Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Ah Woke Up This Lunchtime...

I have a very dear friend who once made me a compilation of old blues records, on cassette, in the days when TDK C-90s traded between teenagers were the closest any of us could dream that we'd ever get to Napster.

I liked almost everything on that tape, so much that I leapt at the chance of going to a Blues Festival in London, at the Hammersmith Odeon as it was then, to see John Lee Hooker, Buddy Guy and Junior Wells, Albert King and I think there was somebody else dead famous in the 'blues community' as well. It was terrific, really exciting, and the memory has stayed clear and strong enough that I can still smell the interesting tobacco being smoked by the party to the right of us - this being back in the days when it was acceptable for people to attempt to set light to the hair of the people in front of them in theatres and cinemas.

Trouble is, even after this epiphany, although I can quite happily listen to blues sometimes, I still find that I don't get terribly excited about any but the 'greatest hits'.

Most of the songs, I find, sound rather similar to most of the others, and most of the singers had voices which in their early twenties sounded as lived in as Bob Dylan or Leonard Cohen's these days.

Meanwhile, I've been musing on the idea that the very worst people to compile 'best of' collections are those who feel passionately about their subject. Rather it should be left to those without emotional involvement, who are prepared to edit, brutally if necessary, and who will not stick a challenging b-side or five in to either tempt completists or test the patience of anyone attempting to find an entrance to the world into which they are peering for the first time.

Assuming my theory to be correct, this, of course, seems to make the blues a pretty good project for me to have a go at.

I've skipped Robert Johnson on the grounds that - cue heretical comment - any but purists will probably struggle with the sound quality of even the cleaned up versions - and even though all his recordings will all fit onto a single CD, time seems to stand still while it is playing.

Another thing that an introduction should be, in my opinion, is short - and this is short. I'm talking 'back to vinyl' here, and a single album at that.

Recently I've been downloading lots of 'best of' CDs with a view to discovering new music, but the temptation of the artist, compiler or record company to fill every available byte of space on a disc to give punters their money's worth seems to be overwhelming these days, no matter how slim the canon, or - in the case of new albums - if there are only 40 minutes worth of good ideas.

And so, today I present - for all those who, like me, just don't really 'get' the blues, or for anyone who fancies it but doesn't know where to start - a fairly random selection of what I remember being on that compilation of what started me off down that stoney old passway, even if I didn't get very much further.

This lot, though, ROCKS!

Tracks are:

1. Elmore James - Dust My Broom
2. Slim Harpo - Scratch My Back
3. John Lee Hooker - Boogie Chillun
4. Albert King - Born Under A Bad Sign
5. Leadbelly - Midnight Special
6. Lightnin' Hopkins - Baby Please Don't Go
7. Howlin' Wolf - Smokestack Lightnin'
8. Bo Diddley - Bo Diddley
9. Jimmy Reed - Bright Lights Big City
10. Muddy Waters - Hoochie Coochie Man
11. Mississippi Fred McDowell - You Gotta Move
12. Blind Lemon Jefferson - See That My Grave Is Kept Clean
13. Sonny Boy Williamson - Fattening Frogs For Snakes
14. Buddy Guy and Junior Wells - Messin' With The Kid

Woke up this mornin', de-dum-de-dum

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Stick your finger in your ear and go 'Ting-a-ling-a-loo'

I was disappointed, but not entirely surprised, to learn that according to a magazine (the name of which I can't remember)that blogging is dead because the whole Interwebworld has gone over to twittering.

As I've only been doing this for about six weeks, all I can say is that it's been very jolly while it lasted, although I intend to carry on until I either get bored or switched off.

I have no idea what twittering is, but if work is as dull tomorrow as it was today then I may well Google for it and see if the Gods of the Interweb throw me offline for questionable surfing behaviour.

On the other hand, and back to the matter in hand indeed, I was absolutely stunned when I checked the other night to find that this album - one of my very very favourite albums ever ever ever - doesn't appear to be available on CD at the moment.

I fell in love with it the first time I heard it, and it's another (see Feral Pop Frenzy by Even As We Speak, below) that I can listen to in almost any mood.

I'm a bit suspicious of traditional finger-in-the-ear British folk, although don't generally object if it's playing within earshot, and tend towards the ones that everybody likes - Fairport Convention's albums with Sandy Denny, a bit of Steeleye Span, Vashti Bunyan - preferring it on the jangly, and non-pure/not too traditional side.

This isn't traditional finger-in-the-ear folk. It thumps along at a mighty rate, and even the slow ones are breathtaking. I would definitely rank it alongside 'Liege and Lief'.

If you've not heard it before, then prepare for a treat.

