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In Memoriam – January 2012

February 3rd, 2012 10 comments

Last month I announced the end of the In Memoriam column. The reaction, by comments and messages via email and Facebook, surprised me. I had been under the impression, acquired by the few comments they received and the very average hits recorded, that the feature was only mildly popular (which serves to stress the importance to comment on posts in features you enjoy).

The labour required for the In Memoriam feature remains prohibitive, but by cutting out what really took a lot of time – researching and collating the music and pictures – I can still provide a list, and at least some tunes, of the month’s music deaths.

The headline death of the month was that of Etta James on January 20, just three days after the death of the man who discovered her, R&B legend Johnny Otis. The father of Shuggie Otis, Johnny Otis was the son of Greek immigrants to the US (his real name was Ioannis Alexandros Veliotes) who decided to live and work in the black community. Along the way Otis produced Big Mama Thornton’s Hound Dog, and discovered artists such as Esther Philips, Jackie Wilson and Hank Ballard.

January 17 was a sad day indeed for soul fans – much of the month was (and the passing of Don Cornelius on Wednesday didn’t lighten things up much). On the same day Johnny Otis went, a day after Jimmy Castor’s departure, Leroy Taylor of New Birth and Walter Gaines of The Originals (you might remember their Baby I’m For Real on Motown) passed away.

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Robert Dickey, 72, Bobby of James & Bobby Purify, on December 29
James & Bobby Purify – I’m Your Puppet (1966)

Fred Milano, 72, singer with Dion and The Belmonts, on January 1
Dion and the Belmonts – A Teenager in Love (1959, as backing singer)

Larry “Rhino” Reinhardt, 63, guitarist with Iron Butterfly and Captain Beyond, on January 2

Ian Bargh, 76, Canadian jazz pianist, on January 2

Bob Weston, 64, briefly guitarist with Fleetwood Mac, found on January 3

Kerry McGregor, 37, British singer and X-Factor contestant, on January 4

Tom Ardolino, 56, drummer of rock band NRBQ, on January 6
NRBQ – Boys In The City (1972)

Nicole Bogner, 27, singer of Austrian metal band Visions of Atlantis, on January 6

Dave Alexander, 73, blues singer and pianist, suicide on January 8

Bridie Gallagher, 87, Irish singer, on January 9

Ruth Fernandez, 92, pioneering Puerto Rican singer, on January 9

Ernie Carson, 74, Dixieland jazz musician, on January 9

Cliff Portwood, 74, English-born Australian singer and former professional football player, on January 10

Edgar Kaiser Jr, 69, soft-rock singer, on January 11

Charlie Collins, 78, member of Roy Acuff’s Smoky Mountain Boys, on January 12

Phil Kraus, 94, jazz percussionist and drummer, on January 13
Sarah Vaughan – Street Of Dreams (1949, as drummer)

Robbie France, 52, drummer (Skunk Anansie, Diamond Head, UFO, Ellis, Beggs, & Howard), on January 14
Skunk Anansie – Weak (1994, as writer and drummer)

Pee Wee Moultrie, 89, member of Hank Williams’ Drifting Cowboys, on January 15

Terry Dolan, 68, singer and guitarist of 1960s folk-rock group Terry & the Pirates, on January 15

Jimmy Castor, 71, R&B and funk saxophonist, on January 16
Jimmy Castor Bunch – Troglodyte (Cave Man) (1972)
Jimmy Castor Bunch – Bertha Butt Boogie (1975)

Johnny Otis, 90, R&B singer, songwriter and producer, on January 17
Johnny Otis – Willy And Hand Jive (1958)
Etta James – The Wallflowerr (a.k.a. Roll With Me Henry) (1955, as producer and co-writer)

Leroy Taylor, 67, funk bassist of funk-soul group New Birth, on January 17
The New Birth – Brand New Lover (1970)

Walter Gaines, founder and baritone of soul group The Originals, on January 17
The Originals – Why When Love Is Gone (1969)

Al Urban, 77, rockabilly singer and songwriter, on January 18

Winston Riley, 65, Jamaican reggae musician and producer, on January 19

Etta James, 73, R&B and blues legend, on January 20
Etta James – Stop The Wedding (1962)
Etta James – Don’t Go To Strangers (1995)

Larry Butler, 69, country music producer, songwriter and musician, on January 20
B. J. Thomas – Hey Won’t You Play Another Done Somebody Wrong Song (1975, as co-writer)

John Levy, 99, jazz double-bassist and manager (Nancy Wilson, Cannonball Adderley,  Ramsey Lewis a.o.), on January 20
Don Byas & Big Bill Broonzy – You Go To My Head (1945, as bassist)

