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In Memoriam – April 2011

May 2nd, 2011 4 comments

For a blog going by this name, the death of multiple Grammy award-winning producer and pioneering sound engineer Roger Nichols is particularly noteworthy. The school mate of Frank Zappa was crucial in the development of Steely Dan’s sound, from the West Coast rock of Can’t Buy A Thrill to the jazz-tinged material on Aja and the comeback album Two Against Nature.It’s his hand on the back-cover of Countdown To Ecstasy.

Actor Tim Robbins’ parents were folk singers. Gil Robbins was a member of the pioneering folk group The Highwaymen; he died on 5 April; his wife Mary passed away 12 days later. It’s romantic in a way, but poor Tim.

The oldest death this month was that of bandlerader Orrin Tucker at the age of 100. His recording career went back to the late 1930s. And I was most saddened by the death at 60 of Phoebe Snow, a wonderful singer who cut down her music career to care for her disabled daughter for more than 30 years.

Richard Patterson, 66, drummer of Canadian group The Esquires, on April 2

Calvin Russell, 62, singer-songwriter, on April 3

Scott Columbus, 54, drummer of heavy metal band Manowar, on April 4
Manowar – Manowar (1982)

Gil Robbins, 80, singer with folk group The Highwaymen and father of actor Tim Robbins, on April 5
The Highwaymen – Whiskey In The Jar (1962)

John Bottomley, 50, Canadian singer-songwriter, of suicide on April 6
Bill Pitcock, 59, guitarist of power pop group Dwight Twilley Band, on April 8
Dwight Twilley Band – I’m On Fire (1975)

Orrin Tucker, 100, orchestra leader, on April 9
Orrin Tucker and his Orchestra – You’d Be Surprised (1939)

Roger Nichols, 66, sound engineer and producer for Steely Dan, Beach Boys, Roy Orbison, Diana Ross a.o., on April 9
Steely Dan – Any Major Dude Will Tell You (1974)

Lacy Gibson, 74, blues guitarist and singer, on April 11
Kent Morrill, 70, singer and keyboardist for garage rock pioneers The Fabulous Wailers, on April 15
The Fabulous Wailers – Out Of Our Tree (1965)

Mary Robbins, 78, American musician, mother of Tim Robbins, on April 17

Roy Burris, 79, songwriter and drummer for Merle Haggard & the Strangers, on April 19
Merle Haggard – Okie From Muskogee (as drummer and co-writer, 1969)

Gerard Smith, 36, bassist of TV on the Radio, On April 20
TV On The Radio – Staring At The Sun (2003)
Joe Pennell, 66, member of surf rock band The Rivieras, on April 21
The Rivieras – California Sun (1964)

Hazel Dickens, 75, bluegrass singer, on April 22
Hazel Dickens – Here Today, Gone Tomorrow (1983)

Tom King, 68, founder and singer of ’60s pop band The Outsiders, on April 23
The Outsiders – Time Won’t Let Me (1967)

Dutch Tilders, 69, Australian blues musician, on April 23

Poly Styrene, 53, singer of punk band X-Ray Spex, on April 25
X-Ray Spex – I Am A Cliché (1977)

Phoebe Snow, 60, singer-songwriter, on April 26
Phoebe Snow – Poetry Man (1974)

Dag Stokke, 44, keyboardist of Norwegian glam metal group TNT, on April 27

Neusinha Brizola, 56, Brazilian pop singer, on April 27
Neusinha Brizola – Mintchura (1983)

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Copy, borrow, steal: Rikki’s number & Sibelius’ swans

July 29th, 2009 12 comments

Few things at once delight and annoy the music fan as much as spotting a melody, a riff or a lyric lifted from another song. The delight resides in the act of knowing; the more obscure the source, the greater the pleasure. The irritation rests in the suspicion that an artist we admire has committed an act of plagiarism. How can one listen now to many Led Zeppelin classics knowing that Page and Plant didn’t just draw inspiration from other people’s composition, but irrefutably plagiarised artists they claimed to admire, and not give them a credit (except, belatedly, under the duress of legal action)?

Not all similarities in songs are plagiarism, of course. Some reference another piece of music with a knowing nod and a wink, as George Harrison did when he too inspiration from the Ed Hawkins Singers’ Oh Happy Day for My Sweet Lord (of course, we can’t sounds_like_teen_spiritknow to what extent he knowingly plagiarised the Chiffons’ He’s So Fine — see here for more on that). It is quite possible that more than one people might have had the same good idea (it might well be that somebody has written this exact sentence before me in a similar context). It is plausible that a melody, riff or hook heard a long time ago has worked itself into the composer’s subconscious, and thus internalised emerges as something original, or at least presumed original. When Paul McCartney woke up with the melody for Yesterday in his head, he asked anyone who’d listen whether it sounded familiar to them. It didn’t. McCartney was scrupulous in ascertaining that the idea was indeed his. Not everybody is.

