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

Monday, 8 September 2014

Nippon Go West

If, like me, you have been kept up at night, wondering what Japanese rock 'n' roll sounded like, then wonder no more. This album contains 34 Japanese period cover versions of Western rock 'n' roll and country hits, in Japanese and/or English. Highlights include 'Lucille' by Massaki Hiarri, 'Heartbreak Hotel' by Kozaka Kazuya, and 'Sixteen Tons' by 'Unknown'.  'Riders in the Sky' by the Wagonmasters has some beautifully eerie guitar-work and some random shouting at the end. There is also a version in Japanese of 'Itsy-Bitsy Teeny-Weeny Yellow Polka-Dot Bikini'.  You want it.  Don't lie.

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Monday, 21 July 2014

40 Classic Tracks - Lee Wiley

Lee Wiley was a jazz singer during the '30s and '40s who achieved reasonable success before sinking into obscurity, then getting rescued from obscurity several times during her lifetime, before sinking into a deeper obscurity following her death so profound she now only has 432 followers on Spotify.  To put that in perspective, Ella Fitzgerald has 174,819.
   Wiley was Cole Porter's favourite interpreter of his work, most likely because she pretty much sung the notes he wrote.  This is a different approach to the Great American Songbook that we're now used to, with the singer doing little to get in the way of the song as opposed to vomiting themselves all over it..  It's easy to forget that such an expressive singer as Billie Holiday was an exception to the rule at the time she has come to embody.  Lee Wiley was the rule, but she was one of the best at it.
   Although at first she may seem too reserved, the way her voice allows melodies to songs such as 'Anytime, Anyday, Anywhere' (co-written by Wiley), 'I've Got a Crush on You' and 'It's Only a Paper Moon' to glide on air can be exquisite.
   Ultimately, Wiley is a Rich Tea jazz biscuit and not a Fox's Crunch Cream, but sometimes that's all you want.

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Monday, 30 June 2014

The Essential Recordings - Don Gibson

A while back, I wrote about an album of Roy Orbison's on which he showcased the songs of country artist Don Gibson, which I enjoyed very much.  This ultimately sent me back to the original recordings.  Although very much respected in country circles, Gibson's name hasn't gravitated out to the more casual music fan in the way his contemporaries Johnny Cash, George Jones or Patsy Cline have.  This is perhaps due to Gibson never really finding a consistent voice.  Some tracks here are sung politely, while with others he adopts a more ragged approach.
   What is undeniable, however, is the quality of his songwriting.  This is pre-outlaw country pop at its most tuneful and toe-tapping.  Occasionally melancholy, rarely morose, it's a bag well worth dipping into, and you may well recognise a few.  'Sweet Dreams' was made famous by Cline, while others would get the full country treatment from Ray Charles and Elvis.  Oh, and 'Oh, Lonesome Me' from After the Goldrush by Neil Young is here as well, albeit sounding a lot chirpier.

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Monday, 9 June 2014

The Prima Generation '72 - Louis Prima

By the mid-sixties, swingin' trumpeter Louis 'King Louis from Jungle Book' Prima had split from his wife and duet partner Keely Smith and set up his own label, Prima One Records.  His later albums are a strange affair as he used them to promote artists signed to his label, giving over whole tracks to them, interspersed with his own now slightly tired-sounding contributions of comedy Italian schtick swing.  This album from 1972, for instance, contains a version of the Rolling Stones's 'Sympathy For the Devil' featuring the fine jazz organist Little Richie Varola, which deviates from the original so much one wonders if it was meant to be a cover of 'Jesus Christ Superstar' that got mis-labelled.  What fans of prime Prima made of his apparent new jazz-rock direction is anyone's guess.  Elsewhere Prima's band the Witnesses get soulful on Stevie Wonder's 'If You Really Love Me' and Prima himself tackles Joe South's 'Rose Garden' in a manner that suggests even he knows it's not really working.
   Although many tracks are just plain failures, Prima's last albums are worth listening to purely for the sheer fascination of hearing someone venturing where they were never meant to go. To understand what Prima was really all about, however, check out 1956's The Wildest, where he channels Louis Armstrong, puts him through an Italian American filter, and explodes with so much energy he nearly makes that new-fangled rock 'n' roll redundant.  Primia, Smith and the Witnesses come across as a bunch of swing renegades.  'I ain't got nobody', they all sing together.  They may be freaks, but they've got each other's backs.  Also, check out any videos of him performing with Keely Smith on Youtube.  They are bloody funny.

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