Dick Kniss, 74, bassist for Peter, Paul and Mary,  John Denver a.o., on January 25
John Denver – Sunshine On My Shoulder (1971, as co-writer)

Mark Reale, 56, founder and guitarist of heavy metal group Riot, on January 25

Clare Fischer, 83, jazz and pop composer, arranger and keyboardist, on January 26

Todd Buffa, 59, singer of jazz group Rare Silk, on January 27
Rare Silk – New York Afternoon (1983)

Leslie Carter, 25, pop singer and sister of Nick and Aaron Carter, on January 31

King Stitt, 71, Jamaican ska singer, on January 31

Mike Kelley, 57, artist and musician with cult rock band Destroy All Monsters, suicide on January 31

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Pissing off the Taste Police with John Denver

July 14th, 2008 12 comments

The cover of his first Greatest Hits album tells you everything you already think you know about John Denver. Looking like a feckless country boy (a status he thanked God for in song) dressed up like a scarecrow, wig and all, he does that boyish, goofy laugh which your granny found so reassuring. All that’s missing is the piece of straw clenched between his hick teeth. Released in 1973, the album cover communicates that this singer is so nice, he lacks the edge of the Carpenters and the raw sexuality of Donny Osmond. Who said we, the cool people, want our entertainers to be fucking nice?

The cover anticipates Denver’s kinship with the Muppets. He looks like one here, and a few years later he joined them. Where other musicians appeared on The Muppet Show giving it a knowing smile and a wink, Denver’s involvement was devoid of irony altogether. He was one of them. He exuded utter sincerity even when conversing with a toy frog. And the critics had always hated him for being so sincere anyway.

The country boy muppet was my formative image of John Denver. For decades, I loathed the man and his work without knowing either. I was just going with the flow. OK, so I liked Annie’s Song. If forced to account for my supposed lapse to the Taste Police, I’d apologise, explaining that it is a sweet song, even though John Denver – yeurgh – sang it. But a sweet song it is. If I was called Annie, I’d get wet hearing it.

I had no idea about John Denver. I consciously avoided exposure to his music, as if it might contaminate me. I mistakenly thought his original Take Me Home Country Road had the yokel C&W arrangement of yee-hah cliché. I thought Leaving On A Jet Plane was an excess in simplicity. I had heard Rocky Mountain High, but never listened to it. I didn’t even know the sublime Sunshine On My Shoulders (which became a US hit in 1974, three years after it was first released)! Until last year, when one of the bloggers I really respect, Whiteray from Echoes In The Wind, uploaded Denver’s Whose Garden Was This album from 1970. I downloaded it. I listened to it. I liked it. Notwithstanding Whiteray’s warning that Sunshine On My Shoulder is insipid (oh, he’s very wrong on that one), I became intrigued by the singer. I read up on Denver, learning that Whose Garden is not considered one of his best album. So there had to be better albums? I stocked up on John Denver’s earlier albums and found that my prejudice had been entirely foolish.

The truth is that John Denver, for all his guileless sincerity, knew how to write a good song and how to interpret those composed by others. Like most Beatles fans, I am wary of other people singing their songs. I can think of only a handful of covers which eclipse the originals (Cocker’s With A Little Help From My Friends, Stevie Wonder’s We Can Work It Out, Earth Wind & Fire’s Got To Get You Into My Life, perhaps Ray Charles’ Eleanor Rigby). On Rocky Mountain High, Denver eclipses a Beatles original with his very lovely take on McCartney’s Mother Nature’s Son from the White Album (it had to be a McCartney song. Tough I can conceive of Denver singing Lennon’s Working Class Hero. Not that it would necessarily be any better than the turgid original).

Because of Denver’s conservative granny-friendly image – the Richard Clayderman of country – I had presumed he was a Republican (just like granny-unfriendly Neil Young in the ’80s). Again, wrong. He was a vocal critic of Nixon and Reagan. Denver campaigned for Jimmy Carter in 1976, took up social issues such as HIV/Aids when it was not yet fashionable to do so, set up foundations for sustainable living, the environment, the poor. He possibly pissed off portions of his country constituency by denouncing the National Rifle Association. And in 1987, he played a benefit concert at Chernobyl. I’ve mentioned previously the pointed judgment by the British music writer John Doran: people who like his politics won’t like his music; people who like his music won’t like his politics (which means that I might be an anomaly). But doesn’t that make John Denver a subject worth further study?

Denver reportedly sent hand-written letters to fans, which I think is very cool indeed. But it’s not Rock ’n Roll. You don’t get Keef or Prince write you personal notes. Real music fans are like women who like bad guys: we don’t tend to go for the nice guys.

John Denver obviously lacked edge; even in his artistic prime, the early ’70s, he produced some awfully saccharine garbage (For Baby with that kids’ chorus, or fucking Jingle Bells). But at his best, John Denver was an extraordinary musician. His music is much more complex than it is being given credit for (witness the chord changes on Jet Plane, the song on which he, ahem, “predicted his death”), and the man had a fine way of phasing his lyrics (again, lisdten to Sunshine On My Shoulders). Denver’s songs have immense warmth as he reflects wistfully on geography, meterology and, of course, love. They have an ageless immediacy. I’m sorry for having misjudged John Denver for so long. If only he had looked a bit more cool, a bit more like John Prine…

John Denver – Poems, Prayers And Promises.mp3
John Denver – Darcy Farrow.mp3
John Denver – Mother Nature’s Son.mp3
John Denver – Annie’s Song.mp3
John Denver – Leaving On A Jet Plane.mp3
John Denver – Sunshine On My Shoulder.mp3
John Denver – Rocky Mountain High.mp3

Previously on Pissing off the Taste Police:
Barry Manilow
Lionel Richie
The Carpenters
Billy Joel
Neil Diamond
America

Albums of the Year: 1972

June 20th, 2008 No comments

In September 1972 I started school, so I didn’t know any of these albums at the time (in contrast to many of the hit singles of that year). Over time, music from all eras has accumulated in my collection, making it possible to compile top 10s for almost every year (though I would struggle to do so for some years in the ’90s). For 1972, it could have been a top 20 of albums I genuinely love. I have chosen my top 10, leaving behind great albums by the likes of Stevie Wonder, Kris Kristofferson, Al Green, Neil Young, The Spinners, Billy Paul, Neil Diamond, the O’Jays, Bobby Womack, Nilsson, the Crusaders, and Donny Hathaway & Roberta Flack. As always, this is not a list of the year’s “best” releases, but my subjective choice of ten most favourite albums (which tomorrow might well read differently).

1. David Bowie – The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust …
I believe this was the first album from 1972 I ever bought, around 1979. I think it was hearing Starman which persuaded me to buy it. So Ziggy Stardust sits at number 1 as much for nostalgic reasons as it does for my actual enjoyment of it (and it remains my favourite Bowie album by a mile). Oh, but it is all pure gold from the moment the stylus/laser/WinAmp-start-button hits on Five Years. The b-side starts off with two relatively underwhelming tracks (I actually really dislike Lady Stardust), but I challenge you to point me to an album that closes with three songs as mind-bogglingly brilliant as those on Ziggy Stardust: Mick Ronson’s fantastic opening riff of Ziggy Stardust, the mania of Suffragette City (“Oh, wam bam, thank you ma’m”), the resigned drama and possible redemption of Rock ’n Roll Suicide. Ziggy Stardust is, obviously, a concept album, with Bowie going as far as personifying the fictional Ziggy, giving him life (and making peole mourn for Ziggy when Dave dumped the costume). The concept’s execution is genius. The threads of the concept are neither too tightly woven, nor too loosely. The album provides a coherent narrative – giving listeners ample room to flesh out the story in their own minds – and yet every song can be taken out of the context of the story, and make sense on its own.
David Bowie – Starman.mp3
David Bowie – Ziggy Stardust (demo).mp3



2. Donny Hathaway – Live
Alas, Donny Hathaway. If popular music had patron saints in the ways of the Catholic Church, Hathaway could be the patron saint for depressives. Depression – clinical depression, the kind one cannot “snap out of”, as some idiots like to suggest to those suffering from it – killed Donny’s promising career, and ultimately, in January 1979, the man himself (if one discounts the speculation about foul play). Hathaway was a gifted songwriter and a brilliant interpreter of other people’s songs. Here, only two songs are co-written by Hathaway; the rest are covers, but he makes them his own. Opener What’s Going On very nearly eclipses Marvin Gaye’s original, and Lennon’s Jealous Guy (like What’s Going On then just released) ought to have dissuaded Bryan Ferry from crooning it after Lennon’s murder. Hathaway was among the slew of early ’70s soul singers who gave articulation to life in the ghetto. On this set, there are two songs featuring the word: the affecting Little Ghetto Boy, and The Ghetto, a Latino-funk workout that at more than 12 minutes doubles its original running time on Donny’s impressive 1970 debut, Everything Is Everything. Live is worth getting just for that rendition, which has the crowd going absolutely crazy (and which Justin Timberlake definitely has heard before). After the sweaty funk explosion of The Ghetto, Hathaway slows things down a bit, creating a kind of warm intimacy which rarely translates from the stage on to record. I might have included in this post Hathaway’s album of duets with Roberta Flack as well; instead I’ll recycle the best song from that LP.
Donny Hathaway – The Ghetto.mp3
Donny Hathaway & Roberta Flack – Be Real Black For Me.mp3

