Friday, June 29, 2007

Friday Reggae # 1 - Jamaican Rain

Latta people tellin' me reggae's a sunny music...

And since all it has done in the UK this week is piss down with rain, and many people are flooded out of their homes, how can sunny reggae be right?

Well you know what? They get a LOT of rain in Jamaica. Hurricanes too.

And here are some songs to prove it...

Bob Marley & The Wailers - 'Misty Morning' (1978)
Bob Marley & The Wailers - 'Kaya' (1971)
Bruce Ruffin - 'Rain' (1971)


[Oh yes, that's the original version of 'Kaya' produced by Lee 'Scratch' Perry and available on this. The 1978 album of the same name, with a re-recorded version of the title track and the lovely 'Misty Morning', is a cracker though - maybe my favourite Bob LP - and available here. The Bruce Ruffin (a Jose Feliciano song given the pop-reggae treatment) is from this - but on lots of other compilations besides.]

This has been a More Reggae In The Blogosphere (c) posting 2007. Stay dry this weekend. Thanks to Darcy for joining the campaign x

Monday, June 25, 2007

Past Meets Present

As his regular readers will know, the inestimable Colin from And Before The First Kiss is away at the moment, but as he has been a tireless and sincere champion of the music of Robert Wratten I'd like to think of him as a benevolent and groovy spirit at the table of this post.

I mentioned back here that I'd been listening to a lot of The Field Mice lately - it was Colin's samples that got me downloading from emusic and elsewhere - and I've also been tracking down and loving the music Wratten made post-Field Mice with Northern Picture Library and, now, Trembling Blue Stars.

Well, a story that began for me as a paddle into the back catalogue (I still don't know why I didn't hear of and hear Wratten's 90s music at the time) has come bang up to date now with the release of a new album from Trembling Blue Stars called The Last Holy Writer and my purchase of same using the quaint method of (ah! nostalgia!) handing over a few grubby fivers in a high street record shop.

It is a work of melancholy loveliness and I think this is the best thing on it...

Trembling Blue Stars - 'Idyllwild' (2007)

Given those lyrics - A song on the radio/Makes you shiver/You want to curl into a ball/Makes you want to be 17/And forget the future's shrinking - it's spooky that the song reminds me so much musically and thematically of this...

Weekend - 'Past Meets Present' (1982)

...a single I bought when I was - 17.

Time flies swift as an arrow. Indeed.

[Trembling Blue Stars MySpace is here - look out for free downloads now and then - and the new album is here and other places. The pre-history of Bobby Wratten and his music is here. Oh, and you can get the Weekend track on this. Yes, yes Young Marble Giants - but let's get the Weekend revival going now].

Friday, June 22, 2007

What Were The Skies Like When You Were Young?

For Rickie Lee Jones the sunsets were purple and red and yellow and on fire and the clouds would catch the colours everywhere. You don't see that. Well, you might still see it in the desert...

The Orb - 'Little Fluffy Clouds (Dance Mk 2)' (1990)
The Orb - 'Little Fluffy Clouds (Cumulo Nimbus mix by Pal Joey)' (1991)

[From the original CD single and this respectively]

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Françoise Et Moi

When I was a small boy my Dad was a big fan of Reader's Digest box sets. Mail order music long before Amazon, and 'not available in the shops', they usually comprised 8 or so 'easy listening' LPs with glossy, high-production-value sleeves designed to a theme, and expensive inner bags lined with soft cellophane, all presented in numbered order in a robust matching box.

In our house these boxes lay stacked ceremoniously beneath the Grundig 'radiogram', a major item of mock-mahogany furniture with a hinged lid that revealed the turntable and a front door that opened to the radio. They came out on a Sunday morning while the potatoes were roasting for lunch, or occasionally late on a Friday when my parents had friends around 'for dinner'. Very sophisticated. Very Abigail's Party.

