Monday, August 31, 2015

Songs Heard on the Radio # 75 Tom Rush

No comment needed!

Songs About People # 122 Arthur Kane

'I was a New York Doll. I was really something...'

And from there, to there, to there, to here. A song featured in the film posted below not mentioning Arthur Kane, (one of the great tragic Rock and Roll figures), in the title, but all about him anyway and a dreadfully poignant eulogy to things passed. Looking back at youth and its lost glory.

Robyn Hitchcock - Sex, Food, Death .... and Insects

And then going from there to there to here. Here's a BBC 4 film about Robyn Hitchcock, nearer to now, wearing a series of great shirts and making an album with friends. You might like to spend an hour of your life with it.

Songs About People # 121 The Higsons

'The Higsons come from Norwich. But I prefer East Grinstead.'

And while we're on this theme. I saw Robyn Hitchcock playing in Norwich pretty soon after my arrival there and I imagine he played this. This strangely, and somehow sadly, at least for me, is almost thirty years ago. They were supported by a student band called Dogburger, who also sadly, provide me with the greatest memories of the occasion. The lead singer howled most of the words during their support set into a baseball glove and either fell or was pulled offstage. The bassist had dyed his hair carrot orange and was called Horrid Pete. Hitchcock was storming around demanding that they get taken off. Such is memory.

Song of the Day # 589 The Higsons

When I went to Norwich to study at university in the mid-eighties the healthy independent music scene was a major drawing factor in my choice. Unfortunately for me the scene had just about wrapped itself up by the time I got there. The two major bands The Higsons and The Farmer's Boys had moved on. Here's the former's best moment. A 1982 single. Funk and humour. The influence of Talking Heads looms large. Leader and lead singer Charlie Higson went on to become a major figure in British comedy and cultural life over the coming decades.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

August 30th 1935 John Phillips

Song(s) of the Day # 588 Heaven 17

Flipped through my records and found this and it went on leading to a grand start to a Sunday morning. This LP, from 1981, just as the political changes instigated by the arrival of naked, market economics in the US and the UK were setting in, ironised the whole materialistic early eighties Yuppie instinct surely better than any other record before or since.


A sleek, smart, beautiful album. Of course its modernist, but slightly cheap synth sound mires it very much in its time all these years later. Its messages though, seems as pertinent as ever. The themes of globalised capitalism, of  the veneer of modern existence, the shallowness of what we all have to do to survive if anything hold more true now than when they made the record. It talks about things that albums based around electric guitars just don't and arguably can't.The stark callow coldness of the  nine to five reality.

The whole point of the album is surface. What it's saying and what it sounds like are two sides of the message. In some ways it's quite a resigned record because its political consciousness is so advanced that it realises that all resistance to the consuming machine is pretty much futile. Not bad for guys in their early twenties. The suits, hair, ponytails and high rise blocks of the album cover are masterful. That's the way we all live. Half the people who bought this record at the time were probably too young to know what it actually all meant in terms of human cost, the painful side to what on the surface sounds an upbeat album. They do now!

The group's next record The Luxury Gap was the one where they hit commercial payload in the UK at least. They'd refined and polished their sound and message for the pop machine and it paid off for them in terms of bank accounts. Apart from Let Me Go though, a quite wonderful song, it doesn't work as well as Penthouse & Pavement for me as a statement as well as a product. In many ways, in terms of the story it chooses to tell, this album has very few peers. It's a great, modernist, artistic statement about life.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Instrumentals # 36 The Beatles


An evening of having my sister, brother-in-law and young nephews round to tea. And listening to The Beatles together among other things. So we'll sign off for the moment on this and come back to theme at a later point and discuss things further. Good night!

Covers # 20 Marianne Faithful

Marianne does Herman's Hermits and turns it into something quite different. But something good! A bonus track from her 2002 album Kissin Time.

Songs About People # 120 Ferdinand Magellan

Merely the first mention of Dirty Projectors whose 2012 album Swing Lo Magellan, I've just discovered. Magnificent! Here's one cut from it.

B Sides # 37 Bread

B Side to 1972's Diary.

