Saturday, 31 December 2011

Fields of Gold - Eva Cassidy

Phil writes:  I caught a bit of an extended Radio 2 interview with Sting.  I was reminded of this version of possibly his best song, surely one of the greatest covers ever.

Friday, 30 December 2011

This Masquerade - The Carpenters

Phil writes:  I've been listening to a lot of Carpenters stuff recently  -  another favourite of my wife Sue's.  Karen Carpenter does have a unique, and wonderful, voice (Rumer sounds a bit like her, as everyone remarks).  This Leon Russell song is maybe not the greatest they ever recorded but it does show off her voice superbly and it contains the killer lines:  'We tried to talk it over but the words got in the way'.

On Raglan Road from the In Bruges soundtrack

Joe writes: I recent saw the film In Bruges which features the song On Raglan Road over a key scene.

The version used on the film is by Luke Kelly of The Dubliners who first set the Patrick Kavanagh poem to the tune of the traditional song The Dawning Of The Day. I prefer Van Morrison & The Chieftains' take, from the album Irish Heartbeat which my dad has written about before. I love the bit where Van whispers. In fact, the entire vocal performance is incredible.

Here they are performing it on the BBC:

Sunday, 25 December 2011

Christmas Records

Joe writes: Obviously the best Christmas record ever is Fairytale of New York and the best Christmas album ever is the Phil Spector one.

Here are three less obvious choices

3) Christmas Song - Dave Matthews Band. From the Platinum Christmas album which also contains two other really good Christmas originals by Dido and R Kelly. Maybe I'll post those next year.

2) O Tannenbaum - The Vince Guaraldi Trio. An essential purchase at this time of year is the A Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack. This is the opening track - a jazz piano trio version of the tune also known as The Red Flag isn't obviously Christmas-y, but the whole album really is.

1) A Kind Of Christmas Card - Morten Harket. Great uplifting track from former A-Ha frontman that should have been a massive hit. Shades of All The Young Dudes.

(update of post originally from 3/12/2007)

Marvin Gaye - Sunny (Mercury Edit II)

Joe writes: The song is better known in its Boney M version. Marvin is better known for many other songs. But it's a great song and a great vocal performance which survives this re-edit.

Marvin Gaye - Sunny - Mercury Edit II by Mercury (Switzerland)

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Lou Monte - Dominick The Italian Christmas Donkey

Joe writes: Amarillo by Tony Christie was a modest hit in its day, but a huge UK no. 1 in recent years. Dominick The Italian Christmas Donkey wasn't a hit in its day, but it will be the Christmas no. 2 in the UK this year. Sadly the lesson in both cases is that no-one makes music with these qualities anymore, so these tracks stand out from everything else around them.

Incidentally, Lou Monte did have two novelty hits in America but neither of them were as good as this.

I really like the new Band Of Skulls single Bruises

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Closing Time by Semisonic

Joe writes: Dan Wilson, formerly of Semisonic, co-wrote the song of 2011, Someone Like You by Adele. Here's Semisonic's finest moment Closing Time. When you watch the video and listen to the song, you will understand why Dan now writes songs for other people rather than being a rock star himself.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Richard and Linda Thompson

Joe writes: I wrote about my favourite Richard Thompson songs a while back, but that was before I knew Walking On A Wire by Richard and Linda Thompson

buy from Amazon

Here's a live version:

(update of post originally from 07/06/10)

Friday, 16 December 2011

Elizabeth and the Catapult - Thank You for Nothing

Phil writes: A link to this was tweeted by Mike Scott of the Waterboys when he was recently in New York. It's a very good song, and Elizabeth has a great voice, reminiscent of Martha Wainwright.

Is Your Love in Vain?

Phil writes: There's not a lot of Dylan on YouTube, not for want of trying but they usually get pulled. This is a live version of one of my favourite tracks from 'Street Legal' which to me represented a definite return to form when it first appeared.

Being Boring and To Face The Truth

Joe writes: Someone on Twitter pointed out that Being Boring is a very December-ish song. True, and it's also my favourite Pet Shop Boys song. The chord change going into the words "When you're young" is pure magic. The melody goes on forever. The lyric seems to encapsulate an era and a lifetime. Pain + pop again, and an element of "better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all".

Of course Behaviour is my favourite Pet Shop Boys album, with its themes of heartbreak, infidelity, and death. My other favourite Pet Shop Boys song is also on this album, the underrated To Face The Truth. This should have been a single but I guess wasn't because Being Boring was a relatively failure at the time. Songs containing lots of primary rhymes can be trite and grating but "You know it hurts me when you lie, sometimes it even makes me cry, cos I'm so in love with you" is a perfect lyric and melody.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

is Calvin Harris the world's best producer of hit backing tracks?