From a young age I liked to open these boxes, sniff the new record and glossy photo smell they kept fresh inside and study the LPs for interesting music I might like. You could buy single artist collections (The Carpenters, Andy Williams, Jim Reeves) and my Dad had some of these, but he really favoured the compilations: Wonderful World Of Music, Golden Hit Parade, A Little Night Music. You'd find some real gems on these, in amongst the syrupy orchestral covers of middle-of-the-road standards: Golden Hit Parade pulled together original pop hits from every year from 1960 to 1973 and was the place I first heard and fell in love with The Searchers 'Needles And Pins', Thunderclap Newman's 'Something In The Air' and Zager & Evans 'In The Year 2525' - all the hits of my older brothers' teenage years. And on others I discovered Duke Ellington, Glen Campbell, Herb Alpert (yay! the Tijuana Sound!), Michel Legrand, the themes from The Man From U.N.C.L.E and Peter Gunn - and *sigh* Françoise Hardy....

The song Dad had, on an LP of French artists singing songs in English called Entente Cordiale (!) was 'All Over The World' and I thought at the time that it was one of the most beautiful things I had ever heard. I still do; those breathy, accented vocals so high in the mix (phwoar!), the crisp accompaniment, the sound, and those sad romantic lyrics.

Years later I tracked more Françoise down (in France) and of course by then I knew that she was a legend, an icon of the swinging Parisian sixties, someone Bob Dylan had written poems about (!) ('For Françoise Hardy/At the Seine's edge/A giant shadow of Notre Dame seeks t' grab my foot'...ahem), the Gallic Marianne Faithfull.

And she's still cool now - recording with Blur and Air and that bloke from Placebo and you name it.

But I'll never forget that time I heard 'All Over The World' on Dad's Grundig for the first time.


Françoise Hardy - 'Le Temps De L'Amour' (1962)
Françoise Hardy - 'La Maison Ou J'Ai Grandi' (1966)
FrançoiseHardy- 'Autumn Rendezvous' (1966)

(Françoise is much compiled - see here; her website is here - in French, bien sur - great photos!).

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

"I'm Not A Genius, I'm Just A Hard-Working Guy"

Composer, producer, arranger, musician, singer, performer and bona fide pop legend Brian Wilson is 65 today. It's wonderful to know that not only has he lived to collect his bus pass (and God Only Knows that longevity has looked a dodgy prospect more than once over the last forty years), but better still that he is healthier, happier and more musically active than he has been for decades.

The list of highly-creative, prodigiously talented and painfully sensitive individuals who did LSD (and Lord knows what else) by the cartload in the late 1960s and survived is a tragically short one: Brian famously took to his bed for five years in the 1970s, and despite many 'Brian Is Back' false dawns in intervening years did not really write or record much of substance again until the late 1980s.

This solo album release, at the time, seemed miraculous enough....

...I couldn't have imagined that 16 years later I would spend the evening of my 39th birthday watching the magnificent, mythic, abandoned-in-'66 song cycle 'SMiLE' performed (completed!) triumphantly by its composer at the Royal Festival Hall as a July sun slipped down across the Thames; this thing we had read about and dreamed about and tried to make sense of and put back together from the broken fragments of bootlegs, there before us, whole, and lovely and old and new all at once. Talk about great gigs of your life...

So, to honour Brian's attainment of OAP status I have posted 1) an interview he gave with Mojo magazine in 1997 where he talks about the recording of 'Good Vibrations' 2) the edited sequence of 'Vibrations' recording sessions from the CD reissue of Smiley Smile 3) a 'SMiLE' centrepiece and one of the few intact songs from the original sessions to actually see release in the late 60s (on this) 4) a cruelly underrated instrumental from Pet Sounds which may just be one of the best things he ever wrote 5) something for the summer (from this).

Happy Birthday Brian - we love ya.

Brian Wilson - Mojo interview excerpt (1997)
Brian Wilson - 'Good Vibrations [Various Sessions]' (1966)
The Beach Boys - 'Cabinessence' (1966)
The Beach Boys - 'Let's Go Away For Awhile'(1966)
The Beach Boys - 'The Warmth Of The Sun' (1964)

[Brian is touring Europe now - details at the official website here; a decent book about 'SMiLE' here; the 2004 re-recording here].

Saturday, June 16, 2007

There Is No Going Back...

