Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Sounds To Get You Over The Hump


Sounds For Sunday on a midweek! With the weather outside feeling more like November some little gems of sunshine for you. I've got some Aretha Franklin and some Stevie Wonder today.

First up is Aretha with 'Until You Come Back To Me (That's What I'm Gonna Do), which is probably my all time favourite Aretha. I love the flute and the little skip in the rhythm when she sings 'I'm gonna knock on your door'. It's also for the most part very restrained for Aretha, which is something I like. I prefer subtle sometimes. It also features a writing credit by Stevie Wonder.

'Nothings Too Good For My Baby' comes from Stevie's album 'Up-tight'. It's basically a rewrite of 'Up-tight' but what a song. It's a classic stomper. Then I've a trio of Aretha tunes that are better known by other people. 'Groovin' is best known by The (Young) Rascals and the original ranks up amongst my all time favourite songs. I featured a version by Marvin Gaye a few weeks back. Then we've got Smokey's classic 'Tracks Of My Tears'. And a very sexy version of Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell's 'You're All I Need To Get By'. And just to round up the Aretha/Stevie connections we've Stevie's groovy version of 'Respect'.

I have to admit I'm on a bit of a alternate versions kick lately. I've been listening to the original versions of some of these songs for years and years. It's kind of nice to hear a fresh version. Even if it's not as good it brings new appreciation for the more familiar version.

A final extra tune in keeping with the alternate versions theme...Aretha's, and Jimmy Ruffin's versions of garage classic 96 Tears.

Aretha Franklin - Until You Come Back To Me (That's What I'm Gonna Do)
Stevie Wonder - Nothings Too Good For My Baby
Aretha Franklin - Groovin'
Aretha Franklin - Tracks Of My Tears
Aretha Franklin - You're All I Need To Get By
Stevie Wonder - Respect
Aretha Franklin - 96 Tears
Jimmy Ruffin - 96 Tears


And if you're in the mood for some more, earlier Aretha head over to see Davy at The Ghost Of Electricity. He won't bite! Well maybe just a little....

Extra: Head over to Planet Mondo as well for an absolutely storming version of Say A Little Prayer....

http://planetmondo.blogspot.com/2008/02/funky-friday-queen-of-soul.html

Sunday, 27 April 2008

Sounds For Sunday


Sounds For Sunday is on a Dexys Midnight Runners kick this week. Here's a handful of tunes that fans of that most marvellous of bands might recognise. The first is a song Dexys covered on their debut Searching For The Young Soul Rebels. The following three were covered on b-sides. Seven Days Is Too Long and Breakin' Down The Walls Of Heartache are stone cold Northern Soul classics. Soul Finger is a great instrumental by the 'other' great Stax band. And The Horse is the great Stax band Booker T & The MGs covering Cliff Nobles' classic tune. (This particular tune has an interesting history. Follow me for some more information; as well as other versions)

And finally the great man who was the subject of Dexys' first Number One 'Geno', Geno Washington & The Ram Jam Band. Geno was my first gig. He and my father had met at an Alexis Corner tribute event at the Marquee back in the early 80s and became friends. At the time Geno had a restaurant in North West London. At the end of the night he would do some songs, just him, a guitarist and a drummer with only a snare. My dad took me along one night and Geno and the guys played for a couple of hours into the night. Just blues tunes, Little Red Rooster, Got My Mojo Working; things like that. I've seen him a few times over the years, every other time was with a full band, brass section and all. But that was probably the best time.

Sounds For Sunday will be getting an extra helping during the week. Although Sounds To Help You Get Over The Hump And Head Straight For The Weekend doesn't have quite the same ring. Yes, so extra in the week. Because after all, seven days is too long........

Chuck Wood - Seven Days Is Too Long
The Bandwagon - Breakin' Down The Walls Of Heartache
Booker T & The MGs - The Horse
The Bar-Kays - Soul Finger
Geno Washington & The Ram Jam Band - Michael The Lover

Thursday, 24 April 2008

What's She Like?