Joe writes: The backing track alone is good enough to make We Found Love a hit, something that could also be said of Dance Wiv Me by Dizzee Rascal, Calvin Harris and Chrome. Rihanna's video is rather better though.

the tracks of the year 2011

Joe writes: My tracks of the year are:

5. Price Tag - Jessie J (the album came out last year but the single was this year)
2. We Found Love - Rihanna feat. Calvin Harris
1. Someone Like You - Adele

My personal favourites are Video Games, Jar Of Hearts, and You Don't Know How Lucky You Are by Keaton Henson (when I first blogged about this, I wasn't involved with it and didn't imagine I could be, but I am now). I also love Foster The People's Pumped Up Kicks but I first blogged about that in May 2010 so it's not a 2011 track to me. Earthquakes by Labrinth feat. Tinie Tempah is the most exciting production of the year.

I had a conversation earlier this year about what a hit is nowadays, because some of the biggest UK artists don't really have anything you'd describe as a hit. Price Tag is a hit song in the old-fashioned sense.

We Found Love is the best Calvin Harris track and it's competing with Umbrella as the biggest and best Rihanna track. It seems Calvin wrote the topline as well as the backing track - he is a proper talent.

Previously I've only blogged a dance remix of Someone Like You so here's the original:

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

"It's wonderful, chips chips" from the Valentina advert (Via Con Me by Paolo Conte)

Joe writes: I first heard this when it was on an advert for investment trusts ("ITs wonderul" - geddit?). It also featured on the soundtrack to French Kiss. Now it's on an advert for Valentina perfume. It can only be a matter of time before it features on an advert for chips. Anyway, it really is a wonderful piece of music, chips chips.

Monday, 12 December 2011

The Vince Guaraldi Trio - O Tannenbaum (AKA The Red Flag) as featured in the Playstation TV advert

Joe writes: I once flew to San Francisco on Christmas Day with a friend so he could meet up with a girl for only the second time. On arrival she presented him with A Charlie Brown Christmas Album by The Vince Guaraldi Trio - an American institution that is little known in the UK. Skip forward some years: they are married with a kid and O Tannenbaum from the album is featured on a TV advert for Playstation.

The album features jazz-lite versions of well known Christmas songs. It doesn't sound that promising on paper, but somehow it perfectly captures the spirit of the season with its nostalgia, playfulness, and just a hint of melancholia. It's the second best Christmas album of all-time.

The Best of Simon Cowell

Joe writes: For me the litmus test of a TV-related hit single is "Would it have been a hit for an unknown artist who wasn't guaranteed TV exposure?". The answer is emphatically "yes" in the case of my top five Simon Cowell-related releases:

5. Earthquakes - Labrinth feat. Tinie Tempah

Surely the coolest track Simon Cowell has ever touched, despite his slightly cringeworthy namecheck. The moment where a choir of monks sings the chorus a cappella is truly inspired.

4. Keep On Movin' - 5ive

5ive's greatest hit, written by producers Richard "Biff" Stannard and Julian Gallagher, and 5ive members Sean Conlon, Abs Breen and J Brown. Musically, 5ive were a bit more interesting than your average boy band (no Wrong Direction here).

3. Flying Without Wings - Westlife

Written by Wayne Hector and Steve Mac, and it sounds from Wikipedia like it might be another of those songs that came together very quickly. Although Shane Filan out of Westlife is a really good singer, I'd be interested to hear this sung without unnecessary embellishment by a proper soul singer. I'd also love to hear the demo which I assume Wayne Hector sang.

2. Leave Right Now - Will Young

Before it was released, I heard a demo of Will singing this Eg White song. Despite a half-hearted vocal from Will, it sounded wonderful. Will didn't like the song but was eventually persuaded to put his heart into it, and it repaid him, and Eg White, with long careers. I'm not sure Simon Cowell was particularly involved with this process, but still.

1. Bleeding Love - Leona Lewis

The single of 2007 and, for me, Simon Cowell's greatest hit (also his biggest I suspect, having gone worldwide). It was written by Jesse McCartney and Ryan Tedder. Ryan Tedder's production is simple but brilliant. Pain + pop = perfection.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Rock 'n' Roll (I Gave You The Best Years Of My Life)

Joe writes: Both the posts below (about Dobie Gray and Slow Moving Millie) reminded me of this song.

When Kevin Johnson's UK label called him to tell him he should fly in from Australia because they'd got him on Top of the Pops, he declined because he'd arranged to take his son fishing. The single stalled at no. 23 in the UK but at least rock 'n' roll didn't have the exclusive monopoly on Kevin's life.

Dobie Gray has died

Joe writes: Drift Away is his classic recording. There's an interesting blog about it here.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Slow Moving Millie (from the John Lewis ad) covers Love In The First Degree by Bananarama

Joe writes: I haven't heard her version but I looked over her album tracklisting and I must say - Millie or someone she works with has excellent taste in songs.

This was Bananarama's finest moment and possibly Stock Aitken Waterman's best as well.

Friday, 2 December 2011

Cam'ron and songs about cheating

Just heard this topical Cam'ron track I Hate MY Job via The Guardian's Playlist:

My favourite Cam'ron track and one of my favourite hip hop tracks is The Wrong Ones:

The Wrong Ones is based around a sample from As We Lay by Shirley Murdock:

While we're on the subject of classic songs about cheating, how about Angel Of The Morning? It was written by Chip Taylor (who also wrote Wild Thing), adapted by Shaggy for his hit Angel, but the original UK hit version was by Merrilee Rush & The Turnabouts: