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

Thursday, 28 November 2013


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.