Alright Bill?
Alright.
Come in. Where you been?
Oh round and about you know? Nowhere special.
Oh what you been down Bearwood?
Yeah, that's right. I looked in down there.
What the Little Nibble? Yeah, that's it.
Seen anybody down there, any mutual friends or acquaintances or anything down there?
No not really, there was no one about.
No one down there?
There was no one. What were you all talking about when I came in?
What you mean just now?
Yeah, just as I walked in?
Well, you know, just different things really, you know, nothing specific.
No? nothing special?
No central thing no.
You weren't talking about me were you?
About you?
Yeah me.
No, honestly. No, no, I don't know where you got that idea from
Are you sure?
Ah look you know, we talked about different things but we never mentioned you honestly. You don't have to worry about that Bill. Your name wasn't mentioned.
It's alright. I know what you were all talking about
Ah you do?
Yeah. I know.
Yeah, hows that then?
Come on tell me, what's she like?
You know what I mean.
I know what you mean but....

What's She Like? What's She like?

In 1985 Dexys Midnight Runners released their follow up to their best selling album Too Rye Ay. The album was called Don't Stand Me Down. There was no single to introduce the album; front man Kevin Rowland and the band wore suits. Not slick Mod affairs though; these were ones that looked like they worked in a bank. Kevin Rowland talked about how this was their comedy album. In the live shows at the time somebody dressed as a policeman would come on stage and arrest Kevin for 'burning'. Most of the songs were rambling, long affairs.

The centrepiece for the album, a track called 'This Is What She's Like' was nearly 13 minutes long. It's a song about the new love that Kevin Rowland has found, that perhaps he'd kept close to his chest until now. It's also something of a protest song, political with a smallish P.

The conversation above between Kevin and Billy Adams is the first two minutes of the track. It's not quite comedy, but there is something of the Mel Smith/Griff Rhys-Jones about it.
It feels like an ad-lib, something from an amateur dramatics session. You can hear them clearing their throats. There are pauses. In fact most of the record is heavy on the pauses. Adam on his Pretending Life Is Like A Song blog talked about the gap between two of the tracks on the album, Reminisce Pt 2 and I Love You (Listen To This). The gap is almost too short to be a normal section between tracks, it sounds like an intake of breath. After the intro, and another pause, Kevin and Billy sing the following :

Well, you know the kind of people
That put creases in their old Levis? Oh Yeah, Sure
The type that use expressions like tongue in cheek?
Indeed I do...

At this point there is one of those intakes of breath and in crash the band.

I don't like these people No?
May I state here and now,
But I can't help thinking,
All the time I'm thinking of her
What's she like? What's she like?
In time, in time In time, in time,
Well this is what she's like...

Let me put it another way Please do.
Well you know how the English upper classes are thick and ignorant?
That's true
And you've seen the scum from Notting Hill and Moseley
They're called the C.N.D. ? Sure
They describe nice things as wonderful
She never would say that, oh no,
She's totally different in every way
She is she is
There are so many things I like about these verses. Kevin was standing firmly on his own in 1985. Plenty of bands were actively against the rich, the powerful, the upper class. Socialism was on the rise in music. But Kevin was no Paul Weller or Billy Bragg. The C.N.D. was at it's peak at this point and people like Weller and Bragg wouldn't have dared slag them or their supporters.

But obviously Kevin didn't like those kind of people either. And neither the upper classes nor the trendy socialists were anything like 'She'. But what was she like? We still didn't know that and it seemed that Kevin didn't have the words for it....



What's she like? What was that? What's she like?
In time, in time
Tell me, what's she like?
Come again?
Tell me, what's she like?
In time in time
Well, this is what she's like
I would like to express myself
Go ahead


At this point Kevin launches into a wordless vocal part of such passion and fire that it stands up there as my number 1 moment in all music. It's punctuated by Billy saying 'oh what do you mean?' and pretty soon after 'Ah I know what you mean' as it all starts to become clear. And then we get some more conversation...

