Friday, April 01, 2011

The Jim Jones Revue - Foghorn


ORIGINATION Burning Down Your House
RECORDED IN
2010
LAST LISTENED TO
day before yesterday
RATING
★★★★★

After seeing these guys going all-out on Monday night and then main-lining them most of the rest of the week, it is only a surprise it took this long for them to show up in my morning head. Foghorn is a pretty typical number from their latest album, sitting somewhere between good time rock 'n' roll, garage rock and with just a hint of the blues. The vocals, never more than a breath away from a soul scream, deliver the borderline-cliché lyrics with verve and passion, surrounded by soaring guitars, a piano that strays into Jerry Lee Lewis' madness and relentless drumming. A kick of adrenaline to start the day.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Jerry Lee Lewis - High School Confidential (Live)


ORIGINATION "Live" At The Star-Club Hamburg
RECORDED IN
1964
LAST LISTENED TO
October
RATING
★★★★

In 1964, Jerry Lee Lewis had been recording music for nearly a decade, was several years from his last hit, had been more or less ostracised for his marriage to his teenage cousin and was out of fashion. Rock 'n' roll was dead, just a teen fad that had had its turn. The odds were clearly not in his favour on the one night he played with a pick-up band in the club that helped make The Beatles name. Yet against those odds, he not only prevailed, he recorded was must be one of the best, if not the best rock 'n' roll album. To be sure, the competition for that title is not fierce, yet even so there is no question that this would surely rule because Jerry Lee, The Killer, is absolutely on fire. Solid gone. His frenzied performance is barely contained, so much so that his young backing band can barely keep up with him, even though they give it a hell of a try. It is a manic performance, utterly deranged, and an absolute necessity for anyone with even a passing interest in rock 'n' roll, hell, with even a passing interest in music. Nothing has ever rocked quite like this and it is unlikely anything ever will again.

High School Confidential is one of Jerry Lee's hits from his period on top, before events turned against him. A fast-paced tune to begin with, here he attacks it without mercy, tearing to shreds. The band do their best to keep up but even so, around two minutes into the song you can hear them hurrying to catch the madman. You also get to hear that madman yelling at 'himself to play that thing' during his solo, before referring to himself in the third person. Deranged. Irreplaceable. Genius.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Stooges - Cock In My Pocket


ORIGINATION Head On
RECORDED IN
1972
LAST LISTENED TO
a week ago
RATING
★★★★★

Yesterday I read a news article by a journalist who was either very pushed for time, or just plain lazy. It parroted and assertion made by the music industry that the recently-published decline in physical music sales in the UK is due to online piracy. Not only is this impossible to prove, indeed there never seems to be any proof attached to these statement but some of the proof available actually points to the opposite truth – that online piracy has led to an increase in consumption of paid-for music by these very pirates themselves. On top of that, there is the heavy irony of the music industry accusing others of piracy, given the notoriously tiny percentage of each sale that goes to the artist and that's when the CD is full price, one wonders if artists make any money at all from cut-price CDs.

Which brings me to this morning's song that I found on a double CD of bootleg recordings, apparently officially released, on sale at less than half price. Given the sound quality of the music, and at times the quality of the music itself, the price does seem rather appropriate, artist payments aside. The songs all come from the period when The Stooges where disintegrating between music contracts, although the energy in the music shows that they were still on top of their game. Cock In My Pocket is one of the most coherent songs on the collection. Focused and taken at a blistering pace, it gives the listener to wondering what would have happened to the Stooges if drugs had not taken their toll. As ever, and in particular due to the lyrics that would almost certainly never have seen a commercial release at the time, this is not music for the faint-hearted. From James Williamson's guitar to Iggy Pop's snarl, that is as raw and uncompromising as anything in The Stooges official catalogue. It also stands apart from that official sound with the addition of a piano, here not only used for colour as happened on occasion previously, but as a full part of the song. Indeed both the pianist Bob Sheff and Williamson are invited (or possibly directed) by Pop to takes solos during the song. Memorably Pop calls out Williamson by shouting "Any time James" during Sheff's solo. For an supposedly unfinished piece, it is quite a song.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Politicians - Psycha-Soula-Funkadelic


ORIGINATION Come Together - Invictus Club Classics II (v/a)
RECORDED IN
1972
LAST LISTENED TO
yesterday
RATING
★★★★★

A fairly deep cut of funk rock took me from sleep this morning. It has, um, guitars, brass, a damned good intro, as well as some men shouting the title over and over. Although the latter does seem rather odd, given that they're not Funkadelic. All in all, pretty groovy.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Joy Division - Transmission


ORIGINATION Heart And Soul
RECORDED IN
1979
LAST LISTENED TO
two days ago
RATING
★★★★

Is it about the power of music? An illustration of how it can give us the energy to transcend our difficulties? Or is it simply about dancing to forget them? It is tempting to let the history of Joy Division dictate the answer to this. Perhaps that is unfair. Better instead to just dance.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Tom Waits - Rain Dogs


ORIGINATION Rain Dogs
RECORDED IN
1985
LAST LISTENED TO
yesterday
RATING
★★★★★

Few things in life as quite as fine as Tom Waits during his rebirth years of the mid-eighties. Rain Dogs was Waits' ninth album and the second in his move away from the lounge-style sound he was originally known for. The album is said to be about the urban dispossessed, which is seen by some as Waits straying into territory marked out in literature by Charles Bukowski. Whatever the truth of that assertion, the title track here does have something of that flavour to it, both in its impenetrably picturesque, booze-soaked lyrics and the strange thrift-store orchestra. It is a combination that Waits has been working in ever since, in his own unique way, and it is the reason why he has become such a worshipped cult figure.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

John Barry - We Have All The Time In The World (Sung By Louis Armstrong) [again]


ORIGINATION On Her Majesty's Secret Service LP
RECORDED IN
1969
LAST LISTENED TO
last night
RATING
★★★★★

I had this one a few weeks ago.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Joyce Dunn - A New Change Of Address


ORIGINATION Sister Funk
RECORDED IN
1970
LAST LISTENED TO
last night
RATING
★★★★★

This morning's ingredients: great brass, fine drums, slightly opaque lyrics that could be euphemistic but on closer inspection are all about being done wrong, burning sax and just a hint of organ. Of such fine things is good funk made. The world seems to know little about Joyce Dunn, other than she released this single on Mercury in 1970 and that's a damned shame. If she recorded other tunes as good as this, the world really needs to hear.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Tito Puente - On The Street Where You Live


ORIGINATION Beats & Pieces Volume Two: Music Constructed For A More Discerning Dancefloor (v/a)
RECORDED IN
1964
LAST LISTENED TO
last night
RATING
★★★★

