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Music for a royal wedding

April 27th, 2011 10 comments

The alert reader might have noticed that one William von Saxe-Coburg und Gotha is going to marry his blushing bride Catherine on Friday. Perhaps young William is better known by his family”s stage name Windsor, the name of one of the joints his family owns, chosen in order to distance the family from its German provenance during World War I.

This blog likes a good wedding, and in the spirit of the nuptial celebration would like to offer Wilhelm and his Frau a few sincerely selected party tunes for the reception, to be played when the wedding band takes a break from doing Come On Eileen. We mean it, man.

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The Redskins ““ Bring It Down (This Inane Thing) (1985).mp3
“You”ve never had it so good; the favourite phrase of those who”ve always had it better. You never had so much, is the cry of those who”ve always had much more, much more than you and I. Burn brother burn, fight together, this altogether”s an insane thing, insane thing. Bring it down.”

The Men They Couldn’t Hang – The Colours (1988).mp3
“I was woken from my misery by the words of Thomas Paine. On my barren soil they fell like the sweetest drops of rain. Red is the colour of the new republic, blue is the colour of the sea, white is the colour of my innocence, not surrender to your mercy.”

Stone Roses – Elizabeth My Dear (1989).mp3
“Tear me apart and boil my bones, I”ll not rest till she’s lost her throne. My aim is true my message is clear: It”s curtains for you, Elizabeth my dear.”

The Housemartins – Flag Day (single version, 1985).mp3
“So you thought you”d like to change the world, decided to stage a jumble sale for the poor, for the poor. It”s a waste of time if you know what they mean, try shaking a box in front of the queen “cause her purse is fat and bursting at the seams. It”s a waste of time if you know what they mean.”

Manic Street Preachers ““ Repeat (1992).mp3
“Repeat after me: Fuck queen and country. Repeat after me: Royal Khymer Rouge. Repeat after me: Imitation demi-gods!”

Moțrhead РGod Save The Queen (2000).mp3
“God save the queen, she ain”t no human being. There is no future in England’s dreaming” etc.

Billy Bragg – Take Down The Union Jack (2002).mp3
“Is this the 19th century that I”m watching on TV? The dear old Queen of England handing out those MBEs. Member of the British Empire; that doesn”t sound too good to me”¦ Take down the Union Jack; it clashes with the sunset.”

The Smiths ““ The Queen Is Dead (1986).mp3
“Farewell to this land’s cheerless marshes hemmed in like a boar between arches. Her very Lowness with a head in a sling, I’m truly sorry, but it sounds like a wonderful thing.”

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The Originals Vol. 30

August 7th, 2009 8 comments

In this instalment in the series of the lesser known originals, we look at Killing Me Softly With His Song, He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother, Evil Ways, (Ghost) Riders In The Sky, and I Wanna Be Loved, an obscure ’70s soul song covered a decade later by Elvis Costello. A vote of thanks to my friends Walter, RH and Mark for feeding me some of the music featured here (the latter a very long time ago).

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Kelly Gordon – He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother (1969).mp3
The Hollies – He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother (1969).mp3
The Persuasions – He Ain’t Heavy/You’ve Got A Friend (1971).mp3
Donny Hathaway – He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother (1972).mp3
The Housemartins – He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother (1986).mp3

kelly_gordon

The Hollies’ guitarist Tony Hicks was desperately looking for a song to record when he was played a demo of He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother. The band decided to record it without great expectations, with Reg Dwight (who would become Elton John) on piano. Of course, it became a mega-hit and pop classic. But the Hollies were not the first to record it. The song had already been released by Kelly Gordon in April 1969 – five months before the Hollies’ version – as a single and on his Defunked album (the single’s b-side was That’s Life, a song Gordon had co-written five years earlier, but had been recorded before and made famous by Frank Sinatra). The original of He Ain’t Heavy by Gordon, more active as a producer than a singer, is slower and more mournful. Based on his interpretation, the publishers thought it would be a good song for Joe Cocker to record. And it would have been, but Cocker turned the song down.

He Ain’t Heavy was written by Bobby Scott (who also wrote A Taste Of Honey) and the older veteran lyricist Bob Russell (Little Green Apples), who was already ailing with cancer and died at 55 in February 1970, just after the song had become a worldwide hit. There is much speculation as to the origin of the title; most commonly it is believed that the line was inspired by Father Edward Flannagan, the founder of Boys Town, who had adopted it as the organisation’s motto, reputedly after spotting a cartoon of a boy carrying another in a corporate publication named Louis Allis Messenger, that was captioned “He ain’t heavy Mister, he’s m’ brother!” It was not a new line; it had been used in literature and magazine articles before, and supposedly provided the punchline for a Native American folk story.

persuasions

There have been many covers of the song. I have several favourites. Donny Hathaway’s soul interpretation tops the Hollies’ pop version. Then there are two fine a cappella versions. There are three such recordings by The Housemartins are in circulation: on the compilation Now That’s What I Call Quite Good, as a bonus track on the London 0 Hull 4 CD, and unofficially on the 1986 BBC Saturday Live sessions. It is the latter featured here. It might very well have been inspired by the magnificent version released in 1971 by the a cappella band The Persuasions, who recorded it as part of a medley with You’ve Got A Friend — which The Housemartins also recorded a cappella. (Edit: See the message by former Persuasions frontman Jerry Lawson in the comments section.)

Also recorded by: Neil Diamond (1970), I Ribelli (as Il vento non sa leggere, 1970), The Ruffin Brothers (1970), The Osmonds (1971 & 1975), Glen Campbell (1971), Ramsey Lewis (1971), Cher (1971), Donny Hathaway (1971), Gladys Knight & The Pips (1971), Melba Moore (1971), Johnny Mathis (1972), Brotherhood of Man (1974), Olivia Newton-John (1975), The Housemartins (1985/86), Al Green (1987), Bill Medley (1988), Gotthard (1996), Rufus Wainwright (2001), Helmut Lotti (2003), Pentti Hietanen (2005), Barry Manilow (2007) a.o.

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Lori Lieberman – Killing Me Softly With His Song (1972).mp3
Roberta Flack – Killing Me Softly With His Song (1973).mp3

lori_lieberman(Text has been edited since it was first posted)

There are two stories describing the genesis of Killing Me Softly With His Song. The more widely-spread story has folk-singer Lori Lieberman so moved by Don McLeanis live performance of the song Empty Chairs that she wrote a poem about, calling it Killing Me Softly With His Blues. The composers Charles Fox and Norman Gimbel, who were taking time out from their impressive TV theme production line (Happy Days!) to write songs for Liebermanis self-titled debut album, used her poem as the basis for the song which she would be the first to record in 1971, releasing it the following year.

Or so Lieberman says. Norman Gimbel’s recollection is very different, though much less known. In an e-mail to this blog (which will go up fully reproduced on Sunday), he explained how it was a book he was referred to years earlier by composer Lalo Shifre that featured the line “Killing Me Softly With His Blues” (the title of the poem Lieberman says she wrote). He like the idea and stored it away for a few years until he needed lyrics for the Lieberman album which he and Fox were writing, changing the word “blues” to “song”.

flackAlthough Lieberman didn’t score a big hit with the song, Flack stumbled upon it in 1972 while in air. After reading about Lieberman in the TWA airline magazine and her interest piqued by the title of the song, she tuned into the song on the in-flight radio, and decided to record it herself. Over a period of three months, Flack experimented with and rearranged the song, changing the chord structure, adding the soaring ad libs and ending the song on a major chord where Lieberman did with a minor. Her remake made an immediate impression, topping the US charts for four weeks and reaching #6 in Britain. Her version won Grammys for Song of the Year, Record of the Year and Best Pop Vocal Performance.

Almost a quarter of a century later, in 1996, Killing Me Softly – its full title by now routinely castrated – made an unwelcome return to the album charts in the form of the Fugees’ cover (it wasn’t released as a single so as to boost album sales). Lauryn Hill’s vocals are fine, though the hip hop arrangement negates the confessional intimacy of Flack’s, or indeed Lieberman’s, version. And that would be adequate; the mood of a lyric often is disengaged from a song’s sound to little detriment (think of all the great upbeat numbers with morose lyrics). Besides, the Fugees had conceived of the song as an anti-drug anthem with the revised title Killing Him Softly, a plan that was abandoned when they were denied permission for such modification. The whole exercise becomes something of a prank thanks to Wyclef Jean’s repeated intonation of “one time” and “two time”, as though he was auditioning for the role of parody DJ on Sesame Street. No matter how affecting Hill’s vocals, Wycount von Count’s antics render the Fugees’ version one of the most deplorable covers in pop.

Also recorded by: Johnny Mathis (1973), Rusty Bryant (1973), Tim Weisberg (1973), Perry Como (1973), Bobby Goldsboro (1973), John Holt (1973), Anne Murray (1973), The Ventures (1973), Shirley Bassey (1973), Woody Herman (1973), Katja Ebstein (as Das Lied meines Lebens, 1973), Vikki Carr (1973), Lynn Anderson (1973), Rune Gustafsson (1973), Lill Lindfors (as Sängen han sjäng var min egen, 1973), Marcella Bella, Lara Saint Paul, Ornella Vanoni (all as Mi fa morire cantando, 1973), Andy Williams (1974), Mike Auldridge (1974), Charlie Byrd (1974), Petula Clark (1974), Engelbert Humperdinck (1974), Ferrante & Teicher (1974), George Shearing Quintet (1974), Charles Fox (1975), Hampton Hawes (1976), Cleo Laine & John Williams (1976), Mina (1985), Lance Hayward (1987), Al B. Sure! (1988), Donald Brown (1989), Casal (as Tal como soy, 1989), Linda Imperial (1991), Yta Farrow (1991), Joanna (as Morrendo de amo, 1991), Luther Vandross (1994), Ron Sanfilippo (1994), Michael Chapdelaine (1995), Mahogany (1996), The Fugees (1996), Victoria Abril (1998), Joe Augustine (1998), Kermit Ruffins and the Barbecue Swingers (1998), The BB Band (1999), Anthony Arizaga (2000), Hank Marvin (2002), Eric Hansen (2002), Kimberly Caldwell (2003), Raymond Jones (2004), Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass (2005), Omara Portuondo (as Matendome suavemente, 2006), Helge Schneider (2007), a.o.

