Thursday, 30 June 2011

Lana Del Ray - Video Games

Joe writes: Been listening to this a lot and Fearne Cotton has just played it on Radio 1

Wise Blood - Loud Mouths

Joe writes: I love this. Wise Blood could be about to take what Wu Lyf do and blow it up by adding melody. Shades of Sleigh Bells and eels as well. I played it for some people earlier this week and one of them said "I've never heard music like that before" - big compliment right?

This remarkable blog features a recording of their live set.

Mummy Short Arms – Cigarette Smuggling

Joe writes: I have a soft spot for singers who sound like they're losing it. I really like the guitar and the harmonica. In fact I really like just about everything about this track. The band are from Glasgow.

MUMMY SHORT ARMS - Cigarette Smuggling by Flowers In The Dustbin

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Thursday, 23 June 2011

More Sammy Cahn

Phil writes: He was also apparently responsible for two great songs on Chet Baker's memorable album 'Chet Baker Sings'.

Sammy Cahn/Mario Lanza

Joe writes: This week I have been learning about Sammy Cahn, who co-wrote Come Fly With Me, Let It Snow Let It Snow Let It Snow, and Love And Marriage. But best of all for me is Be My Love, especially when Mario Lanza sings it. Russell Watson must listen to this and weep.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Now and Forever

Phil writes: Carole King has written so many great songs but this is right up there with the best. On holiday, it kept coming up when I had the shuffle on and each time I thought how good it was:

The Cars - Drive

Phil writes: So many of us first heard this at 'Live Aid' when at David Bowie's insistence (he cut short his set to accommodate it) a brief film of haunting images of the starvation in Ethiopia, to which this was the only sound- track, was shown. Even now it's hard to disentangle it from the images, but its a great and haunting song in its own right. (I would have posted the Ethiopia footage but apparently its unavailable.)

The first two Springsteen albums - "I've broken all your windows and I've rammed through all your doors"

Joe writes: Bruce Springsteen released two albums before Born To Run broke him. Greetings From Asbury Park, NJ was recorded in a hurry but features some of his best songwriting. Blinded By The Light is his only US Hot 100 no. 1 as a songwriter, when covered by Manfred Mann's Earth Band. For You, which Manfred Mann also covered, is a prototype Thunder Road. But best of all is Growin' Up, once covered by Alvin Stardust. Here's some live footage of Bruce playing it on acoustic guitar, from 1972:

You don't hear many covers of songs from Bruce's second album, The Wild, The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle, which saw him move away from conventional songwriting, presumably influenced by Astral Weeks. Normally I'm a "conventional songwriting" kind of person, but this is probably my favourite Bruce album (just as Astral Weeks is my favourite Van Morrison album). The magic comes when the jams eventually coalesce into hooks, as on the chorus of 4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy). Or on Incident On 57th Street, when he sings "Goodnight, it's alright Jane". This song could be a companion piece to the Scorcese film Mean Streets and like Scorcese, Bruce was just warming up for what was to come. Amazing live version here (Bruce is one of the few artists for whom the recordings of the live versions are worth a listen alongside the studio recordings):

Joe writes: Clarence Clemons has died

I'm not sure music gets any better than Thunder Road, and the saxophone plays a big part (as does the glockenspiel):

Wish I had been at this gig (wasn't alive then but still):

Friday, 17 June 2011

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Harry Belafonte

Joe writes: My friend Jamie Catto got to know Harry Belafonte recently which caused me to listen to him properly for the first time. I may be stating the obvious here but he is great. In particular I have been listening to the Calypso album which includes Banana Boat Song and Jamaica Farewell (AKA Kingston Town). The voice and the melodies are obviously both amazing, and the sparse arrangements sound eerily modern at times.

His life outside music has been inspiring too.

Jason Derulo uses a line from Banana Boat Song in his horrible new single but don't let that put you off.

Harry Belafonte - Banana Boat Song (Day-O)

Harry Belafonte - Matilda

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Another great duet

Phil writes: I posted a few of them a while back but i don't think I got round to this one:

Somewhere in my heart

Phil writes: My other son, Ben, wondered, slightly tongue in cheek, if he was a bit sad for booking a ticket to see Roddy Frame. But this is a classic pop song that stands the test of time and, incidentally, one of the first songs that my sons introduced me to:

Emmylou and Gram

Phil writes: When Gram Parsons died, a devastated Emmylou Harris wrote the extremely moving 'From Boulder to Birmingham', a magnificent song. Now on her new album she has produced a more measured and reflective song about their relationship and how it, and his death, have affected her life. Perhaps not as great a song, but still a great song:

(There's also a very fine live acoustic version on YouTube which can't be embedded.)

This video gives a glimpse of them on the road and also includes their wonderful version of 'Love Hurts':

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

At Seventeen by Janis Ian

Phil writes: A great song which absolutely nails what adolescence felt like for many (most?) of us:

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Your Desert Island Discs

Joe writes: On Saturday morning, Radio 4 broadcast Your Desert Island Discs, featuring a rundown of the tracks that listeners would take to a desert island.

Skip forward to 38 minutes to hear an anecdote about Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika, the South African national anthem. I was moved to tears. This song played a big part in my youth.

Then right after that on the Radio 4 show is some interesting background on Beethoven's Ninth, and how it was received when Beethoven conducted its first performance.

Joni Mitchell was listeners' no. 1 female artist and A Case Of You the no. 1 female song which is also true on my desert island.

There's a discussion of why this song is so great, plus some footage of Joni Mitchell performing live at 7.30 in this video:

The Desert Island Discs website now features details of every track chosen by guests on the show.

Sorry Azerbaijan....

Phil writes: ...there's only one 'Running Scared' and this is it, the song you'd use to demonstrate pop music to a visiting Martian who would then return home convinced that we had a vastly superior civilisation:

(Would have posted this before but I've been on holiday!)

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

"You light up another cigarette and I pour the wine"

Joe writes: listening to the new Birdy single on Radio 1 reminded me of Promise Me by Beverley Craven:

My first girlfriend could play this on the piano.

Note added September 9th 2012: Scooter have borrowed a couple of lines from Promise Me for their new single 4am, along with a big nod to Million Voices by Otto Knows.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Bob Seger

Joe writes: Writing about Tonight by Tanya Stephens below reminded me of We Got Tonite by Bob Seger - one could almost be an answer record to the other.

Like John Mellencamp, Bob Seger is sometimes denigrated as being a poor man's Bruce Springsteen, which is a bit like denigrating The Kinks for not being as good as The Beatles.

Here's another Seger favourite, Still The Same. I must have heard my dad sing this a hundred times before I ever heard Bob Seger's version (I think my dad had lost his copy), but in the internet era Bob's version is of course at my fingertips. I love the internet.

Tanya Stephens' Sintoxicated album

Joe writes: Around the turn of the millennium, Jamaican dancehall star Tanya Stephens made a Macy Gray-style pop album with two Swedish producers, Emil Gotthard and Peter Cartiers, and released it on Warner Sweden. The songwriting on the album was brilliant but the campaign ended in tears. I raved about the music to a Warner US executive; he said the meeting he had with Tanya was one of the worst he'd ever had with an artist.

The album's thank-you list is the best I've ever seen, and makes me think Tanya's searing anger could somehow have been turned into an angle:

There are two songs on the album that are crying out to covered.

Lying Lips (Words I Should Have Said) is such a brilliant lyric and melody - imagine if Amy or Adele did it.

Tonight is great too:

I really recommend buying the Tanya Stephens album on iTunes. And if anyone is still in the CD era, I have a spare copy.

Finally, there's a kind of EPK here which might have set a few alarm bells ringing