Timbale player Tito Puente was known as the King of Latin Music and with good reason. He plied his grooves for over fifty years and helped popularise a whole genre of music for several generations. Today's tune comes from his latinisation of the score to My Fair Lady, where he turned this overdone Broadway chestnut into a swinging big band number. Puente's percussion is the heart of the song, ticking and swinging and driving. The blood that pumps through it is the two-note bass that runs up and down the scale, almost willy nilly. The body is the wind instruments, the big band that is so very well scored: a full blast of the band here, counter melodies between the brass and wood there and those fantastic, gradually built-up crescendos. The arrangement is just spot on, not only giving the band time to establish the melody and really swing with it, but also leaving plenty of space for Puente's rhythms. This is a song to stick on repeat, to smile and to feel those hips start to wander.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

[radio silence]

This morning was one of those rare silent mornings. It was odd. I lay in bed, with no song in my head and I listened to the world. Traffic moved on the next street down and out on the main road, an argument of herring guls held a discussion on the rooftops all around, my combi-boiler topped up its pressure, a neighbour took a shower and my radio alarm fizzed awake into detuned national morning radio. After a while, I got up.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Brenda Holloway - Every Little Bit Hurts

ORIGINATION Tamla Motown: Big Hits & Hard To Find Classics, Vol. 2
RECORDED IN
1964
LAST LISTENED TO
Sunday
RATING
★★★★

It's strange that for a song as well-known as this, I only heard this version of it recently. For many years, I've known both the Small Faces and the Spencer Davis Group recordings of it but as is often the case, there is something in the original version that others just can't quite reach. Maybe it is in Ms. Holloway's smooth voice, the sweet strings or the earthy piano. Whatever it is, that near-inderfinable magic, it is enough to stand this version above all others. Tender and beautiful.

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Smiths - Girlfriend In A Coma

ORIGINATION Best of the Smiths
RECORDED IN
1987
LAST LISTENED TO
last week
RATING
★★★★★

I was quite a latecomer to The Smiths, after manfully resisting their unique charms throughout all of my youthfully foolish music clique years. It was more than a few years after that silly behaviour was done with that I finally purchased one of their albums, even then only opting for a collection. It has been over thirteen years since I bought that CD and somehow I am yet to buy another of theirs, which is rather foolish considering that I've enjoyed every song on that first-bought collection. I'm in no hurry.

Girlfriend In A Coma to me is the quintessential Smiths song: a clean, well-played pop tune with a dark heart.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Sunday morning mix up

In the vague hour of my awakening this morning, no one song took charge of my brain. Rather, today saw a short playlist on rotation, including various Beatles songs, Damaged by Primal Scream and You Can Have Watergate Just Gimme Some Bucks And I'll Be Straight by Fred Wesley and The JBs. I lay in bed for a little while and each time I focussed on one song, it would slip away like a bar of soap in a hot bath, to be replaced by another.

Primal Scream - Movin' On Up

ORIGINATION Screamadelica
RECORDED IN
1991
LAST LISTENED TO
last night
RATING
★★★★★

It is one of my favourite starts to an album, a guitar riff that I will never confuse for anything else, signalling so much goodness to come. I would have first came across it in the year of its release. I'd have heard it in an indie disco and, knowing who I was back then, may well have sneered at it somewhat. In all likelihood, it was Loaded from the same album that I first came to know. However, two events changed my relationship to Movin' On Up.

To begin with, in the summer of '92 I saw Primal Sceam play a headline set at the Glastonbury festival, at the end of a brilliant sunny day. It was a magical night and even though I may have been perhaps a little tiddly, I remember that I really enjoyed their set, which shook my then particular, silly music clique snobbishness. Once I was home, I am sure I would have sought out the album. The second event happened two summers later, when I was in hospital. I was really quite ill, had dropped in weight to near eight stone and had been on a drip for days, only vaguely conscious. About four or five days into my stay, I was getting better and was at last properly with it, when I realised that I had not listened to any music in almost a week. I recall quite clearly lying in a bed, the only occupant in a strangely circular ward, when I slipped my headphones on and pressed play on my personal stereo. I did not bother to check what was in it, I needed music that badly. Screamadelica was the tape in the machine. As Movin' On Up began to play, I felt relief and joy flood through me and I wept. It moved me in a way almost no song had until that point and for that it will forever remain precious to me.

On Friday I went to see Primal Scream perform Screamadelica in Glasgow. They opened, naturally, with Movin' On Up. As Bobby Gillespie started singing, the audience, breaking from an immense cheer, as one sang along loud enough to near drown him out. It was the beginning to a brilliant gig.

Waking with this in my head the next morning was very much a foregone conclusion. It is a song that I can find not one flaw in, from the perfectly-paced beginning, though Bobby G's slightly off singing and the slide guitar licks, to the gospel choir and the guitar solo. It was a great start to the day.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Speedometer - Am I Your Woman? (Featuring Ria Currie)

ORIGINATION Modern Funk: Stay On The Groove, Volume 3
RECORDED IN
2007
LAST LISTENED TO
yesterday
RATING
★★★★★

Waking up to funk is always good. This fine selection is from one of the lights in the new funk movement in the UK. Performing now for more than a decade, Speedometer here cover a hit from 1970 by the Chi-lites. This version follows in the fine funk footsteps of an answer record: where once the Chi-lites sang Are You My Woman?, here the question is turned back on the men. Incidentally, that lovely brass riff that peppers both versions of the song, was sampled from the Chi-Lites on Beyoncé's Crazy In Love, which apparently was a big hit.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Merits - Arabian Jerk

ORIGINATION Jungle Exotica Volume 2
RECORDED IN
1964
LAST LISTENED TO
January
RATING
★★★★★

Sneaky. From somewhere in the dark, it's coming to get you. Well, maybe until the organ starts. After that it all turns into one of those mid '60s Arabian things. That sound was all the range, in a certain set. A sort of groovy, post-exotica thing. It didn't last long but it did throw out some weird and lovely things.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Prince La La - She Put The Hurt On Me

ORIGINATION From Route 66 To The Flamingo (v/a)
RECORDED IN
1961
LAST LISTENED TO
November
RATING
★★★★★

Some lovely soul this morning. Up tempo and bright. Really, I've got nothing more to add today. Just listen to that popping brass. Lovely.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Gogol Bordello - Alcohol

ORIGINATION Super Taranta! CD
RECORDED IN
2007
LAST LISTENED TO
last night
RATING
★★★★★

As the closing song of a very frantic gig, this really was perfect. Sang almost entirely solo, it was a calming, a breath, one small step before turning out into the night. On album, it is a reflection on a sorry drug that seems the cure to many and yet is more often than not the cause.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Barry McGuire - Eve Of Destruction

