A blog about the things I find accidentally on Spotify while looking for something else

Sunday, 29 December 2013

It's the End of Year 'It Crawled Into My Ear, Honest' Annual Playlist!

The blog is one year-old, (pretty much) and here is a big playlist of the best bits from the albums covered so far.  Please listen and share, so that it becomes the most talked-about toy in the playground next year.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Yummy, Yummy, Yummy - Julie London

Like many artists of the pre-rock 'n' roll era, Julie London found the sixties pop scene difficult to negotiate.  There was no longer a clear divide between adult and kids' pop, as serious but mellow young-folk such as Simon & Garfunkel, Jimmy Webb and that nice Paul McCartney moved in on the oldsters' turf.  So what to do?  By the later years of the decade, swingers and jazzers such as Ella Fitzgerald, Tony Bennett and even Sinatra were dipping their toes with varying degrees of enthusiasm in the waters of the new emerging pop canon, with multiple covers of Yesterday, Something, and Gentle on My Mind threatening to sink the Western seaboard.  This trend had run out of steam by the time of Sinatra's seventies comeback, where he effectively invented the 'vintage artist' career path that most ageing rockers now follow.
   So how did Julie 'Cry Me a River' London fare during this period?  On this 1969 album, and her final for Liberty, we can find out.  The thing is, Julie didn't really do 'fast'.  She was pretty much stuck on the 'slow and sultry' setting.  At best, she could work her way up to 'moderate'.  So here, everything is slower than you're used to.  This is fine on something like 'Light My Fire' as that's always being bloody slowed down, but 'The Mighty Quinn' is practically soporific, and seeing as it is the most inherently un-sexy composition this side of the Frog Song, 'sultry' isn't much use here.  The bubblegum title track is taken to somewhere that lies beyond ideas of 'good' and 'bad', while 'Louie Louie' has never rocked less, and having such a gloriously stupid song sung as if it means something can only end badly.  The version of 'Hushabye Mountain' here, however, is definitive.

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Thursday, 12 December 2013

The Queen Does Her Thing - La Lupe

Before the Cuban revolution, La Lupe was a nightclub act with fans including Hemingway, Sartre, de Beauvoir, Brando and Charles Hawtrey.  Later exiled to the United States, she became the Queen of Cuban Soul.  This particular album is heavy on pop/rock covers, notably 'Touch Me' by the Doors and Down On Me by Big Brother and the Holding Company.  Contains manic laughing on most tracks.

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Thursday, 5 December 2013

From Here to Eternity - Giorgio Moroder

I'm guessing loads of people know about this album already, but it's my blog, so, you know, deal with it.  Up until this point the only Moroder stuff I was aware of under his own name was the infamous Electric Dreams collab with Phil Oakey-Dokey, and that thing with Freddie Mercury doing guest shouty opera vocals over a film that didn't want them.  This 1977 album, however, is classic-era Moroder, very much a continuation of his work with Donna Summer, and prefiguring what he would soon get up to with Sparks.  Indeed, Moroder's Teutonic non-singer's singing voice is uncannily similar to the one Russell Mael would employ on their recordings together, although whatever weird-ass accent Russell Mael is singing in remains undetermined.
   The album kicks off with the hit 'From Here to Eternity' and it's obvious that Moroder has been giving the newly-released Trans-Europe Express by Kraftwerk a bit of a spin.  What also quickly become obvious, however, is that this album predicts the musical future of now more accurately than the Kraftsers managed to.  Obviously, they are massively important and influential and legendary and velodrome-filling, but whereas they sing about trains, German Expressionist halls of mirrors and showroom dummies, Moroder goes on about love and all that soppy stuff, at one point even covering (although radically transforming) the old country heartbreak standard, 'I'm Left, You're Right, She's Gone'.  Often this is done in a disco-robot voice, and the album feels uncannily contemporary.
   Because this is where we are now with pop music, with heartfelt explosions of emotion only seeming 'real' if drenched in autotune.  Pop stars now are singing cyborgs.  Even someone playing towards left-field like Frank Ocean uses it extensively.  Not because he needs it - I understand he can hold a note without wavering very well - but because it seems the right thing to do at this point.  Maybe because our emotional lives are conducted via our devices to the point they almost seem part of us, and autotune is shorthand for this.  Anyway, this is what From Here to Eternity by Giorgio Moroder made me think of, so there you go.