Tracks are:

1. Mississippi
2. Lullaby of London
3. Night Comes In
4. Valentine's Day Is Over
5. All Tomorrow's Parties
6. Dives and Lazarus
7. Dark-Eyed Sailor
8. Pain or Paradise
9. Susie Clelland
10. Finisterre

It's here! As always, at glorious 128.

And the cover looks like this.

As always, thank you very much for visiting!

Saturday, 18 October 2008

Be Glad For The Song Feels Like It's Never Going To End

Goodness me, didn't I go on last week!

This time I'm letting the music do the talking. They're all over three minutes long, most of them are very much longer than that.

I've called it "Clunking Great Epics", designed to be listened to on those long journeys when only a great big hairy wig-out or ten will do. Hope you enjoy 'em!

Tracks are:

Neil Young - Like a Hurricane
The Fall - Cruiser's Creek
The Mekons - Ghosts of American Astronauts
Fairport Convention - Matty Groves
Bob - Rain
Gordon Lightfoot - The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald
Hawkwind - Lord of Light
The Smiths - How Soon is Now?
The Incredible String Band - Maya
The Wedding Present - Take Me!

Let's Rawwkk!

Saturday, 11 October 2008

What's Not To Like?

When I consider the matter objectively, I can understand why most people do not enjoy listening to 'Trout Mask Replica' by Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band for pleasure, even occasionally.

If you've never heard it, it is almost impossible to describe.

I have played it to very few people. I struggle to contain the urge to share this wonderful thing with every sentient being on the planet, but experience has shown that most people simply do not like it, and even though it was not put here to make people put their hands over their ears and run away, that is the effect it seems to generally have.

When the Wild Man's other half was expecting our first-born, I would wait until she was asleep and play "Trout Mask Replica" fairly quietly so as not to wake her (and be made to turn it off) in order to educate the baby in the womb, having heard that babies recognise and enjoy sounds they are familiar with once they are out and doing.

It worked in his case, and middle-sized one claims to enjoy the Great Man's oeuvre as well, although she would probably prefer to listen to Alvin and the Chipmunks, or the rather fine Chuckle Brothers album recently posted at the Cheeze Factory.

Among the artists and bands I love who I perceive as being popular are Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin - yet I have close friends who would slash their wrists rather than listen to a single song by any of those. Then there are acts such as The Ramones, Half Man Half Biscuit, Teenage Fanclub and many others, where most of those I have met who have heard them seem to either love or at least like them.

Even though I dislike almost everything she has recorded and regularly wish that she would go away quietly and enjoy her money, I can understand why Madonna is popular, just as I can see why so many artists whom I also actively dislike, such as U2, Genesis, The Police, UB40, any hip-hopper or rapper whom anybody has ever heard of, or Mariah Carey appear to give pleasure to improbably large audiences.

They just aren't for me, and while I'm sure most of them are perfectly pleasant people it would probably surprise them if somebody like me did claim to enjoy their music.

Where it gets tricky for me, as a supposedly open-minded music-lover, is when so many people whose opinions I respect enthuse about music which not only do I simply not get, but which sends cold shivers down my spine, brings me up in goose-bumps and occasionally makes me feel actually slightly nauseous, like... (can I bring myself to say the word?) YES.

I really do regard that band with a loathing almost bordering on insanity, although I have no idea why, and when they played at Glastonbury a few years ago I went to see them just to see if I could have been that wrong about them.

As soon as they started playing I concluded that, no, I had not been wrong about them, and had to get out of earshot as quickly as I possibly could.

I really couldn't bear it.

I have sat down in a relaxed state of mind, more than once, to listen to Joni Mitchell, The Grateful Dead, Van Morrison, Gram Parsons and others, because one day I expect/wish/hope that my brain will suddenly switch on to it and I'll suddenly find enlightenment from a corner of the exquisite tapestries I have it from good authorities that each of them weave.

Of these, only Joni Mitchell sends me racing every time almost immediately to the off button, the others just wash over me leaving no impression at all. What is so strange to me is that (apart from Joni Mitchell) I don't even actively NOT like them, it is as if their songs aren't there for me to even formulate an opinion about.

[If any of you kind readers disagree with me, and I very much hope that you do, please suggest something accessible by any of the above in comments, I promise I'll listen to them, even if I've heard what you suggest already.]

As you may have worked out, I've spent a long time mulling over the question of musical taste, and then I find myself wondering about the handful of bands which are just so absolutely adorable that it is perfectly obvious that everyone in the world would fall in love with if only anyone ever got to hear them. And when I play them to people they instantly agree, and then they go off to convert other people.

Jonathan Richman, for example. Some of his more recent music is not as accessible as his earlier stuff, but the man radiates joy and those who have watched him live on a particularly good night wouldn't hear a word against him.

I adore the band Even As We Speak.

They came over to the UK in the early 90s from Australia, their music got played a lot by John Peel, and they toured the country to almost empty halls.

The night they played the Jericho Tavern in Oxford there were fewer people in than I'd ever seen turn out there for a band before, but everyone in there adored them.

The crowd was thin enough that when Mary Wyer - their lead singer - asked who had heard their John Peel session earlier in the week, she was able to easily move among the audience picking out all of those (including me) who had raised a hand and physically drag us up on stage to do backing vocals on one of the songs.

I love their songs, I love Mary's voice, and if there was any justice in this world they would have been able to not only make as good a living as they wanted to at it, but been absolutely enormous.

This is their only album, "Feral Pop Frenzy", released on Sarah Records in 1993.

Apart from singles by the band, that label never released anything which comes close to it. Unlike "Trout Mask Replica", this record was put here to make people very, very happy without having to work especially hard - and it works unquestionably for me every time I hear it.

I bought it on LP and CD, but even with that blatant attempt at chart-rigging it still sank without trace and has been unavailable ever since. This is taken from the CD, at glorious 128.

Tracks are:
1. Beelzebub
2. Beautiful Day
3. Falling Down the Stairs
4. Zeppelins
5. Anybody Anyway
6. Love Is the Answer
7. To See You Smile
8. Straight as an Arrow
9. Squid
10. One Thing
11. Sailors' Graves
12. Spirit of Progress
13. Cripple Creek
14. Swimming Song
15. One Step Forward
16. Drown
17. O.G.T.T.

It's here

This is the cover, right click to save.

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Five Songs About 5 and Three Versions of Happy Birthday

Totally Fuzzy is my very favourite web-site, and it's five years old this weekend. By way of tribute, I've put together a very short collection - five songs revolving around the number five, and three versions of Happy Birthday.

Elvis Presley - Happy Birthday
Dave Brubeck Quartet - Take Five (edited by the Wild Man to digestible length)
Manfred Mann - 5-4-3-2-1
Marilyn Monroe - Happy Birthday
Johnny Cash - Five Feet High and Rising
David Bowie - Five Years
The Ramones - Happy Birthday
The Ventures - Theme From Hawaii Five-0

Thanks, and happy birthday Fuzzy!

Saturday, 4 October 2008

Royaume-Uni Douze Points!

Tonight I'm happy to share a collection which started as an exercise in testing the possibility of doing something which until the coming of the internet most certainly one would not have been able to do. I started it as little more than a joke, but ultimately works quite well as a compilation - having passed the keeping kids quiet on journeys test a couple of times.

It also brought back happy memories of sitting down as a child with my family each year to watch it, at an age when to see the scores coming in at the end of the show was almost unbearably exciting - when mathematics was a vague enough concept to still hold the possibility of yielding practically any result, without the disappointment of being able to understand that if France was 150 points ahead of the UK then the last jury to vote would not be able to snatch victory from inglorious defeat and Cliff, The Shadows or somebody like Lulu would rise triumphant.

Not that the UK ever was that far behind in those days. My generation were present at the most exciting and glorious time to be alive musically (just like every generation before or since, according to age).

It was, though, a time when, despite the charts being dominated by T Rex, The Sweet, David Bowie, et al, the BBC would always put forward one of the Radio 2 set again. Just how great would it have been to have seen Slade on there, or somebody that good, even once?

I have already mentioned in an earlier posting that my Father could not be described as a great music-lover, but each year he would join us for this family ritual. As he had brushed aside my request a year earlier to take me to see Wizzard playing just down the road with a simple one-word refusal, there was no point in asking if he would take me to Brighton - about thirty miles along the coast - to experience the Eurovision Song Contest in the flesh.

I can still remember that night, when ABBA arrived to take over the world. Even though as a surly teenager I grew to despise their music and everything I perceived that they represented, I loved "Waterloo", and now that once again I find I have almost no interest in being fashionable or down with the kids, hearing it brings a smile to my face and makes me want to jump around the room (as long as there's no-one looking, obviously).

I didn't mind 'Dinge-Dong', the next year's winner, but as puberty left me incapable of articulating anything recognisable to an adult as human speech I absolutely drew the line at the Brotherhood of Man, (something which I find stays with me to this day), and with the breaking of punk and my voice roughly simultaneously I lost interest in the contest until about 1989, when I accepted an invitation to a Eurovision party as a joke and have watched it most years since.

Our oldest one isn't much interested in music, but middle-sized one has watched recordings of it for the last two years, it won't be long before she's old enough to stay up for it if she wants to.

So it is, with the circle almost complete as another generation of our family prepares to take their comfy seat with a mug of something warming for the greatest show on earth, I am happy to present, in chronological order and at glorious 128kps, all winners of the Eurovision Song Contest from the first gathering in 1956 to Serbia's triumph in 2007.

It's split into four manageable sections, each ripped to an individual file, so if you only want ABBA, then part two's your beastie, but it would be a shame to miss out on 'Poupee de Cire Poupee de Son', 'Puppet on a String', or 'Boom Bang a Bang' from the first, the onslaught of the Irish Eurovision Machine as it runs rampant through volume 3, or the sheer absurd majesty of 'Hard Rock Hallelujah' from the fourth.

Tracks are:

Volume 1:
01 Refrain - Lys Assia ( Switzerland 1956 )
02 Net Als Toen - Corry Brokken ( Netherlands 1957 )
03 Dors Mon Amour - Andre Claveau ( France 1958 )
04 Een Beetje - Teddy Scholten ( Netherlands 1959 )
05 Tom Pillibi - Jacqueline Boyer ( France 1960 )
06 Nous Les Amoureux - Jean-Claude Pascal ( Luxembourg 1961 )
07 Un Premier Amour - Isabelle Aubret ( France 1962 )
08 Dansevise - Grethe & Jorgen Ingmann ( Denmark 1963 )
09 No Ho L'Eta - Gigliola Cinquetti ( Italy 1964 )
10 Poupee De Cire, Poupee De Son - France Gall ( Luxembourg 1965 )
11 Merci Cherie - Udo Jurgens ( Austria 1966 )
12 Puppet On A String - Sandie Shaw ( United Kingdom 1967 )
13 La La La - Massiel ( Spain 1968 )
14 Un Jour, Un Enfant - Frida Boccara ( France 1969 )
15 De Troubadour - Lennie Kuhr ( Netherlands 1969 )
16 Boom Bang-A-Bang - Lulu ( United Kingdom 1969 )
17 Vivo Cantando - Salome ( Spain 1969 )

Volume 2:
01 All Kinds Of Everything - Dana ( Ireland 1970 )
02 Un Banc, Un Arbre, Une Rue - Severine ( Monaco 1971 )
03 Apres Toi - Vicky Leandros ( Luxembourg 1972 )
04 Tu Te Reconnaitras - Anne-Marie David ( Luxembourg 1973 )
05 Waterloo - ABBA ( Sweden 1974 )
06 Ding Dinge Dong - Teach-in ( Netherlands 1975 )
07 Save Your Kisses For Me - Brotherhood of Man ( United Kingdom 1976 )
08 L'Oiseau Et L'Enfant - Marie Myriam ( France 1977 )
09 A Ba Ni Bi - Yizhar Cohen & Alphabeta ( Israel 1978 )
10 Hallelujah - Milk & Honey ( Israel 1979 )
11 What's Another Year - Johnny Logan ( Ireland 1980 )
12 Making Your Mind Up - Bucks Fizz ( United Kingdom 1981 )
13 Ein Bisschen Frieden - Nicole ( Germany 1982 )
14 Si La Vie Est Cadeau - Corinne Hermes ( Luxembourg 1983 )
15 Diggi Loo-Diggi Ley - Herreys ( Sweden 1984 )

Volume 3:
01 La Det Swinge - Bobbysocks ( Norway 1985 )
02 J'Aime La Vie - Sandra Kim ( Belgium 1986 )
03 Hold Me Now - Johnny Logan ( Ireland 1987 )
04 Ne Partez Pas Sans Moi - Celine Dion ( Switzerland 1988 )
05 Rock Me - Riva ( Yugoslavia 1989 )
06 Insieme:1992 - Toto Cutugno ( Italy 1990 )
07 Fangad Av En Stormvind - Carola ( Sweden 1991 )
08 Why Me? - Linda Martin ( Ireland 1992 )
09 In Your Eyes - Niamh Kavanagh ( Ireland 1993 )
10 Rock 'N Roll Kids - Paul Harrington & Charlie McGettigan ( Ireland 1994 )
11 Nocturne - Secret Garden ( Norway 1995 )
12 The Voice - Eimear Quinn ( Ireland 1996 )
13 Love shine a light - Katrina and the Waves ( United Kingdom 1997 )

Volume 4:
01 Diva - Dana International ( Israel 1998 )
02 Take me to your heaven - Charlotte Nilsson ( Sweden 1999 )
03 Fly on the Wings of Love - Olsen Brothers ( Denmark 2000 )
04 Everybody - Tanel Padar, Dave Benton & 2XL ( Estonia 2001 )
05 I Wanna - Marie N (Marija Naumova) ( Latvia 2002 )
06 Everyway that I can - Sertab Erener ( Turkey 2003 )
07 Wild Dances - Ruslana ( Ukraine 2004 )
08 My Number One - Helena Paparizou ( Greece 2005 )
09 Hard Rock Hallelujah - Lordi ( Finland 2006 )
10 Molitva - Marija Serifovic ( Serbia 2007 )

Hope you enjoy it.