Bill, you know the newly wealthy peasants
You know the ones with their home bars and you know their hi-fis and all that stuff?
Yeah?
You know how they use words like fabulous and super in every sentence they spit out?
Oh yeah,
Well I don't really like these scumbags You don't? No
May I be clear on this point, oh no.
But everywhere I see their faces appear,
They say questions to me

They say:
What's she like? What's she like?
In time, in time, in time in time
Tell me what's she like, tell me what's she like
Bill, I'm trying, I'm trying to tell you what she's like

We're five minutes in. Kevin is starting to sound frustrated. Words just don't do it. Sometimes what you feel just can't be articulated. Billy and the band just haven't left it alone. They want to know what's she's like. We want to know. The track breaks down to some slow piano, barber shop vocals and then one of those 'oh, here it comes' moments as huge drums clatter in underneath them. Then out of nowhere a tempo change and right then and there it seems that Kevin knows how to get the message across:

Oh well I'll tell you what she's like
Given half a chance
Can I make this clear
what she's like
I'll present a picture of what she's like
You'll be in no doubt as to what she's like
But listen close listen close
And I'll tell you, I'll tell you just what's she's like
You'll be in no doubt as to what she's like
But listen close my friend

Another break down as another section comes in quietly then crashes in with Kevin's '1,2,3,4', music sounding for all the world like the sun coming up. Could be...we've been here along time while Kevin tells his story....

Come on, are you gonna tell us what she's like or not
Oh yeah, I have every intention, every intention.
I'll tell you now, listen, you won't forget this.

Wordless vocals from Kevin, with encouragement from Billy. The track underneath building up, brass and violins and pianos building up the momentum.

Do you get my drift?
Oh yeah, I'm starting to get the picture
Well listen, I can expand on this if you'd like
Yeah, if you would


More of the same, building and building, painting a picture of this perfect woman for whom words aren't enough. And then one of the funniest moments on the album. "I don't speak Italian myself you understand, but I knew a man who did". Like I said not exactly comedy, but great timing, and a certain Goon-ish surrealism.

Well how did all this happen
Just all at once really. Yeah? Just all at once
The Italians have a word for it
What word, what is it?
I don't really know;A thunderbolt or something
What, you mean the Italian word for thunderbolt?
Yeah, something like that
I don't speak Italian myself you understand No
But I knew a man who did.

Then the band hammer home that feeling, that Dexys feeling, driving piano, and drums. And then almost whispered:

Well, that's my story,
The strongest thing I've ever seen

Brass, piano, violin, pound out the wordless melody that Kevin gave us a few minutes earlier away to a fade. At this point I normally put the track back to the start, wishing that instead of nearly 13 minutes long it was three times as long. I had a tape with nothing but this track on one side to save me rewinding it. It doesn't matter that Don't Stand Me Down wasn't a hit. I bought my first copy of it in an Our Price on Oxford Street 6 months after it came out for a £1. There were hundreds of copies. And for a long time I didn't know anybody that owned the album. But everybody that I played it to fell for it in a big way.

Almost strangely, I don't associate this, possibly my favourite love song, with any particular woman. It's perhaps almost too physical, too much about the initial 'what was that?!?!?' feeling. I do know that for me Dexys before this felt like they were practicing, and after this nothing would be good enough again.

This Is What She's Like

Follow me:


http://theurbanwoo.blogspot.com/2008/04/home.html

My favourite post anywhere this week.

(Apart from maybe JC's video of Edwyn and Roddy at Vinyl Villain.....http://thevinylvillain.blogspot.com/2008/04/about-last-night-video-clip.html)

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Sounds For Sunday On Tuesday

I couldn't wait until Sunday for this little bunch.

We have several versions of songs by The Beatles. We have a classic Motown band performing Hey Jude, bringing out it's latent Sly Stone soul. A classic Stax instrumental combo performing the same tune. We have The Supremes from their oddity album A Bit Of Liverpool, a 1964 album where they performed songs from the British Invasion.

It's a strange album where despite the name several of the songs come from bands who had nothing to do with Liverpool. It's also odd for a Motown album in that the band are doing fairly note perfect copies of the original 'beat' versions, rather than full on soul versions. And for the most part the Supremes sound like they had never heard the songs before the session. It lends it an almost 'garage' feel.

From the excellent After Hours series, we have the amazing Ella Fitzgerald performing The Temptations 'Get Ready'.

And finally, all the way from North London come sixties band The Equals, mostly known for their song 'Baby Come Back' and Eddy Grant. While a lot of their material may be closer to pop, give these two very Temptations (in their Sly Stone period) influenced tunes a listen. If it looks like soul, sounds like soul you could probably call it soul...

The Temptations - Hey Jude
The Bar-Keys - Hey Jude
The Equals - Black Skinned Blue Eyed Boys
The Equals - Stand Up And Be Counted
The Supremes - House Of The Rising Sun
The Supremes - A Hard Days Night
Ella Fitzgerald - Get Ready

Sunday, 20 April 2008

Sounds For Sunday


I've got lasagne for sunday dinner today, thanks to my lovely wife.