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Thursday, 28 November 2013

Sonrise

There are various compilations of vintage Christian rock from the Sonrise label on Spotify.  Some of  it is hard to date precisely, but I'm guessing the earliest material is from the late '60s/early '70s, and the latest from about a decade later.  Listening to them is an odd experience.  It is a parallel history of rock, with the same styles gone through - acid rock, soft harmony pop, country rock, bad white reggae etc. - but always with the focus on God-related matters.  It definitely feels like something is askew, but why should this be? After all, mainstream rock is littered with songs that, taken in isolation, seem to convey an explicitly Christian message.  It is probably down to the fact that while something like 'Spirit in the Sky' would have emerged organically, and was just one of the things Norman Greenbaum wanted to express (other Greenbaum songs include 'Canned Ham' and 'The Eggplant that Ate Chicago') these musicians were unwilling or felt unable to talk about anything else.  It's a form of music designed for personal expression being used for the purposes of a higher authority.  Like a dog walking on its hind legs, it's physically possible but maybe not the best thing for the dog.
   Anyway, here are three of the more musically interesting Sonrise compilations, organised in what seems like a chronological order.

Mystery Revealed

Once you get past the mind-expanding cover, there is a smorgasbord of late-60s styles here.  Sample track title: 'Song of the Antichrist'.  God makes an appearance on the closing number.



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Jesus Festival of Music

The cover will give you nightmares. 'Jesus, come in me', begins one song, innocently.  Contains a cover of Jake Holmes's 'Genuine Imitation Life' I actually prefer to the version by the Four Seasons.



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Jesus Power

A bit of a rootsier feel, and some of it live.  Spirit in the Sky actually turns up here, as does a 'high-on-Jesus' gospel monologue from Arthur Blessit & the Eternal Rush.  Some nice tunes here and there.



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Thursday, 21 November 2013

'50s and '60s Lost and Found Records Vol. 1

Here I attempt to solve one of the great mysteries of Spotify, this being the various unfeasibly long and curiously selected compilations floating around on it.  This one is a full 80 tracks long and collects various tunes from the '50s and '60s, but not ones that anyone would realistically ever want to listen to sequenced together.  There are big hits like Serge Gainsbourg's 'Je t'aime... mon non plus' and 'Cinderella Rockefella' by those people who did it, alongside obscurities from the Tornados, 'My Boy Lollipop' Millie, Bobby Darin and other established names, and a whole bunch of other stuff by people you've never heard of.  Some of it's credible rock 'n' roll, some of it the easiest of easy.  Some of it's good, much of it is dreadful.
  So why do compilations like this exist?  It's not simply a case of someone bunging a load of out-of-copyright stuff out there just to see what cash they can make off of it, as some of it won't lapse into the public domain for a number of years.  The clue is in the company name - Master Classics Records.  This is an imprint owned by The Orchard, a music distribution company which sub-licences recordings, many of them languishing with record companies who have long lost interest in them, and attempts to push them back out there for consumption.  Compilations such as these, then, are presumably a sort of sampler, so actually listening to it is a bit like trying to read the Argos Catalogue.
   Having said all that, the re's some good stuff on there amongst the chaff which you won't have heard, so worth a flick.  My personal fave - 'If You Want This Love' by Sonny Knight.  More on whom later.

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Thursday, 14 November 2013

From Where to Where - Shin Joong Hyun

Light in the Attic comp EP of the the Godfather of South Korean psychedelic rock guitar.  Like much of the more exotic vintage rock music only now been given any attention in the West, this is the familiar filtered through the strange.  On one level the brooding plod of some of these tracks is not that dissimilar from your average album track by Colosseum or whoever, but then there will come a killer chord change they would never think of, given weight by the monumental build-up.  And then it gets funky.  The final nail in the coffin of rock purism.

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Wednesday, 6 November 2013

The Everly Brothers Sing - The Everly Brothers

A particularly interesting entry in the generally-of-interest '60s discography of the Everly Brothers.  Overshadowed by their celebrated cosmic country Roots album that followed, this one from 1967 is a soft psych effort, with the Everlys' harmonies featuring on the type of material more usually attached to their multi-voiced successors, such as the Association and Spanky and Our Gang.  Opening track and moderate hit 'Bowling Green' mythologises the Kentucky city to the point that it sounds like a good place to go to after you die, while 'To the Flowers' is a glorious Summer of Love period piece that made it on to a Nuggets compilation.  'Mary Jane', meanwhile, is about a very special girl they just can't get enough of.  The album peters out with covers of 'Whiter Shade of Pale' and 'Mercy, Mercy, Mercy' that sound like they would much rather be somewhere else (one of them doesn't even bother turning up at all for the former).  Before that, however, is a whole load of '60s marshmallowy greatness.
   The Everly Brothers struggled to find much of an audience in the '60s, but what they were up to was fascinating, easily the equal of many of the younger beat groups that followed in their wake, owing them pretty much everything.  This album is a fine example of this.

