedy's new album, Year of the Tiger, as the soundtrack. The album was released late last week: after listening to it several times at home, it deserved to be accompanied by the beauty of the beach.

Myles Kennedy, vocals and guitar, Alter Bridge
Myles Kennedy, Alter Bridge
When you're walking on pebbles, trying not to twist an ankle or wrench a knee or drop the camera: stopping every so often to photograph the clouds, the sky reflected on damp sand, then clambering over sea-worn wood and rusty metal steps that end way too high above the sand... skirting the newest earth-slips from the rain-soaked cliffs, then you're not studying the music, note-by-note, but rather absorbing the essence of the album.

These are the thoughts Year of the Tiger gave me, this morning: family, love, loss... a father, gone: a a mother, struggling: a child... longing to understand. How you manage to carry on.

Myles' guitar, plus a touch of bluesy-grassy-roots-hearted Americana in the banjo and steel guitar, serene slide, and a vocal range that compares with both Buckleys, father and son. If you've listened to Alter Bridge, this isn't Alter Bridge. If you've heard Myles Kennedy with Slash, this isn't Slash. This is personal. It tells a story. Myles Kennedy lost his father at an early age, and this story, sometimes though his eyes, sometimes his mother's--has been a long time coming. There's an explanation here.

Each song is a gem. "Through our tragedies we find out who we are." Year Of The Tiger sets the pace; The Great Beyond is huge... but the song that I keep replaying is song 10, "Love Can Only Heal".

Clouds and beach at low tide
The beach. A walk from Cromer to Sheringham.
Myles Kennedy is currently on tour in Europe and the UK, with dates in Birmingham, Nottingham, Manchester, Glasgow, London, followed by shows in the USA. Full tour info and tickets here on his website (scroll down on the home page).

I listened to the album several times on my walk.

I didn't write Myles' name in the sand. Though I freely admit: the thought did cross my mind.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Roving Crows last night at Cromer Pier -- and mark your calendars for more music!

If you have never been, Cromer Pier has a beautiful theatre, right at the end, just before the RNLI lifeboat station. Like all good theatres, it has a lovely bar where you can buy refreshments before the show, and during the day when you want to just sit on the pier and watch the waves. It's also the only place where you can still see an end-of-pier variety show!

With seating for about 500 people, the cosy, red-inside theatre has really good stage lighting and is a wonderful place for an intimate music experience. Last night brought the return of the Roving Crows to Cromer. I very much enjoyed their sometimes-surprising blend of traditional Irish folk music with rock and other styles. Here's an example, from their latest album, Bury Me Naked:

The last time Roving Crows were in Cromer was for the Folk on the Pier festival, which happens again this year. Mark your calendars and diaries: 11th - 13th May 2018. And also, the night before the festival, Kinder Shores, in support of the Rees Foundation, a really important cause--helping people who have been in care. Check their website.

For more info on what's happening on Cromer Pier, see the website:

And Cromer Pier Pavilion Theatre... wouldn't it be a wonderful venue for an H Natural show. Just thinking out loud...

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Photo gallery: Esplanade, a procession for women, on the prom, on International Women's Day, Cromer, Norfolk

Esplanade: A Procession for Women
Red parasols on International Women's Day, 2018
Such a cool way to celebrate unity on International Women's Day! A procession of women, from tiny to tall, carrying red parasols, winding their way down to Cromer's promenade and onto the pier this evening, to mark 8th May, to commemorate the centenary of British women being able to vote, and also inspired by Sisi, one-time Empress of Austria. The event was organized by Dr. Sarah Lowndes, writer, curator and lecturer--you can find the whole story here, in the North Norfolk News.

Esplanade: A Procession for Women
Young participant in the parade
Click here to see full photogallery from Alison Toon Photographer!

Esplanade: A Procession for Women
Red parasols on the pier

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

On photography... continous learning. And a new look at the pier.

