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Archive for November, 2008

Revisiting ’60s Soul

November 29th, 2008 11 comments
I don’t think I’ve so much fun putting together an Any Major Mix as I had with this one. So much great music to choose from, so much great music I hadn’t played in a while. As always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R.

This mix is not a representative overview of ’60s soul. Some essential artists are not represented here: Sam Cooke, James Brown, Temptations, Four Tops, Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayfield (well, he is very much present on Major Lance’s deceptively titled track. And the Five Stairsteps, with a song released four years before their famous Ooh Ooh Child, evidently have heard a Curtis song or two before). There are some well-known tracks on here – hopefully not too obvious, though – complementing some less famous tracks. Perhaps some songs will provide surprises. Dionne Warwick takes time out from bacharaching to provide a nearly camp girl-band type song. Johnny Adams gives Release Me, most famous in its Engelbert Humperdinck rancid cheese version, the soul treatment, showing that this is in fact a great song. Read more…

Reflections of my life

November 24th, 2008 7 comments
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Last weekend I was strolling around Cape Town’s Waterfront – a brilliant place despite being aggressively touristy around which all kinds of normal harbour functions are taking place – when I passed a structure I have walked by many, many times over the years: a garage type of thing in which is parked a quick response boat run by the National Sea Rescue Institute (although I have lived by the sea for all but three years of my life, I am rather clueless in matters of maritime jargon). This time, the boat garage – which is probably not its correct appelation – looked different: the sun shone just so as to create a mirror effect against this ordinarily unremarkable structure I had not seen before. I had my camera with me, and it is that this point that my boring story of a leisurely Saturday walk assumes some kind of relevance.

Suddenly, somebody in Ohio whom I’ve never met and have exchanged perhaps a couple of dozen of comments with came to mind. As I looked at the structure, I thought: “Oh, Dane from the All Eyes And Ears blog would definitely take a picture of that.” The geometry of the structure and the effect of the reflection of a boat and a building on the glass through which one can see the sea rescue speedboat seemed to me just the kind of thing one might find on Dane’s blog, if Ohio was at the seaside. So, inspired by Dane I took the picture below, which I think is pretty good. Of course I could never claim to have as astute an eye for detail as Dane has, though I have taken some photos I am rather proud of. Perhaps I’ll post some of them at some point. I think it is quite remarkable, however, that a blogger in far away Ohio should have spontaneously entered my mind during an afternoon walk, and inspired me to take a particular photo.

And, in keeping with Dane’s concept of posting a song to illustrate an illustration:

Procol Harum – A Salty Dog

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Yet more '80s soul

November 20th, 2008 5 comments

I’m not sure whether it is due to popular demand after last week’s compilation, but here is a second ’80s soul mix, with a third and final installment in the works. The first mix was an attempt to create a fairly representative cross-section of the genre. This mix is less self-conscious about that. What we have here, then, are some of my favourite soul tracks from that comparatively barren decade. As in any compilation of favourites, the measure of quality may be secondary to the compiler’s emotional connection to a song. Is Smokey’s Just To See Her any good? I don’t rightly know. It may not be a better song than Being With You. But much as I like Being With You, it does not transport me back to a particular time. Play Just To See Her, however, and I smell the girl’s hair, taste the vegetarian gunk I used to eat, feel the anticipation of going to the club and the anxiety of missing my friends in London. And so it is with many songs in this mix (especially Pendergrass’ wonderfully Marvin-esque Joy). Read more…

Swooning for Swedes

November 18th, 2008 11 comments
.This one is for all the laydees out there who like themselves a bit of man hunk: promo photos of 1970s dance bands in Sweden. Even if we elect to make allowance for the gung-ho crazy fashions of the day and the ill-judged exuberance with which Scandinavia’s musical heart-throbs adopted these – and not only sartorially, but also in the domains of coiffure, facial hair and corrective eyewear – there were some dodgy-looking characters making Swedish audiences swoon back in the day. How did that nation ever manage to produce ABBA?

I am featuring here only a handful of photos which I found at this great page. Visit it to be exposed to many more horrors. And find more at svenskadansband.se.

 

The Schytts. No shit!

 

The band had to split when the other five guys just couldn’t score any groupies whenever Arvid “Elton” Gunnarson was laying on his funky game.