3. Carpenters – A Song For You
Sometimes one has favourite albums on the basis of one side only. Steely Dan’s Pretzel Logic is one of them; A Song For You is another. Look at the tacklisting of the a-side: A Song For You, Top Of The World, Hurting Each Other, It’s Gonna Take Some Time, Goodbye To Love. That is one side of pure greatest hits material (actually, I think most or all did appear on the Carpenters’ singles album a year later). With an side 1 like that, one need not flip the record over. Unlike Pretzel Logic, however, the flipside is very good, with the lovely I Won’t Last A Day Without You and the sweetly forlorn Road Ode standing out. All that is undermined by Richard’s lithping interludes. Still, it’s the first side one always returns to, immersed in the sweet sounds until the siblings announce the bathroom break. Perhaps that is so because these songs are so well known. One looks forward to the little touches: the lovely rendition of Leon Russell’s title track (done better, incidentally, by Donny Hathaway) with its saxophone solo; the pain in Karen’s phrasing in Hurting Each Other (“tearing-each-other-apaaart”), the fuzz guitar solo in Goodbye To Love; the admirable flute solo (yay!) on It’s Going To Take Some Time. Get three of the songs from this album and more Carpenters stuff (plus Hathaway’s version of Song For You) here.
Carpenters – It’s Going To Take Some Time.mp3

4. Steely Dan – Can’t Buy A Thrill
The eagle-eyed music experts among readers of this blog might have sensed that I have an affinity for Steely Dan, but that affinity finds full expression only periodically. I must be in the right mood to hear their music; exposed to it in the wrong mood, and I might even resent them. Can’t Buy A Thrill is the only Dan album I can listen to at any time (I suspect my trouble with the Dan has partly to do with Fagen’s voice, which I sometimes love and at other times cannot stand; on this album Donald shares the lead vocals with the soon-ousted David Palmer). Fagen and Becker’s debut is their most accessible album, and as such is often recommended as an entry point to the Steely Dan canon. I’d rather expose the Dan novice to the first side of Pretzel Logic or The Royal Scam, because Can’t Buy A Thrill might set up false expectations. This album is a compilation of what would become the jazz-tinged Dan sound (Do It Again, Kings, Fire In The Hole, Turn That Heartbeat Over Again) and West Coast rock (Reelin’ In The Years, Dirty Work), which would soon be abandoned. Some tracks fall right between these styles: the fantastic Only A Fool Would Say That, Midnite Cruiser, Change Of The Guard, Brooklyn (the latter brilliantly lacing the soft-rock with hints country, jazz and soul). Or maybe the nascent Dan fan should be introduced to the band with Can’t Buy A Thrill. It is an astonishing debut album, inventive and self-assured, packed with instant classics. From here, it must be a joy to discover how the sound developed.
Steely Dan – Brooklyn.mp3
Steely Dan – Reelin’ In The Years.mp3

5. John Denver – Rocky Mountain High
I suspect that not many people bought both Steely Dan (or Hathaway or Steely Dan) and John Denver in 1972. To be honest, John Denver is a recent discovery for me. To me, he always was the corny muppet with the blond hair and round glasses singing granny-friendly music. Then the great Echoes In The Wind blog posted Denver’s 1970 Whose Garden Was This album. When Whiteray bigs up the unexpected, I’m willing to listen. To cut a long story short, I’ve fallen for John Denver’s early-period music, and none more so than Rocky Mountain High, with its title track which demands the use of the cliché “achingly beautiful” (which I won’t use) and the equally lovely Goodbye Again. I know that Darcy Farrow is a cover version (Denver did a lot of those), but I don’t think I’ve ever heard an version other than Denver’s. In his hands it is just fine (though I can imagine a rougher country singer doing great things with the song). The guitar instrumental that starts the Season Suite has the approval of guitar-playing Any Minor Dude. The biggest surprise on the album is Denver’s take on the Beatles’ Mother’s Nature Son. Denver recorded a fair number of Beatles songs; some of these interpretations are OK, a few less so. His version of Mother Nature’s Son, in my view, is better than the original; something I say about very few covers of Beatles songs. Alas, the album also includes the track which anticipates Denver’s descent into muppetdom: the sickly For Baby (For Bobbie), which features – for fuck’s sake – a children’s choir.
John Denver – Rocky Mountain High.mp3

