Archive

Archive for August, 2007

The Songbirds: Vol 2

August 5th, 2007 2 comments

Harris Tweed
It’s cheating a bit to include in a review of “songbirds” a group, but Harris Tweed’s wonderfully talented singer Cherilyn Macneil is a bona fide songbird, as the songs here, from last year’s debut The Younger, bear out. “Ode To Confusion” is how Regina Spektor might sound if she was cute. The other two might recall Brandi Carlile: a bit of guitar, an ear for a good melody, and poignant lyrics. And the oddly-titled “Le Musketeer est Brave” features one of my favourite lines at the moment: “In my dream I am running, I”m casting off my shoes and socks and my broken heart.” Music to fall in love with. Londoners can catch Harris Tweed on September 23 & 25 (for Scottish and German dates see their MySpace page).
Harris Tweed – Ode To Confusion.mp3
Harris Tweed – Beautiful Mystery.mp3
Harris Tweed – Le Musketeer est Brave.mp3 (previously uploaded)

Brandi Carlile

Brandi Carlile’s name may suggest an airhead pop princess; but that is one thing she certainly isn’t. Expect her sophomore album The Story to create a lot of attention. In a way, it could be a pity when the Grammy nominations come in, because that kind of recognition usually spells an end to an artist’s credibility, leading to unwarranted vilification because people with less good taste than we are have are now buying the music we of the impeccable taste have hyped in first place (irony metres are on, yes?). Whatever happens, The Story is a gorgeous album, fusing folk and country (as on “Have You Ever”) with the occasional dash of guitar rock (“My Song”). Add Carlile’s exquisite songwriting skills and distinctive voice to the mix, and you have something quite special.
Brandi Carlile – My Song.mp3
Brandi Carlile – Have You Ever.mp3
Brandi Carlile – The Story.mp3 (previously uploaded)
Brandi Carlile – Throw It All Away.mp3 (previously uploaded)

Hello Saferide
Hello Saferide is Swedish indie-folk singer Annika Norlin, who picked up a massive amount of deserved Internet buzz over the past few months. “The Quiz”, from last year’s long-titled EP, remains a favourite song of mine; hell, it made me fall in love with Annika (evidence here). That song makes reference to her being “still scared of feet”, following up on the original revelation in “Get Sick Soon”. It’s a cute song, in which Annika hopes that the object of her love would catch the ‘flu so that she might lovingly nurse her guy. “Best Friend” has a similarly quirky sentiment, expressing affection for her best friend by way of wishing that they might be lesbians so as be in love with each other. Get free Hello Saferide songs here. And check out her great new single over at this fine blog.
Hello Saferide – Get Sick Soon.mp3
Hello Saferide – My Best Friend.mp3


Sarah Borges & the Broken Singles
You’ll hear a lot about Sarah Borges yet (perhaps you already have). Somebody used the term “honky tonk country”, which isn’t totally off the mark, but Borges’ music has many more layers. Certainly you pick up the smells of bars, beer and cigarettes hearing this attitude-filled stuff — and I’m not talking Billy Ray Cyrus linedancing crap either. This songbird snarls and roars and dictates her own terms. And you just know that the hapless Broken Singles will be discarded before you can say: “Fuck off, Gretchen”.
Sarah Borges – Come Back To Me.mp3
Sarah Borges – Lonely Town Of Love.mp3

Suzanne Vega
Vega is one of the godmothers of the current lot of songbirds. Songs like “Marlene On The Wall” borrowed from Joni, Rita and Carole, but they also set the template for those who’d follow. These tracks are from her new album, Crime & Beauty, which has received mixed reviews. Granted, half of the album is musically rather forgettable, but when it’s good, it really is good. I especially like the Carlos Jobim & Astrud Gilberto vibe of “Pornographer’s Dream”, which is a bit incongruent with the subject matter (for a companion piece, seek out The Weepies’ “Dating A Porn Star”. And, yes, The Weepies’ very incredibly desirably lovely swoonable Deb Talan will be featured soon). But Vega’s power never resided in her melody, less so in the vocals; Vega is a songwriter, and you connect with her on account of the lyrics. And thee, Crime & Beauty is totally rewarding.
Suzanne Vega – Pornographer’s Dream.mp3
Suzanne Vega – Frank And Ava.mp3
Suzanne Vega – Angel’s Doorway.mp3 (previously uploaded)