 

Algot (back left) did not mind when his old friend and rival Arvid scored all the groupies, because he was with the pioneer of heroin chic in front.

 

Experiments in amusing facial growth produced much hilarity among the lookers from Tre Blå & en Gul (a name which conjures the sound of a hearty vomit followed by a post-puke retch).

 

The Bay City Rollers never recovered from their trip to heady Sandviken. From left: Alan Longmuir, Eric Faulkner, Stuart “Woody” Wood, Leslie McKeown and Derek Longmuir. Rumours that Bill Bryson will play Woody in BCR – The Movie have not been confirmed.

 

“Kalle’s saxophone is fine. It’s Ingvar’s air guitar that hurts my ears.” Vogueing was never so much fun as it was in Karlsbad back in 1984.

 

One gust of wind, and the Scandinavians will take off to the skies. Wings courtesy of Ulla’s Hairsalon on Ulvaeusgatan in Uppsalla.

 

Dudes, the bra is worn under your blouses. The emergence of this photo at last solves the big mystery about Steve Buscemi’s lost years.

 

Magnus was sad after his sensible coiffure cost Tellus the Swedish Poptastic Hairstylings championship, losing in the final against Gert Jonnys. Andreas went on to become Sweden’s most popular Agnetha impersonator, and Benny proceeded to provide the mould for crinkle cut crisps.

 

Hampus and Thor were very annoyed when they realised that the other Sten-Åkes had stolen their hair.

 

While the geniuses in front are eying the lovely Inger, what is the bad uncle at the back perving at, and where is his hand going?

 

Ssshhhhh! Quiet! Can’t you see that Tommy Ferm is trying to get his sexiness together. Oh, but look at his stare, with the slightly raised eyebrow. He is hypnotising you. Look into his eyes. You know you want to have filthy, sweaty sex with seductive love god Tommy? You don’t want Arvid “Elton” Gunnarson now, do you? Not after seeing Tommy the Sex Engine. You want Tommy Ferm whose bedroom look…succeeded only in pulling Gold Wolf next to him.

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And as we recover from this assemblage of bad taste and, let’s be honest, rank ugliness (sex deity Tommy Ferm apart, of course), let us visit, and in two instances, revisit some Swedish music.
The Hep Stars – Sunny Girl
1966 hit for the rather more successful forerunners of the Sten-Åkes, Tellus, the Zenits and their many sidekicks, of interest purely because of the presence of future Abba songwriter and keyboardist Benny Anderson. The Hep Stars were Sweden’s biggest band in the 1960s, and Sunny Girl one of their biggest hits (in fact, all four members of Abba were well-known, and all but Anni-Frid big stars in their homeland before forming the group that made them richer than any bail-out package).

 

Abba – Ring Ring (German version)
And talking of Benny Anderson, the German version of Ring Ring, an early Abba hit. I had thought of posting their Schlager number Wer Im Wartesaal Der Liebe Steht, but after inflicting the worrying gallery of hideousness above, that might have been overdoing the cheesiness a bit.

 

Harpo – Motorcycle Mama
And I will not accept any charges of Harpo being cheesy. The barefooted pop troubadour had some catchy numbers, though only the excellent Movie Star seems to be widely remembered. Poor Harpo’s career virtually ended when he sustained serious injuries after being kicked in the head by a horse (cue Dean Martin earworm).

 

Hello Saferide – 2008
I’ve been going on about Annika Norlin, aka Hello Saferide, for a long time. Her new album, More Modern Short Stories From Hello Saferide, which yielded this track, is more cohesive and less twee than her previous efforts, but lacks the killer tunes such as The Quiz or Get Sick Soon. 2008 (following on from her song 2006) is perhaps not even the best song off the album, but it’s the one that sticks in my mind. Visit Hello Saferide’s fine website, featuring a couple of free songs, all lyrics, a blog and more.