6. Curtis Mayfield – Superfly
It’s a shame that the cinema of the early ’70s which recorded the African-American experience and were soundtracked by some kick-ass hot funk have been lumped together as “blaxploitation”, acquiring a hackneyed reputation. In that regrettable calculation, Shaft, a good movie which traded in cliché, equals Superfly, which was more social critique than action (the karate chops were really a nod to crowdpleasing). Both, of course, had classic funk tracks as their theme – but only one was remade with the oh-so-fucking-too-cool-for-skool goon Samuel Jackson in the lead (I don’t like Samuel Jackson much, as you might have gathered). Mayfield’s soundtrack played a starring role in Superfly; rarely has a film theme been so tightly integrated into a movie. Where the movie is ambivalent about the pushermen – blaming society, not personal ethics, for their nasty trade – Curtis’ lyrics betray little sympathy for the eponymous dealer, while at the same time not moralising either. Indeed, No Thing On Me (in my view the album’s best track) repudiates the need for drugs, “my life’s a natural high, the man can’t put no thing on me” (sure is funky). And this was the strength of Mayfield’s social lyrics: the recurring notion of empowering one’s self to effect change or to escape destruction. Sometimes Mayfield would spell out what needed to be changed, or what self-destructive threats were present (here, for example, on the cautionary Freddie’s Dead). Crucially, Mayfield did neither sermonise nor, unlike Marvin Gaye, come over all hippie. Superfly, movie and soundtrack, has been cited as being hugely influential on Gangsta Rap. If that is true, then it is regrettable that this influence did not extend to the incorporation of Curtis Mayfield’s thoughtful methods of observation and engagement.
Curtis Mayfield – No Thing On Me (Cocaine Song).mp3

7. Big Star – #1 Record

Rarely has an LP been as spectacularly misnamed as this. #1 Record was a flop when it was released, mainly due to poor promotion by the record company. Perhaps Big Star’s mature power pop simply was not of its time — it was the day of the Partridge Family, Fat Elvis, prog rockers and folk singers. Indeed, much of #1 Record could well have been recorded by Indie acts in the ’90s – or even the day before yesterday. Big Star would break up after another album and only then attained cult status. Their influence on later acts is evident. I would not be shocked to read a customer review on Amazon.com, applying the lazy (and often inaccurate) “if you like the Lemonheads, you’ll definitely like this” routine. But, guess what, I do like the Lemonheads and I like Big Star (and, of course, Evan Dando covered Big Star on the Empire Records soundtrack). There is no poor track on #1 Record, but, truth be told, also few essential classics. There is, however, one song every human being should know and fall in love with irredeemably: The Ballad Of El Goodo, with its marvellous chorus: “There ain’t no one goin’ to turn me around”.
Big Star – The Ballad Of El Goodo.mp3

8. Nick Drake – Pink Moon
Nick Drake is the John Kennedy Toole of music. Like the author’s masterpiece Confederacy Of Dunces, Drake’s three beautiful albums found no audience during their creator’s lifetime. Only after their respective suicides did Toole’s book and Drake’s music find success and cult status. Pink Moon was Drake’s final album before his 1974 suicide (often attributed to depression linked to his commercial failure; perhaps Drake can co-chair the patronage I have already assigned to Donny Hathaway). Drake recorded the album in two sessions lasting two hours each. This, and the album’s sparseness (symbolised by almost half the song titles being single words; no title is longer than four words), lend Pink Moon an immediacy; yet it is in many ways less accessible than Drake’s two previous LPs. It’s necessary to listen to Pink Moon several times before the depth of the album’s sad beauty reveals itself fully. It is not quite a masterpiece, but despite its flaws it becomes easy to love thanks to Drake’s gentle voice and his quite excellent guitar work.
Nick Drake – Pink Moon.mp3

9. Van Morrison – Saint Dominic’s Preview
St Dominic’s Preview is not my favourite Morrison album by any stretch; when in the mood for some Van, I’m more likely to put on Moondance or Tupelo Honey. But when I do play it, I’m invariably delighted with it. Saint Dominic’s is not packed with hits; only Jackie Wilson Said is well-known. All the more the joy at hearing Morrison material that has not been overplayed (and, hell, I have come to hate Brown Eyed Girl by now). The long, intense Listen To The Lion is the album’s centrepiece. A one point Van’s goes for a bizarre impression of a stoned lion doing an imitation of an inebriated buffoon’s insensitive mimicking of a gibbering idiot. It is strangely captivating. The listener who sits through all that (or makes use of the skip button/playlist editor) will be rewarded with a great double-whammy of songs which should have been huge: the great country-blues-rock title track and the very lovely Redwood Tree.
Van Morrison – Saint Dominic’s Preview.mp3