Timothy English wrote a fascinating book on songs that copy, borrow and steal, titled Sounds Like Teen Spirit (Website and Buy), which inspires this new series. And I will liberally draw ideas from it (having been in contact with Timothy I know he won’t mind). And since this blog is named after a Steely Dan song from the Pretzel Logic album, it seems right that this new series should kick off with a song from that album. The second segment does not feature in Sounds Like Teen Spirit, the scope of which excluded reference to works from the world of classical music.

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Horace Silver – Song For My Father.mp3
Steely Dan – Rikki Don’t Lose That Number.mp3
Stevie Wonder – Don’t You Worry ’Bout A Thing.mp3

horace_silverYes, Steely Dan’s biggest hit borrows liberally. The opening keyboard riff that runs throughout the song was lifted was lifted from the title track of jazz legend Horace Silver’s 1964 album, released on Blue Note (and featuring Silver’s Cape Verde-born father on the cover). Silver was a pioneer of the percussive hard bop form of jazz, but Song For My Father, written after a visit to Brazil, has more of a funky bossa nova vibe.

Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen and Walter Becker famously fused their jazz sensibilities with their rock direction, so it seems appropriate that their biggest hit, reaching #4 in the US, should have borrowed from a jazz classic. Evidently sampling a riff so faithfully, even from a piece regarded by many as a classic, did not qualify its creator for a co-writer credit: Horace Silver is not credited on Rikki Don’t Lose That Number. The titular Rikki, incidentally, may be the writer Rikki Ducornet, who claims that Fagen, whom she knew in college, once did giver her his number at a party (Fagen has not commented).

Had Silver sued Steely Dan, he probably would have won. Writers have secured credits for much less (and others have gotten away with much more!). He also might have succeeded in litigating against Stevie Wonder’s use of Song For My Father’s horn riff as an inspiration for the melody of 1973’s Don’t You Worry ’Bout A Thing.

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Sibelius – 5th Symphony 3rd Movement.mp3
The First Class – Beach Baby.mp3
Strawberry Switchblade – Since Yesterday.mp3

first_classOnly nostalgists and one-hit wonder devotees might remember The First Class or Strawberry Switchblade. Beach Baby was The First Class’ only hit, in 1974. The First Class was one of the names under which British singer Tony Burrows and songwriters John Carter and Ken Lewis released some of their songs. While Beach Baby was The First Class’ only hit, Lewis and Carter were behind other one hit wonders. They were the Flowerpot Men, who had a solitary hit with Let’s Go To San Francisco in 1967, while Burrows fronted Edison Lighthouse, who had a massive hit in 1970 with Love Goes Where My Rosemary Goes, as well as with White Plains (My Baby Loves Lovin’) and Brotherhood Of Men before they hit the Eurovision trail. Carter had previously also enjoyed chart success as a founder-member of The Ivy League (Tossin’ And Turnin’).

strawberry_switchbladeStrawberry Switchblade, one of the few acts I ever caught live before they had a hit (The Housemartins and R.E.M. are the others; besides them, I was a jinx to every unknown act I saw), emerged from Glasgow’s punk scene to make some beautiful pop in the mid-‘80s, produced by John Deacon of Queen (so much for the punk revolution). Since Yesterday was released in November 1984, but hit the UK top 5 only in February 1985. They released only one LP and a couple of singles in Japan before splitting and disappearing.

Sibelius thinks about another pop riff.

Jean Sibelius contemplates creating another pop riff.

As the attentive reader may have worked out, both pop songs sample from Sibelius 5th symphony. The horn riff that opens Since Yesterday so gorgeously appeared a decade earlier in an interlude on Beach Baby (at 3:05) which unashamedly and deliberately recreates the sound of the Beach Boys, producing a rather good pastiche.

Jean Sibelius wrote his 5th Symphony in 1915 at the request of the Finnish government which wanted to mark the composer’s 50th birthday by declaring it a public holiday. It was revised twice, and it is the final revision from 1919 that is most commonly performed. Sibelius said the recurring horn motif which the two pop bands would adopt more than half a century later was inspired by the sound of swan calls. For both acts, the songs that used Sibelius’ swan call represented — and you know that I can never resist a criminally bad pun — their swansong.