The Songbirds Vol. 1

August 4th, 2007 No comments

I love the current crop of songbirds (a term which might invoke notions of Eva Cassidy, who has been posthumously overrated) better than any of the old crops — including the class of the 1970s. In fact, I can’t even describe myself as a fan of Joni Mitchell; it’s her voice, rather than material, that renders her music unlistenable to me. So here is the first installment of a (possibly fairly extensive) series of contemporary songbirds I love.

.

Rickie Lee Jones

It seems right to kick off with an old songbird. Jones has released one of the most fascinating albums of the year, The Sermon On Exposition Boulevard. Candidly, I didn’t enjoy it at first, but was nevertheless intrigued. The sound is very raw (presumably the album was recorded as live), some songs are objectively mediocre, and Jones sounds like she had a case of severe hayfever. The lyrical matter — religious faith — might put some off as well, although it shouldn’t, for Jones explores rather than preaches. The sound might be described as rootsy folk-rock; some tracks seem like inversions of “Sympathy For The Evil”. This is the sort of album one needs to become intimate with — best on an iPod without distraction — to discern moments of excellence, eureka moments.
Rickie Lee Jones – Circle In The Sand.mp3
Rickie Lee Jones – Gethsemane.mp3

.

Mindy Smith

Recently I read a review of Mindy Smith in which the clown-with-internet-acess made an unforgivable statement along the lines of: “Mindy Smith could be to the singer-songwriter genre what Norah Jones has been to lounge jazz”. No she can’t, Bozo! Where Norah Jones provides a new definition for coma-inducing blandness, Mindy Smith engages the listener. Bozo presumably meant that Mindy could become the superstar in her genre, attributing to her an accessibility that could be commercially exploited. Mindy’s music certainly is accessible, but not at such a level as to grab the musically disinterested masses who buy their Norah Jones, Travis and Dido CDs at the supermarket, and feel like riding on the syrated edge of the knife when they put on their Coldplay disc. Mindy Smith will not become Norah Jones’ equivalent because there is a depth, a spirit of independence to her lyrics and the music that score these. And thank goodness for that.
Mindy Smith – Out Loud.mp3
Mindy Smith – Long Island Shores.mp3
Mindy Smith – Falling.mp3
Mindy Smith – Angel Dove.mp3

.

Michelle Featherstone

Michelle Featherstone’s music has been featured on several TV shows, from Grey’s Anatomy to One Tree Hill, yet I could not find her on amazon.com, and information on Featherstone is sketchy beyond her website. It seems the album is available only on iTunes. I find that puzzling, for here is somebody with immense talent. The haunting “Falling” from a couple of years ago is what Dido could sound like if she had the ambition to actually be interesting: a bit like the wonderful Mazzy Star (death threats for mentioning the great Hope Sandoval in the same thought as boring old Dido to the usual address, please).

I fully expect “Rest Of My Life” (on Featherstone’s new album, “Fallen Down”) to play when McDreamy eventually settles down with an uncertain Meredith, at which point it will be a hugely sought-after track. It deserves to be hugely sought-after now.
Michelle Featherstone – Rest of My Life.mp3
Michelle Featherstone – Falling.mp3

.

Missy Higgins

Huge in her native Australia, Missy Higgins is just delightful with her Aussie wicketkeeper’s twang. Higgins (Missy is a diminutive of her first name, Melissa) has a great line in outstanding lyrics and appealing melodies. The debut album, The Sound Of White, was lyrically a bit downbeat, with themes of death (on the stunning title track she sings to her sister, who died in a car crash), depression and what appears to be a story about child murder. The new set, On A Clear Night (two tracks of which below), has its morose moments, but is a more affirming album. Lead single “Steer” could become an anthem for every newly divorced woman who feels she is taking charge of her life.
Missy Higgins – Where I Stood.mp3
Missy Higgins – Steer.mp3
Missy Higgins – The Wrong Girl.mp3
Missy Higgins – The Sound Of White.mp3

.

A Fine Frenzy

Currently supporting Rufus Wainwright on his US tour, and previously the wonderful Brandi Carlile (to be featured soon), A Fine Frenzy is 21-year-old Alison Sudol. Her debut album, One Cell In The Sea, marks her out as a massive talent. Just a couple of fewer songs shorter, and One Cell… could be a strong contender for the songbird album of the year (which right now seems like a mammoth battle between Rosie Thomas and Brandi Carlile). Visit The Late Greats blog for two more songs, including the excellent and very sad lead single “Almost Lover” (video here).
A Fine Frenzy – Whisper.mp3
A Fine Frenzy – Liar Liar.mp3

Music for bloggers Vol.1

August 1st, 2007 6 comments

To be honest, I don’t look at many blogs that don’t do music. So my idea of giving some love for my favourite blogs is rather compromised by the reality that most of them are music blogs “” and to leave out one or the other is going to make me feel very guilty indeed. So please regard this as the first in a series of a few, and if you think your blog should be among the ten to receive some love here, but isn’t, it will perhaps get some next time. Oh, and please remember to right-click to open links in a new window or tab.

And here, my funky ones, is the song that inspired the name for this blog (which almost was called Squonk’s Tears):
Steely Dan – Any Major Dude.mp3

Totally Fuzzy
Chances are good that you are here because of that wonderful aggregator blog. Props to Mephisto (whose own mp3 blog rocks), Herr K and gang.
Sesame Street – Fuzzy And Blue.mp3
…and while we’re at it
Sesame Street – Manna Manna.mp3 (might be the Muppets version)
Sesame Street – Rubber Ducky.mp3
Sesame Street – It’s Not Easy Being Green.mp3
Sesame Street – C Is For Cookie.mp3

Not-Rock-On
A blog filled with utter delights (such as bootlegs of Smiths, Jonathan Richman, John Cale gigs). Jörg has not only commented a few times on this blog, but also written a post dedicated to my humble blog. For which I’m not only grateful because it strokes my ego, but also because it gave me the idea for this fiesta of payback. Jörg threatens to do a ’80s soul round-up soon (as do I). Here’s a 1982 classic he might like to use; one of three absolutely superb duets (this one a Marvin Gaye cover) performed by Randy Crawford and Al Jarreau at the Montreaux Jazz Festival, from the Casino Lights album.
Randy Crawford & Al Jarrreau – Your Precious Love.mp3

Serenity Now!
Dick Darlington’s album blog always has something for me. And Dick is a great guy: when I moaned that Rapidshare hates me (just can’t download from it, dunno why), he re-uploaded the album I wanted on Mediashare or some such site. Here’s a song (which channels ’70s pop in an alt.country sort of way) from Josh Ritter’s very good new album, The Historical Conquests Of Josh Ritter, which I’ve been test-driving thanks to Dick’s Seinfeld-referencing blog.
Josh Ritter – Right Moves.mp3

Stay-at-home Indie Pop
I like the blog’s name, and I like Ian’s writing. The a recent entry describes a mundane minutiae of life in a quite captivating manner “” a sign of a fine writer (and not all journalists and writers of football books are fine writers). And I can see where Ian is going with the iPod dilemma “” how many does one need, and how old is ancient in an iPod’s life? Ian likes his “songbirds”, as do I. So here is one of my favourite female singer-songwriters at the moment:
Kate Walsh – Is This It.mp3

The Late Greats
This is a blog where I have discovered a shedload of artists I might never have encountered otherwise. And this, RCIAA, is the benefit of MP3 blogging. One of the groups The Duke turned me on to is The Beauty Shop, whose “Desperate Cry For Help” should be a total classic: great tune, great lyrics, great delivery.
The Beauty Shop – Desperate Cry For Help

