We all like a good cover, a good debate about good covers and maybe a rant about terrible covers too ('Love Will Tear Us Apart' by Paul Young - AAAAAARGHHHHH!!!!).
But how about the backwards cover thing - when you discover a superb original, and maybe even an artist's whole canon, as a result of someone you admire covering their stuff?
Did The Meat Puppets gather a whole raft of new fans because Nirvana covered three of their songs on MTV Unplugged? Did a generation of thrift-shop indie student-types invest in the first Velvet Underground album because Tracey Thorn covered 'Femme Fatale' on A Distant Shore? How many Generation X'ers got turned on to Leonard Cohen by Jeff Buckley or even Rufus Wainwright's 'Hallelujah'? Are these rhetorical questions or what?
For me one album in particular has turned out to be a rich jumping off point to fabulous tracks and/or whole albums by artists I had heard of but not heard and that album is the This Mortal Coil debut It'll End In Tears(I know, a third mention of TMC in as many months - but this post isn't really about them. Is my excuse).
The choice of artists covered herein (5 of 12 tracks are non-originals) displays, it must be said, impeccable taste, especially when you bear in mind that when this album was released (1983) there was no internet, no Wikipedia and no blogosphere - and really no common alt.consensus on 'cool':
'Not Me' (MP3) - a lost solo track from Wire founder Colin Newman (from A-Z)
'Another Day' (MP3) - from the unsung genius that is Roy Harper
Tim Buckley's 'Song To The Siren' (MP3) (available here).
Now every blogger worth his or her bandwidth is dropping Big Star, Wire and (both) Buckleys, but I don't see a lot of Roy Harper out there - and because for me he's been one of the great 'old music' 'finds' of the last few years, I'm working up to a full post on him soon.
Meanwhile, I thought it'd be fun to post some of the originals of the TMC tracks.
I have two versions of the Harper track: I've posted the slower live version originally from Flat Baroque And Beserk(1970) and which I have on the excellent 2 CD retrospective Counter Culture (you really must buy).
Confession time then: which seminal artists/tracks did you discover after hearing them covered by a band you like?
I seem to have given it an unwitting kiss of death, because having mentioned the excellent Dave Brown Motown show on London's Smooth FM here recently I discovered last night that the station has been axed, and Brown's show along with it.
'Axed' isn't a word the station's owners the Guardian Media Group (GMG) are using of course - but their decision to 'merge' the station with Saga radio - an 'easy listening' channel 'aimed at the over 50s' amounts to the same thing.
Though Smooth FM's daytime fare was a commercial mix of light soul and r&b (and nothing wrong with that) its licensing deal with broadcast regulator Ofcom required it to devote a minimum number of hours to jazz and specialist programming, and its evening output was a rare respite from the endless diet of middle-of-the-road and/or chart-oriented fodder knocked out by other commercial radio stations in the capital. It was one place where you could hear classic and contemporary music of black origin from Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong to Miles Davis, Grover Washington Jr, Natalie (and Nat) Cole and Marvin Gaye.
Despite this, GMG last year won the rights to overturn the terms of its licence and this week we are left with the Saga 'merger' and the sorry prospect of yet another national radio network playing 'Bridge Over Troubled Water' and 'Imagine' on seemingly endless loops.
It seems that if you value eclectic music programming and that wonderful opportunity of hearing something on the radio that you've never heard before, you're now entirely reliant on the BBC (bless it) in the UK - or you give up on the lot of them and turn to the internet.
At this point I suppose I should post Elvis Costello's 'Radio Radio' or The Clash's 'Capital Radio One' (I'm certainly angry enough) - but then I'd be as guilty as those I'm complaining about in taking the well-worn track over the road less-travelled.
So here's something you might not have heard.
Josh Ritter - 'Golden Age Of Radio' (2000)
He's lamenting the death of the spirit of true country radio, amongst other things - but it all amounts to the same damn thing.
Dave Brown if you're out there - I'll miss you mate.
My local Oxfam shop came up with the goods big time this week - some (much sampled) rare groove and jazz funk/soul selected by UK hip-hop DJ Cutmaster Swift for this 'B Boy classics' compilation in 1999.
Having bought it for the price of a pint, I was amused to find some guy attempting to sell his on Amazon Marketplace for £74.
Buy it new for a slightly more reasonable price here.
You know I like to funk on a Friday.
King Curtis - 'Memphis Soul Stew' (MP3)
Skull Snaps - 'It's A New Day' (MP3)
Aaron Neville - 'Hercules' (MP3)
The Commodores - 'The Assembly Line' (MP3)
Part of my excitement in discovering this had been released to iTunes was that it was one of only two tracks I still needed to complete a digital reproduction of a compilation tape I made in January 1986.
(I know, I know - I need to get out more. But I'm 75! And my knees are playing up! You wanna read about The Fratellis, go talk to that nice Mr Cameron. You think I'm joking? Here.)
The tape was called You Saw Brigadoon (!) and its full track listing was:
Sunday (Rebel Soul) - The Faith Brothers
Days Like These - Billy Bragg
Walk On The Wild Side - Lou Reed
The Whole Of The Moon - The Waterboys
In Between Days - The Cure
Twenty Four Hours - Joy Division
Ocean Rain - Echo & The Bunnymen
Song To The Siren - This Mortal Coil
Sixteen Days/Gathering Dust - This Mortal Coil
Eventide - The Faith Brothers
Nocturnal Me - Echo & The Bunnymen
I Don't Need This Pressure Ron - Billy Bragg
The Ghost In You - The Psychedelic Furs
Shakespeare's Sister - The Smiths
Thieves Like Us - New Order
Now, I have earlier mixtapes than this, and more 'Peely' ones, but this one's special to me for a few reasons.
1) I made it at the start of the 2nd term of my final year at University. Annus mirabilis! It evoketh. Big time.
2) I still like everything on it.
3) It hangs together quite nicely - at least until the second half of the second side where I can't help but feel The Smiths track (not one of their best) blows the mood slightly. It made the cut because it was a recent single; The Queen Is Dead didn't come out until later that year. Imagine! (and also imagine...C86, grunge, baggy, Madchester, shoegaze, Oasis, Britpop, New Labour, even bloody John Major - all still to happen).
Everything on the tape was stuff I was enjoying then and there, and bar the obvious already 'classic' Joy Division and Lou Reed tracks, it all dates from the period 1983-1985 (I had got Ocean Rain that Christmas, though nearly had to give it back when my Dad said he thought it 'sounded quite nice').
Finally getting the TMC track left me with just one final missing piece - the all-important Track One, Side One - The Faith Brothers' 'Sunday'...
Why did I not have this?
1. It was taped from an LP that belonged to my flatmate Carlos.
2. This LP (Eventide) is rare as hen's teeth - and has never been issued on CD.
The Faith Brothers were a fabulous band, especially live - all soaring melodies, urgent brass, elatory vocals and humanistic commitment. Lead singer/writer Billy Franks was a passionate and charismatic frontman - even when long after the band's glory days (supporting The Alarm!) performing to a few hundred with his soul band in 'The Leather Bottle' pub in Wimbledon Chase.
So....I was about to issue an appeal to anyone who had 'Sunday (Rebel Soul)' ('Spare an MP3 guv'nor?') when in putting this post together I checked out Billy Franks website and found he had posted the whole of the Eventide LP (and others) for download free of charge.
He's even added this non-LP early single
The Faith Brothers - 'A Stranger On Homeground'
What a man!
My restoration project is complete. Closure. Enough nostalgia already.
Billy Franks plays O'Neill's, 326 Earl's Court Rd, London this Sunday 25th March from 6:30pm - free.
This is a post that's been a while in the waiting.
Dave Brown is a DJ who presents a Sunday night Motown show on London's Smooth FM 102.2 (formerly Jazz FM). It's a gem of a programme because 1) Brown really knows his stuff 2) he manages to resist what I would imagine is considerable commercial and audience pressure to stack the four hours with the over-familiar hits (the station's daytime schedule is deeply mainstream), choosing instead to air many rare, lost and forgotten tracks from the late 50s through to the present. I've heard some stunning soul records on this programme, most of them for the first time.
I was knocked back a few weeks ago when I heard this contemporary remix of a 1975 Smokey Robinson track and bought it off iTunes pronto - but not until I bought the whole Motown Remixed CD it's from could I upload it to The Ghost of course (hey there again, Digital Rights Bloody Protection Software!).
Remixes of classic tracks can be hit and miss affairs - what I love about this is the way it massively opens up and deepens, whilst respecting, the source material - especially with the inspired addition of Roy Ayers' vibes accompaniment (not on the original).
Smokey Robinson - 'Quiet Storm' (Groove Boutique Chill Jazz Mix, feat. Roy Ayers)
Hope you like it. The album is well worth a listen (buy here) - maybe I'll post some more tracks soon.
Now to our pictured artist...
A lot of people say to me "Davy H, your blog's alright - but I just don't feel you post enough stuff by female African-American jazz funk flautists..."
I'm happy to oblige.
Bobbi Humphrey -'Harlem River Drive' (1973) (available on Blue Break Beats Vol 1 - buy)
Charismatic, if slightly weird, band leader, singer, songwriter and prime animus parts company with cultish band in not entirely happy circumstances (musical/personal differences, frustration at lack of commercial success, sense of compromised integrity, claustrophobia, drug-related sacking, etc); is widely tipped to carve out hugely successful yet iconoclastic solo career while jobbing ex-colleagues return to obscurity whence they had sprung.
Watches as said bandmates recruit new singer, reinvent selves as mainstream act, storm charts, become megastars.
Syd Barrett - The Pink Floyd
Peter Gabriel – Genesis (‘Was feeling part of the scenery/Walked right out of the machinery’, etc)
John Foxx - Ultravox!
Foxx (real name Dennis Leigh) trained as a graphic artist - a career to which he returned in the 1990s having quit the music business. He had been active on the glam scene from as early as 1974 with his band Tiger Lily, once tried out as vocalist for the nascent Clash (then known with Year Zero tastelessness as The London SS), fell in love with the music of the electronic avant garde and Kraftwerk, formed the band Ultravox! (always with an exclamation mark) and enjoyed critical acclaim, hipster status and the production services of Brian Eno on Island records for two years before being unceremoniously dropped by the label in 1979.
Signing to Virgin as a solo artist, Foxx released ‘Underpass’ (MP3), which peaked at number 31 on the singles charts. Subsequent singles grazed the lower reaches of the Top 40, then later only the Top 75; albums picked up some plaudits, but failed to substantially scratch the consciousness of either post-punkers or synthpop kids.
Meanwhile Ultravox regrouped, dropped the ! , hired a guy that used to sing in a teen band and.....“Aaaah, Vienna!”…
I always thought Foxx was interesting and loved his cold, alienated keyboard landscapes and chipped vocals – a major influence on (the also much more commercially successful) Gary Numan.
I had the free-with-Smash Hitsyellow ‘flexidisc’ (!) of an obscure Foxx track called ‘My Face’ (MP3) for many years before the crease it sustained in the mail finally made it unplayable, and though we did nickname it ‘Underpants’ at school, his debut stuck with us more than its chart position would indicate.
Might I also suggest that ‘Europe After The Rain’ (MP3) (number 40, August 1981) is one of the very best proto electro dance tracks of the 1980s?
It is surely time for a Foxx revival. I would like to start it here.
Five quid gets you this budget compilation – a sterling slice of the best of Dennis Leigh from the synthrock 80s through the rather marvellously ambient 90s. It includes 'My Face' !!! Buy!
I nipped into our local Notting Hill Housing Trust charity shop on Saturday to peruse the second hand CDs, and there amongst the usual Uncut magazine giveaways, 90s dance mix compilations and East 17 singles, I found Made To Love Magic by Nick Drake - for £1.
This is not a rare or amazing record but I think you will agree it was being sold at a rare and amazing price, so I bought it.
Accusations of barrel-scraping were levelled at Island/Universal when this compilation of studio outakes, demos and reorchestrated tracks was released in 2004, mostly because the truly sought-after stuff had already been given a respectful first airing on a bonus CD included with the 1986 Fruit Tree box set (and released separately a year later as Time Of No Reply).
Famously, Nick Drake released only three albums in his lifetime, none of which received much critical attention or any commercial success at the time.
His unreleased recordings are also thin on the ground - solo demos recorded by his friend and future orchestrator Robert Kirby at Cambridge; rough self-recorded tapes made at his family home in Tanworth-in-Arden (bootlegged, much to the distress of his family); outtakes from the studio albums, especially the debut Five Leaves Left (buy); and four songs from his final studio sessions in 1974 for an intended 4th album.
Given how little we have of Nick Drake, there's something of interest, and much to enjoy, in all the songs - but for me the stand-out tracks are those recorded for, but left off, Five Leaves Left. It's a mark of the quality of the released material that songs of this standard were not considered up-to-scratch: hard to imagine an artist or producer leaving them off an album these days, especially not with 60-70 minutes of CD space to fill (the original LP lasted just 42 minutes).
The album we know is, of course, perfection - and now appears routinely in all those Greatest Albums Of All Time lists.
How different it was in the dog-days of the 1960s when a quiet, upper middle class Cambridge undergraduate with his intricate guitar stylings and opaque, melancholy lyrics went largely unheard by a world with the electric blues ringing in its ears...
Nick Drake - 'Clothes Of Sand' (MP3)
Nick Drake - 'Joey' (MP3)
Nick Drake - 'The Thoughts Of Mary Jane' (MP3) [alternate version: Richard Thompson - electric guitar]
All tracks recorded November/December 1968 and available here; an excellent biography of Nick Drake by Patrick Humphries available here.
Glad tidings reach The Ghost that a new Cowboy Junkies album, At The Ends Of Paths Taken, is scheduled for release in mid-April. Three (rather excellent) tracks from it are streaming right now at the band's Myspace page.
I've had a soft spot for the Canadian siblings' low-key lyrical blues ever since 1988's seminal Trinity Session, which was recorded,as Wikipedia gleefully notes, 'live in a single day on a single microphone in a church in Toronto' and I suppose is most famous to the world at large for featuring a cover of the Velvet Underground's 'Sweet Jane' which Lou Reed described as his all-time favourite version of the song (it's based on the longer, slower reading of the track that Reed began performing live in the late 60s).
My desert island CJ track though (and I suspect many other people's) would have to be 'Sun Comes Up, It's Tuesday Morning' (from 1990's Caution Horses) a song whose lyric brilliantly evokes the mash of emotions (sadness, loss, relief, the comfort of returning-to-self) that follows a relationship break-up. I have a friend who once gave this to a girlfriend he'd just dumped - which seems a bit harsh, now I come to think of it...
Always cultish, never especially hip, the Junkies have doggedly etched out their very particular alt. musical groove for twenty years now, even releasing their recordings themselves since the late 90s.
Here's a smattering of tracks from their illustrious past.
I hate to second-hand blog, and I honestly promise not to do it again, but I really feel I must pass the word on about this - in which a Highway 61 Revisited era Bob Dylan sings the poems and rhyming stories of, erm, Dr Seuss.
Huge shout out to Jon at Southcoasting for drawing our attention to this.
Anyone know who it is? Weird Al Yankovic again??
Speaking of matters Dylan, here's a little Chumbawamba to get your week off to a 'radical' start.
They're being sniffy about Bob in Don't Look Backof course, but hey! he can take it and so can we.
Chumbawamba - 'Give The Anarchist A Cigarette' (MP3) (from Anarchy - buy).
PS: Dr Seuss's publisher Random House has put together a lovely site in celebration of The Cat In The Hat's 50th birthday here. Fun for all the family!
If Jenny Lewis didn’t exist, we middle-aged, male, indie-nostalgic, back-room bloggers would have had to invent her.
Gorgeous, flirtatious, guitar-playing, gutsy and literate, Ms Lewis has all that we require of our alternative rock fantasy objects and now that Louise Wener is a successful novelist, the stage must be hers alone.
The quality of La Lewis's work, both with Rilo Kiley and The Watson Twins, speaks for itself; for me, Rabbit Fur Coat (buy) was easily one of the best albums of 2006 and the last RK album More Adventurous (buy) an absolute CRACKER that’s still on heavy rotation play at Ghost Central.
The NME reported way back in October that Rilo Kiley had '20 new songs recorded' and that mixing would begin in November for a new album to be released ‘early in 2007’ but since then there’s been, as far as I can tell, no more news of the release (even the band’s website is still streaming tracks from More Adventurous).
Anyone know if we can expect something soon?
We can’t wait around till we’re all 'Portions For Foxes' you know Jen…!
My mate Wayne grew up in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, England. Came of age back in the early 80s. Had a wedge haircut and wore soul-boy shoes and white socks. Was a Number on the Scene. Liked a bit of the old jazz funk: early Level 42, Spyro Gyra, Weather Report - maybe a touch of Luther now and then.
Now he’s 40-something and on a P&O cruise of the world; a few weeks ago we received a card from him in Buenos Aires, and I think he’s somewhere off the coast of Australia now. As far as we know he isn’t playing fretless bass in the house band, but you never know with Wayne.
It’s largely down to Wayne that I own the 1981 Bobby Womack album The Poet, which is something of a genre masterpiece.
At a time when the best soul/funk music of the period that the excellent Art Decade calls ‘the long seventies’ had pretty much played out, and before soul/pop saviours like Prince had really established a foothold, where hip-hop and electro had begun to flourish (even Marvin Gaye’s music would be synth-heavy on 1982’s Midnight Love album) but traditional horn-heavy and heartfelt soul melodies seemed to be a thing of the past, this recording from an artist whose best work many had considered to be behind him was a massive, and surprise, hit.
It’s a fabulously atmospheric, emotionally-wrought and gutsy late-night soul album that stands with the best of its kind and proved hugely influential on much of the 80s ‘groove’ scene.
Throughout, Womack’s voice is full of raw feeling, and his guitar work is terrific.