And you've got some John Holt today. John Holt was one of the first reggae superstars and an inspiration for the smooth soulful style that became known as Lovers Rock.

So pour yourself a large glass of whatever you fancy and ease yourself to the end of the weekend with these....

John Holt - Help Me Make It Through The Night
John Holt (with The Paragons) - The Tide Is High
John Holt - A Love I Can Feel
John Holt - Sister Big Stuff

Saturday, 19 April 2008

Sons And Daughters



JC over at The Vinyl Villain had Sons And Daughters in his 45 45s at 45 rundown yesterday, with their song Johnny Cash. Here's the opening track from their latest album This Gift, produced by Mr Bernard Butler. The album's well worth checking out, if you like a mix of Blondie and The Birthday Party; chock full of big drums, big guitars, big voices and big hooky tunes.

Remember: Turn it up!

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Spring?


Hmm. I was going to post a few things this week, but life and work has gotten in the way. Meanwhile, I'm pretty much praying for warmer weather, for sunshine and those long summer evenings. If only so I can go to the pub and not worry about having the standing outside to indulge in my bad habit. The smoking ban has really put me off the pub. Nipping to the pub on the way home for a pint and a cig was one of those little luxuries that I really miss.

So as an offering to the Sun God, here are a couple of tunes that I think should have been big hits in the early 80s that simply glow with sunshine.

A Craze - Wearing Your Jumper (long version)

I loved this tune. A Craze, for those not in the know, were on Paul Weller's Respond Record label back in the early 80s. They wrote 'Give It Some Emotion' which was a decent sized hit for label-mate Tracie Young. There are only a handful of songs in existence but they're all pretty damn good. Fans of Saint Etienne might find them a little..familiar. Certainly there were a lot of similarities between the two, not least of which was Lucy Barron and Sarah Cracknell's voices. This track in particular just feels so summery to me. I love the vocals, the restrained but extremely sexy breathiness of it and the lyrics. Mmm. (Keyboards by a certain Mick Talbot as well, and again they're lovely and restrained.) Go to http://www.myspace.com/chrisfreesongs for some more stuff by Chris Free , the guitarist, and a lovely little demo of an unreleased A Craze tune. (Plus a picture of the lovely Lucy Barron, who should have been a huge star. Wonder what happened to her?)

Friends Again - Sunkissed

Friends Again were another early 80s band that should have been bigger. Featuring Chris Thompson (later of The Bathers) and James Grant (later of Love And Money and solo career), they were along similar lines to Aztec Camera and Orange Juice. Chris' vocals were incredibly Bowie influenced, and some of the songs owed more to Steely Dan, but on the whole it was jangle-pop with that early 80s funk leaning. Sunkissed was a single in 1983, and one which I never owned until last year. But I never forgot it! This version is from a Japanese CD of their only album Trapped And Unwrapped. I have another version which is slightly different, in that it has more electric guitars on it. If anybody can shed some light on the reason for the difference I'd be grateful!

Come on sunshine!

Saturday, 12 April 2008

Sounds For Sunday


I said I'd get around to posting some reggae. I'm afraid I went a little mad this week. I've an embarrassment of riches for you this week. Most of the tunes come from various Trojan compilations. If you've always wanted to get into reggae but just don't know where to start, a really good place to begin is the series of Trojan box sets. Most of them have an average of about 50 tracks, and you can guarantee most of those tracks will be excellent.

Ok, the tunes today can be split into a variety of themes, shall we say. There are a couple of classic instrumentals, a couple of great dub tunes, some classic soul tunes that you might know by other people, and some tunes from my favourite of the box sets: Trojan X-Rated.

Keep your ears peeled for some familiar moments amongst these tunes: Clash fans may recognise 'Marijuana' by another name; and Specials fans might find something interesting about 'Birth Control'....

Turn up the bass, get the roast in the oven and sit back and enjoy:

Sly & The Revolutionaries- Marijuana
Dave & Ansell Collins - Double Barrel
Chosen Few - Shaft
Lloydie & The Lowbites- Birth Control
Chosen Few - Tears Of A Clown
Augustus Pablo - Keep On Dubbing
John Holt - Stoned Out Of My Mind
Augustus Pablo & Fae- Bedroom Mazurka
Jay Boys- I Can't Get Next To You
Charlie Ace & Fay- Punanny
The Harry J Allstars- Liquidator
Bunny"Ruggs"Clarke - Be Thankful For What You've Got

Friday, 11 April 2008

Big Bold And Brassy!

And while we're on the subject of big brassy pop, here's some Animal Nightlife, and the much missed (in This House at least...see what I did there?) Big Sound Authority....










Searching For The Young Soul Rebels


Welcome to Friday! Some bright and breezy jazz pop today.

Back in 1983 one of my favourite bands were producing a cool jazzy pop that sounded like it should be soundtracking Absolute Beginners. Big, bold and brassy, with backing vocals by D.C. Lee who appeared to be much in demand, one tune in particular was never far from the stereo.

Animal Nightlife - Native Boy

Heh, you thought I was talking about the Style Council? Animal Nightlife, if you don't remember, were as described above, a jazzy pop group out of London's club scene. They had a few minor hits, of which Native Boy is my favourite. It was early on in the summer of 1983. Weller had already semi-appropriated D.C. Lee, but listening to Native Boy, that's not all he took. Billy Chapman on saxophone for Animal Nightlife also features heavily on many of The Style Council records that came out. And then that bright and breezy London jazz sound would pop up, with a pretty similar brass arrangement (Billy Chapman) on the following tune the year after. Check out Dee's solo vocal in the middle of both tunes...

The Style Council - Headstart For Happiness

And then later on one of Weller's Respond Records bands The Questions also used Billy Chapman on this next tune:

The Questions - Month Of Sundays

Gotta love Weller and his magpie instinct!

Kevin McDermott


Kevin McDermott - Slow Time And Temptation

A little known tune by Kevin McDermott from his mini-album 'Suffocation Blues' from back in 1986. The album was out of print for over twenty years but was recently released on cd. I first saw Kevin on The Tube performing a song called Independence Day. I'd like to hear that song again if anybody could oblige. Kevin went on to release quite a few albums under the 'Kevin Mcdermott Orchestra' banner. But none moved me quite like this album. It's short and acoustic, and I really like Kevin's voice. It's a lovely little album.

Buy it here.

Thursday, 10 April 2008

Orbital - The Girl With The Sun In Her Head


I realized the other day that this tune is quite possibly my all time favourite piece of music. More so than The Jam, Dexys, my soul and reggae, my Mod obscurities. The album it's from, 'Insides' is a definite all time favourite.

The year it came out, 1996, was a good year. It started off oddly. I split up with my girlfriend of the time early on. That was a recurring theme back then and would continue to be so for nearly another six years. Those splits weren't just five minute things either. That year we were apart for about 10 months.

I was putting together a band at this point. We were listening to Pulp, old punk tunes and lots and lots of dance music. There was a lot of drinking to be done. I got a tattoo. All of this was good stuff. I met a girl, Scottish Mel, who was working in London for the summer. We hit it off in a big way. But nothing really happened because of the shadow of the autumn hanging over it. Both of us knew that come September she would be back in Scotland to carry on her degree. If she hadn't been going back to the Highlands then who knows what would have happened. The rest of my life up to now would have been very different I imagine.

It was a strange time, a hopeful time. I felt on the verge of big changes, big happenings. And, right at the start of that time I heard Orbital's 'Insides' album. Actually what I heard was a Radio 1 session of 'The Girl With The Sun In Her Head', written for a friend of theirs who had died.

If you've never heard it, it's a beautiful piece, all weird chords and bleepy melodies. All strung out over a skitter-scatter drum loop and a heartbeat bass. The recording of the album version famously utilised Greenpeace's solar powered generator. I'm not sure it was meant to be happy music. And I'm not sure I was actually happy at the time. Sometimes there's a beautiful melancholy that you can carry with you and enjoy. In spite of all the excitement of the times, or perhaps because of it, I was lonely. And this wonderful piece of music made me feel better inside.

The summer was a rush of rehearsals for a series of gigs we'd booked even though we had only three songs; hanging out with Scottish Mel and friends, including one mad weekend at the Reading Festival (Garbage at sunset, Black Grape loud and proud on Saturday night); and plenty of late nights and walking home with the sunrise. Normally I had the 'Insides' album on repeat play. Sitting on a nightbus as it got light, with oceans of possibility stretched out in front of me, it made a perfect soundtrack.

Autumn came. Mel headed back to Scotland. We saw each other for a little while the following summer. Long enough to be aware that our particular ships, if they'd done more than pass, could have been something special. But as I said, if things had been different I wouldn't have been where I am now. And I wouldn't change that for anything.

Orbital - The Girl With The Sun In Her Head

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

The Boo Radleys - Giant Steps


I was rooting around in my cd collection looking for a tune I couldn't find today and there tucked away in a quite corner was The Boo Radleys and Giant Steps. The Boo Radleys first appeared during the late 80s and were lumped in with the shoegazers; understandably given their My Bloody Valentine derived wall of sound. But by 1993 they had moved on from that and produced one of the best albums of the 90s in the shape of Giant Steps.

Cice and Martin Carr were best friends from school. Most people growing up had that one big friend; the partner in crime, the one you spent all your time with listening to records, watching films, playing computer games, hanging out on street corners. Mine was covered in some detail in an earlier post of mine. Giant Steps is the sound of those best friends let loose in the studio, taking all the things they listened to growing up and throwing them at the wall, seeing what stuck. It was ambitious, messy and brilliant.

A title lifted from a John Coltrane album; sounds from all over the musical spectrum: Beatles melodies, dub rhythms, massive molten guitar sounds, New Order bass lines, brass and woodwinds, strings. It's trippy and nostalgic, full of amazing soundscapes, wistful melodies, aggressive guitars. The shifts in styles aren't simply song to song, sometimes songs change style from verse to chorus, quiet acoustic reverie giving way to feedback; indie guitar pop suddenly turning into big Bitches Brew brass workouts. At one point a cello emerges from a wall of noise to play a reggae bassline. My favourite Wish I Was Skinny is a hymn to youthful insecurity, a New Order jangle that adds quiet Bacharach brass to the synth riffs.

It all sounded so familiar and yet so original all at once. And in the middle of 1993 it was fairly unique. Britpop was just around the corner and the Boos would gain some commercial success out of that. But at this point people were still knee deep in grunge for the most part. The only other bands working in a similar way at this point were Blur and Suede. But neither had yet shown quite the breadth of vision this album has. The Boos were never quite as inspired after this, which is a shame. But this album sounds like the result of a lifetime of music. Most bands only have one of these in them. Go out and find this one for yourself. It's well worth the time.

In the meantime however some tunes from Giant Steps:

Wish I Was Skinny

Butterfly McQueen
Barney (...And Me)
Lazarus

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Five Songs


Ok. Quick, quick, top of the head, straight from the hip here: five songs that you could not do without. If you had to erase, burn, melt throw your music collection, what five songs would you want to keep a hold of.

1. Walk Out To Winter - Aztec Camera
2. Babies - Pulp
3. Girl With The Sun In Her Head - Orbital
4. Cry Me A River - Julie London
5. Shopping - The Jam


And... pencils down....time up......

Monday, 7 April 2008

The Long Blondes - Couples


The Long Blondes are one of my favourite bands of the past few years. Certainly one of the few bands I've gotten excited about in that way I used to back in my less decrepit days. Coming across like they were a conceived at an orgy attended by Blondie, Pulp, The Human League, The Buzzcocks and a student from the London College of Fashion circa 1981; The Long Blondes could sound contrived. But they don't; there's a sense that they mean it. Actually there's a greater sense that they are actually time travellers. Like Alex arriving in 1981 in Ashes To Ashes sent The Long Blondes here to 2008.

Their first album was something of a familiar experience as most of the tracks had been available in demo form online for a while before it actually came out. It was produced by Steve Mackey, formerly of that most perfect of pop groups Pulp; and there was a definite connection between the two bands in terms of musical and lyrical style. There were also some amazing, literate pop tunes that sounded like a band that would have been perfect for me if I'd been fifteen.

Second albums are always tricky. Especially if the first was so good. You tend to forget that bands actually have all the time in the world to write a first album. Their whole lives sometimes. (How many great bands have disappointing second albums!) There's still the sense on the first of that flush of excitement you get when you know you're doing something good. Before somebody else tells you it's good and offer you money. Second albums can sound a bit less enthused, a bit jaded. They can also sound a little more contrived, as bands start wondering who they are, and start experimenting. Which can lead to a band letting down initial fans by not crystallizing into the band they initially seemed.