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Tuesday, 29 October 2013

The Best Of... The Lemon Pipers

The Lemon Pipers were famous for their bubblegum no. 1 smash Green Tambourine in 1968.  I'd always presumed they were a fake band made of studio musicians like so many of their bubbly contemporaries, but it turns out they were a genuine group, with enough of a following to play the Fillmore West at the height of the San Francisco scene.  Once signed to Buddah Records however, they were given songs from outside writers to record, firmly aimed at the younger end of the pop-buying market.  Nevertheless, their albums contained some of their own heavier, spaced-out material.  This compilation includes both, with pre-teeny-bop stuff at the beginning and druggy cosmic journeying at the end.  Both are well worth listening to, although the tracks aimed at kids are arguably trippier.
   Green Tambourine is pop perfection, and while follow-up Rice is Nice is naff, Jelly Jungle (of Orange Marmalade) sounds like a fun place to visit.  Rainbow Tree, meanwhile, is gorgeous, with the mind-bending lyric telling us 'The time and place is only something your mind creates'.  Of the band-generated material, Catch Me Falling is great country-rock in a Byrds vein, while the epic Dead End Street/Half Light sounds like Country Joe and the Fish.

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Thursday, 24 October 2013

The Flame - The Flame

The Flame were a South African band located to London, who were talent-spotted by lesser-spotted Beach Boy Al Jardine, and eventually incorporated into the Beach Boys themselves, with members Ricky Fataar and Blondie Chaplin adding a rootsier sound to some of their early-seventies albums.  Before this, however, is this album produced by Beach Boy Carl Wilson for their own Brother label in 1970.  It's very much a Beatles-esque affair, with Abbey Road-era McCartney-isms prevalent throughout.  Even the outdoorsy Lady is more 'Paul on his farm with a sheep' fabrication than any attempt at Band-like authenticity. Essentially early power-pop, particularly interesting for the way their attitude to multi-section guitar-led instrumental breaks actually seems to prefigure Big Star, in particular the Chris Bell side of the Bell/Chilton partnership, in a way the Beatles don't quite do.  Was this album spinning on Bell's turntable in Memphis as he laid the groundwork for that seminal band?  Anyway, it's not a classic or anything, but it's very enjoyable if you like that sort of thing.

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Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Raconteur - Jeff Wayne

Do you like showbiz anecdotes?  Do you like anecdotes about watching Sheena Easton taking her clothes off without her knowing?  Then Jeff Wayne (not the War of the Worlds guy) is the man for you!  Comedian Wayne presents his own personal collection of reminiscences (some not his own) from the world of showbiz.  Be amazed by Pavarotti singing Happy Birthday!  Be stunned by Alan Ladd driving a very small car!  Be bored by Debbie Reynolds!  All this and more awaits you on 'Raconteur - Showbiz Stories From the Soul'.*

*Soul may be borrowed from a friend or passing acquaintance.

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Wednesday, 9 October 2013

The Singles Collection - Bobby Vee

Bobby Vee is an artist I previously had very little interest in indeed.  I perceived him as very much a second division pop 'n' roller, the 1950s' pre-emptive answer to Harry Stiles.  And in a way he was.  But this collection of his As and Bs from the late '50s to the early '70s shows that he was so much more.
  Starting off with a quality home-brewed rock 'n' roll number 'Suzie Baby', a favourite of Bob Dylan, you then get the songs you know - 'Rubber Ball', 'Take Good Care of My Baby', 'The Night Has a Thousand Eyes'.  There is a weird emotional S&M streak running through this period, with Bobby seriously getting off on the idea of being cheated on and cheating in return whilst being watched in 'The Night...' as well as a song simply called 'Punish Her'.  Bobby then has the good fortune to hook up with Burt Bacharach for a few numbers, just as the Burtster's star is about to rise, probably out of his price range.  The best of these is 'Anonymous Phone Call,' with a great meander of a melody tied to a beautifully precise Hal David lyric.
   The Beatles rendered Bobby yesterday's news, but he kept on going, bothering the lower reaches of the charts with shameless exercises in bandwagon-jumping.  Beatlesesque whoos turn up for a couple of tracks, while by the mid-'60s Bobby is laying down a credible cover of the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds track 'Here Today' along with the brooding psych of 'I May Be Gone'.  The '70s bring an embracing of country rock in a similar vein to that of his contemporary Ricky Nelson.  A lot of this, such as 'No Obligations' is well worth listening to, although fake hippy anthem 'Signs' is unintentionally hilarious as Bobby rages against pretty much any type of sign he can find.
   Three CDs of Bobby is more than most sane people would want, but the excess is necessary in order to present Vee's career for what it was.  A mirror of the pop mainstream, with little innovation, but with many developments seized on and emulated, with honesty, charm and some very decent songs along the way.  Bobby Vee is ok with me.