10. Lou Reed – Transformer
I am not a particularly big fan of Lou Reed (I don’t get him much of the time), but there is one recording of his which is something like my musical Rosebud: a live performance at New York’s Bottom Line Club which was broadcast in full on northern Germany’s NDR2 radio in about 1980, and which I taped. I don’t think it’s the gig immortalised on the much-maligned Take No Prisoner album; the broadcast concert actually sounded great. Or perhaps I just remember it being so. And why am I mentioning it here when I’m supposed to discuss Transformer? Well, it’s here for the big tracks: Take A Walk On The Wild Side, Perfect Day, Vicious (a rather shameless rip-off of Wild Thing), Andy’s Chest, and especially the glorious Satellite Of Love. These more than compensate for the guff on the album, of which there is quite a bit. Since Ziggy Stardust tops this list, it seems necessary to mention that Transformer was produced by David Bowie and features Mick Ronson on guitar.
Lou Reed – Satellite Of Love.mp3

The iPod (non-)Random 10-track Experiment

February 5th, 2008 2 comments

I’m about to wipe everything off my iPod, and reload it (for housekeeping purposes). So, for the pure fun of it, here are the top 10 most-listened to tracks. I have arbitrarily decided to exclude anything from the Beatles’ Love album, because I didn’t listen to it more than once, though my nephews played it ad nauseam over Christmas. Where an artist was represented more than once, their subsequent tracks have been skipped for the purpose of this post. Tracks marked with an asterisk have been featured on this blog before.

1. Nicole Atkins – Brooklyn’s On Fire.mp3*
No surprise here: this song has been an constant earworm, and her wonderful Neptune City album a frequent companion. On the album Atkins hops across and fuses genres, being Abba-esque one moment, then grabbing the singing-torch before going all B-52s on our asses. It’s magnificent. “Brooklyn’s On Fire” has an abundance of exuberance, and probably is the catchiest thing on the album.

2. Gram Parsons & Emmylou Harris – Love Hurts.mp3
If CD plays counted, this song would easily head the list. The arrangement and harmonies make this the definitive version of this oft-covered Everly Brothers song (certainly better than that by bloody Cher, or the ludicrously OTT effort by Nazareth). Gram and the lovely Emmylou persuade us that love is indeed “just a lie made to make you blue”. An all-time favourite.

3. Rilo Kiley – Portions For Foxes.mp3*
Strange that this older Rilo Kiley track should still appear ahead of the great stuff from 2007’s Under The Blacklight. Jenny Lewis has never sounded sexier than here. When she commands, “COME HERE”, I’m inclined to obey.

4. Colbie Caillat – One Fine Wire*
I have a fear that the Taste Police will before long declare Colbie Caillat a punishable offence, seeing that “Bubbly” is now a big hit and getting airplay on MOR radio stations. I suspect that Caillat’s success is in part due to the buzz created by the blogging community. So she is ours, bloggers and blog readers. Her stardom will be due not to The Man, but to the music blogs who gave her exposure and to the MySpace phenomenon. A reader of this blog had a brief but good discussion about how The Man will try to exploit music blogs and interactive sites like MySpace as a new form of marketing. But better that, with all the independence the credible music blogs can offer and the power of the My Space browser to click to the next page, than letting Sony’s A&R goons dictate public taste. Hopefully more people of genuine talent like Colbie will find stardom through that route, not via corporate manufacture.

5. John Denver – Rocky Mountain High.mp3
John Denver is overdue a rehabilitation. The music writer John Doran once responded to my point along the lines that those who would applaud Denver’s liberal politics are reluctant to like his music, and those who like his music are likely to detest his politics. My point is that there is much in Denver’s pre-1974 canon that should not be ignored, or subjected to clichéd jokes about straw-chewing hicks. 1972’s “Rocky Mountain High” is drenched in beauty and is free of the hackneyed shtick which by the late ’70s had turned Denver into a granny’s favourite and party-time Muppet.

6. Ben Folds – Gone.mp3
When I don’t know what to play, Ben Folds is always a safe bet. “Gone” is a great track to sing along to, at least the backing vocals. But don’t let that detract from the excellent lyrics addressed to a lover who left him and now won’t even write to him. He says he’s over her, but clearly he isn’t: ” I thought I’d write, I thought I’d let you know: In the year since you’ve been gone I’ve finally let you go. And I hope you find some time to drop a note, but if you won’t, then you won’t, and I will consider you gone.” I can empathise.