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Burl Ives – Riders In The Sky (1949).mp3
Vaughn Monroe – Riders In The Sky (1949).mp3
Peggy Lee – Riders In The Sky (A Cowboy Legend) (1949).mp3
The Ventures – Ghost Riders In The Sky (1961).mp3
Deborah Harry – Riders In The Sky (1998).mp3

burl_ivesRiders In The Sky, sometimes known as Ghost Riders In The Sky, is one of those standards which is famous mostly for being famous. It has been recorded many times, and most people know at least its melody (I knew it first in the The Ventures’ 1961 guitar-driven instrumental version), but there seems to be no artist to whom the song is universally and specifically attached.

The song was written in 1948 by Stan Jones, a California forest ranger by trade who wrote western music as a sideline, also contributing music to film classics such as The Searchers and Rio Bravo. Riders In The Sky was first recorded in February 1949 by Burl Ives, still to be outed as a supposed communist fellow traveller and a few years from becoming friends with the McCarthyist “defenders of freedom”. Two months after Ives, Vaughn Monroe recorded it with his orchestra, and scored an international hit with it. The same year, Gene Autry sang it in a film, also titled Riders In The Sky, and Peggy Lee did a version, adding the parenthetical “A Cowboy Legend” to the title. The song made a comeback in the British charts in 1980 with the instrumental take by The Shadows, covering ground previously traversed by The Ventures and Dick Dale. And in 1998, Deborah Harry, formerly of Blondie, issued her electronica version.

Also recorded by: Bing Crosby (1949), Peggy Lee (1949), Gene Autry (1949), Spike Jones (1949), Eddy Arnold (1959), The Ramrods (1961), The Ventures (1961), Dick Dale (1963), Frank Ifield (1963), Frankie Laine (1963), Lorne Greene (1964), Duane Eddy (1966), The Englishmen (1967), Tom Jones (1967), Elvis Presley (live, 1970), Dennis Stoner (1971), Mary McCaslin (1975), Riders in the Sky 91979), Johnny Cash (1979), The Shadows (1979), Outlaws (1980), Fred Penner (1980), Milton Nascimento (1981), Marty Robbins (1984), The Trashmen (1990), R.E.M. (as Ghost Reindeer in the Sky, 1990), Michael Martin Murphey (1993), Johnny Cash & Willie Nelson (1998), Deborah Harry (1998), Dan Aykroyd, John Goodman and The Blues Brothers Band (1998), Ned Sublette (1999), Concrete Blonde (2004), Peter Pan Speedrock (2006), Me First and the Gimme Gimmes (2006), Die Apokalyptischen Reiter (2006), Spiderbait (2007), Dezperadoz (2008), Children of Bodom (2008) a.o.

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Teacher’s Edition – I Wanna Be Loved (1973).mp3
Elvis Costello – I Wanna Be Loved (1984).mp3

teachers_editionFor a prolific songwriter, Elvis Costello has covered songs widely. His best known cover perhaps is George Jones’ A Good Year For The Roses, itself a country classic. I Wanna Be Loved, a Costello single in 1984 which appeared on the otherwise underwhelming Goodbye Cruel World album (and features Scritti Politti’s Green Gartside on backing vocals), was plucked from obscurity. That’s what Costello said, and he was not exaggerating. I have been able to find nothing about Teacher’s Edition or about Farnell Jenkins, who wrote the song, except that it was released in on the Memphis-based Hi Records (which counted Al Green, Ann Peebles and O.V. Wright among its roster) in1973 as a b-side to a song titled It Helps To Make You Strong, and enjoyed popularity in the Northern Soul set. Jenkins, now 67, now seems to be a Chicago-based writer of Gospel songs.
Also recorded by: nobody else, it seems

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Willie Bobo – Evil Ways (1967).mp3
bobo Santana – Evil Ways (1969).mp3
This month, you may hear it incidentally mentioned, marks the 40th anniversary of Woodstock. For Santana, the festival was the great break-out moment. Within a few months of Woodstock, the group had a hit with Evil Ways, the first of a string of covers by Carlos and his shifting band of chums. Evil Ways was recorded first by Latin jazz percussionist Willie Bobo, who would later collaborate with Santana. It was written by Bobo’s guitarist Sonny Henry, who is also doing vocal duty. Bobo died young, in 1983 at 49 of cancer. His son, Eric Bobo (the family name is actually Correa), also became a percussionist, with Cypress Hill.

evil_waysThe vocals (and the organ solo) on the Santana version are by the band’s co-founder Gregg Rolie, whose keyboards and vocals were also so integral to Santana”s version of Black Magic Woman (featured in Vol. 1). Rolie proceeded to co-found Journey with former Santana bandmate Neal Schon. In Journey, Rolie was initially lead vocalist, but ceded frontman duties when Steve Perry joined.

