Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Songs About People # 389 Emilio Estevez

Darren Hayman, formerly of Hefner and one of the most prolific of all indie artists, put out an EP of four songs in 2009, each devoted to an eighties 'Brat Pack' film. Andy McCarthey, Judd Nelson and Ally Sheedy get overlooked in me choosing Emilio here. Simply because it's the song of the four I like most.

25 Days of Shel Talmy # 8 Mickey Finn

Co-written by Talmy. The B-side of Sporting Life which came out in 1965.

The Heart of Rock and Soul # 592 Albert King

Song(s) of the Day # 1,228 Jay Som

Three songs from a really rather lovely and buoyant debut album from Oakland based Jay Som called Everybody Works just out recently . It's very much the stuff of dreams. light floating melodic songs accompanied by strumming guitars and understated drums, occasionally bursting into more frenzied activity but always keeping its cool, feeling as if it was probably originally composed in a bedroom and is certainly best listened to in one. Either when you're coming out of rapid eye movement or planning on drifting into it. 

It has something of the somnambulent haze that the best Red House Painters songs did more than two decades back, with the added bonus that you get the sense that the writer behind it is much better adjusted than Red House's Mark Kozelek ever was and almost certainly better company. There are also humorous, unexpected twists and turns in the songwriting and structuring that are altogether winning. Just one listen was enough to convince me of the undoubted qualities of the record. As soon as I finished I started listening all over again, always a sure sign. Something elusive about this one and that's very much at the core of its appeal. An enchanting album in the true sense of the word!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Covers # 82 The Belles

Somewhat ludicrous girl perspective from 1966.of the staple Gloria, (which every garage band worth their salt of the time had their version of)  It has to be said that M-E-L-V-I-N, doesn't really do it!

Songs About People # 388 Lenny Bruce

The final track on Nico's sublime Chelsea Girl, a slightly amended version of a Tim Hardin tune. Bruce had died, aged just forty, the year before.

25 Days of Shel Talmy # 7 The Who

The Who's third single. From 1965. It reached # 10 in the UK singles chart.

The Heart of Rock and Soul # 593 Mtume

Song of the Day # 1,227 Patrice Rushent

And with Mtume coming up next, something in a similar vein!

Monday, May 29, 2017

Songs About People # 387 Elizabeth Taylor & Richard Burton

Or the other way round in this photo. But I'm sticking with the title of the Dubstar song.

The Heart of Rock and Soul # 594 The Soul Brothers Six

25 Days of Shel Talmy # 6 Lee Hazlewood

Originally covered by Sugar & the Spices in 1963, with Hazlewood producing. This came out five years later.

Song of the Day # 1,226 Land of Talk

Wonderful new album from Ontario's Land of Talk, Life After Youth, released a week or so back. Their first for seven years after leader Elizabeth Powell took some time out to care for her father who had suffered a stroke. There are traces of the traumatic nature that experience necessarily entailed in the lyrics here, but also a consistent, upbeat resolve.

It's shimmering guitar pop that's alternative but with the slightest traces occasionally of Stevie Nicks Fleetwood Mac about it. It's a grower too. Many of its songs are absolute peaches. Recommended!

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Songs About People # 385 Roland Barthes

In my university days, studying and namedropping the French Post-Structualists was de rigeur. Roland Barthes always stood out among these writers as a particularly cool figure, something that's evident from a Google Images search when he comes across as something of a debonair pop star type, not a million miles in the way he put himself across, from Jacques Dutronc and Serge Gainsbourg. Here La Voisin pay him appropriately hip Gallic tribute.

The Heart of Rock and Soul # 596 Fats Domino

25 Days of Shel Talmy # 4 Goldie & the Gingerbreads

Song of the Day # 1,224 Green Seagull

Taking their name from the lyric in Paint it Black, this London band draw very clearly on the music of the mid-sixties. The Left Banke, Kinks, The Association, The Byrds, The Doors, baroque and jangle. Utterly, utterly retro. There's not a note here that might not have been made in 1966 but they're utterly upfront about it. I like it!

Friday, May 26, 2017

May 26th 1920 Peggy Lee

The Heart of Rock and Soul # 597 The Kinks

Also a Shel Talmy production.

25 Days of Shel Talmy # 3 Manfred Mann

A #2 UK single in 1966 with Mike D'Abo on lead vocals shortly after he replaced Paul Jones in the band.

Songs About People # 384 Minnesota Fats

The Goats mention pool legend Minnesota Fats in the song below so here he is again.

Song of the Day # 1,223 The Goats

Slightly unjustly forgotten Hip Hop band from the early nineties. In the slipstream of Tribe Called Quest, The Jungle Brothers, Pharcyde et al when to my ears the genre was at its height before Gangster Rap inadvisably took hold. This, Typical American, and the whole of their 1992 album Tricks of the Shade are well worth digging out. Here you get particularly neat use of the Mission Impossible theme and generally impeccably fluid political lyricism.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Songs Heard on the Radio # 208 The Temptations

Chuck Berry


Covers # 80 Jarvis Cocker

Jarvis Cocker, with the help of Kid Loco does Serge, from a compilation of covers from 2006.

Songs About People # 383 Penelope Tree

Felt, in all their early, spindly, intricate guitar glory pay tribute to a sixties icon. Famous for her appearance at Truman Capote's masked ball, as David Bailey's partner and model and for her definitive sixties looks.

25 Days of Shel Talmy # 2 The Sneekers

Adapted by Talmy himself from a blues original. Also laid down by The Kinks and The Who. This version was a b-side of the sole single by The Sneekers from Staines in Middlesex.

The Heart of Rock and Soul # 598 The Beatles

Song of the Day # 1,222 Pussy Cat


Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Things Found on My Local's Jukebox # 212 The Human League

Wednesday night in Rosie's. Football, beer, post-Manchester discussions and the Human League's first single on the jukebox.

Covers # 79 Fischerspooner

Fischerspooner do Wire.

Songs About People # 382 William Morris

Really nice song from an Australian unit about a great man. He didn't just design wallpaper you know!

25 Days of Shel Talmy # 1 The Creation

In a couple of weeks time a compilation will come out anthologising the production work of Shel Talmy, a quietly spoken legend responsible for engineering some of the very best records made in the sixties. Best known for his work with The Who and The Kinks, this series, following the running order of the CD' should hopefully unearth a few great gems you and I were previously unaware of. We start with The Creation who have featured on here at least a couple of times before with this particular track.

The Heart of Rock and Soul # 599 Sam & Dave

May 24th 1941 Bob Dylan

Song of the Day # 1,221 Snapped Ankles

Vigorous first record from a young East London band. Great level of ambition.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Grizzly Bear - Mourning Sound

Grizzly Bear, one of the more interesting and innovative bands of the last 15 years are back, with an album forthcoming and this taster sung by Daniel Rossen. One minute in and I didn't care for its eighties synth styles but by the end it had won me over with the sheer power of its melody and I've been playing it on loop ever since. The album should be good!

Songs Heard on the Radio # 207 Modern Cosmology

Modern Kosmology, with a 'K' is the new album from Jane Weaver, reviewed a couple of days ago on here. Here's the outfit with a 'C' instead and Laetitia Sadler guesting on vocals. 

Songs About People # 381 Henri Rousseau

French Naive or Primitive painter who retired from his job at 49 to focus full-time on his painting. Ridiculed during his lifetime by critics. But no longer!

Belle & Sebastian

Sometimes world events intercede, even on this trivial blog. Like last night in Manchester for instance. There are no words!

The Heart of Rock and Soul # 600 Richard 'Dimples' Fields

Song of the Day # 1,220 Nick Drake

Monday, May 22, 2017

Songs Heard on the Radio # 206 The Inkspots

Just as the sun goes down before the half past nine news. 

Songs About People # 380 Joan Crawford

Ludicrously melodramatic actress from the Golden Age of Hollywood gets ludicrously melodramatic treatment from Long Island's Blue Oyster Cult, a band who were prone to such excessive gestures.

The Heart of Rock and Soul # 601 Farley 'Jackmaster' Funk

May 22nd 1954 Jerry Dammers

Song(s) of the Day # 1,219 Gerry Rafferty

Jane Weaver, (whose new album I praised to the heavens on here yesterday), recently chose this 1971 album by Gerry Rafferty Can I Have my Money Back as one of her childhood favourites in an interview with the Quietus website.

'This is one of my Alan Partridge/dad rock albums. I love Gerry Rafferty, not only for all his pop stuff like 'Baker Street'. We would listen this album in the car on long journeys when we were going on holiday as kids. It was released in 1971. So many of my favourite records were released in 1971 or 1972 - they were clearly my years. I love this album. Some of the songs on it are a bit naff, but it is a 'guilty pleasure' of mine. I don't care. However, there are also some genuinely worthy songs. I feel sorry for Gerry Rafferty. He didn't look like a Paul McCartney-esque pop star and he didn't have that 'zing' about him. Also, he had a tragic demise due to alcoholism. So, I have always had a bit of an affection for him and I felt he was an underachiever. I know he had some big hits, so he was massive in one way, but he never seemed to as big as he could have been.
I was talking about Gerry Rafferty and a friend told me that Jim O'Rourke was a massive fan. I then had an email exchange with Jim about Can I Have My Money Back?, which was funny. We had a long discussion about the refrain at the end of side two. It was quite sweet.
The album is very typical of its time. I do think some of these songs could have been on a Beatles album, they are that good. He was an amazing songwriter and I love the use of piano within the more traditional rock sound. I wish Gerry Rafferty was still around and making music. I'm sure Jim O'Rourke feels the same!'

Sunday, May 21, 2017

May 21st 1963 Kevin Shields

Songs Heard on the Radio # 205 Rolling Stones

Interesting Stones song I'd not heard before. Played on the radio by Jarvis Cocker. From 1981's Tattoo You.

Things Found on My Local's Jukebox # 211 Bobby Womack

Definitely need to explore some Bobby Womack back-catalogue. Started here at Rosie's the other evening.

Jane Weaver - Modern Kosmology

In terms of what I'm going to write about Jane Weaver's quite wondrous new album Modern Cosmology, which came out on Friday, I'm very much following a received line, from what I've read in reviews of the record that I've read over the last couple of days and conversations I've had with friends who follow her.

Here's an example on the sticker from the sleeve of the album which I bought yesterday:

'Self-penned and self-produced Jane Weaver's Modern Cosmology is the result of a scientist of popular song gone rogue. Here we find a model of second-hand, Kraut-rock, female punk, new-wave, synthesiser skip-finds and unpronounceable worldly pop who's finally reached her eureka moment.'

Nicely put. Weaver's 2014 album The Silver Globe, one of my favourite albums of that particular year, laid the path for Modern Kosmology in that it gained her attention and critical attention she had never quite achieved in a recording career going back more than twenty years, both as a member of various bands and as a solo artist and also felt that it was making a huge personal statement. Now Modern Cosmology is here to capitalise on all that, and it effortlessly hits the jackpot.

It's very much a back to the future exercise. Very sixties and seventies in its roots. Prog, Kraut-Rock and sci-fi cinema. But now, we very much are in the future even though we can't help but look back in the way we process and try to understand it. As Alex Petridis puts it in his fine Guardian review of the record:

'Its an album that demonstrates Weaver's rare talent for a largely forgotten skill of the first psychedelic era. It doesn't sound anything at all like Jefferson Airplane or Syd Barrett's Pink Floyd, but it does what they did on White Rabbit and See Emily Play respectively, delivering music that sounds like it's transmitted from the outer limits in sharp, concentrated accessible doses. All of the unearthly power, none of the excess.'

I'm reminded of Neu, ABBA and most of all of Stereolab and Broadcast, two of the most underrated bands of the last thirty years. Weaver takes their legacy forward. This is cottage industry space-pop music with huge ambition, scope and potentially popular appeal. The computers are humming. Quite effortlessly one of my very favourite records of the year already. It never takes a false step. Hear it if you can!

Songs About People # 379 Charles Bronson

Song of the Day artists for today Mountain Goats are one of those bands with a particular fondness for tributes to people in song. This is their third entry in this particular series. Here's a song for one of the true hard men of the cinema, from 2011's All Eternals Deck.

The Heart of Rock and Soul # 602 Lee Dorsey

Song of the Day # 1,218 Mountain Goats

The Mountain Goats new record Goths is a nostalgic concept of sorts, a tribute to the genre that drew him. as with so many other dissafected types in the eighties and nineties, to it in his youth. It's a gentle, idiosyncratic and charming set of songs none of which sound remotely 'gothy', (it's closer to Steely Dan if comparisons must be made), but instead offer a model lesson about how to deal with memories long past, with sweet good humour and fondness. Here's the suite's opening track.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Songs About People # 378 Man Ray

On a bit of a Modernist tip on this particular series at the moment. The third associate of Picasso's in a row. Sunderland's Futureheads do their ultra-jerky take on Post-Punk in honour of Man Ray.

Covers # 78 Glen Campbell

Glen Campbell gives his take on a song written by Jackson Browne and also famously covered by Nico on the timeless Chelsea Girls. Campbell offers it the voice and resonance of experience and a life lived, underlining just what a magisterial creation it is!

The Heart of Rock and Soul # 603 James Brown

Song of the Day # 1,217 Terry

It seems that so much of the very best stuff nowadays comes from Australia. This for instance! Terry from Melbourne, two women, two men. Second album Remember Terry is out on the 30th June. Verging on genius. Almost like the Go-Betweens form a band with The Raincoats and decide to go Glam. Definitely one of my very favourite songs thus far this year. Play on repeat! I am at least.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Songs About People # 377 Amadeo Modigliani

Dargen D'Amico, an Italian star doffs his cap to one of the archetypal bohemian artists.

The Heart of Rock and Soul # 604 The Everly Brothers

Song of the Day # 1,216 Will Stratton


A few weeks back I saw Bella Vista recording artist Holly Macvae playing at The Cluny 2 in Ouseburne, Newcastle. Her support act for the show was Will Stratton, an American singer-songwriter playing on the evening he was about to turn thirty. His songs were unadorned, poetic objects of small beauty in the Nick Drake vein of things. He was excellent. This comes from his latest album, just out.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Chris Cornell 1964 - 2017

        Chris Cornell has just passed in very sad circumstances shortly after a Soundgarden gig in Detroit. It depressed me rather, even though I haven't really listened to his music much over the years. But the news did take me back to the Grunge era of the early nineties when I was living in Dortmund Germany and was good friends with a big devotee of the band who used to play their stuff regularly on Friday evenings when we would habitually meet up and listen to music before heading out to meet with our colleagues for drinks.

This was the period when they put out Superunknown which topped the US album charts and shifted millions worldwide. It was and still is a very powerful record, channeling a certain kind of fueled darkness but taking it beyond their metal roots towards genuine mainstream acceptance, no mean achievement. I saw them play in support of that record, (in 1994 I think),  ironically in a nightclub in that city also named Soundgarden. The gig came shortly after the death of Kurt Cobain and the band were no doubt mightily weighed down by the legacy of that whole series of events, I imagine faced by a barrage of questions about him at every interview they were obliged to give. They were wonderful that night anyhow. A mighty, churning riff machine.

I don't really go for Metal, it's probably the one genre of music where I pretty much always draw the line but Soundgarden were the band closest to that dividing line that I cared for over the years. Superunknown was a mission statement and not one that just draws on those traditions but is also fed by the energies of the Blues and Psychedelia. A great set of songs, a brooding, troubled comment on the world and the way it can sometimes be.

Although much of Cornell's other output over the years has not really been to my taste, it's telling that the tributes to him as a person and a musician today have been fulsome and sincere and coming from the broadest quarters imaginable. Elton John, Jimmy Page, Nile Rodgers, Brian Wilson and Chuck D have all paid their respects among the more expected words of his immediate contemporaries. It's clear that musicians don't abide by the tribal affiliations and restrictions that many fans tend to restrict themselves to. What seems saddest  about all this is that it appears, on the surface at least, to be another one of 'those' deaths. What with Cobain, Elliott Smith, Mark Linkous and so on and so forth, we've all had more than enough of all that!

Songs About People # 376 Alfred Hitchcock

Sly & Robbie give their take on the Alfred Hitchcock Presents theme.

The Heart of Rock and Soul # 605 The Temptations

Song of the Day # 1,215 Steady Holiday

A favourite song of mine from this year. About the terror that's abroad in the world at the moment. Melodic, cinematic pop. Californian film noir.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Things Found on My Local's Jukebox # 210 Frank Crumit

A strange song. But it's on the Jukebox at Rosie's.

Cool Ghouls - Animal Races

At last!!! My favourite rock and roll track released last year has a link to it and so I can post it here. It's old school but fresh. The parent album it comes from which goes by the same name is also well worth a listen.

Songs About People # 375 Dora Maar

French modernist photographer, painter and poet and lover and muse of Picasso. Also one of the most photogenic people who ever lived. The description of her meeting with Picasso in the Cafe des Deux Magots in Paris in 1936 goes as follows:

 "the young women serious face, lit up by pale blue eyes which looked all the paler because of her thick eyebrows; a sensitive uneasy face, with light and shade passing alternately over it. She kept driving a small pointed pen-knife between her fingers into the wood of the table. Sometimes she missed and a drop of blood appeared between the roses embroidered on her black gloves... Picasso would ask Dora to give him the gloves and would lock them up in the showcase he kept for his mementos."

