Saturday, October 13, 2007

Duke Spirit

The world can be divided into two sorts of people, IMHO. There's the sort that leaves a movie the moment the moment the story has finished, leaving in a noisy tipping-up of seats, crunching popcorn underfoot and generally getting in the way of the screen. And then there are those who stay resolutely glued to their seat until the very last frame of the credits has spooled through the projector. I bet you can't guess which category I fall into, eh? I usually tell my long-suffering companions that I want to ensure that "no animals were harmed in the making of this motion picture", but really I feel I owe it to the hard-working best boys, Foley artists, gaffers and focus-pullers to see their work credited appropriately. You often learn a lot too; you start to see the same names, the ones that help you to navigate around And you get to see the music credits, which are often the most interesting part of the film. At least with some directors. Oliver Stone, for one...

Anyway, you may not be surprised that I'm rather similar when it comes to record sleeves and CD booklets. I tend to pore over every credit; the sleeve designers (and thank you Malcolm Garrett, Stylorouge, Keith Breeden, Reid Miles, Vaughan Oliver, Benoit Hennebert and countless others), the engineers (Martin Bisi, Jason Corsaro, Gary Langan, Bob Kraushaar) etc. It's probably how I came across the name John Metcalfe, whose name appears in the small print of many CD booklets. Metcalfe has been the strings arranger of choice for Morrissey, Durutti Column, Lloyd Cole and Stephen Duffy among others. While this provides his bread-and-butter, I get the feeling his heart is really in his solo work and the side project he has with Louisa Fuller and Ivan McCready, The Duke String Quartet. Exploring the canons of composers such as Joby Talbot (of League of Gentlemen fame), Kevin Volans, Graham Fitkin and Michael Nyman, the Duke Quartet are nothing if not versatile (they also work with the Dixie Chicks and The Pretenders).

In his capacity as viola player for the Durutti Column in the late 80s and early 90s, Metcalfe was instrumental in establishing the Factory Classical Label, and one of their first releases was the Duke Quartet's first CD. It's long out of print and now fetches a pretty penny on Ebay, but I've added a couple of tracks below, the first movement of Shostakovitch's String Quartet no. 8 Opus 110, and the third movement of Michael Tippett's String Quartet No.3. I've also included a download of Blur's Tracy Jacks. This doesn't really need an excuse to have an airing, but it's included here because if you scrutinise the small print of your Parklife CD, you'll notice that the spiralling strings are provided by none other than The Duke Quartet.

Download Tippet String Quartet no. 3 (deleted May 2008)

Download Shostakovitch String Quartet no. 8 Opus 110 (deleted May 2008)

Download Tracy Jacks by Blur (deleted May 2008)

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