Also recorded by: Johnny Mathis (1970), Cal Tjader (1971), Carlos Santana & Buddy Miles (1972)

 

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In The Originals Vol. 22 we looked at The House Of The Rising Sun. In the interim, our friend Walter has sent me the first known recording of the song, by Clarence “Tom” Ashley and Gwen Foster, recorded in 1933. I have added it to the original article, and post it below:

Ashley and Foster – Rising Sun Blues.mp3

Those interested in more versions of the song will be well served by this post on the fascinating Merlin in Rags blog, which specialises in old folk and blues.

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More Originals

 

Albums of the Year: 1987

June 11th, 2008 No comments
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Some time ago I started a series of my favourite albums of the year, starting with round-ups of the ’50s and the years 1960-65. It was a good idea, but the prospect of choosing ten albums from 1966 and writing about them somehow put me off. So I procrastinated in continuing the series. Then, this morning, it hit me: why the compulsion to follow the years in a rigorously tidy chronology? Surely I won’t receive a flood of complaints if I focus on random years. So we’ll continue the long dormant series with a random year, inspired by the album I was playing in the car as I had my brainwave, and which tops the list. A few caveats: these lists represent my top 10 of albums in terms of my own enjoyment and/or the nostalgic bonds they represent. Greatest hits type compilations are not considered (else New Order’s Substance album would have featured). And, no, I never liked The Joshua Tree much, by 1987 I was past my Depeche Mode phase, and never owned Actually.

1. The Jesus And Mary Chain – Darklands
Somewhere I read the Jesus And Mary Chain’s 1985 aptly named debut Psychocandy described as the Beach Boys being played by vacuum cleaners, or a notion to that effect. The description is spot on: the rather lovely tunes struggled to be heard above the feedback. It sounded great, but somehow one wondered how great JAMC might be with a cleaner sound. Two years later the Reid brothers switched off the vacuum cleaner and, Hoover be praised, produced that clean sound. Listen to Cherry Came Too: you can imagine it being sung by the Beach Boys back in the day. Indeed, the Reid boys wore their influences with ease. The dark Nine Million Rainy Days pays homage, wittingly or not, to the Stones’ Sympathy To The Devil. Closing track About You could have been sung by Nico and the Velvet Underground. The title track channels Berlin-era Bowie (but is much better than that). Yet, they could not be accused of plagiarism, as Oasis would be later. The whole thing incorporates earlier sounds without compromising the JAMC’s originality. Two decades later, the album still sounds fresh and exciting. A forgotten classic.
The Jesus And Mary Chain – Darklands.mp3
The Jesus And Mary Chain – Nine Million Rainy Days.mp3

2. Prince – Sign O’ The Times
There probably is a critical consensus that Sign O’ The Times is the best album of 1987. There is indeed much to be admired. The music is great, of course. Provided one is in the mood for it, because it can be a bit tedious. Let it play on a non-Prince day — and surely everybody but the most devoted Prince fan has these — and the whole thing has the capacity to irritate. It is not a pop masterpiece like Purple Rain; SOTT demands that you to listen it, and forgive its trespasses, especially the flab (oh, but if you condensed it down to a single album, which tracks would you cut?). SOTT is to Prince what the White Album was to the Beatles: despite the flaws that tend to be a by product of innovation, a masterpiece.
Prince – Sign O’ The Times.mp3
Prince – Starfish And Coffee.mp3

3. The Smiths – Strangeways Here We Come
A year earlier, the Smiths had released their ageless opus, The Queen Is Dead. Now Morrissey, Marr and chums themselves delivered their swansong. It was not necessarily their finest hour: lead single Girlfriend In A Coma is a lightweight novelty number, presaging Morrissey’s solo career that is riddled with similar witless doggerels. It was a bizarre choice for a single. I submit that Unhappy Birthday might have become a big cult hit on the back of its wonderfully vicious lyrics. A Rush And A Push… and the oppressive Death Of A Disco Dancer are excellent, and Last Night I Dreamt Somebody Loved Me is one of the most affecting songs in a canon jam-packed with such things. The line “Oh mother, I can feel the soil falling over my head” is emotionally exhausting. It is a great piece of sequencing that this track, a throw-back to the self-pity years, is preceded — at least on the CD, for Last Night… opens side 2 — by a song called Stop Me If You Think That You’ve Heard This One Before.
The Smiths – Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Love Me.mp3

4. Alexander O’Neal – Hearsay
When ’80s soul became unfashionable, O’Neal became something of a reject emblem for the out-of-favour genre. It was rather unfair on the man. He made some classy soul music in his time, thanks to his effortlessly expressive voice and Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis’ sparkling funk-soul-pop arrangements. Hearsay is a concept album, with dialogue intros preceding each song (they tend to grate once the novelty has worn off). The first side is the going-to-a-party section with great funk tracks such as Fake and Criticise, on the flip side things mellow down a bit, though the thing continues to groove, as on the gorgeous duet with the frequent collaborator Cherelle, Never Knew Love Like This. This is one of the great soul albums of the ’80s. Why would anyone want to dismiss Alexander O’Neal? Little known fact: O’Neal was the singer of a group called the Flyte Tyme (with Jam and Lewis). The group was signed to Prince’s Paisley Park label, but after a dispute with His Tiny Highness, O’Neal left the group, which hired one Morris Day and renamed itself The Time, providing the baddy foil to Prince’s flawed hero in Purple Rain.
Alexander O’Neal – Criticise.mp3