7. Billie the Vision & the Dancers (feat Hello Saferide) – Overdosing With You.mp3
One of the large group of fine Swedish Indie groups, this lot is as twee as they come, in a very enjoyable way (though clumsily monikered). This track features the wonderful Hello Saferide a.k.a. Annika Norlin, whom I’m possibly in love with. The lyrics to this song may be weak at times, but you have to love a song about couch potatoing the blues away with DVD box sets of NYPD Blue and Desperate Housewives (clearly not a bit too much sci-fi on Billie the Vision’s shelf, Ms Norlin). Did I mention, it has Hello Safreide, whom I’m possibly in love with, on it? You can legally download Billie the Vision etc’s albums on their webpage.

8. Scott Walker – Joanna.mp3
Walker’s vocal performance on this glorious Tin Pan Alley piece of treacle is stunning (it usually was stunning, but even more so here). Try singing this song; it is no accident that in the abominable Love, Actually, Liam Neeson mimes it to his son, doesn’t sing it. Which I would probably do, ill-advisedly or not.

9. Foo Fighters – Statues.mp3*
The more I hear the new Foo Fighters album, Echoes, Silence, Patience, Grace, the more convinced I am that it is the best thing Grohl and pals have ever done, and that the album deserves to be regarded as a classic in its genre already. Without any hyperbole. Just as it had come out, I expressed my dislike for “Erase/Replace”. Someone commented that I was very wrong about the song. And quite rightly so. It’s majestic! But “Statues” remains my favourite song off the album, a track whose simplicity disguises its depths.

10. Perez – Picture Perfect.mp3
Perez were a South African rock group which subsequently split. Which is a shame, because they were pretty good in an alt.rock sort of way. “Picture Perfect”, from 2002, is certainly superior to much that has been released in the genre. A fine song to sing while driving, and not a bad way to spend five minutes secretly playing the air guitar.

Music for Bloggers Vol.4

January 8th, 2008 5 comments

After some months without, here’s more love for blogs I enjoy. As always, if your blog isn’t featured, but you think it should be, there will be more music for bloggers. I like an awful lot of blogs. Please open the links (in the red headings) by right-clicking and opening a new window or tab; I’d hate to lose you. In each entry, the first dedicated song is a new upload, the second has been posted here previously (except in the bit for Sunset Over Slawit, who gets two fresh tunes).

Popdose
Many mourned the sudden death at the hands of moronic interfereniks of the much beloved jefitoblog. Good news is, Jeff is back and has roped in a few skilled pals to create an Internet culture magazine called Popdose (among these pals is John Hughes, who used to write the excellent Lost in the ’80s blog). Popdose runs articles on music, film & TV, current events and more, and represents a welcome addition to my bookmarks. There are loads of fine MP3s, and best of all, Jefito still presents his weekly mix tape. Hooray!
Thin Lizzy – The Boys Are Back In Town.mp3
Clout – Substitute.mp3

Todger Talk
Men tend to talk about sex like they might talk about automotive mechanics. But would you ask your mates for advice if you had blood gushing out of your fractured penis? It was that experience (hilariously related) which moved “Nottingham’s Mr Sex” to start up a blog, with two qualified colleagues, which will dispense sound, valuable advice on sex and relationships specifically to men. But don’t expect condescending earnesty or laddish phwoarisms (it will be in the dictionary one day, you’ll see). If the first couple of posts are an indicator, the serious subject matter (you don’t think sex is fun, do you?) will be interlaced with a healthy dose of humour. And to get you in the mood, this horny soul classic from the ’70s, followed by Serge’s seduction technique.
Sylvia – Pillow Talk.mp3
Serge Gainsbourg – Cargo Culte.mp3

Holy Goof
Another fairly new site, Holy Goof is an absolute treasure trove of comedy albums from the ’60s up to last year (some ripped audio from DVD), with perceptive commentary. And, best of all, everything’s available on Sharebee, which serves those of us who are excluded by Rapidshare and Megaupload. Get your Chris Rock, Eddie Izzard, Woody Allen, David Cross, Tom Lehrer, Bill Hicks, Sam Kinison, Billy Connolly, Ellen Degeneris, Albert Brooks, Richard Pryor, Bill Maher, Dave Attell, Paul F Tompkins, George Carlin, Kathy Griffin, Denis Leary, Patton Oswalt, Steve Martin, Sara Silverman and a shitload more (even the deathly unamusing Robin Williams, if you must) at the Holy Goof.
Dave Davis – Death A Clown.mp3
Manfred Mann – Ha! Ha! Said The Clown.mp3