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Thursday, 3 October 2013

Love Is... - Priscilla Paris

Priscilla Paris was a member of Phil Spector-produced girl group The Paris Sisters.  This, from 1978, is an entirely self-penned effort, and well worth a listen.  The opening track, 'Down By the River', is a moody slow-burner worthy of Lee Hazlewood's songs for Nancy Sinatra, featuring some great '70s synth atmospherics.  The closing track dwells on the blissful unawareness of a dog that its owners' relationship has ended.  In between are songs about love present and gone, and encroaching middle-age.  Very easy on the ear, but like the best easy, there are real, hard emotions bobbing about in the eiderdown.

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Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Privilege

Soundtrack to Peter Watkins's (who once gave a lecture I attended when I was at university on his later, scarily long and Marxist films) 1967 dystopian pop film, in which chart throb Paul Jones is subverted into becoming a mouthpiece for the religious right.  The score contains several songs from ex-Manfred Mannster Jones and instrumental music by Mike Leander, plus some rockin' hymns by one George Bean.  There is an interesting progression as the songs begin espousing a position of individualism before crossing over into worship numbers as the album goes on, with melodies recycled.  One song ('Free Me') would later be covered by Patti Smith.  The Jones songs are obviously the stand-out tracks, but the instrumental themes are nice too, with a Barry-esque vibe to some of them.  A surprisingly satisfying and cohesive listen for a soundtrack album.

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Thursday, 19 September 2013

Just Released - Dickie Goodman

Before Harold Robbins invented sex in 1963, between the end of the Chatterley ban and the first Beatles LP, if you wanted sexually explicit comedy albums (which many people do) you had to make do with this sort of thing from 1962 - trad and pop songs reworked frat house-style.  The theme of venereal disease is returned to regularly, along with periods and unwanted pregnancy.  You'll probably end up feeling a bit funny.  Tellingly, the final and least filthy track, in which Tennessee Ernie Ford's Sixteen Tons is reworked as a tale of a daughter dating a beatnik, has dated the best.

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Tuesday, 10 September 2013

What Do You Say To A Naked Lady? - Steve Karmen

As promised, this week I reveal the nature of the film 'What Do You Say To A Naked Lady?'.  It was in fact a spin-off of Candid Camera (US version) from 1970, and featured real-life reactions to sexually charged stunts, such as a naked woman stepping out of a lift and an interracial couple kissing (one of whom is a pre-Shaft Richard Roundtree).
  This is the groovy soundtrack by one Steve Karmen.  The title theme is a delight.  A song called 'Rape is Not as Easy as it Looks', less so.  A generally pleasant collection of soft-pop sounds, some Rod McKuen-esque narration, plus a song about a tailor which sounds like it was cut out of Oliver! for being too racially insensitive.

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Monday, 2 September 2013

Movie Themes From the Past

A collection of Hollywood theme tunes from the late '50s to early '70s.  There are tracks by the greats of the era - Hermann, Jarre, Elmer Bernstein, Quincy Jones, as well songs from Tom Jones, Paul Jones and Joey Dee and the Starlighters.  What is most interesting, however, is that while some of the films from which these themes originate are famous (Goodbye, Mr. Chips, Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice), others have sunk into near-obscurity. Blue Denim, for example, is a teen pregnancy film based on a play by Midnight Cowboy James Leo Herlihy, but it's little-seen now.  And what, pray tell, was 'What Do You Say to a Naked Lady?' about?  This is a question that I will answer in a week's time.