ORIGINATION 45
RECORDED IN
1965
LAST LISTENED TO
March 2010
RATING
★★★★★

I guess all the recent signs and portents in the world have infected my brain. I can't think of any other reason why this classic protest song would appear in my head this morning. It'll be that sinking feeling I get wherever I see a picture of our 'elected' leaders and read about how they're trying to destroy all that we hold dear in society. Happy joy!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The 5th Dimension - Puppet Man

ORIGINATION 45
RECORDED IN
1970
LAST LISTENED TO
yesterday, briefly
RATING
★★★★★

Funk! Yes! Well, almost. This starts out with a certain kind of late '60s variant of funk, at least until the singing begins. Once that happens, it rapidly becomes funk filtered through an easy listening pop choir, which, not to put too fine a point on it, is exactly what this is. The 5th Dimension were (and appear in some guise still to be) a pop group of five vocailists. Their best-known singles back in the day were Up, Up And Away and Aquarius/Let The Sunshine In. Following only a few years after those, Puppet Man does have something of the flavour of those two tunes to it, with more than enough 'bah-bah-bah-bah's for any fan or their work to enjoy. However for those non-easy lovers, the music is where it's at. From the drum roll intro on into the strong lead guitar fills, this is some fairly heavy funk rock. It is taken at a moderate pace and it has plenty bite to it. On paper, the two elements seem rather disparate, yet here they mesh really rather well.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

John Barry - We Have All The Time In The World (Sung By Louis Armstrong)

ORIGINATION On Her Majesty's Secret Service LP
RECORDED IN
1969
LAST LISTENED TO
last night
RATING
★★★★★

This is a smooth, gentle and lovely, lovely song. The contrast of the sweet strings and the warmth of Louis' rough old voice is so prefectly balanced that. rounded out by the gentle trumpet tones he produces, makes it feel like slipping into a warm bath. For three minutes and eleven seconds all your worries will just slip away.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs - Cabin On The Hill

ORIGINATION Essential Country & Western (v/a)
RECORDED IN
1959
LAST LISTENED TO
yesterday
RATING
★★★★★

Whilst today's song is again from That Danged Country album, the one that has been haunting me for the past few weeks, it is one of the least country songs on it. With the only instrumentation being a lone guitar, the song features call and response singing between a male lead and a mixed choir. Although choir singing does have a history in country music, on record dating back to the Carter family's recordings in the late '20s, the singing here sits more firmly in gospel music. It is not exactly the kind of song that one would normally associate with Flatt and Scruggs, especially considering Scruggs' banjo is nowhere to be heard.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Johnny Cash - I Got Stripes

ORIGINATION Essential Country & Western (v/a)
RECORDED IN
1959
LAST LISTENED TO
a few days ago
RATING
★★★★★

Another morning and another country song (there do seem to have been a lot of them recently). Again it is the story of an outlaw, one who is caught on a Monday, at the very start of the song, and is sent to prison. Like many country songs, his outlaw status is more inferred than stated but what is inescapable is that he is suffering. This, of course, is a theme that seems pretty widespread in country music, taking many forms whether it be suffering in death, suffering in work, suffering in love. Johnny Cash helped set the standard for post-war country music, particularly with songs and themes such as this.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Spandau Ballet - Gold

ORIGINATION the decade that taste forgot
RECORDED IN
see above
LAST LISTENED TO
in a restaurant last week
RATING
★★★★★

Imagine my disgust at finding this in my head this morning. My brain is wrong. I have nothing more to add.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Marty Robbins - El Paso

ORIGINATION Essential Country & Western (v/a) CD
RECORDED IN
1959
LAST LISTENED TO
yesterday
RATING
★★★★★

I was rather unsurprised to find more country in my brain this morning. Quite why it was this song, I do not know. I've heard better and catchier in recent days. Not that it's all that bad. Of course it is yet another tale of a drying gunslinger (there do seem to be a lot of them), although this time with a Mexican twist. It might in fact be the pretty Mexican guitar styling that made this one stand out.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Einstürzende Neubauten - Pelikanol

ORIGINATION Silence Is Sexy CD
RECORDED IN
2000
LAST LISTENED TO
last night
RATING
★★★★

Long-time German oddities Einstürzende Neubauten released Silence Is Sexy, one of their most successful albums, in 2000. A two-disc set, the second disc contained one single near-twenty minute long piece. Motorised metal strips throb deeply, mechanically and a child-like rhyme is repeated over and over. The world closes down, reality retreats. Humming, broken glass. Throbbing. As the piece progresses, the voices become stranger, flipping left and right, while white noise stabs irregularly, broken-speaker like. Over headphones, it is an intense experience.

Nur zur Erinnerung  Just as a reminder
Bittermandel  Bitter almonds
Marzipan  Marzipan
Pelikanol  Pelikanol (school glue)

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Lefty Frizzell - The Long Black Veil

ORIGINATION Essential Country & Western (v/a)
RECORDED IN
1959
LAST LISTENED TO
a few days ago
RATING
★★★★★

Today finds me waking to another country song that, being Sunday, seems somehow appropriate. This one is another dark tale of a doomed man, sang by another country legend, Lefty Frizell. His clear voice with just the slightest hint of a lisp, wanders over a cleanly-strummed guitar that is framed by a minimal bass and some light drumming which echo with a sound Sun studio-like slap. Through all of this, a haunting pedal steel guitar slides, ghost-like, the spectre of the doomed figure of the tale, as he watches his best friend's wide mourning at his grave. It is a simple, elegant song that, although written in the '50s, seems of an earlier age.

Friday, March 04, 2011

[repetition]

As I fell asleep last night, yesterday's morning song was rattling around in my head. It wasn't much of a surprise, therefore, that it was still in there when I woke.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Laura Lee - Crumbs Off My Table

ORIGINATION I'm A Good Woman - Funk Classics From Sassy Soul Sisters (v/a) LP
RECORDED IN
1972
LAST LISTENED TO
yesterday
RATING
★★★★

Mm-mm. Here's some deep funk. That Laura Lee, her man's spending too long out of the house working. When he comes home, she ain't getting none and, man, she is not happy. Funk is the going to be the answer, so expect some fat bass, plenty of slick wah-wah guitar licks and a few truck-loads of brass. Oh yes. After a few verses, the track drops down for some bass and drum action and just a few groans. That low-down bump and grind is just what the song needs. Ms Lee is hungry and there is no doubting it here. A few years ago, I thought this section killed the song. These days, that drop down and build following it is hitting the spot hard. The arrangement here is particularly strong, with the whole band slotting tightly in together; bass, brass and guitar all winding in and out of each other as, we might surmise, Ms Lee finally gets it. Go get some!