August 29th 1958 - Liz Fraser

Incredible to think that Liz Fraser and Michael Jackson were born on the same day. Today in 1958. These two are not typical of The Cocteau Twins but come from their earlier days when they were clearly still in the shadow of the Banshees. Still love these two songs though thirty years and more after first purchasing them on the Peppermint Pig twelve-inch.

Song of the Day # 587 Voodoo Queens

Time does funny things to your memory. But yes, I did see this lot more than twenty years back in a small room in Dortmund, Germany. They were great of course. This very much articulates a whole British slant on the Riot Girl feeling of the time. Their album was called Chocolate Revenge. And why not.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Album Reviews # 3 The Velvet Underground - Loaded

And, with Sterling Morrison in mind I'll re-post one of the first things I wrote about on here. A review of The Velvet Underground's last studio record, Loaded.


* Disclaimer. This review may discuss adult themes. The Velvet Underground are a deeply adult band.

Some research has gone into this because I didn't want to make judgements that weren't backed up by grounded accounts of the events that led to the making of this remarkable album. It is remarkable, just as pretty much everything this band ever released is to me. They stand alone as far as I can see. More than virtually any other band. There were fellow travellers at the time. The Lower East Side boho set, The Fugs, The Godzs, The Silver Apples, probably Zappa, though I've never heard much by that man that I can stomach. Nothing from the West Coast except perhaps for Eight Miles High by The Byrds, The Doors were running down a completely different track and nothing from England directly compares because this is such deeply American music But the fellow travellers I mentioned (except for that great Byrds song) are dwarfed into irrelevance by this group of people and the songs and albums they produced.

I didn't know why this, their fourth and final record was called Loaded. I would have assumed that it was a play on words like The Beatles Revolver. A loaded gun, 'uptight or high, a loaded message. In fact it's because the album's intent was to be loaded with hits. Genuine hit singles which would break the band forever from the underground and make them a commercial, mainstream group of hit-makers. An urban, streetwise Creedence.

It wasn't to be. Lou Reed left the band weeks before it came out. He's listed on the back sleeve third amongst the musicians who contributed to the album. Doug Yule, who joined the band on the departure/ expulsion of John Cale is listed first. Mo Tucker comes next although she played on little if any of the versions recorded here. To me she must be on Oh Sweet Nuthin'! or else it's a very fine approximation of what she does.

This back cover is a stark, black and white image of a recording studio and a list of credits. The front is a famous if slightly tacky and over-literal cartoon image of purple ooze seeping out from the steps of a New York subway station. The Velvet Underground are coming to get us. Time has given it grace and elegance for me. The shaded lettering is arched over the rising smog and the classic Atlantic insignia is embossed in the top left corner.

The Atlantic design on the record itself is always a joy to behold. Did anything sub standard ever come out on this label? If it did, I don't own any of it. So, to Who Loves the Sun, the first of the three massive hits that never were that set the tone for this album. I tried to detect some cruel undertone that exists on other gentle Velvet songs but I really can't hear it here. It's just a timeless, beautiful pop song. Simple chords, innocent vocals, ba ba ba ba backing vocals. Any record company worth its salt could surely put this where it belonged. Squarely in the pop charts. Sadly the band were gone before the general public even got a chance to hear it.

Standing on the corner. Suitcase in his hand. The corner as a metaphor for a certain American way of life. Prescient (one for the adjective fans) lyrics considering Reed's imminent departure from the group. I could just go on to quote the rest of the lyrics of second track Sweet Jane because it says something much more profound than I ever could. For me it's about how hard the daily grind of life is and how we rise above it as human beings to find our own grace. Jack's a banker, Jane's a clerk. He's in a corset, she's in a vest. They're like an adult worn down version of Terry and Julie from Waterloo Sunset. They know how to make their lives worthwhile.