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Thursday, 29 August 2013

Twist Again au Ciné vol. 2 (La Revanche)

Second and most enjoyable entry in this series collecting French film theme songs (and French versions of English/American film songs, including Bond themes, oh yes) from decades past.  This one covers the '60s/'70s and is a pretty strong set.  Highlights include the Francoise Hardy-tastic 'Loin' by Joanna Shinkmus, the frankly disorienting 'Living Apart Together' by some bloke called Dave, the baroque-rocking My Way of Loving You by the Wallace Collection, and the sublime Who-referencing 7 Heures du Matin by Jacqueline Taieb.  Also included is Scott Walker rarity 'The Rope and the Colt'.
   Volume 1 is also worth checking out, but vol. 3 drifts right up to the 80s and causes depression.

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Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Apples & Snakes: TwoFive

Collection of performance poetry from a few years ago, and the first album featured here to have Arts Council backing.  Michael Rosen towers over all like a mighty colossus.  Other poems made me want to punch myself in the face.  But you never know, you might love them.  Don't let me put you off.

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Wednesday, 14 August 2013

As We Appear - Haystack

Haystack were, by all accounts (one account), a leading force in the New Zealand progressive country rock scene, and did very well on TV talent show The Entertainers and radio's Rock Quest in the mid-'70s.  The extent of their progressiveness, however, seems to stretch to sticking Moog on top of some pleasant-enough MOR folky numbers.  First cut 'Nigel' is probably the best ever song about someone called Nigel.  'Let's Go to London' is nicely atmospheric, although the atmosphere is not that of London.  Generally nice.

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Monday, 5 August 2013

Poetry For the Beat Generation - Jack Kerouac & Steve Allen

I knew that Kerouac had appeared on TV comedy host's Steve Allen's show and read poetry to Allen's jazz piano accompaniment, but I had no idea they had recorded an entire album together.  Today, this would be the equivalent of Michel Houellebecq reading from Atomized with Lee Evans playing one of his dreadful songs in the background.  Most instantly digestible track - I'd Rather Be Thin Than Famous.

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Monday, 29 July 2013

Good Vibes - Gary Burton

Funky, soulful set from jazz vibesman Burton, released on Atlantic in 1969.  Not quite fusion, more like a jazz guy playing rock and soul.  Highlights are grooving opener Vibrafinger, and versions of Otis's Pain in My Heart and Aretha's I Never Loved a Man.  Disappointingly, Good Vibrations by the Beach Boys is not attempted.  As ever the case with jazz albums I stumble upon by accident and enjoy, jazz critics think it's shit.

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Thursday, 25 July 2013

Pa Treff Med 4

A Norwegian equivalent of those '70s Top of the Pops albums, where hit songs were recorded by jobbing session musicians.  Contains a version of Knockin' on Heaven's Door with a female vocal which is quite nice, as well as My Way and Yesterday Once More by the Carpenters.  Also, notably, a recreation of glam stomp Euro-hit Clap Your Hands and Stomp Your Feet by Bonnie St. Clair.

Monday, 15 July 2013

America the Beautiful: The Account of its Disappearance - Gary McFarland

Orchestral jazz-rock concept piece with atonal elements by neglected composer/arranger McFarland, poisoned in a bar in the early '70s and never rediscovered in the way his contemporary David Axelrod has been.  Kind of like Schoenberg, but groovy.  In six movements, the third of which is called 'Suburbia: Two Poodles and a Plastic Jesus'.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

2nd Right, 3rd Row - Eric Von Schmidt

Von Schmidt was an esteemed folkie name-checked by Dylan on his debut.  This album is from '73, and is a mellow affair, with much slide guitar, accordion and harmonica.  There is also an absurdist edge to some songs, with kazoo, the International Instrument of Social Satire featured.  Highlight is The Letter, a rather lovely song about writing one.  A good-humoured entry into the singer-songwriter genre from a performer who actually predates it.

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Sunday, 7 July 2013

Japanese Traditional Koto and Shakuhachi Music - Satomi Saeki and Alcvin Takegawa Ramos

We all think we know what Japanese folk music sounds like, but how many of us ever sit down and properly listen to it?  Don't say you do, because you don't.  Anyway, here's some, full of space and the occasional stop-start that really throws you.  Westerners, listen to it while relaxing in a bath with scented candles, gazing at a dream-catcher.  And maybe rubbing one out.

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Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Funk Factory - Michal Urbaniak

Mid-seventies jazz-funk fusion by the Polish electric five-string violinist Urbaniak.  Imagine what an album called Funk Factory sounds like.  This album sounds like that, but a bit less funky.

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Monday, 17 June 2013

Diamanter - 70-Talet

A compilation of '70s Swedish pop.  Opens with the immortal Did You Give the World Some Love Today, Baby?  by the equally immortal album of the same name by Doris (still alive).  After that the quality dips somewhat, but later there is the witty 'Moviestar' by Harpo ('So you went to Sweden to meet Ingmar Bergman/He wasn't there') a cover of Suicide is Painless, and a song about Marie Antoinette.  'Save Me' by Brian Chapman is also pleasant.  The cover is the stuff that retro dreams are made of.




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Thursday, 13 June 2013

Imaginary Landscapes: New Electronic Music

Early '90s collection of electronic compositions from what is still called 'classical' music, even though it stopped being that 200 years ago or something.  This sort of thing gets left out of the official electronic music narrative recounted in the music press (Kraftwerk, Eno, New Romantics, New Order, World Domination, the End) but it's worth listening to composers approaching the same instruments, but with a different end.  It's all totally new to me, anyway.  I expect someone who writes for The Wire magazine, or Wired magazine, or just watches The Wire on telly, knows about all this.  Some of it's a bit horrible and '80s in texture, but there's a lot of My Life in the Bush of Ghosts-type manipulation of found sounds as well.  Use it as the soundtrack for a dinner party where all the guests are people you don't like.

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Monday, 3 June 2013

Lappish Joik Songs From Northern Norway

58 Lappish folk songs.  Most songs a capella and less than a minute. I wonder what the hurry was.  At first, it sounds like a human approximation of a ZX Spectrum loading, but once you're acclimatised it is quite relaxing and pleasant.  Apparently the lyrics are nonsense.  If Mumford and Sons need a new direction, can I suggest this as a starting point?







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Sunday, 2 June 2013

Talking Blues - John Greenway

Folklorist John Greenway records his versions of mainly Depression-era talking blues, including those of Woody Guthrie, in the late '50s.  Subjects covered include the Dust Bowl, social workers, subways, Prohibition and the Atom Bomb.  'I Like Ike' brings things bang up to date in '58.  A stimulating, if slightly studied and polite introduction to a faded art form.

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Monday, 20 May 2013

Roots in the Sky - Oregon

More jazz-rock crossover from the '70s, that's probably well-known to people who know this stuff well, but I'd personally never heard about it.  Can't help feeling if this had been stored in a cupboard for years instead of being released it would be a lot hipper than it is.  There's a kind of Basil Kirchin vibe to the first track, and lots of interesting textures from that point on.  The cover is a bit overly literal.

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Monday, 13 May 2013

Gay and Straight Together

A collection of gay lib folk and cabaret songs from the '70s, produced by and featuring Ginni Clemmens, whose children's album I featured a few weeks ago.  Stand-out track is If You Got Gayness by Charlie Murphy, which deserves to be covered until it's a standard and inevitably becomes The X-Factor winner's song in 2016.

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Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Varech - Henri Texier

Texier is a French jazz double-bassist, who is held in high regard by people who hold other people in high regard for such things.  I personally hadn't heard of him, but French modern jazz isn't my strong point.  This '70s album has something of a prog-folk-jazz feel to it, and there are plenty of impressive bits of bass plucking for Roni Size to cut up and stick in his drum 'n' bass machine. (Is drum 'n' bass still a thing?  Is Roni Size still a thing?  I don't really pay attention.)

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Sunday, 5 May 2013

Windows For Youth - Morris Schreiber

One of several spoken word instructional records from the '60s intended to be listened to in Junior High school by one Morris Schreiber.  Hypnotic to the point of being soporific, and with information presented in a frankly un-absorbable manner, I can't imagine much learning actually took place during these lessons.  And if the teacher was foolish enough to leave the room and leave the record playing, forget it.  It would be raining spitballs.  The final track, 'Outer Space,' is calling out for a remix.

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Monday, 22 April 2013

Sing a Rainbow and Other Children's Songs - Ginni Clemmens

'60s folk singer Clemmens sings children's songs, accompanying herself on the guitar and the banjo.  A bunch of kids help out.  You can't really argue with that.  Well, you could, but you'd be dead inside.  It's not all cute, however, Jane-Jane is intense, while Hey Little Boy isn't like any song we learned when I was a kid.  Highlight is This Old Man, with a skeletal banjo part, military rhythm, and a kid coming in with his line too early. But 'that's ok', says Clemmens, and it is.

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Tuesday, 16 April 2013

100 Western Swing Hits

Western Swing was a meeting of country music and jazz that was popular from the late '20s to the '40s.  It was lively, with a wry, even urban, humour.  It was also occasionally fantastically rude.  I find it of interest because it seems like a dry run for rock 'n' roll, with white and black music fusing into something good-time, raucous and implicitly sexual.  By the time rock 'n' roll did hit, however, it seems that everyone had already forgotten the great Western Swing experiment.  Stand-out tracks for me in this four volume set (volume one linked to below) are 'Red's Tight Like That' by the Tune Wranglers, 'Who Walks In When I Walk Out' by Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys, and the impossibly obscene 'Pussy, Pussy, Pussy' by the amazingly-named Adolf Hofner.  Listeners should be warned, however, that Western Swing is of its time, and some very unacceptable words do make an appearance.

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Monday, 8 April 2013

Voices of the Satellites

A collection of transmissions from the early days of the Space Age.  Hear! Sputnik 1!  Sputnik 3!  The Doppler Effect!  Dogmonaut Laika's heart beating!  Eerie, in a Sam Rockwell in a film by David Bowie's son-type way.

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Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Britain's First Top Model - Twiggy, the Silver Screen Syncopators

This bizarre comp matches up a handful of sides recorded by charming singing model Twiggy in the '60s for the Ember label with some unrelated '20s style music by the Silver Screen Syncopators, presumably because of her starring role in the mock-period musical The Boyfriend.  Forget all the SSS stuff, and just listen to the Twiggy tracks.  Her vocals aren't exactly top-draw, or even top-drawer, but check out the backing.  I don't know what the arranger was on when he wrote those, but I for one am having some.

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Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Mis'ry and the Blues - Jack Teagarden

This late work from 1961 by jazz great Teagarden features the trombonist/vocalist stating philosophical truths from the perspective of experience.  'Don't Tell a Man About His Woman', he instructs in the opening number, because 'they'll both start shootin' at you'.  'You should laugh and sing 'cos it doesn't mean a thing, it's all in your mind' he goes on to tell us, transcendentally.  The title track is a dark blues fit for Billie Holiday, while Love Lies is an organ-drenched lush instrumental.  His vocals have an ageing-Dylan rasp to them (although crucially he doesn't sound like Davros), and the overall vibe is autumnal and accepting.  A genuine find.

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Tuesday, 19 March 2013

The Sue Story

Sue was a fine soul label of the '50s and '60s, most famous as the home of Ike and Tina Turner.  For the most part, originality was not the label's forte.  Many of the songs here, great as they are, are a slightly distorted xerox of what someone else was doing for another label.  What you end up with, then, is an alternate reality history of black music of the era, with rock 'n' roll, girl groups, Motown and Bacharach-esque pop among the styles mirrored in the Sue catalogue.  Particularly enjoyable are 'Graveyard' by The Blenders, 'In My Tenement' by Jackie Shane, big hit 'Mockingbird by Inez and Charlie Foxx, and 'Loop de Loop' by the Soul Sisters.  'I'm Going For Myself' by Eddie & Ernie, meanwhile, is an acknowledged deep soul classic, on a different level to pretty much everything else here, and most music generally.  'Psycho' by Bobby Hendricks is magnificently odd.

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Sunday, 17 March 2013

Rockabilly Insanity

Another rock 'n' roll-era comp.  This is one of many that now exist thanks to the lapse in copyright of all '50s music.  What is interesting about this one and others, mostly thanks to a mysterious company called Master Classics Records (although this one isn't, I suspect there is a connection) is the way in which both classics and obscurities are mixed up due to everything being up for grabs, so Elvis, Buddy Holly and Gene Vincent rub shoulders with such delights as 'Spin the Bottle' by Benny Joy and 'Jammin Granny' by the Creepers.  The highlight for me, however, is 'Little Girl' by John & Jackie, which is frankly obscene.  Also listen out for the snippets of talking from related contemporary adverts and news between the tracks.