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Plan B - Writing's On The Wall

ORIGINATION The Defamation Of Strickland Banks CD
RECORDED IN
2010
LAST LISTENED TO
yesterday
RATING
★★★★★

Sometime in the middle of last year, a song on God's Jukebox had me scrambling about in the dark for my notebook, two write down its name. It turned out to be a single from London soul boy and rapper Plan B. I left that name sitting on my list of things to buy one day for quite some time. In January, I finally bought the album and, expecting to like the single and little else, gve it a cursory listen. I was pretty bowled over. Whilst still sounding modern, the album nonetheless manages to straddle a whole range of soul sounds and it does this whilst also telling a story. It is an impresive feat.

Writing's On The Wall is the latest single, quite astoundingly the sixth, to be culled from the album. It's a bittersweet piece of uptempo northern soul, powered by a strong bassline and some squeaky-clean guitar licks. Sadly, being the second song on a concept album, the song does feel somewhat unresolved at its close.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

[repetition]

It has only been a few days since Marty Robbins' Big Iron last stole into my head as I woke. It's always a little disappointing when the song is not a new one, although it does save some time.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Nirvana - Serve The Servants

ORIGINATION In Utero CD
RECORDED IN
1993
LAST LISTENED TO
October 2010
RATING
★★★★★

In Utero was a welcomely abrasive follow up to the slightly-too-polished Nevermind. Serve The Servants, the first track, sets well the tone for the album. Like much of Kurt Cobain's songs, it is very personal, dealing with his reaction to his sudden fame and fortune, as well as his relationship with his father. However, the opening couplet 'Teenage angst has paid of well / Now I'm bored and old", as well as being typically self-depreciating, appears to trivialise what music had gone before and in particular Nevermind. Whilst this is understandable, given the disturbed state of mind of Cobain at the time, it does seem somewhat insulting to those legions of listeners who gave him the freedom to voice that very thought. It is a dark and twisted song, which begs the question, who are the servants? The record company, the fans, maybe even his muse? There is no clear answer to this and paying such close attention will only bring the listener too close to the troubled mind of the author. Ultimately, it is a good song but one whose darkness can be wearying.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Isley Brothers - Ohio / Machine Gun

ORIGINATION Gimme Shelter: Kaleidoscopic Funk Collision (v/a) LP
LAST LISTENED TO
April 2010
CHANCE OF WAKING TO IT
teeny
RATING
★★★★★

Formed in the early '50s, The Isley Brothers had always moved with the times. They'd sang gospel, doo-wop, gritty r'n'b, soul and funk and had been on RCA, Motown and their own label, T-Neck. In 1971, two generations of Isleys were in the group when they released an album of rock-tinged funk. The lead track on that album was a medley of Jimi Hendrix's Machine Gun and the Neil Young-penned Ohio. At over nine minutes in length, putting it up front on the album was a bold move but one that was absolutely warranted. The two songs, both forthright and powerful protest songs, were blended with such mastery that they sounded very much like they'd always been meant to be together. They added a whole world of soul to Ohio that it had never noticeably been missing, before segueing it imperceptibly into Hendrix's pièce de résistance, via the Lord's Prayer, whilst even having time to drop in a sprinkling of vocalised Hendrix guitar sound. It was and remains powerful, hairs standing on the back of the neck stuff. A very rare instance of the unimpeachable being transcended.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Buck Owens - Under Your Spell Again

ORIGINATION Essential County & Western (v/a) CD
LAST LISTENED TO
last night
CHANCE OF WAKING TO IT
dead certain
RATING
★★★★

I'm still slowly working my way into country music and so my knowledge is pretty slim and my ear not very well trained. Even still, from this vantage point Under Your Spell Again sounds about as perfectly country as can be. It is a perfect mix of pedal steel, fiddle, snare-led drums and sweet, sweet harmonies. It is the kind of song that one almost instinctively knows, where every change is exactly where it ought to be and every vocal can almost be sung along with on the first listen. Such archetypal songs are rare indeed. I've known it for less than five days and it has already buried itself deep into my brain.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Marty Robbins - Big Iron

ORIGINATION Essential Country & Western (v/a) CD
LAST LISTENED TO
yesterday
CHANCE OF WAKING TO IT
good
RATING
★★★★★

I first came across and enjoyed Big Iron on Johnny Cash's American IV album of 2003. Having not looked at the sleeve particularly closely, I did not realise it was one of the many covers he made during those recordings. It was therefore a pleasant surprise to come across the original version of it this week, on a damn fine compilation of recently copyright-free country and western music.

Marty Robbins, the writer and performer of that original, seems to have been a colourful individual, with a life that included not only being a country music star, but also the war in the Pacific, hosting his own television show, acting and race car driving. His version of the song feels considerably faster than Cash's and, with plenty of guitar picking, a high-tone upright bass and swathes of vowel-heavy backing vocals, has a lighter air. In some ways that lightness seems to clash with the tale of a killer and his death, yet there is something infectious in the bouncing tempo and the delightful guitar picking that is hard not to like.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

[confusion]

Things were a bit muddied this morning. It seemed that I had Sixteen Tons by Tennessee Ernie Ford in my head when I woke, except that I couldn't have as I'm not certain I've ever actually listened to it. Now, I had heard the original Merle Travis version of it this week, yet it definitely was not that version I was hearing. Nor was it the Bo Diddley version, which was the only other one that I had. To make things trickier, it was merged with parts of at least two other songs, neither of which I was able to identify. It was a confusing morning.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Georges Brassens - Je M'Suis Fait Tout Petit

ORIGINATION French Café (v/a) CD
LAST LISTENED TO
yesterday
CHANCE OF WAKING TO IT
quite high
RATING
★★★★★

Georges Brassens was a respected figure in the French music scene of the last century, although seems little known elsewhere, almost certainly in part due to the hegemony of anglophone artists in popular music. In this song, as in much of his music, he accompanies himself on guitar, with just one other player on double bass. It is a lilting, elegant-sounding piece, sprinkled with Django-esque jazzy licks that punctuate Brassens' relaxed singing. Sadly, the content of the song is lost on me, as it has been more than twenty years since I last spoke any French. With songs as good as this, maybe it is about time I tried to do so again.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Temptations - Since I've Lost You

ORIGINATION Motown Special LP
LAST LISTENED TO
yesterday
CHANCE OF WAKING TO IT
purdy good
RATING
★★★★

Awakening from a dream of a love gone, this song seemed like the perfect soundtrack. A beautifully arranged ballad with some very fine harmonies from a period of the Temptations history known more for its psychedelic soul.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Duke Ellington - Caravan

ORIGINATION Classic Jazz Archive: Diminuendo In Blue CD
LAST LISTENED TO
a few days ago
CHANCE OF WAKING TO IT
yes, there was some
RATING
★★★★★

Caravan is one of those pieces of music that most of us know, even if we don't know we know it. Co-composed by Duke Ellington and his trombonist Juan Tizol (or possibly just by Tizol himself), it has been recorded countless times since and is has come to be considered a jazz standard. The first recorded version in 1936 was by a band that seem very much to have been Ellington and co., however this, the first credited Ellington version was not released until the following year.