The passage that gets me is always. 'Everyone who ever had a heart, They wouldn't turn around and break it And anyone who ever played a part Oh wouldn't turn around and hate it!' It's a song to the haters. Those who didn't understand or denigrated what was good in the sixties. It's beautiful. This song turns up on drive-time compilations along with AOR rockers that it has nothing in common with. This was actually what Reed was surely aiming for when he wrote it. But it's too good for that. Reed hated the fact that the version with ''the heavenly wine and roses' section wasn't on the final mix. I first heard it almost twenty years later when The Cowboy Junkies (no band could ever have been called this without The Velvet Underground) released their version of it with this passage restored. They did the song and the passage justice and Reed was publicly grateful.

Rock & Roll is next and it's every bit as good as the first two songs. The track chugs along with an effortless, stately grace. It must have been a joy to play.Sterling Morrison comes into his own here. Reed was notoriously not nice. Somebody told me that there were two kinds of people. People who like Lou Reed and people who know him. I never read a bad thing that Reed said about Morrison. He was probably the least credited member of the band but they wouldn't have been the same without him or lasted as long as they did. He held them together. After the Velvets he became a university professor and it's the sheer intelligence of the band that comes across here. It's a story about the music the band is playing and how it saved and changed lives. It's about a nine year old girl discovering a whole alternative set of possibilities.''Despite all the amputations. You could just dance to the Rock & Roll station. It was alright.'

(Sorry about Reed's vocal behaviour and sartorial lack of taste on here. He's too mannered for my liking. But Morison, as always, is great!)

Cool it Down does exactly what it says on the tin (sorry!). It's slower paced and funkier and similar in mood and tone to Some Kinds of Love from the third album which also occupies almost the same place on Side One of its album.. Like that track this also seems to be concerned with the sexual act. Though this time money may be changing hands. Lou's down around the corner again and he's looking for Miss Linda Lee. She's got the power to love him by the hour. It's probably best that we leave them to it. I seem to remember seeing this on some kind of work out album or playlist at some point but I'm not nearly supple enough at this stage of life to try it out myself.

                           This may well be the worst photo of the Velvet Underground ever taken

New Age's opening lyrics; 'Can I have your autograph. He said to the fat blond actress.' I can't think of anybody but Lou who could or would write something like this. It's horribly cruel but deeply tender at one and the same time. Reed has form for this by this point. 'She's down on her knees my friend... You'd better hit her' (There She Goes Again). But by this stage his writing has become far more layered. He's older and wiser and really becoming the short story writer or novelist he's always aspired to be. The song appears to be about a shameless young gigolo on the make. 'You're over the hill right now. But you're looking for love.' It could be downright nasty, there's a line about a marble shower which speaks of the shallow immediate gratification of sex with someone you really don't like. However, the music takes it on to another level. It's a song to the fallen people of Reed's congregation and it has that religious, spiritual vibe that makes their third album so special. 'It's the beginning of a new age'. I'm really not sure of exactly what he's referring to here. But the end effect as the song moves from the third person to the first is that people whose manner and ways, if you were observing in a restaurant or a bar might seem vulgar and tacky are given a dignity and grace that they entirely deserve.

Well that's Side One and Side Two has a lot to live up to. Incredibly it does so for me. It doesn't have any of the huge hits from an alternative universe that are on the first side but it maintains the same laid back, assured momentum to the last note.

Head Held High is the rockiest thing on the album. It's almost metallic in tone but the production gives it a gloss that previous, similar efforts (for example the White Light / White Heat album) didn't have. Lester Bangs loved it. It was written in a motel room in Seattle by Reed and Morrison while a cab was honking for them outside.It's short, sharp and effective.

Lonesome Cowboy Bill has always been one of my favourite things on here. It's almost deliberately throwaway. It's a blast..It moves so fast and seems so much fun. It's ostensibly about the rodeo, bucking broncs, sipping wine, ten gallon girls and yodelling. Make of it what you will. Reed denies that it's a tribute to William Burroughs though I'm sure he must have been aware of a possible connection when he wrote the song.

I Found a Reason is another song in the spiritual vein of the third record. Its lyrics equate love with achieving a state of grace. The vocal harmonies are just great here. Yule particularly deserves credit for what he contributed to the band in this respect. 'I do believe If you don't like something you leave.' Reed has moved on from his early songs here it's almost a straight narrative of what he sees round him. All the modern urban vice. You get the sense that he's trying to talk to his community on this album, imparting some of his hard-earned wisdom.