5. Lloyd Cole & the Commotions – Mainstream
In a comment to a post in which I featured Lloyd Cole’s best song, Rattlesnakes, Rol from the fine Sunset Over Slawit blog wrote that he “could live inside” that song. I know exactly what he means. Likewise, I could spend a lost weekend (with or without a brand-new friend) in Cole’s Mainstream album. Lloyd’s final album with the Commotions, it did less well than its two predecessors. This is a pity, because — and this may be fighting talk — it is in some ways even better than the debut, Rattlesnakes, and most certainly superior to the sophomore album, Easy Pieces. On Mainstream, Cole and his increasingly distant friends returned to the guitar-based sound of the debut. Lyrically, Cole seemed to be at war with himself, his band and the world. On the side two opener he prnounced himself Mr Malcontent, and on the excellent From The Hip, he declared that he doesn’t care anymore. Oh, but he did. There are a couple of commitment songs, notably Jennifer She Said. That line “her name on you…Jennifer in blue” is a regular earworm, sometimes supplanted by the repetitious “that’s forever she said…”.
Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – From The Hip.mp3

6. Basia – Time And Tide
There is a very good reason why this jazz-pop singer goes by her Christian name. Basia Trzetrzelewska (try saying that after a few pints of finest Hevelius) provided the splendid three-octave female voice on Matt Bianco’s first LP. While I rather enjoyed Matt Bianco, their Get Out Of Your Lazy Bed song used to irritate me when I was still a notorious morning grump. There was nothing aggravating about her 1987 solo debut, a finely judged collection of Latin-tinged jazz-pop which could with ease move the twinkletoed to the dancefloor to do the samba (or its Capetonian cousin, the jazz). The title track and Promises received fairly wide exposure, and are indeed the strongest numbers on the album. But the entire set is strong, with the possible exception of Prime Time TV and How Dare You. Check out songs such as New Day For You or Astrud.
Basia – New Day For You.mp3

7. The Housemartins – The People Who Grinned Themselves To Death
Like an Indie-pop supernova, the Housemartins burnt out after two albums. It probably was just as well: the überanorak shtick was going to get them only so far. So bassplayer Norman Cook became a DJ and then Fat Boy Slim; singer Paul Heaton and replacement drummer Dave Hemingway formed the Beautiful South. Before going their own way, our Marxist-Christian pals left us with a maddeningly uneven yet rather enjoyable album, the title of which was a reference to the royal family. By now the political consciousness started to mingle uneasily with the wackiness. What at first was endearing started to irritate. The single Five Get Overexcited, catchy jangly guitar pop with a message about superficiality though it was, had annoying lrics (“I am mad from Scandinavia, I want a guy in the London area. He must be crazy and Sagittaurus, ’cause I am Leo and I’m hilarious”). Conversely, a serious song about the rotten class-system like Me And The Farmer fails to convey its message thanks to a happy melody (and a very silly video). The People Who… is at its strongest when things are allowed to calm down a bit. And so the stand-out tracks are the quieter Build and The Light Is Always Green. As an opponent of apartheid, I particularly appreciated the inclusion of Johannesburg, although the Housemartins deviation towards jazz was less welcome.
The Housemartins – The People Who Grinned Themselves To Death.mp3

8. Wet Wet Wet – Popped In Souled Out
This may be one of the most unjustly disrespected albums of the ’80s. I cannot understand why Wet Wet Wet have such a poor reputation. Is it because they were initially marketed as the teenybopper group they never could be (I mean, Marti Pellow was good looking, but the drummer and the little one are hardly dreamy heartthtrobs)? Is it because that song from a Hugh Grant movie was so ubiquitous? Was it the name? The answer is beyond me, but it surely cannot have been the music on the Scottish band’s debut album. This is high-quality blue-eyed soul, made by people who clearly understand the genre. The sound draws from ’60s pop and ’70s soul, and Pellow’s vocals settle for a fine balance between soul technique and pop delivery. The songs are very catchy. Strings swell, but never in a corny way. The lyrics aren’t Tom Waits or Patti Smith, but they remain on the right side of pop banality (and sometimes they are pretty good). What, I beg you, is there not to like here?
Wet Wet Wet – Wishing I Was Lucky.mp3

9. INXS – Kick
Let the record reflect that I had no time for INXS before Kick, and none after. And yet, I love this album. It is the most accessible INXS album; the slew of hits that emanated from it testifies to that. It is also their least self-conscious album; Hutchence lets it hang out like Jagger and actually seems to be enjoying himself. On Need You Tonight, Hutchence is sex personified. When he sings “Your moves are so raw, I’ve got to let you know…I’ve got to let you know: you’re one of my kind”, he is having hot ‘n sweaty sex. With you (well, if you happen to be listening to it). I can happily live without a few tracks from Kick, such as opener Guns In The Sky or Calling All Nations, but for all their exposure, I am never unhappy to hear Devil Inside, Never Tear Us Apart, Mediate, New Sensation, Mystify or the song on which Hutchence is having sex with us.
INXS – Need You Tonight.mp3