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More Copy Borrow Steal

American Road Trip Vol. 6

April 28th, 2009 2 comments

We are on our way out of Alabama, having visited Mobile, Birmingham and Montgomery, but there is one more stop before we see the lights of Georgia.

Tuscaloosa, Alabama

While trawling through Alabama, we met our new friend Chris (himself on a road trip, with his lovely girlfriend, from Mobile to Birmingham) who has invited us to meet him in Tuscaloosa to catch some American Football shenanigans (I’ve always bristled at the idea of that sport being called “football” at the expense of the one that actually calls for the predominant use of feet). And so we go to Tuscaloosa to see the University of Alabama’s gridiron team, the Crimson Tide, beating seven shades of blue of tonight’s oppostion, Wake Forest University’s Demon Deacons. The appalling punster in me is amused to note that the habitual winners should be based in TuscaLOOSA.
Steely Dan – Deacon Blue.mp3
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Atlanta, Georgia

After our excursion into American sporting culture, we dump our 36-tonner truck which we picked up in Baton Rouge and avail ourselves of the great US Railway system, arriving at the station just in time at 23:55. It rains as we cross the state border. Eventually we arrive in Atlanta, city of the unaccountably popular and repulsive Gone With The Wind, carbonated syrup soda, AT&T and other mega-corporations which at present probably are engaged in doing their sums to see if they can qualify for a bailout. Strange to think that just 190 years ago the city was a Cherokee village called Standing Peachtree (hence the civil war Battle of Peachtree Creek and the name of Atlanta’s main street). The Cherokees apparently sold the village to The Man, who in turn forcibly removed them less than 20 years later. Nice.

Atlanta was, of course, an epicentre of the civil rights struggle which was led by a son of the city, Martin Luther King Jr. Atlanta tried to rise above the racism in the region, dubbing itself “the city too busy too hate” (which did not immunise it from hate crimes, racist and anti-semitic).
The B-52s – Love Shack.mp3
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Gatlinburg, Tennessee

Our foray into Georgia is brief, as we make our way north towards the Appalachians (travelling in, for the fun of it, a stagecoach). En route, we stop for a brew in a run-down saloon in Gatlinburg, in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. The frost on our glasses has barely thawed when a fellow spontaneously starts a fight with an older man. The problem apparently arose over the older man giving the younger man, his son, a girl’s name. Turns out that the old boy had given his son such an awful name to toughen up the kid in his fatherless childhood – a ploy that seems to have had its desired effect, yet seems to have been a bad idea on every other count.

After the younger man has left to have his cut ear stitched, the old man snorts derisively: “I lef’ home when the kid was three and it sure felt good to be fancy free, tho’ I knew it wasn’t quite the fatherly thing to do. But that kid kept screamin’ and throwin’ up and pissin’ in his pants till I had enough, so just for revenge I went and named him Sue.” And it gets much worse, and funnier, thereafter. (Get Shel Silverstein’s original of A Boy Named Sue here)
Johnny Cash – A Boy Named Sue.mp3
Shel Silverstein – Father Of A Boy Named Sue.mp3

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One more stop before we cross the Appalachians into Kentucky on our way to Ohio.

Previously on American Road Trip

American Road Trip Vol. 4

April 8th, 2009 No comments

On the last leg of our US tour we visited Elvis’ cities: Memphis and Tupelo. We now enter the territory where Elvis tasted much success before he broke nationwide: Louisiana. In a strange turn of events, Elvis appeared first at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, to little acclaim, supporting Hank Snow. Shortly after Elvis became a weekly regular on the Louisiana Hayride, based in Shreveport, Louisiana, whence many country legends (Hank Williams among them) moved to Nashville. Alas, we will have no time or song to make a turn to Shreveport, but we’ll visit two cities in the state.

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Baton Rouge, Louisiana

I was entirely oblivious to a place called Baton Rouge until, as a young man, I read John Kennedy Toole’s wonderful novel, Confederacy of Dunces, which mentions the city. I loved the name. But we have no time to hang aorund in the state capital of Louisiana, so we move on to the city in which Confederacy of Dunces is set. As we set off in our eight-wheel truck (the beauty of this journey is that we can travel by any mode of transport of our fancy) we spot a pretty hitchhiker. We stop and let her (Bobby by name, as it turns out) and the suddenly appearing boyfriend in — and just in time, too, because it looks like rain, and the poor fellow looks as faded as his jeans. The whole way down to New Orleans we exhaust our song repertoire, with Bobby’s handclaps and the windscreen wiper keeping the rhythm.
Kris Kristofferson – Bobby McGee.mp3