With its smooth, flowing melody, it has a strong middle-eastern flavour which combined with a jazzy primitive percussion sound, prefigures the exotica movement of the fifties. It begins with an opening statement of that melody, before giving way to a string of short solos. The longest of these goes to the trumpet, which rasps throughout the piece before busting in for a brief solo around the half-way point on a muted wave. The real star of the piece, though, is that haunting, exotic melody, which winds smokily in and out of almost the whole tune. It was that melody that has captured countless ears and been the impetuous behind the avalanche of versions over the past seventy-five years.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Bees - A Minha Menina

ORIGINATION Sunshin Hit Me CD
LAST LISTENED TO
a few days ago
CHANCE OF WAKING TO IT
reasonable
RATING
★★★★★

A few years ago, I picked up a copy of The Bees third album, after hearing a few tracks from it on God's Jukebox. I liked it plenty and so a little later picked up their debut in a random second-hand music moment in Brum with the Doctor. To this day, it has failed to grab me in the same manner.

Today's track was the one that stood out for me, which is ironic as it is a version of a track by Os Mutantes, so perhaps I should finally get round to listening to them. Another thing I discovered about this track today was that it was licensed for an advert, along with another two of their tracks. It was at this point I stopped caring about The Bees.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

[repetition]

Whip crack away, whip crack away, whip crack awaaaaaay!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Doris Day - The Deadwood Stage

ORIGINATION The Best of Doris Day CD
LAST LISTENED TO
yesterday
CHANCE OF WAKING TO IT
hilarious
RATING
★★★★★

If this doesn't make you smile, you probably shouldn't be here. Whip crack away!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Sister Sledge - Lost In Music

ORIGINATION We Are Family LP
LAST LISTENED TO
last April
CHANCE OF WAKING TO IT
reasonable: I've been lost in music often recently
RATING
★★★★★

There is more to this track than memory will provide. After breakfast this morning, when I decided to get the obligatory morning song listen over with, then write a few sentences and get on with my day, I did not expect much. One listen, a few sentences about disco things and done. This did not happen.

Essentially the disco anthem chorus is what one remembers, which is well-known enough to easily obscure the rest of the song. Yet when one listens with fresh ears, much more is revealed. As the song slowly builds, it quickly becomes apparent that this finely crafted piece owes as much to soul as to disco and, whilst disco in itself is not a bad thing, so too it is not a musical form associated with subtlety, which soul often is. Whilst here the driving beat firmly moves the song into the disco camp, there are also many subtle details, in the chicken guitar, in the tambourine down in the right channel, in that gradually built-up intro and in the lyrics looking for salvation through music, that are divinely soulful.

Lost In Music is a simple enough track which is put together really rather well, a fined honed piece with not a single wasted moment. It is rather a shame that it will be forever lumped in with the glittering blare of disco.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Marcels - Blue Moon

ORIGINATION 45
LAST LISTENED TO
November
CHANCE OF WAKING TO IT
minimal
RATING
★★★★★

Now this is what I call a proper start to the day. My eyes had barely opened, in fact they probably weren't even that, when I that magical "bom bo-bo bom…" rattled around my head. Brilliant!

Blue Moon is one of those classic American that has become a standard. It was written by the renowned composers Richard Rogers and Lorenz Hart in 1934 and has countless versions of it have been recorded since. When The Marcels released their version in 1961, it retooled the song considerably, taking it from a ballad into an up-tempo doo-wop hit.

I first heard the tune when watching American Werewolf In London at a tender age in the mid eighties and I've loved it probably ever since. It's bouncing rock 'n' roll beat, endless made-up word stop-starts, five part harmony and Hart's sentimental lyrics make me smile every single time.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Danger Mouse & Sparklehorse - Angel's Harp (Feat. Black Francis)

ORIGINATION Dark Night Of The Soul CD
LAST LISTENED TO
two days ago
CHANCE OF WAKING TO IT
yadda yadda
RATING
★★★★★

It has a catchy chorus, one that has been rattling around inside my head since I picked up this album last month. The guitar is also quite good and there are some enjoyable electronic embellishments. Yet somehow, trying to focus on this as an individual track is almost impossible this morning.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Violent Femmes - To The Kill

ORIGINATION Violent Femmes CD
LAST LISTENED TO
three days ago
CHANCE OF WAKING TO IT
annoyingly high
RATING
★★★★★

I thought by not listening to them for a few days, that they might release their grip. I seem to be sadly mistaken. Today, there was yet another return to their first album, this time one of the least good tracks. It feels less tight than the rest, formless in places. Whilst that is undoubtedly the intention, and it does form a good counterpoint in its place on the album, it does not make for a particularly arresting song.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Metallica - Leper Messiah

ORIGINATION Master of Puppets LP
LAST LISTENED TO
last week
CHANCE OF WAKING TO IT
I have no idea any more
RATING
★★★★★

It was strange and it was grey outside, another quiet Sunday morning. The song was familiar, almost instantly so and yet it was not, this relaxed little melody that I knew so well. Smooth and quiet but something was not right. After a while, I realised that the relaxed little melody was Leper Messiah and somehow that did not seem odd, although odd it surely was because there is nothing about Leper Messiah that is relaxed. If there could be such a thing as a textbook metal song, then this is it. With its proper, choppy, stop-start riffage, its fierce vocals about nothing much in particular, the not-too widdly guitar solo and then the last-minute return to those head-noddingly great riffs that stop-start to a stop, this is tight, muscular, metal heaven.