No, not once you have fallen truly, madly, deeply in love with the guitar soundscapes and soaring melodies of Mr Robin Guthrie and the extraordinary voice of Ms Elizabeth Fraser. As I did, so many years ago...*sigh*.

Remarkably, this is my first Cocteau Twins post (such self-restraint - I could have overwhelmed you with them) but I hope it won't be the last.

This song fits into the proverbial 'grab at all costs if house burning down' category for me; but I hadn't seen the video until just the other day, and it is lovely.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Get The Funk In Here Some More!

There's a Minnie Riperton link too to our Friday funk-out in this North London 'nu jazz' collective's 1998 cover of her song, originally from Come Into My Garden.

I thought the vocal had to be sampled when I first heard this, so spookily close is lead Carina Andersson to the original; but the production here is shiny new - and I love the way the whole thing builds to that great big, elatory chorus.

Peace and love and happiness eh maaan?

4Hero - 'Les Fleur' (1998)

Available here; 4Hero on MySpace here. The original Riperton album, produced and scored by Rotary Connection's Charles Stepney, and a real cracker, is here.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Some Songs For Summer

I made this little playlist last summer and turned it into a CD for my mate Marty. Since then, whenever a hot sun has shone by day, all day - or there has been a warm, hazy evening and a good sunset - I have played it. And it's just seemed to, I dunno, work...

Let me say that it was compiled with a real STINKER in mind - you know, the kind of stacked summer day when just to move is a sketch; a sultry piece - all still. So hot even the cicadas have shut down, it's siesta time, all quiet, nothing doin'. An occasional fly buzzing maybe.

Well...we don't get too many days like that in these islands - just now and then perhaps, and the rest of the time we dream. Or enlarge our carbon footprints by jet-stepping to warmer places...

Anyway. Thinking about it and playing it (again) this week, it seemed to me that it pretty much contains all of the kindamusics that animate this Ghost thing week in, week out. A little bit of cosy indie (from Norwegians! Again!) , some heartful soul/funk, an ambient/Balearic vibe, some blissed-out prog and folk.

I hope you like it and it helps your summer along.

Of course it's made to be listened to right through, in sequence - and ideally in sunshine. But if you pick off just one or two tracks and play them in the rain, that's OK too. Obviously.

Some Songs For Summer
Kings Of Convenience - 'Gold In The Air Of Summer' (2004)
Elcho - 'Lazy Summer Days' (2005)
Rotary Connection - 'I Am The Black Gold Of The Sun' (1971)
Shrift - 'Lost In A Moment' (2006)
Ibizarre - 'The Summer Song' (2001)
Kings Of Convenience - 'Summer On The Westhill' (2001)
Pink Floyd - 'A Pillow Of Winds' (1971)
John Martyn - 'Small Hours' (1977)

Get the Kings Of Convenience here; John Martyn here and Elcho from this. The genius of Rotary Connection (featuring Minnie Riperton) here, Ibizarre here and Shrift here. Pink Floyd here - thanks Alex for filling the gaps in 'Meddle' x.
Picture taken somewhere near Windsor, Berkshire, England - 13.06.07 , just before lunchtime by me from my bike on a Big Ride from London.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Blue Monday

Well, not exactly blue, but definitely a bit grey here in London after a surprisingly sizzling weekend.

I don't know much about Flunk other than 1) a few songs that have come my way over the last few years, all of which I like 2) they are Norwegian.

What is it with the Norwegians these days? They're so cool and groovy with the indie music thing. When did that happen? I'm sure they were all heavy metallists when I were a lad...

Flunk - 'Blue Monday' (2002)

(My copy of this track from this which is a snip for 99p on ebay; Flunk's website here).

Friday, June 08, 2007

Get The Funk 'n' Northern Soul In Here!

Years ago I used to present a weekly Friday night soul show on the preposterously named Hospital Radio Nine at St George's Hospital, Tooting (there were no hospital radios 1-8 as far as I could tell). Our 'studio' wasn't in the quite slick environment of the general hospital building, but in the nearby Springfield Hospital, which was a psychiatric unit. It was at the very top of the building in a kind of late Victorian gothic tower with small leaded windows, many of which were broken (this was quite nice in the summer when the stuffiness would be relieved by cool breezes sweeping across Streatham Vale, but a tad nippy in the winter).