10. Johnny Clegg & Savuka – Third World Child
I like Johnny Clegg. I like it that an English-born Jewish boy would defy apartheid, which was predicated not only on the separation of races but also of cultures, and assimilate with Zulu culture but not lose the awareness that he could never be a fully-fledged Zulu. His affinity with the Zulu culture is sincere, as was evident in his previous group, Juluka. When Juluka colleague Sipho Mchunu left the group, Clegg founded Savuka. His new group continued in the Juluka tradition; in concerts the setlist included most Juluka classics and the old dance routines with the highkicks. Third World Child was more commercial and polished than Juluka, possibly consciously so as to appeal to the fans of Paul Simon’s Graceland. It was a better album for it, I think. One has the direct comparison of Scatterlings Of Africa, a Juluka single in 1982 and re-recorded by Savuka for this album. The latter version is marginally better. At times Third World Child, like everything Clegg does, is a little too earnest, and sometimes it seems Clegg got bored with an idea before completing its development. But, goodness, when it’s good, it really is great. Apart from Scatterlings, the stand-out tracks are Great Heart and the great anti-apartheid song dedicated to the then still jailed Nelson Mandela, Asimbonanga, with its moving litany of activists who were murdered by the regime.
Johnny Clegg & Savuka – Asimbonanga.mp3

Previously featured:
1950s
1960-65

Music for Bloggers Vol. 5

April 26th, 2008 6 comments

Here’s more love for blogs I enjoy (or, in two cases, massively enjoyed over the past couple of days, inspiring this installment in an occasional series). As always, if your blog isn’t featured, but you think it should be, there will be more music for bloggers. I do enjoy an awful lot of blogs. Please open the links (in the red headings) by right-clicking and opening a new window or tab; I’d hate to lose you.

The Quietus
The Quietus is a new British-based music web-magazine, currently published as a blog, but apparently becoming a fully-fledged webmagsite within the next months. The beauty of The Quietus resides in its variety of hugely talented writers who apply their own style — and are given the freedom to do so! And look at the variety of contributors (a fair number of them Melody Maker alumni): Taylor Parkes, one of the finest music writers anywhere, who combines erudition with considerable wit; David Stubbs, who can write practically anything and is one of the funniest wordsmiths (no cliché, I employ the term literally here: he bangs words into shape); John Doran, whose forthright opinions are backed up by inventive invective (including the detailed description of jawdropping acts of violence he would like to visit upon certain kinds of people. Myself included, possibly); Simon Price, who will one day preside as the doyen of that faction of British music writers still gifted with credibility; Derek Walmseley, whose defence of Jay-Z is so well argued, I’d agree with it if I didn’t know better; or the elegant Luke Turner”¦ You may now delete your NME and Q bookmarks.
Dr Hook & the Medicine Show – Cover Of The Rolling Stone.mp3

Barely Awake In Frog Pajamas
One of my two new weekend discoveries. I like an observational blog that is well written, the kind that can take a mundane moment (like watching a movie out of boredom) and yet entertain in the description of that event. Ian Plenderleith‘s blog is one (his Nashville series was particularly great). Rol Hirst’s Sunset Over Slawit is another. The Ghost Of Electricity pulls it off regularly. My new somnolent friend has produced a series of thoroughly engaging posts since starting his blog in March, including a fine tribute to Danny Federici, the E-Street keyboardist who died this month; a wonderfully exasperated piece on an amateur band strong on stamina and tiny on talent (here Frog man might like to contact John Doran for advice on suitable retribution); and a pretty funny story about Shirley Manson’s “fish eyes”. And all that comes with some well-chosen music.
Belle & Sebastian – Funny Little Frog.mp3

The Great Vinyl Meltdown
The other great weekend discovery, the Great Vinyl Meltdown is written by “caithesaich”, a US writer who provides some of his posts in Spanish. caithesaich (not his real name) charts his childhood obsession with music, recalling the people and events that shaped his love for music: his Uncle Tom, a juke box, and the kindly juke box record changing guy — possibly a real job title — who let him have an obscure EP, setting in motion a three-decade long search for the identity of the featured artist. caithesaich’s musical growth did not follow the normal trajectory of getting into records via the Top 20 before finding one’s own way. Much of the stuff he discusses (and provides usually scratchy vinyl rips of) is obscure and invariably fascinating. By contrast, my musical development began at a very low base: this was the first single I ever bought, at the age of 5.
Roy Black & Anita РSch̦n ist es auf der Welt zu sein.mp3