So, now we have The Long Blondes second album Couples. Produced by Erol Alkan who has been working with the band for a little while now, mostly on b-sides. Essentially what he's done is turn up the angular punky side of the band on one hand and turn up the electronics on the other. There's less of the outright 'pop' about the album though, it's a moodier beast than the first. Kate Jackson has changed somewhat too. The vocals on the first album were a post-punk Sheffield Debbie Harry. On this album there's a different voice in use for some of it; a cool falsetto sounding for all the world like the missing link between early Kate Bush and Alison Goldfrapp.

It's also more produced than the first. Sometimes the first sounded, although slick and shiny and bright, like a band just going into the studio and playing their live set. Some of the tracks on Couples sound like they were created in the studio, like 'Nostalgia' which can mean a different kind of energy; but there are still tracks like 'Here Comes The Serious Bit' for bouncing around in sweaty venues.

Anyway, I'm going to sink into it for a few days; try it on for size so to speak. Here's a couple of my favourites so far:
Century
Too Clever By Half

Sunday, 6 April 2008

Sounds For Sunday


April 2nd would have been Marvin Gaye's 69th birthday. Sadly April 1st was the date he died back in 1984. So for my Sounds On Sunday I'm sticking with soul and some tunes by the great man. (I'll get round to some more reggae soon. Promise.)

I've got a couple of tunes that most people won't associate with Mr Gaye and one stone cold classic Marvin.

Lets Get It On: What can you say about this, it's pure gold. In my mind the best 'loverman' soul tune of all time. What a groove, it's just pure sex. And Marvin's voice just glides over the top of it like cream. I melt every time I hear it. It also puts a huge smile on my face because this was my wife and I's first dance at our wedding......heh....

Cloud Nine: You'll no doubt know The Temptation's psychedelic soul classic version. I've just been enjoying a rediscovery of that particular era of The Temptations. Their version is superb, one of the best musical performances too of any Motown tune. The rhythm section is just wonderful. While hitting the shuffle on my iPod The Temptations version came on followed by Edwin Starr's version (with it's segue into Sly Stone towards the end) followed by Marvin's version. It's not as good as either of those versions, but there's something of a thrill to hear him singing it. That honey voice lends it a whole different feel.

Groovin': The original of this by The (Young) Rascals is my all time favourite Sunday afternoon summer tune. That's a (blue eyed) soul classic all of it's own. Again, I prefer the original, but this floats along on a funky groove; and Marvin just sounds so smooth on top of it all. Beautiful.

Sleep well Marvin.


(and just as a late addition, because a) I couldn't find it earlier, and b) to play blog tennis with Ally over at dustysevens; Marvin's absolutely lovely version of Sunny, and on top of that, a cracking version of My Girl)
Sunny
My Girl

Saturday, 5 April 2008

The Milkman Of Human Kindness

Who else but Billy Bragg?

Tim Buckley - Dolphins

What a voice....what a voice.......


May You Never....

......the fantastic John Martyn of course.

I love....

.....Kate Nash and Adele and I'm not afraid to admit it!


Kate Nash - Birds

Kate Nash's album was probably my favourite album of last year. Quite a few people I know were reluctant to buy into the hype for a while but once they did, like me, they were hooked. Good tunes, great lyrics, and a lovely individual voice. This version of Birds was what did it for me, it's from a single before she did Foundations. There's a version on the album, but it's not as good as this. I just love the way she tells little stories; and there's some nice writing going on in the lyrics.


Adele - Daydreamer

I'd heard about Adele, but again when something gets hyped I tend to run the other way. But then I saw her on Jonathan Ross doing Chasing Pavements and I just fell in love with her voice and the song itself. This is a lot more controlled, a lot mellower; it sounds like she's been listening to Minnie Riperton.