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More '80s Soul

November 14th, 2008 7 comments

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Following on from last month’s post of ’80s soul, here’s a mix – as always timed to fit on a standard CD-R – of 18 of my favourite songs from the genre. I’ve tried to make it more or less representative: the old style soul singers getting their ’80s groove on (Mayfield, Womack), the soul funksters (Mtume, Tashan), the smooth stuff (Wilde, Osborne), the fusion influence (Flack, Benson, Upchurch), Jam & Lewis productions (Windjammer, Atlantic Starr), adult-oriented soul (Jackson & Moore, Womack & Womack)… There will be at least one more ’80s soul mix, so glaring omissions – Luther! – will be corrected. Read more…

Music for Bloggers Vol. 9

November 12th, 2008 4 comments
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Sometimes I visit a favourite blog and, David Byrne echoing in my mind, I wonder: how did I get here? Totally Fuzzy is an obvious source of discovering favourite blogs. Links on blogs I like are another pretty reliable source (shared tastes, and all that). Some I might have stumbled upon while searching for a particular song, using a variety of search engines and aggregators. And many I’ve discovered when their owners left a comment. Occasionally I encounter members of my circle of blogging pals – people whose blogs I read and who read mine – in comments sections of other blogs. Did they get there through my links, or did I find them through theirs, or what other permutations might have led to our congregation at a third blog?

And how did people find my blog? No doubt, Totally Fuzzy, Elbows and good old-fashioned googling are a major source of exposure, as are Retro Music Snob and All Music, All Blogs. Some blogs clearly are so popular and trusted that their readers click on links to mine (Echoes In The Wind, DeaconBlues1103 and Dr Forrest’s Cheese Factory are the most prolific sources of traffic in that respect). And if you’re reading this having read The Guardian’s blogroll last weekend, welcome (also featured was the excellent Ghost of Electricity).

Not so welcome is whoever DMCAs me to Blogger. Another post was zapped yesterday; Blogger again won’t say who complained. As you’ve probably noticed, I’ve not capitulated. Nor have many of the bloggers I particularly enjoy. Anyway, all this to introduce or highlight six more blogs I particularly enjoy. There were more on my shortlist, so if yours has not yet featured, it may well do so in the future.

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Modern Acoustic
Rich K puts out a PDF-based magazine featuring some of my favourite contemporary artists: Kathleen Edwards, Sarah Borges, Josh Ritter, Patty Griffin etc. To go with the mag (which can be downloaded at modernacoustic.com), he runs a blog with copious links to the official sites of the acts he is writing about. Rich is DMCA-safe because he posts no music, but he has taken an interest in the War on Bloggers situation . He wrote to me saying that he is researching an article on the subject. If fellow victims of the terror campaign, or other interested observers, would like to share their views or experiences with Rich, he can be e-mailed: rich [at] modernacoustics [dot] com. One act Modern Acoustics has not featured yet are The Weepies, whose cause I promote with undiluted enthusiasm. From a perfectly legal and band-approved top-notch bootleg:
The Weepies – Gotta To Have You (live).mp3

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The Gentlebear
To illustrate a point I made in the introduction, I found this blog just a few weeks ago and have no idea how I came by it. Whichever route it took, I am delighted to have arrived there. Gentlebear is one of those bloggers who educates and entertains with some fine writing and great song selection. I was particularly impressed with her recent post on The Temptations’ song “I Wish It Would Rain” – possibly my favourite by the Temps next to “Since I Lost My Baby” – featuring a couple of great covers. When I discover a new blog I really like, I trawl through back posts until I have no more energy or time. I read all of the ursine’s blog in one sitting (well, it goes back to only June, but the point stands: this is a very fine blog). The song dedication comes from a 2005 charity compilation, War Child – Help: A Day In The Life. War Child is going to release a new comp in February 2009. Check it out.
Damien Rice – Cross-Eyed Bear.mp3

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The beauty of la musique
A bilingual blog from Canada which takes as its theme appealing or otherwise remarkable graphic artistry from yore. The blog pictures old LP or magazine covers, photos, posters, record labels and so on with a succinct illumination to explain its presence. Sometimes the narrative is very funny. I enjoyed this one for an early ’60s record cover depicting a rather predatory sleazedouche doing the twist: “Here’s a stupid and ugly one, for a change. Richard Anthony was a popular French singer of the 1960’s. On the cover art of this single, he seems to have other projects than twisting. Look at the way he’s watching this girl… Help ! Police !”
Status Quo – Pictures Of Matchstick Men.mp3

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Silence Is A Rhythm Too
Here’s a blog that has been running since I was a little boy in Lederhosen (which reminds me of a boy at school in Germany who once pissed into his Lederhosen. As visitors to München’s Oktoberfest may know, not only is piss in Lederhosen eminently conspicuous, but it also produces a nasty aroma). Funk-loving Michael of SIART describes his blog as “an on-going mix-tape”, which seems to me quite an accurate description, though songs are mostly posted individually. Including a bootleg version of the song this blog is named after (though you’ll have to go back a couple of months to find that). Those still on an Obama-high can get an Obama Mix at SIART. It’s all stimulatingly eclectic stuff.
Gene Kelly – I Got Rhythm.mp3

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Jay Brannan: The Morning After
Jay’s debut album, Goddamned, might well turn out to be my most-played of 2008. The long-standing reader will recall that I interviewed Jay back in July. What came across was an appealing personality with some strong opinions and a healthy dose of wit. This is reflected in his apparently very popular blog (featuring a number of video clips from his gigs around Europe), which we can take for granted is written by the artist himself, not an intern at the management company. Jay is certainly building up a strong following around the world, and – this is particularly pleasing – across the sexual spectrum. As he said in the interview, why should his sexuality matter when he sings about stuff in his life? I imagine that Jay’s blog is named after this, the theme from The Poseidon Adventure:
Maureen McGovern – The Morning After.mp3

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The Music Blog of the Infonistacrat!
I feel a little guilty about not having featured the Infonistacrat before. I have found some great music there, especially from the ’90s, which is a bit of a blind spot for me (fatherhood and lack of access to sources of decent music – DMCA fans might note that had there been blogs then, I’d have bought plenty more CDs then). The Infonistacrat also calls back into action songs from the ’80s, including a lot of half-forgotten material. A great and frequently updated source of alt.rock, punk, indie, new wave and so on. The Infonistacrat will have this song already, probably. It’s that sort of song.
The Ramones – Sheena Is A Punk Rocker.mp3

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Previously featured:
Music For Bloggers Vol. 1: Totally Fuzzy, Not Rock On, Serenity Now (RIP), Stay At Home Indie Pop, The Late Greats, Tsururadio, 200percent, Jefitoblog (RIP), Television Without Pity, Michael’s World
Music For Bloggers Vol. 2: Fullundie, Mr Agreeable, Greatest Films, Peanut’s Playground, Just Good Tunes, Csíkszereda Musings, Mulberry Panda, The Black Hole, Secret Love, Hot Chicks With Douchebags
Music For Bloggers Vol. 3: Girl On A Train, Maybe We Ain’t That Young Anymore, Earbleedingcountry, Spangly Princess, Ill Folks, Deacon Blues, One-Man Publisher, CD Rated
Music For Bloggers Vol. 4: Pop Dose, Todger Talk, Holy Goof (RIP), Echoes In The Wind, Sunset Over Slawit, The Hits Just Keep Coming, The Ghost of Electricity, Guitariotabs
Music For Bloggers Vol. 5: The Quietus, Barely Awake In Frog Pyamas, The Great Vinyl Meltdown, Fusion 45, Inveresk Street Ingrate, The Songs That People Sing
Music For Bloggers Vol. 6: my hmphs, Visions of Wrong Terrence, Don’t Burn The Day Away, Mine For Life, 3 Minutes 49 Seconds
Music For Bloggers Vol. 7: Uncle E’s Musical Nightmare, Jens Lekman, Ain’t Superstitious, AM Then FM, Psd Photoshop Disasters, SIBlingshot on the Bleachers, Dr Forrest’s Cheese Factory, NME & Melody Maker
Music For Bloggers Vol. 8: dustysevens, All Eyes And Ears, Bob Evans, Retro Kino, Retro Music Snob

Miriam Makeba RIP

November 10th, 2008 2 comments

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The South African singing legend Miriam Makeba died last night of a heart attack after performing at an anti-Camorra concert in Italy. She was 76.

In South Africa she will be remembered as the country’s first black female international star and as an ambassador for the struggle against apartheid. While on an overseas tour, during which she came to prominence thanks to the patronage of Harry Belafonte and Steve Allen, the apartheid regime banned her from returning to South Africa and withdrew her citizenship. After a while, Makeba was not much welcome in the USA either on account of her marriage to Black Panthers leader Stokely Carmichael. So she settled in Guinea, governed by her friend Ahmed Sékou Touré, a strongman reviled by many as anti-democratic but regarded among many Africans as a liberator from colonialism. All the while, she spoke out against apartheid, for Africa and for human rights, receiving UN awards in recognition of her advocacy.