Echoes In The Wind
One of the Major Dude winners in the music blogs category last month. Some might have chosen a blog that features obscure, cutting edge artists or provide acute and learned reviews. There are many such blogs I like to visit. Echoes In The Wind isn’t such a blog. Whiteray writes from his own, seemingly vast personal experience. Reading his blog is like enjoying a visit from an erudite friend who, over a few bottles of good dark beer (or, in my case, a pot of coffee and a pack of smokes) shares his stories, and of himself. Whiteray’s music selection is almost exclusively and unsentimentally nostalgic, sometimes featuring stuff that is obscure and surprising, and occasionally exceedingly rare. It was Whiteray who had me give John Denver a chance when he uploaded Whose Garden Was This, a long-forgotten but rather lovely 1970s album by the man whom I had dismissed as a bit of a grinning muppet (which at one point he had actually become). Early in his career, Denver might not have been cool, but he was pretty good. Check out “Sunshine On My Shoulders” from 1971’s gorgeous Poems, Prayers & Promises, and imagine it, if you need to, being sung by somebody else, without prejudice. The second song is a lovely slice of sentimentality by a South African artist. If you like Whiteray’s stuff, you should like this.
John Denver – Sunshine On My Shoulder.mp3
André de Villiers – Memories.mp3

Sunset Over Slawit
Much as Whiteray is a regular visitor to my monitor, so is Rol Hirst, another blogger with whose prose I feel instantly comfortable. Rol’s blog does not offer conspiracy theories, profound sociological analysis, political polemic or comedy writing (though he knows how to turn a witty phrase when circumstances demand it). There are fine blogs that offer these, sometimes all in one, and I appreciate these. Rol’s blog appeals on a different level. It succeeds in making you feel that he is a friend sharing his engaging thoughts with you (even though you’ve never met him); his writings suggest that he is a really nice guy… Conveying one’s {perceived) personality in such a persuasive way is a skill not many writers have.
Iron & Wine – Sunset Soon Forgotten.mp3
Gordon Lightfoot – Sundown.mp3

The Hits Just Keep On Coming
A self-confessed angry ex-radio DJ lets rip on his blog, which he presents as a music station of sorts. The concept works very well. JB apparently still presents a weekly radio show. If it is anything like his well-written blog with such judiciously selected music, it should be required listening wherever it is broadcast. The One Day In Your Life feature is especially good, a time travelling blitz. And I wholeheartedly agree with JB about how the Hype Machine aggregator has become less inviting since the redesign, which I think has a terribly cluttered corporate feel now. Like JB, I very rarely venture there any longer. For JB, a great 1995 song from alt.country-rock supergroup Golden Smog, and a fine track by one of the underrated songbirds.
Golden Smog – Radio King.mp3
Kathleen Edwards – Another Song The Radio Won’t Like.mp3

The Ghost of Elecricity
In my lists of links, The Ghost of Electricity is filed in the non-music section, which isn’t strictly accurate, because it does feature MP3s. It would also not be strictly accurate to file Davy H’s site among the music bloggers, because his subject matter isn’t always music. Rather, the music Davy posts often is intended to illustrate his entertaining and frequently insightful ruminations on any given subject. Much in the same way as the songs dedicated to the bloggers in this series fulfill an ancillary function. Wherever one may want to file The Ghost of Electricity, it’s a bloody good read with some fine music (check out the funk here).
The Strokes – Electricityscape.mp3
Manfred Mann’s Earth Band – Davy’s On The Road Again.mp3

Guitariotabs
Two and a half years ago my son, then 10, decided he wanted to learn to play the guitar. After securing a firm commitment from him, we enrolled him with a first-class tutor, a former session musician for South African blues-rock legend Robin Auld, who continues to verse him in the technically correct mechanics of string plucking (or whatever). Occasionally Michael visits sites offering guitar tabs, and sometimes finds that the authors have failed in providing scrupulously correct tabs. So he decided to set up his own tabs blog, with relevant MP3 files and links to the lyrics as an added service. The lazy sod hasn’t updated it in a while — apparently it’s not a simple task to write tabs, and time consuming as well. Still, I’m immensely proud of my boy, now 13. So visit his blog. In the meantime, here’s something by the wonderful guitarist Kaki King, who featured on the new Foo Fighters album, and the Beatles song Michael announced he really liked when he got into the Help! album, and which happens to be my all-time favourite Beatles tune.
Kaki King – Happy As A Dead Pig In The Sunshine.mp3
The Beatles – You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away.mp3

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