The Heart of Rock and Soul # 606 The Wailers

'Reggae's international anthem. 'One good thing about music / When it hits you feel no pain.' Out of the mouths of four Trench Town (i.e. Kingston slum) postadolescents, the credibility was as instant as the dance groove. Nor were the two things separable. Any more than Bob Marley and Peter Tosh were at the time seperable. Soon enough unity disintegrated and Bob went on to arguably greater, certainly far bigger things. But certainly not truer or more powerful ones because there are none.'

May 17th 1958 Alan Rankine

Song of the Day # 1,214 Ria & the Revellons

One of the best girl group singles you've surely never heard. I hadn't myself until Monday. From out of New York City and clearly in the slipstream of The Shangri-Las but no lesser for that and they bring something all of their own to the party, not least their wonderful name. The single came out in 1965 when this stuff was at its height!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Courtney Barnett - How to Boil an Egg

New Courtney. I've missed her. Though apparently a very old song, (one she used to play at open mic nights when she was 21). It's throwaway certainly but even throwaway Courtney is great to hear. It's out soon on a split 7 inch on Milk Records.

Songs About People # 374 Paul Newman

Look at those eyes!

The Heart of Rock and Soul # 607 The Soul Survivors

May 16th 1951 Jonathan Richman

Song of the Day # 1,213 Salvodor Sobral

Something strange happened on Saturday night. Here's music and sports journalist Richard Williams writing about it on his blog. He's quite right about the song.

'A rather extraordinary thing happened at the Eurovision Song Contest in Kyiv last night. Amid the overheated cavalcade of stadium-rock effects and terrible English lyrics, a young man in a shapeless black suit and a dark shirt, his long hair tied up in an untidy top-knot, stood along on an unadorned stage and just sang a song in Portuguese, accompanied by a piano and a small group of strings. A very lovely song, a graceful ballad with a shapely tune, delivered in a high and gentle voice that managed to convey the ardour of the lyric without pushing the buttons that tend to fall automatically under a singer’s fingers on such occasions. And the song won the contest, carrying the votes both of the juries around Europe and of the audience at home.
Salvador Sobral’s song was called “Amor Pelos Dois” (“Love for Both of Us”) and was written by his sister, Luísa. When invited up to receive the award, Salvador said this: “We live in a world of disposable music. Music is not fireworks. Music is feeling.” Quite brave, that, to deliver a rebuke to the contest you have just won. Then, when he performed the song again, he invited his sister to share the microphone, and they alternated lines.
This was the first time Portugal had won the contest in 53 years of trying. How marvellous that they should do it with a song and a performance true to the finest traditions of the country’s popular music. Next year, when Lisbon hosts the event, some of the contestants might find the time to visit not only the fado bars in the Bairro Alto but also the exceptionally fine Museo do Fado in Alfama, where they will learn a lot about the value of music that reaches the heart without the use of fireworks.'

Monday, May 15, 2017

Songs About People # 373 Anna Freud

More from The National, this time from their debut album from 2011. You have to assume they're referring to this Anna Freud, Sigmund's daughter, who also made a not unsizeable contribution to psychoanalysis.

The National - The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness

New from The National ahead of a forthcoming album. Certainly one of the more important bands of the last fifteen or so years, this has their standard portentousness, a terrific titl , (what does it mean? what does it matter?), a guitar solo I have my own personal doubts about and an undeniably immpressive fadeout. Overall my own personal jury is slightly out on this but I guess the album will be the determiner.

The Heart of Rock and Soul # 608 The Four Tops

May 15th 1948 Brian Eno

Song of the Day # 1,212 Emmy the Great

I very much liked Emmy the Great's album from 2016 Second Love, but somehow it slipped through the cracks when I came to make my end of year list. To make amends, here's a track of hers, released on its own, a couple of months back.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Songs About People # 372 Georgia O'Keeffe

The 'mother of American Modernist Art', who died in 1986 at the age of 98.

The Heart of Rock and Soul # 609 Chuck Berry

Song(s) of the Day # 1,211 Tangerines

Two songs from the diverting album from Peckham based band Tangerines Into the Flophouse, which came out last Friday on RIP Records. It's unreconstructed old style Rock and Roll. The Faces, Lou Reed, (There's a song on there, called appropriately Uptight, which is pure Loaded sensibility), Mink DeVille and the Heartbreakers. The band chart what living in London is like when you're young in 2017; unscrupulous landlords, rampant gentrification, trying to make a life within the spaces. It's a spirited, loose and louche record.