Abstract art?
Last week, snowbound, still exploring all the new, British TV, I discovered Sky Art's Master of Photography competition. (For those outside the UK, I think it's available on YouTube--here's an example, where the contestants were challenged with photographing Michael Madsen) And yes, I binge-watched the two series. It's a competition similar to others: begins with twelve contestants, ends with one supreme winner, 150,000 euros richer.

As a photographer, I found it intriguing. Not so much by the photography itself--it's all subjective, after all--and not even by the comments of the judges and mentors, though it was very interesting to hear, and see, their insights. (Most important comment? "It's your photo. Do whatever the hell you want with it.") But both inspiring and intriguing because of the challenges that were set, each episode, for the photographers. Seeing and understanding how each photographer had their own comfort zone, and places where they would much rather not be. Seeing how they learned and improved by being forced to take up a challenge at very short notice, with little time to prepare.

Colour and structure
Some found situations like backstage, or sports, overwhelming--places where I feel very much at home. Some excelled in posed, studio-lit environments... somewhere I am very, very reluctant to go.

What was clear? We all need to keep challenging ourselves, each and every day, with the camera. Pushing the boundaries of our own experiences. Yes, there will be our preferred subjects... but we can learn every time we try something new. Even if it's only, "I don't like that".

Know where, and what, this is?
Looking at other people's work is important; whether it's photography or painting, architecture or music or bizarre fashion statements. Only by observing do we know what works for us. Only by trial and error do we understand how the camera works best in our own hands. It's only a tool that captures a snapshot of imagination: there is no right, or wrong, way to use it.

The photos in this post are just a new look at the picture postcard that is Cromer Pier. Yes, all of them. Can you figure out where they were taken?

Beneath Cromer Pier
Low tide

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Settling in... how long does it take? Are we nearly there, yet?

Cromer Pier on a snowy winter's day, Cromer, Norfolk
Cromer Pier, during The Beast From The East, 2018
As you have probably seen, Alison Toon Photographer has moved back to England, UK, from Sacramento, California. There have been a few gaps in publishing here... it will soon be back to normal!

Cromer is a wonderful, traditional British seaside town, with sandy beaches washed by the tides twice each day, a beautiful pier with a theatre, and lifeboat house, at the end; great fish-and-chip shops, old-fashioned, tempting sweet shops, lots and lots of local, family-run small businesses, an so many community events that I know it's going to be a wonderful place to live, and to photograph.

I'll be posting a lot more very soon, but here are just a few of the venues, events and festivals that will be within reach:

Cromer Pier: concerts, shows, and festivals throughout the year
Cromer Hall: open-air concerts
Norfolk's many festivals
The Waterfront in Norwich
University of East Anglia, Norwich
Cambridge Corn Exchange... Marillion will be there soon!
... and many, many more.

It's starting to become real... after far-too-many weeks of organised chaos. I have moved many times, locally, cross-country, cross-continent and internationally. International moves are, by far, the most complicated and stressful--even when you are moving back to a country that you know and love, even when you speak the same (almost) language. It's a mass of large and small things to be organized, managed, dealt with, endured and enjoyed. From huge steps like securing a new home, to silly little things like having no pepper (or salt, or sugar) in the pantry. From replacing each and every electronic device that ran on another country's 110 v system with new devices and appliances that run safely on 240 v, to dealing with the insane, huge amount of packaging material that comes along with every darn purchase.

From having to nip out and buy a new bread knife to cut the amazing gluten-free bread that you were so excited to find, to wondering if your old bread knife and all the rest of the stupid stuff that you thought was so important to ship in that little international shipping pod will arrive before you've begged, borrowed or bought replacements while waiting. (Said pod is currently on a container ship that will dock in Hong Kong within the next few days. Why was it sent the long way around the world? Don't ask me. I have no clue. It's having its own adventure.)

From laughing with joy seeing a huge double-rainbow across the sea, to wondering when you'll see your overseas family again.

And preparing to launch an exciting new photo service here... just as soon as the snow has melted, the roads have been cleared, and the delayed shipment of brand-new business cards arrives. What will it be?

You'll have to watch this space for news!