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New Orleans, Louisiana

The city of legends has popularised the idea of Mardi Gras, which idiots around the world have a way of scheduling all year round (it is, of course, the carnival before the season of Lent). More lately, New Orleans has become a symbol of George W Bush’s callous incompetence. There are hundreds of songs about New Orleans — perhaps only New York among jock-a-moUS cities has been the subject of lyrics more frequently — so the challenge here was to identify three top tunes that mention in the title neither the city nor its state, nor Mardi Gras, nor Bourbon Street nor the Latin Quarter (though one does so partly), nor houses of rising suns. So here we entertain ourselves with a trio of songs about a parade confrontation between “tribes” of African-American Mardi gras reveller; a love song for a prostitute (Steely Dan rocking the pedal steel!); and the tale of a hoofer (the version here was not featured in my recent Bojangles line up). The first of these songs became famous in the version by the Dixie Cups, renamed Iko Iko; this is the 1953 original by Sugar Boy Crawford, who co-wrote it with Lloyd Price.
Sugar Boy Crawford & his Cane Cutters – Jock-A-Mo (Iko Iko).mp3
Steely Dan -Pearl Of The Quarter.mp3
Nina Simone – Mr Bojangles.mp3

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Biloxi, Mississippi

Biloxi, pop. 50,000, is another one of those obscure American towns which gained some fame due to American cultural hegemony, thanks to a rather endearing movie featuring Matthew Broderick and Christopher Walken, and earlier to Goldie Hawn’s Private Benjamin. Biloxi is well-known also as a casino resort and as the one-time abode of the beautiful Jessica Alba. And now Biloxi attains great fame thanks to Any Major Dude, who’s not even American. More recently, of course, Biloxi was frequently mentioned in association with Hurricane Katrina. So, here we are in Biloxi on the Gulf of Mexico and meet a middle-aged fellow with his young girlfriend. He came from Houston, just left is family behind. Sometimes he goes back to see his family. It doesn’t sound like they are very impressed with him. But our new friend seems to have no regrets. Or does he?
Jack Ingram – Biloxi (live).mp3

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We will leave the former capital of French Louisiana, known then as Bilocci, for the town that had that honour before. Before Biloxi we had visited the city especially built as a capital to succeed it, La Nouvelle-Orléans. The French decided that New Orleans would be safer from hurricanes and flooding… And our next stop will be the city which was the French colony’s first capital.

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Previously on American Road Trip

Music For Bloggers: Vol. 7

July 23rd, 2008 6 comments

Last time I promised to post more Music For Bloggers within a couple of weeks. Almost month later… As always, if your blog doesn’t feature now, it might do so in the future. Does anyone find this feature useful?

Uncle E’s Musical Nightmares
This might look like an act of reciprocity: a little while back, Uncle E. posted a bunch of made-up and amusing “facts” about Steely Dan, in honour of this little blog. While I was genuinely touched by that, I really do enjoy Uncle E.’s lists, notes and the occasional rant. His fireworks about his “little iPod cigarette lighter FM ‘port’ thingy” (it’s called an iTrip, I think. At least when the fuckers from Apple make it) a few days ago is quite spectacular; and his alternative CD-R playlist not at all unattractive. Unle E. does not give us music, but he gives us some good ideas – and entertains us along the way.
Cat Stevens – 18th Avenue (Kansas City Nightmare).mp3

Jens Lekman – smalltalk
I don’t go in much for blogs written by artists. Maybe I’m betraying my utter lack of empirical research now, but my impression is that often they are either banal or written by the act’s PR interns. Armed with that prejudice, I don’t tend to seek out such blogs. Occasionally I’ll stumble upon one by accident; usually when I do research for this blog. That’s how I found Jay Brannan’s blog, and that’s how I found Jens Lekman’s. If it is necessary to introduce to the reader the great Lekman, the dear reader might right-click HERE for an introduction. Jens doesn’t update his blog with compulsive regularity, unfortunately. The last entry was on June 30. Still, so much greater the joy when he does. I like this, from his entry on 19 June: Everytime I play on some satellite radio station I always end up in the same discussion. [Satellite radio station guy] “You know you can say anything you want here right?” “Oh yeah? That’s cool.” “You know, really, anything.” “Sweet.” “I mean, you can say fuck if you want to.” “Ok.” (silence) “…We’d really like you to say fuck as much as possible.” This absolutely wonderful song namechecks Jens Lekman:
Hello Saferide – The Quiz.mp3

Ain’t Superstitious
The blog’s full title in full is “Ain’t Superstitious, but these things I’ve seen”, which by dint of a comma is an even bigger mouthful than Any Major Dude With Half A Heart. Like most music blogs with long names, it’s named after a song lyric, in this case a Faces song. Blogger Paul Madison, a resident of Wisconsin (one US state I know absolutely nothing about) has a nice, crisp style of writing; he knows his stuff and how to convey it. His music selections are invariably of interest — he scooped me with a post on Lennon/McCartney compositions recorded by other acts. To make sense of my dedication, you’ll have to visit Paul’s blog.
The Style Council – My Ever Changing Moods (12″ version).mp3

AM, Then FM
I could have sworn that I featured this blog before, but apparently not, as repeated scans of previous Music for Bloggers entries confirmed. Perhaps I wrote a masterful review and in the haze of a drunken hour miserably deleted it. Like Paul of Ain’t Superstitious, Jeff is from Wisconsin. His blogroll features many sites also included on mine, but not the blog of his fellow Wisconsan (and vice versa). Which means that either they don’t each other (possible, unless Wisconsin has a population of 250; as I said, I know nothing about Wisconsin) or they do know each other but are entertaining a long-running family feud. They’d like each other’s blogs, I’m sure. Jeff deals in mostly vinyl rips, some of them quite rare, and evidently in covers of the Rolling Stone featuring Linda Ronstadt in her loveliest pomp. And some good writing along the way. This reminds me, August 12 is Vinyl Record Day , and AM, Then FM and other friends of this blog will take part. I’m trying to organise a turntable (my Technics has no stylus, and I no money for a new one) and learn to rip vinyl before then, but I’m not hopeful that I’ll succeed.
Steely Dan – FM.mp3

PsD Photoshop Disasters
I discovered this blog only yesterday, when I had a shitload of work to do. Work, which includes the occasional bit of photoshopping, had to be damned for an hour or so while I guffawed at some of the idiotic things that can happen when you let the monkeys loose on clever toys. How likely is it to clone, if you need to clone at all, a solitary hand parked on a fence? How difficult is it to let the lovely model keep her belly button (I like belly buttons. Surely everybody likes belly buttons)? I can’t understand why some images need to be created from scratch in Photoshop instead of in a photo studio, or why a model’s arm needs to be stretched to unnatural lengths. And is there no quality control. Not in glossy magazines, Apple ads or DVD covers. DTP has made print media production much easier, but it has also allowed talentless amateurs on the steering wheel. They go crazy with layers and the cloning tool, they O.D. on fonts, they violate every rule of colour management. I once saw an NGO’s annual report which ran all text in red on black background. The design agency – for it was a graphic design company, not he secretary’s 12-year-old son who designed the report – won an award for it! The Photoshop Disasters blog is a healthy way to mock incompetence an

d sloppiness in design. The dedicated song is a 2002 track from a now disbanded South African rock group.
Perez – Picture Perfect.mp3

SibLingshot On The Bleachers
This is a fairly new blog, kicking off business just two months ago. In its first month, blogger ib created almost as many posts as I did in all of 2007, and just in July more than I have this year. And we’re not talking about quickly churned out one-liners, but well-written and thoughtful posts written from a position of knowledge. That is impressive. ib’s music selection is very good, too, covering a wide range of genres, from Deodato via Johnny Cash and Jonathan Richman to the 1910 Fruitgum Company. Normally there is just one song per post, which means that quite a bit of thought goes into choosing the most suitable song. Some of the stuff is very rare. Given ib’s eclectic tastes and weird blog title, I’ve been stuck for a dedication. I remember early in his career, ib posted the Dionne Warwick and Frankie Goes To Hollywood version of Do You Know The Way To San José. You can never go wrong with a bit of Burt, so from 1965…
Jackie Trent – Make It Easy On Yourself.mp3

Dr Forrest’s Cheese Factory
This is a treasure trove in a goldmine. It’s a malfunctioning cash machine which cannot stop spewing out loot – provided one wants comedy or collects really bad music, or gets a kick out of audio novelties. The blog’s narrative is manic, and so is the rate of posting. My heart leapt when I opened the blog yesterday and saw the Kids From The Brady Bunch album, which is truly terrible and needs to be listened to. Once. Ethel Merman’s famous disco album? It’s there. I’ve seen many albums for download in the Cheese Factory which are staples of the “worst album covers ever” type of lists. You know the type of obscure sleeves which may depict four fat brothers and their one-armed mother in matching brown polyester suits warning the kids of the devil in country style. Chances are good that the Cheese Factory has that album. The Cheese Factory also seems to share my obsession with horrible moustaches. To celebrate everything done in the best possible taste, here’s a song the Cheese Factory does not have:
Kenny Everett – Snot Rap.mp3

N.M.E. & Melody Maker
I don’t know whether there are more sites like it, but this unassumingly named blog provides a wonderful service: scanned articles from the Melody Maker and New Musical Express, circa 1987-96. At times, it might embarrass the hacks featured (I’d hate for someone to dig up some of the rubbish I wrote 15 years ago), but it’s great fun. And what fine writers there were: David Stubbs (whose Mr Agreeables and variations thereof also feature), Taylor Parkes (an incredible writer who is far too underused; just read his doubtless easily knocked out Smiths review), Simon Price, Andrew Mueller, Everett True… and a few NME types. Funny, I never liked the NME much, but, goodness, it’s so bloody horrible now that I miss the old incarnation. And the Maker is long dead. So, while we mourn the existence of the non-broadsheet, rather too laddish NME, we can revisit the good old days. Hey, is there a blog dedicated to Smash Hits’ Black Type? Is he Back! Back!! Back!!! somewhere? Of all the dedications in this post, this track was a no-brainer.
The Cure – Desperate Journalist.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
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

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

In the middle of the road: Part 1

October 12th, 2007 3 comments

I suppose one might label the songs that will populate this series as “Guilty Pleasures”. I have used the term myself, but actually object to the notion that one should feel embarrassed about enjoying music, even if our friends from the Taste Police might not approve of it. Far better than conceding a “delicious embarrassment” at enjoying the mid-tempo sounds of Boston or the Doobie Brothers, one should acknowledge that this is damn good stuff best played on the long road with the windows down as the wind blows through one’s hair. Embarrassment is for losers.

Player – Baby Come Back.mp3
The song which inspired this series. The chorus is utter genius, and listen to the bassline and that distinctive guitar part. But the best moment comes at 2:35 when the backing singer hits the falsetto in echo of the vocalist’s “nothing left for me”.

Nicolette Larson – Lotta Love.mp3
This song was written by the Ronald Reagan endorsing whiner Neil Young. I don’t remember him singing it, but it probably sucks (you may have noted that I’m not a huge admirer of Mr Young). In the hands of Nicolette Larson, however, it is a wonderful cruising song (I’m talking automobiles here, folks). It has a flute in it, which is all I ask of a song. Hell, Boney M could have placed a flute in “Hooray! Hooray! It’s A Holi-Holiday”, and I’d be uploading the bastard in tribute as we speak. Happily, Boney M didn’t and I don’t. Instead, this slice of MOR heaven from 1978. Nicolette Larson never enjoyed a great career, and died on 1997 at the age of 45.

Boston – More Than A Feeling.mp3
That riff surely is one of the most famous in rock history (are that handclaps in the background?). Amazingly, this was recorded in a home studio. Brad Delp’s soaring vocals as he sings “I see my Mary-Ann walking away” just before the guitar solo, at 2:18, the “slipped away” line (3:30) and then the long note at the end are quite stunning. Sadly Delp died earlier this year.

Ambrosia – Biggest Part Of Me.mp3
One of my happy songs. It is also one hell of a great love song. Another track with great vocals, and excellent harmonising. In fact, when a capella outfit Take 6 covered “Biggest Part Of Me” (changing the lyrics to turn it into a gospel number), they lifted the harmonies almost faithfully from the original.

Steely Dan – Reelin’ In The Years.mp3
The earliest song in the series, from 1972, kicks off with a killer guitar solo, races through the first verse, and then rocks a glorious sing-along solo. The piano on the track is quite wonderful.

Rupert Holmes – Him.mp3
If any song in this series could justify the “Guilty Pleasure” label, it is this. The lyrics are remarkably poor (“three is one too many of us”), and that opening gambit about cigarette brands is hilariously bad — but, by Jove, this song insidiously lodges itself into the listener’s ear. By the time Rupert launches into the “ooooh-hooo-hooo”, one involuntarily hooooos along.

Doobie Brothers – What A Fool Believes.mp3
Michael McDonald is not exactly the poster boy for hipness, and that dreary “On My Own” hit with Patti LaBelle didn’t help to compensate for the man’s rock dad beard. But the dude can sing. On “What A Fool Believes”, with its driving keyboard hook, McDonald delivers a vocal masterclass.

Bill LaBounty – Livin’ It Up.mp3
A lost classic. Bill LaBounty’s1982 track bounces gently along to a catchy keyboard groove until that wonderful chorus comes in, and one simply has to sing along with it. The lyrics are pure pathos, but, hey, who has not put on a facade of happiness to mask a broken heart?

More Middle of the Road

Pissing off the Taste Police with America

August 6th, 2007 7 comments

While we wait for the final two installments of the Songbirds series, let’s piss off the Taste Gestapo by focussing on one of the most underappreciated groups of the ’70s: America (who have just released their first studio album in 20 years, incidentally).

Yeah, I know, “Horse With No Name” has no cool factor, and remains the butt of many jokes. Oddly, I can’t think of any other #1 hit about drugs that enjoys so little credibility as “Horse”. Probably because it isn’t a very good song. Alas, because it is America’s best-known song, the group’s entire folk-rock legacy is tarnished. And that is a great shame, for there is much in America’s catalogue that is, at least within its genre, admirable. And if America was good enough to be produced by George Martin, who are we to argue?

Granted, America didn’t set out to shift musical boundaries. Indeed, they were in a large measure derivative, owing much to the various groups that donated their frontmen to Crosby, Stills & Nash (and, for that matter, to Neil Young). America’s place in history certainly is not on the pedestals occupied by the great innovators. But music need not establish a revolutionary manifesto to be enjoyed. And the mellow, harmonising sounds of America are greatly enjoyable. They create warmth, and they create happiness for those partial to mellowing, harmonising sounds.

So, in this post, no “Horse With No Name”. The other big hit is there, the joyous anthem for commitment-shy men and desperate argument for the value of cohabitation, “Sister Golden Hair” (1975), with its George Harrison-sounding guitar intro, singalong chorus, the doo-wop-n-doo-wops, and the counted outro.
America – Sister Golden Hair.mp3

“I Need You” (1971) is the song responsible for this post. While we had a power cut tonight, this song was stuck in my head. I cued it on the iPodm (thank goodness for its 73GB — though not the advertised 80GB; the fuckers are lying to us), and one thing leading to another, I listened to more America songs than I had planned, all with a huge grin on my face, thinking how the Taste Gestapo would despise me for my act rebellion against the consensus. Truth is, “I Need You” is a beautifully crafted love song.
America – I Need You.mp3

“Lonely People” (1974) is in great part pure Crosby, Stills & Nash rip-offery, except for the brief piano interlude, from the harmonies to the lyrically content. Dave Crosby surely would have been proud to have written this little gem. And thanks to this song, I cannot help myself saying “hit it” before any harmonica solo I hear.
America – Lonely People.mp3

A new generation of music consumers were introduced to America in 2001 when Janet Jackson sampled the guitar riff from “Ventura Highway” (1972) on her hit single “Someone To Call My Lover”. It is a stand-out riff. America should be remembered for that, not for horses in deserts. And did Prince pick up the “Puple Rain” idea from “Ventura Highway”? And just after the line about “purple rain”, “Joe” is advised of the option to “change your name”. Just as Prince did in the ’90s. Care to develop a crackpot theory about America’s pivotal influence on Prince’s life? Anyway, what are “alligator lizards” doing “in the air”? My theory, it’s another drug reference. Come on, lets go crazy!
America – Ventura Highway.mp3

Sampling the “Ventura Highway” guitar riff (and re-recording it, to save on royalties!) was not Janet Jackson’s first bout of “inspiration” by America. Listen to “Daisy Jane” and tell me how Janet’s “Let’s Wait A While” is not patent plagiarism. The song’s title was a play on Nick Drake’s “Hazy Jane”. The chorus, unviolated by Jackson, is quite lovely, despite the hoary cliché of love and “the stars above us” (but then, anyone who’s ever been in love will recognise the cliché).
America – Daisy Jane.mp3

And, while I’m at it, here’s a great video somebody made of this blog’s theme song by Steely Dan.

Music for bloggers Vol.1

August 1st, 2007 6 comments

To be honest, I don’t look at many blogs that don’t do music. So my idea of giving some love for my favourite blogs is rather compromised by the reality that most of them are music blogs — and to leave out one or the other is going to make me feel very guilty indeed. So please regard this as the first in a series of a few, and if you think your blog should be among the ten to receive some love here, but isn’t, it will perhaps get some next time. Oh, and please remember to right-click to open links in a new window or tab.

And here, my funky ones, is the song that inspired the name for this blog (which almost was called Squonk’s Tears):
Steely Dan – Any Major Dude.mp3

Totally Fuzzy
Chances are good that you are here because of that wonderful aggregator blog. Props to Mephisto (whose own mp3 blog rocks), Herr K and gang.
Sesame Street – Fuzzy And Blue.mp3
…and while we’re at it
Sesame Street – Manna Manna.mp3 (might be the Muppets version)
Sesame Street – Rubber Ducky.mp3
Sesame Street – It’s Not Easy Being Green.mp3
Sesame Street – C Is For Cookie.mp3

Not-Rock-On
A blog filled with utter delights (such as bootlegs of Smiths, Jonathan Richman, John Cale gigs). Jörg has not only commented a few times on this blog, but also written a post dedicated to my humble blog. For which I’m not only grateful because it strokes my ego, but also because it gave me the idea for this fiesta of payback. Jörg threatens to do a ’80s soul round-up soon (as do I). Here’s a 1982 classic he might like to use; one of three absolutely superb duets (this one a Marvin Gaye cover) performed by Randy Crawford and Al Jarreau at the Montreaux Jazz Festival, from the Casino Lights album.
Randy Crawford & Al Jarrreau – Your Precious Love.mp3

Serenity Now!
Dick Darlington’s album blog always has something for me. And Dick is a great guy: when I moaned that Rapidshare hates me (just can’t download from it, dunno why), he re-uploaded the album I wanted on Mediashare or some such site. Here’s a song (which channels ’70s pop in an alt.country sort of way) from Josh Ritter’s very good new album, The Historical Conquests Of Josh Ritter, which I’ve been test-driving thanks to Dick’s Seinfeld-referencing blog.
Josh Ritter – Right Moves.mp3

Stay-at-home Indie Pop
I like the blog’s name, and I like Ian’s writing. The a recent entry describes a mundane minutiae of life in a quite captivating manner — a sign of a fine writer (and not all journalists and writers of football books are fine writers). And I can see where Ian is going with the iPod dilemma — how many does one need, and how old is ancient in an iPod’s life? Ian likes his “songbirds”, as do I. So here is one of my favourite female singer-songwriters at the moment:
Kate Walsh – Is This It.mp3

The Late Greats
This is a blog where I have discovered a shedload of artists I might never have encountered otherwise. And this, RCIAA, is the benefit of MP3 blogging. One of the groups The Duke turned me on to is The Beauty Shop, whose “Desperate Cry For Help” should be a total classic: great tune, great lyrics, great delivery.
The Beauty Shop – Desperate Cry For Help

Tsururadio
A refuge in times of stress. Tsuru’s blog is so laid back, the music so great and the photos of arty nudes so lovely, one wishes one could move into the blog. Tsuru is a New Pornographers fan, so here’s a track from A.C. Newman’s 2004 solo album, The Slow Wonder.
A.C. Newman – On The Table.mp3

Twohundredpercent
Excellent football (“soccer”) musings. The blog also includes sections of football-related music. If your life is incomplete without the “Anfield Rap”, or you want to pretend you’re running out at Upton Park to Michael Jackson’s classic “I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles”, or you absolutely need to hear the British TV theme to the 1968 Olympic coverage, then you’ll find the Brighton fan’s blog a music treasure chest. One song missing from twohundredpercent’s site is this collaboration between kwaito band TKZee and Blackburn’s Benni McCarthy (then, in 1998, playing for Ajax Amsterdam), which samples “The Final Countdown” (but of course).
TKZee & Benni McCarthy – Shibobo.mp3

Jefito Blog
Jefito’s thorough anthological reviews (called “Complete Idiot’s Guide”) of an eclectic bunch of artists is legendary in MP3 blogland, and his mix-tapes are always worth checking out. His Crowded House review a few months back was spot-on, so here is my favourite Crowded House song, from the Farewell To The World live set.
Crowded House – When You Come (live).mp3

Television Without Pity
Well, it’s not a blog, but in a way it is a blogging community. This is the place I go to when I have missed an episode of Lost or need to know what exactly happens in the next installment of Prison Break. The round-ups don’t just recap an episode, but describes every scene in detail and with a generous dose of wit. Each programme has its own dedicated writer, lending the recaps a particular character, and presents an opportunity to work with in-jokes. I particularly enjoyed the one when Rome‘s deliciously devious Atia was renamed Julii Cooper. In honour of the O.C. reference, here’s Alexi Murdoch’s re-recorded version of “Orange Sky”, from his pretty good full debut album, Time Without Consequence, which was released last year (to be truthful, I prefer the version from the brilliant Four Songs EP.)
Alexi Murdoch – Orange Sky.mp3

Michael’s World
Call it paternal pride, but I love this blog. He has a mirror blog on a South African blogging community, but let’s get his Blogger site some hits, shall we? When Michael started with guitar lessons at the age of 10 two years ago, his tutor (a seasoned session musician) asked him what music he’d like to learn first. The little guy’s answer: “Johnny Cash”. Which I thought was very cool! Here is some proof that Sting is not entirely a twit: Cash’s infinitely superior cover of Gordon’s “I Hung My Head”, from the American IV: The Man Comes Around album (which got Michael into Ca

sh).
Johnny Cash – I Hung My Head.mp3