Fusion45
Fusion 45 combines his human experiences with his great love for and knowledge of music. Fusion has also said some very generous things about this blog. I point this out because on the current first page, there is one such comment (he also praises others, I must add), and an impression might arise that my praise of his blog is an act of reciprocity. It most certainly is not. I learn from Fusion45. For example, I had never heard the name Hal Blaine before. I bet nor have most of those reading this, unless they’ve been to Fusion45. Fusion’s two-parter on the session drummer was illuminating. I might not had heard of Hal Blaine before, but I have heard his drumming on many of my favourite songs. Fusion45 posts music, often in zipped files, for download, but seems to be strict about deleting them after a week. Which is not a very long time, it must be said. So better RSS feed his blog. There was a bit of a problem commenting on Fusion45’s blog a few weeks back when he discussed tracks with great drumming. I wanted to nominate this song:
John Lennon – Instant Karma.mp3


Inveresk Street Ingrate

It’s socialism, Karl, but not as we know it. Of course it is a stereotype that socialists are humourless, but in my experience there sometimes manifests itself a collective disinclination to propagate the left’s jocular tendencies. On Inveresk Street, which is currently changing its look, s

uch perceptions do not correspond with reality. Darren, who lives in that hotbed of revolutionary fervour Brooklyn, updates us on the class struggles’ progresses (such as the pop star history of a Socialist Workers’ Party commissar), reflects on the injustices experienced by Glasgow Celtic at the hands of covert Huns’ operative Gordon Strachan (OK, the analysis for Celtic’s failures is mine), and talks about music, such as the letters a young Morrissey sent to the NME (today he might leave acerbic comments on The Quietus). It’s all great fun, marked by brevity and a healthy dose of self-deprecation. I posted songs by The Redskins just recently, so I will dedicate this great lefty song to Darren of Inveresk Street.
The Housemartins – Freedom.mp3


The Songs That People Sing

I just had a look at Inveresk Street’s blogroll. It features a link to this here blog as well as one to The Songs That People Sing, and a few others I know and/or link to. This blogging thing is a small world. The Songs’ Simon has a broad taste in music, an attribute I greatly admire. On the current first page, there is a lengthy and very good post on Dexys Midnight Runners ‘This Is What She’s Like’, followed by some extraordinary ’60 Soul; Reggae icon John Holt; and neo-New Wave outfit Sons & Daughters. All that is underpinned by good writing and better use of pics than I make (I have yet to post a photo of lasagna to illustrate a musical point).
Matt Costa – Songs We Sing.mp3

Previously featured:
Music For Bloggers Vol. 1: Totally Fuzzy, Not Rock On, Serenity Now (RIP), Stay At Home Indie Pop, The Late Greats, Tsururadio, 200percent, Jefitoblog (RIP), Television Without Pity, Michael’s World
Music For Bloggers Vol. 2: Fullundie, Mr Agreeable, Greatest Films, Peanut’s Playground, Just Good Tunes, Csíkszereda Musings, Mulberry Panda, The Black Hole, Secret Love, Hot Chicks With Douchebags
Music For Bloggers Vol. 3: Girl On A Train, Maybe We Ain’t That Young Anymore, Earbleedingcountry, Spangly Princess, Ill Folks, Deacon Blues, One-Man Publisher, CD Rated
Music For Bloggers Vol. 4: Pop Dose, Todger Talk, Holy Goof (RIP), Echoes In The Wind, Sunset Over Slawit, The Hits Just Keep Coming, The Ghost of Electricity, Guitariotabs

1986

July 24th, 2007 4 comments

Another good year, with fewer concerts and more clubbing. Most memorably I got into Stringfellows wearing my Manchester United t-shirt I slept in (sad, I know) under my jacket after my friend Paul dragged me out of bed to try the supposedly impossible. Telling the bouncer that you are there to meet a fictional diplomat helps; it adds to the amusement if said bouncer calls out to the head security dude if Mr Diplomat had already arrived. Seems like bouncer and I shared fictional friends. Added bonus to a year with a great summer: no unrequited crushes (alas, no requited crushes either).

Fine Young Cannibals – Suspicious Minds.mp3
In 1985 I was a bit of a FYC fan, having obtained a signed copy of the debut album and seen them live in concert (supported by a comic whose shtick was to get heckled for his non-punchlines, and then make slap down the hecklers with some hilarious one-liners. If anyone has his name, I’d be grateful to know it). “Suspicious Minds” featured on the album, but became a hit in this re-recorded version, with Bronski Beat/Communards singer Jimmy Summerville on backing vocals.

Hipsway – The Honethief.mp3
I discovered Scottish outfit by chance in 1985 when I bought the flopped single “Ask The Lord” from Woolworth’s bargain bin. A very good song, so when “The Honethief” came out, I excitedly bought the 12″ the same week. It became one of my songs of 1986, and still like it a lot (the ’80s synth notwithstanding). The vocals are quite outstanding, I find. It’s a shame Hipsway didn’t make it big, when the poseurs Curosity Killed The Cat did (for a while).