What I really like about both is that they sound like London records. I haven't really written about my London obsession; but I've gotten into so many people because they have songs about my city: for instance Madness, The Kinks, The Pogues, Squeeze. There's a whole batch of artists lately that get lumped together by lazy journalists: the whole Brits school for instance. But I'm loving it that there are so many artists from London coming through. People reckon the music business is only interested in the scene in London; but most of the bands performing there, from my own experience don't come from London. There's a definite feel to songs by people who actually come from here that I feel right down to my bones. I'll write about that in more detail; with some of my favourite London records. But in the meantime, if you're not sold on the hype surrounding these women over the past couple of years, open your ears and give them another listen.

:)

Friday, 4 April 2008

The Flumps

On my birthday in 1977 I was watching the first ever episode of this apparently.

Lets Make This Precious

For one night only, ladies and gentlemen I give you the mighty Dexys Midnight Runners!!!


Straight To Hell

Just for SP over at Roman Empress: The Clash and Straight To Hell, probably one of their least 'noise' tunes. And , in my opinion, one of the coolest looking bands of all time.

Maybe it's a 'boy' thing....?


Tuesday, 1 April 2008

A Rainy Night In Soho


"I've been loving you a long time
Down all the years, down all the days
And I've cried for all your troubles
Smiled at your funny little ways
We watched our friends grow up together
And we saw them as they fell
Some of them fell into Heaven
Some of them fell into Hell

I took shelter from a shower
And I stepped into your arms
On a rainy night in Soho
The wind was whistling all its charms
I sang you all my sorrows
You told me all your joys
Whatever happened to that old song
To all those little girls and boys

Sometimes I wake up in the morning
The gingerlady by my bed
Covered in a cloak of silence
I hear you talking in my head
I'm not singing for the future
I'm not dreaming of the past
I'm not talking of the first time
I never think about the last

Now the song is nearly over
We may never find out what it means
Still there's a light I hold before me
You're the measure of my dreams
The measure of my dreams"

Quite possibly the greatest most beautiful lyric of all time; and my favourite song by The Pogues. Shane MacGowan is one of the best songwriters I've ever heard beyond any doubt. There are tales to be told with this as the soundtrack. But I doubt any story I related would be a match for Shane's poetry.

The Pogues - A Rainy Night In Soho

I Love Pink Floyd........



.......ok I don't. A pretty poor April Fools! I really don't like Pink Floyd. Ok, the Syd stuff is good, but that Floyd was almost a different band. The post Syd stuff...all of it...just makes me feel bored.

I guess I have associated memories for some of it as well. There was a guy at school, Kevin, who got into them about the same time I started listening to punk. Kevin was rolling his own and mellowing out; I was altogether speedier and bouncing off the walls. And I hated Kevin. Whenever I see the Dark Side image I just smell spliff and patchouli and see his smug face. And then there was the english rose and the acid, the summer of 1985...but I'm not going to go there. Bad memory. Really. Very bad memory.

So anyway, I'm older now. My tastes have broadened over the years to include things that I never thought I'd be into; ELO anyone? Loved them as a little kid, couldn't stand the thought of them through my teens and twenties, but never actually listened to them to hear what I thought I hated. Big, lovely surprise to find I liked them. Shouldn't be too surprised though, I do like Super Furry Animals after all...

So I feel I should give them another go. But I'm reluctant. They really are the last man standing in my dislikes list. I've given everything else a go, even if I found I still didn't like it. But Pink Floyd...I just can't bring myself to go there.

But - any Pink Floyd fans out there - if I was to sit down and listen to one again, where should I start?

Burning The Midnight Blog


I really should be asleep by now; work in the morning. But my mind is all over the place tonight. This blogging lark is a weird and wonderful thing. Weird because, I would never ever in a million years have thought I'd be sharing pretty personal things with complete strangers. And wonderful because that sharing has led to some pretty odd coincidences. Good coincidences but odd all the same.

I guess in blog form people still gravitate to people a lot like them. And as, according to some, I'm a little unique - weird as some would put it - it stands to reason that some of the people that I gravitate to online would know some of the same people in real life. Weird moves in small circles!

A little late night listening: Hurrah! were a jangly guitar band in the early 80s who moved towards stadium rock by the middle of the same decade. This particular tune seems to be about a lost love, about youth passing, about getting older and not wanting to settle for settling. It was a big tune for me at the time; moving into my late teens and having to make the big decisions about life and trying to leave behind - reluctantly - innocence. Of course, nobody told me that I didn't have to. Thankfully I realized in time...

Hurrah! Sweet Sanity