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Saturday, 9 March 2013

Rare Rock 'n' Roll Masters

This is one of the many rock 'n' roll compilations you can get on Spotify now that whole era is out of copyright.  What makes this one unusual though is the apparent randomness of the track selection.  On the one hand, you do have genuine rarely-heard gems such as Wizard of Love by the Ly-Dells, a version of Real Wild Child by Cricket Jerry Allison under the pseudonym 'Ivan' and the follow-up to Love is Strange, There Ought to be a Law, by Mickey and Sylvia, as well as amusing oddities such as Pat Boone's harrowing account of gambling addiction, Bingo.  On the other, there are tracks that have very little to do with rock 'n' roll at all, including Tommy Dorsey swing, Yale musical troupe number The Whiffenpoof song, and a slushy ballad sung by Richard Chamberlain.  It's like someone trawled the bottom of the '50s musical ocean and stuck up whatever they found without sorting it, or as if someone is using these tracks to make an argument about the development of popular music during the period, but the argument is impenetrable and weird.  A truly baffling listening experience.

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Sunday, 3 March 2013

...Sings Old Airs - Susan Reed

Susan Reed was a politically-minded New York folkie who found some degree of fame in the 40s and 50s, even acting on Broadway and in Hollywood, before pretty much being written out of the history books and going on to run her own handicraft shop.  A few songs about leprechauns and gypsies might require something of a leap of faith, but her harp playing is beautiful, her version of She Moved Through the Fair as good as you'll hear, and do check out the vocal round of Come Follow (multi-tracked?) for a Fuzzy Felt folk delight.

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Saturday, 23 February 2013

...Sings Don Gibson - Roy Orbison

A hidden gem from Orbison's commercial slide in the later sixties.  Celebrating the work of country singer/composer Don Gibson, it's simple country pop, beautifully sung.  You'll probably recognise a few of the tunes and find some gems you didn't know.  (Yes) I'm Hurting is badass, and Sweet Dreams is aching and beautiful.  Both Gibson and Orbison come out of the whole thing very well.

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Sunday, 17 February 2013

Tesoras de Coleccion - Roberto Jordan

Roberto Jordan was a major Argentinian pop star of the 60s and 70s, and this is a greatest hits set.  For the most part he's a South American Cliff Richard, and listening to him for too long will send you mad, but there are some great Spanish covers of English language songs buried in all this.  His Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon is a gem, while his versions of various bubblegum numbers and the Box Tops' Cry Like a Baby are also worth a listen.  The fact that I know about these tracks and Quentin Tarantino probably doesn't actually makes me feel a bit powerful.

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Sunday, 10 February 2013

A Letter to Katherine December - Jake Holmes

Jake Holmes is a fascinating figure.  A 60s Greenwich Village scene singer/songwriter, he is mostly famed for writing Dazed and Confused, a song Jimmy Page would nick for Led Zeppelin without even giving Holmes a smidgen of credit for it until a few months ago.  As well as this, he co-wrote albums for the Four Seasons and Frank Sinatra.  His songs, sounding like the bastard love-children of Richard Yates and Rod McKuen, are character-filled biting critiques of suburban life, which in the hands of these MOR artists were sold to the very people whose lives he was deeming spiritually empty.

A Letter to Katherine December is his second solo album from 1968.  Clothed in baroque-psych arrangements, it's pretty much a short story collection set to music detailing small-town life.  People go out and get drunk on Saturday night, chew the fat in the diner, and move house after a divorce, while the high school hero grows old and turns to fat.  'People who have lost all their loving die when they're told' Holmes sings at one point, and it's chilling.  Intense, rich music from an uncompromising songwriter who was somehow allowed to crash the easy listening fondue party.

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Sunday, 3 February 2013

Here At The Water's Edge

Soundtrack to a 1963 film documenting a boat trip round the port of New York.   And it's literally that.  The sound of a boat trip round the port of New York.  No music, except in the John Cage sense of the word.  Foghorns!  Seagulls!  Children playing!  Very restful.

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Saturday, 2 February 2013

Golden Decade


A multi-volume series that covers the out-of-copyright period of 1948-1957, year by year.  What puts this beyond the thousands of nostalgia collections covering this era is that it raids not just the US pop charts, but also the country and R&B ones as well.  Consequently, you can listen as all three genres work their way towards the game-changing moment when Elvis walked into Sun Studios and fused them together, with no one having a clue it was going to happen.  A bit like watching the Star Wars prequels, only, you know, good.  Having said all that, the music is not just pre-history, and much of it stands on its own merits.  I've barely scratched the surface and discovered all sorts of delights I had no idea existed.  In particular it introduced me to the genre of Western Swing, more on which later.  Obviously there is some dreck, and some novelty records of the damned, but that's inevitable with a project like this.  Someone once said before Elvis, there was nothing.  They were wrong.


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