She returned to South Africa in 1990, the year of the ANC’s unbanning and Nelson Mandela’s release from prison (indeed, it was Mandela who called her home). Known as Mama Afrika, she continued to record, but she was much more to the nation than a performer. She acted as a moral conscience to the nation.

Her influence on black culture internationally was profound. The black Afro look of the late ’60s and early ’70s was in large part attributed to Makeba’s model.

Makeba had survived a plane crash and beaten cancer. How anti-climactic that a mundane heart attack should claim her life, and yet, how fitting that she should have died just after coming off stage.

Miriam Makeba – Pata Pata (1956)
Miriam Makeba – The Click Song (1959)
Miriam Makeba – The Lion Song (Mbube) (1960)

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Intros Quiz Junior Edition AND why Prince can piss off

November 9th, 2008 5 comments

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A friend asked me to put together a quiz aimed at a more youthful audience, covering roughly hits from the past five years. I may as well share it here: if the regular visitors don’t their MTV from their VH-1, perhaps their kids might like to have a crack at an intros quiz. Family friendly, I am. (The illustration on the right? A Rolling Stone cover from July 2005, more or less the midpoint of the time period covered by this quiz. That Ms Alba… she isn’t very ugly at all.)

Answers in the Comments section soon.

Intros Quiz 2003-08

(rant about Blogger deletions…deleted)

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Intros Quiz – Motown Edition

November 6th, 2008 3 comments

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The November intros quiz: 20 songs released on Motown (or subsidiaries like Tamla) from the ’60s to early ’80s. Each intro is 5-7 seconds long. Many of them are fairly obvious, with a few tougher ones thrown in to make it interesting. But nothing obscure.

I will post the answers in the comments section over the weekend. In the meantime, if that pesky number 14 is driving you insane, feel free to e-mail me.

Intros Quiz – Motown Edition

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Any Major Groove Mix

November 3rd, 2008 2 comments

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Think about it: if a song title riffs on the theme of grooviness – as a noun, verb or adjective – it is almost certain to be an affirming, cheerful tune and lyric. So as most friends of this blog are entering the dark, depressing days of winter I thought they might need some groovy, sunny cheer…

This mix covers several genres – pop, soul, funk, indie. Much of the material here is old, though there are two recently released songs: Rio En Medio’s great a cappella cover of Earth, Wind & Fires’ Let’s Groove, and Swedish indie-pop outfit Billie The Vision & the Dancers fine opener of their latest album. One song features twice: the Young Rascals’ carefree Groovin’ and Aretha Franklin’s quite different cover.

Ask me which songs I dig the most, and I’d have to decide between those by Gene Chandler, P.P. Arnold, Alan Price and the Mamas and the Papas. Or the Equals. Or Mr Bloe (best pop instrumental ever?). Or… oh, listen to it and find your own favourites.

1. Mr. Bloe – Groovin’ With Mr Bloe
2. Young Rascals – Groovin’
3. The Equals – Soul Groovin’
4. The 5th Dimension – Working On A Groovy Thing
5. Letta Mbulu – What’s Wrong With Groovin’
6. Bobby Wells – Let’s Copp A Groove
7. Archie Bell & The Drells – Let’s Groove
8. Gene Chandler – Groovy Situation
9. Simon & Garfunkel – The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy) (live)
10. PP Arnold – (If You Think You’re) Groovy
11. The Mamas and the Papas – Somebody Groovy
12. Alan Price – Groovy Times
13. Average White Band – Groovin’ The Night Away
14. Heatwave – Groove Line
15. Harvey Mason – Groovin’ You
16. Rodney Franklin – The Groove
17. Lou Rawls – Groovy People
18. Aretha Franklin – Groovin’
19. The Mindbenders – Groovy Kind Of Love
20. Rio En Medio – Let’s Groove
21. Billie The Vision And The Dancers – Groovy
22. Ace Frehley – New York Groove
23. The Smithereens – Groovy Tuesday
24. Ciccone Youth – Into The Groovey
25. Raquel Welch – I’m Ready To Groove

DOWNLOAD

If you liked the Billie The Vision & the Dancers song, you can download the whole album (and previous albums) on their website, and set your own price, or none (“If you want to download our songs there are two ways to do it. Either you can afford to pay us, or, if you are just as poor as we are, you can download it for free. We appreciate both choices!” Aren’t they just lovely people?).