If I had a least favourite song it would be Train Coming Round the Bend but I actually like that too. It's got something of the eerie feel of their first record but it's talking about America as a whole rather than just New York.  There's a sense of this wider backdrop throughout the album. They've toured all over the States by now and there's a bigger wide screen perspective lyrically and musically as a result. The focus here is on the music with the lyrics playing a supporting role. If it's possible for a song to sound like a train coming round the bend it does so here.

Oh Sweet Nuthin! is an incredibly fitting way to close the recording career of one of the truly great bands. The words catalogue a series of downbeaten urban types. Reed's people again. Jimmy Brown, Ginger Brown, Polly May and Joana Love. They're battered scattered, scarred and beaten down by life but somehow just like cats wind up on their feet even though they ain't got nothing at all. They have their humanity I suppose. That's something we all have regardless of what happens to us.

Sometimes you get a sense that bands know things are coming to an end. I get this feeling here with this closing song. After the name check of the fallen heroes and their tales of woe it builds to a point where Morrison breaks into an incredibly fluid, sustained solo and the drums (it sounds like Mo to me) achieve a relentless hammering groove. I'm aware that I'm verging on cliched rock journalist speak but what the band achieve here is just extraordinary and really words fail me in trying to describe and evoke why and how this is..The song comes back to Reed and the harmony vocals and they draw the song to a close. It's seven and a half minutes in length but not a second too long.

As with The Beatles the sixties ended for the Velvets in 1970. Given its circumstances and the fact that it was put together and released without the full co-operation of the musicians who made it, it's an incredibly coherent, consistent  record. It's a totally different beast from any of their other albums and is the best example I can think of of a band developing their sound to have broader commercial appeal without ever once compromising their artistic credibility. It should have been huge when it was initially released. I love it!

August 28th 1942 Sterling Morrison

My Husband's Stupid Record Collection # 2

A couple of months back I chanced upon this blog. It's wonderful. A woman reviews her husband's record collection, record by record alphabetically, good and bad. And then when I posted it alongside the list of blogs on the right hand side of this page she stopped posting and I thought I'd cursed her. But now she's back with a fabulous review of Alice Coltrane's superb Journey in Satchindananda. Glad to have her back. Read it here while I listen to my own vinyl copy of this great album.

Song of the Day # 586 Mary Hopkin

I wouldn't say that everything I post up here is the epitome of classical 'muso' taste. Sometimes it's just a triggered memory of the happy feeling of childhood. That's the case here despite the obvious kitsch. Could also have posted Those Were The Days too which is full of that rosey glow for me. Still, nice melody..McCartney wrote it and he knew his way round one of those. Oh, and it's goodbye to another working week too shortly and not a minute too soon.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

August 27th 1956 Glen Matlock

Songs About People # 119 Grant McLennan

A song focussed on the dilemma of finding your own voice as a young songwriter. With a melodic quote from Bye Bye Pride midway through. Smudge are an Australian band that set off in the early nineties, whose songwriter Nick Morgan also played in The Lemonheads. Most of their songs sound, well a little like The Lemonheads. But not particularly like Grant McLennan.

Song of the Day # 585 The Black Tambourines

This stuff never goes away. Pretty much the same as the what underground garage bands were putting out thirty years ago. And twenty years before that. This lot are from Falmouth in the West Country. With a lead singer sporting a bowl cut that even Dee Dee Ramone would have rejected. From their forthcoming album Freedom.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Oscar Peterson does West Side Story

It's obviously West Side Story day round these parts so here is Oscar Peterson's take on it all.

August 25th 1918 Leonard Bernstein

Song of the Day # 583 The Pale Fountains

These records still sound so young. Even though they're now in their thirties while their creators. remarkably, push on towards their sixties. Not a bad time to come of age in terms of pop music, the early eighties. Particularly in respect of the great wave of literate, guitar bands that came of age themselves during that same period. The Smiths, R.E.M., Aztec Camera, Lloyd Cole & the Commotions, The Triffids, The Go Betweens, Echo & the Bunnymen and Prefab Sprout. All of them have been written extensively about on here. And Liverpool band The Pale Fountains. Who haven't.


Of all the groups listed above, The Pale Fountains probably fulfilled their potential least of all. Subject to an enormous signing on fee from Virgin Records and no little media hype after a couple of early independent singles in 1982, they received an extensive promotional support campaign but the four singles posted here barely dented the Top 40.

Perhaps it was timing and a slightly unrealised sound. All four of these are 'almost' classics. Pitched midway between Bacharach and David and Forever Changes period Love classicism with a dose of contemporaries Orange Juice's, Swallows & Amazons, back to nature ethos sprinkled in, the horn and string sections sound slightly forced and strained and very much of their time rather than achieving the classic purity of the Walker Brothers, Dionne Warwick and Dusty Springfield records they'd like to have replicated. Unless is probably the closest they got. The other three aren't far off.

'Almost' classics nevertheless. Listening to them now gives me a slight, nostalgic shiver. British guitar bands generally lack the sheer ambition and vision to make records like this nowadays. Horizons have narrowed. 

 In any case it was clear by 1985 that the band had missed their moment. They disbanded and returned to Liverpool to re-emerge a few years down the line as Shack with a slightly refined sound which was now much more squarely placed in Arthur Lee's shadow. Several good to great records resulted. But The Pale Fountains are worthy of remembrance in themselves. Do so this way.

Monday, August 24, 2015

B Sides # 35 The Jimi Hendrix Experience

Flip to Purple Haze.

Songs About People # 118 Jake Thackray


A bit of myth-making. What better to write about than yourself. Jake Thackray is a remarkable figure. Something of an easy listening star at the time. He appeared on Sunday night BBC family programme That's Life. Now he seems the nearest thing we produced to the great French and Belgian chanson singers such as Brassens and Brel.

August 24th 1943 John Cippolina

Song of the Day # 582 Stealers Wheel

Stealers Wheel are now almost exclusively known for Stuck In The Middle With You of course. Here's something else.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

August 23rd 1962 & 1975 John Lennon & Ian Curtis


Liverpool and Manchester. Lennon and Curtis both got married on this day. Thirteen years apart.

Patti Smith & Jonathan Miller - New York Stories

More Patti. She's currently touring Horses on its fortieth anniversary. A real curiosity this. A BBC film from 1972 when Patti is just on the cusp of fame. Interspersed with clips of interviews with a highly gauche, ridiculously repressed Jonathan Miller. The Patti snippets are pure gold.

Instrumentals # 35 Trentemoller

Instrumental music at least. And good for a Sunday morning.

Songs of the Day # 581 Miracle Legion

Seeing as this blog is at least partially about memory, given the quote at the top of the page among other things, Miracle Legion seem like a logical selection. In that they're  a memory of mine and their first record, the mini-album, The Backyard, released in the mid-eighties, seemed to  be largely about memory.

Not just in terms of the themes itself. The whole sound of the record is a memory of the first couple of R.E.M. albums. Singer Mark Mulcahey's lyrics are clearer but his voice has a clear echo of Michael Stipe's and the whole sound and the feel of the background exist squarely in R.E.M.'s shadow.

Not that I'm complaining. I love and still love that stuff. I bought the album at the time as I was very much in thrall with anything related to that band. The Backyard, is a neat, melodic, evocative record. Perhaps without a clear enough identity of its own, which is why it hardly had a world shattering impact but worthwhile in itself.

In addition here's a standout track from their 1987 full album debut Surprise Surprise Surprise. When the band split towards the end of the eighties Mulcahy proceeded towards a great solo career of small, beautiful records which Thom Yorke and Radiohead have a particular fondness for. In the meantime, here are these.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

August 22nd 1920 - John Lee Hooker

Patti Smith in Stockholm in 1976

Quite inspiring. Concert's not bad either.

Song of the Day # 580 Mumps

One of the lesser known but more distinctive early CBGBs bands. Some of their stuff veers too close to Rocky Horror for my taste but they sound like they'd have put something of a show, and I love this. Here's leader.Lance Loud who had greater celebrity and profile than the band itself.

Friday, August 21, 2015

B Sides # 34 The Hombres

B Side to 1967's Let It Out.

August 21st 1952 Joe Strummer

Song of the Day # 579 The Holy Mackerel

After Paul Williams gained some attention as Tiny Tim covered his co-written Fill Your Heart he was approached by record producer Richard Perry and offered the opportunity to record his own record. 1968's The Holy Mackerel resulted. It's a strange and very good record. Doused in the spirit of the time although the actual edge of the counterculture is diluted and sweetened with the aim of having commercial appeal which didn't actual prove to be the case when the record was released. It didn't sell. But it did serve as a calling card for Williams talent as he proceeded towards the seventies, a decade where he found remarkable success as a singer, songwriter, actor and general all-round talent.

Like so much of the music of the time the album replicates an idealised drugs trip for suburbanites and makes the period from 1965 to 1969 in America appear to be one of the greatest imaginable periods in history to have been alive. It doesn't really matter that there barely seems to be an actual group of any substance here, (despite the band numbering former members of Jefferson Airplane and The Turtles), as the record is primarily a vehicle to put Williams quite obvious talents on display. The album is incredibly inventive lyrically, melodically and rhythmically and Williams distinctive voice provides the thread that unites a quite disparate range of tracks, influences and moods.

It's pastiche of course. Not a real record in any sense. It offers escapism. Williams' talent, even at this point was obviously geared for the mainstream and would in time earn him top dollar. He went on to write songs for The Carpenters, Helen Reddy, Barbara Streisand, The Muppets and the themes to The Love Boat and the sountrack to Bugsy Malone as he feathered his nest in the seventies This is something quite different and ultimately he appears to be at a party where he doesn't really belong for very long. But it's all so adeptly done. Williams chucks off one garage-lite nugget after another, each of which might have served a lesser talent sufficiently to base a small career upon.

Wildflowers for example sounds every bit as good as Incense & Peppermints, I Had Too Much To Dream Last Night and all those other idealised, artificially concocted drugs records which capitalised on the seismic shifts taking place across American society at that point in time. But it's not alone. There's a handful of small classics here. Williams obviously had every much as much songwriting talent as John Sebastian, John Phillips and Roger McGuinn. He was just headed in a quite different direction towards a different destination.  

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Instrumentals # 34 Pixies

A cover of a Surftones tune. Pixies were ahead of the curve in realising how cool Surf and Spaghetti Western was. The nineties caught up with them.

August 20th 1949 Phil Lynott

Song of the Day # 578 Donald Byrd

Blue Note Jazz maestro goes for the Funk in the early seventies. Apparently he was much derided by purists for doing so.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

B Sides # 33 Tiny Tim

B Side of his big 1968 hit Tiptoe Through The Tulips. Written by Paul Williams of whom more soon. Later of course, the song was famously covered again, by Bowie on Hunky Dory.

August 19th 1940 Johnny Nash

Song of the Day # 577 Labi Siffre

Went to see Diary of a Teenage Girl last night. It's a story about sexual awakening in San Francisco in the mid seventies. I'd recommend it. It has an odd hodge-potch  of songs from all over the era as its soundtrack covering the whole gamut of human emotions, including the song above which I'd never heard before. Labbi Siffre's big year appears to have been 1972 when he achieved three UK Top Twenty hits including this, the song he's best known for It Must Be Love and the track below, from the album he released in the same year. An original and affecting songwriter.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Monday, August 17, 2015

Covers # 19 Sekar-Melati

Javanese gamelan ensemble do Gang of Four's Not Great Men.

Johnny Cash & Bob Dylan - Girl From the North Country

Song(s) of the Day # 575 Camper Van Beethoven

'Maybe he went to see The Circle Jerks...'

Much more to Camper Van Beethoven than Take the Skinheads Bowling, timeless as that particular song is. Like this for instance. From the same record, 1985's Telephone Free Landslide Victory. Oh, while we're here, might as well post Skinheads too.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

August 15th 1958 Madonna

Song of the Day # 574 Roseanne Cash

When I was 19 I had a gap year job for six months working at a guest home / hotel in Southern Switzerland. During my time there my younger sister sent me a mix tape which included a number of tracks by a young Australian band called The Triffids. They were odd, offbeat songs, with unusual arrangements and lyrics including one called My Baby Thinks She's a Train. I could never fathom out its title. 

Thirty years on and I chanced upon this yesterday. A Number One Country hit of the early eighties by Johnny Cash's daughter which I imagine was the inspiration for The Triffids song title though the two songs bear little relation to one another otherwise. Nevertheless,I have a lot of time for both.


Saturday, August 15, 2015

Instrumentals # 44 The New York Dolls

One of The Dolls calling cards.

Song(s) of the Day # 573 Faith Healer

Here's another album released this year well worth a listen. Thanks to Rod, friend from my university days, going way, way back now who put me onto this with an e-mail yesterday afternoon. A great listening experience to wrap up the working week. Rod described it as like hearing Cate Le Bon fronting The Velvet Underground which hits the nail squarely on the head. The opening track Acid virtually lifts the groove of  Sweet Jane and then embellishes it quite beautifully, transporting it utterly to 2015.

From there the record just takes off. Second track, Again, the Velvets are a less obvious presence and the song is just a leap of joy. The album that follows is a thing of rare beauty. The only thing I can't get wholly behind is the album cover, a rather disturbing picture of uneven yellowing lower teeth which seem to belong altogether on another record.

Despite this slight caveat though I recommend the record wholeheartedly. The brainchild of Edmonton, Canada singer-songwriter Jessica Jalbert, this is a crafted distillation of old and new that shifts in mood and design from track to track, constantly surprising and soothing.  It's got an altogether beautiful personality if only someone could persuade the cover star of the record to kindly close their mouth.

There are darker emotions here at work as well I guess. But that's life. Perhaps you have to experience the bad to really appreciate the good. The record chugs, (a good word to describe any record that takes the lead from the late sixties Velvets sensibility and takes it somewhere new),  from darkness up towards the light and back again that makes for a very pleasurable rollercoaster ride. It's a constant and pleasant surprise,  Listening to each song unwrap is a joyous process of discovery.

It's also led me to start the weekend proper on Saturday morning by playing the Velvet 1969 record, perhaps the best live rock album ever made to really get things going. So all in all a win win situation.

Friday, August 14, 2015

August 14th 1941 David Crosby

Song(s) of the Day # 572 Novella

I've heard a lot of good songs this year but unless I've missed them there haven't been so many great albums. But this one, the new record, Land, from Brighton based Novella is pretty special. It could probably be described as Shoegazey in terms of influence but has enough character of its own to be worth a listen. 

Thursday, August 13, 2015

B Sides # 31 The Who

One of countless Who tracks with slightly dodgy, unspecific subject matter. Good song mind. B Side to I Can See For Miles.

Songs About People # 117 Gertrude Campbell

Song for infamous Victorian journalist, playwright and socialite, also known as Gertrude Elizabeth Blood. Her story is well worth reading and can be found here. The song, well what song there is, is by Salad who emerged in the mid-eighties in the UK to their misfortune at the same time as the Brit Pop scene which they had little in common with. Best known for their Dutch lead vocalist Marijne Van Der Vlugt, who was also an MTV presenter, though not for their remarkable commercial success. It has to be said in addition that Salad is a shockingly bad name for a band and probably didn't help their cause.

August 13th 1958 Feargal Sharkey

This has all the momentum of one of the great mid-sixties Stones singles.

Death # 7 Lee Hazlewood

Time to bring this series back to life. Lee Hazlewood makes the little flowers grow himself as we speak. Sadly!

Song of the Day # 571 Groupe Folklorique Montagnais

The best thing I heard yesterday. Native American Folk Music. Absolutely fantastic! Builds and builds. I was directed here as with the Takeshi Terauchi yesterday by the Allah Las wonderful set of mixtapes on their website. Much recommended.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

B Side # 30 Boz Scaggs

Do you have a hankie ready? B Side to 1977's Lido Shuffle. Made famous by Rita Coolidge. AOR heaven.

August 13th 1949 Mark Knopfler

Dire Straits have some pivotal memories for me. My best friend in my teenage years, and yes now, Philip, was a fan and would make gatherings listen to long Straits songs in the dark at parties at his house to the approval of most of those present but not of mine. I'd sit suffering, thinking the best moments of my life were going to waste and we should be listening to the stuff I was in thrall to, early R.E.M, Smiths and Aztec Camera instead. Never got a look in. Rocky Horror generally came next.

I've given him a hard time ever since, but he, sensibly, shrugs it off. Dire Straits were the band that famously took the place of Gang of Four when they were denied the opportunity to play Top of the Pops with At Home He's a Tourist , when they refused to change the lyric related to condom use in the song. The Straits played this on the show. Punk arrivistes, Knopfler was pushing thirty along with most of the rest of the band when they finally began to make it. Still their best song. 

From The Old Grey Whistle Test, not Top of the Pops. Still, at least they're playing their instruments.

Instrumentals # 43 Takeshi Terauchi

Now this is indescribably wonderful. Japanese Electronic Surf Music from a maestro and his band 'His Blue Jeans'who is still going strong at 76. He favours a Mosrite, like Johnny Ramone. These records, I think, came out between 1966 and 1974. I know no more, but bow down before them.

Sometimes the Japanese know best!

Song(s) of the Day # 570 The Loft

Indie, but not weak. Tough, edgy and concise. The Loft, one of Creation Records leading original bands, splintered after a brief career with a dramatic, ego-driven onstage argument at the Hammersmith Palais supporting The Colourfield in 1984. Nevertheless, they left behind some golden moments. Not least this. The instrumental breaks in the song are things of beauty. Oh, and here's one of their best known songs for good measure. another small, perfect moment. I'm nineteen again!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

August 11th 1954 Joe Jackson

Top 10, both in The US and the UK in 1982.

B Sides # 29 Paul McCartney & Wings

B side to Band on the Run. The reprise of that song nips in at the end of this. Also the last track on the album of the same name from 1973. 

Vic Godard

The latest in a very long series of wonderful poster images for Vic Godars and Subway Sect gigs.

Song(s) of the Day # 569 The Steve Miller Band

Came home yesterday and saw this record sticking out of my shelf. Bright, yellow sleeve, that's what did it. I took it out and played it and was pleasantly impressed. Not really an album that I even knew I had. I have no idea either where or when I bought it. On one of my trips to The States I suspect, (ten years or more back), as it has the tough card sleeve that's so distinctively American. I don't think I've played it once since.

But I have now and it's a good record. Brave New World, The Steve Miller Band's third, released just after Bozz Scaggs left. It's got certain features of the late sixties, San Francisco scene that the band emerged from. Bluesy, funky, Rock and Roll feel, walloped drums, good time music. But it's also got more consistent, commercial nous that many of the hipper more elitist of those bands, consistently optimistic and positive and not overtly political or interested in the drugs culture. Not particularly concerned with anything really, except maintaining a happy state and churning out poppy good time tunes. Every track works. I imagine it's very few people's favourite albums. It's not ambitious enough for that. But it's consistently good company, like a friend you get round to going out for a drink with every eight months or so.

There's a clear influence of the psychedelic Beatles on here in parts in the arrangements and the drumming, particularly the first two songs here. McCartney featured on the final track My Dark Hour under the pseudonym Paul Ramon and Lady Madonna's, Fats Domino melody features shamelessly on Space Cowboy I imagine with Beatles' permission. It seems clear why he would have been keen to take part. Miller had something of his own, light, commercial touch. 

Otherwise it's pure West Coast. Nothing is overdone or heavy and it's not difficult to see why the band did so well in the seventies and adapted their sound so successfully to the demands of AOR radio where they're best known for The Joker and later still, Abracadabra. I'd take this record over those.