To get to the studio you had to walk through the wards, and it was common to be 'detained' by patients, most of whom were a) very sweet b) rather bewildered, for obvious reasons. The place had that disinfectant/boiled cabbage/stale urine kind of smell and all the chairs were slashed PVC with the foam rubber spilling out. Broadcasting House it was not.

I was never convinced anyone actually listened to my show, or the station in general come to that: we were encouraged to give out an internal phone number for patients to ring in requests, but no-one ever did. At least this meant we didn't have to play any Phil Collins I suppose.

We frequently amused ourselves by coming up with lists of records it would be inappropriate to play - 'Still Ill' by The Smiths was an obvious no-no - but 'Always Crashing In The Same Car' (Bowie) 'My Death' (Jacques Brel) 'Cancer' (Joe Jackson) and Tears For Fears' 'Mad World' also seemed unlikely to make the playlist. If we'd had a playlist.

Basically I got to play my favourite soul, funk and disco for an hour every week whilst occasionally rambling on inconsequentially.

Sound familar? If only blogging had been invented back then, I could have given the sick, distressed and unsettled of South London a break.

Anyway, I had this on a cassette compilation called What's Happening Stateside that somebody at the station nicked. I hope it brought joy to whoever acquired it.

Do me a favour - play it tonight, LOUD.

And tell me it isn't one of the best soul records ever made.

Little Anthony & The Imperials - 'Better Use Your Head' (1966)

(Now available on this, and literally dozens of similar compilations).

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Why Not Call Up Robin Hood?

I have an overnight stay in Nottingham tonight because I'm working there early tomorrow.

I don't know the city well, though I have been there before. I remember a devilish one-way system, some quite leafy suburbs, a big castle and lots of students. Oh, and Robin Hood mallarkey all over the place.

Any advice on what I should do with my evening?

If this is still a '0 Comments' post by 8pm, I shall be forced to watch England struggle to beat Estonia from my bland hotel room. *sob*.

Richard Hawley - 'Hotel Room' (2005)
New Order - 'In A Lonely Place' (1981)

(from this and this respectively).

Monday, June 04, 2007

A Slow Burner

Are some of your favourite albums the ones that weren't instant hits with you? The ones that weren't obvious, that didn't leap out at you the first time you played them? But that you came back to - just now and then at first, then more frequently, then a lot? And then they ended up Albums Of Your Life?

This was one for me.

I know it's an acknowledged classic and all, but when I got it last summer except for 'May You Never' which I already knew (and which is arguably the best song about friendship ever written - discuss) it just didn't especially gel with me. It moved to the bottom of the 'new and special' CDs pile on the shelf by the stereo, and it even got a bit dusty for a while. Other purchases outstripped it in plays and re-plays ten-to-one.

But then, not so long ago...

And again, more recently...

And now....

Bloody brilliant. And seriously chilled (Stoned? Well yes, but in a really good, 4am kinda way).

So once again I discover - some things take time, and those things are usually the best things, and you shouldn't just attend to the things that shout the loudest.

John Martyn - 'Solid Air' (1973)
John Martyn - 'Over The Hill' (1973)
John Martyn - 'May You Never' (1973)

(More about John Martyn here; his own website here. Buy Solid Air here).

Friday, June 01, 2007

Get The Funk 'n' Spices In Here!

After eating out and partaking of rather too many Pinot Grigios last night, I shall be staying in ce soir and cooking the (in some quarters legendary) DavyH prawn curry - spices, onion, garlic, ginger and fresh tomatoes all cooked down nice and slow before the smooth coconut cream is added and the masala paste-marinated prawns and chopped coriander tumble in finally.
I find this track works well with the stirring.

Booker T & The MGs - 'Melting Pot' (1971)

(another great slice of hot soul-funk from this).
[The curry in the picture is a posh BBC Food Magazine type curry, not mine. I hadn't cooked mine yet when I wrote the words - I have now, and it was nice, but it didn't have tastefully arranged limes in soft focus in the foreground. And the prawns were peeled. Just thought you should know]