Cherelle & Alexander O’Neal – Saturday Love.mp3
The hints were in the air in 1984 and ’85 with acts like the SOS Band, but 1986 was the breakthrough for the Timbalands of the day, Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis. Alexander O’Neal, Atlantic Starr and Janet Jackson were among their clients who had a big impact on soul music at the time. This was a particularly charming upbeat duet, which I bought on strength of Cherelle’s previous album. I had yet to discover O’Neal, whose follow-up single “If You Were Here Tonight” was one of the best moments in ’80s soul.

O.M.D. – If You Leave.mp3
The O.C. generation will know this as a Nada Surf song. Fulfilling my contractual obligation as an old fart, I feel compelled to point out that while the Nada Surf version is good, the original is far superior. The chorus is another perennial earworm.

Depeche Mode – But Not Tonight.mp3
Depeche Mode didn’t rate this song. They recorded it in one day and chucked it on the b-side of “Stripped”. Except in the US, where this was the A-side (in a bid to cash in on its inclusion on the soundtrack of Modern Girls, which flopped). This is by a fair length my favourite Mode track, a straight-forward love song with a pretty melody enhanced by Dave Gahan’s slightly flat voice.

It’s Immaterial – Driving Away From Home.mp3
One of the great songs of 1986. In fact, posting this song a few weeks ago inspired the idea for this series. At the time I speculated that I bought the single at the same time as “Camouflage”, but that can’t be. I bought “Camouflage” the day I also acquired Hollywood Beyond’s crap “What’s The Colour Of Money”. I don’t remember if I bought any other records when I got “Driving Away From Home”. I cannot promise that my memory will solve this mystery, so prepare for a few sleepless nights wondering about Any Major Dude Without A Heart’s 1980s purchasing record. (previously uploaded)

Stan Ridgway – Camouflage.mp3
Is this song considered a classic? It should be. It has a great driving melody, and it has a narrative that holds the interest; who doesn’t love a good ghost story? Ridgway’s theatrical, half-sung drawl — “And here take his dog tag son” — is very entertaining. I haven’t heard anything else by him (I don’t think I ever played the b-side of the single). Should I?

Jermaine Stewart – We Don’t Have To Take Our Clothes Off.mp3
The late-summer hit of 1986 by a Michael Jackson soundalike. Poor dude should have heeded his own advice: in 1997 he died of AIDS-related causes (wikipedia says liver cancer caused by AIDS. Really?).

Cameo – Word Up.mp3
That codpiece Larry Blackmon wore aroused no suspicion at the time, did it? Cameo were the funk band of the ’80s. They had a great line in soul as well (check out “I’ll Never Look For Love” and “A Goodbye”). I played “Word Up” to death at the time, as I did with the even better “Single Life” the year before. Even Korn’s piss-poor paint-by-numbers cover version a couple of years ago could not undermine my deep affection for the song.

The Housemartins – Think For A Minute.mp3
New Years Eve ’85/86 I saw Madness at the Hammersmith Odeon. The supporting act was an outfit I’d never heard of before, but whose performance I liked better than that of Madness. I bought their existing singles, “Flag Day” and “Sheep”. Then “Happy Hour”, with its clay animation video, became a hit. I was pleased, even though I didn’t really like the song much. The follow-up single was “Think For A Minute”, a pleasant mid-tempo number with a nice horn solo, featuring one of my favourite lines: “I can’t help saying told you so and have a nice final day”. By Christmas, the Housemartins were huge with their acappella cover of Isley Jasper Isley’s superior “Caravan Of Love”. The 12″ single of the Housemartins version featured a great clutch of faux-gospel songs, with Paul Heaton, a Christian, referring in evangelist preaching-style to “the great pilot in the sky”, which I found very funny indeed. Right click and open in new tab for the Funeral Pudding blog which has MP3s of the Housemartins live at Glastonbury in ’86 and other rare material.

Bruce Hornsby & the Range – The Way It Is.mp3
Not a song I liked at the time, but my brother played it in his car when I travelled to South Africa (at this point I’d like to say hello to the lovely Caroline Cave, in the unlikely event she is reading this), so this track evokes a time and place. Which was the point of this series in first place (still is). I started enjoying Hornsby’s music later. The Maybe We Ain’t That Young Anymore blog had a great 10-minute live version up not so long ago. I don’t know if it’s still up (lots of good stuff there anyway).

Erasure – Sometimes.mp3
The breakthrough single for Erasure, with Andy Bell doing his best Alison Moyet impression. I bought this single while it was slowly climbing up the charts. As an obsessive student of the UK charts I was worried about missing it’s progress while I flew off on a holiday to South Africa. It peaked at #2.

Swing Out Sister – Breakout.mp3
Just joyous! It may not please the taste gestapo, but I really like Swing Out Sister. And singer Corrinne Drewery looked very sexy with her flapper’s bob.

Freddie McGregor – Push Comes The Shove.mp3

McGregor had a nice line in light reggae, lovely stuff for the beach, and the perfect soundtrack to getting high from everybody else’s fumes at Sunsplash (in South Africa, you watch a Kaizer Chiefs or Orlando Pirates for the same effect). McGregor found hits in 1987 with reggaefied covers of old soul hits which were a bit better than UB40s karaoke records, but did the man no justice. I have no idea whether this track was an original, but it is very lovely indeed.

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