Tsururadio
A refuge in times of stress. Tsuru’s blog is so laid back, the music so great and the photos of arty nudes so lovely, one wishes one could move into the blog. Tsuru is a New Pornographers fan, so here’s a track from A.C. Newman’s 2004 solo album, The Slow Wonder.
A.C. Newman – On The Table.mp3

Twohundredpercent
Excellent football (“soccer”) musings. The blog also includes sections of football-related music. If your life is incomplete without the “Anfield Rap”, or you want to pretend you’re running out at Upton Park to Michael Jackson’s classic “I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles”, or you absolutely need to hear the British TV theme to the 1968 Olympic coverage, then you’ll find the Brighton fan’s blog a music treasure chest. One song missing from twohundredpercent’s site is this collaboration between kwaito band TKZee and Blackburn’s Benni McCarthy (then, in 1998, playing for Ajax Amsterdam), which samples “The Final Countdown” (but of course).
TKZee & Benni McCarthy – Shibobo.mp3

Jefito Blog
Jefito’s thorough anthological reviews (called “Complete Idiot’s Guide”) of an eclectic bunch of artists is legendary in MP3 blogland, and his mix-tapes are always worth checking out. His Crowded House review a few months back was spot-on, so here is my favourite Crowded House song, from the Farewell To The World live set.
Crowded House – When You Come (live).mp3

Television Without Pity
Well, it’s not a blog, but in a way it is a blogging community. This is the place I go to when I have missed an episode of Lost or need to know what exactly happens in the next installment of Prison Break. The round-ups don’t just recap an episode, but describes every scene in detail and with a generous dose of wit. Each programme has its own dedicated writer, lending the recaps a particular character, and presents an opportunity to work with in-jokes. I particularly enjoyed the one when Rome‘s deliciously devious Atia was renamed Julii Cooper. In honour of the O.C. reference, here’s Alexi Murdoch’s re-recorded version of “Orange Sky”, from his pretty good full debut album, Time Without Consequence, which was released last year (to be truthful, I prefer the version from the brilliant Four Songs EP.)
Alexi Murdoch – Orange Sky.mp3

Michael’s World
Call it paternal pride, but I love this blog. He has a mirror blog on a South African blogging community, but let’s get his Blogger site some hits, shall we? When Michael started with guitar lessons at the age of 10 two years ago, his tutor (a seasoned session musician) asked him what music he’d like to learn first. The little guy’s answer: “Johnny Cash”. Which I thought was very cool! Here is some proof that Sting is not entirely a twit: Cash’s infinitely superior cover of Gordon’s “I Hung My Head”, from the American IV: The Man Comes Around album (which got Michael into Ca

sh).
Johnny Cash – I Hung My Head.mp3

German hits 1930-42

August 1st, 2007 17 comments

THIS POST HAS BEEN UPDATED WITH NEW MIXES:
www.halfhearteddude.com/2010/05/deutsche_hits_1930-37/
www.halfhearteddude.com/2010/05/germany%e2%80%99s-hitparade-1938-45/

Here is a collection of German hits from 1930-452. It is fascinating stuff, and not only to the German nostalgists. Look at the stars appearing in this collection:

There is the 1936 hit version of “Lili Marleen” by Adolf Hitler’s favourite singer, Lale Andersen (1905-72). “Lili Marleen”, originally composed in 1915 and a hit for Andersen under the title “Lied eines jungen Wachtposten (Lili Marlen)”, was a popular song in World War II across the fronts. At one point, however, the German leadership banned it because it was too morbid. Andersen was used by the Nazi leadership to record English-language “propaganda-jazz”, which would proscribe her post-war activities as an artist for a while. Once her career resumed, she remained a star until shortly before her death.

There is the original version of Marlene Dietrich‘s (1901-92) “Ich bin von Kopf bis Fuss auf Liebe eingestellt” from Der Blaue Engel (filmed simultaneously as The Blue Angel, 1929), which launched her career internationally. Dietrich’s sister ran a cinema near the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, frequented mainly by SS guards. Marlene renounced her sister as a result, yet after the war helped her financially. In post-war West Germany, Dietrich was long regarded by many as a traitor on account of her support for the Allies in WW2. At a 1960 concert in Düsseldorf, an audience member threw an egg at her (in fairness, other audience members gave the offender a beating for his troubles). Dietrich’s last movie appearance was in 1979, in Just A Gigolo, with David Bowie. Maximilian Schell’s 1984 documentary Marlene is worth seeing, if not for the subject matter, then for Schell’s ingenuity in illustrating the recorded interviews with Dietrich after she withdrew permission to be filmed.

There is Pola Negri (1997-1987), the famous femme fatale of the silent movies era and former lover of Rudolfo Valentino and Charlie Chaplin. The Polish-born actress had returned to Europe after her career floundered with the advent of the talkies and after losing a fortune in the Wall Street Crash, acted in a few Joseph Goebbels-commissioned films, then fled Germany as rumours of her part-Jewish ancestry appeared.

There is the magnificent diva Zarah Leander (1907-81), who, with her extravagant gestures and deep voice, was an obvious favourite drag queen character in the West Germany of the ’70s and ’80s. Born in Sweden, Leander’s life would make a great biopic. After breaking through in pre-Anschluss Vienna, she became an instant star in Germany when she moved there in 1936 (becoming a particular favourite of Hitler’s). Leander always claimed to have been apolitical; not everybody was convinced of it.

There is Hans Albers (1891-1960), one of the biggest stars in Nazi Germany but who despised the Nazis. The Nazis forced him to officially split from his half-Jewish girlfriend, Hansi Burg, but he continued to unofficially live with her. In 1939, he arranged for her escape to Switzerland. When she returned to post-war Germany, Albers dropped his girlfriend at the time to reunite with Burg, with whom he lived until his death in 1960. A veteran actor of the silent era, Albers is rightly considered a legend. His hit “Auf Der Reeperbahn Nachts Um Halb Eins” continues to be sung by drunk Germans anywhere.

There is the tragic Joseph Schmidt (1904-42), a Jewish tenor, who was among the first artists to be banned from German radio by the Nazis. A few months after the release of his film Ein Lied geht um die Welt (the title track is featured on this set) in May 1933, Schmidt fled Germany for Vienna, then after the 1938 Anschluß to Belgium, then after its invasion by Germany to France, and following France’s occupation to neutral Switzerland, where he arrived in September 1942. Several escape attempts had weakened Schmidt, leading to his collapse on a Zürich street. He was identified as a Jewish refugee, who in Swiss law were not regarded as political emigrés, and taken to the internment camp Girenbad while his residence application was being processed. There he fell ill, and was treated in a hospital for an inflammation of the throat. Doctors refused to follow up his complaint about chest pains, and Schmidt was returned to Girenbad. Two days later, on November 16, he died of a heart attack. The following day, his approved residence permit arrived.

There is the sextett Comedian Harmonists, which had three Jewish members and sank soon after the Nazis took power. In 1934 the group was prohibited from performing in Germany; after a year of foreign tours the group split in 1936. The three Jewish members emigrated, and formed a band which toured under the same name; the three Aryans formed a sextet called the Meistersextett.

There is actor Heinz Rühmann (1902-94), who remained one of Germany’s biggest stars for close to six decades (and who appeared in the excellent 1930 comedy Die drei von der Tankstelle). Rühmann, reportedly Anne Frank’s favourite actor, was publicly entirely apolitical, but was accused after the war of having divorced his Jewish wife in 1938 so as to protect his career in the Third Reich. However, his next wife (with whom he remained until her death in 1975) had a Jewish grandfather, which caused Rühmann some trouble with the Nazi hierarchy.

There is Paul Hörbiger (1894-1981), an Hungarian-Austrian actor who became a resistance fighter against the Nazis. Arrested by the Nazis in 1945, he was sentenced to death for treason, with the BBC even reporting his death. Hörbiger lived, and enjoyed a long career on film, TV and stage which ended just a year before his death in 1981 at 86. Long revered in Germany and Austria as a grand old gentleman of stage and screen, Hörbiger’s film credits include the classic The Third Man, in which he played Harry Lime”s nameless porter.