Also worth mentioning is that Leper Messiah is from Metallica's best album, Master of Puppets. Whilst they recorded plenty other great songs before and are continuing to do so today, with its sophisticated combination of metal sounds and proper album-length, they have yet to surpass this album.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

[radio silence]

A quiet morning today. No song, not even one from the radio snatches. Just silence.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Violent Femmes - Please Do Not Go

ORIGINATION Violent Femmes CD
LAST LISTENED TO
yesterday
CHANCE OF WAKING TO IT
rising farce
RATING
★★★★★

The Violent Femmes again? There are no songs of theirs that I dislike, howver writing about them for this many days in a row is a little tiresome. Please Do Not Go features a nice sing-a-long chorus. It is a slower song and, as ever, the up front Mariachi bass is great. There is a little falsetto singing in this one too. Nice.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Violent Femmes - Black Girls

ORIGINATION Hallowed Ground LP
LAST LISTENED TO
yesterday
CHANCE OF WAKING TO IT
damned good
RATING
★★★★

The Violent Femmes return this morning with another song from their second album and one that is a particular favourite of mine. It starts out in fairly typical Femmes style, with some up-tempo drums and that distinctive bass guitar sound, which soon evolves when tenor sax comes in to augment the first verses. However, it is not until those verses are finished that the song really breaks new territory, with a choppy, hard-blown sax solo that edges into Pharoah Sanders-style freedom, which is followed by some bird-call vibrato trumpet and then a Jew's harp. Even more oddness follows that, when all the the blown instruments start trading off each other. It is a magnificent piece in its setting, at once seemingly at odds with the folky punk (or possible punkish folk) of the Femmes, whilst at the same time being the logical extension of, and perfectly complimentary to, it. Singer Gano returns for the ending, almost yelling lines about "digging black girls" which in itself seems pointedly at odds with the faith-inspired verse the precedes it. Marvellous.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - There Is A Kingdom

ORIGINATION The Boatman's Call CD
LAST LISTENED TO
December
CHANCE OF WAKING TO IT
teeny
RATING
★★★★★

Each time a new Bad Seeds album comes out, almost without exception, my reaction to it is muted. Usually for some months after my first listen, I am unsure about it, about this change to a known entity. Then comes a day that I think, "actually this is all right". By the next day the album will be on constant rotation and will stay there for many, many days. Boatman's Call was something of an exception, it was and is so quiet, so low-key, missing the usual Bad Seed bombast, that I never reached that week of constant rotation. However, over the years it has gradually ebbed into my conscious and finally, in the past few years, I have come to terms with it and it enjoys a special place in my heart. It is a quietly beautiful album.

All of this makes waking to a particular song from this album rather unexpected, especially one that I have never once sought out to listen to on its own. As with the whole album, it is quietly beautiful, centred around Cave and his piano, with minimal further instrumentation. It appears, on the face of it, to be about faith. However, unlike yesterday's song of faith, this one could as easily be a song of secular love. The line is, as ever with Nick Cave, a blurred one.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Violent Femmes - Hallowed Ground

ORIGINATION Hallowed Ground LP
LAST LISTENED TO
yesterday
CHANCE OF WAKING TO IT
pretty high
RATING
★★★★★

After the last couple of morning songs, yesterday turned into Violent Femmes day, with three of their albums (which is all I have) on constant rotation. Most listeners rarely move beyond their classic first album and this is a real shame because the second album is just as good. It was culled from the same writing period as the first, and so contains something of the same flavour, yet it is a more ambitious and sonically diverse album. Today it was its title track that was with me when I woke.

Of the songs on the album, Hallowed Ground is the one closest musically to the first album, structured as it is around the strong up-front bass and guitar, although with the addition of some piano. Where it differs is through its the lyrics. Previously, they were centred around a post-pubescent world, on this album singer Gordon Gano's faith is the common theme. This song is a statement of faithful defiance against the coming apocalypse, which was close at the time of writing, and whilst the faith is strong it is not overt. This is not one of the brethren looking to bring you into the fold, rather it is a young man quietly asserting his beliefs.

Many found this statement of faith a reason to turn away from the Violent Femmes and it does seem at odds with the prevailing sentiments of rock music. Yet this was and remains more of an indictment of the listener than of what is a great album.

Monday, February 07, 2011

[repetition]

Yep. Same as yesterday. Which, given how often it was played, is no surprise.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Violent Femmes - Gone Daddy Gone

ORIGINATION Violent Femmes CD
LAST LISTENED TO
very early this morning
CHANCE OF WAKING TO IT
not waking to it would have been a surprise
RATING
★★★★

A stand out track from a stand out album. It is not the most obvious stand out track on the album and the album is not one of the most stand out albums in the world. Both are slow builders. The lyrics from the song repeat again and again on an internal loop long after the album has stopped playing, the album slowly, eventually has become a hit, popular with an endless tide of post-adolesents, an album to take to heart at that impressionable time and to never let go of.

As well as the endlessly repeating hook of the lyrics, Gone Daddy Gone has a xylophone* solo. A xylophone solo. If this does not convince you of its greatness, you ought not be here. Go now.


*that's the one with the wooden bars

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros - Home

ORIGINATION Megan
LAST LISTENED TO
late week
CHANCE OF WAKING TO IT
vague
RATING
★★★★

Some mornings only the briefest of snatches of a song is in my head. These are the testing mornings, especially if it just a riff. Luckily this morning it was lyrics and ones easy to identify. Unluckily, all of the time I lay in bed, I could remember not one more piece of the song, just the endless tumble of two state names.

This song was a gift from my lovely friend Megan and it is one of those songs that will always remind me of her, whenever I hear it. It is a charming boy-girl pop song about finding a home in love, "home is whenever I'm with you", that can't fail to bring out a smile. It also starts with whistling, has that state name tumble and ends with some sweet, sweet trumpet. I'm sold.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Iggy & The Stooges - Search And Destroy

ORIGINATION Raw Power CD
LAST LISTENED TO
last night
CHANCE OF WAKING TO IT
detonate for me
RATING
★★★★★

I do love The Stooges and this is one of their best. No question. From nine seconds in when James Williamson's first blistering guitar spits in, to Iggy's higher-pitch-than-normal vocals, to the very last bars, it does not let go for one second. It grabs you by the throat and pulls you along for the crazed ride, for three and a half minutes of pure adrenaline rush. There is little else like it and there is only one way to listen to it and that is a speaker cabinet-rattling volume. The neighbours can go take a hike.

Sadly, these days the world we live in intrudes on the cosy memory of revolutions past. Yesterday's artist is today's salesperson. Would that it were not. So now most times when I listen to The Stooges, I can't help but picture Iggy's face on the back of a bus, hawking insurance. I'm so lucky that I do not own a television.

"Here's the deal, folks, you do a commercial, you're off the artistic roll call forever. End of story. Okay? You're another corporate fucking shill, you're another whore at the capitalist gang bang and if you do a commercial, there's a price on your head, everything you say is suspect and every word that comes out of your mouth is now like a turd falling into my drink…" - Bill Hicks

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Cerrone - Supernature

ORIGINATION 45
LAST LISTENED TO
this morning
CHANCE OF WAKING TO IT
um… good?
RATING
★★★★

There was nothing in my head this morning, just words. It was the unsnoozed radio that provided the spark today, in quite an unlikely form for morning radio. Call me Mr. Cheater if you want, but it is today's song.

Supernature is about as great a piece of Euro-disco as can ever be found. Funky bass, layers of repetitive synth, a woman singing fairly odd lyrics. Seeming that it will roll on forever, with its occasional strange sort-of sound effects and loud whispers, somehow it is all over in just over four minutes. If ever there was a 45 that would benefit from having two copies to thread into each other, prefiguring house music if ever anything did, it was this one. Sadly I only have the one, that I bought from the Professor a little more than nine years ago (and how it be that long ago?). I find myself wondering if it was it one of his recommendations, or if I found it rummaging though a pile of that week's incomers.

As it happens, a few years later I found a copy of the 12" on eBay. I was both pleased and surprised to discover that rather than being a stretched and padded version of the 45, it was actually the full and unedited version, which was equally as good and, best of all, over ten minutes long.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Baby Charles - Hard Man To Please

ORIGINATION Baby Charles CD
LAST LISTENED TO
December 2010
CHANCE OF WAKING TO IT
limited
RATING
★★★★★

Songs such as this morning's and yesterdays can be quite a tester for my memory. Yesterday was not so bad, because I had the intro and part of the melody, however this morning all I had was one riff. It was new funk and that was as much of a feeling as I had from it. Quite why it was stuck in my head was a mystery. Perhaps it my subconscious reminding me to Pay More Attention To Funk.

After some time spent tracking it down, I found the riff was by Baby Charles, who appeared in my life very early one Saturday morning on Mark Lamarr's God's Jukebox radio show. Whatever track it was he played then, it caught my ears and the first thing I did after a night's sleep was to find their website and buy their album, a self-titled debut. It is a pretty fantastic slab of funk. Hard Man To Please, placed in the middle of that slab, has almost all of the things a top funk tune needs: whacka-whacka guitar, slip-sliding organ, brass stabs, some good repetitive lyrics and a change of chord last section. If the bass was not so often lost in the mix this would certainly be getting played more often, which would have made its tracking down this morning easier.

Even though this is not the best track by Baby Charles, it will give you a good taste of what they are like. Sadly, if you like that taste there will only ever be one album, as they split last year.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Benny Poole - Pearl Baby, Pearl

ORIGINATION 45
LAST LISTENED TO
May 2010
CHANCE OF WAKING TO IT
you're kidding, right?
RATING
★★★★★

In the early part of this century, I was regularly visiting the hallowed Professor of Plastic and picking up all manner of wonderful slabs of vinyl, both big and small. It was a time when new funk and soul 45s would arrive every week, some new, some reissues. This one, a reissue on a split single with Magentica by Espen Horne on the flip, was given a release in early 2002. It is a rough and tough, piece of latin-flavoured, instrumental soul, with a groove that sounds much more like it was recorded in the mid-sixties than in 1974.

After an intro with the first note cut off on this pressing, a tenor sax establishes a melody and then slips into a mid-range solo that could groove on forever. However, with a scant 45 running time of two minutes, it does no such thing. It has only been in the sweet spot for a minute, when the organ swings in from the background for a few brief bars to fight it out and then it is all gone. A fine, fine groove that could easily be much longer.

Monday, January 31, 2011

John Barry

The first alarm call of the morning was a brief interlude of a radio presenter saying something about James Bond scores. The third call was during a news break, where the reader mentioned something close to "he won five Academy Awards". I woke up then, realising that another musical legend was gone. If there was any morning song in my head, it was washed away in a tide of Barry goodness. Here are just two of my favourites.



Sunday, January 30, 2011

Joy Division - Means To An End

ORIGINATION Closer CD
LAST LISTENED TO
last night
CHANCE OF WAKING TO IT
goodie goodie yum yum
RATING
★★★★★

It seems appropriate that on such a bleak morning, grey, overcast and lifeless, that Joy Division would be in my head. There is and almost certainly always will be an association between their music, their sound, and darkness; a near-tangible miasma of unhappiness, of gloom, that is inescapable. For me this makes them difficult to listen to, which is unfortunate because they made some very good music.

Means To An End is from their second (and in some ways last) album. To my untrained ears, it seems typical of their sound. Hooky's bass is front and centre, driving the tune, framed by machine-like drums, whilst jagged, skeletal guitar breaks around the incessant rhythm. Over it all is Ian Curtis, the dark centre.

I don't listen to Joy Division very often and I doubt I ever will.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Public Enemy - Fight The Power

ORIGINATION Fear of a Black Planet CD
LAST LISTENED TO
last night
CHANCE OF WAKING TO IT
pretty bloody high
RATING
★★★★★

I was first intoduced to Public Enemy at the height of their powers at the beginning of the '90s. On a trip to Italy in '91 I picked up a copy of It Takes a Nation of Millions. Most likely it was because I had spending money and decided I would rather use it on music, than on some local tat. It was a bold, provocative album and it still is, however it is its successor that I listen to more often these days.

For me, Fear of a Black Planet is bolder, louder, longer and packs more hits. Biggest and boldest of all is the closing track, Fight The Power, which is both one of their funkiest tunes and their most relentless. Deceptively simple sounding, it is as intensely-woven as any Bomb Squad track, a bold mix of beats and samples that keep rolling and bouncing on and on, funky and tough. Over it Chuck D's rap is conscious, unyielding, calling for something more than peacefull acceptance of how things are. It flows smoothly, hitting on the beats, interspersed with some of jester Flav's less wacky interjections, giving Chuck pauses to catch his breath.

There is a fire here, of young bloods looking to kick down the old. Do they really think Elvis was a racist? Or are they rabble-rousing, beating on sacred cows? With PE and Chuck, you just never can tell.

