The Ronnie Wood Show, Absolute Classic Rock, Monday to Saturday
Russia: The Wild East, Radio 4, Monday to Friday
What a waste, to take a radio natural and condemn him to silence
Sunday 01 May 2011
With Ronnie Wood up for two gongs at the Sony Awards, for "rising star" and "music radio personality", Absolute Classic Rock must be classic-rocking with pleasure at their prescience in hiring him.
Weird, then, that their hottest new thing is so sorely misused.
It would be nice to endorse the lad, but on the evidence of Wednesday's Ronnie Wood Show – well, there wasn't much evidence. First, there was an over-run, then the news, then straight into "All Right Now", so he and his guest Flea, the engaging Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist, didn't speak for seven minutes. I settled back for 53 minutes of great music and fascinating reminiscence. They said there was a food theme, and after Flea fondly recalled the Louis Jordan mix-tape in the Peppers' tour bus, they played the jazz great's "Beans and Cornbread".
They followed that with "Cornbread" by Lee Morgan, and chatted about the trumpeter's untimely death, shot by his common-law wife between sets at Slug's jazz club in New York. And then .... For the next 40 minutes I think we heard Wood twice, and Flea not at all; they were both entirely absent for the last 20 minutes, and didn't even say goodbye. Instead the format was: "classic rock" track, station ident, track, ident, ads, track, ident. It was an odd way to treat a prized asset. And the music, apart from "Voodoo Chile" early on, was the likes of ELO, Pat Benatar and Simple Minds. What, no Zeppelin, Purple, Sabbath, er, Heep? Or any classic rock made by Wood himself? Bonkers. And on the minimal evidence, he sounds, with his husky, smoky, pleasure-ravaged voice, like a radio natural. What a waste.
Martin Sixsmith's 50-part Russia: The Wild East came too late for the Sonys; a pity, because it would be a shoo-in for the Sheer Listenability In A Proper, Serious Programme category. We were into the second week: Ivan the Awesome (as his epithet literally translates), Boris Godunov and the Romanovs.
It's the characters that bring it so brilliantly to life, people like Kuzma Minin, the butcher who raised an army to kick the Poles out of Moscow, or Yermak, who conquered Siberia for Ivan. The Awesome One thanked him with a suit of silver armour. During a skirmish he tried to escape across a river and sank under its weight.
Then there was Avvakum Petrov, head of the old church which resisted Orthodox reforms. He was exiled to Siberia, where he spent the last 14 years of his life in a pit gouged out of the frozen ground, before being burnt at the stake. "My excommunication? I trample it underfoot," he'd written. "And the curse they have put on me? I won't mince my words: I'll wipe my arse on it." His enemies, meanwhile, were "shitfaced pharisees wiping their backsides with hellfire." Heaven alone knows what he'd say about the dolts at Absolute Classic Rock.
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