Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Tanya Stephens - Sintoxicated

Joe writes: This blog is about to take a short break but before we do, one of my favourite lost albums of the last decade.

Around the turn of the millennium, Jamaican dancehall artist Tanya Stephens decamped to Sweden and made a singer-songwriter album for Warner that's closer to Tracy Chapman and Macy Gray than Lady Saw.

This excellent review says that Tanya had some reservations about the production style. I too have reservations about the production, but the songwriting is incredible throughout. The lyrics are savage in places, but not as savage as the thank-you list which is really more of a "fuck you" list. Two of the songs in particular are crying out to be covered - Lying Lips and Tonight - both ballads on a similar theme. Such good songs - clever yet emotive.

Oh, and here's my favourite Lady Saw track. Another really good song and an intriguing arrangement with the fiddle player playing in the next room. I'm pretty sure Lady Saw wrote the song, which was later covered by Linda Ronstadt.

Tanya Stephens - Lying Lips (iTunes)

Tanya Stephens - Tonight (iTunes)

Lady Saw - Give Me A Reason (iTunes)

Monday, 16 June 2008

Kate & Anna McGarrigle

Joe writes: I've written about Kate & Anna McGarrigle before but as my dad mentions them below, here once again is my favourite track of theirs. Not one from their eponymous debut album, although which has rightly appeared in Best Album of All-Time lists, but Matapedia, the title track of their 1996 album. Martha Wainwright sings vocals and makes an appearance in the lyrics as "the daughter of Kate".

Kate & Anna McGarrigle - Matapedia (buy from Amazon)

Saturday, 14 June 2008

Emmylou - A Solid Album

The recently released 'All I Intended To Be' features some classy backing musicians, a few standout tracks and that haunting voice - often in harmony, when it is heard at its best. My favourite has to be this collaboration (writing and performing) with the McGarrigle sisters. As with some of the early Dylan repertoire, you can't be sure whether it's a traditional song, a reworking of a traditional song or a totally new composition, but it's the kind of track that will quickly get inside your head whatever.

Emmylou Harris - There's a pared down live performance (from Later) of 'How She Could Sing the Wildwood Flower' on YouTube (album on iTunes)

Friday, 6 June 2008

The re-release of 'Let's Get Lost'

the classic documentary about the legendary Chet Baker prompts me to post a track from the brilliant album 'Chet Baker Sings'. Of course, Chet made his name as a lyrical trumpet player with a very distinctive, and beautiful, tone. But he also had a fine voice. In the latter stages of his career he sang more than he played trumpet, partly because of problems with his teeth - his trumpet-playing never reached its former heights after his teeth were knocked out in a dispute which was almost certainly drug-related. His trumpet playing on the album is just right, perfectly complementing his voice. Many of the tracks have the melancholic flavour of the one I've chosen but the sound is so great that listening is a far from depressing experience. Many other musicians, amongst them Van Morrison and Elvis Costello, recognised Chet's greatness and not that long before his death Chet contributed a perfect little solo on Elvis's version of 'Shipbuilding'.

Chet Baker - It's Always You (iTunes)

Elvis Costello - Shipbuilding (iTunes)

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Talking of Gram Parsons.......

I first heard of him when I bought and was absolutely bowled over by Elvis Costello's album 'Almost Blue'. Elvis recorded it in Nashville, I think, with some local musicians added to the Attractions. Every track on the album was a country cover and the LP cover carried a sticker which famously said: "WARNING: This album contains country & western music and may cause offence to narrow minded listeners." The most memorable track, for me, was Gram's immortal 'Hot Burrito #1' (sensibly renamed 'I'm Your Toy' - never was a sublime song more ridiculously titled). When I finally caught up with Gram's own version with, of course, the Flying Burrito Brothers, I had to accept that the original was better, if only for the heartbreaking cracking of his voice at crucial stages, but Elvis gives him a run for his money. More of Gram perhaps when my son posts his own take on this seminal artist - and more of Emmylou when the new album is finally released. It's been delayed but I've got it on order!

Elvis Costello - I'm Your Toy (iTunes)

Emmylou Harris was just interviewed in The Times

Joe writes: The piece mostly focuses on how attractive she is for a 61 year-old, and Gram Parsons.

Still, at least this gives me a chance to post Boulder To Birmingham, one of my all-time favourites and surely one of the saddest songs of all-time (if you've read the Times article you will be able to hazard a guess at what the lyrics are about).

My dad introduced me to Boulder To Birmingham and he's going to see Emmylou live on her current tour. He also has her new album so will hopefully post something from that, if it's great.

Boulder To Birmingham was written by Emmylou and Bill Danoff. Bill's other credits include Take Me Home Country Roads, a smash for John Denver and Hermes House Party (I will resist the temptation to include a Hermes House Party track on the same thread as Boulder To Birmingham, but I must do a John Denver post and a Gram Parsons post before long).

Emmylou Harris - Boulder To Birmingham (iTunes)

"The United States sponsored the rise of the Third Reich"

Joe writes: Immortal Technique is playing at the Coronet in London tonight and I'm going.

He often raps about conspiracy theories, although he doesn't like that term as he explains on The Cause Of Death. But almost every line here outlines a new conspiracy theory or alarming "fact". It's powerful in its relentlessness, and listening to it reminds me of watching the conspiracy theory film Zeitgeist. Alarming, thought-provoking, extremely misguided in places, but you have to admire the passion, anger and desire to educate the listener - all of which are conspicuously absent from so much of today's hip hop music.

Immortal Technique - The Cause Of Death on iTunes

Monday, 2 June 2008

Golden Silvers and back in black

There seems to be a nice buzz building on Golden Silvers in the London music industry. One of their songs stands head and shoulders above the others I've heard and of course it's the ballad, Fade To Black.

Black has been a big theme in music in the past few years. When you read that, perhaps you don't immediately think of Burn The Black Suit by Juliet Turner or Raude by Black Rose - but you should!

Juliet is an Irish singer songwriter and Burn The Black Suit should have been a huge hit. She has a new album out soon, I see from her website.

I thought Black Rose were extremely obscure (their album is hard to find in the UK) but this website, where you can buy their downloads, tells me they are "without a doubt the most popular Fijian group in the Pacific". Raude is such a great noise and so infectious.

Golden Silvers - Fade To Black (nothing on iTunes yet)

Juliet Turner - Burn The Black Suit (iTunes)

Black Rose - Raude (not on iTunes or Amazon but try the website above or