There is Johannes Heesters (1903 – ), duetting with Marika Rökk (1913-2004, who was a admirer of Hitler in her day), who is despised in his native Netherlands as a Nazi collaborator. Heesters, who performed for Hitler and in 1941 visited the Dachau concentration camp (apparently to entertain SS guards, which Heesters denies), did not distance himself from the Third Reich hierarchy (as Albers did). Yet, the allies allowed him to continue his career after the war, and “” like many of his colleagues tainted by association with the Third Reich “” enjoyed great popularity in post-war Germany. Heesters is the world’s oldest active entertainer. His career started in 1921, he last appeared in a TV film in 2003.


There is Lilian Harvey (1906-1968), born in London to English and German parents. During WW1, her father worked in Magdeburg, preventing the family from returning to England. Lilian might have become a big British star; instead her career hit the big time in Germany. After a failed attempt at breaking through in Hollywood, she drew the attention of the Gestapo in the ’30s for her refusal to disassociate from her Jewish friends. Based in France after war, she resumed her career in West Germany.

There are Die Goldene Sieben, who were founded in Berlin by the Nazi party to record “German jazz that would conform to the moral requirements of the Third Reich, as opposed to the “decadent” US jazz. However, the rotating members of the band failed to invent German jazz, doing so much of US-style swinging that Goebbels’ ministry disbanded the group after five years in 1939. Likewise, Peter Igelhoff (1904-78) was considered too jazzy, and was prohibited from public performances and banned from radio in 1942. Instead, the entertainer was drafted into the army and sent to the front. He survived.

And there is Richard Tauber (1891-1948), the Austrian tenor who was the subject of Tom Waits’ blues. Tauber’s Jewish father converted to Catholicism, and even hoped Richard would become a priest. Instead, Richard joined the stage, appearing in operas and operettas. Already a big star in Germany, Täuber was badly beaten up by Nazi thugs, presumably because of his Jewish ancestry, and left Germany for Austria. He fled his homeland when Germany annexed it in 1938. He subsequently became a British citizen, and died in London at the age of 57.


Tracklisting:
Comedian Harmonist – Ein Freund, Ein Guter Freund
Comedian Harmonist – Veronika, der Lenz ist da
Marlene Dietrich – Ich bin von Kopf bis Fuß auf Liebe eingestellt
Richard Tauber – Adieu, Mein Kleiner Gardeoffizier
Siegfried Arno – Wenn Die Elisabeth Nicht So Schöne Beine Hätt
Lilian Harvey – Das Gibt’s Nur Einmal
Paul Hörbiger – Das Muß Ein Stück Vom Himmel Sein
Hans Albers – Flieger, Grüß’ Mir Die Sonne
Lilian Harvey – Wir Zahlen Keine Miete Mehr
Comedian Harmonists – Kleiner Mann Was Nun
Joseph Schmidt – Ein Lied Geht Um Die Welt
Die Goldene Sieben – Ich Wollt’ Ich Wär Ein Huhn

Hans Albers – Auf der Reeperbahn nachts um halb zwei
Pola Negri – Wenn Die Sonne Hinter Den Dächern Versinkt
Heinz Wehner & His Orchestra – Das Fräulein Gerda
Peter Igelhoff – Der Onkel Doktor Hat Gesagt
Rudi Schuricke – O Mia Bella Napoli
Zarah Leander – Kann Denn Liebe Sünde Sein
Hans Albers – Goodbye, Johnny
Heinz Rühmann – Das Kann Doch Einen Seemann Nicht Erschüttern
Lale Andersen – Lili Marleen
Marika R̦kk & Johannes Heester РMusik, Musik, Musik
Ilse Werner – So Wird’s Nie Wieder Sein
Sven Olof Sandberg – Unter Der Roten Laterne Von St Pauli
Zarah Leander – Ich Weiß, Es Wird Einmal Ein Wunder Geschehn