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Jacksons - Blame It On The Boogie


ORIGINATION the damned radio
LAST LISTENED TO
now
CHANCE OF WAKING TO IT
bah
RATING
★★★★★

It blundered its sunlight way into my head across the moonlight airwaves and through a slightly forgetful good times radio alarm clock boogie. There had been a sunlight tune in there, in my barely awake moonlight brain, but it withered good times and was burnt away by the might of the Jacksons boogie. I was sunlight powerless to moonlight retain information good times on it boogie. And so sunlight this morning is a moonlight cheat, a breaking of the good times rules I set for my boogie self. I am sunlight so very moonlight pleased by good times this boogie. Sunlight. Moonlight. Good times. Boogie. Sunlight. Moonlight. Good times. Boogie. Sunlight. Moonlight. Good times. Boogie. Sunlight. Moonlight. Good times. Boogie.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Scott Joplin - The Entertainer

ORIGINATION er-hm
LAST LISTENED TO
unknown
CHANCE OF WAKING TO IT
zero and technically still there
RATING
★★★★★

This morning, again, I woke with no song in my head. However, as I sat eating my breakfast several hours later, this tune just slid on in there. I'm not sure I've ever actually chosen to listen to it in the past. Sure, like most kids in my school I was taught how to play it on the xylophone (or possibly glockenspiel) and of course I've seen The Sting but that's been about it. Now I'm wondering what took me so long to have a listen. It really is a joyful and timeless piece.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Doors - Love Street

ORIGINATION Waiting For The Sun CD
LAST LISTENED TO
early December 2010
CHANCE OF WAKING TO IT
low
RATING
★★★★★

I've been listening to the Doors for twenty years, which is not as long as some have, but long enough. For what it's worth, their debut was the very first CD I bought. Today's song is from their third album, when their initial rush of inspiration was beginning to run thin. It is one of the lightest songs on the album and is neither strong lyrically nor musically. Doors-lite. For all that, it is as indelibly etched onto my brain as most of the rest of their catalogue.

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Kills - U.R.A. Fever

ORIGINATION Midnight Boom CD
LAST LISTENED TO
May 2010
CHANCE OF WAKING TO IT
minimal
RATING
★★★★★

A couple of years ago I was sitting in a bar, eating a late lunch as the low winter sun disappeared somewhere behind thick cloud cover. The bean burger and chips were warming and filling, however my enjoyment of them was gradually intruded upon by the music playing. I realised I was nodding along, and had been for a little while, to a sparse bluesy-rock sound that was pretty appealing. Eventually I asked the bartender what he was playing and he named a band I had never heard of. On my way home I bought the album: Midnight Boom by The Kills.

U.R.A. Fever is the opening track of the album. It's a low-key beginning, that nonetheless signals clearly the dislocated boy-girl singing, rough guitars and slight electronic tinge typical of the whole album. The skeletal frame of the song is hung with enough hooks, in both some choppy guitars and a memorable repeated lyric ("U.R.A. fever / ain't born typical"), to make it memorable.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Duran Duran - Friends Of Mine

ORIGINATION Duran Duran LP
LAST LISTENED TO
a few days ago
CHANCE OF WAKING TO IT
average
RATING
★★★★★

An album track this time and one that sounds very much a song of its period, a piece of slithering '80s pop-funk with electronic leanings. As albums go, this being Duran Duran's debut it is pretty strong, making Friends Of Mine quite a well-crafted song rather than a piece of filler. The influence of tracks like this, particularly the guitar sound and Simon Le Bon's vocal inflections, can clearly be heard in the music of many of the current '80s-leaning bands.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Friday, January 21, 2011

Duran Duran - Planet Earth


ORIGINATION Duran Duran LP
LAST LISTENED TO
last night
CHANCE OF WAKING TO IT
absolute certainty
RATING
★★★★★

It is Easter 1984 and the two leaving-year classes are on the annual school trip to West Germany, to the Rhineland, by bus. To this day the decision to do it and who took it is lost, however the fact remains that a tape of Duran Duran, almost certainly a home-made compilation one of the girls brought along, was played on the coach stereo for almost the entire trip, repeated and repeated and repeated, until every tune was etched into our minds. Of all those endlessly-heard songs, Planet Earth is the one that stuck indelibly. It will forever conjour the freedom of the autoroute and of the autobahn, the particular alert weariness of long distance travel, mid-eighties Europe and seeing the Atomium slide by on the horizon.

Even if Planet Earth had a catalogue of faults, I would always look on it favourably and so an objective opinion would never be possible. It is one of those songs that will stay with me forever.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Angelo Badalamenti - Freshly Squeezed


ORIGINATION Twin Peaks
LAST LISTENED TO
every day for a week
CHANCE OF WAKING TO IT
astronomic
RATING
★★★★

When Twin Peaks hit the nation's television screens at the start of the last decade of the twentieth century, I was just a little young to fully appreciate the leap forward in programme making that it represented. Nonetheless I enjoyed it thoroughly.

Film director David Lynch was one of the driving forces behind the show and of all the cinematic elements he introduced, for me it was the soundtrack that made the strongest impression. Strongly jazz-influenced and scored by long-time Lynch associate Angelo Badalamenti, it was and is almost unique in its filmic approach to television. It contains several leitmotifs, not least of which is the cyclic, strolling bass line that features prominently in Freshly Squeezed.

The piece was first introduced onscreen when FBI Agent Dale Cooper, who is having breakfast at his hotel, is approached by coquettish teenager Audrey Horne. Something of the multi-level nature of that encounter is carried in the music, which is playful yet holds the sexual undertones.

The two most important elements of the piece, however, are the cycling bass and the vibraphone. The bass is the very epitome of cool, which oozed from many of the show's characters and in particular Agent Cooper. Good or bad, the inhabitants of Twin Peaks were almost all very cool and the bass line, repeated with variations across several parts of the score, reinforces that impression. In contrast, the ethereal modulation of the vibraphone represents the show's dream world, again most commonly shown in Agent Cooper. In the combination of these two sounds, Freshly Squeezed has become for me the part that most represents the whole.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Caro Emerald - Back It Up

ORIGINATION Deleted Scenes From The Cutting Room Floor CD
LAST LISTENED TO
yesterday
CHANCE OF WAKING TO IT
pretty good
RATING
★★★★★

A few weeks ago, whilst engaging in my ongoing struggle with the snooze button, my hand paused on its way to the button. There was something playing that snapped at my half-awake brain's attention. I listened to the song, grabbed my pen and wrote the name on my hand, hit snoozed and kept on at that for a while longer. Mid afternoon, when I took my gloves off to make my lunch I found the note. After some searching, I figured out what it meant and I was excited because it was something new and fun.

Caro Emerald, the name that I found mis-spelled on my hand is a Dutch jazz singer. Her debut album spent, from which this was the first single, spent an amazing 30 weeks at number one in the Dutch charts. The song is a lovely slice of poppy jazz, with a bouncy percussive groove, some nice and fat brassy stabs and over it all Emerald's bright vocals dance. A fresh and fun meeting of old and new.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Newcranes - Frontline

ORIGINATION Frontline LP
LAST LISTENED TO
September 2010
CHANCE OF WAKING TO IT
slim
RATING
★★★★★

Back in the early ’90s, not washing was all the range amongst certain student circles. Crust was in, clean was out. The Levellers ruled all. The far lesser-known Newcranes were always lumped into that crowd, whether they liked it or not. However, their sound owed far more to Eastern European musical traditions that British ones. Notably here, on the title track with its Ukranian male choir intro and predominant accordian melody.